Return to Transcripts main page
CNN News Central
House Speaker Opens Impeachment Inquiry Into President Biden; Escaped Convict Now Armed. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired September 12, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Armed and extremely dangerous. The convicted killer on the run stole a gun overnight before escaping into the dark,hundreds and hundreds of law enforcement descending on the scene.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Impeachment on the minds of House Republicans in a big way. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is about to speak. Is he about to endorse launching an impeachment investigation into President Biden?
SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Plus, a race against the clock to avoid a massive autoworkers strike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTER: What do we want it?
PROTESTER: When do we want it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want a strike, but you're leaving us no choice if you don't give us a fair contract.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Failing to reach a deal could cost the U.S. economy huge.
We are following these major developing stories and much more right here on CNN NEWS CENTRAL with Sara Sidner, John Berman and Kate Bolduan.
BERMAN: The breaking news this morning, the convicted killer on the run in Pennsylvania is armed.
A short time ago, State Police told us that Danelo Cavalcante stole a .22-caliber rifle with a scope and amount of flashlight from the garage of a home overnight. The resident was in the garage, actually fired on Cavalcante as he ran away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: And at 10:10 p.m., a call was received from a resident on Coventryville Road indicating a short Hispanic male, no shirt and wearing dark pants had entered his garage while the homeowner was in it, and that he grabbed a .22 rifle that was leaning in the corner of the garage.
The homeowner drew a pistol and fired at Cavalcante as he fled with the rifle. We have no reason to believe that he is injured as a result of that shooting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, now armored vehicles and heavily armed officers are descending on the scene.
Police have called nearby residents, warning them to stay inside and lock their doors.
Let's go to CNN's Danny Freeman, who is on the ground in that part of Pennsylvania, where this search is really entering this new level, Danny.
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, John.
And just to put a finer note on exactly what you're describing, we have been seeing this increased police presence really all throughout the morning. We're right now at the northeast edge of this new perimeter that law enforcement officials have established overnight in this real enormous push to flush out Danelo Cavalcante, now, as you said armed and dangerous.
We have been seeing armored vehicles. We have seen trailers full of horses that were being brought in specifically so police could ride them into some of these challenging terrain that they now have to search for this suspect.
And the lieutenant colonel for the Pennsylvania State Police, George Bivens, who has been giving a lot of these updates, he said there are now upwards of 500 officers all in this area trying to find this man right now.
But, John, I want to get to some of the other developments specifically that we learned from this press conference because that 10:10 p.m. account of him stealing a gun is, of course, the biggest headline. But that was actually the second sighting that happened last night of Cavalcante.
The first sighting occurred at around 8:00 p.m. There was a woman driving her car very close to her Cavalcante ditched that dairy farm delivery van that he stole over the weekend. A woman said she thought she saw Cavalcante crouched down on a road.
And at that point, police responded, found muddy footprints, followed them, and ultimately found Cavalcante's discarded prison-issued shoes. Then police got word that there had been work boots also stolen from the area. So then fast-forward a little less than two hours later to that 10:10 encounter.
Police told us today that Cavalcante entered a garage that was open. He saw a rifle sitting up against one wall of the garage that had a scope on it, a flashlight on it and ammunition in it, grabbed it. The resident who lived at that home was actually in the garage at the time and, as you heard the lieutenant colonel right there say, fired at the suspect.
But it appears at this point that he was not hit, Cavalcante was not hit, and that gunfire -- actually, Cavalcante telling CNN just -- excuse me -- Colonel Bivens telling CNN just recently that Cavalcante did not have any blood left in that particular garage.
Now, John, I want to play for you a sound bite from that press conference about how Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens is thinking about the level of danger that Cavalcante presents at this moment. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIVENS: He's killed two people previously. I would suspect that he's desperate enough to use that weapon.
We have considered him dangerous right from the very start. It changes nothing. We have always considered him to be a risk. We just now absolutely know that he has a weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREEMAN: And, again, you're seeing the reaction from getting this weapon here today.
The other thing I will note, John, that we learned from this press conference is that the lieutenant colonel there said that Cavalcante actually knows this area well and knows where he is. There had been a question over the weekend when we learned that he ditched this van in this particular area of Chester County.
The question was why. It was kind of a random spot. There were no other acquaintances that we know of that he was going to that area for. Now we learn that Cavalcante is familiar with the area. He knows where he is. That's according to police.
Now, the big question is, what happens next? Obviously, this man is very dangerous. Police are really preparing for any eventuality. Our colleague Brian Todd, he was down at that press conference about 25 miles south of where we are. He asked Colonel George Bivens about the possibility that Cavalcante may opt in to death by cop.
I want to take a listen to that sound bite right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Are you concerned about possible what they call suicide by cop, that he -- if you close in on him, it's going to be a violent ending and he just will not want to go back to prison?
BIVENS: You know, that's certainly a possibility. I mean, those -- it's a possibility that he will attack the police to try and get away. It's a possibility with attack as a civilian. It's a possibility it would be a suicide by cop.
Any of those scenarios are possibilities. Our people were trained to deal with them. And, again, we have considered him to be very dangerous right from the start. This really doesn't change anything in terms of our tactics and equipment and so forth that we're utilizing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREEMAN: The last thing I will note, John, is, Pennsylvania State Police really found themselves defending the manhunt over the past 13 days, insisting that nothing has gone wrong, because they have spotted him. They believe they know where he is, but, again, 13 days into this manhunt, still no capture, Cavalcante now armed and dangerous -- John.
BERMAN: He knows where he is, which presumably means he knows where to hide.
Danny Freeman, thank you so much for your reporting. Please keep us posted -- Kate, Sara.
BOLDUAN: And joining us now is retired FBI supervisory special agent Daniel Brunner.
Thanks so much for coming in.
The fact that he is now armed, obviously, he's now even more dangerous. But how does that change this whole situation in this moment? As the tone that we heard from the lieutenant colonel in that press conference, it was different today than what we have heard in the last 12, 13 days.
DANIEL BRUNNER, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Good morning, Kate and Sara.
Absolutely, I think that, for law enforcement, it completely just changes the situation for the tactical teams as they're proceeding through the forest, proceeding through the woods, because Cavalcante is -- we now know is armed with a rifle.
He is -- he knows the land. He knows the area. He was able to get from the prison to the house of an associate with, expected, no phone, no GPS. he knows how to travel through the land. He knows how to get from A -- to point A to point B without the assistance of technology.
And so he is definitely aware of the area. And what is most concerning is, with the rifle and the scope, that he could set up an ambush, or, if he sees the officers coming through the woods, he's able to preposition and get ready. So the tactical officers from all those law enforcement agencies
really need to be cautious when proceeding, so it's not traveling through with those heavy horses, the canines. It's going to be quite concerning.
SIDNER: Daniel, let me ask you about something Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens said.
He talked about the fact that, at one point, there was about minutes in between the time when he was shot at to when the time law enforcement got there. We also know he's been seen on the doorbell, the Ring device. And he's also gone both north and south. He's sort of changed directions. So he's not going one way.
What does this tell you about his ability to evade law enforcement? It has now been 13 days, and they have everything they have got looking for this guy.
BRUNNER: Well, what the lieutenant colonel said was absolutely perfect, is that it's a -- such a large area.
I have participated in searches like this. That was a number of years ago and Pennsylvania. It's a large area. And as many law enforcement agencies, federal, state and local that are there, it's just not possible to search in a line pattern. It's not possible to search over every inch.
He is at the advantage right now where he knows the land. We are -- and -- excuse me -- law enforcement is moving forward and containing the area. And we will -- the best ability is to contain him in that area and hopefully create the situation where he makes a mistake, where he trips up and is able to be detected by the aircraft or infrared or a canine.
So that is the situation, is pushing him to the limits, where he makes a mistake, at then which someone can move in. And the -- one of the most key things is -- exactly, is civilians. That triples, quadruples the number of eyes that are looking.
The fact that he approached an open garage and approached a vehicle, and that had the keys in it, it clearly shows that he's looking for opportunities. If the people there in Pennsylvania secure their homes, secure their cars, make sure the keys aren't there, make sure the garage door openers aren't in the cars where he could open a garage door and get access to it, those will create a lot more difficult situation for him, thus creating a situation where he could trip up and law enforcement can move in and capture him.
BOLDUAN: Daniel, John Miller made the point earlier that, if the pattern continues, he hides out during the day and then he makes his move.
Then he tries to travel and he makes his moves in the evening, as the sun goes down. I just wonder now, as there's kind of this new reality that they're all facing that he has this .22-caliber rifle, what is today and tonight going to look like and be like for this community that has just been now -- is being asked essentially be in lockdown and is terrorized by this man?
BRUNNER: Clearly, this community is on edge. The schools need to be -- are being closed as a precautionary matter.
And Pennsylvania State Police clearly have a great command structure there with all the federal law enforcement, the FBI, U.S. Marshals, who are extremely experienced in capturing a fugitive. And the best people are there. I'm sure FBI headquarters is providing assets and locating the individual.
So it's -- the community really needs to be cautious. He's looking for opportunities to enter our garage, looking for an opportunity to get into a vehicle. There's absolutely no reason to believe that he won't conduct some violence towards a civilian.
These people are -- this fugitive is definitely armed and extremely dangerous. I think everything from a hostile encounter all the way to a safe capture needs to be considered by law enforcement. But the law enforcement in the area clearly is moving forward extremely on a new footing that today, the fact that he is armed.
BOLDUAN: Daniel Brunner, thank you for coming in.
We're going to continue to follow these developments, as a lot has been happening this morning during the show. That continues -- John.
BERMAN: All right, we just got word that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is about to make a statement.
You're looking at live pictures outside his formal office at the Capitol. So this is coming very shortly. And it comes as we learned this morning the House speaker is going to endorse an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, though Republicans haven't presented any direct evidence that the president did anything wrong.
And it also comes as the House speaker is facing challenges to his own speakership.
Let's go to Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill.
What do we expect to hear at this pretty formal statement, Lauren?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we expect that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will come out at any moment, give a brief statement.
But, like you noted, this is coming as some on his right flank are raising questions about his leadership. We expect that, in the noon hour. Matt Gaetz, a conservative who has sparred with the House speaker in the past, is going to give his own floor speech about the direction he thinks the House should go.
We should remind viewers that any one Republican member can bring a vote to oust the current speaker. So that has been a dynamic that has really loomed over every decision that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has made over the last several months since he got that gavel in January, after that hard-fought battle for the speaker's position.
Now, one thing that keep in mind is that House Republicans are also having to find a way forward to fund the government. And these two issues, while they are separate, are very much intertwined. And one of the key things to remember here is the fact that House Republicans right now are still divided about how to fund the government.
Meanwhile, the Senate is moving on a bipartisan basis to fund the government for a year. So there is a discussion right now happening about how to move forward on the funding mechanism while we await this bigger question of whether or not House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is going to formally announce opening an impeachment inquiry.
Obviously, we are waiting for him to come out. We don't know what he is going to say. But it's always important to keep in context that there are two big fights right now, the question of opening an impeachment inquiry and how to fund the government before the end of the month -- John.
BERMAN: And this third sub-issue is whether McCarthy survives these two fights.
Some context here is, the House has been out of session for six weeks, right? These members, the conservative members, have had six weeks at home. And, to an extent, their frustration and their anger has been growing, heating up to this boiling point.
You said, Matt Gaetz speaks at the top of the next hour, 45 minutes from now. Is what we're about to see from Kevin McCarthy, can this be seen, is he trying to get out ahead of it?
FOX: Well, I think that's certainly one way to look at it, John.
And the other thing to keep in mind is that McCarthy's closest confidence and allies on Capitol Hill, their belief is that, once lawmakers would get back to Washington, they'd be able to get everyone on the same page, they'd be able to have their regular conference meeting and start to sort out some of these family issues, as they call them.
But the bigger, obviously, looming question is, is there going to be time for that, given the fact that Matt Gaetz is expected to go to the floor at noon, obviously, Kevin McCarthy now trying to get out ahead of whatever Gaetz is going to say at noon at this 11:00 a.m. statement.
Like I said, we expect the McCarthy could come out at any moment. He was supposed to begin at 11:00 a.m. We're now a few minutes past that hour. But, obviously, this is all moving very quickly. And, as I noted, there was a belief that they would be able to get back to Washington, settle some of these disputes, find a way forward on funding.
But, obviously, this is moving much more quickly than anyone anticipated.
BERMAN: All right, Lauren Fox stand by for a minute, if you will. And we will keep this picture up, so we will get Kevin McCarthy the minute he walks out to give the statement.
I want to bring in CNN political director David Chalian now.
And, David, there's a lot going on all at once here. But it all points to one thing, which is that there is this wing in the Republican Party in the House of Representatives that is pushing and pushing and pushing on Kevin McCarthy. And it isn't clear that they're as concerned about the consequences as they are about making the points that they want to make.
What do you think we will see in the coming hours and days?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, and just to remind everyone, John, Kevin McCarthy is dealing with such a narrow House majority.
And that wing of the conference that you're talking about that is pushing perhaps simply to make a statement or take a stand, irrespective of the political consequences, is larger than that narrow majority.
Now, what we're seeing here, and you listen to Lauren's reporting that you guys were just talking about, there's also a faction of Republicans, 18 of whom sit in districts that Joe Biden won, we're entering into the election season, who are concerned that if, indeed, Kevin McCarthy takes the full conference, and demands that the desires of the far right wing be met, that they are going to be left to walk the plank, specifically on something like moving towards an impeachment inquiry.
And they too are a large enough group to be larger than this narrow five-seat majority or whatever that Kevin McCarthy hasn't. And so he has it coming it from all sides here. And because of the way, as you know, he won the speakership, to your point before, this third undercurrent, besides the budget battle to avoid a shutdown and whether or not to proceed with impeachment, is McCarthy's own survival, because this was one of the things he agreed to, that one person can call to vacate the chair and then put that up for a majority vote in the House.
BERMAN: All right, David Chalian, stand by, if you will.
Again, we are waiting on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. We're not exactly sure what he's going to say. But the goal for Kevin McCarthy is really to survive this week. The subjects he might discuss, possible -- the possible impeachment inquiry into President Biden. I'm looking at someone coming out there.
All right, we have a two-minute warning now on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy coming out. Can the control room tell me what you want to do? Do you want to go to a quick break?
All right, David, we're going to wait. There's this two-minute warning we just got on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He is going to come out and talk.
So much of our focus has been on the presidential campaign, right, Donald Trump out there running again. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is an ally of his, obviously. But this is a little bit separate from what's been going on, on the presidential campaign trail. How so?
CHALIAN: It is a little separate, because you're dealing with sort of the internal House Republican Conference politics.
But, John, this will spill out onto the campaign trail, as you know. We actually saw this in reverse, right...
BERMAN: All right.
CHALIAN: ... when the Democrats -- oh, here comes the speaker now.
BERMAN: David Chalian, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You know, in the months that we were gone and the weeks, House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden's conduct.
Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption. Now, here's what we know so far. Through our investigations, we have found that President Biden did lie to the American people about his own knowledge of his family's foreign business dealings.
Eyewitnesses have testified that the president joined on multiple phone calls, and had multiple interactions, dinners, resulted in cars and millions of dollars, into his sons and his son's business partners.
We know that bank records show that nearly $20 million in payments were directed to the Biden family members and associates through various shell companies. The Treasury Department alone has more than 150 transactions involving the Biden family and other business associates that were flagged as suspicious activity by U.S. banks.
Even a trusted FBI informant has alleged a bribe to the Biden family. Biden used his official office to coordinate with Hunter Biden's business partners about Hunter's role in Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company.
Finally, despite these serious allegations, it appears that the president's family has been offered special treatment by Biden's own administration, treatment that not otherwise would have received if they were not related to the president.
These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption. And they warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives. That's why, today, I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public. That's exactly what we want to know, the answers. I believe the president would want to answer these questions and allegations as well.
This effort will be led by Chairman James Comer, the Committee on Oversight, in coordination with Chairman Jim Jordan for Judiciary Committee, and Chairman Jason Smith on Ways and Means.
Now, I do not make this decision lightly. And regardless of your party or who you voted for, these facts should concern all Americans. The American people deserve to know that the public offices are not for sale and that the federal government is not being used to cover up the actions of a politically associated family.
Now, I would encourage the president and his team to fully cooperate with this investigation in the interests of transparency. We are committed to getting the answers for the American public, nothing more, nothing less. We will go wherever the evidence takes us.
BOLDUAN: All right, Kevin McCarthy making the statement. He's endorsing an impeachment inquiry be launched into President Biden, and, obviously, in light of the investigations into Hunter Biden, his son.
This is a big moment, as, John, you were just talking about with Lauren Fox and David Chalian about what this now really kick-starts, which is a bit of an unclear process of what -- where this exactly goes on this woman.
BERMAN: To be clear, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, until this point, has said that he believed that a vote was necessary on the House floor to launch an impeachment inquiry.
BERMAN: I did not hear him say there he's going to call for a vote to begin an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. He said he was directing the inquiry to begin.
We're going to get some more details on if we heard that right there. But, again, this kicks off, presumably, a process here...
SIDNER: It does.
BERMAN: ... that will be very political, that, up until now, we have not been presented with any evidence directly that President Biden himself did anything wrong here.
BOLDUAN: That's a key part about this.
BOLDUAN: The investigations have been going on through a couple of committees. I think he mentioned that Judiciary and Ways and Means will be part of this.
But what has come at -- what has been -- even despite what the speaker said right there, there has been no direct evidence that Joe Biden himself has personally profited off of his son Hunter Biden's foreign work. That is what is the direct evidence of that connection is what is there is a question -- that kind of there's a big gap here for them to present in this inquiry.
SIDNER: There is a big gap in evidence. And you heard him lay out Biden -- talking about accusing him of lying to the American people.
That's a very different thing than having evidence that there was something of malfeasance going on between him, Hunter, and Hunter's business partners.
Let us go now to Manu Raju, who is always there on time ready to go.
Manu, what was your takeaway from what you heard at this point?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, one big thing is that he did not say that there actually be a vote to open up an impeachment inquiry.
Remember, just last -- about -- it was on September 1, that's when Kevin McCarthy told Breitbart News, the conservative news outlet, that there would actually be a vote on the House floor to open up a formal impeachment inquiry. He did not say that just now. In fact, he said that they would -- he was directing that key House committee, the House Oversight Committee, to open up an impeachment inquiry.
Now, one big reason why perhaps the speaker is not moving in the direction of having a vote, he does not have enough support, the majority of the House, to open up an impeachment inquiry at the moment. That's because there are a number of Republicans, including ones in swing districts, and some conservatives like Ken Buck of Colorado, who are skeptical about moving forward with an impeachment inquiry.
That means, if there were actually a vote to formally open up this probe going forward, at the moment, he would not have turned 218 votes, as Democrats would vote against it, and more than four Republicans would vote against it as well.
So he is now telling the House Oversight Committee to move forward. And one big reason why there is not the support at the moment is because of the fact that they have yet to figure out -- come up with definitive proof or evidence to suggest that Joe Biden took official action as vice president to aid his son Hunter Biden or that -- so Biden profited in any way by Hunter Biden's business dealings.
And these allegations of pay-to-play scheme, they have simply not proven yet, which is why there is a number of members who are skeptical, not just in the House, but also Senate Republicans as well. So McCarthy here, though, is still taking a very significant step by opening up an impeachment probe.
Remember, if Joe Biden is in fact, impeached, he would just be the fourth president in American history to be charged with high crimes or misdemeanors, Donald Trump, of course, was impeached twice over two separate issues. But that is still a ways away.
Now we are going into the part of the impeachment investigation where they have to actually continue to gather evidence, try to build the case against Joe Biden, and try to charge him with high crimes or misdemeanors, and then try to get the votes in the House to do that. That is still a very, very heavy lift for Kevin McCarthy.
But this action today in some ways being pushed by the far right of his conference, which has been very vocal at this moment for the speaker to move ahead on this issue, the speaker aligning himself with that faction in his conference to move ahead with this impeachment inquiry.
Now the question is, what evidence will they gather? Will they actually have a vote either to formalize this inquiry at some point or to actually impeach the president? All major, major questions facing the speaker at this moment as he announces this historic move.
BERMAN: All right, Manu Raju, stand by for us, obviously, because we are getting more information as this all develops.
I want to bring in CNN political director David Chalian again.
The House speaker says he is directing the beginning of an official impeachment inquiry. And that would be a change from saying he wants a vote on an impeachment inquiry, David.
What are the politics of this for both President Biden, obviously, for whom there will now be an impeachment inquiry into him...
BERMAN: ... which, obviously, that's profound implications there, but also Kevin McCarthy?
Because, clearly, both are at play at this moment.
CHALIAN: No doubt about that, John.
I mean, the White House has been girding for this, as you know. They have staffed up around this notion. It had been telegraphed for quite some time that McCarthy was moving in this direction. So, they are prepared for what are uncertain politics, right?
I mean, as we saw with Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, when they were actually impeached, and we watched that process move forward, at times, it helped them politically. They were able to rally support to their side when they were the focus of a House impeachment process.
Again, we have no idea if it will actually get to that. And to Manu's point about the immediate politics from McCarthy, the reason you heard him say that he was directing a committee to launch an inquiry, and not here's a vote that is scheduled now to go to the floor, is because, immediately, he doesn't have that political support.
So he's going to have to deal with that own sort of very fast approaching internal House Republican Conference politics for him, which is that he doesn't have a unanimity of support for this effort, clearly, or he wouldn't be going this route.
But then there's going to be the politics of, how do you move through this in a way that doesn't necessarily blow up in your face, given, as you all have said, we have not seen any evidence, hard evidence, directly connecting wrongdoing on the part of then-Vice President Biden, now President Biden, and Hunter Biden's business dealings or the ongoing Hunter Biden investigation?
Now -- now, I want to add one thing, though.