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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Tsarnaev Parents Tearfully Speak Out; Boston Remembers; Interview with Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Search For Ricin Suspect; Tour of the Bush Library

Aired April 25, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our STARTING POINT this morning. We are following major new developments in the Boston marathon bombing case.

The parents of the two suspects say the U.S. is now accusing them of being terrorists. Speaking out in Dagestan in just the past two hours. The mother of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev claims her family is not being allowed to see their surviving son.

CNN's Nic Robertson was at the Tsarnaevs emotional news conference that ended minutes ago. The father is traveling to the U.S., he could arrive tomorrow. And he told Nic that he will try to speak with his son Dzhokhar.

Nic joins us now on the phone.

What else can you tell us, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We know that Dzhokhar is too sick to be fed solid food in the moment. They said he's being fed by a tube. They said they're getting information from Dzhokhar's lawyers. They told (ph) them regularly.

They say also Dzhokhar is not yet (INAUDIBLE) we have understood until now, the parents believe Dzhokhar has not been officially questioned yet, they say this is according to Dzhokhar's lawyers who they are talking with. They described conversations with the FBI saying that the FBI officials do not (INAUDIBLE) questioned yesterday. They say the FBI doesn't seem to have an indication of a lead, that they are being -- that they are asking them wide-ranging questions, but they haven't suggested to the parents a sort of avenue that they are following up in particular.

But they did want to know who had been meeting with, where they had been going to pray, if they had met with people with connections to rebels here in the country. But the parents both -- the mother in particular, seem to be in complete denial that their sons were involved in the bombings. And I'm suggesting complications, mix-ups and videos that they have been shown.

One point, they thought Tamerlan, the elder son had been alive and then they saw he was dead and they can't understand it. So emotional, confused and holding on to the conspiracy theories and denying really their sons were involved. BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to Nic Robertson on the phone with us this morning from Dagestan. Nic also was telling us that, again, they had repeated contact, the parents have, with the lawyers. That is very interesting.

Nic also said that it does not appear the suspect's mother will be coming here, at least for a while.

Earlier, he did talk to our Nic Paton Walsh about the mysterious friend named Misha who she says influenced her son Tamerlan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV, BOMBING SUSPECTS' MOTHER: Misha, everybody is talking about Misha. I don't know -- Misha, yes. When Misha visited was kind of -- he just opened our eyes, you know, wide about Islam. He was really -- he's devoted and he's a very good, very nice man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: With new information we reported a while ago, the brothers may have used a remote control to detonate the bomb, the focus turns to how the bombs were constructed.

Investigators want to know if the Tsarnaev brothers got help from militants in Dagestan.

CNN's Miguel Marquez in here, in Boston with me right now this morning with the latest.

Good morning, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of important questions out there, John. Good morning. I want to take you back to the beginning, where all of us begins, to the finish line of the Boston marathon. And the thing that's really incredible to me is just how close the finish line is to where the first explosion happened on Boylston Street here, now reopen, runners up and down here, also hallowed ground.

(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 militant Abu Dujan? Whether he or Tamerlan Tsarnaev ever met now one part of this massive worldwide investigation.

("TAPS" PLAYS)

MARQUEZ: This as Boston's dead are remembered.

ROBERT ROGERS, SEAN COLLIER'S BROTHER: He was born to be a police officer and he lived out his dreams. MARQUEZ: Thousands in attendance for a 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 the Tsarnaev brothers were self radicalized.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why? Whether it's al Qaeda central out of the Fatah, or two twisted, perverted, cowardly, knock-off jihadis?

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

ANNA BURSAUS, BOSTON PRESIDENT: I think for life in Boston, it's very important that things move on because everyone's been very much -- very upset for the past week.

MARQUEZ: The urban flow returning to Boylston Street, except at the location of each bombing.

Those places, like a world still on hold. Those places of reflection, places where emotions still flow.

And at the memorial to the victims, Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, stopped to pay her respects.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Another sign of just how strong Boston is, this picture tweeted overnight, Jeff Bauman, the guy who had both legs taken off by one of those bombs, he is delivering an 18th birthday present to another bombing victim, Sydney Corcoran, it is great to see, great to be here on Boylston Street and we hopeful that this investigation will be done soon and understand a lot more.

Certainly here folks in Boston certainly want to know, John. Back to you.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Miguel. Love seeing pictures like that. Amazing examples of courage and compassion everywhere you look in the city. Thanks, Miguel.

And there is a new development in the Boston bombing to tell you about this morning. Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte want to know if U.S. intelligence officials had sufficient information that could have prevented the deadly attack. They sent a letter to the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee requesting an investigative hearing into this matter.

Let's turn now to Congressman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, and chairman of the House National Security Subcommittee. He's been briefed on the marathon bombing.

Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Congressman. Let me ask you about the news from Senators McCain and Ayotte, asking for a Senate investigation into the intelligence here. Do you think that's a good idea?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, of course, there will be a series of hearings. We are different in United States of America. We look at these things in an open and transparent way in order to take them better. So, of course, that's justified and I'm sure the first of a series of hearings that will happen regarding this incident.

BERMAN: What you can tell me about the information we are getting overnight, not just the FBI was informed or questions about Tamerlan Tsarnaev by the Russian intelligence service in 2011, but the Russians also reached out to the CIA about this young man.

What can you tell us about that?

CHAFFETZ: Well, the idea that the Russians reached out to us is obviously encouraging. It's not something that happens every day, and it needs to be taken very seriously. So, we've got to learn more about that, the idea that they share information perhaps with a couple of different agencies, seems to make sense.

The question is, what do we do with it? Was this there this stove piping? I think that's still an issue that needs to be explored, because it's not only the FBI, CIA, but you also have Homeland Security. We have 240,000 people engaged at the Department of Homeland Security and they are very involved in a lot of this, and that portion still needs to be explained.

We did get some contradictory testimony from Secretary Napolitano, that again, as this is plays out, we're still only days into it. We'll have to look into it.

BERMAN: That's right. Whether or not he was pinged when he left the country to return to Dagestan.

Congressman Chaffetz, let me ask you about this figure, Misha that we keep hearing about lately, that somehow relatives of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, says that this fellow Misha helped to radicalize them. Is he a name? Is that something that's coming up in your intelligence briefings?

CHAFFETZ: Well, it certainly is on CNN. And, often times, it's the news media who gets out ahead of these things. It's been able to expose them swifter.

You know, you don't want investigative agencies out there blurting this thing until they fully investigated it.

So, news to me, but, you know, perhaps very good reporting by CNN and others.

BERMAN: We appreciate that. Thank you, Congressman.

What can you tell us, finally, about what you're learning about where these men may or may not have been radicalized? Is the working theory still that they were self-radicalized by watching videos in the U.S.?

CHAFFETZ: I think it stretches the imagination to suggest that these -- particularly the younger one just went to high school and watched videos and came to the point where they placed these bombs that killed people, maimed hundreds. That stretches the imagination.

I -- I tend to think that there may be bigger issue behind this. Certainly being explored by the authorities, and what bothers me, so swiftly, authorities said, oh, there's no other connection, there is no other connection. I've got to think that our starting point should be there probably is a connection, does this lead broader, are there more people that have been radicalized? And then work backwards from there?

BERMAN: I should say, Congressman, you're holding an unrelated hearing today. Can you tell us about that?

CHAFFETZ: Yes, we are concerned about the amount of ammunition that Homeland Security is purchasing. They can purchase up to 1.1 billion rounds over the next five years. That's an awful lot of ammunition for 70,000 people who carry guns in the Department of Homeland security.

We'll dive a little deeper into that, that ammunition that is being purchased by the tens of millions of rounds. That seems a little bit odd to us.

BERMAN: All right. We look forward to speaking about that issue going forward. Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, thank you so much for joining us today, really appreciate.

We're also following developing news out of Mobile, Alabama. Christine Romans back in New York with that and other top stories.

Good morning, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDE NT: Good morning, John.

We're following this developing story in Alabama. Massive flames on two fuel barges dying down. This is all happening in Mobile Bay, Alabama. The barges said to be loaded with gasoline, blew up last night.

And one point, the fire so intense, firefighters set up a one-mile safety radius, unable to get near the flames. Three people rushed to the hospital in critical condition, and now investigators have a first look at the damage. All of this happening at the same facility where the crippled Carnival Triumph is docked. Some 500 Carnival employees evacuated from the triumph. The cruise ship under repair there after an engine fire left it adrift at sea with more than 4,000 people on board. That was back in February.

Happening now, we're following some extreme weather around the country. Cleanup under way in New Orleans. A pair of back-to-back tornadoes. The storms ripping through the Kenner neighborhood, damaging homes, knocking out powers for 30,000 customers. Parts of the drenched Midwest could see relief today while other areas are bracing for more flooding.

Jennifer Delgado has more for us. Good morning.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. You're right.

They are going to see a break in the rainfall. Things drying out, but it is still going to take a while before we see rivers receding across parts of the Midwest. That includes the Illinois River, as well as the Mississippi River, we talk about two areas, including Peoria, Illinois, where flood stage ten feet above where it should be.

Let's go to video to show you aerial footage what it looks like across the region. You can see homes and businesses are flooded, as well as roadways are impassable. And it looks like many of these areas, it's going to stay at moderate levels through early next week.

As I take you back over to our graphic, another area we're following this is right along the Mississippi River, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. We expect it to crest tomorrow. And we're already hearing reports that residents could be evacuated, 100,000 acres already flooded and roads are impassable, and that's because we expect it to crest tomorrow at 42 feet morning.

Now, Christine, the good news, the rain is not going to be in the forecast today. So, that's the good news. We will have dry conditions including parts of the Northern Plains where they are waiting for snow melt, that happens this weekend.

Let's send it back over to you.

ROMANS: All right. Jennifer Delgado -- thank you, Jennifer.

In just a few hours, five U.S. presidents will gather for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The ceremonies moneys begin at 11:00 a.m. Eastern in Dallas. The nation's 43rd president is these days with being a new grandfather and an aspiring painter. He tells us our John King the new library is to show visitors what it's like to be the leader of the free world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The museum gives people an opportunity to hear the different points of view I got on these particular issues, the purpose of which is not to try to defend a policy, the purpose of which is try to show people what it's like to be the president and how you make decisions. History will ultimately judge the decisions that were made for Iraq and I'm not going to be around to see the final verdict.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're not going to be around. It's an interesting way to put it. You --

BUSH: In other words, I'll be dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: The nation does seem to be looking more favorably on the Bush presidency. According to a CNN/ORC poll, 68 percent of people considered his two terms a failure in early 2009. Now that numbers has fallen to 55 percent. In the next half hour of STARTING POINT, former First Lady Laura Bush was going to take our John King will take you on a tour of the new Bush presidential library.

And then we'll be joined by a man who knows the former president and the first lady better than most, Ed Gillespie, former counselor to George W. Bush.

Ahead on STARTING POINT: police search a new home in connection to those ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and other officials. Why is the focus on the former politician?

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT.

New developments in the investigation of those ricin-tainted letters sent to President Obama and other officials. The FBIs focus has now shifted. They're searching the site of a former martial arts studio in Tupelo, Mississippi, and the home of a former politician who was an instructor at that martial arts studio. Victor Blackwell is following developments for us live in Tupelo this morning. Victor, have investigators found anything yet?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're still searching. And we're working to get those answers. You mentioned those two new searches, but also, a new person that they have interviewed. The wife of that former politician, that's from the attorney for that politician. We're told that they both are cooperating with this investigation to try 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 now 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, Jay Everett Dutschke, talked about the search.

JAY EVERETT DUTSCHKE, FORMER POLITICIAN & MARTIAL ARTS INSTRUCTOR: I met with the FBI. I consented to search sign a piece of paper saying, go ahead and search the house.

BLACKWELL: On Wednesday, agents spent several hours searching a tae kwon do studio Dutschke 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 celebrity impersonator, Kevin Curtis, have been dropped.

DUTSCHKE: During Kevin Curtis, the ricin (INAUDIBLE), 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 Deutschke had nothing to do with the letters. But earlier, Curtis told CNN he still believed he'd been set up.

PAUL KEVIN CURTIS, FORMER RICIN SUSPECT: I knew it had to be or they just 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 says Dutschke has bad mouthed them 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)

BLACKWELL (on-camera): Dutschke's attorneys tells us that, yesterday, after a bolo alert, be on the lookout for Dutschke's vehicle was issued by the FBI, that he found that out, took the vehicle to the FBI, which was processed in addition to the home search and the former business search. His interview, the interview with his wife, again, to find out who tried to poison those three elected officials -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Victor Blackwell, thanks, Victor.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, it's all about the Benjamins and their new look. Yes. The handy (ph) got a new look. The design for the $100 bill, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: "Minding Your Business" this morning, stock futures are higher. Earnings reports rolling in from companies. Markets overseas are mixed.

A new report this morning shows the UK narrowly avoiding a triple-dip recession as the economy grew slightly last quarter. We're going to get a first look at U.S. GDP numbers tomorrow, and they're expected to be around three percent growth.

Home price increases are slowing a bit in this country. Zillow says home values ticked up just 0.5 percent in the first quarter, compared to the fourth quarter of last year. But it's still up significantly from this time last year. And in March, prices rose for the 16th month in a row. But if you live in these places, you saw home values slip in the first quarter. That's right. Chicago, lost about a percent, Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, as they all real estate, is local, of course. And those spots were seeing a little softening in prices.

There's a lot of hope for a strong spring selling season in real estate. Inventories are very low. People need better prices to put their homes on the market.

High rollers, meet your new best friend. For only the fourth time in history, the U.S. will get a new $100 bill. It should be in circulation by October. The Federal Reserve says the redesign has amped up security features to deter counterfeiters ,including a 3D ribbon and images that change color when the bill is tilted.

All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, we have brand new images giving us a first look at the Bush library. This as John King talks with former first lady, Laura Bush, about her husband's legacy and his leadership after September 11th. We are live this morning in Dallas.

Plus, we'll get reaction from the president's former counselor, Ed Gillespie. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Two and a half hours from now, there will be quite a site on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Five U.S. presidents, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George Bush Junior and Senior will all be on hand for the dedication of the new George W. Bush Presidential Library.

CNNs John King live from Dallas this morning. And, John, I understand you got a personal tour from a very special tour guide.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I sure did, Christine. And good morning to you. It's a very impressive library here whether you agree or disagree with the presidency of George W. Bush. It's interesting, Christine, I sat down with both Bushs, George W. and Laura Bush.

He said he knows opening this museum will re-stir the Iraq debate, re- stir and the Katrina debate. He says, "I am a content man," those are his words. And that history will ultimately make the judgment about his legacy. After that joint interview, Laura Bush, the former first lady did take me on a personal tour of the library.

What is striking when you walk through this library is you begin with the presidency, George W. Bush, thought he would have, and then how all of it changed on that crisp September morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: It's the turning point. This part of the library, the very beginning part, are the issues that we thought we'd be spending all of our time on. This is the state dinner with Mexico, we thought, of course, that our international relationships with Central and South America would be the ones we would focus on the most and then, of course, we turn the corner here, and it's September 11th.