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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Was It Terrorism or Mechanical Failure That Brought Down EgyptAir Flight 804? Donald Trump Continues Outreach to Conservatives. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 20, 2016 - 12:00   ET

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


Aired 12-12:30p ET>

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[12:32:04] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. The special live coverage of the EgyptAir disaster, 66 people were on board the flight, Flight 804 when it crashed. And 10 of them were crew members led by a pilot named Mohamed Shoukair who had more than 6,000 hours of flying time. His copilot was Mohamed Assem. And that copilot uncle spoke with CNN about his nephew just earlier today.

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YASSIR ABDEL GHAFFAR, COPILOT'S UNCLE: He was absolutely very kind to us. He never see a guy in his age with the amenity and sense of humor. I would he was the only one that was really throwing smile in our faces. So what happened is really very much unfortunate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: 56 passengers were citizens of 11 different countries, not one of them was an American. EgyptAir is saying it will release the passenger manifest one -- everyone of the passengers next of kin has been contacted.

And four of those family members of the ones who are onboard the plane, can only imagine the agony of this weight as the answers are still out there somewhere. They are mourning and they are praying but they are also angry at EgyptAir officials who they say have been slow to release information.

My next guest knows that feeling all too well. Heidi Snow lost her fiance Michel when TWA Flight 800 crashed off of Long Island nearly 20 years ago.

She's the founder of ACCESS. That is Aircraft Casualty Emotional Support Services. And she's live with me now.

Heidi, thanks so much for being with me. I thought of you the minute this happened and the minute the talk of terror began because I feel like we're in this new normal where family members who like you were devastated, beyond devastated, simultaneously are going to be investigated as will their loved ones not with them anymore and I'm wondering if you've been able to sort of add that new normal into the fold of what you do for people in the same boat.

HEIDI SNOW, FOUNDER ACCESS: Well, first of all, I just, all of us at ACCESS have lost loved ones. We have thousands who have called for helped from people from various air disasters some of which were terrorism. So I really do have people who really understand how difficult this is.

And I remember all too well at this point when we're holding on to hope for a few days and then as the reality sets in, we have to start giving away that hope to the fact that they are truly gone. And this is an extremely difficult time. And I remember, until my fiances' remains were actually found, I really held on to hope that maybe he swam to safety. Maybe he survived this.

[12:35:05] And so many of us who have been through this before know what it's like to wait for the information and to have it come slowly and we can all -- we're in their shoes, we remember so well how frustrating it was not having answers. And that is really what the new normal is.

BANFIELD: Yeah, and part of this information, there was so much criticism last night from family members who said they're not being told anything and I wonder if part of it is because they are also part of the investigation. So, you know, the airlines that, you know, between a rock and a hard place in terms of sharing these things because at the same time they're investing these families.

SNOW: Right, and that's very typical. And they do their best to make sure not to mislead the families. But as new information comes out, sometimes, it gets transformed into something that isn't true and so then the families have to go back and deal with information that may have not been accurate. And I remember that very much with Flight 800. We hear information from various sources and then suddenly, that would change.

So whatever we are hold on to it that moment, it was not necessarily the truth. So it is very important to be very cautious when they do inform the families of information. But on the other hand, people want as much information as possible.

So I do understand the desire for people to want to tell them something. But the reality is it's going to be a really long and hard process. We know it all too well. These people really expected a separation of just days or weeks from their family members and it's just starting to set in that they're really not coming back.

And that is a most difficult time when that information starts coming in and having to give the a way -- give way all that hope that you're holding on to and suddenly have to accept that they may truly be gone.

And even if we do find out what happened, one of the most difficult things that we all deal with ACCESS is what were their last moments like? Did they feel pain? So those are the kinds of thoughts that go through our heads all the time, even for me 20 years later, I always want to know, did he know the plane was going down? Those are the questions that we all live with even when we do get more information. So it's extremely difficult type of loss to go through.

BANFIELD: I can't imagine what. We have a delay, I apologize, but I do -- I really can't imagine what they are going through every time this happens and still for you, as you said 20 years later what you're going through even coming on television to help us sort of navigate this.

Heidi, thank you so much for the work that you do and then also for being with us today to work through this with us, I appreciate it. Heidi Snow live in San Francisco for us.

And as we go to break what Heidi was saying, so poignant. It's a good time for us to share the names of the passengers and crew members that we've been speaking of. I want to take a moment to remember them.

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[12:42:25] BANFIELD: I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is Legal View.

Was this terrorism or was it mechanical failure that brought down EgyptAir Flight 804? Investigators so far are not definitively saying what caused the plane to crash into the Mediterranean.

Joining me now is CNN Justice Correspondent Evan Perez. And Evan it was you and Elise Labott who yesterday broke the news that U.S., you know, officials are leaning towards this theory without evidence yet. But with circumstantial direction that this was a bomb that brought down this plane.

And yet, Evan here we are more than 36 hours later and there's no claim of responsibility from any terror group. And that's why they do it, they wanted to know, they want to know, they want people to know that it should be scary to fly. Doesn't that corrupt the idea that this is terror?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly puzzling certainly because we haven't seen a lot of these cases where groups aren't eager to try to claim responsibility. But there's a lot of ways that this could go. I mean certainly, the fact that there hasn't been a recovery of a wreckage. There isn't anything to show what is brought this plane down is why right now authorities are focusing on what they have which is to look at the manifest of this plane. Not because they necessarily believe any of these people could have brought the plane down but simply because that's what they have in front of them. They want to know everything they can about these passengers and about the crew, about the people who had access to this aircraft before it flew.

Planes don't fall out of the sky. I think Richard Quest has been saying that on our air now for a couple of days. And he's right. This is a sophisticated aircraft. This is one has redundancies built in to give the pilots time to radio in if something goes wrong. And none of those things has happened.

And so until we have wreckage, that's the reason why there's suspicion that something that furious, something terrorist-related occurred here. And the fact that there hasn't been a claim of responsibility, Ashleigh, it's not necessarily unusual because we have to have cases where the terrorists wait to see what authorities are going to find, certainly, somebody put something on this plane in Paris, perhaps, you want to make sure that that person gets out of the way authorities before they're found.

BANFIELD: Makes sense. It certainly would explain any kind of delay.

Evan Perez in Washington for us, thank you for that.

And with the strong suspicion still, as Evan said, that something sinister may be to blame for this crash, of course, it has entered the political battle here in the United States over who just might be best to fight the war on terror.

[12:44:49] Hillary Clinton giving her toughest warning yet, saying, that Donald Trump is not fit to be commander-in-chief. We're going to get Trump's Spokesperson, Katrina Pierson to react to that, next.

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BANFIELD: The tragic crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 has set off a political clash as well. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton showing a contrast in styles. Trump was quick to take the social media saying the incident was caused by terrorism. Hillary Clinton taking a cautious approach and waiting to speak on this crash but when she did, she delivered the most explicit warning yet that Trump's rhetoric and foreign policy positions make him, "unfit" to serve in the white house. Listen to her exclusive interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo.

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CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think that Donald Trump is qualified to be president?

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I do not. I think if you go through many of his irresponsible reckless dangerous comments, it's not just somebody saying something off the cuff. We all misstate things, we all, you know, may not be as careful in phrasing what we say. This is a pattern. It's a pattern that's gone on now for months.

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[12:50:06] BANFIELD: Well, not wasting any time. Donald Trump fired back at Hillary Clinton and her claims that he's been on Muslims promote terrorism.

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DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's one of the dumbest I've ever heard. I mean she is so ill equipped to be the president. In fact, if anything, it's just the opposite. Because they're going to have to learn that we can't take this anymore. And they're going to have to turn in the people that are bombing the planes and they know who they are and we're not going to find people by just continuing to be so nice and soft. And I have many Muslim friends and they agree.

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BANFIELD: As Donald Trump takes on Hillary Clinton, he's also looking to continue his outreach to conservatives. This time, at the National Rifle Association's leadership forum and you've got a live picture right now. Those who assembled for that event and obviously waiting for Donald Trump's speech. We're going to bring it to you live when it happens. In the meantime, we can discuss this with national spokeswoman for the campaign, Katrina Pierson. Katrina, good to have you. Thanks for being with us today.

KATRINA PIERSON, NATIONAL SPOKESWOMAN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Hi, Ashleigh. Great to be here.

BANFIELD: So my first question has to do with the comment of Hillary Clinton making a statement that Donald Trump has described as dumb regarding the Muslim ban. Hillary Clinton's comment is that a Muslim ban offends all those partners that we actually have to work with all over the world. Why is that dumb?

PIERSON: Well, I'll have to agree with Mr. Trump that it is the dumbest statement I've heard particularly when we look at what's happened in the world. It was then Bill Clinton who admitted back in 1996 that he knew Bin Laden wanted to commit crimes against America and did absolutely nothing. More importantly, we had open borders, a lax visa system. We were nice. Our tone was welcoming. And guess what? 9/11 happened. And I don't recall Donald Trump being on the campaign trail. But even worse, it was Hillary Clinton's own record as secretary of state where she blamed a video for the consulate attack in Benghazi and then lied at the faces of those family members who lost loved ones. It was while she was asked the secretary of state under her watch where ISIS grew and we armed the enemy. If anyone is unfit to be president, it is Hillary Clinton.

BANFIELD: Well, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates had a few things to say also about Hillary Clinton. You know, putting the scrutiny on her for the judgment on using e-mail server but then also was pretty strident about Donald Trump and he actually said he doesn't trust Donald Trump with nuclear weapon. That's tough when you talk about a guy who doesn't lean necessarily lean left or right. He's straight down in the middle and he had a pretty big cabinet position.

PIERSON: Well, I think that's also interesting considering Secretary Gates had also expressed similar concerns about NATO as Donald Trump has and this whole nuclear weapons statement. I mean that's just absurd on its face. I mean this is something that a president can't just wake up one day and push the button. There are mechanism that control (inaudible).

And so that type of rhetoric is just used to dissuade people and insult them for that matter. But the end of the day, in November, people will have a choice. They will be able to choose Donald Trump, someone who take terrorism extremely seriously and protecting this country as a priority or Hillary Clinton who has contributed to the chaos and the spread of terrorism worldwide. BANFIELD: I'm glad you brought that up because come November, clearly

one of the key groups that Donald Trump is going to need on his side is Latinos. It is a fast growing demographic and Fox News has just come out with a poll on Latino support and it doesn't bode well for your candidate. He is actually trailing Hillary Clinton 23 percent to 62 percent support. Those are massive, massive numbers. Two question how do you overcome it? Can you overcome it, and how do you answer to it?

PIERSON: Well, we absolutely can overcome it because we have an entire summer to compare and contrast our policies. And when it comes to the economy, people actually do think Donald Trump is the best person considering Hillary Clinton has already delegated that to her husband. So that's another thing people are going to be thinking about moving forward. Why would you elect someone not even going to do the job? That's mostly important and that's not going to happen.

And yes, those numbers will change over time but at the end of the day, Ashleigh, it will come down to the electoral college. The popular vote is important, but it's also what happens in those swing states where Donald Trump is going to and is already performing better in the polls than most suspected. By the time we get to November, there will be a clear choice and I believe Mr. Trump will win this election by a landslide.

BANFIELD: Just real quickly, I had one of your colleagues from the Trump campaign, Tana Goertz, delightful, on the air earlier this week and I asked her a question that seems to be a big, big headline for several weeks now and that is Donald Trump's tax returns. He has said he's under audit and not releasing them until the audit is complete. Doesn't matter when the election falls and Tana said no he'll release them before the election. Is he going to release them before the election?

[12:55:10] PIERSON: No. She must have misspoke. Mr. Trump has been very clear that he'll release his tax returns once the audit is complete. And sure, Ashleigh, if that complete before the election, he will definitely release them, but not until the audit is complete.

BANFIELD: OK. Last quick comments, he's going to speak to the NRA moments from now. Do you have any sneak peek at the speech, anything that you know he's going to take, Katrina?

PIERSON: He's been talking about the importance of the 2nd Amendment and how it's really under attack right now. I think many people see that and he's going to point out the hypocrisy of the left that want this notion that somehow restricting law-abiding citizens is somehow going to stop gun crimes when at the same time ...

BANFIELD: OK.

PIERSON: ... the administration continues to release criminals into the streets.

BANFIELD: And we've got the live picture up. Katrina Pierson, always a pleasure. Thank you for that. I do appreciate it. PIERSON: Great to be here. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Katrina and I both mentioned, the picture showed you, Donald Trump expected to speak live at the National Rifle Association leadership, Louisville, Kentucky in the next few minutes. Coming to you live. Stay tune. Wolf will be here right after a quick break.

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