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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Kerry Arrives in Seoul; North Korea's Nuclear Capabilities; Tornado Watches Extended

Aired April 12, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Nuclear crisis in Korea. Secretary of State John Kerry on the ground in the South right now as U.S. intelligence suggests the North may indeed have the power to make good on its threats.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Explosives mailed to the man who called himself America's toughest sheriff. Was this a plot to take out Joe Arpaio?

BERMAN: Nature's raw power caught on camera. New this morning word of more storm deaths with the threat continuing at this hour. Look at that.

ROMANS: And fight on the field, benches clear in San Diego after one of baseball's best pitchers out of action for weeks.

BERMAN: That was a nutty fight.

ROMANS: Wow. Good morning, welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Zoraida is off today.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Friday. Friday.

ROMANS: Friday.

BERMAN: April 12th, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East. And happening right now, Secretary of State John Kerry touching down overnight in Seoul trying to diffuse the missile crisis on the Koreaan Peninsula just hours after the dramatic and unexpected revelation that some U.S. intelligence sources believe that North Korea has the technology to make a nuclear weapon and put it on a missile.

With so much at stake, Kerry will make three stops on this trip, Beijing and Tokyo are up next. And the secretary of state is expected to lean very hard on China to help rein in the North Koreans.

Here's Kyung Lah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Secretary Kerry is in Seoul this morning. It's a trip that's being built as a getting-to-know-you trip. But he is getting to work very very, quickly because there is a lot on his plate, it is a whirlwind 18-hour tour in South Korea. He has already met with top U.S. commanders in the region, he's already met with the president of South Korea and he is now on his way to meet with the foreign minister.

He has a two-part mission here. First, it will be to reassure South Korea that the United States will protect the country, that they are bound by treaty and that they are important allies, but the other is to seek some sort of diplomatic off-ramp with North Korea, to try to send that message to try to find a new solution to an old and what is recently become a more threatening problem in this region.

From here he will head to Beijing and Tokyo throughout this region. What will follow him is this Pentagon intelligence assessment that North Korea may be able to deliver a nuclear weapon via ballistic missile, a very stunning report, especially for the United States and this region.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Let's go now to the Pentagon for new details on that intelligence assessment of North Korea's nuclear capabilities. Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence joins us now.

Chris, it appears the Obama administration attempting to do some serious damage control over the release yesterday of that information.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's right, Christine. I mean, just this morning a U.S. official was saying that they do not believe that North Korea is as far along in their nuclear program as was suggested in that first assessment.

This is coming after the director of National Intelligence had to put out a statement late last night basically saying this was one assessment in that other intelligence agencies didn't necessarily come to the same conclusion. But I think the bottom line is North Korea has clearly moved the ball and is continuing to make progress.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They demonstrated their willingness to invest in missile technologies in violation of their international obligations. And we do think that over time they might develop a greater capability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: The one thing that the assessment does say is that the North Koreans still have problems with reliability. That means when you push the button, does that particular missile actually fire and can you hit what you're aiming for?

ROMANS: All right. Do we have any more information, Chris, this morning on how that piece of information got declassified?

LAWRENCE: Yes, this is what you don't see publicly, Christine, and a Defense official told me basically that this was a mistake. And another official told CNN that normally in a classified report like this you don't see one sentence of a classified report unclassified. Again, they are saying it was a mistake on their part. They are not blaming Congressman Doug Lamborn, but he says, look, he felt it's something the American people need to know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R), COLORADO: And I do that properly in that this was declassified, whether it was a mistake or not, I can't answer that, but this is -- given the seriousness of the threat, Anderson, this is something that I think people do need to know about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: Yes, again, he put in the word out. And again, the officials here saying it was a mistake -- Christine.

ROMANS: , So, Chris, what about the weapons that we do know North Korea has, how long of a range do they have? Give us a little sense of what we know they do have.

LAWRENCE: We know they've got missiles, some of them have been tested and proven to work, others haven't. Take a look at this map. Basically they've got Scud missiles, they got the Nodong, those can reach, you know, 500 to 1,000 kilometers. We believe that they have missiles that can reach as far as Japan, they tested missiles that can go a lot further, but those tests haven't been successful.

Take a look at this other map, the Musudan missile that is believed to be the subject of this launch, that may have the ability to reach Guam but again it has never been tested -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Chris Lawrence, thanks.

And, you know, we're awaiting a press conference live from Secretary Kerry live from Seoul. We're going to bring that to you when it happens.

BERMAN: New this morning, explosives mail to a controversial Arizona sheriff. Authorities in Flagstaff intercepted a suspicious package addressed to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix. The test confirmed the package did have black powder. Experts blew it up, no one was hurt, now they're trying to figure out who sent this package.

Arpaio has received many threats for his controversial and outspoken ways. The government sue him for allegedly for violating the civil rights of Latinos.

ROMANS: New this morning in Colorado, 31-year-old Thomas Guolee is under arrest in connection with the murder of state prison chief Tom Clements. Police took him into custody as a person of interest. Clements was shot to death at his home last month. Guolee is said to be an associate of Evan Eel or Evan Eel, rather, the suspected gunman.

BERMAN: New developments this morning in the Senate where a debate on gun control legislation is underway. Sixteen Republicans joined Democrats in pushing aside a filibuster that attempted to stop debate from taking place. A number of senators, both Democrat and Republican, thank relatives of the victims of the Connecticut school massacre for lobbying senators to at least bring legislation to the Senate floor for discussion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Darkness, 20 years when it comes to gun control. Darkness. The lies, the misinformation, and when people see you, it means much more than when they hear me or anybody else. So we've made a huge difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The amendments that will be debated include expanding background checks on gun buyer, separate amendments on banning assault weapons and also banning high-capacity magazines.

ROMANS: Another day, another record high for the Dow and the S&P 500. The Dow now within reach of 15,000. Yesterday the final official closing numbers, 14865, that's two record-high finishes in the last two days for the blue chip.

The S&P 500 also closing at an all-time high yesterday now less than seven points from the 1600 mark. But the bulls could be taking a breather this morning. The Dow, the NASDAQ and S&P 500 futures for those all pointing lower this morning. It signals a possible pause at the Opening Bell.

BERMAN: All right. Brace yourself, baseball fans, it's a very costly bench-clearing brawl during last night's Dodgers/Padres game in San Diego. Yes, take a look at this. That's Zach Greinke, the $147 million right-hander, he hit Carlos Quentin with a pitch. Greinke says something, you see Quentin charging the mound.

ROMANS: Whoa.

BERMAN: Greinke breaks his left collarbone in this process here. That's really, really bad for a pitcher. Once the order was restored, Greinke was unable to continue. Not clear how much the pitcher will have to sit out, how much time he will use. He won the Cy Young in 2009. One of the best pitchers in baseball. Here's a little subtext here. It's the third time that Greinke has hit Carlos Quentin over the years.

ROMANS: Oh really?

BERMAN: They have a little bit of bad blood there. Still, you know, you don't charge the mound with a bat. He did drop the bat, but not many people are looking on Carlos Quentin's actions fondly right now.

ROMANS: Wow, look at that.

BERMAN: Again the third time, the third time, Greinke has hit Quentin over the years. So he's never hit anyone as much as he's hit Carlos Quentin. That's some more history right there. ROMANS: All right. Round one of the Masters is in the books. Four- time champ Tiger Woods posting a respectable two under par 70. He's lurking four strokes off the lead. How about 14-year-old Chinese phenom here, Tianlang Guan. Five bogeys and four birdies in his first competitive round of Augusta for an impressive one-over par 73. He's ahead of last year's champ, Bubba Watson.

Here's your leaderboard after 18 holes. Spain's Sergio Garcia and Australian Mark Leishman on top at six under. One shot better than American Dustin Johnson and tied for fourth the 1992 Masters champ, 53-year-old fan favorite Freddie Couples.

BERMAN: Couples looked awesome yesterday. You know, a lot of players had some really, really low scores yesterday. Tiger was fine but he left a lot of shot out there. He could have been doing a lot better than he actually is.

ROMANS: You're sports consumption --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I have all afternoon to watch the golf now.

(LAUGHTER)

Just getting the rules for that kind of thing.

From the Florida panhandle to Ohio, the threat for severe storms and even tornadoes continues at this hour. We're going to have the latest on this storm's path coming up.

ROMANS: And we are awaiting a news conference our of South Korea. Secretary of State John Kerry to talk to reporters in Seoul amid rising tensions with the North. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Happening now, tornado watches have been extended for these states after a series of -- series of powerful twisters. And wild weather tore a path of destruction from Texas all the way to the Dakotas killing three, injuring several others. Cars tossed around like toys, homes destroyed and entire neighborhoods trashed. At least one person was killed as a vicious Twister ripped through Mississippi.

BERMAN: Look at that.

ROMANS: Seven counties in that state suffered major damage. David Mattingly is there live with the latest.

Good morning, David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. The storm was deadly but it was also massive leaving behind scenes of destruction for hundreds of miles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's where the worst damage is.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): For the second straight day, severe weather menacing more than a half dozen states. The hardest hit, Mississippi. This tornado caught on video. In Wine County one person was killed, five were injured. In one rural area there was a path of destruction at least 30 miles long extending into west Alabama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As I was cleaning up the spot where I'm fixing and put another mobile home, And I went home to take me a quick bath and I heard the siren going off. And that's when I jumped in my clothes and I come on out of the house quickly.

MATTINGLY: The storm system swept across the southeast knocking out power to thousands, toppling trees and damaging homes. Into the night, watches and warnings, storm damage all the way into Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have lived up here about two years. This is about the third or fourth one to come through this area, so we are -- seemed to be in a topographical situation here where the storms come right through here. And it's very, very powerful. This one -- this one is pretty impressive, especially the way with throwing the metal around into the trees.

MATTINGLY: The southeast accustomed to severe storms as emerging from a colder than normal spring. These storms a sign that the season is heating up fast.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: It's not unusual to see about 100 tornadoes in the month March, but because it was so cool, we only saw 19. That's why April is roaring in like a lion -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. David Mattingly, thank you, David.

BERMAN: Yes. And here's the thing. It's not over yet. As we mentioned tornado watches have been extended in North Carolina and South Carolina. For more on what we can expect today, let's go to Samantha More. Hi, Samantha.

SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi there, John, Christine. Yes, the focus is going to be an Eastern and North South Carolina during the next few hours when they still tornado watches in place, even though it shows the one still in play in Georgia. It is being shipped away as most of energy is moving towards. Coastal. South Carolina.

So that includes Myrtle Beach and the Charleston. And also in North Carolina, Raleigh, Durham, where we could end up seeing still some hail, up around an inch to an inch and a half. And wind gusts in excess extending miles per hour with some of these stronger severe thunderstorms.

And then, of course, on the northern side, that cold air is rushing in. So wintry weather across much of the northern plains still for yet another day. Most of that freezing rain has transitioned over to snow, but it is still coming down in the twin cities and into northern Minnesota. So here is our focus today all along the coast of the Carolinas into Cape Hatteras where we could still see some large hail damaging winds, as well as some isolated tornadoes.

So we'll be watching for that. There's that strong front moving along the East Coast today. It will impact this northeastern airports so in through Newark and LaGuardia, JFK, we do expect to see delays piling up this morning. And then the rain moving into Boston throughout the afternoon and evening commute.

So another wet, messy day all along the East Coast with that threat of severe primarily in the Carolinas this morning -- Christine and John.

BERMAN: Yes. Sounds like it's shaping up to be a tough day here in the east. Thanks, Samantha.

MOHR: You bet.

ROMANS: All right. Fifteen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date. John Kerry is in the middle of the Korean missile crisis now. He arrived in Seoul overnight. The secretary of state will meet with South Korean officials before heading to Beijing where he'll try to convince Chinese leaders to use their influence on North Korea to ease the missile crisis.

He's set the crisis at any moment. A live presser, , probably within the next hour. We'll bring it to you when it happens.

BERMAN: Three teen boys in northern California all 16 years old charged with a sexual battery of a 15-year-old girl. Days after the alleged crime, Audrey Pott hanged herself. The details they sound awfully familiar. Prosecutors say the victim passed out at a house party and that pictures of the attack ended up on social media. Just hours before her suicide, Pott posted on her Facebook page that her life was ruined.

This happened in September but authorities were not ready to make arrests until yesterday.

ROMANS: Reebook and Rick Ross apparently no longer a good fit for shoemaker has ended its business relationship with the rapper this is more follow-up for Ross over some controversial lyrics. He rapped about drugging and raping a woman earlier this year. Rock has denied his lyrics condoning rape.

BERMAN: All right. Take a look at this. The head-on collision with an iPad. You might have seen this, this went viral with nearly 12 -- two million views. A Georgia woman said she saw something flying at her car but she did not realize what it was until later. Here's the amazing thing, this tablet, the iPad, it still worked. Can you believe that? It's now back with its owner.

Apparently what happened is someone left the iPad on top of their car and then started driving. It flew off while the other was driving and, then boom, stuck in the bumper right there.

ROMANS: Unbelievable.

BERMAN: Crazy, right?

ROMANS: Right. Coming up, another day another record day for stocks. How long we'll be able to ride this wave and what's the chance of Dow 15000? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning, New York and Central Park. Lights, it is still dark everywhere.

BERMAN: It's a dark day, that's only going to get worse here at nasty weather expected for the (INAUDIBLE).

ROMANS: I didn't need to know that. "Minding Your Business," well, it might sending on Wall Street for all we know because for three days in a row record highs. Shattering records again and again. It is now 150 points from 15,000. I think today you'll see retail sales and bank earnings happening before the opening bell. That could be the big driver for the stock market today. Right now futures are lower, but I think that all of the clues for stocks will come later this morning. And I'll tell you that it's crazy, investors are piling in with a vengeance into the stock market.

BERMAN: This is -- I mean it may not be unprecedented in terms of a rub. But this is a seriously, historically big one run.

ROMANS: It just keeps hitting records. I mean every days of this week has been higher, so you know it wouldn't be a surprised to see a pullback today. But if you look at your 401(k) statement you look at the averages for the year, up double digits. You look within the markets. Dividend paying stocks have been doing so well. Those are kind of a safe play. They've been doing very well. So some investors are very, very happy.

BERMAN: And 15,000 in sight.

ROMANS: Fifteen thousand in sight. Also, remember Facebook, that Facebook IPO? Last year's botched Facebook IPO is going to cost NASDAQ CEO for your, Robert Reifeld $500,000.

BERMAN: Yikes.

ROMANS: The NASDAQ both cut his bonus by more than 60 percent saying it quote, "recently considered the Facebook IPO in his job review. You may remember the highly anticipated Facebook debut with Hamstrung by Delays and a technical problems of the NASDAQ that confused traders.

And analyst at CitiGroup this morning saying JCPenny is likely sitting on $100,000 million worth of Martha Stewart products that it can't sell.

BERMAN: That's a lot of towels. ROMANS: A hundred -- it's a lot of towels. The mechandise wrapped up in a law suit brought by Macy's over who has the right to sell. Martha merchandize, Macy says we're the only one who CNN ANCHOR: . more a deal with JCPenny, JCPenny says no, we can't, too, a ruling is expected today. The analyst also commented on Penny's decision to fire CEO Ron Johnson earlier this week. That analyst says the new CEO Mike Ullman is a, "quote, strong choice".

And a federal program that allows so-called underwater barrowers well, who are current on their payments to refinance has been extended for two more years. The home of Florida refinance program, it's also called HARP, it's helped about two million barrowers refinance. Average savings 200 bucks a month. 1.75 percentage points knocked off their interest rate. About 2.7 million more are homeowners are eligible for heart. The government is going to extend it for two years.

Again you have to be current on the loan but you need to try to -- you want to try to lower your mortgage rate. That's what the government asks you

BERMAN: Good idea, 24 minutes after the hour right now. And new this morning, the deadly crash of a tour bus full of seniors en route to a casino. We are learning more about the man behind the wheel this morning.

EARLY START back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Happening right now, Secretary of State John Kerry in Seoul to deal with the growing North Korean nuclear threat.

ROMANS: Haunting last words from a teen driver. His text cut-off mid-sentence before a crash.

BERMAN: The National Hockey League's bold statement against homophobia. Amid talks that are a pro athlete may soon come out of the closet. Will other big league sports join this cause? Interesting.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm John BERMAN.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans, I'm in for Zoraida Sambolin this Friday, Friday, April 12th. Happening right now Secretary of State John Kerry trying to negotiate an end to the missile crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Kerry arrived in Seoul a few hours ago and we expect to hear from him in the next ten minutes or so. Kerry will also visit Tokyo and Beijing where he'll be trying to convince Chinese leaders to do more to rein in North Korea.

Jim Clancy with us live from Seoul this morning.

Tell us a little bit more, Jim, about what Secretary Kerry is doing in Seoul today and you know, what might we expect him to tell us this morning. JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it is pretty tough to say exactly what he's going to say, but you know I think that after talking with U.S. military commanders, on one hand, talking with President Park Geun-hye, on the other hand, I think we're saying is that there's window of opportunity here. If the North wants to sit down and talk, speak their mind, the South Koreans have indicated they are willing to do so.

Now, you've got to understand it takes two people for a dialogue, and I think we all do understand that. And the problem right now is that North Korea doesn't really want to dialogue.