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Crisis in Iraq: U.S. Help Wanted; Cantor Giving Up House Leadership Post; Bergdahl Backlash: Hagel Grilled by Congress

Aired June 12, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Crisis in Iraq. Terrorists taking over cities. That country's military crumbles. And now, Iraq wants the U.S. to come in and solve the problem. We're live with what's happening right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: GOP scramble. The Republican leadership in Congress in chaos this morning as Majority Leader Eric Cantor announces he will move aside. Just one aftershock from his stunning defeat Tuesday night. What comes next? That's ahead.

BERMAN: The Obama administration grilled by Congress over the prisoner swap that freed captured soldier Bowe Bergdahl. How Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel defended that deal, this as we learn new information about Sergeant Bergdahl's past.

Good morning, everyone. Great to see you this morning. This is EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, June 12th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin with breaking news from Iraq this morning. State-run TV says the Iraqi Army is in full control of Tikrit, a day after much of that city was seized by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Iraq has been under siege from the al Qaeda-inspired militants, who displaced half a million Iraqis and are said to be moving closer to Baghdad.

The White House is considering new levels of assistance, and the Iraqi government is apparently open to allowing U.S. air strikes against the Islamic radicals.

CNN chief international correspondent Nic Robertson, he is monitoring developments for us this morning from Amman, Jordan.

Nic, what can you tell us is happening? Describe for us the chaos in Iraq and what the U.S. may be able to do about it.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The chaos, it's very confusing. We had these reports coming from an Iraqi television station today saying that the government forces have retaken Tikrit. We've seen no proof of that so far. What we know is that ISIS commander releases a 17-minute audio message to his fighters, saying that the fight has barely started, the rage has barely begun.

He wants his fighters to continue to move on the capital Baghdad. He is telling them not to even give a hand's width of ground. Various videos have surfaced on YouTube of this ISIS advance. Some of it shows some chaotic fighting, burning vehicles.

But other videos, perhaps more troublingly, show ISIS fighters surrounded by hundreds, almost, of young men, young men filming these ISIS fighters on their cell phones, local Iraqis who seem to idolize these new fighters who have arrived in town.

This is a very dangerous message for the Iraqi government, the Iraqi leadership indicating that it would, perhaps, accept U.S. air strikes to help it in this fight, but there's no indication at the moment that these groups of ISIS are stationary enough or would make easy enough targets. They've certainly made off with a lot of weapons, a lot of armored vehicles, much of it supplied by the United States.

And as we see at the moment, the Iraqi government is only beginning to organize itself -- Christine.

ROMANS: After a lot of money spent by the U.S. military to try to train and equip it over the past years. Thank you so much, Nic Robertson.

Breaking overnight, a report of U.S. drone strikes targeting terrorists in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan. Officials say at least 10 militants were killed in attacks on four compounds in the tribal areas of North Waziristan. They're said to be the first American drone strikes in the region in the last six months, and they come just days after the Pakistani Taliban killed 36 people, 36 people in an attack on the Karachi international airport, John.

BERMAN: Three minutes after the hour. This morning, the most intriguing election in the country is under the Capitol Dome. Less than 24 hours after suffering a primary defeat of seismic proportions, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he will give up his Republican leadership post at the end of next month. The announcement sets off a scramble for his successor.

Let's get more now from CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and John, Eric Cantor's loss is already giving way to a scramble to deal with its ramifications. And here in the halls of Congress, that means trying to figure out who's going to take his job of House majority leader. Kevin McCarthy is currently the number three. He's making pretty clear, not officially, but we know that he's pushing for the job to move up, and Eric Cantor himself gave him a big nod at his press conference, saying that he wants McCarthy to be his successor. But here's part of the problem. There's been a lot of grumbling that

there is not a red state Republican at the leadership table right now at all. So there's a push, perhaps, to have somebody like Pete Sessions, who's also said that he's running, from Texas. If that doesn't happen, there is always a chance that a red state Republican, a more conservative, maybe even a Tea Party-backed republican, could take the number three slot.

Now, if you're lost, think about it in the "House of Cards". That is the House Majority Whip Frank Underwood's job.

So, while that palace intrigue is going on, which is quite important, there is also a big discussion going on in these halls about what Eric Cantor's loss means. How could it happen? And whether or not many rank-and-file Republicans should be worried for their own jobs because of challenges from the right. I spoke to one eight-term Republican who said that he had shivers down his spine when he saw the news and that he personally might be less likely to compromise in the future because if Eric Cantor can lose his job, so can he -- Christine and John.


ROMANS: Thanks for that, Dana.

New details this morning about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl before his Army service and Taliban captivity. "The Washington Post" reports Bergdahl enlisted in the Coast Guard back in 2006 and washed out just 26 days later, possibly, possibly, his friends say, for psychological reasons. The report says he received an uncharacterized discharge, which means he didn't serve long enough to have his performance judged.

Meantime, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was grilled at a House hearing on the decision to swap Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees. He told lawmakers they acted quickly because it was their last best hope to free him.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: In the decision to rescue Sergeant Bergdahl, we complied to the law and we did what we believed was in the best interests of our country, our military and Sergeant Bergdahl. The president has constitutional responsibilities and constitutional authorities to protect American citizens and members of our armed forces. That's what he did. America does not leave its soldiers behind.

We have made the right decision, and we did it for the right reasons, to bring home one of our own people.


ROMANS: Hagel acknowledged that the white house could have done a better job keeping Congress informed and says he knows that trust has been broken.

BERMAN: That was a remarkable hearing.

Following the lead of the House, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow veterans to go outside the V.A. health system, if the wait for treatment at V.A. facilities is too long. A similar bill passed the House on Tuesday. House and Senate lawmakers will now work on a compromise measure to send to the president.

ROMANS: Photos show government holding facilities overwhelmed by a surge of children crossing the border from Mexico. These pictures are from one shelter in Nogales, Arizona, that show severely crowded conditions. Most of the immigrants crossed through Mexico from Central America, many making the crossing to join family members already in the U.S. Some of these children, many of these children unaccompanied by family members or adults, making this trip on their own.

President Obama has called the situation a humanitarian crisis, and, of course, Republicans and conservatives say it's a crisis of his own making because of a broken immigration system in this country.

BERMAN: New developments regarding the CIA station chief whose name was given to the media during President Obama's trip to Afghanistan. No one's getting fired, but there are new safeguards in place to prevent accidental identification of national security officials, including more training for White House staff -- a chance for those attending presidential foreign meetings to object to their names being given to the media and now, a new requirement that national security staff must clear all such names prior to release.

ROMANS: All right. Time for an EARLY START on your money this Thursday morning. European stocks mixed, Asian stocks finished lower. There's growing concerns about developments in Iraq and a reduced global growth outlook that's weighing on markets.

Futures edging up in the last few moments. Stocks pulling back yesterday from those record highs. The Dow ended its streak of records, down 102 points, but the Dow is still up 1.6 percent for this year, and that's good for your 401(k).

But what's not good for your finances, retiring early. Brand-new study out this morning that we detail on CNN Money. If a couple retires at age 62 instead of 65, they're going to pay about $51,000 in additional medical expenses. That's because Medicare doesn't kick in until age 65, and private insurance can be very expensive.

So check out that story on CNN Money, about the cost -- the high cost of retiring early.

BERMAN: A consideration for a lot of people as they get older.

ROMANS: It is.

BERMAN: Retire early, take the Social Security early when it's less. Something everyone needs to think about.

ROMANS: And then there's the rest of us who will be working until the day we die.

BERMAN: Exactly.

Nine minutes after the hour.

Staying alive. The New York Rangers pushed to the brink in the Stanley Cup finals. They avoided the four-game sweep. They beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 at Madison Square Garden overnight. The series now moves back to Los Angeles for game five Friday night. The Kings, of course, just one win away from their second Stanley Cup in three years.

We'll have more on this game, a good one, ahead in the "Bleacher Report."

And I do have an announcement to make. For the first time, I am allowing my kids to root for a New York team if they so desire.

ROMANS: Really?

BERMAN: It doesn't offend me viscerally if they decide to root for the Rangers.

ROMANS: So there's some self-determination in the Berman household?

BERMAN: Limited, limited self determination, if they so desire. I mean, you know, they can root for the Rangers. It's not that offensive.

ROMANS: All right. New information this morning about a deadly school shooting. The gunman identified as we learn how this 15-year- old young man smuggled weapons into his high school.

BERMAN: And the World Cup, World Cup fever, it gets started today. Can you feel the excitement? Oh, no! But wait! There are problems plaguing this event, even shutting down some games? What do I mean? We'll tell you next.


ROMANS: New details this morning in Tuesday's deadly school shooting in Portland, Oregon. Police have identified the suspect as 15-year- old Jared Michael Padgett. They say he was armed to the teeth, carrying a military-style rifle in a guitar case, along with a handgun and several hundred rounds of ammunition when he ambushed and killed 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman and wounded a teacher before turning the gun on himself.

Investigators say he got those weapons from his family home. No word yet on a possible motive.

BERMAN: A 16-year-old Pennsylvania boy has pleaded not guilty in the stabbings of 21 people at a Pittsburgh area high school. Alex Hribal is charged with 21 counts of attempted homicide in the April attack that left several students in critical condition. He's accused of entering the school with two kitchen knives, and prosecutors say he wrote a note alluding to his plans just days earlier.

Hribal was being held without bail. His attorneys have requested a jury trial. The not guilty plea a lot of people think is just the first step towards some type of insanity plea.

ROMANS: New developments in the so-called Slenderman stabbing in Wisconsin, where two 12-year-old girls are accused of stabbing a friend 19 times to impress a fictional character they read about on the Internet. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier appeared in court.

Geyser has been ordered to undergo a competency. Lawyers say they could raise the issue of competency later. Both girls have been charged as adults with first-degree attempted murder. Their attorneys argue the case belongs in juvenile court.


JOSEPH SMITH, JR., PUBLIC DEFENDER: My clients' issues cannot be adequately addressed in the adult criminal system, so I'm going to be advocating strongly that she be transferred to the juvenile justice system, which is designed to address the needs and treatment of children.


ROMANS: Prosecutors say the girls planned the attack for months. They are due back in court on July 2nd. Their victim, their alleged victim, now recovering at home, we're told.

BERMAN: Too many stories about violence this morning.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: An update on Sunday's deadly ambush in Las Vegas that left two police officers and an armed bystander dead. Police now say a sheriff's deputy delivered the fatal gunshot, killing Jerad Miller, who, along with his wife, Amanda, carried out these cold-blooded attacks.

Now, she shot herself seconds later. She did not, as previously thought, fire at her husband. The exchange caught on surveillance tape.

Last night, the mother of Joseph Wilcox, who died trying to stop the rampage, spoke to Anderson Cooper.


DEBRA WILCOX, VEGAS SHOOTER'S MOTHER: And believed if they didn't get their attention -- and unfortunately, the woman that shot him, their attention would have been on something else. I've been told that by many people, that because of him, he stopped a lot of other people from dying. I'm grateful for that, I am. He did a heroic thing, but I just wish I could bring him back home.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: A mother's anguish there.

Jerad Miller had come to the attention of police in the past for allegedly making violent threats while living in Indiana.

ROMANS: All right, the truck driver in the Tracy Morgan crash has pleaded not guilty. Thirty-five-year-old Kevin Roper was arraigned in New Jersey Wednesday on charges of vehicular homicide and assault by auto. Police say he was awake for 24 consecutive hours before his big rig slammed into Morgan's limo, injuring four and killing comedian James McNair. Roper's employer, Wal-Mart, has said he did not break any regulations.

Morgan remains in critical condition but stable condition this morning.

BERMAN: A California judge will allow doctors to stop food, water and medicine for legendary deejay Casey Kasem. This is the latest chapter in the bitter court battle between Kasem's wife and three children from an earlier marriage. Kasem is in a Washington state hospital suffering from an infection, also dementia. His daughter says the ruling upholds her father's wishes not to be kept alive in his current condition.

All right. We have some remarkable video to show you and an amazing rescue. This happened in a gas station in White Plains. I know that gas station! A car slams into a pump after the driver blacks out.

It just so happens the guy filling his tank was an off-duty police officer. John Vescio (ph) managed to pull the driver from his car amid the flames. Oh, my goodness!

Vescio says he's not a hero. I don't think he gets to decide that. He says he's just doing what he's trained. My goodness! Wow.

ROMANS: That is remarkable!

BERMAN: That is crazy.

ROMANS: He's lucky, first, he didn't get hit, and second, he was able to -- wow, unbelievable.

BERMAN: That -- I drive by that gas station every day.

ROMANS: All right. A major ruling on cell phone data and privacy. A federal appeals court says the government must obtain a warrant to access location data recorded by mobile phones. The court said people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their movements, and accessing those records without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment ban on illegal searches and seizures. This issue could be headed to the Supreme Court. An earlier appeals court found warrants were not required.

BERMAN: New developments in the Donald Sterling saga. A California court will determine whether he was properly removed as an administrator from the family trust that owns the L.A. Clippers. A trial will begin in July.

Now, Shelly Sterling assumed the role of sole trustee in negotiating the sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer last month. That sale is still pending approval from the NBA board of governors.

ROMANS: Stormy Thursday on tap for much of the country. Showers and thunderstorms expected across the South and the Northeast, possible tornado may have hit western Pennsylvania Wednesday. Numerous funnel clouds were reported. Lightning strikes brought down trees in some areas, torrential rains, powerful wind gusts knocking out power to nearly 10,000 people around the region.

BERMAN: That's the weather out there. The weather here in the studio frigid this morning. Indra Petersons has been, like, wearing 18 layers in the corner, shivering, which she only takes off for the weather forecast right now.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I knew you were going to out me.

BERMAN: It's crazy, you were huddled in the corner.

PETERSONS: Right. And everyone keeps asking why I don't wear short sleeves in the summer, because the studio, hardly summer, people. It's freezing in here! Let's talk about the showers. We know they're still out there.

Another way to look at it, it's actually an entire last week, look at this, you can see the same system making its way across the country, and that's the system that's going to be affecting the Northeast today. You're already feeling some of those showers.

First, I want to point out, we do still have another severe weather threat, Little Rock, Dallas, think about the airports, Austin also looking for the threat for even tornadoes. Heavy amounts of rain farther to the south. I want to show you again, the same low is still out there pulling that moisture.

So, really the next several days, still talking about the rain, but eventually on the back side it will feel a little bit better for the weekend. Now, the Northeast dealing with another low. You can actually see right now light scattered showers, not as heavy in the region, not looking for the severe weather threat we saw yesterday, but still heavier amounts of rain will be out there, especially tonight in through tomorrow. You'll start to sea a little bit of the heavier stuff.

What you're watching is actually a warm front. So still kind of muggy out there, showers still remaining with us. What you want to get through is past the cold front. That's where we get heavier showers. Behind it, though, just in time for the weekend.

Of course, the humidity goes down. That is huge, but you also get the sunshine. I don't know which is better, the sunshine or the humidity down? Humidity down feels a lot better. And warmer!

BERMAN: She's not letting us decide. You choose, but I'm telling you which one is better.

PETERSONS: That's how I roll. Just saying.

BERMAN: All right.

ROMANS: In the next report, she'll be wearing her fleece.

BERMAN: Yes. Thank you very much.

What's that sound? What's that symbol? It's the World Cup!

It kicks off today in Brazil. Brazil versus Croatia. But this tournament, man, there are a lot of problems. Street protests and a subway strike in Sao Paulo forced the U.S. and Belgium to cancel a scrimmage. Coaches for both teams decided to cancel because they just didn't want to deal with the traffic jams that were almost sure to ensue.

This Brazilian city, Sao Paulo, known for crazy traffic. We have some good news, though. Subways will be running today for the opener. That's at about 3:00 Eastern Time. Workers voted not to resume a strike that began on Monday.


ROMANS: All right, coming up, the New York Rangers refuse to be eliminated, sending the Stanley Cup final back to Los Angeles for a game five.

BERMAN: Joe Carter has all the details in the "Bleacher Report," next.


BERMAN: So, the New York rangers, they still have a season, at least for a little while. They avoided a four-game sweep. They beat the Los Angeles Kings last night, 2-1.

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

Hey, Joe.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

Yes, I'll tell you this -- the puck was on the edge of sending this series either way last night. I want to show you that video in a second, but I do want to tell you that the Rangers in the Garden are so good, especially in must-win games. Dating back to '08, New York has won an NHL record eight consecutive home games when facing elimination.

And, by the way, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist brilliant last night. One of the goals, 1 of his 40 stops, I should say, was inches from tying the game. You see it there. The puck was on the line. But of course in hockey, it has to go over the line in order to count for a goal. The Rangers will hold off the Kings 2-1. Coach says that's thanks to a little luck from above.


ALAIN VIGNEAULT, RANGERS HEAD COACH: Thank God for soft ice. Been in the game a long time to know that sometimes the hockey gods are there, and they were there tonight.


CARTER: All right. So, now, the series moves back to Los Angeles for game five Friday night. The Kings, of course, are one win away from a second Stanley Cup in three years.

Well, in the NBA finals, the Spurs have a 2-1 series lead. Of course, on Tuesday night, San Antonio beat the defending champs at their house by 19 points. But for whatever reason, losses bring out the best in the Miami Heat at playoff time. Miami has won its last 13 games immediately following a defeat in the postseason. Game four tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Well, the World Cup starts later today. It's the first of 32 days of soccer. Team USA does not play until Monday, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann is taking heat for what he said again. He told reporters that his team's chances of winning the World Cup are, quote, "not realistic."

Some say this is tough love, maybe a motivational tool, or is this guy just keeping it real? I guess we'll see very soon.

And oh, by the way, host country Brazil gets the party started. We have one game today, Brazil plays Croatia in the opening match. That's 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Brazil, guys, is the overall favorite to win the World Cup. And the host country, which is Brazil, this is a stat for you, makes it to the final 47 percent of the time. So, the host country makes it to the final 47 percent of the time.

BERMAN: It turns out, Brazil's pretty good.

The problem with Jurgen Klinsmann's statement, and I say this as a Jurgen guy, it's not so much about the team. You get the sense he doesn't have a high opinion of soccer in America, and that's a tough thing for the coach of the U.S. soccer team to say. That's what I think rubbed so many people the wrong way.

CARTER: I think in America, we definitely want to believe we can win anything and overcome anything at any odds. So, it's like if Terry Francona told the Red Sox so many years ago, when down to the Yankees 0-3, we have no chance of winning the series. People would have said, wait a second, you do, you always have a chance.

So, for a coach to say we have no chance of winning the World Cup before it even starts I think rubs Americans the wrong way. But again, maybe he's trying to keep it real for these guys and not look too far ahead, take on the world at this point. It's one game at a time.

BERMAN: And extra bonus points for bringing up the 2004 Red Sox. Joe Carter --

CARTER: I did that for you. Boston references always just for you.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

All right, 28 minutes after the hour.

Crisis in Iraq, terrorists taking over cities. Now that country is asking the U.S. for help. We're live with the very latest. There are developments just happening right now. That's right after the break.