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California Residents Devastated After Homes Flooded Amit Atmospheric River; Silicon Valley Bank Collapses; Treasury Secretary Warns U.S. Economy May Collapse Over Debt Crisis; Prosecutors Inch Towards Trump Indictment; Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci; Source: White House To Approve Major Alaska Oil Drilling Project; Retired Pilot, Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger, Discusses Recent Increase In Close Calls Of Commercial Flights & Increased Mid-Air Passenger Brawls. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 11, 2023 - 16:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I assumed Pete Phillips means the prosecutors can't get him out of their head.

Look, at the end of my opening commentary, I said something which I think we should all be able to agree, which is it's time to wrap up those investigations because we don't want them butting right up against the 2024 election.

Thank you for watching.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in New York.

We begin this hour in California where a series of deadly storms has unleashed massive flooding across the central and northern portions of the state. Just 10 -- just minutes ago, I should say, we were seeing this video of a levee that failed overnight in Monterey County. That has forced evacuations but washed out roads and bridges that cut off some communities in the area.

This week's Atmospheric River, the 10th to hit the state this winter, dropped more than a foot of rain in some areas. At least two people have died in this most recent storm and more rain is on the way for some hard-hit areas.

Several feet of snow is blanketing the Sierra, Nevada mountains, and forecasters warned that melting snow could cause more flooding. The California National Guard in its high-water vehicles are staged throughout the state. And CNN's Mike Valerio is in Pajaro, California.

Mike, it looks bad. What's the latest on the flooding there?

MIKE VALERIO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we're in the heart of the flood zone right here in Pajaro, California, and we have all of this flooding in the downtown area because from that video you just saw, the levee is about three miles behind us and as soon as that levee had a breach around midnight local time, Jim, all of that water had nowhere to go but here except into low-lying areas of downtown Pajaro.

So we actually want to zoom in. You can see that there's a little bit of a dry spot in our background. But this, Jim, this flood zone goes about a half mile behind us. And we actually were able to interview within the past two hours a couple and their dog Zeus rescued by the National Guard. They live about two blocks behind us.

And they woke up at 8:00 a.m., looked at all the flood water around them. And they couldn't open their front door, they couldn't get out. They called 911 and the National Guard they told us showed up within minutes.

Now we also interviewed one of the spokespeople from Cal-Fire who's helping to coordinate the rescue operations which are still ongoing now. Take a listen to what he told us about when they realized this levee had breached and how many rescues they've accomplished so far. Listen.


CAPT. CURTIS RHODES, CAL-FIRE PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: We were notified of the levee breach at midnight last night so we deployed down here. 3:00 a.m. this morning we did have the high-water team with us. That's part of the Emergency Operations Center. They've been countywide this week. They have their high-water vehicles and have been successful in nine high-water rescue situations this morning.


VALERIO: So most people have been taken out of this area, Jim. That's why you don't see as many people walking in our backdrop right now. Nobody is being let in as well. The concern is that that levee, Jim, isn't fixed. We have more rain coming on the way Tuesday into Wednesday. What will happen with that levee still in not-so-great shape when more rain is coming -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Mike Valerio, please keep an eye on it for us. Thank you so much.

Turning now to the sudden and breathtaking collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. It took just 48 hours for SVB to suddenly implode and become the second largest failure of a financial institution in U.S. history. That means some of the companies that relied on what was known as go- to bank for tech startups are now scrambling to find money to pay their employees.

California Governor Gavin Newsom says he is in touch with the highest levels of leadership at the White House and the Treasury Department to stabilize the situation as quickly as possible.

And joining us now is the host of CNN's "NIGHTCAP," Jon Sarlin.

John, I mean, this has a lot of folks spooked about what's happening with the financial markets right now, the banking industry in general. What does this mean, though, for those accounts at SVB? What do those customers do at this point? JON SARLIN, CNN BUSINESS HOST, NIGHTCAP: It means panic and confusion.

As you said, SVB is the bank in Silicon Valley for startups. And those are companies they are now desperately trying to figure out how to make payroll for next week.

Throughout the valley, VCs are talking about trying to give bridge loans to companies to that they can pay their employees. And then there's hope that SVB might be sold and creditors could be made whole. But right now we just don't know. And companies are coming out and saying, hey, we're affected by this. Roku, the streaming media company, filed what's called an 8k with the SEC and said they have about 26 percent of their cash reserves, around $500 million tied up in SVB.

Now that's a larger company and they say that they still have money in the bank. But for other startups, smaller startups, that might not be the case so they are desperately looking for what to do.

ACOSTA: And how big of a concern is that we're going to see a repeat of the financial crisis of 2008?


I mean, I know it might sound a little hysterical to think that we're at that point, but it's going to make people worry about that, for sure.

SARLIN: Well, look, this is a crisis that we haven't seen since 2008. This is a major bank failing. So of course people are speculating on that. Analysts who CNN talked to say that they don't think that this will have the same kind of contagion that we saw in 2008. The reason they point to is that this is a bank that was focused on the tech sector. And so that is a single part of the economy.

But we don't know what that spread will look like within the tech sector. One thing to look at is crypto. USDC is one of the largest so- called stable coins that operate essentially as a lubricant for the greater crypto market. It's meant to tie one USDC to one dollar. Well, since Circle, the company that issues USDC, came out and said they have exposure in SVB, people started making essentially a bank run on USDC and we're seeing that peg one to one collapse.

So right now, as you can see, it's worth around -- it's back up from around 85 cents to 97 cents. So what that means for crypto, we just don't know. Come Monday a lot of companies are going to be scrambling to fix holes.

ACOSTA: Yes. And when there's a run on the bank, people aren't acting rationally in many cases and it can have a snowball effect.

Jon Sarlin, thanks for keeping an eye on all of this. We appreciate it. Thanks so much.

The recent economic turbulence also comes after big warnings from President Biden and his team about a debt default if lawmakers don't raise the federal debt ceiling. The Treasury secretary says progress made since the debts of the pandemic could be erased if the government is not paying its bills.

CNN's Alayna Treene Train joins us now.

Alayna, this sounds like a pretty clear-cut warning from Janet Yellen.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was, Jim. Janet Yellen went to the Hill and told lawmakers that there would be catastrophic consequences if they do not reach a debt limit deal on time. She also urged lawmakers to come to a compromise sooner rather than later, and not wait until the Treasury Department exhausts all of its options to continue paying its bills. Right now current estimates put that deadline as early as this summer.

And I'll just add, Jim, that no one I've spoken with wants a repeat of what happened in 2011 when the government came very close to a default. Republicans and Democrats alike are saying that they're eager to avoid that nightmare scenario where markets are rattled and United States credit rating is on the line.

ACOSTA: The prospects for the Biden budget in the Republican controlled House, I mean, I would assume the words dead on arrival are coming up in those conversations.

TREENE: You're exactly right, Jim. It is dead on arrival. The bill as is will not pass currently in Congress. So Republicans have been very eager to point that out. The House Freedom Caucus members said that they laid out a list of demands saying that this bill is dead on arrival and these are the demands that we need in order to secure our support for voting for that bill.

The demands include ending student loan forgiveness programs, rescinding unspent COVID relief funds, curbing funding for the IRS, slashing money for climate change prevention and putting work requirements on welfare programs.

President Biden also pushed back on what the House Freedom Caucus had to say. He said that right now he doesn't think there's much to negotiate on. And he is prepared to sit down with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy again, but he wants a counter proposal first. McCarthy, meanwhile, says he's ready to negotiate right now. Here's what he had to say.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I want to sit down with the president. Be responsible. Be sensible of what we do. But we've got to change our spending to put us on a path to balance.


TREENE: And there, Jim, you hear McCarthy wants to negotiate right now, but as of now there's not a meeting on the books. But they'll have to come together at some point in the next few weeks really to begin hashing out a compromise.

ACOSTA: All right. Alayna Treene, thank you. Are criminal charges for Donald Trump just days away? Manhattan

prosecutors are in the middle of a weeks' long walk-through of evidence in front of a Manhattan grand jury. Their next reported witness is former Trump fixer, Michael Cohen, that along with an invitation for the former president to testify about hush money payments allegedly made to adult film star Stormy Daniels may signal that prosecutors are inching towards an indictment.

CNN's Zachary Cohen joins me now.

Zach, how close are prosecutors to an indictment, do we think? Document headline, the state of New York versus Donald Trump?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, as you know, this investigation has been going on for about five years now but the invitation for Donald Trump to come in and testify before the grand jury is really a clear sign that the D.A. in Manhattan is approaching the moment where he has to make a decision on whether or not to indict the former president.

Now it comes after a few weeks where we've seen an uptick in activity in front of the grand jury, we've seen kind of a who's who of Trump world witnesses come in and testify. That includes Kellyanne Conway, that includes Hope Hicks, and of course on Friday we saw Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, go in and meet with prosecutors and he's expected to go in again and meet with them again next week as well.


But this really is an indication that after five long years it's decision time for the Manhattan D.A. And really if he does decide to indict Trump, we're going to see a lot of firsts. It's going to be kind of unchartered waters. We've never had a former president indicted before but more importantly as we look ahead to 2024, we have a scenario where Trump could be under indictment and be the leading Republican candidate for president at the same time.

As you know, Trump has said that if he gets indicted, he has no plans to drop out of the presidential race.

ACOSTA: That's exactly right. And, Zach, there are several hurdles ahead for prosecutors. What can you tell us about that?

COHEN: As you mentioned, Michael Cohen is really a central figure in this investigation. He was really keen lynchpin in the hush money payments. But Michael Cohen comes with some baggage undoubtedly. He's a convicted liar and a felon himself. And look, he's going to have to convince a grand jury that he is a credible witness.

Now the charges that prosecutors are weighing are also a little bit complicated. And, you know, there's varying degrees that our sources are telling us that the DA's office is looking at one is a misdemeanor crime related to falsifying bank records. You know that would -- if they go that route, that would ultimately, you know, if a conviction that happened, that would ultimately mean Trump would have to pay a fine. But there's also a felony campaign finance law that prosecutors are

also looking at as well. That could carry a more stiff penalty. But it remains to be seen. An indictment is not a conviction and we're a long road from there.

ACOSTA: Yes. And we had Michael Cohen on the show last weekend. He is very eager to tell his side of the story, no question about it.

All right, Zachary Cohen, thank you very much.

Coming up, three years ago today the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Our lives are so impacted by this world- changing event. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former top infectious disease doctor in the U.S., and one-time chief medical adviser to President Biden, joins us next to talk about that.

Also ahead, six runway close calls just in the first 2 1/2 months of this year. What is going on? The pilot behind the miracle on the Hudson, Captain Sully Sullenberger, will also join us.

And later, a January 6th defendant wants a judge to throw out his case, citing a video played on FOX News. I'll talk to a former member of the House Select Committee on January 6th about these new efforts to rewrite history.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: Three years ago today the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. There's still no consensus on the origins of the virus that has killed nearly seven million people worldwide including more than one million Americans.

The question is back in the spotlight in Washington. The House yesterday unanimously approved a bill to declassify U.S. intelligence information on the origins of the coronavirus. The Senate passed it earlier and the legislation now goes to President Biden's desk. It is not clear yet whether or not he will sign it. The president told reporters yesterday that he hasn't made that decision yet.

A theory that the virus may have escaped from a lab in China has been a heated issue of this debate since early on in the pandemic. U.S. intelligence agencies are split on that.

And joining us now to talk about this is Dr. Anthony Fauci who served as President Biden's chief medical adviser and head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for decades, including under former President Trump.

Dr. Fauci, good to see you as always. Thanks so much for being with us.

President Biden, I guess you've probably heard, said he hasn't decided whether he will sign this legislation. You were once his chief medical adviser. Would you advise him to do it?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, Jim, I don't want to be advising him when I'm not in that position right now. I'm sure he's going to make the right decision. One thing we can say we'd like to learn as much as we possibly can about information that hopefully will be available. You know, there's these two sides. You know, one group says it more likely is one or the other.

I must say that we all must keep an open mind, Jim, about this, for sure, because nothing has been definitively proven. The thing that's important is that if you look at the available data, not just surmising or tweeting or guessing, but just look at the data, a group of fairly large group of very well-respected evolutionary virologists have examined the epidemiological virologic geospatial data from Wuhan and have come to the conclusion not definitively by any means, but feeling that it is much more likely that it is a natural occurrence from an animal to a human.

However, since it hasn't been definitively proven, we've got to keep a completely open mind. That being the case, we want to know arguments or information or data on either side. And that's the reason why as you mentioned in the top of your discussion a little bit ago, we really need to get all the facts so that we can prevent this from happening again in the future. So my feeling would be, Jim --

ACOSTA: But you're not opposed to -- go ahead, I'm sorry.

FAUCI: No, I say my feeling would be instead of arguing back and forth, why don't we do the things that need to be done to prevent this from happening again regardless of what the origin was. If the origin was a lab leak, we've got to make sure we shore up the safety procedures that are done when people in labs are working with pathogens. And if it's an origin from the natural occurrence, we've got to make sure we pay much more attention to the animal-human interface and put restrictions on the kinds of animals that come into these wet markets, particularly in China and in Southeast Asia. Those are the things we should be concentrating on.

ACOSTA: But simply put, you're not opposed to the intelligence community putting that information out there as long as you're not jeopardizing sources and methods, and that sort of standard thing?


FAUCI: Right. You know, I mean, obviously you want to get as much information. If there have been recent, as you know, recent discussions that the Department of Energy has first said that they didn't think it was a lab leak and now with low confidence they're saying that it's a lab -- I don't know what low confidence means, Jim. And I think that's what's confusing people. And that's the reason why we've really got to get down to the bottom of this.

ACOSTA: Yes. And do you think that was a mistake for the Department of Energy to put out that kind of conclusion, a conclusion with low confidence? Did that muddy the waters in your view? FAUCI: No. Jim, I don't want to be criticizing agencies. I mean, it's

just -- I'll stay away from that. That's not helpful.

ACOSTA: Well, let me ask you about another agency, and I know you've already had some discussions about this. But former CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, your former colleague in the Trump administration, has accused you of excluding him from a conference call in early 2020 that included a discussion on whether COVID may have stemmed from some sort of lab leak. Just to get that on the record, what is your response to that?

FAUCI: Yes, that's unfortunate, Jim. I have already commented on that. But I'll set the record straight for you here, and that is that's completely, unequivocally incorrect. And I'm really sorry he came to that conclusion. Someone may have told him that. I had nothing to do and no choice about who would be on or not on that phone call.

And at a public hearing, it's unfortunate he accused me of excluding him for reasons that I didn't agree with what his conclusion would be, but nothing about that makes sense, Jim. A, as a fact, that you can ask any of a number of people on the call, that I didn't exclude him because I had no say as to who was on the call. And secondly, his concern about being excluded because his idea disagreed with mine, we had half the people on the call agree that it might be a lab leak.

So the rationale that he puts forth for being excluded doesn't make any logical sense because half the people on the call didn't agree with that. So I'm not so sure what he's talking about. It's unfortunate that he made that statement publicly because it's not true.

ACOSTA: In that conference call that was in question, that apparently was tackled at this House subcommittee hearing this past week. Were you invited to appear at that hearing?

FAUCI: I was not. I have not been invited yet to appear at the hearings. I suspect that I will be. I think it would be a good idea to hear from all sides but I have not yet been invited to appear before a congressional hearing recently. I've done many before. But with this particular topic I have not.

ACOSTA: And I know you've supported a theory, we were just talking about this, that the virus came from natural causes instead of a lab leak. You said you're open to the evidence wherever it goes. Has your thinking on this evolved at all? Did you start off as, oh, no, it's definitely natural causes, and now you're thinking, well, maybe it might be a lab leak?

FAUCI: You know, Jim, I've kept an open mind throughout the entire process. What has changed over months to a year or more is what I mentioned a bit ago, namely that as evolutionary virologists went into this deeper and deeper and analyzed it from a number of standpoints, epidemiologically, virologically, geospatially, they wrote two very important, well-written, peer reviewed papers in "Science" magazine strongly suggesting that in fact it was a natural occurrence from an animal to a human. But strongly suggesting, Jim, that doesn't nail it down definitively

and that's the reason why I say to this day I will keep a completely open mind as to what the origin is.

ACOSTA: And on this theory of a lab leak, you know, I've been wondering this, do we have any idea how that would even work? Have you heard any accounts as to how that might have happened?


ACOSTA: Is there speculation in the scientific community how that happened?

FAUCI: Yes. That's a very good question, Jim. So one of the things that people maybe don't fully appreciate that all of the intelligence agencies agree unanimously that this was not engineered. Namely they didn't deliberately do this to make a bioweapon. Everybody agrees with that. No matter what your prior thoughts were, everybody agrees with that.

A lab leak could be that someone was out in the wild, maybe looking for different types of viruses in bats, got infected, went into a lab and was being studied in the lab and then came out of the lab, but if that's the definition of a lab leak, Jim, then that still is a natural occurrence.


The other possibility is someone takes the virus from the environment that doesn't actually spread very well in humans, and manipulates it a bit and accidentally it escapes or accidentally infects someone and then you get an outbreak.

Those are the possibilities when you're talking about lab leaks.

ACOSTA: But are there any accounts of that occurring where one might say, OK, well, there we go, perhaps this is it, this is what happened?


ACOSTA: That you're aware of.

FAUCI: In fact, there are no lab leaks that have led to pandemics so there have been accidents in the lab. That happens intermittently. We've had experiences with that in modern times recently, but there have never been a situation where a virus escaped from a lab, that's a brand-new virus that no one has ever seen before, that led to a pandemic. That has not happened.

ACOSTA: And Dr. Fauci, the 2024 presidential campaign is heating up as you know. We've heard some candidates talk about how masks and lockdowns either didn't work or violated the rights of Americans. From your standpoint if we had just let it rip, what would have been the consequences of that, if we hadn't done masks, if we hadn't done those social distancing steps that were taken by the Trump administration, what do you think would have happened? FAUCI: Well, Jim, it's pretty clear that there would have been many,

many more deaths. We've had 1.1 million deaths thus far. If there had not been mitigation methods of wearing masks and at least temporarily under certain circumstances shutting down, particularly when we're having that tsunami of cases in New York and then in the rest of the country, if that had not been done, then there clearly would have been a lot more deaths than we've already experienced.

ACOSTA: And the other thing I wanted to ask you, you know, you've been vilified on the far right. I know you know that. And we've seen Elon Musk tweet that his pronouns, he's the owner of Twitter, that his pronouns are prosecute Fauci. Others in the GOP have talked about arresting you and prosecuting you for your handling of COVID. What's your response to that, your response to Musk, and what has that been like from your family?

FAUCI: Well, I mean, there's no response to that craziness, Jim. I mean, prosecute me for what? What are they talking about? I mean, I wish I could figure out what the heck they were talking about. I think they're just going off the deep end. That's the answer to your first question. It doesn't make any sense to say something like that and it actually is irresponsible.

Of course, it's going to have a difficult effect and a deleterious effect on my family. I mean, they don't like to have me getting death threats all the time every time somebody gets up and spouts some nonsense, that's misinformation, disinformation and outright lies. Somebody somewhere decides they want to do harm to me and-or my family. So that the part about it that is really unfortunate.

The rest of it is just insanity the things they're saying, but it does have a negative effect when people take it seriously and take it out on you and your family, which is the reason why I still have to have protection, which is really unfortunate.

ACOSTA: But it does make it difficult, does it not, to plan for the next pandemic if people can't agree on how these things started, what measures you use, and if everything that is talked about when it comes to a virus like COVID gets thrown into a political blunder of sorts and people just take shots at each other instead of trying to solve the problem? How do we -- how do you prevent the next pandemic if we're in that kind of a place as a country, as a society?

FAUCI: I agree with you completely, Jim. And that's the thing that's so disconcerting about all of this is that rather than looking at this as the common enemy is the virus and doing everything we can to counter the current situation and to prevent it from happening in the future, instead of doing that, you have these kinds of arguments that don't make any sense where people essentially a political view on a public health problem.

That is really unacceptable to take a political view on a public health problem. They should be completely separated and we all should in unanimity the fact that we have a common enemy and we've got to do everything we can to counter that, not only what we're going through now but to do everything we can to prevent it from happening in the future.

ACOSTA: All right. Well, Dr. Fauci, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

FAUCI: Good to be with you, Jim. Thank you for having me.

ACOSTA: All right. Thank you very much. We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: Next week, the Biden administration is set to announce whether it will approve a major oil drilling project in Alaska. That's according to a congressional source familiar with the details.

Approval of the Willow Project, as it's called, would be a huge loss for climate and environmental groups, many of whom have been using social media to push for a ban.

CNN's Rene Marsh has more.


RENE MARSH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, climate change has gone viral thanks to Gen-Z social media activists, drawing attention to a pending Biden administration decision on a proposed Alaska oil drilling project.

That project has divided Alaska natives, with one side prioritizing the economic benefits and the other side concerned about the environmental impacts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, the only way this project can be stopped is -

MARSH (voice-over): On TikTok and Instagram, calls for President Biden to stop Willow Project, an urgent call that's gone viral to block a controversial a controversial Alaska oil drilling project.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please help stop Willow.

MARSH: The videos racking up tens of millions of views, spurring more than a million letters to the White House and more than three million signatures to a petition.


ELISE JOSHI, GEN-Z FOR CHANGE: In order to stop Willow, people need to know about Willow.

MARSH: Twenty-year-old Elise Joshi, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of the social media activists.

JOSHI: It will not just impact Alaska. It will not just impact this country. It will impact the world. But the amount of carbon emissions that it will emit, we will see an increase in frequency and intensity of natural disasters.

MARSH: ConocoPhillips' Willow Project would be located in northwest Alaska on the National Petroleum Reserve, federal land roughly the size of Indiana.

The project would tap as much as 600 million barrels of oil, but it would take years for it to make it to market.


MARSH: It's messy politics for President Biden, pitting his climate promises against the desire to produce energy at home and lower gas prices.

The projects would release as much planet-warming carbon emissions per year as adding two million gas-powered cars to the road annually. That's according to a government estimate.


MARSH: Siqiniq Maupin's family lives near the proposed site and she recently traveled to Washington to protest outside the White House against the Willow Project, despite its economic benefits.

MAUPIN: We've been held in an economic hostage situation. We either chose our health, our children's health, our ways of life, or being able to have plumbing and infrastructure and running water.

MARSH: Nagruk Harcharek's family has also lived in the region for generations. He supports the project.

His non-profit represents two dozen native communities, corporations and local governments, who say the project would be an economic boon and help the U.S. wean off of foreign oil.

NAGRUK HARCHAREK, THE VOICE OF THE ARCTIC INUPIAT: The economics that a project like this would bring into the region, mainly to the North Slope Borough, in the form of taxes to help provide and maintain first-world conditions.

MARSH: Meantime, the Arctic is warming four times faster than anywhere else on the planet due to climate change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We cannot keep drilling for new fossil fuels if we want to address climate change.

MARSH (on camera): We expect a decision from the Biden administration as soon as next week.

And as for the proposed Willow project, ConocoPhillips tells CNN it will create good union jobs. And the project has undergone a comprehensive regulatory process for nearly five years with extensive public input - Jim?


Coming up, from attempted stabbings to all-out brawls, what's going on with all of the mid-air misbehavior? Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, who famously landed a plane on the Hudson River - there he is right there - offers his insights to us, coming up in a few moments.



ACOSTA: Since the first of the year, U.S. airports have seen at least six close calls involving commercial flights.

The most recent happened on February 7th at Boston Logan Airport as the pilot of a Learjet took off without clearance while a JetBlue flight was coming in on an intersecting runway.

The JetBlue pilot was able to climb out to avoid a crash but preliminary data shows the plans came within 500 feet of colliding.

Joining us to talk about this is retired U.S. Airways Captain, "Sully" Sullenberger.

Captain Sullenberger, Ambassador, great to see you.

You'll remember Sullenberger from the famous Miracle on the Hudson landing - there it is right there - not too far from where I'm sitting right now over on Hudson Yards when he glided his jetliner down the Hudson River after a bird strike caused an engine failure.

Sullenberger is also a former U.S. ambassador to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Mr. Ambassador, great to see you.

The Boston incident isn't the only one. We've seen similar incidents at JFK Airport, Honolulu, Burbank.

What's going on with all of these close calls? It seems to have been a rash of them in recent days.

CAPT. "SULLY" SULLENBERGER, FORMER U.S. AIRWAYS PILOT & FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR, U.N. INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANIZATION: Well, coming out of Covid, which, you know, pretty devastated the economies of the world and caused a lot of aviation activities to be shut down, we had a lot of people who left the industry.

Some retired early. Many of them were not flying as many hours as they had been. And I think, in every way, we're still playing catchup from the quicker than expected recovery from Covid.

I think we're still short staffed of air controllers and pilots. They're hiring and training as fast as they can.

But it takes many months to hire someone, train them to the proper professional standard, and get them integrated into the operation.

It's not terribly surprising that after such a global interruption in air travel, that it's taken some time to recover. I think we're feeling all of these stresses and strains now.

All the stressors that we feel in our everyday lives, of course, we take on our airplanes with us. I think it's just an indication of how, in recent times, I'm trying not to sound like my grandfather -


SULLENBERGER: - but it seems to be, in our society, a less good agreement on what appropriate behavior is and how we should feel an obligation to be civil, at least for civil outbursts to get to our destination safely and securely, and not be entitled.

ACOSTA: That was a question I was going to get to during this conversation, Mr. Ambassador, and that is whether or not Covid is playing a role in all of this.

I feel like we need public service announcements or something from the industry, from the transportation industry saying, this is what's expected when you get on a plane.

You know, you can't - you know, you're not in your living room in your sweatpants anymore.

SULLENBERGER: Don't get me started.



SULLENBERGER: There are a lot of people who dress very casually, like they just finished mowing the lawn. I get it. Things have changed.


But I think you're right. I think, when we're - when we're all sharing this narrow space in this tube that we're pushing at 80 percent the speed of sound through the upper atmosphere, we need to realize that we have to be on our best behavior for at least a few hours.

I don't think that's too much to ask. So I think some reminders are in hand.

And I really pity the flight attendants who are on the frontlines in these pitched battles. I have great respect for them, for their physical ability to be able to de-escalate the situation.

But these are still occurring and they are troubling. And they do pose a potential safety and security threat when those things occur on an airplane.

ACOSTA: Right. Recently, a passenger on a jet died after the plane experienced severe turbulence. That's another issue that we're seeing as well.

How frequent is that? And do you think we're going to see more of that because of climate change? Is that potentially part of the issue here?

Or this is just an incident where, you know, you're just going to have turbulence from time to time, severe turbulence, and people might get hurt?

SULLENBERGER: It's a bit too early to tell how much a changing climate is affecting the atmosphere.

But I can tell you, as a matter of common sense, when there's more energy in the atmosphere, there certainly is the potential for more turbulence and greater turbulence.

And I've been saying for many decades that one of our most important things anyone can do as a passenger on the airplane, as a matter of personal responsibility, is to keep your seat belt fastened unless you need to go to the bathroom.

If you did nothing more than that, we would have many fewer of these serious injuries and sometimes deaths.

ACOSTA: People, as you were just saying a few moments ago, behaving badly on the plane. We had this fistfight while boarding in Dallas. A man on his way to Boston attack a flight attendant with a broken spoon and tried to unlock the emergency exit.

What can be better done to better protect flight attendants and the flight crews? Because that is a - I know we were discussing this and then got onto the subject of turbulence.

But to go back to the safety of the flight crews, I mean, they are often working so many long hours. They are exhausted.

I encounter so many of them. They are lovely people working so hard. But they are up against it these days.

Are you concerned about their safety?


ACOSTA: In addition to just people being rude.

SULLENBERGER: Absolutely. Yes. Yes.

Oh, no, I'm absolutely concerned about their physical safety. In fact, there have been way too many instances, including recently, where people have been seriously injured.

That's unacceptable. That should never happen. It won't be tolerated. And so people who do that should face the consequences.

In my world, they'd be banned from flying for life. Or at least for 10 years. I mean, that would be a start.

I think we need to do a much better job in observing the human behavior going through security, going into the boarding area.

And when people are acting like they're likely not to comply with the kind of behavior that's necessary on an airplane, we need to take a closer look at them.

ACOSTA: You're famous for landing that Miracle on the Hudson so many years ago. I wonder, if that had happened, after Covid, would you have been able to pull it off? Would everybody have been behaving as well as they did that day?

I remember everybody was standing there, behaving themselves. Maybe they weren't all behaving themselves, but, I mean, it seemed like everybody pulled together to get through that.

I wonder, because of Covid and the way everybody's been behaving on planes these days, whether you could still pull that off?

SULLENBERGER: I think we could. I haven't lost faith in humanity.

And not only did we have a great crew that day, but the passengers themselves. It took everyone to see that every life was saved.

And everyone involved, basically a group of strangers, rose to the occasion and made the mission to save every life.

I think it could be done with the right leadership and the right culture at the airline.

And I think that people now would also behave appropriately if that kind of a life-threatening situation occurred and they realized that we had to work together to be rescued.

ACOSTA: Boy, Ambassador Sullenberger, it's a pleasure to talk to you, it's an honor to talk to you.

Captain "Sully" - we'll always know you as Captain "Sully" - thanks so much for your time. We appreciate it.

SULLENBERGER: Thank you, Jim. Great to be with you.

ACOSTA: Great to be with you.

Tonight, we spring forward. I'm afraid to say we lose an hour of sleep. Up next, some tips for those of you who really struggle with the time change. You're talking to me right now.


You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


ACOSTA: It's that time of year again. Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend in most of the U.S.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard has tips on how to make the change a little less painful.


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: While we prepare to adjust our clocks this weekend, it's important to adjust your internal clock as well.

That's because the time change can lead to a change in your body's circadian rhythm. That can lead to fatigue and exhaustion.


But here's some tips you can follow to avoid that.

We know that experts suggest adjusting your sleep pattern by going to bed and waking up 15 to 20 minutes earlier each day. Ideally, that's for a few days before the switch.

It's also important to expose yourself to bright morning light for 20 to 30 minutes soon after waking up. That can help you stay awake.

It can also help to slightly adjust the timing of your daily routines, likes when you eat, exercise, or take medications.

And meanwhile, experts say younger children adapt better to time changes than older kids. So if you have a teenager in the house, make sure to prep in advance by laying out clothes and packing a to-go breakfast the night before school.

Of course, if you are looking to get a good night's sleep after Daylight Savings Time ends, make sure to avoid bright light for at least three hours before you go to bed.


ACOSTA: All right. Jacqueline Howard, thank you so much.

Here's this week's "OFF THE BEATEN PATH."


MICHAEL WOOD, VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK: On your drive in, you drop into this valley, and there's just these spires of sandstone that come erupting from the ground.

Welcome to Valley of Fire State Park. We're about an hour north of Las Vegas. And you really don't see formations anywhere like this in Nevada.

You can climb all over the sandstone. We have petroglyphs from the ancestral Anastasi people. We have amazing wildlife, incredible views.

Most of our hiking, most of our viewpoints is going to be right off the roadway.

There's a few tours to the northern portions of our park that's a different perspective.

OSCAR MARTINEZ, ADRENALINE ATV TOURS: The way we go in there is, it's on the rural side of the Valley of Fire. You can't really get in there with nothing else but four-wheel drive or ATVs or UTVs.

The trail that we're on is just the most amazing views throughout the whole state park.

We're going through canyons, through the sandstone mountains that are surrounding us. We have the famous sand dunes through there.

You get the RPMs going, get the sand kicking everywhere, the tires are hitting berms, having a great time. It's a good heart-pumping experience.