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Deaths and Injuries after a Kazakhstan Plane Crash; Tourist Helicopter Goes Missing in Hawaii; Navy SEALs Testimony Video; Trump's False Statements of the Year; Storm Pounds California and Moves East. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2019 - 07:00   ET




He is a good secret Santa.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, 81 pounds of secret Santa swag (ph) --

CAMEROTA: Of goodness.

AVLON: Plus the original manuscript for "Great Gatsby." Yes.

CAMEROTA: I'm going to sign up to be on that list next time.

AVLON: Strong (ph).

CAMEROTA: All right, meanwhile, we are following two, big breaking aviation emergencies.

NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: OK, good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. John Berman is off today. John Avlon is here with me.

And we are following these two breaking aviation emergencies this morning.

A commercial plane carrying 98 people has crashed in Kazakhstan just seconds after takeoff. At least 12 people are dead. Authorities say the Beck Air flight hit a concrete fence and slammed into a two story building when it went down.

Now, there are dozens of survivors somehow. If you look at the aftermath, this is incredible. People are being treated in a local hospital, including at least eight children. So we'll bring you the latest as soon as we have updated counts and just what happened here.

AVLON: Our other breaking story is taking place in Hawaii where the U.S. Coast Guard is frantically searching for seven people who were on a tourist helicopter that has gone missing in Kauai. So far no sign of the helicopter or its passengers.

We've got reporters on both these breaking stories.

Let's begin with CNN's Nathan Hodge, live in Moscow, on the Kazakhstan plane crash.

NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: John, what we have here is a catastrophic situation that could have been far, far worse as the images have shown. The Beck Air flight took off and seconds after its takeoff crashed not far from Almaty Airport in Kazakhstan, careening into a concrete fence and a two story building. Miraculously, the plane didn't catch fire after the crash. Rescue workers were on the scene and took dozens away to local hospitals.

Kazak authorities have suspended flights by Beck Air, the regional carrier, that operated the Fokker 100 aircraft. And as well, Kazak President Kassym-Jomaart Tokayev has declared that Saturday will be a day of mourning in Kazakhstan.

Still awaiting in Kazakhstan further issue -- further information and updates on the situation and the casualty count, which has stayed, at this point, as far as the death toll, unexpectedly low.


AVLON: Now on to our other breaking story. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for seven people aboard a tourist helicopter that has gone missing off the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

CNN's Dan Simon joins us now with the breaking details.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, details still a bit sketchy, but it sure sounds like weather may be a factor here. We know that when the helicopter went missing, that there were some strong winds and some strong rains.

I can tell you that you have six people who were aboard that helicopter, one pilot, seven overall, two of whom are believed to be minors. I can tell you that the owner of these -- of this helicopter touring company alerted the Coast Guard right around 6:00 p.m. local time when this helicopter did not return.

This helicopter was outfitted with an electronic locater. But at this point, unfortunately, no signal has been received.

As far as the search and rescue efforts are concerned, the weather remains challenging and so right now they're really dealing with limited resources. But once you have first light there, I know they're going to be deploying more resources.

At this point, no word on who may have been onboard, but, obviously, we're dealing with a real tragedy here as -- as obviously this is a very popular activity with people traveling to Hawaii, especially this time of year. John. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Dan, thank you very much. Please keep us posted on all the developments there as day breaks.

All right, another breaking story. "The New York Times" has just published never-before-seen interviews with the Navy SEALs who were under the demand of Eddy Gallagher. These interviews that you're about to see were part of the U.S. military's investigation into the conduct of then Special Operations Chief Eddy Gallagher. It is -- obviously these SEALs are normally silent. But in these, they paint a very disturbing picture of their platoon leader, describing him as having a hunger for violence.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw Eddy 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 in July of murdering a 17-year-old Islamic terrorist while deployed to Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was convicted of posing for a photo with the captive's corpse.

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


Joining us now to talk about this, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN political commentator Errol Louis. He's the political anchor at Spectrum News.

Errol, I just want to start with you here. These interviews are stunning. These guys, I mean, I don't think we can underscore how the culture of Navy SEALs is not to speak out, not to have to ever report on somebody. They are a band of brothers. They are silent. They respect that code. So what they say they saw Eddie Gallagher do was so atrocious, they -- well, I mean, there was a military investigation and they felt that they had to say what they had seen. They described him as targeting civilians, they describe him as shooting a child, the behavior they describe as homicidal, they called -- they used the word "toxic" and "psychopathic," they say he was disgraceful.

Here's just another little moment of what the Navy SEALs told investigators.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say he stabbed him one time, multiple times?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was probably two or three times.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like a stab --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About right here. Just in 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 -- this person?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you do next?

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


CAMEROTA: OK, that's them talking about the crime for which he was acquitted. But there's all sorts of other stuff of them describing this pattern of behavior of him being violent.

What do you hear when -- Errol, in all of this?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. It -- listen, I -- I never served in the military, but I've got family members and I've certainly interviewed a bunch of people who have at very high ranks. And to sort of see this, it's a reminder, first of all, that while we as outsiders might thinking of killing and mayhem of the essence of war, this is a really important reminder that there's order, there's discipline, there's rules, that it's not just savagery, that it's a mission that they're trying to conduct on behalf of the U.S. military. And that, you know, when you have people out there who are freelancing, who seem to be out of control, who seem to have a taste for violence for its own sake, it really makes the whole system breaks down. And that's the -- sort of the troubling message that comes from each of these people. Highly trained, highly disciplined, wanting to sort of succeed, and then seeing all of it undermined, not just by their platoon leader, who seems to be completely out of control, but a command structure and eventually outside political forces that seem determine to keep him in place despite his obvious unfitness.

AVLON: Abby, in a statement through his lawyer, Gallagher did responded to "The New York Times" piece, writing, quote, my first reaction seeing the videos was surprise and disgust that they would make up blatant lies about me, but I quickly realized they were scared that the truth would come out of 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 their lies would never hold up under real questioning and the jury would see through it. Their lies and NCIS' refusal to ask hard questions or corroborate their stories strengthened my resolve to go to trial and clear my name.

For additional context, Abby, we should say that in "The Times" article they published part of a group chat from members of the platoon.

CAMEROTA: Like a text they also published.

AVLON: Yes, exactly right, which says, quote, tell the truth, don't lie or embellish, said one sniper who's now in SEAL Team 6, that way he can't say we slandered him in any way.

Abby, obviously something like this goes to the heart of military discipline, it goes to the heart of the honor code. In the White House, where you covered, the president has been a staunch defender of Eddy Gallagher. Was there controversy or concern within the rest of the White House about his decision to sort of overturn the opinions of the military brass on this?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, this is something that other people within the White House knew was part of a normal process that was going on in the Pentagon. And, in fact, when Richard Spencer resigned, and he submitted his resignation, and he wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post" and he said, the reason that he was so unnerved by all of this was because he thought that it did upend the system of good order and discipline in the military. And there was an effort by -- by a lot of people around the president to sort of -- to communicate with people at the Pentagon about what the president wanted and what was going to happen, what was not going to happen.

But at a certain point, you know, I think, ultimately, what -- the fact that the president did end up weighing in shows that White House aides have, in large part, given up on trying to stop him from doing some of these things that he's determined to do. He had heard about this story through the obvious means, though Fox News, through a concerted effort actually by Gallagher's defense team to get this story in the venues that the president would hear about it from.


And so, at that point, it's really out of White House aides' hands once the president has fixed on this issue and tried to weigh in on it. But, I mean, these videos really do also highlight how problematic it is. Clearly President Trump wasn't going through all of this evidence. He -- I don't -- it doesn't appear that he had the full context of what was going on in this case, and yet he weighed in time and time again from the very beginning, all the way to the end, which is one of the reasons this has been so unnerving to people within the Pentagon, and even, as you can imagine, to rank and file members of the SEAL team --

AVLON: Sure.

PHILLIP: Who are looking at the situation and they're saying, we were so disturbed by this, we wanted justice to be, you know, done. And -- and here comes the president weighing in and sticking his hand on -- his thumb on the levers of justice in this case.

CAMEROTA: I mean we have to assume that the president didn't know about these interviews because, I mean, Errol, quickly, why -- why would you restore someone's sort of honor pin if you had heard that the men under him thought that he was a psychopath and toxic? I mean that's -- this is where the full picture is necessary, and we know sometimes the president is duped by the likes of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and sort of promises things before getting the full picture.

LOUIS: Well, he -- look, he made up -- he made up his mind a long time ago. If you go back to the 2015, 2016 campaign trail, Alisyn, the president talked about savagery. He talked about doing things that would not be approved by the military code of justice or, frankly, the definition of war crimes. He talked about it openly. This was not something that just kind of popped in his head. I don't buy the idea that he was just duped because he gets up early in the morning and happened to be watching right-wing media. This is something that he believed in. And it was something that he said he was going to do and it's something that voters should keep in mind, that this isn't just a fluke.

I'm not entirely convinced of that, even if he had seen all of these new interviews that "The New York Times" is publishing, he would have changed his mind about all of it. This is what we have heard from Donald Trump from the first moments on the campaign trail.

AVLON: Abby, I want to turn to impeachment, because obviously it's the story that's overwhelming most of Washington. And I want to play a clip from Chris Cuomo's show last night with Congressman Gregory Meeks, who laid out a Democratic position on the withholding of the articles. Let's take a listen.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: When you are back, do you think this process should move to the Senate and do so quickly?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): No. See, first of all, what I disagree with, it's not a political play. The only person that is obstructing is the president of the United States. Why do I say that? He blocks witnesses. He says he wants witnesses to testify, but he blocks them all.

We need to have someone that was in the room. Well, we want Bolton. We want Mulvaney.


AVLON: Abby, they may want Bolton, they may want Mulvaney, but what's the actual leverage to get those witnesses? Is there a strategy concretely behind this hurry up and wait strategy of Nancy Pelosi?

PHILLIP: There -- no, there is not any leverage. Not in the Senate. I mean it's very clear, Nancy Pelosi controls the House. Mitch McConnell controls the Senate. And, you know, and -- and, you know, even beyond that, in the Senate there's really not a whole lot of power that the Democrats have in this situation except to potentially get McConnell to a point where they come to an agreement on, you know, the very first steps, which might be simply, you know, getting the trial started and then dealing with the question of what form that trial takes at a later date. So I don't think Nancy Pelosi has a ton of leverage.

But this is -- but I do think the point is what -- what Congressman Meeks was doing last night, which was to get their point of view out there, to have this conversation, to make the case to the public that this process is not fair. That's what this delay is about. And it's not a whole much -- a whole lot of a delay because they wouldn't be doing anything anyway at this point.

In January, this trial is going to start at some point. It's going to move forward. And, in the meantime, they're going to keep talking about these process issues.

CAMEROTA: I like the confidence that you and Joe and all of our guests have that this is going to happen in January.

Errol, Abby, thank you very much for all of your insight into this.

So, coming up in our next hour, we're going to speak with Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Christine. She also has some insight into what Nancy Pelosi has up her sleeve.

AVLON: It will be fascinating.

Plus, President Trump made an unbelievable number of false and misleading claims this year. We're going to review the worst of them and bring you the facts, next.

CAMEROTA: In "Home Alone"?

AVLON: And "Home Alone."



AVLON: It's been a record-setting year for fact checkers.

CAMEROTA: And reality checkers.

AVLON: Thank you very much.

"The Washington Post" saying President Trump has made nearly 8,000 false or misleading claims this year alone, bringing the total for his presidency to more than 15,000. Seems to be accelerating.

Joining us now to help us break down some of the biggest whoppers of the year is CNN reporter and fact checker extraordinaire Daniel Dale.

It's great to have you on NEW DAY, my friend.

Let's start right off with number one, that would be the whistleblower claim was totally inaccurate. Here's what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The whistleblower defrauded our country, because the whistleblower wrote something that was totally untrue.


AVLON: Daniel?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: I think this one is notable, both for the seriousness of the claim. You know, this was the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump's impeachment. But also for the up is down nature of the dishonesty. Whether you think it was impeachable conduct or not, we know that all three of the whistleblower's primary allegations about this call were corroborated by the rough transcript Trump himself released. You know, Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden, to investigate this server nonsense, and to speak to Giuliani and Attorney General Barr. So all of this is correct and Trump as so often is wrong.

CAMEROTA: OK, the next one that we have that you've identified is not up is down logic, it's east is west logic.


And the claim was, Alabama was in the projected path of Hurricane Dorian. This is what President Trump tweeted about it. In addition to Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama will most likely be hit much harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category five. Capitals, be careful. God bless everyone, exclamation point.

So, that wasn't true.

DALE: That wasn't true. The forecast actually had Alabama's chances of getting hit diminishing over time, not increasing.

I think this one stood out to me because of how hard the president dug in. You know, everyone gets things wrong. This may have been an inadvertent error. But the president went to great lengths, over and over again, even with a Sharpie if you remember that, to insist that he was actually correct, when another president might have said, look, I messed up this tweet. The weather authorizes are right and let's all move on here.

CAMEROTA: Right, as though we couldn't see the black Sharpie being drown in separate from the weather map. That one was -- that one was a head slapper.

DALE: Yes.

AVLON: That was definitely memorable.

So is this. Number three, wind turbines cause cancer.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value, and they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one. Wrrr (ph), wrrr (ph).


AVLON: This is a repeated obsession with his, Daniel. What's behind it?

DALE: This is an -- well, he had this issue with wind farm or wind turbines near a golf course development of his in Europe.

To me, this one is notable, aside from its weirdness because it's yet more evidence of the president obtaining and passing on terrible information that presidents usually wouldn't. We know that he just makes a lot of stuff up. He's a serial liar. I think that's proven. But he also just reads and hears stuff and then tells the American people about it and says like, "they say," "many people say." And so he -- he is one of the country's leading source of unverified, often inaccurate rumor and he's the president.

CAMEROTA: I didn't even hear about this next lie, the one that you put at number four. I never even heard this one this year. He claimed that he was named man of the year in Michigan.

Here is what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Five or six years before I even thought about running, for whatever reason, they named me man of the year in Michigan. I said, how come? I didn't even understand it myself. But I was named man of the year. I wasn't even political.


CAMEROTA: OK, was that true?

DALE: That was -- that was not true. I've looked reel hard, guys, like I and others have tried. This just didn't happen. And this is both comedic to me and notable because of its triviality. Like this guy's the president, he doesn't need to make up fake awards. He's the most powerful person in the country, in the world and yet he keeps saying, he's done this since 2016, that he was named the man of the year in a state where he's never lived.

AVLON: All right, now let's close out number five, he resurfaces claims that millions voted illegally in California in the 2016 election.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, a lot of votes cast that I don't believe. I look at California.


TRUMP: Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that's a --

TRUMP: Take a look at Judicial Watch, take a look at their settlement, where California admitted to a million votes. They admitted to a million votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A million votes of what?

TRUMP: Take a look at Judicial --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about?

TRUMP: Judicial Watch made a settlement.


TRUMP: There were -- there was much --


TRUMP: There was much illegal voting.


AVLON: Daniel?

DALE: So that settlement was about inactive voters, not illegal votes. California didn't admit to any wrongdoing, much less mass illegal voting.

I think this one is really serious. This is the president again trying to undermine faith in the American electoral process. You could argue in democracy itself, in an attempt, it seems, to demonstrate that he was the one who actually won the popular vote in the 2016 election. So I think this is, again, evidence of the president's insecurity. So we can laugh at it, but it -- but it -- this is also really serious, really important stuff.

AVLON: Well, for sifting through 8,000 estimated lies this year and boiling them down to five, we're going to name you fact checker of the year, Daniel.

DALE: Thank you. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: I don't know when you sleep, Daniel Dale. Thank you very much.

All right, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still withholding the articles of impeachment from the Senate. So what is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell going to do about that?



CAMEROTA: A powerful winter storm is moving across the United States after slamming southern California with heavy rain and even snow, as you can see. The storm is going to cause headaches for holiday travelers.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has been following this all morning for us.

What are you seeing, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Alisyn, a big travel weekend for people and it could be treacherous, especially if you're hitting the roads and the skies. We're going to see a lot of delays at the airports.

You can see the winter storm warnings, winter weather advisories in effect all the way from the desert southwest through the upper Midwest. And that's going to continue throughout the day today. We do have a lot of snow on the north side of this system. The south side is going to be all rain and a cold rain at that for places in the Plains. Look at that, Denver, in the snow, Minneapolis, in the snow for -- this is Saturday morning, 8:00 a.m. So we are going to see a lot of delays as we go into Saturday.

Look at the rain, from Omaha, all the way down through Dallas, Oklahoma City. You can expect a lot of delays in these airports. And we're also talking about a possible wintry mix for some locations in the Plains. So that's why the roads are going to be very dangerous as well.


This is Sunday, 8:00, still snowing for the northern plains and the upper Midwest. Rains still falling for the south. And then as we get into the east, look at that, you can see a little bit of the wintry mix.