Return to Transcripts main page
CNN RIGHT NOW
Aviation Unions Say Airline Safety "Deteriorating by the Day"; U.S. Refuses Demand to Expel Diplomats from Venezuela; Drug Smugglers Use Tunnels to Avoid Border Wall; Interview with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired January 24, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] MICHAEL HUERTA, FORMER FAA ADMINISTRATOR: That is wrong. What a controller should be using its time off -- his or her time off for is to rest so that they can ensure that they can ensure when they come to work, they are fully alert and prepared to keep the system safe.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm glad you brought that up about some of them driving for Uber and waiting tables. That is a headline out just a short time ago from the "Washington Post." We're talking about air traffic controllers responsible for the safety of airplanes, spending 10 hours on a shift, and then on their time after that, they do something where they can make money. So that means they're not sleeping.
HUERTA: Well, again, no one is going to intentionally put the system in danger. But aviation is -- aviation safety is the ultimate team sport. It is one of those professions where everyone works together to ensure that the system is safe for the users. Think about it. On any given day, there are about 2.5 million people that get on airplanes in this country. And we have an unbelievable safety record. People who are getting on airplanes or are thinking about a lot of things, they're thinking perhaps about the weather, wherever they're going. But we have had the luxury of not worrying about whether it's safe, and that's because the professionals at the FAA, the airlines, the airports, the manufacturers, everyone is working together to ensure that the system can be safe. Now we have this incredibly difficult challenge where a very important group of people, the air traffic controllers, the aviation safety inspectors, the technicians, all the professional support staff, are wondering where their next paycheck is going to come from. Yes, many of them are working, but they have to cover the fact that they have not been paid. And to me, it makes no sense that a safety agency, like the FAA, that the professionals who work there would be held hostage over a matter that they have nothing to do with. Our country deserves better.
KEILAR: Just real quick, before I let you go, because I hear what you're saying about the big concern, and you're taking a very big picture look here. You seem to be using restraint when it comes to raising concerns about the specific things that could fall through the cracks. Is that on purpose? Are you trying to raise concerns without trying to scare people about some of the specifics about what happens when air traffic controllers maybe aren't getting enough sleep or are stressed out about these things? HUERTA: Safety is many-layered. We always have -- we have training,
we have -- all the professionals are trained to look out for each other. So what you want to ensure is that by having many layers of safety that things don't fall through the cracks. If you're taking actions that are going to deteriorate any one of those layers, you're introducing risk into the system. Fundamentally, safety is all about managing risk. What we need to be doing is putting mitigations in place so we're strengthening those layers, not weakening them. We have many, many people that are participating and looking out for one another. What we don't need is to be introducing stress into that system that is degrading the risk management policies that we have in place.
KEILAR: Michael Huerta, we appreciate you talking to us. Former FAA administrator.
HUERTA: Thank you.
KEILAR: Coming up, the crisis unfolding in Venezuela. The U.S. is refusing demands from the embattled president, Nicolas Madura, telling American diplomats to stay put, despite his orders.
[13:33:56] And as the president digs in on his border wall, CNN goes deep underground to see how drug smugglers are getting creative.
[13:38:40] KEILAR: Venezuela is a country in political chaos with an international community that is taking sides and U.S. diplomats who are caught in the middle. Right now, there are two declared leaders. You have Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaido, which is why there is a challenge here. You have President Trump, along with leaders from Canada, the E.U., many Latin-American governments, throwing their support behind Guaido, all Latin-American governments, we should say. Maduro, though, is still backed by the military and key countries, like Russia, Turkey, China, Mexico.
Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Bill Richardson, has served as an election observer in Venezuela. He has met Maduro many times. In fact, he just saw him a few weeks ago. And he's joining us now.
First, you saw him a few weeks ago in Mexico. Tell us about that.
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I did. This was the inauguration of the Mexican president, Manuel Lopez Obrador. I had known Maduro when I dealt on hostage issues with President Chavez. Maduro was a foreign minister. We had a brief interchange, Maduro, and I, because I know him. But he looked a little nervous because he had not been greeted by the Mexican public very well, in the Mexican legislature. He had been booed enormously and he had only attended this kind of VIP luncheon. I could tell he was nervous.
[13:40:03] KEILAR: Mexico backs him, it is clear, but clearly a lot of Mexicans do not. When he was looking at diplomats who Maduro is saying, you're not
welcome here, you have two days to leave the country, because he said 72 hours a day ago, and the president is saying, you're going to stay put, what does that mean for the U.S. diplomats in Venezuela?
RICHARDSON: It's risky for our diplomats. However, we have a lot of security at the embassy. I don't think Maduro would mess with our diplomats. But I think it was a bold move by the administration, for the AOS, by several Latin-American countries, a majority, to say we're not recognizing Maduro anymore. We're recognizing Guaido, even though Guaido doesn't have much power. He has a little bit of military support but enormous popular support. So I think what we need to do, the international community, is push for the military to say, let there be a free and fair election. I think that should be the diplomacy following the hardline sanctions and efforts of a number of Latin-American countries to basically isolate Maduro. Because Maduro has been -- he's divided the opposition, he's been skillful in keeping his power, but now, you know, this is a crucial point with this new young leader, because the opposition had been very divided. A 35- year-old guy who has captured the imagination of the Venezuelans. But there's also massive inflation, a lot of corruption, the food prices are out of control. So maybe this is going to be a sign to Maduro that he's got to compromise.
KEILAR: You worked with AOS certifying Maduro's first election. That's important to note that you were in Venezuela for that. How do you think this leadership struggle is going to play out?
RICHARDSON: Well, in the end, it's going to be up three players. One is the Cubans. The Cubans help Maduro with security, with political support. They have to recognize that there has to be a change. The second is Mexico. Mexico is supporting -- the government is Lopez Obrador is supporting Maduro while most Latin-American countries are not. And then third, Brianna, is the military in Venezuela. They're key. They're the biggest power center. So far, Maduro has most of their support. But that is eroding. But I think the diplomacy should be get the Venezuelan military to insist that there should be free and fair elections internationally supervised. You know Maduro will probably run, but Guaido will run, and I think the reformist candidate will win. But the opposition in Venezuela has been divided. Now it seems to be unified with this young man that we've recognize. It was a pretty bold move to do what we're doing.
KEILAR: So many of these different roles intersect the important news of the day. While I have you here, as the former governor of New Mexico, I want to ask you about, we're in the shutdown, right? We're in day 34, second paycheck about to be missed. The president recently adopted a new slogan, which is, "Build the wall and the crime will fall." Our Ed Lavandera actually reported from a tunnel at the border and the sheriff he spoke with there does not agree with the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The wall is actually the international borderline. And this black passage you see is actually an old tunnel that was used by smugglers and Mexican authorities have sealed it off. But this is what it looks like underground here.
TONY ESTRADA, SHERIFF, SANTA CRUZ COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: I think we have the world record as far as tunnels are concerned, over 100, maybe 110, 120 drug tunnels. The more difficult you make it for them, the more creative they're going to be.
LAVANDERA: That's a lot of tunnels.
ESTRADA: That's a lot of tunnels. And at some point, you wonder if there will be a huge sinkhole on this side of the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: First, crime has not been rising because of this, we should point out. But there you see the challenge against a wall. What is your reaction to all of this?
RICHARDSON: Well, look, Brianna, I was a border governor. I dealt with border issues. There has not been an increase in illegal immigration through borders. It's through tunnels, it's through ports of entry, it's through the ocean, the Coast Guard. It's not through having a wall. It's overly expensive. It's not going to work. People will climb over the wall. They'll go under, as the tunnel shows. I think president and the Congress need to come to an agreement that, more -- what is needed is more border security. I'm for that, more detection equipment, more Border Patrol agents, more overflights. But a wall is symbolic to the president's political base. But I think now, with day 33, so many travel, TSA employees, my state is being hurt a lot, businesses, federal workers there. We're state-dependent on federal workers, so is the whole country. I'm flying out of here. I don't know if I'm going to get out with some of the TSA employees -- they're not getting their paychecks. These are honorable people that shouldn't be treated this way.
[13:45:25] KEILAR: Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us.
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
KEILAR: Bill Richardson, former ambassador to the U.N., we appreciate you being here.
Just moments from now, the Senate is going to vote on two bills that are going to fail. These are live pictures of the Senate floor ahead of these votes.
Plus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi playing hardball, and she wins. Why did President Trump concede so quickly over the State of the Union address?
[13:50:14] KEILAR: This just in to CNN. The White House is considering whether to invite congressional leaders to meet with President Trump on the government shutdown as early as tomorrow. And it would be the first such meeting that we've seen in two weeks now. President Trump walked out of the last meeting in the White House Situation Room.
We have Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, with us now.
Thanks for being with us, sir.
REP. TIM RYAN, (D), OHIO: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
KEILAR: So this comes after this battle between the president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the State of the Union address. She had encouraged him to change the date. He said actually I'm going to come up to the Hill and she had said basically, no, you're disinvited. He tweeted, "This is her prerogative. I will do the address when the shutdown is over."
What did you think about how this back and forth ended?
RYAN: Well, that may have been the most mature thing the president said in a long time. He got a real lesson in the separation of powers and he got a real lesson in Article I, the people governing in this country. Article I created the Congress of the United States, the House of Representatives, and we invite the executive branch here to address the State of the Union. He's not a king. He's a president. And he needs to be held accountable to the people, which is represented in the Congress. I think he got a real lesson in that. I'm glad that's behind us. I hope they get together tomorrow. We have got to figure this out. People are really suffering out there.
KEILAR: There are 30 House Dems, led by freshman congresswoman, Elaine Luria, of Virginia. They are asking for consideration of money for a barrier, obviously, to be separate from reopening the government, but they are asking that there be consideration of this as an assurance maybe to bring Republicans, to bring President Trump along. When you look at that, do you consider that as some cracks in the caucus because it does seem that -- some of the Democrats are feeling the pressure that their needs to be movement here.
RYAN: I think it's more of a signal that -- and I include myself in this -- that a lot of Democrats are for border security. We are for making sure we know who's coming in. And if there needs to be barriers in certain places, of course, we would want to do that. But the vast majority of what we need to do is technology. Walls are about the past. Walls are not the future. They're signaling that we want a comprehensive plan of which may include -- I actually think one of the ways out of this is to put a commission together for people appointed by the president, for people appointed by the speaker of the House, big names, you know, maybe Bob Gates or Condoleezza Rice, John Kerry, let them sit down and tell us, what is the best way for us to secure the United States of America, border, ports, ports of entries, and then come to us where we have an up-or-down vote on their recommendations. I think that's a way where the president can say, look, we'll let the experts decide, maybe they'll be some barriers, maybe not, the Democrats can say, look, maybe there's going to be some barriers, we'll obviously utilize a lot of the technology that we're pushing and give us that recommendation, but get it out of this political quagmire we're in now. KEILAR: You, ahead of this Congress, were pushing for an infusion of
fresh blood into leadership and there's been a lot of freshman who are taking a stance when it comes to this issue. The latest move, this letter, was initiated by a freshman. Is that what you had in mind when you were talking about fresh blood?
RYAN: Yes. I don't mind that at all. Everyone has a voting card. Everybody has a district to represent. And I think throwing these ideas out there are really important to let the leadership know where we are. And I hope they sit down tomorrow because I think -- I think we're getting kind of close. I think the president backing away from the State of the Union issue, I think signaled that he wants to start being a little bit more serious and move away from the drama. And I think these stories are starting to hit home. Like I'm hearing in Youngstown, Ohio, where federal workers are starting to get kicked out of their apartments that they're renting. This is getting really, really hard for these families. We just saw the stat the other day, 40 percent of families in the United States have less than $400 in a bank account and many of them are federal workers that can't make these payments. So kicking these ideas out, speaking your mind as a freshman, I think, is all together appropriate.
KEILAR: All right, Congressman Tim Ryan, thank you so much for being with us.
[13:54:48] KEILAR: Ahead, Senator Joni Ernst publicly revealing memories of rape and abuse in a new emotional interview.