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Path to House Majority Comes Down to Dozen Races; Undisclosed TSA Tracking Program Comes to Light; Trump to Meet Soon with Like- Minded Italian Prime Minister; New Report Released in M.H.-370 Mystery. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 30, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The reality right now is that the House is out for the next five weeks. When we talk about actual action here, wait and see.

Talk to me about the state of play where CNN is forecasting key House races. I'm finding this workup fascinating. Why 27 tossup races are making Democrats right now.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: Those 27 tossup races are making Democrats happy because 25 are in Republican-held seats. Only two are in Democrat-held seats. This is all offensive turf for the Democrats. The other reason Democrats see a lot to celebrate in those particular tossup races is 11 of them are in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. It is favorable turf. There's no doubt the battle landscape is favorable turf for Democrats. You had mentioned 27 tossups. Remember in our ratings, we have 11 Republican-held seats that are already less competitive than tossup. They are either in lean or likely democratic territory. They are almost halfway there, the Democrats, to the 23 seats they need to become the majority party.

BOLDUAN: I know you heard it, but I want to play for our viewers what the president said on Hannity's radio show on Friday in terms of what his role would be coming up. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): The economy is the strongest ever. I think that's going to have a positive impact. I am going to work very hard. I will go six or seven days a week when we're 60 days out and I will be campaigning for all of these great people that do have a difficult race. We think we're going to bring them over the line.


BOLDUAN: Six or seven days hitting the trail, 60 days out. What's that going to look like? What does it mean for the balance in some of the races?

CHALIAN: We know the president loves the campaign trail. He gets good feedback from people that show up to the rallies. He is eager to get out there. My question is, show me the map, show me the districts he is going to campaign in. In terms of the House, a lot of the districts that we were talking about that Hillary Clinton won, the Republicans hold them, we are talking about Independent voters, white college suburbanites, not Donald Trump's base, that may make the difference. We have to watch carefully where he will spend those six or seven days a week on the trail.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Who will stand on the stage with him.

Great to see you, David. Thank you so much.

CHALIAN: You, too, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, is the TSA watching you? Maybe. A previously undisclosed program come to light. Federal air marshals tracking American citizens even when they are not suspected of any crime. What's going on? We have the details next.


[11:37:08] BOLDUAN: Quiet skies. It almost sounds pleasant. It's actually the name of something much more serious. The TSA is confirming a previously undisclosed program that tracks U.S. citizens that are not suspected of a crime or under investigation or on a watch list. It was first reported by the "Boston Globe" and has been in place since 2010. What is this program all about? Why is it raising red flags?

CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is here with the details.

Rene, who is targeted then? Why are we just learning about it now?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRSPONDENT: CNN was able to confirm details of the program. TSA says this kind of program is sensitive security information. They say for that reason, they don't advertise these sorts of programs. That's why we're actually just learning about it now.

We do know more details. After speaking with TSA this weekend, we know, for the past eight years, ordinary Americans, passengers on flights, with no obvious ties to terrorism, have been tracked by the agency. TSA won't divulge details about it works. CNN has confirmed with the agency that passengers are selected based on past travel patterns, whether someone traveled to a terror hot spot. The agency relies on information from the Intel Community. Once the agency selects who they are going to track, an undercover air marshal is dispatched to the flight that you are on and is strategically placed in a seat where they can observe your every move, all your behavior during the flight. They are looking for things. Are you abnormally aware of your surroundings? Excessive fidgeting? Excessive perspiration. Rapid eye blinking. They are looking at people sleeping. Many people guilty of that, including myself.

TSA faced a lot of questions following the news that this program exists. They tell us, quote, "There's absolutely no intention to surveil ordinary Americans. Instead, its purpose is to ensure passengers and flight crew are protected during air travel, no different than putting a police officer on a beat or intelligence and information presents a need for increased watch."

Kate, as you know, this all raises a couple of concerns. Privacy, of course. Then I spoke with several air marshals who say, we are now focusing on passengers with no obvious ties to terrorism. They feel, some of them feel that this distracts them from their core mission of protecting the cockpit.

We just don't know how successful the program has been because TSA won't say whether it's actually helped them foil any potential plot.

BOLDUAN: That's interesting.

Rene, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joining me to discuss this further is CNN transportation analyst, Mary Schiavo. She's a former inspector general for the Department of Transportation.

Good to see you, Mary.


[11:40:01] BOLDUAN: From what we heard, as Rene points out, there's a lot of detail that's not provided. From what we heard, do you think this is an effective strategy to screen for dangerous people because of some of the things they are pointing out?

SCHIAVO: Most of the data that show us what's really effective in thwarts attacks have come out of studies focusing on Israeli security. This is part of a multi-layered security program, a multi-layered security program that's required by the International Civil Aviation Organization so we can fly into each other's airports. It has been shown that this observational addition to security or behavioral pattern observance is effective when done by trained personnel. Yes, it's been shown to be effective.

BOLDUAN: TSA spokesman in the statement, one part of it I wanted to ask you about. "What these air marshals is doing than no different than a cop working a beat, looking for suspicious behavior in the community that they work in, gathering intelligence, watching people for suspicious behavior."

Do they have a point?

SCHIAVO: Actually, they do. Air marshals are cops on the beat. They are United States 1811 law enforcement agents. They have badges. They are performing a law enforcement function. Who are they going to watch? People have to remember that an aircraft and airport, the areas outside the airport are public areas. What you do in a public place is subject to observation. There's nothing illegal about watching people. I'm talking about watching. When you enter the airport, when you enter the airport and approach the airport, you are probably on camera between 10 and 20 times in the airport. On the airplane, that's a public place. It's a public place. You can be watched. BOLDUAN: What do you say to the ACLU and others who say this is --

this is a step too far. It takes marshals away from their core mission. It's an invasion of privacy for folks not on any no-fly list or watch list.

SCHIAVO: They have a partial point. In some ways it's a compromise the way the United States does it. Israel makes no bones about it. They say that 88 percent of the terrorists are Muslim and 87 percent are male and that's who they are watching. In the United States, we focus on behavior than not allowed racial profiling. If you look at behavior, technically under the law, they can do it. That's why they are looking at behavior.

BOLDUAN: Any time anyone talks about rapid blinking or eye movement, I find myself blinking quite a bit more.

Mary, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, President Trump facing reporters soon, meeting with the new Italian prime minister at the White House any minute. The prime minister whose campaign slogan was Trumpian. Who could happen today? We will bring it to you live.



[11:47:20] TRUMP: The new prime minister of Italy is great. Got to meet him. Very strong on immigration, like I am, by the way.


BOLDUAN: That was President Trump a few weeks ago, showering the new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte with praise. Now the two are moments away from meeting at the White House. We know the two leaders take the same tough posture on some key issues as the president mentioned there, immigration. What should folks expect from the two leaders today?

Joining me CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, is here. And CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd, is here as well.

Kaitlan, what are you hearing about this friendship between these two leaders?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's a good way to put it. President Trump has seemed to welcome him. He is inviting him to the White House. The president says she got to know each other at the NATO summit. They spoke for an hour and a half. Which is interesting because that was a summit largely where the president was at odds with a lot of the leaders in the European Union. The president was developing a relationship with him saying they agree on immigration, something that the Italian prime minister is at odds with a lot of European leaders on. But not just immigration, as well as trade and tariffs and those issues as well. The president is welcoming him here today to discuss all of those things as well a slew of other issues.

It does seem this is one leader in Europe the president has the potential to have a good relationship with, even though he has a lower profile than someone from Germany or the French president. The president does seem to be striving to have a good relationship with him because they agree on those key issues that are very important to President Trump, like immigration. That seems to be where they are going forward with this. We'll see what happens the more they meet, once they sit down and have this working lunch today. They will take questions at a press conference later today where they will likely discuss what was it was that happened between the two of them.

BOLDUAN: We'll get to that in one second.

Before we get there, Sam, as Kaitlan was laying out, immigration, one area where they see eye to eye. Also, Conte's desire to have a closer relationship or a warmer relationship with Russia as well. Why would Italy want a better -- a closer relationship with Russia? Why does that -- why is that important to President Trump? Why would that be important?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Conte has wanted a closer relationship with Russia. There was threats that Italy would veto the rollover of sanctions against Russia. They didn't. At the last minute, Italy did not veto those sanctions. They went forward.

It's important to remember that Conte is a moderate within his coalition. The two parties that's right part of his coalition are very anti-establishment and they're very far right. They have actually signed direct agreements with Russia to work together in various ways. His deputy prime minister and interior minister said he wants to visit Russia to forge closer business ties and security ties. Conte has politics back home, and we may hear him take a tough stance against Russia during this press briefing, and it remains to be seen whether the president will echo it.

[11:50:29] BOLDUAN: Who will be tougher or less -- let's do the double negative thing. Who will be less tougher? Who will be the least toughest on Russia when they speak?

VINOGRAD: I know where my bet it.

BOLDUAN: Kaitlan, as you mentioned, they're going to be taking questions. CNN is in the pool once again today. This will be the first Oval Office event before they take questions. The first Oval Office with a foreign leader since the incident that you faced last week. You asked a question of the president, then after that you were told you couldn't cover the event afterward because they didn't like what you asked. What happens today, Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Kate, we expect it to be business as usual. Reporters will go in the room at the beginning of that meeting with the Italian prime minister. We do expect them to ask questions, as we do at every opportunity that we have with President Trump. He's often eager to answer those questions, and he clearly, as you could see from his Twitter this weekend, had a lot on his mind that he wanted to talk about. We often see that reflected during those pool sprays at the top where a few reporters are allowed in the room.

Now, I should note that the president has not taken any reporters' questions since that incident last week. He went and spent the weekend at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. But there will be several opportunities to hear from the president today, including that meeting there but also at that press conference where the president and the prime minister are expected to take two questions each from American and from the Italian press. So we should likely hear from President Trump on several occasions today, Kate, and there will be lots of questions for the president.

BOLDUAN: As there always are, as there always should be.

Sam, while the president likes the prime minister, Italy is also one of the countries who hasn't met that 2 percent standard when it comes to NATO, which feels like a hundred years ago that we've talked so much about this. So I do wonder which Donald Trump is going to show up when it comes to this issue that's very important to him.

VINOGRAD: I have a feeling that he's going to turn his ire on the E.U. rather than on Italy and its NATO obligations because both Italy and the United States have been critical of the European Union in terms of fiscal policies, immigration policies, and have pointed at Merkel and Macron. I think Trump will probably support the prime minister today and instead look at E.U. and more burden sharing that could be done from them.

BOLDUAN: Let's see.

Great to see you, Sam.

Great to see you, Kaitlan.

Thank you, both, so much.

Coming up next, more than four years after M.H.-370, Malaysia Airlines flight 370, vanished from radar and become one of aviation's greatest mysteries, there's a new clue in the case. Could families of the 239 people on board be any closer to getting answers?


[11:57:46] BOLDUAN: Still no wreckage of the plane, still no closure for the families, and still no explanation of really what went wrong, but today there's a possible new clue about what was happening on that flight, on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 four years ago. A new report about what happened when that plane made that mysterious turn back toward Kuala Lumpur, back towards Malaysia as it was making its way to Beijing.

Joining me from Hong Kong is CNN's Will Ripley. Will, it's amazing how long it has been and still so few answers from

when you and I were over there. Basically, nothing new since you and I were over there, but this new report saying the plane was under manual control. What are you hearing about this?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been 1,606 days, Kate, since the plane disappeared and we were on the ground. We were next to those families in such agony, desperately wanting some sort of answer from the government. Well, now they have this, 495 pages full of facts and zero answers.

But what the report does say is they do believe that somebody was at the controls, turning the plane around on that kind of drastic U-turn that sent it on that presumed course towards the southern Indian Ocean. But investigators have no idea who it was. Was it the captain who was under so much suspicion in the early days, who had that flight simulator with a programmed path to the Indian Ocean that investigators say doesn't really say anything? They didn't find any intent in his personal life, any motivation for him, or for the first officer or for anybody else, 12 crew members, 237 passengers. They think at some point the plane was under manual control. Was it because of some emergency? It was a more sinister criminal act? More than 230,000 square kilometers have been searched. They have found nothing in the search. And 27 pieces of debris have washed up along Africa's east coast. Three of them have been confirmed to be definitively from M.H.-370, pieces of the wing. But they haven't found the plane. They haven't found those 237 people. And 1,606 days for family members once again waking up and going to bed not knowing what happened -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And, Will, quite honestly, this is basically the un- definitive definitive answer. There's not going to be more searching.

RIPLEY: That's right. Until somebody stumbles upon this plane, they're not going to find it.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

Will, thank you so much. It's great to see you.

And thank you all so much for joining me today.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with Dana Bash starts right now.

[12:00:13] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Thank you for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.