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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Nugent's Obama Rant; Gas Prices Drop To $3.90; Oil Speculation And Prices At The Pump; Buffett To Undergo Radiation Treatments; Missing Soldier May Be In Danger; Buffett Battling Prostate Cancer; Prostitution Scandal Rocks Secret Service; Interview with Congressman Jeff Denham of California; Romney Rising; Secret Service Reportedly Investigating Nugent; NASCAR Day At The White House

Aired April 18, 2012 - 05:59   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kate Bolduan in for Ashleigh Banfield today. Good morning, everyone. It is now 6:00 a.m. in the east, so let's get started.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Ted Nugent's controversial rant against President Obama, the "National Journal," and others say the Secret Service intends to contact rocker and proud NRA member, Ted Nugent, regarding comments he made about the president.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The White House standing by the man who took a pledge to take a bullet for the president. This morning, new details in the Secret Service prostitution scandal. Agents being offered a lie detector test now.

BOLDUAN: And she got a ride home from the bar and hasn't been heard from since. The family of a fourth rank (ph) soldier saying she may be in danger this morning.

OLIVIA COX, KELLI BORDEAUX'S SISTER: She's loved by all of her friends and family, and we all just really want her to come home.

BOLDUAN: CNN spoke to her mother and her sister. We will have the latest on that coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Eggs almost four feet wide. Take a look at that. Scientists claiming they have discovered the world's largest dinosaur eggs and already seeing dollar signs. Scientists are saying, though, not so fast.

BOLDUAN: That's an interesting one. The war of words though in the race for president heating up and it is only April. The "National Journal" and others reporting the Secret Service is getting involved after some over the top comments made by Mitt Romney supporter, Ted Nugent. SAMBOLIN: But the rock star and a supporter tells CNN he's standing by his statements. Alina Cho is here to break all of that damage. Here are some of those statements with us.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, those gems. Good morning. Good to see you, again. Good morning, everybody.

You know, he is the self-described "Motor City Madman." Ted Nugent is always outspoken, no stranger to controversy, but his most recent comments had people on both sides of the aisle saying this time he has gone too far.

Nugent spoke on Saturday at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in St. Louis. During a radio interview, he slammed members of the Obama administration, but it's these comments about the president that's creating a firestorm.

Listen to this clip. He started with a rant about the four liberal justices on the Supreme Court then he directed his anger at the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN/ACTIVIST: And if you want more of those kinds of evil, anti-American people in the Supreme Court, then don't get involved and let Obama take office, again because I'll tell you this right now. If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: The "National Journal" and other publications say the Secret Service says it is aware of his comments. They're following up on it, but Nugent didn't stop there. Here's how he rallied people to support Mitt Romney in November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUGENT: And if you take that adamant, "we the people" defiance. Remember, we're Americans because we defy the king. We didn't negotiate and compromise with the king. We defied the emperors. We are patriots. We are brave heart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Clearly, no stranger to controversy or inflammatory remarks. There's no formal connection with the Mitt Romney campaign, but he is Mitt Romney supporter. He's out there talking. He is a celebrity. So what is Mitt Romney saying about this?

CHO: Obviously, the Romney campaign not really happy about it, Kate, as you might imagine. You know, the Romney campaign looking to distance itself from the controversy.

No surprise there saying, quote, "Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from." Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be skittle.

Democrats, of course, are outraged. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for one who chairs the Democratic National Committee says this.

"Mitt Romney must condemn Nugent's violent and hateful rhetoric immediately as it has no place in our political discourse or this campaign."

She went on to call Nugent's comments despicable, deplorable and completely beyond the pale.

SAMBOLIN: He kind of crossed the line all over the place, right? Any chance that he will take any of it back?

CHO: I'm guessing probably not, right, probably not so far, no. Zoraida, you know, Democrats, by the way, we should mention released a video, which went viral, basically. You know, even though calling Nugent a surrogate for Romney even though there's no formal connection there.

But we should talk a little bit about what Nugent has said about this because, obviously, making no apologies. In fact, he spoke to CNN contributor and Tea Party activist Dana Loesch on her radio show. It happened yesterday. Just listen to what he said about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUGENT: Wasserman Schultz is such a brain dead, soulless, heartless idiot that I could not be more proud that this soulless, heartless, idiot feebly attempts to find fault with Ted Nugent because I am on the right track and she just encourages me to stand stronger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: In fact, he says he stands by his speech. He calls his comments, 100 percent positive. Obviously, the White House was asked what it thinks about all of this and White House Spokesman Jay Carney was quick to say, "Listen, we're not going to respond to every supporter's comments. In fact, the president is focused on the issues."

SAMBOLIN: There's not much you can say about this. I don't think a lot of people would agree.

BOLDUAN: We talk about he's a celebrity, he's out there and in a lot of places, he said it before. You know, at some point, those inflammatory remarks, they reach a line.

CHO: He had to know he was going to get this attention.

SAMBOLIN: He knew it. Thank you so much, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

SAMBOLIN: All right, 5 minutes past the hour. Gas prices down a half a cent in the past 24 hours. Look at that. The national average is $3.90 a gallon for unleaded gas, but prices much higher in some parts of the country.

So look at this, $6 gas was spotted at a station in Furnace Creek, California. That is near Death Valley National Park. The cost of gas has soared this year, up more than 18 percent since the start of 2012.

BOLDUAN: "Minding your Business" this morning. Gas prices turned political in an election year. President Obama made a huge push yesterday to limit speculation in the oil markets to help bring gas prices down. But he's made it clear over the past few weeks that there is no quick fix when it comes to gas prices and no silver bullet. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to high gas prices. There's no silver bullet.

What I have also said about gas prices is that there is no silver bullet. There are no short-term silver bullets when it comes to gas prices. There are no silver bullets short term when it comes to gas prices.

There is no silver bullet for avoiding spikes in gas prices every year. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So, let's bring in Christine Romans and you were just saying --

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: There are no quick fixes or silver bullets to high gas prices. This is the leader of the free world, one place where, you know, he's the leader of the free world, but there is a huge global, 90 million barrel a day energy market.

Oil market that is big and powerful and doesn't think in four-year election spans, quite frankly, look, there's a lot of public pressure on this president because of the high gas prices. You showed $6.01 in California, it's different around the country.

But the average has been up here near $4 a gallon and the president trying to limit what he says is speculation in the market. Manipulation and punish manipulation in the oil markets as a way we think to control gas prices.

Look, no silver bullet or quick fix. Trying to crack down on speculators would likely have very little effect at this point to bring down gas prices and Republicans are jumping on this all as an election year gimmick. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: I can only quote Warren Buffett. When I asked about that a few years ago, he said it's not about speculation, it's about supply and demand. So, it looks to me like the president only quotes Warren Buffett selectively.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Referencing Warren Buffett, of course, because the president quotes Warren Buffett when he talks about taxing the rich, another election year gimmick, Republicans say, to try to appeal to independents, progressives, liberals who don't like income inequality and don't like high gas prices and want the U.S. to do something about it.

Now one thing I will say, that's how the market works. Manipulation and speculation are two different things. How much is speculation driving up energy costs? Remember in 2008 the record high prices?

Well, the St. Louis Federal Reserve studied the markets from 2004 to 2008, and found 15 percent of that spike was from oil speculation. The biggest driver was demand, increased demand. I have talked to dozens and dozens of experts in the energy arena, right?

Demand from the rest of the world is huge and growing. Even as the U.S. -- demand for gasoline of the U.S. has been going down. The rest of the world is driving the story here.

We get oil from a global marketplace, which there are buyers, sellers, producers, speculators in this huge market and prices are going, recently I talked to the FedEx CEO. He consumes more oil than you do, boys and girls.

This is the way of the world. He doesn't see how the gas and oil prices keep going up. They want to grow middle classes and those middle classes are going to drive and they're going to use gasoline.

SAMBOLIN: I want to point out though because we start out with that $6 a gallon of gas that we showed and there has been a drop, actually, consistently, we've seen a drop and you believe it has peaked.

ROMANS: Wow, you're going to put me on -- I think you might have seen. If you don't have any problems in the Middle East and you don't have any problems with Iran, maybe this is the spring peak right here heading into the election.

I think that, wasn't it Joe Biden who recently said gas prices are going to go down either in six months or a year. They will go down. Gas prices go up and down. They're volatile. A market set by a lot of different factors.

BOLDUAN: They're talking about the election year. Only slightly more people blame President Obama for high gas prices than they blame Republican policies. Majority blaming oil companies and foreign countries, but still, Mitt Romney is looking at this. ROMANS: Republicans want to drill, drill, drill, drill, but just that won't solve the problem either. I mean, a lot of people that I talk to say that both parties have the full picture of how to handle this.

And maybe the U.S. can't handle lower gas prices. The only way to pay less for gas is to use less gas. The world is using more and more and more.

SAMBOLIN: We're using less and less and less. All right, thank you, Christine.

BOLDUAN: So, some news on billionaire investor Warren Buffett. He will undergo two months of daily radiation treatments beginning in mid-July.

This after he's been diagnosed with stage one prostate cancer. The 81-year-old Buffett says he feels great, though, and his energy level is 100 percent.

The world's third richest person writing a letter saying his condition is not remotely life threatening or debilitating in any way. And he would let shareholders know immediately if his health situation would change.

SAMBOLIN: We're actually going to talk to Elizabeth Cohen a little bit later about that diagnosis and what it means for him.

It is 10 minutes past the hour here. Concern is growing for a Fort Bragg soldier who has been missing since Saturday. Police say she may be in danger.

Army Private First Class Kelli Bordauex was last seen Saturday morning. An Army official telling CNN she was given a ride home by a bar employee. She never reported for work on Monday and her sister says she's not the kind of soldier who would ever go AWOL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLIVIA COX, KELLI BORDEAUX'S SISTER: She joined the military because she knew that was going to better her life. She wanted to make her family proud. She is loved by all her friends and family and we want her to come home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Bordeaux joined the Army one year ago and reported for duty at Fort Bragg in November as a health service specialist.

BOLDUAN: And despite an embarrassing prostitution scandal that continues to unfold, the White House is coming to the defense of the Secret Service and its director.

Eleven agents are being investigated for allegedly bringing prostitutes to their hotel in Colombia two days before the president's arrival for a summit.

The director of the Secret Service Mark Sullivan is heading up that investigation. The president's spokesman, Jay Carney insisting the agency does not have a leadership issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has confidence in the director of the Secret Service. Director Sullivan acted quickly in response to this incident and is overseeing an investigation, as we speak, into the matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: As many as 10 members of the U.S. military are also being questioned about their possible involvement in that scandal.

SAMBOLIN: The Denver Rockies making baseball history last night. Their pitcher, Jamie Moyer is now the oldest pitcher to win a game in the Major Leagues.

The Rockies beat the San Diego Padres, 5-3. So how old is pitcher, Jamie Moyer? He is 49 years old. He first joined the Major Leagues back in 1986. He got emotional last night talking about his record-breaking win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE MOYER, COLORADO ROCKIES: It's a special night for me, you know, it's a lot of emotion. It's been a long time since 2010. It's only three games, but, you know winning my first game as I said earlier, I kind of feel like it's my first game.

And it's pretty much all I know and pretty much all I've done my whole life and I'm still able to live the dream and I still believe I have the passion for the game and, you know, a special night for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: That is fantastic, isn't it?

BOLDUAN: Sweet.

SAMBOLIN: I misspoke. It's the Colorado Rockies. Moyer is just 80 days older than the last player to hold that record. Jack Quinn who set that record back in 1932.

BOLDUAN: He's not old, people. Maybe in sports terms.

SAMBOLIN: In baseball terms, right?

Ahead on EARLY START police slap the cuffs on a 6-year-old kindergarten student in Georgia. This little girl right here this morning they're standing by that decision.

BOLDUAN: So they say eggs this big has never been found before. Geologists claiming they discovered the biggest stash of dinosaur eggs in history. But are they too big to be true? You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: It is 17 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories making news this morning with Christine Romans.

Hey, Christine.

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

They figured out all kind of schemes to stick taxpayers with the bill, a big bill. The General Services Administration taking another beating from a House committee. Lawmakers are trying to figure out how this agency was allowed to throw an $800,000 shindig in Las Vegas and run wild for so long.

The inspector general giving us new details about those so- called jackass awards that were made up to justify free meals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN MILLER, GSA INSPECTOR GENERAL: It was a running joke in Region 9 that in order to get food, you had to give out awards. And many of these awards were silly awards. One of our witnesses characterized them as, I guess, fake awards and jackass awards and things of that nature.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Oh, yes. And how about the official had to take eight trips to Vegas to scout out the location for the upcoming conference, eight trips. I can tell you right now what's going to happen in Vegas. Coming up at 6:30 Eastern, we'll talk to Committee Chairman Jeff Denham who says the corruption fraud and waste may go far beyond what we heard so far.

Police in Houston have rescued a 3-day-old baby who was kidnapped after his mother was shot and killed yesterday. Witnesses say a woman shot the boy's mother's outside the pediatrician office and then took the baby. Police say the newborn is now safe and sound. At least one person of interest is being questioned.

Police in Milledgeville, Georgia, defending their decision to arrest and handcuff a 6-year-old kindergarten student who threw a tantrum at school. They say Salecia Johnson was cuffed for her own safety after she allegedly damaged school property and an officer was unable to calm her down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDACE RUFF, 6-YEAR-OLD'S AUNT: She may have misbehaved, but I don't think she actually misbehaved to the point she should have been handcuffed and taken downtown to the police department.

DRAY SWICORD, MILLEDGEVILLE POLICE CHIEF: Our policy states that any detainee transported to our station in a patrol vehicle is to be handcuffed in the back. There's no age discrimination on that rule.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Police the girl will not be charged because of her age.

Geologists in Chechnya say they discovered the largest fossilized dinosaur eggs in history. They're believed to be 60 million years old and close to four feet wide.

But some scientists say this team may have egg on their faces. Since no dinosaur ever laid an egg that big, they say, and they wouldn't lay them in an area with so many mountains, where they'd be, quote, "hopping around." A mystery of the Chechnya dinosaur egg.

For an expanded look at all these top stories, head to our blog CNN.com/EarlyStart -- ladies

SAMBOLIN: For more details on that little girl.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

SAMBOLIN: The officer's police report says Johnson began tearing items off the school's principal office walls and she was throwing furniture. The report also says that she knocked over a shelf and injured the principal.

Her mom says she does have mood swings. You wonder how you handle a situation like that, right?

ROMANS: Well, the law enforcement thought handcuffs were appropriate in the back seat of that car. So --

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty minutes past the hour here.

Up next on EARLY START: a stunning announcement from Warren Buffet. He's battling stage one prostate cancer. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has details of that diagnoses and the prognosis as well.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

It is 24 minutes past the hour here.

Billionaire Warren Buffett is battling prostate cancer. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO says it's stage one prostate cancer, that the disease has been detected early, as well. Buffett and his doctors electing to begin radiation treatments in mid-July.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us live from Atlanta this morning.

It's nice to have you with us.

Stage one caught early. So, what's his prognosis?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: His prognosis, Zoraida, is excellent. If you look at men with stage one prostate cancer, what that means is the cancer is well contained within the prostate and it is not even close to spreading outside and that means that these men have a 99 percent chance of being alive five years later.

Now, of course, that accounts for men of all ages, not just Warren Buffett who is 81. But a 99 percent five-year survival rate. As a matter of fact, it is such a slow-growing cancer that that's really the reason for that high survival rate.

Unlike other cancers, prostate cancers take a really long time to grow.

SAMBOLIN: He says he's feeling really good. What kind of treatment is he going to be getting?

COHEN: He has opted for two months of radiation treatment. So, what that means is about five days a week, he'll go in and get a very short treatment. It doesn't take very long. A short treatment of radiation. There's various ways of doing it, and we don't know exactly how he's going to do it.

Now, usually it doesn't really have that much of an effect on people. Many people work and have their regular schedule through this course of radiation. It can and sometimes it can cause impotence and incontinence. Those are two big risks that come with this kind of treatment.

SAMBOLIN: And the treatment that he has elected, is that usual treatment for prostate cancer?

COHEN: Many men do elect for radiation. But there are a lot of options with prostate cancer. It's an interesting cancer in that way, that there are various things that you can do.

For example, some men elect to have surgery. They elect to have the prostate removed. Other men elect for radiation, as he's done. Other people will elect for something called watchful waiting and that, believe it or not, means doing nothing. Just keeping a careful eye on that cancer and doing nothing because sometimes the treatment is actually worse than the cancer.

Very difficult to make these decisions. And if you go to CNN.com/EmpoweredPatient, you can see all the different choices that men have and how to go about making that decision. It's a tough one.

SAMBOLIN: So you know what? Elizabeth, I want to use this as a learning opportunity. So, at what age should men actually go to get tested for prostate cancer?

COHEN: You know what, Zoraida? I wish I had an easy answer for you. This is probably the most controversial area in cancer prevention. Some men elect not to get any screening. Believe it or not, there are doctors who say I don't want to get screened because you're going to find this teeny, tiny slow-growing cancer and I don't want to worry about something that's never going to hurt me.

So, I can't say. It's not like mammograms where we say, yes, at age 40, women are supposed to go and get mammograms, according to many experts. This is a controversial one and a decision made between a man and his doctor.

SAMBOLIN: That's a tough one. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for that.

COHEN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on EARLY START: the Secret Service shaken by a prostitution scandal. What the White House is saying about the agency and its director.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Music never gets old.

Thirty minutes after the hour. Welcome back. It is EARLY START.

I'm Kate Bolduan, in for Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's nice to have you with us.

And it's time to check the stories making news this morning.

BOLDUAN: The White House says President Obama has confidence in the Secret Service chief after the prostitution -- sorry -- prostitution scandal that started in Colombia. Now the exact number of women involved is unclear.

Barbara Starr with new details in just a few minutes.

SAMBOLIN: Senate Democrats take their turn today on the General Services Administration and its $800,000 spending spree in Las Vegas. Two House committees already grilling leaders about how the agency was able to run wild for so long with your money.

BOLDUAN: Mitt Romney taking a chapter from Hillary Clinton playbook blaming a vast left-wing conspiracy in the media for trying to derail his campaign. A new poll shows people may be warming up to Mr. Romney. More on that, ahead.

SAMBOLIN: EARLY START nerd alert, "Star Trek" convention in the U.K. All five captains on the same stage for the very first time. We'll tell you why they're going where no man has gone before.

BOLDUAN: And despite a devastating prostitution scandal, the White House and the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee are coming to the defense of the Secret Service and its director. Eleven agents have been relieved of their security clearance and under investigation for allegedly bringing prostitutes to their Cartagena, Colombia, hotel rooms, two days before the president's arrival.

There have been calls for the resignation of Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, but the White House is backing him and so is Republican Congressman Peter King, whose committee oversees the agency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I don't hold Mark Sullivan responsible for this at all. I think he has acted very effectively. He began an immediate investigation. I can tell you, the investigation is very intense.

And I can also tell you from having spoken to Director Sullivan -- let's leave it at this. He is incredibly angry, furious and he doing all that he possibly can to make sure this never happens again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon this morning.

Up to 10 members, Barbara, of the U.S. military are being investigated, too. So, where do things stand?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Pentagon, of course, has that military investigation going on in parallel with the Secret Service. What we now know is that at least some members of each of the military branches are being questioned in regards to this scandal, potential allegations and they are just allegations right now, of course, about drinking, use of prostitutes while they were in Colombia, all part of this growing situation that is being investigated by both elements, the Secret Service and the military.

We know now at least two U.S. marines being questioned as well as members of the Air Force, the Army and the Navy. These were people all in Colombia as part of the support function to the Secret Service to the president's trip. Some of them were dog handlers, explosive experts, that sort of thing.

So, they may not have had direct contact with the president, but, still couldn't be more embarrassing for the Pentagon, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And, Barbara, the White House, the administration made clear that the president was never in any danger, per se. So how serious are these concerns that we're hearing about this being a security breach?

STARR: Well, that's very interesting question. He may not have been in direct danger because they were at nightclubs, allegedly, engaging in these activities. But these are people who have the access to the president's minute-by-minute, day-by-day schedule when he's on the road. That is some of the most sensitive information.

Do they lock up the classified information in their hotel room? Sure. But they could have left themselves open to the threat of blackmail, threats of violence or being victims of crimes. That is the concern that they let themselves be vulnerable to this wider arena of threats, and that that could have posed a threat to the president and the U.S. troops there -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: It's that vulnerability that is a real concern, absolutely.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- thanks so much, Barbara.

SAMBOLIN: And more scrutiny for the scandal-plagued General Services Administration. Today, the congressional hearings continue, trying to determine how the agency's management could have failed so greatly wasting $823,000 of taxpayer money on a lavish Las Vegas conference for 300 employees. On Tuesday, the House Transportation Committee held its hearing on the matter.

Congressman Jeff Denham made it clear he was looking for answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JEFF DENHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: If we continue to see that you're not giving us the information on a bipartisan level to show us how these expenditures are happening, I am prepared to systematically pull apart GSA to the point where we will make it a question to the American public on whether GSA is needed at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Tough words there.

And joining me now Congressman Jeff Denham, chairman of the Transportation Committee's Economic Development Subcommittee.

Thanks for joining us, again. We appreciate your time.

Yesterday, did you uncover anything new?

DENHAM: Well, we laid out for the American public how this is just a systemic problem. This is a culture of corruption and fraud within an agency and this is the agency that is supposed to set the standard for all agencies in government.

And, so, we laid it out that it wasn't just this Las Vegas vacation where they spent a million dollars. They had nine preplanning trips. But, actually, went on and on, even when the I.G. had already been doing a report.

SAMBOLIN: But did you actually uncover anything new yesterday that surprised you?

DENHAM: It surprised me how early the administration and the White House knew about this. Certainly, you know, we knew that the Senator Obama had a person that he appointed within GSA that was the liaison to the White House. But it came yesterday Martha Johnson who resigned, the appointee of the president, said how far she laid it out to the White House and how long it actually took before somebody was fired or anybody resigned, and how many trips still went beyond when this report and beyond what the White House knew.

SAMBOLIN: And yesterday, the whistleblower in this case testified, as well. That's GSA deputy administrator Susan Brita. Listen to her talk about her efforts to actually bring attention to this problem.

(BEGIN VIDEOL CLIP)

REP. JOHN MICA (R), FLORIDA: You notified the regional administrator, Ruth Cox, about the upcoming junket and expressed concern, right?

SUSAN BRITA, GSA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR: I did.

MICA: And what happened?

BRITA: I expressed concern and asked her to review the plans and make sure --

MICA: And that called it off, didn't it? No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Were you surprised that she was ignored?

DENHAM: Yes. Yes. I mean, she should be praised for being a whistleblower for coming out and putting her job on the line when all of this was going on throughout the entire agency. But after the inspector general was involved and after he issued his first report a year and a half ago, she was still fighting the same uphill battle trying to put a stop to and just getting ignored, from all the way from the top.

SAMBOLIN: You mentioned President Obama and his administration in this particular scandal. Are you looking at past administrations, as well, to see if this is ongoing for quite some time?

DENHAM: Absolutely. In these video where they're bragging about the issues here, they not only take on President Obama, but they take on the previous chair of this committee who has been trying to look at this area for quite some time. I mean, this is a public building's fund that for the last many years has spent money and been uncontrollable.

SAMBOLIN: So, there was one witness that did not appear at the hearing and that was Jeff Neely. We have a photo of him actually during that Las Vegas conference that everyone is talking about. He actually organized the conference in 2010.

He appeared Monday at another hearing, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights during his testimony.

Any plans to attempt to hear from him, again?

DENHAM: Right now we don't have any more legislative hearings planned, but this has been referred to the Department of Justice. There will be people that will be tried criminally and we expect that there are going to be people that go to jail over this.

SAMBOLIN: And based on what you heard yesterday, do you think that we still need the GSA? I know you mentioned earlier when we talked to you about a week ago, that you were not sure whether it should exist.

DENHAM: No. I certainly laid out the question and I want them to explain to them why it's needed, what areas couldn't be covered by private industry. But GSA has done a horrible job of managing our public buildings. You know, we have so many of them sitting vacant or idle right now, that could be redeveloped, we could put people back to work. They sold 82 properties over the last decade.

So, it is an issue that has gone between Republicans and Democrats no matter who is in charge, GSA has run wild and uncontrollable.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Congressman Jeff Denham, thank you so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

DENHAM: You got it. Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, some good news for Mitt Romney in some of the latest CNN polling on the campaign. We'll dig into those numbers ahead.

But, first, a quick check of the weather with Rob Marciano.

Hey there, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Kate.

Some much-needed rainfall across the Southeast this morning, spreading across the Appalachian Mountains and will eventually get towards the Northeast. But New York mainly dry for most of today. Rainfall coming across the western Great Lakes, Minneapolis to Green Bay, eventually to Chicago and you'll see a shower, maybe a clap of thunder, as well. And West Coast storm coming to California and southern Oregon.

Temperatures in the 70s across the midsection, warming up to 80 degrees in Dallas, New York City, 65.

That is a quick check on weather. It's 40 minutes after the hour.

EARLY START is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Mitt Romney gearing up for the general election fight. Yesterday, he went after media critics and others he says are looking to derail his campaign, citing a vast left wing conspiracy. Sounds a little bit familiar?

Meantime, there's good news for Romney in the latest polling from CNN. A CNN/ORC International poll shows his favorable rating at 44 percent now. Seven points higher than last month and a 10-point jump from February.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is joining me from Washington.

Some welcome news, Paul, for the Romney campaign.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, really. And here's why, Kate. You remember the primaries back in February and March when it was pretty divisive? You know, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich all battling each other. Well, that will bring a person's favorable ratings down. I think that's why you're seeing Romney's ratings now going back to where they were before the primaries really heated up.

The primaries were over. The battling -- at least the battling among Republicans is over and Romney's perception among all Americans is starting to rise a little bit -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Do you have this polling number I want to bring this up, this poll that we have that say that 53 percent of Americans plan to give Romney a second look, Paul. How does that translate into the general election?

STEINHAUSER: Yes. This is so important. I'm glad you brought this up. This is probably the most important number in our poll this morning for Mitt Romney, because he wants to redefine himself, I guess, you could say. The primaries are over.

He wants to now be a general election candidate, and if Americans, a majority of Americans, at least, according to our numbers, say they want to give him a second look, that gives him a second chance to reach out to voters who may have seen him in the primaries and said, you know what, not crazy about that guy.

Now, they're going to give him a second chance, and that is so important. Hey, but Kate, the favorable number we just showed on Romney, he still has a deficit when it comes to President Obama. Fifty-six percent of Americans have a favorable rating of President Obama, only 44 with Romney as you can see right there.

The unfavorable is about the same. So, yes, the numbers are improving for Mitt Romney. No doubt about that, but he still (INAUDIBLE) Americans still think, I think, President Obama more likable than Mitt Romney.

BOLDUAN: As always, a lot of numbers to chew through that we continue to do on CNN, all day. And of course, as always, Paul, a lot depends on how you slice it. Both campaigns will definitely be coming out to talk about that, as well. Paul Steinhauser in Washington. Thanks, Paul.

STEINHAUSER: Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: And Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "Starting Point."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Oh, so much. So much this morning. Coming up right at the top of the hour, we're going to take a look at Ted Nugent's rant against President Obama, also kind of ranted against Supreme Court justices and ranted against Secretary Clinton.

Some people are seeing this as a specific threat to the president. Nugent had an opportunity to apologize on Dana Loesch's radio show and said he kind of doubled down. We're going to talk to Dana this morning about exactly what he told her.

Also, he's getting his star on the Walk of Fame in just a few days. Actor, John Cusack, is now playing Edgar Allan Poe in a movie which is called "The Raven." He calls him the godfather of Goth. Edgar Allan Poe as a --

SAMBOLIN: (INAUDIBLE)

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. If you like the work of Edgar Allan Poe, you're going to love the movie. He'll talk a little bit about his upcoming role.

Also, is it Tim Tebow, is it Adele, is it Pippa, she's in the news lately, not for good things, necessarily. "Time" magazine comes out with its list of the 100 most influential people. We're going to bring that to you.

If you're about to head to work, you don't need to miss the rest of any show, you can go to our live blog at CNN.com/StartingPoint if you can't catch our show this morning. Otherwise, we'll see you right at the top of the hour at 7:00 a.m. See you then.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: It is 50 minutes past the hour. Ten minutes until the top of the next big show. Let's get a check of stories making news this morning. Hey there, Christine.

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): The Obama administration is backing the secret service and its director, Mark Sullivan, despite an embarrassing prostitution scandal. The White House says it still has faith in the agency, even though 11 agents are under investigation for allegedly bringing prostitutes to their hotel in Colombia last week right before the president's arrival there.

Ted Nugent says he'll be, quote, "dead or in jail" if President Obama wins again. That got the secret services attention according to several news outlets, including the "National Journal." The rocker going on a rant at an NRA event also saying this administration is vile and evil.

Police say a female soldier from Ft. Bragg who's been missing since Saturday may be in danger. Army Private First Class Kelli Bordeaux was last seen at a Fayetteville bar early Saturday morning. An army official telling CNN a bar employee gave her a ride home, and then, she never reported for work Monday. Bordeaux joined the army one year ago as a health service specialist.

Dramatic video of rescue crews racing to save a whale tangled in a fishing net. The 40-foot gray whale is set near a nuclear power plant off the coast of California. Workers are now tracking it with buoys until they can cut away the line.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: I'm hoping it gets free.

SAMBOLIN: I know. I'm hoping they can save them. So sad.

BOLDUAN: It's always so sad to see those images.

ROMANS (on-camera): Love the whales.

BOLDUAN: I know.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-one minutes past the hour. It was NASCAR Day at the White House. President Obama welcoming Sprint Cup champ, Tony Stewart, along with all top 12 drivers of 2011, and they brought some hardware. Take a look at that. Two Chevy Impallas. President Obama hoping he would be able to take one for a spin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's good to see number 14 on the side (ph). Every year, I try to take a lap, nobody lets me do it. But I am still holding out hope that, at some point, i'm going to be able to get behind the wheel. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And another story we're watching, who is he kidding? We're talking about Piers Morgan on this one. He can't keep up with her. Piers Morgan getting a little flirty with the legendary Betty White last night who was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame yesterday. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: My wife's last words to me tonight, before I came down here were, "watch yourself with Betty White." She said she is the ultimate cougar.

BETTY WHITE, ACTRESS: I am. I am.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITE: In my own head.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITE: Not anyplace else, but in my head, I'm the ultimate cougar.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITE: And lover that I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Ultimate cougar in my head, at least.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. She is a very quick wit, right?

BOLDUAN: She is a very quick wit. Very, very --

SAMBOLIN: I love her.

Fifty-three minutes past the hour. Still ahead, police let a sick little boy become Batman for a day. It's our favorite story around here, and they go all out for this little boy. It's a touching story you don't want to miss. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-six minutes past the hour. Time to take a look at what is trending on the web, and it is Bat Boy to the rescue. I love this story.

BOLDUAN: It's adorable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The Arlington, Texas Police Department made a little boy with leukemia his dream came true. They let him be Batman for an entire day. The department set up fake crimes all across the city for little Batman to solve, including a bank robbery with the joker, and they had a phony bomb scare with the Ridler. The mayor even gave the seven-year-old boy named Kai (ph) a key to the city for saving the day. Good for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: We wish you well. Cute little buddy.

A friend of the late Nirvana front man tells UTV that Cobain was working on new solo track that transcended anything he'd written, so far, adding, "It would have been his white album," his friend does referring to Beatles double album that inspired all kinds of new sounds over 40 years ago. The big question, do these demos still exist? If they do, will we ever hear them?

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): A lot of people would love to.

BOLDUAN: Yes. No kidding.

SAMBOLIN: Hey, we have EARLY START nerd alert right now, and it's enough to make a Trekkie's (ph) little brainiac head explode. A Star Trek convention in the UK is set to unite all five captains on the same stage for the very first time, including William Shatner, Captain Kirk, Patrick Stewart, Captain Picard, Avery Brooks, Commander Sisko, Kate Mulgrew, Captain Janeway, and Scott Bakula who played Captain Archer. Did I say that right --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: And organizers say they will all attend destination Star Trek London. That is scheduled for October, and they are expecting thousands of Trekkies from all over the world.

BOLDUAN: There is a lot going on in London this year.

SAMBOLIN: There it is, indeed.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: You know, I think it would be kind of fun to be walking around --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Assignment for you.

And just in time for their world tour, which starts tonight, five guitars stolen from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been recovered. The guitars were taken last week from an L.A. recording studio when the band was rehearsing. Petty had offered a $7,500 reward for their return. No questions asked, he said.

Police say the group is thrilled to get the guitars back, no kidding. Fifty-one-year-old Darryl Washington (ph), got a picture of him if we can put it up, a private security guard has been arrested for grand theft. Police were able to identify him after he sold one of the guitars at, of course, a pawnshop.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: There you go. There you go.

SAMBOLIN: I wonder if they got the reward for turning them in.

BOLDUAN: We will see. The police get the reward. There you go, put it to the city.

SAMBOLIN: The pawnshop owners. I'm talking about --

BOLDUAN: Oh, the pawnshop owners, we'll see. We'll check on it.

That's EARLY START. I'm Kate Bolduan.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN" starts right now.