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More U.S. Help Arrive Nigeria; New Committee to Investigate Benghazi; Another Day of Dangerous Weather; Looking Ahead to 2016

Aired May 9, 2014 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a new investigation into the 2012 Benghazi terror attack that killed four Americans. The house GOP leading the charge. This morning, Congress Republicans say they're amping up to unearth what they believe to be a White House cover-up. Democrats, for their part, with a crucial decision today that could change everything.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: New developments after an investigation first on CNN. VA hospitals now getting audited after a series of health care delays cost some veterans their lives. And there are new allegations this may have happened a lot -- in a lot more places than first thought.

BERMAN: New fears in Nigeria this morning that hundreds of young girls kidnapped by terrorists have been split up, moved throughout the region. This morning more U.S. investigators are arriving, hoping to help find these girls and bring the captors to justice. We're live on the very latest, next.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's 31 minutes past the hour this Friday morning. And it could be a critical day in Washington, now that the House has officially voted to launch its own investigation into what happened in Benghazi.

Now the deadly attack on a diplomatic outpost left these four men, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three State Department employees, dead. Today, House Speaker John Boehner set to name his choices to serve on a select committee, a committee looking into the attack and whether the White House is covering up the facts about it. But Democrats are threatening to not even take part, calling the committee a political witch hunt. They're going to meet this morning to decide -- to debate and decide what their next steps will be.

But Boehner is defending this committee, despite questions over whether all of this is motivated by the upcoming election.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker Boehner, four Americans died in Benghazi. Should the NRCC fundraise off of your efforts with the select committee? REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our focus is on getting the answers to those families who lost their loved ones, period.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should the NRCC -- there's fundraising out there right now. Is that --

BOEHNER: Our focus -- our focus is getting the truth for these four families and for the American people.


ROMANS: Republicans have alleged the White House knowingly distorted the reasons for the attack and encouraged former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to lie about what happened. She's now the president's national security adviser.

Democrats say it's unfair Republicans are only offering them five seats on the committee while the majority party will have seven.

BERMAN: This morning, disturbing new developments in a story first brought to you right here on CNN. A shocking investigation showing veterans were left on waiting lists by the VA, unable to get the health care that they needed. Well, now the VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, is ordering a face-to-face audit amid calls that he resign or actually get fired from his job, this coming as investigators this morning are looking into new allegations that this was happening at another VA facility.

A clerk in San Antonio telling CNN's Drew Griffin he was told to change records to make it look like patients were not waiting longer than 14 days. Listen to this.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: So it could be three months and it looks like 14 days?

BRIAN TURNER, VA SCHEDULING CLERK: It could look -- could be three months and look like no days. It'd look like they had scheduled the appointment and got exactly what they wanted --

GRIFFIN: So fudging the book is my -- that's your -- that's my --

TURNER: I would call it that. You can call it that. The VA doesn't call it that. They call it zeroing out.


BERMAN: VA Secretary Shinseki has now been subpoenaed by a House panel looking into these allegations. He says he will not resign. The White House says the president -- the president has complete confidence in him.

ROMANS: This morning, more U.S. help is on the way to Nigeria. The government is still looking for hundreds of girls kidnapped by the terror group Boko Haram. And today, seven members of the U.S. military will join the dozens of advisers on the ground desperately trying to figure out where those schoolgirls are being held, but this comes amid new worries the girls may have been taken across the border into Cameroon, Chad or Niger, and the Pentagon now says it thinks the girls have been split up into smaller groups.

Vladimir Duthiers live for us in Abuja with the very latest.

So, Vlad, there are concerns that these girls are not in a group of 250 or more than 200, but in fact, may have been split up into smaller groups that might make it more difficult to find them.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine. In fact, the parents on the ground in Chibok, for them this is their worst nightmare. They have said all along, Christine, that they believed that their daughters, these children were taken into neighboring Chad, Niger or Cameroon, because they saw convoys filled with young girls. They saw militants on those convoys and they say that they saw them on a road leading out of Nigeria, out of Borno State towards the direction of Cameroon.

This is something that they said because of the time wasted in getting any kind of search-and-rescue operation off the ground going into the forest to find these girls, this is what they were most worried about -- Christine.

ROMANS: What they were most worried about. Now we have more U.S. officials, U.S. intelligence resources on the ground trying to help the Nigerian government, a government that has been, frankly, sharply criticized for failing to do something until now.

What are the hopes that U.S. help can achieve?

DUTHIERS: Well, any little bit will help, because to be fair to the Nigerian Defense Ministry and to the military, they say they have been mounting a search-and-rescue operation. They say that they've been looking for the girls. But again, when we speak to the parents, they say they haven't seen any kind of significant military progress, any kind of search-and-rescue ops on the ground.

So the idea that the United States will actually put some advisers to help them with reconnaissance, to help them with hostage negotiations should it gets to that level, to help them with aerial technology to get a good bird's eye view of the area that we're looking at is certainly going to be welcomed for the Nigerian government, and it does signify that we knew all along President Goodluck Jonathan admitted that he didn't know where these girls were and that was going to make it very, very difficult for them to find them in this forest, in a defensive military, heavily fortified group of militants there -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Vladimir Duthiers live for us this morning.

BERMAN: Thirty-six minutes after the hour right now.

Let's move on to Ukraine, where this morning much of the country is not celebrating a national holiday. It's Victory Day, marking the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany. But much of eastern Ukraine shut down today. Stores are closed, public events canceled in many cities. This amid worries that violence could flare up between pro- Russian separatists and those who support keeping Ukraine together.

A different scene, however, in Moscow. There it was a huge parade honoring one of Russia's most important days. You see Vladimir Putin right there in Moscow. A lot of questions about whether he may be headed to Crimea today to celebrate this holiday. So stay tuned for that.

ROMANS: Smooth sailing so far for President Obama's choice to head up the Department of Health and Human Services. Sylvia Matthews Burwell was praised during her Senate confirmation hearing and told by many of the Republican senators that she was competent and well-qualified for the job, even though they dislike Obamacare.

Senator John McCain compared the task ahead to her -- steering the "Titanic." a vote on sending her nomination to the full Senate is expected before Memorial Day.

BERMAN: We're finding out more this morning about just what former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner thought about his time on the job as Treasury secretary. His memoir is due out next week, but early details from the "Associated Press" and "The New York Times" show Geithner firing back at critics, insisting he had to save big banks before worrying about some average Americans because that was the only way to stop the entire economy from collapsing.

Geithner also reveals he thought about stepping down in 2010 and suggested to the president that Hillary Clinton would be a worthy successor.

ROMANS: All right, stocks in Europe trading lower right now, Dow futures point to a lower open for the U.S. two days in a row now. The Dow has closed higher while the Nasdaq closed lower. It's a sign investors are more comfortable with the more stable blue chip companies than trendier names in tech.

A new study to tell you about this morning. More than half of gay and lesbian workers are in the closet at work. In a new survey released by Human Rights Watch, 53 percent of LGBT workers don't disclose their sexuality at work. That's actually a slight increase from 2009, an increase despite increased cultural acceptance.

It's a controversial issue in the workplace. Remember earlier this year the CEO of Mozilla was pressured to step down after -- a week after taking the job after employees found out he had donated funds to a campaign against gay marriage?

Still a very hot topic in -- in the newsroom, in the workforce, and quite interesting that so many -- so many people prefer not to disclose it at work still.

BERMAN: I wonder if that changes over time.

This morning we may be hearing from Donald Sterling for the first time since he was banned for life by the NBA, if it is him, in a new audio recording released by RadarOnline. A man said to be Sterling is talking on the phone in this recording with an unnamed friend.

The disgraced Clippers owner denies that he's a racist, insisting that anyone who knows where he came from knows that this is true.


DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: I grew up in east L.A., east L.A., you die to get out of there. I got out of east L.A. I was the president of the high school there. I mean -- and I'm a Jew. 50 percent of the people there were black and 40 percent were Hispanic. You ever been to Boyle Heights?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I've been to Boyle Heights.

STERLING: So, I mean, people must have a good feeling for me.


BERMAN: Sterling does not appear ready to give in to league demands that he sell the Clippers. An attorney for sterling's wife, Shelly, tells CNN that she plans to fight any attempt to force her out as well. That makes Clippers coach Doc Rivers pretty uneasy.


DOC RIVERS, L.A. CLIPPERS COACH: I think it'd be a very hard situation. I'll say that much. I think it would be very difficult. I can guarantee you every person wouldn't be able to work with that. Whether I would or not, I'm not going to say, but I just know that that would be a very difficult situation for everybody.


BERMAN: Yes, those are pretty important words, hardly a ringing endorsement from Doc Rivers. The Clippers play game three of their playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight in Los Angeles. That series tied at a game apiece.

Some big news to tell you about. Weather news, tornadoes touching down across the country, homes damaged, streets flooded. The threat not over this morning.

Indra Petersons tracking the storms for us next.


ROMANS: All right. Get ready for another day of very dangerous weather from Texas all the way to Indiana. More severe thunderstorms in the forecast, and they could cause trouble for millions.

BERMAN: All right, take a look at this incredible video. That is a tornado on the ground in St. James, Minnesota. That's about 120 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Luckily, amazingly, no injuries have been reported, but there has been damage in some Midwestern communities as tornadoes reported throughout the day on Thursday.

ROMANS: That same storm system drenching northern Texas. These pictures are from Dallas. Some areas got more than five inches of rain, and the winds blowing it sideways in some cases. And that wind was so intense, it destroyed this mobile home. It's about 50 miles from Ft. Worth. Residents say this storm had them on edge.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, I heard this whoo, whoo, whoo. Then I just seen trees just out of control and then poles coming out of the ground.


BERMAN: In Oklahoma City, take a look at this. Those are people out driving in areas they probably should not have been driving as the rain piled up on the roads. Thousands lost power at the height of the storm.

ROMANS: All right, Indra Petersons is here.

What can we expect today and for the weekend, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: More travel woes definitely. Yesterday, Dallas-Ft. Worth, they had a ground stop thanks to severe weather, and we're still looking at the same squall line out there. Notice today, if you are In Indianapolis, St. Louis, Memphis, Little Rock, I can go on and on, Shreveport, down to San Antonio, 27 million of you have that threat for severe weather again today.

What are we watching? That same storm system progressing to the east.

So here's what it looks like as you go towards the weekend. Everyone wants to know, right? Mother's Day, is it going to be dry? Depends on where you are. Into the east coast, yes, although we're going to have rain up until that point. In the Midwest, we're going to get a break right around Saturday only to have -- even on threat for more severe weather by Sunday.

So let's take it day by day. Here's what we're looking at this morning on the East Coast, you're right around the warm front. Still some spotty showers throughout the day, but it's that squall line, that big cold front we're going to be watching for, for the bigger showers today.

By tomorrow we're going to be looking at really the entire eastern half of the country really getting on those showers as we track that cold front across, and look at the temperatures. They're way up there. Midwest gets a break. Here comes Sunday, here comes your next threat to severe weather, especially from Chicago all the way back in through Texas. That's going to be the second round of severe weather. It is the season, unfortunately.

ROMANS: It is the season. All right, thank you, Indra.

BERMAN: All right, what's going on, on "NEW DAY" this morning? Chris Cuomo here with that.

ROMANS: Hey, Chris.

BERMAN: Hey, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: John Berman, Christine Romans, always a pleasure to see you, not just because it's Friday.

Two stories to dig into this morning. Of course, we'll give you all the news that's going on, but this CNN investigation into the Veterans Affairs Department, it just keeps getting more and more traction. There are new allegations now about cooking the books, about how they manage the flow of people they're supposed to help.

Of course, health care has problems, no matter where you look, but our veterans demand better. This investigation is getting deeper as the president is standing behind the man in charge of the VA. Why is he standing behind him? We're going to get into that.

Also, there is a new turn in Benghazi. Republicans voted to have a new commission set up, a special committee to go over it all again. The Democrats don't like it for obvious reasons, but the question is, what are they going to do? There is going to be a big meeting right, I'd like to say like in an hour or so this morning. We're going to be monitoring when the Democrats actually meet.

They may boycott it. What would that mean? And what would it all mean for the secretary of state at the time, who was Hillary Clinton? How is that going to affect her going forward?

We'll get into that, John and Christine. A lot of political intrigue. We're going to bring on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who will be key in making the decision for Democrats, kind of test where they're coming from on this. A big morning of testing.

BERMAN: We're all counting on you, Chris. We look forward to the show.

CUOMO: It's a lot of pressure, J.B., but I carry it as well as I can.


BERMAN: All right. Have a great show, have a great weekend, too.

ROMANS: All right. The 2016 presidential election more than two years away, but the campaign is already in full swing. We're breaking down who's already making a play for the White House, live next.


BERMAN: All right, in Washington, a lot is going on today that could impact the midterm elections. Meanwhile, three potential presidential candidates are on the road today looking ahead to 2016, for real. So what are Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul up to today? Why is it so important? Why are we talking about 2016? CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser joins us.

Hey, Paul.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey, John. Hey, let's start with Vice President Biden. What is he doing today? He's giving the commencement speech at a major university. Nothing surprising there, right? That's what vice presidents do this time of year. But where is he? South Carolina, the first southern primary in the race for the White House. And guess what? Before he gives the commencement speech, he'll be meeting with some top Democrats down there in that very important state.

Marco Rubio, where is he today? New Hampshire. What does New Hampshire have? The first primary in the race for the White House. He'll be giving a big speech to some top Republicans up there.

And Rand Paul today is in Tennessee, not an early voting state, but that's where the Republican National Committee is meeting. So he'll be mingling with top Republican leaders from all 50 states. Probably not a bad thing to do if you're seriously considering running for the White House. As you know, you've covered this stuff, that's what you do in these early preseason times.

BERMAN: It is never too early, Paul Steinhauser, to start talking about this. So tell me, where do the all-important pre-2016 polls stand now more than 2 1/2 years out?

STEINHAUSER: Well, let's take a look at the Republicans first. Brand new numbers out earlier this week from CNN/ORC. Guess who's tied at the top now, Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, with Rand Paul. Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential nominee on the Republican side not far behind.

Mike Huckabee, remember he ran in 2008, the former Arkansas governor, 10 percent. And Chris Christie slowly edging down in the polls, 9 percent. That's our top five. Go to the Democrats. This is the most interesting thing. Look at Hillary Clinton, still by far the overwhelming front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination, if she decides to run, but her support is edging down just slightly.

Maybe that's because she's in the news just about every single day, John. But as you know, take these polls a little lightly this early in the game. It's mostly name recognition. Six months from now when the midterms are over, we'll get more serious about this, John.

BERMAN: Six years -- six months from now when we're still only two years away from the presidential election.

Paul, now, the real reason we brought you on today, not really to talk about presidential campaigning per se, but to talk about Mother's Day.

STEINHAUSER: Mm-hmm. Yes, take a look at this poll. Bush and Clinton tied at the top. Is this a 2016 poll? No, it's not. It's the most admired first ladies of the past 25 years. NBC/"Wall Street Journal" numbers, Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton tied at the top, Michelle Obama a close -- rates close behind, and there's Laura Bush.

Happy Mother's Day. There you go.

BERMAN: Of course, all these women hugely popular, and in almost every case more popular than their presidential spouses.

Paul Steinhauser, great to see you. Happy Mother's Day to you and yours as well.

All right, cool can cost you a whole lot. Wait until you hear just how much apple might spend to get its hands on the hottest headphones around. We will have the details in "Money Time," next.


ROMANS: All right, good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. It's "Money Time." Mortgage rates hit a low this week, down to 4.12 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. That's the lowest level this year. It's about a percentage point higher than the record-low 3.35 percent we hit last may. You know what? These rates are so low, but getting a loan is really difficult. Lending standards remain strict for people without great credit, and a lot of people complaining about how hard it is now to get a loan.

Apple is in the market to buy Beats. That's according to the "Financial Times." That's the headphone and speaker phone -- speaker maker started by rapper Dr. Dre. The price tag on that deal reported to be $3.5 billion. Apple's willing to pay a premium for cool. Beats was valued at just a billion in its last funding round last year.

NBA MVP Kevin Durant already loved by fans, right? But his headline- grabbing MVP speech may be making him more popular with advertisers. He already has deals with Nike and Sprint, but more sponsors may come calling.

Remember his emotional thank-you to his mom? The NBA is already featuring it in a new mother's day commercial, and he is very, very attractive to all the people who want to be aligned with his brand. We're going to have more on the business of being Kevin Durant on "YOUR MONEY," that's Saturday at 2:00 p.m.

BERMAN: Turns out loving your mother is bankable.

ROMANS: Yes, being good. Good guys finish first in this case.

BERMAN: Very nice to see. Happy Mother's Day to you.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BERMAN: Happy Mother's Day to all of you out there. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


Rep. john Boehner (R), house speaker: The air base systemic management issue throughout the VA that needs to be addressed. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Standing by his man. President Obama defends the man in charge of the VA but can he continue to as more disturbing allegations are revealed in a CNN investigation.

Did a VA hospital cook the books as veterans waited months for care?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Benghazi boycott, as Republicans form a special committee to investigate the attack that killed four Americans. This morning Democrats are deciding whether to play defense or simply boycott the panel entirely. One of the lawmakers making that decision joins us live.