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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Tensions Continue between North Korea and South Korea; Suspect in Murder Case Arrested Kaufman County; Adam Scott Wins Masters; Gitmo Op-Ed Stirs Controversy; Is North Korea All Bluster?

Aired April 15, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


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

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Our STARTING POINT this morning, a new warning for North Korea from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are deadly serious about our obligations and about our desire, our intent, to stand up to these provocative and reckless actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Plus, a rare appearance by Kim Jong-un this morning. We are live in Seoul.

BERMAN: Then, a possible break in the Kaufman County D.A. murder case? The developing details in a live report straight ahead.

BALDWIN: And it may be mid-April. Doesn't look like it here, though. Fresh ground of snow, we're halfway through spring. We will take a look at the blizzard conditions -- not fun -- hitting the country and find out if this whole cold blast will continue in a matter of minutes.

BERMAN: Then sudden death, sudden ecstasy. This morning we're talking to Adam Scott about his thrilling sudden death win and the history that he has made. Look at that.

It is Friday, April 12th. And STARTING POINT --

BALDWIN: Friday?

BERMAN: Did I say Friday?

BALDWIN: It's Monday.

BERMAN: It's Monday, April 15th. This is why I have you. It's Monday, April 15th. It's tax day. I'm going to be three days late obviously. STARTING POINT begins right now. Our starting point this morning on this Monday, April 15th, new developments this morning in the international effort to defuse North Korea's nuclear threat. Secretary of State John Kerry speaking out, calling for authentic talks.

BALDWIN: But he is making it clear North Korea has to make the first move for scrapping its nuclear ambitions. Anna Coren is in Seoul, South Korea this morning with the very latest. Let's begin, Anna, with this video we're now seeing of this young leader here back in the public eye, and also some protests near you?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Here in downtown Seoul there were protests in the middle of the street and there were a few throughout the past months with North Korea threatening thermal-nuclear war on South Korea, but certainly today a significant protest. About 100 people burning images of Kim Jong-un calling for an end to the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula, as well as an end to the Kim dynasty, the dictatorship that really controls North Korea, and impoverished people of some 24 million.

So, these are the scenes on the streets of Seoul today. Of course today is the most important day as far as the North Koreans are concerned. It's the day of the sun, which is the anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, who is the grandfather of Kim Jong-un. At the stroke of midnight Kim Jong-un visited a mausoleum to pay respects to not only his grandfather, but also his father who died over a year ago, and that's obviously when he took over the reins of the country.

But, an important day in North Korea, not so much here. Just to give you an idea of the feeling in South Korea, Psy, the pop sensation Psy, was on the front pages of the newspapers. I think that gives you an idea of the divide between the two countries.

BERMAN: Also some important words from Secretary of State John Kerry. He sort of listed the conditions with which the U.S. would sit down with for the Korea. What did he say?

COREN: Yes, that's exactly right. I mean, John Kerry has made it perfectly clear that he's willing to talk to North Korea. That he's mentioned the entire time during his visit here in Asia. Of course he wrapped up that visit in Tokyo a little bit later today -- earlier today, I should say. But he said that the door is open for diplomacy if North Korea is willing to denuclearize.

Now, of course, that is a sticking point because North Korea has made it perfectly clear that it is gung-ho in its development of nuclear weapons and has said that is not negotiable. But let's have a listen to what John Kerry had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: What I did is simply repeat that we are open to talks. But conditions have to be met where the north has to move towards denuclearization, indicated seriousness in doing so by reducing these threats, stop the testing, and indicate it's prepared to actually negotiate on denuclearization. Those are the conditions. And that's what we need to see met.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: Now we heard a different sort of rhetoric coming out of North Korea yesterday, which made mention of the offer of dialogue from South Korea, calling it an empty shell and that it needed to change its attitude. This is a real shift, I think, in the way that North Korea has been talking about what's happening here. Some analysts believe that perhaps it's changing its tune. Who knows? Perhaps John Kerry's message of peace and stability is finally getting through to Pyongyang.

BERMAN: We'll see. Anna Coren in Seoul, South Korea, thanks so much. In a few moments we'll get reaction from General James "Spider" Marks.

BALDWIN: Some signs of progress here this morning it appears in Kaufman County, Texas, where investigators have been trying to solve the murders of district attorney, his wife, and an assistant D.A. Here he is. Former justice of the peace Eric Williams was arrested over this past weekend on an unrelated charge. At this point they're not calling him a suspect or a person of interest, Ed Lavandera following developments for us this morning out of Dallas. Ed, good morning.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brooke. We've paid a lot of attention to Kaufman County over the last few weeks. A lot of people under a lot of duress, unease about what exactly has been going on with these murders. Last night, a prayer walk there in the Kaufman County square at the courthouse where these two prosecutors worked. These people praying for a conviction and an arrest in this case. And now a lot of attention being paid to this former justice of the peace, Eric Williams, who was prosecuted by Mark Hasse about one year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: This house belongs to a former Kaufman County justice of the peace named Eric Williams. On Friday investigators spent hours combing through the house. Then on Saturday, those investigators descended on this storage unit 15 miles away. Several local media outlets report investigators found 20 weapons inside the storage unit that was rented for Eric Williams.

And investigators also discovered this Crown Victoria, a police-style vehicle. Local media also report this type of car was seen in the neighborhood the night the McLellands were murdered.

Eric Williams is now sitting in jail. Over the weekend he was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat. He's being held on a $3 million bond. Williams and his lawyer have vigorously denied any involvement in the Kaufman County murders and insist they've cooperated voluntarily with investigators.

ERIC WILLIAMS, CONVICTED BY MCLELLAND AND HASSE: My heartfelt condolences go out to both the McClelland family and the Hasse family because they were in public office, doing the right thing, and for some reason that we're not aware of, they paid the ultimate price for that.

LAVANDERA: Williams' connection to Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland dates back to last year. He was convicted on two felony counts of burglary and theft by a public servant. This video played at his trial shows him stealing computers from a county building, and here he is during a police interrogation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you just took the monitors and the memory?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not that I can remember.

LAVANDERA: It was a big scandal in a little town. Prosecutors Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland were front and center on that case. This is a picture of both men from the courtroom during that trial. Denise bell covered the trial for the "Forney Post: newspaper.

DENISE BELL, "FORNEY POST": It was a mega trial for a little community. The sense of it was a big trial.

LAVANDERA: After the trial McLelland told reporters that Williams' conviction was a sign that the good old boy network is done and that elected officials should be held to a higher standard. Hasse ripped into Williams, calling the disgraced justice of the peace a dishonorable liar and that he was using Kaufman County as his own piggy bank.

Williams lost his job and law license and sentenced to two years' probation. Denise Bell said she spoke with Mike McLelland in the weeks before his death. She said after Mark Hasse's murder in January McClelland was worried about Eric Williams.

Did McLelland tell you that he believed Eric Williams was responsible for that murder?

BELL: Yes.

LAVANDERA: He did? What exactly, and in what context did he tell you that?

BELL: In a context of, be careful, Denise.

LAVANDERA: He told you to be careful?

BELL: Yes.

LAVANDERA: Why would he tell you to be careful?

BELL: Because I sat in the front row and covered this story for 10 days.

LAVANDERA: Despite Eric Williams now getting so much attention, investigators have still not officially named him as a suspect or filed murder charges against him.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LAVANDERA: Over the weekend we made several attempts to reconnect with Eric Williams' attorney and those calls and e-mails were not returned. John and Brooke?

BALDWIN: Ed Lavandera, thank you. We should point out at the bottom of the hour we will be talking to an attorney who handled cases in Kaufman County.

BERMAN: Eight minutes after the hour. Extreme weather striking parts of the U.S. this morning, extremely annoying, right? Much of the northern plains buried under snow after a spring blizzard. Take a look at this. This is a rollover accident caused by low visibility and gusty winds. Shut down a portion of Minnesota's interstate 94 on Sunday, and parts of the Dakotas saw up to a foot and a half of snow this weekend. It is not over yet. Bonnie Schneider is live in the weather center in Atlanta. And Bonnie, you know, I checked the calendar. I'm not great with the calendar today. But by my count we're in the middle of April.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This day, April 15th we all keep that on our calendar for sure. We are looking at more snow from Cheyenne to Denver. It's coming down heavy and hard along I-25. A whole band of snow is working across the entire state of Colorado.

We're talking about accumulation. Later today and tonight looking at possibly almost half a foot of snow, on top of the snow that we've already seen in Denver. It's been one of the snowiest months of April, ever. And we're still not done tallying up records -- eight to 14 inches, so over two feet, one foot in some areas in Cheyenne, and then more as we go through much of the day today. You can see that the computer models are forecasting some of the heaviest snow north and west of Denver.

Now, let's switch gears and talk about a place that gets plenty of snow, luckily not so much in April. Today is the Boston marathon. I wish all the runners great luck. The weather is actually perfect. Starting off in the mid-40s with light winds. And then we'll be warming up into the 50s by the time you cross the finish line. Severe storms, though, today across the nation's midsection. Right in the heartland. We're looking at the next three days, a setup for severe weather in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. John, Brooke?

BERMAN: All right, Bonnie Schneider, thanks so much. A nice shout- out for marathon Monday.

BALDWIN: I was in Boston over the weekend, you could see the runners get being set. 26.2.

BERMAN: The 117th running of the Boston marathon. Go Boston.

All right, now this morning, elections don't get much closer than this. The man chosen by the late Hugo Chavez to succeed him has won Venezuela's presidential election but only by a hair. It is so close that his opponent wants a recount. Nicholas Maduro won 50.66 percent to Enrique Capriles 49.07 percent. The country's top election official says the results are, in his words, "irreversible." BALDWIN: Also new this morning at Guantanamo Bay a powerful opinion piece from a prisoner there after reports some inmates armed with improvised weapons clashed with guards over this weekend. We know tensions have been building here. Some inmates are staging hunger strikes to protest conditions.

While in this op-ed, in "The New York Times," entitled Gitmo is killing me, an inmate from Yemen, originally, claiming he and others are suffering, and they want the world to pay attention. He writes this in part, quote, "I have been detained at Guantanamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with a crime. I have never received a trial."

Immigration reform expected to be front and center this week in Washington. A bipartisan group of senators will unveil legislative proposals tomorrow that seek to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants to the United States. Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of the group nicknamed the "gang of eight," he hit the Sunday talk shows, all seven of them, to preview the plan, which includes three main policy goals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: First of all, universal e-verify system which means you won't be able to find a job in the United States if you can't pass that check. Secondly, an entry-exit system. You know 40 percent of our illegal immigration are people that enter legally and then they overstay their visas and we don't really know who they are because for the most part we only track when people come in. We don't track in and when they leave. And third, is real border security, including fences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So Rubio insists the plan does not amount to amnesty and says millions of undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. would not be able to become citizens for more than a decade.

BALDWIN: The former first couple, now grandparents for the very first time. Jenna Bush Hager daughter of former president George W. Bush and his wife Laura gave birth to a baby girl Saturday in New York City. She is named Margaret Laura after her grandmothers, but her family will call her Mila.

BERMAN: Congratulations to all of them. And a big congratulations to one Australian. It was a history making weekend at Augusta national. Adam Scott becoming the first Australian ever --

BALDWIN: And there it goes.

BERMAN: -- to win the Masters. Oh, man was that a huge putt. He did it with a flourish. That dramatic birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff to beat Argentina's Angel Cabrera. He takes home the green jacket, and Shane O'Donoghue is live in Augusta for us. Good morning.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Good morning Brooke. Fantastic. It's sad, really, that the Masters is over. What a thrilling finish. As you say, Adam Scott winning the masters title late last night in a two-hole playoff with Angel Cabrera from Argentina. It was drama all the way. It was full of story lines throughout the week. But what a fitting finish for Adam Scott to hole that wonderful putt on the second playoff hole. It was the 10th hole and he got it just right. He is the winner. And at last, Australia has a green jacket. Our Rachel Nichols spoke with Adam Scott after his victory to talk about the significance of this win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM SCOTT, GOLFER: It's an amazing journey, the whole golfing career. And I've played a lot of majors and to finally get one means a lot. I've knocked on the door a couple of times recently and to get over the hurdle hopefully is the start of something to come.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you see when you look at this guy?

SCOTT: That's a happy man when I look at that. It's quite a feeling to make a couple putts to win the tournament. It's what every kid dreams about so for it to finally happen is amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONOGHUE: Adam Scott was tipped for major success for the last 10, 12 years but finally it came true in Augusta national last night. Of course, he referenced the fact that he lost the British Open last year having led throughout the tournament, but finished with very disappointing four bogeys, eventually handing the title to Ernie Els. But this is great news for Australia. It's fantastic news for Adam Scott, and he really and truly is a worthy winner.

BERMAN: He did so well yesterday. Shane O'Donoghue in Augusta for us. Adam Scott exorcising the ghost of great Norman.

BALDWIN: The jackets always fit perfectly.

BERMAN: I think they have different possible sizes for them and maybe they make alterations after that. All the members at Augusta national wear green jackets. It's not just the winners.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, reports of a riot this weekend at Guantanamo Bay as an inmate releases a powerful op-ed describing conditions at the military base. Next we're going to talk to CNN military analyst James "Spider" Marks.

BALDWIN: Also, Justin Bieber at the center of a firestorm for hoping Anne Frank would have been a Belieber. Why many think he needs a history lesson. STARTING POINT is back in a moment, 15 minutes past the hour on a Monday.

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BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Two big international stories we're following this Monday morning. The world is waiting for a sign that North Korea might be testing those missiles they put into position days ago now.

BALDWIN: Also we're learning about this riot at Guantanamo base. This is followed by the startling op-ed in the "New York Times" today. Want to talk about both the stories with General James "Spider" Marks, he is one of our CNN military analysts and part of his military service included time as a senior intelligence officer in Korea. Joining us from Bloomington, Indiana, General, good morning.

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning. How are you guys?

BALDWIN: We're well. Let's begin with what we're hearing from Secretary Kerry. He was in Beijing and Tokyo over the weekend. And he sat down with our Jill Dougherty and he is basically saying, look, America is willing to come to the table, willing to have a full negotiation with Pyongyang. Only if they meet certain, you know, criteria in terms of denuclearizing North Korea. What conditions should those be? And do you think that's a plausible option?

MARKS: Well, it is an option. The issue that we have is we've established a construct dealing with North Korea that involves six parties. The North and the South, China, Russia, and the United States and Japan. And so to break that dynamic is a bit unusual. In many cases, we've requested that that dynamic be broken down in terms of the Chinese, who truly maintain a degree of influence over North Korea that none of the other parties today, albeit that's somewhat diminishing.

So it's important that the United States step up and say, look, here's a potential break to this logjam, in that North Korea has clearly indicated that it doesn't respond to diplomatic overtures. And it clearly is only going to do what it wants to do.

So I think the fact that the secretary has said, look, let's take a different course is important. But the preconditions are absolutely essential, and again North Korea has indicated no effort on their part to open up, try to achieve a degree of transparency in the development of their nuclear program so all the assessments that we're making are based on intelligence that's been collected through technical means. We have no means of penetrating in terms of their regime, and getting in to this kingdom through human intelligence, and that's where we would really get a sense of what's truly going on.

BERMAN: General, it seems like we've been on the brink now for more than a week. And it was several days ago at this point when North Korea moved those mobile missiles. No test launches. We thought they were coming. Is this just an empty threat at this point by the North Koreans?

MARKS: Well, I wouldn't call it empty, because they have the capability. They moved the missiles. They prepared them for launch. They can be launched at any motion, I mean any moment. They're completely mobile. All you have to do is find a flat piece of terrain and you can launch these Musudan missiles which are intermediate range missiles. The challenge is, is that North Korea has a history of great bluster, they will then extort as a result of that bluster, they will extort some benefit to their advantage. This is their pattern. This is how they conducted business in the past. And we have to pay attention, because they have the fifth largest military in the world, and when you add their reserve component, they have the largest military in the world. Albeit, they can't sustain combat, they've got a challenge with their ability to get fuel for their equipment. But they have a capability that is overwhelming, so we have to be very, very cautious. And we've got to take them seriously because of that.

BALDWIN: General, allow me to ask you about this opinion piece in the "New York Times" today, called "Gitmo is Killing Me." This Yemeni national through this Arabic translator tells the story of his time in Guantanamo Bay. He was sort of taken a part of this whole group this 30 group of al Qaeda fighters, he's been there for ten years, he said he didn't do anything wrong. But the thing is the details, he talks about how he's been force-fed, and he's been on this hunger strike that so many other prisoners have been.

Let me quote this for you. Quote, "I will never forget the first time they passed a feeding tube up my nose. I can't describe how painful it is to be force fed this way. As it was thrust in it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit. But I couldn't. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone."

Is this normal procedure here, general?

MARKS: Well, well, first, first of all, let me tell you that guy has no rights. I have no sympathy for that guy. He is a prisoner of war. He made a very bad choice leaving Yemen and going to Afghanistan and getting into a fight post-9/11. So let me just lay that out there.

Now first of all, the things that, universally, the thing about hunger strikes is they end by the individual who is on the hunger strike eating. You will stick an IV in that individual's arm so you keep the individual alive. I'm not going to attribute any veracity to that guy's op-ed piece. All I'm telling you is that he has no rights. He is a prisoner of war. There is a job that needs to be done at Gitmo and they chose the conditions under which they are living. I've been to Gitmo. Guantanamo is, in fact, exceptionally well-run. We've been doing that for 11 years. That's right. He's been there for over a decade. Again, he made a bad choice.

BALDWIN: No sympathy from General Spider Marks this morning on this op-ed. We appreciate it, sir, very much. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: All right, 32 minutes after the hour. Ahead on STARTING POINT, easily one of the least favorite days of the year for so many people.

BALDWIN: Taxes. BERMAN: It is tax day. What you need to know if you're one of those last-minute types. We'll tell you all about it next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back, I'm Alison Kosik minding your business today. There could be a bidding war for Sprint Nextel. Dish Network is bidding $25 billion for the phone company. Here's the problem, though, Sprint agreed last fall to sell a majority stake to Softbank a Japanese tech company, for $20 billion. No surprise, in the pre-market, Sprint shares are surging 14 percent. But overall, stock futures point to a lower open today thanks to a report showing China's economy is slowing.

You know all that money you paid into Social Security while you were working? Turns out you may not get it all back. The Urban Institute looked at a couple retiring in 2010. They would have paid about $600,000 in taxes. But, they'll only collect $579,000 in Social Security benefits. Now if they had retired in 1990 they would have gotten more money than they contributed. That's because the first wave of Social Security recipients saw their benefits go up but taxes didn't go up so there was a shortfall.

It's tax day. You can't put it off any longer time to get that check to the government. And, if you owe the IRS money, you need to get your return in postmarked by midnight tonight. There are some freebies and discounts to make tax day just a little bit easier. One of them, free cookies from Great American Cookie. You could also get free popcorn at AMC theaters. Free massages. That sounds like a good one, that's from Hydro Massages. Some restaurant chain offering like a $10.40 meal at Bruger's Bagels. That, of course, is the take on the 1040 tax form. If you want to see all of them, and there's some really interesting ones, ones that I couldn't say this morning so you want to go look, CNNmoney.com. You'll know exactly what it is when you go to it.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

BALDWIN: Alison Kosik, thank you.

BERMAN: All right, 28 minutes after the hour right now. Ahead on STARTING POINT, two monster avalanches trapping hikers in Washington state's Cascade Mountains. One person dead. One person missing. We're going to have the latest on the dramatic search.

BALDWIN: And some bad press for the Biebs. We'll tell you about some controversial comments he made in Europe about the victim of the Holocaust. Hmm. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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