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Attorney: Engineer Can't Remember Wreck; More Info Revealed about Engineer; Amtrak Death Toll Rises to 8; ISIS Leader Resurfaces in Audio Message; Iranian Boats Fire on Cargo Ship in Gulf; President Obama Holds Summit with GCC Partners at Camp David. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 14, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, no memory. The attorney for the Amtrak engineer says his client can't even recall the deadly train crash. We're digging into what happened leading up to the rail disaster.
[17:00:20] Rising death toll. Another body is found in the wreckage as Amtrak starts removing the smashed railcars and working on restoring service to a critical transportation corridor used by millions.
Master's voice. Following rumors of his death, the leader of ISIS finally speaking out, calling for new recruits to join the terror group, and wage holy war.
And losing his grip? North Korea's Kim Jong-un is ruling with an iron fist. But after a series of executions, experts now wonder if his regime is spiraling out of control.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories. President Obama will be holding a rare live news conference from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, where he's been meeting all day with officials of the Gulf states, the Arab Gulf states, to discuss security, the Iran nuclear deal, and the war on ISIS.
We're also standing by for a National Transportation Safety Board news conference on the Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia. That takes place this hour. The death toll continues climbing.
And we're learning new information about the train's engineer. He's alive, but his attorney now says he doesn't remember the wreck.
Our correspondents and experts are all standing by to bring you the latest on all of these stories that are breaking right now, including a new drone scare over at the White House. And the first message in months from the leader of ISIS.
But let's beginning our coverage this hour with our Brian Todd. He has new details about the Amtrak wreck. He's joining us from the scene in Philadelphia -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, another horrible discovery today. Another body was pulled out of the wreckage, a few hours ago, bringing the death toll in this derailment to eight.
And tonight we have learned new information about the engineer's actions that evening, and about his background.
TODD (voice-over): For the first time, the engineer's side of the story. What happened when this train derailed at more than 100 miles an hour approaching a curve limited to 50?
ROBERT GOGGIN, ATTORNEY FOR BRANDON BOSTIAN: He remembers coming into the curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed. He does not remember deploying the emergency brake. We know that it was, in fact, deployed. The last thing he recalls is coming to, looking for his bag. Getting his cell phone, turning it on and calling 911.
TODD: His attorney tells ABC News the engineer, 32-year-old Brandon Bostian, is distraught over the accident, but has incomplete memory because of the concussion he suffered. He also needed 15 staples in his head and stitches in his leg. Bostian told police everything he knows, his attorney said, but Philadelphia's mayor gave a different account.
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: I believe it was a pretty short interview, in which he apparently indicated that he did not want to be interviewed.
TODD: One former locomotive engineer tells CNN that would not be surprising.
RICHARD BEAL, FORMER LOCOMOTIVE ENGINEER: We are told by union representatives, by the company, whatever, don't speak to anyone. You're not required to speak to anyone. So I'm sure he took full advantage of that and probably knows in the back of his mind it's falling on his shoulders.
TODD: NTSB investigators say they have not yet spoken to Bostian and that his account will be crucial to their understanding of the causes of the crash, along with a study of the tracks, the signals and the wreckage.
ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB MEMBER: This train was going over double the maximum authorized speed for this area. So that is something that we're very interested in trying to understand. Why was the train going that fast?
TODD: Soon after graduating college in 2006, Bostian worked as a conductor for several years, according to his LinkedIn profile. He began working for Amtrak as an engineer in 2010. CNN is told he spent about a year working as an Amtrak contractor for Caltrain in California.
His neighbor in New York spoke to CNN.
MORESH KOYA, NEIGHBOR: He liked it. He was happy. Was happy with his job.
TODD: Amtrak's CEO says positive train control, technology which can automatically slow or stop a train, will be installed from Boston to Washington by the end of the year, as mandated by Congress. Democrats say Amtrak needs funding help, but Republicans say this train crash is not about budgets.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: They started this yesterday. It's all about funding. It's all about funding. Well, obviously, it's not about funding. The train was going twice the speed limit.
TODD: Now here at the crash site, some of the derailed trains have been removed, and we're told that the work on rebuilding parts of this track has now begun, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, what are you learning about when the Amtrak train's service will be resumed to so many millions of people in this heavily traveled corridor between Washington, Philadelphia and New York, Boston?
TODD: some of the trains, Wolf, from Philadelphia to points south are already running, but we're told by Amtrak's CEO that the heavily trafficked corridor between Philadelphia, and New York, the train service in that section of the track, will not resume until early next week.
BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene in Philadelphia. Thank you.
CNN's investigation team has uncovered more details about the train's engineer. Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, is joining us. He's also in Philadelphia. What are you learning, Drew?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It was in his dream job. Brandon Bostian apparently was obsessed about trains way back in high school when he wrote for the local newspaper in Tennessee and also his high school newspaper about transportation issues. One person said this was his dream job, to be an engineer.
We also talked, Wolf, today in an interview with a longtime flagman on Brandon Bostian's crew, a guy who took this route from New York down to Washington and back hundreds of times, he says. He called him a great engineer. Very safety conscious. Never seen him drinking, texting, sleeping. No problems whatsoever.
But he also told me this, Wolf. Brandon Bostian would have known every inch of this track, including the speed limit along every inch of this track/ And he says it's just inconceivable that Bostian would have been going 106 miles per hour on the track behind me, which is regulated for 50 miles an hour. He's telling everybody to caution, go slow with a judgment. There must be some explanation. But as we all know, Bostian is not talking yet -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He's got lawyers, obviously. And that's his right if he wants to remain silent. All right. Thanks very much, Drew, for that.
The death toll in the Amtrak derailment rose to eight today. At least -- at last report, at least six of the 200 injured victims of the train wreck were still listed in critical condition.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is outside the trauma center that's been treating so many of the survivors of the wreck. What's the latest, Sunlen, over there?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two of the patients who have been in critical condition since Tuesday, their condition has improved. They've now been downgraded. This leaves only six passengers left in critical condition tonight, mostly suffering, according to the hospital, from chest wounds, broken ribs and also some punctured lungs among those patients.
City-wide, there are 30 passengers that remain hospitalized this evening, and Doctor Cushing, he's the medical direct here at Temple University Hospital. He said that he doesn't believe that many of these patients have a real understanding of what sort of thing they went through on Tuesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. HERBERT CUSHING, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: I would ask people, those that were awake, "What happened to you?" And they said, "Oh, somebody fell on me." And it's not just sort of falling on them. People were hurled violently against each other, and there was some luggage flying around. And then some of the injuries were people being thrown against seats and, you know, the sides of the train compartments when it flipped over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And as some passengers start the recovery process, we're also hearing the confirmation of lives lost. We have confirmed eight people have died. Seven of those have been identified, including just in the last few minutes Italian national Giuseppe Piras, visiting the U.S. on business; 47-year-old Laura Finamore from New York; and 45- year-old Bob Gildersleeve from Baltimore, Maryland. His body, Wolf, was found at the crash site earlier today by cadaver dogs -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What are they saying over there at the trauma center about those passengers who are still listed in critical condition? Do they give us any more description of what they're -- what they're going through, how bad it is?
SERFATY: Well, the doctor here seems confident, Wolf, that these patients in critical condition will make a recovery. He says most of the injuries that are preventing them from being downgraded are many fractured ribs, many punctured lungs. And he said it's important to keep them in critical care for the time being. But he does assure us that he believes that these patients will make a full recovery. He indicated that he did not think that there was likely to see a death toll pickup.
BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty in Philadelphia for us. Thank you very much. We're going to have much more coming up on the disaster in Philadelphia, including that live news conference. We're waiting to hear from the lead investigator from the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board. That's coming up.
But there's other news that's breaking now. I want to get to that right away.
He was rumored to be wounded in an airstrike back in March, but the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has now resurfaced. He's heard in a new audio message, calling on Muslims to join his terror group or to take up arms. That comes amid claims that al-Baghdadi's second in command was actually killed in a coalition-led airstrike.
[17:10:13] Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us. He's got new information. What are you learning, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, I've spoken to U.S. officials. They say there was no reason to doubt that this is the voice of the ISIS leader in this new audio message.
A couple of things: one, it tells you he's alive. Two, at least not injured or incapacitated enough that he couldn't make a new threat here. And the fact is, the U.S. officials have always doubted that he was seriously wounded in the strike in February.
But in addition to that, let's talk about the threat he makes in this, because in this audio statement he's calling on Muslims all over the world, including here in the U.S., to carry out attacks where they can. He says, "There is no excuse for any Muslim who is capable of carrying a weapon, for Allah has commanded him and made fighting obligatory upon him." And that's a real concern, because as you know, Wolf, we've talked about it a lot.
U.S. intelligence officials very concerned about lone wolf attacks here in the U.S., where people are inspired by al Baghdadi, by ISIS and other groups, to take up arms themselves and carry out attacks, for instance, like the shooting we saw in Texas a couple weeks ago.
BLITZER: What's the latest, Jim, you're hearing about these reports out there? We're getting conflicting information that the No. 2 guy in ISIS may have been hit in an airstrike?
SCIUTTO: That's right. This comes from Iraqi officials. They say that in a coalition airstrike that al-Afri, he's the No. 2, Baghdadi's No. 2 in ISIS. He has a long history going back more than a decade in the group, including back to when it was al Qaeda in Iraq under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He was his No. 2.
Iraqis say he was killed, but I've spoken every day with U.S. military officials. They say they have seen no hard evidence to this point that he's dead. Remember, he's got a $7 million price tag on his head. But also remember the U.S. is much slower and more painstaking in making determinations, if someone's been killed in a strike. The U.S. has not made that determination yet.
BLITZER: All right. Jim Sciutto reporting for us. Thanks very much.
We're going to have much more on this coming up. Remember, we're also standing by for an NTSB news conference from Philadelphia, the National Transportation Safety Board. Robert Sumwalt, the lead investigator, he's about to brief all of us. There you see the microphones there, on the very latest information. We'll have live coverage of that.
Also we're standing by to hear from President Obama. He's holding a rare summit meeting with Gulf Arab leaders at Camp David outside of Thurmont, Maryland. We're going to have live coverage of the president's news conference, as well. Lots of important, critically important issues likely to come up. Lots of news happening today. We'll be right back.
[17:17:18] BLITZER: We're continuing to await today's briefing from the National Transportation Safety Board on the Amtrak investigation into that deadly train crash in Philadelphia.
There you see the microphones. Robert Sumwalt, who's the lead investigator from the NTSB, he's getting ready to brief all of us on the latest information: what happened, is the engineer cooperating, not cooperating, providing information? We're standing by for that news conference. Once it starts, we'll have live coverage.
We're also standing by to hear from President Obama. He's in Camp David, Maryland, meeting with leaders from six Gulf Arab states, a rare event at Camp David outside of Thurmont, Maryland. The president getting ready to hold a news conference, and he's allowing live coverage from Camp David. So we'll have live coverage of that coming up, as well.
We're also following another breaking story right now. The head of ISIS resurfacing, calling for recruits worldwide to attack wherever they may be.
Let's discuss all of what's going on with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, in the U.S. Air Force.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
First of all, what do you make of this latest development? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, now speaking out, calling for more recruits trying to do his will, to inspire to go out and launch terror attacks?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Well, look, it's unfortunate. I would like to see him not alive anymore.
But I mean, he should be aware of the fact that I think his days are numbered. The United States military and the western alliance and the Arab alliances fighting ISIS definitely have a target on him. And I think his days are very numbered.
Again, you know, I think it's very important right now that we inflict some serious damage on ISIS, not just to kill al Baghdadi. That's going to be important. But also to send a message to the people that are here looking at the videos of ISIS, trying to figure out, you know, and being inspired.
I don't think people join ISIS because they want to be martyrs. I think they join because they're drawn in. But we need to show that it's very likely you're going to become a martyr. And I think we make recruitment that much more difficult.
BLITZER: It sort of confirms -- I think it does confirm he's alive. Obviously, they've confirmed it is his voice, because there were reports over these past several weeks he may have been killed. So clearly, he's alive.
What about the No. 2? Because there are conflicting reports on the No. 2 ISIS leader dead or alive. Do you know?
KINZINGER: I don't know. But I can tell you again, I think my theory and feeling is, No. 1 and No. 2 will be dead at some point in the future. I guarantee you they have a target on them, and we're doing our best. I think we need to be doing more. We've talked about that. But we're doing our best with what we have there in the region to find and to destroy these people.
[17:20:04] You know, you remember with Zarqawi. There was a lot of concern in Iraq in '06 that if Zarqawi was killed, he would become a martyr and, in essence, inspire a whole new generation of jihadists. That didn't happen. We killed Zarqawi, and in fact, his movement began to fizzle, and that's when we had the surge and the destruction of AQI.
And so that's what's going to happen when we finally do get to al Baghdadi and the No. 2.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Congressman. Because there's another story that's developing right now.
Leaders of those Gulf Arab states, they've been voicing their deep concerns about Iran to President Obama. They've all been meeting at Camp David. Almost on cue, though, five Iranian boats believed to belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, they fired shots across the bow of a cargo vessel in the Gulf.
Let's get some details. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by. Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was high drama in the Persian Gulf earlier today as that meeting with Persian Gulf leaders was also happening.
Iranian gunboats approached a Singapore-flagged oil tanker trying to make its way out of the Persian Gulf. They fired shots across the bow and then shot at the rear of the ship, by all accounts, trying to disable it. There is some thought that there was a commercial dispute between the ship and Iranian authorities.
But listen to this: they fired -- multiple Iranian ships fired shots at this oil tanker and damaged it. The oil tanker, trying to get away made a hard turn to go into the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, one of the key U.S. allies in the region. The Iranians chased it into those territorial waters.
Finally the Emiratis, the UAE, sent some of their own coast guard boats out to try and offer protection. The U.S. monitored the whole incident from a distance.
Raising the temperature, again, in the Gulf. Whether there was a commercial dispute or not, this is now the third incident, very serious, and the U.S. making the point behind the scenes they don't want Iran to settle any disputes at the point of a gun on the high seas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, disturbing information.
I want to get Congressman Kinzinger's reaction to this latest development. And as Barbara points out, it happens just as the president is wrapping up a so-called summit at Camp David with these Persian Gulf leaders. These Arab state leaders, who have come, four deputies, two of the main leaders of those countries, six Arab states in the Persian Gulf. They're very worried about Iran right now, their nuclear program there.
If they get a lot of money from the eased-up sanctions. They're really worried about that. What do you make of what's going on?
KINZINGER: Well, look, it's obviously a show of force by the Iranians, and even if it is a commercial dispute that they claim, there's probably commercial disputes all the time. It doesn't mean that you send gunboats out and shoot a ship, and disable it and do that.
I mean, it's reminiscent of the -- you know, the water wars we had in the '80s, and I think it's important that the United States and its Arab allies have a very strong presence in the Gulf, and make it clear that we're going to -- this is the purpose of the United States Navy. It's to protect the legitimate commercial shipping routes of interstate commerce.
And this is -- if there's ever a time for the Navy and there's major times for the Navy, this is especially it. This is something we ought to keep in mind, too, when we talk about sequestering our military; the Navy is being cut. So this is very important, and it's very important that the United States show that we are going to stand with our Arab partners and stand for free enterprise in the region. BLITZER: As you know, the Saudis especially, they're very worried
about this proposed Iran nuclear deal. No deal yet, but they're very worried about it. And there's now some suggestions -- I heard it directly from the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, who was in THE SITUATION ROOM with me the other day, that they're not ruling out the possibility that, if they don't like what Iran is doing on its nuclear program, they may develop their own nuclear program. And that proliferation issue is a very serious matter of concern right now. What's your analysis?
KINZINGER: I think that's absolutely going to happen. I think there's going to be an arms race in the Middle East. The last place we want to have a lot of nuclear armed countries.
I mean, think about it: 9/11, Wolf, was about 15 years ago, 14 years ago. So the duration of this deal at the president's account is 15 years. If it actually is 100 percent of what he says it is. So from 9/11 to today, take that amount again, and you're almost guaranteeing that Iran will have nuclear weapons at that point. That's not that far away in international politics terms.
And lastly, think of all the flood of money that's going to come into Iran that they can use to prop up Bashar al-Assad, to destabilize Lebanon and Hezbollah, and to work in Yemen and Iraq. I mean, this is what they're invested their limited resources in anyway with all these sanctions. Imagine when they become flush with money.
And I think Saudi Arabia realizes this isn't just a bit of a dispute and a disagreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and its allies. They see this as an existential threat to their country, and I think that's why they boycotted the summit.
BLITZER: All right. Adam Kinzinger, the congressman from Illinois. Thanks very much for joining us.
KINZINGER: You bet.
[17:25:02] BLITZER: And once again, we're standing by to hear from President Obama. He's going to have a rare live news conference from Camp David. That's coming up.
Also in Philadelphia, there's the microphones in Philadelphia. We're standing by for a news conference from the National Transportation Safety Board on that Amtrak wreck investigation. Much more, right after this.
BLITZER: We're waiting for today's National Transportation Safety Board update on the Amtrak investigation. We'll get the latest from Brian Todd in Philadelphia, who's joining us right now. Brian, tell us what's going on.
[17:30:03] BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, the focus now is going to be on what the engineer did that evening, what he knew going into this accident, what happened right afterward. Those details are still yet to be at least heard by us in the media. This NTSB news conference coming up is going to be crucial to maybe finding out some of that information.
What the engineer's attorney has told ABC News so far is that the engineer, Brandon Bostian, does not recall some key moments of the crash. He doesn't recall the crash itself. He does recall going up to the curb and putting on his brakes but he did not -- I believe he said he did not recall actually putting on the emergency brake. He said he passed out after the accident and when he came to, he got to his -- he found his cell phone and he called 911.
So, again, what the engineer knew, what his actions were in those moments leading up to the crash are really the key gaps that need to be filled in here, Wolf. Hopefully we'll get some of those answers from the NTSB in a few moments. We have learned a little bit about the background of Brandon Bostian, how he spent at least five years as an engineer with Amtrak, he worked as a contractor with Amtrak for about a year on the West Coast during that period. And we know that he was a conductor for some years before that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, stand by. We're going to get to you as we await the start of this news conference.
I want to bring in Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, he's led numerous accident investigations. Also with us, Amtrak adviser, former Transportation secretary during the Obama administration, Ray LaHood, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Let's take a closer look at some new surveillance video we have of the crash.
Peter Goelz, as we see this video, and we'll show it to our viewers momentarily, I want your reaction to the latest information we're getting right now on potentially what caused this horrific accident. Peter?
PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: Yes, indeed.
BLITZER: Yes. You see -- you see the surveillance video that we're showing our viewers right now.
BLITZER: And all of a sudden you see that. It's pretty horrendous, obviously. We know there were 243 people on board. Eight people confirmed dead. Still plenty of people in the hospital. Some of them remain in critical condition. I mean, it's hard to believe this kind of stuff happens, but it was either a mechanical problem, a human error or a combination of both.
GOELZ: Well, I think you're right, Wolf. The video will confirm the speed of the train, as the earlier video did. They'll lock in the speed. Confirm what was on the box. And then they're going to look at the human factor. They're going to go back through this guy's record with a fine-tooth comb. The last three days what was he doing? Did he have enough rest? Was there any indication of fatigue?
They're going to look at his entire record in terms of training. Had he had any problems with over-speed situations before. And they're going to listen to him and hopefully he will speak to them and tell them what --
BLITZER: Let me -- yes, I want to ask Ray LaHood, the former Transportation secretary.
What are you looking for? What are you listening for right now? What do you hope to learn maybe as early as this news conference, Mr. Secretary, that's about to begin?
RAY LAHOOD, FORMER TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Wolf, I think there's really two things that we all need to look at. Number one, what is -- what is the conductor going to say during his interview? What is he really going to disclose about what he knew and what happened? And then I think secondly, the results of the black box, and what the black box disclosed.
I think once those two pieces of information can be put together, we'll have a much clearer picture of what was going through the mind of the fella driving the train and what was actually happening mechanically and so forth and the timing and sequencing of that. Those two things I think will give us a much clearer picture.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, the engineer in this particular case, his lawyer says he has no recollection of the crash, and there's conflicting indications whether or not he's willing to cooperate, not cooperate. The mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, says he has every right to remain silent, if he wants to.
What's your analysis from the legal perspective what's happening here? Because without his cooperation, there's always going to be some murkiness, I should say.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Every criminal defense lawyer in the world would tell this -- this engineer to say nothing. He is in clearly very serious jeopardy of being prosecuted. I mean, this is a horrendous accident. At least on the surface you had someone who was going way -- you have a train that was going way too fast, and for the foreseeable future, it would seem to me for better or worse, I'm not saying this is -- this is a good thing, but just in terms of how criminal defense lawyers think, he will say nothing.
[17:35:08] He could maybe pass some information along through his attorney, which he appears to have done, but in terms of making statements to the authorities, I don't think that's going to happen for quite some time if it happens at all.
BLITZER: What happens if he doesn't cooperate, Peter Goelz? Is there always going to be a question mark there?
GOELZ: Well, there will be, and you know, it happens, but it's rare in NTSB where some of the key people get lawyered up and don't speak. The investigation goes on, and the NTSB will reach its probable cause decision without his input.
There hasn't been criminal prosecution of the engineer from the New York accident and there hasn't been any threat of criminal prosecution yet, but it is always in the background.
BLITZER: Why don't you weigh in, Ray LaHood? What are the -- let's say he does remain silent and the NTSB concludes he was going at 106 miles an hour, he shouldn't have gone more than 50 miles an hour. Does he potentially face criminal charges?
LAHOOD: You know, Wolf, I'm not a lawyer. I'll let Jeffrey answer that question, but I do think the NTSB is the most professional organization in our government when it comes to examining these matters, investigating them. They will have as thorough a report with black box results, with their own team on the ground, looking at the tracks and looking at the cars and so forth.
And so, you know, obviously we want to hear from the engineer, but I think the NTSB is so thorough and so precise in what they do that they'll put together the kind of report that will give everybody a pretty clear understanding of what happened and why it happened. That's my feeling.
BLITZER: I certainly agree with you on that. Everyone stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We're waiting for the start of this news conference. The NTSB lead investigator Robert Sumwalt will walk up to those microphones, make a statement, answer reporters' questions. We'll get the very latest on what happened.
We're also standing by for a very different news conference from Camp David, Maryland. The president of the United States. There he is in the Catoctin Mountains outside Fairmont, Maryland. The president has been meeting with representatives from six Gulf Arab states.
There's Jim Acosta. We'll bring him in on the conversation. Much more when we come back.
[17:42:06] BLITZER: We're told we're only moments away from today's National Transportation Safety Board update. The deadly Amtrak train derailment. The investigation clearly under way right now.
Once again joining us, Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board. He's led numerous accident investigations. Also joining us Amtrak adviser, former Transportation secretary during the Obama administration, the former U.S. congressman, Ray LaHood, and our CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
This whole notion of what's called positive train control, Peter Goelz, if that had been in place in this area in Philadelphia, eight people would still be alive right now. Explain that to our viewers.
GOELZ: Well, that's correct, Wolf. I mean, this is -- this is a system that is GPS and radio control, that monitors the progress of the train and compares it to a -- to the track ahead, and if it's going too fast, it will automatically slow the train down. If there's a train in front of it, it will stop the train. And it's a system that the -- that the NTSB has recommended adoption for many years.
BLITZER: What's taking -- what's been taking so long, Mr. Secretary? Because you support it. Everyone now says it should be in place, not only in the Northeast Corridor but all over the United States. What's taking so long to get the job done?
LAHOOD: Well, first of all, Wolf, it is mandated by Congress. It is a system that's proven that it's a great safety system. It not only slows trains down, but it actually stops them, if they need to be stopped. And it would have prevented this terrible accident, had it been in place. The reason that it's not in place, although Joe Boardman, the head of Amtrak for the whole country, has said that it will be in place on the Northeast Corridor by the end of 2015. So within the next several months, it will be complete on the Northeast Corridor, including in Philadelphia.
It's a very expensive system, Wolf, and it's very costly. Not only just to put it in place, but to maintain it. We're talking millions and billions of dollars, and we're talking millions of dollars to maintain it, and the fact is that 40 percent of the money for Amtrak comes from the federal government. You saw what happened yesterday in the House of Representatives, where rather than increasing the funding for Amtrak after this terrible accident, they decreased the funding for Amtrak, which the political optic of that, I think, is pretty stark in terms of sending a message that at least that particular committee didn't see the opportunity to really step up.
[17:45:09] But it is a costly system, but Joe Boardman, the head of Amtrak, has indicated on the Northeast Corridor, not the entire country, by 2015, the system will be in place.
BLITZER: As you know, Jeffrey, correct me if I'm wrong, there are restrictions, limits on how much money these families, these eight dead people from this train will be able to collect right now. Walk us through what's going on.
TOOBIN: Well, this can get very complicated, and there is room in -- there is room for some negotiation and courts can sometimes override these limits, but it is true that Amtrak is a government entity, and accidents on government -- on a government train. There are sometimes tort limits on it or limits on tort awards, but if there is -- a judge finds intentional misconduct, you know, there is some room for negotiation.
There is potential room for additional awards and the one thing we can be certain of is that there will be many, many lawsuits coming out of this. Not just from the families of the people who died, but, of course, all those people who have been injured as well.
BLITZER: Should there be, Jeffrey, from a legal perspective, any sense of -- any expectation of privacy in that locomotive in that cabin, where these engineers are driving these trains?
TOOBIN: Well, no. Not really. I don't think there is any sort of expectation of privacy, I mean --
BLITZER: Well, I raise -- I raise the question because they've resisted having cameras record what they're doing inside, showing them inside. There are cameras showing what's going in front of the train, but no cameras allowed inside?
TOOBIN: Well, just think about the issue of cell phones. Of, you know -- there was a horrible car -- train accident in Spain where it appeared to have been caused, because the -- the engineer was texting. That is something that is a huge threat to public safety. So, you know, I just think that -- that is going to be a negotiation. That -- and is a negotiation point between the union and the -- and Amtrak, but I think especially after this accident, that's not going to be something that's -- that the union will be able to resist.
BLITZER: All right. I want all of you to stand by. Once again, we're waiting for this NTSB news conference. We'll have an update on that. But there's another very important story we're following. Very far away. President Obama has been meeting with Arab allies who are deeply worried about the U.S.-led effort to reach some sort of nuclear deal with Iran. The Gulf states fear that their own security could be shortchanged by any such deal.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He's up at Camp David, Maryland, where the president is getting ready to hold a news conference.
What's the latest there, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just before this news conference got started, the president made some brief remarks to reporters. During that time he offered some very public assurances to these Gulf state leaders who are gathered here for the summit at Camp David. He said that the United States will come to their defense against what he called, quote, "an external attack." There is no mystery as to who he was talking about, he was talking about Iran.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It's not quite the picture the president wanted at this sorted summit with Gulf state leaders at Camp David. The Saudi king is not here and the king of Bahrain opted instead to fly to Britain for the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
The missing monarchs are raising doubts over how much the president can accomplish on a range of crucial issues, from Gulf state worries over the Iran nuclear talks, to Tehran's meddling in the crisis in Yemen. To the battle against ISIS, and the civil war in Syria. But the president insists this is a summit with substance.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will stand by our GCC partners. ACOSTA: In the president's entourage, Defense Secretary Ash Carter,
Secretary of State John Kerry, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who steeped in the details from the Iran nuclear talks. But the Gulf states want more than talk. They want to contain Iran's regional ambitions with a NATO-like defense pact with the U.S. and more weapons. The White House is proposing a common missile defense system for the Gulf and only security assurances. No NATO pact, plus more military sales.
FREDERIC WEHREY, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR PEACE: The Gulf has some very unrealistic expectations about the United States curtailing Iranian influence in Syria, Iraq, so part of this is inflated expectations on their part.
ACOSTA: The administration is downplaying fears the Gulf states will respond by launching a U.N. nuclear arms race with Iran.
[17:50:05] BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We've never had any indication from any of these countries that they are intending to pursue the type of domestic nuclear program that would raise concerns. We would say to these countries we don't want to see any type of arms race in the region.
ACOSTA: Instead the White House wants the Gulf states on board with the Iran nuclear deal to help seal what would be a legacy-defining moment.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: If he can bring this around agreement together in a way that can actually win the support of the Congress and win the support of the Gulf states, that would be a very substantial agreement. Right now it's still uphill.
ACOSTA: Now within the last hour, the White House released a statement from both the U.S. and these Gulf state leaders.
Very interesting to note, Wolf, in that statement it talks about the Iran nuclear deal that is currently being worked on in Switzerland, and will be worked on until that deadline of June 30th. We should point out, though, in that statement, it says that these Gulf state countries are supportive of the efforts to reach a deal that would constrain Iran's nuclear program, not the deal itself.
And that is a fine point that I think the president may be asked about here in just a few moments -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I suspect he will be. It's rare that the president has a news conference from Camp David in Maryland.
How long have you been a White House reporter, Jim Acosta? How often have you had a news conference at Camp David?
ACOSTA: This is the first one I'm aware of, Wolf. Certainly while this president has been in office. And I think that is why you just heard the Saudi Foreign minister, who you had on your program earlier this week. He just came out and talk to reporters, and said, you know, he thinks that this was an historic summit, even though there were folks questioning whether or not the president really should be calling this a summit.
He had only two of the six Gulf state leaders represented by actual monarchs. And so you know, I -- but I think the agenda here was so critical to the security of this region, that it really elevates this to at least something like a summit because they were talking about issues like Iran's nuclear program, because they were talking about -- let's mention, the internal threats that exist inside each of these Gulf state countries. A potential lone wolf, potential ISIS-style attackers who could wreak havoc in these countries.
That is a big issue. That is something that the president wanted to talk about with these leaders. The president said earlier to "New York Times" this year that that poses as much of a threat to these countries as ISIS and Iran themselves.
And so, you know, I think it's interesting, Wolf, to see what the president will be talking about here in a few moments. He's got a lot to say to these Gulf state leaders. They're not walking away with any hard and fast security pacts.
BLITZER: All right.
ACOSTA: That -- you know, that they would be comfortable with. I think the talk here that we'll hear from the president --
BLITZER: All right, hold on.
ACOSTA: -- in a few minutes will be very interesting to listen to, Wolf.
BLITZER: Hold on, Jim. Here's the president.
OBAMA: Good evening. Before I get to what we discussed here today with our Gulf partners, I want to again express my deepest condolences to the families of those who died in Tuesday's terrible train derailment outside of Philadelphia.
I want to express my gratitude for the first responders, who raced to save lives, and for the many passengers who, despite their own injuries, made heroic efforts to get fellow passengers to safety. You know, for a lot of people on that train, it was a routine journey, a commute, a business trip. For the Amtrak employees who were badly hurt, it was their office, the place of doing business. And that somehow makes it all the more tragic.
Until we know for certain what caused this tragedy, I just want to reiterate what I have already said, that we are a growing country with a growing economy. We need to invest in the infrastructure that keeps us that way, and not just when something bad happens like a bridge collapse or a train derailment, but all the time. That's what great nations do.
So I offer my prayers for those who grieve, a speedy recovery for the many who are injured, as they work to recover. And we will cooperate obviously at every level of government to make sure that we get answers in terms of precisely what happened.
Now to the work that brought us to Camp David. For the past 70 years, the United States has maintained a core national security interest in the security and the stability of the Middle East generally and the Gulf region specifically. It's a fundamental tenant of American foreign policy, upheld by generations of American service members and reaffirmed by every U.S. president, including me.
Since I took office, we've intensified our security cooperation with our Gulf Cooperation Council partners, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. At a time of extraordinary challenges across the Middle East, including conflicts that have caused untold human suffering, the United States and our GCC partners cooperate extensively countering terrorist groups like al Qaeda and now ISIL, opposing the Assad regime's war against the Syrian people, supporting the legitimate government of Yemen, and opposing Iran's destabilizing actions across the Middle East.
[17:55:17] I invited our GCC partners here today to deepen our cooperation and to work together to resolve conflicts across the region. I want to thank each of the leaders and delegations who attended. And we approached our discussions in the spirit of mutual respect. We agree that the security relationship between the United States and our GCC partners will remain a cornerstone of regional stable, and our relationship is a two-way street.
We all have responsibilities. And here at Camp David, we decided to expand our partnership in several important and concrete ways. First, I am reaffirming our ironclad commitment to the security of our Gulf partners. As we've declared in our joint statement, the United States is prepared to work jointly with the GCC member states to -- deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state's territorial integrity that is inconsistent with the U.N. charter.
In the event of such aggression, or the threat of such aggression, the United States stands ready to work with our GCC partners to urgently determine what actions may be appropriate, using the means at our collective disposal, including the potential use of military force for the defense of our GCC partners. And let me underscore, the United States keeps our commitments.
Second, and to back up our words with deeds, we will increase our already extensive security cooperation. We'll expand our military exercises and assistance to meet the full range of threats, in particular, terrorism. This means more training and cooperation between our special operations forces, sharing more information and stronger border security to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, and increased enforcement to prevent terrorist financing.
We'll step up our efforts to counter violent extremism, including online and more broadly we'll expand our cooperation maritime security and work to harden our partners' critical infrastructure.
Third, we'll help our Gulf partners improve their own capacity to defend themselves. The United States will streamline and expedite the transfer of critical defense capabilities to our GCC partners. We will work together to develop an integrated GCC defense capability against ballistic missiles, including an early warning system. And we will work toward the development of rapid response capabilities to undertake mission such as counterterrorism and peacekeeping.
Fourth, we pledge to work together to try to solve armed conflicts in the region and we have articulated core principles to guide our efforts. Respect for state sovereignty, recognition that these conflicts can only be resolved politically, and acknowledgement of the importance of inclusive governance and the need to respect minorities and protect human rights.
Therefore, with respect to Syria we committed to continuing to strengthen the moderate opposition, to oppose all violent extremist groups, and to intensify our efforts to achieve a negotiated political transition towards an inclusive government without Bashar al-Assad that serves all Syrians.
We will continue to support the Iraqi government and its efforts against ISIL. And in reforms to ensure that the rights and opportunities of all Iraqis are fully respected. We welcomed the humanitarian troops in Yemen, so urgently needed aid can reach civilians. And we call on all parties in Yemen to return to political talks facilitated by the United Nations.
We will step up our collective efforts to help form an national unity government in Libya and counter the growing terrorist presence there. And we reiterate the urgent need for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.
Fifth, we spent considerable time discussing Iran. I updated our Gulf partners on the negotiations towards a comprehensive deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And I'm pleased that here at Camp David we agree that a comprehensive verifiable solution that fully addresses the regional and international concerns about Iran's nuclear program is in the -- is in the security interests of the international community, including our GCC partners.
Of course, whether we reach a nuclear deal or not with Iran, we're still going to face a range of threats across the region, including its destabilizing activities as well as the threat from terrorist groups. So we're going to work together to address these threats and much of the enhanced security cooperation that I've outlined will allow us to do precisely that.
And I want to be very clear. The purpose of security cooperation is not to perpetuate any long-term confrontation with Iran or even to marginalize Iran. None of our nations have an interest in an open- ended conflict with Iran.
We welcome an Iran that plays a responsible role in the region, one that takes concrete, practical steps to build trust and resolve its differences with its neighbors by peaceful means and abides by international rules and norms.