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New Jersey Payback Politics?; Interview with Mayor Dawn Zimmer

Aired January 20, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. We've got a big night ahead. Starting with breaking news, a 360 exclusive, the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Dawn Zimmer. She's already accused New Jersey Governor Chris Christie withholding Superstorm Sandy relief money from her badly battered city as political payback.

She's already taken fire from some of the biggest names in national politics for saying what she has. She talked with federal investigators over the weekend. Now only on this program, the mayor reveals documents that she says help back up her case.

In a moment, you can see for yourself, decide for yourself, first, Dana Bash on how we got here.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an ultimatum of epic political proportions. Support our development project or lose critical hurricane relief funding. Chris Christie's lieutenant governor calls it wholly and completely false.

LT. GOV. KIM GUADAGNO (R), NEW JERSEY: Being a Sandy victim myself makes the mayors allegations particularly offensive to me.

BASH: Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer described a scene to CNN's Candy Crowley right out of a movie, saying Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno approached her in a parking lot last May, threatening to withhold much needed Sandy money, unless the mayor supported a Christie-backed re- development project in her town.

MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER (D), HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY: This project is really important to the governor. And she said that she had been with him on Friday night, and that this was a direct message from the governor.

BASH: That is a much more direct tie to Chris Christie than any allegation so far in Bridgegate. One the lieutenant governor essentially says the Democratic mayor made up.

GUADAGNO: Mayor Zimmer's version of our conversation in May of 2013 is not only false, but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined.

BASH: A Christie spokesman said, "It's very clear partisan politics are at play here, as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television." Hoboken's mayor had publicly supported her popular Republican governor in the past. But Zimmer provided private journal entries to CNN telling a different story which she also gave the U.S. attorney investigating how Sandy funds were used.

Zimmer wrote at the time of Christie, "I thought he was something different. This week I found out he's cut from the same corrupt cloth that I had been fighting for the last four years."

Being something different is Christie's political calling card. What drew hundreds of the country's wealthiest Republican donors to Florida this past weekend. Sources who attended say Christie argued the way he's handled scandals so far should make them more confident in him, not less.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He said to those donors, if I ever put myself up for a national office, you and everyone have an absolute right to know how I deal with problems. Lightning will strike.

BASH: But he also privately announced he's putting any potential 2016 race for president on hold for a year. Republican strategist Ana Navarro attended several Florida events.

(On camera): Talking to these billionaires, people who Chris Christie will need if he wants to run for president. What's your sense of how they feel about all this?

NAVARRO: I think Chris Christie has taken the initiative, putting 2016 on pause. I think this buys some time for other potential candidates who may be deciding what they do. And not be at risk of losing donors and activists that commit to Christie.


COOPER: All right, so that was Dana Bash reporting. That's the backdrop. Allegations and along with the bridge scandal, reinforced the notion that political poison to Chris Christie, the charge fair or not that he is a bully.

Insofar as the bridge and the Hoboken story are concerned, we should say that the fast -- or the fact picture is far from complete. Tonight only on this program, as I said, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer joins us with what could be new evidence.

I appreciate you being with us, Mayor.

You sent a letter to Governor Christie on April 23rd that you provided us, we're showing it on the screen, asking for funding for pumps, to help the flooding problem in Hoboken, I want to read part of what you said. You said to the -- to the governor, "Just as shore towns are not being asked for development in exchange for protecting them from future storms, the solution to Hoboken's flooding challenges cannot be dependent on future development."

Now this was sent before your meeting with the lieutenant governor. Does this mean that you felt pressure already about future development?

ZIMMER: I mean, in various meetings that I had with our administration, I did feel that there was -- you know, there's always a lot of discussion about development. But -- and I will say there wasn't -- in those meetings, there was not a direct connection made, but there was pressure, and so, you know, I do think that, you know, while -- I think what's interesting about what the lieutenant governor said today is, she says that my -- you know, it's illogical what I said, and when you look at the documents, you look at the letters, that I've written, you can see that it -- it wasn't illogical at all.

It's actually a progression leading up to something where they wanted to send me, you know, give me a very direct message because they felt like I wasn't getting the message clearly enough, so she was sent in.

COOPER: Because people close to the lieutenant governor -- I mean, as you said, the lieutenant governor calls the allegation completely false. But I want to read to you what a source close to the lieutenant governor said about your conversation.

Quote, "Kim," meaning the lieutenant governor, "remembers in her conversation that she was talking about redevelopment and making investments in Hoboken," meaning you. "She remembers Zimmer pressing Kim for more money for Sandy. Kim remembers saying you can't tie the two together. And she remembers Zimmer continuing to press and showing her map of the city and pressing for Sandy."

So she's saying it was you who was linking Sandy and development. Are you saying this letter which is dated before that conversation of 23rd disproves that?

ZIMMER: Right. Well, that's the first time that I'm hearing that. And I didn't realize that she -- she didn't actually say that directly today, but yes, I mean, this letter definitely makes it very clear that I was the one, you know, on April 23rd, sent them a letter, and very clearly said, you can't connect the two, and it's not fair to connect the two.

And that was part of the conversation that we had. I said, you know, are you saying -- after she said to me, you know, that you've got to move ahead with the Rockefeller project, I said, is any other town being asked to do development in exchange for help with the flooding? And her answer was, well, the shore brings in $38 billion.

I mean, so she was the one connecting -- you know, she very clearly was connecting the development with the Sandy aide in our conversation, and I made it clear -- it's ironic that she's coming around saying that when I sent a letter on April 23rd saying these two things should not be connected and that's not fair.

COOPER: So you're saying, in the conversation you had with her in the parking lot, you point blank said to her, is any other town being asked to link development to Sandy aids?


COOPER: So you made that linkage clear that that was your interpretation of what she was saying and she didn't dispute it?

ZIMMER: She did not dispute it. She restated the fact that, you know, I know it's not fair, but these things shouldn't be connected but they are. So that's in the journal entry that I gave to --


COOPER: So you're saying the lieutenant governor actually said these shouldn't be connected but they are?


COOPER: Were those words her words or --

ZIMMER: That's what I recall, that's what I wrote at the time, I wrote the journal entry a few -- a few days after the meeting with her.

COOPER: Also for the first time now we're seeing another letter that you sent that you provided us on May 8th to the governor saying, you were stunned that you weren't getting the funding requests. That's two days before you had the meeting with lieutenant governor. What is that second letter? What do you believe it shows? What do you believe it proves?

ZIMMER: Well, I mean, again, back to her statement that it's all illogical, I mean, and when you look at -- you look at all of the events together, you can see that it was -- it was a progression. It was a progression of pressure, and she was, you know, sent in to really make that final message to me on May 8th, there's a few important things that happened.

On May 8th, there was a planning board decision, while the planning board voted down the zoning that the Rockefeller group wanted for their property. And on May 8th, we had again severe flooding and the letter that I sent to the governor showed pictures of the severe flooding that we had again in Hoboken.

And you know, and I -- on May 8th, I sent a letter saying that, you know, these things cannot be -- that we really need the funding and that, you know, basically I had received -- my office, you know, had received notice that we were not going to be receiving funding. And I was writing saying, I hope this is not the final decision because we really need help.


ZIMMER: That happens on Wednesday, May 8th.

COOPER: Right.

ZIMMER: So those things. The planning board meeting, the letter to the -- to the governor saying, you know, please, we really need help, I'm hearing we're not going to get hazard mitigation funding. I hope that's not the case. Here's what's happening in Hoboken.

COOPER: So do you believe the May 10th --

ZIMMER: Two days later -- two days later, their office calls Friday afternoon and says, we want to do a Sandy business event on Monday? I feel like 10:00 in the morning. And, you know, a little -- the timing seemed a little bit strange. But we were -- you know, we were fine with it. Of course we want to welcome the lieutenant governor. She's coming to Hoboken. We had already done the opening for shop trade I think at least a month before, but certainly wanted to welcome her. And --

COOPER: So you believe her coming down was in -- specifically in response to this letter of May 8th?

ZIMMER: I do. I do believe it. It's related. Yes. I do believe that it was related. I think that she -- you know, that event was created so that she could come and have the opportunity to make a very clear message to me.

COOPER: You've done two interviews I believe this weekend. You hadn't mentioned these letters before, why now?

ZIMMER: Well, actually these letters were provided. I mean, these letters were provided to MSNBC and I think Steve may have -- you know, so I think Steve may have brought them up in his show.

COOPER: Conversation?

ZIMMER: I mean, yes.


ZIMMER: It's just -- you know, there's a lot of information, there's a lot of documents, there's a lot of, you know, issues around, you know, the connection between the Port Authority and who funded the study and the connection with David Samson and Wolf and Samson, and I know it's complicated for the public to understand, but you know, in -- really the bottom line is, that week, that week of May 8th, that day, there was some important things that happened.

And right after that time frame, when I sent this letter saying, I can't believe this is really true, we're not going to get hazard mitigation funding, and when the planning board voted down the zoning that the Rockefeller group wanted, well then in -- you know, the governor's -- the lieutenant governor's office calls on Monday, they -- you know, they come, and she delivers a very clear message, because I think they felt I wasn't getting the message clearly enough. And they wanted to make it very clear to me.

COOPER: I want to talk more about specifically what she said to you and your immediate reaction, too. We've got to take a quick break, we're going to have more with the mayor of Hoboken.

Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @Andersoncooper, tweet us using #ac360.

Also tonight the threat to turn the Winter Olympic Games into a blood bath in the race to prevent one. Russian authorities now searching for a possible killer. We'll show you her picture and explain who she is ahead.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back. We heard the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, Dawn Zimmer. Before the break we were talking about the days leading up to the meeting with New Jersey's lieutenant governor.

Appreciate you being with us.

We spoke to Governor Christie's office in -- about these letters. They did not issue an official statement, but they questioned the timing of this. They specifically pointed out your conversation with the lieutenant governor was allegedly May 10th, that the first letter is dated April 23rd. They also questioned why this is coming out now, saying you gave interviews before and this didn't come out.

ZIMMER: As far as these letters?


ZIMMER: I mean, yes, these -- like I said these letters were provided to MSNBC, you know, and so this is just further highlighting, you know, the -- basically the progression, the pressure that I felt, and you know sort of connecting the dots, so to speak. And so again when she's saying that it's illogical, it's like these letters, you know, they -- they're further demonstration of, you know, what was happening and how it was really connected.

But the bottom line is, Anderson, the reason she came and she -- you know, and she said this to me. You know, and I stand by my word. I mean --

COOPER: When she said it to you, I mean, what was your immediate initial response? I mean, and your immediate -- what was going through your mind?

ZIMMER: I couldn't believe it. I mean, I just -- I couldn't believe that she was saying what she was saying, I mean, and she very clearly said, you know, these things shouldn't be connected but they are. I know it's not right. And if you tell anyone I will deny it.

COOPER: She said that?

ZIMMER: So -- yes. She said --

COOPER: She said if you tell anybody I will deny it?

ZIMMER: Yes. So, you know, you -- this isn't something that, you know, you forget, when the lieutenant governor of the state of New Jersey tells you in a parking lot, if you tell anyone, I will deny it, you'll remember it. And I --you know, I was very upset, and I did a journal entry, you know, a few days later. And --

COOPER: And she said that this came directly from Christie? ZIMMER: She said that this is a project -- yes, she said that this -- you know, the Rockefeller project is very important to the governor, I was with him on Friday night. And, you know, I don't know all the details. You know, I started to explain some challenges that I'm facing on the ground. And I want to move the process forward.

You know, and that's -- that's the challenge here is that they're, you know, again and again, I have found myself in meetings explaining to the Christie administration, we ought to be careful here. We can't have a conversation about what the plan is for the Rockefeller group, because it hasn't been designated.

And it's my job as the mayor of Hoboken to follow that redevelopment law. The mayor and the city council as the redevelopment agency we are the ones responsible for implementing that law.

COOPER: So when you see the lieutenant governor, I mean, in a press conference announcing point blank your memory of -- your recollection of this conversation is offensive, is completely inaccurate. And as a victim of Sandy, she's offended, what are you -- you're saying she's lying?

ZIMMER: Well, I -- yes, I'm -- she said she would deny it and she's denying it, so part of me is not surprised. And my reaction to that, you're offended? How do you think I feel, and everyone in Hoboken feels? We haven't really -- you know, we haven't given that many -- much funding. And we have been told that there's a connection between the two when there's a push to get one particular project through.

And, you know, development in Hoboken, we have to do it very carefully. I mean, we're only one square mile. We have the fourth most densely populated city in the country per capita. And there's only two small roads into the north end of Hoboken and so, you know, we're talking about a 30-acre area, and -- there's a push to move ahead with a four-acre area to give two million square feet to one property owner, the Rockefeller Group.

I get -- you know, I've got a property owner that's been there for decades, and they own nine acres. I mean, so I -- it's my job to be fair. I mean, that's all I'm saying.

COOPER: You have subsequently tweeted positive things about Governor Christie. Why would you do that if you felt he was strong arming you?

ZIMMER: I mean I -- telling you, I felt torn about this. I mean he has -- he has done very good things for Hoboken. I mean, I think he's done terrific things for the state overall. I do think that he has been a great governor, you know, and I support him on the 2 percent cap, the arbitration, these are things that really, I believe, have helped the state, they need to continue, they will continue to help the state. He -- his administration was tremendous in helping us with the hospital.

COOPER: But to not mention this sooner and now mention it, given all his other obstacles, people said this smacks of politics. To you -- what you didn't -- are you saying you didn't mention it because, A, you thought he did some good things in general? And -- I mean, were you concerned, were you afraid to mention it?

ZIMMER: I mean, I didn't think people would believe me. And also didn't know --

COOPER: You didn't think people would believe you?

ZIMMER: I didn't think people would believe me and I didn't want -- you know, they still -- they didn't make their final decisions on the House of Mitigation Funding until -- you know, until much later and so I wanted to -- you know, I wanted to keep some chances out there to try and -- to try and get the funding for Hoboken.

COOPER: Does this --

ZIMMER: So if I was to come out and make these accusations, then I'm hurting our chances in getting the funding.

COOPER: Does it worry you now to make these accusations? I mean, is it -- what's it like to make these accusations?

ZIMMER: I mean, it's a challenge. I mean, let's face it. I mean, I'm -- you know, I'm someone that got into politics because I care about my town. I was actually a stay-at-home mom before I got into politics. And I did this because I cared about bringing balanced development, bringing a park to park to my neighborhood, which is something that we're -- you know, what we're really -- we're about to make happen.

And so for me, like, I'm -- you know, I'm not here -- you know, I feel like I had to come tonight, even though I'd rather be home in bed. I'm losing my voice here but like I need to get my voice out there and have people know, like I'm just doing this because I really care about my town.

COOPER: Is it scary, though? I mean, is it scary to --

ZIMMER: I mean, it's -- it's hard, because, I mean, obviously there's very powerful people, you know, across the country all giving their opinions on me. But, you know, it's ironic actually that, you know, I have had some experience dealing with the national media and international stories because of something that the governor was part of making happen.

Peter Cammarano getting arrested and going to jail. That's an investigation that the governor started as U.S. attorney for and Peter Cammarano went to jail for something -- you know, for -- you know, really pushing, you know, promising to expedite development projects.

COOPER: Has anyone pushed you to come forward and talk about this? The DNC? Other Democrats?

ZIMMER: No, I don't have -- I mean, that's the thing. It's like I've been considered, you know, the Democrats are frustrated with me because how could I support the Republican governor for four years?

COOPER: So -- ZIMMER: So I don't have --

COOPER: I mean, you know why I'm asking because obviously people will take --

ZIMMER: I don't have -- I don't have these massive connections to the -- I don't know who's head of the -- I don't know, I mean, I'm a Democrat.

COOPER: So the DNC hasn't called you up.

ZIMMER: They haven't called me at all.


ZIMMER: So -- no, they have not called me, I have no connection to them. I mean, I'm a Democrat, I think President Obama, I -- you know, he's been through some challenges, but I think he's doing a great job and I think he's -- you know, the Rebuild by Design competition that started, you know, under Secretary Donovan I think is an excellent, excellent opportunity for Hoboken.

COOPER: What do you think should happen to Christie? Or to the lieutenant governor?

ZIMMER: All I'm asking for Christie is for, one, support my Rebuild by Design competition, it's an excellent opportunity. I was down in a meeting a month ago, and I said to Mark Ferzan, they, you know, invited me down for a briefing, and I said, Mark, can you put some support for Rebuild by Design into the second tranche of funding?

And he said, well, Mayor, you need to let me know how much development you're willing to do. That was the answer that I got back. So -- I mean, that pressure is there. And the writing's on the wall, and that's part of my thinking of coming forward. It's like, you know, it's -- that threat is there and we're not going to get more funding if I don't -- you know, I'm really --

COOPER: And really you're saying this conversation --

ZIMMER: -- between a rock and a hard place.

COOPER: This pressure -- what you said is pressure from the -- from the lieutenant governor on this conversation, that's not a one-time thing? That this is sort of -- you're saying there's a pattern of this?

ZIMMER: Right, well, it's not a one-time thing. I mean, that pressure is -- was continuing until -- you know, until I came forward. I mean, and that pressure was going to continue.

COOPER: Have you heard from the governor's office directly now? Subsequently? Since you've come forward, has anybody said anything to you?

ZIMMER: No, they -- I haven't talked to them at all. No, I mean, and they're saying that, you know, they had someone in my office who was there for Rebuild by Design, which was great, but no one has directly said, you know, to me like we think it's great the plan that you have. I mean, and this is the plan, it's a water management system that could truly protect the entire city.

It will benefit New Jersey transit. It will benefit the Port Authority. You know, you see those images of the water going through the elevator. It would benefit. This is something that would add a layer of protection for them. Hoboken residents, businesses, our hospital. North Hudson Sewage Authority, like this is a win-win for everyone so really that's what I'm asking is, Governor, please support this, but when I get an answer back from Mark Ferzan saying, you well, know --

COOPER: And Mark Ferzan is?

ZIMMER: Mark Ferzan is really head of the Sandy Recovery Process for the governor.


ZIMMER: So when I get an answer back saying well, you need to tell us the level of development you're willing to do?

COOPER: So you're saying the head of the Sandy redevelopment process was also talking to you about development?

ZIMMER: I mean, he said that like a month ago. Right. So the lieutenant governor gave a message. I didn't do exactly what they want, you know, and so the pressure continues.

COOPER: This is a dumb question, I assume, I know the answer. I assume you're not going to Governor Christie's inauguration tomorrow?

ZIMMER: I don't think I'm invited.


COOPER: All right. Mayor, I appreciate you being on.

ZIMMER: All right. Thank you.

COOPER: I hope your voice gets better.


COOPER: Thank very much.

ZIMMER: Thank you.

COOPER: Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

If you want to read those letters we were talking about, you can read them on our Web site

As the mayor mentioned, her charges have drawn fire for some big national political names over the weekend. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani downplayed her allegations called the bridge investigation which is separate a partisan witch hunt. As for the larger narrative, all this feeds into that Chris Christie is a political bully.

Here's what Mr. Giuliani have to say recently on 360..


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: I don't see anything in his background that suggests that he takes advantage of people, that he pushes them around, that he's nasty to them. That he's -- in terms of his personal contact.

I've been with him and his family many, many times, I don't see anything different about him than, you know, most of the other people that I know. But it is a stereotype. And unfortunately, I think for Chris is, at least it's true with me, if something happens that reinforces your stereotype, it becomes a big deal.


COOPER: True politics. Now Dana Bash is back, joining us is chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, what do you think about these allegations by the mayor?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they're very serious. And that's why they're being investigated by U.S. attorney. And I think what we heard tonight is that the big question, which is, who used redevelopment as the bargaining chip? Was it the mayor as the governor's office would charge or was it the governor, you know, as the -- as the mayor charges, but this is very serious legal issue. It also ties it -- if the mayor is telling the truth, it ties it directly to Chris Christie, because we have a lieutenant governor saying, this is what the governor wants and she was delivering the message, although she said apparently she would deny it.

And this, of course, Sandy hurricane relief is so much a part of Chris Christie's brand, who he is. The sort of can-do governor. And what the mayor is saying is, you know what, there was more to it than that.

COOPER: It is -- I mean, if this conversation is accurate, as the -- as the mayor says, I mean, it's like something out of a movie --

BASH: I know.


BASH: Well, that's exactly --

COOPER: -- for the lieutenant governor saying, I'm going to deny this conversation ever took place.

BASH: Well, and you know -- and, you know --

BORGER: In a parking lot. COOPER: In a parking lot.

BASH: In a parking lot. Right.

COOPER: That's right.

BASH: Right. In New Jersey.

COOPER: Right. I mean, it's --



COOPER: If it's true it's pretty extraordinary.

BORGER: Not a boardwalk place. Yes.

BASH: It really is. And I think that that is another reason why this is potentially so devastating to Christie. Potentially. Not only I think the biggest reason, as what you said, Gloria, that this is much more than Bridgegate ties the issue directly to the governor, but also because this is another thing that people can understand.

People can understand what happened in Sandy, people can understand -- because they've seen so many movies and so many lifetime series about this.

COOPER: But, you know, a lot of people watching this, you know -- I don't know, "House of Cards" or something.

BASH: Yes.

COOPER: Well, isn't this how politics is done? That it's like, you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Aren't deals like this done all the time?


BASH: Well, yes.

BORGER: Yes, but these are threats. These are threats that are actually not legal.

BASH: Exactly.

BORGER: I mean, if you're LBJ and you say, you know, I want your vote on the civil rights bill, and if you don't give it to me I'm not going to give you that bridge you wanted in your state or your district. That's kind of understandable. This is more threatening to a degree and there are real legal implications.


COOPER: But isn't this sort of the same thing?

BASH: But it's allegedly more overt than what you think might happen and probably did happen back in LBJ's time.

BORGER: Right.

BASH: Or in politics anywhere else. Very overt.

COOPER: But I mean, isn't this done on Capitol Hill all the time? Of sort of like it's deal-making, isn't it?


COOPER: I mean, that's -- you know, a supporter of Christie's who doesn't believe --

BASH: No. This is -- no, this is not -- the allegations here are way beyond deal-making.

COOPER: Way beyond.

BASH: It's a threat. I mean, it is a threat. And it is a threat again not just of -- you know, if you want this project back in your state, you're going to support, you know, my initiative here, this is, we're not going to give the residents of your town, which you know, you were there, Anderson.

COOPER: right.

BASH: Eighty percent under water during Sandy, we're not going to give them help unless you support our development project because the governor supports it because he's got friends in a law firm. I mean, it really - it is something that is almost --

COOPER: Right. It's not a museum named after the mayor.

BASH: Exactly.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Or a political perk or something.


BORGER: Exactly. Right. No.

BASH: It's real tangible thing that people can understand.

BORGER: But what I saw here with you is a mayor, who's concerned about the city of Hoboken, and she's still saying, by the way, that Chris Christie is a great governor who's done great things for the state, but she clearly still wants this money, and I think finally she came out, out of frustration or she felt that perhaps she would be believed this time around as she was worried about that before.

COOPER: No doubt it's not the end we heard about it.

BORGER: No, no. No, no.

COOPER: Appreciate you both for being with us. It's a fascinating discussion.

We're going to have much more on the story on a special edition of AC 360 later at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. We're devoting the hour to it. I hope you joins us for that.

Up next, Russian police are desperately trying to track down a woman, this woman, they believe could be a terrorist who may try to attack the upcoming Winter Olympics. We'll have the latest on the search for her.


COOPER: Welcome back. The already tense run-up to the Winter Olympics just got downright terrifying and the reason is the so-called "Black Widow." This woman, the widow of an Islamic militant, authorities fear she may be planning to get her revenge targeting the games in Sochi. They are trying to find her now. Nobody pretends she's acting alone not after the recent bombings in Volgograd, not after a chilling videotape threat this weekend.

With that more on the table, the U.S. government has a contingency plan to get Americans out in case of trouble at the games. We'll talk more about it shortly before the latest on the dragnet from Phil Black Moscow.

COOPER: So Phil, I understand officials are looking for at least one black widow woman they believed could be planning an attack during the Olympics. What's the latest?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The distributed notices, Anderson, to hotels in Sochi, and they've asked them to keep a look out for a woman named Ruzana Ibragimova, 22-years-old from the Russian Republic of Dagestan. It remains the hot bed of the Islamist insurgency in this country.

They say she is the widow of a known militant. They say they have information which leads them to believe she travelled from Dagestan to Sochi somewhere in between January 11th to the 14th. She may be working with a known terrorist organization to plan some sort of terrorist act in Sochi specifically in the Olympic region of Sochi.

She's said to be quite distinctive in appearance, a lame right leg, a large scar on the cheek of her face. Now this comes just after a Jihadi video has been released in which we've heard from Islamists claiming responsibility for the deadly attacks in Volgograd just a few weeks ago, and promising there will be much worse to come during the Sochi games.


BLACK (voice-over): Mounting concerns in Russia this morning as the Olympic torch relay makes it way for the bomb stricken city of Volgograd. Two extremists in this video claiming responsibility for two back to back suicide bombings last month that claimed 34 lives, and warning that more attacks could come during the Sochi Olympic Games. In the hour-long video, the purported suicide bombers are seen constructing explosives and explaining their motives all before heading into their targets, triggers in hand. The two men apparently part of an Islamist militant group vowing to prepare a present for the Olympics and all the tourists who'll come over. Members of Congress are very concerned.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAIN (R), TEXAS: If something does happen, what is the evacuation plan and emergency response plan that would think twice?

BLACK: Others worried about Americans heading to Sochi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would not go and I don't think I would send my family.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: I am very concerned about the security status of the Olympics. I do believe that the Russian government needs to be more cooperative with the United States when it comes to the security of the games.

BLACK: Russian President Vladimir Putin deploying a security force at 40,000 police officers and soldiers to the region. In an interview with ABC News, Putin says that he will do whatever it takes to keep athletes and visitors safe, and pledging that Russia has adequate means of security. Security around the Olympic venue on high alert. Metal detectors and bomb sniffing dogs are visible as the games get underway in just over two weeks.


COOPER: From the Russian perspective, how do they view their cooperation with the U.S. on security for the Olympics?

BLACK: Anderson, it's not something they really discuss very openly at all. They very much see this as their responsibility and indeed over the last year or so, we've heard a lot more from Russian authorities about their desire to cooperate with the United States particularly on intelligence and terrorism matters, particularly in the wake of the Boston bombings.

This has been a particularly poor period for relations between the United States and Russia, where there have been question marks over the degree of cooperation between the two countries on these issues. But when it comes to Sochi in particular, we know what a pre- eminent role that President Vladimir Putin plays in this and he very much sees this as his responsibility.

And one for the Russian government and his authorities to carry off safely and securely and from all the comments we've heard from him in recent days, he remains confident that will be the case -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Phil, appreciate the update. Phil Black, thanks. Just ahead tonight, President Obama's comments about race in a new interview, why everything he says gets parsed so closely? "The New Yorker's" David Remnick joins me and also John Ridley, the Oscar nominated screenwriter behind "12 Years A Slave."

Also on "Crime and Punishment" tonight, a mother charged with first degree murder after allegedly stabbing her children during an exorcism. New details in the investigation.


COOPER: President Obama and his family marked today's federal holiday honoring the birthday of slain civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by volunteering at a Washington, D.C. area kitchen that prepares meals for needy people. It was five years ago today that Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president, the first African-American, to take the oath of office obviously.

Over the course of his presidency, Mr. Obama has often shied away from talking about race, but in a revealing interview, in this week's "New Yorker" magazine, he acknowledges there are people who dislike him because he's African-American. We'll talk more about it with David Remnick of the "New Yorker," did the interview, with John Ridley, just nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay "12 Years A Slave."

David, it's a fascinating article, an interview with the president and he spoke about race in a way that he really hasn't spoken much about. He said there is no doubt there are some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black president. Then he went on to add there are some people black and white who probably like him because he is an African-American president.

DAVID REMNICK, EDITOR, "THE NEW YORKER": That's a formulation that he's very careful to make, the second part as much as the first part. I don't know that the second part is as much in evidence any more as the first part and the right wing, a lot of the Twitter sphere went berserk on it. Really? This is such a mystery that there are some people in the United States that don't like Barack Obama because he's black?

COOPER: Just the reaction to what the president said, sort of points to, I guess, why this president hasn't spoken more about race?

JOHN RIDLEY, OSCAR-NOMINATED SCREENWRITER, "12 YEARS A SLAVE": Clearly. This is one of those subject matters that this individual the president has had to dance around for several years now, going into the election the first time, as he was president, and I think it's a difficult subject matter on both sides.

There are a lot of people of colour who wish he had been more of a, quote/unquote, "black president," and some have said that quite literally. He needs to be the black president. I have a bit of problem with that because if anybody said President Bush, for example, should be the white president, some people would freak out. The president of the United States needs to do what's right for people because it's right thing to do.

COOPER: One of the things that the president has said he's been accused of, quote, "engaging a sort by your bootstraps, Booker T. Washington messages at the larger society off the hook," which I think the president went on and say, he didn't think it was fair. I mean, he's not letting the larger society off the hook.

REMNICK: No, I think he's perfectly aware as he says elsewhere in that quote that institutional racism exists in places our society. They are obvious. No one's discounting that. I was once interviewing Obama for my book, "The Bridge," which is all about race and we talked about this and he was very, very careful.

And then as we were leaving a room, he basically told me, look, there's just -- this subject, no matter what I say, it's parsed so carefully it's like hand grenades that can go off and not just on Twitter but just, you know, in every area of the country. The most important thing that will happen to Barack Obama racially as a politician is his election and he knows that.

COOPER: Also, people have commented on the fact that he can't be seen as being angry about the subject of race, which is such a bizarre thing to have to operate under that mantle that you can't --

RIDLEY: He lives a bizarre life. Again, I've seen people of colour wishing he would get more demonstrative, I won't say angry, but more demonstrative about issues or harder pushback on certain things like the birther movement. And there are other individuals who say you can't do that because you're going to come off as the angry black man.

It is unfortunate when you're an individual who breaks barriers, sometimes you have to do it in a way that is different from the way someone else whose people have been in the room before. It's true with a person of colour, with women. You know, again, we hear all the time that if a man acted like this he would get promoted. If a woman acts like this, she would be considered you know what.

COOPER: You're talking about a longer game, which is something you write about in the article as well?

RIDLEY: Well, absolutely. I mean, for me I look at people of -- people that I admire from the civil rights movement all the way back to slavery, and having spent many years, I mean, truly about four years researching this individual and what he went through for the film "12 Years A Slave" and what I went through, and the fact that he had to believe in something that was not even seen.

So when I look back at individuals who could see something that did not exist in anyway shape or form. When I look at the president and see that he has a long range vision, I'm very impressed by that? So again, you know, there are moments where I get very frustrated, come on, man. Do this, does that.

But clearly this is an individual just in terms of politicking of the politics and how to weave his way around some of the anger, some of the rancher, he certainly has an understanding of how he needs to present himself.

COOPER: John Ridley, thank you very much and David Remnick.

Up next tonight, deadly plant explosion in Omaha, Nebraska.

Plus police say a Maryland mother stabbed two of her children to death and wounded another while attempting an exorcism, there is new details in the bizarre crime.

Also ahead, inside Japan's secret dolphin hunt. It is happening again. Tonight, more than 200 dolphins penned up in a cove, stressed out, some of them bloodied for trying to escape. Now awaiting slaughter.


COOPER: In "Crime and Punishment," Maryland authorities are piecing together what happened inside a townhouse where two toddlers were stabbed and their two older siblings were nearly killed. Their mother has been charged with first degree murder, by that measure alone it's a tragic case. But it's also shocking for another reason. Police say the mother told them she stabbed her children as part of an exorcism. Jean Casarez has the latest.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so sorry I couldn't save them.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police responded to what they thought was a routine 911 call, but it turned out to be anything but.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: The house have the windows open up there. I heard loud noises in the night, I just wake up, and I heard like jumping and I didn't know, they have four children.

CASAREZ: What they found was a car with an open door, a knife, and blood. That gave them the probable cause to go in the townhouse and what they found when they got inside, shock, the most hardened law enforcement professionals.

CAPTAIN MARCUS JONES, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: They found the gruesome discovery of two children who appeared to have been deceased and it appears to have had some sort of injuries to their bodies. But they also discovered a 5-year-old female in another room who had had some injuries as well, but she was conscious.

CASAREZ: The children were found in the master bedroom, their mother was holding a fourth child, also stabbed when officers confronted her. Behind her a friend, (inaudible) Sanford, who police say helped her in the attack, also had a stab wound to her neck.

JONES: They demented to try to speak with her in order to get an explanation and they could not understand what she was telling them.

CASAREZ: The mother, 28-year-old, Zakia Avery, attempted to flee the crime scene, but was tackled by police and arrested. Those who knew the family are broken hearted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was nothing that made us think something like that was going on over here. It's really awkward, the story is shocking.

CASAREZ: Investigators say Avery told them she was performing a rite of exorcism on her children.

JONES: They believed the evil spirits were in their children and they needed to get rid of the evil spirits.

CASAREZ: But authorities say there was no evidence that an exorcism took place.

JONES: No. We found no bible. We found no instructions. No official types of instructions, no other type of literature explaining --

CASAREZ (on camera): No minister?

JONES: No minister was present on scene to our knowledge, no.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Exorcism or not, prosecutors are charging Avery with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of attempted first degree murder, eligible for the death penalty. The family pastor, Dan Thornton of Maranatha Brethren Church, cannot comprehend what might have gone wrong. This wasn't the family who attended his church.

PASTOR DAN THORNTON, MARANATHA BRETHREN CHURCH: They were confident and happy kids, you know, you kind of get a feel for kids that are abused or neglected. And that just did not fit these children.

CASAREZ: While no one at this point can determine her state of mind, investigators believe Avery acted intentionally and knew exactly what she was doing.

JONES: She didn't hesitate to basically try to evade us along with her son and in fact, we believe that maybe she was trying to convince the others that what they were doing was OK, even the other female told us, I'm OK.


COOPER: Jean Casarez joins us now live from Germantown, Maryland. What's next in this case? I mean, it's so bizarre how an authority know these women are telling the truth?

CASAREZ: Well, their first court appearance is going to be tomorrow. You're exactly right. They don't know if the women are telling the truth. Both women told the story independent of each other to investigators that they were in the middle of an exorcism. But here's the thing, they have nothing else to show there was an exorcism. You know, I was talking to George Carnim today, who represented Andrew Yates and there are some similarities here. He said that a good defense lawyer should get in there to the jail with a video camera because if she, in fact, was having the delusion that the spirits were in the children, she will be talking that way.

He needs to record that, because once she's on medication, those days will be over. And once they get to court, she looks like she's very normal. But tomorrow the court process begins.

COOPER: Two people involved in this. Jean Casarez, appreciate it. Let's get caught up in some of the other stories we are following. Susan Hendricks has a 360 Bulletin -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a deadly accident today at an industrial plant in Omaha, Nebraska, at least two people were killed when a fire broke out at the International Foods facility. Now part of the building collapsed, but all employees have been accounted for, at least four people were critically injured.

Kenneth Bae, the American citizen being held in North Korea said in a statement before cameras that he has committed a serious crime against that country. He was arrested more than a year ago. North Korea won't say why. It has a history of exacting false confessions from people.

A new warning to tell you about from Target to customers whose personal information was hacked. Be sure an e-mail offering a year for credit monitoring actually came from Target. Customers can go online to double check that. The retailer says scammers are sending out similar e-mail offers.

There is a recall of Velveeta cheesy skillets, ultimate cheeseburger mac and cheese. The package failed to list hydrolyzed soy protein and dried soy sauce as ingredient. This is key because both are allergens.

COOPER: All right, Susan, thanks very much.

Coming up, a disturbing story of hundreds of dolphins captured and trapped in a cove in Japan for an annual slaughter. It's used to be a secret tradition. It's now a worldwide outrage.


COOPER: It's tonight worldwide outrage over the fate of more than 200 bottle nose dolphins. In Japan, it's dolphin hunting season. In the recent days, Japanese fishermen have captured hundreds of them and herded them into a notorious cove. What happens in that cove each year used to be a well-kept secret. Not anymore. Warning, it is hard to watch.


COOPER: The dolphins thrash around fishing nets in vain trying to get back to open water. This dolphin bloodied its bottle nose trying to escape. They're herded from the ocean by dozens of fishermen into the infamous Tygee cove, some of pad totaling more than 200 dolphins according to an activist group, will be sold to marine parks and aquariums. Most of the others will be slaughtered for their meat.

MELISSA SENGAL, SEA SHEPHERD CONVENTION SOCIETY: They hammer a metal rod into the spinal cord of the dolphin. These dolphins do not die immediately. It takes up to 20 to 30 minutes for these dolphins to die, where they bleed out, suffocate or drown in the process of being dragged to the butcher house.

COOPER: It's a brutal spectacle that in years past has turned the water red with blood for hours. Organizers of the annual hunt for years have been able to keep cameras away, but then came the movie "The Cove." The documentary won an Oscar and exposed the slaughter to the world.

The filmmakers used an elaborate setup of hidden cameras to capture what they called this fishing village's hidden secret. Despite the international outcry, the Japanese government defends the practice, saying, it's not only tradition, but no different than the slaughter of any animal eaten in western countries.

People are just thinking too emotionally about the dolphins, they want to protect them because they're cute and clever.


COOPER: We're going to have more on this story tomorrow night. Marine mammal specialist who's featured in the documentary, "The Cove," will join us. That does it for this edition of 360. We'll see you again one hour from 10 p.m. Eastern for a special edition of AC 360 LATER, pay back politics, with the latest on allegations against Chris Christie's administration. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.