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Wild Weather Coast-to-Coast; Bachmann Not Seeking Re-Election; Questioning Benghazi "Talking Points"; American Jailed in Mexico Back in Court; Interview with Husband, Daughter; Zimmerman Defense Setbacks; Apple Hints at Wearable Computers

Aired May 29, 2013 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our STARTING POINT, tornadoes, fires, extreme heat, possible twisters forecast for the heartland this morning, and as the East Coast faces a brutal heat wave and out west, wildfires out of control. We are tracking all of this, this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, a political surprise overnight, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann says she won't run for re-election. She is leaving the door open for higher office.

BERMAN: A family on edge as an American mother of seven being held in a Mexican jail faces accusers in court today. She could get 10 years in prison. Her daughter joins us live.

ROMANS: And forget cold feet. We have wet feet. A bridal party really takes a plunge when a dock they are standing on collapses into the lake below. We'll to talk to them about their viral moments.

BERMAN: I'm sure they're going to be excited about that.

Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. This Wednesday, May 29th. Welcome to STARTING POINT.

We begin with the perfect storm. A tornado outbreak in the nation's midsection, this one, damaged homes, brought down power lines in Kansas and conditions are ripe for more of that.

Look at this map there. Wildfires out west, a massive heat wave here in the east, almost the entire country right now on high alert for severe weather.

Indra Petersons is tracking all of it for us. Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Yes, unfortunately, even yesterday evening, we saw tornadoes in Michigan and even in Corning, Kansas. But today, the threat strengthens. Take a look at the weather setup. Once again, it's pretty much always the same. We have a low that's now exited the Rockies. We have that warm, moist air out of Gulf. We have the jet stream, really allows the system to turn. So, those winds really up high in different directions, from the winds at a lower level. That combines and really allows to us see that threat for severe weather.

Now, today, that severe threat is enhanced in comparison to yesterday, unfortunately, similar to just a week ago. We're looking at that bull's eye around Wichita, and even Oklahoma City, but 30 million to 60 million of you still under the slight risk. That's what we're watching again, larger threat for tornadoes. But still severe weather, isolated tornadoes, damaging winds, large hail up to 2 1/2 inches can be seen.

I want to show you what it looks like right now. Take a look at out in the plains, not too much activity, what we typically see is when the sun comes out, it kind of fuels thunderstorms. We start to see these lines of storms, picking up as we go through the afternoon. Talk about wildfires, out towards California, high wind warnings still in effect, we're talking about winds gusting as high as 60 miles per hour.

And I want to show some video of what it looked like yesterday in Lancaster. We're talking about winds roaring out there. That it brought visibility on the 14 Freeway and the high deserts out towards the Antelope Valley, down to near zero. So, a lot of incidents out there. With visibility zero, definitely a tough day for them. But, unfortunately, the biggest concern will remain the severe weather threat.

ROMANS: No matter where you live, weather the big story this morning. Unbelievable. Indra Petersons -- thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: All right. So, this just in to CNN: a local tribal official in Pakistan confirms that the Taliban's number two man in a country has been killed in a drone strike. Intelligence official also says that Wali-Ur-Rahman, his aide and two other men died in North Waziristan, the Taliban will neither confirm nor deny the deaths.

Some breaking some political news overnight. Michele Bachmann says she will not be seeking a fifth term in Congress. The Tea Party favorite made this announcement in a video posted this morning on YouTube, also her Web site.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Our constitutional 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. 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) BERMAN: So, CNN's national political correspondent Jim Acosta is here to talk about what this means for Washington, what this means for the Tea Party, what it means for Michele Bachmann.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this was a stunner. I mean, nobody really saw this coming overnight. She released this video in the wee hours of the morning and, you know, she basically says in this video, John and Christine, that this has nothing to do with winning re-election in 2014, although she beat the challengers last time around, Jim Gray by a slim margin. He's running again in this race, and he possessed a major threat to her future in that district.

She says it has nothing to do with this Office of Congressional Ethics Investigation and into her presidential campaign, even though that is still a pending matter for her, and it is interesting to know, she did not rule out a comeback of some sort in the future. But she does say how.

So, there are a lot of questions that she leaves unanswered in this video. And it's interesting, guys, because just a couple of weeks ago, I was standing out there with her in front of the Congress when she held that big Tea Party news conference, when a big Republicans were coming out. Mitch McConnell was there, Ted Cruz was there, and it seemed like a big moment for the Tea Party with the IRS investigation and so forth and talking about, perhaps the president might need to be impeached. What does he know? When did he know it?

And, you know, she seemed to be back on top again, and all of a sudden this stunning announcement that she's not going to run for re-election again.

ROMANS: So, what's next for her then do you think?

I mean, she was -- you know, a bright light in the Tea Party movement. What happens next for her and her role in the Tea Party?

ACOSTA: I think that they still see her as a star. They still see her as a leader. I don't think the Tea Party caucus has much trouble finding a new leader in the Congress now that they seem to have winds at their backs once again. But I do think that, you know, she will be a presence in Republican politics here in the near future and keep in mind. She won the Ames, Iowa, straw poll in the GOP primaries before the GOP got started and knocked Tim pawlenty out of race.

So, she's still is a formidable political figure. But it is just sort of amazing that, you know, she'd brought this bombshell overnight, left everybody sort of scratching their heads, wondering why she did this?

She said it was not because of all of these reasons, but you have to, I think, entertain the notion, at least for a moment, that perhaps she is in trouble or she would have been in trouble in 2014, given all the questions being asked about her, and that this was going to be a tough re-election battle for her.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

ROMANS: A new fallout this morning over the Benghazi talking points. Late Tuesday, congressional committees subpoenaed 10 current and former State Department officials. They want paperwork and communications between State Department number two and the top aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

White House correspondent Briana Keilar following the new developments for us.

Brianna, the White House already has released 100 pages of e-mails about developments in Benghazi. So, what is it? What more is the oversight committee looking for here?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this Republican-led committee wants more on how the State Department suggested changes to those CIA talking points that in the immediate aftermath of the attack emphasized a protest in Benghazi as the cause of the attack. Republicans still allege that the Obama administration was being misleading on the role of terrorism, as President Obama was on the campaign trail talking about his successes against al Qaeda.

Now, the State Department says it has been forthcoming. Now, it's going to look at this request.

I'll tell you here at the White House, officials feel that this is a straight up fishing expedition and you've heard President Obama said as much. She's called this a side show here in recent weeks, Christine. Yes, it's interesting. Sort of knocks out the economic message, too, right?

So, you've got -- consumer confidence is at the five-year high, this is something that, you know, Republicans just hammered the president under during the election. Now, the economy slowly healing, all of the conversation about controversies in Washington.

Briana Keilar, thank you so much.

The Arizona woman accused of trying to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana out of Mexico back in court today, begging a judge to set her free. Her family says mother of seven, not a drug smuggler, they claim she was arrested by corrupt officials looking for bribes.

We're going to talk to her daughter in just a moment. But, first, CNN's Casey Wian following all the developments for us live in Goodyear, Arizona.

Good morning, Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. You know, it really is heart-wrenching speaking with family members of Yanira Maldonado. They say -- adamantly say she is wrongfully jailed in Mexico.


WIAN (voice-over): Yanira Maldonado's family hoped she would be released at a court hearing in Nogales, Mexico, Tuesday. But the Mormon mother of seven accused of smuggling marijuana will remain in a Mexican jail for at least another day. The family insists she has no involvement in drugs and is being framed.

ANNA SOTO, YANIRA'S DAUGHTER: Whoever was the cause of this, that's who I'm angry at, the people that put my mom in prison, without having evidence.

WIAN: Maldonado was arrested last week after Mexican authorities said they found 12 pounds of marijuana under the seat of a commercial bus she was riding home in from a funeral with her husband Gary.

Gary Maldonado said he was asked to pay a $5,000 bribe for his wife's freedom. But as he tried to raise the money, she was shipped off to jail. The family says it is encouraged by the evidence presented in court so far. This case is not unusual in Mexico where there has been a struggle to modernize its notoriously corrupt judicial system says Mexico expert George Grayson.

GEORGE GRAYSON, COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY: The judicial system there is even more corrupt than the police and when you're brought in to a judicial proceeding, you don't get to face your accuser. You don't have an automatic right to a lawyer. You may be held before you're brought to trial for some weeks, and it's a closed proceeding.

WIAN: In this case, the judge has the power to hold Maldonado in prison up to four months before trial. That would likely only bring more pressure from U.S. authorities. The office of Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona says, "Senator Flake has been in contact with the family, as well as officials in Mexico and the U.S. regarding the case. He will continue to monitor the situation."


WIAN: The situation now continues in a Mexican courtroom. Where members of the Mexican courtroom who apprehended Yanira Maldonado are expected to testify today, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Casey Wian -- thanks, Casey.

Yanira Maldonado's daughter Anna Soto was able to visit with her mother briefly on Saturday. And she joins us now from Phoenix. And also is Yanira's father-in-law, Larry Maldonado. We spoke to him, of course, yesterday.

Anna, first, tell me, I mean, how is your mom holding up?

SOTO: You know, I don't know. I think -- I don't know -- I know she's scared. I know she has really wants to be let free. I know she -- she's scared.

ROMANS: Anna, I know are you scared too. I can just tell. You must be terrified about what will happen if this goes forward toward a trial, you're talking about four months just to get to the trial phase of all of this. You don't want her sitting there for any longer. You want -- you want her to be released.

Are authorities giving you any kind of indication that this could be over quickly?

SOTO: I mean, I have some family members that were there yesterday, and we have high hopes. So I'm just looking forward to that. Hopefully, Friday, I'm praying that she will be home and be set free, released.

BERMAN: So the military officials from the checkpoint who made this arrest, they are appearing in court today. What do you think they might say? You know, we spoke to your father yesterday, who suggested that he thinks your mom may have been framed there.

SOTO: You know, I don't know what their plan is. I don't know what they are going to say. I mean, I really don't care because I know the truth.

It's up to the judge, you know, to make that decision. But I know that whatever they say -- I'm praying that they are honest. You know, honest policemen or soldiers, but we can only pray and hope.

ROMANS: And her husband is saying he fears they are not honest police and honest officials at that checkpoint.

Larry, how much longer -- the family must be in sort of in statis at this moment, trying to figure out how to get her out of there. How has the government been -- the American government and the Mexican government been about getting this resolved? I mean, this is at this point an international incident, or should be.

LARRY MALDONADO, YANIRA'S FATHER-IN-LAW: Yes, Senator Flake has been very supportive and has contacted Gary, to assure that they're going to do everything they can to have diplomatic relations to be able to bring this to a close.

Yesterday, a reporter asked me why I was smiling. It was because we had such a good day yesterday. It's not really a court, in a small room and there's three desks in it. So, it doesn't leave a lot of room for family members, or witnesses, only able to go in one at a time. It took about five hours, with the district attorney that is questioning.

I believe our case is very strong. We had good witnesses yesterday and we have some cross-examination today of their witnesses and I believe that will turn out as strong as well, knowing what I know.

ROMANS: I know you were at the hearing yesterday. Larry Maldonado, and Ana Soto, thanks for, you know, keeping us up to date on what's happening, and, please, let's talk again soon as this unfolds. And best of luck to you. Thank you.

BERMAN: We wish you all the best.

SOTO: Thank you.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, what's in and out? A judge decides what jurors can hear in the George Zimmerman case, and why this ruling could hurt his case.

ROMANS: And this bridal party really commits to taking a plunge. We're going to meet the newlyweds who splashed into lake on their wedding day. The whole thing caught on camera.


BERMAN: Some big losses in court for George Zimmerman. The judge refused to allow evidence that the defense argues may be crucial to their client's case. CNNs Victor Blackwell has the story.


JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: Neither side will mention that in opening statements. Neither side will mention it during the trial. I can't imagine that there's any circumstance under which that will become relevant, but if it does, it will be done outside the presence of the jury.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We now know what will not be presented to the jury when George Zimmerman's second- degree murder trial begins June 10th. The former neighborhood watch captain says he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

Seminole County, Florida judge, Debra Nelson, granted a slew of motions made by the prosecution Tuesday. The jury will not see Martin's school records, his social media postings, nor a picture of Martin wearing false gold teeth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're asking (ph) the court to prohibit the defense from making any reference or suggesting that Trayvon Martin, prior to this date, had ever been on a fight.

BLACKWELL: Judge Nelson agreed. And those texts and photos Zimmerman's defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, released to the media Thursday of a marijuana plant and a gun, those are off-limits, too.

MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: The drugs and the history of his chronicity, his chronic use of drugs, and his familiarity with fighting, and, to a certain extent, his familiarity with guns. It's completely relevant to the theory of defense. So, how could you keep us from arguing our theory of defense?

NELSON: Because the rules of evidence keep you from doing it.

BLACKWELL: Toxicology reports showing the presence of a chemical found in marijuana in Martin's system the night of the shooting may be introduced, but not during opening statements. Ben Crump represents Martin's parents.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S PARENTS: This information was not relevant. It was inadmissible. And so, we have to not let people get away with trying to pollute a jury pool.

BLACKWELL: O'Mara's request to sequester that pool of 500 potential jurors was denied as was his request to take the jury to the community where Martin was killed February 2012. If Zimmerman is convicted, he'll spend a minimum of 25 years in prison. That detail will be kept from the jury, too.

Victor Blackwell, CNN, Sanford, Florida.


BERMAN: And our thanks to Victor for that report.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, so, is apple stepping into the fashion world? What the company is saying about their new game changer is coming up next.


ROMANS: All right. Good morning. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business" this morning. Wall Street's recording setting run is on. After a one-week break, the Dow hit another record high Tuesday. It's 22nd closing record this year. This is on the back of some data showing Americans feeling better about the economy and home prices are rising.

The economic data says the economy is healing and that is corroborating what stock market actually has been telling us all year. Also, just in the past few minutes, CoreLogic releases some data showing foreclosures in April are down 16 percent from April 2012. Dow futures this morning, though, down a little bit down by 80 points. Why? Well, the IMF cut its growth forecast for China.

China is the world's second biggest economy. You might see a little bit of step back in the stock market, at least, this morning at the opening bell in about an hour.

Now, Apple promising several game changers, among them? Fashion. CEO, Tim Cook, teased wearable computers at a technology conference yesterday. He played coy, wouldn't give any concrete details on what is anything Apple might be working on. But he said the idea was ripe for exploration.

Cook also said he has a grand vision for television that goes beyond its existing Apple TV streaming device, but he wouldn't give any details about that either, but a lot of people who follow Apple say that they think television is a place -- they want to see if television is something that Apple can change the way. It changed how we deal with music.

BERMAN: I would go with Apple TV before I go with Apple slacks.


BERMAN: Or Apple chaps or an Apple vest or ties.

ROMANS: Apple chaps.

BERMAN: Yes. Like Apple chaps. Not so bad, right?



BERMAN: Twenty-four minutes after the hour.

Police say there was no evidence support that Amanda Bynes claim of sexual harassment actually happened when she was arrested for allegedly tossing a bong from her 36th floor apartment in New York.

Believe it or not, the actress responded via Twitter, "Instead of me asking for the cops to be arrested for sexual harassment, I want my case dropped as well. His punishment will be being the cop who sexually harassed someone who would never find him handsome enough to be my boyfriend. That's worse than any time in jail, but I am suing him for money compensation. I love having more money in my bank."

That feels like more than 140 characters to me, but quite a response for Amanda Bynes right there.

ROMANS: There's a lot in there.

All right. The always unpredictable Charlie Sheen changed things up (ph) for his appearance in the upcoming Robert Rodriguez film, "Machete Kills." Sheen will be billed as Carlos Estevez. That's the name he was given adverse. It's a first time Charlie Sheen has used his real name on screen. And, Charlie or Carlos, both of them, haven't told his wife (ph).

BERMAN: So, Beyonce may sing about being bootylicious, but one fan went too far during her show Monday night in Copenhagen. That's in Denmark, of course. She's performing her hit song, "Irreplaceable." You saw that right here. Shaking hands with the audience members when a man reached up and slapped her in the behind.

She quickly responded, telling the man, she would have him escorted out of the venue understandably. Impressively, Beyonce then went on with that performance.

ROMANS: Yes. She was angry for a moment and really classy and, you know, most people are like, come on, don't touch her. Don't touch the queen (ph).

Ahead on STARTING POINT, for the first time, jurors in Jodi Arias case speak out. What they say about not coming up with a unanimous decision about giving her life or death? And the threats some of these jurors are now receiving.