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Missing Mom Found Dead Near Cabinet Where She Vanished; Boeing Fires Its CEO Amid 737 Max Safety Crisis; Colleague of Jamal Khashoggi Reacts To Saudi Sentences. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 24, 2019 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00]

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (D) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER: I think this race, as Hillary said, is kind of -- I actually don't think it's four people, I think it's two people. I think it's a Bernie Sanders-Joe Biden race.

However, I think because the Iowa caucus is so particular and peculiar and because there still is a lot of time left -- the Iowa caucus is a little bit later this year than it normally is -- it's not in January, it's February third -- there still is a lot of time left.

And I wouldn't be surprised if you saw someone from the middle part of the -- of the pact come back. Could that by Amy Klobuchar? Could that by Cory Booker? I mean, there are a couple of people who could probably catch fire in the next four weeks.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, go ahead.

ROSEN: -- Bakari's right in that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden both is what we'll call the establishment candidates, in that voters know them -- known them -- who they are and have formed opinions about them.

So really, the issue is whether Iowa breaks out somebody new. Whether they break out Pete Buttigieg, whether they break out Amy Klobuchar or Elizabeth Warren.

And that platform of Iowa is very significant going into New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada because as we know, Joe Biden has a stronghold in South Carolina and in Nevada. Bernie Sanders is strong in New Hampshire.

So, you know, it really requires victory in Iowa for one of these other candidates to be successful going forward in the next few states.

CAMEROTA: But, Hilary, you're saying that if Biden doesn't win Iowa he can still recover.

ROSEN: No question.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

ROSEN: But I think that's less the case for Pete Buttigieg and for Amy and Warren.

CAMEROTA: The polls are no help because --

ROSEN: No help.

CAMEROTA: -- when you look at the most recent polls in Iowa -- and granted, these are from a month ago but let's start with the CNN one.

So in this CNN one -- this is from November sixth -- I'm sorry, eighth through 13th -- Buttigieg is pretty far out ahead at 25 percent, then Warren at 16, then Biden at 15, then Sanders at 15, so a three-way tie for second. Klobuchar is half of that at six.

Then a poll done at virtually the same time -- this CBS poll -- had different results. I'll try to pull those up for you any second.

OK, so that's where Sanders is -- well, basically, it's a two-way tie between Sanders and Biden, OK. So quite different than the CNN poll. Then, Buttigieg, which -- who is basically tied as well. Then Warren, then Klobuchar.

So, Bakari, it's just -- well, it's just impossible to tell what's going to happen. I mean, as we heard from that piece that preceded you guys, even Iowans are still deciding. I mean, obviously, they don't know yet what they're going to do.

SELLERS: Yes. I mean, my political analysis this morning is like I don't know what's going to happen. We'll -- we will -- we shall see.

I remind people often though -- I mean, our colleague, Rick Santorum, won the Iowa caucus. I don't know if people remember but it was a storm in the 2016 that night and everyone was leaving and flew and --

ROSEN: Right.

SELLERS: -- a lot of us thought that Hillary Clinton was running away with Iowa only to find out that when we landed in New Hampshire she won by half a point.

And if you watched the Republican caucus that night you would have thought Marco Rubio won. He spun his third place into victory. So there are a lot of things that can happen.

But to Hilary's point, I mean, the number one thing that you have to realize about Iowa is that there aren't as many tickets out of Iowa as people first thought there would be. If Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar do not win Iowa it's going to be very tough for them to continue because, of course, you have New Hampshire. But when you get to Nevada, then South Carolina, and then Super Tuesday, Joe Biden is going to be very formidable and so is Bernie Sanders.

And without having that spark from Iowa, without trying to catch that Obama momentum, which I hate using because no one running against Barack Obama, but that kind of springboard -- it's going to be very difficult for them to continue and do extremely well. So we'll see what happens.

If Pete Buttigieg wins Iowa, he's in for the long haul and he's going to be a formidable candidate and you never know what would happen.

CAMEROTA: OK. Bakari Sellers, Hilary Rosen, thank you. We'll talk to you very soon -- John.

ROSEN: Thank you.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, the CEO of Boeing fired in the fallout of the 737 MAX. So what is the future of the company and will that plane ever fly again? We've got that and more, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:38:35]

CAMEROTA: Authorities in Michigan have found the body of a mother missing since October. Adrienne Quintal vanished after calling a friend to say she was involved in a shootout with two men.

CNN's Alexandra Field joins us now with more. Do we know what happened, Alex?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, it's really been an agonizing few months for this family trying to figure out what happened. In the end, it was actually her family and her friends who did, in fact, find the body of Adrienne Quintal.

And now that she's been discovered, investigators are saying they don't suspect foul play. That, despite the fact that her body was found in a flooded area near a river not far from the cabin where she made a chilling phone call back in October. It was the last time she was heard from.

She called a friend in the middle of the night and said she had just shot a man in the face and that she was being shot at by another man. By the time police arrived, they found bullet holes in the windows. They also found spent shell casings on the cabin floor leading them, of course, to believe that shots had been fired inside. But, Quintal, herself, was gone.

The family says that finding her is bringing them some peace, if not all the answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNY BRYSON, SISTER OF ADRIENNE QUINTAL: We can rest a little easier knowing that the journey, so far, has come to an end. It's been hard searching for her. And even though we are glad to have some closure, it has been heart-wrenching.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FIELD: Nice to hear that family saying that they are getting some measure of closure.

[07:40:02]

The autopsy has been conducted but the medical examiner says that he will hold off on finally determining an official cause of death until he gets the toxicology reports back. That may give us and the family, of course, more answers about the mysterious circumstances surrounding Quintal's death -- John, Alisyn.

AVLON: Meanwhile, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has been fired, the company announced yesterday. Quote, "The board of directors decided that a change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders."

As "The New York Times" puts it, "Muilenburg was unable to stabilize Boeing after two crashes involving its best-selling 737 MAX plane killed 346 people and set off the worst crisis in the manufacturing giant's 103-year history."

Joining me now to talk about it are Natalie Kitroeff, economy reporter for "The New York Times" and a co-author of that report. And, "CNN BUSINESS" editor-at-large and host of CNN's "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," Richard Quest, who covers aviation for us. Great to have you both with us.

Richard, let me start with you. There's a semantics to exit packages and there's been a bit of a debate between the company's official line that the CEO resigned and what seems to be the case, reading the reporting, that he was fired. At stake could be as much as $75 million in compensation for the former CEO.

So, what's the truth, and if the payout's there, how could shareholders stand for it?

RICHARD QUEST, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN BUSINESS, CNN ANCHOR, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Well, it will -- it will be structured. It's not the first time that a CEO has left a top job under a cloud and walked off with a large payoff. To actually fire him for cause so he wouldn't get any of his contractual benefits, that's not the case in this. He hasn't really done anything wrong.

My guess is that very deep into his contract there is a term that says if he resigns -- and the board asked him to in these circumstances -- he gets the lot, which would be deferred compensation, pension top- outs. You name it, it probably all comes to him.

Whether or not he's entitled to it morally, that's a different question. But shareholders might arguably say yes, until 2019 we've made a very good return on Boeing -- a lot of money. And even this year, pretty much so far, it's just about back to where it started the year.

AVLON: And we've got a shot that shows the stock market price. It had done very well until this year and then you see this steep drop- off, 21 percent, after the crash of the first MAX airliner. So to you, Natalie, my question is this. On the issue of judgment and culpability -- and you wrote the report -- why wasn't the MAX grounded after the first crash?

NATALIE KITROEFF, ECONOMY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, after the first crash, the company was working towards a fix. But it wasn't clear exactly what had happened and there was a sense inside that this could have been an anomaly, and that's what the new incoming CEO David Calhoun said to us in an interview early this year. There was a sense that this might have been a one-off.

Now, you know, assumptions and other problems came to light before the Ethiopian crash but the decision was made to work on a fix and to instruct pilots how to use an emergency procedure to recover the plane.

AVLON: Richard, could there be criminal liability at the end of all this?

QUEST: Highly unlikely. The bar would need to be set so high and the actions taken by officers of the company so grave that it's not a runner. It would be most unusual.

Corporate criminal liability, that's another one that often is looked at. Again, the bar is set so high, you have to prove so many different things that it's not going to be a runner.

Civil litigation, of course, left, right and center. A huge number of claims all over the place against Boeing. Even though they've put aside billions of dollars already, that won't be enough. More will have to be paid.

I don't see any form of criminal prosecution getting off the ground.

AVLON: Natalie, you mentioned David Calhoun, the incoming new CEO and former chairman of the board for years. Is that -- given the fact he has been overseeing the company at the board level for this entire period, is that the real turn of a page that leadership and perhaps some shareholders are looking for or is there a degree of culpability there because he was chairman of the board during the time that this all fell apart?

KITROEFF: Well, there's a little bit of a push and pull here, right? I mean, the company wanted to be able to put someone in the role who is a proven CEO, someone who has familiarity with this crisis -- with the ins and outs of what's going on.

But as you said, David Calhoun has been on the board since the MAX was launched. He has been deeply enmeshed in the decisions that got us here to where we are today, which is really the worst-case scenario for the company.

And lawmakers have said that they aren't satisfied. Richard Blumenthal, the senator from Connecticut, has said that he wants Mr. Calhoun to testify.

[07:45:04]

So the pressure is still very much on for Boeing.

AVLON: Richard, you know, when I was in business school, Boeing was lauded. They won the Baldridge Award for quality multiple times. And so this is sort of striking to see this fall from grace for this storied American company.

My question to you this. One of the big debates we're having right now at the business roundtable, saying CEOs should value long-term value creation over short-term shareholder value, is this part of a process, perhaps, that Boeing let some quality standards fall due to an emphasis on share priced by the CEO?

QUEST: No -- oh, no, not due to share price. I wouldn't say -- the share price has been very good over the last few years so it wasn't share price. It was market share that they were going for.

Airbus had introduced the A320neo. It was selling very well -- very well. And, Boeing didn't really have a composite competitor for this so they rushed through the MAX, and there the problems began and multiplied. It was Boeing's wish to get the MAX into production and flying as soon as possible to beat the neo and claim market share.

Ultimately, of course, what they've done is manage to do exactly the opposite because now airlines are canceling in some cases or they're simply just going straight for the 320neo family of planes from Airbus.

AVLON: Final question for you both. Show of hands, will the 737 MAX fly again?

QUEST: (Raises hand).

KITROEFF: That's what industry observers are saying and -- I mean, regulators --

AVLON: You both say that.

KITROEFF: -- are indicating that it will fly again. The question is when and how.

QUEST: Yes.

KITROEFF: What is the pilot training going to be for this plane? That's what we're all watching.

AVLON: Quite the prediction.

QUEST: There's no doubt -- no doubt it will fly again. There's way too much invested. It's a question of just getting the fix in and as -- and as you said, the training sorted and then it will be back in the air.

And I promise you this. Within a year, everybody will be flying it without any problems, forgetting about what might have happened in that case (INAUDIBLE).

AVLON: Bold predictions from Richard and Natalie. Thank you for joining us on NEW DAY.

CAMEROTA: All right, John.

Five people sentenced to death for the murder of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Why those closest to the Saudi crown prince were spared. We'll speak with one of Khashoggi's former colleagues who says this sentence was a whitewash.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:02]

CAMEROTA: Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death for the murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But the kingdom's top prosecutor cleared members of the crown prince's inner circle despite the conclusion from the CIA that Mohammad bin Salman personally ordered the killing.

Joining us now is CNN global affairs analyst Jason Rezaian. He's an opinion writer at "The Washington Post" who worked with Jamal Khashoggi. Jason, thanks so much for being here.

JASON REZAIAN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST, AUTHOR, "PRISONER": Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So, five people sentenced to death. Is that justice for Jamal Khashoggi?

REZAIAN: It doesn't look like justice to me. We don't know anything about what went on inside that trial. It was held behind closed doors. And the people who our own intelligence assessments say are responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi have walked free.

So I don't think that we should have anticipated any sort of justice in this case and clearly, it doesn't look like justice has been served.

CAMEROTA: Here is what Salah Khashoggi, one of Jamal's sons, said in a statement put out yesterday.

"A fair judiciary is based on two principles, justice and quick proceedings. Today's judiciary was fair to us, the sons of Jamal Khashoggi. We affirm our confidence in Saudi judiciary on all its levels as it ruled in our favor and achieved justice."

Do you know if that's how the whole family feels?

REZAIAN: I can't say definitively how the whole family feels, Alisyn, and the last thing I want to do is criticize the grieving children of my colleague.

Ultimately, though, we know that Saudi Arabia is a country where free expression does not exist. That any sort of dissent is stamped out, any sort of backlash or speaking back against the royal family is unacceptable. So I would not have expected anything different. And, unfortunately, it's going to be hard to know what the family really thinks because they're stuck inside that country.

CAMEROTA: That's a very important context for us to know.

And so, the fact -- but the fact -- I mean, from what you're saying, the fact that five people were sentenced to death, should that be seen as some sort of victory given the fact that Saudi Arabia doesn't often do things like this?

REZAIAN: Again, I don't want to judge victory. Ultimately, the main fact here is that a journalist for "The Washington Post" -- a man who was promoting the ideals of free expression and trying to give voice to the voiceless in a country where he came from was murdered in the most outrageous and heinous way imaginable. So there can't be a victory in this case.

And ultimately, I worry that the people who were responsible for plotting the murder and carrying it out are walking free.

CAMEROTA: Right after this happened -- right after Jamal was killed in that horribly macabre way, President Trump was very reluctant to pin any of the blame on the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

[07:55:07]

We know that Jared Kushner is close friends with Mohammad bin Salman.

So here was what the president said back then. In fact, they put out a statement. This was on November 20th, 2018.

The White House said, "Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an enemy of the state and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that.

This is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.

Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information. But it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event. Maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"

So, since then, how do you characterize how the White House has tackled all of this?

REZAIAN: Well, I think that the White House is far out of step with our Intelligence Community, with members of Congress. The national security and foreign policy establishment of this country -- the career people working on these issues are horrified that this might happen.

And I think that there is a reconsideration of how our relationship with Saudi Arabia moving forward will be managed. It cannot be status quo. They've been involved in over a period of many years and it's a

country that is defined by a lack of a rule of law. I mean, the law is what the royal family says and nothing more and that's at great odds with how we conduct things here in the United States of America and what we expect from our allies.

So I think in the long-term we have to look at a changing relationship. But, unfortunately, this president and his family have close ties, as you indicated, with the Saudi royal family and I don't think it's going to happen on their watch.

CAMEROTA: Beyond their personal relationships -- I mean, what the Trump administration has said -- the reason it values Saudi Arabia so much officially, they say, is because they want Saudi Arabia's help in fighting Iran. Is that on balance or a reason to maintain these ties?

REZAIAN: I don't think so. I mean, I think the fact is that Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two key players in that region. There is an ongoing shifting of power -- balance of power game that's been playing out over a period of decades.

But favoring one side over the other in such a way -- and Saudi Arabia buys as much military equipment from the United States as anybody else -- we shouldn't, at the same time, be greenlighting the worst possible behavior in terms of attacking the free press, what they're doing in Yemen and have been for a very long period of time. And really, the suppression and repression of their own people inside that country.

So I don't think that that argument holds water. Iran is a problem. It has been a problem for a very long period of time. Funding and funneling money and resources and turning a blind eye to such aggression meted out by the Saudi regime is not the answer.

CAMEROTA: Jason Rezaian, we always appreciate getting your perspective on all this. Thank you --

REZAIAN: Have a good Christmas.

CAMEROTA: -- very much.

And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, Rudy Giuliani's strange new interview. NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We, at the very minimum, will require votes from all the senators on each of the witnesses and about each of these sets of documents.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We haven't ruled out witnesses. We've said let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There are pressure points on both sides here to get something accomplished.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, spouting conspiracy theories in a bizarre interview.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What Giuliani is out there doing is trying to spin these false alternate narratives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's baffling and it certainly doesn't suggest someone who really understands the stakes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, December 24th, Christmas Eve --

AVLON: It is.

CAMEROTA: -- 8:00 in the east.

John Berman is off. John Avlon joins me. Great to be here with you.

AVLON: Absolutely. Happy Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas eve.

CAMEROTA: You, as well. Santa is already on the move. We should let people know. This is the official NORAD --

AVLON: You have land.

CAMEROTA: -- satellite video of Santa. His is over Russia, OK.

AVLON: He'll move quickly over Russia.

CAMEROTA: Well, make of that what you will. The children of Russia also deserve presents.

AVLON: I know, but I'll tell you, I've got two children, Jack and Toula Lou, waiting for him to get to the east coast ASAP, so this is very important news.

CAMEROTA: OK, got it. We'll continue to track Santa all morning.

So be sure also to stick around for a very special Christmas music surprise a little bit later.

AVLON: Ooh, it's going to be good.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, President Trump is spending the holidays at his Florida estate. The president is expected to speak with troops serving overseas in a video.

END