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Leaked Trump Transition Vetting Documents Show Numerous Officials With Red Flags; McConnell To Meet With 9/11 Responders; Skydiving Plane In Deadly Hawaii Crash Was Still Operating After Earlier Mishap. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 24, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Watch this.


JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: So we have obtained the internal vetting documents for around hundred of the people being considered and in many cases ultimately placed for top jobs in the Trump administration. So we have this unique insight into how the people working on the Trump transition team viewed the political and the ethical vulnerabilities of all of these people that ended up getting top jobs.

MIKE ALLEN, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE EDITOR, AXIOS: So this is during the craziness after the election --

SWAN: Yes.

ALLEN: -- vetting their own people like trying to figure out their own red flag.

SWAN: Yes. So I've also done some reporting around this and verified these documents with four sources who were directly involved. But basically what happen was the Trump transition team will understaffed, under resource. Nobody thought that Trump was going to win, barely anyone did. And they also fired Chris Christie who is the person assigned to realm the transition team.

So, they basically dump this enormous job of vetting candidates for jobs in the lap of the Republican National Committee. You had this group of about two dozen, 20 something-year-old kids at the RNC using Google and LelexisNexis in an extreme hurry on the fly.

ALLEN: This is the for cabinet jobs?

SWAN: Yes. We're talking about --

ALLEN: West Wing jobs?

SWAN: We're talking about people like Ben Carson, Dan Coats, Betsy DeVos, Don McGahn, John Kelly, James Mattis, John Bolton. You've also got people who were up for jobs but didn't get them.

I mean, we've spent the past few weeks going through all of these documents. There's a section in the documents called Red Flag which all they concern. So we've lists them here, so we've just gone through --

ALLEN: That's a lot of red flag.

SWAN: I should point, this is all public sourced but the point is it gives us a sense of what they saw to be concerns.

Some of them are really extraordinary. So, General David Petraeus who is under consideration for Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. So, in his red flags it literally says Petraeus is a post to torture. That was one of his red flag, a reason to not pick him because he was a post to torture.

Kris Kobach, he was under consideration for Homeland Security Secretary. He had a heading under political vulnerabilities titled White Supremacy. This is the direct quote, past political opponents have accused Kobach about lying himself with groups that had connections to white supremacist groups. And actually had a recommended question for Kobach, do you have any ties to white supremacist, would you be willing to, you know, renounce them?

So --

ALLEN: Start in one thing.

SWAN: Yes.

ALLEN: I was struck by. Is it in any normal administration, any other administration? These files would never been forward. These people wouldn't have been instantly disqualified.

SWAN: Some of these people didn't get jobs but the really amazing thing is the people when you go through this list we did get jobs. So Scott Pruett who ultimately, you know, became EPA administrator lost this job because of serial ethical abuses and coziness with lobbyist.

There is literally a section in his vetting form titled, "Allegations of coziness with big energy companies." So, they went ahead with that --

ALLEN: It was not just forceable, it was foreseed.

SWAN: But I think it's really important to point out the context of this. We've all read stories about the transition being spectacularly incompetent and chaotic. It's actually worse. It's genuinely stunning that this is what they relayed onto fill the most important rules in government.

ALLEN: So this is the cedes of the Trump administration?

SWAN: Yes. Yes.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FMR NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Relationship with Jared Kushner. Background Christie as U.S. attorney was involved in the prosecution of Jared Kushner's father Charles Kushner who was sentenced to prison in 2005.

And then there's two questions and bullet points in bold.

ALLEN: And just to be clear these are the suggested questions that the vetters wanted you to be asked by the President or Reince Priebus.

CHRISTIE: Do you believe your previous position as the U.S. attorney who prosecuted Charles Kushner has damaged your relationship with the Kushners to a point where you and Jared Kushner could not coexist in the Trump administration? Do you believe that your removal as head of the Trump transition team was orchestrated by Jared Kushner?

Yes, I do and the reason I do is because that's what Steve Bannon told me.

ALLEN: It's kind of interesting seeing it in writing, right?

CHRISTIE: Oh, it's fascinating, yes. I mean, you know, it's -- and by the way, the interesting part of this which shows you how disorganized they were, was they had an entire vice presidential vetting file on me. Had all of my tax returns, had all of the stuff from the U.S. attorney years and my years as governor that's what makes this even funnier that they would go through this.

[15:35:02] ALLEN: I mean, this -- we've done some reporting into the background of this that was done by 20 something-year-old RNC staffers. You and your team had done months of work --


ALLEN: -- by Election Day did you have a list of names for each cabinet position? I mean what was the future?

CHRISTIE: Yes. What was turned over on Monday the day before the election to the campaign was a 30 volume set of all the transition planning. We had four cabinet recommendations for each cabinet position and those were all delivered to the campaign the day before the election.

ALLEN: And then what happened?

CHRISTIE: Well, on the Thursday, I guess after the election I was fired.

ALLEN: But this matters, doesn't it? I mean we took -- you know, it's always sort of, you know, funny anecdotes about the chaos and the craziness. But this is really serious ultimately. I mean, what are the longer term consequences?

CHRISTIE: Well, the longer-term consequences for the president and for the country was that he didn't have the very best people in front of him to be able to make a full and fair decision about. And then he paid the price for that later on with people like Scott Pruitt, with people like Mike Flynn. I mean we can go on and on. So in the end this is a monumental staff failure that failed the president and as a result failed the country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger. I mean, it's stunning reporting by Axios in HBO and we just wanted run that clip. And again just a highlight, Jonathan highlighted, you know, Kris Kobach for example, who is in the running for homeland security secretary had the words white supremacy listed by his name as a vulnerability, not a disqualifier.



BALDWIN: Your reaction.

BORGER: This first of all kudos to Axios for getting these files. You know, when you vet people, Brooke, and I'm sure you know this, you know, you have the FBI file, you have an ethics file and then you have a political and of course these are the --

BALDWIN: Not Google --

BORGER: These are not --

BALDWIN: LexisNexis?

BORGER: These are the political files. If you ask me the original sin in all of this vetting problem was firing the man who just showed on the air was Chris Christie because they fired Chris Christie because they disagreed with him over Mike Flynn, for example, whom he did not want in the administration. And then it all kind of went nowhere, his books were thrown away.

And then you have 20 something staffers Googling people asking ludicrous questions and you had predictable results. These things are ridiculous, they're absurd and those were questions that could have been answered by any of us sitting around the table. And instead they paid attention to that and not -- no attention to the pains taking work that Christie and his team had done.

BALDWIN: Do we have any indication, Gloria, that the Trump vetting process has improved?

BORGER: No, because I'm not so sure there is a vetting process. I mean, look at what happen with Shanahan who was going to be the secretary --


BORGER: -- of defense and now he's not. I think the -- what you saw in these vets which was so interesting to me is at the very top were the quotes from people about the things they had said about Donald Trump.

He said you're a bad guy. He said you're a cancer on the presidency. He said this, he said that. They knew that those are the kinds of things that Donald Trump cares about and that remains until this day. So the singular vetter, if that's a word, in this administration is Donald Trump. And it depends on how loyal he thinks you will be to him. What things you have said about him in the past and whether he thinks he can mold you into the kind of yes person that he might want.

And so that when Christie was saying, no, no, no about say General Flynn --

BALDWIN: He didn't like that.

BORGER: -- I think that -- no, did not like that and probably didn't like some of the people he recommended for other jobs.

BALDWIN: How about that?


BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, thank you.

BORGER: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, new details emerging that a plane crash in Hawaii that killed 11 people. The NTSP says this isn't the first time the same plane has been under investigation.

And we have news just in on the fate of these 9/11 first responders on -- in the bill that Jon Stewart had been going after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell force.

Stand by for the update. Next.


[15:44:08] BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to meet with those 9/11 first responders tomorrow. This comes after Jon Stewart's emotional plea on Capitol Hill two weeks ago, where he accused leader McConnell of dragging his feet on an extension of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.

Sunlen Serfaty is up on Capitol Hill for us and has the very latest. And so the question, will these first responders get the funding they deserve? Tell me about this meeting.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That certainly is the question, Brooke. And I just talked to a 9/11 first responder, John Feal, where he confirmed this meeting that is now on the books with the Senate majority leader tomorrow afternoon up here on Capitol Hill.

Now, Feal tells me that this is a meeting that had been previously in the works before Jon Stewart's very emotional testimony on Capitol Hill two weeks ago, but he said that after that hearing went viral, the plans were solidified and he certainly believes that there now is a considerable amount of momentum and pressure on lawmakers on Capitol Hill to finally get something done on this issue. He said, tomorrow, we are going to challenge Mitch McConnell's humanity. So, certainly a significant statement there.

[14:45:19] McConnell, of course, has, as you said, been engaged in this very public battle with Jon Stewart after that testimony up here on the Hill. Stewart really calling out McConnell to take -- for him to take a stand on this issue and to vow to extend these healthcare benefits and other services that 9/11 first responders are still waiting for. And, you know, McConnell has done that. He has vowed to fully fund it. But certainly the time line is important.

The feeling that Jon Stewart and other first responders have that Congress has been dragging their feet on this issue, and McConnell kind of pushing back at this, singling out of Jon Stewart at times. He said, I wonder why Stewart is all bent out of shape on the issue.

Now, Brooke, big picture here. The House Committee advanced that bill two weeks ago. It still has to be passed out of the full house. They have vowed to do that before the August recess. Then and only then does it come over for the Senate, but certainly, a significant moment tomorrow between the senate majority leader and these first responders.

BALDWIN: We'll talk again tomorrow and get an update for these first responders wanting the funding that but -- for their families so -- they so need. Sunlen, thank you.

Still, ahead here on CNN, the U.S. women's soccer team has just made it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup, and it comes after they has -- have moved one step forward in their fight for pay equity back here at home.

Plus, news just in, on the fate of Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill.


[15:51:42] BALDWIN: The deadly crash of a skydiving plane in Hawaii has investigators asking if a previous incident may have contributed to the Friday's accident. Just after takeoff, the plane crashed and burst into flames killing all 11 people on board. The National Transportation Safety Board is looking at a 2016 incident where 15 people were forced to jump out of the very same plane during a flight in California. So Nick Watt, let's go to you. I know you've been digging on the prior incident. What happened?

NICK WATT, CNN REPORTER: Well this, as you mentioned, was back in 2016. A very similar scenario, the plane was taking skydivers up into the air and I think we have video to show you. We got this from one of the people who is on the plane, a skydiver by the name of Achal Asawa.

Now, what happen here is that the plane stalled three times, spun out of control, as you can see those skydivers in the back jumping out to save their own lives. The pilot eventually did get the plane back under control but a piece of that plane, a piece of the tail flew off. And actually later in the video you could hear one of the skydivers filming -- who was filming that piece of plane wreckage falling to the ground saying now you know how lucky you are. Now the problem is, the 11 skydivers who were on board on Friday night in Oahu, they were not lucky at all. This plane died -- sorry, blew up just after takeoff, ball of flames. Everybody on board perished.

Now the NTSB is right now amongst other lines of inquiry looking into whether that previous incident is connected to the current incident in any way at all. They will of course be looking back at maintenance records and also looking back at the records of the repairs that were done to that plane after that previous crash to find out if it was indeed air worthy.

But the horrific headline of this story, 11 people dying as that plane was trying to take off and we do not know exactly what went wrong. But the NTSB says they will update us with more information, Brooke, probably in about a couple of hours from now.

BALDWIN: I can't believe the video you got your hands on from 2016 of everyone in there scrambling as the plane stalled and they're all jumping out the door and they survived. Nick Watt, we'll listen for you for an update from the NTSB. Thank you very much for that update.

Just in, there will be an official review of the Trump administration decision to delay the Harriett Tubman $20 bill. And remember, it was supposed to be released next year but late last month Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin postponed the change until the president leaves office. And Senator Chuck Schumer has accused the white house of allowing political considerations to impact the redesign. So now they are looking into that delay.

Still ahead here, President Trump is announcing new sanctions on Iran today including some against the country's supreme leader. This is happening as CNN learns the President is increasingly disenchanted with his closest advisers.


[15:59:05] BALDWIN: Just in, the U.S. women's soccer team just beat Spain to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals. This is coming as we get word to the team has agreed to mediation in the gender discrimination lawsuit. It brought against the soccer federation. I talked to World Cup champ Julie Foudy about this just now recently.


JULIE FOUDY, WOMEN'S WORLD CUP CHAMPION AND OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: For example, Denmark, who is not at this World Cup, they actually, because they were fighting their own contract, this is the women's soccer team. They ended up boycotting a World Cup qualifier which is why they're now not at the World Cup. It meant that much to them.

And so you're seeing sadly. You're seeing athletes and female athletes having to say, hey I'm going to risk my careers, I'm going to risk giving up an Olympics or World Cup because it matter this is much to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Let's remember the U.S. women are the most successful in the history of women's soccer anywhere in the world. Three World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals, but after the women won in the 2015 World Cup, they earned essentially a third of what the men made and that is after losing, the men losing in the 16th round in 2014.