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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Romney Defends Remarks; Suicide Car Bombing In Kabul; School's Out For Seventh Day; Prison Break In Mexico; Storm Threat, Possible Tornadoes; Joint Operations With Afghan Forces Halted; French Prosecutors Open Criminal Case

Aired September 18, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, it's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Mitt Romney off message and on the defense after a hidden video of him is released.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Developing story we're watching this morning, a severe storm threat stretching from the Carolinas all the way up to New England.

SAMBOLIN: And a royal scandal, now a criminal case. Police investigating those topless pictures of Kate Middleton and we are expecting a judge to rule any minute on that.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is 6 a.m. in the East. A lot of news overnight of a political nature, what appears to be a major campaign moment. While you were sleeping, Mitt Romney was doing full-fledged damage control over controversial remarks that were secretly recorded at a private fundraiser back in May.

Romney's heard telling wealthy donors that 47 percent of Americans will support the President no matter what. It is not his job to worry about them. This tape has shaken the Romney campaign, to say the least. CNN's Andrew Spencer has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREW SPENCER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In one clip, Mitt Romney jokes about wishing his father's parents had been Latino

ROMNEY: Had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this, but he was not. Americans living in Mexico for a number of years and I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.

SPENCER: And he goes off on Obama supporters.

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them.

SPENCER: The Obama campaign issued a response, saying of a Romney presidency, quote, "it's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation."

In a news conference late Monday night, Romney said he could have spoken more clearly, but said he was trying to point out the differences between the two campaigns.

ROMNEY: We have a very different approach, the President and I, between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams. This is really a discussion about the political process of winning the election.

And, of course, I want to help all Americans. All Americans have a bright and prosperous future and I'm convinced that the President's approach has not done that, and will not do that.

SPENCER: I'm Andrew Spencer, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: I want to bring in CNN political director, Mark Preston. He is in our Washington Bureau this morning. Mark, you just heard Mitt Romney trying to clean up the statement that is getting so much attention. He talked about this 47 percent of people who don't pay taxes, but the real controversy might be in how he describes these people. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: "I'll never convince them they need to take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Problematic words from a Republican candidate, correct?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is. And, look, in the 24- hour news cycle this is devastating right now, John. This is going to be the topic of the day, certainly, when it comes to the presidential race.

Long-term, we don't know if this is going to be a fatal blow, if this is going to be something that will carry all the way to Election Day, 49 days until Election Day. A lot can happen. But right now, as they're heading into the home stretch, this is not what the Romney campaign wants to be focusing on -- John. BERMAN: You know, Mitt Romney in this statement, this video, also said it's not his job to worry about these people. And that language sounds very familiar to people here at CNN because of something Mitt Romney said to Soledad O'Brien on "STARTING POINT" back in February. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair I'll fix it. I said I'm not concerned about the very poor, it has a safety net but if it has holes in it, I will repair them. You can focus on the very poor. That's not my focus. My focus is on middle-income Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Yet it's not the statistic that may be the problem here, Mark, but it's the language.

PRESTON: It's the language. What we're hearing from Mitt Romney is him talking like a businessman. In some ways one of his major flaws as a candidate is that he is a CEO. He's not a politician. He is not touchy-feely.

He's very methodical in some ways, sterile when he's talking about fixing the problems and that's exactly what I think we're hearing right now. You know, John, the fact is he was talking about how politics worked. And when he was speaking to that fundraiser he was talking in very political terms but you're absolutely right. The language that he used to talk about, he didn't care about the other 47 percent, is devastating.

BERMAN: The CEO thing is something that a lot of Republicans think is strength for Mitt Romney, but the problem lies in the fact that voters say, just 37 percent of voters say that he connects and understands the problems in the middle class. Nevertheless, we did hear a lot of Republicans jumping to Mitt Romney's defense overnight.

PRESTON: We did and of course, we should expect this to happen. They are very frustrated by the campaign and how things are operating right now. But we did hear from the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus just last night on CNN. In fact, let's hear what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Listen, Joe, I don't have the numbers in front of me. But clearly what we do have, very clearly, is a government and a society here in this country that is becoming dependent.

This is something advertised by Barack Obama himself, on his own web site, when they came out with this life of Julia Push over the summer. It is a choice election between what type of country you want to have, and I can guarantee you that the American dream was not built upon the life of Julia society advertised by Barack Obama. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESTON: Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee Chairman last night on "THE SITUATION ROOM" really trying to frame the election between the four years of Barack Obama's term in office, to what Mitt Romney is offering the American people -- John.

BERMAN: And Mark, we do understand that there may be more excerpts of this video being released right now over the next hour. We are glad you are watching them. You'll come back to us if there is anything big. Mark Preston, great to see you this morning.

At the bottom of the hour, we're going to talk to some CNN contributors and Bush White House appointee, Margaret Hoover and Richard Socarides who is a former adviser to President Clinton. They will be discussing and dissecting these potentially damaging remarks for Mitt Romney.

SAMBOLIN: It is 6 minutes past the hour. A quick check of what else is going on around the world this morning.

At least nine people have been killed in a predawn car bombing, this was in Afghanistan. The deadly attack taking place near the Kabul Airport. The spokesman for an Afghan insurgent group with ties to the Taliban is taking responsibility there.

And says it is in response to an anti-Islam film that has angered Muslims around the world. The car bomber reportedly rammed a small sedan into a mini bus believed to be carrying foreign aviation workers to the airport.

BERMAN: In Chicago, 350,000 kids will get yet another day off from school as striking teachers continue to look at a deal that's on the table to end their walkout. Meanwhile, parents are still scrambling to juggle work and keep their kids out of trouble for a seventh day in a row. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has gone to court to try to force the teachers to go back to work, but a judge will not look at that until tomorrow.

SAMBOLIN: Listen to this, right now in Mexico. More than 130 inmates are on the run. Police are blocking roads leading to the United States after a major prison break there. They're offering a $15,000 reward for the fugitives who escaped from a prison about 150 miles from San Antonio. Police say they were able to burrow through a tunnel to the other side, and then they cut through a fence.

BERMAN: Wow. Some news a lot of us in the northeast are watching this morning. A storm threat from the south along the entire East Coast this morning. Heavy downpours forecast Atlanta, Nashville, all the way up here to New York City. Possible tornadoes. We want to get right to meteorologist Rob Marciano who is watching all of this for us this morning -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, again. This system caused problems yesterday across parts of the south and east in the way of heavy rain and some rough weather and that's going to happen again today as it pushes slowly off towards the east.

Some of these storms already rolling off the Gulf of Mexico have some pop to them, especially across the Florida panhandle down across South Georgia. They'll congeal so to speak and make their way up the Appalachians as we through time.

Pittsburgh back through Charleston, Roanoke getting some rainfall. This is for the most part non-thunderstorm type of stuff, but later on this afternoon, I think things will begin to change. Gentle rains just to the rest of Paramus up through Trenton and Newark a little rainfall as well.

But later on today, not only we will see heavier rain at times, but some of this rainfall with the thunderstorms will create some flash flooding in some spots. More importantly I think as this cold front comes through, gets some of this tropical moisture out of here it's got some energy in the jet stream.

Those winds will maybe create some damage as they come down through some of the thunderstorms, Boston, New York, down to D.C., Raleigh under the gun for a slight chance of seeing severe weather, maybe even an isolated tornado.

Once the front comes through, some gorgeous but chilly stuff. It will feel like fall by midweek. Guys back up to you.

BERMAN: All right, Rob, looking forward to that. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: It's 8 minutes past the hour. New developments this morning in the topless photo scandal surrounding Kate Middleton and more legal developments are expected any minute now. We're going to go live to the Solomon Islands where the prince and the duchess have already heard some good news. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It's 12 minutes after the hour. We want to bring you up to speed in all the morning's headlines. Christine Romans is here with that.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning you two. This is not what the Romney campaign wants to be talking about this morning. A hidden camera video that's captured Romney's blunt comments to wealthy donors at a fundraiser back in May.

On this tape, Romney describes nearly half of all Americans as, quote, "victims," who will vote for President Obama, and it's not his job to worry about them. Romney tried to clarify the remarks later saying they were off the cuff and not elegantly stated. He says he wants to help all Americans.

U.S. troops ordered to halt joint field operations with Afghan security forces. The decision is coming after four American troops were killed by Afghan police. There have been a series of these insider attacks on NATO forces by Afghan police, and by insurgents disguised as security officers. Fifty one western troops have died in those attacks so far this year.

Nearly 200 people were arrested during protests in New York City to mark the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Most of these arrests were for disorderly conduct. Hundreds of protesters gathered at New York's park where the global movement was born for a march on Wall Street. The demonstration failed to keep operating.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you. All right, it is 13 minutes past the hour. French prosecutors have just announced that they are opening a preliminary criminal investigation into the publication of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

And we're expecting a French court to rule at any moment now on a decision to stop further publication or the resale of any of those pictures. Max Foster is traveling with the duke and duchess as they celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee.

And he joins us live from the Solomon Islands. Max, what can you tell us about this criminal investigation? And is there a reaction from the duke and duchess?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the duke and duchess had an idyllic evening on an island out here in the Solomons, and they had dinner and they went snorkeling. They're trying to get away from all of this right now. And they actually have flown off and arrived at a spectacular ceremony sitting on thrones carried by warriors from the plane. We'll bring some video of that a little later on.

They're continuing with this tour and putting a brave face on everything. But in terms of the prosecution, they are being fully briefed. They're fully involved because they're spearheading this, really. And the criminal prosecution could ultimately mean, if it's turned into a full investigation, that the editor could go to jail. They also could mean sanctions for the photographer although I have to say, they don't know who the photographer is. Only the magazine does and convincing the magazine to reveal that information will be a different matter.

But, certainly, first round to the duchess, because they've opened this investigation in a criminal investigation, hugely serious thing. As you say, we'll be hearing about the civil proceedings, as well, today. Many legal experts in France saying it will be granted.

But there will be an injunction. They'll have to hand over the digital originals of these pictures and they won't be able to resell them, republish them, have to withdraw them from the Internet, as well.

SAMBOLIN: Max, those photos were reprinted in Ireland, and there were some consequences there. Can you tell us about that?

FOSTER: Well, yes, the editor was actually suspended. The owners or one of the owners of the newspaper in Ireland was very clear, he's an Englishman and he said this was completely not in the public interest. It wasn't in his interest. He's very angry about it, suggested that, actually, the joint venture that controls this newspaper should be closed down.

The editor has been suspended. Also, the board of the newspaper are now meeting to discuss whether or not to close the newspaper down. At the same time, a minister is suggesting that he's going to bring back laws, privacy laws, in Ireland all because of this.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

FOSTER: It's having a huge impact.

SAMBOLIN: It certainly is. Max Foster live for us. Thank you very much.

Shut down the newspaper? Unbelievable.

BERMAN: They're taking it seriously.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Sixteen minutes past the hour. When you're looking for a cheap flight your first instinct may be to check out sites like Orbitz or Expedia. I do that all the time. But you won't always find the best deal apparently.

BERMAN: Christine Romans is here to tell us why in today's "Road Warriors."

ROMANS: Hi, guys. Well, believe it or not, you may find the best fares and seats by booking directly on an airline's Web site.

Take Frontier for example. Last week the airline announced changes that essentially steer customers away from third party flights. If you don't purchase tickets at FlyFrontier.com, you won't get a seat assignment until check-in. You'll only earn half of your frequent flyer miles and pay higher fees if you need to change your reservation or by stand by.

Now, the Denver-based airline is not the only company trying to cut out the middle man. JetBlue, Spirit and Virgin America, they drive customers to their Web sites by discount codes and e-mails, or through social media. Southwest goes a step further, not listing fares on any third party Web sites.

What does this boil down to? It's getting harder and more time consuming to shop for fares. You have to be very smart about it. You might have to look at several Web sites rather than one that does the comparison shopping for all of them.

I always go to mine first if I know I have a lot of miles on American, I try that because I want to get the miles, put me over the edge to get a free ticket. So, I kind of do it that way.

SAMBOLIN: I'm always looking for the cheapest flight.

ROMANS: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: I look around. Thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Appreciate that.

All right. Coming up, Mitt Romney talking about the 47 percent who will vote for President Obama. People, he says, rely on government handouts. We'll fact-check Governor Romney's math, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-one minutes past the hour. We are minding your business this morning.

Christine Romans has been checking some of the stats in Mitt Romney's comments -- there you are -- at a private fund-raiser that were leaked last night.

BERMAN: The question is, how many people, what are the numbers here about how many people are dependent on the government.

ROMANS: Well, there's no question that since the recession, and even since maybe 1980, more and more people have been beneficiaries of government programs. No question about that.

But that's not the debate that Mitt Romney was having in this tape that we heard. He was talking about people thinking they are entitled, or they deserve free things from the government. I want you to listen to his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: All right. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Let me just break down for you exactly these numbers. He's talking about the 46 percent. He said 47, but the 46.4 percent who do not pay federal income tax -- 53.6 percent of Americans pay income tax. If you include payroll taxes, however, the number of non-payer households or the percentage of non-payer households drops to about 18 percent.

So who is not paying federal income taxes? They are elderly. They are very, very poor people. They are a lot of people who are paying a payroll tax but they're not paying income tax because they are getting child tax credit, they're getting all these other kinds of deductions.

The tax code is very complicated and it is made to give people deductions and incentives for certain social policies in this country. Congress does that, not presidents.

Let me show you about the Americans living in households receiving federal aid, because we have these numbers as well. Twenty-six percent of households receive Medicaid, 15 percent of households receive food stamps; WIC, it's women, infants and children, 8 percent of households; and housing assistance, 4 percent of households. And then temporary assistance -- these are usually cash payments to very, very, very poor families -- 2 percent.

We also know that there are households through stimulus and through other state and federal programs are getting their heating oil paid for, for example. That's for people who are -- for elderly and very, very poor -- lots of different kinds of programs.

There's been an expansion of all these programs because of the great recession. But again, the conversation that Mitt Romney is having on these tapes is not about the expansion, and the temporary nature of some of these programs and trying to rein them in. It's about people being dependent on them, people who do not have personal responsibility and want the government to take care of them. That's the conversation he was having.

BERMAN: All right. Leaving Mitt Romney aside for the moment, what's the one thing we need to know about our money today?

ROMANS: Well, the one thing you need to know about your money today if you have a 401(k), is that stock futures are down this morning. But we're all watching Apple stock today. Apple is above $700 in premarket.

BERMAN: Seven hundred?

ROMANS: I know. I know. You know -- stocks. I've been telling you, stocks are so close to the comeback the last couple of days. The stocks are near the highest levels since the end of 2007.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

ROMANS: There you go.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

Coming up, a mystery at sea. A cruise ship passenger falls from the deck and disappears.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: No apologies from Mitt Romney for off-the-cuff comments caught on hidden video about people who rely on government handouts.

BERMAN: Supreme differences -- the two opposing views that could influence the nation's highest court for years.

SAMBOLIN: And it was a murder case that riveted the entire world. Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend convicted, then set free. Now the man with Amanda that night is telling all. He has written a book. We have a bit of a preview for you.

Welcome back to EARLY START. We're glad you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's about 28 minutes after the hour right now.

And this morning, we are getting a rare glimpse of what Mitt Romney says behind closed doors with his donors. The candidate caught on tape at a fund-raiser with revealing description of Obama voters. The left wing magazine or Web site "Mother Jones" got a hold of the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. These are the people who pay no income tax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The Obama team pounced on those comments and Romney responded at a late-night news conference. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Among those that pay no tax, approximately 47 percent of Americans, I'm not likely to be highly successful with a message of lowering taxes. That's not as attractive to those who don't pay income taxes as it is to those who do. And likewise, those who are reliant on government are not as attracted to my message of slimming down the size of government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: If you're watching in high def, you can actually see Mitt Romney's hair literally and metaphorically out of place there, which I thought was interesting.

We're talking with Margaret Hoover, a former White House appointee in the Bush administration, who obviously like that comment right now, and Richard Socarides, a special adviser in the Clinton White House.

So, Richard, let's start with you. Democrats were all over this statement, early and often last night.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, DEMOCRATIC STRASTEGIST: I mean, I don't think Democrats had much to say at all. I mean, there wasn't much left to say. Look, I mean, I think that, you know, big picture, this is a -- was a devastating moment for Governor Romney, potentially fatal, as people start to focus on this campaign.

BERMAN: Devastating, fatal?

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Ah, I don't think devastating or fatal. You can understand while he tripped over his words, it probably wasn't characterized the best way. I think we can all agree with that.

You can understand what he was trying to say. Do we have a systemic problem in this country when you have almost 50 percent of people not paying any federal income taxes? And he's running on a platform that would fundamentally change the tax code so that you lower the base, broaden the base and lower tax rates across the board.

He didn't say it artfully. Nobody should --

SOCARIDES: Some of those people who are not paying taxes are rich people, number one. And number two, people who --

HOOVER: Well, 38 percent of the taxes are paid by 1 percent of the people.

SOCARIDES: When you include payroll taxes that number goes down to 13 percent. So, I don't know, since when are payroll taxes not taxes?

HOOVER: Well, as you and I both know, 38 percent of the taxes in this country are paid by the top 1 percent of taxpayers. There is a structural deficiency in terms of who is paying taxes and who's not. That's the conversation we should be having. I don't think Mitt Romney meant to write off 47 percent.

BERMAN: No, what he said was I will never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

HOOVER: Right. The other thing Richard and I talked about offstage is that these candidates have grueling, grueling schedules. When they begin to think that they're in an off-camera situation, they're amongst friends, sometimes they say things that are not --

SOCARIDES: Sometimes they say things they really mean.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: -- campaign trail, right? And they get a little bit sloppy.

I don't think this is a reveal of Mitt Romney's character. We know he's a caring person. We have plenty of examples that demonstrate he has cared deeply for people who are far less means in his own life, we saw many examples of that at the convention.

SAMBOLIN: But we do have a lot of examples, also of things that are confusing, right? You're not quite sure what he means. So let's listen to another moment last night when he talked about being Mexican.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan, and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico. And had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this. I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino. (END AUDIO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: I mean I say that jokingly.

HOOVER: I mean if he had been born of Mexican parents and spoke a little bit of Spanish, maybe he'd be able to go to Latino communities and make his case in Spanish. I mean, he does have a compelling case to make --

SAMBOLIN: Do you think that that could be offensive at all to Latinos?

HOOVER: I think it is not helpful at all, I agree, Zoraida. However I do think he has a really important policy for Hispanic community, which by the way, has 2 million more people in poverty today than it when President Obama took office. More people have been deported, more illegal immigrant have been under this president than any other president in American history.

So, I think there is a compelling he has to make to Latinos, regardless of whether his dad was born in Mexico or not.

SOCARIDES: I don't know what's funny about it. It doesn't seem funny to me, in the least bit. I think it's really offensive, and I think he owes Americans an apology this morning. Because, what he's doing is, you know, here's a very rich guy, who's worth several hundred million dollars, suggesting that, you know, if you're a person of color in this country, that somehow you have an unfair advantage against him.

SAMBOLIN: And it would be easier. That's what struck me there. It would actually be easier. And I thought, well, there's a disconnect because it would actually probably be harder.

SOCARIDES: Right. This is a guy who's nothing has been hard for him, except maybe being elected president. I think he's going to have a very hard time being elected president.

BERMAN: All right. Richard Socarides working the Clinton administration -- as you can tell by some of your comments. Margaret Hoover, a Bush appointee. Thank you so much for being with us. Interesting.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thirty-four minutes past the hour.

At 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien will talk about Romney's remarks and his attempt to reboot his campaign when she is joined by the candidate's senior campaign adviser Bay Buchanan.

BERMAN: The Coast Guard is searching off the coast of Florida this morning after a 21-year-old woman went overboard during a cruise headed for the Bahamas. Royal Caribbean says another passenger saw it happen. The captain immediately stop the ship and turned around to search for her. Two other nearby cruise ships joined the search before Coast Guard crews took over. SAMBOLIN: And this just in: a French court handing down a decision on those topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. The court finding the French magazine "Closer" ordering it not to distribute its magazine in print or online.

Earlier this morning, French prosecutors announced that they're opening a preliminary criminal investigation to determine whether "Closer" magazine breached the privacy of the royal couple by publishing those topless photos.

Will and Kate have gone on record saying they want the photographer who took the photos criminally charged as well.

BERMAN: All right, also new revelations about a sensational murder trial. Amanda Knox, her boyfriend, telling all in a new book. Find out what he says coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Thirty-eight minutes after the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us this morning.

Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend, who was convicted and then acquitted of murder alongside her, maintains their innocence in a new book that is out today. But he also acknowledges that the couple's bizarre behavior and lack of a real alibi gave police reason to be suspicious of them.

The book is "Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox," by Raffaele Sollecito.

And joining me now is criminal defense attorney Anne Bremner. Ann served as a spokesperson for Friends of Amanda, a Seattle-based group of Knox's family friends.

Thanks for being with us this morning. I really appreciate your time. So you met --

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Our pleasure. You met Raffaele Sollecito in Seattle after the convictions were overturned. What was your impression of him?

BREMNER: He was lovely. He was humble. He was grateful. And he was really shy.

I guess having worked on this case for so long just remotely, of course, from Seattle, it was really interesting to meet the real person. And what surprised me about him, really, was just how shy and humble he was. But he was very grateful, and very happy to see everyone in Seattle, and a very nice young man. Very, very impressive. SAMBOLIN: He admits that the couple's behavior in the days after Meredith Kercher's body was found was in his words odd. That they were photographed kissing outside of the crime scene, shopping for underwear for Knox.

How do you explain or how does he explain that behavior?

BREMNER: It really was -- it was odd to the Italians. I mean, I think it's really a culture difference. Amanda went shopping for underwear because her house was a crime scene that was closed. They went out for dinner and had a pizza simply because they didn't have any place to eat.

But these things were considered to be odd and they're actually considered to be probable cause in Italy to believe that Amanda and Raff were involved in this crime.

SAMBOLIN: So during the trial, Knox and Sollecito presented a united front, we all know. Here's what he says he was thinking during his first days on trial.

"My poor memory seemed a ridiculous reason to throw me into an isolation cell and accuse me of involvement in the crime. If the problem was with Amanda, and the things that she might or might not have done outside the house, assuming she left at all, why not focus the investigation on her? Maybe she knew something. Maybe there was something she hadn't told me. But please, I thought, leave me out of it."

What's your reaction to that?

BREMNER: I guess it's human nature. You know, we've always been here for Amanda. But we also support Raff.

But for him to say that there wasn't an alibi for her or that he wanted every man or every woman for themselves. He didn't stick with that. Although that part of the book is something that would give us pause, because the fact of the matter is they had an alibi together. They were at his house together. Actually had seen a movie together, and that was something that they testified about and that was part of their defense in Italy.

But I guess in the beginning he may have thought, and his family also said, distance yourself from Amanda Knox, go your own way. Ultimately, he didn't.

SAMBOLIN: In the book, he's also critical of the police investigation. I want to put this up.

"Neither Amanda Knox or I had anything to do with the crime but we came perilously close to spending the rest of our lives in prison because the authorities found it easier and more convenient to take advantage of our youth and inexperience than to mount a proper investigation."

Do you agree with his characterization of the Italian police? BREMNER: Yes, and we called it blaming forensics.

Something that we said in our group from the beginning was the forensics were flawed, that the gathering of evidence was tainted. I mean, everything else -- and at the end of the day, in the appeal, the experts said that and the judge said that and they came home.

But it took years. I mean, Amanda Knox was in prison for four years, as was Raffaele. And it was amazing that we always said, "Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere" -- but especially in this case because they were young, they were naive. They went like lambs to slaughter in a lot of ways.

I mean, they talked to the police, they cooperated and they ended up in prison for four years. But of course were ultimately exonerated, thankfully.

SAMBOLIN: And we're running out of time. But do they still have a relationship today?

BREMNER: No. But he's coming back out here now, I know, with his book and everything else. And they've been in contact. So, that type of a relationship, yes. But a love story relationship, no.

After all of these years and all of the hell that they've been through, I think it would be hard to maintain. And they only knew each other in the beginning for a matter of weeks before they ended up in this horrible mess together.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Anne Bremner, criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor -- thank you for your time this morning.

BERMAN: Really interesting interview.

BREMNER: Thank you.

BERMAN: It's 43 minutes after the hour right now. We want to get you up to speed on all the top stories this morning.

Mitt Romney on the defense after those controversial statements at a private fund-raiser were revealed. Romney is heard saying nearly half of all Americans see themselves as victims and believe they're entitled to government support. He was secretly recorded back in May, and clips were posted on the liberal magazine "Mother Jones". Romney now says the remarks were off the cuff, and not elegantly stated.

In Chicago, 350,000 kids will get yet another day off from school as striking teachers continue to look at a deal that's on the table to end their walkout. Meanwhile, parents are still scrambling to juggle work and keep their kids out of trouble for the seventh day in a row.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has gone to court to try to force the teachers to go back to work. The judge won't look at that until tomorrow.

SAMBOLIN: Peyton Manning continuing his comeback on Monday night football. But it was not his night. Manning threw three interceptions in the first quarter, putting the Broncos in a 20-0 hole early. A late rally came up short and the Atlanta Falcons beat Denver 27-21 in the final.

BERMAN: So a tough night for Peyton Manning, a tough night for Mitt Romney.

Soledad O'Brien here to tell us what she's going to be talking about on "STARTING POINT."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: On that tough night we're going to be talking about, Mitt Romney is not backing down from those controversial comments. He called President Obama supporters, those people -- 47 percent of the nation, said they're government moochers basically, said they feel entitled to health care and housing.

Question today is, is he out of touch and to what degree does that affect his campaign? This morning, we're going to talk to his senior adviser Bay Buchanan, as well as Obama's campaign co-chair, the former Governor Ted Strickland will be our guest as well.

Also we're following the very latest on the royal photo scandal. A judge ruled that the French magazine that published the topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge will have to pay a fine. We're going to bring you a live report from the Solomon Islands this morning. That's where the royal couple is traveling.

And he's known for his share of trouble but also for his acting skills - the rapper T.I. Taking his life lessons, putting them into his second novel. His goal is to increase literacy in young people. We're going to talk to him about his new book; it's a great read. We're going to talk to him about his show on VH1. We're going to talk to him about his role on "Boss".

BERMAN: That's a lot to talk about.

SAMBOLIN: When do you find time to rap?

O'BRIEN: That's T.I. Coming up a little bit later this morning.

SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you. Looking forward to that.

And coming up, the dueling views of two of the most powerful men in our government, President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts. We go inside the Supreme Court with our Jeffrey Toobin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: It is one of the most important issues of the upcoming election and we rarely talk about it. But with the current Supreme Court one of the oldest on record, the next president could have the chance to shape the court for generations. And in his brand-new book, "The Oath: the Obama White House and the Supreme Court", our Jeffrey Toobin takes a look at what he calls the current competing visions of President Obama and the Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts. He concludes one believes in change and the other believes in stability. You may be surprised which man is which in this case. But Jeffrey, I want to start off with what I think is one of the most fascinating episodes in American history. And I don't think I'm overselling it here. It was the swearing-in, President Obama's inauguration, Justice John Roberts swearing him in, giving him the oath of office, and it was flubbed. Let's just look at it again to refresh our memory here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: I, Barack Hussein Obama -

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack -

ROBERTS: -- DO solemnly swear.

OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now that's just the beginning of where -

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's the beginning. It was downhill from there.

BERMAN: You have details I've never read before about how this went down.

TOOBIN: This is the crazy thing about journalism. We follow these events when they happen and then they sort of, you know, the passing parade leaves them. But I wanted to go back -- why was it messed up that way? And there's actually a fairly simple answer.

John Roberts, a lot of people at the time accused him of not preparing. Quite the opposite. He was preparing so obsessively that his wife said to him, you know, at this point the dog thinks he's president. Now, what he did was he prepared a version of the oath marking off where the breaks would be. And his assistant e-mailed that to the secretary at the Congressional Inaugural Committee. That secretary never opened the attachment and never forwarded it to Obama's office.

So what you saw there was that Obama interrupted Roberts after "I, Barack Hussein Obama". He didn't realize Roberts wanted to do "solemnly swear" in the first stanza. That flustered Roberts.

BERMAN: Amazing to see such a brilliant man flustered on the national television.

TOOBIN: And, again, people's best qualities wind up being their Achilles' heel. Roberts has an amazing memory. When Roberts used to argue before the Supreme Court, he didn't bring one piece of paper up to the podium with him because he had it al in his head. Yet in this most public moment, his memory failed him.

BERMAN: And, of course, the title of your book is "The Oath," showing the significance of this moment and really what set off a very complicated relationship between these two.

TOOBIN: It is. And they have so much in common. They're born within six years of each other. Both came of age in the Chicago area. Both products of Harvard Law School, the Harvard Law Review. But they have fundamentally different views of the Constitution, and we're seeing that play out almost all the time.

BERMAN: And as complicated as it was and for whatever differences they have had over the years, including over cases like Citizens United and the like, it was ultimately the Chief Justice John Roberts who saved the signature legislation of the Obama administration, the health care.

TOOBIN: And I would love to say that I predicted it all along. But as CNN viewers may recall, I was quite wrong in my prediction about that case. John Roberts saw Citizens United -- saw the health care case really as the third in a trilogy. Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, health care. And in each of those it looked like five Republican justices were going to take on a Democratic president or initiative. And he said, "I cannot put the Court at the center of that sort of political controversy. I want to try to remove the Court from that to the extent I could."

So he broke with his conservative colleagues, went with Obama, but don't think he's discovered his inner moderate. He is going to remain a conservative.

BERMAN: You know, Jeffrey Toobin, either this relationship has about three months left or four more fascinating years. The book, "The Oath: the Obama White House and the Supreme Court." It is a fascinating read. Thank you so much for being here.

TOOBIN: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Coming up, today's "best advice" from actor John Leguizamo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: It is just a few minutes before the hour right now. As always we wrap it up with "best advice".

SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans has that.

ROMANS: And today we hear from actor and comedian John Leguizamo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN LEGUIZAMA, ACTOR: The best advice I ever received was when I started out my career - don't think you can't do certain things. Just say yes to everything and do it all. Go behind the cameras. Go serve. We're here to serve so just say yes to everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That's cool. Say yes to everything. We were just talking about how overscheduled we are. Say yes to everything. I was starting to say no to some things but he says say yes to everything.

SAMBOLIN: I don't know that he meant it in that context, though, right? We want opportunities, right? Try it all out.

ROMANS: I'm learning how to say no to some things so I can get a little more management in my life.

SAMBOLIN: I'm with you.

BERMAN: That's cool though. Try everything out. Test it out. See what's out there and then learn what you like.

ROMANS: You know, it's the first advice we've heard that say yes to everything. A lot of people say if you get a fork in the road, to quote Yogi Berra, take it. But that's cool, I like it.

BERMAN: All right. That is all for EARLY START this morning. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.