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Trump Belittles Mueller; Pressure Mounts on Boeing; Heavy Fire with ISIS Fighters after Declaration of Defeat. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 22, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:03] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Christian Louboutin shoes. That's the art of the segue.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Brianna Keilar -- I don't know what she's wearing for shoes -- starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, in a new closing argument, President Trump suggests people will revolt if the Mueller report isn't favorable to him.

America's top diplomat says God sent Donald Trump to save the Jews.

Plus, two deadly crashes within months, and it's getting clearer and clearer that putting Boeing's 737 Max 8s in the air was a safety risk.

And, when asked about 2020 contenders he'd like to compete against, it's who the president did not say that is perhaps most interesting.

Up first, President Trump says, if the Mueller report is unfavorable to him, the people won't stand for it. With the imminent release of the report, the president has also returned to some familiar attacks aimed at undermining the credibility of the investigation. Here's what he said as he left the White House this morning.


TRUMP: I have no idea about the Mueller report.

Well, we're going to see what happens. It's going to be very interesting. But we'll see what happens. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. Everybody knows it. It's all a big hoax. It's -- I call it the witch hunt. It's all a big hoax. So, we'll see what happens. I think that the attorney general, highly respected. Ultimately we'll make a decision.


KEILAR: White House correspondent Abby Phillip is joining us now from the North Lawn.

And we heard some of those catch phrases, no collusion, no obstruction, it's a hoax, it's a witch hunt, really all of the catchphrases today, trying to sow seeds of doubt about the Mueller investigation. What does this tell you?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. I mean it is essentially game time for President Trump. Everything that has been building for two years could be coming to a head very soon. And that's why you're been hearing all of the arguments the president has been making about the special counsel, about the origins of the Russia investigation, and now about the report itself are all in the interests of trying to undermine whatever comes out of Robert Mueller's investigation once it is completed.

And that being said, the president and the White House have been saying for days, they have no idea what is going to be in this report. They don't have any sort of head's up about the contents of it, about what it might say about the president himself. But President Trump is working on telling his supporters, essentially, that Robert Mueller is conflicted, he can't be trusted, and that this report that he's producing, whether or not it is ever made public, the report itself is as report that is the result of something that he thinks is fundamentally unfair.

And, I should add, Brianna, he's been talking a lot about his electrical victory, the fact that he was election and Robert Mueller was not. That's also about the underlying efforts to undermine the report and what it might say about him. He thinks that his supporters are, in his words, not going to stand for a report that tries to undermine an election in the United States.

KEILAR: All right, Abby Phillip at the White House, thank you.

And we have a team of our reporters who have been covering every step of this with us now. Sara Murray, Evan Perez and Pamela Brown with us.

So, the report, we're waiting for it. It appears that it is going to be released very soon. We keep saying that. So --

PAMELA BROWN: It sounds like a broken record, but we really do believe it is going to be soon.

SARA MURRAY: But we want it to happen.

KEILAR: We really do believe it's going to be soon.

OK. And what's interesting is the president messaging ahead of it, right? This kind of pre-brutal. He's trying in earnest to undermine this Russia investigation. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it's -- it's always interesting to me because a deputy, that didn't get any votes, appoints a man that didn't get any votes. He's going to write a report on me. I had one of the greatest election victories in history. Wouldn't you say that's true?


TRUMP: They came from the valleys. They came from the rivers. They came from the cities. They came from all over. They voted in one of the greatest elections in the history of our country. And now I have a man, that because we have an attorney general who -- nobody can even believe that he didn't tell me, but he recused himself. So I have a man who is a deputy, who I don't know, who I didn't know at all, and he appoints a man who had just left my office. I didn't give him the job at the FBI. Comey's his best friend.

BARTIROMO: No, we covered every Sunday.

TRUMP: Well, wait a minute. But, think of it, I have a deputy, appoints a man, to write a report on me, to make a determination of my presidency? People will not stand for it.


KEILAR: Pamela, what does that tell you about where the president is with all of this right now. And, also how is his legal team preparing for the release of this report?

BROWN: So, a couple of answers to this. First of all, just a fact check. Several federal court rulings upheld Mueller's appointment and his authority to do what he has been doing.

[13:05:06] But, bottom line, I think you're seeing a glimpse here of the president being the communicator in chief, setting the tone of how the White House is going to respond to this. And I think you're going to see an aggressive response. The president, throughout this investigation, has tried to undermine the credibility of Robert Mueller and the investigation, tweeting, I think it was more than 170 times that it's a witch hunt. And so I think what you're going to see is once this is all wrapped up, assuming there is no more indictments or charges, is the president continuing to say this, the White House saying this, that, look, we said all along it was a witch hunt, and, look, there were no charges on -- related to conspiracy or collusion or obstruction. You're really going to see them hone in on that.

And I think the president is playing a very active role in the messaging and all of this. There have been meetings in the White House in order to figure out how to respond to different scenarios because they really don't know how this is going to play out. But, ultimately, the president is going to decide, and you're seeing it play out right now in terms of the aggressive tone that he's probably going to continue with.

KEILAR: They have to be ready for the different scenarios, Evan. One being this is very bad for the president. The other being that it's completely anti-climactic, right?


And, look, and I think Robert Mueller's work here, it's facing an impossible task, right? There's been, on the left, so much expectation built up, the idea that Donald Trump or his children or Jared Kushner is going to be led out in handcuffs, these are the things that if you read certainly the left twitter, those are the scenarios that people have been expecting. And so it's kind of an impossible standard for Robert Mueller to reach, frankly, given the fact of his mandate and the fact that the -- where the law is on this stuff. So before we get to that, though, I mean, we do have to remind people of how extraordinarily fruitful this investigation has gone for, you know, 675 -- this is the 675th day now of this investigation. Thirty-seven defendants charged, including three companies. Six Trump associates who have faced charges as a result of this. Five people who have been sentenced to prison so far. Sixteen Trump associates, at least, who have been found to have some kind of contact with Russians during the time of the campaign or the transition. Again, that's a lot of stuff that has been uncovered by this investigation. And I think we shouldn't lose sight of that.

KEILAR: Let's talk about how this is going to go down, Sara, because Robert Mueller will finish his report, send it over to the attorney general, and then what?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're all like kind of waiting with bated breath. Like this is the end when, in actuality, it is going to be the beginning of what is going to be a political and a legal battle. But in the short term, what is going to happen is the special counsel is going to deliver his report to the attorney general, Bill Barr. Then Bill Barr is going to inform the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, look, this report has been handed to me. He is required, under the special counsel regulations, to include any instances where the attorney general overruled a decision that Robert Mueller wanted to make to prosecute someone. So maybe that was a decision Bill Barr overruled, maybe it's something Matthew Whitaker overruled, maybe it's something Rod Rosenstein overruled. A lot of have been over Mueller's head in this. He has to share that information with Congress. That is required.

Now, there's also going to be some kind of summarily. And the protocol at DOJ is that when there is an executive summary, that they would share portions of that, Bill Barr would, with the White House for any privilege issues. If there is anything the White House believes would be covered by executive privilege, they could look at that. They could weigh in on that. Pamela Brown has reported that the White House hopes to see the entire summary, not just portions of it. So we'll see how Bill Barr handles that.

And then after that, it's up to Bill Barr to take what Robert Mueller has given him and say, OK, what part of this are we going to make public? What are we going to share with Congress? What are we going to share with the American people? And we've heard from officials at DOJ, you know, that they don't want to put out a bunch of information about people that they decided not to prosecute. And that is certainly a different stance than what we saw from former FBI Director James Comey, and one that's going to rankle the left.

So, at the beginning of this, we may not get a lot of information. And that's why I say, I think it's just the beginning of a fight because that's when you're going to see Congress start to make a whole lot of noise about how they want to see more than what Bill Barr shares with them initially.

KEILAR: As they share these instances, as they're compelled -- as Robert Mueller is compelled to, these instances where he may have been overruled on something by Bill Barr, as you put it, Matt Whitaker or Rod Rosenstein, that's in the report that goes to the attorney general.

PEREZ: Right.

KEILAR: Does that have to be included on what goes to Congress, and will the public know that?

PEREZ: Yes. I mean that's going to be in the report, whatever -- whatever Bill Barr tells members of Congress. And that's a very important point because I think the one big question that we've all been anticipating, right, the answer to is, we know that the president never sat down for an interview with Robert Mueller. We know that Robert Mueller asked for that interview. The question is, did Mueller ask to subpoena the president? Did that decision go up to the Justice Department and get rejected? If that happened, and we're going to know that because Bill Barr, the attorney general, has to tell Congress about it.

[13:10:08] MURRAY: And you've covered Congress. So once -- once something like that goes to Congress, take your bets about whether Congress is going to want to share that information with the American public.

PEREZ: Right.

MURRAY: If they get a document on their desk that says we should -- we tried to subpoena the president and Matt Whitaker told us no or Rod Rosenstein told us no --

KEILAR: That's as good as public.

MURRAY: Yes, that's as -- it's as --

KEILAR: And any White House knows that, right?

OK, so the former FBI director, James Comey, who Trump, of course, famously fired, wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" where he says he actually hopes the president is not impeached before the end of his term. Here's what he said. If Mr. Trump were removed from office by Congress, a significant portion of this country would see this as a coup, and it would drive those people farther from the common center of American life, more deeply fracturing our country.

Why is he injecting himself into this very political part of this discussion?

BROWN: I don't think he can help himself, but I'll let Evan -- I'll let Evan talk about it because I know --

KEILAR: It's a patter.


PEREZ: Oh -- oh lordy as he would say.

No, look, I think you're -- thanks, Pamela.

You know, it is a question -- it's a very good question. And I think -- I think a lot of us would say that we are here. That this investigation has gone on partly because of James Comey and some of the things that he did, some of the things he did in 2016 with regard to the Hillary Clinton investigation, and then some of the things that he did at the beginning of the Trump administration.

And so there was a part of this op-ed where he sort of says that he doesn't really care whether or not -- I'm going to -- I'm going to sort of sum it up, but he said he doesn't really care whether or not there was this collusion or not. And I'm like, well, what? Really?

BROWN: I just have a hard time --

MURRAY: That's a face -- that a face (INAUDIBLE).

BROWN: Yes, I have a hard time believing he doesn't care.

MURRAY: Right.

BROWN: You, I -- but also --

PEREZ: Right. He brought us here.

BROWN: He brought us here. But -- and the president also brought us here --


BROWN: Because the president fired James Comey, which ultimately led to the appointment of Special Counsel Mueller. So, again, big picture, as much as he calls it a witch hunt --

PEREZ: Right.

BROWN: Mueller probably would not have been appointed had the president not fired James Comey.

KEILAR: It is interesting, though. You're like scratching your head as you read this.



KEILAR: Which I find -- I find that very interesting to hear your reaction to that.


KEILAR: Sara, Evan and Pamela, thank you guys so much. As pressure is mounting on Boeing, CNN is learning that the new safety training for the 737 Max 8 jets was not done by instructors or in classrooms. It was done on an iPad.

Plus, the U.S. secretary of state says God sent Donald Trump to save Israel and to save the Jews.

And we're getting word of heavy fire in Syria with ISIS fighters as the White House declares the caliphate is 100 percent defeated. We're live from the front lines, ahead.


[13:17:04] KEILAR: We have new details on the investigation into the Boeing Max 8 airplanes, the ones that were involved in two deadly crashes in less than six months. CNN is learning that part of Boeing's sales pitch was that the plane would -- it would be easy for its experienced 737 pilots to learn to fly, amounting to a significant cost savings for airlines.

Our Drew Griffin has been digging on this.

Tell us what you're learning.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the 737 Max was promoted as a newer, more efficient version of Boeing's old popular plane. So similar to the old version of the 737, that only minimal pilot training was required. Boeing's chief test pilot described that training on this interview with He's saying that the airlines could take their 737 pilots, give them two and a half hours of ground training, really on an iPad, and they would be good to go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, a pilot can walk into here and he'll be able to find everything he can and -- just like he can in the NG. And it's down to roughly, FAA-approved this for two and a half hours of computer-based training for the transition between the two aircraft.


GRIFFIN: From the beginning, this was all about introducing this new plane, but at a tremendous cost savings to Boeing, which was just reconfiguring new engines on an old air frame, and to the airlines themselves, which could assimilate these new planes into their already existing 737 fleet. Boeing's promotional material talked about the low cost of this rollout, Brianna. Here's what they said. As you build your 737 Max fleet, millions of dollars will be saved because of its commonality with the Next-Generation, the NG, 737.

Pilots and industry unions have told CNN the training was all done on iPad, no instructors, no air time needed for this. Not even a 737 Max simulator. Now, to be fair, these U.S.-based pilots who I've been talking to say the two and a half hours ground training isn't as bad as it sounds. These planes were so similar that an experienced 737 pilot should have had no problem transitioning to this newer model.

The different, Brianna, was this MCAS system that we're talking about, which the airlines and the pilots did not know was on board. They didn't know what it was until that Lion Air crash. That's when Boeing sent out an emergency bulletin warning these pilots that this system was on board. Meant as a safety feature, but now being investigated for possibly being involved in these two crashes in which, Brianna, this safety feature may have steered these planes into a nosedive.

KEILAR: So how could this system, this MCAS system, have been on the plane, but as CNN has reported, the pilots and even the airlines who were buying these planes just didn't know about it?

GRIFFIN: I think that is going to be the crux of the -- not the investigation of the crash, but the investigation into what went wrong here. As I reported last week, Boeing has Boeing inspectors inspecting and certifying Boeing planes for the FAA. Actually, Boeing is doing its own certification on its own planes. That's potentially part of the problem.

[13:20:12] The other problem where somewhere along the way -- and we don't know the answer yet -- Boeing thought this was such a minor safety enhancement that they didn't need to tell anybody. We're still trying to hear that from Boeing directly. But that's apparently what has taken place here.

KEILAR: Yes, we really want the answer to that question. Drew Griffin, thank you so much.

Now, there was also a safety feature that could potentially alert pilots when there is a problem with the sensors for the safety system. "The New York Times" is reporting that the feature is an option for the airlines that are buying the aircraft. It's not part of the standard equipment. And not all airlines pushed it.

Justin Green is with me. He's an aviation attorney and a CNN aviation analyst.

And so Boeing, as you heard Drew reporting there, was essentially self-certifying these planes, Justin. The Federal Aviation Authority, we've learned, doesn't have the resources to do it. Is that a failure of oversight? Is that ripe for something to fall through the cracks?

JUSTIN GREEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, you know, it's actually surprising to the general public, but anyone who knows anything about aviation safety knows that the FAA really acts as a limited oversight of the industry and that Boeing has the people with the knowledge about the complex design systems, Boeing has the resources to conduct the certification process. The FAA doesn't. And I -- you know, I wouldn't get in an airplane that was designed by the FAA. Boeing are the experts. But then the FAA actually still has to have some independent check on what Boeing's doing. And that's what we're not seeing so far in the story of the Max aircraft.

KEILAR: So Boeing is arguing -- they argued that the plane was similar enough to the previous 737s that simulator time wasn't necessary, just some -- some time on the -- on an iPad, the ground training.

Why did everyone go along with that? Why did they think that that was sufficient?

GREEN: Well, I think that the big question is going to be, what information did the airlines have about the MCAS system. As I understand it, it was not highlighted to the -- to the airlines. I think that if the airlines understood that this safety feature tragically is something that caused -- has caused two crashes, if the safety feature is on board and an angle of attack sensor goes off that the aircraft is going to be pitched nose down, then the airlines and maybe the FAA would have required more robust training. The best training that's done is done in a simulator, not on a computer. Two and a half hours may be enough, but not enough if they -- if you have this new system that the pilots have no experience operating.

KEILAR: Boeing offered an alarm that would have warned pilots about the failure of this system, the MCAS system. And it was expensive. It was an add-on. It didn't, to use a car term, come standard with the model. Should it have initially, and certainly should it have after the first crash of Lion Air where then it became apparent to pilots when Boeing said actually there's this MCAS system on the plane that you didn't know about.

GREEN: Well, unfortunately, cost has kind of played a role in every decision relating to the -- to the Max. It was developed to be a cheaper airplane to fly on fuel costs. Boeing developed it in a way that they -- it wouldn't require a lot of training, and then it wanted to have an option of selling the airplane at a price that would be attractive to its customers. And not having the safety options installed allowed it to sell it at a lower price. And also -- but, at the same time, if an airline ordered it, like the American Airlines have, Boeing could make more money on installing these safety processes.

My position is that safety should never be an option. But airlines, just like cars, are often sold with safety feature that are optional and that the customer has to pay for.

KEILAR: All right, Justin Green, thank you so much for your expertise.

Democrats are alleging that some senior White House officials, like Jared Kushner, are using other personal accounts to do government work. And now the president just weighed in.

Plus, moments ago the White House said the ISIS caliphate in Syria is 100 percent defeated. CNN is live on the ground there and we're hearing heavy fire with ISIS fighters.


[13:29:04] KEILAR: This just in, the White House declaring moments ago that the ISIS caliphate in Syria has been 100 percent defeated. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders making that declaration to reporters on Air Force One.

We have Ben Wedeman. He's in eastern Syria.

And, Ben, you've been there for -- you've been in Syria for 49 days as ISIS fighters holds out. The White House now says ISIS is 100 percent defeated. Is that what you're seeing?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. No, we're not. I mean for the last two and a half hours we're seen airstrikes, repeated airstrikes. And these, of course, are American airplanes. Right now you can see a flare behind me. I can see tracer fire going into the -- into the -- toward the horizon. There's another flare behind me. And there has been gunfire coming out of the ISIS positions which are, admittedly, a very small piece of territory on the edge of a hill outside on the eastern end of this town of Babus (ph).

[13:30:04] So the fighting is not over. ISIS -- yes, if you were to look at the amount of territory, it is very small indeed, but the fighting goes on.