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CNN NEWSROOM

Michele Knight's Mother Speaks Out; Former S.C. Gov. Wins House Seat; Castro's Domestic Violence History; Nuclear Command Shakeup; Witness: White House tried to Cover up Benghazi

Aired May 8, 2013 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Zoraida Sambolin is live in Cleveland. She spoke with members of Knight's family.

What did they say?

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, they said a lot, Carol. And I guess what's really surprising, and you mentioned it, surprising to me right off the bat, was a lot of these family members had no idea that she had been kidnapped. They said that they thought that she was living in another state with somebody else. And so they found out that she had been kidnapped by the reports of she had been rescued. So that was really shocking.

Another thing is that her brother, Freddie, you know, talked about the relationship that they had with their mother. He says that when he was just 14 years old, that his mother kicked him out of the house because he showed up late for a soccer game. He has very mixed emotions about his mother now coming back, trying to reunite with Michele.

Freddie did go to the hospital, and he spent time with his sister, and he talked to her, but, you know, he doesn't have very positive feelings about his mother. His mother did appear on the "Today" show this morning. I want to play a little bit about what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA KNIGHT, MICHELE KNIGHT'S MOTHER: That I love you, and I missed you all this time. And hopefully whatever happened between us, if something did, I hope it heals. Because I really want to take her back to Florida with me. I don't want to leave her up in Cleveland.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: I got to tell you, Carol, the family was firm on this. They said that they do not want their mother or Freddie, in particular, does not want his mother to take Michele back. He said, look, she failed us once. How can we trust that she won't fail us again? He had some very harsh words because of the way that he's been treated. I want you to listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FREDDIE KNIGHT, MICHELE KNIGHT'S BROTHER: I don't like my mom. I hate my mom completely.

SAMBOLIN: Why?

F. KNIGHT: Because what she let the uncle do to us and my sister, me and my uncle beat the hell out of us. She -- he pushed my sister (INAUDIBLE), down and my cousin Michael down on the ground, he a blood clot in his head. My mom didn't help us. When my uncle was doing that, she couldn't do anything. She didn't try to stop it. I'd call the police.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: You know, Carol, I asked Freddie, was she actually responsible for the abuse that was happening in the home that forced you to leave the home? And he said, no, she wasn't the one who actually committed the abuse, but she also didn't stop it. And so, you know, some very bitter words.

There was another woman present there, her name is Barb, and she was actually part of the search effort when Michele first disappeared, and we've heard the mom say repeatedly that she canvassed the neighborhood, that she put up all these flyers throughout the neighborhood, trying to find her daughter, but what Barb says is that, yes, they went and canvassed the neighborhood, they went to police, but there were no flyers ever distributed and that shortly thereafter, Barb kind of -- gave up looking for her daughter.

So, you know, that's the story from the family and in particular that young man who is very bitter about the situation right now.

COSTELLO: So basically Michele Knight went from one nightmare situation to a worst nightmare.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, yes.

COSTELLO: It also makes you wonder if her family told police --

SAMBOLIN: Very unfortunate.

COSTELLO: -- that she was a runaway. Police probably didn't look for her as stringently as they might.

SAMBOLIN: Well, you know what's interesting, they did tell them that not -- you know, she was older, right, 20 years old, but she was mentally challenged and they did give that information to police. They were hoping that that would help them look a little bit more aggressively for her because, you know, what they kept on saying yesterday was she's slow. She's slow. And I asked them to define what that meant.

And, you know, she has a developmental disability. And so they were eager to make sure that they could help her and find her. She went out to make a phone call, she never returned home. And so at the end of the day, they were a little disappointed in police in what they believed were the lack of effort in trying to find her.

COSTELLO: What else can you say? Zoraida, thanks so much.

SAMBOLIN: It breaks your heart.

COSTELLO: It does. It really does.

More special live coverage from Cleveland in just a minute. But just ahead in the NEWSROOM, disgraced former governor, Mark Sanford, he's the comeback kid. He's heading back to Congress. Hear him talk about his big win and how he compares himself to a saint.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: We'll have more live coverage from Cleveland in just a minute. But first let's talk about a huge political comeback for former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. He is now celebrating after winning an open congressional seat that he actually once held.

CNN's national political correspondent Jim Acosta is in Charleston, South Carolina and he didn't win by just a little bit, but by a lot.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You might say the voters have forgiven Mark Sanford. It was a long and winding trail for the former South Carolina governor, but he does appear to be out of woods. He is no longer that former governor of the Appalachian Trail. He is now congressman elect, Mark Sanford.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: Some guy came up to me the other day and he said, you look a lot like Lazarus.

(LAUGHTER)

ACOSTA: Once left for dead in the political wilderness, Mark Sanford blazed a comeback trail that will take him all the way to Washington.

SANFORD: I just want to acknowledge a --

(LAUGHTER)

A god, not just of second chances but third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth chances. Because that is the reality of our shared humanity.

ACOSTA: Sanford captured a vacant South Carolina congressional seat by decisive margin. Overcoming a scandal that nearly destroyed his political career. The extramarital affair with a mistress from Argentina that he once falsely claimed was a hike on the Appalachian Trail may finally be behind him.

(On camera): Is this redemption?

SANFORD: You know, I think we're always on the search for redemption. I think that this is certainly a degree of political redemption. And we'll see where things go from here. It's less about that than it is about the second chance to make an impact in Washington, D.C., where I think impact is desperately needed.

ACOSTA: If Sanford's life is at times seemed like a trashy romance novel, this latest chapter has been a real page turner. For some voters, all was forgiven.

KAREN DAVIS, SANFORD SUPPORTER: He who is without sin cast the first stone.

ACOSTA: Others not so much.

HEIDI MCALLISTER FRANCIS, COLBERT BUSCH SUPPORTER: Yes, I don't like him, I don't trust him. I don't respect him.

ACOSTA: But it wasn't enough to help Sanford's opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, in this conservative district.

ELIZABETH COLBERT BUSCH (D), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I will continue to fight for all of you in South Carolina.

SANFORD: Thank you as well for being here, love. Appreciate it. Thank you.

ACOSTA: As for Sanford, his personal life is also on the mend. His mistress is now his fiancee, a chapter she's keeping private for now.

MARIA BELEN CHAPUR, MARK SANFORD'S FIANCEE: It's Mark's night. Thank you so much for everything, but it's his night. So I hope you understand.

ACOSTA (on camera): People are going to want to know, can we trust this guy? Is he going to let us down?

SANFORD: You asked that question before, and you're coming back to the same question, and I give you the same answer, which is that -- that trust is ultimately earned.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And the voters are going to find out if trust is earned. Mark Sanford could be sworn in as early as this week, But Democrats are already mocking his comeback, one top party operative said he should be placed on the Foreign Affairs Committee, but, Carol, I talked to one voter yesterday who said -- yes, they went there, but I talked to one voter yesterday who said if he screws up again, quote, "God help him" -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I'm sure he has that in his head already. Jim Acosta, reporting live from Charleston, South Carolina, this morning.

ACOSTA: Yes.

COSTELLO: Still ahead on the NEWSROOM, more of our special live coverage from Ohio. New court documents CNN just received detail horrible alleged abuse from Ariel Castro to his former wife. We'll detail that. We'll also talk more about the victims when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COSTELLO: All right. CNN has managed to get a hold of some court documents, detailing alleged horrible, violent domestic abuse at the hands of Ariel Castro. Our senior producer, Scott Brownstein, is on the phone. This is just -- I don't know, I read through some of this earlier, it's just awful.

SCOTT BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Hi, Carol. Yes. It's pretty disturbing. The allegations of abuse that are detailed in these documents are quite serious. The documents that they've obtained. These are from the domestic relations Cuyahoga County court. And from 2005, (INAUDIBLE) Figueroa, the wife of Ariel Castro clearly outlines in the documents, she was allegedly given by Mr. Castro, two broken noses, in dozen occasions. Several broken ribs, should have a tooth knocked out, she has a blood clot to her brain. She had both shoulders dislocated, one side and then the other, and on repeated occasions, she was threatened with death by Mr. Castro.

Now initially she sought a protective order, that was initially granted in 2005, but later that year because of repeated delays, and Mr. Castro's absence of a hearing, that was dismissed without prejudice, does not mean guilt or lack of guilt. Simply means the protective order was dismissed.

COSTELLO: Well, of course you know, there's a lot more investigating to on our part to do on this -- this latest development, but I'm just wondering why he wasn't charged with assault.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes I had the same question. We're trying to find legal experts to find out exactly the answer to that question. We don't yet know but we do know that clearly the allegations were made in court and clearly at least for a time, they were upheld at least enough to -- to establish a protective order that year.

COSTELLO: And I understand from reading reports and the Cleveland "Plain Dealer" that Ariel Castro's former wife is now deceased, but she also alleges in these documents that he threatened to also kill their children and abduct them, is that right?

BROWNSTEIN: That's correct. On repeated occasions it states.

COSTELLO: I'm just reading -- I'm just -- it's just awful. Interestingly, this happened -- this allegedly happened in 2005, you know in 2004, Ariel Castro drove a school bus, right --

BROWNSTEIN: That's correct.

COSTELLO: -- which is kind of frightening to think about. And we also interviewed his son or somebody interviewed his son and his son didn't mention abuse, the family members we talked to didn't mentioned this kind of abuse directed at Ariel Castro's wife it's just curious. BROWNSTEIN: Yes, it is. Obviously so much more needs to come out on this. But clearly the court documents seem to portray very serious abuse and violence. And it was at least upheld for a time and that's a court order for protection.

COSTELLO: All right. I'm sure you're going to be on this case all day long. Scott Brownstein, thank you so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks Carol.

COSTELLO: More on a -- more on our special coverage from Ohio in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: This just in to CNN.

A massive shakeup involving our nation's nuclear weapons -- 17 Air Force officers now stripped -- stripped of their authority to control and launch nuclear missiles. Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more on this story.

This sounds pretty disturbing, actually.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Disturbing to say the least, Carol and unprecedented even, according to the Air Force itself. Here's what's happened, a unit in North Dakota, they are in charge of being ready around the clock to launch nuclear missiles. If it comes to that, 17 officers told to stand down go back to class and get retrained because they are full of problems in that unit.

There's been a very emotional e-mail from their commanding officer who says and I want to quote from some of this e-mail "We're discovering such rot in the crew force" -- these are nuclear weapons officers -- such rot in the crew force that he says there have been violations of safety rules and even potential mishandling of nuclear launch codes; 17 of them told they must go back for training for another 60 to 90 days.

He talks about the complainers in the unit. He says that has to stop. He says, quote, "that he'll crush any rule violators." He says "the unit is in crisis." He goes on and then he gets into some of the details. What he wants to see in terms of more discipline in this unit. He says "Turn off the TVs, clean your patches, uniforms and get your haircut and bring to my attention immediately any officer who bad mouths a senior officer."

What's really going on here is this may sound minor to those in the civilian world, but in the nuclear launch world, there is no room for lack of discipline. As I think everybody would understand and this guy has really cracked down and we are hearing he has support at the highest levels of the Air Force for what he's doing -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All I can say is good for him, Barbara Starr reporting live from the Pentagon this morning. One of the so-called whistle blowers will testify in just a few hours on the Benghazi terror attack. And Republicans say he will offer proof of a White House cover-up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Later this morning, we are expecting to hear from a witness who says the Obama administration not only botched its response to the Benghazi terror attack, but also tried to cover it up. Ambassador Chris Stevens, as you know, and three other Americans were killed in that attack.

And Republicans they want to know why? CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash has more for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: House Republican sources insist their State Department witnesses will reveal new information about mistakes before, during and after September's deadly Benghazi attack and bolster GOP claims of an Obama administration cover-up.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Whistle blowers are courageous to come forward and they're essential in a case like this.

BASH: A star witness is GOP witness is Gregory Hicks, the second ranking U.S. diplomat in Libya at the time of the attack. Hicks will say administration officials knew from the start the attack was not what they publicly suggested -- a spontaneous demonstration. "I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning." Hicks told investigators.

That goes to the heart of a central Republican question about those infamous administration talking points about the attack. Who stripped out references to al Qaeda and why? Republicans call it a political decision, a fear of stepping on the President's campaign message that he crippled al Qaeda.

ISSA: We want to find out who made this decision, who made the decision to change talking points in a way that caused the American people to be lied to.

BASH: Then there is the military response. Hicks will say military personnel were ready to board a Libyan plane to Benghazi to help Americans under fire there but were ordered by superiors not to go.

ISSA: They may not have arrived in time to save lives but at the time the decision was made, the decision was wrong.

BASH: Who made that decision?

ISSA: We want to find out who made this decision.

BASH: Democrats warn it will be a partisan show. REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: We have been iced out.

BASH: The Committee's top Democrat complains Republicans won't let them talk to one of the whistle blower witnesses, a counterterrorism official. Elijah Cummings calls that unprecedented.

CUMMINGS: Everything that I've seen so far with regard to this investigation shows me that it is a one-sided investigation. And it leaves me sad, really. I just know that we're better than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Dana Bash joins us lie now. So I'm going to be cynical because you know I always am. How much of this is about Hillary Clinton and trying to tarnish her name just in case she decides to run for president?

BASH: You know, I asked Darrell Issa the chair of this committee that very question and his response was not at all. They're making no specific allegations about her. But he and other Republicans like Jason Chaffetz who is another House Republican who is really leading this charge also have said recently that they believe that when she came to Congress, she didn't tell the truth about her dealings and her responsibility and what she really was involved in and what she wasn't.

So that's something that we're probably going to hear either implicitly, maybe not explicitly from Republicans, maybe even some of the witnesses. The thing to remember I think going into this hearing is that all of the witnesses, they may be whistleblowers and by definition they have a beef with the way the State Department and the broader administration handled this.

They may be right, but they are also giving their opinion and what Democrats are upset about is that there aren't other people to give the other side of this story because they say there really is another side of the story.

COSTELLO: Dana Bash reporting live for us this morning, thank you.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)