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Late Night Hearing Detailing Abuse as VA Investigation Expands; NSA Leaker Edward Snowden on the Record; Weeks of Searching for Flight 370 Turn Up Nothing

Aired May 29, 2014 - 05:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight, new evidence of VA hospitals mistreating patients and covering it up. A late-night hearing detailing the abuse as we learn the VA secretary is now on thin ice with the president. New details ahead.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: NSA leaker Edward Snowden on the record about spilling U.S. national security secrets to the world. Why he calls himself a patriot and if he will ever return home to face espionage charges.

ROMANS: Breaking news this morning, a new admission from investigators searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. They may have no idea where the vanished jetliner crashed. We're breaking it all down next.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you this morning. Thirty- one minutes past the hour and the breaking news overnight. There are now new calls from top lawmakers, including Democrats, for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, and the White House now says the secretary is on, quote, "thin ice."

This after the VA revealed its own probe showed what a CNN investigation first discovered a long time ago, yes, waiting lists were manipulated at VA facilities in Phoenix. Some 1700 veterans were not put on the official books and may have never received appointments for care.

Some of the top leaders at the VA went before a House committee at a late-night hearing, insisting they were sorry for what happened, also insisting they will fix it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still think we have a good system, and I think we have evidence that we deliver good care. We are obviously in very difficult times right now. We have identified that we have significant failures to provide timely care. We need to address that. I think we have a way forward. I think we have the tools to do that.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Our veterans have been crying out for help for years. They've been ignored, they've been dismissed, and ultimately, they've been betrayed. And there probably is criminal behavior. It sounds like there is. And people need to be more than fired, they need to be sent to jail.


BERMAN: The VA has now expanded its investigation to 42 medical centers nationwide. The details of what they find are not expected until later this summer.

ROMANS: Edward Snowden insists he did it for his country. The former NSA contractor speaking out about why he leaked millions of pages of classified documents. Snowden says the American public needed to know they were being spied upon and he does not doubt that he did the right thing.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Do you see yourself as a patriot?

EDWARD SNOWDEN, FORMER NSA CONTRACTOR: I do. Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen from the violations and encroachments of adversaries. And those adversaries don't have to be foreign countries. They can be bad policies. They can be officials who, you know, need a little bit more accountability.

They can be mistakes of government and simple overreach and things that should never have been tried or that went wrong.

WILLIAMS: You hear often in the United States, why doesn't he come home and face the music?

SNOWDEN: It's a fair question. You know, why doesn't he -- why doesn't he face charges? But it's also uninformed because what has been lain against me are not normal charges. The Espionage Act provides anyone accused of it of no chance to make a public defense. You are not allowed to argue based on all the evidence in your favor because that evidence may be classified, even if it's exculpatory.

And so, when people say, why don't you go home and face the music, I say, you have to understand that the music is not an open court and a fair trial.


ROMANS: Secretary of State John Kerry disputes that. He calls Snowden a coward. He says real patriots face the consequences of their actions. Kerry invited Snowden to come home any time he wanted. Of course, he would face a trial.

BERMAN: Breaking news this morning from Australia, where officials are now confirming a six-weeklong underwater search for Flight 370 has turned up nothing. The Bluefin-21 had been scouring the floor of the Indian Ocean covering more than 300 square miles looking for any sign of the jet months after it disappeared. This search location was where investigators thought they might have heard pings from the plane's black boxes. But CNN is now learning that those sounds may have just been underwater noise.

Here's Rene Marsh.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and John, it was the most promising lead, and now we know it is false. The U.S. Navy tells CNN it has concluded the underwater signals were not from the missing plane's black boxes. If they were, the Navy says the underwater drone Bluefin-21 would have detected them.

MICHAEL DEAN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR SALVAGE AND DIVING, U.S. NAVY: I'd have to say at this point based on all of the imagery data that we've collected and looked at, if that black box were nearby we would have picked it up.

MARSH: We're now told the pings could have been from the search ship itself or other electronics, this as Bluefin-21 completed its 28th and final mission on Wednesday. The search will resume in August when private companies take over. Meantime, we're learning of a potential new lead.

CNN has learned underwater microphones detected a sound that could have been the plane crashing. The United Nations Nuclear Test Ban Organization has a network of 11 hydrophone stations intended to detect nuclear tests. Well, scientists are now carefully analyzing data to determine if one of the underwater microphones picked up a signal related to Flight 370. But we should point out, this is a long-shot, because the data from the signal detected appears to be inconsistent with other data about the position of the plane.

Still, though, scientists continue to analyze it. And this just goes to show they are really trying to follow up on every possible lead to find something, to find some sort of wreckage. They do tell us that they are hoping to share their findings in the near future -- John, Christine.

BERMAN: Our thanks to Rene for that report.

We should note that others in the Navy say it is too soon to know for sure that those sounds were not pings from the jet. A spokesman telling CNN that Mr. Dean's comments were speculative and premature as we continue to work with our partners to more thoroughly understand the data acquired by the towed pinger locator.

Now, Australia, which is leading the search, says it continues to analyze the recordings. And the deputy foreign minister just said they are confident still that the plane is in the southern part of the Indian Ocean.

ROMANS: Just not where they had been looking specifically.

BERMAN: Not where they had been looking over the last two months. ROMANS: Well the -- this morning the families of those on that flight are also reacting to the news. We spoke with Sarah Bajc last hour, her partner, Philip Wood, was on that jet. She isn't surprised that the plane hasn't been found yet.

David McKenzie is in Beijing.

David, what are you hearing here? I mean it clearly is a setback for families who were hoping for some progress in the search to find what the Australians call the final resting place of this plane, and now we're back to square one.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, back to square one. What we do have still those Inmarsat data points, which everyone has said is the best lead, but those acoustic signals, to be honest, were one of the few concrete things families could grasp hold of that they might have some evidence of the plane.

Now, increasingly, it seems, those are being doubted. So yes, we're back to the beginning. And family members don't really know what to think. The ones we've spoken to said either they were unaware of this news, and that's a problem in and of itself, or that it's just yet again a lead that has been extinguished. And there have been so many of them over these more than two months.

So they're back to where they started and they just want some kind of clarity, and that clarity won't come for potentially years to come. So certainly the family members don't know who to trust. One guidance counselor or one therapist I spoke to said, in a way, it's not helpful for the family members and not healthy for them to be hanging on every incremental step of the story, but they say they do need someone who they can trust to act as a go-between. At this point, they don't have that. So, really, they're stuck in a very difficult and challenging scenario.

ROMANS: You know, and Sarah Bajc just told us, told John and I just last hour that, you know, she thinks there are potentially dozens of scenarios that mean her loved one, her partner could still be alive. You know, there are people still holding out hope that that plane will be found somewhere else.

MCKENZIE: Well, that's right, and that holding out of hope is something that, you know, over time, people, obviously, will believe what they want to believe. And obviously, they want to believe that their loved ones are alive. Logic says that, well, at this point, that's highly unlikely, but you know, logic hasn't worked much in this story up to this point except for maybe one piece of evidence still that's out there that hasn't been discounted.

But for these families, it's not so much about hope overall for them, the ones that I've spoken to, but more about closure and they're no closer to that.

ROMANS: All right, David McKenzie for us in Beijing this morning. Thank you, David. BERMAN: Thirty-nine minutes after the hour. Officials say if it's true, it has never happened before. A U.S. citizen reportedly carrying out a suicide bombing in Syria. It happened last Sunday. And members of al Qaeda-backed terror group say the man wearing the bomb was an American. But U.S. officials tell CNN, so far, they cannot confirm his identity.

U.S. intelligence officials say they are aware of more than 70 Americans who have traveled to Syria to fight for rebel groups against the Assad regime.

ROMANS: All right, let's get an EARLY START on your money today. Here's a look at what markets are doing around the world. Futures up slightly here in the U.S. after sort of a blah day for stocks yesterday. Treasuries, on the other hand, very big day yesterday. Yields on the ten-year note hit 2.44 percent. Look at that. That's the lowest since June last year.

People tend to buy treasuries when they're worried about the economy and there might be reason to worry. The government set to revise its GDP number later this morning. Economists expect it to show the economy actually contracted last quarter by about half a percentage point. That would be the first contraction since the first quarter of 2011.

Don't freak out just yet. Most economists think the first quarter was a fluke, tied mainly to bad weather. Remember, GDP is in the rear view. When you're looking out the front, things look a little bit better.

BERMAN: Still, it's kind of a blow. You don't like to see the economy contracting ever.

ROMANS: Whatever John hears me say don't freak out, he freaks out.

BERMAN: I freak out. Understandable.

New details this morning to tell you about in the murder of six California college students. The man who sold the killer his gun is sharing his story. We'll have that after the break.


ROMANS: This morning, the parents of one of Elliot Rodger's murdered roommate are speaking out saying their son wanted to move out of the apartment because Rodger was loud and anti-social.

And we're hearing from a California gun dealer who sold Rodger a handgun just months before the rampage that left six college students dead and 13 people wounded. Kevin White says he remembers meeting Rodger back in February and there was nothing unusual about it. He also talked about what it's like to know that a gun he sold is linked to the crime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KEVIN WHITE, MANAGER, SHOOTER'S PARADISE: What about the guy that sold him the knives or swords that he used? What about the guy that sold him the car that he was in driving around hit people? I mean, did they feel bad or did they know he was going to do something bad with it? I mean, we sell tools or items. I mean, it's no different than the guy that sold him the knife that he used.


ROMANS: White went on to say that Rodger had cleared a 10-day waiting period, so there was no legal reason not to sell him the gun.

BERMAN: Flooding worries this morning in Houston where days of drenching rains have led to scenes like this. Cars under water. The big worry in the Houston area now is the San Jacinto River is starting to overflow and the water is getting closer to homes. Houston has seen more than seven inches of rain in recent days.

ROMANS: All right, Indra Petersons is watching the forecast for us today.

Indra, what can we expect?



We're still talking about this. It's such a slow low that we're watching. You can actually see it out there. Look at all the thunderstorm activity. We're still looking at even at this hour, all thanks to the same system that has already brought all this heavy rain you were just talking about. Yes, Houston, almost seven inches of rain since Monday. Notice, here is the same low. Look at the activity still hanging around the gulf.

You can almost see these systems exploding out there. And that remains the story. So more rain on top of what they've already seen. We're still talking about additional three to five inches in the same region. Obviously, we're talking about flooding concerns being high out there.

Scattered showers still going to be the story, the northeast dealing with that back-door cold front, so seeing the milder temperatures there. It's going to feel nice, but keep in mind, it's going to stay, it's going to be reinforced by a second cold front. Nothing too cold out there.

Let's take a look at the temperatures over the next several days. We're talking about 60s instead of just the 80s, what we felt like over the weekend, maybe some 70s out there. Boston, 59, maybe getting a little bit of a chill. D.C., not seeing huge effects, seeing about 78 in a couple of days. So kind of mild, it's nice.

ROMANS: I like it. Mild -- I'm not going to complain about the weather all winter, I mean -- or all summer because winter --

PETERSONS: Winter I will, summer I won't.

ROMANS: Exactly. Thanks, Indra.


BERMAN: All right. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joins us now.

Good morning, Chris.

ROMANS: Hi, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: All right, J.B., all right, Christine. So we have two upsetting developments to report to you this morning. One, hopefully, will mean a step forward, the other probably a step back.

So first the VA. New revelations about just how widespread the problems are there. Literally, 1700 veterans never even made it on to a list to receive treatment, let alone had it delayed. That happened in just one hospital in Phoenix. There are now about 40 different places under review.

There was a late-night hearing we're going to tell you about, what's going to happen to the secretary, what's the fix. So that's the first.

The second is the pings. The pings. The officials looking for Flight 370. Remember, it was all about the pings? They had confidence because at least they had the pings? Turns out now they're not so sure about the pings. What does that mean? If they don't have the pings, what do they have?

We're going to review how they were found, where this lack of competence now comes from, how long have they known this. We'll take you through both of those big stories, and of course, everything else that's going on that you two didn't care to talk about.


BERMAN: Yes, we just chose not to talk about it.

CUOMO: You just did.

BERMAN: No, the ping news is fascinating, though, because what have they been doing for two months?

CUOMO: Fascinating is the word, JB.

BERMAN: Two months. They've been searching that area.

CUOMO: Fascinating is the word.

BERMAN: It's the euphemistic word, that's the non-four-letter word. All right, Chris.

CUOMO: Euphemism, explain that to me later.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Chris.

New bids for the L.A. Clippers rolling in. How much could the team go for if Donald Sterling decides to sell? That's after the break.


ROMANS: CNN has learned that as many as five groups are bidding to buy the Los Angeles Clippers from Donald Sterling --

BERMAN: From Donald Sterling with offers as high as $2 billion. That is a number that gets Christine Romans completely choked up. The news coming just a day after Donald Sterling accused the NBA of violating his constitutional rights by trying to terminate his ownership for making racist remarks.

His lawyer says Sterling would fight the league on the forced sale of the Clippers, quote, "to the bloody end." But his wife, Shelly, has reportedly tried to fast-track a sale ahead of a league meeting next week, where owners could vote the Sterlings out.

So congratulations, America. We are number one at obesity. A new study in "The Lancet" finds the U.S. tops the list of the world's most obese nations. Roughly a third of all Americans, men, women and children, are considered obese. Well, the problem isn't just here. The number of overweight or obese people around the world has doubled in the last three decades, especially in the developing world.

A man this morning faces battery charges after an attack on Brad Pitt. Pitt and his partner Angelina Jolie were at the premiere of her new movie "Maleficent" when police say someone jumped over a barrier and hit Brad Pitt in the face.

So there are reports this morning that the man was a notorious prankster, Vitali Sediuk, who's gone after celebrities before. I'm not sure what's funny about this in any way. Brad Pitt did appear unhurt. He and Jolie were quickly signing autographs again after the incident, and they just walked into the movie seeming fine.

All right, coming up, it could be much easier soon to get your hands on Cialis. Hmm. But is that a good idea? We'll get an early check on that and your money, next.

And coming to CNN, a new series from executive producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, "THE SIXTIES." The decade that changed the world. We're talking the space race, the cold war, free love, civil rights and more. The 1960s reshaped Americans' lives in ways that still have such an impact today. You have to watch this or set your DVR or both. Save it forever. It airs tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Let's get an EARLY START on your money this morning. Futures on Wall Street point to a slightly higher open when the bell rings later this morning. The S&P 500 near its record high on Tuesday. So still a chance we could see a new record today.

The index actually hit a new intraday trading high yesterday before closing down slightly. The Dow and the Nasdaq closed lower as well.

All right, if you're watching this right now, there's a pretty good chance you have been hacked. Yes, it's true. 110 million Americans, about half of all adults, have been hacked, and that's just in the last 12 months. The number of accounts is even higher since many people have more than one account. 432 million hacked accounts, that's according to data compiled by Ponemon Institute for CNN Money.

There's two reasons these numbers are so high. First, we're moving more and more of our information online and so are companies. Second, hackers are getting better. One thing you can do to protect yourself, run the most up-to-date software on your devices.

All right, men, listen up, you could soon be able to buy Cialis over the counter. The plan still needs to be approved by regulators, but Eli Lilly and Sanofi, the two companies that make the drug say it could happen as soon as 2018. To date, 45 million men have used Cialis. An Eli Lilly spokesman told the "USA Today" making the drug counter the counter would ease embarrassment issues for men, but let's get real, it would also improve sales for these two companies. Half of American men over the age of 40 are said to suffer from some sort of ED.

BERMAN: This will give it a real edge over Viagra, it's a big money move.

ROMANS: Very big, that's right.

BERMAN: I'm sure it will only lead to more advertising on TV.

ROMANS: And bad jokes.

BERMAN: Well, on that note, how about a show that lasts three hours and you don't have to see a doctor? "NEW DAY" starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What has happened in Phoenix and what is clearly happening at other facilities across this country is unforgiveable.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Unforgivable. New report finds many veterans waited more than 200 days to be seen by the VA. In a rare late-night hearing, members of Congress tear into Veterans Affairs officials. This morning new calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight. The Australians now saying missing Flight 370 is not in the area they've been searching. As CNN reports, those pings detected under water likely were not from the plane at all. MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Brad Pitt attacked on the red carpet. A man arrested after jumping the barricades and going after the star. The suspect has done this before.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.