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A Commercial Airplane Stolen; Former Aide Omarosa Manigault- Newman Touring And Touting Her New Memoir; California Governor Jerry Brown Declaring A State Of Emergency As The Massive Holy Fire Rages In Southern California; Laura Ingraham Pushing Back After Her Anti- Immigration Rant; U.S. Border Patrol Could Be One Of The Most Challenging Jobs In America Right Now. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired August 11, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[16:00:49] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Top of the hour you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
We begin a terrifying situation that left at least one person dead. But it could have been a lot worse. Let's get straight to the video. And I'll explain what happened.
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CABRERA: That plane right there, the one doing flips in the air, it's being flown by a pilot it's an airplane employees, a ground service agent, meaning the people you see loading and unloading bags, sometimes using orange batons to direct the planes on the runway. Well, the worker stole this plane from the Seattle Tacoma International airport last night. The plane was empty, thankfully. The worker then took it up in the air. Fighter jets were scrambled to chase it. And after more than an hour of flying, that plane crashed on a wooded island.
Crews are searching for the black box. We already have audio, though, of the rogue employee talking to air traffic controllers. It is chilling how light hearted the conversation is at times before taking an ominous turn.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I want the coordinates with the, you know, the mama with the baby. I want to go to see that guys. Hey, finally can this thing do a back flip think? I'm trying to do a barrel roll. And if that's good I'm nosing down and call it a night.
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CABRERA: Other clips are even darker.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got a lot of people that care about me. And it's going to disappoint them that -- to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess, never really knew it until now.
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CABRERA: CNN's Dan Simon is live now in western Washington. As close as we can get to the crash site. Dan, fill us in on what's the latest.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Ana. The details we heard thus far really sound like they are from the realm of fiction. Here you have a ground support worker at the Seattle airport.
Now, what does a ground support working - load then unload luggage. They load and unload luggage. Sometimes they get in tractors and tow aircraft. Then apparently that's what this 29-year-old (INAUDIBLE) worker did yesterday. Got in the tractor pointed the airplane in the right direction and somehow got in the cockpit, fired up the engines, had a successful tax y and took off and perform the incredible maneuvers as acknowledged by airline officials.
Now in terms of trying to understand what happened, part of that process involves what is happening ten miles from where I'm standing right here at Kitron Island. That's a 10-minute ferry ride from here. That's where investigators are combing through the scene, looking through the debris, trying to recover the remains of the 29-year-old and also trying to look for the cockpit voice recorder, trying to look for the plane data recorder.
Ultimately, what those things could yield we don't know because we do have these extensive conversations between the 29-year-old and air traffic control. But I want to you listen now to what the CEO of Alaska Airlines said just a few moments ago. Take a look.
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BRAD TILDEN, CEO, ALASKA AIR: It was a 3.5 years employee of horizon air with a ground service agent (INAUDIBLE). To answer the question you asked, he was a -- a background check there was a couple of couple different criminal background checks we run on employees. He got a seated badge with the port of Seattle. So that's another -- he worked his shift yesterday. We believe he was in uniform. His job is to be around airplanes. The C.E. is tow certified, so he is meant to be -- airports have a non-secure and secure side. He is meant to be on the secure side. That's part of the fulfillment of his job responsibilities.
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SIMON: Now, authorities are saying -- and they believe that there was only one person in the aircraft. But they want to scour that scene extensively before reaching that final conclusion.
Now we know that investigators went to the island early this morning. So we should be seeing them arrive here sometime in the hours ahead. Now, in terms of Kitron Island itself this is a sparsely populated area, sort of akin to a gated commune. It's a private island. The last census showed only 17 people living there - Ana.
[16:05:18] CABRERA: All right, Dan Simon, there is still so much mystery to all of us. Let me get Mary Schiavo in here. Thank you Dan.
Mary is the former inspector general at the U.S. department of transportation.
And Mary, the airline CEO said this ground service agent, he managed to tart off this plane, taxi, take off, work the radios and even perform some flight maneuvers before he crashed and died. How did he pull this off? I mean, he had to have some pilot experience, right.
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think he did because of one of the turns that he did. It was something I like to call when you take the first flying lessons or when you instruct students you have to teach them to do a coordinated turn. And it's counterintuitive. You don't just turn the plane left or the right like a car. You have to coordinate with the rudder and you do a careful turn that takes into account centrifugal forces.
And this seemed to be a coordinated turn. But he had the help of this aircraft and as computers. These aircraft, you start it with something called the FADAC, which is the full Authority Digital Control System. So computer helps you through it. And it's a big improvement over prior planes.
But when I learned to fly it was literally by the seat of your pants. You had to feel the plane. And there was a lot of touch in the system. But here the computer, you put the data inputs in. You still have to taxi yourself. You have to put communications lines in to talk to the tower. You have so set the prop pitch and a few things like that. But the computer then will walk you through it. So if you had online flight courses you could do it.
CABRERA: Online flight courses. Same as like video games we heard talked about mentioned in some of the reports that came out.
SCHIAVO: Right. And one of them you can buy online actually has a picture of a plane very much like this. Says Alaska on the side. I think that one is $49.99.
CABRERA: Unbelievable. Do you think he took advantage of a flawed security system, or was it just the perfect storm in this case?
SCHIAVO: No, I think the security system had a lot of gaping loop holes. And these issues have been discussed before. Just because this is the first person who has done this kind of thing, this exact kind of thing, this -- these problems were talked about after September 11, 2001. Last year Congress put out a report said there were 900,000 employees in the airport with less scrutiny than the passengers. And they were worried about people in the airport who might have ties with terrorism.
But this was a known loop hole but just that it wasn't closed because until now no one exploited it. Although private planes have been stolen frequently. There was a famous case of someone called the barefoot bandit who stole five private planes sent to prison in Seattle.
CABRERA: Yes, also in Seattle. Ironically. A lot of people pointing to this guy's state of mind. Do these types of employees that ground service agent undergo mental evaluations. And how often are they screened?
SCHIAVO: Well, the screen for pre-employment screen. They have a criminal background check, fingerprints, they have to prove who they are, ID. They have to have the work history. And if they have a gap in the work history they have to explain it. But otherwise once you are on the job there is not -- and there's been a lot of on the debate about this.
There is not a continuing update on whether you have additional run ins with the law after that. But unless you are a pilot you do not have to go through a medical, which includes psychological information appear whether you are taking drugs for depression or any other mental disability which you have to report to the FAA if you are a pilot. But if you are a grounds person you don't have to have the flight medical to perform your job.
CABRERA: Mary Schiavo, thank you very much for joining us.
SCHIAVO: Thank you.
Eye in the sky. How California's fire pilots could be single-handedly saving homes just feet from the flames. Live to the west coast next.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[16:13:33] CABRERA: Just in, President Trump hurling fresh insults today at his former White House aide. Omarosa Manigault-Newman. Omarosa has been touring and touting her new memoir due out later this month. President Trump's insult came this afternoon as he was meeting with bikers for Trump.
Let's go to Boris Sanchez in New Jersey.
Boris, a reporter asking Trump about Omarosa. What happened there?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana.
Yes. President Trump was asked about his former aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman who has this new book coming out "unhinged" with some explosive accusations up in accusations about the President. CNN has obtained a copy of the book. Many allegations are unverifiable.
But two that stand out, Omarosa, alleging that the President is a racist and suggesting that the White House offered her hush money to keep stories about the President from going public. As you noted, the President was at an event. His federal with bikers. He was shouted a question about Omarosa. He kept his answer short. It's the first time we have heard from President Trump about these allegations. Listen to this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I better not go any further.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Low life. She is a low life.
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SANCHEZ: She is a low life. Ana, we should point out the White House pushed back on these allegations from Omarosa. Sources tell CNN that it was a strategy to try to poke holes in her credibility. Similar to what we saw after Michael Wolf published his explosive book, "Fire and Fury." We will likely hear more from the White House attempting to poke holes again in Omarosa's arguments -- Ana.
[16:15:20] CABRERA: Meantime, President Trump also slamming his own attorney general Jeff Sessions in of an afternoon tweet storm.
SANCHEZ: That's right, President Trump taking to twitter to voice displeasure with his own department of justice, with his own FBI. Here are the tweets from President Trump.
He writes quote "the big story that the fake news media refuses to report is low life Christopher Steele's many meeting with attorney general Bruce Orr and his beautiful wife, Nellie." It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony and as part of the dossier paid for crooked Hillary and the DNC.
Do you believe Nellie worked for Fusion and her husband still works for the department of justice in quotation marks? I have never seen anything so rigged in my life. Our attorney general is erred scared stiff and missing in action. It all starting to be revealed not of the IG report soon. Witch hunt.
A number of things to fact check with the tweets, Ana I will keep it simple. Bruce Orr was never the deputy attorney general. He did work in the office, though. And he was demoted after news came out of his meeting was Christopher Steele.
Further thought, we should point out the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein has testified that Orr had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. And beyond that we also have to point out the underlying argue the President is making here that the Russia investigation which he calls a witch hunt was based on that Steele dossier. We know that's not the case because of documents put out by the department of justice which show that that Russia investigation was launched after George Papadopoulos, a former Trump aide had a drunken conversation with officials in London saying that he knew that Russians have hacked the DNC servers and had Hillary Clinton emails -- Ana.
CABRERA: Boris Sanchez, thank you for fact check.
Out west now, California governor Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency as the massive holy fire rages in southern California right now. Scorching more than 21,000 acres. That's a huge amount. It's only 29 percent contained.
The man who is charged with starting this fire appeared in court Friday. There he is. At one point exclaiming it's a lie. This fire is one of one hundred massive wildfires consuming more than 1.5 million acres in the western U.S. The smoke from the California fires stretching from 3,000 miles all the way to New York City.
Stephanie Elam joins us now in California. How bad are the weather conditions facing firefighters?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well there is one thing starting to happen every afternoon the winds pick up Ana. You can see it happening now. But, right now, you heard it over me. That's a helicopter. And it's going in to drop some you know water or fire retardant on part of the blaze that is behind the mountain here. They have really done some amazing work on this holy fire where we stand. Because yesterday standing here you couldn't even see the mountain. Sometimes you see through the smoke the blaze. It seemed the area was on fire. They did quick work. And from one day to the next it went from 10 percent containment to almost 30 percent containment.
That is a big deal in fire containment land. I know a lot of people don't speak wildfires. But for us about here really a big deal that they have been able to contain it. But the issues that we are dealing with here are, it is approaching $100 degrees, it is really dry and the winds pick up in the afternoon and that can swirl around the fire and move the embers in different directions. These are some of the conditions here that you see in other parts of the state as well.
And to give an idea overall over the last few weeks we have seen more than 670,000 acres burned here in California. That is greater than the size, the land mass size of the state of Rhode Island. That's how much has been torched the last couple weeks here, Ana.
CABRERA: The video, it's incredible.
Stephanie Elam, Thank you for the reporting. The flames are putting people near feet away from the disaster. Check out this video showing the holy fire.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, God, please, Lord.
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CABRERA: Unbelievably this home was not burned down. You can see why with the firefighters right here there on the pool deck. Their work is so critical not just on the ground but in the air.
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CABRERA: In many cases these planes dropping fire retardant is the last line of defense for home owners in this region.
And that brings me to the next guest. Tom Porter is chief of the southern region for the California department of forestry and fire protection.
Tom, what a fight you guys have. I know you have been with Cal Fire nearly 20 years. So help us understand. Put it in perspective all the fires that your state is facing right now. Have you ever seen it this severe?
[16:20:22] TOM PORTER, SOUTHERN REGION CHIEF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY AND FIRE PROTECTION: Ana, what I first want to do is thank the firefighters from across the nation.
CABRERA: No doubt.
PORTER: Throughout California, all the different agencies, outside the nation. We have firefighters from Australia and New Zealand. And they have all come to help us with this fight.
This is a huge fire fight that we are in the middle of this summer. We have a long season to go. Those resources are helping us. But also we have been seeing this kind of increase in size and damaging large wildfires in California for about the last 15 years. And we are starting to -- the new normal that the governor has coined for us in California is really becoming the normal. And it's a very difficult situation that we find ourselves in.
CABRERA: Twenty-nine percent containment for the holy fire. So some progress. Thank goodness. Tell us what's happening right now in the fire fight.
PORTER: You know, Ana, what we are doing now is the fire is starting to burn out of kind of more remote areas where there are individual structures and very small groups of homes into densely populated communities and subdivisions.
We are working hard to make sure that those subdivisions are reinforced with aerial retardant, the red material -- or the red liquid you see dropped out of planes and sometimes helicopters. Also helicopters. And then getting resources on the ground to ensure that we are protecting as many homes as we absolutely can.
CABRERA: We saw just how close the fire is coming to that one house in the video before our interview, where the flames are right up against the pool. That was outside that door. The homes that are not burning down right now, is there any rhyme or reason for certain homes being spared, like maybe the home owners reduced brush on the properties, that sort of thing.
PORTER: That's a very good point. Our land use planning in California has really increased over the last several years to put things like pool decks and non-burnable material between the house and the wild lands and then also some fuel reduction beyond that. So all of those practices help to protect a home if a fire is advancing from that side of the -- of the house.
There are cases, though, where just a slight change in weather will spare a house next door to a house that's been burned. And often we have firefighters at those homes, but not always. Some houses standalone without any firefighter actually being at the site. And that really comes back to sometimes chance but also the land use planning that we have done.
CABRERA: Tom Porter, thank you for taking the time. Our very best thoughts and energy and everything with your firefighters on the ground and those who have flown in from across the world as you pointed out and also with the community there affected.
We are back in just a moment.
PORTER: Ana, thank you.
[16:28:03] CABRERA: Now to the trial the President Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort. Although the trial is primarily about Manafort's time before joining the campaign, jurors just heard evidence that allege that Manafort took advantage of Trump campaign connections, procuring $60 million in loans. A loan officer detailed how he is a go between for his boss, a bank chairman seeking a seat in the Trump administration and Manafort.
Now the witness told the jury some conversations he had with the Manafort about his job made quote "very uncomfortable. Manafort pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Let's bring in Athena Jones wrapping up the nine days of testimony so far and looking ahead.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prosecutors expect to finish laying out the government's case against Paul Manafort early next week. This after a week of damaging revelations, many of them coming from Rick Gates, the government's star witness in the trial. Manafort's time partner pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to
investigators and is cooperating with the government as it tries to convict his former boss on 18 counts of bank and tax fraud.
While the trial is not about the President are or his campaign Trump as shadow looms over the proceedings. This is the first of two trials his former campaign chairman faces in Virginia and Washington, D.C. The Virginia case presenting the first big test for special counsel Robert Mueller who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Manafort spent six months on the campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just won the primary process with a record number of votes.
JONES: Before leaving amid question about his lobbying work for pro- Russian government in Ukraine and which and payments which prosecutors say totaled more than $60 million. The government allege Manafort hid millions, lied about his income and failed to pay taxes while spending big on items like expensive suits and ostrich jacket. Real Estate and New York Yankees season tickets.
While serving as Manafort's right-hand man for a decade, Gates whose three days on the witness stand began Monday, testified that he and Manafort had 15 foreign accounts that they didn't report to the government even though they knew it was illegal. He said Manafort instructed him not to submit the required forms.
Gates also testified that Manafort recommended a banker who had loaned him money for a position in the Trump administration. And he admitted he cheated on his wife and had embezzled several hundred thousand dollars from Manafort by submitting false expense reports. Revelations Manafort's defense team hope to use to undermine Gates' credibility.
The government has also presented emails, photos and financial records to prove their case. And employees from the FBI and IRS testified about the money Manafort earned from his political work in Ukraine and his failure to report some of it on his tax returns.
The President played down his relationship with Manafort in recent months.
[16:30:54] TRUMP: You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time.
JONES: But he has been watching the trial closely taking to twitter early on to express sympathy for Manafort. Comparing his treatment to prohibition era gangster Al Capone and calling on attorney general Jeff Sessions to end the Mueller probe immediately. A call the White House describe not as an order, but as an opinion.
Athena Jones, CNN, New York.
CABRERA: Let's take a deep dive now with our expert on the law. CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin is joining us. He was special assistant to Robert Mueller at the justice department.
Michael, this week, for the first time prosecutors showed how Manafort used his Trump campaign ties to obtain millions in bank loans. Could this be of value to Mueller's team beyond this trial do you think?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm not so sure, Ana. I think what we have here are -- is a trial with two parts. Part one was when Manafort was flush with his Ukrainian money he was hiding it from the IRS so as not to pay taxes. Then when that money dried up he had no money and he had a lot of debt and sew engaged in bank fraud in order to obtain the money to live the lifestyle he was accustomed to.
So yes, he did say to the banker I can help you get a job in the administration if you help me with in bank fraud application. But I don't think that ties back to the President himself. Really it's more a matter of Manafort's own corruption.
CABRERA: But what do you make of that moment that happened this week in which there was sort of a secret conversation with the judge and the attorneys at the bench, and then later was asked to keep that conversation secret or sealed because of the ongoing Mueller probe. Doesn't that suggest that gates may come into play in some other capacity in the broader investigation?
ZELDIN: It would seem so. The facts there were that the prosecutor -- the defense attorney asked Gates essentially how many times did he interview with the special counsel. They said about 20 times. They approached the bench to talk about what was included within the 20 interviews. And that is what was sealed at the prosecution's request because the prosecutor said that relates to ongoing investigations.
So surely that does imply, Ana, as you suggest that there is an ongoing investigation. We don't know who the targets or subject of that is. But the special counsel wants to make sure that Gates' cooperation testimony which may have been revealed a little bit to Manafort at the side bar at the bench is held secret while continuing with the case.
CABRERA: So this prosecution is about to wrap up at least their case. And then the defense takes over.
Let's talk about Manafort possibly taking the stand, defense attorney common sense says he won't. But talk to me about what could compel the defense to change their mind on this.
ZELDIN: A desperation effort on their part. They see the testimony of all the witnesses that corroborate Gates. They recognize that the cross-examination they did of Gates wasn't enough to I think shred his credibility with the jury. And so, they are left now with corroborating evidence, physical evidence, testimonial evidence, Gates 'unimpeached and no real defense.
So it is really -- it's like playing hearts and shooting the moon and putting Manafort on the stand hoping for the best. I don't think he will testify. But that would be the only thing that would be logic alto me that they feel they are in a desperate situation and that's the Hail Mary.
CABRERA: Can it be a last minute call that they make or do they have to let people know beforehand?
ZELDIN: No. I think they can make the decision last minute. I think the prosecutors are well prepared whether he testifies or not testifies. And if he gets called, then they'll cross-examine him when he is done which is his greatest exposure. Because he has a hard time I think explaining away all of the emails that indicate that he was a knowing participant in the tax and bank fraud case. So he is in some sense already spoken through his emails. And now he has to undo all of that, very hard stuff to do.
[16:35:06] CABRERA: Michael Zeldin, I always appreciate your expertise thank you for joining us.
ZELDIN: My pleasure.
CABRERA: Laura Ingraham pushing back after her anti-immigration rant criticizing massive demographic changes in America. So does FOX News have a white anxiety problem? And can comments like these even be walked back?
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[16:40:02] CABRERA: Hate, intolerance and white supremacy drove those violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. I was sitting here then. I was shock. I was horrified. Are the message coming from the ground there as we covered the breaking news. I remember was who could. Horrified by the message coming from the ground there as we covered the breaking news. I remember thinking, what year is this? And yet even this week we are hearing sentiments that would make white nationalists proud being expressed on a certain cable news network which gives a platform for some commentators who seem nervous about the threat to so-called whiteness in country.
Our senior media correspondent Brine Stelter is here with me now.
And Brian you wrote a fascinating piece for CNN.com about all of this. You named Fox's host Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson as going I way beyond what many conservatives say out loud anyway. And they used terms like demographic change. But let's be clear. They are talking about non-white people coming into this country.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and they are expressing the backlash that many white Christians in the country feel, this sense of a loss of power. I think what many Americans feel as progress in various ways, more multicultural country, others perceive as loss.
Some of the hosts on FOX News express that in ways that really do echo white nationalist, white supremacist rhetoric low pressure.
I mean, let's look at what Laura Ingraham said a few days ago as the recent example.
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LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people. And they are changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don't like. Now much of this is related to both illegal and in some cases legal immigration that of course progressives love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Later she said she wasn't talking about race or ethnicity. But what else does she mean by massive demographic changes?
STELTER: It's pretty clear what she was saying. She was channeling the feelings of a lot of viewers. FOX's audience, mostly older, almost entirely older somewhat rural and almost entirely white. And what you get from many of those viewers is a sense of white anxiety, sometimes outright racism. Definitely white anxiety that I think she was expressing there.
CABRERA: And you talk about her clarifying sort of distancing herself from those comments. But she is not apologizing.
STELTER: Yes, she sort of half walked it back the next day but -- well, see what I mean.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INGRAHAM: The purpose of last night's angle was to point out that the rule of law, meaning secure borders is something that used to bind our country together. And despite what some may be contending I made explicitly clear that my commentary had nothing to do with race or ethnicity. But rather a shared goal of keeping America safe and her citizens safe and prosperous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: It just doesn't hold water because frequently segments on her show, Tucker Carlson's show are about warning about the dangerous of immigration and mocking the perspectives of people of color.
CABRERA: Doesn't that have to do with race or ethnicity?
STELTER: It definitely does.
CABRERA: Let me read you a tweet from Cornell William Brooks. He is the former President of the NAACP.
He writes, when Laura Ingraham argues make America white again, people with conscience must call out advertisers who support her.
On the anniversary of Charlottesville and Heather Heyer's murder, why are advertisers supporting ethnic purity for entertain and racism for rating? I mean, Laura Ingraham has seen advertisers run away from her before. Is that happening here? Do you see that happening here?
STELTER: There have not been signs of that in this case. Certainly, though, you are right in the past. Sean Hannity Show and Ingraham's show have been the subject of advertiser boycotts.
One of the group that signed up before is called Media Matters, an anti-FOX group. They called out Ingraham the other day. They said Ingraham was being praised by white supremacists for the language he is using on the program. But in this case, we have not seen an advertiser. Let's see if it happens in the days to come. Sometimes evidence just do quietly removed their ads without saying so.
I think the point about advertising is important because ultimately it's the Rupert Murdock Empire that bifurcates. The Murdocks, Rupert and his sons, they are the one that ultimately profit from this kind of rhetoric.
What FOX News is doing is channeling, again, what I think is a real feeling in some parts of the country. But the language these hosts sometimes use it does echo white nationalist rhetoric. Frankly it's happening more than I would say two or three years ago. That's partly the Trump affect in action.
CABRERA: And clearly, she thought the comments would resonate with viewers.
CABRERA: Brian Stelter, thank you very much. You can catch your show every Sunday at 11:00 a.m.
The U.S./Mexico border ground zero for controversial policies. A dangerous place to work. How do new agents prepare?
CNN gets rare access to the rigorous training recruits are put through. And we will talk about why people want these jobs. Just ahead.
[16:49:34] CABRERA: Working for the U.S. border patrol could be one of the most challenging jobs in America right now. Just think about this. Constant second guessing from the public, intense pressure to perform by the federal government. Being an agent isn't easy. Filling job openings with border patrol isn't easy either.
CNN digital correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich is with us now.
And Vanessa, you had a chance to really get down to the heart of what's motivating these people and what they have to go through to do the jobs. Tell us about it.
[16:50:04] VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We went out to (INAUDIBLE), New Mexico to the middle of the desert to the border patrol academy where they train new recruits who are going to be going out into the field. And we spoke to one individual, his name is (INAUDIBLE). He I a Mexican American, 52 percent of the border patrol is now Hispanic. And he told us exactly why he is joining. It's to honor his uncle.
YURKEVICH (voice-over): It's 7:00 a.m. and Isidro Urbina is in the first class of the day. Firearms.
YURKEVICH: How is the training for now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not an everyday shooter. I'm trying to pick up everything they are training us here.
YURKEVICH: Urbina is one of 400 recruits training to be a border patrol agent at the academy in Artsia, New Mexico.
It's considered one of the toughest in law enforcement and they just got harder.
This year the curriculum is expanded to six months. There is nearly double the amount training for everything. More firearms, immigration law. And new this year, scenario training with real actors to simulate what agents may face on the border. And Spanish language classes are now mandatory.
What was it that drew you to this career?
ISIDRO URBINA, TRAINER AT U.S. BORDER PATROL ACADEMY: My uncle. I used to sit on the couch with my uncle at my grandma's house he and he told me cool stories. He was driving back to his station and he rolled over in his SUV, ejected from his vehicle and died on the scene.
YURKEVICH: Urbina grew up 20 miles from the border after his father emigrated here legally from Mexico, 52 percent of the border patrol is Hispanic.
I hear a lot from people when they talk about Hispanic agents. They often say they're deporting their own people, turning their backs on their own people.
URBINA: I don't feel that way. I do have a heart. You know, it is sad watching people getting deported. But there is a process for everything. My dad was able to do it. I'm here today for that reason.
YURKEVICH: President Trump has called for 5,000 more agents to be added to the patrol. Yet it's already nearly 2,000 below the nationally mandated 21,000. The most recent graduating class had just 26 trainees. The academy can accommodate up to 50.
Was expanding the academy part of that effort.
CHIEF DAN HARRIS JR., U.S. BORDER PATROL ACADEMY: The expanding the curriculum was really a couple of things. One, I want them to be prepared for any situation they may encounter. The second thing is I want them to have every tool available to them to handle that encounter safely. The last thing we ever want to do is take someone's life.
YURKEVICH: One hundred and twenty seven agents have died in the field since 1919. It's a stat the academy hammers home with new recruits.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every single thing we do for the next six months here is that we will honor the fallen by training you to live.
YURKEVICH: The trainees are given a card with the photo of an agent who died in the line of duty known as their silent partner.
URBINA: When they told us about the silent partner I thought to myself it would be nice to have my uncle, you know, carry that silent partner card with me every day because I have the opportunity to honor him now. And I have it -- I have him near my heart.
YURKEVICH: Do you have his heart?
URBINA: Yes, I do.
YURKEVICH: That's so powerful.
URBINA: Yes, ma'am. When he died he was 34. I'm 34 coming in. So I was like I'm finishing what he started. When it gets really, really hard, I think about him. I don't want to quit.
CABRERA: And Vanessa, you had a chance to actually participate in the training. Let's take a look. What was this like?
YURKEVICH: This was pretty tough. I will not be making a career change any time soon. In all seriousness this is a lot of work for these trainees. They have six months of intense training. I did some high-speed chase driving where I learned how to do.
CABRERA: Let's listen to it actually before we continue.
YURKEVICH: All right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brake it. Brake it. Perfect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: He is clapping for you.
YURKEVICH: I was excited. It's thrilling to be able to do this. But the agents go through really, really tough training. I was also doing firearms training. Trainees do it 2 to 4 hours every day. And I also got to do something called scenario training where you are setup in a real life scenario with paid actors just like a situation you might experience on the border. And I thought this was so important. This is new this year at the academy. Because they were realizing they really weren't training agents properly to enter the field. And what this scenario training does is allow them to learn how to make split second decisions, whether or not to draw the firearm or use a less lethal method. And the academy is hoping that they'll be able to retain their agents longer by better preparing them in the field.
[16:55:20] CABRERA: Really eye opening.
Thank you so much Vanessa for sharing with us.
Some frightening moments outside Seattle. An airline employee stealing an empty passenger plane. What investigators are just revealing about how this happened.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:00:01] CABRERA: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for joining us on this Saturday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
We begin this hour with a truly terrifying situation. A commercial airplane stolen. Here is the video. I will explain what happened as you take a look at this. That plane --