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Haley Strikes Back; Southwest Jet Incident; Trump and Hannity. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 18, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Kudlow is now apologizing to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, after calling her confused about new sanctions on Russia. Sources tell CNN that Kudlow called Haley so say that the policy had changed and that she just hadn't been kept in the loop.

Our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski joins me to try to explain what's going on here, because I'm still not quite sure I understand the timeline.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't get confused, John, so I don't know what's wrong with you.

But, yes, this was a weird situation to say the least that only got worse. First you have Nikki Haley coming out and announcing sanctions against Russia, sanctions which never happened. You don't have the White House explaining why there was this huge and important disconnect. The State Department was silent. Nikki Haley was completely silent on this. And then you have the president's economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: She got ahead of the curve. She's done a great job. She's a very effective ambassador. There might have been some momentary confusion about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI: OK, so you have this then riding for several hours during the day and apparently rage building up in Nikki Haley to the point that she puts out this statement, very simple, just sent it out to a limited number of news outlets, with all due respect, I don't get confused. Just the nature of that statement, how angry do you need to be to put something out like that.

She obviously felt it was very important to push back on the White House's line, which had by then been coming from numerous anonymous sources connected with the White House, basically blaming Nikki Haley for not understanding the policy. So she felt so strongly about this that she had to put that out. Obviously indicating that the White House line was not true. And if the White House line isn't true, then why is the White House putting out information to the American public that's not factual? So you have Kudlow now apologizing to Nikki Haley in a phone call, but

is it possible that the White House should apologize to anyone who got that information that Nikki Haley is strongly and clearly disputing, John?

BERMAN: Yes, I admit to being confused on this matter.

KOSINSKI: It's OK.

BERMAN: Michelle Kosinski, thank you very much.

KOSINSKI: It's OK.

BERMAN: Appreciate you being with us.

Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby back with us, along with CNN political analyst Eliana Johnson.

Eliana, you have also been doing reporting on this. You know, is Haley in any kind of trouble here? I mean there are stories that the president was yelling at the television screen when she was talking about sanctions.

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think we quite know if Nikki Haley's in trouble, but here's what we do know. We know the president signed off on a package that included bomb attack on Syria and sanctions on Russia for their support of the Assad regime. And that was last week.

At some point, between the president signing off on that and Nikki Haley's appearance on Sunday shows, something happened in the White House. The president changed his mind. And that was not communicated to Nikki Haley. And I don't think the White House wanted to blame the president. And so they've given a number of varying explanations for what happened. They said the Treasury Department didn't have the sanctions ready. But they didn't want to say, you know, the president changed his mind on this. We're not doing it.

And Nikki Haley, I think, made very clear yesterday that she was not OK with taking the blame on this. Came out and said directly, I don't get confused.

BERMAN: Oh, yes. Yes, I mean, the only thing more confrontational, you know, the former southern governor could have said beyond, I don't get confused is, bless your heart, Larry Kudlow. That would be the only thing that I think would be a more direct rebuke.

Admiral, what does the world see here? I mean, look, there's a very important policy and debate here, is whether the United States is going to continue to be hard on Russia. So what do U.S. allies and adversaries think when they see this confusion?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Once again they see irresolution, they see equivocation, they see unpreparedness and a little bit of prophetic policy making, however it happened. It obviously didn't happen in a very cohesive, comprehensive way here. And so it's definitely damaging, further damaging to our credibility with allies aboard. And it's certainly confusing to the Russians I'm sure as well. This doesn't -- and it puts our U.N. ambassador in a very difficult place. Good for her for standing up for herself, but it certainly doesn't make her job any easier now in New York City going forward. It does sew confusion.

And she has operated, to some extent, Eliana, in her own world in -- on her own political track. She was hard on Russia at a time when the White House wasn't. The White House, to some extent, has caught up policy wise on Russia. She's commented to an extent on the president's, you know, personal issues with women, saying that the people accused the president of various forms of sexual misconduct, their voices should be heard. So is there any sense of the political relationship now between the Nikki Haley office and the president's office?

[09:35:07] JOHNSON: It's a great question. You know, I think Nikki Haley has been insulated a little bit because she lives in New York and works out of New York and she's been protected, I think, by the geographical distance from Washington, D.C., which keeps her out of some of the infighting and she's not in the president's personal presence. But you're right, she has diverged at times and been a little bit more hawkish than the president has been, particularly on Russia, though many of his advisers had been.

But what I'm hearing from administration officials is that the president often signs off on things that he hasn't necessarily fully internalized or understood. And then when he hears those things articulated by his advisers or administration officials, he gets very angry. So he did this when Nikki Haley announced sanctions on Russia. He did this to Rex Tillerson when he said the U.S. had a long-term plan to stay in Syria. And then, two months later, the president said we were pulling out. Both of those things were things the president had signed off on and then he reversed course suddenly.

But it really puts his advisers and cabinet members in a tenuous position when they know that they could be undermined by the commander in chief at any point days, weeks or months later.

KIRBY: All right, Eliana Johnson, Rear Admiral John Kirby, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

James Comey will sit down for a live interview with Jake Tapper tomorrow on "The Lead," 4:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Absolute horror in the sky. Passengers now describing how they pulled a woman back into a plane after the engine broke apart, shattered a window. The heroic efforts and what investigators just discovered about that plane, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:40:45] BERMAN: All right, this morning we have some new clues into what may have caused the deadly Southwest jet failure. Investigators confirmed the failed engine shows signs of metal fatigue. One woman died after shrapnel from the engine shattered a window and partially sucked her out of the plane. Witnesses say it took several minutes to pull her back in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM MCGINITY, PASSENGER WHO PILLED WOMAN BACK INSIDE PLANE: Somebody screamed and we realized what had happened when the window went out. And so I tried and tried and I couldn't. I just couldn't. And then Andrew came over. Just trying to get her -- just trying to get her back in.

It wasn't -- didn't feel like it was trying to pull me out, it just felt like whenever I suck anything out, it would just slam me back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: We're learning more about the victim's life this morning and the pilot now being called a hero.

Polo Sandoval in Philadelphia with the very latest.

Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John.

You know, less than 24 hours since this incident and already federal investigators are clearly focusing on what they believe was likely a key factor in this terrible incident that took place here in Philadelphia yesterday, or rather the emergency landing that took place here in Philadelphia. And that is, as you mentioned there, metal fatigue that was identified at the location where one of the fan blades on that destroyed engine was located.

Let me just break it down for you as we look at some of this video that was recently released by the National Transportation Safety Board, in which you can see investigators really focusing on that engine. Each one has about 24 blades, essentially rotate as part of the jet's propulsion system. Well, investigators can now say confidently that one of those is missing.

Now the key question is, why did that happen? Why did this metal fatigue eventually take place, which is essentially the weakening of materials or the metal after repeated stress on some of that material? In this case, that fan blade and some of its components.

There are certain ways of identifying that, as you're about to hear from one of the officials here on the ground. But the question is, was some of that maintenance actually performed on that plane? Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB CHAIRMAN: Well, it's definitely not something that somebody could detect just looking at a fan blade from outside. This was an internal metal fatigue area. So even -- even a careful maintenance inspection from outside of the fan blade would not have detected it more than likely. So what we want to look at is, what procedures should be in place to be able to detect something like this before it becomes catastrophic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: So were the proper procedures and the steps taken before yesterday's incident? And, most importantly, too, what will happen next to ensure that this does not happen? This is a very popular engine on a very popular Boeing 737 jet.

Meanwhile, we are also learning more about the victim in this case, Jennifer Riorden, from New Mexico -- from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has been described by her family and her colleagues as a loving mother of two and a loving wife as well. We understand she was an executive with Wells Fargo Bank. That company releasing a statement overnight calling her a committed community relations leader here.

John, certainly the stories that we are now hearing about -- not only about this woman who sadly did not make it, but also these incredible stories coming from the passengers and also of those two pilots that were crucial in getting that plane safely on the ground here in Philadelphia.

BERMAN: Yes, our thoughts are with the family of the victim, to be sure.

Polo Sandoval in Philadelphia where that flight landed.

Polo, thank you very much.

Joining me now is Peter Goelz, CNN aviation analyst, former NTSB managing direction.

Peter, you know, Polo showed us some new video of the engine. We've seen some photos of the plane and the engine before. When you see what's going on here, what stands out to you?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, clearly there was a failure in that -- in the fan blade. The NTSB has confirmed that. And there were two real questions that I think are brought forward. One is, is, is the inspection procedures and the periodic timetable that they're done, is that adequate? Because, you know, to look at these, as Chairman Sumwalt said, you've got to pull the fan blade off the engine and it's got to be scanned internally, much like an x-ray.

[09:45:00] Secondly, the engine itself is supposedly designed to contain these kind of failures. Clearly it did not.

BERMAN: No.

GOELZ: Do we need to look at that -- that regulation and strengthen it?

BERMAN: So a double failure in a way if you look at it like that.

Peter, the other thing that's interesting here is it happened at cruising altitude, right? This is sort of the safest area of the flight, typically. GOELZ: Yes, you're absolutely right, John. I mean normally these kinds

of failures take place, you know, on the ground or on takeoff when the engine is under the greatest stress. That it was at cruise altitude and cruise speed is very unusual. And they'll go back and look at the history of, you know, this aircraft to see if there might have been any indication prior to this that might help explain it. But the -- it's -- it is potentially a very disturbing accident.

BERMAN: We also have some audio, some sound of the conversation between the pilot and air traffic control as she was trying to bring this flight down. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Injured passengers, OK. And are you -- is your airplane physically on fire?

PILOT: No fire. No fire, but part of its missing. They said there's a hole and someone went out.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: I'm sorry, you said there was a hole and somebody went out?

Southwest 1380, it doesn't matter. We'll work it out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, Peter, when you hear that, what I hear is I hear, you know, just an incredibly calm and focused pilot working to bring that plane down.

GOELZ: Yes, she's a former naval aviator. She had landed on carriers. That is the kind of professionalism, boy, you want in the cockpit. And she was -- she was cool. She was in command. She deserves all the credit, and the copilot, all the credit that they're getting.

BERMAN: Yes. This is what you train for. You train for these moments you hope never happen. But she was clearly ready when that moment came.

Peter Goelz, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

GOELZ: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: All right, John Kelly may be the official chief of staff in the White House, but according to a new report, some White House aides say there's an unofficial one who appears occasionally on a cable news show. And by occasionally I mean every night. See if you can guess his name. We'll tell you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:51:49] BERMAN: He is not just Michael Cohen's client number three. According to a new report, Fox News host Sean Hannity is the, quote, unofficial chief of staff at the White House. "The Washington Post" getting new details about just how influential Hannity is there. Aides going so far as to say he basically has a desk at the White House.

Joining me now, CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

What struck me in this "Washington Post" piece, look, we all know that the president's close to Sean Hannity, but the way people inside the White House were talking about it.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, talking about him like a shadow chief of staff.

Here's a part of the story that's in "The Post" this morning. It says Trump and Hannity usually speak several times a week by phone according to people familiar with the relationship. Though the two men review news stories and aspects of Hannity's show and occasionally debate specifically about whatever the president's considering tweeting next. There's also been times when Trump has accessed the merits of various White House aides with Hannity.

It sounds to me, John, like Hannity belongs on a spot on the White House org chart. He essentially is an aide, an adviser to the president. And both men like it that way. As our colleague Mark Preston has reported recently, this relationship has become stronger over time as the president, who feels under siege, seeks shelters from the storm and Hannity is a very reliable shelter.

BERMAN: Yes, it really draws a lot of questions, or raises a lot of questions, where are the lines, and particularly now when you're dealing with Michael Cohen and this issue about legal representation there.

And there was a statement from Fox overnight. People were wondering, you know, will they take discipline on Sean Hannity for not disclosing what happened, the fact that Michael Cohen represented him, according to Michael Cohen.

STELTER: Right.

BERMAN: Let me read you what Fox says here. While Fox News was unaware of Sean Hannity's informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support.

They say they're surprised, but, meh.

STELTER: Maybe he's too powerful to punish. You know, he's the highest rated host on the network. He's President Trump's chief defender. And, let's be honest and fair, the rules are different for the opinion hosts on Fox versus the journalists.

But whether you're an opinion host or a journalist, whether you're a newspaper editor or a TV personality, there's never been a media figure with such a close relationship with an American president.

You know, yes, Kennedy was close with "The Washington Post" editor. Yes, George H.W. Bush had Rush Limbaugh over to stay at the White House. Yes, President Obama would occasionally bring in liberal hosts and writers for meetings. But we've never had anything like this where Sean Hannity is advising President Trump. Trump is promoting Hannity's show. Hannity is attacking Trump's enemies. It goes back and forth every day like this.

BERMAN: Yes.

STELTER: And that's really valuable for President Trump. You know, you've got a guy with 3 million viewers a night, who reaches tens of millions of people every month on radio and TV, who has a very active Twitter account, whose talking points spread throughout conservative media. You have a really strong defender who's able to shelter you from bad news.

BERMAN: And his sons, you know, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, they're almost ambassadors. They're right in the middle of it.

STELTER: Yes, that's a really interesting point in "The Washington Post" story that Eric and Don Junior sometimes go on Hannity's show. They appreciate the attention from Hannity. They appreciate the appearances on the show, boost their own brands, maybe help them with speaking engagements and things like that. So you see very much a mutually beneficial back scratching relationship here.

[09:55:00] I think a lot of Hannity's viewers like that. They appreciate that. I think the counterargument here, the concern you would hear, a concern that someone like me (ph) has is that, as bad news piles up for the president, Hannity creates an alternative reality where everything is good and really it's his enemies that are making trouble for the president. That narrative, that exacerbates divides that already exist in the country.

BERMAN: Hey, look, I mean this may be an ethical discussion and maybe a political discussion. We'll see if this, you know, delves into the legal world as the investigation into Michael Cohen continues (INAUDIBLE).

STELTER: Yes, we don't know. We still don't know what the relationship really is.

BERMAN: All right, Brian Stelter, great to have you with us. Thanks very much.

STELTER: Thank you.

BERMAN: You can see all of Brian's reporting on this and everything else on cnnmoney.com. Check it out.

All right, the president writes that he did not fire FBI Director James Comey because of the Russia probe. Here's the problem. He said that is why he fired him. Stay with us.

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