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Violent Midwest Storms; Crisis in Iraq: Obama's Next Move; G.M. Recall Delay?; Health Questions for Cristiano Ronaldo

Aired June 19, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Severe storms tearing through the Midwest. Tornadoes taking everything in their path. This morning, the threat for more violent weather. The threat is not over. We are tracking the latest for you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, does President Obama want Iraq's leader to step aside? New information on what the United States will and can do to help stop terrorists from getting ever closer to Baghdad. We are live on the ground with what's happening this morning.

ROMANS: G.M. in the hot seat, grilled by Congress as new evidence shows the car giants latest recall may have been nearly 10 years in the making. You will not believe the e-mails.

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

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Great to see you today. It's Thursday, June 19th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we do begin with the dangerous weather set to hit millions. This is in the same areas already slammed by tornadoes, slammed by rain, by powerful winds.

ROMANS: Look at those pictures. This is from overnight, a twister on the ground in South Dakota taking aim at a small city in the southeastern part of the state, tearing up the road, terrifying people in its path.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh. It hit something. Oh, no!


ROMANS: Sounds like you can hear the hail, too. The tornado ran through the heart of Wessington Springs, damaging homes and businesses. Some residents were even trapped. Everyone, everyone we can report, has been freed now. And so far, no reports of serious injuries.

BERMAN: Take a look at what the same storm did a few miles down the road. Honestly, these pictures are so angry, so violent. These wide tornadoes dancing around each other. You can see the winds spinning there.

ROMANS: Oh, my goodness.

BERMAN: You can see the wind grabbing the barn and pulling it to pieces. Wow.

Another tornado responsible for this damage near Sioux Falls. A family home stripped down to the studs. Luckily, the people who live inside survived. They were hiding in their basements.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God was on our side through this. And we'll get through this, because everything else is just material. And my family is alive. And that's all that matters today.


ROMANS: People know the interior bathroom, the basement, the only safe place to be in a storm like that. This is what it looks like this morning north of Toronto, where the mayor says it was a miracle no one was hurt by a direct strike for a tornado. The twister pulled the roofs right off nearly 100 homes.

BERMAN: Severe weather hitting Chicago area overnight. Look at these clouds. That's real, hanging over Chicago. That brought rain, lightning and a potential for flash floods.

ROMANS: In Iowa, families are finally getting a chance to see what Mother Nature did to their homes. Flooding inundated homes in Rock Valley in the northwest part of the state. Many there are facing months, months of repairs.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were just extremely thankful it didn't get into our main floor. Our basement was full to the ceiling, but it did not get into the main floor. So, we feel that we could save our house and we have hope of being in our home, you know, in the near future.


BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) so much damage already. The question is, what is in store for today?

Karen Maginnis watching the dangers.

What's the latest, Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: About 41 million people across the United States, from the Great Lakes to the Midwest, Central Plains and even a portion of the mid-Atlantic that does include the Washington, D.C. area, for the afternoon and evening thunderstorms.

The primary risk today will be the strong to severe thunderstorms with hail, high winds and heavy downpours. But this morning, several severe thunderstorm watches going until 6:00 local time. Also, across a portion of southern Ohio. Watch out for lots of lightning and the heavy downpours. So, this morning, fairly violent.

But where you see this orange shaded area from Minneapolis, to Omaha, Kansas City and Wichita, another round of potentially severe storms. Now, yesterday, we saw 29 reports of tornadoes, the worst in Hyde, South Dakota, and elsewhere across the state.

But now, very vigorous weather systems starts to move across the Midwest. Behind it, much cooler air. So, we've got warmth, humidity, rotation and lift, all the ingredients that could produce an isolated tornado. But as I mentioned, the big risk is going to be the heavy downpours from Minneapolis to Chicago to Indianapolis, two to four inches and the searing heat across the Southeast continues, lots of 90s in store.

Back to you.

BERMAN: All right. A long day ahead.

Karen Maginnis, thank you so much for that.

Going to move now to the crisis in Iraq. And new developments this morning, as the U.S. debates weather to get involved in the fight against ISIS, that's the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. These militants have been battling government forces for days now. They are moving closer and closer to Baghdad by the minute.

Vice President Joe Biden has now called the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and other top Iraqi leaders, urging them to work together. But CNN has learned that the administration is losing confidence in Iraq's government, especially the prime minister, Nouri al Maliki. And now, the U.S. is set to want someone else in charge.

This all comes as President Obama debates what to do in Iraq. He met with leaders of the House and Senate. You can see the picture right there, but did not reveal his exact plans.

Some Republicans have their ideas about what should come next.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Ultimately, the solution that is needed is an Iraqi one. And any U.S. action, including any possible military action, would be in support of a strategy to build the capacity of the Iraqis to effectively and sustainably counter the threat imposed by extremists.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We have to act. We must act. And I know that there are always people who will tell our leaders reasons why we can't. But I know of no military expert that believes that doing nothing is a recipe for anything but further chaos and eventually threats the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIPS) BERMAN: The White House says the only thing ruled out is putting combat forces on the ground in Iraq. Military planners are said to be working on a range of possibilities. CNN has learned that manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights are crisscrossing the skies over Iraq right now. And airstrikes do remain on the table. That's something the Iraqi government has now formally requested.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Do you think it's an international security to honor that request?

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It is in our national security interest to counter ISIS wherever we find them.


BERMAN: On the ground, in Iraq, right now, the Iraqi military is claiming it is driving back the ISIS forces. That fact not at all clear, though, because we are hearing different things from different people all over that country. So, let's get the reality now from CNN chief international correspondent Nic Robertson, live in Baghdad.

Nic, what can you tell us this morning?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I talked to a senior Iraqi politician here. He tells me that in his conversations with U.S. officials, he absolutely understands that they want Nouri al Maliki gone. The question, he says, is how to replace him. Who can actually tell this man that he has to go?

He says it obviously can't come from the United States, certainly not publicly. He said, Iraqi politicians, even those in Nouri al Maliki's own party can't tell him, or would be afraid to tell him. The military certainly won't tell him. He feels that it's going to come from the religious leaders here, and there's no inkling of that, no hint that that's on the verge of happening.

Certainly on the military front, the Iraqi army still appears to be struggling. That major battle over Iraq's largest oil refinery yesterday. It seems to have come out with the ISIS fighters holding more military on the ground at that refinery than the government right now. And also, overnight, we learned that the government said in an air strike targeting is fighters, it killed 14 is fighters.

But a local health official told us what happened at the local hospital. They said that they received 11 bodies and 33 people wounded. They said that they were civilians and among those wounded were women and children -- John.

BERMAN: What is it like right now in Baghdad, that nation's capital. I spent a lot of time there when times were tough and it felt like a war zone. Is that the feeling you get right now?

ROBERTSON: Oh, if you walked in here from any other city around the world, absolutely. There are wars everywhere. There are traffic checkpoints, multiple traffic checkpoints involved. Bunkers and armed guards, multiple armed guards, people in checkpoints with sniper rifles. Short automatic weapons for close combat.

Yes, this is a city that feels it's on a war footing. This is a city where you have multiple car bombings in one day. It's a city however that's grown used to that. So, people here, it kind of feels like normal.

However, that said, people are trying to flee this city. I talked to a family yesterday. They are flying out to get to the north. You find that the airport now long lines for people trying to get out of the country, planes booked up weeks in advance, John.

BERMAN: Nic Robertson for us in Baghdad who's seen a lot of trouble over the years, but facing it once again perhaps (INAUDIBLE) a long time. Thanks, Nic.

ROMANS: All right. So, Iran is putting a big contingency on any possible cooperation with the U.S. in fighting ISIS. The chief of staff to President Hassan Rouhani told reporters Tehran would consider helping but only if nuclear talks are successful. Iran has been negotiating with the U.S. and European officials over the future of its nuclear program. The State Department says it will resist any efforts to tie that discussion to the situation in Iraq.

BERMAN: Happening today, House Republicans set to vote on a replacement for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, this after the congressman's unexpected loss in a primary and his decision not to keep the number two House job through the midterm elections. Majority whip Kevin McCarthy, who's currently the number three in the Republican leadership is expected to win that vote, but there is a tight battle to replace McCarthy as whip. That is where the action will be.

Stay with CNN for all the twists and turns.

ROMANS: All right. Expecting of twists and turns, thousands of lost IRS e-mails may never be recovered. Thousands may never be recovered, so say Senate Republicans who learned the IRS threw away the crashed hard drive from top official Lois Lerner. She was responsible for the agency's tax exempt office, which stands accused of targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny. Most of her e-mails from 2009 through 2011 were lost in that hard drive crash.

Some Republicans have been pushing to turn the drive over to IT experts and try to recover the e-mails. A supporter says, look, there's tens of thousands of e-mails they have recovered by using the recipients e-mail addresses. Not the hard drive.

BERMAN: It's not hard to believe the recordkeeping system at the IRS is a mess, right?

ROMANS: News flash.

BERMAN: All right. Eleven minutes after the hour. Happening today, the V.A. is set to release new details on the scheduling problems facing thousands of veterans and clinics across the country. Acting V.A. Secretary Sloane Gibson now says an internal review has found about 10 percent of all veterans have to wait 30 days or more for an appointment. That is more than double what the agency earlier reported. Gibson says, only with accurate data can the V.A. start solving the problems it faces.

ROMANS: All right. New details this morning about just what G.M. knew about ignition switch problems in millions of cars and when. E- mails reveal at the congressional hearing show back in 2005, a G.M. engineer reported what she called a serious problem. The switch on her new Chevy Impala have popped out of run when she hit a pothole. She said in her email it warranted a big recall. That recall only took place earlier this week. G.M. insists it has no evidence any workers actively tried to cover up the ignition switch defects.

Time for an EARLY START in your money, European shares upright now. Asian stocks ended the day mostly higher. Futures are slightly up this morning after another record day yesterday. Excuse me, the S&P 500 closed at a record.

The NASDAQ finished at the highest level in 14 years, Berman.

BERMAN: Woo-hoo!

ROMANS: And the Dow gained almost 100 points.

Stocks around the globe getting a boost from yesterday's Federal Reserve statement. The Central Bank said interest rates aren't likely to rise until next year. More good news, the job market is getting better. The Fed expects the unemployment to fall to 6 percent by the end of the year. Currently, it's at 6.3 percent, and that number has been falling steadily. The Fed also reduced its monthly bond buying program, as expected, from $45 billion to $35 billion.

One of the economists I follow yesterday was saying, look, I think the quarter is much stronger than we think, you're saying 4.2. And you think at the end of summer, it's going to start dropping quickly. Hope he's right.


BERMAN: by the end of the year.

ROMANS: Hope he's right.

BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight: completely and utterly unhittable. Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw threw his first ever no- hitter in an 8-0 nothing over the Colorado Rockies at the Dodgers Stadium.

This game was sick. Kershaw struck out a career high 15 batters. He's got two Cy Young Awards. And that may just be the beginning for this guy. He is one of the best pitchers in years. This game was as close to perfect as you can get. The only base runner was on Hanley Ramirez's throwing error right there. So, it's not a perfect game, it's a no-hitter. But really one of the most dominating you can see. Two no-hitters thrown both by Dodgers pitchers, the other was thrown by Josh Beckett last month against the Phillies.

ROMANS: All right. Anger and frustration from Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's former roommate, accusing the former Taliban prisoner of ultimate betrayal.

BERMAN: Plus, no more Washington Redskins. We are talking about a big change the team could be forced to make. That's right after this.


BERMAN: This morning, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is recovering in a military hospital in Texas. This, as we hear from his former Army roommate. Specialist Cody Full went before a House committee, calling Bergdahl a deserter who committed the ultimate betrayal putting his fellow soldiers at risk. Full says his former comrade needs to be court-martialed and he will not accept possible mental illness as an excuse.


SPECIALIST CODY FULL, BERGDAHL'S ROOMMATE: Everybody deals with mental issues in some form or another if they are in Afghanistan or Iraq. Everybody else still came back from the same platoon. Nobody else deserted on their own. There's nothing in my opinion that was so bad that forced him to walk off on his own accord.


BERMAN: Right now, an Army general is investigating the circumstances of Bergdahl's capture and whether he should face punishment.

ROMANS: New details this morning about the alleged mastermind behind the attack on the U.S. diplomatic in Benghazi, Libya. Ahmed Abu Khattalah is being questioned right now aboard the USS New York, which is slowly making its way back to the U.S. mainland.

And officials tell CNN they are also analyzing some form of media found during his capture. This as they look at the conspirators involved in that attack -- the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. It is not clear when Khattalah will arrive on U.S. oil, but prosecutors are planning additional charges against him.

BERMAN: The media found probably means a cell phone, I would think, right?

ROMANS: It could be. Or it could be, or it could be DVDs, it could be tapes, it could be pictures, it could be anything.

BERMAN: This morning, two Texas men are facing charges they conspired to help terrorists overseas. Both are 23 years old. Authorities say Rahatul Ashikim Khan talked about getting kids interested in holy war and tried to enlist others. Michael Todd Wolfe allegedly is making plans to join the conflict in Syria and talk about the ISIS militants fighting in Iraq.

ROMANS: All right. The trial of Boston bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be moved to Washington, so say his lawyers, in a motion filed Wednesday, claiming surveys they conducted show little chance of finding an impartial jury in Massachusetts. Now 20 years old, Tsarnaev is accused of killing three, injuring more than 260 in the marathon bombings last year. He has pleaded not guilty to 30 terror-related charges. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

BERMAN: This morning, people are talking about the huge development over the controversy whether the Washington Redskins should change their name. The U.S. Patent Office has now stripped the team of six federal trademarks because it says they are disparaging to Native Americans. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has refused to change the name, citing the team's history and what he calls tradition, and he calls badge of honor. The Redskins plan to appeal this decision. They appealed a similar patent ruling back in 2003 and won.

ROMANS: All right. Drama at the World Cup, drama. The defending champions ousted. The biggest player may be stuck on the bench versus the U.S. Andy Scholes is back with the "Bleacher Report", next.


BERMAN: Adios! The defending World Cup champions are out. Chile beat Spain, 2-0, wiping them out of this World Cup. I got to say, the Chilean fans were going nuts.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more on the "Bleacher Report" for us this morning.

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

We all know soccer fans in the world are very passionate when it comes to their national team. Well, a big group of Chilean fans said they were going to do whatever it took to get into the game against Spain. You got to check out this video -- an hour before the match, fans stormed the media center at Americana Stadium in Rio. They overpowered security and they made it into the stadium.

When they got in, they knocked down a couple temporary walls and a couple big screen TVs, as they tried to make it to seats. Eventually, stadium security was able to round them up. Eighty-five fans in total were detained and they are going to be forced to leave Brazil in the next 72 hours.

As for the game, Spain once again, looked like anything but the defending champs. Chile scored first in the first 20 minutes, they added another goal right before the half to win, 2-0. Spain is the first reigning champion to be knocked out of the World Cup after just two matches. They have to play one meaningless game now against Australia. That will be on Monday.

All right. Will he or won't he play? That's the big question surrounding Portugal's superstar Cristiano Ronaldo heading into Sunday's match with the U.S. Ronaldo left practice a little early once again yesterday with ice on his left knee. Ronaldo's doctor reported told the star he should shut it down or else he could potentially suffer a career threatening injury. Right now, all signs point to Ronaldo playing. We'll just have to wait and see.

Jozy Altidore's status meanwhile still up in the air. Team USA's best scoring threat is nursing that strained hamstring he suffered against Ghana. He's highly questionable for Sunday's match.

All right. Trending on this morning, Clayton Kershaw was unhittable against the Rockies. The Dodgers ace threw his first no-hitter, striking out a career high 15 batters. It as Hanley Ramirez throwing error away from a perfect game. Kershaw, the second no-hitter this season both coming from Dodger pitchers. Josh Beckett did it against the Philly's last month.

And, guys, just for perspective, how impressive this no hitter was, he's the second pitcher since 1900 to have a bunch of strikeouts and a no-hitter. More than 15, that is. Nolan Ryan is the only guy with more. He had 16 and 17 in his no-hitters. He threw back in the '80s and '90s.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, great to see you today. And Cristiano Ronaldo, you know, it's OK to take a break. If you need to take a break, sit one out.

SCHOLES: We are worried about you. You don't want to have a career- threatening injury here.

ROMANS: Especially if $23 million a year is on the line.

BERMAN: Exactly. We care about you, Cristiano.

All right. Andy, take care.

ROMANS: At least the Spaniards have something else to look forward to. They have the coronation of a new king.

BERMAN: They got a king, no team, but they have a king.

ROMANS: They've got a king.

All right. Terrorists gaining ground in Baghdad. The White House is deciding how to provide help. But there could be a wrench in the planning on this. Has President Obama lost faith in Iraq's leader? We are back with that answer after the break.