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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Sex Crimes in the Sky; ISIS Finding Shelter in Syria?; Republican Calls for Purge at FBI. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired December 27, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: What I can tell you is that the FBI that I see is tens of thousands of agents and analysts and staff working their tails off to keep Americans safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: So you say he needs to defend his agency. Did he go far enough there?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, he went some of the way.
But, since then, we have had the president lash out on Twitter against Andrew McCabe. We have had a congressman call for a purge of the FBI at the Department of Justice. That is a direct affront to the civil servants who work in these agencies. He has to go further.
Christopher Wray needs to tell the president of the United States to stop attacking the FBI and officials in the FBI on Twitter, and tell that congressman and all the rest of them who are shooting their mouths off without any knowledge of the facts that they are just flat- out wrong and that there is not going to be any purge of the FBI on his watch.
PAINTER: He needs to stand up to these people. They're acting like dictators.
BROWN: And you say purge.
Let's go to that sound from Congressman Francis Rooney, who is calling for a purge of the FBI. I want it to play you what he told my colleague Brianna Keilar this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: I think if you have got 2 percent bad apples, like this Strzok guy and Ohr, what I worry about is the debilitating impact of people like Strzok and possibly McCabe on the institution itself and on the importance that institution has in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And he's also referring to Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI.
But do you see, Richard, the other side at all? Because it does seem like, whether or not you think they're accurate, that kind of rhetoric is playing in, you know, people in the GOP, the Republican Party and their views of the Russia investigation and Robert Mueller.
PAINTER: Well, I have been a Republican for 30 years, and I want to stay with the Republican Party. That doesn't appeal to my type of Republican. It doesn't appeal to patriotic Americans to see the FBI attacked that way.
This is rhetoric that appeals to the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party. And we talk about purges of the FBI. What that -- what the message is, is he doesn't like the fact that there are any Democrats working at the FBI, people who may have contributed some money to Democrats or expressed support for Democrats and personal messages they send in texts and so forth.
And Andrew McCabe has absolutely all the right to have his wife run for public office. He shouldn't be attacked because his wife ran for public office. Mr. McCabe did a very good job as deputy director of the FBI. He's not a Republican. I'm a Republican. But I think we need to honor our civil servants of both parties.
They are entitled to their positions. They're not -- they should not be retaliated against because of their political views. The civil service laws protect them. And we don't have purges in the United States of America. I mean, that's Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany. That's not the type of rhetoric we use in the United States of America.
And that man does plot belong in Congress. And I don't care which party he's in. And I sure as heck don't want him in my party.
BROWN: All right, Richard Painter, thank you so much.
PAINTER: Thank you.
BROWN: Well, American warplanes dropping bombs on terrorists over the Christmas weekend, as the Trump administration says ISIS is on the run. But top Pentagon brass said there is a big problem. We will explain up next.
BROWN: And we're back with our world lead.
U.S. warplanes bombarding Al-Shabaab terrorists on Christmas Eve in Somalia, killing 13 militants from the al Qaeda-linked group. The strike comes as a top coalition official warns ISIS fighters are moving with -- quote -- "impunity" throughout Western Syria. Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Barbara, ISIS was supposedly losing ground and on the run. What are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, we had a major briefing from a top coalition official, Pamela.
And what he told us is, yes, they are making significant progress against ISIS, and, in fact, they think there may be less than 1,000 ISIS militants still operating in Iraq and Syria, down from tens of thousands at the peak of that organization, all of that good news, territories being recaptured.
Cities and people are being liberated, all good news. But there is a huge caveat here. In fact, they are noticing that some ISIS militants are moving west in Syria. And that means they're move into areas controlled by Bashar al-Assad. That means they may be taking shelter in those areas, because Assad really still cannot control his own territory.
And here is the problem. The coalition, which says it is going to stay until it defeats ISIS, is not going into those areas held by Assad. U.S. troops are not going to go into that part of Syria. The forces they are backing likely not going into that part of Syria.
So, how do you defeat ISIS when you don't chase them down into their final stronghold? They are hoping the Syrians and the Russians get it together and are able to do it, Pamela.
BROWN: And speaking of the Russians, Barbara, a Russian general accused the U.S. today of training former ISIS militants?
STARR: He did, indeed.
General Valery Gerasimov, a very top Russian general, in an interview reportedly saying that he believes the U.S. is training in Southern Syria ISIS militants and former ISIS militants, offering very limited evidence of his contention on this matter.
I suppose you would have to consider why the U.S. would be doing that and what the motivation would be. Until the Russians come up with some pretty clear public evidence, there is a lot of skepticism, to put it politely, about what the Russians are saying.
BROWN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much, Barbara.
BROWN: Well, sex crimes in the sky. Are airlines doing enough to protect passengers trapped at 30,000 feet? And what are they doing if there is an incident in flight?
Stay with us. We will be back with that report.
BROWN: And we are back with our buried lead. That's what we call stories that haven't gotten much attention, and explosive allegations of sexual harassment and assault aboard commercial flights.
CNN tracked down several female passengers who say airlines did little to stop alleged misconduct in the skies.
CNN's Rene Marsh joins me now.
Rene, this is a major issue that really hasn't gotten a lot of attention.
RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right.
And we searched several federal court records. And we found several lawsuits against commercial airlines by passengers who say they were sexually assaulted or harassed, and that airlines just simply didn't do enough to help.
Now, we even found cases where children were victims. Now four brave women are telling us about their MeToo moment that took place 30,000 feet in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This gentleman?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on.
MARSH (voice-over): A man arrested last week, accused of fondling two female passengers on board a United Airlines flight from Newark to Buffalo, New York. Katie Campos was one of them.
KATIE CAMPOS, PASSENGER, UNITED AIRLINES: He grabbed my upper thigh, like in my -- like the crotch area and he grabbed it pretty forcefully.
MARSH: A police report says that the man told the other woman he would like to kiss her. When she declined, he started stroking her leg. The man now charged with disorderly conduct. United Airlines told CNN, "We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior and our pilot requested that local law enforcement meet the aircraft on arrival." Not enough for Campos who tweeted, do better, United Airlines. She says the flight attendant did not offer her to switch seats. She had to demand it. She was then placed directly behind the harasser. The airline says because there were few empty seats, the touching continued.
CAMPOS: At the end of the day, they didn't protect my safety or those around me and I don't think that that's a good excuse. MARSH: Like Campos, these three women tell CNN they were sexually harassed or assaulted on commercial flights and all of them complained the flight crew did little or nothing to help.
AYANNA HART, PASSENGER, DELTA AIRLINES: He grabbed my arm and my side right under my left breast, right next to my left breast.
MARSH: Ayanna Hart was an on a Delta flight from Los Angeles to Denver in May. She says the flight attendant was of no help.
AYANNA: The flight attendant said, oh, don't worry about him, he flies with us all the time. He's Delta Platinum.
MARSH: Hart has a pending lawsuit against Delta to for failing to intervene and continuing to serve him alcohol. The airline would not comment on this case citing pending litigation, but said, "it takes these incidents seriously and with law enforcement investigates them."
ALLISON DVALADZE, PASSENGER, DELTA AIRLINES: I was dozing off when I felt a hand in my crotch and realize that the man next to me was holding -- was grabbing my crotch.
MARSH: Allison filed a complaint with Delta after her flight from Seattle to Amsterdam.
DVALADZE: There was not a clear procedure for what they should do. They asked me what I wanted them to do.
MARSH: A month later, she received an e-mail saying it's not fair when one person's behavior affects another. And as a goodwill gesture offered her 10,000 miles.
DVALADZE: If somebody reports a crime to an airline, that it should be flagged, it should not be treated as if it's lost luggage.
MARSH: The airline told CNN, we continue to be disheartened by the events Miss Dvaladze described.
JENNIFER RAFIEYAN, PASSENGER, UNITED AIRLINE: He started to touch my leg, stroke my leg, tickle it.
MARSH: Jennifer Rafieyan was on a flight from Newark to Phoenix. She, too, says the flight crew did not move her away from her harasser. Instead, the airline made an offer.
RAFIEYAN: He gave me four $100 gift certificates for travel on an upcoming United flight and he refused to let me talk to a manager.
MARSH: But shortly after a news article about her ordeal was published, United management called to, in their words, check on her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This message is for Ms. Jennifer Rafieyan. This is (BLEEP) calling from United Airline's executive officers. I can't even imagine, you know, what you went through when you were on the flight with the gentleman seated next to you. SARA NELSON, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: At
thousands of feet in the air, you can't call for help, you can't remove the problem.
MARSH: Sara Nelson is President of the one of the world's largest flight attendant unions.
NELSON: In my 22 years as a flight attendant, I have never taken part in a conversation in training or otherwise about how to handle sexual harassment or sexual assault.
MARSH: The union surveyed nearly 2,000 flight attendants, one out of five said they've received a report of a passenger's sexual assault, but law enforcement was contacted less than half the time. CNN reached out to all of the major U.S. airlines and the industry trade group that represents them. None agreed to go on camera, but all released statements with a similar message, passenger safety, and security is their priority and they say flight attendants are trained to handle these incidents. But none gave a detailed explanation of the policies or guidelines. No federal regulatory agency tracks how many midair sexual assaults happen nationwide, but the FBI does track how many it investigates. Federal data shows a 66 percent increase from 2014 to 2017. The FBI says it's unclear what's behind the rise. But what is clear for these women, flight crews need to do more because, at 30,000 feet, there is no escape.
MARSH: I want to thank all four women for sharing their stories with CNN. The four women in this piece say that they want three things, the flight crew should always separate the victims from the harasser, do not allow drunk people on flights, alcohol, in many cases, played a role in many of these incidents. They also want to see law enforcement called and report these cases upon landing every time. They advise to female travelers, try to avoid the middle seat and the window seat, if possible. It allows an easier getaway if you're seated in the aisle seat. And, Pamela, I can tell you lawmakers right here in Washington, D.C., they are very aware of this problem. They have been pushing for legislation that would essentially beef up flight crew training and also mandate better tracking of these incidents.
[16:50:34] PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So where does that legislation stand?
MARSH: So we do know that Senator Patty Murray, she is pushing for some legislation to be included in a larger FAA reauthorization bill and that could happen as soon as next year.
BROWN: But, I mean, I'm so glad you did this report, highlighting a big issue. When you're 30,000 feet up in the air, there really is no escape. What do you do? Rene Marsh, thanks so much.
And in our "NATIONAL LEAD," the Justice Department is now investigating potential injustice inside its own walls and looking into how to deals with sexual harassment allegations. The review comes after the Department's Inspector General found, "potential systemic issues in how it handles those claims." The Washington Post first reported this story including a memo sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May. The memo cited several instances where the DOJ was lacking clear rules about how harassment reports should be handled and warned that "strong action would be needed to address the issues."
Well, the Prince and the President. Barack Obama gives his first interview since leaving office to Prince Harry, but did he get a royal wedding invite? Find out what the prince is saying about who's in and who's out. That's next.
[16:55:00] BROWN: And welcome back The "POP CULTURE LEAD." A prince and a former president paling around. Prince Harry and President Obama sitting down for a radio show to talk about everything from life after the Oval Office, to how leaders should act on social media. I wonder why that came up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the internet. One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that re-enforced their current biases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I wonder who he's talking about, Bill.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I wondered as well. Are you going to the wedding?
BROWN: I haven't received my invite.
KRISTOL: Really? Susan and I will look for you there with the Obamas and, you know, the others.
BROWN: By the way, do we think they're going to get invited, the Obamas?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, now there is a big question mark because could it potentially create an international incident if they were to get an invite but President Trump hasn't even made a state visit yet, much less been invited to the wedding.
Exactly, he hasn't even met the Queen, right? All right, so -- exactly, that is the big question because I've been reading what the royal watchers have been saying and they say that it would be a big scandal or it could cause some issues if Obama is invited and the President --
KRISTOL: As long -- as long as -- honestly, as long as Susan and I are there, they've got Republicans and they got the Obamas, so what's the problem? We don't need the Trumps.
BERG: Right. And President Obama has forged sort of a personal relationship with Prince Harry. And so, it's on a different level than --
BROWN: OK, let's --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But would anyone be surprised if he invited President Obama over President Trump.
BROWN: But Prince Harry is smart because he's trying to keep the mystery alive about who he is going to invite. Let's take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE HARRY OF WALES: We share the same kind of mindset on the charitable sector, on foundations and mainly on the youth of -- the youth of today. The young people of this world are incredibly inspirational.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well enough to invite him to your wedding?
PRINCE HARRY: Well, I don't -- I don't know about that. That's -- we haven't put the invites or the guest list together yet, so who knows -- who knows whether he's going to be invited or not. I wouldn't want to ruin that surprise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Your reaction?
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I love the response. I mean, look, I think President Obama made a very strong point when it comes to leadership and the responsibility and expectations of leaders. And we look to our leaders for direction, for guidance, and I don't -- I don't think President Trump has met that mantle. I mean, when you step up to the plate to lead, there's a crown, if you will, symbolically speaking that we place above our leader's head and the expectation is that leaders rise to the occasion to wear it. And I don't think President Trump has met that expectation. So hey, I would invite President Obama. He would probably be more fun anyway.
KRISTOL: If Prince Harry like invite every anti-Trump Republican just to troll -- just troll Donald Trump. John Kasich's there, Ben Sasse is there, Mitt Romney is there.
KRISTOL: Yes, that would be good.
BROWN: What do you make of Obama -- well, former President Obama doing his first interview with Prince Harry?
BERG: Well, certainly not what you would consider a hard-hitting (INAUDIBLE) a friendly interview, talking about issues really that are important to President Obama. You can see him in this interview laying the groundwork for the things he wants to focus on in his post- presidency and also deftly avoiding opportunities to take a dig at President Trump.
BROWN: It's true. But he didn't say it by name, but the social media comment was clearly targeting President Trump, right?
KRISTOL: I thought it was done delicately. You know, in Japan about two or three weeks ago, and this -- if you don't like -- I mean, I'm old-fashioned and I guess, I don't like to criticize an American president when I'm abroad. And President Obama was speaking to a foreign interviewer there for the BBC and I think he probably has that view. But he managed to raise the question of social media and the responsibility of how to deal with it without mentioning President Trump, so I thought that was probably deftly done.
BROWN: And he --
SINGLETON: I think it was very tactful the way he responded. I mean, look, President Trump has criticized President Obama. He started the birther issue. And as an African-American, I can tell you there are a lot of people in my community that just will never forgive President Trump for that. And despite all of those things, despite all of that, the character attacks, the attacks on his family, he rise above the occasion over and over again. He got to respect him after that.
BROWN: Right. Thanks to you three of you, Shermichael, Rebecca, Bill, thanks so much. It was so fun having you on the show. And be sure to follow me on Twitter @PAMELABROWNCNN or tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for me. Brianna Keilar filling in for "THE SITUATION ROOM."