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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Senator's Crusade Against Obamacare; Iran Ready to Engage in Nuke Talks; Deadly Earthquake Rocks Pakistan; Terror Attack at Nairobi Mall

Aired September 25, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I'm no longer able to stand. To do everything that --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Grandstanding on the Senate floor as the government shutdown looms. Republican Senator Ted Cruz's marathon speech to defund Obamacare, 14 hours and counting. Why the members of his own party aren't supporting this?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A dramatic turn in the relationship with Iran. But why couldn't the leaders shake hands? We're live.

SAMBOLIN: A mall massacre in Kenya finally over. The gunman killed or arrested. We have new details this morning on how the terrorist tried to escape when the gunfire had stopped.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's Wednesday, September 25th, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: Like she said, it is 5:00 a.m. in East. Hope you got a good night sleep because Ted Cruz didn't.

The Republican senator has been up all night, speaking, reading, making all kinds of sounds in a dramatic, theatrical performance for the ages. He began at 2:30 Eastern Time yesterday, and still at it right now all for repeal of the health care law that everybody calls Obamacare.

Now, the president has made it clear it's that's not going to happen. Senate Democrats say it's not going to happen. And even a huge number of Republicans say it's not going to happen.

Yet, to the collective chagrin of many, Senator Cruz says he will keep talking until he drops. And while he talks, the government gets ever closer to a shutdown -- just five days now unless Congress does something.

We get more from now CNN's Jim Acosta. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Washington, it was the late show with Ted Cruz, as the Republican senator seized control of the Senate floor --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The senator from Texas.

ACOSTA: -- to deliver a marathon speech. Hour --

CRUZ: I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.

ACOSTA: After hour.

CRUZ: All right. So, let me read some tweets.

ACOSTA: Tearing into Obamacare, a law he wants to take down once and for all in exchange for funding the government.

CRUZ: The American people are frustrated because their elected officials don't listen.

ACOSTA: At times --

CRUZ: I love this story, so I'm going to read it to you.

ACOSTA: -- veering off the subject.

CRUZ: I do like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I am.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.

ACOSTA: But up in New York, President Obama was putting on a show of his own, appearing with Bill and Hillary Clinton to make on in a series of upcoming sale pitches on his health care law.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts and so forth have been trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal.

ACOSTA: But Obamacare faces a key test -- in less than one week, on October 1st, new online marketplaces opened for business across the country, giving the uninsured their first shot at buying into health care plans.

OBAMA: What we want to make sure of is that everybody in every category, every age group, understands why health insurance is important. Understands why they should sign up.

ACOSTA: But Cruz and some other Republicans say they'll only vote for a measure that averts a government shutdown if it also defunds Obamacare. CRUZ: Defund Obamacare!

(CHEERS)

ACOSTA: The problem for the Tea Party Texan -- Senate Republican leaders have all but abandoned Cruz's failing quest.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I just don't happen to think filibustering a bill that defunds Obamacare is the best route to defunding Obamacare. All it does is shut down the government and keep Obamacare funded. And none of us want that.

ACOSTA: Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: And we have some live pictures to show you. There he is, Ted Cruz still speaking 5:04 a.m. in the East. He started yesterday, nearly 15 hours now. We will check back in with him throughout the show. I got to say, it looks pretty good for talking for almost 15 hours. I have to figure out who does his hair.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

I also heard part of what he did was read bedtime stories to his kids.

BERMAN: "Green Eggs and Ham".

SAMBOLIN: Yes, yes, a little bit of everything going on.

BERMAN: He said his father used to make him green eggs and ham. This is what's going on, on the Senate floor, by the way, five days until the government shut down, and we have green eggs and ham.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Four minutes past the hour.

It's no face time between President Obama and Iran's newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, as both leaders spoke at the U.S. General Assembly. But there is cautious optimism with the Iranian leader striking a moderate tone concerning his Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Rouhani telling CNN's Christiane Amanpour he brings peace and friendship from the Iranians to Americans. So, how is all of this playing back home?

CNN's Reza Sayah is live in Tehran.

So, by all accounts, Rouhani struck a moderate tune. Is he getting any criticism for that back home?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No criticism yet here in Iran. Everyone, including the supreme leader, the ultimate authority, is on board with this new strategy, this charm offensive, if you will, led by Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani.

As far as the people go here, the reactions from the Iranians has been remarkable. They are hopeful, optimistic. Some of them downright excited that for the first time in more than three decades, there could be better relations between the U.S. and Iran. We've talked to a lot of Iranians. We haven't met a single person that doesn't want better relations to happen.

Of course, if better relations happen, that could be an opportunity to ease some sanctions here that have inflicted a lot of economic suffering to Iranian people. As far as the government goes, they're in a wait mode. You get the sense that this is a chess match. They've made their offer. They're waiting for the U.S. and Western powers to respond.

As part of that chess match, many were anticipating a possible handshake between President Rouhani and President Obama at a U.N. luncheon. It didn't happen.

Here's President Rouhani's explanation why it didn't happen when he talked to our Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There were some talks about it, in fact, to perhaps arrange for a meeting between President Obama and myself. So that given the opportunity, we can talk with each other, and preparation for the work was done a bit as well. The United States declared its interest in having such a meeting and in principle could have, under certain circumstances, allowed it to happen. But I believe we didn't have sufficient time to really coordinate the meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAYAH: Of course, the handshake didn't happen. But that's not dampening the spirits and the optimism among Iranians here. The barrier that remains between these two countries, the nuclear program, leaders here in Iran sending signals that they're ready to make concessions, perhaps prepared to suspend enriching uranium 20 percent, perhaps prepared to open up for broader inspections.

But, naturally, they want something substantial in return. They want to be respected. They want to be treated as equals, and they want the U.S. to recognize their right to enrich uranium.

So, we'll see what happens in the next two days. Can these two countries sit down and hammer out an agreement? The world will be watching.

SAMBOLIN: Reza Sayah, live for us in Tehran -- thank you.

BERMAN: It's terrific to have Reza in Tehran. Not easy getting reporters there.

Now, developing story in southwest Pakistan where the death toll from a 7.7 magnitude earthquake now stands at 208 with 350 others injured. More victims are feared trapped beneath rubble. The deadly quake also triggered a rare geological phenomenon. Check this out -- it created a new island. It's 30 feet high, 100 feet wide, rising from the Arabian Sea, about a mile off the coast.

A lot of people now are gathering for glimpse of this newly formed island.

SAMBOLIN: Retired Pope Benedict XVI breaking his silence. He has written a letter to defend himself against critics who say that he mishandled sex abuse cases in the Catholic Church. The pope emeritus claiming, quote, "I never tried to cover these things up."

Prior to becoming pope in 2005, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger oversaw all abuse cases for the Vatican.

BERMAN: The Justice Department arguing that socialite's Jill Kelley's lawsuit should be dismissed because there was no proof that privacy was violated. Her complaints about threatening and anonymous email set off a chain of events that resulted in the resignation of then-CIA Director David Petraeus. Kelley and her husband filed a suit in June, accusing the FBI and the Pentagon and unnamed federal agents of violating her privacy and accessing personal e-mails.

SAMBOLIN: Just about nine minutes past the hour. Let's get a check on the weather. I don't see any 30s anywhere there, Indra. Look at that.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: See?

SAMBOLIN: It's good news this morning.

PETERSONS: Tiny little stuff.

BERMAN: The hand move there was very impressive.

PETERSONS: Thank you.

We're talking about temperatures barely going up. Either way, in the afternoon, you're feeling that huge difference. I mean, no one is really complaining anymore in the afternoon. It's really gorgeous out. It actually feels like fall, just a hint better.

New York City, just a couple of degrees above average, 74 is what we're shooting for today. Towards D.C., 77. I mean, how much nice you can really ask for, right? Pittsburgh looking for about 74.

So, beautiful weather, the question is, will it last? Well, it all actually depends on what's going on in the Southeast, kind of hard to picture this. Notice all of the rain, I do mean all of the rain maybe dealing with this. Ft. Myers up 5.37 inches.

This is the last several days. Well, what we're watching for here is that stationary front that's in place. There's a low making its way and continuing to bring them rain for several more days, but we could see this low come off the coast and make its way off to the Northeast.

So, where it goes is something we're going to have to watch. If it stays off the coast, it won't affect us. Of course, if it hugs the coast, things change. But it's far out, we're not there yet. The (INAUDIBLE) right now.

SAMBOLIN: That's all he cares about. As you mentioned, the Northeast, oh, no --

BERMAN: I care about everyone, but just us more.

PETERSONS: Seventy-five, 77 today.

BERMAN: Very nice.

We do appreciate that. Thank you very much, Indra.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Indra.

For whatever you have to do with that.

BERMAN: She runs it, as far as I can tell. She's got the map.

SAMBOLIN: Coming up --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been looking for years. They tried, they can't come up with nothing, but they never looked in this area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Two teen age girls missing for more than 40 years. Could they have been finally found at the bottom of a lake?

BERMAN: And the deadly mall massacre finally over. More than 70 innocent people killed. We're now learning new information about the terrorists and how they planned this attack. Our Arwa Damon is live in Nairobi with the latest developments. We'll have them right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Kenya's president said his country is, quote, "bloody but unbowed", after a four-day siege by al-Shabaab terrorists at a shopping mall in Nairobi. He says the gunmen were ashamed and defeated by Kenyan security forces.

At least 61 civilians died in the attack. That's at least. Officials say five of the terrorists were killed. Nearly a dozen are now said to be in custody.

CNN's Arwa Damon is live in Nairobi for us.

And, Arwa, what's the latest this morning?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here's the update, those dozen suspected individuals that are in custody were not picked up at the mall itself. A lot of them were actually picked up at the airport, trying to flee the country. It would seem suspected of having ties to this attack.

Now, what the government is saying is that there are still a lot of answers, a lot of questions that need to be answered. But a lot of those answers remain buried underneath the rubble. But there have been some dramatic details that have emerged over the last 24 hours. The attackers themselves, according to the government, tried to stage a dramatic escape.

That smoke we saw billowing from Westgate Mall on Wednesday was an attempt to buy the attackers to create a smokescreen. Two of them, in fact, getting into a vehicle trying to flee, but because of the intensity at the security cordon, they were forced back into the building. The fate of the remaining attackers -- remember, the government said there were 10 to 15 involved -- that is unknown. Of the five bodies that were recovered, there were according to the government, one Dutch national, one British national.

At this stage, no forensic confirmation of those suspected attackers that we believe were American themselves.

There are forensic teams on the ground, inside right now. And, of course, for this country, there's still a lot of psychological recovery that is under way. There are still dozens of people missing, also believed to be buried underneath the rubble. There are funerals under way.

And the country's trying to cope with the scale of this massive tragedy, looking for answers to those questions -- how were these attackers able to conduct such a sophisticated attack coming at the mall from multiple directions, heavily armed? But, also, wanting to know what the government's going to do in the future to prevent these kinds of attacks from taking place.

You can just imagine the psyche of the people here for something as simple as going to the mall, taking your kids out for lunch or ice cream is now tainted with the horrors that we saw taking place at Westgate Mall just down the road from here, John.

BERMAN: Arwa, there are reports this morning that there are signs for intricate planning of this attack, hiding weapons inside, like you said, coming from multiple directions at once. And also officials there say three floors of this maul collapsed. You mentioned bodies still buried in the rubble there perhaps.

Any sense how long that cleanup effort will take?

DAMON: No, not at this stage. As you can imagine, it's still a very delicate crime scene inside. There are multiple agencies on the ground, there are experts from the Israelis, the Americans, and the British, trying to assist the Kenyans, and this intelligence gathering effort in the ongoing clear-out effort itself.

If you also remember, there were a lot of suspicions that a British- born woman was also involved. Samantha Lewthwaite, she's the widower of one of the London bombings -- one of the suicide bombers there. There have not been any confirmation of that just yet, again, waiting for the forensic evidence on that to emerge.

And as the officials keep on telling us, a lot of those answers at this stage do remain buried underneath the rubble, exactly because as you mentioned there, three stories of the building did, in fact, collapse.

BERMAN: A lot left to learn.

Arwa Damon for us, great reporting in Nairobi -- thanks so much, Arwa.

Moving on now, 17 minutes after the hour.

A car that was discovered submerged in a South Dakota creek could end up solving a decade's old missing person's case. In the car, authorities say they found the skeletal remains of two girls who disappeared 42 years ago when they were just 17. Neighborhood residents were simply stunned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY HANEKALUS, LIVES NEAR SITE OF FOUND CAR: It's a little surreal, honestly, just to even believe that it's all happening right outside our door, and that they possibly could have been there all this time. It's a little unbelievable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The car, a beige 1960 Studebaker had been buried in mud all this time at the bottom of the creek. This is until a fisherman this week spotted its wheel poking up out of the water. Amazing.

SAMBOLIN: That's incredible.

Eighteen minutes past the hour.

Do you want to cash in big on your frequent flier miles to feel like it's never enough? You are definitely not alone. So, listen up, today, we reveal how to get the most mileage out of your rewards program in this morning's "Road Warriors."

So, it's no secret that many are tightening the reins offered by the loyalty program. But there are apparently some simple ways to get more for your miles. First, they say think big -- spend your miles on flights that give you the greatest benefits, such as opting for an international flight instead of a quick domestic trip.

You're agreeing? Yes? All right.

So, also never let your points expire like I did. And be sure to keep your loyalty program current -- I did. I didn't see the expiration date. So, be vigilant.

Check it out when they send you that in the mail, take a look. So, however, flying isn't the only way to cash in on awards. For as little as 150 points, United Airlines allows flyers to download music from the digital media. Did you know this?

BERMAN: I did not know that.

SAMBOLIN: All right. You can also give miles to family and friend or donate charity. You can get them to me if you'd like.

JetBlue's True Blue program lets travelers convert points for local bucks to a charity of their choice. I like that one.

And on the Web site, Points.com, you can shop for gift cards for a variety of retailers. Here are frequent flyers can also exchange points between loyalty programs. So, that's not bad.

BERMAN: Yes, I'm pretty much obsessed with frequent flier points.

SAMBOLIN: Are you really? Do you use them a lot?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I use travel a lot. Not so much now anymore because I sit here with you every morning. But I know, I get you instead of the frequent flyer points.

Upgrades or Zoraida, you make the call. Anyway, we'll leave it there.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sure your wife would rather be taking the trips.

BERMAN: Exactly.

SAMBOLIN: Coming up, summer is just starting to fade, but holiday airfares, they're already on the rise. Doesn't that make you mad?

BERMAN: You'll need those miles.

SAMBOLIN: When you'll need to snap up your ticket. That's next in "Money Time."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: This is either the club or it's "Money Time."

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Christine Romans --

SAMBOLIN: We're waking up so we're giving you a little music to help you get the coffee coming over "Money Time."

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I have a warning for you.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

ROMANS: Actually, Jack Lew, the treasury secretary, has a warning for you this morning. He says the markets are too complacent. Investors are too complacent about the risk of a debt ceiling debacle.

The treasury secretary telling investors it's time to take the debt limit more seriously. So many people on Wall Street are assuming that Washington will ultimately raise the government's borrowing authority. How many times have you heard that?

Oh, they'll figure it out. They'll figure it out. They have to fund the government. No, don't worry, they'll figure it out.

First, we have the government you have the shutdown, then after that, in the middle of October, the U.S. government runs out of money, borrowing authority. Two different but related problems.

Jack Lew told Bloomberg News yesterday, the markets are too calm. Congress has a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time. The Dow and the S&P 500 are just 2 percent from record highs, but the risk might be sinking in.

I mean, look, the last time we went through this drama in 2011, the S&P lost 6 percent. And that real -- the U.S. lost its AAA credit rating. It was a real, big problem and we're there again. Futures are lower this morning. A lot of people talking on Wall Street about those Jack Lew comments. The Dow yesterday fell nearly 67 points, the S&P also closed lower. The NASDAQ eked out a gain.

I want to show you kind of the last four days looks like for the Dow. The Dow down 342 points, about 2 percent. Quickly, you know, the politics of this are pretty ugly -- I hear over and over again, they're going to figure it out. This is Washington theatrics.

Jack Lew is saying we're not so sure this is Washington theatrics. This is a very serious place to bring the president, a treasury secretary, a Congress right to the end again of your borrowing authority.

BERMAN: The debt ceiling is no joke. What's interesting about this, too, is Jack Lew probably trying to rally Wall Street support, donors to senators who can affect the outcome here. The thing is there are a lot of Tea Party Republicans who don't get much of their support from Wall Street. This is not necessarily the old Republican Party where Wall Street can dictate what it wants quite as easily.

ROMANS: It's an unruly caucus, as some would say. An unruly caucus who quite frankly is taking the full faith and credit of the U.S. government right to the edge, which is something that is probably dangerous.

SAMBOLIN: We're used to this at this stage of the game, right? It's almost like it's become second nature and this is what we expected and we expect them to solve.

ROMANS: We've seen it twice. We saw it twice. It is dangerous and he's warning. So, something that really take heat up (ph) this morning.

Meantime, one stock growing trend recently, you guys, Facebook. Facebook closed at a record high after a report in "The South China Morning Post", the government will lift the ban of foreign Web sites, albeit only in the Shanghai free trade zone. So, a big asterisk. But that was good enough for investors.

For that other social media darling, Twitter, there are reports this morning, it has picked the New York Stock Exchange over the NASDAQ. That's a black eye for the NASDAQ. Who can forget the debacle over the Facebook launch a year ago? So, this other Twitter darling looks like, according to this morning's reports will be at the big board.

So, there you go. I teased you about rising fares. Let me just tell you, you've got about three weeks to make plans for the holidays.

BERMAN: Do it now.

ROMANS: Summer's barely over, but kayak report found indeed these fares are going to start rising pretty quickly. So, make your plans for the holidays and you will save a little bit of money. Do it now.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, great advice as always. Thank you so much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)