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Vice President's Son Dies After Cancer Fight; "Taliban 5" Travel Ban Could End Today; Governor Walker Maintains Lead In Iowa Poll; Jeb Bush: Still "Seriously Considering" Run For President; Reuters: John Kerry Injured In Bicycle Accident. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2015 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Broken hearted, those are the words of Vice President Joe Biden describing the death of his son. Beau Biden dies of brain cancer and just 46 years old.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Plus two mid-life deadlines that we are following closely. First off, unless the Senate takes action, the NSA must stop collecting telephone data on millions of Americans

PAUL: And the travel ban for five Taliban leaders swapped for former POW Bowe Bergdahl ends as well. Will they be allowed to go free or will U.S. work out a deal to extend it?

It's so grateful to have you with us here on this Sunday morning. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

This is a really difficult morning for the Biden family remembering Beau Biden, the elder son of Vice President Joe Biden. As, quote, "The finest man any of us have ever known." The 46-year-old passed away yesterday following a battle with brain cancer. Joe Johns looks back at the life of Beau Biden.


BEAU BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN'S SON: Good evening. I'm Beau Biden and Joe Biden is my dad.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beau Biden was the eldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, but also a public servant in his own right, a federal prosecutor in the late 1990s and Delaware's attorney general for eight years, leaving office this past January. Born in Wilmington in 1969, his childhood was marred by a tragic car accident.

BEAU BIDEN: My mom took us to go buy a Christmas tree, on the way home, we were in an automobile accident, my mom, Nelia, and my sister, Naomi were killed. My brother, Hunter and I were seriously injured and hospitalized for weeks. I was just short of 4 years old. One of my earliest memories was being in that hospital. My dad always at our side. JOHNS: Beau Biden and his father would remain close even as the elder Biden became vice president.

BEAU BIDEN: I went out Saturday night with my wife to a parent/teacher kind of thing on Saturday night and my mom and dad babysit. They babysit the weekend before.

JOHNS: As Delaware's AG, Beau Biden put a special focus on prosecuting crimes against children and took his talent for the law into the military, serving for a year in Iraq as part of the judge advocate general corps.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Today, I come as you prepare to deploy as a father, a father who got some sage advice from his son this morning, dad, keep it short, we are in formation.

JOHNS: Biden had announced his intention to run for governor in Delaware in 2016, but has had recurring health troubles, suffering a mild stroke in 2010 and admitted in 2013 to a Houston cancer hospital for a brain lesion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice President Joe Biden's son, Beau Biden, was evaluated at a hospital. This is after what is being called an episode of disorientation and weakness.

JOHNS: Biden at 46, leaves a wife and two children.


PAUL: And Sunlen Serfaty is joining us now live from Washington. I know that you've been getting some reaction to the death of Beau Biden, what have you been hearing, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christie. Well, the Biden family has been involved in politics for decades so, of course, there has been an outpouring of condolences from Washington.

President Obama came out with a long and emotional statement last night saying he is grieving along with the Biden family, saying, quote, "For all of that Beau Biden achieved in life, nothing made him prouder, nothing made him happier, nothing claimed a fuller focus of his love and devotion than his family. Just like his dad."

Beau Biden is the second of Joe Biden's children to pass away. The vice president's 1-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident in 1972 so he has been through the tragedy of losing a child before.

In a statement last night, the vice president himself, he says his entire family is heartbroken noting, quote, "More than his professional accomplishments, Beau measured himself as a husband, a father, son, and brother. His absolute honor made him a role model for our family. Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known."

Earlier this month, Beau Biden was admitted to Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C., and the vice president's office, Christi, say he did pass away last night with his father by his side, as well as other members of his family -- Christi.

PAUL: I just cannot imagine. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so very much.

BLACKWELL: Well, condolences for the Biden family are pouring in online. Former President Bill Clinton tweeted "Hillary and I mourn the loss of Beau Biden so full of life, love, honor and service, and we pray for the strength of his wonderful family."

[06:05:11] PAUL: Senator Harry Reid posted, quote, "Beau is a wonderful, strong, and courageous man. I thought the world of him. Our deepest condolences to Biden family in this tragic time."

BLACKWELL: And likely presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, offered his thoughts writing, "Saddened by the news of Beau Biden's passing. My prayers are with the Vice President, Dr. Biden, and the whole family.

PAUL: As I'm sure are many, many people around the world today.

Well, senators, meanwhile, they are returning to Capitol Hill because they have to take up this fight over the Patriot Act. Key provisions of this act expire at midnight and if lawmakers cannot reach an agreement, it is a done deal, they say.

They don't have a lot of time here. The debate is set to begin at 4:00 Eastern today, just 1 minute after the White House begins shutting down the NSA's controversial bulk collection of phone records.

Now, Republican senator and presidential hopeful, Rand Paul, is vowing to end what he calls the NSA illegal spy program. Just hours ago, he tweeted that Americans, quote, "have a right to privacy and it must be protected."

BLACKWELL: The travel ban on Taliban detainees swapped for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl last May is set to expire today. In other words, five former high ranking Taliban officials could be free to leave Qatar and even rejoin the violent group.

PAUL: U.S. officials have been working to extend that travel ban, though. CNN's Anna Coren has more for us.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, there are grave concerns the five senior Taliban members released from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl a year ago may soon return to the battlefield in Afghanistan.

The militants known as the "Taliban 5" have been living in Qatar for the past 12 months unable to leave the country. However that travel ban is set to expire.

It's understood that U.S. officials have been in discussion with the Qataris about the possibility of extending the travel ban but no announcement has been made. Sergeant Bergdahl was held captive by the Taliban for almost five years after leaving his post in Eastern Afghanistan. Earlier this year, the U.S. Army charged him with desertion.

Over the past 12 months, it's alleged one of the men monitored in Qatar contacted militants. While members of the al Qaeda affiliated Haqqani network reportedly traveled to Qatar to meet with some of the "Taliban 5."

The alarming developments come as the Taliban continues to launch deadly attacks. Less than 10,000 U.S. forces remain in country after the longest war in American history.

And members of Congress fear the "Taliban 5" will play an even more direct role in attacks against these U.S. soldiers if they are set free -- Christie and Victor.

PAUL: Thank you so much. Let's bring in Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, to talk about this. He is a CNN military analyst as well. Lt. General, thanks so much for being with us. You know, we have not heard of an agreement being reached thus far. What do you think could be holding this up?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's just the control of people, who are trying to move around after an original arrangement was made. The Qataris do not want to continue this kind of observations.

They have nothing to gain from it and there is certainly pressure against them to do this. The continual monitoring of five individuals without any charges, right now without any legal activity, is just difficult to do, Christi. That's pure and simply the issue.

PAUL: Well, surveillance costs money and it takes resources. Do you think that is part of the sticking point as well?

HERTLING: That is certainly part of it, but also it's just the freedom of action in this part of the world. You know, when you're talking about, as has been reported, both Taliban and Haqqani figures not only making contact with these individuals, but some of the Haqqani network traveling to Qatar to talk with these individuals.

It's critically important to understand that you can't control individuals unless they are in some type of prison and there was no means to keep them in prison because of no charges against them.

PAUL: So do you think that efforts should be focused elsewhere and that these five are just going to be allowed to go and we just need to -- the U.S. just needs to deal with it and focus in other areas?

HERTLING: Well, I don't know the details of the conversations between our State Department and the Qatari government, but I would suspect that these individuals are going to be released and be allowed to travel freely. That was part of the one-year deal after they were released from Guantanamo. I don't see that changing. They certainly could go back to Afghanistan where the onus is then going to be on the Afghan government to continue to monitor them.

But that is critically important during this period of time because of the Taliban's slight resurgence in some pockets throughout Afghanistan. It's going to be a continued fight for the Afghan security elements to tamp down the Taliban, but also now to continue to go against the Haqqani Network.

[06:10:10] PAUL: Do you think any of these men pose a real threat to the U.S.? Do they know anything having been at Guantanamo? Do you think they could really be dangerous in terms of what they know, what information they may be able or not able to pass on?

HERTLING: From a strategic messaging standpoint, yes I do. I think they will be welcomed home or welcomed within their organization as heroes and they are the ones that survived interrogation and incarceration at the Guantanamo facility.

So that messaging alone is going to be important. What they will be able to tell about the U.S. government, there is not much there, but they can certainly lead groups again and that is what the biggest concern is, that they might step into positions of a power and authority within a movement that it's trying to resurge.

PAUL: And real quickly, knowing that Bergdahl was charged with desertion now and knowing what we do know at this point, do you think this trade was a smart move?

HERTLING: Well, I don't want to look backward, Christi. That's a difficult thing to do. We always want to get American soldiers out of harm's way, no matter what the situations. You know, the Bergdahl trial will go on.

We will determine guilt or innocence through the military proceedings and that shouldn't be something that should be tied to this. We did get an American soldier back and that is always critical important.

But there were many, truthfully, I was one of them that said, man, this is a big deal, trading five for one, especially from a country that says we don't bargain with terrorists.

PAUL: Right. OK, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, I thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us.

HERTLING: Thank you, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Well, it is a crowded GOP field in the race for the White House. But a new poll shows that the leader of the pack in Iowa is someone who has not declared yet.

If you fly, you know that a crying baby on a plane, yes, it's tough. Nobody likes to deal with the crying, but they are babies. It's what happens. But we will have to talk about this story. Why a pregnant mom says the crew was out of line for booting her and her child off their flight.



PAUL: Following breakings in out of Geneva, Switzerland, right now. Reuters is reporting that Secretary of State John Kerry is in the hospital after injuring his leg in a bicycle accident near the French and Swiss border. Take a look at this video we have.

It's a file video of Kerry was cycling a couple of months ago. A spokesman for Kelly told Reuters that he is in stable condition. He did not lose consciousness. He was there apparently holding talks with his Iranian counterpart about the country's disputed nuclear program.

We are working to get more information. We will bring you the very latest as soon as we get more.

BLACKWELL: New numbers out this morning in the race for the White House this morning and they show that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is expanding his early lead in Iowa.

A new poll shows him with a lead of seven points in that state. Senator Rand Paul, Ben Carson, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee round out the top five.

Now Walker maintains this strong polling position despite haven't officially declaring a president candidacy. He is expected to do that later this summer after finishing work on his state's budget.

Let's bring in CNN politics senior reporter, Stephen Collinson. So I guess it really doesn't matter yet that he has or has not declared because all signs point to he is going to run. He spent so much time in the state, but how is he maintaining this strong position?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Well, Scott Walker is someone that is seen as able to unite the various factions of the Republican Party and that's why he's perceived as such a strong potential presidential candidate.

In Iowa, for example, he is popular among Evangelical voters who are very important to deciding who wins the Iowa caucuses, the first nominating content.

But he is also scene by establishment Republicans as someone who has a record as governor of Wisconsin, taking on unions and he stresses his humble beginnings. He didn't have much money growing up. He was a working class boy.

And that is something that plays into this emerging theme of the 2016 presidential race. It's about, you know, Americans left behind from the recovery from the recession.

So he sort of checks a lot of boxes. I was out with Scott Walker on Friday night on a boat trip in New Hampshire with a bunch of Republican activists and it's pretty clear that he's a rising star in the party, become a bit of a political phenomenon.

And out there in New Hampshire, where Evangelicals are less important, Scott Walker is seen as a viable candidate because of his role in taking on the unions in Wisconsin.

BLACKWELL: Stephen, you know this, there are so many declared and soon-to-be declared candidates for the GOP nomination that it's hard to get them on one screen as we put our graphics together.

We know that South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is there on the top row there second from the right is going to announce his candidacy tomorrow. What are his chances?

COLLINSON: You know, he is not seen as one of the top-tier candidates like perhaps Jeb Bush or Scott Walker or Marco Rubio, but it's seven months until the voting starts. A chance he could catch fire.

I think Lindsey Graham will be stressing his natural security credentials. He will build a campaign around Iraq and Iran. In New Hampshire, he'll try to catch the same kind of wave that his friend John McCain was able to serve in the presidential election campaigns of 2000 and 2008.

You know, you mentioned he is from South Carolina, one of the next very important nominating contests often and New Hampshire is in South Carolina. So it's possible that if he could perform well in New Hampshire, then get the hometown advantage in South Carolina, he could turn himself into a viable candidate.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned one of the perceived top tier candidates, former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. He has not yet declared, but let's listen what he said last night concerning that declaration of his candidacy.


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I'm seriously considering the possibility of running for president. That's the language that I'm using just for a little bit longer until I make up my mind. But one of the things that I know for a fact is that I have to show my heart. I have to tell my life story. I have to talk about the leadership skills I might have acquired through trial and error if I'm going to have a chance, if I become a candidate.


[06:20:08] BLACKWELL: So here's what I don't understand. Why the wait? Is it because of the fundraising advantage before the declaration? That's the reason he's not declaring just yet?

COLLINSON: Yes. There are certain declarations of candidates who officially have declared must make in terms of how much money they are raising and they are more stringent than they are for a potential candidate who can raise money from a political action committee.

You know, someone like Jeb Bush has gotten name recognition. He has family, networks, political networks he can tap into. He has his own political network down in Florida. So it's not like he is an unknown candidate who needs to get out there early and start, you know, raising money and -- in a presidential campaign.

So, you know, he can afford to buy his time and wait. We have seen so many Republican candidates declare that they are running for president, there might be some advantage to sort of waiting until that is all over and you can get some more media attention you might not get amid the flurry of these other candidates that are declaring.

BLACKWELL: Yes, despite all those advantages that you just named, Stephen, he is lagging in the polls. We'll talk more about politics throughout the morning. Stephen Collinson for us this morning, thank you.

COLLINSON: Thank you.

PAUL: Right now, we want to get back to our breaking news about Secretary of State John Kerry who is in the hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, after an accident. We have our own Nic Robertson, who is in Switzerland on the phone with us now. Nic, what are you hearing there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That Secretary Kerry has a leg injury. That he was helicoptered from --

PAUL: I so apologize. Apparently, we have lost our connection with Nic Robertson, but we will get that back to you and you can hear he was flown to the hospital via helicopter. Nic, I believe we have you back?

ROBERTSON: Yes. John Kerry has a leg injury. He sustained that in a cycling accident. As we know when he comes to Switzerland, when he is talking with the Iran prime minister about the nuclear issue, when there is a talk, he often makes a cycling ride and seems to be the case this Sunday morning.

The weather here is a blue skies here in Switzerland. He had gone for a cycling rider. He was about 30 miles across the border into France when the accident occurred. I've seen him on a cycle ride. This was another one of those days.

He normally cycles with a couple of companions and there are normally a couple of police motorcycle riders head of him. There were paramedics on the scene and they were able to treat him before he was taken to the hospital via helicopter.

He was supposed to go to Madrid later today to meet with the Spanish king and the prime minister there before going on to France for two days of talks over the issue of ISIS and Syria. But his condition at the moment, we understand a leg injury. He didn't lose consciousness during the accident, but his current condition is being assessed.

PAUL: All right, Nic Robertson, we so appreciate it. Thank you very much. Again, we will keep you posted on what we hear about John Kerry. As Nic said, will he be able to go on to schedules to Madrid because these are really important conversations they are having about ISIS right now.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we'll have the very latest on that. Also still ahead, a college student jailed this morning on charges that he killed his mother. Now, police say the key to this case could be this college student's grades.

PAUL: Plus, the deadline is midnight. The Senate has to make a move by then or key parts of the Patriot Act will expire. We have the latest in a live report for you.



PAUL: It's 27 minutes past the hour. We want to get you caught up on what else is making the news today.

BLACKWELL: The police are investigating why a trooper fatally shot a man they were trying to rescue. Oklahoma highway patrol said last night, two troopers were responding to a driver stranded in high water. It's unclear why, but they say a fight broke out between the troopers and the driver who was harmed and his brother. They were trying to get the men to safety. The trooper shot and killed the man and arrested his brother.

PAUL: A student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is in jail this morning after he confessed to killing his mother and apparently it was over bad grades. The 22-year-old Tyler Blansit told police he hit his mom with a baseball bat during a heated argument and she died from blunt trauma and he is charged with murder now.

BLACKWELL: All right, the decision has to be made today by midnight, the Senate must approve an extension for the NSA's data tracking program or it expires. Why one member of Congress is promising to derail any vote.

PAUL: Plus two highway shootings in Colorado. They seemed random initially. Now police say new evidence links the crimes to one sniper.

A plus sized pitcher takes the internet by storm. Many aren't judging the 300-pounder on his baseball skills but his weight?