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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Fuel Barges Explode in Mobile, Alabama; How They Did It; Did Dagestan Militant Teach Tsarnaev?; Cleaning Up the Mess; Five Presidents in One Place; Search for Ricin Suspect

Aired April 25, 2013 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we have several new critical developments unfolding here in Boston in the Boston marathon bombing investigation. This is what you need to know this morning.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apparently used a remote control device similar to one use to operate toy car, remote control for a toy car. That could be a critical piece of evidence for the bombing investigation.

Also, we've learned that Anzor Tsarnaev, the father of the suspect bombers is cooperating with the FBI and is set to fly to the U.S. as early as tomorrow. We found out that the Russians not only warn the FBI about the possible radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, they also asked the CIA to check him out.

Neither agency felt there was enough hard information apparently to have done at the time. We begin our coverage with CNN's Miguel Marquez here in a windy and rainy Boston this morning. Good morning, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning there, John. Lots of important details out there that are coming to life as this massive investigation continues. I want to take you back to the beginning though. This is the finish line of the Boston marathon.

We're on Boylston Street. This is the site. It's always shocking to me how close this first site is to the actual finish line, the site of the first bombing now hallowed ground here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Investigators tell CNN and other news agencies at least one of the homemade bombs was triggered by remote control, possibly a crucial clue. Were the devices based on a blueprint in al Qaeda's English language magazine "Inspire" or similar to ones built in camps run by Dagestani militants, Abu Dujan whether he or Tamerlan Tsarnaev ever met, now one part of this massive worldwide investigation. This as Boston's dead are remembered.

ROBERT ROGERS, SEAN COLLIERS BROTHER: He was born to be a police officer and he lived out his dreams.

MARQUEZ: Thousands in attendance for memorial for MIT Police Officer Sean Collier. ROGERS: Officer Sean Collier, we love you.

MARQUEZ: In attendance, Vice President Biden who seemed to make news by suggesting that Tsarnaev brothers were self radicalized.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Why whether its al Qaeda central out of the Fatah or two twisted, perverted cowardly knockoff Jihadis.

MARQUEZ: Investigators saying nothing is ruled out as Boston takes another big step toward normal.

ANNA BURSAUS, BOSTON RESIDENT: I think life in Boston is very important that things move on because everyone has been very upset for the past week.

MARQUEZ: The urban flow returning to Boylston Street except at the locations of each bombing. Those places, like a world still on hold, places of reflection, places where emotions still flows. At the memorial to the victims, Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, stopped to pay her respects.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, one other thing I want to point out to you, Jeff Bowman, you may remember him as the guy in the wheelchair or the guy who lost both legs in the bombings here, there was a picture tweeted out of him at the hospital delivering a birthday present to another victim of the bombings.

Sydney Corcoran on her 18th birthday, it is absolutely amazing. Eight -- ten days on, life is moving on for these folks. If that doesn't make you feel a little better today, your heart is made of stone -- John.

BERMAN: Miguel, so many acts of kindness, so many acts of courage. Look at that picture right there. Truly is amazing. All right, Miguel Marquez for us on the streets of Boston this morning. Thanks so much.

We also are learning about what may be a critical piece of the puzzle in this investigation. A militant in Dagestan ran a bomb making training camp for foreign visitors. Russian Special Forces killed Abu Dujan in December.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev had a video of Abu Dujan on his YouTube Channel, but we don't know for sure if the two men ever met face to face during Tamerlan's visit. Nick Paton Walsh is following developments from the capital of Dagestan this morning. Good morning, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, first of all, I should point out a few hours ago we spoke to the mother of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a fairly lengthy interview. Two things standing out from that, she said the FBI approached their son in 2011 saying they are going to put him under surveillance because of what they thought was his turn towards radicalization. She also said to us that she believes the father will be traveling to the United States in the coming days and she will probably be staying behind here following his footsteps a little bit later. But above all in that interview we got a real sense of the distress that she's under.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV, MOTHER OF ALLEGED BOMBERS: You know mother, you have a mother, right? So just because you are not mother, you won't understand it. I am mother, loving mother of two kids. I don't know. This is really crazy. I can't even describe it. I don't know. I have no strength. I have nothing. I have no sleep. I am just like dead, like a dead person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: Really a woman struggling to reconcile her vision of her sons as angelic devout Muslims and that being put forward by U.S. officials that they were bombers trained perhaps abroad. Key part perhaps in the investigation may be here. Abu Dujan, that extremist militant you mentioned killed in December by Russian Special Forces.

A video of him linked to on the YouTube Channel of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We don't know if they ever met, but we do know Abu Dujan was running a training camp near here in which the making explosive out of homemade bombs is what is being taught.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): This is Dagestani militant Abu Dujan in a video that one of the alleged Boston bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, posted on his YouTube Channel. Russian Special Forces killed Abu Dujan in a shootout last December in Dagestan and we don't know if he ever met Tsarnaev.

But Dagestani police have revealed to CNN this small time militant ran training camps for bomb making but foreigners came, too. Police gave us images of Abu Dujan's group training in the woods. This one explains how to mix and prepare homemade explosives almost anywhere.

And the group's pictures suggest they learned to use a mobile phone as a detonator. Local police chief who helped hunt down Abu Dujan say the militant trained foreigners.

ASKHABALI SAURBEKOV, POLICE CHIEF, KIZIL-YURT (through translator): We do not have audio or visual confirmation, but we do have information confirming that Abu Dujan met with foreigners.

WALSH (on camera): What did the foreigners learn in the woods?

SAURBEKOV (through translator): I can't talk about the number of foreigners but they met to exchange their bandit experience. There are Dagestanis who have taken citizenship elsewhere who come here to meet in their historical motherland whose roots are here.

WALSH: Could that have included Americans?

SAURBEKOV (through translator): It's entirely possible, but I know there were Arabs and Turks among them, but whether there were Americans, I don't know.

WALSH: The police chief told us that Abu Dujan was often observed coming here to the heart to this Islamic mosque behind me, which itself denies any links to extremism. It is possible though that Tamerlan Tsarnaev last year also prayed here.

SAURBEKOV (through translator): Of course, the culture of mosques is their mosque where they all go. Technological work gives us operational information that Abu Dujan went there, met people, and agitated. Not once but many times.

WALSH: There are reports that Dujan was observed at the mosque and he was observed meeting Tsarnaev. Do you know this?

SAURBEKOV (through translator): I really can't answer this for different reasons, I can't answer. You understand me?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now, the mother did say to me that Tamerlan Tsarnaev did attend the culture of mosque a few moments ago, but I didn't see anything significant. There is no confirmation that the two men met but the pieces are overlapping.

They were here at the same time and probably had to have some source of training that wasn't on the internet and Abu Dujan was running camps in the forest. At this point though, there is no confirmation the two men had direct contact, I should point out.

BERMAN: You say those overlapping pieces simply fascinating and I'm sure investigators here and in Russia will want to look into that. Nick Paton Walsh for us this morning in Dagestan. Thank you so much. Let's go back to Zoraida in New York.

SAMBOLIN: Back now to our breaking news, John. Two barges loaded with gasoline exploded last night. Look at that. This is Mobile Bay, Alabama. At least three people hospitalized in critical condition.

A reporter Kali (inaudible) of our affiliate WEAR joins us live in Mobile Bay. Kali, what can you tell us from where you are?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning to you. The view behind me is a little darkened and blacked out at this point. That's because investigators believe the flames are out. Now, they are not going to investigate until the sun comes up. They don't want to take the chance of anyone else getting injured.

If you look behind me, that area that you can see, there are some silos over there. That darkened area, that's where the two ships are. Those ships are carrying well gas. That is gas without additives. That's something you would find at your regular gas station. They believe crews with oil recovery were working to clean out the tanks when these explosions happened. People talking about the sky lighting up orange and red and various different colors and it sounded like multiple explosions.

We now know about seven explosions, three people were sent to the hospital with burn injuries, still listed in critical condition.

SAMBOLIN: Kali, as we understand it, they could actually see -- or actually hear this 20 miles away. Could they see the burning flames as well?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They could see them earlier. Now there is nothing that you can see from this far away. They don't believe that the boat is still either barge or still on fire, but they're not entirely sure. They're going to wait a little bit more, just a waiting game at this time.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Kali (inaudible) from our affiliate WEAR. Thank you for being there this morning. We appreciate that.

Happening now, cleaning up the mess after two tornadoes hit New Orleans. It damaged several homes in that area. Take a look at the clean up. They were part of a series of powerful and intense storms that battered the region, flooding streets, knocking out power to some 30,000 customers in Southeast Louisiana.

Jennifer Delgado is monitoring all of this as well as the flooding in the Midwest. She is live in the Severe Weather Center. What's going on?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Zoraida. Of course, we're still following the flooding as well as the tornado that touched down in New Orleans. But we start off with the flooding right now. Still many areas are at threat for major flooding, areas in Illinois as well as into Missouri, especially right along the Mississippi River.

We focus on the Cape Gerardo area because we are expecting it crest tomorrow morning at 42 feet. That level, we're talking potentially homes are going to be threatened. We're talking people could be evacuated and even in Peoria, still at major flooding.

Now on the radar right now, you're looking at some light rain moving through Chicago. The good news is it is just that light stuff. It's nothing that's going to be significant. The area up towards the north we're really concerned about.

Let's go to some video coming out of Fargo, North Dakota, where they are sandbagging and preparation for temperatures to climb into the 70s. Well, you're thinking warm temperatures. That sounds good. You're talking about an incredible amount of snow pack, potentially record flooding.

It could rise for the Red River by 20 feet by early next week. Now as I take you back over to our graphic, I want to show you very quickly for today, still very cold in the northern plains. So this is the last day before that big warm up comes and affects the Red River. Zoraida, back over to you.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Jennifer Delgado, live, thank you.

So it should be quite a sight this morning, five living U.S. presidents standing side by side for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas. These days 43 is preoccupied with being a brand new grandfather and a painter. He said the new library is all about laying out the fact and he tells our John King he doesn't feel any need to defend himself or his presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I know this, that Laura and I gave the presidency eight years of our life. We gave it our all. Made the best judgment calls I could. I didn't compromise my principles and I'm a content man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And you can stay with CNN in the 8:00 hour of "STARTING POINT." Former first lady Laura Bush takes our John King on the tour of the new Bush Presidential Library.

New information this morning in the case of these letters tainted with ricin. Why the FBI is now focusing on a former politician and a martial arts studio. It's a very, very bizarre story. EARLY START back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning.

While you were sleeping, there have been several new developments unfolding in the Boston marathon bombing investigation. The father of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, he will fly to the United States as early as tomorrow for questioning. He is said to be cooperating with the FBI.

We've also learned from the congressman on the House Intelligence Committee that suspected bomber used a remote control for a toy car to detonate the explosives at a marathon finish line.

Also new this morning, words the Russians not only warned the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, they also asked the CIA to check him out. But neither agency believed there was enough concrete information to move on.

So, missed chances, missed signals -- those are the subject of a lot of questions today on Capitol Hill and here in Boston -- Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you, John.

And we're following new developments in the investigation of the ricin tainted letters sent to President Obama and others on Capitol Hill. The FBI's focus has now shifted. They're now searching the site of a former martial arts studio in Tupelo, Mississippi, and the home of a former politician who was an instructor there.

Victor Blackwell is following all of these developments for us.

Victor, this is pretty bizarre.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's bizarre. And we got one other note after those searches, there was one search late yesterday. This is from the attorney for that taekwondo/politician, taekwondo instructor/politician, that there was a search of his car. The FBI wanted to get into that car and process it, all in the effort to find out who tried to poison President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL (voice-over): The home of a former Republican candidate for the Mississippi statehouse is involved in a federal investigation into who sent letters tainted with ricin to President Obama, a Mississippi senator and a county judge.

Federal agents in full body hazmat suits searched his home on Tuesday. His attorney said it was related to the ricin investigation.

In a YouTube video posted this week, the former candidate J. Everett Dutschke talked about the search.

J. EVERETT DUTSCHKE, FORMER POLITICIAN AND MARTIAL ARTS INSTRUCTOR: I met with the FBI. I consented to a paper saying go ahead and search the house.

BLACKWELL: On Wednesday, agents spent several hours searching a taekwondo studio he Dutschke had rented until January. It's not known if anything was found. The studio shut down after Dutschke was arrested on child molestation charges. His attorney says he is now free on bond.

The FBI has not filed any new charges in the ricin investigation and Dutschke has not been named as a suspect. The charges against the celebrity impersonator Kevin Curtis have been dropped.

DUTSCHKE: During Kevin Curtis, the ricin mailer, during his pretrial hearing, his attorney accused me of being the one that sent out the ricin letters instead of him.

BLACKWELL: His attorney told CNN Dutschke had nothing to do with the letters. But earlier, Curtis told CNN he still believes he'd been set up.

KEVIN CURTIS, IMPERSONATOR: I knew it had to be or they had the wrong person.

DUTSCHKE: I don't have anything at all to do with this. I don't hardly know the guy. In fact, we've only met on two occasions.

BLACKWELL: Curtis said he had badmouthed him for years and is now implicating him in a plot to poison the president.

CURTIS: That's serious. That's when someone says, we want him gone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKELL: Now, the FBI has not said anything about what they found during the search of the house, the search of the taekwondo studio or this car now. But we know this story is shifting from that singing celebrity-impersonating political activist now, to a taekwondo/insurance professional who is also a former politician. Very bizarre -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It is. Tough to kind of keep track of the story as it continues and developing. Glad to have you there, Victor Blackwell. Thank you.

And coming up, a disturbing fight at a high school. This is not two students, folks. Look at this video. It is a student and her math teacher in a brawl. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-four minutes past the hour. Welcome back. Good morning.

Christine Romans is minding our business.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

U.S. stock futures are mixed this morning. Pulling a little bit higher but markets in Europe and Asia are mixed after some big headlines overseas. In Spain, the jobless rate hit a record high, 27.1 percent. Compare that to the 17 countries in the eurozone, 12 percent. The U.S., 7.6 percent.

Also we found out today the U.K. economy grew ever so slightly in the first quarter, up just 0.3 percent. So, no triple-dip recession for the U.K. but Europe's economies are essentially stalled as governments cut spending and raise taxes austerity. A big week to talk about austerity in Europe this week.

All right. Here in this country, it looks as though home price increases are slowing a bit in the first quarter. Zillow says home prices ticked up 0.5 percent in the first quarter. That's compared to the fourth quarter of last year.

It's still up significantly from this time last year, though. In March, prices rose for the 16th month in a row. So, home prices are rising but they're not rising as quickly as they had been.

There's a lot of hope for a strong spring selling season. Inventories are low. People are not putting their homes on the market. They need better prices.

SAMBOLIN: Maybe they're waiting it out a little bit.

ROMANS: Sellers are really looking carefully at this trend. They want to see robust price increases. If you live in these places, you saw home values actually slip. I'm going to rattle off some towns -- New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Charlotte.

Prices there actually declined from the fourth quarter of last year.

SAMBOLIN: I wonder why.

ROMANS: you know, some of those places didn't see their run-up that we saw and the bursting of the bubble that we saw. So economists are telling me it's a normalizing of prices so they don't get too concerned about it.

But in New York and Chicago in particular, two markets I watch very closely, a little bit of a softening of home prices.

SAMBOLIN: All right. What is the one thing we need to know about our money?

ROMANS: You know, this low interest rates we've been seeing cut both ways. It's helping the housing market, supporting the housing market but it's hurting savers. A new survey from Wells Fargo finds 35 percent of retirees, they think they'll outlive their savings, 46 percent of non-retirees think the same thing. Isn't that interesting?

SAMBOLIN: It is interesting.

ROMANS: Those really low interest rates great for home buyers, horrible for people who are in retirement who wanted to see a little bit more --

SAMBOLIN: Two sides to a story.

ROMANS: So true.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you so much, Christine. It is 27 minutes past the hour.

President Obama heads to Texas for a memorial service for victims of that fertilizer explosion as investigators now meticulous comb through all of the destruction. They are searching for whatever clues they can find. One compared it to a giant jigsaw puzzle. We are live in Texas, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)