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Emergency Landing at Newark Forces Airport Shutdown; North Korea May Be Preparing Missile or Satellite Launch; Interview with Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D) U.S. Virgin Islands; "Empire" Star Indicted on 16 Felony Counts over Phony Beating; Trump's Former Chief of Staff Sounding Off; Husband of White House Counselor Hits Trump on Rule of Law. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired March 9, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:59:54] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We are always so glad to have you with us. Thank you for spending some time with us. We hope you make some good memories today.
VICTOR BLACKWEK, CNN ANCHOR: The news continues -- the breaking news right now with Fredricka Whitfield.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I am Fredricka Whitfield.
We've got this breaking news for you.
Newark Airport reopening after an emergency landing prompted a shutdown earlier this morning. Passengers on a flight from Canada to Florida evacuating the plane using emergency slides.
You're taking a look at some of the most recent images right there. The pilots contacted air traffic control requesting to divert and land immediately when smoke started filling the plane -- frightening moments.
Let's bring in Mary Schiavo, former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Mary -- good to see you.
So walk us through all of the potentials when you've got the slides passengers have to go to deplane. You've got some passengers saying they smelled smoke. What do you think happened?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Well, I think they're going to be looking very closely at what was in the cargo hold. Was it an e-cigarette? Was it batteries? Was it something in the plane's batteries? or was it something loaded in the cargo hold that shouldn't have been loaded?
The good news is, of course, it was a newer 737. All the new model planes and all of the passenger service planes have smoke and fire detection and suppression equipment in the cargo hold. So this is good news in terms of what the plane could do and they had early detection.
That, of course, was thanks to a crash way back in 1996, a Value Jet, and the families fought for smoke and fire detection systems in the cargo hold. So there are a lot of modern advances to let this become a good news story.
The injuries were probably from the slides, when people do an emergency evacuation, usually people do get injured on those slides. It's a long way down -- twisted ankles, broken bones, sometimes cuts, abrasions. But that's a small price to pay for getting out of that plane in 90 seconds or less.
WHITFIELD: And so Mary, how will investigators go about looking for the source of that smoke?
SCHIAVO: Well, they have -- they a lot of things at their disposal. One, obviously check the cargo and loading manifest. They'll look at any recent maintenance. They'll look at the batteries on the plane itself and they have the plane and the cargo right there to examine.
They will closely examine that cargo because there's so much emphasis on cell phone and e-cigarette fires. In fact, most of the recent fires on aircraft had been started by e-cigs or batteries, cell phone batteries, laptop batteries, usually in the passenger compartment though, just not in the cargo hold. So that will be the focus, I think.
WHITFIELD: And then what goes in to trying to locate the nearest airport and finding the availability and the strip there at Newark, New Jersey?
SCHIAVO: Well, fortunately because of air traffic control -- and they have been trained in this -- when someone declares an emergency, air traffic controllers in the United States and most aviation nations in the world clear that corridor.
That airplane is having an emergency -- and believe me, smoke or fire detected in the cargo hold is a dire emergency. Air traffic control clears the air ways and gives them everything that they need to get that plane on the nearest available airport.
In their electronic flight bag are the capabilities of every airport. Of course, Newark can handle the biggest jumbo jets in the world.
Had they been somewhere else their electronic flight bag would have told them when they do the research the nearest available airport to handle that type of plane. Fortunately, a 737 can get on, you know, a fairly short runway -- a 5,000-foot runway if need be.
So they have a lot at their fingertips, thanks to it being a modern aircraft and a lot of modern safety things that happened in the last 20 years.
WHITFIELD: And then what determinations are made to reopen Newark since it was shutdown temporarily?
SCHIAVO: That's up to the airport to decide. When they decide that they have carefully and securely isolated the plane that had the emergency and it is not blocking or impeding any airport operations and they can safely operate that airport, they open it. It has been opened already and they made that determination.
It is rather surprising how quickly they can cordon off the area, get the emergency plane secured and know that the emergency is over and get that airport reopened.
You know, every time Newark closes, you know, it is a hiccup there, but it is -- you know, it's a big delay throughout the rest of the country because it is one of our main hubs. So it is pretty important that they got it open and they did.
WHITFIELD: Mary Schiavo -- thank you so much for your expertise. Appreciate it.
SCHIAVO: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Less than a week after the collapse of the President's second summit with North Korea's leader there are signs North Korea may be preparing to launch a missile or satellite. That assessment is based on new satellite images showing vehicles moving and trains ready to be loaded at a North Korean facility. It is the same facility that had been partially dismantled.
[11:04:55] Analysts are saying a launch could be imminent or it may be an attempt to draw attention from the U.S. Either way, it could deal a serious blow to a relationship that is already showing quite a bit of strain.
Here is CNN's Will Ripley.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred -- what we're seeing based on analysis of commercial satellite imagery is a potentially troubling shift inside North Korea to a more militaristic posture.
Analysts are telling me that North Korea could be preparing to launch something, possibly in the very near future after observing activity at a rocket and missile factory outside Pyongyang -- Sanumdong.
Analysts say that what North Korea has done is assembled something at the factory. We know they put together intercontinental ballistic missiles there. We know they put together space rockets there, something has been assembled, put on a rail car, and may now be en route to a North Korean launch site.
We also know that North Korea's primary launch side, the Sohae satellite launch facility is believed to be fully operational, this is according to analysts also looking at satellite images.
And a lot of that work has really picked up in recent days, in the days following the Hanoi summit when President Trump, sources say, humiliated Kim Jong-un by abruptly walking out of talks without a signed deal, even skipping the lunch that they were supposed to have together which the North Koreans really feel is a grave affront to the dignity of Kim -- something that he may feel he has no choice to respond to.
Certainly a satellite launch would be a very defiant response on the part of the North Koreans. They can make the argument that they're launching a satellite, that it's for peaceful, scientific purposes but, of course, the U.S. and international community see it differently because space rockets still use the same kind of technology that missiles use -- technology that's banned by the U.N. Security Council.
Also here in China we're getting word that the Chinese President Xi Jinping may now skip a planned visit to the United States at the end of this month for trade talks with President Trump. Chinese officials, according to sources, are concerned that Trump could walk out on Xi much like he did on Kim, which they say would be a diplomatic catastrophe for the Chinese president to be embarrassed the way that Kim Jong-un was.
Certainly signs here, Fred, that President Trump's credibility in terms of diplomatic negotiations was really undermined by what happened in Hanoi -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Will.
President Trump was asked about the U.S. relationship with North Korea. This is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, time will tell but I have a feeling that our relationship with North Korea, Kim Jong- un and myself, Chairman Kim, I think it's a very good one. I think it remains good. I would be surprised in a negative way if he did anything that was not per our understanding, but we'll see what happens.
Look, when I came in under the Obama administration, North Korea was a disaster. You were going to war, folks, whether you know it or not, you were going to war. There was no talking, there was testing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: That was the President yesterday there at the White House.
With me right now, Stacey Plaskett. She is a Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and a member of the House Oversight Committee. Thanks so much for joining me, Delegate Plaskett.
DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, D-U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: Sure. Thanks for having me.
WHITFIELD: So let me start by getting your reaction to the latest developments out of North Korea indicating that there might be some sort of preparation for a launch or a satellite implementation if North Koreans are amping up their missile testing program. What does it say to you about the efforts from the U.S.?
PLASKETT: Well, it says that the leader of North Korea is doing exactly what he's always wanted to do. This has been a game to him in many people's estimations.
The fact is that the United States is looking for denuclearization by the North Korean government. And he is just simply showing us that he is, in fact, not at the table with regard to that.
We're happy President Trump left the table and left the negotiations when he did, but I think that this is something that should remain at the diplomatic level. And for North Korea's leader to even be sitting at the table with the leader of the free world is, to us, a look that America should not be encouraging.
WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling that this is the North Korean leader's way of, you know, blustering, just kind of flexing muscles. Or is this potential movement something serious on the horizon in your view?
PLASKETT: Well, who knows what's in the mind of a madman, in many people's respects -- many people's estimations. And I think that we're going to leave it to the experts to give us Members of Congress, particularly those in the Intel as well as Foreign Service Committee a full breakdown and a briefing on what that means and what they believe our next step should be.
And it's my hope that the President would listen to those experts, listen to his national security advisers who are the best to advise him on what the next step should be for us.
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's shift gears just a bit. You are on the House Oversight Committee. Michael Cohen had testified before your committee, the President's former attorney, recently said a number of things about the relationship, the business dealings of the President before his presidency and during.
[11:10:02] So now Cohen and the President are in a war of words of sorts over, you know, Cohen's denial that he ever asked for a pardon. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I have never asked for nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.
TRUMP: Michael Cohen lied about the pardon. That's a stone-cold lie. He knew all about pardons. His lawyer said that they went to my lawyers and asked for pardons, and I could go a step above that, but I won't go do it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So what piques your interest about this, whether indeed, you know, Cohen did ask for, whether what the President says he did ask directly -- is all of this in concert with even what the President has said in questioning to the Mueller team?
PLASKETT: Well, I think it piques the interest of our staffers and they're combing the transcripts right now to get the exact wording of what that may mean, you know. And legal analysis of his specific words -- it may be that he did not himself ask for it, which was the literal interpretation of his words.
WHITFIELD: How much of a difference would it make? If it was him directly or whether it was by way of an attorney.
PLASKETT: We all knew going into the hearings that Michael Cohen was an untruthful person, that he had lied. And I think that we were all clear eyed as to that when he was speaking, at least I know I was. The chairman of the committee was. And what we have been doing is looking at the corroborating evidence that he's brought in because we can't trust his word.
PLASKETT: And that's what really --
WHITFIELD: Does that mean that you would pick and choose -- does that mean you would pick and choose what is believable?
PLASKETT: Yes, it does. Of course, it does. We pick and choose those things in the evidence that he presented. And those are the things that we're looking into, whether it is the checks from the President, whether it is statements, and whether it is a host of other witnesses and individuals that he has given us names of. Those are the individuals that we're going down the road and really looking into.
Listen, this has been -- we are now investigating issues that have been at the forefront of people's minds two years ago. And what you're seeing now is a backlog of that because Chairman Gowdy and others were unwilling to ask these questions for two years.
And so now you're seeing a flood of what people are saying are investigations which are really just simply doing our jobs, which is overseeing government operations, ensuring to the American people that we are being a check and a balance to this administration. And when there are areas that we can work with them, we're going to continue to do that as well.
WHITFIELD: Ok. And then really quick, how do you strike a balance between, you know, oversight versus overkill and any perception that, you know, you're making up for lost time over the last two years?
PLASKETT: I completely agree with you that there needs to be very -- precision in what we're asking for and that we're not just going around on a fishing expedition. That there needs to be coordination between chairmen of the economy so that there isn't overlap.
And so that the things that are really important are being done. Listen, we're having discussions about this. Yesterday, the Democratic majority passed HR-1 which is voting rights, a voting rights bill which expands voting rights.
We're not talking about that in the news. This also gives people of the territories the ability to now look into options of voting. Those are the things that we should be talking about and we're not.
And so I think we need to be precise in our investigations while at the same time doing the people's work. Making sure that there's job security, infrastructure bill and others.
WHITFIELD: And let's talk about one other thing. You supported that House resolution yesterday that condemned anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. It started out as a resolution focused on anti-Semitism based on controversial comments made by Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. But then was rewritten -- reconstructed not to just focus on Omar and her comments but a wider range.
Twenty-three Republicans voted against the resolution, calling it a sham. What's your response to them who said instead of directly, you know, condemning and targeting Omar and her comments it made it broader?
PLASKETT: Well, I think that there's a broader discussion that needs to be had in this country about race and about issues of Islamophobia, of anti-Semitism, of tropes against the LGBTQ community and others.
And I think it's coming from the White House. It's coming from other sectors, Republicans who have been making comments that are offensive to many minorities for a number of years. And I think this is an appropriate way to address all of that, nip it in the bud, have the discussion, say where we stand so that we can then go on to the people's business.
WHITFIELD: All right. Delegate Stacey Plaskett -- thanks so much for your time this Saturday.
PLASKETT: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Appreciate it.
PLASKETT: Thanks for having me.
WHITFIELD: All right.
Still ahead -- "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct. Why authorities are charging him with every lie they say he told.
[11:15:04] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is now facing 16 felony counts and scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday. In January, Smollett told police that he was attacked by two men in Chicago. But investigators say it was a sham, that the two men say Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack.
CNN's Nick Watt has more.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sixteen counts against Jussie Smollett. Basically, every crime he claimed he was a victim of is now a count against him. And you double it because prosecutors say that Jussie Smollett told the story twice -- first to a police officer and then later to a detective -- roughly the same story. He also went on "Good Morning, America" and told the story as he saw it. He believed it. He wanted it to be heard.
[11:20:03] And what Jussie Smollett told police is that he was attacked by two men -- one of them white -- who threw a noose around his neck, threw a chemical over him, shouted racist and homophobic epithets at him.
Now, two people were arrested and those two people, who actually turned out to be African-American men, they told police and they told a grand jury that, in fact, Jussie Smollett had hired them to carry out this attack and cut them a check for $3,500. That, in fact, they knew Jussie Smollett.
Now, the superintendent of Chicago police -- he says that he thinks the reason Jussie Smollett did this is he wasn't getting paid enough money to appear on the "Empire" TV show. He has since been written out of that show for the final two episodes of the current season.
Now, even if he is convicted of all 16 counts, the sentencing guidelines are still just for the one crime -- a class four felony. So that would be two and a half years in jail or up to three years probation.
Now, Jussie Smollett maintains his innocence and we've heard from his lawyers who call this prosecutorial overkill. They say it's a redundant and vindictive indictment and they say Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence.
Nick Watt, CNN -- Los Angeles.
WHITFIELD: And still ahead -- Bill Shine is out as White House deputy chief of staff and communications adviser. Why the President began questioning the judgment of a former Fox News executive.
[11:26:34] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: This week in Washington was capped off by yet another departure at the White House. The President accepted the resignation of his deputy chief of staff and de facto White House communications director Bill Shine who is expected to join forces with the Trump 2020 re-election campaign.
But CNN has learned that behind the scenes the President had began to sour on Shine, questioning his judgment on a number of issues in recent months and growing increasingly frustrated with a lack of improved press coverage.
CNN political commentator David Swerdlick, and former president of the White House Correspondents Association Jeff Mason are both with me right now. Good to see you both. DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. So Jeff -- you first. I mean this is comms director number six on the way out. Any surprise there or anything new that is revealed about this departure and the circumstances?
JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, number one, I think it was a surprise. A lot of us did not see that coming. And the fact that it was released in an e-mail at the time, at a time when the President was traveling is sort of in line with how he fires people.
So despite the fact that there were a lot of positive comments in the statement that the White House released from the President, from Sarah Sanders, from the chief of staff -- it sort of looks like he was pushed out.
And our reporting also -- Reuters reporting also would agree with what you were just saying from CNN sources, that the President was beginning to lose confidence in Shine. That said, I think it is also worth noting and this is evident in the number of people who have held that job, that it is kind of a poison chalice of a job in the Trump White House.
WHITFIELD: Right. And why is that?
MASON: Well, the President kind of serves as his own communications director. And having somebody with that title is just tricky. And I think one thing that Bill Shine tried to do is to get out of the way a little bit and just let Trump be Trump, but they didn't really get -- he didn't really get into the inner circle it doesn't sound like, didn't really get the confidence of the President, and that may in the end has been one of the reasons he quit.
WHITFIELD: Does that also mean that it is just difficult to be congruent with the message of the President because this president speaks for himself. And, you know, comms director or anybody else might think this is the right thing to say, but then the President turns around and, you know, contradicts the message.
SWERDLICK: Yes, Fred. I mean -- I think you're right about the President contradicting the message, sometimes not being able to stay on message.
But also it's a situation where you have a president, I think it is fair to say now after this many years of observing him who cares most about how he is perceived versus what he actually gets accomplished. And that makes the position of communications director that much more- pressure packed.
And Bill Shine coming from Fox which is already essentially in the tank for the President didn't help him get better coverage at least from his point of view that he wanted from the rest of the mainstream media.
WHITFIELD: So furthermore, Jeff, you know, sources have been telling CNN, quoting now, that "Shine's effectiveness inside the West Wing came with mixed results. And it was unclear how much he was able to change the White House's communications strategy."
So that was the expectation of the President. I mean, to change things or to do things differently.
MASON: Yes. Good question. I mean I think he did come in with some high expectations, having been at Fox and having a background working with the media, to the extent that he did.
But again, it is the Trump White House. And he was new. He is well- respected by staff. He got along well with others in the communications and press department. But Sarah Sanders is somebody who the President has increasingly been leaning on, especially since Hope Hicks left. And it was Hope Hicks' role that Bill ended up sliding into.
[11:29:54] But again, he just didn't quite get the trust of the President that President Trump has with Sarah. And as David was just mentioning, didn't necessarily lead to an uptick in positive coverage which apparently is an expectation that the President had.
Again, the President has a lot of control really over his own coverage, insofar as he makes his own news, you know, with his tweets, with his comments, with his remarks. And it would be tricky, regardless of who you are, to have a huge influence on that from the White House.
WHITFIELD: And David -- let's talk about Michael Cohen who really has gotten under the skin of the President. The President tweeting yesterday that his former lawyer directly asked him for a pardon, but we heard Cohen tell Congress this last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: I have never asked for nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So David -- is there a new problem for the President now that he is, you know, saying no, that's not true? In fact, you know, Cohen asked directly, essentially acknowledging that there may have been a conversation about pardons?
SWERDLICK: Yes Fred. So there's definitely a problem for somebody here. There are three theories of the case. The President's tweet that you just showed where he says he was directly asked for a pardon, pushing back on Cohen. Cohen's story that you just played where he categorically said he wouldn't ask for or accept a pardon.
And then somewhere in the middle is Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, saying well, at some point along the way, they may have -- I think the "New York Times" quoted him as saying "dangled a pardon" but that it was not asked for or accepted by Cohen. The challenge here for the President, if there are documents showing that the President is making false statements here or that that tweet is false, that perhaps Congress or the Mueller investigation will bear this out at some future point.
The problem for Cohen is that he is a convicted felon. He's embarked on this tour to sort of enhance his reputation and say mea culpa, I'm sorry for all the things I did as a flunky for Donald Trump for a decade.
But if it turns out that he lied last week to Congress then I'm not sure what his end game is for saying that so definitively when he could have just said look, it's complicated.
WHITFIELD: but Jeff -- both have credibility problems, you've got the President who, you know, is caught so often telling mistruths and then you've got, you know, Michael Cohen who says he was paid to lie on behalf of the President -- before and after his presidency.
So, you know, who do you believe most? Is that what the issue is?
MASON: Well, that's a good question. Who do you believe most is right. I think it also raises the issue of how well pardons play out in this probe going forward. Whether it is just Michael Cohen or many other people who are involved.
WHITFIELD: All right. Jeff Mason, David Swerdlick -- thanks so much to both of you -- appreciate it.
SWERDLICK: Thanks -- Fred.
MASON: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, the feds have their eye on so called Pharma Bro, Martin Shkreli. And this all over again. How he's reportedly managed to still run his drug company from behind bars.
[11:32:55] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
We're learning new details about the spa where Patriots owner Robert Kraft was arrested for allegedly soliciting sex acts. The "Miami Herald" is reporting that the spa was once owned by a Florida woman seen here in a selfie with President Trump. And the paper says Cindy Yang attended a Super Bowl party with the President at Mar-a-Lago just last month.
Let's bring in CNN's Kaylee Hartung who is in Jupiter, Florida this morning. So Kaylee, the "Miami Herald" also reporting that Yang has donated thousands to Trump's campaign since 2017. Where does that put this case?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well Fred -- President Trump has taken more photos with political donors than he could count, certainly shaken more hands than people he could name. But this photo with a woman named Li Yang is raising big questions about the relationship between her, President Trump, and his good friend Robert Kraft.
HARTUNG (on camera): Her name is Li Yang. She goes by Cindy. She has been spotted with the who's who of the GOP, including the President's sons at Mar-a-Lago, Kellyanne Conway at the inauguration, and Sarah Palin.
But it is this selfie Yang took with President Trump at a Super Bowl watch party that's raising eyebrows. Yang is the former owner of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, the massage parlor where Florida authorities say they caught New England Patriots owner and Trump friend Robert Kraft on camera paying for oral sex.
CHIEF DANIEL KERR, JUPITER, FLORIDA POLICE: He is being charged with the same offenses as the others, and that is soliciting another to commit prostitution.
HARTUNG: Kraft denies any wrongdoing. According to "The Miami Herald," Yang no longer owns Orchids of Asia. The publication reporting, she sold it back in 2013.
CNN repeatedly tried but was unable to reach Yang for comment. She did speak with "The Miami Herald."
NICHOLAS NEHAMAS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "MIAMI HERALD": But she didn't answer the question of whether she knew that there was sex happening. She simply told us that she's no longer in the spa business. She doesn't know President Trump. And she's planning to move to Washington, D.C.
HARTUNG: It should be noted, Yang was not charged in the anti-human trafficking bust that led to misdemeanor charges against Kraft and the closing of several spas in South Florida. The White House declined to comment on Yang, but President Trump did speak about the charges against Kraft.
TRUMP: Well, It is very sad. I was very surprised to see it. He's proclaimed his innocence totally, but I'm very surprised to see it.
HARTUNG: Yang donated upwards of $35,000 to the Trump campaign according to FEC filings. She's a self-made entrepreneur who according to "The Miami Herald" showed little political interest before the 2016 election, and that she had not voted in the 10 years prior.
[11:39:57] HARTUNG: So Yang's recent political activity seeming to be a new passion of sorts -- Fred. CNN has learned she contributed $37,000 to President Trump's campaign in 2017, another $37,000 in 2018, and the man reported to be her husband, he contributed $10,000 a year ago. Again, Yang has not been accused of or charged with any wrongdoing here. And of course, we know Robert Kraft is denying that he was engaged in any illegal activity.
But it is worth mentioning that he will be arraigned on the misdemeanor charges he is facing at the end of this month. An attorney can appear in court on his behalf. Fred -- the bottom line here is the optics of all of this are really raising some big questions.
WHITFIELD: All right. Kaylee Hartung in Jupiter, Florida. Thank you so much.
The hedge fund manager who gained notoriety by jacking up prices for HIV medications has reportedly been using a cell phone in prison to run a pharmaceutical business. The Bureau of Prisons said it launched an investigation into Martin Shkreli famously known as "Pharma Bro" after the "Wall Street Journal" reported the allegations earlier this week.
Shkreli is currently serving a seven-year sentence for defrauding investors.
Here now is CNN's Polo Sandoval with the latest.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The so-called "Pharma Bro," Martin Shkreli, may still be at it -- reportedly running part of his old pharmaceutical company from his federal prison cell in New Jersey. On Thursday, "The Wall Street Journal" reported Shkreli was using a contraband cell phone to continue heading the drug company that once earned him the title of "most hated man in America".
As the CEO of Phoenixus (ph) AG in 2015, known as Turing Pharmaceuticals at the time, Shkreli surged the price of a life-saving drug used to treat AIDS patients by 5,000 percent. The price hike sparked public outrage and a series of inquiries that targeted the now disgraced CEO.
MARTIN SHKRELI, FORMER PHARMACEUTICAL EXECUTIVE: This is a witch hunt of epic proportions. And maybe they found one or two broomsticks, but at the end of the day we have been acquitted of the most important charges of the case. I am delighted to report that.
SANDOVAL: According to the "Journal's" reporting, Shkreli expects Phoenixus AG will grow more successful while he's in prison, and may be worth nearly $4 billion by the time he is released.
In 2017, Shkreli was convicted of defrauding investors and misusing their money. He's 16 months into a seven-year prison sentence.
In a statement to CNN, the Federal Bureau of Prisons confirms it is aware of these possible violations, writing "When there are allegations of misconduct, they are thoroughly investigated and appropriate action is taken if such allegations are proven true. This allegation is currently under investigation."
Prison officials declined to discuss details of Shkreli's confinement, but they point out federal inmates are not allowed to possess cellphones. Conviction for such offense could mean an extra year in prison and a fine. That would mean an even stiffer price for Shkreli to pay. He was already ordered to forfeit $7.4 million in assets.
Benjamin Brafman, Shkreli criminal attorney, declined to comment. Attorney Marc Kasowitz who the "Journal" reported has been hired by Shkreli's company, did not respond to a request for comment.
Polo Sandoval, CNN -- New York.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, John Kelly calls the President's fight for a border wall, a quote, "waste of time". We go inside the tense relationship between President Trump and his former chief of staff next.
[11:43:33] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
Former chief of staff John Kelly is sounding off about his tenure at the White House and the signature policy of President Trump's.
In a recent interview at Duke University, Kelly called his White House job the, I am now quoting, "least enjoyable position", end-quote, position he's ever had. But I'm quoting also, "the most important one as well".
He spoke about immigration and the President's proposed wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, calling it a waste of money. Kelly also disagreed with the President's claims that immigrants crossing the border illegally are criminals. He said, I'm quoting now, "They're overwhelmingly not criminals."
Eric Lutz is a contributor for "Vanity Fair Magazine" and wrote about Kelly's comments. Eric -- good to see you. Was this Kelly's opportunity to kind of, you know, set the record straight?
ERIC LUTZ, CONTRIBUTOR, "VANITY FAIR MAGAZINE": I think in some ways it was. You know, clearly he was considered one of the adults in the room along with another group of administration officials who was seen as a moderating force on Donald Trump.
This is clearly him breaking with the President. Of course, this is after his time in the White House. It would have been interesting to see that a month ago --
WHITFIELD: Not long after. I mean he just departed in January.
LUTZ: Yes. You know, it's is the kind of thing where we've seen multiple former administration officials, or former lawmakers criticize the President after the fact or do so anonymously in news reports.
You know, it's interesting that that's what keeps happening as opposed to seeing him maybe do that when he's in the White House.
WHITFIELD: Right. I mean so not only, I mean you talk about the pattern of people who have left -- Reince Priebus, you know, left and then wrote about, you know, his experience in a book --
WHITFIELD: -- and then the former secretary of state, you know, Rex Tillerson, while he was Secretary of State, he really wouldn't say very much about the reported use of the word "moron" to describe the President. But then after leaving the State Department, he did, you know, speak rather candidly in this manner.
[11:50:03] LUTZ: Right, and I think that, you know, it's good to hear because I think it confirms what a lot of people know which is that this president --
WHITFIELD: That's ok. Eric -- let's hear the sound bite of Rex Tillerson and what he had to say after leaving his job as secretary of state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are starkly different in our styles. We did not have a common value system. When the President would say here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it and I'd have to say to him, well, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do but you can't do it that way. It violates the law, it violates treaty, you know.
He got really frustrated. I didn't know how to conduct my affairs with him any other way than in a very straight forward fashion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So in a rather elegant manner, eloquent manner, you know, Tillerson saw it that way but, you know --
WHITFIELD: -- Kelly kind of went for the jugular, didn't he? Because he really spoke to, you know, that marquee, you know, topic for the President, the wall, during his campaign. I mean he essentially called it a waste of money and undermined it by saying, you know, people overwhelmingly are not criminals. What explains his candor in that manner?
KING: I think that, you know, he's unleashed. He's not within the administration. He's not -- he doesn't have to worry about his post being in jeopardy. He's able to speak a little bit more freely now. And of course, he didn't only criticize the President's marquee policy, he also said that he would have worked for Hillary Clinton who, as we all know, is Donald Trump's mortal enemy.
So a lot of things that I think the President probably doesn't want to hear but again things that would have been interesting to hear when he was actually a member of this administration.
WHITFIELD: And I know I'm not -- shouldn't be treating you like you're a psychologist or something like that but do you feel like Kelly's --
LUTZ: I am not.
WHITFIELD: -- you know, his approach -- yes, his approach here was almost like, you know, he was sending a message to President Trump unlike he was able to do while working as his chief of staff in the White House.
WHITFIELD: Were you able to hear that?
LUTZ: Oh yes, I'm sorry.
WHITFIELD: Yes. That was a question.
LUTZ: I think that he is -- I think that he is sending a message to Donald Trump. I wonder how much he actually hears it. You know, in any other administration a former chief of staff criticizing the President this openly, in particular about his marquee issue as you said, that would be huge news.
Of course in the Trump era, the political Richter scale is a little bit different and I'm not sure how this registers with Trump. I'm not sure how this registers with the people who support Trump and love when he talks about the wall.
WHITFIELD: Still, it was very fascinating -- a fascinating read. Thank you so much of "Vanity Fair", Eric Lutz. Appreciate it.
Much more straight ahead but first, an all new episode of "THE BUSH YEARS" airs tomorrow night on CNN and here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POTTER STEWART, FORMER ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, George Herbert Walker Bush --
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, George Herbert Walker Bush --
STEWART: Do solemnly swear.
H.W. BUSH: Do solemnly swear. NEIL BUSH, SON OF GEORGE H.W. BUSH: For my dad to be on that podium taking the oath of office for Vice President of the United States was amazing.
JAMES BAKER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: At some point during the inaugural he leaned over and said, "Bake, who would have thunk it? Not too bad for two guys from Texas without any vision."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With George Bush winning the vice presidency, that changes everything in the family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And be sure to watch an all new episode of the "CNN ORIGINAL SERIES THE BUSH YEARS: FAMILY, DUTY, POWER" tomorrow night at 10:00 Eastern only on CNN.
[11:53:54] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: The husband of White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway is calling -- slamming President Trump's rule of law.
CNN's Tom Foreman explains.
GEORGE CONWAY, HUSBAND OF KELLYANNE CONWAY: Now, if people were to get indicted or not indicted on the basis of whether the President likes them, we wouldn't have a republic, we would have a banana republic.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): He did not use the President's name, but in an extremely rare public speaking appearance George Conway tore into Donald Trump just the same.
CONWAY: And the President has suggested that members of his own Justice Department should be locked up for investigating the president.
FOREMAN: Conway blasted Trump over his ideas on justice, his attacks on freedom of the press.
CONWAY: That's a problem of a quite different order of magnitude. You can't have a free country with that.
FOREMAN: Conway has freely attacked the President for a long time despite being married to top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. Just this past week, tweeting Trump is "a fraud and an embarrassment, an inveterate liar, a narcissistic, sociopathic demagogue."
Referring to the President's repeated unproven claims of being a great student, Conway tagged Trump #SummaCumLiar noting Trump's approach is to virtually never tell the truth when there's an opportunity to tell a lie.
Even offering an armchair diagnosis. "It's pathological. It's an illness." The President has brushed him off before.
TRUMP: You mean, Mr. Kellyanne Conway?
FOREMAN: Suggesting George Conway's barbs are meaningless.
TRUMP: He is just trying to get publicity for himself.
FOREMAN: Kellyanne Conway clearly squirms when confronted about differences with her husband at times suggesting such questions are fundamentally sexist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First of all, I would ask you that if you were a man and your wife would --
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: No you wouldn't. You would not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A thousand percent I would.
K. CONWAY: No, no, no, no, no.
FOREMAN: But George Conway continues to revel in the role of Trump troll in chief.
CONWAY: Plus, I kind of like the fact that you can tweet at rich, public officials without fear of -- of retribution in the courts.