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Exclusive: New E-mails Detail "Back Channel" Between Giuliani & Cohen; Canada Grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8 Jets, Upping Pressure on U.S.; College Admissions Scandal Sparks Debate over Money & Influence in American Society. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 13, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He said that what he was doing was trying to smooth out a troubled relationship between the president and Michael Cohen, and vice versa. So the question is, was it about a pardon or was it about fixing this relationship, which he says Michael Cohen was very worried about.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: You have friends in high places, is the thing that catches me up --


KEILAR: -- and doesn't quite sit with that narrative there.


KEILAR: But nonetheless, so this isn't the only e-mail. There are others. And there was ongoing communication between Costello and Cohen?

BORGER: We don't know what Cohen's responses were, if any, to these e-mails. I should tell you that. But in another e-mail, it says, from Costello to Michael Cohen, "I just spoke to Rudy Giuliani and told him, I was on your team. He asked me to tell you that he knows how tough this is on you and your family and he will make sure to tell the president. He said, thank you for opening this back channel of communication and asked me to keep in touch."

Again, Costello says this was all part of this effort to rebuild this relationship between Cohen and the president.

Now remember, at this time, they were part of a joint defense agreement. So there was an interest in keeping happiness in the family. But a source with the knowledge of Cohen's thinking differs and said that this outreach was just a ploy to keep Michael Cohen in the tent, in the fold, and to keep saying what he was saying to protect the president, and remember, it wasn't until June of 2018 -- these e-mails were in April. So it wasn't until June of 2018 that the joint defense agreement dissolved. And on July 2nd, that was when Michael Cohen declared his independence from Donald Trump.

KEILAR: All was not well in the family at that point.


KEILAR: What is Rudy Giuliani saying about these e-mails and his role?

BORGER: Rudy spoke with our friend and colleague, Dana Bash, also last night, and he echoes, not surprisingly, what Costello was saying, that this was about Michael Cohen thinking that the president was mad at him and that he wanted to make sure things were going to be OK. And so Rudy says that he called Costello to reassure him that the president was not mad. And it wasn't long after the raid, and he said, Rudy told Dana Bash that he said the president felt bad for him. No longer.

KEILAR: All right.

CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero, is with us.

What do you make of this when you see this? Do you buy that this was just Michael Cohen making sure the president wasn't mad at him or do you see that this is Michael Cohen discussing the possibility of some sort of protection, i.e., the pardon?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's a lot to unpack in the e- mails that Gloria just described. But my initial reaction is, at this point, if these communications were taking place after Michael Cohen's office, home was searched and devices were taken, all of the information that he had, clearly, this is about more than personal relationships. This is about legal jeopardy at that point for all of them. And so it would have been in President Trump's interest and his legal interests to keep in communication with Michael Cohen and to know what he was going to do. So there's a -- there was a legal interest on the part of the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for understanding or having some insight or window into what Michael Cohen would have been going to do.

KEILAR: It says this, ending with, "Sleep well tonight. You have friends in high places."

CORDERO: Right. And so there's language that's used that is illusions to what that person on --


KEILAR: Your protection. Isn't that what that says?

CORDERO: -- what his authority was. Right? So this isn't just about a friend or former colleague. This is about a person who is the president of the United States, who has the official responsibility and authority to grant pardons in federal cases. And Michael Cohen was the subject of a federal case.

BORGER: Although they had raided his office and home, he might have been worried about it. I would presume he was. But at that point, what he knew about definitively was the potential campaign violation. He didn't have the whole thing laid out before him yet of what he might be culpable, right, for sure. CORDERO: And the campaign finance violation being the one charge of Michael Cohen that --


CORDERO: -- implicated the president most directly. So it's understandable why the president's personal lawyer would want to at least make Michael Cohen think that they were open to hearing from him and open to some type of communication.


KEILAR: Very interesting conversation.

Carrie Cordero and Gloria Borger, great reporting.

BORGER: Thank you, yes.

KEILAR: Thank you for sharing it with us.

[11:34:52] Canada is now grounding Boeing's 737 MAX 8 jets, increasing the pressure on the United States. This coming after new evidence that shows pilots had raised red flags before the Ethiopia crash.


KEILAR: The pressure on Boeing is building. The Canadian minister of transport just announced Canada will no longer allow Boeing 737 MAX 8s or 9 aircraft to take off or land in Canada. This is following the revelation that at least five pilots in the U.S. complained about problems controlling their Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets during critical moments of flight. And "the Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the software fix for the flight control system was delayed, in part, by the federal government shutdown.

[13:40:12] We have CNN correspondent, Martin Savidge, at Hartsfield- Jackson-Atlanta International Airport.

Tell us what you have learned from these complaints from these pilots and about the response.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, of course, there have been governments weighing in on the issue of whether or not to ground this aircraft. But when the pilots speak out, the passengers that fly on those airlines listen very carefully. So what CNN has begun reporting today that there are at least five pilots that are connected with this aircraft, flying it in the United States, that came forward to the federal government since last October and have reported that they either have very strong concerns or have actually had experiences of control problems with this brand-new aircraft, that is alarming to many, many passengers. Because they say, after all, who would know the plane better than those who are up there flying it up front. These are serious concerns brought forward because some of the pilots have even described this control problem, and the way they describe it sounds very eerily similar to what very early indications we have of what may have gone wrong with both the crash that took place over the weekend and the one that took place last October in Indonesia. So that has raised a lot of red flags to passengers.

The thing is, though, many of them still don't know because they rely on the federal government and, in this case, the FAA and they believe that that is an agency that's looking out for their safety. Yet, we've seen country after country saying they will err on the side of caution and ground the aircraft. Canada, as you just pointed out, being the most recent. And the United States and the FAA is still standing by its statement. It is saying, "Thus far, a review shows no systematic performance issues and provides no basis to order the grounding of the aircraft."

I should point out that American Airlines has also come forward with its own information. It has a number of these aircraft. It says they've had no problems with these planes, nothing like the angle of tac as it's been described, and they've been flying them for many, many hours. That's American Airlines -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

For more now, we have CNN aviation analyst and former National Transportation Safety Board managing director, Peter Goelz, here with me, and CNN's Business anchor and editor-at-large, Richard Quest, in London.

So, Richard, to you first. The software fix on this plane, according to the "Wall Street Journal," was delayed because of the shutdown. It's still not in effect at this point in time, especially as we look at Canada now grounding these planes. How problematic is it that this opens Boeing and the U.S. government up to questions about whether this fix could have prevented this latest crash?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR & CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I mean, it's an academic point, but, yes, it could have perhaps or whatever. I actually don't think that's a dog that's going to run because, at the end of the day, there's no saying that once they had it ready to release, the FAA would have approved it, they would have worked on it. It's not like it was sort of sitting in a package waiting to be installed and then it just got delayed in the mail room because of it. There's a lot to be done before that.

On the question of this Canadian, Canada says they saw some satellite data that showed certain movements of the aircraft from above and that's why they decided to ban the plane from their airspace. I mean, at what point does it become -- if it wasn't so serious, I would say ridiculous that the United States is the only plane manufacturer or country of where this plane is in operation and the rest of the world has all grounded it.

KEILAR: I also want to ask you how the Ethiopians are handling this? There are so many questions. We want to know does the black box say? What does the voice recorder say? How are they handling this investigation, do you think?

QUEST: My antenna is starting to get concerned. We are two days into this and there's been no really official announcements. There have been no press conferences. There's been no word, for example, on the condition of the black boxes. They've not told us where the black boxes are going to be read. I'm not suggesting for a moment that they're doing anything wrong, but I am saying that, so far, the transparency of the investigation leaves much to be desired. People want to know what the boxes are like and where they're going and who's looking into it. And so far, the Ethiopian authorities have not officially said a word.

KEILAR: Transparency is very important here.

Richard Quest, thank you so much.

Peter, I want to get your reaction to, when you heard that at least five pilots here in the U.S. had complained about this plane, this included complaints that the nose would inexplicably pitch down as a result of the automated system or on some sort of ascent that it would pitch down to level.

[13:45:08] PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it was devastating, particularly to the FAA. They had been stating that they have had no reports of problems, and here they read in their own anonymous, pilot-oriented database, five complaints. And I looked at a few of the complaints and they went away when the autopilot was turned on. But it still indicates that there was something amiss. And the FAA is now, as Richard pointed out, completely isolated in the world's aviation community.

KEILAR: They went away when the autopilot was turned on?

GOELZ: Turned off.

KEILAR: Turned off?

GOELZ: Right.

KEILAR: So they're using the automated system and this happens and then they turn it off and then it's OK?

GOELZ: They fly.

KEILAR: The question is about response time and in other situations if a pilot was not able to turn it off in time or gain control, what happens?

GOELZ: There are broader issues at stake here. I mean, in the Indonesian crash, you clearly had maintenance problems with the angle of the tac (ph). You had the captain who was able to control the aircraft until he turned it over to the first officer, and then it went out of control. In this accident, it is completely inexplicable. As Richard pointed out, we still don't know who was flying the airplane. We know that the captain was on the radio, but we don't know whether his hands were on the wheel. It's really troubling.

KEILAR: So I asked you, I think it was yesterday -- was it yesterday or the day before? GOELZ: I think it was yesterday.

KEILAR: Do you think that these planes should be grounded? You wouldn't go as far as to say they should. You seemed to kind of be keeping your powder dry on that. Today, what do you think?

GOELZ: I think now the FAA is in an untenable situation and it's time to put the planes on the ground.

KEILAR: All right, Peter Goelz, thank you so much for that.

We have much more on the breaking news. Moments after being sentenced, new charges for Trump's ex campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

And Actress Lori Loughlin turning herself into federal authority moments ago. She is one of 50 people accused in this college admissions scheme sparking debate over money and influence in American society.


[13:51:45] KEILAR: We are learning more about the fallout from Operation Varsity Blues. Federal prosecutors say it is the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted. And one of the celebrities charged in this case is actress Lori Loughlin, of "Full House" fame. She turned herself in. She's expected to face a hearing today. Now, the man at the center of the case, William Rick Singer, of Orange County, California, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

We have Daniel Golden with us. He is the author of "The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates."

Sir, thank you so much for being with us.

And in response to this scandal, as you watched all of this unfold, you said, "The rich are more brazen than ever in exploiting an unfair system."

What was your reaction to this? Were you surprised by it or certainly not the sentiment, because you talk all about the motivation of people to do this in your book?

DANIEL GOLDEN, AUTHOR: I was surprised, at first, by the brazenness of it. But when you think about it, it is kind of a logical outgrowth of what I've been writing about for years. For example, I -- kind of an unfair system that's tilted towards the wealthy. For example, I've written a lot about the -- or preferences for athlete who are recruited in sports that most people never have a chance to play. Upper class sports like crew or sailing. And the only difference between that preference and this one is that, in this case, the kids didn't even bother to be on the team. They faked the preference. But the preference itself probably shouldn't exist, because it just favors the chosen few. KEILAR: So who loses in this?

GOLDEN: Well, the losers would be the kids who try very hard and earn outstanding grades and test scores and don't get in. Because college admissions is a zero-sum game. For everybody who gets in, somebody doesn't. And it's the kids who trying to get in on merit. In a system where colleges admit an ever-lower percentage of their applicants, which leads to the kind of desperation that appears to be at the heart of this case.

KEILAR: Do you expect this to get much bigger?

GOLDEN: That's hard for me to know. You know, even one example of this, given the number of parents and other people involved, is shocking, you know, the various college coaches and so on. But I guess the loopholes they've identified could be pretty broad. So it could be more systemic.

For example, I've always been worried in the college admissions system about these counselors that the wealthy hire as a kind of conduits for donations to the universities. And some of them are legitimate and respectable, but they're not licensed or regulated or anything. And it just seems like they might be operating as a kind of rogue force to help the wealthy get around the rules. And that's something that could be going on in a much more widespread way.

KEILAR: Like you, there are a lot of observers who see this as an extension of a pay-to-play that is widely practiced. You document this in your book. You have several examples of families who are using their power, they've used their influence and money to get their kids into colleges, really big colleges. And among others, you cite the sons of former Vice President Al Gore, and also Jared Kushner, whose father, Charles, donated $2.5 million to Harvard University somewhat quietly, which is unusual.

Listen to what Professor Michael Eric Dyson said on CNN's "NEW DAY" today.


[13:55:20] MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, there are black people and brown people and people of color across America going, geez, you ought to know this, huh? Very interesting. Because privilege has worked often in ways that are invisible to the radar, so to speak. So that one of the interesting things about this case is when it says, well, many of the students didn't recognize that they were benefited from or advantaged by their parents' shenanigans. What happens there -- that's an irresistible metaphor for what happens when privileged people then go on to lecture people of color or underserved communities or poor people about, you know, just work hard and you'll be able to get in.


KEILAR: So you hear that, I know you probably think, hey, I knew all of this, I've documented that these things have been going on to this degree, but what happens? What's the solution? What fixes this?

GOLDEN: Well, that's a good question, because even though I've written about this for years and people have complained about it along with me, the colleges don't seem to ever make things better. Because, you know, they're so dependent on fundraising and so worried about it that they're afraid if they don't accept these donations or if they hold all their candidates to high standards that they're going to lose financially. So I would recommend colleges eliminating some of what I call the preferences of privilege, the preference for alumni children to get in, most of them are white and wealthy, the preference for development cases like Jared Kushner. His parents had no affiliation with Harvard when they made the gift, and yet he got in, although he was, you know, widely considered an average student. And so, you know, rethinking and eliminating some of those preferences along with, as I mentioned, some of these private counselors who are conduits for the donations that would help the system. But I'm not sure I ever see it happening, because it's really a bipartisan problem. You know, rich people, whether they're Democrats or Republicans, will donate large sums to get their kids into college. That's why I focused on the Frists and the Gores, two families from Tennessee, one Republican, one Democratic. They both, you know, used every advantage they could to get their kids in. So, you know, it's hard to see where the support would come from for changing the system.

KEILAR: That is -- it's depressing, but it's so important for us to hear.

Daniel Golden, thank you so much for being with us.

GOLDEN: Thank you. I appreciate it.

KEILAR: We have a lot more on our breaking news. CNN has obtained e- mails that show a back channel between President Trump's legal team and Michael Cohen.