Return to Transcripts main page


12 Killed, Dozens Injured in Kazakhstan Plane Crash; Tourist Helicopter Goes Missing in Hawaii; Winter Storm Sweeps across U.S.; Dems, GOP at an Impasse Over Rules for Senate Trial; Navy SEALs Paint Disturbing Picture of Edward Gallagher in Testimony Video. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2019 - 06:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, December 27, 6 a.m. here in New York. John Berman is off. John Avlon joins me here this morning.


CAMEROTA: But we're following two breaking air emergencies this morning.

A plane carrying 98 people has crashed in Kazakhstan shortly after takeoff. It has killed at least 12 people. You're looking at the aftermath on your screen right now.

Authorities say this Bek Air flight hit a concrete fence and slammed into a two-story building when it went down.

Now, dozens of survivors have been taken to the local hospitals, including at least eight children. Kazakhstan is grounding all aircraft of the same model as they investigate the cause of this one.

AVLON: Our other breaking story is unfolding at this hour in Hawaii. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for seven people who were on a tour helicopter that's gone missing in Kauai.

We've got reporters on both of these stories. Let's begin with CNN's Richard Quest, live in London, on the Kazakhstan plane crash.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, the plane went down shortly after takeoff, John. We know very little about what happened other than the airline involved, Bek Air, has been around since about 1999, started as a business charter, and it flew only this particular model of the Fokker 100 plane.

The plane itself was 23 years and 9 months old, so it was on the older side, but certainly not too old, if you like.

Overall, all we know is that the plane was taking off in icy conditions. It barely got more that 50 to 100 feet in the air. When it got over the end of the runway, slammed back into the ground, and then ran off the edge of the runway.

So what investigators, John, are going to be looking at, clearly, probably it will be things like the maintenance of the aircraft: the plane -- how well had it been looked after. Could something has mechanically gone wrong?

And then you're going to be looking at weather. And I don't just mean was it too bad to take off? But was the plane properly de-iced in these conditions? The plane can take off without flaps, but did it need flaps in these particular conditions?

So a range of issues which they'll be taking -- which they'll be looking at very carefully.

CAMEROTA: Richard, it sounds like what you're saying is that this model of airplane has been in use for a long time, around the world. I mean, is this something that passengers should be worried about getting on that model of plane?

QUEST: Absolutely not. This is a workhorse. I mean, we always say that about planes, but this really is. Nearly 300 of them were built. It was stopped -- the production stopped in 1997.

American Airlines had them in the fleet for many, many years. No, the Fokker 100 is a truly reputable, well-known regional plane of many decades' experience. And that's why there's nothing systemic likely to be found here. For 30 years, people have been flying them.

No, they'll be looking here at how this was being flown. Was the plane properly de-iced? Were the settings in the aircraft correct? Were they taking off in the right conditions?

And then, crucially, was the plane properly maintained? This is a very small, regional air -- national airline in Kazakhstan. It was banned from flying to the E.U. for seven years. Not that they did, but it was banned, in any event, until 2016. I wouldn't worry about the plane.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But I mean, the ban from the E.U., I think, is significant.

QUEST: Yes, absolutely. I mean, it was -- the airline itself did not meet E.U. safety records from 2009 to 2016. Clearly, they will be going through the Kazakhstan authorities who will be the principle investigators, will be looking at three things: Firstly, the pilots and takeoff of the aircraft; secondly, the maintenance of the aircraft; and related to that, the safety procedures of Bek Air.

CAMEROTA: Richard Quest, thank you for scrambling into position for us. We really appreciate all of your expertise on this. Obviously, we'll keep our viewers posted all morning -- John. AVLON: Now onto our other story. U.S. Coast Guard is searching for

seven people above -- aboard a missing helicopter that has been missing in Kauai.

CNN's Dan Simon live in San Francisco with the breaking details for us.


Details at this point are a bit sketchy, but let me tell you what we know.

We can tell you that the search for this missing helicopter is taking place off the island of Kauai. This helicopter had been touring around the Poly Coast, which it known for its beautiful coastlines lines and, really, its amazing views.

There were seven people on board: one pilot, six passengers, two of whom are believed to be minors.

Now, this helicopter was supposed to return to its base about 5:0 local time on Thursday, p.m. And when it didn't the owner of the helicopter touring company alerted the Coast Guard, and the search began.

Now, as far as weather is concerned, I can tell you that the conditions around the area were challenging around the time the helicopter went missing. There were some strong winds and really blustery conditions overall and some rain. And the conditions remain challenging as this search is underway.

There are some resources out now. But I can tell you that it's really going to ramp up as soon as you have first light.

Now, this helicopter, we are told, did have some kind of tracking device equipped on that helicopter, a tracking beacon. But at this point, unfortunately, no signals have been received.

And as far as who was on that helicopter, we don't know other than the fact that two of whom -- two of them are believed to be minors. And this, of course, a very busy time around the holiday season with people traveling to Hawaii and taking these kind of helicopter tours.


Alison, we'll send it back to you.

CAMEROTA: Dan, thank you very much. Of course, we're praying that emergency crews can get out there as soon as possible. Please keep us posted.

So there's this powerful winter storm that is moving across the United States. It has slammed Southern California with heavy rain, even snow, and it's creating a big headache for holiday travelers.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has our forecast. What now, Jennifer? JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, if you're traveling today, tomorrow or Sunday, you are going to see major delays as far as airports go. We're also going to look at a lot of trouble on the road.

So here's the system. Yes, it brought a lot of rain and snow to Southern California, and now it's starting to move to the east. It is going to bring another round of rain and snow to the desert southwest before it moves on.

This weather is brought to you by Farmers Insurance. Get a quote at

There are winter storm, alerts in effect, storm warnings, weather advisories all across the Rockies and the southwest. So as this storm pushes east it has a major snow component on the north side and rain to the south, and we're talking about a lot of rain and a lot of snow.

The upper Midwest, places like Minneapolis, will see major airport delays in the coming days. And you can see for the Dakotas, also Kansas, Nebraska getting a lot of snow. And then the rain on the south side.

Look at these snowfall totals. We could get more than a foot, a foot and a half of snow for South Dakota. Minneapolis could get several inches of snow. And then for Chicago, it looks like it's going to be all rain for you. We could see two to four inches of rain through the Ohio Valley, and the rain continues for the east, as well.

So weather delays for today. We're looking at the northeast, as well, but we're also looking at places like Denver, Vegas, Seattle could see some delays, Dallas and Houston. And then as we get on into tomorrow, Minneapolis could see some major delays. Also Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, even Denver.

So this is a big weather maker over the next couple of days in a busy travel season, as well -- John.

AVLON: Thank you, Jennifer.

All right. It's been more than a week since President Trump was impeached, and there are no signs of the impasse over the Senate trial breaking. But will Speaker Pelosi send over the impeachment articles? We're going to dig into that, next.


AVLON: The deadlock over President Trump's Senate impeachment trial is showing no signs of breaking this morning as the partisan sparring over the parameters of the trial continues.


CNN's Kristen Holmes live in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the president is vacationing, with more -- Kristen.


Well, that deadlock showing no sign of breaking, and President Trump showing no sign of cooling off. Despite spending the day on his government course yesterday, President Trump remained ranting on Twitter. He slammed Nancy Pelosi, Democrats, and he called his impeachment a scam.


HOLMES (voice-over): Lawmakers in deadlock, the Senate impeachment trial at a standstill as Democrats demand to know the ground rules before Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends over the articles of impeachment passed by the House last week.

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): It's hard to understand or determine what kind of floor managers you want to send into this impeachment trial if you don't know what the ground rules are.

HOLMES: President Trump venting his frustration over the delay, tweeting, "The radical left Do Nothing Democrats said they wanted to rush everything through to the Senate. But now they don't want to go fast anymore, they want to go very slowly. Liars."

Republicans mostly standing with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wants a quick trial and acquittal for President Trump.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): It's like they've got impeachment fever, and there's no cure. How about we turn over the calendar in 2020?

HOLMES: McConnell could start the votes on the rules for the trial next month without a deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who wants some top Trump administration officials to testify, something the president has also mentioned he supports despite stonewalling impeachment investigations.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): As long as Senator McConnell is coordinating with the president, he ought to take the president up. The president has said he would like to have those closest to him testify. If he's telling the truth, all Senator McConnell has to do to move forward on this is agree to that.

HOLMES: With Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski speaking out, concerned over McConnell saying he's in, quote, "total coordination" with Trump's White House team --

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): In fairness, when I heard that, I was disturbed. I happen to think that that has further confused the process.

HOLMES: Democrats are hoping other Republican senators, like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, also break out of line.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Her courage could be contagious. But remember that these witnesses and documents may, in fact, contain very incriminating additional evidence.

HOLMES: GOP lawmakers appear unfazed by Murkowski's words.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): She is stating something that is rather common-sensical, that there should be a fair trial and a fair hearing. I think Leader McConnell is committed to that.


HOLMES: So you heard Congressman Johnson there saying a fair trial and a fair hearing, that he believes McConnell is committed to that.

But that's going to be a hard argument for Republicans to make given the fact that one, they will not commit to having witnesses in this trial; and two, the fact that McConnell and other Republican senators, including Senator Lindsey Graham, have said that they are with the president 100 percent. So not sure here how these two arguments are going to reconcile.

CAMEROTA: Kristen, thank you very much for all of your reporting for us.

Joining us now, we have CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's press secretary. And CNN political analyst Seung Min Kim. She's a White House reporter for "The Washington Post."

So Joe, well, here's our update. We're still at an impasse.


CAMEROTA: Congress isn't back until the first week of January. I guess I need you to explain to me what's the rush? She -- They've impeached the president. Her work is done.


CAMEROTA: In the House, they've impeached the president. Why does she need to rush over to what she thinks is a sham trial?

LOCKHART: Well, I mean, one of the things that I think Nancy Pelosi was trying to do with holding back the articles was to control the narrative over the break. She's done that. We're still talking about it. So that's one.

The second thing is, the only people that this debate matters to are the four or five Republicans who might flip on the rules. So I think both sides are going to wait and see how that's going.

And we're going to find out, you know, sometime probably the second week in January, that Pelosi's gambit has worked; and they're feeling a lot of pressure to have a trial that has witnesses, a real trial; or that they don't feel the pressure, they're going to stick with McConnell. They'll do a show trial. And then I think you'll see the articles sent over.

One way or the other, you know, I think fairly early in January, maybe you know, by the 15th, you'll see the articles sent over, because that's -- you know, the leverage will have worked for one side or the other.

AVLON: By the 15th. So Joe just pushed the deadline a week after the Senate and Congress gets back in session.

Seung Min, let me flip it back to you. If Nancy Pelosi and Democrats felt such urgency, moral urgency to push forward impeachment, why no urgency in getting it to the Senate? Especially because this is going to bleed over into the Iowa caucuses, it looks like?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. And I think that's why the position is -- the position of just withholding the articles of impeachment indefinitely is not going to be a sustainable position.


And you've already heard Democratic lawmakers on this network and in other places say they expect Speaker Pelosi to send over, at some point. And I think -- and Joe is right, that they are using this delay. And again, this delay does come over a holiday break when we didn't really expect action in the Senate anyway on an impeachment trial.

They're using this time to -- what they say to shine a light on what they believe is McConnell and the Senate Republicans, what they say is unfair handling so far of the Senate impeachment process.

But Republicans have been pointing out that Democrats moved so expeditiously through impeachment process in the House. They said, you know, Democrats argued that the president is actively trying to, you know, deal with issues in the current campaign, that they had to move quickly, that they couldn't wait for the courts, and they had to get this done by Christmas.

So to take that view and then delay the other critical part of the impeachment process, which is the Senate trial, for a very long time, I don't think can last for very long.

CAMEROTA: I guess I'm missing something. I still need you guys to explain to me, things are still happening. Rudy Giuliani is still going to Ukraine as of two weeks ago to do the very same thing that this phone call was about.

Lev Parnas, who has been charged with laundering and funneling money into -- Russian money into U.S. elections, is talking. He's still revealing things.


CAMEROTA: What harm is there in waiting? I don't see what -- I don't see, around her Christmas table, Nancy Pelosi's, why she would feel any anxiety to speed up this process.

LOCKHART: Well, I think all of these things are playing to her advantage right now. You have Rudy, you know, on his fanciful trips to Europe. You have Lev Parnas, as you said.

Since the impeachment vote, we've seen some FOIAed memos from OMB. It is all --

CAMEROTA: There are still court things that are happening in January for -- related to Don McGahn.

LOCKHART: Yes. They're all creating, I think, some momentum for having the people who actually know what happened testify under oath.

I do think, though, there's a point at which the Democrats can lose control of this -- this narrative for the very points we were just discussing, that they were moving quickly. So that's why I give the window of, you know, a week or so when they come back that they'll move over.

But none of this will stop. I mean, they'll continue to push all of the investigative things in the House. And there's no reason to believe that, you know, if something new breaks, it won't become part of the Senate trial.

CAMEROTA: Well, if the Senate trial is over, it will -- it won't. I mean, again, why the rush? This -- if this is breaking?

AVLON: But is that the strategy? Is the strategy to get -- you know, you've got Don McGahn and Lev Parnas and other memos. Is that the strategy? Otherwise, I think this is a positional bargaining without a great deal of leverage. Because as far as McConnell is concerned, he's happy to wait.

LOCKHART: But they don't -- the fact of the matter is Pelosi is holding this close to the vest. There are four or five Republicans, they don't -- that matter here. No one else matters here.

AVLON: Right.

LOCKHART: They don't know when she's going to turn it over. And they don't know. They want to get this going. They don't want this, you know, of the four or five, half of them are up for re-election. They don't want this bleeding into their campaign. They want this -- they want this over.

And they're happy -- they may be happy to have witnesses if that helps them with voters at home. So that's why they're going to come back having gotten a lot of feedback from constituents, from their political consultants at home. That's why when they check back in on the sixth --

AVLON: Sure.

LOCKHART: -- we're going to know a whole lot more.

CAMEROTA: All right. We're out of time. Seung Min, I'm sorry that Joe hogged all your airtime.

LOCKHART: I'm sorry.

AVLON: He does that, and it's terrible. You'll have a chance to fight back. CAMEROTA: We're going to talk to you very shortly.

AVLON: Coming up on NEW DAY, we're going to talk with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Christine. And that's in our 8 a.m. hour.

CAMEROTA: Yes. She'll tell us what they talked about around the Christmas table.

AVLON: Right.

CAMEROTA: President Trump has praised controversial Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher as a, quote, "great warrior." But the men in his platoon paint a very different picture. These confidential interviews that have just been published by "The New York Times," we bring you some of these never-before-seen sit-downs.



CAMEROTA: Breaking news, "The New York Times" has just published never-before-seen interviews related to the U.S. military investigation into the conduct of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher. In it, some of the Navy SEALs who served under Gallagher paint a very disturbing picture of their platoon leader. They describe him as having a hunger for violence.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I, like, heard more rumors and stuff like that of Eddie, like, targeting civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw Eddie take a shot at probably a 12-year-old kid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy got crazier and crazier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could tell he was perfectly OK with killing anybody.


CAMEROTA: Gallagher was accused of war crimes, but he was acquitted of murdering a 17-year-old Islamic terrorist while he was deployed in Iraq in 2017. But he was convicted of posing for a photograph with the captive's corpse.

President Trump then stepped in to restore Gallagher's rank last month, prompting the resignation of the Navy secretary, Richard Spencer, over President Trump's interference and the handling of this case.

Joining us now is retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. He's a CNN military and diplomatic analyst and former press secretary at the Pentagon. Admiral Kirby, these are so disturbing. These Navy SEALs -- I mean, I

don't have to tell you, they are normally silent. They are so reluctant to ever speak out. That's not their culture. That's not what they're trained to do. And the idea that they spoke out against their chief, because they were so upset at what they considered, I mean, the words they used was psychopathic, his homicidal behavior.

So let me just play another montage of the things that the people under him, the men under him, felt compelled to report. So listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: he said he stabbed him one time, multiple times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was probably two or three times, just like a stab about right here, just -- and a few times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any possible way that what he was doing could be interpreted as for medical purposes to help this guy?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no way this was anything other than to attack and to kill this person?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you do next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stayed at the scene until the ISIS fighter asphyxiated.


CAMEROTA: Admiral Kirby, what do you make of these newly-released recordings?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It's -- it's pretty disturbing detail that these guys are recounting in their interviews. I mean, it certainly does point to a very grisly scene, indeed, and does not bode well for recollections about what Gallagher's involvement was.

It's hard to listen to those comments and reconcile yourself to the acquittal that Gallagher got in his trial. But we need to remember that another SEAL came forward in a surprise move and admitted, you know, under immunity, admitted to killing that ISIS fighter. So we are left with the result that the jury found him, which was innocent of murder and guilty of posing with that photo.

The other thing this underscores for me, Alisyn, is the importance of the commander in chief, though nobody wants to take away his pardon power, of course, the importance of him waiting until the system has completed itself, respecting the system in the process, and then trying to make an informed decision if you're going to overturn a result.

The president didn't wait until the end. He involved himself in the Gallagher case all the way through. In fact, even when Gallagher was in pretrial confinement, the president was getting himself involved in this and didn't even let the review process for his trident, Gallagher's trident pin complete before he went ahead and just told the Navy to stop the process.

I mean, there's a reason why -- the system isn't perfect, but it is a system and a process that has survived the test of time and trial, and it would have been better for the president to simply wait until that process completed before he got himself involved.

AVLON: Admiral Kirby, I'm just wondering, I mean, this is just such -- the video is so striking. It is so rough.


AVLON: Does that indicate kind of the broader cultural reaction to this pardon by the president? Or, you know, reinstatement by the president?

KIRBY: I think it certainly exacerbates that tension. Look, there's tension inside the SEAL community right now. Many SEALs obviously don't want to be associated with what Gallagher did. These SEALs did have the courage to come forward, which is not part of their culture, to talk about -- to talk about what they saw him do.

But there are other SEALs in the Navy who actually support Gallagher and are glad that the president did. This -- this story by "The New York Times" and this video, I think, will simply resurface all those tensions. And I can tell you from talking to Navy colleagues, they would just as soon rather move past this now, learn the lessons that they have from this and move forward.

CAMEROTA: But I'm not sure what lessons there are to learn, Admiral. When -- when the guys in your platoon describe you as toxic, a psychopath, disgraceful, say that you target civilians, that they witness you shooting a child, these are not lessons that anybody wants to re-create or learn.

And the fact that he was exonerated and acquitted, and then the president interfered.

Here is, through a lawyer, Gallagher has responded to this "New York Times" piece. We want to get this in. He -- the quote is, "My first reaction to seeing the videos was surprise and disgust that they would make up blatant lies about me. But I quickly realized that they were scared that the truth would come out about how cowardly they acted on deployment. I felt sorry for them that they thought it necessary to smear my name, but they never realized what the consequences of their lies would be. As upset as I was, the videos also gave me confidence, because I knew that their lies would never hold up under real questioning, and the jury would see through it. Their lies and refusal to ask hard questions or corroborate their stories strengthened my resolve to go to trial and clear my name."

Well, that's one man's word --


CAMEROTA: -- against six.

KIRBY: Right. And so, you know, we're right back where we were when the trial was ongoing, and you know, the degree to which the -- studying the degree to which, you know, Gallagher was guilty of these crimes.

Again, we've got to go back to the result. We had a SEAL who admitted to doing the murder, so -- admitting to committing the murder, so Gallagher was acquitted.

None of this -- it's all ugly, but none of it is going to help the Navy move forward and try to instill better conduct and behavior inside the SEAL community.

Remember, the new SEAL commander, Rear Admiral Collin Green, was trying to get higher standards of conduct in place for the SEALs. Because it wasn't just this case. There were other cases of SEALs in combat performing -- you know, committing crimes and not -- not proving to be ethical warriors. And he was trying to get his grip -- a grip on that.

It's going to be that much harder for him now in the wake of this "New York Times" story and these videos, to do that. Because the president got involved. He undermined the system itself, the military justice system, by getting involved throughout the case. And it's just going to be making it harder, I think, for the SEALs to move past this.