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CNN NEWSROOM

Report: Fates of Trump Inner Circle in Question; United CEO Says Ashamed of Incident; Trump and NATO Leader to Address Media. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 12, 2017 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Interviewing him next on "The Lead." do not miss it.

Coming up, white house insiders potentially in trouble. Sean Spicer apologizing after he referenced Adolph Hitler while talking to reporters in the briefing room yesterday. And chief strategist Steve Bannon who essentially was thrown under the bus by the President himself. We'll talk about why either of them are on their way out.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Steve Bannon took over as CEO of the Trump campaign a couple of months before the election. He's now one of the President's closest advisers. He's the chief strategist in the white house. Of course, you remember on newly elected Trump on election night praising Steve Bannon, among other top members of his staff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, they kept saying we have a small staff. Not so small. Look at all of these people that we have. And Kellyanne and Chris and Rudy and Steve and David. We have got -- we have got tremendously talented people up here and it's been very, very special.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That was then, this is now. When asked if President Trump still has confidence in Steve Bannon, the President said, and I quote, "I like Steve but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until the very, very late. I had already beaten all of the senators and all of the governors and I didn't know Steve. I am my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary."

And then this final remark, quote, "Steve is a good guy but I told them to straighten it out or I will." Let me bring in S.E. Cupp and soon to be host of an HLN primetime show. Congratulations.

S.E. CUPP, HLN HOST: Thank you.

BALDWIN: He was late to the game with the campaign but he did join in August so it's not the ninth inning.

CUPP: Nope.

BALDWIN: Adding to that, Sara Murray over at the white house has this reporting." A source familiar with the situation says Trump made his Bannon comments to the "New York Post" because Trump was irked by the suggestions that he implements Bannon's agenda. Trump believes he has spent decades standing for the populist ideals And he deserves credit for the policies he has put forward."

CUPP: You've seen "SNL." The Bannon treatment is this idea that Steve Bannon is pulling the strings and Trump is sort of a puppet. I can't blame him for being irked by that but we've heard similar things like this before about Paul Manafort. He wasn't really involved in my campaign. Actually, he ran it for some time.

BALDWIN: Carter Page, said he didn't even know him.

CUPP: But he was announced as a new adviser. So, I'm not surprised he is trying to step back from Steve Bannon. It sounds like the trifecta of advisers, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, this three-headed beast in the white house is getting unruly and it was always going to be pretty untenable to have three people vying for the President's ear, especially someone like Steve Bannon who has not built these relationships in Washington to fall back on the way Reince has.

BALDWIN: This is delicate in a sense for the President because when you look at where he comes from, Breitbart --

CUPP: You don't want to piss him off. I said it. This is not a guy you want to be on the bad side of and, you know, who knows if Steve Bannon's loyalty to Trump exists if he's outside of the white house or if it's only while he's on the payroll. I don't know. But I would certainly worry if I was President Trump that Steve Bannon might be more useful inside than outside.

BALDWIN: So, you think he will stay?

CUPP: Maybe find him a new post.

BALDWIN: Within the white house?

CUPP: Or you need to find a way to -- not to piss him off. You've got to be blunt because you know what Breitbart, his website, can do to people. Their attack dogs can be vicious. If Steve Bannon is going to spend the rest of his life trolling President Trump, it wouldn't be good.

BALDWIN: It would not be good. S.E., good to see you.

CUPP: Thank you.

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: Coming up next, the CEO of United Airlines publicly apologizing for the first time since a passenger was dragged off of one of their flights. What the CEO says when asked if he would resign. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: The CEO of United Airlines is finally admitting he and his company were wrong. Oscar Munoz publicly apologized for this incident showing security officers violently dragging a passenger off a plane. The CEO had previously described him in a letter to employees as, quote, belligerent. But this new video shows nothing of the sort. This is the moment he was yanked off the plane, calmly but firmly refusing to leave.

[15:45:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASSENGER FORCIBLY REMOVED FROM UNITED FLIGHT: No, I am not going.

AIRPORT POLICEMAN: Sir --

PASSENGER: I am not going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Well, this morning, the CEO changed his tune.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSCAR MUNOZ, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: It's not so much what I thought, it's what I felt. Probably the word of shame comes to mind. You know, as I think about our business and our people, the first thing I think is important to say is to apologize to dr. Dao, his family, the passengers on that flight, our customers, our employees. That is not who our family at united is. And you saw us at a bad moment and this can never -- will never happen again on a united airlines flight. We're not going to put a law enforcement official to take them off the air.

REPORTER: A law enforcement official will never come on one of your planes again?

MUNOZ: To remove a booked, paid, seating passenger, we can't do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Munoz, who refuses to resign, says the incident is under investigation. That's too late for two passengers on the very plane who witnessed the whole thing. I talked to them just a while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KLASSEN, WITNESSED ABUSE OF UNITED PASSENGER: That's such an unfair question. I'll tell you, no, you can't say never again. We can't just -- you know, we have to get places in today's world. There just aren't enough airlines. I hope that all the airlines look at this and say what are our policies how do we care for our passengers and show dignity. Our passengers are the most important thing. I think that's what has to be established.

JADE KELLEY, WITNESSED ABUSE OF UNITED PASSENGER: I agree. I mean, at this point I'm hoping that other airline companies can look and say how can we learn from this, how could this have been avoided and how can we increase the quality of the care given to all passengers on the flight regardless of when they purchased their tickets, regardless of when they checked in. I'm hoping that everyone can learn from this and we can just do better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Joining me now, travel expert Brian Kelly, founder of thepointsguy.com. So, nice to see you. That whole ordeal was not a laughing matter for either of them. The only reason they were laughing is I asked a question, show of hands, who is ever flying united again and you saw neither of them putting their hands up. For you, sir, and you're on a couple of planes a week. When you initially saw or heard about this story, I understand you thought, well, hang on. Let's make sure that --

BRIAN KELLY, FOUNDER OF THEPOINTSGUY.COM: More often than not, it's the passenger behaving badly. When I first saw the officers drag him off the plane, my first instinct was, he probably did something wrong. For some reason, passengers act poorly on the plane. That was not the case in this incident and unlike Oscar Munoz, I turned my position around.

BALDWIN: But I think this has resonated because a lot of us are on planes and I can't remember I was on a plane when it wasn't overbooked or oversold?

KELLY: Overbooking is fine but you need to have processes in place beneficial to the consumer. You know, like Delta will give Amex gift cards to get people off the plane. United should have just kept going higher. As a couple of minutes ago, their stock was down over 1 percent again. Think about how many hundreds and millions of dollars -- when you're oversold, you have to give the passenger something to make it enticing for them.

BALDWIN: I've been on flights where Delta is handing out so much money, people are begging over who will get bumped.

KELLY: You can -- so bumping in the frequent flyer community is a good thing. You can make out like a bandit.

BALDWIN: Totally. In terms of travel, your whole thing is, we all need to be compassionate and that goes for passengers and the airlines?

KELLY: Absolutely. Oscar Munoz hit it on the head, they can't use the police to solve their customer service issues. That happens far too often. Power-tripped airline attendants. They say we're going to boot you off the plane. Passengers need to understand, sometimes you will get booted off a plane. There are federal air marshals.

BALDWIN: Just not dragged.

KELLY: Not dragged. Sometimes when a pilot or police officer asks you TO get off and you may not understand the reason, I don't want there to be a rash of people say I'm never getting off the plane now. You have to stand up for consumer rights but sometimes if the plane is overweight, it's unsafe. Sometimes it stinks but you have to get off sometimes.

[15:50:00] BALDWIN: Brian Kelly, thank you.

By the way, we're minutes away from this news conference over at the white house between the head of NATO and the President of the United States there. The room is filling. We'll take that live at the top of the hour. First, take a look at this new piece of technology that could revolutionize train travel and make it green.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The advantage of this train is that you can drive on lines without diesel engines, without emissions of diesel engines. It's using water, steam and some little contents of water. The train is running up to 140 kilometers per hour. The daily operation range with one refilling of hydrogen is 600 to 800 kilometers depending on the infrastructure. The refueling is much more easy than diesel. You just have to connect the refueling to the train and automatically refuel with hydrogen. There are two prototype hydrogen trains. This will be used in passenger revenue service and hope to have fleets in the market by 2020.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. I want to well our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Welcome to "The Lead." I'm Jake Tapper. We'll begin with breaking news. Right now, you're looking at a live picture of the white house. We're just moments away from seeing President Trump and the Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg after a critical meeting, one that comes at a very tense time for the world with alliances unclear and a military strike in Syria with no stated strategy for what's next. Visible chills seen today in Moscow as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with his Russian counterpart and then behind closed doors with Russian President Vladimir Putin with the only apparent agreement that the relationship between the two nuclear superpowers is at something of a low point. And moments ago, Russia vetoed a united nations security council resolution which condemned the deadly gas attack in Syria allegedly committed by Bashar Al Assad against his own people.

Of course, the major concern among U.S. allies right now dealing with this meeting is the low regard that President Trump and top strategists have seemed to have held about NATO and the European union in the past. President Trump has described NATO, perhaps the most critical of military alliance of our team, as obsolete. Frankly many foreign policy observers say a lack of support for the EU plays right into the hand of Vladimir Putin as he tries to destabilize eastern Europe and see Ukraine and meddling in elections here in the United States and around the world. Today, despite all of that, the President is expected to reaffirm America's commitment to the that alliance, one that his own defense secretary said is essential for peace in this world. CNN's Jim Acosta is live at the white house where we're awaiting the news conference with the NATO secretary- general. Jim, what are you expecting to hear?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I think we'll hear a very different President Trump when it comes to this matter of NATO, as you just mentioned a short while ago. He was highly critical of the decades old alliance during the campaign regarding it as obsolete because he felt it wasn't doing enough to take on terrorism. He also was quite critical of NATO member countries saying they weren't pulling their own weight when it came to contributing their share of funds to the NATO alliance, and so you may hear the President talk again about that here this morning or this afternoon. You may hear the Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echo the President's remarks in that regard. But when we get started you'll hear the President talking about the operation to deliver missile strikes against Syria just last week.

That is something that obviously is top of mind over here at the white house. The President, I'm told, according to senior administration officials regards that operation as being a success, but there is the manner of whether Russia is going to be taking any responsibility for what has been occurring in Syria over the last couple of years with respect to Bashar Al Assad's use of chemical weapons and I think a critical question that might be asked at this press conference, Jake, is whether or not the President has taken a different attitude towards Vladimir Putin given the fact that he hasn't had much criticism for the Russian leader in recent years. That may change. We may here that at this news conference in just a few moments. Jake?

TAPPER: Thanks so much. Let's talk with Republican Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the house foreign relations committee. Thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

ED ROYCE, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Until six days ago relations between Trump and Putin seemed frankly, great. Now apparently because of Russia's support for Assad there seems to be serious tensions. How seriously do you take this rift?

ROYCE: Well, I take the rift very seriously. I think when you look not just at this use of chemical weapons by Assad and then Russia's attempt to cover that up, but add to that the fact that the Russians are now using their air force to hit hospitals, to hit unconscionably -- Putin has given this order, right, to hit schools, to hit markets, to hit civilians across Syria. This is a very serious war crime that's being committed, and -- and, hence, the reaction and revulsion, not just from the United States now but from the international community.

TAPPER: I guess the question is Putin and Assad have been doing this now for several years. The Russian foreign minister today suggested that U.S. foreign policy is a bit all over the map and something of a mystery, and it's true that the Trump administration seems to have done a 1 is 80-degree turn on its posture towards both Russia and Assad and Syria just in the last week. There have been worse chemical weapons attacks, as you know, so what changed? ROYCE: I think that's what changed. For some time now we've heard

from the Russians that they audited this. They got rid of the chemical weapons, and now with a wink and a nod suddenly we see that Assad has carried out these brutal attacks suffocating children. This time he's caught in the act, red handed, and now once again you have Putin come to the aid of Assad, not just in the United Nations but also in these diplomatic discussions where, frankly, we need to get down to brass tax. This is not something that's in the interest of stability anywhere in the world to introduce or allow to be introduced the use of poison gas.