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More on Bergdahl's Time In Military, Captivity; Congress Pushes for V.A. Changes; Campus Shooting Suspect in Court Today; Canadian Shooting Suspect Captured; California Chrome Goes for Triple Crown.

Aired June 6, 2014 - 11:30   ET




REP. TOM COBURN, (R), OKLAHOMA: He had been drugged either with an antipsychotic or a hypnotic drug.


COBURN: Because you can tell. It's easy. His speech was slurred. He was having trouble reading. He had what's called nystagmus. He had been obviously drugged.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That was Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, also a physician. You heard him there. He says he's convinced that Bowe Bergdahl was drugged, not sick per se, in the proof-of-life video that led the Obama administration to make a deal to bring him home.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: The only video we have seen of the 28- year-old sergeant is this one, at least the new video, since released, released by the Taliban, showing that handover. After that, he was whisked away to Germany.

A short time ago, we received confirmation that a reintegration team from San Antonio Military Medical Center is on standby in Germany waiting for word when they can transport Bergdahl back to the United States for a long-awaited reunion with his parents. That won't happen until his is deemed fit to travel. We don't know his condition.

But our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is learning more about Bergdahl's time in the military and in captivity.

Good to see you, Jim. Good to have you @THISHOUR with us.

Why don't we talk about the reports that we're hearing that this wasn't the first time or only time that Bergdahl walked away from his post.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This was contained in a classified military report that CNN got access to or at least was able to speak to someone that knows contents of that report. It says that in addition to the time he walked off when he was captured by the Taliban, he had taken previous expeditions beyond the bounds of the outpost they were in, so establishing a pattern, right, of doing things differently and dangerously. And you can couple this with another report yesterday. CNN was able to speak with a local Afghan security official, who is part of the response when Bergdahl disappeared from his camp, saying that local witnesses there say that when Bergdahl came out, they warned him to go back to his base, it was dangerous. And later, a Taliban commander found out he was in the town and they forcibly took him away based on this account that he resisted. They beat him. They took his uniform off and forcibly took him away. So you are getting a complicated picture of how he walked off the base. Why was he walking off the base? There had been some accounts out there that he was seeking out Taliban and wanted contact with them. This account seems to undermine that, saying he was forcibly taken away.

BERMAN: Jim, it's great to have you here with us because there's so much shouting now about this story, so many accusations. Facts are important. What we know and acknowledging and what we don't know. There are these reports Bergdahl tried to escape his captors in Afghanistan. What are the facts on that?

SCIUTTO: This is coming from U.S. military officials to CNN that he tried to escape, their information, more than once during captivity. And this goes to what kind of soldier was he? Did he want to be with the Taliban as some have implied or accused him of? If he tried to escape, that would undermine that he was trying to get away. And this is why we hear consistently from U.S. military officials, wait, let us do the investigation, we'll do a thorough one and we'll talk to Bergdahl himself about what he was intending to do, et cetera. That's something we should do even as reporters as well. Because many details and competing agendas here, it will take time to figure out exactly what happened.

BERMAN: We will take that time to find out what happened.

PEREIRA: We will.

BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, great to have you with us. Really appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Ahead @THISHOUR, dark alleys, code words, untraceable cell phones --

BERMAN: Sounds like date night.

PEREIRA: It sounds like date night, or maybe it sounds like stuff of a spy movie. But, no. It's the story behind how doctors exposed the scandal at the V.A. We'll talk about this when we come back.


BERMAN: Take a look at this. A lovely scene over Normandy in France. This was moments ago. This was a flyover honoring those who served and those who were lost 70 years ago today. 70 years ago today that they stormed the beaches of Normandy, the D-Day invasion, the turning point in World War II. In some ways, the turning point in our own American history.

PEREIRA: You see the images from news reels that we saw in history classes and celebrations today, very moving.

BERMAN: Very moving.

PEREIRA: Very moving.

BERMAN: A lot of incredible scenes going on on this D-Day anniversary after weeks of tensions over the crisis in Ukraine. President Obama and Vladimir Putin come face to face. You see them during a class picture that was taken there. We're highlighting it for you so there's no mistaking who -- actually, Queen Elizabeth is there.

PEREIRA: There she is.

BERMAN: Photo bombing President Obama doing this.

PEREIRA: Do you think they did a selfie?

BERMAN: The president and Vladimir Putin also sat at the same table for lunch, I should say, though not side by side.

PEREIRA: White House officials say the two did have a face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of that meal. "The New York Times" reporter says it was an informal conversation but it did last 15 minutes.


PEREIRA: I want to be a fly on the wall.

As we honor the sacrifice of the greatest generation, we also want to talk about the great disservice being done to many veterans today. CNN actually helped expose the scandal that's going on and has gone on at the V.A., the delayed or denied treatments that may have cost veterans their lives. The Veterans Choice Act is moving through Congress. A House committee holds a hearing on Monday.

BERMAN: And acting V.A. secretary, Sloan Gibson, says the nation will learn how many patients were taken off waiting lists and put on secret lists. Interesting to know.

Our Drew Griffin helped get this story out.

Drew, it's been a week now exactly since Eric Shinseki resigned as V.A. secretary. Any tangible changes in this last week?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the wait lists around the country are being addressed. Sloan Gibson was in Phoenix yesterday saying everyone on the wait list there has been cont contacted and scheduled to come in for appointments if they want them. In a systemic failure, I don't think we can look for quick fixes here. We really need to keep on the V.A. and as Congress is doing maybe pass a few laws that will help the V.A. get its act together. It won't be easy.

PEREIRA: Drew, you have done an incredible amount of work on this story. It's interesting. It reads much like a spy novel, reminiscent of the Watergate investigation. We're talking about dark alleys and code words.

GRIFFIN: It was crazy. Keep in mind, when we began this last summer, it was in the height of that NSA scandal. All of these physicians -- and they were all physicians from the V.A. -- thought that any moment the government could be snooping in on their e-mails and phone calls and everything. So when they wanted to meet us and when they would meet us face to face, it would be in a dark alley or in a really dump of a restaurant somewhere where they knew that nobody would know them because they were doctors or whatever. One doctor was so scared to communicate with us that this doctor actually, every time we communicated with him electronically, we had to use the code word "tender vittles" just so that person could make sure it was us communicating with him and not someone infiltrating.

BERMAN: Why so much fear, Drew?

GRIFFIN: It is crazy. But a lot of the people that came forward to us told us they had been professionally retaliated against trying to warn the system, inside the system, before they came to us. They also said that in the time that we were asking questions publicly of the V.A., they were being warned privately as a group. Anybody talks outside of the V.A., this could be a federal crime and we could prosecute you. You could go to prison for breaking privacy rights and all kinds of rights. So they were very, very scared to come forward, which is why it led to all of this bizarre cloak-and-dagger stuff over doctors at the V.A.

PEREIRA: Those people threatening retaliation are called on the carpet right now. We know that. Thankfully, brave whistle blowers have been here on our air at CNN, Dr. Foote among them. He was brave enough to stand up. We appreciate that.

And great reporting.

We should point out, Drew has done a fantastic piece on this and you can read the article about how she got this information to him. Really intriguing details here. You can read it on

Drew, thank you so much. Great work.

BERMAN: Yeah. This is a great piece. I was shocked by --


PEREIRA: Frustrating to know this went on.

BERMAN: But the "tender vittles" code names to get this out. Really crazy. PEREIRA: All right. D-Day marked the beginning of the end of World

War II. It was also the first step in liberating many of its victims.

BERMAN: This week's "CNN Hero" focuses on some of the people still struggling with the war's effects, elderly Holocaust survivors living in squalor. Zane Buzby's nonprofit is helping them right a new chapter in their lives.


ZANE BUZBY, CNN HERO: As a child, I ran from killing squads three times. Even now I dream I'm running. Our entire town was burned to nothing. My mother and father were killed in the mass graves. I sometimes think it would have been better if I had died with them. I cry at night. Your letters for me are like medicine.

These are the last survivors of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe and they are out there today, elderly, alone, suffering. They don't have extended family.

Life is so hard in these places. They don't have anything.

I saw it with my own eyes and I knew no one was helping them. I wanted to reach out and help them.


BUZBY: We provide them with direct continuous financial aid for food, heat and medication and shelter.

OK, stay healthy. Great to meet you.

We let them though they have not been forgotten.

This person I'm worried about. His wife is paralyzed. He's not well.

We get stacks and stacks of letters every week mostly in Russian. They send out the translators and then we start answering them immediately and sending money. We're now helping 2,000 people in eight countries.

The money is life saving but the connection, the letters, the communication, that's equally live saving.

I'm going to come back and see you.


BUZBY: We can finally write a more hopeful final chapter to the Holocaust, this time, one with kindness and compassion that they deserve at the end of their lives.


PEREIRA: So beautiful what it means to those people to be seen and recognized. "CNN Hero" Zane Buzby started the Survivor Project in 2008.

BERMAN: Do you know someone who should be a "CNN Hero?" Let us know. Tell us about them. Nominate them right now at


PEREIRA: The suspect in a fatal shooting at Seattle Pacific University is going to make his first court appearance today. Authorities say 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra killed one student and injured others before a student security guard tackled him. Police say the gunman had stopped to reload his shotgun when he was taken down.

BERMAN: Our colleague, Ashleigh Banfield, from CNN's "Legal View," is here.

Ashleigh, this is coming just two weeks after the horrific shootings at U.C. Santa Barbara. Thankfully, that student security guard stopped this guy. What do you know about the suspect?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST, "LEGAL VIEW": We've got one dead person right now. These are two murder charges. These will be first-degree murder charges. This guy was loaded for bear. When police got him, he had a shotgun, he had a knife, he had additional rounds of ammunition. I'm getting sick of reporting that, by the way. This seems to be the M.O. of so many of them. But at this point, they don't know. He wasn't a student. They don't know his motive. But they have him. So often, these guys kill themselves and we don't get the information. And we scan their hard drives. We ask their friends and family. But we're left with a big mystery. Here, we have witnesses who survived. And they can tell you in court what he did or didn't do or was alleged to have happened. And then we have him, who may decide to defend himself at some point and say something on the stand at one point.

PEREIRA: We had a hero that brought him down.

I want to turn to a story you and I both take -- we all take these stories personally. This story worried the two of us because it comes from Canada, where we're both from, and it's something that doesn't happen often. On the east coast of Canada, a 24-year-old, again, loaded for bear, walks through a neighborhood, kills it three RCMP officers, wounds two others. Was on the loose. There was a man hunt for almost two days. They finally got him.

BANFIELD: It's weird. You and I both growing up in Canada, I cut my teeth as a cub reporter there.

PEREIRA: We didn't tell these stories because this weren't happening.

BANFIELD: Almost never. When there was a gun complaint, this was a story that went on for weeks, even if no one died. If you want me to put numbers to it, it's pretty remarkable. 140,000 people.

PEREIRA: Small city for Canada, sure.

BANFIELD: But how small do you have to be to have this? In 2011 and 2012, the average number of homicides, let's see --


PEREIRA: It was like one --


BANFIELD: You know what, there were none. The average number for 2006 to 2011 is one. We're talking about a place that just doesn't -- they're not used to killing, let along Rambo style.

PEREIRA: This is a sleepy little town. It was a place that was known -- it was voted by a magazine as one of the friendliest places in Canada.

BERMAN: We have to let your countryman go, because she has her own television show. "Legal View" which starts in six and a half minutes.

Thanks so much.


PEREIRA: You're very welcome.

I don't need to apologize for anything.

BERMAN: Very Canadian.


BERMAN: Ahead for us @THISHOUR, A lot of people betting on the ponies, particularly one, California Chrome. Will this horse do something which has not been done in 30 years, win the Triple Crown?

PEREIRA: Are we putting a wager on this one?

BERMAN: I'm betting a horse will win.


PEREIRA: Big weekend. Not just hockey. There are high hopes for a horse --

BERMAN: Not just hockey.

PEREIRA: -- named California Chrome. Could be the first in the more than 30 years to win the Triple Crown. Tomorrow, it could happen.

BERMAN: Joining us to talk about this is Nischelle Turner, a retired jockey --



PEREIRA: So tall.



BERMAN: Only what, like 11 horses in history have won the Triple Crown, hasn't happened in more than 30 years.

TURNER: Because it's difficult.

BERMAN: It's hard to do. Why is it so hard?

TURNER: There's a lot of reasons. First of all, the Belmont is the longest race. It's 1.4 miles. And going into it, it's really kind of a jockey race, because the jockeys have to decide, at one point, you do push your horse to maximum effort, and they have to decide when's the right time. If you do it too early, especially at the Belmont, you use your horse up. So there's no way for the horse to recover when they're going such a long distance. Also, I was reading the Belmont, they call it the sandy track because it's sandier. They get a lot of rain there.


BERMAN: That makes it harder too.

TURNER: Yeah, it makes it harder on the horses. And look, sports we know three the hard way. Hard to win three times. Hard to beat someone three types in a row. It's just hard.

BERMAN: In the Belmont, you get horses who did not run the Preakness. You get these new guys coming in.

PEREIRA: They're all fresh, fresh.

BERMAN: Who are fresh.


TURNER: When you have someone like California Chrome who has to run three races in a relatively short amount of time, it's just tough to do. But the favorite going in tomorrow --


PEREIRA: I'm hearing like these massive crowds are expected. Is it the prize, is it the horse, the nose strip action, all of that. Plus, we talked about that dang nasal strip.

TURNER: For a long time.

PEREIRA: But it generated more interest and excitement around the race.

TURNER: Well, because there was -- when the horses are using maximum effort, their airway can constrict. That keeps -- just like a regular person who has a hard time breathing, nasal strips, it helps you out. They thought this could give a horse a leg up. Now, the New York Racing Association saying we're going to lift the ban, we're going to let you do your thing.

BERMAN: This is more than a story about a nasal strip through. This hours and his team has more going for it than just that.

TURNER: California Chrome has a great story. That's why the horse has so many people pulling for it. Almost died when he was born. You know, really kind of had this rags to riches story. So everyone wants to see this horse win the Triple Crown. Triple Crown doesn't happen, only 11 times. It's going to be number 12. Starting in the number- two spot. So it's starting in a good position tomorrow. But I feel like I'm almost jinxing the horse.

PEREIRA: Let's not talk about it so much.


If a girl had nothing better to do, one could sit in front of the television and watch the Belmont. Watch the hockey game tomorrow night.


TURNER: Michaela knows I'm not a girl who drinks a lot, but I am a lady who loves a mint julep.

PEREIRA: She does. Get a hat. Let's go.

TURNER: So there's no official drink at the Belmont. They need to get one.

BERMAN: I have to get out of this before I get in trouble.


Thanks for joining us @THISHOUR. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: I'm Michaela Pereira.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.