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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Officials: Luggage, Remains, Plane Seats Found; NRA Endorses Trump, Slams Clinton; Trump: Clinton Should Unveil Supreme Court Picks; Report: Trump To Meet With Senator Corker; Report: Growing Number Of Students Divided. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 20, 2016 - 16:30   ET



[16:30:16] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with our world lead now.

The other breaking news story today, the crash of Flight 804. Sixty- six souls, including three children, all presumed dead. Right now, we have no concrete evidence as to how they died but an automated safety system on board now points to smoke, potentially a fire, right as the aircraft went missing.

CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is here with me in Washington.

Jim, what can you tell us about the smoke on the plane?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is new information coming from the plane, a series of automatic electronic messages from the plane's ACARS system. They send out automatic warnings if there's any sort of failure on the plane. We're learning over the course of three minutes, just as this plane, just before this plane disappeared from radar, that there were indications, one of smoke in the lavatory just to the right and rear of the cockpit and then smoke in the avionic system, which is under the cockpit, followed by a series of other failures along the right side of the plane.

So, we're getting data from the plane even when the pilot and co-pilot were not communicating with people on the ground, data that could be indicative. I've spoken to officials who say that this information is not conclusive of anything, but it is something they are certainly looking at. This in addition to the other discoveries today. This of the first debris from this flight found on the surface of the water in the eastern Mediterranean.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): In the Eastern Mediterranean today, the first signs of EgyptAir Flight 804. Search crews discovering aircraft seats, personal belongings, including a suitcase and human remains. And from high above, a European Space Agency satellite detected what the agency believes to be an oil slick near where the EgyptAir jet went missing. JEAN-MARC AYRAULT, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We need to find these fragments, analyze them, find the black boxes. We want the truth, the whole truth.

SCIUTTO: Recovering the bulk of the wreckage however will be more challenging. The Mediterranean is some two miles deep in the area the plane is believed to have gone down. The sea floor riddled with soaring peaks and deep valleys.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: This is 9,000 feet deep and a jagged ocean floor, apparently. The vessels searching for the pingers are going to have to almost be on top of them, having recovered stuff beneath the ocean. It's not easy and it's very difficult.

SCIUTTO: As investigators work to determine what brought Flight 804 down, they are examining the flight's manifest, digging into the backgrounds of all on board. They're also reviewing security around the aircraft before it left Paris. Sources tell CNN a security sweep of the plane took place before takeoff. Questions remain as to how thorough.

PETE NEFFENGER, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: We still don't know what happened there. We're following the investigation closely. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the people who were lost.

But most importantly, it's a stark reminder that what we do is really important and we need to do it well.

SCIUTTO: Egyptian President Sisi expressed his condolences to the families of victims, as relatives turn from fear to mourning those lost. Among the 66 presumed dead, Canadian Marwa Hamdy, a mother of three living in Cairo, Ahmed Helal, a director of a Procter & Gamble facility based in France, the pilot Mohamed Shoukair, and co-pilot Mohamed Mamdouh Asem, who was soon to be married.

YASSIR ABDEL GHAFFAR, CO-PILOT'S UNCLE: I would say he was the only one that's really drawing smiles on our faces. So, what happened is really very much unfortunate.


SCIUTTO: To be clear, investigators have not ruled out any explanation for the loss of this plane. That includes mechanical failure, a fire perhaps on board, or a terror act. The one consistent message, Jake, is that they don't have conclusive evidence of any of those explanations yet.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

The former director of the CIA says the EgyptAir disaster could be an inside job. Charles de Gaulle Airport purged some of its workers earlier this year, but could they have missed someone who could have snuck a bomb on the plane? And if that's happened, could it also happen here in the United States? That's next.


[16:38:40] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our politics lead now. The National Rifle Association just endorsed Donald Trump, telling its members, if you are backing someone else in the primaries, it is now time to get over it. And the NRA issued dire warnings about the consequences should members not fall in line.

CNN political reporter Sara Murray was there.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): Today, Donald Trump is capping off a week of wooing conservatives in front of a friendly audience.


MURRAY: Picking up an endorsement at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting and serving up some red meat as he slammed Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: Crooked Hillary Clinton is the most antigun, anti-Second Amendment candidate ever to run for office.

MURRAY: Trump setting up a sharp general election split with the Democratic front-runner who labeled the NRA an enemy in a debate last year.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN MODERATOR: You've all made a few people upset over your political careers. Which enemy are you most proud of?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians, probably the Republicans.

MURRAY: The contrast on gun rights is just one of the fault lines already emerging ahead of the general election. Trump not waiting for evidence and sticking by his political instincts as he declared the crash of an EgyptAir flight an act of terror.

[16:40:05] TRUMP: I can practically guarantee who blew it up and another plane went down.

MURRAY: While Clinton took a more measured approach.

CLINTON: It does appear that it was an act of terrorism. Exactly how, of course, the investigation will have to determine.

MURRAY: And laid out her plans to combat ISIS.

CLINTON: We're going to defeat them on the ground using our air power, equipping and training and supporting Arab and Kurdish fighters. We're going to drive them out of Iraq, drive them out of their stronghold in Raqqa, Syria.

MURRAY: In true Trump style, he offered a blunt prescription with few specifics.

TRUMP: I will say knock the hell out of ISIS, which we could have done originally.

MURRAY: But Trump's promise that he won't back down against the terror group may run up against what critics call his isolationist world view, as he continues to blast the Obama administration's decision to send some U.S. forces into Syria.

TRUMP: I would have stayed out of Syria and I wouldn't have fought so much for Assad, against Assad because I thought that was a whole thing.

MURRAY: A position that puts him to the left of many in his own party.


MURRAY: Now, the Clinton campaign is striking back against Donald Trump today. An adviser called Donald Trump's foreign policy unhinged and Hillary Clinton just took to Twitter to address the Second Amendment issue, saying, "You're wrong, Donald Trump. We can uphold Second Amendment rights while preventing senseless gun violence."

So, it may be difficult to find common ground between those two candidates anytime soon -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray, thank you so much.

So, will Donald Trump's endorsement from the NRA help get conservatives on board? We'll talk to our panel next.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Let's stay with politics. Donald Trump saying anything I can do, you need to do also. So now that he has unveiled his list of potential Supreme Court picks, he wants the nation to see just who Hillary Clinton may put on the high court.

Joining me to talk about this and everything else, Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress and a Hillary Clinton supporter, and the editor of the "Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol, who is celebrating the one thousandth issue of their magazine today. Congratulations. That's a big achievement.


TAPPER: So Neera, let me just start with you. Donald Trump just challenged Hillary Clinton. I put out a list and my conservative Supreme Court picks, she should put her list out. What do you think?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: You know, I mean, maybe he hasn't been up with current events, but the president nominated someone and Hillary has said that that person should get a vote. Judge Garland, who she's thinking about, should be put forward right now and actually the Senate should do their job and confirm him. So maybe he forgot that and hasn't really been paying attention, but that's where she stands on it.

TAPPER: Interesting. Not really a list, but it is an actual nominee. Bill, I want to ask you. So Tennessee Senator Bob Corker is reportedly meeting with Donald Trump on Monday. He's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is a very respected on Capitol Hill. He has worked in a bipartisan way. He is a former mayor and businessman.

Would he be a decent vice presidential pick for Donald Trump and would a pick like that help get people like you potentially on board the Trump train?

KRISTOL: It wouldn't help with me. I worked for a vice president who I admire (inaudible), but I know that the president matters, not the vice president. Having said that, let's not kid ourselves. Republican elites are rushing to sort of normalize the Trump nomination.

And they see that there is -- he is doing a little better in the polls. There is a chance he could win. You know, as someone was quoted today, some conservative was quoted today as saying it's all about winning and losing.

Not really the Bill Buckley's (ph) -- that Bill Buckley's conservatism was standing towards history, a yelling stuff, Ronald Reagan's conservatism of trying to stand for principle, but there are some conservative Republicans who are getting aboard the Trump train.

TAPPER: So it wouldn't work on you, but would you call it a good pick or --

KRISTOL: I think it's a shrewd pick from his point of view. It shows someone who knows Congress, a more establishment pick. Look, I think it's a totally unpredictable call of action. I'd say the one thing that just analytically since I don't like either Trump or Clinton.

I think I'll be kind of honest, Hillary Clinton's weaknesses really astounding to me if you look at these polls. That "New York Times"/CBS poll this morning, what was it, Donald Trump is 26 favorable, 55 unfavorable. That's awful. Hillary Clinton a tad better, 31 favorable, 52 unfavorable.

It's 26 and 31 is what? It's 57. The 43 percent of the American public, at least 43 percent, do not have a favorable view of either Trump or Clinton. This is why I'm so keen on finding the right independent candidate.

I think that candidate could win, honestly. But the degree to which if I were a Democrat who wanted Hillary Clinton to be president, I would be a little worried because she is weaker than even I expected.

TANDEN: We are obviously in two different places. The reason why this is actually as good as it's going to get for Trump --

TAPPER: He's in a consolidation part.

TANDEN: He's united the party and obviously Hillary's weakness where you can see real growth is for her amongst liberal independents, who are so far not stating the position, but I doubt very much most of them will vote for Donald Trump.

So I do think she has a lot more room to grow, but obviously this is a combat race. It's not going to be, you know, easy, easy, easy. She's going to have to work for it.

KRISTOL: A third of the country's independents and among independents, both of them have something like a 70 percent unfavorable. It really is a little startling and it hasn't improved for either of them.

TANDEN: And (inaudible) haven't been able to get someone.

[16:50:02]TAPPER: But that's the question. You've been trying hard to get a third-party candidate and you haven't been able to do so. Why?

KRISTOL: I know this will shock you, Jake, but I have limits to my power. We're talking to very serious people about running, sitting senators, retired marine general, Jim Madis (ph), would have been fantastic, former -- very respective senator, Tom Coburn.

So this is not -- first of all, people have to make their own decisions. Running for president is a serious decision. Running for president as an independent is daunting and so I respect people's reluctance to do it.

But I had a few others and we are not just trying to recruit somebody to put out there. We would like someone who should be and could be president of the United States. That's the kind of high standard --

TAPPER: How about Neera?

KRISTOL: She'd be a good vice president.

TANDEN: I always the second fiddle for me. What's up with that?

KRISTOL: So if Senator Sasse (ph) or Congressman Pompeh (ph) or someone serious decides to run, I'll make them --

TAPPER: She would never --

KRISTOL: The unity ticket.

TAPPER: She would never be on a ticket against Hillary Clinton.


TAPPER: Neera and Bill, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Turning now to our other breaking news, U.S. officials say that their working theory is a bomb snuck on to EgyptAir Flight 804. That that bomb brought the plane down and the 66 souls on board.

But now a flight data system points in a potentially different direction. Multiple smoke alerts issued minutes before Flight 804 dropped out of the sky. How does this reshape the urgent investigation going on right now? That story is still ahead.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. What you're looking at right now a little splash from the past is the scene of the iconic Little Rock 9 in 1957. The National Guard was there because an angry mob was also there.

Meaning the group of students outside as the black students attempted to integrate central high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. These were heroes of the civil rights era, but 59 years later, there's new evidence showing that there is a growing number of segregated schools in the United States today.

And it's not just among blacks and whites but also Hispanics, Asians and even poorer students isolated from their wealthier counterparts. It's today's Buried Lead, stories we think are not getting enough attention.

Now the issue is coming to a head again in rural Cleveland, Mississippi. That's where the school district may fight a federal court order to desegregate its schools which are separated by old train tracks.

As CNN's Polo Sandoval reports the case in Mississippi is just one of all too many.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The legal fight lingering over the schools in this tiny Mississippi town is almost as old as these buildings. A federal court ruled Cleveland, Mississippi, schools are still segregated 62 years after the landmark ruling Brown versus Board of Education.

The feds argued schools on the east side of town are still all black or virtually all black. On the other side of town, campuses have been historically and disproportionately white. The town's two high schools are at the center of the longstanding case.

And east side's high school graduation ceremony this week, no white students to be seen. On the west side of town, Cleveland High has a fairly even racial split far from the two-thirds black, one-third white native of the community.

The Cleveland School District is now being ordered to merge both its middle and high schools before the next academic year, a move the district attorney argues would disrupt proven success. JAMIE JACKS, ATTORNEY, CLEVELAND SCHOOL DISTRICT: We think that the choices that we've afforded parents over the years have created a system where we have students of both races learning side by side.

SANDOVAL: You have to go back to 1965 to understand how the Cleveland School District got to this point. Bolivar (ph) County, the school system that included Cleveland was sued at the height of the civil rights struggle demanding schools desegregate.

District officials maintain they have taken steps to make integration happen over the years. Just four years ago, they eliminated attendance zones divided by worded trains used to run. Open enrollment was implemented, meaning students were now free to choose where they wanted to go.

JACKS: The district certainly feels like it hasn't been sitting back and doing nothing. We feel like we've definitely made that good faith effort. The fact that we haven't gotten full-time enrollment in east side doesn't mean we don't have an integrated system.

SANDOVAL: Talk to the students at the heart of the legal fight, reaction is mixed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At East Side, it's more African-American. It's not Caucasian. So we really don't know the full effect of being mixed with different races, you know, getting along with different races.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the change would be good for the town, but I don't think the tradition between the two schools should go away.

SANDOVAL: A look across the country reveals this issue is not unique to Mississippi or the south. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education counted ten other states where black students are least exposed to whites.

Michigan and Nevada shared the spotlight with Mississippi as the top three. In fact, a report by the Government Accountability Office this week found that 16 percent of the nation's school re-segregated often by both race and income and in a rate that has almost doubled over the recent 13-year period.

This all suggest that the nation's schools and communities still have a big problem six decades after this scene in Little Rock.


SANDOVAL: And the Cleveland School District continues to dispute the judge's findings. We could find out as early as Tuesday whether or not the school district will actually appeal if the DOJ gets its way and if this consolidation happens, we may have heard from the last class of East Side High School, the last graduating class, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Polo Sandoval, thanks so much for that report. Be sure to tune in to CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday at 9 a.m. Eastern and noon. My guest will be presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a great weekend.