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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

New Video Released Showing Bergdahl Exchange; Midwest Braces for More Storms Today; Could Underwater Sound Be Flight 370 Crashing?; More Join Chorus of Criticism for Bergdahl Swap; Hillary Talks to "People" Magazine

Aired June 4, 2014 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Stunning video, a tense, potentially volatile moment, Americans on one side, the Taliban on the other, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl right in the middle, an expert will help us break this all down.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton isn't really saying she's going to run for president just yet, but she is talking a whole lot in a "People" magazine article, talking about being a grandmother, sleeping in in the morning and even about her hair.

BERMAN: And then a mysterious sound from underwater, do you hear that? Could that be the key to locating the missing Flight 370?

Hello there, everyone. Great to see you today. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: And I'm Michaela Pereira. It's 11:00 a.m. in the East, 8:00 a.m. out West, those stories and much more, right now, @THISHOUR.

We start with extraordinary video. It is short, it is intense, and it is compelling, the Taliban handing over Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to the U.S. to U.S. forces after almost five years.

Bergdahl seen wearing very simple garb, being patted down, and then quickly whisked away by U.S. forces awaiting in a chopper.

BERMAN: So much going on in this video just look at it as he's patted down, you see the expression on his face when he's first sitting in the truck. He's carrying a plastic bag there. What's in that plastic bag?

The special forces never turned their back on the Taliban during the whole time.

So many details here, we want to break it all down with a man who knows a lot about this. Dan O'Shea is a former reserve Navy SEAL officer, expert in hostage recovery.

Dan, thanks for being with us, really appreciate it. First off, I want to ask you what you see in this video, particularly dealing with the condition of Bowe Bergdahl.

DAN O'SHEA, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Obviously, the stated concern and reason given at the highest levels is that Bergdahl's life was endangered and he was on the verge of potentially dying, so he had to be rescued because it sounded like it was a health issue.

Obviously, Bergdahl is very healthy, so the concerns that he is in some dire medical condition, those thoughts might be dispelled, but of course still waiting to find out what the medical evaluation that's ongoing in Germany right now to prove what his actual health is and his state of mind.

PEREIRA: It's really interesting as we watch all of this play out. We've watched it over and over again here on CNN and in our offices. It happened so very quickly. It's very precise. There's a lot of things that you don't see.

Give us an idea of what some of this -- of how this is executed. Seems very sort of businesslike.

O'SHEA: Well, once terms are agreed to, which of course, when they negotiated this process, it would be the turnover.

But you can understand that this hostage turnover is a very dangerous situation. You can see there's armed guards. They had guys with RPGs. There was multiple Taliban members surrounding the area, putting up a, quote, "360-degree security" around the truck where Bergdahl was being held.

You only see one U.S. helicopter coming in, but you can rest assured there were other helicopters and other, quote, "quick-reaction forces" standing by, ready to rush in.

And at no time did the two Americans that went up, presumably soldiers. to go recover Bergdahl did they turn their back to the enemy, and you can be sure that they were prepared for an ambush, which is probably indicative of why Bergdahl was patted down initially right at the scene because they were concerned he might be wearing a suicide vest.

BERMAN: They shook hands, Dan. They shook hands. That jumped out to me.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

O'SHEA: Well, that's a standard greeting anywhere in the world. I wouldn't read to much into the shaking hands portion. I think bigger message is that white flag.

PEREIRA: Tell us about that.

O'SHEA: Well, that's an image that the Taliban wanted to get out to the world. And you can interpret it many ways.

But I watch many of these videos and there's messages being sent. And that's a message from the Taliban to the world that this American is surrendering under a white flag. And that's a pretty strategic message to be sent, and the consequences of it are very powerful and riveting.

It doesn't bode well for U.S. strategic policy that we're surrendering, i.e., through hostage negotiations, under a flag of white surrender -- truce.

BERMAN: You said you can't read too much into the health of Bowe Bergdahl until he's examined.

What do you think might have been going through his mind? How much do you think he was told by the Taliban prior to this exchange?

He's sitting in that truck almost expressionless as he sees those helicopters land.

O'SHEA: Obviously, I -- again, Bergdahl can only answer that, how much information was given.

But in cases that we did debriefs in Iraq, the hostages didn't know whether they were going to live through the next day, and many times turnover was as much a shock to them. Many times, they had hours before they were turned over.

So there is no telling how early Bergdahl knew, and until Bergdahl was in that helicopter and on his way back to U.S. forces that he really knew that his ordeal was finally over.

PEREIRA: And, look, we know there's a road ahead of him and a lot of questions ahead of him, as well. We know the U.S. is going to be doing an investigation into what happened the day of his disappearance when he walked off base.

Dan, we want you to stick around with us here @THISHOUR, because ahead, we want to talk to you about another angle to this story.

Sergeant Bergdahl's father, you've probably seen images of him. He grew a beard quite similar, eerily, to the beards worn by his son's captors. He learned their language. He posted videos online begging for his son's return.

Is this a sign of a devoted father or is it something else? We're going to talk with Dan O'Shea later in this hour.

BERMAN: Some other stories we're following @THISHOUR.

With the Midwest bracing for some severe storms today, this is just a day after several states were hit with 12 possible tornadoes. The storms flooded cities in Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, Kansas. Look at that rain coming down.

The storms pelted Omaha with hail as big as baseballs. Look at the damage it did to cars there, 4,000 cars at one dealership just mauled there, the windshields, just cracking the windshields and leaving dents in others.

PEREIRA: Sadly, the worst weather is not over. In fact, that system is moving east now, we know.

Could an underwater sound be related to the final moments of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? An Australian university has released an audio clip recorded -- picked up by underwater listening devices, microphones, if you will.

Researchers say it's kind of a long shot, but it's possible the sound was the impact of the plane on the water or the implosion of parts as the aircraft sank.

We're going to let you hear it for yourself. Listen carefully, because it's kind of subtle.

BERMAN: I think "kind of subtle" is the understatement of the century.

PEREIRA: I think it might be the researchers think the sound came from the area on this map, which is thousands of miles northwest of the current search area, which we know is in the southern Indian Ocean.

But they say it could just as likely be a natural event not related to the plane, something like an earthquake.

We'll have more on this, coming up later in the show.

BERMAN: @THISHOUR, California Chrome could get another leg up as he chases the Triple Crown. Post positions are being drawn at the Belmont Stakes in New York, right around now.

The horse, he got some good starting spots at the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby, as well. You know, people say the Belmont, it doesn't matter quite as much.

PEREIRA: Who says that?

BERMAN: Horse racing experts. My friends who bet on ponies.

PEREIRA: Really?

BERMAN: The Belmont is a longer race, so if you start on the inside which is usually a disadvantage, it doesn't matter in the longer race because you make it up over the full course of the race.

In fact, the horse doesn't jump out as early if you're at the post in a longer race.

PEREIRA: You sound like a race expert yourself, my friend.

BERMAN: You may have energy for the end of the race, so not as big of a deal here, perhaps.

Of course it's been 36 years since a horse won the Triple Crown.

PEREIRA: All right, we'll be watching that.

Ahead @THISHOUR, Sergeant Bergdahl's release certainly set off a firestorm of outrage among many politicians, particularly Republicans in Washington.

The question is, is this being politicized? We'll take a look at that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We were never told there would be an exchange of Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRWOMAN: It comes with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following the law.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: For the president to decide that these five hardest of the hardcore should be put -- in effect released, but ultimately going to the battlefield in return for Sergeant Bergdahl at this stage, I think was just wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You heard a mixture there of Republicans and Democrats there, upset about the situation involving the release now of Bowe Bergdahl. Some Republicans are lashing out, saying that the price was simply too high, trading five detainees from Guantanamo Bay for Sergeant Bergdahl.

PEREIRA: Interesting though, some were not so angry when Bergdahl was released by the Taliban over the weekend. Some who were arguing to bring Bergdahl home earlier, including Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte have since changed their tune.

Want to bring in our political commentators, Maria Cardona and Ross Douthat. Great to have you both with us on the show here.

Ross, why don't we start with you? Oh, we have wrong person up. There you are, Ross.

ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's great to be here.

PEREIRA: Why don't we start with you, Ross, since we gave you a delayed intro there.

One's got to wonder, are the Republicans trying to make this into a political issue?

DOUTHAT: Sure. But, I mean, I think the administration tried to make this into a political issue.

What's peculiar about this whole thing is that White House had to know going in that all of this information about Bergdahl possibly being a deserter, about members of his platoon thinking that he had basically run away in the middle of the night, would come out and would come out pretty quickly.

And so you would think they wouldn't have done, essentially, a kind of "Rose Garden victory lap" and sent Susan Rice out to hail this as a great day for America and so on.

But -- so essentially the White House is in a position where it looks like they were trying to make political hay out of this, and then we've had 72 hours of new information coming out that makes the trade, at best, look a lot more complicated than it did over the weekend.

BERMAN: What about that, Maria? Do you think the White House was prepared for this?

Do you think had they expected there to be the backlash there has been that they would have done the Rose Garden ceremony, that they would have sent Susan Rice onto the Sunday shows where she said that Bowe Bergdahl served with honor and distinction?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what the White House was expecting is for all of the members of Congress that they had been talking about this deal for many, many years, and even though it wasn't an ideal deal -- nobody loved it -- but that they would stick to the commitment and to the ethos that we have, a very tightly held ethos, as a country, that we don't leave anybody behind.

And this family went through hell for five years. And I think that was the reason to have the White House, the Rose Garden ceremony, but I think the point of it was to make sure that all of our military understood and that this country understood that this is a commitment that's unwavering.

The conditions under which it happened can all be figured out. If there was wrongdoing, there will be consequences.

But that's not a condition to which we hold whether we bring back our military men and women who are left on the battlefield or not. And even Republicans agreed with that up until now.

PEREIRRA: And, Ross, I was going to say, that doesn't seem to be the sticking point. I think most people, most adults will say, look, we need to get our soldier home. We agree with that. It's the sticking point of these five detainees at Gitmo that is really the issue.

DOUTHAT: Well I think it's a combination of the two. I think it is the sticking point of five detainees at Gitmo and context in which sergeant Bergdahl was taken hostage in the first place. I think the controversy rests on both realities. The question of the price you're paying, I think it is reasonable for people to say this price looks worse if the context in which he went missing was not only not heroic, but actively, you know, essentially desertion. I think it's the two combined.

BERMAN: Ross, there's political and then there's political. There are all kinds of reports that there were Republicans who, Saturday night when the announcement of his release came out, there were Republicans who tweeted how happy they were that this U.S. soldier was coming home and some of these Republicans have deleted their tweets. Why do you think they would do that?

DOUTHAT: Because they're idiots and they think that deleting your tweets can make them actually disappear. I honestly - The tweet deletion thing is the most hilarious thing about modern politics. But I'm assume those Republicans didn't know that we were going to have 72 hours of Bergdahl's platoon mates coming out saying, you know, we are very angry at this guy. We feel like our people died searching for him and we don't understand why the White House is behaving in such a celebratory fashion. That would be my guess about why you have that kind of about-face from Republicans. They're reacting to what is, to them as to us, new information about the situation.

CARDONA: To your point, Michaela, about this being a sticking point, I actually do think that it's a sticking point and for those Republicans who are now questioning whether this was worth it, you can't have it both ways. You can't be happy about bringing home a soldier and understanding that ethos and then questioning it. I think you can have a legitimate debate after this person is home about the conditions under which he left or the conditions under which he was captured and also have a debate about these deals moving forward. But we also have to keep in mind that the George W. Bush administration, and every administration moving back, has actually done these kinds of negotiations. There were hundreds of Taliban released under George Bush. And these were unsavory characters.

DOUTHAT: But is anyone questioning the principle that in an ideal world we wanted to bring Bergdahl home? I don't think any Republican is questioning that principle. They're doing exactly what you're describing Maria. They're questioning the context, which I think is perfectly reasonable.

BERMAN: If the context is this was the only deal on the table at the time, the only deal that could get him home, are they suggesting then they would rather he not be home?

CARDONA: That's exactly my point.

DOUTHAT: If the only deal on the table had been --

CARDONA: They should have left him behind if this is the only thing available. They are questioning that.

DOUTHAT: They're saying that if this was the only deal available at the time, maybe we shouldn't have taken it. I'm sure that there are deals -- I'm sure that --Maria is there a deal that you can imagine that you wouldn't have taken? If Taliban said we'll give you Bergdahl if you pull out of every soldier in Afghanistan in the next five hours, would you be guilty of leaving Bergdahl behind if you refused that deal?

CARDONA: Well -- But that's not reality. That wasn't the case.

PEREIRA: The two of you, we are going to leave the conversation here for now. This is indicative of how divided this conversation is amongst the American people and amongst our politicians who want to continue the conversation. We're going to take a short break here and ask you both to stick around though.

BERMAN: Ahead, we may talk more about this. Also Hillary Clinton has got a new interview out. Once upon a time she called Monica Lewinsky a narcissistic loony toon. Does she still think that? Tell you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Hillary Clinton not yet saying that she will run for president in 2016. She did, however, sit down with People Magazine. I had to get him with that nose out of the magazine. Talking about all sorts of things in her life, like being a grandmother. She says quote, but part of what I've been thinking about is everything I'm interested in and everything I enjoy doing and with the extra added joy of I'm about to become a grandmother.

BERMAN: People Magazine even asked her about her hair. Can you believe that? People of all magazines asked her about her hair. And she responded, I am at an age where I can pretty much do whatever I want, here I am whether you like my hair or not.

PEREIRA: John Berman's very philosophy.

BERMAN: It is what I say everyday. So let's bring in our political commentators Maria Cardona and Ross Douthat, to talk about this, and senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.

Brian, I'm going to do an end around here and ask kind of a backwards question here. This interview was done by People Magazine reporter, who was a woman. Many, many of the interviews being done in Hillary Clinton, in this book tour, including one here at CNN, CNN town hall, are being done by women. All of these women happen to be fantastic reporters, most of whom I worked for at one point or another. But is it remarkable to you that I think there's only one dude on this list?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think it's interesting. I don't think we can have an exact answer to the question of whether it's a coincidence or if it's a conscious choice. I asked Clinton's representatives this morning, they declined to comment on the record. But there was a person close to the plan, and you can guess who I'm talking about, who said it was not intentional, in fact we didn't notice it until you just pointed it out. You can decide whether you believe that or not. I think there is some process to this. Some thought put in mind about who she sits down with. For example, Christiane Amanpour here at CNN, international reporter, and a lot of this book is about Hillary Clinton's international work as secretary of state. The same is true for ABC. Sitting down with Diane Sawyer. Diane Sawyer is a woman but she is also the top anchor at ABC news. So it is a no-brainer that she would go with Diane Sawyer. But it is an interesting thing, whether it is a coincidence or a conscious choice, that most of her interviews willing women.

PEREIRA: Very interesting conversation the two men just had. Maria, so I'll talk to you as a woman. I'm kidding. No Maria, I'm curious, you know it is interesting reading through the article, they talk about a lot of different things and they are very calculated answers about certain things. In particular the fact she really didn't want to comment on Monica Lewinsky sort of saying, in essence, I'm done with that. It's time to move on. People need to look to the future. Here's the quote, I'm not going to comment on what did and didn't happen. I think everybody needs to look to the future. Look, she can say that, but is it going to be the reality if she decides to run for president? CARDONA: Probably not. But you know what she'll do is, she's very good at message discipline and she will continue to answer it in that manner. Because, I got to tell you, as communications person myself, there is nothing to be gained by her commenting any further about it. I take her at her word. I do think she has moved on. I also believe the world has moved on. And that they are looking to hear if she does run for president, what is it that she's going to be doing for this country.

PEREIRA: Will Republicans move on though?

CARDONA: How is it that she is going to be fixing all the problems. Well, No. But they've never moved on. So we don't expect that to happen any time soon.

STELTER: She'll to say something.

DOUTHAT: Maybe. I don't expect Republicans to want to talk about the Lewinsky case that much, especially if they are sort of interested in actually beating Hillary Clinton in the event she does run. If you look back at the trajectory of Hillary Clinton's political career, while obviously the Lewinsky scandal was a terrible moment for her husband's presidency and obviously a terrible moment personally for her, politically she came out of it much more popular than she had been before. And I don't think that sort of talking about a moment that made her more popular is in any way likely to help Republicans make voters, and especially female voters, think worse of Hillary Clinton. I think you are much more likely to see everything from Benghazi to the Clinton health care plan of the early 1990s aired, than you are to hear Republicans say let's talk about Monica again.

BERMAN: Not to mention what's happening with Bowe Bergdahl, because the story changed on that in a three-day period.

Last question, super quick to Maria. A lot of women with whom I work here think it's a big deal that People Magazine asked Hillary Clinton about her hair. I'm, like, this is People Magazine. I love People. I used to get it sometimes. Is it a big deal people asked her about her hair? It's not like it is the Economist.

CARDONA: But the question is, John, if she were a man, if she were somebody like you, would they have asked them about -- maybe about you because you have fabulous hair, but if she were a man and if she were a possible candidate looking to see if they're going to run, if she was a man, would they ask her about her hair? Would they be asking her about her physical appearance at all? I think the answer is no. That's where I think it's an issue.

Honestly, they might look at her if she were a man but not asking , just looking at her hair and silently judging.

PEREIRA: No judgment here, gentlemen, at all. We promise you.

BERMAN: I asked Mitt Romney about his hair once.

PEREIRA: Did he answer? BERMAN: Yes.

PEREIRA: Brian, Maria, thank you so much. Good to have you, Ross. Thanks so much for joining us @THISHOUR.

Back to another story we've been following at the top of the hour, U.S. handing over five Gitmo detainees for one U.S. soldier held captive by the Taliban. The Obama administration did it without congressional approval. But did you know when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state she agreed to get Congress to weigh in before an exchange was made. We'll get to the bottom of all of this ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)