Return to Transcripts main page


Feds: Airline Mechanic Accused of Sabotage Had ISIS Video on Phone; Document Circulating on Hill Outlines Gun Proposals; Trump Answers Reporters' Question in L.A. on New National Security Adviser Pick, Saudis Blaming Iran for Oil Attack, Israeli Elections; Warren Wins Key Endorsement from WFP in Blow to Sanders; Disturbing Report: U.S. Vets & Servicemembers Targeted Online. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 18, 2019 - 13:30   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A former American Airlines mechanic charged with sabotaging a jet liner at Miami International Airport may have ties to a terror group possibly. That is the latest coming out of a new court appearance.

We have CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh, here with more.

What can you tell us?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: We're just gathering all the information coming out of federal court. But what we know so far is that prosecutors allege that this American Airlines mechanic isn't -- as we reported earlier this month, is accused of sabotaging a commercial airliner, he had some ISIS propaganda on his cell phone.

Again, that is the allegation from the prosecutors in court. We're talking about Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani. He was in federal court today. The U.S. attorney says he had downloaded this ISIS video on his cell phone and sent it to other individuals.

Also coming out of court, according to the U.S. attorney of the defendant, again this former American Airlines mechanic had traveled to Iraq this year and he sent some $700 to someone in Iraq around July of this year.

So new details. We didn't know anything about these allegations that we're hearing from the U.S. attorney.

But important to point out he has not been charged with any terror- related charges.

KEILAR: Explain to our viewers his reasoning for why he -- I mean, he actually inserted something into part of the plane that would have restricted air speed readings as well as other key information that went to the airplane. And the airplane almost took off before it realized this. MARSH: Right.

KEILAR: What was his explanation for why he did that?

MARSH: When we first reported this, he had tampered with this navigation system.

He said he didn't want to hurt anyone, but he was upset about contract dispute happening between the workers' union and American Airlines and he was hoping that by tampering with that navigational system on the commercial airliner, he would get some overtime, having to essentially fix that issue that he created on his own, he being the mechanic. He'd be able to rack up some extra cash by having to fix it.

On its face, he initially told authorities that he meant no harm, but now in court, we're hearing more details about his background and certain allegations about his connection to ISIS. So a lot more to learn here. But that's the headline coming out of federal court today.

KEILAR: Rene, thank you so much.

Also just in, Attorney General William Barr is on Capitol Hill today talking to lawmakers about possible measures on guns, including possible changes on background check laws.

Our Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.

There's a document circulating with some of the proposals. What can you tell us, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right. This is a document that's been circulated to some offices on Capitol Hill that looks at exactly what the Justice Department has suggested when it comes to expanding background checks on commercial sales, Brianna.

One thing that's very clear from this document is, you know, Republicans are looking at the idea of expanding background checks. That's significant. That's something that Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told me yesterday he was open to.

That's also significant given the fact that any gun legislation would have to go through his committee.

But it's very important to warn the president has not signed off on this legislation. That is according to one of my colleagues who covers the White House for us.

In fact, the president has not signed off on this proposal that's circulating. It's just a draft. It's just an idea. The document says at the very top "idea."

So Republicans are entertaining the idea of expanding background checks, but still unclear where the president stands. We know that's very important to Republicans on Capitol Hill -- Brianna?

KEILAR: He is key. We know that the Senate won't send him anything unless he's going to sign it.

Lauren Fox, thank you so much.

Is 80 too old to be president? Yes, says one of the men who has been president. Hear why.


Plus, I'll be speaking live with a key progressive group that just endorsed Elizabeth Warren instead of Bernie Sanders, the candidate they endorsed in 2016.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's worked me for quite a while now on hostages. We've had a tremendous track record with respect to hostages.

Robert can tell you about it, but we've brought a lot of people back home and we haven't spent any money. That's good. You can't do the money thing. If you do the money thing, all of a sudden, it will double and triple and quadruple. You say, what's going on.

So Robert's been fantastic. We know each other well.

Maybe, Robert, say a few words, please.


It's a privilege to serve with the president. We look forward to another year and a half of peace through strength. We've had tremendous foreign policy successes under President Trump's leadership. I expect those to continue.

We've got a number of challenges but there's a great team in place with Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Esper and Secretary Mnuchin and others. I look forward to working with them and with the president to keep the country safe and get our military into a posture that will keep the American people safe from the many challenges around the world today.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What advice do you have for the president about the situation in Saudi Arabia and any possible military strike on Iran?

O'BRIEN: Yes. So we're looking at those issues now and getting briefed up. I think Secretary Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia now or is just coming home. Any advice I give the president will be something I give him confidentially but we're monitoring that situation closely.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, any update on your thinking? TRUMP: Yes. Nothing to report yet. We'll probably be speaking to

you tomorrow, maybe the next day. Nothing to report, but it hasn't changed very much. I think my thinking pretty much remains the same. We haven't learned much that we didn't know.


TRUMP: But there's a certain -- a guarantee factor. We're really at a possibility where we know very much what happened.



TRUMP: We'll see what happens. We'll see. You'll watch.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, is President Rouhani coming to New York next week?

TRUMP: Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: President Rouhani, he is coming to New York next week?

TRUMP: I really don't know. I really don't know. That's up to him. It's not up to me. It's up to him. We'll see what happens.


TRUMP: We're going to see what happens. I would let them come. If it was up to me, I would let them come. I've always felt the United Nations is very important. I think it's got tremendous potential. I don't think it's ever lived up to the potential it has. But I would certainly not want to keep people out if they want to come. So that's up to them.


TRUMP: I actually think it's a sign of strength. We have the strongest military in the world now. I think it's a great sign of strength. It's very easy to attack. But if you ask Lindsey, ask him, how did going into the Middle East work out, and how did going into Iraq work out. So we have a disagreement on that.

There's plenty of time to do some dastardly things. It's very easy to start. We'll see what happens. We'll see what happens. I think we have a lot of good capital. If we have to do something, we'll do it without hesitation.


TRUMP: He just came out with a statement. He spoke to me a little while ago and we'll have an announcement. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did Mr. O'Brien bring to the table you were looking for that maybe you didn't get through Mr. Bolton? TRUMP: It's very interesting. Mr. O'Brien is highly respected. Many

people that I didn't know really knew him. He did a tremendous job on hostage negotiation, really tremendous, like unparalleled. We've had tremendous success in that regard, brought home many people. Through hostage negotiation, I got to know him very well myself.

But also a lot of people that I respect rated him as the absolute number-one choice. So I think we have a very good chemistry together and I think we're going to have a great relationship. He is a very talented man.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you raise more sanctions on Iran today? Did you raise more sanctions on Iran today?


TRUMP: I did. We'll be adding some very significant sanctions onto Iran.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What will they include, sir?

TRUMP: We'll be announcing it over the next 48 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will there be a further announcement on Iran? Are you looking at a military strike?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are the options, Mr. President, that you're considering? You just said there were some very bad things.

TRUMP: There are many options. As you know, Phil. There are many options. There's the ultimate option. And there are options a lot less than that. We'll see. We're in a very powerful position.


TRUMP: Right now, we're in a very, very powerful position.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When you say ultimate option --


TRUMP: I'm saying the ultimate option, meaning go in, war. No, I'm not talking about that ultimate option, no. All right?


TRUMP: I think it's a very important role. It's really a role that if the president respects the person that's the advisor, I think it really plays a very, very important role. OK?

Thank you.

Peter, thank you.


TRUMP: We're going to the border later.

Are you all with me? We're going to show you a lot of wall. We're building a lot of wall.

We won the big case and a couple of other cases, as you know. We're building a lot of wall. So we'll be talking to you later on. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you spoken to Netanyahu?

TRUMP: I have not. Those results are coming in and it's very close. Do you have any updates? Any updates? You people usually should know before the president, right?


TRUMP: No, I'm not. No, I'm not. Everybody knew it was going to be very close. We'll see what happens. Look, our relationship is with Israel. We'll see what happens.

Thank you. Thank you, everybody.

KEILAR: So the president there on the tarmac in Los Angeles being in California for a fundraising breakfast and now heading to San Diego and the border.

Let's bring in Gloria Borger to talk about what we just heard from President Trump.

All of this is happening in the aftermath of this strike on Saudi oil structure. The president had been very hawk hawkish at first. He dialed back any possible military response. He seemed to stick with that. He's saying the ultimate option, which he spelled out, go in, war, as he called it. Not there yet.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He did say we're in a powerful position. He effectively announced significant sanctions will be announced against Iran. You saw his secretary of state earlier today calling what occurred an act of war and pinpointing the cause to Iran.

So I think the president laid it out there and said that this is what they're going to announce. He seemed to say, you know, this is step one. The president's favorite phrase is, "We'll see what happens." We'll have to see what happens.

KEILAR: Military strike, we'll see what happens.

BORGER: Right. He disagrees with his good friend, Lindsey Graham, on that, as he was talking about.

But he said, look, it's very easy to get into one of these situations. It's a little harder to get out. This is a president time and time again who kind of goes up to the final step and then pulls back because he doesn't want to get entangled.

So he reiterated that the U.S. could effectively do whatever it wants if it wanted to, but significant sanctions to Iran seems to be the first step.

KEILAR: He's standing there next to Robert O'Brien, who is his new and fourth national security advisor. And sort of how he fits into all of this is still to be determined, right? The president got rid of John Bolton, who was quite aggressive --

BORGER: Hawkish.

KEILAR: -- hawkish, you would say, on Iran. Presumably, Robert O'Brien will not be, but we can't really tell at this point how he figures in.

BORGER: It has always been a mystery. And I think you and I have talked about this about why the president hired Bolton in the first place because Bolton was such a hawk and the president is not an interventionist in any way, shape or form. So he could have Googled his name and figured that one out, but that didn't occur and that wasn't long for this world.

It seems to me that the most important person aside from the president right now in foreign policy, because he does call the shots, is Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo is kind of an enigma in many ways, because he knows how to deal with Donald Trump. The question is whether or not he agrees with Donald Trump all the time. We can't quite figure that one out.

But I think that Pompeo is clearly the one who's going to be running foreign policy for the president and that the national security advisor would be number two in that role within that group.

KEILAR: Gloria, thank you so much.



KEILAR: We have some more on our breaking news. A disturbing development involving the American Airlines mechanic accused of sabotaging a flight. Prosecutors now say he had an ISIS video on his phone.



KEILAR: Elizabeth Warren picked up a powerful endorsement, the support of the Working Families Party. The progressive labor organization making the call to back the Massachusetts Senator over the other major progressives in the party, Senator Bernie Sanders.

That decision setting the WFP apart from the majority of the nation's progressive groups and unions who have shown reluctance choosing between the two candidates at this point.

The national director of the WFP, Maurice Mitchell, is joining me now.

Maurice, thank you for coming on to discuss this.

And tell us why Elizabeth Warren?


And number one, we couldn't be more excited by the fact that there are a number of, and really, two leading candidates that are advancing a bold, progressive structural change agenda. So we have a lot of respect for Bernie and his supporters. And we couldn't be more excited to be supporting Elizabeth Warren.

And Elizabeth Warren has a unique way of being able to articulate both the harm and the crisis that everyday people are experiencing all over this country as well as big, bold changes that will actually make a difference.

And I think it was evidenced Monday where there were over 20,000 people in New York feeling and connecting to that, both the policy prescription, rigorous and in-depth, and also her ability as almost a teacher in chief to be able to articulate in ways common folks understand it.

KEILAR: She's polling well. We have seen Biden at 31 in the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Elizabeth Warren at 25, Sanders at 14. How much does that factor in whether you think she can perform well and beat President Trump?

MITCHELL: Look, you know, the field is very dynamic. There's a number of polls indicating all types of things. What will ultimately matter is how we organize, which is one of the reasons why we endorsed at the time we did, which absolutely as you said distinguishes us from many of our partners.

Because we understand that time is an element that is a resource when you lose it you never get it back. A week on the sidelines is a week folks on the far right, white nationalists, that have chosen their candidate, could organize or the folks in the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, they could organize in choosing their candidate.

KEILAR: You want to influence them.

You did back Bernie Sanders over Clinton in the last election. One Sanders backer I spoke with recently who wants Bernie Sanders to win yet still thinks Elizabeth Warren has an edge on him.

I mean, clearly that's what you think, and that's where you are trying to indicate your support is. Why? Why do you think that she resonates more?

MITCHELL: I could tell you positively, right, because we have a lot of supporters and we engaged in a process where folks in our base and our committed activists, who are Bernie supporters and Warren supporters, you know, really struggle together to get on this position.

I want to save positively. I want to talk about our candidate, Elizabeth Warren, not in relation to another candidate.

We think both the combination of her structural-change agenda with the way she's choosing to run this campaign.

You know, standing at, you know, for four hours in order to make sure every person that wants a selfie, that kind of, you know, retail organizing, where she's literally talking to thousands of people because she's not, you know, engaging in some of the, you know, million dollar fundraisers many candidates fly around the country to do.

We think that type of grassroots campaigning with her style and connection and her story and her ability to both translate big, bold vision into actual results, like the CFPB, for example, still in place even under the Trump administration. That combination is unique. We think she's uniquely positioned to become the nominee and ultimately to defeat Trump.

KEILAR: Maurice, thank you so much. Maurice Mitchell, we appreciate you coming on.

MITCHELL: Thank you. Pleasure.

KEILAR: New twist in the extraordinary fight between President Trump and California involving homelessness and the environment.


Plus, is the U.S. economy heading for a recession? In moments, a major announcement expected from the Federal Reserve.


KEILAR: Veterans as well as current servicemembers are being targeted by overseas trolls on social media. The revelation coming from a study by an advocate group, Vietnam Veterans of America.

Kris Goldsmith joins us from that group.

Kris, you're chief investigator among other titles with this group. What is happening here?


KEILAR: Of course.

GOLDSMITH: Vietnam Veterans of America noticed two years ago there was an impostor Facebook account made to look like ours. At first, we thought a member in Europe trying to do a good thing.

After months of studying it, we recognized an entity somewhere in Bulgaria spreading falsified news. So what they do is copy and paste a real story about something like veterans' benefits possibly getting cut, change the date, and make it look fresh and get people upset.

KEILAR: Why are they doing this?

GOLDSMITH: So they're targeting all veterans because veterans are more likely to participate in democracy, vote, run for office, more likely to get others to vote, and to influence the votes of our friends and family.

Now if they can take the veterans community and divide us along left and right and racial and ethnic lines, then America as a whole is weaker, because we have major influencers in every community around the country who end up getting in fights.

KEILAR: Is the government -- are social media companies responding?

GOLDSMITH: So social media companies have actually been really good about closing accounts we've flagged for them. But part of the problem and the reason I haven't been doing it over a year now is they're not sharing any information back with us. So if we report a suspicious account, they won't tell us where that account or the person behind it fits in to the puzzle.

Now, what we really want, our primary message, is we want the circular firing squad that these outside trolls are causing Americans to engage in, to face out.

We need to remember, yes, Facebook needs to clean up their act and get it together. But if they were a defense contractor, like Raytheon, and foreign trolls or foreign entities were using Raytheons technologies against Americans, we'd be mad at the people who attacked us. Yes, we'd hold someone like Raytheon, an organization, company like Raytheon accountable, as we're doing with Facebook.

But our primary concern would be the foreign entities who are attacking America.

KEILAR: Can I ask you quickly? We have very little time. What should veterans be on the lookout for to know if they're being targeted?

GOLDSMITH: So veterans should visit Read my entire 200-page report and you'll see exactly what this stuff looks like.

KEILAR: Or the executive summary? Right? At the beginning? Right? At least read the beginning and you'll get a sense of what you're looking for. This is so important.


Kris Goldsmith, thank you.

GOLDSMITH: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: That's it for me. "NEWSROOM" starts right now.