|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Larry King Live Weekend
INS Agents Seize Elian Gonzalez, Reunite Him with Father in WashingtonAired April 22, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a dramatic pre-dawn raid. Armed U.S. agents seize Elian Gonzalez. Then an emotional reunion: father and son together after five months. Among those joining us, White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Those guests and others next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Before we check in with Joe Lockhart at the White House and then talk with the mayor, let's get an update from Gary Tuchman, our CNN correspondent on hand in Miami.
What's going on, Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, we're on Flagler Street, a main thoroughfare right here in Miami, and right now, a two- mile stretch of the street is closed off in order to discourage violence. Frankly, many politicians and police were concerned that when the sun went down, there would be a potential for violence tonight -- now we emphasize potential. Fortunately, there's been some random trouble, but nothing major.
But it was a lot dicier this afternoon. More than 100 fires were set in the streets. People threw tires and dumpsters into the middle of the streets. There were confrontations between police officers and demonstrators. More than 200 demonstrators have been arrested as of now. Four police officers were injured. Three of them are now in the hospital after allegedly getting hit by baseball bats from demonstrators. Police took tear gas and pepper spray to subdue some of the demonstrators who were in the streets. But things have quieted down since then.
However, earlier this evening, a backlash against the news media, specifically CNN. Across the street from the Gonzalez house, the networks had set up tents to cover this story in the past weeks and months. Scores of demonstrators rushed the CNN tent this evening, tore it down. There has been some anger among members of the Cuban American community toward our network. They don't like the fact, many of them, that CNN has a bureau in Havana. That enables us to cover the story just as well in Cuba as outside of Cuba, but that does anger many of the Cuban American demonstrators, and that's the main reason for that happening. We have taken steps to make our people safe.
Now it was scary earlier today, but we should point out, Larry, it's for put this in perspective. In the early '80s in the city of Miami, 18 people were killed, there were tens of millions of dollars of property damage during race riots. We're talking almost 20 years ago. This is nothing like that, and it's very important to emphasize.
KING: Gary, why did the people -- do we know why the people would attack Miami police officers who had nothing to do with this at all?
TUCHMAN: Larry, these people are so angry. One thing we have heard over and over again in the weeks and months, these people hate Fidel Castro with a passion. The last thing they ever wanted to see was a perceived victory to the Cuban leader come from right inside their neighborhood, and they see Elian Gonzalez leaving their neighborhood, a place they've lived for many years. They want to go back to Cuba, many of these people, but they can't believe that a victory has been handed to Castro, the way they see it from their neighborhood.
KING: Thanks very much, Gary Tuchman, on the scene.
Of course CNN will be covering this around the clock.
Let's go the White House lawn, where Joe Lockhart, the White House press secretary is standing by.
You accuse those opposed to this as being political. What do you mean, Joe?
JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think there have been a lot of statements made today that are quite unfortunate. The president and the attorney general were faced with the very tough decision how to enforce the law in the face of the Miami relatives, who were, when it came down to it, just not willing to give over this boy to his father. The law was clear here. There was no other alternative. I think some very fine public servants performed well today. The boy taken out safely. He's been reunited with his father.
And those who were trying to play politics with this, those who are trying to gain a political advantage, it's just very disappointing. The language of some, for a public official to look at this and look at people who risk their lives and call them storm troopers is beyond the pale, it's extreme, it's divisive and it's very disappointing.
KING: But most Americans think the boy -- at least every poll says the boy should be with his father, so why would this be politically opportune to criticize?
LOCKHART: I don't know. I think there's been a tendency in the Republican Party to jump on everything the president does, to jump on everything the attorney general does. It is disappointing. I can tell you, Larry, I sat on Air Force I with the attorney general and the president as they went through these issues. The attorney general, this was a very difficult decision for her. You could see in talking to her that she loves Miami. She loves her home. This was very difficult. But they were given no other choice. The family for months refused to comply with the law, refused to turn over the boy to where he should be, with his father, as the court dictates, I think as our values dictate, and they were left with no other choice.
KING: Why Easter -- the day before Easter? Why not wait until Monday? That's a very religiously felt community there in South Florida.
LOCKHART: I think that what was done was done in the interests of the safety of the boy, getting him out, the safety of those who potentially put their lives at risk to go in and do this. I think, as the attorney general said, there was information that there might have been weapons in the crowd, weapons in the house. They didn't know. They weren't sure. They the went in and did this with a minimum number of people, and in the way they thought was in the best, in the best interests of those involved in the operation, and for the boy.
KING: Joe, do you know how the reunion is going?
LOCKHART: Well, we hear from INS officials that it's very good. I think if you look at the pictures, you have to realize the bond between the father and the son. This was something that took a long time doing. I think the attorney general went to great length to listen to all sides. She showed great patience, great compassion, and tonight, people should be and standing up and recognizing her leadership rather than taking political shots.
KING: And so what you're saying, Joe, is there was no other way? They didn't give an inch? There was no chance that a meeting somewhere a get-together, a compromise?
LOCKHART: Larry, the attorney general and the INS worked for months to try to find a way. There were negotiations, there were third-party mediators. We did everything that we could. We tried everything. And ultimately, the goal post kept moving. And when the simple question was asked, do you recognize the legal right of the father to be with the son? The answer always came back no. It came back no for two months. It came back no overnight. The attorney general, and the president, the administration were left no other alternative.
No one wanted to see this happen. This was not the way the president wanted to see this happen nor to attorney general, but they were left with no other alternative, because the Miami relatives decided that the law here was something that they were not going to respect.
KING: Thanks, Joe, the White House Press Secretary, on the lawn at the White House.
When we come back, one of the critics, the mayor of the city of New York and a candidate for the Senate from the state of New York -- Mayor Rudy Giuliani is next.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have been to great lengths to resolve this case in the least disruptive manner possible. Up until the last, we tried every way we could to encourage Lazaro Gonzalez to voluntarily hand over the child to his father. Unfortunately, the Miami relatives rejected our efforts, leaving us no other option but the enforcement action. Elian Gonzalez is a child who needs to be cherished, who needs to have quiet time, private time, and to be with his father, and that is what this case is still all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now we'll spend a segment with the mayor of New York, the honorable Rudy Giuliani, who was one of those critics today.
I don't think you -- you didn't call it "storm troopers." I think it was someone else who said that. Were you critical of the boy being with his father or the method of getting him there?
MYR. RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK CITY: I've been critical of the way the administration has handled this from the very beginning. Back in December, I wrote to the attorney general, and what I said to her was he should be given asylum in the United States.
And the tragedy of this is in everything that we just heard, no one discussed this boys mother. His mother died back in November to give this boy freedom, and now the United States government is using what appeared to be military personnel, using automatic weapons to send him back to tyranny, and somehow, it seems to me, maybe as the mayor of the city that has the Statue of Liberty and that seeks to be a haven for people who want liberty and freedom, that we're doing something very, very wrong here.
Why the automatic weapons this morning? Why 5:00 in the morning? And if you're thinking about, as all of Clintons people piously talk about, the good of the child, what kind of traumatic damage did you do to this child by ripping him out of a home at 5:00 in the morning with automatic weapons that appeared to be pointed at his head? As a father myself, I have to believe, that inside the heart of this father is the desire that his son have a better life than he has. Maybe, just maybe because this father lives in a totalitarian dictatorship, he's not allowed to express what I can express for my children. And the Clinton administration, in its effort to appease Castro, appears to ignore all of this.
KING: But mayor, assuming he is -- give him the benefit of the doubt. He looks like a nice guy. You're a father. You mentioned you were a father. Wouldn't you want to be with your son? And wouldn't you be ticked and angry at anybody who was with him and taking him away from you?
GIULIANI: If I lived in oppression and tyranny, I would wish my son and daughter to live in freedom.
KING: What if you enjoyed the way you live?
GIULIANI: Yes, but suppose I couldn't practice my religion. Suppose my child was a property of the state, as his child is. And I mean, you know Miami, Larry. Millions of people have gotten in little boats to go from Cuba to Miami and hundreds of thousands have died. Nobody gets in a little boat to go from Miami to Cuba and live by their own free will in tyranny and oppression, and we're using what appears to be American armed forces. I know they're INS agents, but they're using automatic weapons to send this boy back to tyranny.
And this could have been done in court. The Clinton administration has avoided going to court. The one time they were in court, last week, they lost, and the court said the INS had handled this case very, very poorly. This boy is entitled to an asylum application in the United States.
KING: But you were a U.S. attorney. You had to go in often, and you did raids a lot. People have to..
GIULIANI: I did. You know.
KING: ... law and order, and Janet Reno, the attorney general, is saying, the law says he belongs with his father until the case is decided.
GIULIANI: You know, I did. I was thinking about that this morning when I woke up. I remember arresting "Fat Tony" Salerno, the head of the Genovese crime family. I didn't use automatic weapons and people dressed up as troopers to arrest members of organized crime. I don't know what they were thinking of. I have no idea what they were thinking of.
This is a family that you may disagree with. I don't, I agree with their objectives. The Clinton administration obviously disagrees. But these are decent people who are attempting to have for this boy what my grandfather wanted for me -- life in a better country, life where you can practice your religion, life where you can express your disagreements with the regime.
In Cuba, as the head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington said last week, Elian Gonzalez is property of the state, and his father doesn't have the freedom that I have to express what I really believe about, you know, how my child can have a better life. These are all just realities that the Clinton administration is brushing over.
But the worst part is, whatever side you are in this dispute, was there any reason for these people to go in with automatic weapons and traumatize this boy in this way? And please remember, the Clinton administration has never gone to court. There was no court order. There was no judge brought into this. The one time they went into court, a three-judge court unanimously decided that the INS had trampled over this boy's rights. And just a few day's later, they go into the house at 5:00 in the morning and pull him out with automatic weapons pointed at the family. There's something very wrong here.
KING: Did you use the term "storm troopers?" Apparently, Joe Lockhart called in to say that you did use that term.
GIULIANI: Yes. certainly it looked that way, didn't it? I mean, reminiscent of what you saw. Someone, I think, today when they woke up, they thought that picture looked more like something that can happen in Cuba than can happen in the United States. I can remember arrested organized criminals and we didn't use automatic weapons pointed at the heads of people.
KING: Do you expect, frankly, this to be an issue in your race? Is this going to be a national political issue?
GIULIANI: No, I really don't think it will be. There is not a large Cuban community in New York City. There is in Union City in New Jersey. This is not an issue in my race.
My commitment to this goes back to when I was associate attorney general. I know the Cuban community from the early 1980s. I know people who had been in prison by Castro, I know people who have had family members killed by Castro, and I know of the thousands and hundreds of thousands of people who have come to the United States seeking freedom, and I know what Castro really does in Cuba, and I do believe that some of the people in the Clinton administration and a lot of the media romanticize Castro, and those people in Cuba don't have that luxury to romanticize Castro, because too many of their family members have been killed by him.
KING: One other thing, Rudy, can you honestly say, if you were an assistant attorney general yesterday, you would have said don't do this, and would you have worked hard to see that the father and boy did get together, supposing you wore that hat?
GIULIANI: They should have gone to court. They didn't want a court to intervene. They should have gone to court and asked for a court order, then the court could have brought the family in and tried to persuade the family to try to reach some accommodation here.
KING: And then if the family refused?
GIULIANI: This boy was not in distress. That is absolute nonsense that this boy was in danger. There's no indication that this boy was in danger. There was no reason for people to go in there, dressed like armed soldiers, whatever you want to call them, with automatic weapons at 5:00 in the morning and harm this boy for the rest of his life.
KING: The only case then would have been, had they had a court order that was refused?
GIULIANI: Yes, in fact, the one time the Clinton administration went to court, they lost, which may be the reason that they didn't go to court. The family brought them to court before ,the 11th Circuit, and the INS lost 3-0. There's had a big difference here about the reality and justice of this and the way in which the Clinton administration and media has presented this to the American people. You take it before a court, you're going to get a very different result.
KING: thanks very much, mayor. Always good seeing you.
GIULIANI: Thank you very much.
KING: Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of Miami. When we come back, Donato Dalrymple, one of the fishermen who rescued Elian, who was in the house when the agents arrived.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S COUSIN: And they trashed my room, which is this is Elian's room and my room. They broke the closet door. They broke the closet door. They broke Elian's bed.
Then they came here, and they broke the door of my mom's room. They broke the door on my mom's room, and this is where Donato was with Elian. Donato the fisherman was holding Elian here, and there was on that side two ladies, the wife of my cousin, with her 5-year-old son who also had a gun on his head, to his mother, "Don't move."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're now joined by Donato Dalrymple, one of the Fishermen who rescued Elian who is in Washington. He came to Washington with the rest of the Family, was denied admittance to Andrews today. He was in the house when Elian was taken. Indeed, he was holding him in the closet.
What were you doing at the house, by the way, Donato? Why were you there?
DONATO DALRYMPLE, RESCUED ELIAN FROM SEA: Well, you know, I got alarming news. I go down to the house every day. They were having a prayer vigil down there. As you know, this was holy I week for many people that celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was going down there to be with the family and also with the community. They were having many different pastors an priests, and they were celebrating mass and many different evangelical services out there in the street. It was a very peaceful evening.
But the reason I went down there as late as I did that evening, I usually go down in the daytime, is because there was alarming news that there could be some action by the federal government, and I didn't want to not be by Elian's side, because I've been with him since the first day that he came out of the ocean.
KING: So you were there because you heard a warning that something was going to happen.
Why once you knew something was happening, why were you hiding him?
DALRYMPLE: Well, no, If I can first tell you. Larry, what happened. It was about 4:30 in the morning, sir. I fell asleep on the sofa in the living room. We were all exhausted and tired, and I wasn't a part of the negotiation. But Kendall called, Manny Diaz. the lawyers were on the phone with a representative of Janet Reno, and they were working out last-minute decisions, and I guess about 5:00 is when this all went down. I heard what I would call foot soldiers. That's what I would call what I heard, shuffling and screaming, doors knocking down, people laying on the ground. I heard vile, foul language that I don't even use, the four-letter words, and they were saying "We'll shoot you, we'll shoot you," and I didn't know, and I heard little Elian, I heard him screaming and I just jumped up from the crouch and I grabbed him, and I ran to the room, and honestly, just to protect him. We didn't hold any resistance at all. I went into the room, and we were with a camera from the Associated Press, and we wanted the world to see the way they were coming to take this boy with assault weapons.
And you can see, they came into the room. They didn't knock on the door, they never knocked on the door. They didn't come with a search warrant. They never asked any questions. They took the place by force. They knocked the hell out of so many people over there. And Miami outside, it was incredible.
KING: Donato, why do you think they did that, Donato?
DALRYMPLE: I can tell you, the God to honest truth, Larry King, as an American today, I still love this country, I wouldn't burn a flag in this , but I'm ashamed to be an American just for today, maybe not tomorrow, but what they did today to this little boy in my arms. I brought him from the ocean. His mother -- he watched his mother die, and, sir, I had I had to watch this little boy who I brought to freedom be taken away with assault weapons by our country that we call a democracy, and I think it is a black eye on this administration. They could have done something very simple and very easy. I came here two weeks ago to meet with Juan Miguel, and Greg Craig didn't want a resolution. He threw me out of office, because I was trying to put the families together. Now that was just what I was trying to do, but the lawyers have been trying to do everything by the law.
I don't know why, but I was just protecting him. When you say in the closet, I was never actually hiding in the closet, I was just trying to protect the boy, because when they came in with the guns, you could see the picture, it was very clear.
KING: And I remember, two weeks ago, you said you wanted the boy to be with his father, you wanted some resolution of this.
DALRYMPLE: I still believe that the boy should be reunited with his father here in America, but not in Cuba, with the other family members, that they can work this out as a family solution. It's not a government matter. The United States has never done something like this before, but Fidel Castro has his hand in this.
KING: I know your voice is worn out. We're going call on you. I hope you can join us one night next week and spend a longer time.
Thank you very much for being with us.
DALRYMPLE: Thank you.
KING: Donato Dalrymple, one of the fishermen who rescued Elian. He was in the house with him when Elian was taken early this morning.
Chuck Vance is a former special Secret Service agent. He has a large internal security organization, international as well. We'll get his thoughts, and then we'll talk with Senator Bob Smith, who along with Donato and the family, were denied admittance to Andrews today.
We'll come back with Chuck Vance right after this.
KING: We thought we would should spend some moments with Chuck Vance, a former Secret Service agent and CEO of Vance International.
One of the questions we've asked, why 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, Chuck?
CHUCK VANCE, CEO, VANCE INTERNATIONAL: Larry, that's a tactical maneuver that's done because the crowd is the smallest at that time. People's biorhythms are the lowest at that time, and there's less chance of people going hostile, and there being a problem. So that's why they would do it early in the morning like that. It's standard procedure.
KING: Why guns and breaking in like that?
VANCE: Well generally, if you're going to go into a building where you've got a hostile environment, potential for violence, which I think they had intelligence that said there may be weapons in the house. You would be naive to think that there weren't guns within the crowd outside the house. You can't send people in unarmed and unprotected. So consequently, standard procedure is you put them in flak jackets, you put them with weapons, obviously with an intent not to use them if they can help. If you're go into the bear's lair, go in and loaded for bear and hope that the bear doesn't bite you.
KING: You have to admit though, Chuck, it does terrible?
VANCE: Yes, it does look terrible, and unfortunately, that's the photo that everybody has seen, but frankly, there's no other way to go into a house like that. They didn't know who was in there, they didn't know what was in there, so they had to go in, and they did best they could. They brought in a Spanish-speaking woman who took charge of Elian. So they did as much as they could to be diplomatic, and I think they're getting criticize wrongly for what they've done.
KING: So you say this is standard procedure. If you sign off on this, this is what you're going to get. How about Donato saying they were cursing and Rudy saying that this was a storm trooper operation, that when he was U.S. attorney, he would never have done.
VANCE: Well, there was a lot of emotions involved in this on both sides, obviously, and I think that maybe whatever did happen is exaggerated a little bit, in their minds, even though they believe it.
But the bottom line is, Larry, you're right, this was not a time for diplomacy. Diplomats wear suits, carry briefcases; tactical troops go in with flak jackets, helmets and weapons, and that's what happened in this situation.
KING: So in other words, the role there of the Justice Department, is -- once they made a decision to get the kid is to see that the people getting him are protected, right?
VANCE: Absolutely, and you know, I think they did as much as they could. They had a plan, obviously. They came out. They deployed. They moved the people out of the way. They went in as quickly as they could. They wanted to get the child out as quickly as they could. It took them less than three minutes. So I think from a tactical standpoint, they did a great job.
Whether or not it was right or wrong to go in there, that's another issue.
KING: And they're not the ones that make that decision, right? Blaming them is wrong, is that correct?
VANCE: Absolutely not. They just follow orders. They're told to go in and get that child, and I think they were told to go in with the minimum amount of injury. They didn't swing nightsticks at anybody. Nobody was injured. No shots were fired. Yes, people were scared, but that's going to happen in that type of situation. These people, frankly, should have expected it.
KING: And how about property destruction. They showed a door knocked down. They showed a crib bust apart or something.
VANCE: Well, even though the gentleman said that they didn't hear anybody say open the door, I understand that they said it both in English and Spanish. When the door wasn't opened, it's standard procedure, you break down the door again because you don't know what's going on inside. You don't if that child's being hurt inside. So I think what they did was absolutely according to procedure, and I think -- they didn't do anything wrong in my eyes.
KING: Thanks very much, Chuck. Chance Vance, former Secret Service agent and the head of Vance International, one of the top security firms.
When we come back, Senator Bob Smith. He met with the relatives and he tried to get into Andrews Air Force Base today. They were denied. And we're also joined on the phone later by Reverend Joan Brown Campbell of the National Council of Churches.
Lots more to go, don't go away.
KING: Senator Bob Smith is in Washington. He tried to get in there today, into Andrews. He met with the relatives.
What was your involvement? Why did they come to you, Senator?
SEN. BOB SMITH (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, you know, Larry, they were desperate. These poor people were roused out of their house at 5:00 in the morning with an armed assault taking this little boy. They wanted -- they desperately want to find out how Elian is, and they have no one else to turn to. And I'm more than happy to help them. I'm proud to help them, but I haven't been as much help as I'd like to be because I...
KING: What happened?
SMITH: Well, I tried to get to Andrews Air Force Base today, not to go -- I did not try to force my way in to see the family or anything. I simply asked as a United States senator if I could bring these people in, the family members as my guests, to be put someplace in a room where we could sit down, gather ourselves together and ask for a meeting with the family. And I was denied that opportunity by not only by the Air Force but I was also told today that the Justice Department and the federal marshals were in charge here at Andrews Air Force Base, which is quite surprising and shocking to me.
KING: You wanted to get in, but of course they might answer by saying, they didn't let them see the father, so why should the father let them see them? I mean if we unit wanted to continue this as back and forth, the father's been waiting for a couple weeks to see his son.
SMITH: Well, Larry, I didn't ask to do that. I simply asked to be allowed to go on the base so that these folks could get together, compose themselves. They'd been on a long flight from Miami.
KING: I see.
SMITH: That was the purpose of it. Larry, what happened today was outrageous, and I'm listening to people that have no idea what they're talking about -- like your previous guest -- talking about all this non-violence. You have to be kidding me. These people were pistol-whipped, they were pushed to the floor, children were pushed to the floor.
KING: How do you know? They were pistol-whipped?
SMITH: Well, they were pushed to the floor. One AP photographer was hit with the butt of a rifle and knocked to the floor. Weapons, loaded weapons were pointed at the chest of the family members. There are -- I'd like to know what the sources are that said these people were armed. They were on the telephone on hold with the Justice Department, Larry, when they broke in. What kind of negotiation is that with the chief law enforcement agency in the United States?
KING: Why, Senator, and you met with the family, why didn't they make some accommodation? You're a father, right?
KING: So that a father could be with his son? I mean, if it came right down to it, isn't that what this is about? It's a father and a son?
SMITH: Larry, first of all, no one is saying that the father should not have access to his son. But Fidel Castro in 1994 killed 22 women and children -- actually 40 women and children, by ramming them with a boat and fire hosing them off the decks. He would have killed Elian if he had caught him. He didn't.
What about his mother? His mother had something to say here. That's what this is about, Larry. And the fact is...
KING: So the father has no say in this?
SMITH: No, that's not true. The family has always said that the father should be involved in this process. Indeed it was the father's own household that tipped them off that he as leaving Cuba. It was Fidel Castro who first raised the issue that this boy should come back, not the father. He wanted him here. That's the irony of all this. Of course the press doesn't chooses to find this out.
KING: You know that? That the father wanted him to stay here and that Fidel Castro changed the father's mind?
SMITH: I don't think Fidel Castro changed the father's mind, I think Fidel Castro made the decision. This is about the Clinton Justice Department and Fidel Castro. They want -- Clinton wants to be remembered as the president who broke down the relations with Cuba and somehow opened it up again like he did in Vietnam, by writing off the American POWs and MIAs.
KING: You don't believe the father wants to be with his son?
SMITH: I think the father wants to be with his son, Larry. And I've talked to Elian Gonzalez. I talked to him in January, and he told me right to my face. He said, I love my dad, and I'd like to be with him. But I want to be with him here. And Mr. Gonzalez, I think if he could speak on his own, he would say the same thing. But he can't do that with his mother under house arrest in Cuba.
I mean, the point is -- look, the bottom line is here this is not the way to do it. This is an armed assault on innocent people. This boy will be scarred for life. And for anybody to say that this is in the best interest of Elian Gonzalez, it's so outrageous it makes me sick. And Janet Reno is a very lucky person that somebody wasn't killed this morning. That gun was pointed right at Elian Gonzalez and Donato and the other people in that family.
KING: Would you also say it's rare for a senator to be denied admission to an Air Force base?
SMITH: I think it's very -- not only is it rare, it's outrageous. And I am going to have a lot more to say about that, Larry, because I want to make it very clear so everybody understands. did not insist on getting access to Juan Gonzalez. I asked for access to this base with two members of the Gonzalez family to go into a holding room to make a representation that could be passed on through a third party to Juan Gonzales.
SMITH: I was denied access to that military installation and that -- there will be more said about this before I'm through.
KING: And you'll be back on this program to say it. We thank Senator Bob Smith.
Let's spend a moment or two on the phone with Reverend Joan Brown Campbell, formerly of the National Council of Churches. She's been involved in this almost from the get-go.
You can't be happy with the way that happened today, are you, Reverend Campbell?
REV. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL: No, I don't think anybody's happy the way it happened. It's tragic that it had to come to that.
KING: What now? What are they going to do? Do you have any -- you're in New York now. Are they going to keep him at Andrews? What happens?
CAMPBELL: I'm in New York, but I just left Andrews. I spent about two hours there with the family, with Elian and his dad, with his new wife and the with the baby. And I must tell you, Larry, that in the face of all of what I've just heard from a number of other people, this is a very remarkable little boy. He was very happy. He had his arms around his father, he was playing with his little baby brother. He was talking, laughing, smiling. The fact that this is the same little boy that we saw this morning seems almost miraculous.
He obviously cares about his father and his father about him. He's totally fascinated with his baby brother. He was carrying him and patting him when he cried and babbling away to his father, very excited. And he...
KING: Did he say anything about wanting to stay here?
CAMPBELL: Yes, he said -- no, not to stay here. He said he wanted to be with his father. I think -- you know, he has just seen his father for the first time in five months. And I think what you saw was joy for a child and a father because they're together.
Juan Miguel's been very good about not immediately asking him questions about either the past or the future. Tonight was really for the family to get together.
I heard the senator. And with all respect for the senator. I have to say I think that the Miami family should allow that family, this little small family unit, at least a day or two in which to come together and to heal some of the wounds of the separation. And it was an amazing scene. I don't know how to paint that picture better.
KING: You can't paint it better than the picture we're looking at now. Thank you Reverend Campbell. We'll be seeing you a lot probably next we as well.
CAMPBELL: Yes, I'd be happy to. Thank you very much.
KING: When we come back, Dr. Jerry Wiener, the child psychiatrist appointed by the government who met with Lazaro, the uncle, about the custody and the transfer of this. Also, Greta Van Susteren, our own CNN legal analyst, will be with us, too. That's next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Reno went to great length to negotiate a voluntary transfer. Even yesterday, the attorney general worked very hard on this late into the night, showing great restraint, patience and compassion.
When all efforts failed, there was no alternative but to enforce the decision of the INS and the federal court, that Juan Miguel Gonzalez should have custody of his son. The law has been upheld, and that was the right thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We welcome now Dr. Jerry Wiener, the child psychiatrist appointed by the government in this case. He met with Lazaro, the uncle, about custody transfer, and he called the release of Elian's video, you remember, shameful. Also, Greta Van Susteren, the CNN legal analyst who will remain with us through the rest of the program.
Dr. Wiener, the boy looked pretty good in that picture. What is he going through tonight?
DR. JERRY WIENER, CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I've spoken with the INS people, and they say that the boy has made a really quite remarkable adjustment. He has bonded again very strongly with his father. It's a very moving reunion between the two of them. As you reported, he's played with his little brother. His relationship with his stepmother is apparently very strong. But the particular strength is in the reunion with his father, which was really what this whole thing was supposed to be about, not about politics or ideology but whether or not he should be with his biological father.
KING: And what is the psychiatric damage -- there has to be something -- to what happened this morning?
WIENER: No, I don't think I would call it psychiatric damage. I would call it -- he had a from very frightening experience. There was never any question that if the family forced the government to come in and take Elian from that home that it was going to be a frightening experience. And I think everybody tried to the limit of their -- of reality to try and get the family to cooperate in the transition of custody, and the family simply refused over and over again.
KING: When you met with the uncle, did you think he was sincere about the boy seeing his father?
WIENER: No, he was sincere in the sense that he put down conditions which were impossible to meet.
KING: I see.
WIENER: And so in that sense, no. He knew that the father could not meet the conditions that he laid down for the father to come to Miami.
KING: Greta, Rudy Giuliani said the government should have gone in and gotten a court order to have the child and then acted off that court order and not with storm trooper style what they did today. What's your legal reaction to that?
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They did not need another court order, Larry. They actually did have a court order by virtue of the fact the trial court judge ruled in late March that the attorney general of the United States was the one who made the decision in the asylum issue. And because she is the attorney general, she's over the INS. When the child came to this country, he technically fell under her custody. Now the family in Miami had physical custody, but she's the one who was in charge of that child, and she could go get him.
KING: So when he said that the appellate court in Atlanta overruled, they weren't saying that the child stays with the family in Miami, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: No, in fact the only thing the court spoke to was removal from the country, not where the child stays while the case pends in the United States Court of Appeals.
KING: What did you think of the method this morning?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, it's easy to see, you know, things in hindsight. You know, if they had gone in and found lots of weapons there and bombs, which of course they didn't, then it might not look as bad.
Look, it's a terrible experience. It's frightening for that family down in Miami. My heart goes out to them. You know, it's very hard for me to sort of second guess. I hate to see any American home broken into in the middle of the night with police ramming the door down.
However, I do recognize the fact that no one was hurt. It took a short amount of time and that they had -- the law was behind them in doing that. There are no winners in it, and everyone comes out looking a little bit bad. But the important thing for me is that there was no loss of life and no one was hurt physically. So I think in many ways the attorney general is probably very pleased tonight. And I can't fault her for that. KING: Dr. Wiener, how do you explain the child's apparently remarkable recovery from this? We look from that picture, he looks just like a happy 6-year-old kid, just like he looked like a happy 6-year-old kid in Miami.
WIENER: Well, I think one is going to have to get to know him better before offering, you know, any firm opinion. But Elian always had a look of resilience about him in the various videos that were made, perhaps with the exception of the video that was shown on TV that was made of him at home, telling his father that he didn't want to go with him. But other than that, Elian seems to be a resilient little kid. However, we never had any question that the reunion with the father would be an enormously positive step for him.
KING: So you always knew it would be?
WIENER: We always predicted that it would be. I think "knew it" is a little strong. We always predicted that the reunion with the father would have to occur before this boy could really begin to deal psychologically with all the issues he's going to need to deal with.
KING: Thanks, Dr. Wiener.
Greta stays with us. In a minute, Max Castro, senior research associate at the University of Miami's North-South Center, He also writes for the "Miami Herald." And then Jorge Mas Santos. Max Castro is a Cuban-American in Miami who believes the government did right today. We'll get his voice on that after this.
KING: Greta remains, Max Castro joins us from Miami.
Are you kind of an outcast down there, Max, with being a Cuban- American and having opinions as you do, feeling that the boy should be with his father?
MAX CASTRO, CUBAN-AMERICAN SOCIOLOGIST: No, I don't think so. There are other people here who believe as I believe, and I have had my say and I have not been threatened. We are a civilized community here. People are entitled to their opinion. We came here because we believe in democracy and I am practicing that. I don't feel that I am an outcast.
KING: All right, you may not have liked the method this morning, but you believe the boy should be back. What's your read on all of this now?
CASTRO: Yes, well I cannot say whether the method was correct, I'm not a law enforcement expert. But I have been feeling for a long time that there was a great deal of intransigence here on the part of local relatives and that some authority had to be exerted. And it's unfortunate that it came to such an ugly image. But the reality is no one was hurt. The child was not hurt. We have seen the pictures with the father, he has been reunited. And so, therefore, this could have been a tragedy. It was a trauma, but it was not a tragedy fortunately.
KING: Max, why is the anger so intense that Miami police officers were injured today?
CASTRO: Well, many people have become bonded with this child, and they're seeing in a way through this child the future of Cuba. I think that it was the wrong place to take the community, but that's what's happened.
If you look at the situation here now, we're talking about really low-intensity disturbances. We're not talking about the Miami riot of 1980 or the Los Angeles riot of 1992. It's unfortunate that this is happening, but it's important also to keep this in perspective. This city is not burning down. There's no structures burning down.
KING: Greta, are we going to see this boy and this father and these couple -- and these people from Miami in court?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I don't -- we won't see them probably in May, because when he go back to the United States Court of Appeals it will just be the lawyers. There won't be any evidence presented but simply the lawyers arguing. If somewhere down the road the family in Miami is successful in the United States Court of Appeals and if they win in the Supreme Court, should the Supreme Court take this matter, we may see a hearing on a petition for asylum and we may hear why it is that the family in Miami believes that this young boy is entitled to asylum. And at that point, we may hear some hair-raising testimony about the atrocities in Cuba. But in the event the attorney general wins the appeals and eventually wins the United States Supreme Court, I think that will be pretty much the end of it, Larry.
KING: Max, how old were you when you came to this country?
CASTRO: I was 10 years old. My parents sent me. And that makes a different for me, because my parents, you know, decided where I would live. And even the Cuban government, which has been quite intrusive in family life, at that time did not intervene. Many parents send their children to the United States.
I don't think that we as a community have a right to determine where this child lives. I think that's a parental role. And if Juan Miguel Gonzalez wants to live in the United States, he will be given political asylum. And that would be exactly all right with me. I think he has to determine that.
KING: Thanks very much, Max. Thanks for coming over.
We'll hold Greta and we will close the program with Jorge Mas Santos, Cuban-American National Foundation who advocates -- who's in advocacy of asylum for Elian now.
We'll be right back.
KING: We now welcome Jorge Mas Santos of the Cuban-American National Foundation.
Why couldn't this have been worked out in a better way so that the father could be with the son and nobody had to break into anybody's house?
JORGE MAS SANTOS, CUBAN-AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: Well, and that did happen. And before I address it, I've heard, Larry, some preposterous statements made this evening about weapons in the home, about weapons in the crowd. That is ridiculous. And, in fact, Janet Reno herself was on the phone with the lead negotiator in the negotiations while the raid was taking place. She knew who was in that home, those very prominent citizens who were trying to work out an arrangement.
And in fact a deal had been reached. The family signed a document agreeing basically with the Justice Department on a family reunion. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. I don't think...
KING: When did they sign that?
MAS SANTOS: They signed it last night. Obviously, it had been in negotiations all afternoon. The only point they had been discussing was a slate of where were they going to get together in terms of somewhere in Florida, in the Washington area or even in New Jersey. But I think once again what happened, when Janet Reno had an agreement with the family -- it's not the first time an agreement had been reached -- Greg Craig apparently would veto all that.
And I do not feel that Janet Reno or this administration ever had the intent of reuniting this family, because I have been privy to those conversations and negotiations. I was involved, and I'm shocked about the way the administration, and specifically Janet Reno, has acted, especially with very close, dear friends of hers who were in the home negotiating with her and who I feel that she put in jeopardy when they raided that home. And seeing that child removed at gunpoint is very, very sad.
KING: Greta, if Jorge is right, this seems like the government maybe broke an honor code here.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, they may have broken a deal, they may have done something that maybe was dishonorable to the family in Miami. The question is whether they broke the law. And those are two very different issues. You know, in hindsight, I mean, it's a terrible thing to bust in on someone in the middle of the night with guns drawn. You scare the living daylights out of them. Everyone can say, well, it was only three minutes. I can tell you one thing, being scared for three minutes with a bunch of people with guns is an awful long time. And she may have broken some sort of deal she had with them, but, you know, frankly she didn't break the law. And that's very different, but, you know, certainly maddening from the point of view of the family in the home.
KING: Jorge, since everyone has said Elian is the one that counts in this and he looks pretty happy in the picture, don't you hope that he's having a good night tonight with his father? MAS SANTOS: Oh, I would certainly hope so. And obviously seeing his father after being at gunpoint and being with federal agents all day, I'm sure he's happy. But I think what's important, Larry, is that we continue to advocate a family reunion. The family's in Washington. All this family has ever wanted is for Juan Miguel Gonzalez to be outside the clutches and the influence of Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. That's all they've asked, for them as a family to sit down and resolve the situation.
I still hold out hope that that can happen. It's what the family wants. I think it's the right thing to do. I think it's the American way, and I think it represents even what the Cuban-American community represents, which are the ideals of liberty, justice and democracy, a democracy which is denied by Fidel Castro to our brothers and sisters in Cuba.
KING: Greta, we only have 30 seconds. You think that might happen, that we still might work something out where they all could sit down?
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know. The lines seem to have been drawn in the sand. But, you know, Larry, there's always a chance for negotiation. And I'm sure the United States Court of Appeals would love to see both sides work it out because the court really doesn't want to have to decide this issue, because there are no winners and it's a very tough issue for the United States Court of Appeals. It would be great if both sides could work it out.
KING: No chance they would let the father take the boy back and break that law, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, they could always petition the United States Supreme -- United States Court of Appeals and say, look, while this case is pending, these are different conditions. Would you let me take the child back? The court either may say yes or no, unlikely the court will say yes. But there's also a Justice Department hold on that child, and they'd have to get the attorney general to vacate that. That's unlikely.
KING: We'll ask all of our guests to be appearing more with us as the saga continues.
Thank you all very much. We hope you found tonight's program illuminating. Lots more to come.
CNN "NEWSSTAND" will be covering the same subject, and there will be special editions tomorrow night of "CNN & TIME" and CNN NEWSSTAND as well. And we'll be back Monday night with more of the same.
Thanks for joining us and good night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.