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CNN Late Edition

Elian Gonzalez Case: What Happens Now?

Aired April 23, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is a special LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk. What's next in the Elian Gonzalez case?


JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's time to help this little boy heal from the tragedies that he has experienced.

MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, COUSIN OF ELIAN GONZALEZ: We've always been with the law. We have always been there for the boy. We've always acted in good faith.


BLITZER: In a controversial decision, Elian Gonzalez is carried away from his Miami relatives and reunited with his father. What happens now?


GREGORY CRAIG, LAWYER FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: Juan Gonzalez has made a commitment to remain in the United States during this appeal.


BLITZER: We'll speak to Greg Craig, attorney for Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Then, the Miami family arrives in Washington. We'll hear from their attorney, Linda Osberg-Braun and on the planning and timing that went into the operation, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner.

Keeping the peace in Miami, we'll be joined by the city's mayor, Joe Carollo. Plus, two Congressmen face off on the politics of Elian, Democrat Charlie Rangel of New York and Republican David Dreier of California. And on this Easter Sunday, we'll hear from the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Jerry Falwell.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable, Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Richard Lowry.

And Bruce Morton has the "Last Word" on your right to remain silent. Will the Supreme Court reconsider its stance?

BLITZER: It's noon in Washington and Miami, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London, and 6:00 p.m. in Rome.

Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special two-hour LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our guests shortly. But first, let's check the latest developments in the Elian Gonzalez case.

We begin at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington where Elian is spending his first full day in five months with his father.

CNN's Kate Snow is standing just outside the base with the latest. Kate? What's happening over there?

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, kind of an interesting scene here right now. There are camera people running on either side of me, trying to catch up with family members from Miami, who have just now showed up here at the gate to Andrews Air Force Base. They drove up just behind me here at the gate. They tried to enter the gate. And of course, they were denied access, simply because they don't have military ID and they didn't have any prior invitation to come into the facility. We're told by a base spokesman that they are on a 100 percent ID check right now. That means you have to have a military ID or permission to be on base or you'll be turned away, as the family just was. It looks like they're now about to come over and speak to many of the reporters that gathered here.

They also spoke earlier today at length, more than an hour long news conference that they held. They spoke out against -- strongly against -- the U.S. Government, Senator Bob Smith joined them. He has been hosting them for the last couple days. And he went in front of the cameras saying that Attorney General Janet Reno and President Clinton did the wrong thing yesterday morning. He said that they had abused their power.

Marisleysis Gonzalez, the second cousin of Elian who's been caring for him. She spoke out forcefully as well. And she said that she is not leaving until she sees Elian.


MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ: I demand to see Elian and I would not leave until I see this boy. His father could have done this in a very peaceful way. We have always wanted to see him. My doors have always been open to everybody.


SNOW: Now, again, the doors here at Andrews Air Force base, though, are not open to everybody. They are not open to anyone who doesn't have official permission to be here. Apparently that's why they've been turned away. We understand that the spokesperson for the family from Miami is now speaking to reporters. Right now the base keeping Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his son, his wife and their baby well away from the media and all the press attention. They are staying at what is known as the distinguished guest quarters. That's where they put up dignitaries often. It is a two bedroom apartment. I'm told it is a very comfortable place for them and they have a garden surrounding them on the outside. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kate Snow reporting from Andrews Air Force Base. Stand by. If there are developments out there, we will of course be back to you.

But joining us now to talk about the government's return of Elian to his father and what lies ahead is Greg Craig.

BLITZER: He's the attorney for Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Mr. Craig, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

All right, let's start off with the news. You just heard Kate Snow that the Miami relatives of Elian have arrived at Andrews Air Force Base. We're told that they have an Easter basket they'd like to deliver to Elian. Why not allow them this opportunity to go and deliver that Easter basket on Easter Sunday?

CRAIG: I have no doubt that they would like very much and sincerely would like to see Elian. I think that the point that has to be made here is the one that the attorney general made: It's time for some peace here for this boy. It's time for him to have a chance in solitude and privacy to reconnect with his family. That's going on right now. And the worst thing that could possibly happen would be to reintroduce the circus atmosphere, the television lights, the cameras, and the emotions of Miami into this family reunion which is so special.

And I think that the right thing to do here is to give this time to Elian and to give this opportunity to his father in peace to reconnect as a family would. And then over time, of course it will be possible for members of the family to talk to Juan Miguel, see Elian. But to come up to Washington, to make demands, without arranging in advance, I think that's not the way to go about it. And I'm not sure we should respond in that way.

The way to do it is to be thoughtful of this family that has gone through so much and been deprived of the opportunity to be together.

BLITZER: But looking at it from the other side, this family, the relatives in Miami, Marisleysis, the uncle, Lazaro -- they spent five months taking care of this boy. Couldn't you make the argument that it would be reassuring for little Elian to see both sides of this torn family together on this Easter Sunday? Maybe that would help him in this transitional phase.

CRAIG: I don't disagree with the concept. I do believe that we need some professional advice about this, and we will be talking to people that will give us that kind of advice.

But the four-to five-month period that you're talking about was a period of time when they were unlawfully keeping this boy away from his father. Let's never forget that.

And it was only after many, many weeks of effort that they so provoked the federal government that the federal government said enough is enough, we have to take this boy and restore him to his father.

So my own view is that in good time, everything is possible. But to rush up here to transport the soap opera of Miami and to try to introduce that same soap opera into Washington, D.C., I think that's a terrible mistake and insensitive to the requirements of a family that wants some peace and some space.

BLITZER: Have you asked your client, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, if he wants to see the relatives from Miami now that they're in Washington?

CRAIG: We discussed this issue yesterday. I don't want to get into attorney-client communication but I will convey his view, but not right now. He wants to be with his family, he wants to be with his son, and he wants minimal intrusions. And we'll be talk you go through this over the days.

I would recommend to the relatives in Miami not to come up and hold press conferences, not to come up and make demands, but have someone give me a call, let's talk about serious ways of accomplishing this. That's not the way they proceeded so far.

BLITZER: At the news conference this morning, Marisleysis, Lazaro, they said what they want are reassurances that Elian really is OK. They've seen that one photograph that's been released, and they're suggesting, though, that given the haircut, the not haircut, that perhaps this photo was doctored, it was not real. What do you say?

CRAIG That's absurd. And for anybody to be paying any serious attention or consideration to that allegation is absurd. That photograph came out of a disposable camera that Juan Miguel himself had, and I think it was taken by either an INS agent or a marshal within minutes after the time that they arrived at their location, where they're living right now on Andrews Air Force Base.

The boy is as he was. I saw him maybe five minutes later and looked exactly the same.

CRAIG: He's happy, he's at ease, he's comfortable with his father, he's pleased to be back with his little brother, Hianny, that's a great relationship. And let me assure you, that Elian is fine and happy. In the heart of a loving family.

BLITZER: But you could understand from their perspective, they don't believe you. They've not sure. They want to touch and see him personally, they don't trust these pictures, they think that there's something phony going on.

CRAIG: Well, you know, they had an opportunity to work this out in a peaceful way. They had an opportunity in an orderly transition to make it possible for that kind of a meeting and conversation and visitation to occur and they chose not to go that way. They in fact said that they would never turn over Elian to his father. That he would have to be ripped away from my arms, that they would fight for Elian forever and never betray him.

So in a certain sense, Wolf, they have brought this upon themselves. They have caused, they forced the federal government to take action, to unite the father with the son and now that that this happened, they insist they have some right to access to him. They have no legal right at all and I think they have a very limited moral right. We're grateful for the efforts they made to keep Elian with them and support him, but they went way, way beyond the line and they denied this father his capacity to be with his son.

BLITZER: Would you be open to allowing a third party, without any direct involvement, perhaps someone from the news media, to go in and see what's going on, just to be able to report objectively what the impression is without obviously interviewing Elian or anything like that?

CRAIG: Let me just tell you my reaction to that, above all, we do not want the circus atmosphere with cameras, newsmen with all respect, Wolf, all the intrusion of that atmosphere and that environment into this boy's life. He is entitled to some normalcy, he is entitled to privacy and so is Juan Miguel and his family. To be quite honest with you, I don't see that there's a need to reassure anyone. This father loves this boy. And the boy loves the father.

And the family is together and we should praise God that that finally happened, and it happened without anybody getting hurt. And over time we'll work it out so that people are reassured if they feel they need to be reassured, that this is a happy scene. But I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, Wolf, this is a happy scene, it's a good scene.

BLITZER: The game plan as far as we've heard, is that they will stay for a few days, two or three days, whatever, at Andrews Air Force Base and then move to the Wye River plantation, a secluded site on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations were going on. Is that what's going to happen now?

CRAIG: Well, there's not been final decisions as to where they're going to go next. They are at Andrews Air Force Base and appropriately so, I think, for some couple of days of solitude and privacy and opportunity to heal as the attorney general suggested. Where we go next, I think is going to be also, we're going to be concerned about security, we're going to be concerned about privacy and we will want seclusion. Where it is, I'm not yet sure that I can announce. You've been to the Wye, there is seclusion there, it's a beautiful natural outdoorsy place, that would be a good place, I think, for them to be.

BLITZER: And one other point on the physical, mental state of Elian Gonzalez, Marisleysis and others, the relatives in Florida are suggesting that perhaps he was medicated, given some sort of sedative, some sort of drug to change him. Can you assure us that has not been the case.

CRAIG: I know of no such medication, I think they would have had to come to the father for permission for that to occur. They did not make any such request of the father, had they done that, I think the father would have said no, Elian will be just fine. So there's no medication, there's no tranquilization, it's very hard for them to believe the truth of this situation. And that is, that Elian had a very good father in Cuba, the father has come to be reunited with him and Elian is happy of that.

BLITZER: What about the next legal steps?

May 11 there's a hearing, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. What happens as far as your client is concerned? He's going to stay in the United States, you've assured us, until this entire judicial process plays itself out.

CRAIG: Well, the 11th Circuit has adopted a very expeditious procedure to resolve the issues in that case. The appellants, meaning Lazaro Gonzalez's lawyers, filed their brief some time ago. The government has to respond on Monday. Then the appellants have an opportunity to file a reply on May 1 and there will be oral argument on May 11.

I believe that the 11th Circuit will continue to act expeditiously, understanding that speed and certainty are very important to the outcome of this, and so that I believe that we'll have an opinion or a judgment by the end of May or early June.

BLITZER: As you know, the opinion that was released last week suggested that perhaps the 6-year-old boy could apply for political asylum, he was old enough, perhaps. Do you believe that he is old enough to make that kind of a decision?

CRAIG: This is the kind of decision that you don't leave to a 6- year-old. It's a life altering, life-changing decision. You would talk to a 6-year-old about what kind of breakfast food he has in the morning or what tee-shirt he wears or where to go on the playground. But don't consult with a 6-year-old or ask him to make decisions about what church he goes to, what school he goes to, what country he lives in.

Yes, you can ask his views. I think that's appropriate to consider his views. But the notion that Elian Gonzalez has a full understanding of the test that's required for an application for asylum, which is a reasonable fear of persecution, I don't believe that a 6-year-old can make that decision and I think the court will ultimately say, yes, the father is the one person that has the right to make that decision for the boy.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds, but very, very quickly, are there any Cuban government officials with Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his family at Andrews Air Force Base?

CRAIG: I think not right now. I think he is living totally in the custody and protection of the United States marshal service. I think on occasion there will be opportunities for friends that he's developed in the Cuban Interests Section to visit. I plan to go out there later today. The lawyers will continue to consult with him and work with him. But we also want to recognize that there is need for a support group for Elian, and so we're hopeful that we'll be able to bring in some of his classmates and a teacher or two and maybe a cousin from Cuba to be with him during the next few weeks.

BLITZER: OK, Gregory Craig, thanks once again for joining us on LATE EDITION, especially on this Easter Sunday.

CRAIG: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead: It didn't take long before Elian's Miami relatives followed the 6-year-old to Maryland. What's their next move? We'll ask Linda Osberg-Braun, one of the attorneys representing the Miami family when this special two-hour LATE EDITION continues.



RENO: Every step of the way, the Miami relatives kept moving the goalposts and raising more hurdles.


BLITZER: Attorney General Janet Reno defending her decision to send federal agents into the home of Lazaro Gonzalez to retrieve Elian and return him to his father.

Welcome back to this special two-hour LATE EDITION.

Joining us now from Miami is Linda Osberg-Braun. She is one of the attorneys representing Lazaro Gonzalez and his daughter, Marisleysis. Ms. Osberg-Braun, good to have you back with us.


BLITZER: You heard Greg Craig make the case why it's not time yet for these two parts of the family to get together. The family has come to Andrews Air Force Base, the relatives from Miami. He makes the point that Juan Miguel and his son need some time together. Is that unfair?

OSBERG-BRAUN: The time is critical now. At the beginning it's critical that Elian be with Mari during the transition. Waiting a few days has the same effect of just ripping Elian from his second mother. And unfortunately the government didn't have their psychologists analyze Elian at all personally. From afar they considered him a paper study. And unfortunately the time is now and that is why Mari and Lazaro ran up to Washington, D.C. to see if it's possible they could help with the transition. Unfortunately it's not working.

BLITZER: It doesn't look like Juan Miguel is interested in meeting with them at this point at least for the next few days. What is the family going to do? Drive out to Andrews Air Force Base every day and make a statement by doing that?

OSBERG-BRAUN: I don't think so. I think they were hoping that the Congressmen and the Senators would be able to help them orchestrate a meeting. But it seems like Mr. Craig and perhaps Fidel Castro are the ones truly behind the operation. And they won't let Juan Miguel meet with the family. Now I think there needs to be an ice-breaking period too. The families need to meet, perhaps without Elian present so the adults can have the conversations that need to be held so they can all start working together for Elian's future.

BLITZER: Have your clients proposed that, that they meet without Elian present just to talk as a family?

OSBERG-BRAUN: They have been trying to for weeks now, for months really, to meet with Juan Miguel. However, it hasn't been possible. We don't believe it's Juan Miguel who doesn't want to meet with the family. We think he's being controlled. We would like to find out.

BLITZER: Well, if there are no Cuban officials at Andrews Air Force base compound where they're staying, how is he being controlled?

OSBERG-BRAUN: I think it's clear, and Mr. Craig is calling all the shots. And they will let people in. They're surrounded by marshals. Juan Miguel is not a free man even on U.S. soil.

BLITZER: What about your next legal steps? What are you planning to do at this point, just wait until that May 11 hearing in Atlanta at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals?

OSBERG-BRAUN: We're exploring all options, including the misconduct that occurred during the raid at gun point. INS violated their own regulations. They used excessive force. And we're exploring all angles at this point.

What we do have is we have the government's brief, which will be filed on Monday. And we'll be responding to that a week later. We're preparing of course for oral argument. And we're very encouraged about the decision of the 11th Circuit and hopeful that Elian Gonzalez will have his day in court.

BLITZER: When you say the INS went too far in using excessive force and you're exploring all options, specifically what does that mean, exploring all options?

Are you going to file some sort of suit?

OSBERG-BRAUN: Under the law, it's possible. We're not ruling out anything. And I won't go into detail of what we'll be filing. However, INS by law is required to use minimal force necessary. They conducted themselves as though they were arresting the worst drug dealer in Miami. And it wasn't right. And the problem with the operation was that we were still in mid-negotiations. We were very close to a deal and they broke it off, literally putting the attorneys on hold while the raid was conducted.

And unfortunately, the agreement would have helped Elian and this would have never happened. We wouldn't have to be worried about Elian's psychological state at this point because the families, as they should have a long time ago, would have been together.

BLITZER: What the government says and what Gregory Craig the lawyer for Juan Miguel Gonzalez says is that your side was never really negotiating in good faith, you were simply seeking to delay some sort of raid on the house, some sort of effort to go in there and take Elian out of the house. That you kept, you heard Janet Reno say you kept moving the goal posts to make your demands greater and greater.

OSBERG-BRAUN: That's absolutely untrue and it's offensive and insulting. We were operating and negotiating in good faith for the sake of the boy. And it's fortunate and sad in both manners, we had prominent members of the community literally in the house, dedicated to the negotiations, it's rare that such people would be working until 5:00 a.m. because they believed in the matter. And fortunately, they were there and their words can express what happened.

And it's unfortunate that if they weren't there perhaps the family would not have been believed. Rather we did not raise the goal post but the attorney general changed the terms at the last minute and gave a five-minute ultimatum, deadline and then the raid occurred. However, members of the community, the names who have already been disclosed, say that they were in mid-negotiations and a deal was almost complete, the only open-ended factor was where the meeting was going to occur. And that was not a factor that would have ended the deal on our side.

BLITZER: Well, the other side says, though, that you never budged on the key issue of custody that you would guarantee that as a result of this meeting, Elian would be transferred as custody would be transferred directly to his father, that on that point there was no compromise on your side.

OSBERG-BRAUN: The meeting was beautiful, because the families were going to live under one roof. So during the transition of bringing Juan Miguel back into little Elian's life, it would have been over a slow period of time, a gradual process where they would have relinquished their, or at least weaned off their participation in Elian's life. That would have been psychologically healthy. And they were prepared to do that and that's in writing.

BLITZER: One of your colleagues, Kendall Coffey earlier today suggested and Marisleysis also said that there's some reason to believe that photograph, that widely seen photograph of a smiling Elian in the arms of his father was doctored. Do you have any evidence at all to suggest that that was, is the case?

OSBERG-BRAUN: Experts will be evaluating that picture. The concern is that nobody has seen Elian. Is he OK, and Mr. Craig is not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, nobody knows if he is truly OK or if he has been traumatized a second time. Our therapists say that that would be like reliving the initial loss of his mother. Elian needs that kind of care, he needs his psychologist who's been treating him over time for continuity to be back into his life and with the family. BLITZER: The family in Miami, there are indications, there are reports now that some movies may be in the works, there's talk of a CBS movie of the whole Elian Gonzalez case, and that there will be royalties and rights that the family is now negotiating some sort of payment for that kind of movie. Do you have any indication to believe that that is so?

OSBERG-BRAUN: I remember many producers calling my office and the family would not agree to that in any regard. I have no information about any producers or movies being made other than movies by the studios based on the public information that's out there already.

BLITZER: All right, Linda Osberg-Braun, I know this has been a busy day for you, busy several weeks for you, I want to thank you as well for giving up part of your Easter Sunday to join us here on LATE EDITION, thank you so much.

OSBERG-BRAUN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And when we return, many people are questioning whether yesterday's pre-dawn raid was necessary. We'll pose that question to someone who helped make the decision, INS commissioner Doris Meissner when LATE EDITION continues.



MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ: Think about it: If you have your house trashed and people coming in, say, with guns and you don't even know who they are, because they didn't eve tell us who they are, all they said, "Give me the damn boy! Give me the damn boy!" And all I said was, "Please, I'll give you the boy."


BLITZER: Elian's cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, talking to reporters this morning, one day after INS agents raided her home and removed Elian.

Welcome back to this special two-hour LATE EDITION.

We're now joined by Doris Meissner, the commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Commissioner Meissner, thank you for joining us on LATE EDITION.

What was the rush? That's the question that a lot of people are asking. Why, in the midst of the negotiations, rush in at 5:00 in the morning and take Elian out?

DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: The issues here have been under way for five months -- four months. I made my decision in January. We have been working on these issues ever since that time.

Each time that we think that we have an ability to bring the parties together, the conditions have changed. First the Miami relatives wanted to have the opportunity to pursue appeals in the courts; we have allowed for that. They wanted the state court suit to be taken into account; the state court suit has been dismissed. They wanted the father to come to the United States; the father has come to the United States. They wanted a family meeting; last week we arranged for a family meeting. We had an airplane waiting in Miami. We had a retreat site set up in Washington for the meeting to take place.

Each time that we think we have the basis for cooperation, they have declined. So we now came to the point where the question was: a family that was unlawfully holding this child more than a week ago, their parole to hold -- to care for the child was revoked.

We had expert advice from a team of psychiatrists/psychologists that I had pulled together on what is the best way to arrange this transfer. I was told very clearly that now that the father was in the country, it was extremely important that that reunification take place quickly and unambiguously. And we were dealing with a situation where this child was being held against the legal requirements that the law calls for and needed to be with his father for his own good.

BLITZER: The other criticism is that negotiations were under way. You heard Linda Osberg-Braun say at that moment, at 5:00 in the morning, some of the intermediaries, the third-party people who were involved, still thought that the talks were continuing.

MEISSNER: These were discussions, again, the latest in many discussions. I mean, there have been a whole series of conversations here that the attorney general personally has been involved in, that I have been involved in, that the lawyers have been involved in. The ones that took place on Friday during the day began way early in the day, and they went up and down, up and down.

Finally toward the middle of the night, approaching 3:00 -- which was our deadline for an enforcement action -- they seemed perhaps to have some chance of succeeding. We held back for another hour to be sure whether the talks could gel. They did not. By 4:00 -- and we decided that we simply had to go ahead.

But the critical issue is that there was not movement. The issues here about transfer of custody, about a family meeting, about where the family meeting would take place -- these are issues that have been under consideration for months. And there was no basis to believe that it could result in a success.

BLITZER: You've seen the criticism that you're now taking. You were there at the meetings with Janet Reno throughout the night. Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, issued a statement yesterday saying this: The use of this type of force clearly was not justified.

BLITZER: Negotiations were on-going, my first thought was that this could only happen in Castro's Cuba. And Linda Osberg-Braun just saying now that they're thinking of legal steps because of what they say INS agents engaged in excessive force in going into that house. MEISSNER: An enforcement action like this can be a frightening experience, it is a frightening experience. That's why we have gone to such lengths over such a period of time to find a way for a cooperative transfer. But a transfer did have to take place. The Miami relatives have been unwilling to cooperate, despite the statements that they've made in bringing about a transfer.

When we finally decided on an enforcement action, having had to very regretfully reach the conclusion that there was no other way, we did it properly. We did it according to standard law enforcement procedure. We had a warrant, a search warrant was issued that evening, 6:00, by the United States attorney, it was a warrant that is exactly proper for these purposes and we're making copies available if anybody's interested in seeing it.

BLITZER: You heard Congressman Tom DeLay earlier today say that there were no warrants.

MEISSNER: There is a warrant, and it is a warrant that is issued for the improper, unlawful restraint of a person, that person obviously being the child, Elian. When our agents went to the door, they announced what they were there for, they announced it repeatedly, they said they would bring no harm, they asked for cooperation, they did not receive cooperation. When you're in a situation like that, you then have to take charge.

It's got to be very clear that safety of everybody is the paramount concern and in this particular case, with a child absolutely safety is the critical objective. They were in and out of that house in three minutes. That is exactly what you try to do. You get in, you get out, you leave the area. And it was a successful operation.

BLITZER: The criticism, though, is that they went in with guns, with gas masks, and that what you have said, what Janet Reno has said is that there was some fear that perhaps there were guns in the house or guns in the crowd. That's why your agents had to go in heavily armed. Twenty-four hours later, now more than 24 hours later, is there any evidence at all that there were any guns either in the crowd or inside the house?

MEISSNER: When you enter a dwelling, you've got to be prepared as the attorney general said, for the unexpected. You have no idea what you might confront. In that particular case, people dress as law enforcement agents so they can't be confused with anybody else. They have firearms in case somebody is fired upon. The rules are very clear. They never use those weapons unless they are fired upon or somebody else is in danger. The commands were clear, the objective is to do it quickly.

Guns were not pointed at people, that photograph that is reverberating around the world, if you look at it carefully, that gun is pointed downward, that's called a search position. The trigger finger is straight ahead, it is not in the chamber so that there is no chance of pushing and having a discharge. The officer is looking directly at the people, the weapon is to the side and his purpose was to identify where the child was, so that the female agent responsible for bringing the child out of the house could quickly put a blanket around him and move him out of the building and that is exactly what happened.

BLITZER: Now have you seen Elian and his father since they arrived at Andrews Air Force Base?

MEISSNER: I have, I was in the airplane hangar when the airplane at Andrews rolled in with him inside.

MEISSNER: Our agent who was the female who was responsible for taking him from the house brought him all the way to Washington. She never left his side. She is bilingual and she was responsible for him the whole way. Father got onto the airplane. He had his reunion with his child by himself, as he had requested. He then brought the child off of the airplane and I watched the two of them walk from the airplane all across the hangar to the vehicle. The child was wrapped around his father's shoulders, head rested in the crook of his neck. It was a very, very moving scene.

We then followed them in a line of cars to the home that they're now staying a very short distance at Andrews. They walked into the home and I was outside of the home for a couple of hours after that. I did not see them but I know they were inside because staff members of mine, including the two officers from Miami involved in the operation, who came up on the plane, were asked to go in the house to be thanked. And they told me that it looked like a perfectly normal happy family. Elian was playing.

BLITZER: And the suggestion that's coming from the relatives in Miami that perhaps Elian was given some medication. Did the INS on that flight or on the ground or any time at Andrews Air Force Base, any INS or any other U.S. government personnel give Elian any medication whatsoever?

MEISSNER: Absolutely not. We did have two physicians on that airplane. We had a flight surgeon and we had a child psychiatrist. They are employees of the public health service. We did that to be absolutely sure that if any health issue arose we would be able to deal with it. I spoke with them after the flight. They told me that everything was normal. He was just fine. He was calm and their report was a clean bill of health.

BLITZER: And we only have a little time left but on this question of asylum, you say he can't apply for asylum. But the lawyers for the family in Miami say he can apply for asylum. Why do you categorically rule out the possibility that even the opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals suggested is there for this boy to apply for asylum even though he's only six years old.

MEISSNER: We've said that his father speaks for him in immigration matters. That's the position that we've taken. That it was basis for my decision in January. And that is the decision that is being appealed. We're confident that we did the right thing. The court of appeals will rule quickly, but I'm quite confident that our decision will be upheld. This is a 6-year-old child. He cannot speak for himself on an issue of such profound impact to his life. BLITZER: OK, Doris Meissner, the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, thank you so much for joining us today.

MEISSNER: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, the response of Miami residents to the taking of Elian. We'll talk with Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, when LATE EDITION continues.



WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because she was from Miami, she wanted to resolve this in the most patient way possible to minimize the damage to the people and the community that she loves so much. So I think she did the right thing, and I'm very pleased with the way she handled it.


BLITZER: President Clinton weighing in on Attorney General Janet Reno's decision to use force to retrieve Elian.

Welcome back to this special two-hour LATE EDITION.

Joining us now from Miami is the mayor of that city, Joe Carollo.

Mr. Mayor, welcome to LATE EDITION. Good to have you on our program.


BLITZER: Give us an update as of right now. What's happening, if anything, unusual on the streets of Miami?

CAROLLO: Well, Wolf, as of now, as we're talking, the latest reports that I have gotten is that everything is quiet in the streets of Miami, thank God.

BLITZER: And do you expect anything else? Are there any indications that your police department is offering you that there could be some other problems? Or do you think what we saw yesterday is the end of it?

CAROLLO: Wolf, no one has a crystal ball, but we have been very active speaking to Miamians and all the local news media, asking Miamians to think with their heads, not with their hearts that are hurting so much, to do whatever we have to do within the law -- within the law -- because that is really the strongest message that we could send out.

We are not going to help little Elian, we are not going to help Miami or help America by seeing any disturbance in Miami. The only winner that will come out that would be Fidel Castro.

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, how much advance warning did your police department get before that raid at 5:00 a.m. or so yesterday morning?

CAROLLO: Well, I did not receive any advance warning at all, Wolf. And I want to be very clear on that. Our police chief stated to the local media, and he pick his words very carefully, in saying that he did not receive the final green light that they were going until 4:15 in the morning, which is very clear to me by the choice words that he used that he knew well in advance of 4:15 in the morning.

BLITZER: And so the Miami police were ready for the kind of anger that erupted afterwards as a result of this kind of advanced warning?

CAROLLO: No, sir. Miami police was not ready for that, and I have to be very specific with that. Because many of our own officers, because the higher-ups of our department did not let them know what was happening, were pepper-gassed themselves.

Many of our officers were pepper-gassed. All our officers in that scene, with the exception of a few that were brought in to assist in that van and other things, were caught totally by surprise. And in fact there are videos that were shown on local television where you could see some of our own officers that were peppered -- gassed. They were coughing, all the clouds of gases coming right at them.

BLITZER: So do you feel that you were deliberately kept in the dark by your own police, the senior police officers?

CAROLLO: Well, it's not that I feel that. It's that that's exactly what the city manager told me at 5:34 in the morning when I got the first call from someone that was at the scene, that was being gassed, coughing at 5:18 in the morning telling me what had happened.

After I called my manager right away to get an explanation, I told him to contact the police chief. At 5:34 in the morning, my manager told me the police chief knew in advance and that he had been given orders by the federal government that he could not say anything to me or anyone else.

And I asked the manager: What federal laws are there that when do you not have any kind of an active criminal investigation that the federal government can tell a local police chief that he cannot say anything to his mayor, and particularly when the police department of Miami have confided in me with so many, many things, including investigations, and this mayor has never leaked anything out.

BLITZER: So the extraordinary development that the federal government informs your police commissioner and tells him: "You can't tell the mayor about this," presumably because the federal government doesn't trust you.

CAROLLO: Well, this is what the city manager expressed to me at 5:34 in the morning that the police chief had said to him. As of today, Sunday, I have not heard from the police chief. All this happened, everything that's happened to Miami since yesterday, and the police chief has not even given me the courtesy of a phone call. And if I could add, Wolf, the way this operation was run, it was like Keystone cops. I know that they're pounding their chest saying what a great operation it was, but you know the only reason that you didn't have people that were wounded or gunshots fired were simply being that they knew that there were no weapons in that home or anywhere around there. They knew this is a non-violent community. These were humble, decent, very patriotic men, women and children that were there and they knew this was not a military bunker, a military objective, there was not going to be any resistance whatsoever.

The officers that went there, they violated so many of the 101 training of SWAT teams in what they did. I mean first of all, they did not bring any rescue units along when the caravan came or at least had them within two or three blocks away because they know in a operation like this, there are possibilities of people getting hurt. And in fact people were hit, people got gassed, that were hurt in that sense, and it took quite a long time to get sufficient amounts of fire rescue units in there.

BLITZER: All right, Mr. Mayor, I'm sorry to interrupt but we have to take a quick commercial break. We have a lot more to talk about with Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're continuing our conversation with Miami Mayor Carollo.

Mr. Mayor, you've heard the criticism that Miami seems to have its own international policy toward Cuba, separate from the federal government. Perhaps that's one reason why the federal government didn't want you to know what it was about to do. What do you say to those who say you're still part of the United States. You can't simply have this independent policy towards Cuba?

CAROLLO: You know, Wolf, that is so outrageous to say that. Miamians are as patriotic and as loyal to America as any other group. I mean, maybe those same people who are saying that might be the ones that will be saying next that all Cuban Americans should be put in concentration camps like the Japanese were in World War II just to make sure Mr. Castro is going to be pleased and he doesn't launch another Mariel. And this is so outrageous.

The truth is what we have seen yesterday is, that we have had a federal government that has acted as the worst dictatorship that we have ever seen have acted. You know, even during the Gulf War, even with Saddam Hussein, the criminal and murderer that he is, we even respected the Islamic holidays. Those weren't even respected here. There was no need, Wolf, no need whatsoever to have gone in there with a military force against a loving family, women and children that were gassed, that were hurt. People that were beat up on the way out. People that were bleeding. And they didn't even bother to make sure that rescue units were going to be handily available, like is done in any SWAT operation of this kind. BLITZER: So what are you say, what lessons, what have you learned from this whole experience that might be useful down the road if once again there are some tensions between the United States and Cuba?

CAROLLO: Well, unfortunately, and I say this with pain in my heart, and with shame, what I've learned from this is that our federal government did not what was the right thing to do for America. What is the American way of doing things, in fairness, in fair play. They did what Castro wanted because of his threats.

Wolf, is it fair? Is it the American way of fair play to have had the attorney of our president be the attorney of Castro, of Cuba, and then when he came from Havana, he announced basically that there was a deal cut between both governments and that he had been the broker. That is not fair, Wolf. That is not the American way. That is unethical, immoral and this should never have happened. Mr. Gregory Craig indeed has been the person calling the shots.

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, unfortunately we are all out of time. But there's so much more to talk about it. We'll have you back, I am sure. Thank you so much for spending part of your Easter Sunday with us.

CAROLLO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. For our international viewers, "World News" is next. For our North American audience, there's another full hour of late edition. We'll check the hour's top stories with Gene Randall. Then, speak to Congressmen David Dreier and Charles Rangel.

Plus, an Easter conversation with the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson. That's followed by our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's "Last Word."

It's all ahead when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back the second hour of this special LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our guests shortly: New York Congressman Charlie Rangel; in California, Congressman David Dreier.

But first let's go to Gene Randall for a check of the hour's headlines.


BLITZER: Still to come on this special LATE EDITION, the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson.

But right now, joining us to talk about the Elian Gonzalez case and why it's so politically volatile are two leading members of Congress. In New York, Democrat Charles Rangel, and in Los Angeles, Republican David Dreier.

Congressmen, always good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), NEW YORK: Good Yentiv (ph) to you, Wolf. And happy Easter, Charlie.

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Happy Easter? Happy Passover?

BLITZER: Thank you to both of you. A special holiday weekend.

David Dreier, do you think that the Clinton administration handled this Elian Gonzalez raid -- if you want to call it that -- yesterday morning, was this absolutely essential at this point?

DREIER: Absolutely not. And I will tell you that I've said from the get-go that I wanted to see Elian and his father, Juan Miguel, reunited, and I believe that it's very important that they be together.

But I was really you appalled when I saw this. Yesterday morning I was talking to a friend on the phone who told me: Did you hear about our raid? And I had no idea. I thought maybe we launched some kind of military strike against some other country.

And when she proceeded to tell me what had taken place, that the home was trashed, that the door was knocked down, and no one has claimed other than what Kendall Coffey said -- it was on the front of today's "L.A. Times," that he was in the midst of negotiations when the door was knocked down.

DREIER: So, I think that it was actually a tremendous case of over kill and there should have been some kind of cooling off period following these negotiations even though they have gone on for a long period of time, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman Rangel, in fact "The Miami Herald" in a rare front page editorial today writes this that says, "the evidence clearly suggests that the Miami relatives were at last prepared to voluntarily deliver Elian to his father within a very short time. A full and independent investigation of this matter is warranted." Is it warranted?

RANGEL: Listen, let's get on with it. The cycle is complete. The boy was snatched from his father five months ago, he was found in the Atlantic Ocean, he's in this country, he's been here five months, albeit illegal, he's now this wonderful kid is in the loving arms of his father. Now, of course the Republicans can investigate, the newspapers can investigate, but I think we all ought to take a deep breath and say that the only thing left now is for the kid and his father to be allowed to return to Cuba.

The truth of the matter is that more and more you hear, everyone from Miami talking about Castro, Castro, Castro and violation of human rights. We should be talking about the reunification of this boy with his father. I, as a former law enforcement officer, know that there's no easy way or pleasant way to enforce a search warrant and God knows that picture is a rough one for me to look at. But the beautiful picture is the boy and his father reunited, let's get on with all the things that we have to do in the Congress and in our great country.

DREIER: Charlie, I agree with that assessment with a couple of exceptions. I'm happy to see father and son reunited, but I think it's very important to note that the child was not snatched from his father's arms. In fact on November 22 of last year, Juan Miguel telephoned his relatives in Miami to inform them that mother and son were going to be coming to Miami. It seems to me that we need to realize that there is horrible repression that exists in Cuba today, and I think it's important for us to focus a little attention on that. I was talking to a friend the other day who said to me, gosh, who are we to say that life is better here than it is in Cuba?

The fact of the matter is just two weeks ago, we've seen the United Nations focus on human rights and Poland and Czechoslovakia both moved ahead with resolutions condemning the human rights situation in Cuba which has gotten worse than it was. The index of economic freedoms puts Cuba right in the dumpster along with North Korea and Libya and Somalia and other nations Iraq, and so it seems to me that we need to look at the fact that in this hemisphere, there is one remaining communist totalitarian regime which is still hell-bent on expansionism and I think that's...

RANGEL: That's very interesting that you would say that, David, because there's no question in my mind that the reason why Republican leaders and those in Miami are focusing on Cuba, is because this is an election year, this is a presidential year, the electoral college votes, and they are very important. But when we get back to Congress, if you want to talk about violation of human rights, why is it that you Republican leaders never treat the communist China in the same way?

Or communist North Viet -- no right now, we're trying to get China into the WTO, we're trying to expand trade relationships with them. I think it's a good idea to beat back communism with trade and commerce and contact, but you never talk about that with the embargo. Why is it that we have a double standard for Cuba if it's not because of Florida?

DREIER: That's a very fair question, Charlie. When you get Fidel Castro to embrace the economic reforms that Dung Xio Peng advocated three decades ago ...

RANGEL: Holy mackerel.

DREIER: I think we have a tremendous opportunity to move ahead there.

And you know you can go back to 1993 ...

RANGEL: Are you saying ...?

DREIER: Let me just finish. If you look at the fact that in China today, there is an entrepreneurial class. Private property is recognized. There is the kind of freedom of movement that does not exist in Cuba. And so there's a much different situation in Cuba than there is there. Having said that, I do believe that ultimately we need to have a grander strategy than this administration has had.

If you go back to the Reagan administration and the Bush administration, foreign policy was a priority. In the '92 campaign they talked about the fact it was only the economy and we're paying the price for a lack of a grand strategy dealing with democratization which obviously is the way of the future.

RANGEL: I never thought I would see the day, David when you were upholding democratic reforms in the People's Republic of China, which is just about ...

DREIER: Economic reforms, Charlie.


RANGEL: I'm talking about, we're talking about violation of human rights, but still, Republican leadership is talking about Castro and not Elian's return to his father.

BLITZER: All right, congressmen, we have to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about, including your phone calls for Congressmen Charlie Rangel and David Dreier. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Now back to our conversation about the Elian Gonzalez with New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel and California Republican Congressman David Dreier. We have a call from Wiggins, Mississippi. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Yes, I certainly agree with the comments from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. My question to Mr. Dreier, what are the plans, the steps, the process and hopeful outcome of a congressional hearing on this Elian issue?

DREIER: Well, Charlie said he thought it was politicalization if we proceed with some kind of Congressional oversight. We actually have a constitutional responsibility to oversee the operations of the executive branch. And I think one of our top priorities should be to look into how this was handled. As Mayor Carollo said in the earlier segment, it's very obvious that this is a peaceful community. And I'm really offended by much of the criticism that's leveled against Cuban Americans who have fled repression and come to this country. And so I think that we should proceed with oversight and I'm going to encourage my colleagues on the appropriate committees to do just that.

BLITZER: All right, we have another caller from Viro Beach, Florida. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Yes, my question is for Congressman Rangel. In view of what happened in Miami and in viewing the Associated Press photo that is in the newspaper, do you not feel that our freedoms as Americans are eroding? RANGEL: I wish there was an easier way to get the child to reunite it with the father. The family had said publicly that they were not going to peacefully turn over the child.

It's a terrible picture. I don't think a challenges our freedoms. But if Republican leadership wants to have hearings, then we have to find out whether or not the attorney general, who I think should be commended for her restraint, had any options after the family asked for the father to come to the United States, asked for a court decision, and the family court said they had no jurisdiction. So, let's have the hearing. But let's get on with American life and let the kid and his father go to Cuba.

DREIER: I totally agree with that, Charlie. I totally agree with that one.

BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Georgia, please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Yes, Representative Dreier, what do you think the political impact of moving Elian will be on the Congressional 2000 election as well as the presidential elections, please, sir.

DREIER: I really don't know what the impact is going to be. Charlie has leveled this, you know, politicalization charge. The fact is we do want to get on. We want to focus on education. We want to focus on rebuilding our defense capability. We want to focus on continuing to balance the budget. Those are the priority issues that led us here.

But we have a very serious problem in the area of foreign policy and as I was saying, we need to have a grand strategy, that deals with our relationship with the last communist totalitarian government here in this hemisphere. And so I think we have a very important responsibility in this election to focus on international policy. I think George W. Bush is going to do that very effectively.

BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he says -- he said earlier that this could be an issue in the presidential campaign. Listen to what he said specifically about the likely Democratic candidate. Listen to this:


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I just wonder where's Al Gore on this thing? Is he going to step up and say something has to be done to get the two families together so they can meet in a neutral venue, get rid of all the politics involved and let them see what can be done?


BLITZER: Al Gore has distanced himself from the Clinton administration on this very sensitive issue.

RANGEL: It wouldn't surprise me if the Republicans did not want to make Fidel Castro the issue in this election. Certainly it doesn't look like Governor Bush is meeting the intellectual challenge of being the next president of the United States. And as far as we're concerned in the Congress, the Republican leadership haven't dealt with the question of education, affordable prescription drugs, Social Security, gun safety, Medicare, none of the health issues and so why not Fidel Castro? They're looking for something, it may just be that.

DREIER: Wolf, notice that Charlie has failed to say anything good about Al Gore because he is very troubled with the way Al Gore has handled this issue, and I can certainly understand the concern from Charlie's perspective on this.

RANGEL: Troubled but not surprised.

DREIER: Well, in fact we will welcome you, since you won the Republican nomination in the past, and I'm determined to keep you as ranking minority member of weighs and means, we welcome you and your support for George W. Bush because he is right on intellectually, and so to throw that one out is really silly. He also provides the kind of strength that I believe that we need in both economic and foreign policy.

RANGEL: All I thought was that you Republicans were embracing Senator McCain and not George Bush in order to try to hold on to your leadership.

DREIER: Both of them are very good people.


DREIER: You're a great guy too, Charlie.

RANGEL: Thank you.

BLITZER: On that very, very nice note, especially on this Easter Sunday, let me thank both of you once again for joining us on LATE EDITION.

DREIER: Always great to be with, Wolf.

RANGEL: Good to be with both of you.

BLITZER: Thank you and when we return, two very outspoken ministers weigh in on the Elian Gonzalez case on this Easter Sunday. We'll hear from the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: You're looking at pictures from earlier today when Pope John Paul II celebrated Easter Mass at the Vatican with thousands of worshipers.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Reverend Jerry Falwell and Reverend Jesse Jackson also participated in Easter services today. I had a chance to speak with both men this morning.


BLITZER: Reverend Falwell, Reverend Jackson thank you so much for joining us on this Easter Sunday. Let me begin with Reverend Jackson. Did Janet Reno and President Clinton do the right thing by sending these armed federal agents into that home in little Havana and evict and bring the little boy to his father?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: It was an unfortunate conclusion. I had worked with the mayor of Miami, Janet Reno and Juan Miguel much of the last two weeks trying to have a different conclusion, but in the end they saw the building crowds representing to them a delay and defiance and danger and launched it the point where the U.S. Government's arguing sole custody to the father and they were arguing joint custody and more time, the government finally made a move. Once you make that move you cannot go into a rescue situation unless you're prepared for the unexpected, and to that extent it was an unfortunate conclusion. I want to spend my time now trying to reconcile those two families.

BLITZER: All right, what about you, Reverend Falwell, do you believe that was the right conclusion?

JACKSON: No, I do not. I think of Ruby Ridge, I think of Waco, now I see what happened with Elian on Easter Saturday, and it makes you wonder when Mr. Clinton and Ms. Reno -- Ms. Reno are going to have the federal law enforcement officers learning the goose-step.

It is so sad that on the weekend we're recognizing the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that the decision was made to put those ugly, ugly scenes on the screen.

Admittedly, I am a father and a grandfather, and I think the courts have the right to make some decisions as to custody.

I know nothing about this father, whether he is a caring father, all those kinds of things. But I do know what they did in Miami was reprehensible.

One, is not suggest that Janet Reno acted illegally, and that been long negotiations.

The fact is, the boy had the right to be with his father. The only question was: How would it take place?

The mayor of Miami I thought had the good idea of the family were to bring the boy to a neutral scene and it would be sometime for a kind of transition. But that broke down in the continuous negotiations I understand the issue of custody to the father, joint custody. And the ruling was: the boy belonged to the father.

Again, I wish it had not come to that. But in the end, the government policy of returning father to son, son to father, had to prevail.

BLITZER: Reverend Falwell, many people, including some conservatives -- Steve Largent, the congressman from Oklahoma -- have maintained repeatedly: Family values alone would dictate that his boy who lost his mother on the high seas should be with his father who, by all accounts, has been a loving, involved rather over the past six years.

REV. JERRY FALWELL, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: I have no argument with the issue that in a court of law, where the facts -- not conversation, rumor -- prevail, the court could learn if in fact this is a loving, caring father why the mother, estranged of course, divorced from her husband, from the father, left Cuba with the boy and why he allowed -- I mean, there's just so much we don't know.

I'm simply saying that machine guns and pepper spray and middle of the night and ripping the boy away -- it's the kind of thing that happens under Stalin or Adolf Hitler, should not happen in the United States. The little boy will never, never forget that.

But the outcome, Jesse and I may agree on once the facts are out, what the outcome should be. And certainly Steve Largent's a good Christian brother as well. it is not an issue of where should the boy ultimately go, but how should it have been done.

And Janet Reno and Bill Clinton just have -- they have a real ability, with Ruby Ridge and Waco and now this, of doing the wrong thing every time.

JACKSON: Reverend Falwell, I think that your making I think a bit too political. There was no bloodshed. Fortunately no one was killed. They couldn't have gone in at noontime with the crowds and the human chain around the house. You'd had chances are more people would have been hurt. Perhaps somebody would have been killed.

So if it came to that -- we'll disagree on that generally on tactics not on principle. We both agree the boy should be with his father, right?

FALWELL: Well, it all depends on after we know what kind of father this is. All we know is what Castro has told us and what the media is telling us and I don't always believe either.

BLITZER: Reverend Falwell, but making comparisons to Stalinist Russia or to Hitler with goose steps, isn't that going a little bit too far in terms of how this Clinton administration dealt with this problem?

FALWELL: Not at all. The issue is not should the child go back to the father. There was no rush. There is a hearing, there's a federal court hearing planned for this child, due process in the normal run of things in America, I worked as a pastor with 22,000 members, and in situations, broken homes, custody cases, it is not unusual for a child to be one or two years in the process in a place maybe not the ideal place waiting for the court to decide. There was no reason in the middle of the night to have to do this, rather than wait 10 days for the court to decide it.

Because there's not a Cuban American in Southern Florida or anywhere, and I would say there's not a decent person who loves peace and harmony and unity and hates violence, that is not absolutely angry about what our government did, that gun in the face of the child and the fisherman who saved the child from the water, we'll never forget that. This is one more ugly page in American history.

JACKSON: There are two scenes. There is the rescue of the boy from the fisherman, there are the continuous scenes of the crowd buildup and the taunts day-to-day which could have become very violent in the end. And so I would have hoped that the negotiations I engaged in in some measure would have been successful. But the idea of the building crowd representing delay and the defiance and danger finally had to be dealt with. Now we should focus, I think, on two things.

One, trying to reconcile that family with the father, because there is a bond with the son. Also Cuba, Cuban American relations is in the real sense that the embargo had not been there, maybe she wouldn't have drowned at sea in the first place. Maybe we should spend more time now trying to reconcile U.S. and Cuba trying to find some common ground.

You know, last year Jerry, a 135,000 Cuban Americans went to Cuba and came back without one incident. CNN is there now, we have district flights there now, we have direct telephone connections, so maybe we should focus now on more bridges and fewer walls and embargoes.

BLITZER: What about that Reverend Falwell, if the United States can have normal diplomatic relations with communist China, why not have normal diplomatic relations, open borders, free trade and traffic with Cuba?

FALWELL: I'm very much opposed to having such normal relationships with China when they're persecuting Christians by the thousands there, shutting down churches like I preach in and like Reverend Jackson preaches in. If a couple has more than one child, forcing an abortion if the mother is not willing to abort the second child, they will force the abortion.

BLITZER: All that was going on ...

FALWELL: I'm against having relations with China, period, right now as much as I am against Cuba, North Korea and until there's some human rights violations dealt with, I feel the same way about China as I do about Cuba.

JACKSON: But Jerry, you took Reagan's position supporting trade and diplomacy with South Africa during the height of apartheid. You can't have it both ways.

FALWELL: No, no, I agreed that apartheid had to go, I just did not agree with disenfranchisement taking out all the plants and factories, the American industries which unemployed black South Africans and did not hurt the South African government. I just felt that ...

JACKSON: It just seems to me, Jerry, if we can support North and South Korea talking, if we can support U.S. and China at least talking, Israel and PLO talking, south Mandela and De Clerk talking, we should not give up on talking and trade as a way to change system. Our system will prevail, but it cannot prevail unless it's tested through talks and trade.

FALWELL: The talks don't bother me, it's all the concessions that bother me and Fidel Castro is nothing more than a tyrant. He, his people are slaves, he runs a huge 15 million slave camp, and this little boy has hope in America, zero hope in Cuba and at least we could have waited 10 more days for our federal court in America to decide should this boy go to his daddy, we didn't have to come in with ...

JACKSON: Now that he is going back, the issue is do you want to have more access to him, more food to him, more medicine to him, more education? Do you despise Castro more than you love Elian? If you love Elian more, you will fight for more access, you'll fight for more contact.

FALWELL: I love Elian enough that if he were my little boy I would have had him in the trunk of my car going somewhere away from before Janet got there to tear the house down and do a terrible thing.

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. When we return, how will the Elian Gonzalez story affect presidential politics. More with the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Jerry Falwell, when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

And now here's more of my conversation with Reverend Jerry Falwell and Reverend Jesse Jackson.


BLITZER: Reverend Falwell, how, if at all, do you think the Elian Gonzalez issue will play out in the presidential campaign this year?

FALWELL: Well, of course Al Gore sees it as a terrible thing, and he is very wisely, running for office, distancing himself and disagreeing with the president. The fact is, if this had happened a year ago, he would have been right where the president is on the issue, just that he's running for president and this is going to have an effect and he can't distance himself, he can say hey, I don't know that guy named Clinton and I don't know this Janet Reno. He has for seven years adored the ground they walk on. He's going to pay the price in November.

JACKSON: But, Jerry, you're making this, you know, so political in the sense that, we all agree the boy should be with his father. We're disagreeing here on tactics. But George Bush couldn't say one America, one flag, in South Carolina. He want to the altar to pray at Bob Jones, a school that preaches race supremacy.

FALWELL: Jesse, I'll bet if you were invited...

JACKSON: I must say you took a bad rap on that, people comparing you with Pat Robertson and Bob Jones was a bad rap.

But his move toward not saying one America, one flag, and going to Bob Jones was a ugly signal.

FALWELL: Now, Jesse, if you were invited to speak at Bob Jones University, my opinion -- before all this happened -- you would have done it and so would have I. Bob Jones University thinks I'm too liberal to speak there, so I have not been invited. I think probably you fit in the same classification.

But at the same time, had we been invited, both of us would have preached there because we don't by any means say we're endorsing everybody we speak for. You and I go places where's we don't agree with anybody in the crowd, hoping we can make a positive impression.

JACKSON: The problem is he went in the lion's den and joined the lions -- that's the issue. It's not that he went in the Lion's Den. He joined the lions. He didn't seek to lock their jaws.

BLITZER: What about John McCain's decision this week -- since you raise it, Reverend Jackson, to apologize in effect for not stating what really was in his heart on this Confederate flag issue in South Carolina?

JACKSON: I was amazed at a veteran whose real strength was a POW for five years couldn't say one America, one flag. That flag is not about black and white. That flag is about secession and sedition and slavery and segregation.

They speak of Southern heritage. In 1863, there were 450,000 blacks in South Carolina, 250,000 whites. So blacks were the majority. So it was about the Union.

And so I'm glad he did it late. I wish he would have done it when it mattered.

BLITZER: What do you think, Reverend Falwell, about McCain's controversial decision, if you will?

FALWELL: Well, being an admirer of John McCain and believing him to be a real American hero and having said even when he was critical of me, that I think he would make a good vice presidential running mate with George W. Bush. I'm not going to criticize anything he does from his heart he believes he is right on. I think it was late. I think that the fact that he is now going back there might be tainted with a little bit of back-handed slap against George W. Bush which might be sour grapes. I don't knows. I don't know his heart, he doesn't know mine. I wish him well. JACKSON: But Jerry, on Easter Sunday, the man dying on the cross, it was never too late. Now, let's remain consistent with our Easter theology.

FALWELL: And he didn't just die on the cross. You and I both know three days later...

JACKSON: He got up.

FALWELL: He walked up out of the grave, alive forever more and all who trust him as savior are born again for eternity.

JACKSON: But he must not bear that cross alone, we must join him.

FALWELL: Say amen, Jesse. Even Democrats go to (OFF-MIKE).

BLITZER: I'll say amen to both of you. Happy Easter to the Reverend Falwell, Reverend Jackson...

FALWELL: Happy Easter to you.

BLITZER: A nice tradition we have here on LATE EDITION for both of to you join us on Easter Sunday.

FALWELL: God bless.

BLITZER: Thank you so much for joining us.

JACKSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, who are the winners and losers in the Elian saga. We'll go 'round the table with Steve Roberts, Susan Page, and Rich Lowry, when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Time now for the roundtable.

Joining me, Susan Page, White House bureau chief for "USA Today," Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report," and Rich Lowry, editor for the "National Review," filling in for Tucker Carlson who is in Vietnam of all places. More on that next week.

Steve, Senator Connie Mack, the Republican senator from Florida very tough on this Clinton administration on this Elian issue. Listen to what he said earlier today.


SENATOR CONNIE MACK (R), FLORIDA: This administration has never once, not one single time have they don't something in the boy's best interest.


BLITZER: Is that true, that this administration has never once done anything in the boy's best interest in.

RICH LOWRY, CNN COMMENTATOR: It's a little harsh but there's an argument and point here that's fair. The whole way this raid was conducted, Janet Reno impatience certainly justified but use of force I think not justified. I think that picture that's become so famous around the world shows that the force was unreasonable the way it was applied. I think the administration will pay a political price and she should but also in terms of the courts this, administration said there's only one issue, and that who speaks for the boy and it's the father and therefore, end of story.

The courts have already said there are questions to be considered.

What about the boy's mother who did try to bring him here to freedom? What about the interest of the child? I think there are arguments, even in the legal framework that this administration has been blind to. And I think Connie Mack has a point.

BLITZER: And Rich Lowry what do you say?

LOWRY: I agree with most of that. You know, they asked the 11th Circuit Court for a court order, they didn't get it. The 11th Circuit said the INS had defied its own rules and regulations in this case. And the 11th Circuit offered to mediate the question. They brushed all that aside, ignored it and went in at gun point. So I mean, ...

BLITZER: Well, their point was that the 11th Circuit opinion never specifically said don't go into that house. You are barred from going into that house to take the boy.

LOWRY: Sure, Wolf, they had the power to do it. That doesn't mean it was a prudent or right thing to do. So much for liberals believing that the government shouldn't be in our bedroom, right.

BLITZER: You know, Susan, CNN has a CNN-Gallup poll that just came out. How has Janet Reno handled this whole Elian Gonzalez situation? Listen to this: 45 percent of those who responded approve of the way Janet Reno did it, 46 percent disapprove, roughly even split.

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: You know what we see this morning is the dueling still photographs. You have that very compelling and really horrifying picture from inside the house with the automatic weapon near Elian Gonzalez and this boy who is obviously terrified. Then you have a second still photograph from a couple hours later yesterday and the day of Elian Gonzalez with his father. He looks pretty happy. They look at ease. People who were in the hangar with them and have seen them, Gregory Craig and others, say it was a very easy reunion.

And so I wonder if this isn't one of the cases where it's hard to make some immediate judgments about what the long-term repercussions are political and otherwise. What will happen in the next few months? Will this be an easy reconciliation between father and son? Will they go back to Cuba and Elian used as kind of a trophy for Fidel Castro? I think we need to see more chapters unfold before we know exactly what this means.

BLITZER: Let's just go around the table quickly on this. Do you have any doubt that that photograph of the smiling little Elian and his father, that was a legitimate picture?

LOWRY: I have no doubt it was a legitimate picture.

BLITZER: Rich, do you have a ...

LOWRY: Legitimate picture but staged, I'm sure in a way. You know, we don't know how happy he was originally.

BLITZER: But not doctored?

LOWRY: No, not doctored.

PAGE: I don't think it was doctored.

BLITZER: You know, there's a poll, also a CNN-Gallup poll asks how have the Miami relatives handled this whole Elian situation. Thirty-one per cent say they approved, 59 percent say they disapprove.

LOWRY: Look, I have said before that I think that this boy should stay in this country in the care of his Miami relatives. But it's also true that the Miami relatives have acted badly. They have been intransigent. They seem to have really not negotiated very much in good faith and always moved the goal posts. So I do think this poll is justified. There's a lot of blame to go around on both sides.

BLITZER: OK. We'll have some more blame to go around but we have to take a quick break.

More of our roundtable when LATE EDITION returns.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.

Rich Lowry, let's take advantage of your knowledge of what's going in the Republican campaign, interesting exchange between George W. Bush and John McCain this past week on the possibility of a Bush- McCain ticket. Listen to this.


GOV. GEORGE BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll give John McCain consideration, I know he said he's not interested but until I talk to him, I'll find out how uninterested or interested he is.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I do not wish to be asked, I don't want to place him or me in that kind of difficult position, I really don't and I think that I my message on that is very, very clear.


BLITZER: Is his message and Bush's message, are they very clear?

LOWRY: Well, anything is possible in these kind of cases. Vice presidential possibilities always say oh no, I'd never do it. But often times when they're offered, they indeed say yes. But I think the main factor hurting McCain's chances is the perception that he's not a team player and his action since the primaries ended have just reinforced those worries, and the Bush camp has to be really worried that if they pick McCain goes badly, you know some time in October, McCain will be on the back of some bus apologizing for having accepted the vice presidential nomination, I think -- I'm sorry, I think a lot of at least part of the Bush camp would be very happy if they sit down together, Bush and McCain and McCain looks Bush in the eye and says, no I'm not interested, so they can just scratch him off the list once and for all.

BLITZER: Within days of that McCain apologized and flip-flopped on the whole issue of the Confederate flag in South Carolina, which of course Bush says that an issue for the South Carolinians.

PAGE: You know, this was wonderful on two points from a journalist point of view, there's a kind of a standard construction politicians use when they've done something wrong, and that's to say mistakes were made, which has the advantage of being passive, you don't know who made the mistake or what it was exactly, but it sounds like an apology. John McCain didn't do that, he said, I made a mistakes, I did it for bad reasons, and I'm sorry and that made it incredibly appealing.

The other interesting thing this did was put George Bush in kind of a squeeze, he's now out there alone saying it's up to the state to determine whether this Confederate flag should ply fly over the state house, in that way I think it was a wonderful story, and it's an example of why voters found McCain so appealing.

BLITZER: Yet when all is said and done, if George W. Bush wants to be the next president, that could be a pretty powerful ticket, a Bush-McCain ticket.

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: It could be. Al Gore has done a lot more embracing of John McCain than George Bush, much more likely to nominate him in many ways than Bush given the way he's talked about it. But I think the McCain in South Carolina indicated that John McCain is not interested in being vice president, he's interested in being president and he's running for the nomination in the future and I think one of the reasons why he's putting Bush in a difficult position is to continue to get known, he got a lot of coverage for this and to continue to reinforce the notion I'm the straight shooter, so this was McCain 2004 campaign appearance as much as anything.

BLITZER: OK, Steve Roberts, welcome Rich Lowry, Susan Page, always great to have all of you on and we'll be back next week, thanks for joining us on our roundtable.

Just ahead, Bruce Morton's "last word" on another subject.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every body has a point of view. Critics say Miranda lets guilty criminals go free. Defenders say no. Police get about as many confessions after Miranda as they did before.


BLITZER: Could our right to remain silent be coming to an end?


BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on the Supreme Court and a decision known as Miranda.


MORTON: We don't know very many Supreme Court decisions by name: Roe v. Wade, abortion; Plessey v. Ferguson, separate but equal is OK; Brown v. Board of Education, no it isn't either.

And of course, Miranda: The Supreme Court ruled back in 1966 that police officers must read suspects their rights.

The words have been on so many police TV shows we probably know them by heart: You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you, you have the right to an attorney, and if you can't afford one, one will be provided.

When Miranda first passed, lots of police spokesmen said it would be a disaster, hordes of criminals would walk on technicalities.

So in 1968, Congress passed a law saying Miranda was wrong. Instead of requiring the warning, judges should look at confessions case by case and decide whether they were voluntary.

But prosecutors didn't invoke that '68 law, it didn't think it was constitutional, so it didn't really change anything. A confession, without the warning, would not be admitted into evidence.

Now, though, the Supreme Court will hear a case brought under that 1968 law, and today's justices will have a chance to review the 1966 decision that established Miranda.

Everybody has a point of view. Critics say Miranda lets guilty criminals go free; defenders say, no, police get about as many confessions after Miranda as they did before.

One question is, without Miranda, without a lawyer hanging around, would there be any restraints on police? Could they compel a confession by force?

One old reporter friend of mine always refuses jury duty because, he tells the judge, he spent so many years covering local news, covering police, that he came not to trust him. If they think you did it, he says, they're probably right. But if they don't have enough evidence to make the case, they'll add a little something so that they can. He may be all wrong, of course. Still the Constitutions does guarantee that we don't have to testify against ourselves, protections fro unreasonable searches and seizures, and having a lawyer around is one way to make sure those guarantees work.

And we used to say, it was better for one guilty man to go free that for one innocent one to go to prison.

With Miranda, the Supreme Court will let us know, probably toward the end of its term.

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

When we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.


BLITZER: Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

Seizing Elian is on the cover of Newsweek, with that picture of an INS agent carrying a frightened Elian out his Miami relative's home.

Time has Papa, the raid, the reunion, the fallout, with a smiling Elian and his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, on the cover.

And on the cover of U.S. News and World Report: Vietnam's forgotten lessons, 25 years later, does the U.S. military still remember why it lost?

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, April 23. Be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Easter for the last word in Sunday talk.

And I'll be back tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Eastern on The World Today.

And this Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern, the New York Senate race, a LATE EDITION town meeting with candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I'll be hosting that from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.



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