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CNN NEWSROOM

U.S. House Judiciary Committee to Lay Out Formal Steps in Impeachment Probe; Hurricane Dorian Claims 43 Lives in Bahamas; Surviving Dorian; Robert Mugabe Dies at 95; Getting Aid to a Disaster Zone; Sharpiegate and Jobs Preoccupy Trump while Diverting Funds from Military for Border Wall; American Airlines Mechanic Accused of Sabotage; School District Sued on Racial Bullying of Students. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired September 7, 2019 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Taking steps towards impeachment: House Democrats are getting ready to make it official. We heard from a Republican last hour. This hour, a Democrat shares her perspective.

Plus, death and suffering in the Bahamas. Look at that devastation there on the island. Survivors who barely made it out alive, expressing frustration over the pace of aid.

Also ahead this hour, mixed feelings about the death of the former leader of Zimbabwe. Our correspondent will have reaction coming in from that nation's capital.

We're live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: 5:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast. We start with a major development in the impeachment inquiry focused on the Trump White House. Congressional Democrats will soon ramp up their investigation by spelling out exactly how they plan to proceed in the coming months. Here's what sources are telling CNN.

Next week the House Judiciary Committee is planning to vote on a resolution that would lay out the ground rules for how it conducts hearings. All of this comes as Trump former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and two former White House aides are set to testify before the committee. CNN's Manu Raju shared details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What they're essentially saying here is that Jerry Nadler will have the authority going forward to say we want to look into potential campaign finance violations involving this president as it relates to those hush money payments that occurred in 2016.

That's going to be in connection to this impeachment probe. They will call a hearing, saying that it ties to impeach this impeachment deliberation. Also they could say, for instance, that the president in an effort to pitch his Miami golf resort as an location for the G7 summit in 2020, that can be a violation of the emoluments clause in the Constitution which limits foreign influence on a president, tries to limit the president's ability to enrich himself in office.

They could take that as also part of the impeachment probe. They are trying to make it very clear the different things that they are doing in the committee, tie it all back to impeachment and then ultimately make the decision that they can vote after the (INAUDIBLE) after this hearings will be to decide whether to vote to actually impeach the president.

And that would occur at the committee level and then a full House would have to vote.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Covering all sides of the spectrum. We heard from a Republican last hour. And with perspective we have the chair of Democrats Abroad UK, Inge Kjemtrup.

Good to have you with us.

INGE KJEMTRUP, DEMOCRATS ABROAD UK: Good morning, thank you.

HOWELL: First off, let's talk about this effort to impeach the president. It is something that has divided Democrats here in the United States. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted the impeachment process but now it looks to be getting underway.

Where does it stand about where Democrats stand right now?

Who's leading that party?

KJEMTRUP: Well, I think we all welcome the opportunity to get the truth out. And this is a baby step. The steps that are being taken very carefully and very deliberately. And I think that's wise.

We're also starting to see more Democrats come over into Congress and say, yes, they are in favor of these hearings. So my general sense is the balance of interest is, we've got to explore what Trump is doing. We've got to explore his violations, his promotion of his personal interests over the interests of the country.

I think now is the time. And slowly put surely, we will get there.

HOWELL: Inge, so, looking ahead to the 2020 election, the leadup to that, what are Democratic candidates talking about?

Are they talking about the possibility of impeachment or are they talking about the issues that matter on Main Street? KJEMTRUP: I think a lot of those things are certainly going to matter. Certainly, health care is still going to be an important factor. Certainly, the economy is going to make a difference. The real economy, what's below the economy, you know, with people working two to three jobs to keep food on the table, that kind of real story.

But for sure, the behavior of this president and the illegal president -- behavior of this president and his ignoring what Congress does in normal procedures, it's something that needs to be exposed.

[05:05:00]

KJEMTRUP: There are a lot of people who need to hear more about that. And I think that very much is going to be part of our story into 2020.

HOWELL: I asked a Republican guest the last hour the same question I pose to you.

Do you believe that Democrats are sure that this could actually happen?

Do they believe that they can be successful getting impeachment over the hurdle?

Or do you believe this may be more of an effort to distract or have this remain hanging over the president's head?

KJEMTRUP: Again, to me, it's more of a truth-telling kind of situation. It is a bit analogous to what happened during the Nixon era, when, bit by bit, people started finding out more about what had happened to the administration, what the administration was doing. And I think we're going to see a bit more of that here.

You know, the fact that Trump would offer his own personal golf resort as the venue for G7, just this whole thing about personal enhancement. My sense is that the American people are really getting sick of this corruption and cronyism.

And that's something these hearings are going to uncover. I'm not saying there's necessarily a big flash breakthrough but it's the steady exposure of what's going to happen that's going to be essential.

HOWELL: I also want to pivot here to talk about the White House plan to pay for portions of a border wall that Mr. Trump wants. Mr. Trump famously said Mexico would pay for it. We know that's not the case. Congress didn't budge. The administration now taking money from military funding, diverting $3.6 billion from approved military construction projects here stateside and overseas.

Overall, it means 127 projects, Inge, will feel the funding ax, including a middle school in the district of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell at Ft. Campbell. You remember, McConnell supported taking military funds for the wall. He now says he will try to keep that project from losing its funds.

The Republican we spoke to in the last hour admitting, hey, not the best optics for McConnell here.

What are your thoughts here?

Is that fair for him to do because he did support the plan?

KJEMTRUP: Well, I think it's pretty shocking but it's also an indication that no one really wants this wall except Trump because it is a key campaign promise with him. So he's determined to get that going by hook or crook.

But taking away money away from schools, I think there was another story that there was a fire station being built on a military base, the funds are being taken for that. So sure, Republicans can kind of patch that up.

But in truth, the problem is Trump is bypassing norms. He can't go to Congress with this. No one is really interested in that. Instead of doing that, he's doing a bypass like this.

I think he's also doing things like taking housing along the border by eminent domain so he can built this wall. By hook or crook, he's really trying to build this wall, which is unnecessary. I think he's also taking from FEMA money and at a time while we're watching Hurricane Dorian do such damage, it's just shocking.

HOWELL: It's good to have gotten both sides on this issue. Inge Kjemtrup, we appreciate your time and we'll stay in touch with you.

OK, thank you. I brought a Sharpie, so you know, how I'm aware that Trump tends to exaggerate things with small tools like this, useful but, in his case, just for exaggeration.

HOWELL: We'll keep our pens out of this one, Inge, thanks a lot.

KJEMTRUP: OK, thanks.

HOWELL: Now to talk about something very serious, Hurricane Dorian. It is speeding away from the United States, headed northeastward now in the Atlantic at this hour. Take a look at that big massive blob of storms moving away, skirting New England as we speak and making a beeline for the Canadian Maritimes.

Forecasters there warning of torrential rain and waves in some cases up to 50 feet high, that's 15 meters high.

Let's look at what happened in the Bahamas. These images just catastrophic. The official death toll now 43 people who lost their lives in the storm. But everyone, even government officials know that number could get even higher.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people are still missing. Many bodies there lay in the rubble. And the U.N. estimates at least 70,000 people are now homeless in Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Along with the disruption and chaos, of course, one woman told of children becoming separated from their families as they tried to escape the devastation.

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ELIZABETH NIXON, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: Those babies can't stay another minute because they haven't eaten. Last night, they said they was in the airport and they didn't even eat.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Are they at the airport right now?

NIXON: Yes, they're in the front, but it's so chaotic. With those little kids are trying to push through, it's a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: That's the micro. That's the story on the ground of people who are feeling the pain there. And this is the macro look from up above. Satellite images of Marsh Harbour on the left before the storm. That area lush with vegetation. Homes on the island. On the right, after Dorian. You see the difference right there.

Right now, more than 1,500 survivors are on a crew ship on their way to Florida. The grand celebration is expected to dock in Palm Beach on Saturday. Some of the hardest hit parts of the Bahamas are also the hardest to reach.

One of those places is High Rock on the southern side of Grand Bahama Island. A CNN crew was able to make it there. And our crew heard incredible stories of survival. Our Patrick Oppmann reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing more citizens coming to where I am now, the city of Freeport. The drive of just an hour away from here. And even though it's now been a week since the storm hit the Bahamas, it feels like it just happened.

You go out and the roads are destroyed. Some parts still remain underwater. And when you go and see the people who had a category 5 hurricane over their heads for almost two days, you can see there is still a lot of desperation.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Reaching the hardest-hit areas of Grand Bahama Island means driving through still flooded streets and streets that are no longer streets.

This area in the east of the island has until now been inaccessible since the storm. Little to no help has arrived. The force of the hurricane threw cars through buildings. The storm stalled out here, a Category 5, leveling whole towns.

Many rode out the storm in their homes. Many did not survive.

Pastor Joey Saunders was on the third floor of his home with his son when the storm surge crashed. JOEY SAUNDERS, PASTOR: We started make out to the second floor of the house. And within about 10 minutes and it started to flow up to the third floor. And the water flow up to our head. And we felt this strong current trying to break lose everything in the cracks.

OPPMANN (on camera): And this was in the middle of the night?

SAUNDERS: One thirty in the morning.

And then the current was so strong, then the roof started to lift. And next thing I remember, I was underneath the water. My son is standing in it and I noticed he had the searchlight. And he was just -- he just disappeared with the searchlight.

And I heard him screaming, "Daddy, daddy, daddy."

OPPMANN: He was in the water at that point, right?

SAUNDERS: He was already gone.

And minutes ago, when I came from underneath the water, I threw my hand. I caught on to the truss. The roof carried me away. So, we were like about 600 feet away from each other for over two days. And we caught up into the pine tree of 32 feet high.

OPPMANN: So, the water carried you into a pine tree in the middle of the night. Your son was a ways away from you. What was going through your mind? You must have been terrified.

SAUNDERS: Yes, I was hoping that he was alive. And he thought I had died also. It wasn't until two days later that we saw one another. He was on the trailer right there. And that's when we saw one another again, yes.

OPPMANN (voice-over): The Bahamian government has warned people the death count could spike.

In places like High Rock, where everyone knows of dead or missing family and neighbors, that news is no surprise. Even though this is one of the hardest-hit areas helicopter, from the government is yet to arrive.

SAUNDERS: I think the government is on its way, but it's going to take a bit of time because there are other settlements. But they're doing their thing gradually, you know?

OPPMANN (on camera): Do you wish they were moving quicker?

SAUNDERS: Yes, I wish they could move a little quicker than they're moving.

OPPMANN (voice-over): People desperately need food and water before time runs out.

SAUNDERS: A lot of people have lost most of their clothes, water. Need food, stuff like that, basic stuff right now. OPPMANN: When you talk to residents, you get the sense that the mission of rescues has now changed to more of a recovery mission. It's been a while, people said, since they heard of anyone being found alive. They do seem to have a better sense than the Bahamian government as to who is still missing and the number of bodies found.

And it is very possible, increasingly likely, that the body count is going to continue to rise with the number of people who lost their lives in this storm. So many places you go to, it seems like the hurricane just happened.

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OPPMANN: And the people there are waiting for any assistance at all that still has not arrived.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: This was a big storm and it is still on the move.

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HOWELL: The people of Zimbabwe are remembering the founder of their country. Some say that he was a hero. Others call him a brutal oppressor. CNN is live in that nation's capital with reaction coming in from around the world.

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HOWELL: We're following a developing story out of the Persian Gulf. Iran's navy says it has seized a foreign ship sailing through the region. Iranian media reports it was carrying smuggled fuel worth almost $3 million. The report says 12 people from the Philippines have been arrested.

There are new developments to tell you about on the Iranian tanker that was seized by Britain in July. It was thought to be carrying oil to Syria in violation of sanctions.

Iran denied it and the ship was eventually released. But now U.S. national security adviser John Bolton just tweeted this satellite image. He says it is the same ship and claims that it places the tanker two nautical miles from a naval base in Syria. Bolton says anyone who says the ship wasn't headed to Syria is in denial. We'll have more on this story as it develops.

The president of Zimbabwe has declared that country in mourning. This following the death of its longtime leader and founder, Robert Mugabe. Mugabe died in a hospital in Singapore. He was 95 years old. Some say he was ruthless and consumed with power and drove the country into ruin.

Others though, including the current president, they remember him as a national hero, the founder who led Zimbabwe to independence.

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EMMERSON MNANGAGWA, ZIMBABWEAN PRESIDENT: As we await the arrival of the remains of our dear departed icon, we pray that the Good Lord grant him and put his dear soul to eternal rest. We as Zimbabweans declare days of mourning for our leader until he is buried.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Our David McKenzie is covering the death of Robert Mugabe live this hour in Harare.

Around the world, how is this complicated figure in Zimbabwe's history being remembered?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, he's being lorded as the liberation icon that he was. Here in Zimbabwe, people in the capital have traveled outside of Harare, the birthplace of Robert Mugabe, here where one of the strongholds of Mugabe, through his many decades in power.

You heard from the Emmerson Mnangagwa, talking about Mugabe's body being brought back, some debate now as to where he will be laid to rest. Whether it's here, just a short space away from where I'm standing in his home village or at Hero's Acre in the capital, where many of the liberation icons of this country have been buried.

Mugabe himself just a short few weeks ago said he did not want to be buried in that Hero's Acre. There are also a lot of conciliatory notes in that speech you played, about what is the really contentious issue between him and the family of Robert Mugabe.

He said a lot of things about Grace, the former first lady. Remember, it was Grace's potential ascent to power which caused the military in part to come in the streets and push Mugabe out. So a lot of politicking going on. And in these areas, the rural areas, it will be interesting to see how they will react when the funeral does actually happen.

HOWELL: David McKenzie following the story live in Harare, thank you.

Around the world, people are remembering the complicated legacy of Robert Mugabe, among those who are witnessed first-hand his legacy, our Farai Sevenzo, a native of Zimbabwe. It was a personal story for him. He spoke about what it was like to work in Zimbabwe and covered the many crises that marked his tenure.

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FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His death was expected. He is 95 years old so the striking thing really, as much as Zimbabweans expected him to leave this Earth is that since he was deposed from power in November 2017, he seemed, now, to shrink in stature.

You know, the idea that this is a man who had run the country for 37 years and now no longer wore that crown of power. I was a teenager when he came to power. It was an aspiring time. You had Bob Marley playing at independent celebrations. You had UB40, Sting.

But then something changed there radically and that something was before our very eyes, a complete thirst for total control. As I reflect, both as a Zimbabwean and as a reporter, I went in and out of Zim to cover the worst crisis under his rule.

[05:25:00]

SEVENZO: In 2008, when the level of Zanu-PF violence went into the election hearing, it was absolutely terrible to behold. There was no difference between the leader of the opposition being beaten up at a police station and a reporter being beaten up for doing his job. It was a frightening time for a reporter.

There were other aspects of Mugabe that I quite admire. As a liberation war hero, he didn't have many equals. He was a bookish man, educated by missionaries to becoming a leader of the Zimbabwe national liberation struggle, which is incredible.

And then there's another thing to add to this, it's that there came a time when, rather than just being President Mugabe who is doing great things, making education for all possible, there was some kind of massive change, with which we saw really no difference between, you know, the interest of the country and the interest of his family and his best friends.

It is the age-old thing that absolute power corrupts absolutely. But I think 30 years from now, his legacy and history will be kinder to that legacy because, really, you know, all of the things that Zimbabwe has gone through, very painfully, like a bitter hard childbirth, the idea of land liberation, the idea of trying to get control of an economy, worst part of his legacy is that huge addition of violence hasn't gone away.

I was in Zimbabwe in July 2018 when Emmerson Mnangagwa was elected for the first time by the people. And the army bullets were shooting people in the back. If the country is to move forward -- and I heartily wish it would because it's the most beautiful country in the world. And I don't say that lightly.

It's a great place I've grown up in. And it's just so sad that it keeps going back to petrol queues, to bad economy, to violence by the state.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: It is a personal story from our Farai Sevenzo. Thank you, Farai.

Still ahead, the death toll rising in the Bahamas. The scenes there, utter devastation from the air, on the ground, even veteran journalists, they're at a loss for words.

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GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I've been covering hurricanes for 37 years now. I've never seen decimation like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Our Gary Tuchman, he's covered a lot of storms. For him to say that, it means a lot. We'll have more after this.

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HOWELL: To our friends watching around the world this hour on CNN International and to our viewers up early here state side on CNN USA, welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

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HOWELL: The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued more than 200 people in the Bahamas. CNN's Gary Tuchman joined the American teams on the ground, as they canvassed one area looking for survivors. Here's what they saw.

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TUCHMAN: We're in a section of Marsh Harbour called Mud and Peas. It's described to us as a largely Haitian community.

I've been covering hurricanes for about 37 years now. I've never seen a decimation like this that we're seeing here on the Abacos, in this town of Marsh Island, in Mud and Peas.

Right now, we are accompanying the U.S. Coast Guard, as we're looking for the possibility of any survivors. You can see them over here, searching for the rubble.

And this gives you an idea of why it's impossible now to have a firm death toll. For example, you can this home right here, it's clear no one is going inside this home. These Coast Guardsmen are about to go in this home and other homes here to see if there's anyone inside.

A short time ago -- and we'll give you a look at what they're doing right now as they're trying to plot out the next couple of hours, which direction they to head -- it's important to point out that U.S. Coast Guards men and women, their job is to protect the United States, go on drug interdictions but it's also to help other people.

And we have spent the day on a carrier with 25 Coast Guard men and women and also two members of fire rescue from the Miami Fire Department, who are here as paramedics, looking for people who still may need help.

But you can see, as this camera goes around in a circle, just the widespread decimation here in this section of Marsh Harbour.

People are shell-shocked. They don't know what to do. We saw more than 200 people lined up on a port, hoping to get on a ship to get out of here. Every one of them have lost their homes. And we're not just talking about damage. We're talking about utter devastation.

We can't see anything in eyesight here that is standing without damage and most of it is completely gone as far as we can see.

So there is still a lot to do in determining how many people died, how many people were hurt and what the survivors here are going to do with their lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: To talk more now about the aid efforts in the Bahamas, we have on the phone with us Jenelle Eli, who is director for International Communications at the American Red Cross.

Thanks for your time.

JENELLE ELI, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Thanks for having me, George.

HOWELL: And the images that we've seen out of the Bahamas are staggering. Just stunning to see the amount of destruction there.

[05:35:00]

HOWELL: From your view, what is your organization doing now to help people get the help they need?

ELI: As you said, the images are not just stunning, they are heartbreaking. The Bahamas Red Cross has had aid supplies pre- positioned before the hurricane and Bahamas Red Cross volunteers were spreading preparedness messages, making sure people evacuated and telling them what to bring and where to go.

Right now we're focusing on getting life-saving aid to people who need it. Yesterday we were able to deliver tarps, blankets, hand-crank radios to people in need. And we began ice distribution. That is something that people told us they really needed, so they could use it for water and also to keep their food safe.

We had a plane land on Thursday in Nassau; it had 38 tons of aid on it. Shelter tool kits with things like hammers, nails, ropes, so people can start preparing their shelters. They have hygiene items on there so that people can stay safe and healthy as they are going through this emergency and things like jerry cans so people can get clean water. HOWELL: And we saw a few pallets a moment ago.

What is the process to get that out and about?

Because many of the roads there have been either damaged severely or simply destroyed.

ELI: Certainly. There are several options for being able to get aid in. It could be flying it in, it could be driving, it could be taking a boat.

So right now, we're getting aid to some places but there are definitely logistical challenges right now, everything from flooded airports and roads to teleconnectivity and harsh weather. So we're working around the clock to get aid to the communities who really need it.

HOWELL: And of all of the things that you are bringing in, surely you've spoken to people, what is the most critical item would you say at this point for people?

ELI: Right now people really want food, water and emergency shelter. So many people I spoke with lost their homes. Sometimes they were in a house and the hurricane took their roof and they ran to the neighbor's house to seek safety and then that neighbor lost their roof.

And then they went to the next neighbor's house and the same thing happened. So emergency shelter is huge right now for people who are sleeping outside.

One thing that is really important that I think a lot of people don't think about when disasters strike is that, if people don't have teleconnectivity, they aren't even able to know if their family members in other cities or towns are safe or even alive. So that is really in the forefront of a lot of people's minds who I spoke with.

They just don't know if their sister is alive or they want to make sure their mother knows that they made it through the storm. So people really want food, water and shelter. But it is that peace of mind that lot of families are seeking.

HOWELL: And I've seen and covered so many of these storms. But the images coming out of the Bahamas unlike anything I've ever seen before. And as you state, so many families that are still missing loved ones; in fact, hundreds if not thousands of people unaccounted for. So that search will continue.

I'm curious to ask you, of the storms that you've covered and seen, where does this stand in your mind?

ELI: I have to say, when you've seen one disaster, you've seen one disaster. Whether it is a wildfire or a tornado or a hurricane, people's heartache of losing loved ones and losing their homes, that is the same. But the effect on people is very deep and emotional and unique to them. People even who live in disaster prone areas, they never get used to

disasters or devastation. And the people I've met, I can really see the pain in their eyes. And right now we're focusing on Hurricane Dorian and how this has affected them.

HOWELL: We appreciate your time and certainly the work that your organization is doing there for so many people who are in need. Thank you for your time.

ELI: Thank you, George.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: While the U.S. president continues to talk about Dorian, not the storm itself but rather proving himself right on an aspect of this story, our Jim Acosta reports, White House officials might be ignoring other possible problems, like the economy and an immigration fight within his own party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the Carolinas and the Bahamas picking up the pieces after Hurricane Dorian, President Trump is still defending his magic marker meteorology, tweeting: "The fake news media was fixated on the fact that I properly said at the beginnings of Hurricane Dorian that, in addition to Florida and other states, Alabama may also be grazed or hit.

[05:40:00]

ACOSTA (voice-over): "They went crazy, hoping against hope that I made a mistake, which I didn't."

Despite a week's worth of fact-checks showing that's not true, the Trump campaign is cashing in, selling these Trump campaign markers for $15, a big markup from what they cost in stores.

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci once again claimed there is something wrong with the president.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think the president is in severe mental decline and I'm not saying that now because I'm a political adversary or I have disavowed him. I'm saying that objectively, just looking at what's going on.

ACOSTA: But the White House may have bigger problems on its hands after the latest unemployment numbers found 130,000 jobs were added in August, below expectations, given that 25,000 of those positions were for the census.

The president is again tweeting his frustrations about Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, asking: "Where did I find this guy Jerome? Oh, well, you can't win them all."

Powell said the Fed is watching the economy closely but doesn't see a recession coming.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I did mention, though, that there are these risks. And we're monitoring them very carefully and we're conducting policy in a way that will address them. But, no, I wouldn't see a recession as the most likely outcome for the United States or for the world economy, for that matter.

ACOSTA: And neither does the White House.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: The best answer I can give you is, we have no immediate urgency, if that's what you're asking. There's no anti-recession policy making because we don't see a recession.

ACOSTA: There is growing concern among GOP lawmakers over the White House plan to divert billions of dollars from military projects to pay for Mr. Trump's border wall, including a middle school at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said The longtime Kentucky lawmaker recently talked to Defense Secretary Esper regarding the issue and is committed to protecting funding for the Fort Campbell middle school project.

Democrats say the plan doesn't make sense.

REP. BOBBY SCOTT (D-VA): The whole idea of taking projects that are desperately needed for national security and using it on a wall that they can't even get a straight excuse why it's needed, that's particularly egregious.

ACOSTA: Despite the president's unilateral action to divert money to his wall, Mr. Trump is slamming former President Barack Obama's DACA program, which shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, tweeting: "Obama never had the legal right to sign DACA. Totally illegal document."

Democrats say the president has bigger immigration problems to solve, like his own rhetoric, in light of the El Paso mass shooting.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): There is also a direct line from the rhetoric that we have heard from the president, calling immigrants thugs and rapists, invaders, infestation of this country. The murderer in his own manifesto used some of the same terms, practically quoted it.

ACOSTA: Asked what the White House plans to do to boost the economy, Larry Kudlow said Mr. Trump may unveil a proposal for tax cuts in the 2020 campaign.

But the president tried that one before heading into last year's midterms, Mr. Trump said there would be new middle class tax cuts. That never happened -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Jim, thank you.

An aborted takeoff and evidence of sabotage. Investigators say a man accused of tampering with an American Airlines flight, he is explaining why he did it. And his explanation, well, interesting, strange. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: A mechanic accused of tampering with the navigation equipment of an American Airlines flight back in July is waiting for his next court date. The incident is also raising questions about just how much we know about who is working on the planes that we trust and fly. Our Rene Marsh explains.

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RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, an American Airlines mechanic is accused of trying to sabotage a commercial airliner with 150 people onboard just before takeoff. Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani faced a judge in Miami after being charged with willfully damaging, destroying, disabling or wrecking an aircraft and attempting to do so. Alani has not entered a plea.

It happened at American Airlines hub Miami International Airport on July 17th. According to the arrest affidavit, the plane's pitot tube, a key instrument, was found loose.

RODNEY HOOVER, CHIEF FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR, FREEWAY AIRPORT: This is the pitot tube. This is what drives our air speed indicator so that we know how fast we're moving through the air, which is one of the more fundamental things about flying a plane.

MARSH: Additionally, investigators say Alani superglued a piece of foam to a part of plane's navigation system to disable it. The system reports aircraft speed, pitch and other critical data.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: You have to know how fast the plane is going to do a successful takeoff. It's a very dangerous malfunction.

MARSH: The pilots noticed the problem as the plane began rolling for takeoff en route to the Bahamas, forcing them to abort takeoff.

Alani told investigators he was upset over a contract dispute between union workers and the airline that was costing him money. He allegedly tampered with the aircraft so he could get overtime by fixing the problem, which he created. According to the complaint, his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers.

Tonight, the incident is highlighting the vulnerabilities that still exist for commercial aviation post-9/11.

JAVED ALI, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: There should certainly be an expectation that the airline security personnel, law enforcement, homeland security, that they are making sure that these types of events don't happen again.

MARSH: Well, in a letter to employees, American Airlines saying today that they are disturbed by this incident and that they're cooperating with authorities. We do know the mechanic has been suspended and we're also learning tonight he at one point worked for Alaska Airlines but was fired. In court documents, the reason given, because of mechanical errors -- Reporting outside of Reagan National Airport, Rene Marsh, CNN.

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HOWELL: Rene Marsh on the story, thank you.

We'll be right back, after this short break.

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HOWELL: A disturbing story to tell you about. A school district in the U.S. state of Minnesota now facing a lawsuit over allegations of repeated racial harassment and bullying on the school grounds. Our Sara Sidner has this.

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TAYLIN BURSCH, MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT: I was really mad about it, too.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2018, Minnesota middle school student Taylin Bursch says he opened his locker to find someone had written the "N" word several times on his gym shirt and the words "leave now."

BURSCH: I was worried. I felt really bad.

SIDNER (voice-over): He and his family say that wasn't the first time he had been targeted because of his race.

BURSCH: I have been kicked in my knees. I've been called monkey, lots of other stuff.

SIDNER (voice-over): His family says for years they complained about incidents to school officials.

A.J. BURSCH, TAYLIN'S FATHER: Everything that has happened is more of a step to take so they don't look at fault.

SIDNER (voice-over): That was 2018. Now, his family and five other families of black students are suing the district of Eastern Carver County Schools in Minnesota.

ANNA PRAKASH, ATTORNEY: It's not a situation of a little bullying here, a little bullying there, an isolated incident. It's not that. It's a system-wide problem. It's a system-wide problem that we allege the district knew about all along and failed to remedy.

SIDNER (voice-over): The allegations in total read like a page from the beginning of school integration in the segregated south. It alleges another black middle school student was punched in the face by a white student. Called the "N" word and had food thrown at him.

At Chaska High School, more harassment.

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SIDNER (voice-over): This image became national news showing 25 black students from Chaska High super-imposed on a Google map labeled "Negro Hill."

During Black History month this year, a white student posted a picture of himself holding a gun on Snapchat while threatening to shoot a list of black and other students if they attended a school assembly on racism, the lawsuit says.

Another photo went viral of white students wearing charcoal masks they hashtag #blackface. One month later in the yearbook, a photo taken during a football game of a white child wearing black face. The yearbook was recalled before it was distributed. Four of the six black students left the school due to the harassment the lawsuit says.

PRAKASH: We have alleged emotional distress. We have talked about the substantial disruption on these kids education and those are very real things.

SIDNER (voice-over): The school district told CNN it cannot comment on specific litigation, but in a statement when the racist photo went viral, the district said racism and bigotry has no place at Chaska High School and it also formed an equity task force to address the issue. Legal analyst Jessica Levinson says that could play into the district's defense.

JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFESSOR, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: I think in that case they'll say it's terrible that this happened. We're taking steps to train our teachers, to train our administrators, but we didn't necessarily have a duty to act in a different way. We can't prevent all types of bad behavior on school grounds.

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HOWELL: Sara Sidner continuing coverage on that very important story. One final note: the parents said the federal lawsuit was their last resort after the school district failed to remedy the situation. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN

Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is ahead. Thanks for watching.