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Hillary Clinton on Bergdahl; Update on Comedian Tracy Morgan; Pope Francis Becomes Peacemaker.

Aired June 9, 2014 - 11:30   ET


SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The other reality is -- a good reminder -- now we do think of her as part of political elite. They were the candidates, her husband and, by extension herself, who were not the moneyed Washington power structure. And it would be nice to have people that can sort of remember and harken back to that in politics again. That is a fact that she should be reminding voters of.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: One has to wonder if that's a message that will be lost from folks saying, look, I look at you and I don't see anything about you struggling. That may be perspective some people have.

Ross, Sally, stay where you are.

We want to talk more about Hillary Clinton and talk about the Bowe Bergdahl controversy. If Clinton were commander-in-chief, would she have swapped the Army sergeant for five Taliban leaders? We'll do that after the break.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Obama administration still explaining itself to both Democrat and Republican lawmakers about why it decided to trade five Taliban mid-level and senior-level members for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

PEREIRA: All House members will receive a closed-door briefing from the White House, Pentagon and State Department officials later today.

We'll bring back our political commentators, Sally Kohn and Ross Douthat, back with us here.

We've been talking obviously about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's new book. And inside it, she weighs in on the Bowe Bergdahl controversy. Let's take a listen to some of her comments on this.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think this was a very hard choice which is why I think my book is aptly named. If you look at factors going into the decision, of course there are competing interests and values. And one of our values is we bring everybody home off the battlefield the best we can. It doesn't matter how they ended up in a prisoner-of-war situation.

DIANE SAWYER, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: It doesn't matter?

CLINTON: It does not matter.


PEREIRA: Diane Sawyer pushing back there saying it doesn't matter? Asking her that question again, reiterating it doesn't matter, the situation that got them there in the first place.

I'm curious, Ross -- we'll start with you -- do you think Republicans are going to seize on that?

ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Maybe. I think it's also a case study in why Hillary is in certain ways a smarter politician on these issues than the president has been in the sense that she frames the discussion by saying, look, this is a hard choice. There were competing interests on either side. I think that if President Obama had basically framed the Bergdahl swap in that light from the beginning, if he said this was a difficult choice, I understand why people are upset about it, I'm not going to do a big Rose Garden ceremony and pretend there's no controversy here whatsoever, he would be in better shape today. I think that sort of sense of where the politics of a particular decision lies is something that both of the Clintons have always had more strongly than the current president in certain ways.

BERMAN: Sally, do you think Hillary Clinton is a better politician than President Obama?


KOHN: Here's what I do think.


DOUTHAT: They are both great politicians.

KOHN: They are both great politicians. Hillary has more experience with irrational attacks. I think she's sort of better conditioned to preparing from a messaging and small politics perspective preparing for that. Reality in this case is no one could have seen this coming because until Bowe Bergdahl was exchanged, we had Republicans not only championing him as a hero but berating President Obama for not yet having brought him home. There is a little bit of a, well, why would we have seen it as a P.R. nightmare. The Republicans have already laid P.R. groundwork for championing this is a great thing to do for America.


KOHN: So everybody got caught. Her remarks are after that controversy came down.

DOUTHAT: This is true that she had the opportunity of hindsight here. The White House should have known this. The White House had access to information about the context of his capture that wasn't available to a lot of the conservatives calling for his immediate release. What's mystifying --


KOHN: They knew. They knew. And it had been discussed. And it was in the media. And certainly John McCain and others --


KOHN: It was there.

DOUTHAT: But most of the people making this argument were not aware of the facts on the ground and when the facts came out -- I mean, look, there was a reason that soldiers and platoon signed nondisclosure agreements. The White House did have information about this that they should have known would be controversial and the fact that they assumed it wouldn't be reflects at the very least a political tone deafness.

KOHN: Ross is exactly right. Facts on the ground people were not aware of and are not wanting to be made aware of because Republicans leave a briefing early on the matter so they can get in the media and attack without the facts. The reality is even members of his platoon wanted him to be brought home and they're being manipulated by Republicans who simply want another excuse to bash President Obama, whatever the conditions. Look, we have a very simple rule in this country, we take care of our own. If he deserves, we punish our own. We don't leave them behind to have the Taliban punish them.


BERMAN: Ross, Sally, I'm shocked you guys cannot reach agreement on this subject.


But I do appreciate you both sharing your views. Come again.

KOHN: Thank you.

DOUTHAT: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Still ahead @THISHOUR, we'll have the latest on how comedian, Tracy Morgan, is doing after a deadly crash. If you see the vehicle, wow, you realize how serious of a crash it was that claimed the life of one. The truck driver is accused of causing the terrible wreck and he is going to court. We'll have the latest for you.


PEREIRA: Comedian and actor, Tracy Morgan, is in critical condition at this hour. He survived a deadly crash over the weekend. His publicist says the former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" star is now responsive following surgery that he had yesterday. We know that he's in the hospital being treated for broken ribs, a broken nose and a broken leg.

BERMAN: Our Nischelle Turner is here with us. Rene Marsh joins us from Washington.

Nischelle, let me start with you. What do we know about the crash? We just got this criminal complaint in.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: We do have information that is just now coming in. And the way the criminal complaint reads that we obtained this morning is basically the truck driver -- his name is Kevin Roper -- he's being charged with vehicular homicide because of recklessly operating a vehicle. Also being charged with injury to a person for recklessly operating a vehicle because this complaint says he hadn't slept in more than 24 hours before this crash happened. That is their way of saying he was reckless behind the wheel because of lack of sleep.

PEREIRA: Rene, why don't we bring you in here?

This is a really startling and important detail to be looking at, the fact that this driver would have been awake and working for more than 24 hours. This is really significant and it's a real concern. This is something that federal investigators are always worried about.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely is. The key and what we want to learn more about is was he actually working for all 24 hours. We know that he says he was up for 24 hours. If he was indeed working for Walmart because we know he's a Walmart employee, for that entire time, that's truly a flagrant violation of the rules. As it stands, there are limits on how many hours truck drivers can drive within a day. The limit is 11 hours for the day. They also get a 30-minute break.

But this crash that happened over the weekend really -- it highlights a debate that's been happening on Capitol Hill here which we reported on on Friday. Some Democrats and some Republicans want to change parts of the rest rules on the books currently for truck drivers. The portion of the rule that one Senate committee just voted to rollback is this portion. Once a driver hits 70 hours, they're required to take at least 34 hours off. Within that, it must include one morning between 1:00 and 5:00 a.m. where they are not driving and getting a good night sleep. They want them to get that most restorative sleep. Some say that should not be troubled with, they should not change anything having to do with the rest rules, which were put in place by the Department of Transportation last July.

PEREIRA: This is really a concern. Obviously, they're going to look at his log book. The investigation will continue.

I want to say a big thank you for Rene Marsh and Nischelle Turner. You've been on this story all day since yesterday when it happened. We hope that Tracy Morgan feels the love and support being reached out to him in this recovery that he's going to face now.

BERMAN: Ahead for us @THISHOUR, Pope Francis. There is a new potential peacemaker on the scene. A remarkable meeting at the Vatican. How much of a difference can this make in going forward? How much of a difference can he make?


BERMAN: Pope Francis, a remarkable, unprecedented meeting this weekend at the Vatican, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

PEREIRA: The first time ever the pope has hosted a prayer meeting of two leaders engaged in conflict. The meeting ended with two the men exchanges kisses on the cheek and breaking ground for the planting of an olive tree as a symbol of peace.


POPE FRANCIS (through translation): To have peace, one needs courage far more than what you need for a war. Courage to say yes for a meeting and to say no against conflict, against violence, and negotiate and say no against provocations.


PEREIRA: Joining us from Rome is our Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher.

Good to have you with us. What a significant moment. A beautiful photo opportunity. But one has to wonder what are kind of difference this could actually make long term.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what we're seeing here is the beginning of Pope Francis as a peace broker. So far, he's shown a creative way of getting into some of these kinds of tricky negotiations. Last year, he called for peace in Syria by calling for a day of fasting against military intervention there. So he wants to get involved, but not in terms of the nitty-gritty of political negotiation, but providing a neutral place for two opposing parties to come together and talk. That is something of what we saw last night and that is probably the hope going forward. Because if you think about it, what other world leader today would have the moral authority or the popularity to be able to do that?

BERMAN: There's a big "but" here, though, Delia. The Israeli leader the pope chose was Israeli president Shimon Peres, not the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Peres has no authority really to negotiate any peace situation whatsoever. Nonetheless, it was a symbolic picture. My question is, do you think the pope would take more concrete steps going forward, move perhaps beyond just symbolism?

GALLAGHER: Well, first of all, John, the Vatican does have a vested interest in this particular issue, i.e., the Holy Land. There are many sacred places there for Christianity, so they do have continual diplomatic relations with Israel on the issues that concern the Catholic Church. So I do believe we will see some continued diplomacy between the Vatican and Israelis in the future -- John?

BERMAN: All right, Delia Gallagher, for us at the Vatican, thank you.

Again, the images really are remarkable.

PEREIRA: She said, the symbolism is important, the moment is important. Let's see what happens now.

Straight ahead, a bit of a different story here. Batter up. Yes, that's our Brooke Baldwin practicing her swing.

BERMAN: Wow. Look at her go down the line there. Wow.


BERMAN: At Fenway Park. And she's going to tell us the story of how she helped fallen heroes on the field.



BALDWIN: I've got a little bit. Let's be real.



PEREIRA: I want to tell you about something terrific in Boston on Friday. At an event to honor fallen heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan, one of our very own, Brooke Baldwin, got a chance to participate.

Look at her go.

BERMAN: Oh, my goodness. That's Brooke Baldwin at Fenway Park --

PEREIRA: You're jealous right now.

BERMAN: -- racing down the line. That wasn't Brooke Baldwin there.


BERMAN: This is a celebrity softball game. And she is, in fact, really a celebrity. Organized by the Massachusetts Iraq and Afghanistan Fallen Heroes Memorial Fund.

Brooke Baldwin came all the way to our set --

BALDWIN: Which is beautiful, by the way.

BERMAN: -- to tell us about it.

BALDWIN: You guys are big time.


BALDWIN: Big time.

Thank you so much for having me on. It was so amazing. The group is Mass Fallen Heroes. I thought you'd appreciate this. I can now say I've singled at Fenway, John Berman.

BERMAN: That's awesome.

BALDWIN: I actually made it. I was so wrapped up in the moment, they had to yell at me to run towards second base, because I was just taking it all in. Not just because I was at baseball mecca but because I was playing with our nation's heroes. Take a look.


BALDWIN: Eighth grade softball coming back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three, break.

BALDWIN: This is fun.


BALDWIN: Why did you organize this whole thing and more importantly why did you invite me?

KEVIN CHAPMAN, ORGANIZER, FENWAY FOR THE FALLEN: Because you're bringing the heat.


CHAPMAN: Brooke Baldwin, bringing the heat, baby.


CHAPMAN: Went down to Walter Reed in February. I saw these brave men and women in the physical fitness area, just trying to get back, get back into society. I wanted to do something. Whatever it was I wanted it to be festive, to include the families, but also I wanted to say thank you.

BALDWIN: I made it on first base. That was the worst hit ever. Edit that out.



BALDWIN: Chris Herron, you play basketball. How does softball compare, my friend?

CHRIS HERRON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: It doesn't. It's a lot of pressure right now.

BALDWIN: A lot of pressure.

HERRON: A lot of pressure.

BALDWIN: Playing for the veterans, big deal.

HERRON: Which takes the pressure away because of the cause. It's a beautiful day in Fenway.


CHAPMAN: The word "Boston Strong" has been thrown around since the tragic events of the Boston Marathon. I grew up there. Boston has been strong as long as I've been there.

BALDWIN: Where did you serve?

SGT. JEFF COMBS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Five and a half years Marine Corps in Iraq in 2004 and Iraq again in 2006. I've never been to Fenway.

BALDWIN: You've never been to Fenway?

COMBS: Never.

BALDWIN: Are you from Massachusetts?

COMBS: No, I'm New York, born and raised. But I always wanted --


BALDWIN: Whoa, whoa, this is like enemy territory.

COMBS: Yeah, pretty much.

BALDWIN: Are you a Yankees fan?

COMBS: I am, yeah.

BALDWIN: The interview's over.

COMBS: I don't blame you. I don't blame you.



PEREIRA: What I love is that you actually went to a battle cage in preparation for this.

BALDWIN: Listen, I absolutely went to a batting cage. I was nailing them. Of course, my first at-bat. But I'm at Fenway, I got to go. Horrible.

BERMAN: The smiles of everyone there, it was just amazing.

BALDWIN: It was amazing. It was families, it was veterans, it was gold star families. There were wives who had lost loved ones oversea who wanted to show up for their husbands. A Big Papi's kid was out there, little DeAngelo Ortiz. He's like, were you the one that robbed me? It was an intense game, let me be serious.

PEREIRA: Great photos too. BALDWIN: Chris Herron, phenomenal back story, really struggled with

addiction, from Fall Rivers, Massachusetts, but now is this incredible speaker who played for the Celtics. All these different people came out because we have our priorities --


BERMAN: Just quickly, what's your one piece of advice for someone at- bat at Fenway?


BALDWIN: Don't swing at the first pitch and take a deep breath. It's overwhelming. I was pointing at the monster. I was a little cocky.

PEREIRA: And you have a camera there so it can be played in a loop forever.

BALDWIN: Yeah. Thank --


BERMAN: Well done. Very impressed.

BALDWIN: Thanks, guys.

PEREIRA: Always a pleasure.

BERMAN: That is all for us @THISHOUR. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: And I'm Michaela Pereira.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.