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Bergdahl Receiving Treatment in Germany; White House Defense Prison Swap; Primary Day in Eight States

Aired June 3, 2014 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, tensions rising over the deal that freed a captured U.S. soldier and returned five terrorists to the Taliban. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl recovering in the hospital as former colleagues question how he was captured in the first place and whether the effort to find him and get him back was worth it.

Meanwhile, President Obama defending the prisoner swap, and today, Senate leaders meet on this controversial move and ask this question -- did the president break the law? We are bringing you live coverage, all the angles on this developing story.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Great to see you. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. It's 29 minutes past the hour.

This morning as he begins his recovery at a U.S. military hospital in Germany, there are new questions about Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant now back in U.S. hands after five years, five years in the custody of the Taliban.

Exactly what happened to Sergeant Bergdahl is still something of a mystery, but some of those who served with him are calling Bergdahl a deserter with great resentment, quite frankly, for their fellow soldier. Some even saying he didn't deserve to be rescued after they say he put himself and his fellow soldiers at risk.

Six service members were killed as part of the search teams they say looking for him over the past five years. And members of his unit say the public needs to know the truth behind his capture.


NATHAN BETHEA, SERVED IN SAME BATTALION AS SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL: Ultimately, he needed to come home. We don't get to pick and choose which POWs deserve to come home. If a guy is in captivity and we have the opportunity to bring him back, he should be brought back.

In Bergdahl's case, I mean, so many of us have already spent so much of our lives being obligated to care about Bergdahl, being forced to risk life and limb for Bergdahl. And the fact is, it doesn't make any sense to still be angry about it, but it still needs to be brought to light.


ROMANS: As for Bergdahl, his doctors say his treatment could take a long time.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is at the Landstuhl Medical Center this morning in Germany.

Start with us, Nic, this morning on an update on how Sergeant Bergdahl is doing.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, in stable condition is what we're being told, special attention being given to his dietary and nutritional needs. He does require hospitalization. That's what we understand here. But doctors say that, really, the pace of his recovery is going to depend on him. They're very sensitive to everything that he's been through, but they will work with him.

Of course, there are going to be questions about what he knew about the Taliban, about how he fell into their hands, but the most important and time-sensitive questions that he'll probably get on those types of issues, is there any information that he has that can protect soldiers today? Is there any time-sensitive, intelligence- type information that could be useful that could factor in with other information that potentially could save lives right now?

You also -- while I'm standing out here outside the hospital that he's inside of and hearing a lot of the discussion that is now around about questioning what happened to him, you have to ask the question here as well, is he hearing any of that? Is he being kept isolated from the television, from media, from mobile phones?

All those sorts of questions. We're not aware of those details. What we know is that he is in stable condition. But how would all this backlash against him affect his recovery? And of course, that's what the doctors are focused on here. Part of it is his psychological recovery. So all of that is what's happening right now -- Christine.

ROMANS: Nic, when you think about it, they have five years to go through here. They need to talk about the very near past to figure out if he has any actionable intelligence that can help them save American lives, or know more about the Taliban right now. They have to know where he thinks he was held and carried to and kept.

I mean, we know he was a safe -- in a safe house in Pakistan for a while. And then all the way back to the beginning, which was whatever happened at that -- at that base, you know, at his location 5 1/2 years ago when he disappeared from his unit. There's a lot to go over here.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely there is. And the sense we get -- we get here is that, look, whatever's being said back home in the United States, this is time for him here to begin that recovery and this is an opportunity for him to explain, precisely, what happened. And I think the sense -- the sense that we get here is, is that let's just wait and find out what he has to say. Let's just wait and get those details from him.

So I -- you know, while there's a lot of attention away from here on precisely, you know, the nature of his capture, et cetera, et cetera, there's a different atmosphere here. That's what we pick up here, at least outside the hospital. Give him time to recover and explain himself -- Christine.

ROMANS: He's an American soldier who was held by the Taliban for five years. That is something. He has been freed in a historic prisoner swap. That is something. There's a lot of time to go over all of the details of how he got there.

Nic Robertson, thank you for that.

BERMAN: Happening today, the Senate Intelligence Committee is set to receive a closed-door briefing about this prisoner swap that brought Bowe Bergdahl home. The deal sent five Taliban fighters from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. Many in Washington are now asking why the president agreed to the deal and whether the nation of Qatar will do what it promised, keeping these men from rejoining the fight in Afghanistan and potentially elsewhere.

Former Defense secretary Leon Panetta says he had similar concerns when he had a chance to green-light this type of prisoner swap for Bergdahl years ago.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I had to ensure that the greatest security would be established so that none of them would re- enter the battlefield. And that was my obligation under the law. There were very strict conditions to maintain security on each of these individuals. And those were not acceptable, either to the Taliban or to the Qataris, at the time.

And it was for that reason that I did not support doing it at that point because we just couldn't get them to agree to the conditions.


BERMAN: So the White House says that this swap is not a security threat.

President Obama is in Poland this morning, just arrived in Warsaw. He will no doubt be asked about this prisoner exchange while he is there in Europe for critical meetings with other leaders.

Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta live in Warsaw.

Jim, what's the administration saying now that the criticism for this deal is really growing here in Washington? JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is growing, John, and I think you're going to hear the president talk about this within the hour when he has this news conference, this joint news conference with the Polish president here in Warsaw.

And what the administration has been saying is basically what we've been hearing ever since the president announced the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in the Rose Garden at the White House on Saturday, and that they had a small window of opportunity to secure his release, that his health was at risk, and if they did not engage in this prisoner swap with the Taliban, Bowe Bergdahl may never have come home. And so I think you're going to hear the president re- emphasize that this morning.

I think what will be interesting to watch, John, is whether or not the president is asked about the circumstances of Bergdahl's capture in the first place, as that has really raised some additional questions as to whether or not this prisoner exchange was worth the price that was paid by the U.S. and what the White House has been saying is that this was legal, that the president, even though he circumvented the law in not notifying Congress, did have a signing statement a few years back with respect to this whole issue of releasing detainees from Guantanamo, that says he has the latitude and the authority as president of the United States to engage in these sorts of exchanges with the Taliban, albeit in this case through a third party, Qatar, as you mentioned earlier, John.

So I -- you know, this is going to overshadow the first part of this trip. And keep in mind, this was a very critical trip for the president. He is here in Poland to reassure eastern European allies in the NATO alliance that the U.S. will have their back when it comes to threats from Russia, and the president will announce within the hour a new $1 billion European reassurance initiative to pay for new joint military exercises in this region.

So a critical trip for the president. But once again, as we've seen with other trips, overshadowed with some of these questions about his foreign policy -- John.

BERMAN: No doubt, there is important work to do in Europe during this trip, but there are also important questions for the president as he faces the press in just a little bit.

Jim, I know you'll be covering that. Jim Acosta in Warsaw, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right, Bowe Bergdahl is from the town of Hailey, Idaho, and today many there are still celebrating, calling Bergdahl's release an answer to their prayers. His friend and former roommate, Shelly Horton, tells Anderson Cooper they're grateful he's on his way back.


SHELLY HORTON, FRIEND AND FORMER ROOMMATE: We're just happy he's back. We're happy that he's out of captivity. Right now we just want to celebrate the fact that he's alive and well, or as well as he can be, and show support for the family and let them know that we're behind them for whatever they need to do to make sure Bowe on his uphill battle has what he needs.

So the community has kind of bonded together to show support. And you know, and the unified thing. Look, we can deal with all the other stuff later. Right now we're just so happy and thrilled to have him back that that's really our focus here.


ROMANS: In just a few weeks, thousands are expected to honor him. They had been holding an annual event dedicated to bringing Bergdahl home. This year, it's going to be a new reality, it's going to be called "Bowe is Back." It used to be called "Bring Bowe Back." Now it's "Bowe is Back."

BERMAN: Thirty-eight minutes after the hour. Some more news this morning.

New promises that changes will be coming to the VA. Acting chief Sloan Gibson is saying now that his top priority is to get every veteran off waiting lists and into clinics. This in the wake of a scandal that cost VA Secretary Eric Shinseki his job. Gibson blamed leadership and ethical lapses for wait times that extended into months at some facilities. At least 42 VA hospitals and clinics are now being investigated by the VA's inspector general.

ROMANS: Time for an Early Start on your money this morning. Here's what stocks around the world are doing right now.

Futures in the U.S. hovering near record highs. The Dow and the S&P closed at their highest levels ever yesterday.


ROMANS: Today on CNN Money, 4.7 million people, that's how many Americans made more than $200,000 in 2011. That's adjusted gross income, everything from salary to stocks, minus deductions. That means 3.2 percent of tax filers are solidly upper, upper middle class or higher.

CNN Money decided to find out what it takes to be rich, looking at traits shared by some of the world's wealthiest people. Here are the top seven.

Berman, get out your pencil.


ROMANS: Which ones of these are you?


ROMANS: Some you would expect. Always on the clock. Extreme confidence. Others maybe not. Modesty and a tolerance for risk without being impulsive. Hmm. BERMAN: Hmm. But modesty. You're talking about like the billionaire types. Do you think they're all modest?

ROMANS: I don't know. I can't -- what I can't square is extreme confidence and modesty. Sometimes those things don't go together.

BERMAN: Interesting. I'll have to take a look at that list at CNN Money.


BERMAN: Which is frankly awesome, so check it out.

Happening today, dramatic primary elections across the country. Could today be the Tea Party's last stand? We are breaking down all the big races with a very big man, Paul Steinhauser. You can see him on your screen.

ROMANS: He's extremely confident and modest.

BERMAN: He'll be here after the break


ROMANS: There's the music.

BERMAN: You can hear it. You know what that means. Happening today, the biggest single day of the primary voting season. Eight states from coast to coast holding contests. Once again, there is a high- profile showdown between a Tea Party-backed candidate and a member of the Republican establishment and lots of accusations here.

This is a nasty race, folks.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser in Washington with a preview.

And Paul, I've got to say, most of us watching what's happening in Mississippi. Explain.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: No doubt about it. It's nasty, it's ugly, and it is the marquee battle this Tuesday. You've got Senator Thad Cochran. He's been here in Washington 40 years. He's running for a seventh term in office. The Tea Party thinks this is their best shot at defeating a Republican incumbent running for re- election this year.

Cochran, hey, he's got the backing of the establishment, but Chris McDaniel, he is the state senator in Mississippi who's mounting that challenge against Cochran. He's got a lot of backing, too, including Sarah Palin, who just campaigned with him the other day.

But guys, a bizarre twist. A couple of weeks ago, some supporters of McDaniel who were allegedly arrested -- were arrested for allegedly breaking into a nursing home where Cochran's wife who suffers from dementia where she lives, to take photographs of her. McDaniel has denied any involvement in this scheme, but let me tell you, it has dominated this race in the closing weeks. Stay tuned. The polls indicate this is a close one.

ROMANS: Paul, can I ask you about my home state of Iowa? Joni Ernst running for Senate. That famous hog -- hog castrating video or ad that she did. You know, I grew up --


BERMAN: Castrating hogs?

ROMANS: But I didn't actually castrate any hogs. What can you tell us about her prospects?

STEINHAUSER: This is an incredible race as well because, you know, you've got this battle going on between the Tea Party and the establishment. Well, here you've got Joni Ernst. Guess what? She's got the support of both sides. She's a Republican state senator in Iowa, running in the Senate primary there for her party, and she's getting backed by big groups on both sides, big bucks, including Mitt Romney.


STEINHAUSER: He was just there the other day to campaign with her, but also Sarah Palin. So she's getting support from both sides. But it's this ad right here that's made her a star. Take a listen.


JONI ERNST, IOWA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I'll know how to cut pork.



STEINHAUSER: There you go. Listen, Ernst is the favorite in today's Republican primary out there. If she wins, Republicans think she has a good shot of grabbing a Democratic seat and flipping it come November.

Remember, the Republicans need to win six -- win back six Senate seats from the Democrats to take control of the chamber in November.



BERMAN: It's a seat the Democrats cannot afford to lose. Joni Ernst, it's interesting, she has not been endorsed by any hogs at this point.


They are not backing her campaign as of today.

STEINHAUSER: Good to know. Good to know. BERMAN: Paul Steinhauser, great to see you this morning. Thanks for getting up. It's good to see you.

ROMANS: They're not on the voter rolls so it doesn't matter.

BERMAN: No, no. A bad day, a bad day for a hog when, you know, you wake up to that.

ROMANS: You guys have to come spend some time in my neck of the woods some day, Berman.

BERMAN: I don't know what goes on. I don't know what goes on.

ROMANS: I'd like to have a little, just a nice, long weekend with you on the farm.

BERMAN: Look, even Cuomo looks concerned.


These words get Cuomo worried.

ROMANS: Hi, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: I was waiting. I was like, how can Berman sit there with hog castration being talked about and nothing comes up?

ROMANS: City boys.

CUOMO: And I saw, you were very dubious about Christine saying that she had never involved herself in that.

ROMANS: City boys.

CUOMO: So I guess John will be the first.


All right, so we have two goods and two bigs today. The goods are, Mick is back. That's good. Also we have a great good stuff for you that you're going to want to see, and we have two big stories. The first one, have you heard that Dan Marino is joining that lawsuit against the NFL over concussions?

He's the biggest name yet to come out against the league and that's going to matter because star power matters in big litigation. Because really, what the goal is going to be is some kind of settlement. But we're going to be getting the perspective from different players, like Clinton Portis, remember him? The great running back. And Cory Wire is going to join us -- Cory Wire is going to join us as well.

So we're going to take that apart, see what's going on with the lawsuit, and why Marino is joining, what it could mean for a settlement or litigation going forward. And then, President Obama is in Poland this morning. The focus, however, won't be the World War II commemorations. That will happen later in the week. This may be the first opportunity to hear him questioned about the deal to free Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban.

So what is he going to say? What is he going to say specifically about why this deal made sense, releasing five Taliban members, and whether or not ignoring the 30-day notice was breaking the law?

Little key there is going to be that the president, guys, as you will remember, when he signed that Section 1035 that said there will be 30 days notice, he did it with a note, and the note was, I think this is unconstitutional. So this has a little bit of history to it.

BERMAN: Signing statements, though, are not law, as we both know.

CUOMO: They are not law, and you could argue neither is the ability to hold notification above executive power. That would be the legal battle, Counselor.

BERMAN: We will see --

CUOMO: Let me adjust my pocket square on that one.


Didn't mean to castrate you, there on that one, John. I'll leave that to Christine.

BERMAN: We look forward to seeing the show, Mr. Cuomo. But wash your hands.

CUOMO: It was hollow joke.

BERMAN: Chilling story we have to tell you about with a bizarre twist coming up. Two 12-year-old girls accused of brutally stabbing their friend. Police say this was all to please some mythological creature this learned about online. That's coming up next.


BERMAN: We have a deeply troubling story out of Wisconsin, where two 12-year-old girls are facing attempted murder charges as adults for allegedly stabbing another 12-year-old 19 times. Police say the suspects had planned the attack since February and lured the victim into the woods during a game of hide and seek after a slumber party. She is expected to survive after being found crawling on the road by someone on a bicycle.

I've got to say, this case is so troubling it even has police shaken.


RUSSELL JACK, WISCONSIN POLICE CHIEF: Extremely disturbing as a parent and as a chief of police, that these, especially the age of our suspects -- we told you they're all 12 years old. The age of these suspects and being female both lead into -- and obviously, the details of what happened in the investigation -- this is a very disturbing investigation.


BERMAN: Police say the 12-year-old suspects were inspired by horror stories that they had found online, including one about a demon-like creature. One of the girls apparently told police this creature can read her dreams.

ROMANS: You know, I do a lot of stories about tech and parents, you know, what age is appropriate for children to have access to iPads and technology. And you know, all of the experts say keep the computer in a kitchen or the living room, where everyone is --

BERMAN: A common area.

ROMANS: And ask them what they're -- what they're watching, know what they're reading about online. I mean, it may be their parents had no idea they were reading those kinds of things.

All right. New trouble this morning for General Motors with new claims its ignition switch problems could be linked to dozens more deaths. We've got these details, this new report when we get an early check of your money, that's next.


ROMANS: Let's get an EARLY START on your money this morning. Futures slightly lower right now after stocks in the U.S. kicked off June with a round of record highs. Both the S&P and the Dow closed at their highest levels ever yesterday.

Another report out this morning raising questions about GM. Reuters examined data on front-end crashes similar to those caused by GM's faulty ignition switch. Reuters found at least 74 people died in GM cars in accidents with key similarities to those linked to the 13 deaths GM has acknowledged. GM says it uncovered those 13 deaths through claims and lawsuits and has not said whether it has referenced the database used by Reuters. GM declined to comment on that report.

We're going to find out later this morning whether reports like these have kept Americans from buying GM cars. May sales numbers for autos are due out today. And of course, auto sales usually are a really good gauge of just how well the consumer is doing, how well the economy is doing, and auto sales have been recovering over the past year.

BERMAN: You know, the big story was Apple coming out with their new announcements about their new products, new apps on health, the new IOS operating system, but not new products like phones or iPads are out.

ROMANS: I know. And that's interesting. We'll watch the stocks today. You can go to CNN Money and you can see all of our -- all of our video and sound and analysis of the Apple announcement yesterday.

BERMAN: And CNN Money is all new.

ROMANS: It's awesome. Yes.

BERMAN: And all awesome.

All right. Thanks for watching this morning. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight one of the biggest names in football, Dan Marino now suing the NFL. The lawsuit rocking the sport. The big question, did the league know of the long-term damage caused by concussions?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tough questions. President Obama has just landed in Europe and this hour he could face the first questions on the rescue of Bowe Bergdahl. This as the criticism of the deal grows now even coming from those who served with the sergeant.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Capture. The FBI manhunt for a San Francisco man accused of hoarding explosives now over. That fugitive is caught. This after sending out what appeared to be a suicide note. What exactly was he planning?