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70th Anniversary of D-Day; Normandy Beaches Packed with Heads of State; New Details of Bowe Bergdahl's Health; Hillary Clinton's New Memoir Leaked; Severe Weather Across America

Aired June 6, 2014 - 04:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, world leaders gathering on the beaches of Normandy to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the D- Day invasion, the day that marked the beginning of the end for Adolph Hitler's reign of terror. We're bringing you moments of remembrance and celebration throughout the morning. It's our big story this morning and we have a team of reporters bringing you every event as it happens.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, new details about the health of the American soldier freed from the Taliban after five years in captivity. Some new clues the terrorists may have drugged Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. As we learn new information about what happened in the weeks leading up to his release -- and his capture I should say. We are live with the very latest.

ROMANS: And Hillary Clinton's latest memoir is leaked. The former Secretary of State providing new details about the Benghazi attack, her relationship with President Obama, and the huge mistakes she says she made in office.

Good morning, welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: Great to see you today. I'm John Berman. It is Friday. It is June 6, 70 years since D-Day. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And up first, President Obama arriving in Normandy at this hour, one of 17 heads of state on hand to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Thousands and thousands have gathered at the historic French village to honor the thousands of fallen soldiers who helped defeat the Third Reich and liberate Europe.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, traveling with the President, he joins live from Colleville-Sur-Mer in France. Jim, what a scene. What a sight.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really is, John. And just a few moments ago before I had a chance to come up here and talk to you, I was able to walk through the cemetery behind me. And just to see these gravestones, some of them not marked with a name, it just sometimes says in honor of a fallen comrade. It really gives you goosebumps.

Talked to a general just as we were walking in who said, "Welcome to Normandy." And when you hear those words, it really goes right to your core, John. So it's really impressive to be here. It's incredible to be here. And we understand the president is arriving right now. He'll be giving his remarks in about 20 minutes here at Omaha Beach at the cemetery. He'll be paying tribute, we're told, by White House officials not only to the soldiers who stormed these beaches here to liberate France and then Europe, but also he's going to be drawing a connection between the sacrifices made by the World War II generation and the generation of men and women who fought after September 11. We'll be hearing that from the president as well.

This a busy day for the president, John. After that, he is going to be attending a heads of state lunch over at Sword Beach, which is not too far from where we're standing right now. That is being hosted by French president Francois Hollande. And you can tell by the words "heads of states" as to who also will be at that event. Russian President Vladimir Putin will be there and we expect the president and Vladimir Putin to have a chance to come face to face; it will be the first face-to-face encounter, we understand, since the Russian intervention of Ukraine.

And as we heard the president say yesterday, he is going to be saying a few things to Vladimir Putin about what's happening in Ukraine. We expect the president to say that he would like to see those separatists in eastern Ukraine stand down. He wants Vladimir Putin's help with that.

And so it's going to be a very interesting day. And, of course, the controversy surrounding the release of P.O.W. Bowe Bergdahl. We've been talking about that all week long. We will not hear the president talk about that today. But I can tell you, John, that later on today I will be doing an interview with National Security Advisor Susan Rice and so I will have a chance to ask her about that. She had some remarks about that on the Sunday talk shows, as you'll recall, about Bowe Bergdahl, some controversial remarks. And I'll have a chance to ask her about that as well.

In addition to all of these events that are happening here today, which is -- it's really an honor to be here. Just as a journalist, John, and it is a sight to behold.

BERMAN: You get chills just looking at you there. Jim, of course, the D-Day invasion is a pivot point in World War II but also a pivot point in America's relationship with Europe as a whole. Presidents since Ronald Reagan have gone to D-Day celebrations and really made statements about what the U.S. role in Europe will and should be. Do we expect that President Obama will be staking out any ground this morning?

ACOSTA: I think he will be doing that, John. Not to give too much of a sneak preview of the president's remarks, but, you know, a lot of this will be a tribute to the soldiers who died here. And when you look at these grave markers, it is just a sea of heroes who were laid to rest here. And you're going to hear the president sort of weave in these stories about those fallen soldiers, about those heroes, about the greatest generation into his remarks here. I think what you're getting at, John, is something that we're going to

be hearing from the president if not explicitly, implicitly in his speech. And that is there is a lesson for the rest of Europe, the president feels, happening right now with respect to the crisis in Ukraine. You've heard the president talk about that all week long, that when Europe stands united as it did back during the 1940s, the Allied powers standing united, that peace can be brought to troubled regions.

One thing that we'll also hear not only from President Obama but from other world leaders is that the Soviet Union also paid a heavy price, had a major sacrifice during World War II. You heard the president saying that it's absolutely appropriate for Vladimir Putin to be staying here because he too is honoring the sacrifices paid by former Soviet Union soldiers, Russian soldiers, during World War II as well.

So a very big agenda for President Obama and all of these heads of state -- 19 heads of state, in fact, will be on hand here today at Normandy, John.

BERMAN: Jim Acosta, glad you're having a chance to experience this. Very happy you're here with us this morning. We'll check in with you again in a little bit. Thanks Jim.

ROMANS: Sword Beach was five among five key strategic locations used by Allied forces to storm Normandy, and today it plays host to thousands of visitors who traveled to France to honor the men and women who gave their lives to defeat the Nazis and bring an end to World War II.

Chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is there for us this morning. And, Christiane, we were just talking -- you could hear Jim Acosta make this point about the sacrifice of Russia during World War II, this big sacrifice -- 20 million Russians died in this conflict. And, really, when you think about today, when you contrast that today's frayed relationship between Europe and the United States and Russia, it really is remarkable to put in the context of history.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is. And you can probably hear behind me some of the music has risen; there's some speeches being practiced. This is where all the heads of state are going to be celebrating and really commemorating the courage of all those who gave their lives and the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day 70 years ago.

It is extraordinary, when you look at these beaches and you know that for decades now people have come here to holiday on these beaches in Normandy. But that day 70 years ago they were drenched with blood. On that day alone, 10,000 people -- Americans, British, Canadians, Norwegians, Czechs, all those people who helped in the D-Day landings -- either were killed, wounded or they went missing.

Christine, courage since the millennia has been the most venerated of human qualities. Philosophers, poets, politicians are always paying tribute to that. Well, this was the most extreme example of that, the most ambitious military assault ever planned in human history. It may not have gone off according to plan. General Eisenhower took the biggest gamble in modern military command by agreeing to take that 36- hour window in the terrible weather that was June of 1944, and came here and did those landings, Operation: Overlord, from Omaha all the way up to Sword, where we are right now. 60 kilometers, 60 miles of beachhead that spurred the liberation of Europe, and that famous, "OK, let's go," command from General Eisenhower and the famous address he gave to the citizens of Western Europe, "The hour of your liberation is upon us"

And it was just extraordinary. And the French today have said, quite categorically, that they were under occupation and that they are thanking all their Allied comrades who came to liberate them from this terrible menace of Nazism. And of course, 70 years later, the chancellor of Germany will be here, Angela Merkel, because today even though those forces were defeated, Germany, with the help of the United States, has become one of the most robust, solid democracies in Europe. And that is tribute to the Germans, but also to the U.S., to the Marshall Plan, to everything that happened after the war as well.

And as you say, yes, President Putin will be here. It is a time of extremely exacerbated relations between Putin and the West. It's the worst chill that has descended between east and west since the Cold War and they have a lot of talking to do to get him to actually pull back his surrogates who are destabilizing eastern Ukraine right now or else face more sanctions.

But, really, here we are celebrating the beginning of the end of the worst war we have seen in modern times. And right now, eastern Ukraine is potentially on the brink of a civil war that could, if it's not pulled back now, could embroil that part of Europe for many, many years to come.

So it's vital this day, both the commemoration and a realization that, right now in Europe, there is another potentially terribly dangerous civil war about to tip over into the abyss, Christine.

ROMANS: Christiane Amanpour for us this morning at Sword Beach. Christiane, John, she was talking about courage, the courage of those young men who are now old men who stormed that beach. When you think about, when you talk to these men -- my grandmother's brother -- they were courageous but scared to death. Scared to death and they did it any way. There was no other choice.

BERMAN: It's remarkable. What's so important is the opportunity to talk to so many of these men is fading. So this is an event that's drifting into history and also important to mark because of that. So important to mark and remember.

Obviously the events of the day have been overshadowing this trip to Europe for President Obama. He insists there will be absolutely no apologies for the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap. The White House facing growing criticism from both parties, Republicans and Democrats, for releasing five Taliban detainees to free the army sergeant who many are calling a deserter.

In Washington, angry lawmakers have been slamming the deal, but administration officials plan to keep hammering home one message to justify the move.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was our last remaining P.O.W. This was our last best chance to get him as this war winds down. And that's exactly what we did.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There's a clear record of these people having returned to the fight and in leadership positions because it's a badge of honor to have been in Guantanamo. These are also war criminals. A couple of them were accused of killing thousands of Shiite Muslims. They used to take women into the soccer stadium in Kabul and hang them from the goalpost. I would certainly not want to release anyone that would pose a risk of further threat to the United States of America.


BERMAN: Now, the president has suggested that a lot of the uproar over the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange is politically motivated hinting that he thinks it's business as usual in Washington.

ROMANS: The White House is using a proof of life video to defend a deal that freed Bowe Bergdahl; it reportedly shows the army sergeant in captivity late last year. He appeared disoriented and frail. Pentagon officials have shown it to a group of senators including Oklahoma Republican Dr. Tom Coburn. Here's what he took from the video.


SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK), M.D.: 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. I mean he'd been obviously drugged.


ROMANS: Coburn emphasizes his observations are being made as a physician. He also told CNN Bergdahl cleared a health check when he arrived in Germany, but his mental and psychological condition may not be stable.

BERMAN: When Bowe Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and fell into the hands of the Taliban, apparently it was not first time that he had wandered off from an assigned area. A classified military report, completed two months after Bergdahl vanished, says it happened twice before. Came back both of those times, and the report stopped short of concluding that Bergdahl was a deserter.

The army sergeant is still recovering from the five years in captivity; he's at a hospital in Landstuhl in Germany. And that's where we find Matthew Chance this morning. Matthew, give us a sense. We have learned more about his condition, haven't we?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a little bit more in the sense that, for the first time in two days, the U.S. military hospital here in Landstuhl in southern Germany have given us an update on his condition. But they're not saying very much in their statement. It's a pretty closed door operation, I have to say, when it comes to Sergeant Bergdahl at the moment.

But what they're saying is he's in a stable condition, that every day his condition is improving. They are saying that he's now conversing with the medical staff and that he's becoming more engaged with his treatment care plan.

So those are the only details they have given us over the past couple days. It's a little bit intention, isn't it, with this idea that Sergeant Bergdahl's life was in jeopardy, which is why they had to him and do that prisoner swap when they did. Certainly we're not getting any sense from the medical team that we've spoken to here at Landstuhl that there's any kind of life threatening problem associated with Sergeant Bergdahl. There are some things they are treating, but they revealed that they are looking at his dietary and nutritional needs as a result of being in captivity for nearly five years in Afghanistan and in parts of Pakistan as well.

But apart from that, physically, he seems to be OK. Psychologically, maybe a different question. And that might be a longer process it get him to get him back up to the position where, for instance, he could be taken back to the United States. That won't happen until he's ready to go.

BERMAN: You have to imagine that will take some time. Barbara Starr has been reporting that he is speaking English with those who are caring for him in that hospital. That's something that people were wondering after five years in captivity, if that would come easily. Matthew Chance live for us in Landstuhl, thank you so much.

ROMANS: Hillary Clinton's new memoir, "Hard Choices," does not hit the bookstores until next week, but it's already in the hands of the media. The former First Lady offering up new details about Benghazi, her relationship with Barack Obama and freed P.O.W. Bowe Bergdahl. We get more from senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and John, Hillary Clinton details her role in negotiations to secure Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban forces in Afghanistan in her much anticipated memoir first obtained by CBS News.

Now, this controversy surrounding his release in exchange for five top Taliban leaders likely does not surprise her, because she writes, "I acknowledged, as I had many times before, that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war."

Her starkest difference of opinion with President Obama is on Syria's civil war. She says she pushed him to arm moderate rebels but he disagreed. "No one likes to lose a debate, including me," she says, "but this was the president's call and I respected his deliberations and decision."

She speaks warmly of her relationship with Obama, which grew out of a bitter primary battle, and she describes their first meeting after she dropped out of the race. She says, "We stared at each other like two teenagers on an awkward first date taking a few sips of chardonnay. Both Barack and I and our staffs had long lists of grievances. It was time to clear the air."

A few light moments in a memoir about her time at the State Department out officially on Tuesday. Christine and John?

ROMANS: All right, Brianna, thank you.

BERMAN: The chardonnay, helpful in any awkward first date.

ROMANS: Was it oaked or unoaked chardonnay, that is the big question.

We're learning new information this morning about a deadly school shooting in Seattle. Right now, several people in the hospital. The suspect is behind bars. We can tell you what police revealed overnight.


BERMAN: Developing this morning, a suspected gunman is in custody after allegedly opening fire with a shotgun on the campus of Seattle Pacific University, killing one person, wounding two others. He's identified as 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra. Police say a student tackled the shooter as he was reloading and others jumped in to hold him until the authorities arrived. A third person was injured in the struggle.

People who were in Otto Miller Hall, where the shooting took place, described the scene to CNN affiliate, KIRO.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all got scared and we went up, everyone went up to the front of the classroom and sat on the floor. And then we started checking our phones, social media, the news and stuff, and that's how we found out what was going on. And then about 30 minutes later, the cops, the police came and unlocked the door and let us out. And we met on the lobby and that was where it was taped off; we saw blood on the carpet, bullet shells, blood spatters on the wall. And then they kind of checked our bags, pat us down, and let us out two by two.


BERMAN: One of those wounded in the shooting is in critical condition. Police say the suspect was not a student at the school. Still no word yet on a possible motive.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, a 24-year-old suspect in a deadly shooting rampage in Canada taken into custody this morning. Justin Bourque accused of pulling off one of the worse mass shootings in Royal Canadian Mounted Police history. He had been spotted several times following Wednesday's killing spree but eluded capture for nearly two days. He is accused of killing three police officers and injuring two others in a residential town in New Brunswick.

BERMAN: All right, right now, deadly storms barreling through the country and leaving a path of destruction and heartache. And it's not over yet. We'll tell you about the millions that need to be on alert today right after the break.


BERMAN: Welcome back. Millions of Americans bracing for another round of severe weather today. Thunderstorms packing damaging winds, torrential rains and hail posing a threat from Colorado to the Gulf states. Look at the area in red. This latest round coming on the heels of those powerful storms that battered the Midwest and Southeast on Thursday.

ROMANS: Take a look at the damage in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Whipping winds snapped tree limbs, crews working around the clock to clear the debris right now. Devastating winds tossing around small planes like toys. At least three people in the state killed by this severe weather.

BERMAN: More of the same in Topeka, Kansas. Powerful winds uprooting this tree and dropping it on a house. Power lines down all over the city; as many as 12,000 people were in the dark at the height of the storm.

ROMANS: And tragedy in Tennessee, heavy rains triggering massive flooding near Nashville. A family of four got stuck in the high water. A 6-year-old boy in the car swept away by flood waters. Two other people also died in that state. Just horrible.

BERMAN: Such a tragedy.

Happening right now, presidential pilgrimage to the beaches of Normandy. World leaders commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Right now, President Obama is set to speak within the hour. We'll bring you live team coverage of this historic morning, next.