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Confusion Over Mueller Report; Trump Pushes to End All of Obamacare; Boeing Officials on Capitol Hill; Trump Administration Proposes Cuts to Special Olympics. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 27, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:03]

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: And she tweeted a series of numbers. She said $12.4 billion of it goes for grants to state programs, $391 million for preschool grants, $470 million for infants and families.

And, Brooke, you do have to remember that, on Capitol Hill, the president's budget comes up here, it is not going to pass out of a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. It doesn't even have enough votes in the Senate to pass.

So the president will never actually sign it. This will never actually go into law, but, obviously, it is supposed to be a statement of policy priorities for the Trump administration and for Betsy DeVos, which is why Democrats are saying she deserves to come under fire for these cuts.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Lauren Fox, thank you.

Let's continue on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin, top of this hour.

All eyes on Capitol Hill, where federal aviation officials are about to get grilled by senators over those grounded Boeing MAX 8 jets. Officials from the FAA and the NTSB are expected to face many questions about passenger safety and the airplane certification process.

This moment comes at the height of Boeing's massive P.R. crisis following those two deadly crashes within five months of each other, both involving those MAX 8 jets. Boeing just unveiled an overhaul of the plane's software systems at the center of those crash investigations.

And not long ago, Senate testimony wrapped for Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. She pushed back when she was asked why the U.S. waited so long to ground those MAX 8 jets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELAINE CHAO, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: The FAA is a very professional, fact-based organization, and they don't make decisions that are too hasty.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: There were -- there are additional safety sensors that could have been purchased by the airlines, as some airlines did and some airlines did not.

Do you intend to require Boeing to retrofit all the aircraft with the full suite of safety sensors in order to provide maximum assurances to the public?

CHAO: I don't think we're there yet, but it is very questionable, if these were safety-oriented additions, why they were not part of the required template of measures that should go into an airplane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Jessica Schneider is our CNN justice correspondent in Washington with more on today's testimony.

And so just preview for me what we should be looking for with FAA, NTSB in the hot seat.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's set to be a lot of tough questioning for the FAA, Brooke, with this Senate hearing.

We know that they will be pressed on their whole certification process for the Boeing 737 MAX, plus also you know why they waited so many days to ground those jets after those two fatal crashes in less than six months.

But, most notably here, we expect to get some information from the acting FAA administrator. We know that he plans to announce that there will be changes coming to this current certification process.

This, of course, is a process, Brooke, that's come under really heavy scrutiny. It's this self-certification process. It allows aircraft manufacturers to sign off on their own work in the FAA's name, so a lot of issues and questions with that.

Well, now the FAA will say that they plan to make changes to that system this summer. No details yet, but we should be getting it in the hearing. Now, in the meantime, that's happening in Washington, D.C. In Washington state, across the country, Boeing is now unveiling an overhaul to its software system.

Today, it actually is hosting about 200 pilots and industry stakeholders, and they're showcasing the software fix. So we have learned that this is a pretty big update. It would force the 737 MAX to rely on two indicators to determine the plane's angle, instead of just one previously, and it would also prevent any downward angle that can't be counteracted manually by the pilot.

That was, of course, the big issue that they know of that investigators have concluded with that Lion Air crash. And then one other thing, Brooke. That software warning light that Elaine Chao was discussing there, we know that, as part of this fix, one of those indicators will now be a standard feature, instead of an optional one. So Boeing unveiling all of this today. And, Brooke, we know as it

comes to that software fix, they actually plan to submit their final fix for -- and all of the compliance documents to the FAA a little bit later this week, so, obviously, working furiously to make a lot of these fixes here, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Watch that hearing for us with close eyes, and we will loop back on that.

Justin Green is with me now, former president of the International Air and Republican Safety Bar Association and CNN aviation analyst.

And I know you have written this great piece on CNN.com. But just, as we wait for this whole hearing to begin, what is -- if you were there and you were one of these lawmakers and you could ask one key questions of these folks, what would it be?

[15:05:00]

JUSTIN GREEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: First thing is, airplanes are supposed to be designed, to the extent possibly, failsafe. So, their systems are redundant.

You have more than one speed sensor. In this case, this airplane has more than one angle of attack sensor. But they'd set up the system so it operated off of only one of the two angle of attack sensors. So why did a single-point failure of one component cause this nose-down?

Why did the FAA certify this airplane with that system and why did Boeing allow that system to go out of its doors to be sold?

BALDWIN: OK. We will talk in a little while after we have listened to this hearing. And we will follow up on if that question was answered and then some of the other points, I know, these great points you're making in the piece. So thank you, Justin Green. Stand by.

I want to turn our attention now to the new Trump administration's effort to eliminate all of Obamacare. Just a short time ago, the president made a big promise about the health care law just days after his Justice Department told the federal appeals court that the full law should be struck down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're coming up with plans. We have a lawsuit right now going where phase one of the lawsuit terminates Obamacare, essentially terminates Obamacare.

You know that. That's the Texas lawsuit. We think it'll be upheld that we think it will do very well in the Supreme Court. And if the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we will have a plan that's far better than Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN is learning the administration's choice to invalidate all of Obamacare was a result of a months-long debate inside the president's inner circle and came even though Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on the left side of your screen here and Attorney general Bill Barr there opposed this move.

Zeke Emanuel is one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act. He was also former health policy adviser to President Obama.

So, Zeke, thank you so much for being here.

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Good to be with you.

BALDWIN: So I'm wondering if this is one of those where you think, all right, from your perspective, here we go again?

But the question today is, how worried are you that this repeal may actually happen this time around?

EMANUEL: I'm actually not worried, for one fundamental reason. I like to say to my students, so how long is the Affordable Care Act? It's 906 pages. And of those 906 pages, only 225 deal with getting coverage for people.

Some of that is getting Medicaid expansion. That has nothing to do with the mandate. It's expanding Medicaid and, as the Supreme Court said, making the program broader. Some of that has to do with the exchanges where the mandate does play a role.

Just eliminating the mandate does not eliminate all of those parts for coverage. And, more importantly, it has no impact on the cost-control provisions, the provisions for quality, getting rid of hospital- acquired infections. It has no impact on other aspects of the bill related to, for example, increasing the number of primary care doctors or increasing the number of nurses.

It's an absurd claim that the whole Affordable Care Act goes out if the mandate falls. And, frankly, the reason I don't lose sleep is, I think Chief Justice Roberts has made it quite clear he's quite impatient with this idea of trying to chip away at the law repeatedly. And so I'm just actually not that worried about it.

And many conservative legal scholars think this has no basis in law.

BALDWIN: Do me a favor. Despite your lack of worry, because, for everyone watching, they may not share the same ease as you do and they're wondering, OK, well, if this actually went through, if this actually would be repealed, what are the real-world implications for Americans?

EMANUEL: Oh, well, the real-world implications are pretty dire.

Remember, about 22 million people got coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Those people would lose coverage. People who have preexisting conditions -- and let me remind you, 133 million Americans have a chronic illness -- they would presumably see their insurance change if they're trying to buy insurance on the individual market. People who got coverage through Medicaid would lose that coverage.

There are many other provisions, cost-control provisions, trying to actually make the system more efficient for everyone to keep the cost of health care down, those would go out the door, because the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services would not have the funds to actually implement many of them.

This would be far-reaching. Hospitals, insurance companies, doctors would not know what the actual structure of the system is. And then you have to say, President Trump really has chutzpah to say, oh, well, we're going to come up with an alternative plan that's better than Obamacare.

Really? We have been waiting nine years to hear what the Republican plan is. There is no Republican plan that covers people comprehensively, that gives people with preexisting conditions protections and that controls costs.

[15:10:05]

They have never outlined or introduced such a plan.

BALDWIN: Yes.

EMANUEL: Because they don't have a plan.

And the idea they're going to come up with one in two or three months, that is laughable.

BALDWIN: You read my mind. I wanted to get you to respond to the president saying that we will have a plan. Laughable. Noted.

Zeke, how about the fact that Axios today is reporting, like we're hearing from these various Republicans? And of all Republicans, we heard from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He's now coming out saying that this president -- that this new health care push makes no sense.

So, just so we're all the same page, like, not only are Republicans in disagreement over the replacement, right to your point, that they disagree on the repeal. So do you think that their handing...

EMANUEL: Well, I...

BALDWIN: Do you think they're handing 2020 over to the Democrats -- Democrats with this issue alone, health care?

EMANUEL: They very well might.

Remember, in the 2018 election, health care was the number one issue for voters. And Republican candidates ran around trying to say, oh, I'm going to protect people with preexisting conditions, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.

The public doesn't trust them. And if Trump really pushes this, it's going to make quite clear that Republicans are not trustworthy when it comes to health care, and that they will, in fact, dismantle a system that has been working pretty well.

And I think the fear of that happening is why you have increasing support among the public for Medicare for all. They figure, I'm not sure whether preexisting conditions, I'm going to be able to buy insurance. Medicare, that's a safe thing. Then I really want to be able to have that as my safety net.

And I think that's the kind of logic that is going through people's minds that is drawing them to Medicare for all. And I would remind the president and I would remind -- I think what's motivating Kevin McCarthy is, he has seen the polls where even a majority of Republicans are for Medicare for all.

Now, they become less supportive once they see the details. But the fact that that even begins to sing to them, I think, suggests that people are very nervous about Republicans could do to health care. And they are very nervous about losing coverage. And that does make people worry.

They have seen the benefits of the plan, and they like it.

BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.

Zeke Emanuel, one of the architects of the plan, all, as you point out, 906 pages, I'm sure you remember all of it and everything that went into it. Zeke, thank you so much for coming by. We appreciate it.

I have a feeling we're going to be talking about health care for quite a while here on this -- when it comes to politics looking ahead to 2020.

EMANUEL: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you, sir, very much. You got it.

The top U.S. commander for U.S. forces in Korea is issuing a stark warning today. General Robert Abrams says that if any hostility with North Korea begins to rise, that the U.S. may not have the capability to see an attack coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. ROBERT ABRAMS, COMMANDER OF U.S. FORCES KOREA: Their activity that we have observed is inconsistent with denuclearization. As we look to the future, as conditions might change, if they change negatively, then it -- our stance and our posture is not adequate to provide us an unblinking eye to give us early warning and indicators.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby's with me now. He's CNN's military and diplomatic analyst and former State Department spokesman.

And, Admiral, you tell me exactly what that means.

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I know General Abrams well.

What he's talking about is the ability to have what we call ISR capabilities put into the fight early before a conflict breaks out. This is intelligence surveillance reconnaissance, you know, drones, the ability to get information, sufficient information, so that you can act militarily in advance of a conflict or when one breaks out.

And what he's talking about there is, if diplomacy fails, if the balloon goes up on the Korean Peninsula, I don't have enough of those capabilities to provide enough information to allow the president to make the right military decisions, should it come to that.

And that's very alarming.

That said, Brooke, I will tell you that most combatant commanders around the world will tell you that ISR is one of the things they need the most. It's almost like oxygen in the military. Even just a little bit taken away from you, you feel it.

And so I'm not totally surprised that General Abrams would raise this as a major concern.

BALDWIN: Got you.

Admiral Kirby, thank you very much.

We are keeping an eye on that Capitol Hill hearing where the FAA is getting questioned about protecting everyone's safety in the skies. We will come back to that.

Also, House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff doubling down on his claims of Russian collusion, despite that four-page summary of the Mueller report released by the attorney general. We have details on that and why the former FBI Director James Comey says the whole thing has him, in a word, Confused.

[15:15:08]

Plus, former Vice President Joe Biden taking heat for saying he wishes he could have -- quote -- "done something" to help Anita Hill during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

How about just reminding everyone that, folks, he was the chairman of that committee?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We're back to watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

For so many in Washington and beyond, Attorney General Bill Barr's four-page summary of the Mueller report is raising as many questions as it is answering.

So let's just start with collusion.

[15:20:01] The White House, based on that four-page Barr letter, says that Mueller cleared the president and his campaign at any wrongdoing.

House Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff disagrees with that. In fact, he's doubling down on his claim that collusion did happen and vowing to move forward with investigating.

Now you have James Comey here, the former FBI director, the man whose firing prompted Robert Mueller's hiring, is also weighing in here. NBC is reporting that Comey told an audience last night that he is, in his words, confused.

He says he's confused by Mueller's decision not to charge or exonerate Trump on obstruction.

CNN legal analyst Asha Rangappa is a former FBI special agent.

So, pleasure to have you here in person. Hello.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks. Hello.

BALDWIN: Let's dive in first on Comey.

So Comey says this -- quote -- "I have great faith in Bob Mueller, but I just can't tell from the letter, why didn't he give these questions, when the entire rationale for a special counsel is to make sure the politicals aren't making the key charging decisions?"

So, Comey is confused. Are you confused?

RANGAPPA: I think we're all confused, Brooke.

I mean, basically, what we have is a book report on the Mueller report.

BALDWIN: It's like the crib notes.

RANGAPPA: It's the crib notes. Exactly.

And I think what we need to know is really what was put out there, because what we know from the letter is that Mueller gave both evidence that might have been supporting obstruction of justice, but also was in Trump's favor, but he didn't make a decision.

Why didn't he make a decision? That's what prosecutors do, right? I think two possibilities. One is Department of Justice policy that you don't indict a sitting president. So maybe he is a by-the-book person and he said, I just -- like, it's not my call to make.

But then it's sort of, whose call is it? Or if he didn't believe that it was a political call, in which case he expected that pros and cons list to make it to Congress to determine whether or not they wanted to pursue with a political remedy.

BALDWIN: So, the possibility is that he didn't, as everyone keeps saying, punts, but that he purposely left all these bread crumbs, and maybe to your second option, that he wanted it to go to this political body. He knew it would go on to Congress. He it would go on to Barr, both of whom are political.

And so you're saying, that is one possibility, that he did that on purpose?

RANGAPPA: Exactly.

I mean, if you believe that -- and we have heard this theory over and over again -- that not only is it DOJ policy, but some believe that you cannot indict a sitting president...

BALDWIN: A sitting president.

RANGAPPA: ... that this is a constitutional question that has never been resolved...

BALDWIN: Yes.

RANGAPPA: ... and that the only remedy is a political one through the impeachment process, well, the only people who can decide that are members of Congress.

And they can't do it if they don't see what evidence was actually gathered in the course of the investigation.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you about this, Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani says the line about not exonerating was a cheap shot, was unprofessional.

And this is how George Conway, both a Trump foil, right, and the husband of Kellyanne Conway, this is how we responded in this new "Washington Post" op-ed.

He writes: "Mueller isn't prone to cheap shots. If his report doesn't exonerate the president, there must be something pretty damning in it about him, even if it might not suffice to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt."

Is that a possibility?

RANGAPPA: Yes, I completely agree.

BALDWIN: That there's something so damning in this report?

RANGAPPA: Well, you don't need to say that it doesn't exonerate him, if there's nothing there, if it's a zero on the side of no evidence, right?

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

RANGAPPA: And I think what people need to understand is that this was both a counterintelligence investigation, as well as a criminal investigation. And when it comes to an office that's based on public trust, there is

a spectrum, from being compromised all the way to crossing the line of behaving criminally. And you can be anywhere along that spectrum. So you might not have committed a crime, or there might not be enough evidence to prosecute you, but that doesn't mean you're not somewhere along the spectrum that stills calls into question your ability to perform your duty as a servant of the public and the ultimate servant, as the president of United States.

BALDWIN: We know that the A.G., Bill Barr, will be testifying in a House budget hearing in a couple of weeks. There's no doubt obviously Mueller is going to come up.

What do you think should happen? I mean, do you think he should testify? Will he be answering questions about this?

RANGAPPA: This is Bill Barr?

BALDWIN: Yes, Bill Barr.

RANGAPPA: Again, I think most people are really not interested in his filter.

This is someone who had already made a judgment about the legal standard for obstruction of justice for the president, that, as a legal matter, he couldn't obstruct justice, a year ago. And so I think that his views on it will always be called into question.

And I really think that, for the benefit of the country, for both sides to put to rest all of the speculation, we need to see the actual report in one form or another, whether it's redacted to some degree because of classified information. There has to be a public version straight in Mueller's words.

BALDWIN: Was talking to a law professor yesterday saying to me, like, don't rush. They shouldn't rush the report coming out, or else there's just going to be more redactions.

[15:25:01]

RANGAPPA: Right.

BALDWIN: And you want to see as much as you possibly can, so slow the roll, do it right, and get it out there.

RANGAPPA: I agree.

BALDWIN: Asha Rangappa, thank you. Thank you.

RANGAPPA: Thank you.

The former vice president, Joe Biden, says the U.S. has to tackle the -- quote, unquote -- "white man's culture" that allows violence against women. Plus, we have sound about his new regrets about Anita Hill. And Jussie Smollett says he is innocent. Prosecutors say he is not,

even though they dropped all those charges against him, those 16 felony counts. The question is why.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)