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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Dangerous Weather Threat; X Games Accident; Mystery Behind Dreamliner Problems; 49Ers, Ravens Set To Meet The Media; Harbaugh Versus Harbaugh; New Push For Immigration Reform; Bodies Found In River In Syria; "Ready For Hillary"; Semi Truck Versus Motorcycle; The Year Of The Tiger?; New York Woman Missing In Turkey

Aired January 29, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Marsha Blackburn is here. She reacts to the president and the "Gang of Eight's" immigration proposal.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And then we are getting ready for Super Bowl Sunday. I got a live preview for you this morning from New Orleans as it is that all exciting media day.

BERMAN: Get the nachos ready. But first, Christine Romans has the rest of today's top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right, the skies could erupt across the south this morning and the threat of some powerful thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes. Jennifer Delgado is tracking the extreme weather threat for us. Good morning.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. Anywhere you see gold shading, today we are talking about a slight risk for severe storms potentially to produce tornadoes as well as damaging winds.

Now the area in orange, this is even greater threat. This is our moderate category, from anywhere from Eastern Texas including northern parts of Louisiana to the boot hill of Missouri. Right now, we are already tracking strong storms out there.

In fact, we do have a tornado watch in place until noon, Central Standard Time, and you can see where the box is, a lot of lightning out there. And we're also starting to see some good hail coming out of this.

Now of course, we're going to continue to see more of these storms developing as we go throughout the day. You can even see that line trailing down towards parts of Texas, and then another low up towards the north bringing storms that are going to be moving into Chicago very shortly, a lot of lightning out there, and the same moving through Michigan so this means a lot of delays as we go through today.

But we're also talking about heavy rainmakers in some parts of the Midwest. We're going to be looking at a flood threat and of course, Christine, temperatures through parts of the upper plains, about 40 degrees below average by Thursday.

ROMANS: What a wild weekend. Thanks, Jennifer.

DELGADO: Be safe.

ROMANS: The prognosis not good for snowmobiler Caleb Moore following last Thursday's horrific crash at the Winter X-Games in Aspen. A family spokesman says the 25-year-old Moore is in critical condition at a hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. You know, he had heart surgery on Friday and doctors say he's dealing with a brain complication now as well.

Moore's grandfather tells "The Denver Post," quote, "it's almost certain he is not going to make it." This comes just a few days before another snowmobiler took a tumble during the X-Games.

Jackson Strong is competing in the best trick competition when his snowmobile went out of control and look at that, right through the snow fence and into the crowd. A fan was hurt after getting pushed into a parked truck. That fan was treated and went home, thankfully.

All right, the mystery behind the Boeing Dreamliner's problems has not been solved. Boeing's entire fleet of state of the art Dreamliners still grounded. U.S. and Japanese officials have said now they have found no major issues with the lithium batteries as it has previously been linked to these Dreamliner problems. Boeing's plane, the Dreamliner, has been grounded since earlier this month after two issues prompted aviation officials to launch an investigation.

Super Bowl week kicks into high gear today with the craziness of media day. The Baltimore Ravens arrived in New Orleans last night, a day after the 49ers. CNN's Carlos Diaz is live in New Orleans.

Carlos, this is a brother versus brother match up, the Harbaugh's. How is it shaping up?

CARLOS DIAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Har-bowl or the Super bro, whatever you want to call it. But, yes, when you're talking about media day today, by the way, you have to go media day because there's a lot of crazy people that are going to be out here asking crazy questions.

But back to the big story of this year's Super Bowl. You have two brothers going at each other for the first time in Super Bowl history. You have brothers John Harbaugh, who is coaching the Baltimore Ravens, against Jim Harbaugh coaching the San Francisco 49ers.

Now what we've already seen as both teams have touched down. When Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers got here first, he at the podium, was very stone faced, very much like we're here. We're happy to be here, stone faced here to win the game.

What we'll do on gridiron. John Harbaugh, when he landed yesterday and hit the podium, he says we're happy to be here, having a good time so obviously the older brother, John Harbaugh, is the more laid back one.

Now I've never had to talk about the parents' press conference at any Super Bowl in the past, but we have that this year. Coming up tomorrow, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, the parents of John and Jim, who have been married for 51 years, will have their own press conference.

So we can find out where they are watching the game, who they are rooting for, who they are rooting against, how do they handle having both sons in the big game? All of those questions will be answered tomorrow during their press conference. And on Friday, both the Harbaugh brothers will have a joint press conference to talk about what it's like coaching against your brother in a Super Bowl.

ROMANS: I'm telling you right now, if I were one of the parents, I would be wearing a big hat, hiding behind a big foam one. The cameras will be on their faces the whole time. Carlos Diaz, thanks, Carlos.

BERMAN: Carlos has some fantastic Harbaugh impressions, I have to say.

BALDWIN: The super bro, I like that.

ROMANS: He was the first one at media day this morning at 5:00 a.m. It's media day! Carlos by himself in that room.

BALDWIN: Good stuff. Thank you, Christine. Maybe we'll check back in with you later.

Meantime though, the big story today. Today is the day President Obama kicks of this tour to push the new plan to overhaul immigration, all of this comes on the heels of the newly unveiled bipartisan Senate plan.

BERMAN: The president's plan would introduce a path to citizenship after the borders are deemed secure including an increase in drones, agents, and surveillance. When that's done, undocumented workers can apply for probationary legal status. But they would have to pass the background check and pay any taxes and fines. There would be a new employment verification system and a new process for admitting immigrants who want to work here.

BALDWIN: So we have also learned the president wants a quick path to citizenship. Quicker than the Senate's plan. It's a path that doesn't require borders to be secured first, which could become a potential hurdle.

Let's bring in Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee. Representative, good to see you in person.

REPRESENTATIVE MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: It's good to be here. Thank you.

BALDWIN: All right, so let's begin with, look, a lot of people are already talking about conservative House members such as yourself being, you know, the deciding factor in whether or not this thing goes through. This is the year -- what are your thoughts on the Senate plan?

BLACKBURN: Well, first of all, I think we're waiting to see what language is actually going to be. They have a construct and they have ideas, but they don't have the legislative language. So we'll take a look at that probably next week. And I think what you will hear from the House is number one, let's make certain this is fair, let's make certain --

BALDWIN: Fair to whom?

BLACKBURN: Fair to those that have been in the queue to come legally to the country, fair to the American taxpayer. That's item number one. Bear in mind, the House has had a bipartisan working group that's been in place for about three years, and we should get a report from them next week. I think everybody wants to hear what they have to say.

BERMAN: You say we don't know the details of the plan yet, but we have some of the answers to the questions you just raised. It's clear Senator Marco Rubio has insisted that the undocumented workers go to the back of the line as they say.

It's also clear that there will be a path to citizenship here, which many Republicans in the past and Democrats too have said no matter what you call it, it's amnesty. Is this is amnesty in your mind?

BLACKBURN: Well, what we want to make certain is that it is not amnesty. But I have to tell you I think this is some of the particulars and the legislative language that people want to see. Because one of the lessons we have learned from decades past, decades, they have tried to address this issue, over the decades.

It doesn't matter if it was Clinton or if it was Reagan, what we've learned is, if you grant amnesty, what do you get, more amnesty? More illegal entry and so what we want to make certain is that we have learned those lesson.

So let's think what the legislative language is going to be. Let's make certain it's going to be fair. Let's make certain that we're not doing something that is going to put even more pressure on the Obama care system and on the Medicaid system that we have. That's an issue that's been raised by the health care community.

BALDWIN: We take you back to the original sort of sticking point. The president's proposals and what we're hearing from the bipartisan blueprint from the Senate. The big difference, I think the phrasing from Senator McCain this morning was that the prerequisite, right.

So you have to have the secure border and vis-a-vis Dick Durbin, Senator Durbin was saying through a commission of folks who would be watching the border, reinforcing security, et cetera. You have to have that in order to begin the pathway to citizenship. Do you agree that that's a nonstarter? You have to have that element of the plan?

BLACKBURN: Item number one has to be a secure border. The American people are sick of what they are hearing about human trafficking, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, weapons trafficking.

BALDWIN: How do you define a secure border? We have been talking about this for so long.

BLACKBURN: That's exactly right. This is where there should be some lessons learned. Let's end illegal entry into this country regardless of what that entry is. What we have learned about the human trafficking. What we have learned some of the terrorist organizations that have encampments near our southern border and need to make certain we have secured that as tightly as we possibly can.

BERMAN: You are going to be sticking around with us for the rest of the show. So we will get back to this issue. I want to turn to something a little bit lighter, tiny bit lighter, the president has said for the first time we think, that he likes skeet shooting up at Camp David. You questioned whether -- first of all, you question whether that's true. You're not so sure that he has been skeet shooting up there.

BLACKBURN: He should invite me out. I want to know if he's shooting with a .12-gauge or .20-gauge. I prefer a .20-gauge.

BERMAN: You almost suggested that he was making it up.

BLACKBURN: No, I did not. I said let's -- you know, if you don't have the photos. This is a hobby then I think he should invite me to Camp David.

BALDWIN: You believe it?

BLACKBURN: I would think if the president said he's skeet shooting. I would like to know with what regularity he's out shooting play pigeons and like I said, is he using a .12-gauge or .20-gauge.

BALDWIN: So if you go, you will provide a camera and you will provide pictures.

BLACKBURN: I will take my own gun -- a .20-gauge.

BERMAN: You are guaranteeing victory against the president here in a contest.

BLACKBURN: I would never do such a thing.

BALDWIN: Stick around. Of course, we will talk to you next hour. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Up next, a near miss caught on camera. What happens when a truck overturns in the path of a motorcycle? Look at that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans with a look at your top stories this morning.

More shelling in Syria today as the bodies of dozens of young men now in the city of Aleppo. According to human rights group, it appears they were executed with shots to the head and their bodies were dumped, this as rumblings come out of France that more intervention might be needed to end the carnage.

They are ready for Hillary, even if she's not, a group of Hillary Clinton supporters launching a "Super PAC" to draft her to run for president in 2016. They registered last week with the Federal Election Commission and they expect to have a web site up and running in the next couple of days.

Before Secretary Clinton steps down officially as secretary of state, our Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott will conduct her exit interview. That's coming up at 4 p.m. Eastern on "THE SITUATION ROOM."

OK, you got to see this. A giant semi-truck takes a corner way too fast and loses control tipping over nearly barrelling into a biker. This happened on a highway in China. Look at how near -- the truck nailed the motorcycle waiting at a light. You see the guy jumped off just in time, a few more feet, a few more inches, he would have been crushed.

All right, remember when Tiger Woods, when his winning was a routine, now it's a headline every time. Tiger won the Farmers Insurance Open in dominating fashion yesterday. It was Tiger's 75th PGA Tour career win. Seven behind the record held by Sam Snead and it was his eighth win at Torrey Pines in San Diego including the 2008 U.S. Open. Did you watch?

BERMAN: So Torrey Pines -- I watched some of it. Torrey Pines is usually one of the first big tournaments of the year. Five of the times when Tiger Woods has won at Torrey Pines, five of the times he has gone on to win a major later that year.

ROMANS: What has changed? Why is he doing well?

BERMAN: He's got his game back. I mean, his approach shots are better. He's potting better. He's the par fives, scoring more on the par fives.

ROMANS: John Berman scores --

BERMAN: I spent a year of my life with Tiger Woods.

ROMANS: Did you really?

BERMAN: After the scandal, so, yes.

BALDWIN: Should be discussed.

ROMANS: Will be discussed later on.

BERMAN: We're going to move on now. Ahead on STARTING POINT, gone without a trace, a New York mother disappears in Turkey. Up next, New York Congressman Michael Grimm joins us with the latest on this family's desperate search.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: The search is intensifying this morning for this American mother two of little ones who disappeared without a trace in Turkey.

BERMAN: Sarai Sierra was on vacation, traveling alone in Istanbul. She was in regular contact with her family until last Monday, the day before she was scheduled to return to New York.

Most of her belongings, including her passport were found in the room at the hostel where she was staying. Sarai's husband and brother are now in Turkey searching for her. And in an interview before he left, Steven Sierra shared what's going through his mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN SIERRA, HUSBAND OF SARAI SIERRA: You know, the fear that I'm not there to protect her, you know. And that bothers me that I'm not there to protect her. I don't want her to be afraid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Family friend, Magdalena Rodriguez, joins us here this morning. I see tears well in your eyes now just watching the -- he looks so distraught.

MAGDALENA RODRIGUEZ, FRIEND OF SARAI SIERRA: Yes.

BALDWIN: How are you? How is he? He's there now in Turkey.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, him and his brother are there. And they're just getting everything set with the embassy and the consulate and the Turkish police right now.

BALDWIN: What about this brings tears?

RODRIGUEZ: It's hard. We talk to her every day, all day so not speaking to her has become very difficult. Sorry.

BALDWIN: No, no. When is the last time you talked to her?

RODRIGUEZ: I spoke to her on the 18th. She said she was back from Amsterdam. She was spending the day in Germany and she will be back in Istanbul. I told her I love her and I see her when she gets back, you know.

We figured we see each other in a couple of days. So as she was talking to her mom and her sister so, you know, I was like we'll talk in a couple of days. I love you and she said I love you too. See you soon.

BERMAN: Yes, her husband, Steven, is now there. Have you spoken to him since he arrived? What's the status of the search?

RODRIGUEZ: We were texting last night. He's not better, but in a better place because he is there and he is closer. As he stated, he wants to be where she's at and right now he's there. You know, it's not as if he's so far away now. Now he's physically where she's at and he feels a little better, but you know -- it's very heavy. It's very emotional. BERMAN: The congressman from Staten Island who is working on this case has walked in as we've been talking to Magdalena here. Can I ask how helpful have the Turkish authorities been, Congressman?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: They've been very, very helpful. The one good thing here is we have excellent relationships with the local authorities in Istanbul. Many of them trained with our FBI. The State Department is all over this. They've elevated this to the highest levels.

Their chief on the ground is working very closely with them, so at every level from the ambassador's office to the consular, everything has been elevated to the highest levels and they're taking this very, very seriously. It's a very safe city overall.

If you look at Istanbul it's a modern cosmopolitan city with a very low crime rate so this is something they really take to heart and when I spoke to the ambassadors, I spoke to both of them, the ambassadors talked about very much about the humanity.

This is a person. This is a mother and a sister and a daughter, and that's how they look at this. That someone's daughter is missing, someone's wife is missing.

BALDWIN: So correct if I'm wrong, from everything that I've read she was planning on going over there with someone and that someone at the very last minute backed out. She decided being a photographer. Istanbul is a beautiful city. I'll go ahead on my own. Magdalena, the question to you is, did she ever express any hesitation, any worry in doing that?

RODRIGUEZ: Sarai is adventurous and she gets it in her mind she's going to do it. She did a lot of homework before she left. She did a lot of researching about the area, about where she was going to stay, the safest places to go, the time of days to travel.

She wasn't out at night and the landlord's been able to confirm that. She was home. She was home by herself, so this isn't a party girl. This isn't a girl that was going out there to have good times. She was out there to check out the architecture and the culture and just to get her European trip in.

BERMAN: Congressman, the passport was found in the room left behind. Are there any working theories as to what might have happened?

GRIMM: As of right now it's still pretty much a mystery. One of the things we know Sarai this is the first time she's actually traveled outside of the United States so she's not a seasoned traveller. So it's not that odd she might leave her passport in the room to get out and get something to eat or do quick shopping.

Someone that is seasoned knows you never leave your passport behind, but since this is her first trip outside the U.S. I don't particularly see it as odd. She was sending pictures home. She was Skyping her children almost every night. So there was nothing here that gave any indication that there were any problems whatsoever, all of the things she planned to do she was doing and she was leaving early to surprise the children.

She was very excited about surprising the children, no duress, nothing that would give us any indication there was a problem prior to her disappearance.

BALDWIN: So where does this go next?

GRIMM: Well, I can tell you that again, all authorities, everyone from the U.S. to the locals in Turkey are working this as a missing person. They've elevated it to every level possible. The bureau chief of missing persons is looking. So I know that they're conducting a very logical investigation and they are pulling out all the stops. Everything that can be done is being done at this time.

BALDWIN: Do you think she's OK?

RODRIGUEZ: I do. I do. I don't think we can really think other than that. We're like really hopeful she's fine. She's a fighter. She's strong and she's smart, so we think she's OK.

BALDWIN: We hope she is as well.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, thank you.

BALDWIN: Magdalena Rodriguez and Congressman Michael Grimm, thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you so much.

BALDIWN: Still ahead here this morning on STARTING POINT, we are hours away from hearing the president's plan for immigration reform. CNN's Jake Tapper will break it down for us coming up.

BERMAN: Plus New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, one of the so-called "Gang of Eight" with how the president's plan is different from the Senate's immigration overhaul.

BALDWIN: And its racking up the awards this season, the Oscar- nominated film "Silver Linings Playbook" director and screen writer David O. Russell will join us here in the studio a little later this morning.

BERMAN: Right here.

BALDWIN: Right here next to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

BALDIWN: And good morning. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Soledad is off for today. Our STARTING POINT here at the top of the hour, in a matter of hours, President Obama will be laying out his plan for immigration reform, but already parts of it is causing controversy.

BERMAN: And looking to the future, yes, we're going to go there, is Hillary Clinton prepared to leave the administration, what is next? One of Clinton's former close advisers joins us.

BALDWIN: And talk about a lucky shot, we will hear from the guy who not only got check this out, boom, $75,000 for this but this huge hug, there it is from the Lebron James after a pretty impressive half court shot.

BERMAN: It's $75,000 and a priceless hug. All right, ahead this hour, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, one of the so-called "Gang of Eight," economist Paul Krugman and the director of Oscar-nominated "Silver Linings Playbook" David O. Russell.

It is Tuesday, January 29th and STARTING POINT begins right now. What a team we have here today. Republican Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is here, former senior adviser to Bill Clinton and a writer for the newyorker.com, Richard Socarides and Frank Fore who is the editor of the "New Republic," the new "New Republic" and here's a look at of their new issue right now making all the news with their big interview with President Obama.