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Terrorist Group Threatens Baghdad; Texas Governor Announces Surge of Resources to Security Southern Border; Sterling Family Court Case Continues; Why Hasn't Bergdahl Asked to See His Family?

Aired June 19, 2014 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Nic, from the ground in Baghdad in Iraq, how strong is Maliki's hold on power right now? Is this possibility even realistic that he would -- he would leave?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's got a strong grip on power. He pretty much has sway over the military and security forces in the country. Yesterday I was talking to a top politician here who told me he'd been in conversation with American officials here, and he said that those American officials told them that they believe Maliki should go. So I said, OK, how do you do that? This politician said it wasn't for him to be able to do it, he's on the other side of the sectarian divide. I said, OK, what about those politicians in Maliki's party? Maliki's party just won the election here in the past month half. He said, look, those partitions are really too afraid, are not strong enough. They've been marginalized enough. So even within Maliki's own party it doesn't seem like someone is going to couple and push him out.

So I said, OK, who is it going to be? He said the religious leaders, the Shia religious leaders in the country like Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani who stood up last week and called for men to come and join the fight, essentially supporting the Iraqi army and supporting Nouri al Maliki. So it doesn't seem that this call for Maliki to step down is going to come any time soon.

Bottom line is he is essentially accused of fermenting the sectarian situation that led to all this. On top of that his actions since the crisis began have further alienated the Sunnis here. So the wide consideration and belief here is that Maliki cannot be part of any discussions that go further forward because he can't make the compromises necessary. Politically even people on the other side of the line can't be seen dealing with him, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And there seems to be a complete lack of trust there at the very least, Nic. And what Nic is saying, Michelle, it does not sound like any sort of change is going to be coming any time soon, but it sure seems from the U.S. angle that there are growing and growing calls for some kind of immediate action from the United States. Is there anything more that you think that the United States can do to try to bring about this change without looking like they are orchestrating a regime change?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the pressure behind the scenes. We know the vice president called and spoke to al Maliki as well as another top U.S. official yesterday, so putting the pressure on. I mean, look at Iraq. They are calling for U.S. airstrikes, asking the U.S. repeatedly to help them more militarily than the U.S. has already done over the last year. Now it's reached this crisis point. So it comes to the point where if they want the help and they seem to need that help enough and the U.S. is saying there needs to be these conditions met first, it's going to have to come to a change at some point. I mean, there has to be some compromise there apparently before the U.S. will act in that way.

That's not to say that the U.S. isn't going to continue to help Iraq militarily with the training, the equipment, and to increase that, but if there is something dramatic where the U.S. is going to step in there and take military action or do something substantial or be in that there for some kind of longer term, obviously something needs to change on the part of the Iraqi government.

BOLDUAN: It sure doesn't sound yet like the administration is ready to come out publicly to call for Maliki's ouster. Before I let you guys go, Michelle, let me ask you about the next step from the part of the White House. The president met with the four top congressional leaders yesterday. Coming out of that meeting on Iraq, the congressional leaders, there seemed to be consensus where there rarely is, said he would keep Congress informed and keep them posted about what he does, but that the president doesn't think that the actions he's going to take are going to need congressional approval. What do you think that means?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, that's based on the war resolution and the powers that exist by law. He doesn't have to ask Congress for this right now and Congress agrees with that if there were to be something like airstrikes over Iraq, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Michelle Kosinski at the White House and Nic Robertson on the ground in Baghdad, thanks, guys, thanks so much.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's almost worth Googling the war powers act, declaring war versus making war, and understand what's going on, the relationship between Congress and president when it comes to these types of military actions. You'll be surprised by what you see.

So we're following up details this morning about a different story involving the military, the special forces operation that captured the alleged mastermind of Benghazi. Right now Ahmed Abu Khatallah is being interrogated on board a Navy ship as it makes its way slowly back to the U.S. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. And I emphasize slowly, Barbara, because they want all the time they can get with him before he gets back to the states and maybe some rights set in. Fair assumption?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A slow boat to justice indeed, but justice the U.S. says there will be for Abu Khatallah. A senior law enforcement official now telling our own justice reporter Evan Perez that it was U.S. commandos along with the FBI that over the weekend actually got to the Libyan coast by sea to set off this entire operation to get Khatallah, that he was lured to a villa near Benghazi, south of Benghazi along the coast line, and that's when special operations commandos and the FBI swooped in on him.

At the end of the day he basically is taken with no shots fired, nobody heard, no force. This official telling Evan Perez that Khatallah tried to wrestle the troops a little bit but, look, they very quickly subdued him.

And so, yes, now he is on board the USS New York making its way across the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic. Eventually, you know, I think there will be logistics involved here. He'll be put on a helicopter and flown into the United States proper. But they want him on that ship as long as possible so they can interrogate him. They got some media, not saying what kind in the raid. They want to see what intelligence there is. They want to know what Abu Khatallah may know about additional perpetrators involved in the 2012 attack in Benghazi. They want to know everything he knows. Chris, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Barbara Starr, Barbara, thank you so much.

So in Texas, this is a really interesting story, Governor Rick Perry is taking the offensive to deal with a flood of undocumented immigrants, the state beefing up its security with the so-called surge at the Texas-Mexico border.

CUOMO: Perry says they can't afford to wait for Washington to address the border crisis. What will this mean? Let's have CNN's Rosa Flores here with more. Look, you've been looking into this story the right way, because where are we going to send them? They want to repatriate them, send them back home. We're not talking about Mexico where we have great dialogue and we have great mechanisms in place. You went and saw what happens in Honduras and countries like that. So what does this mean in terms of the calculation of if this gets better or worse?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think from the side of Texas what means they want to secure the border, and like you just mentioned earlier, they are saying we can't wait for Washington. We can't wait for that to happen, and so we need to do something. And, of course, Texas has a wallet the size of Texas. They are ready to say, OK. We are planning to spend $1.3 million a week to flood the border with law enforcement to make sure that it's secure.

Now, it's important to look at numbers because we've been talking about the 60,000 unaccompanied minors that are expected to make it to the U.S. I looked it up this morning, and this is according to the U.S. customs and border protection, just to give us an idea of the impact in Texas in particular. So total there's about 47,000 in the southwest region from Texas, from the area I grew up in south Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. That number is 33,000. So that's the flood that they are talking about, that they are dealing.

And one important thing to note is that the -- that the routes to smuggle people are the same routes that are used to smuggle arms, to smuggle drugs, and that is the worry on the side of Texas, that not only are we seeing the smuggling of humans but that also means an increase in crime.

BOLDUAN: Rosa, also you talk about Texas obviously has a huge wallet. They will be flooding the border, but what does that mean in terms of resources? What are they actually going to be doing, is Perry telling us?

FLORES: Well, they only mentioned that they are going to be increasing law enforcement and manpower and technology, but they don't go into all of the details. I think it's important to know that they have tried this before and Texas says that it has worked. When they flood the border with resources, it just works. There's less illegal activity along the border.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Isn't there also a concern that you flood that border but there's still porous borders along other states, so that's pushing those problems to those other states.

FLORES: Absolutely, absolutely. And I can tell you because I grew up along the border, two miles from the international bridge, and I can tell you it has never been this bad. Not only when you see the influx of people coming into the United States but the crime along the border. I talk to people there all the time. My family is there. There's a huge concern. And so I can see why the state Texas would come out and say, OK, we need to do something.

BOLDUAN: Rosa, thank you so much, keeping her eye on this story that needs to be paid attention to, especially since they need to figure out what they will do with all the people here right now.

CUOMO: That part is getting ignored too much in my opinion. You have these kids now, they got here the wrong way. You have to figure out what to do, but you have to take care of them. If these allegations about the conditions are true, very un-American what's going on.

FLORES: And there's U.S. policy, so there's a lot of policy. So you have you to follow U.S. law, and according to U.S. law each individual immigrant, if they are unaccompanied and if they are minors, by law you've got to look at their individual cases because they could be persecuted if they go back to their home country.

BOLDUAN: Rosa, thank you so much.

FLORES: You're welcome.

PEREIRA: Nine minutes after the hour. Let's get a look at your other headlines right now. Speaking of Texas, two Texas men are in custody this morning. They are charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Federal agents say they planned to travel to the Middle East and Africa to wage jihad. Rahatul Khan is accused of attempting to join an Al Qaeda-linked terror group in Somalia, and Michael Todd Wolfe allegedly tried to join radical groups in Syria.

And 63-year-old double murderer John Ruthell Henry was executed in Florida Wednesday, capping off a 24 hours period that saw three convicts put to death nationwide. Those executions were the first since a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma in April. Henry, who was denied a stay of execution by the Supreme Court, was convicted in the 1985 stabbing deaths of his wife and her five-year-old son. The other lethal injections took place in Missouri and Georgia.

Another dangerous tornado touching down in the Midwest, this time taking aim at a small town in South Dakota. This damage is in Wessington Springs where many homes and businesses were destroyed. Some people, we're told, were even briefly trapped in their homes. In another part of the state what looks like another set of twin tornadoes from the same storm system. You can see the white vortex twisting around itself on the ground and ripping apart building structures there. I mean, we've seen some very severe weather this year, and even this week alone. We're two days away from summer starting, and this is the intense weather we've been getting.

BOLDUAN: It's a mess.

PEREIRA: Yes, it is.

CUOMO: Different type of tornado going on of the legal variety, the Donald Sterling saga. Here's some new developments for you. CNN has learned that the estranged wife in the situation, Shelly, she's going to head to court today to seek an order protecting witnesses from possible intimidation by Donald. What does this mean? A source tells CNN there are, quote, "clear indications of threatening behavior coming from Sterling." We put somebody on the story. His name is Brian Todd joining us from Washington. What's going on here? Is this just a tactic? What do we make of it?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, it could be something serious. We're going to find out later today when the two sides go to court. We're told, as you mentioned, by a source with knowledge of the situation, that Shelly Sterling's attorneys will ask a probate judge later today for an order protecting witnesses from possible intimidation by Donald Sterling. This has to do with a trial coming up on July 7. That trial is going to determine if Shelly Sterling is the sole trustee of the family trust, and if it is found that she is, it will give her legal backing to sell the L.A. Clippers on her own.

Our source didn't say exactly which witnesses needed the court's protection from harassment by Donald Sterling's side, but this trial, Chris, is going to be all about Donald Sterling's mental condition, and three doctors have filed opinions in court last week staying Donald Sterling lacks the mental capacity to make decisions on the L.A. Clippers. We asked our source if there were specific threats, specific indications Donald Sterling's side gave that were intimidating. The source didn't elaborate on that, said this is not a case of goons or higher guns being involved, but said there were, quote, "clear indications of threatening behavior." We could not get immediate comment on this from Donald Sterling's attorneys, Chris.

CUOMO: So it's starting to make a little bit more sense, though, Brian, because understanding the law involved, he's got a trust set up that holds the asset, OK.

TODD: Right. CUOMO: You would think he was probably in charge of that if it's

what's called a revocable trust. Shelly is saying I'm the trustee, I'm the one who controls it. What does that mean? That means that Donald can't. How can Donald not do it? That means he must not be able to, and that's where the doctors come in to say he is not competent. He can't make these things. So obviously this intimidation would be him trying to step them from testifying in that regard. What do we know about what doctors say about his mental condition?

TODD: Some of the opinions in the court papers were pretty striking, Chris. Three doctors said Sterling was mentally unfit to own or run a team. One doctor reported that in tests they gave him, Sterling was unaware of what season of the year it was. He was unable to spell the word world backwards. He had difficulty drawing a clock. Another doctor said he had symptoms that were consistent with early Alzheimer's disease. We have to say Donald Sterling's attorneys say these are the best opinions money can buy and they are emphatic he is not mentally incapacitated. This trial starting on July 7 is going to be all about that, Chris. And if the judge finds in favor of Shelly Sterling, then this sale is going to go through. But we also get indications from Steve Ballmer's side. He's not going to wait around forever for all of this to be involved. He's starting to get a little impatient.

CUOMO: That will be an interesting dynamic as well. Brian Todd, thank you very much for the reporting and having huge cuts of the country now wondering if they have early Alzheimer's because it is difficult to spell world backwards quickly.


TODD: Sure.

CUOMO: I saw you trying to do it.


BOLDUAN: Thanks Brian. Brian, probably was like, I can't do it anyway.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, two weeks after his release, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl still hasn't spoken with his family. Remember, he spent five years cut off from everyone. What's going on? A former military psychiatrist is here to weigh in.

CUOMO: And we have inside politics for you. Brett Favre, why is the former Green Bay Packer shilling for politicians in Mississippi? Well, he is from Mississippi. We're gonna take a look, tell you the story. Nice beard.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Bowe Bergdahl has received medical care and psychological help. That

is to be expected,. But he's not asked to see or even speak to his family. Now is that unusual? Army officials say it's Bergdahl's choice, and he hasn't chosen to.

Joining us this morning for perspective is CNN's Ed Lavandera and Dr. Elspeth Ritchie. She is the chief clinical officer for Washington, D.C.'s Department of Behavioral Health and a former military psychiatrist.

I thank you both for joining us.

Ed, you're on the ground there. What is the word about why Bowe Bergdahl hasn't chosen to see his family?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been really hard to figure out exactly why other than what the Army officials who are around him have told us, and that is that the family is a very integral part of this reintegration process that the Army has talked about so much with -- with Bowe Bergdahl. And they have made it clear that it's his choice, that the moment he wants to call them, the phone call can be made and the reunion can -- can be arranged. But it's not exactly clear why that hasn't happened because we haven't heard from Bowe Bergdahl at all.

CUOMO: So Elspeth, give us some guidance here because there's going to be two suggestions. One is he doesn't like his family. The other one is that this is a sensitive thing, and the timing and the reintegration is not as simple as it will seem to us who haven't gone through it. What's your take?

ELSPETH RITCHIE, DEPT. OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH: Good morning. It is not clear why he doesn't want to see his family, but what we do know is that he was in captivity by himself for five years in very difficult conditions. Apparently he was very fragile psychiatrically, psychologically before he was taken captive.

And looking at other prisoners of war, there's a whole constellation of reasons that they may have to have difficulties reintegrating with the family. So we don't know specifically about Sergeant Bergdahl, but looking at other prisoners of war from Vietnam and other conflicts, we know that going back to the family is difficult.

The other thing that's important to remember is unlike Vietnam prisoners of war, Korean prisoners of war, Sergeant Bergdahl was by himself and apparently kept in the dark for long periods of time, perhaps tortured. So these are very difficult circumstance and, again, it was a long captivity.

CUOMO: So it may not be about his inclination. It could be about his capacity, and the timing here will be important.

RITCHIE: It could be about his psychiatric state. According to the reports, he was hearing voices before he went and deployed, and he had some what appears to be delusional material. Now I say this just based on his writings. I haven't interviewed him, but if indeed he was delusional before, then he could still be suffering from some of those issues.

CUOMO: Certainly wouldn't have made it better, that's for sure.

Ed, a couple of nuts and bolts questions. Do we know if the family is on the ground? Do we know if he's met with anyone else from his personal life?

LAVENDERA: As far as we know -- we've been trying to figure that out, if he's either talked to maybe some friends, some -- some childhood friends that he -- that he had. We have not heard of any kind of communication with anyone. And his family has really kind of shut down since the day after he was freed in Afghanistan.

In fact, they've gone out of their way to say that they -- you know, they -- what we thought we were going to be told and had been told by various military officials that we -- that the Bergdahl parents would be heading down to San Antonio as soon as Bowe Bergdahl was making his way there. But then they kind of turned that off, and they said they wouldn't be making their travel plans public.

CUOMO: A big part of the situation is this puzzle surrounding the circumstances of his departure and eventual capture. I want to play you some sound right now and get your take, doctor, on what this could mean and whether or not we trust the sound at all. Take a listen. This is from one of the platoon mates of Bowe Bergdahl about his disposition in terms of what the mission was there. Play the sound.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it didn't take long for Bergdahl to start voicing his disagreements with the way the missions were being led. He didn't understand why we were doing more humanitarian missions instead of hunting the Taliban.


CUOMO: So now, Ed, we had been led to believe that Bowe was questioning the mission in terms of whether or not the U.S. should have been there fighting in the first place. Now this guy is saying, this veteran is saying he actually wanted to do more fighting. It sounds like he had blood lust. Does that square with other reporting you've done on this?

LAVENDERA: It's very different from the way his family -- and those are the people -- family and friends are the people that I've communicated with the most over the last five years since we first started covering this five years ago.

It's always been framed from his family friends that he was very sympathetic to the Afghan people, that he was there wanting to help them. But perhaps through the course of his time there, (inaudible) not on the ground for very long, that perhaps he had seen things that made him change his views.

I think what those soldiers are saying has been very different from what family and friends, many of them who had received or have seen e- mails or who had heard communications between Bowe and his parents leading up to him being captured.

So, you know, I think this is what adds to all of this confusion as to what exactly is going on here because, again, we haven't heard from Bowe, or we haven't been given any kind of version of events that he's told investigators at this point.

CUOMO: Right, and we keep trying to tell people we're giving you the information we can as you vet it. You can't come to a conclusion until you know what has been found from his side of this story, and we don't have it.

But Dr., what we do have is a developing sense of a clear disorder, anxiety, unusual stress on this soldier. Is this something that they should have known there? As a former military psychiatrist, shouldn't they have been more aware of this kid, instead of seeing him as being eccentric? Doesn't he seem to be displaying, the truth of what his suggestion was aside, that he was more than stressed out?

RITCHIE: In retrospect, there's often a lot of red flags. And what we do know is he was given a training discharge from the Coast Guard, apparently for psychological reasons. And so he should have been flagged, and he probably was. And probably received a waiver to join the military.

Remember at the time he joined, we were struggling to bring enough troops in, and so it is likely that he got in when he really shouldn't have. Having said that, it's easy to look back in retrospect, and there's a lot of people just like him who probably came in and did fine, but he clearly didn't.

CUOMO: Well, you know what, you make an important point, Dr. And it's something else that this story, I think, raises awareness to.

Ed, you've covered this a lot. There are a lot of young men and women are in the exact same situation as Bergdahl, and it raises the question, are we doing our best to take care of these kids that we're sending over there with the stress they experience there and what they bring back home? And I think Bowe Bergdahl's story is gonna wind up speaking to that as much as anything else before it's all over.

Dr., thank you very much. Ed, thank you, as always, being on top of it on the ground.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, is Brett Favre getting political? Coming up on inside politics, why the former Green Bay Packer star is cutting ads now for politicians.

And also ahead on NEW DAY, soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo limps off the practice field for the second time during the World Cup. Will he be able to play against the Team U.S. this weekend? What is his status? What does it mean for our prospects? Details ahead.