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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  January 22, 2014 2:00pm-3:29pm PST

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i now turn you over to mr. wolf blitzer. he is right next door "the situation room." wolf? all right, jake. thanks very much. happening now, breaking news. israel says it's spoiled an al keed-linked plot to attack the united states embassy and other key targets. syrian peace talks begin with a war of words and a tough warning from the united states. i'll speak with an adviser, a top adviser to the president of syria, bashar al assad. plus, shocking and very provocative comments from iran's foreign minister suggesting perhaps the u.s. gave away too much in that nuclear deal with iran. the foreign minister of iraq goes one-on-one exclusively with cnn. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." let's begin with the breaking news out of israel where authorities now say they've busted an al qaeda-operated terror cell
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that allegedly plotted to attack the united states embassy in tel aviv and other high-profile targets. let's go straight to our senior international correspondent ben wedeman. he's joining us from jerusalem. what's the latest, ben? what can you tell us? >> reporter: well, this is a statement that came from shin bet, israel's formidable domestic security agency which says they've broken up this ring of three men in east jerusalem as well as in the west bank. now, according to the statement by shin bet, a man in gaza recruited these three men over the internet using facebook, skype, and other social media. now, according to the statement, one of the men was assigned to go travel to turkey and from there to northern syria to receive military training. he would then return to israel where he would get hooked up with jihadis from abroad who would have entered israel with forged russian passports. he would provide them with
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explosives and other weapons. and they would carry out a suicide bombing against the u.s. embassy in tel aviv. the convention center here in jerusalem which isn't far from the cnn bureau and would also attack an israeli bus in the west bank. now, the men were arrested late in december. the israelis pointing out among other things to the fact that sort of this syria angle, wolf, the fact that according to one israeli intelligence analyst i spoke to yesterday, there may be as many as 10,000 foreign jihadis in northern syria. in effect it's becoming the terror central for the middle east. wolf? >> and israeli authorities are suggesting they suspect this was directly linked to what's called core al qaeda, the al qaeda organization that still exists out there? >> well, certainly in the statement it included a graphic that linked ayman al zawahiri,
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the al qaeda leader, to the man in gaza and from there to these operatives in jerusalem and the west bank. so certain lay direct link according to at least this graphic from al qaeda to here in jerusalem. >> ayman al zawahiri, the leader of al qaeda, what's left of al qaeda, right now. ben, thank you. u.s. officials say they're in very close touch with israel following that announcement of this terror bust. let's bring in our pentagon correspondent barbara starr. barbara, first of all, tell us about security at the u.s. embassy in tel aviv, because it's right along the shore there. that building is right off of one of the main streets in downtown tel aviv. >> reporter: well, that's right, wolf. as you well know, it's along the sea. this is a tourist area. there are hotels, very busy urban city streets in tel aviv. it's not that it's not protected. it's got plenty of protection, but that it's difficult to protect. this is an embassy that is not
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in an area set back away from population. people go by it all day long. so there's lots of protection, but it is vulnerable simply from the standpoint of where it is located in a very busy part of tel aviv, wolf. >> so how concerned are u.s. officials about this threat that's just been reported? >> reporter: well, look, wolf, what u.s. intelligence has to do now is sit down with the israelis and figure out exactly what has happened here. if, if, in fact, ayman al zawahiri is directly behind this, this is extremely significant. it suggests that he still has a recruiting capability, financing, training, organization, an ability to communicate across wide areas fundamentally a network. and that is very scary, very dangerous, because they have long believed that while he may inspire a lot of jihadis out there he's fairly isolated without the ability to directly communicate on a regular basis. so what they are going to want
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to know is does ayman al zawahiri have a reconstituted network that can operate really between israel, turkey, syria, the west bank, gaza, all of that? is this a group of people perhaps inspired by him who've gotten their financing and their organization somewhere else? either way, very significant for any al qaeda-related group to pull off an attack inside israel against a u.s. target is very dangerous. >> certainly is very disturbing information. barbara, thanks very much. after years of a savage conflict that's claimed at least 100,000 lives, syria's warring parties actually sat down at a peace table today in switzerland. they unleashed a furious verbal onslaught before representatives of dozens of to other nations. but the shadow hanging over these talks is the ongoing brutality. we must warn you the upcoming report contains very graphic
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images. elise labott is in geneva. the u.s. got caught in the middle of the verbal blasts today. what's the latest? >> reporter: that's right, wolf. well, everybody here, the u.s. led the charge, but everybody here at the peace talks got caught up in the war of words. >> reporter: the war of words started early. john kerry laying down a marker. >> that bashar al assad will not be part of that transition government. there is no way, no way possible in the imagination that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern. >> reporter: syria's foreign minister muallem lashed out against the syrian opposition, gulf states, and turkey, accusing them all of helping his country fall victim to terrorism. but he saved some of his most intense bitterness for the u.s. secretary of state. >> senator kerry, no one, nobody
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in the world, has the right to legitimize a president or a constitution or a law or anything in syria except the syrian people themselves. >> reporter: the u.n.'s usually mild-mannered secretary-general, tried repeatedly to end the 30-minute tirade. >> prime minister, i'm sorry to -- can you just -- 20 minutes. no more than 20 minutes. >> mr. kerry, you spoke 25 minutes. >> how much do you have left now? >> i think five, ten minutes. >> reporter: but the minister refused to back down. >> you live in new york. i live in syria. i have the right to give the syrian version here in this forum. >> yes, of course. >> after 30 years of suffering, this is my right. >> reporter: the syrian opposition leader called on the syrian government to join them in rebuilding syria without
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president assad. >> translator: if we have a partner in this room willing to transfer from the assad delegation to a national syrian delegation such as ours, i urge them to sign geneva one in front of all of you immediately. >> reporter: he was armed with images first seen on cnn, which war crimes investigators says shows the regime's torture of prisoners. if a political solution isn't found soon, he warned, for the syrian people, time is blood. the u.s. is seizing on the photos to turn up the heat on the syrian regime, hoping to convince assad's inner circle to abandon him. >> the latest charges are charges with photographs and documentation of mass torture. the questions raised by this require an answer. >> reporter: and, wolf, everybody expected the fireworks and rhetoric here today, but the hard work begins tomorrow when
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u.n. envoy lakhdar brahimi will try and get the two sides, the opposition and the regime, to sit down and talk face to face. but give than the regime refuses to even accept the basic principles of this conference, namely a transitional government without assad, members of the opposition tell me there really isn't any point in talking. >> yeah. doesn't look like it's going to go anywhere, but we shall see. elise joining us from switzerland. thank you. up next, as these peace talks get under way, the u.s. says syria's president cannot remain in power. i'll speak with a very outspoken top adviser to the syrian president, bashar al assad. and iran's foreign minister makes some extraordinary in-your-face comments about u.s. concessions in the nuclear deal with his country. he goes one-on-one with cnn exclusively. i need proof of insurance.
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let's get back to one of our top stories right now. the syrian peace talks that finally got under way today in switzerland. but a war of words broke out as the parties to the conflict vented their anger, their hatred, their venom. looming over the talks the continuing savagery of this three-year civil war. we must warn you that some of these graphics you're about to see are very disturbing. joining us from geneva, senior adviser to the syria president bashar al assad. i want you to listen to the u.s. secretary of state john kerry because he made it clear today at the start of the so-called
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peace talks that there can be no role for bashar al assad in any transitional government, that bashar al assad must simply go away. listen to john kerry. >> you cannot have peace. you cannot have stability. you cannot restore syria. you cannot save syria from disintegration as long as bashar al assad remains in power. >> in exchange for peace, is bashar al assad ready to leave office and give up power? >> i think you should ask a different question, wolf. in what light does john kerry say to bashar you can't stay in syria? can we do that to your democratic country, ask your president not to be there and not to save his country and not to be in power? is it john kerry who should say that? or is it up to the syrian people to decide who should be their president? isn't it a democracy?
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shouldn't it come through the ballot box or through what john kerry says? isn't this colonial, what john kerry said today? to me it's very colonial. >> but are you suggesting that there's real democracy in syria right now? >> well, do you think real democracy in the united states when they deal with countries like this? in syria, there is a war, a horrid terrorism. the syrian people are suffering a huge deal. there is a lot of bloodshed. but i can say that the interference of country, namely syria, turkey, and the united states, has called the syrian people, their institutions, their live, their security, their peace of mind. so i think what we need from countries -- >> the accusation against your regime, your government, is that more than 100,000 syrians have been killed, that hundreds of thousands if not millions have been placed in exile externally, internally, and that war crimes
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are being committed. you've seen these awful pictures that have been released in the past few days. our own christiane amanpour showed us these pictures. this international group is suggesting this is systemic torture, war crimes created by your government. and i want you to respond because these pictures are awful and i want our viewers -- we'll show our viewers some of these pictures. to be warned, young people should not see these images. >> these are not only pictures. these are real people who are being killed by terrorists, who are being kidnapped, who are being raped. i have hundreds of stories to tell you about what's happening to my people. but you really have to be in syria to know who is doing what. one can't be inmanpour, or in n york, and decide who's doing what. remember the chemical?
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all has been circulated about the chemical were absolutely unfounded by the syrian government. we have to acknowledge that there is a huge campaign. the syrian government for the last three years and the same is not the syrian government. the aim is the destruction of syria, the destruction of the syrian people for only the benefit of israel. that is the true story that is happening in syria. >> but these pictures were collected by war crimes prosecutors, forensic experts, a defector from your government came out with all these pictures saying these crimes were committed by syrian government authorities. >> this is simply a huge, huge lie. and remember, it was the 21st of august the chemical. now massachusetts announced the study. wait three or four months and then you will know the real story. the problem is that the syrian people have been victims of so many lies circulated in order to justify this horrid war that has
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affected our lives, affected our country, that horrified our people, that trying to create an ethnic conflict, trying to create a religious conflict in a country that has been a safe haven for refugees throughout its history. >> on the chemical weapons, there's negotiations, the u.s., russia, others have been involved. are you saying that your government was not involved in creating and storing weapons, chemical weapons? >> i am not -- i am not saying my government -- what my government has, what it hasn't. i'm saying my government has never, ever used chemical weapons. chemical weapons were used by these terrorists, and we know the countries who have been helping them. it is a terrible crime what's happening against the syrian people, and it is basically through foreign intervention. turkey -- unfortunately with the support of the united states. there's one man in the united states who's misleading the
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united states about what's happening in syria, and i think you should stop him. it shouldn't continue like this. >> who's that man? who are you talking act? >> i'm not going to name him. you know him. everybody knows him. >> everybody know who is? you're talking about the president of the united states? the secretary of state? what are you suggesting? >> everybody -- no, no, no. i'm not talking about that level. everybody knows who is trying to manufacture so-called opposition. those people who we saw today at the meeting room have not been to syria for the last 30 years. they have nothing to do with the syrian people. they do not represent anyone from the syrian people. i don't know if they represent some person. i don't know who they represent. i think you should ask who do they represent. if you take them to the syrian people and try to ask them to go through election, i don't think there are five people in syria who would know them or who would elect them. >> are you talking about syrian opposition leaders, the rebels as they're called?
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is that what you're talking about? >> the one we saw inside the room today are not opposition leaders. there is a genuine national opposition inside syria and outside syria of people who would not accept this destruction to go on, of people who care about syria, who care about the country, who care about the people. but unfortunately these people were not invited. >> well, your meeting -- you're now in geneva together with these opposition leaders. are you ready to negotiate, to talk to them and try to work some sort of cease-fire, if you will, some initial steps to end the bloodshed? >> you know, the united nations said there are over 240 different groups fighting in syria. the question is these people can they stop any of these actions fighting in syria? they are not opposition leaders. you know, the people who say to you in the united states that these are opposition leaders, they are misleading you. they're not leaders in any sense.
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neither in a social sense nor in a political sense. but what can we do? we want to solve the problem in our country. and it is an expression of good will on the side of the government that we accepted to come to geneva. but truly the solution for syria should be made by the syrian people inside syria, not in geneva. >> so what do you hope should emerge from these talks in geneva right now? because you're sitting down with these syrian opposition leaders. >> yeah. what we hope for is that everybody would decide that the interest of syria, that the interest of the syrian people should be put above everything. and we hope that countries who are supporting will have the -- those supporting terrorism will not supporting it. wolf, listen to me. what happens is not only a danger to syria. it's a danger to the entire world. you don't need osama bin laden to come next time, you know, or
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somebody like osama bin laden. what we are facing in syria is a very, very dangerous mentality that is destructive to the modern thinking, to the modern world, to the existence, to living together. it is extremely dangerous. the least thing the u.s. can do is to support the syrian people against this horrible wahhabi extremist kind of thinking. >> and when you hear the opposition say that your government, the government of president bashar al assad, is engaged in systemic torture, war crimes, brutality, crimes against humanity, and that they should be charged with these crimes by the international criminal court in the netherlands, what do you say? >> my answer to them is come to syria. live there. travel there. work there. and you will find out for yourself who is the criminal, who is kidnapping people, who is raping people, who is, you know,
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trying -- who are -- who are gangsters on the roads and in cities and in towns. i mean, it is really, you know, sad to see some christians here, the only place in the world who speaks the language of christ was destroyed by these terrorists. 11 nuns are kidnapped by these terrorists, and yet you see somebody who's a christian who's supporting these terrorists. this is truly sad. believe me, all circulated in the media, most of what's circulated in the media has nothing to do with xha what's happening in syria. i've been living there for the there is a three years. you know, of course i've been living there always, but i have not left syria during this crisis, and i know exactly what's going on. i love my country. i love my people. i only want what is best for my people. i wouldn't stand here and talk to you unless i know exactly
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what i'm talking about. >> senior adviser to the president of syria, bashar al assad. thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. lovely to talk to you. >> when we come back, iran's foreign minister goes one-on-one in an exclusive interview with our own jim sciutto. his shocking, provocative comments about the united states and the nuclear deal with his country. the interviews coming up. no matter how busy your morning you can always do something better for yourself. and better is so easy with benefiber. fiber that's taste-free, grit-free and dissolves completely. so you can feel free to add it to anything. and feel better about doing it. better it with benefiber. and our giant idaho potato truck is still missing.
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we've got some important breaking news, also a cnn exclusive. stunning and truly provocative
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comment from iran's foreign minister days after the iran nuclear deal went into effect. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto is joining us from dabo, switzerland, right now, where only minutes ago you wrapped up an interview with the iranian foreign minister zarif. tell us about this nuclear deal and what you heard from the iranian foreign minister. >> reporter: well, let me tell you, wolf, i was able to speak with him for about 40 minutes. he's comfortable, confident, quick request a smile but also unbending in iran's positions, particularly when it comes to the nuclear deal. he's saying in effect that the white house has been exaggerating how much iran give up. here's what he said about what iran is doing and is not doing as part of the nuclear agreement. >> the white house version both underplays the concessions and overplays iranian commitment. and i'm not interested in that. i'm simply saying why don't we
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all stick to what we need? why do we need to produce different techs? >> reporter: explain, then, to our viewers, what's different in terms of iran's commitment to what you agreed to and what the white house says you agreed to? >> well, the terminology is different. the white house tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of iran's nuclear program. that is the word they use time and again. and i urge you to read the entire text. if you find a single, a single word that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then i would take back my comment. >> so what is it iran -- >> no, no. what iran has agreed is not to enrich above 5%.
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we did not agree to dismantle anything. >> reporter: another point he made was that the deal, in effect, is reversible, but he said that that's true for both sides. and, in fact, wolf, we've heard that from american officials who have said as well that some of the economic relief has been extended to iran is also reversible if iran doesn't plif up to its side of the deal. >> clearly what he's suggesting is that they've only agreed they're not going to enrich beyond 5%. but everything that they already have, they're not going to dismantle anything. is that what he's saying to you? >> reporter: that's in effect what he's saying. now, the white house has talked about that they're dismantling connections. for instance, in these cascades of centrifuges, all these centrifuges connected to each other which enrich the uranium up higher and higher and closer to weapons grade, they may be disconnecting a connection here and there he's in effect saying. but they're not tearing anything down, which makes his point. listen, if the u.s. and the west
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doesn't live up to their side we can turn this around very quickly. it's reversible. we're not dismantling anything. we just may be fulling it back for now. >> certainly going to give ammunition to those in the senate and the house of representatives who want a tougher sanctions bill right now. you also had a chance to speak with the foreign minister about syria, specifically about bashar al assad. and he made some startling comments on that front as well. tell us what he said. >> reporter: he did. i asked him. it's been a tough week regarding syria. you've got these talks going on in switzerland where iran was invited then disinvited. you have a lot of disagreement being expressed in public there. but he expressed some hope to me. i asked him, do you think that these talks without iran's participation have any hope of moving syria closer to peace? and he said, yes, i think they can as long as all parties are involved and this can be a first step and we can get involved at a later time. but i also pressed him on whether under a political solution to the war in syria,
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would iran accept a solution that does not involve bashar al ass assad. and here's what he said to that question. would you accept a political solution that does not include bashar al assad as part of the government? >> i will accept a political solution that has is syrian people decide. of coursitis not for iran to accept or reject any political solution, nor is it for any other country. it's only for the syrian people to -- >> reporter: so if the people -- >> but i believe the syrian people should not be given preconditions. if the people believe, if governments outside syria are so confident that the government currently in power in syria is such a disaster for the syrian people, why don't they allow the syrian people to go to the ballot box and make their own choice in a free and fair election? >> you know, it's interesting, i also asked him about this week of contrast because on the
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positive side you had this successful implementation of the nuclear agreement starting monday. on the other side you had talks regarding peace in syria going nowhere, iran invited, disinvited. i said how does that contrast with relations? he was laughing. he went on to say he's confident -- i asked him does he believe the u.s. and iran can reach a long-term nuclear deal. he said he's 100% confident if there is trust between the two sides. and he said if there's no trust, then the chances are nil. but he at least sounded a note of hope there that the two sides can reach disagreement on the most difficult issues even after a very difficult week, wolf. >> very difficult week indeed. jim sciutto with an exclusive interview with the foreign minister of iran. jim, thanks very much. when we come back, republicans fight back against critics who charge they're waging a war on women. what conservatives are now saying about abortion on this, the 41st anniversary of roe v. wade. plus, virginia voters still
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president obama issued a statement today on the 41st anniversary of roe versus wade praising the landmark u.s. supreme court decision. it comes as the republican party is also convening for its annual winter meeting in washington and retooling its message on abortion and women. our senior washington correspondent joe johns is work the story for us. he has the latest details. >> the politics of abortion and
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the march for life, even the marchers themselves have changed dramatically in the 41 years since the supreme court's roe versus wade decision. though now one of the biggest questions of all is whether washington should even be the focus because the states are playing such a big role. >> reporter: the cold political climate in washington and the freezing weather hit the march for life and the anti-abortion movement with a double whammy today. house majority leader eric cantor summed up the news in the shadow of the capitol. >> some of you have been marching for over 40 years and have endured many setbacks, including the recent expansion of abortion coverage in obamacare. >> reporter: conservatives are looking to rally the base, using the affordable care act as a proxy in the abortion wars. on the 41st anniversary of the supreme court's roe versus wade decision, the anti-abortion movement is revising the message. >> our theme this year is adoption. there are sadly 1.21 million
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aborgs annually. there are only 18,000 to 20,000 infant domestic adoptions. >> reporter: and it's reaching out to the next generation. >> we talked about abortion and just like the pro-life movement and stuff. that's when i started getting involved. this is my second time here. >> reporter: still, republicans are fighting back against a message that they are waging a war on women and this week the republican national committee is proposing pushing back on the issue. >> this war on women has wrongly been called the war on womanhood when the real war today is actually a war on motherhood. >> reporter: jane dobson, a longtime voice of the movement, is says washington is taking a back seat in the conversation. >> i think there has not been a receptiveness to that message in a lot of the offices here in this city. and the states are where it's happening. >> reporter: states now hold the power in 2013 alone. 22 states enacted 70 restrictions on abortion
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according to the institute which keeps track of trends in reproductive health policy. so a lot going on in those legislatures. >> thanks very much, joe johns reporting. meanwhile, virginia voters are still reeling over all the revelations in the indictment against their former governor bob mcdonnell and his wife. allegations of lavish gifts, favors, and a huge cover-up. but will the legal case measure up to the headlines? cnn's todd foreman is joining us. he's got a closer look at this part of the story. what are you seeing, tom? >> the breaking news right now, wolf, is that the governor wanted a delay in the arraignment for he and his wife. the court said the arraignment will move right along just as this case will, the way it's moved into the headlines and captured attention all over that state. >> reporter: a $19,000 shopping spree in new york, designer clothing, a rolex watch, i phones, shoe, earrings for use of a borrowed ferrari and $120,000 in personal loans.
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not a bad haul and not a bit illegal if you ask former governor bob mcdonnell, who is staring down his indictment with defiance. >> i come before you this evening as someone who has been falsely and wrongfully accused. >> reporter: the accusations that mcdonnell and his wife, maureen, were given lavish gifts by a company called star scientific in exchange for promoting that business are threefold. as former prosecutor michael zellden puts it -- >> they're all crime, each of those things. >> they get attacked on several fronts as a prosecution and he'll have to successfully defend all of them. >> correct. >> reporter: first question for prosecutors -- didvernor and his wife receive improper gifts? the indictment says yes. e-mails and photographs show star scientific gave $15,000 to help with the family wedding. almost $13,000 for golf outings. the governor's response? >> these were gifts i didn't ask for. >> reporter: second, did the governor give something in
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return? again, prosecutors say yes. he used the governor's mansion, his office, and his good name to push scientific's business and the firm's boss. mcdonnell says these are the same things he'd do for any good company. >> and not one pair of taxpayer money went to him or to star scientific during our administration. not one penny. >> reporter: and, third, did he try to hide it? the indictment suggests mcdonnell and his wife failed to report gifts, tried to disguise the source of money in their bank account and even returned some items to star scientific when the investigation became known. this is a tragic story in many ways. the indictment makes clear that when the couple took office they were flat broke and it suggests that the wife really pushed many of these deals because she was trying to get out from underneath her financial worries. one curious part about this is the fact prosecutors were apparently able and ready to move on this but delayed until he left office. it's not clear why. it could simply be they didn't
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want to disrupt the state government, although there's also suspicion that maybe that's an opening for some kind of a plea arrangement to help everybody avoid a very long and painful trial. but we will have to see when the arraignment comes around pretty soon, wolf. >> thanks very much, tom foreman with that. let's dig a little deeper with our chief political analyst gloria borger, our chief national correspondent john king and our cnn political commentator robert lizzy, washington correspondent for the new yorker magazine. gloria, matt berman, writing in the "national journal," wrote these words. "the american political system makes it easier for the wealthy to prevail. but the mcdonnell case shows that the flip side is also true. in u.s. politics, not having enough money can carve out a path to ruin." wealth and money and politics and poverty if you will, they were claiming that they didn't have any money. that could also lead to ruin. >> this is about impropriety, honestly. you know, there are plenty of people who run for political
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office who don't have money, who survive. when you go into political office, you understand that you're a public servant. and, yes, a majority of members of congress are now millionaires. we understand it costs a lot of money to run for congress. but that's not what this is about. this is about impropriety, whether it's real or the appearance of impropriety. this is about whether somebody who was close to the governor was trying to get more access at a high level for his business. and that's what this story is about. >> the governor acknowledges doing unseemly things. he says they're not illegal things. we'll see if the prosecutors can prove use of the office, use of his power, use of his name to help the quid pro quo, if you will. but if the point here were some money were transferred into a bank account and that were used to pay a mortgage or make a car payment, we might have a more sympathetic view to the argument that the family was struggling financially. that is difficult. if you get into public service,
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people can make a lot more money. but a rolex watch, louie vitton shoes, that's not being used to feed the kids or make a mortgage payment. >> or pay for the catering at the daughter's wedding, if you will. >> right. >> but this is not necessarily -- i've spoke on the some lawyers today, especially criminal defense attorneys. they don't think this is a slam dunk that the federal prosecutor has. >> i was going to say that. on the list of these three accusations, one in three seem like they've got a pretty good case, right, he does seem like he accepted these gifts and it does seem that the prosecution has a pretty good case he tried to hide it. on two, what this company actually got in return, i think it's a little fuzzier and that's where the former governor is going to be able to mount the best defense. obviously, that's the most sere yus allegation here, the quid brea pro quo. but the actual quo, he didn't get a contract from the government, didn't get something specific and tang that believe the prosecution has pointed to yet. very interesting test case.
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if this is successful, i think it's going to put some fear in a lot of politicians. >> and this is why you have gift rules. >> right. >> and virginia doesn't have very tough gift rules and they're trying to tighten it up now. i suspect it will be easier to tighten up the gift rules. but this is why they exist for politicians, because people do try to buy access. >> john, let's move on to the governor of new york, andrew cuomo. got himself into some hot water with conservatives in new york when he said this. i'll play it for our viewers. this is a radio interview or a tv interview in new york. >> their problem is not me and the democrats. their problem is themselves. who are they? are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro assault weapon, anti-gay? that who they are? because if that's who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of new york
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because that's not who new yorkers are." >> go ahead. when you heard that, you see the uproar that those words generated. what do you say? >> he speaks very bluntly and there's nothing wrong with a politician making his case, saying i disagree with people who are anti-you know, gay rights, pro gun or anti-gun control. it's the tone and how he said it. there are a lot of people in new york who are anti-abortion. it's a big state pap lot of people in new york are pro gun and maybe pro assault weapon. it's the tone for a governor that pushes away some people. that's part of -- there are other examples of our politicians not being shall we say respectful of the other side. >> i think republicans in the state also want to pick a fight with the governor. he's got $33 million in the bank, two-thirds of the people in the state approve of him, he's about to face re-election. so in terms of politics, it doesn't hurt them to get into a rumble with the governor because their candidate is not that well-known. >> to me it makes me realize
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that some of these states that are so blue now, the blue states in this country are getting bluer and the red redder, and obama when he talks about most issues, he has this on the one hand, liberals say this, conservatives say this, but cuomo has no interest in sort of giving anything to the other side. >> he needs to get out his base. right? >> everything is black and white. >> guys, thanks very much. when we come back, they're some of the most popular small cars in the country, but are they safe to zplooif what a disturbing new crash test reveals. plus, the nsa leaker edward snowden firing back in a new interview at allegations he was acting as a spy when he leaked hundreds of thousands of classified u.s. documents. i'll speak live with the reporter who did that exclusive interview with him. hey kevin...still eating chalk for heartburn? yeah... try new alka seltzer fruit chews. they work fast on heartburn and taste awesome. these are good. told ya! i'm feeling better already. [ male announcer ] new alka seltzer fruits chews.
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nwas the most watchedage otelevision event ever.s so, what's next? the upcoming winter games from sochi. where every second of nbc universal's coverage will be available on every device. on tv, online or streaming on the nbc sports live extra app. beginning february 6th, experience the winter games everywhere. welcome to what's next. comcast nbcuniversal
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there's some of the hottest small cars in the country but they're getting crushed in a new crash test. it's bring in brian todd with disturbing information for us. >> you're seeing more and more of these mini cars on the road. they're popular but they perform miserably in a test that simulates how many accidents actually occur. in many of these crashes, the cars collapse right into the occupant's space on impact. the crashes are loud, violent and meant to be. 11 of america's most popular small cars getting crunched in in what's called a small overlap crash test. the front of the car partially clipping a barrier at 40 miles an hour. the results as disturbing as this video. of the 11 subcompact and mini
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cars tested, six got a rating of poor. one was the nissan versa. the two worst performing, the honda fit and fiat 500. >> these vehicles are just not receiving the highest priority from the automakers to make changes that are important to improve safety. >> reporter: joe nolan is with the institute for highway safety which conducted the test. he said none of the cars got the top testing of good. the dummies wore seat belts and had frontal airbags available. in the honda fit -- >> the structure collapsed around the driver. the steering column moved back and away from the driver. the driver's head struck the instrument panel directly. >> reporter: with the fiat 500 -- >> the driver's door ripped off at its hinges and opened. >> reporter: creating the risk of ejection.
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other cars getting the lowest grade, the toyota prius c, honda accent, the mitsubishi mirage. many were on the display at the washington auto show. none of those automakers provided anyone to speak on camera. honda said its model, the fit, was designed before the test came into the existence in 2012. some said their cars did better on more traditional tests like the side impact, rollover and head-on tests. automakers point out this test could help them make improvements to their vehicles like honda promises to do with the fit next year. they say their cars meet government regulations and safety is their top priority. >> that video is pretty scary. but other major news on car safety emerging today as well. >> the national highway traffic and safety administration administration wants to make children's car seats pass a side impact test.
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the seats would be affixed with sled, subjected to a t-bone collision. car crashes still the number one cause of death among children in the u.s. they've got to fix these seats, got to make them better. part of the problem is the way the parents fasten the seats in the back, they don't do it right. that's a big part -- >> they have to learn how to do it. >> yes. >> thanks very much, brian todd. coming up in our next hour, growing concerns, the winter olympic games in sochi, russia, will be targeted by terrorists. will russia call on the united states to help keep the games safe? and new comments from the toronto mayor rob ford about his bizarre behavior in a new video that has surfaced. you're going to hear what he's saying now. that's coming up. your eyes really are unique.
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this just coming in to the "the situation room." rob ford speaking out moments ago about his bizarre behavior in a new video that surfaced. here's a clip from that video. >> [ bleep ]. trying to tell me -- >> here's what rob ford is now saying about that video. watch this. >> as you know, i'm a human being, the same as every one of you and i'm entitled to a personal life. my personal life does not interfere with the work i do day in and day out for the taxpayers
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of this great city. monday was unfortunate. i had a minor setback. we all experience these difficult bumps in life. i am telling the toronto residents that i'm still working hard every day to improve my health and my well-being. but, again, this is completely a private matter. >> just the latest embarrassment for the mayor who's now infamous for admitting he smoked crack and darank way too much. happening now, growing threats, security is being stepped up ahead of the winter olympic games. but many question whether russia can keep sochi safe by itself. will moscow call on the united states military to help? fear that female suicide bombers may plot an attack at the games. and snowden speaks.
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the dismisses allegations he was a russian spy. i'll talk to the journalist who got an exclusive interview with him. would a clemency offer bring him back to the united states? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." the world awaits the start of the winter olympic games in just over two weeks. a long, simmering separatist movement as southern russia has morphed into an islamist insurgency and there's very real fear its next bloody chapters will play out in the city of sochi as athletes and visitors from around the world arrived in the coming days. our senior international correspondent, nick paton walsh is in sochi for us. what are you hearing about these olympic threats? >> reporter: well, today, there was considerable alarm at what appears to be the same letter,
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it's vague in content. made a reference to blowing up some attendees here. and any threat from that was quickly extinguished by the international olympic committee saying there seemed to be a round random message from the public. but it feeds into a growing pattern of more information emerging, more threats. they are high on the lookout for them right now. people wondering how safe it will be two weeks from now when these games begin. 15 days out and already the threats, real or hoax, are piling up against what could be the most tense and guarded winter games in decades. the talk isn't of who will ski to gold but instead where are these three women, potential suicide bombers, one perhaps in sochi itself. known as black widows in
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southern russia because they're said to die to avenge the death of a loved one killed in the bitter decades of insurgency here. a militant leader was killed by russian police in a raid tuesday. that's nothing new in southern russ russia. [ inaudible ] why would anyone choose to bring such an event here? behind that decision, president putin who's fond of this black seacoast but also rose to power 14 years ago, viciously bringing order to restless southern russia. on wednesday, an e-mail to germany, hungary and italy's olympic committees seemed threatening. but was later dismissed by olympic officials saying it contains no threat and appears to be a random message from a member of the public.
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but some threats are very real. these two men, likely suicide bombers, who attacked volgograd with back-to-back blasts. here, they pledge others will give a present for all the tourists who will come. they showed slowly how they made their bombs. they may fail but have already succeeded in switching the focus from the games to fear of what may hit its sidelines. now, when you drive around this city, particularly late at night, very quiet, most of the cars i saw simply police driving slowly to emphasize their presence here. and the olympic village itself, that's behind a tight corridor. but no matter how many troops and police they flood this particular area with, many are still concerned across this huge, lengthy, volatile region that stretches between two sea, you're probably going to see some violence from the insurgency. this all comes down to vladimir
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putin, really. a man who brandished his credentials. now 14 years later, he's trying to hold a big spectacle here that will remind him of the soviet past he so deeply cherishes. are those militants going to embarrass him here in a place he dearly loves, sochi? wolf? >> thanks so much. barbara starr is working this part of the story for us. what are you picking up? >> if the russians want help from the pentagon, they will have to ask for it. but discussions are under way, so the pieces could quickly be put into place. even with russia's ring of steel around sochi, at the white
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house, worry and limited reassurance. >> we have seen an uptick in threat reporting prior to the olympics, which is, of course, of concern, although it is also not unusual for a major international event. >> the chairman of the house homeland security committee has just returned from sochi. >> the area that needs to be improved, quite frankly, is the intelligence sharing component that the russians have not been quite as candid with us. >> the u.s. is pressing urgently for russia to ask for help. >> we have offered, as i said, assistance to the russians, any assistance that they might need to counter that threat. >> reporter: that assistance might include the pentagon, sending ied detection and jamming equipment, the same high-tech gear used in iraq and afghanistan. general martin dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs, and his russian counterpart are leading an effort to figure out if u.s.
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military gear would be compatible with russian equipment against terrorist bombs. it is possible u.s. troops could be sent to operate the systems but only if the russians ask for help, something u.s. officials say is unlikely. the fbi and state department's diplomatic security personnel will be protecting u.s. officials attending the games. some u.s. olympic teams are lining up private security to help out sochi in a crisis. >> i think the level of concern is unquestionably higher. and i think that the amount of effort and resources that have been allocated to this olympic games is unparalleled. >> reporter: look, here's the bottom line, wolf, right now,
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russian intelligence services, u.s. intelligence services and several other nations scrutinizing every piece of information, every piece of intelligence they can to try and make sure these are peaceful games. it will be very tough going, they say. >> yeah, only about two weeks away. let's hope for the best. barbara, thanks very much. still ahead here in "the situation room," edward snowden speaking out about allegations he was actually a russian spy. the reporter who conducted an exclusive interview with the nsa leaker is standing by to join us live. plus, a new level of horror in syria's civil war. graphic new pictures allege systematic torture, starvation, execution, war crimes.
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was edward snowden spying for russia when he leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents? listen to what they said on nbc's "meet the press." >> i believe there's questions to be answered there. i don't think it was a luck event that he ended up in moscow under the handling of the fsb. as somebody who used to do investigations, some of the things we're finding we would call clues that would indicate to me that he had some help. >> do you agree with chairman rogers that he may have had help from the russians? >> he may well have. we don't know at this stage. >> edward snowden is speaking out about that telling "the new yorker" magazine, quote, this russian spy push is absurd, i clearly acted alone with no
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assistance from anyone, much less a government, spies get treated better than that. jane conducted that interview. thanks for joining us. >> glad to be with you. >> it's not every day someone gets a chance to interview edward snowden. tell us a little of the mechanics of how you did this. >> some things i can't talk about. but he communicates through encrypted means so he will not be intercepted because nobody knows more than he does about the ways you can be intercepted by the nsa. >> what does that mean, encrypted? >> not using a server on a computer that would allow the nsa to penetrate -- >> you learned how to do that yourself? >> i did which is sort of a joke because i'm technically not the savviest. but even someone like me could learn -- >> the interview went back and forth via these encrypted means, if you will? >> right, right. >> that's pretty unusual. that's the way bart gelman did his interview -- >> he actually went over to moscow. my sense is that snowden is in
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touch with a number of people. he is a creature who lives on his computer. this is the world he exists in. and he's online a lot. >> mike rogers is a former fbi agent, chairman of the house intelligence committee. for him to suggest that snowden may have been an agent working for russian intelligence from the very beginning, he must have some inkling of evidence to back that up, i suspect? >> yeah, that's why i think it's important -- this is someone with a very important title who's making these allegations. and he talked about clues, unspecified clues. i called his office to see if i could get him to explain a little bit more and he didn't want to discuss it. he wouldn't comment further. but what he is saying is not only denied by snowden, it also is contradicted by several investigations, the fbi's been investigating and the nsa's been investigating. and the cia has been investigating.
quote quote
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they've all been looking for the possibility that snowden's working with foreign governments. and at the moment, none of them have found evidence. >> were you surprised that dianne feinstein sort of said, i can't rule that out? she's the chair of the senate intelligence committee. >> yes. in some ways, though, when i called her office, they basically said she was just asking questions. they're not really saying she's standing by this. in some way, she was being polite and saying, who knows? it's interesting that they would float something so serious. >> yeah. in the interview -- i'll put it up on the screen, he also told you this -- he said, no one has credibly shown any harm to national security. the president himself admitted both that changes are necessary and that he is certain the debate my actions started will make us stronger. although the president in that long interview in your magazine did say there was major damage to national security. >> he basically said that there was more damage than good that came out of it. but he has, as mr. snowden is
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saying, said that it has provoked a debate that has been useful in this country. and what snowden said to me was, i've brought the american public to the table. and he also said, if in fact he's smeared and his reputation is ruined, he said, if i end up in a ditch at the end of the day and reform comes out of this, it will be worth of it. >> what mike rogers says, he says if you take a look at the stuff snowden stole, some of it does deal with the privacy rights of the american public. but most of it, he says, deals with major military-related issues that only a country like russia or china would really find beneficial, had nothing to do with national security issues, if you will, privacy issues, if you will. did you get into that at all with him? >> well, the other thing is that we don't know -- i'm not sure how he knows. but we don't really know everything that snowden took. what's been released so far really is focused on the privacy issue and has obviously broken
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into a tremendous debate all around the world. >> rogers says a lot of it deals with military hardware, sensitive information. another quote from your interview with snowden about his own fate -- at least the american public has a seat at the table now. i end up disgraced in a ditch somewhere but it helps the country, it will still be worth it. >> he really casts himself as kind of a martyr and a reformer. it's going to take time to figure out who he really is. but i think there is no evidence that i know of or that has been presented to the american public that he is a spy or working with another country. he says, i'm working alone, i did this by myself, certainly not with another government. >> did he said under what circumstances he would come back to the united states? >> you know, i think he probably would love to come back if he weren't going to be spending the
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rest of his life in prison. but i think -- i'd be hard-pressed if i were his lawyer to tell him to come back right this minute. >> jane, good work. i know you're working on a book, too. don't leave, yet. we'll talk about it in the commercial break. stand by. just ahead, years of brutal civil war, disturbing new allegations of war crimes, allegations of mass torture, starvation and execution by the regime. christiane amanpour is standing by to join us. oin' on ♪ ♪ stacy's mom has got it goin' on ♪ ♪ stacy's mom has got it goin' on ♪ [ male announcer ] the beautifully practical and practically beautiful cadillac srx. lease this 2014 cadillac srx for around $319 a month with premium care maintenance included. ♪
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exchanges marked an ominous start to the syrian peace talks now under way in switzerland. they come amid disturbing new evidence of widespread torture, starvation and execution stemming from syria's brutal civil war. we're about to see some graphic images that some viewers may find disturbing. and christiane amanpour is joining us now. christiane, another amazing interview with the russian prime minister, dmitry medvedev. i want to play this little clip and then we'll discuss. >> 100,000-plus people have been killed in the last three years in syria. there is starvation in the land haunting many people. and there just doesn't seem to be any way out of this. what are your real hopes for this geneva 2 conference this week? do you think there's really going to be some kind of solution? >> translator: the thing has happened with the withdrawal of the invitation to iran, i
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believe that's unacceptable. can someone think the syrian problem can be discussed without the iranian factor and their account of it? >> the iranians were invited, then disinvited. does anybody really think that anything positive is going to emerge from these so-called geneva 2 peace talks? >> well, they're all putting a good face on it. it's already started by a load of speeches and those were cantankerous, to say the very at least. diplomatically there was quite a verbal fisticuffs going on between those parties that supported the opposition in syria and for instance the syrians. they blame the turks for being totally behind all the goings-on in syria right now. the russians are hoping something will come of it. they obviously support the assad regime. they say it's only a domestic matter and cannot be resolved by people from the outside, not the
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united states, not them, not anybody. there's not a lot of hope that there's a diplomatic solution. some say humanitarian aid and some progress on visiting and releasing detainees on both sides could help. that's been put into very sharp focus by what we reported this week, the systematic torture and killing, the allegations thereof, of syrian prisoners. >> and you did some amazing work and you showed the world these pictures for the first time right here on cnn earlier this week. i want to show some of those pictures to our viewers. i want to warn our viewers that they are very, very disturbing. young people might not want to be in the room when we show these pictures. these are horrendous pictures. you've heard the reaction from the regime of president bashar al assad that this is really the work of the opposition, the rebels, if you will, and al qaeda who oppose bashar al assad's regime, although it's been well-documented that this
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is the work of the syrian regime. go ahead and explain what's going on. >> well, this is a defector who came out with 55,000 images representing what he said were 11,000 bodies, detainees who he said as part of the military police in syria, he had to photograph. and the photographs, you'll see black squares over them. those have obscured numbers that the intelligence services have put on to identify these bodies. the purpose, according to this defector, was to put false death certificates and tell their families that they had just died of natural causes in prison. the international jurist who came up with this conclusion said this shows evidence of systematic torture by starvation, torture by beating, torture by strangulation other than hanging and the first such pictorials, such evidence of prisoners in syria. they blame the syrian regime and believe that this kind of
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evidence -- and they thoroughly debriefed the defector -- could stand up and would stand up in a court of law and would provide evidence of crimes against humanity. and i specifically asked them, this is a war zone, could these have been war dead and they specifically said to me, the forensic scientist, that, no, because there are no evidence of any gunshot wounds or shelling or any of the kind of battlefield wounds that you would suspect if they'd been killed in the course of this war. and you can see the starvation. this is not a prisoner on a hunger strike. this is months and months and months of using starvation as a weapon of war, as a torture device. >> horrendous, horrendous pictures. christiane, very important work you've done, thanks so much for bringing those pictures to light. christiane amanpour reporting for us from london. >> thank you, wolf. before we go, some other stories we're monitoring in "the situation room" right now. much of the northeast is attempting to dig out from under record amounts of snow after
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that monster storm, almost 1,500 flights have been canceled, states of emergency are in effect up and down the coast. at least four people are dead and hundreds injured amid escalating demonstrations over new laws limiting the right to protest in the ukraine. a medical source says the u.s. state department is condemning the violence which has grown out of weeks of largely peaceful anti-government demonstrations. firefighters were on the scene of a massive fire at a mississippi plant after what our affiliates report were multiple explosions. the blaze was apparently so hot, crews weren't able to get close enough to fight it. no injuries are reported. the new york governor andrew cuomo is under fire from some conservatives for saying in an interview what he called right to life, pro assault weapon,
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extreme conservatives. new york has a long history of electing democrats and republicans statewide who are moderate rather than on the extreme ends of the political spectrum. that is an inarguable fact. the letter goes on, quote, the governor is a gun owner and a can the lick. his faith is very important to him and he respects the second amendment. the governor's main principle for new york state is tolerance of different opinions, races, sexual orientation and religion. you can always follow what's going on in "the situation room" on twitter. "crossfire" starts right now. tonight on "crossfire," one of the country's most explosive as