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California Explosives Suspect in Custody; President Obama Speaking in Poland; President: There is a Duty to Bring Home Our Own
Aired June 3, 2014 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.
A nationwide FBI manhunt ended overnight, Ryan Chamberlain was taken into custody after several days on the run. Police had uncovered a stash of explosives in a raid. His arrest coming just hours after disturbing reports that Chamberlain released a bizarre online post.
CNN's Dan Simon is following it for us in San Francisco and joins us with the very latest.
Quite a quite a story of intrigue here, Dan.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Michaela.
The arrest that took place here at Crissy Field, which is a popular place for tourists and locals alike. Why he came here isn't clear, nor his motive for allegedly possessing those explosives but there is growing evidence that he was only intending to take his own life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up.
SIMON (voice-over): A three-day manhunt over. Fugitive Ryan Chamberlain captured near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. After being spotted in a local bar earlier Monday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He put up a little bit of resistance it looked like but there were so many officers he didn't really stand a chance. He was going down. I didn't see he was armed with guns or explosives or nothing like that.
SIMON: The 42-year-old arrested for allegedly possessing explosive materials in his home. The bomb squad using a robot to search his car before going in.
Chamberlain, a media consultant well-known in San Francisco political circles, even working for then mayoral candidate Gavin Newsom in 2003. Those who worked with the political operative are disbelief.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flabbergasted. Out of character for anything I know about Ryan.
SIMON: But now, a note titled good-bye posted on Chamberlain's Facebook page may offer an explanation. In it, he writes about his lifetime battle with depression, the loss Project Sport, a marketing company he says was sold for over $1 million but he saw none of it.
And a struggle with relationships, including this passage, I met the one. Everything was perfect, then she just stopped. The three-page letter ending simply, thank you, I'm sorry, I love you.
On Monday, prior to his arrest, Chamberlain's alleged latest tweet denies all charges. A panicked update to my letter that should have posted by now, he allegedly wrote, nothing in the reporting is true, no stashes, not armed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is him.
SIMON: A U.S. law enforcement official says investigators can now definitively say the posting was made by Chamberlain.
SIMON: So was this some kind of suicide attempt or a broader sinister plot? We hope to know more when authorities hold a news conference this morning in San Francisco.
Chris and Kate, we'll send it back to you.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Dan, thank you very much.
We'll continue to talk about that. Amazing story out there, right?
All right. Let's go back over to Poland right now. President Obama just landed on the ground. He's meeting with the Polish president and President Obama is making a statement.
Let's listen in for just a second.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm proposing today as a reminder that every ally needs to carry their share and truly invest in the capabilities of the alliance that are needed for the future. Of course, President Komorowski and I focused mostly on the situation in Ukraine and perhaps because Poles know better than most how precious freedom truly is, Poland and your president have displayed outstanding leadership in recent months.
We agree that further Russian provocation will be met with further costs for Russia, including if necessary additional sanctions. Russia has a responsibility to engage constructively with the Ukrainian government in Kiev to prevent the flow of militants and weapons into Eastern Ukraine.
Russia also needs to be using influence with armed separatists to convince them to stop attacking the Ukrainian security forces. Leave buildings that they've seized, lay down their arms and enter into the political process. Meanwhile the United States and Poland will continue to support Ukrainians as they embark on political and economic reforms. We're prepared to help facilitate a dialog between the Ukrainian government and representatives of separatist regions, and I look forward to discussing all this with President-elect Poroshenko tomorrow.
Finally, President Komorowski and I talked to shared prosperity including the transatlantic trade and investment partnership which would boost trade between the United States and Europe, including facilitating potential energy exports from the United States into Europe. We agree that there are more steps that can be taken to diversify Europe's energy sources. That's important not only for Europe's economy but also for its security. And that's a topic that I'll focus on later today when we meet with other Central and Eastern European presidents.
So, thank you, Mr. President, again, for your partnership and your hospitality. I could not be more grateful to have the opportunity to join tomorrow's celebration in Castle Square and a chance to address the Polish people.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
BOLDUAN: All right. You hear the president and the Polish president. Now, they're going to be talking questions. We're going to be listening in. The first questions are normally two and two. We questions from Polish press, international press as well as -- Polish press as well as the international press. We will be listening in.
Do we have translations of the question?
All right. We'll continue to listen in. The president as you saw right there, he's going to be meeting with Central European leaders later this afternoon, meeting with the polish president today talking about the issues facing Europe right now. The crisis in Ukraine, Russian provocation, and what that means.
Let's listen back in.
CUOMO: The Polish president is taking a question, so we assume it's not about Bergdahl.
So, let's take a quick break here on NEW DAY. When we come back we will be listening in and discussing the implications of this deal for the American sergeant.
Stay with us.
OBAMA: The fact that there's been an election on may 25th and we have now a president elect --
CUOMO: This is live coverage of the President Obama in Poland, right now addressing the confidence factor of NATO allies that the U.S. will be there for them and the need for joint security. What we're waiting for is for the president to discuss the deal to bring home sergeant Bowe Bergdahl when questions continue.
Let's listen in for a second.
OBAMA: And he has said that he is interested in pursuing good relations with Russia. But what he has said and he is right to say is that the sovereignty of Ukraine should not be sacrificed in that effort and we fully support him in that. And NATO's relationship with Russia, I think, will be one in which if Russia is observing basic international law and principles, there should be cooperation between Russia and NATO, where Russia violates international law and international principle, NATO will stand firm in asserting those principles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. The first question from the American side will come from Nedra Pickler with "The Associated Press".
NEDRA PICKLER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Thank you.
I wanted to ask you if you have learned more about the circumstances of Sergeant Bergdahl's capture and whether he could face any punishment given that the Pentagon has concluded that he left his unit.
Also, could you respond to congressional Republicans who say that you violated the law by not notifying them 30 days in advance and that the transfer of the Taliban prisoners could put Americans at risk? Did your willingness to, you know, go around that 30-day requirement signal a urgency to close Guantanamo that you're ending combat operations in Afghanistan?
And also, President Komorowski, can you see whether the steps that President Obama outlined today to increase the U.S. military presence here in Europe are enough to mitigate whatever threat you see coming from Russia or do you want more from the United States?
OBAMA: The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule and that is we don't leave our men or women in uniform behind. And that dates back to the earliest days of our revolution. We have consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Sergeant Bergdahl.
We saw an opportunity. We were concerned about Sergeant Bergdahl's health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange and we seized that opportunity. And the process was truncated because we wanted to make sure that we did not miss that window.
With respect to the circumstances of Sergeant Bergdahl's capture by the Taliban, we obviously have not been interrogating Sergeant Bergdahl. He is recovering from five years of captivity with the Taliban. He is having to undergo a whole battery of tests, and he is going to have to undergo a significant transition back into life.
He has not even met with his family yet, which indicates, I think, the degree to which we take this transition process seriously, something that we learned from the Vietnam era. But let me just make a very simple point here, and that is, regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity, period, full stop. We don't condition that.
And that's what every mom and dad who sees a son or daughter sent over into war theater should expect from, not just their commander in chief, but the United States of America.
In terms of potential threats, the release of the Taliban who were being held in Guantanamo was conditioned on the Qataris keeping eye on them and creating a structure in which we can monitor their activities. We will be keeping eyes on them.
Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely. That's been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo. There is a certain recidivism rate that takes place.
I wouldn't be doing it if I thought that it was contrary to American national security, and we have confidence that we will be in a position to go after them if, in fact, they are engaging in activities that threaten our defenses.
But this is what happens at the end of wars. That was true for George Washington. That was true for Abraham Lincoln. That was true for FDR. That's been true for every combat situation, that at some point you make sure that you try to get your folks back. And that's the right thing to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you clarify should Bergdahl face (inaudible)
OBAMA: That's not something that we're discussing at this point because our main priority is making sure that the transition that he is undergoing after five years of captivity is successful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language)
CUOMO: Right now the Polish president is addressing a question as to whether or not the assurances the president gives are enough. We will get back into that if there's more news being made.
Right now, let's unpack what's already been said.
Let's bring in CNN political analyst and editor and chief of "The Daily Beast", Mr. John Avlon, as well as retired Major General Spider Marks, military analyst and former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center.
So we heard the president say it doesn't matter if he deserted. There is a duty to bring back our own. Something else was brought up here that I'd like to get your take on first, General. Timing. Talk to us about timing, that the war in Afghanistan is ending and why that was also relevant here. RET. GENERAL SPIDER MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the president is unilaterally declaring that we will no longer have soldiers and service members in combat in Afghanistan and our wars are, quote, "winding down".
We have not written any declarations. We have no agreements from any enemies that that is, in fact, the case. I'm not being dramatic, but what I am stating is that what we have learned about our enemies is that over the course of the last decade in a couple of years is that we are in a constant state of conflict.
Their efforts and there are opportunities to take advantage of the United States and its open society is unending, and they will go to any means to achieve that.
So I think it's unfair for us to portray this as a winding down and a declaration of the end of hostilities. We are in a constant state of war, and we have to address it in those ways. So it's a bit disingenuous to say the war is over, ergo, we're going to return this guy as quickly as possible. I think the return of Bergdahl is certainly the right thing, but it's not because of those conditions.
BOLDUAN: But John, weigh in on how does the timing of the winding down of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, how does that play in -- it seems it has -- into the president's decision? I mean, he said very clearly this is what happens at the end of -- ends of wars. FDR did it. Abraham Lincoln did it. This is what happens.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, and the president said and made a case for the fact that because the war's winding down with troops withdrawing, which is clearly a priority of this president to end America's longest war, that he wasn't going to leave a soldier behind, a POW-type situation.
BOLDUAN: This kind of swap much more unlikely to happen at the height of U.S. involvement to be having a prisoner swap with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
AVLON: Absolutely. And this is a president who is determined to get troops out of Afghanistan absent a small residual force. And he wasn't going to let a Vietnam-era type POW situation persist.
This is a murky case because of what we know and what his colleagues have said about the conditions in which Bergdahl left his unit and was captured by the Taliban. But that was a defiant president making the case that we did the right thing as a message from the commander in chief to the mothers and fathers and soldiers serving that we will leave no soldier behind.
CUOMO: Also General, let's take Bergdahl out of it for a second. The president said there's an assumption that Gitmo is going to close. And if it is going to close and if the hostilities are going to end and you are going to wind up releasing, repatriating, whatever verb you want to use, the people you now have detained, isn't it better to have some strings attached to some of them when many may just be released? MARKS: Chris, very true. In this particular case, I think what we need to do is make sure that those strings, as you've described, associated with the five Taliban that are now in Qatar are extremely tight and woven very tightly around a precise and well-executed operations to make sure we don't lose sight of these folks. And that's what our national intelligence infrastructure can do and must do.
But I also think that the presumption that those that remain in Gitmo are going to be released is not appropriate. I mean, there is still justice that must be done, and there are conditions around what their conditions will be going forward. It wouldn't -- I would presume the alternate, which is they are probably going to remain some form of custody someplace.
BOLDUAN: I want to get your take on that because he does say -- he did answer the lingering question. Is there a possibility that these men, some of them, may get back into the fight? He said, absolutely. There is every time anyone is released from Guantanamo Bay. But do you think the president made the case enough to answer that question, was it worth it?
AVLON: I mean, he straight-up said that there is a possibility that these folks could get back to bad business against the United States, what he called a high recidivism rate. I mean, let's be clear. These five Taliban commanders are now under loose house arrest in Qatar.
BOLDUAN: And we don't know the assurances.
AVLON: No, we don't. And I'm sure -- he also said if they get back to bad business we'll go after them. I mean, there was a clear implicit threat. But it's one of the reasons why it's been so difficult to disentangle ourselves from Guantanamo, even with the president who campaigned on it and reiterated it.
Because these -- a lot of these people who are being held there are bad actors. There is a high recidivism rate, and that makes it so difficult to disentangle ourselves right now. And this is a high test case we're seeing right now. Loose house arrest for five Taliban commanders who, not that long ago, were being described as the worst of the worst? That's a big deal.
CUOMO: And some of the pushback, obviously, also coming from what we're learning more about the conditions surrounding Bowe Bergdahl and how he came to be captured.
We should report that a senior U.S. defense official tells CNN that the Army did, in fact, have a fact-finding investigation, a so-called 15-6 report, and it concluded in the months after Bergdahl's disappearance. It discusses the likelihood that he left under his own free will. However, the commander who signed it apparently indicated the door had been left open for final conclusions until hearing directly from Bergdahl.
BOLDUAN: That's what we've heard. That's what the Pentagon told Barbara Starr, they want to hear now Bowe Bergdahl's side of the story.
CUOMO: But, you know, the idea of it just being speculation, it seems to be more than that. Obviously, there has to be due course of law, which is another one of the guarantees (ph).
BOLDUAN: The president clearly not thinking -- not wanting to answer that part of the question and saying, regardless of the circumstances --
MARKS: Chris and Kate, can I jump in for just a second?
CUOMO: Yeah, General?
BOLDUAN: Go ahead, General.
MARKS: Yeah, just -- just very briefly. To John's very point, I think what we need to focus in on now, the crux of this issue is what -- how is Congress going to get information about what is going to happen? What will the DNI and the director of central intelligence do, Jim Clapper, John Brennan, what are they going to do in terms of bringing forward to both the House and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that very classified operation that needs to take place to give the assurances that these folks are not going to disappear over the horizon? I think we need to kind of get to the bottom of that. And then the whole Congress will then get an unclassified version of that.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely right, General. Thank you very much. Spider Marks, stay with us. John Avlon, thank you as always.
Coming up next on NEW DAY, a gruesome and sinister murder plot by two 12-year-old girls, if you can believe it. These two little girls stabbed a friend 19 times all because they say of an internet ghost story. Those frightening details and much more news ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States of America does not leave our men and women in uniform behind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only he knows why he did it. It wasn't just a spur of the moment thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's, at best, a deserter and, at worst, a traitor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hall of fame quarterback Dan Marino is now suing the NFL.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A dramatic scene, the family battle over ailing radio host Casey Kasem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weier and Geyser plotted for months to kill their friend, another 12-year-old. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a very disturbing investigation.
CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY.
Breaking news this morning, President Obama addressing the criticism surrounding the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. He spoke about the prisoner swap while in Poland and said it is the right thing to do. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: But let me just make a very simple point here, and that is, regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity, period, full stop. We don't condition that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Meantime, speaking of the condition, there is a report out there was an investigation that suggested that Bergdahl did walk away on his own. And those who served with him are telling that same kind of story and they are worried about the impact on families who lost loved ones looking for Bowe Bergdahl.