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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Explosion Outside U.S. Embassy In Turkey; Hillary's Last Day; Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch Dies; Biden To Meet With Syrian Rebel Leader; 25 Die In Mexico City Blast; Passed Out Pilot; U.S. Stock Futures Up

Aired February 1, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: -- more breaking news. The former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is dead. We'll take a look this morning at his legacy. He was 88 years old. Back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Breaking news to start with this morning, an explosion has taken place outside the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. Police say -- that, of course, is the Turkish capital. One person has been killed. Two others wounded.

They say it is a suicide bombing. A suicide bomber blew himself outside the U.S. Embassy, the second gate we're told of the U.S. Embassy. It was described as in an area where -- that is very secure, many other ministries nearby.

Ambulances and you can see some of these pictures that we're showing you, taken in the last minutes. Ambulances rushed to the scene to try to help those who have been injured in the blast. We continue to monitor the story.

Chris Lawrence is at the Pentagon for us. Ivan Watson is in Jerusalem. We'll get to him in a moment. Chris, let's start with you.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right now, Soledad, U.S. officials not saying much, playing it very close to the vest on this explosion by this alleged suicide bomber. Right now, we do know that at least one person has been killed. Several people reportedly injured in that blast.

Some of the news reports coming out of that area say that there was a loud bang that several people heard and then saw a flash near the outer wall or near the outer gate of that embassy. Again, U.S. troops are in Turkey, but they are mostly based at two major air bases, which aren't anywhere near the capital.

There have been additional troops that have come into Turkey very recently because they are there as part of that patriot missile battery. The team that was brought in to sort of help Turkey deal with some of that cross border shelling from Syria.

In fact, a lot of U.S. officials have been in Turkey very recently because of the situation next door in Syria. We know a State Department team of senior officials were just there a couple of weeks ago. They were meeting with some of the Syrian opposition in Turkey.

They were visiting some of the Syrian refugee camps and I can tell you in regards to, you know, this potential attack on the embassy as opposed to something like a consulate in a place like Benghazi, the embassy in Turkey is very established.

It's got its full State Department, diplomatic security services team, as well as a detachment of Marines to guard the embassy and that particular security group has what's called the rewards for justice program.

It is sort of a terrorist watch program that over the years has handed out about $100 million in money, reward for information on terrorist attacks -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Chris Lawrence updating us from the Pentagon this morning. Thank you, Chris. Let's get right to Jerusalem where Ivan Watson is for us. Ivan, what's the latest that you are hearing from where you are?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, the initial reports now that Turkish police and medical workers are telling our sister organization inside Turkey, CNN Turk, are that two people were killed as a result of this blast and at least two people wounded.

This happened shortly after 1:00 in the afternoon. This is a time when the U.S. Embassy would be functioning. First images that we've seen, Soledad, indicate that the gates to the embassy were damaged. I've been through those gates.

There is basically a room that is reinforced and protected with what looks like bullet proof or shatter proof glass that any visitor or personnel at the embassy has to go through, with security badges, there are Turkish security guards on duty there who search you, of course, and do things like take your cell phones away.

That's the first layer of security. Outside that embassy, Soledad, you aren't allowed to bring a car to stand for even a minute as you walk in and unload in the embassy. Not only the security guards tasked with the embassy, but also Turkish police in the immediate area that wave traffic along.

This is in the heart of the Turkish capitol, not far away from the Turkish parliament. There is a significant presence of security forces there. Opposition group sometimes, labor unions, student groups, try to organize protests if not against the Turkish government, sometimes against the U.S. Embassy there.

There is always a very robust presence of riot police, quick to use teargas and water canons to disburse those crowds. This is a pretty locked down area if someone wanted to penetrate and create a problem at this embassy.

Also it's important to note that the embassy offices are at least about 20 yards I'd say from this kind of reinforced, entryway, that guests would have to go through to try to get into the building. We've been trying to reach out to diplomatic staff, not only at the U.S. Embassy, but also at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, which was itself targeted by gunmen within the last five years.

That's the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. None of them are really responding right now. They're still trying to get information. I can imagine that the embassy staffs at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara are probably under lockdown right now as Turkish security forces trying to make absolutely sure that there is no potential additional threat to this important diplomatic position -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Ivan Watson for us. Thanks, Ivan, for that update. He is reporting from Jerusalem. Interesting with all that he's saying there to know that this is a suicide bomber is what we're being told, one person dead.

With all that security that he's describing and just how aggressive they are in patrolling and keeping the area clear to see and understand the details. How they could get through the space. Live pictures from Ankara this morning.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Such an interesting report. I mean, how did anybody get in? How did anybody get that close? And so close to our people. And our embassy especially the attacks in the 90s in Africa especially a sensitive area like Turkey have been heavily fortified.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And not just in Africa. The Turkey Consulate in Istanbul was attacked just four years ago, five years ago, 2008 where three gunmen attack the consulate. Turkey has been a target. In 2003, al Qaeda attacked the British Consulate.

LIZZA: You have a number of Islamist groups. You have al Qaeda affiliates within Turkey that have been stepping up attacks, who have been active in recent years. But you also have Kurdish separatist groups that have used terrorism in the past. Not sure why a Kurdish separatist group would attack a U.S. embassy, but this isn't the first time --

O'BRIEN: The investigation is just underway. And of course, this bombing comes on the final day of the job of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Jill Dougherty is live in D.C. for us this morning. Jill, good morning.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. You know, obviously, Secretary Clinton would be dealing precisely this in the waning hours of her time as secretary of state.

And don't forget after Benghazi, she ordered a review of the security at embassies, consulates, missions, around the world. At that point, they were paying attention to missions that were not well fortified, such as the one in Benghazi.

This obviously is an embassy and is very well fortified. But in any case, you can bet that Hillary Clinton is checking into that, talking with staff right now about it. She also will be a little bit later today on her way to the State Department, a farewell to the staff here and we took a look at the last four years, the sights and sounds of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Wherever Hillary Clinton went in the world, there were rock star expectations.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Will you have me back if I come back?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CLINTON: Good.

DOUGHERTY: Her texts, her hair styles, her glasses, went viral. She said she didn't care.

CLINTON: I feel so relieved to be at the stage I'm at in my life right now, Jill, because, you know, if I want to wear my glasses, I'm wearing my glasses. If I want to pull my hair back, I'm pulling my hair back.

DOUGHERTY: Clinton tried to hit the reset button with Russia.

CLINTON: We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got it wrong.

CLINTON: I got it wrong.

DOUGHERTY: But it got lost in translation. In Burma, she saw the birth pains of democracy, but that fatal attack in Benghazi, Libya was her greatest regret she says.

CLINTON: I take responsibility.

DOUGHERTY: Prompting a rare emotional outburst.

CLINTON: What difference at this point does it make?

DOUGHERTY: She won praise from the man she tried to beat in the presidential election.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretaries of states we've had.

DOUGHERTY: But will she run in 2016? The answers only prompt more speculation.

CLINTON: I have absolutely no plans to run.

DOUGHERTY: She flew almost a million miles, visited 112 countries. Kicked up her heels, threw back a few drinks on the side. A month of illness grounded her at the end.

CLINTON: For me, it truly is a bittersweet moment to leave this room for the last time as secretary of state.

DOUGHERTY: Enter the next secretary of state.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE DESIGNATE: American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone.

DOUGHERTY: John Kerry, tall, distinguished, gray haired, son of a Foreign Service officer.

KERRY: If you are trying to get some take light between me and Secretary Clinton, that's not going to happen here today.

DOUGHERTY: As his confirmation hearing showed, the policy is likely to remain the same, but the personality will change. More straight laced with a hint of humor.

KERRY: I'm taking it for the Red Sox. I'm taking it for the Patriots.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: So what will Hillary Clinton do? You know, we talked with her as you know, Soledad, we did an interview this week, and she said this is really pretty amazing for her because ever since the age of 13, she's never awakened with really nothing to do either studying or work. So we'll see how Monday morning goes when she's no longer secretary of state.

O'BRIEN: Well, she's heading out the door, but as we've been reporting, you have this explosion in Ankara, and I'm wondering if you have John Kerry, who is supposed to sort of step into the role this afternoon, does she say on, does she not actually walk out the door? What happens?

DOUGHERTY: No, he's already -- in fact, we understand he will be taking his oath today, privately, quietly. There will be probably be a public event as well, but he's fully engaged. He's actually been at the State Department during this transition when they hoped and expected that he would be confirmed by the Senate.

So he's been briefed. He obviously knows a lot from being in the Senate, but he was briefed on all of the issues, so you can imagine that he's probably engaged in this too to find out what happened and make sure the embassy is secured, the personnel, et cetera.

O'BRIEN: Quite a way to start your very first day as the new secretary of state. Jill Dougherty for us this morning, thanks, Jill. Appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: Have more on breaking news now about the death of the former New York City Mayor Ed Koch. John Berman has got update us on that.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thanks very much, Soledad. Former Mayor Ed Koch passed away overnight in a New York hospital of congestive heart failure. He was 88. Koch served three terms as mayor beginning -- he was elected in 1977. New York's current mayor, Michael Bloomberg called Koch an irrepressible icon who helped lift the city out of its darkest days.

CNN's Gary Tuchman takes a look back at the remarkable life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He occupied city hall for 12 years, but never stopped asking New Yorkers if he deserved to be there.

ED KOCH, FORMER MAYOR NEW YORK CITY: Am I doing all right?

TUCHMAN: Ed Koch did well enough to be elected to three terms and was never afraid to do and say what he wanted.

KOCH: I have a wonderful job as mayor. I intend to keep it for a long time.

TUCHMAN: Koch won his first term in 1977, the time when New York City was bankrupt.

KOCH: When I came in, the potholes were enormous, the train has graffiti. Crime was rampant.

TUCHMAN: He led the city back to financial solvency. He did more than that. He gave New York attitude.

KOCH: I am a liberal with sanity.

TUCHMAN: During a subway and bus strike, Koch personally arranged other ways for people to commute. He was brash.

KOCH: Will the next cook please stand up.

TUCHMAN: Candid and proud.

KOCH: I brought a spirit back to the city of New York that was absent. New Yorkers were ashamed of living here because of what prior administrations had done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Again, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, 88. I grew up in Boston, but when you thought of New York, it was his face you thought of. He was New York.

LIZZA: I grew up on Long Island like Soledad. So when I was a kid, you know, the mayor of New York -- you didn't think of New York, you thought of Ed Koch.

O'BRIEN: And New York was quite dangerous at that time. I remember coming to the neighborhood where I live now, you would never have been allowed to walk around in that neighborhood. It was considered to be really risky. Muggings were typical. It was very dirty. He was right about the potholes.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Very different to what it is now. I grew up in New York during that time. He had an authenticity about him that New Yorkers loved.

O'BRIEN: He also could chew people out, which New Yorkers also love.

SOCARIDES: He gave New York tough love. He gave New York authenticity, which you never see in politicians today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And focused grouped and think of every kind of possible answer. They don't want to make any waves and he just would shoot from the hip.

LIZZA: Politically, he was a sort of transition figure away from the old Democratic machine politics and the modern era of someone who used campaign advertising to build an independent base that gave rise to people like Giuliani and Bloomberg who did the same thing.

SOCARIDES: If you weren't around when Ed Koch was mayor of New York, think Chris Christi on steroids. That was Ed Koch.

BERMAN: We'll leave with that imagery, vivid imagery and move on to some other headlines this morning.

Vice President Joe Biden will meet with the leader of the Syrian opposition movement during his European trip sometime over the next couple of days. They'll discuss the ongoing conflict in that country, as well as Syria's relationship with neighboring Russia. The nearly two-year civil war in Syria has killed more than 60,000 people and forced more than 700,000 to flee.

Crews still searching for people trapped under the rubble, and one survivor rescued after an explosion ripped through the offices of Mexico's Pemex Oil Company headquarters. Twenty five people were killed, more than 100 hurt.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto visited the scene Thursday night. The cause of the explosion that sent thousands of panicked employees into the streets is still under investigation.

And new overnight, a scare in the air after a pilot passes out in the cockpit. Alaska Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Seattle had to be diverted to Portland after this happened.

The first officer was at the controls at Flight 473 landed safely just after 9:00 last night. Once on the ground, EMTs quickly boarded the plane to attend to the pilot. Since the captain was unable to taxi the plane to the gate, the aircraft had to be towed there instead -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, we're going to continue to bring you developments on a couple of breaking news stories this morning. That bombing outside the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey and also we're waiting for the big monthly jobs numbers. Christine will have that when it comes out in 45 minutes or so. She'll go through those for you. We'll take a short break. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans. Minding your business this morning, stock futures are up despite finishing lower yesterday. The Dow and the S&P 500 had their best January since 1994 and are very, very close to all-time highs. The Dow is at 850 points in less than two months.

In less than an hour, we'll get the most important gauge of the U.S. economic health that's the January jobs report. The Labor Department is expected to report the economy added 180,000 jobs. The unemployment rate lightly fell slightly to 7.7 percent from its current 7.8 percent.

When we get those official numbers -- the forecasts I showed you. When we get those official numbers, we will bring them to you live.

O'BRIEN: We continue to follow lots of breaking news this morning. That suicide bombing that's taken place outside the U.S. embassy in Turkey. We'll update you on the very latest from there. We're live in Turkey that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We continue to update you as to what's happening out of Ankara, Turkey. A suicide bomber detonate explosive right outside the U.S. Embassy there. We're told at the second gate. One person is dead, two others wounded. You're looking at live pictures in the aftermath.

They're obviously zooming in at an area surrounded by other ministries and described to us as a very secure location. You can see some of the ambulances and some of the other rescue workers who arrived at the scene.

Let's continue to talk about this. I guess obviously at this point you start thinking about motivation, ticking through who possibly could be responsible for this, considering how secure the area is and how it's been described to us.

SOCARIDES: After the mistakes they made about Benghazi, people are, the officials who are responsible for letting people know what happened are going to be very careful about what they say.

O'BRIEN: This has been attacked before.

LIZZA: Right, you have a long list of potential terrorist groups with grievances against the U.S. in Turkey. Turkey and Syria recently are in some, having a small scale war, there's been some activity on the border so it could be related to Syria. Syria has certainly used terrorist attacks in the past.

O'BRIEN: Could be related to Israel.

LIZZA: Could be related to Israel, could be an al Qaeda affiliates that are active in Turkey or it could be as we were talking about before a Kurdish separatist group, the Kurdish separatists in Turkey have engaged in terrorism before and been active recently.

SOCARIDES: What about what the French are doing in Mali?

LIZZA: There's a long list of grievances of Islamist terrorist groups in the area that could --

CAIN: But the 2008 attacks connected to al Qaeda, the 2003 British consulate attacks in Turkey were also connected to al Qaeda as Ryan points out there's Kurdish separatist, which in 2008, the attackers were ethnically Kurdish.

And finally it's impossible as I said to separate it from the news over the last couple days that Iran and Syria have promised retribution for an Israeli air strike on a Syrian convoy. Is this that promise? We do not know. It's all speculation. These are your list of possibilities.

SOCARIDES: I think also, I mean, you know, what Senate Coates said to you earlier, you know Republicans have been saying our embassy is under attack. We saw Secretary of State Clinton saying that, too. It appears all over the world in these hot spots and in relatively secure places like this embassy in Ankara that our embassies are under attack and it's going to be, this is going to be a new line of attack against us.

O'BRIEN: We're getting a new statement coming to us from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. The statement says this, appropriate measures have been taken by the Turkish national police who are now investigating the incident, which is just saying essentially the investigation is ongoing, which is what we've been reporting all morning.

I want to get right to Andrew Finkel who can update us with a little bit more. We're going to get to him right at the top of the hour. There he is. So Andrew, we want to get to more on this story. Tell me a little bit about the investigation that they just talked about from the embassy would look like?

ANDREW FINKEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's obviously to find out the perpetrators. What the authorities in Turkey are saying is that there have been two confirmed dead in this explosion. One of them they believe is the perpetrator of the act.

The other is someone who was a guard at the embassy in this sort of security entrance to the embassy. The probable supposition is that the attacker put something down which exploded, killing both him and the person examining his luggage, but of course the obvious thing we all want to know is who did this thing and why.

O'BRIEN: All right, we'll talk more about motivation and who could be behind this attack right after we get through our next commercial break, Andrew Finkel if you'll stay with us through this commercial break, I would be grateful. We got much more on this story and all the other breaking news we have for you this morning. More on STARTING POINT straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Two big breaking news stories we're following this morning. The first, the suicide bombing that has taken place just outside the U.S. Embassy in Turkey, one person reported dead. At least two others have been injured. We have reporters from the Turkey to the Pentagon who are gathering the details at this hour.

Also the death of a New York legend, former Mayor Ed Koch is dead. We talk to those who knew him, those who loved him and those who fought with him.

ROMANS: And Soledad, the January jobs report numbers coming out in about 30 minutes. I'll have them for you live and break them down.

BERMAN: And Chuck Hagel grilled on Capitol Hill. The nominee for defense secretary faltering some during the confirmation hearing. The question is does it matter?