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THE SITUATION ROOM
Hillary Clinton's New Book; Immigration Controversy; Bowe Bergdahl Controversy
Aired June 9, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, immigration crisis. Hordes of undocumented children now are trying to cross into the United States. We have stunning photos, shocking conditions, triggering outrage and new action.
Plus, captive in North Korea. Is an American paying a price for preaching the gospel to communists? We're getting new information from his family and his lawyer.
And going for broke. Hillary Clinton gives critics new ammunition to claim she's out of touch. Her message and her missteps in her campaign to sell books and maybe a presidential bid.
We want to welcome our viewers in United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up first this hour: a stunning and sudden, very troubling crush of illegal immigrants, including hundreds and hundreds of children, even babies, flooding across the southern border of the United States, some forced to live for a while in conditions that are very disturbing at the least. Some describe it as inhumane.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here with the stunning images and the federal government's response.
Tell our viewers, Pamela, what's going on.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, administration officials, Wolf, are calling this a humanitarian crisis, a flood of undocumented children from Central America pouring into the Rio Grande border in Texas right now.
Officials say while they have prepared this year for more undocumented children, the numbers in the past weeks were much larger than anticipated, and tonight a law enforcement source tells CNN this is being fueled in part by smugglers in their homelands setting off a false alarm that very soon there will be no way for them to get into the U.S.
BROWN (voice-over): These disturbing leaked images show undocumented children cramped inside a Border Patrol holding cell, sleeping on the floor under foil blankets. Basic necessities like food and showers are scarce, according to a U.S. official. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beginning on Tuesday, we started seeing families
dropped off including, you know, children, most under the age of 5, some as young as three to six months old.
BROWN: Senior administration officials tell CNN these children are trying to cross the southwest border in droves trucking all the way from Central American countries, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and overwhelming U.S. facilities, particularly in Texas. Three U.S. military bases will handle some of the overflow.
Over the last week, buses of immigrant family groups arrived in Arizona in record numbers. About 1,000 were children. Processing facilities were at capacity, so the federal government was forced to find other options for the immigrants, a move that's outraged Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.
She released a statement saying DHS was transporting -- quote -- "thousands of illegal aliens and releasing them at bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix."
BROWN: And once undocumented families are put on the buses, they have 15 days to make it to the ICE facilities at a specific location, according to a law enforcement source I spoke with. And the concern is that some of them won't show up there and will be -- end up living in the U.S. illegally basically as immigration fugitives, Wolf.
BLITZER: This is a real crisis that's going on right now.
I want to bring in our Polo Sandoval.
You spent a lot of time on the border between Mexico and the United States covering this story. There are a lot of rumors fueling this influx, if you will. And it's so heartbreaking to see these kids coming in without their parent, but smugglers bringing them into the United States.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It seems to be the consensus down there in the valleys.
I just spoke to a source down there not too long ago, Larry Diablo (ph). He manages basically the -- one of the -- several constable departments there that have to pull double duty now, essentially not only pulling the regular responsibilities, but now filling the role as Border Patrol agents from time to time.
And he tells us that seems to be what everybody believes, is that this rumor is spreading like wildfire.
BLITZER: Yes, what is the rumor that is spreading?
SANDOVAL: Which is, if you go now, you would essentially be granted free passage to wherever your family may be up north, whether it's East Coast, the West Coast, or simply Northern states. And that's not only in Mexico, but also in Central America. In fact,
many of the folks that are being apprehended on the border are OTMs. Those other than Mexicans. And now really, at one point, when I worked down there on the border, you had to seek out these individuals if you wanted to tell their stories, the undocumented people.
Now all you basically have to do is stand out there. These people are now running towards law enforcement, instead of away.
BLITZER: And it's heartbreaking, especially when you see the little kids who are coming across, by not just the hundreds, but by the thousands, their parents sending them under this rumor that if they come to the United States now, they will be able to stay.
BROWN: Yes, some of these kids younger than 5 years old, Wolf. And they're coming in groups.
And what's happening, from my understanding in talking with sources, is that essentially these smugglers are make money off of them, telling their families that, look, this is the year of immigration reform in the U.S., you have to go in now. The window is closing or else you're never going to be able to get in the U.S.
So, that's why you're seeing this. But we have been pressing administration officials, Wolf, for numbers. How many of these undocumented children are coming to the border, to the Rio Grande border? And we have been pushing them. They're simply not releasing those numbers right now. But I think that could really tell a big story, too.
BLITZER: But there's one estimate I read, Polo -- and you know this better than I do -- that 60,000 unaccompanied children might come into the United States?
SANDOVAL: You look at the numbers, there are about 1,300 people a day that are being detained in the McAllen, Texas, sector, which is about four hours south of San Antonio.
And it really is one of the busiest Border Patrol stations in the entire country right now. And about a third of those are undocumented children. And it's really children that are coming here to meet up with their families, with their parents. Others are coming with their parents. In fact, many of those children that come with their mothers stand a higher chance of being released, eventually ending up--
BLITZER: And they're not coming necessarily -- they're coming through Mexico, but they're coming, as you point out, from other Central American countries.
SANDOVAL: And there lies one of the biggest problems is, processing those people from Guatemala, people from Honduras, takes a longer -- it's really a longer period.
What to do with so many people? You simply can't house them in those cells, as you just saw in Pam's piece. And so now it becomes a bigger issue is getting these people through the process, getting them through the red tape, and essentially the folks from Mexico can get deported within 24 hours. However, it's the people from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala that actually have to be released even sooner than that.
BLITZER: The highest ranking officials in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, they're all over this right now. They're deeply worried about what's going on.
These agencies, it's really a crisis. And speaking to one law enforcement source, there is a lot of concern right now among these agencies that the facilities are just overwhelmed with these undocumented children and with these undocumented families, and that the question is, what are they going to do with all of them?
In fact, by law, there's a 72-hour window, Wolf, whereby Border Patrol has to transfer the undocumented children elsewhere to a facility for long-term housing, and they haven't been able to meet that requirement. In fact, today, administration officials say, look, we haven't succeeded with that because there's just been this influx of so many people that they just weren't equipped to handle.
BLITZER: What to do with these kids? That's the heartbreaking part.
All right, Polo, we have got to go.
SANDOVAL: -- question, who pays for it?
BLITZER: Yes. And, obviously, it's not cheap either.
Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.
Pamela Brown, thanks to you.
New information about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. As Congress investigates the Taliban prisoner's swept -- sweep -- the swap, I should say, that led to his release five years into his captivity, House members have been getting a secret briefing from the Obama administration as we speak right now.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
What are you hearing about Bergdahl, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're waiting to hear what members of Congress have to say about that briefing.
But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will walk again right into the political buzz saw on Wednesday when he testifies on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon still struggling how to deal with all of the questions and some new ones surrounding Bowe Bergdahl.
STARR (voice-over): For now, the Pentagon isn't giving Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl his back pay after being held captive by the Taliban for five years, several defense officials tell CNN. It could total nearly $200,000.
The worry? Giving Bergdahl his pay and then potentially charging him with misconduct. First, the Army has to investigate exactly what happened.
EUGENE FIDELL, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MILITARY JUSTICE: Desertion at its core involves an intent to remain away permanently from your duty station.
STARR: One official tells CNN, "We need to learn more about his disappearance." The Pentagon, the official insisted, hasn't rejected the idea of giving him his salary. He says, "There just has been no decision to go ahead and pay him."
FIDELL: We need to know a good deal more before settling on a particular view of Sergeant Bergdahl's conduct during his captivity. We need to know what the precise conditions were that he was held in. We need to know what, if anything, he was forced to do.
STARR: It is expected the Army will begin a new investigation. Bergdahl was able to get through a gap in the concertina wire the night he disappeared, according to a U.S. in official briefed on the initial investigation, a gap that, itself, that was a security violation in a troubled unit. The post was riddled with security lapses, says that official.
But Congress is heavily focusing on the deal to get Bergdahl back. A senior Pentagon official says, as it became apparent trading Bergdahl for five Taliban would happen, there was intelligence that some Taliban would try to kill Bergdahl. That, plus worries about his health, led the U.S. to move quickly and secretly.
Now, still recovering at a military hospital in Germany, Sergeant Bergdahl has asked to be called private 1st class, his rank when he was captured. He is in stable condition, but has not yet telephoned his parents.
STARR: And the administration, Wolf, still is not saying publicly how it plans to monitor those five Taliban detainees that are now in Qatar. Hagel is going to get a lot of questions about that on Wednesday. Not clear that information will ever be made public -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
Still ahead: Hillary Clinton defends her wealth, stirring up a bit of a new controversy as her book tour takes off. Criticism heats up. It's an early taste of her possible 2016 presidential bid.
And we're also hearing from the family now of the third American held captive in North Korea. Did his religion lead to his detention?
BLITZER: Just hours before Hillary Clinton's new book officially goes on sale, she's stirring up new controversy by declaring she and her husband were -- quote -- "dead broke" when they left the White House back in January of 2001.
Now Republicans, they are pouncing.
Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is here.
Brianna, the book tour just getting ready, the criticism already getting ready.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Certainly. And this time, this criticism came, Wolf, as she defended the millions that she's earned in speaking fees in the last year. And Republicans are making sure to highlight what some are calling her first gaffe of this book rollout.
KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton in an interview with ABC News found herself in the awkward position of defending her wealth.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea's education.
KEILAR: Houses, plural. Clinton's opponents jumped on that. "Shamelessly out of touch," the RNC declared.
America Rising, the leading anti-Hillary super PAC, tweeted pictures of the Clintons' multimillion-dollar homes and their Hamptons vacation rental, Republicans trying to use Clinton's two houses against her the way Democrats used John McCain's seven houses against him.
NARRATOR: When asked how many houses he owns, McCain lost track.
KEILAR: Not to mention errant comments made by Mitt Romney.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rick, I will tell you what, 10,000 bucks, $10,000 bet? Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs actually.
KEILAR: It's not the first time Clinton has reminded Americans she's not exactly like them.
CLINTON: Last time I actually drove a car, myself, was 1996.
KEILAR: Fifty-five percent of Americans believe Clinton understands their problems, according to a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll. So Republicans will have a lot more work to do if they hope to paint Clinton as elitist.
Still, it's the kind of misstep Clinton needs to avoid as she gears up for a gauntlet of interviews, because lying in wait is a Republican machine of opposition research, talking points, and even an e-book published as her memoir comes out raising questions about her accomplishments as secretary of state.
KEILAR: And to combat that, Clinton, herself, has a war room of diplomats at the ready to fend off those criticisms, in addition to a messaging team and a coordinated army of Democratic surrogates standing by to trumpet her successes, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, let me bring Gloria Borger into this conversation, our chief political analyst.
What do you make of this, what Republicans are pouncing on, maybe a misstatement by her, a gaffe?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think, actually, Hillary Clinton was pretty candid. They spent a lot of money -- and Brianna's investigating this -- you know, in the '90s on Whitewater and all kinds of legal issues.
They came out. They had spent their lives in public service.
BORGER: You don't make a lot of money doing that, so they're making a lot of money.
The question is whether she sounded too elite, and that's clearly something Republicans are going to pounce on, because, by the way, they're going to pounce on anything and everything she says.
KEILAR: Yes, and it might not -- I would say it's not really normal, right, to have two houses. I think most Americans don't really connect with that. But it might be normal in Washington, if you're an ex-president, if you're a former senator, a former secretary of state. We looked into this. It's pretty easy to find because it was widely reported in the '90s that they were much in debt when they left the White House, $5 million in debt.
And when they went to buy a home in Chappaqua, New York, they couldn't do it themselves, Wolf. You might remember this, that Terry McAuliffe, their then-chief fund-raiser, now the governor of Virginia, put up $1.35 million to back the $1.7 million loan.
And it was, I think, 2004 when they finally, according to her congressional financial disclosures, that they were no longer in debt.
BORGER: Yes, and, also, you know, President Clinton, you know, buck- raking, as it's called, has become sort of a common practice for people who leave public office and they're trying to make their money. The question is, how much is enough and all the rest?
BORGER: And that can be debated during a political campaign.
BLITZER: As soon as they left office, left the White House, they both signed very lucrative book deals--
BLITZER: -- huge million-dollar plus advances. So the money would be coming in, even if they don't have it right away.
KEILAR: And when you leave the White House, you kind of write -- I mean, it's like a golden token that you cash in. This is what we see with many presidents who have these speaking engagements.
So, she had an $8 million advance, I think. His was more. Yes, there was a lot of -- it's not to say they haven't made a lot of money. They have certainly made a lot of money. But I think it will be interesting to see whether that sort of -- I guess people are -- people have a problem with it. Right now, polls show they think the Clintons are in it for the right reason.
BORGER: But the stuff that you were talking about in your piece before about the whole war room and this notion that Hillary Clinton is saying to people, I'm not quite sure whether I'm going to run, the truth of the matter is, there's grassroots organization out there.
There's a very active political action committee. There are surrogates out there who are being trained talking points.
BORGER: And, you know, the West Wing of the White House has an awful lot of Hillary Clinton supporters in it, Jim Messina, involved with the political action committee. I'm sure they vetted this book.
So there's a lot of coordination already going on, even though she is not officially a candidate.
KEILAR: All dressed up with no place to go if she doesn't run, you could say.
BLITZER: Yes, certainly, the launch--
BORGER: I think she has got a few places to go.
BLITZER: I think it's fair to say the launch of this book potentially clearly is a launch for her presidential campaign. BORGER: Yes, absolutely.
BLITZER: And we will see how that works out.
Guys, thanks very, very much.
Just ahead, a new statement from the family of an American detained in North Korea. Is he now being held because of his religious beliefs? We're taking a closer look.
BLITZER: We're getting a new look at the third American who's now in custody in North Korea. Jeffrey Fowle's family members just released this photo and they're now confirming he's being held by the communist nation.
Our Brian Todd is here. He's been following the story for us.
Fowle's family just released a statement a short while ago, Brian. What did they say?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did, Wolf.
We have heard from them through his attorney, who said Jeffrey Fowle was in North Korea as part of a tour, that he loves travel and the adventure of experiencing different cultures.
But the lawyer is giving no detail on his detention. And with three Americans now being held by North Korea, new questions are being raised tonight about the safety of the roughly 3,000 Americans who go there every year.
TODD (voice-over): North Korea's regime is so secretive and its leader so opposed to organized religion, the State Department now warns all Americans, don't go there, especially to talk about God.
Yet, of the three Americans now detained in North Korea, there are religious connotations with at least two of them. One, Kenneth Bae, is a missionary accused by the regime of attempting to bring the government down by trying to convert people to Christianity.
And tonight, another, 56-year-old Jeffrey Edward Fowle, is being held by North Korea reportedly for leaving a Bible in his hotel room.
TIM TEPE, ATTORNEY FOR JEFFREY EDWARD FOWLE: "Mrs. Fowle and the children miss Jeffrey very much and are anxious for his return home."
TODD: Fowle's lawyer won't tell CNN if his client left the Bible and, if he did, whether it was intentionally or accidentally, but does say his client was not there on a mission for his church.
Still, tonight, his detention is making waves about whether or not American Christians are risking their freedom and creating international crises. The U.S. warns travelers they can be imprisoned for unsanctioned religious activity and that literature, audio or videotapes deemed by North Korean officials to be intended for religious proselytizing or subversive activities can be seized.
John Dantzler-Wolfe is one of the few American tour operators who will venture into the country.
JOHN DANTZLER-WOLFE, TOUR OPERATOR: We say that you don't want to proselytize. You shouldn't try to force your beliefs on people.
TODD: Dantzler-Wolfe even sends this e-mail to clients, which says: "Do not leave any religious materials in places for others to pick up or out in the open, including at the hotel. And refrain from any evangelizing activities."
Those who do venture into North Korea often see military parades, patriotic rallies. Stefan Krasowski even saw a party on a beach.
STEFAN KRASOWSKI, VISITED NORTH KOREA: The Americans who go to North Korea are those that are curious about the recent history. Perhaps they have a family connection, curious about geopolitics. Some are country collectors. And some are interested in communism, and you even meet a few true believers.
TODD: Analysts say most of the Americans who travel on these tours typically don't venture into religion and that those who do are risking hard labor or even their lives.
GREG SCARLATOIU, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: Christianity disagrees with the fundamental ideology of the regime, the worship of the leader.
TODD: Analysts say the North Koreans see any independent religious activity as a security threat and are looking out for any semblance of it.
Kenneth Bae has been detained for a year-and-a-half and an Australian missionary jailed briefly this year for distributing religious materials. On a tourist trip, he says was subject to some grueling interrogation sessions -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There's a Christian tradition, Brian, as you know, on the Korean Peninsula.
TODD: It is, and an interesting one. Analysts say South Korea is one of the most Christian nations in Asia. Roughly 30 percent of the South Korean population is Christian.
Pyongyang, itself, used to be called the Jerusalem of the east because it was the center of the Presbyterian Church in Asia. We know that televangelist Franklin Graham has been to North Korea at least once. His father, Billy Graham, visited at least twice.
BLITZER: And they came back. They went there, the Grahams, without any trouble. They got -- they came back to the United States without any trouble, right?
TODD: They did. Billy Graham even -- at least on one occasion -- did a sermon in North Korea, at the behest or at least with the blessing of the North Korean leader then, Kim Il-Sung.
BLITZER: And Franklin Graham has been there, as you point out, as we will.
All right, Brian, thanks very much. We will stay on top of this story for our viewers.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me, @WolfBlitzer. You can certainly tweet the show, @CNNSitRoom. And please be sure to join us once again tomorrow right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." You can always watch us live or DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
Now let's step into the CROSSFIRE with Paul Begala and S.E. Cupp.