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President Obama to Delivery Major Speech; Ukraine Pledges to Oust Separatists; Remembering Victims of Santa Barbara Shooting Rampage

Aired May 28, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: My computer never crashes, right?


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the good thing is my computer always goes so slowly, it can't hurt anybody.

BERMAN: That's a great point. That's a great point.

ROMANS: Sorry tech support.

BERMAN: All right. EARLY START continues right now.

ROMANS: Should the United States police the world? President Obama just hours away from unveiling how much and how little the U.S. will intervene in the problems of other countries. The new strategy, ahead.

BERMAN: A community in mourning after six college students were murdered. Now the father of one victim makes a new emotional plea in front of thousands. That's ahead.

ROMANS: New this morning, Donald Sterling outlining his legal fight against the NBA and why he says they can't force him, they can't force him to sell the L.A. Clippers.

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

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Great to see you today. It's Wednesday, May 28th, it's 5:00 a.m. in the east. And we begin with breaking news from Afghanistan.

Two Americans from the U.S. consulate have been injured in an attack on their vehicle in the city of Herat. This is in the far western part of the country, near the Iranian border. Not exactly clear as of yet what happened but there are reports that the vehicle was shot at with a rocket propelled grenade.

The two Americans are said to have suffered light injuries and they are currently being treated. We will stay on this for you throughout the morning.

ROMANS: All right. A U.S. warship carrying some 1,000 Marines is on its way to the coast of Libya this morning as the State Department has issued an urgent warning advising Americans to leave the country immediately due to an unpredictable and unstable security situation. Officials say the warship is a precautionary move as bloody battles for power pushed Libya to the brink here nearly three years after its revolution.

BERMAN: All this as President Obama is set to deliver an important address about U.S. foreign policy coming a day after outlining the future for U.S. troops in Afghanistan and how nearly 10,000 troops will remain there into next year. Today the president will go to West Point where he'll explain the U.S. role in the world going forward.

This is a highly anticipated speech. And as Jim Acosta tells us, it's coming at a critical time when the administration's foreign policy plans have been under close, close scrutiny.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, President Obama will answer his foreign policy critics in a speech to graduates at West Point later today after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Aides to the president say now is the time for the U.S. to redefine its leadership in the world. The president's vision, officials say, is for the U.S. to intervene in foreign crisis but not act unilaterally.

In recent weeks, the president has come under heavy criticism over his handling of the civil war in Syria and the crisis in Ukraine. But White House officials say the U.S. now has greater flexibility to tackle global challenges with the war in Afghanistan winding down.

The president laid out his plan to dramatically reduce troop levels in Afghanistan in a speech at the White House yesterday.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is, it's time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.


ACOSTA: The president's plan for Afghanistan will call for less than 10,000 troops in that country next year and only a fraction of that as he leaves office in 2017. A group of Republican senators led by John McCain attacked the president's proposal as a monumental mistake -- John and Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jim Acosta -- thank you, Jim.

Dealing with Russia and Ukraine has become a major focus for this president. And there's a new pledge this morning in Ukraine. The government promising it will oust separatists from the east. This a day after intense fighting ended a militant takeover of the Donetsk airport leaving dozens -- dozens dead.

Let's get the latest from Nick Paton Walsh who's live for us in Donetsk.

Nick, things are quieter there today than they were the last few days.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the violence has been ebbing. Sporadic shooting occasionally reported around the airport where the Ukrainian army made that fierce move on Monday to push separatists out.

But I should tell you, Christine, where I'm standing here, for the past half an hour, we've been hearing a military jet that's been circling around the city of millions of people, flying low, clearly wanting to have its jet engines heard by those civilians here. And I have to say, too, separatists, you know, who've been putting out suggestions that they thought a bombing campaign would start, there's been a ratification of that from Ukraine officials, we're told.

But all this, the buzzing of the jets and the claim for the separatists, feeds in to the border climate of fear amongst people here. And upsets an odd tactic for the Ukrainian military. Presumably they want to win over the people living in this city to send a military jet quite so low down, a lot of people are looking up anxiously at the skies.

As I said, it comes after Monday's move to retake the airport. That was a clear red line in the eyes of the government. They didn't want the separatists to have part of that key infrastructure into their control. The issue now is where do we go forward. There have been a lot of losses on the sides of separatist militants through that attack on Monday. People now, I think, beginning to bury the dead, begins to take stock of where the violence goes next.

And scenes like where, you know, people going about their daily business, but anxiously looking up to the skies to see quite what's happening, where that roar is coming from, just adding to the sense of tension here -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thanks for that, out in Donetsk this morning.

Edward Snowden is on the defensive firing back at critics in a new interview with NBC News. The former NSA contractor charged with espionage for leaking more than one million pages of secret documents. He says -- he's trying to set the record straight. He was much more than just a low-level hacker. Listen.


EDWARD SNOWDEN, FORMER NSA CONTRACTOR: I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas, pretending to work in a job that I'm not and even being assigned a name that was not mine. But I am a technical specialist. I am a technical expert. I don't work with people. I don't recruit agents. What I do is I put systems to work for the United States.


ROMANS: "What I do is I put systems to work for the United States." John, it's so interesting because he doesn't do that anymore.


You know, he's in Russia basically, on a temporary asylum in Russia where the interview, of course, with NBC News took place.

BERMAN: Very defensive about his stature inside the U.S. intelligence establishment.

ROMANS: Pretty measured when he talks about himself, too. You know, just -- I don't know.

BERMAN: Six minutes after the hour. The White House is asking its top lawyer to investigate how the identity of a CIA station chief in Afghanistan was leaked to the public. This happened over the weekend when President Obama was preparing for a briefing during his unannounced visit to Afghanistan.

The names of everyone meeting the president including the CIA station chief were released to the media and distributed to thousands of people on the White House e-mail list. The CIA station chief's identity is supposed to be classified. And this was a bad, bad mistake.

ROMANS: Now on hold, a major Obama administration review of deportation procedure. The White House had asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to look into any way to shield some 11 million undocumented immigrants from being deported. But now the administration says it is moving the review to the back burner as it pushes Congress to act on immigration reform instead.

BERMAN: The House Veterans Affairs Committee holds a rare evening hearing tonight to review dozens of suspicious deaths at the VA hospital in Phoenix. The facility allegedly kept secret lists and kept some veterans waiting months for treatment allegedly leading dozens to die. Three top VA officials have been asked to appear at this hearing but it's not clear whether they will. Now Republicans are threatening to subpoena them if they don't show up tonight.

So a surprising political role for the first lady. Michelle Obama taking on critics of the administration's policies on healthier school meals. She sat down with school nutrition officials and told them it was simply unacceptable that some in Congress now say districts should be able to opt out of the rules.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Parents have a right to expect that their kids will get decent food in our schools. And we all have a right to expect that our hard-earned taxpayer dollars won't be spent on junk food for our kids.


BERMAN: Some districts say the rules are too restrictive and serving meals with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains is too expensive. The first lady suggested perhaps there was more the federal government could do to help schools that are having a difficult time meeting these standards.

All right. Time for an EARLY START on your money this morning. Here's what stocks are doing around the world right now. But the big story here in the U.S. Record high for the S&P 500. We told you to watch 1900. The S&P closed about at 1911.

BERMAN: You told us.

ROMANS: It's 12 times it's been at record high close for the S&P. The Dow very close to breaking its record as well. Futures pointing higher right now so we'll see if that happens today.

Meantime, another state taking the fight for a higher minimum wage into its own hands. Michigan. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. President Obama is hoping to raise that to $10.10 an hour. That plan has been stalled in Congress. But the states are doing it themselves. Twenty-six states have or have adopted minimum wages above $7.25 including now Michigan. The state's current minimum wage is $7.40 but that will go up to $9.25 over the next few years.

BERMAN: That's a long way from what the president is calling for.

ROMANS: Yes. And, you know, the fast food industry, they want $15.

BERMAN: Right.

ROMANS: The fast food workers. So this is the -- the states are doing the action, Washington is really doing nothing, but the conversation is one of the biggest topics in terms of money this year.

All right. Donald Sterling apparently won't give up ownership of the L.A. Clippers. He's not going to go without a fight. He is now formally responding to the NBA's attempt to force him out, accusing the league of violating his constitutional rights, blasting others who received lesser punishments for similar -- infractions, rather.

Sterling says he has been prejudged and won't get a fair hearing when the Board of Governors meets June 3rd. The NBA says it is moving ahead with the vote to give the league the right to sell that team.

Now in a statement, his wife Shelly says she's working to negotiate a sale of the team. But despite all the suitors, there have been no formal offers yet.

BERMAN: I still submit that this will be resolved before the owners get a chance to vote on June 3rd, although this letter from Sterling's lawyer maybe makes that a little less likely.

Nine minutes after the hour, an emotional plea from a father of a college student murdered in the Santa Barbara killing spree. His search for answers and actions ahead.

ROMANS: Plus storms leaving communities under water. The threat is not over yet. We're going to tell you who should be on alert today, next.


BERMAN: Santa Barbara is a city in mourning today. Five days after a 22-year-old stabbed his roommates and opened fire on the streets, leaving six people dead before the gunman took his own life. So much of that community turned out on Tuesday to remember the victims and to pledge to move forward together.

Our Kyung Lah has more.


KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 20,000 students, people in the community, all filling this sports stadium here on the campus of UCSB. They are here to remember the victims. They are not here to talk about the crime or the shooter. They came to honor the six people who they lost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: George Chen. Kathryn Cooper. James Hong. Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez. David Weng. Veronika Weiss.

LAH: Also here at the memorial was a call to action by the father of Chris Martinez. Chris Martinez, just 20 years old, was at the I.V. Deli Mart getting a sandwich when he was killed. His father says that this needs to be prevented from happening again. He had this message for lawmakers in Washington.

RICHARD MARTINEZ, SON KILLED IN SHOOTING RAMPAGE: Not one more. Not one more. That not one more person should have to die because of this ridiculous situation.

LAH: This father and many people who are in this crowd say what will prevent it, what needs to happen now is a true conversation, a true national discussion about the proliferation of guns and the status of mental health in this country.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Goleta, California.


ROMANS: Happening today, a former NFL star, Aaron Hernandez appearing in court in Boston for arraignment on two additional murder charges. Hernandez will be formally charged with killing two men in a drive-by shooting back in July, 2012. He is already facing a trial for the alleged murder of a semi-pro football player, Odin Lloyd.

BERMAN: The sentencing re-trial of Jodi Arias will not be televised. An Arizona judge has rejected media requests to broadcast the proceedings set to determine whether Arias will face the death penalty in the 2008 slaying of her ex-boyfriend. Arias was convicted of first-degree murder last May but the jury deadlocked on sentencing. The judge has OK court recordings which can only air after a verdict has been reached. Jury selection begins in September.

ROMANS: It looks like this will be the final term for the oldest member of Congress. Ninety-one-year-old Texas Republican Representative Ralph Hall has lost a runoff, falling to a former U.S. attorney John Ratcliffe in the GOP primary. Ratcliffe said it was simply time for someone else to represent that suburban Dallas district. Hall has served as the congressman there since 1980.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the weather now because there's a lot of it coming your way. Could be a dangerous day for millions of people with thunderstorms possible in the south and throughout the middle part of the country. A high risk of floods as well.

ROMANS: Flooding was a problem in Texas where a second day of soaking rains hit the Gulf Coast. These pictures are from the Houston suburbs where more than four inches of rain fell in just a couple of days. Much of that area is still under a flood watch throughout this morning.

BERMAN: Want you to take a look at these pictures from North Dakota.

ROMANS: My goodness.

BERMAN: Where clean up is under way. This is the trailer camp not far from Bismarck. A tornado slammed into that camp leaving nine people hurt, one of them critically. Most of those living there were oil workers and their families.

This is video. We showed this picture, a still of this yesterday. This is video we now have in. These pictures are stunning.

ROMANS: That must be so frightening to be -- I mean, you see the trailers there. I don't know if there's a storm shelter. But there wasn't really any place to go when something like that comes through a trailer park there.

BERMAN: You know, we're in the TV business. This is not an important picture to get, I think, here.

ROMANS: I am very, very clearly a sissy, not like Indra Petersons who has actually tracked a storm like this and been out there with those tornadoes. She's tracking the storms up for us today.

What can we expect?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I mean, it's so key to obviously have a plan when you see a video like this. That's terrifying. You never want to be that close.

Today, unfortunately, we're still talking about more danger out there. One of the bigger things is going to be flooding. Take a look out there in Texas, how much we've already seen since just Saturday. San Angelo, over six inches. Houston, five inches of rain. And now let's take a look at the picture knowing that there is more rain on the way, guys. So flooding is going to be the concern.

Very slow moving low, and hanging, pulling all that moisture in from the gulf. So take a look at how much more rain they're expecting considering I just showed you those totals of five, even six inches, another four to six inches possible out towards Louisiana and kind of the border there of Mississippi.

That's going to be one of the concerns, the flooding threat there being high. But also threat for severe weather. Doesn't look like a lot. But again, you're talking about some major cities out towards New Orleans say they do have that threat including a threat for tornadoes. And it looks like portions of Montana also looking for that threat as well.

The bigger story is going to be all of that moisture that's still hanging around the entire eastern half of the country. Still talking about scattered showers today. And the bigger thing is you're really going to notice this huge temperature drop. You'll notice, Boston, you felt it yesterday. Today, New York City, look at the drop. We're talking about 50s by about 5:00 today. And then by tomorrow, D.C. gets into the action. You're dropping as well.

So that's going to be the big change you're going to feel in the northeast. No longer is it going to be hot and humid like it was over the weekend. Meanwhile, in the southeast still staying hot and humid.

What would it be like in the southeast without hot and humid weather, though, right? I mean, really.

ROMANS: Exactly.

BERMAN: As long as it is hot and humid somewhere, we can all sleep, Indra.

Thanks, Indra.


ROMANS: All right. Ross to the rescue. The NYPD says "Friends" actor, David Schwimmer has helped investigator in an alleged stabbing case. Schwimmer turned over his home security footage which captured part of a bloody brawl there in his Manhattan home. Police say a suspect is now in custody facing charges of robbery and assault. Schwimmer is not commenting.

BERMAN: He heroically turned over his home security footage there. Going above and beyond what any citizen would normally do in that situation when crime was being committed right in front of them.

Eighteen minutes after the hour. Thundering back, Oklahoma City taking down the Spurs in game four. So now it sort of looks like we have a series, finally. Joe Carter with the details in the "Bleacher Report," next.


BERMAN: So it really is a whole new series in the NBA's Western Conference Final. Oklahoma City is back after another big win at home last night.

ROMANS: Joe Carter has more on the "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Joe.

JOE CARTER, THE BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know what, thinking about this and watching the series, it's starting to feel a lot like 2012. If you remember, Oklahoma City was down 0-2 in that series but they came back to win four straight and then advanced to the NBA Finals. The bottom line here is that if Serge Ibaka had not returned for this team, the Thunder, we're done.

In games one and two the Spurs averaged 60 points in the paint. And now that Ibaka is back, the Spurs' offense is out of sorts. Last night they only scored 36 points down low.

Now Russell Westbrook, boy, did he have a monster night. He scored 40 points, dished out 10 assists, grabbed five rebounds and five steals. Michael Jeffrey Jordan was the last player to put up a player's numbers like that. And of course as John said, we've now got a series. It's tied, 2-2. It goes back to San Antonio for game five on Thursday night.

All right. Now to hockey. Eastern Conference final. The Canadiens are not going down without a fight. They were down in the series 3-1. Montreal, though, had a huge night with Ray Bourque -- Rene Bourque who finished with a hat trip. The Canadiens went on to win this game 7-4. So now the series shifts back to New York for game six on Thursday. But of course the Rangers can close this thing out on home ice but if they don't it goes back to Montreal for game seven. And of course no Rangers fan wants that.

The U.S. Men's National Team played their first match since Landon Donovan was left off the roster. They played Azerbaijan in a friend in San Francisco. And look, there's Landon Donovan's old number 10 jersey. That's Mix Diskerud wearing it and well, he did his best Landon Donovan impersonation by scoring what proved to be the game winner in the 75th minute. USA went on to win that game, 2-0.

The World Cup, by the way, officially starts in 15 days. Team USA plays Ghana June 16th.

And number one in the lineup section on, rapper 50 Cent threw out the first pitch at the Mets game. And well, it ranks as one of the worst ever. That's terrible. Terrible. I mean, when you think about some of the worst pitches you've ever seen, Carl Lewis comes to mind, the old mayor of Cincinnati comes to mind, the girl who sang "Call Me Baby." That one definitely ranks as one of the worst. I don't think he's missed that bad since he tried to kiss Erin Andrews at the Daytona 500.

ROMANS: Did he throw left -- did he throw with his left hand? What was that?

CARTER: I don't know if he's left-handed or right-handed because it's so bad.

BERMAN: It's terrible.

CARTER: That's terrible. BERMAN: Terrible. You know, I actually did a story once on the -- I have actually done a few stories, but I threw out the first pitch at a Minor League baseball game. I went through a heavy training for it. And what I was told, and this is true, aim high. I mean, I don't know how 50 Cent there because he was like off in, you know, left field there.



BERMAN: But when you're throwing somewhere near the catcher, aim high because there's nothing worse than when it bounces.


CARTER: 50 Cent's pitch went in the clubhouse, John.

BERMAN: In -- well done. We'll have to leave it at that because I can't possibly top that.


ROMANS: Don't quit your day job, 50. Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty-five minutes after the hour. Some big questions in foreign policy. The president will stake out some new territory today on how much the -- the U.S. should be involved overseas. A big speech today outlining the idea of American intervention. That's next.


BERMAN: A new strategy for how the U.S. will handle crises around the world. It will be announced in just a few hours. The president set to outline how little and how much the U.S. will police other countries. What we expect to hear, that's ahead.

ROMANS: As the president defines U.S. intervention, Ukraine's leader asking the United States for more help, pushing out pro-Russian militants. A bloody battle rages on this morning. We are live with the very latest.

BERMAN: And developing overnight, Donald Sterling vows to fight back against the NBA, revealing his new legal strategy to keep the L.A. Clippers in his hand.