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Engineer "Nodded Off"; Obamacare Push; U.S.-China Ties Tested; Iran's Nuclear Program; Sandy Hook Tapes Released; Stock Rally Losing Momentum; Budget Compromise Ahead?; "Hillary Running? I Don't Know"

Aired December 4, 2013 - 06:00   ET



BOTTALICO: Billy feels terrible. Whether it was his fault or not his fault, it was his train.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Asleep at the controls? New details this morning. The lawyer for the train engineer reveals what he says happened just before that deadly derailment as we hear the 911 calls from moments right after the accident.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The hunt is on. A rare bear attack in Florida sets off a massive search to capture the animal. Residents are waking up frightened as we now hear the desperate calls just after the attack.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The real top gun. She is now the highest ranking woman at the Pentagon ever, but get this, she's also the inspiration for Tom Cruise's girlfriend in "Top Gun." So, what's real and what's fiction?

CUOMO: Your "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is "NEW DAY" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to "NEW DAY". It is Wednesday, December 4th, six o'clock in the east. We have some breakthroughs in the New York train derailment investigation. Officials say no brake problems were found. And, we've learned the engineer admitted to nodding off moments before the accident.

Also, an unusual twist. The way that admission came out has now become part of the investigation. CNN's Nic Robertson is in the Bronx this morning. Let's start there, Nic. The union released this information. Now, the NTSB is coming after it. Why?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The union, the Association of Commuter Rail Employees turned up representative showed up after the NTSB press conference, discussed details about what the train driver, train engineer had said and the NTSB says this is breaking the confidentiality agreement. This is one of the unions working with them on this investigation and that breaking this confidentiality means they going to have to be excluded from this investigation. We heard from the lawyer as well who says his -- says that the engineer had a good night's sleep before the accident.


ROBERTSON: We are hearing for the first time from the firefighters as they arrived at the scene of Sunday's deadly trail derailment in the Bronx. This morning, new details about the man at the controls, the train's engineer, William, Billy Rockefeller. His union representative saying he was nodding off and caught himself too late.

ANTHONY BOTTALICO, ASSOCIATION OF COMMUTER RAIL EMPLOYEES: He's extremely distraught over it and he feels for the families.

ROBERTSON: In the minutes after the derailment, according to a senior law enforcement source, Rockefeller told first responders, going along and I'm in a daze. I don't know what happened. NTBS investigators say that ten-year veteran driver was on the second day of a five-day shift.

EARL WEENER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The day was a typical nine-hour day. These days were routine days. There's every indication he would have had time to get full restorative sleep.

ROBERTSON: His lawyer says he went to bed at 8:30 and got up at 3:30 a.m, that his client had a good night's sleep and is cooperating in every way.

BOTTALICO: I think it takes a strong man to come down and be honest. That's what Billy's doing.

ROBERTSON: On the question of the brakes, Rockefeller had initially claimed, according to a source, that they didn't work.

WEENER: We determined that the Metro North Mechanical Department performed a proper brake test prior to the accident train leaving the station. And there were no anomalies noted.

ROBERTSON: Now the Federal Rail Administration is expressing serious concerns about Metro North's recent series of accidents. In a letter to the head of the MTA saying, four serious accidents in less than seven months is simply unacceptable.


ROBERTSON: Now, the engineer's union rep and his lawyer both say he's been in a very emotional condition and state. His lawyer saying this was purely, purely an accident - Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Nick, thank you so much. The governor saying that that rail system going to be mostly back up to normal service today. We'll be following that, of course. Now to developments in the president's push to get his signature health care law back on track. A three-week campaign kicked off this week aiming to encourage Americans, particularly young Americans, to sign up. This as former President Bill Clinton defends his controversial comments about the law last month.

Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is live with much more. How is this re-introduction of Obamacare going so far, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the White House seems to think it's going well so far. But they also acknowledge the real proof is going to be in the December enrollment numbers. That's really their focus now that they're turning the page from the troubled website.


KEILAR (voice-over): One road block down, partially anyway. But the path ahead is still uphill.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Every day I check to make sure that it's working better. And, you know, we've learned not to make wild promises about how perfectly smooth it's going to be at all times.

KEILAR: President Obama kicking off another push to sell his signature health care law to a skeptical public.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I need you to spread the word about the law, about its benefits, about its protections, about how folks can sign up. Tell your friends, tell your family.

KEILAR: As the White House spends the next three weeks trying to convince Americans here's more to Obama care than the fumbled rollout, a powerful ally talked to CNN Espanol.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I don't think you can find anybody harder that went out of his way to explain the bill more than I did.

KEILAR: Former President Clinton's smoothing over any lingering from this.

CLINTON: The president should honor the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.

KEILAR: When he publicly urged Obama last month to keep his promise about his health care law. For Clinton, the issue hits close to home.

CLINTON: I have a lot at stake here personally for the work I've done for health care and the work I tried to support. And Hillary does, too. We've been working on this health care thing for 20 years.


KEILAR: President Obama will be speaking at a youth summit on the Affordable Care Act. Because Chris, as you know, young people are key to this. They their signing up, is going to offset, that's the plan anyway, older Americans who are more costly to care for.

CUOMO: Absolutely. Brianna Keilar at the White House this morning.

Another situation for you to watch this morning, a winter storm coming on strong, turning the country white. It's already dropped heavy snow on parts of the Midwest and Rockies. In fact, 30 inches fell on Idaho Tuesday. Let's get to meteorologist Indra Petersons. Watching this move across the country. Here it comes, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unfortunately the snow going to not be the worst thing we'll be seeing as we now have the threat of freezing rain in the forecast, especially as we get in through tomorrow. The snow alone, tons of it, heavy amounts here and more still on the way, good maybe 18 inches in Colorado still expected over towards Minnesota. We could still see another foot of snow here.

Keep in mind we're talking about winds, poor visibility as people navigate the icy roads in the region. Here's something we need to talk about. What happens as the storm continues to push east? Let's take a look at it right now. Notice, this is Thursday, as we get to noon or so, notice the pink. That's a wintry mix.

We're concerned that the wintry mix going to be freezing rain. I'll take you farther into Thursday and notice we see that line extending further. The farther north you are, likely to be sleet, not as hazardous as when we talk about the threat of freezing rain.

Friday, we still have the concern of this storm really producing dangerous conditions. As far as what amounts? There's a lot of variety among the weather offices. The concern is falling trees and power outages as we go through the weekend, guys.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks so much, Indra. Thanks for looking at that top story in the weather. Let's take a look at the headlines that re making news at this hour. U.S. ties with China are put to the test today. Vice President Joe Biden visiting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. David McKenzie is in Beijing following Biden's visit.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, it was a red carpet welcome for the U.S. vice president, but definitely tensions are high in this region. He'll be meeting with Xi Jinping, China's president, trying to diffuse attention. They announce an air defense zone. The U.S. and China saying, a unilateral move that could lead to a wider conflict between these two economic power houses.

Biden going to have to walk a tight rope in pressuring the Chinese to dial back some of the rhetoric, but also can't push too far. It's unlikely they'll go away from this zone, which they announced around two weeks ago - Michaela.

PEREIRA: David, important meetings to be sure. Thank you. The White House is prepared to negotiate a limited nuclear enrichment program for Iran as long as the country holds up to its end of an international deal to curtail its nuclear capabilities under rigorous global monitoring. The White House cautioned the program applies only to the nation's peaceful energy needs. The statement comes days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced to plan to go ahead with the program.

Witnesses say a pair crashed into one another, about 300 feet up, collapsing their parachutes and sending them plummeting to the ground. A third skydiver was injured but there's no word about the exact type of injuries sustained.

Accused LAX shooter, Paul Ciancia, will make his first court appearance is charged with killing one TSA agent and wounding two others in that brazen attack at the airport last month. Tuesday, prosecutors asked to hold Ciancia without bond. The charges carry a possible death sentence.

Well, the third time proved to be a charm for the Space X Falcon 9 rocket, blasting off successfully Tuesday. The satellite essentially going to park its first commercial satellite 22,000 miles up on a stable spot above earth. This launch could be a game changer. The $60 million price tag is tens of millions of dollars cheaper than previous launches, backed by the U.S. government. It really is an interesting thing to see, interesting to see how it going to change the aerospace game.

BOLDUAN: It might be the way they have to go, considering where the budgets are going right now.

CUOMO: Private industry science.

PEREIRA: You have a new one.

BOLDUAN: You got it in.

CUOMO: Very good.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on "NEW DAY", Newtown, Connecticut, bracing for the release of 911 tapes from the deadly school shooting that happened almost one year ago. We'll have more on what you can expect.

CUOMO: And Bill Clinton's spreading out the tea leaves again. What did he say about his wife, Hillary, and the chances that she'll run? The chances that she won't run? We'll try to decipher the code when we come back.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". Those horrific calls so many people do not want to hear, after a long legal battle, the 911 tapes from the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre going to be released to the public this afternoon. A Connecticut judge ruled the tapes should be released, upholding an earlier decision that said there's no legal basis to keep them private.

Pamela brown is here with much more on this. Pamela, what are you expecting to hear today? PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today the tapes are expected to be released at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Kate. The attorneys for the town of Newtown will be releasing the recordings on a CD. They're going to be about 25 minutes in length rather. They going to include seven calls, the longest call to Newtown police was from custodian Rick Thorne on the phone with a dispatcher for more than 10 minutes.

Important to note here, these are just the 911 calls made to Newtown police. The state police 911 calls will not be released today.

BOLDUAN: And there has been a long fight over whether to release or not to release. So what's the difference now? How did this all round up?

BROWN: No, you're right. There's been an ongoing battle over this, Kate. The state's attorney has been withholding these 911 calls, saying that they will cause too much anguish for the victims and the victim's families. But "The A.P." has challenged that.

And in September, the Freedom of Information Commission in Connecticut ruled that the recording should be released, the state's attorney tried to put a stay on that. And then, just last week, a judge ruled that in fact, backing up the commission's ruling that they should be released.

And this is what the judge said. The judge said that the delaying of the release of the audio recordings particularly where the legal justification to keep them confidential is lacking, only serves to fuel speculation about an undermine confidence in our law enforcement officials.

But, of course, the court also recognizes what a difficult and sensitive situation this is.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I mean, they can understand if this would be devastating for the families to have to kind of relive this yet again, but we are coming upon the anniversary. What -- have you gotten any reaction from any of the families involved?

BROWN: Some of the families, including Victoria Soto's relatives -- Victoria Soto, of course, is a teacher that was killed -- have actually posted on Facebook saying, "We feel like our privacy has been invaded again. Your spotlight will fade; ours unfortunately will remain. And people who do not need to hear the audio from the day Vicki died will get their sick obsession fulfilled all due to your decision."

So this is seemingly pointed at the judge and the commission. But this is devastating for these families, very difficult, and especially with the anniversary, as you noted, right around the corner.

BOLDUAN: Well, I mean, you have the legal, the Freedom of Information issue, and then you have this personal issue that the Soto family really kind of lays out there. Difficult all around, I think we can understand.

BROWN: Yes, absolutely.

BOLDUAN: All right. Pam, thanks so much. Thank you so much, Pamela.

CUOMO: All right, everybody. It is "Money Time".

Christine Romans is here. Let's start with stocks, Christine. What happened to the rally? No Santa Claus?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, don't blame me. Three days down in a row for stocks, something that hasn't happened, Chris, since September. The Dow down 94 points, NASDAQ, S&P also lower.

You know, the Dow shaved 182 points off its record rally over the past three days. Let me give you some perspective. It's important here. The Dow is still up 21 percent this year. NASDAQ up 34 percent. S&P is up 26 percent. Barely a pause all year, still OK to look at your 401(k) statement.

Auto sales firing on all cylinders, good numbers from GM, from Ford, from Chrysler. You can see them there. GM sales up 14 percent. Big Black Friday promotions really revved up showroom traffic and you can see it in those numbers. People are feeling confident to go out and buy a car for the first time in a long time.

And the judge ruling the Motor City can now proceed with its bankruptcy, the largest city bankruptcy in U.S. history. This opens the door for Detroit to cut billions in payments owed to city employees, retirees, investors and creditors.

Experts say no municipal bankruptcy has ever resulted in involuntary cuts to pension benefits. Detroit could be the first. Watch this space.

BOLDUAN: The rebirth of Detroit. Detroit will be back.

CUOMO: Appreciate it, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CUOMO: Take a little break here. Coming up on "NEW DAY": a massive manhunt. Really, it's a bear hunt under way in Florida after a bear mauled a woman in her neighborhood. She was out having a walk. We have the 911 calls after the attack. We'll take you through it.

ROMANS: And President Bill Clinton speaking up on several topics. Would he support Joe Biden in 2016 if that Joe Biden beat out his wife, being Bill Clinton's wife for the Democratic nomination? Our political gut check is coming up next.

CUOMO: If Biden runs against his wife.


JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: I read something about the pope today. Pope Francis was talking to some parishioners at a church in Rome over the weekend about jobs he had before he was pope. He swept floors. He worked in the chemistry lab and best of all, he was a bouncer at a nightclub in Buenos Aires.

That is some career. He went from deciding who gets into a nightclub to deciding who gets into heaven.



BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY" .

Let's start off now with our political gut check.

Bill Clinton is talking again, in a new CNN interview about Hillary and defending his controversial remarks about the president's health care law.

But first, let's talk about a little more than a week from now until Congress leaves for holiday recess, marking a crucial deadline in budget negotiations. Will Congress bargain on a deal by then? Do you have the holiday spirit?

Here with us for details is John Avlon, CNN political analyst and the executive editor of "The Daily Beast," as we like to call -- the Grinch who stole politics.


BOLDUAN: Good morning.

So, let's talk about Clinton in one second. But I do want to talk about the December 13th deadline, the budget negotiators -- they are supposed to come together and reach some kind of a budget deal. No word on any deal yet.

Our Capitol Hill unit has some reporting they're to a point where they're talking about outlining the end game. How, if they reach a deal, it would get through the House and Senate.

What are you hearing? Are you optimistic?

AVLON: You know, I'm cautiously optimistic. But there's a reason cynicism passes for wisdom in Washington. Look, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray, the two principal negotiators on this 29 person panel, they've been keeping a very tight lid on their negotiations. They haven't tried to get ahead of themselves because there have been so many failures to date.

But they realize if they fail this time, not only will this painful, stupid sequester cuts take place, but neither side really wants, but also, it could take us on a path to another shutdown. You know who really doesn't want that? Republicans. They have no desire to see that movie again, because they got ding so badly last time.

So the pressure is on. We are days away. Finally, there's real attention. There is common ground. There is common ground, you know, on tax reform, on some form of military discretionary cuts. This 1.2 trillion is painful and it's stupid and they want a way out of it.

But there's a lot of pressure on both sides. We're a long way from here, folks.

CUOMO: I say secret negotiations, good. I say them not talking about it, better. I think encouraging this process to continue because this is the way they have to work down there, best.

I say this is the most hopeful situation I've seen down there in 2 1/2 months.

BOLDUAN: Really?

CUOMO: Because they're doing it the right way. They might not get to where they need to get to, and that happens but they're doing it the right way this time.

BOLDUAN: But let's be honest, the range of options is out there. The possibilities of how to cut the deficit, that's all been discussed over and over ad nauseam again. I mean, if we talk about spectrum sales one more time, I think people will start passing out.

But it's all about the political will. Is the political will there this time?

AVLON: And, every time, I mean, the calculation has been the pain will inspire political will. And we haven't seen this before. Every time people say it's going to be fine, we're not going to have a shutdown. We're not going to play chicken with the fiscal cliff and we do.

Here's what's perhaps a little bit different, the fact they're negotiating in good faith in private is good. The question will be, can Republicans accept any revenues from closed loopholes or is that simply theologically off hand?

CUOMO: They need to cut. I believe they're on very solid ground in terms of wanting to cut. They all voted for the sequester. That was a mistake. But now, they have to figure out how to fix it, they have to compromise. I like the quiet.

AVLON: And just reality check here --


AVLON: -- both the Democrat and Republican version are austerity budgets. It's the question to what degree. So, that's the reality.

CUOMO: And hopefully they do the smart thing administratively and give the power of cutting back to the agencies. These guys shouldn't be figuring what cuts to make. They don't know the operations well enough --

BOLDUAN: That's their job though. CUOMO: Let the agency heads do it. They designate how much money they get. Let the agencies figure out where to find the cuts.

BOLDUAN: Within their budget.

CUOMO: Yes, they know better.

BOLDUAN: Tom Cole, who is on the committee, he had a good quote, I just wanted to point it out, because I thought it was really good. He's pretty candid with reporters, and he's pretty close with John Boehner.

He wrote, "There's not -- they're not on the grand bargain scale but let's just hit some singles around here for a while. We don't need to swing for the fences. Our batting average isn't very good, let's get on base."

AVLON: Yes, honest to God right. Don't go for the grand slam when you're batting basically .018. I mean, these guys are, this is the opposite of all star team to watch for right now.

CUOMO: An important time to watch -- important time to watch for the American people, because now you'll see who busts this process. You'll see who doesn't do what they need to do to compromise. You'll see it. It's a fresh start in terms of judging who's playing the game the right way down there.

BOLDUAN: And you point out that John Boehner, the Republicans are feeling the heat and feeling the pressure because in the meeting of the Republicans, they're talking about if the deal doesn't happen, they're going to push something through short term because you can't go home and be facing your constituents saying yes, we're threatening another government shutdown, right?

AVLON: The most important -- exactly. The most important stat outside that looming reality, which people skip on the back on their mind, not to be a political Grinch, this -- least popular Congress on record, least productive Congress on record.

BOLDUAN: Some argue it's better that they're not productive.

AVLON: I will fight that person to the death.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about Bill Clinton. So, he sat down with an interview with CNN Espanol's Juan Carlos Lopez, a great guy. And he spoke about a lot of stuff, talking about -- he was talking about Obamacare and he talked about his wife. Of course, the question of 2016 came up.

Listen to this.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I don't know. And I think, and she believes, that the country should spend at least another year working very hard on the problems we have. I think it's a big mistake, you know, constant four-year pair of pathetic campaigns, not good for America.


BOLDUAN: Does he have a point?

AVLON: Coming from the man who invented the perpetual campaign. But he does. Look, I mean, this constant fixation on the next presidential race rather than dealing with the here and now is unhealthy. I mean, we have a serious case of ADD in American politics, because we're also looking what's next, not the opportunities and the obligations before us. When he's being coy about Hillary, look, that's what you say until a final decision has been made. You look at actions speak louder than words on this front.

CUOMO: Can't judge him on that. That is the nature of the game. He's right about the full campaign.

It's also interesting. He pulled back, tried to clarify on the Obamacare stuff. Saying I supported him the whole time.

BOLDUAN: Not politically motivated. He said that.

CUOMO: Yes. To me, everybody judging, well, do we believe that or not. I actually think it's an example of something else. I think it's an example of something bad. I think it's an example of how toxic the game has got, that even this guy -- even the wizard himself, Bill Clinton --

BOLDUAN: Can't say anything.

CUOMO: -- can't say anything to the satisfaction of the media and to the parties who want to just stay bitter, that even what he said has been taken and run with, even the wizard got caught up in the game.

AVLON: Even the wizard got caught up in the game. This is unprecedented territory, though. The line the Clintons have to walk with being potentially a successor, associating themselves with the administration, but not too much so they can represent change.

Even for a master of politics, this is a difficult line to walk. It's why you can't frankly over-think it. You can't parse every statement Bill Clinton makes because we all know the larger trends that are taking place, the Clintons aren't going to walk away from history. That's not really their type.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to call an audible here. Do we have the graphic that we just showed before? I would like to point it out.

Do we have the Grinch who stole politics? Do we have the graphic? Three, two, it's coming, they're telling me, it's coming but it's not coming. It's not coming.

CUOMO: In the meantime, look at this.

BOLDUAN: In the meantime, I really wanted to show you, we made up something funny about John. We did? Show it. Don't need me. There is.


BOLDUAN: The Grinch of politics, John Avlon. We love you. Thank you, John.

AVLON: Love it. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: You need to bring better news in politics for us.

AVLON: I will do my very best.

CUOMO: I see you with the little doggy with the brain here. He wants to do the right thing, but he just got caught up in the game as well.

BOLDUAN: I'm just saying John has potential. John has potential.

CUOMO: Max --



PEREIRA: Let me save you, John Avlon. I'll go to the headlines. How about that? I'll do that for you.

AVLON: God bless you. And all you --


PEREIRA: All right. Let's take a look at the latest news right now at 6:30, 30 minutes after the hour in the East.

The engineer in Sunday's deadly train crash apparently started to drift off before the accident. William Rockefeller told officials he had nodded off and caught himself too late.

Meantime, officials found nothing wrong with the train's brakes. The engineer's union has been taken off the investigation for leaking Rockefeller's testimony.

U.S. military stopped ground shipments out of Afghanistan all in an effort to ensure the safety of drivers and contractors following protests in Pakistan over U.S. drone strikes. This affects the outgoing shipment of equipment as the military winds down.