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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Crews Battling 5 Fires in Colorado; Fireworks Vs. Tear Gas in Turkey; Should Reporters Be Prosecuted?

Aired June 12, 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: Plus, why there is a new focus on the journalist involved.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And getting into an accident in one state could require you to hand over your cell phone. Does a new law go too far to prevent distracted driving?

BERMAN: This is really interesting. We'll talk more about that.

ROMANS: It really is.

Good morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, June 12th. Welcome to STARTING POINT.

ROMANS: All right. Colorado burning. Crews are now battling five wildfires in the state. One forced a prison to evacuate inmates as a precaution. The largest of the fire, the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs has burned nearly 8,000 acres and triggered thousands of evacuations. The hot, dry conditions now hampering firefighters.

CNN's Dan Simon live in Colorado Springs for us.

Good morning.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

This is going to be a very long day of firefighting. The sun has now already come up. Already this fire has consumed or damaged anywhere from 40 to 60 homes. We're talking about record temperatures and strong winds and apparently this fire shows no signs of letting up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON (voice-over): Raging wildfires across Colorado are forcing thousands to get out of harm's way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out now!

SIMON: The Black Forest Fire south of Denver multiplying in size in just hours, and engulfing thousands of acres in its path. This thick billowing smoke visible for miles, massive flames consumes dozens of buildings in this heavily wooded area. TERRY MAKETA, EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF: We are still at zero containment. The fire is still pretty well-scattered. It's not just one wall of fire.

SIMON: Firefighters say record-high winds and high temperatures are fueling the fast-moving fires.

MAKETA: With night fall, we hope that the wins have certainly died down since earlier today.

SIMON: The Black Forest Fire, one of at least fires ablaze across Colorado. Some 150 firefighters and the National Guard aiding in the battle.

MAKETA: We have other fires around the state that are also draining the resources. But right now, I cannot be more pleased with the support that we've received.

SIMON: This area is no stranger to devastating fires. Last summer, the Waldo Canyon Fire killed two and destroyed 346 homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not experienced with wildfires. I'll tell you what? I won't underestimate it again.

SIMON: And Colorado was not alone. In northern California, a firefighter was killed while fighting a wildfire caused by lightning.

Lightning was also the cause of another growing wildfire near Kingston, New Mexico. And earlier, and devastating season is not showing any signs of slowing down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: Well, back here in Colorado, this black forest fire is not contained at all, zero percent. With fires raging throughout the state, as you can imagine, resources are stretched thin. The big priority today is getting enough crews in here where they can really battle this blaze effectively -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Dan Simon -- thanks, Dan.

BERMAN: Now to the unfolding turmoil in Turkey. New developments this morning. Some protesters are scheduled to sit down face-to-face with the very man they're rallying against, the prime minister. Right now, there's a strain calm.

Protesters trickling back into Istanbul's Taksim Square with riot police on stand by. It could erupt at any moment. Protests reached a fever pitch in Taksim Square last night. Demonstrators fended off with tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and at times, they set off fireworks in celebration and in protest.

ROMANS: Our correspondents have been on the ground in the thick of it, covering every flair up, including senior international correspondent Arwa Damon. She joins us from Istanbul.

What are you seeing this morning, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Taksim Square is right behind me, and just to orient you and give you an idea of what's happening, that traffic you actually see the flow of people and vehicles, that's Taksim Square almost -- almost -- back to normal. We've been seeing clean-up crews really trying to move away a lot of the debris and reestablish that sense that the government does have full control over the square itself.

Now, the demonstrators are in Gezi Park. It is right next to the square itself. There's a set of stairs that lead up to the entrance of the park and there's a fairly sizable barricade that has been put into place there.

But the demonstrators staying in Gezi Park and not going back into Taksim Square, and the riot police stationed along one road and in another position, too. But they seem to be fairly relaxed at this point. You know, sitting down, not seeming to want to confront those individuals who are in Gezi Park. But most certainly, completely different images to what was taking place here yesterday and into the early hours of the morning.

ROMANS: Arwa, what do we expect to happen today with this meeting between protest leaders and the prime minister?

DAMON: Well, here's the issue with that meeting. Is that a lot of the protest leaders that we've been speaking to who are really part of this umbrella coalition that is at the very core of these demonstrations aren't attending. Some of them, because they don't feel like negotiations at this point would be fruitful and others because they say they haven't been invited.

And they are really dismissing this meeting that is meant to be taking place, saying that this is just the government trying to appease the demonstrators, but doing it in such a non-concrete way that it's not going to leak to any sort of resolution to this unfolding crisis at this point.

So, we don't have high expectations for this meeting, but, again, we're going to have to wait and see.

ROMANS: All right. Arwa Damon for us this morning in Taksim Square -- thanks, Arwa.

These protests mean all eyes turning to Turkey's government to see how this conflict can end.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour met with Turkey's prime minister in Istanbul last September and she knows all too well the importance of this U.S. ally.

She joins us now. She is CNN chief international correspondent and the host of CNNI's "AMANPOUR."

So, these protesters, their goals have changed. From the beginning, at the start, the conservationist movement. Now, it's a movement against this prime minister.

What do we expect could, could happen today result from this meeting that they're having?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's very important to say that I've been getting huge number of messages from the protesters who have been in Gezi Park. You heard from Arwa, there's a sort of division of labor so to speak by the government. They want to keep what they call legitimate protesters in Gezi Park and clean Taksim Square out, which you've seen them do.

They say in Gezi Park, they won't stop their tent city, their protest, which is mostly there, until the government assures them that they will not turn this small bit of green space, a rabid of green space in Istanbul into a new development project. They don't want any building there. So, that's their demand.

Now, of course, the United States and the Western European allies of Turkey are asking the prime minister to resolve this peacefully, to resolve this through negotiations with people, and to resolve it through the principles of a strong ally as the German president, said according to European principles. Remember, Turkey is a major NATO ally, a major ally of the United States and the West.

BERMAN: You spoke to Prime Minister Erdogan quite a number of times. What's your impression of how he's handling this? Because he's made some statements that really seem anything but delicate.

AMANPOUR: I think this is what's really inflamed the situation. From the very beginning, he took, you know, almost a day to react to this. Then he was out of the country, he made several speeches and he pretty much dismissed the entire demonstration.

I've been talking to many officials, including a former British secretary who knows him very well who says they have been incredibly surprised by this. And what you're seeing is really, I think, in a nutshell, a group of Turks, young, secular, business oriented, the modern, young Turks, so to speak, who want to make sure they have a secular society. I think that's what is causing all this problem.

The Erdogan government is mildly Islamist. It is not an Iranian style theocracy. The West has trumpeted Turkey as an example of what the spring democracies should look like. Democracy, but nonetheless, with an Islamic flavor.

But some of Erdogan's latest moves -- restricting alcohol, for instance. Not to mention all the big building projects he's doing have caused them to worry about, turning into more religion and also for him to be a big authoritarian figure. They're very concerned about that, because he does show signs of authoritarianism now.

BERMAN: You mentioned, of course, that Turkey is a key NATO ally of the United States. One of the hallmarks of Turkey, one of the reasons we count on them is the stability.

So, if you're sitting in the White House right now, what's your concern?

AMANPOUR: Well, your concern is that this is going to, you know, sort of devolve into some terrible, you know, violence that is going to destabilize Turkey. What we're seeing right now is, at least for these few hours, after what really was the worst violence since this demonstration began back in the end of May, 24 hours of violence was tear gas, water canon and pushing people back.

If they can't resolve this, it is going to be very difficult, because let's face it, the United States relies on Turkey for a huge amount of help, whether it's with Syria and the refugees and whether it's with Iran, whether it's in any of these military interventions.

Plus, Turkey has now become a robust economy. They lost a lot, as you know, Christine, the stock market fell and all of that. It sort of stabilized a little bit today apparently.

But there's just such a link between the West and Turkey and all its operations. So, Turkey, of course, had a very close relationship with Israel, as well that took a little bit of a knock, but they're trying to fix that back again. But it's a very, very important country.

ROMANS: Christiane Amanpour, we'll continue to follow it, too. Thank you, Christiane.

BERMAN: New this morning, what if you make a call and no one picks up. That's what happened between North and South Korea today. The South using a special phone line to call the North, but apparently the North not answering. Officials say it's probably connected to the north's last-minute cancellation of high-level talks on Tuesday. The North complained that the leader of the South Korea delegation was a low-level official who didn't belong at the table.

ROMANS: Ariel Castro scheduled to be arraigned less than an hour from now in Ohio. He's been indicted on 329 counts, including kidnapping, rape, murder and holding three young women. Castro allegedly held them for close to a decade inside his Cleveland house, allegedly restraining with vacuum cords, chains, tape. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are freed last month and are said to be healing privately adjusting to their new lives.

BERMAN: A plan for an independent prosecutor to oversee military sex assault cases blocked in the Senate. Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin stripped the measure from a defense spending bill. The proposal by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had bipartisan support. It was replaced by one requiring senior officials to review decisions when commanders refused to prosecute a sex assault case.

ROMANS: President Obama turns campaigner in chief when he visits Boston today. The Democrats hoping he could help Edward Markey hold on to a dwindling seven-point lead in the race for John Kerry's old Senate seat. Markey and his Republican challenger, Gabriel Gomez, faced off in a fiery second debate in Springfield last night. He'll do it again in six days and then they'll square off in a special election in two weeks.

A lot going on in Boston.

BERMAN: A lot going on up in Massachusetts.

New Jersey taking on distracted driving by checking people's cell phones without a warrant. This is interesting. The state Senate is looking at the idea and "The Star Ledger" reports a bill to let cops take away phones of drivers in accidents is making its way through the chamber. New Jersey's ACLU has already criticized the idea, saying it infringes on people's privacy rights.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, a case is being built against a man who said he leaked the NSA surveillance program. But should the journalist tied to that surveillance leak be punished, as well? What Congressman Peter King is proposing, next.

BERMAN: And she's not your typical beauty queen. The new Miss Iowa that's standing up for being different, just ahead.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. The details continue to unfold about NSA leaker, Edward Snowden's life in Hawaii and questions also about his whereabouts and his future, they remain unanswered. Attention focused now on the journalist who broke the story in Britain's "Guardian" newspaper, also "The Washington Post." New York Republican congressman, Peter King, told Anderson Cooper he thinks the journalist should be prosecuted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: As far as reporters who help reveal these programs, do you believe something should happen to them? Do you believe they should be punished, as well?

REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: Actually, if they willingly knew that this was classified information, I think actions should be taken, especially somebody of this magnitude. I know that the whole issue of leaks has been gotten to over the last month, but I think something on this magnitude, there is an obligation, but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security.

As a practical matter, I guess there have been in the past several years a number of reporters who have been prosecuted under it. So, the answer is yes to your question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Yes, prosecute the journalists. CNNs chief Washington correspondent and host of "The Lead," Jake Tapper, joins us now from Washington. And Jake, last night, Glenn Greenwald tweeted in response to Peter King's comments. Greenwald said, "Is it true as I was just told that Peter King on CNN called for criminal prosecution of journalists reporting the NSA stories?" That's from Greenwald. Now, Jake, considering what we've been going through with the AP and with James Rosen of Fox News, do you really expect to see charges brought against Greenwald and Bart Gellman of the "Washington Post?"

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I don't for a number of reasons. The Obama justice department has shown a willingness to go after leakers more aggressively than previous presidents. In fact, they've used the Espionage Act more times than all other presidents combined to go after leakers. And they have named journalists, specifically, James Rosen of Fox News as criminal co-conspirators.

But, they have not prosecuted any of these journalists and I do not expect they would do the same for Glenn Greenwald or anyone else because it really a just creates such a slippery slope. Do you then go back and prosecute everybody who published any of the WikiLeaks.

Do you publish-- do you prosecute every journalist who publishes any sort of national security story? It creates too many problems. I just can't anticipate that happening, especially not for Glenn Greenwald who lives in Brazil and writes for a British newspaper.

ROMANS: Let me ask you this. One of the points of contention here is the damage done to national security. The director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, claiming the recent wave of leaks is done what he says, quote, "huge grave damage to our intelligence gathering capabilities," Jake. So, what's Greenwald's response to that?

TAPPER: Well, I had him on the show, "The Lead," a few days ago, and I asked him specifically about what director of National Intelligence Clapper said and here's his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN GREENWALD, JOURNALIST: I defy anybody, Jake, to go and look at what it is that we published over the last week and describe how any of that could have harmed national security. Terrorists already know that the U.S. government tries to surveil their communications. Nothing that we revealed helps quote/unquote "the terrorists."

All we did was tell our fellow citizens in United States and around the world the extent and capabilities of how vast the surveillance state is and the reasons why it needs scrutiny and accountability. And the only things we damaged are the reputation of American political officials and not national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, of course, Obama administration officials dispute that very strongly saying that by revealing how wide this dragnet is both internet and telephone records, we are, the journalists are revealing secrets to would-be terrorists. But as of now, there's no evidence as to that fact and they are still doing an assessment of the national security leak, what damage it did.

BERMAN: Jake, I want to shift gears right now, because a lot of us are waking up to news of something that looks a little bit like political comeback. For the first time since 2005, Gallup is saying that former president, George W. Bush is out from being under water. He has higher favorability ratings than unfavorable numbers. So, you know, is this significant or is this just part of the inevitable?

TAPPER: I think it's significant to a degree, but, also, look, George W. Bush has assiduously stayed away from politics since leaving office. And he did leave as a very polarizing figure with very high disapproval numbers. But since then, he has made sure to stay out of political debates. He has when raring his head, he has been bipartisan, whether it's teaming up with Bill Clinton on disaster relief or inviting Democrats and Republicans to the opening of his library.

So, I think that it's a degree of both. But I do think it is significant, especially if future Bush's choose to run for office. As we know, his nephew is planning to run in Texas right now.

BERMAN: He is running.

ROMANS: And one of the strategists, Jake, that I follow, (ph) a strategist who looks at Washington to advice Wall Street says that the most important Bush that benefits from these sort of poll numbers is not George Bush, it's any other Bush who wants to be running like Jeb Bush, he said, in 2016.

TAPPER: Exactly. And Jeb Bush is said to be considering very seriously a race for president in 2016, although, we've heard from Barbara Bush, the first mama, who says she does not want him to run for president.

BERMAN: Hey, Jake, Massachusetts, quickly. President Obama headed up to campaign for Ed Markey in the Senate race there against Gabriel Gomez. You know, Vice President Joe Biden was there. We've seen Michelle Obama involved. How worried are Democrats in Washington and the White House about this race right now?

TAPPER: I don't know that they're worried, but remember what happened last time when they got complacent. The special election in January 2010 and Scott Brown beat the Democrat and that caused huge problems for the Obama administration for there to be a Republican in what was previously a safe, Democratic seat.

So, that's why you hear Vice President Biden saying yesterday, don't take it for granted that African-Americans and Latinos are going to turn out. That's a very small percentage relatively in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is a pretty white state, but 10 percent of the voting public in Massachusetts last November was either African-American or Latino and every vote is going to count in this special election in June, especially considering that the Republican candidate's last name is Gomez -- John.

BERMAN: You know, Democrats in Massachusetts telling me they have a turnout operation right now in the Massachusetts Senate race that they did not have in the Martha Coakley-Scott Brown race. They'll be counting on that that turnout their voters in a couple of weeks. Jake Tapper in Washington, host of "The Lead," always great to see you. Thanks a lot, Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, want to go to lunch with Yahoo's! Marissa Mayer? All you need is a couple of thousand dollars. Actually, a lot more than just a couple of thousand dollars. Details, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: All right. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. "Minding Your Business" this morning, Dow futures up about 65 points right now. This is after yesterday's sell-off. So much volatility in stocks these days. The Dow has swung more than 100 points in six of the past seven sessions. Investors are worried about what the Federal Reserve will do at its next policy meeting. That's next week.

All right. The drug store chain, Walgreen's, paying $80 million to settle allegations that it let pain killers like Oxycodone get to the black market. This is the biggest settlement in the Drug Enforcement Administration's history. The DEA says a Walgreen's distribution center in Florida knowingly filled orders for prescriptions that were not for legitimate medical use. The distribution center is now banned from dispensing controlled substances until next year.

The bids are coming in for a seat at the table with one of Silicone Valley's hottest stars. Charity buzz is auctioning off lunch with Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo! The current bid, wow, this is up. It's $57,000. Two hours ago, it was only 40 something. You've got 15 days left to put your hat in the ring. The cash is going to a high poverty charter school in California.

BERMAN: It's a good cause.

ROMANS: It is a good cause.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, in moments, the man accused of holding three women captive in his Cleveland home is in court. We'll bring this to you live.

ROMANS: Then, she wasn't messing around --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back off. You (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Yes. That granny who fought off an intruder with her gun, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Happening any moment, Ariel Castro, the man accused of holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for 10 years, he's going to appear in that Cleveland courtroom. He's been indicted on 329 counts, including kidnapping, rape, murder. Amanda Merry, Gina De Jesus, and Michelle Knight were freed last month. They are said to be healing privately and adjusting to their new life.

BERMAN: You know, the list of things he's been charged for is simply staggering. You know, kidnapping, kidnapping, kidnapping, rape, rape, rape, 329 counts. Again, we'll bring that to you the second it happens.

Meanwhile, you're looking at right now, wildfires in Colorado continue to grow. Crews are battling five separate fires in the Rockies at this moment. Officials say 800 prison inmates were evacuated because of the threat from the Royal Gorge fire near Canyon City.