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Ohio State Attack: An Act of Terrorism?; Trump Goes After CNN on Twitter; Wildfires Out of Control in Tennessee; Deadly Plane Crash in Colombia; Syrian Rebels Lose Control of Northeast Aleppo. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2016 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: New details this morning about the Somali refugee who went on a stabbing spree at Ohio State. Will the suspect's final Facebook posts lead investigators to conclude this was an act of terrorism?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President-elect Donald Trump in a new overnight Twitter rant. His beef this time? Journalists looking for evidence behind his claims of huge voter fraud, there is none.

ROMANS: Wildfires burning out of control in Tennessee. Entire cities ordered to evacuate. The Dollywood theme park on high alert this morning as the flames get closer and closer.

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

Nice to see you.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Nice to see you.

It is Tuesday, November 29th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And we have new developments overnight in the stabbing spree at Ohio State University. Was it inspired by international terror groups? This morning, investigators are examining the Facebook posts of the Somali immigrants who carried out the attacks. He was a student at Ohio State who recently complained online that he was sick and tired of seeing fellow Muslims mistreated. He was shot and killed by a campus police officer after wounding 11 people.

This was the 911 call moments after the attack.


911 CALLER: This guy on a Honda civic came out, ran through the crowd, jump out of his car and started chasing people with a knife. And he was running down Woodruff and I saw his face. Oh, my God.


BERMAN: CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown is in Columbus with the very latest.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Christine.

We are learning more about the suspect, 18-year-old Abdul Artan. The man who officially plowed his speeding car into a crowd at the Ohio State University and came out and started slashing people with a large knife. Officials say he was a student at the university and just before he launched this attack, officials tell us he posted on his Facebook page and went on an anti-American rant and aired grievances of Muslims being attacked all over the world.

In this post, he says, "America stop interfering with other countries." He goes on to say, "My brothers and sisters, I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters being killed and tortured everywhere. And then in this post, he says every single Muslim who disapproves of my action is a sleeper cell waiting for a signal. I am warning you, oh America."

Investigators have been scrutinizing this post, going through all of his other electronic media, talking to his friends, his family. Investigators have not come out and said that they had determined a motive, but certainly they have said terrorism is a possibility. We know that he spoke to the local newspaper at the university last year and he talked about feeling uncomfortable showing his Muslim faith on campus.

But his mother says he never spoke to her about that. That he was a good kid. That the only thing he complained about was grades at the university.

Still a lot to learn. We know he was born in Somalia and came to the United States in 2014 as a legal permanent resident. But investigators still determining the why -- John and Christine


ROMANS: All right, Pamela Brown. A lot more investigating to do. Thank you for that.

You know, a senior official in the Obama administration tells CNN Abdul Razak Ali Artan went through the most stringent screening possible before he was granted a green card. The process took more than two years. In addition to a face to face interview, Artan and his family were cross-checked against all U.S. databases before being ruled out as a potential threat and getting clearance to travel. If Artan was radicalized, investigators believe it happened after he arrived in the U.S.

BERMAN: New this morning, President-elect Trump attacking CNN for questioning his unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud. Trump has been sharing tweets from his supporters who are going our senior Washington correspondent, the very talented, hard working Jeff Zeleny. Zeleny reported there was no proof of voter fraud. One of Trump's retweets is from a 16-year-old calling Zeleny pathetic,

arguing there is no evidence arguing that Trump did not suffer from voter fraud. Notice the double negative there. Another retweet from Trump goes after Zeleny as a generic CNN part-time want-to-be journalist.

Jeff has responded to Trump on Twitter with this, "Good evening. Have been looking for examples of voter fraud. Please send our way. Full- time journalist here. Still working."

ROMANS: All right. Trump Tower will be a busy place today. The president-elect is planning a full day of meetings. On Monday, Mike Pence spent some time with his boss. Afterwards, the vice president- elect told our reporters to expect some big developments today.


MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Before being back at it first thing in the morning, and a number of very important announcements tomorrow.


ROMANS: One of those important announcements could be Donald Trump's pick for secretary of Health and Human Services. A source tells CNN the president-elect has chosen six-term Congressman Tom Price of Georgia.

[04:05:03] Price is an orthopedic surgeon and a vocal critique of Obamacare. He believes regulatory burdens, taxes and lawsuits against medical professionals are the real reason for soaring health care costs.

BERMAN: So, the most watched moment of the day. President-elect Trump will have dinner with Mitt Romney. The 2012 Republican nominee is, of course, a leading contender for the secretary of state job despite the loud public protests of some folks who work for Donald Trump. Some Trump loyalists are outraged that Romney is even being considered given that he tried to derail Trump's campaign. Sources tell CNN this dinner will be private.

ROMANS: All right. President-elect Trump is irritated with top adviser Kellyanne Conway for attacking Mitt Romney. It's sure hard to tell. Sources tell CNN Trump is angry about Conway's very public criticism of Romney -- Romney who is being considered for secretary of state.

But Conway insists nothing could be further from the truth, tweeting this photo of herself with the president -- the president-elect along with his comments, "Trump and I working hard tonight. Thank you for the privilege of a lifetime."

BERMAN: Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas, they will meet with the president-elect today. Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and McCaul, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. Corker is up to be the secretary of state gig, and McCaul up for secretary of homeland security, or they could just be there to consult with the president- elect as the chairs of those important committees in Congress.

ROMANS: And then there's this -- President-elect Trump tweeting he was very impressed with David Petraeus. After interviewing the former CIA director for the top job at the State Department, Petraeus is seen as a potential compromise pick amid reports of deep divisions within Team Trump over Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. But some Republicans believe Petraeus should be disqualified for sharing classified information with his biographer when he headed up the CIA.


REPORTER: How did the meeting go, sir?

DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: The meeting went very well. I was with him for about an hour. He basically walked us around the world, showed a great grasp of the variety of challenges out there and some of the opportunities as well. So, very good conversation. We will see where it goes from here.


ROMANS: Petraeus was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2015. He is currently on probation. He agreed to a plea deal that landed him a sentence of two years probation and $100,000 fine.

BERMAN: Green Party candidate Jill Stein is defending her effort to recount the votes in three key states. The Wisconsin recount will begin on Thursday, assuming Stein puts up the money today, which she says she will. Stein also plans to push the recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania. She does concede it is unlikely the election results will change, but she tells CNN's Anderson Cooper, unless we look, we'll never know.


DR. JILL STEIN, FORMER GREEN PARTY CANDIDATE: What we have are predictors that if tampering took place, that it would be most likely to be discovered in the three states where we are looking. But it's like, when you get into an airplane, you do not want to have evidence that the airplane is rapidly losing altitude before you create a back- up system to be sure that your airplane has a safety net.


BERMAN: Stein's campaign plans to ask for a recount in Michigan by Wednesday and is working to organize the hundreds of petitions needed to get another one started in Pennsylvania. That could be difficult.

ROMANS: All right. The holiday shopping season is off to a hot start. Cyber Monday surpasses this year's Black Friday for the biggest sales day ever. Adobe's online sales tracker shows Americans spent a record $3.4 billion yesterday, up 10 percent from last year. $1.2 billion spent on mobile devices. That's nearly a 50 percent increase. Up for the entire weekend, Americans dropped a cool $9.3 billion. Put that in perspective, that's enough money to take every person in the U.S. out to dinner.

BERMAN: With appetizers?

ROMANS: Yes, with appetizers, I think. Not a lot of drinks.

So, what were people buying? Toys for kids. You're talking Lego sets, Shopkins, I don't know what this, Nerf guns. Those are the top sellers. For adults, Samsung 4K TVs, Sony PlayStation 4 and Apple products.

BERMAN: Those are like toys for grown ups.

ROMANS: Toys -- exactly. For the big kids.

BERMAN: All right. A plane carrying a Brazilian soccer team has crashed in Colombia. Local officials are calling this a tragedy of huge proportions, but there are reports of survivors this morning. We're going to have the latest information when EARLY START continues.


[04:13:18] ROMANS: All right. Breaking news this morning. Look at this. These wildfires in Tennessee are burning out of control.

At least 30 buildings in Gatlinburg have already been torched, including a 16-storey hotel. Fire officials ordering everyone to evacuate. Residents in nearby Pigeon Forge, they are jamming highways to escape the choking smoke and planes.

You know, right now, officials for the Dollywood theme park, they are monitoring 14 separate wildfires very closely. The flames are getting close to the property. They're panned by 70-mile-an-hour winds. Firefighters are on stand by at the park this morning. So far, no reports of any fatalities. Only a handful of minor injuries and burns.

BERMAN: All right. Breaking news out of Colombia. A plane carrying 72 passengers crashed on approach to the airport in Medellin. Among those onboard, members of a Brazilian soccer club.

We want to get the latest from CNN senior Latin American affairs editor Rafael Romo.

Rafael, what are you learning?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: John, it's very tragic news for the world of soccer. What we know as of this hour is the plane carrying 72 passengers, including members of Chapecoense, the Brazilian soccer team, and nine crew members crashed south of Medellin, Colombia.

At about 10 p.m. local time, the plane declared an emergency related to some sort of electrical failure on board. At that point, the plane was a few minutes away from landing at the Medellin International Airport, on a flight that had originated in Bolivia. We're getting word that there are five survivors, including one member

of the Chapecoense team. The search and rescue efforts are under way. The mayor of Medellin said they have spared no effort to find survivors.

Access to the site of the accident is not easy. We're talking about roughed mountains and a high altitude. Chapacoense was on its play game one of two in the South American Cup.

[04:15:01] The match was to be held, John, on Wednesday. Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, Rafael. Thanks so much for watching that for us. We're going to keep abreast of it as of now, as Rafael said, five survivors reported.

ROMANS: All right. Cubans are remembering their fallen leader this morning. Tens of thousands of people waited in line Monday to pay their respects to Fidel Castro at Revolution Square in Havana. Today, Cubans will salute the dictator with hourly cannon firings and later a mass rally in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion.

President Raul Castro declared a nine-day mourning period following the death of his brother last Friday. Fidel Castro's ashes will be taken to a final resting place in Santiago Sunday, the city where Castro launched the Cuban revolution.

BERMAN: In South Carolina, former police officer Michael Slager on trial for murder is expected to testify in his own defense today. Slager is charged with shooting an unarmed African-American motorist Walter Scott, as Scott fled a traffic stop last year. A bystander captured the shooting on this video. This case could go to the jury later this week. Slager faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.

A federal judge approved a motion by defendant Dylann Roof to represent himself at trial. Roof is accused of killing nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year. He was declared competent last week to stand trial. A jury selection in the case resumed Monday. The judge ruled that Roof can object to any potential jurors he feels are not fit to decide his fate. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

But remarkable to think of him standing if front of the courtroom with survivors of that massacre, actually questioning them, you know? Some said it's almost a re-victimization of these people. It shows incredible narcissism of the defendant. But it is his right to be able if found competent to be able to represent himself.

BERMAN: Indeed.

The governor of North Dakota issuing an order to evacuate the area with thousands of people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been camped out for months. The governor cites anticipated harsh weather conditions. It says the order will stay in place indefinitely. State officials say they will not use law enforcement or the National Guard to enforce this. Anyone who does not comply, does so at their own risk.

ROMANS: All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour. Thousands of civilians fleeing Aleppo this morning as Syrian government forces rapidly advance on that city. Helpless trapped citizens are being shelled as they try to escape the carnage.

We've got a live report.


[04:21:56] BERMAN: New this morning, Syria on the brink. Rebel fighters lost control of a large chunk of northeast Aleppo to government forces. Thousands of civilians are now fleeing with hundreds killed during the latest regime offensive.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh watching these developments for us from London.

And Aleppo in some ways, Nick, one of the last strongholds for these rebel fighters.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Make no mistake, John, if this does continue at the pace it seems to be where the Syrian regime advancing and to the shell of the city where the U.N. suggests maybe 200,000 people may still trying to eek out a life here, this is a substantial turning point in the war, the we haven't seen the likelihood frankly since ISIS declared they controlled large chunks of territory inside area.

It is the key part of the rebel, urban territory here. They held out from sieges, from air strikes, from food shortages that now seen the remaining hospitals bombed out of existence. Now, it does appear that a combination of regime militia, potentially with Iranian, Iraqi militia backing them up, surging through, cutting that territory in half and now, it seems the northern part they managed to split in two is falling into regime hands.

Questions about what happened to e civilians. Obviously, the history of this bodes very badly for men who may find themselves in the regime hands with execution or torture as well, and also, we're hearing tens of thousands fleeing in various different directions. Some, in fact, walking kilometers on foot. This is a humanitarian crisis. It may just beginning. It may take weeks, but it is certainly a moment every feared could happen. But the outside world has seem themselves frankly, the Western world certainly powerless to stop and is one of the most chilling moments we have seen yet in this already horrifying war -- John.

BERMAN: There is also the relentless months and months long attack back up as you said, by many different groups. Nick Paton Walsh in London for us -- thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. Investigators are trying to determine what killed three elderly people at a Thanksgiving dinner in California. At least eight others became ill after eating a meal prepared by Golden Hills Community Church in Contra Costa County, California. All of the victims live in the same assisted living center. Public health officials say it appears they contracted a foodborne illness.

BERMAN: Hundreds of employees at Chicago's O'Hare airport planning to strike today. Janitors, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners just some of the workers planning to hit the picket line and joining workers from at least 20 other airports across the United States. It's part of a day of disruption. Employees are fighting for a minimum wage hike of $15 an hour.

ROMANS: All right. Severe storms and rain are moving into the drought-stricken southeast this morning. It's a hopeful development in this region where wildfires have been spreading.

Let's get right to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John and Christine, here comes that rainfall we've talked about all week. You notice the elongated feature with the thunderstorms right out of Alabama, into northern Georgia, parts of Tennessee, of course, down towards areas of western North Carolina.

I want to highlight some of those regions very hard hit with not only drought, but of course, extensive wildfires across this region. And notice much of the heavy rainfall is farther south.

[04:25:01] But this is not the only wet weather pattern we are expecting over the next couple days. The front will here skirt on and bring more beneficial rainfall across the Southeast. But another disturbance could form right out of the Gulf of Mexico, that will bring in more rainfall, potentially on Wednesday, as well across the region.

So, certainly not done with it yet. The second round can bring in the heavy rains where we need it most, right around eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, where as much as four to six inches could come down. There's a severe weather element in Tupelo, Jackson, down towards Baton Rouge generally for winds and hail.

Of course, few isolated tornadoes possible across this region. It is an enhanced risk, which means on a scale of one to five, a three is assigned for the category. But notice, the temps will cool off and bring you back down into the 50s around parts of the South -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thank you for that.

BERMAN: All right. The bloody rampage at the Ohio State. A Somali refugee, who was a student at the school, running down victims with his car, then the stabbing spree. Are officials going to label this attack terrorism?

ROMANS: And the president-elect tweeting up a storm. His latest target, CNN. We'll tell you why he is angry again with this network, when EARLY START continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)