Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Holly McCormack (D) Discusses Launching Challenge to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene; New Evidence In Fatal Crash Sparks Calls For South Dakota Attorney General To Resign; Trump Plots 2024 Run and Revenge Ahead of CPAC Speech; Confirmation of Biden's Budget Director Nominee on Brink of Failure; Pelosi Backs Away from Democratic-Leaning Split on January 6 Commission; Sheriff in Texas Announces Criminal Investigation into Storm Deaths; COVID Cases Collide with Texas Power Crisis. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 25, 2021 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And we should also point out to viewers, who might not be familiar with the 14th in Georgia, that former President Trump won by 80 percent.

How do you go up against those kinds of odds and saying, honestly, I think I can prevail here?

HOLLY MCCORMACK, (D), LAUNCHING MIDTERM CHALLENGE AGAINST REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Right. I think -- well, first, if you don't run, you can't win. So --

KEILAR: True.

MCCORMACK: -- that's the way I looked at it.

But also, there's been a void in leadership in northwest Georgia for decades.

So with the hateful rhetoric and just the hate that has been sown, it was fertile ground because there wasn't good leadership here and they fell for it.

She swooped in right before announcing to run and she's not from here. I think they will be manipulated and that's what she does.

KEILAR: Holly, I think we'll be hearing from you.

And I really appreciate your coming on to talk with us. Holly McCormack, thank you.

MCCORMACK: Thank you.

KEILAR: South Dakota's attorney general facing growing pressure to resign and an impeachment investigation led by his own party. Jason Ravnsborg is facing three misdemeanor charges for hitting and

killing a pedestrian on the side of a highway last summer. That man, 55-year-old Joe Boever.

Shortly after the misdemeanor charges were announced, I spoke with Joe's cousin, Nick Nemec.

Ravnsborg told police that he thought he hit a deer. But Nick says the evidence shows a different story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: He, the attorney general, said he hit something. Do you think he'd knew he'd hit a person?

NICK NEMEC, BROTHER OF JOSEPH BOEVER: Yes. From the point of impact, what we thought was the point of impact, to the break, the tire skid marks made when he stepped on the braves, it's just too short a reaction time.

And I think the attorney general saw my cousin ahead of time and began reacting and stepping on the brakes sooner than what people think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: I'm joined now by CNN's Lucy Kafanov who has been following the story for us.

Lucy, new evidence coming to light now and the governor says there's more to come. Tell us what's new?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. That new evidence has raised questions about the A.G.'s conduct in the car crash that killed Mr. Boever last September.

Jason Ravnsborg said he didn't realize he hit a person until the next day. But investigators say they found the victim's glasses inside the A.G.'s car.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON RAVNSBORG, SOUTH DAKOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: And then, quite frankly, wham.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: OK.

RAVNSBORG: I hit -- you know, the incident happened. I never saw anything.

KAFANOV (voice-over): South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is facing misdemeanor charges after he struck and killed a man on September 12th. He initially told police he hit a deer.

911 OPERATOR (voice-over): 911, this is Ally. How can I help you?

RAVNSBORG (voice-over): Ally, this -- well, Ally, I'm the attorney general, and I am -- I don't know. I hit something.

KAFANOV: Ravnsborg told investigators he returned to the scene of the collision the following morning and discovered the body of 55-year-old Joseph Boever.

RAVNSBORG: But then I come up, it was the man. And he is not good and he's dead.

But I believe I did not do anything wrong, and I obviously replayed it my mind about a thousand times.

KAFANOV: But now, the Republican official is facing mounting calls for his resignation in light of disturbing new details released Tuesday night in which investigators say they found the Boever's broken glasses in Ravnsborg's car.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: They're Joe's glasses. I wondered about that. That means his face came through your windshield. It's a tough thing.

RAVNSBORG: Ah. It's a tough thing. Ah. I was thinking that his face did not come through. I thought there would have been blood everywhere. Now, after I thought about it --

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Yes, and you've had time, right? His glasses are right there, Jason. Those are Joe's.

KAFANOV: The attorney general faces three misdemeanor charges for careless driving, operating a vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, and illegal lane change while carelessly driving crossing lanes of traffic unsafely, but no felonies in the death of Boever.

MICHAEL MOORE, BEADLE COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: At best, his conduct was negligent, which is insufficient to bring criminal charges in South Dakota.

KAFANOV: The attorney general's spokesperson, Mike Deaver, tells CNN that Ravnsborg has not yet responded to the misdemeanor charges filed against him by the state attorney's office and a court date has yet to be set.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of South Dakota lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against Ravnsborg.

REP. TIM GOODWIN (R-SD): But it's a sad day. But we need to move forward as a state. We need to do what's best for the citizens of South Dakota.

[14:35:00]

So that's why I'm asking or recommending to our attorney general to resign his post immediately so the state can move on, the governor can appoint a new attorney general, and we can get this behind us.

KAFANOV: Lawmakers introduced two articles of impeachment, one for the fatal crash, the other for Ravnsborg's statements and actions in reporting the crash and during the investigation, in which they said Ravnsborg "undertook actions unbecoming the attorney general."

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is also calling for the attorney general to go, saying in a statement released Tuesday, "Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the attorney general should resign."

But Ravnsborg is rebuffing calls to step down. In a statement to CNN, spokesman, Mike Deaver, said, "The attorney general does not intend to resign. At no time has this issue impeded his ability to do the work of the office."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAFANOV: Now, that statement is not entirely accurate. Several local law enforcement agencies have asked the attorney general not to investigate or evaluate police use-of-force incidents while he's under investigation.

That is something that officials talked about in their press conference today with the governor.

The other issue is those misdemeanor charges. The family of the victim will file another case against Ravnsborg in civil court.

They're also calling for new laws that would basically make it harder for someone involved in a traffic death to walk away with just a slap on the wrist.

Many states throughout the country have something called a negligent homicide law. That's when you kill someone through reckless behavior.

South Dakota doesn't have that, which complicates manslaughter charges in cases like this one -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes. I spoke with Joe Boever's cousin. That was something -- the laws, and sort of what can and cannot be done, is something that was really affecting the family. We'll be looking for that.

Lucy, thank you so much for that report.

Next, former President Trump is expected to speak at CPAC this weekend. New CNN reporting shows he's plotting his political comeback and payback.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:41:04]

KEILAR: It is a big day for Republicans as the annual Conservative Political Action Conference gets under way. It is, of course, the largest GOP gathering. And it comes as the party is facing an identity crisis.

Former President Trump will headline the event on Sunday in his first speech since leaving office. Multiple sources tell CNN he is actively plotting his political return and also revenge. CNN's chief political correspondent, Gloria Borger, joins us now.

Gloria, Trump is preparing to step back into the political arena on Sunday. And certainly, a lot can happen. What are you anticipating of this moment?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there are certain things we can obviously anticipate. One, whatever speech he gives is going to be self-validating.

He's going to, of course, point out that he believes that he really won the election, that this election was rigged. And that the only way the Republican Party can triumph is, of course, if it follows his lead.

He does not believe he would be leading the party off a cliff, as lots of people like Liz Cheney believe. But rather, he could lead them to victory.

I think you're going to hear him sounding like he might be a presidential candidate and sounding like he really wants to win back control of the House and Senate.

But what this agenda will really be about for him will be about revenge. It will be about revenge against those people who did not support him in the big lie.

KEILAR: Do you think that he will run again?

BORGER: If I had to guess, I would say he would want to freeze the field until the absolute last moment and then he won't want to run again.

He's got a lot of other things on his mind. He's got to worry about his personal legal situation, his personal financial situation.

And the question that I get from people, who are Republicans, and who have, at one time or another, been close to him, asked the question of me, is he going to want to work that hard again.

The answer I get usually is, no, he's not going to want to do that. He's going to want to be the kingmaker but he doesn't want to work hard enough to become the king.

KEILAR: I want to turn to President Biden now and his nominee for budget director, Neera Tanden. Her confirmation is very much on the brink of failure. And that could deliver a major defeat for President Biden.

BORGER: Yes.

KEILAR: The administration now considering offering her another position that does not need Senate confirmation.

Where do you think she might end up, if she is not confirmed? BORGER: You know, I don't know where she's going to end up. She'll end

up somewhere, in a position of authority, because there's a great deal of affection for her, from Ron Klain, in particular.

She is somebody who ran the, you know, sort of middle-of-the-road think tank, more right than left, but Democratic.

And I think they do feel there's a place for her in the administration, and maybe at treasury. Who knows?

But they're just not going to put her in a confirmation spot again, obviously.

A lot of people predicted this to them and said, you know, her mean tweets were not hidden. They didn't think it would become that much of an issue because of the hypocrisy of all of this, quite frankly, among Republicans who paid no attention to Donald Trump's tweets.

But they will find a place for her. And it's not going to be that they're going to shove her in some corner.

KEILAR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pushed back on the idea that the 9/11-style commission that she wants to look at the capitol riots needs to be an even mix of Democrats and Republicans.

Let's listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I want -- will do anything to have it be bipartisan, so as your point is, that it would be well-received by the American people.

But if we're talking about scope and saying, well, we've got to go and look at all mob -- but -- it's -- it's the Ron Johnson school of January 6th investigation as to seeking the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:45:05]

KEILAR: Several Democratic Senators, though, said they want it to be balanced. How do you see this going?

BORGER: Yes, look, I think what she's saying is she doesn't want this to have a lot of conspiracy theorists on this panel.

And when you heard Chris Coons say he wanted it evenly divided, you can know that he's channeling Joe Biden. And what Joe Biden recalls is the 9/11 Commission.

And the leadership of the commission is really what's important. And in that case, it was run by two very respected people, Tom Kean, a Republican, Lee Hamilton, a Democrat. Respected on both sides of the aisle. These were people who were knowledgeable, who didn't play games, who were known to are bipartisan. The question is whether you can find those people anymore. And you may

have to go outside of government, quite frankly, to find those people with that kind of respect on both sides of the aisle. And that may be what they have to do.

KEILAR: That is sad.

BORGER: Yes. Absolutely.

KEILAR: Gloria Borger -- yes. Gloria, thank you so much.

BORGER: Sure.

KEILAR: It's great to see you, as always.

BORGER: Good to see you.

KEILAR: Minutes from now, President Biden will highlight 50 million vaccinations happening under his presidency. And we're going to bring that to you live.

Plus, health officials in Texas warn the winter storm could lead to a surge of coronavirus cases.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:50:46]

KEILAR: The sheriff in one Texas county has announced a criminal investigation into possible deaths from the winter storm that paralyzed the state for a week.

Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, had at least 21 deaths during the course of the storm. And the sheriff says he's assembled a unit to determine whether the cold or power outages caused them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAVIER SALAZAR, SHERIFF, BEXAR COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: I'm honestly a firm believer that, at this very moment, there are people lying dead inside homes that we still have not discovered.

Maybe they're a person that a home health agency only checks on once a week or once every two weeks, or maybe they have a relative from out of town that calls periodically to check on them.

Well, like I said, there may be some folks that are deceased as a result of this weather event or accompanying outages that may be attributable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: In the meantime, the agency that runs nearly all of Texas's power grid is testifying in front of state lawmakers today. Five members of the ERCOT board have already resigned in the wake of the disaster. And CNN's Miguel Marquez looked into yet another concern in the

fallout of the storm that a COVID surge may be next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tania Delacruz's oxygen levels dropped and her temperature shot up on the coldest night in South Texas.

MARQUEZ (on camera): How much more complicated or difficult was it to deal with that, given that you had no electricity, no water -- all that stuff?

TANIA DELACRUZ, DEVELOPED COVID-19 SYMPTOMS DURING WINTER STORM: It was pretty bad because, even though you would try to cover up with all the blankets that I could find, I was still feeling cold. And --

MARQUEZ: So you had chills?

DELACRUZ: Yes, and then the cough. I mean, the colder it is, the more prone the attacks come.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Graciano Lopez was on oxygen, recuperating from COVID-19 at home. Then his electricity went out. Then the batteries on his oxygen machine died.

GRACIANO LOPEZ, SUFFERED A COVID-19 RELAPSE: No, no.

MARQUEZ: "When I don't get oxygen," he says, "to the floor I go."

Sandra Aguirre is on the mend. Now she's worried about three other family members who have COVID-19.

SANDRA AGUIRRE, SUFFERED SERIOUS CASE OF COVID-19 DURING WINTER STORM: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

MARQUEZ: "For two days, my family had to rent a hotel just to stay warm," she says. "And I was here and all I could do was worry about my kids."

Houston's United Memorial Medical Center, a hospital CNN has twice visited as the pandemic raged, is seeing fewer patients today. One concern, the storm may produce another spike in cases.

DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: They didn't care about COVID. We have a bunch of shelters that were open to keep people warm. And you know that a shelter is a giant petri dish. So a lot of -- I do expect that, in the next few days, we're going to have a small spike in the number of cases.

MARQUEZ: Like many hospitals, UMMC lost power and water, pipes burst, but staff worked right through the worst of it.

Anita Pandey's home is still unlivable. Her family now with relatives.

ANITA PANDEY, CHIEF NURSING OFFICER, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: Looking at those patients who are actually looking towards us to make sure we take good care of them, even though they knew we had an emergency, make sure we support 100 percent and provide both medical and emotional care was above my own personal concern.

ALETHEA JUAREZ, HOME SUFFERED WATER DAMAGE FROM BURST PIPES: This is all from our spare bedroom.

MARQUEZ: Alethea Juarez's husband just got over COVID- 19.

JUAREZ: This was our master bedroom, our master bathroom, and our two walk-in closets.

MARQUEZ: And like so many Texans, now this.

JUAREZ: When we came home we discovered a waterfall right here. And it also had collapsed in my closet. The light ballast was hanging down. Sheetrock was down. Everything in my closet was destroyed.

MARQUEZ: Home after home across nearly the entire state damaged by frozen and burst pipes.

We met Mike Phillips four years ago on a boat in flooded Houston neighborhoods after Hurricane Harvey. He says this is worse.

MIKE PHILLIPS, KHI RESTORATION: It's widespread across Texas and no one was spared because of these busted pipes. Whether you live in Lubbock, Texas, or you live here in Houston, Texas, we all experienced the same problems.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, Houston, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Thank you to Miguel, so much, for that reporting.

President Biden will be traveling to Houston tomorrow to get a first- hand look at the storm damage.

[14:55:01]

Still ahead, a new coronavirus variant has been detected in New York City just as middle schools open up there today.

Plus, we'll listen in live as President Biden talks about vaccines, any moment now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:09]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being here.