tv Ronan Farrow Daily MSNBC December 17, 2014 10:00am-11:01am PST
of congress who traveled from washington to cuba today. we're going to bring you any news that happens out of both of these. gross landed late this morning after as we mentioned being held for five years in captivity on espionage charges. he was arrested while working for a sub-contractor on a controversial u.s. agency for international development project, helping to set up internet access. cuba's view, circumventing their crackdowns on information access. president obama spoke about gross's release last hour from the white house, and announced that major overhaul in cuba policy. >> over many months my administration has held discussions with the cuban government about alan's case and other aspects of our relationship. his holiness pope francis issued a personal appeal to me and to cuba's president raul castro urging us to resolve alan's case and to address cuba's interest
in three cuban agents who have been jailed in the united states for over 15 years. today alan returned home. >> some interesting mentions of the partners to these negotiations including canada and the vatican. we'll have more on that later. we know that gross's wife traveled with him on this flight home and the family right now is elated as you might imagine. that includes his cousin who spoke to jose just a few hours ago. >> my family is just overjoyed, we're just crying, we're jumping up and down, and we are jewish, this is a hanukkah miracle. >> joining us to start all of our updates on this, kris janson who's at the white house following this and casey hunt, she is on capitol hill tracking a lot of reaction pouring in right now on both sides of this. i want to start with kris at the white house. again our senior nbc correspondent. what kick started these negotiations, kris, and how
significant that was plead from the pope that he mentioned? >> very significant. without a do doubt. and this was something that the president has had on his agenda far long tiemd. it's snag he has made clear, he has felt that the part of the foreign policy that what was going on currently wasn't working, but it was 18 months ago that he gave the okay for a series of meetings that took place place mostly in canada between u.s., cuban officials and eventually the president was talking to pope francis. the release of alan gross and u.s. cuban relations became an important part of that conversation, and then in the summer, pope francis sent a letter to both president castro and president obama pleading with them, both for the release of alan gross and for some changes in u.s.-cuban relationships. and that really did set the stage for what became the final meeting which happened just last month at the vatican, and finally all of these culminated yesterday with a phone call that was 45 plus minutes long between the two presidents. the first time the leaders of those two countries have spoken
since the cuban revolution. >> a big diplomatic moment there. and kris, one of the big points of controversy in the president's announcement is the revelation is wasn't just gross, he stressed unrelatedly another, what he really explicitly said was a swap of those cuban prisoners for an intelligence asset, tell us about that. >> we didn't know about this asset, he is a cuban, we have learned that he was critical in breaking some espionage cases, and seeing that some espionage prosecutions were successful in the united states. he was in prison in cuba for 20 years, obviously many of the details of his operation over there have been kept classified, but he was called heroic to me by one senior administration official and his release was considered extremely significant and was obviously key in this bigger picture of what happened here, ronan. >> and of course prisoner swaps for americans always
controversial, we'll be seeing a lot of reaction to that. as you say, a lot of officials saying this is a hero, this was the right thing to do. that was the argument the president was making, kris, thank you so much. >> you're welcome. >> senator marco rooub joe among the -- rubio is among the voices blasting the government. we should note that hitting out at the president for negotiations, listen to this. >> this president is the single worst negotiator we have had in the white house in my lifetime. who has basically given the cuban government everything it asked for. and received no assurances of any advances in democracy and freedom in return. >> watching the reaction on capitol hill are political reporter casey hunt. casey, so the interesting thing here is we're seeing bipartisan agreement from senators, rubio and mendes against lifting this embargo. in fact, odd bipartisan bedfellows on both sides of this fierce debate right now. >> that's right, ronan. and in particular you're hearing from people who are part of this
cuban-american community, you're also hearing from mario diaz whose been a key republican alley of the obama administration on immigration who called him the appeaser in chief. i spoke to senator rubio as well earlier today and he said that in this deal, cuba gets a ten on the one to ten skill while the u.s. just gets .5 out of this. you heard him say this is something -- >> i'm going to ask you to hold this thought. senators barbara mckul sky and ben both speaking on the release, i want to take a listen. >> one of our maryland constituents who had been held unjustly in a cuban prison for five years. senator carden were at the tarmac today to welcome alan gross home. this was a culmination of our effort for more than five years to bring him home and to get him home safely. yesterday, i received a call
from vice president biden informing me that mr. gross would leave cuba this morning as part of an overall spy swap and that also the beginning of new policy changes for cuba. i was delighted to hear both. it is time. but for me, the big moment was alan gross. to be out at the tarmac. to see a plane that says the united states of america wing through the sky and to know that mr. gross and his beloved wife judy were on that plane, and to see the doors open, and to see his wife that we had worked with, we had stood from meetings to phone calls to outreach efforts to passing of congressional resolutions, to see judy walk down with the biggest smile that i have seen in five years.
only then to be followed by a slender man who, i feared would come down halting because we knew he'd been so sick. that he'd lost 100 pounds, and there came alan gross, a wreck coming down those steps and watching his feet touch the united states of america was for me an indeed an emotional year. for five years, we have worked with his wife judy, his daughters nina and sharra to try to get his release. the story of alan is the story of people who dedicated who serve america. he was an aid contractor, he devoted his life to try to help people in other countries to be empowered. he had taken the internet to cuba to help get senior citizens connected so maybe they'd talk
back and forth to their relatives in the united states of america. they were primarily jewish, they were primarily old, but castro decided that alan was a spy and he ended up in prison, he ended up in isolation, he ended up enduring incredible, incredible hardship. well, we came together, judy came to us, to help us as she went to other members of congress. senator carden will talk about our efforts, but we reached out, we passed congressional records and congressional statements. we passed three congressional resolutions, calling for his release. we had meetings with the white house, we had letters to the white house. letters to the cuban government. senator carden and i and chris van hollen and dick durbin visited them in washington to, when pope benedict was coming to
get him on the vatican pipeline to speak for human rights and humanitarian releases. well, we got a new pope, he put it in the pipeline and whatever pipeline pope francis has to whatever higher power and whatever power president obama could use, we now have alan gross home. it is a great day, alan is now with his wife judy, they'll be at home, recuperating and receiving medical evaluations. we're going to be able to work with him and while alan is recovering, we will be moving on to new policy days in the future to normalize diplomatic travel and other relationships with cuba. i look forward to supporting the president in that endeavor. i do think it's time, and now it's time for senator carden. >> let me thank the senator for the successful strategies of
elevating alan gross' case over the past five years until we could reach this moment. and i must tell you at andrew's today, to see alan gross come back to the united states and touch maryland, it was a very emotional moment. recognizing that alan gross will be celebrating the first day of hanukkah with his family. hanukkah is the festival of rededication, it's the festival of lights, also the festival that celebrates america. and alan gross being home i think is an appropriate heard on the first day of hanukkah. and we talked about that. i had the chance to talk as we all did with alan gross and as the senator pointed out, i was extremely impressed by his attitude and his being a good spirits. he talked openly about the cuban people. and that they are good people. but obviously their government is fallen short in so many different ways. and he was very clear about
that. so today's the day to celebrate, celebrate that alan gross is home and celebrate that we're moving towards normal relations with cuba. and the work that went through points out to me that when you're fighting for human rights, you can't be quiet about it. and the senator led several efforts at times when we had the ear of people that could do something about it, whether it was u.s. officials or whether it was cuban officials or whether it was from the vatican, and made it clear, and we all made it clear that this case had to be addressed. and alan gross had to be released. so, the strategy of letters, the strategies of resolutions, the strategies of conversation all are critically important to make sure those who are unjustly treated that justice prevails. and yes, i am pleased that we're moving towards a better relationship with cuba. >> those are two senators,
important voices in advocating for the release of alan gross. part of the outpouring of reaction we are seeing from the hill today. both of them in fact striking an enthusiastic, even celebratory tone, others on the hill far, far more critical. casey hunt, obviously on a personal level this is cause for celebration, but what are the big sticking points in terms of policy opposition we're seeing on the hill? >> sure, ronan, that's right that personally, this is something that people here are celebrating even senator rubio whose been very critical of the president in this says he's celebrating that alan gross is back on u.s. soil. they do say however that he never should have been held in the first place. i think you're seeing a couple areas of policy disagreement. the em bar ge in particular, senator rubio talked about that and said that lifting the embargo gives up leverage that the u.s. has over the regime. and that leaving that embargo in place is designed for that. he also said it sets a bad precedent for the united states in dealing with other nations,
such as iran or north korea, what's included as teeth in this agreement for the cuban government don't really amount to teeth at all. he argues that the united nations is not an agency that's going to be able to hold them accountable appropriately. so i think you're going to see this as the day develops, you'll see more of the critiques. i think this is also something that you're going to see come up again and again as we approach the 2016 presidential election because of that critical constituency in florida and also because of secretary of state hillary clinton, former secretary of state hillary clinton. >> this is a very significant diplomatic moment, personal moment, and also political one. casey hunt from capitol hill, thanks for that update, casey. >> thanks, ronan. raul castro spoke just this morning about this agreement to release alan gross. he said he welcomes this new relationship between the u.s. and cuba, and he talked about his phone call with president obama. >> as a result of a dialogue of the highest level, including a
telephone conversation, which i had yesterday with president barack obama, we have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of interest to both nations. >> i want to get a bit more of that political reaction right now. new york congressman charlie rangel is in cuba right now. thank you so much, congressman. what is this harolded for the relationship with cuba. how significant is this shift? >> this is a tremendous, historic event, the people in havana are dancing in the street with glee, there's always been a love between the cuban people and the american people, notwithstanding the problems that our governments have had. this is exciting, not just for america, but it's exciting for south america and central america, we're the only country
in the hemisphere that sought to change the cuban government for an embargo that hasn't worked. i've never been more proud of being an american and i'm glad to see the results in havana while i'm here. >> congressman, what do you say to those of marco rubio who are coming out in force saying there aren't enough concessions from cuba in this agreement? >> first of all, let me say this about senator rubio, it seems as though raul cast owe has had -- castro has had more president from the united states than remarks he recently made. he should be reminded that he comes here because his family left cuba to come here, and it's not going to be just him with his emotional connection with cuba that's going to decide what our relationship is with the government of cuba. the people of the united states elected him as president, and rubio as a senator in florida. and so, it just makes a lot of
sense that the president's doing what he thinks is in the best interest of the united states of america, and i'm so pleased that so many of us in the congress have struggled toward this goal and i think that in cuba and in the united states, both countries are better off. >> some strong words there from senator rubio. the other line of criticism we're seeing coming out right now is about the separate prisoner swap. are you concerned about the potential price that might put on the heads of other americans targeted for imprisonment? >> you know, when you start thinking about prisoner swaps and all those things, and isis and the terrorism that exists with fighting and struggling with outside of the hemisphere, wouldn't you think that we wanted all of the people in the hemisphere working together against that. i mean, do we really think the
cuban people are part of the terrorism that's taking place in the middle east? i think not. i think america thinks that, i think the president thinks not, and so, we collectively have to decide how we are going to handle terrorism, and there's no way in the world that you're going to say that cuba is a terrorist government. >> congressman rangel, thank you for the update, we appreciate your time. >> thank you. >> reminder that american freed after five years of captivity in cuban, alan gross will be holding a live news conference, around 1:30. live picture there, we will bring it to you as soon as we can. but first stick around right now. we are going to look at the economic underpinnings of this deal. cnbc's brian sullivan next while plummeting oil prices are a part of the picture. don't go away.
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welcome back, everybody. a lot going on right now. any minute now we're expecting to hear from american alan gross and what will be his first news conference since his release from cuba today. after five years imprisoned on espionage charges, gross is home on u.s. soil. the release is just part of a seismic shift in relations between the u.s. and cuba. a seismic shift that could change cuba's economic fortunes at a time when the country needs that. that's in part because of the price of oil. a price plummeting now below # $0 a barrel. and some economies like venezuela and russia are backers of cuba. cnbc anchor brian sullivan joins us for more. i know you don't have a lot of time right now. i wanted to ask you though about the surrounding economic forces. first of all, how significant are the implications of this changing relationship, and second of all, how much is driven by the economic context we just talked about? >> second part first, a ton because listen, for years
venezuela has been cuba's not sugar daddy, but oil daddy. they have subsidized to cuba. russia a similar deal as well. russia and venezuela are both highly dependent on the price of oil. their economies are sinking fast as the price of oil falls. part of the thawing of the relationship goes to economics, cuba realizeding if we to want maintain any level of economic stanlt, little by the way the country has, they have to lessen their dependence on countries that are highly dependent on oil like venezuela. by the way, many think it's going to default on its debt because of this. and the subsidies they provide cuba, this is a major part, no doubt, of at least the beginning of the thawing of the story, ronan. which is the economics behind the reasoning. >> brian sullivan, such an important piece, i hope we can continue this conversation. thank you for junior insights. >> sure. we are moments away from
hearing from alan gross on the first live press conference since his release. we are going to bring that to you live as soon as it happens. but first, one person who is extremely eager to hear the first words from alan gross, his sister, bonnie. she joins me live on the phone, bonnie, thank you so much for joining us. >> you're very welcome. >> first of all i want to say we're so happy for your entire family. this is a story we've been following for a long time as have so many americans. when you first heard this news, what was your thought? >> oh my goodness, i was jumping up and down with laughter and tears. and been of a long five years. >> we've seen those pictures of your brother landing in the u.s. with his wife for the first time in five years. what were your thoughts when you saw that image of him setting foot on u.s. soil for the first time? >> i saw his smile. always had a big smile. and its been hard to smile for five years, and now we feel much more light hearted and i'm so happy to see him come down the
steps. he looked pretty good to me. >> one family going through a very different reaction today, i wanted to ask you about, that's the family of armadow one of the four pilots that were killed that triggered a major moment in u.s./cuban relations. his sister told nbc news, they're pleased your brother is released, this is not an even exchange and can't believe our country has done this to us. what would you say to them today? >> i'm sorry for any hardships that they're going through, but, truthfully, i can only feel happy today for us and our family. that's all i have to say about that. >> and we certainly join that sentiment of being extremely happy for you and your family. bonnie, sister of alan gross, thank you so much for taking the time to join us, and happy hanukkah. >> thank you, thank you. bye. >> this shake up in the cuba relationship has as we discussed some major economic
implications, it's also a significant diplomatic moment. bill richardson, former ambassador to the united nations and new mexico governor, thank you for joining us ambassador. >> thank you ronan. >> so what is reestablishing relations look like in practical and diplomatic terms? what happens next in this relationship? >> well what happens next, the key is the release of alan gross opens up a lot of possibilities. i tried in 2007 to get him out, but the cubans wanted the cuban five then, and they weren't ready to do it. i think the administration deserves credit for this. what happens next? i think the improvement in relationship is shown one, the most important initiatives is the exchange, potential exchange of ambassadors, establishing diplomatic relations. the president can do that without having to get to the approval of the congress. the trickier issues, the trade
embargo has not worked, but in order to get rid of the trade embargo, you have to go to congress because of what is called a helms burton act which happened after the downing of those airplanes. so, mine, not minor, but human rights initiatives can take place like easier travel through and from cuba remittances of cuban americans and cuban's money going back and forth to cuba, travel by coup bans and cuban americans. and hopefully some human rights initiatives and improvement in cuba of human rights treatments of disdense. i'm in spain now so i haven't seen all the details about what cuba is going to do to advance the u.s./cuba relationship. >> ambassador, we to want get more of your thoughts if you're able to stay, we would love you to. we're going to take a quick break and hope to get you to the other side of the break. appreciate it. rescued.
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welcome back everybody, big day today, any minute we are expecting to hear from alan gross. of course the american just freed from cuba. he is back on u.s. soil now. and he will be speaking to us. we'll bring you that as soon as that happens. we're joined by kristin welker at the white house and casey hunt on the hill and in little havana, florida, as well as bill richardson, former ambassador to the united nation and former governor of new mexico back on the phone. i'll start with you, ambassador richardson. we just talked about some of the prior efforts, some of which you were involved with to get alan gross out there, what does this bode for the future of the kinds of programs he was working on, which have been very controversial out of usa? >> well, what this means is that there's going to be a significant improvement in a lot of programs between the u.s. and cuba. for instances, remittances of cubans sending money back to cuba and back and forth to the
united states. secondly, travel of cuban-americans and cubans back and forth from cuba. but also, average americans, tourism that are going to want to go there and look at cuba and the only area that is not going to happen right away is investments because of the embargo. the embargo has to be taken off by the u.s. congress. and the congress in control of republicans and very powerful cuban-american leaders like senator menendes, chairman the foreign relations committee is not going to let much happen. what is most significant is the diplomatic relations that if this happens in the next months, the fact that you open embassies in washington for the cubans and in havana for the u.s., it's going to mean a lot of people, the people travel, diplomatic messengers, cooperation on issues like the environment, homeland security, narcotics,
areas where the u.s. has already sort of been cooperating with cuba, but now you make it official. >> and governor richardson, what kind of implications could this have for u.s. relations? some of cuba's partners like venezuela and especially russia? >> well, what this means is, is venezuela is in deep trouble because of oil prices, and venezuela has been providing cuba with signature reduction -- significant reduction in oil and energy. this. basically means that cuba is being smart and saying well look, venezuela may not be able to do this anymore, give us these cut rate oil prices. so we have to look elsewhere. we have to find ways to reduce the relationship, the hostility with the united states and the hope that maybe some investments in the embargo -- >> bill richardson, i want to note for the audience that there is an introduction happening right now, that is not in fact
alan gross, we'll bring him to the -- we'll bring him live. finish your point. >> my point about alan gross. when i went there in 2011 to cuba, it was very clear. and i said to the cubans, nothing is going to happen in the improvement of u.s./cuban relations unless you release alan gross. then they said well we want the cuban five. and at the time, neither country was ready to make that deal, but i think it is significant that serious negotiations have been happening, i don't know if the pope had a key role, probably did, and i think the president, president obama who's thinking of his legacy. getting rid of this cuba issue, in other words improving relations with cuba is a major factor in removing a big irritant that the u.s. has with 30 plus countries in the area. this is significant.
>> big moment. and also a big moment in the white house. kristin welker, what is the reaction you're hearing there from officials? >> well, they welcomed these developments, and white house press secretary josh ernest about to start his briefing any moment now ronan, we're going to have a lot of tough questions for him. of course president obama defending his decision to normalize relations with cuba to secure the release of alan gross by saying we can't continue to do the same thing we've done for the past 50 years, and expect a different result, but as casey was just reporting earlier this hour. there is sharp opposition to this among conservatives, marco rubio who calls this president the worst negotiator in his lifetime. so, press secretary josh ernest will get some tough questions about that. how will this administration guarantee and hold cuba to account for what it wants to see? essentially making the lives of cubans better, improving the economy there, and moving toward
a civil society. those are going to be some tough questions, not a lot of teeth obviously in this deal. also how quickly will relations become normalized with cuba? how quickly will the u.s. embassy be set up in havana? those will be the top questions there. officials saying they are going to move almost immediately to begin those steps. ronan. >> and another big thing is the congressional action. i want to go to casey on that. casey, is there going to be will power to revisit the helmsburg act in 1996? >> as far as the embargo is concerned? look, the reaction you're seeing up here at this point is bipartisan against this agreement. you are hearing some senators encouraging the administration on this. i just spoke to senator patrick leahy who talked about the historic nature of his flight. got up at 2:00 to go to the air force base and go and pick up alan gross from cuba. and he obviously has worked hard behind the scenes on this. but i think getting any major,
real changes from congress on this u.s.-cuba relationship are really along way off, especially with the new republican congress coming in. i think you're going to start to see this play a significant, potentially play a significant role in a 2016 presidential contest in the context of both the republican primary, you're going to have several people potentially from florida playing in that primary. and then also in the general election. i think you're going to see a lot of scrutiny of the obama foreign policy record in the context of hillary clinton who served as president's secretary of state. if she indeed does run for president. so, i mean, i think that we're obviously going to see an attempt at the normalization of relations over the course of the next months and potentially years, but i would be surprised if congress decides to revisit this in a major way. >> and as ambassador richardson highlighted, that is significant because for investments to resume, you have to revisit that legislation. it has to come out of congress. i know you'll be watching that. we'll get back to you on that.
i want to go to claudine, she's in little havana in florida. what's the community say in response to this? >> ronan, this news could not have come or could not have caused a wave of opinions here in the heart of the cuban community. i am in the heart of little havana. i am right here where usually the community tends to come together, both the older generation and the younger generation, regardless of what kind of news regarding cuba comes out. and of course, as you can imagine, not only the release of alan gross this morning, but the possibility of cuba and the united states to have diplomatic relations and all the details we have heard. the possibility of embassies in cuba and a complete change of relationship between cuba and the united states have caused a generational, a generational gap
in between the cuban community. the older community do not take this news with open arms. they believe that this is the wrong idea, they believe this is the wrong move by the obama administration, and they believe that this is one more political move. however, some of the younger generation think that you know what, enough is enough. its been 61 years of the emba o embargo, and we, this is a possibility to change. we have been going through this, the younger generation, we have been going through this, it has not worked. so this is right now the mood here in little havana. >> obviously a big moment and a very personal one for so many families there. thank you for that update. we have new video right now of alan gross chofs just in his lawyer's office, i believe you're looking at that right now just moments ago. obviously he is looking to be in okay condition. we may learn more about his condition in his press
conference where we're about to hear from him. and on that front, bill richardson, you have been involved in a lot of negotiations in your career including for people with health conditions that were threatened, what should we be concernened about now as he -- concerned about now as he adjusts to life in the united states? >> well alan gross lost 100 pounds. he was in severe depression, he was talking about taking his life, he'd kind of given up, and his wife, judy, who i know, wonderful woman, has been launching this five year effort to get him out, and so, i think the first thought is that, that he get, alan get the best medical condition, which he will, secondly that he be given a little privacy as he he rehabilitates his health, and then lastly, what i think this means now, the political message is that now that this issue is removed, that the administration
reach out to those that are going to have serious thoughts of what happened. like for instance with cuban-americans, miami, the older generation in miami and new jersey, they're very much against this. younger generation knows the embargo hasn't worked and they want to change, but i think the future of u.s./cuba relations, a good part we should get the input of cuban-americans that live in the united states. that have such an enormous emotional and political and economic stake, stake in this. so, i think it's important that the administration reach out. this is going to be a popular move nationally. the american people know the embargo hasn't worked and relationship hasn't worked, but the congress is going to rise up. they're not going to like this. the release, getting the embargo softened, helmsburg is not going to happen. in fact the president will get some blowback on this, so i
think it's important that the, that the management of this issue, which is the right thing to do, the exchange of diplomatic relations, it helps our foreign policy in latin america. it's going to be a big factor in president obama's foreign policy legacy. especially in the part of the world, latin america, that we've neglected. that we haven't paid much attention to. all administrations always forget about latin america. you know, they think about the middle east and north korea and ukraine, but when it comes to our neighbors in the south, it's secondary, and that shouldn't be the case. >> ambassador, we just heard from casey hunt on the hill that there is so much opposition as well as the celebratory tone that, you know, she, and we've heard this from others as well. thinks it is a stretch that there'll be new legislation on this. with that being the case, how much does that blunt the impact of this reset in u.s./cuba
relations? >> it won't help. the big move is the exchange of embassies. the president can do that by executive action. that's going to be the highlight in the world in the press and in the international community. but i don't believe the embargo can be tightened anymore than it is. with the helmsburg-burton act, it is very tight. any kind of change almost has to be approved by a majority vote of congress. so that's not going to happen. so this is why i think the president has chosen to move on the areas of travel of cultural exchanges of remittances. my hope too, ronan, is let's have the cuban government realize that the u.s. has taken a major step. so they should do something about, you know, releasing political dissidents, move for more freedom of the press, move
towards more democracy in the country. we can't tell them what to do, but i think it's time, i think raul castro is moving very much in that direction. >> and a lot of people are saying that it's time. as we mentioned, reaction pouring in right now for the release of alan gross. we are awaiting the remarks from him. he is of course the american imprisonment for all of those years on espionage charges. we will bring you his remarks as soon as they come, but right now, we are tracking reaction on this. i believe we are sticking with this right now, and we have senator ben carden with us whose been a major choice advocating for gross's release. in fact was on the tarmac welcoming him home. senator carden, thank you so much for joining us. >> oh, it's a pleasure to be with you. it was a rather emotional moment to see alan step foot at andrew's in maryland. to me, it was very appropriate, it was the first day of hanukkah he'll be able to celebrate with his family here in the united
states. and hanukkah in parts a holiday of a miracle. it was great to see alan gross back in the united states. >> and you're of course a member of the senate foreign relations committee, in one 2012 letter to the cuban president you said this, you said that his imprisonment was a major obstacle to any further actions to improve bilateral relations, this is a big break through on a diplomatic front. how much action will be required from congress to actually fulfill the promise of this reset with cuba? >> well, you're correct. the alan gross being in cuba was a huge obstacle to improving the relationship between the united states and cuba. the president has a great deal of discretion, what he can do to try to improve that relationship including diplomatic ties, dealing with some of the economic issues. there are statutes on the books that deal with our relationship with cuba that will need the attention of the congress of the united states, but there's a good deal of discretion, i think with the president announced today that path is open to the
white house, and they can move down that path, but we're all going to be watching very closely. look, i want to see a much better relationship between cuba and the united states. but we'll continue to speak out about human rights violations because we know that's the best way to protect people's rights is for us to continue to put spotlights on countries doing things that are wrong. >> senator, we're just getting an over the wires a reaction from florida governor and of course much potential 2016 candidate jeb bush. he says he opposes this move to normalize cuba relations. we've been hearing similar reaction on the hill from people like marco rubio who said that this is appeasing cuba too much. what do you say to that argument that cuba doesn't concede enough in this arrangement? >> first of all, it's in our interest to improve our relationship with a country so close to us and in our own hemisphere. it's in our national security interests to have a better relationship. alan gross is back in the united states, there are other issues that we got help in this arrangement from cuba.
so there are, there are direct benefits to the united states, but i think the long-term benefits of a better relationship between cuba and the united states is critically important to us. as the president rightly pointed out, we have diplomatic relations with china and vietnam. we need to be able to deal with countries in our own hemisphere in a way that's better in our national security interests. >> senator carden, a major voice, congratulations to you on a break through on something you have fought for for years. and everybody at home, please stay with us, we will have the live remarks coming up from alan gross at this major turning point in our hemisphere. we'll be right back. ♪ earlyfit ♪ latefit ♪ risefit ♪ fallfit ♪ ballfit ♪ wallfit ♪ pingfit ♪ pongfit ♪ pingfit ♪ pongfit ♪ rowfit ♪ throwfit ♪ slowfit ♪ olliefit ♪ oopsfit ♪ otisfit ♪ thiswayfit ♪ thatwayfit ♪ daddyfit ♪ pappyfit ♪ datefit ♪ weightfit ♪ goalfit ♪ gooooooalfit ♪ stepfit ♪ stairfit ♪ smartfit ♪ heartfit ♪ spinfit ♪ bikefit ♪ hikefit ♪ yikesfit ♪ wheeeeefit
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aisle who pushed for gross's release. one of them senator bill nelson of florida is with us. senator, thank you so much for taking the time. always a pleasure to have you on. can you talk about these efforts to get him free. they can you talk about these efforts to get him free? they went on for quite some time. >> i want to say at the outset because you're getting mixed reviews. i'm as anti-castro as any of them. this is a good exchange of two americans held in captivity for three cubans and then it is an exchange of discussions of recognizing cuba for cuba freeing the dissidents and starting to institute reforms. and that is absolutely essential to give the cuban people freedom. now, to your answer, a year and a half or so ago, i was with
president martelli of haiti. he's a friend of mine. and he was going on a state visit to cuba to see raul castro. and i asked him to raise this directly with raul. he did. he called me back and he said that raul was wanting to talk to the u.s. government. i passed that on immediately to the national security council. i have no idea if that had part of the effort here, but i want to give credit to president martelli, who did that not once, but twice. >> part of an interesting con s c constellation of odd bedfellows. this is the spokesperson who will then introduce alan gross. that's jill zukman, family
spokesperson. i want to get in another question to the senator. your fellow florida senator, marco rubio, has been respondsing in a big way to the president. he called president obama the worst negotiator in modern u.s. history. what do you say to the argument that cuba just hasn't conceded enough in this arrangement? >> that's just simply not true. first of all, we've got two americans home. one of which you know about, that was about to die. secondly, if this brings about the reforms of all giving freedom to the dissidents to allow freedom of speech, of the press, of freedom of assembly, then this is a monumental step in the right direction. >> and how do you think this is going to play out? politically, obviously, weave seen jeb bush come out and say, this is the wrong move. he doesn't support normalizing relations. here are some numbers, if we can go to slide four here. we have the latest polls from the atlantic council finding 56% of americans are in favor of
rebuilding those relations with cuba. how do you think this will play out on the campaign trail in 2016? >> yes, we're in the 21st century. we're ready to move on. it will redowned to the president's favor. this will get all mixed up in the politics. remember, as you play to the cuban/american community, it is significantly split. in large part, fitz an older community or if it is the younger community. and therein is the difference as to whether they will accept or not accept this move. >> do you think it's realistic congress might act to lift the embargo on this. >> give that some time, ronan. it's too early. let's see how raul is going to react. if he's really going to start doing some reforms.
if he starts doing that and giving the people freedom, then i think the votes will be there to lift the embargo. >> senator, thank you for your time. >> thanks, ronan. >> we want to go to kristen welker. she has additional information on the first question we posed to the senator. >> reporter: this all started back in the spring of 2013. president obama, according to senior administration officials, approved exploratory discussions with officials in cuba. those talks were held in canada. so, that really set this whole process in motion. and then we're told this fall the vatican hosted another round of discussions that the pope was instrumental in this. he wrote to both president obama, to raul castro and encouraged the two to ease relations between the two countries. he also called for the release of alan gross. incredible to think the pope played a pivotal role in all of this. then we learned president obama
spoke with president castro last night for 45 minutes, just stunning, ronan, to think about what transpired during that conversation. we're preliminarily told by senior administration officials that the two leaders discussed the release of alan gross. they also discussed these new terms that were announced today. the fact that travel restrictions will be eased. the fact that commerce restrictions will be eased. they sort of finalized this historic announcement that was made today. but when you think about that conversation that took place, ronan, the significance of it, we are going to want to know more details about that. white house press secretary josh earnest set to start his daily briefing any minute now. we'll certainly try to get more details. that's how it all came about. it was really set in motion in 2013 and just finalized yesterday. ronan? >> we're just hearing the family
spokesperson who spoke down from the podium said it's going to be about five minutes. she's going to go get alan. you've been talking to your sources at the white house throughout all of this. what is the landscape internally on this? who supported the president on this? were there strong voices of opposition within his inner circle? >> well, that's a great question. secretary kerry has made this one of his key goeshlgsz ronan, from when he was first in talks with president obama to become the secretary of state. so, i think that once it was decided that he would be secretary of state, that it was clear within this administration that this was going to be one of the key goals moving forward. to not only secure the release of alan gross, but to normalize relations with cuba. of course, there are always internal discussions and debate about how specifically that is going to be done, but i do think there was broad agreement that what had been going on in cuba for the past 50 years had not been working and that it was time for a restart. ronan? >> kristen welker, thank you for that update. i know you'll be watching the
briefing and what comes out of this conference from alan gross. a lot to keep track of here. i'm going to go to casey hunt, still following the reaction on the hill. i just talked to florida senator bill nelson about this who said, wait, hang on a beat. we don't know yet how cuba is really going to act on this shift in relations. and until then, it's too early to say whether there would be congressional whetherpower to revisit the embargo. >> reporter: absolutely, ronan. you also actually saw senator harry reid reacting to this. he said he stood by the obama administration but he still has concerns about whether or not this is going to enhance political freedom in cuba. so you also had senator marco rubio on the other side, his fellow senator from florida, who at a press conference this afternoon said very strongly that this congress will not lift the embargo. i think with republicans in control of both the house and the senate, doing anything legislatively to move on this, is going to be really, really tricky. if you also want to think about the politics of this in florida,
i heard senator nelson was also walking through this a little bit with you, the older generation, those who remember what cuba was like under fidel castro, are really very opposed to doing anything that's going to seem to reward the castro family. whereas younger members of the -- you know, the second or third generation of cuban immigrants are more inflclined see openness as a positive step. i think we also have to wait and see how the politics of this evolve over the course of the next few years. >> and on that front, kasie, you've been following jeb bush around the country. he just spoke out against this move. do you see this playing as a positive for democrats, as we get into 2016 fever? >> reporter: i mean, ronan, i think that this cuts a couple of different ways politically. i think that in a general election, if you see hillary clinton run and this becomes an issue, if there are problems with how this is implemented, you know, if we see cuba continuing to restrict rights
and freedoms despite this agreement, i think you could see her take criticism for this. one thing in particular she'll have to grapple with as this campaign goes forward with is how to deal with the obama legacy. particularly on foreign policy. she has a lot less room to distance herself from the president, particularly on these types of issues, because she served so closely with him and for such a long period of time. i think as you're seeing candidates -- or potential candidates like jeb bush and potentially marco rubio take leading roles on the republican side, these are people that have a lot of credibility on this kind of an issue. and i think if you see them decide that this is really in their -- >> kasie, i'm going to ask you to hold that thought. we're seeing alan gross step to the podium now. a big moment. his first remarks since touching down on u.s. soil. take a listen, everybody.
>> take a deep breath. >> yes. i have to say happy holiday season to all of you. today is the first day of hanukkah. and i guess so far it's the best hanukkah that i'll be celebrating for a long time. what a blessing it is to be a citizen of this country. and thank you, president obama, for everything that you have done today and leading up to today. i want to acknowledge the extraordinary and determined efforts of my wife, judy. 44 1/2 years we've been married. i know you're not 44 1/2 anymore. and my lawyer and personal moses, scott gilbert. and their efforts to restore my freedom. they have my endless gratitude, love and respect. the