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Interview with Secretary of State John Kerry; Thousands Honor Killing Spree Victims

Aired May 28, 2014 - 08:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, May 28th. Now, 8:00 in the East.

And we want to welcome our viewers from across the nation and around the world. This morning, President Obama faces a tough test when he lays out his foreign policy at West Point. He's expected to defend himself against charges he's been slow and weak responding to emergencies from Syria to Russia to Iran and North Korea.

So, what is the president's vision, and will it quiet the critics? The man who knows, of course, is the man largely in charge of implementing the strategy, Secretary of State John Kerry who joins us now.

Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for taking the opportunity.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Good to be with you, Chris. Happy to be here.

CUOMO: Rather than just review the speech, let's touch on the issues that will certainly come out of it. The idea of withdrawing from Afghanistan is going to be called by the president a way forward.

How is it a way forward when, as you well know, as soon as the U.S. leaves there, the chances that the place descends back into chaos are very high? Isn't that backwards, not forwards?

KERRY: No. I just -- look, Chris, if you want to find the most negative, gloomy prediction, one can find it and lock onto it.

But the fact is every step of the way since 2009, President Obama has put in place a strategy that has thus far worked. We -- he set a target for the Afghans to take control of their security. They did, and they've done much better than everybody thought.

He set a target for them to have an election and to provide the security and the planning and execution for that election. They did. They did so very successfully. Life is changing every day in Afghanistan, and the fact is the Taliban did not succeed in interrupting that election the way they thought they would. Now, the president is setting a date for them to assume full responsibility for their security in the nation, for the management of their military when they will be trained and fully equipped.

It is only by setting dates that we have been able to meet these milestones. And if you left it open-ended, if you said to the Afghans, we'll be here as long as it takes, you can absolutely bet your bottom dollar, and it probably would be the bottom dollar of the U.S., that they'll take just as long as they want to.

So, what the president is doing is appropriately empowering the Afghans, giving them the opportunity to take control of their future, and that's the best way for them to step up and do so.

CUOMO: A year from now, do you think life on the ground in Afghanistan is better or worse than it is today?

KERRY: Well, we obviously hope it's going to be better, Chris, and everything that has been laid down by the military in their judgment suggests that it will be.

The president is not doing this in some -- you know, pulling it out of the sky, here is an idea. This has been based on months and months of evaluation with the diplomats, with the allies and with our military. Our military commander, General Dunford, believes this is what he needs.

So, this is done on the best judgment of the people who are working the issue and we believe it affords the Afghans the opportunity to take control of their future. You have to measure this from where we were. When we started -- when the president came in in 2009, there was no policy in Afghanistan. We were adrift.

And the president put in place a surge. We had as many as 180,000 troops there. Now, we're down to 30,000. We're going to go down to the 10,000 and then down lower.

And I'm confident that the Afghans will continue to step up and assume responsibility.

You also look at -- I mean, look at other challenges. In the Ukraine, the president put in place a very careful, calculated, calibrated strategy to bring the Europeans along, to not go so far that you provoke Putin, but you put in place.

CUOMO: Well, Mr. Secretary --

KERRY: Russia's economy has felt the impact. We've had a successful election there. Removing to a transition, President Putin has decided to withdraw some of the troops. We hope this can move in a better direction. In fact, with slow, steady, confident programs, we're having an impact, there and elsewhere. CUOMO: Well, but it's sometimes about the words you choose, right? You say it's a calculated, calibrated, it didn't provoke Putin. But others look at it and say it was weak, that lines have been crossed all over the place. And that exactly because you didn't push Putin, you allowed him to run roughshod and really almost threaten the existence of NATO in Ukraine.

KERRY: That is absurd and absolutely wrong on its face. I'm just telling you it's plain wrong.

NATO has been strengthened. NATO has been awakened. NATO is doing a full assurance program right now with additional troops throughout the NATO countries.

The president is going to Poland next Monday, Tuesday. There's a reaffirmation, if you will, of the NATO mission that has come out of what Putin has done.

Russia is not playing with the strongest hand. In fact, Russia has been weakened through this. If you look at the amount of money Russia is having to pour into Crimea, if you look at the economy of Russia, they've had huge capital plight. They've had to spend billions of dollars to shore up the rubble. Their economy has slowed down, it's in a recession now.

It is clear the opposite of what you just laid out is happening. Putin was threatening to come in with troops. In fact, the troops are now being withdrawn. They've had a successful election for the president of Ukraine.

I think the president's policy has worked. I think the European alliance has been strengthened. The unity between Europe and the United States is what has empowered this election to take place and made it clear to Russia that the West is unified and there will be a very severe price to pay for further interference in Ukraine.

I just think that, you know, what you've cited is a sort of industry of oppositionists in Washington who always want to find the negative, but it does not comport with the facts on the ground.

CUOMO: Well, Mr. Secretary, obviously, we should all be for optimism. But you've given them a lot to work with. Starting with Syria, don't cross this line. Any way you want to define the line, it's crossed. The situation is still going on in Syria.

The administration likes to cite that 90-plus percent of the chemical weapons is gone. But whatever is still there is by all accounts being used. In Iran, the line, what we're negotiating --

KERRY: Chris, let me just stop you.

CUOMO: It seems the situations don't seem too inspire the confidence you have in them.

KERRY: Chris, again, you're not dealing with facts. If we had struck with our military for a one or two-day operation in Syria, yes, it would have had an impact for a day or two, but every single one of the chemical weapons that were terrorizing the people of Syria would have still been in Assad's hands. Instead, we struck an agreement which has now succeeded in removing 92 percent of all of those weapons. The other 8 percent are under control. They are waiting to be moved as the security situation allows it.

And the only weapon that we think may have been used is not one that is automatically included under the chemical weapons convention. It's chlorine. We are investigating that right now, Chris, and if we find there has been a use, there will be consequences.

But the simple reality is we have done what could not have been done with a strike. We are removing the weapons and taking the threat away. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel just praised President Obama the other day, citing this as an extraordinary accomplishment and one couldn't have imagined months ago.

CUOMO: But, Mr. Secretary --

KERRY: So, yes, there's a problem in Syria. It continues the president has decided to increase the support to the moderate opposition. We have a more unified group of nations that are working to help assist that opposition and obviously we will continue to be supportive.

CUOMO: Mr. Secretary, in point of fact, in terms of who wanted to use military in Syria, initially that was the president's idea. I mean, I did the interview with him where he was calling for caution. Three days later, he was ready to use military strikes that you said would have been ill-advised.

It was only when Congress didn't come out and support him that --

KERRY: Chris, please don't -- Chris, please don't make up language. I didn't say ill-advised. I said it would have done damage, but only a certain amount. It would not have removed the weapons. So, don't put words in my mouth.

I said it would not have accomplished the task of removing all the weapons. The simple reality is the president did announce publicly what he was prepared to do. Congress was not prepared to support it.

And before we even got to the final vote in congress, I reached an agreement in Geneva with Russians and Sergey Lavrov and we agreed to remove all the weapons.

So, instead of a partial solution, we're getting a whole solution to the problem of chemical weapons.

It's remarkable to me that people simply want to refuse to accept that we're better off getting all the weapons out than striking for one or two days and doing damage to some of them.

CUOMO: I understand that, Mr. Secretary. Obviously the job is to test the arguments that will be made by the administration, and we appreciate you doing so. Let me switch topics slightly. When you look at situations of American citizens abroad like Kenneth Bae and like the marine, Mr. Tahmooressi is being held in Mexico. We had Tahmooressi's mother on hoping for more on that situation. The family of Kenneth Bae hoping for more.

Isn't it important that the U.S. do everything it can to bring its citizens back home when they are being held abroad, especially if it's lawfully? Do you think you can do more there?

KERRY: Well, absolutely. It's important to get any citizen back, and we are literally working daily on every single citizen.

There is not one -- just the other day, I spoke out publicly about Mr. Hekmati in Iran. We raised these issues. We're raising them constantly. I raised them with Mexican officials when I was in Mexico.

We are working on determining whether or not certain evidence that has been presented is meeting the standard that's necessary to be able to hold that young marine, and we're trying to find out exactly what the fact pattern is. But we are working on that.

As recently as last week, I had those discussions with Mexican authorities. We hope to be able to inform the family soon about where we stand with respect to the state of the evidence and what his status will be.

CUOMO: Well, that's good to hear, Mr. Secretary, especially for that family and the family of Kenneth Bae, and all the families held abroad. They're all worried about those issues. So, it's good to know that they're on your agenda.

Thank you for your vigorous defense of the foreign policy of the United States.

KERRY: Happy to be with you. Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Appreciate you coming on NEW DAY.


KERRY: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Class is back in session this morning at UC-Santa Barbara five days after a troubled young man killed six people, six students in a bloody rampage before killing himself. Twenty thousand mourners packed the campus stadium last night to pay tribute to those victims.

Let's bring in Stephanie Elam who's live from Santa Barbara again this morning with the very latest -- Stephanie.


It was a vigil that was packed with emotion. Instead of focusing on the shooter, people decided to send their love to the memory of the six students killed from UCSB.



ELAM (voice-over): Chanting to end gun violence, around 20,000 people packed a U.C. Santa Barbara stadium.

JANET NAPOLITANO, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: We are here because we want to share memories of the young lives struck down far too soon.

ELAM: Honoring all six victims murdered in the killing spree of 22- year-old Elliot Rodger, speakers demanding change so a deadly rampage like this does not happen again.

MARTINEZ: How many more people are going to have to die in this situation before the problem gets solved?

ELAM: Already, one proposed change. Two California assembly members announcing legislation Tuesday. Leaders on the national level speaking out as well.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: There are compromises that will save lives. Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, whether they're severely mentally ill or felons or drug addicts. Background checks will help stem and stop gun violence.

ELAM: More vigils were held across Santa Barbara, as video and stories of heroism emerged. This surveillance video capturing students inside a pizza parlor ducking and scrambling for cover as the gunman driving by fires inside.

RANJEET THIARA, 7-ELEVEN STORE OWNER: People are panicking. So, you know, I tell them, don't worry. Everything is fine. Let's just get back there.

ELAM: And a Good Samaritan, the clerk of a 7-Eleven ran outside to help a cyclist who was shot, pulling her to safety and telling her she would survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a stool and put her down right here. We sat her down. You could see she had two gunshots right here, so you could see the bullets.

ELAM: Twelve others were injured as Rodger fired round after round. This morning classes at the university are set to resume.


ELAM: And as the investigation continues into the shooting, we're learning more about him, that in divorce papers it was revealed that the young man when he was 7 years old was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome which is on the autism spectrum. But one expert telling CNN that there is no connection between autism and violence. Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Stephanie, thank you very much.

CUOMO: Also very important not to simplify these different illnesses and diagnoses. The case could be much more complicated than that. So, we'll have to follow on it. We're going to do that when we come back, because coming up on NEW DAY, "Not one more." That's the hashtag circling the country.

No more guns, no more violent media. What about treating the mentally ill?

Earlier, we told you about Congressman Tim Murphy's bill. We have someone else coming on the show with a different idea. Take a listen and decide if there could be an answer.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The shooting in Santa Barbara has brought our mental health policy or lack thereof into very sharp focus. Earlier this morning, we spoke with Representative Tim Murphy. He's behind a bill in Congress that would overhaul our mental health system.

Joining us now to talk more about this bill and a competing bill in Congress is the director and CEO of Mental Health America, Mr. Paul Gionfriddo.

Paul, very nice for you to be with us.


CUOMO: Let us begin by going back. What we're dealings with today is no accident, is it? This is the pendulum swinging the other way. There was a time not too long ago that one in every 100, for example, New Yorkers were institutionalized. There was a big revolt to that.

You were part of that revolt. You were in the statehouse in Connecticut and we wanted to make sure we didn't warehouse the mentally ill anymore. That has led us to where we are today.

Is that a fair appraisal?

GIONFRIDDO: Yes, it's a fair appraisal. We didn't want to warehouse people with mental illness anymore, so what we ended up doing is what we now call jails and prisons.

CUOMO: Instead of places that they would get treatment, and arguably not proper treatment, not funded treatment, you now have them in places that can't hope to treat them at all? Fair?

GIONFRIDDO: It's fair to say we put them back in places like the custodial care institutions that we had them in 1980s, we put them back into custodial air institutions now called jails and prisons.

What we didn't do was build a community system of care and treatment and that's what we need to do at the time and failed to do.

CUOMO: Now, you know this as a professional, as a lawmaker and as a human being who loves someone with mental experience. Tell us about the experience you know firsthand about how difficult it is to get the system to work for you when it comes to mental health.

GIONFRIDDO: Yes, I was not just a policy maker in the 1980s that was connected to pretty much anybody in Connecticut who could make a difference in my son's life.

But when my young son named Tim was diagnosed with serious mental illness which began to manifest at the age of 5, I went through the system. And we went through this system for decades. We did not have a good outcome.

We had the more typical outcome. The schools failed him. The service delivery system failed him. We didn't get integrated care. We didn't get a lot of early identification and appropriate services in response. My son, like so many tens of thousands of people like him, have ended up as homeless, on the streets of San Francisco in his case.

CUOMO: And you feel that he is just lost to the system and there is no way to help him?

GIONFRIDDO: Listen, any comprehensive system needs to focus on four things. Prevention because mental illness is a disease of childhood. Early identification and intervention because the sooner we act, the better results we get. Integrated health and behavioral health care.

And then recovery is an option. Recovery is a goal for everybody.

And what we have failed to do with this mental health system is really to invest heavily in any of those four things. And as a result, it's not that people like my son Tim are lost to the system today because people like my son Tim, when they were children, did not have to be lost to the system.

So, what we need to do is work back. We need to make certain that we give people hope. We give people alternatives. We give people options.

And prison, and jail, and forced treatment, all kinds of other things, frankly, are not options.

CUOMO: So, what is the answer? Because we have the destruction now of the gun debate, right? Not to say gun policy isn't relevant and has to be promoted in some way and debated. But that's what always dominates when we have one of these violent actions.

And mental illness is raised by some of us and brushed aside. What do you think needs to happen?

GIONFRIDDO: If you put every single story we've had in recent years, one on top of another and look for common treatments, you'll find a common theme that pretty much their parents knew there were problems. Their schools knew there were problems. Their friends knew there were problems.

And no matter how connected those parents were, no matter how many resources they had at their disposal, they were unable to get the resources they needed to provide for the early identification and intervention and the kind of integrated care and treatment that their children and later on young adults need.

The solution is really simple. The solution is to reverse decisions that have been made in the states over the last five years that have cut $4.6 billion for mental health services in our country and add those dollars and then some back.

Frankly, the federal legislation that we had before falls so short of dealing with that, that it's only going to end up disappointing people at the other end.

CUOMO: So, give us the name of the bill that people should look into and see is an alternative to what's being offered right now?

GIONFRIDDO: I think people should look at the Murphy bill because there are some good things in that, and I think people should look into Ron Barber's bill because there are other good things than that.

But what we really all need to do is look within our hearts and figure out whether it's really worth it to us not to spend money on people who need treatment and care. Would it have been worth it to say to people who have stage four cancer, we're not going to treat you until you have advanced cancer? Is it worth it to us to say to people with heart disease, we're not going to treat you until you have stage four heart disease?

Why is it going to be worth it to us? And why should we say we're not going to treat you until you have late stage middle illness?

We need to move way up stream, 10 years up earlier and say, we're going to start putting money into treatment then so we can prevent the kinds of things hitting the news practically every week these days.

CUOMO: I know the frustration to you. You know all too well how preventable it could be if everyone got behind the cause. Please keep fighting the good fight. We are here to help.

GIONFRIDDO: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling not going down without a fight. His new response to the NBA calling them trying to work him out a sham.

Does he have an argument? Does he have any sort of a case? Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, he's here.