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Boeing Admits Flaw In Software Used For 737 MAX Training; Right Now: Louisiana House Debating "Heartbeat" Bill; Protesters Rally Against Alabama's New Abortion Law; DOJ: Ex-Counsel McGahn Not Legally Compelled To Testify; Billionaire Stuns Morehouse Grads, Pledges To Pay Off Loans. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 20, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Those are the same planes involved in those two deadly crashes that killed hundreds of people. CNN's Tom Foreman has been following this investigation so closely for us. And, Tom, flows and what?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Again, again, Brooke, this is coming out of Boeing another surprise for people out there. Remember, what we're talking about here is there's this automatic leveling system called MCAS, which is supposed to keep the plane flying level but is expected in both the Ethiopian crash and the Indonesian crash of forcing the plane to go into a dive from which it could not recover.

The simulator question here has to do with a manual wheel that once you turn that system off and you're trying to bring the plane back level, there were some indication in at least one of these crashes that the pilots could not do that and the simulator that they were using to test this apparently was not designed to test that capability when the plane was traveling at a very high speed as we know was happening in at least one of these crash. I think both of them at this point.

But the point is they could not do it and the simulator would not simulate that. So, now, Boeing has issued the statement where they said they've made corrections to the 737 MAX simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions.

It goes on to say Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements to ensure that customer training is not disrupted. But what this doesn't help with much at all at this point is customer confidence, Brooke, because, again, it shows in the development of this system, Boeing itself is now saying something wasn't quite right.

BALDWIN: I had this mother on last week, lost her daughter.


BALDWIN: And, you know, I just -- she was so compelling and to -- just what would she be thinking like -- what would she be thinking and these families be thinking to hear about the flaws again in the system.

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Tom Foreman, to your point on trust, I appreciate you for the update.

We have more on our breaking news this afternoon. The White House is expected to block former counsel Don McGahn from testifying tomorrow. What this means in the President's war with Congress.


[15:36:44] BALDWIN: Alabama is not alone on its tough stance against abortion. Take a look at the map with me and you'll see. Several states have already either passed more restrictive abortion laws or are considering them.

Right now, Louisiana's House of Representatives is debating a heartbeat bill that would basically limits abortion to the first six weeks of pregnancy. Louisiana's state Senate already passed it and its Democratic governor says he will buck party politics and sign it. And here is how he explained his stance.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): In eight years in the legislature, I was a pro-life legislator, 100 percent with the Louisiana rights to life. When I ran for governor, I said that I was pro-life and so that's something that's consistent.


BALDWIN: Demonstrators marched on the Alabama capital, Sunday, and protested that state's new ban. More protests are set for tomorrow at state Houses and city halls all across the country.

And my next guest, Dina Zirlott, is from Alabama. She wrote this incredibly compelling piece for the "Huffington Post" about her own experience at being raped at age 17 and then forced to carry her daughter to term even after learning her little girl would have a condition that would eventually be fatal.

So, Dina, a heartfelt welcome and thank you so much for your words and for joining me. And if you can, just take me back. You wrote about this. You were 17. You were studying quadratic equations with a boy from your Algebra 2 class. What did he do to you?

DINA ZIRLOTT, FORCED BY LAW TO GIVE BIRTH TO HER RAPIST'S CHILD: Yes. There was a moment where he reached over and put his hand on my leg, and I became uncomfortable. And so I got up to try and move away and diffuse the tension because I'd asked to stop and he was very verbal that he did not want to. And when I got up to move away, he followed me, and at that point I was backed into the kitchen, and he proceeded to assault me. BALDWIN: To rape you? He raped you at age 17?

ZIRLOTT: Yes, ma'am. Yes.

BALDWIN: You become impregnated with your rapist's child. And before you even gave birth, you found out your daughter would not live long in this world, and she didn't. Can you tell me about that?

ZIRLOTT: Right. The doctor within moments of having the ultrasound, the tech who was giving me the ultrasound, her face just fell. I knew immediately something wasn't right. And within moments of that, we were back in the doctor's office.

And she was explaining to us how Zoey (ph) had this -- has a condition called hydranencephaly where the cerebrum fails to divide into two separate hemispheres and that area fills instead with cerebral spinal fluid while the cerebellum and brain stem remains intact and regulates just the most fundamental of, you know, physical function to keep you alive, your heart beat, your respiration.

But that -- this defect would eventually lead to several other complications with her health, diabetes insipidus, seizures, insomnia, the inability to regulate her temperature.

[15:40:13] It was a constant process of trying to combat what was coming next and all the preexisting things that were happening to her.

BALDWIN: So eventually you lose her right around one year of age. And you wrote a couple of graphs, way more compelling coming from you than from me. Would you mind sharing?

ZIRLOTT: Yes. I wrote, "I would have done anything, anything at all to help prevent even one moment of Zoey's relentless suffering. I've been told this is selfish. I've been called cruel. I've been called a monster. I have been called unthankful for not cherishing every moment with my child as there so many other parents who wished they even had a sliver of the time we shared.

But explain to me how I'm supposed to watch my child live in pain, unable to relate to the world around her, unable to feel joy or anger or the mingled calamity of my love and be grateful for it.

This is how we treat women where I live here in Alabama where men who have never once been inside of my body, never once been forced to endure my circumstances, and never once felt the residue of my violation eating away from within still feel divinely compelled to appropriate my autonomy.

I feel such anger and sadness at their limitedness, their inability to perceive reality and their willingness to leverage our lives and well- being in exchange for a red meat vote."

BALDWIN: Just lastly, Dina, what are you -- what are women in Alabama going to do about it?

ZIRLOTT: We're going to continue to speak out, continue to tell our stories, continue to demand our constitutional right to choice. At the moment that's the best thing we can do is stand up for ourselves.

BALDWIN: Dina Zirlott, thank you so much.

ZIRLOTT: Thank you so much.

BALDWIN: We want to get you back to our breaking news. We are just seeing the Justice Department's opinion on why the White House is able to blocked Don McGahn from testifying tomorrow. That's next.


[15:47:22] BALDWIN: Here's an update to the breaking news on White House -- former White House Counsel Don McGahn. His scheduled testimony before House Judiciary Committee was supposed to happen tomorrow. We have now learned that the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has reached the conclusion McGahn is not legally required to appear.

So let's go straight to CNN Justice Reporter Laura Jarrett. And so not legally required, what else are they saying?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, that's right, Brooke. And the short story is, because McGahn is being asked to testify about matters having to do with his advice to the President, the Justice Department considers that within the scope of his official duty.

So even though he's no longer at the White House, that's what congressman really want to get to. And so according to the Justice Department, he has absolute immunity from having to discuss anything like that.

They draw on past precedent from the Obama administration, under the Bush administration. The Justice Department has a long line of opinions that look just like this. And so they say for those reasons, McGahn does not have to testify.

Now, we should point out that the congressmen, especially the Democrats on Capitol Hill, have raised the argument, "Well, what about the fact that McGahn already testified to the Special Counsel's Office. Doesn't that sort of wave executive privilege in some way?"

And so it's important to note that the absolute immunity that's being invoked today is actually separate from issues of executive privilege. And without getting down a legal rabbit hole on this, the Office of Legal Counsel over here explains that the sharing of information within one arm of the executive branch means that nothing was waived.

So the fact that McGahn talked to Mueller means that it stayed within the executive branch, and so that's different than actually testifying to Congress. But I should also note that this is just a legal opinion from the Justice Department. It doesn't have the force of law. It's not a court opinion.

Think of the Office of Legal Counsel as almost a law firm for the federal government, for the White House. It's just a clearing House. It provides advice, but obviously Democrats on Capitol Hill are going to be livid about this. And so they can still take this matter to court and get a court to weigh in.

And in the past -- this doesn't come up that often, but in the past, courts have held that there isn't immunity. And so it will be interesting to see what a federal court does with this one, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes. This all happening, of course, on the eve of what was supposed to be his testimony. And we all know he would have been this key eyewitness to the President potentially obstructing justice. Laura Jarrett, thank you so much. And, of course, Jake will have much more on this on "The Lead," up next.

Meantime for me, millions of dollars of student loans wiped out with announcement from the billionaire commencement speaker at Morehouse College. The look on this one man's face says it all.

[15:50:00] We will talk to one of the students and his mom about what it's like to be suddenly debt free.


BALDWIN: Graduating from college is one of those life-changing moments, but hundreds of graduates at Atlanta's historic Morehouse College are now also debt free because their commencement speaker offering to pay off all of their student loans.


ROBERT SMITH, BILLIONAIRE PLEDGING TO PAY OFF MOREHOUSE GRADS' STUDENT LOANS: This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.


[15:55:24] BALDWIN: The surprise announcement left people speechless. Just look at the shock and belief on this professor's face, you see lower left there. Morehouse's president called it a liberation gift.

The man behind this is billionaire tech investor Robert Smith. Morehouse says the total amount he will eventually pay is to be determined, but guaranteed it will be in the millions.

Mark Daniel Shelton is a Morehouse man, proud grad of class 2019, and his proud mom, Tina Shelton, are joining me from Atlanta. Congratulations.


BALDWIN: I mean, goose bumps just watching that, goose bumps. All right, so Mark Daniel, it's a beautiful day. My hometown of Atlanta, its 80 degrees, you're sitting there, you're graduating. I mean, if you're like me, you kind of had one ear on the commencement speaker and then he drops this life-changing bomb. Did you hear him or were you like, what?

MARK DANIEL SHELTON, 2019 MOREHOUSE GRADUATE: And that's the funny thing about it. Everybody was enjoying the speech, a very good speech. And then I told my friend, I said, I think we should perk our ears up, having no idea what was about to happen. And then he said the line, "I'm going to put a little fuel in your bus," and then I hear -- I see ears start to perk up, within 10 seconds the, the entire class was standing up in celebration.

BALDWIN: Little fuel in the bus.


BALDWIN: A lot of fuel in the bus. A lot of fuel in the bus.


BALDWIN: I mean, Tina, as a single mom, having worked and sacrificed and, you know, outside of student loans, you've single handedly paid for your child's tuition. What were you thinking when you heard this man say, a little fuel in the bus?

T. SHELTON: I was -- I was in shock. I mean, I just -- I couldn't believe it. So, I am so happy. I think, you know, you don't want to send your child out into the world with debt. And to know that he's going to be debt free is, it's a huge blessing, really. Yes.

BALDWIN: Can you tell me how many decimal points of debt we would have been talking about? Do you mind saying?

M. SHELTON: Well, I'll tell you that it's a very significant amount.

T. SHELTON: It's a great amount.

BALDWON: It's a chunk of change.

T. SHELTON: Yes, absolutely.




BALDWIN: And I feel like, you know, Mark Daniel, I'll come back to you in a second, but I want to pay some more attention to your mom because to go through -- I mean, the struggle and the sacrifice, can you just talk to me a little bit about what you -- why this mattered so much to you, to be able to provide for Mark Daniel to go to, of all places, the Morehouse College.

T. SHELTON: Yes. Again, you know, you want to be able to send your child out into the world. Many families are able to completely pay for tuition, you know, so that their child can go out into the world debt free. And I think as a parent, knowing that their student loans are hanging over their head, there's a certain amount of guilt there. And to not have to worry about that, knowing that he could just build his life, not having to go backwards is great. It's huge, so, yes. BALDWIN: And not only go backwards, but Mark Daniel, I mean listening to Mr. Smith talk about, "I know my class will make sure they pay this forward." Pay this forward. And I know you're graduating and you're going on to Google and you're going to go be this fancy financial analyst but, you know, how do you plan to pay this gift forward?

M. SHELTON: Absolutely. I look at it from a micro and a macro sense. In the micro sense, I want to, of course, immediately give back to my alma mater. I want to go into my community and ensure that we have organizations that continue to mentor young people of color or people from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

And then also on the macro sense, I think there's a larger conversation about student debt in this country that we should be having, and I'm grateful to Robert Smith for setting the tone on that conversation.

BALDWIN: Totally.

M. SHELTON: And we need to have it in the private sector and in the public sector about what we're going to do with this $1.5 trillion in student debt that Americans are facing today.

BALDWIN: Incredible. It's a massive, massive number.


BALDWIN: A lot of these candidates are talking about it, going in I know into 2020. Before I let you guys go, I just want to play one more clip. This is one of your fellow Morehouse alums reaction to what happened. Here is Spike Lee (ph).


SPIKE LEE, MOREHOUSE GRADUATE: Robert F. Smith, the wealthiest African-American in the United States of America, thank you, thank you, thank you. Dear old Morehouse, dear old Morehouse, thank you, thank you, thank you. Class of '79.


BALDWIN: Mark Daniel, good luck, congratulations.

M. SHELTON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Soak it up. My best to you, and Tina Shelton, well done, mom. Well done.

T. SHELTON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you both so much for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here. "The Lead with Jake Tapper" starts right now.