Transcript for 'This Week': Sen. Claire McCaskill
We turn to the blistering hearings as to why general motors failed to fix the ignition defect that was linked to at least 13 deaths. In the hot seat was the CEO. One senator blasting them for the culture of coverup. She will join us shortly. But first, Rebecca jars. Reporter: Who knew what and when? So many questions facing general motors. They had a corporate culture that chose to conceal rather than disclose. Reporter: Mary barra who became CEO early this year says she didn't find about the problem until January, despite problems dating back as far as 2001. You claimed that never once did this cross your desk in the past decade. What do you say to the families? I was never part of the process on this issue. Reporter: The senate committee zeroing in on internal gm documents showing a company engineer replaced some of the faulty ignitions in 2006 then lied about it in a deposition. This is criminal deception. Reporter: The department of justice is investigating whether gm and possibly some of the executives should face criminal charges for ignoring safety issues. Barra declined to answer specific questions until an internal investigation is complete. If there were decisions made by individuals that were inappropriate, we will take steps up to and including termination. Reporter: They have recalled 2.6 million cars for ignition problems since January, but many are still on the road. For families, the lack of answer is a disappointment. It is clear that gm is only concerned with their bottom line and not the safety of our loves ones. Reporter: Many are outraged that gm could legally be off the hook for accidents that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy. Though the justice department is re-examining those bankruptcy filings for any signs of fraud. For "This week," Rebecca Jarvis, ABC news, Washington. Last night, snl took a shot at the gm CEO. Ms. Barra, when did you first find out about the ignition problems? That's part of our investigation. So you don't know when you knew? I am looking into knowing when I first knew about it. But I won't know the results of that knowing until I know for sure. All right. The actual senator leading that hearing is with us now. Senator Claire Mccaskill of Missouri, thank you for joining us. Thank you. We heard from gmc, Mary barra, that she is going to get to the bottom of this with her investigation. You talked about a culture of coverup. Do you trust her? Well, I think we'll see how the investigation goes. But the facts are pretty clear. You don't need an investigation to understand that they had a defective switch, and someone at gm in the engineering department changed that switch and didn't change the part number. There is no reason to keep the same part number unless you're trying to hide the fact that you have a defective switch out there that in fact ended up killing a number of people on our highways. As you clearly demonstrated in that hearing, this was a coverup. This was an outrage. People died. Is anybody going to jail for this? That's a good question. We have the citizens united case where the supreme court said corporations are people. That was hard for some of us to kind of get our arms around. But if in fact they are people, there needs to be some criminal accountability. Depending on the facts of the investigation. I know the justice department is taking a hard look at all of this, including their bankruptcy filings. But here's what bugs me about what I learned preparing for the hearing. They had a deposition a year ago, almost a year ago, where it was clear that this part had been changed out. And this company did nothing between April of last year and January and February of this year. What were they doing for all those months? Why didn't they report this to the federal regulators? The notion that somehow the executive offices had no idea that these lawyers and engineers had dropped a bombshell on them frankly, just strange believability. Let me ask about the government regulators and the executive offices. Government regulators knew about this to varying degrees going back several years. And it was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the U.S. Government following the bailout. What is the U.S. Government responsibility for what happened here? It depends on the knowledge that we know the engineers had was transferred up chain. That's what these investigations will show. It is possible these engineers were so interested in covering themselves, especially this Mr. Ray digorgio who perjured himself several times in his deposition. He lied over and over again. Because afterwards we found the document where he signed off on the changes, a document that was never given to the lawyers in that case, by the way. When did that information in the engineering sector move to the executive level of general motors? That's what we don't know, that's what Mary barra refused to talk about until the investigation is complete. I put her on the spot and said will you come back in front of the committee after the investigation over, and she committed on the record she would. Very quick question. Under the bankruptcy agreement, gm has immunity from any lawsuits before 2009. Is congress going to force them to compensate these victims? Well, I think this is a real moment of truth for general motors. They tried to lawyer up and play whack-a-mole with these lawsuits, terrible things have happened. Now time to come clean, be transparent, and make all victims whole, no matter when this deadly ignition caused heartbreak in their families. Senator Claire Mccaskill. Thank you for joining us. Thank you.
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