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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Escape from Captivity; New Evidence of Benghazi Cover-Up?; Body Politics

Aired May 8, 2013 - 06:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: We are live on the scene with the latest from Cleveland, Ohio, where the unimaginable has happened. We have shocking new details emerging in the triple kidnapping case.

Here a neighbor and now an Internet sensation Charles Ramsey has one wish, that he could have saved the three women a lot sooner.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And a plea from Dennis Rodman to his buddies in North Korea. Let the American-held captive there go free.

Welcome back to a special edition of EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman in New York.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin, live in Cleveland, Ohio. It is Wednesday, May 8th. It is 6:31 on the East Coast.

We have so many unanswered questions this morning about the three women who made a dramatic escape from captivity after a decade, trapped inside that Cleveland home. FBI agents have been going through every corner of that house since Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight managed to break out on Monday.

They're keeping quiet about what they are actually finding inside. Later today, kidnapping suspect Pedro, Onil and Ariel Castro will be interrogated by federal agents for the very first time since their arrest. And the brothers could be formally charged, we understand, by day's end.

And as we wait to find out what kind of horror these three women endured, neighbors are still shocked that the ordeal went on for so long right under their noses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The closest I've ever came to his house was to the door, and he had it cracked open and he gave us popsicles. It was like a couple summers ago but that was it. He'd never let us go in his backyard.

I think we went in his backyard once to help him put his little dogs away. But it wasn't even over his gate. It was like to his gate and that was it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The Castro brothers are being held right now at the county justice center in Cleveland, and that is where Martin Savidge is standing by.

So when can we expect the charges to be filed?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, initially authorities were saying yesterday, it would be about 36 hours. Now they say that the judge has extended that slightly. Clearly, this is a complicated case, and looks like 48 hours. So, it's possible, going by that time frame if you look at it, later today, later tonight.

Exactly what charges are going to be filed, authorities have been keeping that very close to the vest. And it will also to be interesting to see if everybody is charged exactly the same way, because that would give you some indication as to what their alleged role may have been in all of this.

Right now, we are waiting for later in the day possibly for those charges to come down and waiting to see exactly what they are, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And, Martin, what about the girls? How are they recovering this morning?

SAVIDGE: Yes. Well, as authorities say, they have a long way to go. And the FBI is primarily handling talking to them. And they have brought in very specialized people to do that. But as far as their family, how they are responding, it's not easy. I mean, you listen to that emotional phone call from Amanda Berry, take a listen, it tells a lot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA BERRY, KIDNAP VICTIM (via telephone): Hello?

FERN GENTRY, AMANDA BERRYS' GRANDMOTHER: Amanda?

BERRY: Yes, grandma.

GENTRY: Yes. How are you?

BERRY: I'm fine.

GENTRY: Glad to have you back.

BERRY: It's good to be back.

GENTRY: I thought you were gone.

BERRY: Nope, I'm here.

GENTRY: We're happy down here for you.

BERRY: Thank you so much. I miss everybody. I love you guys so much.

GENTRY: The little girl is your baby?

BERRY: Yes, she's my daughter, born on Christmas.

GENTRY: We got to get together soon.

BERRY: I know it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a little girl named Christina and she wants to meet you.

GENTRY: But I love you, honey. Thank God.

BERRY: I love you, too.

GENTRY: I thought about you all this time. I never forgot you

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: That is almost like emotional eavesdropping to listen to that. That's so telling. I mean, because what you realize is that this is a family who, to them, she was almost dead. Not that they'd never given up on her but 10 years, she is out of sight so much to be caught up on. She has a daughter now 6 years of age, beyond belief.

SAMBOLIN: It's so wonderful, though, Martin, to be able to eavesdrop on that conversation and to have such a happy ending.

I wanted to mention that Michele Knight, we had reported yesterday that she was out of the hospital. But I spoke to her brother Freddy and he says she is still in the hospital. So, we're going to share more details of that conversation a little bit later.

But there's another investigation that's happening right now. The 911 dispatcher who spoke with Amanda Berry is under review. There was a lot of criticism about how that call was handled. What can you tell us about that?

SAVIDGE: Right, there has been. I mean, the moment I got up here in Cleveland, one of the first things people said, can you believe that 911 operator?

Now there is an official investigation that is under way. The city has made that known. We can show you, actually, the statement that was put out. There are a number of things that the city is reviewing and saying that there could be concerns about how that particular call was handled.

Most especially, one of the real concerns, the city points out, is that they -- the way it ended, you know, it should not have ended as abruptly as it did. The operator shouldn't have let the person off the line. Take a listen to that call.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR: OK, talk to police when they get there.

BERRY: OK.

Hello?

911 OPERATOR: Yes, talk to the police when they get there.

BERRY: OK, are they under way right now? I need them now.

911 OPERATOR: We're going to send them as soon as we get a car open.

BERRY: No, I need them now before he gets back.

911 OPERATOR: The police are on their way. Talk to them when they get there, OK?

BERRY: I need, OK --

911 OPERATOR: I told you they're on the way. Talk to them when they get there, OK?

BERRY: All right, OK.

911 OPERATOR: Thank you.

BERRY: Bye.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: That dispatcher now under review, and many in the public would say, yes, deservedly so -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Hopefully, it will be used as a learning opportunity.

Martin Savidge, thank you. Appreciate it.

Let's head back to John Berman. He is in New York.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Zoraida.

It's about 36 minutes after the hour right now. A lot of other news to tell you about.

House Republicans say this morning that they will unveil new evidence of a cover-up in the attack in Benghazi. But Democrats say it's all one-sided because Democrats say they have not been able yet to talk to the Republicans witnesses.

Here's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Republican sources insist their state department witnesses will reveal new information about mistakes before, during, and after September's deadly Benghazi attacks and bolster GOP claims of an Obama administration cover-up.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM CMTE. CHMN.: Whistleblowers are courageous to come forward and they're essential on the case like this.

BASH: A star GOP witness is Gregory Hicks, the second ranking U.S. diplomat in Libya at the time of the attack. Hicks will say administration officials new from the start the attack was not what they publicly suggested, a spontaneous demonstration. "I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attacked from the beginning," Hicks told investigators.

That goes to the heart of a central Republican question about those infamous administration talking points about the attack. Who stripped out references to al Qaeda and why? Republicans call it a political decision, a fear of stepping on the president's campaign message that he crippled al Qaeda.

ISSA: We want to find out who made this decision, who made the decision, the change talking points in a way that caused the American people to be lied to.

BASH: Then, there is the military response. Hicks will say military personnel were ready to board a Libyan plane to Benghazi to help Americans under fire there but were ordered by superiors not to go.

ISSA: They may not have arrived in time to save lives, but at the time the decision was made, the decision was wrong.

BASH: Who made that decision?

ISSA: We want to find out who made this decision.

BASH: Democrats warn it will be a partisan show.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM CMTE RANKING MEMBER: We have been iced out.

BASH: The committee's top Democrat complains Republicans won't let them talk to one of the whistleblower witnesses, a counterterrorism official. Elijah Cummings calls that unprecedented.

CUMMINGS: Everything that I've seen so far with regard to this investigation shows me that it's a one-sided investigation, and it leaves me sad, really. I just know that we're better than that.

BASH (on-camera): The committee's top Democrat insists he, too, is interested in getting answers to what happened and why in Benghazi, but the partisan way Republicans are handling it, quote, "makes the work product of the committee questionable." A GOP source countered that if Democrats were so hungry for the facts, they would have joined Republicans in pressing the State Department to hand over key documents and information that Congress is having trouble getting.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Thirty-nine minutes after the hour right now.

Friends and family saying good-bye to 8-year-old Leila Fowler. An overflow crowd turned out for Leila's funeral yesterday. She was laid to rest following a private service. This as the search for her killer continues. Yesterday police dive teams went searching for clues in a pair of ponds near the girl's home in Valley Springs, California.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong- un to release U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae. Bae's been sentenced to 15 years hard labor for what he calls -- or for what the North calls hostile acts. Rodman, who visited North Korea in February and calls Kim a friend for life, tweeted this. He tweeted, "I'm calling on the supreme leader of North Korea, or as I call him, Kim, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose." Again, that from Dennis Rodman.

Thirty-nine minutes after the hour.

You won't have those loops on your money after all. Thanks to a new look for Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's signature. Recent documents show that Lew's handwriting has changed from the loopy set of unrecognizable scribbling on the right to the more legible signature on the left.

Now, it does seem that Lew was changing his signature a little bit to get ready for putting the mark on all U.S. currency, which is about to be printed here in the U.S. Also, President Obama made fun of him mercilessly for the signature. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had a similar change in his signature before currency went out with his name on it.

Coming up, the man many credit with helping save the lives of those three women in Cleveland speaks exclusively to CNN. Hear Charles Ramsey's incredible story, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. I am live in Cleveland, Ohio.

If not for the actions of Charles Ramsey, the three women held captive in the city may never have escaped. Here's more of Anderson Cooper's exclusive interview with Charles Ramsey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So you call 911. How soon did the police get there?

CHARLES RAMSEY, NEIGHBOR: You know what, they got there so fast because I said moron. Because I said hey, Amanda Berry is right in front of me right now. Here's what she got on and I told him white tank top, blue sweatpants, nice tennis shoes, nice ponytail. What else? Oh, right. She's panicking, idiot. Put yourself in her shoes. Like I said, Amanda Berry, that don't ring no damn bells, you being a cop and all?

COOPER: But you -- when you first saw her and she said the name Amanda Berry, did it --

RAMSEY: It didn't -- I didn't know. Because I forgot. Bro, this is Cleveland. Since they haven't found that girl.

COOPER: Right.

RAMSEY: And I guess stopped looking for that girl, we figured that girl was -- met her demise.

COOPER: Right.

RAMSEY: So Berry didn't register with me until I was on the phone like, wait a minute, I thought this girl was dead.

COOPER: What does it feel like to have been living next to this for a year?

RAMSEY: See, that's why now I'm having trouble sleeping. See, up until yesterday, the only thing that kept me from losing sleep was the lack of money. You hear what I'm saying?

COOPER: Mm-hmm.

RAMSEY: So, now that that's going on, and I could have done this last year, not this hero stuff, just do the right thing.

COOPER: Do you feel like a hero?

RAMSEY: No.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMSEY: No, no, no, no. Bro, I'm a Christian and American. And just like you, bleed the same blood, put our pants on the same way. It's just that you got put that being a coward, and I don't want to get in nobody's business, you got to put that away for a minute, because you know how it is. A lot of people turn the other way.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMSEY: That's all it's about, it's about the homeless on this planet.

COOPER: Has like the FBI said anything about a reward or anything? Because there was a reward for finding her.

RAMSEY: I tell you what you do, give it to them? Because if folks were following this case, since last night, you've been following me since last night, you know I got a job anyway. Just want to pick it up. Paychecks. What is that going to say? COOPER: I don't have my glasses.

RAMSEY: 2203 Seymour (ph), where them girls are living, right next door to this paycheck. So, here take that reward, and, and give it to them. That little girl came out of the house, and she was crying. And I was looking at her right like I was like, well your momma trying to help you girl, shut up. I don't know that. She's like I want my daddy. Who's her daddy? She said Ariel.

COOPER: She said that?

RAMSEY: Yes. I said how that possible? You got kidnapped -- oh, he was having sex with you, oh, Jesus -- that little girl is his. Now, he won't (ph) hurt you.

COOPER: You felt that?

RAMSEY: Brother, this would be a different interview, I told you that. If we had known that, man I'd be facing triple life.

COOPER: Wow. I'm glad it turned out this way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: What a great storyteller. So, we have an interesting development for Charles Ramsey this morning. McDonald's has reached out to him on Twitter, writing this, "We salute the courage of Ohio kidnap victims and respect their privacy. Way to go Charles Ramsey. We'll be in touch."

And John, if you recall, we're not playing that 911 tape right now, but in that 911 tape, what he says is, "check this out, I just came from McDonald's right, I'm on my porch, eating my little food." And then, you know, he goes on to tell the dispatcher what's going on, and you know these girls' lives basically are saved.

So, that moment and the fact that he continuously mentioned McDonald's, they have now reached out to him.

BERMAN: He said he was eating his McDonald's, and now, McDonald's giving him a shout-out. How awesome is that. All right. Thanks, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed.

BERMAN: Up next, Chris Christie's weight loss surgery. Is this a sign of presidential ambitions for 2016? We'll talk about that right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. About 52 minutes after the hour right now. Here are your top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN (voice-over): Still no solution this morning to the problem of what to do with the remains of Boston bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. No cemetery in Massachusetts has offered to accept his body for burial. Tsarnaev's uncle is asking the government to intervene now to help him find a final resting place.

Delaware now the 11th state to approve same-sex marriage. Democratic governor, Jack Markell, signing the measure into law shortly after the state Senate approved it and made 12-9 vote. Gay rights activists hailed the law's passage saying it represents momentum for supporters of marriage equality laws across the entire nation.

Take a look at your screen right now. Incredible video last night, just awful. That's Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, J.A. Happ. He somehow was not seriously hurt after being struck in the head by a line drive in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays last night. But look, simply terrible. Happ was taken off the field on stretcher.

But, he was conscious when he was taken to a local hospital. He is said to be in stable condition this morning. That is excellent news.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (on-camera): New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, had a secret, but it was not weighing him down. He had gastric Lap Band surgery back in February to help him lose weight, but he's only now publicly revealing it. Was it for the sake of his political future or something else? Mary Snow takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 12 weeks, New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, kept his weight loss surgery a secret and says it wasn't done to advance his political career.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: The steps I've taken recently are for me and for Mary Pat, and the kids. And, you know, if asked about it, I would have never lied about it. But, you know, it's not anybody else's business but mine.

SNOW: Speaking at a news conference in Newark on Tuesday, he says having gastric Lap Band surgery in February was not an easy decision.

CHRISTIE: It's pretty hard. I mean, you know, surgery is surgery. And you never want to approach that lightly. And I certainly didn't. But on the other hand, it was something that I felt like I needed to do.

SNOW: The surgery was done shortly after a public furor about his weight, which started with a joke on the "David Letterman Show."

CHRISTIE: Basically, the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life.

SNOW: After that appearance, a former White House physician told CNN she was concerned about Christie's ability to run for president. DR. CONNIE MARIANO, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: I worry that he may have a heart attack, he may have a stroke. It's almost like a time bomb waiting to happen.

SNOW: Christie fired back, calling her a hack.

CHRISTIE: If she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I'll have a conversation with her about that. Until that time, she should shut up.

SNOW: The decision to have surgery had been made months before that furor. Christie says it was scheduled for November but scrapped because of superstorm Sandy. He turned 50 in September and says his age and family were the deciding factors, not his political future.

But that's not quieting speculation about a potential White House run, especially since his weight did play a factor when he ran for governor in 2009. Patrick Murray is a New Jersey pollster.

PATRICK MURRAY, MONMOUTH, UNIV. POLLING INSTITUTE: With 2016 looming on the horizon, I think that gave that extra push to say look, I don't want to give anybody a reason to think ill of me, to not consider voting for me just simply because of the way I look physically.

SNOW: Now, it will be Christie's political ambitions and his waistline that will be closely watched.

Mary Snow, CNN, Newark, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: And we wish the governor the best. That is all for EARLY START. I'm John Berman. "Starting Point" begins right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman live in New York.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin live in Cleveland. Our "STARTING POINT" this morning, we are learning more about the nightmare that the three women lived through while held in captivity for ten years. But there are still so many questions about what actually happened and the three men that are now in custody.

We are live in Cleveland with all of the developments for you. Then, the hero neighbor recounts the heart-pounding moments of the rescue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAMSEY: I'm trying to get the door open and can't -- because torture chamber that some kind of way and locked it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Why he says that he is not a hero. It is Wednesday, May 8th, a special edition of "STARTING POINT" begins right now.

Welcome to a special edition of "Starting Point." We are live from Cleveland for you. I'm going to step out of the way here. I actually asked the camera to take a look at the house here on Seymour Street where these girls were held for ten years in captivity. Just yesterday, when we were here yesterday morning, you could see that there were two flags that were hanging there on the porch.

One was the American flag and the other one was a flag from Puerto Rico. I understand from one of the photographers here that yesterday, they were taking down the American flag and they were going to walk away and leave the Puerto Rican flag there on the porch when the crowds erupted. They wanted that flag taken down, as well.