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Trump Awards His Doral Resort & U.S. Taxpayers Footing Bill; Eric Trump: Using Trump's Doral Property Will Save Government Money; Trump Not Doing Well in Showing Empathy This Week; Trump Pattern: Taking Credit for Solving Crises He Created or Exacerbated; Texts Reveal Boeing Employees Knew of 737 MAX Issues in 2015. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 18, 2019 - 14:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: And we just learned Doral wasn't even on the original list of possible locations. The reason? Ethics concerns.

Yet, acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is dismissing any conflicts of interest and insists the Trump resort was the best location.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: It's not the only place. There's others. There's difficulties with going various places. Some places don't have the transportation that you need. There was one place, I won't say where it was, that we had to figure out if we needed oxygen tanks for the participants because of the altitude. So, yes, there's limitations in other places.

I was aware of the political sort of criticism we would come under for doing it at Doral, which is why I was so surprised when the advance team called back and said this was the perfect physical location to do this.

I get the criticisms. So does he. He will be criticized regardless of what he chose to do.

But, no, there's no issue of him profiting from this in any way, shape or form.


CABRERA: Bring in Walter Shaub, a enior adviser for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which currently a pending lawsuit against the president.

Walter, Mick Mulvaney saying this is the only and best place. Are you buying it?

WALTER SHAUB, SENIOR ADVISER, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY & ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: It's so implausible, it's not worth dignifying with extensive arguments. That's impossible. CABRERA: Impossible?

SHAUB: This is a big country. Think about how many properties we have.

What Mick Mulvaney is asking you to believe is that if President Trump were not president these same site selection people would have naturally landed on the Trump property and said, this is the only really great place to have it? The absolute best one? It's so implausible. I can't believe the man was able to say that with a straight face.

CABRERA: And not to mention that the G-7 has been held in the U.S. before, at Camp David under President Obama, an island in Georgia under President Bush. And yet, Mulvaney was asked if the White House would release information about its selection process.

Here's his response.


MULVANEY: You're going to get this answer a lot, OK? Because I don't talk about how this place runs on the inside. So if you ask us, see our paper on how we did this, the answer is absolutely not.


CABRERA: Walter, how can they not provide total transparency? Given, at the least, the optics of all this?

SHAUB: They can't. Mick Mulvaney is just wrong. That information will come out.

For one reason, the White House doesn't have appropriations to fund this thing. For another, they don't have a procurement team to do it, which means some agency was involved and they're subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Also just a very basic principle and procurement law that transparency is absolutely needed to ensure people aren't corruptly spending our tax dollars.

CABRERA: We hear about the Emoluments Clause when it comes to ethics. The White House claiming everything will be done at cost to comply with the Emoluments Clause. Would that do it?

SHAUB: No, it wouldn't. Remember, as a factual matter this term "at cost" has no meaning in the context of a hotel. So Mick Mulvaney is not only unwilling to tell us how they arrived at this, he's not telling us what they mean by "at cost." The idea it's at cost is irrelevant.

Imagine that the president were covered by the conflict-of-interest statute or if any other executive branch employee did this, they would be prosecuted, and their attorney could not walk into court and say, well, he didn't make a profit so it's OK. That's just absolutely not a defense to awarding yourself a contract.

CABRERA: Eric Trump, the president's son, still part of the Trump Organization, previously said that if Doral was the choice, they'd end up saving the government money. Listen.


ERIC TRUMP, SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: The whole point with the G-7 is, totally fund it as well. It would actually save the USA a tremendous amount of money in that they wouldn't be paying for massive amounts of rooms at some hospitality company that was going to milk the hell out of the U.S. government because, quite frankly, they knew they could.


CABRERA: What say you to that argument?

SHAUB: A concerning statement. If Eric Trump, who runs the Trump Organization, has inside knowledge about what the other bidders submitted, we are talking about a violation of procurement integrity act, a law that actually does apply to President Trump.

So I hope that that was just idle speculation and puffery. And it was silliness, because that's why we have a competitive process, and don't allow presidents to go around just awarding themselves contracts.

It's so that the best value will be selected. That's the standard. They look for the lowest cost with the highest quality.

CABRERA: Something tells me this will not be the end of the discussion about all this.


CABRERA: Walter Shaub, thank you for being with us.

SHAUB: Thanks.

CABRERA: From blindsiding a grieving family to joking about a hurricane-ravaged state, and in that very state, no less, President Trump isn't scoring many wins in the empathy department this week. Details on that ahead.


Plus, more on a significant development just happened on this show. Former Republican Governor John Kasich says he now believes the president deserves to be impeached. Hear his reasons.



CABRERA: To some of you, it may appear the political walls around President Trump are starting to crumble. Yet, he shows no signs of weakness. Just this past week, in classic Trump fashion, he's taking digs

against people where, instead, perhaps he should have shown a little more empathy.

He said America's embattled Kurdish allies were no angels. He accused Texas officials of making a fortune off the deadly 2017 Hurricane Harvey. And he deeply offended the British family whose son was killed in a wrong-way crash involving the wife of a U.S. diplomat.

Here's the president in his own words.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight. And as I said, they're not angels. They're not angels. Take a look. You have to go back and take a look.

And they said, sir, thank you for being so generous on the hurricane. They made a fortune. You made a fortune in America.

My meeting with the family was really beautiful in a certain way. They did not want to meet with the person in question.

That happens in Europe. You go to Europe and the roads are opposite. And it's very tough. If you are from the United States, you do make that decision to make a right turn where you're supposed to make a left turn. The roads are opposite. And she said that's what happened. That happens to a lot of people, by the way.


CABRERA: Gloria Borger is CNN chief political analyst.

Gloria, the way the president speaks to or about victims of crime or national disasters or the battlefields, where is the empathy?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a good question, and if I were a shrink, I could probably give you the answer to that in explaining it.

Seems to me, just from watching the president over these last few years, it's that he is somebody who seems to have more empathy for people he thinks are on his side, who voted for him, who are fans of his. It's all about him.

For example, when you had those wildfires in Paradise, he was tweeting about California and how it doesn't take care of its forests rather than the people there. Yet, if something happens in, say, Texas, he's a little bit more personal about it.

So everything seems to be about him. And that's how he views the world. He's a very transactional person, and he's not somebody who seems to do a lot of self-aware -- have a lot of self-awareness. So that's just the way he rolls.

CABRERA: I want you to listen to something. Here's how the Dunn family reacted after their meeting at the White House.


RADD SEIGER, DUNN FAMILY SPOKESMAN: He said that Anne Sacoolas was in the next room and ready to meet, and that did take us by surprise, because we resolved that's not something we were prepared to do at this moment.

This family still is emotionally shut down and you can all imagine potentially a difficult meeting. So to hold it in the White House without therapists or mediators around us, I thought -- we declined that offer. But again, I think, you know, at least they're trying.


CABRERA: So, Gloria, it's not just political opponents who are saying, this isn't how normal people act.

BORGER: Right. I mean, you can imagine Trump and the situation is so sad in that case.

You have one family in one room and another family in another room and he's like, oh, let me get you guys together and I can cut this deal. I can -- if you guys talk to each other, we can work it out, because I'm the greatest negotiator and dealmaker in the world, without really understanding the depth of the suffering that -- that the family of that child is going through.

And I think, you know, it's just another example of a president not really understanding emotions. And that's what these people were talking about. They needed -- they needed a mediator. They needed psychologists there. They didn't need Donald Trump to walk them both in the room and make sure they hugged each other.

CABRERA: Gloria Borger, thank you.

The tale of two military men, the architect of the bin Laden raid with a blistering assessment of the president, and the former defense secretary, James Mattis, joking about him.


Plus, we've noticed a pattern. The president likes to start a crisis and then demands praise for trying to solve it. See what we found.


CABRERA: Despite reports of scattered clashes in northern Syria, President Trump is again today praising what he claims is a cease-fire brokered by his administration, but what Turkey is calling a pause.

Trump seems to be following a similar playbook we've seen several times during his presidency, taking credit for cleaning up a crisis he either created himself or exacerbated.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here now to explain further -- Tom? [14:50:13]

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is one of the oldest political tricks in the book. Which makes it odd for a man who says he's not really a politician. Create a crisis, then clean it up, and then ask for credit for what you did.

Look at this situation we're talking about now. It was the president's capricious sudden decision to pull out American troops that launched this assault by Turkey against the Kurds in Syria. And now the president saying we made a deal. I've cleaned it up and should get credit for it.

We don't know if the deal will hold but this is how the pattern works.

The government shutdown late last year, early this year. Remember, 35 days, no budget. Everything a wreck out there because the president was saying, I have to have $6 billion to build my wall, and the Democrats said, they would not give it to him.

In the end, he did not get it, but then said, well, we've made a deal to move forward. He cleaned it up and said, I've ended the shutdown. The shutdown, many say, he basically created.

Look at North Korea. He made overtures, going to meet with Kim Jong- Un, end the missile crisis, everything going on with them. They've been testing missiles again lately. And now he keeps saying, well, that's not really an issue because I have such a great relationship with him. It's all going to be OK in the future.

Look at what's happened with China. All of this talk about trade wars and tariffs with China. Huge battle going on over there. And in this case, what that's resulted in is about $28 billion being paid by American taxpayers to American farmers to help cover all the products they cannot sell to China right now.

The president says, look, I've cleaned up the problem. And yet, others say if this had been a more systematic process, perhaps you could have worked on trade without creating that problem in the first place.

Of course, remember what happened with Mexico. Talk for days about serious, huge tariffs on Mexico if they didn't stop all the Central American migrants coming up and then coming to the United States.

In the end, again, a lot of threat, a lot of noise. Then the president said, you know, we've worked it out, things are better now. He cleaned it up and took credit.

Again, Ana, for someone who says he's not a politician, time and time and time again, he uses one of the oldest political tricks in the books.

CABRERA: And now you've exposed it.

Tom Foreman -- FOREMAN: I wouldn't go that far.

CABRERA: Happy Friday. Good to have you.

Coming up, new trouble for Boeing after text messages apparently reveal employees knew of problems on this 737 MAX before things turned deadly.



CABRERA: Bring you breaking news now. CNN just learned that federal regulators are demanding answers from Boeing over why the company did not disclose for months concerning internal communications on the troubled 737 MAX planes. Text messages show that Boeing withheld messages between employees discussing problems with the planes.

The 737 MAX remains grounded, and airlines canceled flights into next year following two crashes that killed 346 people.

CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is covering these developments.

Rene, tell us more about the text messages apparently withheld?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Ana, just got ahold of these internal instant messages between two Boeing employees from 2016 when the 737 MAX was in development.

There are two alarming things here. The first one is a Boeing test pilot, is raising concerns about the software system that is at the center of those two fatal 737 MAX crashes. He says that the plane's automated flight controls were making it extremely hard to control the plane in the flight simulator.

And in one message -- we have the text of those here that we can throw up -- he tells a colleague, I'm quoting, "Granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious."

Here's the second alarming point. This system was meant to operate in the background. Boeing originally told the FAA that pilots didn't even need to know about this system in order to fly the plane safely. But in the end, engineers ended up making this automated system way more powerful and Boeing's pilots only learned about it during the flight simulator testing.

Here's a second portion of the conversation. And it says, "It's running rampant in the SIM on me so I basically lied to the regulators unknowingly." Then his colleague then says, "It wasn't a lie. No one told us that this was the case."

So essentially, again, they are talking about issues with the plane that they have recognized during the simulator testing.

The FAA today fired off what sounds like a really angry letter to Boeing demanding an explanation for why it withheld this documentation.


In its statement, the FAA says that it finds the substance of the document concerning. It says, "The FAA is also disappointed that Boeing did not bring this document to our attention immediately upon discovery."

We reached out to Boeing. They say they are cooperating with the investigations.