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Hagel Chosen for Secretary of Defense; Assad Refusing to Step Down; Lawyers Seek Delay in Ohio Rape Case; Seahawks Over Redskins, 24-14; Aurora Shooting Suspect in Court; Sandy Versus Katrina; Clash of the College Titans

Aired January 7, 2013 - 06:00   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Back in action. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returning to the office after her blood clot health scare.

BERMAN: Battle lines drawn. Chuck Hagel, President Obama's likely nominee for Defense Secretary, could have a rough time getting confirmed in the Senate.

SAMBOLIN: Second guessing game. Plenty of people questioning the coach after Robert Griffin III's agonizing injury that could cause the Redskins more than just a playoff game.

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

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

You know, it is nice to have a Washington scandal that's not political related or fiscal cliff related, but it's tough, man (ph). Redskins fans in mourning this morning. It is Monday, January 7th, 6:00 a.m. in the East.

Up first, not football but other news in Washington. Republicans vowing to fight the president's pick to be the next Secretary of Defense, even though that pick is a fellow Republican. The choice is former Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

We're told the announcement is coming today and the nomination process, it could get ugly. That's because Republican leaders are already questioning Hagel's support of Israel and his unwillingness to get behind sanctions against Iran.

South Carolina's Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, sounding the battle cry yesterday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION".


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: This is an in your face nomination by the president to all of us supportive of Israel. I don't know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon. Little, if any, so I think it's an incredibly controversial choice, and looks like the second term of Barack Obama is going to be an in- your-face term.


BERMAN: Foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, live from Washington this morning. Jill, opposition to Hagel really comes from both the right and the left and it really hinges on a number of different issues. Can you breakdown the top problems that people have with Chuck Hagel?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think if you take the Republicans who really don't consider him a Republican anymore, they would point to Israel. They say he's not a friend of Israel. One of the reasons they say that is they point to Iran.

And Hagel has questioned the efficacy of unilateral, U.S. sanctions against Iran. He also opposed the surge in Afghanistan. And then when you look at the Democratic side, some people have problems with comments that he made over a dozen years ago about a nominee for an ambassadorship who was as he put it, openly and aggressively gay.

So have you got it from both sides. Let's listen to those both sides right now.


REP. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: He delayed emergency funding for the troops in 2007 even after the surge succeeded. In 2008, he said it wasn't because of the troops' position. When you add that to his dangerous views on Iran and Hezbollah and Hamas and terrorism as well as strange hostility towards Israel, I think the Senate should oppose Mr. Hagel.

SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Chuck Hagel is a tremendous patriot and statesman, served incredibly in Vietnam, served this country as a United States senator. He hasn't had a chance to speak for himself. So why all the prejudging?


DOUGHERTY: Yes, prejudging, it really is going to be hot I think in the Senate when this comes up for the hearings -- John.

BERMAN: Jill, you brought us with a really interesting, Hagel is a Republican, but because of his some controversial stances, it doesn't seem Obama is going to get credit for reaching across the aisle. So what then are the pluses to his nomination?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I think you would have to say that generally they are on the same page on a lot of foreign policy issues, defense issues. He is a Vietnam veteran, that's the first for the DOD. He teaches at Georgetown, he chairs an influential think tank.

He also co-chairs Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board and that's important too. So there are a lot of things that people support and there is a letter. I can read a bit from it, former ambassadors who endorse him. They say he has always supported the pillars of American foreign policy, such as a strong NATO and Atlantic partnership, a commitment to the security of Israel as a friend and ally, a determination to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the defense of human rights as a core principle of America's role in the world.

But John, I think you have to say, Chuck Hagel is a maverick, so it won't be easy up on Capitol Hill when this nomination goes up there.

BERMAN: But despite the problems, any serious jeopardy that the nomination doesn't go through -- Jill.

DOUGHERTY: You know, that is a little hard to say, but the White House obviously believes that they are willing to risk that storm, thinking they can pull enough votes for him.

BERMAN: Before we come in with the new cabinet, let's talk about the old. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returns to work today after that big health scare. What's on her schedule?

DOUGHERTY: Right. You know, it looks like a pretty big schedule. She said she wanted to get back to work, get cracking and she's going to be there according to the schedule, 9:15, bright and early for meetings.

And then this week, she has a number of meetings at the White House. And then Friday, she'll be one of the key people dealing with President Hamid Karzai from Afghanistan on that important issue.

BERMAN: All right, Jill Dougherty, live for us in Washington this morning. Thanks a lot, Jill.

SAMBOLIN: It is 4 minutes past the hour. President Obama has signed into law the first bill submitted to him by the 113th Congress, a $9.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package. Most of that money will be used to pay flood insurance claims.

The House and Senate will vote on a second $51 billion package that's January 15th scheduled to be voted on. House Speaker John Boehner received harsh criticism last week from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Congressman Peter King. Both Republicans when he refused to bring a $60 billion Sandy bill up for a house vote.

BERMAN: No end in sight to the Syrian civil war. President Bashar Al-Assad making his first public speech in six months this weekend. He is dismissing any chance of peace talks with his country's rebel forces, referring to them as murderous criminals and he is demanding the west to stop funding them.

SAMBOLIN: Lawyers for the two teenagers charged with raping a young girl in Steubenville, Ohio say they will be filing motions to delay their trial and actually to move it out of town. The case is getting so much national attention and stirring up so much anger and emotion. Defense Attorney Adam Neman sees no way to move forward in Steubenville.


ADAM NEMANN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Given its publicity and what we perceived as threats to individuals, perhaps witnesses and also defendants and even defense counsel, we're concerned about safety issues at this point. Secondly, I'm concerned about whether or not the case should be tried in this area.


SAMBOLIN: The 16-year-old defendants, Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond, are charged with raping a teenage girl in August during a night of partying.

BERMAN: Shell Oil says the recovery operation on the drilling rig that ran aground off the coast of Alaska could begin today. The officials say there is no sign of any oil leak and the rig's fuel tank does appear to be intact. The rig was being towed back to its home in Seattle when it ran aground in the severe storm just over a week ago.

SAMBOLIN: The Baltimore Ravens are moving on in the NFL playoffs. They beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 on Sunday. It was the last home game for Rave's linebacker Ray Lewis who is now retiring.

Quarterback Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes including one to Anquan Boldin, who set a franchise record for receiving yards. The Ravens will now meet Payton Manning and the Denver Broncos that is next Saturday.

BERMAN: In the NFC, a collective oy vey from Washington Redskins fans this morning. It is not because they blew a 14-point lead of the Seahawks en route to a 24-14 playoff loss. It is because of this.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III, RG3, re-entering his knee in the game while trying to recover a fumble stop. No one even touched him. It looked just awful. RG3 is scheduled to have an MRI today.

The Redskins faithful holdings collective breadth right now hoping that he comes back clean and doesn't delay his season next year. I should say, by the way, for Seahawks fans out there. The Seahawks played very well.

Quarterback Russell Wilson, also a rookie, had a great game. The Seahawks fans were kind of say we were giving up love this morning, so congratulations to all of you.

SAMBOLIN: Lots of love to you.

All right, caught playing favorite, coming up, why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might have some explaining to do to the people of the Gulf Coast.

You're about to learn a lot more about accused Aurora movie theater gunman James Holmes and the evidence against him. We're going to go live to Colorado for a preview of today's hearings that's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. James Holmes, suspected of killing 12 people in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater will be in court this morning for the start of a preliminary hearing.

A judge will decide if there's enough to evidence to send the case to trial and we're expecting to hear graphic testimony about Holmes' alleged rampage. CNN's Casey Wian is live in Centennial, Colorado. Good morning, Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. You know, it's been nearly six months since James Holmes allegedly gunned down dozens of people, killing 12 in a Colorado movie theater. Even today, the sound and sights of that day are both chaotic and disturbing.


WIAN (voice-over): Aurora, Colorado, just after midnight, July 20th, 2012.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: 315 and 314, first shooting at Century Theaters, 14 300 East Alameda Avenue. They are saying somebody's shooting in the auditorium.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He came down with his gun in my face. It was three feet away from me at that point and that instant, I honestly didn't know what to do. I was terrified.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE: We need rescue inside the auditorium, multiple victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy is just standing right by the exit, just firing away. He is not aiming at a specific person. He is just aiming everywhere, trying to hit as many people as he can.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE: I've got a child victim. I need rescue at the back door, Theater Nine, now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just thinking we just got to get out. I just got to get out the doors. Even if I just fall dead, just get out of here. It was so horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE: Suspect is going to be a male, unknown race, black camo outside outfit believed to be wearing a vest, gas mask and multiple long guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have the right to remain silent --

WIAN: That suspect, 25-year-old James Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and wounding dozens more. Prosecutors are expected to call scores of witnesses before Arapahoe District Judge William Sylvester.

He will determine whether the evidence is sufficient for Holmes to stand trial on more than 150 counts, including murder, attempted murder weapons charges. The weapons include explosives, allegedly used to booby trap Holmes' apartment. His attorneys are expected to use a diminished mental capacity defense. RICK CORNFELD, ATTORNEY/FORMER PROSECUTOR: The government is going to absolutely say that. The government is going to say this guy wasn't crazy. He was crazy like a fox. He was conniving. He was pre- meditated. He was methodical. And that all may be true, but at the same time, you could be all of those things, but you could also have a mental disease or defect.

WIAN: He had been seeing a psychiatrist at University of Colorado, where he was a doctoral candidate in neuroscience until dropping out in June. His attorneys say he was hospitalized in November after repeatedly banging his head against a jail wall.


WIAN: Now Holmes has not yet entered a plea that would come at an arraignment if a judge decides that there is enough evidence to hold him over for trial. No one expects that the prosecution, John, will have a difficult time in demonstrating that.

BERMAN: Casey, so much interest in this trial, in this case around the country. What about the family members of those killed? Will they be in court this morning?

WIAN: Some of those family members will be in court and they have been warned by the prosecution to expect graphic testimony including video from the crime scene, autopsy photos. Some of the family members don't want to be in the same room as James Holmes so some of them are expected to watch from an overflow room in the courthouse behind me -- John.

BERMAN: That is going to be hard to see. Casey Wian, in Centennial, Colorado this morning. Thanks very much.

And coming up at 6:30 Eastern, we are going to talk with Anne Bremner, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor about the Aurora shooting case.

SAMBOLIN: It is 14 minutes past the hour. Getting an early read on your local news that is making national headlines. We begin with the education of John Boehner. That is a headline of a revealing interview in "The Wall Street Journal" with House Speaker John Boehner.

The Ohio Republican says one thing stunned him more than anything else in the recent fight over the fiscal cliff that is. It is when the president told him behind closed doors, quote, "We don't have a spending problem. We have a health care problem."

Boehner says he was astonished by that comment. At one point, the speaker told the "Journal" reporter, quote, "I need this job like a need a hole in the head."

BERMAN: The "New Orleans Times Picayune" reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is taking heat in Louisiana after saying the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was nothing in comparison to Superstorm Sandy. The Nevada Democrat made those controversial comments Friday on the Senate floor while complaining that Congress has taken too long to address the damaged cause by Sandy.

This is what he had to say.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We are now past two months with the people of New York, and the people of New Orleans and that area, they were hurt, but nothing in comparison to what's happened to the people in New England.


BERMAN: I can see why that raised some eyebrows in Louisiana.

For expanded look at all of our top stories, head to Also, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Just search for EarlyStartCNN.

SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Fifteen minutes past the hour.

Two of the country's most storied college football programs collide tonight in south Florida. The top-ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the Alabama Crimson Tide ready to go toe-to-toe for the BCS title. Both schools have captured nine national championships since 1936. Alabama is a 10-point favorite tonight. But the only two times these teams have met in bowl games, the Irish have come out on top. I'm wearing green today for them.

Carlos Diaz live from Miami this morning.

I am wearing green for them.

CARLOS DIAZ, HLN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: If you didn't know, Zoraida has ties to Chicago.

SAMBOLIN: I do, I was just right around.

DIAZ: And everyone in Chicago loves the Irish.

SAMBOLIN: That is correct.

DIAZ: There you go. Yes. All right.

SAMBOLIN: So, listen, this matchup is being billed as might vs. heart. Alabama coach Nick Saban has led the team to BCS victory in 2011 and 2009. And Notre Dame is looking for its first national championship in 24 years.

What is the atmosphere like in Miami?

DIAZ: Yes, it is electric down here. This could be the biggest national championship game we've seen in decades, Zoraida, because you do have two storied programs. Notre Dame from the ashes, they have not been here in 24 years. You have Alabama trying to win their third national championship in four years, and you have -- you're here in Miami, which is basically where the best bowl games come to play. Tonight, you have the BCS championship game.

There's going to be one family in particular that's going to be looking at this game on pins and needles, the Golic family. Mike Golic, who went to Notre Dame and is now an experienced broadcaster and his wife Christine have two sons, Mike Jr. and Jake on Notre Dame's football team.

So, you have you thousands of Notre Dame fans across the country, you have hundreds of family who are the mom and pop of the kids playing tonight. But only one family can say we've got two kids on the team. And Mike told us that he is not making any mistakes about who he's rooting for tonight -- the Irish.


MIKE GOLIC, NOTRE DAME ALUMNUS: These two have been teammates forever and they have the nice moment against Wake Forest on senior day, when they knew it would he about the last time they would be on the Notre Dame field together. And I'm sure they will have a nice moment in Miami, hopefully winning a championship. But that will be the last time they are on the field together as teammates. They have done it a long, long time.

So, that will be kind of a wild thing for them. But we'll stop aging as quickly.

CHRISTINE GOLIC: Yes, we will.

MIKE GOLIC: That's for sure. There is part of that. Aging three years for every year I think.



DIAZ: And Mike and Christine went to every Notre Dame game they could this year, every one of them, home and away. That's where the aging process is happening with those guys.

So, you have you a long list of Golics who have gone to Notre Dame. Mike and his brothers. Now, Mike's sons go to Notre Dame. They play football. In case you're wondering, they have a daughter, Sidney and she's a freshman on the Notre Dame swim team.

So, you have a rich tradition with the Golic family. So, that's the situation going on with the family for Notre Dame. We're going to have much more throughout the morning about what's going on with Alabama and Notre Dame right here from Miami -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I'm really excited for them. But, boy, that has got to be nerve-wracking, the parents, you know, watching. Just in case something happens.

So, listen, I was trying to get on a plane to go watch this game. Traffic on rise, tickets for BCS game decline. That's the headline.

But when you read carefully the fine print, they are still really expensive, aren't they?

DIAZ: Yes, let me tell you from somebody who is down here, OK, Zoraida? First off, I'd love you to come down, Zoraida. I'll buy you a beverage. If you think are you getting into the game, you're wrong. Everybody that I'm talking here, Zoraida, is like, oh yes, I'm going to get a ticket the day of the game, no problem.

No, OK?


DIAZ: There are way too many people who way too many tickets, the cheap seats, nose bleed seats at the top of the stadium, are going for $845 on StubHub. So, there are not an un-expensive tickets.

So, if you're thinking of getting a plane down here last second, do not, because everyone is counting on making the last-behind minute rush. And it's going to be a mad rush for tickets at the last minute here in Sun Life Stadium.

SAMBOLIN: Well, you can go. Just have to pay a lot of money for nosebleed tickets.

Carlos Diaz, I'll take the play-by-play from you. Thank you.

DIAZ: No problem.

BERMAN: All right. You know, help the economy down there.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, no kidding, almost $900 all the way up there.

BERMAN: It's becoming a lot.

All right. Bright spot of our economy right now, coming up, what auto sales say about the state of the nation in the New Year.

Stay with us.


BERMAN: Minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures down slightly ahead of the opening bell.

SAMBOLIN: Attention off of Washington, with earnings season kicking off this week. Christine Romans has more on that and also some good news with the banking sector.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And also, for earnings, we're going to hear a lot about how these companies are doing, how much money they have just sitting in the bank, and, you know, what kind of money they are making what they are saying about the economy overall.

The big story for banks and the banking industry is some international reserve standards have been weakened, some of the observers are saying they have been pushed off the deadline about four years ago. International banks, those banking stocks are moving higher. But mostly, you've got the market down a little bit today. And the reason, it looks like right now, it's because stocks in the U.S. closed at a five-year high on Friday. It was a very good week for stocks, first five days of the year were really good for U.S. stocks.

You know, according to Stock Traders Almanac, if you look back in history, when stocks are up the first five days of the year. It almost always portends an increase for the year, except in some off, odd years. It's a historical pattern people follow.

Here's what's going right in the economy. I mean, we heard last week, late in the week, you've got car sales, the best that they've been since 2007.

When someone is voting on the economy with the kind of confidence about buying a car, something that costs tens of thousands of dollars, it is a personal vote about their job, about the direction of the economy. Some of these people are buying cars because they have to, because they have been really on the sidelines for a couple of years, but that shows some economic recovery.

Housing, home prices are rising, activity in the housing market. We saw some construction jobs created in the jobs report likely because of the housing market as well.

But things that are holding us back still that political uncertainty we've been telling you, you know, you've got budget wars that are going to be a problem for -- they're going to be a problem for consumers and companies' psyches, and mediocre jobs growth, we still wanted to see more than 150,000 jobs created every month. Can't wait until we get to the 250,000 level. Then we really would be lowering the unemployment rate.

BERMAN: Name just one thing we need to know about your money. What would it be?

ROMANS: It would be that you are going to see Social Security check go about 1.7 percent this year. You're going to see your wages up maybe 3 percent if you are lucky. But a number of things will cost more. So, plan accordingly -- corn, meat, rents are rising, mail costs will rise the end of this month. Public transit in a lot of big cities -- public transit costs, maybe in New York, another 50 cents in New York.

A lot of things are going to more expensive in 2013. Not necessarily commensurate with how much more money we're going to make. So, you know, plan accordingly.

Meat. I've been really watching the food costs because of the drought last fall, because of rising global demand for grain and for meat. So grocery bill could be something that rises this year.

SAMBOLIN: Too bad for all those pork lovers in the morning, right?

ROMANS: I know. SAMBOLIN: Ms. Christine Romans, thank you.

ROMANS: That's me.

BERMAN: Zoraida looking out for the pork lovers out there this morning.

Twenty-five minutes after the hour. Scandal at the University of Texas this morning. Coming up, the affair that forced a legendary coach to quit.