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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

U.S. Soldier's Rampage In Afghanistan; Tornado Touchdown In Michigan; The New iPad is Here; "Needs to be a Bilingual Country"; GOP Candidates Are Eyeing Puerto Rico's Primary

Aired March 16, 2012 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Welcome back, everyone. Good morning. It is early. This is EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN HOST: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're happy you're with us this morning. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. It's 6:00 a.m. in the east here so let's get started.

A twister tearing apart neighborhoods in rural Michigan. It flattened a lot of homes there. Take a look, flooding roads. The flyover tells the grim story. We're going to have more details ahead.

BANFIELD: A report out of London says the British are prepared to co cooperate with the U.S. to try to bring down the price of gas. This is by releasing strategic oil reserves. Is it true? Can it actually work? Christine Romans "Minding Your Business." She will have some answers.

SAMBOLIN: And a soldier on the edge. New information this morning about the U.S. service man who allegedly slaughtered 16 Afghan civilians. The demand from Afghanistan's president to two American troops, get out of our villages now.

BANFIELD: Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney sparring over English in Puerto Rico. Santorum is sticking with his controversial stand on statehood even though it just might cost him some votes.

SAMBOLIN: An iPad mania. It is spreading across the entire planet. The new 4G ready tablets are flying of the store shelves, sending Apple stock to unprecedented heights.

But at first here, the army staff sergeant accused in the massacre of Afghan civilians has a new high powered attorney. Seattle Defense Lawyer John Henry Brown says his client served three tours in Iraq, suffered a severe brain injury, yet was sent back for more combat duty.

Brown also says he wasn't happy about it. "The New York Times" quoting a senior U.S. official saying the soldier just snapped from a combination of stress, alcohol, and marital problems.

He saw a friend gravely injured as well the day before, which may suggest possible motive for the rampage. The Attorney Brown says for those who know his client, it is completely out of character.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENRY BROWN, ATTORNEY FOR ALLEGED AFGHAN SHOOTER: They're in shock. I think everybody that knows him is in shock about the allegations and also the fact that he's in custody.

This is a decorated exemplary soldier who certainly -- and I question family members and he had no animosity towards Muslims. He had no animosity towards Middle Eastern people. That I had already convinced myself was the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Fallout from the massacre is threatening to cripple U.S.-Afghan relations. President Karzai wants American troops to withdraw from Afghan villages and do it pretty quickly too. So does this change our mission there? And does it change it now?

James "Spider" Mark is a retired Army major general. He's the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and he's live with us from Washington.

Good morning, General. So let's ask that question right off the bat, does our mission change? Does it change right away?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): Well, we'll know if the troops are forced to stay on protected areas, those forward operating bases and those combat outposts where they're secluded and integrating the end to conducting missions outside the gates and into the villages, then the mission -- that might only be temporary.

So the mission may not change in the long term, but if that requirement to stay on the protected areas extends, then we have to go into an adjustment to the mission. If we can't conduct -- if the United States cannot conduct operations outside those forward operating bases then what can be done is certainly the training of afghan soldiers can continue with the help of the U.S., training of afghan security forces, that can be done in protected areas.

But the conduct of missions into the village to try to establish who are the bad guys, to find and fix bad guys, to go after enemy pockets of resistance to determine friend from foe. Those operations will cease, which means the troop levels and the type of soldiers you have in the country would adjust accordingly.

BANFIELD: A lot of critics say, you can't change the bad guys, they are what they are and it's been that way a long time. It's a hearts and minds issues. Soldiers don't always have the best methods of changing. So if we do get stuck on an operating basis, does that mean we're just an invisible force there training and getting ready to just get out?

MARKS: Well, we're not an invisible force and let me back up for a second. You know, you can alter a bad guy's be perspective, you can kill him. If you can't turn his mind and if you can't change who he wants to try to support then you make a determination as to where that guy needs to go.

But the United States will not be an invisible presence in Afghanistan. We still have a very robust integrated presence in terms of trying to help the Afghan government stand up. Certainly that will continue.

And the United States has a commitment to try to get the Afghan military and security forces mature and robust enough to carry on the mission so that if, in fact, we stay to the 2014 mark or if the request is to stay beyond to continue some of that training, we'll continue to do that.

But if we're forced to stay in these forward operating basis and not conducting missions in the interland, then the Afghan forces will, by fact at that point, have the lead and they'll have to do those operations and the United States will continue to support with logistics and intelligence, aviation support and things like that.

BANFIELD: Sometimes these things blow up big because it's a 24- hour news cycle. It becomes a big headline, might seem bigger than it is in the grander scheme of things. We've been there for the better part -- actually more than a decade now.

So is this a blip? Is this something that past this news cycle will wear down and be more quiet? Is this something that Hamid Karzai is just trying to tamp down for his own people and things will go on as normal the next couple of months, or is this actually a turning point?

MARKS: This is a significant event. It sure is. It's not a blip. And I know that -- this is a tremendous challenge for the U.S.- Afghan relationship. That's why the secretary of defense is there.

There is every piece of intellectual energy being directed at trying to make this right. This is a big deal, but the United States and the Afghan people have a relationship. It's been forged over the course of the last couple of decade.

You need to lean into the wind. You got to have to withstand this challenge figure a way through and, in fact, we may be at an inflexion point where the mission will change.

But I think it would be fool hardy to say that we need to now back out fundamentally alter and then disappear and you know, fall of the horizon in terms of our relationship with Afghanistan. We've got to weather this.

BANFIELD: Lean into the wind. I like that although I do hear a lot of people saying in that part of the world it's like a sandstorm. Spider Marks, always good to talk to you. Look forward to do it again.

MARKS: Thanks, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: I was reading this morning that 70 percent of the Afghan soldiers are not ready to fight alone. That they're constantly calling in for re-enforcement. So you wonder what can you accomplish in all this time, right?

BANFIELD: Well, this is totally different culture, too. So you can't assume that an Afghan who's being trained by say a U.S. Marine or somebody who has our culture fabric, our DNA, is going to be the same. They're not. They're not the same people. You know what? They're been several countries before who said I'm out of here.

SAMBOLIN: It's 7 minutes past the hour here. Homes torn apart and more than 200 people forced to get out as a rare March tornado touches down in Michigan. Look at this.

Scary moments. This is amateur video of that funnel cloud. It was just outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The tornado ripped through the community there. It damaged and demolished a lot of homes.

Take a look at these pictures. It downed trees as well and power lines. It even sparked some fires. Rob Marciano live in the weather center in Atlanta. You said this is rare, but obviously it does happen.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's not unprecedented. What would be unprecedented if when the storm survey crews go out there today to check on the damage and rate this thing, and it looks by those pictures probably at least an EF-2.

If they rate an EF-3 with winds of, you know, 140, 150 miles an hour, enough to do that kind of destruction, then it would be the strongest tornado that they've ever had this early in the season. So that would be yet another remarkable stat in this unusual tornado season.

And there you see the twister itself, remarkable stuff that we get nowadays with everybody having camera phones and security cameras all over the place and also remarkable that nobody was seriously injured or killed in that.

We had one in three tornado reports yesterday across Michigan all with the thunderstorm complex that's a weak front, very weak front that's moving into some tremendously hot and humid air, unusual for this time of year.

That's what's giving us the extra buoyancy in the atmosphere. Some rough thunderstorm moving into western parts of Tennessee and Kentucky right now. Severe threat really is back across Texas.

We'll see a thunderstorm bubble up throughout the day today because we have seen unusual heat, 85 degrees in Huntsville, Norfolk up to 87. Columbia, South Carolina, got to 88 degrees. Some folks seeing close to 90-degree temperatures and this is going to continue as we go through the next 90 days.

Climate prediction center says above normal temperatures for much of the country right through the rest of spring. So, guys, get your swimsuits out and enjoy.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, that's a great idea. Thank you.

BANFIELD: No, thanks. Got to go to the gym. Thank you, Rob Marciano. Good to talk to you.

It's 10 minutes now past 6:00. Ahead on EARLY START, March madness taking an ugly turn. The band members singing a different tune and at least this guy probably didn't like it.

SAMBOLIN: IPad mania. It's going global. Can Apple get any hotter? Wait until you hear about their stock prices now. You're looking at a live picture of the Apple store right here in Manhattan. Look at that. That sure is pretty. We can't --

BANFIELD: Where are the people?

SAMBOLIN: There they are.

BANFIELD: Unbelievable.

SAMBOLIN: Can I go and steal a spot in line?

BANFIELD: You can.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to find out if it's worth it. We're going to talk to somebody who has sampled one. You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It's 13 minutes past the hour. Time to check stories making news this morning. Here's Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. The new attorney for a U.S. soldier accused of killing Afghan civilians says he expects the soldier to be moved to a U.S. military base soon.

Right now the soldier is being held in Kuwait. Meantime, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to meet today with families of the 16 victims.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum disagreeing over language requirements for Puerto Rican statehood. Santorum sticking by his remarks that English should be a prerequisite. Romney insisting he disagrees with such a rule.

Twenty delegates are at stake in Puerto Rico's primary on Sunday. At 6:30 Eastern, we will be joined by Rick Santorum's National Communications Director Hogan Gidley for more on this.

March Madness turning into March sadness. During last night's NCAA match-up between Kansas State and Southern Mississippi. Members of the Southern Miss band caught on camera yelling, "where's your green card" at Kansas State point guard, Angel Rodriguez as he was shooting free throws. Listen carefully.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Yes, as you see Mills trying to draw the charge. Rodriguez has already left the ball go in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's your green card?

SPORTS COMMENTATOR: He's a freshman but he's about as cool as they come. No facial expression whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Rodriguez kept his cool and helped Kansas State win by scoring 13 points. Afterward, Southern Miss President Martha Saunders apologized to Rodriguez, promising quick disciplinary action against the students involved. It gives new definition to losers, doesn't it?

BANFIELD: Yes, it does.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it does.

We agree on that. Makes me so mad.

BANFIELD: Yes, that was pretty stupid. I think we can all agree. That's just stupid, stupid behavior.

Fifteen minutes now past 6:00.

Apple fans breaking out the sleeping bags. Camping out on a New York City street. That looks kind of cozy, doesn't it? Now, that's a pretty sign, isn't it?

This is where you buy the iPad when they open up. They're already flying out of the stores overseas. Some big box retailers here started selling them at midnight.

And Apple expects to sell a million of them on the very first day.

SAMBOLIN: Tech expert Katie Linendoll has one in her hands. She is in Orlando, unfortunately.

You know, we've been talking to you for a couple of weeks now about the new iPad that was coming out. You have now sampled one for a week. Tell us what you think.

KATIE LINENDOLL, TECH EXPERT: Yes. You know, I think I put this into three different categories because the biggest question I get yesterday at CNN New York bureau, even Rosie O'Donnell was like, listen, I got an iPad 2, do I upgrade?

After spending a week with it, I put it in three different categories. I say if you have that iPad 2 and you're a power user, using it more than eight or nine hours a week, probably nice to upgrade.

However, if you're not a power user, you're looking for a bargain, take advantage of that iPad 2 that's now $100 cheaper starting at $399. But I have to tell you, some of the differences between the new iPad and the iPad 2, let's roll through it, because the biggest one I've been showing people around, they're like the whoa factor is that retina display.

That new display which I showed you is double the resolution for the iPad 2, talk about 1080p resolution when you watch movies. Big difference there. Also, when you see photos. Five-megapixel rear facing camera. I notice this one a lot, but also, don't know who is taking photos on tablets these days; 4G capability going to be factor in terms of download speeds and new processor. Also, hot spot capability, which is a nice feature, especially for those of us who travel.

I also want to tell you the new iPad is a little bit thicker, weighs a little bit more.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, no.

LINENDOLL: But you really don't notice the difference.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, really?

OK. So, I want to go back to this definition of power user, because here's mine. And I don't go anywhere without it, including to bed. So -- but I use it basically to search information, right, and to do research. Would I be a candidate for the new one?

LINENDOLL: I think so. You know, again, I kind of put it at that eight or nine hours a week. If you're somebody like me that uses a lot of travel and you're also looking at a lot of photos, you notice the retina display, especially in very small text.

So if you are somebody that goes to the iPad as one of your main devices I think it might be worth the upgrade. And you know, they're expecting, as you said, 1 million units sold today. They sold 55 million units of iPads cumulatively since 2010. They anticipate, analysts, for 2012: 60 million to 65 million of these sold. This is a huge number.

No tech expert is going to tell you there's a better tablet on the marketplace. What they did -- iPad 2 is an amazing tablet. This to me just integrates now some bonus features.

SAMBOLIN: But can you get your hands on one?

LINENDOLL: Oh, I tell you what? I thought it was cool having this a little early a few days. People at Wal-Mart, if you were there last night at midnight, you might also be matching me. Some people have theirs in hands.

Also this morning, at Apple stores, the real hype and real fun is to be there at 8:00 a.m. to pick one up.

BANFIELD: No thanks.

LINENDOLL: If you haven't preordered online, better do it now.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So, I can't let you go without talking about Ms. Amanda Foot who is standing -- whose line is she in and how much is it going to cost me to go take her spot?

LINENDOLL: Yes. So here's the deal. Amanda Foot is an amazing woman. I went down to the Apple flagship store on Fifth Avenue yesterday to get some footage for CNN tape yesterday. I shamelessly took footage of people waiting in line for the new iPad with my new iPad which is horrible, I realize that.

But Amanda Foot is in line. She is known globally for waiting in line for new iPads. Last time around she got 900 bucks for her spot in line. This year, she told me she is hoping for $2,500.

You are asking if you can wait in line? Yes, if you want extra money, here's a good way to do it.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness. I don't know that I would pay that much but good for her. Good for her.

Katie Linendoll, thanks for joining us and sharing your iPad. Do you get to keep it?

LINENDOLL: As a loan. So, I'll be giving that back, but I'll be purchasing a new one as an early adapter, of course.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, good for you. Thanks for joining us today.

BANFIELD: Attagirl!

Three hundred sixty-plus million iPads will be sold by 2015.

SAMBOLIN: That's incredible.

BANFIELD: That's more than the population of the United States.

SAMBOLIN: You wonder --

BANFIELD: Not iPads, tablets. Tablets.

SAMBOLIN: Anyway, let's move on here.

BANFIELD: Incredible.

Nineteen minutes now past 6:00. And still ahead on EARLY START: Rick Santorum stepping into it, stirring things up? Not sure which. It all happened in Puerto Rico when he said English before statehood or sort of some translation thereof.

His communications director Hogan Gidley is going to join us to straighten it all out.

SAMBOLIN: I want to know if he's traveled through the island.

BANFIELD: No, I'd like to spend sometime in the island.

By the way, look at those numbers. Gas prices -- are Britain and the U.S. joining forces to bring those numbers down? Is that even possible? Christine Romans has the answer and that's coming up on EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Twenty-three minutes now past 6:00. For the seventh straight day in a row, gas prices are up. A national average for a gallon of unleaded is now $3.83.

SAMBOLIN: It makes you sick. It's up a penny from yesterday and up almost 17 percent so far this year.

For more on that, we have Christine Romans joining us.

And my mouth was wide open because I was actually talking about Apple because we just got out of the iPad segment. And I was like, gosh, I wish I would have bought the stock early.

ROMANS: I know. And I knew somebody who started buying it $2 a share, and then every time it doubled, bought more, bought initial more. So, I mean --

BANFIELD: That's like my sister and Starbucks, 20 years ago.

ROMANS: Really? They always say buy what you know. A lot of people get Apple, they're a consumer of the products.

SAMBOLIN: I didn't.

ROMANS: This company -- I can remember at $90 a share thinking, wow, that's kind of a lot, you know? They're starting to mature, have they really peaked under innovation. Look, a month ago, Apple was at $500. Wow, can you believe Apple at $500? Now, it's at $600.

So, it's one of those things and some people are saying, hey, you know, this run is over but they were saying that at $90, $100, $200, $300, $400.

BANFIELD: Going to $700?

ROMANS: No, I'm not going to make that prediction.

SAMBOLIN: I know. People will be sending you emails.

ROMANS: I wouldn't work here -- if I knew where Apple was going or where the stock was going, I would be on an island in the Caribbean. I'm just telling you that. I'm just a reporter. I'm not a (INAUDIBLE) genius.

I want to talk a little bit about gas prices, though, because this is pretty important. Yesterday, there was a lot of talk about a "Reuters" exclusive report saying that British and U.S. officials were talking to each other about what kind of framework they could hammer out in case they want to -- gas prices get too high, release from their strategic petroleum reserves, from their emergency stockpiles.

The White House is pushing back on that, saying, look, we are always talking with our partners about ways that we're going to coordinate global energy situations but that was -- there's a lot of talk about that in the markets yesterday.

And oil prices are still pretty high. You know, more than $105 a barrel. And I was talking to Richard Florida who wrote this book called "The Great Reset." He really knows a lot about how we change our lives because of these big macroeconomic factors. And this is what he said.

He said, you don't blame or credit presidents for gas prices. They really don't have much power. In the end, the power is all in us. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD FLORIDA, AUTHOR, "GREAT RESET": Increasing numbers are walking and biking to work or downsizing that house. If we want to make the American economy thrive, we have to make the American economy less oil dependent. And that means the most important the president can do and we can do is change the way we live.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Change the way we live.

BANFIELD: We have.

ROMANS: And we have. That's right. At what point do you change the way you live? That's something we discuss on this weekend.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, that's right. We discuss it on Saturday morning, don't we?

ROMANS: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: Enjoy your "BOTTOM LINE." I watch it while I'm working out. So, I invite to join me on the treadmill.

BANFIELD: That's funny. I watch it while I'm eating.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: A tale of two Saturday mornings.

BANFIELD: Exactly.

It's 26 minutes now past 6:00.

And still ahead on EARLY START: Santorum is really stirring it up, folks. This in Puerto Rico as he said English before statehood or, you know, reasonable facsimile of that statement.

One of his top advisers, Hogan Gidley, is going to clear that up and let us know what he was really saying.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Thirty minutes past the hour here. Welcome back to EARLY START.

It is time to check the stories making news this morning:

The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians now has a lawyer. His new attorney John Henry Brown says because of injury suffered in Iraq his client should never have been sent back to the battlefield and he says there is concern about the fallout from the massacre overseas and here at home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENRY BROWN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Apparently, Homeland Security this morning issued a directive that they're expecting some sort of retaliation for these allegations. So, it's being taken very seriously. That's why his name is not being revealed. I certainly would not reveal his name even though I know who -- what it is. So, I think there's some real serious concern about the safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: A rare march tornado caught on tape in Michigan, right near Ann Harbor, forcing 200 people from their homes. Part of the severe weather outbreak from Michigan down to the South. The storms damaging or destroying several homes right outside of Ann Harbor.

There are reports of at least three funnel clouds touched down in that area. They're going to be assessing that this morning to decide exactly what it was.

And new details on the man police say opened fire outside a courthouse in Texas, killing a 79-year-old woman and wounding three others. Police say Bartholomew Granger was aiming for his 20-year-old daughter and her mother, because they testified against him in a sexual assault case.

Both women were hit. The daughter remains in critical condition.

BANFIELD: Tech heads all over the world are in a frenzy because the new iPad goes on sale this morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Right now, people are camped you side of Apple's flagship store in New York City. Check the pictures, folks. That one, selling her spot in line, in fact.

The device will sell starting at $499. But I don't know how much the spot in line will cost you. I think that's a market-driven price.

And an ugly moment during last night's NCAA match-up between Kansas State and Southern Mississippi. Members of the Southern Miss Band were caught on camera yelling "Where's your green card" at the Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez as he was shooting a free throw. Listen very closely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Yes, as you see Mills trying to draw the charge. Rodriguez has already left the ball go in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's your green card?

SPORTS COMMENTATOR: He's a freshman but he's about as cool as they come. No facial expression whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Cool as they come, not sure though if he was really able to hear that.

But Southern Miss President Martha Saunders is apologizing to Rodriguez for this incident and is promising quick disciplinary action against the students who were involved.

SAMBOLIN: Unfortunate this day and age that happens at that level.

BANFIELD: Ridiculous.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

Thirty-two minutes past the hour.

Puerto Rico is set to weigh in on the GOP presidential race this Sunday. It's funny because they can't vote, right?

BANFIELD: In general election, yes.

SAMBOLIN: But they do vote in the primary.

Twenty of the territory's 23 delegates at stake, and a contest where Mitt Romney has 498 delegates, Santorum, 239, Gingrich, 139, and Paul, 69; 1,144 are needed to secure the nomination.

BANFIELD: Rick Santorum making a last-minute trip to Puerto Rico on Wednesday and asked whether he would support statehood for the island where the primary language is Spanish. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Speak English, that would be a requirement. It's a requirement that we put on in other states, and it's a condition for entering the union.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Yesterday, CNN's Jim Acosta caught up with the senator and he stood by his comments. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: What I said is English has to be learned as a language and it has to be a country where English is widely spoken and used, yes.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Should it be a requirement for this territory to become a state?

SANTORUM: I think English -- English and Spanish -- obviously, Spanish is going to be spoken here on the island. This needs to be a bilingual country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Joining me now is Hogan Gidley, who's a national communications director of Santorum 2012 presidential campaign.

Hi, Hogan. Nice to see you.

HOGAN GIDLEY, SANTORUM 2012 CAMPAIGN: Nice to see you, Ashleigh. Thanks so much for the time.

BANFIELD: Great to have you on.

Full disclosure, Hogan Gidley and I worked together many, many years ago in a station in Texas.

It's nice to see you. You just don't age, my friend.

But let's get to the serious stuff, because this is all of a sudden becoming quite a big story, what your candidate has said about statehood and about Puerto Rico and the federal requirements. Do you want to clear up exactly what he was saying? Because it seems pretty clear to us that he said it's a federal requirement, you got to have English as your main language.

GIDLEY: Well, Ashleigh, what he was saying was this has been issued throughout the campaign. Most candidates have been in agreement that, in fact, English should be the official language of this country. I don't think that's a surprise or shock to anybody.

But the point he was trying to make was, of course, Puerto Ricans are going to speak Spanish. I mean, that's their native tongue, that's fine. But he was trying to say that the language of opportunity for this country is indeed English. And he would encourage anyone if president to speak English so they can have the most opportunities and best chances to succeed in this country.

I mean, after all, it is America. We do speak English predominantly and that's something that he was trying to point out. So, I think it's a little bit overblown. I know the original comments were not only taken out of context but were actually misquoted and, in fact, he called that reporter out in the press conference subsequent to that first story and the reporter refused to change their question.

So it's just part of the dance, part of what we do here --

BANFIELD: Well, I'm glad you brought that up. I'm glad you brought that up because that does happen quite often. We're not a perfect science, the media. So, we actually, you know, were worried that maybe we had been taking a quote from a magazine that might have made a mistake.

So, we went to the tape and we actually found the tape of what you just mentioned, the tremendous opportunity. Let me play for our audience this issue of what your candidate was referring to, what the senator meant by tremendous opportunity and about English in that state.

So, let's have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Tremendous opportunity for our people here on the island who, in my opinion, have been denied a lot of economic opportunities because the government has not emphasized the importance of English. That is my understanding, required under the law in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So I think, you know, Hogan, I think that's why this issue became controversial, is that Senator Santorum said, my understanding that this is required under the law in the first place.

Did he make a mistake and is he backing down from that?

GIDLEY: I'm not sure -- I'm not sure of the law, so I can't really speak to that.

BANFIELD: Well, it's definitely not codified. I can tell you that. There is no federal law that requires that for statehood.

GIDLEY: Right. No, it wasn't a prerequisite for statehood. That's not what he was saying. In fact, English, if I'm not mistaken, is the official language in addition to Spanish. They have two in Puerto Rico.

So, that's not what he was talking about at all. I just think that during this campaign, there have been a lot of comments about English as the official language and Rick is one of those people who stands on the side that English should be the official language.

What I think is really shocking is when they went to Mitt Romney to ask him the same question, he tab danced around like Bing Crosby on a Christmas special, talking about how -- well, it wasn't really official, they didn't have to have it as an official language, it was really -- so again, he tends to pander when he's in front of a particular crowd, especially when he was trying to get a votes.

BANFIELD: What does he mean as a condition though? Like I guess I'm trying to get -- listen, it's all about semantics. And you know that --

GIDLEY: Sure.

BANFIELD: -- campaigns will take a word and make a 30-second bite over the meaning of that word is. And I've already heard at this time described as universal language, main language, official language, principal language.

So, what does the senator think is the issue for Puerto Rico if it wants to obtain statehood, what is the condition with regard to language?

GIDLEY: Well, I don't know there's a condition as it relates to language. I mean, again, I think he was speaking in broader context that it would be important for the people of Puerto Rico to speak English so they could have more opportunities in America. I think that's what he was talking about. I'm not exactly sure, you know, what he said where it falls in the code or exactly what it says about English for the official language. But I know all the candidates support English as a official language, at least we thought they did to Mitt Romney's comments yesterday.

But, you know, this is in a broader context. I mean, quite frankly, Ashleigh, it's more about the language being the language of opportunity. That's where he was going with that. I'm sure we will hear more about it today because he will get asked more and more about it.

BANFIELD: I know.

GIDLEY: Acosta is doing a pretty good job tracking him down. I'm sure he will answer some questions.

BANFIELD: You know, here's why everyone is picking it up. Some front page of all the papers today and it's all over the media. So we are trying to get the t bottom of it because we don't want to obviously give anybody a free ride and we don't want to badger anybody. We want to get it right.

So, the condition for admission was critical. I grabbed that piece. I haven't had a piece to listen to it yet so let's listen to it together -- the condition for admission.

GIDLEY: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: It's a condition for admission that people would and could speak both languages, but they'd have to speak English. That would be a requirement. It's a requirement we put on other states. It's a condition for entering the Union, to participate as a state in the United States, then you need to participate in the language of the people speaking in the states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So, Hogan, let's put this one to bed. What does that mean, they have to speak, they have to speak on the street or they would have to speak by law on paper English as an official language without another official language being Spanish?

GIDLEY: Right. Obviously, we're not talking about getting rid of Spanish. I mean, that's what they speak predominantly and that's one -- you know, their main -- their main language. The point he was trying to make still was is this important for members of the union in America to be able to speak English. I think as president he would push that and try to drive that message home that we're Americans and we don't want you to give up your heritage, we don't want to -- we're a nation of immigrants.

I mean, he's a grandson of an immigrant and his parents obviously and grandparents spoke Italian but they had to learn English, because they felt it was important for them to understand to came to this country for a better life and they came to this country looking for freedom, that they had to learn the language that would make them prosper.

I think that's what's at stake here and that's what he's talking about, is that we know that Puerto Rico wants to become a state, or at least a large portion of those folks do, and that's a wonderful thing. But he was saying it's important for them to understand that they speak the English here. If they want to have the same opportunities, you know, whether it be in business or life, they need to speak English.

BANFIELD: You know, it's amazing, Puerto Rico has 23 delegates sandwiched between Missouri and Illinois with 62 and 69 delegates apiece. So, there are some big races.

I'm going to give you that last chance to give me the predictions for the big ones.

GIDLEY: I'm not sure. I mean, obviously we want every single county in Missouri early on in the process and now to go back and get those delegates. That's what makes this so interesting.

It's not like all the delegates that people say are already spoken for. They're not sitting in a room waiting to come out and say we're going to vote for this guy. The issue a lot of these states is delegates haven't been elected yet and a lot of delegates haven't actually been secure yet.

And so, that's what's part of this process and that's what makes it to great. We're going to continue to push through Missouri and, of course, into Illinois and then Louisiana, Texas, and take this thing al of the way to the finish line.

So, we're really excited about the upcoming states and the opportunities we have.

BANFIELD: Which means you'll be invited back and you'll come back and talk to us?

GIDLEY: That's right. Hey, look, I'm an early riser. I have a green tie on today for St. Patrick's Day. I'm excited.

BANFIELD: All right. We look forward to seeing the senator at some point, too.

Hogan Gidley, good to see you.

GIDLEY: Thanks, Ashleigh. God bless.

BANFIELD: Sure.

TANTAROS: It is 41 minutes past the hour.

Coming up, new details on what might have set off the U.S. soldier accused of slaughtering 16 innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-five minutes past the hour. New developments out of Afghanistan overnight and the shooting deaths of 16 civilians allegedly at the hands of a U.S. soldier.

BANFIELD: The lawyer for that soldier who's accused of committing the massacre is talking about who this soldier is and what it might have been that set him off. Our Alina Cho has been monitoring the developments all through the night and through the morning. She joins us now at the very latest.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's amazing what a difference a day makes. You know, a lot of interesting details are coming out now. We still don't know his name, but here's what we can tell you. Overnight, "The New York Times" got this reporting that the soldier had been drinking alcohol, was suffering stress from being on his fourth tour of duty, and that he had problems in his marriage.

We're going to get to that in just a moment, but first, we can tell you that the soldier has hired a well-known lawyer from the Seattle area. John Henry Browne is his name. Now, Brown did speak to reporters last night, and here's what he told us.

The soldier is a 38-year-old highly decorated staff sergeant. He's married, father of two, has two young children age three and four. He's from the Midwest and joined the military within a week after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, here's a part that could be key in the case. According to his lawyer, the soldier was injured twice while serving in Iraq, a traumatic brain injury.

And in the other incident, he lost part of his foot. In fact, he was so distraught, he did not want to be deployed again. Now, Mr. Browne also had more insight into the soldier's mental state saying somebody in his unit was gravely injured on the day before shooting rampage, but he rejected reports circulating out there that his client had been drinking or that his marriage was in trouble. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENRY BROWNE, ATTORNEY: I would like to put to rest because it's been out there and I don't know where it came from and it's quite offensive to the family and to us that there is some sort of suggestion that there was discord in the family. That's absolutely untrue. It's a very strong marriage. There's a lot of love, a lot of respect, two children. I don't know where that rumor came from. And we find it very offensive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: You know, I think it was in that same article, Alina, that I was reading that the soldier specifically asked for this attorney to represent him. And he has an interesting background.

CHO: That's right. He's not doing this pro bono. He said he is getting paid. We should mentioned, he did speak to the lawyer -- did speak to the soldier yesterday, rather, and several members of the family, but you're right. He's had some high-profile cases. Most recently, Browne represented Colton Harris-Moore. If you don't recognize the name, you'll know him by this, the barefoot bandit. Remember this case?

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

CHO: Now, you may remember that Moore targeted airplanes, boats, and cars on a two-year robbery spree. And this was quite interesting when I learned this. Probably his most famous and more high-profile client. He also represented that serial killer, Ted Bundy, who, as you know, admitted to 30 homicides back in the 1970s.

About this case, though, it's interesting he does know who the soldier is. Obviously, he's spoken to him. He does know his identity. He's not going to reveal his name for a variety of reasons until the formal charges are filed.

And the other thing is that the family, his wife and two children, have been moved from their home in Tacoma, Washington, to an undisclosed location, because there are so many concerns about safety. But, obviously, we'll be watching this case very, very closely. And when those formal charges come out, we will learn his identity.

BANFIELD: Is it true that the family had known about -- because of the headlines, the family actually reached out because of the headlines not so much because they needed a lawyer or the firm or advice?

CHO: They were -- we can tell you that the wife was shocked about the allegations. The family clearly shocked, in a state of shock. And what I found very interesting is that this lawyer has spoken not just to the wife but to several members of the family. The soldier, we should mention very quickly, is in Kuwait right now, but could be moved as early as today, according to the "New York Times," to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

SAMBOLIN: We'll be hearing much more. Alina Cho, thank you very much.

BANFIELD: Forty-nine minutes now past six o'clock, and Soledad O'Brien is joining us now with a look ahead of what's coming up on "STARTING POINT." Hi, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Hey, good morning to you. Coming up this morning, going to talk to the grieving family of Treyvon Martin (ph). You remember, the young man, the teenager was killed when he was walking through a gated community in Florida. This morning, we sit down with the family, his mom, his dad, the lawyer as well representing the family, and also Jeff Toobin is going to join to talk to about some of the analysis of what happens next legally.

Plus, we've got Whitney Houston's wonderful wardrobe right with us in the studio. They're going to be auctioning off some of the fabulous dresses, some of the jewelry that she wore. We're going to show you a little preview of that auction before it happens right here on "Starting Point." We're going to see you right at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Fifty-two minutes now past 6:00 on the east coast. Time to check our top stories this morning. Christine Romans busy at the job. Hello there.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, ladies.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Two hundred people forced out of their homes by a rare March tornado in Michigan. It's part of a severe weather outbreak from Michigan down through the south. Storms damaging or destroying several homes outside Ann Arbor. Wow! There are reports at least three funnel clouds touched down in that area.

Rick Santorum sticking by his remarks that English should be a requirement for statehood for Puerto Rico. Mitt Romney insisting he would require no such rule. Twenty delegates are up for grabs in Puerto Rico's primary on Sunday.

The ex-mistress of former presidential candidate, John Edwards, is expected to testify in his federal trial next month. Edwards could face 30 years in prison if he's convicted of giving campaign money to Rielle Hunter.

And a funny thing happened to Rod Blagojevich at his way to federal prison in Colorado. He got lost. His attorney says after missing the entrance more than once, they ended up at a burger joint for lunch. Blagojevich, eventually, arrived to begin serving a 14- year sentence for corruption.

And one family's home is another family's hive. That's right. More than 150,000 bees invading this home in Austin, Texas. They built a massive hive inside the walls. Bee rescue officials estimate the hive was there for three or four years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (on-camera): It creeps me out even to read it.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: They didn't notice?

ROMANS: Three or four years building a hive inside the walls.

BANFIELD: That was a battery and maybe the --

ROMANS: Oh, man!

BANFIELD: That's awfully strange.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks, Christine.

All right. Coming up, Soledad O'Brien will have an exclusive interview on "Starting Point." She's talking to the parents of Trayvon Martin (ph). That is the 15-year-old that was gunned down by the neighborhood watch captain. The shooter is claiming self-defense. Trayvon's parents are outraged that he has not been charged.

BANFIELD: And then also, did you see this picture in "Playboy"? And do you recognize that face? I'll give you one word, McCain. And, yes, that McCain. What's she doing posing in that magazine anyway? And is it all about the article?

SAMBOLIN: She has her clothes on, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Right?

BANFIELD: We're going to give you a sneak peak in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: All right. Meghan McCain appearing in "Playboy" magazine. No, don't get too excited. We got the photo from the spread, she's fully clothed.

SAMBOLIN: It's nice. You think its (INAUDIBLE) It's really nice.

BANFIELD: Very pretty. Very pretty. "Playboy" interviewed Senator John McCain's daughter for its 20 questions segment.

SAMBOLIN: And McCain tells "Playboy" that she loves men. She also talks politics saying if her dad had won in 2008, the recession would not have been as bad.

BANFIELD: It's hard to talk, you know, serious stuff when she's posing in that position with her heels sticking up. Maybe it's just me.

SAMBOLIN: It's "Playboy."

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: It's "Playboy."

BANFIELD: But listen, I buy it for the article.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Right, Pete?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BANFIELD: I got that line from Pete.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: You're speechless. I know. I know. It's Friday. I get a little trivia on Friday.

SAMBOLIN: I don't think you buy "Playboy," actually, but I could go the whole opposite direction there, but I won't. We'll just head over to Soledad. How about that?

BANFIELD: I think that's a great idea.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Soledad, you take it. "STARTING POINT."

O'BRIEN: That's like the hot potato handoff, isn't it?