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FAA Acting Chief Grilled on Capitol Hill; Alabama Passes Country's Most Restrictive Anti-Abortion Law; Country Heading Toward Constitutional Crisis?; Interview With Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA). Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 15, 2019 - 15:00   ET



ASHTON BYRD, EYEWITNESS: Then I knew it was something serious.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, very much thank -- Ashton, we want to thank you very much for your quick action, especially...


BYRD: Oh, thank you so much.


BYRD: Yes.

CARROLL: Thank you very much.

Once again, Brooke, from what we're being told here from Hudson Park officials, there was one person on board. Unclear if he was on his way to pick up passengers, but that is what we're being told out here, that he was on his way to pick up some passengers.

But when things like this happen, oftentimes, some of the details are confirmed at a later point. But it seems as if we have got one person here. That person was extracted from the helicopter.

But you can imagine New Yorkers out here watching something like this happening. The last time we saw a major event like this out here in the Hudson River, I believe it was 2009, when we remember U.S. Airways crashed into the Hudson River, actually not far from where I'm standing right now.

Again, all of those passengers were pulled from that plane. It looks like the one person who was on board this helicopter pulled out as well -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, everyone went -- everyone's mind went to miracle on the Hudson. I'm glad this pilot is going to be A-OK.

Jason Carroll, thanks for the hustle very much to you and your crew. Appreciate it.

All right, we continue on, top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We have more breaking news this afternoon at the White House. The White House counsel has flatly rejected the House Judiciary Committee's request for documents in its sweeping investigation of possible obstruction of justice and abuses of power.

The House Judiciary chairman, Jerry Nadler, responding this way:


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): This is the White House claiming that the president is a king. This is the White House saying that the Justice Department says they can't hold the president accountable, because you can't indict a president, and now they're saying, neither can Congress.

So the president is totally unaccountable and above the law. No president, no person in the United States is above the law. This is preposterous.


BALDWIN: CNN political director David Chalian is with me.

We hear the Chairman Nadler's response. Just listening to Manu reporting it out last hour, he said it best. It's like this clash that continues to escalate, right, one side vs. the other, until, poof, potentially impeachment proceedings.


And now they're not even really talking about the substance at this point. They are -- they're questioning each other's motives at this point, something that you know you get to a new level in politics when you're just so distrustful of the other guy.


CHALIAN: We have seen President Trump say, a blanket policy, right, the Democrats are not getting anything.

This letter goes so much more to the core of this, claiming that Jerry Nadler doesn't have jurisdiction over here, which does seem like a far-fetched claim. I don't know that they are thinking that President Trump is a king, as Jerry Nadler says, but there is no doubt that it is the purview of the House Judiciary Committee...

BALDWIN: It's their job.

CHALIAN: ... yes, to follow up on potential obstruction of justice claims that, as Nadler wrote in his letter, are clearly laid out in the Mueller report. I can't think of something more in the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. BALDWIN: So now what, right?

As everyone's been watching the tit for tat back and forth, and now you just explained how it ratcheted up to a whole new level, where does this go?

CHALIAN: Well, it's going to go to the court, right? I mean, that's actually where it's going to end up. And that's why last week, when you heard Jerry Nadler say constitutional crisis, and Nancy Pelosi echoed those words, some longtime legal observers say, well, the thing that would be a constitutional crisis is if the court were to order the turning over of these documents, and then President Trump and the White House counsel still refused.

Then there would be no system of checks and balances. So I don't see how this doesn't go to the court. But to your point, Brooke, you said this could go all the way to impeachment. And I think it's so fascinating to watch what's going on here politically, because, with each of these moves, as Nancy Pelosi put it, the White House, the president, his representatives are indeed goading the Democrats into impeachment.


CHALIAN: And that's why Nancy Pelosi is so wary politically of it, but it is also why she and Jerry Nadler and others, who have been resistant to this, say that they have to continue to go through it methodically...



CHALIAN: ... methodically, step by step, as you said, be exhaustive, because it may be that it does lead to impeachment proceedings.

BALDWIN: Part of that, we should also point out, Manu is also reporting out, when he talked to Chairman Nadler, that Nadler is then going to slap these people on the White House side with fines, with fines, if they don't provide the documentation that they want.

CHALIAN: I mean, you now hear the chairman of the Judiciary Committee comfortable with something -- I don't think this provision of the House has been utilized in decades, the notion not only fining, but actually detaining some members of the administration for not appearing or not handing over documents.

It sounds like out of a novel that you couldn't imagine, but this is two co-equal branches at a full-on battle right now, fully infused with politics, of course, a full-on battle, and I don't see how it gets fully resolved without that third branch, the courts, the judiciary, coming in.

BALDWIN: OK. David Chalian, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Sure. BALDWIN: Let me bring in Democratic California Congressman John Garamendi. He is with me now.

Congressman, a pleasure. Thank you so much, sir.



BALDWIN: To just the point of the conversation we were just having, your reaction to this new escalation in this standoff between the White House and Congress?

GARAMENDI: This is only one part of that escalation.

Certainly, this issue of subpoenas and information is a very fundamental question of power between the executive and, in this case, the legislative branch. There's another one going on right now over at the Department of Defense, where the president is assuming the appropriation power of Congress.

The Constitution is quite clear. The only way to take money out of the treasury is through a congressional appropriation. Yet the president has, using various tools, an emergency declaration and others, already appropriated to himself for his border wall over $2.5 billion. And there's another $3 billion that he is targeting, all of that without any congressional approval at all.

BALDWIN: But when you hear, just to David's point, about this all sounds like a novel, to hear Chairman Nadler talking about fining these members of the administration and detaining them if they do not turn over these necessary documents?


BALDWIN: Where are we?

GARAMENDI: Well, we are in the midst of a major confrontation that will -- should the president be successful, both in the use of his power to -- well, his nonexistent power to appropriate money -- there really is no need for a Congress.

He can simply appropriate whatever money he thinks necessary for whatever that might be. That is a major confrontation on that side. The other side is indeed the oversight. That is the role of the Judiciary, the other committees, the Oversight committees.

It's interesting. Why do we have an Oversight Committee? Well, for the purposes of oversight, and, of course, the Intelligence Committee. If the president succeeds, through the courts or any other way, then the government of America is altered forever.

And we will in fact have an elected or perhaps an unelected imperial king. And I think that's what this is all about.

BALDWIN: Do you agree with the word Nadler used, king? He called the president king. Would you use...

GARAMENDI: Oh, absolutely. I have said that many times before.


GARAMENDI: If the president can use various mechanism to appropriate money for what he thinks is important, without congressional approval, then why have a Congress?

You, in fact, have what amounts to a king. He can dip into the treasury for whatever he wants to do, wherever that may be, including a war. And that is also going on right now in the Middle East.


BALDWIN: Let's talk about that.


BALDWIN: Let me jump in, for people who don't -- so, the other bit of breaking news this hour, that President Trump is meeting right now with his secretary of state, with Mike Pompeo, as tensions are escalating with Iran.

The State Department is ordering all nonessential U.S. personnel out of Iraq and warning Americans against any travel there, saying that they fear that there is -- quote -- "a high risk for violence and kidnapping."

We are being told that Secretary Pompeo is expected to brief all House members on Iran next week. But I know, Congressman, you just had a DOD briefing this morning. What were the key takeaways for you?

GARAMENDI: Well, the key takeaways is that Iraq and Syria and the Persian Gulf remain a very dangerous area.

Frankly, I heard nothing new that wasn't going on for the previous year-and-a-half, two years. In fact, it was much worse when ISIS was active and there were actual military actions against ISIS.

We now have a different circumstance there. The remnants of ISIS are still around. Iran's surrogates, the Shia militia, are still there. Iraq will be proceeding in the days and months ahead against those militias.

Yes, it is a dangerous place, but is it necessary to have B-52? Is it necessary to have a new aircraft carrier and the Marines? I have heard nothing that would indicate that there is something new that would cause the current level of concern, current level of drumbeat of war.

I don't see it there. It's not been explained to us yet.


BALDWIN: To that point, this British general was on the receiving end of a rare rebuke from the Pentagon for saying essentially what you're saying, right, that there was no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Syria or Iraq, contradicting recent U.S. claims.

The State Department says this is general is wrong. Given what you have heard, what you know, who do you believe?

GARAMENDI: Well, I have a -- I do not trust the president. He is a pathological liar on most everything.

And what we're beginning to see is it filtering down into the other agencies. When the Department of Defense tells me one day that the Air Force is going to have to shut down operations because they do not have a billion dollars to replace the money they had to spend on the replenishment of Tyndall Air Force Base and Offutt Air Force Base, and then the very next days taking $2 billion out of the Department of Defense operations, saying that those operations are not important, but what is important is a -- is a border wall, they have totally lost my trust for the Department of Defense.



GARAMENDI: The secretary cannot be trusted.

BALDWIN: Are you telling me that you are trusting this British general, instead of the president of the United States?

GARAMENDI: I am trusting what I heard.

What I heard is information that indicates that there is a threat, but it's the same threat that was there six months ago, a year ago, and, in fact, is less because ISIS is defeated.

Yes, there are problems in Iraq. Yes, there are concerns in Iraq. Do we need an aircraft carrier to deal with those? Do we need B-52 bombers? Or do we have the drumbeat of war here? Are we headed for a Gulf of Tonkin situation? I believe we may very well be in that situation.

BALDWIN: Understood, sir. Congressman Garamendi, thank you very much.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: Alabama passes the most restrictive abortion bill in the country, with no exceptions for rape or incest. And the bill's sponsors are hoping to get it all the way to the Supreme Court.

We will get reaction from a woman who decided very publicly to share her personal abortion story.

Also ahead, the acting FAA administrator getting grilled on Capitol Hill about how they're working to prevent another deadly Boeing crash. A mother who lost her in the Ethiopian Air tragedy was in that room. She wasn't invited to testify, but she was there today. We will talk to her live next.



BALDWIN: Now to Alabama, where some are outraged and others feel triumphant, after the state passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the country.

The bill outlaws abortion at every stage of pregnancy, with no exceptions in the cases of rape or incest. Doctors who perform them could face 99 years in prison. And if they even try it, they would be locked up for 10.

The bill passed the state Senate with the support of 25 men -- look at your screen -- 25 men. But voting on the bill was delayed via week after a shouting match erupted on the Senate floor last Thursday.

Last night, some Democrats once again made impassioned pleas.


LINDA COLEMAN-MADISON (D), ALABAMA STATE SENATOR: Republicans, you all, you guys used to say, we want the government out of our life. We want them out of our business. We want them out of our bedroom.

Now you in my womb. I want you out. You don't control this. You don't own this.

BOBBY SINGLETON (D), ALABAMA STATE SENATOR: You said to my daughter, you don't matter. You don't matter in the state of Alabama. I got to go home and tell her, the state of Alabama don't care nothing about you, baby.


BALDWIN: But for their Republican colleagues across the aisle, the bill was about a battle far beyond the state's borders.


CLYDE CHAMBLISS (R), ALABAMA STATE SENATOR: Life is precious. Life is a gift of our creator. And we must do everything that we can protect life.

TERRI COLLINS (R), ALABAMA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We will never get a heartbeat bill to be constitutional until Roe vs. Wade is decided and reversed.

And so I think everybody understood that and everybody's on board because of the mission of this bill.


BALDWIN: Cindi Leive is the former editor in chief of "Glamour" and "Self." And last summer, she wrote a very personal piece for "The New York Times" titled "Let's Talk About My Abortion and Yours."

So, Cindi, a pleasure.


BALDWIN: We will get into -- I remembered that piece and I wanted to talk to you today.

But, first, just on the news, when you first woke up and saw this news on Alabama, what did you...

LEIVE: I saw it last night. And it's horrifying. It's disheartening.

I mean, first of all, it goes against what most Americans believe about the right of a woman and her family and her doctor to make the most personal decisions a woman can make. About two-thirds of Americans, depending on which survey you look at, believe that Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land.

So these bills, the Alabama bill being, of course, the most restrictive abortion ban we have ever seen, but the so-called heartbeat bills that came before them, in no way represent what the majority of Americans believe about how these personal decisions should get made.

BALDWIN: Do you think, given these various states and what's happening, do you think that the reversal of Roe v. Wade is inevitable?

LEIVE: I think that these laws are -- these laws are being passed specifically to try to get to that point.

I mean, it's very clear, in the state of Alabama, that they made a concerted decision, those lawmakers that backed the bill -- and we just saw them -- in the Senate, it was 25 white male Republicans who voted for the bill.

BALDWIN: Originally sponsored, though, by a woman.

LEIVE: By a woman in the House. It's true. That was the Senate that we were looking at.

The bill itself was largely written by an unelected activist, an anti- choice activist who has been trying to overturn Roe v. Wade for 30 years now, who saw a window. And, when asked by a reporter, why not just do a heartbeat bill, just do a heartbeat bill, he said, well, why not go all the way, meaning, we need this to get up to the Supreme Court, so that the new makeup of the court, he hopes, will overturn Roe v. Wade.


And, of course, one very much hopes that that will not happen, because it will result in death for many women.

BALDWIN: For many women.

I want to read part of what you wrote in "The New York Times" last year.

Quote: "Would it be quite so easy to demonize this common experience if it were clear that the women who have gone through it include kindergarten teachers, clergywomen, Republicans, CEOs, the woman who served your coffee this morning, who cleans your house, who signs your paycheck, who patrols your neighborhood. As the activist Renee Bracey Sherman, who runs the We Testify site, put it, 'Everyone loves someone who has had an abortion. And if you think you don't, they just haven't shared their story with you yet.'"

Women don't talk about this for so many reasons, because it is so intensely private and personal.

LEIVE: And we shouldn't have to talk about it. Right?

I mean, in fact, the constitutional right to privacy is what Roe v. Wade is based on.


LEIVE: But I think I have felt that there are -- and many women before me who have spoken out very bravely about this felt that there's so many stereotypes and myths out there about the kinds of women who choose abortion.

It's very easy to demonize people when they're anonymous. For instance, we think that women who choose abortion are selfish or un- maternal. And the reality is that the majority of women make this choice...

BALDWIN: Go on to have kids.

LEIVE: No, they already have kids. The majority of women who choose to have an abortion already have children, and often are doing it to protect their ability to be a present parent, a healthy parent, a living parent, for that child that they already have.

And, also, there's a stereotype that women regret their abortions, right, that this causes a lifetime of shame or pain, as it sometimes does on TV shows. But, in reality, 95 percent of women say that they would make the same choice again, not that it's always an easy choice for many women.

It's extremely, extremely difficult, but it is a choice that 95 percent would make again. And I think we need to believe that we -- and I count myself among the one in four women who has made this choice -- that we have moral compasses, that we are in the best position to decide what happens with our bodies, with our lives, and what happens with the futures of our families.

BALDWIN: Cindi Leive, using her voice, thank you very much for coming on.

LEIVE: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I appreciate it.

Coming up next, I will talk to a mother who lost her daughter in that Ethiopian Air crash. Today, she sat in on Capitol Hill hearing to the head of the FAA, trying to explain what they're doing to keep another parent from feeling the same immeasurable grief. We will ask her if what she heard gave her any peace.

We will be right back.



BALDWIN: Today on Capitol Hill, the acting head of the FAA pointed to a potentially new factor in two deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX jets, pilot error.

The focus has been on the automated system called MCAS, which repeatedly pushes the nose of the planes down. But now the FAA's acting chief tells lawmakers the data shows pilots made mistakes on both flights.

On the Ethiopian Airlines' crash in March, the pilots -- quote -- "never controlled their air speed." And in the Lion Air crash five months earlier, the pilots didn't use an emergency checklist.

The details alarmed one Republican lawmaker who's also a pilot.


REP. SAM GRAVES (R-MO): When you're in a car and you're speeding towards a brick wall full speed, you're going to take your foot off the gas.

That's what most people would do. But they accelerated right through. I hate to disparage another country and what their pilot training is, but that's what scares me in all of this, is climbing on an aircraft or an airline that is -- that is outside U.S. jurisdiction.


BALDWIN: Nearly every lawmaker also paid condolences to one couple in the room, the parents of Samya Stumo, who was a passenger on the Ethiopian jetliner.

Her family is suing the airline, Boeing, and the supplier of the MCAS sensors.

And Samya Stumo's mother, Nadia Milleron, joins me now.

So, thank you so much for being with me.

And I see what you're holding up. Do you want to tell me quickly what that is and what that signifies? NADIA MILLERON, MOTHER OF ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES CRASH VICTIM: Yes, we

haven't got the list of all the passengers.

And these are the passengers we have been able to contact that sent us their pictures, so we could include them, because this is not about Samya only. There were 157 people on the plane.

And so it's really important to represent -- and I have this graphic that -- where you can see the number of people, it's the only way that I can show how many people are there, because I don't have all their pictures.

But it's very important to realize that this could affect any one of us. It could have been any -- anyone who's listening to this could have had this crash.

And there is a difference in information. At one point, Boeing said, we own this. And they absolutely own it. They own the defects in their plane, and they own the pilot error, because they didn't give information and they didn't give education



MILLERON: And by withholding information, that's why the crashes happened. They could have prevented that. And they could have prevented all of this massive hemorrhage of money for their company.

So, it's very, very stupid, what they did. And those...


MILLERON: Those statements that you heard from the hearing, that's just reiterating avoidance of responsibility.

And that is leading to more expense and more problems.

BALDWIN: Nadia...

MILLERON: What we need to do is do the investigation.

BALDWIN: I can't even begin to put myself in your shoes, nor would anyone watching ever, ever want to.

But, you know, it's happened to you. It's happened to so many other people's children and husbands.