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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Baseball Cheating Scandal; Susan Rice to Become National Security Adviser; Gov. Christie Calls For Special Election

Aired June 5, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, June 5th. Welcome to STARTING POINT.

And this morning, the founder of a Miami area anti-aging clinic could write the next chapter in the Major League Baseball steroid era.

ESPN is reporting that Tony Bosch is set to talk with investigators from Major League Baseball and it could lead to some 20 players, some big names, being suspended for alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. The list is set to include the Brewer's Ryan Braun, the Yankees Alex Rodriguez. These are two past MVPs, two of the sport's biggest stars.

Our Pamela Brown is following developments for us. She is outside Yankees stadium, where Alex Rodriguez at least used to play.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John.

This is a big development in this ongoing story, the fact that Tony Bosch will be sitting down, talking with investigators. Now, at the center of this widening steroid scandal, one of the richest players, if not the richest player in baseball history, as well as one of the league's most valuable players, this may be one for the history books in American sports and certainly a record breaker that no player wants to be part of.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): ESPN is reporting that Major League Baseball is preparing for an unprecedented wave of player suspensions, that include Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and the Brewers Ryan Braun. Rodriguez, Braun, and some 18 others are allegedly linked to a Miami area clinic, at the center of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal.

On Tuesday night, Ryan Braun refused to talk about it after the game.

RYAN BRAUN, MILWAUKEE BREWERS: I'm not answering any further questions. You know, I've dealt with it for a long time, over the last year and a half. And aside from that, I don't really have anything further to say.

BROWN: Yankees manager Joe Girardi was peppered with questions at a post-game news conference.

JOE GIRARDI, NEW YORK YANKEES MANAGER: I think we all had hoped that we kind of got through it, but obviously, we're not through it yet.

BROWN: Major League Baseball issued this statement, following the ESPN story. "We can't comment on an ongoing investigation."

ESPN reports that Tony Bosch, the founder of this now closed clinic near Miami, has reached an agreement to cooperate with the league's investigation. "The Miami New Times" first reported in January that Bosch's biogenesis clinic was a pipeline to performance enhancing drugs for several players.

TIM ELFRINK, MIAMI NEW TIMES: Well, it's clear that biogenesis, like a lot of anti-aging clinics were selling a lot of HGH, a number of other drugs, you know, that are widely banned in sports.

BROWN: Representatives for Alex Rodriguez issued a denial after the January report. "The news reports about the purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true. Alex Rodriguez was not Mr. Bosch's patient. He was never treated by him and was never advised by him."

According to ESPN, players could be suspended for 100 games, a penalty usually given to second offenses. If upheld, the suspensions may be the largest in American sport history.

A-Rod fans, disappointed.

TREVOR KAUFMAN, YANKEES FAN: I looked up to him, when I play baseball, because he's really my favorite player and I really liked him. And it just like saddens you kind of.

BROWN: Not is only the legacy of these baseball giants at stake, but more importantly, that of America's pastime.

GIRARDI: I worry about baseball being affected, as a game. The whole thing, and what it's been through in the last 15 years and that's my concern.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: A-Rod has denied using any performance-enhancing drugs since he's played for the Yankees. Under his contract, he's making $28 million this year, important to note, though, that players do not get paid for suspended games.

Now, again, we're still waiting to see what happens here. Bosch has yet to sit down with investigators and talk to them and we're not sure exactly when that's going to happen.

Back to you.

BERMAN: Pamela Brown, huge developments. And as you said, another chapter in the so-called steroid era. Thanks, Pamela.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's dig in with this more now, what could be the worst drug scandal we've ever seen in American sports.

Let's bring in CNN's Rachel Nichols. She's in Miami.

Good morning.

You know, the biogenesis clinic originally flagged for distributing illegal drugs to professional athletes back in January. But players like A-Rod, Rachel, denied any connection. Tony Bosch's cooperation must be critical here to nailing these players who have been accused of using steroids, but have denied it.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they haven't been able to go forward without him. Anybody can write down a list of Major League Baseball players, make some notations next to it. You need him to swear under oath that those notations mean that he delivered to, maybe even injected Major League players with performance-enhancing drugs.

But when Tony Bosch does meet with Major League Baseball, it's probably going to be at the end of this week. Investigators are also hoping he might be able to provide some more physical evidence, receipts, phone call records, maybe even some sort of DNA evidence, because this is certainly going to be something that's adjudicated. They can issue suspensions all they want. Players are going to appeal them and if this is just a he said/he said, we might not see these suspensions stick.

So, evidence is crucial here. His cooperation is certainly the first step. Can't do this without him, but they are hoping he can give them even more.

ROMANS: It's a good point about the he said/he said, because in April, Bosch told ESPN, he had no knowledge of performance-enhancing drugs. So, this is an about-face. Why is he cooperating now?

NICHOLS: Well, he's certainly been back into a corner. Major League Baseball very serious about this investigation. Look, they were slow to react to steroids in the entire scandal over the last 15 years. They have certainly caught up, become a leader in this and they want to prove it.

They spent reportedly over $1 million in the investigation, had teams of people down here in Miami and they filed a pretty extensive civil suit against Bosch. It was going to cost him a tremendous amount of money. They were cooperating with authorities, trying to get some criminal charges going.

So, he was backed into a corner with his cooperation. They're dropping that civil suit. They're going to tell authorities he is a cooperative witness. But, again, that's going to be a challenge, because players are going to say in their appeals process, hey, this guy has bought and paid for. Of course, he is going to say whatever they want him to say. So, that evidence will be crucial.

ROMANS: Just going to start to get very, very interesting -- ten years into this scandal. Thanks, Rachel Nichols.

New this morning, a major shuffle in the president's foreign policy team. Senior administrative official tells CNN's Jessica Yellin that Tom Donilon will be resigning as President Obama's national security adviser and will be replaced by Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations. It's important to note that this position does not require Senate confirmation, which is previously problematic when Rice's name was being floated for a cabinet position.

And we're just learning Susan Rice's replacement looks like it's going to be Samantha Powers, a former White House aide and Harvard professional.

BERMAN: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is rejecting please from politicians and the parents of a little girl awaiting a lung transplant. They're asking her to set aside a policy that makes it difficult for children under 12 from getting adult lungs. But Sebelius says changing the rule for 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan could push other children lower on the list of those waiting for donation.

Sebelius ordered a policy review. But any change could take up to two years.

ROMANS: We've been following all kinds of extreme weather across the country this morning. Let's get you up to speed now. Authorities now believe a tree that fell on the power lines may have sparked a wildfire burning in north central New Mexico. The Tres Lagunas fire has scorched more than 86 miles so far. The Mississippi River is more than 10 feet above flood stage in St. Louis, Missouri. A levee breach in West Alton, forced authorities to evacuate more than 40 homes yesterday.

The National Weather Service confirms that an EF-1 tornado touched down Tuesday in South Carolina, damaging a chicken farm in Orangeburg Country. An authorities in Oklahoma saying 19 people were killed during last Friday's storm. That storm spanned at 2.6 mile-wide.

Unbelievable. This tornado in El Reno, the widest tornado ever recovered in the U.S.

BERMAN: Ever.

ROMANS: Ever.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has set a primary date in August to fill the late Senator Frank Lautenberg's seat. But it's the October special election that has people really talking. We'll tell you why that is rubbing some in his own party the wrong way. Jake Tapper here with the reaction.

Plus, we'll also talk about the latest news that Ambassador Susan Rice will be replacing Tom Donilon as national security adviser.

ROMANS: And First Lady Michelle Obama get into a war of words with a heckler -- what was said and who won, coming up.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden will speak later this morning at the funeral for New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. Lautenberg was the oldest member of the Senate. He was the last remaining World War II veteran when he died on Monday at the age of 89. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie now will appoint an interim replacement, to fill Lautenberg's Senate seat for the next four months.

And he has set a special election to fill that seat permanently. The date for that is October. And that is causing quite a stir.

CNN's Jim Acosta reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was vintage Chris Christie as the New Jersey governor running for re- election celebrated victory in the state's Republican primary.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: New Jersey will lead America to a new era of honesty, responsibility. And prosperity and we'll do it together.

ACOSTA: But it's another race in New Jersey that's stealing the spotlight. The one Christie himself set to replace the late Senator Frank Lautenberg. Opting against the appointment of a Republican successor to serve out the remainder of Lautenberg's term, as many in the GOP wanted, Chris Christie set a special election for October 16th, three weeks before his own election.

CHRISTIE: I understand the advantage to me if I was the person who decided who would fill the Senate seat representing New Jersey for 18 months, but I just did not feel comfortable doing that.

AD NARRATOR: He needs us proud to say we're from New Jersey. Chris Christie, the governor.

ACOSTA: Critics say the decision is all about Christie, insisting the governor just wants to keep Newark Mayor Cory Booker, now the Democratic favorite to win the Senate race, off the November ballot.

MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NJ: I'm Cory Booker.

ACOSTA: Why?

Because a big Democratic turnout for Booker could help Christie's opponent, Barbara Buono, who admits in her own ad, she's not that well-known.

BARBARA BUONO: So let me be clear, this guy is Bono. I'm Barbara Buono.

ACOSTA: Christie shrugged off the charge.

CHRISTIE: No, there's no political purpose to this.

ACOSTAL: Republicans are grumbling. The special election is estimated to cost nearly $24 million benefits Booker, who's already raised millions for his campaign. Conservative blog Hot Air said Christie thwarts GOP again. No surprise, Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate had different reactions.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: And I won't question the path that he's chosen.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm happy with what he's done.

ACOSTA: Ask who Christie will name as Lautenberg's temporary replacement until the October election, the governor's office said no decision has been made. Meanwhile, a senior adviser to Cory Booker said the mayor will make his decision at the appropriate time.

But some Republicans are furious over this. One top GOP strategist told CNN, it would have been, quote, "very helpful had Christie waited until 2014."

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Let's bring in CNN's chief Washington correspondent and host of "THE LEAD," Jake Tapper.

You know, let's start here quickly with Governor Christie, I think, because John Berman keeps telling me the biggest winner in all of this is Chris Christie. Do you agree?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are certain advantages to what he did. He, first of all, can make the case to New Jersey Democrats and New Jersey independents that he is not beholden to the Republican Party in Washington, D.C. He did not do what they wanted him to do, which was to appoint a Republican in that seat.

So, it certainly helps him in making his pitch for re-election in a Democratic state. And then, also, by having this special election take place in October, as opposed to in November, he avoids having a very popular Democrat on the top of the ticket, presumably that could be Cory Booker, if Cory Booker wins the primary. And it helps, benefits Christie to not have Cory Booker on the top of the ticket, bringing out Democratic based support for him.

It benefits him to be the top of the ticket of his own ballot, which would then mean theoretically he gets to run up the margin of victory, assume he beats Buono which, I think, most people believe he will. And then, also, his coattails will be the ones on top of the ballot, meaning that there'll be more of a Republican legislature for him to deal with.

So, yes, this benefits Chris Christie, although, as Jim Acosta's piece makes very clear, he did not make a lot of friends among Republican officials in Washington and conservative activists throughout the country they think. This is another move in which Chris Christie's doing what's best for Chris Christie and not what's best for the Republican Party.

BERMAN: So, we have politics in New Jersey, Jake, and also some politics in the west wing on the foreign policy team to report this morning. A major shuffle just breaking this morning. National security adviser, Tom Donilon, out and Susan Rice in as national security adviser as well as some other moves, but explain the significance of this?

TAPPER: Well, Tom Donilon has been part of the president's team. He started off as a deputy national security adviser, and then, went up to national security adviser. He's been an immensely influential and powerful figure behind the scenes. Generally speaking, he does not have a public presence very often. Susan Rice, obviously, people know her well because of the Benghazi scandal.

She has been a very close adviser to the president, a close friend and aide. I think that this is going to be seen by Republicans as yet another act of defiance by President Obama, putting her in that position. It's not a position that requires Senate confirmation. It also puts somebody with a very different portfolio when it comes to foreign policy as national security adviser. Susan Rice has been something of an activist, someone who advocates for intervention when genocide is going on, when people are being slaughtered.

Tom Donilon's focus has been more on Asia. That's been his area of expertise, unless, you have the Obama administration's so-called Asia pivot, the pivot to Asia. So, in terms of policy, there are big repercussions. And then, also, of course, in terms of politics, Susan Rice, because of the Benghazi controversy, has been fairly controversial.

And, there will be a lot of Republicans complaining about this move today, although, there's is nothing really they can do about it, because the position does not require Senate confirmation.

BERMAN: There's also a big move at the United Nations, the new ambassador to the United Nations that some people will remember from campaign history.

TAPPER: Samantha power. Yes. Samantha Power's claim to fame should be that she wrote this Pulitzer-Prize winning book about genocide, but what most political junkies probably know her for is that she was a foreign policy aide who, in an interview, I think, to British television, referred to Hillary Clinton during the very contentious 2008 primaries referred to Hillary Clinton as a monster.

The Clinton campaign demanded that she resign. She did, but the truth of the matter is that she has remained a very influential person within the Obama foreign policy establishment, again, somebody very active when it comes to advocating U.S. intervention to prevent loss of life abroad. I'm not surprised by either of these moves today. Both of them, I think, have been in the works for some time. ROMANS: Jake Tapper, "The Lead with Jake Tapper. " Thanks, Jake.

BERMAN: Four o'clock today, every day.

Meanwhile, ahead on STARTING POINT, Chrysler telling federal auto safety regulators it will not recall millions of jeeps currently on the road and believed to be dangerously faulty. Why their flat-out rejecting the government's recommendation? That's coming right up.

ROMANS: And Taco Bell sealing the fate of this employee seen here in that viral picture making out with a stack of taco shells. The company taking swift action. We're going to tell you what they did just ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, "Minding Your Business."

Brand new data on the job market. ADP says private sector employers added 135,000 positions in May. April was revived down to 113,000 new positions. Both numbers show the job market still sluggish. This is seen as the precursor to the big one on Friday from the government. Economists expect that report, the big jobs report, to show. 165,000 jobs were added last month. Dow futures right now down about 50 points.

Nearly 250,000 Toyota vehicles recalled, 87,000 of them are in the U.S. The rest are overseas. Here at home, the recall includes the Prius and Lexus HS 250h, 2010 model year. No reports of death or injury, but Toyota says they've received complaints about drivers needing to press hard on the brake pedal. Affected owners will be notified by mail. So, they will contact you. Toyota stock is down nearly three percent.

Chrysler is refusing to recall 2.7 million jeep Grand Cherokees and Liberties. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is recommending a recall of all of its vehicles after reports of hundreds of fires and deaths. It's the first time since 1996 that an automaker has challenged a recall.

Chrysler believes that the government's conclusions are, quote, "based on an incomplete analysis of the under lying data." And Chrysler continues to work with the government. The automaker says most of the fatalities occurred because the vehicles were involved in high-speed crashes, not because of a problem with the car.

BERMAN: All right. An update now on that Taco Bell worker, the fresh one who got awfully friendly with a stack of taco shells. Check out this picture. That's an employee, yes, licking, licking, making out with a these taco shells. Well Taco Bell now says he's licked his last taco. He's been fired.

They say those shells never made it to the customers. They were just used in training and never served. This is interesting, though. The photo was apparently taken for a contest showing workers enjoying a new product, which he clearly did. We need to find out more about that.

ROMANS: I know. I still have questions. If it was part of a photo contest to show how much you love your product, then why are you fired?

BERMAN: You can't really love them more than that, right? Going to first base with the tacos. That's loving some tacos.

ROMANS: That's not what they meant (ph).

All right. Miley Cyrus is now officially lightyears away from Hannah Montana, said to be singing about cocaine and ecstasy in her new single "We Can't Stop."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

ROMANS: In case you miss it, here's the lyrics you just heard, "everyone in line in the bathroom, trying to get a line in the bathroom." Cyrus also sings about dancing with Molly. That's a slang term for ecstasy. But her producer tells TMZ she is not singing about the drug. Check out these racy pics tease in the song in its upcoming video, which MTV says will debut next week.

BERMAN: She's teasing something.

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT, first lady, Michelle Obama, engaging in a little verbal sparring match with a heckler. Who do you think won?

BERMAN: And quite possibly the biggest shark ever caught ever. And get this, just 15 miles off the coast of Southern California. Yikes! We're going to have more on the shark catcher's ordeal, just ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And this just in, we're hearing that President Obama will address the shuffle of his foreign policy staff today at 2:15. As we've been reporting, a change on the foreign policy front with news that Susan Rice will replace Tom Donilon as the national security adviser, and Samantha Power will be nominated to take over for Susan Rice as ambassador to the U.N.

ROMANS: Again, that announcement coming this afternoon officially, 2:15, right?

BERMAN: 2:15.

ROMANS: That conference in. All right. A surveillance camera captured the shocking execution of a California teen on a sidewalk. Chaos erupted in Oakland Sunday when a masked gunman began firing at a crowd in broad daylight. As other scrambled for safety, the teen, later identified as 17-year-old David Manson Jr., he lay on the sidewalk.

After firing several shots to the fleeing crowd, the gunman walks up to the boy, shoots him several times at point-blank range. So far, there are no arrests.

BERMAN: Demands for an apology this morning from a top Senate Republican. During a hearing on sexual assault in the military on Tuesday, Georgia's Saxby Chambliss said that hormones may be partly responsible for this epidemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, (R) GEORGIA: The young folks that are coming in to each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22 or 23. Gee whiz, that's the level of the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur.

(END VIDEO CLIP)