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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Threat Of Tornadoes; Ricin-Laces Letter Sent To Bloomberg; Obama To Nominate Comey As FBI Chief; Off The Record, Off The Table; Suing The Government; Disneyland Worker Arrested; Christie's Diet; Arizona Mom Back In Court; Sinkhole Time Bomb

Aired May 30, 2013 - 06:00   ET

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


INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unfortunately as you go through today, even more severe weather could be back in the forecast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETERSONS (voice-over): Storm raged from Texas all of the way to New England and had nearly half of the country in the danger zone and in Texas, dangerous hail and fierce winds causing many to worry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this hail. We're going to have broken windows.

PETERSONS: This video was shot in Corinth, Texas. Look at the hail bouncing off of the ground. The Diamondbacks and Rangers game postponed Wednesday night when the heavy rain and lightning moved in very quickly. The ground crew struggled to gain control as heavy winds ripped the tarp right out of their hands.

In Amarillo, Texas, heavy wind gusts were blamed for blowing down this iconic billboard, ripping its post from the ground. Owners of the business watched as the 30-year-old sign fell to the ground.

SHANNON MARTIN, VP OF TEXAS BLUE LAKE POOLS: My sales associate actually went to open up the overhead door to get ready for them because the winds were really, really strong. We heard him holler so we all came running and that's when we saw the billboard actually falling down.

PETERSONS: Just as crazy, flood waters caught on this surveillance video from Tuesday. Torrential rain caused flooding that burst down the doors at an Illinois college.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PETERSONS: Yes, definitely some tough weather out there. In fact, the northeast, today, look at how above normal you are temperature wise. I mean, temperatures really soaring 15, 16 degrees, warmer and compare this from just a few days ago. We're talking 20, 25 degrees warmer. So a heat wave, yes, it is here. Temperatures expected to be in the upper 80s, low 90s for the next three days and that's exactly why we call it a heat wave.

But unfortunately you take all that warm humid air and you bank it up against all that cool and dry air just west of us and that's what's bringing the severe weather threat. That's what's going on. We have the low in the Rockies. We're still talking about the jet stream allowing the rotation in these storms.

Today, we're going to see more of these storms especially if you go through afternoon. As far as where the bull's-eye is, a little tilt here, we're looking at them stretching from Missouri all the way down even through Texas today so a good 15 million of you seeing the threat for storms.

Now keep in mind as long as we have the severe weather, keep in mind, all the heavy rain in the Midwest we're going to continue to add rain so the flooding is also a major concern out there, guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, still more rain. All right, Indra Petersons, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The other letter was opened by Mark Glaze in Washington. He's the director of "Mayors Against Illegal Guns." That's an organization founded and funded by an undaunted Mayor Bloomberg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: The letter was obviously referred to our anti-gun efforts, but this 12,000 people are going to get killed this year with guns and 19,000 are going to commit suicide with guns and we're not going to walk away from those efforts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Both of those letters were postmarked in Shreveport, Louisiana. This is according to the American Postal Workers Union. The FBI is investigating.

BERMAN: New word this morning that President Obama will nominate a former high-ranking official from the Bush administration to be his new FBI chief. James Comey served as deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush. If confirmed, he will replace current FBI Director Robert Mueller.

CNN's Brianna Keilar has more on the man who was a hero to some Democrats nine years ago because of his role in a White House drama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like a scene out of a Hollywood thriller, a critically ill attorney general is in intensive care at a Washington hospital. Two of the president's top aides rush to his bedside, hoping to pressure him to sign off on a secret wiretapping program the night before it's said to expire.

This was real though and what happened that night March 10th, 2004, put James Comey, President Obama's pick for his next FBI director in the headlines. JOHN COMEY, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY: I was very upset, I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man.

KEILAR: Comey was Attorney General John Ashcroft's deputy and with Ashcroft very sick, Comey was the acting attorney general. When then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card visited Ashcroft's hospital room, a last ditch effort to get his enforcement on a warrantless eavesdropping program he thought was illegal. Comey caught wind of it and ordered his driver to speed through the streets of Washington, sirens blaring and beat them there.

COMEY: Attorney John Ashcroft then stunned me. He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, but that doesn't matter because I'm not the attorney general.

KEILAR: CNN contributor, Fran Townsend, was one of President Bush's top national security advisers at the time.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This was a man with a very strong sense, internal sense of right and wrong, and what is appropriate and he's going to follow that sort of moral compass.

KEILAR: As a federal prosecutor, Comey handled the towers terrorist bombing case following the 1996 attack on a U.S. military facility in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 service members. He also took on the mafia, putting John Gambino behind bars as well as the diva of domesticity. Comey brought charges against Martha Stewart and saw her convicted for insider trader. Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Former CIA Chief David Petraeus has a new job. He's joining the giant private equity firm KKR. The company is known for corporate takeovers and is hoping Petraeus' experience and contacts will help it find new deals. The former general will be chairman of a new internal institute there focusing on macroeconomic forecasts, communications, public policy and investments in emerging markets.

BERMAN: Making serious, serious money there.

ROMANS: Serious money in private equity, yes.

BERMAN: Attorney General Eric Holder's plans to meet with the media to discuss how to handle investigations in the White House leaks hit a snag. Major news organizations including the Associated Press, the "New York Times," and "Huffington Post" said they will not take part if the meetings are off the record.

The Justice Department says they are off the record to encourage a full exchange of ideas. Holder is under fire for two cases involving secret subpoenas or searches of journalist phone records and other information, if they're believed to be involved in reports of leaked classified information. The White House and IRS have no comment so far this morning to the latest lawsuit filed over the tax agency's targeting of Tea Party groups. The advocacy group, American Center for Law and Justice, filed a suit on behalf of 25 Tea Party and other groups that it says had their constitutional rights violated. The suit names Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and several IRS officials. Two other lawsuits were filed last week.

ROMANS: New information this morning in that explosion at Disneyland's Toontown, a Disneyland employee being held now on a million dollars bail in connection with that blast. Police arrested 22-year-old Christian Barnes charging him with possessing an explosive device. They believe he's responsible for a dry ice blast that's had guests running for the exits. CNN's Sara Sidner is following these developments for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Disneyland's Toontown turned into a ghost town after an improvised explosive device went off in a trash can on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was loud. It startled us. You know, you kind of ducked and looked up and I looked higher than the ground to see what's going on.

SIDNER: Crowds evacuated as the bomb squad responded. Not the kind of scene visitors ever expected to encounter. Police say no one was hurt, but they did discover evidence of a small explosion.

SGT. ROBERT DUNN, ANAHEIM POLICE DEPARTMENT: When our officers arrived they found the remnants of a water bottle, which is kind of indicative of a dry ice type explosion.

SIDNER: The 22-year-old Christian Barnes, a vending cast member at Disneyland, is being held on a million dollar bail on suspicion of possessing and detonating an explosive device.

DUNN: There's potential, any time this occurs, for there to be injury. There's potential for someone to get injured to the point where they lose their life. That's why the charges are so serious.

SIDNER: Disneyland officials say Barnes had the dry ice in his vending cart where he sells items that need to be kept cold. Police say that Barnes is cooperating.

(on camera): That's right. This stuff, dry ice, often use for special effects. It turns out exploding dry ice bombs is a popular form of fun in some circles. If you don't believe me, just check out all the videos on YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to show you how to make a dry ice bomb.

SIDNER (voice-over): And the result when they do. What the videos don't tell you is that creating and detonating an ice bomb is a crime. You could be charged with a felony if you're caught. Across the country in Disneyworld's Animal Kingdom, a grandmother found a loaded gun on the seat of a dinosaur ride as she boarded with her grandson.

The gun owner said he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but told authorities he didn't realize that guns are not allowed in the park. Happiest places on earth turning scary for some visitors until both situations were under control. Sara Sidner, CNN, Anaheim, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: It's 9 minutes after the hour right now. So we're getting our first glimpse in a New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's eating habits as he tries to slim down. In an interview with "People" magazine, Christie says he often skips breakfast since these days -- having weight loss surgery in February because he just doesn't feel as hungry as he used to.

Christie says he also doesn't drink coffee or diet soda. That he's never needed caffeine. He prefers milk instead, he says. He is also not a fan of vegetables, except there are exceptions, green beans, lettuce, and cucumbers, a big vegetable exception there.

ROMANS: That's a big vegetable and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It sets your clock for the day.

BERMAN: That's why I get up at 1:30 so make sure I have time to prepare for my breakfast because it is so important.

ROMANS: You make so much fun for my breakfast.

BERMAN: If you saw what she ate all morning every morning you would make fun of it, too. I'm concerned. It's out of love more than anything.

ROMANS: Don't tell these secrets. Don't tell these secrets. Is this an intervention?

BERMAN: Help me help you.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, you've got to hear this interview from a Mexican jail. Desperate, terrified cries for help. The American grandmother jailed in Mexico for smuggling drugs. She tells her side of the story to CNN. Why she believes she's being framed.

Geological ticking time bomb, how an und ground cavern threatens to swallow parts of a New Mexico town. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back. For the first time, the American woman accused of trying to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana is speaking out from inside a Mexican jail. The soldiers who arrested Yanira Maldonado were supposed to appear in court Wednesday, but defense attorneys say those soldiers never showed up. Hearings in the case will resume tomorrow. CNN's Rafael Romo is the first reporter to interview Maldonado in jail. He has more for us this morning from Nogales, Mexico.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): Yanira Maldonado was emotional from the moment she saw us, escorted into the prison administrator's office to be interviewed.

YANIRA MALDONADO, DETAINED IN MEXICO: We weren't doing that work. It's not right. I need to be with my family. I need to be out of here. I need help.

ROMO: Maldonado and her husband were returning by bus from the funeral of her aunt when Mexican soldiers stopped the vehicle at this checkpoint. Passengers were taken off and the bus searched. The soldier said they found several packages of marijuana under her seat, 5.7 kilos, more than 12 pounds, and she says, asked her to pay $5,000.

MALDONADO: It's a lie what they're saying. They say they found something under my seat, but I never said anything. They didn't show me anything. It was just amazing, all -- what they did.

ROMO: Maldonado said authorities did not make it clear at first that she was a suspect, but she knew she was in trouble when federal agents started questioning her husband and her.

MALDONADO: I was in shock when they said that it was me they want because first they said that it was -- that it was -- it was my husband.

ROMO: Taken into Mexican federal custody, she was transferred to this state prison last Friday, where she is being held in a temporary cell away from other inmates.

Family members have been allowed brief visits.

(on camera): Now, your husband, Gary, and your children, are going to be listening to this and watching you. What do you want to tell them?

MALDONADO: That I love them very much, that I'm going -- that they know that I'm innocent.

ROMO (voice-over): And that belief is also held by a Mexican state official with extensive knowledge of the case who told CNN it would have been almost impossible for her to carry that much marijuana on to the bus without someone noticing.

MALDONADO: They have cameras on the terminal, in the bus, and they haven't checked that. Why they don't check for fingerprints? I don't have -- my fingerprints are not in those package or on the package, or whatever they're saying that they found.

ROMO: Maldonado says she has not been mistreated, but she's rethinking the advice she used to give friends about traveling to Mexico on vacation. MALDONADO: I used to tell people, come to Mexico. It's not true what they're saying. I go every year to visit my family, and look what's happening to me now.

ROMO: All this devout Mormon can do now, she says, is pray.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Nogales, Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Police in Upstate New York is investigating a horrific accident in a two-lane highway. Seven people were killed when a tractor trailer crashed into a minivan near Syracuse. Police say the portion somehow unhitched, striking the minivan coming from the opposite direction. Seven of the eight people inside the van died.

One person now is in the hospital. No word on their condition.

A 12-year-old California boy charge with stabbing his little sister to death is pleading not guilty. Eight-year-old Leila Fowler was found murdered last month. Her brother is due back in court at the end of July. That is when a trial date will be set.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Islamic group in Florida is calling for an independent investigation following reports that Ibrahim Todashev was unharmed when he was fatally shot by an FBI agent. Todashev was a friend of Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Todashev was shot and killed last week in Orlando after allegedly attacking the agent during questioning. The FBI is now conducting an internal investigation.

BERMAN: So experts call it a ticking time bomb. We're talking about sinkholes and the potential death and destruction that they really can cause. Well, Florida is usually the first people to think of these days, the place people think of when they hear of sinkholes.

The ground is unstable in other parts of the country as well.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Part of this dusty New Mexico landscape disappeared back in 2008 into two massive sinkholes, triggering shockwaves of confusion and anxiety that more would follow.

LEWIS LAND, NEW MEXICO TECH: I think it's quite likely that a sinkhole will form here.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): It's not a matter of if, it's when.

LAND: Yes. I would say that's probably the case. It's not a matter of if but when. But when can be a century from now or it could be next week. LAVANDERA: But here is the problem: if a sinkhole craters on this spot, it wouldn't just be happening in the middle of nowhere, wide open oil field in southeast New Mexico. It would actually be happening at one of the busiest intersections here in the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico.

LAND: Potential sinkhole.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Lewis Land is a geologist and sinkhole expert at New Mexico Tech.

LAND: As best we can tell, the lateral extent is from the -- roughly where that traffic light is and then that way beneath the canal and underneath the northern edge of that mobile home park.

LAVANDERA (on camera): So, that "Welcome to Carlsbad" sign --

LAND: That's right exact lie right.

LAVANDERA: Disappear in a second.

LAND: I always try to have my camera with me, so whenever I come this way, just in case something happens as I'm driving by.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): When the first two sinkholes emerged, experts quickly figured out they weren't a natural occurrence, they were manmade made. They opened up above two salt mines. State officials quickly shut down the mining operation in this third site inside Carlsbad city limits. But Lewis Land says this place is still a time bomb waiting to implode.

LAND: It's not a stable configuration. I think that there is -- we know there's a cavity down there beneath was because they were mining it out.

LAVANDERA: Look at this graphic cross section of the ground under this corner of Carlsbad. All of the blue you see is in the unstable salt well cavern. Land says it's so close to the ground surface it could collapse at any time.

Because of the sinkholes, the company operating here, I&W, was fined $2.6 million and declared bankruptcy. A former company official told us I&W was wrongly targeted and had followed state-approved mining regulations. The experts say the next sinkhole could easily be several hundred yards in diameter.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Carlsbad, New Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: How would you like to live near that?

ROMANS: You know, it's interesting, some of the realty firms have modeling across the country so you that can see for a house you're going to buy, for example, if there's potential for a sinkhole there. Isn't that interesting? BERMAN: It is interesting.

ROMANS: There's thousands and thousands of these locations around the country, very interesting.

Coming up next: the rich getting richer, at least when it comes to taxes. Why wealthier households are getting a bigger break in tax deductions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back. Minding your business this morning.

The Federal Reserve kills another record on Wall Street -- well, sort of. The Dow fell more than 100 points yet today and futures are flat this morning. The problem yesterday was the talk -- talk that the Fed might be dialing back its massive stimulus program.

Today, investors are waiting on several big reports on economic growth, job, housing market. Over the long term though, one person is especially bullish, this gets a lot of attention this morning.

Blackrock CEO Larry Fink thinks the Dow can get to 28,000 by 2019.

BERMAN: What?

ROMANS: It's at 15,000 right now; 28,000 -- Dow 28,000. He runs a lot of money, by the way. I mean, he's got a lot of money. That's huge portfolio.

BERMAN: That would be a big gain.

ROMANS: That would be a big gain.

All right. Remember Facebook's IPO? Remember how it was a mess? Now the NASDAQ is going to pay $10 million because of those problems.

BERMAN: Uh-oh. Trading started late. Some orders didn't go through for hours. Today settlement with the SEC is the biggest penalty ever for a stock exchange. The SEC says the NASDAQ system had a design problem that caused disruptions, made it difficult to match buy and sell.

Remember this, this was a year ago. It was such a disaster. And, in fact, that Facebook IPO which was supposed to be available to everyone, common people, we're all supposed to be able to buy a piece of that, it was such a disaster, I think a lot of people are missing this stock market rally because they mistrust Wall Street in part because of that debacles like that Facebook IPO. No comment from the NASDAQ.

And a new study says one group benefits the most from tax breaks. Who do you think it is, John?

BERMAN: I think it's the rich people. ROMANS: It is. The CBO looked at the 10 biggest tax breaks. It turns out households making $163,000 enjoy more than half of those breaks. They benefit from things like mortgage interest deduction, lower rates on capital gains.

At the low end, households making less than $50,000 claim about 8 percent of tax breaks. That's new breakdown from the Congressional Budget Office.

BERMAN: That is so unfortunately unsurprising, I have to say.

ROMANS: Not surprised.

BERMAN: All right. What's the one thing you need to know about our money?

ROMANS: In some housing markets, we've been talking about housing all week -- sellers are calling the shots. A new Century 21 survey says a third of home buyers have been looking for a long time and they're willing to make compromises to close the deal. Compromises like paying more, buying the home as is, or being flexible on the closing date.

There's not a lot of inventory either. So, you know, if you want to buy a house, in some places, you don't have a lot of choices.

BERMAN: That's a big, big turn around.

ROMANS: Sure is.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty-six minutes after hour. And coming up, twisters tearing across the plains and forecasters say the threat is not going to stop today. We will tell you who is in the bull's-eye next.

ROMANS: And a potential bombshell in the Michael Jackson death trial. The concert promoter grilled about who hired Jackson's daughter -- doctor, rather. We have the deposition in a CNN exclusive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: A bombshell in the Michael Jackson wrongful death suit. Why newly revealed e-mails could end up costing concert giant AEG billions.