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Bergdahl Lawyers Up; Fox Offered to Buy Time Warner; CDC Director Grilled Over Safety Violations; Arraignment Hearing for Alex Tickleman; Hillary Clinton Wants an Oval Office

Aired July 16, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the case that has the tech world all atwitter -- sex, drugs, and the overdose death of a Google executive. The woman arrested in court @ THIS HOUR.

Hello, everyone, great to see you today. I'm John Berman. Michaela Pereira is off today. We'll have those stories more, right now, @ THIS HOUR.

For five years he was a captive. @ THIS HOUR, he is a client. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has lawyered up.

Critics of course say that Bergdahl deserted his unit in Afghanistan before he was taken prisoner by the Taliban. His new attorney could be preparing to defend him, should those accusations become formal charges.

Eugene Fidell is a military justice expert. He didn't talk much about his client's situation, but CNN did ask why Bergdahl is back on active duty just six weeks after he was freed.


EUGENE FIDELL, SERGEANT BOWE BERGDAHL'S ATTORENY: Obviously the Army has concluded that he is fit for duty. I don't anticipate that they are going to deploy him anywhere. You know, there's some business that has to be conducted, chiefly, this investigation.

And if the Army thinks that he was ready to wrap up the reintegration process and move into a regular duty status, the Army is a better judge of that than I am.


BERMAN: We're joined by our military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, also former Army JAG Anita Gorecki-Robbins joins us from Washington.

Anita, let me start with you here. What does it say to you that Sergeant Bergdahl is retaining counsel at this point and what will the job of this attorney be? What is the most important thing for him to do right now?

ANITA GORECKI-ROBBINS, FORMER ARMY JAG AND DEFENSE COUNSEL: General Dahl is the one who has been tasked with doing this informal investigation, or we kind of call it a 15-6 in the Army.

And since General Dahl probably believes that obviously a crime has been committed, so the very first thing he's going to be read his rights. So obviously anticipating that, that's what is going to happen, he's retained counsel as anybody should when those questions are asked.

BERMAN: And, Rick, you have sat in a court martial. You have never been --


BERMAN: Exactly. There's a big difference there.

But you do say there is something that surprises you a little about how this is all being carried out.

FRANCONA: I think the sergeant knows he's in trouble. I think he knows he needs a lawyer. And I'm really surprised that he's not in some sort of custody already.

I'm surprised he's not been read his rights. I'm surprised he's not in some sort of pretrial detention, because these are very, very serious charges, so when the general talks to him and reads him his rights, then we'll see what happens.

But I really think it's a smart thing that he does have an attorney because I think it's very important that the Army do this by the book because that has such high notoriety.

BERMAN: Anita, in this kind of case -- and we don't know what kind of charges will be brought or if they will be brought, but the accusation that's floating out there in the air is one of desertion -- how does one defend himself against that charge?

GORECKI-ROBBINS: It's very interesting in this particular case, because he potentially has a client who may not even remember what happened that day, so obviously his mental sanity, his mental acuity, that assumes he knows what happened that day, that assumes that he can actually assist in his own defense.

So I think that is what's going to hinge on, because obviously if he says I don't even remember what happened that day, where does that leave everybody? It might be actually a way out for everybody, I think.

BERMAN: And, Rick, there are those emails out there, those computers with correspondence back and forth from before he was taken into custody.

FRANCONA: Right. And so a lot of this would be self-incriminating there. I don't know if they can get those in, what the rules of evidence are. The JAG can tell us that.

But he faces a long period of review and can he stand trial? That's a very good point. Does he remember? And then I believe the Army has to prove intent. For desertion you have to prove the intent not to come back, and without those emails that might be very, very difficult.

BERMAN: Rick Francona, Anita Gorecki-Robbins, thank you so much for being with us.


BERMAN: We're going to stay on over the next several days, obviously.

Other news now happening @ THIS HOUR, Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox says it made an offer to buy Time Warner last month. Time Warner shares have soared more than 15 percent since the news came out today.

The report, first published in the "New York Times," revealed Murdoch made a bid worth $85 a share in stock and cash. That bid was rejected.

Of Course Time Warner is the parent company of CNN. So I want to bring in CNNMoney's business correspondent Cristina Alesci right now. Christina, tell us more, I suppose, about us.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNNMONEY.COM BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Time Warner is firmly rejecting the offer -- or firmly rejected the offer, I should say, and today has issued a statement about why it's done so, and it's poking holes in the Fox offer.

But one of the main reasons Time Warner says that it's rejecting the offer is because it can generate more value for shareholders, it says, than the Fox deal can, take a listen to CEO Jeff Bewkes.


JEFF BEWKES, CEO TIME WARNER: The board concluded that continuing to execute our strategic plan and our business plans will create significantly more value for the company and our shareholders and that that's superior to any proposal that Fox is in a position to offer.


ALESCI: Now clearly Time Warner is also pointing to the fact that they have generated -- they have already generated value for shareholders. Since 2008, the stock is up 150 percent.

But at the end of the day, we do have as you mentioned in your introduction, the Time Warner stock reacting to this news, potentially indicating that investors are optimistic about something happening going forward.

The discussions are not active right now. That doesn't necessarily mean they won't become active at some point. Again, there's no news around that, per se, but in general that's what happens in these kinds of deals.

BERMAN: All right, Cristina Alesci, thank you very much for the update. Needless to say, we will all be watching it very, very closely.

Ahead for us, anthrax in unlocked refrigerators, Ziplocs filled with dangerous substances, the country's top scientists explain how this happened and if we are at risk.

And a man attempts the impossible. He tried to cancel his cable subscription. You will not believe the lunacy that follows.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The way that you can help me is by dissecting our service. That's how you can help me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that helping you, though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because that's what I want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is that what you want?




BERMAN: The head of the CDC on the hot seat right now in Capitol Hill, a subcommittee is grilling Director Tom Frieden about serious safety problems.

We're talking accidental anthrax exposure from samples left in unlocked refrigerators. We're also talking about dangerous substances simply stored in Ziploc bags.

A government investigation has found widespread problems in labs around the country and a culture of lax safety and sloppy handling.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a Ziploc bag, and I have to think, what in heaven's name would go through the mind of some scientist thinking a Ziploc bag is enough to protect someone from anthrax when you have other instances of -- of all the paraphernalia someone has to wear when they're dealing with anthrax.

Have you talked to these personnel involved with transporting anthrax and asked them why?


BERMAN: Yeah, not to besmirch Ziploc, but I had the same, exact reaction.

Joining us to talk about this, our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

You know we're not just talking about the Atlanta headquarters of the CDC here either. There's a range of problems.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And this is what we do. So we talk about the high standard and how fiery this discussion got. It's in part because they are the gold standard for this sort of thing, and there's nothing -- everything that could have possibly gone wrong in some of these situations went wrong.

You had transport problems, putting this in Ziploc bags. Refrigerators were not locked. You have people going through these corridors, piggybacking, so someone swipes the card, they have access, and they've been trained. Someone comes in the door after them that has not had the same training. So there are all sorts of lapses.

What's interesting, John, is there have been these lapses in the past as well. They have been part of inspector-general reports about the CDC, but they didn't rise to this level until there was -- you know, you saw the problems, the anthrax, the flu, the smallpox.

BERMAN: These are the guys, again, who are supposed to be protecting us from this.

So who is at risk here? Is it just these scientists and the people working at these facilities who are at risk, or does it go beyond that?

GUPTA: I think for the most part with the anthrax, it really just did seem like the scientists, workers, it's not something that spreads from human to human, so it wasn't that the public was really at risk.

Significant potential concern for those workers, though, I mean, anthrax, as you know, John, it can be very deadly. People get vaccinated against this. Some of the people who had been exposed were not vaccinated. So real problems.

What I thought was really stunning was this flu thing. You had this low-virulent flu, sort of garden-variety flu, and it was cross- contaminated with one of the deadliest strains of flu that we know, a flu that killed 65 to 70 percent of people who get infected, and suddenly it was out there.

And, luckily, you had people at the USDA who recognized this problem. Why? Because their chickens all died really quickly. If that had gotten out, we could have been talking about a very, very different story today.

So it did not affect people in the public, but this was, in the aviation world, this was a near miss.

BERMAN: One of the words I keep reading about -- they talk about the "culture" of the CDC. One of the words I keep reading is "hubris," that they just, you know, thought they were too good for this and stopped paying attention.

GUPTA: I think that some of the scientists have been doing this for so long, they've not had problems. They know the protocols. They are not stupid. They know what they are supposed to do. They know that a Ziploc bag is not the right thing to be doing.

But they sort of get a little bit careless. Hubris may be the right word. They just -- they've been doing this for decades, never had a problem. They start to take shortcuts. They start to think that they can get away with stuff.

And oftentimes it takes an event like this to just sort of remind people, look, 999 times out of a thousand, you're going to be fine. But that one time could be a very serious problem.

BERMAN: When you are dealing with these kinds of substances, absolutely. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, great to have you here.

GUPTA: You too, John. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: Coming up, the seedy side of Silicon Valley, sex, drugs and search engines, intrigue and surprises as the woman arrested in the overdose death of a Google executive appears in court.

And finally the man who can save America, I'm talking about Weird Al Yankociv. Seriously, it's today's cable outrage.


BERMAN: Happening right now in Santa Cruz County court, the arraignment hearing for Alex Tickleman. She is the woman arrested in the overdose death of a Google executive. Tickleman is answering charges including drugs, prostitution and felony manslaughter counts. Authorities say she injected 51 year old, Forrest Timothy Hayes, a man she reportedly met on a so called sugar daddy website, with a lethal dose of heroin on his yacht, then casually stepped over his body to sip wine and collect her belongings before leaving the scene. Quite a case. Joining me is former L.A. county prosecutor Loni Coombs. Loni, what do we expect to hear from today's hearing?

LONI COOMBS, FORMER L.A. COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Well today John, it is just the arraignment. That is where the formal charges are read to her. At this point she's charge with seven felony counts, as you said, or drugs, prostitution and manslaughter. However, there is an ongoing investigation. After this death, authorities said they were going to look into her prior boyfriend's death, which occurred only two months before this death and under very similar circumstances. So there may be new charges added to it. They may not come at this time, at the arraignment, they may be added later or we may hear them today in court.

BERMAN: Do you have a sense how confident prosecutors are that these charges will stick?

COOMBS: Well they have got a videotape. John, prosecutors love videotapes. They have her on a surveillance camera on that yacht, injecting the heroin into that victim and then watching him as he is dying there and casually collecting her things stepping over him, taking a sip of wine, closing a blind, and then leaving him on the boat. Not calling 911, not doing anything to help him. So that is a really good case for the prosecution.

BERMAN: But there is heroin involved here. Everyone knows heroin is dangerous, heroin is deadly, presumably these were consenting adults using this dangerous and deadly substance. Could that play into her defense? COOMBS: Yes John, exactly. That's why, right now the prosecutors

have only filed it as a voluntary manslaughter, which says she didn't intent to kill him, she just did something that she knew was very dangerous and she was reckless in doing it. It was negligent and left him to die. That is essentially the epitome of what a voluntary manslaughter charge is.

BERMAN: And of course, in the introduction to this story, I mentioned these sugar daddy websites, where women are paid for the company of older men. You know, what's going on here? What impact will this case have on the existence of these sites?

COOMBS: Well, that's a good question. There's been a real focus on these sites. They have been targeted before for prostitution and there's been allegations going back and forth, but they are hard to prosecute because they pass themselves off as dating sites, as companionship sites. They say the money is secondary. There's really not necessarily sex involved. So they are hard to prosecute, but the target will be there again. And now it's coming out more and more that these are very popular sites in Silicon Valley. So we might be seeing more of these prosecutions.

BERMAN: We're learning a lot more about the culture that goes on there. At a certain level there is a justification for the existence of these sites. People can make the case that they are legal, even though a lot of people laugh when they hear the title.

COOMBS: Exactly. Which is why it has been so difficult to prosecute up to this point. They are very careful. They know the line that they can go up to but not cross, so they get in trouble.

BERMAN: Loni Coombs, good to have you with us. Really appreciate you lending your expertise on this case.

COOMBS: Thank you.

BERMAN: Coming up for us. Hillary Clinton announces she wants an oval office. That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?


BERMAN: This morning, the world of politics is obsessed with shapes. That's right, shapes. How a square or say an oval can unlock the most pressing pseudo mystery in the country. Will Hillary Clinton run for president? Daily Show host Jon Stewart ingeniously used shapes and career aptitude test to unlock the truth.


JON STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: No one cares and they just want to know if you are running for president. Are you running?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: You know Jon, I was going to make an announcement, but I saw -- you kind of spoiled it for me, you know.

STEWART: So that's a yes. I am going to go with that's a yes.

CLINTON: The big spoiler. So I'm going to have to reconsider where I go do it. I kind of prefer a home office. That's where I wrote my book. It was on the third floor of our house. So that worked.

STEWART: Do you have a favorite shape for that home office? Do you like that office, let's say, would you like that office, would you like it to have corners or not to have corners? I don't know.

CLINTON: You know, I think that the world is so complicated, the fewer corners that you -


BERMAN: Fewer corners, cue the frenzy. Let's bring in our political commentators Ross Douthat and Maria Cardona. Friends, my question to both of you is, can we dispense with the ridiculous question that we are asking politicians, will you reason for president? Because the fact of the matter is, in her case, and in so many others, in a manner of speaking she is running right now. There is nothing more she could be doing now that would help her. This is a type of candidacy. She is doing things she would not be doing if she were definitely not running. Maria, can't we just accept that?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think we can dispense with that question, John, because until she actually says she's running, you know, we all might think she's running. We all might hope she's running, But she's officially not running, she's selling a book. And if you look at everything that she's doing, she's actually doing exactly the kind of things that a person selling a book would do. The fact that she gets so much attention, John, though, whose fault is that? It's the media's fault, it's our fault. It's the supporters who really want her to run, but until she says otherwise, I think we just need to assume that she's selling a book.

BERMAN: Well I am not willing to accept any of the blame here. So let's dispense with the notion that it's my fault. But Ross --




DOUTHAT: I guess --

CARDONA: Absolutely.

BERMAN: No, seriously. You would not announce you are running today. There would be no advantage to announce your running today. You save that for later on. So this is what you do if you are running for president.

DOUTHAT: Well, yes, obviously she's running for president, right? I don't know -- I mean, I don't know, there is always a chance that she could decide not to run for president in the same way that there was always a chance after Mitt Romney got the Republican nomination in 2012 that he could have been diagnosed with a serious medical condition and drop out of the race. I mean, anything could happen between now and 2016. Hillary Clinton is running for president and everybody knows it.

I think the interesting dynamic here though is, it is what's odd about her situation is that she's in a zone where there's so much attention on her, she's doing this book tour and so on, but because she's not officially running for president, she doesn't have any of the things to talk about, basically, that a normal presidential candidate would. She doesn't have a policy platform. She isn't making policy statements, she isn't making public arguments about really much of any substance.

And that I think is actually a little problematic for her, and this is a point that my colleague Lynn Vavreck made, I think yesterday on the New York times website, that one of the reasons that her book tour has been a little rocky, with all of this discussion about her wealth, and does it matter, and so on, is that she doesn't have the kind of talking points to fall back on that someone who was officially running for president would have, because she doesn't want to say she's officially running for president. So nobody can ask her about tax policy or economic policy or anything like that. So there are down sides to her in this long run that isn't necessarily a run, but it is a run.

BERMAN: It is an interesting distinction, I hadn't quite thought of it along that line. Let's talk about another man who I would say is sort of running for president right now whether or not he's announced. It is Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. He's planning a trip to Iowa. He is on his way there this week. Why do you got to Iowa? Well we all know Iowa is the first in the nation caucus. He also released this sort of video about state pension funds that was with the Rock and he had to pull it down quickly because Hollywood complained.

So Ross, let me just ask you quickly, on a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest, what are the chances that after everything Christie has been through, Bridegate and everything, that he could get the GOP nomination?