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CNN TONIGHT

New Renovated Train Tracks Failed; Mueller's Report to be Wrapped Up Soon; Sarah Palin's Son Arrested for Domestic Violence. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 18, 2017 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, HOST, CNN: CNN Tonight starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Breaking news, a deadly Amtrak derailment in Washington State sending train cars full of terrified passengers crashing off an overpass and onto an interstate below.

Officials say at least three people are dead and 100 injured, but they fear the toll is going to go higher. Seventy seven passengers and 7 crew members were on board the train which was making its first regular trip along a new route.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were coming around the corner to take the bridge over i-5 there, right north in Nisqually and we went on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Are you -- is everybody OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still figuring that out. We've got cars everywhere and down on to the highway.

(END VOICE CLIP)

LEMON: Plus, President Trump makes a campaign-style speech to lay out his national security strategy. He made sure to slam his predecessors, of course, but somehow failed to call out Moscow for meddling in other countries. Even though the 48-page document that lays out his strategy does exactly that. I wonder why he just couldn't bring himself to say so.

Also, a CNN exclusive to tell you about. Sources telling CNN President Trump is so sure he'll be cleared in the Russia investigation, cleared in the next few months, he expects Robert Mueller to send him a letter of exoneration.

One source worrying the president will have a meltdown if that does not happen. And it comes as president, the president's allies work to discredit Mueller. We'll talk all about that, but let's get to the very latest now on that Amtrak derailment. CNN's Kyung Lah is live for us in Tacoma at this hour. Kyung, good evening to you. What are you learning about the investigation into this derailment?

KYUNG LAH, SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, we are just hearing from the Washington state patrol, and they tell us that they have now finished searching through all of the passenger cars of this train. There was a lot of concern, especially about a couple of those precarious train cars that were hanging off on to i-5, on to interstate 5, about who might be left in there.

Well, they've been able to search through all of them. There are three confirmed fatalities per the officials, that's the official count. At this point, we don't know if that number is going to be moving. A hundred people. Seventy seven people aboard the train, but there were 100 people, because there were also drivers down below.

They were taken to the hospital. A number of them have been treated and released. As far as the investigation itself, Don, we are hoping to learn much more when the NTSB has a news conference in just about three hours.

There is a 20-person investigative team that is on their way here because this is so curious. They don't know why this happened. These train tracks that you see behind me, this is a corridor that was just upgraded. I'm just a short distance away from where this crash happened.

This is the first day of this corridor running, and this was upgraded to handle Amtrak trains traveling at a higher rate of speed, a max speed of 79 miles per hour.

Now, Amtrak did tell CNN that at this point, they can confirm that the positive train control, that it was not activated, so there are going to be a lot of questions about this technology, why wasn't it activated?

And Amtrak also released a statement. If you know somebody aboard this train, if you are connected to this train crash, here's what Amtrak wants you to know, saying quote. "Families with questions about individuals on the train can contact 800-523-9101. We will do everything in our power to support these passengers, our employees, and their families."

Back live here, what you're looking at is a sign. There are a number of these signs posted at all of these crossings. A lot of concern by some of the local mayors here, especially one, the mayor of Lakewood, Washington.

These signs were posted because they were concerned about passengers, drivers running into these new trains that are coming through this heavily trafficked area, this community, Don. So, certainly, the fact that this has happened on its very first day, a lot of concern among the people who live here about how this happened.

LEMON: Kyung Lah in Tacoma for us. Kyung, thank you very much. We're going to continue to have more on this deadly derailment a little bit later on in the show.

But now I want to turn to President Trump's reaction to all of this and the other news as well. We're going to discuss that with CNN's politics editor at large, Chris Cillizza and political analyst Kirsten Powers.

Good evening to both of you. Chris, I'm going to start with you, you're here in the studio. President Trump chimed in on this train derailment. Let me just read the statement here what he said.

The train, he tweeted this out -- "The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, Washington, shows more than ever why our soon-to- be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly, $7 trillion spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, and tunnels, railways and more crumble. Not for long!" So he didn't mention the victims.

[22:05:01] CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: No, he didn't. And by the way, this is that if my memory serves me, that tweet was sent at 1.41 Eastern Time this afternoon, Don, and that was clearly a time when we knew less than we know now, and that kind of points out, we still -- there are still a lot details we don't know.

In a vacuum, OK, it a little odd tweet, but in a vacuum, OK. This isn't in a vacuum, though. Context, Pulse nightclub shooting, President Trump tweets out shortly after 49 people have been killed, he says everyone is telling me congrats for being right about Islamic terror.

Here in New York City, last month eight people are killed when a man takes his car and puts it on the sidewalk. Trump tweets out again sort of a, I was right, other people were wrong, this is a serious threat.

So, it's the context that matters here and the context makes it look very clearly as though he looks to politics and political advantage first, then he sends out that second tweet 10 or 11 minutes later today saying what most presidents would have said first.

LEMON: We can put up the second tweet after the president followed up the tweet with another one ten minutes later expressing his sympathies for the victims.

But also Chris, I'm going to stick with you.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: The other big news today, this according to sources inside the White House, that President Trump expects special counsel Robert Mueller to begin wrapping up his investigation soon and expects to be fully exonerated.

President Trump's opinion seems to fly in the face of everything we know about this Mueller investigation, wouldn't you say that?

CILLIZZA: Yes. I always remind people I'm not a lawyer, much to my parents' chagrin, so, you know, but I would say, look, Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser and someone in the inner-most of inner circles in Trump world just pled guilty to what we believe to be one of the lesser charges against him.

We knew a lot about Turkey and his influence over there. He pled guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with the Mueller investigation. It would seem odd to me, given that that happened a month ago, that suddenly this investigation would conclude. That would suggest it's opening more broadly, maybe targets above Flynn, which aren't that many people, candidly, but Mueller clearly thinks there is something that Flynn knows or some things that Flynn knows that is worth this plea deal.

So I just don't see it. I mean, Donald Trump can think whatever he likes, but I don't see based on what we know of the investigation that that's going to happen.

LEMON: But if you guys listen closely, I mean, Kirsten, if you listen very closely to the president, if you listen to his folks and if you listen to the people who, you know, say good things about him all day long, as Fox News, they always say there's no evidence of collusion. They seem to forget that this investigation involves, more than -- can involve more than collusion, can be and/or collusion or whatever is in the scope of the special counsel.

So, it's, you know, maybe he's thinking that there's no evidence so far about collusion, and he may be exonerated on that end, but it's certainly not the end of the investigation, that we know of.

KIRSTEN POWERS, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, he also doesn't know what's been found and he doesn't know -- you know, we don't know what's happening. This investigation isn't being done publicly. It's being done privately. And you know, we get leaks from time to time, but they're not, almost definitely not coming from the person who's in charge of the entire investigation.

And so, I think that it's premature to think that he will be cleared. I think even the idea of this type of letter being proffered is pretty unprecedented. That's not really something that happens.

So you know, where he got this idea or why he's decided this and it's making him very cheerful, apparently, I just, I think he's gotten some bad information. I just don't think this is something that is in the cards.

LEMON: Yes, and you're shaking your head.

CILLIZZA: Well, I mean, look, Kirsten makes the right point, which is Donald Trump's at no collusion, everyone says no collusion. I would refer back -- first of all, Mueller has said nothing effectively to this point about the investigation...

LEMON: Right.

CILLIZZA: ... publicly, particularly about collusion. Second, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate intelligence committee have said we haven't found collusion yet. We're continuing to look.

Does that mean there's none? Maybe. But what it suggests -- and this is Kirsten's point -- is this is not a finished investigation, not on the House and Senate side and not on the White House side. I understand why he's doing it, but...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But to my point, though, my point, though, this investigation is not just about collusion.

CILLIZZA: No, it's about much more than that, without question.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Yes, so that...

CILLIZZA: He is fixated on that part. And Don, look, this investigation is also not, as I like to remind people, is also not a function of democrats bitter about the investigation.

LEMON: Exactly.

CILLIZZA: Rod Rosenstein appointed Bob Mueller who by the way is a republican. Rod Rosenstein works for the Trump Justice Department.

LEMON: Yes.

CILLIZZA: So, I mean, the idea that democrats are behind this is...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Kirsten, I interrupt you. But here's another point. What happens if that doesn't happen? I mean, if he's exonerated, he's entitled to a letter, I mean, he is the president of the United States or some sort of thing saying, OK, you're exonerated, but how will he react if that's not the case do you think?

[22:10:01] POWERS: Well, according to people close to him, at least the reporting that's been done, they're concerned that he will melt down. I think that he would react very badly to not being exonerated.

Because he -- look, I'm not saying that he couldn't -- I mean, I don't know. I don't know if they actually -- you'd have to ask somebody who like, you know, who has dealt with these kinds of things firsthand whether or not you can get a letter that says you're exonerated, but certainly, if he was exonerated, that would hopefully would be made public, but he has reacted so badly just to being investigated.

So you know, I can't imagine what would happen if he was actually found guilty, which is why he and the rest of the administration and Fox News and other people who are Trump allies are working so hard to discredit the investigation, because if he is found guilty, it's very important that they have discredited it and made people believe that these were people who had a political axe to grind with Donald Trump.

LEMON: I want to talk about Sarah Palin's son.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: Her oldest son arrested and charged with assault against his father, Todd. It's a pretty bizarre story, but there had been issues...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: That's right.

LEMON: ... domestic issues within this family.

CILLIZZA: Right. This is the second time in two years he's been arrested on domestic violence charges, 2016 arrested for hitting his girlfriend at the time.

At that time, Sarah Palin suggested -- it was actually happened right before Sarah Palin was endorsing Donald Trump for president, interestingly enough, and she suggested, she, Sarah Palin suggested at the time it might have been post-traumatic stress disorder and that Barack Obama didn't understand the plight of veterans.

This incident, I mean, you know, as a father of sons, it's -- young sons, but still, very depressing. He, Track Palin, according to the affidavit, came over to Sarah and Todd Palin's house, said he was getting a truck. Todd Palin brandished a weapon.

Track Palin broke in, hit his father in the head repeatedly and was wandering around, according, again, to the affidavit, was wandering around referring to the police as peasants and was taken into custody without any sort of no further incident.

But yes. I mean, twice in two years, not great and worrisome, I think, for the family. Sarah Palin has asked sort of respectful distance in terms of her son and the situation.

LEMON: Yes. Do we know if there's anything to -- is there anything to confirm, Kirsten, that Track Palin is suffering from PTSD? And if it is, it's awful, but do we know anything further than what's been...

POWERS: I mean, if he -- you know, if she says he's suffering from PTSD, I take her at face value. I don't -- and look, families, you know, have problems.

LEMON: Yes.

POWERS: And you know, I don't think that, you know, anybody should be sitting around saying my family's so much better than their family. I mean, all families have problems.

LEMON: Especially not this time of year when we're all going to get together.

POWERS: Yes. And this is sad.

LEMON: Yes.

POWERS: This is tragic. I mean, it's a horrible thing to have a son, you know, attack his father. But you know, I hope nobody -- certainly nobody here is, but I hope other people aren't being gleeful about this, because I think, again, these are the types of things that many, many families have to deal with.

LEMON: Yes. It's just a bizarre story. No one is taking...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: By the way, Don, Track Palin, for folks wondering, he did serve a year in Iraq, so I mean, this is somebody who is a veteran.

LEMON: Yes. Whatever it is, we hope he gets better.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

When we come back, the president's speech today seemed to gloss over some pretty significant parts of his national security strategy, especially when it comes to Russia. So, is the president fully on board with his own policy?

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The president making a speech today on his national security policy and saying a lot less about Russia than one might expect, especially since the 48-page document that lays out his policy specifically calls out Russia for trying to undermine democracies.

Here to discuss now all of this, Max Boot, the senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam." Also, Ambassador James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, looking very dapper, I should say.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Yes. I got the card, memo, saying we all were supposed to be in black ties.

LEMON: He had a function tonight that was honoring someone, so thank you for coming on. We appreciate you taking the time.

I want to play this and then get you to respond. The president's speech was very different from the national security plan. Here's part of what he said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth. We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interests.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Ambassador, have we seen this administration protecting our national interests, especially when it comes to Russia and China?

WOOLSEY: Well, I think President Trump started out with a propensity to work together with Russia but not China, particularly where he was worried about tariff issues and the like. He's turned over the course of the last year, six months, to work pretty well with China and get along reasonably well with China, and with Russia as well.

The long paper that the speech was taken from was really fairly critical of Russia on some key points. Russia has, after all, been interfering in other countries' elections since the 1920s, 1930s. What's new is cyber. What's new is they don't have to send agents over to recover something, in order to Photoshop a photograph and try to get it accepted as real, or whatever.

They can do so much through cyber that they're not tampering in many ways the way they used to, they're tampering far more effectively, and some of that I think comes through in the long paper, maybe only a little bit of it in the speech.

LEMON: So let's speak about the long paper here, because the actual White House document specifically calls Russia -- this is for you, Max -- it says, "It calls Russia actors using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies.

The document also says Russia uses information operations as part of its offensive cyber efforts to influence public opinion across the globe, its influence campaigns blend covert and intelligence operations and false online personas with state-funded media, third- person intermediaries and paid social media users or trolls."

[22:20:14] That's a big difference from what we heard today as he refers as a long paper, the 48-page document, what's more important, the document or what the president says?

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think you've put your finger on it, Don, which is there is a huge disconnect between the national security strategy that was announced today, and that was really the work of H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, and his senior aide, Nadia Schadlow.

There's a big difference between what they had to say and what Donald Trump himself says, and it's not just on Russia, although there is a huge disconnect on Russia because H.R. McMaster has spoken for a long time about the threat we face from Russia and the national security strategy is very clear about the fact that the Russians are not our friends and that they are subverting other democracies.

But Trump himself will never say a negative word about Putin and he will never admit that the Russians interfered in our elections, and that's just one example of this disconnect. I mean, there are many others in the document itself which suggests that it's not really speaking for Donald Trump per se, it's speaking for General McMaster. And you know, I agree with a lot of what's in the national security

strategy, but I'm just concerned that it doesn't actually represent Donald Trump's own thinking.

LEMON: That's a good point, though. So, ambassador, how useful is this document if the president doesn't share its views?

WOOLSEY: I think taken together, the two together are useful and on the whole reasonably statesmanlike. The key lesson we ought to draw from this is that especially since Russians have been interfering with the elections around the world since the 1920s, they call it dezinformatsiya or disinformation. They have huge numbers of people devoted to it.

What we have to do is save our next election. The key thing people have to do is make sure that we can do recounts. We've got to have a paper trail. If you're going to do a recount, you can't do it if everything is electric and everything that was electric got hacked.

And there are other things that need to be done as well, but the lesson we ought to draw from this is not did Russians do a little bit more or a little bit less. The lessons we need to draw is we need to get busy and get the election machinery fixed at all.

BOOT: But it's hard to safeguard future elections if we have a president who won't admit that we were attacked in a previous election and it's been reported that he has not convened a single meeting in the White House to figure out about how to strike back against this Russian campaign to undermine our democracy. I think that's a huge problem.

WOOLSEY: Striking back is important, but even more important is getting the machinery fixed so that we can defend against it and it can't happen in a year and a half.

LEMON: But he seems to believe whatever Vladimir Putin says, and it's not like they're not talking, because he has -- he has called him. He spoke to him yesterday. It's their second call in four days, praising the CIA for preventing a terror attack in Russia. I mean, as a former CIA director, is this normal protocol?

WOOLSEY: Well, we do this sort of thing all the time with the British and our friends, other friends and so forth, but doing it with Russia is new, for me, at least.

But on the other hand, it's not a bad idea if one doesn't inadvertently disclose sources and methods in doing it. But if you can tip the Russians off about a terrorist attack or the Chinese -- I would leave Iran and North Korea alone -- I wouldn't try to work with either of them.

But to work with Russia and not disclose anything you shouldn't disclose to help them and help them avoid a terrorist attack, I think that's a manageable part of national security.

BOOT: I mean, nobody would disagree working with the Russians on certain issues. I think the issue here is that Donald Trump seems to have a very starry-eyed view of Vladimir Putin as well as other dictators like Xi Jinping and others.

That's not -- that's not the viewpoint that comes across in the national security strategy, but it's definitely Trump's own mindset and it's very troubling because he does not call out these dictators for their aggressive actions.

WOOLSEY: I think he started being very friendly to the Russians. I think he's woken up some. And one really good test for a president is whether they can learn. And I think we see a learning process going on here, and I think that's good.

LEMON: All right. That will have to be the last word. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

When we come back, a CNN exclusive, sources say not only does President Trump has expected to be exonerated by Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, he expects Mueller to send him a letter saying so. How will the president react if that doesn't happen?

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A CNN exclusive tonight. Sources telling CNN that President Trump believes the Russia investigation is coming to a close and that he expects the special counsel, Robert Mueller, not only to clear him, but to write a letter of exoneration.

I want to bring in CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, and former -- a former official at the Department of Homeland Security, and CNN contributor John Dean, the former White House counsel for President Nixon. Good evening to both of you.

John, CNN has learned that in private, the president has, you know, seemed, quote, "less frustrated about the investigation," even boasting that he expects Mueller to clear him of wrongdoing in the coming weeks. Do you have any idea why the president is feeling so confident?

JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: I can only imagine that his lawyers told him something that gave him that confidence, and if they did, they may well be engaging in malpractice, because they have no basis that I can see, or anybody that I know who follows this even closer than I do can see. I think it's wishful thinking at this point.

LEMON: Do you agree with that, Juliette?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Yes. I mean, this is the same president who began this investigation assuring the American public that there had been absolutely no contacts between his campaign and the Russians.

[22:29:59] Donald Trump's statements or beliefs about this investigation have never been accurate and will probably continue not to be accurate. He should have every belief that Mueller's going to continue well into 2018. The activity so far has been fast and quick with two indictments and

two guilty pleas. That is very fast, and it will continue a pace. There is just no evidence that this thing is slowing down. If anything, it's getting closer to Donald Trump.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Let me just read this. This is Susan Hennessey's tweet from earlier. She's our legal analyst here on CNN. She said, "If Trump or his team actually believed this, wouldn't they be working to bolster or not -- or at least not undermine Mueller's legitimacy and credibility? Why work to undercut the reputation of the guy you say is about to clear you?"

So, what do you think, Juliette? Do you think, do you believe that? Should Trump have his supporters back off of Mueller?

KAYYEM: Well, I just think that the Trump White House must be very, very nervous about what is about to unfold in the weeks ahead, because just this campaign against Mueller is consistent with the campaign over the last year.

You know, it begins with an assault on the facts, right. Russia didn't hack the national security strategy today is just shocking and the fact that it does not even mention that the Russians attacked our own democracy.

Then there is an attack on the fact-seekers, the CIA, the FBI. They're in disarray, they're horrible, they're capture, they're political. And then there is an attack now on the fact investigator, Robert Mueller.

It's like in their playbook and consistent, right, with the fact that they actually don't know what's coming down the pike. So in my mind, we could have anticipated this, and in their mind, I suspect they are very nervous, maybe not about Trump, but about people very close to him, like his son or son-in-law.

LEMON: John, what do you think is behind this apparent strategy to undercut Mueller?

JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Well, it's happened in prior special counsel investigations. It happened during the Clinton years. There was some effort to undercut Ken Starr when they thought he had gone purely political and indeed some of his actions were very political.

Mueller has not played it that way, though. He's played it as very much a sealed, quiet, very cautious professional that he is. So, it's an effort to undercut whatever they see coming, and they must sense something serious is coming.

Don, they have thrown nothing but signals that they're covering up from the very beginning. They have never shown really an effort to cooperate. They have never shown an effort to send people down to testify. They have never tried to reveal anything about what actually did happen.

In fact, this information is slowly pulled out one media at a time, one e-mail at a time, and we know that Mueller knows a lot more than we do, and he obviously sees something there, or it wouldn't be so protracted.

LEMON: Yes. Juliette, I just want to play. This is a clip of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. It's from earlier today. Take a listen and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think this past weekend is illustrative of what a great case officer Vladimir Putin is. And he knows how to handle an asset and that's what he's doing with the president.

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: I just want to be clear here, though. You're saying that Russia is treating the president of the United States as an asset.

CLAPPER: I'm saying this figuratively. I think we have to remember Putin's background. He's a KGB officer. That's what they do. They recruit assets. And I think some of that experience and instincts of Putin has come into play here in his managing a pretty important account for him, if I could use that term, with our president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Juliette, Clapper said that he was speaking figuratively, you heard that, but what did you think about that comment?

KAYYEM: He may have been speaking figuratively, but Clapper is very careful. I don't think he would just sort of willy-nilly use words like that, and I think from any perspective, it's clear that Putin is playing Trump, he's playing up to Trump's desire to be liked and Trump's desire to be viewed as different than President Obama.

But what I'd like most about Jim Clapper's statement is to remind us that this is actually not about Donald Trump. We, today, a national security strategy was announced. We have a homeland to protect. We have elections this coming year, and we have done absolutely nothing to defend our self.

So, while Trump may view this about himself, it really is about our democracy, and it's sort of worth all of us remembering that each time we think about the indictments or, you know, whether -- whether, you know, Mueller should have had those e-mails.

[22:34:59] I mean, it's all irrelevant to the fact that the story is that Russia took advantage of our democracy and will do so again in the year to come.

LEMON: Juliette, John, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

When we come back, why the Trump administration has reportedly banned the CDC from using certain words, words like fetus, transgender, and science-based.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Growing backlash tonight following a report that the Trump administration has ordered officials at the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, to stop using specific words and phrases in budget documents for 2018.

Joining me now is John McWorther, professor of linguistics at Columbia University and the author of "Words on the Move." John, hello. Let's talk about words that may not be on the move here, because this is a list of seven words, the Washington Post reports, the Trump administration has banned officials at the CDC from using in the budget process.

[22:40:03] The words are diversity, entitlement, evidence-based, fetus, science-based, transgender, vulnerable. Why these words, and what does that tell you about this administration?

JOHN MCWORTHER, LINGUISTICS PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, from the way I'm seeing it, it looks that these are words that people within the organization thought it would be wise to not use because they wanted to see their budgets more likely to be passed by people in the government, for example, who would be offended by words like those because they're worried about things like something being evidence- based. They don't want to hear fetuses being brought up, et cetera.

And what that means is that we're dealing with an administration and an administration culture in which people in positions of responsibility are having to basically work around the gorilla in order to get what they need to do done, such as an organization like the CDC really needs to, they have to tone down or disguise, basically, truth and common sense and constructiveness in order to get the money to do the things that they need to do, and that's a tragedy.

LEMON: It's very interesting. The Post says that the administration did propose some alternative phrases. So rather than using -- and I'll give you some of the terms -- "Science-based or evidence-based, CDC officials should use the phrases or the phrase CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

I mean, what is different about the new-approved technology? What is this?

MCWORTHER: Well, it's interesting, because that way of putting it, for example, is a dog whistle, this idea of community standards. That is, you're trying to work with people who might be, for example, pro- life, people who don't want certain things brought up, community standard, as opposed to, for example, what we might call science.

And so, we're talking about people who might have the idea that evolution is quote, unquote, "just a theory." And that in itself is a shame. And to the extent, to the extent that just possibly we're dealing with the administration or anybody else who thinks that if you apply a new label to something, you're solving a problem, that never works.

Whatever you didn't like about the label at this point, those associations will settle down upon whatever the new label is, and so, there was a time when crippled was an OK term that nobody was offended by. Well, there are unfortunate associations that many people have with someone who is quote, unquote, "crippled," and so that word was replaced with handicapped.

Then handicapped came to have the same sorts of problems. We human beings are a pretty trashy group in many ways, and so, changing the words does not change the thought. Orwell, and I know everybody's waiting for me to bring that up, was wrong about that. You can't control thought that starkly with words.

LEMON: Well, I want to say that because you hear Orwell in a lot when you read, you know, this story. Is this how you would describe this as Orwellian?

MCWORTHER: Well, you could say that it's Orwellian in that somebody thinks that if you use different words then you're going to change the way people think or change the situation.

But the problem is, for example here, even if you are trying to do some good by avoiding using terms that are going to rile what I think in this case are people who are republican/right-wing/have certain ideas about, you know, abortion or evolution that many other people don't share -- if the idea is that you're going to use different words, frankly, that's not really going to work because those people are intelligent enough to see through your attempt to soften.

I mean, they are, you know, cognitively human just like all the rest of us, and so it wouldn't work. You have to actually try to change thought. But I do think that these people are trying to do some good. It's unfortunate that they have to work that hard to do it.

LEMON: All right. Speaking of -- and I may go back to some of these words, but speaking of Orwell, here's another story from the New York Times that kind of sounds like big brother.

The EPA employees spoke out. Then came scrutiny of their e-mail. The Times reports that multiple EPA employees with different jobs in different cities spoke about budget cuts or climate change policies at the agency.

Then a conservative campaign research group consulting with the EPA filed a FOIA, which is a Freedom of Information Act, request for all their federal e-mails. Why would the EPA sick an oppo research group on its own employees?

MCWORTHER: It seems like there's some sort of surveillance. It's the usual story where we're not supposed to say anything bad about, say, the president or his policies, that we're all supposed to walk in a kind of lockstep.

And that's unfortunate in this case, because of course, if you're public-spirited, then part of that is understanding that there is going to be opposition and there are different ways of doing things and that we're all working towards the same mountaintop through different paths. You don't see that in a possible practice like that one.

[22:44:55] LEMON: Yes. So, the oppo research firm hired by the EPA specializes in, quote, "war room type technology for robust intelligence gathering." Are you comfortable with the EPA spending taxpayer money on a partisan-style war room inside the agency to research its own employees?

MCWORTHER: Well, I mean, to the extent that money is being spent on something like that, that sort of monitoring is frightening, because especially when you're dealing with an organization like the EPA, we're looking for innovative ideas, we're looking for people who are searching for things that might not be obvious.

And to monitor people -- and the only reason you would monitor people is to avoid them saying certain things -- is to stanch that kind of creativity and that kind of open-mindedness, so it's very dangerous.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, at CDC, we're talking about the banned words and so on, but the CDC is saying that, you know, I want to assure you, they release this. They were saying there are no banned words at the CDC. We will continue to talk about all of our important public health programs. That's what the CDC says.

But when words are banned, e-mails are targeted, reporters and news outlets are under attack, is freedom of speech at risk with this administration?

MCWORTHER: Yes, I do think that there's a real problem here where it almost seems as if the president, or just a culture that's beginning to surround the president, really do believe that people shouldn't be allowed to be too, we might say, seditious in reference to the president.

And the problem with this is that I don't even think there is a philosophical or pragmatic orientation behind it. The idea isn't we want to get things done, and therefore we want to keep a united front and hide argument behind all of that.

What it's really just about is that the person running the country doesn't like being criticized because he's a very insecure and narcissistic man. That is what's percolating out into the culture, that you won't, you shouldn't say anything bad about him and his policies, but this comes not from a hard-headed pragmatism that you might from some perspective admire.

But it just comes from the bull-headedness of the individual that happens to be running the country and isn't public-spirited enough to see beyond his tiny self. That's what's unfortunate about all this.

LEMON: John McWhorter, author of "Words on the Move." Thank you, sir.

MCWORTHER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Breaking news is at least three people killed, 100 injured in a horrific Amtrak derailment in Washington State.

I want to bring in now Daniel Konzelman, and he's an eyewitness to the crash who helped to rescue passengers, he joins us via Skype. Daniel, thank you so much for coming on. You were driving to work, I'm told, with your girlfriend when you came across the Amtrak train derailment. What did you see?

DANIEL KONZELMAN, EYEWITNESS TO AMTRAK DERAILMENT: Yes, we were coming down i-5 south. We had actually seen the train as we were driving. We were kind of parallel with it, and then it was going faster than us and didn't really think anything of it.

But then we came to the bridge and we saw the train that had just gone by us about 45 seconds before hanging -- hanging off of the bridge like you've seen in all the pictures.

And I was, like, is that like the train that just went by us? And then it sort of settled in, well, this is major, like a major train wreck. So we, Alicia and I, got off the freeway as fast as we could. Parked the car. We're both in dress because I was in a suit and luckily I had an emergency headlamp and some boots in the back of my van. And we ran down to the track as fast as we could.

LEMON: What was the scene like once you got there, Daniel?

KONZELMAN: Yes. It was -- we were there probably 15 minutes before any first responders got there, and nobody was -- nobody knew what to do. Nobody was directing or leading. And a lot of the people who were in the train wreck were sort of in shock, just kind of wandering around.

So when we got there, honestly, it was like chaos. And my personal mission was to try and lead until the first responders got there. So I immediately just tried to organize the people who were in the wreck and get them down to the freeway so that they could get...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So you were able to help get people off the train?

KONZELMAN: Yes, so initially I climbed into the train car that was positioned sideways on the bridge.

LEMON: Yes.

KONZELMAN: And made sure that everybody in there was stable. And if they could get out, help them out. And if they had an injury, make sure that there were people there to attend them and stay with them. And then just kind of systematically work my way through the cars and tell the first responders got there. And probably was able to help, I would say 15 people get out before the firefighters and police officers arrived.

LEMON: Well, good job, Daniel. Thank you so much for joining us here on CNN.

KONZELMAN: My pleasure, thank you.

LEMON: Let's bring in now Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general the U.S. Department of Transportation. Mary, it's good to see you. I wish it was under better circumstances.

Images from the crash scene they show the train cars ended up all over the place, you can see in the video that we have up there, disconnected from each other. Does that give you any indication of what kind of errors could have occurred?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: It sure does. You know, so many times we look at these train derailments and the train has gone off the tracks or next to track or run-down an embankment.

But here they literally look like they have been strewn about like leaves blown about in the wind and that gives us a pretty good idea that it was a speed related incident. That speed on this curve for whatever reason caused the train cars to have great inertial force, most likely as it was making the turn.

And based on the maps that I've seen, of course, it was heading into the turn and reports now say that perhaps that turn should have been taken at 30 miles an hour, and other reports say this train might have been going as fast as 81 miles an hour.

Now, none of this confirmed but that would indicate that nothing differs simple as the sound but that the train was taking the curve far, far too fast.

LEMON: Yes.

SCHIAVO: Why, is another issue.

LEMON: Yes. Do you remember we were talking about, I think the last time we talked about this, something like, this was the Philadelphia train derailment. And we talked about positive train control.

[22:55:03] SCHIAVO: Yes.

LEMON: The president also says that positive train control that technology designed to slow a train down automatically was not activated at the time. Could it have made a difference here?

SCHIAVO: Yes, here in this kind of -- this kind of an accident is exactly where positive train control could have made a huge difference. And, you know, it's not illegal that it wasn't activated because rail operators have been given extensions.

The government has extended the deadline by which trains have to comply or owners of the track have to comply with positive train control activation. And, you know, the issue for that, the reason they have been given so many extensions has been money. Now, it is expensive to put it on tracks all over the country. But

this track, this particular section just had a huge upgrade. It was about $180 million that was spent on perhaps about a 15-mile segment of track. it sounds like a lot but when you're involved with rail it's not really. But the train track should have been brought up-to-date.

LEMON: Yes. Mary Schiavo, thank you very much. I appreciate your expertise every time.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, Tavis Smiley's talk show has dropped over what PBS calls troubling allegations. And tonight Tavis Smiley claims they've made a huge mistake. He's here tonight.

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)