Return to Transcripts main page


Limo Crashes Kills 20 in Upstate New York. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 8, 2018 - 07:00   ET


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The victims were on their way to a 30th birthday celebration for one of the passengers. Two pedestrians were also killed. NTSB officials at this point looking for clues to determine a cause.

[07:00:13] CNN's Polo Sandoval is live near the accident scene in Schoharie, New York, with more for us.

Polo, good morning.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, good morning to you.

You know, having been here since yesterday. We certainly have new perspective, or at least new meaning, when you stand close to the location where the lives of 20 people were cut short on Saturday afternoon.

As you mentioned, that limousine not stopping at this intersection, plowing through a parking lot and eventually stopping in the ditch that you see behind me. The vehicle has been cleared. Instead, a small memorial that continued to grow yesterday is in place.

This morning we are slowly learning more about at least two of the 20 people who died this weekend, now identified by their family members as Erin Vertucci and her husband, Shane McGowan, one of several young newly-married couples aboard that limousine that was out for this ride on a Saturday afternoon, celebrating a 30th birthday party. As we hear from their relatives, this family in mourning.


BARBARA DOUGLAS, LOST TWO NIECES IN LIMO CRASH: They were fun-loving. They were wonderful girls. They'd do anything for you, and they were very close to each other, and they loved their family. They loved their parents. They -- they -- they had -- one had -- one has two little children and one has one child. And they now have no home. Or no parents.


SANDOVAL: These are the human stories that we're beginning to hear just now, again, for at least two of the 17 passengers aboard that limousine. The driver, the 18th person, also killed. And many of them were from the nearby town of Amsterdam. Speaking to city officials there a little while ago this morning, John, telling me that town is coming together this morning to support the family. They obviously have a very long road ahead of them as they try to find out exactly what happened to their loved ones.

BERMAN: Polo Sandoval in Schoharie, New York. Polo, thank you very much.

And coming up in just a few minutes, we're going to speak to the chairman of the NTSB about this investigation. Appreciate it, Polo.

Turning to politics now, Republicans taking a victory lap following Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

HILL: Kavanaugh takes his seat on the high court tomorrow. President Trump and the senators who fought over Kavanaugh, though, taking their bitter battle on the campaign trail, hoping it will energize voters ahead of the mid-term elections.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats have become too extreme and dangerous to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law, not the rule of the mob.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: So to Americans, to so many millions who are outraged by what happened here, there's one answer. Vote.


HILL: Joining us now, CNN political analyst David Gregory; CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin; and Anita McBride, executive in residence for American University Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and former chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.

David Gregory, I want to start with you here, because my big question this morning is what now? Judge Kavanaugh is now Justice Kavanaugh. Tomorrow, he will show up to work at the Supreme Court. It's a holiday today, so he gets the day off. His first day at work is a day off. Things are really great for him.

What happens now, David? Because we hear Republicans doing this victory lap over the weekend. We heard the president talk about a mob. We heard Mitch McConnell talk about a mob. We heard Chuck Grassley talk about a mob.



GREGORY: Let me point out, as you well know, that my wife, Beth Wilkerson, represented now Justice Kavanaugh. So I've not been talking about this. But as we talk about the politics going forward, I'm comfortable weighing back in.

To me, this is really about fear versus anger, right? The Republican argument -- and they've got one, which is that this nomination's fight brought all wings of the Republican Party together under Donald Trump, which had not been the case before. and they've that going for them.

And this argument that fear Democrats, fear what would happen if they got control, is something that's a more potent argument than it was before Kavanaugh. But in -- the recent history I've seen and covered, anger and the anger you see among Democrats is very strong and a big motivator to get to the polls. And I think there is a renewed realization that, if you care about these issues, you care about the future of the court, among other issues, that you need to get out and vote. And so I think Democrats have a lot of energy.

HILL: Which will be interesting to see, because it has been a galvanizing point, obviously, for Republicans in the past, in terms of supreme -- the Supreme Court. I mean, but for Democrats not as much.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, this has been something that -- I've covered the Supreme Court for decades now, and it has always been interesting for me the way Republicans are far more focused.

Merrick Garland was being held hostage during the summer of 2016, and neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton even mentioned Merrick Garland during the Democratic convention in 2016. The issue just sort of fell away for their party. Perhaps that will change now; perhaps it won't.

[07:05:14] The only thing I would say about viewing this in political terms is that Kavanaugh himself is more important than the politics. He's going to be deciding cases when none of us can remember who won the 2018 midterm elections. I mean, this is how important the substance of this confirmation is.

And I just think it's worth keeping an eye on that, when you think about abortion rights, when you think about gay rights, when you think about affirmative action, voting rights, all of that is in Brett Kavanaugh's hands and will be for a long time.

BERMAN: I had Republican strategists telling me in July before this even began they would gladly trade control of the House for Brett Kavanaugh on the bench. That is a trade they would make any day of the week.

Anita, though, back to the politics of the next 29 days, I'm so glad you're with us, first of all.


BERMAN: And you helped us through the last few weeks.

MCBRIDE: Good morning.

BERMAN: One of the things that I think has been uncovered here is the merger of Bush Republican and Trump Republicans over the Kavanaugh issue. When you see George H.W. Bush tweeting support for this, when you see

Jeb Bush last week tweeting about this, and when you hear about George W. Bush making phone calls, lobbying support, you realize this is one of the very few areas that has brought those different wings of the party together.

Will it last 29 more days? Is this a permanent alliance, do you think?

MCBRIDE: Yes, I mean, who would have thought, right, a George W. Bush appointee was going to be nominated by Donald Trump, certainly, given the things that Donald Trump has said about Bush and the people who worked for him, frankly.

But I think this goes to Jeff Toobin's point. You know, this is what was very galvanizing for Republicans, unlike -- because they also saw a president who they may be on the fence about stick with Brett Kavanaugh through this very bruising fight, unlike what President Barack Obama did and Hillary Clinton didn't even mention Merrick Garland during that election. So I think that was interesting.

And I think also that, you know, Republican voters are awakened. Some are reenergized, those that were the base. Others are energized who are on the fence about Donald Trump, because they saw this Supreme Court battle as important. Republicans always do look to the courts as important. But they also did not like seeing the process and the direction and the path we were going down on how Brett Kavanaugh, and his character and his integrity and his record were being distorted.

GREGORY: Let me just add, too, I think there is a more permanent alliance when it comes to issues of the court, general perceptions of, you know, the leftward turn of the Democratic Party. The -- the views about the national press, about the media in general, those are the ties that bind that are separate, I think, from allegiance to Donald Trump.

BERMAN: I don't -- I don't think the Bush end of the party has nearly the same view of the press as the Trump --

GREGORY: I totally disagree with -- no, I disagree with you. I think -- I think a lot of them do. I don't think it may be as intense as Donald Trump or some of his adherents, but I think that a lot of Republicans and rank-and-file conservatives definitely do.

BERMAN: They're not out there in the stump campaigning about it, pointing --

GREGORY: They don't use the same language, but believe me, there is plenty of intensity. There's a lot of people who applaud, you know, these attacks against the media who are Republicans in general and conservatives.

HILL: So do you think that could become, then, more public, because if they're seeing that it's working for President Trump, for example, who believes it is, you know. And we see it at the rallies, obviously, people who are there support the president. So you're going to hear it cheered in those moments. But if you're saying that that's happening sort of behind closed doors?

GREGORY: It's not behind closed doors. I think conservatives and Republicans generally think the media is totally liberal, and they reject it. And they have since George W. Bush being president.

HILL: Calling it out, to John's point, calling it out in that way. Do you think we will see more of that?

GREGORY: Yes, I do. Go ahead, Anita.

MCBRIDE: Come on, David, George W. Bush loved you in particular. But --

BERMAN: You named your book after him.

GREGORY: Right, but that's a different point that I'm making in terms of the views of the media.

MCBRIDE: Well, no, true. But also, you've seen some prominent Republicans speak out about the fact that a freedom of the press is absolutely important.

And of course, I mean, we've been on the sides, and people like George W. Bush and others have been on the side of being, you know, attacked pretty good. But at the end of the day, they really recognize this is a constitutional right, and it's an important part of the platform even if they do believe that it's biased.

[07:10:02] TOOBIN: If I can just respond to one thing Anita said, which I think has become a big Republican talking point, which is that the process was very bad, that the process of this hearing -- let's be clear about what the process was.

The process was three women came forward and said under oath in various ways that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted them; and they were told, "We don't believe you. We don't believe you. We're confirming him anyway." That's the legacy of this hearing.

I don't think anybody's going to remember the process years from now. What people are going to remember is that, just like Anita Hill, these women were disbelieved, and the Supreme Court nominee was confirmed. That's the legacy of this hearing.

MCBRIDE: I think part of the process, though, too, was how Dr. Ford was made public against her wishes, too. And that, you know really is something --


MCBRIDE: In Susan Collins' speech, I mean, she really did draw attention to the fact that, you know, we have to be really careful on how we do that.

TOOBIN: Oh, yes.

MCBRIDE: And also, you know, I do think women are -- and I listened to Senator Patty Murray's statement from the floor, as well. And she said women are not silenced, they're emboldened. And maybe to your point, Jeffrey, because they were not happy about how some women may not have been believed.

TOOBIN: Yes. You know, this idea that the process mattered -- let's be clear. These women were disbelieved and kicked to the curb, and Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed --

MCBRIDE: I don't believe that.

TOOBIN: That's the message of this hearing.

GREGORY: But Jeffrey, I think there is a different view, and politically, there is a different view. I don't think your view is a monolith view. It may prevail. Maybe we'll see it prevail politically and be -- I think there is a different way of looking at it.

I think people do look at it, and Republicans are counting on the idea that enough of their voters are going to look at this and say, "No, there was a process that was led by the left that was unfair."

TOOBIN: You're looking at a guy who predicted Hillary Clinton would win in 2016. I'm not predicting the political fallout. Beats the hell out of me what the political fallout is. I'm just trying to assess what happened, and that's what happened. Whether Democrats benefit or Republicans benefit? You got me.

BERMAN: Can I talk about the process going forward?


BERMAN: Maybe if there is another vacancy on the court? That process will be whatever Mitch McConnell wants it to be. Period. Full stop. You know, why does he get a justice on the court? Because he can. And Mitch McConnell says he would do it again.

Listen to him over the weekend.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: If Donald Trump were to name somebody in the final year of his first term in 2020, are you saying that you would go ahead with that nomination?

MCCONNELL: Well, I understand your question. And what I told you was what the -- what the history of the Senate has been. You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential election year on the Supreme Court was confirmed by a Senate of a different party than the president. That's the history.

WALLACE: So if you can answer my direct question, are you saying that if Donald Trump --

MCCONNELL: I was trying. The answer to your question is, we'll see whether there's a vacancy in 2020. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TOOBIN: You notice that, a party -- when the Senate was controlled by a different party? If -- if there's a vacancy in the Supreme Court on January 19, 2021, and Donald Trump has won the election, Mitch McConnell is going to try to confirm somebody.

GREGORY: I mean, it is -- it's an obvious naked political power. And the real question -- and Jeffrey's made this point -- it's not just about -- about judges generally in the Supreme Court but about gun rights, as well. This has to be a voter intensity issue for the left to say this is something that we're going to vote on, or else -- and by the way, there's no reason to believe that Democrats in a similar situation wouldn't do the same thing. Until something disrupts that power play, I think it goes on.

HILL: And then there's the larger issue, too, of is the Supreme Court tainted, right? In everything that we've seen, not only all of this playing out but moving forward, I mean, is there a way for whatever the judgments are when they come down for them to not be seen as political?

TOOBIN: You know, one of my favorite justices in history was Robert Jackson, who served in the 1940s and '50s, and he said something about the Supreme Court that I think is always worth remembering. "We are not final because we are infallible. We are infallible because we are final."

You can like the Supreme Court. You can dislike it. So you can have a good representation. They have the last word. That's how the system has been set up since 1803 in Marbury v. Madison. And whether they have a good reputation or not, the power is always going to be there.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, Anita McBride, David Gregory, thank you very much.

MCBRIDE: Sure. Thank you.

HILL: So what is the message to women after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh? That conversation is being had. And in some circles, it's a difficult one. We'll tackle it next.


HILL: Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh takes his seat on the high court tomorrow after an ugly confirmation process that included allegations of sexual misconduct. One of his accusers speaking out.

In a statement, Deborah Ramirez said this, "As I watch many of the senators speak and vote on the floor of the Senate, I feel like I'm right back at Yale, where half the room is laughing and looking the other way. Only this time, instead of drunk college kids, it is U.S. senators who are deliberately ignoring his behavior."

So the question on this Monday morning, what message does the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh send to women?

Let's discuss with CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Stewart.

Good to have both of you with us this morning. As we look at this, obviously, you can't put all women if one box, so women will have different interpretations of this. You two certainly do. And we've heard a lot from you both over the last couple of weeks here. But Kirsten, waking up on Monday morning, what is the message now?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the message is that, if you come forward, no matter how credible you are, no matter how calm and reasonable and truthful you are in your testimony, that you won't be taken seriously. You'll be sort of patted on the head and patronized the way the Republicans did with Christine Blasey Ford of saying, "We believe her, but we don't believe that it was Brett Kavanaugh," which is actually the essence of not believing her, because she said it was Brett Kavanaugh.

[07:20:14] And we just want to take it seriously. We'll do a sort of sham investigation, and then we'll tell you to sit down and shut up. And I think that that's a really terrible message to send to women, and when people say, "I don't understand why women don't come forward," I would say, "Let's look at what just happened."

HILL: Alice, are you seeing the same message?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that Dr. Ford was listened to. And I think her -- her testimony was compelling and credible. And senators looked at the full story. They heard her. They heard other people that came forward with accusations, and they looked at it completely.

And -- and the bottom line, the takeaway is that an incendiary accusation doesn't mean an instant conviction. And while this is not a court of law, this is important that people have the presumption of innocence.

And -- and that is what we take away from this. And so many people are trying to turn this into the fact -- and conflate the fact that Republicans and many of those that supported Brett Kavanaugh gave the due process. And the benefit of the doubt means that we don't like women. That's completely not the case.

Judge -- Senator Collins made a very compelling and very thought-out argument when she made her statement. She says that she does believe Dr. Ford and what she went through, a traumatic experience, but she did not believe that it was Justice Kavanaugh who was the person that did this to her. And I think you can say both of them and be consistent in that.

And you also have to look at the character and the integrity of Justice Kavanaugh in his lifetime of -- of work and those that know him as to why they made this decision. And it's not discounting any of these accusers' story; it is just the component that Justice Kavanaugh was the person that did this to them. HILL: When there is this divide in thought, right, and when people

are looking at a situation very differently, and they're taking different elements away from it, where do you go about to take that conversation and try to move it forward, Kirsten? Because we've been having this conversation, and it's important --

POWERS: I don't know.

HILL: But there does need to be some sort of OK --

POWERS: I know, but that's the question. I mean, look, Alice and I are good friends. I love Alice, and I just could not disagree more with her on this. And I don't understand, when I listen to her, what she's talking about. So that is the question of how do you bridge this gap?

I mean, this idea that asking for an FBI investigation, a real investigation, not this joke that we saw, is somehow denying someone due process or somehow finding them guilty. You know, that's not what it is.

The message basically is, "Don't question this man, because if you suggest that you take this seriously enough to do a real investigation, a real thorough investigation, you're trying him in the court of public opinion and you're finding him guilty."

That's not what happened. OK? What happened is people asked for a real investigation. This was not a real investigation. And I'm sorry, Alice, but you can't say you believe her if you don't believe what she actually said. She said it was Brett Kavanaugh. And I'm not saying you have to believe that. You can say you don't believe that. You just can't have it both ways. You can't say, "I believe her" when you don't.

STEWART: I think -- in addition to that, I believe her pain. I believe her anguish, but Kirsten, there are holes in her story. And I hate to question her pain, but there are holes in her story. And I'm not going to outline them. And there's no corroborating witnesses, no one to back up her claims. And that is why it leads people, as Senator Collins said, more likely than not as to why she made her decision.

POWERS: What holes though? I mean -- you mean because she can't remember how she drove home? Or --

STEWART: Doesn't remember exactly when it was, where it was, how she got home -- those holes.

POWERS: But I mean, I -- I told my story of something that happened to me in high school, and I don't remember where it was. And I don't remember who drove me home, but I know that it happened. So I don't know why that makes her a suspect person.

HILL: Let's do this, because we both -- we -- this is an important conversation, but it's also a conversation that we've been having now for some time. And the camps are dug in, right? People's and so let's look more at what we do moving forward.

Something that Amy Klobuchar actually said really stuck out to me, and I want to play this short bit of sound for you.

Sorry, we have a full screen there, so I can read it to you: "This place is stuck in another era, and it's time to get to the place where the rest of America is."

That is saying something on a number of levels there, and Alice, I'll throw this one to you.

First, the fact that, as we've known for some time, the Senate doesn't look like the United States of America. And where the rest of America is is not someplace where they're all in lockstep with one another in agreement.

But the fact that it is not representative, even if you're just looking at it for face value, of the rest of the country. You know, Alice, how much do you think what we've seen now over the last few months is going to influence moving forward?

[07:25:12] There's 29 days, I know. A lot can happen in 29 days, but does this significantly change things in your mind, especially on the right?

STEWART: It certainly does, because people are -- in regard to this issue and in regard to sexual harassment and in regard to the #MeToo movement, we heard Senator Collins say #MeToo is real. It matters, and it's long overdue.

And if we don't take anything else away from this, we can learn from people like Kirsten, my dear friend who -- Kirsten, I love you and I'm so proud of your courage for speaking out on this. And I hope everybody reads your op-ed, where you tell people this is not about back-alley issues that deal with strangers that abduct women in back alleys, and it's important for women not to feel ashamed and not to feel fearful for coming forward.

And I hope they take your story and learn they should come forward, and they should tell their friends and their family and not feel ashamed for this. And they should be able to have an environment where they can be heard, and this person can be held accountable.

We have to open up the dialogue and a pipeline for conversations, for this not to happen again. And if people don't learn from your story that you so bravely told and learn from what -- what you did and how you handled it at that time, we're in a new and different time. We are not back 30 years ago, where there wasn't an avenue for conversations. And I hope if nothing else, we can do that moving forward out of this tragic situation.

HILL: We're going to have to leave it there. But I, too, encourage folks to read that. Ladies, appreciate you joining us.

POWERS: Thank you.

HILL: Always. Thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: John.

BERMAN: So what caused the most fatal traffic accident in the United States, transportation accident in nearly ten years? Twenty people are dead in this limo crash. The head of the NTSB joins us with the very latest on the investigation, next.