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Bergdahl Prisoner Swap Touches off Major Legal Debate; Was Bergdahl a Deserter; "People" Magazine Interviews Hillary Clinton

Aired June 4, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

The prisoner exchange that freed the captured American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, has touched off a major legal debate, a political firestorm as well. By not notifying Congress about the release of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, did the Obama administration make things worse?

Today, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the Obama administration should have taken a harder line in trying to reach a deal.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's not the best deal we could have gotten and it's the deal they wanted. I don't think there's any real effort. Would you just take one, would you just take two? I don't think they fought very hard to not release five because they're looking for ways to get rid of these people.


BLITZER: Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, has been looking into this, doing some reporting.

If the president or his White House chief of staff or secretary of defense had consulted or notified members of the House and Senate, might some of the political uproar have been mitigated, if you will?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I was speaking to one national security source today, who is not inside this administration, but who said, you know, sometimes you don't want to ask a question when you know what the answer's going to be.

BLITZER: Because they would have been opposed.

BORGER: Because they would have said no.

Look, these are discussions, Wolf, that had gone on for years with Congress about the question of rescue, for example, or the question of some kind of a trade. This issue had been brought up. It was very clear that there were -- it was controversial. And so, you know, notification is one thing. Consultation is another. But when you hear the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee complain that she wasn't notified, the question I have is, you know, it's easier to complain about process than it is to complain about substance. She may also disagree on the substance but it's easier to talk about the fact that you weren't notified. We don't know what she does believe on this. But you know, I think they would have been able to get some people inside the tent with them, maybe. Maybe.

BLITZER: Yeah, I think even White House officials acknowledge they should have notified Dianne Feinstein --


BLITZER: -- Mike Rogers, respective chairs of the Intelligence Committee.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: They sort of apologized. Dianne Feinstein says Tony Blinken, the deputy national security adviser, called to apologize on why the administration did not give her a heads up.

BORGER: But if they had consulted her and she said no, I don't think it's a good idea, then --


BLITZER: The president had clearly made up his mind what he wanted to do.

BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: But as a courtesy, he should have -- they should have notified -- they themselves acknowledge that.

BORGER: I agree. I agree.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton, she's now speaking out, and she's offering sort of tepid support, right?

BORGER: Yeah. I think what you see from people is sort of -- they're walking a fine line. They're all walking a fine line. Nobody wants to belie the international conversations that were had.

My reporting shows a couple of things, Wolf. One is that there were internal debates going back a year or two over this question of a rescue. And, you know, ironically, the rescue of -- I mean the murder, killing, of Osama bin Laden complicated all of this. Because, you know, if he were, for example, being held in Pakistan, do you risk really angering the Pakistanis even more with the rescue? Did you have the intelligence to know exactly where he was? You know, those kinds of issues.

And then on the issue of a trade, you know, that was also complicated. What would you get out of it? And the same questions that are being asked publicly were also asked privately.

BLITZER: It's interesting, some Republicans, including some Idaho Senators, lawmakers, who were originally very supportive of the freedom for an Idaho resident, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, they're sort of not discussing it anymore.

BORGER: Right. Look, there's a lot hypocrisy going on. I think one thing people agree on is that the notion of getting him home is important because it is a way to keep faith with Americans who serve, the notion that you leave no soldier behind. The president is winding down this war in Afghanistan, getting rid of everybody there who is American. No soldier left behind. Everybody agrees with that in theory, OK? And they believe that the president needed to make an effort to get him back home. So I don't think anybody is complaining about that. I think the real question that comes -- and this is where people change their minds -- is was this the trade he should have made? That is a question that will remain open. I think there are members of Congress who are asking for documents to be declassified, Wolf. I think we're going to unspool this as the weeks unfold.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Up next, documents released by WikiLeaks give us some of the details about Army Sergeant Bergdahl's capture by the Taliban. Brian Todd is going through those documents. He'll join us in a moment.

Later, Hillary Clinton talks about politic, her marriage and more with "People" magazine. You're going to find out what she's now saying about possibly running for president of the United States in 2016.








BLITZER: Some of his fellow soldiers are calling Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl a deserter. Some say he just walked away from his post. The question of what really happened will likely come from Bergdahl himself as part of the U.S. military's investigation.

We heard from defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, in Brussels, talking about Bergdahl, the allegations that he deserted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Until we get facts, until we have, as Secretary of the Army McCune noted, a review of all the circumstances, it's not in the interest of anyone, and certainly I think a bit unfair to Sergeant Bergdahl's family, and him, to presume anything. We don't do that in the United States. We rely on facts.

And you mentioned me being a sergeant as well. It's not my place as a former sergeant in the United States Army, which I am very proud of, to decide who's worthy of being a sergeant and who isn't. I think any further talk of that is irresponsible.


BLITZER: Documents released by WikiLeaks include some of the details about the capture of Bergdahl nearly five years ago.

Brian Todd has been going through these documents.

What are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these documents capture the confusion on the ground as U.S. Army units were trying to assess what had happened. And the Taliban quickly realizing early on that they had captured someone of value. We have to say we cannot independently verify the authenticity of the documents. But according to these reports, released by WikiLeaks, these are classified reports, just after Bergdahl was captured on June 30th, 2009, U.S. forces picked up a radio transmission, Wolf, presumably from the Taliban. Here's what it said, "An American soldier is talking and looking for someone who speaks English. Indicates American soldier has camera."

Now, that does not really clarify the argument on both sides, the claims on both sides on whether he did this on his own, on purpose, or whether he was captured by the Taliban. That particular transmission does not clarify that. So we're waiting to see if there's any clarity offered by these documents. But it's clear the Taliban realized early on that they had something of value there and they wanted to get something for it.

Here's another radio intercept of a Taliban communication on July 1st. This is the day after he was captured. One guy said, "I think he is big shot, that is why they are looking for him." Again, this is from the Taliban. Another one says, "Can you guys make a video him and announce it all over Afghanistan that we have one of the Americans."

So they knew they could maybe get something for him. We called the Army to get response to this, to see if they could comment on the authenticity of these documents. We haven't heard back on that.

BLITZER: Very early on, they made it clear, they wanted a deal. This is almost five years ago.


TODD: Yeah. It was very early on, Wolf, July 2nd. Another report from one of the WikiLeaks documents indicates -- this is from a U.S. soldier saying in his report, the elders in some of the tribes nearby were asked by the Taliban to do a trade between the U.S. and the Taliban, and he said the Taliban terms are 15 of their Taliban brothers in the U.S. jail and some money in exchange for then-Private Bergdahl. He's since become a sergeant. But they wanted 15 guys and some money in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl. Obviously, that's not what they got in the end. But they knew they could maybe get something for him they sensed it early on.

BLITZER: They got five guys.

TODD: They got five guys.

BLITZER: As far as we know, no money.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: OK, thanks very much.

Up next, Hillary Clinton says she'd love to see the U.S. elect a female president. But will she run for that job? She's now telling "People" magazine about the presidential race, her health, even her hairstyles.

But first, today's "American Journey." The oldest living American has just celebrated her 115th birthday. Happy birthday. Gerolyn Tally was born in Georgia during William McKinley's presidency. She now lives with her daughter in Michigan.

Our Gary Tuchman got a chance to talk to her recently. Watch this.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's the secret to living to 115?


TUCHMAN: The lord.

TALLY: The father above.

TUCHMAN: The father above.

TALLY: He has everything in his hand. I got nothing.

TUCHMAN: I think you have --


TALLY: He's got it all.

TUCHMAN: He's got it all.

TALLY: He's the answer to you and everybody else.

TUCHMAN: So the answer is to have a lot of faith.

TALLY: Yeah.



BLITZER: Happy birthday. Tally, by the way, also one of the last five known people in the world born in the 1800s. Amazing.


BLITZER: "On This Day in History," 25 years ago, Communist Chinese leaders ordered a military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. CNN's coverage of the anniversary has been blacked out in China, continuing a quarter century of efforts by the Chinese government to expunge the nation's memory of that event. It's suspected thousands of protesters were killed that day.

Hillary Clinton is on the campaign trail, but the campaign is for the release of her brand-new book, which is due out next week. Hillary Clinton's media campaign is cranking up the speculation about whether she will actually run for president. In the new issue of "People" magazine, which hits newsstands Friday, Clinton talks about her politics, her marriage and a whole lot more.

Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is here with more on what she's saying.

What are we learning?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We certainly get a look at her lighter side, as you would expect from "People" magazine. But Hillary Clinton was also asked about Monica Lewinsky and her presidential ambitions.


KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton, sitting down for an exclusive interview with "People" magazine at her Washington home as her newest book, "Hard Choices," hits shelves next week.

On her presidential aspirations, Clinton tells people, "I know I have a decision to make." She says, "We need to break down that highest, hardest glass ceiling in American politics. To have a woman president is something I would love to see happen, but I'll just have to make my own decision about what I think is right for me."


KEILAR: Her book rollout is certainly starting to look like a campaign. A busy schedule of appearances.

CLINTON: Let me shake a few more hands.

KEILAR: Interviews and calculated releases of parts of her memoir about the State Department. Just Monday, she dropped this hint at a speech in Denver, talking about the grueling nature of a presidential race. She assured the crowd she has --

CLINTON: A lot of resilience, a lot of stamina.

KEILAR: She also talks about her husband's health, saying he's had that tremor for years. "It's nothing serious, just some sort of nerve pinch. People say he's too thin. He doesn't think so. He has an enormous amount of energy."

And Monica Lewinski, who recently resurfaced with an essay in "Vanity Fair." Clinton tells people she hasn't read it, saying, "I've moved on. I think everybody needs to look to the future."

Clinton also reveals her indulges since taking time off.


KEILAR: "Dancing with the Stars" --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all about location, location, location.

KEILAR: -- and "House of Cards," which she and Bill, quote, totally binge watched."

And she was not demure when asked if she has a hair strategy for 2016. "I'm at an age where I can pretty much do what I want. Here I am whether you like my hair or not."


KEILAR: About her hair, but she didn't joke about her head. She was asked about whether there were lingering effects about the blood clot and concussion she received in 2012. And what she said was that, no, I rested, I recovered. But also it was pretty interesting, and I would say not necessarily a coincidence, she brought up, for instance, Paul Ryan who told her that he's actually had three concussions. So it's become a bit of a political issue, as you know. But she is just is putting it out there saying, hey, a lot of people have had this.

BLITZER: Preempting some of that discussion.


BLITZER: She also spoke about her exercise routine.

KEILAR: Yeah. And this is interesting. She says she's been doing yoga and she does water aerobics. It's interesting because it makes her accessible. I think a lot of people would be curious about that. But also, it speaks to the issue of health and age. She is 66. She will be 69 if she were to run in 2016. So it's sort of speaks to questions about that sort of her saying you know, I am taking care of myself.

BLITZER: Take that Karl Rove.


KEILAR: Exactly, take that Karl Rove.

BLITZER: That's what she is suggesting.


BLITZER: Looking forward to reading the article in "People" magazine, and the book as well.


BLITZER: Thank you.

The high-profile Senate race in Mississippi between long-time Republican Senator Thad Cochran and his two-party challenger is too close to call. It could end up in a runoff. That is a primary race. One of the most primary watched in the nation yesterday. Eight states held primaries.

Right now the Tea Party candidate, Chris McDaniel, beats Cochran by less than a percentage point. There are the results. But with a third candidate, the ballot, a runoff three weeks from now looks likely. He needed 50 percent to avoid a runoff.

In Iowa, meanwhile, Joni Ernst beat three other Republican candidates in the GOP primary. She will face Democratic Congress Bruce Fraley (ph), who as unopposed in his party's primary. That's what Tom says in Iowa.

Up next, we take you to the skies of one of the most important planes in American aviation history for a lesson on how its impact is being felt today.


BLITZER: This week we're commemorating a milestone in aviation history, 100 years of commercial flight. In today's installment of CNN Money series, Jonathan Mann takes a look at the plane that changed the game for the airline industry and for the U.S. military.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the workhorse that helped win World War II. It was the marvel that made passenger airlines profitable. An enduring icon of the era, it carried Indiana Jones to Cairo as a "Raider of the Lost Arc."


MANN: Robert van der Linden runs the Aeronautics Department of the Smithsonian Institution Air and Space Museum, America's pantheon of planes that made history.

VAN DER LINDEN: The DC 3 was such a hugely important aircraft. It revolutionized the airline industry. MANN: The DC 3 was born in 1935. At first, a few hundred of them were sold to commercial airlines but more than 10,000 were built for the allies in World War II. From Burma to the Berlin air lift, the DC 3, known as the C 47, the sky train, the Dakota and even the goony bird, moved soldiers and supplies across the globe.

But goony? As goony as gold and greenbacks. The DC 3 carried 21 paying passengers, more than ever before, and enough to make commercial air travel profitable for the first time. Thousands were suddenly available as inexpensive war surplus. There are lots of trained pilots and lots of spare parts and the planes were sturdy. Originally, designed eight decades ago, there are DC 3s still in the sky today.

(on camera): The reason is in the sky. Jet liners fly so high that the cabins have to be pressurized for people inside. The DC 3 flies relatively low. It isn't pressurized, so the aircraft does not have to endure the stresses of being squeezed and stretched every time it goes up and down. The metal doesn't fatigue as fast. So replace the warn parts as they wear, and the plane itself can keep flying and flying and flying.

VAN DER LINDEN: It's almost unbreakable.

MANN: Almost unbreakable.

VAN DER LINDEN: When we crash them, we break them. But quite a few of them took hard landings.

MANN: And it can land just about everywhere. Those big, bouncing tires don't really need a runway, so it can stop pretty darn fast. You don't need a long patch of land. High-tech is terrific but this tough old bird can take you just about anywhere you want to go.

(voice-over): At the Smithsonian, the DC 3 is not really the star exhibit. It's not the spacecraft that pushed flight beyond the confines of the planet. But what it does represent is the innovation that defined an era, when passenger flight, aviation most of us know best, really took off.


BLITZER: That was Jonathan Mann reporting.

That's it for me. I will be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

In the meantime, NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.


Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin.