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Vital Signs with Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Dalai Lama Discusses Mediation Practices. U.S. Attorney for Manhattan Fired; Man Jumps Fence at White House. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 11, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:02] DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The colors, the architecture, it's like from a postcard. This is Drepung Lachi Monastery, part of a Tibetan colony in Mundgod, India.

We're in a remote part of southern India where this really unique partnership is starting to take shape. It's a partnership between scientists and Tibetan Buddhist monks.

This is "Vital Signs." I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Call it a convergence between science and spirituality, forming insights into mindfulness, into meditation, even happiness, and the impact all of that can have on our physical health. And the champion of this cause is none other than the Dalai Lama himself.

Some 13,000 Tibetan monks in exile live here. and this particular monastery is now celebrating its 600th anniversary. There's also this air of anticipation as a very special guest is set to make an appearance. The Dalai Lama has been the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people. The Nobel Peace Prize winner is here for a meeting of the minds between scientists and Buddhist monks.

It's called the Emory-Tibet Partnership, and it started in Emory University in Atlanta nearly 20 years ago. Right from the start, the Dalai Lama puts everyone at ease with his classic smile, some candy, and a white washcloth on his head to cool him down. And then we had the honor of sitting down with him ourselves, one on one.

You taught me yesterday to have a genuine smile. You said you should smile genuinely, right.

DALAI LAMA, TIBETAN SPIRITUAL LEADER: Right. We are social animal. We need friend. In order to develop genuine friendship, trust, very important. For trust, if you show them genuine sort of respect, genuine love, then trust come. So here I think that the expression of genuine freely smile, I think part of that. That is genuine smile.

GUPTA: The Dalai Lama smiles and laughs a lot, and there's something to that. Research shows that laughing doesn't just signal happiness, it produces it. And in the presence of his holiness, you can't help yourself.

When you smile, I notice everyone around you smiles. It's very contagious as well. What keeps you happy? With so much that's going on in the world, how do you maintain your happiness and your optimism?

DALAI LAMA: Your own attitude, honest, truthful. And then try to some service to others. Some scientists say basic human nature is compassionate. Then also they say, the medical scientist, they also say, constant anger is very bad for our health. I try to keep compassion, and then surrounded by compassionate people, health much better.

GUPTA: The Dalai Lama strongly believes we can practice compassion through education and training. And studies show compassion benefits our health by altering the brain networks associated with emotion, attention, and empathy. Compassion meditators show less anger and focus more on problem solving.

Buddhist monks dedicate lives to practicing compassion and mindfulness meditation, an ancient concept focusing on presence of mind and paying attention to the present moment free of judgment.

While the Buddhists are experts on mindfulness meditation, it's the science that the Dalai Lama wants to hone in on. He's been speaking with modern scientists for decades. And at the core of his partnership with Emory is the development of a science curriculum for monks to study. And that means changing the existing monastic curriculum. That's something that hasn't been done in more than 500 years. Professor Arri Eisen is helping develop the biology curriculum.

ARRI EISEN, BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, EMORY UNIVERSITY: How ironic is it that the Dalai Lama is more open to science than many scientists are more open to spirituality or religion. Science is supposed to be the great open-minded, test everything, we'll test anything place, right?

[14:35:03] I think we can learn from the Dalai Lama, we can learn from the monks, how do you hold science and medicine together, the best of science and medicine together with the best of religion, which are the things the Dalai Lama talks about, compassion, love, the things that all religions preach. How can you bring those together in an effective way?

GUPTA: I think part of all this means a completely new language. Much of the scientific words simply don't exist in Tibetan, so translators are working to update the vocabulary. And it goes both ways. There are Tibetan words that get lost in translation. For example, the word "mind" in English does not have an exact equivalent in Tibetan. There are multiple words to capture the nuances of mind and consciousness, and it all depends on the context.

In some ways, maybe that's not surprising. English speaking western countries typically place less emphasis on the science of our emotions like compassion, and that's what Buddhism is teaching science.

What can science learn from Buddhism?

DALAI LAMA: The last 30 years my own experience, my observation, many scholar when they heard the explanation quite detailed, the system of our emotion. And also, these emotions, many scientists really show an interest. So obviously, therefore, they can take some new outlook into our inner world.

GUPTA: The exchange of our information is not only happening here in India but halfway around the world at Emory University.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll try my best to say bacteria and solution.

GUPTA: And the Dalai Lama extends an incredibly special invitation. We get to experience something rarely ever seen on camera.


[14:40:37] GUPTA: Biology class at Emory University.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll try my best just to say bacteria and solution.

GUPTA: At first, nothing out of the ordinary, until you realize this is a very special group of students to be sitting in a science lab. Six Buddhist monks, part of the Emory Tibet Science Initiative, have been studying here in Atlanta, Georgia, for a year and a half. They have taken classes in astronomy, physics, neuroscience, and this one, biology. For 34-year-old Tinzen, one of the best things about taking classes at Emory has been his interaction with the other students.

TENZIN, STUDENT, EMORY-TIBETAN SCIENCE INITIATIVE: I have experience working with my friend, then they feel love and they feel stress. If engaging the meditation, breaking meditation -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: This is breaking news. I'm Fredericka Whitfield in the newsroom.

High profile U.S. attorney for Manhattan Preet Bharara has announced via Twitter that he has been fired. This comes after dozens of U.S. attorneys were told to step down as they got notice last night, Friday, at the end of the working day, sparking outrage over how the process was handled. CNN Justice Reporter Laura Jarrett joining us now on the phone. What more do we know, Laura, about his tweet saying he was indeed, fired?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredericka. He tweeted out just moments ago, "I did not resign. Being U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life," and that's all he said, Fredricka. He did not say who called him. He did not reveal any other details. But we are learning that he was asked to resign yesterday along with those other 46 U.S. attorneys across the country. We're told by a U.S. official that he was asked to resign just like the rest for purposes of uniformity.

But as you have pointed out before earlier today, that this is a pretty big turn of events as last November he was told that he would be allowed to stay on by the president of the United States. So we don't know all the details, what changed over these last three months, Fredericka. WHITFIELD: And are you able to tell us, Laura, how he was informed

that was he was among those U.S. attorneys being asked to resign before he then responded by saying, you have to fire me?

JARRETT: We understand that he received a call from the acting deputy attorney general, that's Dana Boente, at main justice. And they were exchanging phone calls and Mr. Bharara was trying to get a hold of him, and ultimately now just tweeted out. We don't yet know exactly the full details of what he was told on that initial call by Dana Boente who left a message for him yesterday.

WHITFIELD: There had been some expressed concerns about ongoing cases and what kind of interruption this would be that so many U.S. attorneys were asked to resign, and now in the case of Preet Bharara being fired. What's your understanding about any cases that he may have been involved and how his firing perhaps jeopardizes those investigators or not?

JARRETT: You know, there are a number of career attorneys across the country in all these different U.S. attorney's offices. So he's certainly not alone there. But as you mentioned, he does have an active docket there in the southern district of New York. He handles a lot of public corruption cases, a lot of insider trading cases. And so we'll have to wait to see how all of this shakes out.

WHITFIELD: OK, legal analyst Paul Callan also with us. So Paul, now we know via tweet from Preet Bharara's account that he has been fired. Last you and I spoke you talked about some of the possible cases that he may be involved in. and it could be that some of the cases that Preet Bharara was involved in may even stem from the allegation from Donald Trump that Trump Tower was wiretapped, the president saying that very definitively via tweet last week. Do you see any real parallels into those potential cases of the firing of Preet Bharara and any ongoing matters?

[14:45:05] PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's possible, Fred, because the southern district seat, this prosecutorial seat, is the most powerful and most heavily publicized seat of prosecution in the United States. You have jurisdiction over Wall Street and the entire, and most of the media operates largely out of New York. So it's everything the U.S. attorney does gets a lot of publicity.

And this guy, Preet Bharara, is a sound bit a minute, charismatic guy who really gets the story out there. And if he's investigating or in any way investigating the story concerning the Russian wiretaps and whether the president was wiretapped in the Trump Tower, you could be sure that Preet Bharara would be front and center in that.

He also was a mentor and counsel to Senator Chuck Schumer. And I think the president may have been wary of the top prosecutor being so friendly with Senator Schumer and he wants to put his own person in the job. So I think that's how this is going to play out in the end. The president just wants his own U.S. attorney in place rather than somebody a predecessor appointed.

WHITFIELD: And that alone is not unusual, Paul. Most administrations when they have a changing of the guard, there is a change in the U.S. attorneys. People see the existing attorneys out and bring in new U.S. attorneys. But it's the method in which this happened, that 46 would be a given notice in one fell swoop. How unusual is that in your view?

CALLAN: It's unusual but not unprecedented. Bill Clinton fired 93 in one fell swoop. So it's happened in the past, and he replaced them with his own people.

What's different here are two things. One, Trump had a meeting with Preet Bharara in which he said or at least sounded him out on staying in the job. And all of the press was surrounding that meeting was that he was going to keep Preet Bharara on the job.

And the second thing I think is I've never heard of a U.S. attorney issuing a tweet about being fired. It just shows how communication with the public has changed. Usually there would be sort of a staid, legalese type of press release issued. And now we're Twittering the fact that we've been fired by the president of the United States.

WHITFIELD: There's the tweet there from Preet Bharara there saying he was fired. Laura, we've been reporting all day long that Preet Bharara said in no uncertain terms that he would resign, but instead that he would be fired. And potentially the president was listening to that sentiment as we talked about it on the air all day, and now Preet Bharara has said that he was fired.

Do we know how he was fired, if received a phone call, a notice, you know, a face-to-face meeting? What do we know? All right, Laura not with us. OK, let me bring in now CNN correspondent Sara Ganim joining us from New York. And so Sara, Preet Bharara, well-respected, a very powerful U.S. attorney, known to tackle high profile cases from corruption to Wall Street. Tell us more about his career and his appointment almost eight years ago.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Incredibly well-respected and well- known. He was appointed about eight years ago by then president Barack Obama. He had been chief council to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer has now, as Paul Callan mentioned, emerged as one of the chief adversaries of Donald Trump.

But back in 2009, Schumer actually encouraged President Obama to appoint Bharara after one of his investigations led the then attorney general Alberto Gonzalez to resign. Bharara's office then ended up prosecuting everything from terrorists like the attempted Time Square bomber to international Russian crime bosses to the hacking group Anonymous.

But Bharara perhaps best well-known for going after those corruption cases, notably Wall Street corruption cases. This "TIME" magazine cover from 2012, which I think we can show you, maybe not, but it says, "TIME" magazine essentially said in 2012, "This man is busting Wall Street." They called him "The Enforcer." And he's greatly feared there. He prosecuted dozens of insiders trading and securities fraud cases, including Bernie Madoff's brother. Of course those corruption cases went well beyond Wall Street. He was

also going after both Democrats and Republicans and was known for his non-partisan investigations. Right now his office is involved in two investigations involving the two most powerful Democrats in the state of New York.

[14:50:01] His office is about to try several is former aides to Governor Andrew Cuomo who are accused of bribery and bid rigging, and he's also in the final stages of an investigation of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio looking at allegations of pay to play. So that's what his office has been doing and what's on their docket, so to speak, as they move forward.

Remember, Fred, he leaves a very important federal district. This is a southern district of New York where Trump Tower is. So any federal investigation involving wiretapping, for example, or anything else would likely have involved his office. Keep that in mind as we look at the firing.

WHITFIELD: So Paul, to pick up on that because you did introduce that topic or that possibility, so Paul Callan, I wonder if in hindsight, particularly since as president-elect Donald Trump asked Bharara to stay on. And now these widening investigations involving Trump and involving Trump aides, and now this abrupt firing or about face in terms of how the president feels about the job of this U.S. attorney, will that potentially be a big mistake?

CALLAN: I think it's a mistake only because Preet Bharara is just somebody who really knows how to communicate a message publicly. And I think if we hear more from him about why he thinks he was fired, and bear in mind, once he's terminated as a U.S. attorney, he's free to comment on anything about the president that he wants to. Of course he can't comment on cases that, you know, the detail of cases, but he certainly can go vigorously after the president.

And let's remember for a minute, this seat, the U.S. attorney for the southern district. Thomas Dewey, who ran against Truman for president, former governor of New York, former prosecutor in the southern district, James Comey, FBI director, former prosecutor in the southern district, and of course Rudy Giuliani, maybe the most famous of all, who became mayor of the city of New York, former U.S. attorney for the southern district. So a lot of powerful, successful political figures have come out of this office.

WHITFIELD: And even if fired as a prosecutor, we don't know what he knows, if anything, about some of these ongoing investigations that are now involving the president and his staff. Is there a capacity in which Preet Bharara would be able to share or help further any investigations he may be involved in when he was prosecutor and now post-prosecution years with us of that information? Would he be able to be utilized in some way in the furtherance of cases or potential cases?

CALLAN: I think it would be highly unlikely. Normally when a prosecutor leaves office, he really terminates all connection with ongoing prosecutions. And the reason for that is he's a private citizen. He may be working for a law firm, he may be a defense attorney. So he won't have access to the information that he had previously.

And because he's the top guy in the office, the ones who are handling the nitty-gritty on these prosecutions are career prosecutors who are already in place, and it's really unlikely they would need input from Preet Bharara regarding these ongoing investigations.

WHITFIELD: Are you able to give us an idea how difficult this might have been for the deputy A.G. who was among, well, one of two kept on to help convey the message to these upwards of 44 U.S. attorneys in some way that they need to resign?

CALLAN: I think it must have been an extremely difficult moment because these people are all highly respected attorneys. A lot of them left probably very, very prosperous positions in the private sector to do this public service of being a U.S. attorney. And to be told initially, you know, we're going to keep you on, and then suddenly to be told you're out, it's really an embarrassing situation because, bear in mind, if you know you're leaving a big job like this, you can start to look for other employment and line it up. A lot of these people now are just blindsided by this. They're out of the job. And I don't care how high your job is. If you're out of a job, it's a tough thing to face.

WHITFIELD: Athena Jones is at the White House. Athena, can you corroborate or give us any more detail about this firing that Preet Bharara has tweeted about but the White House saying anything about whether the firing indeed took place or what manner it took place?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House isn't commenting at all, Fred. I've asked a couple of officials who have pointed me to the Department of Justice. That's exactly what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reports not long ago, reporters who were at the Trump golf course in Virginia. He said, keep in touch with the Justice Department, with the Department of Justice, on that matter.

[14:55:04] So they are not answering questions about Preet Bharara or, more broadly, about the firings of the U.S. attorneys. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Meantime, Athena, that is top of mind, what's taking place by way of the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, notifying all these U.S. attorneys. At the same time, right there on the property, still the growing concerns about what happened near midnight with this security breach, and now this suspect also being arraigned in court. Tell us more about what, if anything, the White House is revealing on this.

JONES: Sure. Well, the president just spoke about this, to reporters at the golf course. I believe we have what he said. Let's go ahead and play that and then talk about it.




DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secret Service did a fantastic job last night. I appreciate it. Secret Service did a fantastic job. He was a troubled person. Very sad, actually. But Secret Service was fantastic.


JONES: So there you heard the president saying Secret Service did a fantastic job. He said that the suspect, Jonathan Tran, a 26-year-old with a California driver's license, that the president said he was a troubled person. As you mentioned, Tran is going to arraigned today in D.C. Superior Court. He is being upheld at the courthouse, of course, at this moment.

Sean Spicer, the press secretary, expanded on the president's remarks and he said that last night Secret Service informed the president. DHS secretary, the secretary of Homeland Security, General Kelly, was kept aware of the situation the entire time. He said any further questions should be directed to the Secret Service, but he did say that the Secret Service did a phenomenal job. Those were Spicer's words. And they continue to provide phenomenal protection to the president and the first family and the president was very appreciative of the efforts.

So the White House expressing confidence, continued confidence in the Secret Service, but as we all know, Fred, this is something that's going to get a very, very close look because this is not the first time has happened and this suspect got very, very close to the residence.

WHITFIELD: Right, so growing concerns, growing questions as to how this suspect initially evaded detection before finally a U.S. Secret Service officer was able to run into him, is how it's being reported, and take down that suspect. Athena Jones, thank you so much at the White House.

We're going to continue on this story and much more in the newsroom straight ahead. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks for being with me. Ana Cabrera is up next.