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Making the Case; What Will Assad Do?; Zimmerman's Dramatic Dispute; Southwest Floods

Aired September 10, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Diplomatic breakthrough or diplomatic bungle? As the president prepares a high stakes address to the country on Syria, a deal on the table that could avert an air strike.


SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S WIFE: No. He is in his car and he continually has his hand on his gun and he's saying, "step closer." He is threatening us with his firearm.

911: "Step closer" and what?

ZIMMERMAN: And he is going to shoot us.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A dramatic 911 call from George Zimmerman's wife and the dispute actually ends with no arrests, no criminal complaints. Why Shellie Zimmerman says she felt threatened by the man who killed Trayvon Martin?

BERMAN: The force of nature, the southwest under water. Plus --

SAMBOLIN: You do not want to be stuck there.

BERMAN: Not one bit.

That is not a happy truck driver. Serious problems for him and many others. And guess what? There is more rain on the way.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, those poor kids.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. We are happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you.

It's Tuesday, September 10th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

SAMBOLIN: And we begin with the very latest on Syria. And the offhand remark that's turned the battle over military action against the Assad regime on its head. President Obama is set to spend the afternoon on Capitol Hill. He is meeting with lawmakers. Then, he'll address the nation this evening, to make his case for why the world must act after a chemical attack killed more than 1,400 near Damascus. But with American public overwhelmingly saying no, to an air strike on the Assad regime, a Senate vote now delayed and strong opposition in the House to authorizing military action, the only choice for his administration may be to go along with a new proposal from Russia -- Russia that is.

Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar begins our coverage.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a six network media blitz, President Obama spoke about his latest plans for dealing with Syria, telling Wolf Blitzer --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we can accomplish this limited goal without taking military action, that would be my preference.

KEILAR: Earlier in the week, it seemed a military strike was the only option on the table for the U.S., until this.

Secretary of State John Kerry making a seemingly off-script comment that turned into a possible option, providing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a way out of a military strike.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done, obviously.

KEILAR: A U.S. official quickly chalked up Kerry's statement to, quote, "a rhetorical argument" but Russia saw a game plan in what some considered a gaffe, encouraging Syria to take action saying, "We are calling on the Syrian authorities to not only agree on putting chemical weapons storage under international control, but also for its further destruction."

Syria responded just an hour later. Their foreign minister saying, "I declare that the Syrian Arab Republican welcomes Russia's initiative."

OBAMA: It is a potentially positive development. I have to say that it's unlikely that we would have arrived to that point where there are public statements like that without a credible military threat to deal with the chemical weapons use inside of Syria.

KEILAR: But even as support seemed to grow, some question if this is the answer.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control, that would be an important step, but this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction.

KEILAR: A sentiment shared by the president.

OBAMA: We don't want just a stalling or a delaying tactic to put off the pressure that we have on there right now.

KEILAR: But that pressure, at least for now, seems to be subsiding as the Senate postponed their Wednesday vote on Syria. Meanwhile, experts wonder if the Russia proposal is just a bunch of empty words.

AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: You would have to have a cease-fire. You'd have to have a prolong period where U.N. weapons inspectors would come in and it seems to me almost unimaginable.

KEILAR: Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.


BERMAN: A lot going on here. Syria's foreign minister says Syria welcomes the proposal, but the question really does remain this morning, will that government actually open up its weapons stockpiles for international inspection?

Mohammed Jamjoom covering that part of the story for us. He's in Beirut this morning.

Mohammed, this has been a crazy 24 hours. At this point, what is the Assad regime saying?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, no final decision as of yet. All we've heard officially is from Walid al-Moallem, as you just mentioned, the foreign minister of Syria, saying yesterday in Moscow that the Syrians welcomed this initiative because they believe that the Russians care deeply for the welfare of the Syrian people and that the Russians want to avert any direction toward Syria.

What's interesting here this is this coming less than a day after the remarks in that interview that President Bashar al-Assad gave to CBS' Charlie Rose in which he would not neither confirm nor deny if Syria even possessed chemical weapons. Now, all the while, you have Syrians dying, sometimes in the dozens, sometimes in the hundreds, every day by conventional weapons.

I can tell you that in this region, there's been sort of a collective sigh of relief. There's been so much tension, especially in countries like where I am now in Lebanon, about what these air strikes, which many thought were imminent, might do and how they thought that it might inflame the already record high tensions. But really that's all we've heard from the Syrians as far as what they are going to do next. We've heard there may be some sort of presser later in the day in Damascus. We'll just have to wait and see in the hours ahead -- John.

BERMAN: Two crucial things you said there. First of all, Mohammed, as you mentioned, people are dying every day in Syria no matter what the means, chemical, conventional or otherwise. The other thing is there's never really been this admission from the Syrian government that they had chemical weapon stockpiles. Now, we've seen to have that tacit admission.

With all of this going on, what are the rebels saying at this point?

JAMJOOM: The rebels are angry and they very disappointed. The rebels thought that these air strikes were going to happen and many of them believed that would help their cause and fight against the regime. We have spoken with the spokesperson for the rebel Free Syrian Army. He said, here we go, this is yet another stalling tactic by the al-Assad regime.

They and others activists have told us they don't believe that Bashar al-Assad has any intention of being serious at actually getting to the negotiating table, of allowing the international community or any international body to take control of their chemical weapons arsenals. So, what we are hearing from the opposition in Syria is they are deeply disappointed. They think that this is only going to prolong the suffering of the Syrian people and they are saying yet again what they really need in Syria is a military intervention, which is what we have been saying close to two years now -- John.

BERMAN: Great deal of confusion this morning. Mohammed Jamjoom, in Beirut for us -- thanks so much. Appreciate it.

SAMBOLIN: Meantime, President Obama will address the nation this evening, to talk about Syria and the potential for military strike. CNN will bring it live to you. That is tonight at 9:00 p.m. here on CNN. And it will be interesting to see what the president --


SAMBOLIN: Yes, absolutely.

BERMAN: Whatever speech they had planned has to be drastically different over the last 24 hours, with the changes and the possibility for inspectors and diplomacy.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Fascinating.

All right. Seven minutes after the hour right now.

Brazil's president is bristling over reports that the NSA spied on Brazilian oil giant Petrobras. Dilma Rousseff says if the latest information leaked by Edward Snowden is true, the U.S. would be guilty of industrial espionage. The report comes as Brazil prepares to auction drilling rights to some of the largest oil fines in decades off the Atlantic coast.

SAMBOLIN: Eight minutes past the hour.

Is the government using border inspections to get access to your electronic devices? No documents released by the ACLU is part of a settlement with the Obama administration shows the government can create a travel alert for almost anyone. That, "The New York Times" says, allows custom agents to detain you at the border and then confiscate your electronic devices without a warrant.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is not commenting.

BERMAN: Obamacare opponents are planning a big rally in the west lawn of the Capitol this afternoon. It's being spearheaded by Republican Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz. They have been leading the charge to defund Obamacare and they are calling on the White House to exempt Americans from the plan.

SAMBOLIN: All right. To Florida now, and in apparent altercation between George Zimmerman, his estranged wife and her father. Police say they got a call Monday afternoon from Shellie Zimmerman. She had gone to a house that the couple once shared to collect some of her belongings. But then, she told police her husband threatened her and her father with a gun.


911: Is he inside now?

ZIMMERMAN: No. He is in his car and he continually has his hand on his gun and he keeps saying, "step closer." He is just threatening all of us with his firearm.

911: "Step closer" and what?

ZIMMERMAN: And he is going to shoot us.

MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: A friend of George's, Wes was there and was able to keep the two of them separated. There may have been some incidental touch between Wes, the friend, and dad.

But the reality is what happens here, it is a divorce case. These people have been living for 16 months under the spotlight and, you know, they are suffering from it.


SAMBOLIN: O'Mara also said George Zimmerman did have a gun on him but that he never took it out. Shellie Zimmerman claims that George accosted her father and smashed her iPad but she declined to press charges and George Zimmerman was not arrested.

BERMAN: A PR expert will tell you, what these people want to be doing that was laying low, this is not a definition of laying low right now.

All right. Ten minutes after the hour.

Phoenix area is drying out this morning after a deluge. Take a look at these pictures of heavy rain left street there, one of the main interstates, flooded. I can't imagine being that guy.

What do you think he's saying? Hey, I'm in a little bit of traffic right now.


BERMAN: There were dozens of accidents. Many cars like that truck ended submerged and upwards of a thousand homes there lost power.

SAMBOLIN: So, Karen Maginnis is in for Indra Petersons this morning.

Karen, how bad will it be in Arizona today?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It looks like we still keep about a 60 percent chance of showers in the forecast coming up. As we do watch flash flood warnings and flash food watches out all across these four corners regions. Now, the rainfall is going to be isolated, so it doesn't look like it will be widespread rainfall. But look at the precipitation we've got out there right now. All it takes is just a little, and most of these areas, right around Phoenix, they've only seen about half an inch.

This is the water vapor and we do have a lot of this moisture coming up from the Southwest. Typically, it's monsoonal moisture but it's being enhanced by a lot of the tropics have really been fairly active here. So, some of the left over moisture is making its way to the north. It's swirling around these four corners region.

If you live in Albuquerque, Tucson, Phoenix, extending out towards St. George, Utah, you could see the potential for flash flooding today on the order of one to two inches.

Now, around Phoenix, as I mentioned, only about half an inch but you get those dry river beds and, Zoraida and John, they fill up so quickly and you see the kind of damage that we saw there.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, those poor folks over there.

Thank you, Karen. We'll check back in with you.

So, it's a thrilling finish to the U.S. Open. Number two seeded Rafael Nadal defeating the tournament's top seed, Novak Djokovic in four sets in the men's final. It's Nadal's 13 grand slam title and a second at the U.S. Open.

This was the third time in the last four years that Nidal and Djokovic have played for the U.S. Open title. We'll have more on last night's final match in "The Bleacher Report." Unless you would like to --

BERMAN: Yes, let's not wait for that.

SAMBOLIN: Let's not.

BERMAN: This was a stunning match. These guys --

SAMBOLIN: I believe that's what you said yesterday.

BERMAN: It's the same type of thing -- these guys are hitting the ball so hard. I was exhausted watching. How can they possibly keep doing this?

This is, by the way, me with my friend, Rafael Nadal --

SAMBOLIN: Please go to picture. BERMAN: That's with me with Rafael Nadal. I'm telling you.

SAMBOLIN: But I pointed that there is a lot less gray in your hair. How long ago was that?

BERMAN: A few years ago. He has won a lot of grand slams. Obviously, whatever I say to him helps --

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Apparently, John Berman was giving him advice.

BERMAN: And he accepted and now, look -- 13 grand slams between us. No, these guys hit the ball so hard and stung to watch, 13 grand slams. Rafael Nadal is one behind Pete Sampras now. You know, it is crazy. Anyway --

SAMBOLIN: Two good day. Two good day.

BERMAN: Two very good days of tennis. Congratulations to everyone involved with that.

SAMBOLIN: Including you.

BERMAN: Including me and my friend Rafael Nadal.

Coming up, judgment day for two political candidates plagued by sex scandals. Will Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer be able to survive today's primary elections?

SAMBOLIN: And TSA launching a new program that could help you skip those horrid long security lines. That's coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

A special day here in New York City. It's primary day and the magic number for the Democratic mayoral candidates is 40. If a candidate breaks 40 percent of the vote, he or she avoids a runoff and moves on to the general election. It is a frantic race to the finish.

CNN's Rosa Flores reports.



ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's judgment day today for two New York politicians plagued by sex scandals with two very different outcomes expected.

ELIOT SPITZER (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: The remorse I feel will always be with me.

FLORES: First, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. He resigned in 2008 after admitting he used prostitutes.

SPITZER: I've hurt a lot of people.

FLORES: Now, pre-election polls show him nearly tied in his run for New York comptroller, a drastically different story for former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner. He polls nearly last among major candidates in the New York City mayoral race. He is facing the fallout of a second sexting scandal.

WEINER: I want to look forward.

FLORES: Voter anger against Spitzer seems to be receding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Had I conducted myself in the manner in which you conducted yours, my job would have been gone.

FLORES: Voter anger at Weiner keeps rising.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're putting on a show.



COSTAS PANAGOPOULOS: If anything, you would have expected that Spitzer would have had much more of an uphill battle in this race given that his behavior was clearly illegal. Weiner's may have been unethical but it wasn't necessarily illegal as far as we know. And yet, the opposite has transpired in that Weiner has found it very difficult in the aftermath of yet a second scandal to recover from it.

FLORES: Hard to believe that Weiner was once at the top of the pack. Now, polls show him near the bottom with the city's public advocate Bill de Blasio in the lead. If de Blasio fails to get 40 percent of the vote, he will face a runoff. For Spitzer, whether he wins or loses, his neck-to-neck race, all agree he's made an astonishing political comeback.

Rosa Flores, CNN, New York.


SAMBOLIN: And Diana Nyad is going online to answer questions from critics about her record breaking swim from Cuba to Florida.

Are you participating, John?

BERMAN: I won't be participating. But I'm keenly interested.

SAMBOLIN: Ah, what she has to say. Some marathon swimmers say Nyad's use of a special mask and swimsuit to protect against jellyfish violated the so-called English Channel rules. They also question how the 64-year-old was able to pick up the pace more than 24 hours after she left Cuba.

Nyad and her team will answer questions from dozens of marathon swimmers. That's going to happen via Skype. BERMAN: More conspiracy theories now about this race. There are people saying she wasn't taped or filmed the whole time, which it has been in the past. There are no news crew the whole time, as there has been in the past.

SAMBOLIN: It's really interesting. It will be interesting to watch and see what they have to say.

BERMAN: All right. Taking some of the hassle out of airport security. The TSA is announcing a new program that it says will speed up the travel for more than a quarter of all U.S. airline passengers. Starting next month, some 450,000 passengers randomly selected and considered low risk will be able to move through faster lines, keeping their shoes and coats on and their laptops in place. That's a lucky 450,000 people.

SAMBOLIN: No kidding.

BERMAN: The TSA says you will not have to submit personal information but won't know if you're selected for lighter screening until you reach the security checkpoint.

SAMBOLIN: So, my big question is, once you have been selected for that lighter screening, will that continue to happen or is it random all the time?

BERMAN: I know the prescreening. The prescreening, once you're in, you're in.

SAMBOLIN: You're in. I'm hoping that's just like that, too. Once you're in, you're in, and you don't have to do that any more.

BERMAN: If you're one of the 450,000 lucky people.

SAMBOLIN: I hope I am.

All right. Coming up, we're watching Apple's big iPhone announcement this morning. What you can expect from the tech giant. "Money Time" is coming next.

BERMAN: That means the money time dance.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it does!


SAMBOLIN: Seriously, Berman?

BERMAN: Do the "Money Time" dance.

SAMBOLIN: I don't know. Apparently, this is -- can you help me out here?

BERMAN: That was pretty tame version of our daily "Money Time" dance.

SAMBOLIN: That's because I'm not really into the song, although it's Fergie, glamorous.

I think it's an honor of you for coming back on the glamorous course this morning.


SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans is here with our "Money Time."

ROMANS: Nice to see you. "Money Time," I brought you back a little bit of a stock market rally apparently because yesterday was a good day in stock futures, higher again this morning. The Dow yesterday had its best day, you guys, in eight weeks.

The NASDAQ ended at its highest level in 13 years, easing concerns about an attack on Syria. Also, optimism that a merger (INAUDIBLE) stay strong, helping power stocks on Monday.

Dow industrials in the end up 140 points above 15,000. NASDAQ level, you guys, highest level since September 2000.

BERMAN: Wow, just dropped everything right there.

ROMANS: All right. For Apple, this is a day of impossibly high expectations. Thirteen months of rumors put to rest. We've seen the company topped itself before.

We'll have to wait until 1:00 p.m. Eastern for Apple's unveiling of the new iPhone. From leaked news of photos, you can expect to see a speedier iPhone 5S. We also expect to see an iPhone 5C. Look at these beautiful colors! Cheaper probably (ph) --

SAMBOLIN: I like the orange.

ROMANS: They probably want this cheaper phone to sell to China mobile at 750 million subscribers. The growth for them is in the cheaper markets, right? That's why they have to see the growth.

Apple shares, by the way, are up more than 10 percent the last month. Look at that. So, there's been a lot of anticipation.

This guy built a billion dollar fortune one sip at a time. James Cook, founder and CEO of Boston Beer, look at this -- he is joining the billionaire's club, net worth 1 billion and counting for beer. He started his company best known for Sam Adams, Boston Lager in his kitchen in 1984.

Sam Adams and his craft brew brethren, they have nearly doubled their market share the last five years. The whole beer industry, you guys, is contracting, but the craft brews are exploding and shares of Boston Beer are up nearly 70 percent for the year.

BERMAN: I have contributed to his billionaire dollars in his pocket right now. Some money from me.

ROMANS: American consumption is also up and helping the bottom line there. OK. Quick, best Bond? Connery or Moore?

BERMAN: Connery.

SAMBOLIN: Connery.

ROMANS: Me, too. Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: Hands down.

ROMANS: But the sub car that Roger Moore drove in the 1977 movie "The Spy Who Loved Me," sold at auction yesterday $920,000. It sat in a storage locker for years and lease ran out of it. A local couple bid less than a hundred dollars for the contents of that storage locker, not knowing what was inside!

SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow!

ROMANS: Nine hundred twenty thousand dollars, it sold at an auction. That is a nice return on an investment.

BERMAN: It's a Lotus, I think. I think it's a Lotus. It blew up in "For Your Eyes Only." I thought it blew up but no, apparently in great shape!

ROMANS: It was sitting -- this is like one of those reality shows, right?

SAMBOLIN: I love that. What a great story.

ROMANS: I know, $920,000!

BERMAN: Nice to have you back! I told you it was going to be OK!

SAMBOLIN: You're so mean!

BERMAN: Look at him causing trouble!

SAMBOLIN: That is what he does.

We'll be right back.