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Crisis in Iraq; Severe Weather Hits South Dakota

Aired June 19, 2014 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The crisis in Iraq intensifying this morning. Terrorists moving ever closer to Baghdad as the White House decides just how involved the U.S. should be. This coming as we learn new details about President Obama's difficult relationship with Iraq's leader.

We are live with the very latest developments.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, millions in the path of severe storms barreling across the country. The damage already done and what's expected today.

BERMAN: Warnings ignored. New evidence showing that GM may have learned about a dangerous ignition malfunction nearly 10 years before issuing the recall.

ROMANS: The e-mails are still troubling.

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's 31 minutes past the hour.

This morning there's no decision yet from the White House over whether to get involved in Iraq. CNN learned the administration is losing confidence in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Overnight Vice President Biden called him and other top Iraqi leaders urging them to work together to stop ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria, that's been battling Iraqi forces for days now. It's moving closer and closer to Baghdad.

That call happening as U.S. officials tell CNN they want someone else in charge of the country who can work to reconcile Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. As for military action, President Obama is keeping his cards close. At a meeting with congressional leader he gave very little indication about what he might do in Iraq, if anything. And his administration isn't revealing much either.


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 posed by extremists. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: You 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.


ROMANS: CNN has learned right now manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights are crisscrossing the skies over Iraq as military planners work through the next steps. The only thing off the table, off the table, combat troops on the ground. But air strikes could happen especially since the Iraqi government has formally requested them.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is in our international security interest to honor that request.

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


ROMANS: This morning the Iraqi government says it's kept ISIS from advancing toward Baghdad but the battle had been fierce.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson live in Baghdad this morning.

And, Nic, give us a sense of the latest on the ISIS advancement here. Is the government correct and it's been able to hold off this advance for now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It seems they have been able to slow it but -- the confrontations that we hear about, they seem -- two-thirds of them seem to go in favor of ISIS. You know, over the last three days, there have been sort of three major battles, Baqubah, Baiji, the oil refinery, and Tal Afar. Tal Afar fell to ISIS. Baiji, the oil refinery, there was a battle raging yesterday and that's the most important and largest oil refinery in Iraq. That now seems to be mostly, not entirely, but mostly in the hands of ISIS.

And Baqubah, it's unclear, but it does seem that both ISIS and the Iraqi government still control parts of it. It's contested.

What the Iraqi government hasn't been able to do is roll ISIS' advance toward the city back. And that's significant. And that's why the situation is ongoing. And that's why, potentially, ISIS could still achieve their aim which is to encircle the capital -- Christine.

ROMANS: So give me a sense about whether there's confidence in the country that Nuri al-Maliki has the ability to bring these groups together so that this doesn't evolve into sectarian conflict. I mean, it seems as though the White House has serious concerns about who's running the country.

ROBERTSON: And that's certainly what I'm hearing talking to senior Iraqi politician here. He told me that his understanding was the United States absolutely wants Nuri al-Maliki gone. The question is, is that conditional upon -- as before the United States will provide airstrikes? We know the position is that there needs to be compromise and change here before the United States will get involved. It wants to see those political changes made.

Now most people here, particularly on the Sunni side, feel that Nuri al-Maliki is responsible for getting the country into the situation that it's in at the moment. And there -- again he's exasperated that by his response to the current crisis. Rather than trying to build bridges, he's sort of gone on the offensive. And so really, politically, he is a spent force. That's the view of a good many people.

And certainly, we understand there are even people in his own party who believe that he should step aside. But it seems that no one -- no one is prepared or able to do that at the moment. Having said that, there's a large part of the Shia population, and they're the majority in this country, who absolutely feel invigorated by the fact that the prime minister has gone on the offensive against ISIS. They want an end to the terrorism, they want an end to the car bombs in the city here.

So it's very divided and polarized. But to get political compromise, the consensus appears to be Nuri al-Maliki just can't do it because he's not prepared but he's also -- he's also alienated the very people by his actions recently, that he should be making those compromises with.

ROMANS: And it gets more complicated by the way with ISIS just, you know, a couple dozen miles away from Baghdad.

Thank you so much, Nic Robertson. We'll check in with you again next hour.

BERMAN: While this is happening, there's been a big not-so-fast from Iran over the possibility of working with the U.S. to fight against ISIS. The chief of staff to President Hassan Rouhani now say any cooperation with the U.S. is contingent on successful nuclear talks. Iran, of course, has been negotiating with the United States and European officials over the future of its nuclear program. The State Department says it will resist any efforts to link these two discussions together.

ROMANS: An important vote today for House Republicans choosing their new majority leader now that Eric Cantor is stepping down from the role following his unexpected primary loss. The frontrunner is majority whip Kevin McCarthy, currently the number three House Republican. Tight battle now among several others to take McCarthy's current position.

BERMAN: Kevin Spacey also in the running.


New revelations and anger this morning about thousands of missing IRS e-mails. Senate Republicans say the agency has thrown away the crashed hard drive, thrown it away, of top -- former top official Lois Lerner. She was responsible for the IRS Tax Exempt Office which stands accused of targeting conservative groups through 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 to try and recover those e-mails.

ROMANS: And her supporters have said they have recovered tens of thousands of e-mails that -- from the other people that she sent them to or received them from.

All right, we're set to find out new details today about the scheduling problems at VA clinics across the country. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson has revealed 10 percent of all veterans, 10 percent, have to wait 30 days or more for an appointment. It's more than double what the agency earlier found. Gibson pushing for more data as part of his attempt to fix the scheduling delays at the VA.

BERMAN: Shocking new information from General Motors about ignition switch problems in millions of its cars. E-mails released during a congressional hearing show a GM engineer asked for a recall when her 2006 Chevy Impala popped out of run after she hit a pothole. The discussion ended when a higher up told her there haven't been any similar incidences reported. Those e-mails were sent in 2005, 2005. The recall only happened earlier this week.

GM insists it has no evidence any workers actively tried to cover up these ignition switch defects.

ROMANS: All right. Time for an EARLY START on your money. Europeans shares are up right now. Futures are pointing slightly higher. But the news, you guys, it was a record day on Wall Street yesterday. Look at this, the S&P 500 record close after the Federal Reserve said interest rates are not likely to rise until next year. The Dow and the Nasdaq also finished strong.

But, you know, the Dow is not very far from 17,000 here. So watch that today.

Big news for American Apparel this morning. The board has ousted the founder and CEO, Dov Charney, for cause. He faces a series of sexual harassment suits filed by employees. Some have reported he conducted interviews and meetings in his underwear. His antics are well known but he's the founder of this company. American Apparel has struggled with slumping sales in recent years. The stock has fallen from $15 share in 2007 to less than $1 now.

BERMAN: Not the kind of meeting I would want to attend.


ROMANS: I would not attend that kind of meeting with you, for sure.

BERMAN: Thank you for that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

Breaking news overnight, violent storms pummeling the Midwest. Trees ripped from the ground. Buildings smashed to pieces. Communities under water this morning. And this is not over yet. We're tracking all these storms, after the break.


ROMANS: Boy, this has to be another very dangerous weather day for millions. A threat of more tornadoes in parts of the Midwest, an area that's already been slammed for days now.

BERMAN: Some of these pictures are stunning. South Dakota is on edge, again, today, this -- after this twister was on the ground in the eastern part of the state overnight.


BERMAN: That just looks ominous. Terrifying everyone watching it.


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


BERMAN: And the aftermath visible. This damage from Wessington Springs. It's turning around right through the heart of town. Homes and businesses torn apart. Some residents were trapped but amazingly there are no reports of serious injuries and all those who were trapped were freed.

ROMANS: Just up the road from there in South Dakota these -- look at these -- dancing tornadoes from the same storm system. A white vortex twisting around itself on the ground. Then seconds later, look at this. Watch this barn. Look at that. I mean, it's almost beautiful, the movement of the storm. And then you see how it just obliterates the barn. The owners of this home near Sioux Falls considering themselves lucky this morning. A tornado took their house completely apart. They hid out in their basement and they survived.


KIM JORGENSON, SURVIVED TORNADO: 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.


BERMAN: Same story north of Toronto. Look at those pictures. The tornado made a direct hit, tearing the roofs off nearly 100 homes there. The mayor says it's a miracle that no one was hurt by this twister.

ROMANS: Scary clouds, the sign of severe weather, a twister hitting Chicago area overnight. That's Chicago right downtown. It brought rain, lightning to the Windy City, along with potential for flash floods there.

BERMAN: And check this out in Iowa. You can see just all that water in parts of homes in the northwestern part of the state. Families getting a chance to see the damage for themselves. Not good. They're taking a walk through their houses as they plan to make repairs.


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


ROMANS: Floodwaters are so hard to clean up. It takes so long for those to dry out.

Karen Maginnis is watching threat for us today.

Karen, what can we expect?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It looks like another round of severe weather will impact the Midwest, all the way from the northern Great Plains from right around Aberdeen to Minneapolis, extending into Des Moines, Ohio -- Omaha, rather, and into Kansas City and Wichita.

Slight risk. So there is the potential we could see an isolated tornado. But for the most part, this looks to be a hail, high winds and heavy downpours. Now you did see the flooding from that video. All the way across the Midwest, we have numerous reports of high water, also 29 reports of tornadoes. Lots of damage reported.

And the wind extended on over into the lower Great Lakes, even into the mid-Atlantic. The mid-Atlantic could be affected by those storms today. Primarily, Washington, D.C. as we go into the afternoon. 41 million people today are under the threat of severe weather. And we start out this morning across Midwest with lightning, high winds and storms being reported along eastern sections of Nebraska.

Moving towards the Great Lakes, Chicago, you're not out of the clouds and storms just yet. Weather system makes its way across the Great Lakes and the upper Mississippi River Valley. And lots of unstable weather across the southeastern U.S. and heavy rain into the lower Great Lakes, as much as four inches possible.

Back to you, guys.

BERMAN: A tough map to look at this morning. A lot of people on the lookout.

ROMANS: Thank you, Karen.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Karen.

Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Kate Bolduan joins us now.

Hey, Kate.

ROMANS: Good morning.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Good morning, guys. We're following of course all the latest events coming out of Iraq. We've been talking about the fight against ISIS, this militant group but now there are new concerns emerging that the militants; message may have struck here at home. What are we talking about? Well, two men from Texas have now been arrested on terror related charges. One may have tried to join ISIS. So how far is the terror propaganda spreading? That is a big question. We'll be looking at it this morning.

Also, the Benghazi arrest. New details emerging about how U.S. commandos lured the alleged mastermind behind the terror attack and new questions now surrounding where he'll be tried. We'll look at all of the implications of that coming up on "NEW DAY."

ROMANS: All right. Can't wait for that, Kate. Nice to see you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: All right. Held captive by terrorists for years but now freed, Amy Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl facing another battle. This one from his old roommate. Wait until you hear what he said on Capitol Hill yesterday. That's all the drama, ahead.


ROMANS: Bowe Bergdahl's former army roommate calls it the ultimate betrayal. Specialist Cody Full speaking out about what led to Bergdahl's capture in Afghanistan calling the army sergeant a deserter who needs to be court-martialed. And he told a House committee, there's no excuse for putting your fellow soldiers at risk.


SPECIALIST CODY FULL, SERVED WITH SGT. BERGDAHL IN BLACKFOOT COMPANY: Everybody deals with mental issues in some form or another if they are deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq. Everybody else still came back from that same platoon. Nobody else deserted on their own so there was -- there's nothing in my opinion that was so bad that forced him to walk off on his own accord.


ROMANS: Bergdahl is recovering right now at a military hospital in Texas. An army general is investigating the circumstances of his capture and whether he should face punishment. BERMAN: Lawyers for Boston bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have filed

a motion to move his trial to Washington. The defense says its own surveys find that Massachusetts is just too biased against Tsarnaev to seat an impartial jury.

The 20-year-old is charged with killing three and injuring more than 260 in last year's bombings during the Boston marathon. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal counts. Prosecutors do say they will seek the death penalty.

ROMANS: Texas has now ordered up a surge on border security to deal with the growing number of immigrants streaming in from Mexico. Agents report arresting some 160,000 people since the beginning of October.

Now Governor Rick Perry has authorized the use of more than $1 million per week to combat the problem. Some state Democrats are opposing the new plan which is expected to continue through the end of the year.

BERMAN: British public school children can no longer be taught creationism. That's according to new guidelines. Schools that receive public funds are prohibited from teaching creationism as scientific fact and that require to teach students about evolution. Now students can still learn about creationism as a religious belief. The government justified the move by saying creationism has been rejected by the scientific community as well as by many churches.

All right. It is called the Fire Phone but will Amazon's new device extinguish the competition? We will have the details when we get an early check of your money. That's next.


ROMANS: All right. Three minute to the top of the hour. That means it's time to get an EARLY START on your money this morning. European stocks are up right now. Futures pointing slightly higher. It was a record day yesterday. The S&P 500 record close after the Federal Reserve said interest rates aren't likely to rise until next year. And the Dow was supper close to 17,000.

The Central Bank also issued a slightly better outlook on the job market which got a lot of people's attention.

So what's holding back jobs? Some say a broken immigration system. Many worried that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's defeat is the end of immigration reform. But I sat down with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. She told me it's not the case. She's optimistic. Listen.


PENNY PRITZKER, COMMERCE SECRETARY: The Silicon Valley executives are very concerned about immigration reform. It's a really serious issue that's affecting hiring. They are not able to find all the talent that they want. Immigration reform, to me, it's a moral imperative and an economic opportunity. I think we're going to get it done because I think if you look at the demographics of this country, it's going to become politically an imperative.


BERMAN: You know, we heard the same thing from another very senior administration official --

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: -- who said that he was optimistic that immigration reform will get done. I don't know I that optimism is a negotiating tactic? Because I don't see any reason to believe it will get done other than their optimism.

ROMANS: And they're talking a lot about what the Silicon Valley CEOs want to see, what CEOs want to see. But when you have this humanitarian crisis on the border, that's a different sort of issue that you're dealing with immigration reform when you're talking about concerns about amnesty or the appearance of amnesty drawing people in.

You can see the rest of that interview with the Commerce secretary, by the way, on "CNN MONEY" this Saturday at 2:00 p.m.

And now Berman wants to know why he should care about Amazon's 3-D smartphone.

It's here, it's here, Berman. The Fire Phone has a display that's slightly bigger than the iPhone. Has a head and eye tracking technology. It'll be able to navigate apps using auto scrolling or tilting the device and it's fire fight feature uses the camera to recognize objects like books, food and household products, and then guess what, Berman, it gives you the option to buy it on Amazon, whatever the camera phone happens to see.

BERMAN: I will put it in a different pocket with my Facebook phone.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Threat assessment. President Obama tells Congress, he doesn't need their permission to launch air strikes against ISIS in Iraq. This, as we learn about a threat from within. Two Americans arrested, accused of supporting terrorism, one trying to join ISIS.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New details inside the dramatic raid that captured the man allegedly behind the Benghazi attack. Just how did Special Operations and the FBI trick him? And what could they learn now from the media seized from him in the raid?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Twisters, again? What looks like another double tornado tearing through South Dakota destroying this farm, all caught on tape just days after these double twisters wreaked their own havoc.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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