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Romney Nearing Nomination; Court Battle Over Immigration; "A Better America Begins Tonight"; High-Speed Caravan Investigation

Aired April 25, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.


It is 5:00 a.m. in the East. So, let's get started here.

Did it throw you off for a minute?

BANFIELD: No, I love 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Good to have you with us.

Game on! Mitt Romney sweeping five Northeast states as if he didn't know this might happen. He declared the race is on with President Obama.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A better America begins tonight.



BANFIELD: OK. So now we know it's on, but what do we know about Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum and when they may officially get behind him or will they? We've got details of the meetings planned ahead.

SAMBOLIN: And birds cause another scare in the sky. This is the second one this week. A flight with 54 people on board turns around after geese smack into the windshield. Ew!

BANFIELD: And President Obama slow jamming on student loans with Jimmy Fallon.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.




BANFIELD: The president going late night to grab some young voters. We're going to have the highlights for you.

SAMBOLIN: He looks too serious in the background there.

But up first here, Mitt Romney so close to the Republican nomination now, he can taste it. The former Massachusetts governor sweeping to victory in the biggest day of the GOP primary voting since Super Tuesday, winning New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware. It seems inevitable now he will clinch the nomination next month.

Last night, he tore into President Obama, promising a better America under his watch.


ROMNEY: Because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions and distractions and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time. But not here and not now. It's still about the economy and we're not stupid.



SAMBOLIN: CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is joining us live from Washington this morning.

And, Paul, it seems Romney has finally put the primary politics behind him and he is zeroing in on President Obama and the general election. What does his speech last night say about his strategy against the president?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: And he has been trying to do this, Zoraida, for quite some time. And every time he thought he had a one-on-one match with President Obama, well, something happened to primaries. Not anymore.

So, I guess you could say last night's speech, it was 15 minutes in length by the way -- long on rhetoric, not too long, though, mostly short on specific policies. But it was basically a taste, you could say, of maybe the speech he will give at the Republican convention in Tampa in late August. Really, a look ahead, firing away on President Obama for what he's done for the past three years.

One of the interesting thing with the primaries, all but over, did he use the word conservative? No, he didn't. I went back and checked. He did not use the word conservative. So, maybe he's trying to pivot himself and his campaign from a primary speech, from a primary campaign to a general election campaign.

Another interesting thing, Zoraida, listen, polls indicate that Mitt Romney, most Americans think, has a problem relating to average Americans and the problems they're dealing with. Take a listen to what he said here.


ROMNEY: For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job and won't be home as often, for grandparents who can't afford the gas to visit their grandchildren anymore, for the mom and dad who never thought they'd be on food stamps -- to all of you, I have a simple message: hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.


STEINHAUSER: Mitt Romney tried to reach out to average Americans, Zoraida. I think you're going to hear more of that. On his to do-list, immediately, fund raise, fund raise, fund raise. He's got about six fundraisers over the next two days, up in the New York area by where you are. And, you know, he trails President Obama 10-1 in campaign cash.

SAMBOLIN: I was watching a lot of coverage, and a lot of folks thought that he really connected with that speech.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, exactly. You know, he realizes one of his problems is likability. President Obama has it, he doesn't, according to most polls. I think he tried to do that in the speech and I think he was, to a degree, pretty successful.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. So, an interesting moment last night on Piers Morgan, right? Piers talking to Rick Santorum and asking him about endorsing Mitt Romney. Let's listen first and we'll talk.

STEINHAUSER: You got it.


RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's the person that is going to go up against President Obama, it's pretty clear. We need to win this race. We need to defeat Barack Obama.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Is that an endorsement? I'm not mishearing things? You just endorsed Mitt Romney.

R. SANTORUM: Well, if that's what you want to call it, you can call it whatever you want. I --

MORGAN: Am I wrong?

R. SANTORUM: All I would say -- look, I believe --

MORGAN: Karen, you know your husband. Has he just endorsed Mitt Romney?

KAREN SANTORUM, RICK SANTORUM'S WIFE: No, not at this point, no. We're working through it, we're talking about it.


SAMBOLIN: We're working through it, we're talking about it. Why won't he just endorse Romney?

STEINHAUSER: You know, you got to give Piers credit for really trying.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

STEINHAUSER: He really tried to grab it out of him.

All right. Here's what we know, top Santorum advisers are telling us there's going to be a meeting on May 4th now between Santorum and Romney. And at that meeting, though, the Santorum advisers say no, not an endorsement meeting, a meeting to talk about that. And also, to find out the role social conservatives, Tea Party supporters, blue collars Republicans, people that backed Santorum in the primaries, what kind of role they could have the in general election.

So, this process will go on. What about the other guy, Newt Gingrich?


STEINHAUSER: Yes, you saw him last night in North Carolina campaigning ahead of the primaries in two weeks. He did not have a good night. He lost even in Delaware where he really worked hard, lost by a 2-1 margin to Romney. He said in his speech we're going to have to look realistically at where we are and where we're going.

He did not drop out. He said he would continue to campaign in North Carolina through the weekend.

Stay tuned, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, stay tuned, indeed. Paul Steinhauser, live for us in Washington, D.C. -- thank you very much.

BANFIELD: For the second time in less than a week, a passenger jet departing New York has been forced to make an emergency landing after being hit by a bird. The latest incident happened at Westchester County Airport, in suburban New York City. Not far from the main airport.

A JetBlue flight that was bound for West Palm Beach was forced to turn back 50 minutes after it took off because two geese slammed into the jet's windshield. Look closely. Probably make out some cracks there. None of the 54 passengers on board was hurt. They were all put on another plane but the windshield is a different story. It did suffer some damage.

And listen to this incident as it went down from the cockpit radio transmissions.


ATC: JetBlue 571 contact New York departure 120.8.

PILOT: JetBlue 571, we got to come back. We hit two big geese.

ATC: JetBlue 571, roger, and stand by. JetBlue 571 make right traffic runway 1-6.

PILOT: Right traffic 1-6, JetBlue 571.

ATC: JetBlue 571, would you like to declare an emergency?

PILOT: We are declaring an emergency.


BANFIELD: OK. You got to hand it to the pilots and controllers. How calm are they after they say we're declaring an emergency.

See these pictures, though? That was just last Thursday, a Delta flight out of Kennedy making a quick turnaround after birds were sucked into an engine right after takeoff.

SAMBOLIN: Scary moments.

Seven minutes past the hour here.

Mad cow disease in California. That's right, the first confirmed case in the United States in six years now. The Agriculture Department says it was discovered at a random test on a dairy cow at a rendering facility. Officials say no meat from that cow was bound for the foot supply. The carcass is being quarantined while the plant waits for word on the USDA of how to dispose of it.

South Korea reportedly plans to strengthen inspections of beef imported from the United States in the response to the case of mad cow. Two of the country's retailers have halted sales as well.

BANFIELD: From our nitty-gritty courtroom department. A former aide to John Edwards is going to be back on the witness stand for a third day of testimony this morning.

Andrew Young is set to be cross-examined by the defense. Buckle up, folks. Prosecution's star witness telling the court yesterday about detailed plans that John Edwards made with him in order to hide his affair with a pregnant mistress, Rielle hunter.

Andrew Young testified about a day when he says Rielle Hunter made so many frantic calls, that he told her, quote, "somebody better be pregnant or dying." And Young says that she reply to him, "No one's dying." When Edwards found out that Hunter was pregnant, Andrew Young says that Edward called her, quote, "a crazy slut" and, quote, "There's a one in three chance that it was his child."

SAMBOLIN: Eight minutes past the hour.

Jimmy Fallon taking his late show on the road to the University of North Carolina, where President Obama was courting the student vote. The president was Fallon's special guest, joining in on the slow jam of the news and offering this reaction to the Secret Service scandal.


JIIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: How mad were you?

OBAMA: Pretty mad. Look, Secret Service, these guys are incredible. They protect me, they protect Michelle, they protect our girls, they protect our officials all around the world. Ninety-nine- point-nine percent of them every day, they're putting their life on the line and they do a great job. So a couple of knuckleheads shouldn't detract from what they do, but what these guys were thinking, I don't know. That's why they're not there anymore.


SAMBOLIN: Easy to understand. A couple of knuckleheads. We know that you want some of that Obama/Fallon slow jam, so we're going to have it for you a little later this hour.

BANFIELD: But, first, this just in: gas prices dropping again this morning. The new national average just announced by AAA, $3.84 per gallon for regular unleaded. We're doing the math for you. It's down about a dime from the start of the month. Many experts say we've already seen the peak of gas prices for the year but only the tension with Iran remains in check because if oil prices go up, you know what happens, gas prices usually follow.

So, anyway, ninth consecutive decrease. So, that's good news.

SAMBOLIN: Very good news.

Ten minutes past the hour. Still ahead, scary surveillance video of an over-the-counter bat attack at McDonald's. No one saw him coming. He just started swinging.

BANFIELD: And give peace a chance now? How about give suspension a chance. The NBA handing down punishment to Metta World Peace, also known as Ron Artest, for throwing a violent elbow on the court. Here it is. Ow! It hurt Harden.

It's going to cost the Lakers in the playoffs. You'll find out how much in a moment.


BANFIELD: Hello there. Thirteen minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. Time to check our stories making news this morning.

Newt Gingrich is re-assessing his candidacy after Mitt Romney swept all five contests. The former House Speaker was hoping to pull off a primary victory in Delaware last night. Now, he's contemplating his future.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Over the next few days, we're going to look realistically at where we're at. We have worked very, very hard. We've had a lot of support from an amazing number of people. We're going to it be here in North Carolina all week. I'm confident we'll have lots of folks to talk with and we're going to talk about a lot of key ideas. I also want to do that as somebody who is a unifier and somebody who's realistic.


SAMBOLIN: Gingrich's campaign is $4.3 million in debt. He has 23 events scheduled in North Carolina this week and says he plans to attend every one of them.

BANFIELD: Police in Lakeland, Florida, are searching for this guy. Take a close look. He went after a manager of a local McDonald's. In his hand, if you squint, a baseball bat. From the start to finish, the customer's attack just of camera lasted just a little under 30 seconds but employees said they recognize this guy because he apparently visited before and complained about the service.

SAMBOLIN: The NBA suspended Metta World Peace of the L.A. Lakers for seven games, for throwing a nasty elbow. Take a look at it there, that floored Oklahoma City's James Harden on Sunday and left him with a concussion. That means World Peace will miss the Lakers' entire first round playoff series unless it goes seven games.

BANFIELD: Fifteen minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast.

And the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up the fight on immigration. Today, justices are hearing oral arguments on Arizona's controversial immigration law. That Arizona law is known as SB-1070. And it's meant to crack down on illegal immigration.

Along the law's provisions, requiring local police to check the person's immigration status while enforcing other laws, if, quote, "there's a reasonable suspicion" that person is in the country illegally. Some people say that's profiling.

White House is arguing that the states have not authority over immigration issues, says that's a federal thing. But Arizona says federal government has failed to control the problems that that state says it has to suffer through on a regular basis.

Our Kate Bolduan is live in D.C. She's been covering this. She's a Supreme Court expert right now with Medicare and all the rest.

So, here's the deal. This looks like one of these classic Supreme Court battles between state and federal jurisdiction.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You absolutely hit it right there. The justices are going to hear one hour of oral arguments today. It's state versus federal authority, a classic battle before the Supreme Court. The key issue before the court is who should be enforcing illegal immigration laws.

The state of Arizona argues it's facing an economic and public safety crisis that state officials attribute to illegal immigration. And they also say the law is meant to assist, not interfere, assist in their view, the federal government to stop illegal immigration. State officials are saying that they're stepping in where they believe the federal government has so far failed.

The Obama administration, though, says it's absolutely the opposite. They argue that Arizona would be interfering with what is exclusively federal authority and the law in their view could damage relations with other countries and make immigration worse.

We went to Arizona and I actually talked to two very interesting people, Ashleigh. A phoenix police officer and the head of a private group patrolling the border. Both men on the front lines of the fight against illegal immigration but they couldn't be farther apart. Listen here.


DAVID SALGADO, PHOENIX POLICE DEPARTMENT: I think it's a racist law, because that law was basically picks and chooses certain people. When I took an oath 20 years ago, I said I'm going to enforce all laws and treat everyone equal. I can't treat the Hispanics equally because I'm going to profile them.

GLENN SPENCER, AMERICAN BORDER PATROL: This is a wholesale invasion of Arizona. And our federal government is not protecting the state. We are going to make sure that they get all the help and the federal government gets all the help that it needs to do the job.


BOLDUAN: Now, after oral arguments that are going to happen just later this morning, we'll likely get a decision from the justices in the next couple months. So, another election year battle, the political stakes couldn't be higher either.

BANFIELD: Yes. No kidding. But today, only eight justices hearing the case. Why is that?

BOLDUAN: Yes, another wild element to this. Only eight justices, not the normal number of justices, not the full nine. This is because Justice Elena Kagan has pulled herself out from hearing this case because she was involved in the early stages of the Obama administration legal battle with this law when she was still in the Justice Department just before joining the Supreme Court. So she has recused herself.

And this what this does: it's raised the possibility of a 4-4 split, meaning this election year fight could be pushed to another day. That would be very interesting.

BANFIELD: Yes, it just keeps getting more exciting, don't it? All right. Kate Bolduan --

BOLDUAN: Yes. Wild turn, yes.

BANFIELD: Yes Supreme Court wild, who would have thunk that we'd put those together.

Thank you, my dear. Good to see you.

SAMBOLIN: It is 18 minutes past the hour.

A quick check of the weather. Meteorologist Rob Marciano in Atlanta.

Good morning to you.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, guys.

It's going to remain cool across the Northeast. The pattern that brought that crazy storm the past couple of days is still there. So, it's still rotating, a few showers. Probably won't get to the New York City or Philadelphia area, certainly upstate, rain and snow showers and that circulation driving down into the Carolinas as well with light rain here.

Another quick system is moving across the northern tier state. That will bring the threat for severe weather across the western Great Lakes and in through the Ohio River Valley later on today, with some of -- with a little bit of a warm front. That will create a threat for mostly large hail, some damaging winds possible. And isolated tornadoes although not a huge threat but be on your toes for that.

The other issue is out west, got a couple of big storms that are moving here, northwest and the southwest corner of the U.S., including L.A. Some rains expected there. And in between, we've got some record-breaking heat, especially across parts of the South, including New Mexico, 96 in Roswell, with 88 degrees yesterday in the Mile High City of Denver. We'll see similar numbers again today.

Some of these spots will be over 20 degrees above where they would typically be for this time of year. Ninety degrees expected in Dallas. How about that? Ninety in Kansas City. And a cool 60 degrees in New York -- guys.

BANFIELD: Ninety? Hot stuff. Wow.

SAMBOLIN: You want to sweat.

BANFIELD: You know what? I did it was like 33 days straight over 110 degrees in Dallas, lived through that.

SAMBOLIN: My kind of weather.

BANFIELD: Ew! Serious? You burn your hands on your steering wheel if you don't park in the shade.

OK. We digress. Thanks, Rob. Nice to see you.

ROMANS: You got it.

BANFIELD: Twenty minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. Time to get an early read of all the news -- we read every one of these, start to finish, top to bottom.

SAMBOLIN: After the show. Yes, pretty much.


SAMBOLIN: They just kind of make it in here right for show time. But we go through them past. We got papers all the way from New York, all the way to Chicago. New York, all the way to Chicago.

Let's start with "The New York Times" because this one's a bit annoying to say the least. Ever been in an emergency room? Yes, you might find yourself in an emergency room being visited bedside not by a nurse or doctor but by a debt collector. Ain't kidding here.

Accretive Health is one of the nation's largest debt collectors. And there's a big accusation about some really wicked tactics that this group is using. The Minnesota attorney general is at the helm of this. And she says that Accretive actually put employees into emergency rooms. At times they didn't necessarily identify themselves about debt collectors and actually made threats about, you know, like you're not going to be treated unless you pay your bill, before these people actually got treatment.

So far we're not hearing about any violation, though, that's officially being charged which may be just down the road. But we know there's a civil suit that may be pending in this case.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, let's head to the "Chicago Tribune."

A Florida man is facing five years in prison for stealing a $1 soda from McDonald's. Seriously. (INAUDIBLE) says 62-year-old Mark Abaire, there's his picture. He allegedly asked for a cup for water and therapy he filled that with soda. So for that, he is facing a felony charge of theft.

It turns out, Abaire is giving the hamburger a run for his money. He has a long history of theft convictions and that is what bumped up this case to a felony. Funny thing, his nickname is red clown.

BANFIELD: Adorable.

SAMBOLIN: He has absolutely no relation to that guy, Ronald McDonald.

I got to tell you, the folks there are pretty upset about this, because it's taxpayer dime, while he's behind bars and they said, for a buck, really?

BANFIELD: Well, you know what?

SAMBOLIN: He had a long history.

BANFIELD: And you should see the string of mug shots this guy has. It's like, wow, after the first one, you know, he never changed. He had the same haircut, a string of all these things that he had done. They finally decided not a three strike issue, like a 23-strike issue.

SAMBOLIN: Keep him behind bars.

BANFIELD: Yes. Taxpayers money, but you might not have to take another mug shot of him. Save on the Polaroid.

Twenty-two minutes past 5:00.

Still ahead, 16,000 iPhones sold every hour. The most valuable company in the world gets even bigger -- staggering numbers in Apple's quarterly report.

It's Christine Romans, true to form, telling us it's true, folks. This company is unbelievable. We're minding your business, next.


BANFIELD: Twenty-five minutes now past the hour.

We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. markets closing mixed yesterday, Dow and S&P 500 getting a boost from strong earnings report while the tech heavy NASDAQ closing a bit lower, about 0.3 percent.


SAMBOLIN: Apple reported its quarterly earnings after the closing bell last night.

Poppy Harlow is here with us, in for Christine Romans.

And we always ask: Can it get better for apple? And it seems to be the answer is always yes.

HARLOW: Every quarter it gets better and better. These results came out after the closing bell. So, they didn't pop the NASDAQ. They are this morning in futures up.

What a quarter for Apple, guys. If you own this stock or if you're thinking about buying it, listen up -- 94 percent, that's how much earnings increased for the first quarter from a year ago. A lot of this has to do with the iPhone.

Let's take a look at the numbers because they're unbelievable. Those are the numbers -- 385,000 iPhones sold per day in the first three months of this year. That is 16,000 iPhones per hour. That is just pretty unbelievable even for Apple.

Looking at the stock up 8 percent in premarket trading, $610 a share. You thought it couldn't go higher. The stock is up 360 percent in the last five years.

This company is worth half a trillion dollars right now. But this is a China story. Like so many stories for American companies. This is a China story.

The one question about Apple was: could it break through an emerging markets and do exceedingly well? You got a rising middle class in China. They want iPhones even more than we want iPhones -- iPhone sales were up 500 percent in the first quarter in China year- over-year.

And they're only selling about 25 percent of the carriers in China. So, if they get that deal with China Mobile, the biggest carrier, it is going to go farther than that.

So, the question about Apple, could they sell in China really well, that was answered in these earnings.

BANFIELD: Holly-molly. No kidding. And that makes sense. That happened after the closing. That's why the NASDAQ is down.

Thank you, Poppy.


BANFIELD: Twenty-seven minutes now past 5:00.

Coming up, talk about your bad news -- bears. A couple of black bears staring the living daylights out of a TV weatherman. This is his live shot location, folks. How would you like to be there, live?

SAMBOLIN: You get to have all the pictures.

BANFIELD: Try to report the weather with those guys in your backdrop.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: It is 31 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. We are so happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: Hi. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's time to check the stories making top headlines this morning, and we begin with this one.


BANFIELD (voice-over): Mitt Romney telling President Obama, "see ya in November." It was avertable (ph) barn burner last night. That's Roger's word of the day. Roger, nice word of the day. Barn burner, five contests last night, and Mitt is putting those primaries behind him. He's hammering the president on the economy after that solid sweep last night.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's still about the economy, and we're not stupid.



BANFIELD: So, what about Newt Gingrich? Well, we all thought he might actually bow out last night, holing this news conference late at night to reconsider his future, but no, he's not. He's still in the race for now. Rick Santorum also falling short of endorsing Mitt Romney as well

He says he's going to meet with Mitt Romney on May 4th to discuss the prospects. The two are expected to plan their next move together.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): New Jersey police in trouble for allegedly clearing the way for Porsches and Lamborghinis to tear down the highway at 100 miles an hour. Other drivers saying they were practically run off the road, scared for their lives. Details in a live report coming up.

BANFIELD: A cannonball run.

And we interrupt this program because of these guys, bears crashing the 11 o'clock news, sending the weatherman who was supposed to be on that set, running for his life. Scrap the outdoor set. Woman on the air at that time. We're going to speak with her in just a moment.

SAMBOLIN: That is remarkable. I can't wait to get to that story.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Thirty-three minutes past the hour. Mitt Romney moving closer to clinching the Republican nomination by sweeping five primaries last night. His focus now fully on President Obama. The former Massachusetts governor hammering the president and his economic record after telling a cheering crowd last night, he is humbled by their support.


ROMNEY: To all of you, I have a simple message. Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.



SAMBOLIN: Romney closing in on the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nominations. CNN estimates he has 764 after last night. BANFIELD (on-camera): A former aide to John Edwards is supposed to be back on the witness stand for a third day of testimony later this morning. His name is Andrew Young (ph), and he's expected to be cross-examined by the defense. You can expect light and heat.

The prosecution's star witness told the court yesterday about detailed plans that John Edwards apparently made with him in order to hide an affair that John Edwards was having with his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter.

Andrew Young (ph) testified about a day he says Rielle Hunter made so many frantic calls to him that he told her, quote, "somebody better be either pregnant or dying." Young says her reply was, quote, "no one's dying." He also says when Edwards found out that Hunter was pregnant, Young says Edwards called her a, quote, "crazy slut" and then went on to quote "it's a 1/3 chance the child's mine."

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-four minutes past the hour. Happening right now, media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, being questioned by British officials about corruption and phone hacking at a judicial inquiry concerning press ethics. These are live pictures that we have from London. Murdoch says he welcomes a chance to appear.


RUPERT MURDOCH, NEWS CORP. CEO: Been some abuses. I would say there are many other abuses, but we can all go into that in time. And you know, the state of media in this country is at absolutely vital interest to all its citizens. Frankly, I welcome the opportunity, because I wanted to put certain myths to bed.


SAMBOLIN: Both Murdoch and his son have denied knowing about the scale of illegal phone hacking at the now defunct, "News of the World," tabloid. Murdoch's testimony expected to last two days.

BANFIELD: It's 35 minutes now past 5:00. And as you know, you can't always predict what's going to happen on live TV, right? Certainly, the case for a local anchor team in Scranton, Pennsylvania on Monday night. I want to show you what happened as the anchors were preparing to toss to their weather guy, the meteorologist named Kurt Aaron.

He was scheduled to deliver the night forecast from that kind of backyard thing that they do set up, sometimes. It's like a weather studio outside, but take a look at what happened.


TRISH HARTMAN, ANCHOR, WNEP: Obviously, we had very little notice that Kurt was not in the backyard.


HARTMAN: Oh, wow! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is live video from the backyard right there.

HARTMAN: No way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's two bears.

HARTMAN: Look at that. And so this is why Kurt Aaron is not out there right now. I don't blame him.


BANFIELD: Yes. That's an understatement, right? That's why he's not out there. Those guys are out there. The video later on showed it was, in fact, four bears, a mama and her three cubs who just wandered on into that backyard set.

Joining us now live on the phone from Scranton, Pennsylvania is Trish Hartman. She's an anchor and reporter from WNEP TV. That was her that you just heard as she was co-anchoring the 11 o'clock newscast. What a night? Holy cow, Trish! Could you believe that?

HARTMAN: It was fascinating for all of us in the set, in the control room. It kind of took over the entire show at 11:00 the other night.

BANFIELD: OK. So, here's the thing. What was Kurt doing at the time he figured out he was live on a set with some bears?

HARTMAN: So, he was standing out there waiting for us to come to him during a commercial break. Routine. And he says that he heard a noise behind him. And he turns around, and at first, he didn't see anything. He's looking behind the little weather shed. And it was like 15 seconds out before he was supposed to go on the air.

BANFIELD: So, he's all wired up and everything. He's attached? He's set to go live?

HARTMAN: Yes. He's ready to go. And so, he looks behind like directly behind him and about five to ten feet behind him was the mother bear just looking at him. And so, at that point, even though he was about to go on the air, he just runs for the door.

BANFIELD: Runs for the door. You know what, I have that moment cued up, so let me play that for our audience so they can hear what all of your audience heard at the moment that he explained to you that he had to run for, you know, run for the hills. Have a listen.


VOICE OF KURT AARON, WNEP METEOROLOGIST: I walked out there, and I turned around and I'm looking at the camera and I hear this sound. And I turn around and the bear's literally ten feet from me. And I ran like I stole something. I'm not going to lie. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: I ran look I stole something. So, Trish, was there anyone else out there with him? I mean, literally if he hadn't heard the snorting or whatever sound it was and turn around and seen what the source of the noise was, would he have ended up doing that live shot with no one out there to say look behind you, dude?

HARTMAN: No. He was the only person out there, because all our cameras are automated. The meteorologist on most days is the only person in the backyard. And he says when he went and ran for the door and closed the door, the bear was behind him like at the door. It wasn't -- he says he wasn't -- the bear wasn't chasing him per se, but the bear definitely followed him into the backyard. From there --

BANFIELD: What happened to the bears? Ultimately, did animal control come or did they end up sort of wandering back into the woods and going where they came from?

HARTMAN: We just kind of let them be after the newscast. We turned the lights off, and in the morning, they were gone. So, I mean, we are on a mountain, and this is their home, too. So, they went back into the woods, eventually.

BANFIELD: OK. I think Mr. Aaron certainly has a case for your general manager to post up some security out there next time he's going to do a backyard weather hit (ph). Trish, thanks for being with us this morning. Go back to sleep, you late night hound.

HARTMAN: Will do. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Trish Hartman joining us live from Scranton, Pennsylvania this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness! That could have been a really bad outcome.

BANFIELD: It was a great outcome, and thank God for that. But imagine hearing, you know, I have to say --

SAMBOLIN: I know that you have experience with bears.

BANFIELD: I have serious experience. I woke up to the sound of some snorting in the house, and I opened the door to find a 350-pound black bear in my kitchen ripping off the door to the trash compacter, ripping open the door to the fridge.

SAMBOLIN: And you did what?

BANFIELD: You know what I did? I actually was in an upstairs room, and I grabbed my cell phone and I called downstairs to my folks and my step-dad who's, by the way, 90 comes out with a shotgun and starts charging the bear.


SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness.


BANFIELD: I just got to give him serious props, because at 90 years old, the dude has absolutely no fear, grabbed the shotgun and just goes, ha! And scared the bear, and the bear just lumbered along, left behind some business. Lumbered along and then scooted out a window, and that was it. Can you imagine?


BANFIELD: What a mess? What a mess that was left behind. Obviously, the kitchen has really fun place for a bear.

SAMBOLIN: All righty then. Forty minutes --


BANFIELD: -- in Canada, pretty rural spot.

SAMBOLIN: Forty minutes past the hour here. Ahead on EARLY START, car is reportedly racing at speeds over 100 miles per hour down New Jersey highways and all with a police escort. Some are calling it a death race, but now, we've got word that state troopers and a Super Bowl champ were involved. We're giving a little bit away there. That story coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 44 minutes past the hour. Sports cars going over 100 miles per hour. Authorities launching now a second investigation after brand new video emerges, allegedly showing another trooper-led high-speed caravan of sports cars two years ago. Two state troopers have been suspended and a station commander now re-assign.

Alina Cho is here with the details. There's also a football player involved in this.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This caravan was apparently run by NFL star, Brandon Jacobs, and also some business executives, but can you believe it?

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness!

CHO: Had this video not emerged, maybe we would never know about it, but a lot of people complained about it. Good morning, Zoraida. Good morning, everybody. You know, instead of pulling over reckless drivers, two New Jersey state troopers were allegedly clearing the way for them, and the video all out on YouTube.

They're accused of escorting a pack of Porsches, Lamborghinis, and Ferraris, two dozen cars in a 100-mile-per-hour so-called death race. It all happened down the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey to Atlantic City last month. Now, this is YouTube video of the very same race back in 2010. Witnesses said that two police cruisers were leading the cars as they weaved in and out of traffic, almost forcing some vehicles off the road. Now, that's according to one of the statements in New Jersey's "Star-Ledger" news. And listen to the voices in the background during the joyride.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's he doing? What's he doing? (INAUDIBLE) the rally baby. Oh, he backfired. I can't keep up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Jersey State Police in the Evolution VIII cruising, and we can't keep up. This is the highlight of my life.


CHO: Well, if you can't tell by the video how fast they were going, you can certainly hear it, right, in cars. Now to the fallout, Sergeant First Class Nadeer Nasri (ph), a 25-year veteran and another trooper, Joseph Bentrela (ph) have both been suspended without pay. The station commander who was re-assign has not been named. And take a look at this.

This is from the attorney general of New Jersey. "We will not tolerate any conduct by a member of the state police that puts the public in jeopardy. Those responsible will face serious discipline."

We should mention, though, that no charges have been filed against the officers as of yet, but the New Jersey attorney general's office has announced an investigation into whether this latest incident and the one from the video back in 2010 are linked. My guess is they were.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Yes. And do we know how this was first uncovered?

CHO: You know, it's really unbelievable. I mean, this is really a story of the power of the people, right? So, the "Star-Ledger" of New Jersey broke the story, but it, apparently, all started after two drivers complained to the New Jersey turnpike authorities saying a variety of things, including that the police escort was traveling more than 100 miles per hour.

Another called it death race 2012, and the witness, apparently, said that the state is lucky that no one was killed.

SAMBOLIN: There were a lot of people complaining. Well, thank you, Alina, for sharing those details. We appreciate it. Thank you.

CHO: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It's 47 minutes past the hour. Set your DVRs. Attorney Charles Sciarra will be on "Starting Point" at 7:15 eastern. He is representing one of the suspended New Jersey state troopers and hear some more background on this -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: It's now 47 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories making top headlines this morning.


BANFIELD (voice-over): And for the second time in five days, a bird strike has forced to pass the jet New York to turn back after taking off. The latest incident involving a JetBlue flight last night from Westchester County Airport to West Palm Beach. Pilot was forced to turn around when two geese slammed right into the windshield.

There, you can see some of the debris, actually, on the front of the plane. The windshield was actually damage, but you got to listen to a passenger describing what it actually felt like on the plane.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The plane started swerving immediately right after the two hit. So, he was rocking the plane back and forth, and we knew something was going on. I'm going to die. I'm not going to see my family. I'm not going to get home.


BANFIELD: Terrifying as it was. Luckily, none of the 54 passengers on board was hurt in the incident.

And do not mess with this tough granny. A couple of would-be robbers learned that lesson the hard way. Fifty-seven-year-old Lulu Campbell (ph) was involved in a shootout on Saturday fighting off two men who were trying to rob her at gunpoint. They approached her car, and granny grabbed her gun.


LUISA CAMPBELL, FOUGHT OFF ROBBERS: I'm innocent. I don't got no money. And then you don't open the window -- door, I'll shoot you. I answered him and said, you're going to kill me anyway, no matter what.


BANFIELD: She gave them fair warning, right? Campbell fired off several rounds, hitting one of the robbers in the chest, and that suspect was taken to the hospital. His accomplice ran away, but, later was caught by the police. So there.


BANFIELD (on-camera): And it was just a ridiculously impossible basketball shot and I am not overselling this one, folks. Check it out.


BANFIELD (voice-over): After a missed shot, a player hustling to save the ball from going out of bounds, flipping it blind with his back towards the basket. Swish. Look. It happened during a playoff game in the Estonian league.


BANFIELD (on-camera): That crazy shot cut the team's deficit to three. They ended up winning the game. Hustle and luck on that one, all the way to the finish. You just don't get to see that very often in the camera shot perfect, right?

Still to come, slow jamming with the president. Don't you just wish you were Jimmy Fallon? Because he and commander in chief were bringing you the news late show style. we're going to let you watch it EARLY START style in just a moment.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifty-two minutes past the hour. It's time to take a look at what is trending on the web. Rising up, one World Trade Center, the building formerly known as Freedom Tower, is set to become the tallest building in New York City, in the next couple of days, folks.

The port authority says construction is moving quickly, and it could surpass the Empire State Building's height as early as Monday. The Empire State Building was the city's tallest building from 1931 to 1972. It regained that title when the twin towers were tragically destroyed in the attacks of 9/11. When finished, one world trade will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776 feet.

BANFIELD: No accidents at that height?


BANFIELD: No accidents at that number. That's why I think they should still call it Freedom Tower. 1776.

OK. So, maybe it's just new recycle green packaging for Apple, but Chinese customs stopped an elderly lady at the border who was caught smuggling iPhones -- are you ready -- in beer bottles. Beer bottles. The glass bottles. Apparently, she was able, she or whoever she was working with if she was, allegedly, cut in half, three iPhones fit inside each of the bottles.


BANFIELD: According to the Chinese news site, a total of 216 iPhones and iPhone 4S's were seized this way. I was trying to do the math really quickly. I think that's something like 75 bottles of beer on the wall, something like that.


SAMBOLIN: I'd call it clever, but she was caught. President Obama --

BANFIELD: Bad joke, right?


BANFIELD: It's early. I can't be Jimmy Fallon at this hour.

SAMBOLIN: All right. President Obama slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon and headlining this episode of late-night laughs. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Oh, yes. You should listen to the president.


FALLON: Or as I like to call him, the Preezy of the united seezy.


FALLON: (INAUDIBLE) behind all those close doors. So, the president make a few discreet calls across the aisles. He said, hey, let's get together on this one. Without an affordable Stafford loan, where can a student turn? The Pell Grant is a beautiful thing, but with college getting more expensive, is it enough by itself to satisfy all your collegiate needs? A Pell no!




BANFIELD: Pell no!

SAMBOLIN: That's fantastic.

BANFIELD: That's my favorite Jimmy Fallon show so far yet this year. You know what I like the best? I just like that he was like so calmly staring ahead the whole time.

SAMBOLIN: I needed him to bop from something, right? It's got to work better.

BANFIELD: I will try to bop to this one. The supremes, folks. That's next on EARLY START. The Supreme Court teezy. Yes. Taking up Arizona's controversial -- ah, for get it. It's all about the controversial immigration law, and it's going to the supreme. Why the White House is watching this one ultra, ultra close?

SAMBOLIN: Going to the supreme. I like that.