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POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Back on U.S. Soil; Crisis in Iraq Escalating; Tracking the Storms

Aired June 13, 2014 - 05:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. The American soldier held captive by terrorists for years, he is home. He finally returns home. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl arriving in Texas just hours ago. We're live with the very latest.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Crisis in Iraq is escalating. Terrorists taking over cities, but this morning, the United States is pledging to help. The big question is, how much? We are live in Iraq with what's happening right now.

ROMANS: Rain, hail, ferocious wind, even flooding set to affect millions this Father's Day weekend. Indra Petersons tracking the storms, ahead.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thirty-one minutes past the hour right now.

And back on U.S. soil. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl arriving just hours ago in San Antonio on a flight from Germany. The army sergeant will continue his rehab at the Brooke Army Medical Center following his release after five years as a Taliban prisoner. This is the third and final phase of Bergdahl's reintegration.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live in San Antonio for us.

Martin, give us a sense of what today and the coming days will look like for Sergeant Bergdahl.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very critical time for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Good morning to you, John. Yes, this is really the phase where he returns to life. I guess that's the best way you can kind of put it.

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl arrived in the middle of the night. He was flown by military transport. He went from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, flown to nearby Lackland Air Force Base, and then from there, he was transported to the San Antonio Military Medical Center. It's part of the Brooke Army Medical Center you mentioned. And he's now on a special floor, a special section that has been reserved for him.

Let me just read you a portion of the statement that the army put out. It said that, "Our focus remains on his health and well-being. Secretary Hagel," the secretary of Defense, "is confident that the Army will continue to ensure that Sergeant Bergdahl receives the care, time and space he needs to complete his recovery and reintegration."

I should point out something very important. All that is being done here is not because it is Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. It is being done, the U.S. army says, because this is what they do for all returning captives that have been held. That is, those in the Army and those in the Department of Defense.

He has a personal recovery team, it's called. There are hundreds of people that are part of this team. Yes, there's doctors, yes, there's psychiatrists, but other members you may not think about. There is a chaplain. There are attorneys. There are financial advisers. There's transportation people. There's security people, there's public affairs people. It goes on and on. And all of them have been practicing almost from the time it was known that Bowe Bergdahl was in captivity. They have trained for his entire visit here 10 times, I am told -- John.

BERMAN: Martin, I don't think any of us had a sense of the size of that operation. So, so interesting. Any idea when he'll finally get to meet with his parents again and how that will be handled?

SAVIDGE: Yes, you know, that is probably the most crucial part here of what is awkwardly called that reintegration process. The reunion is expected to be soon, but again, the Army gives you no timeline. The family is expected to be in a hospital room, and he is expected to come in and meet with them. It is carefully handled because it is said to be the most emotionally overwhelming part of the entire return process. They'll only talk for a few minutes, 20, 30, take a break for a few hours, then come back.

That is based on long studies that the military has done of returnees who just say, look, it is like emotional overload. As much as they waited for that moment, it is tough to handle. You take small steps -- John.

BERMAN: Martin Savidge in San Antonio with really interesting details.

Martin, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

Thirty-four minutes after the hour.

The White House announcing that a dozen non-Afghan detainees were just released from a military prison near Kabul. Officials say a Frenchman, a Kuwaiti and 10 Pakistani prisoners will return to their respective home countries at the end of May. Some 38 non-Afghans remain at the Parwan Detention Center. They are the only detainees remaining in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. Many have not been charged with a crime.

ROMANS: Now to Iraq this morning where Islamic militants continue their march toward the capital with Iraq's military force seemingly unable to stop them. U.S. officials believe Baghdad is now in jeopardy of falling. Baghdad falling. And President Obama says he's considering every option except sending U.S. troops to help Iraq in the fight against ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. CNN's Arwa Damon following developments live in Erbil, Iraq for us

this morning.

What can you tell us is the situation on the ground, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Well, the situation could not be more precarious for Iraq's future at this stage. In the words of one Iraqi politician, it is a complete and utter catastrophe. ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, continues to maintain its grip on the country's second largest city, Mosul. When it comes to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, it has established itself on the outskirts but was largely pushed back, not by the Iraqi Security Forces, but by Kurdish fighters.

The Iraqi Security Forces in the northern part of the country, as ISIS was advancing, effectively abandoned their positions, allowing ISIS to take control not just of key territory but also of military vehicles, heavy weaponry and ammunition. Some of that reportedly being moved to the battlegrounds in Syria. ISIS also controlling portions of Baiji. That is where the country's largest oil refinery is located. And today, this morning, reports of it advancing in various other parts as well.

Concerns, threats by ISIS that it is going to try to continue to push forward towards Baghdad. Why has the organization been able to gain such rapid control over these parts of Iraq? Well, these are predominantly Sunni areas. These are areas where the population was already disenchanted with the predominantly Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki, feeling as if the Shia government has been deliberately targeting them, alienating them over the last few years.

But the situation we have right now, nearly three years after American boots left Iraqi soil, is one where we have an entity that is even more ferocious, more merciless than al Qaeda ever was, gaining greater control. And this is not just a problem that is confined to Iraq. ISIS's main aim is to extend an Islamic caliphate from Iraqi territory over into neighboring Syria.

At this stage, we are also seeing the re-emergence of some Sunni insurgent groups. We are seeing Shia militias being called to arms as well. The nation very much finding itself on the brink of yet another incredibly bloody chapter, but ISIS will not be defeated by military might alone. There has to be mature, political reconciliation on the part of key Iraqi actors so that an organization like ISIS cannot take advantage of the existing security vacuum that was left after the U.S. troops withdrew, but so that it also cannot continue to capitalize on the Sunni population's disenchantment with the Shia government -- Christine.

ROMANS: Wow. Arwa Damon for us this morning in Erbil, Iraq. Thanks, Arwa.

BERMAN: The politics of Iraq front and center right now in Washington. House Speaker John Boehner really lashing out at the president, saying the president made a mistake removing U.S. troops so quickly and so completely, also accusing the president of taking a nap on Iraq, ignoring the gains made by terrorists over the last year. Republicans now calling for airstrikes against the militants. The Iraqi government calling for the same thing.

Meanwhile, former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is also weighing in. She says she is surprised by how effective the militant group ISIS has been.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: This is not just a Syrian problem anymore. I never thought it was just a Syrian problem. I thought it was a regional problem. I could not have predicted, however, the extent to which ISIS could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create an Islamic state.


BERMAN: Mrs. Clinton says what's happening in Iraq is dreadful and a deteriorating situation.

ROMANS: And that deteriorating situation is driving up oil prices right now. More than $107 a barrel, the highest price for oil since last September. Why? Iraq is the second biggest producer in OPEC, producing 3.3 million barrels of oil every day. If that supply takes a hit, we could see prices skyrocket.

BERMAN: So it looks like Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy may have a clear path to becoming John Boehner's new number two in the House, replacing Eric Cantor. This is because Texas Congressman Pete Sessions has dropped out.

In a statement, Sessions says, a fight for the leadership post would have, quote, "created unnecessary and painful division within the Republican ranks." Probably didn't hurt the fact that Kevin McCarthy has pretty much cleared a path for victory for himself right now, gathering the votes he needed.

Now the current majority leader, Eric Cantor, announced that he is stepping down on July 31st. He just lost a primary.

ROMANS: Now to the growing humanitarian crisis involving immigrant children on the U.S. border. Right now, thousands of undocumented children are shoved into overcrowded holding cells in Nogales, Arizona. They're waiting to be deported. These are kids whose parents are desperate to get them into American schools. Some of these kids are unaccompanied by their family. They've come from Central America, sometimes with a note saying, please, reunite me with my parents who are in the country.

I spoke exclusively with the education secretary, Arne Duncan, about this crisis.


ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Well, it's absolutely -- you know, it's brutal. I'd say it's inhumane, and we have far too many young people across the country who came here when they were 3 months old or 6 months old, they've played by all the rules, and then we say they can't go to college? We're cutting off our nose to spite our face. It makes no sense whatsoever.


ROMANS: Duncan says immigration reform remains a top priority for the administration.

It's interesting, though, there are people who say that this crisis in Nogales and in Texas is actually a crisis of the making of the administration because of things like the Dream Act, which he was talking about, and the fact that people come here and can get a job, even if they don't have, you know, the legal right to, and they want their kids to come.

BERMAN: It's also interesting, people say it proves how important the immigration debate is, but at the same time, this crisis may make solving the immigration problem --

ROMANS: Exactly.

BERMAN: -- even more politically difficult.

ROMANS: Exactly.

Time for an EARLY START on your money this morning. European stocks right now are lower. Futures are also lower after a pullback yesterday. Growing concerns about that escalating violence in Iraq. We told you, oil prices are rising above $107 a barrel. Experts say if this continues, you're going to feel it at the pump, probably in the next few weeks. Gas prices could climb 20 cents a gallon or more.

We're now producing more oil in this country. That's driving up wages for oil and gas workers. They earned about 11 percent an hour more in April than a year ago, but raises in this recovery have been not created equal. It really depends on being in the right industry. Those working in high-tech fields, computer programs, big data analysts, they have a big boost in their wages. Retail and government workers, though, haven't done as well.

BERMAN: Forty-one minutes after the hour. Storms looming over the weekend. Threats of rain, hail, possibly even tornadoes. Indra Petersons tracking what you really need to know. That's right after the break.


ROMANS: Millions of Americans facing the threat of severe weather this weekend. A line of storms rolling through parts of Texas on Thursday. Wow. Heavy rain, and there's John Berman's baseball-sized hail. It fell so hard in the town --


BERMAN: Lacrosse ball-sized hail. ROMANS: Lacrosse ball.


This is in Abilene. It was breaking car windows. I say that the local body shop people really brisk business today. A possible tornado also reported in central Texas.

BERMAN: Indra Petersons has what you really want to know, what's this going to mean for your weekend.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: On that note, as we show everyone's cars destroyed, yes, we do still have rain out there.


PETERSONS: Not really as much of a severe weather threat, especially into the northeast. We're still talking about some light rain in these morning hours. It is expected to stick around throughout the day and actually feel a little bit intensity as we go through the evening hours as we see the cold front kind of swing on through.

One to three inches for the northeast, southeast only about an inch about the next 24 hours. It is Friday, I know, don't worry, by Saturday, this guy will be kicking out of here, so it should be pretty nice out there. Again the difference warm front in the morning, cold front swings through overnight. Behind it, high pressure. This is what we want to see, the big sunshine, right? It gets better each day as we go forward into the northeast.

Notice by New York City, 78 tomorrow and then Sunday 81 for Father's Day. So beautiful in the northeast. Southeast, we're going to be talking about a big change as well. Keep in mind, the humidity, all that hot, sticky air we've had here for a whole week, behind the cold front is typically drier, so we will see those numbers drop down. Notice 60 percent, 70 percent humidity. That's where we're talking about at the highest point of the day. Temperature wise, by tomorrow we'll see that drops to a nice, comfortable 37.

Feels a lot better. Again, there we go in the southeast, same thing for Father's Day, looking pretty good. Yes, it's hot. I hear Christine, yes, it's hot. But again scattered showers diminishing that's a plus.

ROMANS: All right. Stay inside if you're in Charlotte this weekend. That's what I say.


PETERSONS: She's like, no, it's all good.

ROMANS: Too hard. Too hot.

BERMAN: All right. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joins us now.

Good morning, Chris.

ROMANS: Hi, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: John Berman, Christine Romans, always a pleasure, especially on a Friday. We are covering two breaking stories that begin overseas, but both come home to roost here in the U.S. The first, the man you're looking at, Bowe Bergdahl back on U.S. soil, undergoing the next phase of his reintegration at a hospital in Texas.

The question that completely surrounds him right now, for better or worse, is did he desert? Some new information on that, a development, letters he'd supposedly written, he wrote while he was in captivity, they've been released. We will look at them, see if they're authentic, see what they mean. They do discuss why he left and what he wants thought about it. We'll give you all the latest on that.

Then, what's going on in Iraq must demand our attention. It's like three layers of pain there. Militants called ISIS are getting closer to Baghdad. They want to claim territory, not just create chaos. We'll tell you where they're going, how successful they're being and what the U.S. may be forced to do to help.

We're going to bring in John McCain, John Negroponte, people who know the situation there very well, to discuss it. We're also going to talk about how that problem is causing more destabilization in Iraq and where the future leads there and in Afghanistan.

So, John and Christine, that story is complicated, but we have to pay attention to it, because it may well be the future of U.S. military plans.

BERMAN: Indeed. Developing situation, a giant crisis and getting worse by the minute. All right, Chris, look forward to that.

ROMANS: And what's not complicated the fact that oil prices around the world are rising because everyone is very concerned about what's happening there.

BERMAN: So this could affect you directly very soon.

Meanwhile, we now know how Donald Sterling plans to keep the L.A. Clippers in his hands. We will tell you these plans right after the break.


BERMAN: Welcome back. It may be Donald Sterling's legal dream team. Multiple media reports say the L.A. Clippers -- perhaps sort of formerish owner, has hired four law firms that include former FBI agents to investigate NBA officials and the 29 other NBA owners. Sources say his primary targets are former commissioner David Stern and current NBA chief Adam Silver, who hit Sterling with a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine for his racist comments.

Sterling is now suing the league for $1 billion and trying to block the sale of the clippers.

ROMANS: What is this, like operation glass houses? He's trying to find anything he can of everyone else.

BERMAN: Exactly.

ROMANS: All right, good news-bad news in a new government study of risque teen behavior. Turns out, teens are smoking less, drinking less and fighting less. The bad news? They're texting behind the wheel more. The study found that more than 40 percent of teenagers with cars admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving.

BERMAN: I think you have to recognize the positive developments, though, because very, very interesting, too.

All right, a major meat recall to tell you about this morning. More than 4,000 pounds of rib eye and other fresh beef products are being recalled. That's because the USDA says they could contain contaminated materials linked to mad cow disease. The meat was sent to Whole Foods' distribution center in Connecticut and a restaurant in New York city and another one in Kansas city. It was produced and packaged between September 2013 and April 2014.

ROMANS: Ooh, just in time for your grilling weekend.

BERMAN: Careful.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, Education Secretary Arne Duncan talking to me on the growing student loan crisis, part of an exclusive interview with him, next.


ROMANS: Happy Friday. Friday the 13th, by the way, let's get an EARLY START on your money this morning. Well. oil prices are the story. They're rising right now, about $107 a barrel, the highest since September. If those prices continue rising, we're going to see it at the pump very soon. Gas could rise 20 cents a gallon or more in the next few weeks.

It comes at a really bad time for the oil market, all of this unrest in Iraq. Conflicts in Libya, Nigeria and Venezuela already crimping supply, and Iraq is the second biggest producer in OPEC, produces 3.3 million barrels of oil a day, a really important factor in the energy complex.

Senator Elizabeth Warren's bill to refinance student loans died this week. And the president's new plan to cap monthly payments to 10 percent of monthly income has been criticized. Many think it's only a drop in the bucket. I asked the secretary -- education secretary, Arne Duncan, how we fix the growing student loans crisis.


DUNCAN: Stress this is causing on young people, their families, their parents is huge. As a nation, going to college is the most important thing folks could do to enter the middle class. Going to college has never been more important, but sadly, it's never been more expensive. And we have to address the massive cost of going to college.


ROMANS: Yes, the president's plan is to help you pay for it, not to help you keep the costs down in the beginning. That's the next start of this whole issue, trying to figure out how to keep a student debt down in the first place.

I also asked about the tenure issue, you know, the California court --

BERMAN: Oh, sure.

ROMANS: And he agrees, that some of these tenure rules are very, very difficult for school boards, but he also thinks that teachers should be paid $150,000 a year. Interesting, right?

BERMAN: Teachers would like to see that. That would change,. I think, the dynamics little bit.

BERMAN: All right. Everyone, happy Friday. Have a great weekend. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, Bowe Bergdahl back in the U.S. arriving in Texas just hours ago ready to start the next step in re-integration. So did he desert? New letters he sent while in captivity may answer the question. We are live with the latest.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Target Baghdad also breaking this morning. The terror group ISIS now moving toward the Iraqi capital. American contractors evacuating. The government there asking for help. What will the U.S. do now?

CUOMO: Get down with the gov. Chris Christie like you've never seen him before cutting loose on the "Tonight Show" channeling the boss, even tossing Jimmy around. Video you have to see.

Your "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY, with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Gov might have stolen some of my moves there, Brianna.

KEILAR: I think so.

CUOMO: Good morning, welcome to NEW DAY. It is Friday, June 13th. Friday the 13th. 6:00 in the East. Kate is on vacation.

Very nice to have Brianna Keilar here with us this morning.

KEILAR: Great to be here.