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Trump Rips Democrats over Calls to Abolish Electoral College, Adds Seats to Supreme Court and Lower Voting Age; CNN Gets Rare Look Inside Trump Reelection Campaign; Pilots Scoured Handbook Moments Before Lion Air Crash; Trump Officials Brace for North Korea's Next Move. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 20, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Chris, I do want to talk about President Trump's role in all of this.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Sure.

NOBLES: He's talking about the Democratic field right now. He said, quote, "The Democrats are getting very strange," is how he put it. "Now they want to change the voting age to 16, abolish the Electoral College, and increase significantly the number of Supreme Court justices. Actually, you've got to win at the ballot box."

We're often critical of the way Donald Trump attacks his Democratic opponents, but this is actually some fairly reasonable criticisms of some more, I don't want to say radical, decisions or policy positions that Democrats have taken that may raise some eyebrows. Do you think he was smart by going after this?

CILLIZZA: Yes. Leaving aside my constant confusion over what he puts in quotations and what he capitalizes in his tweets, yes. Look, I do think there's a reason that Nancy Pelosi said last week that impeachment is not where we're going to go yet. And I think you will hear skepticism about adding more Supreme Court justices. Yes, Elizabeth Warren, in our town hall, earlier this week, came out in favor of abolishing the Electoral College. My guess is you're not going to see the leadership line up behind that.

I think you're going to see over and over again, Ryan, the 2020 candidates, whether Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, maybe Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, really push the envelope, with it's on impeachment, the Electoral College, all of these things, because they need to appeal to the base. Whereas, the congressional Democratic Party, led by Nancy Pelosi, will say, we're not really focused on that. We're focused on doing the business of the American people on pragmatic solutions to get things done. I think that is the natural role we always see when there's an open presidential nomination. I do think Trump will seize on the idea that Democrats, in his words, will focus on Socialism and impeaching him because that rallies his base. We'll see how much Democrats fall into that trap or not.

NOBLES: All right. And we are --

(CROSSTALK)

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTTOR: Ryan?

NOBLES: Quickly, Angela.

RYE: I was going to say, really quickly, I think it's important for us to understand, too, I think, this is demonstrating that there's a rising of a new, more visible base. This base has been here for years but finally Democrats are really starting to see the importance of the black vote. That is also why reparations has been a point of discussion. And the Electoral College, abolishing the Electoral College isn't just about undermining the democracy. It's about demonstrating for once that it's time for black people -- the 400th anniversary of slaves being in this country -- to finally have their own say and nobody speaking for them.

NOBLES: Which was the point that Elizabeth Warren made in that town hall --

RYE: Absolutely.

NOBLES: -- in Jackson, Mississippi, at a historically black college.

All right, Angela Rye, Chris Cillizza, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

Don't forget to watch a special CNN town hall with 2020 candidate, John Hickenlooper. Dana Bash will moderate. It will be in Atlanta tonight on CNN at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, the race is on for 2020 and we're not just talking about the Democrats. Next, CNN gets a rare look inside the Trump reelection machine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:37:41] NOBLES: Trump 2020. The president's reelection campaign is full speed ahead. CNN has found that, in almost every way, it is a stark contrast to the chaotic bid that propelled Donald Trump to the nation's highest office in 2016.

CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, is part of our team that got an inside look at the Trump reelection machine.

Jeremy, I know you were there in 2016. How much different are things this time around?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Ryan. What struck me the first moment that I walked into those office that the Trump campaign has now in Arlington, Virginia, was how different the office space was from what the campaign had in 2016. There were no moldy pipes or electrical wires hanging from the ceiling, no concrete slabs, no unpainted drywall. Instead you have this sleek modern office with glass walled offices inside. It's just such a stark contrast to what we saw back in 2016. But it goes so much beyond just the office itself. It's how

structured this reelection effort for 2020 is compared to 2016. They've already hired dozens of staff. They are sitting on lots and lots of cash. They entered 2019 with $19 million in cash on hand after raising more than $100 million in the past two years.

This is a reelection campaign that has gotten started earlier than any presidential reelection campaign before. You may remember that the president's campaign actually filed for reelection just hours after the president was inaugurated back in 2017. And leading this entire effort now is Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign's digital director back 2016. And he is working in lock step with the RNC in this unprecedented merger to essentially meld the two operations, field operations, well ahead of the general election, something they say is going to position them perfectly once Democrats have a nominee.

But Brad Parscale is very aware of the fact that, ultimately, it is going to be the president's campaign and defined by him. Here's what he told my colleague, Dana Bash, in an interview last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD PARSCALE, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The president stays involved. When I show him the direction we're going, the things we're building, he's excited and he gives me input. This is what we should be doing. I've always said he's the campaign manager, the communications director, the finance director. He's the master of the Trump train and I'm the conductor on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:11] DIAMOND: He knows, obviously, the gain is going to be defined by the president, given his controversial nature, the polling numbers that he has. And he's also propelling the campaign with a digital focus strategy, one that's going to heavily rely on the RNC's data analytics operation. If you look at what the campaign has spent already on digital advertising, $4.5 million so far, and already outpacing those Democratic candidates. But they say the data and analytics operation that the RNC has to really precisely target those voters to turn the president's hardcore supporters into volunteers and to mobilize them to the polls, this is going to be a super-charged version of the 2016 campaign where the president really focused on his base. You're going to see much of the same this time around, just with many, many more resources -- Ryan?

NOBLES: Wow. And as of right now, he doesn't have to worry about a primary opponent so he can focus everything on the general election.

Jeremy Diamond, thank you for that inside look into the Trump campaign. We appreciate it.

Coming up, new details about the final moments of the doomed Lion Air flight and the frantic search for a fix. What the pilots tried to do to safe those on board before it crashed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:45:57] NOBLES: So new information this morning about the Lion Air flight that crashed last October in Indonesia. It was the same kind of Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet that crashed last week in Ethiopia. "Reuters" reports the pilots frantically searched through a handbook minutes before the flight went down, trying to understand why the plane was nosediving. Meantime, "Bloomberg" reports that an off-duty pilot may have kept the Lion Air from crashing the day before.

CNN correspondent, Tom Foreman, has more details.

Tom, what is the latest?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a horrifying new detail from "Reuters" here. The notion is that only a couple minutes after the Lion Airplane took off, they knew they had a problem. The plane was trying to pitch, nose downward, toward the Java Sea. So the pilots on board started looking through the manual. They were wrestling the plane. It would dive down and they would pull it back. It would dive down and they would pull it back. They started flipping through the manual, saying, what is going on with this plane, why is this happening? Based on this reporting, which is based upon apparently what came from the flight voice recorder on board, at no time did they realize the plane itself was doing something different in terms of the trim of the plane to make it dive. They kept talking about things like air speed, according to this report. They were concerned that somehow they were losing speed and that's what was making this plane nose down toward the sea. The bottom line is, if this is correct, this is what they went through for nine minutes trying to find an answer.

Then we have this other report from "Bloomberg" suggesting that, the day before, the same plane had a similar issue and the only difference was there was another pilot in the cockpit who was simply riding there. He might be deadheading, or whatever the explanation is, when this other pilot happened to be there. It's not clear from the authorities in Indonesia what happened. But that he recognized what was happening and he told them to shut down part of the system and that's the only reason the plane was able to fly on without a problem. And then on the ground, they looked at the plane and said everything is working fine, and they took off the next day and crashed. If you take both reports at face value, that raises the stakes very much higher for Boeing in the second crash -- Ryan?

NOBLES: Wow. Seems to be a lot more problems emerging than we first originally thought.

Tom Foreman, thank you for that report.

Coming up, bracing for North Korea's next move, the White House weighs how to respond to a possible satellite launch. What does it mean for Trump's negotiations with Kim Jong-Un?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:52:56] NOBLES: CNN has learned that Trump administration officials are discussing how to respond if North Korea makes a provocative new move, a satellite launch. Tensions between the two countries have escalated since President Trump's failed summit with Kim Jong-Un in Hanoi. And any weapons tests would go against the repeated assurances we've heard from President Trump about the progress he's made with North Korean leaders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now there's no missile testing, there's no rocket testing, there's no nuclear testing.

Chairman Kim promised me last night, regardless, he's not going to do testing of rockets and nuclear -- not going to do testing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: All right. So joining me now to talk about this, CNN national security reporter, Kylie Atwood.

Kylie, what are you hearing about how White House officials are preparing for this behind the scenes?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Ryan, internally, the White House is having discussions right now about how they should react if North Korea does, indeed, make a provocative move in launching a satellite. Now, the administration has been crystal clear over the last few weeks that it would not be good. It would essentially be suicidal for U.S.-North Korea ongoing negotiations if North Korea were to test, carry out a nuclear or missile test. John Bolton, just over the weekend, the national security adviser, said that Trump himself would be very, very disappointed if North Korea made that move.

However, publicly, they have not said how the U.S. would react, how the Trump administration would react if North Korea makes the move in launching a satellite. It is a different kind of launch, but it is still banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

NOBLES: Yes. Talk about that a little bit more. There's a big difference between a satellite launch and a nuclear missile or even a missile that's being tested for a nuclear weapon. How would that be viewed by the American government?

ATWOOD: That's right. So you could make the argument that a satellite launch is using technology and it's outside of the nuclear infrastructure of North Korea's program, at least formally, but, of course, the devil is in the details. The actual technology that is used for a satellite launch is very similar to that that is used for an ICBM launch. So essentially, it is related. However, maybe not directly to North Korea's nuclear program.

[11:55:21] The other thing to consider here is the fact that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this year reacted very strongly, very aggressively when Iran tried to carry out a satellite test, saying it was a flagrant -- a flagrant move. It was in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. So the Trump administration would be walking a fine line if it were to react any differently to the same move by the North Koreans.

NOBLES: All right. Kylie Atwood, thank you for that report. We appreciate it.

And we are going to be right back after this short break.

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