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Controversial Prisoner Trade; Obama Takes on Pollution; Senate Takes Up V.A. Bill; New Apple Devices Today?

Aired June 2, 2014 - 04:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Controversy this morning after an American soldier held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years is freed, traded for five Taliban terrorists detained for years at Guantanamo Bay.

Right now, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is recovering at a hospital in Germany. His family ecstatic that he's finally free but saying his fight is far from over, this as the Taliban declares victory for the return of their men.

Who are these terrorists and why were they chosen for this prisoner swap? We have live, team coverage, ahead.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Good to see you this morning. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Very busy Monday morning, folks.

I'm Christine Romans. Thirty-one minutes past the hour.

"You made it, you are free", Sergeant Bergdahl's mother sending that emotional message to her son as he begins his recovery this morning from five years in captivity. He is in a hospital right now in Germany.

Bergdahl's newfound freedom is touching off a firestorm, frankly, on Capitol Hill. Critics say the president crossed a line here by negotiating with terrorists, as new questions are raised about the circumstances involving Bergdahl's capture. Many soldiers who served with him consider him a deserter.

Let's bring in senior international correspondent Nic Robertson live from Landstuhl, Germany, where Bergdahl is being treated.

A five-year ordeal, three years of furious back-and-forth negotiation between the U.S., the emir of Qatar, and the Taliban, and now he is on his way home. What's the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and how long will that recovery or reintegration process, as it's being called here, how long that will take is not clear. We're being told the doctors here are very sensitive to everything that Sergeant Bergdahl has been through, that they will work the reintegration at a speed and a pace that he is comfortable with, but precisely how long that takes is unclear, precisely how long he'll remain here before coming back to the United States is unclear.

And when will he meet his parents? That also unclear.

But his mother very, very clear. She says she's looking forward to throwing her arms around him.


JANI BERGDAHL, SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL'S MOTHER: I'm so looking forward to seeing your face after these last 5 1/2 years, long, long years, and to giving you a great big bear hug and holding you in my arms again, never wanting to let you go. Our family, your family is strong in faith and hope. You are from a strong tribe. You are even stronger now. Five years is a seemingly endless, long time, but you've made it.


ROBERTSON: Well, how much stronger and how many helping hands to help Sergeant Bergdahl get better, that really is the unknown. No one but he really knows what he's been through, the extremes, possible mock executions, all the sorts of things we hear from this type of situation in the past, we don't know. But what they'll do here at the hospital is help him medically, help him psychologically, you know, to just try to get back to a normal life, understand that he is free.

But also, there will be that desire to learn about what happens. Is there any timely intelligence information that he may have, that he may have gleamed from where his location, from his captors, all those sorts of things, that will also be part of the reintegration, Christine.

ROMANS: And the circumstance of his capture, that's something that is of concern of some of the people who have served with him, who say he sort of walked off that base. That is still something that is echoing here.

ROBERTSON: And I'm sure that's something that will be echoing here, if you will, as well, in Landstuhl, the medical facility. The process of reintegration is described to us as something that helps him at the pace that he can cope with, medically, mentally, psychologically. But there is that important component of what can be learned about his capture, what lessons can be learned that can be put in place in the future to protect other soldiers.

So, we're not being told, you know, how he passed the night here last night, for example. We're not learning any of the details of the process he's going through. But absolutely, we can expect for sure that the military commanders along with his former comrades are going to want to know precisely what led to his capture. And only he knows that at the moment. ROMANS: True. That's absolutely true. Nic Robertson, and the overriding concern of the American government at this point was we bring our guys home. That's why they did this.

Nic Robertson, thanks.

BERMAN: What about the other side of the equation, the five Taliban suspects who were swapped for Sergeant Bergdahl? They are in Qatar this morning. These pictures released by the Taliban, reportedly showing their arrival. Under the terms of this prisoner exchange, they will have to spend the next year living there with their movement and activities restricted.

This morning, we are getting a clearer picture of who these former detainees are and the threat that they still may pose.

Let's go back two years right now. Listen to National Intelligence Director James Clapper warning Congress that these five men were too dangerous to release ever.


JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't think anyone harbors any illusions about these five Taliban members and what they might do if they were transferred.


BERMAN: Becky Anderson is on the phone live from Qatar this morning. We see her live there.

Good morning, Becky, in Qatar, where these prisoners now are. What's the latest?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is what we know to date. You've reported that the Taliban here tweeting pictures of these detainees arriving in Doha on Sunday. We believe that a Qatari delegation was at Guantanamo Bay for three days ahead of their release, as I say, arriving here on Sunday.

Where they are now -- well, that is unclear at this point. We've been down to what the Taliban consider their political office here in Qatar. It is incredibly hot. There was no activity outside. We spoke to a security guard who said he had seen no activity there for 24 or 48 hours.

It is not even clear, there's no sign on the door, there's no flag there at the political office. But you'll remember back in 2013, when that office was opened, it enraged the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, when they raised the flag and they called it the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan. At that point, it was temporarily closed.

So, is it housing or hosting those five detainees? Very unclear at the moment. What we do know from the Taliban sources here is that since that office has been open, they have had a clear priority in getting Qatar to mediate the release of these five detainees. Now, what do we know about them? Well, we believe that they are mid- to-high-ranking officials. The U.S. saying that they were being held for the last decade or more at Guantanamo Bay because of their affiliations or their links to the Taliban, not to al Qaeda.

But when you look into just some of what these guys' background is this morning -- I know you've got some pictures of these guys, and let's just bring those pictures up and I can talk you through some of them. One, possibly the most important, this is Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa, possibly the most important, former interior minister alleged to be directly associated with Osama bin Laden. Others have been accused by the U.S. in the past as having direct links to al Qaeda, but certainly, as far as U.S. administration officials are concerned now, they are saying it's their links to the Taliban, which is why they were being held at Guantanamo Bay, not their links to al Qaeda.

So, as I say, as things stand at present here, the foreign minister speaking yesterday, talking about the humanitarian efforts they've made as far as mediation is concerned here in Qatar. So, you've got five men here, their whereabouts unknown. As you rightly point out, the U.S. has asked for absolute security that these guys will not be allowed to roam free over the next year, that they will be held, effectively, under some sort of house arrest, detention, certainly from sources here we are hearing they are simply an accommodation today.

And we are also hearing from sources, although I can't confirm that at present, that their families have been flown over from Afghanistan. As I say, their whereabouts unknown at this point. We're still digging, John.

BERMAN: The details of how they will be held, the details of how they will be monitored. They seem deliberately murky this morning and the terms of this deal.

Becky Anderson live for us in Doha -- thank you so much.

ROMANS: The prisoner exchange that led to Sergeant Bergdahl's release is triggering a firestorm on Capitol Hill, the debate pitting America's commitment to leave no soldier behind against its stated policy to never negotiate with terrorists. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel insists the security risk posed by the prisoner swap is being overstated, but Arizona Senator John McCain does not see it that way.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I certainly believe that the administration broke the spirit, if not the letter of the law. But again, my major concern is not what the administration did as far as the law is concerned. My concern is what these individuals will be able to do in terms of this release, and it's a great concern to all of us.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't think what we did in getting our prisoner of war released in any way would somehow encourage terrorists to take our American servicemen prisoner or hostage.


ROMANS: Critics of the prisoner exchange believe it will give terrorists a strong incentive to capture more Americans in an attempt to negotiate the release of other detainees.

BERMAN: Another big story out of Washington today. The president is set to unveil a plan that sets new limits on carbon emissions from the nation's power plants. The measure calls for a 30 percent reduction by 2030. States have a wide range of options to meet this goal.

The new initiative takes effect, would take effect next year and is part of a larger climate action plan that also promotes renewable energy sources like solar and wind. This will be very, very controversial, but states will be entered into these regional partnerships that could allow them to cap and trade, which is actually a national plan that never made it through Congress.

ROMANS: All right. The Senate is expected to introduce a bill later this week to end long delays for veterans at V.A. hospitals. It would allow vets to seek care outside the V.A. They could go to private doctors' offices, military bases. They could go to community health centers, something they can't do now.

It also calls for emergency funding to hire new doctors and nurses, something they desperately need. And it would give -- forgive college loans, forgive college loans for health care professionals who agree to work at V.A. medical centers.

BERMAN: We're learning new details this morning about the NSA's global surveillance program, citing documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. "The New York Times" reports the agency is building a comprehensive facial recognition database by intercepting millions of electronic images, often from e-mails, text messages and social media. The report says NSA officials believe this new technology will revolutionize how they find intelligence targets all around the world.

ROMANS: Time for an EARLY START on your money. Markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai closed today for a holiday.

Here in the U.S., we could look at another record for stocks. U.S. futures trading slightly higher right now. Record closes for the Dow and the S&P 500 Friday.

Investors proving that old mantra sell in May and go away is not true this year! The NASDAQ up more than 3 percent last month, the S&P up more than 2 percent.

A big stock we'll watch today, Apple. Shares are up 7 percent in May. It's trading around $633 a share. Still below its record high of $702 hit a couple years ago, but shares could be headed back in that direction.

Today is the company's worldwide developers' conference. Apple watchers predict iHome will be unveiled where users can control household items with their iPhone or iPad and we could also see a new iPhone. They call it iStuff.

We're going to learn about all kinds of iStuff today.

BERMAN: Istuff. I excited.

ROMANS: All right.

Geez. Happy Monday.

Breaking news overnight, the woman who recorded Donald Sterling's racist remarks attacked on the street just days after V. Stiviano's own views on race are leaked online, next.


BERMAN: V. Stiviano, the woman at the center of the Donald Sterling scandal, reportedly was attacked by two men last night as she left a restaurant in New York City. Stiviano's attorney says the attackers shouted racial slurs, including the "N" word, and left her with bruises on the right side of her face.

Now, this incident took place just after the release of some video where Stiviano's caught on tape making derogatory remarks about African Americans. I think this tape is from this reality show she was filming about three years ago.

Nevertheless, she is scheduled to sit down with an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper for a segment airing tonight. Her attorney says she plans to go through with the interview.

ROMANS: This morning, the FBI is on the hunt for a San Francisco man wanted on explosives charges. Law enforcement raided the apartment of 42-year-old Ryan Kelly Chamberlain this morning, reportedly recovering explosives at the scene. Chamberlain was last seen Saturday.

Now, there he is. Officials say he has not made any known threats but is still considered armed and dangerous. They're asking for the public's help finding him.

BERMANS: It's a strange case. Pretty well-known guy in the Bay Area, did work for the San Francisco "Chronicle," known in journalism circles.

ROMANS: Yes, graduated from Iowa State in 1993, the same year I did actually and worked at "The Des Moines Register," also where I worked, so a lot of people talking about this in journalism circles, wondering what's up here.

BERMAN: Strange case.

Forty-eight minutes after the hour.

Two grief-stricken fathers coming together Sunday. Richard Martinez, who's son Christopher was gunned down in that California rampage just over a week ago, came face to face with Peter Rodger, whose son Elliot killed six people and wounded 13 others. Martinez has spoken out against the nation's gun laws, requesting the meeting. The meeting did take place in private.

ROMANS: All right. Police arresting a man they say murdered three people at a Jewish museum. We are live with new developments right after the break.


ROMANS: All right, 4:51 a.m. in the East.

Breaking news right now: King Juan Carlos of Spain is abdicating after nearly 40 years on the throne. His son, Prince Felipe, will succeed him. This is according to Spain's prime minister. Juan Carlos is 76 years old. His health has been failing in recent months. He's best known for helping smooth Spain's transition to democracy in the 1970s at the end of Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

Don't hear about abdication very often.

BERMAN: No, you don't. It's certainly a towering figure in that country for a long, long time. People forget the '70s and the turmoil in Spain, but he was a part of bringing that to an end.

Fifty-two minutes after the hour.

French authorities have arrested a suspect in last month's deadly shootings at a Jewish museum in Brussels. The suspect is a 29-year- old Frenchman with a long criminal history. He was picked up during a routine customs check, and police say he was carrying weapons matching the ones used in the museum attacks.

Let's bring in Atika Shubert live from Brussels this morning.

Atika, what do we know?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, his name is Mehdi Nemmouche. He's a 29-year-old French Algerian. And he's been in and out of the prison system in France for about years.

He was caught on what was basically --

BERMAN: Atika Shubert, we've lost our connection with her. She's talking about this man, seeing pictures of him right now. He does have ties to some Islamic extremists, and of course, France dealing much more so even than with the U.S. with people with connections to Islamic terrorism going to Syria to fight in that conflict there and then returning home. It's an issue very, very much in the news there.

We will keep following this story for you. We'll get back Atika as soon as we can.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, the millennial generation great when it comes to social media. The millennials invented the selfie. It's not so great when it comes to home ownership. Are younger Americans getting squeezed out of the housing market? I've got details ahead.


ROMANS: Welcome back. It's CNN Money time.

Futures on Wall Street pointing to a higher open for the first trading day of June. Stocks have a pretty tough act to follow this month. May was a great month for all three major indices. The NASDAQ up more than 3 percent, the S&P 500 up more than 2 percent, and five records just last month, Friday the Dow and the S&P all-time highs.

Younger Americans are having a harder time buying a home. Just 36 percent of the millennial generation, Americans under the age of 35, owns a home. That's the lowest level since 1982. It is not because younger Americans don't want homes. Ninety percent prefer buying to renting, but student loan debt, tight lending standards and high down payments keeping many out of that market.

It has officially been five years since the great recession ended in June 2009, five years. And the middle class still having a hard time of it. A new study shows that it's not the 1 percent that's winning big over everyone else. It's the 1 percent of the 1 percent. Got that?

Economists at the University of California report that in the 1980s, the ultra-rich, people with a net worth like John Berman of more than $100 million, they owned 4 percent of the country's wealth back then in the '80s. Now, their share of the pie has jumped to 11 percent. The rest of the rich people in this country with net worth between $4 million and $100 million, control another 28 percent of the wealth.

BERMAN: Yes, meanwhile, people under 35 are struggling to buy their first home because they just can't afford it.

ROMANS: Right, and wages for the middle class are slowly, slowing edging upward.

BERMAN: How do you gain enough to make the deposit of 10 percent or 20 percent downpayment on a house when you have $150,000 of student debt already?

ROMANS: I think you think of the student debt as an off-balance sheet transaction and work on building the investments here at the same time.

BERMAN: "Smart is the New Rich," by Christine Romans, available on

ROMANS: EARLY START continues right now.