Return to Transcripts main page
New Details of Bergdahl's Captivity; Bergdahl Has Not Spoken to His Parents; The Five Freed Prisoners; Las Vegas Shooters Left Manifesto; Clinton Book Comes Out Tomorrow
Aired June 9, 2014 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Bowe Bergdahl is still in the hospital in Germany. Officials say he's continuing to improve but he's not ready to travel back to the United States, at least not yet, and he hasn't yet talked to his parents either.
Also right now, Las Vegas police are investigating a brutal shooting spree. It was carried out by a couple who allegedly shouted, this is a revolution, before killing two police officers at a restaurant and a woman outside of a Wal-Mart.
And right now, President Obama is getting ready to make an important announcement on student loans. He's expected to provide some relief to the millions of young adults struggling to get out from the massive amounts of debt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN's breaking news.
Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. We begin with breaking news. A new report has just been released on the scandal involving delayed care at U.S. veterans' hospitals across the country. Our Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin and his team broke the story and he's following all the latest developments. More shocking developments in this report, Drew.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You know, the facts just get worse and worse. This is from the V.A. itself. It's done its nationwide audit. It has found that 57,000 veterans are waiting for care. They're waiting to be scheduled for care. But another 63,000 over the past 10 years, they've enrolled in the health care system but never had an appointment.
So, now, the V.A. is trying to reach out to all these veterans who have been either on the waiting lists or apparently on nobody's waiting list. The facts of this are that 13 percent of the scheduling staff across the country indicated that they were told, as we've been reporting, to cook the books, to hide the fact that these veterans were been waiting so long.
There's a big House Veterans Affairs Committee tonight. This is not going to sit well with them, but the V.A. is now trying to take aggressive steps to get these vets into the system, into the doctors, try to clear up this backlog, and then move forward with how we change the V.A.
BLITZER: These numbers are very shocking. There's a lot more than at least I anticipated.
GRIFFIN: You know, we thought 40 here, 30 here, 100 here. Now, we're talking about nationwide, 57,000, plus a potential another 60,000 who have never even gotten to see a doctor -- Wolf.
BLITZER: When you say cook the books, because the suspicion has been -- and I know that there are many members of Congress who want the FBI, the Justice Department, to investigate if there were criminal wrongdoing. The allegation being some bureaucrats cooked the books in order to make themselves look better so they would be eligible for bonuses.
GRIFFIN: That doesn't seem to be the allegation anymore, that seems to be the fact. Now, what is the point of moving forward? Is it going to move forward criminally? Is the Department of Justice going to go in and try to find who was steering this cooking of the books, this manufacturing of data, simply to make performance reviews and potential bonus -- money bonuses? That's what a lot of -- I know senators want to hear about it. The Congressmen want to hear about it. We know that there is some kind of coordination going on between the Office of Inspector General and the Department of Justice. Will it lead to criminal prosecutions? We have to wait and see.
BLITZER: And the president's looking for a new secretary in Veterans Affairs right now. He's got an acting secretary but he needs a full- time secretary on the job who's going to have to get confirmed by the Senate.
GRIFFIN: Yes, absolutely.
BLITZER: All right, Drew, thanks very much. I know you're going through the report. We'll have you back with more updates.
Other news we're following. The firestorm over the deal that freed Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl heats up this week. Up first, a closed door briefing for House members today.
Also, new details are emerging about Bergdahl's captivity and his condition. A senior U.S. official says Bergdahl describes being kept in a small box after trying to escape and that he suffers from psychological trauma caused by physical abuse. Doctors in Germany say Bergdahl is in stable condition and continues to improve but he's not yet ready to return to the United States. The FBI is investigating threats against Bergdahl's parents. No word on the nature or the severity, though, of the threats.
Let's bring in our correspondents. Barbara Starr over at the Pentagon. Nic Robertson is in Doha, Qatar. Nic, what more have you learned about Bergdahl's time in captivity, those five years?
Yes, Wolf, I talked to a Taliban source. This is someone who's familiar with some of Bergdahl's captivity, not all of it. This is someone who's -- who has had information that's proven accurate in the past about westerners held by this same group of Taliban inside Pakistan. He said when Bergdahl was first captured he was held in a house that had very loose security run by an old man. That's how he described it.
Bergdahl, he said, was able to escape. He was on the run for three whole days. The fact that he wasn't able to get away was quite simply because the Taliban controlled the whole area. They policed him up and they took him and put him in a much more secure location where the Taliban say it was clear to Bergdahl he was never going to get out of that location.
They say over time, Bergdahl learned to speak the local language, Pashtu, that he became proficient at it towards the end of his captivity, that he was able to tell the Taliban that he didn't like the food that he was getting, saying he didn't like the lamb he was getting every day, that he didn't like the smell, that he wanted fresh fruit, fresh vegetables which they say they provided.
They also say that he wanted to celebrate Christmas, wanted to celebrate Easter which he did clearly there, sticking with his Christian roots. The Taliban say they provided him with reading material, gave him a chance for exercise, even playing soccer with the Taliban. But the takeaway from this here is that that second location he was taken to and subsequent ones were ones that, according to Taliban, he knew he was not going to be able to break out of -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, what do we know about the fact, the apparent fact I guess, that he still has not, nine days following his freedom, he has not yet spoken on the phone with his parents. What's going on here?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENGATON CORRESPONDENT: Look, Wolf, I think we have to take a step back. This is a man who was in captivity for five years in isolation with no other Americans around him, as far as we know, no other prisoners with him. Total isolation. The Taliban, the Haqqani network that held him for much of the time, these guys are not nice people. This is someone who has suffered psychological trauma.
I think the reports that the Taliban are putting out about giving him vegetables, soccer ball, letting him practice his faith, that is coming from the Taliban. We will have to wait and see what Bowe Bergdahl has to say about all of this. But he is, according to our sources, telling officials that he was physically abused and kept in this small isolated chamber, if you will.
So, psychological trauma. What we're being told is he will call his parents when he feels ready. No one is stopping him. No one is telling him to do it or not do it. But as part of the repatriation process, a captive moves through every step and moves when they feel ready to do it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic, what do you know about these five Taliban prisoners freed in the exchange? What kind of status do they have where you are in Doha, Qatar?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand that they're waiting to be housed by the Qatari authorities in some sort of longer- term housing. They're not allowed to leave the country. We know that. We don't know how they're -- that is being implemented. But the usual procedure for a government, in this situation, would be to take their passports away.
The Qatari authorities have promised the United States that they will monitor them and will make sure that they don't return to the battlefield. This sort of 24-hour monitoring-type responsibility for an intelligence or police agency of five people in any country would be a stretch of resources. But the assessments here are that people familiar with what the Qataris can do is they certainly can go a long way there.
However, it would be very -- it would be a stretch of anyone's imagination, we're told, to believe that they could, effectively, completely police these five men out from connecting with the Taliban back home either through family, through friends, through phone, these sorts of things. But very clear -- secretary of state, John Kerry, made it very clear, if they try to get back, they can face the ultimate sanction, that is death.
So, at the moment, we just know that they're here. They're not being allowed to leave, that they will be allowed to roam freely in this country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me play that clip. This is the secretary of state, John Kerry, speaking to our own Elise Labott over the weekend. Listen to his warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, they're not the only ones keeping an eye on him.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. is going to be monitoring them?
KERRY: I'm just telling you they're not the only ones keeping an eye on them and we have confidence in those requirements. And if they're violated, then we have the ability to be able to do things. I'm not --
LABOTT: What kind of things?
KERRY: I am not -- Elise, I'm not telling you that they don't have some ability, at some point, to go back and get involved, but they also have an ability to get killed doing that.
BLITZER: Hey, Barbara, that sounds like a pretty specific threat, to me, if they get back into the battlefield in Afghanistan or Pakistan or wherever. The U.S. will try to kill them. What do you make of that?
STARR: Well, look, I mean, I think that everyone understands the U.S. military, the CIA has the technical capabilities to do just that. If a president of the United States orders it to be done. But Kerry -- you know, there's two ways you can monitor these kinds of people. Visually, basically, keep eyeballs on them. Watch who goes in and out of where they live. And monitor their electronic communications.
I think it's, potentially -- I don't know, but potentially safe to assume the Qataris and the U.S. are trying to do that visually, electronically and we will have to see how it happens. I think there's two periods of time here. There's this one year where they don't -- they are not allowed to leave the country of Qatar where they are. And then there is, what happens after that?
BLITZER: Barbara Starr, thanks very much. Nic Robertson, thanks to you as well. We'll check back with both of you.
Up next, the very latest on the cold-blooded killings of two Las Vegas police officers and the other person. The shooters apparently left behind written materials that might reveal a motive.
Also, Hillary Clinton's book coming out tomorrow. Will it affect her plans for 2016? We'll have a full discussion on that and more. That's coming up a little bit later.
BLITZER: Turning now to Las Vegas, the entire city is now in mourning over the senseless killings of two police officers and a third person. Among the new details investors are looking at is so-called manifesto found at the scene. It could reveal the motive of the gunmen, a husband and wife, who killed themselves as police moved in. A law enforcement source tells CNN the couple held extremist views towards police.
According to witnesses, the shooters went into CiCi's restaurant shortly before noon yesterday. They shot and killed two police officers in cold blood, as the men simply were eating lunch. The husband and wife then went to a nearby Wal-Mart where they shot and killed a third person before then killing themselves. Our Dan Simon is covering this story for us. He's in Las Vegas. Also joining us, our Senior Washington Correspondent Joe Johns. And in New York, retired Nassau County police officer, Lou Palumbo.
Dan, let me ask you about the shooters. They left behind some important potential evidence. What are you learning?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, CNN is reporting that we can tell you the name of the shooting suspects. They are Amanda and Jerad Miller. They're both from Indiana, believed to be in their 20s. They came to Las Vegas within the past six months. It's very clear, based upon things they wrote online, that they espouse anti-government and anti-law enforcement views.
In fact, they were part of that Cliven Bundy movement that we saw play out a few months ago up in northern Nevada. This is Cliven Bundy, the renegade ranch, also known for his anti-government views. According to Jerad Miller (ph) and the postings that he had online, he was kicked out of that movement. Well, I can tell you that I spoke to Mr. Bundy. He's not familiar with Mr. Miller in any way.
But what's clear, Wolf, the narrative that's emerging is that these people were anti-law enforcement. Why exactly, we're not so sure, but we can tell you that Mr. Miller seemed to have a lengthy rap sheet. And based upon these online postings, had a real deep hatred of law enforcement.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on a minute, quick, Joe Johns, you're working your sources too, Joe. What are you learning about this couple?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we do know is Jerad and Amanda Miller apparently have some type of connection to the state of Indiana. They apparently were married in 2012. Apparently she was employed and the indications that we have right now is that he was not. Some of the key questions, of course, are whether these shootings were politically motivated. If so, in what way. It's pretty clear the shooters had some type of dislike for law enforcement, especially since two police officers were targeted initially.
One of the biggest questions is why the officer's bodies were reportedly covered with some type of cloth that apparently resembled a revolutionary war era flag. Police are said to be investigating whether this couple has espoused other anti-government views. From what we can tell, this couple appears to have been active on social media. These people apparently had pictures on FaceBook pages of other people and themselves, we think, wearing various costumes, a Batman motif in there in some ways. Sources tell CNN they left some type of written manifesto, which we've talked about before, but details on that so far, Wolf, are limited.
BLITZER: Let me bring Joe -- Lou into this conversation. How significant is it, Lou, that a couple was involved in this killing as opposed to a lone gunman, shall we say?
LOU PALUMBO, NASSAU COUNTY POLICE (RET.): Well, a lone gunman, in most of these instances that we've experienced, lends itself to some type of mental or emotional problem. In this instance, this lends itself potentially to a larger group that they might be attached to. And that's one of the things that law enforcement is looking into right now, were these just two people who were politically aligned, somewhat deranged in their outlook of government and society? Or are they attached, in fact, to a larger group that's now going to make this somewhat a regular occurrence?
BLITZER: If it was a larger group, the police have some serious investigation to undertake right now to see if there is some sort of pattern here potentially connected with other of these kinds of incidents.
PALUMBO: That's correct, Wolf. I mean if you revisit the late '60s and the '70 in New York, for example, we had a pattern of the BLA, for example, assassinating police officers. Foster (ph) and Laurie (ph), Reddy (ph) and Globber (ph), Pargentini (ph). I mean it was an ongoing effort to do exactly what we're speaking to right now. And it's very important that they discern as to whether or not this is an association with a larger group with this agenda or were these just two random individuals that are taking up their own cause in an attempt to perhaps be validated or accepted by a larger group.
BLITZER: It's an important subject that we're all going to have to be learning a lot more. And I wish the police strong -- good luck in their investigation.
Lou, thanks very much. Lou, don't go too far away. Joe, don't go too far away. Dan will be with us. The Las Vegas Police, they've now scheduled a news conference for 1:30 p.m. Eastern, about 12 minutes or so from now. We'll have live coverage of that. We'll get an update on what Las Vegas Police have to say. So, everyone, stand by.
Up next, Hillary Clinton it talking about 2016 as she reveals her timeline for deciding on a possible presidential run.
BLITZER: There's a lot of buzz here in Washington right now over a book. It's Hillary Clinton's book entitled "Hard Choices." The talk isn't as much about what's in the book, but instead it's about the author's possible plans for the future. Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar has more on what Hillary Clinton is now saying.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Hillary Clinton has said she has a decision to make. But if you were looking for clarity on exactly when she'll do that, you won't find it in this interview because she is keeping her options open.
KEILAR (voice-over): On the eve of her headline grabbing book rollout, Hillary Clinton shares with ABC News her timetable for deciding whether she's running for president.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I just want to kind of get through this year, travel around the country, sign books, help in the midterm elections in the fall, and then take a deep breath and kind of go through my pluses and minuses about what I will and will not be thinking about as I make the decision.
KEILAR: Pushing back her personal deadline to 2015.
CLINTON: I will be on the way to making a decision by the end of the year, yes.
KEILAR: But she's already in the political spin cycle. Clinton didn't rule out appearing before a Republican-led House committee investigating the Benghazi attack.
CLINTON: Well -
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: You will?
CLINTON: We'll see what they decide to do, how they conduct themselves, whether or not this is, you know, one more travesty about the loss of four Americans or whether this is in the best tradition of the Congress, an effort to try to figure out what we can do better.
KEILAR: Only 37 percent of Americans approve of her handling of Benghazi, but a majority still approve of her overall performance as secretary of state according to a new ABC News-"Washington Post" poll. Clinton also gets very high marks for leadership qualities. As she prepares for a demanding book tour, some see as a dry run for 2016, Clinton also answered questions about her 2012 blood clot and concussion that she said caused her to suffer dizziness and double vision.
SAWYER: So, no linger effects?
CLINTON: No lingering effects.
SAWYER: Of any kind?
CLINTON: No. No.
SAWYER: You would release your medical records if you ran for president?
CLINTON: I would do what other candidates have done, absolutely.
KEILAR: Recently, Karl Rove made it a hot button political issue.
KARL ROVE: She had a serious episode, a serious health episode.
KEILAR: And for the first time, she personally responded.
SAWYER: What would you like to say to Karl Rove about your brain?
CLINTON: That I know he was called Bush's brain in one of the books written about him, and I wish him well.
KEILAR: This is all part of a big rollout for her book. There will be other interviews. There are speeches, book signings. All of it designed to sell books and also to keep her well positioned should she decide to run for president in 2016.
BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very much. Brianna Keilar reporting. Joining us here in Washington, Sally Quinn, she's a contributor, of course, for "The Washington Post," the founding editor of On Faith.
Sally, thanks very much for coming in.
How does this book play into the possibility, very strong possibility, she's going to run, again, for the Democratic presidential nomination?
SALLY QUINN, "WASHINGTON POST" CONTRIBUTOR: I think she would have written the book anyway. She just finished secretary of state. That's what you do, you write a book. So I think this is laying the groundwork if she decides to run. Whether she's going to run or not, nobody knows.
I think this is her time. You know, Hillary's main passion now is women and has been for years. Women's rights or human rights. And she's made such headway. I think that that's going to be the area that she needs to decide what she wants to focus on and where she will be able to do the most good, whether she wants to spend the rest of her life dealing with women's rights or whether she thinks she can make a bigger difference as the first woman president of the United States, even though what she's going to be dealing with is something I can't even imagine because the Republicans are going to vilify her. Once she announces, if she does, she is just going to be the object of attack. They'd hate her. She's not going to have a honeymoon if she gets in the White House. And I - you know, that's just something she's going to have to decide whether she wants to do.
I think that what - what she needs to also think about is the people who surround her because in the last election, I mean we both know that she was surrounded by a lot of people who were toxic, who were arrogant and who did not have her best interest at heart. And they made a lot of enemies for her, the people around her. I think this time around, she really should survey the landscape. I mean she's got people like Huma Abedin and Milan Rever (ph) who are good, decent people. What she needs to do is make sure that the people that she has around her represent who she really is and not these toxic people she's had before.
BLITZER: That's a fair point.
I want you to listen to this exchange she had with Diane Sawyer of ABC News on -- going out on the lecture circuit and making a lot of money. This is interesting. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The White House not only dead broke but in debt. We had no money when we got there. And we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She said she was in debt, dead broke when she and Bill Clinton left the White House in January, what, 2001.
QUINN: I once made a remark that she -- they were homeless and, in fact, they were. I mean they really didn't have any money. I don't think that making money after you've been in public office is anything new. And I don't think most --
BLITZER: But in the eight years he was president, he was making $400,000 a year as president of the United States, which to most Americans sounds like money.
QUINN: Yes. Well, I think that they -- look at - I think Ronald Reagan went off and made, what, a couple of million dollars on a speech the first -- right after he got out of office. He went to Japan and made a huge amount of money. I don't think that that's anything new. And I think that, you know, why shouldn't they -- we do live in a capitalistic country. Why shouldn't you take advantage of it if you can make it (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: And nothing wrong with making money. She's made a lot of money since she left the State Department and certainly Bill Clinton's made a lot of money -
BLITZER: Speaking in other ways since he left the White House.
Speaking of first ladies, listen to Michelle Obama. She was at a memorial service honoring Maya Angelou over the weekend. Let me play a little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the south side of Chicago all the way to the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think, this Harvard Law School grad, very successful lawyer in her own right, you think after she leaves the White House, she'll follow in Hillary Clinton's footsteps and run for political office?
QUINN: Well, I think that she's been a great first lady. And I think that she's had a lot of criticism for being the wife and the mother. But I think that she's played it absolutely right because she has not been an issue for him and she's not been a distraction. And I think now is her time, as it is Hillary's time, it's her time. If she wants to run for office, I can't see why not and I think she'd be a great senator if she wanted to.
BLITZER: To go back to Illinois and do that.
QUINN: Go (ph) back to do that, yes.
BLITZER: She's probably would have a clear shot to get the Democratic nomination.
QUINN: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: We'll see what would happen in election. Illinois is a pretty Democratic state, although there is a Republican senator, Senator Kirk, right now. So we'll see what happens.
QUINN: Well, I think she's got some cards to play.
BLITZER: Yes, she certainly does. All right, thanks very much, Sally, for coming in.
QUINN: Thank you. BLITZER: A programming reminder. Hillary Clinton will join us next week for a very important CNN town hall meeting. "Hillary Clinton, A CNN Town Hall," live, comes your way on Tuesday, June 17th.