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Trump now says he doesn't mind if public sees Mueller report; GOP Senator to rebuke Trump over McCain attacks; McCain's daughter on Trump remarks, a new bizarre low; Off-duty pilot saved doomed jet day before crash. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 20, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. In a White House often criticized for its lack of transparency and even unprecedented obstruction, if you listen to some Congressional Democrats, President Trump is actually taking a stance surprising so many people. It's a stance on a man who has become one of his favorite targets, special counsel Robert Mueller.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't the public have a right to see the Mueller report?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't mind. Frankly, I told the House if you want let them see it. Let it come out. Let people see it. That's up to the Attorney General. We have a very good Attorney General. He's a very highly respected man and we'll see what happens, but it's sort of interesting that a man out of the blue just writes a report --


BALDWIN: I know what you're thinking. Isn't this the same Mueller investigation the President has repeatedly called a hoax and the single greatest witch-hunt in political history? Isn't this the same Mueller investigation that he has publicly attacked 361 times by one count? With so many attempts to discredit this investigation, why would he now want all of us to see it? Let's start with Abby Philip. She's in Lima, Ohio, where the President will soon be speaking. Just last month the President wouldn't commit to making the Mueller report public telling CBS, quote, it depends. I have no idea what it's going to say. So what's up with the switch?

ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's not clear what's behind that switch, Brooke. It doesn't seem that he knows any more today about what's in the Mueller report than what he knew several weeks ago, but the President said today that he thinks that his 63 million voters want to see what's in it, they want to see what this is all about and so he's encouraged the House Republicans who had a vote on this just about a week ago and voted unanimously to release it to go ahead and vote their conscience, vote for transparency in his words and release the report. It seems to suggest the President thinks that the report is not going to have any kind of smoking gun in it, but again as he pointed out, this is not up to him. This is up to Attorney General Bill Barr, though we have reported that the White House does expect to get a sense of what's -- of what's in the report before it's published so they can weigh in on whether there's any privileged information that's apart that have as well.

BALDWIN: Yes, you are correct and while the President says he wants the public to see this whole Mueller report, you have Democrats saying that the White House is blocking its oversight efforts by ignoring or delaying all these requests to provide documents. They're not doing it.

PHILIP: They are not. They haven't submitted a single document to the House oversight committee which reached out with numerous requests on a number of different issues asking for documentation on things from the security clearance probe to various other issues at the White House and the White House has basically been saying, this is not your turf and we have to protect our employees, but in response to those requests, they haven't submitted anything at all and that committee chairman Elijah Cummings is raising the alarm bells and saying this could all end in a massive subpoena fight. The White House has been signaling for weeks that they are going to restrict how many documents are turned over. They're going to try to protect conversations between White House employees and the President and they're going to try to slow this whole thing down expecting that it's going to be going on for months and potentially even years now that testimonies are in control of the House, Brooke?

BALDWIN: Abby, thank you so much in Ohio ahead of the President. Moments from now a consistent Trump supporter in and out of Congress is expected to unleash a, quote, whipping, against the President. Senator Isakson of Georgia says he is outraged by Trump's treatment of the late Senator McCain. The President said he will never be a fan of the war hero and Senate stalwart. Isakson told bulwark this, quote, I just want to lay it on the line that this country deserves better. The McCain family deserves better. I don't care if he's the President of the United States, nothing is more important than the integrity of the country and those who fought and risked their lives for all of us. When the President is saying that he doesn't respect John McCain and he's never going to respect John McCain and all these kids are out there listening to the President of the United States talk the way about the most decorated senator in history who is dead, it just sets the worst possible tone. The senator there is set to speak out against the President on a Georgia radio program right now. As we wait to hear from the senator, let me turn to our Congressional correspondent Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Have any other Republicans where you are joined the Georgia senator in protesting the President who is going after McCain? Are you hearing them talk both about McCain and about Trump at all?

[14:05:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been a lot of silence from Republicans about the attacks from President Trump towards their former colleague, someone who was respected deeply by both sides of the aisle but Republicans don't want to get cross wise with this President and few have spoken out. The ones that have largely avoided going after the President instead defending John McCain in his legacy. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, just broke his silence over the attacks tweeting today and every day, "I miss my good friend, John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate. His memory continues to remind me every day that our nation is sustained by the sacrifices of heroes."

Now one senator who went a little bit further Mitt Romney, the new Utah senator, former governor of Massachusetts said, I can't understand why the President would, once again, disparage a man as great as my friend, John McCain, here are heroic, courageous, patriotic, honestly self-he have facing, self self-sacrificing, empathetic and driven by duty to family, country and god. One reason why Republicans have not weighed in is that the Senate is in recess this week and reporters aren't asking questions to the senators who are back in their home states, some have not been in public or other -- have not been facing questions from people like me who would ask them about to respond to the President's attacks. That probably would change next week when they return here to Washington. One thing the Democrats are trying to renew is the Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. He wants to rename this building that I'm standing in right now to the McCain office building. This is something that was actually pushed in the aftermath of McCain's death last summer. Schumer proposed it then. It went into Mitch McConnell formed a bipartisan group to look into this issue. It never really went anywhere but in the wake of the President's attacks, Schumer trying to renew this effort. We'll see how Republicans ultimately respond but it'll be a significant change on the hill if they were to do that. Not many Republicans pushing back on the President's latest attacks on McCain.

BALDWIN: Got it. Thank you.

Meghan McCain rose above the abhorrent trolling that her family's facing after the President's remarks and her own mother, Cindy McCain, retweeted a hateful message. "I'm glad he's dead and she wishes McCain's daughter chokes to death." Those are the sections we can share.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: I think if I had told my dad seven months after you're dead, you'll be dominating the news and all over Twitter, he would think it was hilarious that our President was so jealous of him that he was dominating the news cycle in death as well. Do not feel bad for me and my family. We are blessed. We are a family of privilege. Feel bad for people out there who are being bull yid that don't have support, that don't have women of the view to come out and support their family. There are kids committing suicide because of cyberbullying online, people going through rough times. There are veterans committing suicide. Focus on these issues. These are the issues I beg the White House to pay attention to.

I'm just surprised because I do think this is a new bizarre low.


MCCAIN: I will say attacking someone who isn't here is a bizarre low.


BALDWIN: Bizarre low. It is that that I want to begin my next conversation. CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali who is the director of the Nixon Presidential Library And Museum.

We had this whole conversation about integrity in this country and lack thereof. I wanted to have this conversation in front of cameras but first to Meghan McCain's point to this new bizarre low. When you look at what Cindy McCain shared, it's disgusting. Why do people feel so free, emboldened to speak like this now?

TIM NAFTALI, DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM: Well, two things we have to keep in mind. One, is we're talking about a new national low. We're not talking about a low. There's been times in our history when a fellow Americans have done unspeakable things to each other, but what we've got now is an enabling climate where cyberbullies feel that somehow it's OK. There are no social sanctions. There's no stigma attached to being wretched in public. There's no other way to describe the attacks on the McCain family than heartless, wretched, inhuman attacks. The folks that do it feel somehow it's OK. Donald Trump is not responsible for every bad deed and every bad thought by every American. I want to put that on the table.

[14:10:10] BALDWIN: Uh-hum.

NAFTALI: But there are some Presidents that believe they have a moral purpose. Look, every President's a human being that mean that every President's flawed. With the office comes the opportunity to remind people of their better angels. That's when they talk about human rights. That's when they talk about a sense of community. That's when they talk about liberty, liberty for all, not just liberty for one group. This President consistently refuses to accept that he has a moral obligation and so he acts like a street fighter every day and sends the -- really the message to people that it's OK to be a street fighter always.

BALDWIN: So I appreciate you saying that the President isn't responsible for every bad thing and horrible thing that people are uttering. There have been so many crazy things that have been happening in the news cycle for the past however many months. We're not as disgusted or shocked. I tried to be but I feel like there is a little bit of -- what's the word -- numbness?

NAFTALI: We're immune, sadly, we've got the new normal is for this ugliness to be publicly stated. It's -- it's as if every day the President is putting up his middle finger to part of America or at least one person in America and we've gotten used to it. It's a terrible thing to get used to and -- I think --

BALDWIN: It's a way to survive in a sense. Every day if you were like oh, my --

NAFTALI: When this period is over we'll need to take a collective shower and -- because this cannot be the way that this country is evolving. BALDWIN: Thank you. That's what I wanted to talk about.

NAFTALI: It's not possible because, you know, reality shows are actually not real. We call them reality shows but they're people engaging in acting out. This is a moment when there are people who want to show their loyalty to Donald Trump by acting out by basically acting like him, and the idea that our President should set as a tone this kind of mockery and dislike and hatred is something that I think the founders would find abhorrent.

BALDWIN: As we take this collective shower, final thought, how do we -- how do we get it to come back, the pendulum?

NAFTALI: I don't have kids. I have a niece and nephew. All those people out there who have children just remind them that this is not the way to act, that we're a community. You may not agree with everyone in the community but the fact that we're in a community means everyone deserves respect. So parents, faith leaders, local and state leaders, there is a way to remind people about the better angels of the American experience. We're a good people. We will be a good people. We can get through this, but at this point let's not let it be the new normal. In 2016, Donald Trump learned that he could cross over red lines attacking a pow, talking about gold star families and he learned he could still win. That doesn't mean that those lines don't matter and we as Americans are not upset.


NAFTALI: Just because he won an election doesn't mean he's changing American culture forever.

BALDWIN: Tim, thank you so much.

Speaking of new insults, President Trump putting himself in the middle of a high profile marriage. Kellyanne Conway just in the past few minutes now is defending the President in his feud with her husband.

Plus Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking a rare question today in a case involving racial bias. We'll tell you what's going on there.

And just disturbing new details out about the trouble with those Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. How did a pilot who essentially hitched a ride on that Lion Air plane months ago become a hero before the deadly lion air crash? You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: Just in, the Federal Reserve says it's holding steady on interest rates. The rate that determines interest on your credit card, home equity loans. The move comes as the fed trims it's outlook for U.S. GDP growth. And now she's a gain of 2.1 percent this year. It's down slightly from a December estimate.

Just as the President says that he doesn't mind if the special counsel's report is made public once it is completed, there are new clues about the status of Robert Mueller's investigation. In response to a media request to unseal court documents related to Paul Manafort, a senior litigator told the federal judge that he does not have time to respond because he and the counsel, quote, face the press of other work this week. All right? Since Manafort's case wrapped, FBI agents and prosecutors have visited the courthouse at least two times while swarming Mueller's office daily and just this other hint comes from the documents detailing the FBI raid into Michael Cohen case.

[14:20:00] 18 and a half pages, you see this, totally blacked out under the title, the illegal campaign contribution scheme. Why so heavily redacted? If New York prosecutors want those details kept out of the public eye, it suggests their investigations have already and directly implicated President Trump may not be over. Nicole Argentieri is a former assistant US attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Good to see you again. Help translate this for me. Litigators is saying the office is too busy and face the press of other work. What's that mean?

NICOLE ARGENTIERI, FORMER ASSISTANT US ATTORNEY, EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Everyone is sort of ready to read all of the tea leaves about the Mueller investigation in these moments, but I think what they're saying is he needs more time to respond, which means they're working on other things, that's the press of other matters but he also says that he need to sort of consult with other members of government because you'll remember that "The Washington Post" motion in the Manafort case moved to unseal many documents. They wanted transcripts that were under seal, the government sentencing memorandum, search warrants and I think it would be fair for the special counsel to say, we need to look at this. It's going to take some time to figure out, you know, what needs to be unredacted and make sure they're being consistent across the DOJ with what they're doing.

BALDWIN: What can any of these new clues, tea leaves, help you tell us anything about Mueller's strategy going forward?

ARGENTIERI: There's some interesting things that have come out recently. The fact that at least two of the senior prosecutors on the Mueller team have left. The fact that the lead FBI agent has left to head another office. Those, I think, are probably the best signals that the Mueller investigation is winding down because typically you don't really have senior people on a case like this leaving before it's significantly complete.

BALDWIN: Uh-hum. I wanted to ask you about this heat shield. This is our reporting that the Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein intends to stay in his post until after this Mueller report comes out so that he can be quote/unquote, a heat shield if there is fallout. When you hear heat shield, you think, does he think there's going to be heat? What's your inference from that?

ARGENTIERI: So I'm sure there's going to be some heat. So the process of what's going to happen now is if Mueller is writing his report, he's writing his report, he's writing a report that's going to have explanations for the decisions he made. Who he decided to prosecute, who he decided not to prosecute and why? Rod Rosenstein as the supervisor of the case was necessarily involved in some of those decisions. Indeed he may have said no to the special prosecutor at different times a fact that will be reported to Congress. So it's possible that he's decided to stay to sort o deal with that, you know, more easily as part of the Department of Justice.

BALDWIN: As a person with the knowledge as a person who can take the heat as it all comes out good, bad or indifferent. Nicole, thank you very much for that.

We know President Trump loves to watch and tweet about "Fox News," but might we be witnessing a new turn in that relationship. We'll explain.

Chilling new reports of that Lion Air crash pilot scrambling for manuals as the plane went down and another pilot saving the same jet from crashing just one day earlier. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Just one week after the FAA grounded all those Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes following two deadly crashes in the last five months, new revelations today about the first crash. An off duty Lion Air pilot who was hitching a ride saved this plane from crashing by helping to disable a malfunctioning flight control system. This happened one day before that same aircraft with a different crew went down killing all 189 people on board. As for this doomed flight, a report from "Reuters" says the pilots frantically searched for a handbook for answers before crashing into the java seat. The voice recorder has not been made public until now. Let's talk about all of it with CNN safety analyst David Soucie who is a former FAA safety inspector and the author of "Why Planes Crash", David, I got a lot of questions for you starting with, you know, the knowledge of this off duty pilot -- there's a lot we don't know. We don't know if he filed some sort of report or alerted the airline, but typically, my question is f a pilot thwarts a nosedive like this, does he or she file some sort of formal incident report alerting the airline?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Absolutely. It goes even further than that, Brooke. Even if there's -- even if someone at least in the United States, even if something like that happened and it was the pilot's fault, they have a voluntary disclosure program so the pilot can say, oh, I screwed up, I fixed it, it's OK. Nobody died but here's the deal. They can do that without any kind of retribution and that creates an open sharing environment. Now, in this case, I'd be very surprised if that wasn't reported, if it wasn't dealt with, if there wasn't a mechanic who looked at it, tried to replicate the problem. I just can't understand how this can happen.

BALDWIN: If all of what you said is true, then should the plane then be grounded? Why was it flying the next day?

SOUCIE: Well, many times when you look through the log books which I do a lot of after aircraft accidents, you'll see that there was an event that happened and it was an anomaly and the mechanic goes out, fires up the airplane, tries to replicate the problem and it goes away. It's like when you take your car into the shop and the mechanic says there's nothing wrong with it. Bring it back later. BALDWIN: Got it.

SOUCIE: This is what I call it the fly it and watch it attitude but that should not have occurred here. This was replicable and I can't understand why at least it wasn't test flown or brought out on the ramp and tested again.

BALDWIN: What about this just in the cockpit, if that autopilot feature is doing anything out of the ordinary, if there seems to be bugs in the system, would you have easy access to a kill switch, like a self-driving car where you want to actually take the wheel?