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Did U.S. Soldiers Die Looking for Bergdahl; Putin Rages Against Hillary; Video of President Obama Working Out; Senators Skeptical of Proof of Life Video

Aired June 5, 2014 - 06:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: at least 29 people, including firefighters and civilians, injured after a big fire on Staten Island in New York City. Flames broke out after 1:00 in the morning in a multifamily home and then it spread to other buildings. One child was thrown out the window to safety, but was caught by a man on the street. Most of the injuries, we are told, are to firefighters. The fire department says most are not life-threatening.

Some of the tech world's biggest names are asking for limits on NSA surveillance. An open letter from the CEOs of Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and other tech companies, asked the Senate to put more restriction on NSA data collection. They say a bill passed by the House two weeks ago doesn't go far enough to protect Internet privacy. The Senate Intelligence Committee meets today to discuss the House bill.

The legendary Don Zimmer has died. He was a baseball lifer. His major league career spanning six decades as a player, a manager, a coach, and executive. The man they called Popeye once bragged he never got a paycheck for anything else. Zimmer was still working for the Tampa Bay Rays when he died Wednesday. He had been in the Florida Medical Center since having heart surgery back in April. Don Zimmer was 83.

I think one of the nicest quotes I've seen from him, Chris, is quote, "All I've ever been is a simple baseball man." That's a guy who loved the game.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A beautiful thing to be, though, Mick. What a life he had.

All right. We want to get back to the Bergdahl situation right now. One of the haunting questions, did American troops die looking for Bowe Bergdahl? There are reports that at least six soldiers lost their lives in the search. But is that true? It's a tough question.

By the way, here is another. In an Army that prides itself on leaving no man behind, does how Bergdahl ended up in the enemy's hands matter?

As we say, tough questions, but we have to try to find some answers. For that we bring in Andy Lehren, "The New York Times" reporter, who looked into the charges, understand the situation very well. Andy, thank you for joining us.

You hear from the soldiers. You cannot question their motivation for coming out. Their brothers and sisters, they are fighting buddies, they are everything to them. The people who were with Bergdahl say after he was taken, all we did was look for him.

So, anyone we lost they believe is connected to that effort and to them died looking for Bergdahl. What do the facts on the ground suggest?

ANDREW LEHREN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure. Well, certainly, there's no doubt that the soldiers are very sincere about what they are saying and together with my colleague Charlie Savage, one of the things we did is we looked at what the army personnel on the ground at the time in this eastern province of Afghanistan were doing and what they were thinking at that time.

We are very fortunate. We have these military dispatches, the war logs that we can go through. Some are classified secrets. You go through them. What you see in the weeks and months leading up to the time when Bergdahl was abducted, as well as afterwards, there was a huge increase in activity.

The Haqqani Network closely aligned with the Taliban, for bringing in Pakistani insurgents. And these insurgents were overrunning bases, they were firing mortars, shooting, there was a lot of activity going on.

So, let's take the first two deaths that have been attributed to the hunt for Bergdahl. These occurred on a nearby base. When you look at the actual dispatches written contemporaneously at the time that all of this was going on, with the military intelligence assessment at that moment was this is all died to the buildup we have been experiencing the last three months.

CUOMO: They don't reference the Bergdahl search?

LEHREN: They do not reference the Bergdahl search in that particular moment.

CUOMO: What about the feeling that -- well, OK.

LEHREN: It is the fog of war so a lot of completing views but we are trying to by point out here is what the military was writing at this time.

CUOMO: Is it a fair assessment those on the ground we weren't getting the same amount of resources to combat the hostile its because they were dedicate to looking for Bergdahl and we are using that as a basis of belief that if we had those resources, we would have fought better, we wouldn't have taken losses, so we attribute that to the search for Bergdahl?

LEHREN: There's no doubt they were searching for Bergdahl and that's going to require some resources. Keep in mind, so that July 4th deaths, these occurred not on a road block, not in pursuit somewhere. These occurred on a base itself on --

CUOMO: That was under siege?

LEHREN: That's correct.

And it's been an outpost that had been under siege before Bergdahl's abduction.

CUOMO: Did you find any reports that of search parties, search missions where there was a death or an injury?

LEHREN: Of a search mission?

CUOMO: An actual search mission.

LEHREN: We are still looking. We are trying to find where you can actually pinpoint it to being a search mission. We have gone through the casualties that we have identified in Paktika Province, going into November and, so far, we have not been able to clearly identify any one of those deaths to a Taliban ambush or something like that in pursuit of Bergdahl.

CUOMO: There's a temptation for people in our business to get into the weeds with this. You are looking for proof of this allegation.

LEHREN: We are just trying to point out this is a complex situation.

CUOMO: When you pull back from it, and you look, why does this matter? Deaths of Americans certainly matters, killed in action matters. No question about that.

LEHREN: Absolutely.

CUOMO: But these circumstances they were killed looking for Bergdahl, are we being kind of pushed into an analysis by political pressure? What is the value in this analysis, do you think?

LEHREN: Well, for myself as a journalist, what I'm trying to do is look just at what we know at that time. There are --

CUOMO: Here are the facts, let's establish them?

LEHREN: Right. I'm sure have you some incredibly capable political correspondents in D.C. who might be able to address those questions. I'm just trying to go back, you know, with my colleagues at "The Times" go back and see what was happening on the ground at that time.

CUOMO: Do you feel that some of the pressure and the inquiry is somewhat artificial? We understand why the soldiers care about who died and what they were doing at the time. These are their brothers and sisters, but its existence in the realm of the dynamic of this store, what do you think it means in terms of the story this particular aspect of who died doing what in the search for Bowe Bergdahl?

LEHREN: I think one of the things that gets lost in this discussion is bringing our readers and your viewers back to 2009. This was a time when the war was escalating dramatically. Troops were coming beginning -- were beginning to be sent in as part of the search.

2009 was going to become a year where twice -- it was going to be the bloodiest year up to that point in that conflict. And we were going to have twice as many casualties as we experienced the year before and that was definitely occurring in the province, in the area where Bergdahl was.

CUOMO: No small irony from those who cover the war that during the time it was so hard for us to get stories on about what was happening for our fighting men and women and the casualties they were taking and how heavy it was getting. Now in the aftermath when talking about a rescue, the reporting is bearing fruit and people are paying attention to it. Not them, but now and the question is, why?

But at least we are getting the facts established and, Andy, thank you for helping us with, there at the "The New York Times."

LEHREN: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right. Coming up next on NEW DAY: she compared him to Hitler and now, Vladimir Putin is firing back at Hillary Clinton calling her weak. We're going to tell you what else the president is saying about the former secretary of state and why a whole lot of people, especially women, will not like it.

Plus, President Obama secretly taped pumping iron in Poland. Seriously. The Secret Service insisting there was no security breach, no security concern here. But why were these strangers inside that gym snapping pictures and video of the president? We're going to take a look.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

It's a war of words between Vladimir Putin and Hillary Clinton. Clinton recently compared the Russian president's action in Ukraine to those of Hitler. Well, now, Putin is hitting back and bringing gender into a fight in a new interview.

Senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar has more.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian President Vladimir Putin taking a jab at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying, "It's better not to argue with women, but Ms. Clinton has never been too graceful in her statements."

His sexist barbs come after much criticism from Clinton, in March, in a private fund-raiser in California, she compared his tactics in Ukraine to those of the most reviled figure in modern history. HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Now, if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the '30s.

KEILAR: A day later, she walked that comment back a bit but also called Putin this.

CLINTON: A tough guy with a thin skin.

KEILAR: Then, this memorable description of Putin in early April.

CLINTON: He will even, you know, throw an insult your way. He will look bored and dismissive. He'll do all of that, but I have a lot of experience with people acting like that, so it's not like, you know, it goes back to like elementary school!

KEILAR: And later that month, she dinged Putin as she slammed NSA leaker Edward Snowden for fleeing to Russia.

CLINTON: I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion for privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia.

KEILAR: Putin dismissed Clinton's words Wednesday, saying, "When people push boundaries too far, it's not because they are too strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for women."

There's no love lost between these two. Clinton, the face of the failed 2009 reset with Russia and Putin kicked out of the now G-7 and facing further sanctions if Russia doesn't help stabilize Ukraine. But this bombast serves a political purpose for both. Putin is playing to a home audience, with a nationalist pitch. But Clinton, too, is looking for support -- a possible presidential contender seen as distancing herself from an unpopular president by highlighting her harder line on Russia.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.


CUOMO: It's kind of weird. It's like a spat that could be going on in some office.

BOLDUAN: That's the thing.

CUOMO: Or social circle.

BOLDUAN: Or maybe on a playground somewhere?

CUOMO: Right. Meanwhile, they control the peace of the entire globe.

BOLDUAN: I know.

CUOMO: Interesting.

BOLDUAN: You're a man.

CUOMO: I know.

BOLDUAN: You're dumb. That's how we will start our fight.

CUOMO: I am. I will have agreed with that. I didn't like it. Everything you're complaining is probably true, because I'm a man.

Coming up on NEW DAY, as if President Obama, another man, didn't have enough to deal with. Now, there is controversy surrounding his workout routine.

BOLDUAN: Look at that --

CUOMO: Especially because he was caught in Poland pumping iron. Huge breach of security, is it? Or is a non-troversy? Either way, the video is worth seeing and we will show it to you.

BOLDUAN: And tonight, CNN's new original series, "The Sixties" returns at 9:00 p.m. It was the decade when America risked nuclear war staring down Soviet Union. Here is your "Sixties" minute, the world on the brink.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A supreme national effort will be needed to move this country safely through the 1960s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven minutes past 1:00 this morning, a man went around the world. The spaceship was built in Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can put a man into space, you can put nuclear war heads into space.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The temper of he world is crisis.

UNIDENTIFIE DMALE: There was palpable fear in the United States and in the Soviet Union that the two sides were going to get into a nuclear war.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I do not shrink from this responsibility!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-five Russian ships on en route to Cuba on the collision course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next 48 hours will be decisive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we bomb? Should we invade? Back and forth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think unless something is done, that humanity will destroy itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is going to blink first?

ANNOUNCER: "THE SIXTIES", Thursday night at 9:00 on CNN.


PEREIRA: I never thought we'd be using this music for the president. I thought we'd use this for Chris Cuomo.

Look at this: President Obama pumping iron at a Marriott in Warsaw, Poland. The video posted a Facebook by a fellow gym user offering us sort of a rare glimpse into the president's private life and the way he works out, lifting weights, there were some free weights there, squats.

And despite concerns, the Secret Service says, no, no security breach here. We ant to bring in a special guest. Arun Chaudhary, he was the first official presidential videographer for President Obama.

Really a delight to speak with you this morning. And I guess with your job that you had as videographer for President Obama, you saw the president in more sort of candid moments behind the scenes. But what was your reaction to seeing this workout, Arun?

ARUN CHAUDHARY, FIRST PRESIDENTIAL VIDEOGRAPHER FOR BARACK OBAMA: You know, it really felt like -- it felt like my old job. This president, President Obama, is somebody who just acts the same on and off camera and has this unique ability just to sort of not care about it. You know, I mean, he's very aware that everyone in that gym has a cellphone and that they're probably taking a video. And I -- I think he's very aware that working out for a tall skinny guy rarely looks that awesome.

PEREIRA: I feel like that's one tall skinny guy talking to another tall skinny guy right there. This is interesting. So many people have been making a lot about the fact that this seems like an intrusion. And then there's the other aspect of it that it seems like a security breach, that there should be security concerns about the president. You've been in situations like this. It wasn't so. You don't think?

CHAUDHARY: Oh, absolutely not. You know, anyone who is in that hotel has already gone through a lot of security measures, and the Secret Service knows how to do this kind of thing. I think it's unusual for us to see the president working out you in a gym, but as a security level, it's no different than him getting pancakes at a diner in Iowa. You know, you have to case the joint ahead of time, and there's some very serious men with some very serious weapons who protect the president who know what they're doing.

PEREIRA: I'm just watching do some of these -- it's pretty impressive. He's just going alone, no trainer, just doing his own thing.

You talk about this bubble the president is kind of able to allow himself to be in even though he must know all eyes are on him.

CHAUDHARY: I just think he has this amazing ability to create private space even in a public setting where there is chaos. For me, this gym tape is almost, although it's a great example of the new Polish cinema, it's almost no different than Pete Souza's photo of -- of the first lady and the president touching heads in the freight elevator at inauguration day. You know, there were six photographers. We were all there. There were about six Secret Service agents, and yet, they still shared this very intimate moment.

And I think that that is a crucial, crucial ability of someone to be president is to be able to create that space because without it, especially with the modern pressure of so many of these small cameras and phones, you'd quite simply go crazy.

PEREIRA: Arun, new Polish cinema? Are you seeing something here that we're not seeing?

CHAUDHARY: This is, I think, you know, has a Khogloskian (ph) kind of feel to it. And it's definitely eastern European with the music and the angles, and I think it's strong work. (inaudible) will have to catch up with this.

PEREIRA: Why do you think we're so obsessed with it? Is it because it's so relatable? We all get our sweat on at the gym. We all kind of grimace when we're lifting a weight that is just a little too much for us. What do you think it is?

CHAUDHARY: I think it's absolutely the case. I think when you look at this, it doesn't take more than a couple of seconds to register it as being very authentic, as being very real and not being put on.

I mean, this is sort of the opposite kind of release of a video of a Putin, right? This is not him strangling a tiger on top of a horse while he is shirtless. This is someone doing what they do in a very nonglamorous way, and I think it's a more effective way communicating personality, you know, than being bombastic and being propogandic.

PEREIRA: I suppose, but I gotta tell you I, would not take kindly to somebody recording my video -- recording my workout on video. How about you?

CHAUDHARY: Me neither. And that is why neither of us are running for president.

PEREIRA: Very good point.

Arun, it's really interesting to see because you say his guard is down. He's in his own kind of zone. It reminds me a little bit, although when we saw the former President Clinton or Bush out jogging, they were more aware of the cameras being there, and they kind of played to it often.

CHAUDHARY: I think especially when Bill Clinton would jog up to the McDonald's just north of the White House, I think that was as much an event to celebrate, you know, with everyone as it was wanting a private moment. PEREIRA: Some irony there.

CHAUDHARY: I think with this president you really find that he is able to create private calm moments which is, I think, what we like about his personality and why we elected him and re-elected him.

PEREIRA: He is certainly in the zone in that Marriott gym in Warsaw, Poland.

Arun, thanks so much for joining us today. Really intriguing talking to you.

CHAUDHARY: Oh, it was my pleasure.

PEREIRA: You take care. Chris?

CUOMO: I like that you said we get our sweat on.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Well put. Well put.

All right, so there's big stories starting your NEW DAY, and here they are.

Disturbing new details about the Bowe Bergdahl swap. Did the U.S. get a bum deal?

The report into that G.M. ignition switch recall. Why did it take a decade to do anything?

And skipping breakfast again today? But it's the most important meal of the day. You're not supposed to do that. Maybe it's not a bad thing after all.

Info and answers ahead. Let's go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bergdahl is not a hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aides to the president say they've been shocked by what they describe as a tax on Bergdahl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he left, he had no intention of returning back to that post.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did not serve with honor. He did not serve with dignity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should not judge until we know the facts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Smoke billows into the air as flames engulf a military plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw it falling from the sky, spinning out of control. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out! Get back! Get back! Get back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I knew in my heart, there was something wrong with the car. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defects in this key system resulted in loss of control and her death.


Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The Obama administration is hoping a proof of life video will stop the Bowe Bergdahl backlash. The video, (audio gap) apparently shows Bergdahl in poor health, forcing the administration's hand.

But a handful of skeptical senators who got to watch the video are not convinced.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I learned nothing in this briefing, nor did I expect to learn anything in this briefing.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I remain as deeply skeptical today about this as I did before this conversation that we just had with the administration. For two days now, we have asked questions, many of which not been fully answered.

Beyond that, I would say that I remain increasingly convinced from everything we've been presented that these five individuals that have been released will soon return to the fight against America.


CUOMO: Raises a question, is this about proof at all or just politics?

Foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is live from Washington. She has new details on the prisoner exchange.

Elise, so right now we believe this was about more than just health, yes?

ELISE LABOTT, FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. The U.S. never had that specificity on the health that Bowe Bergdahl could die. But a knowledgeable source tells me not only were they concerned about his health, but also they didn't want the deal to fall apart.

Now this 30-day notification that Congress said that they didn't get seemed like a long time to the U.S. team to have a handshake with the Taliban, figuratively, and then wait to execute the deal. Something could go wrong during that time, for instance. If the deal leaked, they didn't know that every foot soldier guarding Bowe Bergdahl would have done to him.

CUOMO: Well, it's interesting. Let's look at that a little bit more. You've reported in the past that the U.S. team in Qatar, they weren't confident that the deal would go through unless special forces or special ops had Bergdahl in hand. Why were they hesitant? LABOTT: Well, that's right. You know, the U.S. and the Taliban have been talking since 2010, but during these indirect talks over the last year, it was really tough. It took sometimes a week or more, several weeks, for the Qataris to get back to the U.S. after the U.S. passed the message to the Taliban. So they were never really sure that that deal would go through. What those foot soldiers on the ground would do until those special forces had them in hand.

CUOMO: Tell us more about the negotiation process and how the Qataris were involved. How difficult was this process?

LABOTT: Well, my sources are telling me it was a very long and arduous process. You know, those talks started in 2010, as I said, but it wasn't until the last year that Qatar really got involved, and this wasn't any kind of shuttle diplomacy, if you will.

Qatar would get a message from the U.S., give it to the Taliban, and then weeks would go by. The U.S. would be waiting with bated breath to see what would happen, and then they would come back to them. Sometimes the U.S. team would go to Qatar for a few hours, pass the message, and then not hear back for a week.

So it was really kinds of fits and starts over the last year, but when President Obama spoke to the emir of Qatar in this last week, they knew they had a deal. Messages were being passed back and forth on a daily basis. And then they knew that something was in play.

CUOMO: And that brings us to the main point of criticism: you can't find these guys. You need an intermediary. You have to wait weeks because you don't know where they are to get any kind of an answer. And then you release five members of the Taliban and say, we could keep track of them. And that has created a lot of the controversy here. What do your sources say about their ability to keep track of the five members of the Taliban who have been released?

LABOTT: Well, these assurances were given to the president by the emir Qatar, the head of the country. And these five are, you know, they're not under house arrest, Chris. Let's be clear. They are free to roam around the country.

But the Qataris are limiting their activities that prevent them from rejoining the Taliban movement right now. They are not able to fund- raise, for instance. They are not able to do any activities that would increase incitement, let's say.

And -- and let's be clear. I mean, sources aren't saying this directly, but their -- their communications are going to be monitored. So while they may have a decent quality of life, the important thing is the difference is their life in Qatar will make for the Taliban on the battlefield.

And U.S. officials say it's really possible that they try to rejoin the movement, but, you know, given the time that they have been away from their networks and fighting the U.S., their ability to harm the remaining U.S. forces are the Afghans going forward, the U.S. thinks it's minimal, Chris. CUOMO: The question is what is the basis for that confidence?

Elise Labott, thank you for helping us get more of an insight into how this all went down, appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris.

Joining us to discuss is one of the senators who was in that closed door meeting last night and saw that proof of life video. Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine. He also serves on the Senate's very important Intelligence Committee.

Senator, it's good to see you.