Return to Transcripts main page


WSJ: Investigation Could Explain Why Boeing 737 MAX 8 Jets Crashed; Court Blocks Another Trump Attempt to Undermine Obamacare; Trump to Keep Special Olympics Funding; Trump Avoided an Interview with the Special Counsel; Brexit's Future Uncertain after Key Vote Fails; Trump Celebrates "Exoneration" While Ripping into Old, New Targets. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 29, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for joining me today this Friday. We hope you have a great weekend. I'm Jim Sciutto, in New York.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks for joining me.

It's the big question that has grounded more than 300 planes worldwide. What caused two Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets to crash right after takeoff? It looks like investigators are closer to an answer today. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the preliminary conclusion from the black boxes from the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane was in fact the same issue that likely took down the Lion Air flight last October. That same flight control software, the same software that Boeing is scrambling to fix right now.

CNN's Tom Foreman has been tracking this from Washington and joins me now.

Tom, you have two crashes less than five months apart killing 346 people. What does this mean now this morning?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What it means from Boeing is that the software fix is number-one priority absolutely. To make sure it is clear to everyone, what we are talking about here, this is software that is supposed to keep the plane level when the nose starts going up, the MCAS. It is supposed to automatically bring it back down. In the Lion Air crash, and if this "Wall Street Journal" reporting is correct, and it tracks with everything else we've been hearing in recent weeks, what happened was the software got a false reading from a censor and kept pushing the nose down even has the crew tried to pull it back up, and they fought back and forth until the plane crashed in both instances if this is all correct. The bottom line is it is all tracks that way. It does look that way. And that makes the steps by Boeing even more important -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Tom, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

I want to continue this discussion. Joining me now Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the Department of Transportation. Mary is also an attorney who represents families of airline crash victims and has litigation pending against Boeing.

Mary, you were flagging the similarities in these crashes from the very beginning. What do you make then of this preliminary finding as is being reported in "The Journal?"

MARY SCHIAVO, ATTORNEY & FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: First and foremost, it's very important that they have this finding because this will help on finding what went wrong. What's really significant about the second one was as late as Wednesday in hearings before the U.S. Senate, head of the FAA was denying that there was any connection between the planes saying that they had full confidence in the aircraft and in the MCAS system that pushes the nose down. And that they were still saying no one has proven there's any connection between the two flights, a ridiculous statement to be sure. Now we have it. Now with the confirmation or assuming the confirmation that the Wall Street Journal reporting is correct, now with the second incident or accident being shown to have come from this MCAS system, we now have a situation where in a second flight they only had we believe 40 seconds. In the first Lion Air one there were over 20 times that the nose was pushed down. Now we have on takeoff 40 seconds, the aircraft is pushing the nose down and on takeoff the only way to get up is to pull the nose up. It is a highly important development and will cast further doubt on the MCAS system.

BOLDUAN: This information comes from the data from the black boxes. Is there something particular they would have seen in the black boxes that would point them in this direction at this very point?

SCHIAVO: Sure, just the positioning of the control services and the black boxes show whether it is input from the plane or the pilot and the black boxes here are very advanced and modern and have literally hundreds of data inputs. It would show the pilot pushed down, the exact altitude, the timing, how much time they really did have and the cockpit voice recorder would have all the alarms and the systems going off in the cockpit and the pilot's voices.

BOLDUAN: This is preliminary. What is the likelihood that it would change dramatically by the time they reach the final conclusion?

SCHIAVO: I think a lot of things change between this preliminary and the final. The preliminary for these kinds of reports are supposed to put the facts, just the facts and what they have found so far. On the final they include recommendations. I think here saying you just need a little bit of training and that the 737 MAX, I think by the final we will see is much more training is need. This plane flies like the old 737s because it does not. I think we will see a lot more training required and hands on training. Right now we don't have the simulators set up. There aren't any.

[11:05:13] BOLDUAN: I heard you say this before. The first time it happens, it's the pilot. The second time it happens, it's the plane. No matter what, are you confident in one thing at this point that it was not -- that it was the plane and not pilot error? Do you think you can say that? SCHIAVO: Yes, I can. 75 percent of the air crashes in the United

States are blamed on the pilot. There's usually a pilot error finding. But you cannot blame the pilot if the plane -- you can't trouble shoot a plane. You cannot fault the pilot when the plane is malfunctioning and you don't have time to trouble shoot and you weren't trained to do it. I think a pilot error finding would be not helpful. They will say the pilots should have done this and that. I have worked these cases with run-away tram. 40 seconds is no time at all. Pilot error finding will not be helpful. It is the plane it appears.

BOLDUAN: An important preliminary conclusion. Much more to learn. It all means so much more to the families of the 346 people who died in these two crashes less than five months apart. And now all of these planes are grounded.

Mary, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: There's also this. President Trump is keeping his political opponents on their toes as well as his own cabinet after a week of announcements and reversals, ranging from health care to the Special Olympics, President Trump says the administration will not cut funding to the Special Olympics, despite Betsy DeVos defending the exact cuts basically all week.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been to the Special Olympics. I think it is incredible. I just authorized a funding. I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We are funding the Special Olympics.


BOLDUAN: And that's not all. President Trump, last night at a rally, said the administration will protect Americans with preexisting conditions as the health care debate reignites. He has said this before, but this is despite that the Justice Department is arguing for eliminating the protection right now in federal court as they want to eliminate all of Obamacare in federal court. It's the latest edition of who can you believe? Does anyone speak for the Trump administration right now?

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House with more.

Jeremy, so let's start with health care. What are you hearing about the president's working group that he has mentioned?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know this administration is right now backing the full striking down of Obamacare. Yet they do not have at this moment a viable placement should the ruling striking down the entirety of the law be upheld. The president suggesting he had convened a working group who are working to come up with a replacement. The problem it appears that group does not exist. One Senate Republican aide told me he believed the president was just listing off Senators who he had spoken to about health care issues. And all of their aides said that they have had conversations with the president about health care and they continue to speak with colleagues about this issue, but there has not been some kind of a new group that has been formed by this. We also know that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is trying to put as much distance between them. He told "Politico" just yesterday, "I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing and what he can work out with the speaker." That would be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

Clearly the Senate majority leader here wants the White House to handle this on its own and deal with the speaker of the House because he knows that, at the end of the day, unless the president and the White House can get the House speaker on board with some kind of a replacement, nothing is going to get through Congress which again makes the administration's current position of wanting to strike down the law in its entirety all the more problematic.

BOLDUAN: That's like Mitch McConnell saying, I have nothing for you. You are all on your own on this one.

Back to Betsy DeVos and funding for the Special Olympics. What are you hearing about the president's move when he said I just learned about it, it's going to get funded very publicly under cutting her when it comes to this?

DIAMOND: Secretary DeVos spent the last three days on Capitol Hill defending this very proposed cut in the president's budget. Again, it is the president's budget. So the whole notion is saying the president is saying he overrode his staff's decision, this is in his name. This is not the first year that the administration has proposed cutting that. It has done so in the last several years of the president's administration, proposed cutting funding to the Special Olympics. None of this was expected to go through on Capitol Hill. The president feeling the political heat and pulling back here saying my administration supports funding for the Special Olympics.

[11:10:23] BOLDUAN: So apparently the buck stops with Betsy DeVos.

Jeremy, good to see you. Thank you so much.

Joining me now, CNN political analyst, Josh Dawsey, a White House reporter for the "Washington Post."

It's great to see you, Josh.

What is it about the president that he repeatedly throws his cabinet secretaries and other officials under the bus so publicly? This cut to the Special Olympics was proposed in his previous two budgets as well.

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We have seen him do it over and over again, with Rex Tillerson negotiating with North Korea and President Trump tweeted and said save your energy, Rex, I will handle it. He's done it with various members of his foreign policy community. He did it yesterday with Betsy DeVos. His budget officials have been aggressively trying to defend some of these cuts. The president was taking some political heat for it yesterday. He came out on the South Lawn and just reversed it immediately. It was quite an abrupt end to a saga but something the president has done over and over. Last week, it was on North Korean sanctions. John Bolton and others were saying there would be sanctions. The president said we're not doing any sanctions. I like Chairman Kim. He wants to project he's the ultimate decider. He is a person who matters and those around him don't speak for him. Corey Lewandowsky, his former campaign manager, said it famously on the campaign trail, the only person who speaks for Mr. Trump is Mr. Trump. I think that remains true to this day.

BOLDUAN: But you hit what is the craziest bit on this. It seems motivated that by coverage in the press, not by what he knows or believes, it's one thing if you think you need to do major cuts in federal funding and you make the argument that it has to be what it is. It does seem to be motivated almost every time by the news cycle, which is I guess I will take my surprise face off.

You are also writing about one of the biggest mysteries of the Mueller investigation. I think this is super important. The question has been all along, why didn't Mueller's subpoena enforce the president to sit down? What have you guys found?

DAWSEY: We found that the president's legal team, for months, prepared a strategy of cooperation with Mueller's folks. Even as Rudy Giuliani were making comments, they were working with the special counsel and all of that was done in hopes that the president would not be subpoenaed for an interview. Many of the president's lawyers were afraid he would perjure himself or maybe contradicted documents that the special counsel's team had. They wanted to avoid an interview. They told the president it would hurt his case if he sat down hike he said he wanted to.

What ended up happening is that the legal team was preparing a strategy in case they got subpoenaed for an interview, taking it to the Supreme Court, maybe 12, 15 months of battles. Instead, Mueller's team never went that far. They never forced a subpoena, they never forced the issue. The probe ended without the president having to do anything and then respond with written answers to some of the questions about the investigation.

To be clear, the written answers were only about matters that were before he won the presidency. None of the obstruction moments that they were investigating, the president never had to delineate thinking to the special counsel directly.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned the timing and what a subpoena fight would have actually meant timing wise. Do you get a sense that that was a real factor in this, that the Trump's legal team just smartly ran out the clock?

DAWSEY: Certainly. Rudy Giuliani said to me last week, we were talking, and he said it would have taken a year and we could have won the public relations battle during that year. Their thinking was that the public was getting tired of this investigation and Mueller had lost some standing in the polls and findings that 50 percent of the public saw this as a partisan investigation. The longer this went on without him sitting, the less likely he would have to sit for an interview. It seems that the strategy ended up working. Giuliani jumped on the story that we were country lawyers, laughing, saying no one took us seriously. The strategy of running out the clock really ended this without the president facing the one-on-one interview that they feared.

[11:15:02] BOLDUAN: The president, real, quick, has always said he is open to doing this interview. Do you think that was actually true?

DAWSEY: I think the president vacillated on it. There were times he thought the probe was taking too long and wanted to do an interview to expedite the end of it. He told advisers, after Mike Flynn had to plead guilty to lying to federal officials, that really rattled him, as well. There were days where the president wanted to do an interview but his lawyers talked him back from the ledge because they said there's nothing in it for you to do an interview. Their negotiations with the special counsel was there was no evidence. They wanted to probe episodes that could be obstruction and the president doing an interview could only help them do that.

BOLDUAN: It is fascinating, fascinating the kind of process you have uncovered. And the mystery remains on why Mueller went the route he did without the subpoena. Only he really knows.

Good to see you, Josh. Thanks so much.

DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, another major defeat for the British Prime Minister Theresa May. Lawmakers in the U.K. rejecting a key Brexit vote. Another vote and another rejection. What does this mean for America's closest ally? What does it mean for the prime minister?

Also coming up, the president accusing Democrats of revenge politics while saying this.


TRUMP; Little Pencil Neck Adam Schiff got the smallest, thinnest neck I have ever seen.


TRUMP: He is not a long ball hitter.


BOLDUAN: So he loves him. We will discuss what the top Trump campaign official. Stay with us.


[11:21:10] BOLDUAN: Today was supposed to be exit day when the U.K. left the European Union. Instead, one of the world's biggest economies and one of America's closest allies is in a state of chaos. British Prime Minister Theresa May is hanging on by a thread. After more than a thousand days in limbo, Europeans and the world are waiting to see what the British parliament will do now about Brexit. The parliament just voted.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live outside the prime minister's residence in London.

Nic, the parliament rejected the prime minister's latest deal. What does it mean for Brexit and for Theresa May?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The answer to both of those things in a nut shell is the spectacle continues. Theresa May says this means the situation is grave. It's gone as far as it can go in the House. The European Union reacted immediately saying they will call an emergency session on the 10th of April and they expect the United Kingdom to come up with an answer before then. What is Britain going to do? Less than two weeks away now. The prime minister will have to decide, is Britain going to leave without a deal? Crash out with all the economic implications for the European Union and beyond? And she said there was no support for that. Or is she going to ask for a long extension. She may not get a long extension from her leadership in the Conservative Party or as prime minister. But a long extension could open the door to a second referendum and potentially no Brexit at all. This is far from done. It is possible this prime minister may try to push through another vote again. That's unclear. We are in a deeper situation of chaos and uncertainty than just an hour ago -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: It has been a wild ride to this point. It is not over. The wild ride continues. I think everyone is ready to get off one way or another.

Great to see you, Nic. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, President Trump takes a victory lap. If he says it is time to move on from the Russia investigation, why does he seem so focused on getting revenge? What is the campaign's focus? A top campaign official joins us, next.



[11:28:19] TRUMP: Democrats are pushing a cynical and destructive agenda of radicalism, resistance. Resist and revenge.


TRUMP: Revenge. What do you think of their signs? What the hell?


BOLDUAN: President Trump last night unveiling something of a new slogan for Democrats. No word yet if Democrats are taking his advice in terms of the slogan. At his first big campaign rally since the end of the Mueller investigation, the president was full of celebration for what he is trying to label as total exoneration while ripping into old and new targets.


TRUMP: Little Pencil Neck, Adam Schiff, got the smallest, thinnest neck I have ever seen.


TRUMP: He is not a long ball hitter.

We have a chance of killing Obamacare. We almost did it but somebody unfortunately surprised us with thumbs down. But we will do it a different way.

Jerry Nadler, I have been fighting him for many years. I had to beat him many, many times. Now I come here and have to beat him again. Can you believe it?



BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, Marc Lotter, the director of strategic communications for President Trump's reelection campaign.

Marc, thank you for coming in.


BOLDUAN: After watching the rally last night, the president says Democrats have revenge on the brain. He clearly made that case. Doesn't the president, as well?

LOTTER: I think the president is right to point out that for two years now the American people were lied to by so many Democrats. You have -- told us they had evidence of collusion. They had evidence of collusion which is Russia, Russia, Russia. But the special counsel absolutely cleared the president and his campaign of any collusion with Russia. We know that was a lie.