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Janet Reno Addresses the INS Seizure of Elian GonzalezAired April 22, 2000 - 6:04 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. We have breaking news for you this morning. I'm Kyra Phillips here in Atlanta.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Miles O'Brien.
Some breaking news relating to the Elian Gonzalez case, the five- month saga of the 6-year-old boy from Cuba takes a dramatic turn this morning. A little -- about an hour ago in the Little Havana section of Miami, about four or five minivans swooped down on the modest home of Lazaro Gonzalez. Approximately two dozen federal agents with them, they used a battering ram to gain access to the home, shortly thereafter carried Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old boy, wrapped in a blanket into the white van you see there. He was taken away in federal custody, presumably on his way to a meeting with his father, who has been waiting in Washington for his son.
The federal agents used pepper spray to neutralize a crowd of about 100 protesters that have been maintaining a vigil outside the home of Lazaro Gonzalez. The scene there a bit tense in the wake of this dramatic turn of events.
PHILLIPS: As we watch federal agents, everything seemed to be done in proper procedure. They secured the area, they went in quickly, retrieved the child. It was a female officer that brought Elian out wrapped in a blanket. She looked very non-threatening. He was quickly taken out and away from the scene.
Brian Cabell has been there all morning. He was there from the very beginning and even got a little pepper spray.
Brian, is everything all right with you right now? And can you give us some more details from what you saw this morning? pretty shocking.
BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was. It was not at all expected, Kyra.
Right now, what we have behind us, I believe, is the mayor of Miami, Joe Carollo. He arrived here a little while ago.
Frankly, emotions have calmed here somewhat here in the last, I'd say, 30 minutes or so. For the first 15 minutes after the federal officers stormed this house, it was a nasty scene. Cameras were being attacked, cameramen, reporters were being attacked. There was just outright anger, outrage at what had happened, because no one, at least in this crowd here, had expected it to happen tonight and in such a manner.
The barricades were brought down in a very quiet manner at about five after 5:00, seven after 5:00. And then suddenly someone said, hey, hey, hey. And all of a sudden we saw a couple vans roll in, federal officers running alongside them pushing photographers back, pushing reporters back, pushing demonstrators back.
The car stopped in front of the home right here behind me, as you can see. A number of officers exited that vehicle. A number of other vehicles came in. Officers surrounded the vehicles, they banged on the door, they knocked the door open. And then about two, three minutes later, as Miles mentioned, the child came out apparently in a blanket. The presumption is that Elian was sleeping at that time. Again, it was 10 after 5:00 Eastern time.
He was taken out into a van, backed out of here, and in a matter of probably a minute or two, he was out of the neighborhood. Now the other vehicles had a little trouble getting out of the neighborhood because they were attacked. A number of missiles were thrown at the officers and at the vehicles. But again, there weren't all that many people out here at that time of the morning. There were perhaps 1,000 people out here before midnight last night, but by 5:00 this morning, there were no more than 50, maybe 100 at most, and they were simply waiting quietly, waiting patiently for something, if anything, to happen. And frankly half the media were half asleep in their chairs because we simply did not expect it to happen this morning in this manner. But it did.
And it was very -- I wouldn't -- it was violent in a very real sense. I'm not certain whether anybody got seriously hurt, but a number of us were sprayed, a number of people collapsed on the street. We saw a couple of gurneys brought in here a little while ago, but nobody was wheeled out on them.
But the people were extremely, extremely angry, very outraged. A number of them took their outrage out on the media because, they said, you wanted this all along. And there was little, of course, the media could do except to back off.
But what we have...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rescue squad was kept out.
CABELL: The rescue squad was kept...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were kept out. That's why they took so long in getting here. The rescue people who came here just a second ago, we told them, how come they took so long to get here? And they said they were kept out. The rescue squad was kept out because they had cordoned the area, and that's why -- you know how long they took, remember, before you saw the first truck here.
CABELL: Did you see this happen? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I was right by the front door, yes, sir.
CABELL: What did you see happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they came in with something that -- I don't know -- looked like a bazooka-type thing. I guess it's what they use to barge on the door. And they just barged in, totally violent, and they just tore the door open and rushed inside.
Then to us they pushed us aside, they pushed people to the ground, they broke my new jacket against the fence, and then they went inside.
When they got the child, they were all screaming bingo, bingo, because I guess it was the code that they had the poor child. So then they ran out again and got into the van and left. They tear gassed us when they got there, they tear gassed us when they left.
It was totally unhuman, cruel, unlike America and a shame to the world that this can still happen in the United States.
CABELL: Thank you, sir.
That representative of a number of people we have seen around here today. Again, nothing like this, at least from the people we've talked to, was expected tonight and certainly not in this manner.
We were told at about 4:30 or so to expect a press conference or a statement from the Department of Justice. We waited for that, it did not happen. And then about 40 minutes after we were told to wait for the press conference, the vehicles entered this neighborhood, stopped in front of the house and took the boy. They literally seized the boy -- there's no other way to put it. And, as we say, we were told the boy was sleeping at the time, 10 after 5:00 in the morning. It's a good guess that he was sleeping in the house. He was taken out and he was whisked out by a female officer, taken out of the neighborhood.
Exactly where he is right now, we do not know. He was taken out of here about, oh, almost an hour ago.
In any case, that's the scene right now. A number of people have arrived in the neighborhood since this occurred., There were only about 50 to 100 at that time. I would say there's at least 300 or 400, probably a lot more, and I suspect the numbers will grow as the morning continues. And we've told -- we've been told to expect a press conference at about -- oh, jeez.
All right, little bit of trouble here, little bit of trouble here. Apparently attacking the media.
Ma'am -- we ourselves are stuck with some other media.
But again, some...
O'BRIEN: Brian -- Brian? CABELL: Yes?
O'BRIEN: Let me just bring up a couple of points here -- assuming you're not in harm's way at the moment. Are you OK where you are?
CABELL: Not at this moment. For now we are, yes.
O'BRIEN: OK, just a couple of things I'd like to underscore for our viewers, based on that conversation you had with that gentleman.
And first of all, as we understand it, it was not tear gas used, it was pepper spray, correct?
CABELL: That was my impression, that it was pepper spray.
O'BRIEN: All right, the other...
CABELL: I believe it was pepper spray. I've been around tear gas before and it felt like pepper spray. But I haven't been in any pepper spray in many a year, but it did feel like pepper spray.
O'BRIEN: And the other issue he brought up, he called it a bazooka-like device. And we should probably clarify that point. It -- from the videotape I've been watching, it appeared to be a standard battering ram.
CABELL: Yes, I think that's exactly what it was. It was a cylindrical object, probably, I don't know, three or four feet in length, very heavy, and that's what they used to bang down the door.
O'BRIEN: Brian, also, just to set the context for all of this, what we had been talking about yesterday were the ongoing negotiations with the family. Bring us up to date on where that stood just prior to the dramatic events which occurred more than an hour ago.
CABELL: Well, negotiations continued all through the night, all through the morning. We knew that the father's attorney was working at 4:00 in the morning, we knew the attorneys were here at the house. We knew that Janet Reno was working at 4:00 in the morning, we knew that telephone calls were talking place between them somewhat sporadically.
They were trying to work out a settlement that would involve some sort of shared custody between the family here and the father of Elian Gonzalez at some neutral site, presumably outside of Miami. We believe it was somewhere in the Washington, D.C. area. They were trying to work out details. They could not work out details apparently, and that's when they decided finally that was the end of the negotiations. They finally decided at that point, no more negotiations, let's seize the boy. And that's what happened at 10 after 5:00 this morning.
PHILLIPS: Brian, when the federal agent had Elian in her arms, what could you see? Was Elian crying? Was he saying anything? CABELL: It was just a very quick image that we caught, but it was not a happy child. It was a child, as far as we could tell within that three or four seconds that we saw him, who at the very least was surprised and certainly looked unhappy. But again, I don't want to read into what a child was thinking from 50 to 100 feet away. I didn't hear him crying, but certainly he looked grieved.
PHILLIPS: Now the talk was if Elian was removed from this home that he would have communications with his father immediately. He was supposed to be able to talk to him and the plan was to be taken to him if this did happen. Do you know if that is what's going on? If that's what's taking place?
CABELL: We do not know that. We're going to have to get that from federal officials, either the Justice Department, INS, we don't know. The child was taken away from here about an hour ago. We know he's in INS custody. He frankly could be on a plane right now for all we know. We simply do not know where the child is right now, but presumably he's on his way to be reunited with his father. That was the whole point of this exercise tonight. So where he is right now, when he will see his father, we don't know. But I think it's a good guess that he's going to see him sometime a little later this morning.
O'BRIEN: That seems to be a reasonable supposition.
PHILLIPS: There's the fisherman.
O'BRIEN: And there's one of the fisherman, of course, who discovered Elian Gonzalez back November 25th, floating on what amounted to little more than an inner tube, he the only survivor of an aborted attempt to flee Cuba to the United States.
Brian, you mentioned expectations this morning, the fact that no one expected this. But it's worth reminding folks that this action that we witnessed a little more than an hour ago, the taking of Elian Gonzalez by federal officials, that had really never been taken off the table by Attorney General Janet Reno.
CABELL: You're absolutely right. She had warned, Justice officials had warned that something like this could happen. They said if, and told us particularly yesterday, that if this last-ditch effort to work out an amicable settlement broke down, that the next step would be to seize the child. Now the thought was perhaps it would be in a more peaceful manner, perhaps during daylight.
But again, that was simply speculation on the part of analysts -- on the part of observers. We simply didn't know what would happen, but there was a distinct warning that if this last-ditch settlement effort did not bring about a settlement, that in fact the child would be taken from this house and would be reunited with his father by some sort of force. And indeed that's precisely what has happened here.
O'BRIEN: And now, Brian, you know, you mentioned, of course we can make a fairly reasonable supposition that Elian in the hands of the federal agents now on his way to an airport, presumably for a flight to Washington, perhaps his father is on that plane for all we know. But, you know, I'm curious at this juncture, there's little possibility that he shall return to Cuba because of the nature of that appeals court ruling we saw, right?
CABELL: Yes, the assumption is that he's going to have to stay in the United States for weeks and very possibly for months. There's been some speculation that Elian Gonzalez may spend Christmas in the United States because of all the appeals processes that may have to play out in the weeks and months ahead. Certainly May 11th is the next court date, but then there's an asylum process. This may go to the Supreme Court. So there's no telling how long he and his father presumably will have to stay here in the United States.
The effort tonight was simply to get him away from this house and into the hands of his father. But I -- certainly there's an agreement and understanding on the part of the Justice Department that Elian and his father will stay in the United States for quite some time until this matter is finally dispensed with by the court system.
PHILLIPS: And, Brian, you bring up a very interesting point, the relationship between Elian and his father. You were talking to a doctor, I believe, or a psychologist earlier this morning when this all happened. She had some concerns now about since Elian was taken from the home in this manner, how will he react to his father? Will he blame his father for this? How do you think this will play in the relationship between the two according to the doctor you talked to?
CABELL: Well, the doctor we talked to said that the child is absolutely traumatized by what happened tonight. There's no other way she could put it. The child will be damaged psychologically because the child was picked up by a stranger, a group of strangers, heavily armed strangers at 10 after 5:00 in the morning, people with weapons, whisked into a car and whisked out of here, perfect strangers. And she said this child will be severely damaged.
Now how he will react when he sees his father we simply do not know, but clearly this child is not in a good psychological state at this point...
O'BRIEN: Brian, Brian, let us...
CABELL: ... I think that's a fair guess.
O'BRIEN: If we could interrupt for just a moment, these are live pictures from Bethesda, Maryland, the Cuban attache's home, where Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, has been staying during his stay in the United States. That is a vehicle with a diplomatic license plate. Beyond that, I can't tell you much more about it except that we will be obviously following the comings and goings of vehicles and planes today, as this apparent transfer of custody from the family in Miami is effectuated by federal agents.
Brian, I'm sorry I interrupted you. You can continue your point there.
CABELL: No problem at all. We understood that Elian's father talked with his attorney for about two hours last night -- they cut it off around midnight or so -- and then the three attorneys here were talking to some outside mediators, including the president of the University of Miami, to try to work out a settlement, and then Janet Reno was at the Department of Justice trying in her way to work out some sort of negotiated settlement. So they were in three different places, but presumably they were in touch by phone. They were trying to work out a settlement last night and all this morning, and they apparently never could bridge the gap between them. And as a result, at 10 after 5:00 we had federal officers some in here.
And again, I should say this occurred at about the time we were expecting a press conference at the Department of Justice. We were told it could be the attorney general, Janet Reno, it could be one of her subordinates. We didn't know whether it would be a statement, a press conference, but we were told there would be some statement. There was some speculation that perhaps it would be an announcement of a settlement, but clearly that was not the case. It apparently was an announcement -- or it was to be an announcement that simply these talks had broken down and there was nothing left to do but to seize the child. And tat's what they did a little over an hour ago.
And right now, as you can see, the crowd is building here. The sun is starting to rise. We're still a ways away from it, but it is getting lighter here. The anger here has ebbed from time to time, but it has grown others. And we have media out here. The media have been attacked from time to time. But for now, it is relatively calm, certainly compared to what it was like an hour ago, when a number of individuals were being pepper sprayed, including ourselves.
So once again, we have the mayor of Miami in here. I'm not sure what he has said. We've been told to expect a press conference. Whether we're talking about demonstrations later on today, we simply do not know. But there are a lot of people who want something done. They simply don't know what to do at this point because Elian Gonzalez has been taken out of this neighborhood and he's been whisked away, presumably to be reunited with his father.
PHILLIPS: And for those of you who are just tuning in to CNN, we are on rolling coverage right now, breaking news: U.S. federal agents seize Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives. We have Brian Cabell on the scene in Miami. Actually both shots are now the scene in Miami in front of the relatives' home.
It started out only with about 50 people outside the home, lighting candles, having a calm vigil. About 5:10 this morning, Eastern time, federal agents came in, white minivans. It happened very quickly, within about 10 minutes. They went into the home, seized Elian Gonzalez. He came out in the arms of a female federal agent wrapped in a blanket, taken away very quickly. We're not sure if he's being taken to his father. All we know is that he's in the custody of federal agents, of INS agents right now.
We did check in at the Bethesda, Maryland, home. We haven't been able to find out what type of activity is going on there. Right now we're in Miami. Lots of people have come out since this happened. It got a little tense for a while, didn't it? Now it's kind of calmed down. People are talking, interacting. O'BRIEN: Let's turn it back to Brian. Question for you Brian, given the fact that obviously the crowd will build and has built since word of this has gotten out, I haven't seen in any of the pictures I'm watching right now -- and by the way, maybe you could help us. I don't know if you can see from where you are, Brian, there appears to be somebody who's being attended to in a stretcher. Can you see that?
CABELL: I cannot at this point. Actually right now, up ahead of us, we see Joe Carollo, who's I think being brought over here right now. We have been told...
CABELL: We have been told, by the way, that there is a perimeter being formed by some police cars around this neighborhood. We frankly don't know how many cars we're talking about, how tight a net they might be forming around this neighborhood. But early on during this assault by the federal officers -- and excuse my use of the term "assault" -- but there were no local officers around here. But now we are seeing more local officers.
O'BRIEN: That was my point, Brian. Given the fact that the relationship between the local authorities and the federal authorities was perhaps strained, you might say -- are you still able to hear me, Brian?
CABELL: Yes, I can hear you. We're just...
O'BRIEN: All right. Why don't...
CABELL: We're right here with the mayor of Miami right now. We're trying to get word...
O'BRIEN: Why don't we listen in to that.
CABELL: All right, hold on. Let me just stick our mike in.
MAYOR JOE CAROLLO, MIAMI: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH)
CABELL: He's speaking in Spanish right now, as you can hear.
He arrived here a good, I'd say, 20 minutes ago or so, about 40 minutes after the federal officers arrived and left with Elian Gonzalez. We will try to talk to him. This is Joe Carollo, the mayor of Miami, who's been out here virtually every day during this crisis.
CABELL: Brian, I would be very curious to know what, if anything, the local authorities knew about this particular event, given the fact that the authorities down there at times had threatened not to cooperate with federal authorities as they engaged in an attempt to seize Elian Gonzalez.
CABELL: Well, we can tell you that police were manning the barricades all night long in a very innocuous manner. They were letting the media in and keeping some of the regular civilians out. And then at about five after 5:00, seven after 5:00, all of a sudden we saw a number of these local officers just rather quietly pull the barricades open to the street. And a couple of us noticed something but didn't think it was anything major until about two or three minutes later, the federal officers came storming through in their minivans.
Again, we're trying to get a word with Joe Carollo, the mayor of Miami, but right now we believe he is speaking to somebody, whether it's a radio station or someone personally, we don't know, but he's speaking in Spanish at this point.
PHILLIPS: OK, Brian, I'm going to -- we just got something. While we're waiting for that, let us know if you do get close to the mayor.
This just came across the CNN wires. It's a statement from the Justice -- a Justice Department official delivered this statement. Quote:
"The child has been safely removed from the house. He is currently on his way to be reunited with his father. We had always hoped to effect this reunification in a cooperative manner and have gone to extraordinary lengths to reach such a solution."
And finally. once again this is a statement from a Justice Department official, "We again negotiated throughout the night in good faith to try and reach a cooperative resolution."
So according to a Justice Department official, Elian has been safely removed from the home and is currently on his way to be reunited with his father.
O'BRIEN: Brian, the fact that we're not seeing a lot of police presence right at the moment, obviously a deliberate strategy.
CABELL: Yes, we have not seen many police. We saw police here about five, 10 minutes ago we saw three or four of them, but for the most part, we have been told there's a perimeter around this neighborhood. We've seen a few officers in the last, I'd say, five to 10 minutes, but not many. That perhaps would only aggravate the situation. We saw federal officers initially, no local officers. But now we have, we are told, local officers in the perimeter around this neighborhood. I think they're simply trying to make certain that things don't get entirely out of hand.
Right now, what violence or little bit of violence we had initially was pretty well kept in this particular area. But again, there have been occasions when we had media attacked. And we're having some sort of problem over here right now.
PHILLIPS: OK, now we're seeing some cameras being knocked off the shoulders. People are getting -- we're going to stay with you here for a minute, Brian. Why don't you monitor the situation for us.
CABELL: Let's try to -- Mayor Carollo, did you have any word that this would happen? Was there any warning?
Was there any word prior to the assault?
CAROLLO: None whatsoever. None whatsoever. I did not get any phone calls whatsoever. What you saw here tonight was one of the most shameful, shameful acts that I have ever seen the federal government become involved in. There was no need to send armed men with machine guns in tote to go inside the house and to take this boy in this fashion. This was shameful, what happened.
CABELL: The Justice Department says the negotiations simply broke down, there was no other solution.
CAROLLO: That is not true. What they're going to tell you tomorrow, they're going to lie to America and say that the reason they had to do it was because after the meeting of Juan Miguel and the attorney general, she was so heartbroken that she wanted to have the boy with the father, the atheist father, on Easter. This is the kind of P.R. lies that they're going to be giving America.
CABELL: What now? What's going to happen next?
CAROLLO: Well, Miamians have to think with their head, not with their heart. That was hurt that we all have in Miami, simply being I think what we need to demand from this president, the one that I am sorry I came out publicly in the past to say he was no good for America, that he should have been impeached, I -- we have to ask from our president, our attorney general what guarantees -- to tell America what guarantees they are going to give so that this boy is not going to be put in a private Lear Jet and be taken back to Cuba.
You know, when Juan Miguel came to America, the head of the Cuban Interests Section told our whole country that he had waived immunity in his home where they're staying. He lied to America. He has never filled out any of the paperwork that's required to waive immunity in that home. So if they bring young Elian in there, they're bringing him into Cuban territory.
And I think we also have to ask of the president and the attorney general that once the appeal is won in the appellate court in May, are they going to use this same kind of force to take that boy back from those thugs from the Cuban Interests Section?
CABELL: Have you talked to the family?
QUESTION: Mayor, do you know when the talks broke down?
CAROLLO: I do not know that, but you know what? Talks should have never broken down. Talks keep going and going. And simply, they did not have to take this boy here in such a shameful way. This is not an armed military camp. This is not a military bunker. This is just a plane home with plain patriotic, hard-working people, young boys that were there besides Elian, women, decent, hard-working men. There was no need for this to have happened.
CABELL: Have you talked to the family?
CAROLLO: Even Jesse Jackson asked the attorney general not to come here in this fashion.
CABELL: Have you talked to the family at all?
CAROLLO: I have, I have.
O'BRIEN: Mayor Joe Carollo there.
CABELL: Again, that's Mayor Joe Carollo. He's been out here virtually every day over the last several months as this drama has played out. And, as you can see, a very angry man, said he had no idea that this was going to happen. He got out here about 40 minutes after it occurred. And presumably he's talked to the family, and I guess he simply doesn't know what plans -- what the plans are next at this particular point. But he's an angry man. He's talking to the media right now.
And we can say that the scene has calmed down here somewhat, believe it or not...
O'BRIEN: Brian -- Brian, I...
CABELL: ... from an hour or so ago.
O'BRIEN: Let me just interrupt -- can I interrupt you for a moment, Brian?
CABELL: Go ahead.
O'BRIEN: We're going to show you some videotape that was shot by a pool camera by the media. This is inside the home of Lazaro Gonzalez immediately subsequent to the raid by federal agents, which -- in which they left with Elian Gonzalez, a little after 5:00 a.m. Eastern time. Family members and friends gathering around, there you see Marisleysis, the woman who had acted as his sort of surrogate mother during his time inside the home there in Little Havana. There they are watching television reports as to what happened after the federal agents left that home.
Obviously, it's been an emotional time for the Cuban-American community, as they've witnessed this event.
CABELL: There -- Miles, there you see Lazaro Gonzalez, the great-uncle, the man who had applied for asylum on behalf of Elian Gonzalez,
O'BRIEN: An emotional moment there.
Brian, keeping emotions in check here, this is a difficult story because it affects governments, it affects people, it affects a little boy. But at the heart of it, you have a terrible, deep and bitter family feud. It seems irreconcilable, doesn't it?
CABELL: Well, this will certainly exacerbate that feud, Miles. This was not what the family was hoping to do here in Miami, and I'm certain the father can't be happy about what had to happen here. And certainly the boy is going to have some difficulties dealing with this situation, as well. So this has not been a good day for the Gonzalez family.
O'BRIEN: As we look at Marisleysis, who as we recall was hospitalized for a period of time with exhaustion, she has not spoken too often to the media, has she, during this ordeal?
CABELL: Well, Marisleysis has spoken from time to time, but she has had some medical problems in recent weeks. But no, she has been one of the more prominent spokespersons for the family. She speaks good English, she's fairly media-savvy and she has been kind of the mother figure for Elian for the last five months, ever since he was plucked from the ocean back in November.
So we have not seen here, frankly, I have not seen her in the last hour, so I can't tell you how she's doing. Can you just tell us the last time we heard from any members of the family there in Little Havana, what was the tone?
CABELL: The tone...
O'BRIEN: Pretty much the same or was there some hope that an agreement might be reached?
CABELL: There was a quiet confidence, a quiet determination mixed with some resignation. There was a feeling that this might come to an end in a bad way, but I don't think they expected it to happen in this way. But there was a hope, it seemed this evening, that something would come out of it.
And right now, we are...
PHILLIPS: All right, we need to move away from this videotape, if possible.
CABELL: ... being assaulted verbally.
PHILLIPS: Brian, let's -- there -- where -- let's move away from that videotape. We're losing -- thank you.
We don't need to be hearing cuss words and the middle finger, you know.
O'BRIEN: Underscore for our viewers that we are looking at some live pictures, and we dot have the opportunity, clearly, to edit some of the imaged you are seeing in what is a very tense situation.
PHILLIPS: Very emotional.
O'BRIEN: Anyway, Brian, if you want to continue on, you may. We'll hopefully find a more acceptable picture for our viewers this morning.
CABELL: Yes, we do apologize for that. That has been something that we have been experiencing throughout the morning hours. A number of media have actually been attacked physically and they've certainly been verbally abused. But so far, as well as we've been able to see, no one has been seriously hurt. As tempers have flared, as people have been outraged, we have not seen anybody actually hurt so far, which is a good thing. A couple of gurneys were brought in here a little while ago, but we did not see anybody brought out on a gurney.
PHILLIPS: And, Brian, we're going to ask you...
CABELL: Two people collapsed on the pavement, but...
CABELL: ... no serious injuries so far. Yes, go ahead.
PHILLIPS: Good -- no, that's definitely good news.
We're going to ask you to stand by just for a moment. We've got Kelly Wallace, our White House correspondent. on the line right now.
Kelly, what can you tell us from Washington that we haven't already heard. What new details can you bring us?
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, this has certainly been an all-night affair for White House officials responsible for monitoring this situation.
We spoke a short time ago with White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart. He said that the attorney general, Janet Reno, called the president's chief of staff, John Podesta, shortly before 5:00 a.m. this morning. Apparently, the attorney general told Mr. Podesta that the negotiations through intermediaries with Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives had broken down and that there were preparations to go in and remove the boy.
Mr. Lockhart said that Mr. Podesta then called the president at 5:00 a.m. this morning, told him what Miss Reno had communicated, that the negotiations had broken and that preparations were being made to go in and remove the boy.
According to Mr. Lockhart, President Clinton was disappointed they couldn't do this through a negotiated settlement, but that he believed this was the right thing to do, this being going in and removing the boy.
According to Mr. Lockhart, the reason for the breakdown of negotiations, he basically said that the boy's Miami relatives wouldn't budge, wouldn't move. But he did not have any information as to where Elian Gonzalez was being taken and where he would be going at this point.
As I said at the top, this was really an all-night affair. According to Lockhart, lately...
O'BRIEN: Kelly -- Kelly, can I interrupt you for just one moment?
O'BRIEN: It's Miles O'Brien here. We're looking at some videotape which deserves a little bit of explanation, and you can continue in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: This is pool videotape. That is to say the media gathered together and allowed one camera inside the home of Lazaro Gonzalez. It was taken not long after Elian Gonzalez was removed by federal agents shortly after 5:00 a.m. in the Little Havana section of Miami. The pictures showing a little bit of disarray and obviously some very emotionally distraught members of the Gonzalez family, the Miami wing of the Gonzalez family, at least.
Kelly, while the viewers continue to watch that, you can continue on.
WALLACE: Absolutely, yes, and once again, as I was saying just that the president's main comment, we're told through Joe Lockhart, is that he was disappointed again that they couldn't do this through a negotiated settlement.
Apparently, as Brian was reporting, negotiations had been going on throughout the night. Lockhart said that the president talked to the attorney general late yesterday afternoon, probably around 5:00, shortly before he was taping his weekly radio address. Apparently then the negotiations, according to Lockhart, were looking promising through most of the evening. We understand around 8:30 p.m. or so last night the president talked again with the attorney general from the Oval Office for another update. She was keeping him briefed throughout the evening...
O'BRIEN: Kelly -- Kelly, I'm sorry to interrupt one more time, but there's a picture here which deserves a bit of clarification.
We should inform our viewers, we really do not know whether this disarray and apparent damage -- you see the door there that had obviously been damaged -- we cannot say for certain whether that was cased by the raid, by the federal agents or not. These are pictures which are coming to us in a more or less unedited fashion, pool pictures taken by one cameraperson allowed inside the Gonzalez home. We will just sort of submit them for what they are, and you will have to draw your own conclusions as to what they really speak to.
All right, Kelly, go back to you -- back to you, now.
WALLACE: I'm sorry, Miles, I can't see that pictures.
But I was just giving you sort of a little tick-tock that around 8:30 last night the president did speak with the attorney general from the Oval Office. Then again, apparently, around 2:15 in the morning, the attorney general briefed the president's chief of staff, John Podesta. And apparently, Miles, still at that time, according to Joe Lockhart, they were hopeful that these negotiations would bear fruit. These were negotiations that were going on through intermediaries between Justice Department officials and the boy's Miami relatives.
But then, for various reasons apparently, shortly before 5:00 a.m. is when the attorney general telephoned the president's chief of staff to say that the negotiations had broken down and that they were going in to remove the boy.
As for the president, he is at the White House. He and the first lady are planning to go to Camp David today for the Easter weekend. The president was to leave Friday, but for other reasons -- we're told not connected with this case at all -- they decided that they would not be leaving until today. So at some point today the president will be leaving the White House to head to Camp David. We may have an opportunity to hear from him and have some comments. But that's as much as we know right now -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Kelly, let me ask you this, and this may be a difference without a distinction, but do you -- is it your understanding that Janet Reno more or less had prior approval from the White House to engage in this activity, or was that phone call shortly before the INS raid this morning, was that phone call to receive permission from the president, in other words authority to engage in the activity?
WALLACE: Well, this is a fine line here. Yesterday, the White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart, made it very clear that no decision had been made yet and that he fully expected the president, President Clinton, to be briefed before any final decisions would be made. But when asked and pressed if the president was to be giving any green light, you know, for any final action the attorney general would take, Mr. Lockhart refused to say. Basically he said that the president would be briefed before any decisions would be made. So in this case he was notified before action was taken.
But throughout this, the White House has said that the president has made his views known to the attorney general but that this is basically in the attorney general's hands for her to take the action that she saw fit -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: All right, that's CNN's Kelly Wallace, our White House correspondent.
PHILLIPS: And I -- are we going back to Miami?
All right, we're going to go back to Brian Cabell in Miami.
Brian, I'm told there was a video camera inside the home when this entry took place. Have you heard anything about that?
CABELL: We had heard about it, Kyra, but we frankly have not seen any evidence of it so far. Whether they actually recorded the raid on the house we do not know, but there was word that there was a camera, a still camera as well as a video camera inside there. But again, we have not seen any results of those cameras. Whether a camera was on at the time, we frankly do not know at this point.
O'BRIEN: Let me just interject here a bit of news. This comes from our senior White House correspondent John King. He is quoting a high-level government source indicating to CNN that Elian Gonzalez is, as we speak, being flown to Andrews Air Force Base just outside of Washington, in Maryland, where he will be reunited with his father.
As we saw just a few moments ago, there was a movement of vehicles at the home and office of the Cuban Interests Section in suburban Maryland. Presumably those cars would be carrying Juan Miguel Gonzalez to Andrews Air Force Base for the ultimate reunion with his 6-year-old son.
Brian, go back to where you were? Are you there, Brian?
CABELL: Again it's -- yes, I am, Miles. It's calmed down here considerably. We saw a couple of customs officers, we believe, walk through here a little while ago. Frankly, not certain what they were doing, but it was just two of them. They were surrounded by a crowd. There were a few taunts, but they made it through fairly easily, I believe. Again, we're not sure why they were here.
Other than that, there is very little police presence around here right now. We were told a little while ago that there were a number of police cars surrounding this neighborhood. We see a few in front of us. We see some sort of emergency vehicle out there as well. We believe these are simply precautionary moves. There are no police around here to speak of, and the anger has quieted here considerably. It flares up from time to time, primarily against the media, but right now, as you can see, it's relatively placid here, as people are milling about, I guess trying to figure out what they will do next.
The sun is rising here and a number of people have arrived. I'd say we have at least 500 out here right now.
O'BRIEN: Well, Brian, aside from the obvious attempts to revile the messenger here, why the venom directed at the media, do you think?
CABELL: Well, we saw signs even prior to the raid on the house, frankly, that said that the media was at least partially responsible for this. There is a belief on the part of some in the Cuban-American community that there is a sympathy for Fidel Castro. That is -- I've lived here back in the '80s, and that was a commonly felt belief. And so there was a feeling that the media not only didn't have enough sympathy for what was happening here, but that the media enjoyed a spectacle like this.
There is a belief on the part of some Cuban-Americans that I've spoken to over the years that perhaps the media is at least partially responsible and is not sympathetic enough for the cause.
PHILLIPS: Brian, we're going to recap what's been going on since 5:00 a.m. this morning. Federal agents came in and seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives. It happened about 5:10 this morning. And we are told from a Justice Department official, and it's also confirmed from John King, our senior White House correspondent -- here's the videotape of when the federal agents came in and took Elian Gonzalez. But once again, it's been confirmed that he was safely removed from the home and he's currently on his way to be reunited with his father. He's being flown to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to meet with his dad.
You'll see here the white minivans came in, federal agents came out. It all happened within about 10 minutes. They made an entry, as you can see here, into the home using a battering ram to open up the door, come through the door. Elian was brought out wrapped in a blanket in the arms of a female federal agent -- you'll see that in just a minute here -- right there, there's Elian Gonzalez being carried in the arms of the federal -- female federal agent.
You're now, for the first time, looking at pictures -- Miles, did you get information 9on this while I was talking?
O'BRIEN: Yes, this is -- these photographs, these still images were shot by an Associated Press photographer who had accompanied this Immigration and Naturalization Service raid. There's a dramatic picture, as you see the INS officials clad in riot gear, obviously armed, doing what they had been told to do, which is to retrieve Elian Gonzalez, put him into federal custody and put him on a plane.
And we have confirmed from officials in the U.S. government, the White House and the Justice Department, that Elian Gonzalez is on a plane on his way to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington in Maryland, at which time he will be reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, thus putting a new chapter in this five-month-old saga, but certainly by no means the final chapter.
Another still photograph from that AP photographer who accompanied that raid.
PHILLIPS: In the arms of Donato.
O'BRIEN: In the arms of, as we say, Donato, one of the family members there.
PHILLIPS: That's the fisherman, actually, the fisherman who...
O'BRIEN: Oh, excuse me.
PHILLIPS: ... rescued Elian when he was floating on the inner tube a number of months ago.
Another thing, if we could point out, in the other AP photo -- I don't know if we can bring it up again -- of the federal agent, I wanted to just clarify to things in the picture. Here it is again, this is the AP photo that was taken. You'll notice the finger is not on the trigger of the gun. That is typical police procedure. You'll notice the finger is not on the trigger.
Also, the gun is in a low-ready position. This is typical SWAT tactics. When they come in, the gun is pointed down, not in the faces of anybody. And you'll notice the arm extension, trying to calm the two. The guns are not up in their faces, but in low-ready position. The finger is off the trigger. I just wanted to make two points on the tactics there by that federal agent.
O'BRIEN: Let's send it back to Brian Cabell, where as he has been describing, I guess, the tension there rose to a crescendo immediately subsequent to the INS raid. And it appears, as we see first light in the Little Havana section of Miami, that tempers have cooled somewhat.
Brian, is it your expectation that we will see a big crowd outside that house as the day progresses?
CABELL: It's really too difficult to say what to expect. All we can tell you is that the crowd has increased considerably over the last hour and a half. We had maybe 50 people standing vigil here at the time the raid took place, and I would say conservatively we have at least 500 people here now. So it has grown considerably as people have awakened and awakened to the news.
O'BRIEN: Let's bring in out legal analyst, Greta Van Susteren, who joins us on the phone from Washington.
And, Greta, we -- I don't know if you heard it, but we heard from Mayor Joe Carollo just a little while ago that given the fact that if we can make the presumption here that Elian Gonzalez is headed to the home of the Cuban Interests Section, which is in suburban Maryland, that in theory is Cuban territory. Why don't you take us through that legal wicket.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the problem is that we don't have full diplomatic relations with the country of Cuba, obviously, but every embassy is its own little country within the United States. If the child does go there, the child is protected from the U.S. going in there. Obviously, the U.S. isn't going to go in there. The attorney general of the United States wants that child reunited with his father.
The one thing that always sort of interested me, Miles, since the court's decision the other day on issuing the stay, that the child shouldn't leave the country, I was always unclear -- and I don't think it's ever been established. We're on, you know, this is brand-new territory for all of this. We don't go through this very often. In fact, I don't think we've ever gone through an instance like this -- but if the child does go there, is the child in effect out of the country, and does that court order prevent them from removing the child from the country.
The court says that no agent of the United States, that no one can help the child get out of the country. But once we sort of pass that child over to Cuba in the sort of quasi-transition to Cuban territory, because of where he's headed, does that court order still apply to those people? Can he then leave the country? I don't think that's clear.
O'BRIEN: All right, so what the court order says is that the U.S. may not help the child, but could the U.S, within the parameters of this ruling hinder the child's passage? VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Miles, that's an interesting question. I think the answer is no. I don't think we can stand guard at our borders, at our airports and not let that child go home. You know, I just -- I don't think the court order says that, that the U.S. has to hinder it. It just says that the U.S., you know, can't participate in the child leaving the country.
So, you know, the court, in its efforts to put everything on hold while it makes its final determination whether the trial court judge was correct when he ruled that the attorney general of the of the United States did not have to give an asylum hearing to this child, while we await that, I think that it's, you know, that it's possible that the order can be thwarted in spirit, because I don't think that the order necessarily will apply to this child once he gets to the Cuban Interests Section and once he's reunited with his father.
O'BRIEN: Well, I'm afraid to take you down the road of speculation, and if you want to defer I invite you to do so, Greta. But let me ask you this, do you suspect that prior to this raid there was some, perhaps, tacit understanding between U.S. officials and the Cuban Interests Section that would preclude...
PHILLIPS: I'm going to interrupt for just a moment.
O'BRIEN: ... that would preclude such an action, as we look at a still photo, Associated Press, taken with the group that actually engaged in the retrieval of Elian Gonzalez, Immigration and Naturalization Service officers. Elian Gonzalez obviously carried there by the woman there in the center.
VAN SUSTEREN: Miles, you know what? If the attorney general did that, she violated the spirit of the order. If she, sort of a nod and a wink, we're going to do this anyway because we think we can get around the order, I would find it extraordinary that an attorney general of the United States would do that. She has said she would be bound by the decision, and nods and winks -- even though maybe perhaps obeying the law literally -- it would surprise me if the attorney general of the United States would do anything like that.
I think that she, you know, agreed to follow the order, I'm hoping that she intended to follow the order and this was not a nod and a wink. And there is no indication, at least I have no information, that she was trying to thwart the order. I think that she was simply taking custody of the child and obeying the wording of the order that she would not participate in having that child leave the country. But it has always been understood by that order that she had the lawful authority to go get the child and keep that child within the United States. But it didn't -- but I can't imagine that she would have violated the spirit of the order.
O'BRIEN: All right. And, Greta, let me ask you this -- and it's worth reminding folks what the real salient point of law here is in this case. After all, at its core, despite the fact that it has symbolism in so many other areas, is a family custody law -- law case, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, yes and no. I mean, in some ways you're absolutely right, Miles. But the problem is you've got this sort of mixed in with international law, mixed in with years of a feud between two countries. This -- you know, each legal case presents new facts. This one presents extraordinary facts because we have a 6-year-old child, and the issue that has been sort of brewing out there that the courts have been trying to resolve it, can a 6-year-old make a decision...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... for himself.
O'BRIEN: Greta, we're going to interrupt you for just a moment. We're going to ask you to stand by. I apologize for doing that. We're going to turn now to the fisherman who was on that boat that retrieved Elian Gonzalez on November 25th.
QUESTION: Let me ask you this. I know there were negotiations last night. This really did come unexpected this morning. I know one week ago I was in that house and there was so much tension. And as your father explained (OFF-MIKE) afraid of, and yet it seems like maybe (OFF-MIKE) guard was down this morning. (OFF-MIKE)
DONATO DALRYMPLE, FISHERMAN: No, there was no guard down. This was just a night where people were out here peacefully praying, worshipping God. We were just about to -- we were celebrating the crucifixion and the resurrection of Lord and savior Jesus Christ. In this country, in this great country we call ourselves Christians, and they come in with assault rifles and they took this little boy with a blanket over his head while he was -- little Elian, I love you, wherever you are. (OFF-MIKE)
I still love this country that we call America, but what you did was wrong, sir. What you did Mrs. Reno was wrong. I'm not going to burn the flag like you did, Mr. Clinton, but I'll tell you, what you did to this boy and how you helped Fidel Castro to take this boy was (OFF-MIKE) by the law. The appellate court said that he had an argument.
PHILLIPS: And you've been listening to Donato Dalrymple. He's the fisherman who rescued Elian from the waters a number of months ago. He was also the one in the home holding Elian when the federal agents came in and seized Elian. You had seen the AP photo just a few moments ago.
Now we're going to turn to Wolf Blitzer who's on the phone. He's been talking to a source close to Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father of Elian Gonzalez.
Wolf, what can you tell us at this time?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What I'm hearing is that the boy is obviously in the air right now on a U.S. government plane, jet heading to Andrews Air Force Base. There are two doctors on the plane. They were there just to make sure that there would be no problems. And what this source is telling me is that Elian Gonzalez appears to be in pretty good shape right now, that he has not been overly traumatized.
This source suggesting that the operation has gone just about as the federal government had hoped it would go, although federal officials are described as being disappointed that there's some angry reaction from some city officials, Mayor Carollo in Miami that we heard on CNN, but that pretty soon Juan Miguel Gonzalez, if he hasn't yet, he will be leaving his home where he's been staying in Bethesda, Maryland, outside of Washington, and driving over to Andrews Air Force Base to be reunited with his son.
At that point, there will be formal statements that will be made by Janet Reno, the attorney general. Also, we're told to expect a statement from Gregory Craig, who's the attorney that's been representing Juan Miguel Gonzalez here in the United States.
It will also be made clear that Elian, after he is reunited with his father, that he will remain in the United States for the duration, for the appeals process to be worked out, all of the legal proceedings to be worked out, that there's no intention of violating, obviously, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that bars him from leaving the country. That ruling did not bar the federal government from going in forcibly as it has done this morning to take Elian Gonzalez from his great-uncle, and now he's on the way to be reunited with his father.
And presumably, they will be staying in Bethesda, Maryland, for the duration, as this judicial process works its way on.
PHILLIPS: Wolf, we had heard that Elian was supposed to be able to talk to his father by cell phone as soon as he was taken out of that home. Do you know if that happened? Has he had contact with his father?
BLITZER: I wouldn't be surprised of he's spoken to him. I do not know that for a fact, though. I do know there were Spanish- speaking specialists who were brought in, including Spanish-speaking female INS agents who were included to make this supposedly the least painful as possible for the young 6-year-old. But at this point, I don't know if they've actually spoken on the phone.
O'BRIEN: All right, that's Wolf Blitzer on the line from Washington, shedding some further light on what has been a remarkable morning.
For those of you just tuning in, shortly after 5:00 a.m. Eastern time, about two dozen federal agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, clad in riot gear, armed with handguns and long guns, engaged in the scene you see right here. They descended upon the home of Lazaro Gonzalez. About 100 peaceful protesters were outside at the time. They used pepper grass -- pepper gas, I should say, to quell any potential demonstrations and a bettering ram to knock down the door of the home there in Little Havana. Shortly thereafter, they came out with 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez, who was in a blanket carried by a female INS officer, He was immediately put into a minivan and slowly backed down the street, where he was taken, we are told later by administration officials, to a government aircraft. As we speak right now, he is winging his way toward Andrews Air Force Base, suburban Washington, in Maryland, where he will be reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
This is the latest chapter in this five-month-old saga, certainly by no means the final chapter, but a dramatic one at that, as we look at the Associated Press still photograph. An Associated Press photographer was invited along on this raid and got some exclusive pictures inside the home.
PHILLIPS: Miles, we have been talking to Susan Candiotti on the phone earlier this morning. We're now going to go to her live.
Susan, can you hear us?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I can.
PHILLIPS: OK, what can you tell us.
CANDIOTTI: We're out here in front of the home.
CANDIOTTI: Well, out here in front of the home there are still a lot of people obviously milling about, trying to figure out exactly what transpired here.
Interestingly, we do not see a large police presence here. There are a number of police barricades in about a four-block, I would say, wide radius surrounding this house. However, we had no difficulty getting here this day, but police are trying to control the number of cars that come in and out of this area.
In the meantime, emotions here still running extremely high. And joining us now to talk more about his perspective on things is Jorge Mas Santos of the Cuban American National Foundation. He was not here when this occurred, but you are here to give us your thoughts about what happened.
JORGE MAS SANTOS, CUBAN AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: Well, I think it's an embarrassment, what happened, to take this young boy at gunpoint, to take him forcefully from this humble home. I think today's a dark day in American history.
But I was present throughout the last two weeks of negotiations to reunite this family. It was never the intention of the attorney general, Janet Reno, or Bill Clinton in the White House to reunite this family. This family made every single offer available to get together with Juan Miguel Gonzalez so they could be in one compound under one roof together. And every single offer was rejected.
And I strongly feel that the Cuban government, and specifically Gregory Craig, who's an agent of the Cuban government, who they're utilizing as Juan Miguel's attorney, had ever any intention of getting this family together. And I think it's very sad that Janet Reno did not have the courage to impose the law over Gregory Craig, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and the Cuban government.
CANDIOTTI: Now, the...
PHILLIPS: We're going to interrupt you just for a moment, Susan. We're going to go to Pierre Thomas, our Justice Department correspondent, who's on the line.
O'BRIEN: No, before we do that, Kyra, just a couple of points to bring up here. I may have led our viewers to believe that Juan Miguel Gonzalez was actually on his way to Andrews Air Force Base. According to our people on the scene at the Cuban Interest Section home in Bethesda, Maryland, Juan Miguel Gonzalez is still there. Presumably the reunion will happen somewhere in between, or there.
Also, one other point worth mentioning, in talking with Greta Van Susteren, one other point worth mentioning is that at that Bethesda home, the Cuban Interest Section waived diplomatic immunity on the first day that Juan Miguel Gonzalez arrived, so that might clarify some of those legal questions which we had.
Now, let's turn it to Pierre Thomas.
PHILLIPS: He's live, not on the line.
PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, here's the following information I've been given by a senior official close to Janet Reno. Reno made the decision about half an hour before the raid was made. She informed the president in a direct conversation, we are told, and this is the following sequence.
The agents arrived, there were about eight agents that went inside the home. There was a female agent. They were backed up by about 130 agents total including federal marshals. Now, the other thing that we're being told is that the female agent identified herself, told Elian something along these lines. "I know you're scared. This must be frightening. But this will be over very soon. And you will feel much better. I am going to take you to Pappy."
Then she wrapped a blanket around him and brought him out to the car. That is pretty much almost verbatim, this is from a senior Justice Department official describing the scene. They said that when the officers went in, they knocked three times on the door. There was no response. At that point, they forcibly kicked in the door, went inside, and then looked for the boy.
Guns were drawn. I asked the official why was that done. The official said it was standard operating procedure, that the primary concern was to Elian, protecting the people inside, but also protecting the agents. Those were the paramount concerns.
Also we're told that the Justice Department feels that this was, quote, "a success," that the boy is unharmed. He was subdued on the ride to the airport, but that they feel he's OK, that he will be reunited with his father shortly. That is pretty much the account that we've been given thus far -- Kyra.
O'BRIEN: Pierre, it's Miles O'Brien here, sitting beside Kyra. And let me ask you this. The federal officials that you've had a chance to speak with, did they have any indication that they might -- there might have been weapons inside that home?
THOMAS: I have no information that they had information that there would be weapons inside the home. The source I talked to said that the law enforcement officials over the last few days, as they prepared for this, consulting with the attorney general and the commissioner, INS commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, Doris Meissner, had raised concerns about making sure that this was a controlled situation, that they would be able to get in and get out, and that they also wanted to make sure that the boy's safety was paramount.
But also, there was some concern about safety of the agents. So those were the paramount concerns that the officials had. Obviously from the images, they know that they will probably have to answer some very detailed and hard questions about that. But that was their rationale going in, Miles.
O'BRIEN: Well, and you spend an awful lot of time around these sorts of law enforcement activities, and certainly know a lot of law enforcement personnel. Based on what you've seen, heard, and gathered from your sources, was this pretty much according to the way it was planned?
THOMAS: Well, again, early on in the initial conversations with Justice Department officials, they talked about what Reno had said publicly, that they wanted to do this in a way that was -- that had as little trauma to the boy as possible. But clearly, as they got down to the nitty-gritty of planning to go in and get the boy, they made the decision that this would be a typical law enforcement operation going into a home. Apparently they did have a warrant to enter the home, and they decided that when they go inside, they wanted to have the situation completely under control.
Guns were drawn, but I am told that, quote, that it's "standard law enforcement operating procedure." And that's what they used here.
O'BRIEN: And what do your sources tell you there about the possibility of seeing either Attorney General Janet Reno or one of her designates speaking to the media this morning?
THOMAS: There's a very strong chance that they're allowing the media to set up right now as we speak. I'm reporting live from inside the Justice Department, what's known as Conference Room B. We are expecting a press conference.
O'BRIEN: All right, that's CNN's Pierre Thomas, who is our justice correspondent. We will of course go to that Justice Department news conference as soon as it happens, as we continue our coverage of the dramatic events five months after Elian Gonzalez found floating in the waters off of Florida, now in the hands of federal custodies -- custody, we are told, on his way to the custody of his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
PHILLIPS: And right now, you're looking at live pictures from Miami, Florida. We're going to go back to our Susan Candiotti, who's in front of the home of the Miami relatives. Susan, we were talking to you a little earlier. We had to take a little break to talk to Pierre Thomas there. Why don't you continue with what you were talking about and update us on what's happening now in front.
CANDIOTTI: Well, Kyra, Jorge Mas Santos of the Cuban American National Foundation has indeed been one of the outside parties, were you not, Mr. Mas Santos, within the last 24 hours? Were you helping to negotiate some sort of a transfer of the child, or were you on the periphery?
SANTOS: No, we were directly involved in negotiating a family reunion. Obviously transfer of custody had already taken place, in terms of legally. But what was important was to reunite this family. And I think throughout, not only yesterday but in the course of the last two weeks, when many people, and including this family, was involved in trying to reunite with Juan Miguel, so this episode wouldn't happen here, and this child wouldn't have to be taken at rifle point...
CANDIOTTI: Well, I'll tell...
SANTOS: ... there was never any genuine attempt by Janet Reno or by anyone in the administration to reunite this family.
CANDIOTTI: No, the attorney general...
SANTOS: This family (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
CANDIOTTI: I'll tell you what. Let's take us through the last 24 hours, because clearly those are the most critical. Obviously there were talks going on for the last several weeks. And so let's take us through the last 24 hours, when you were here. We saw you go in and out of the house a few times yesterday, including into the night.
What was being discussed at that time? Who was talking with whom?
SANTOS: There was a group of seven or eight of us, including the family attorneys, who were in direct contact with Janet Reno. The family -- the reunion was going to take place as follows. It would be Juan Miguel, his wife, and his child, there would be Lazaro Gonzalez...
PHILLIPS: Susan, we're going to break in and listen to Marisleysis.
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) take him out. Will you, as an American in America, the land of freedom, the land of opportunity -- God bless America. What do you want out of this? Janet Reno (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with tghe father has betrayed this country, not only my family but this country. We were negotiating on the phone with them, on hold, and they broke through my window and put a gun to Elian's head.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) this country and Mr. Clinton, the president and Janet Reno (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And whatever happens aftr this, they will pay the consequence. Because my kid -- my kid, who I've taken care of for five months and they don't give a damn about, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). This is not about the Cubans trying to free Cuba, this is about us doing justice. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because it happened in America, the land of freedom. And there's no freedom putting a gun at a 6-year-old's head (UNINTELLIGIBLE). This is not justice. And we blame Attorney General Janet Reno for this. I blame them, and I blame them for whatever happens to him from here.
PHILLIPS: You're looking at videotape now of the cars leaving. These are live pictures, the cars leaving. This is the home in Bethesda, Maryland, where Juan Miguel Gonzalez had been staying. We don't know if Juan Miguel is in that -- do we have confirmation that Juan Miguel is in that car, in that Suburban? OK, we do not have confirmation right now. But the cars are leaving the Maryland -- Bethesda, Maryland, home where Juan Miguel was staying.
We're going to go back to Susan Candiotti know, who's in front of the home of the Miami relatives in Miami. Quite a different look too, Susan. It seems that people have taken a very calm approach to what's been happening today. They're holding hands, it looks like they're praying and singing. Is that what's going on right now?
CANDIOTTI: That's right, that is what a number of people are doing. They've formed a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- a circle in front of the home here. And indeed, as they have been for the last several weeks, at approximately this hour, women wearing black, they're members of a group called Mothers Against Repression, they have been out here on a daily basis praying, they say, that whatever happens to this child, that, in their words, that God will protect him.
This day they have something else to pray about. I'm sure that their wishes are the same, that this child will be protected. And, of course, he is soon to be reunited with his father, as it appears.
Now, as we are looking at that, we're trying to get a rundown of what happened within the last -- well, since overnight, from Mr. Jorge Mas Santos with the Cuban American Foundation, because he was directly involved in negotiations, as he was explaining to us.
Now, at last, what was the family demanding, and what was the attorney general demanding, Mr. Santos?
SANTOS: There was an agreement. The agreement was, there would be a reunion among the family, Juan Miguel and his wife and child, Lazaro, Marisleysis, another great-uncle, as well as Elian, in a compound here in south Florida, by themselves, no agents of the Cuban government, no U.S. government officials, no attorneys involved. There would be a mediator, a facilitator there, a psychologist, obviously, to help the family in the transition. They would be together, it would be until the appeals process is finished.
CANDIOTTI: They would live together in the same home.
SANTOS: They would live together in the same home until all the appeals were exhausted, the Atlanta circuit court and others, so this could have taken, and time periods discussed (ph), it could have taken up to six or eight weeks together. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
CANDIOTTI: Now, this meeting between them, there was no -- was there a question about the immediate transfer of the child? Had Lazaro, Elian's great-uncle, agreed to transfer the custody of the child, surrender him to his father?
SANTOS: That was not necessary because they were in the same home. And legally, INS had already taken custody away from Lazaro, so that was a moot point. All of these points had been agreed to. We all thought that it was going to happen. In fact, there were arrangements being made for them to stay overnight at a hotel so they could be transferred to the compound today, this morning. But after Gregory Craig got involved, and I think the Cuban government, everything unraveled.
I think it's very sad that the attorney general of the United States does not have the wherewithal to convince an outside party, which is Juan Miguel Gonzalez and the Cuban government, who we do not have relations with, to really not allow this family to be reunited. That was the proper solution, not to have a young boy taken away at rifle point from this home.
CANDIOTTI: Now, Lazaro Gonzalez has consistently said that he would consider it to be a betrayal if he surrendered this child. And he said that the child should not be handed over if he did not want to go to his father, even during the course of a meeting. In fact, you tried to arrange such a meeting last week, and Lazaro Gonzalez backed out of that arrangement.
You yourself had made that announcement. Now, on this occasion, did Mr. Gonzalez put any provisos or strings about the child?
SANTOS: Sure. Before, that was Lazaro's position, because the only meetings that had been discussed would be one, two, or three hours. This meeting, being the family together for one week, two weeks, or three weeks, obviously Lazaro knew that in two or three weeks' time, or one week, or more than a two- or three-hour period, this situation would be resolved among the family.
Lazaro's fear was that if the meeting was only one or two hours, under what pressure would Juan Miguel be. Knowing that they had accepted an open-ended meeting of this family truly being together and by themselves, Lazaro had no concerns or conditions whatsoever with the technical transfer of custody.
CANDIOTTI: And if the boy said he still didn't want to go at the end of the meeting, what did Mr. -- what did Mr. Lazaro Gonzalez think about that?
SANTOS: Well, that's why there was a facilitator and psychologist. They were going to make the ultimate decision. And that was acceptable to the family. So again, I'm extremely disappointed that we see images of this boy taken at gunpoint. I think it's very sad. And most importantly, not necessary, and...
CANDIOTTI: Now, how late were they talking last night?
SANTOS: Until very late, until just before midnight. At that point, I think we all realized, family attorneys and the family, there's no intention on Janet Reno's part to make this happen.
CANDIOTTI: Well, so the last thing on the table offered by your side was a meeting, someplace in Florida, and the two families would live together.
SANTOS: That is correct.
CANDIOTTI: And what was the response that you were hearing on your end from the father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, via his attorney?
SANTOS: They had accepted most of the conditions. What they were discussing when is what bedroom would the boy sleep in, for example, the first night. Obviously that was, I think, the family's position correct, let the psychologist or the facilitator determine that. More importantly, let the child and the family coexist and make that decision.
That is to the amount of detail that this negotiation got to. But I think that -- and I don't know what the Cuban government imposed or not on Janet Reno -- but I think it is very sad that she did not say, These are the conditions, this is what I, specifically Janet Reno, the Justice Department, and the White House, are advocating to make -- get this family together and bring a peaceful resolution to this.
This is unnecessary and an embarrassment, what's happened today.
CANDIOTTI: So was there still a sticking point that when the two families got together, that the boy would not necessarily be with his father, physically be with his father in the same bedroom the first night?
SANTOS: No, that really wasn't an issue. The issue was late at night, obviously, when they went to Greg Craig and the Cuban government, everything changed, everything seemed to unravel. Those documents have changed. Things were signed. So this got to a point where we were very hopeful it would happen. But there was never any, I think, again, any true intention on the Justice Department's side to get this family together.
CANDIOTTI: When was this transfer of custody supposed to take place? When were they supposed to bring the child someplace, or how was the child to be taken?
SANTOS: It was to happen this weekend.
CANDIOTTI: And where was he supposed to go?
SANTOS: First it was going to be to a hotel overnight, and there were several sites that were being discussed. But it was imminently going to happen, either today, tomorrow, at latest Monday.
CANDIOTTI: And who would be at the hotel?
SANTOS: Again, it would be just the family, and they would have been under the protection of U.S. authorities. And also, they would have been at the compound to ensure that the boy was not going to be removed by Juan Miguel or others and taken back to Cuba, which would be in violation of the injunction of the circuit court of appeals.
CANDIOTTI: And indeed, Mr. Juan Miguel Gonzalez had said that he would not leave the United States during the appeals process.
Now, when they got to the hotel, were they supposed to present the child to the father at the hotel?
SANTOS: No, that was to happen at the compound. The movement to the hotel was going to be to facilitate getting to the compound from the home.
CANDIOTTI: Had the U.S. government agreed to that, the intermediate transfer to a hotel, or did they want something more?
SANTOS: No, that in fact is what they wanted. And the family had no objection to that, because it really made no difference if they left from here or from a hotel here in Miami.
CANDIOTTI: And then at the hotel, where were they supposed to go from there the very next day, on Sunday?
SANTOS: Yes, basically they were to go to a hotel, and then when the compound and the logistics got worked out, they would move there.
CANDIOTTI: And was there a timing problem, do you suggest, in terms of how long it would be at the hotel, or how long it would take to...
SANTOS: No, none of that was an issue. Timing was not an issue. It was more the intention. You know, every time that we would say yes to every -- all of their requests, they would come back and change things and change them and change them. And again, they did not deal in good faith. There was never any, I think, true effort on their part to make this happen. This family would have been willing to go to all lengths, but to make that reunion with Juan Miguel possible. And I think it's a shame.
CANDIOTTI: Now, there -- the father has said that he would remain in the United States during the course of the appeals process. Do you believe him? He's put it in writing.
SANTOS: I think it... CANDIOTTI: The government has talked about a departure control order that would prevent him from leaving the U.S.
SANTOS: But I think it's difficult to predict what'll happen in the Cuban Interest Section or the home of a Cuban diplomat. This is a rogue nation who've been condemned now in the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations for violating human rights. Are they going to start reprogramming the child today, as Fidel Castro has constantly said? We don't know. We think, obviously, that the child could be harmed now. It's not in the best interests of Elian, what's happened. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
CANDIOTTI: Now, Mr. Mas Santos, on that point, as you know, polls in the United States, a great majority have stated that they believe that father and son should be reunited, and that they felt this has gone on for too long. Many Americans believe that there's no question that once the father came to the United States, that his son should be with him, and be with him immediately.
How -- what do you have to say to those Americans who favored this reunion? Why are you against it?
SANTOS: Well, no, this family favored this reunion. This family wants the child to be with his father, as do I. The problem is that we need to discuss this, who has custody of the father?
CANDIOTTI: Now, why should it...
SANTOS: He's staying at the Cuban Interest Section, at the house of government officials. He's not free to speak his mind. He's being bandied about by Cuban security agents. So I think the question is here is not a matter of reuniting Juan Miguel with his son, but actually who has custody of Juan Miguel? And what this family wanted is for Juan Miguel to be a free man together with his son.
And unfortunately, in the Cuban Interest Section, that is not going to happen.
CANDIOTTI: Mr. Jorge Mas Santos, thank you very much for joining us.
SANTOS: Thank you.
CANDIOTTI: And, of course, that is the perspective of the highest-ranking member of the Cuban American National Foundation, a very powerful anti-Castro lobbying group. But, of course, that is his viewpoint of what transpired. Needless to say, it's important to hear now what the U.S. Justice Department has to say about its perspective regarding the negotiations.
We do know that for the past -- at least the past 10 days, during the course of negotiations, according to the U.S. government, the great-uncle of Elian Gonzalez, Lazaro Gonzalez, has been consistent in saying that he would not be willing to immediately hand over the boy to his father, that there have been strings attached. So now it will be very interesting to find out from the government's perspective how they viewed these negotiations.
As you just heard Mr. Santos say, there was discussion about an intermediary transfer that he says the U.S. government had agreed to at a local hotel, and then the family was to have moved -- to move to a compound. By that, they have explained, a place that would be away from the public eye, someplace where the two families could meet together without, presumably, attorneys present, and specifically without members of the Cuban government, or officials of the Cuban government present.
We do know that the plan had been all along that once Elian Gonzalez, if indeed there was to be a forcible transfer of the boy, that he would be able to speak with his father almost immediately on the cellular telephone. We believe that that took place. However, we are waiting for official word on that. As he was taken to an airport nearby here, we believe that that was in south Florida at the Homestead Air Force Base, and then transferred to, and we expect his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base.
Clearly, people here are still trying to get over for them the shock of what transpired, although as you talk to those demonstrators who have been gathering here on a daily basis for at least the past month, they have said all along that they believed that it was entirely possible that negotiations might break down, that indeed force might be used. And their plan had been to try to run over the barricades and form a human chain to try to, in their words, protect this child from being removed from the house.
However, when this happened in the early morning hours shortly after 5:00 in the morning Eastern time, there were probably at most about 50 people here, and frankly, that has been the number of people here most every morning, usually far less than that, as a matter of fact.
So at about 5:00 in the morning -- as you can see now we're replaying that videotape, I believe, at that hour -- the federal agents, we are told, came through the police barricades that are about a half a block away from the home. They rushed down to the street, and as we heard from Justice Department correspondent Pierre Thomas, and from our Brian Cabell, who was on site at the time, there were approximately eight agents who went into the house, but they had backup from at least 130 other federal agents.
They moved into the house quickly, breaking down the front door with a battering ram, it would appear. They went inside the house and within minutes, within minutes -- I was watching this on CNN at the time as well -- they went inside the house, and with a female agent leading the way, she picked up the child, the other family members were, according to witnesses, held back at gunpoint, they quickly rushed the child out, the female agent holding him partially covered in a blanket. And then they rushed him into this van.
And within seconds, you'll see these vans pull out of the area. In the meantime, the area was being secured by federal immigration agents. I believe I also saw people wearing uniforms from the Border Patrol. You see them there in riot gear. One of the people inside the house was the fisherman who helped to rescue the child back on November the 25th. And you see the vans breaking out now, and they -- breaking out of the crowd and moving away.
Ever since then, there have been a number of people moving into the area, trying to figure out what had happened, very angrily, angry over what had -- has happened here, and voicing their displeasure.
There has not been much of a disruption. From time to time, people have been escorted out by others here when they would get a little bit too riled up. But for the most part, it has been calm here, just people's emotions boiling over, because this is the last thing that they had wanted to happen. But I will not -- I can honestly say after speaking to a number of them, it is not totally unexpected, because there was always a fear that negotiations would break down.
The sticking point all along here, as Lazaro Gonzalez has said time and again, that if U.S. agents came to this home, he would not stand in the way, eh would not break the law, as he put it. But he has consistently said that he was not going to do Immigration's job for that agency, that he would stand aside.
Well, you saw what happened, in fact, federal agents did (UNINTELLIGIBLE) come into the house, push the relatives aside, hold them back so that the child could be forcibly removed from this home, put into a vehicle, taken to an airport, an air base, and taken back to his father.
Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Miami.
O'BRIEN: All right, thank you very much, Susan, who, of course, has been in the Little Havana section of Miami reporting on this ever since it became a story.
And our Martin Savidge has been on the other side of the Straits of Florida in Havana. He joins us there this morning.
Martin, what do the Cuban people know, if anything, about what has gone on about two and a half hours ago now?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is one of the most interesting things. Cubans are waking up to the news that Elian Gonzalez has now been removed from his home that he had been staying in in Miami. Normally news events, especially those pertaining to events in the United States, can be somewhat slow to disseminate in this country. That was not the case this morning.
Quickly, after the boy was taken from the house, there was a short announcement that was made on Cuban radio. That announcement has been repeated a number of times now. It's very brief. It is not some sort of official government reaction or anything like that, it's a rather simple statement that just says at 5:05 this morning, in an operation involving American Immigration and Naturalization Service officers, that Elian Gonzalez was taken from the home where he had been kept in Miami. So it is unusual that the news gets out so quickly. This is certainly not a nation that has 24-hour cable news networks, doesn't have access normally, the Cuban people don't, to international news media. It all comes from the government here. And the government's quickly getting the information out pertaining to what has transpired.
Now, what is going to happen here? Well, I don't think that you would expect to see jubilation, joy, and celebration and people pouring into the streets. You have to keep in mind this is only half of the battle in the minds of the Cuban government and the Cuban people. What will probably happen is that there will be a statement of satisfaction.
Wednesday, when the court ruling came down, there was obviously dissatisfaction here. And one of the complaints that was made in a round table that was held and televised that evening was that U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno promises and promises, the government said, but she did not deliver. Obviously that has all changed early this morning, and people here are probably going to be very pleased.
One of the things that should be interesting to watch for now is whether or not the Cuban government reissue -- or revisits with the United States the issue of additional visas for perhaps more Cubans here to travel to the United States. This goes back to the initial time when Juan Miguel Gonzalez traveled to the U.S.
There was talk of perhaps a contingent of maybe 30 people that would be traveling with him. There was talk of the grandmothers going, there was talk of a teacher and perhaps even some of his classmates from his school in Cardenas. The State Department at that time would not go along with those visas. And as we saw, only the immediate family of Juan Miguel himself came to the United States.
Since the Cuban government and Juan Miguel has said that the boy and the father will remain in the U.S., and now have to remain in the U.S. for the appeals process, it is possible that Cuban will say, Well, during this waiting period, to help him acclimate, and just so that he is not alone, that they would like to see perhaps other family members and perhaps the classmates and a teacher come to the United States. But that is still too early to speculate. If they will go forward, it would seem likely that they would probably pursue that point -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: CNN's Martin Savidge, who's been in Havana and will be standing by with us all throughout the morning as we continue to cover the dramatic events now an hour and 25 minutes ago. The federal agents, Immigration and Naturalization Service officers, swooped down on the Little Havana home of Lazaro Gonzalez, the great-uncle of Elian Gonzalez, approximately eight of them went inside, beating down the door, and recovering Elian Gonzalez into the hands of federal custody.
The 6-year-old boy, who was found at sea on November 25, is now on his way to Andrews Air Force Base, and we believe his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, is headed to the same place, whereupon there will be a reunion.
Stay with CNN as we bring you live coverage of all of that.
And we should point out to our viewers that you are watching a story unfold, and in the course of that, there will be points of view which will come across unfiltered, unedited, and without the immediate balance that you might expect from a news organization of CNN's caliber, and we would like to just underscore that the long interview we saw with Jorge Mas Santos represents one side, a characterization of one side of those lengthy negotiations with federal officials.
According to our White House correspondent John King, representatives of the attorney general's office were watching that interview, and offered this quotation for us to give us some way of offering you a little bit of balance.
The official said, quoting now, "His characterization was full of self-serving and inaccurate characterizations of the negotiations. He did not give an accurate description of the discussions. The relatives were given every opportunity to do this in accordance with the law and in a peaceful and nonconfrontational manner, and they refused to do so."
So as you watch this story unfold, keep that in mind. We are bringing you points of view in sometimes disparate ways, and at times it may seem like the coverage may skew one way or the other. We are doing our best to keep things as balanced as possible -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: And also another note. Everyone's been talking about how the federal agents made entry into the home, into the home of the Miami relatives. A Justice official has said that authorities did knock, which is operating standard procedure, did knock on the door a number of times. there was no response. At that point, they used a battering ram, forcibly knocked in the door and made entry. And once again, that is standard operating procedure.
We are going to turn now to Kate Snow, who is in front of the home where Juan Miguel Gonzalez has been staying in Bethesda, Maryland.
Kate, what do you have for us?
KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that Juan Miguel Gonzalez left here about 25 minutes ago now. He is headed for Andrews Air Force Base. We hadn't seen much of him since yesterday and his meeting with the attorney general, Janet Reno. At that meeting, of course, he asked the attorney general to please reunite him with his son.
He has spoken to reporters here only a couple of times. Two days ago, he pleadingly came out and made a statement with no notes, all by himself, asking plaintively for his son to be reunited with him. This morning, a very quiet departure for Juan Miguel Gonzalez. A car had pulled into the garage, and he was whisked away quickly and quietly.
This neighborhood, it could be pointed out, is much quieter than the neighborhood down in Little Havana in Miami. The contrast is quite striking. The only people out this morning in this neighborhood in Bethesda, outside of Washington, D.C., are the reporters like myself. There are a group of cameras here.
We've closed down one of the streets that he lives on, but the neighbors haven't come out. There are no protesters. It's a very quiet, relatively calm scene here. A lot of people didn't even know that the Cuban diplomat lived in this neighborhood until just a couple of weeks ago, and this of course where Juan Miguel Gonzalez has been staying for the past two weeks -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right, Kate Snow in front of the home in Bethesda, Maryland.
We're going to turn now to Pierre Thomas, our Justice correspondent, who's been giving us information from Washington.
Pierre, what more do you have? I think one of the most interesting things you said early on was what the female federal agent had said to Elian when she had came into the home trying to quell his fears, saying to him, I know that you're scared. This must be frightening, but this will be over very soon, and wrapped him in a blanket and said, I will be taking you back to Poppy.
It's nice top hear those soothing words coming out of all this dramatic videotape that we've been seeing.
THOMAS: Well, Kyra, but obviously the question for Janet Reno at the press conference will be about the tactics. Did they use too much force? Their answer thus far is that they used standard operating procedure, that the guns were drawn in part to secure the scene and to make sure that the child was safe and also that their law enforcement officials were safe. They view it as a success.
Also, we're told that the negotiations went into the wee hours of the morning, that the Justice Department was trying to work out this deal that had been presented by civic leaders from Miami. And in this particular deal, the boy would have been transferred to his father immediately, and that the family would have given -- would have been given visitation. That deal broke down.
The attorney general, after that deal broke down, the attorney general decided that it was time to act. We are told that the decision was made about a half hour before the raid. So this all came down very, very quickly. But again, the Justice Department, the line out of here this morning is that the boy's safe, no one was seriously injured. They think the mission has been accomplished, but the question over the next few days will be questions about the use of force, the tactics. We expect the attorney general to address those in about 10 minutes or so.
PHILLIPS: Pierre, also Wolf Blitzer had reported earlier that there were two doctors and other specialists on the plane accompanying Elian, so it looks like everybody was making an intense effort to make sure Elian remained calm and wasn't highly traumatized by all this.
THOMAS: That was the goal. The officials had talked about a soft approach coming into the home, but over the last few days the law enforcement officials who worked out the details of this plan said, look, you have to secure the scene. We have to be certain that the boy's safe. We have to be certain that the officers are safe.
But again, the question is, this is a family. This is a home. This was not necessarily a hostage situation, but again law enforcement officials are saying this is standard operating procedure.
The other thing is that the Justice Department, their view of the negotiations with the family is this, that they were given specific deadlines last week or so. They were told to turn over the boy at the airport, 2:00 p.m. That deadline passed.
Also, the Justice Department said they repeatedly gave them a chance to voluntarily turn over the boy. The -- when that did not happen, the attorney general had said, fort the past few days actually, that she was prepared to take action. Obviously, today she did.
PHILLIPS: Yes, important to note she never said this was not going to happen, that this would definitely be a last-resort decision.
PHILLIPS: Pierre Thomas, thank you for the update, our Justice correspondent -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: CNN continuing our coverage of the INS, Immigration and Naturalization Service, seizure of Elian Gonzalez. You see there those pictures taken about two hours and a half ago. Elian Gonzalez entering into the white minivan on his way to an airport, now winging his way toward Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, outside Washington. We have reporters stationed wherever they need to be for this story. And also watching it from Washington is our legal analyst Roger Cossack.
Roger, we'll told that in this case, on the first day when Juan Miguel Gonzalez came to the United States that the Cuban Interests Section waived its diplomatic immunity that would normally apply to a diplomatic mission here in the United States. That's a significant point, isn't it?
ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a point in the sense that what it did is it took away the status of having that be Cuban property or being property other than the United States' property. And by waiving that kind of diplomatic immunity, it makes it not -- it makes it property like any/all property. And I think the reason for that initially was so that if the family in Miami wanted to turn the child over -- and they said they'd never turn it over to Cuba -- this was a way of saying, OK, this isn't Cuba anymore. His father is not staying in Cuba. We waive diplomatic immunity.
I just want to point out a couple of other things that we talked about this morning. The fact that the agents knocked on the door before they went in, that is a standard operating procedure called knock notice, where you have to knock on the door of someone that you're going into their house and state your purpose. Of course, there's been criticism that these things are usually done in a away that, knock, knock, we're here, and then we're coming in, and the door flies open.
But in this case it was required to do, and apparently the agents did do it. They knocked on the door, gave knock notice, they say, we're here, we're here for Elian Gonzalez. And then they go in. If the door isn't open they knock down the door.
Of course, this whole thing, Miles, sets up the specter, remember, we're working under a temporary decision of the 11th Circuit. They could decide against the father, and then that specter would raise its head that child had to be returned to the family.
O'BRIEN: Well take us down that road for just a moment, Roger. As I understand it, the way most of the law is written in this country, pretty much the presumption is that a child should be with natural parents. that's a fairly difficult hurdle to overcome if you're on the other side of this case, isn't it?
COSSACK: Yes, yes, it's a difficult hurdle to overcome, but one must remember that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals just this week issued a decision in which they said, we believe that enough has been raised by the family that a hearing should be held, in particular whether or not Elian would qualify to be -- to come to this country and have -- and be able to ask for legal asylum. Remember, there's one of these petitions where in little childish scrawl it says Elian, he signed himself. And they said, look, there is enough here to have a discussion over whether or not Elian Gonzalez could ask for status as an alien.
O'BRIEN: Roger, Roger, I'm going to ask you to stand by on this -- and please listen in on this and I'll bring you back in. We're going to hear from one of the attorneys in Miami, Kendall Coffey, representing the family there.
KENDALL COFFEY, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: ... that the INS had never met Elian Gonzalez.
Well, this morning at 5:15, at gun point, with tear gas, after a night of infamy, of negotiations that were a charade, that caused the community to believe that all was well, and that parties were trying to proceed in good faith negotiations, after that night, the INS finally decided to meet with Elian Gonzalez in the most disgraceful way possible.
To emphasize the background, I want to just take you through some of the events of a false succession of negotiations that used some of the finest people in our community who are actively involved in the process, and that took one of the holiest weekends of our society, Good Friday and good Saturday, and turned them into an excuse for a shameful display of unnecessary and abusive force.
It began when some of the finest people in our community, and their names aren't a secret, Tad Foote (ph), Aaron Pothurst (ph), Carlos Sali Dragos (ph), Carlos de LaCruz (ph), joined with other community leaders and developed a six-point proposal to provide what the child needed, which was a sharing of family participation and, in a sense, of family custody under a common roof. COFFEY: That was what the community leaders wanted and that is what, in their discussions with the Justice Department, the attorney general said she would recommend, and she would do what she could and use her powers to make happen.
That proposal, so that was there no question, was faxed when they asked us to fax it before 5:00 on Good Friday. We signed it; the family signed off on it. And we believe, as sure as we're all standing here, that this was not only a negotiation of good faith, but a negotiation that was going to succeed.
And many of you were outside of the house and you saw us there. You saw us there throughout the night as we worked through the night, waiting and waiting for discussions, for confirmations. Finally, sometime after 4:30 this morning, and the discussions were handled directly between Aaron Pothurst (ph), who was acting as a mediator, and the community leaders, who will be speaking to you momentarily, and two of the attorneys. Manny Diaz and I were also there.
All of a sudden at 4:30, the tone changed. It starts to get ugly. It starts to get demanding. And all of a sudden the deal is starting to change, and we're told you've got to wake up your clients who were dead asleep. And you've got to get right away to start talking about the completely significantly new terms that they were sandbagging the family with after 4:30 in the morning.
But, you know, we got them up. They were exhausted. We woke them up and we kept talking to them. And we told Aaron Pothurst (ph): Aaron (ph), we don't like this sudden new ultimatum, this change after we had a deal. But we're going to recommend it. That's how badly this family wants peace and wants what's best for Elian Gonzalez. That is how badly we wanted to avoid the sort of disgraceful show of force in a private home, of peaceful people in our community.
And we kept talking, and we said, "Aaron (ph), keep telling the attorney general we're talking to them. We're talking. We're talking." And we kept talking.
While those of is in the room -- and they'll tell you this -- were on the phone with Aaron (ph), talking about the dialogue that said no matter what they want, we're going to get our clients to try to do it, even though it's a change and it's not really fair.
While I was sitting in that room, the door was smashed. And while we were on the phone talking to the mediator, who was dealing with the attorney general, the house was tear-gassed. The people you are looking at, and you're going to hear from the wife of one of our community's finest leaders, who was in convulsions from tear gas that the Department of Justice inflicted upon a defenseless house and on everyone in it; and how they took guns and pointed them at a child; and how they used force on an innocent family, who has done nothing but confirm and swear that they will obey the law and that all they do is love this child.
It was one of the most disgraceful moments for our system and our government that I can recall. It is an hour of shame for the Clinton administration, shame for the Department of Justice, shame for the INS.
It is an hour of betrayal.
And I don't say betrayal of grownups. I haven't been tear-gassed before, but it's not, I suppose, something that I should whine and cry about.
It is betrayal of a child who should have never been put through that, who shouldn't have had to stand there where the mother in his life was crying and screaming. This should never have happened.
And it happened because they lied...
O'BRIEN: You've been listening to Kendall Coffey, an attorney representing the family of Elian Gonzalez in Miami. And once again, a note to our viewers. We have to underscore here that you're watching a news story unfold as it happens. And by its very nature, we have been hearing from many members of the Cuban-American community, many representatives of Elian Gonzalez family in Little Havana. And by the nature of that, we have been giving you one side of the story to date.
We expect to hear from the attorney general of the United States, Janet Reno, who authorized this action now two hours and 40 minutes ago where INS officials seized Elian Gonzalez on his way to a reunion with his father. We expect to hear from her momentarily. In the meantime, we ask you patience as we watch this story unfold in what perhaps seems at times to be slightly unbalanced -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: And we have correspondents in every location, Miami, Havana, the Justice Department. And that's where we turn to Pierre Thomas, who evidently has some more information for us -- Pierre.
THOMAS: Kyra, within the next 15 minutes or so we expect the attorney general, Janet Reno, deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, also an official from the U.S. Marshall's service. They will make their case about what transpired. They will make their case about the negotiations.
Their view is that the negotiations broke down and that the attorney general decided that the time had arrived to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father.
PHILLIPS: OK, Pierre, and thank you.
And this is just in from White House correspondent John King, a little side note here on Elian. Evidently he was given a kit of toys for the flight to Washington and an explanation in Spanish. He was on his way to see -- this is given to him on the plane on the way to see his father.
The official also reports that federal officials traveling with the boy indicated, quote, "that he was understandably frightened at the outset, but that he had calmed down and was engaged in conversation." That's federal officials talking about Elian Gonzalez on the flight to Washington to see his father -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Let's turn it back now to the Little Havana section of Miami.
CNN's Susan Candiotti has been spending a great deal of time out there.
And, Susan, there's a lot to mull over based on that statement from Kendall Coffey, who represents the family. And we of course want to hear from the government's side in this. But one thing I think which we should clarify is he indicated that the home was tear gassed. I saw no evidence of that. Susan, do you -- did you see any evidence that indicated tear gas was used on the home of Lazaro Gonzalez?
CANDIOTTI: Well, according to our Brian Cabell, who was here at that precise moment, there was some tear gas used after the boy had been taken from the home, pepper gas, actually, is what we understand. So to that degree we saw it.
I spoke with a U.S. government official just a few moments ago who gave us the government's version of what transpired. They said that when the agents arrived at the house that they knocked on the door, I am told, a few times, and said in both Spanish and English -- identified themselves as members of U.S. Immigration, to please open the door. According to the officials...
O'BRIEN: Susan -- Susan, I just want to point out. You may not be able to see, we're looking at some footage that was shot by a representative of the gathered media apparently immediately subsequent to the raid on the home. And I don't want to...
CANDIOTTI: That's all right, Miles. I can see it.
O'BRIEN: I just wanted to point out to our viewers...
CANDIOTTI: I can indeed see it.
O'BRIEN: ... what exactly they're seeing.
And also, just to point out, that pepper spray, as I saw it, was used more by way of crowd control as opposed to being used on the family specifically, correct?
CANDIOTTI: Well that's what officials say and that's what our observations are from outside the home.
At any rate, when, according to the government, when agents went inside and broke down the door, when it wasn't open, they said that they found the child inside a closet -- inside a closet. And these officials maintain, according to their version, that the agent's hand -- the agent never pointed a gun at the child.
They also say that the agent's hand was outside the trigger of the weapon, beyond it, that when they snatched the child they told him -- and took him outside inside a blanket -- they told the child that he would be safe, they told him that he would not be taken back to Cuba, they told him that he would be with his papa soon. And they said that the child, according to the government official that was traveling with him, these agents, rather, that the child was calm, and that in fact one of the agents was said to be shaking.
We understand that -- of course, as we're telling you this, of course, emotions are running high. Someone is showing...
O'BRIEN: Susan -- Susan, can you hear me all right? Can you hear me, Susan?
It appears from just looking at the pictures there that the crowd has once again reached a little more emotional level. And also the numbers have increased. Do you have any ability right there to see what the police might be doing to keep things under control there?
CANDIOTTI: Well, I'll tell you, Miles. First of all what's happened is that apparently the still photographs that were made available to all the news media about what happened at that moment inside the house when the child was snatched by agents, those photographs are now being distributed, apparently, to the crowd. So that has caused some excitement here.
There is one -- there is one photograph in particular, which I believe somebody had a copy of -- as we wait for Attorney General Janet Reno to make her talk...
PHILLIPS: Here she comes. We're going to go to the Justice Department with Janet Reno. Our attorney general is about to start the press conference.
JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Earlier this morning, federal agents in Miami began to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father and uphold the rule of law.
As I speak, Elian is safe. He is on a plane headed for Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., where he will be reunited with his father for the first time in five months.
When the two are reunited, they will remain in the United States during the appellate process while the injunction is in place. And in accordance with the court of appeals ruling, we will take every step necessary to ensure that Elian does not leave the country while the court of appeals injunction is in place.
We have been to great lengths to resolve this case in the least disruptive manner possible. Up until the last, we tried every way we could to encourage Lazaro Gonzalez to voluntarily hand over the child to his father. Unfortunately, the Miami relatives rejected our efforts, leaving us no other option but the enforcement action.
Elian Gonzalez is a child who needs to be cherished, who needs to have quiet time and private time, and to be with his father. And that is what this case is still all about -- the bond between a father and a son. Juan Miguel Gonzalez wants to be with his son, and that will happen now.
RENO: More than three months ago, the INS determined that only Juan Miguel Gonzalez could speak for his son on immigration matters. From that moment, I could have taken action to return Elian to his father, but I did not. Instead, I gave the Miami relatives a chance to challenge my decision in federal district court. They did, and the court sided with the government. It ruled that this was a federal case and that the INS was right to say that the father speaks for the child.
Two weeks ago, a state family court turned away the Miami relatives as well. In a strongly worded opinion, the judge said not only that the matter belonged in federal court, but that a 6-year-old boy is far too young to make life-altering decisions on his own.
That same week, I traveled to Miami to try to encourage the family members to work out a resolution. The relatives in Miami said all they wanted was a meeting with Juan Miguel Gonzalez before turning over the child. But when I arranged that meeting, they still refused to produce the child.
Every step of the way, the Miami relatives kept moving the goal post and raising more hurdles.
RENO: That is why I finally directed the relatives to turn over the child nine days ago.
That deadline carried great significance. When Lazaro Gonzalez didn't comply, parole and care was revoked. That means that for the past nine days, Lazaro Gonzalez has not had lawful custody of Elian.
When the INS places an unaccompanied child into the care of an adult, that adult is required to comply with the directives of the INS. To maintain, as the Miami relatives did, that the INS somehow lacks authority over the immigration parole of a minor in the U.S. simply ignores the law.
So this morning, I commenced an operation with the paramount concern being the well-being of Elian, the safety of the agents and others. After negotiating through the night, I informed the parties that time had run out. At that moment, I gave the go-ahead for the operation.
After I had set the operation in motion, the intermediaries called back to offer one more counteroffer. I indicated that I was willing to continue to engage in dialogue, but that time had run out.
RENO: I did, until the final moments, try to reach a voluntary solution. Law enforcement personnel were on the scene, were authorized to and did make the final call as to when to enter the Gonzalez home, because this was a very carefully timed law enforcement operation.
Eight agents were in the house during the operation. They were there for three minutes. During that time, a female agent picked up Elian and spoke to him in Spanish. The agents then took Elian to Watson Island, where they bordered a helicopter bound for Homestead Air Force Base. There he was examined by a doctor to make sure that there were no injuries. At that point, he was bordered onto a U.S. Marshal's plane headed to Washington, D.C., where is father was anxiously waiting for his son. This has been a very emotional case for everyone involved. The most important thing is that Elian is safe and that no one was seriously hurt.
As we all await the outcome of the appellate process, I think it is important for us all to accept Elian's long overdue reunion with his father. It is time to heal wounds that have divided a community. It is time to help this little boy heal from the tragedies that he has experienced.
Let us give him and his father the space, the calm, the moral support they need to reconnect and reaffirm their bond between father and son.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, the image that was released this morning, by a photographer inside the house, of a federal agent with his gun drawn and pointed toward Elian, and Elian anguished, looking on, is going to summarize this raid. So I ask you now, why was that necessary? Why was that level of force necessary?
RENO: One of the beauties of television is that it shows exactly what the facts are. And as I understand it, if you look at it carefully, it shows that the gun was pointed to the side, and that the finger was not on the trigger.
It is important in these situations to look carefully and to understand the facts, and to understand that we had received information that there were guns -- perhaps in the crowd, perhaps in the house; it was unclear -- but that the safety of all involved was paramount. And when law enforcement goes into a situation like that, it must go in prepared for the unexpected.
QUESTION: After the reunion at Andrews, where will Elian and his father be staying?
RENO: Somewhere in the Washington, D.C., area.
QUESTION: Will that be in the Cuban mission or, you know, Cuban home of the diplomat or somewhere else?
RENO: We shall see. At this point, it is important that they be reunited.
QUESTION: So you haven't set any parameters?
RENO: I would let Commissioner Meissner comment if there was any further comment to be made.
DORIS MEISSNER, COMMISSIONER, IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE: I think the general marshal and I can answer that he will be in the Washington area. He will be at Andrews Air Force Base for a short period, and then he will be somewhere else in the Washington area. There are no plans presently that he be at the home where the father is presently residing. QUESTION: Are you specifically not disclosing the place or is it undermined yet?
MEISSNER: It has been determined, but we're not yet disclosing it.
QUESTION: Has the interests section been precluded, or is that still a possibility?
MEISSNER: They need more space. They need more space, and they need more privacy. And so it's in the interests of space and privacy that the location will change.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, can you describe a little bit about how the negotiations broke down? What was lacking?
RENO: As it ended initially, we had tried to put together something that achieved the goals of everybody concerned, for the father to have the parole and care of his son, for there to be a transition period. And we just were not able to work out the details.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, concerning the issue of the weapons, did you give any instructions to law enforcement officials on the scene about -- concern about the child...
RENO: I would ask Commissioner Meissner to address that specifically.
MEISSNER: The child has been our paramount concern in this operation. We structured the operation around the child's safety as the first, most important priority.
We had Spanish-speaking female agents -- agent responsible for bringing the child from the home. We had worked out with our team of experts in advance the kind of conversation that the agent responsible for the child could and should use, in order to be reassuring. That was carefully worked out as between the experts and the people on the scene.
The airplane includes -- the flight has Elian accompanied by a child psychiatrist and a flight surgeon, both of whom are bilingual. There is a play pack on the airplane of Play Dough, other things, food, to amuse him. One of the things that we learned from our experts was that the squeezing of Play Dough is the best thing that you can do for a child who might be experiencing stress.
I must say, though, that all of our reports so far are that the child has been very calm, has not been anxious, has not been thrashing, has not been crying and the basic feedback that we have from a series of people now who have been directly with him is that he's a real terrific tough kid.
QUESTION: If I may, did you consult with psychiatrists beforehand to discuss the possibility of the impact of using weapons during the entry, how that might affect the child? MEISSNER: We discussed the nature of a law enforcement operation and we knew, of course, that it could be traumatic and so we were very, very concerned to set it up in a way that would minimize that kind of fearfulness.
QUESTION: Did Elian have the opportunity to speak to his father before leaving or maybe from the plane?
MEISSNER: He is actually speaking to his father right now.
QUESTION: He is?
MEISSNER: Yes, he is.
QUESTION: Who notified Juan Miguel of the decision? Was it before or after it was carried out? What can you tell us about his reaction?
MEISSNER: Juan Miguel was notified after the, as, after the operation began. The operation was very, very quick so it was simultaneous.
QUESTION: Was he, was the father able to speak to Elian at any point during the operation? I know that was a concern, that a cell phone would have...
MEISSNER: No. The operation, the operation took really only three to four minutes from seeing the child to having him in the van to being on the way to the helicopter and the safety and operational concerns overrode anything at that point. As I say, he has now been able to have a conversation father and son.
QUESTION: Could you tell us a little bit about the conversation that the agent was, you said there was a conversation that the agent was told would be good for the boy as he was being moved. Can you tell us a little bit about what that was?
MEISSNER: The conversation goes along the lines of this may seem very scary right now but it will soon be better. We are taking you to see your papa. He calls him papa. You will not be going back to Cuba. You will not be on a boat. You are around people who care for you. We are going to take care of you. Please don't be frightened, that kind of a conversation.
QUESTION: Can you tell us if there's any concern about letting the boy or his father get onto Cuban soil in terms of the diplomatic mission and if there is such a concern, if there are any precautions being taken to keep him away from there?
RENO: The Marshals Service is taking all appropriate precautions and we don't, do not foresee those that you described.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, what kind of information did you have about weapons in the house specifically that concerned you?
RENO: We had been told on occasions that people were threatening to have weapons to prevent it from happening. Again, there were discussions of weapons in the crowd, weapons in the home, whether weapons were present on the ground.
QUESTION: You say for the past nine days, Lazaro Gonzalez has been essentially in violation of the law. Is there, are there any plans to take some sort of action against him now, against the Gonzalez family?
RENO: Our effort was to reunite the little boy with his father. That has or will soon be achieved and I think that it is important for everyone now to move on and to put this time behind us and to do everything we can to see that those involved heal and reunite.
QUESTION: In the reports you describe about possible weapons in the house and on the streets, do you believe now that at any point in this process the Miami relatives were negotiating with you and your surrogates in good faith?
RENO: Every time we thought we had achieved what they wanted, it wasn't enough and at this point I think it's important for us to move on. It was a very frustrating experience. We were told when he came to this country we would, he could have the boy. That didn't happen. We were told if they could just meet with Juan Miguel Gonzalez then they would consider turning over the boy. We made the arrangements for him, them to meet prior to the boy being turned over. That wasn't enough. And it was just one step after another in which they moved the goalpost.
QUESTION: I'd like to just follow on that on another point. What is your read right now of what's happening in the streets outside the home? The mayor of Miami called this action a crime. Have you been in contact with the mayor and are you comfortable that the situation is contained there by law enforcement?
RENO: I think that law enforcement will do a very good job, a very thoughtful, constructive job of maintaining calm. I think it is important for everyone to understand that this was done pursuant to law, that it was done to reunite a child with his father after there were innumerable attempts and negotiations over a long period of time to try to make sure that this was done voluntarily so that everyone could be involved in planning the transition.
It didn't work that way, unfortunately, and so we had to take appropriate action and from what I have seen today, the agents did an excellent job and I want to commend them.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno...
QUESTION: There's some very strong language in the appellate court order concerning the likelihood of success on the merits of the underlying asylum issue and as a result of that there was a lot of talk about the fact that you wouldn't necessarily want to have the boy reunited with his father and then face an unfavorable decision from the Circuit Court and then have his future up in the air again. Can you comment on that? RENO: The issue that was raised in the Court of Appeals was not, it was based on the equities of the situation and the court concluded that there were -- as I recall the language was a substantial interest or something similar -- but that if he were enjoined from leaving the country, the equities would favor such a resolution.
The issue in the Court of Appeals that they focused on was the asylum issue. But here, the father was in this country. Cuba was not the issue. It was not an issue of him going back to Cuba during this period of time. It was here that a fit father had arrived who wanted to see his son and there was no reason in the world why they should not be reunited.
QUESTION: If I could just follow-up, they talked about the asylum question and there was an indication that they saw some likelihood of success on the merits. And so my question really is whether or not you have any concern that the boy's future after that decision comes out, if it's unfavorable to you, will it then be in jeopardy and that Lazaro Gonzalez may, in fact, have some sort of a reasonable claim to address the asylum issue?
RENO: He may have a -- if the court rules in his favor, he may have a claim to address an asylum issue. But the issue right now is this father is here. It is not, he is not claiming asylum and asylum is not at issue because the boy cannot return to Cuba at this point. And there is no reason for those who objected to the fact that he would have to return to Cuba, that doesn't apply in the context in which we're here now.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, what can you tell us about your consultations with the White House last night?
RENO: I talked to the president yesterday afternoon at about 4:45, again last night at about 8:00 and then this morning after the boy was secured.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno...
QUESTION: What did he say?
QUESTION: ... what can you say -- go ahead.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, but can you tell us anything more about that conversation and what he said?
RENO: He had followed it carefully. I think we had briefed him yesterday afternoon at 4:45, told him about the ongoing negotiations. I had had a chance to talk to him coming back from Oklahoma City. We talked about the developments as of about 8:00 last night and then this morning he expressed satisfaction over the manner in which it had been carried out.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno...
QUESTION: Could you, did agents inside recover any weapons or were there any weapons brandished on federal agents at all during the process?
RENO: I don't know.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, earlier on it was said, I think by you, that Elian would not be removed from the house in the night. This operation took place in the dark before dawn. What was the reasoning in doing that as opposed to taking him out in daylight and sort of deviating, apparently, from that earlier statement?
RENO: Earlier we had hoped that the matter could be worked out, that it could be done in an appropriate way. Then the crowds began to suggest that they were going to prevent it from happening. Lazaro, who had said at one point that he would step aside, said that people might have to run a gauntlet and there was clear defiance of the law. At that point, with those circumstances that had to be considered and with so much being unknown the most important issue was to do it at a time when it would be safest for Elian and when it could be done in a manner that was safest for all concerned.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, could you describe the coordination with local law enforcement in this operation and how much advanced warning were the City of Miami police given of the exact timing this morning?
RENO: I don't have the exact figures of the timing. I'm sure that that can be provided.
QUESTION: Was it at eight o'clock last night that you felt the negotiations were going nowhere and that you then gave the tentative OK?
RENO: I negotiated through the night. At times I was very encouraged and then at other times it seemed to slip away. But my effort from the beginning has been to try to make sure that we did everything we could to resolve it so that there was a peaceful, thoughtful way of doing it and it -- finally time ran out.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, with whom were you in touch through the night? With whom were you actually negotiating?
RENO: There were community leaders. The person that I was talking to during the evening was Aaron Pothurst (ph). He is a very fine lawyer in Miami.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, Vice President Gore came out early saying that he felt the boy should be granted citizenship. Can you tell us to what extent he or his staff lobbied you do things differently?
RENO: He did not talk to me nor did his staff.
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit more about reports that there were weapons in the house? Are you referring specifically to guns in the house? Where did these reports come from? And I'm wondering if either Commissioner Meissner or Mr. Marshal (ph) might know if any guns or weapons were spotted during the operation.
MEISSNER: I would repeat the attorney general's answer, we don't know. We're still doing the debriefing on the operation so we don't have that information.
QUESTION: Is the Marshal Service, I assume, going to be providing security for them during this time? You seemed to sort of indicate that might be the case in one of your answers.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: Yes, the Marshal Service, on an order of the attorney general, we are providing security for Juan Gonzalez and others related to that case.
UNIDENTIFIED DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE EMPLOYEE: Two more questions, please.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, can you just describe, you say at some points during the night that you were optimistic that things could be worked out. What was the nature of the negotiation? What was on the table that then was off the table? Can you describe in any detail what was being discussed?
RENO: What was being discussed is how to make sure that the father got the parole and care of the child immediately, but that experts were available, experts that I would choose after consultation who could advise not whether a transition should take place but how it should take place from the Miami family to the father. Our hope was that the family would sit down together and with advice from professionals, psychiatrists and psychologists, work together to effect the transition in the least disruptive manner possible.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, at what point did you finally make your decision in your view of it? What, about what time was that?
RENO: It was at about four o'clock.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, what did the family in Miami offer to do or what was their best offer?
RENO: They offered to, I don't know how you'd characterize what their best offer was, but what they had offered to do was to arrange for a site here in Miami. They would require Juan Miguel Gonzalez to come to Miami or to someplace in Dade County for a period of time that was open-ended and we would consult experts. Experts would interview the parties, evaluate Elian and would make recommendations to me or advices, give me advice on what should be involved in the transition. Those were some of the points that were raised.
UNIDENTIFIED DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE EMPLOYEE: Two more questions.
QUESTION: Was that the last offer by the family or was that the last offer by the intermediaries? You mentioned that after you had made this, your decision, the intermediaries came out with one more offer.
RENO: The intermediaries wanted to further discuss it and they were in the process of discussing it at that, in those very last moments.
UNIDENTIFIED DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE EMPLOYEE: Last question. QUESTION: When was the, you mentioned at a point where you were the most optimistic and how much time had elapsed between that time and the 4:00 P.M. order? I'm wondering how quickly things changed in your mind?
RENO: I don't have a chronology of...
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, one last question. You've spoken at various points in this process openly, emotionally, personally about your feelings about this community and about this situation. I wonder what your personal feelings are this morning.
RENO: The community is hurting. I'm hurting but I am very glad for Juan Miguel Gonzalez and Elian that they can be reunited and it is time for the community to heal. It is going to be difficult, but it has healed before and it can do so again. And it is time for us to give space and calm and peace to father and son so that they can begin to reunite.
UNIDENTIFIED DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE EMPLOYEE: OK, thanks very much.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening to Attorney General Janet Reno, flanked by Doris Meissner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, addressing the media a little more than three hours after what she termed a successful Immigration and Naturalization Service effort to seize Elian Gonzalez, put him in federal custody and send him on his way to being reunited with his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
First, let's tell you about that. On board a plane right now sits little Elian Gonzalez talking to his father, we're told, playing with toys and in good spirits. Let's take you back about three hours ago as we look at some videotape of this INS activity, federal agents using a battering ram after, we are told, knocking on the door to the home of Lazaro Gonzalez and with a warrant in hand seizing young Elian.
We're told that eight agents went inside. It took al of three minutes. A female, Spanish-speaking Immigration and Naturalization Service officer, there you see her, picked up Elian Gonzalez and told him, and I am paraphrasing now, this is, we know, scary. You are not going to back to Cuba. You are not going on a boat. We are taking you to your papa.
He was taken to an island nearby where he was transferred to a helicopter. That helicopter took young Elian Gonzalez to Homestead Air Force Base, where he boarded a plane operated by the U.S. Marshals Service. That plane, as we said, is winging its way right now to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. As we are told by the federal officials, Elian Gonzalez is in good spirits and is described as a strong child.
Even as that raid was being set in motion, Janet Reno was continuing negotiations with the family. She said until the very last she was making an effort to settle this matter in a peaceful way but, as she put it, "the goalpost kept getting moved back" and new hurdles kept getting put in the way. She said it is time now for the family to heal and for the Cuban-American community to heal -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Miles, just moments ago Marisleysis, the cousin of Elian Gonzalez, also the woman who's been acting as his surrogate mother, made this statement in a press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ: What happened today was what I've been begging them for five months, today makes five months, not to come here with guns and traumatize this kid more than what he's already seen of the death of his mother. Since five o'clock yesterday, we were negotiating with Janet Reno to take place to meet the father, for him to feel comfortable, for this to be done in the best interests of the child. And we've always looked for, for five months, this family's kept this boy because his father was not allowed to come to this country or didn't want to come to this country.
His father was in Washington, two hours away. If they really wanted to acted in good faith and with no violence, they would have made the father come to this house and pick up the boy.
QUESTION: Can you tell me what happened this morning, Marisleysis?
GONZALEZ: We were on the phone negotiating with her. After they took two hours to call us back, they expected for us to answer them in five minutes.
QUESTION: And what were they asking?
GONZALEZ: Where would we take the boy and return him to the father, to my understanding. As this was taking place, we heard noises, people banging on the door, breaking the door down. Elian was awake in the living room and we didn't know what was going on because they never told us the U.S. Marshals were going to come in and pick up the boy. So we thought it was maybe a fight outside or something and we ran him in the room with three other cousins that were in that -- two other cousins that were in the house, kids as well.
And as they entered, they didn't, they came here violently, because if they wouldn't have been violently, they wouldn't have been armed. They told me, "Give me the boy or I'm going to shoot, I'm going to shoot! Give me the boy! Give me the boy! Give me the.." -- and they said a bad word -- "Give me the boy! Give me the boy!" And I said, "Please, don't let the boy see this. Please, I will give you the boy. Don't let him see this. He's seen enough, seen his mother's death. We don't want this. We're not going to do anything. We're not armed. We don't want anything."
"Put your hands up!" "We're nothing. We're negotiating. What's going on? I'll give you the boy, don't let him see this. I'll give you the boy." They ran in my room. They broke the closet doors. They broke Elian's bed. They went in my mom's room. They broke the door down. They got Elian by here. They put a gun right there and they took him. And there is a picture and that little boy's scared. So Janet Reno and everybody else, don't say you came here with no violence and that this boy is OK. How can this boy not be -- how can this boy be OK when he had a gun in his head? How can my other little cousin had another gun in his head, who was an innocent too, a kid?
This is not now an issue about the Cuban society screaming. They've always been there supporting us, but they've never been violent. And I thought this was a country of freedom and a country that seeks for the benefit of a child and that wouldn't psychologically traumatize a child. Now they've really done the harm. They're really psychologically traumatized Elian when they put that gun he saw everything that was going in this house.
This didn't have to happen like this. They could have come and said get his stuff, he's ready, we need to take him to the father and we would have done that. We've always been with the law. We've always been there for the boy. We've always acted in good faith. They came in, they kicked the cameramen, they kicked everybody. They banged people on the head with stuff. They didn't have to go there.
QUESTION: Marisleysis, as you know...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: And we're going to move from that taped interview to a live interview that's taking place right now with Marisleysis, Elian's cousin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GONZALEZ: And I want to tell every American out there that the president of this country dishonored this country. He dishonored this country and he's a father.
QUESTION: There are those in this country...
GONZALEZ: He already dishonored his family, now he dishonored mine. He dishonored his family in Washington in the White House. Now he dishonored our, my family and he dishonored again this country and he should be ashamed because he was the one that gave the order when he said this boy needs to be returned in 48 hours. Today makes the 48 hours. He made that order. He made it and I'm sure he pressured Janet Reno to do it. And if she would have had a heart, I would have retired my job right there and I would have said I wouldn't do this to this boy.
It's a shame that they came to this house with violence, guns and especially point a gun in Elian's face. And there's pictures and there's pictures how he left screaming and crying that he didn't want to leave. So they cannot tell me he's not crying. They cannot tell me that because he cannot be without me not even two seconds.
QUESTION: Do you have any chance, do you believe, to talk to not only Elian, but to his father? Have you tried to call anybody?
GONZALEZ: I would love to just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) last time, to let me see this boy and see that he's not harmed because after what I saw, I feel they're capable of doing anything to this kid.
QUESTION: What the government has...
GONZALEZ: Yes, what the government's done, I feel that they're capable of doing anything to this kid, even giving him things to calm him down, OK? I want to see his, I want to see his father and I want to know if his father was part of this, if his father said take my boy like that, because I'm sure my cousin didn't want this to happen like this. And this country violated the rights of my house, breaking into my door.
QUESTION: Now, you said that inside the house here it's -- that your house has been doors knocked down and it's a mess. Let me give you a drink.
GONZALEZ: I'm OK.
QUESTION: Now have a little bit more. Just take a moment. You say inside your house that your house is...
GONZALEZ: It's trashed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Marisleysis Gonzalez, the cousin of Elian Gonzalez, giving her account of what happened as federal agents came into their home early this morning to retrieve Elian Gonzalez. We're now going to take this over to Pierre Thomas, Miles, in the Justice Department.
O'BRIEN: Yes, Kyra. You know, if you strip away the emotions of this case, it boils down to a fairly clear cut matter of law, which is what Janet Reno just pointed out a few moments ago when she spoke to reporters.
Pierre, reiterating the fact, the attorney general did, that Elian Gonzalez was unlawfully held by the family for at least the last nine days and that really if you listen to both sides this morning, as we have been, you get the sense that neither side trusted the other as it came down to the negotiations, either side appeared to the other to be operating in good faith.
THOMAS: Well, the attorney general tried to make clear that they tried to negotiate in good faith. But she also pointed out in her eyes that at every point the goal was pushed back and that the family in Miami was not negotiating in good faith. At least that is what she suggested.
Now, there, we have some information coming from Greg Craig, who is the attorney of Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father of the boy. He has issued a statement and let me read part of it for you. It says, "We, too, are sad that force was required. But to the very end, Lazaro Gonzalez placed roadblocks in the path of an orderly transfer of custody. He gave the attorney general no alternative."
So the family, Juan Miguel Gonzalez has issued a statement through the attorney expressing sadness that this took place but placing the blame for this on the family in Miami. So we have very divergent views on this. The feeling between the two families is very heated, each side making accusations over the last week. So this finally rolled its way down to its very difficult end. And you heard the attorney general use the word the community in Miami is hurting and she is hurting. She has been personally involved in this case. She went down to Miami trying to resolve this. That failed. She had been criticized roundly from a number of officials inside and outside the government for not acting sooner.
This clearly is a difficult decision for the attorney general and one that will be analyzed by, I'm sure, Congressional leaders on the Hill in terms of the use of force. So this story, in many ways, is just beginning to be analyzed.
O'BRIEN: Pierre, worth reminding that that is the attorney general's home and Pierre, before you get away, also in that statement from Greg Craig, he says we agreed to virtually all of the demands contained in the attorney general's proposal but we would not compromise on the most critical issue of custody. It really comes down to that one issue, doesn't it?
THOMAS: Well, over the last few weeks there have always been negotiations going on. But the control issue was immediate transfer of the boy to his father. The Justice Department maintains that the family in Miami would never agree to that, that there were compromise, compromises proposed, including having a compound in which the two families could live in close proximity where the boy could move back and forth between each other. But that could never be worked out because, again, the critical issue was no immediate transfer of the boy to his father. And finally the attorney general decided at 4:00 A.M. this morning that enough was enough, she was going to make that custody take place.
O'BRIEN: All right, Pierre Thomas is watching things from the Justice Department this morning. We, of course, will have him stand by and he will come to us as details warrant. Let's show you some pictures which have just come in. These are live pictures courtesy of our affiliate in Miami, WSVN. And this is -- I'm not exactly sure of the location, it is Miami, however. And what we are seeing is the remnants of, we are told, a tire fire.
We don't want to draw too many conclusions here except to say that the emotions are running very high on the streets of Miami right now in the wake of this action shortly after five in the morning. A big crowd has once again gathered in front of the home of Lazaro Gonzalez carrying placards and flags, chanting and in some cases, expressing anger specifically directed at the media. As you can see there, that's really the first time we've had an opportunity to see the level of police presence that is currently on the streets of Miami.
Clearly they are hanging back away from the home of Lazaro Gonzalez so as not to be provocative. Nevertheless, police are out in force in riot gear hoping to keep the streets calm and peaceful in the wake of what is an emotional moment for the Cuban-American community -- Kyra. PHILLIPS: And if you are just joining us this morning, it's 8:30 on the East, 5:30 out West. We are on rolling coverage, breaking news. The INS, federal agents and the U.S. Marshals have gone into the home of Elian Gonzalez's relatives in Miami. You're looking at videotape from this morning at about 5:10 A.M. Eastern Time federal agents in addition to U.S. Marshals, 130 agents in total came to the home of the Miami relatives to retrieve Elian Gonzalez.
We are told they made a couple knocks on the door. When the relatives did not come to the door they did make an entry. You'll see Elian here in the arms of a female agent. She apparently went inside the home with eight other agents, wrapped him up in a blanket, told him everything is going to be fine, don't worry, this must be frightening, we're going to take you to pappy.
Then Elian, as you can see by this videotape, very emotional, the crowds angry, began protesting, throwing things. You'll see here the federal agents using pepper spray to try and calm the crowds as the white minivan here is backing out of the neighborhood to take Elian to this helicopter on a nearby island. Once Elian got onto this helicopter with the federal agents and also doctors and specialists, they were also accompanying him as he got on here to the helicopter, they took him to an area hospital, checked him for injuries.
Once they said that Elian was fine, there were no injuries, he was put on an airplane headed toward Maryland to meet with his father and we believe that that is what is taking place right now. He is on the airplane headed to Maryland to meet with his father. He is safe. He is calm. He is subdued and that is all according to our correspondents, who have been talking to sources on this story -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Attorney General Janet Reno speaking to reporters a little less than a half hour ago indicated she felt and the Justice Department felt and the Clinton administration had felt that this was a time to uphold the rule of law. Let's turn now to Greta van Susteren, who looks at the law for us here at CNN, and Greta, the last significant legal watershed in this case was the 11th Circuit Appeal ruling and in that 11th Circuit ruling there was some confusing language in it, of course, for us -- for we non-lawyers. But it did not specifically address the issue of who Elian could be with while that appeals process went on, did it?
VAN SUSTEREN: No, it did not and therein lies the mystery. Because let me tell you what the end of the order says. I have it right here. And what the court says is the court enjoins three different groups from removing that child from the country. One is U.S. agents and the other is others and Elian himself.
Now, does it really matter to U.S. agents if they violate the order? Absolutely it does. But when you look at the other two categories, the others, probably meaning Elian's father and any of his colleagues who are here from Cuba and Elian himself, suppose they do violate the order. Suppose they do leave the country even though the United States Court of Appeals said, the real practical effect is so what? If they don't intend to come back to the United States, what do they care about violating a United States court order?
The only people who care about violating this court order are United States citizens or those who want to remain in this country because they'd be subject to the penalty of the court. So what's so intriguing at this point, Miles, is even though the father has agreed not to take that child out of the country, the practical effect if he does is that he would be held in contempt of the United States Court of Appeals, but if he's in Cuba, so what?
O'BRIEN: I guess that would render the case moot, wouldn't it, Roger Cossack? We should point out, however, that at the outset of her talk to reporters, Attorney General Janet Reno indicated that Elian Gonzalez would remain in the United States during the appellate process and that she and her people had taken every step, every measure to ensure he does not leave the U.S. That is pretty close to being a quote. It's a close paraphrase of what Attorney General Janet Reno said.
Roger, that raises, I suppose, without getting too far down the road of speculation, the specter of federal agents perhaps impeding the travel of Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his son to Cuba?
COSSACK: Well, I think that's true. I mean I certainly don't believe that it's going to be so easy for Juan Miguel Gonzalez and Elian to go down to the airport and get on a plane and fly to Cuba. It's just not, first of all, it's not an easy thing to do no matter what. And second of all, certainly under a court order it's not going to be easy to do.
Greta's right. I mean I suppose if he could figure out a way to get out of this country with his son and get to Cuba, he would be home safe. But I somehow don't see that happening, although it's possible. I think that he will not be able to do that. I don't suppose he's going to be kept under armed guard, but I suppose that he is not going to have that kind of freedom where he could just one day casually sort of show up at the airport and say I'd like a ticket to Cuba. I don't think he can do that anyway.
O'BRIEN: Greta, let me ask you about...
VAN SUSTEREN: But what he can do...
O'BRIEN: Go ahead. What were you going to say?
VAN SUSTEREN: What you can do, though, is if you can get to the Bahamas, you can get to Cuba. I mean there are ways to get back to Cuba. Now, I have no idea whether or not Juan Miguel is going to keep his promise to the attorney general that he will keep the child here. Every indication is at this point that he will keep his promise. But lawyers always look at sort of the worst case scenario and the worst case scenario here is if this father really wants to take his son back, if he's worried that ultimately he might lose the appeal, if he's really worried that he's going to lose and perhaps have his son remain in the United States because he gets asylum here and then the child gets asylum. You think about what is the worst case scenario and the truth is that the worst case scenario is that the United States Court of Appeals decision has no effect in Cuba. It only affects people who remain here in the country.
VAN SUSTEREN: However, he has made every indication, and I don't mean to sort of create some speculation, because he's made every indication that he will remain in this country with his son while this is pending.
O'BRIEN: All right, now...
COSSACK: Right. And there is a specter that, of course, Miles, and I will make this quick, there's a specter that the 11th Circuit says that the child has the right to apply for asylum and if the child would win that, I mean if you take the worst case scenario, the issue could be somewhere down the road, perhaps a year from now, an order saying that Juan Miguel has to give his son back and, you know, then problems arise. But until that happens I think the child is safe and is safe in this country.
O'BRIEN: All right, I'm going to ask you a question as we look at some live pictures from one of our affiliates. This is a WSVN helicopter hovering over the streets of Miami and there you see some anti-Castro demonstrators blocking some traffic on one of the interstates which winds its way through the greater Miami/Dade County area, some police officers attempting to quell that small disturbance.
Let me ask you this, as we look at the anti-Castro forces, the forces who might be allied with Lazaro Gonzalez and the Miami contingent of the Gonzalez family, as an attorney, and their attorneys are good ones, the time is on their side. If they can delay this as much as possible, they will, won't they?
COSSACK: Yes. And there's every reason to believe that they are going to continue to appeal. Look, if they lose the 11th Circuit, they'll apply for certiori (ph) to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court goes on vacation during the summer. I mean there's every reason to believe that they will try and stretch this out and keep Elian and his father in this country as long as they possibly can.
O'BRIEN: Could there be some sort of emergency session because, I mean, after all, we're talking about something where time is of the essence, right, Greta?
VAN SUSTEREN: That, you know what...
COSSACK: This is one of Greta's perfect rants.
VAN SUSTEREN: Wait a second. This is my favorite thing, the emergency. The United States Court of Appeals, which has set this case down for a hearing on May 8th, you know, they could do it today, they could do it tomorrow, they could do it the next day. You know, they've set this May 8th deadline, the Courts of Appeals set deadlines way off in the future but they can have emergency hearings. The same is true of the United States Supreme Court.
Do they ever do it? Once in a blue moon they will do this emergency, emergency hearings. There's nothing to prevent them from doing that, but I have to tell you that the habit is not to do that and if you go through sort of the regular routine there will be a hearing no May 8th. Then the judges will take anywhere from two weeks, three weeks, several months to decide in the United States Court of Appeals. Then someone will seek relief in the United States Supreme Court. You must get permission to go to the United States Supreme Court. It wouldn't be automatic.
And then the United States Supreme Court decides whether or not they're going to give you permission and if they decide to give you permission to have that court, the Supreme Court hear the matter, then they set a briefing schedule. Then the lawyers -- it goes on and on and on and on.
COSSACK: Miles, it just ain't gonna happen so quickly.
VAN SUSTEREN: It takes forever.
COSSACK: But Miles, it's going to...
VAN SUSTEREN: They could do it faster, though.
COSSACK: Yeah, Miles, it ain't gonna happen tomorrow. It's going to be at least six to eight months to sum it up.
VAN SUSTEREN: But it could happen fast.
O'BRIEN: So without turning this into a legal colloquy, the fact of the matter is this may not meet the criteria which would cause the Supreme Court justices to come back from their summer homes to...
VAN SUSTEREN: No. No.
COSSACK: No. It won't. Let's be quite serious.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it...
COSSACK: Let's make it short and sweet, it is not going to meet that criteria.
VAN SUSTEREN: But the question is whether it should. I mean that's, I mean -- yes, Roger's right, it's not going to meet that criteria. But, you know, the courts in this country could act a lot faster than they do and what they simply do is rely on their history, which is one of to set these sort of long deadlines so things never get done. They say that they're so busy and they've got overcrowded dockets but sometimes circumstances...
COSSACK: That's not exactly, that's not exactly right.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... I think would warrant moving it a little faster.
COSSACK: That's not exactly right.
O'BRIEN: Well, so, then, let me put you on record, then. Are we setting the stage here for another sort of stand-off, this time in Washington?
VAN SUSTEREN: I'm sorry, Miles. Miles, we both missed that question.
O'BRIEN: All right, are we setting the stage here for some, another kind of stand-off in Washington with Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the Cuban attache and -- in custody of Elian -- and in this case federal agents barring their movement outside of the country? Is that what we're going to be seeing over these months?
VAN SUSTEREN: I would hate to see that, but I've got to tell you that, you know, Roger thinks that -- I mean at least, maybe Roger should speak for himself, but I must tell you that if I were the lawyers in this case, I would tell my clients to follow their agreement. They have agreed to keep this child in the country and so I would ask that they actually follow the agreement.
But I would also remind them, you know, that the law doesn't cover them in Cuba and they can, you know, they make their own decision. But I would advise them follow the law.
Now, having said that, I really don't think that there is necessarily anything, that the federal government would ever physically step in the way of that child leaving the country if he did. But I don't know.
COSSACK: No, well, see I don't think. I don't agree with you there. And I agree with follow the law. But I think the federal government would and has to stop the child if the child attempted to leave the country with his father or with anyone else. I think they have the authority and the jurisdiction to prevent him and I think that's what's already happened here. I think that's what that order says.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think -- no. What the order says is that they can't, that they can't assist or attempt to aid in the removal. The order does not say that the federal government is obliged to stand in the way. It just says that you can't aid, assist or attempt to aid or assist in the removal of the plaintiff from the United States.
O'BRIEN: Well, let's just...
COSSACK: I think assisting would be putting him on that airplane and helping him get on that airplane.
VAN SUSTEREN: No, no, no. What I'm saying...
O'BRIEN: However, however, counselors, counselors, side bar for just a moment. The U.S. Marshals Service, as was just underscored a moment ago, is there to provide security for Elian Gonzalez and Juan Miguel. So there will a ring of federal protection regardless.
VAN SUSTEREN: But there's a difference Miles...
O'BRIEN: Would the marshals...
VAN SUSTEREN: Wait a second, Miles.
O'BRIEN: Would the marshals be asked to stand by, perhaps, and allow -- in other words, escort them to the airport?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, we're excluding here, obviously, here Miles, but I mean the strict language of the order says that we can't help him leave the country, we can't aid or assist. The big issue is whether we can physically stand in his way.
COSSACK: But there's more than that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now, if you want...
COSSACK: There's an IRS order that says that he can't leave the country and that, you know, he's in the parole and custody of the INS.
VAN SUSTEREN: I, well...
COSSACK: There's another reason why he can't leave the country.
VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not so sure that you have to leave the country in a very public spectacle way. All I'm saying is that there are ways to get out of this country. If you get out of this country and you get to Cuba, you really don't care if you're in violation of the United States Court of Appeals orders. I'm not advising anyone to violate the law, I'm not suggesting someone should do it. I'm simply saying that if you do get out of this country that you really don't care if this court holds you in contempt if you don't intend to come back to this country.
O'BRIEN: Roger, what would you advise a client in this situation?
COSSACK: Well, if I represented the Miami family I would be, I would say to them, look, don't do anything other than follow the law. Look, we're still in the game. We've got the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals who has issued a stay. They have made it clear that they are interested in our argument about whether or not Elian can, himself can apply for asylum without his father's assistance. There are issues here. We will be able to petition the Supreme Court. It looks like we will be able to stretch this thing out for several months at least. You never know what's going to happen down the road.
Yes, we've lost a terrible battle, but let's go in now and see if we can figure something out where we can get some custody, some temporary custody of the child.
VAN SUSTEREN: Yeah, but this is...
COSSACK: Or at least be able to continue visiting the child. VAN SUSTEREN: This is a major...
COSSACK: Yes, we've lost the child, but they knew they were going to lose that child. They knew eventually that it was going to come to a point when there was no more negotiations and this was going to happen.
VAN SUSTEREN: Yeah, but the problem is, Miles, is that this is a major loss for the family in Miami. Once they lost custody, physical custody of the child, then they really lost this because now the father can tell the child tell them we want to go home.
O'BRIEN: Do they have much standing right now, really, in the eyes of the court, the Miami family?
COSSACK: They're still, the Miami family is still in there with that 11th Circuit. Greta is right.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you.
COSSACK: Look, they have, they've lost possession. But they knew they were going to lose possession, Miles, and everyone knew, Greta, they were going to lose possession. There came a time when there was no more negotiation -- when that father showed up here, their time was numbered and it was just a question of when and how.
VAN SUSTEREN: I've got to tell you, now I think the Miami family is totally out. In a technical basis there's still this May 11th hearing, but I think that the father has his son and now what we're going to see is some process by which that child goes back to Cuba. Whether it's in the short run or long run, I think the Miami family has lost Elian.
COSSACK: But I think that was always the rule. The question was when and how and I think that it's now come to the point where it's the end, certainly in terms of having custody and it's a question of when that child does get back to Cuba.
O'BRIEN: All right, a morning of emotions and points and counterpoints and polarized opinions, our legal analysts included in that mix. Kyra?
PHILLIPS: If you are just tuning in, it is 8:43 on the east, 5:43 out west. At 5:00 a.m. this morning, Elian Gonzalez was taken by federal agents out of the home of his Miami relatives. Please stay with us for continuing breaking news coverage.
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