Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

A "Year Of Action"; Ice, Snow Slam South; Poll Numbers In After Last Night's Address; 11th Hour Reprieve for Missouri Death Row Inmate;

Aired January 29, 2014 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking overnight, the south having an ice crisis. Cities brought to a standstill, shut down this morning. Thousands of drivers at this very moment are still stranded on the roads. Students still trapped at their schools, unable to safely get home. Indra Peterson's track of the storm damage and what's coming next.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The moments you missed from the state of the union and the surprising reaction this morning. Is this end-run around Congress a good idea? We are live with what voters thought about this speech.

ROMANS: From the state of the union to the state of unbelievable. A congressman threatening to break a reporter in two, threatening to throw him off the balcony. A bizarre confrontation all caught on camera.

BERMAN: And as you like to say, not just throw you off the balcony, throw you off the blanking balcony.


BERMAN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS (on-camera): I'm Christine Romans. It's 31 minutes past the hour. We're following breaking news this morning from the south where ice and snow have paralyzed the region from Alabama to the Carolinas. You've got roads impassable, wrecks everywhere, and tens of thousands of people stranded.

BERMAN: So, Georgia hit the worst by this. And this morning, the roads in and around Atlanta are just littered with cars and trucks. Some of them just abandoned. Some of them still full of people. Some people are sleeping in their cars in the middle of the road. The roads were so icy, it's like driving in a hockey rink. Thousands had to sit all night. They couldn't get enough traction to move.

There've been nearly a thousand accidents reported in the Atlanta area alone. A thousand in the Atlanta area alone. At least seven students are still on school buses there trying to get home.


GOV. NATHAN DEAL, (R) GEORGIA: There are clogged roads, the interstates in particular, but even side roads that a car does leading to the interstates, have stranded vehicles and people who are still trying to get their vehicles moving.


ROMANS: This morning, students in Marietta, Georgia waking up inside their school. They spent the night at school after the district decided it was just too dangerous to try to send the children home. They could have been stranded on the roads. A school throughout the region report having to take extra measures here to keep their kids safe.


LEIGH COLBURN, PRINCIPAL, MARIETTA HIGH SCHOOL: They've been well fed. We've had basketball games. They're about to watch a movie in the auditorium until about 11:00 and then girls will be sleeping in the band room. Boys will be sleeping in the media center. So, at least parents don't need to risk too much getting here to get them. This is -- they're well-supervised. It's a good facility. It's warm. There's lots for them to do. So, it could be far worse.


ROMANS: Principal of the year right there.

BERMAN: -- sleepover. Meanwhile, heavy snow falling in Virginia, parts of that state facing up to a foot of snow. A state of emergency has been declared in Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth (ph), Newport News, and Virginia Beach.

ROMANS: Snow the problem as well in North Carolina. We're going to show you the scene in Charlotte. The roads there very slick. Dozens of accidents. This is an accident with an SUV crashing into a light rail train.

BERMAN: A school bus, take a look at this, flipping over on snowy roads near Asheville, North Carolina. The driver apparently losing control while trying to get six students home after an early dismissal. One of those on board did suffer a broken ankle.


MICHAEL WAYCASTER, STUDENT: Really scary, I mean, because the whole bus tipped over. And I was sitting in the seat on the other side and just kind of flew to the other side.


ROMANS: You know, there's not a lot of snow down there. It's icy roads. This is the problem, it's a little bit of ice really wrecking everything. Early school dismissals also causing trouble in Tennessee. Some buses couldn't make it to the schools to pick the kids up. Others got stuck on slick roads and that means some of the students were stranded.

BERMAN: We've been telling you about this -- a huge, huge area, Mississippi as well. While the temperatures there normally this time of year are in the 50s, but the ice-covered highways sent cars like this one in Jackson just skidding off the road.

ROMANS: Air travel is still a big mess in south because of the storm. Hundreds of flights have been canceled today. That's on top of thousands grounded ahead of the storm as a precaution. Most are in Atlanta, and that, by the way, is the world's busiest airport. The impact, of course, the ripple effect, could resonate for days across the country.

If you are trying to fly anywhere today, be sure to call your airline. A reminder to get those text alerts so that you can know when it's safe to finally go to the airport.

BERMAN: We want to know when these roads are going to be safe. Indra Petersons is watching the weather for us. Indra, you know, is the sun going to come out and melt any of this ice this morning?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I mean, it's going to get there, but it's going to be more like tomorrow. And then, you got the concern that it's going to refreeze as well. Have you ever been to -- you know, the traffic is horrific, anyway. These roads are congested very quickly. So, now, you've added just a little bit of snow. I mean, we're not talking about heavy amounts here.

All it took around the Atlanta area where it's just about two inches. Yes, in the outskirts, there were places that saw about three inches in Georgia. But again, it's just that they're not used to this kind of weather in this region. So, (INAUDIBLE) not necessarily strong. Let's take a look also the icing concern because that's part of it as well. There's a lot of ice on the roads and some of that ice is now being covered by snow.

As you can see, in places, you know, towards North Carolina, South Carolina half an inch of ice, that's enough to even take the power out so that's also the concern as this condition is still going on. Let's talk about what happened. A lot of people are confused. It's the same dome of high pressure, the same one that threat all this cold air from Canada, well, that cold air went all the way far enough to the south.

But now, it intersected with the moisture off the gulf. That's the reason that they were able to get the showers here all along the gulf yesterday, and they're still dealing with that this morning. It's all the same system. It's the same system -- northeast this morning. We're talking about a dusting. A dusting that doesn't affect us too much because we're used to it. Same problem down to the south, you get that ice first.

It's a little bit warmer than the snow. Suddenly, that combination makes it a horrific situation. Unfortunately, it is not over with yet. We're still talking about heavy amounts, Virginia Beach -- another five inches of snow here. So, we're still going to dealing with this. The good news, it is clearing out over the next several hours. Conditions will improve. It will still be cold, going to feel like to single digits out there especially with the wind chill.

Conditions will improve over the next several days. We'll be talked about that concern. That means it melts, it refreezes again tonight. So, it's another round people may not be thinking about because they think the storm maybe is gone, but you still have the icy conditions in the forecast.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Indra. Important information.

BERMAN: So, this morning, Washington waking up with a fresh layer of snow as well but also fresh promises from President Obama that he will do whatever he has to, whatever he can to get things done this year. In a state of the union address, the president insisted that Congress needs to work with him to raise the minimum wage, reduce income inequality, and reform the immigration system. He says if Congress doesn't work with him, he will do whatever he can to do whatever he can get done himself.

CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, live in Washington this morning. And Paul, you have the results of the CNN instant poll about what people who watched the speech thought of it?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Exactly. We polled people as they were watching this, after they watch the speech, and we asked them what they thought about that speech. And take a look at some of these results, and they are interesting, John and Christine. Very positive reaction to the speech.

Forty-four percent said they had a very positive reaction to the speech, but look, that's down from a year ago when 53 percent who watched last year state of the union address that they had a very positive reaction. As you, folks, just mentioned, the president saying he would take executive action to get things done. Do Americans think that's a good idea or do speech watchers think that's a good idea?

Look at this, fascinating 67 percent. Two-thirds of those we polled said it's better to do things that are bipartisan compromise to get major issues done. Only three in 10, only three in 10 say unilateral changes are the way to go. That is not probably a great number for the president. And finally, will a lot of what the president proposed last night become law actually get done? Well, Americans do not seem that optimistic.

Take a look at this. Of the speech watchers we spoke to, only eight percent said it's very likely that what he proposed last night will become law, 45 percent say somewhat likely, and almost half say not likely. Again, John and Christine, this is a poll of speech watchers, not all Americans. And since we have a Democrat in the White House, you would expect that we found that, yes, that poll is slightly more Democratic than the normal.

ROMANS: Paul, for the early birds waking up this morning who did not see that speech, about an hour of the president his fifth address to the nation, what were your highlights, the most important moments you saw?

STEINHAUSER: Well, this is interesting to me. I thought it was a speech of contrast, because at one point throughout the speech, he was giving an olive branch to Congress saying let's work together, but at the same time, he was also talking about bypassing Congress. Here's a little taste of what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I believe that here in America, our success should depend not on accident or burden, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That's how daughter of the factory worker is CEO of the America's largest automaker, how the son of a bar keep (ph) speaker of the house.


ROMANS: The only thumbs up from Boehner you're going to see all year.


OBAMA: Wherever and whenever, I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do. In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.


STEINHAUSER: One of the few thumbs up from the House speaker. But yes, there he is giving an olive branch to the top Republican in the House, but at the same time saying, guys, I will bypass you to get things done. Two other really quick points. You heard him emphasize immigration, let's get it done. But on gun control, one of the other big things he emphasized last year, barely a mention, only one paragraph.

And also, on health care, he talked about it and he laid the law the Republicans basically saying, put up or basically shut up -- John, Christine.

BERMAN: Didn't mention the website, though, Paul. I notice that. No mention to in there at all. All right. Paul Steinhauser in Washington, great to have you with us this morning. Really appreciate it.

ROMANS: And I looked into those retirement accounts that he was talking about, retirement accounts for more Americans take control of their own retirement. You know, in an economy where you don't really need to trust a big company anymore for your health insurance or maybe it's your (ph) retirement. So, that's an interesting point, too.

BERMAN: People want to learn a lot more about that.

All right. This morning, if you missed this, wow, you have to see this. There is a congressman trying to explain himself this morning after an angry threat of physical violence, folks, to a reporter. Michael Grimm was talking to a reporter from New York 1. That's an all-news cable channel about the state of the union.

When the reporter, Michael Scotto (ph), asked the congressman about an ongoing campaign finance investigation, Grimm got mad and walked off, but folks, he came back and what happened then, just wow!



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be clear if you ever do that again to me --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? Why? It was a valid question.



BERMAN: You have to recap there, he said "I will break you in half like a boy," whatever that means. He also said he would throw the reporter off the blanching balcony. The congressman in a statement said he was annoyed that the reporter asked him about the investigation when he had only agreed to talk about the state of the union. He said he's sure he will not be the last member of Congress to tell off a reporter.

ROMANS: I read his remarks very clearly, not an apology. He was squarely saying "I was not there to talk about my own investigation. I was there only to talk about the president's speech." And he was angry that he was asked another question. You could argue that the reporter was man enough to ask the question.


ROMANS: I mean, what's the man enough thing --

BERMAN: One thing telling off a reporter, and we've all been told off, but it's not always that we're threatened with physical violence including being told we're going to be broken in two.

ROMANS: That only happens at a break.

BERMAN: Exactly. That's what I get every day.

ROMANS: Stocks, higher across the board in Europe and Asia right. Early indications the buying was going to roll upon U.S. shores later this morning. Let me give you a quick check what's happening around the world. Today, Turkey's central bank aggressively hiked its interest rate to calm the jitters about overseas markets that caused a worldwide selloff earlier this week.

The Federal Reserve continues its final meeting under fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. That's today. It is widely expected the fed will signal the U.S. economy is doing better and continue to pull back on the money it's been injecting into the economy each month. So, that's what we're watching here today. Looks as though higher open for stocks --

BERMAN: You know, we're watching a whole lot because there is a lot going on. We continue to follow the breaking news, this rare winter storm causing chaos in the south. Chaos still very much going on right now. The roads a mess. People stuck there for hours and hours. We'll be live with a driver who's been stuck on the road for more than ten hours, ten hours, and he's still not home. We'll speak to him just ahead.


BERMAN: -- on the breaking news this morning from the south going nowhere there. Thousands stranded after ice and snow just covered the region. The worst-hit area, Atlanta. Many had to spend the night in their cars. Many are waking up in their cars right now. Fifty students stuck on buses like this one.

These images taken around 3:00 a.m. Those kids on buses at 3:00 a.m. The buses left school more than 12 hours before this. And we're told a few students, at least, seven are still stuck on buses right now.

CNN's Jason Evans shot the pictures you just looked out there. He's been among the people that's been stuck on roads all night. He's approaching hour 11 trying to get home. It's a trip that normally takes half an hour. Jason, give us a sense of what the scene is right now.

VOICE OF JASON EVANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, going nowhere. That's basically the key phrase here. I really have not made much progress since the last time we spoke. Once again, I still have about 13 more miles to go in a trip that like you said normally just takes 30 minutes. Looking around, I see a lot of tired faces. It's getting very cold here.

The temperatures have dipped down into the teens which is only going to make this ice situation worse. And the most frustrating part of this is that, I mean, it stopped snowing hours ago. It's basically just this ice. And that there's no traction on the road. And really, I mean, I can't go a quarter mile without seeing -- without seeing an accident.

No more than ten minutes ago, a large commuter bus spun around and kind of flew around, if you will, right by the side of my vehicle, which honestly was, you know, kind of scary. But right now, so far, so good. And I'm just kind of waiting it out. Priority, one, two and three is just getting home in one piece.

BERMAN: So far, so good, but it's taken you 11 hours and you're not even home yet. Like driving on an ice honky rink you've been saying. Jason Evans struggling to move and moving is just impossible right now in the -- roads in and around Atlanta. More than 1,000 accidents around Atlanta alone. ROMANS: And kids sleeping in their schools in Marietta, Georgia. They didn't even think it was safe enough to send them home. All right. Thanks, Jason.

Let's take a look at what's coming up next on "NEW DAY."

BERMAN: Kate Bolduan with us right now. Hey, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, guys. We're going to be following exactly what you were talking to Jason about is this really wild and scary. We're going to be covering the chaos in the south created by that dangerous winter storm. You were talking about the children. We've got students, children trapped on buses, even straight into their schools overnight.

We're going to talk live with one principal who spent the night at her school with students taking care of them keeping them safe, warm, and fed and how they coped and what they're going to do now as the sun's going to be coming up today. We're going to be live on the ground all over the story. Of course, that's one of our big stories.

And also, the other major story we're covering. Chris is going to be live in the nation's capital where President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. We're going to get reaction from Republican and Democratic members of Congress about what some are calling a defiant speech. Of course, the fallout and Monday morning quarterbacking going to go on after that.

And after the speech, there was a moment everyone is talking about. Congressman Michael Grimm caught on tape, you see him right there, threatening a reporter. We're going to talk live with that reporter to find out what really happened before that, after that, and what happens now.

BERMAN: Yes. What's it like to be told you'll be broken in two? All right. Kate Bolduan, we'll see you in a little bit.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. More breaking news right after the break.


ROMANS: Breaking overnight, an 11th hour reprieve for a Missouri death row inmate. The U.S. Supreme Court granting a temporary stay of execution for Herbert Smulls (ph) who was expected to die just after midnight. His appeal focused on the state's refusal to disclose the compounding pharmacy that would provide the lethal injection drug. Smulls was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a jewelry store owner in a 1991 robbery.

Coming up, fact-checking the president. What in the state of the union was true and what was not quite. "Money Time" is next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. It's "Money Time." Early indications for a good start today on Wall Street. Stock futures higher after yesterday's 90-point gain. President Obama had a lot to say on the state of the economy last night.


OBAMA: The lowest unemployment rate in over five years, a rebounding housing market --


OBAMA: A manufacturing sector that's adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced --


OBAMA: More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world. Our deficits cut by more than half. For the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world's number one place to invest. America is.


ROMANS: A lot of positive things to say about the economy. Here's our fact-check. Let's start with the truth. On housing and oil production, things are looking up. But when it comes unemployment, manufacturing and the deficit, we're going to call those statements mostly true. Unemployment is at the lowest rate in five years, but the president left out the fact that labor force participation is now under 63 percent. That's the lowest since 1978.

That means more and more people are dropping out. Manufacturing, we've seen an increase in jobs but not super solid growth. There's been an increase, but on the margin. If we continue at this pace, the Obama administration will have created only a quarter of the one million new manufacturing jobs the president promised by the end of his second term.

And the deficit was cut in half, but that's partly because of the sequester and that was something the president strongly opposes. The one area we really have to call the president out on, investment in America. The president said America has surpassed China as the number one place to invest. That's not true when you look at foreign-direct investment.

There may be a revived interest in investing in the United States, especially manufacturing but direct foreign investment in China was $253 billion in 2012. $253 billion. Here in the U.S., it was about 204 billion.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BOLDUAN (voice-over): Chaos in the south. A rare and deadly winter storm paralyzes the Southern United States. Hundreds of students stranded in schools and on buses overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls will be sleeping in the band room. Boys will be sleeping in the media center.

BOLDUAN: Drivers abandoning cars as treacherous ice shuts down major roads and forces traffic to a standstill. Minutes long commutes still on going at this very hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't drive -- and now I'm stuck.

BOLDUAN: State troopers racing to the rescue. Heavy snow adding to the disaster along the East Coast. So, where is this nightmare storm headed? We have every angle covered.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Going it alone. President Obama calling for a year of action in his state of the union address threatening to bypass Congress if necessary.

OBAMA: America does not standstill and neither will I.

CUOMO: But did his proposals go far enough for the American people?

And, the most emotional moment of the night. Who is the army ranger who brought the entire chamber to their feet in a rousing standing ovation? We have the story behind a hero.

Your "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is "NEW DAY" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.