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Ethiopian Airlines Crash Report Finds No Pilot Errors; Pete Buttigieg to Announce Candidacy April 14th as Joe Biden Addresses Recent Public Statements by Women; American Woman Held for Ransom in Uganda; Congress Questions Alexander Acosta's Role in Jeffrey Epstein Plea Deal; Justice Department Responds to Robert Mueller Investigators' Objections to Barr Summary. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 4, 2019 - 10:30   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right. So this morning, we're hearing more details from this preliminary report on last month's deadly crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight.

TEXT: Crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302: Partial Findings from Preliminary Report. Pilots unable to control jet despite repeatedly performing all aircraft manufacturer's procedures; Boeing 737 Max 8 had normal certification; Crew certified for flying aircraft, had necessary training; Ethiopian authorities recommend: Boeing review flight control system; Aviation regulators ensure fixed before authorizing future flights of plane

HARLOW: The big takeaway from this report is that the pilots of that Boeing 737 Max 8 jet did everything right in terms of correctly following procedures implemented by Boeing. But they were still unable to control the jet before it went down shortly after takeoff.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: The report says explicitly -- explicitly, the pilots were properly trained, ending speculation about human error ahead of the crash. There were a lot of whispers about foreign pilots, how good are they, how trained are they.

Now the pressure for answers seems to be squarely back on Boeing, the manufacturer and the FAA, the regulator.

HARLOW: Let's discuss with Justin Green, former president of the International Air and Transportation Safety Bar Association. He's also representing families of victims of that Ethiopia Airlines crash.

Good morning to you.


HARLOW: What is your initial takeaway from this reporting, that the pilots did what they were supposed to do?

GREEN: Well, it would kind of be shocking if they didn't. The Lion Air case was a huge, major aviation disaster, highlighted the problem with the MCAS system. An emergency air worthiness directive was issued by the FAA. Procedures were sent to all their customers. So the pilots would have known how the system operated. The Ethiopia

pilots would have known that the system, number one, is there. And how it operates, and how to turn it off. And so it would have been shocking if they hadn't followed the procedure.

But what this tells us is that the procedure, the safeguard --


GREEN: -- that they sent out after Lion Air, was not enough that -- to protect the crew.

SCIUTTO: So -- so a manufacturer has a crash. They zero in on a cause of the crash, being this anti-stall system, the MCAS system. They issue a procedure to correct that. The FAA says that's enough, tells everybody to do it. There's another crash.

GREEN: Right.

SCIUTTO: That's a pretty shocking failure by both the manufacturer and the regulator. Is it --

GREEN: Well, you know, people are like, "Well, why -- if they followed the emergency procedure, why weren't they able to get control of the aircraft?"


GREEN: The ability -- the safety is based on what your altitude is, what your airspeed is. It gives you time, it gives you options that these pilots didn't have. Ethiopia happened soon after takeoff, close to the ground.


GREEN: And what the -- what I think the FAA and what Boeing failed to do is consider that this problem can rear its ugly head in airplanes that are flying slow and low to the ground, and the pilots wouldn't (ph) have options.

TEXT: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302: Pilot faced emergency immediately after takeoff; Plane reached abnormal speed; Observers: Plane went up and down hundreds of feet; Communication with pilot lost after five minutes


SCIUTTO: I don't want my pilot ever fighting the plane at --


SCIUTTO: -- any altitude.

GREEN: No. And that's the -- the bottom line is, the system needs to be easier and not --


GREEN: -- and the designs that they're coming up with now will prevent this exact thing from happening. But two airplanes have already been lost.

HARLOW: Right. Well, talk about how we got here. Because there's some really important reporting from our colleagues at CNN Business that points out that in April of 2017, Boeing's then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg praised the FAA's -- what he called -- a "streamlined approval process" in this Max 8 jet.

He attributed it to, quote, "the pro-business philosophy of the Trump organization" -- administration, excuse me -- the Trump administration, and said in a Wall Street conference call, quote, "that's helping us more efficiently work through the certification of some of our new model aircraft such as the 737 Max as it's going through test flights and entering into service. So we're already seeing some of the benefits there of the work that's being done with the FAA."

TEXT: "That's helping us more efficiently work through certification on some of our new model aircraft such as the [737] Max as it's going through flight test and entering into service. So we're already seeing some benefits there of some of the work that's being done with the FAA." Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing CEO, April 26, 2017

HARLOW: You're representing some of these families. Have you found any evidence that the FAA too quickly gave the -- the, like, the nod of approval to this jet?

GREEN: One of the things you have to understand is the FAA is the police. They police --

HARLOW: Right.

GREEN: -- the safety of airplanes. And they're supposed to be an independent check on, that the manufacturers are doing the right thing.

And what you have is a relationship that is a partnership now. Not -- you know, not the cop, not the person being regulated. But really, more of a partnership. And too much deference given by the FAA to Boeing. And that's going to be a crucial issue that's going to be in the litigation and the investigation that Congress are doing.

And hopefully, it'll be a new day where the -- where the FAA fulfils its responsibilities to be an independent check on safety.

SCIUTTO: Imagine that, you know, workers (ph) are caught (ph) -- "Was I speeding? No, I wasn't speeding, officer." You know? Try to take my word for it.

HARLOW: Good point.

GREEN: Right. [10:35:00] SCIUTTO: I mean, Mary Schiavo made the point -- I spoke

with her earlier, formerly Department of Transportation -- she said that in Boeing's case, 95 percent of the certification decisions done -- self-certified, done by the manufacturer. Under what circumstances is that the case?

Doesn't seem to me, happen in the auto industry. Doesn't happen in the children's toy industry, right? Why does it happen here and doesn't that need to be fixed?

GREEN: Right. And part of this, what Poppy's just saying about what's happening in 2017. It really goes back to 2011. In 2011, American Airlines tells Boeing that it may be going to the A320 because of the fuel-efficient --

HARLOW: Right.

GREEN: -- you know, model, the A320. And Boeing embarks on this rush job to come up with the Max models. So now you have Boeing, you know, hurrying to kind of catch up to Airbus. And you (ph) got the FAA basically working with Boeing to help them get to the finish line. And I think they left some -- they cut some corners.

SCIUTTO: Wow. I mean --

HARLOW: And lives were lost.

SCIUTTO: -- (INAUDIBLE) it's predictable, right? It's a -- the classic failure.

GREEN: It is. It will be -- it will be a landmark -- this -- these two accidents will be studied in aviation safety forever.

HARLOW: Thank you, Justin. We (ph) --


HARLOW: -- appreciate it --

SCIUTTO: Good to have you on.

HARLOW: -- very much.

SCIUTTO: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. You've heard his name now. Speaking at an event as we speak, in New York City. He seems ready to make a big 2020 announcement soon.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: -- because it will allow us to advance the conversation beyond the way it --


SCIUTTO: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- it's kind of incredible, the whole country can pronounce his name now -- he is wrapping up an event at the National Action Convention in New York City, a convention focusing on civil rights in America. For the Democratic presidential hopefuls attending, it's a chance to reach out to African-American voters specifically.

HARLOW: Of course, this comes as Buttigieg drops pretty heavy hints about his 2020 ambitions. He tweeted that he'll make a special announcement in South Bend, Indiana on April 14th. And I'm just saying, special announcements usually don't go like this. "I'm not running."

Right, Jess McIntosh? CNN political commentator and former director of communications for Hillary Clinton's campaign. Am I right or am I right?

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the smart money is on Pete Buttigieg announcing for president on April 14th, yes. He's certainly been dropping all of the hints, that that seems to be.

And he's been exciting people all over the -- I was at South by Southwest just --


MCINTOSH: -- about a month ago, when he did the CNN town hall. And once he was done with that, that was what people in Austin were talking about. It was -- it was pretty exciting.

HARLOW: And everyone was googling, "How do I pronounce" --

MCINTOSH: (INAUDIBLE) right. Boot-a-judge.

SCIUTTO: Yes. So he's probably a long shot. But Barack Obama was a long shot, 2008. People thought that McCain was dead in the water for Republican nominee. Bill Clinton gave a lousy convention speech, what --


SCIUTTO: -- four years before, and all of a sudden was the nominee. So --

MCINTOSH: We -- we --

SCIUTTO: -- we've had surprises before.

MCINTOSH: -- are historically bad at predicting this. I think --


MCINTOSH: -- it's great that he's getting in. I think the idea that there is an openly LGBT man running for president, could not possibly be more important. I've been excited by the stuff that I've heard from him. This is just a massive leap for him, from mayor of a relatively small town to the national stage.

HARLOW: Total underachiever. I mean, Rhodes Scholar --

MCINTOSH: Right, right.


HARLOW: -- was (INAUDIBLE). I mean, what has this guy done --


MCINTOSH: I like that he's so policy-focused.


MCINTOSH: There are -- now we just need to learn more about him. There are a couple concerning things that I've started to hear, but it's very early. And I want him to be able to --


MCINTOSH: -- address anything that voters need to hear about. So I'm glad that he's at the National Action Network this morning.

HARLOW: Let's talk about former vice president Joe Biden, who has not jumped in but is widely expected to. I don't know if we have the video of him.

Do we have it? Can we play it?


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- folks (ph), in the coming month, I expect to be talking about a whole lot of issues. And I'll always be direct with you. But today, I want to talk about, gestures of support and encouragement that I've made to women and some men, that have made them uncomfortable.


HARLOW: OK. He didn't apologize.


HARLOW: What does that mean for him? Will it hurt him if he runs?

MCINTOSH: Yes. I mean, I think he's got to take responsibility. I think that's what women are waiting to hear him do.

This excuse that societal norms have changed, just doesn't wash. I mean, that sort of paternal behavior towards women in a professional setting has been making women feel uncomfortable for generations.

The only societal norm that has changed is that men seem to be taking us seriously when we complain about it now. So the idea that this behavior used to be OK and now it's not, just really doesn't wash.

SCIUTTO: Have you seen evidence -- I was talking to Harry Enten, our political analyst, yesterday about this. Any evidence in wobbling of Biden's support? HARLOW: Oh, interesting.

SCIUTTO: Because he's been consistently at the top of the list --

HARLOW: At the top.


SCIUTTO: -- among -- you know, by a long shot, even above -- you know, a good 10 points above Sanders. He said at least so far -- and it's early -- no.

MCINTOSH: I mean, I think at least so far, what you're gauging when you gauge those numbers is name ID. And of course he's way at the top, having been Barack Obama's very popular vice president.

I worry about all of the attention that we put on candidates who are not yet even in exploratory phase. Yesterday, Kamala Harris put out a proposal to have Dreamers work in Congress. Elizabeth Warren put out a proposal to make it more easy to jail bankers who defraud us.

If we --


MCINTOSH: Right. If we had -- yes. If we had spent a day discussing those policy proposals and what those might mean for the country, I think we'd be engaged in a better, more uplifting Democratic primary than when we spend time on candidates who haven't even announced yet.

So I would love to get to the policy pieces that are -- they're groundbreaking. They're exciting. I'd love to talk more about them.

[10:45:04] HARLOW: Fair enough. I can't wait to ask CEOs what they think of Elizabeth Warren's --



HARLOW: -- policy. And we will be asking them. We appreciate you being here, Jess. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Ask CEOs and CEOs' lawyers what they think about the --


HARLOW: Right, exactly.


HARLOW: I had a very tense exchange on Capitol Hill. House Democrats grilling Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta over a plea deal that he made 10 years ago as a federal prosecutor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCIUTTO: Right now, the State Department says that security forces are responding to reports of an American woman kidnapped in Uganda.

[10:49:59] HARLOW: Ugandan police say she was kidnapped on Tuesday by four armed men who have demanded half a million dollars in ransom. Michelle Kosinski is live at the State Department this morning with more.

What do we know about her?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: We don't know a lot about her. In fact, Ugandan security accidentally released her name at one point, but then said that they didn't want to do that.

So what we're reporting is that she's an American woman in her 30s. She had visited Uganda -- Ugandan police said she arrived on March 29th there with an elderly Canadian couple that were her companions.

TEXT: U.S. Tourist Kidnapped, what we know; Ugandan Police: U.S. Woman, Ugandan driver kidnapped by four armed men Tuesday; Ugandan Police: Kidnappers used U.S. woman's phone to demand $500,000 ransom; State Dept.: Security forces responding to incident

KOSINSKI: They were on a tour, a guided tour through Queen Elizabeth Park. This armed gang came, held them at gunpoint, took this American woman -- we believe she's in her 30s -- and are holding her for ransom.

Ugandan police say that these men have her cell phone. And they've been calling the place where she had been staying, and continually demanding $500,000 in ransom.

So as you mentioned, the State Department has its security teams on this. Ugandan police are -- are at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, trying to see if they can stop anybody who might be trying to cross the border. But so far, she has not been found and they are demanding ransom for this American woman.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. That poor woman. We hope she's found safely. Michelle Kosinski, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Also, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is facing a barrage of questions over a plea deal that he made more than a decade ago as a federal prosecutor.

He was serving as the U.S. attorney of Southern Florida when he signed off on a deal for billionaire alleged pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

TEXT: Who is Jeffrey Epstein? Florida billionaire; Pleaded guilty to two state prostitution charges in 2008, including one offense against a 14-year-old girl; No federal trial, served 13 months; Registered sex offender

SCIUTTO: Despite a federal investigation identifying 36 alleged underage victims -- all underage -- Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to two state felony solicitation charges. He served just 13 months, and that of an 18-month sentence.

Yesterday, House Democrats expressed frustration with Acosta over that deal at a budget hearing.


REP. LOIS FRANKEL (D), FLORIDA: My community is still very upset about this, and I hope there will be another opportunity to really flesh this out, and give you an opportunity to answer all these allegations. Because I think we can all agree that a very vile, disgusting man who molested underage girls -- lots and lots of them -- really got off the hook.


SCIUTTO: Massachusetts congresswoman there, Katherine Clark, also challenged Acosta on the deal, and even questioned his ability to lead the department at all.


REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: How, as secretary of labor, can you tell this panel and the American people that you can responsibly oversee this budget, the Department of Labor, including human trafficking?

Is there no answer?


CLARK: That was a question.

ACOSTA: So as I was saying, the Department of Justice for the past 12 years has defended the actions of the office in this case.


HARLOW: All right. Clark also pointed out, the Department of Labor's proposed budget had a 79 percent cut to the International Labor Affairs Bureau. It is responsible, of course, for combating this kind of stuff, combating child labor, forced labor and human trafficking.

SCIUTTO: You wonder where this money goes, you wonder what these agencies do. That's one of the things that they do.

[10:53:34] HARLOW: All right. Security researchers find hundreds of millions of Facebook users were exposed -- users' records were exposed to the public. The CEO and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is responding to all of this. That's next.


SCIUTTO: The breaking news just in to CNN from the Department of Justice, which is responding now to "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" stories about frustration from inside the Mueller team over the Barr summary. Jessica Schneider is at the Justice Department with the latest.

What's their response?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Poppy, it's a little bit of a roundabout response here. Because obviously we've been reporting all morning about "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" reports, that these investigators for Robert Mueller's team have been griping to associates that they didn't feel that Barr's four-page letter to Congress really adequately portrayed what the special counsel had found.

So now, just in the past few minutes, the Department of Justice responding here, doing it in a bit of a roundabout fashion. But I will read it for you. It's a bit lengthy. It says, "Every page of the confidential report provided to attorney general Barr on March 22nd, 2019 was marked, 'May contain material protected under federal rule of criminal procedure 6(e).'"

They say that's a law that protects confidential grand jury information, and therefore could not be publicly released. "Given the extraordinary public interest in the matter, the attorney general decided to release the report's bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately, without attempting to summarize the report, with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process.

"As the attorney general stated in his March 29th letter to Chairman Graham and Chairman Nadler, "He does not believe the report should be released in serial or piecemeal fashion."

So again, this statement, sort of dancing around the issue here. Because part of the issue in "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" reports, were that Mueller's team had submitted their own summaries to the attorney general --


SCHNEIDER: -- that they expected potentially released. That -- this statement from the Department of Justice, it doesn't address that. But it does say --


[11:00:02] SCHNEIDER: -- the attorney general never meant for his letter to Congress to be an entire summary.