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Trump/Clinton Tied in National Polls; Police Officer Acquitted in Freddie Gray Death; EgyptAir Crash Impacts Airline Security; Answers to EgyptAir Crash Underwater. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 23, 2016 - 13:30   ET



[13:31:33] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get to some more presidential politics right now. It's early, but polls suggest the general election battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could be a nail biter. A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows Trump leading Hillary Clinton, 46 percent to 44 percent. That's clearly within the margin of error. In a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Clinton is ahead at 46 percent to 43 percent. Also within the margin of error.

Let's bring in our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash; and CNN political analyst, David Gregory, host of "The David Gregory Show" podcast.

Dana, I want to get your reaction to what we just heard from Senator Corker. He's a highly respect chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's in New York. He meets at Trump Tower with Donald Trump to talk about China, other international issues. Clearly, a lot of people are wondering is he on the short list to be vice president?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to imagine he's not. Bob Corker, I think, was a little bit of a canary in the coal mine when it comes to the foreign policy establishment. He came out relatively early before Trump had the nomination locked up, and said nice things about him. And actually, it took a lot of people who were in the Never Trump camp on the Republican side by surprise because Corker's the real deal. He's a serious guy when it comes to foreign policy. And I take him at his word, this particular meeting was a get to know you. The two only have spoken by phone and do have a lot to discuss policy-wise, but getting to know you is just the first step in what could be a very serious consideration.

BLITZER: As you know, David, Donald Trump has repeatedly said he wants somebody with that legislative Washington experience. Since he comes from the business world, he doesn't necessarily have that.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST & HOST, THE DAVID GREGORY SHOW PODCAST: And he doesn't have a tremendous list of establishment types in the Republican Party who are inside the fold, whether it's foreign policy or anything else. So Corker does make sense from that point of view. And I'm sure is looked at. This is a completely unorthodox process as is everything in the Trump campaign. But Trump would understand he wants an establishment figure, somebody who can do business in Washington and help him develop a more coherent foreign policy point of view that can reassure people as well as give him specific areas of knowledge.

BASH: I agree with that. And the one thing I would add is that Corker is a bit unique in that he's not just a legislator and a Washington insider. He was a business guy in Tennessee. They share that possibility for sure. And he was a mayor, so also has a smaller scale, but chief executive experience.

BLITZER: And the fact he came out for Trump early on, you know Donald Trump, you know Donald Trump, he likes that loyalty, he likes people that have been with him, I suspect, that's an important factor in selecting a vice president.

GREGORY: You brought that up a number of times when we talked about it and I think it's important because the loyalty to him or disloyalty says a lot about Trump's temperament, his management style, who he'll keep in that inner circle. These give us real clues into how a president would make decisions.

BLITZER: These polls are out, a lot of people are wondering, especially around the world, how close it is potentially between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, assuming she's the Democratic nominee. I guess a lot of people are surprised.

BASH: Yeah. I mean, I guess they are. But if you take a step back, David, I'm sure, because we were seat mates on at least one campaign back in 2004, so we even when there are such stark, opinions and sentiments and really emotion about a particular candidate, it's a 50/50 nation. I mean, it is a split nation. It just is.

I think what's most interesting about these polls is that, at least particularly, "The Washington Post" poll especially, is how high the unfavorables are for both candidates. I mean, Dan Balls, who wrote in "The Washington Post" about their polls said, in history, two candidates have not been more disliked equally, and that could be driving the support on either side. Kind of at cross purposes, if you will.

[13:35:33] GREGORY: I think it's interesting. Of course, it's close. What we see is a lot of consolidation on the Republican side that I think is surprising because we know so much opposition to Trump. You're talking about the prospect of a third party and there are those in the party who say Never Trump, never vote for him and yet, he's achieving a level of consolidation we didn't think was possible. It's also worth remembering two things. Hillary Clinton is still in a primary fight and beaten down by that a little bit. And if you look at some of her numbers, her standing among those voters who brought Barack Obama to the presidency a second time for re-election, she's solid in that group, and that's still a big area of weakness for Donald Trump at this stage. We're talking May of the election.

BASH: Yeah, she's solid in that group but does have the same problem that Barack Obama had in 2008 at this snapshot in time, which is that the vast majority of people who say they support Bernie Sanders over her are kind of in the Never Hillary camp. Again, it was very similar back in 2008 but, as she told our Chris Cuomo in an interview, she worked really hard to get her supporters behind Barack Obama and it's still unclear if Bernie Sanders is going to do the same for her.

BLITZER: We'll see if he does. He made the comment yesterday about the lesser of two evils.

BASH: Yeah.

GREGORY: Not on board yet.

BLITZER: A lot of eyebrows.

Guys, stand by.

Coming up, there's other news we're following. Freddie Gray's death while in the custody of Baltimore police raised the police department under intense scrutiny, that police department in Baltimore. And now an officer accused in the case has been found not guilty on all counts. We'll bring you the latest. We'll go live when we come back.


[13:41:30] BLITZER: Breaking news out of Baltimore where police Officer Edward Nero was found not guilty on all charges related to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. Nero was one of six police officers charged in the Freddie Gray case, the second to be tried. He was charged with assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct.

CNN's Miguel Marquez joining us with more.

What's the reaction so far, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you what Edward Nero's reaction was when Judge Barry Williams read the charges off, explaining why he was going to go the way he was. It was looking good throughout, but when Edward Nero stood and listened to that judge say not guilty on all counts, his head sort of tilted back and he took in a deep breath and took it all in and literally put his head down and just began to sob. A very good indicator of just how emotional it is not only for him but this entire city. And people watching very, very carefully how this case is going to go.

Mark Zayon, Edward Nero's lawyer, just released this statement saying that "Edward Nero's wife and family are elated that this nightmare is finally over. The states attorney for Baltimore City rushed to charge him as well as the other five officers, completing disregarding the facts of this case and the applicable law. Officer Nero is appreciative of the recent judgment that Judge Barry Williams applied in this ruling." He also goes on to say he hopes the others are not tried and that they come to the same result.

The bottom line is that the judge just said the prosecution never made its case. The city now taking in a collective breath waiting to see if there's any reaction -- Wolf?

BLITZER: The trial of the first police officer resulted in a mistrial, right, a hung jury?

MARQUEZ: Officer Porter's ended in a mistrial and he will be retried. The next trial will be June 6th. That will be Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver. Expected to be most difficult trial for the defense lawyers.

BLITZER: All these trials are still going forward, right?

MARQUEZ: There will be many trials going forward. Officer Porter will be tried at the end of this process now, and several trials before his. It has gotten complicated and very legal because of whether or not officers can testify against other officers. You'll actually see different prosecutors at one point so that they don't contaminate cases -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez in Baltimore for us. Thank you.

Ahead, the search for the flight recorders of EgyptAir flight 804 now expanding. And new questions about who had access to the plane before the deadly crash.


[13:48:30] BLITZER: The fallout from the crash of EgyptAir flight 804 being felt around the world. French officials have tightened security at Charles de Gaulle Airport where that plane took off, amid questions about security measures and who may have had access to the plane. Those concerns are expected to travel right back to the United States where flyers are already dealing with very long security lines at some of the nation's busiest airports due to TSA staffing shortage.

Congressman John Mica is the chairman of House Subcommittee on Transportation of Public Assets and he helped create the TSA, and he's joining us now live.

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us, Congressman.

We don't know exactly what happened to the plane but how will the investigation into the cause of the EgyptAir crash impact U.S. travelers?

REP. JOHN MICA, (R), FLORIDA: We have to be cautious. I don't know if you recall, but the media disclosed last fall that there was a 95 percent failure rate in the performance of TSA, and that's what precipitated this crackdown. And actually, the crackdown sort of in the wrong direction because they're using all of their resources now to go after the 99 percent of the people who don't pose a risk, and you see them in line. What they should be doing is focusing their resources on people who may pose a risk, some of them behind the secure areas who haven't been vetted. Some of the resources should go to intelligence so we track and we connect the dots and stop the terrorists before they get to the airport or stop them from getting something on a plane. And they're going the wrong direction.

[13:50:07] BLITZER: You helped create the TSA, which was responsible for screening passengers in the U.S. But you have recently called for privatizing at least parts of the screening process. Why?

MICA: Well, that's -- from the beginning, it was never intended to be all government. It's turned into a huge personnel bureaucracy with huge overhead. You have 13,000 people on top of 45,000 screeners. We started out with 16,000 screeners and then went to 22,000 and then 35,000. At 35,000, the failure rate was only 75 percent and that was leaked to the press. Here Congress has given -- it's not a question of resources. Each year the Republicans have controlled the Congress. We have given them more money than the administration or DHS asked for. In addition, we changed the fees so they get more fees for the passengers they're processing. It's not a question of resources. It's how you spend the money and how you focus attention. And it should be where the risk is, not hassling innocent American passengers.

BLITZER: DHS, Department of Homeland Security. Congressman, we have heard stories of passengers being stuck in security lines at some of the busiest airports for two, three hours, some of them forced to spend the night at airports because they missed their flights. Is the TSA equipped to handle the expected huge influx of passengers of the Memorial Day weekend and then the summer travel season?

MICA: Yeah. Wolf, a year ago, they had 5,000 vacancies and hired about 500 people. They can't recruit. They can't train. They can't retain. And they can't administer personnel. It is a huge bureaucracy. So part of the problem is TSA. They need to get out of the personnel business, into the security business, connecting the dots, going after people who pose a risk. Know where they are before they get to the airport, and certainly not letting them work behind the secure areas. We don't know that. Reports I have gotten as recently as this year indicate a failure of vetting people who might pose a risk. In Paris, it may be an inside job. They went through after the Paris bombings and they cleaned out 70 or 80 folks who had some questionable background or connections. Since TSA started back in 2003, when we kept the records, they testified to me in January they've only taken out 58 credentialed people through the whole system in the United States. Their focus is on the wrong thing, hassling the innocent American passengers. And they've got they've get it right. We can't afford to make a mistake.

BLITZER: Congressman Mica, thank you very much for joining us.

MICA: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Five days in and the search for answers into what happened to EgyptAir flight 804 is now headed underwater. A French submersible will join an Egypt submarine in the crash zone to try to find the voice and data recorders which could shed important light on what brought down the plane. Over the weekend, some human remains were pulled from the Mediterranean Sea along with life vests, seats and suitcases. The search for more debris spanning a 40-mile radius.

CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is following the story for us in Alexandria, Egypt.

Nic, officials are stressing no theory about what happened to plane. It's off the table. What's the latest you're hearing?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There's a few developments in the last few hours, Wolf. One, a family member who had a loved one aboard the aircraft was called in. They called and told us they were called in by officials to go through DNA testing because they understand this family member understands their loved or part of their loved one may be recovered by authorities, so that beginning process of DNA analysis of some of those human remains that have been recovered so far appears to have begun today.

Today, also, we understand that Egyptian authorities asked Greek air traffic control to give them their entire transcript of every scrap of conversation that the Greek air traffic controllers had with the EgyptAir flight passing through their air space. They've also reached out to French authorities asking them for any audio or visual recordings they may have of the time of the time the EgyptAir flight was at Charles de Gaulle Airport and in French air space. So the Egyptians are reaching out for help. They have the help, as you say, today from the French survey vessel.

One of the important things this French vessel has is acoustic detention devices and, of course, those are critical when they put them in the water to listen for the pingers, those transmitters on the black boxes, the audio and data recorders that are submerged at the bottom of the ear right now, Wolf.

So there have been several developments, nothing that breaks, if you will, that breaks the story apart and lets us know what brought the plane down, but at every level, there are things moving forward here -- Wolf?

[13:55:17] BLITZER: Very quickly, Nic, "The New York Times" over the weekend reported that this particular plane brought down had graffiti painted on it two years ago in Arabic saying, "We will bring this plane down." What are authorities saying about that ominous, perhaps coincidence or not?

ROBERTSON: Well, the minister of aviation said he wasn't aware of this until he read the newspaper article, and then he wasn't minister of aviation when that happened several years ago, and tried to steer the conversation from saying, this is so important and focus the investigation on this, and this saying, look, we must follow through the investigation. He didn't say that they were going to ignore this issue, but this comes from the tail number on the plane, phonetically sounding like the president's number, therefore, the connection between this plane comes down, they're talking there about the President Sisi, Wolf. That seems to be the genesis of how that happened.

BLITZER: All right. Nic Robertson, we'll stay in close touch for you.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

The news continues right after a quick break.