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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Plane Lands at Wrong, Short Runway; 300 West Virginians Still Without Water after Chemical Leak; Bill Gates Speaks About Memoir; Presidential Powers Fight Goes to Supreme Court.

Aired January 13, 2014 - 11:30   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The FAA and the NTSB are now investigating this incident. That plane, by the way, we are told is supposed to be taking off from the airport where it is sitting right now in the next few hours, in fact.

With all that in mind, I'm joined by Peter Gould, a former NTSB managing director.

I heard an aviation official say, on this network, this isn't that infrequent. In fact, it happens, planes landing at the wrong runways and airports in Florida, fairly regularly. For me, as a passenger and all of our viewing audience who probably have flown, if not sometimes a lot, how does that happen?

PETER GOULD, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: That's the $64 question, isn't it? Investigators will do two things right away. First, they will want to interview the flight crew and see what their remembrances are and then listen to the cockpit voice recorder and listen to precisely what was going on in the cockpit and how they landed at this runway that was half as long as the Branson Commercial Airport. This really was a potentially disastrous situation. They thought they were on a longer runway. They suddenly figured out that they had much shorter to stop. They stood on the brakes. Most importantly, there were no fire and rescue personnel at that airport. Had they gone off the runway, it would have been a while before fire and rescue got there.

BANFIELD: There was an embankment and a freeway down below. This could have been catastrophic. I got here to the studio in Los Angeles, which is not my normal place to go to work, using a GPS. I'm a peon. I don't understand how us, regular folk, can get where we need to go within a few feet and an aircraft is seven miles off its mark.

GOULD: This is a 737-700, what they call a next-generation plane. It has the latest in navigational aids and in flight management aids. The pilots were likely making what they call a visual flight approach. They were likely in contact with the tower at Branson. And the question is, how did not only one of them miss it? How did both of them miss it? What it's called in the trade is a lack of a situational awareness. Why weren't these pilots paying attention? And then, secondly, it is what they call cockpit resource management. How come the non-flying pilot didn't point out that this was not lining up precisely the way the Branson Airport should have lined up? BANFIELD: Lack of situational awareness. I want that one as an excuse of not getting to work on time.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: It is awesome. I don't know how they are going to take off if the runway is so short. We are going to watch this live. Peter, very quickly, 10 seconds.

GOULD: The runway length is 3500, 3700 feet. The 737 will take off with plenty of room.

BANFIELD: We will watch it live.

Peter Gould, always good to see you. Thank you.

GOULD: Thank you.

BANFIELD: More than 300 people are still without drinking water or even bathing water out of the tap in Charleston, West Virginia. The reason is that dangerous chemical leak that you have been hearing about from the storage facility, which is now raising a lot of questions about the sites and how we watch them. More on that in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: How would you like to go four days without a shower or tap water? That is the situation, but finally there is a light at the end of the tunnel in West Virginia's water crisis. Because today, officials are going to start to issue zones, zones where people can start to use the tap water? That ban after Thursday's chemical spill will be lifted zone by zone to avoid overwhelming the entire water system. But what is sure to be overwhelming is the investigation into why all of this happened in the first place. That could take weeks. Then, there are the questions about tightening the regulations down the road.

Our Alexandra Field is live in Charleston, West Virginia.

What's the latest for these people?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are waiting for this water to come back on. At the same time they are waiting for water to run from the faucets, they are asking how and why this happened. And what kind of oversight was in place? The last time The Department of Environmental Inspection inspected that plant was back in 1991. That's when it had a different owner. It was doing something else entirely. The DEP says because this was now being used as a chemical storage facility, not a chemical manufacturing facility, it didn't need water pollution permits or air permits. All it need was a storm water permit. Inspectors hadn't been out there.

The other issue is the type of chemical stored out there. We're told by environmental officials it was not listed as extremely hazardous or toxic, so it wasn't subject to the same kind of regulatory procedures as some other dangerous materials.

Of course, the question now presents itself, why, when we know it contaminated the water and at least 300,000 people can't use their water. So we asked the governor what is the next step. He said his focus is restoring the water to the people. Then, he wants to find out what was going on at that plant and if greater oversight is necessary.

Here is what he told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FIELD: A county emergency official has described the tank as an antique. Would you agree with that?

EARL RAY TOMBLIN, (D), WEST VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I have not seen the tank, firstly. Obviously, it had a problem if the liquids were leaking.

FIELD: Will you be calling for closer, tighter, stronger restrictions on this --

(CROSSTALK)

TOMBLIN: Absolutely. We will be making sure this doesn't happen again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: I'm sorry. I was going to say, quickly, I'm no chemical engineer and --

FIELD: No, no, go ahead.

BANFIELD: -- I'm no mechanical engineer, but I know one thing, and that is, if you have chemicals in tanks, there should be no cracks or holes in those tanks. Where am I wrong?

FIELD: I think we would all agree with that. A lot of people are asking questions, why wasn't it classified as something more serious or dangerous? That's a good question. You don't want any chemical in your water. What we know is that the hole started in the bottom of this tank, an above-ground tank. The hole was in the underground portion of the tank. It seeped into the soil. The material rose and it breached the containment wall around the tank then sending it into the water. So many people are scratching their heads and thinking, why wasn't this problem caught earlier. It's a good question for lawmakers -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Yeah. Good scratch-your-head question and good legal question, too, for some of the civil suits that may end up flying about.

Alexandra Field, thank you, live with us from Charleston. Former Defense Secretary Bill Gates is pulling no punches in his new tell-all memoir, criticizing President Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan. And now, Former Secretary Gates is speaking out publicly about speaking out in print. We are going to hear from him next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Robert Gates is certainly not afraid to throw a punch as he does in his new memoir "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War." The former defense secretary is mincing no words in defending his controversial assessment of President Obama and his administration. In making the media rounds on TV to promote the book, one point rings loud and clear. That is this -- no regrets.

Senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, with the very latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No regrets from former defense secretary, Robert Gates.

ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY & AUTHOR: The truth is I think the book is very even-handed. I don't vilify anybody.

ACOSTA: Gates fired back at critics for his new memoir "Duty" on NBC's "Today" show, arguing the juicier excerpts from the book have been taken out of con at the present time.

GATES: Not really surprised. But, in a way, disappointed that the book has sort of been hijacked by people along the political spectrum to serve their own purposes.

ACOSTA: In his tell-all, Gates reveals he had little confidence in President Obama's support for the war in Afghanistan. In another interview on CBS's "Sunday Morning," he said, while he admired the president, he believed Mr. Obama was only focused on getting out of Afghanistan.

GATES: It is one thing to tell the troops that you support them. It is another to work at making them believe that you believe, as president, that their sacrifice is worth it.

ACOSTA: It doesn't get better for Vice President Joe Biden, who according to Gates, planted seeds of doubt in the president's mind about military commanders.

GATES: Where I had a particular problem with the vice president was in his encouragement of suspicion of the military, and the senior military with the president.

ACOSTA: Detractors claim Gates put out the book too soon, just two and a half years after leaving the Pentagon, while President Obama still has three years left in office and U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. Even some of Gats' fellow Republicans argue he should have waited to issue his scathing critique.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: If I had given him advice, I would have waited.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: My preference would be that people would refrain from writing these sorts of things until the president is out of office.

ACOSTA: As he kicks off a TV tour, Gates doesn't plan on staying quiet, even if it means weighing in on 2013 and whether Hillary Clinton would make a good president.

GATES: Actually, I think she would.

ACOSTA: As for Biden?

GATES: Well, I suppose, to be even handed, I would have to say I suppose he would.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, reporting for us.

And our chief everything, Washington guy is with us, Wolf Blitzer.

You were the first person I thought of when I heard all the reporting. The biggest new nugget, Wolf, in this, is that the former secretary of defense is dialing it back on the criticisms of Hillary Clinton, suggesting she would make a good president, but also saying we are all too picky, all of us, media and critics alike. We are picking it and cherry picking it far too much.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: I don't think there is anything wrong with that. That's what we are supposed to do. We're supposed to take a close look at a book like this, go through the book and find the most newsworthy elements of the book, report that, give it the proper context to be sure.

And in this book, he is very critical. Even while he is saying all these nice things, whether the president or the vice president or the secretary of state, he then goes on and makes some pretty severe allegations, especially not just Hillary Clinton or the president, but the vice president, says the vice president was wrong on virtually every national security and foreign policy issue, not during the time they served together, but over four decades, going back to when Joe Biden was a junior Senator, and then all the way when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until now. So that's a pretty scathing critique of the sitting vice president of the United States, to be sure. And when he says the president, he was right on these decisions, even though he didn't have the passion going forward, he was sending young men and women off to battle, he was insuring he was doing the right thing, that's a pretty significant criticism as well.

BANFIELD: And he showed up in these interviews in a very significant neck brace that has nothing to do with the critics getting back at him. This was an accident. He slipped and fell at his home. But when I say we are too picky, maybe that's the wrong word, Wolf. Maybe it should be we are too fussy and too spin-crazy. What the secretary of defense says is that the critics have used his very carefully nuanced words to their advantage only, without using them in context. Is that fair or is he trying to get out of what he's caused?

BLITZER: I don't think it is fair. The context is clear. The criticism is there. The nice things he says about the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, but when he blasts them on specific points, I think as long as it is done in proper context -- and I think we have been doing it in proper context -- I think that's part of our responsibility.

BANFIELD: All right, Wolf, thanks for that.

A reminder for all of your viewers and more, everybody can catch Wolf at 1:00 eastern on "The Situation Room," as well as 5:00 p.m. eastern. He does double duty.

Thank you, Wolf. Nice to see you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Coming up, a really interesting argument. It is thick and chewy, so you've got to say with me on this one. But it really affects the way a president can appoint his big cheeses. Can he just do it when people are away on recess? Guess what? It has been done that way for a long time. Now, this is a big fight. To the top court we go, to find out how they are going to resolve it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: What started as a fight over a 40-cent bottle at a soda bottler in Washington State has bubbled up into a war over presidential powers, and it's going right to the top court. Think of it this way. If the Congress and the Senate goes out for recess, can the teacher, President Obama, just put a bunch of people in place, and not just Obama, any president at any time? This is the issue. And it's kind of confusing.

Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, is here.

I'm going to make it real simple for you, Jeff. I was out really late at the Golden Globes, and I'm having a really tough time getting the issue straight on these recess appointments. It seems like we have always done it. So what's going on now that this should change?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is a real manifestation. It's a real example of how the partisan warfare in front of me in Congress has had implications for really how the country works and how the Constitution is interpreted. And the big issue here is that President Obama has nominated people for the National Labor Relations Board, which is what this case is about. But also for other independent agencies for sub-cabinet positions, and all those positions are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, according to the Constitution. The Senate has the right to approve or reject those nominations. But sometimes the Senate has not acted. Sometimes the Senate has simply not voted one way or the other. And what the president has done is what presidents have done since George Washington, and George Washington came up a lot today in the arguments before the Supreme Court. He has appointed them during recesses. When the Senate is out of session, President Obama has said, OK, you're not there, I have a power under the Constitution for a recess appointment, I am going to do that until -- to fill out -- for a year or so, as presidents have done. This case is about what is a congressional recess, and how much power the president could have when those recesses take place.

BANFIELD: Well, it's still confusing --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: -- because it all seems to come down to the definition of recess. And, you know what? We learned that early in school. But the justices will probably come up with a good one on this, and you'll have to come back and tell me how they got there, and what they got to.

Jeffrey, good to see you. Nice to see you.

TOOBIN: It's a tough one. It's a tough one to understand or to decide.

BANFIELD: I'll say. Two hours of sleep. Are you kidding me?

Thank you, Jeff Toobin.

(LAUGHER)

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: And I said two hours of sleep because I was here doing something far less tricky, and that was the Golden Globes. And I wasn't even covering it. I was just a guest. It was so much fun. I'm going to give you some of the really cool highlights, the hits, misses and zingers and all that crazy stuff all coming up next, including fashion.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Welcome back, everybody. So I'm coming to you live from Los Angeles. What was your first clue? All of this because of such a big fun night at the Golden Globes last night, which I was so lucky to go to. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, what can you say about these two? But, man, a great show, and opened with some really good zingers, like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: "Gravity" is nominated for best film. It's the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age. (LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: CNN entertainment correspondent, Nischelle Turner, was also there, reveling in all the fun on the red carpet and looked amazing, and joins me live.

It's good to be out in your town. What a night to be here. Those women, Tina and Amy, I'm telling you, awards shows are back, and it's because of them.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's so funny. We were laughing at their jokes and the Hollywood foreign press is laughing all the way to the bank. I just got the preliminary numbers in for the show last night. They are up 8 percent over last year, when they hosted. And last year when they hosted, they were up over the year before. So already, they have got great ratings once again. The highest numbers the Golden Globes has had in seven years, a 14.1 household rating. There will be some people who say well, football got a 25 household rating. Nothing is ever going to beat football. But in the grand scheme of things, very, very good numbers for these ladies.

BANFIELD: And to think, so many years ago, SNL said women just aren't funny.

(LAUGHTER)

Boy, did that change.

Hey, walk me through the awesomeness on the red carpet. What happened?

TURNER: Yeah, you know, there was a lot of great fashion last night on the red carpet. I think "Variety" dubbed it red is the new black. Because you know we're supposed to see these pastels and really pretty colors last night. We saw a lot of striking, stunning red. Look at Lupita right there. She looked fantastic in Ralph Lauren. That caped dress, she was my best dressed --

BANFIELD: Gorgeous.

TURNER: -- of the night, along with Kate Beckensale, that gun-metal gray last night. Just absolutely stunning. Listen to this though. She had a little wardrobe malfunction. She had to be sewn into her dress in the car on the way to the show because she had a little busting out there. But you couldn't tell. She looks fantastic.

And I have to give love to a man. We overlooked the men. We don't give them justice. But I think Kevin Spacey in that velvet Burberry suit he had on looked fantastic. I thought he looked dapper, regal. He does a suit justice. And I don't want to -- I don't want to make you blush and I don't want to, like, you know, embarrass you. But I have to tell you --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: BFF.

TURNER: That Burberry-clad man did send you love last night. Let's listen.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TURNER: I was going to say, and that's what I hear so many times from actors that play. I couldn't do it, because I would walk out day one.

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTRESS: Yeah. Unless Ashleigh Banfield were my first lady, then perhaps we might get (INAUDIBLE).

TURNER: I was hoping you would give a shout-out. I was hoping you would give her a shout. Because she is doing her show from here tomorrow. So a little love would be nice.

SPACEY: Oh, yeah. Ashleigh. Happy to send some love to Ashleigh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TURNER: There you go.

BANFIELD: I'll be first lady any day. Any day.

I just want to say, I was there, because my cousin, Michelle McLaren, the E.P. and director of "Breaking Bad," won the Emmy. That's me. We've got some pictures I think of me with Nischelle and Vince Gilligan. There is the creator winning that Golden Globe for the best show. It was so exciting to be with them. Look at that, Bryan Cranston, best actor. Hello. Incredible.

TURNER: Wow.

BANFIELD: And there's my cousin, Michelle. I'm so proud of her. And --