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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Interview With Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA); Surge Of Migrants Flood Texas City Of Eagles Pass Causing Tension Between State And Federal Authorities; Former Professor At Coast Guard Academy Accused Of Trading Grades For Sexts With Student; Defense Secretary Austin Welcomes Confirmation Of Gen. Charles Q. Brown As Next Joint Chefs Chair; Two Adults Killed, Dozens Of Students Injured After Bus Rolls Over On New York Interstate; Rupert Murdoch Steps Down As Fox And News Corp. Chairman; NYPD Discovers Trap Door, Drugs Hidden In The Floor Of Bronx Day Care Where One-Year-Old Died. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired September 21, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, thank you very much, Jason Carroll outside those Fox headquarters in New York.
And thanks very much to all of you for joining us tonight.
AC 360 begins right now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, burn the whole place down. The words of a frustrated House Speaker Kevin McCarthy describing members of his own party, as government funding and his own job are on the line.
Also a CNN exclusive, more evidence of the Coast Guard failing to act on allegations of sexual misconduct, this time involving a captain turned college president.
And later the outgoing chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley unloads on the former president.
So when the going gets tough, Congress goes home. Tonight, there are signs that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is losing or has lost control of Republicans in the House. The consequence for him might be his job is in jeopardy, for America, a functioning open government is in jeopardy.
A shutdown is in just days away, and in the face of that reality, McCarthy sent the House home for a long weekend, mostly because he could not get his Republican members to agree to anything else.
I'm John Berman in for Anderson and the scene today on Capitol Hill was one for the history books. President Zelenskyy of Ukraine was in Washington working around the clock and around the world to save his country from the Russian invasion, shaking hands and shaking the bipartisan trees for crucial aid. So with freedom on the line in Ukraine, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy decided to send Congress home, but only after a spectacular miscalculation and failure.
It is arcane procedural stuff, but the bottom line is, McCarthy thought he had the votes to pass the Defense spending bill. There was the proverbial optimism in the morning. It turns out, he was wrong, way wrong.
He did not even have the votes to get it on the floor. That doesn't happen in DC. And now what has happened to McCarthy twice in just days, the speaker was visibly frustrated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It's frustrating the sense that I don't understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate, and then you've got all the amendments if you don't like that. This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Burn the whole place down. Now Keeping Them Honest, there were signs of smoke from McCarthy for some time. In his roughly eight months as speaker he has failed to pass the simple procedural votes known as rules three times.
John Boehner and Paul Ryan, the two previous Republican speakers never lost these simple votes, neither did Democrat Nancy Pelosi when she was speaker. Dennis Hastert only lost two in eight years. It says something that only eight months in and Kevin McCarthy is no Dennis Hastert.
But this breakdown is not just about one military spending bill, there are 11 spending bills out of 12 that Republicans can't agree on with a deadline looming nine days before the government shuts down, but this really is not even about those 12 spending bills in general, it is about who is driving this, who was in charge, who can make things happen?
Firebrand Florida Congressman Matt Gates, who has been a constant thorn in McCarthy 's side seems to think it might be him. He is issuing a threat to any Republicans looking for a temporary fix, who might be willing to work with Democrats to, you know, actually keep the government functioning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): There will not be sufficient Republican votes for a continuing resolution. Now, if we've got some of these moderate Republicans who want to go and join up with the Democrats, they will be signing their own political death warrant, and they will be handing it to their executioner.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: McCarthy might not be able to keep his job if he works with Democrats, even if some Republicans want to, like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHAEL LAWLER (R-NY): I am not going to be party to a shutdown. It does not serve a purpose. By the way you save no money, you're going to end up costing the American people more money with the shutdown, so it's really illogical.
At the end of the day, any final bill is going to be bipartisan, and if somebody doesn't realize that, they're truly clueless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So that was Republican Mike Lawler, a freshman Congressman who won his race by less than a point in a district that President Biden carried by 10 points. Of course, all of these threats and defeats with a major deadline looming begs the question, will anyone blink?
Right now, it doesn't seem like it, so no blinking and no voting, just a long weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Would you vote for this, sir?
REP. MATT ROSENDALE (R-MO): No, I won't be voting for that right now. This is nothing more than different wrapping paper on the same crap sandwich.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining me now is Democratic congressman, Eric Swalwell from California.
Congressman, welcome to your long weekend. Is this the right time for Congress to be taking days off?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): No, we should be working, John, for working people. They are the ones who count on us and it's our troops, it's our cops, it is border agents, it's air traffic controllers -- the people we depend on to keep us safe and keep us moving, who will not be paid unless we fund the government.
And I just want to say, John, one thing here does not look like the others. That's a nursery rhyme from Sesame Street. I tell my children all the time, House Democrats, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House have all worked together to come up with a plan to fund the government, but it's House Republicans who want to shut it down.
And so it's time that they joined the rest of us and choose competence over chaos. Otherwise, people are going to get hurt. BERMAN: Burn the whole place down, that is what House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is accusing a handful of Republicans five, six, or seven depending on how you count it. He is accusing these five, six or seven of gumming up the whole thing.
How much sympathy do you have for McCarthy's predicament?
SWALWELL: Zero. Because he is a spectator speaker right now. I've watched him on the floor as he has been losing those votes. He just watches the board. There's a board, your viewers should know this, that has every member's name and how they vote and he just stands there with his hand in his pocket, watching the votes and that's because he thinks he can only pass this with Republican votes because he's afraid if he uses Democratic votes, he won't be speaker.
Well, John, he can be a spectator speaker, or he can be a leader and a leader would go to Democrats, just as Mitch McConnell and Senator Schumer have done in the Senate and say, give us the votes to keep the government open, I'll put it on the bill, we will save the cops, we will save the Border agents, we will save the troops from losing their pay. Do it for the country, instead of doing it for the chaos.
BERMAN: So there are some Republicans who say if McCarthy does that, goes to you for help, that they will throw him out as speaker. Would you be willing to help McCarthy keep his job at speaker if he did reach across the aisle for assistance to get the spending bills through?
SWALWELL: Well, John, this isn't about one person's job, right? This is millions of people who won't get paid in their own job. And by the way, I would like to think that Kevin McCarthy could get another job if he wasn't speaker, but I serve with a lot of people who think this is the only job that they could get. And so they do a lot of things because they're afraid of losing their jobs.
So again, why don't he show the same honor that, you know, Mitt Romney has shown throughout the years in choosing what's right over his job. And I promise you, once he figures that out, he'll see that the Democrats will work with him as we did to pay America's bills and lift the debt ceiling, we'll do that on the shutdown, we'll do that to fund the Ukraine.
And they don't even have a Plan B, and the second, he realizes that these chaos agents don't have a Plan B, and they don't even want to Plan B, he will be a stronger speaker and the country will be better off.
BERMAN: So the speaker didn't publicly meet with President Zelenskyy today given the opposition that some Republicans hold out to increase aid in Ukraine, but he did meet with them privately and the pictures are now out. So what did that accomplish?
SWALWELL: Well, it was a snub of Zelenskyy who wanted to address the full Congress. It only helps Putin because Putin sees that there's the potential that funding could run out and so he'll grind this war out as long as he can. He'll try and wait till the next election. He knows how to interfere in our elections, and so he will probably turn the dial up on doing that.
But John, I have too long given Republicans the benefit of the doubt that they're serious when they say that they're going to stand up for Taiwan if China invades it. And now, I think we all have to question whether that's really the case, because they're flinching and they're backing away from Ukraine. And if they back away from Ukraine, one, we're not going to have any help in the world to go against China if they invade Taiwan, and two, I don't think Taiwan should even believe that Republicans are up for a fight that would defend freedom.
So there's a lot more at stake than just Ukraine's freedom. It's Taiwan's freedom and both of those are linked to our freedom here in America.
BERMAN: Two very quick questions, you've got what 11 spending bills to pass individually in nine days, will there be a government shutdown?
SWALWELL: There shouldn't be. Again, I'm here, I'm ready to work. Democrats are ready to give the votes, you know, to keep the government open. But right now, Republicans, you know, they have failed to protect, they've failed to fund and they failed to govern. They are the failures and until they prove otherwise, again, people are going to suffer.
BERMAN: And when this is all done, if it's all done, do you think Kevin McCarthy keeps his job as speaker?
SWALWELL: Again, that's up to his own conference. And if he's looking at that as the priority then America is going to lose. He needs to choose the country over one criminal, Donald Trump. He needs to choose competence over chaos, and he needs to choose for the first time in his life to be a leader rather than a spectator speaker. If he does that history will hold him up high and most importantly, our constituents will get paid.
BERMAN: Congressman Eric Swalwell from California, thanks so much for being with us. Enjoy the long weekend.
BERMAN: I'm joined now by former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
So Congressman, you know, how bad is all this for Speaker McCarthy? And more importantly, you know, how bad is this for Americans who need the government to stay open?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is as bad as I've ever seen it in terms of the dysfunction within the House. It's terrible for the country if the government shuts down. It is very costly as Congressman Lawler said and Swalwell.
But look, this is -- John, this is not a hard problem to solve. Lawler and Swalwell are right. There will be a bipartisan solution. The way this will end, in all likelihood, is the Senate will pass a bill with over 70 votes that will fund the government, provide for some disaster assistance, and also provide for some Ukraine funding, and then they'll send it over to the US House. And then that's when the speaker has to make a decision.
If he puts that bill on the floor, it will pass with a strong bipartisan majority, and of course, that would then, the hardliners who are torturing him right now, will then move to vacate. But that's the answer and it's not hard to do this.
I mean, right now, the House cannot pass any appropriations bills, they couldn't pass a Defense spending bill, couldn't even bring it up. I mean, three times it failed over the last few days.
So I mean, this is complete and utter dysfunction. So the bottom line, we don't have to be in this predicament. This is a circular firing squad of their own making and they can simply get out of it just by McCarthy can go to Hakeem Jeffries right now and say, hey, I need some help on the rule vote. I need some vote on the final vote. And you know, I bet they get the votes.
But then again, he would have that hard flank just wanting to take him down faster.
BERMAN: So Gloria, you know, Congressman Dent makes it all seem so easy. I mean can Kevin McCarthy actually do that and keep his job?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Probably not. I mean, look, I think Kevin McCarthy would unwillingly come up with a plan to deal with Democrats, but I think what would is more likely to happen, as Charlie points out is that you have to circumvent McCarthy either sending something over from the Senate. There is been some talk of discharging continuing resolution that some Republicans would vote for, and then you would not need the speaker to bring it up.
But I think right now, you know, McCarthy is faced with a very difficult choice and I think Eric Swalwell talked about it, which is, does he get this done, and try to get it done without shutting down the government and put his own speakership at risk?
This is going to happen over and over and over again. He has got to figure out a way out of this. And, you know, I don't see what he does without getting some Democratic support at this point.
BERMAN: Do the Democrats have any incentive to help him, Gloria?
BORGER: No. Well, that's another point. I mean, yes, because they want to keep the government open, as Swalwell was just saying to you, but they're not thrilled with McCarthy, by the way after he called for an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden. And so a lot of them are furious with McCarthy. But in the end, will enough Democrats support something that keeps the government funded? I bet they would.
BERMAN: Congressman Dent, who gets blamed if there's a government shutdown? DENT: Well, unfortunately, for House Republicans, it will be them. Because you have Senate Republicans and Democrats united, House Democrats are aligned with the Senate and the president and it is really just a handful of House Republicans who are going to cause this shutdown. And of course, the Republican Party in the House will be blamed and it is not going to be very pretty.
Yes, I don't know how long the damage will be, but it is not good. My fear right now is that this shutdown could last for some time. Now, I don't know what the over under is on this, but I'm taking the over. And it's going to be -- you know, I suspect this could last more than a week. I hope it doesn't, but it could be a prolonged debate, because right now, the House just doesn't have the capacity to pass anything.
Republicans don't have anything to pass -- have the ability to pass anything on their own. And as Gloria said, Democrats aren't prepared to help them because of the impeachment inquiry, at least on the motion to vacate, they would help on the spending issue.
So Republicans are in a real bind right now in the House, and I'm not sure how they're going to get out of this unless they just bite the bullet and do the bipartisan approach and they can get out from under it.
BERMAN: For these Republican holdouts, Gloria, is there anything that would get them to take yes for an answer right now?
BORGER: I think not funding Ukraine would get them a little bit closer. And, you know, cutting spending beyond where any Democrat would want to go.
And of course, don't forget, this has to go through the Senate. So whatever they're fighting about now, by the way, has to get through the Senate and it won't get through the Senate.
So it's a real conundrum here because what those holdouts want is not what the Senate of the United States is going to approve.
BERMAN: I am pretty sure there was no Schoolhouse Rock episode on what we're seeing right now on Capitol Hill.
BERMAN: Gloria Borger, Charlie Dent, great to see both of you. Thank you so much.
DENT: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: Still to come tonight, one child dead another death reported today after a surge of migrants overwhelms the Texas border city of Eagle Pass. State and federal authorities, they are at odds over what to do. We have a live report from the border ahead.
Plus, a trip to band camp turned tragic after the bus students were on overturned in Upstate New York. At least, well, several people are dead and several others injured. We're going to have the latest on the investigation.
BERMAN: Tonight, the border city of Eagle Pass, Texas has become the latest flashpoint in the growing crisis over what to do about the surge of migrants trying to cross the southern border.
Another body was recovered today, a day after a three-year-old boy die trying to cross the Rio Grande. More on that in a moment.
Right now let's go to our Ed Lavandera who is in Eagle Pass in Texas. Ed, what more can you tell us about what you're seeing?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you know, Eagle Pass is the focal point of this latest surge of migration, but when you look around here, you see a wall of steel containers, miles of razor wire here along Eagle Pass. There are hundreds of Fed Real agents, hundreds of State Troopers, but despite all of that, thousands of people are still crossing in this very spot.
LAVANDERA (voice over): Dozens of migrants stand in the Rio Grande moments after forming a human chain to cross the river and through layers of razor wire trying to reach Eagle Pass, Texas.
(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES shouting "Venezuela.")
LAVANDERA (voice over): They tell me they're from Venezuela, among them a woman and her toddler. The danger for them is real. Two people, including a three-year-old boy have drowned this week after being swept away in the river current.
But after a nearly 3,000-mile journey, they accept the risk.
(ED LAVANDERA speaking in foreign language.)
LAVANDERA (on camera): How long are you going to wait here?
(UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE speaking in foreign language.)
LAVANDERA: They said they're going to wait here until they let them in.
LAVANDERA (voice over): The migrants tell us they've been robbed and attacked on the Mexican side of the river. After hours of waiting, the migrants figured out a way to crawl under the razor wire.
In a surreal scene, one man instantly apologized. LAVANDERA (on camera): They wanted to apologize for crossing illegally into the US and they're begging and asking for mercy, and to understand that they're coming from a country where they're persecuted and they feel like if they were to be returned home, they would be killed.
LAVANDERA (voice over): The mass influx of migrants is causing tension between federal and state authorities. Texas Governor Greg Abbott posted this video accusing Border agents of cutting razor wire at an undisclosed location in Eagle Pass, allowing trapped migrants to turn themselves in. DHS officials refused to comment on the governor's allegation.
On Wednesday, about 3,000 migrants crossed in Eagle Pass alone.
SHERIFF TOM SCHMERBER, MAVERICK COUNTY, TEXAS: It's something very strange. I never thought I was going to see something like that in Eagle Pass, Texas.
LAVANDERA (voice over): The local sheriff tells us smugglers are preying on the hopes of these migrants, offering to move them to other cities if they can get into the US.
SCHMERBER: I know this because we have smugglers coming from Houston, Florida, Austin -- everywhere to pick up those immigrants. There is a connection there.
LAVANDERA (voice over): Reasons for this surge vary, but migrants we spoke to say they've grown frustrated with the CBP One app that processes formal applications, many waiting months on the Mexican side for an appointment.
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)
LAVANDERA (voice over): These two men from Venezuela say they crossed illegally because they're desperate and have been waiting three months for the appointment to request asylum. "It's a risk we had to take," he tells me. "We know there's a chance we get deported, but it is in God's hands."
BERMAN: We're back with Ed. Ed, how many migrants are you seeing tonight in Eagle Pass and what's going to happen to all the people who have been crossing in recent days?
LAVANDERA: We don't have exact numbers on how everything unfolded today. But we know, having been here, all day long, there were hundreds, if not over a thousand again. We will wait and try to get harder numbers there.
But even tonight, out here, as we look into the river, there may be like about a dozen people still trying to cross, and that is expected to resume again in the morning.
You know, this is this very same area where two people have died crossing the river, caught in the current. It looks rather peaceful. The currents can be rather intense.
But the future for a lot of these people who've been turned in, this is why so much of this is perception. There's a question about many people say, you know, the border is wide open that what we see here in Eagle Pass is proof of all of that. There are others who say that there are consequences down the road for crossing illegally for many of the people who have crossed into Eagle Pass like we've seen throughout the day today.
But you know, the political firestorm surrounding everything that we see unfolding here is just so intense, and it is very difficult to kind of parse exactly what's happening and what is going to be happening in the weeks ahead and the months ahead for many of the migrants that we've witnessed crossing here today.
BERMAN: And in terms of the trends, is there any way to tell if this latest surge, if it's only going to increase from here or if maybe it's past its peak?
LAVANDERA: Well, that's the question we've been asking people up and down the border when we started reporting earlier this week in El Paso and here in Eagle Pass. We just spoke with the mayor of Eagle Pass a short while ago. He told me that he was in a meeting with federal officials earlier tonight and he was told that there could be anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 migrants crossing into southern Mexico.
And the question is where exactly are those migrants going to disperse? How are they going to break up? And where will they be traveling to, and how long will it take them to get to northern Mexico and the border here?
So depending on who you talk to, there are some people who think that this is going to slow down a little bit, but there are also many local officials who will tell you that they're concerned that this is a sign of a more sustained problem and perhaps the end of that calm that we've seen since the end of Title 42 Back in May.
BERMAN: To be clear, ED, 50,000 or 60,000 crossing into southern Mexico all the way at the other end of the country and the issue is, do they make it all the way through Mexico to the United States?
LAVANDERA: Yes, it is very difficult to predict, and remember, you're talking about people who are traveling together or trying to create group safety. We have no idea where exactly all of these people are going to end up, but that's what the mayor of Eagle Pass told us tonight.
So, you know, the question is, do they break up in to smaller groups? Do they make it all the way here? Do some people give up what exactly is going to happen? But that's what local officials are being told in meetings with federal officials. And the question is, you know, how is that going to impact communities here along the southern border in the days and weeks ahead?
BERMAN: All right, Ed Lavandera, a lot to think about. Keep us posted, please.
Next a CNN exclusive, a former professor at the Coast Guard Academy accused of sexting a cadet, and the fallout he is facing now as a college president as our Pam Brown continues her investigation into misconduct at the Academy.
Plus, a new report on the relationship outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley had with the former president, there were some moments.
BERMAN: The US Senate has launched an inquiry into the Coast Guard's handling of a secret years' long investigation exposed by CNN. You likely remember our Pamela Brown has done several reports on the investigation dubbed "Operation Fouled Anchor." They found rapes, sexual assaults, and other misconduct at its Academy that had been ignored and at times, covered up by high ranking officials.
Tonight, Pam has another CNN exclusive. A college president is taking a leave of absence after CNN started asking questions about his past at the Coast Guard Academy where he was accused of exchanging hundreds of sexually suggestive text messages with a student more than a decade ago.
Here is Pam's report.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Retired Captain Glenn Sulmasy has had a long career that includes being a lawyer, a provost, a captain in the Coast Guard. Now, he's the president of Nichols College and said he wants to turn it into the business college of choice for women.
But a CNN investigation found Sulmasy allegedly sent lewd or suggestive text messages to at least two of his students more than a decade ago when he was a professor at the Coast Guard Academy.
MELISSA MCCAFFERTY, RETIRED COAST GUARD LIEUTENANT: He operates with complete impunity. He is untouchable.
BROWN (voice-over): Melissa McCafferty, a former Coast Guard cadet, said when she texted Sulmasy after graduation, asking for a letter of recommendation for law school, Sulmasy said this.
MCCAFFERTY: Only if you send me pictures. Will I write you a letter of recommendation? It doesn't take an idiot to figure out that he was insinuating nudes. He then followed up with -- and I will never forget this, I've always loved that tattoo on your left foot.
BROWN (voice-over): To another female students, Sulmasy exchanged more than 1,600 text messages, most of which were sexual or flirtatious. According to this internal Coast Guard document obtained by CNN, an alleged offer to give high grades to the cadet in exchange for sexual banter.
Listen to what he wrote. "Do you love turning me on? You really looked great and the nails were very hot." "You're very precious. I adore you. I really do want you." "I am a good boy. No final for the goddess."
Coast Guard attorneys learned about the text years later after Sulmasy had retired from service, yet they were so concerned they wrote this 2016 prosecution memo recommending two court martial charges against Sulmasy including willful dereliction of duty and conduct on becoming an officer.
The document states the cadet who was 20 years younger than Sulmasy denied any sexual contact occurred and appears to have been a willing participant. Sulmasy's attorney saying to CNN, that means, "text between them were entirely consensual between two of age adults".
Yet the memo's conclusion was prosecution appears to be the only proper course of action. Charges were never filed.
MCCAFFERTY: He would get away with all sorts of inappropriate behavior.
BROWN (voice-over): McCafferty says her interaction with Sulmasy went beyond text messages. She says Sulmasy harassed her, making sexual comments to her or about her.
MCCAFFERTY: He made countless comments towards me about my body to my boyfriend, to me, to a classroom. He made comments about how I looked in a suit, in a pencil skirt and heels.
BROWN (on-camera): Did you feel like the power differential between the role you had as a cadet and the role he had as a captain impacted how he was treated?
MCCAFFERTY: Oh, absolutely. I brought it up to multiple people and they told me that he was too powerful and that they could do nothing about it.
BROWN (voice-over): Sulmasy retired from the Coast Guard in 2015.
GLENN SULMASY: My name is Glenn Sulmasy.
BROWN (voice-over): And became an administrator at Bryant University in Rhode Island. The memo warned Sulmasy would have access to students for the rest of his career. And if no action was taken, the Coast Guard would be accused of sweeping the case under the rug.
Yet that's what the Coast Guard did. It's another example of the agency internally expressing concern about sexual misconduct, but ultimately failing to act. In June, CNN uncovered a damning investigation that have been kept secret for years. It showed Academy leaders buried dozens of cases of sexual assault.
ADM. LINDA FAGAN, U.S. COAST GUARD: I again apologize to each victim, survivor, their loved ones. BROWN (voice-over): As for Melissa McCafferty, she says the culture on the Coast Guard has been one of silencing victims. The message was very loud and clear. It was keep your head down and shut up. And that's what I did, and I regret it.
BROWN (voice-over): Sulmasy's attorney told CNN, "Any allegation made by Ms. McCafferty that Mr. Sulmasy harassed her is categorically false".
BERMAN: And Pam Brown is with us now. Pam, we understand that Sulmasy has taken a leave of absence from his post as president of Nichols College?
BROWN: Yes, that's right, John. After CNN reached out for comment, Nichols College told us that it has launched a third party investigation into the allegations. Sulmasy voluntarily took a leave of absence.
The Coast Guard told CNN in a statement that it is also referring Melissa's allegations to its investigative service, and CNN has learned that investigation has already begun, John.
BERMAN: So, and despite this memo recommending court martial charges, the Coast Guard never actually prosecuted Sulmasy, correct? Do we know why?
BROWN: That's right. We don't know about the internal discussions, but that memo does discuss how difficult it would be to prosecute Sulmasy for a number of reasons, including the statute of limitations. There was no physical contact alleged, and it would be hard to find an impartial military judge because Sulmasy had so many connections at the Coast Guard. John?
BERMAN: Pam Brown, to you and your team, continued fantastic work on this. Thank you so much.
BROWN: Thank you.
BERMAN: Now to the Pentagon, where Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin today said he welcomes the confirmation of General Charles Q. Brown as the next Joint Chiefs Chair, the nation's highest military officer after a holdup led by Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville.
Brown will replace outgoing Chair General Mark Milley, who is the subject of a new profile in the Atlantic. The headline is, "The Patriot: How General Mark Milley Protected the Constitution from Donald Trump". Now that says a lot and a lot has been written about Milley and the former president over the years. But this one from the Atlantic, it has plenty of new details.
Joining me now is former Defense Secretary William Cohen. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us. So this article quotes General Milley as telling friends that if Donald Trump wins back the White House, quote, "He'll start throwing people in jail, and I'd be at the top of the list".
The piece also says, quote, "At one point during the presidency, Trump proposed calling back to active duty two retired flag officers who had been critical of him, Admiral William McRaven and General Stanley McChrystal, so that they could be court martialed".
So, what goes through your mind when you hear all this?
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think we have a lot to fear with a possible re-election or election of Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the founding father's worst nightmare. A man who has no moral character, has no general understanding of the rule of law or respect for the rule of law and he is someone who is trying to get absolute power by undermining every institution in our government.
So he's the nightmare of the founding fathers, and that's what the chairman had to deal with. And thank goodness he stayed on. He could have retired or just said, I can't stand it anymore. And that would have created a much more dangerous situation for our allies and our adversaries looking at us saying, wow, the United States really is unstable -- with an unstable president.
That could have been the most dangerous thing for him to have done. So he stayed there and he negotiated his way to be the principal adviser of the president of the United States. And always -- and the person who worried most about how erratic, unstable, and dangerous he really is.
BERMAN: Do you think if re-elected or elected again, I should say, he would really go so far as to imprison people like General Milley?
COHEN: I think he will do what he says. He has no respect for the rule of law. He does not believe the law applies to him in anything he might do. You can see what he did with the Attorney General's office, what he tried to do with the entire Justice Department, with the FBI, and also with the military now. So I would not put it by him at all.
The most important thing for us to remember is we will lose the support of our NATO allies and we'll lose any credibility in the Asia Pacific, the Indo-Pacific region. They will look at us and say this man is not credible as a leader, he's not trustworthy, and he's dangerous.
BERMAN: The article also describes a stunning moment. General Milley selected a severely wounded army captain named Luis Avila, who had completed five combat tours, who had lost a leg in an IED attack in Afghanistan, and had suffered two heart attacks, two strokes, and brain damage as a result of his injuries.
Milley had asked him to sing God Bless America at an Armed Forces welcome ceremony. The article continues, "After Avila's performance, Trump walked over to congratulate him, but then said to Milley, within earshot of several witnesses, why do you bring people like that here? No one wants to see that, the wounded. Never let Avila appear in public again," Trump told Milley.
And we should note, the CNN covered this at a time in the note that the former president appeared moved by the captain's rendition, even embracing him after the song. But if he did make those comments late, what does that say?
Well, what did he say when John McCain was not a hero to him because he was shot down. He didn't like people who got shot down. What would it say about having someone like Tammy Duckworth to perform at one of these sessions to have her roll out and to see how she has survived that ordeal and yet is a great senator now or Max Cleland that I served with in the Senate, no leg, one arm, these are -- this is war.
And what Chairman Milley wanted to say, here's the face of war. When we go to war, we're going to have casualties like this. This young man deserves to be honored in front of the world. And what Donald Trump said, get him out of here.
He's a loser. He got wounded. And I think every veteran who sees that or reads that, or to keep that in mind this coming next year and say, never vote for a president of the United States who has such contempt and such disrespect for the courage and the valor of the people who are willing to fight and die for this country.
BERMAN: Secretary William Cohen, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
COHEN: Great to be with you, John. Thank you.
BERMAN: All right, we do have breaking news. A live report near the scene of a fatal bus crash in Orange County, New York. Dozens of Long Island students were injured after their bus rolled over on the interstate on the way to a band camp event.
Look at those pictures. We have the latest ahead.
BERMAN: We do have breaking news. Dozens of students are injured after their bus headed to a band camp event rolled over on an interstate in Orange County, New York. Two adults were killed in the crash, at least one of them after being ejected from the vehicle. Five people are in critical condition.
The bus was carrying students from Farmingdale High School on Long Island. New York State Police held a briefing late today.
Our Omar Jimenez joins us now near the crash site. Omar, what's the latest on the condition of the victims?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So the conditions right now, we know five are in critical condition. While there are dozens of injuries here, the vast majority of them do seem to be just bumps and bruises, but two people killed, two adults.
Now to give you some context here, there were 44 people on board this bus. This was one of six buses that was coming from Farmingdale, New York -- Farmingdale High School on Long Island outside New York City on its way to Greeley, Pennsylvania, which is about 35 miles from where I am right now for a band camp.
As far as people on board 40 students, four adults, two people killed, and those both were adults, and I want to tell you their names right now. One of them Gina Pellettiere from Massapequa, New York. She was 43 years old, and she was a musical director at Farmingdale High School.
The other, Beatrice Ferrari from Farmingdale, New York. She was 77 years old. And as I mentioned, five still in critical condition.
BERMAN: We see the pictures, Omar, of that bus so far off the road. Have officials said what might have caused the crash?
JIMENEZ: That's what's being looked at right now. As we understand from officials, about 50 feet off the edge of the road. Now, I want to show you where I am behind -- what's behind me here. That is actually the entrance to the Interstate I-84 Westbound where this crash actually happened.
As you can see, it's been closed really for hours as this investigation has played out. And preliminarily, state police believe it was an issue with the front tire of this bus that may have contributed or at least been a contributing factor to this particular crash.
But of course, it's why they've had their collision reconstruction team on site to try and figure out more about what happened. And it's also why the NTSB, as we understand, is sending a team out here.
We expect them to be here tomorrow morning to help piece together again a little bit more of how this could have happened to this group of students and adults who were on their way to a band camp that, again, was just 35 miles or so away from where this bus actually crashed.
BERMAN: And 44 people, you said, on that bus. Are the children being reunited with their parents?
JIMENEZ: Yes. As we understand, that reunification process has been happening over the course of the afternoon into the evening. This was a crash that happened in the early afternoon. I mentioned there were six buses. The other buses did not continue on. They returned to a place nearby here, Orange County Community College.
And then they took a moment to potentially meet with grief counselors, if they could, and then made their way back to their high school on Long Island to reunite with their families. But, of course, they're trying to figure out how to move forward after this happened in just a matter of moments, John.
BERMAN: Yes, tragedy. Omar Jimenez, thank you for being there.
Next, the end of an era. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is stepping down. Who will now run Fox and the rest of the empire and to look at his legacy, ahead.
BERMAN: Tonight, what seems like an episode of Succession playing out in real life, Rupert Murdoch has stepped down as chairman of Fox and News Corporation and will now take on the role of Chairman Emeritus.
His eldest son, Lachlan, will now be the sole chairman. The 92-year- old Murdoch had an epic reign. For decades, the media mogul, beloved by conservatives, has influenced American politics from his newspapers to cable television.
With a look at his legacy at Fox, here's our Randi Kaye.
RUPERT MURDOCH, CHAIRMAN, FOX CORPORATION AND NEWS CORPORATION: How delighted I am that we've now reached this moment when we can firmly announce the starting of a Fox News channel.
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Media titan Rupert Murdoch, in 1996, announcing the launch of Fox News. At the time, nobody could have predicted how the cable channel would change America. And challenge democracy as we know it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is 6:07, we got more news coming up.
KAYE (voice-over): Early on, Fox News reported the news, but eventually the network focused less on facts and more on conspiracy theories, like the false claim that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Other presidents have been questioned about their residency. What's wrong with asking about, OK, can you just show us the birth certificate?
KAYE (voice-over): Never before had propaganda been broadcast every night into America on the scale that Murdoch's Fox platform provided. Then Donald Trump came along.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good to see you, sir.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, thank you both very much. We never had a more beautiful set than this, did we?
KAYE (voice-over): With Trump in the White House, Fox began sounding more and more like state TV, unleashing right-wing propaganda aimed at bolstering Trump's image.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They'll criticize President Trump, but no one can argue he is a worker.
KAYE (voice-over): Around that same time, according to the New York Times, Murdoch was calling Trump at the White House at least once a week and bypassing his chief of staff to offer counsel. The toxicity lies and misinformation reached new heights during COVID.
Fox touted unproven alternative treatments and advanced baseless claims about problems with vaccines. If the vaccine was so great, why were all these people lying about it?
KAYE (voice-over): Then came the 2020 election. After Fox called the race for Joe Biden, Murdoch agonized that Trump was going increasingly mad. Venting about Fox's pollsters, Murdoch wrote in an email, "I hate our decision desk people". Fox, for its part, leaned into MAGA World, and its hosts fed those viewers just what they wanted to hear.
HANNITY: Every American should be angry, you should be outraged, you should be worried, you should be concerned at what has happened in the election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Disturbing irregularities have been found and must be investigated to the fullest.
MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS HOST: I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that.
KAYE (voice-over): Fox News host did away with journalistic integrity and delivered outright fiction. And all the while, Murdoch stood by.
Then it came back to bite him in the form of multiple lawsuits against the network for peddling election lies. In April, the network settled a lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for $787 million.
And Tucker Carlson?
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The outcome of our presidential election was seized from the hands of voters.
KAYE (voice-over): He was shown the door shortly after that settlement. Fox is still facing multiple other lawsuits. Litigation also exposed the hypocrisy. Murdoch's deposition in the Dominion case revealed that he rejected his own network's conspiracy theories.
When asked by Dominion's lawyers, "Do you believe that Dominion was engaged in a massive and coordinated effort to steal the 2020 presidential election?" Murdoch replied, "No."
Randi Kaye, CNN.
BERMAN: Next, a disturbing look under the trap door police say they found at a Bronx daycare where a one-year-old boy died of a suspected fentanyl overdose. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BERMAN: Disturbing new details in the investigation to a Bronx daycare where a one-year-old boy died of a suspected fentanyl overdose last week. The NYPD says approximately 8 to 10 kilograms of drugs were discovered under a trap door in the play area at the center where one- year-old Nicholas Dominici had been sleeping.
Three other children were hospitalized after suffering acute opioid intoxication, but they thankfully survived. A U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York says that the owner of the daycare and another suspected arrested ran a fentanyl distribution business out of the building.
They are facing federal charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death, as well as numerous state charges. And police are still looking for the owner's husband.
The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.