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CNN NEWSROOM

New Information On Benghazi Attack; U.S. Official: Israel Attacked Syria; Showdown in South Carolina; Soccer Ref Dies After Punch; Stars Unite To Fight Hunger; Inside A Colorado Grow Facility

Aired May 6, 2013 - 14:29   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And just into us here at CNN, we're getting new information about last fall's deadly attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In an interview with congressional investigators, the former top diplomat in Libya expressed concern that more could have been done by the military. Let's go straight to the Hill, to chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. And, I know, Dana, you sat down with Congressman Darrell Issa. What did he say?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's the chairman of the Oversight Committee. He's spearheading this investigation into what happened and why with regard to Benghazi for a long time. As you well know, Republicans for the most part have not let this go since September of last year because they have insisted all along that in the words of John McCain this is a cover-up.

Our Jake Tapper reported first yesterday about Greg Hicks who was a chief of mission in Benghazi who was going to be a star witness in this Wednesday's hearing. We're talking about the fact that he believed it was a terror attack from the very beginning. I asked Chairman Issa about that and really why does it even matter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Gregory Hicks, who was the highest ranking diplomat in Libya at the moment that the ambassador was assassinated, is going to testify that from the get-go he knew this was a terrorist attack and communicated that to the White House, to the State Department, to anyone that would listen before, during and after.

BASH: And what does that tell you? Why does that matter?

ISSA: Well, I think your question of why does it matter because Secretary Clinton seems to want to say it doesn't matter what the cause of it was. It does. Because just a few days later, Ambassador Rice said on national TV opposite the Libyan president that it in fact was not a terrorist attack. That insulted the Libyans and probably led to the FBI getting in later, not sooner.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: And, Brooke, what he's talking about there is testimony that hicks gave saying that he is sure based on his opinion being in the region for so long that it is because the Libyan leader felt insulted by Susan Rice contradicting her on national television saying it was just a protest, wasn't a terror attack that that is the reason why the Libyans were so reluctant to have the FBI come in and do the investigating that the U.S. really needs to do.

There is that and also some more testimony that he's going to give, as you mentioned, about the military and whether or why they didn't get in quicker to deal with this attack. We'll have more of that later on and, of course, we're going to hear a lot more on the days up to Wednesday's hearing.

BALDWIN: Yes, we will be watching for your reporting on those hearings. Dana Bash, thank you so much, on Capitol Hill for us.

CNN has now learned that 42 Syrian soldiers died in the Israeli air strikes. Now, Israel has not yet claimed responsibility here and doesn't -- let's not expect them to either. But a U.S. official confirms to CNN, yes, what you're seeing right there, that was done by the Israelis.

Again, 42 Syrian soldiers killed. Now, these attacks came in two waves, the first late last week, the second, early Sunday morning. The targets, primarily missile storage sites near the capital of Damascus, or so we're told. Why those sites? We're going to talk about that here in a moment.

But first, I want you to listen to a top Syrian official. He is talking payback as in retaliation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAISAL AL MEKDAD, SYRIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: Declaration of war. This is not something that is strange, but we dealt with this on several occasions. And we retaliated the way we want and the retaliation was always painful to Israel. And they will suffer again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Israel tanks at the Syrian border were placed on alert, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left the country on a pre-planned visit to China so maybe that seems to me doesn't appear like he's too worried.

Joining us now from Washington is CNN's Hala Gorani. And Hala, what would be the reason for Israel to specifically target these rocket storage sites in Syria?

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reason is to target arms potentially on their way to Hezbollah, the militant group in Southern Lebanon. This is what Israel at this stage considers to be the biggest threat to its security. Its deployed its iron dome system in the northern part of the country. Israel and Hezbollah were at war for more than one month in 2006. Iran, Syria, are supporters of this militant group. So targeting these sites in Syria would be a way for Israel to try to halt some of these weapons shipments before they make it to Lebanon, Brook.

But what is interesting, though, is that through one of the confidants, one of the confidants and people close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel radio essentially that essentially Israel is trying to assure the Assad regime that it is not really aiming at destabilizing it. But aiming some of those weapon shipments and it's not publicly acknowledge that it carried out these strikes perhaps allowing the Assad regime to save some face.

BALDWIN: But what about this vow of retaliation we heard from Syria's deputy foreign minister vowing that, but you know, as we said, Prime Minister Netanyahu, he went on with his trip to China. Do the Israelis believe that Assad is too weakened by civil war to cause them even much trouble?

GORANI: There doesn't seem to be sort of concern of an imminent military retaliatory strike by Syria on Israel. There are some precautionary measures on the Israeli side of the border right now as I mentioned with the iron dome system. But that doesn't seem to be the imminent concern for Israel.

As you mentioned, the prime minister of Israel continued on with a trip to China. So business as usual, politically there in terms of Israeli -- the Israeli leadership. But one thing I want to bring up is some of the claims that were made by the U.N. Human Rights Investigator Karla Del Ponte about the potential use of chemical weapons.

This has been an extraordinary 24 hours, Brooke, where you have one official from the U.N. saying we believe rebels have used chemical weapons and then the next day, the U.N. issuing a statement saying not so fast. So this is a very multilayered story here with many different claims of responsibility, of attack, of counterattack.

BALDWIN: Hala Gorani, thank you.

We are hours away from a political showdown in South Carolina. Two big names facing off for this one particular seat here for the House of Representatives, you have Stephen Colbert's sister looking for a huge upset and Mark Sanford, looking for a little political redemption. Where will they land? That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We have the sister of a pretty big name comedian versus a former governor once tarnished by a sex scandal, the political showdown in South Carolina down to the wire. Republican Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch are scrambling to rally support before tomorrow's special election, the prize, a seat in Congress.

Sanford has repeatedly tried to link his opponent to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. He even debated a cardboard picture of Pelosi calling her a stand-in for Colbert Busch. Here they were.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SANFORD, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, SOUTH CAROLINA: Where do you stand on NRLB? Let me say that again, Nancy. Where do you stand on NRLB because, again, if you look at what took place, they would have, again, eliminated the good news that came with Boeing? She's not going to answer that one. I will say this --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: OK, then you have Democratic Political Action Committee ads -- running these ads in the district targeting female voters, specifically reminding them of Sanford's affair. Chief political analyst Gloria Borger is in Washington. And Gloria --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's crazy.

BALDWIN: I know. It's crazy. I can't help but giggle at the cardboard cut out. Mark Sanford, so he's been able to close all these pretty gaps in the last couple of weeks. Does that surprise you?

BORGER: In a way, it doesn't. The reason it doesn't is I went back and looked at Mitt Romney's numbers in this particular district, the first district. Mitt Romney, who, as you recall, lost the election, won with 58 percent in this district. It is a very conservative place.

And I think there are going to be lots of women, gender gap issues, for Mark Sanford obviously and we can all recall how he left the state when he was governor to go hike the Appalachian Trail, he told us. His mistress has been seen with him on the campaign trail.

So if you set aside the gender issues, this is a very conservative district. And he's starting to talk about issues like, you know, fiscal conservatism, the gun issue, et cetera. So if he can sort of change the topic a little bit, you can see that he's beginning to get some traction out of that.

BALDWIN: But given, we'll call it the baggage, this unusual mix of challenges, baggage. You mentioned the fact he has brought this -- they're not married yet, his fiancee?

BORGER: No.

BALDWIN: Whatever it is. We have seen her. We have seen the public pictures. Given as you said in a pretty conservative district, that said, do you think the baggage is going to make a big difference?

BORGER: Look, I think it does make a difference because otherwise, this race would not be close. I mean, if he didn't have the baggage he had, it would -- you know, this race would be -- he would be pulling away. But he's got the baggage and Elizabeth Colbert Busch as a Democrat carries some baggage as well.

He's lost the money from the national Republicans. They're not funding him. He's got a little bit of the underdog fight in him and he's also, don't forget, a experienced politician who knows how to handle these things -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We'll see how it goes tomorrow. Gloria Borger, thank you very much.

BORGER: Sure.

BALDWIN: Now, this family is crushed. The soccer referee dies days after getting punched by a player.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a lot of pain that this kid caused my whole family, especially my sisters and I. My younger sister, she's just like in shock. She can't believe it. She's still, you know -- she doesn't think this is going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Incredibly emotional for this family. You will hear more from the referee's daughter as she tells the story and talks about possible forgiveness next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Charges could be upgraded for a Utah teenager accused of punching a soccer referee. The ref, 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo, he died Saturday after a week in a coma. The 17-year-old goalie who allegedly hit him is now in juvenile custody and charged with aggravated assault.

According to police, this goalie hit Portillo in the face after getting yellow carded during the match. The injury first didn't quite appear as serious, but Portillo's daughter tells CNN that her father's condition rapidly worsened at the hospital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHANA PORTILLO, DAUGHTER OF SOCCER REFEREE: I saw my dad and I got close and I grabbed his hand. He pressed my hand really hard. I saw him. I was, like, Daddy, you're going to be OK. And he said, he looked at me, and he went like this. He started crying like, no. After that, he started going into shock. They pulled me out of the room, and that's the last time I saw my dad conscious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: How awful. Whatever happens to the young man who allegedly caused this loss and pain, this daughter is already thinking about the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PORTILLO: I will forgive this kid because it is only in god's hands, you know, for him to have his punishment, not in mine, but right now it is too soon for me to forgive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Her father's funeral is set for Wednesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Hollywood and high fashion joining forces. You have actress Halle Berry, designer Michael Kors, they are teaming up with the U.N. World Food Program to fight global hunger, all to impact your world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HALLE BERRY, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: I'm Halle Berry.

MICHAEL KORS, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: I'm Michael Kors. As a designer, I'm fortunate enough to do what I love. There is not even a question that part of that equation is that you have to give back. This is a solvable problem. The food is there. You can change someone's life immediately. With the world food program, we're talking about what I've been doing in my backyard but globally.

BERRY: I care so much about women and children. We're finding that we do have a voice and we do have a way to help each other. It is so important what happens to the baby while they're in utero. Good nutrition during that time period is fundamental. They're helping to educate women about that fact.

KORS: The problem with hunger is often getting the food to the people who need it the most. The U.N. and World Food Programme, they can go anywhere. They have the manpower and we have the food.

BERRY: We can work together and we really can make a difference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Coming up, an interview you do not want to miss. We will speak live with the man driving the limousine that burst into flames over the weekend, killed a bride, and several of her friends here. You will hear what he saw from the very beginning. What he heard, and what he thinks might have caused the tragedy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Very soon it will be legal in Colorado to not only buy pot for medicinal uses, but personal use as well. CNN's Jim Spellman talks to the owner of a state of the art grow facility who says business isn't quite booming, at least not just yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like many small businessmen, Shaun Gindi has employees, a warehouse, retail stores and his fair share of headaches.

SHAUN GINDI, COMPASSIONATE PAIN MANAGEMENT: I make this business work paycheck to paycheck.

SPELLMAN: But his product is anything but usual. Gindi grows and sells marijuana.

GINDI: This is a flower room looks like.

SPELLMAN: He grows the cannabis in this warehouse in Denver and has two medical dispensaries in the suburbs.

GINDI: I have about 20 people working for me. They do anything from growers to trimming to working as caregivers in the stores.

SPELLMAN: So far, his business has been limited to medical marijuana, selling only to Colorado residents with a doctor's recommendation and state-issued red card. But last year, voters passed amendment 64 legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

The state is still working out regulations ahead of January 2014 when recreational marijuana stores are expected to open. Dispensaries like Gindi's are expected to be able to convert and sell to anyone over 21, but there are several catches.

(on camera): This is still against federal law. That must create an unbelievable amount of stress for you.

GINDI: Yes, it does. I'm talking to you right now. There is a voice in the back of my head that, there is an innate nervousness to being in this business.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): A bill in Congress would bar the federal government from going after people in states that have legalized marijuana, but it is unclear if the bill has a chance of becoming law.

(on camera): Are you afraid that all that you've built here will be taken away from you?

GINDI: Yes. I can't even keep my face straight saying that. That's such a real fear.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Nate Laptegaard runs the warehouse.

(on camera): I want to learn more about exactly how you grow marijuana on essentially an indoor farm. Where does it start?

NATE LAPTEGAARD, COMPASSIONATE PAIN MANAGEMENT: It starts in the lab.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): With cuttings known as clones.

LAPTEGAARD: Get a little gel on there.

SPELLMAN: That go into these tanks for about two weeks then to this room for about five weeks under simulated sunlight in a CO2 rich environment.

(on camera): Each of these plants gets in its own bar code? LAPTEGAARD: That's right. Every single plant when it comes out of the corner, once it gets into here it's coded individually. We're able to trace that plant from this stage all the way to the end product.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Then the light is cut back, to simulate the shorter days of autumn triggering the plants to flower and finally it's off to be trimmed and dried. The entire process is regulated by the state.

After a criminal background check employees are issued a Colorado marijuana worker I.D. card. Every time a plant is moved, the employee logs it using this software. A fingerprint scanner tracks the employees at every turn.

LAPTEGAARD: There's no scar face here. There's no AK-47s, none of that stuff. We have inspectors from the state in here all the time.

SPELLMAN: Even though Gindi pays sales and income tax, marijuana is still against federal law so expenses cannot be deducted from federal taxes and FDIC-backed banks won't take their money.

GINDI: There's nothing glamorous about this business. It's a struggle trying to operate without a bank account, trying to run a business without being able to take deductions.

SPELLMAN: At his dispensary, Gindi operates in a highly competitive marketplace. About 500 medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado compete for the business of the 108,000 people on the medical marijuana registry.

(on camera): Have they become more kind of sores about their marijuana?

LEAH, BUDTENDER: Definitely, definitely. You don't ever see a, quote/unquote, "swag" any more. It's all chronic. It's all hydroponic.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Competition has driven prices down to half of what they were just three years ago, creating razor thin margins. But could that change when more people, even pot tourists from out of state are able to legally buy weed? Gindi isn't so sure.

GINDI: There's a risk that comes along with it.

SPELLMAN (on camera): That might push the federal government into acting where they were comfortable not acting with medical marijuana.

GINDI: Right. And I have to make that choice.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): These marijuana pioneers will probably never convince all of their critics that pot should be legal, but they see themselves as the good guys. LAPTEGAARD: Every single person that comes here that works for me, when they clock in, they put their finger on a sensor. And they know they're committing a federal crime. So every single person that works in this industry are all here for one reason and one reason only, we believe marijuana prohibition is immoral and we have to do something about that.

SPELLMAN: Jim Spellman, CNN, Denver.

(END VIDEOTAPE)