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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Oklahoma Town Bears Brunt Of Storms; Deadly Tornadoes In Midwest, Plains; Afghan Forces Beat Back Insurgents; "Ridiculous" And "Very Misleading"; Secret Service Prostitution Scandal; Deadly Tornadoes in Midwest, Plains; Interview with Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania; Clemens Perjury Retrial

Aired April 16, 2012 - 05:59   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kate Bolduan in for Ashleigh Banfield today. Thanks for having me, everybody.

SAMBOLIN: We're happy to have you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much, Zoraida. (INAUDIBLE)

BOLDUAN: It is just about -- just before 6:00 a.m. in the east, so let's get started with the news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): We're talking about today assessing the damage after a violent weather weekend. More than 130 reports of tornadoes across the nation's heartland. Rob Marciano is live in one of the hardest hit areas, Woodward, Oklahoma, where five people lost their lives.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Afghan leaders say they've repelled the insurgents responsible for the deadly terror attacks in Kabul and three other provinces this weekend. Explosions and gunfire have stopped in the capital city after 18 hours of fighting.

BOLDUAN: And a prostitution scandal at the Secret Service. Nearly a dozen agents pulled off the job, and President Obama is not pleased.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I expect that investigation to be thorough, and I expect it to be rigorous.

BOLDUAN: How a compliant by one prostitute in Colombia set the scandal into motion?

SAMBOLIN: Come over to your TV. That is secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. She was caught on camera, downing a beer, dancing up a storm at a Cuban nightclub. That was Cartagena, Colombia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SAMBOLIN: But up first here, people of the nation's heartland assessing the damage after storms cut a path of destruction across at least four states. More than 130 reports of tornadoes touching down over the weekend, many of them in Kansas.

The governor says 97 twisters were reported there. Some of the worst damage though was in Oklahoma. That state governor declaring a state of emergency in 12 counties.

The tiny town of Woodward was nearly levelled and five people there lost their lives. For some, power was knocked out ahead of the storm, disabling the warning sirens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was a train coming down the tracks over there and I looked out and I seen the funnel and I started running through the house screaming Marcia! Marcia! I mean loud, I was scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just have respect for tornadoes and how they can in an instant just destroy everything that everyone knew.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: CNN's Rob Marciano got a firsthand look at the tornado damage. He's live in Woodward, Oklahoma. I got to tell you, Rob. I was in Chicago and heard the storms and I thought Chicago was getting levelled. It was so terrible.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It was a widespread event. I mean, and a multiday event as well affecting millions of people and the number of tornadoes really astounding. The amount of damage we've seen and then you compare that with the number of people who survived this storm is truly, truly remarkable.

Here in Woodward, a town of about 12,000, 13,000 people, very small in the western part of the state. No stranger to tornadoes. They had their biggest one, actually one of the biggest one and deadliest ones in U.S. history back in 1947.

They just celebrated the 65-year anniversary of that and just days later this happened. It happened at the night. Damage like you're seeing behind me, trucks and cars flown over and tipped over, roofs torn off of homes.

In some cases, homes completely destroyed and you hear some of the survivors' stories, it's truly amazing. We caught up with one gentleman who was with his family, his wife, his son, his grandsons, his home was flattened.

He was taken out of the home and thrown onto the sidewalk. He woke up bloody. He tells a little bit about that tale.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL LORD, WOODWARD RESIDENT: I was laying down there on the curb and I looked up and saw the house gone. I didn't know what to do, and then neighbors come in, start pulling bricks off and tilting walls up and everybody started coming out.

MARCIANO: What specifically are things you want to find in this rubble?

LORD: My family, my son, my daughter, son-in-law, my grandbabies, my wife, everything else just brick and stick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: You might talk about somebody who is grateful. He actually was supposed to sell that house. He was going to close this coming Friday. They were going to move out and build another home.

This gentleman who has had two heart surgeries and four brain surgeries so very, very grateful for the several lives and survival stories that he's had.

As far as what else has gone down this week here obviously power out for a good chunk of the town. Fairly narrow swathe, but there's easily 50 if not over 100 homes that are damaged or completely destroyed by this. So folks are going to be cleaning up for this and recovering for quite some time.

SAMBOLIN: Rob as we take a look at the pictures a lot of people seem to be volunteering with the efforts for cleanup there.

MARCIANO: You know, the spirit of this community is truly remarkable. At his place, there was probably 20 or 30 friends, neighbors and relatives coming over to help out, we saw that in the hardest hit areas.

And this is one of those situations where because of the path it was pretty narrow, fairly random as far as one home being completely destroyed and then across the street you see another home that is virtually untouched.

So because of that, neighbors have been allowed to, able to help out quite readily with those who have been hardest hit. So that part of it, the human spirit once again nice to see.

SAMBOLIN: That's really great to see. Now we showed some storm chasers' video earlier. I know you were in the middle of that. I came in this morning to a picture and it actually looked like it was two twisters right behind you.

MARCIANO: Amazing shot, amazing storm to chase. Actually that particular cell was one of the three that came through here during the day. We chased it Saturday up to the Kansas border and then as we were watching it and getting on the lower right flank of it we saw the tornado spin up and then we saw another one spin up.

Incredibly rare, incredibly a high contrast where you can see quite vibrantly and you can actually hear it and feel it. Three- quarters to a mile and a half away from it and it was tearing up farmland.

So we were in a good spot just to admire the beauty and the power of mother nature, but of course, as we're seeing now that has a price to be paid when it gets close and right through a town like this.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, quite a bit of destruction. I just got to tell you we are very fond of you so we were a little worried when we saw those pictures. Be safe. We know that you're a professional and know what you're doing.

MARCIANO: I appreciate the concern, but we were just fine, Zoraida, thanks.

SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you, Rob.

BOLDUAN: And another wild story that we've been watching to tell you about. Afghan officials say they've successfully turned back insurgents targeting Kabul and three other provinces this weekend.

NATO confirming as many as seven locations in the capital city was hit including Afghanistan's parliament and the Russian, German and U.S. embassies.

Nick Paton Walsh is live in Afghanistan for us. Nick, what is the latest. I mean, by all accounts this was a coordinated attack.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, this morning we're hearing details of the fact that four civilians were killed, eight police were killed, but 35 of the 36 insurgents who launched this attack in the center of the city.

And as details emerge there are alarming similarities to an attack six months ago also in the very safe, supposedly safe center of Kabul, targeting embassies, using abandoned building as its launch pad to launch this attack and also took about 20 hours for Afghan security forces to finally suppress.

So despite all the noise we're hearing from NATO and from U.S. officials that this was to some extent a successful show by Afghan security forces because they managed to prevail.

I'm sure there are many people waking up in Kabul this morning after 18 hours of loud explosions in Kabul feeling much safe after a few days ago after this highly symbolic Taliban attack -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Well, very well said, Nick. Afghan soldiers as you've mentioned are receiving quite a credit for their role in stemming the violence over this weekend. You've had a chance to go out on patrol with them. What can you tell us?

WALSH: A couple of days ago, we went American and Afghan troops into an air assault into what basically Taliban territory to the west of where I'm standing in the area of Gazni. Now during this patrol, we were going through a village looking for high value insurgent leaders. They came under attack and here is how Americans and Afghans together responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH (voice-over): As the Americans search a former weapons cache, they become targets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is it at? Where is it at? Where is it at?

WALSH (on camera): Clearly, insurgents are keen to defend this building or at least attack the Americans as they get near it.

(voice-over): The shots coming close fired from a distant tree line. The Afghans spring into life, firing a rocket and then move to flank the insurgents who keep taking pot shots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: That absolutely vital to remember that the Afghan security forces are key to America's departure from Afghanistan without them being ready to take on the insurgents, there's a question as to what kind of country the Americans are leaving behind.

What you saw there though is the Afghan military are vigor to get into the fight, but there are larger questions about this broad job they have to do when America finally leaves, governance, policing.

Later on the day, the same patrol of Afghan soldiers came across young Afghan men from the village riding motorbikes, which they're not supposed to do, associated with the insurgency and they administered on the spot a pretty broad and almost brutal kind of corporal punishment against (inaudible) slapping them crudely in the face.

But frankly to many people in the village that was the first time in months they've seen anybody from the Afghan government. So it would have been to them a real significant shock that finally they see Afghan soldiers.

That's the kind of treatment they expect. So many questions at the end of the day still being asked how ready Afghan security forces are. Yes, they love to fight, how good are they in it.

We've witnessed in Kabul they eventually suppressed the Haqqani network (INAUDIBLE) the insurgency after a number of hours. The larger question remains the human right standards and quite exactly how they'll hold the country together when America leaves doing a job, which America frankly itself struggled to do over a decade -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Nick, very well put regardless if U.S. and NATO forces are calling this a bit of a success that they're able to hold off these insurgents, still no doubt there will be questions raised about the readiness of Afghan forces going forward. Nick Paton Walsh in Afghanistan. Nick, please stay safe, thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is 9 minutes past the hour. Ridiculous and misleading, those are the words Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is using to slam Mitt Romney.

Geithner blasting the GOP candidate for his claim that 92 percent of jobs lost under President Obama are among women. Geithner told NBCs "Meet the Press" that calculation unfairly sticks President Obama with recession fallout from the Bush years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM GEITHNER, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: It's a ridiculous and deeply misleading look at the economy. Remember, the recession and the crisis started at the beginning of 2008, more than a year before the president took office.

It caused a huge amount of damage to men, to women, to families and the damage lasted for a time. You're still seeing the scars of that.

If you look at the damage early on, you know, most of the early job losses were in construction, manufacturing and disproportionately affected men.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: We very well know that both candidates are vying for the female vote.

BOLDUAN: Ahead on EARLY START, the trial begins today for the man accused in that Norway massacre. Don't forget that that for sure, killing 77 people last summer.

SAMBOLIN: We have the latest on the prostitution scandal at the Secret Service. President Obama is demanding answers.

BOLDUAN: And snapshots of Secretary Clinton cutting loose in Colombia, drinking and dancing the night away. She's allowed to have a little fun. You're watching EARLY START. We'll have more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It's 14 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

Tornado alley is living up to its name. People in the Midwest and the plains assessing the damage from more than 130 reports of twisters that struck that was just over the weekend. Five people were killed, all in the town of Woodward, Oklahoma.

Four people now feared dead in a yacht race accident. The Coast Guard suspending its search late last night. The seven men and one woman on board ranged in age from their 20s to their 40s.

They were hurled into the waters off the coast of the Fairlawn Islands near San Francisco Saturday when their boat hit 12-foot waves. One person was found dead. Three others survived.

The trial begins today for the Norway mass murder suspect. Anders Breivik has admitted to the shooting and bombing that killed 77 people, including children, last summer. Breivik says he wanted to save Norway from, quote, "multicultural forces." In a past hearing, he gave what appear to give a fascist salute.

BOLDUAN: And after a wake of deadly weekend attacks on government targets and embassies, Afghans officials say they have stopped the insurgents. Afghan interior minister says four civilians and eight members of the Afghan forces were killed in a nearly 18-hour assault, and nearly 65 people were wounded.

And former baseball great Roger Clemens will be back in federal court as jury selection begins for his second perjury trial. The government is trying to prove Clemens lied to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. It comes nine months after a judge declared a mistrial, when prosecutors introduced inadmissible evidence in court.

Music lovers -- sad news for you -- heartbreak for rocker Tom Petty -- easy for me to say. Five of his guitars were stolen from a California sound stage where Petty and the Heartbreakers were rehearsing for the band's U.S. tour which begins this week in Colorado. He's offering a $7,500 reward for their return. Three of the guitars were vintage models from the 1960s.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BOLDUAN: I'm sure the show must go on, as we know -- as we always say.

For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to the blog CNN.com/EarlyStart.

SAMBOLIN: And now to the scandal at the Secret Service. The agency is reeling this morning, 11 agents relieved of their duties. They are accused of bringing prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Colombia while preparing for President Obama's arrival.

The president says he'll be angry if these allegations are indeed true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What happened here in Colombia is being investigated by the director of the Secret Service. I expect that investigation to be thorough, and I expect it to be rigorous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The Homeland Security Committee oversees the Secret Service. And in the last hour of EARLY START, Committee Chairman Peter King said while no crimes were committed, the conduct of the agents is cause for concern.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK (via telephone): The danger here is that Secret Service agents using prostitutes certainly in a country like Colombia leave themselves open to be threatened, blackmailed. Also, you have narco terrorists in Colombia who could be using prostitutes to get inside the president's own security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Brianna Keilar is live in Washington.

Brianna, this was supposed to be a huge trip for the president. And now, it is overshadowed by all of the allegations. What's the very latest?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Zoraida.

And many U.S. officials are just irate about this, because it turned this international visit into really a side show because of this. How many people will remember what President Obama would want them to remember in the Summit of the Americas for?

What we saw was the president and the Colombian president really trying to use it as an exclamation point for the free trade agreement that they brokered, that finally passed through Congress last year and they were announcing that it was going to be implemented soon. This would be something President Obama could point to and say, look, this is a job creating measure, and kind of use that to back his economic credentials as he's facing a very tough reelection.

Well, no one's really going to remember this summit for that at all. They'll remember it for the scandal. And I think we should focus on just reminding people of a few details. This was an advanced team, so all of these alleged activities happened before the president ever got there. It was a different hotel than the president was staying at. But certainly -- and also, it was dealt with before the president got there.

But nonetheless, as you heard the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee say, it really raises concerns about security, and that's why President Obama, among other reasons, saying he'll be very angry if these allegations turn out to be true.

SAMBOLIN: If we could talk about the details of some of the allegations, because as I understand it, it came to light according to sources, one woman complained she wasn't paid?

KEILAR: Yes, that's right. And one of the things that is interesting, unlike in the U.S., in certain ports of Colombia, prostitution isn't illegal. Of course, this is a code of conduct issue many experts will tell you. When it comes to the Secret Service, they're on official business and, obviously, they shouldn't be having like this.

But what it appears to come down to and we heard this from the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee who is briefed on this, that there was one woman who had gone back to the hotel with Secret Service members and the hotel actually had a curfew system that if you were a guest of one of the guests at the hotel you leave your ID, and in the morning, the hotel realized that this woman hadn't left.

And so, that's when the hotel got involved, showed up at the room and the woman according to many sources complained she had not been paid, according to King, the Secret Service agent said he didn't owe her money but paid her anyways. And then the protocol started in where then the U.S. embassy got involved and the Secret Service at the embassy started an investigation, and those 11 Secret Service members were immediately sent back to the U.S.

SAMBOLIN: What a mess. Brianna Keilar, live in Washington, I'm sure we'll hear much more. We appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: It is suddenly hip and cool to be secretary of state.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Where did you come up with that?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: She already is hip and cool. First of all, you had the Tumbler site called Text from Hillary, which was a hilarious site. Now, you can see here, new pictures of Hillary Clinton letting her hair down in Cartagena, Colombia.

The normally reserved Clinton is seen here hitting a dance club at a club Saturday night. She's also seen sipping a beer. Clinton is in Colombia for the sixth Summit of the Americas.

We should say she's also working and that's called innocent fun.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Appropriate celebration, right?

BOLDUAN: She is the example of how to let your hair down.

SAMBOLIN: Literally.

All right. Still ahead on EARLY START: Death and destruction from a swarm of tornadoes that touched down in the nation's heartland. The pictures there are absolutely terrifying. Rob Marciano is there live for us.

BOLDUAN: Are you still working on those taxes? I know. I'm sorry. I had to bring that up early in the morning. April 15th has come and gone but you still have time.

You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Minding your business this morning.

Stocks are coming off their worst week of the year. The Dow dropped 1.6 percent because of concerns about the debt crisis in Europe and a slowdown in China.

SAMBOLIN: And, you know, this week is all about taxes. April 15th came and went, right? And we still got two extra days to file.

Alison Kosik is in for Christine Romans.

And why is it April 17th for Tax Day?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, because today is actually a holiday in Washington, D.C., which is known as Emancipation Day. That's basically celebrating the freeing of slaves in the district. So the way the tax code reads is that tax code deadlines can't fall on weekends or a holiday. As I said, today is a holiday.

So, just proof that we are a nation of procrastinators -- as of the first week in April, 45 million Americans have yet to file their taxes.

BOLDUAN: Forty-five million Americans?

KOSIK: Yes. Have yet to get that tax filing in. And now, if you are having a problem, though, you can file for a six-month extension, that's something actually presidential candidate Mitt Romney has done. Also something to note here that people who live in parts of Indiana, in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia -- if you're affected by tornadoes, the storms, the floods, you actually have until May 31st to file and pay.

And once you do get around to filing, if you're lucky enough to get a refund -- guess how much the average refund is? Two thousand seven hundred ninety-four dollars.

BOLDUAN: Really?

SAMBOLIN: That's shocking.

KOSIK: Yes, if you're lucky enough to get one, right?

BOLDUAN: Zoraida was just saying refund? What refund?

SAMBOLIN: This is why I wait until the 11th hour. What's the point? I'm one of those procrastinators.

KOSIK: I want to hold onto my money.

But here's what's interesting. You know all these electronic filing that's been going on, it's actually created more and more procrastinators and it's actually created kind of, sort of you look at this way, more fatal car accidents actually. Just be careful on your way to the post office and mail it.

Actually, you're more likely to get into a fatal crash if you're all stressed out about mailing that filing.

SAMBOLIN: Good gracious.

KOSIK: The number of fatal car crashes has increased by 6 percent on Tax Day.

BOLDUAN: Proving the point our taxes are killing us.

(LAUGHTER)

KOSIK: That's a good line -- a line to live with all day. You have until tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: Back in Washington, I'll get a few calls like, what are you talking about?

SAMBOLIN: No, I think it's a good d point. Thank you, Alison. We appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Alison.

SAMBOLIN: I hope you're getting a refund out there. That would be great.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Ahead on EARLY START, Mother Nature's devastating calling card across the Midwest and the plains, Rob Marciano is there and he sent us some incredible pictures. We have reports of 130 tornadoes touching down.

BOLDUAN: And a hearing this afternoon into the GSA spending scandal, over $800,000 spent on that Las Vegas convention and Congress wants some answers.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 30 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BOLDUAN: And I'm Kate Bolduan, in for Ashleigh Banfield this morning. Good morning, everybody.

Time to check stories making some news this morning.

The storm threat's moving East but people across the Midwest and Plains are still reeling from tornadoes that raked the region. Over the weekend, more than 130 reports of twisters touching down. Five people were killed in the town of Woodward, Oklahoma.

And Congress taking on the GSA scandal. The House Oversight Committee is beginning the first of what's going to be four hearings this week at 1:30 eastern today to examine excess spending by the GSA reports. Recent reports revealed the agency spent more than $800,000 taxpayer dollars on a conference in Las Vegas.

And Afghan officials say they've turned back the insurgents who launched a wave of attacks over the weekend in Kabul and three other provinces. Afghan's interior minister says four civilians and eight members of the Afghan security forces were killed.

SAMBOLIN: And we start this half with the alarm after the storm.

People in the Midwest and the Plains are still reeling from a weekend of violent and deadly weather. More than 130 reports of tornadoes touching down over the weekend, many of them in Kansas. The governor says 97 twisters were reported there.

And some of the worst damage, though, was in Oklahoma. That state's governor declaring a state of emergency in 12 counties. The tiny town of Woodward was nearly leveled and five people lost their lives there. Power was knocked out ahead of the storm, disabling the warning sirens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was a train coming down the tracks and I looked out and I've seen the funnel, and I started running through the house screaming, "Marcia! Marcia!" I mean loud. I was scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives me a whole respect for tornadoes and how they can in an instant just destroy everything that everyone knew.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: CNN's Rob Marciano got a firsthand look at all of the tornado damage. He is live in Woodward, Oklahoma, for us.

And, Rob, that's a lot of twisters. We're wondering if that's a record.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not a record, but, you know, certainly been an active year and we've already had a couple of bad tornado outbreaks and the fatalities alarming -- well over the average. We've got over 60 fatalities. In the last year, we had much, much more than that, as you know, with the two massive outbreaks both near in Alabama and in Missouri.

But you mentioned warning, you know, there were three cells that came through this town -- two during the day, they were tornado warnings but didn't drop a tornado, created a lot of damage. It did, though, knocked out power and here, the warning sirens are powered by electricity. You know, it kind of goes county by county here in Oklahoma as far as what system you want to use and Oklahoma City for instance, they have powered sirens by electricity. But they also have backup battery in case that electricity goes out, so that you can hear the sirens.

In most areas, sirens are designed to alert people who are outside. Now, the third and final round of storms that came through here was -- that dropped the tornado -- came in the middle of the night. So even if the sirens went out they'd be difficult to hear, so people were relying on media and television stations and radios, both weather radios and AM/FM radios to get the warning out.

And it's really remarkable when you consider the damage you see behind me. There's 80 homes here and 13 businesses that are completely destroyed. It's remarkable that there weren't more fatalities here and given the damage.

SAMBOLIN: I believe the governor said that as well that he expected far more fatalities when the storms were coming through.

Can you tell us about the cleanup efforts that are happening now?

MARCIANO: Well, there was feverish pace yesterday. It was unbelievable to see the community come together, a small town, about 12,000, 13,000 people. And although the communities that got hit really got completely leveled, it was a fairly narrow swathe, about a quarter to half mile wide.

The National Weather Service came out here and did a preliminary storm survey and they deemed that this was an EF-3 with winds, basically winds of at least 130 miles an hour. And we certainly see -- saw damage that replicated that.

But as far as the one house here completely destroyed and the house across the street virtually untouched, we have seen quite a bit of that. So there are folks in neighborhoods that got tremendous amount of damage that are living there because their home was fine, they're able to help their neighbor potentially across the street and we're seeing just a lot of that. So, the community spirit is doing well.

We talked to survivors who were just happy to be alive, regardless of the bricks and sticks as they like to say that may be gone. I talked to the mayor yesterday, Zoraida, and of all the people, that was really the most emotionally distraught, it was him. His home was fine, but his heart and soul was in this town, and to see his friends in his community reel after this devastating was certainly hard for him to take.

So, most folks are doing all right, but the folks who lived there their entire life are certainly thrown back a little bit. As I mentioned last hour, 1947 was the worst tornado they've ever seen here, one of the worst in U.S. history, with over 100 dead. So, they know tornadoes here all too well.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I know that area does. But I thought last week a new report came out saying that Midwest was going to be hit even harder, am I right in recalling that?

MARCIANO: I think maybe what you read is that we kind of expanded Tornado Alley a little bit, over towards the Ohio River Valley and maybe down towards Dixie, we're starting to see more tornadoes in that area. But we're getting better at reporting them as a whole, the public.

If there's anything that's changed in the past couple years is that we've seen some tornadoes earlier in the season, a little bit farther north, so that's the unusual part. But we've had devastating years of tornadoes throughout the past century and there will be more of that to come for sure.

SAMBOLIN: And I don't want to let you go without talking about your storm chasing. We saw the pictures earlier when we came in, a little concerned about the two twisters that were right behind you.

MARCIANO: Well, yes, you were concerned, we were excited. That storm was tearing up just some grass and farmland, and I was out there chasing with Brandon Miller, who's a seasoned chaser, and also a weather producer at CNN International, and another guy Brian Smith who has chased 100 times and he's even said that was one of the more phenomenal chases that he had as far as finally catching up to the tornado, that was so vivid and such high contrast and on the ground for so long.

We were close enough to see it, in some cases feel it and hear it. It was an amazing thing to see. So, it's one of these things when you're in awe of the beauty and the power of nature, but you also know in the back of your head if one of these things clips a town like it did here, the results certainly aren't nearly as beautiful and much more damaging and life-threatening for sure.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Rob Marciano, live for us in Oklahoma -- thank you very much for that report.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, we're going to get an early preview on the GSA hearings that begin later today. I've been following them very closely.

Next, we're going to talk to a committee member who will be looking into GSA's misuse of taxpayer dollars and see what questions the congressman has for the witnesses, that will be interesting.

But, first, let's get a quick check of your travel forecast with Bonnie Schneider.

Hi there, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Good morning.

You know, we do have the threat unfortunately today for more severe weather but it's in a different location. So, let's take a look at the maps and I'll show that we're anticipating some heavy downpours through areas of the Plain States but this is the region that may see some strong thunderstorms and it will impact for those of you that are traveling today in Buffalo, in Pittsburgh.

This is where we may have airport delays and that holds true for areas further to the west as well because the winds will really get strong as we go through the afternoon. These gusts could be 40 to 50 miles per hour, all the way from Minneapolis, down to Cincinnati, that will impact Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, if you're traveling and as I mentioned Pittsburgh. So, windy weather throughout much of the day.

Elsewhere across the country, scattered showers and thunderstorms in the Southeast, and wet weather for the Northwest.

Stay tuned. EARLY START will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: The first of four congressional hearings into misuse of taxpayer dollars at the Government Services Administration begins today, this afternoon.

The head of the GSA resigned and several other top officials have been fired or placed on leave after the inspector general reported that a 2010 regional conference in Las Vegas, you're seeing some video here, cost more than $800,000, including over $146,000 for food and -- get this -- $75,000 for a bike building exercise they said it was for team building.

Videotape of agency employees joking about their lack of accountability only fueled the outrage on both sides of the aisle.

Congressman Mike Kelly, Republican of Pennsylvania, he sits on the House Oversight Committee. He is joining me from the Capitol.

Congressman, thanks so much for waking up early to join us.

REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: No problem, Kate. I'm up this time every day. So, it's good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: You are a good man.

So, tell me, three of the people that will be testifying today, they're already off the job -- resigned or fired or an administrative leave. So with that said, what's the end goal here? What are you looking for? What more are you looking for?

KELLY: Listen, I come from a private business world and I think what all of us look for is we put people in charge of things, managers to watch the cash registers for us. So, when you find out that this is going on -- this is a culture of spending that just seems to be way out of control.

And I think what we're going to look for today is what in the world, what was the business model here? What's your style of management? How could this have happened when Americans are working so hard, they're tightening their belts, they're making do with less -- why would you have an agency that was supposed to be responsible wasting hard-earned American taxpayer money?

So, we need to find out. And hopefully, hopefully, we're going to find out things are going to allow us to look at other agencies to say, if this is going on in the GSA, what's going on in other agencies?

BOLDUAN: I do want to ask you about that in just a second. But, real quickly, Jeff Neely, our viewers may not know his name, but he is going to be well-known as this scandal continues to unfold, he is the man that was in charge of throwing this lavish affair. He is -- he has said, I'm told, that he's going to take the Fifth this afternoon in order to not incriminate himself.

Can you confirm that?

KELLY: I can't confirm that, but that would be awfully disappointing.

You know, the American taxpayers, the American people really deserve to know what's going on with the money that they send in Washington. And if Washington can't spend it the right way, why in the world would Americans continue to send and say, you know, it's OK. It's OK. They're spending it the right way.

You know, we look at this. And if that happens today, I can't tell you how disappointing that would be for not only myself and other members of the committee but for the American people.

We need to know how our money is being spent. We need to know that there's people in Washington, D.C., that we sent to represent us that are keeping an eye on that. And if we can't do that, then why are we here?

BOLDUAN: Well, and to your point just earlier -- there's been a lot of talk. And I've spoken to some of your fellow committee members and I've been told this personally when I'm on the Hill, is that this is just -- what we're hearing in the public is just the tip of the iceberg in what's going on here with GSA.

What more is there? What more are you looking for?

KELLY: I think what we're looking is in any possible way, is this money being spent responsibly? And again, we get back to somebody has to have oversight on this. Our committee, under Chairman Issa, has been looking at almost everything that taxpayer money is spent on, because taxpayers deserve the right to know that their money is being spent the right way and they need to know that they can trust those people that they spent.

So, that's our job. That's our jobs to watch all these funds and make sure that they're being spent the right way. Now, when you get down to what else could there be? My goodness. Do we know? There are so many agencies. There are so many bureaucracies. These folks, really, they have to answer to somebody. That's our job in OGR. We're going after every possible penny, not dollars, pennies that we can find that are being wasted especially at a time when you're borrowing 42 cents of every dollar that you spend. My goodness. Can we be this cavalier? Can we just be this careless with taxpayer money and sit back and say, you know what, I'm not going to incriminate myself. I'm not going to even answer this?

Well, why did you take that job? And if you didn't want the job, if you didn't have the stomach to do what was right, you should have resigned early on, and they should have blown the whistle on themselves. This should have never happened. American families are watchin every penny.

They're not going on vacation this summer. They're not doing things that they love to do, because they know that they have to tighten their budgets or tighten their belts. So, we have to expect, and again, taxpayers have the right to know that we're watching out for them.

BOLDUAN: And Congressman, real quick, of course, we're always out of time and I have so many more questions. Who do you ultimately hold responsible for this?

KELLY: You know what, there's somebody who's in charge. So, the secretary is there. If she isn't aware of what's going on, she should be aware of people that she placed in charge to watch this. Now, the bigger picture is, you know, what's going on in the rest of our government so you put people in charge. I said earlier, I ran a business. I expect my managers to watch the cash register.

I expect my managers to watch what they're doing with the business's funds. I expect anybody at any of these agencies to be doing the best job they can do everyday for the American taxpayers. They don't work for anybody in particular other than the American taxpayers. If we can't do that, then we shouldn't be in Washington. We should just resign and go home if you don't have the stomach and you don't have the backbone to do what's right.

BOLDUAN: I expect this will be a very interesting and probably fiery hearing on Capitol Hill today. We'll definitely be watching. Congressman, thank you so much for joining me today.

KELLY: Thanks, Kate, have a great day.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: He's certainly fired up now. That's for sure.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "Starting Point." And I have you next to me today.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": I know. I like it. I like it. Good morning. Nice to see you. OK. Lots going on this morning.

We're going to talk about what Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said, you know, with a big question, of course, is there a war on women? He says the whole thing is ridiculous that Mitt Romney's claim that 92 percent of the job losses under President Obama have been women. We'll talk about that this morning.

Also, there's new high school in Phoenix, Arizona. It's a specialized school called "Q High," specialize for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. We're going to talk about why they have the need for that there.

And Boyz II Men will join us this morning. The R&B group celebrating -- wohoo -- two decades.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

O'BRIEN: Twenty years. Yes.

SAMBOLIN: We're very excited around here. Soledad.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We're excited to talk to them but their latest project and also about some of the years in between what they've been doing.

If you're heading to work, you don't have to miss the program. Check out our live blog at our website, CNN.com/StartingPoint. We'll see you right at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 51 minutes after the hour. Wow, this day has gone fast.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It's certainly starting for you, it's just ending for us, but first, let's check the top stories making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): From Texas to Minnesota, people are assessing all the damage from a weekend of violence and deadly storms. More than 130 reports of tornadoes touching down. The town of Woodward, Oklahoma, one of the hardest hit areas, five people, including three children were killed there.

It's quiet in Kabul after a wave of deadly weekend attacks on government targets and embassies. Afghan officials say they have stocked (ph) the insurgents. Afghan's interior minister says four civilians and eight members of the Afghan security forces were killed in the nearly 18-hour assault.

And four people are now feared dead in a yacht race accident. The coast guard is suspending its search. They did that last night. The seven men and one woman onboard ranged in age from their 20s to their 40s. They were hurled into the waters off the coast a fair (ph) Long Island near San Francisco Saturday when their boat hit 12-foot waves. One person was found dead. Three others survived.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): And jury selection set to begin this morning in the retrial of former baseball great, Roger Clemens. He's accused of lying to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs. The federal judge declared a mistrial in the case last summer after prosecutors showed inadmissible evidence in court.

And "The Hunger Games" still number one, still ruling the box office. It's number one for four weeks in a row, the first film to do that since "Avatar." It's been a while. "The Hunger Games" made another $21.5 million over the weekend.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BOLDUAN: "The Three Stooges" debut in second place taking in $17.1 million and "The Cabin in the Woods" was third with $14.8 million, which we're going to have go to see together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Have you seen "The Hunger Games"?

BOLDUAN (on-camera): I have not "The Hunger Games". I like to hold out until I read the book, but I really need to catch up.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: A lot of reading to do.

All right. Brangelina is making it official. Hollywood power couple, they're finally engaged. We have the detail of Angelina's special one-of-a-kind ring that took a year to design. The details ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ask ourselves what would we -- if we could do anything, what would we really do? What are the things that we lack in our city? What are the things that we would like to do but can't and then make them happen? That's exactly what architecture should be all about, is to try to make the world a little bit more like our dreams.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Taking a look at what's trending on the web, so far, this morning. Here's an interesting one, George Washington is one of America's greatest heroes, yes, we know that, but he's now named Britain's greatest enemy. Washington got 45 percent of a vote in a contest to find Britain's greatest military foe. Washington beat out Irish leader, Michael Collins, as well as Napoleon. Historians say Washington scored high in part because of, quote, "the immense scale of damage he inflicted on British army and the empire during the American Revolution."

SAMBOLIN: You know, my question earlier was why?

BOLDUAN: And I say, hold a grudge?

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Interesting, anyway.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Moving on, apparently, he finally put a ring on it. Brangelina now engaged. Brad Pitt spent a year, apparently, designing a one-of-a-kind diamond engagement ring for Ms. Angelina Jolie. We have like a picture there for you. A big honker. Pitt's rep says the kids are very happy, however, they have not set a date yet for the grand day.

BOLDUAN: Well, how long have they been together again?

SAMBOLIN: 2005.

BOLDUAN: 2005.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BOLDUAN: So, you know, it's taken this long to get the engagement. They've had --

SAMBOLIN: And six kids.

BOLDUAN: And six kids. So, we'll see how long the engagement lasts. I know this is exactly what you care about when starting your morning.

SAMBOLIN: But we've got to keep you well-informed, right, I say?

BOLDUAN: Well-rounded.

SAMBOLIN: Well-rounded.

BOLDUAN: We are well-rounded. We try to be. All right. That's EARLY START from the news from "A" to "Z." I'm Kate Bolduan.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN" starts right now.

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