Return to Transcripts main page


White House Misses Deadline for Records; Busy Week for Mueller Team; Erdogan Calls for Rejecting Racism; Lion Air Investigation Details; Off-Duty Pilot Saved Lion Air the Day Before the Crash; Trump's 2020 Re-election Effort; Survivors in Mozambique Await Rescue. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 20, 2019 - 09:30   ET



You know, I think the Trump administration would be smart by just kind of dribbling things out to say, no, we're cooperating, it's just taking us a little while. I mean this is this big game in Washington, D.C., unfortunately, and you'll see on both sides you're going to dig in on this.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So turning to what we saw in this filing from Mueller's team, they want a deadline extension to April 1st to turn over and release some information regarding the Manafort cases that are now closed. They're saying why, in their words, quote, the press of other work. Yes, it's a busy week always, I think, for the Mueller team, but this seems like a particularly busy one.

How do you read it?

ROGERS: Two things. One, certainly this indicates to me that they're trying to put the finishing touches. I think the Mueller team understands they have to roll out some conclusion to their investigation, which triggers a whole bunch of other activities. You know, it's going to go from the special counsel to the AG's office. So that will take some time.

Secondly, the Rosenstein thing I found really interesting.


ROGERS: I think -- I think what the attorney general said is, listen, we're getting close to this. Hang through to the end of it. We're almost done. Because we know that Rosenstein wants to leave. And so I think that there's -- this is -- I, you know, foreshadowing that this thing is coming to an end. They're putting the final touches on it. I'm sure that the attorney general Barr would love to have Rosenstein as a part of the rollout of the report and the review of the report.

HARLOW: But why? That's my question to you. So the question is, if Rosenstein wanted to leave mid this month, the guy could use a vacation, don't you think --

ROGERS: Probably.

HARLOW: Why do you think Attorney General Barr wants him, him specifically, there so much by his side?

ROGERS: I think because he was the one -- he's been the overseer of this special counsel from its inception. And if you recall that --


ROGERS: You know, that Sessions was not -- Attorney General Sessions had no oversight of the investigation --

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: And was supposed to not even have working knowledge of the investigation. So the only person in the AG shop that -- any seniority that has credibility is Rod Rosenstein. And so I think what Barr said is, hey, listen, we're almost done. We're going to wrap this up. I know you want to leave. Hang in here. So that when there is -- and there will be, by the way, on both sides of this, if you're for Trump, you're going to hate something in there, I'm guaranteeing it. And if you love Trump, you're going to hate something in there, I guarantee it, right? I have a feeling that's what's going to happen in the report.

HARLOW: That's a --

ROGERS: And you want that credibility of a Rod Rosenstein saying, let me tell you how I managed this thing to get it where it is today, including redactions.

HARLOW: Well, and I think -- I think if you're right, it's an interesting point, especially given that memo that Barr wrote, you know, a year plus ago just of his own volition about the Mueller probe and the scope and all of those things that were such an issue in his confirmation hearing to have a Rosenstein by his side through that.

ROGERS: Right.

HARLOW: Interesting.

Let me get you on this. A really important opinion piece written in "The Washington Post" this morning by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Let me read you part of it. In the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, the west has certain responsibilities. Western societies and governments must reject the normalization of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, which has been on the rise in recent years.

He is calling on the west. I mean clearly this is, in part, a reaction to what we didn't hear from the president in terms of a direct condemnation of white nationalism explicitly. Is that proving to be a problem for the president on the world stage?

ROGERS: You know, I think the president has quite a few problems on the world stage by his own making, candidly. I do think he had the responsibility as president of the United States to speak out against what led to those attacks in New Zealand, and any time it happens in the United States.

You know, conversely, I would challenge Mr. Erdogan, who I have met in my previous role as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, to also step up their condemnation of extremism in --

HARLOW: Right. And human rights. I mean human rights abuses, jailing of journalists, they've got a litany of issues.

ROGERS: Completely. Completely.


ROGERS: So they've got their own set of issues.

I understand his perspective and I think he's right. I always am a little bit cautious when they try to look as this -- I think a little bit of that was self-serving for Mr. Erdogan.

But, you know, the message is right, we all need to -- on anti- Semitism, which I think Mr. Erdogan could pay attention to that as well growing across not only Turkey, but Europe as well. There needs to be strong condemnation as well as any rise of any ism around the world. White nationalism is certainly one particular issue, but there are others. We ought to stand together on all of this. And I think our leaders need to take pretty strong positions and make it known that this is unacceptable behavior, and we won't -- you know, we're not going to put up with this collectively as countries and global citizens.

[09:35:01] HARLOW: Chairman Rogers, always nice to have your perspective. Thank you.

ROGERS: Thanks, Poppy.

All right, we're learning new details from this cockpit voice recorder on that doomed Lion Air flight that crashed last October. All of this is part of the larger investigation into the recent Max 8 crash. We have details ahead.


HARLOW: All right, new details this morning about that Lion Air flight that crashed last October in Indonesia. According to Reuters, those pilots frantically searched through a handbook minutes before the flight went down trying to understand why it was diving downward. This information is really important. It comes from the cockpit voice recorder, which has never been made public before. And, of course, this is all part of the broader investigation into the recent Max 8 crash in Ethiopia.

[09:40:02] Our international correspondent Melissa Bell joins me this morning from Paris with more details.

Obviously, Paris, the BEA there is where they're going through the black boxes from the Ethiopia flight.

So what can you tell us?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, even as that investigation continues, Poppy, here on the outskirts of Paris, these new details, which really provide a chilly insight into what went on in those last few minutes of the cockpit, of that plane, the doomed Lion Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea at the end of October killing, just to remind you, 189 people on board.

What we now know, according to this Reuters report, which is sourcing three different people close to the investigation, is that that voice box recorder, that cockpit voice recorder, which is still the subject of the ongoing investigation, suggests that they were frantically looking through this handbook, trying to correct -- and, bear in mind that this is the system that's come under so much scrutiny, this system which essentially kicked in automatically off a false reading off a single sensor, pushing the nose of the plane downwards. We now know that in those last few minutes of that plane, according to this report, the pilots were desperately looking through a handbook to try and work out how to disable it.

HARLOW: Wow. It's hard to imagine that happening in real-time.

Before you go, Melissa, there's also this concerning and important "Bloomberg" report that we're learning more about an off-duty pilot's actions on a similar Boeing Max flight the day before the Lion Air crash.

BELL: That's right, Poppy. This was the very plane that was the following day going to crash into the Java Sea, that the day before had been on a Bali to Jakarta flight. And what we're learning -- and this time according to "Bloomberg" reporting -- is that there was a third pilot who wasn't even meant to be inside the cockpit. He was kind of hitching a ride from one city to the other. It's something that we're told happens quite a lot. And it was he who was able to tell these pilots how to disable this particular system.

So, clearly, huge questions about how this system functioned, why some pilots appear to have been able to disable it, others struggled with it until their fatal crashes.

This, of course, now very much the center of an investigation here in Paris as we try and consider what happened to that Ethiopian airlines flight, once again the very same type of Boeing which followed, we're told, a similar trajectory to the one that crashed in Indonesia in October.


HARLOW: OK. Melissa, as they try to piece this all together, thank you very much for the reporting, live from Paris this morning.

Still ahead, an exclusive look inside the president's re-election machine. Why Trump's campaign manager for social media, what he says could drive them to victory in 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could communicate with you where you can't turn away.



[09:47:12] HARLOW: All right, President Trump heads to Ohio later today. He's expected, of course, to focus on jobs and manufacturing and the economy there. It is his tenth trip to Ohio since he took office. Today he's going to tour a tank building plant in Lima, Ohio. And, of course, this all comes as he continues to fight with General Motors over the closure of a major factory on the other side of the state. We'll keep an eye on that.

Meantime, this morning, we're getting a rare and exclusive look inside the president's re-election campaign that has been going since his inauguration day as he gears up for 2020. The president already seems to have a huge start when it comes to online advertising. Check out these numbers from Axios. The reporting that they have is that the Trump team has spent at least $3.5 million on FaceBook ads and another million dollars on Google ads since the end of last year. That is more than double his Democratic rivals combined.

Our Dana Bash sat down with the digital veteran behind it all. That is Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Across the Potomac River, in this sleek Virginia office space, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale is quietly building a massive re-election campaign far different from the insurgent 2016 operation.

BASH: This is as real, as traditional as Donald Trump gets, operation versus 2016.

BRAD PARSCALE, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Yes. It's traditional but not traditional. There's traditional senses to it that we now have an operation in time to build out a building that has proper desks in it, proper things. The last time I was not for any fault of some of the people that run it, but it just was fly by night sometimes because it was going so fast. And this time we already know. We already have the president of the United States. We have the incumbency. We know where we're going.

BASH (voice over): The Trump campaign never really ended.


BASH: In a highly unusual move the president filed for re-election the day he was inaugurated. A year later, he hired Parscale, who long worked with the Trump Organization but never in politics before the 2016 campaign as digital media director.

PARSCALE: I think maybe for other candidates it wouldn't have been right and maybe I'd never been here sitting in this chair in any other situation, but I wake up every day believing I'm the right guy for this situation.

BASH: In 2016, Parscale, along with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, bought an unprecedented number of digital ads on platforms like FaceBook, targeting their message thanks to a massive voter data vault Reince Priebus started at the RNC, which is still growing and a big part of the 2020 plan.

PARSCALE: And it now, you know, has hundreds of millions of records and voter history, consumer data. And when we put polling data into that machine and we say, this is what's happening, it can spit out models saying, these are the people you need to talk to and this is the messages you should talk to them about. Imagine it's a country before with no roads and no maps and no directions and all of a sudden you can layer another piece of paper over it that it tells you where everything is.

[09:50:07] BASH (on camera): How is it different now?

PARSCALE: I think you see a massive injection directly into your devices and to the places where we can communicate with you where you can't turn away.

BASH: What do you mean by that?

PARSCALE: Text messaging. Other technologies and other things. There's other (INAUDIBLE) --

BASH: Well, that's -- I mean Obama used that in 2018.

PARSCALE: Yes, but not to this scale. There's -- look, FaceBook he had used also. The only difference is the scale we used it. The precision we used it. And we can continue this scale position.

BASH (voice over): Like stepping up technology, turning rally goers into volunteers.

TRUMP: We had one election. We won. Now we're going to be 2 for 0 and everything's going to be perfect.

PARSCALE: Eight to ten thousand people might walk from each rally. Those eight to ten thousand people might know 10 people. They might -- they are the army that wants to work for the president. And so we need to give them digital technology right on their phone as they're waiting for the president, while they're standing outside, whether it's a couple days before when they're excited, when they're interested, they're peaking enough, I'm going to go see the president. You say, hey, here's some activities we'd like you to do . Who are your 10 friends you're doing (ph)? You know, it's much more efficient two years out to try to find a possible voter, a possible donor. It's just a considerable advantage that the other side won't have because you just can't replace time.

BASH: It is still a family affair. Kushner has a leading role, as do son Eric and his wife Laura, who has an official senior adviser title. But they all know who's really in charge.

BASH (on camera): How involved is the president in this?

PARSCALE: And the president stayed involved. When I show him the direction we're going, the things we're building, he's excited. And he gives me input. Like, this is what we think we should be doing. You know, he -- he's always -- and I've always said, he's the king of (INAUDIBLE). The campaign manager, the communications director, the finance director. He is the master of the Trump train and I'm the conductor on it.

BASH (voice over): Dana Bash, CNN, Arlington, Virginia.


HARLOW: A great piece, Dana. And she's got a busy day ahead. Dana Bash will host the CNN presidential town hall tonight with former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. That is live from the CNN Center in Atlanta tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only right here.

All right, ahead for us, rescue and aid workers scramble to save hundreds of people that are stranded. Look at that. They are stranded right now on roofs, on bridges, in these flood waters in Mozambique days after a deadly cyclone wiped out an entire village. We're there live.


[09:56:26] HARLOW: This morning, destruction, devastation after a powerful and deadly cyclone swept across three countries in southeast Africa. Some survivors in Mozambique are desperately clinging to rooftops -- look at those images -- anywhere they can to stay above the water, even tree tops. Officials say hundreds are dead, many more still missing. Ninety percent of the city of Beira has been destroyed. The main roads have been cut off, buildings completely submerged, hospitals inoperable.

Let's go to our CNN international correspondent Farai Sevenzo, who actually made it into Mozambique, with more.

I know you're obviously not right there, but what else do we know in terms of the biggest concern and how these rescue efforts are going?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, imagine this is a full six days after this completely disastrous cyclone swept through the city of Beira. And, of course, people have been very, very difficult to reach for more humanitarian organizations. At the moment, just to give you a flavor of what the nation of Mozambique is thinking. This is this morning's headline, basically saying Mozambique is in mourning.

We're also hearing from the International Federation of the Red Cross that the river of Buzi (ph), out there in the central region, is completely submerged with water. They estimated 20,000 people are there and 10,000 are still, as you mentioned just now, clinging onto rooftops and onto their roofs. And don't forget, the cyclone did not only hit this east African --

southeast African country of Mozambique. It swept on into Zimbabwe, the bordering areas of Somanimani, Shapinga, Mutari, and then on to Malawi. So the story in those countries is still quite desperate because many people have not been able to reach the dead, the dying, and, of course, the needy. And there's a real confusion about what kind of fatalities we're looking at, because in that part of Africa, the mountains basically split with the cyclone and they -- they covered up people when they were asleep and many villages are beneath that rubble.

We're also hearing at the moment, Poppy, I should mention this, six days after the cyclone hit, we've got a statement as well from the United States Department saying it's also providing relief efforts in coordination with its partners and that the embassies in each of these countries that have been affected stand ready to provide consular services to any U.S. citizens that have been affected.

Of course, at the moment, Poppy, we're speaking to you from the capital, but we are making plans to head out to Beira. Remember, 90 percent of that city was destroyed. It's a historic city in this part of town. It's been around since the days of Vasco da Gama, the great Portuguese explorer. And it's just staggering to think that 90 percent of it has been destroyed.


HARLOW: It is staggering. And looking at these pictures, I mean little children being rescued, people jumping out of trees into the hands of those aid workers. It's remarkable.

Good luck to you and your team, Farai, getting there. And if you do get in and get reporting on the ground, of course we will air it on this show tomorrow and bring it to everyone. Good luck and thank you.

All right, it is the top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim Sciutto has a well-deserved week off.

This morning a senior senator -- Republican senator set to make good on his promise to deliver a, quote, whipping to anyone who attacks the late Senator John McCain. This is all part of the growing outrage over the president's string of new attacks on the war hero.

[10:00:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.


HARLOW: In an exclusive interview today with the bulwark Republican senator of Georgia.