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Tahmooressi Says Treatment in Mexican Jail Better; Coburn Says Bergdahl Appeared Drugged in Video; Grassley Demands Legal Documents Justifying Breaking Law for Swap; GM Recall Death Toll; California Chrome Bids for Triple Crown

Aired June 6, 2014 - 12:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Mexican law is very clear: no guns without permission, period.

Andrew Tahmooressi spoke with CNN's Chris Cuomo this morning by telephone, and he says his treatment in jail has gotten better since the American public started paying attention to his case, but at the same time, he's very worried that Mexican officials aren't telling the truth.


ANDREW TAHMOORESSI , HELD IN MEXICAN PRISON: They're already saying a whole bunch of lies. And I just know that the truth will set me free and that -- I'm not worried about the officials, because they've already been caught in lies. They've already been caught in their lies.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": So let's just correct the record then from your perspective. Were you in Mexico trafficking benefits?

TAHMOORESSI: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

CUOMO: Had you been making trips there that weren't just visits but were for some other specific business purpose?

TAHMOORESSI: Negative. Not at all.

CUOMO: Did you know where you were going when you were caught in Mexico this time? Were you there on purpose?

TAHMOORESSI: No, absolutely not. I would like everyone to know that I'm an innocent man, and that it was just a big mistake, and that I had no intention of bringing weapons into Mexico or committing any crime at all. Unfortunately, I wasn't treated right at the border, and my rights were violated.

CUOMO: We understand, Sergeant, and you know we're following your story. We want to make sure that justice gets served, and all of us back home are watching what's going on with Bowe Bergdahl.

And, obviously, it's a big political discussion about what was done to get him back and whether it was a good deal. And as you're hearing about that, does it make you think about the U.S. and what they're going to try to do to get you back as a service member yourself?

TAHMOORESSI: I don't know what they're going to do to help me. I think that, if they do help me, it's probably just going to be behind the scenes and not too many people or anyone, the public, is going to know about it.

CUOMO: And do you feel confident that they're doing what they can?

TAHMOORESSI: I don't get to see what exactly is going on, so I don't really know. I'm just anxious to get out of here and be with my friends and my family again.

CUOMO: All right, and you're being treated OK now? You're happy with the current treatment? There are no abuses you want us to know about now?

TAHMOORESSI: No, sir. No abuses. Everything's been good ever since the news coverage.


BANFIELD: Andrew's mother spoke with us a few days ago, and she says her son does have a brand-new attorney and that she was told the next hearing for Andrew is still weeks away.

We'll continue to follow this story.

Questions about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's release are not going away any time soon. The Obama administration showed some lawmakers a proof- of-life video to show that Bergdahl's health was extremely poor. Some were convinced, and some were not.

But one doctor who is also a senator who also saw that tape gave his take on the condition of Bergdahl, plus a few incredible details of just what was on that tape.

We're going to tell you, next.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

It's been almost one full week since Bowe Bergdahl was released by the Taliban. We've just learned at CNN that Sergeant Bergdahl's parents still have not had a chance to speak to their son. That is directly from a military spokesperson.

Again, a whole week and no contact between parents and a son they haven't seen for five years who may, in their estimation, have died in captivity, but is instead in the hands of Americans. Still no contact.

All of this at the time when plenty of people in Washington, congressmen and senators, are still none too pleased with the process that ended up getting Bowe Bergdahl his freedom. A top Republican of the Senate judiciary committee wants the United States attorney general to show him in writing, to break it down, break down how the president did what the senator claims was an end- run around the rules to swap terror suspects for the prisoner, Bowe Bergdahl.

We're going to talk about that in a moment with a constitutional lawyer. But, remember, the secretary of defense said they had to move quickly to get Bergdahl back because they were sure his health was failing.

Another U.S. senator who watched the videotape, that "proof-of-life" video of Bergdahl, just to see how sick he seemed, at least five months ago when that tape was sent to us, he explained to CNN's Dana Bash not only what his medical condition appeared like but also some of the remarkable details that were on that tape.

Have a listen.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You saw the proof- of-life video.


BASH: What did you think of it?

COBURN: He'd been drugged, either with an anti-psychotic or a hypnotic drug.

BASH: What makes you say that?

COBURN: Because you can tell. It's easy. His speech was slurred. He was having trouble reading. He had what's called nystagmus. He'd been obviously drugged.

BASH: And you're not just speaking as a senator? You're speaking --

COBURN: I'm speaking as a doctor, yeah.


BANFIELD: Some remarkable details that the senator also gave out, that he was trying to read cards that the Taliban were holding, just some incredible stuff on that tape.

Jonathan Turley is joining me now. He's a professor of law at George Washington University.

Senator Coburn believes that Bowe Bergdahl was physically healthy but drugged for the "proof-of-life" video that the public still hasn't seen.

Let's go back to the attorney general issue if I can for a moment with you, Jonathan, and that is this -- the senator in question, Charles Grassley, is demanding that the attorney general turn over the documents, the effective counsel, the advice that the Department of Justice gave to the president in order for the president to feel like he had the right, or the administration had the right to go ahead and act in these exigent circumstances.

Is there anything that those documents might tell us that we don't perhaps already know what the administration's already said?

PROFESSOR JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: There's a great deal they might tell us, including the dates of those documents, when the analysis occurred, the decision not to comply with this law.

The administration can argue that, when the president signed the law, he never intended to be bound by it. But he signed the law. It was a federal law. And I don't think there's any serious argument that he violated the language of that law.

Now, that doesn't mean that you can't argue these other constitutional points. But the White House needs to be very careful. They have not played this thing very well, and they're heading into a buzz saw if they take an obstructionist position with Congress.

Congress has an oversight duty. There's a law that's been violated. That's the strongest possible claim --

BANFIELD: But, Jonathan, doesn't the president have executive privilege when he's talking to his lawyer?

And I use those terms kind of loosely, but effectively, if he's talking to the DOJ, and he's getting counsel from the office of legal counsel, isn't there an attorney/client privilege, even at the executive level, maybe even more so?

TURLEY: Ashleigh, you're right. But you have to distinguish between executive privilege and attorney/executive privilege. When it comes to attorney/client, it's not as strong, because these are policy questions and a claim of the violation of federal law.

If lawyers were involved in that, just as we saw in the torture controversy in the Bush administration, those documents certainly can be sought.

With executive privilege, it doesn't appear in the Constitution. This is a creation of the courts, and many of us believe it's gone too far, that executive privilege is now shielding too much, where the president, at one time, said it only shielded his immediate advisers. This is much broader.

But putting that aside, Ashleigh, the White House would be wise not to fight this fight and to make the maximum amount of disclosure, because I don't think that they want to seriously create another front in which they are refusing material to Congress. After all, these are legal arguments. This is their legal position. And --

BANFIELD: It's fascinating. TURLEY: -- it should be able to be disclosed.

BANFIELD: Jonathan Turley, it's always good to have you. And thank you. Have a good weekend.

TURLEY: Thanks, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: General Motors is facing some major scrutiny in the middle of a faulty ignition switch recall, and no one is paying closer attention than the victims and their families, those who died in those cars that have the problem.

Next, we're going to get their side from a lawyer representing some of the families who are suing.


BANFIELD: GM may have wrapped up its internal investigation of faulty ignition switches, but the question still lingers, that 13, 13 people who died. This is acknowledged by GM. Is it only 13? How about all the people who were riding in the back seat? They weren't counted. How about all the people who had impact from the side that killed people in the car? They weren't counted either. And you know what, that internal investigation did not address that issue. Sadly, the internal investigation stayed at 13 and left a lot of families still wondering what's going to happen.

Now, what about the internal investigation itself and the person who conducted it? It was a former federal prosecutor. But there are a lot of questions about whether this was too inside and whether it was even fair to consider that the end of the story. A lot of people are saying it's certainly not the end of the story.

Mark Robinson is the lawyer representing plaintiffs in four class action lawsuits against GM related to faulty switches. And he joins me live now from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Mark, if I could just ask you off the bat, I know that you've been critical somewhat of this particular report and the attorney, the former federal prosecutor who actually headed this report, because of his connections to a law firm that works with GM. But it seems as though that can't be possible, that GM would just whitewash something like this. Why do you feel that that's possible?

MARK ROBINSON, AUTO PRODUCTS LIABILITY ATTORNEY: Well, I think, Ashleigh, Senator Robert Blumenthal from Connecticut said it best yesterday. (INAUDIBLE) the best report money can buy. I mean GM commissioned GM's lawyers -- lawyers that worked for GM for the last 12 years -- to do this report. This is - this is the beginning. This is the first domino. But we're going to - we're going to hear from Congress. We're going to hear from the Department of Justice. And hopefully we're going to hear from the American civil justice system with depositions under oath. And I think that's probably what's going to happen, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: There were also some questions, Mark, about the length of time that this investigation was conducted, this internal investigation by GE, by the former federal prosecutor, Anton Valukas. I hope I'm pronouncing his name right. Three months -- is three months adequate time to pore through the years and years of documentation that one would think in litigation is critical to comb with a very careful eye in order to come up with a report that's accurate and satisfactory?

ROBINSON: In the Toyota unintended acceleration case, Ashleigh, we had 18 million pages. And it took us, with a large group of lawyers going through those documents properly, probably a year and a half. So I think that GM did the best they could do in three months. But, frankly, I think that report raises a lot of questions that the civil justice system hopefully will look into.

BANFIELD: Mark Robinson, we'll be watching.

ROBINSON: So you're right, it's - I think that --

BANFIELD: Yes. Sorry, we've got a little bit of a delay between us. I apologize.


BANFIELD: But we'll be watching to see what happens and if there's any more than 13 that officially come to light or if anybody outside of those 13 just, you know, bring it to bear and file suit and see what they can do with their chances. Mark, thank you. Mark Robinson's joining us live from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

We're right back after this break.


BANFIELD: Got some breaking news following a deadly shooting at a courthouse in Georgia. Authorities north of Atlanta are searching the home of a suspect accused of shooting a deputy at a county courthouse. They believe the home actually might be booby trapped. The suspect was killed in a shoot-out with authorities but officials say apparently the suspect stormed the courthouse with homemade explosives and an assault rifle and was prevented from getting any further by that wounded deputy. A witness says that he was at an intersection near the building when he heard gunfire and said that he heard two or three pops, then saw deputies fire on something in front of the courthouse. We'll continue to watch that situation here at CNN. Again, a Georgia courthouse shooting suspect killed but a house still in question.

More people have walked on the moon than have won the fabled Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing. But in a little more than (INAUDIBLE), check your screens, that's California Chrome. California Chrome's going to attempt that feat. He's bidding to become the first horse in 36 years to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and tomorrow's Belmont Stakes.

I want to bring in CNN's senior correspondent Richard Roth. He's at Belmont Park in New York. And also joining me from Louisville, Kentucky, is horse breeder Jim Squires. Jim bred the 2001 Kentucky Derby winner who was the second fastest Derby winner in history. He's also the author of "Headless Horsemen."

Richard Roth, first to you. I'm hearing that it could be upwards of 130,000 people that might be flocking to watch that race tomorrow. Can that place even handle that many people?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it can. The real contrast is seen today when there will be a few thousand on hand. And a lot of places are empty here in the big cavernous Belmont Park. But tomorrow, they will be here. Attendance record was when Smarty Jones went for the Triple Crown, 140,000. So there will be tons of excitement here as California Chrome goes for the Triple Crown.

BANFIELD: And as we get towards that, I'd love to try to dig in a little bit to the lore of all of this. Jim, why is it that there is such a focus on the Triple Crown and on the majesty of horse racing when it companies to this in general?

JIM SQUIRES, HORSE BREEDER: Well, basically, because it's been 36 years since we've had one. That is the ultimate goal in North American racing anyway is the three great races, Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and Belmont. And it's one of the most difficult achievements in sports. And when it happens, it's a great - it turns the eyes of the world on our sport and you get a big crowd like that and you get a lot of interest. So it's a great time for us.

BANFIELD: Jim, it's tricky, isn't it? Belmont is not the same race as the other ones, as I understand it, and I know almost nothing about horse racing, but the turf is different, the length is different. How does that change things up for the horses and their jockeys?

SQUIRES: Well, this is - this is a very tough achievement to do the third leg. The third leg is a mile and a half. That track is a big, expansive track with a lot of sand in it. It's really a difficult task. All of them have their own specific difficulty. The Derby is terribly difficult. And then you have to run in the Preakness within a very short time, two weeks. And then this time, you've got distance and you generally now you've got fresh horses running against the candidate.

And you also have the problem that's our dirty linen problem, you now have horses that have won on lasix twice, which is a -- considered a performance enhancing drug, and that takes a lot out of horses. It might even be one the reasons that you've been for 36 years without one. The drug culture gets -- has a play in this because that lasix has a recovery time. Back in the '50s, before our last Triple Crown winners, the average lifetime starts of American race horse was 45. Now it's 12. And so a horse is only run about -- they need a month in between. And one of the reasons they need a month is that they have to recover from lasix.

BANFIELD: Sure (INAUDIBLE) fascinating.

SQUIRES: So if you ask a horse to do three big races right on time, show up every time after having that two doses of lasix might be a problem. BANFIELD: No matter what, we are all going to be watching this and it

will be fascinating to see if this 36-year streak is, in fact, broken. Jim Squires, Richard Roth, thank you both so much. Good to see you. Have a good weekend and enjoy the races.

And we are done. Thanks for watching. Have a great weekend yourself. I'm going to turn everything over to my colleague, Wolf, who starts right after this quick break.