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EARLY START

Olympic Terror Alert; Historic Snow Storms; Leno's Goodbye

Aired February 7, 2014 - 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: Happening now, high alert for flights to the Olympics. Airlines taking new measures in the wake of new, credible terror threats -- all this with the opening ceremony just hours away. We are live.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Historic snowstorms crippling communities across the country, from Portland to Dallas to Philadelphia. Millions digging out again this morning, but the worst may not be over. Chad Myers is here to explain this all.

BERMAN: The end of an era. While you were sleeping, Jay Leno's dramatic good-bye to "The Tonight Show." And this time, he's not coming back, probably.

ROMANS: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans for you this Friday morning.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you this day. It is February 7th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: Let's start with the Winter Olympics and a new warning this morning from homeland security in this country over a possible terror attack, just hours before the opening ceremonies.

The TSA now banning all liquids, gels and powders from carry-ons for flights from the U.S. to Russia. There are fears terrorists could be using them to smuggle explosives.

Nick Paton Walsh live in Sochi this morning.

Nick, what are you hearing this morning? What's the security situation there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just tried to go into one of the Olympic venues. When you go into one of the cordons, they're actually stopping people bringing in liquids, unless you have a special accreditation pass.

I saw one man having to drink his bottle right there on the spot, so clearly concerns security-wise, but what's the impact on attendance here? We've been around the venues. Not a lot of international tourists we're seeing. Still early at this stage, but we are only hours away from the opening ceremony.

But here's the interesting part -- we've spoken to one American tour operator who says, look, the majority of their clients have been family members for American athletes. They've actually got quite a small number of American fans. This tour operator saying, actually, he's got nearly 1,000 tickets that were allocated for American fans that he simply hasn't been able to sell, $200,000 worth, he's saying.

So, a real sense, perhaps that maybe the security threats have dampened attendance here, I spoke to one U.S. official with the Olympic contingency here, and she confirmed, look, we're not expecting many American fans. And one fan we spoke to who came here said you could even still buy opening ceremony tickets for 600 bucks online. That's only about six hours away now.

So, a sense, perhaps, that maybe there aren't the attendance figures people were hoping to see? The official numbers are still 80 percent of tickets are sold. And, of course, the U.S. embassy just told me they're expecting 10,000 to 15,000 Americans to show up here.

Are they visible just yet? No. That could be because we're still in the opening stages. There's no sign, no confirmation of a lack of attendance at this point, but the signals we're getting suggest that maybe these constant security background checks have had an effect on the American desire to be here -- Christine.

ROMANS: You know, sometimes when Americans go to the Olympics, they take other trips through the country, they look to find out more about the country, not just where the Olympics are, but around, traveling around, and that's something that they're really not being encouraged to do at this point -- just a few hours away from the opening ceremonies. How are things looking? Is Sochi ready? This thing's going to begin in a matter of hours.

WALSH: Yes, it's ready, absolutely. I mean, we went through, we saw everything in order. We did see, though, interestingly enough, a collection of Russians who were pretty angry. They bought tickets online some for the opening ceremony. They weren't able to actually get them given to them by ticket dispenser because it wasn't going to be open until actually around about now. They've been cueing for a bit, a bit of anger there.

So, there are definitely flaws in the machine, but the one thing I think has surprised people is the lack of bustle. You expect something like this to see the streets filled. You expect to feel that sense of kind of crowd momentum building. It may just be because it's early days, but it is interesting to hear American tour operators saying they've got 1,000 tickets they haven't been able to shift or sell to people to come here. Christine.

ROMANS: Nick Paton Walsh, we'll be talking to you many times in the coming days. Thanks, Nick.

BERMAN: So, this isn't going to help. As the world awaits the opening ceremony in Sochi, an embarrassing phone-tapping scandal threatening the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. The White House is hinting it was the Russians who bugged a phone conversation between two U.S. diplomats in Kiev in Ukraine and posted it online.

Listen to State Department official Victoria Nuland and Jeffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, discussing the European Union's relationship with Ukraine's pro-Moscow government.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPT.: So, that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the U.N. help glue it, and you know, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the E.U.

JEFFREY PYATT, AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Exactly, and I think we've got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: Obviously, this call was intercepted and recorded by somebody. The State Department is calling the release of the bugged call a new Russian low. It's not directly accusing the Russians of recording it, however, and the U.S. State Department is not disputing its authenticity.

ROMANS: This morning, yet another sign immigration reform is not likely to get done in Congress any time soon. A week after Republicans rolled out their plans, House Speaker John Boehner now says it is unlikely, unlikely he can get any reform bill through his caucus. That as many conservatives in his own party balked at the idea, but Boehner blamed Democrats and the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: There is widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We have the Republicans always talking about doing something about the deficit. Immigration reform is $1 trillion to the good. They outlined a principle of immigration. Well, I guess today they decided they have no principle as it relates to immigration.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

ROMANS: Several Republicans have said it would be tough to get reform done in an election year, but Democrats say they will keep pressing, perhaps once tempers cool a bit.

BERMAN: Happening today in Michigan, President Obama is set to sign the new trillion-dollar farm and food stamp bill approved earlier this week in Congress. The president will visit Michigan State University for the ceremony and to talk about agricultural programs. The bill will cut direct payments to farmers but increase crop insurance. It will also cut food stamps by about $90 a month for recipients, on average.

ROMANS: OK, so, no closer to immigration reform. This morning, we're no closer to unemployment benefits extended for more than a million Americans. A Senate vote came up one shy of the 60 needed to break a Republican filibuster.

The big snag, how do you pay for it? Critics say there wasn't an offsetting spending cut to minimize the impact on the federal deficit.

The two sides also squabbling over how many amendments to the deal Republicans would be allowed to offer. This means no extended jobless benefits still for those more than a million people who have lost them.

BERMAN: This morning the Pentagon is reportedly set to ask Congress for billions more to pay for missile defense. Reuters say the plan includes $1 billion for a new homeland defense radar in Alaska and half a billion to work on a new missile interceptor system. The Pentagon already spent billions on a ground missile system that is only had limited success in tests.

ROMANS: A vote of confidence for Iran. The Obama administration waving sanctions on Iran's state TV temporarily, and it's doing so as the U.S., Iran and five other world powers get ready to hold talks this month on a final nuclear agreement. The U.S. sanction Islamic Republic of Iran broadcasting last year, saying it blocked foreign channels and distorted its programming.

BERMAN: Twitter making plans today to possibly sue the Obama administration over just what it can disclose about government surveillance requests. This days after other tech companies agreed to a deal that restricts how much they can say about those inquiries. Twitter's legal chief has posted online that the deal is not transparent enough and its users deserve to know more about what the government is asking for.

ROMANS: Asian markets ending the week stronger. Japan regaining some of the huge losses from earlier this week, the Nikkei up 2 percent, Hang Seng up, gains in London as well, very minor gains this hour in London.

Yesterday, that's what the Dow looked like at the closing bell yesterday. Biggest gain of the year for the most closely watched batches of stocks here in the U.S., the Dow and the S&P. Buying here continues this morning. Futures are higher. First look at the jobs situation for 2014 is out later this morning.

John, this is the big Friday report. It happens once a month. Economists surveyed by CNN Money expect the jobless rate steady at 6.7 percent. If so, that will be the lowest jobless rate in five years. Two things could be a drag on this number.

How in the world will all this severe weather play out and what does that mean for the number of people in the workforce and how many hours people were working?

Some concern now that long-term benefits -- unemployment benefits are no longer available. You might have had more than a million people simply drop out of the labor market, John. Dropping out of the labor market once those unemployment checks were done. That could distort this number as well. BERMAN: You know, I think there is more mystery surrounding the number this month than we have seen --

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: -- at any time I can remember, which is why you have to watch Christine Romans' coverage all morning. You will not know what happens until she tells you.

Nine minutes after the hour right now.

In Portland, Oregon, this morning, officials have one message -- stay home! That as the city is hit by one of the biggest snowstorms it has seen in years. Bad accidents everywhere, like a 28-car pileup across the river in Washington state. Up to 9 inches already on the ground, another foot could fall today.

And this weekend, even more snow could be coming on top of that.

ROMANS: Near Dallas, some school districts closed today after snow fell again on north Texas and temperatures plunged, meaning icy, slippery roads, cancellations at DFW airport, one of the nation's busiest air hubs.

BERMAN: And near Philadelphia, hundreds of thousands of customers are waking up in the dark again.

ROMANS: Whoa!

BERMAN: This morning, still without power after Wednesday's snow and ice storm. The power company is promising most of them should be back on by tonight.

ROMANS: So, Chad Myers, how's it looking for them? Track the forecast for us. What are we expecting today?

MYERS: You know, they're still in the 20s right now. And if you don't have power, all of a sudden, 20 degrees outside gets inside your house pretty quickly. This is the region, we're talking about. That's where it got hit so hard with the ice, and a lot of power lines are still down here, a lot of trees are still down as well.

But better than Albany. Albany, New York, right now -- this is not a windchill. That's the air temperature. It's 1 below there in your valley, 29 in Atlanta. That's cold for them, 17 in Nashville and 20 in Memphis.

Not as cold as this, though. This is just an ugly color. I don't even like this color. Three below zero in Minneapolis. That's, again, not windchill, air temperature, zero Milwaukee and 1 below in Chicago.

This is the mess out west. There are feet of snow going to come down in the Rockies. I guess northern Rockies. That's some good news for skiers, but that also means this storm is going to head our way, going to head to the Northeast, going to spread some snow, not the 2 feet. That was possible, though.

The storms are not going to combine. It was the cold air here, warm and moist air here. They're just going to miss each other. They're going to slide on by. So, we don't get that major snow event. We get two to four inches, not two to four feet. I can handle that.

There will be higher amounts here, higher amounts here, some spots four to six inches, but so far, so good. That's Sunday into Monday.

BERMAN: All right, Chad. Thank you for that.

ROMANS: We'll take it, Chad. Thank you.

He doesn't like the color of the map.

BERMAN: No, pink very offensive to Chad Myers in the morning.

ROMANS: Some people called it the aesthetics meteorology department. Chad Myers has had it.

It's over. Jay Leno is saying good-bye to "The Tonight Show", again, this time for good.

He came full circle. His first guest 22 years ago was Billy Crystal and he was his last. They featured a song from "The Sound of Music," including performances by celebrities including Oprah. Leno choked up with his final good-bye, calling the experience the greatest 22 years of his life -- a tender finish for the late-night ratings king.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I got to meet presidents, astronauts, movie stars. It's just been incredible.

I got to work with lighting people who made me look better than I really am.

I got to work with audio people who made me sound better than I really do.

And I got to work with producers and writers -- and just all kinds of talented people who make me look a lot smarter than I really am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He is the hardest working man in show business.

BERMAN: He really is.

ROMANS: He works so -- I mean, I think he works like six or seven days a week, right?

BERMAN: I've never seen him get emotional, at all, and he's been through a lot.

ROMANS: He couldn't resist one last dig at the network, saying in his final monologue, "I don't like good-byes. NBC does."

BERMAN: He will make a joke out of anything.

Well, congratulations, Jay Leno. Amazing, amazing stuff, from Andover, Massachusetts, by the way.

ROMANS: I can't hear it all.

BERMAN: Very proud of him.

All right. Coming up for us, Philip Seymour Hoffman -- as people say good-bye to the world-famous actor, we're learning new information about the people arrested in his death investigation.

ROMANS: And could Justin Bieber soon be arrested again?

BERMAN: No.

ROMANS: The third time in a month. The new charges he might be facing, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Happening today in New York City, a private funeral for actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, a day after his family and friends remember the 46-year-old Academy Award-winner at a wake. He died, of course, over the weekend of an apparent drug overdose.

Three people have been charged in connection with those drugs, two of them, 21-year-olds Max Rosenblum and Juliana Luchkiw, are now out of jail. A judge released them as they await further court action.

A third man, 57-year-old Robert Vineberg, is facing a felony drug possession charge. A law enforcement official tells CNN that Vineberg had Hoffman's phone number in his cell phone and says police found what they believe to be heroin in Vineberg's apartment.

ROMANS: This morning in Jacksonville, three teens are expected to take the stand in the case of Michael Dunn. He's accused of opening fire on their car in a parking lot, killing their 17-year-old friend, Jordan Davis. Dunn says these young men threatened him after he asked them to turn down their music, and he claims they pulled a gun. Prosecutors insist the only one who threatened anyone was Dunn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN GUY, PROSECUTOR: Michael David Dunn pointed a semiautomatic pistol at four unarmed kids from a distance much closer than you and I, and then drove off. He didn't call the police. He went to his hotel with his girlfriend.

CORY STROLLA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He just had somebody threaten his life, display a weapon, try to exit a vehicle and say (EXPLETIVE DELETED) going down now (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And for the first time in his life, he has to use a firearm to defend himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Police say there's no evidence there was any gun in that SUV with those young men. The defense is expected to argue the teens disposed of it before police got there.

BERMAN: Possible trouble today for a very public face in the Republican Party. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Washington state congresswoman who delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union, the Office of Congressional Ethics has now recommended the House Ethics Committee conduct a full investigation into whether McMorris Rodgers improperly used campaign funds. No news yet whether that probe will move forward.

ROMANS: Chris Christie back in New Jersey today, a day after visiting Texas for a Republican fund-raising trip. The meetings were closed to the media, so we don't know what he said to potential donors about the scandals in his administration, but we do know two prominent Republicans stayed away, Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott. Perry's spokesman said Perry was pleased to have Christie in his state.

BERMAN: In California, energy officials are asking residents to conserve gas and electricity until 10:00 tonight. This coming after bitter cold in the Midwest and East caused a natural gas shortage at plants in California. Residents are asked to turn off lights, turn down heaters, conserve water. The energy alert is voluntary.

ROMANS: New video this morning is leading to big questions in California. A firefighter handcuffed, you're seeing the video there, taken away by a police officer. And this happened at the scene of a highway rollover.

Police telling this firefighter, Jacob Gregoire, to move his truck from the fast lane. Fire officials say it was parked behind an ambulance for safety reasons. The firefighter detained by police for 30 minutes before being released, at the scene of an accident! The California Highway Patrol is investigating.

BERMAN: Got to believe that's going to lead to some serious tension there.

All right, 20 minutes after the hour.

And new developments this morning for Justin Bieber, and it could land him in jail. The L.A. County Sheriff's Office has now formally turned over its report in the egg-throwing attack on Bieber's neighbor's house. And reportedly, they are asking prosecutors to charge Bieber with a felony. It could be a week or longer before any decision is made, that as we are seeing new video of Mr. Bieber's arrest in Florida last month for allegedly driving under the influence. You can see Miami Beach police patting the pop artist down. They say he was cooperative.

Justin Bieber news for today -- could be three arrests and counting.

ROMANS: Does he have lawyers in every one of these states, in two different countries?

BERMAN: Two countries.

ROMANS: You know, his legal team -- wow, used to be producers who made money off Bieber. Now it's lawyers.

BERMAN: It's the industry. The Bieber industry is branching out now into the legal field.

ROMANS: I guess so.

All right. Coming up, the Olympic Games have begun and it's already a disaster for the U.S. figure skating team. Could they be out before the opening ceremonies even begin?

Our Andy Scholes here to explain in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: The Olympics are upon us! The opening ceremony actually in just a few hours. You, my friends, will not get to see them until tonight -- thank you, tape delay.

Nevertheless, the sporting events are up and running. The team figure skating is one of the new events this year. Team USA got off to an awful, awful start to the competition.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes joins us now with more in the morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, a lot of people excited for this new event. In team figure skating, men and women team up in singles and pairs and all their scores are added up to give the team one accumulative score.

After the men's and pairs' short programs, Team USA, they have dug themselves a bit of a hole. Jeremy Abbott, he fell during his performance. He ended up finishing seventh. The team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, they didn't fare much better, finishing fifth. Right now, USA is in seventh place overall. Top five teams make it to Sunday's final.

Another new event this Olympics is the slope style competition. Jamie Anderson, she's got eight X Games medals in the event. She pulled off some pretty awesome jumps in round one, advancing all the way to the finals. Her teammate, Karly Shorr, also was impressive. She will join Anderson in Sunday's final.

Elsewhere, Hannah Kearney looking to become the first freestyle skier to win two Olympic gold medals. She dominated the qualifying round of the ladies' moguls competition. Kearney is in first place heading into Saturday's final round, and there is a good chance, guys, that she's the first American to win gold at the Sochi Games. And there are no events today. Everyone getting ready for the opening ceremony, which, as you said, John, is in just a few hours, but we won't get to see it until later tonight.

ROMANS: And Nick Paton Walsh tells us there are still tickets available to open ceremonies. It is not sold out yet, which is interesting.

BERMAN: Now, you see that at a lot of Olympics because the corporate sponsors buy so many tickets. It's a strange, strange spectator sport, but we are looking forward to it, nonetheless. Andy Scholes, thank you so much. Great to see you.

ROMANS: And that Olympic ceremony is hours away, but it's the growing terror alert that has the world watching. This morning, the new threats and new security in place. We are live in Sochi, right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)