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Trump Makes Pitch to Jewish Voters at Law Vegas Event; Trump Makes Re-election Pitch, Rejects Asylum Seekers; Fact-Checking Trump's Claims on the Border; Government Court Filing Says Could Take Up to 2 Years to Identify Thousands of Families Separated at Border; Obama Worries Progressives' "Rigidity" Could Lead to "Circular Firing Squad"; Bernie Sanders Makes Pitch to Black Voters as He Tries to Make Up Losses in 2016; Source: Trump Willing to Take Tax Fight to Supreme Court; NYT: Trump Wanted IRS Counsel Confirmation as Senate Priority; Boeing Makes Admission after 2 Deadly Plane Crashes; 3 Black Churches Suspiciously Burned in 10 Days. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired April 6, 2019 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump on the road this weekend. He is in Las Vegas right now, trying to convince a group of voters to help him win re-election. It's a group that traditionally votes Democrat more than Republican. We'll go live to Las Vegas in a moment.

Also this weekend, the president standing his ground. He is lawyering up to fight the latest congressional effort to get ahold of his tax return. People close to the president say they are ready to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

The border, the president standing at a section of fence in southern California saying he wants to see it stretch 400 miles in less than two years.

He also has a message for people thinking of crossing the border, even if they are seeking asylum.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The system is full. Can't take you anymore. Whether it's asylum, whether it's anything you want, illegal immigration, can't take you anymore. We can't take you. Our country is full. Our area is full. The sector is full. Can't take you anymore, I'm sorry.


CABRERA: Also this weekend, the families that U.S. border officials broke up under the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy, a new federal court filing says it might take two years before all those moms, dads and children are back together again.

Now, to Las Vegas where the president is in mid speech speaking to the American-Jewish Coalition. CNN's Boris Sanchez is there.

Boris, it's a friendly crowd at that event. Overall, Jewish voters usually do not vote Republican. How is he trying to change that?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ana. It's really a two-pronged approach. The president took the stage about 15 minutes ago. He is speaking to a friendly crowd, a Republican Jewish coalition. He's effectively touting his record on Israel. First, he mentioned some Jews within his administration, name dropping his son- in-law, Jared Kushner. That drew quite a bit of applause from the crowd. The president and surrogates who spoke earlier also talking about his recognition of the sovereignty of the Golan Heights and moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and talking tough on Iran, which drew quite a bit of applause.

The other aspect to the approach is the president going after Democrats. A moment ago, he asked the crowd, how the hell they supported President Barack Obama after he struck the nuclear deal with Iran.

We should point out, there was a small group of protesters that started chanting early on, after the president began speaking, some anti-Israel statements. One had a sign saying -- just anti-Semitic remarks overall. They were booed by the crowd. They were forced out. And the president had words for them as well. This is clearly a priority for President Trump.

He took the stage a short time ago. As you know, Ana, he is known to go off-the-cuff during these speeches. We will keep monitoring what he says and bring you any updates -- Ana?

CABRERA: And how are White House officials characterizing the president's unbending policy on immigration and asylum seekers? He said the country is full. Do they see this as winning policy? The president's own mother was an immigrant.

SANCHEZ: That's right, Ana. Part of this has to do with timing, right? As you know, shortly before the midterm elections in 2018, President Trump took a tough stand on immigration, talking about invaders, describing these migrants, refugees moving through Central America and into the United States. He's doing it again now because we are headed into 2020. It's a part of the reason he is here, speaking to the folks. Keep in mind, of course, the president is trying to push this image of himself as somebody who is very strong on immigration, making progress on the long-promised border wall, as he visited the border yesterday.

As you've said, the president's rhetoric hasn't really changed from the first day he came down the escalator in 2015 and said some Mexicans were rapists and thieves. But we'll see it continue as we get closer and closer to Election Day. The president won't hesitate to make it an issue that he speaks candidly on -- Ana?

CABRERA: Boris Sanchez, in Las Vegas, keep us posted on the president's remarks.

As much as the president likes to threaten he is closing the southern border --


TRUMP: I will do it. You know I will do it. I don't play games.


CABRERA: -- experts say it's not even possible to physically close the entire border. The southern border, alone, is almost 2,000 miles long, and only about 650 miles of that has some sort of barrier currently in place. The Rio Grande River runs along a big chunk of the border.

Then there's this. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $1.7 billion of goods travel between the U.S. and Mexico daily. A shutdown would threaten five million American jobs that depend on trade between the two countries. And U.S. auto plants would have to close down within a week, we are told.

[15:05:02] According to economists, some of the effects of a border shutdown that you, me, everyone in this country would feel, include nationwide shortages of key medical supplies and shortage of foods like avocados, strawberries. Last year, when the busiest land crossing in the Western Hemisphere was closed for just five hours, the Chamber of Commerce said the U.S. lost an estimated $5.3 million in five hours. A border shutdown would hurt American farmers, consumers and manufacturers nationwide.

One of the key reasons President Trump says a border wall needs to be built is to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants. The truth is, most of those who are undocumented in the U.S. right now came here legally and overstayed their visas. According to the Department of Homeland Security, from 2016-2017 alone, more than 700,000 people overstayed their visas. A majority of them having come through airports, not through the southern border.

The president also claims building more sections of wall would stop drug trafficking. The truth is most drugs from Mexico enter through official and legal points of entry. That is from the president's own Drug Enforcement Administration. And the president's new call for staffing to be moved to focus on the areas between ports of entry is prompting lawmakers to express their concern even more drugs could sneak through, disguised as commerce.

While the president likes to say his wall is already being built, well, that's not true. Congress has appropriated almost $1.4 billion for 55 miles of new border fencing, but construction hasn't started yet. There have been barriers replaced or fixed, like where the president visited yesterday, with funds approved to do that work well before Trump became president, making plaques like this misleading, at best. Under President Trump, not one new linear mile of border wall has been completed in his more than two years in office.

With us now to talk more about this, Siraj Hashmi, commentary writer and editor at the "Washington Examiner," and Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times."

Siraj, I want to start with the president's on-again/off-again threat to close the border. The repercussions would be so egregious. Is this a scare tactic?

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER & EDITOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: It could be a scare tactic, Ana. What we're looking at is, if President Trump wanted to unilaterally shut down the border, he would have done so. Obviously, shutting down the border would focus CBP and ICE to focus more on parts of the border that are more porous. It would half commerce and cripple the economy. It would have a lasting impact on American workers and farmers as well. If he was going to, you know, issue this threat, giving Mexico a year warning, it's not going to improve the situation from where it already is. You know, President Trump declared a national emergency to build a border wall and this threat to shut down the border seems to ring hollow because he's not treating it exactly as a national emergency.

CABRERA: The president is using a few new lines at rallies about this, saying our country is full, telling people to turn around.

Lynn, what message does that send to the rest of the world about how America feels about immigrants?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Sad to say, it's a xenophobic message, Ana. It is not a welcoming message. The country is not full. It is -- it defies rational explanation why a president, except for a President Trump, who seems to want to throw provocative slogans out there to be inflammatory. So, the demand, by the way, to close the border the way Trump coupled it with drugs, people who studied it also say another way to stop the flow of drugs over the border is stop demand for drugs in the United States.

CABRERA: That's another solution. We are not seeing an attack on this issue.

Let me ask you, Siraj, about the issue of leadership when it comes to immigration. We know the president roughly pulled his nomination choice to lead ICE. It was White House adviser, Stephen Miller, who lobbied for somebody, quote, "tougher" because Ron Vitiello was not fully in favor of closing the southern border. What do you make of that?

HASHMI: Ron Vitiello has been serving as acting ICE director since June of 2018. During that time, Trump declared a national emergency. It's well within Stephen Miller and President Trump, just by their reputation, if they want someone who is tougher on immigration, to get that person. Ron Vitiello probably didn't live up to his performance. Hence, why he declared -- President Trump declared a national emergency because things were not getting better. In fact, things have probably gotten worse considering that the CBP commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, said they have reached higher-than-average migrants coming into the country, 50,000 from per month from October to December and 100,000 in March. There needs to be a staff shake up in the Department of Homeland Security with respect to CBP and ICE. President Trump should absolutely make it.

[15:10:28] CABRERA: There's this other new, disturbing information where a new court filing, we're learning, says it may take up to two more years to find and reunite families that were separated at the border. Do you think something like this could hurt the president going into election cycle?

SWEET: Actually, no, because it would just continue to play to a base that, so far, has not punished him for the policies that separated the families in the first place. So, the finding that it would take longer than whatever perhaps people would have guessed it would have taken and now knowing the difficulty of putting families back together, I think, politically, the price Trump will pay won't be that much.

CABRERA: Remember how unpopular this zero-tolerance policy was with both parties?

SWEET: Yes, but it's with -- something being unpopular in Congress, and this case does not always translate -- I'm giving you an analysis here -- into whether or not the president is being punished politically. Because if that really was the case, then the subsequent talk about the country is full -- you just think of the stunning, the stunning, what goes into a statement like that. As a slogan, as something that you could put on a bumper sticker, it is part of the cunning genius of the president to try and stir the pot, be provocative, and put forth a policy that I would think almost everyone in Congress who is an elected official could not agree with because, even if you wanted to play along for a moment and say it's full, every place is full, New York full, California full, there's no meaning to it. And one other quick thing, is it full only -- this is where you have the underlying discrimination here. If the country is full, I can't believe I'm taking this seriously, something like that, but why aren't we closing other ports of entry throughout this nation to other people coming in from other places who are coming here as immigrants, legal or not?

CABRERA: That's a good point.

Siraj, let's talk more about 2020. I want to flip the script here. We heard from President Obama today, weighing in about his party. He said this at a town hall in Berlin, Germany. Watch.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things I worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States -- maybe it's true here as well -- is a certain kind of rigidity, where we say, oh, I'm sorry, this is how it's going to be. Then we start sometimes creating what's called a circular firing squad, where you're shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues.


CABRERA: Siraj, with such a crowded field of Democrats, is this a risk?

HASHMI: Absolutely. It is a risk that Democrats had to weigh in the 2016 presidential election when it was Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders. You are seeing a lot of the same elements that happened in the 2016 Democratic primary that you are seeing now. Joe Biden, who is obviously leading in most polls, would be seen now as the moderate in the race, even though he was President Barack Obama's vice president. It shows the Overton Window in the Democratic Party is shifting further to the left. You could probably make the case that Democrats -- you know, if Trump was not president, they would probably fall into the same traps they did in 2016. But knowing that Trump could win another term, probably would remind a lot of Democrats that he very well could win again.

CABRERA: Siraj Hashmi, Lynn Sweet, good to see you both. Thank you.

It's a hill the Trump team says they are ready to die on and that the president is willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to fight releasing his taxes. Is the law on his side?

[15:14:42] After stumbling with black voters in 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders is making a pitch to that critical voting block ahead of the 2020 election. But is it too little too late? We'll take a look, next.


CABRERA: African-American voters are an important part of the Democratic base. According to 2016 primary exit polls and new 2018 data from the Pew Research Center, black voters make up about 20 percent of Democratic voters. Those numbers and the power of the black vote are not lost on the campaign trail as candidates like Bernie Sanders, who struggled with this voting bloc in 2016, are now focusing on courting black voters for 2020.

More now from CNN's Ryan Nobles.



RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bernie Sanders' 2020 campaign is off to a fast start.


NOBLES: But, in order to go from current front-runner to Democratic standard bearer, the Vermont Senator needs to bring in a much more diverse group of supporters than in 2016.

REV. JOSEPH DARBY, NAACP, CHARLESTON BRANCH: He needs to develop a greater level of cultural competency when it comes to the black community.

NOBLES: Reverend Joe Darby is an NAACP leader in Charleston, South Carolina, a state where the black vote is crucial in the Democratic primary and a state Sanders lost by over nearly 50 points to Hillary Clinton.

(on camera): He didn't do very well?

[15:20:07] DARBY: No, he didn't. (CHEERING)

NOBLES (voice-over): Overall, in 2016, Sanders lost black voters to Clinton by an average of 57 percent in states where there were exit polls.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I have seen tonight, we are going to do just fine here in South Carolina.


NOBLES: This time around, he has already made changes to his approach, in part, by getting personal about his connection to civil rights.

SANDERS: My years here in Chicago gave me the opportunity to become involved in the civil rights movement.

NOBLES: Sanders has filled his schedule, traveled to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, In South Carolina for the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.

SANDERS: We have a president of the United States who is a racist.

NOBLES: He has also named black leaders to prominent roles within his campaign and made a specific push to address issues of concern to African-American voters. This month, he appeared with South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn to tout a plan to increase funding to community health centers.

SANDERS: That impacts people all across the country and it impacts people of color even more.

NOBLES: Clyburn believes such efforts from Sanders are important for him to grow his support.

(on camera): Could that resonate with them in a primary?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Oh, it should. I hope it does. I really believe that people ought to give just due to people who do things.


NOBLES (voice-over): While the Sanders strategy shift is apparent, it's too early to tell if it's paying off. His raucous rallies typically draw predominantly white crowds, even in places such as north Charleston, a city where nearly half the population is black.

Darby's advice to Sanders, make sure his proposals directly address the concerns of black voters.

DARBY: Rising tides floats all boats, but if racial prejudice puts your boat a mile inland, it's still going to be hard to float.


CABRERA: That was Ryan Nobles reporting.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator, the former mayor of Tallahassee and the 2018 Democratic candidate for Florida governor, Andrew Gillum.

Andrew, good to have you.

What do you make of Sanders' campaign efforts to appeal to black voters? Is it too little, too late?

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's not too little, too late, at all. Good to be with you, Ana. I enjoyed Ryan Nobles; piece and it struck important themes with the Sanders campaign. They have got to -- and I think they are doing a better job at it this cycle around -- bring the Senator's experience with the black community forward, the personal narrative. The fact that in 1962, he went to Chicago as a young activist fighting for civil rights. He was an early endorser of Jesse Jackson in 1998. That he was an early on the antiapartheid movement here in the United States. Furthermore, the last point from the piece around the rising tide lifts all boats, I think voters of color want to hear very directly about how the inequality that exists within our communities will be addressed specifically with public policy and not the generic rising tides of all boats conversation.

CABRERA: Let's talk a bit about some of Senator Sanders key policy platforms. He is talking free tuition for public universities, Medicare-for-All, increasing the minimum wage. Do you think the policies have the concerns of black voters in mind?

GILLUM: Well, I think he's going to have to, again, show and discuss with the black community where they show up in these issues and where they show up and how he is going to address the public policy. The truth is all the systems are structural, structural in equality around education achievement, particularly in communities of color. Structural economic issues when it comes to black women being at the back of the line when it comes to wage equality. He's got to put voice into how people of color are going to be impacted by his policies, in addition to helping the larger American audience recognize how they benefit from those policies as well.

CABRERA: I'm hearing you say he has some work to do, still, with the black voting demographic. Although, I know you liked what you hear in terms of how he is bringing his story and personal relationships forward. He was one of the first big names to support your candidacy when you ran for governor. Do you think you will endorse him?

GILLUM: At this stage, I'm staying out. You may or may not have heard, I made a goal of registering a million voters in Florida, all across the state of Florida, all 67 counties. My contribution to this election cycle will be to help float a blue for whoever the Democratic nominee is for governor.

CABRERA: How is that going, that voter registration drive? GILLUM: We are just getting started. A coalition of more than 22

organizations across the state of Florida. I feel confident we are going to hit our goal. If we do that, to put it in perspective, I lost my race for governor by 32,000 votes. We are aiming to get another million of our voters on the voter rolls. If I fell short by 25 percent or if I got only to 25 percent, that's 250,000 voters who have the impact of changing the trajectory not only of Florida's 29 electoral votes but the future direction of the country and the world.

[15:25:18] CABRERA: The new polls find your former opponent, Governor Ron DeSantis, enjoying a 62 percent approval rating. Do you believe he is doing a good job?

GILLUM: The proof is in the eating. We are in the middle of the legislative session. There are important issues, from arming teachers with guns to dismantling Amendment Four. I want to hear where the governor will be on those issues and what he will do to make sure the will of the voters is executed in this process. I'll measure him on his action. We still have some observing to do.

CABRERA: Sure, but 62 percent approval is nothing to sneeze at. Is this support among Florida voters going to make it harder for Democrats to win Florida next year?

GILLUM: I don't think so. I think we are a 1 percent state. I think, what will be the biggest difference between who wins and loses my state is who gets in and organizes the state of Florida and turns out the vote. If we turn out the vote, we win. If we fail to do that, we lose. The popularity of the governor, or lack thereof, in my opinion, won't be an additive or a hindrance to whether or not Democrats win the White House. What will be the best predictor of that is who does the best job organizing, registering, engaging, and turning out our voters on Election Day.

CABRERA: Florida is an exciting place to be for both parties going into 2020.

GILLUM: It is.

CABRERA: Andrew Gillum, thank you for being here.

GILLUM: It is. Thanks for having me. Take care.

CABRERA: You, too.

Sources inside the White House telling CNN that the fight over the president's tax returns is a hill they are willing to die on. And that the president is ready to go all the way to the Supreme Court to fight releasing his taxes. But is the law on his side?


[15:31:24] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The battle lines have been drawn. A Trump official tells CNN the president will go all the way to the Supreme Court to keep his taxes secret. Here is the quote" "This is a hill and people would be willing to die on it." Democrats want President Trump to hand over six years of tax returns by this coming Wednesday. Team Trump has dismissed the request as nothing more than harassment. The president saying he won the election, so the issue of tax returns is over.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The letter your lawyers sent about your tax returns, is there anything you would like to say about it?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing whatsoever. I've nothing to say about it. I got elected. They elected me. They keep going. I am under audit. When you are under audit, you don't do it. But I'm under audit.


CABRERA: Let's remind everyone, we have no idea if Trump is under audit. The IRS does not confirm that. We know Trump lied when he said this.


TRUMP: If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely.


CABRERA: With us now, Washington investigative correspondent for the "New York Times," Mark Mazzetti, is with us, and CNN legal analyst, Ross Garber. He's considered an expert in political investigations and impeachment law.

Ross, bottom lines, is the law on the president's side of this fight or not?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It gets complicated. There's a statute that says, if the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee asks for somebody's tax returns, the IRS shall give it to him. In law, "shall" is probably the strongest word that can be used. "Shall" means, it's got to happen.


GARBER: But, the overlay is the Constitution. There's a "but." It's the law. The overlay is, but, the Constitution. The Constitution says, yes, OK, "shall," but it has to be for a proper legislative purpose. By the way, that statute applies to the president, you, me, all of our viewers. It applies to everybody. The Constitution says there's got to be a legitimate legislative purpose. That's where there's an issue. The president's lawyers have said this is about politics, there's no legitimate legislative purpose. That's where the issue comes.

CABRERA: Do you see a legitimate legislative purpose based on how Democrats are approaching this? GARBER: So, here is the issue. The Democrats have said the

legitimate legislative purpose is that the IRS is supposed to, under regulation review, a sitting president's tax returns. So, they are saying that's what they are interested in. They want to know whether the IRS is complying with that. The president says, hey, look, that makes no sense. They have asked for many years of tax returns, business tax returns, personal tax returns. They wouldn't have needed all of that if that was the point. The answer is, if it's, I think, an open question and is one that is going to wind up, if both sides want to fight it, going to wind up in court. That, I think, is just fine for the president. That's where he wants to be. Any litigation about this is going to take a long time and, so, there's enough of a question about it where it gets into court.


So, Mark, "The Times" reported the president asked Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to fast track his nominee for IRS chief counsel. That was even before confirmation hearings for President Trump's attorney general pick, William Barr. How significant is that?

MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: It's a sign, of course, if you can draw a direct line, the president is going to continue to fight this issue. He is going to continue to, you know, ensure that his administration, including IRS, doesn't turn over the returns. And, as Ross said, they are going to probably end upbringing it to court. It's wrapped a lot of his administration in. Remember, Steve Mnuchin was asked about the request to turn over the tax returns, and he said he had to talk to his lawyers. The president made it clear he has no intention to do it. That's where we are going to expect the political and legal fight.

[15:35:38] From the Democratic point of view, they see the returns as the Rosetta Stone as Trump investigations. If they can see the returns, it would then a key to find out what to look at. We don't even know if Robert Mueller looked at Trump's tax returns. And Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants to see them because of possible of any possible foreign money that the president has received. These returns are this legislative, legal, political fight. As Ross said, you would expect it to go for some time, especially if it ends up in court.

CABRERA: As part of the legal argument by Trump's team, they are pointing to the fact Democrats aren't requesting information about the audits of previous presidents, one of the ways they are saying this is political. Given previous presidents released their tax returns, Ross, how strong is that argument?

GARBER: What they note is that and, also, previously, there haven't been these requests, not just for the president's tax returns, it's for all the background information, all the work papers, all of that information, so not just the tax returns. It's a point that they are making. It's not their strongest point, probably.

Following up on one thing Mark said, I think the president is fine with fighting this. I also think the Democrats in Congress are also fine with fighting this out for a few reasons. One, most of these issues -- it happens in every administration. Congress wants information from the White House, the White House doesn't want to give it, other parts of the administration don't want to give it, and there's a fight about it. What usually happens is there's a negotiated solution. So, I think Democratic leadership thinks they will fight it out. During the fight, they get some information.

The second thing, they are showing the American people, in particular, their base, that they are willing to go to bat and try to get this information and do what they need to do.

Third, I'll note, in the unlikely event there is an impeachment, it sets up a potential court for the impeachment that the president isn't cooperating with Congress. I think what you see if this is a little skirmish that both sides are happy to have.


MAZZETTI: And I would add point four, the more the Democrats can say, what does he have to hide, the more there's a lingering question of maybe there's something to hide. So, Ross is right, they are happy to go along with this as well.

CABRERA: Firing up both bases in some ways.

Mark, the president has been tweeting about Robert Mueller and his report, which we are waiting to see. Here is part of what he wrote today, "I have not read the Mueller report, yet, even though I have every right to do so. Only know the conclusion. And the big one, no collusion. Likewise recommendations made to our great A.G., who found no obstruction."

You broke a story this week that investigators on Mueller's team were frustrated by the four-page summary of the work, the conclusions they offer. They didn't adequately describe their findings. Do we have an indication as to why William Barr didn't use the summaries Mueller's team prepared in advance?

MAZZETTI: The Justice Department says they weren't ready for prime time. Summaries had grand jury materials, classified information, and they couldn't have put them out. They will come out in some capacity, possibly redacted.

We should point out, if our story, we never indicated they would have just come out or without any kind of redactions, but certainly there was a concern inside the Mueller team that more of the information from those summaries was not included in the Barr letter. Some could have been included, certainly, not grand jury material, but it would have presented a different picture than Barr did in his letter. That allows the president to say what he has for two weeks, that he was totally vindicated and exonerating. The Barr letter didn't say that. Accept the narrative for those two weeks that some concern is, by the time the conclusions come out, people have shaped their opinions.

[15:40:00] CABRERA: The Barr letter specifically quoted Mueller as saying he was not exonerated as to the question of obstruction of justice.

Ross Garber, Mark Mazzetti, good to have you with us. Thanks.

MAZZETTI: Thank you.


CABRERA: A preliminary report says the pilots of the Ethiopian Airline plane that crashed shortly after takeoff did everything Boeing said to do to try to save it. Now, the Boeing CEO is accepting the blame and promising changes. Will it be enough to restore faith in the aircraft manufacturer?


CABRERA: Boeing is cutting production of its best-selling 737 airplanes, mostly the grounded MAX jets, amid growing fallout from two deadly crashes that claimed more than 300 lives. Boeing says its 737 production will drop from 52 planes a month to 42, starting later this month.

The Boeing CEO acknowledged this week the plane's anti-stall software played a role in the crashes, the Ethiopian and Lions flights. Now the Ethiopian Airlines pilots reportedly battled the anti-stall software for six minutes before the plane nose-dived into the ground.

All of this comes as the "Washington Post" reports regulators ordered Boeing to fix a second software problem on the 737 MAX jets. Boeing tells CNN the problem is, quote, "relatively minor."

[15:45:25] CNN investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, is tracking every angle of the story. Here is Drew's brand-new report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The CEO of Boeing making a rare admission, accepting blame for two of its airliners that crashed.

DENNIS MUILENBURG, CEO, BOEING: It's apparent that in both flights, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to erroneous angle-of-attack information. It's our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it. And we know how to do it.

GRIFFIN: The video message from Boeing comes after a devastating preliminary report laying out that a software issue apparently caused the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight last month. The report also suggesting the same issue may have caused a Lion Air flight to go down last year. The preliminary report finds the pilots did everything required to try to bring the plane back safely, but ultimately couldn't control it.

Former Boeing operations analyst, Rick Ludtke, says during development of the 737 MAX, Boeing had a mandate, make sure any changes to the plane would not require additional pilot training in a simulator. RICK LUDTKE, FORMER BOEING OPERATIONS ANALYST: Unprecedented. Never

happened in the past that I'm aware of. We were very uncomfortable with this.

GRIFFIN: Ludtke says Boeing managers told him they even sold the plane to Southwest Airlines with a guarantee, a rebate of $1 million per plane if simulator training was required.

The flight control analyst says the demand to avoid simulator training, known as Level D, took over design of the aircraft.

LUDTKE: Throughout the design iteration, all the status meetings with managers, that was something that was always asked, you know, are we threatened, are we risking Level D. If you are, you have to change it. I think, philosophically, it was the wrong thing for the company to do, to mandate such a limitation. To strongly avoid it makes sense. But to prevent it, I think you can see the line from that to these accidents.

GRIFFIN: Federal investigators are now trying to determine if Boeing's cost-saving moves could somehow lead to criminal charges.

(on camera): Both Boeing and Southwest Airlines refused to comment on their business deal that was referred to in this piece.

But in the meantime, we're learning what is causing the delay in getting Boeing's software fix to the FAA. It was supposed to be sent last week, but CNN has learned there was a glitch in integrating the software with other Boeing programs, which has now caused a delay.

Drew Griffin, CNN, outside Boeing's Renton facility in Renton, Washington.


CABRERA: Thanks, Drew.

Just in the past 10 days, suspicious fires have ravaged three historic black churches in a Louisiana parish. Authorities are now investigating. Details ahead.


[15:53:03] CABRERA: The FBI is now investigating why three historically black churches in the same Louisiana parish have burnt in the last 10 days. Each church has a large mostly African-American congregations, stirring suspicion among the state's fire marshal and authorities.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us now.

Kaylee, no injuries have been reporter, thank goodness. But authorities are not calling this string of events coincidental.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. Thankfully, no one was injur3ed because these fires were burning in the middle of the night. But beyond that similarity, there are a couple that authorities are pointing to. All three of these churches have been active in St. Landry Parish for more than 100 years. And each the buildings were off of rural highways. Authorities have not yet said they are able to conclusively connect these three fires, but they say there were suspicious elements found in each, elements that they say are being thoroughly probed.

The fire marshal cautions that arson investigations can take months. Saying they are very complicated and unconventional crime scenes because, essentially, all of your evidence has been burned. In the case of these three churches, they have been reduced to not much more than rubble. So the St Landry Parish sheriff is telling the community, that progress has made but everyone needs to be patient here as he is hearing their pleas that this crime be solved.

CABRERA: Kaylee Hartung, we know you'll stay on top of it. Thank you.

[15:55:32] Meantime, a New York man is charged with threatening to kill Congresswoman Ilhan Omar because of her Muslim faith. Details on that investigation just ahead here in the CNN NEWSROOM


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