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Amtrak Blames Fright Train Firm for Deadly Crash; Amtrak Train on Wrong Track Crashes into Freight Train; Tapper on Eagles' Win; Dems Push to Release Rebuttal; Bipartisan Bill to Protect Dreamers. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired February 5, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:59] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Amtrak is blaming a freight train operator for causing that deadly crash on Sunday after their passenger train was diverted onto a side track. The Amtrak train slammed into that parked freight train killing two people and injuring more than 100.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is live in Cayce, South Carolina, with the latest on the investigation.

What have they learned, Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, a switch on the track was lined and locked, as they say in the railroad industry, in the wrong position. That switch, locked with a padlock, diverted the Amtrak passenger train off the main track and onto a siding track, colliding it squarely with that parked freight train. Investigators want to know why. How could this fatal mistake have happened?

It's a question for CSX. CSX is the railroad company that owns and is therefore responsible for maintaining and operating this stretch of track, it's signals and its switches.

CSX has offered up a statement, sending its condolences to the families of the two victims of this crash and saying that they're investigating -- they're cooperating fully with the NTSB's investigation, but not alleging any wrongdoing.

What's particularly trouble to hear, though, now, is that this crash could have been prevented. Even though that switch was in the wrong position, the technology exists to alert the train's engineer that the switch is in the wrong position. It's called Positive Train Control. This system was initially supposed to be installed nationwide by 2015, but major railroad companies, like CSX, asked for an extension. They needed more time. Lawmakers gave it to them. Now determining whether PTC was installed at the site of the crash will be an important part of this federal investigation.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kaylee Hartung for us in South Carolina.

Kaylee, thanks so much.

Now that officials say they know what caused the collision, how do they stop it from happening again? We talk to the head of the NTSB, next.


[06:37:43] BERMAN: The head of the NTSB says the deadly collision Sunday between an Amtrak passenger train and a parked freight train in South Carolina was preventable.

Joining me now is NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for being with us.

This switch was lined (ph) and padlocked in the wrong position. Do you yet know why?


Learning why that switch was in the position it was in is exactly key to the investigation. And that's what we plan to find out.

BERMAN: You have forward facing cameras that have been retrieved at this point. What's the data showing from them?

SUMWALT: The cameras were taken back to Washington -- or the recordings were taken back to Washington yesterday. And they were looked at last night. We're hoping we'll be able to retrieve good data from that. But, at this point, we -- we don't have those data.

BERMAN: Have there been any concerns, complaints about this section of track as far as you know?

SUMWALT: None. None whatsoever.

BERMAN: Now, you have said that this crash was preventable. How would Positive Train Control have stopped this?

SUMWALT: Positive Train Control is designed to prevent four types of accidents. And this is exactly one of those four types of accidents that it is designed to prevent.

BERMAN: And how so? Right, it gets sensors, it gets data from ahead of where it is on the track and then automatically, without people onboard the train changing things, it would slow the train down. It might stop the train. Is that how it works?

SUMWALT: Yes, that's pretty much it. It knows where the train is, and it knows what the signals are showing, it knows what the switches are doing, the rail switches are doing. And if things are not like they should be, it will actually stop the train. BERMAN: And that was not operable now. Remind our viewers why Positive

Train Control is not operable on all passenger tracks around the country.

SUMWALT: Well, it's a great question. PTC has been something that the NTSB has been calling for, for many, many years. We've seen numerous accidents that could have been prevented by PTC. It was mandated after a fatal collision in Chatsworth, California, in 2008. The Congress said it had to be installed by the end of 2015. Then they offered an extension to the end of 2018. So the deadline is the end of this year. And we believe that the sooner it gets installed, the better, so that we won't be here, tragic accidents like we're looking at today.

[06:40:17] BERMAN: Not to put too fine of a point on it, Mr. Chairman, but the fact that this deadline was extended, has it cost lives?

SUMWALT: Well, you know, we have seen accidents since then that have -- that could have been prevented by PTC. But the reality is, frankly, is that the railroads were not able to get it all done by the 2015 deadline. So it really did need to be extended.

But I will say that for every day, for every day that goes without PTC, we run the risk of another accident like we had yesterday morning.

BERMAN: The people on the train, the conductor, the engineers, they will be interviewed as a matter of course here. Explain to us that process.

SUMWALT: Well, the -- of course the engineer and the conductor on the Amtrak train were fatally injured. The conductor and the engineer of the CSX train, they will be interviewed. And that's certainly a priority for us to get those interviews conducted.

BERMAN: Now, who controls this section of track? CSX does. Explain to me the relationship between CSX and Amtrak.

SUMWALT: Well, Amtrak operates over, of course, pretty much the entire United States. They don't own all of that track at all. So it's not uncommon for one railroad to operate across somebody else's railroad. That happens all the time. Freight trains do that. Passenger trains do that. So it just so happens that CSX is who owns this particular stretch of the track.

BERMAN: To have two deadly crashes really in less than seven days, it's difficult for people to look at this and say that the rail system in the United States is as it should be. What message do you want to send right now to train travelers?

SUMWALT: Well, I think that we've got to look at each individual accident and decide what's going to there. On Wednesday, it appears that somebody had a garbage truck on a railroad track and a train hit it. Today, we're looking at different circumstances down here in South Carolina. So I wouldn't want to draw any gross conclusions based on a couple of different accidents. But, generally speaking, our rail system works very well. But, unfortunately, we do have accidents like we've -- like we've seen here.

BERMAN: And one consistent message we've heard from you is you do want to see that positive train control in place as soon as humanly possible.

Robert Sumwalt, thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Chairman. Appreciate it.

SUMWALT: Thank you very much, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, there's controversy over a Super Bowl ad that used the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King to sell trucks. The backlash and what this is about, next.


[06:47:09] CAMEROTA: OK, we have some breaking news right now on the Super Bowl. We're joined on the phone by a mystery guest. This is our Super Bowl commentator who wants to call in to talk to John Berman.

Hi, caller, do we have you?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD" (via telephone): I'm here. Can you hear me?

CAMEROTA: Yes. Your voice sounds familiar. Do you possibly do a 4:00 p.m. show here on CNN?

TAPPER: That's correct. I'm Jake Tapper, host of "The Lead," yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Jake Tapper's joining us right now.

BERMAN: Jake Tapper, it's John Berman. Congratulations. It was an incredible game. And I can't believe you were there. And I can't believe how good your team was, to be completely honest. And I can't believe how bad I feel this morning.

TAPPER: Well, you're gracious -- you're in your loss, Johnathan. I appreciate it. It was an -- it was an incredible game. Brady kept it alive, and Gronkowski, the entire game. I mean nobody --- 14 second left and everyone was still in their seats -- or out of their seats, rather, at the stadium. It was -- it was incredible.

But I just have to say, we won and you lost. That's -- you know, I just wanted to make that -- I just wanted to call in and make sure that you -- in case you missed it, that Philadelphia won and --

CAMEROTA: That is the lead. I think that really is the true lead.

BERMAN: Yes. You know, just so you know, that was previously sourced. I actually knew that already in coming -- coming into the broadcast today.

But you were convinced -- let's -- be honest, you were convinced, with two minutes and 15 seconds that the Eagles were going to lose. You had given up hope completely.


BERMAN: You had left the stadium. You were cowering in a corner by the end.

TAPPER: Now, it's interesting, that's not what the case was. I was confident in the victory. I will say that, you know, Tom Brady, in his prime, would have taken that ball all the way to end zone. But old man Brady, I don't know.


TAPPER: I saw something else. There was a -- some sort of attempt at a (INAUDIBLE). I'm not really sure. John, maybe you need to do some catch, you know, a little -- a little game of catch. I know you're doing it with your boys. Maybe you can -- maybe you can bring Tom in also (ph).

BERMAN: Yes. That was a fumble. It was a play with a sack and a fumble. Old man Brady, as you say, threw for 500 yards. He had a great game. And I know that you are gracious in your victory. It's just the fact that you haven't slept that's sort of tainting your view --

TAPPER: No, the truth is -- the truth is --

BERMAN: And handicapping your ability.

TAPPER: The truth is that New England is an incredible feat. And only because it was Brady there that it was even -- you know, that everybody was like wondering if the Patriots were going to come back. So, yes, absolutely, New England was doing what is really good. But Philadelphia, at the end of the day, ground it out and, you know, they just outworked New England.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we --

TAPPER: So I will -- I will -- I will -- I'm being encouraged by our friends to give you -- to give you guff, Jonathan, and I'm --

CAMEROTA: That's -- that is true. But also, Jake, I want to give you a little guff. There's a lot of pictures of you in various outfits on Twitter. So after -- I see your green sweater in all of your glory, we're (ph) splendid, and then I see you in this -- in your I guess full on football uniform that we're going to put up again, which looks really fun, and it sort of makes you look a little bit like your four- year-old self.

[06:50:15] TAPPER: That was -- that's not a full uniform. That's a weird display they had at one of the pregame parties, (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: I know, but I liked the idea of you going to the game in a full football uniform.

BERMAN: Sometimes I does wear the pants. Just the pants. It has nothing to do with the game. Sometimes he just likes to wear the tight pants.

CAMEROTA: On his show, is he just wearing those pants on the show under that desk?

BERMAN: He wears the football pants, the tight pants.

Jake --

TAPPER: I normally -- that's normally what I wear to the office, I put on a suit to go on air, and then I put -- and then I suit back up.

BERMAN: On a scale of one to ten, Jacob, how happy are you this morning?

TAPPER: Look, I mean, here's the thing. And this is -- I sat next to a Patriots dad and his son yesterday, which definitely made me a much better and nicer fan. But you guys are used to it, right? You've have five of them already. We've, you know, never won a (INAUDIBLE) since they changed (INAUDIBLE) Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles have never won a -- I mean I -- it's never happened. Well, I remember when they went to the game when I was 11 and I remember when they went to game (ph) when I was 25.


TAPPER: So, I mean this --

CAMEROTA: Share the wealth.

TAPPER: It's the temptation that I'm not used to.

CAMEROTA: Yes, share the wealth.

TAPPER: I am thrilled for my friend Jake Tapper. I genuinely am, despite the fact that he could be -- well, he was being nice this morning. As nice as he could be this morning. It's been an incredible night for him. My hat goes off to you, Jake, and all -- all the people in Philadelphia, enjoy it.

CAMEROTA: Jake, thank you. Great to talk to you.

TAPPER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you so much for calling in. See you today.

BERMAN: What a jerk. What a freaking jerk.

CAMEROTA: How dare he. What was that?

BERMAN: How dare he call into the show like that.


BERMAN: Sorry.

Congress has one month to pass a bill to protect dreamers. One congressman thinks his bipartisan plan is the ideal solution. He tells us all about it, next.


CAMEROTA: Democrats are trying to persuade the House Intelligence Committee to release their rebuttal to that controversial GOP memo that alleges surveillance abuse at the FBI and Justice Department.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar of California. He is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Good morning, congressman.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning. Thanks for having me, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So let's start with that rebuttal. Do you -- are you in favor of the Democrats releasing their rebuttal?

AGUILAR: Well, absolutely. And congressional Republicans should be too. They've been talking all weekend about transparency. Let's put all of these memos out there and let the American people decide and weigh in.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the upshot of the Republican memo, OK? So one of the things that they claim is that the FISA court was never told that the Russian dossier was funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. If that is true, would that, to your mind, taint the whole FISA court process?

[06:55:18] AGUILAR: Well, I don't think that to be true. But, you know, let's talk about exactly why we got here. I mean, you know, the FBI has called this extremely reckless, the release of this memo, and yet my colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue to talk and to step all over themselves this weekend on the morning shows. It's been ridiculous. This is a failed partisan attempt to discredit the FBI because the FBI is investigating the president and his associates.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but how can their release be extremely reckless, but you want the Democratic rebuttal released? I mean they -- isn't that the same thing? Wouldn't that be extremely reckless as well?

AGUILAR: Well, I think, you know, clearly it's been said that the context of the -- of the memo, the partisan Republican memo, doesn't capture everything. So clearly let's put the other memo out. Let's get better context by which decisions were made, and then let the American public decide. But clearly, you know, we'll take the lead from the intelligence committee, unlike -- unlike my colleagues on the other side. If they indicate that they don't want this released, then we'll reevaluate.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that as President Trump said, this vindicates him?

AGUILAR: No, clearly not. And I think you heard even some House Republicans this weekend say that that's not the case. That might be wishful thinking by the president, but I don't believe that to be true.

CAMEROTA: Speaking of House Republicans, what did you think when you heard Trey Gowdy say that that wasn't the case? I mean Trey Gowdy has been involved in this, he's been involved in crafting that memo. Why did he go on TV and say that this basically -- it doesn't vindicate the president because there are all sorts of other threads that existed outside of this?

AGUILAR: Well, I can't -- I can't speak for Trey. But, you know, clearly, he announced he's not going to be coming back to Congress. I hope that he can continue to talk exactly about his respect for the intelligence community, as he mentioned, and the men and women at the Department of Justice and he pushes the House Republicans to do the right things in this regard.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's talk about the issue that is near and dear to your heart, that is immigration. Obviously we know that Congress has been trying to work on this. You have a bipartisan bill that you are trying to get passed with Will Hurd. So where are you with any sort of bipartisan fix for the dreamers and beyond?

AGUILAR: Well, later today, Senator Coons -- "The Wall Street Journal's" reporting that Senator Coons and Senator McCain are going to introduce very similar language to our bipartisan bill that we put out in the House. We introduced the bill with 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans. The fact that this is going to be bipartisan and bicameral I think is an important thing. This is a DACA fix with sensible common sense border security. That's where we need to start. Those are the things that Democrats and Republicans can agree on. So let's start there and let's leave some of the other, more controversial topics to comprehensive immigration reform later.

CAMEROTA: But let's talk about the details in yours --


CAMEROTA: But there were some sticking points, as you know.

So, does this -- does your bill cover 1.8 million dreamers, as the White House has said that they want, and does it give the funding for the president's border wall?

AGUILAR: So the Congressional Budget Office scored ours previous -- previous language as 2 million. So 1.8 to 2 million. You know, we're both in the same ballpark between the White House proposal and our proposal.

Your second point, this is not an appropriations bill. So what we try to do is to set the policy framework to have smart, technology-based border security measures. But as the budget process goes forward, the appropriators in the House and Senate will likely add Homeland Security funding to this. And that is just always part of our process. But to add money to the bill at this point doesn't make a lot of sense when we have the budget, that is also being discussed. So that's the more appropriate vehicle to add sensible measures from the financial side. CAMEROTA: Congressman, as I'm sure you've heard, the president says

that we shouldn't refer to those 2 million people, 1.8 million, as dreamers. He said there are dreamers who were born here. That's who should be called dreamers. And that they should be called DACA people. What's your response?

AGUILAR: Well, I'm not -- you can file that under one of the places the president and I disagree. These are -- these are young men and women who are American in every way, shape or form except for a single piece of paper. They live in your neighborhoods, go to our schools, you know, teach our kids in many cases. So we need to do everything we can.

And the clock is ticking. You know, this is an incredibly urgent situation. So as we lead up into March, we need to make sure we offer the stability and certainty that these young people need because they represent what I would view as the American dream.

[07:00:14] CAMEROTA: Congressman Pete Aguilar,