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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Wild Weather Nationwide; Questioning Benghazi Talking Points; American Mom Jailed in Mexico; Anthony Weiner Gaining Ground;

Aired May 29, 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: Our STARTING POINT this morning, wild weather U.S.A. A new round of twisters touched down overnight in the heartland. More tornadoes on the way today. Wildfires, dust storms in the west, and after snow, just days ago, this, a massive East Coast heat wave that starts today. We're tracking all of this this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR Nightmare in Mexico. The American mom of seven jailed in Mexico accused of smuggling drugs. She faces her accusers in court today. She could get ten years in prison. Ten years. Her family is fighting for her freedom. They join us live this morning.

BERMAN: Plus, miracle baby. The video that shocked the world. A newborn rescued from a sewer pipe. This morning, we have new pictures of the young boy, and new details on just how he ended up there to begin with.

ROMANS: And it's Bieber versus the pro-bowler. The angry confrontation between the pop star and this ex-NFL star. It reportedly involves a Ferrari, a high-speed chase, and one fleeing from the other. Can you guess who?

BERMAN: All my favorite things.

ROMANS: Good morning, I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, May 29th. Welcome to STARTING POINT. And we are tracking a lot of extreme weather across the U.S. this morning. Just take a look at this right now. This massive twister touching down in northern Kansas overnight, homes damaged, power lines down, and you have to take a look at this map. Nearly the entire country under some form of severe weather today. We're talking wildfires out in the West. More twisters forecast in the heartland.

You know, and here in the East, the first heat wave of the year, our Indra Petersons is tracking all of this wild weather. And it is everywhere from coast to coast.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Literally hard to pick one spot to talk about. There is so much to talk about. We're going to start you off in the northeast where yesterday you saw temperatures drop down in the 60s, and now we're talking about 20, 25-degree temperature jump out there.

I mean, look at the warm front cruising through. In addition to that, we're going to see a cold front slide just to the north of us and all of that is going to produce a slight risk for severe storms even in the New England area.

I want to take you now all the way to the West Coast. We're reporting some fires, some wildfires on the West Coast, where unfortunately conditions there are not going to be improving. We're talking about winds gusting as high as 60 miles per hour and temperatures there also expected to soar into the weekend with the potential for some triple- digit heat.

Big story today, though, remains that dry heat in the West Coast really banking up now to the warm, humid air once again coming out of the Gulf. The key is that low now has exited the Rockies that did produce some rain and now that is going to produce that tornado risk today. So there is a moderate risk out there. Unfortunately the bull's-eye for this involves three million people right again over Wichita and Oklahoma, really Kansas and Oklahoma there.

The broader risk of this involves 60 million of us. So definitely everyone needs to pay attention. A tornado outbreak is possible today.

I also want to show you real quick this kind of looks like right now but expect the both of this to be popping as we go through the afternoon. Let me show you real quickly what it already looks like. I have some great video for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This thing is monstrous.

PETERSONS (voice-over): Late Tuesday, a new round of tornadoes ripped through the heartland. This massive twister tearing through Kansas, leaving downed trees and power lines in its wake. In the middle of it all storm chaser Sean Casey reported live on CNN there.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Sean, I understand you're chasing a tornado right now. What's going on?

SEAN CASEY, STORM CHASER: See, this is my first interview while looking at a tornado. So we were hoping it's going to come up onto our road and we will drive right up to the southern half.

PETERSONS: Just one day before Casey's team captured this rare and frightening video inside a tornado in Smith County, Kansas. The potential for super cell thunderstorms, damaging winds, and hail threaten a number of states from Texas to New England today.

In the plains, strong, damaging tornadoes are possible. In areas like Oklahoma, already littered with damage, meteorologists warn of high wind gusts kicking up and carrying dangerous debris across the area. Meanwhile further north, severe storms blew in to Michigan and Pennsylvania overnight. Damage was reported outside Detroit and near Erie, Pennsylvania.

And on the West Coast, a different kind of weather danger. Dry conditions fueling wildfires in Santa Barbara, California. Scorching over 1800 acres in Los Padres National Forest. Farther south in Valencia, helicopters attacked the blaze from above as brushfires near the popular Magic Mountain Theme Park burned 25 acres in less than an hour.

And look at this. Just to the east of the fires, this massive dust storm bringing traffic to a standstill. Finally, in the northeast, weather whiplash. From snow just four days ago, to what could be a record-breaking heat wave. Temperatures rising double-digits across most of the region.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PETERSONS: I mean a lot of wacky weather out there. But again I cannot stress enough this is the time of year we do have tornadoes in Tornado Alley. But days like these, the potential outbreak are the days where minutes can save lives. People need to be aware.

ROMANS: And we know just last week 16 minutes meant the difference between life and death. So that's right. Take heed.

Thanks so much, Indra.

And new fallout this morning over the Benghazi talking points. Late Tuesday congressional committee subpoenaed 10 current former State Department officials. They want to see paperwork and they want to see communications from the State Department's number two and the top aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

White House correspondent Brianna Keilar following these new developments for us this morning.

Brianna, the White House has already released 100 pages of e-mails about the developments in Benghazi. What is it, what more is it that the Oversight Committee is looking for?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a word it is just more. That's it, Christine. Republicans still allege that the Obama administration misled Americans in the lead-up to the presidential election. As to the cause of the attack in Benghazi, removing specific references to terror in those CIA-authored talking points. And the committee wants to see more when it comes to those talking points and how the State Department was involved in suggesting some of those changes.

Those obviously were used, those talking points used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the days following the attacks where she said repeatedly publicly she referenced a spontaneous demonstration in Benghazi, as the potential cause of it.

I will tell you, though, Christine, the State Department, officials there, feel that they have been forthcoming. The White House feels this is straight up a fishing expedition. You've heard President Obama call it a side show.

ROMANS: All right. Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.

Brianna at the White House this morning.

Fire caused by a collision between a truck and a freight train full of chemicals fully under control this morning. Federal officials are on the scene in Baltimore where several of the derailed cars exploded and burst into flames yesterday. That blast was felt blocks away. As clouds of black and white smoke filled the area firefighters were able to rescue the trapped truck driver. Railroad officials tell firefighters the burning substances were not toxic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN KAMENETZ, BALTIMORE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: We've received word from CSX that there's no --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Toxic --

KAMENETZ: Toxic inhalants, which is really just a reassurance to the area that it's not an unsafe area. You don't have to evacuate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Residents of about 70 homes in the area were told they could leave if they felt threatened but they were -- they were not forced to evacuate. Several industrial buildings in the area were damaged.

BERMAN: The Arizona mother of seven, grandmother of two, accused of trying to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana out of Mexico, she will be back in court today trying to convince a judge to set her free.

Her family says Yanira Maldonado is not a drug smuggler and that she was arrested by authorities. She says the authorities were looking for bribe money.

CNN's Casey Wian is following all these developments for us. He's live in Goodyear, Arizona.

What's the latest, Casey?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, John. It's a week ago that Yanira Maldonado was taken into custody in Mexico. Her family says wrongfully. They found -- Mexican authorities say they found more than 12 pounds of marijuana under the -- under the seat that she was sitting in a bus coming back from her grandmother's funeral.

Well, she -- the family had hoped she would be out of jail as early as yesterday. There was a court hearing in Mexico where several witnesses, her husband, her husband's father, the woman that brought her to the bus station, among those testifying. Court officials made it clear that she was not going to be released yesterday.

Very disappointing for the family. I spoke with her daughter, a very emotional Anna Soto, last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNA SOTO, DAUGHTER OF YANIRA MALDONADO: To everyone because of this, that's who I'm angry at. The people that put my mom in prison. Without having evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: Now we're going to see what kind of evidence there is in this case, if any, when the Mexican military personnel who apprehended Yanira Maldonado, they're expected to testify at that closed court hearing later today in Mexico. Family believes the decision will be made by the judge before the end of the week. They hope it is in their mother's favor because if the judge decides to hold her, our understanding from legal experts is she could be held in a Mexican prison for up to four months before there's a trial.

BERMAN: Wow. Four months. All right, Casey Wian for us in Arizona this morning.

You know, next hour we're going to speak with Yanira's daughter Anna Soto. You just heard her emotional words there before. We will ask her how her mother is doing this morning.

ROMANS: And Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann says she will not seek a fifth term in Congress. Bachmann made the announcement in a video posted this morning on YouTube and her Web site.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Our Constitution allows for the decision of length of service in Congress to be determined by the Congress people themselves or by the voters in the district. However, the law limits anyone from serving as president of the United States for more than eight years.

And in my opinion, well eight years is also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative for a specific congressional district.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Bachmann says her closer-than-expected win in her last race and a congressional ethics probe into her presidential run had nothing to do with her decision.

BERMAN: On the subject of politics, an unlikely political marriage forged in the days after superstorm Sandy and before the 2012 presidential election, it is renewed.

President Obama and Governor Chris Christie resuming their bromance with a romantic tour of the Jersey Shore yesterday promoting a big summer comeback seven months after the storm. The credit they say to cooperation between federal and state governments.

Christie, no coincidence, is up for re-election this year and is considered a potential Republican presidential contender in 2016.

ROMANS: So once he returned to Washington the president hosted a White House reception for Asian-American and Pacific Heritage Month. Listen to him joking with the guests, not to give you any ideas about that lipstick on his collar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank everybody who is here, the incredible warmth of the reception. A sign of the warmth is the lipstick on my collar.

(LAUGHTER)

I have to say, I think I know the culprit. Where is Jessica Sanchez? Jessica -- now it wasn't Jessica, it was her aunt. Where is she? Auntie, right there. Look at this. Look at this. I just want everybody to witness. So I do not want to be in trouble with Michelle. That's why I'm calling you out. Right in front of everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Quite an alibi there. By the way, the president was referring to the aunt of singer Jessica Sanchez who was a runner-up on "American Idol."

BERMAN: You know I feel for the president because I'm actually I think one of the few men in America who often gets makeup on his collar. And it's my own makeup. And you know I'm always telling my wife, no, honey, it's just -- it's just my makeup. Really. It's mine.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman facing questions in his first debate in his run for mayor of New York. The question this morning, can he actually win this thing?

BERMAN: And then this miracle baby. It captivated the world with its survival story from a sewer pipe. Today we have new pictures of the newborn. There's some new details about just how he ended up there.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

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ROMANS: Good morning, welcome back. It may take more than a few lewd photos and a humiliating fall from grace to keep Anthony Weiner down. The disgraced former congressman participated in his first debate yesterday and he's actually gaining ground in his bid to become the next mayor of New York.

National political correspondent Jim Acosta is with us this morning. And Jim, if the polls are rate, the latest polls are right, New Yorkers seem to be in a forgiving mood when it comes to Anthony Weiner.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. And we have seen this movie before, just not here in New York City. Anthony Weiner has said he wants New York City voters to give him a second chance and, judging by the latest polls in the race for mayor of the Big Apple, it looks like he may be getting one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): To the political pundits writing off Anthony Weiner in the race for New York City mayor, don't say, "Forget about it" just yet.

ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE: You can have a safe classroom where teachers can teach and students can learn.

ACOSTA: The former congressman who resigned in disgrace after posting lewd photos online received a warm welcome at his first candidate's debate. And he's getting a serious look from the voters. The latest Marist poll shows he's gaining fast, just five points behind the front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. What's more, 53 percent of voters say Weiner deserves a second chance, while 39 percent say he lacks the character to be mayor.

ACOSTA (on-camear): Are you getting a second chance? Is that what this means?

WEINER: Look, I have said from the moment I got in this race, that I, you know, honor the idea that people are going to have questions of me. But for the most part, the people the questions people have been asking have been about the things that affect their families.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Citing a scheduling conflict, Quinn dropped out of the debate at the last minute, even though the event's organizers insist she helped set the date.

ZAKIYAH ANSARI, NEW YORKERS FOR GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Of course we're disappointed in that, but it's her loss, unfortunately

ACOSTA: But Weiner didn't seize on Quinn's absence in his typical bombastic style.

WEINER: I can't speak for any other candidate but look --

ACOSTA: At least publicly, Weiner has changed. Now the subject of tabloid punch lines, he often talks about the lessons he's learned the hard way. It's almost the same approach used by Congressman Mark Sanford in his successful bid for redemption in South Carolina.

But in New York, the zingers fly fast. Many now aimed at the bull's- eye on Weiner's back. Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a newspaper, quote, "Shame on us if Weiner is elected." Cuomo told reporters he was only kidding.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: That was my comment on the mayoral race, and we'll now let them run their race, and we'll see what happens.

ACOSTA: At the debate, Weiner joked he can handle the governor.

WEINER: Honestly, he started it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (on-camera): OK, and we'll see who finishes it. While the polls do offer hope for Anthony Weiner, he shouldn't get too excited just yet. If no candidate receives 40 percent of the vote in this fall's Democratic primary, there would be a runoff. And in a head-to- head match-up in that same poll, Quinn crushes Weiner by 15 points. So, he's a long way from being totally back in business. Bu, it's a very, very promising start.

BERMAN: Still, this poll caught a lot of people's attention right now. So how close is he really? How realistic is the comeback?

Joining me now, Maggie Haberman, senior political writer for politico.com. Maggie, he's five points back and there's another number here, 53 percent saying that Anthony Weiner deserves a second chance. Should this really be a shock to us right now?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, SR. POLITICAL WRITER, POLITICO.COM: No, it shouldn't be, because people do like a comeback story. This is right on the heels of the Mark Sanford victory. This is a very different scenario. That was a House race. This is a mayor's race. I still think that Anthony Weiner has a very long way to go in terms of an actual run here. I think if he makes a runoff, which he could do, he's going to have a hard time, as Jim said, getting out of one.

BERMAN: What are the issues for the front-runner, Christine Quinn? She skipped this sort of debate yesterday. How does she have to run against Anthony Weiner?

HABERMAN: You can't run by saying that you're going to attend something and then not attend something. I don't think that looks very good. She has to sort of ignore him to the extent that she can.

But her problem is not so much Anthony Weiner as the idea that she looks like, A, an insider, B, too close to Bloomberg, and C, people believe she doesn't really stand for anything. They question what's at her core. Weiner, granted, it's accidental, but he looks like the outsider right now. He is the principled outsider --

BERMAN: Sleeves rolled up, tie loosened, hair everywhere.

HABERMAN: Sure. Nobody's endorsing him. He's outside of the system. That actually helps you.

ROMANS: Let's talk about, I want to talk about what's happening in -- Michele Bachmann not going to run, stand for the fifth term. What do you make of that? Why is she not going to do it?

HABERMAN: An eight-minute "I'm not running video" with a score to go along with it was quite something. I think this comes, as we know, amid a federal investigation into her campaign issues and a congressional investigation. And I can't imagine that one does not have something to do with the other.

BERMAN: She avoids, in theory; the congressional investigation will sort of just evaporate.

HABERMAN: Correct.

BERMAN: The FBI isn't quite as clear.

HABERMAN: I don't know that that will go away. Usually it doesn't work that way, but she certainly answers one question by saying she won't run again.

ROMANS: Does she make another run for president, do you think? Because she mentioned that eight years, eight years is long enough for a president, that should be long enough for me to serve the people of Minnesota.

HABERMAN: I don't think so. I think her time was in 2012. I think by the time we get to 2016, there's going to be a whole new face of the Tea Party.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, so much to talk about. The mayor's race here, Anthony Weiner, be around for some time. We appreciate it. Thanks for coming in.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, Apple ready to change the world again. Will we be wearing our gadgets next?

BERMAN: And then there is this. You will not believe this. Miss Canada, but which one? The beauty pageant mix-up that has everyone asking, "Will the real Miss Canada please stand up?: We're going to sort this out, if that's even possible.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

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ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, I'm Christine Romans minding your business this morning. Hey, another record-setting day on wall street. The Dow, 22 record closes this year and counting. A sizzling year. The Dow is up 17 percent just this year. To compare, it rose 7 percent in all of last year so no surprise consumer confidence now at the highest level since 2008.

Americans say they're feeling better because the job market is strengthening. And also helping, home prices rising. Home prices jumped nearly 11 percent in March compared with a year ago. That's the biggest increase since the housing boom. Home prices in Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas. Look at them. They're all up more than 20 percent from March of last year. Now some of those are places that were hardest hit by the housing bust. You're seeing big rises in part because you're getting a lot of investor action, cash buyers, international buyers in some of those places.

Today, Dow futures, though, down about 60 points. We saw the IMF downgrade some expectations for Chinese growth so futures might step back a little bit this morning. The stock market might.

Meantime, Apple promising several new game-changers. Among them, fashion. CEO Tim Cook teased wearable computers at a technology conference yesterday. Quite coy. He wouldn't give any real concrete details on what, if anything, Apple was working on, but he did say the idea was ripe for exploration. Cook also says he had a grand vision for television that goes beyond its existing Apple TV streaming device but wouldn't give any more details about that either. Which is, of course, the way Apple operates.

BERMAN: I like the idea of wearable Apple products. So people could ask, you know, "Is that an iPod in your pocket or never mind?"

Ahead on STARTING POINT, passengers from the stricken Royal Caribbean cruise liner are back home in the U.S. But just how bad did things get on board that ship? Find out.

ROMANS: And then he was miraculously found in a toilet sewer pipe and rescued. So how is the newborn baby doing? We have new pictures, plus authorities have tracked down the mother of this little guy. Hear what she has to say about the near tragedy.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

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