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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

President Obama in West Bank; Interview with Congressman Peter King of New York and Former Senator George Mitchell; Manhunt for Colorado Killer; Prison Chief Shot As He Answered Front Door; Interview with Paula Presley

Aired March 21, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not clear that that would, in fact, build trust.

If you have a situation where it looks like the incremental steps replaced the broader vision. As opposed to incremental steps in pursuit of a broader vision, then I think what you end up getting is four more years, 10 more years, 20 more years, of conflict and tension, on which both sides are -- you know, testing the boundaries of those incremental agreements. Whereas if we can get a broad based agreement that assures Palestinians that they have a stake and have you a comprehensive approach that insures that Israel the kind of security they need, you know, the likelihood of that deal holding and ultimately the sense of trust that comes from people to people relations, not just governmental relations, that's much more likely to occur.

(END LIVE FEED)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching a news conference in the West Bank, President Obama and Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas. They each gave a statement. There have been some questions, right now, primarily to President Obama, so far, about the status of possible future discussions between Israelis and the Palestinians.

The president speaking in very careful, diplomatic terms, talks about the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He says the United States doesn't consider continued settlement activity to be constructive or appropriate, but he says he doesn't think it's everything that both sides want to happen has to be perfect before both sides get to negotiating table.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's absolutely right. He says it's going to be a hard process, and you used the word "difficult" several times. No question, this is a starting point the president making it clear it's not easy.

But the president, the bottom line here, is saying that the Palestinians deserve a state of their own. The president reiterating his position that there should be a two-state solution, in one point even comparing countries, the two places to the United States and Canada. A bit of a joke, but clearly a lot of difficult work before that is even possible. I want to bring in New York Republican Congressman Peter King. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee, former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Sir, what do you hear from the president in terms of laying the ground work for potential peace ahead?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: First of all, when the president is overseas, he represents all Americans. So, I'm not going to be partisan in any way. I think that, so far, his trip has been successful. I think it was important for him to go there, to shore up support among Israelis, because there was some concern about him over the last several years, over the president's policies.

I think his meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu were very positive. In fact, I get the impression yesterday that he pretty much says to (INAUDIBLE) Netanyahu that he does have the right to take independent action on Iran. That's my impression of the news conference.

As far as the statement today, the statement he made, it's very significant that he did single out Hamas. He also said that the process has to go forward and that everything can't be resolved, otherwise there's no purpose of negotiations, if you have everything resolved beforehand.

So, I think he's laying the ground work. I probably wish he could have done it earlier, but the fact is it's done. It's -- I think so far a very successful trip and hopefully Secretary Kerry can move this forward now.

ROMANS: He's squarely placed the blame of misery and oppression he said of Palestinians in Gaza because of Hamas, he said. He talked about unhappiness among Palestinians about Jewish settlements, increasing Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. He's not playing favorites here in any way?

KING: I think sometimes we should play favorites. It's not an equivalency between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East. It's the only democracy in the Middle East. We obviously want to work with Palestinians and we want to bring about peace.

But I don't see any moral or diplomatic equivalency between the two. But that doesn't mean we can't work to bring peace between of two of them. And again, if there's any benefit of the doubt with regard to Israel, but having said that I think the president has shown on the issue of settlement, for instance, , he thinks any ultimate resolution has involved Israel stopping the settlements and the president made that clear that he also supports a two-state solution.

So, I think it was balanced. But, again, let's keep in mind, Israel is our ally, and that's important to keep in mind.

ROMANS: Good point.

BERMAN: You know, we should say the president did condemn the overnight rocket attacks from Gaza. Two rockets apparently hit a southern town of Sderot. The president did condemn those attacks at the beginning of his statement. Let's be clear about that.

KING: Absolutely. Oh, yes.

BERMAN: I want to bring in former Senator George Mitchell, who's a former special envoy to the Middle East.

And, Senator Mitchell, it struck that the president seemed to lay down some parameters for how the sides might get back to the table. He did say that discussions were possible, but they would be difficult, but then continued to say that he hoped both sides don't want to have all issues settled before they sit down.

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST, 2009-2011: Well, that's been a consistent position by the United States. We have for many decades opposed settlement construction. Every American president has taken that position, but at the same time, have encouraged negotiations to resolve that issue along with all of the others.

And I think the president was strong and consistent in that. That's the only way this will ever get done, when both sides recognize that although it will be painful politically for each of them to agree to a resolution that's acceptable, I think it will be far more painful for both of them if they don't agree and this conflict continues.

So, I think, so far, the president's visit is a good one.

BERMAN: Senator, you poured your heart and soul into that region, put a lot of sweat into trying to find possible solutions there. Did you find anything today, did you hear anything today, either today or yesterday, which makes you hopeful that any kind of progress has been made?

MITCHELL: I think there is a growing recognition on both sides that they've got to do something to move this process forward. They're influenced by the events in the region. It's a mistake to think that Israeli-Palestinian conflict in isolation or as representing the only problem in the region. There are several intersecting conflicts and issues, all of which affect each other. Iran, the Sunni-Shia split, what's happening in Syria and Egypt and other parts of the region, many, many of them.

I think both sides recognize if they can resolve this issue, it would be helpful in moving toward the others, in particular with the confronting the threat from Iran, which ironically Israel shares in common with the Gulf Arab states. And I think if they could somehow resolve or reach a satisfactory agreement, a non-militarized Palestine, which Palestinians will accept, but a state, Israel would then be more free to try to resolve their differences and achieve normalization with the Gulf Arab states, because they share the common foe of Iran.

ROMANS: And, Congressman King, let's get your thoughts on that very point. KING: Senator Mitchell, I saw the great work he did in Northern Ireland. And he's right. I mean, there was more than just Israel and Palestinians involved here. The Middle East, you have Syria, you have Iran, you have, again, the presence of al Qaeda, we have -- you know, going to North Africa with Libya. So, the whole region is really many, many crises that have to be addressed and there can be shifting alliances here.

Senator Mitchell said the Arab Gulf states are opposed to Iran getting a nuclear weapon, as the Israelis and United States are. So, we have to find a way to coordinate our efforts together.

And again, if the president can move forward, the Israelis and Palestinians, that will be a tremendous diplomatic victory for the United States and have consequences to go beyond just Israel and Palestine.

BERMAN: Congressman Peter King, Senator George Mitchell, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

KING: Thank you.

BERMAN: We'll be watching what goes on in the region over the next several hours to be sure. Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: Meantime, North Korea making new threat this morning. Zoraida Sambolin has that and the rest of the day's top stories.

Good morning, Z.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

And this morning, more tough talk from North Korea and new threats to the United States. Upset that the U.S. is flying B-52s over South Korea, Pyongyang is issuing a warning that American military bases in Guam and in Japan are, quote, "within striking distance" of their weapons. Separately, officials in Seoul, a major hacking attack on the servers of South Korean banks and broadcasters can be traced to an IP address in China. North Korea, however, is still the prime suspect because of previous hack on a South Korean newspaper was also traced to an IP address in China.

And two Americans in Somalia have prices on their heads and the United States is putting up the money. Omar Hammami from Alabama and Jehad Mostafa from Wisconsin are said to be part of a group linked to al Qaeda. And both are believed to have planned attacks on Americans. And the State Department is offering up to $5 million for each man's arrest.

And right now, police are on the hunt for a killer in Colorado. Authorities say the chief of the state's corrections department, Tom Clements, was gunned down Tuesday night as he answered the front door of his home. This is right outside of Denver.

Authorities have not identified a suspect or motive. But investigators are looking for the driver of a car seen in Clements' neighborhood the night of the murder.

CNN's Jim Spellman is live in Denver.

Jim, do we know anything new now?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the second full day of this investigation, Zoraida, but still no description of the driver of that car. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Police scouring for potential leads in the head of Colorado's prison system, Tom Clements, as he answered the door of his home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very subject to the position that he held, there could be a number of people who may or may not have a motive to perpetuate a crime like this against him.

(voice-over): So far, there are few leads. Only a car seen idling nearby around the time of the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That vehicle is described as a late '90s model, boxy style two-door. Something similar perhaps to a '90s model Lincoln, although we're not definitively saying that it is a Lincoln.

SPELLMAN (on camera): The same witness who saw the car idling near the crime scene, minutes later saw it driving on this road, towards Interstate 25, near the onramp to the interstate, there numerous cameras. Police are checking to see if they can spot the car.

(voice-over): As police pursue the killer, Colorado's governor signed controversial gun control legislation that requires universal background checks and bans high-capacity magazines.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: As far as we know, two completely unrelated subjects. Tom Clements was somebody who worked in what is often times a cold, dark world with a remarkably open and generous heart. He would have expected us to sign these bills and go forward today. It's just the kind of man he was.

SPELLMAN: The governor was less composed earlier in the day when he remembered the man who he had to cajole to take the job.

HICKENLOOPER: Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lisa, their two daughters, certainly with all the employees of the Department of Corrections who Tom worked so hard with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SPELLMAN: With no suspect and no motive, authorities are taking no chances. They have increased security on all officials across Colorado here, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Jim Spellman, live for us, thank you very much.

And coming up, we'll look at the latest from the undersheriff of the county where Tom Clements was killed.

And there's a mixed verdict at the corruption trial of the former mayor and several former city council members in Bell, California. A jury found Oscar Hernandez and four other politicians guilty of looting the city's treasury. They were acquitted on other counts and still more charges are pending. One former Bell council member was exonerated. The alleged mastermind of the scheme faces a separate corruption trial.

And 24 and counting, it is for the Miami Heat, after an epic comeback to keep this crazy streak alive. LeBron James and company were down 27 points. This is in the third quarter. They came back to beat LeBron's old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-95. The Heat is within nine games of the NBA record for consecutive wins set by the 1971-'72 Lakers who won 33 in a row.

Good luck, Miami, kind of.

And hell has no fury like a woman denied her mint chocolate chip. With halftime of the Magic-Pacers game, the crowd camera busted this guy refusing to let her girlfriend has some ice cream.

And thanks to the Internet, we've all seen his mistake. We can't hear what she's saying. But her expressions pretty much speak for her. He finally wised up, let her have some. I guess they are still together.

BERMAN: I think that was a wise move.

SAMBOLIN: I know that's a wise move. Are you kidding me? He didn't expect.

ROMANS: I don't know. You know how much those cones cost at those game? Have you gone to the snack counter?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christine Romans, they could have been joking, though. It looks like they were joking.

BERMAN: She didn't look like she was joking.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: I think that was very real.

ROMANS: Thanks, Zoraida, and $10 ice cream.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Coming up, could Pope Francis lead a radical change for the Catholic Church? The new signs that he may not oppose gay civil unions.

BERMAN: And advice from this high powered CEO this morning: marry an older man. She's talking 20 years older. You will not want to miss this story, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Returning to one of our top stories. A manhunt in Colorado. Authorities investigating the shocking murder of Colorado prison chief, Tom Clements (ph), shot and killed at his front door.

ROMANS: This morning, investigators are trying to find a woman who seems speed walking in the area when he was shot. She may have seen a vehicle near the scene connect with the shooting.

Joining us now from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Paula Presley, undersheriff of El Paso County. And, what happened here was he opened the door, he was shot and killed, and at this point, really looking for any information about who the suspect may have been.

PAULA PRESLEY, UNDERSHERIFF, EL PASO COUNTY: That is correct. We are looking at all potential tips, leads, threats that Mr. Clements may have had. The investigation is certainly wide open at this point.

ROMANS: Do we know were there any threats against him? I mean, he had such a high-profile job. Could that have been what it was related to?

PRESLEY: We are certainly looking at that, assessing any potential threats that he may have had. And you are correct. He did have a very high-profile position, responsible for Department of Corrections, which is a very large prison system. And so, therefore, you know, again, we will look at any potential threats that he may have had from anybody within that prison system.

BERMAN: What about the shooting itself? Are there any signs that this looked like a professional hit?

PRESLEY: You know, again, as far as specific information concerning whether or not it's a professional hit or not, obviously, it's a shooting, you know, at his home. So, it certainly is a potential. But, again, we don't have any specific information that would lead to us that.

ROMANS: Tell us about the car that was idling in the area. And what you're doing to try to look at surveillance video or any other kinds of leads to try to learn more about that car?

PRESLEY: We are continuing to look for that car. We have had now several neighbors in the area who stated that they had seen a vehicle right around the time, about 8:30 p.m. on the night of 19th, when Mr. Clements was shot. The vehicle described as a black, kind of boxy car, potentially a Lincoln, or Continental, maybe even a Cadillac two- door. The car was seen idling in the area, at one point, unoccupied. Later seen occupied by what one of the neighbors believe was a male.

No specific information concerning the driver of that car. Since then, we've had several neighbors who have said that, yes, they believe that they saw a car in the area, saw a car speeding away on that particular street near his residence. So, again, we are looking at, you know, any suspect information that we may have, any suspect vehicles, looking at a variety of databases to determine what type of vehicle that may have been. ROMANS: So, a complete mystery at this point. A grieving family and a lot of co-workers were very, very concerned. Paula Presley, thank you so much. Undersheriff of the El Paso County in Colorado. Thank you.

PRESLEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Nineteen minutes after the hour right now. And coming up, could this signal a big change in the Catholic Church? New signs that Pope Francis may not be opposed to gay civil unions.

ROMANS: And can't miss video of the morning as Tina Fey reprises her role as Sarah Palin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Trending this morning, Tina Fey reprising her role as Sarah Palin, the impression she gave during an interview with James Lipton on Bravo's "Inside The Actors Studio."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: You know, Jimmy, I believe that if everybody had guns, then there would be fewer guns in the stores.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Same-sex marriage, what is your view on that?

FEY: Well, the bible says it's gross.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No same-sex marriage?

FEY: Marriage is meant for people who wear different kinds of swimsuits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Also trending this morning, Xerox's CEO, Ursula Burns, dishing out a little advice for young women in corporate America. It's raising a few eyebrows. Burns is the first African-American woman to run a Fortune 500 company. She says the first order of business is to find a good older husband. I think she was half joking about that.

She says an older man has already gone through the, quote, "growing up stuff," and then -- that allowed, at least, in her position, it allowed her to do a lot of good work at the office while her husband was helping with the two kids.

Next on the list, redefine the work/life balance. She says women need to accept that a perfect balance is not possible all the time. She also recommends being selfish sometimes and checking out to put your personal needs first and don't take guilt trips. It's OK to miss your kids' soccer game once in a while. And last, don't take life too seriously.

You know, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg once said that the most important career advice she could give someone was pick the right life partner. Pick a life partner that's going to help you in life and that's the best career advice you can get.

BERMAN: Is that life partner best if it's a 20-year older guys -- 20 years older than you?

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: That seems like a lot.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: I don't know. I think it's probably -- if you are very focused on your career, I think it's always good to marry an older person, because they will make fewer demands on you.

ROMANS: I think the most important thing is that work/life balance is sort of a misnomer. Sometimes, it's 80/20, sometimes, it's 70/30. You both have to be picking up the slack on the other one, right, John Berman?

BERMAN: Well, I just can't believe you're going to make me be the romantic one here. I actually think -- when we're talking about this for weeks in Sheryl Sandberg, I actually think it's important to marry someone you love and you're in love with and the rest of the stuff is a little ridiculous to me. So, I'm mad at all of you for making me be (ph) the romantic one here, but there it is.

SOCARIDES: She did say that if you had more equality in your marriage, you'd have a better sex life.

BERMAN: Oh, there you go. There is that.

SOCARIDES: Sheryl Sandberg. Yes.

ROMANS: I think the take away from this is that Mrs. Berman, John loves you.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: We can fact check that. I say fact check true on that. All right.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, a passionate plea from a 12-year-old with two gay fathers about same-sex marriage. We're talking to Daniel Leffew about the letter that he sent to Supreme Court chief justice, John Roberts. That's when STARTING POINT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. President Obama wrapping up talks with Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. He is set to leave the west bank in just a little bit, the second leg of his Middle East trip and head back to Jerusalem. BERMAN: Here's how the president characterized his meeting with the Palestinian leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I've returned to the west bank, because the United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine. The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it. Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely and to feel secure in their communities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: As you heard, President Obama says the Palestinians deserve a state of their own. The president will returning to Jerusalem later where he is the guest of honor at a state dinner hosted by Israeli president, Shimon Peres.

ROMANS: Zoraida Sambolin has the rest of the day's top stories. Good morning, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning again. We begin with allegations of chemical warfare from both sides of the Syrian conflict. The Syrian government and the opposition trading accusations that each used chemical weapons during clashes in Aleppo and in Damascus suburb.

But a number of officials, including the U.S. ambassador to Syria says, so far, there is no evidence that chemical weapons were used.

And in just a few hours, Vice President Joe Biden will join Mayor Michael Bloomberg and families that were affected by the Newtown school massacre in a news conference at New York City hall. They're going to call for passage of new federal gun laws, and so far, are really struggling for support in Congress. Biden spoke last night on national public radio about limiting the number of rounds in magazines to 10 bullets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you can't get the deer in three shots, you shouldn't be hunting. You're embarrassment. Putting 10 rounds, limited to 10 rounds makes a difference, makes a difference in terms of how many shots you can get off before someone can intervene.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Meantime, New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, telling this morning's "New York Times," that he is in favor of changing his state's tough new gun law to allow 10 round magazines instead of seven, because no seven-round magazines are -- they're not widely available. But gun owners will still only be allowed to load seven bullets at a time and that law is set to take effect April 15th.

Two high school football players in Connecticut formally charged with sexually assaulting two 13-year-old girls and the victims are reportedly being taunted and harassed online.