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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Boston Bombing Investigation; Radicalizing Influences?; Raid By Russian Special Forces; Court Hearing For Mississippi Man; Defeated Senate Gun bill To Return?; Washington Cracks A Joke; Lakers Knocked Out Of Playoffs; Miami Heat Advance Past Bucks; Six Months Since Hurricane Sandy
Aired April 29, 2013 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- may have influenced or helped the Tsarnaevs. That includes Tsarnaev's mother, as well as Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell who converted to Islam when she married Tamerlan in 2010.
The FBI and Russian officials are working together trying to determine if the Tsarnaev brothers had help carrying out the Boston marathon attacks. The Texas congressman who heads the House Homeland Security Committee appears convinced, he says, that they did have help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: I think given the level of sophistication of this device, the fact that the pressure cooker is a signature device that goes back to Pakistan, Afghanistan, leads me to believe, and the way they handled these devices, and the trade craft leads me to believe that there was a trainer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: CNN's Nic Robertson is following developments for us live from Dagestan this morning. Good morning, Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. And you certainly when you get somebody who's gone away to a place like Dagestan, as we've seen with other terror attackers, where they've gone to get training in Pakistan, for example, it's when they come back, that's when they begin to activate their plans.
Now, there's no hard evidence yet that Tamerlan Tsarnaev did hear, that he did make connections, but if there was anywhere where it was going to be relatively straight forward for him to be able to meet with people who regularly made bombs, Dagestan is the place.
This is an active fight going on between rebels and the government here, and the mosque that he was attending here had reputation for being a hard-line mosque under surveillance by government officials because of the hard-line reputation they had.
And they would believe that if he was going to make contact with somebody, that. But no hard evidence so far that this was absolutely the sort of region where you could get the bomb making training and experience and know-how that a lot of people suspect he may have received -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Nic Robertson following the investigation for us this morning in Dagestan. Nic, our thanks to you.
Meanwhile, Christine Romans back in New York with the rest of the day's top stories. Good morning, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning again, John. A Mississippi man is due in court today accused of sending letters to President Obama and two others, letters tainted with the deadly poison ricin.
The 41-year-old James Everett Dutschke, a martial arts instructor and a former political candidate was arrested over the weekend. He is charged with possession and usage of a biological agent. Dutschke allegedly sent the tainted letters to the president, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and a local Mississippi judge.
The gun bill that would have expanded background checks shot down two weeks ago in the Senate might be coming back. The bill's co-sponsor Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia says there was confusion the first time around and he's not giving up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pat Toomey, co-sponsor of Manchin-Toomey says he's done.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I don't think he's done. I was with Pat last night and Pat's totally committed to this bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to make it clear. You are going to bring this bill back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the Senate floor and you think it's going to be different?
MANCHIN: I truly believe that if we have time to sell the bill and people will read the bill and I'm willing to go anywhere in this country. I'm willing to debate anybody on this issue, read the bill and you tell me what you don't like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: A ban on assault weapons is also defeated in the April 17th vote. Majority Leader Harry Reid said at the time that he was hitting the pause on gun legislation. This week star of Washington, the media and Hollywood, gathered to roast themselves, raise money, and award excellence in journalism.
Comedian, Conan O'Brien and President Obama hit it out of the park with lines like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: These days I look in the mirror and I have to admit I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be.
CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN, HOST, "CONAN": As you all know the president is hard at work creating jobs. Since he was first elected the number of popes has doubled and the number of tonight show hosts has tripled. Congratulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Don Baer was at the dinner and the parties that followed. He's a former senior adviser to President Clinton. He is now the worldwide chair and CEO of Burson-Marsteller. Thanks so much for being here.
DON BAER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Nice to see you, too. Thanks for having me.
ROMANS: What was your best moment? What do you think the best moment was?
BAER: I thought you had a couple of them that were good ones there. I also liked the president's line about his own presidential library, you know, maybe being near where he was born, but he decided he wants to have it in this country. You know, so the ability to poke fun at yourself and the people who are poking at you, I think, at the same time is pretty good.
ROMANS: How did the room respond?
BAER: The room loved it. They loved the president's remarks and they loved Conan's remarks. You know, one of the things about the president, I've noticed. He has great comic timing in terms of his delivery. I think Conan maybe should watch out, because perhaps when the president is done in the White House, he might become a late night television host.
ROMANS: You know, I got to ask you though. We talk about how the room loved the president. The president worked the room. I mean, are they -- is this too close for comfort? Does this shine a lot on Washington that maybe we don't want to see that cozy?
BAER: I don't think so. I mean, look, there's so much attention and focus paid on the divisiveness in Washington. You just had a piece about the gun fights. This, you know, this is a moment, at least, when people come together, and are able to appreciate one another in a social setting.
By the way, it's not just one big party. You know, there are things all weekend long where people are being thrown together. So I think it's all for the better, really, at the end of the day.
ROMANS: All right, you've been to 27 of these. BAER: It's hard to believe.
ROMANS: We've been to, we, you sent us some picture with the Psy, M.C. Hammer. I mean, there are a lot of people you don't necessarily associate with the inner workings of politics in Washington. So do you think the celebrity presence has gotten a little out of hand here?
BAER: Well, I guess you could say that. Although I have to say I really had a great conversation with M.C. Hammer who was a fascinating and really informed person and we talked a lot about new media and investments in the internet, which he is very active in and these people, it's great to be exposed to and learn from different kinds of people from all over.
Those of us who live and work in Washington and live and work in different sort of sectors, we don't always get a chance to be exposed to these people and have opportunities with them. So it's fine. By the way, everyone loves a good time. So why not have one?
ROMANS: I know it's access to that good time you know I mean and listen what better newsman Tom Brokaw. He said, it was always a fun gathering but work could be done. It was a mix of important Washington sources and then somewhere along the line it began to freewheel out of control.
And then we got to the point where everyone had to bring in whatever paid celebrity happened to be around and for me the breaking point was Lindsay Lohan. She became a big star at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Give me a break. Does Tom have a point?
BAER: You know, you can still get business done there. You can talk to people and meet with people. I was able to have conversations with about a half a dozen people that would have taken me three weeks to reach by telephone or in person.
I'm sure if Tom came, he would still be able to do a lot of work with sources, and really advance whatever journalistic agenda that he had. So I wouldn't worry too much about all the other things at the margins. It is a big, big party now.
There's no question about it. But, it's number one, nothing wrong with the nice party so people could have a good time, especially when they're working as hard as they're all working here in Washington, even if they're not getting much done. And number two, there's still work to be done even during a weekend like this.
ROMANS: Do you think Conan did a good job?
BAER: Conan was great. I thought he was terrific.
ROMANS: All right, nice to see you.
BAER: Nice to see you. Thanks a lot.
ROMANS: Don Baer, take it easy. All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, it's been six months since Superstorm Sandy unleashed its fury on the east coast. We're going to talk with one woman who lost everything. She joins us with Congressman Michael Grimm with a look at where this recovery now stands.
And it's NBA playoff time. "Bleacher Report" looks at who's in and who's out. You're watching STARTING POINT.
ROMANS: It's 41 minutes after the hour. There was no Hollywood ending for the Los Angeles Lakers last night. They were knocked out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs. Jared Greenberg is here with more in today's "Bleacher Report." Good morning.
JARED GREENBERG, "BLEACHER REPORT": Good morning, Christine. No Hollywood ending unless you're a fan of horror movies so much for those preseason predictions that had the Lakers winning it all.
Golf season starting two months early for the Lakers who head into the off-season with more questions than answers. Sunday could have been Dwight Howard's final game in a Lakers uniform. He was ejected after scoring just seven points.
A blockbuster trade brought Howard to L.A. in August. This summer he'll be a free agent. Shortly after Howard hit the showers, Kobe Bryant made his first appearance at a Lakers game since undergoing Achilles surgery.
He was courtside as the Spurs handed the Lakers a beating, sweeping L.A. right out of the playoffs leaving celebrity row was empty. What was supposed to be a magical season is now over, a year that really seemed surreal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DWIGHT HOWARD, TALKS ABOUT "NIGHTMARE" SEASON: Like a nightmare, just like a bad dream and they couldn't wake up out of it. That's what it felt like. You know, just felt like nothing can do right from the start.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREENBERG: The basketball season does continue in Boston, after blowing a 20-point lead the Celtics needed overtime to beat the Knicks extending their season for at least one more game. Jason Terry scored nine of Boston's 13 points in the extra session. The Knicks still lead 3-1. Game five in New York on Wednesday.
Minus one superstar the defending NBA champs are one step closer to repeating. Dwyane Wade sat out with a knee injury, but Miami still has the best player in the world, Lebron James, hitting 65 percent of his shots. By the way, that's real good.
He scored a game high of 30 points as the Heat sweep the Bucks in advance to play the winner of the Chicago/Brooklyn series. Can anyone beat the Heat? Right now on bleacherreport.com, the guys discuss if any team in the eastern conference has enough to beat the Heat once, let alone in a seven-game series.
It's a bird, it's a plane, nope, just a man in a ridiculous squirrel costume. Apparently, a stash of nuts is hidden in left field. The squirrel turns on the after burners. The latest right here on CNN. The Padres are clearly buried in the cellar after their division. They did have a great weekend, but Eric Tyes stealing the spotlight.
ROMANS: All right, Jared Greenberg, thanks so much.
OK, ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, this woman lost everything in Superstorm Sandy, her daughter, her husband, her home. I'm going to talk with Pat Dresch next about the difficult recovery for many Sandy victims and the help they're still waiting to receive. You're watching STARTING POINT.
ROMANS: It has been six months since the northeast was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy and on Staten Island, which suffered some of the worst devastation, residents are still recovering.
One of the more powerful stories is that of Pat Dresch, whose husband and 13-year-old daughter were among 24 Staten Island residents to lose their lives in that storm. She joins us along with Congressman Michael Grimm to talk about the recovery and where things stand.
They both join us this morning. Thank you, nice to see both of you. I'm sorry for the circumstances.
PATRICIA DRESCH, HURRICANE SANDY SURVIVOR: Thank you.
ROMANS: Thank you for coming and reminding us what we've all been through in these six months. You're wearing your husband's wedding ring. They found it in the rubble.
DRESCH: Yes, my brother and his friends were walking down the road. He kicked a piece of China and out popped this ring. They picked it up, didn't know what it was. They brought it to me in the hospital. They said do you recognize this? I said yes, it's George's ring.
ROMANS: Wow. Tell us what happened that night.
DRESCH: We were in the house. My husband didn't want to leave because he we left in Hurricane Irene we were robbed and we stayed. We were a family. We stayed. All of a sudden the house started coming apart and we went upstairs to the bedrooms.
We went in the closet, and he said look the water's coming out through the wall, we had to get out of that room. I went in to my bathroom and I'm holding my daughter, and we felt the water rising, and I did go under in the bathroom, but I was able to pick her up.
And all of a sudden the walls just gave out and out we went out in my yard. And as we went out, she was on my arm, he was behind us. And a piece of the roof came and hit us in the head and we both went under. And I knew I lost her immediately. She was gone.
And as I'm going under, I said, I'm not going to die. They're not going to find my body under his rubble and I woke myself up and kicked myself up and as I came up out of the water, I grabbed on to the phone cables that were there.
ROMANS: The phone cables.
DRESCH: I was as high as the phone cables. I just grabbed on wires and --
ROMANS: They found you some hours later.
DRESCH: Yes, about five hours later. I floated away.
ROMANS: So now it's been six months and you have to put everything back together. Start all over again. Are you going to stay in Staten Island?
DRESCH: Yes, I am. I saw a little house that I like. And until the buyout comes, that's what I'll do. I'll sell off the property. I can't go back down there anymore.
ROMANS: So these are your constituents who are starting over, it's been six months. How has the recovery been? How has the rebuilding been, how has the money flow been? A lot of people are in transitional housing.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: It's been extremely difficult. I mean, don't get me wrong, a lot has been done, but there is still so much more to do. In many ways we're really just starting major aspects of the recovery.
And a big part of that is you have to understand $60 billion in total, $9 billion toward the replenishing, and $51 billion, that's a lot of taxpayer money. So obviously, the Congress wants to be stewards of that money and make sure that it's spent correctly for those like Pat that really need it.
And to do that through a massive city like New York and a massive state, there are a lot of things that have to be put in place. So we just approved for $1.7 billion by HUD and now we're expecting the city to be approved for $1.8 billion.
And that's going to go directly towards buyouts and exactly people like Pat to get them finally back in homes and where they need to be. But there's a lot of work to be done for not only people like that, but also the small businesses that have been struggling. And if they don't get their funding soon, unfortunately, they will close their doors forever.
ROMANS: It will be a slow process for Staten Island. I mean, with or without money, it's a slow process to come back from something like this. GRIMM: Of course. This is a massive endeavor.
ROMANS: So you get up every morning and you are working at your church. You're doing religious education for second graders.
ROMANS: How do they help you, how does that routine help you?
DRESCH: They hug, we pray together. They cry with me. They've been through so much these children, the families. They're so welcoming. They're warming. They don't know what to say to me. We just hug and cry and that means so much to me that they're out there caring for me. They have been there since day one recovering. That gets me through the days.
GRIMM: She's a strong woman. She's been through so much and I remember from seeing her in the hospital that morning, I was there in the hospital with her and we said one day at a time then and she's taken it one day at a time and she's doing remarkable. She's a real trouper.
And Staten Island will get through it, it will take time. We're working night and day, but we're a resilient tough town. And I have to tell you something, from all that the government is doing and we appreciate that, but the real heroes are just the average ordinary people that really can together in a way that I've never ever seen.
And I was a 9/11 first responder. I've seen some amazing things in my life, but the people that came and took care of pat and throughout, just amazing.
DRESCH: In the dark they were out there cooking, bringing food, the donations of clothes that came in, the cardinal came, he was firsthand on there. It's amazing.
ROMANS: It's so nice to see you. Thank you. We wish you all the strength and prayers. Congressman, nice to see you. Thank you both of you.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, back to Boston for more late breaking developments overnight in the marathon bombing case, Russian Special Forces raiding a militant organization that may be linked to one of the suspects.
And we're just a few hours away from the dramatic showdown in court between Michael Jackson's family and the concert promoter, AEG Live. Jackson's mother claims they're liable for billions of dollars in her son's death.
And most people think of him as the guy who eats weird food, but Andrew Zimmern is impacting his world by working with SUS, Services for the Underserved, which helps homeless Mew Yorkers get back on their feet. It's today's "Impact Your World."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDREW ZIMMERN, TV HOST AND CHEF: I'm Andrew Zimmern and we make an impact on providing housing and special services for those most in need. Getting ready for the first course. People are surprised whenever I look them in the eye and say, yes, I'm recovering addict and and alcoholic. And I was homeless for a year in New York.
This is a very personal issue for me. SUS provides homes and services for the underserved communities in New York. It's not enough to give a homeless person a home. You have to help train them to get back into the job service system. You have to address their mental health issues and their physical health issues.
We have 11 of the greatest chefs in the world doing an incredible dinner for a better New York. All benefits SUS. The greatest gift that I've been able to receive in life is another chance. Join the movement. Impact your world, cnn.com/impact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Boston. This morning, our STARTING POINT, a raid overnight in Russia, why Special Forces wanted this man dead and his possible connection to one of the suspected Boston bombers Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Plus, the U.S. and Russia working furiously to piece together Tamerlan's every move leading up to the marathon attack as his surviving brother is questioned in a 10x10 cell. We are live in Boston and in Moscow with the latest developing details.
Then a manhunt under way for the man behind the stabbing death of an 8-year-old girl, the family's desperate plea for help and the warning for their community.
Plus opening statements expected today in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial. A preview of the courtroom drama and shocking testimony we could hear in the coming weeks.