Thursday October 8th, 2015 11:19PM

Lawmakers accuse GM of possible criminal cover-up

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawmakers on Capitol Hill accused General Motors of a potentially criminal cover-up of its defective ignition switches and fumed at the lack of answers from its new CEO during a second day of hearings Wednesday into why GM waited a decade to recall cars with the deadly flaw.

Members of a Senate subcommittee also said GM should tell owners of the 2.6 million cars being recalled to stop driving them until they are repaired. But CEO Mary Barra gave assurances that the cars, mainly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, are safe to use while owners wait for the replacement part, saying she would let her own son get behind the wheel if he took certain precautions.

GM has linked the switch to 13 deaths and dozens of accidents. Others, including relatives of some victims, have a higher count of fatalities.

The automaker has said the ignition switch can move from the "run" position to the "accessory" position because of weight on the key chain. That causes the engine to shut off, disabling power steering, power brakes and the front air bags.

As she did Tuesday at a House hearing, Barra said many of the answers Congress is seeking will come out in an internal GM investigation that should be completed in 45 to 60 days. She also said she was unaware of certain details about GM's handling of the problem - an assertion that frustrated some of the senators.

"You don't know anything about anything," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., bristled.

Barra also tried to assure lawmakers that GM is now more focused on safety and the consumer. Few sounded convinced.

"If this is the new GM leadership, it's pretty lacking," Boxer said.

Senators aggressively questioned Barra about how GM approved a replacement switch in 2006 but never changed the part number. Failing to change the number makes the part harder to track. In this case, anyone investigating the cars wouldn't know why earlier switches were failing at a higher rate than later ones.

While Barra called the failure to change the part number "unacceptable," several members of the panel implied that it was done intentionally by a person or group within the company.

"I don't see this as anything but criminal," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a former prosecutor.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who is also a former prosecutor, told Barra that the more he learns about GM, "the more convinced I am that GM has a real exposure to criminal liability."

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of GM's handling of the recall. Barra promised the company will cooperate.

Barra said the company has not yet fired any employees in connection with the recall. But she said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM will take action, including firing those involved.

As she began her testimony, Barra faced an angry and skeptical Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the head of the subcommittee, who recounted the story of a woman who died in an accident involving a faulty switch.

McCaskill said GM had "a corporate culture that chose to conceal rather than disclose."

McCaskill also dismissed Barra's claim that there is a new culture at GM. She said that when emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, GM had ample time to recall cars with the faulty switch.

GM did not begin recalling the vehicles until February.

Blumenthal said GM should immediately tell owners of the recalled cars not to drive them until they're repaired because they're unsafe. GM plans to begin repairing the cars this month but has said it might take until October to get them all fixed.

Barra said GM has already provided 13,000 loaner cars to drivers who are concerned. But she said the company's testing on different types of roads shows the cars are safe as long as there is nothing but the ignition key on the key chain.

"I would allow my son and daughter - well, my son, because he's the only one eligible to drive - if he only had the ignition key," she said.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 9 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 9 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 9 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 9 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 9 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 9 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 9 months ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 9 months ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 9 months ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 9 months ago )
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
Stunning Congress, House Speaker Boehner announces plans to resign; tea party declares victory
WASHINGTON (AP) — Plunging Congress into deeper turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a tea party drive to depose the nation's highest-ranking Re...
6:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Tornado heavily damages 10 homes but causes no injuries on island in South Carolina
JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.The tornado touc...
5:08PM ( 1 week ago )
Caterpillar says it may cut more than 10,000 jobs by 2018, lowers 2015 revenue expectation
Caterpillar is planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018, as the construction and mining equipment maker adjusts to downturns in key markets.That could amount to...
10:06AM ( 1 week ago )
Escaped tarantula grounds Atlanta-bound flight in Baltimore
An eight-legged creature that escaped in the cargo hold of a passenger flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International grounded the plane and sent passengers onto another flight.
By The Associated Press
9:06AM ( 1 week ago )