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Crisis in Iraq: U.S. Help on the Way; Obama: We Can't Pick Iraq's Leaders; House Republicans Choose New Leaders; Severe Weather; Team USA's Jozy Altidore Ruled Out Vs. Portugal

Aired June 20, 2014 - 05:00   ET


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Crisis in Iraq escalating. Terrorists advancing on Baghdad. Sectarian violence playing in the streets.

And this morning, hundreds of U.S. military on the way. But will it be enough to hold the country together? New doubts confront the Iraqi leader. We are live.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Severe storms set to impact millions. Hail, flooding, dangerous winds. We are showing you the areas that are hardest hit and what's one the way.

Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

MARQUEZ: And I'm Miguel Marquez. It is Friday. Friday, June 20th. It's 5:00 a.m. right out here in the East.

And we begin with the crisis in Iraq. This morning, ISIS fighters are in control of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons factory, a facility still contaminated with potentially dangerous materials. This as we're finding out new details of how the U.S. is getting involved in the fight against ISIS.

The president for now is saying no to airstrikes. But the military is putting final touches on plans to send hundreds of advisers into the country and offer other help without putting troops on the ground.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will continue to increase our support to Iraqi security forces. We are prepared to create joint operation centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq, to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat of ISIL.


MARQUEZ: Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more on the mission for those advisers.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Miguel, Allison, the first of the 300 U.S. military advisers will start arriving in Iraq in the coming days. They will be Army Green Berets, Army Rangers and SEALs. They will go to a number of different locations around Iraq to work with Iraqi security forces.

Basically, they have two jobs now, to assess what is going on with Iraqi forces, to get them back in the fight, to find out what else they need.

But they will also have a very important intelligence gathering mission, to keep their eyes on the ISIS militant fighters. Where are they? What weapons do they have? How are they moving? And what is their strategy look to be? And especially keeping an eye on the perimeter around Baghdad, to make sure ISIS isn't about to try to move into the city.

At the same time, the U.S. is using manned pilots in the cockpit aircraft, fighter jets and other aircraft to conduct around the clock surveillance over Iraq, over Baghdad, including. And they are also using drones.

So, this picture that's developing is to have all eyes and ears on the situation in Iraq. Why? Because if it comes to it, the president needs better intelligence, the more fine, granular intelligence about where ISIS is on the ground, if, if, he had to order air strikes -- Miguel, Alison.


KOSIK: Now, the Iraqi government did ask for more help, saying airstrikes were the best way to stop ISIS. The White House rejected that. At the same time, senior officials told CNN they'd like to see someone other than Nouri al Maliki running the country. President Obama wouldn't go that far, but didn't exactly express confidence in Maliki's leadership.


OBAMA: It's not our job to choose Iraq's leaders. But I don't think there's any secret that right now, at least, there is deep divisions between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish leaders. And as long as those deep divisions continue or worsen, it's going to be very hard for an Iraqi central government to direct an Iraqi military to deal with these threats.


KOSIK: Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is live in Iraq this morning.

Nic, are Iraqis saying at this point the same thing as the White House about their prime minister?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It depends on who you talk to. Certainly, you will find a lot of people on the streets around here who answer the government's call and to Maliki's call to step up and join the fight, join the Iraqi Army which means joining Shia militias here to stop the ISIS fighters coming to Baghdad.

So, yes, he does have a certain amount of supporters. His party was the most popular party in the recent elections.

That said, across the sectarian divide and sort of more moderate circles, no, everyone says he's not the man, he isn't inclusive, he's purposely exclusive of Sunnis and the divisions that we see now are the divisions he's created. And these actions he's taken in the past week are the actions that have distanced him further from making these political compromises. What he's done is make it impossible even though Sunnis on the opposite side of the divide to be able to deal with him because of the decisions that he's made in the past week. If they were ever in a position to compromise, it's worse now.

So, his office is saying he hasn't received an official statement from the United States telling him he has to go. It appears that he's digging in. But, you know, it's the religious leaders here that we understand from politicians are the ones that could be the people who are about to may tell him he needs to step down.

Today is Friday. Everyone will be listening to the prayers of the top Shiite cleric here, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. What he says, if there's any hint in what he says about time for a new leader, well, that could ring in new changes. We are waiting to hear. But there's been no hint of it so far, Alison.

KOSIK: Nic, what more can you tell us about these weapons plant? How worried should we be that militants seized the facility?

ROBERTSON: You know, I went there with U.N. weapon inspectors in 2002 and I was looking at my notes from then. I wrote about rows of rusting stockpiles of weapons and also saying the U.N. weapons inspectors probably didn't need to go back. This site was important to Saddam Hussein in this 1980's eight-year war with Iran. It was the birthplace of the biological weapons production. It was the heart of the chemical weapons, research facility, and there were stockpiles of VX, of mustard gas, of sarin there.

But it was bombed during the Gulf War in 1991. Weapons investigators sort of deactivated everything in the mid-'90s. 2002, they found nothing there. Certainly, post-Gulf War, post-arrival of U.S. troops, it was inspected.

The biggest danger there is moving the rusting things around. Militarily, we're told, they don't pose a threat, but that said, some of Saddam Hussein's old army who would have worked to that base are now fighting with the rebels here. So, there is a danger, but it does seems to be a minimal one at this time, Alison.

KOSIK: OK. Nic Robertson live in Iraq, thanks.

MARQUEZ: House Republicans made their choices to lead their caucus into the midterm elections. Representative Kevin McCarthy from California will be the next majority leader, replacing Eric Cantor who stepped down after a shockingly unexpected primary loss. McCarthy who got his new role after four terms, the fastest rise for any majority leader in history.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY LEADER: They elected a guy who is a grandson of a cattle rancher, the son of a firefighter. Only in America do you get that opportunity. They elected a guy that's only grown up through the grassroots. They elected a guy that spent his time going around recruiting many of these individuals to get the majority.


MARQUEZ: Now, Representative Steve Scalise from Louisiana will take over role of majority whip. He greeted his family after. He'll be responsible for rounding up support for votes and promising a united front going forward.

KOSIK: New accusations this morning against a prominent Republican and potential 2016 presidential candidate, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Prosecutors alleged he was part of a nationwide criminal fundraising scheme, coordinating money gathering with conservative groups. But he hasn't been charged with any crimes.

Both prosecutors and Walker's lawyers are fighting over whether the activities actually violate campaign finance laws and Walker is dismissing the accusations, saying two judges have already told prosecutors they can't go ahead with their investigation.

MARQUEZ: And new details this morning of what the U.S. was planning in order to free Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban. "The Wall Street Journal" says the U.S. worked for a year on proposals, including paying off the militants or releasing an Afghan warlord, but eventually worked out a deal that sent five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. The other options were seen as unrealistic.

KOSIK: Happening today, Vice President Joe Biden visits Guatemala where he'll talk to the government about there about stopping parents from sending their kids to the north to enter the U.S. without documentation. That as Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson goes to Texas where hundreds of undocumented children are being held, awaiting deportation. Some Democrats in Congress are now pushing to give those children asylum, calling the situation a humanitarian crisis. Border Patrol officials tell "The Washington Post" they are putting so many resources into dealing with the crisis, they can't focus on other problems like the cartels smuggling drugs across the border.

MARQUEZ: And another win for supporters of same-sex marriage. The White House plans to extend more federal benefits to legally married couples regardless of what state they live in, including time off to care for sick spouses. The announcement comes nearly one year after the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. It's the latest series of steps by the Obama administration to further marriage equality.

KOSIK: Time for an EARLY START on your money. European and Asian markets mixed this morning. Futures are flat after a lackluster day yesterday. This following Wednesday's news on the news that the Feds wouldn't be raising interest rates anytime soon.

The S&P 500, though, still managing to eke out any record high. It's second this week.

One part of the economy not seeing a bump? Wages. Numbers out yesterday show that wages declined in seven of the 10 biggest U.S. counties in 2013, this according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wages dropped in places like L.A. County, Dallas County, and Cook County, Illinois, which contains Chicago. The steepest drop was in New York County, yes, that's Manhattan with a 3.3 percent decline. Although there are signs that the labor market is improving, this data does who that the jobs coming back are not as high paying as the ones before.

MARQUEZ: New details this morning of what the CIA plans in the fight against al Qaeda. How about an Osama bin Laden toy that was made to look like a demon? "The Washington Post" says the agency hired a toy maker behind G.I. Joe to develop an action figure who's face went from horrible to red with green glowing eyes. They thought the sight of it might encouraged children and their parents to stop following the al Qaeda leader. The project was discontinued after some prototypes were made.

I smell a Hollywood script.

KOSIK: Could be. A good call.

Donald Sterling caught on tape, again, leaving angry, threatening messages to his wife's doctor. You're going to hear them, ahead.

MARQUEZ: Plus, strong storms barreling across the country, millions in their path. We are tracking who needs to be on alert today.

KOSIK: And what? A baldness breakthrough? Scientists believe they could be on the brink of finding a cure. The story is coming up next.


MARQUEZ: It has been a very bad weather week for millions with tornadoes, heavy rain and damage throughout the Midwest. And today may not be much better. There are more storms in the forecast.

KOSIK: Take a look at these pictures from Minnesota. Heavy rains slumping this area not far from Minneapolis. Rain also blamed for a mudslide at a hospital in Minneapolis. The hillside giving away, and there are worries that other parts of the building above could be damaged if more mudslides into Mississippi.


And lighting blamed for this in Indianapolis. A car fire after a bolt of lightning hit the vehicle. The driver wasn't inside, thank god- ness, goodness. KOSIK: And goodness. Thank goodness.

MARQUEZ: And god-ness.

He used an extinguisher to put out the flames. But the car, it's a total loss.

KOSIK: Crazy things happen with crazy weather.

South Dakota is cleaning up after hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed by a series of tornadoes. For residents, the recovery may take a long time. But there's gratitude this morning that no one in Wessington Springs died when the twister struck.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You always hear about people praying. We never said one prayer. I'm a religious person but I don't think -- I don't think we had time. We are both alive.


KOSIK: Mother Nature is a scary thing.

MARQUEZ: What a sweetheart. So tough.

Indra Petersons is here to track the weather for us.

Indra, give us some goodness, please?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The good news is conditions are improving a little bit. One hot bottom is going to be in Minnesota. They're seeing about a million people under the gun for that threat for severe weather, including Fargo, Duluth and St. Cloud. Just keep in mind, the other side of this is a heavy rain. We showed you all the flooding in the region. It looks like today, the ground is saturated and more rain is on the way.

It is the weekend, though. We all want to know where is it going to be dry? Where is it going to be rain? Well, let's look at the humidity here, right? Northeast, you talk New England, notice the humidity the difference of humidity from farther down to the south, pretty much the mid-Atlantic down to the south is where we are talking showers as we go through the weekend.

But hello if you are New England to the Northeast, this is the good zone. This is where things are going to be beautiful this weekend. A really huge chunk of the country is still going to be talking about that typical summer-like pattern. We have some scattered showers out there.

Speaking of summer, technically not officially here yet. But by tomorrow morning, yes. Finally, 6:51 in the morning, tomorrow, East Coast Time, it is finally summer. I've been looking forward after a very long winter. And here is what the temperatures will feel like as we go through

weekend. Notice how warm it is in the Southeast. It's going to be muggy, temperatures above normal. Where you are staying dry, temperatures are below normal, mild and low humidity, feel good D.C. about 71, 14 degrees warmer than normal.


KOSIK: Thanks, Indra.

New audio recordings have now emerged featuring an angry Donald Sterling. The voicemails were presented in court by lawyers for Sterling's estranged wife Shelly who asked the judge to be protected from being intimidated by her husband. Now, in one take, he goes off on a doctor who diagnosed him as mentally incompetent.


DONALD STERLING: What a horrible woman you are. All you did go to Beverly Hills Hotel and drink liquor. You are nothing but a fraud and a liar and a cheat, and I'm going to see that you lose your license and I'm suing you for conspiracy.

I'm not incompetent, you're the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) incompetent you stupid (EXPLETIVE DELETED) doctor. I'm going to get you fired from UCLA because you are nothing but a tramp.


KOSIK: Oh, he doesn't hold back. Donald Sterling's lawyers say he wasn't threatening the doctors, just frustrated his medical records were made public. The judge denied Shelly Sterling's request. A trial next month is going to be determining if she's the sole trustee of a family trust and can sell the L.A. Clippers.

MARQUEZ: That's supersize frustrated, I think.

KOSIK: You think?


Now, the FBI's investigating what could be the largest single incident involving exposure to anthrax. As many as 75 CDC staffers may have been unintentionally exposed after the lab where they work failed to deactivate samples of the potentially deadly bacteria. The staffers are being monitored or treated with antibiotics. The CDC say there is little to no risk to family members or the general public. Disciplinary action could be on the way.

KOSIK: Potentially explosive new details about the deadly highway crash that severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan.

According to a report at the NSTB, the truck driver who slammed into Morgan's limo bus killing comedian James McNair was traveling 65 in a 45-mile-per-hour zone just seconds before the collision. Kevin Roper has pleaded not guilty to two vehicular homicide and assault. Morgan remains hospitalized in fair condition.

MARQUEZ: Can a drug designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis actually cure baldness? During an eight-month trial, Yale researchers say a 25-year-old man with almost no hair on his body grew a full headed of hair, amazing, following treatment with the arthritis drug. They say it's also been used successfully for treating psoriasis. The researchers have now submitted a proposal for clinical trials.


KOSIK: You have sexy hair.

MARQUEZ: No, I don't have a problem so far, no spray on.

KOSIK: Are you sure about that? I'm joking.

MARQUEZ: Oh, my goodness. I can't believe that.

It's going to be a great weekend.

KOSIK: Oh, one of the most successful lyricist of all time has died. Gerry Goffin was 75 and his music legendary. He wrote the words for dozens of top 40 hits from the '60s to the 1990s. His most famous with collaborator and former wife, Carol King, like this one given voice by Aretha Franklin.


KOSIK: He was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 1990. Carole King said he had a gift for expressing what so many people didn't know how to say.

MARQUEZ: Wow, I love the beard, too. Cool guy.

KOSIK: A big star for Team USA won't be on the field for the next game. What could it do for America's chances in the World Cup? Andy Scholes has the details in the "Bleacher Report", coming up next.


KOSIK: World Cup fever.

MARQUEZ: Fever, yes, love it.

KOSIK: Team USA gearing up for another match. This one could be happening on Sunday. Can the USA beat superstar Cristiana Ronaldo and his Portugal squad?

MARQUEZ: I don't know.

Andy Scholes has the latest.

So, a huge upset these days, Andy. What's going on?

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning. You know, we are the underdogs against Portugal on Sunday. And if we

are going to get a win, we're going to have to do it without star striker Jozy Altidore. Altidore, he's been officially ruled out of the game with his strained hamstring that he suffered against Ghana.

Now, there's good news for Team USA, Clint Dempsey is going to be able to play with his broken nose. We have that going for us.

Now, there's plenty of speculation over the last few days on whether or not Cristiano Ronaldo is going to play with the nagging left knee injury. As of right now, all signs point to him being on the field when this game kicks off Sunday night.

For a full preview of this pivotal match up for Team USA, make sure to tune in to "UNGUARDED WITH RACHEL NICHOLS." You can see that tonight at 10:30 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Now, England is in danger of not making it out of the group stakes for the first time in 20 years. Yesterday's match with Uruguay, a heart breaker for the Brits. England pulled even on the 75th minute when Wayne Rooney finally came through with his first world cup goal. Guys, ten minutes later, a goal kick, Suarez, he's going to get the ball in the box for Uruguay. And he's going to comes through with just an incredible goal, punches it in. Uruguay gets the big win, 2-1 over England.

All right. It was an historic day in Pinehurst, North Carolina, for round one of the U.S. Women's Open on Thursday. Eleven-year-old Lucy Li teed off as the youngest golfer ever to qualify for a major. Rocking a stars and stripes outfit, Lucy, she held her own out of the course, shooting 8 over par. And what does an 11-year-old do after completing her first round at a major? Go straight for the ice cream.


LUCY LI, GOLFER: It was a lot of fun. I kind of struggled today, but it was great.

REPORTER: What is your plan for the rest of the day?

LI: Eat more ice cream.



SCHOLES: Oh, guys, Li is probably not going to make the cut today at the U.S. Women's Open, but what an incredible experience it must be for her playing with all the professional golfers at just 11 years old.

KOSIK: And all that matters is ice cream.

MARQUEZ: Wow. Well, a sensible choice on the ice cream, I think.

(LAUGHTER) SCHOLES: I have had that ice cream in Pinehurst, it's very good.

MARQUEZ: Well, I'm sure you tried it in many places, my friend.

SCHOLES: What are you trying to say there, Miguel?

MARQUEZ: Hey, I'm an ice cream lover too. Easy now. Easy.

SCHOLES: All right. Have a good one, guys.

KOSIK: Amazing, 11 years old. And a girl, yes.

SCHOLES: Yes. Girls rock.

KOSIK: Happening now, U.S. help on the way to Iraq. But is it enough to stop terrorists from taking over the country? We are live in Baghdad, next.