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Off-Duty Pilot Saved Doomed Jet Day Before Crash; Trump Again Attacks the Late Senator John McCain at Event; Democratic Strategist to Biden, Sanders O'Rourke, "Can You Not?"; Clarence Thomas Asks Rare Question in Racial Bias Case. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 20, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Being asked about how much of that certification process was handed directly to Boeing.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Melissa, thank you. Let's get some analysis now. With me CNN aviation analyst, Justin Green. He is the former President of International Air and Transportation Safety Bar Association. He is also an aviation attorney who represents disaster victims and has sued Boeing in the past. So, just listening to Melissa's reporting and these new details coming out today, your reaction?

JUSTIN GREEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think what is interesting when we talked about it on the break is that an airplane crash is generally not caused by just one factor. Here we talked about the Boeing design, the fact that this can be triggered by the failure of a single point failure, a failure of an angle attacked sensor. We talked about the FAA's oversight. But we also have to look and to see what the airline did and specifically Lion Air after the first incident. So the first incident you were lucky enough to have a third pilot who apparently identified the problem. They were able to turn off the system.

BALDWIN: Who just happened to be the plane sitting in the jump seat, knows how to solve the thing. Sort of saves the day essentially.

GREEN: Right.

BALDWIN: Your point is, what did that person or the captain of that plane do to communicate that to the crew the next day?

GREEN: That's right. You know, the can't rely on the happenstance that there happens to be a qualified third pilot who has no kind of duties who can actually kind of look over on a holistic way and identify the problem. The key is, Lion Air after something like that, an airline with a robust safety culture on the maintenance side should have fixed the problem, made sure that the angle of attack sensor was operating correctly and wouldn't fail in the next flight. And also from the piloting point -- and this is more important -- the pilots who got on the next day should have been briefed exactly what happened on the day before and how they fixed it.

From what we're hearing from the cockpit voice recorder, those pilots don't seem to have that information and it's going to be important to see what Lion Air did after the first incident.

BALDWIN: I got it. I got it. Because it would be presumed that some sort of report would have been filed and that information should have been passed along to the crew for the next day. What about just also the detail coming out about these pilots. As a pilot hearing that they're feverishly trying to look through these manuals in those final moments, that that's what's overheard on the black box. It's chilling.

GREEN: So one thing, anyone that knows anything about aviation knows we operate on checklists. So there are certain things that the pilots have to memorize. Their quick action items. You memorize them. I learned to juggle so I could memorize them while I'm juggling.

BALDWIN: No kidding.

GREEN: The other items you are supposed to pull out a quick reference guide and go through the checklists, even if you've done the quick action items, you still pull out the checklist to go through. What I'm hearing, what would be unusual and would be wrong, if is these pilot haves no idea about what might be happening are kind of studying through the guide to find out a clue of how to fix the problem. So that -- the big issue is going to be what Boeing gave the pilots? What information Boeing gave pilots about the system? What information or training the pilots had, if any? And I don't think they had any about how to react to this problem. And I think that if we find from the cockpit voice recorders -- it's three different flights now that are going to be examined that pilots really didn't know how to respond and we just got lucky.

BALDWIN: It would have been so out of left field that this isn't something that they have in their memory banks.

GREEN: If they're pulling -- if you have an engine failure you do the quick action items, you pull out the checklist, that's fine. But if you have no idea that's going on, that's a problem.

I got you. That is a problem. Justin Green, you are excellent. Thank you very much.

GREEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Iowa Congressman Steve King already under fire for his history of racist comments. He has now tried to explain how a meme depicting a modern-day civil war ended up on his Facebook page. See what happened when one voter asked him if he believed in white supremacy.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: In a room full of factory workers who manufactured military tanks, the President just once again attacked the late Senator John McCain. This time saying, McCain, a veteran, quote ,didn't get the job done for his fellow veterans when he voted against repealing Obamacare. Despite rebukes from some Republican lawmakers. McCain's own family expressing their disgust with his previous attack. The President now quadrupling down moments ago in Lima, Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people are asking because they love me and they ask me about a man named John McCain. And if you want me to tell you about it, should I or not? Yes?

So I have to be honest, I've never liked him much, hasn't been for me. I've really probably never will. But there are certain reasons for it and I'll tell you. And I do this to save a little time with the press later on. John McCain received the fake and phony dossier. Did you hear about the dossier? It was paid for by crooked Hillary Clinton, right? And John McCain got it. He got it. And what did he do? He didn't call me. He turned it over to the FBI hoping to put me in jeopardy, and that's not the nicest thing to do.

[15:40:00] you know, when those people say -- because I'm a very loyal person. John McCain campaigned for years to repeal and replace Obamacare, for years in Arizona, great state. I love the people of Arizona. But he campaigned for years for repeal and replace, so did Rob, so did a lot of Senators. When he finally had the chance to do it, he voted against repeal and replace. He voted against at 2:00 in the morning, remember thumbs down. We said what the hell happened.

I endorsed him at his request and I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as President I had to approve. I don't care about this, I didn't get thank you, that's OK. We sent him on the way but I wasn't a fan of John McCain. So now what we could say is now, we're all set. I don't think I have to answer that question, but the press keeps -- what do you think of McCain? What do you think? Not my kind of guy, but some people like him and I think that's great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I gave him the funeral he wanted and I didn't get a thank you. This is coming from the President of the United States. Again disparaging the late Senator John McCain. It's disgraceful. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. And Barbara, it's sad at this point.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, I think there's actually a couple of things to sort out here. So it's very clear that President Trump views the late Senator as his political adversary, if not his political enemy. Set the politics aside, the President's entitled to have named anybody as his political enemy if that's what he thinks in his own head. But there is something much more deep going on here. The President saying that veterans are on his side, disparaging the late Senator as a war hero. This is politicizing the U.S. military. And you might ask yourself

today, why has the U.S. military been so quiet? Why are they letting Senator McCain's war record, go unanswered? The President's attacks on his war record on his heroism, go unanswered. Why are they letting the President in public say the veterans are with him and his decisions?

There is no indication, no reasonable indication that America's veterans are anything but American citizens who vote their conscious across the political spectrum. America's veterans are the same as America. They are politically diverse. They have opinions. They have views. They go to the ballot box and they vote as they privately see fit. There is no monolithic veterans' community that I know of that supports any one candidate.

But what I do know is that the military commanders are supposed to be apolitical and I find myself questioning the silence of the last couple of days as the record of Senator McCain is nothing but politicized by the President. So why are they quiet? Are they afraid of the President? Are they afraid of upsetting him if they speak out? You know, it is worth remembering the former Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, a combat veteran of Vietnam. Chuck Hagel did hard time in Vietnam.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, a political lightning rod, but as a Vietnam veteran, Secretary Kerry, he did hard time in Vietnam. These are men who served when the President chose not to serve. So, you know, there is a real question here about the silence from the U.S. military on how much President Trump is politicizing the ranks. How much he's using them to further his own political agenda and why commanders are being so silent about this. You know, you've got to rip the band-aid off sometime and ask the question, why the silence? And I don't think there's a good answer to that today -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you for saying that, Barbara Starr. Thank you.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking a rare question today in a case involving racial bias.

And as Beto O'Rourke announces new details on his first day of fundraising, one Democrat strategist is asking him and every other white male in the room of the 2020 race to step back, why she says, maybe they shouldn't run?

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: In all this talk about the 2020 race for the White House, new "Daily Beast" opinion column today caught my eye first thing this morning. It is entitled, "To the white men running to be the Democratic presidential candidate, can you not?" Democratic strategists, Alexa Grenell, penned this piece sending a message to Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke and Joe Biden. Her message is it's time to step back.

Quoting her, I voted proudly for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary and defended him against charges of sexism. Now I can't stand the sight of his name in my inbox proclaiming, not me, us, if I'll just chip in $3.

And Alexis Grenell is with me now. You were on fire on this piece in "The Daily Beast". So I was like, I need to talk to this girl today. So you so much for coming over to CNN. The way you start the whole thing talking about Sanders announcing his campaign on the same day Elizabeth Warren released her plan for subsidized child care, that's when you were like, can you not?

[15:50:00] ALEXIS GRENELL,WROTE, "DEAR 2020 WHITE MALE HOPEFULS: CAN YOU NOT?": Well it just seemed to me epitomized the whole problem. Literally we have this woman who is a mother of two releasing the most expansive plan for subsidized child care in America with some personal experience to inform it. And the same day this guy does a cannon ball into the news cycle and basically gets everybody else wet. And it's all we can talk about and think about when there's actually something substantive that's meaningful and important to pay attention to and that's the bigger problem with all these guys.

BALDWIN: So in all these guys -- and we were talking about Margaret Tilden over at "The Washington Post" with this great piece this morning too. She calls them the "B" boys, Beto, Biden and Bernie. And you also get into Beto who, you know, there are all kinds of discussions we could have on why so many people seem to be obsessed. But he did recently recognize and almost apologize for his white male privilege.

GRENELL: He did when it was referenced totally.

BALDWIN: But he did also say essentially, if he were to be elected, he would make sure his administration was would be full of people of color and women and isn't that a start?

GRENELL I think the point is we actually have four women running for the presidency now, the big job. So it's really second banana to be offered positions in an administration or as vice President. When in fact we have really the most qualified field of candidates ever who happen to be women, and a variety of ideologies.

BALDWIN: Two thoughts, one, so you're saying if some of these men have said, OK, well I'll put a woman on my ticket. You roll your eyes at that. Why?

GRENELL: That's second best. Geraldine Ferraro already was the first female nominee for a major party for Vice President 35 years ago. We have been there done that. It's time to move on.

BALDWIN: OK. Number two, then are you saying these white men shouldn't be running? Because at the end of the day -- and I'm all for a woman, right? But shouldn't it be the most qualified best candidate wins? White, male, women.

GRENELL: Absolutely. The problem is though these men are sort of -- haven't offered a clear rational for why they're running. And there is sort of an implicit bias here that a woman can't beat Trump. It's unspoken. It's unsaid. But already they've raised millions of dollars more than the female candidates in the race. Who've had this uphill battle, period, regardless of whether there are men in the race, we take them seriously. We know this from just I mean reams of data and research. And also, I don't know, 2016, we already just went through it. The fact that these four -- no not four -- three guys and there are women in it, but these are the major ones, think that --

BALDWIN: By the way, Joe Biden hasn't even declared yet. You're still putting him in the --

GRENELL: No, but I mean it's like Hamlet over here, right. Will he, won't -- I mean --

BALDWIN: You're over it.

GRENELL: I'm over it. I'm over them all. In the point is, what they can really be doing is putting their resources behind these women. With Bernie for instance -- again, who I voted for proudly and I think had made really important moves in 2016. I don't understand why he was running now when Elizabeth Warren, who's his ideological twin, could really benefit from his support, his money, his movements.

BALDWIN: I got you.

GRENELL: And he's not getting behind her. And so to me it really wreaks a little bit of inauthenticity that wasn't reminiscent of Bernie in 2016. Which is why I was so proud to vote for him then too.

BALDWIN: Can you not, so says, Alexis Grenell -- I have a feeling we could keep going. We've got to hit a commercial break. But thank you very much.

GRENELL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you for your opinions.

Still ahead here, Democrats demanding documents, the White House fusing and now we could be at the beginning of a subpoena showdown with Congress. We are back in a moment.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A rare moment at the U.S. Supreme Court today as justices considers a case involving racial bias in jury selection. A Mississippi death row inmate who was tried six times for murder once his conviction overturned. He's arguing that the prosecutor in each trial engaged in racial discrimination when striking jurors. Several justices had expressed concern over this case. But it's Justice Clarence Thomas who is standing out the most. That is because he asked a question -- something he really does during oral arguments. CNN Supreme Court reporter, Ariane de Vogue, Is with me now. And so, Ariane, what did he ask?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, Brooke, well he very rarely asked questions. I think the last time he did it was about three years ago. And he's given a variety of explanations. Sometimes he says he thinks the other justices just talk too much during oral arguments. But this was a super compelling case. Curtis Flowers as you said, he

was tried six times for murder. He wants the Supreme Court to overturn his conviction because he says the prosecutor -- the same prosecutor who tried all those cases -- was illegally striking perspective jurors based on race. And Brooke, the numbers were pretty alarming. At one point in the first two trials all ten perspective black jurors were struck and there were many more questions asked of the black jurors. So in the Supreme Court it did seem like a majority of the justices they were ready to rule in favor of Flowers.

But Thomas when he spoke up and he asked this question, he had a question for flowers attorney. And he wanted to know if any white jurors were struck. So, that sure does give you a hint of where he may be going in this case. And just a few years ago, Brooke, the entire court in a very similar case ruled in favor of a Georgia inmate. Clarence Thomas, he dissented in that case and he said he didn't think the Supreme Court should question the judgment and these kind of issue of the trial court. So it was an interesting moment today, Brooke, in a very compelling case.

BALDWIN: Hearing him speak up and hearing him ask that question about white jurors. We'll see where the case goes. And obviously questions about how this could be precedent-setting depending on how these justices feel. Ariane de Vogue, thank you very much for that update there.

Just a quick programming note for all of you tonight. CNN will be hosting "A PRESIDENTIAL TOWN HALL" with 2020 candidate, former Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper. Dana Bash is moderating this one live from CNN center in Atlanta. That is tonight at 10:00 Eastern here on CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin, thanks for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.