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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Jill Kelley's Link To Scandal; Congress Demands Answers From FBI; Petraeus Fallout Affect Fiscal Cliff?; Will She Or Won't She?; Toyota Recalls 2.77 Million Cars; Belize Cops To McAfee: Turn Yourself In; Elmo's Accuser Changes Story; Obama Meeting with Business Leaders Today

Aired November 14, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow! Is it complicated? Two top military leaders and two women tied up in a major scandal. Now, we add a twin sister to the mix.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Staying or going? House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expected to reveal her future plans just hours from now.

SAMBOLIN: Total recall, Toyota taking action over a steering problem that could affect millions of hybrids. You are going to want to stay tuned for that.

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

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East. A lot going on this morning. Up first, the tangled web that's ensnared two of the country's top military men and two women who are not their wives.

This morning, we're learning much more about Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite at the heart of the investigations involving David Petraeus and General John Allen.

Kelley first reported anonymous threatening e-mails to an FBI agent she knew. Turned out those e-mails were from Petraeus' biographer, Paula Broadwell.

SAMBOLIN: The investigation inadvertently exposed her affair with Petraeus and forced him to resign as CIA director. Now, General Allen, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is being investigated by the Defense Department for alleged flirtatious e-mails that he exchanged with Kelley, this was over a two-year period.

BERMAN: Kelley is pleading for privacy, even though she finds herself in the middle of a real-life soap opera. We're now hearing her voice for the first time in a 911 call to Tampa police last weekend. She called to complain about the people outside her house. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL KELLY (via telephone): You know, I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability so they should not be able to cross my property.

I don't know if you want to get diplomatic, protection involved as well. But now because it's against the law to cross my property, since this is now like, you know, it's violable.

911 OPERATOR: All right, I'll let the officers know.

KELLY: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: We have team coverage this morning for you. Jill Dougherty is at the State Department. Brianna Keilar is in our Washington Bureau.

We're going to start with you, Jill, this morning. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delivered new comments on this scandal just hours ago. What is the latest from the Defense Department on this investigation?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has to do with General Allen, who, of course, is the top commander for NATO and the U.S. in Afghanistan nominated to be the supreme allied commander in Europe.

That is on hold, but, from the administration, from Secretary Clinton, from the White House, and from Secretary Panetta, a vote of confidence in him. Let's listen to Panetta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No one should leap to any conclusions. No one should leap to any conclusions here. General Allen is doing an excellent job at ISAF and leading those forces.

He certainly has my continued confidence to lead our forces and to continue to fight, but his nomination has been put on hold as a prudent measure until we determine what the facts are and we will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: Right, so again, he still remains in his position, but the nomination is on hold. And that gives you an idea, he has not stepped down. So this investigation continues.

SAMBOLIN: And Jill, we're also getting new details about Kelley's connection to both General Allen and General Petraeus. They both stepped in to help Kelly's twin sister in a custody battle. What do you know about that?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you have to remember that she, Miss Kelley, Jill Kelley, was very active, trying to be very, very active in the social scene there as a volunteer. And she was able to meet a lot of generals.

Both of these two generals, and got them, in fact, to write these letters to the court, and here's one of them. This was from General Petraeus, backing her sister, Natalie, in this acrimonious court case about her son.

We have on many occasions observed Natalie and her son, including when we hosted them and the Kelley family for Christmas dinner this past year. In each case we've seen a very loving relationship.

So, you know, Jill Kelley also had a lot of things, as a volunteer and an honorary consul that she was doing there. In fact, there's a new report that just came out from the news agency from South Korea saying.

That she, in fact, was a voluntary honorary consul for South Korea, but had only symbolic value, and if there was a problem, if it became problematic, that she could be relieved of that honorary symbolic post.

SAMBOLIN: And we were hearing that right in that 911 tape that that's what she was referring to is that right?

DOUGHERTY: Absolutely. And you know, you have to say, regardless, even of this latest breaking development that there's no legal protection for her whatsoever.

She had no, you know, diplomatic position. It's all this, let's call it citizen diplomacy. Volunteers who help out with international visitors, et cetera.

SAMBOLIN: Well, thank you for clearing that up. Jill Dougherty at the State Department for us, thank you.

BERMAN: And as for how the White House is reacting to all of this, including whether this could weigh in on the fiscal cliff deal. We turn to Brianna Keilar who joins us now live from Washington. And Brianna, where's the Obama administration stand right now on this whole mess?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, since we are going to hear from President Obama today and he'll no doubt weigh in on this after he's asked.

But for now Carney is saying that President Obama thinks very highly of General Allen, of his service in the military and the job that he's done in Afghanistan.

Here's what Carney said yesterday, at the first briefing that we've had since this whole scandal erupted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He has faith in General Allen, believes he's doing and has done an excellent job at ISAF. And I would refer you to the Pentagon with the process under way with regards to General Allen.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Now, Carney also said this was unwelcome, obviously, this development. He said the president was surprised when he heard the news about General Petraeus, and he heard that news on Wednesday.

And also he was asked, John, about the culture of the military brass, if, perhaps, this is a sign of a bigger problem, and he sort of cautioned against extrapolating beyond these two instances.

BERMAN: So, Brianna, the president holds a press conference this afternoon, one of his first in a long, long, long time. Is he coming out with specific something to say? What do you expect him to focus on?

KEILAR: Well, we know he's going to obviously -- I mean, a lot of it has to do with the questions that he'll be asked. But we know, of course, he'll be asked about the fiscal cliff, which is a big deal this week.

He'll also be asked, no doubt, about this scandal involving Generals Petraeus and Allen. But on the fiscal cliff, what we're expecting, and this has already been laid out by the White House, is the president to talk maybe in general terms about his starting point for this week.

Remember he's meeting with the top Democrat and the top Republican Friday from the House and the Senate. And we know that his starting point for these negotiations are basically his budget that he outlined last -- or earlier this year.

So that's about $1.6 trillion in new taxes, in raising new taxes. He'll obviously press for raising taxes on the wealthy, but that number that I just told you, $1.6 trillion.

That's a lot more than we understand he had out there at the end point for the failed grand bargain negotiations with Speaker Boehner. You know how these things work, John.

Everyone kind of stakes out their two sides and ultimately, the final decision is somewhere in the middle.

BERMAN: That's right. The big negotiating game, this is a starting point. Brianna Keilar, great to see you this morning. Thanks a lot.

SAMBOLIN: It is 7 minutes past the hour. Will she or won't she? Do you know?

BERMAN: I wish I did.

SAMBOLIN: Politicos in Washington want to know if Nancy Pelosi will seek another term as House minority leader, lots of speculations here. The 72-year-old California Democrat is expected to announce her decision today.

Pelosi has scheduled leadership elections for November 29th. That's later than usual. And that's prompted speculation that the former speaker may relinquish her role as a top House Democrat. They say she's holding this very close to the vest.

And coming up on "STARTING POINT," former House speaker and former GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, their take on the presidential election, and will also weigh in on the Petraeus scandal.

BERMAN: And keep it on CNN for special coverage. We told you, President Obama holding a news conference at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Wolf Blitzer will be all over that for you coming up on CNN. You know, stay watching TV until 1:00. It's worth it.

SAMBOLIN: That's a great idea. Another major Toyota recall, close to 3 million cars recalled. This is worldwide. It is affecting mostly 2004 to 2009 Prius models, 670,000 of them were sold in the United States alone.

So here's the problem, issues with the car's steering system, and their electric water pumps. Toyota says no crashes or injures have been reported. Take that car back in, folks.

BERMAN: And more fallout from Superstorm Sandy. Michael Hervey, head of the Long Island Power Authority is stepping down in January, I believe. The LIPA chief has been under fire for their slow response to Sandy, leaving Long Islanders without power for more than two weeks. Hervey's resignation takes effect at the end of the year.

SAMBOLIN: What a mess? A multimillionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur says he is in hiding this morning as police in Belize try to solve a murder case. The strange saga of security software tycoon, John McAfee, that is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It's 12 minutes past the hour. New developments this morning in a strange cat and mouse chase. It is unfolding in Belize.

BERMAN: Strange doesn't even begin to describe it. John McAfee, the man behind the popular McAfee anti-virus software says he isn't a killer, he's just in hiding.

After his neighbor was found dead, shot in the head, execution-style, in his home. Police are urging McAfee to turn himself in. He is not right now.

Richard Roth is following developments for us here in the U.S. And Richard, McAfee did find a way to share his side of the story.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's been doing phone interviews. I don't know, he may be the cat or the mouse. I don't know how much there really is a chase.

The police are kind of laughing and saying, look, just come in to talk to us. There are no formal charges yet. In an interview with Joshua Davis of wired.com, Davis asked McAfee where is all of this going?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSHUA DAVIS, WIRED.COM: What's the end game at this point?

JOHN MCAFEE, FOUNDER, MCAFEE ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE (via telephone): Well, you know, I don't have a clue, sir. I am, you know, I am unable to move. That's clear.

My face is plastered, al the police, all the BDF have my photo. I'm, you know, it's a small country. I'm a white man with unique features. If I leave this house I would be identified instantly and nabbed.

So for the foreseeable future, this is my home. The end game is obviously given enough time they will track me down. I have to eat. I have to have supplies. I'm using a telephone. They will eventually figure out, which phone and triangulate it.

You know, it's just a matter of time. In the meantime, I'd like to get out as much information as I can about the wrongs in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROTH: He's had problems with the police there. They raided his home in April, found unlicensed drug paraphernalia, but charges were eventually dropped.

SAMBOLIN: But clearly, he's not going to turn himself in. He's waiting to be found.

ROTH: Yes. But he says he's going to be taken and killed, he suspects. The police deny this. They say look, just come in. We're a law-abiding country, and Belize, a Central American Country, nothing's going to happen to you.

Three people are being held for questioning so far. The fight with the neighbor seems to have centered around dogs. Several of McAfee's dogs were found poisoned. Then shortly after that, Faull, the neighbor, Gregory Faull, had a bullet in his head.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable details. Richard Roth, thank you for coming in. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: It is 14 minutes after the hour right now. Let's get you up- to-date on all the headlines.

President Obama voicing his support for his top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. General John Allen now under investigation for alleged flirtatious and inappropriate e-mails sent to Jill Kelley. The Petraeus family friend who unwittingly exposed his affair with Paula Broadwell.

Right now, General Allen's nomination to be the next NATO supreme commander in Europe is on hold.

SAMBOLIN: All three people aboard a Piper PA-32 were killed when their plane went down Tuesday. Look at those pictures. It was shortly after takeoff. This is in Jackson, Mississippi. The plane slammed into a house, injuring one person on the ground. The owner of the plane says all three men on board the single engine aircraft were pilots and ironically they were heading to an FAA safety conference in Raymond, Mississippi, when their plane went down.

BERMAN: Many New Jersey homeowners are already paying the price for hurricane Sandy, and they can expect to pay more. Republican Governor Chris Christie says residents of towns that require extensive rebuilding efforts can expect to see their property taxes go up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: There's no magic money tree. But I think that most people in these towns will recognize that if they believe that the money is being spent reasonably and responsibly to rebuild the towns, they'll be happy to do it. No one's ever happy with higher taxes. But the fact is, what the people don't more than anything else is waste.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: He actually so much better rested that he has recently.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: State laws in New Jersey normally cap property tax increases at 2 percent. But the law provides exceptions for emergencies like hurricanes.

SAMBOLIN: The man behind Elmo has been cleared. An accuser had said he had an underage sexual relationship with Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash is now changing his story. The anonymous accuser, now 24, has said he had a relationship with Clash when he was 16 years old. Now, through his attorney, the accuser says it was an adult, consensual relationship.

BERMAN: Comedian Stephen Colbert has dissolved his political Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow. It may have started as a joke but the amount of cash it pulled was really no laughing matter. Colbert's Super PAC raked in more than $1.2 million since it was launched in December of 2011.

He used some of the money to pay for funny campaign ads during the Republican primaries and his own attempt to become the president of South Carolina.

SAMBOLIN: Seventeen minutes past the hour.

Fiscal cliff, two words that mean so much in Washington but might not mean a lot to the average American. The proof, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are trading up this morning after markets closed lower yesterday. SAMBOLIN: Ali Velshi is in for Christine Romans this morning, talking about President Obama's meeting with business leaders today on the fiscal cliff.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, President Obama is going to be talking this afternoon. And maybe he'll answer some questions. He'll have a press conference.

One never knows what markets are trading on these days because there's such uncertainty about what's going to happen. And Pew did a survey. I'll tell you about that in a second what the survey says about what people feel about the fiscal cliff. But the president is calling a bunch of CEOs to the White House today, going to have a chat.

Here's a bunch of them, the CEOs of Aetna, Xerox, American Express, Honeywell, Walmart, and General Electric, Jeff Immelt. Also, the CEOs of Dow, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Pepsi, IBM and Chevron.

These are not people who have had a history of outright hostility to President Obama. Some of them are supporters. This is a broad coalition of large businesses and they're going to talk about issues like taxation, job creation, and the fiscal cliff.

Another bunch of CEOs who have joined the nonpartisan Fix the Debt Campaign. You'll have seen some of their ads. They're taking iconic ads and making them about the debt.

But let me just tell you about what people are thinking about the fiscal cliff, it's very confusing. I'm hearing a lot of people saying why are you carrying on about this all the time? It's going to get solved.

So, we asked -- Pew asked a number of people. "The Washington Post" and Pew together did a survey. Here's what it showed.

They asked, what do you think the effect of the automatic tax increases and spending cuts, which are the fiscal cliff, will have on the U.S. economy? Sixty-eight percent said that it would have a major effect, 21 percent minor effect, 2 percent said no effect, 10 percent said they don't know. Now, this is the economy.

Pew and "Washington Post" also asked, what effect the fiscal cliff would have on your financial situation, 44 percent said a major effect, 38 percent said a minor effect, 9 percent said no effect.

And then they also asked them, by the way, do you know what the fiscal cliff, do you know anything about it? About 26 percent said they understood it very well, 32 percent said fairly well, about a quarter said not so well.

BERMAN: That's a trick question, though, because I don't think even the people involved in creating the fiscal cliff understand it well.

VELSHI: Right. And remember, this is not -- it's a good point. The fiscal cliff is an accident. It wasn't planned. It's not a planned austerity thing. It's budget things that all happen to expire at the same time that will create havoc. So, it is very hard to understand. But it is really important -- it's probably a good chance it won't happen in its entirety. But if it does, it would be catastrophic, which is why I'm up this early and talking about this endlessly.

BERMAN: You can't sleep at night.

VELSHI: Somebody said to me the other day, you guys are just hyping this fiscal cliff thing because it's good for ratings. I wanted to say, if you think talking about fiscal cliff is good for ratings, I got a piece of land to sell you.

SAMBOLIN: I was surprised when I saw that, because I thought it does affect everyone in some way, shape or form. So I'm surprised that some people think that they're unaffected by it.

VELSHI: And it's not a popular, easy-to-discuss, fancy topic. The last thing I'd rather be talking about.

SAMBOLIN: But you're popular and, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: And good for ratings.

Just quickly, these business leaders meeting, do you think they think there will be a solution? Because I have a sense the business community believes in their heart of hearts that something's going to happen by January 1st.

VELSHI: Yes, you made a really good point earlier, in that the business community probably has greater influence over Congress than a lot of other people, because they help finance their campaigns.

So I've been getting people saying why do I care that business leaders are at the White House? Business leaders have a lot of influence. Maybe they can get Congress to say don't do this, or do this, whatever the case may be.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ali, thank you. Thanks for getting up early.

VELSHI: Always my pleasure with you guys.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

Two four-star generals, twin sisters, 30,000 pages of e-mails. It's a confusing mess, and one of the strangest scandals to hit Washington in recent memory. All the new details and reaction from the White House, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: General confusion. Twin sisters tied to the two top commanders embroiled in a major scandal.

SAMBOLIN: Meet the press. President Obama just hours away from his first full-blown news conference in months.

BERMAN: And out the door. The man in charge of Long Island's power company quits amid the outrage over failed storm repairs.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman. Good to see you.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is nice to see you this morning. Twenty-eight minutes past the hour.

We're following new developments in the complex and widening scandal that's already brought down CIA Director David Petraeus, and now threatens the career of the top military commander in Afghanistan.

Petraeus, as you know, resigned last week after admitting to an extramarital affair. The other woman, Paula Broadwell, wrote Petraeus' biography.

Earlier this year, Broadwell sent anonymous threatening e-mails to this woman, Jill Kelley. She's been described as a close personal friend of both Petraeus and his wife Holly.

BERMAN: Keep following. Kelley talked to an FBI friend launching an investigation that exposed an affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell. Now, a Defense Department official says Kelley traded flirtatious and inappropriate e-mails from four-star Marine General John Allen.

He denies an extramarital affair with Kelley and insists he did nothing wrong. But the Pentagon is investigating thousands of documents and e-mails between Allen and Kelley.

SAMBOLIN: So it turns out both generals stepped in to help Kelley's twin sister Natalie in a child custody fight. This is a picture of Petraeus with Jill and Natalie, they are twins.

And here's what some of what Petraeus wrote to the court. Quote, "We have on many occasions observed Natalie and her son, including when we hosted them and the Kelley family for Christmas dinner this past year. In each case, we have seen a very loving relationship." So we removed the son's name to protect his identity. He is a minor.

BERMAN: Quite the situation here. In a moment, we're going to talk to retired General Spider Marks.

But, first, let's go to CNN's Jill Dougherty at the State Department.

And, Jill, we're hearing Kelley's voice for the first time here. It's a 911 call, kind of a strange one that requires explanation that was placed over the weekend. What exactly happened here?

DOUGHERTY: Well, apparently, there was some type of intruder or intruders on her property. So she calls 911. And I think, John, the important thing for our viewers is to pay attention to how she describes herself in this 911 call. Let's listen to it.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KELLEY: I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability. So they -- I should -- they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well. But now it's against the law to cross my property, since this is now like -- you know, it's inviolable.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: So, you know, so honorary consul general. Well, it turns out that she is, you know, variously described as a socialite. I think you could always call her perhaps a social climber.

But in any case, she was an honorary consul for the South Koreans, we understand from Yonhap News Agency, the official South Korean news agency. And in this capacity, totally voluntary, totally symbolic, no legal rights to inviolability of her property, et cetera. Now, the South Korean government, according to Yonhap is saying if this turns out that it is problematic, or she is problematic in holding this honorary post, that she could be relieved of it.

BERMAN: Yes. But even an honorary symbolic consul general doesn't really buy you a whole lot of legal protections anyway. In fact it buys you exactly none.

DOUGHERTY: Right.

BERMAN: So, it was interesting she brought that up. Overnight, we heard for the first time from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, also Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They were in Australia together.

What are they saying about the investigation?

DOUGHERTY: They're saying the same thing that the administration is saying right now, which is they are sticking with the generals, that they have confidence in him, even as this investigation unfolds.

So let's listen to Secretary Clinton in her remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: General Allen is a distinguished Marine and commander who's been an important part of the NATO ISAF mission in Afghanistan. We have been in touch with our NATO ISAF allies.

The course in Afghanistan is set. We know what the transition requires of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: OK. So, General Allen, again, continues in his post as the top U.S. NATO commander in Afghanistan. But, his nomination is on hold. So that's his part of this very complicated investigation, John.

BERMAN: All right. Jill Dougherty, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: Let's bring in CNN military analyst, retired General James "Spider" Marks. He personally knows and has worked with both General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell.

Thanks for being with us this morning, General.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Thanks, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I actually want to start talking about General Allen and Jill Kelley. Much was said about the 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents that they have. Many of those are e-mail exchanges between General Allen and Jill Kelley.

And the Pentagon is actually describing some of those e-mails as inappropriate. One unnamed senior official says that most of the messages were completely innocuous, some were flirtatious.

Here's how he described them. "In some of the e-mails, Kelley would say, 'Saw you on television and you were terrific,' and Allen would write back with, 'thanks sweetheart.'"

So some people are zeroing in here on that "sweetheart".

Do you think that too much is being made of this?

MARKS: Well, probably. I must tell you, there's probably little there. However, when you're a four-star general and you're that far up the chain, you're extremely exposed. And so every activity, every action, every utterance, will be parsed.

So it's very, very important that they do look into this. And, frankly, the use of the word sweetheart, I would say that's innocuous and somebody might describe that as part of his culture, part of his upbringing. It's inappropriate when you're a four-star general or when you're at any level in the military to refer to somebody, obviously not your spouse, not your children, using that term. It can be confusing, it can be taken completely out of context, as it probably will right now.

SAMBOLIN: But does it warrant a Defense Department investigation? Do you think there's more here that we don't know?

MARKS: Zoraida, I simply don't know. I think we're all sharing the same information. But what's critical here is that John Allen worked for David Petraeus and all these connections are so closely linked that the negative that there's nothing there needs to be proven so that John Allen can get going on his new assignment as the supreme allied commander Europe, if the Department of Defense determines that that's what is in the best interest of the United States.

And I think it's important to realize that John Allen understands exactly where he sits with this. He's got a mission to accomplish in Afghanistan. And he's focused like a laser on doing that. The problem is, is if this story takes a life of its own, and there is something there there, albeit it might be insignificant, but if we end up spending a lot of time, if we end up burning daylight on this story, John Allen's got to go to his boss and say, "At some point, boss, I become a liability. We've got important things to do here. We need to focus in on the task at hand here and clearly your position needs to be filled, as well." So, that would be a call that he'd make.

SAMBOLIN: What do you think the timetable would be on that? Because his confirmation is on hold right now?

MARKS: Clearly, it has to do with James Stavridis, the four-star admiral who is at SACEUR right now, when he intends to depart. All of that has to be balanced because of the laws that dictate how long a three or a four-star can stay in that position.

So, I'm discussing primarily week. If we can determine really quick -- we, DOD -- if the United States can determine real quickly that there's nothing there, John Allen can move out, the missions can continue to be prosecuted with the right folks at the right time. If this link languishes for about 14 days or so, I mean, that's a time line I just made up. But if this thing is still in the news two weeks from now, somebody needs to raise a hand and say we need to make a decision here.

SAMBOLIN: I want to talk about something else that's in the news. Two high-level officials ensnared in this e-mail scandal, but there's another four-star general, it is William Ward. He's been demoted by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also. He's accused of spending thousands in unauthorized expenses, lavish vacations, using his rank to get shopping sprees, as well, even accepting a gift to meet Denzel Washington.

So you got to wonder if this is a problem, a cultural problem within the military. How would you respond to that?

MARKS: It's very troubling. Again, you kind of go from disappointed to fed up. Again, and I know General Kip Ward. He's a man of incredible integrity.

And the only thing I can say is, I hate to say that this is just purely abhorrent behavior, we've got two guys, David Petraeus and Kip Ward, that have now been found guilty of extremely bad behavior, and John Allen potentially, and hopefully that's not the case -- I can tell you, emphatically, it is not a cultural issue with the military.

And clearly, the two Army guys, Dave Petraeus and Kip Ward, the Army does a magnificent job of correcting itself. In fact, when there's a big challenge like this, the chief of staff of the Army, it wouldn't surprise me, if Ray Odierno were to declare a values stand-down or a values attention time. You know, let's take an effort to really look at our values that underpin us, and upon which we stand and operate as a military.

And we've got two very senior guys that have demonstrated that they've lost sight of those values, that they lived for so long. So, it's extremely disappointing. But it's not endemic to the Army, certainly.

SAMBOLIN: All right. General James "Spider" Marks, CNN military analyst. Thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

MARKS: Thank you, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And keep it on CNN for special coverage. President Obama holding a news conference at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. You know, Wolf Blitzer will be all over this for you.

BERMAN: All right. Failed Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is reassessing things after election night. But he says he has no regrets.

Here's what he said on ABC news last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Was that the campaign Paul Ryan would have run?

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: Oh, gosh. You know, I think when you join the ticket, three months out, you join somebody's campaign. I was really impressed with the way Mitt and Ann brought us into the fold. So I was very encouraged by that. I really enjoyed it.

And I wanted to run a big campaign on ideas. We did that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I still can't get rid of the "oh, gosh" at the beginning of the answer there. it wasn't an emphatic yes, that's for sure. In the ABC interview, he also said that there's something of a silver lining to losing, which is more time with his kids.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: Just this last weekend, I got to go to both my boys' basketball times, two of my daughter's volleyball games.

KARL: So there's an upside to losing?

RYAN: There's an upside, which is reconnection with my family. We're a very close family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Ryan says his kids are actually relieved they will not have to move and change schools. You can understand that.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, absolutely.

Temper flaring, people shivering. Now, there are heads rolling as people in New York head into their third week without power after hurricane Sandy. A utility bigwig out and there is more fallout. That's coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. Welcome back, everyone. A lot going on this morning, will continue all morning.

So, Soledad is here to talk about what's on "STARTING POINT."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead on "STARTING POINT", right at the top of the hour -- oh, that tangle web we weave. The web now involving the former CIA chief, David Petraeus, gets more tangled. We're learning more about the woman who triggered the entire investigation, and the e-mails that she exchanged with General John Allen.

Also, the new 911 call that she made over the weekend, she was annoyed with reporters traipsing across her lawn. And some of the claims she made on that call.

New York Congressman Steve Israel is going to join us this morning. Pennsylvania Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz is with us. Retired General James "Spider" Marks joins us. And Washington Senator Patty Murray will be our guest as well.

Also, Newt Gingrich and Callista Gingrich will join us. They've written his and her books. They're going to talk about what the Republican Party needs to do as it moves ahead as they talk about their books as well.

And we'll talk to Oliver Stone. He's written a lot and done a number of movies on historical events, whether it's Vietnam or JFK's assassination. But he says history as we know it is all wrong, and that there's an untold history -- yes -- an untold history. He'll tell us what that's all about.

BERMAN: All wrong, huh?

O'BRIEN: Completely wrong. Throw away everything you knew. You thought you knew. Wrong.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to tune in for that.

O'BRIEN: Oliver Stone.

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

It's been more than two weeks since Superstorm Sandy struck. Thousands of people on New York's Long Island are still in the dark.

BERMAN: And much of the anger has been directed at the Long Island Power Authority, or LIPA as it's called, for failing to prepare for and respond to Sandy. LIPA is now the target of a class action suit and its chief operating officer stepping down.

Deborah Feyerick is here. She's recovering -- she's covering the recovery from Sandy -- the slow recovery on Long Island. DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very, very slow recovery. And LIPA was very proud of the fact that it got 90 percent of the power restored yesterday to homes that were able to receive power. But those in the flood zone, they're going to be out for a very, very long time.

This is a state-run company that's plagued by $7 billion in debt. The debt has delayed crucial updates to its infrastructure, from incorporating new technology to improved response time. So, those basic maintenance like trimming tree branches away from wires and replacing those old utility poles.

People on Long Island and Queens desperate for information instead feel they got the runaround.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): People on Long Island are tired of the cold, the dark, and the run-around from the power company out here known as LIPA.

Is it fair to say that LIPA wasn't giving anybody answers because they themselves didn't have the answers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, quite possibly.

FEYERICK: Kate Murray (ph) is the supervisor of the town of Hempstead on Long Island, New York. She says the Long Island Power Authority, LIPA, has changed their story virtually every day, even refusing to set up an emergency hotline.

Is it fair to say LIPA almost went into hiding in terms of dealing with its customers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, yes, I think that's a fair and accurate portrayal, sadly enough.

FEYERICK: Before we got word of his resignation, we tried to get answers from LIPA's chief operating officer, Michael Hervey.

(on-camera): So, this says the office is temporarily closed. All employees usually assigned are assisting with storm restoration efforts.

(voice-over): The business card I left did get a response.

(on-camera): So, the security guard called media, media called me, there'll be no interview with Michael Hervey. We're told that he's not available for the rest of the day.

(voice-over): LIPA would not make any other officials available to CNN. A report in June criticized LIPA's outage management system and computer, describing them as outdated saying, in a crisis, LIPA had no way to know when the power would return. New York's governor is now calling for an investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of these systems were failing to begin with.

FEYERICK: Walter Drabinski worked on the report. He says LIPA delayed upgrades in part because of the $7 billion debt that would enforce a raid increase.

WALTER DRABINSKI, VANTAGE CONSULTING INC.: They knew that they needed a new outage management system that they needed to inspect and replace a lot of poles that had deteriorated.

FEYERICK: LIPA says it began replacing the system. The entire process taking between 18 months up to two years, it could be ready some time next year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (on-camera): Now, although, it is technically run by the New York government, LIPA operates pretty much independently with a board of trustees and then they hire outside contractors called the National Grid. Those contractors to be replaced next year.

New York's governor has not appointed a CEO in two years, and he's now investigating the company, talking about possibly absorbing LIPA into other utility companies or, perhaps, privatizing it altogether. No consolation, really, for all those people who are in the dark for so long. They could not get the power back on.

BERMAN: They don't care about the political fight going on. They just want their power back.

FEYERICK: That's exactly right. You have families with babies. You have elderly people who need oxygen machines. I mean, it's critical. It's not just about oh, lighting a couple of candles and hunkering down for the long haul, especially since nobody knew exactly when it's going to go back on. And that's the worst part, really.

SAMBOLIN: No. You hear the anguish in their voices and you see the frustration. We really appreciate you covering this for us. Thank you.

BERMAN: Forty-seven minutes after the hour right now. And high drama, high on a mountaintop. Coming up, how two snowboarders beat the odds and survived a life or death ordeal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Top of the morning to you, Washington, D.C. Ooh, it's chilly there. Thirty-six degrees right now. A little bit later, though, it will be 50 degrees. Good morning.

BERMAN: The action in Washington is hot today.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes it is.

BERMAN: And hot this week. That's for sure. Fifty-one minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date on all the top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (voice-over): Lawmakers have been demanding answers about the scandal that's ensnared two four-star generals, David Petraeus and John Allen. They'll be briefed today by the CIA and FBI about the investigation that exposed the Petraeus extramarital affair and forced him to resign as the CIA director.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The scandal will likely be a topic of conversation during President Obama's news conference later today. It's set for 1:00 p.m. eastern. Wolf Blitzer will be all over that. Coming up.

BERMAN: Today, Nancy Pelosi expected to announce whether she'll be seeking another term as House minority leader. Pelosi has scheduled leadership elections for November 29th, which is actually later than usual and that's prompted speculation that the former speaker may relinquish her role as the top House Democrat.

SAMBOLIN: Listen up, John, Toyota has announced another massive recall, close to three million cars recalled worldwide, mostly 2004 to 2009 Prius models. Yours falls under that. 670,000 of them were sold in the United States. The problems with the cars, steering system and their electric water pumps are to blame for this recall. Toyota says no crashes or injuries have been reported.

BERMAN: Check with your dealer, though.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: Now, an update on a story we told you about yesterday. Two snowboarders stranded in Washington's Mount Rainier National park have been reunited with their families. (INAUDIBLE) dug a snow cave for shelter against 70-mile-an-hour winds, whiteout conditions, and two to four feet of snow.

Yes, they're lucky. Rangers say they conduct more search and rescues and see more people die on that range than anywhere else in the park.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): You know, yesterday we were talking to Rob Marciano, and he said that those people are typically prepared. So, we're happy to be able to share a happy ending this morning. And if you're traveling today, you will find cold temperatures absolutely everywhere. Alexandra Steele in for Rob -- I don't know about everywhere, but maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit -- Alexandra?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, it's colder in Albany right now than on Mount Rainier, 30 degrees there, 29 in Albany. But you know, those guys were prepared. They built a snow cave. They kind of cuddled, and if you hear them talk, you know, they have a good sense of humor, and they walked themselves down the mountain.

So, certainly in good shape and feeling good. All right. Temperatures are cold. (INAUDIBLE) We're talking about that. Temperatures below average will continue to be. So, of course, all those people on Long Island without power, on the Jersey Coast without power, temperatures on the low side waking up in the morning, below, you can see in the 30s and 40s from Albany to Boston all the way to Philadelphia.

So, Long Island to New Jersey, temperatures well below average on the low side, and then on the high side, too, in the afternoon. Temperatures staying in the 40s. So, cold air certainly pervasive in the northeast and down to the mid-Atlantic. But also, we've been looking farther south into the southeast, Atlanta, Georgia, should be at 61.

Only 49 today. And as we look a little bit farther back, 50s and 60s. So, big picture in the country. Cold air prevails. You can see here in the southeast, as well. Well, have you ever seen a total eclipse of the sun? Have you ever wanted to? They did in Australia. We have some really cool pictures.

Now, the moon, of course, blocking out the sun creating this total solar eclipse. This is Palm Cove, Australia. Next solar eclipse won't be until 2015. So, kind of a cool sight. The last we'll see for quite some time. More on weather from that in just a few. Back to you, guys.

SAMBOLIN: Very nice, Alexandra. Thanks for the pictures. We appreciate it.

STEELE: Sure.

SAMBOLIN: And today's "Best Advice" coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We have just a couple minutes to go, and as always, we wrap it up with "Best Advice."

SAMBOLIN: And today, some words of wisdom from comedian and actor, Pauly Shore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAULY SHORE, ACTOR: The best advice that I've ever received is to listen. That's probably the best advice that I've ever received. That's it. That's actually -- and that's the best advice that I've given people, too, especially actors. Acting is about listening. There's a lot of people that are actors that wait, you know, and they're doing their scene with the other actor. They always wait to spew off their line, but it's not about them. It's about listening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Like seriously good advice from Pauly Shore.

SAMBOLIN: Could you take it?

(LAUGHTER) BERMAN: I probably could afford to take his advice. You know, he was on "STARTING POINT" and let's just say I don't own any Pauly Shore comedy albums or I've never really seen him in a comedy club. He's not the comic type of person when I go it, but he was really funny. He's got a lot to say. I am now a big Pauly Shore fan.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I hope he's listening.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Don't look at me like I'm crazy.

SAMBOLIN: You are.

BERMAN: That is all from EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

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