Return to Transcripts main page


NTSB: Derailed Amtrak Train Traveling 80 MPH in 30 MPH Zone; CNN Poll: 55% Oppose GOP Tax Bill; Trump Unveils National Security Plan, Blasts Past Administrations. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 19, 2017 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The train was traveling at 80 miles per hour in a 30 mile-per-hour track.

[05:59:26] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We felt a little bit of a jolt, and then we were catapulted into the seats in front of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our responders were climbing up and down this hill, trying to get to those victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The votes of Senator Mike Lee and Susan Collins essentially get this is across the finish line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a closed process done with no hearings.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This tax bill is unpopular. The overwhelming majority believe, clearly, the benefits do go to the wealthy.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president did not specifically call out Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It raises the question why he just has this incredible aversion to criticizing Putin publicly.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, December 19, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.

The Amtrak train that derailed in Washington state was traveling at 80 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone when it left the tracks. This is according to investigators. Three people were killed and more than 100 others injured. Amtrak's president confirmed the technology meant to automatically slow down the train was not activated.

As rescuers raced to the scene, President Trump fired up his Twitter account, politicizing the tragedy but promoting his plan for infrastructure improvements. Ten minutes later he followed up with a tweet expressing condolences to the victims.

CUOMO: All right. We could be just hours away from the president's first major legislative achievement. The Republican tax bill is expected to pass the House today before heading to the Senate. It could be on the president's desk by tomorrow.

A new CNN poll shows the plan is extremely unpopular with most Americans. And there's new reporting on a win the president likes to brag about, the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. According to "The Washington Post," President Trump considered rescinding the nomination because he feared Gorsuch wouldn't be loyal.

CNN has every angle covered. Let's start with Stephanie Elam, live from Dupont, Washington. That's the scene of the deadly train derailment -- Stephanie.


We have learned that the NTSB has been able to recover the data recorder from the back of the train and has learned more about what may have caused this derailment. Yet to still happen, though, an interview of the engineer.


BELLA DINH-ZARR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD SPOKESPERSON: Preliminary indications are that the train was traveling at 80 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour track.

ELAM (voice-over): Investigators announcing that this mangled Amtrak train was traveling almost three times above the speed limit before jumping the tracks and hurdling over an overpass.

ANTHONY RAIMONDI, TRAIN PASSENGER: Things just started to tip over. And as it was going around and then, all of a sudden, just ended up on its side, and everything went dark.

ELAM: The train, which was making its first run from Seattle to Portland after a multi-million dollar track upgrade, was not yet using safety technology designed to automatically stop a train from speeding when the deadly derailment controlled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amtrak 501. Emergency, emergency, emergency. We are on the ground. We were coming around the corner to take the bridge over I-5 there right north of Nisqually and we went on the ground.

ELAM: Authorities say the target date to have the safety technology, the positive train control system, working is spring of next year. The mayor of a nearby town expressing separate concerns about the safety of the track earlier this month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come back when there is an accident and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money needed.

ELAM: The investigation unfolding amid terrifying accounts of the derailment.

SCOTT CLAGGETT, TRAIN PASSENGER: You start to see the roof kind of peel. It's like, is this ever going to stop?

ELAM: Army Lieutenant Robert McCoy was driving along the busy interstate when the train cars came trashing down.

LT. ROBERT MCCOY, I-5 DRIVER: There were individuals that had been ejected from the train onto the pavement.

I heard people in there asking for help and stuff. There were people were yelling. There's people looking for each other, looking for loved ones.

ELAM: McCoy taking these photos from inside the train as he pulled passengers to safety.

President Trump talking politics before sending his condolences to survivors, tweeting shortly after the crash that the derailment, quote, "shows more than ever why our soon-to-be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly."


ELAM: And what we know now is that three people lost their lives in this accident, 72 people were taken to hospitals, including ten in serious condition.

What really is shocking here, though, Chris, if you take a look, how that train fell on Interstate 5. All of the losses of life were contained on the train and none were caused on the actual highway in those cars, which is actually quite amazing when you think about the fact that it was rush hour traffic at the time, Chris.

CUOMO: Stephanie, you make the right point. However, as you know and I know, because we've covered these situations before, this didn't have to happen. If that PTC were activated -- it all comes down to money. If it were up and running, that train would not have been going as fast as it was.

Stephanie, thank you very much for being there for CNN.

Joining us now is a passenger who survived the derailment, Anthony Raimondi. Anthony worked for Amtrak for 17 years.

Anthony, can you hear us?

RAIMONDI: I can hear you.

CUOMO: All right, good. Thank you for joining us. Thank God you're OK. Were you with anybody on the train? Is everybody OK that you were with?

RAIMONDI: Actually, I was alone on the train.

[06:05:02] CUOMO: All right. So what can you tell us about what you remember?

RAIMONDI: What I remember is that we were -- started to -- the ride started to get a little rough. We started to lean. And then all of a sudden, everything went dark, and stuff started flying around inside the car.

CUOMO: You worked for Amtrak for -- you worked for Amtrak for 17 years.

RAIMONDI: That's correct.

Cuomo: It was your job spending time on trains or were you in the office? I'm asking you just in terms of what kind of knowledge you have of what feels right and wrong when you're on the train.

RAIMONDI: I was a ticket agent in St. Paul, Minnesota, but I've ridden many trains, both commuter and long-distance trains.

CUOMO: All right. Did you get a sense that the train was traveling at a high rate of speed?

RAIMONDI: To me, it was traveling at a normal rate of speed. That was my -- that was my take on it. It was traveling at a normal rate of speed. The first -- this was the first time I was over this line. So I wasn't familiar with the curves or anything like that. But it was traveling at the normal rate of speed.

CUOMO: And we know that this was a new route that they were doing with the train. What does it mean to you that it was going 80 miles an hour in a 30 track zone?

RAIMONDI: Well, that's -- that's probably not good. That's probably why it went off on the side over there. That's, you know -- that's quite a difference in speed, that's for sure, based on what the speed limit is.

CUOMO: And, Anthony, what do you remember about the actual derailment? What was it like where you were?

RAIMONDI: I was in business class, right behind the locomotive and the power car. And as I said, all of a sudden it started to come off track, and the car started to lean. And then everything went dark and stuff started flying around. Picked ourselves up and shook ourselves off and then one of the passengers pushed out the window.

I helped the passenger get off of the train. He helped me get off of the train, climbing through the window and then we helped another passenger off. And then we went through the back of the -- one of the cars was jackknifed. And went underneath the car and got clear of the scene.

CUOMO: When you look at the pictures of the damage and how close it was to the highway and how many people were injured, what do you think?

RAIMONDI: I'm just really surprised that more people weren't -- weren't killed in that thing, especially falling down on the highway. And I also would like to express my condolences to the families that lost their loved ones on that train. I feel very bad about that.

But, yes, just surprised me there wasn't more, considering the cars hanging over the edge and that kind of stuff.

CUOMO: Did you see people who were injured when you were getting out?

RAIMONDI: After I got out, I seen people come out of the train. One person had a cut over his left eyebrow. And I recall another person, his head was all kind of bloody. And another person was just kind of very stressed and was kind of hysterical and said she couldn't move very well. That's what I remember.

CUOMO: It's amazing when I look at the pictures of what happened there how many people walked away. And thank God you're one of them. Anthony, a tough thing to have happen this close to the holidays, but you're in much better shape than a lot of other people who were on that train. So the best to you and your family. Thank you for letting us know what it was like to be on this Amtrak train.

RAIMONDI: Well, thank you. I feel very, very lucky, that I came out with just a bruise here and there and a bump here and there. I just feel very lucky, actually.

CUOMO: You are. The best to you and your family for Christmas. Thank you for being with us this morning.

RAIMONDI: And the best to you and your family also this holiday season. Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you. Alisyn.


This just in. A new CNN poll shows a growing number of Americans oppose the Republicans' tax reform bill as the House is set to vote on it today. The poll also shows President Trump's approval numbers at an all-time low.

CNN political director David Chalian is live in Washington, breaking down the poll numbers for us.

Hi, David.


That's right. The tax bill that you said, you noted that the House is going to vote today on it. Well, 33 percent of the public, if they were to take a look at the opposition, 55 percent, a majority of Americans, are now opposed, according to a brand-new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. And compare that to the November opposition number, when 45 percent were opposed. That's a ten-point jump in just a month on this tax bill.

[06:10:14] And take a look at it broken down by party, Alisyn. Opposition is growing among all party groups. Among Republicans from 7 percent in November to 13 percent now. Independents, their opposition grew by 12 points to 53 percent. And Democrats' opposition jumped by 10 points, too.

I should note, Republicans in favor of the bill jumped even more. That grew by 12 points. So the favorability of the bill among Republicans did grow, as well. This issue that Democrats have been hounding that this favors the wealthy more than the middle class, despite the Republican talking points, it seems the American public is buying that argument, Alisyn.

It is 66 percent of Americans, nearly two-thirds say that the wealthy will benefit from this. Twenty-seven percent say that it will be the middle class. And you see the partisan divide there. Obviously, Republicans are more inclined to believe that it will, indeed, favor the middle class.

How does it impact President Trump's family is a question we asked the American people in this poll. Sixty-three percent of Americans say that the Trump family will be better off because of this tax plan. Only 5 percent say that the Trump family will be worse off.

And then, of course, as you noted, the big question, Donald Trump's approval number now sits at 35 percent in CNN polling. That is a numerical low for him in the entire tenure of his presidency throughout our polling all year long. Fifty-nine percent disapprove. And if you stack that up against all his modern predecessors at this point in their presidency, you see that Donald Trump is at the bottom there. All of his modern-day predecessors were at a much stronger point at this, the end of December of their first year in office than Donald Trump is.

CAMEROTA: David, very interesting to see it in context and to see all these numbers in context. Stick around, if you would, because we have more questions for you.

We want to also bring in associate editor of RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard.

A.B., great to see you. So why do you think opposition to this tax bill has grown so quickly since just last month?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, I think as the House bill was being sort of, you know, integrated with the Senate bill and a larger discussion was had about which provisions would remain and which ones were too valuable to eliminate and which ones would pay for what, you saw sort of a game of whack-a-mole where a deficit would pop up and they'd smack it down by taking something else out. And this was the kind of thing that was done, according -- again, I'm not a tax policy expert. I consult them. And people on both sides of this issue, who know the code, who know what it was like when it was done in 1986, say this was a sloppy process put together in the interest of speed and not really a holistic approach. And so as Americans have seen the debate, you know, continue over the

weeks leading up to this Christmas deadline, they're -- they're very concerned about how much it represents a boost to corporations with -- in regards to a steep cut that's permanent, versus cuts to middle- income families, which are pretty modest and expire in seven years.

CUOMO: So the bet here, David, for the Republicans, seems to be pretty clear. They're hoping that this early tax cut, for most of the people in the different income strata, is good enough and the potential that there is a boost to the economy that they can write off to this tax cut, and that's good enough. What happens in five, seven years, leave that to the future.

CHALIAN: I'll add one more piece to their bet, Chris. Which is they're betting that they're going to be rewarded by their voters next year for accomplishing a promise.

That was the other piece, the political piece of this that was inside the conversation both on the Senate side and the House side, inside the Republican conferences. Leadership was explaining to members day in and day out the imperative for them to be able to deliver a big- ticket item that they promised to their voters.

But you're right. I do think that is, no doubt, the benefit. And in fact, you hear Republicans now -- it's so interesting. Almost sounding like the Democrats did in 2010 with Obamacare, which is, well, you're going to feel -- you, the American people, you're going to feel this result once it's enacted. You're going to see it. You can't--

CUOMO: Well, the poll numbers aren't that different, by the way, as they were during the ACA. Now, you could argue tax cuts tend to be more popular than legislation of that kind -- entitlement, essentially, legislation -- but the poll numbers weren't that different back then, David.

CHALIAN: Yes, no. I mean, it was an uphill battle for Democrats. They passed what was an unpopular piece of legislation. As you know, it has grown more popular with time--

CUOMO: Right.

CHALIAN: -- as people have gotten used to it. And I think Republicans are hoping that this piece of legislation will also grow more popular with time if people feel a little bit more money in their pocket.

CAMEROTA: They're banking on it. I mean, they are -- that's exactly -- the Nancy Pelosi model of "We have to pass it to see what's in it," David, is what they're banking on.

And A.B., I think that the similarities are eerie. And, you know, of course, Republicans railed against that then, and now they're using the same thing, which is you're going to have to live it. You'll have to love it when you live it, basically. And so they're ignoring the poll numbers. Let me just show you what the timeline is for how fast-tracked this is. The House is expected to vote on it today. Then the Senate will take it up shortly after, whenever that happens. And the final Senate vote either later today or tomorrow, and it will be on President Trump's desk, they predict, by tomorrow.

STODDARD: Well, they said they were going to have a Christmas law. So that's what they're delivering on. It's been characterized by the president, as we know, as you know, a big Christmas present.

This is the exact process that Republicans criticized when Democrats passed a partisan bill that was unpopular. The polling on this tax bill is worse than the polling on Obamacare at the very same time in March of 2010. They passed it without Republicans. They lost the House in a huge wave election in 2010.

President Trump's numbers are worse than Obama's were at that time. The tax bill is more unpopular than Obamacare was at that time. And all the generic polling advantage that we see for Democrats in poll after poll, different ones, we're seeing wave numbers, which means between 8 percent and 15 percent advantage. This is really a grave concern for Republicans. They had to deliver, as David said, on this promise. Job done. Box checked. Doesn't mean it's going to get their majority reelected in November.

CUOMO: Right. I mean, A.B.'s right. I'm saying the poll numbers were similar. The process, though, was not similar. They did force it through on a party-line vote. No question about that. But it took, like, a year. STODDARD: There was a more comprehensive process.

CUOMO: There were all these hearings, and it was chewed up. It was also a much more sophisticated piece of legislation, that was essentially creating a new entitlement. Which some people will like that word, some people won't.

But the popularity point of the president is also a big point, A.B. Let's put that up. As David was referring to earlier, this is the lowest number we've seen for the president at a time, David, where this it supposedly his biggest signature achievement. So reconcile the two.

CHALIAN: Well, let's have him have a signing ceremony, and maybe he'll be able to reap some benefit of actually getting something done in the next round of polling. We'll see.

But what I think this number reflects, quite frankly, Chris, is a president who has seemed steadfastly opposed to trying to expand that number. He has made a commitment, and if you just look at his public pronouncements, the way this is somebody who has said he tends to really cultivate his base of support and nothing beyond that, this is somebody who has said "If I've got my 35, 36, 37 percent and they don't go anywhere, I'm going to be OK."

It is a different model than most presidents who seek majority support and try to craft policies to court majority support that we've seen in the past do. Donald Trump seems very committed to just keeping his most steadfast followers in the poll.

CAMEROTA: And A.B., one more time. I do think it's interesting to look at it in context to where every other president in recent memory was at this time in their tenure. And it's just -- it's striking.

First of all, it's striking to see that President Bush in 2001, obviously after 9/11 was at 86 percent of the country. I mean, the idea that 86 percent of the country would agree on anything, even--

CUOMO: Remember what went on in the country.

CAMEROTA: Yes, of course. Of course. But still. And now you see, you know, it going down through the years to President Trump, 35. What are your thoughts?

STODDARD: Well, I agree with David. I mean, the reason that President Trump is at that number is because he continues only to work kind of a divisive leadership that speaks only to his 35 percent. And that is -- he absolutely could have come in here and started working with Democrats, meeting with them, being magnanimous. And he really could have been much more popular than he is now.

He makes a real strong point of sort of doing the best he can to isolate himself from the 64 percent of the country and keep himself safe with 35. It's a numbers game, and it is not the way -- politics is the art of persuasion. And it is not the way to be a strong leader. But that's the choice he's made, and he's made it very clear.

CUOMO: That's an important point. Is that, you know, people will look at those bars and say, well, but every presidency is different. They're all situational. That's true, and Trump is set up for success. The economy is strong. We don't have anybody attacking us here at home in a major way that he hasn't handled. There's been no cataclysm. And yet his number is in the tank.

[06:20:06] CHALIAN: Remember, if you look at those bars with all those previous presidents, you're -- they're -- it's worth noting fortunes do turn around.

CUOMO: Sure.

CHALIAN: Clinton, Reagan, Obama, are all hovering above Trump there, obviously, with much stronger numbers. But they're still towards the bottom of the list. They were all re-elected in their four-year mark.

CAMEROTA: Great point.

CUOMO: He could get a big boost.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

CUOMO: That's the upside of a low number, low ratings. You're not doing great and you get a big boost, you look like a hero.

CAMEROTA: Tomorrow is a new day.

David Chalian, A.B. Stoddard, thank you very much.

CUOMO: All right. So mixed message from President Trump when it comes to his strategy for national security. The official White House position and what he said in this speech, not exactly squaring up. How? We'll show you next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump taking aim at Russia and China as he outlined a national security strategy that he says puts America first. The president blasted decisions made in previous administrations while promising to lead the U.S. in a new direction.

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with the latest. How did this go, Joe?


The president's speech did return to many of his campaign themes. In fact, it sounded very much like a campaign speech. The president did blast past leaders, past presidents for policies, foreign policies, specifically, that the president said did not put America first.

The president also did describe the United States in competition with countries like China and Russia that were seeking to revise or be rivals of the United States and revise the way other countries interact with them.

[06:25:19] Now one of the most interesting things about the president's speech is that it was based, generally, on a 55-page document, carefully crafted by administration officials, and that document included references to Russia's meddling and interference in the 2016 election. But when the president gave his speech, he left that part out. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), 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.


JOHNS: Now speaking of foreign policy, of course, the president today is expected to meet with the defense secretary. That's going to be off-camera. And we don't expect to see the president today in any public events.

However, the White House will certainly be watching the activity on Capitol Hill as the president's tax plan makes its way through the Congress.

Chris and Alisyn, back to you. CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Let's discuss this with CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger and CNN military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby. Gentlemen, thanks for being with us. The best to your families for the holy days.

David, help me. Alisyn was just trying to explain this to me. So the White House put out policy papers that included references to Russian interference and the impact and the implications.

CAMEROTA: Correct.

CUOMO: But the speech the president gave did not mention the same. How do you explain that disconnect?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Chris, it wouldn't be the first time that there's a disconnect between one of President Trump's speeches and then the underlying, you know, documents behind it.

He's allergic to discussing Russia as a -- as a player in the 2016 election. He believes that all of this was made up to delegitimize him. When you go into the document itself, it acknowledges that they used social media and attempted to go manipulate the voting system, but it doesn't do much to sort of connect these together.

And given the fact that this is the biggest thing that changed between the last national security strategy, issued under President Obama and today, you might expect an entire chapter of this security strategy to say dealing with information operations and new kinds of cyber threats and then a strategy going forward. That's not there.

CAMEROTA: Yes. In fact, the references even in the written policy paper documents, John, are scant. Here's one: "Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies."


CAMEROTA: That's not a loud condemnation, but then once again, it was omitted from his speech.

KIRBY: Yes, so I think David is right. If you're General McMaster trying to write this 55-page strategy and you know this is a hot point for the president, you're going to have to be very careful and maybe a little vague in how you write it in the strategy to get him to sign that cover letter. And I think that's probably what they did. I think they went about as far as this president was going to allow them to go.

And then on the speech, again, I agree with David. I mean, this is -- with the exception of the rise of China and North Korea, this is the biggest national security story of the year. It's the biggest national security issue of the year. And we have an election coming up in 2018.

So it is astounding to me that there wasn't a more fulsome discussion of this and that the president didn't at least address it yesterday. And he had a great segue. He talks about Russia right at the top, about them as a rival power. And rather than bring this up, which would have been the right place to do it, he praises them for the cooperation that we had, you know, disrupting a terror attack in St. Petersburg.

CUOMO: All right. So let's be honest. This -- this isn't a mystery. I was just trying to get the facts straight about the coordination. He doesn't talk, David, about Russian interference, because he thinks it's bad for him and delegitimizes his win, period. No matter what anybody tells him, he doesn't hear it any other way. Fine.

So then there's something else that happens in the speech yesterday. He makes a very interesting reference to something he seems to ignore on a regular basis. History. Let's play it.


TRUMP: A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad. A nation that is not prepared to win a war is a nation not capable of preventing a war. A nation that is not proud of its history cannot be confident in its future. And a nation that is not certain of its values cannot summon the will to defend them.


CUOMO: Now he's reading those words, David, but what's the irony in them, coming from this president?

SANGER: Well, there are several here. So look, the first two were fine.