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Parkland Father Jeff Kasky is Interviewed about Gun Control; Boeing 737 Max Running Simulation Tests of Problem Behind Lion Air Crash; Voters in Macomb County, Michigan React to Barr's Mueller Report Summary; President Trump Raising Questions About Current Health Care Policy; Jussie Smollet in Court for Emergency Appearance; Duke to Pay $112.5 Million Settlement After Reports of Falsified Research. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 26, 2019 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] JEFF KASKY, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVOR CAMERON KASKY: What the NRA tells others to do in order to avoid liability or responsibility for these tragedies.

But if you look at their messaging, you know, they've had to back off, they've had to soften it a little bit. Which doesn't mean they've softened it, Jim. It just means that they've had to react to the fact that they're dealing with teenagers now. And the teenagers are going to be around a lot longer than Wayne LaPierre is going to be around.

They have made a tremendous amount of progress, the March for Our Lives and the other students around the country and around the world who are fighting this epidemic. And, really, the only people standing in their way are the GOP, which is purchased by the NRA, and the NRA itself through its purchase of the GOP. That's it.

When the House Resolution 8 passed 420 to zero, that should be telling somebody that this country is ready for a change. That a change is being demanded by the citizens. Yet Mitch McConnell won't even let that come to hearing in the Senate?

That should tell every one of us something about the so-called patriots at the NRA -- and I say that as sarcastically as possible -- who don't even pay federal taxes, and have -- have wrestled control of this debate out of the hands of reasonable people for decades.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And I should note for viewers who don't know H.R. 8, it was the pending legislation that would have required universal background checks. Of course, as you note, stopped in the Senate.

Jeff Kasky, listen, thanks so much for the time, the work you do. We wish you and your family well, just in the wake of the tragedy. And our thoughts are with you.

KASKY: Thank you for saying so. Thanks for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much to you as well. We'll be right back.


[10:36:14] SCIUTTO: In a new report in "The New York Times," test pilots found that they had less than 40 seconds, just 40 seconds to avert disaster by overriding an automated system on the Boeing 737 Max jet. Pilots were using a simulator to try to re-create the problems that investigators suspect caused the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last fall. Joining me now is CNN's Tom Foreman.

So, Tom, this is remarkable because clearly, it looks like pilots were struggling here. Forty seconds is not a lot of time to respond to something like this.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not long at all, Jim. In fact, you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to start my -- I'll start, right now, the stopwatch on my phone right here while we talk.

What they're talking about is that, remember, we're talking about an override system in the plane. This is an automatic system that if the plane starts to nose up, it would pull the nose down so it doesn't stall.

The problem was, pilots apparently were not aware of this happening on some of these planes. And then they had to try to pull the nose back up. If there were a false reading, the plane kept trying to push the nose back down. That's the system we're talking about here.

And in these tests, these simulator tests, a couple of these anonymous pilots told "The New York Times," if they didn't respond immediately and counteract this within 40 seconds, they could be in serious trouble. And that's as much time as just happened since I started talking -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And imagine, trying to -- you're trying to make those decisions and those adjustments -- I don't know if panic's the right word, but certainly great concern as you perceive that you're fighting, you know, this massive passenger jet. So that's --

FOREMAN: Yes. And --

SCIUTTO: -- the Lion Air issue. Ethiopian Airlines --

FOREMAN: Well, that's the Lion Air issue. And I have to --

SCIUTTO: -- followed --

FOREMAN: -- and I have to say, also that one of the things the pilot said is that the pulldown from this automatic system was stronger than they expected in the original --



FOREMAN: -- now, Boeing says they're updating that software so it won't be quite the same. But they said the effect was much more dramatic than they expected, this plane trying to dive down while they're trying to pull it back up. And the pull-up could not really counteract it enough to overtake it --


FOREMAN: -- so in effect, you're losing the whole way. You mentioned Ethiopian --


FOREMAN: -- we are expecting, maybe, maybe some preliminary findings from the Ethiopian authorities within a few days now. They will be preliminary. As you know, Jim, these investigations can take months, sometimes even years. So --


FOREMAN: -- this will be very preliminary. But it might tell us more about whether or not that system had anything to do with the Ethiopia crash, although kind of looks like it might have, based on the data.

SCIUTTO: And then, of course, the question becomes, were these issues that Boeing knew something about, should have known about prior to all of this as well. Tom Foreman, we know you're going to stay on this story.

FOREMAN: Absolutely. Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: The White House is now planning to weaponize Robert Mueller's findings against the administration's opponents. Next, supporters in one battleground state say they will also follow that strategy. Will it work?


[10:43:19] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.

SCIUTTO: This morning, President Trump and his supporters are feeling vindicated by Robert Mueller's report, or what we know of it so far. And now, just like the president, those supporters are using it to take on their political opponents. That means even some Democrats are now saying it is time to move on politically from the Russia investigation.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has been speaking to voters in Michigan, joins us now from suburban Detroit.

What are you hearing there, both from Republicans but also from Democratic voters?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is the all- important Macomb County, which could decide the state, as it did in 2016. Republicans are emboldened by what they saw in that Mueller report. And some Democrats are saying, "Maybe it is time to move on."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARQUEZ (voice-over): In the heartland, conclusions on (ph) the Mueller report so far favor the president. And his catch phrases are winning.

BRIAN PANNEBECKER, MICHIGAN VOTER: I make of it exactly what Donald Trump said it was. It was fake news. It was a witch hunt. It was a hoax all along. Matter of fact, I think they need to investigate the people that funded the fake dossier. Because they're the real criminals in this.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Ford auto worker Brian Pannebecker is a huge Trump fan. He helped elect the president in this (ph) vote-rich county and says the report's filings gives the president a lift.

PANNEBECKER: If the Democrats were smart, they would start working with President Trump instead of trying to overturn the results of the election.

MARQUEZ: Because -- in your mind, if they do, they are only going to make him stronger in places like Macomb?

PANNEBECKER: Absolutely. Because the guy didn't do anything wrong.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Michigan and Macomb County are critical to the president's re-election. In 2016, he won the state by just 10,704 votes. Macomb County and suburban Detroit voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. It flipped for Trump big-time. He won the county by more than 48,000 votes.

[10:45:21] Even Democrats here say the report's findings won't help them win back Macomb County and the state.

HENRY YANEZ, STERLING HEIGHTS CITY COUNCIL: It was a little bit surprising that more wasn't revealed in this report.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Yanez, who has run for and held several political offices, says his fellow Democrats need to investigate less and focus on policy.

YANEZ: I think Democrats really just need to work -- roll up their sleeves and get to work on the issues that are important to the citizens of my city and my state.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): There is hope for Democrats here. The midterms saw them rebound slightly. The county narrowly backed the winning Democratic candidates in the Senate and governors' races.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): John Skantze, who retired from management in the auto industry, considers himself a moderate Republican. He voted for the president but could be persuaded to support Joe Biden in 2020.

MARQUEZ: Do you think the Mueller report and the summary helps the president?

SKANTZE: I think it helped him a lot. I think it helped him a lot. And it got rid of a big stigma with his following.


MARQUEZ: Now, even though 2020 feels like a long way off, there was one thing that was a sort of common theme between Republicans and Democrats, what we found here. For Republicans, it might be their biggest fear. For Democrats, it might be their hope. But they seem to agree, one person could make a difference here. Guy who hasn't even put his hat in the ring yet? Joe Biden -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Seems a long way off. First debate's only a couple months away. It is coming. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

Joining me now to discuss this is CNN political commentator Rob Astorino. He's a member of President Trump's 2020 re-election advisory council. I should mention he has signed a non-disparagement agreement with Trump.

Let's get at this issue here. Because, clearly, what we know of the Mueller report is a win for the president. Today, you have a -- or in the last 24 hours, a decision on health care, to gut all of the Obamacare act, which, as you know, many Republicans support and Democrats successfully ran on health care as an issue in the midterms, with enormous success, big pickups.

Are they giving -- is the Trump administration unwittingly giving Democrats an advantage here?

ROB ASTORINO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is a cumbersome law with a lot of different nuances. But the big picture is easy to understand for people. I either have health care of I don't, right?


ASTORINO: And the pre-existing is something that's important to a lot of people. And I think the Republicans need to really articulate how they will save that if they're going to try to gut it. And that's a big issue that the Democrats could seize upon.

But I --

SCIUTTO: Is there a plan? I mean, to be clear. Because I asked a Republican lawmaker just a short time ago, and he said, "Yes, we'll have a bipartisan solution decision." But you and I know --

ASTORINO: No, you know what --

SCIUTTO: -- the chances of that on health care.

ASTORINO: -- honestly, this is where the Republicans in Congress get a black mark. Because they had eight years to prepare for this. And they didn't. And when they had the opportunity, they didn't know what to do.


ASTORINO: So, honestly, I give them an F on that. And that did cost them, to some extent.

But let's go back to the real issue, I think. And that is -- because I think the voter and the first -- the first gentleman in Macomb County had it right.

SCIUTTO: Republican?

ASTORINO: The Republican had it right. You know, we've been hearing for two years that Donald Trump is a traitor. He committed treason. All this nonsense. And it was just a pile-on. He was convicted. He was convicted before anything even came out.

And now that we know it was a hoax, we've got to go backwards. Because it's a bigger picture than just Donald Trump, whom Democrats hate.

SCIUTTO: Well, to be fair, it wasn't a hoax. I mean, this was a --

ASTORINO: It was predicated on a hoax.

SCIUTTO: -- mandated investigation --

ASTORINO: It was predicated on a political dirty trick.

SCIUTTO: I know, but hoax? Listen, he found evidence of obstruction of justice.

ASTORINO: Perpetual (ph) -- no, he didn't.

SCIUTTO: It's one thing -- he said he found evidence on both sides. It's one thing to say he concluded his innocence on collusion. But to call it a hoax based on his findings --

ASTORINO: Evidence on what?

SCIUTTO: -- well, we don't know. We haven't seen (ph) the report.

ASTORINO: He didn't come to a conclusion. And the evidence would be what? That he was obstructing something that never happened?

SCIUTTO: Well, that. And that -- that's a fair legal question. If there was no underlying crime --

ASTORINO: Correct (ph). But more --

SCIUTTO: -- I'm just saying, it was --

ASTORINO: -- but more than that. Mueller did a very thorough job. And we knew there were Democrats on (ph) -- that's why everyone was kind of skittish on that. But they came out, and I think they did a very fair job. We haven't seen it, but at least the encapsulation of it.

But go back to Comey. Comey was part of this in the very beginning. Comey made a career out of this afterwards, selling books, becoming the face of the resistance. Comey knew the president was not under investigation.

That's why the -- Trump was so angry about this. "Why didn't you just say it and take air out of the balloon?" He kept it going. Comey said, publicly, that he could be fired for any reason. That's not obstruction of justice. Especially if Trump knew --


ASTORINO: -- what he did with the Clinton stuff, which was damning.

SCIUTTO: Well, Comey's -- to be fair, long gone. But let's get on the political effect of this. Because that's where we are now, and we do have an election approaching.

[10:50:01] We've noted, a number of times on this broadcast, that when you look at the issues that voters list --


SCIUTTO: -- as their number one voting issue --

ASTORINO: Immigration.

SCIUTTO: -- in 2020, it's immigration but it's all -- if we have the list, I'll put it up. Immigration is one of them.


SCIUTTO: But health care is also extremely high on that list --


SCIUTTO: -- the Russia investigation is well down on the list. Yes, this satisfies many Trump voters. But is it a smart thing for the president to run on in 2020?

ASTORINO: On what? The --

SCIUTTO: On the end of the Mueller investigation.

ASTORINO: Well, it vindicates him. But it also shows the corruptness of the system. I think it's very important, Jim, to go back to find out how this actually happened so it doesn't happen again.

TEXT: Very important issues for voters, November 1-3, 2018: The economy, 80 percent; health care, 80 percent; corruption, 78 percent; gun policy, 77 percent; immigration, 77 percent; President Trump, 70 percent; trade policy, 68 percent; taxes, 66 percent; Russia investigation, 48 percent

SCIUTTO: Here, just to our point, there you go, right?


SCIUTTO: The economy, health care, corruption --

ASTORINO: Economy's doing well.

SCIUTTO: -- gun policy, all those issues well above, almost two to one, above the Russia investigation as a voting issue.

ASTORINO: And I think with regard to health care, the Republicans do need to come out with something. On immigration, I think this is an opportunity for the president to pivot, right? He was -- he was vindicated.


ASTORINO: And I think we can move on from that. He was vindicated. But now you've got to move on. And I think if he says to the Democrats, "OK, let's go after immigration. I'm going to give you some stuff on DACA, I want some stuff on the wall and let's fix the loopholes," Go big, maybe even talk about infrastructure again.

If he can start getting some things done, or at least put the Democrats in a -- in a -- you know, against the wall where they don't want to work with him and they don't want to talk about impeachment anymore because it's not going to happen, then they're going to look defensive and they're going to look like the obstructionists they are.

SCIUTTO: Time to pivot, though. That's interesting to say --


SCIUTTO: -- the president should pivot to those issues as well, you're saying, in effect.

ASTORINO: I agree. I do. I think he can go big now and get over this -- the anger. And he should be angry, by the way, for what happened. But now, move to the presidential campaign, which has started. But with that --


ASTORINO: -- you've still got to govern. Get some things done.

SCIUTTO: Right. Rob Astorino, always good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: Thanks very much for taking the time.

We also have this news, just in to CNN. Actor Jussie Smollet, he is now in a Cook County courtroom for what we're told is an emergency court appearance. The actor, as you may remember, facing a felony charge for filing a false police report.

Smollet was arrested and released on bail just last month after claiming that he was assaulted by two men who he said used hate-filled language. Our Chicago crew is en route to the courtroom there. We will give you those details as soon as we get them, as to what's happening in that courtroom. We're going to stay on top of that story. In other news, Duke University has agreed to pay millions of dollars

to the government after being accused of faking research to get federal money. We'll have more on that, coming up.


[10:56:53] SCIUTTO: Duke University has agreed to pay $112 million as a result of allegations that it faked data to receive millions of dollars in federal grants.

Federal prosecutors say that a single researcher at the school applied for and received more than two dozen grants from the National Institutes of Health, the EPA and other federal agencies. The applications were submitted over a 12-year period. Martin Savidge joins me now.

Martin, this start with a whistleblower suing the school.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Correct, it did. Yes. It went back a number of years and it all became part of a federal lawsuit here. And these are allegations that were made against Duke University, a very prestigious private university that now has decided, rather than go to trial, it's going to pay $112.5 million back to the federal government.

So why does all that matter? Well, it goes like this. Essentially, this was an alleged cheating scandal by Duke University, only it wasn't the students here involved.

TEXT: Controversy over Duke University research grants: Duke will pay U.S. government $112.5 million settlement; Accused of falsifying research in order to obtain millions of dollars in federal grants; Settlement revolves around allegations between 2006-2018; Former Duke employee originally made allegations in a lawsuit

SAVIDGE: It was a researcher. A research that applied for federal grants. These are lucrative things when it comes to university research. And they were coming from big entities like the EPA, or were coming from the National Institutes of Health.

And these 30 grants amounted to a lot of money. But it turns out, in return, the research was not properly done or that the technician simply lied on the application. And worse yet, in progress reports on how they were going, fabricated the results.

So the public is ripped off in two ways. You're ripped off because it's tax money that went to waste. And false information that you got in return -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And that could have real consequences. So the whistleblower, under whistleblower laws, gets a significant portion of the payout?

SAVIDGE: Right. And this gives you an idea of the kind of money we are talking about because the reward to the whistleblower was almost $34 million, that they will get as a result of turning the program in. Duke University has basically said that it did make a mistake here.

Let me just read a portion of the statement they put out. They say, "We must accept responsibility, acknowledge that our processes for identifying and preventing misconduct did not work, and take steps to improve" here.

TEXT: "We must accept responsibility, acknowledge that our processes for identifying and preventing misconduct did not work, and take steps to improve." Vincent E. Price, President, Duke University Vincent E. Price, President, Duke University

SAVIDGE: So there you have it. Another university that's been caught up in another very embarrassing circumstance. And Duke says, going --

SCIUTTO: You (ph) know (ph) --

SAVIDGE: -- forward, its research is going to be carefully scrutinized.

SCIUTTO: And you're right that it has consequences both financially but also in terms of the information that was put out there. Do we know more about this whistleblower?

SAVIDGE: It's a former employee as well. And this was a person who clearly was very aware of what was going on. We also know that the technician -- that was the one who allegedly lied in these applications -- has been fired.

Duke considers that this is now resolving the circumstance. But, again, research done for the public by public money, in which not only was the information lied about, but false results provided. when you think of the National Instituted of Health, that's very concerning.

SCIUTTO: Stealing directly from taxpayers. That means you and me.


SCIUTTO: Martin Savidge, thanks very much.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

[10:59:55] SCIUTTO: And thanks to you so much for joining me today. I'm Jim Sciutto here in New York. "AT THIS HOUR" with my colleague Kate Bolduan starts right now.