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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Egyptian President Not to Run For Reelection
Aired February 1, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. We are live in Cairo yet again tonight. And what a day and night it has been, a day of peaceful protests here in the city of Cairo and a dramatic night of developments also in Cairo. President Hosni Mubarak making a speech, announcing after some 300 deaths in the last eight days, after untold numbers of people have been arrested, Hosni Mubarak announcing tonight that he is not stepping down, but that he will not run for reelection in September as some had believed he had planned, though he is 82 years old.
We will show you some of his speech. We will show you the reaction to it in the square. We're also going to show you President Obama's comments after a conversation with Hosni Mubarak. But we want to show you some new video that we just got in of an apparent attack in Alexandria, a fight between pro-Mubarak supporters and anti-Mubarak demonstrators who had been in Martyrs square. The anti-Mubarak demonstrators who have demonstrating all day long and part of this massive million man march they called it throughout Alexandria and in Cairo, the anti-Mubarak demonstrators said that they were actually attacked by pro-Mubarak demonstrators and then called in the military. Here's the video that we just got.
COOPER (voice-over): First, the immediate reaction to Mubarak down in Cairo's Liberation Square. Take a look.
HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): May God protect the homeland and peace be upon you and God's mercy and blessings.
COOPER: People outraged. Some took off their shoes and waved the soles at the picture on the big screen TV. After the speech, President Obama spoke for about a half-hour with President Mubarak. Shortly after that, he went before the cameras himself praising the military's restraint, the protester's aspirations and conduct and urged President Mubarak not to try to hang on to power until September.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now. Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties. It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should result in a government that's not only grounded in democratic principles but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
COOPER: All of this coming at the end of a day that began here in Cairo and Alexandria with a massive peaceful protest out on the streets.
(on camera): Does it make you proud today to see this and to be an Egyptian?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, of course. I have a lot of my colleagues, they left Cairo two, three days ago. But I decide to stay, to be witness for this new rise or sunrise in the Egyptian life. This is something we are proud. We decide to come to join the people here.
COOPER: We're going to take you to the front lines of the protests that we saw today here in Cairo. We will have that report coming up in shortly. But I want to show you some of my exclusive interview with the Nobel laureate Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, his reaction to President Mubarak's statement tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Dr. ElBaradei, what is your reaction to President Mubarak's address tonight?
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE: Well, Anderson, this is clearly an act of deception. It is a person who doesn't want to let go, a dictator who doesn't want to listen to the clear voice of the people.
Anderson, you are in Cairo. You have seen what the city looks like, what the people want. And to continuously try to play tricks, he is unfortunately going to extend the agony here for another six or seven months. He has continued to polarize the country. He continues to get people even more angry and could resort to violence.
Whoever gave him that advice gave him absolutely the wrong advice. He just has to let go. And not only is going at best to be a lame-duck person; he's going to be a dead man walking. And I don't really understand what is behind that, other than a further six, seven months of instability, rather than the ground for a new regime.
COOPER: When you say he's going to be a dead man walking, what do you mean?
ELBARADEI: What I mean, that he lost his legitimacy. How could he face the people, Anderson? You saw today people made it with their feet that he does not represent them. They do not consider him as a legitimate president. He lost all confidence by all people. Nobody trusts him any longer.
And all what I heard from the street today that not a single person is buying this. I'm very, very disappointed. And whoever gave him that advice gave him the absolute wrong advice. It's bad for you, it's bad for Egypt.
COOPER: There are reports that that advice came from the United States, from the envoy that President Obama sent.
ELBARADEI: Yes, I don't really know that. But if that were to be true, then he got the absolutely wrong advice. As I said, this will be bad for Egypt, bad for the U.S., bad for everybody. He lost legitimacy in Egypt and everywhere around the word.
COOPER: So do you want to see the protests continue tomorrow?
ELBARADEI: Well, it is not me wants to see the protests. I was told immediately a minute after he spoke by everybody in the square that they are going to continue the protests. The Brotherhood said the same. Everybody I talked right, left and center said the protests will continue. The protests will even be more aggressive. So how is that going to help anybody?
COOPER: Have you had any communication with the Obama administration or with the envoy who represented them who came here?
ELBARADEI: Well, I had a long conversation this morning with the ambassador here, and -- but I haven't seen the special envoy.
COOPER: And if the president does stay in power until September, and there are elections then, would you consider running for president?
ELBARADEI: Well, Anderson, I will not run unless there is a free and fair election. And for Egypt to have a free and fair election, we need a complete overhaul of the system. I don't think that is going to happen under Mr. Mubarak's reign.
COOPER: Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you, sir.
ELBARADEI: Thank you, Anderson. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I'm joined now by CNN's Ben Wedeman. I'm also joined by Professor Fouad Ajami with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and John King, host of "JOHN KING, USA."
Ben, in terms of a reaction to Mubarak's address tonight, obviously the protesters in the square were outraged. It's not what they want to hear. They say they're going to continue to protest. But they are only a small percentage of the people of Egypt. How do you think this speech is going to play in the rest of the country?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, for many Egyptians, it's going to be defusing the crisis to a certain extent. Many people are worried, not necessarily about the fate of Mubarak, although this sentiment does seem to be in favor of him leaving at some point. What people need is to get back to work, to get money out of the banks, to get their kids back to school, to get the railroads moving again, to get life going again, because the economy is at a standstill. People just don't know how to handle this thing as long as the country is in this state of paralysis. So, some sort of defusing of the crisis is welcomed by many Egyptians.
COOPER: Professor Ajami, when you heard Mubarak make this announcement that he would not seek reelection at the age of 82 but that he was not stepping down, what did you think?
FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, look, Anderson, and we talked about it a couple of days ago when you were here before you headed out to the field, and I think what's interesting about Mubarak, everything he's offering, had he offered it before, it would have worked. Everything has come a little too little, a little too late.
And in a way, if he wants to pose as the man who would help ease Egypt into a new transition, the problem is the people of this country don't trust him. They don't think he will be an honest broker. They don't believe he will run and prepare for an honest election, because I think they're right, he would not know an honest election, even if he ran into it. So there is something of this broken trust between him and his population.
COOPER: Do you agree with that?
And, in fact, this country has a long history of rigged elections and the feeling is that they can't -- the tiger can't change his spots, that the country -- I mean, look, behind us, we have basically a rent-a-mob of pro-Mubarak supporters who have been mobilized at this late hour to chant, you know, that the press are traitors and agents. And this is very much...
COOPER: Do you think these guys are paid to do this?
WEDEMAN: I don't think there's any doubt about it. I have seen demonstrations like this in Egypt for years.
There are people who have such a stake in this regime that they're coming out like this, they're being paid perhaps to come out like this to show support for the Mubarak regime. This is typical for instance of Egyptian elections. Oftentimes they come out in favor of Mubarak and it turns out that they have been paid 20 pounds apiece to do it.
COOPER: How quickly do they start throwing things at us, by the way?
WEDEMAN: Well, we may want to think about that.
COOPER: All right.
John King, what do you know about the behind the scenes work at the White House regarding this speech, regarding the president's conversation with Hosni Mubarak?
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Well, Anderson, it's a very difficult time for the president, because you're right there in the middle of it. Revolutions, peaceful revolutions, are very emotional, they're very visceral. They don't lend themselves to nuance.
And for all the disappointment in President Mubarak's speech first tonight, there was some important nuance there. He did say he was willing to speed up the election process. And he did say he was willing to go forward. That's not enough for the Obama White House and the president of the United States made that clear both in his public statements you played at the top at the beginning of the show.
He said the transition must be peaceful and must begin now. They want and expect President Mubarak to speed up his timetable. Privately, I'm told President Obama -- a 30-minute conversation is a very long conversation for the president of the United States to have with any leader.
And I'm told he was very blunt in saying you can't run this clock out. You can't go for months. You need to quickly move to a transitional situation and that most likely in the White House calculation, they don't believe President Mubarak has this part yet, but in the White House calculation, this is a matter of weeks that he must step aside, yield to his new vice president, yield to the chief of staff of the army, and bring some people in. But your conversation with Mr. ElBaradei is very telling. They need somebody to bring in who is responsible who can actually negotiate for the demonstrators and they don't know who that is yet.
COOPER: And, Fouad, a lot of that has to do with Mubarak himself. Over the last 30 years he has basically eliminated any opposition or any institution that might have grown into an opposition.
AJAMI: Anderson, behind you is the handiwork of the man himself, Mr. Mubarak. This is the Egypt he's created. This is the mob he's created. This is the anger he created on one side that took people into the streets and then the hired thugs, the people who emptied the prisons and sent people out in order to sow trouble among the crowds. This is the handiwork of Hosni Mubarak.
The one thing Mubarak could do for his country at this time is to accept the verdict of what has happened, to accept an estrangement from his people and to accept it's too late, that it's time to move on and it's time to prepare this country, to try to heal this country. I don't think he knows how. I think he's a stubborn man. I think he is still bargaining and pleading for time, hoping that the crowds would disperse, hoping that he would be spared and yet another day.
COOPER: What will -- if he remains, what will this transition so-called look like over the next eight months? (CROSSTALK)
WEDEMAN: ... very messy, because...
COOPER: Sorry. Go ahead, Ben.
WEDEMAN: I said it could get very messy because there are so many people who have a stake in the regime that's been in place for 29 years.
There are business interests, there are ordinary employees of the security services, the plainclothes policemen, the secret police, the intelligence. There's so many elements that have so much to lose, and they could be fighting tooth and nail to try to keep this regime in power.
COOPER: Fouad, I heard you say the other night that the Interior Ministry here, which is essentially the secret police, the intelligence service, they have as many as 1.3 million employees. Is that true?
AJAMI: Even more, about 1.7 million by some estimates.
But these are people who would just simply blow with the wind. They are just people who just want to make a living. They have been implicated in the terror of the Mubarak regime. That's what all dictatorships, Anderson, do. What they do is they implicate people in their big crimes. And so there are people at the top who have looted what they could and I think they are probably gone, and there are the poor people trapped in the system.
They work for the Ministry of Interior. They have no other way of livelihood. And it's not out of love for Mubarak that they do it. It's just this is what -- the life that is being offered to them.
COOPER: If viewers at home might be wondering how we're so sure that this is sort of a rent-a-mob that has shown up at our station. Essentially there was sort of a government-sponsored party here all night long. And it's now about 5:00 a.m. here. It's not natural that a mob would suddenly appear right by our broadcast.
WEDEMAN: No, this is absolutely out of the ordinary. And I can tell you, I was watching state TV before coming here. And of course this is what was on. It was this rent-a-mob that was on state TV constantly. So there is an intense desire to create the impression that there are -- there's a large number of Egyptians who are still in favor of the regime. But it's really not a large number.
COOPER: It's nothing personal, though. They don't actually know who we are. They don't even know what television station this is. They are just...
WEDEMAN: In fact, they are talking about Jazeera.
COOPER: There you go.
Dr. Ajami, I appreciate you being on tonight, John King as well. We will have more with Ben right after this break.
We will take you to the front lines, show you what we saw today, the demonstrations, the massive demonstrations, biggest demonstrations we have seen thus far, much bigger than the small mob behind me right now. We will take you to the front lines of that demonstration today.
Also, we will check in with Isha Sesay, who is following the latest on this massive bad weather storm that has hit the Midwest and is heading East.
Isha, what's the update?
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, Anderson. A massive storm is already pummeling the U.S. right now, from New Mexico to Maine. Snow, ice, and bitter cold are causing misery and up to 100 million people stand to be affected. Coming up, I will have the very latest details on what the National Weather Service is calling a life-threatening storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm proud I'm Egyptian now. Only now I'm very proud that I'm Egyptian.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You weren't proud before?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
GORANI: And now you're proud?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
COOPER: One of the demonstrators we heard from earlier today. Just to give you a sense of what is going on, you may be seeing some green flashing in the lens. This pro-Mubarak mob which has appeared underneath our live shot location is basically -- they have started to throw -- they threw a rock and now they're pointing a laser at this camera to try to block the shot.
They frankly have no -- they don't know we're CNN. They don't know anything about us. But they're basically this sort of mob that has shown up, about 200 people. So, at some point, we may retreat from this location, but we're just going to keep broadcasting for now.
I want to show you what we saw earlier today, the massive outpouring. It was both here in Cairo and also in Alexandria. We will talk to Nic Robertson about what happened there. But the scene in Cairo was nothing that we have not seen in the last eight days of these protests. And we have seen big protests before. Here, let's take to the front lines of what we saw today in Liberation Square.
COOPER (voice-over): At times today, it may have seemed like a party, but protesters wanted to make sure their message to Mubarak was heard loud and clear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have one thing. We ask him to sit down. This is the first -- if he does something like -- if he obey and he convince to leave, he could. But every day he remain in the power, this is -- make the life and make this thing too difficult for him.
COOPER (on camera): Do you think today will make a difference?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope so. I hope so
COOPER: It was the eighth day of protests, and they hoped it would be the biggest one yet.
(on camera): Protesters say it's critical for them to keep the momentum going. That's why they have staged what they hope will be a massive demonstration today.
At this point, it's a battle for numbers, trying to get as many people into the streets as possible. They want to continue to send a message to the Mubarak regime and also to the world that's watching that they are not lagging, that their spirits are strong and they're not going to settle -- they're not going to settle for anything less than Mubarak stepping down.
(voice-over): All day long, people kept on coming. From a nearby building, you could see just how packed the square was. Tanks and armored personnel carriers sat on the periphery, but the people welcomed the soldiers, giving them flowers and food.
Without police present, the protesters policed themselves. Considering their anger, it was remarkably peaceful. Volunteers kept order and even collected trash.
(on camera): Does it make you proud today to see this and to be an Egyptian?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, of course. I have a lot of my colleagues, they left Cairo two, three days ago. But I decide to stay, to be witness for this new rise or sunrise in the Egyptian life. This is something we are proud. We decide to come to join the people here. COOPER (voice-over): Up to 300 people have been killed so far in this crisis, according to the U.N. and today in the crowd some held pictures of those whose lives have been lost. Many here expect the U.S. to do more to force Mubarak to finally step down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have drastic and major reform programs that we need to do, because we don't have health, we don't have education, our economical system is way beyond your imagination. We are living below the poverty line. So if you just stop supporting Mubarak's regime, maybe we can elect a good president who is going to show us a good vision for the country and help us to reform.
COOPER: Even after curfew began, the protests continued well into the night. It was the biggest turnout so far, but some feared it would not be enough.
(on camera): Do you think today is going to be a turning point?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not that optimistic about it. We need more people on the ground here.
COOPER: You feel like there's not enough people yet?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not enough people. Not enough people. We need more people to come down. But they actually managed to build fear inside our hearts and most of the people that I know are staying at home because they're freaking out.
COOPER (voice-over): Despite President Mubarak's announcement this evening that he would not seek reelection, the protests tomorrow will continue. They have gone this far. Many feel the end is in sight.
COOPER: I want to talk about the potential for violence, frankly, in the next couple of days between some of these anti-Mubarak protesters and some of these sort of pro-Mubarak mobs that we're starting to see.
You actually saw some tension in Liberation Square tonight.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we left Tahrir Square 3:00 a.m. local time and there were about 200, 300 pro-Mubarak people lined up trying to get in. The military was acting as a buffer and then there were the anti-Mubarak people on the other side and you could feel the tension there. It would have been like fans of rival soccer teams about to mix it up.
COOPER: Besides a few stones that have been thrown, the mob that was here seems to have been dispersed. I don't know if the military got involved. Is this a concern for the next couple of days?
WEDEMAN: It certainly is. After the first few days of protest, which really took the regime by surprise, I think what we're beginning to see is a bit of pushback by the regime against the protesters, not the regime by itself, but also its supporters, its sort of clients who realize that the end is near for the Mubarak regime, that if September comes, the elections, he's out. And therefore, they realize that their cash cow for years, even though it was a small amount of cash in many cases, is about to go. They're worried.
COOPER: What about to Mohamed ElBaradei's point, which is that this is a trick, that basically this a way not only for Mubarak to keep his power, but also that it's not going to really lead to a transition to democracy? Couldn't he just -- what guarantee is there that this would lead to some sort of democracy, if he stays in power?
WEDEMAN: Well, I think there are two things that might guarantee that the process will work, A, the street, the protests. Let's not forget that the people in Tahrir Square were by and large middle- class, educated. They are not sort of working-class people for the most part. The other is the United States. The United States is really invested in this country strategically, historically, and they cannot afford to see what looks like a promising process go by the wayside. So there are reasons to believe it may actually work.
COOPER: And, Nic Robertson, you're in Alexandria to the north of where we are in Cairo. There was actually violence between pro- Mubarak forces and anti-Mubarak protesters. What happened? I know we have some of the video. What happened?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was the tail end, if you will, of the huge march in Alexandria today. They had settled in Martyrs Square, as they have been every night here.
And as they were sort of sitting there, chanting to get rid of President Mubarak, they say a group of pro-Mubarak supporters came along, brandishing big sticks and knives. They say that they called on the army to come and defuse the situation. The army come in, told the pro-Mubarak supporters, they said to get behind the armored vehicles and told the protesters just stay where you are, the anti- Mubarak protesters just stay where you are. And then according to eyewitnesses, a clash started and 12 of the anti-Mubarak demonstrators, who had been there in Martyrs Square through the evening were beaten, they say, one of them injured quite seriously, according to a doctor who was on the scene there.
But it does appear to be an indication of those tensions and, as Ben was saying, perhaps a reemergence of some of those with a vested interest. And it took the army to drive around in their armored vehicles firing their guns in the air to kind of disperse or sort of force the two sides apart, Anderson.
COOPER: Ben, it's now Wednesday morning here, day nine. What are you going to be looking for in the next 24 hours?
WEDEMAN: Some sort of form of resumption of ordinary life. Really, by early next week...
COOPER: Because things are shut down here. WEDEMAN: Everything is shut down. Government employees not getting paid, nobody is going to school, a lot of stores aren't working. So that's one thing. Another is Friday. Friday is a day theoretically, the weekend, although nobody is working anyway these days, but that is normally a day when large demonstrations happen. We can expect continuation of the anti-Mubarak demonstrations, but I can see these guys on the street may be out as well, and there could be more clashes.
COOPER: For you, what are the big questions in the 24 hours ahead?
WATSON: Well, do we start to get all life back to normal? There were indications from the prime minister who appeared, newly appointed prime minister -- he appeared on TV today in an interview and said that, yes, he thought the Internet for example would be back up soon. The finance minister came out with a statement saying that some kind of compensation would be given to people who have been made unemployed throughout this crisis. Can some steps be made to kind of ease some of the economic burden from the part of the government? People saying that they have run out of cash, that they're running out of crucial supplies. Will shops start to reopen again?
COOPER: Will anyone be held responsible for some 300 deaths that according to the U.N. have occurred in the last eight days here and what about all the people who have been arrested?
WEDEMAN: President Mubarak in his speech did talk about investigations into some of the excesses that occurred over the past few days of the violence, of the looting and we shall see -- as he's saying this, we shall see if it actually comes to fruition.
COOPER: Nic, what were the demonstrations like today in Alexandria? We saw some of the violence that occurred at the end, but what kind of a crowd turnout was there?
ROBERTSON: It was by far the biggest turnout we have seen so far. I think one of the interesting things for me was the location chosen for all these different marches to congregate and they chose to congregate initially outside the main army headquarters, close to the center of the city here. Then they changed their minds and had it just a couple hundred of yards away.
But there seemed to be an effort there, while the army had taken some of the heavy weapons off their armored vehicles, soldiers were telling us they had been given orders not to shoot at protesters. Protesters were linking their arms around armored vehicles to make sure there were no mistakes happen.
But there seemed to be something of an effort there in that whole gathering in this particular location, a subtle or perhaps less than subtle message that we're here, we're not far away. You're the sort of state institution that's working and functioning that we can come and demonstrate our numbers and power to. So I think there was something of that in it. But also interesting today to hear from people concerned about the transition, saying perhaps Mubarak should have another week and perhaps the vice president would be OK. If only we get elections in two months or three months, that would be OK.
You could really hear the sense of concern about the transition of power and how safe it might be. And just one more quick thought. We went into an apartment building to get some high shots of the scene there. I have to say there were a lot of very, very frightened elderly people in that building, elderly women, elderly men and you can really get a sense going in there of what they're going for, seeing armed thugs on the streets, vigilantes providing security in their neighborhoods now. It is just not what they're used to. They're really concerned, Anderson.
COOPER: Ben, it does still seem like there is a big chasm between what the White House expects in terms of Mubarak staying in power, the length of time, and what Mubarak himself expects. The indication of the speech seemed to be he was going to stay through until September. The White House, we're hearing from John King, is thinking of a much shorter time frame.
WEDEMAN: No, certainly. I listened to his speech, and it definitely doesn't sound like he's going to step down any sooner than he really has to, according to the constitution.
And it was an interesting speech, because it started off very defiant, pointing fingers at the demonstrators. And at the end of the speech, sort of saying I have served this country for very long as a soldier and as a president. And you got the feeling that there's a bit of wounded pride there.
COOPER: Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Ivan Watson, as well, Nic Robertson.
When we come back, we're going to take a look at Americans trying to leave Egypt. We're still seeing large numbers of Americans leaving. We'll also talk to one American who doesn't feel the need to leave. He'll explain why he feels it's OK to stay here for now.
And we'll also have the latest on the huge winter storm hitting the United States. All that and more ahead. Live from Cairo.
COOPER: And welcome back. We are live from Cairo. In case you've been following our coverage, now I'm glad to say the large mob of thugs has -- seem to have moved down the block, so it's relatively calm here for a few minutes. I'm hoping they don't decide to come back.
We're -- when we come back, we're going to have a lot about Americans trying to evacuate from Cairo, and we're going to talk to one young American who's here teaching English who's decided he's going to stay. We'll talk to him about why.
But first, let's check in with Isha Sesay for an update, for a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the 2012 Democratic National Convention will be in Charlotte, North Carolina. Democrats chose Charlotte over Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis. The convention is scheduled for the first week in September.
The Navy captain who was fired for making raunchy videos aboard an aircraft carrier says the higher-ups knew all about what he was doing. In a written statement to investigators, Captain Owen Honors says his Navy bosses never told him to stop making the videos, which included partial nudity and homophobic jokes. He says the videos were good for morale on board and were never meant to be made public.
And concerns about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Beijing on Wall Street. The Dow and S&P closed at their highest levels in two years. The Dow rallied 148 points to close at 12,040, the highest since June of 2008.
And the other big story tonight is the massive storm that is expected to affect as many as 100 million people here in the United States. Meteorologist Rob Marciano is in Chicago, braving what could be one of the worst storms in that city's history. He joins us now live.
Rob, it looks pretty miserable. Just how bad is it?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, this is the worst we've seen it so far. Just in the last hour, we've seen a ramping of activity in the way of the winds, which have been sustained at 40 miles an hour, gusting over 50. Obviously, the snow blowing sideways.
Well, we had numerous lightning strikes. That's right, lightning strikes in a snowstorm. Thunder snow. It gives you an idea of just how much lift there is in this storm, how dynamic it is, and just how powerful it is.
Not to mention what it did all day long today across Oklahoma, Missouri, dropping 20 inches of snow down there. And in some cases stranding people on highways. Portions of I-70 and I-44 shut down.
And here in Chicago, there's -- there's been reports of damage at Wrigley field because of the damaging winds that are occurring right now and also just scouring the snow here. We've probably had 9 or 10 inches of snow, but it's not piling up because the winds are just whipping it around. We'll probably see several feet of snow drifts later on tomorrow.
The snow is expected to continue tonight through tomorrow. A blizzard warning up until then. Forget about how historic this is going to be. It's going to be at least a top five storm, maybe the worst ever. But at this point, at least through tonight, and there's been emergency vehicles going up and down throughout downtown, Chicagoans, they just want to survive this storm -- Isha.
SESAY: Yes, and Rob, what is the sense among ordinary Chicagoans? Has the city shut down? I mean, you mentioned the traffic that's going by. Are those just emergency vehicles? Are people heeding the warnings and staying inside?
MARCIANO: Buses are still trying to run. There's been a few people have tried to get their vehicles out here. But the city itself tomorrow will be shut down. I believe there's another -- there's some more thunder and lightning happening right now. Obviously, this -- the teeth of this storm right now, this storm is dropping the hammer on Chicago. No doubt about it. (AUDIO GAP) tomorrow morning is going to be (AUDIO GAP).
SESAY: Clearly -- clearly some technical problems there with Rob Marciano, as you can understand with those terrible weather conditions.
Let's bring in meteorologist Chad Myers. He joins us now from Atlanta with more on the massive winter storm.
Chad, you saw the conditions there in Chicago. Still hitting the Midwest right now. But how will it affect the East Coast tomorrow? Let's knock this forward.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know what? East Coast tomorrow, New York City gets an ice storm. OK, not enough to knock all the trees down, but enough ice to make a brutal commute tomorrow morning. It's one of those days you want to take the train and not try to drive.
Think of Miami, Oklahoma, 20 inches; Jefferson City, Missouri, at 18 inches of snowfall. It is brutal in Chicago. And we lost Rob there because there's a big satellite dish on top of a moving van. They parked the van and hope that the dish stays still. Well, in a hurricane it doesn't stay still, because it moves back and forth. And they're trying to point at a satellite 22,000 miles in space. And when it moves just a little bit, we lose the signal. That's what happened to Rob.
It really is the teeth of the storm now for Chicago O'Hare. Back all the way towards the Quad Cities. A brutal night in Indianapolis. Same story for Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, on up toward Erie. This is an ice storm event. We already know of tens of thousands of homes without power in Indiana. Temperatures going down 20, 30 degrees after the cold air comes in from the northwest. Trying to stay warm with that.
I guess it's one of those nights where you're just going to have to bundle up and stay in and try not to do something silly with gas or with a generator in your garage, because we all know about these dangerous, dangerous carbon monoxide fumes that you don't even hear or smell coming -- Isha.
SESAY: Chad, terrible conditions. We appreciate the update.
Anderson, let me toss it back to you in Cairo. As you can see, terrible conditions here in the U.S. As many as 30 states under some kind of weather watch.
COOPER: Yes, it's just incredible. Those pictures are really just unbelievable. Isha, we'll check back in with you later on in the broadcast. Coming up, Americans evacuating from Egypt. The evacuations continue. We're going to talk to one young American who says he's staying and will -- he'll explain why, ahead.
COOPER: Well, welcome back. We are live in Cairo. Our continuing coverage. We are now starting day nine of these protests. Even though President Mubarak has made the announcement that he's planning to stay in power, it's likely the protests will continue today, tomorrow. The protestors say it will continue until President Mubarak leaves office that day.
We want to talk about some of the Americans who have been evacuating here from Egypt, not just in Cairo but on all points around Egypt.
It's believed there are about 52,000 Americans living in Egypt at any time, though it's not known exactly how many are in country right now. The State Department has been offering evacuations, offering flights to places in Europe for people who want to get out. Voluntary evacuations. And about a thousand people on Monday took them up on that. About 500 or so on Tuesday were evacuated.
Jill Dougherty has been covering the evacuations.
Jill, why did the number drop so much on Tuesday?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they said, Anderson, that of these street demonstrations, obviously, that you've been involved in, have been having an effect, at least in Cairo. And so the State Department is saying the numbers did slow.
In fact, the latest ones are they got 460 people out on four government charters, and that was today. And the destinations were Istanbul and Athens.
They will continue that tomorrow, because there are probably about 3,000 people who do or have expressed an interest in getting out, Anderson.
COOPER: And the airport in Cairo is still open, and there are commercial flights, though a number of carriers have cut down on their flights or flights are delayed. But really, I'm hearing the nightmare stories of people waiting, you know, 48 hours for a flight that ends up never showing up, and there's not a lot of information being given out.
How concerned is the State Department about security for Americans here in country?
DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, so far the demonstrations haven't really targeted Americans. So the State Department isn't really saying that that is specifically a problem. It's more just sometimes getting to the airport if you had to go through a demonstration. They're urging people on the Web site -- and that is one place people should check for the latest information. They're urging them during demonstrations to stay indoors, to stay in their hotels.
COOPER: Obviously, people here can't really check any Web sites, because there's still no Internet service. But I guess the State Department is recommending their contact their families in the states and have the families check Web sites. Is that right, Jill?
DOUGHERTY: Exactly. Yes. In fact, they're saying use anything, basically, that you can, you know, e-mail, Web sites, or if you have relatives outside of the United -- outside Egypt, if they can contact you in some way, and get that information.
But the central clearinghouse for information is the Web site for the State Department, State.gov.
COOPER: Jill, appreciate the reporting.
I'm joined now by Read Ezell. He's an American, a young American.
You're here teaching English?
READ EZELL, TEACHING ENGLISH IN EGYPT: Yes.
COOPER: Is this a good time to be teaching, to be in Cairo or a bad time?
EZELL: I find it to be a really -- I mean, at times terrifying, at times very unsettling. But it's been really an interesting time to be here. I found what's going on here to be incredibly inspiring.
COOPER: You're not -- you don't really have any desire to leave or feel the need to leave. A number of your friends have left. Why did they leave?
EZELL: I think after the weekend Friday, we were all out at the protests. All got a little taste of tear gas.
Then Friday night, we were holed up in an apartment downtown and couldn't make it back up to where we live, north -- north of downtown. And there was a lot of violence. We were kind of right next to a police stronghold that got overrun a couple times throughout the night.
And then kind of throughout the weekend, looters around. I think it was -- it was very unsettling.
COOPER: I hope your family is not watching right now. If your parents are sitting at home hearing this, thinking, "What is he doing there?"
EZELL: Yes, I mean, I -- after Friday night I went back up to Kitiopolis (ph), which is kind of a suburb about 12 kilometers north of downtown. COOPER: Right.
EZELL: And there I got to know -- I already knew the neighborhood a little bit, but I've been hanging out with the neighborhood kids, the guys out defending the neighborhood. Gotten to know some of the soldiers that are stationed there now. Sort of.
COOPER: And you kind of say...
EZELL: I don't speak Arabic well enough to really get to know them, but I feel safe. There's still a gunshot here or there, but I haven't seen anything -- I haven't ever felt really personally threatened.
COOPER: So people on your block have -- because there's no police around, people on your block have taken matters into their own hands? They've armed themselves, and every night they're out there just patrolling the neighborhood?
EZELL: Yes. It was pretty unsettling at first, seeing people out. Because in crowds, with makeshift barricades, whatever they could find to block cars from getting through...
COOPER: They're carrying knives and sticks?
EZELL: Everything from broken glass to sticks and baseball bats to defend themselves. But at this point, I've got to -- it's funny what you get used to, I guess, in a situation.
COOPER: And they know who you are? And they know you're in the neighborhood?
EZELL: Exactly. I've gotten used to it. And you know, they're not -- they're good neighborhood people.
COOPER: We talked to two young Americans who were trying to evacuate last night who said they felt there were incidents sort of where they felt kind of an anti-American sentiment. Do you feel that?
EZELL: There have been a couple of times in the middle of the protest where there's been chants or I said something about being American and someone had a negative reaction.
But most -- most of that I feel like is not directed directly at me. Egyptians wanting to know why America isn't supporting them. They feel like -- I think they feel like their revolution is in line with the ideas that they associate with America, like freedom and democracy. And they don't understand why the American government isn't behind them.
It comes from America supported Israel and Mubarak as a person more than aggression toward me as an individual.
COOPER: Well, I wish you luck and I hope you stay safe and keep enjoying your time here in Egypt.
EZELL: Thank you.
COOPER: All right, Read, thanks very much.
Read Ezell is just one of the Americans who decided to stay here, despite all that's going on. When we come back, we'll show you some of the most dramatic developments from the last 24 hours. What a day and night it has been here.
COOPER: It has been an extraordinary 24-hour period here. We've been up, really, for most of these last 24 hours.
I want to show you some of the most dramatic developments that we saw today and tonight in Cairo and Alexandria.
COOPER: Usually this square would not be this crowded at this time of the morning. It's usually after afternoon prayers when people really start to come out to protest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep order. The main idea now is the order. We are the Egyptian people. We're not involved with any party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he protects so that no one goes through here and no one brings any weapons here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no question that after days and nights of protests here, this is the biggest gathering we have seen yet.
WEDEMAN: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). In Arabic it means "Go, go," and that seems to be the one single message of the protestors here in Tahrir Square.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today's protest seems to be more family oriented. You see more women.
You want a democracy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what I want.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For your kids.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe he doesn't understand the language of his people, so I'm telling him in English, please go away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the president was speaking, there was an eerie silence with people hushing one another. And then as he made that statement about the fact that he would be staying in office but would not seek re-election, people broke out into screams and shouts of outrage. They removed their shoes and began waving them in the air. That the ultimate insult in the Arab world, shouting that he was a liar, that they did not trust him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
COOPER (via phone): It remains to be seen, though, whether a statement by President Mubarak tonight does satisfy some people in Egypt. There are large numbers of people here who maybe are not protesting, large numbers of people who we haven't heard from, who -- some who may still support President Mubarak, at least his regime.
So it remains to be seen whether this will weaken the momentum that the protests have had and have been building over the last eight days.
COOPER: Each day has been more dramatic than the last. It is now almost 6 a.m. here, day nine of this crisis, and the crisis continues.
Lots of new developments just in the last 24 hours. We'll continue to follow all the new developments and bring them to you live tomorrow night on 360. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.