Return to Transcripts main page


Plane Crashes at Airport in Kazakhstan; Daughter of Nancy Pelosi Interviewed on Nancy Pelosi's Approach to Politics; "New York Times" Publishes Interviews with Navy SEALS on Conduct of Former SEAL Eddie Gallagher; Navy Seals Paint Disturbing picture of Edward Gallagher in Testimony Video Obtained by "The New York Times"; How Strong is Trump's Support from Evangelicals?. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2019 - 08:00   ET



NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: John, it was a catastrophic situation that could have been far, far worse. Shortly after takeoff from Almaty International Airport, the Bek Air Fokker 100 aircraft crashed to the ground and careened into a concrete fence and two-story building. Authorities say at least a dozen people were killed, lower estimate than previously feared. And dozens have been hospitalized after this accident.

Kazakh authorities ordered the suspension of flights by Bek Air aircraft, and it also barred -- they also barred flights by that Fokker aircraft. In follow-on remarks, according to a preliminary investigation, the deputy prime minister of Kazakhstan said that they believed either technical issues or pilot error may have been involved, and again, preliminary information that the tail of the plane touched the runway twice upon takeoff. Again, these are all emerging details. At this stage we're still just trying to figure out what may have been the possible cause of this accident, but which did not end in a fiery crash, miraculously, but did leave the plane in pieces on the ground. John?

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: It is miraculous that we have as many survivors apparently as we do and that it didn't break into fire. That's wonderful. Thank you, Nathan. OK.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, President Trump has spent much of this holiday week taking aim at all things impeachment, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, slamming her for withholding those two articles of impeachment from the Senate. Joining us now is someone who knows the most powerful woman in Washington quite well, her daughter, Christine Pelosi, daughter of the House speaker. She's also the author of "The Nancy Pelosi Way -- Advice on Success, Leadership, and Politics from America's Most Powerful Woman." Good morning Christine.


CAMEROTA: So was Christmas interesting around your dinner table this year? Were you -- did you spend it with your mom? CHRISTINE PELOSI: I did. And the funny thing is THAT we're probably

one of the few families in America who did not talk about impeachment at the Christmas dinner table.

CAMEROTA: You didn't talk about it at all? It did not come up?

CHRISTINE PELOSI: No. We don't talk politics at our dinner table. We talk sports and movies, and mostly she wants to know how the grandchildren are doing. So we had a wonderful time with our parents. And I kind of off-handedly mentioned that things might have been happening on social media yesterday, but basically we've just been having some family time, Went out to the movies last night.

And so I think it's really important, And one of the things I talk about in my book about my mom, "The Nancy Pelosi Way," is she says you have to put politics on the shelf. You can't obsess about things 24/7. You need to recharge and rejuvenate and, most importantly, be with your family. If you don't build a life with your family then you don't have a quality of life that you can be out there defending when it's time to get back to work.

CAMEROTA: I think a lot of other families at Christmas could take that advice. But let's talk about your mom's surprise power play where she did not immediately hand over the two articles of impeachment. She withheld them, which really nobody in Washington saw coming as far as we could tell. What is she doing?

CHRISTINE PELOSI: Well, I'll say this, Nancy Pelosi does everything with the long game in mind, building consensus in her caucus, her great Democratic majority that's done so much for the people. And there's a lot of work sitting on the Senate desk, work for health care, work for gun violence prevention, action on climate, and, of course, ethics in government. So there's a lot of work the Senate can do in addition to this work that will be coming up next month.

And so I think the key is not so much what she does, but how she does it, which is listening to her entire caucus, working in a disciplined way, and certainly not sharing her moves in advance on Twitter or anywhere else.

CAMEROTA: So knowing her, as you do, how long do you think she's going to hold on to them?

CHRISTINE PELOSI: I think that she'll move when the time is right. I think that justice will prevail, and I think, as I wrote at the end of my book because we were going to print right when the impeachment inquiry was started, the times have found us. This is a really important time for our Constitution and for our country, and the American people want to see the truth. They want to see evidence. They want to see witnesses. And so she will do what is necessary to make sure that she's done all she can, exhausting all of her constitutional remedies. And that, I think, is the most important thing that we take going into 2020. Let's listen to the facts. Let's follow the evidence. And let's make sure that nobody is above the law. CAMEROTA: Your mom seemed to be on the top of the president's mind

over the holidays, this holiday week. As you say, there was some action on social media, as you described it.


So let me just read a couple of these tweets from the president. And by the way, I don't often read the president's insults of people when he calls them names, but I'm doing so right now because I think it's important to hear your mom's reaction and your reaction to these insults. So here are just a couple. "Nancy Pelosi has no leverage over the Senate. Mitch McConnell did not nose his way into the impeachment process in the House, and she has no hand standing in the Senate. Crazy Nancy should clean up her filthy, dirty district and help the homeless there. A primary for N?" Then next, "Why should crazy Nancy Pelosi just because she has a slight majority in the House be allowed to impeach the president of the United States. She got zero Republican votes. There was no crime. The call with Ukraine was perfect with no pressure. She said it must be bipartisan."

I'll stop there. What -- how does she react when a tweet is lobbed her way?

CHRISTINE PELOSI: Mostly, just to remind everybody that any time the president insults somebody, he's making his own self-diagnosis and projecting it onto other people. So I think it's really important to understand that this is a woman, Nancy Pelosi, who raised five kids. We were born six years and one week apart. So there was a lot of organizing, there was a lot of -- I would even admit a couple of tantrums along the way. There was a lot of drama, and she always just kept organized, kept on task and purpose. And if the five kids couldn't rattle her, the president won't either.

CAMEROTA: But as her daughter, do you bristle when you see her being called a name like that?

CHRISTINE PELOSI: That's the price of leadership. I've seen people absolutely adore my mother and express opposite feelings. One of the things that she always says is that criticism and effectiveness go hand in hand. The work that she does is so important. And what she said the first time she ran for Congress and people were being extremely mean to her, and she said they can't take my children from me, so I really don't care what they say.

And now that she's been in Congress and she works with people whose children have been taken away by disease, by gun violence, she can't look into their eyes and say, well, the president was mean to me today, I have to stop fighting. She will never stop fighting. And having that perspective of what's really important? Isn't it important that we follow a call to service? Isn't it important that we try to have a healthier, fairer, more safe and free America? Those are the things that matter. The personal insults, you have got to shrug them off and understand the better job you do, the more insulted you're going to get, so the more tightly you have to hold to your values and your friendships and your communities and coalitions. And that's what Nancy Pelosi does. CAMEROTA: We had your sister Alexandra on our program. And she said

something that got a lot of attention, and I would love to get your interpretation of what she meant by that. So listen to your sister.


ALEXANDRA PELOSI, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: She'll cut your head off and you won't even know you're bleeding. No one ever run betting against Nancy Pelosi. She's persevered. You've got to give her credit, no matter what you think of her.

CAMEROTA: She'll cut your head off and you won't even know you're bleeding. What did that mean growing up, and what does that mean now?

CHRISTINE PELOSI: Oh, I didn't experience that myself, so I don't know. I will take the second thing Alexandra said. I think it's really true. Nobody ever won betting against our mom, Nancy Pelosi. She always confounds the experts from when she was a very little girl and the people in Baltimore, Maryland, were grooming the boys for public service and thought that Nancy might be a nun. Obviously, that would have eliminated many things, including our conversation today, so I'm glad that didn't happen.

But all the way through politics when she first ran for leadership in the House Democratic Caucus, the question from Democrats was, who said she could run, because the guys had a 200-year-old pecking order and they didn't want a woman stepping in it. Even a year ago, the president tried to down talk her and mansplain her in the White House, and she responded with that classic, please don't characterize the strength I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, and then put on the coat and shades and stepped into history representing every woman who had been mansplained or counted out.

So I think it's really important to know that whatever she does, Nancy Pelosi does with purpose. She is far less likely to tell you what she's doing than simply to do it. And any efforts to try to take her off her game by insulting her only fuel her fire to be stronger than ever for the people.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting insights. Christine Pelosi, the book, again, is "The Nancy Pelosi Way." Thanks so much for sharing your insights about your mom with us.

CHRISTINE PELOSI: Thank you. And happy New Year to everyone.

CAMEROTA: You, too.


President Trump praised controversial Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher as, quote, a great warrior. But the men who served in his platoon paint a very different picture in these confidential interviews that have just been published by "The New York Times." That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: We have another breaking story. "The New York Times" has just published never before seen interviews with the Navy SEALs who were under the command of Eddie Gallagher. These interviews are part of the U.S. military's investigation into the conduct of then Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher. It is the normally silent Navy SEALs, and they paint this deeply 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 Eddie 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. He was acquitted in July of murdering a 17-year-old Islamic terrorist while deployed to Iraq in 2017, but he was convicted of posing for a photo with that captive's corpse. President Trump then stepped in last month to restore Gallagher's rank, prompting the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over the president's handling of this case.

Joining us now, we have CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip, CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers, he's a former Democratic South Carolina House member, and CNN political commentator and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

This is shocking. We knew some of this, guys. We knew that Eddie Gallagher was accused of atrocious behavior, but to hear it from his own platoon, these guys who normally have to follow this code of silence, of all being a team, of not speaking out, and to hear them describe him, Abby, as basically toxic, psychopathic. He was disgraceful. One witnessed him shoot a child. What they are describing is a sadist. They are describing him as a sadist. And so now that we know that he was not pardoned, but whatever the equivalent of it was by President Trump, it just puts it in a whole new light.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I do think it really highlights how this incident really shook the SEALs. These individuals who came forward and gave these testimonies that are on the video, they are describing something that was so deeply disturbing to them and that bothered them so much about someone violating their code of conduct for the military.

And I also think that it really shows that this isn't just about the incidents, really, that he was even tried for or acquitted for. It is about a whole pattern of behavior that people who worked with him very closely witnessed or heard about, and it was so disturbing to them that they felt they need to come forward, and they communicated with each other about coming forward about some of this stuff.


So, when President Trump goes then and really undermines this entire process, he's doing that, you know, by flying in the face of all of this mounting evidence. It's not even clear to me the president cared what evidence existed about what Gallagher did or didn't do. He didn't seem to really care about the process. And that's what became so disturbing about all of this.

From the very beginning, the very first moments of this whole trial proceedings, the president was weighing in on this which seemed to indicate that he didn't care whether or not all of this evidence was really hashed out and that whether all of this information from people who worked with Gallagher was listened to.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, and this is very damning information, if you had known about it, and I think we have to assume that he did not. But, I mean, here's members of his own platoon saying the guy is freaking evil. The medic saying you could tell he was perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving.

Charlie Dent, my question to you is, there's a tension here with Republicans being strongly inclined to support the military, right, come hell or high water, but also being a party of law and order and honor. And this seems to have strayed from one well into undercutting credibility on the other.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: John, no question about that. Look, if you are the president of the United States, you have a lot of power in terms of pardons and commutations and before one intervenes, he should -- he should get the facts, and he should listen to expert testimony.

That's one of the problems with this president. He operates on his gut. And by intervening the way he did, I think he actually undermines the military and their processes and procedures, where, you know, they made some recommendations here, and the president simply ignored them. He just simply knew better than those who actually spend a lot of time studying, considering all the facts of this case.

And I think this is going to come back to bite the president.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Bakari, we have a few more tidbits from these military interviews with his platoon trying to sound the alarm of how bad an apple they thought was this person leading them. So, listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy was toxic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't let this continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy got crazier and crazier.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were civilians everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a psychopath.


CAMEROTA: He was perfectly OK with killing civilians. As John said, he is a psychopath. And, you know, I think that it does raise some questions about President Trump's judgment.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, we've already had these questions about President Trump's judgment. He's shown us who he was since he first came down the steps announcing his candidacy for president.

But for someone like me who has never put on the uniform, you're always very cautious about wading into these matters of the military, always very cautious about criticizing those individuals who have the courage to go out and serve our country, who fight for the very freedoms we have today.

But in this case, you actually have the words, the chilling words from Gallagher's own platoon-mates. You have those individuals in the most damning, to me, the most chilling to me is when you hear the voice or read off the pages of "The New York Times" where they say he was perfectly OK killing anybody that was moving. You know, those type of chilling words in describing someone that President Trump just simply looks at as some campaign ploy, campaign tactic, because what the president wants to do, not only does he believe that he's above the law and he just eviscerates the rule of law and order but now wants to campaign with Gallagher. He wants to travel around the country with him.

And so it goes from this realm of unbelievable to perverse, extremely quickly. And, yes, it goes back to his judgment. And I think that everyone, every American today should pick up this paper and read this article and don't just -- me and Congressman Dent sometimes get caught up in the partisan muck that is our reality, but you have these individuals who really, truly put America over party who were talking in their own terms, own experiences about how awful and how much of a psychopath Gallagher is and a murderer Gallagher is, and those words should be heeded by every American because the president's number one job as commander in chief, and he's failing.

AVLON: Bakari, that's such an important point the president has been using Eddie Gallagher in campaign initiatives as well.

We want to read a statement that Gallagher gave through this lawyer to "The New York Times." he wrote, my first reaction to seeing the videos was surprise and disgust that they'd make up blatant lies about me. But I quickly realized they were scared 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 their lies would never hold up under real questioning and a jury would see through it. Their lies and the NCIS's refusal to ask hard questions or corroborate their stories strengthened my resolve to go to trial and clear my name.

We should also say that in this article, they have a group text from 2017 when the members of the platoon were deciding to go forward and they told themselves in the group text: Tell the truth, don't lie or embellish, said one sniper who is now a member of SEAL team 6.


That way he can't say that we slandered him in any way.

Abby, let me go to you as we close this out. What kind of debate was there in the White House, either about overruling the Pentagon and the chain of command on this or about taking Eddie Gallagher and moving him into the campaign realm?

PHILLIP: Well, I mean, clearly, the president had made his intentions known and White House aides, especially his chief of staff, communicated to the Pentagon that this is the -- was the president's decision that that's what he was going to do. There was no apparent effort that we know of to stand in the way of this ultimately. And that's part of really what happens in this White House is that over time, White House aides become resigned to the president wanting to do certain things, whether they think it's wise or not, and they try to get out of the way of him doing it.

AVLON: Are you suggesting that, for example, General Jim Kelly, if he'd still been chief of staff, there may have been a different outcome?

PHILLIP: It's entirely possible. I mean, some of these things were clearly things that Kelly would have tried to keep away from the president, keep out of his purview and let it remain in the Pentagon's purview.

But that sort of thing stopped happening some time ago. We talk about guardrails here. Those came off a long time ago.

I mean, I want to say one thing about President Trump and really what underlies all of this. The president could have said, I looked at all of this evidence and I thought that this was a case where we needed to have some leniency in how we dealt with Eddie Gallagher. That I understand the seriousness of the charges he's facing.

The problem is he never really said that. He never acknowledged what this case was all about, which is about the appropriate conduct of U.S. forces in the theater, which is not just about being, in his words, a killing machine, but also about having a sense of order and discipline. That's what became so disturbing about all of this.

It is part of a pattern for President Trump where he does believe that military members need to have much more free reign about what they are able to do in the theater and that really is not the same view that Pentagon leadership have about how the military should be run and I think that's the missing element of this. He never acknowledges what this case was really about. Never acknowledges these concerns at all.

CAMEROTA: It's not the same as what these members of SEAL Team 7 who spoke out in this investigation feel either. They didn't want him to have free rein because they thought he was behaving in such a sadistic way.

Guys, thank you very much for helping us with this breaking news this morning.

AVLON: All right. Up next -- how divided are evangelicals over President Trump? Well, Harry Enten is going to break down the numbers. That's next.



AVLON: It has been weeks of heated debates among evangelicals about President Trump including writers from top Christian publications.

So, we wanted to find out just how strong is the president's support among all evangelical voters.

Here to break down the numbers, CNN senior politics writer and analyst, oh, Harry Enten.


AVLON: You know we love nothing more. Break down the numbers.

ENTEN: So let's break through. I think a lot of people when they talk about evangelicals, born again, they're talking about white born again evangelicals. And you know what? President Trump won those overwhelmingly in the 2016 election when 76 percent to Hillary Clinton's 18 percent. And you know what? That support is holding firm right now.

So, his approval rating, 75 percent among them at this point. His disapproval rating just 21 percent in the average of our April or May polls the last time we asked that specific.

CAMEROTA: Those are white evangelicals. That's an important distinction as we heard yesterday.

AVLON: Exactly, because very often, I think we stereotype evangelicals very unfairly and deny the true complexity of the community.

ENTEN: I think that's exactly right. If we look at all of them, what you see is the president still doing fairly well among them but not nearly as well as he's doing among white evangelicals particularly. So, in the 2016 election, Trump got 61 percent of the vote. Still fairly by high but significantly less than 76 percent he got among white evangelicals. Clinton got 34 percent.

Look at Trump's standing now among all born again/evangelicals. What do we see? His approval rating: 58 percent. Still pretty good but not anywhere near his high around the 75 percent he currently has.

AVLON: And it would seem to be some erosion in the approve and some increase in the disapprove.

ENTEN: There's a little bit. A little bit, a little bit, but, you know, margins of error, so on and so forth.

AVLON: And this is African-American evangelicals, Hispanic evangelicals. I mean, it's a much more diverse community than some people.

CAMEROTA: If you look at the nonwhite evangelicals, how is he doing?

ENTEN: Yes, exactly, so let's take a look at that, because this gets really interesting.

So, among the nonwhite born again/evangelicals, what do we see? In 2016, Clinton won those overwhelmingly, 69 percent of the vote. Trump got 27 percent of the vote. You look at it now, again, staying fairly steady.

His approval rating among the nonwhite born again/evangelicals. Just 29 percent, his disapproval rating, 66 percent.

And look at this --

AVLON: That's stunning.

ENTEN: This is amazing. Just 7 percent of African-American born again evangelicals approve of a job that Donald Trump is doing. So, Trump very popular among those white born again evangelicals, but not popular at all among the African-American evangelicals.

CAMEROTA: What percentage of evangelicals is nonwhite?

ENTEN: That's a great question. So, it basically breaks down about one-third of the born again evangelical community is nonwhite versus about two-thirds which is white. So, it's a significant part of the population. And --

AVLON: That's a fascinating stat about the African-American community. Just 7 percent, because one would think because of socially conservative policies, that might be a place he could make inroads. No.

ENTEN: Not happening. If anything, they're less inclined to support the president than non-born again evangelical African-Americans.

CAMEROTA: OK. What else?

AVLON: Fascinating.

ENTEN: One other thing I point out. We talk about Republican primaries all the time. This is among potential Democratic primary voters. What percentage are these different groups.

And what we see here is among the Democratic electorate, nonwhite born again evangelicals make up 16 percent versus just the 9 percent of those who -- whoops. There we go. Just 9 percent of those white born again evangelicals.

So, in the Democratic primary, it's a fairly substantial bloc. And right now, Biden is leading the primary among white and nonwhite evangelicals.

AVLON: The religious left that Jim Wallace loved.

All right. Before we go, we've got Iowa. But before we got Iowa, we've got football. What say you?

ENTEN: You know, the fact of the matter, I've been working very hard this week. Football, the final week of the regular season. And I just want to go through a few different playoff scenarios.