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Secretary Rex Tillerson Talks Diplomacy With North Korea; Fears of Impeachment After Elections; Tax Cut Reform; Kaepernick Files Collusion Complaint; Bergdahl Enters Plea; Boyle on Being Held Captive. Aired 9:30-10:00a ET

Aired October 16, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:27] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, the U.S. Navy has begun drills with South Korea. This as the military announced that next week it will begin rehearsing the evacuation of Americans from the peninsula. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says war is not what President Trump wants, using some pretty eyebrow-raising language with CNN.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: He has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts, which we are. And we will -- as I've told others, those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.


BERMAN: Until the first bomb drops. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee from Michigan.

Representative, thanks so much for being with us.


BERMAN: You were in South Korea in July. You had a chance to see the situation on the ground and to gauge the tension. You just heard the secretary of state say until the bombs drop. And then the news that the U.S. is conducting these drills this week with South Korea, as it does. Next week it will rehearse evacuation drills, which it's done in the past as well.

But my question is, given the high level of tension that you've seen for yourself, do you think the United States should back off some of these training measures because it might increase the tension?

KILDEE: Well, I don't know about the training measures. We've used training as a way to not only prepare, but also to demonstrate our strength. But I think the rhetoric needs to be dialed down dramatically because the way those training measures are perceived is very much affected by the language that the president of the United States might use. And now even the language that the secretary of state uses. That's not helpful. BERMAN: Which part of it's not helpful? He did say that he wanted to

talk no matter what. He did cap it off with the phrase at the end, until the first bomb drops.

KILDEE: That's the part that bothers me. And I also think that the secretary has to somehow try to align himself with the statements that the president is making in order to have any credibility. But the president is way out on a limb.

And, over time, that language has the effect of degrading the credibility of the United States across the globe. So from one step to the next, he might be able to justify to himself this sort of incendiary language. I'm talking about the president that he uses. But over time, it is not helpful and it does not make it any easier for us to get to good agreements that avoid the possibility of war.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, the substance of what the secretary keeps on talking about, it does seem clear to me, at least, that he would like to see diplomacy dealing with South Korea. Do you have that sense also?

KILDEE: I do get that sense. But I do think it's fairly clear that when the president goes out and makes statements that essentially says that you can't do anything else, that there's only one thing that the North Koreans understand, that does not help in any discussions that we might be having with Russia or China or other partners, you know, attempting to move North Korea back to the global community.

BERMAN: So, at the top of our show, I'm not sure you saw it, but we ran a report from Sara Murray that says that some Republican members of Congress, Republican members, are concerned that if the Democrats take over after 2018, that you will try to impeach the president. Will you?

KILDEE: You know, I think that's an easy argument for them to make. The only way the president is impeached is if he does something that rises to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor.

I think Mr. Mueller's probe is going forward. We should let that complete itself.

But it's pretty -- I think it's a fairly transparent political ploy to try to engage the president's base vote by saying that Democrats, who simply want to offer an alternative to what the president is offering, would impeach him. What we would like to do is work with him. We would like to actually get things done.

BERMAN: Have you signed off on any of the (INAUDIBLE) petitions or the motions right now for an impeachment vote?

KILDEE: No. You know what -- and I don't discount the possibility that it could happen. But I think we have to be really careful. To keep in mind that, you know, the system of government that we have in place is one that has to be followed, and the law has to govern. And we have to wait and get the facts. If there are facts that say that the president has risen to that standard, then, of course, we have an obligation to take steps. But right now we really should be focusing on actually trying to get things done.

BERMAN: Let's talk about getting things done, because the president writing this morning about tax cuts and tax reform. He said the Democrats only want to increase taxes and obstruct. That's all they're good at.

Now, I know you are not a fan right now of the tax cut proposals being put out by the White House and the Republicans. However, do you feel, could you support some cut in corporate taxes?

KILDEE: I think if we -- if we were to do that, and I think there is some reason to do it, we would have to make sure that we were doing comprehensive tax reform that did not offer cuts to the corporate tax rate that are being paid for by increases in taxes for middle income earners, or the loss of the essential programs and investments that we make that largely benefit the middle class.

[09:35:06] Everyone wants to see taxes lower. We all know that ultimately it would have an impact on economic growth. But it has to be fair. And what the president offers -- and this is why his rhetoric is meaningless now. Because the president actually stands up and says, the wealthy will not benefit. You look at the tax plan, 80 percent of the value goes to the top 1 percent. That he would not benefit. Fifty- four hundred families would receive a $270 billion tax cut as a result of this plan. Simply saying something over and over again doesn't make it true.

BERMAN: You're a football fan. Quick yes or no question. Do you think Colin Kaepernick is good enough to play in the NFL right now?

KILDEE: Oh, absolutely, yes.

BERMAN: You think he should --

KILDEE: I mean, I don't own a team, so it's up to them to decide. But, look, free speech ought to be protected. It ought to be protected when we agree with it and when we disagree with it. I don't necessarily agree with what he says. But he certainly should not be penalized in the workplace as a result of him exercising his free speech rights.

BERMAN: And you think he is being penalized?

KILDEE: Well, it would sure seem so. I mean he was certainly good enough to lead the 49ers for a while. Maybe another team would pick him up. You know --

BERMAN: All right, sorry about the Lions this weekend.

KILDEE: Yes, it's been rough.

BERMAN: I know that's what you care about more than anything else.

KILDEE: There's what I thought you were going.

BERMAN: Congressman Dan Kildee, thanks for being with us. Really appreciate seeing you here in New York. KILDEE: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, a crucial moment for Democratic Senator Bob Menendez this morning. I judge will decide whether to dismiss bribery charges against him. Now, this case stems from what prosecutors say are years of favors he provided to a friend and donor. But a Supreme Court case last year really raised the bar for proving corruption against lawmakers, requiring essentially proof of a specific action in return for a specific donation. Now, even if the bribery charges are dismissed, Senator Menendez will still likely face charges of making false statements on his financial disclosure forms. But we are waiting to hear from that judge, and that would make big news over the next few minutes.

All right, we were just talking about Colin Kaepernick not playing in the NFL. So he's taking on the NFL. He says owners are punishing him for protesting. Does he have a case?


[09:41:18] BERMAN: This morning, Colin Kaepernick is taking on the NFL. The quarterback claims that league owners are colluding to keep him off the field. Colin Kaepernick, of course, was the first player to take a knee during the national anthem to protest treatment of African-Americans by the police. He opted out of his contract with the 49ers back in March and has yet to be signed by another team, or really even get a tryout.

Here to discuss, Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst, former New York City prosecutor.

Paul, look, I'm a football fan. Football analysts who watch the game will tell you that Colin Kaepernick is good enough to be on a football team, if not starting for some football teams. But that's not the issue here necessarily. He's saying there is collusion to keep him out of the league. What would he need to prove in order to prove that?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a tough thing to prove. But he'd have to prove in some way that the owners actually collectively got together and made an agreement, we're not going to put this guy on any team because when he kneels during the national anthem, it creates bad publicity for the league and we're losing customers.

Now, just because the teams maybe independently reached that decision without talking to each other about it, then that eliminates collusion. That's called parallel decision making.

BERMAN: Parallel decision making. However, the flipside of that is, it doesn't necessarily require a written or a spoken agreement, does it? What would an implied agreement entail?

CALLAN: Well, an implied agreement would be if you -- it's kind of a form of circumstantial evidence. If they all were sort of engaging in the same negotiating tactic with his agent about being hired, and using sort of the same terminology, that would suggest that there was some sort of a backdoor meeting and agreement, and you could draw a conclusion. There may also be text messages, e-mails, calls. And if he gets discovery in this process and the discovery process is extensive, he may discover something that will help him prove the collusion.

BERMAN: So our friend Mark Geragos, who is representing Colin Kaepernick --


BERMAN: He writes, the mere suspicion of collusion against Mr. Kaepernick has risen to the level of concrete and actual collusion. Now, I'm no lawyer, but that's pretty circular reasoning from our friend there.

CALLAN: Well, yes, it is. And I want to -- you know, show me the beef, as they used to say in the old burger commercial, you know? I -- he's got to have concrete proof to win this. And just because he's bringing a case doesn't mean that he has it. You know, Geragos' statement was filled with patriotic, you know, exhortations about, you know, he shouldn't be punished for protesting because it's all American to protest. But, you know, you need the evidence to win this case.

BERMAN: What should we make of the fact that this case is not being brought initially by the NFL Players Association, the union? The union has now said that they're going to talk to Kaepernick's team and they're going to support him, but Kaepernick chose to go a private route, not through the union.

CALLAN: Yes, I -- you know, I think it indicates that union members have trouble with the case. I mean they really -- they need evidence, you know, to jump in full-footed in this thing and try to prove the case. So it's controversial. And not all the players are kneeling. I'm sure internally among the players, there's probably a dispute about it.

BERMAN: And, again, just to put a cap on this where we started, even though Colin Kaepernick, by all accounts, is good enough to play for an NFL team right now.

CALLAN: Yes. But they're selling a product. And if people don't want to go to football games because they don't like him kneeling at football games, they have the right not to hire him. That's the law.

BERMAN: Individually, though, not as a (INAUDIBLE).

CALLAN: Individually. They can't have a meeting about it.

BERMAN: Paul Callan, great to have you with us. Thanks for helping us understand what's going on there.

CALLAN: OK. Thank you.

BERMAN: The first time they saw -- the first time their child saw the sun. The family held captive by terrorists for five years speaks to CNN. Their remarkable story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:49:23] BERMAN: Happening now, the Army sergeant accused of deserting his comrades is in military court. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl will enter a plea at any moment. You will remember, he walked away from a remote post in Afghanistan in 2009. He was later captured by the Taliban.

Now, in a newly discovered interview, Bergdahl says that a fair trial, he believes, would be impossible under the Trump administration.

Want to get right to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what's the case that Bergdahl makes there?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you know, this -- as you say, this case has been going on for years now. He was captured when he walked away from the base in Afghanistan in 2009. Held by the Taliban for five years, tortured, has suffered health problems, charged with desertion and endangering his fellow soldiers by his actions.

[09:50:12] But now he is saying that he cannot receive a fair trial because of things that president-election Donald -- that Donald Trump said when he was running for office before he became the president. One of the things that Donald Trump tweeted at this time, and I want to read it to everyone, is that -- and Trump said, may as well go back -- pardon me, that's wrong. I was going to read the wrong thing.

Let me just move ahead and you can read it right there on the screen.

The president, before taking office, being very critical of the Bergdahl case. And then this interview last year. Listen to Bowe Bergdahl -- Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in his own words.


SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL, CHARGED WITH DESERTION AFTER LEAVING POST I 2009: May as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs. That got what they wanted. The people who were to the point of saying, yes, just shoot him, you can never convince those people to change their minds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It hurts, though?

BERGDAHL: It does hurt.


STARR: So what we expect is later this morning, in a military courtroom in Fort Bragg, he will enter a plea of guilty, believing he cannot get a fair trial, and then there will be sentencing at some point after that, John.

BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. We will keep our eye on that hearing this morning.

Also new this morning, the family taken captive by a Taliban-linked terror group says they are doing better than expected. Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, they were captured in October of 2012. The children -- the couple, I should say, had three children in captivity. Now that they're back home in Canada, Boyle spoke to CNN.


JOSHUA BOYLE, HELD CAPTIVE BY THE TALIBAN FOR FIVE YEARS: Something's gone wrong. There's something broken. And, you know, my middle child, Dhakwoen Noah, like, it just occurred to us like Wednesday's gun battle, Thursday morning after the gun battle, was the first time in his life he saw the sun. He doesn't know there's a sun in the world. Like, we're pretty broken and we didn't expect this.


BERMAN: First time he saw the sun.

CNN'S Paula Newton joins me now.

Paula, you have spoken to Josh Boyle since he's been back home in Canada. What are they saying?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I've spoken to him and saw the family. And, of course, it's incredible, the kind of stuff that you just heard about his middle son not having seen the sun. Can you imagine, John? And they're dealing with so many things like that. I mean it's almost like something new comes up for them every few minutes.

Having said that, they themselves say it's a miracle that they were released and in relative good health, you have to think here, John. And yet, at the same time, psychologically they cannot believe what they've had to endure. I mean that's five years and certainly the Boyle family and Caitlan Coleman, his American wife, both of them suffering quite a bit of abuse. Apparently, though, his wife, Caitlan, suffering much more than that and admitting, of course, that she had been sexually assaulted.

Of course, right now they're all preparing to try and get some kind of psychological counseling and get on with life as best they can.

But I want you to listen here as well to Josh Boyle telling me exactly how he felt about trying to get his kids out of that gun battle safely.


BOYLE: During the gun battle, I knew that my daughter was safe. She was in my hands. I did not know that my sons were safe. I could not see them. I could not hear them. I was not a polite and genteel man. Even when the army was trying to drag me away, I was remarkably belligerent to my rescuers looking -- as I looked for my children and tried to ensure their safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NEWTON: You know, what's interesting there, John, is he was talking about how protective he was, even with his rescuers. He wasn't exactly jumping for joy. He wanted to make sure everyone was fine. Indeed they were.

But I asked him that in relation to the fact that Caitlan Coleman's father has been saying that, look, he can't believe that he -- his son-in-law took his daughter there pregnant. He was already heavily pregnant when they were hiking there and were kidnapped. And this just goes to show you, John, that there is still a lot of questions that this couple and this family faces in terms of what they were doing there and how -- what the conditions where like when they were held for the five years.

You know, he says that he totally understands that his father-in-law would be quite angered. They will be reunited with that family in the coming days. Right now, though, just every minute of the day it's something new and they are looking at their children to see how they are coping.

I mean, John, it's incredible, right, they have tons of toys all over the house. The kids just continually flush the toilet. They cannot -- they've not seen running water. They've not seen the fact that there's a flush toilet. They're staring at things like carpet in the house and wondering what it is. Just so much to take in when, you know, they tell me they lived in little more than a hole for five years.

[09:55:00] BERMAN: Horrifying what that family had to go through.

Paula, you mention the criticism from the father-in-law. How is Joshua Boyle addressing those questions about what they were doing in Afghanistan to begin with?

NEWTON: In the interview with me, he apologized wholeheartedly and said that, yes, it was not a bright thing to do and that he should not have been in that area. He maintains, though, John, and there has been some controversy over this, that they were there as tourists and also to help the poor communities that were there. He said that, you know, he wanted to do both things at once, see that area of the world but also to help the poor there. We asked, of course, for so much more clarification. It's not something they're going to do just yet, John. But we will continue to speak to them in the coming weeks and months.

BERMAN: Right. And right now what's important is that family gets the help hay need to get through this because what they're dealing with, none of us can ever imagine.

Paula Newton, thanks so much for being with us.

Huge, huge morning at the White House. The president meeting with some people who he's called a whole lot of names over the last few months and people who have called him some names over the months, but now they are people he very much needs. We'll get to the White House, next.