Return to Transcripts main page


Final Hours of Ohio State Attacker; Trump Goes After CNN on Twitter; Wildfires Out of Control in Tennessee; Deadly Plane Crash in Colombia; Battle for Aleppo. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2016 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. This morning, CNN is learning more about the Somali refugee behind a stabbing spree at Ohio State. His final Facebook post could point investigators to terrorism.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump tweeting up a storm. We'll tell you why the president-elect is now targeting CNN or rather again targeting CNN.

BERMAN: Entire cities evacuated. Wildfire burning out of control in Tennessee. Now, the flames are heading toward a tourist attraction.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, November 29th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the east. Nice to see you all this morning.

So, the big story, was it an act of terrorism? This morning, investigators are examining the Facebook posts of Abdul Razak Ali Artan. He is the Somali immigrant who carried out the stabbing attack on the campus of Ohio State University. 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.

Listen to this frantic 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.


ROMANS: CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown is in Columbus with more on the Ohio State attack and the investigation.


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."

[05:00:02] 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


BERMAN: All right. Pamela Brown, thanks so much.

Donald Trump this morning going after CNN on Twitter for our reports questioning the president-elect's claims about voter fraud. His claims which have no basis in evidence. Trump has shared tweets from supporters who are hitting our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Zeleny reported there was no proof or is no proof of voter fraud.

One of Trump's retweets is from a 16-year-old calling Zeleny pathetic, arguing there is no evidence Trump did not suffer from voter fraud. Note the double negative there.

Another retweet from Trump goes after Zeleny as a generic CNN part- time wannabe journalist. Fittingly, 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 journalists here still working."

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


MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Look forward 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. Price is an orthopedic surgeon. He is a vocal critic of Obamacare. He believes regulatory burdens and taxes and lawsuits against medical professionals are the real reason for soaring health care costs.

BERMAN: President-elect Trump's big meeting today. He will be breaking bread with Mitt Romney. The 2012 nominee is a contender for secretary of state. And that despite the fact that a whole lot of Trump loyalists are very, very upset about the fact that Trump would even consider Mitt Romney, given all the things that Mitt Romney had to say about Donald Trump during this campaign.

Sources tell CNN the dinner will be private. Although, I wouldn't be surprised from both of them how it goes not long after it.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas, they will meet with the president-elect today. Corker is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Michael McCaul is chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. Corker is up to be the secretary of state gig, along with Rudy Giuliani and David Petraeus. McCaul said to be a possibl player for homeland security.

ROMANS: All right. 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: I want to bring in "Newsday" columnist and talk radio host, Ellis Henican.

Ellis, thanks so much for being with us.

ROMANS: Good morning.

ELLIS HENICAN, NEWSDAY COLUMNIST: Good morning, guys. Hello.

BERMAN: Let's start with what we know about today. We know that Donald Trump is going to have dinner tonight with Mitt Romney.

HENICAN: He's got to eat.

BERMAN: He's got to eat. Number one, we know he's got to eat. This is their second face-to-face meeting.

So, obviously, Donald Trump is entertaining the idea of having Mitt Romney as secretary of state.


HENICAN: We know this isn't an accident. We don't really know the motivation. Is he really considering Mitt to be secretary of state? Is he messing with people? Is he sending out a signal?

BERMAN: Do you think it's really possible he's spending all this time just to mess with Mitt Romney?

HENICAN: I think that the pageantry of this is a key part of the entire episode, right? I mean, the fact that these people come in and camped in the lobby of Trump Tower, trying to guess.

[05:05:03] He wants us all thinking, engaging, and wondering. Is it, are we going to know by the salad or is it only going to be by the soup?

The point of all of this, John, I believe at least in part is the presentation.

ROMANS: Presentation. Well, it looks messy, the presentation in some of the areas. I mean, let's look about David Petraeus first. To see if there is a fray internally with Kellyanne Conway and others about this. This is what "The Daily News" says, sorry state of affairs about General Petraeus.

David Petraeus, you know, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. Trump won an election basically by hammering his opponent about classified information.

HENICAN: You noticed that.

ROMANS: And let's listen to what Rand Paul said yesterday on "THE SITUATION ROOM" about the David Petraeus possibility.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: They spent a year and a half beating up Hillary Clinton over revealing classified information and then they would appoint somebody who the FBI says not only revealed but lied about it in an interview and purposely gave it to someone who did not have the clearance to have that. I think that's a potential problem.


HENICAN: A political problem, right?

ROMANS: A political problem, but David Petraeus, he could solve a different problem for team Trump. You know, this choice between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.

HENICAN: That's right, because he is someone who has general credibility. Most people like him. They consider him one of the leading --

ROMANS: Right. He knows what's going on.

HENICAN: He's a big guy, you know? He is a -- now we learned that Trump believes in the drop the box, the idea that even ex-offenders should have second chances going forward.

BERMAN: You know, actually, you used an interesting word. You said general credibility. He would be the third general, by the way, in this cabinet. If James Mattis is the secretary of defense, you know, and Michael Flynn, that's a lot of generals. More than we have seen in a long time.

HENICAN: Yes, yes, yes.

BERMAN: Some people think that is an issue. Other people, of course, would have no problem with that. And there are a lot of people, by the way, in the Obama administration currently think Petraeus would do a great job.

HENICAN: Yes. And he's not an incendiary character in the same way that Mitt is for some of the Trump loyalists, that Giuliani is for so many folks. He might be a calmer answer for all concerned.

ROMANS: What do you make about the discussion about a frayed state of affairs inside Team Trump over the secretary of state pick, over Mitt Romney pick in particular, you know? I mean, do you think we are seeing the internal struggle, you know, spilling out here? Or this is what's happening?

HENICAN: I do think this is part of the battle, with the soul of the Trump administration. I mean, Kellyanne piece of it is so interesting. I mean, she's always been, you know, pretty much of a loyalist. She is not the person who has run a lot of rogue operations.

So, you either have to say this thing is orchestrated and she is out there with a stated clear purpose from above or maybe there's something else going on and we are picking up the early signs.

BERMAN: Or maybe you're allowed to have these kind of fights in Trump world. Maybe Donald Trump doesn't mind that there's kind of public figuring. You know, Kellyanne Conway last night, overnight, made sure to tweet this photo because there was a notion that Mitt Romney wasn't happy. Sorry, I said Romney. That Donald Trump is not happy that she's out there attacking Mitt Romney.

ROMANS: We heard furious and we heard irritated. Two different kinds of --

BERMAN: So, Kellyanne Conway puts this picture out to refute it and says, you know, "Donald Trump and I working hard tonight. Thank you for the privilege of a lifetime."

HENICAN: Here's what I think we know for certain. The fact that someone leaks it doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Get used to the new reality of Washington. Just because you say it, doesn't have to be true. Take a look at the voter fraud thing, by the way.

ROMANS: I know. He went after Jeff Zeleny last night about the voter fraud thing. Where is the evidence, Mr. President-elect? I mean, that's the big question. If you have this evidence of millions of people.

HENICAN: Right, give me some cases.

ROMANS: And also the intellectual honesty of the argument. What you are saying you won, but you are saying it was flawed. Doesn't that undermine your own victory?

HENICAN: It is not a consistent argument. Listen, facts matter, right? I mean, we're in the business of trying to nail stuff down and figure what we know and what we don't know. Be transparent about it. Honestly, in the long run, I think that's what's going to save the media here, right? If something is bogus, and we know it's bogus, let's say it is bogus.

BERMAN: Show us the proof.

HENICAN: Lay it on me.

BERMAN: Give it to us. He says there is millions of people voting fraudulently. He has no proof.

ROMANS: Rewind, rewind, rewind. I think there is something going on with the president's birth certificate. I'm told. Show us the proof. Well, I have people tell me. I have sources who say. It's the same kind of thing.

HENICAN: We have seen this in campaigns thousands of times. We have never seen it with the president-elect or maybe even a president.

ROMANS: Add it to the list of things we have never seen.

BERMAN: We're seeing it now. Ellis Henican, thanks so much for being with us.

ROMANS: All right. The holiday shopping season off to a hot start. Cyber Monday surpasses this year's Black Friday for the biggest sales day ever.

Adobe online sales tracker shows Americans spent a record $3.4 billion yesterday. That's up 10 percent from last year, $1.2 billion spent on mobile devices. That's nearly 50 percent increase from 2015. For the entire weekend, Americans dropped a cool $9.36 billion.

[05:10:02] To put that into perspective, that's enough to take every person in the U.S. out to dinner.

So, what were people buying? Toys. For kids, it was Lego sets, Shopkins, and Nerf guns. Those are the top sellers.

For the adults, Samsung 4K TVs, Sony PlayStation and Apple iPads.

BERMAN: I want a Nerf iPad. It won't break when you drop it.

ROMANS: Nerf Lego.

BERMAN: Just throwing that out there.

All right. A plane carrying a Brazilian soccer club has crashed in Colombia. Authorities called this a tragedy of huge proportions. But we are getting word just in this morning that there are survivors, which is remarkable given the pictures we have seen.

We'll have the very latest, next.


BERMAN: All right. The breaking news this morning: wildfires in Tennessee. At least 14 30 buildings in Gatlinburg had been hit already, including a 16-storey hotel. Fire officials have ordered everyone to evacuate. Residents in nearby Pigeon Forge are hitting the highways. They want to escape the smoke and flames.

Right now, officials at Dollywood are monitoring the fires very closely. These fires are spreading close to the property. They're getting blown by a 70-mile-an-hour winds. Firefighters are on stand by at the park this morning. So far, no reports of any fatalities and only a handful of minor injuries and burns.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking news this morning out of Colombia. Reports that a plane carrying 72 passengers crashed on approach to the Medellin Airport. Among those onboard, members of a Brazilian soccer team.

Let's get the latest from CNN senior Latin America affairs editor Rafael Romo.

And we are hearing reports of survivors, some survivors? RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: That's right,

Christine. There are five survivors now. Colombian authorities are reporting that there are five survivors. But the other bad news that they have confirmed is that the 76 people have died as a result of this plane crash in the outskirts of the city of Medellin, Colombia.

There were original reports that there were six survivors, but one died on their way to the hospital, and the plane was carrying 72 passengers, including members of Chapacoense, a soccer team from southern Brazil, and nine crew members.

It crashed southeast in the city of Medellin in Colombia. At about 10:00 p.m. local time, Christine, the plane declared an emergency related to some sort of electrical failure onboard. At that point, the plane was only just a few minutes from landing at Medellin International Airport, on a flight that had originated in Bolivia.

The search and rescue efforts are well underway, but access to the site of the accident is not easy. As a matter of fact, the operations were suspended because of poor visibility in the area. And we're talking about rugged mountains and high altitude.

Chapacoense was on its way to play game one of two in the South American Cup. The match would be held on Wednesday in Medellin and then the second one would have been played on December 7th in Brazil.

Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: This is just a sad story. All right. Keep us posted on anymore developments. Thank you, Rafael.

BERMAN: All right. Cubans are remembering Fidel Castro 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 on Sunday, that's the city where Castro launched the Cuban revolution.

ROMANS: 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.

BERMAN: 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.

ROMANS: The governor of North Dakota issuing an order to evacuate the area where thousands of people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been camped out for months. The governor cites anticipated harsh weather conditions and says the order will stay in place indefinitely.

State officials say they will not use law enforcement or the National Guard to enforce that. Anyone who does not comply, does so at their own risk. It is cold out there. They have been there for weeks protesting that pipeline.

They are really concerned about sacred burial sites for the Native American tribes. They are concerned about water quality. They have been for sometime. I would be surprised if all of them leave.

BERMAN: No. I bet you they will not.

Thousands of civilians are fleeing Aleppo this morning. Syrian government forces are making huge advances on that city and helpless civilians are being killed as they try to escape. We're going to have a live report, next.


[05:23:45] ROMANS: All right. Welcome back. Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

Humanitarian crisis is widening in Syria, as rebel fighters lose control of a large chunk of northeast Aleppo to government forces. Thousands of civilians are now fleeing for their lives with hundreds already killed during this regime offensive.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is monitoring the latest developments live from London.

And, Nick, this looks like a turning point for those rebels dug in there.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, Aleppo is being the symbol of rebel defiance of the Damascus regime here. Sometimes jihadists in their mix and one place where we have seen such intense bombardment and civilians suffering over these past years.

But it does appear that what many thought was the unthinkable is now happening. The stalemate with rebel forces is being broken by the regime pushing through quite decisively from the west that they control, to split in two the eastern part of the city which the rebels hold. And they seem to be focusing their fire power most on the north. And there are reports that 20 percent to 30 percent of the area is potentially under their control now.

That is a very symbolic moments in the Syrian conflict, ghastly and bloody, and multi-faceted as it has been. But put that strategic issue aside. We are now dealing with 200,000 people according to the U.N., who were badly in need of food and no hospitals to turn to, who are seeing a very hostile regime force advance toward them.

[05:25:08] They've been accused of torture and summary execution as well. Humanitarian crisis, the west have seen emerged slowly over the past months been powerless to prevent and we now see unfold very gruesomely in the weeks ahead -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much for that, Nick. Keep us posted there.

Still a humanitarian crisis, no question in Aleppo.

BERMAN: Investigators 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 the Golden Hills Community Church in Contra Costa. All of the victims live in the same assisted living center. Public health officials say it appears they contracted a foodborne illness.

ROMANS: All right. That bloody rampage at Ohio State University. What we know about the Somali student at the school who rammed down victims with his car and stabbed them. Will authorities officially label this attack terrorism?

BERMAN: And Donald Trump asking for evidence for the claims he is making. We'll have the latest when EARLY START continues.