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White House Briefing Continues; Mandela in Critical Condition; Berlusconi Convicted

Aired June 24, 2013 - 12:30   ET


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But there are other agencies involved in the effort to deal with this situation, and that involves diplomacy as well as law enforcement.


CARNEY: But again, I think that, to your question about the U.S. handling of it, I think I addressed the issue of the passport -- again, without having -- without being able to be specific about an individual's passport because of the Privacy Act.

I was able to say what I said about the fact that Hong Kong authorities were advised of the status of Mr. Snowden's travel documents in plenty of time to have prohibited his travel as appropriate, again, and there was no indication in any of the conversations between U.S. officials and Hong Kong officials prior to their request for information that preceded the departure of Mr. Snowden that there were any problems.

QUESTION: And along the same lines, in terms of U.S. handling, there have been some suggestions in reports that Interpol was not contacted early enough in this process to alert them to the fact that the U.S. wanted their help.

Is that true? When were they contacted?

CARNEY: Again, I think that there's a -- you need to understand, as I believe is the case, that on matters of Interpol red notices, that in general, a red notice is most valuable when the whereabouts of a fugitive are unknown. Here we knew the fugitive was in Hong Kong and directly sought his provisional arrest pending extradition while the charges were under seal.

It is unfortunate that Hong Kong inappropriately failed to take action on our requests and permitted a fugitive to simply leave their country in an obvious attempt to escape justice.

QUESTION: Last thing on this: the administration was obviously embarrassed when you had a 29-year-old person as contractor just leak all these documents in the first place.

Is the administration embarrassed now that you can't track him down, that he's -- this cat-and-mouse game that's going on for all the world to see? CARNEY: I think I've been very clear about the actions we've taken and the -- our assessment of the failure of authorities in Hong Kong to act appropriately on a provisional arrest. We have known where he is and believe we know where he is now, and there are ongoing conversations about that. Beyond that, we'll have to assess as time passes.

QUESTION: Jay, we're more than six hours removed from the supposed airplane he was supposedly going to be on, on the way to Havana.

Is him not on an airplane yet -- should that be taken as a sign that negotiations between the U.S. government and Russian government are making progress? They're ongoing?

Is that a positive sign as far as the U.S. government is concerned, that Mr. Snowden did not get on -- has not gotten on any airplane?

CARNEY: All I can say, Chuck, because this is obviously an ongoing situation, as you describe it, is that we have asked the Russians to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States.

I can note, as I have, that we have worked cooperatively with the Russians in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and have a fairly substantial history of law enforcement cooperation with Russia as a backdrop to this discussion.

But I wouldn't want to characterize communications at this point or speculate about outcomes. This is clearly fluid and we're monitoring --


QUESTION: -- so far they're cooperating?

CARNEY: Well, again, I -- you know, we -- it is our understanding that Mr. Snowden remains in Russia. Beyond that, I wouldn't want to speculate about next steps, except that we have communicated to the Russians our hope that they will look at all options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. government believe that if he is allowed to leave Russia then you probably -- the U.S. government is probably going to give up on getting him back (inaudible)?

CARNEY: I wouldn't want to speculate about that. I don't think "give up" is really a way to characterize the situation. Right now, we believe we understand where he is, and we're having appropriate conversations about that, and I wouldn't want to get ahead of that.

QUESTION: Quickly on immigration: one of the House Democrats, who's tried to be involved in the talks, has said that it's not -- doesn't believe it's a blow to immigration reform if it doesn't -- if a version of it does not pass the House before the August recess.

It seems to be different from where the White House wants something to pass the House before the August recess.

Are you guys comfortable with the idea -- ?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Things we have learned from the White House briefing. Edward Snowden departed Hong Kong yesterday. The White House confirming that he, in fact, did travel to Russia, arrived in Russia according to Jay Carney; he is still there. The United States, U.S. officials are engaged in talks with Russian officials to make sure that he is brought from Russia back to the United States.

He wouldn't give anymore about that, whether or not that was or was not going to happen.

But you and I talking about this, the more time that goes by, very likely that they are in a good point --


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, if didn't get on that plane to Havana, then one imagines that they are having a good conversation.

What was interesting, though, was he really did rip into China. He said the request that was made for them to play ball met all the requirements of agreements. He said that there could be repercussions in the relationship with China. And that was a very pointed comment.

MALVEAUX: Let's bring in Gloria to talk about that.

Because, Gloria, I mean one of the things he says, they're not buying it. They're not buying China's explanation.

What do they do? What are the options now?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think as you point out, hopefully they are in discussions in some way with Russia. But the frustration was clear to me from Jay Carney. He came out and said our frustration and disappointment with Hong Kong and China is evident. He kept calling it a setback in the relationship.

He made it very clear that authorities had been advised in what he said plenty of time to have prohibited his travel. I mean, it's very clear; you don't have to read between the lines here. This is not diplospeak. This was English. And what he said was this is a real problem for us going forward, and I think in saying that with Hong Kong and China, one can infer that it would be the same with Russia.

HOLMES: And he's also saying that he'd made -- that the U.S. had made it very clear that this guy's passport had been withdrawn. He was without valid travel documents and yet he was still apparently allowed to go. The Hong Kong officials saying that they had no reason to hold him, that there was a problem with what the U.S. was giving them. Jay Carney is saying, no, that's not the case.

BORGER: No, not the case. And in fact, the Justice Department has put out this very long and involved timeline, which Jay Carney was reading from, in part, talking about the exact steps and the conversations that the attorney general had and that others had and the -- exactly everything, every discussion that was had and that there were no red flags put up at any point, as Jay Carney said today, that nobody had been given any indication that this extradition would not go forward, as they believe was required under the law.

And that's why he said we're not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official.

MALVEAUX: Let's bring in Jeffrey Toobin here, because Jeffrey, we're talking about obviously the diplomatic side to this, the political side. There is a legal side. We know that Attorney General Eric Holder, talking to his counterparts in Hong Kong and China, now they're having discussions with Russia.

What can the United States do on the legal front to get this guy back to the United States?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't really think there is a legal front. This is a political and diplomatic contest. If China wanted to turn him over, they would have turned him over. If Russia wants to turn him over, they will turn him over.

That will be a judgment made by the leaders of those countries. This is not a matter of the Justice Department writing a really persuasive brief or writing or invoking precisely the right part of the treaty. This is a diplomatic issue between the United States and these countries, and it's really all about our relationship. I don't think that the legal side of it matters much at all.

HOLMES: But, Jeff, what are the -- there are agreements in place. You know, international rules are you don't have a valid passport, you don't travel. Now if you let somebody travel on a passport that's been pulled, that sets a pretty nasty precedent.

TOOBIN: It does set a nasty precedent. But as far as I could tell, the United States and Hong Kong has a long history of cooperation in law enforcement matters. It's worked very well over many years. This was an exception, because it is so fraught with political complications.

And China, it seems to me, simply decided we don't want to turn this guy over. We want to send him to Russia or send him out of here somewhere, and they decided not to follow rules that have been followed for a great many years. But there's no remedy for that. You can't go to some Supreme Court. You can't go to the United Nations. This is a issue of reciprocity.

Yes, it could damage relations but that's the only thing it could do. China cannot be called to account except in terms of its relationship with the United States.

MALVEAUX: All right.

BORGER: It's also like passing around a hot potato, if you will. China may well have decided we don't want to keep him in Hong Kong, but we're not sending him back. So we're going to let him go to Russia, we're going to get him off our plate and now it's Putin's problem, which apparently is it.

MALVEAUX: All right.

HOLMES: And a lot of eye poking as we were saying --


MALVEAUX: It's only going to get more interesting to see just how this has impacted the relationships.

Gloria as well as Jeffrey, thank you.

We have been also following another story. This is Nelson Mandela remains in critical condition at a South African hospital. Just coming up in a few minutes, we're going to hear what his daughter has to say about his health now.



HOLMES: OK. Welcome back. I'm taking you now to South Africa, where Nelson Mandela is in hospital in a critical condition.

MALVEAUX: His condition was downgraded from stable yesterday. His daughter, Maki, spoke with our Robyn Curnow about his health.


MAKI MANDELA, NELSON MANDELA'S DAUGHTER: I want him to be comfortable.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Comfortable? Is that all you can really do for him now?

MANDELA: When you say is that all that can be done now, no. They haven't stopped treating him with all the best medication, the ease, in the world.

CURNOW: Do you think he's at peace?

MANDELA: Yes, I believe he is at peace. I think he's at peace with himself. He has given so much to the world.


HOLMES: And Robin joins us now from Pretoria in South Africa.

Robin, beyond his daughter, what's been the reaction? (Inaudible) his decline in health from within the family, have you got the media surrounding the place? I mean, everybody's feeling a bit crushed, I should imagine.

CURNOW: Hi, there, Michael. Well, indeed, I mean, this is sensitive times for everyone, isn't it? I mean, a family on one hand say they want more privacy. They say they want the world to back off. They're treating Nelson Mandela, which is what he is, as a grandfather and as a husband and as a dad. They say, listen, he might be a global icon to all of us, but leave him in peace, leave them in peace.

On the other hand, many people here, you know, in South Africa saying, well, listen, this is a man who, you know, built the foundations of this democracy. He's greatly loved. He's, you know, one of the greatest icons of the 20th century in terms of his political achievements, so we should be expected to know what's going on. So there's this balance, this dichotomy, this tug between the right to privacy and the right to information.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Robyn Curnow, thanks so much, joining us there from Pretoria.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: And a court has now sentenced Silvio Berlusconi. The former Italian prime minister was found guilty now of hiring an underage prostitute, then trying to cover it up. We're going to tell you what he is facing now.


HOLMES: All right, an Italian court sentencing Silvio Berlusconi to seven years in prison. The former Italian prime minister found guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitute known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer," and then trying to cover it up.

MALVEAUX: Berlusconi also banned for life from holding any public office in Italy.

Joining us from Milan, Ben Wedeman.

So, Ben, first of all, is this what people expected?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, it's harsher than what was expected. It was harsher than the sentence that the prosecution asked for. They asked for six years, but the judges, the three female judges, came out with seven years. Now, predictably, Berlusconi's supporters and his legal team are saying that the judges made a politicized decision. Berlusconi, in the past, has suggested that the Italian judiciary is dominated by leftists and communists and therefore he's paying the price for that.

But people we spoke to after the verdict said they were happy with the sentence. That they said that Berlusconi, over the last 20 years with his many political, sexual, personal scandals has made this country the world's laughing stack. So at least, in this area, the reaction to the verdict was positive.

HOLMES: All right, Ben, good to see you. Ben Wedeman there. Apparently two appeals allowed after - allowed under Italian law, so this has got years to run probably.

MALVEAUX: It's not over. Not over. Far from it.

HOLMES: Not over. Yes, but he's got plenty of other legal worries too.


And James Gandolfini died last week in Italy. His body has now been brought back to the United States and his funeral is set. What's next for the late "Soprano" star, coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I talked to John. The (INAUDIBLE) came in but there was no opportunity to grab them because of increased security at the ports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus Christ. The young crowd is crazy for these scores (ph). He owes me half the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) load.


HOLMES: Yes, what a great performer. The voice, of course, of the iconic actor James Gandolfini. His body now returned to the United States.

MALVEAUX: A family friend told CNN today that a charter flight carrying the body arrived in Newark, New Jersey, Sunday night. "The Sopranos" star suffered a heart attack and died last week while working - while on a working vacation in Rome. His funeral to be held Thursday in Manhattan.

HOLMES: And those protests in Brazil, well, they continue.

MALVEAUX: Thousands marching Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. They're upset over a change in the law that would reduce the ability of prosecutors to investigate corruption. Now, the protests began over an increase in bus fares. Well, they have now escalated to a nationwide movement protesting government spending, on sports events and other big issues. Now, Sunday, protesters were pushed back as they tried to reach a stadium. That is in Fortalisa (ph). That is where Brazil is hosting a Confederation's Cup match.

HOLMES: And all of that a prelude, of course, to the World Cup.

Now to India. As many as a thousand people now may be dead in the flooding that we've been reporting on there. And there is a scramble to rescue thousands more trapped by the flood waters and also landslides.

MALVEAUX: India's military is pitching in to help rescue people in the Himalayan region near the border with Tibet. About 70,000 people have already been forced from the area since the flooding began.

Meanwhile, around Calgary, in western Canada, flood waters are now receding.

HOLMES: Yes, tens of thousands of people are getting to move back into their homes after being evacuated, but another city, Alberta, is bracing for severe flooding today. We're talking about a place called - you may have heard of this -- Medicine Hat. It's about 350 miles from Montana, for the U.S. viewers. Some 10,000 people evacuated from there. Thousands of sandbags have been stacked as the city prepares for the South Saskatchewan River to overflow its banks. Officials did expect the water to be higher than the flood of 1995, which was Medicine Hat's worst ever. Although we are told that the river has now crested.

MALVEAUX: Wow. Dramatic pictures.


MALVEAUX: Well, that's it for us and AROUND THE WORLD. We'll be back tomorrow at noon. But CNN NEWSROOM continues right after this.