Return to Transcripts main page


24 Killed, 79 Injured in Mexico City Metro Disaster; Israel's Netanyahu Missed Deadline to Build New Government; House GOP Leader Caught on Hot Mic Criticizing Liz Cheney; Reuters: Indian G7 Delegates Test Positive for Covid-19; Americans Charged with Murder Await Verdict in Italy. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 5, 2021 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Mexico's president has declared three days of mourning after the deadly metro disaster in the capital city. Flags will be flown at half-staff. Parts of an overpass collapsed on Monday killing 24 people and injuring almost 80. Engineers are inspecting the train line and early investigation results could come Friday. Matt Rivers picks up the story.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took only a matter of seconds for the horrific disaster to unfold as this rail overpass in Mexico City collapsed. Plunging railcars and passengers on board into a heap of concrete, dust and rubble, killing at least 24, and injuring dozens more.

First responders initially worked furiously to try to save anyone who may be trapped in the rubble, but rescue efforts were temporarily suspended overnight, given concerns about the stability of the subway cars. As the sun rose workers attempted to stabilize the scene and safely lower two of the cars that dangled precariously over what was left of the line 12 overpass. The chaos of the aftermath giving way to anger as officials struggled to provide answers for how such a catastrophic structural failure could have happened.

As reporters openly questioned the government about long-standing safety concerns, the president vowed a swift, thorough and transparent investigation.

The people of Mexico will all know the truth he says, nothing will be hidden, but there is no impunity for anyone.

Construction of line 12 or the so-called "Golden Line" was a widely touted construction project from 2006 to 2012 during the Mexico City mayoral term of the now foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard. A project that residents later complained was riddled with corruption and shoddy workmanship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The metro was badly done. The whole construction was already poorly done. RIVERS (voice-over): In 2014 two year after Ebrard's term as mayor had

concluded, 11 of line 12's 20 stations had to be briefly suspended to fix what the then director of the metro system Joel Ortega called engineering failures. Mexico's Supreme Audit Institution found that Ebrard's government, quote, failed to comply with legal and administrative provisions to verify the work on the "Golden Line" had been carried out correctly.

But the federal district attorney ruled there aren't enough elements to hold Ebrard personally responsible at the time. And on Tuesday the current metro director pushed back on any allegations of engineering weakness.

At the end of 2019, a study of the structural and GO technical behavior of line 12 was constructed by a national company. The results didn't reveal any risks in the operation. For his part on Tuesday Ebrard offered his condolences to the victims and vowed to cooperate fully with the investigation.

He said this is the most terrible accident we've ever had in the public transportation system after determining what caused the accident with proof and evidence you have to, quote, establish who is responsible and the authorities will have to act as a result no matter who that is.

Engineering teams are on site looking at any needed immediate fixes to the remaining elevated sections of line 12 as well as conducting tests into the source of the structural failure. They are expected to release their preliminary findings on what caused the collapse on Friday. But for the grieving families whose loved ones were lost those findings are likely not to bring comfort but instead perhaps raise more questions about what could have been done to avoid this tragedy in the first place.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CHURCH: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to meet a deadline to form a new governing coalition and end Israel's political deadlock. President Reuven Rivlin can assign coalition building to another member of the Parliament. And if that succeeds Mr. Netanyahu's lengthy tenure as Prime Minister likely be over. Many expect one of his top rivals, Yair Lapid, to get the nod. So let's bring in CNN's Hadas Gold. She joins us live from Jerusalem. Good to see you Hadas. What is the latest in this political development?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in just the last few minutes Yair Lapid, the head of the centrist party that received the next highest number of votes in the last election, just met with the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the president's residence, where he asked to receive the mandate. He has not received it yet, but he did make the formal request. That will be the next step.

[04:35:00] That is the next step to see if he will receive that mandate and to see if he does receive it if he will be able to actually form a government. But last night in just the minutes before midnight Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party that announced they were not able to form a majority government and they were going to send the mandate back to the president.

Now he could have asked an extension, but they did not. Probably because it was pretty clear over the last few weeks that they would be unable to form a government. And so, now we wait to see whether the Israeli president will give it to Yair Lapid, whether he will give to another member of the Parliament. The president can also send it back to the parliament and ask them to try and sort it out.

Now most analysts do believe that Yair Lapid will receive the mandate to form the government. And despite the fact that he will receive the mandate, all eyes will actually be on the leader of a small right-wing party. His name is Naftali Bennett. He won seven seats -- his party won seven seats in the last election, but really is the belle of ball currently that everybody wants to dance with.

Prime Minister Netanyahu offered Bennett a rotating leadership deal where Bennett would be Prime Minister for one year and then Netanyahu would be Prime Minister. And Yair Lapid apparently is offering the same sort of deal to Naftali Bennett. And he really seems to be one who that will holds the keys as to whether Yair Lapid will be able to form some sort of government.

If Yair Lapid does form a coalition it will be an interesting coalition across the spectrum when it comes to the parties that make it up. But for many people they just see that coalition as sort of an anti-Netanyahu block. And of they can form a government, they will bring an end to Benjamin Netanyahu's very long rule. However, if they fail to do so and if the president fails to find somebody else who can form a governing coalition, then Israelis could be heading to an unprecedented fifth election. And while all of this is happening, until there is a new government in place I should note, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, let's hope they can break in political deadlock. Hadas Gold joining us live from Jerusalem with the latest. Many thanks.

Well coming up next here on CNN NEWSROOM, the hot mic moment sending shock waves through the Republican Party. How Trump critic Liz Cheney may have just learned her political fate from leaked audio.



CHURCH: A new development in the Republican Party's infighting. The House Minority Leader let his true feelings be known about a member of his own party in a hot mic moment. It signals the very public rift between Kevin McCarthy and Trump critic Liz Cheney might soon come to a head. CNN's Ryan Nobles has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has had enough, the GOP House leader caught on a hot mic telling a Fox News host what he really thinks about Liz Cheney.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think she's got real problems. I have had it with -- I have had it with her. It's -- you know, I've lost confidence.

NOBLES (voice-over): The edited audio, which does not include the questions, a clear sign that Wyoming congresswoman's days in House leadership are numbered.

MCCARTHY: Well, someone just has to bring a motion. But I assume that will probably take place.

NOBLES (voice-over): Just a few months ago, McCarthy defended Cheney from the backlash of conservative members angry over her vote to impeach former President Trump and her critique of his role in the January 6 insurrection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you call for a vote to seek the removal of Liz Cheney from her leadership position?

MCCARTHY: You know, the conference decides on that. We're here to talk about small business.

NOBLES (voice-over): Now McCarthy seems content to let the conference's far right members take Cheney out of her role as the third-ranking House Republican.

MCCARTHY: I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message. We all need to be working as one if we're able to win the majority.

NOBLES (voice-over): Cheney, meanwhile, seems prepared to go down swinging, refusing to lie about Trump.

"This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on January 6," Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler said in a statement. "Liz will not do that. That is the issue."

As the pressure mounts, Cheney, in a closed-door meeting with donors, said that Trump's behavior on January 6 was just too much for her. "It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed."

The jockeying to replace Cheney is already under way. Sources tell CNN that New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is already making calls about the job. Some Republicans would like to replace Cheney with another woman. In addition to Stefanik, Jim Banks, who currently chairs the influential Republican Study Committee, is being considered, as well as Jackie Walorski of Indiana, and a dark horse, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a prominent member of the conservative Freedom Caucus.

Democrats are seizing on the GOP drama. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sending an e-mail accusing Republicans of looking for quote -- a nonthreatening female seeking replacement for House Republican Conference chair.

And Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who was recently booed on a stage at a state convention, in part because of his vote to convict Trump during his last impeachment trial.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Aren't you embarrassed?

NOBLES (voice-over): Defending Cheney today, tweeting: "Liz Cheney refuses to lie. As one of my Republican Senate colleagues said to me following my impeachment vote, I wouldn't want to be a member of a group that punished someone for following their conscience.'"

NOBLES: And it seems more and more likely that Cheney's reign as the third ranking House Republican could come to an end as soon as next week. Many House Republicans telling CNN that the vote could come at the next Republican Conference meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, May 12th.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


CHURCH: And this just into CNN, there are reports at least two Indian delegates of the G7 have tested positive for COVID-19. And Reuters is citing British officials as saying India's entire delegation is now self-isolating.

India's foreign minister tweeting this, I was made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible COVID positive cases. As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode. And that will be the case with the G7 meeting today as well.

The foreign minister has been meeting with other top diplomats this week including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. And the meetings will go on, on this the final day. Top diplomats have been arriving at Lancaster House soon -- or they have been arriving at Lancaster House.


Earlier U.S. Secretary of State Blinken met with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea. He also sat down Tuesday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The U.S. and Britain are looking to build a unified front on Russia and China. And Blinken is set to head to Ukraine later today. The pandemic has also been a major focus.

And CNN's Scott McLean joins us live from London. Good to see you, Scott. So what is the latest on all of this?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Rosemary, just first a quick word on the reports of those positive case from the Indian delegation. For normal people entering the U.K. they actually have to quarantine at a managed hotel property for ten days. There are obviously exemptions though for these kind of foreign diplomatic missions. Anyone who is not with the official delegation who can't do something while in isolation is exempt. But obviously family members, things like that still have to isolate in the place that they are staying, and they are encouraged to take tests on day two and day eight while they are here, Rosemary. So just a little bit of background and a little bit of context.

It shouldn't be too surprising that there are positive cases coming from the Indian delegation considering that country is registering almost than 400,000 new cases every single day and there are plenty of -- there's plenty of speculation that of course, the real numbers are much, much higher than that.

When it comes to these G7 meetings you mentioned that the meeting between the Japanese foreign minister, the Korean foreign minister and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this morning, Japan and South Korea have often had a bit of a frosty relationship. But the U.S. is trying to get those two countries and really all of the G7 countries -- South Korea is not by the way an official member of that -- on the same page when it comes to countering Chinese human rights violations, countering what Americans call economic coercion tactics.

The U.S. diplomats or U.S. officials, State Department officials, said that there's also widespread agreement amongst G7 nations to get Taiwan included in the W.H.O., which obviously would draw the ire of China.

They've made clear that, look, this isn't a binary decision, you don't have to be just for or just against China, but they do at least want to get everyone united in insisting that China follows the rules or what Americans call the international rules-based order.

I want to bring up a couple other quick things. First is on vaccines, yesterday the U.S. and U.K. agreed that manufacturing capacity for vaccines ought to be expanded to try to get the pandemic to come to an end quicker. But there were no hard commitments around things like international property -- or intellectual property rights which many people argue would help to speed up the process. So vaccines are on the agenda again today. And so a lot of people will be listening closely to see if there's any specific commitments made there.

And one other thing I wanted to point out, Rosemary, and that's the situation in Myanmar. Yesterday the State Department officials who spoke to the press conceded that sanctions against the military there, this military that's been involved with this brutal crackdown against any and all dissent in that country often violently or deadly, those sanctions have simply not worked.

The U.S. State Department officials are conceding, one said I don't mean this as a cop out, but sanctions do take time. Saying that, look, they are symbolic things to show protesters that the Americans are with them, but the U.S. is reluctant to take further sanctions, more broad sanctions, so as not to make life any more difficult for ordinary people -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Scott McLean joining us live from London, many thanks.

Two Americans charged with murder in Italy will soon know their fate. For now they are waiting on a verdict that could change their lives forever. We will go live to Rome after the break.



CHURCH: The final hearing has just begun in the case of two Americans charged with the murder of an Italian police officer. The jury is expected to hand down a verdict very soon. Prosecutors have asked for life sentences for each of the men. Barbie Nadeau has more now from Rome.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice over): Two Americans from California standing trial in Italy for murder are about to learn their fate. Finnegan Lee Elder, now 21 and Gabriel Natale Hjorth now 20 are charged with extortion and a stabbing death of Mario Cerciello Rega, a Carabinieri officer who had just returned from his honeymoon in July 2019. They face life in an Italian prison.

Rega, a 35-year-old officer and his partner Andrea Varriale working undercover, intervened in a drug deal gone wrong after the two Americans admit to buying what they thought was cocaine in a lively district in Rome. When they found crushed aspirin instead, they stole the backpack from the man who had set up the bad drug deal.

Then they tried to get their money back in exchange for the stolen bag. Rega and his partner Varriale met the Americans on behalf of the drug dealer to retrieve the stolen bag. What happened next is unclear. The surviving officer Varriale says they identified themselves as Carabinieri. Elder and Natalie Hjorth say they didn't. The Americans say they were expecting the man who fixed the drug deal. When the two undercover cops showed up instead, the Americans testified they thought they were thugs.

Elder admitted in court to stabbing the officer 11 times with his military grade knife he brought from America. He says it was self- defense. All the dead officers' wounds were on his back and sides, according to the autopsy. The prosecution has asked for life in prison, some of it in isolation, for both. The case has divided Italy. Everyone feels sympathy for Rega's young widow who lost her newlywed husband.

But many wonder why the police intervened in a drug deal without their weapons or backup. Varriale was investigated for inconsistency in his story and ultimately put on probation for not carrying a weapon that night.


Elder's Americans lawyer, Craig Peters, who has collaborated with his Italian defense, tells CNN that the boys have taken responsibility for what they did. Now he wants the Carabinieri to do the same.

CRAIG PETERS, FINNEGAN LEE ELDER'S LAWYER: So it is easy. It's convenient. It's expedient to lay the blame at the feet of this boys, right. Because everybody else gets to walk away unscathed, but the reality is, if you want your police force to get better, if you want anybody to get better at being a human being, at doing their job, you hold everybody accountable and everybody responsible for their portion.

NADEAU (voice-over): Now, a court has to decide if the young Americans acted in self-defense or in cold blood. Their life depends on it.


CHURCH: And Barbie Nadeau is in Rome outside the prison where the trial is being held. So Barbie, when might we learn the likely fate of these two Americans?

NADEAU (on camera): Well, the two judges and six jury members are deliberating now, they've been in there for about 45 minutes. And we don't really know how long it's going to take. There are five charges with many extenuating and aggravated issues and that have to decide whether or not they have charge the boys or find the boys guilty or not guilty together or separately. So there is a lot to discuss.

We really don't know. The judge when they sent the jury to deliberate didn't give any kind of a time frame. We assume it will come today. But it really depends on whether or not they believe these boys acted in self-defense based on the evidence presented or whether they acted maliciously. And that's what really this comes down to and that's what the debate inside this prison behind me in the deliberating room is really all about right now -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right we'll be monitoring that verdict. Barbie Nadeau, many thanks, appreciate it.

And thank you for your company. I'm Rosemary. "EARLY START" is up next. You're watching CNN. Have yourselves a wonderful day.