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Spending A Month Living Beneath Ocean; Questioning Bergdahl's Disappearance; POW Bergdahl Resting In Germany; Bergdahl Released In Prisoner Swap; EPA to Cut Emissions; CNN Reporter Detained

Aired June 2, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Right now, Bowe Bergdahl is recovering in an American medical center in Germany. But back in the United States, new questions are being raised about how Bergdahl went missing. One member of his own platoon calls Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero.

Right now, President Obama takes his strongest action yet on climate change. Republicans say it'll kill jobs, lots of them. Democratic candidates may be getting ready to pay the price come November.

And right now, more drama for the woman whose taped conversation led to Donald Sterling's downfall. Over the weekend, V. Stiviano allegedly assaulted in New York City. We'll have the details.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. We start with the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl after five years in the hands of the Taliban. He was traded for five Guantanamo detainees. This is video of those five arriving in Qatar today. We'll have more on who they are in a few moments.

First, thought, let's turn to our Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson. He's joining us from Landstuhl in Germany where Sergeant Bergdahl is now recovering. Nic, the administration says his health was a major concern. Do we have an idea of what his condition is right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. We've been given a few details in the last hour or so. He's is in stable condition. He is being treated for medical conditions that require hospitalization. We're being told that includes special attention to nutrition and his diet because he's been held captive for five years. A clear implication is that he is suffering because of the food that he's been given over the past five years. Unclear how unwell he is but the treatment here, physical, psychological, to try to get him new -- get him ready for normal life again, if you will. And also, a military debriefing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How long do they expect him to be there in Germany before he's flown back to the United States?

ROBERTSON: Sure. I mean, what the doctors here are saying is, look, we're sensitive to the fact of everything he's been through in Afghanistan. And the reality with that is they are only now beginning to find out all about that. How much has he been stressed? How many times, perhaps, was he given mock executions? How damaging has that been? The doctors say they're sensitive to all of that.

Another pace of his reintegration, which is what this process is called, should go at a pace that he is comfortable at. So, they're saying there really isn't a definite period for how long all this takes. It really seems to be a matter of how far Sergeant Bergdahl really responds to this treatment that he's been given for his diet, for his psychological welfare and, of course, if there's information that he has, operationally -- information that's useful operationally, time sensitive intelligence-type information he might have gleaned while he was captured. Because, of course, today -- the Taliban are still out there in Afghanistan today, killing another service member inside that country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Has he spoken with his parents yet?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, we're being told so far that he has not and has been given the opportunity or he may get that over the time while he's here to do that. But the best indication we have so far. We're not being given blow by blow details of what's going on. We're getting very occasional updates. So, of course, something may happen that we're not fully aware yet. But, yes, there is the capability for phone calls, for teleconferencing, all those sorts of things. But that's not something that we're privy to. The best information we have, Wolf, so far, not.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson on the scene for us at Landstuhl in Germany. Thank you, Nic.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was adamant when asked about the Bergdahl swap. He said, and I'm quoting him now, "we did not negotiate with terrorists." But that explanation is being challenged by some Republicans here in Washington who say the president bypassed Congress and set a very dangerous precedent.


REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The methodology in what we used is very troublesome. Remember, Al Qaeda in --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By methodology, you mean --

ROGERS: Negotiating with terrorists. Remember, this was an individual who was held by a terrorist group in another country, Pakistan. We know that to be true. Across northern Africa, the number one way that Al Qaeda raises money is by ransom, kidnapping and ransom. We have now set a price. So, we have a changing foot print in Afghanistan which will put our soldiers at risk for this notion that if I can get one, I can get five Taliban released.


BLITZER: Obama administration officials insist they did nothing wrong. It simply came down to acting on an opportunity to get an American POW back home.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was held in an armed conflict by the Taliban. We were engaged in an armed conflict with the Taliban. And we have a history in this country of making sure that our prisoners of war are returned to us. It's entirely appropriate, given the determination made by the secretary of defense, in consultation with the full national security team, that there -- the threat, potentially posed by the returned detainees, was officially mitigated to allow us to move forward and get Bowe Bergdahl back home where he belongs.


BLITZER: All right. So, that's what we're hearing from the political folks. But what about Bergdahl's fellow soldiers? What are they saying? Jake Tapper, host of "THE LEAD," and also the author of the important book, "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor," is here with us. And you posted an excellent article on, Jake. "Deserter" or -- excuse me, or "Hero." You've spoken to some of his fellow soldiers. What are they saying?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": I've spent the weekend talking about anywhere from 12 to 15 or people who've served, not only in the 501st but specifically in Blackfoot company and in the second platoon which is what -- where Bergdahl served. There are two big issues that they have. They are not exactly popping the champagne.

First, there are the circumstances of his disappearance. He was supposed to be on guard at an observation post the night of June 30, 2009. And the circumstances of his leaving seem to be suggesting that he left on his own volition. That's what people who served in the squad with him think. There was an anecdotal account from a young Afghan child saying that he had seen an American soldier walking away from the observation post that day.

Second, there was so much time and energy and money devoted to finding Bergdahl. And several troops were killed in the course of that recovery and that rescue effort. So, let me quote a couple of these soldiers I talked to, a gentlemen, a former Sergeant, Matt Vercamp (ph). He said, Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.

And then, Bergdahl's former squad lead, not at that exact time, but earlier in the rotation, Leatherman told me, I'm pleased to see him returned safely. From experience, I hope that he receives adequate reintegration counseling. I believe that an investigation should take place as soon as health care professionals deem him fit to endure one. That is very reflective, although also fairly restrained, from all the soldiers I've spoken with who served with Bergdahl. They are angry. They don't know why he left, and they're very upset about all the men who died while try to find him.

BLITZER: There was an article, as you know, in "Rolling Stone" magazine back in 2012 by Michael Hastings who has since passed away, the journalist, suggesting that Bergdahl had become really disenchanted with the entire Afghan War effort, among other things. In this e-mail that Hastings sites Bowe wrote to his parents, the future is too good to waste on lies and life is way too short to care for the damnation of others as well as spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas. I am ashamed to be -- to even be American. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in, it is all revolting. And then, he went on to say, the horror that is America is disgusting. Now, we have not authenticated that e-mail.

TAPPER: No, but Hastings (ph) seemed to have gotten those e-mails from Bergdahl's parents. And they are rather shocking. They are -- they do express disillusionment with the war which is a fine emotion to have. But they reflect more than that, a disgust with what the U.S. was doing there. And it certainly adds to the narrative of Bergdahl leaving on his own volition. He had told soldiers, who I've spoken to, you know, that someday he -- if the deployment wasn't good, he was just going to leave and try to walk to China or try to get away.

BLITZER: There's some ambiguity, some murkiness. Was he at a latrine in the middle of the night and he was snatched or did he actually, you know, leave on his own volition?

TAPPER: I don't know anybody who served with him who thinks he didn't leave on his own volition. And, in fact, I've spoken with people who saw the intelligence reports at the time who say that he left on his own volition. I've been hearing about this case for years. And, generally, a lot of people have not talked much about it publicly because he was still in the custody of -- whether it's the Haqqani network or the Pakistani Taliban or whoever. But now that he is back in American hands, people are more prone to speak honestly and candidly about it and he is thought to have left the observation post on his own.

BLITZER: And there is deep anger also because of the allegation that American soldiers died trying to find him and that has fueled further anger. Hold on for a moment, Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, answering reporters' questions on Bergdahl right now.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- Sergeant Bergdahl, a prisoner of war in Afghanistan. And as part of those efforts, there have been ongoing discussions about how to bring that about and that included conversations with members of Congress about -- at least the possibility of transferring these five detainees as part of getting sergeant Bergdahl back to the United States and back with his family.

As we've been saying, since we successfully recovered Sergeant Bergdahl this weekend, this was the right thing to do, because we, in the United States, do not leave our men and women in uniform behind during an armed conflict. And five years is a very long time to be a prisoner. We are enormously gratified that Bowe Bergdahl is now safely in U.S. hands and is getting the health care that he needs and has begun the process of reintegrating that will take some time, no doubt, given the duration of his captivity. But it is a -- it is a welcome development, to be sure, when our single prisoner in the Afghanistan conflict has been successfully recovered. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the -- was there any pushback? Was there acknowledgement on the part of these members of Congress when you guys mentioned these particular five detainees? Was there -- did members of Congress agree with this kind of swap? Did they say no, bad idea? Can you tell me anything of what that kind of discussion was about?

CARNEY: I don't have (INAUDIBLE) of conversations that date back some time. I think what it reflects, however, is that this should not have come as a surprise to members of Congress that this was possible, because we have been working to secure Sergeant Bergdahl's release for a long time. And prisoner exchanges in armed conflicts are hardly a new development, including in our history in the United States. Whether it's the Japanese or the North Koreans or others.

We have engaged in prisoner exchanges in the past. We don't -- the United States does not leave our men and women in uniform behind. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said, in a statement, quote, "It is our ethos that we never leave a fallen comrade. Today, we have back in our ranks, the only remaining captured soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome home, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl." And that's the senior most military member of our military speaking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you know, there have been detainees who have returned to the battlefield. What are the guarantees, other than just a one-year ban on travel, on these five detainees that they won't go back and target U.S. interests, U.S. personnel, U.S. military?

CARNEY: Yes. Again, I'll re-stipulate that prisoner exchanges are not uncommon in armed conflicts. Secondly, I'll say that without getting into specific assurances, I can tell you they included a travel ban, an information sharing on the detainees between our governments, between the United States and Qatar.

I can also tell you that the assurances were sufficient to allow the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, in coordination with the national security team to determine that the threat posed by the detainees to the United States would be sufficiently mitigated and that the transfer was in the U.S. national security interest. So, this was done after the appropriate consideration and analysis and it was the judgment of the secretary of defense in coordination with the entire national security team that there was sufficient mitigation in place and assurances in place to allow the exchange.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One quick question. On the carbon rule today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As proposed by the EPA, it gives states, up until 2017 or 2018 --

BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to monitor this briefing over at the White House and get back to it when we get more information. But there, you heard the White House press secretary, the outgoing White House press secretary, Jay Carney, defending this decision which is increasingly becoming more controversial as we learn more details and we've learned more from Jake Tapper. A quick thought on what we just heard from Jay Carney. He's defending this decision. The U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists. This was not appropriate. Congress should not have been surprised. All of the above.

TAPPER: It is hardly unprecedented for the United States to swap. I mean, we remember the Iran arms for hostages deal. I mean it does happen. I -- you know, I'm not going to give a policy position on prisoner exchanges. It does happen. And when you make peace, you make peace with your enemies.

That said, these -- I want to know more. I would like to know more about exactly what the national security constraints are on these five mid to high level Taliban officials who were at Gitmo, who are now in Qatar. They -- there's a travel ban in place. OK. Are they in some sort of club fed-type prison for a year or after a year are they going to be freed? What exactly is the situation? We're hearing a lot of reassurances without a lot of details from the Pentagon or the White House when it comes to the actual swap. But I mean Jay's right in the sense that it is not unprecedented.

BLITZER: Yes, I know you're going to have a lot more coming up, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, on "The Lead." I'll have more coming up later in "The Situation Room." This is a huge story right now that we'll be all over.

Jake, thanks very much.

TAPPER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, power plants, pollution and politics. President Obama makes a bold move on the environment. What about the political fallout? Gloria Borger is standing by live. We will discuss.

And later, a CNN correspondent is harassed by police in the middle of a live report. We're going to show you what happened next. We'll get an update from our excellent reporter Ivan Watson. He's on the ground in Turkey.


BLITZER: Power plants, pollution and politics colliding as President Obama takes action on the environment and climate change. The president is using his executive authority to target carbon emissions. The EPA announcing today the proposed regulations. They call for power plants to cut carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030. Critics say the plan amounts to a war on coal. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts it will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs. The new regulations could also affect some key Senate races, but the EPA administrator says the country does not have to choose between the environment and the economy.


GINA MCCARTHY, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: So time after time, when science pointed to health risks, special interests cried wolf to protect their own agenda, not the agenda of the American people. And time after time, we followed the science, we protected the American people and the doomsday predictions never came true.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, who's here with me.

Gloria, how important is this rule the president's put into action today?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's going to have, if it goes into effect and Congress doesn't try to undo it and it doesn't get stuck in the courts, it would have a huge environmental impact, Wolf, because burning coal is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. And the EPA says -- this is not me, this is the EPA -- is that a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from these power plants is the equivalent of canceling all carbon pollution from two- thirds of all trucks and all cars in America. So it would have a huge impact, but there's a big if here, and that is, there's already talk in Congress of trying to overturn this and there's already talk of lawsuits, obviously, from the coal industry.

BLITZER: And if the president signs it with unilateral executive action, the new president, if it's a Republican for example --


BLITZER: Could unsign it just as quickly.

BORGER: Right. But --

BLITZER: Once it's the law of the land, if Congress passes it, the president signs it into law, then you need another piece of legislation to get rid of it.

BORGER: Right. So it could get tied up. But if it stands, it will transform how energy is used, how energy is generated, how energy is distributed in this country. This is clearly a legacy issue for the president. As he told us months ago, that he was going to use the pen, he's been frustrated by Congress. Climate change has been a huge issue for him. It's been a huge issue for the base of his party. This is something that he's doing on top of those auto emission standards that he generated in his first term. So he's clearly trying to establish his legacy. The big question I have politically is, what does he then do on the Keystone pipeline? Does this mean that since he's done this, he could let the pipeline be built or is this a signal that he won't do it? I don't know the answer to that yet.

BLITZER: I think he'll delay a final decision again until after the November elections.

BORGER: Well, that I -- that he -- well, that we all know. Yes, absolutely.

BLITZER: Yes. And I'm sure Alison Grimes in Kentucky, the Democratic challenger, and Mitch McConnell not very happy with what the president has done. BORGER: She -- I think they were racing as to who could get out a statement first opposing the president and she talked about the president's attack, is the word she used, on the coal industry and she blamed the president specifically. This is coming from a Democrat.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Gloria, political fallout, environmental fallout, we have a lot to discuss.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Coming up, a CNN reporter is harassed and detained by police in Turkey. Our correspondent Ivan Watson explains what he was reporting on, what happened next. This is a shocking report. We're going live to Istanbul when we come back.


BLITZER: In Turkey, an example of how reporters can end up in harm's way simply trying to cover the news. CNN correspondent Ivan Watson was taken into custody by plainclothes police over the weekend. It happened during a live report on the anniversary of the mass protests in Istanbul.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Often you get clashes erupting, demonstrators throwing rocks, bottles and police cracking down with their use of force as well. So -- excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come with me. Come with me. (INAUDIBLE) journalist --

WATSON: We're -- I think I'm getting --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) police. (INAUDIBLE) police. Just a minute.

WATSON: Carol, I think we're -- I'm being --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a minute. Just a minute. May I see your passport, please?





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I see your passport?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Can I see your passport, ma'am (ph)?

WATSON: Yes. So, Errol (ph), we're -- we're now being checked --


WATSON: OK, I don't -- journalist card (ph) right here.


WATSON: Anyway, this is my press card. It allows me to --


WATSON: It allows me to work.


BLITZER: Ivan's joining us now from Istanbul.

So, describe -- this is pretty shocking stuff to our viewers -- how all this unfold and what happened.

WATSON: We were doing a routine live report, as I had done kind of throughout the day, and as you can see in the video, plainclothes police officers approached me, began asking for my identifications. They did not accept my yellow Turkish press accreditation, which is issued by the office of the prime ministry. They later said that there had been many counterfeits, so they asked for a second form of identification, even though that press accreditation in Turkey, you can actually use it to check in to domestic flights and hotels. It's accepted as a primary form of accreditation.

They broke the microphone on our camera as they were shoving our cameraman's camera down. And I actually got kneed in the posterior as they were shoving me off to the side. I wasn't legally detained, Wolf. I was held for about a half hour as they checked by identity. Eventually an officer apologized for basically another officer kicking me.

But later on they brought us a written document that they asked us to sign in which we would have confessed to have obstructed the police in their duties. They wanted us to sign that without the presence of a lawyer and wouldn't even let us take photos of the document to send to a lawyer to get some kind of consultation first. We, in the end, did not sign that document.

The only difference between what happened here, Wolf, and what happens to reporters like me in a lot of different countries around the world is this was caught live on television. It's important to note that the Turkish protesters who came out, many of them peacefully hoping to demonstrate, were hit with tear gas a couple hours later on the same streets behind me, sprayed with water cannons, beaten with clubs. I saw some police hurling rocks at some of the demonstrators and hundreds of people were detained around the country on Saturday. So whatever I received is just a fraction of kind of the treatment that people who dare to stand up to the security forces or the Turkish government face on a monthly, if not weekly, basis in this country, particularly over the course of the last year.


BLITZER: It's pretty shocking, especially when you think that Turkey, Turkey is actually an ally -- a NATO ally of the United States. And for this kind of press harassment to be taking place is very, very shocking. You deserve more than simply an apology from the officials in Istanbul where you -- are you OK now -- are you OK, Ivan?