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Trump Attacks Political Opponents; Trump Backs off Raising Age; New York City Helicopter Crash; Former Ambassador on Quitting. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 12, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:31:22] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we have a very big election tomorrow, a special election in Pennsylvania. Why does it matter? Well, the president won this district, the 18th, in Pennsylvania by a lot, by like 20 plus points. It has a lot of Democratic registration, but it's been going more and more Republican. So it's a good metaphor of the shift of the working man and woman in this country. And if this race is as close as they say it is, what does that mean about what the president's relatives strength is? And the White House just came out with its own set of recommendations to how to make our schools safer.

So, let's discuss all of this with Republican congressman from Virginia, Scott Taylor, former Navy SEAL and Iraq War veteran.

Always a pleasure to see you.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Good morning, Chris. How are you?

CUOMO: I'm doing well.

Now, it's not your brand of politics. You know, you do not speak the way the president speaks. I understand that. You're not here to own his words. But I want to get your take on the vibe at this rally on Saturday and what the president was pushing as your party's position on what should matter. Let me just play you some of it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm on "Meet the Press," a show now headed by sleepy eyes Chuck Todd. He's a sleeping son of a bitch, I'll tell you.

Arnold Schwarzenegger failed when he did "The Apprentice" and he's a movie star. Martha Stewart failed when she did "The Apprentice," and I just kept chugging along every year. It was a big hit.

Maxine Waters, a very low I.Q. individual.


CUOMO: Can you imagine if you were Rick Saccone in that situation. You're just waiting for him to say something good about you and he just goes off on this (INAUDIBLE) about his enemies. Now, the crowd loved it. The crowd loved it, congressman, by all indications. Is that the right measure?

TAYLOR: Well, as you stated early on, it's not -- it's not my style for sure. And you also -- the lead in, when you were talking about the actual election itself and, listen, the president has a pretty big coalition up there, right? As you said, he won it -- he won that district overwhelmingly. Mr. Saccone (ph) doesn't have the same exact coalition and the people underestimate the actual candidate itself or himself -- him or herself. So I think, you know, the president was just trying to energize his coalition that he put together to win that district to help, of course, get the GOP member over the edge tomorrow.

Obviously stylistically it's not my style. But, as you said, the crowd and that coalition that he put together to win that district, they like him.

CUOMO: Yes, I mean, look, it is an interesting case study and does Saccone win because of this or despite it. You know, if your race were up in Virginia and the president says, I want to come down there, I'm going to say exactly what I did with Saccone, how would you feel about that?

TAYLOR: Well, I don't think you can control what the president says. But if the president wants to come down to Virginia (INAUDIBLE), I'm happy to have him here.

CUOMO: All right, I'll take that. Why wouldn't you want the head of your party there during an election year?

So in terms of what it means tomorrow, in your mind, what does it mean if the Democrat Conor Lamb beats Rick Saccone in a place that the president won by 20 plus?

TAYLOR: Well, again, I don't think they're directly -- I mean they're obviously related, but I don't think they're directly related because, again, you know, you -- people underestimate the actual candidate, who is the product in their respective districts. So, you know, the president has this coalition of blue dog Democrats. I've seen the ads. I don't know about the actual district makeup or anything like that, but I've seen the ads of the Democrat candidate who is positioning himself as a blue dog Democrat. So if that district has a lot of blue dog Democrats, you can believe, of course, logically that some of them would gravitate toward him.

That being said, I still think that Mr. Saccone wins tomorrow but you can't -- you can't say his coalition is the same as the president's because it's just not.

CUOMO: You think Saccone's going to win?


CUOMO: You think it's going to be tight?

[08:35:00] TAYLOR: I think it'll be tight, sure, but I think he'll win.

CUOMO: Why do you think it's tight?

TAYLOR: And, again, that's just based on the things that I've read, that I've seen.


TAYLOR: I've seen the ads. I mean I don't know the exact district. I don't --

CUOMO: I hear you.

TAYLOR: I don't -- I'm not sure I know anybody in the district.

CUOMO: I hear you.

TAYLOR: But, you know, look, it's had a lot of tension. And as I said, I mean, you know, I think that the -- the Democrat candidate, I've seen some of his ads and he's positioned himself well as a blue dog Democratic conservative, you know, pro-Second Amendment fiscal conservative.

So, yes, I mean I -- he -- he's part of the reason why it's tighter. There's no question about that. Again, people underestimate the actual candidates in the respective districts.

CUOMO: All right, so let's talk a little bit about policy. We saw, of course, another horrible tragedy, a veteran who had been pushed out of a PTSD program for different reasons, comes back with a weapon, kills three of the workers there, one of them may have been pregnant. A horrible thing. He takes his own life as well. And it just speaks to an obvious need to address it.

Are you happy with the list of reform ideas that came out of the White House, probably would not have stopped what happened with this veteran, probably would not have stopped what happened in Florida. Do you think we're doing enough?

TAYLOR: You know, as you know, I joined with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard after the shooting in Texas that had the underreporting -- thousands of underreported folks who were actually convicted in military criminal courts --

CUOMO: Right.

TAYLOR: That need to be, obviously, sent to the FBI data list. Same thing. I mean we have to have more robust background checks. There's no question about it.

And, listen, I think -- as a military guy and someone who knows people with PTSD and things like that, I think that -- that we should have -- we should have stronger background checks to make sure that people that should not have guns shouldn't have them or do not get them, excuse me.

CUOMO: Right.

TAYLOR: So I think that needs to be looked at for sure as a matter of policy. As you said, it wouldn't prevent it. It would not have prevented what's being discussed with school safety.

CUOMO: Right. I mean, look, the problem even with raising the age on weapons is that if you're just looking at school shootings in particular, you really only have a couple of shooters out of the last dozen or so that would have fallen in that category, most of them wind up being a little bit older than 21. Where are you in terms of looking at age the way they did with handguns for other weapons, let's say of this AR type, of the Armalite type of rifle?

TAYLOR: So let me -- let me preface this by saying -- and I think we should have a reasonable conversation and people should understand that there are millions and millions of people, like myself -- and we -- you and I talked about universal background checks and we don't believe that they're effective because you don't have universal registration and that leads to confiscation. You have current day politicians calling for that. You know one very well. And then -- and historically you've seen that too.

I think we should have a robust conversation. I think that when you're talking about the age, when you're talking about the 21 where you can't get a handgun until you're 21, should that apply to folks for -- that have -- have guns that have magazine -- you know, multiple magazines or, excuse me, where you can take magazines out, semi- automatic rifles, not hunting rifles. I think that should be on the conversation to be discussed. There's no question about it.

And, you know, the president, he -- he -- I understand that he's backed off a little bit of that right now, but I still think it should still be on the table.

CUOMO: Oh, it should be, it just should be you guys talking about it. Who needs a commission to talk about this? That's not going to get anything done. It's not going to make Scott Taylor take a position or not take a position because it's recommended by a commission. You guys should debate it and let everybody else judge you.

TAYLOR: That's right. That's right, Chris. I'm happy -- I'm happy to have that debate. I think it is important that we do have that debate. Again, some people just go to sort of their respective sides and just, you know, attack the other ones. I don't think that's helpful. I don't think that you do that in your home. We shouldn't do it in Congress either. We should sit down and actually talk about it and discuss it and see where -- where we can move the needle in terms for school safety, for increased background checks and, yes, discussing that age.

CUOMO: Well, let us know if you push that effort, because I'll tell you what, they talk about what we cover and what we don't. You get a discussion on the floor about these issues, it will be covered in full, I promise you that.

So, thank you for coming on the show to make the case, as always. Always a pleasure to have you on congressman. Be well. TAYLOR: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, we're just getting some details into our newsroom about this deadly helicopter crash here in New York. The pilot survived, but his five passengers did not. And now that pilot is talking to investigators about just what happened. So we have a live report from the scene, next.


[08:43:04] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: And we do have some breaking news now in that helicopter crash that killed five people here in New York City.

A senior law enforcement official is telling CNN that the pilot is telling investigators one of the passengers' bags may have inadvertently hit the emergency fuel shutoff causing the crash.

CNN's Dave Briggs is live at the crash site with more.

What are you hearing, Dave?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": That's what we're hearing from investigators. Yes, Richard Vance (ph), the lone survivor of this crash. He was the pilot. That's what he told investigators.

But, of course, 14 members of the NTSB are on their way here to the shores of the East River to try and determine what brought down this Liberty helicopter shortly after 7:00 Eastern Time killing all five passengers on board.


PILOT: Mayday, mayday, mayday.


BRIGGS (voice over): The desperate pilot of this helicopter sending a frantic mayday call after losing altitude above New York's East River.

PILOT: East River. Engine failure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a little broken up. Say it one more time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had an engine failure over the East River.

BRIGGS: Amateur video capturing the helicopter plunging into the freezing river, then quickly tipping over and taking on water.

DANIEL NIGRO, FDNY COMMISSIONER: There were six people on the helicopter. The pilot freed himself. The other five did not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was waving his head -- his hand and he was waiving like -- he was like asking for help.

BRIGGS: Tug boats rapidly arriving on the scene. Emergency responders working desperately to rescue the trapped passengers.

NIGRO: The five people besides the pilot were all tightly harnessed. So these harnesses had to be cut and removed in order to get these folks off of this helicopter, which was upside-down at the time and completely submerged.

BRIGGS: Two passengers were pronounced dead at the scene. The other three rushed to the hospital where they later died.

The helicopter was chartered by New Jersey based Liberty Helicopters for (ph) a photography tour. This is the company's third crash in 11 years.


[08:45:04] BRIGGS: The deadliest of those three crashes, 2009 when a pilot and five Italian passengers were killed in the Hudson River after colliding with an airplane. Put calls in to Liberty Helicopters. No public comment just yet. But these waters, guy, below 40 degrees, a four-mile-per-hour current, making the rescue and recovery mission just about impossible.

But, again, the latest news from here on the scene, the pilot, Richard Vance, telling investigators a passenger's bag may have inadvertently hit the emergency fuel shutoff causing the crash.

Back to you.

CUOMO: All right, Dave, it's good for you to be there. Thank you very much. Let us know what else we can report for the show.

BRIGGS: You bet.

CUOMO: We're following more breaking news.

At least 49 people now killed in Nepal after a passenger plane crashed while landing at the Kathmandu Airport. Seventy-one passengers and crew were on board. The U.S. Bangla (ph) Airlines plane is what we're looking at here. That's what you see on your screen right now. It is hard to believe that people walked away from that.

We do know that 22 people were taken to local hospitals for treatment. That would be amazing if you had that number of survivors on what you're looking at in terms of wreckage. According to the airport manager, the plane approached the runway from the wrong direction. A government official says hundreds of Army troops have been dispatched to help the recovery effort.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Incredible pictures there.

OK, so there's a U.S. ambassador who has just quit the Trump administration and he's telling the world why he left and he's not holding back. So we will hear from him in his own words, live, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:50:40] CAMEROTA: On his final day as U.S. ambassador to Panama, John Feeley wrote a scathing op-ed in "The Washington Post" titled "Why I Could No Longer Serve this President." He writes, I resigned because the traditional core values of the United States as manifested in the president's national security strategy and his foreign policies have been warped and betrayed.

Ambassador John Feeley joins us now.

Good morning., Mr. Ambassador.


CAMEROTA: Was there a particular breaking point for you?

FEELEY: There was. I was very concerned throughout much of last year that the rhetoric and the policies coming out of the White House were in sharp dissidents to what I had practiced in Latin America for a long time.

But, quite frankly, it wasn't anything that had to do with Latin America. It had to do with our own values in the United States. The Charlottesville riots in last August, when those occurred, that was something that shook me deeply. We had overcome in the United States significant structural racism. And when the president failed to condemn outright and fully those organizers and the people carrying the tiki torches, I knew that I would not be able to continue serving as his personal representative.

CAMEROTA: And why didn't you quit in August?

FEELEY: Well, you know, the fact is, you can get up and walk away and if you do that you leave behind a rudderless ship. I, like many career foreign service officers, have spent close to 30 years coming up through the rank and running an embassy is a lot like being a CEO or being the president of a small company. And if you just get up and walk away, you leave a lot of people in the breech.

I felt that I had a very strong responsibility to do an orderly transition to ensure that the policies with Panama, my bilateral portfolio, would continue and so that takes some time. It took about three or four months. And in the end of December, right around the holidays, I felt that I had done everything I needed to, to be able to effect a smooth transition and that's when I did it.

CAMEROTA: And what about the president's policies on immigration and how those struck you? I ask because another portion of your op-ed, you discuss that. So let me read it for everyone. You say, as the grandson of migrant stock from New York City, and Eagle Scout, a Marine Corps veteran, and someone who has spent his diplomatic career in Latin America, I am convinced that the president's policies regarding migration are not only foolish and delusional, but also anti-American, such as? FEELEY: They are anti-American in the sense that immigration has

always been the wellspring of our nation. I am convinced, like many Americans, that the United States is not just a geographic space on the global map. The United States is more about attitude. It's more about what you bring to your citizenship or your participation in the United States or, in the case of many migrants, your desire for citizenship. And no one is arguing, I certainly wouldn't argue, that every migrant is that paradigm up by your boot straps and pull yourself ahead through hard work. There are plenty of Americans, native-born, who fall into a criminal path and there are migrants as well.

But as I said in the article, we know from statistics, from the Justice Department, that they represent a significant minority. And so, therefore, I found that it was, and it continues to be, anti- American to demonize migrants as the scapegoats for people who are legitimately aggrieved because a globalized economy may have passed them by in their factory town.

CAMEROTA: And so were there moments -- I mean thinking like the travel ban, or the end of the diversity lottery or the chain family migration or the building of the wall or the talk about the wall, I should say, that you considered quitting over?

FEELEY: I wish I weren't here today talking about this, Alisyn. I love my career. I felt like I was born to do what I did. So it was very, very difficult. And those of us who have spent a lot of time in Latin America and who believe that the linkages and the connections to Latin America are enormously important for our economy, for our very demography.

[08:55:09] Those of us who feel that strongly about it wanted to hang on. I wanted to hang on. But I got to a point, as I said, when the president failed to condemn the neo-Nazi and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, where I just couldn't continue to say, I think the president's words speak for themselves. That's not being his personal representative. That's not being his ambassador. And I felt that I was honor bound to resign.

CAMEROTA: Do you think you're a lone voice or do you have colleagues who feel the way you do and do you think they'll be other exits?

FEELEY: Well, there already have been a number of exits. You know, I never intended for my exit to be public. I'm hear speaking with you because the administration leaked my resignation letter to the president, which was a private letter which was given to the White House back in December. It was upon the leaking of that letter that I realize I had to step up.

CAMEROTA: Well, we appreciate your candor. So, thank you for sharing your motivation with us this morning. Best of luck, Ambassador John Feeley.

FEELEY: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: OK, CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman will pick up after this very quick break.


[09:00:07] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. John Berman here.

At least the president has released his blueprint for dealing with school shootings.