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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Where is Edward Snowden?; Attack on Presidential Palace in Kabul; Senate Support for Immigration Reform; President Talks Climate Change; Chicago Blackhawks Win Stanley Cup

Aired June 25, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Where in the world is Edward Snowden? The man who exposed the government's secret spying program on the run. We'll have the latest twists and turns and what we know about where he might be hiding.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Immigration reform one step closer to becoming law this morning. Can the president pull off a legislative victory or will House Republicans refuse to get on board?

BERMAN: And pandemonium in D.C. A rare red panda now on the lam now found after 20 hours. How did it go missing in the first place?

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Tuesday, June 25th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: Let's begin this morning with a very big question. What happened to Edward Snowden? The NSA leaker remains on the run and there are no signs of what his next move might be.

Atika Shubert following the latest developments for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Where in the world is Edward Snowden?

This morning, no one seems to know.

He's likely somewhere in the Moscow airport's transit terminal, caught in legal limbo, not technically in Russia, so not technically Russia's problem. But Snowden is turning into a very big problem, indeed. He was expected on an Aeroflot flight to Havana, Cuba. But as the planeload of journalists on the 13-hour flight found out, too late, his seat went empty.

Ecuador may take him in, but at this hour, Ecuadorian diplomat haven't said whether they will grant him entree. This as the U.S. applies maximum pressure behind the scenes and in blistering statements on Russia, Ecuador and anyone else thinking of taking him on.

So, for now, we believe he waits. His global journey aided by this man, Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy Web site, WikiLeaks, a man whose own legal troubles led him to seek refuge in Ecuador embassy in London for more than a year.

In telephone pressure, Assange said a WikiLeaks staffer was traveling with Snowden.

JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS (via telephone): This morning, the U.S. secretary of state called Edward Snowden a traitor. Edward Snowden is not a traitor. He is not a spy. He is a whistle blower who has told the public an important truth.

SHUBERT: Assange said WikiLeaks paid for Snowden's flights and legal counsel, but would not say where he is, only that he is, quote, "healthy, safe and in high spirits."

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: New this morning, Afghan forces pushing back an attack by Taliban fighters on the presidential palace in Kabul.

Officials say the overnight as assault was on an entry checkpoint on the palace located near the U.S. embassy, also international headquarters. Three Afghan guards were killed, another injured. It's not known how many of the militants were killed. It appears the Taliban attack was an early test of Afghan security strength coming just a week after taking over from international forces.

ROMANS: Immigration reform passing a key bipartisan test in the Senate. Lawmakers endorsing a proposal to substantially increase border security. It's part of a measure that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country.

The road to passage though in the House, it will not be as smooth.

CNN's Dana Bash has the details for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and John, it was a test vote but a big one, maybe the most critical vote on the issue of immigration reform in years. And 67 senators voted yes, essentially a broad support for the idea of immigration bill with beefed up border security.

Sponsors included things like 20,000 border security agents and promised to finish the 700-mile fence. That lured Republican senators to the yes column. And maybe some more would have voted yes, if they were not stuck on planes because of bad weather.

Those logistical problem certainly where a punch in the gut to supporters because sponsors were hoping that they would get at least 70 votes in order to give this momentum going into the Republican-led House. But the reality is that three or four more votes probably wouldn't have changed the real split inside the GOP on whether or not any kind of path to citizenship should be voted on before they first take the issue of border security off the table. That's something I talked about with one of the chief opponents on this idea, Steve King, a congressman from Iowa.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Republicans voted for it because it's a promise of border security. It's barely a fig leaf after you examined it. Republicans on the House side are going to understand this: we don't want to grant a legalization in exchange for the promise of border security.

BASH: King is one of many Republicans, especially in the House, who balk at their GOP brethren, who argued that immigration reform is important to pass not just on a policy level, but on a political one to lure Latino voters back into the GOP fold. He argues that those who are going to vote yes or even signal their support should be warned they probably will get challenges from the right -- Christine and John.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Thanks so much to Dana Bash.

New revelations this morning from the new head of the IRS. Danny Werfel telling reporters he found agents looking into applications for tax exempt status did not just give special scrutiny to Tea Party groups but also inappropriately targeted a range of groups across the political spectrum. "The Associated Press" says among those targeted for special scrutiny, groups with names that included used the terms, "Israel", "Progressive" and "Occupy", as in Occupy Wall Street and occupy this and this.

And Werfel says those groups were still being targeted until earlier this month. Now, Werfel has suspended the use of those lists in evaluating tax-exempt status.

ROMANS: More rulings are expected today from the Supreme Court. There are six cases on the docket, including on important issues of same-sex marriage and voting rights. In one of the most anticipated decisions of the session, the high court Monday said race can still be used as a factor in college admissions. But courts have to take a closer look, a very close look at whether diversity can be achieved in any other way. The court did not rule specifically on whether an admission system that considered race at the University of Texas met that standard.

BERMAN: Strict scrutiny is the legal term.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: Social Security under fire this morning. Internal investigation finds the agency continued to pay benefits to more than 1,500 people who were dead at a cost of $31 million. Congressional investigators meantime say the agency is improving disability benefits even after local offices reject the claims. A Social Security spokesman tells "The Associated Press" they follow strict guidelines in approving disability.

ROMANS: I feel like every year we do this story.

BERMAN: Lots of dead people making a lot of money.

ROMANS: Yes.

President Obama today lays out the latest environmental plan in a speech at Georgetown University. Mr. Obama will unveil his ideas to reduce carbon pollution and in his words prepare the country for impacts of climate change. He's expected to announce he's issuing executive orders possibly restricting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and promoting renewable energy sources.

BERMAN: Massachusetts voters go to the polls today to pick their next senator. The closely watched race pits veteran Democratic Congressman Ed Markey against Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez. Both are vying to finish out John Kerry's Senate term. The national parties have put huge amount of cash in time into this race.

But, you know, so far, it's a special election, but Massachusetts voters aren't finding it special at all. It's failed to generate excitement like Scott Brown special elections turned up in 2010.

ROMANS: All right. The world this morning closely watching the health of former South African president and anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela. He's 94 years old. He remains in the Pretoria hospital in critical condition. The current president of South Africa now asking the nation to pray for Mandela who he said was, quote, "asleep when he visited." Crowds and news crews are outside the hospital waiting for any news on his health. Mandela's family is said to be at his bedside this morning.

BERMAN: Severe storms wrecking the nation's heartland. Tornadoes doing some pretty significant damage in parts of Iowa, knocking down trees and leaving many without power. People in Iowa, they know how to deal with it.

One fast-moving storm was on the ground before the national weather service could even issue a tornado warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw like limbs just flying around the air and we heard this whooshing noise. And it was pretty much over after that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just a lot of crashing and just a lot of noise, but it came fast. I mean, it was clear and then it happened pretty rapidly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: In Chicago, severe storms left more than 100,000 people in the dark and unable to watch their Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. Tornado warnings posted for several surrounding counties. The storms causing a temporary ground stop at Chicago's O'Hare airport.

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) a blackout last night.

Our Indra Petersons tracking all the severe weather for us. What's in store for today, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's the same thing. We continue to see the Midwest. It's that time of year, all the humid air building up in that part of the country. This is what we saw, yesterday. I mean, look at the line of storms, very strong winds also pushing through the area, just as dangerous as their tornadoes.

And, again, we're still looking for this risk today. The reason for that -- well, we have a stationary front. As long as it's here, we are talking heavy rain but also that potential for severe weather.

So, we are looking at the risks today. There you go, bull's eye, once again, all the way from the Dakotas, right to the Midwest, and actually even portions of New England today looking for the threat of not only severe thunderstorms, but some isolated threats for tornadoes are possible as well.

The big story, a lot of us are actually feeling it. And that is the heat. I mean, it's so hot out here. Look the Northeast, 10 degrees above normal. We are adding the humidity to that, the relative humidity is very high. So, temperatures with that heat index, yes, we are talking mid-90s.

So, we do have heat advisory, and it's really not just in the Northeast. I mean, look at the huge chunk of the country dealing with temperatures this hot, even some 100s over in Texas. But, you know, hot, humid heat, a lot worse than dry heat.

BERMAN: Big hair. Big hair.

PETERSONS: Look good.

BERMAN: All right, Indra. Thanks so much.

So, you heard Romans bring it up, Chicago Blackhawks fans might be late to work this morning. And Bruins fans, we need a hug.

They've been celebrating, the Blackhawks have. Their team's second Stanley Cup in the last four years. They shocked the Bruins with two horrifying late goals in Game Six. The first goal tied it as two a piece. The second came 17 seconds later with just 58 seconds left in the game. And that gave the Hawks a lead, and ultimately, the Stanley Cup.

You can see it being hoisted to the rafters there. The captain hoists the cup first, then everyone else on the team gets to skate around the ice with it. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy, he deserved it as the playoff MVP.

ROMANS: So, you are raising your children as Boston fans -- Boston, everything. Mine are growing up as Chicago fans. Chicago, everything.

Last night, my son snuck into my room, I have important news, the fireflies are out for the first day and the Blackhawks won.

BERMAN: That's awesome. Even though he's wrong and misguided, I think it's awesome that he's a sports fan.

ROMANS: Please?

All right. Coming up, an explosive first day in court for the neighborhood watchman volunteer accused of murdering unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin.

BERMAN: And panda on the loose for nearly a day. We've been saying it again and again. But how did it happen? We will tell you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

Well, it is underway now in Florida, the trial of George Zimmerman. Of course, he is a neighborhood watch volunteer charged with murder of the shooting death of unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin.

As George Howell reports from Sanford, if the opening statements are any indication, we may see these fireworks coming for weeks.

A warning, you will hear strong language in the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Opening statements in the case against George Zimmerman began with words we wouldn't air on TV.

JOHN GUY, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) punks. These (EXPLETIVE DELETED), they always get away.

Those were the words in that grown man's mouth as he followed in the dark, a 17-year-old boy.

HOWELL: With Martin's family visibly shaken by what they heard, prosecutor John Guy spoke directly to jurors using the very words Zimmerman used when he called a non-emergency line before shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. For 30 minutes, the attorney challenged Zimmerman's account of what happened.

GUY: That defendant, at the same time was upright, walking around, preparing. Preparing to tell law enforcement why it was he had just profiled, followed and murdered an unarmed teenager.

HOWELL: In still another unusual move, attorney Don West opened for the defense with a knock-knock joke.

DON WEST, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: Knock, knock? Who's there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right, good, you are on the jury.

Nothing? That's funny.

HOWELL: How that played out with the jury is anybody's guess. The one thing that became very clear, though, West wanted to cover a lot of ground. For more than two hours, he laid out Zimmerman's case with pictures and great detail, overkill in the view of CNN legal analyst, Sunny Hostin.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You're supposed to give definitely a road map, but they gave too much. And I think it was too much.

HOWELL: The state then called the first of its witnesses in the trial, among them, the non-emergency dispatcher George Zimmerman called for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How come you don't or didn't say, you know, order the person to stop and don't follow and anything like that? Why did you phrase it like you phrased it?

SEAN NOFFKE, 911 DISPATCHER: The reason we do that is because we are directly liable, if we give a direct order. We try to give a general, basic, not command, but just suggestions.

HOWELL: George Howell, CNN, Sanford, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. On the loose -- of course, John Berman kept saying on the lam -- one red panda. Where? Washington, D.C. And the search for Rusty quickly became the talk of the town in the nation's capital. But now that he's safe, Brian Todd tell us, the big question is how the big, red panda got there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Captured, crated, on the way home. Rusty the red panda, not even a year old, missing from Washington's National Zoo for several hours. He made his way into a busy neighborhood off zoo grounds before being captured safely.

Brandie Smith, a senior zoo curator involved in the capture, tells how a zoo team lured him into their grasp after surrounding him.

BRANDIE SMITH, SENIOR CURATOR, NATIONAL ZOO: And we were able to walk up to him. We sent the keepers with which he's most familiar.

So, the keepers called his name. He was familiar to them. They calmed him down. We were able to approach him with a net, capture him in a net, transfer him to a crate, and then we just took him to our veterinary hospital.

TODD: Red pandas are listed as vulnerable with 10,000 of them or less in the world. Rusty was born in captivity. Could he have survived on his own?

We asked Smith what dangers he faced outside the zoo.

SMITH: I think the biggest danger is if he ate any inappropriate food.

TODD: That's anything other than bamboo or any other food prepared by his keepers. For the moment, zoo officials say Rusty has no visible signs of injury or illness.

We pressed a zoo spokeswoman on another key question.

(on camera): How in the world do you lose a red panda? How did it happen?

PAMELA BAKER-MASSON, SPOKESWOMAN, NATIONAL ZOO: Well, we don't know right now, in all honesty. Complete honesty, we do not know.

That habitat has housed red pandas for several years. No one has escaped from it before. The habitat is constructed to keep red pandas in and to keep people out.

TODD (voice-over): A possible clue, red pandas are called arboreal animals, natural climbers, tree dwellers.

(on camera): Could Rusty have used a tree to climb out of this exhibit behind me? Well, zoo officials say their horticultural team came here after he escaped and found no obvious route out, but they're not ruling it out as a possibility.

And one possibility could be right here. You see the electric fence. The exhibit is on the other side of that fence. There is a tree up there on one side of the electric fence that kind of hangs over. That could have been one of the escape routes.

(voice-over): Zoo officials say they'll look at surveillance cameras, do the best they can to trace Rusty's movements between 6:00 p.m. Sunday when he was last sighted and 7:30 Monday morning when they noticed him gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to look at every aspect of the exhibit. We will not let this happen again.

TODD: Even though Rusty shows no visible sign of illness, zoo officials say they'll keep him in the veterinarian hospital for at least a few days and monitor him before placing him back in the exhibit with his female partner Shama.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Several monkeys currently wanted for questioning.

ROMANS: He's new from Nebraska. He's only been there a few weeks. He didn't like the big city.

BERMAN: He's crafty. Those Nebraskans, those Midwesterners they sure know how to escape and they know how to party.

ROMANS: Speaking of the Midwest, look at that.

BERMAN: Yes. Just go ahead, you say it.

ROMANS: Let me do it. Live pictures from Chicago where the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks are returning to O'Hare. They won the NHL champion last night.

Where did they win that, Berman, in Boston?

BERMAN: They did it in Boston. They have been up all night. They don't look like they have slept much. Fans, they are greeting them. Congratulations to the Blackhawks.

ROMANS: This field Chicago, there's this huge dinosaur, you know, dinosaur skeleton wearing a Blackhawks jersey for a long time. I don't think they are going to take it off now. They are going to celebrate for awhile.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. It's money time.

Stock futures higher this morning after another stock fell of on Wall Street. Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500, they all lost 1 percent in another very wild day of trading that centered around China's credit worries and the action of the Federal Reserve.

There was an interesting quote from the Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher yesterday. He likened Wall Street professionals to pigs. Fisher told "The Financial Times, "I do believe the big money does organize itself somewhat like feral hogs. If they detect a weakness or a bad scent, they'll go after it." That was, of course, happening in the markets right now.

It was in response to a question of whether the Federal Reserve had fully anticipated the dramatic reaction in the markets to the idea that the Fed will begin tapering back the $85 million they put into the bond market, every single month. The taper.

All right. Amid all the recent market turmoil, many are wondering what state the economy is really in. The report card is in. I asked the best market watchers around to grade the economy. Here's what they say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would give our economy a B to B-plus. It's getting better, but not fast enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the U.S. is a B-plus at this point. We should be creating way, way more jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I give it about B-minus, but I'm optimistic about the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A bunch of B's.

BERMAN: Not bad, I would take from --

ROMANS: I know, a bunch of B's. A new CNN Money survey expects the economic to pick up speed next year. But for now, we are doing pretty well, compared with other countries. Economists give Europe get a D. China is a B-plus. New concerns about a credit crunch could move the grade down going forward.

All right. Federal regulators poised to sue Jon S. Corzine over the collapse of MF Global. "The New York Times" says the suit revolved around the brokerage firm's misuse of customer money during its final days. Corzine ran the firm until it went bankrupt in 2011. Regulators plan to approve that lawsuit as soon as this week.

BERMAN: I'm going back to the grades again. It's really interesting.

ROMANS: I think, look, I have been asking the biggest minds in business over the past couple of weeks. I was surprised how high it was. But when you ask somebody who doesn't have a job, they say F. You ask somebody who's made a bunch of money in the stock market, they say A.

What's the trajectory? You know, I don't know, B minus for the U.S. right now. We'll see next year.

Apparently, next year is when we are all going to feel the recovery.

BERMAN: But it's a D for Europe.

ROMANS: A D for Europe.

BERMAN: So, you're glad you're going to this school over here.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: Twenty-six minutes after the hour right now. And coming up, an officer is under investigation for what he made a woman do during a routine traffic stop. The bra shake. Was he doing his job or did he cross the line?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)