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Embattled Nomination; Russia Investigation; Puerto Rico Recovery; Hurricane Florence. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 21, 2018 - 03:00   ET



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN HOST: The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual abuse now indicating she will testify without an FBI investigation, but there are several new conditions.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN HOST: Hurricane Maria a year on, and Puerto Ricans still reeling. Chef Jose Andres helped feed the island in its time of need. He is doing the same for Florence victims. Now, why he says the response to the storms has been so different.

ALLEN: And the free beer is flowing in Cleveland after its football team wins for the first time in --

VANIER: Almost two years, 635 days.

ALLEN: They have a reason to drink free beer, and they did. More about that coming up later this hour. Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. You're watching "CNN Newsroom."

ALLEN: A few days ago, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court looked like a slam-dunk. Now, an allegation of sexual assault from 36 years ago threatens to derail it.

VANIER: But if U.S. President Donald Trump is worried about his nominee, you would not know it. At a political rally in Las Vegas, he basically told the crowd, don't worry about it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: A great gentleman, an impeccable reputation. Went to Yale. Top student. Went to Yale law school. Top student. So we got to let it play out. But I want to tell you, he is a fine, fine person.


ALLEN: The entire situation may look very different a week from now. That is because an attorney for Christine Blasey Ford says she is willing to tell her story of sexual assault to U.S. senators under certain conditions.

VANIER: Now, remember, Kavanaugh denies this allegation. Let's get more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The Supreme Court confirmation battle of Brett Kavanaugh dramatically intensified today, with the woman accusing him of sexual assault now saying she is willing to tell her story to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford said in a letter to top senators today.

As protests broke out on Capitol Hill --


ZELENY: Senators will now meet to determine the next steps. Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, hoped to schedule a public hearing on Monday. But Ford's lawyers said today that was too soon. A hearing on Monday is not possible, and the committee's insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event, Ford's lawyers wrote.

The Supreme Court fight is now awash in uncertainty, as demonstrators made their voices heard and were arrested today outside the offices of key Republican senators.

Kavanaugh has categorically denied Ford's claims that he pinned her to a bed and groped her at a high school party more than three decades ago. As he prepared for a possible Monday hearing, a friend of his tells CNN, he is disappointed and frustrated, but wants to testify.

Democratic senators said today that Ford deserves an impartial investigation and protection.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: She is being threatened, death threats, et cetera. That's called, I would say, intimidation of a witness. And I would call upon the FBI on their own to investigate this occurrence, that all of the threats that she's undergoing.

ZELENY: They accused Republicans of not taking her complaint seriously.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: They already decided. They don't want the facts. They don't want this investigation done.

ZELENY: Republicans said Democrats were posturing and pushed back at the notion of calling additional witnesses beyond Ford and Kavanaugh. Senator John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, accused Democrats today of hijacking the process to accommodate political interest. President trump is standing firmly behind Kavanaugh.

TRUMP: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.

ZELENY: Now, the White House still expressing confidence that Judge Kavanaugh will ultimately be confirmed. But the question is when and whether he will have to sit at a public hearing on Monday either alone or potentially back-to-back with Ford.

[03:05:02] As for Judge Kavanaugh, he spent the fourth-straight day preparing here at the White House, going through every chapter of his life, I'm told, in a question and answer session. There's no doubt, his confirmation, still in jeopardy.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


VANIER: Dan Stewart is "Time" magazine's international editor. He joins us now from London. Dan, it looks like Kavanaugh's accuser, Dr. Ford, is willing to testify before the Senate. It's not a done deal yet, they're still negotiating, but it looks like it's going to happen. How can this go from here? Walk us through the scenarios.

DAN STEWART, INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, TIME: Well, she has agreed to testify. It's been what we've seen over the past few days, has been sort of tug-of-war, if you like, between Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats. Senate Republicans have said they're willing to have her testify but sort of on their terms.

And I think Democrats want her to testify on the terms that she wants. So, really, what happens from here is what we see -- is whether or not Republicans stick to their initial insistence that this happen on Monday.

It seems that Dr. Ford's lawyers really don't want that to be the case. They want to have an election in the week. We are sort of arguing over procedures a little bit here. I think that it all hinges on what she says, how she comes across, how she is received.

VANIER: Right. That's what I mean by the scenarios. What do you think -- let's put it this way, what do you think Republicans are thinking right now?

STEWART: The Republicans are thinking they want to get this out of the way, if you like. You can see a lot of the messaging that I think Senator Dean Heller was recorded on a phone call saying this was sort of a speed bump, seeing this as something of an obstacle in the way.

So they want to get this over and done with, if you like, imagining perhaps that if she testifies and they can have a he said/she said situation, that perhaps a vote can go through on party lines. I think if she testifies though, it really does -- it really will change things up.

You know, the truth is very hard to determine in this. But if you have a credible accuser putting her allegations across, then that is going to make it very difficult, I think, for some of the Senate Republicans to dismiss the allegations in a way that perhaps they have to this point.

VANIER: So, as you say, it is going to be very difficult to determine what did or didn't happened. I mean, probing something that happened or didn't happen 36 years ago, that's going to be very hard, especially for the moment, there's no FBI investigation.

We don't know what material elements might be brought in the investigation or whether any witnesses might be heard by the senators. They don't seem open to it right now. So, it looks like this is going to be all a matte of public perception, isn't it?

STEWART: I think that's right. Really, this is a political fight, you know, playing out, I think, on sort of optical scale. It's all about the optics of how this will be seen. And I think especially coming at a moment when we have the midterm elections, which are going to be dominated by the question of gender equality, of the steps that women have made.

You know, this is coming at a point where we're a year after the "Me Too" allegations began. It's all taking place in an atmosphere where we're trying to arbitrate these sort of questions. And so I think yea, it will be a question of political optics.

VANIER: And there's no -- there's no objective standard. That's what makes this so difficult. There is no objective standard to decide what is the threshold for suspicion that needs to be met for Judge Kavanaugh to make it or not make it to the Supreme Court. I mean, we just don't have a standard for this.

STEWART: That's exactly right. It's the same situation in a way that we had 27 years ago when Clarence Thomas had a very, very similar situation, a woman, another academic in fact coming forward and making these allegations.

It was seen then that the Senate Republicans didn't address Anita Hill's allegations in a way that was seen fairly. You saw it in the following year, a huge wave election for female Democrats.

You know, 27 years on, we get a chance to see whether things have changed. Whether we do have a more mature or more up-to-date way of engaging with these allegations, ensuring that people who are credible accusers are heard and giving the accused a fair shake, if you like.

VANIER: And you mentioned the "Me Too" moment and obviously the cultural moment in which we find ourselves post "Me Too."

[03:09:58] But, I wonder if Republicans are really going to be thinking about that very hard. Because what they need first and foremost is a Republican Supreme Court justice.

STEWART: Right. It would be interesting to see if they see this as perhaps the short-term loss of having a feud over this impact them in the midterm elections for what inarguably would be the longer term win of having their own person on the Supreme Court that would sort of change the makeup of the court for a generation, if you like.

So, the damage, if you like, the optical damage that will be done over the course of the next week or so, if they get their guy, perhaps that doesn't matter so much. There's a sort of trade-off politically, I think.

VANIER: Yeah, and they need to get their guy, as you say, before the midterms come around. That's in November. Dan Stewart, "Time" magazine international editor, thank you so much for joining us.

STEWART: Thank you so much.

ALLEN: Well, former Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, keeps on talking to investigators in the Russia investigation. ABC News reports he's been interviewed several times by special counsel Robert Mueller's team in the last month.

Cohen confirmed the report when he re-tweeted this from his lawyer. Good for Michael Cohen in providing critical information to the Mueller investigation without a cooperation agreement. No one should question his honesty, veracity or loyalty to his family and country over President Donald Trump.

VANIER: And Cohen is not the only form e former Trump ally who is working with Mueller. The president's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, is also cooperating as part of -- is cooperating, I should say, as part of a plea deal. But some of the most damning material came straight from the president himself. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more on that.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's the key interview clip played over and over again that critics say proves President Trump fired former FBI director James Comey because of the Russia investigation.

TRUMP: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

SCHNEIDER: And yet, without proof, the president's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, now claims that clip does not depict the entire interview.

JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know that when there are interviews, there are edits. And there's a longer transcript. And I will just tell you without disclosing any detail that when you review the entire transcript, it's very clear as to what happened.

SCHNEIDER: Sekulow seeming to say, when you listen to more of the interview --

TRUMP: I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation. But I have to do the right thing for the American people. He's the wrong man for that position.

SCHNEIDER: The president seems to acknowledge Comey's firing could impact the Russia investigation, but says since Comey was not right to stay on as FBI director, he was fired. It's a point Trump's former attorney, John Dowd, made to Mueller in this January 2018 memo made public by "The New York Times," writing, reading the entire interview, the fair reading of the president's remarks demonstrates that the president fired Mr. Comey for incompetence.

SEKULOW: In our professional discussions with the office of special counsel, we have addressed that on multiple occasions appropriately.

SCHNEIDER: NBC News has not published the entire transcript of the president's interview and declined to comment on Sekulow's assertion. Meanwhile, new information is being revealed about the intelligence that played a role in the Russia probe.

"Washington Post" journalist Greg Miller describes in his new book, the office inside the CIA, unofficially called "Russia house." In the months leading up to the 2016 election, senior Russia House officials held a series of meetings, attempting to make sense of extraordinary intelligence uncovered that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally directed an operation to disrupt the race and elect Donald Trump.

Miller's book also goes inside President Trump's first visit to the CIA less than 24 hours into his presidency, where he got a glimpse of covert missions. CIA's head of drone operations explained its tactics and showed the strike where militants scattered in the moments before the bomb hit, leading the president to ponder, can they hear the bombs coming? We should make the bomb silent so they can't get away.

And back to that interview, the president gave NBC in May 2017, it is true that NBC News only published a 13-minute version on its website and did not release the entire interview. But there is no proof to back up the claim that it was somehow edited to make President Trump say that he had Russia on his mind when he fired the FBI director.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: It's been a year since Hurricane Maria, and Puerto Ricans are still struggling. We'll have the latest on their road to recovery.

ALLEN: We will also talk with the humanitarian chef who served millions of meals to Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico. We will have that conversation for you.

VANIER: And a badly timed feud between Trump staffers threatens to hamper Hurricane Florence recovery efforts. Stay with us.


VANIER: One year without reliable power, without running water, without proper medical care. One year after Hurricane Maria ravaged their homes, many Puerto Ricans still struggle.

ALLEN: Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, held a remembrance even in San Juan for the one year anniversary. It was a somber affair as they remembered the estimated 3,000 people who died because of the storm. And while a year seems like a long time, the sad fact remains, the recovery is nowhere near complete. But Rossello maintains hope the island will become stronger than before.


RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: You know, it's been a long recovery process. This is the wake of the biggest devastation of the modern history of the United States. Our people are strong. They are resilient. They've been battling back. Although we've had plenty of obstacles and we're trying to channel those and finish those, the truth of the matter is, our hope is we can pivot now to a stronger -- finish up the recovery and to a stronger rebuild of Puerto Rico.


VANIER: Joining us now is world famous chef Jose Andres.

[03:20:01] Jose, it's great to have you on the show. Now, you have restaurants across the United States. You're a renowned chef. That's not why we're talking to you today.

We're talking to you because you just co-wrote a new book, "We Fed An Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico One Meal at A Time." And your story relative to Puerto Rico is this, you landed on the island just days after the hurricane hit. Your goal was to just get food to people who needed it.

In fact, you have a word that used to describe yourself, which I love, you call yourself "first food responders." In the end, the operation ended up lasting months and you served three million meals. It was you and many other people, of course. So, the question is when you're on, what is the biggest lesson that you learned from doing this in Puerto Rico?

JOSE ANDRES, CHEF: The biggest lesson I learned and I think on the book "We Fed An Island" is very clear is that everything is possible. That what you have to do is sometimes stop planning, stop organizing, and start cooking. That's what we did. We went from 20 volunteers the first day to more than 25,000. From 1,000 meals the first day to almost 150,000 a day.

We reached 3.7 million meals. We went from one kitchen to 26 kitchens. That only shows you that the organization that was not supposed to be there wasn't a kitchen. What was impossible, we made it possible. That's what I learned, that everything is possible. You only have to start cooking.

VANIER: I want people to really get a good sense of what it was like and what kind of food you were serving. At the time, you showed my colleague, Anderson Cooper. This is what it was like.


ANDRES: This is Sancocho. Corn and yucca and sausage. Very, very big corn. Very big on calories. And we gave them a sandwich, a piece of bread, and a big bowl. And people come here every day.


VANIER: You also showed Anderson Cooper the biggest paella dish that he had ever seen. I think we have video of that as well. Tell me what was your biggest challenge on day one to get the first meal out?

ANDRES: It's very unbelievable you're showing the paella because the 20th of September has been World Paella Day in Spain. But thanks to those paellas, we were able to feed so many people. From day one, the main challenge was only to understand what was the situation on the island. And that's what I did.

I landed and I tried to find what kitchens were available. What was the situation with refrigeration and the food companies, what was the situation with the bread companies. And very quickly, I got a very good assessment, very good intelligence. I knew that we had food, that we had bread.

The only thing we had to do was making sure that those kitchens were ready, they had gas, they had electricity with generators. We gathered the cooks, we gathered the foods, we began feeding. We didn't plan to feed the entire island.

We were only taking care of one hospital at a time, one shelter at a time. As people learned we were doing it, we began getting phone calls. We never said no to anybody. We kept feeding and feeding day after day.

VANIER: You're very, very critical of the Trump administration's response to the aftermath of the hurricane and also more established -- I mean, charities, established charities like the Red Cross, you criticized them quite openly in your book. Where do you feel they all fell short?

ANDRES: I want to make sure, I criticized not the men and woman. The men and women --

VANIER: Sure --

ANDRES: The volunteers are unbelievable. The organizations, I do believe all together, we need to have a very good critical conversation about what we fell short. So FEMA, the men and women of FEMA, overall, they did their best, they tried their best. But sometimes the red tape doesn't allow them to be successful.

So I do believe we show because we were a small NGO outside the grid. We show that everything is possible when you don't have so many regulations. So here, I'm critical of the Trump administration -- between you and me, the Trump administration, President Trump failed the American people of Puerto Rico.

That's what we need to make sure that never happens again. This was the biggest hurricane in the history of America, and we didn't have the game. I don't blame them for not having a game. What I think is that wee didn't adapt, we didn't had a response. [03:25:02] We didn't had any, any game to try to improve on the shortfalls of the preparations for the major hurricane. That's what they -- I am blaming them for. And those 3,000 plus deaths, between you and me, they are on the shoulders of President Trump. We need to make sure that something like this will never ever happen again in the most powerful country in the world, which is the United States of America.

VANIER: So, compare for me what you saw in Puerto Rico and what you saw in the Carolinas? Because your group was also involved more recently in serving food in the Carolinas in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

ANDRES: In the Carolinas, we served already around 150,000 meals. We have three, four kitchens from Raleigh to Wilmington to New Bern. We've been feeding shelters, the neighborhoods, national guard, first responders. The difference, many weeks if not months later, still we had trees in the middle of the roads. In the Carolinas, the trees are gone.

A month later still we had electrical poles, the power lines down. There are thousands of power trucks all across the Carolinas fixing those poles hours after the hurricane passed by. The feeding operation, even the White House has done tweets and press releases about the feeding game in the Carolinas.

Actually I'm very proud and very happy that that happened. But in Maria in Puerto Rico, we forgot about American people of Puerto Rico. In the Carolinas, thanks god. We learned the lesson.

And actually I'm very impressed especially with Governor Cooper of North Carolina because he's been a leader. You see him there, you see him every day. And he's using the force of the federal government, of the NGOs, of the private sector to make sure that every person in North Carolina is going to be taken care of.

VANIER: That is good news, indeed. Jose Andres, thank you very much. May you feed many people who need it. Thanks for coming on the show.

ANDRES: Thank you.

ALLEN: At least 41 people in North and South Carolina have died from Hurricane Florence, and the long, hard recovery is under way. But right now, the Trump administration is dealing with a huge distraction. Apparently, the president's two top officials in charge of managing the disaster response cannot seem to get along, that's according to "The Washington Post."

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA Chief Brock Long put on a professional face in public. But behind the scenes, the feud is reportedly so bitter, Brock Long wanted to quit this week. Here is CNN's Joe Johns on why the friction is reaching a boiling point.


BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: This is a partnership and it takes anything from neighbor helping neighbor all the way to the federal government.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: As as the nation braced for Hurricane Florence, it seems the two

officials in charge of federal response weren't pleased with their partnership. According to "The Washington Post," FEMA Chief Brock Long and his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, are so at odds with each other, that Long considered leaving just as the storm peaked.

NICK MIROFF, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: FEMA officials who are close to Long say that he thinks Secretary Nielsen is out to get him, that she is trying to push him out of his job.

JOHNS: Fueling the reported feud, an investigation involving Long's use of government vehicles opened by the DHS inspector-general.

LONG: These vehicles are to supply me with secure coms. I would never intentionally violate any rules, you know, that I was there aware of.

JOHNS: The "Post" reports Nielsen chided Long for taking government vehicles on lengthy trips between D.C. and his home in North Carolina. Now, he could face criminal charges.

MIROFF: He's been blindsided by these charges. The idea that she would maybe either, you know, keep this from him or allow this to go forward is what particularly upsetting.

JOHNS: Nielsen and Long have put on a united front for storm victims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel confident in all FEMA leadership.

JOHNS: But the "Post" reports that secretary's visit to the region came as a surprise to FEMA despite regular calls between her and Long. This after reports that Nielsen wanted him out prior to the storm.

LONG: I was never asked to resign. Secretary Nielsen and I talk every day. We have a very professional, functional relationship.

JOHNS: Long has been the face of the administration's storm response since the summer of 2017. A well-regarded leader through Hurricane Maria and beyond.

TRUMP: The man who has become very famous on television over the last couple of days, Mr. Long, we appreciate it very much.

[03:29:59] JOHNS: And as hurricane season reaches its peak, the number two spot at FEMA is vacant. So what happens if Long leaves?

MIROFF: The number three ranking official. He is a close friend of Nielsen. If Long is to go down, then essentially, a close friend of Kirstjen Nielsen would take over at FEMA.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO) CYRIL VANIER, CNN SHOW HOST: U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Brett

Kavanaugh's accuser says she will take her story to Washington, but only under certain conditions. Among those, she wants protection from death threats. Stay with us.


VANIER: It's great to have you back with us. I'm Cyril Vanier.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: I'm Natalie Allen. Let's update you on our top stories this hour here at CNN. U.S. President Donald Trump is defending his embattled nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh confirmation could be in jeopardy due to an allegation of sexual assault when he was in high school. Mr. Trump told a rally in Las Vegas he stands behind Kavanaugh because he is quote, a fine, fine person.

VANIER: The drama is far from over, however. The woman who made the accusation Professor Christine Blasey Ford, now appears willing to tell her story to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, but Ford's attorney says she first wants assurance for her safety due to death threats since she went public.

ALLEN: Meanwhile, ABC news is reporting that former Trump attorney, Michael Cohen has now met to the Special Counsel's team several times. It says prosecutors were mostly interested in Mr. Trump's dealings with Russia and whether anyone ever discussed a pardon with Cohen.

Joining me now is Larry Sabato. He is Director of the center for politics at the University of Virginia and author of "The Kennedy half-century." Larry, we appreciate you coming on.

[03:35:09] LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Great to be with you, Natalie, thank you.

ALLEN: Let's talk about the hearing on Capitol Hill. Can it be fair to both sides without an investigation, the accuser, Mrs. Ford and lower to your female and the accused, Judge Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Justice, a higher to the male, giving a he said, she said, can this be fair?

SABATO: I doubt it. In the end I bet both sides don't think it's fair before it's over. It would be better to have a thorough investigation in advance so that the committee would have more information and would be able to point their questions toward the unknown, whatever those unknown are after they hear from Dr. Ford and also talk to Judge Kavanaugh, but this has become so political, it is so intensely political, it is so divisive it fits right in with the polarization that we've seen in our country for almost anything that matters during the Trump administration.

ALLEN: Right. The New York Times is reporting that Evangelist leaders are putting the pressure on Republican to push Judge Kavanaugh through before the midterms and at the same time women came in to the Capital in droves in support of Professor Ford. So it's definitely something seen as political and you also don't you have the metoo movement involved, but some have questioned whether this hearing is just an appeasement to the metoo movement. What do you think?

SABATO: Well, this comes in a middle of a hotly contested election season. And really I don't think the Republicans had a choice about hearing Dr. Ford, assuming they can actually work out all these details. If they were to simply shut her out, it would even be worse than the way Anita Hill was treated back in 1991 when she accused the now justice Clarence Thomas of major sexual harassment at work, and you remember what happened to many of those Senators as a result. They had a very difficult year or two after that.

So it's pretty obvious that the Senate has to do something. The metoo movement makes it difficult for the Senate to do anything, but a major examination of this. If they simply paper over this, and they're only interested in getting at the surface details, I don't think people will accept that today.

Unfortunately, they did accept it back in 1991. Our standards weren't quite as high and as exacting as they are today. Whether these new standards will be enough, though, is a question that remains unanswered. We'll have to see how it develops.

ALLEN: We will indeed. Let's look at another development, Larry, involving President Trump. His former lawyer, fixer Michael Cohen has been talking with Mueller prosecutors for weeks apparently about any business and campaign connections between Mr. Trump and the Russians. Do you see this as a significant step forward for investigators?

SABATO: I don't see how you cannot judge this as being significant. Because Michael Cohen for all of his faults knows a great deal about the private Donald Trump and the Donald Trump of the business world, not just the political world. And he was with Trump for so long, he and the President's accountant who also is being questioned probably can provide the prosecutors with some very interesting information.

So the counsel in this case, Mr. Mueller and his team, have a lot to work with. Now, you never know what they're really producing. You never know if they're finding evidence of a crime. You don't even know what questions they're asking, but it's significant to me that they have spent this much time with Michael Cohen and Cohen is being as cooperative as he is, because currently he doesn't have a deal with a prosecutor, at least not one we know about it.

ALLEN: Right. Four former Trump connections are now cooperating, Larry, can Mr. Trump still claim this is a ridiculous witch hunt as we head towards the mid-terms?

SABATO: Maybe legitimately he can't claim that, Natalie, but I think we've both watched President Trump for long enough to know that he will continue to claim that. It doesn't matter what the facts are. And we've seen over and over and over again that his very large base in the country will support him.

Almost 100 percent of them. So, yes, it will continue. It doesn't matter how ridiculous it is, and it will give him a buffer between the independent counsel, special counsel and the results of whatever this investigation actually turn out to be. ALLEN: Larry Sabato, always appreciate your insights. Thanks so


SABATO: Thank you, Natalie.

VANIER: An alarming breach at the airport security, a man who has a commercial pilot's license manages to sneak on to an airline park for maintenance. What was he planning? We will have that story.

[03:40:07] ALLEN: Also ahead, official's fear hundreds of people have drown in Tanzania after an overcrowded ferry capsized. Why does this kind of disaster keep happening there? We'll look into it.


VANIER: Welcome back. We continue to follow a bizarre security breach at an airport in Florida. Officials say, a student pilot is under arrest after he jumped an airport security fence in Melbourne and snuck on to a jet undergoing maintenance. Our Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the middle of the night, a flight school student sneaks into a park airliner leaving his car engine running, authorities say, he jumps a fence, runs across a tarmac and boards an American airlines airbus 321 that was parked for maintenance in Melbourne International Airport in Florida. Maintenance workers said they saw a shadow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A maintenance employee spotted the intruder and immediately notified the specially trained Melbourne Airport police department, which was on the scene and was able to arrest the subject within two minutes.

TODD: He twice attempted to enter the flight deck. And even after he was caught, he again turned and ran toward the plane. Authorities say the suspect is Nashal Sankat, 22 years old from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, who was studying at a nearby flight school. Record show, he got a commercial pilot license in January. He faces charges of trespassing, burglary, and attempted theft of an aircraft, but no word on the motive or what was his intention was. Officials say he has no criminal record and they found no weapons in his car or his home. And that he is cooperating with law enforcement. Authorities said, systems in place and heroic action prevented something that could have been much worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can rest assured that we believe that in this instance our security worked just fine.

TODD: Just last month, an unauthorized airport worker took off in 76 seat turboprop in Seattle, flying erratically for an hour while talking to controllers.

[03:45:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a broken guy. Got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now. TODD: Fighter jets were scrambled in case he was a security threat.

But after an hour, he crashed. Still the incident raised concerns about whether parked airliners are secure if one can be so bracingly stolen. In the Florida case, there's no known link to terrorism as of yet, but security expert say, ever since extremists crashed four planes on 9/11, any attempt to access a plane is concerning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had seen what could happen with 9/11 of the terrorist attending flight school, gaining access to the cockpit, the damage that can be done. So this incident will be of great concern to U.S. counterterrorism agencies as they investigate.

TODD: One area they could investigate, the suspect ties to Trinidad and Tobago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trinidad has been a country in which a significant number of extremists have traveled to Syria, to Iraq to join ISIS from over a hundred.

TODD: It's not clear now if any added security measures are going to be put in place at the Melbourne international airport. Officials there say, they are proud of how their security worked in this case, but they also say it's not unusual to have as many as eight jets park on the tarmac outside of the repair center at any given hour. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Rescue workers are searching for survivors of a boat accident in Tanzania. At least 44 people died after a passenger ferry pack with hundreds of people capsized Thursday in Lake Victoria. The boat was overcrowded. Emergency teams rescued 37 people from the water before night fall, but they do not know how many people may still be missing.

Farai Sevenzo joins us now with the latest on the tragedy. Farai, hello to you. Ferries in Tanzania are off often overloaded. Why does this keep happening?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is good question, Natalie, nobody really know why this keeps happening. In 1996, the (inaudible) lost 800 people again in Lake Victoria. In 2012, (inaudible) beautiful island on Indian Ocean, 145 dead. Now, this ferry was carrying people that were coming from an island. It was auction day. It was obviously packed with traders. We're getting reports with a Lory filled with cereals and cement being pack in there. So it was way, way overloaded past to three to five tons capacity. And as you say, rescuers tried to get to people. They shut down the search and rescue mission at 10:00 last night. And this morning, everyone is fearing the numbers are bound to rise.

ALLEN: Right. Such an unnecessary tragedy, as well. Farai Sevenzo for us. Thanks so much, Farai.

You're watching CNN Newsroom. We'll continue right after this.


VANIER: U.S. President Donald Trump has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, but it's not getting a whole lot of love. It has been smashed, it has been but behind a border wall, a miniature one.

ALLEN: And now, a street artist has put President Trump's Hollywood star behind bars. If that Hollywood star could talk, our Jeanne Moos knows what it would say.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Stars are supposed to twinkle, but me, I spark, but some guy take a pick axe because when he is mad at my namesake, Donald Trump. This star was born in 2007. Since then I've been pulverized at least twice. A comedian George Lopez pretended relieved himself on me. And now, the latest in dignity a street artist who calls himself Plastic Jesus put bars over me. Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder who would do this to me? And why would you put bars on me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, because you're going to jail.

MOOS: Says the street artist, Plastic Jesus, who wanted to be incognito. When he placed the wooden bars in broad daylight, using industrial double-sided sticky tape. A Trump supporter tried to rip it off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is my President, bro.

MOOS: Two years ago, the same street artist, mad about Trump's border wall surrounded me with a wall with laser wire.


MOOS: At least plastic Jesus doesn't believe in torture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I try to do my pieces in a wat that doesn't vandalize the walk of fame too much.

MOOS: It cost over 2500 bucks to repair me, every time someone obliterates me. Someone once came along and put a pizza box over me. And then, he deployed spray paint using some kind of stencil. What self-respecting star wants to be the face with some mute symbol?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is hilarious.

MOOS: Hilarious, why don't you mute yourself. This is not the walk of fame. It's the walk of pain. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VANIER: An 11-year-old girl who just got a heart transplant has talked for the first time about how she pulled through the whole thing, waiting for a new heart, and then actually getting one. Sofia Sanchez was especially encouraged by a visit from rapper superstar, Drake. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOFIA SANCHEZ, GOT A HEART TRANSPLANT: He said to stay strong and keep fighting and it helped a lot. I had some tough times because all of my friends were having fun. And my mom says, everybody goes through something in life and they get through it.


ALLEN: How adorable is she? Drake surprised his biggest fan just a week before she found out a donor had been found. Sofia said he gave her his personal phone number that she promised not to reveal. She says she feels more alive now.

[03:55:10] VANIER: And just before we wrapped this up. People of Ohio rejoice because you can, at last. The Cleveland Browns curse is officially lifted. Witness the last few seconds of the Browns/Jets game on Thursday. All right. Let's see. Read the box score. You'll notice something strange. He is eating his glasses he is so happy. The story is, they won. It's just a game. Just a regular season game. It's not a Super Bowl. It's not the playoffs, but the Browns won.

ALLEN: But this was a major feat for them because the Cleveland Browns have been objectively bad for the last few years. They have not won one single game since 2016. That is 635 days. And for this extra special win, bud light unlocked fridges filled with beer in at least ten bars across the city. Free beer. We can only assume all of Cleveland was singing this song.



Cleveland rocks!


VANIER: Cleveland rocks. Because you can. One factual correction to that story. The Cleveland Browns hadn't been bad, they had been dreadful, and they had been awful for two years.

ALLEN: But they're back.

VANIER: But they are back. Thanks for watching "CNN Newsroom." I'm Cyril Vanier.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. "Early Start" is next for viewers here in the U.S. for everyone else, stay tuned for more news with Max Foster in London. See you tomorrow.