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Kevin McCarthy Defends Impeachment Inquiry; Escaped Killer Caught. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2023 - 11:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: The major breaking news out of Pennsylvania this morning, the 14-day manhunt for an escaped convicted murderer who had a life sentence ends with the killer now captured, officials now saying their nightmare and the community's nightmare is over.

Just moments ago, Danelo Cavalcante was seen here exiting the police van, and we're told he will go back behind bars for the rest of his life for first-degree murder. But, first, he must be processed. Officials just wrapped a news conference with stunning new details on how Cavalcante was taken into custody.

Here is some of what we learned.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So, just after midnight, a burglar alarm went off at a residence that was inside the perimeter of where they were searching.

They went to that house, but they did not find anything there. Around 1:00 a.m. in that area, a DEA aircraft picked up a thermal heat signal. They saw some kind of heat signature on the ground. So they sent teams on the ground to surround that area.

However, a thunderstorm moves in. The plane has to leave. So what they try to do is, they keep those tactical forces on the ground surrounding that area trying to contain whatever is inside. Just after 8:00 a.m., the teams close in on where that heat source was.

It's Danelo Cavalcante, right? They see him there.

Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens detailed what happened next.


LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: Shortly after 8:00 a.m., tactical teams converged on the area where the heat source was. They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise.

Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that had occurred. That did not stop him from trying to escape. He began to crawl through thick underbrush, taking his rifle with him as he went. One of the Customs and Border Patrol teams, BORTAC, had a dog with

them. They released the dog. Some of our PSP Cert members were also there, had him surrounded. The dogs subdued him, and team members from both of those teams immediately moved in.

He continued to resist, but was forcibly taken into custody.

DEB RYAN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: Today is a great day here in Chester County. Our nightmare is finally over and the good guys won.

We owe a debt of gratitude to all of the first responders for their tireless and dedicated efforts in bringing this fugitive to justice. They worked around the clock, and we are deeply grateful to all of them. Our community can finally regain its normalcy and breathe a collective sigh of relief.


BERMAN: All right, that was a news conference. A little more than an hour ago, it began at this point.

CNN's Brian Todd was there pushing for more and more information.

Brian, it was great to have you in there. What are you learning now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, and Sara, you played out some of the details and you played some of the details from the news conference.

A little bit of additional detail we were able to pick up, I mean, we talked about how the teams moved in on him shortly after 8:00 a.m. in that -- in the tall grass in this field on the far eastern edge of the perimeter. We should note that the spot where they located him is -- was inside the perimeter, the search perimeter, but on the eastern edge of it in a long field of tall grass there.

And when they moved in, they said that Cavalcante initially was not aware of their presence, but then quickly became aware of their presence and started crawling. That's when they released the canine. It was either a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois that basically pursued him as he was crawling.

Another additional detail I just got from Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police was that, while Cavalcante was crawling in the tall grass trying to get away from the dogs and the tactical teams, that he had his rifle, the rifle that he stole, rather, within his reach the entire time, and that the rifle was within his reach when the dog was on top of him, subduing him.

So this was -- look, it was a close call either way. He was resisting the entire time. He was resisting the dog when the dog was on top of him. So, thankfully, neither the dog nor any police personnel nor any members of the public were injured.

Just a short time ago, I caught up with Lieutenant Colonel Bivens again, asked him more about the condition of Cavalcante just in those moments right after they took him into custody.


BIVENS: Defiant and still resisting arrest.


TODD: And, I mean, how -- what was his physical condition? Had he been dehydrated, depleted, anything like that?

BIVENS: I mean, he looked as though he had been put through an awful lot. He looked tired. Certainly, clothing looked weathered from being out there, wet, that kind of thing, like somebody who had been out in the woods for an extended period of time, and stressed, which is exactly -- exactly what we were trying to do all along.

The whole point was to keep him stressed, keep him moving, and keep him off his game, so that he couldn't otherwise escape, and would ultimately make mistakes that allow us to capture him.


TODD: And there were some other details that we learned during the news conference and afterward, that Cavalcante had certain patterns in his movements.

We did know that he tended to move more at night, unless he was pushed during the day, which Colonel Bivens said that they did on occasion do -- they pushed him during the day -- but that his pattern was to move along creek beds, along wood lines, he said, areas that were a little easier to traverse, the lines between wooded areas and fields.

Those wood lines, gas lines, power lines is where he kind of tended to move along. And, again, of course, they detected him with a DEA aircraft, that heat signature shortly after 1:00 a.m. But then, of course, the storm moved in. A lot of lightning moved, and they had to take the aircraft out of the sky.

But they were able to send tactical teams to that perimeter where that heat signature was detected. And that's when they started to move in on him shortly after 8:00 a.m., guys.

SIDNER: It really is remarkable, the amount of officers, up to 500 from different places, different agencies, and the amount of equipment, because that thermal equipment actually turned out to be really, really important.

But it came down to a canine.

BERMAN: Came down to a dog.

SIDNER: Came down to a dog to initially make first contact and to hold him so that officers could get there.

All right, with me now is Catherine Evans. She and her son do live in the area around where Cavalcante was captured this morning. Can you first tell us -- I think you're leaving your house this

morning to do what a lot of us do, go to Wawa, grab yourself some coffee. And what did you see around your area, around the home as you were leaving?


So, law enforcement has had a heavy presence right at my property. So, for the last two days, they have had -- there have been State Troopers here, but was much heavily -- more heavily concentrated on the way back.

I believe he was caught while I was out. And so that's pretty much what I saw. I believe the helicopters just subsided at this point. And it's starting to clear out now.

BERMAN: How have you altered your life the last 48 hours? What did you change in the way you moved about?

EVANS: So, my son, actually, he's not at the house. He's with family.

And I ended up working from home yesterday, and basically have just been like looking out my windows, you know, my backyard, because I am up along French Creek and Route 100. So, really, I actually felt more safe just staying here, rather than going out or leaving the property.

So, I have just basically worked from home and stayed locked up and kept an eye on the property.

BERMAN: And your reaction when you heard this morning that this was over?

EVANS: I'm in shock. I'm in shock, because, like, I'm right on the parameter.

But I am in shock that he was this -- he was this close. I'm very relieved. I'm very relieved to get back to a normal -- the normal grind...


EVANS: ... that I don't normally look forward to.


EVANS: I'm very much looking forward to it.

But I felt very safe. The law enforcement were -- they were fantastic. So...


BERMAN: Well, look, we're happy, we're happy you can get back to the normal grind. That will be welcome, the normal grind without a convicted escape killer on the loose in your neighborhood.


Catherine Evans, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

SIDNER: All right, let us now bring in Chief Charles Ramsey and our John Miller, who has been here throughout the ride, for your collective expertise.

Chief Ramsey, you are a CNN senior law enforcement analyst and, of course, the former Philadelphia police commissioner.

Can I talk to you about the work of police and all of the different agencies? There has to be some serious coordination going on here. What did you make of what you heard in the press conference as to how Cavalcante was finally brought in?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, they finally caught a break.

I mean, things had really been kind of going against them for a period of time, but they caught a break when they were able to pick up that heat signature from that DEA surveillance plane. Unfortunately, we had severe storms last night. And so the aerial search had to be called off, but at least it pinpointed and area for them.

And as soon as they were able to tighten it and get in there, they were able to catch him off guard, and, of course, using the canine, which is always an option, less lethal, as opposed to lethal, although they were prepared to do the other if it had come to that. But they were able to bring him into custody with no one getting hurt.

The biggest fear I had was, especially after finding out he was armed, that he would need to force his way into a home and have hostages, carjack an individual, otherwise harm a person. That was really my biggest concern once I knew he was armed. None of that happened.

So, thank God it didn't.

BERMAN: They got him, the only injury, a bite wound to his scalp.

John Miller, Brian Todd reinforced something that we heard a limited amount on, which is that Cavalcante had his .22 -- not his -- had the .22-caliber rifle that he had stolen with him the entire time he's crawling away. It was always within reach there in those moments.

That's got to change things, or at least add a level of concern for the officers there.


And I think the sign of restraint, as Chief Ramsey said, they know they have a suspect. They know he's a murderer. He's convicted. They know he has a weapon. They know he's desperate to get away. But they played it out in a way that they were able to take him in relatively unharmed. And, certainly, no gunfire was exchanged either way. The crawling is

interesting. Crawling to where? What was the game plan? Did he think the grass was high enough so he could change location, get enough distance to get up and run?

But, as you point out, he never let go of that weapon.

BERMAN: He never had a chance to pull the trigger...

SIDNER: Right.

BERMAN: ... which is something Lieutenant Colonel Bivens said as well.

MILLER: Right.

SIDNER: Yes, they wanted to make sure they separated him from the weapon using the canine, ostensibly.

MILLER: And that border protection dog -- the Border Patrol dog is a key factor in that, because that dog is going to -- that dog is going to latch on to an arm or a leg. It's going to keep him busy and not focused on that weapon, which gives them a chance to move in.

And separate him from that weapon.

SIDNER: Chief Charles Ramsey, and to you, and, John.

I will start with you, Chief. There was something mentioned that really -- that caught my ear throughout all of this. It doesn't directly have to do with Cavalcante. But the officer said, the lieutenant said that this is nine years to the day yesterday of the incident with Eric Frein, who shot and killed a young patrol officer nine years ago.

When you consider how many times that these folks have been through these kinds of chases, what stands out to you about this one?

RAMSEY: Well, what stands out is the fact that they're able to really just continue to do it. They're very good at what they do.

I have had the opportunity to work with the Pennsylvania State Police during my time in Philadelphia, a very professional organization. And they are just top-notch. The other thing that I think is important is that, when all these agencies have to come together, they're able to seamlessly come together.

Now, that's not an easy thing to do. I mean, a ground search like they had, I mean, think about the logistics involved, the communications necessary in order to be effective, to be able to carefully search a given area, and then move to another area, and have everybody well- coordinated.

And these are all different agencies, but they're able to do it, and they do it time and time again. The fact that it was a year to date from that other search and the unfortunate tragedy, the shooting of the trooper, I mean, that's always in the back of the mind of individuals.

And, of course, this all happened right in the area of September 11. So there's a lot of things going on. But they had one focus, and one focus only. And that were was to catch this guy. And that's what they were focused on.



BERMAN: And they did just after 8:00 a.m. this morning.

John Miller, something Sara said framed really, really well...

SIDNER: Why, thank you, John.


BERMAN: No problem.

Which was everything from the high-tech thermal imaging of the DEA to a dog, the oldest kind of police work there was used here, it just shows the range of the tools.

MILLER: Well, they brought everything to bear here. And a lot of it was there on the first day. Some of it came along later.

But if you think of, it's the State Police, it's their caper. In a unified command, they are the agency running the show. Everybody else is there in support. That's -- as Chief Ramsey pointed out, that's a lot of people putting egos on the side.

But that includes -- the key is the U.S. Marshals. They are in the manhunt business. Catching fugitives is their main mission, their bread and butter, and they have got a lot of talent there. So when you see the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Regional Fugitive Task Force, it's a mouthful, but that's Rob Clark and his people.

And they're coming off the Burham hunt. They're coming off the Frein hunt from years ago. They're coming off the two escapees from the Philadelphia jail. So this is their core mission. They and the State Police were the core of this.

But FBI comes along. They're adding their SWAT teams. They're bringing their databases. They're running technology things. Their Operational Technology Division at Quantico can send up any kind of gear or tool that they need.

You have got the DEA, which is bringing in what, not only their SWAT teams, but their surveillance resources, that Cessna caravan that has that big belly under it that carries hundreds of pounds of cameras and sensors...

SIDNER: That sonic equipment, yes

MILLER: ... and FLIRs, forward-looking infrared heat signals, and so on, that can stay airborne for hours at a time, as opposed to what a helicopter can do, high, without making a lot of sound.

That surveillance proved critical. But other agencies brought their aircraft. So, Border Patrol -- Border Patrol didn't just bring in their local SWAT team. They brought in their key SWAT team, their elite SWAT team, BORTAC, which is used to doing what, going into desolate areas along the border, and tracking people.

So this was an amalgam of so much talent, so much technology, so much experience. And it was all brought to bear to try and see if this could not become the Eric Rudolph case, where it took five years, or even the Frein case...

SIDNER: Or the Frein case.

MILLER: ... where it took 48 days.

SIDNER: Right. It took 48 days and an officer was killed in that particular case.

I want to mention the two -- a couple of things that sort of stand out to me. We have seen people be killed for much less. This man was armed. He had stolen it. And he was a convicted killer who was going to prison for life, so a huge reason for him to resist and potentially do other things. He was captured, no major incident.

And, secondly...

MILLER: By the way, I mean, for context...


MILLER: ... Eric Frein, who didn't kill a state trooper as part of the manhunt...

SIDNER: Right.

MILLER: ... he set up in the woods and assassinated a state trooper and wounded another with a high-powered weapon from a concealed position in the woods, and then went on the run for 48 days, was also captured unharmed, intact, and without a use of force by the very agency whose trooper he killed.

So, restraint among these professionals is not an anomaly.

SIDNER: It is not an anomaly. But we have seen different things, and actually in Philadelphia itself recently.

So the other thing that strikes me is, none of this would have been necessary had this man not been able to escape from the jail. And now there is a huge investigation going on as to how he was able to get out. We have seen the pictures. We're showing them right now.

That is Cavalcante in the very beginning of all of this sort of standing back there and then suddenly crab-crawling up a wall to get himself out of the jail there in Chester County. And the district attorney was at the press conference. And we know why, because she had to be very concerned, if not, excuse the word, but pissed that this man who she had put behind bars, who killed, murdered his girlfriend and was facing life was out on the run.

She -- you could tell she was relieved, happy that he is finally back in custody and potentially with more charges coming.

MILLER: And work to be done there.

I mean, they have to do a top-to-bottom assessment...


MILLER: ... of that county jail in terms of accountability, but also in terms of what other tier one prisoners from violent crimes are in there, and is it still at risk for escape?



BERMAN: Again, as the DA said, the nightmare is over, Danelo Cavalcante in custody, extraordinary new details. We will follow it live throughout the morning.

John Miller, thank you. Chief Charles Ramsey, thank you so much.

BERMAN: House Republicans are meeting this morning, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has launched this impeachment inquiry into President Biden without a House vote on launching the inquiry.

New reaction from Capitol Hill on how former President Trump may have been involved with this.



SIDNER: All right, today, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met with a divided caucus in a closed-door meeting just a day after announcing that he ordered an impeachment inquiry into President Biden without holding a floor vote.

McCarthy told members the probe would be -- quote -- "expeditious," but gave no clear timeline. When CNN's Manu Raju asked why he changed his mind about holding a vote, this is what he said.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (OFF-MIKE) your words. Why did you change your words?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): OK, well, let me answer your question, because I answered it every single day. You could answer me every single day.

Nancy Pelosi changed the precedent of this House. This doesn't preclude from a...


MCCARTHY: Nancy Pelosi changed the president of this House on September 24. It was withheld and good enough for every single Democrat here. It was good enough for the judge. Why would it have to be different today?


SIDNER: OK, Manu Raju is joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Manu, that back and forth is a new reason I hadn't heard before. Can you tell us what else McCarthy had to say about all this?

RAJU: Yes, he did defend his handling of all this and tried to pin the blame on Nancy Pelosi to explain why he changed his position, but still not explaining why he changed his position from just 12 days ago.

He told Breitbart News that he would in fact hold a floor vote to actually open up an impeachment inquiry, said it wouldn't be done by a simple declaration of one person. Well, that was different than what happened yesterday, when one person, the speaker of the House, ordered this impeachment inquiry.

The bottom line is that McCarthy did not have the votes to actually open up an impeachment inquiry, given some skepticism within his own ranks and pressure within his own ranks from the right to actually move forward. So he decided to move forward. He said that they plan to move forward, but did not provide any sort of details or timeline as part of this investigation.

Now, in talking to a number of members in this conference, many of them are supportive of it. Many of them simply want to see what this investigation comes -- actually reveals. And some of them plainly acknowledge that the politics are not good for their own party, particularly if they actually do move forward and impeach the president.


REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): Well, it certainly didn't help Democrats. I mean, I haven't seen anybody do too well after an impeachment process. It didn't do well for us in '98 with President Clinton. I don't see it as good politics.

I do think, though, think there's enough stuff here that it deserves to be looked at.

REP. NICHOLAS LALOTA (R-NY): I think that we need to be balanced in this approach. I don't think that impeachment ought to be used as a political tool or a weapon, especially around an election year. I think we need to be in a quest for facts.

REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): I think this impeachment is long overdue. The people in my district are bad enough. The border crisis in particular, the 13 Americans that were killed, I think we should have impeached his ass a long time ago.


RAJU: So, the question is, what is next?

In the House Oversight Committee, Chairman Jim Comer is leading this investigation. He said that there would be a public hearing in September. He also indicated to me that they would actually try to get more bank records to try to corroborate some of the key allegations that are so far unverified showing Joe Biden tried to act to help his son Hunter Biden's business -- overseas business dealings while he was vice president.

But Republicans hope they can verify those allegations. But a lot of the members are still skeptical about all this and not ready to vote to impeach the president.

SIDNER: Manu, if you can just quickly answer, we just heard one of the members of Congress say that he was -- his district is angry about the border and angry about the withdrawal from Afghanistan. But that's not what this is about, correct?

That's not what this impeachment inquiry is about at all, correct?

RAJU: Yes.


RAJU: It's not even -- yes, there -- that's completely different than what they're looking at here.

What they're looking at is, of course, Hunter Biden's actions and trying to tie it to Joe Biden, not border security, but this member here, Tony Gonzales of Texas, saying he's ready to move forward to impeach Joe Biden. And, of course, he faces a primary challenge as well.

SIDNER: Right. But, first, they have to have some evidence that is hard evidence that we have not yet seen, even with the other investigations.

Thank you so much, Manu Raju. Appreciate that -- John.

BERMAN: All right, there is new information this morning that Donald Trump has been working the phones speaking with Republican leaders in the House about their impeachment strategy for President Biden.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us now with the details on this.

Kristen, what are you learning?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, so, not even just after that impeachment inquiry was announced, but before as well. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, having dinner with Trump at his

Bedminster resort on Sunday, talked about whether or not there would be an impeachment inquiry. She said it was something that he brought up. We also heard from sources who told us that Elise Stefanik, the House GOP chairwoman, talked to Trump after it was announced by McCarthy and essentially went over what the Republican House strategy would be going into this impeachment inquiry.

Now, I have talked to a number of Trump advisers. And they do acknowledge that, while Trump has talked to various House members.