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Trump Lays Out America First Policy on National Security; Amtrak Passenger Train Derails in Washington State; NTSB Press Conference on Train Derailment. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 18, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In all of history never before has freedom reigned, the rule of law prevailed, and the people thrived as we have here for nearly 250 years. We must love and defend it. We must guard it with vigilance and spirit, and if necessary, like so many before us, with our very lives. And we declare that our will is renewed, our future is regained, and our dreams are restored.

Every American has a role to play in this grand national effort. And today I invite every citizen to take their part in our vital mission. Together our task is to strengthen our families, to build up our community, to serve our citizens, and to celebrate American greatness as a shining example to the world. As long as we are proud and very proud of who we are, how we got here and what we are fighting for to preserve, we will not fail. If we do all of this, if we rediscover our resolve, and commit ourselves to compete and win again, then together we will leave our children and our grandchildren a nation that is stronger, better, freer, prouder and, yes, an America that is greater than ever before.

God bless you. Thank you very much. Thank you.



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So President Trump laying out his America First national security strategy. At the top, blasting previous administrations on the immigration and the Iran deal and on trade.

Let's just dive right into analysis. First, David Sanger, CNN politics and national security analyst and national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

I know you and I have talked about Russia and China on the show. He kept mentioning to trade, trade being central in national security. What were your thoughts?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICS & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Brooke, what struck me first of all is this was two-thirds campaign speech and one- third national security strategy speech. The first part of it was all about his election, how the stock market has done, his record has been so far, and I thought that was interesting because it may explain a little bit about how he frames national security which is why he's acting as protector in his mind. On the China and Russia element of this, when you read the strategy, it describes both countries together as revisionist powers. Now I get that for China because China is trying to change the international order and the rules to fit its own agenda, sort of as we did a century ago and then again after world war ii. Russia is a very different kind of beast. It doesn't have the economic power to mandate what the rules are, and it was striking to me how little he had to say about Russia. He mentioned information warfare and cyber as if it was divorced from one particular actor, and he didn't describe, and his strategy doesn't describe a plan to make sure in the last 2016 presidential election --

BALDWIN: Doesn't happen again.

SANGER: -- doesn't happen next year.


On Russia and - and, Sam, you were keen to this. On Russia, we know he's talked to Vladimir Putin twice in four days and he mentioned the phone call. Putin thanking him for U.S. intel for helping thwart an attack on St. Petersburg. More on that piece of Russia, and to David's point, and none on the latter.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Exactly. We have to practice what we preach here. The president just said that we have to confront challenges head-on. The president has had a myriad of opportunities to confront probably the biggest strategic threat to U.S. National security. Russia is trying to undermine our democracy and in two separate phone calls this week the president did not raise Russian election meddling and yes, Russia may be a revisionist power, but Russia is directly attacking our country and he didn't address that. He also, inaccurately spoke about economics as a pillar of national security when he said he's the first person to say that economics matters. I would urge his fact checkers to go back and do a little bit more research because dating back to 1987 and the first national security strategy, economics has been in there. President Obama called economics a foundation -- a wellspring, excuse me, of our national security. On Russia, on countering extremism, we heard him again talk about external threats and the need to close our boards. Brooke, you and I discussed the fact that the last two terrorist attacks here in the United States have been a result --


VINOGRAD: Exactly, of domestic radicalization. So we need to have a fact-based strategy that is not divorced from reality.

[14:35:20] BALDWIN: Rear Admiral John Kirby, senior military and diplomatic analyst, former State Department spokesman, I want to hear from you.

And as I'm thinking state, I should also mention there have been reports, the secretary of state was not in attendance at this national security speech. We are told now he was there -- actually, forgive me. We will talk about this train derailment now. The NTSB there in Washington. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the accident in Washington State and then we'll

take your questions.


DR. BELLA DINH-ZAR, BOARD MEMBER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Hello. I'm Bella Dinh-Zar, board member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB is launching a go team to Dupont, Washington, to investigate the derailment of Amtrak train number 501 which occurred this morning.

Before I continue we would like to express our deepest condolences to family and friends and all of those affected by this tragic accident.

The NTSB team will be led by Ted Terpin (ph), who will serve as investigator in charge. He is accompanied by NTSB staff with expertise in the following areas, operations, mechanical, track, signals, human performance and survival factors. Also accompanying the team are members of the NTSB's Office of Transportation Disaster Assistance, or TDA, and the Office of Media Relations.

This accident meets the criteria of the Rail Passenger Family Disaster Assistance Act. Our TDA specialists are working closely with officials at the scene locally as well as with Amtrak to assist them in their efforts to support all of those who have been affected by this accident. Several of our investigators on the west coast will be arriving on scene this afternoon. The rest of our go team expects to arrive at the scene late tonight.

For the latest information on media briefings, I encourage you to follow us on Twitter at NTSB_newsroom, and our Web site is

Again, we are just launching our go team and we will have more information after we arrive on scene and start the investigation. We'll be holding a number of media briefings at the scene over the next few days in Washington State.

Now I'd be happy to take a few questions. And if you'd like to ask a question please raise your hand and I will recognize you, and then please identify yourself and your media outlet.

Thank you.


JEFFREY COOK, CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Jeffrey Cook from ABC News. Do we think this accident could be speed related? Do we know what speed the limit was traveling at or the speed limit in the area?

DINH-ZARR: It's a little bit too early to know right now. We are sending investigators on to the scene, so we'll find all of that. We want to give you as accurate information as possible.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Do you have an updated number on the number of fatalities?

DINH-ZARR: So you've probably heard a lot of numbers reported by different outlets and we leave that to the local authorities to report and that varies according to the jurisdiction.

Yes, in the back?


DINH-ZARR: We actually, at this moment we don't know because we don't have an investigator on scene, but we're headed there as we speak --



DINH-ZARR: We are looking at that because we want to make sure we get the right information. There's a lot of different information and we don't want to speculate on that.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). I have seen conflicting reports that this was a brand-new track or new route that was being run. Can you clarify that? The nature of the track or the train? Was this a new route or a refurbished route or there was some aspect of that?

DINH-ZARR: The question is, is this -- was this a new route or has there been any information about whether the track was new. And so we are aware of the fact that this was called an inaugural run of this service, but we want to check and make sure what that exactly means and find out more information about that specifically.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Do you know if the conductor or any other person interviewed --

DINH-ZARR: The question is, have any of the train personnel been interviewed. And that is what we will be doing as soon as our investigator gets on scene. And our investigator in charge is actually en route right now as we speak.

Last question in the back?

[14:40:08] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). The Web site said the train en route would not speed down during curves and it would use gravity, instead. Is that new or different technology than isn't already in place or in use in other Amtrak routes?

DINH-ZARR: The question is, what kind of technology, is there a new technology that is being used on this track. And that's why we've launched a full go team with all of the different types of experts. We are gathering information and we will do our best to pass that on to you as soon as we find out exactly what type of technology and what, you know, what type of technology that you're speaking about if it actually is on that route.

Thank you.

BALDWIN: All right. So just a couple of quick questions to the NTSB. You just heard that's the spokeswoman saying that the lead investigator is en route to the scene.

But if you are just joining us, and just for the first time seeing these just horrific pictures here out of Pierce County, Washington, Washington State, let me fill you in on what we know.

And I have two people standing by to talk to me about how this could have happened.

Seventy-seven people have been taken to the hospital. There were 78 passengers on this train, five crew members, people obviously were treated on the scene, as well. Somehow, you heard her mention inaugural route. This was the very first day this high-speed train from Seattle to Portland happened, and as a result is what you're looking at. Somehow this train derailed. There are multiple train cars dangling off of this track. Some have flipped over. And, you know, amazingly, of all of the cars passing below on a very busy rush hour morning, no one was killed, we are told, on the highway in those cars. But you can imagine, it is just awful news for friends and family who are just finding out and also still wondering how their loved ones are.

Mary Schiavo is with me. Drew Griffin is with me.

Mary Schiavo, I have been watching you all day and looking at these pictures trying to make sense of how many cars were involved, how a train that was clearly all -- the cars were all connected and now some of them look parallel, dangling, upside down. What are your initial thoughts just looking at the pictures?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION & SAFETY ANALYST: From looking at the pictures, speed is a factor. When you have a situation where, for example, there is a rail out of alignment and it's a low-speed crash, what happens is the train cars come off, they fall over, but they pretty much stay kind of in a line if it's a low-speed event or if there was a slight alignment at a low speed. Here we have several important things. Coming into the curve. They were negotiating a curve. The whole point of a high-speed train and the reason that Amtrak, you know, and any train operator wants to sell it is to go fast.


SCHIAVO: So they would be keeping their train at the speed limit and hopefully not above, and the initial indications are that the speed limit was 79 miles an hour. That's a pretty sharp curve for 79 miles an hour so it looks to me like it was a high-speed event on a curve and it looks like a rail might have been out of line and you wouldn't have cars perpendicular on the track and spun like leaves in the wind, so speed may be a factor.

BALDWIN: The question was asked, since it was an inaugural run, was this a new route or new track? I realize this was the first time the high-speed train was going between Seattle and Portland, but the tracks were there before or were they not?

SCHIAVO: Right. But there was some alterations and modifications. There was surprisingly, a fair amount of negative press and government -- local government official criticism of initiating this train service.


BALDWIN: Because they were worried.

SCHIAVO: They were worried. In fact, there is a headline that says, now you'll be coming back to me with a deadly crash. That was the beginning of December and that quote was in the newspapers. And they had to modify parts of the trois being and for some of this route had to be run through the inner-city line so they couldn't be running on the same track on the way. There was criticism at the fact of the speed and this is not a bullet train track like in Japan. There were a number of curves, and there were places where trains would have to go to a shoe fly and one would have to let go and let the other pass. There was criticism that this run of track couldn't handle a high- speed train.

BALDWIN: Mary, stay with me.

I want to bring in Drew Griffin, our senior investigative correspondent, who has done extensive reporting of the rail line.

Drew, jump in. What can you add?

[14:45:05] DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this dates back to 2009. This was part of the American recovery and reinvestment act which pump $8 billion into high-speed rail projects across the country. We did a lot of reporting on this back in the 2013s when we realized much of these high-speed rail projects were for high speed rail and they were for getting trains like these on existing train lines. What you're seeing here is the inaugural run of a new route. It's not new track. It's a new route around port defiance in Tacoma. It's the big hunk that goes around the water of Tacoma if you're familiar with that. It was also a congested train route. So they took $180 million, revamped this existing train route which avoided that water line route and then we're going open it today, get these old trains to move faster on it. Eliminate some of the congestion with some of the cargo traffic, but basically the criticism has been all along with all of these projects is we're just moving old trains faster. These are not high-speed trains. This is not what you see in Japan. This is not even when you see along the Acela line. These are geared to move faster, and the trains are modified, the stations are revamped, and it's basically old technology moving faster. That said, we have no what caused the particular train trash.

BALDWIN: I get it. People want to go faster, and they wanted to be competitor. Wouldn't they test and know this was a no go?

GRIFFIN: Mary Schiavo can speak to that and other experts that we have.

I can tell you there was serious pressure to build a point here between Seattle and Portland because when we did this story back in 2013 on this particular route it was a 2:40 trip from Seattle to Portland. The federal government had poured in $400 million to improve the speeds and they cut the time by ten minutes. So there was a lot of pressure to get these trains moving faster to try to prove the fact that they weren't wasting federal dollars.

BALDWIN: I have done that very trip.

Mary, what about the issue of a test run? Would that I have done the test run with an empty train? I imagine weight is a factor. We all remember the physics lessons, how weight and sped it would change their characteristics of physics as they're rounding a curse.

SCHIAVO: Exactly. Throw on top of that the centrifugal forces on a curb. Yes, they did testing. And there were pictures out there, for example, that we are testing the new high-speed rail and we don't yet know how they tested it. Did they test it with one car? With one locomotive? Did they test it with this combination of train cars? This was a fairly long train. Granted, it wasn't full. Did that have anything to do with it? 78 people on a train that could have held far more, but we don't know exactly how the testing was and here based on what we can see in the pictures, both a pusher locomotive in the back and a puller at the front, we don't know the combination of which one was actually doing the work on this particular trip, but we don't know what the testing was. They said it was OK, and the combinations of the lines and the changes they made. They concluded it could accommodate this train. Obviously, not.

[14:48:55] BALDWIN: Obviously, not. Seventy-seven people taken to the hospital out of a total of 78 on this train, five crew members.

Drew and Mary, thank you so much for both of your voices and expertise here.

As we go to break, let me tell you, as we get more and more piece of information in Washington State, we are hearing from those who survived this horrific crash. Their words, next.


BALDWIN: Back to the breaking news there of this deadly Amtrak train derailment in Washington State. The images of the crash are heartbreaking. Some of the train cars just toppled on the busy interstate, I-5 below. And some are dangling off the overpass.

Earlier, Wolf Blitzer talked to someone who was on the train when this accident happened.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, WOLF: Where were you sitting?

CHRISTOPHER KARNES, CHAIR, PIERCE COUNTY TRANSIT ADVISORY BOARD (via telephone): We were on the third or fourth car of the train.

BLITZER: Tell us, walk us through what happened. I assume you were sitting when, all of a sudden, the car started to derail.

KARNES: Yes. Initially, we were sitting -- the train was going between 70 and 80 miles an hour. We could tell that because we were passing up traffic on the freeway. And we heard -- we felt a little bit of a jolt and then at a certain point the -- we could hear crumpling of the -- of the train car and we were catapulted into the seats in front of us.

BLITZER: And so people were flying around in the cars, is that what you're saying?

KARNES: Thankfully, the majority of people were seated, but there was one -- one elderly gentleman who -- who banged his head on one of the bulkheads.

[14:55:04] BLITZER: And the car that you were in, where did it wind up?

KARNES: Yes. So we -- we went down an embankment to the right of the tracks, but there were other cars -- the other cars all derailed. The only thing that was left that was on the track was the rear locomotive.

BLITZER: Did -- was your car upside down? Because at least three of the four cars wound up upside down.

KARNES: No. Mine was right-side-up. But after the accident, we had to kick out the window, the emergency window, and claimed down the embankment in order to get help for the injured passenger.


BALDWIN: We are hearing from more and more people, either on board or the area, and former investigators as well, here.

More of the breaking news out of Washington State and the search for answers. And I'll talk to the investigator for the NTSB about how this investigation is going to unfold. We know the chief investigator is en route from Washington, D.C., to Washington State as I speak.

You are watching CNN's special live coverage. Back in a moment.