Return to Transcripts main page


Full Ground Stop at LaGuardia Airport Due to Government Shutdown; Interview with Former FAA Safety Inspector; Airport Delays May Increase Pressure to End Shutdown; Roger Stone Arrested But Not Charged with Collusion. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 25, 2019 - 10:30   ET


[10:32:49] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: More updates, effects of the shutdown. A full ground stop now at LaGuardia Airport in New York. That is a major hub. There are delays at Newark Airport, just outside New York, also a major hub.

Chad Myers putting this into perspective for us.

Chad, tell us what effects this has, not just at those airports but then the carry-on effects because, you know, you've got a lot of flights stopping there on their way somewhere else, coming in, et cetera.

CHAD MYERS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Exactly. If you're in Jacksonville right now, watching on the little TV screen, and you're parked over in the penalty box, not being able to take off, that's what a ground stop is.

Ground stop does not mean the airport is closed. Ground stop means no planes from certain zones can take off until they clear the ground stop, so that they can clear the volume that's in the air.

Right now, Newark has some staffing issues -- there you go -- 30 to 45 minutes. The staffing issues are actually centered over the zone of D.C. I'll get to that zone thing in a second. And LaGuardia, now, 15 to 30 minutes.

So let's go back here. If you are in any of these zones: B.W. (ph), N.Y. -- New York, O.B. for Buffalo, I.D. (ph), D.C., Atlanta, Z.L. (ph) or J.X. (ph), you are not allowed to take off for Newark until they clear the ground stop. That likely will happen.

Then they're going to meter you in there, not get -- try to get 60 or 80 planes in the air all at one time, but I believe that's probably already going on because when we look at the airplanes that are going into LaGuardia right now, we only see 31. Many of them are on the West Coast.

You still can take off for LaGuardia if you're on the West Coast because you have four hours to get there. They'll have this all cleared up by then.

But what we don't see? We don't see planes here, here, all the way up into Buffalo, up here. No planes from the Eastern zones are in the air to LaGuardia right now because they don't take very long to get there.

So you say, "Wait a minute, we can't get a 45-minute plane in the air because we may not have room for it when it gets here."

These are all the planes that are in the sky right now, 7,100 planes are in the sky. Now, this is what LaGuardia should look like on the way in, almost 70 planes on the way out. There should be an equal number on the way in. There's not. That's what the ground stop means.

Airports are still open, they're just a little bit slow. We'll see what happens throughout the afternoon.

[10:35:04] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: That was so telling and interesting --


HARLOW: -- and important. Thank you, Chad. Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Can you believe, Poppy? Whenever --


SCIUTTO: -- you see that picture of all the planes --

HARLOW: I never can (ph), no.

SCIUTTO: -- in the air at one point, you realize what a -- what an orchestra it is, right? In the skies.


SCIUTTO: And if you start closing airports like this or delaying them, that -- the ripple effects, nuts.

HARLOW: It's such a good word, an orchestra that we're, you know, apparently, you know, the government, lawmakers don't think it's important to keep these folks up and running and paid right now. It's sort of unbelievable that this is still going on.

David Soucie's with us, former FAA safety inspector.

Let's get to the safety aspect of it because, David, we just got the statement from the FAA. And one key line says that the results have been minimum impact to efficiency while maintaining consistent levels of safety.

That's the FAA, right? You used to run the safety ops (ph) for them.


HARLOW: But then the woman who heads the union who represents the air traffic controllers just told Jim and I there is a major safety issue.

SOUCIE: Yes, there definitely is. I mean, the -- it's an intertwined network, to be able to make a safe airspace system. And that's not what's happening right now.

There's a -- with the furloughs, there's what they call the "critical people," the critical safety aspects. And those people are not furloughed until -- at -- not at this point. But those people are systemic people, they're not operational people.

So what they're saying is that there has to be people in place overseeing safety, which -- like, I was the safety inspector --

HARLOW: Right.

SOUCIE: -- safety inspector who goes out and is overseeing particular airlines. Now, when you're talking about safety in the airspace, now you're talking about operational things, and those are not protected.

So it's a set of dominoes. And this is only the first domino that's being tilted over, saying, "Hey, we're going to slow down the airspace." So now we're talking about operational safety, which typically lies with the airlines themselves, and their operations. But now we're talking about things that -- it's only going to get much, much worse.

SCIUTTO: As you look at this, David, I imagine -- so you've got three airports now. But if we're being told that "You don't have enough air traffic controllers. They're not getting rest, they're not getting paid, some aren't showing up."

The likelihood of others being affected by this as you have the carry -- I'm not asking you to look into a crystal ball here, but you know how delicate this whole operation is. And if you don't have enough air traffic controllers today, if this continues another day, another week, I imagine those problems snowball.

SOUCIE: Absolutely. Because now what we're talking about is not just local and airports, we get into the regional and what they call the TRACONs, which are areas where, after the airplanes leave the departure or the arrival areas of a particular airport, they go into the regional areas.

And those regional areas are the ones that coordinate those airplanes when they're not landing, they're not taking off, they're just in between.

And that becomes extremely critical because that's when they hand off from one particular local area to another local area, and that's the part that hasn't been affected yet, but that's the next step, that's the next domino to fall in this system, safety.

SCIUTTO: David, thanks so much. Always good to have you.

Joining Poppy and I, now, Jackie Kucinich, she's Washington chief -- bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," and CNN's senior political analyst, John Avlon.

Jackie, I wonder. Let's get to the politics of this right now --


SCIUTTO: -- because this is the result of politics. Is this the straw that breaks the camel's back for the president? We already saw support for this whittling away yesterday. Six Republican senators went against the president on reopening the government, to then negotiate border security.

You start having issues like this. Is this going to be over soon?

KUCINICH: So there's already some talk about a deal being hatched on the Hill. We're still waiting to find out what exactly that is.

But certainly, the pressure is on. Talking to Republican senators, even the ones that tend to side with the president, someone like John Kennedy from Louisiana, they were saying the pressure has been ratcheted up in recent days.

And I have to imagine, when you -- and we've been saying this for a while -- when it starts affecting the airlines like this, there's going to be movement. And certainly, if the president sees his support among some of the strongest Republicans starting to dwindle, he's going to have to make a move.

HARLOW: John Avlon, some of -- important reporting on the thinking in the White House by Kaitlan Collins and Jeremy Diamond that has just crossed that -- you know, the fact that this is happening now, but the prospect of this is something -- an air traffic meltdown, essentially. The prospect of that, John, has long loomed in the minds of the White House --


HARLOW: -- and congressional officials as something that might end the stalemate.

I suppose if you're in Congress, you have screaming constituents, businessmen and women who can't get to their meetings, parents who can't get home to their kids, on and on and on.

And if you're in the White House, you get the same thing, right? I mean, is this going to be it?

[10:39:58] AVLON: Yes. Look, well, we've been playing chicken with this for quite a while. And the difference is, is that those 800,000 federal workers who have now missed a full month of paychecks, and the pain they've been feeling, has apparently been kind of abstract for a lot of folks in the White House and the cabinet --

HARLOW: Right.

AVLON: -- who don't seem to be able to empathize with their pain.

But all of a sudden, this hits the business class, the upper middle class. It clogs major arteries of our travel. And that has a tendency to get folks' attention in the corridors of Washington, much more, unfortunately, than folks on Main Street who are trying to figure out how to pay a mortgage or pay a bill.

So I think this does make it much more real and much more visceral for people in Washington, the real costs of this self-inflicted government shutdown.

SCIUTTO: So are -- Jackie, our colleague Manu Raju, of course, covers the Hill.


SCIUTTO: He's reporting from a Hill source, that what Democrats are trying to do is see what the president would accept as a down payment for border security, though not for a wall. What would he accept as a down payment to end this logjam here?

Is that -- is that what looks like the end result would be, in that the president would back down on wall funding but claim, I suppose -- claim a victory by saying he's getting more money for border security?

KUCINICH: Jim, your guess is as good as mine, as to what the president would accept. And not only my guess. I think Republicans don't know what the president would accept, and that's been one of the biggest problems through this entire negotiation.

Back in December, he stuffed Mitch McConnell, essentially, by not accepting what they had passed. So it really is an open question.

We've also seen the president say he'll do something and then turn around and not do it because he has his hardliners -- this is particularly on issues of immigration -- that pull him back.

So that is the biggest question of the day. What will the president sign? What will the president --


KUCINICH: -- accept? And you have to imagine, that's what -- that's the conversations that are going on, particularly between Mitch McConnell's office and that of the president.


HARLOW: John, how important is the owning of the shutdown? Because, you know, it was the president who said, on camera, "I will own this shutdown." This is after he turned down, repeatedly, offers, even bipartisan ones.

And I know the polling is not in his favor here, by about -- you know, by about a two-thirds margin against him on this one. But it hasn't swayed him until now. So why would that not sway him and this would, perhaps?

AVLON: Well, I think this ratchets up the pressure among core constituencies that Republican congressmen and senators and folks in the White House might listen to. It makes visceral -- not just the inconvenience, but the frustration

and the pain for folks who are more likely to have a direct line to the White House.

Look, nobody wins a shutdown. But Republicans in recent years keep losing them. You know, they lost them in the confrontation with Barack Obama that Ted Cruz led in the -- during the last presidency.

Polls show that this president, who offered to own it at the giddy-up, has been getting his butt kicked by it over the course of it.

And there's no way to win a shutdown, it just is a self-inflicted -- infliction of pain and it shows an absolute absence of leadership, which is what the senators were criticizing Mike Pence about, yesterday, behind closed doors.


AVLON: The president hasn't led. They're not offering a vision for how to get this done. And this goes way beyond theoretical. This is real people's lives.

And this is the greatest nation on earth, showing itself to be a pitiful giant because the president of the United States can't make a plan.

SCIUTTO: Flight safety at stake. Of course, the other option is not that they find something the president will agree to, but that the party breaks with him, right? Enough senators break with him to --

HARLOW: Yes (ph).

SCIUTTO: -- approve something without his support, but we'll see.

Jackie Kucinich, John Avlon, thanks so much as always.

We're going to have much more on all of our breaking news, right after this break.


[10:48:16] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, the most-trusted name in news.

HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. We want to update you on the breaking news, and that is that the government shutdown, on day 35, the staffing issues it has caused at our nation's biggest airports, now affected you, the traveler, causing some delays.

At one point, there were ground stops. Now, staffing shortages causing delays at LaGuardia Airport in New York, and Newark Airport in New Jersey. Chad Myers is with us for more.

Walk us through what's going on.

MYERS: We did have arrival (ph) delays in Philadelphia, Newark and LaGuardia. And I think we're probably going to have them for most of the day.

Now, the word "ground stop," doesn't mean anything about stopping LGA, LaGuardia. The stopping is the taking-off of flights to LaGuardia.

So that's why we see this map, here. Should be full of planes. There's really only 30 going to LaGuardia right now.

We're going to show you what's still in the air right now. There's still 7,100 planes that are in the air. The good news is they're not this big.

But if you're looking at what's going out of LaGuardia, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of about 65 to 70 planes going out. There should be 65 to 70 going in, replacing those gates that are getting empty.

So there's where we are right now. If we take a look at our delays, the stop has stopped so planes will be able to leave from the airports now, but they will be on a 60 to 90-minute delay.

So if you're sitting there, going, "When is this thing going to finally take off," you might have to wait another 60 minutes because now we're going to meter into LaGuardia.

We're going to meter you (ph) some places here, at about a 30-arrival rate, which means two planes coming in have to wait minutes apart to get in there.

[10:49:57] So two minutes apart for each plane, it's about the same as you get at any time that you might get some -- like, a snowstorm or a windstorm. So this isn't an unreasonable arrival rate, but it is a delayed arrival rate.

And these are the airplanes and the airports in this area right here, that are going to be delayed for the rest of the day. It will clear up. It will get better. Planes are leaving.

This is not a panic situation, but it is the first real -- I don't know, first Lincoln Log that falls out of the building and you go, "Wow, what happens here? What happens tomorrow? What happens Sunday?" As this rolls downhill -- guys.

SCIUTTO: That is something to watch. It is a difficult thing -- orchestra, as we were saying, to keep up in the air --


SCIUTTO: -- particularly when you have disruptions like this.

Poppy, we got some news coming in because that's what this Friday is all about.

HARLOW: Sure (ph).

SCIUTTO: We got a tweet now from Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, saying the following. "The Trump shutdown has already pushed hundreds of thousands of Americans to the breaking point. Now it is pushing our airspace to the breaking point, too."

Then tweeting against the president, "@realDonaldTrump, stop endangering the safety, security and well-being of our nation. Reopen government now."

TEXT: The Trump shutdown has already pushed hundreds of thousands of Americans to the breaking point. Now it's pushing our airspace to the breaking point too.

@realDonaldTrump, stop endangering the safety, security and well-being of our nation. Re-open government now!

SCIUTTO: I think it's safe to say that the speaker sees a weakness there on this --


SCIUTTO: -- and we know, Poppy, as you said earlier, that our White House team, their reporting has been that this White House saw a major aviation disruption as something that would really break down support for this shutdown.

HARLOW: Yes, yes.

Phil Mattingly is with us on Capitol Hill.

Is this it, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a great question. I feel like the same one you've asked me over the course of the last five or six --

HARLOW: Every day.

MATTINGLY: -- days at this point, 35 days now.

Look, this, I can tell you from behind the scenes, Capitol Hill staff and aides and lawmakers, really, for the better part of the last couple of weeks, have continually pointed to air travel as one of the major potential triggers.

Not unlike what our White House reporters have been reporting has been kind of the view and thinking inside the White House, that this would be a thing that might push things over the edge and finally force people to come to the table to reach a deal.

I think the big question right now is, "What's the White House going to do?" In fact, that was actually the question that Lindsey Graham, who just a short while ago, walked out of a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, posed to us.

Essentially saying the leader and Republicans here on Capitol Hill are waiting for the White House to tell them what the next step is or what their next position is on things. And that has been the case since last night. And, guys, if you put what's happening with air traffic right now

together with what we've seen over the course of the last 24 hours, you guys mentioned the six Republicans leaving the -- leaving the president's side to vote for a Democratic plan.

That would essentially just reopen the government at the current funding levels, which the government -- which the president has said he was going to oppose, that was what you saw publicly.

Behind the scenes before that vote even occurred, Senate Republicans met in a closed-door lunch. Vice President Pence was there. And I'm told that there were several senators -- almost as many as 10 senators -- who raised extreme frustration with what's happening right now, extreme frustration with what they view as a lack of strategy.

And the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, himself, making the point -- with Vice President Mike Pence there -- that he did not agree with the strategy. This was not his strategy. And he has said, many times since the 2013 shutdown, quote, "There's no education in the second kick of a mule."

So when you have the things you're seeing outside that are being caused, the pain that the shutdown actually leads to, obviously today, the second paycheck, 800,000 federal workers will miss.

And then you have the internal pressures. You see the polling. You see everything that's going on right now on the political side of things. It's reaching that point where something's going to have to give.

The wild card -- and this has been the case, as you guys know, for the last 35 days -- the wild card is the president. A normal president, I think -- a president who's looking at the polling or basing everything off the polling, would have probably buckled a long time ago.

The president has made clear, this is for his base. This is for his supporters. And this is for his campaign promise. And that's why he hasn't moved off of this.

Guys, I can tell you, sources tell me, last night Republican officials who were having conversations with the president said he was very frustrated, but still not willing to tell them what the way out was going to be. That's what everybody's waiting for right now.

Everybody has their eyes on the White House to see what the next steps will be, here, on Capitol Hill.

HARLOW: For a wall that Mexico is going to pay for? All right.

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes.

HARLOW: Phil, thanks very much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:57:12] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. To the other breaking news that we're following this morning. That is the stunning arrest of Roger Stone.

We've just heard from the counselor to the president on this, a statement from Jay Sekulow. Let me read it to you.

Quote, "The indictment today does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or anyone else. Rather, the indictment focuses on alleged false statements Mr. Stone made to Congress."

TEXT: The indictment today does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or anyone else. Rather, the indictment focuses on alleged false statements Mr. Stone made to Congress.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now, former federal prosecutor Shan Wu.

They're right, there is no conspiracy charge here. But this indictment is riddled with communications between senior Trump campaign officials and Wikileaks, a Russian cutout, about stolen e- mails.

How do you -- what's the significance and why, then, no conspiracy charge in here?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think the answer to the conspiracy question first. Jay Sekulow's right on that point. They don't have that substantive nugget in there. And that's probably why there's no conspiracy charge.

They've got plenty on Stone with his blatant lying and the witness tampering. And I think that is really important here. Because so much of these indictments has been about false statements and covering up.

And, obviously, common sense asks, "Why are they so concerned about this?" Was Stone just trying to walk back his bravado or does he have something more substantive that he's really trying to cover up here?

And we see the way that the president and Giuliani, really, in my opinion, are trying to witness-tamper with Michael Cohen. The president's been trying to encourage stone to stay strong.

This is all part of the same type of behavior and, obviously, raises the question of what is it that they really don't want people to talk about?

HARLOW: Let me just read you from the indictment.

This is part of point five in here, Shan. And it reads, quote, "Stone was contacted by a senior Trump campaign officials -- by senior Trump campaign officials -- plural -- to inquire about future releases by organization one" -- that is, Wikileaks.

The fact that it also notes outreach, and alleges outreach from multiple Trump campaign officials to Stone, not just Stone reaching out to them, but the reverse. Significant?

WU: I think that's very significant. It shows the campaign was actively interested in that source as a way to help themselves. And that's really inappropriate. I mean, they're looking at another organization, which probably wanted (ph) to help.

And I think it was, by that point, public knowledge about the hacks by the Russian sources. They're looking to them for help with their election. And that's utterly inappropriate.

And whether or not you can show that last step of them actually talking or being in touch with the intelligence, they're trying to collude. So that's important.

HARLOW: Shan, thank you for the legal analysis. We appreciate it.

Thanks to all of you for being with us on a very important, significant news-filled Friday morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we're catching our breath from quite a couple hours --


SCIUTTO: -- of news there. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

You know CNN's going to stay on this story, so stay at us. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.