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Passenger: Pilot Said Gauges "Went Blank" And He "Lost Control"; House GOP Accuses January 6 Committee Of Withholding Transcripts; Wyoming Abortion Clinic Remains Open Despite Arson, Legal Hurdles. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 12, 2024 - 07:30   ET



MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (via Webex by Cisco): In fact, that's really what that means. And when they've lost control of the plane, the plane itself could have been lost. It's an -- it's an upset event.

And --


SCHIAVO: -- I think it will get a major investigation.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and the fact that -- at least what the pilot is telling through this passenger is that the gauges go blank and then just came back on -- the fact that it was kind of just left up to if the gauges were going to come back on. That seems absolutely terrifying.

Let me ask you also in a separate situation that -- with the airline industry. The FAA recently audited the production of Boeing 737-MAX jets after that door plug incident we've talked so much about. And the FAA administrator says that they found through this audit, production plant hygiene issues. What they described as, like, issues that are key to producing a quality airplane.

The New York Times adds to this that the company failed 33 of the 89 audits during that FAA review.

And here's Boeing response -- Boeing's response to the report, in part. "We continue to implement immediate changes and develop a comprehensive action plan to strengthen safety and quality, and build the confidence of our customers and their passengers."

Mary, can you add this all up for me if you will? What do you make of this?

SCHIAVO: This is a quality control crisis for Boeing.

You know, it's really inexcusable that the FAA has waited for problem and disaster and accident after accident to go in and do these audits. Now, they have the power to do these audits all the time. You know, my old office -- when I was inspector general, we did these kinds of audits.

But to make this kind of a finding -- these many problems and these many failures -- I mean, you know, they fail about half of their audits -- is really troubling for Boeing. Because remember, they're supposed to follow their own procedures. However you assemble your aircraft, there is a -- you know, there are all kinds of proven procedures and you must do it that way every time. You cannot freelance. And a lot of what they found is they're just freelancing.

I think one of the investigations was that they were using -- they were using a hotel door card and Dawn dish soap instead of the procedures.


Mary, it's always great to have you to kind of put all of this into English for us. Thank you so much -- John

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The former Mar-a-Lago employee who says he unknowingly helped move classified documents and could be a key witness in the federal case against Donald Trump. A CNN exclusive this morning. What Donald Trump told him.


BRIAN BUTLER, "TRUMP EMPLOYEE 5": And then, there was one time he said we're all dirty. We all move boxes. And then there was one time he said --


BERMAN: Just to be clear, Trump didn't say that to him. That was another one of the Mar-a-Lago employees.

Splashdown and welcome to Earth. The end of a six-month mission in the sensitive research the astronauts have in tow.



SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: A CNN exclusive. We're hearing for the very first time from a former longtime Trump staffer known only as "Trump Employee 5" in the classified documents indictment of the former president. His name is Brian Butler and he is explaining to CNN how he unknowingly, he says, helped move boxes out of -- those classified documents from Mar-a-Lago at the same time the FBI was talking to Donald Trump.

Here he is in an interview with our Kaitlan Collins.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS": Did the two of you ever talk about moving boxes or looking back on that? BUTLER: Yeah. I mean, there was one time towards one of the last times I was with him and we were talking about boxes. And well, Biden did the same thing. He can't get -- it always got brought up about Biden and other people that did the same thing.

And then there was one time he said, you know, we're all dirty. We all move boxes. And I said well, look, I didn't even know what I was moving until I was at the plane and that's when I remember moving boxes.


SIDNER: CNN's Katelyn Polantz helped break this exclusive reporting. Wow, this is a treasure trove for prosecutors. What more did you learn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Sara, Brian Butler, in speaking publicly and also where he is described in the indictment from the Justice Department against Donald Trump as "Trump Employee 5" -- he is providing a window into this alleged obstruction conspiracy led by Donald Trump and also allegedly perpetrated by his body man, Walt Nauta, and another man working at Mar-a-Lago, Carlos de Oliveira, a longtime valet and property manager who also happened to be Brian Butler's best friend for 20 years. His next-door neighbor and someone who was speaking to Butler regularly.

Those conversations are represented in the indictment. And Butler now is able to articulate not just for prosecutors, not just potentially at a trial against the former president, but publicly as well about what those conversations looked like. Where Carlos de Oliveira was relaying to him how Walt Nauta may have been wanting to come down to Mar-a-Lago to learn more about the surveillance tapes at the property, and also a few other things.

We also know from Brian Butler that in his conversations with Carlos de Oliveira in these nightly walks that they were taking in the course of this FBI investigation, he was getting a message that if he wanted to have a lawyer paid for by Donald Trump, if he wanted tickets to a golf tournament, if he wanted to go back to work at Mar-a-Lago after he had left that job after 20 years, he could.


Here's a little bit more of what Brian Butler had to say about one of those conversations he had with Carlos de Oliveira and was witness to traveling with Carlos for his 40th birthday at a casino. They were just hanging out for the weekend and here is what happened.


BUTLER: You know, he takes the call. We're standing in the food court. I think we went to sit down and he -- I can't remember how long the conversation was but I know at the end of the conversation when they hung up, Carlos said he's going to get me an attorney.

COLLINS: Did he tell you anything else that Trump said to him? BUTLER: I didn't ask and I don't remember him saying anything else. But, you know, I was just told not that long -- not, you know, too long before we're getting him an attorney by Walt. And then he gets the call that he's going to get him the attorney.


POLANTZ: So that's August 2022. Brian Butler witnessing Carlos de Oliveira getting a direct offer from Donald Trump on a phone call to get him an attorney to keep him in the fold, to keep him loyal.

Brian Butler, of course, did not use an attorney that could be provided from the Trump world. He has his own attorney that he retained separately -- Sara.

SIDNER: He also made clear that this is not a witch hunt in his view from all that he knows.

This will be really interesting and a great get. Thank you so much, Katelyn Polantz. Appreciate your reporting -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: So, House Republicans are now accusing the January 6 congressional committee of withholding witness transcripts. Witnesses that Republicans say undercut Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony about Donald Trump's actions on the day of the insurrection. Some of those transcripts include testimony from the driver of Trump's SUV on January 6 and also some Trump White House officials.

Ever since the Trump White House aide-turned-whistleblower's testimony in 2022, Republicans have tried to question her credibility. This new report says this, in part. "None of the White House employees corroborated Hutchinson's sensational story about President Trump lunging for the steering wheel of the Beast." She was recounting what she heard from someone else.

CNN's Marshall Cohen joins me right now for more on this. Marshall, you've been looking through this report. What else are Republicans trying to say here?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Kate. This is the investigation of the investigation. House Republicans releasing this report yesterday to try to undermine and undercut the findings of the January 6 Committee.

So what they zeroed in on was this explosive story that you just described of Donald Trump lunging -- allegedly lunging in his presidential limo right after his speech on January 6 where he was demanding to go to the Capitol. That has been at the center of a serious dispute ever since Cassidy Hutchinson described it under oath. And I want to be clear that she said that she didn't witness it but she heard about it. That's what she told the committee.

So according to this Republican report, the committee actually interviewed the driver of the presidential SUV, but there's a real distinction between the way that the committee described it in their final report and the actual transcript of what this guy said, according to the way that the Republicans spelled it out.

So look at his, Kate. On the top here, this is from the January 6 Committee two years ago.

They said that the "driver testified that he did not recall seeing what President Trump was doing and did not recall whether there was movement" -- any movement towards the front of the vehicle to try to overpower the Secret Service agents. That's how the committee described it.

But this, on the bottom, is actually a quote from the transcript itself as surfaced yesterday in this Republican report. They said that the driver said that Trump, quote, "never grabbed the steering wheel and that 'I didn't see him, you know, lunge to try to get into the front seat at all.'" An unequivocal denial from the driver.

Republicans are accusing the committee of basically cherry-picking the evidence to portray Trump in the worst way possible.

But I want to point out, Kate, that Cassidy Hutchinson's team insists that she always told the truth, and other parts of the testimony in this Republican report corroborated what she said -- that Donald Trump was irate that he could not go to the Capitol that day.

BOLDUAN: Marshall Cohen, great to see you. Great reporting as always. Thank you -- John.

BERMAN: And the breaking news this morning. Former special counsel Robert Hur is about to testify on Capitol Hill about his classified documents investigation where he decided not to bring charges against President Biden.

We just obtained the opening statement. He says, quote, "My task was to determine whether the president retained or disclosed national defense information 'willfully' -- meaning, knowingly and with the intent to do something the law forbids. I could not make that determination without assessing the president's state of mind. For that reason, I had to consider the president's memory and overall mental state."


With me now, CNN political analyst Natasha Alford, host of TheGrio Weekly and author of the new book, "American Negra." And founder and principal of Bluestack Strategies, Maura Gillespie, who served as president -- as John Boehner's press adviser when he was House Speaker.

We just got this opening statement, which Robert Hur -- who, by the way, is no longer a special counsel. No longer works for the Justice Department. He is a private citizen. What he is about to tell members of Congress. It's just over four pages long. Nearly two pages of it deals with what he considers to be the president's memory issues, Maura.

What is -- how do you think this will go down this morning? MAURA GILLESPIE, FOUNDER AND PRINCIPAL, BLUESTRACK STRATEGIES, FORMER PRESS ADVISER TO FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: It's really interesting given the fact that he did resign last night. I think that does throw things into question and people are questioning his credibility in that regard because he's not under the same protections as he would have been coming in as a private citizen.

That being said, it is interesting he did spend so much time on the president's memory and defending himself, essentially, for the backlash he received. But he received backlash from both sides of the aisle. I mean, the Republicans were angry that he didn't go far enough. That he found him to have done no wrongdoing. And Democrats are upset that he was called out to have a poor memory and of being an older man.

I mean, the fact that he is older is just fact. He had an ad out yesterday that talked about it. He is not young.

So I don't know that it's necessarily in the Democrats' best interest to be so up in arms about the report by Robert Hur, but it will be interesting to see how defends himself today.

BERMAN: You know, there was a report in The Wall Street Journal, Natasha, that he wanted to take down the temperature. Hur wanted to go to Capitol Hill to take down the temperature surrounding this today. Not so sure -- not so sure that's going to happen --


BERMAN: -- here.

ALFORD: I'm not surprised. I mean, I think that's what happens when people call you out, right? There are a lot of people who felt like that testimony about Biden's age was unnecessary. That he didn't have the credentials to make that assessment.

And I think in the wake of the State of the Union, where President Biden delivered a really strong performance by many measures and was passionate and energetic, he was able to counter some of that narrative that Hur's testimony is being used to support.

So, Democrats -- it'll be an interesting moment, whether they want to continue to sort of spark this defensiveness out of Hur or just let the State of the Union speak for itself.

BERMAN: What do you think they will do? It is interesting because again, Hur did leave the Justice Department. He is testifying as a private citizen. That's me raising an eyebrow there. A lot of people are raising eyebrows about that.

He also has obtained the counsel of William Burke, who has represented several people in Trump world before.

ALFORD: Um-hum.

BERMAN: Do you think Democrats will or should go after him like he is a partisan here?

ALFORD: I think you have to be careful with that, right? Because again, you can point to the fact that he was a registered Republican. Use that to undermine his neutrality in this moment. But it could also cause him to potentially release more information about President Biden or draw attention to parts of the report that maybe haven't gotten as much conversation in the public.

So any time you put someone on the defensive I think you have to be ready for whatever comes with that. So again, fine line here in terms of how much they want to attack him.

BERMAN: You can bet that Democrats will ask Hur as many questions as they can about Donald Trump's handling of classified documents. And the difference between the Biden and the Trump cases is interesting.

And again, this is the opening statement, four pages and a paragraph long. Two pages deal with President Biden's memory. There's one tiny -- teeny tiny paragraph here where he brings up Donald Trump in the opening statement. And he says, "I took the same approach when I compared evidence regarding President Biden to the department's allegations against former President Trump. Thereto, I called it like I saw it."


BERMAN: So he's not mounting a huge defense in the opening statement, at least, about why he did not charge President Biden in the comparison to Donald Trump.

GILLESPIE: And I think it'll kind of -- to Natasha's point, it'll be interesting to see how the Democrats play it because do they really want to push on the fact, given the fact Trump was found to have done wrongdoing and Biden wasn't?

So how much do they really want to push this man who said -- and Democrats have called him thoughtful and thorough in his reporting, and that he is diligent. And in the past, have said good things about Robert Hur. So it's -- and just because now they don't like that he called Biden an old man, is it really a reason to go after him in a way that could backfire on the president?

BERMAN: It will be an interesting morning.

Maura Gillespie --


BERMAN: -- Natasha Alford, great to have you here. Thank you so much -- Sara.

SIDNER: All right. Still ahead, it was supposed to make driving safer, so why many automated driving systems are getting a poor safety rating from a government agency.

[07:50:00] Also, access to abortion on the ballot today. How the only clinic in Wyoming is fighting to stay open despite arson, protests, and lawsuits. We'll have that ahead.


SIDNER: Today, voters in three states are heading to the polls for primaries in an election year where abortion rights are front and center. One new survey finds it is the most important issue for one in eight voters.

Julie Burkhart has fought for reproductive rights for decades. She opened the only clinic that provides abortions in Wyoming just after the state banned them.

In May of 2022, while contractors were still working on the clinic, someone set fire to the building, but she kept going. After repairs, she opened that clinic and she and other abortion rights advocates sued to overturn Wyoming's abortion ban. Her clinic stays open because of an injunction that is in place now from a judge.


She is joining us now. Julie, thank you so much for talking to me this morning.

You know, we hear about the fire. There have been protests. There is now -- there is a -- you are now in the midst of a lawsuit.

Why was it so important for you to open a place where people can obtain abortions in a state that has effectively banned them, except for your lawsuit that has put that on hold?

JULIE BURKHART, FOUNDER, WELLSPRING HEALTH ACCESS, OPENED ABORTION CLINIC IN WYOMING, A STATE THAT BANS ABORTION (via Webex by Cisco): Well, Sara, it's really nice to be here this morning, so thank you.

Wyoming presented an opportunity for us. Looking at the state of Wyoming, in advance of 2022, the laws in Wyoming were very favorable to abortion rights. And in looking at that state there was low access. And so we felt that it was a really good opportunity to come in and put in a procedural and medication abortion clinic for Wyomingites, but also knowing that we were probably going to have Dobbs, as we did, and that other states in the -- in the area would also ban abortion. And we wanted to be able to serve those people as well.

SIDNER: Can you give us some sense of who is coming through your doors? What those cases look like and what they're saying to you.

BURKHART: Oh, absolutely. So we are seeing people from Wyoming but we have also served people from numerous other states in the nation. We are seeing people who -- about 75 percent of our patient population needs funding. And so people are struggling to make ends meet to not only pay for their health care but also to pay for their travel, their lodging, their meals. And these are also people who have children. About 60 to 70 percent of

our patients already have children. And so, they're trying to juggle navigating far, far distances in order to obtain abortion care while also taking care of their families.

SIDNER: Wow. You're also hearing from residents who are telling you they're pro-life. What are -- what are they saying to you? What are people talking to you about, even being that this clinic has already been basically attacked?

BURKHART: Well, we do have our fair share of outspoken protesters in Casper where our clinic is located. And also, as you know, we don't have a favorable legislature. And I count these people in the minority in terms of who in Wyoming really supports reproductive health and bodily autonomy.

We have received -- sometimes it's quiet support but we have been receiving support from within the community. But the people who are opposing and who do oppose abortion rights are incredibly outspoken and loud.

SIDNER: So you're in the midst of this legal battle. The clinic is still open because of an injunction. What happens if the courts go against you?

BURKHART: Well, if the court rules against us in this instance -- in this case -- and we are waiting right now on summary judgment to come down -- we'll go back to the drawing table and look at our options. There may be an appeal to the State Supreme Court. But we haven't made any solid or any final decisions.

I will say that we also were faced with a TRAP bill this session, which is targeted regulations against abortion providers. And it's a bill targeted specifically at us, which would put us out of business. And we're waiting on the governor to either sign that, veto it, or let it go into effect without his signature. And so, that's something that we might have to contend with in the next week or two.

SIDNER: Just curious, quickly. When you say contend with -- I mean, you're talking about the possibility of going to jail? I mean, what are the stakes?

BURKHART: Oh, no. We're talking about the possibility of further legal action.

SIDNER: OK. All right.

Julie Burkhart, thank you so much.

BURKHART: Yeah, it's -- it is definitely -- thank you.

SIDNER: Thank you.