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Don Lemon Tonight

Rep. Denny Heck (D) Washington Was Interviewed About Paul Manafort's Sentence; President Trump Dangles Pardon For Paul Manafort; Former Acting A.G. Whitaker Did Not Deny Talking With Trump About Cohen's Case; USC To Deny Admission To Students Connected To Cheating Scheme; U.S. Grounds All Boeing 737 Max Planes. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired March 13, 2019 - 23:00   ET




And there are new questions tonight about whether President Trump tried to influence the Justice Department investigation of Michael Cohen.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee saying the former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, in a meeting with committee members today, did not deny talking to the president about the case. Well, the top Republican on the committee disputes that. We're going to dig into the whole thing in just a moment.

And that comes on what is definitely not a good night for Paul Manafort. The president's former campaign chairman now facing charges in New York State. Accused of 16 counts of mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy. Those charges filed shortly after he was given even more prison time from his second federal trial for a total of seven and a half years behind bars.

As you can see there are lots to discuss. Shimon Prokupecz is here, Matthew Rosenberg, Susan Glasser.

Good evening to one and all.

Shimon, let's start with you. Manafort is set to serve for a total of seven and a half years. It marks the end of the special counsel's prosecution of him. On Tuesday, Mueller said he was done working with Flynn, signs that the investigation is wrapping up?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Look, it certainly is getting closer to the end than it is, right, in the beginning or in the height of this investigation. When you think about Paul Manafort, he was at the center of this investigation from the very beginning. It was always concern with him about his contacts, people he was talking to.

And today was really a big win for the special counsel's office in many ways. Just because the judge has sided with them on so much, and she really went after Paul Manafort, attacking him in every way. But it certainly does seem, Don, that this big part of this

investigation while there are still many unanswered questions about what Paul Manafort was doing, it does seem that this would signal that this chunk of this investigation is certainly over.

LEMON: So, Matthew, listen, at the same time the grand jury in D.C. is set to remain seated through June. And the mystery of this foreign owned company Mueller wants to testify is still fighting his subpoena. Do you think that we are close to getting a Mueller report, do you think?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Look, we've been close to getting a Mueller report for like I think since December. So, I'm not going to predict anything on that.

There are still loose ends to be tied up here. I think Shimon is right. We're much closer to the end than kind of the height of the thing. This mystery foreign owned company is certainly one of those loose ends that needs to be tied up. You know, I guess we're going to see what happens.

But I do think we are -- it is concluding. You can see that now. Some of his team have already gone out of town on their jobs. One of his prosecutors is heading up a new kind of enforcement unit for foreign registration in the Justice Department. And you see other members kind of leaving and going back to their old jobs.

LEMON: Susan, you know, the president today said that he feels bad for Manafort. Right? But let's -- let's just look at this. Remember, he admitted to money laundering, bank fraud. He pled guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and witness tampering. He lied to Mueller after he agreed to cooperate and gave polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, an allege Russian intel agent. Is this someone who deserves sympathy?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, I was struck by the comments of Judge Jackson in the courtroom today. She was not only very no nonsense but extremely scathing, in particular honing in on the enormous number of lies that Paul Manafort told that go directly to she said the question of American democracy, and that you have to have facts and truth as an underpinning of our democracy.

And I think that she was right to focus on that as an element in the Manafort case. This is two cases and now there's a third in New York being brought against him. And, you know, this case, in a way, goes to the heart of a corruption in our Democratic system, right?

[23:04:56] You know, Paul Manafort essentially was a guy who fixed and wanted to distort the rules of politics at play in Washington and also in fledgling democracies and leaderships around the world like Ukraine, for example, where he was doing the bidding of Russian backed oligarchs and Russian state interests in a sovereign state country that they ultimately invaded.

And you know, I think that's important to remember here. This isn't just moving zeros around a ledger in order to cheat on your taxes. LEMON: Right.

GLASSER: These crimes were crimes that do go right to the heart of corruption here in the capital. And of course, this guy was the campaign chairman for the president of United States. He is the first campaign chairman to be found guilty of a crime for a presidential candidate, for a president of the United States since Watergate.

LEMON: And he was -- he was the campaign chairman during a very critical time. It was, you know, when Kellyanne Conway became campaign manager. Of course, he won, but still he was there for critical times.

Shimon, listen, of course, this isn't the end of Manafort's legal troubles. Just hours after sentencing the Manhattan D.A. indicted him on 16 counts. The president can't pardon him on those.

PROKUPECZ: No, he can't. And that's what so significant, and that's why it was done. Right. The timing is not some great coincidence. Once he was sentenced that there is the concern that the president at any moment, could happen tomorrow, could happen on Monday, could pardon him. And it would essentially mean that Paul Manafort would be able to go free.

But what the Manhattan D.A.'s office did today by unsealing these charges, filing them, making it known that there are now charges pending against Manafort in the state of New York that's a big deal and means he won't be able to go free. There's going to be a warrant for his arrest.

And when he is in federal custody when the president eventually does pardon him, he won't just be able to walk out and be a free man. He's going to have to go to New York and answer to those charges.

LEMON: Yes, Listen, Matthew, Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing, claimed that the judge concedes that there was no evidence of Russian collusion. That's just not true. This is a flat out lie. The judge never ruled on that issue.

In fact, she said the no collusion claim, and this is a quote from her, is a "non sequitur." Why does Downing keep bringing it up? Is that transparent? We know what's up here, right?

ROSENBERG: Well, there's somebody who wants to hear there's no collusion, and that's the man who has the power to keep Paul Manafort from spending his 70s in prison, so I think that might explain this one.

LEMON: Short concise answer. That means looking for pardon, right?


LEMON: So, let's talk about, Susan, let's talk about Matthew Whitaker. The House Judiciary Chair, Jerry Nadler says that Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss the Cohen case. The ranking Republican denies that he would -- that -- and it contradicts what he is -- what Nadler is saying. What do you think of that?

GLASSER: Well, first of all it gives you an indication of the state of bipartisanship in the House Judiciary Committee, which is to say not looking so good.

You know, this is a very serious allegation. Once again you raise the prospect of was an official of the Trump administration telling the truth in public? Was he lying to Congress? There are many allegations.

I'm amazed by this, you know, but it shouldn't really be amazing or surprising at all to talk to your point about no collusion. And the president and not telling the truth about what happened in the Manafort hearing today, seven different times -- I counted it seven times the president denied collusion and said that was the finding of Judge Jackson today, in direct contravention of the facts.

Should I be shocked that the acting attorney general that the president appointed didn't tell the truth to Congress? No.

LEMON: No. Listen, I mean, it's just -- I can't believe he came out -- the judge said, quote, "There's no -- this -- the no collusion refrain runs through the entire defense memorandum is unrelated to matters at hand. The no collusion mantra is simply a non-sequitur."

If that's not clear enough, she went on to say, "The no-collusion mantra is also not accurate because the investigation is still ongoing." And then she said, "court is one of the places where facts still matter." Matthew, she wasn't playing today but yet the attorney comes out and says the judge says there's no collusion.

ROSENBERG: I mean, first of all, what does collusion mean?

LEMON: Right.

ROSENBERG: By that he means there's no criminal conspiracy? Well, it hasn't been charged, but look, we know Paul Manafort was sharing polling data with a suspected Russian agent. He was offering his services. By any standard there seems to be some degree of what one could call collusion going on there.


ROSENBERG: Did it affect the campaign? Did it amount to criminal conspiracy? I don't know. But this whole no collusion thing I would be happy to agree with the judge here, it's a non sequitur and doesn't make any sense.

[23:10:01] LEMON: Matthew, Susan, thank you. Shimon, I watch you all afternoon. Nice job. Thank you, sir. Thanks for staying up late. I appreciate it. See you guys next time.

Paul Manafort's prison sentence, Matthew Whitaker's non-denial, lots to talk about with Congressman Denny Heck. He's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Shortly after Paul Manafort was sentenced today to more prison time and then charged with fraud and conspiracy in New York, President Trump said he feels badly for his former campaign chairman. When asked if he is considering a pardon for Manafort the president said it's not something that's on his mind.

Joining me now is Congressman Denny Heck, a Washington Democrat who is a member of the intelligence committee. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

[23:14:57] Paul Manafort going to prison for seven and a half years. What happens if the president decides to pardon his former campaign chairman, because he's not -- he's not ruling it out?

REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: Well, Don, first, let me put it into perspective. I just went back and did a cursory review. I believe now this is the longest prison sentence handed out to anybody close to a president in either an administration or campaign capacity more than even during Iran-Contra, more than even during Watergate.

So, this is representative of the depth of the severity and seriousness of this all. With respect to the pardon, I think it's an invisible red line. And what do I mean by that? I think this very well may be finally that thing if the president crosses it that he's going to incur I think some opposition from even within the Republican Party.

This is something that they privately will indicate he simply should not do. It's a place he should not go. And if he does, I think he does so at his own peril.

LEMON: Yes. What do you think when you heard Manafort's attorney say no collusion outside the courtroom considering that wasn't even part of his ruling?

HECK: Right. Didn't have anything to do with the case before him. And, of course, the fact that that may still be yet determined by a court of law, it is an open question and hasn't been indicated.

Everybody around the president seeks to minimize what is going on here by saying no collusion. Well, a, there has been collusion. The Trump Tower meeting was collusion. I would suggest that Manafort meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik and handing him the inside expensive polling information in and of itself was collusion.

But the fact to the matter is, it is an open question, and we may yet get to it. And the fact of the matter is they're trying to say no big deal here in spite of the fact again, Don, 199 criminal charges, 39 criminal indictments or plea deals and six or seven prison sentences now depending how you count them.

LEMON: House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler says Matthew Whitaker, the former acting A.G. not denying a report that President Trump called him to discuss the Michael Cohen case. Would it be improper or illegal if Trump did have these conversations?

HECK: Well, I'm not a lawyer, Don, I think as I've indicated to you in the past and I'm not a judge, and so I don't sit in judgment --


LEMON: But part of it was it proper? I mean, you could speak to that.

HECK: There was no question it was improper, and this is the kind of behavior that led Chairman Nadler, at some point, I think on your very network to suggest that he saw substantial evidence of obstruction of justice. There is a pattern here that cannot be denied.

You know, again, people are trying to minimize all of this by suggesting there are no photographs per se. Well in Michael Cohen's case he actually brought receipts. And suggesting, well it's all circumstance substantial. It's all he said, she said.

You know what this remind me of, this is my favorite analogy. You go to bed at night, the ground is bare. You get up in the morning, snow is in the trees, six inches of snow on the ground. You turn to your partner or spouse and say, look, it snowed last night and they say well, you don't know that.

It's just circumstantial evidence that it snowed. Somebody could have brought it all in. That's the kind of weight of the kind of evidence being brought forth in this case. And it's important for people to understand that in a court of law circumstantial evidence bears the same weight as direct evidence. And the circumstantial evidence is mounting very, very high.

LEMON: I want to ask you about these back-channel e-mails that CNN obtained. An attorney with ties to Giuliani told Michael Cohen that he could, quote, "sleep well tonight," because he had, quote, "friends in high places." And these were e-mails that were sent in April of 2018 after Michel Cohen, the raids on his offices and his apartment. Does this sound like a pardon was dangled to you?

HECK: Well, first of all, I will neither confirm nor deny the kinds of documents that Mr. Cohen brought before the intelligence committee and I'm just not at liberty to do that, Don. But there's no question what you find in open sources what the president has tweeted, what the president has actually said in public constitutes in my humble opinion a dangling of a pardon all along the way intermittently.

LEMON: I want to --


HECK: He's not -- he's not upset that Michael Cohen is lying about him. He's upset because Michael Cohen stopped lying for him. That's really what's at work here.

LEMON: Let me play something that your colleague on House intel, James Hine -- Jim Himes told Anderson earlier tonight about Michael Cohen's closed-door testimony. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: I think that when the intelligence committee transcripts are released, there will be some very uncomfortable days for a number of people he provided documentation to the committee. These are people who communicated by e-mail. They communicate by text. Though the president does not -- the president's people do.

And again, I think there is much more to the story. That part of the reason, of course, we're being quiet about exactly what happened in the testimony of Michael Cohen is that his testimony and the information that he provided will probably cause us to call in some of those people.


[23:20:04] LEMON: So, we have these e-mails provided to -- two e- mails provided to Congress sent to Michael Cohen. We've seen some checks. Himes is saying there are also text messages. He's saying there will be some uncomfortable days for a number of people. Is this your assessment, too?

HECK: Absolutely. I'm tempted to just say ditto. Jim Himes is exactly right. I was in that same seven-hour in one day, eight-hour on another day interview with Mr. Cohen and participated in it. And Jim has it exactly right. There will be some people uncomfortable.

As a matter of fact, even above and beyond our recent conversations with Michael Cohen, I think there are other people that are highly uncomfortable with the transcripts that we eventually forwarded over to special counsel Mueller with respect to the things that they represented to us last year.

LEMON: Congressman Heck, thank you.

HECK: You're welcome, sir.

LEMON: Is the president having trouble staying out of all of the investigations swirling around him? We're going to look at the evidence next.


LEMON: Some e-mails obtained by CNN raising questions about whether a pardon was dangled before Michael Cohen decided to cooperate with federal prosecutors. On April 21, 2018, just 12 days after Cohen's office was raided by the FBI, attorney Robert Costello e-mailed Michael Cohen to assure him that he had that he could, quote, "sleep well tonight because he had friends in high places."

He also said "I spoke with Rudy, very positive, you are loved. And there was never a doubt that they are in our corner."

Now, the word pardon that wasn't used in the e-mails, but sources say Cohen provided them to Congress to corroborate his claims that a pardon was dangled. Let's discuss now with CNN Legal Analyst, Jennifer Rodgers, Michael

D'Antonio, the author of "The Truth About Trump." They are both here to discuss this.

So, good evening. Jennifer, the attorney who sent the e-mails says that Cohen's interpretation that the president's team was dangling a pardon, he said that was utter nonsense, the quote was utter nonsense. How do you read it?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly not clear that he was dangling a pardon. And remember, this was at a time when the search warrants were just executed on Cohen's offices. They don't really know what has been seized.

Both of those teams, Trump's team and Cohen's team were starting to work together as they think about what might have been seized and what it might mean for them. So, it's not the clearest dangle of a pardon.

On the other hand, there's something that the president can do about the fact that Michael Cohen is in legal trouble that is legitimate and is OK, right? So, anything that he might whether it'd be issues some directive to DOJ or whisper in somebody's ear that, you know, he shouldn't be prosecuted or maybe I'll pardon you someday, whatever it is none of that is appropriate. So, any kind of suggestion that we're with you, we'll take care of it for you is not OK. It's just these instances is not as clear, though.

LEMON: But he's saying basically we're going to take care of -- I mean, listen to this, if someone says to you can, quote, "sleep well tonight because you have friends in high places. I spoke with Rudy, very positive. You are loved. There was never a doubt that they are in our corner." That seems pretty, like -- listen, we got your back, no?

RODGERS: In some fashion.

LEMON: All right.

RODGERS: Maybe not a pardon, though. We don't know.

LEMON: OK. What do you think?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It reminds me of the kind of thing you hear on a movie where prisoners are talking over a prison telephone and they're concerned that it's being recorded. So, it's all kind of oblique.

You know, remember that friend of ours we're going to take care of him and you're OK, we love you. Well, who wants to be loved by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, you know, I think that's a very conditional kind of love.

LEMON: Damn, Michael. That was cold.

D'ANTONIO: Well, I can argue though, this is the kind of I love you like I love you now.


D'ANTONIO: And I love you because you're my guy and I'm going to take care of you and you're going to take care of me. That's the implication. And you know, Jennifer is right that you can't read a direct line here. But why is it that these people need to communicate obliquely? Why do they need to --


LEMON: And the timing.


LEMON: I mean, listen, I think this is important to point out. The same day that these e-mails were sent President Trump actually tweeted about Michael Cohen, showering him with praise and saying that he couldn't see Cohen flipping on him.

RODGERS: Yes, so this is kind of my point. There were a lot more overt clear things that the president was doing around that time and after that that make it much clearer that what he's doing --

LEMON: Got it.

RODGERS: -- is threatening and first try to draw him in and make sure he won't cooperate then threatening him when it looks like he is going to. So, you know, it's not creep but it's not the most egregious piece of information.

LEMON: Yes. So, we know this president, Michael, that President Trump has a tendency to micromanage. Right? He threatened to intervene in the Russia investigation multiple times on Twitter. And he said this to the Daily Caller. Remember, this is back in January.

"I could have taken a much different stance, I could have gotten involved in this, I could have terminated everything, I could have ended everything. I've chosen to stay out of it, but I had -- but I had the right to. I had the right to end everything. Many people thought that's what I should do."

Is it rational to think that Donald Trump would be able to stay out of this and keep his hands clean?

D'ANTONIO: Well, I don't know. I think if he's of two minds, maybe 10 minds about these things. When he says that there are many people who think I should do this I think many of those people live inside his head. He's confused a lot of the time. He's emotional. He would like to make this go away. He also believes that if he can do something, he should do it.

[23:29:57] And I'm certain that there are people in the White House saying just because you have the power to act, that doesn't mean that you must or even should act because it could hurt you politically.

LEMON: I'm sure you heard the news about Matthew Whitaker today saying he did not deny that he spoke to the president about the Cohen cases, the hush money cases in the Southern District of New York. No evidence that, you know, that it changed anything or that this rises to the level of obstruction of justice, but I don't know, does it seem like the president wanted to -- wanted to obstruct in some way?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, we know the president from his public statements and tweets that he wanted to fix things for himself, right? So, I don't think there's any question that he had a very strong urge and desire to fix these problems. He tried to fire Mueller knowing all sorts of things that he's done. So, yeah, no question about that.

The question is how far did he go? You know, what did he actually do as far as giving orders that could then potentially give rise to an obstruction of justice claim?

D'ANTONIO: That does remind you of Michael Cohen saying he always speaks in code. He doesn't have to tell you what he wants to have happen. He just needs to tell you that he's unhappy and he wished things were different.

LEMON: It's very mob-like if true.

D'ANTONIO: Oh, you think?


LEMON: What did you have for dinner? Nails?


LEMON: What is going on? You're in rare form tonight.

D'ANTONIO: Come on, these guys say -- they act like they're on an episode of "The Sopranos." And you don't have to actually have real contact with mobsters to get what's going on here.

LEMON: After the show, we will go to the (INAUDIBLE).


LEMON: All right.


LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. More fallout tonight for the people involved in the huge college admissions cheating scandal, but will there be any change to the system that let all of this happened?


LEMON: Fallout spreading tonight in a massive college admissions cheating scandal. Actress Lori Loughlin appeared in federal court in Los Angeles today. She is charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to have her daughters designated as recruits for the University of Southern California crew team, even though they did not actually row crew. She was released on a million dollars bond.

And William Rick Singer, who has pleaded guilty to the scam, posted videos on YouTube marketing his services. BuzzFeed found this. Here it is.


WILLIAM RICK SINGER, PLEADED GUILTY IN COLLEGE BRIBERY SCANDAL: We created an amazing game plan so that she could have success. She went off to a four-year school. She got a job in Chicago. That led to going to New York City. That led to getting a master's. That led to moving up the ladder. And now she's one of the most successful women in the country in advertising NPR.


LEMON: I want to bring in now the Atlantic's Jemele Hill. Also David Callahan, the author of "The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead."

I'm so glad I didn't call you David Chalian. We have a David Chalian here. It just stuck in my brain. Good evening to you.

David, I'm going to start with you. Your book is called "The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead." The folks involved in this scandal are already wealthy and successful. What compels them to cheat like they did? They already had advantages.

DAVID CALLAHAN, AUTHOR: Well, I think this fits within a pattern of arrogance at the very top of our society. A lot of people who are very wealthy think that they can live by a separate set of rules, and we've been seeing this for years. And, you know, the broader picture here is that one institution after another in U.S. society is corrupt.

A big pharma under investigation for opioids, scandal after scandal in the upper reaches of sports, banks in constant trouble, thousands of wealthy Americans with illegal offshore bank accounts.

So, you know, there's nothing really surprising here. It's just a kind of another wrinkle on the same story, which is people are breaking the rules, thinking that they live in a separate moral reality, and too often they never get caught. They get a slap on the wrist at most. In this case, things turned out differently.

LEMON: So Jemele, it's hard to look at what happened here and not see how opportunity and advantage in this country are linked to race. Talk to me about the systematic reasons why people of color don't even start on a level playing field when it comes to getting a good education?

JEMELE HILL, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": Yeah, I mean, that's the other part of this inequity that we have to address, is that we act like a problem starts once they are college-bound. The problems start long before that, when it's been proven through study after study that people of color receive an education that is not on par with most white people in this country. That is just a fact across the board. And I think the other thing we have to look at is if you're a person of color and you see a story like this -- and we've all been on college campuses. I mean this certainly happened to me when I went to Michigan state where as soon as you're interacting with other students, white students, they're trying to figure out how did you get here, how did you get into this particular college, and I imagine especially that's the case at elite colleges.

So people of color often have their qualifications doubted. They're often given treatment that suggests that they don't belong there. They're told they're just part of some quota system and we know quotas are illegal. And so to see this kind of story that there are people that are buying their way into college, using a advantages that frankly with their money and connections, they didn't have to do anything illegal anyway.

To see this for people of color, it just reinforces some of the things that we've already known and felt. This is the banner headline of why our parents, if you're black or a person of color, why you're always told you have to be twice as good to get half as much.

[23:40:00] LEMON: David, the FBI says that they uncovered what they believed to be a rigged system. What happens when everyone believes a system is rigged and, you know, there's a collapse of collective norms? It seems to be happening in this country right now with a lot of things. Is everybody cheating? Why shouldn't I cheat?

CALLAHAN: Yeah, well, exactly. And people see all the rot at the top and they say, hey, why should I be the chump who dots every "I" and crosses every "T" when I'm struggling to get ahead? There is a lot of cheating among that squeezed middle and even among upper class, people who feel like they're -- upper middle class -- people feel like they're struggling.

And, you know, the role models in society are not so great, right, whether it's Lance Armstrong or the person who now sits in the White House.

LEMON: It's also interesting, too, Jemele, when you talk about this -- when you talk about legacy, right? And there are a lot of people in our society, especially people of color and even poorer whites who didn't have a chance to go to college. And so that legacy thing is not a part of this.

One way they have a leg up especially people who are affluent and they don't get a chance to, you know, say, well, just because I went to, you know, my grandfather or someone went to this school, I get to go. That is in essence part of privilege.

HILL: Yeah, I mean, I think what this entire story allows for people who did know because there are many of us who always suspected or knew from first-hand experience or at least suspected that this is the case, is that it sort of gives you a window into how an old boys club so to speak is created.

We're talking about people who have the ears and the influence and the access to people making some just incredibly powerful decisions about their lives. I mean to read this story today that Lori Loughlin's daughter -- that she found out the news while she was on --

LEMON: On a yacht.

HILL: -- out on a yacht, right, with a USC board of --

LEMON: You can't write this.

HILL: I'm just like -- you know what I'm saying, like how many students get to go on spring break with somebody in that kind of position? So it just shows how much people of color are on the outside looking in.

LEMON: Can I ask you something quickly because I want to ask you this and I want to get one more to David if I have a chance. Athletic departments, because you come from the sports world, athletic departments and colleges have a longstanding history of influence and power over the admissions process.

Clearly there was a massive breakdown in these schools for these kids who never even played a sport to get a scholarship. Do we need to rethink the role that sports play in admissions?

HILL: I don't think that we have to rethink the entire thing, although there's something incredibly lame about people taking mock photos of themselves supposedly playing sports to get this all done. I don't think we need to rethink it from that standpoint. There are certainly a lot of other standpoints. We need to rethink the role that athletics plays especially when we look at pay for play and how you have an entire network of free labor that the colleges are getting.

But, you know, I think what we will see is that there are just loopholes in every particular system. And as much as athletics and sports, as you know, Don, often likes to champion the fact that this is meritocracy and this is all about whoever is the most fit, the most competitive, the best who can run the fastest and jump the highest, if that's how you wind up getting these scholarships, when you see that for some people it's just the interest into getting something that they did not deserve.

LEMON: David, I'm out of time, but quickly, I think, you know, I said there's more to come. Do you believe there's more to come, and I'm sure there are some parents out there, like, did I cross the line?

CALLAHAN: Yeah. Look, the good news here is that finally some cheaters at the top are getting a slap on the wrist. How many people after the financial crisis from Wall Street went to prison? Zero, right? So, a lot of these parents are going to face greater consequences than the titans of industry at Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan and other places.

LEMON: I really enjoyed having both of you on. Please come back. Thank you so much.

HILL: All right. Thanks, Don. CALLAHAN: Great to be here.

LEMON: Absolutely. The U.S. finally grounding Boeing 737 Max planes after two deadly crashes in less than five months. Why did officials wait so long?


LEMON: After nearly every other county in the world had already taken action, President Trump today grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 jets. That's after a deadly crash in Ethiopia on Sunday that killed 157 people. The second crash in less than five months.

Joining me now is a former FAA inspector, David Soucie, the author of "Malaysian Airlines Flight 370". Also Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants. Hello to both of you. It's an interesting day, interesting how this has all played out.

David, I'm going to start with you. "The Washington Post" reports that in conversations about this issue, the president said that the 737 Max 8 "sucks" and that the 737s paled in comparison to the Boeing 757, also known as Trump Air Force One. What is your reaction to the president's comments, David?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: I'll tell you what, 737 Max 8 does anything but sucks. I mean, it's a great airplane. There is no question in my mind. It has been the backbone of this industry for years. The improvements that they put on this airplane are leaps and bounds ahead of what anything that had been produced before.

It's just it's a problem. They're dealing with it. They didn't deal with it as quickly as they should have, in my opinion, but this is great airplane and will continue to be a great airplane after this issue has been resolved.

LEMON: Yeah. Do you disagree, Sara?

[23:50:01] SARA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: Do I disagree with the president's tweet? I absolutely disagree with the president's tweet. I think that he doesn't know what he's talking about. And the fact is that Boeing aircrafts are made by incredible professional machinists out in Washington State, who for decades have built incredible flying machines.

If they have been given the chance to get these planes on the ground and address this issue, they are certainly qualified to do that and could do that very well.

LEMON: Yeah. Again, it was reported in Washington Post, it wasn't a tweet. But listen, I just want to get to what you said earlier today. You said, "Lives must come first always. But a brand is at stake as well. And that brand is not just Boeing. It's America. What America means in international aviation and by extension in the larger world more generally -- that we set the standard for safety, competence, and honesty in governance of aviation." Is the U.S. leading from behind on this, Sara? Is that what you're thinking?

NELSON: This was strange because the U.S. has led from the beginning of flight. This is where flight first took off. And the rest of the world has often looked to the U.S. for the gold standard here on safety and on oversight. I'm pushing forward with new technology and advancements and training of all of our aviation professionals on the front lines.

We're seen as the world's leader on this, and this was just an odd, very strange set of circumstances where the U.S. was coming from behind here. And I think that it is an extension of what we saw during the shutdown as well.

LEMON: David, I had you on the other end, I do a lot of segments on this show. Didn't you think that they should be grounded until -- didn't you say that?

SOUCIE: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

LEMON: You did. So then why was the U.S. the last country -- this Max 8 after two deadly plane crashes in nearly six months?

SOUCIE: Well, Don, I believe that it's because they had skin in the game. This is the same agency, the same regulatory body that certified the airplane in the first place. So, how this I believe was being viewed is the fact that they certified it.

If they come back now and say, oh, gosh, we were wrong, we shouldn't have certified it, it's got to be grounded now, it puts egg on their face and they've got to admit that they were wrong. I think that their ego got in the way of themselves and they didn't act rationally on this.

I agree with the other guest that this should have been done. It's the FAA leading and always has led. I was with the FAA for 17 years as a professional in the FAA. We always set the examples. We taught China how to do their regulatory system. We've taught the entire world how to do this. The fact that we didn't lead by example here is really, really a shame.

LEMON: Sara, I've got to ask you, other than 9/11, right, we've never seen a stoppage like this before. How long do you see this lasting?

NELSON: Well, actually, that's not true. We did have the 787 on the ground for about four months while we fixed the issue with the lithium battery there. This is not unprecedented --

LEMON: Right on, thank you for that, I appreciate it.


NELSON: This is not unprecedented. And, you know, what we're hearing is that maybe this can be resolved in a couple of weeks. We'll see. But what we're going to do is we're going to make sure that this is a transparent process that we can all follow and that we can all have confidence in.

And Don, just one other point here that's really important. Harvard business school still teaches business leadership and teaches the case of the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol case when cyanide was in those bottles. That was not Tylenol's fault. The CEO took the step of taking all those bottles off the shelf to make sure that there was -- that integrity, the return it on integrity that he created for that brand.

That is the gold standard. That is what leadership does. And that's what should have been done here. And that's what we need to expect from our leadership in the government and in the industry as well.

LEMON: I got to ask you, David, since you're there in Denver, about this major snowstorm that's going on, the cyclone bomb or whatever they're calling it. What is going on there? What's happening?

SOUCIE: Well, this morning, I came in this morning early and it was coming down hard. And then all of a sudden it seemed to have stopped. I lived through a hurricane one time and it reminded me of that. I feel like we're right in the eye of the cyclone right now, waiting for the next blast, which is supposed to come here.

CNN wouldn't even let me go home. They said, "We're going to get you a hotel so we can make sure you make Don Lemon's show tonight." So I didn't go home. I had to stay here. I'm glad I did.

LEMON: Yeah.

SOUCIE: They had to put me up here, but I'm not sure I'm going to get home tonight. We'll see.


LEMON: Priorities. We're glad you're safe. We just wanted to keep you safe.


LEMON: Thank you, David. Sara, enjoy New Orleans. Say hi to all my friends and family down there.

NELSON: Thank you, happy to be in your home state. I'm glad David is safe, too.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you both. See you next time.

NELSON: All right. Take care.

LEMON: And thanks for watching, everyone.

[23:54:58] Before we leave you tonight, here is a look at a new four- part CNN original series exploring Richard Nixon's rise, fall, comeback, and political destruction, featuring never before seen footage. The series premieres Sunday night at 9:00.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): I don't give a goddamn what the story is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Richard M. Nixon has lied repeatedly.

NIXON (voice-over): No reporter in The Washington Post is to ever be in the White House again, you understand?

The tougher it gets, the cooler I get. I have what it takes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE/UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Impeach Nixon now! Impeach Nixon now!

NIXON: I want to say this to the television audience, because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook.

This crap about Watergate --

Let others wallow in Watergate. We're going to do our job.

I'm going to kick their ass.

Nobody's going to package me. Nobody's going to make me put on an act for television. I'm not going to engage in any gimmicks or any stunts wearing silly hats. If people looking at me say that's a new Nixon, then all that I can say is, well, maybe you didn't know the old Nixon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): "Tricky Dick," a new CNN original series, Sunday night at 9:00.