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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

NSA Seizing Verizon Phone Records; Bracing for TS Andrea; Philadelphia Building Collapse; Romney On "Public Bubble

Aired June 6, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- collected and stored by the government. But why?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A deadly building collapse in Philadelphia. We have dramatic pictures of rescue, but not everyone made it out alive.

ROMANS: Plus, wicked weather in Florida. A tornado warning in Palm Beach County and a tropical storm moving in.

BERMAN: But one woman in Florida probably isn't minding the weather. Meet the mystery winner of the half billion dollar Powerball jackpot. My long lost grandmother. I wish.

Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, June 6th. Welcome to STARTING POINT.

So, big brother is watching. A potentially explosive story developing right now in the nation's capital. The United States reportedly obtaining a secret order requiring Verizon to turn over phone records of millions of Americans to the National Security Agency.

Joe Johns live from Washington this morning.

Have we heard from the White House this morning, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Christine, a carefully worded statement from a senior administration official without confirming or denying the existence of the order, but pointing out that this document first reported by "The Guardian" newspaper doesn't eavesdrop, listening to anyone's telephone calls, because it's for call data only. The information of the sort described in "The Guardian" article, the statement says, has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly in the United States. So, it's all about national security, for the folks over there.

What we know, "The Guardian" got court papers saying that the government has apparently been collecting call detail records are called -- so called metadata from customers of Verizon business network services since -- as of April 25th of this year, and the order authorized under the Patriot Act was requested by the FBI. It's supposed to be top secret, but it got out.

We contacted Verizon about this last night, and spokesman Ed McFadden told me, all I could say is no comment.

Questions, of course, have been raised before about sweeping domestic surveillance programs that came up during the Bush administration, reactions outside of government have come quickly. Al Gore tweeted that in a digital era, privacy must be a priority. Newt Gingrich got in on it, he called this a problem of having a giant government.

So this is something people are going to be talking about for a while, Christine.

ROMANS: You know, the Bush administration has collected, you know, call records on a large scale. Is what they are reportedly doing now any different than what we've done in the past? Was this a one-time, ongoing, are there other -- other not just Verizon, is it other data providers too?

JOHNS: Yes, these are all fantastic questions. You know, talking to information specialists, you look at the stuff, and it looks like they are getting together data in some type of a data mining operation. But what for? It's not clear at all.

Typically, when the government goes after a whole bunch of information like this, it's because of a specific target. It doesn't look like that. Frankly, we just don't know the beginning, the middle, or the end, Christine.

ROMANS: We don't know yet. Joe Johns, thanks so much, Joe.

BERMAN: All right. Now to extreme weather.

Tropical Storm Andrea, the first named storm of this year's tropical storm system. It is beginning to bear down on Florida this morning. The outer bands coming ashore on the state's west coast. A tropical storm warning is in effect from north of Fort Meyers and just south of Tallahassee. It's a big part of the state.

Our Indra Petersons is tracking all this for us.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, unbelievable. We've been talking about Florida all week long, and had nothing to do with the tropical storm. I mean, they've been seeing rain and even more rain. Some places, even a foot of rain in the last week.

And now, just what they don't need, more rain. A tropical storm heading toward the Big Bend area, currently seeing 60-mile-per-hour steady winds. Now, it's not expected to strengthen into the hurricane. So, that's the good news.

It's making a hint of a northeasterly turn, though. And with that, we're going to be talking about it impacting southern portions of Georgia, but eventually into the Carolinas and making its way as it is a depression up towards even New York. So, heavy rain will definitely be in the forecast. The other thing we're monitoring especially in the morning hours, when we see that northeasterly quadrant. Dissect this guy. That northeasterly quadrant does produce some friction, of course, land not as smooth as the water. So, with that, we see small tornadoes quickly spawn up, and that's we are continuing to see this morning and monitoring. We some other reports that have already following two tornado warnings still within the area.

Wind, of course, is the biggest concern. We're talking about isolated amounts, even as high as eight inches of rain, and, of course, lower amounts as it dissipates as it makes its way farther north.

But, keep in mind, even though it's dissipating, this is tropical moisture, really enhances those thunderstorms and with that, we're talking about even a good two to four inches of rain still possible by the time it makes its way to New York. So, definitely, a lot of rain there this weekend. I know everyone keeps asking, it is prom weekend, and so many people aren't going to have good pictures.

ROMANS: Two to four 4 inches, no barbecue for me.

BERMAN: Matching umbrellas at prom.

PETERSONS: Gorgeous.

ROMANS: All right. New this morning, some improvement of relations along the Korean peninsula, with the North and South agreeing to hold talks on reopening the joint industrial complex just weeks after Pyongyang pulled its workers from the factory, shutting it down. South Korea says it positively accepts the proposed talks, calling it a great opportunity to build trust between those neighbors.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales has admitted to the massacre of 15 innocent Afghans civilians, most of them women and children. Count by count, he pleaded guilty yesterday to more than 30 criminal charges. He acknowledged he slipped away from his base in March 2012, going house to house on a killing spree, setting 10 of those bodies on fire. Bales said, quote, "There is not a good reason in the world for the horrible things I did."

His attorney blames brain injuries, PTSD and steroids, he says, were provided by Army Special Forces. The 39-year-old will escape the death penalty with these guilty pleas. A decision on life with or without parole is expected in August. Life with parole would mean he could serve as little as 10 years.

BERMAN: There could be fireworks today at today's House hearing on the IRS spending scandal. The man who brought it all to life, J. Russell George will be testifying. He's the Treasury Department inspector general whose eye opening report detailed $50 million on IRS conferences from 2010 to 2012. And new this morning -- you see the conference right there with "The Gilligan's Island" theme -- new this morning, the IRS putting two employees on administrative leave for allegedly taking $1,100 in free food and other items at a 2010 conference in Anaheim that cost taxpayers $4.1 million. ROMANS: Time is running down for victims of the Boston marathon bombings to get their chair of a charitable fund established to help them, those eligible to receive payments from the Boston One Fund have until next Saturday, June 15th, to file a claim. Fund administrator Kenneth Fienberg tells "The New York Times" they have received only 50 applications. The Boston One Fund has collected nearly $40 million in donations.

ROMANS: A life-altering tragedy, the Boston marathon bombings, leads to a lifetime for bombing victim, Erika Brannock. Earlier this week, Brannock became the last survivor of the terror attack to leave the hospital. She told CNN she desperately wanted to find the woman who saved her life that day. Now that woman, Amanda North of California, used her belt as a tourniquet to stop Erika's bleeding after her leg was blown off.

North's friends saw the CNN report, told her about Erika and we flew them to be together so she could meet the woman she helped save.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA NORTH, HELPED SAVE BOSTON BOMBING VICTIM: I want you to just think of me whenever you wear this and know that I'm always there for you. It never goes away. We're friends for life.

ERIKA BRANNOCK, BOSTON BOMBING SURVIVOR: We are. We'll always be connected.

NORTH: Yes, we will. Never going to stop holding your hand no matter what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: What an unbelievable reunion, quite a bond. The two women exchanged gifts. Erika gave Amanda a necklace with a dragonfly, symbol of strength. And Amanda gave Erika her favorite scarf.

As you can see, just tears keep on flowing. What a bond.

ROMANS: It's just friendship and people helping people born out of something so hateful and so the antithesis of what used to be when you look at people who are recovering and the friendships that have been made.

Ahead on STARTING POINT: six dead as a result of a harrowing building collapse in Philadelphia yesterday. But there is renewed hope this morning as a 61-year-old woman pulled out alive from that rubble. The latest on continuing search efforts, just ahead.

BERMAN: And Paris Jackson rushed to the hospital after an apparent suicide attempt. We'll tell you what happened and what the Jackson family is saying this morning.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone.

Celebration amid the sorrow in downtown Philadelphia. A 61-year-old woman amazingly rescued from the rubble of a collapsed four-story building overnight after she was buried alive for more than 12 hours.

Six people were killed in yesterday's building collapse. And the search goes on this morning for the possibility of still more survivors.

CNN's Don Lemon, right by the building, following developments for us this morning in Philadelphia.

Good morning, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unbelievable, John. Unbelievable.

Twelve hours trapped in the rubble, an elderly woman. And yet, they're hoping they have everyone out there, not exactly sure. They're still searching, they're still pulling some of the rubble out.

The people here in Philadelphia, though, left to wonder how and why this happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (voice-over): A giant brick wall, more than 100 feet long, four stories high, came down with a boom onto a busy Salvation Army thrift store.

CLAUDE DAVIS, SAW BUILDING COLLAPSE: I heard a great big crack.

LEMON: Claude Davis was just across the street watching from his apartment.

DAVIS: I looked and seen the building crumble. Oh, it was painful. Oh, my goodness, and I thought about all of the people in there that couldn't get out of there and I screamed and hollered.

LEMON: Those people who couldn't get out include those who died and at least a dozen customers at the store in Philadelphia's Center City.

Jordan McLaughlin saw it happened and rushed in to help.

JORDAN MCLAUGHLIN, SAW BUILDING COLLAPSE: People that actually fell over, people started screaming and they're across the street. There was people inside the building, you heard them scream.

LEMON: Another rescuer, Harold Corbin, seen in this video, standing on the rubble, helped pull four people out.

HAROLD CORBIN, PULLED VICTIMS FROM RUBBLE: We were on top of the roof, pulling them out. When we got there, all you could hear is help and maybe see a hand or something through the rubble.

LEMON: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says they don't know how many people in the thrift store at the time. So, to prevent any further collapse, he ordered all traffic and trains stopped for blocks. News helicopters grounded, sent in dogs to sniff human scent under the rubble and ordered a full investigation.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: This was an active demolition site, no violation, no complaints that we're aware of. And all permits were valid.

LEMON: Also searching for answers, those who saw the tragedy up close, who describe it as a war zone.

CORBIN: We had a tar, sheetrock, I mean, you name it, a bunch of dust, and a bunch of cries, help, help, help, help, help.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: That 61-year-old woman treated at the hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, her injuries believed not life threatening. Again, 14 people pulled out. They're hoping, they believe everyone is accounted for, but they're still searching, just in case.

I want to bring in someone who witnessed this and probably took the only picture that we saw of the building actually collapsing and that is Jordan here. Jordan McLaughlin, he's a student, 18 years old, and you were walking back from school. You had early dismissal.

You're standing -- let me show you the corner real quick. Standing right on that corner and you were picking up the phone with your mom, what happened. You're talking to your mom?

MCLAUGHLIN: I was about to call my mom, and what happened was I saw the building starting to shake, and it seemed like to be like a mudslide, and it's -- everything started to slide on top of the thrift shop. At that moment, I already had my phone out, so I just opened up the camera app and I shot a few pictures.

LEMON: Yes. You said you felt the street rumble, the ground shake?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. There is this one guy, he was standing right in front of the store, and he -- he fell over.

LEMON: What did you do? You pulled out your camera, you took the picture, and -- I mean, this -- and - picture, I'm sure people -- one of the only images -- initial images of this, you took it out and then you ran over and you started to help as well.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. I took a picture. All the cars pretty much stopped and I ran through the traffic, and I just got on top of the rubble and tried to start pulling people out.

LEMON: Yes. There were people in traffic as well. There was one gentleman who said he was stuck in his truck for a while?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

LEMON: Yes. So, when you start pulling people out, you said it was a team effort. How did you, guys, manage to do this?

MCLAUGHLIN: It started with the construction workers, me and there were some other people that came from the street and they started to help out, and just lifting piece by piece that were on top of other people.

LEMON: Yes. And the fire station is literally in the same block here, took the fire department not long to get here. Did they tell you guys, it's not safe for you, you guys should get out?

MCLAUGHLIN: We started with the fire department and we worked alongside of them until the rest of the fire department came.

LEMON: Yes. You said you saw the wall, it went back and forth. You thought it was going to fall into the demolition site, and then, it fell the other way.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

LEMON: At first, when you said it was one person, you couldn't believe, right?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

LEMON: You thought it would be more.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

LEMON: Yes. It turns out that it was more. Six people died in all of this. And John, Christine, horrific -- he witnessed it. A lot of people witnessed it, and a lot of heroes here in Philadelphia helping out in this very horrific situation.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I just can't imagine walking by a building like that and just seeing it collapse, and having the, you know, the sense to do what he did, to go and try to help people. All right. Don, thank you so much. And Jordan, our thanks to you, too.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, revealing what it felt like to lose last November's election and return to private life. In an interview with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. He talked about the moment his public bubble burst.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Christine and John, I sat down with Mitt and Ann Romney here in Park City, Utah where they're hosting an idea of (ph) conference. Some of the people who are coming out here include Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey and a potential presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's former running mate, and also David Axelrod, who as you recall, was one of the Democrats who succeeded in beating Mitt Romney.

I asked the governor what it's like to go from being one of the most prominent people in the world, and overnight, be a private citizen again, loading your groceries in the back of your car at the Costco.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We lived our entire life, if you will, in privacy, like most people do. And then, there was this extraordinary period of a year or so when we were highly visible and there's a secret service around you, people are getting everything you want. You're in your hotel room, you can't even leave your hotel room.

They put exercise equipment in my hotel room so I could exercise, because I couldn't go down to the regular exercise room without being photographed. So, you're in that kind of a very public bubble for a while, and then, when it disappears and it disappears overnight, when you lose the election, it's just gone. Snap, it's gone. And, it's back to where you were before, and that feels right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Governor Romney tells me this conference is his first step in getting re-involved in the public debate in some way. We also talked about the controversies in Washington like the IRS and Benghazi. But the governor, himself, assured me that while he wants to re-engage in public life, he has absolutely no intention of running for public office -- Christine and John.

BERMAN: Got to be a professional grandfather.

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: Of course, that conference should be very interesting this morning with Republican contenders headed there as well, some Democrats to speak and talk about these issues.

ROMANS: And you can see Gloria Borger's entire interview with Mitt and Ann Romney this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. eastern on "The Lead" with Jake Tapper at 5:00 eastern in the SITUATION ROOM.

BERMAN: And ahead on STARTING POINT, renewed hope for the family of a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban in 2009. Now, they say they have received a letter from him. We'll have the details of that letter in a live report coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. "Minding Your Business" this morning, Dow futures up about 30 points, not enough to get the blue chips above 15,000 on the fray. The sell-off yesterday pulled down all Dow 30 (ph) stocks, and the NASDAQ had its biggest drop in almost on two months. Investors may not make any big bets today, because they're waiting for tomorrow's monthly jobs report. That's next big signal we'll get for the market.

All right. It's getting more expensive to get a mortgage. The 30- year fixed rate is above four percent for the first time in a year. Rates are still relatively low, but you know, they've been rising the past few weeks. The Mortgage Bankers Association says that's scaring away some buyers. Rates are rising because of fears the Federal Reserve thinking about ending its stimulus program.

Donald Trump is taking over one of the most iconic buildings in Washington, D.C, the old post office. Trump reached a deal with the government to turn the 114-year-old building into a luxury hotel with restaurants, conference facilities, and a spa. The renovation will cost some $200 million. The hotel is expected to be ready in 2016. The deal still must be reviewed by Congress.

BERMAN: And he gets to be neighbors with the president.

ROMANS: There you go.

BERMAN: You know, some of the opinions (ph), that will be nice for both of them.

Sources close to the Jackson Family are calling a possible suicide attempt by Michael Jackson's daughter a cry for help. Fifteen-year- old Paris Jackson was taken to the hospital early Wednesday morning. Sources tell CNN that Jackson had cut one of her wrists.

A suicide prevention hotline operator allegedly called 911 after speaking to the teen. Just last week, Paris Jackson posted a how to makeup video on YouTube.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need serious help. I am crazy, I am crazy. Anyway, if this helped, I doubt it did. Yes. So, this is me when I'm done with make-up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Jackson family attorney says that Paris Jackson is physically fine and getting appropriate medical attention this morning.

ROMANS: She could be the most powerful woman in America, but a Brit may get to play her on the silver screen. The Hollywood reporter says the "Great Gatsby" actress, Carey Mulligan, the leading contender for the role of Hillary Clinton in an upcoming film. That film will focus on the early days of Clinton's political career and her relationship with future President Bill Clinton.

Several Americans are also reportedly in the running for the starring role such as Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Chastain, and Emma Stone.

BERMAN: It's just like payback for Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Maybe, maybe.

BERMAN: Pippa Middleton has a new gig. She's now a contributing editor at "Vanity Fair." Prince William's sister-in-law will be writing a series of columns for the magazine, including a personal guide for Wimbledon Watchers this time. Pippa is very busy these days. She's written a book about event planning and is reportedly planning the baby shower for her sister, the duchess of Cambridge.

ROMANS: John, what is your favorite thing about Pippa Middleton?

BERMAN: I think Pippa is charming and smart. And --

ROMANS: You read all of her entertainment --

BERMAN: I read all of the books. The party planning book was terrific.

ROMANS: Was it?

BERMAN: That last chapter on planning parties was awesome.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Just wanted to get on the record --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: There you go.

Up next, ahead on STARTING POINT, the family of a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban in 2009 getting a glimmer of hope after receiving a letter from him. Details of that letter in just a moment.

BERMAN: And a Texas judge getting raked over the coals for comments she made about minorities and the death penalty. We will have the details after the break. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: There is renewed hope this morning for the safe return of captured Idaho soldier, Bowe Bergdahl. His family received a letter from Bowe through the Red Cross. Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, live in Washington with the details. Good morning, Barbara. This is remarkable.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is, John. This is one of the few signals the family has received about the fate of Bowe Bergdahl, a young man from Idaho, an army soldier captured four years ago in Eastern Afghanistan, heard from very times in a couple of videos. Now, the family has indicated they have received a letter through the Red Cross from him, giving them some hope that he is alive and is well as can be expected after being in captivity all this time.

This has all emerged in the last day or so in an e-mail exchange between Bergdahl's father and a supporter in Idaho named Dwight Murphy who posted some details about the letter on his Facebook page. But have a listen to what Dwight Murphy, a family supporter had to say about all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DWIGHT MURPHY, BERGDAHL FAMILY SPOKESMAN: That brings new found hope. That's like sitting around a camp fire that's going out and, all of a sudden, you find that one more log to keep the fire going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)