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Trump Demands in Budget; Pressure Mounts After Jet Crash; Gillibrand Aide Quit Over Harassment Claim; Fox Condemns Host. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 11, 2019 - 13:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Looks like he's getting in, I think. We'll see.

All right, thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

Brianna Keilar starts right now.


I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, as America's debt skyrockets, the president reveals his budget plan, setting up a new fight over his border wall.

The Democratic lawmaker directing a number of congressional investigations into President Trump says Robert Mueller has made a big mistake.

Plus, two Fox News hosts under fire, one for misogynistic remarks, the other for suggesting wearing a jihad may be un-American.

And airlines grounding the new Boeing jet now involved in two deadly crashes. What happened minutes after takeoff.

KEILAR: We start with President Trump doubling down on his promise to build the border wall. He just released his 2020 budget, which includes a major slash to money for domestic programs, but an $8.6 billion request for border wall funding. Democratic leadership shot down this request before the budget was even unveiled. Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying, Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson.

CNN's senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju has a breakdown of this budget.

Tell us about it.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, more than just doubling down on his request for money. The president had asked for wall money of about $5.7 billion initially in all. That was rejected by Democrats that led to that government shutdown, the longest in history. But now the president going even further, asking for $8.6 billion to -- for wall money in addition to $3.6 billion that would actually be refunded from money that the president's trying to divert from military construction projects that are as a result of the national emergency that he declared after he failed initially to get this approved through Congress. And that's a total of $12.2 billion.

Now, how is he going to pay for this all? Well, through domestic spending cuts. $2.7 trillion in spending cuts. That's everything from student loan programs, environmental protection, transportation and welfare assistance, foreign aid, a range of programs as the president is also seeking to increase defense spending as well.

That's not going to do much, though, to deal with the national debt. The president, as a candidate, said he would get rid of the national debt, but more than $22 trillion is projected here for the national debt. And look at -- look at the annual deficit projections here. $1 trillion. The president -- under the current plan, through 2019, look at President Obama back in 2016, $587 billion. It shows you that this is -- this budget blueprint is just a blueprint. It's not going to become law because Democrats are already rejecting it. It's going to set the stage for further negotiations going forward. But, at the moment, this is the president's priorities. He wants a big slice of money for his wall, which has already been rejected by Democrats.

What will they do when they get to the actual nitty-gritty of negotiating? That's going to be the big question in the weeks and months ahead.


KEILAR: That's right, Manu Raju, thank you.

Now, congressional correspondent for "The New York Times," Julie Hirschfeld Davis, is joining us.

And as you heard Manu say, how does this play out, because the Democrats have already shot down the border wall?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, right. I mean even in the most -- in the best of times a presidential budget request is just that, a request, and it very rarely becomes law in the way that it's proposed. But -- but this is a statement of priorities. And clearly the president is doubling down on his priority that not only Democrats but a lot of Republicans have rejected of saying that, you know, he wants all these billions and billions of dollars to build hundreds of miles of new wall on the border.

Now, when you look at how it plays out, we'll have to see what happens it terms of whether the Republicans on -- in -- on the Senate side actually enshrine that in an appropriation bill and try to push it through. What we saw in December and over January during the shutdown is that there's very little appetite for this fight, and I can't imagine that there's going to be an appetite for another shutdown. But clearly the president wants to campaign on this. He wants to say this is his priority and point at Congress and say that's the reason that he doesn't have it.

KEILAR: So, I want to talk to you about some new poll numbers that we have coming out of Iowa. They're very interesting. Iowa not always friendly to President Trump, we should say, but it shows that 40 percent of Republicans hope to see a Trump challenger.

What does that mean for the president?

DAVIS: Well, I mean I think what it tells you, if you look at this poll, the news -- there's some good news for him as well, which is that many Republicans are still with him. But I do think that when you look at what his strategy has been, we have yet to see Donald Trump really reach out beyond that sort of sliver of the Republican base that propelled him through the primaries and that has been behind him since he became president. And that -- those are the areas where he really, if you look at this poll, really needs to improve. Younger voters, women, these are people who are not saying they're not going to vote for him, but they are open to someone else and they want someone who they think can win. And you're seeing a lot of skepticism. That 40 percent is a big number of Republicans saying, hey, we wouldn't mind seeing another person to vote for in 2020.

[13:05:23] KEILAR: So when you look on the other side of the aisle in Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden, he's not even in the race, we should point out. He's leading the pack. Pretty interesting. Bernie Sanders is just behind him. And then check out all these other contenders that aren't even breaking out of the single digits.

What does that mean? Does it mean we're too farther away from the Iowa caucus, still? Do you think this is going to change or does it just show you that this may be what Iowans want?

DAVIS: Well, I mean, I think -- we are far away, and I think that this -- what you're seeing is that this is a race that really has not yet taken shape. You have candidates who -- many different candidates, a very wide range of candidates, who are staking out their positions. But, I mean, if you look at Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, they both have a lot of name recognition. Everybody knows who they are. And that in -- at this early stage can be a comfort level for voters who are looking for someone -- if you look at all the rest of the polling -- who can beat President Trump, who can go up against him and really have a shot. And so I think at this early stage what you're seeing is a field that has really yet to coalesce around one person other than the two people that they already know of.

KEILAR: We know all these people will spend a lot of time in Iowa. Maybe they'll change some minds. We'll see.

All right, Julie, thank you so much.

DAVIS: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Pressure is mounting for a U.S.-based airlines to ground a popular Boeing plane following an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people onboard, including eight Americans and 21 staffers from the United Nations.


MICHAEL RAYNOR, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ETHIOPIA: Aide Americans showing the diversity of our country and showing, as you say, great interest in Africa, people who either lived here or were here to work and to contribute to the develop of this continent. Eight inspiring lives and eight true tragedies. And our hearts go out to everyone who was impacted by their deaths.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL: They all had one thing in common, the spirit to serve the people of the world and to make it a better place for us all. It is the same spirit that calls us to the U.N. every day and that brings you to this general assembly hall today.


KEILAR: The model, a Boeing 737 Max 8 was also involved in that Lyon Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people back in October. And right now the U.S. airlines that have these planes in their fleets, Southwest, United, American Airlines has them, they're not grounding their planes. But several international airlines have grounded the jets.

Investigators at the scene say that the black box and the cockpit voice recorder has been recovered. Shortly after takeoff the plane's pilot reported having technical problems and requested permission to return to the airport. At least one eyewitness tells CNN they saw smoke coming from the plane before it went down.

I want to bring in Peter Goelz with us now. He's CNN aviation analyst.

You're a former NTSB managing director. And they are involved in this, the NTSB is, as I understand it.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That's right. They've sent a team. It will get there tomorrow morning. And they will start working with the Ethiopian officials right away.

KEILAR: So how quickly, if they've been able to find these two recorders, the black box and the voice recorder, how quickly will we maybe have some answers?

GOELZ: Well, even if they're damaged, experts will be able to get crucial data off the boxes. And they should be able to get it within 24 to 36 hours after they download it. But the question the Ethiopians have to answer is, where are they going to send the black boxes to be decoded and downloaded? And they've got a number of choices. The U.S., France, Canada, Australia all have the capabilities of doing this. And the Ethiopians will have to decide.

KEILAR: So when you look at the similarities, that Lyon Air crash where everyone on board was also killed shortly after takeoff, when you see that months ago, you see this one, is there a light that goes off for you that says something may not be right with this airplane?

GOELZ: Sure. There are concerning elements to this. Both accidents took place on takeoff. They were with this new version of the 737. Boeing had made a great point, a sales point, of saying, we can train your pilots up quickly to fly this new version because it's not all that different from the 737 800 or 700. And we found out in the Lyon Air crash, well, that it was a little different. That there was a certain flight management system that was significantly different.

KEILAR: The smoke that one witness said they saw coming from the plane, while it was still in the air, what does that tell you?

GOELZ: Well, it really is -- it's cautionary. But the reality is, I've been to a number of accidents, interviewed many witnesses. Oftentimes they say they see smoke when there's no element of fire.

[13:10:06] KEILAR: I see. You --

GOELZ: I would discount that until it's confirmed.

KEILAR: OK. No, that's a very good point.

OK, so these airlines here in the U.S. that are not grounding this plane, and internationally you have a number of airlines that are grounding this model, what -- should people in the U.S. be worried? Because they're going to --

GOELZ: Well --

KEILAR: They're going to look at those airlines that are doing this and they're going to say, I really don't want to get on this airplane.

GOELZ: Yes, if you dig deeper, the airlines that have grounded the Max have some specific reasons for doing so. But I think it is fair to say that the employees of the air carriers, American, United, Southwest, that their flight crews, their cabin crews, they all are concerned. And they're in communication with their management, and they're watching it very carefully. And I would say that every 737 Max flight crew is watching their aircraft very carefully as well.

KEILAR: Is that -- I don't know if that's enough comfort, Peter, for some people.

GOELZ: I know. Well, I think it's -- I think it's premature to ground the whole fleet.

KEILAR: To ground. OK.

GOELZ: But I think it's certainly an item that's on the top of everyone's agenda. And if there's any indication out of -- in the next, you know, 36 hours that says that there was a flight control issue that these pilots couldn't handle, you'll see the fleet come down. There's about 300 of them worldwide.

KEILAR: A very good point.

All right, Peter Goelz, thank you. Really appreciate you being here to break this all down for us.

She was one of the more vocal colleagues to speak out against Al Franken over harassment allegations, and now Senator and 2020 contender Kirsten Gillibrand is defending herself against accusations inside of her own office.

Plus, two Fox News hosts under fire for comments made about a congresswoman's hijab and misogynistic remarks from Tucker Carlson.

And CNN on the front lines in what's being called the final fight against ISIS in Syria. We'll take you there.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That gunfire is hitting around the corner from us because there's a sniper in an ISIS building just 200 meters from where we are.



[13:16:35] KEILAR: It's really a cornerstone of Kirsten Gillibrand's presidential campaign, women's rights. As a senator she has fought against sexual assault on the military and on college campuses. And Gillibrand has also pushed for legislation to overhaul how Congress deals with sexual harassment inside of its halls. She was one of the first senators to call for Senator Al Franken to step down after sexual misconduct allegations.

But a new "Politico" report is highlighting the story of a woman who once worked in Gillibrand's office and resigned over the way her sexual harassment claim was handled by Gillibrand's office.

We have Alex Thompson. He is one of the authors of this article here with us now.

This is an article very much worth -- you really have to read the whole thing and it's quite good, Alex, so thank you for joining us.

But just spell out for us the kind of behavior that we're talking about on the part of the aide who was accused of sexual harassment and has now been fired by the senator.

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": So last summer a woman in the office of Senator Gillibrand, she alleged that this aide, his name's Abbas Malik, he was the driver. He -- she made two claims. One was that when the senator said that he was going to be put in a supervisory role over her, that he then began making sexual advances, which she interpreted as him trying to use his new power in the office to get her in bed.

And the second claim was that he regularly would make demeaning, misogynistic comments in the office. He would rate women that came in for potential interviews. He would call some women ugly, some women fat, in the office, his female colleagues. And when she made these allegations, the office opened an investigation, but she pointed them to two former aides that she said could corroborate some of her claims, especially the ones about inappropriate comments. And the office never reached out to them.

Now, we did do that work, and eventually we provided that reporting to Gillibrand's office. They opened another investigation and they fired him last week.

KEILAR: They fired him. And so one of the things that I thought was interesting, in the statement that was sent to you, it said that they talked to current employees, and then it said, given that there wasn't a need -- because they -- they -- so they found something inappropriate, but it didn't, in their view, reach the level of sexual harassment. It was inappropriate behavior.

They said they didn't think they needed to talk to former employees because they had already found, essentially, this unprofessional behavior. But what you found from the former employees was clearly different than what they found talking just to current employees. Tell us about the kind of comments that we heard.

THOMPSON: So the former employees, including the two -- I reached out to over 20, and including the two that she pointed them to, they said that he would regularly call them fat or ugly to their face. That at one point he made a joke about rape in the office, talking about a specific woman. He said she couldn't have sex unless she was raped. And if the office had reached out to them at the time, they may have been able to find out about that at the time.

The office also says they had already found some evidence of professional -- or inappropriate professional behavior, but the office -- but the office could not corroborate most of those claims. They only found evidence of one.

KEILAR: I do want to read a statement from the senator's office. It said, the previous allegations in question were investigated in consultation with Senate Employment Counsel, and included multiple interviews with relevant, current employees who could potentially corroborate the claims. A full and thorough investigation into the evidence revealed employee misconduct that, while inappropriate, did not meet the standard for sexual harassment. However, because the office did find unprofessional behavior that violated office policy, including derogatory remarks -- comments, I should say, the office took strong disciplinary action against the employee in question and he was given a final warning.

[13:20:20] The question is, how is this going to affect Kirsten Gillibrand and her bid to be president with this being so contradictory to the values that she has promoted, especially because we know reading your article it seems that she was at least aware of the end result here. She hugged the woman, said, we love you, even when the woman was going to be leaving the office.

But, Senator Gillibrand, she has talked about combatting say sexual assault in the military, is always talked about pulling the investigation of these complaints out of the chain of command. And I wonder why her office did not take her own advice.

THOMPSON: The office says they looked into bring -- had previously looked into bringing in independent investigators, but found that it wouldn't have been workable. But we talked to a bunch of sexual harassment experts on The Hill and several House offices have been able to do this. And experts in sexual harassment will say that having your direct bosses look into and lead the investigation into sexual harassment, that can lead to bias on their part and it's usually better to have a third party.

In terms of her 2020 prospects, I mean, she has really leaned into being the Me Too candidate to run an unabashedly feminine campaign. And, you know, she has been running FaceBook ads on this. And it's not clear exactly how this may affect her in the polls, but, you know, to have a female -- a young female staffer resign in protest over your office's handling and write a pretty scathing resignation letter saying that they mishandled the alleged behavior is -- is not good.

KEILAR: And you can read it at

THOMPSON: Yes, you can.

KEILAR: I should mention, it's part of your story.

Alex, thank you so much. Alex Thompson with "Politico." We really, really appreciate you being with us today.

THOMPSON: Thank you so much.

KEILAR: A top House oversight Democrat says that Michael Cohen may face a new perjury probe after testifying to her committee. Why she thinks he may have lied.

Plus, a Fox host refusing to apologize after calling women, quote, extremely primitive. What he's asking for instead.


[13:27:04] KEILAR: Two separate Fox News hosts are under fire for controversial comments they made on air. First, misogynistic comments made over several years by anchor Tucker Carlson are coming light. Have a listen to what he said to a shock-jock type morning show.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: You debate politics with a woman and just go -- you know, just full blow out there, especially feminism. If you're talking to a feminist, and she's giving you, you know, well, you know, men really need to be more sensitive and this -- you know, actually, men don't need to be more sensitive, you just need to be quiet and kind of do what you're told.

I love women, but they're extremely primitive. They're basic. They're not that hard to understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Well, after an uproar on social media, understandably, Fox News came out and rebuked host Jeanine Pirro for comments that she made on air about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's Islamic religious beliefs. Have a listen to this.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Think about it. Omar wears a hijab, which according to the Koran 33:59 tells women to cover so they won't get molested. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?


KEILAR: Michael Smerconish is joining me now to discuss this.

And, Michael, when you watch all of this happening, and they're not apologizing, they've actually said tune in to see what they're going to say about it, which is sort of a bit of a ratings thing, you know, tune in. What do you make of these comments?


Jeanine Pirro did an unbelievable favor for the congresswoman, because the congresswoman has tweeted what I regard as some truly reprehensible things. Now she's a victim. We're not talking about that because Jeanine Pirro said something incredibly dopey where she's equating the way in which this woman dresses with sharia law and being against the Constitution of the United States. So all the focus is on Jeanine Pirro and not on the behavior of the congresswoman as expressed in those tweets. So Pirro's the best thing that Omar has going for her.

Relative to Tucker Carlson, I -- as a radio broadcaster responsible for 15 hours a week, I get nervous when someone assembles a montage and then puts it out there and you wonder, well, what context? But I listened to it, and there's no context that allows a defense for use of the "c" word.

So I'm surprised that there's absolutely no contrition on Tucker Carlson's part thus far. And I would think today's not the right day to thump your chest and say, I'm repentant about misogynistic things that I said, even if they were a decade ago.

KEILAR: Well, why -- why do you think it went unnoticed all this time. I wonder why the network wouldn't maybe be monitoring more closely what their -- their anchors are saying? Or is it possible they were monitoring them?