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New Emails Detail Backchannel Between Giuliani and Cohen; Actress Lori Loughlin Turns Herself in Over Cheating Scam; FAA Says Data Aligns Ethiopia Flight Data to Lion Air Accident; U.K Lawmakers Narrowly Reject No-Deal Brexit; United Nations Report, Earth's Environment Deteriorating Rapidly, Time Running Out. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 13, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: All right, thank you for the reporting. Gloria, let's break it down legal analyst Asha and Nicole are back with us. Now, Asha, friends in high places, sleep well tonight. If you have friends in high places. How do you interpret that? Pardon dangle or just trying to make sure the relationship stayed strong?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It sounds more than simply keeping the relationship strong. But I think that this would be a stretch to use this as evidence of a dangle. I think you would need something more explicit. I mean, it kind of substantiates what Michael Cohen testified to, to Congress, that Trump operates kind of with a wink and a nod. And that's what I sort of see coming through here. When someone's telling you, sleep tight, that's telling you, relax, you know, this will be fine. Which he was not in a great position then, so to say that was a lot. But I do think that this wouldn't be any kind of smoking gun of a dangle, in my opinion.

CABRERA: So, Nicole, the fact that these are typed up in e-mail, this sort of thing, what do you make of that?

NICOLE ARGENTIERI, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, I think, you know, if you think about it, it's Michael Cohen communicating with someone who he was thinking about retaining his lawyer at the time. Right? So I think that there was an understanding, maybe that they would be privileged, which wouldn't be crazy. But now it seems like the attorney/client privilege for a number of these individuals has just gone out the window. And maybe that's why he felt comfortable putting that kind of language in the e- mail.

Now remember, that these were e-mails that Cohen provided to Congress to substantiate his testimony that he felt a pardon was being dangled in front of him, as he was deciding what to do. Unfortunately, by providing the e-mails, it also seems that Cohen has now unearthed this witness, this former lawyer for him, who's contradicting what he said.

My understanding of what Costello told CNN today is that he said that it was Michael Cohen who asked him to push for a pardon. And he actually advised him it was too soon. And I don't know that that all would have come out had Michael Cohen not put these e-mails in play. CABRERA: All right, ladies. Go ahead, Gloria.

GLORA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And we don't even know what Michael Cohen's response -- I do not have Michael Cohen's response to these e-mails. But there's another explanation, his sympathizers point to, which is, you know, maybe what team Trump was trying to do was effectively using this attorney as an intermediary between team Trump and Cohen, so that team Trump would know exactly what Cohen was thinking at any given moment.

CABRERA: Gloria Borger, Nicole Argentieri and Asha Rangappa, thank you all for being with us.

Just a short time from now actress, Lori Loughlin will make a first court appearance. In an L.A. courtroom as part of the massive college admission scandal that also ensnared actress, Felicity Huffman.

Plus, more on our breaking news. Flights right now landing after the President grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 jets.


CABRERA: 50 people involved, millions of dollars spent all with one goal, helping students of wealthy families get admitted into some of the nation's top colleges through a massive scam. And in just a short time from now, actress, Lori Loughlin, one of the parents charged will make her first appearance in an L.A. courtroom after surrendering earlier today.

Now, she and her husband are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits. Even though they didn't even participate in the sport. Officials say this isn't just about the alleged crimes committed, it is also about denying qualified students a good education.


ANDREW LELLING, U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS: This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud. For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.


CABRERA: Joining us now, Rainesford Stauffer. Her latest column for "The New York Times" is titled, "I learned in College That Admission Has Always Been for Sale". Lori Vise is an independent education consultant. She works with students throughout the college process from planning to acceptance. And Areva Martin is here with us, a CNN legal analyst. Let me start with you, Areva, because you're a parent to college-aged students. What's your reaction to all of this?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's been really disheartening for me, Ana, because I am a parent of two college-aged students and I'm also the parent of a disabled student. And we know that one of the lawyers involved in this scam who was actually indicted, he flew his daughter to Los Angeles to get a bogus diagnoses, a determination that she was disabled. So that she could request additional time to take the college admission exams.

Wherever that happens, that means the next time a disabled student, someone who's truly deserving of additional time, when that person makes the request to the college admissions administrators, there's going to be some question about the legitimacy of that request and about the legitimacy of that person's diagnose.

So it's not only the individuals who were indicted, but it's everyone else who will suffer because of the, you know, widespread fraud and bribery involved in this case. It's really outrageous. And I think as much as we're talking about the cheaters and the scammers and their parents involved in this, we need to be sending a message to those students who are hardworking.

[15:40:00] Who are persevering, who are going to the mat every day to gain college admissions doing it the fair, the ethical, and the moral way. We want those students to know that we see them, we support them, and that fairness does matter. Hard work still does matter in this country. Even though the scam, I think, is shedding such a dim light on that whole process of fairness.

CABRERA: And I think that's the bigger picture here. And why this scandal has struck a nerve in so many qualified students who have to take on loans or really work hard to get scholarships, have to take on multiple jobs, just to stay in school, if they can get admitted. Lori, parents who can't afford to pay for access or resources for their kids. And then there are the people like you who work in the college prep field, legitimately, who may now be viewed skeptically. What did you think when you heard this?

LORI VISE, INDEPENDENT EDUCATION CONSULTANT, THE COLLEGE CONSULTING COLLABORATIVE: I was shocked and I was -- I was absolutely shocked when we heard this news. It's a devastating scandal, it is the most dramatic that we've ever heard of. And that students who are so hard working, so motivated, have sacrificed so much. But spots have gone away from them, that they could have -- that they could well, well, well deserve.

I'm also very, very concerned to Areva's point about the potential harm that I foresee down the road for students who have legitimate learning differences. Their ability to be granted access to testing accommodations that they legitimately qualify for, that they legitimately need to level the playing field for them. Students with these real challenges, I feel, are going to be hurt in this process, because the testing organizations are going to tighten their belts. They're going to make the process of applying for test accommodations even more onerous and burdensome than they already are. And so I'm very concerned for those students with legitimate learning challenges. What's going to happen to them down the road.

CABRERA: How will they be treated is one of the big questions that this brought out. Rainesford, in your "New York Times" piece, I want to read a quote.

It says, it's obvious a scandal when rich people are accused of breaking the law to get their kids into top schools. But the bigger outrage should be that a legal version of purchasing an advantage happens every college application season and that there's an entire industry supporting it.

Explain what you mean by that?

RAINESFORD STAUFFER, WROTE NYT OP-ED ON COLLEGE ADMISSIONS: I think one of the things that we think about when we think of academic preparation to go to college. We think of students busting it in the classroom to get good grades, going above and beyond in school, extracurriculars. Where it's a very self-reliant process.

And one of the things that was so shocking to me as an undergraduate that has only increased since then is that there is an entire underbelly of an industry devoted to coaching students on theirs essays, specialized tutors tasked with increasing an A.C.T. score a certain number of points. There are even coaches that will walk you through every step of your college application process, down to what to say in interviews and even where to apply.

So I feel that while, obviously, this most recent scandal is an extreme example, there are elements of inequity in higher education happening all the time that we're simply not talking about.

CABRERA: I think some people will hear what you're saying and be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Pump the brakes. I was able to afford, I saved up for my child to be able to get a tutor before taking their S.A.T. scores. I mean, are you lumping them into that same category? Do you worry about painting with too broad a brushstroke?

STAUFFER: I would certainly never lump a parent trying to work in the best interest of their child into the category of individuals who are charged with committing a felony. And I think a lot of this actually happens with very good intentions. When parents are pushing their students or when students are enrolling in extra courses. But I do think that we have to pay attention to the fact that we're expecting a class of students who has access to these advantages and an entirely different class who doesn't have any of them to operate within the same system and compete in the same way.

So to me, it's not a matter of taking credit away from students who are well off, who have worked to get into these universities. It's restructuring our process of admission to figure out how to make those opportunities more accessible to students who say, are working a job after school. They don't have time for elite extracurriculars or tutors.

CABRERA: Areva, do you believe the system is currently fair? The admissions process and the application process?

MARTIN: I think it's patently unfair. And one of the problems we face, Ana, is that most of these universities that have been included in this scandal are private universities. And I've talked to administrators at some of these private universities and they are quick to tell you, we are a private university. So we get to set our own rules. And the culture starts at the top of these universities.

[15:45:00] I don't believe there's a single coach or a single lower- level administrator that could have promised a spot to a parent that was making the bogus donation without there being some kind of implicit agreement or understanding all the way to the top of these universities. So if we're going to really tackle this issue. It's not just about locking up the low-level employee. It's about looking at the whole culture that favors profit over fair admissions processes.

And I agree where Rainesford. There is this whole process that disadvantages minority students, disadvantages poor students, disadvantages students that don't have the wealth and the power that we saw.

But one of the things that's so interesting to me, Ana, about this scandal. I did the math on this. Some of the money that was paid by these parents could have been not only -- we know in this country. An undergraduate degree no longer has the kind of cache that it used to have. These parents could have bought an undergraduate degree, a law degree, a medical degree, a PhD, they could have built businesses for their kids. They could have done so much more. Even made a legitimate donation to these schools and probably put their kids in better stead just because of the way the admissions process is.

So these weren't just crimes. I would have to say these were dumb crimes committed by parents who felt entitled and who weren't just satisfied with already having such status in this society as being wealthy, but wanted more for kids who apparently, they didn't think could earn it on their own.

CABRERA: And Lori, in this particular scheme, as we're learning about it, it's unclear whether the students or the children of these parents even knew what they were caught up in. What do you think needs to happen to the students who may have gotten accepted to college as a part of this scheme?

VISE: Oh, I think the students who were accepted to these colleges, who were part of the scam deserve very much not to be there anymore. For the students for whom their parents did these illicit things, I think that's a different story and the colleges will have to deal with that. But for the students who certainly knew about what was going on, they do not deserve the spots of those well, well intentioned students, at all.

CABRERA: Lori Vise, Rainesford Stauffer, Areva Martin, ladies we could keep talking about this issue. There's so much more. So many other layers involved. Thank you all for being with us. Lots of news to get to though today.

Moments ago, we brought it to you right here live on our air when President Trump made his big announcement, grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 planes after days of public pressure, even though Boeing says it still has full confidence in their jets. We're just getting the first details now about flights that have been canceled. Stay with us.


CABRERA: This just into CNN, the acting director of the FAA speaking about the President's decision to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 jets. CNN's Tom Foreman joins us now. Tom, what did he say?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, what he essentially said is that this morning, they did not have this new data that they have now, that led to this decision. Essentially, this is some more refined satellite data, as we understand it, which made them believe that this crash in Africa did indeed likely behave somewhat like the crash last fall in Indonesia, the Lion Air crash back then.

By that what we mean, is they believe that this is an incidence in which the software on the plane was in disagreement with the pilots and essentially the plane started sort of porpoising like this, very hard to control. That's what they think happened.

Now that said, they do not believe that the software fix, we've been talking about on the plane at this point, is the prerequisite for putting it back in the air. To the contrary, they had been hoping to have information from both the flight data recorder and the voice recorder, the so-called black boxes. Before now to help them with their decision, those boxes have remained so far in Africa they are going to France at this point. They will go there tonight and when they get data from that they believe they will have a better understanding of what really went on. But no real sign these planes are going back into the air until that data is in American hands -- Ana.

CABRERA: And now we're hearing almost an echo of what the Canadian officials have said. Their reasoning for grounding these flights today, now being echoed by American officials too. Tom Foreman, thanks for that update. More on this in just a moment.

Also, former Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort, hit with new charges in New York just minutes after he was sentence in a D.C. courtroom.


CABRERA: Just in. We have the results of a key Brexit vote. British lawmakers have voted against a no-deal Brexit. Amid fears it could lead to economic turmoil and still long simmering tensions in Northern Ireland. Now the result paves way for a vote on Thursday on whether to delay the divorce process beyond the March 29 deadline.

And there's a new report on climate change today painting a grim picture of what's to come for our planet. The massive report truly global effort here, 250 scientists from more than 70 countries agreed that to avoid disastrous levels of global warming, urgent changes to all aspects of society are needed and needed now. Bill Weir is CNN's climate change correspondent. He's with me now. You've seen the effects of climate change firsthand. You've been reporting on this for a while now. And this report does not mince words. It says our window for action is closing fast. What's it going to take to get this message across?

BILL WEIR, CNN CLIMATE CHANGE CORRESPONDENT: That's the trillion- dollar question. I mean, it's a "Game of Thrones" analogy. The creator of that hit show says is one big metaphor for climate change. It's about human beings want to fight over petty power grabs while something bigger than us is going to kill every living thing. And there was one episode where one of the heroes, Jon Snow, puts the monster that's coming in a box and takes it to an enemy King.

This report is the scientific equivalent of opening up that box. And trying to show world leaders, this is what's coming. The language -- this the sixth of these reports, they come every seven years or so. The language just gets scary.

Quote. The ecological foundations of society are in grave danger if nothing is done.

I mean, our little blue marble -- the only reason we're the only sign of life in all the known galaxies is we lived in this Goldilocks age of climate. Not too cold, not too hot, just right. But we're out of that. Goldilocks is dead. We have moved by burning up the planet by burning so much carbon fuels. Out of the perfect sweet spot that allowed humanity to flourish. And so they're saying if nothing is done, we're talking about hundreds of millions of premature deaths. The last time there was this much c atmosphere there were no people. And sea levels were 100 feet higher. And physics is physics regardless of whether there are people or not living in the way of that. So there saying, we need to get ready on such a grand scale before we get to the point where the warming enters a feedback loop and it just becomes huge swaft of the planet become uninhabitable.

CABRERA: And I don't have to tell you about how this current administration has dealt with the issue of climate change. Even just in the last couple of days he was noting on Twitter a climate skeptic who has claimed that climate change is, quote, fake science. So what do you see as the U.S. role or lack thereof in the global fight against climate change?

WEIR: Well he's given up all moral authority on this. For example, the new President of Brazil wants deforest the Amazon to the point where it would be like adding another China to the carbon footprint of the planet. And the United States can't tell him, oh, back off. We need those trees. Everybody needs those trees to survive. So it's happening at the grass roots level. But what this report is saying, unless we have this kind of effort unseen since World War II and the space race, and the Marshall Plan combined, like immediately, every day wasted means more pain.

CABRERA: Right now nothing is enough.

WEIR: Nothing is enough.

CABRERA: None of the --

WEIR: Nobody's even -- no one even is acknowledging the scope of the problem at this point.

CABRERA: Wow. Bill Weir, thank you as always for your insight, your reporting.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now. Thanks for being with me.