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Interview with John McCain; Bergdahl's Release Triggers Firestorm; V.A. Hospital Problems; McStay Family Murders; Jeopardy Champion

Aired June 3, 2014 - 08:30   ET


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thirty percent of those who have already been released from Guantanamo have reentered the fight. And these -- this is the top. These are the people that have blood of thousands on their hands, at least in one case. And so you have to understand what was done in exchange for the release of Sergeant Bergdahl.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The issue of surprise and shock comes up here, senator. This deal had been in the works for years. The president says he consulted with Congress about this potential trade. Were you consulted with?

MCCAIN: No, and I've talked to members of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Rogers, Senator Chambliss. We were at the meeting where they were talking about releasing some Taliban as confidence measures to move negotiations forward as long as two years ago. There was never discussion that any of us know about this straight-up and all of the aspects of this trade for Sergeant Bergdahl.

CUOMO: Is this semantics?

MCCAIN: And that's just a fact.

CUOMO: Is this semantics or -

MCCAIN: Yes, it's semantics, sure.

CUOMO: Well - but on whose side, senator? Is the president hiding the ball of what types of Taliban guys were involved, or is your side hiding the ball that you knew but you didn't know everything so you're going to say you knew nothing?

MCCAIN: Well, we were never told that there would be an exchange of Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban. We were told they were considering, and we steadfastly, both Republican and Democrats, rejected the notion that they were going to release some of these Taliban in exchange for, quote, "confidence building measures" so that negotiations could continue. What we were briefed on was an entirely different scenario from the one that took place.

Look, I'm not one who believes that Congress should bind the hands of the president particularly as commander in chief. That's not my problem. My problem is, is what we did in exchange, which could put the lives of American service men and women in grave danger in the future, unless you believe that this conflict is over and that the Taliban and al Qaeda have stop wanting to destroy America and repeat of 9/11, then, fine.

But they've not, and they're not, and they are growing, despite what the administration says. They are a growing threat to the security of the United States. The director of National Intelligence, Clapper, said the Syria/Iraq area now over -- taken over by al Qaeda. They're going to plan attacks on the United States of America. These are the best at it.

CUOMO: If it is true, as the president says, that it is the end of hostilities in Afghanistan, if it is true that the president says he's going to close Gitmo, if you look at this deal through that lens, isn't it better to release guys like this with some strings attached, a plan in place, than to just release them without any plan, which may happen in the future anyway?

MCCAIN: Well, it was never planned to release them. They were judged time after time as too high a risk to be returned. The plan, which we'd been seeking, is to move them to the United States of America. I've always favored closing Guantanamo because the image that it has to people throughout the world. But the plan is, and what we're trying to implement, at least at some point, is moving these hard-core, high- risk people, too great a risk to be released, to facilities in the United States of America.

CUOMO: All right. Now, the issue of the 30-day law, you are not making that an issue. As you've said, you don't want to bind the hands of the president. That's for other Republicans to make that argument. Let's skip that, though.

And I want to get to something else that is urgent, that does concern you, that does go to what we knew when. The situation with the V.A., there is no question of your commitment to the troops. That's not what this is about. However, your home state, front and center, with bad abuses for as long or longer than any others. Did you know and why was it allowed to go on so long?

MCCAIN: Well, I've known about it since 2008 when I gave a speech saying that we had to give flexibility to veterans to get other capabilities to have their health care needs taken care of. We wrote numerous letters. We have complained about it on numerous occasions. We have treated over 2,000 cases brought to our office since January of 2013.

Just recently, I received a reply to a letter that I asked General Shinseki where they basically denied what was happening. In other words, we did not know and were not told by -- although there were complaints from veterans which we investigated, but we were outright lied to about this waiting list. It was concealed until this whistle- blower and others have come forward.

CUOMO: So you're saying you knew there was trouble, but you didn't know how bad it was until the revelations? MCCAIN: That's exactly right. That's why the majority of our cases handled in our office were veterans' cases of one kind or another. I've known there was trouble in the V.A. for many, many years and that's why I wanted to change fundamentally the way that this -- we treat our veterans, by giving them the ability to go out and get the health care they need and want.

CUOMO: And in conjunction with Senators Tom Coburn, Richard Burr and Jeff Flake, you're going to introduce to conference the Veterans Choice Act on June 3rd, 1:45 p.m. Eastern Time, and you're going to try to address the pressing issues that are raised here because it's easy to trace the blame. We've done that well. Making a change going forward has always proven the biggest challenge. Hopefully we do better this time. Nobody appreciates the need better than you.

Senator McCain, thank you for joining us this morning.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Mic, over to you.


Time for the five things you need to know for your new day.

At number one, our top story, President Obama defending the decision to bring Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl home. Earlier in Poland he said, bottom line, the U.S. has a duty to bring soldiers back who have been in captivity.

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is being called a deserter, however, by some of his fellow soldiers. They say Americans died looking for him after he abandoned his post.

The San Francisco man on the run for days after police uncovered explosives at his apartment, he is in custody this morning. The FBI says Ryan Chamberlain was arrested Monday night near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hall of Famer Dan Marino filing a new lawsuit against the NFL claiming the league concealed the long-term health effects of concussions in order to keep players on the field.

It is primary day in eight states. In Mississippi, 36 year State Senate Veteran Thad Cochran is trying to hold off tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in a race that has been marked by nastiness.

We always update those five things to know, so be sure to go to for the very latest.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Michaela, thanks so much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, gone without a trace. A family vanishes from their home with no sign of struggle or plans to flee. A new CNN special report examines the McStay family murders. What happened to them?

Also ahead, the streak is over. "Jeopardy's" winningest female contestant says good-bye to the quiz show. So, what will Julia Collins do with all of that money? She is joining us live.



In February of 2010, a young family of four vanished from their home in suburban San Diego, gone, really, without a trace. Then nearly four years later, and 100 miles from their home, mother, father and two young sons were found dead in the Mojave Desert. How did they get there, number one? Who killed them, number two? That's the focus of a new CNN special report airing tonight called "Buried Secrets: Who Murdered the McStay Family?" Randi Kaye is joining us with much more.

This is fascinating, and so scary.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And so mysterious, Kate. We're talking about this family of four. It's Joseph and Summer McStay and their two young sons. They disappeared in February, as you said, really without a trace. They left the home, at least it appears that way, very suddenly. There were eggs still open on the counter. There were bowls of popcorn for their two young children in front of the television. Their two beloved dogs, who they treated like family members, were still tied up outside. So it's really hard to understand what happened.

One neighbor's security camera caught their Isuzu Trooper leaving the home, leaving the neighborhood at about 7:45 that night, but you couldn't see who was inside it. So that's why there's such a mystery.

But we do have a clip from our documentary tonight. And this sort of sets up what happened as the rest of the family was learning that the four of them had disappeared.


KAYE (voice-over): Monday, February 15th, 11 days after the family went missing, Michael called the sheriff's department, who came to the house to investigate. They immediately alerted homicide. Then, investigators did something Patrick McStay finds unbelievable.

PATRICK MCSTAY: They don't put any tape on it, crime scene tape, any notices on the door, nothing. They just locked the house back up and they leave to get warrants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't make any sense to me. I think you've got a family that's missing for a week and they're still not going to call it a crime scene?

KAYE: It took San Diego investigators three days to obtain the warrants they needed to complete a full search of the home. But during those three days, the McStays' home remained unsealed, which allowed Joseph's brother, mother and friend access in and out of the house. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't go in there unless I called, you know, the sheriff's department, and they said I could. So I had permission. I cleaned up the kitchen, because it was disgusting. And the trash can from diapers sitting there all that time, you know, it was terrible, terrible smells.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was cleaning. We were looking for bank statements. I mean, I think she was just reaching for evidence.

KAYE (on camera): Wasn't it, though, a crime scene or -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it was not deemed a crime scene because there was no sign of forced entry. There was no signs of foul play at the house.

KAYE: Michael says investigators gave them the OK to remove some items from the home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With their permission, I grabbed his computer, what would be Joey's computer, and the SD card. I got the pictures off and I got that downloaded. And then I had to put that back prior to them issuing the warrant.

KAYE: Back in Texas, Patrick could hardly believe what was going on.

MCSTAY: The first thing I'm thinking is like, you're going to destroy evidence. I was just done (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certain items that might have been really key to the big mystery of why they left that house are gone, touched, moved, cleaned up. It's ridiculous.


KAYE: So one of the things that they thought happened, at least for the San Diego Sheriff's Department which was in charge of this investigation, was they assumed that the family had crossed the border into Mexico because there was a very key piece of evidence. There's this surveillance video from the Mexican border showing a family of four that very much looked like the McStays.

BOLDUAN: It was grainy, right?

KAYE: Right. And the family - the rest of the family was sort of split on was it them or wasn't it them? But they also found evidence that they were searching for passports on the home computer and paperwork required to take children into Mexico. So they focused on that.

Meanwhile, the bodies were found about 200 or so miles north of the Mexico border.

BOLDUAN: An unbelievable mystery. And the bodies just - and their bodies just found late last year.

KAYE: Right, in November of last year in these two shallow graves. And, of course, the authorities aren't telling us anymore about what was in those graves or how they may have died just yet.

BOLDUAN: A lot more on that ahead. Randi, thanks so much.

And be sure to watch. It's a CNN special report "Buried Secrets: Who Murdered the McStay Family?" It airs tonight, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

CUOMO: All right, coming up on NEW DAY, ready? The category -- "Jeopardy" champions. The clue? The woman who has won "Jeopardy" the most? The answer, in the form of a question, of course, who is Julia Collins? We're going to speak with the champ live. She's racked up more wins than any other woman on the show.

Hi, champ.



ALEX TREBEK, GAME SHOW HOST: Winning for 1999, this New England writer is the last person to win an Oscar for adapting his own novel. 30 seconds, players. Good luck.

We come to Julia Collins now, our champion. And her response was -- Michael Chabon, is incorrect. So it's going to cost you everything you had. He is our new champion with $22,600. Welcome to the winners high level. And we're going to miss Julia Collins.


PEREIRA: From last night's "Jeopardy" marked the end of Julia Collins history-making run on the hit game show "Jeopardy". After 20 games, she holds the number two spot for the most consecutive wins in the show's history, and the most wins by any woman contestant. She's taking home an eye-popping $428,100 -- don't forget the $100.


PEREIRA: Collins is trying to catch up with Ken Jennings, "Jeopardy's" grand master who won 74 straight games a decade ago. She is here in our studio. We can hardly stand it. It is such a delight to see you.

BOLDUAN: Welcome. Welcome.

JULIA COLLINS, "JEOPARDY" CHAMPION: Thank you for having me.

PEREIRA: We don't want to say sorry, because you didn't way. Congratulations.

COLLINS: Well, thank you.

PEREIRA: You must feel fantastic.

COLLINS: I do. I do. You know all good things come to an end and I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful time on the show. PEREIRA: Well said.

BOLDUAN: And this episode -- this happened last night?


BOLDUAN: So what's was it like in that moment? You put it all in there in that final question. Did you think you were sure of the answer or did you just -- you needed to go for it?

COLLINS: Well, you make your bet, before you see the clue. So I thought -- I think this guy's going to really go for the win -- Brian, who ended up winning. And so I don't know. I may not have made the same bet if I had it to do over again. But it kind of doesn't matter, because he got the answer right and I got the answer wrong. So -- he was going to win, you know, win no matter what.

CUOMO: How do you balance, the achievement you've had here is amazing, it's unparalleled by any woman -- number two all-time.


CUOMO: And the -- oh, it's over. How do you balance the two?

COLLINS: It is disappointing but I think part of what helps me get through it is that I'll be back for the next -- prize money. I'll be back for the next tournament of champions. So it's not the end of the line for me playing the game.


COLLINS: Because it's so much fun just to be up there playing, hitting the buzzer. And it's just a great experience so I'm glad it's not completely over for me.

PEREIRA: Do you think it will change going back to the champions? Do you think you'll change your strategy or will you stick to the same strategy you've been going with?

COLLINS: I'm not sure. I probably will mostly stick to the same strategy.

PEREIRA: Click on the buzzer, right.

COLLINS: Click on the buzzer. That's key. No matter your strategy, that's a key component. That won't change.

PEREIRA: Well, I know that you had actually tried out for the game before but you said you got a case of the nerves. Do you think that's what did you in?

COLLINS: Oh, yes. I definitely think that was it. You do kind of a mock interview. I couldn't string words together into a sentence.

PEREIRA: How did you overcome that for the second time?

COLLINS: Well, the second time I knew what the tryout process was and so -- I think knowing what to expect made me a lot more relaxed.

CUOMO: So how's life going to be different now?

COLLINS: I'm not sure. I mean it's -- I mean I'm here so that's different. It's been a whirlwind. I'm kind of just seeing how things go and enjoying this, enjoying the excitement while it lasts.

BOLDUAN: It seems like there is absolutely no down side to this whole experience for you.

COLLINS: No. It couldn't have been better. I had a wonderful time playing. I had a wonderful time watching the episodes. I was having just a great time.

BOLDUAN: So then what are you going to do with all of that cash?

CUOMO: Pay taxes.

COLLINS: Probably I'm going to save it.

BOLDUAN: Good for you.

COLLINS: Pay taxes first.


CUOMO: Do you feel compelled, do you think, if you were the champ like Collins -- would you feel compelled to answer everything in the form of a question? Do you think it will be tough to break the --

PEREIRA: You asked that question, why?

CUOMO: Because you could be a champ.

PEREIRA: No, that's it.

CUOMO: That was good. You got me on my own thing. That's why she could be the champ and I'm the chump. Do you feel like that? The game is still afoot. You're still in game mode.

COLLINS: A little bit. I hear things and think, oh, I'll remember this in case I get it as a clue.

BOLDUAN: Interesting.

COLLINS: So it's a little bit -- it's still on my mind.

BOLDUAN: That's unbelievable.

PEREIRA: In terms of how you prepared. This is the part that I -- I think I would get overwhelmed with. I would feel compelled to do all of this reading and all of this research.

CUOMO: You're like that now.

PEREIRA: Well -- what did you do to sort of keep present in it, but also be ready to go?

COLLINS: Well, before I went on the show I did study quite a bit. I reread old textbooks. I got some reference books to make sure I knew what the different Shakespeare plays were, and what plots. I learned a little bit about opera --

BOLDUAN: Oh my God.

COLLINS: So I did -- I did study quite a bit. Once I got on the show, once I was up there I tried not to stress about the things I didn't know. There were plenty of things I didn't know.

PEREIRA: What's your favorite category?

COLLINS: Probably literature. I read a lot so I felt pretty good about most of the questions.

CUOMO: Even though it kind of wound up leading to the question that ended the reign, it's still the favorite category?

PEREIRA: Still the favorite.

COLLINS: It's still the favorite. I had a lot of success with the literature category.

BOLDUAN: You'll never forget that answer though.

COLLINS: I won't. I won't. You know those wrong answers they stay with you.

PEREIRA: Julia Collins, you will stay with us. We're so proud of you. We're so thrilled that you could come and join us this morning on NEW DAY.

BOLDUAN: Congratulations.

COLLINS: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Enjoy this.

COLLINS: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

PEREIRA: Go travel.

CUOMO: An amazing achievement.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it really is.

CUOMO: It's awesome to have you here on NEW DAY.

COLLINS: Well, thank you.

CUOMO: Who is awesome -- Collins.

Coming up -- bravery in action; we've got more good stuff for you. A seven-year-old boy takes on a man who he says was trying to grab his friend. The story ahead.


CUOMO: Time now for "The Good Stuff".

Today's edition, heroes come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

Witness seven-year-old Kaylen Woodard. He looks like a regular little kid. But this story proves to you he can be tiny and mighty.

Kaylen was playing outside not even 20 feet from his front door with his 10-year-old neighbor Marcy. So what happens, a man gets out of a car and tries to grab her. But facing a grown man, Kaylen didn't run. Instead he chose to fight to save his friend. Take a listen.


KAYLEN WOODARD, SEVEN-YEAR-OLD: And he -- kicked him on the side of the leg.


CUOMO: Kicked him in the side of the leg -- that's what he just said. His brave actions even surprised his family. Of course they did.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't stop talking about it, because I'm just in a state of shock. Still by him being so young and he did that for a friend. That's amazing.


CUOMO: Most would be scared, they'd be compliant. Not him. So Marcy runs home flustered, but safe. Her mom had only gratitude that Kaylen was there to save the day.


TRACEY EDWARDS, MARCY'S FRIEND: We call him our little hero. Yes. He was very, very -- we were blessed that he was there.


CUOMO: They are safe. He is gorgeous and he is a hero. Good for him. You're the good stuff, Kaylen my man.

PEREIRA: Yes, you are Kaylen.

CUOMO: Appreciate you doing the right thing at the right time.

All right. A lot of news this morning. So let's get you over to Carol Costello, in the "NEWSROOM".