Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

FAA Pausing All U.S. Departures Until 9 AM Amid System Outage; Biden Says He Was "Surprised" By Classified Documents At Private Office; House Republicans Meet Today To Select Committee Assignments. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 11, 2023 - 07:30   ET



PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR (via Skype): They need to reiterate if there are any outages directly to the flight crews as they're coming in.


GOELZ: More of the planes will have to be diverted to airports where visual flight rules are in effect.

LEMON: OK. So, Peter, what -- so the question is -- so is there a -- some sort of drill? There has to be protocol for this. In case something like this happens this is what we do.

So it's not just like planes are willy-nilly flying about without being able to communicate with each other. There are -- there's a system in place, one would hope, in case the system went out -- the thing that guides the pilots -- the normal system -- that they would be able to at least get the planes that are in the sky to land them safely.

GOELZ: Yes, of course. I mean, and as I say, it puts greater responsibility on the air traffic controllers and greater responsibility on the flight crews to communicate with the air traffic controllers.


GOELZ: But there are systems in place. No one's going to be left circling.


OK, Peter, I want you to stand by again.

The breaking news there, departures until -- the FAA is pausing all U.S. departures until 9:00 a.m. because there is this major system outage that Poppy and I have been reporting.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's a huge deal -- all departures.

LEMON: It's a very big deal. This is why we basically stopped reporting everything else and have gone to this breaking news.

But as you know, you cover business and so does Christine Romans. Let's bring her in now. As you mentioned, Poppy -- you said, you know, that this is business travel, right? The people usually start now with the business travel. So what does this mean for --

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": It's a really tough time for all this to be happening because all of those problems we had, remember, over the holidays, especially Southwest Airlines. That was a really bad time for them as well as they were trying to get -- resolve all of the problems with baggage and get people reunited with their baggage.


ROMANS: And now, the high margin part of the business is business travel, and so these morning flights are the big business travel flights. And this is an important part for airlines' bottom lines.

Also, just think of the lost productivity of people waiting in an airport trying to figure out where their lost connection -- you know, remaking their connection.

So it just comes at a tough time overall for an airline industry that is trying to come out of the COVID era and grapple with huge, huge demand for travel and leisure, and business travel.

LEMON: I wonder if we have an update --

HARLOW: Right.

LEMON: -- on how many flights now because --

HARLOW: A lot.

LEMON: -- it's -- yes.

HARLOW: How many flights? Yes.


HARLOW: Do we know, guys? I don't know if we have Pete Muntean.

LEMON: Over 1,200 -- 1,200, for now, is what we know.

HARLOW: Yes, but if they're delaying them all it's going to be more.

You know what, Romans? I was thinking of that new law that came into effect a few years ago that passengers can get a lot of money back from the airlines if they sit on the tarmac for more than three or six hours.

ROMANS: And that's if it's their fault.


ROMANS: So this is --

HARLOW: So this wouldn't apply here.


ROMANS: So this is something that is a problem with the FAA and with the software, right, for the FAA. And so this doesn't seem to be an airline problem. This seems to be a problem systemwide.

But you're right. That was actually modeled after some very generous laws in Europe. If you, at the fault of an airliner sitting on the tarmac or sitting even in the airport for a couple of hours in Europe -- you're -- you get big money back.


ROMANS: And that was something that travel advocates -- consumer advocates in the U.S. wanted to model in the U.S. because so many people were spending so much time and they felt like they were just at the whim of airlines, quite frankly.

HARLOW: Yes. This is not the airlines' fault --


HARLOW: -- at all.

ROMANS: It does not appear to be -- no.


LEMON: All right.

HARLOW: Thank you.

LEMON: The breaking news here on CNN is that the FAA has a system outage, announcing that it is ordering all domestic departures on hold until 9:00 a.m. eastern time. They say they, quote, "want to validate the integrity of the flight and safety information."

As of now, we know there are about 1,200, and possibly more -- probably more flights that have been delayed and stopped from taking off here in the United States.

Also, United Airlines is saying, obviously, they have stopped all flights because everything is stopped.

The Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg tweeting, "I have been in touch with the FAA this morning about an outage affecting a key system for providing safety information to pilots."

So everyone is on top of that.

And you see our Kaitlan Collins is in Washington, D.C. this morning monitoring this and other news as it relates to what's happening in the country -- Kaitlan. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, something big that they are watching here. Obviously, Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg is in touch with the FAA. We're reaching out to lawmakers here on Capitol Hill about this as well. That it's been dealing with travel issues after the Southwest debacle that we saw happen in recent weeks.

So we will stay on top of that.

Also this morning, President Biden has just returned to Washington from Mexico City. He is now commenting for the first time on the classified documents that were found in his office -- his private office. These are from his time as vice president. And they've been taken there after he left the White House during that time.

And there are big questions, of course, about what exactly those documents were. President Biden says he, himself, does not know.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People know I take classified documents and classified information seriously. I was briefed about this discovery and surprised to learn that there were any government records that were taken there to that office.


But I don't know what's in the documents. I -- my lawyers have not suggested I ask what documents they were. I've turned over the boxes -- they've turned over the boxes to the archives and we're cooperating fully -- cooperating fully with the review in which I hope will be finished soon.


COLLINS: The White House is drawing a sharp distinction between this and former President Trump. And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy weighing in on the discovery last night.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The hypocrisy -- think about this. They've gotten away with so much for so long. This was discovered before the last election.

Why weren't they raided? Why didn't they have the FBI coming in? Why didn't he, on "60 MINUTES", say well, I understand that because I bet I have the same problem?

They think the law doesn't apply to them. They think they write their own. And that's what infuriates the American public. America believes in fairness and honesty, and that's not what we're getting from them.


COLLINS: CNN's Arlette Saenz is live at the White House this morning. Arlette, obviously, the White House is saying this is nothing like what happened with Trump. You see Republicans are drawing the comparison.

What are they saying about what is the latest when it comes to the investigation in the matter into these documents that were taken?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, the White House has been quite limited in the information they have been able to share, saying that they are awaiting this review from the Department of Justice.

But you heard President Biden trying to lay out the facts of what exactly he knew, saying that he doesn't know what's in the documents. He was surprised to hear that government records were even on hand here.

But bottom line, what the president and his team are trying to make clear is make this implicit contrast that the way that he is handling these documents completely is different from the way former President Donald Trump has handled these documents.

The White House is insisting that they are following the protocols. That they notified the National Archives as soon as they learned of this. And they're trying to make that important distinction between what's going on in this case and what happened with former President Trump down at Mar-a-Lago.

COLLINS: Arlette Saenz, thank you so much for that update.

And joining us now here on Capitol Hill as we are still monitoring what's happening with the FAA, is Democratic Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey. She is a former federal prosecutor and former Navy helicopter pilot, and also served as a Russian policy officer. She's also served on the House Armed Services Committee. Thank you for being here this morning.

I think one big question that, obviously, lawmakers are facing here is what's your concern when it comes to these documents that President Biden is now weighing in on?

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): Well, certainly, any time you see classified documents not being handled correctly it's a huge concern, especially for someone like myself with a background in national security. And I think we need to take a strong look at some of the protocols about how these documents are being tracked and how it wasn't realized for so long that these documents were not being -- you know, were not in the places where they should have been in a secure location.

That said, I do have to agree that this seems to have been handled completely differently than the hoarding of documents. The refusal by President Trump and his team to allow investigators in to turn over those documents immediately to have a discussion about where documents might be.

So it does seem like an unfortunate breach has occurred, which we need to look into. However, it does also seem as if this was something that President Biden and his team worked very hard to remedy right away. COLLINS: Does it concern you that this happened, though, the day before the midterm elections -- that's when these documents were found -- and we're just now finding out about it?

SHERRILL: It does. I'd have to look as to when they were discovered and why we're just finding out now. That does concern me. This has to be a very transparent process to ensure, again, that we're handling the classified secrets of this country very, very carefully.

But I do sense that everything that he suspects might be classified has been turned over immediately. That they're working closely to make sure they're following now the rules and protocols, which does stand in stark contrast to everything we've seen from Trump who, in fact, seemed to be hoarding documents purposefully. And then, as he was being asked about that, trying to -- you know, refusing to turn those over and refusing to make sure that those documents were secured.

COLLINS: Yes. He fought the federal government for over a year trying to get those back.

You're here on Capitol Hill. Obviously, Democrats are in the minority now. There are new committees that have been created after Republicans are following through on their promises to conduct these investigations.

One is into the weaponization of the federal government, as Republicans are framing it. Do you view that committee as legitimate?

SHERILL: No. You know, this seems to be a concerted attempt as we look at the new rules, as we look at the gutting of the Ethics Committee -- the rules that will result in -- on the ethics board, all but one Democrat being let go.


The now-attempt to investigate the investigators, if you will, to go after places like the FBI, who are trying to get to the bottom, as we speak, of January 6, for example -- something that I think my Republican colleagues just want to sweep under the rug.

This seems to be like a broader and more largescale effort to not allow any investigation into anything that's going on in this Republican House.

COLLINS: Some of your colleagues have said that what they're doing is essentially gutting the congressional ethics investigation that looks into those members when they're recommended. Is that a concern that you have as well?

SHERRILL: Certainly. You know, this is ironic to me and I think this is something that the American people have seen for far too long -- this idea that they're going to supposedly drain the swamp. But at the same time they're saying that, what they're doing is quite another thing. They're gutting the Ethics Committee. They're trying to hold themselves above the law. And I think that's something we'll see more of and it seems to be a larger-scale effort. COLLINS: But there are some avenues for bipartisanship. You were one

of the members who actually voted in favor of those Republican efforts to create this new committee on China.


COLLINS: Why did you support that?

SHERRILL: You know, I think being a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a veteran -- we have long seen industrial espionage, for example, from the Chinese. Attempts to take the progress, the research, the development of the United States and use it for the benefit of China. To steal those secrets.

In fact, I've seen -- I've heard from other members of Congress that in their state when certain Chinese nationals were questioned, there were barrels of documents being burned as they were being questioned about what secrets they might hold as they were leaving.

So this is something that we have known about for years and we really have to get to the bottom of it. We also have to understand we are facing a very new global economic system. We've sort of realized that the just-in-time supply chain that we were all relying on because of the free flow of goods across the world is really a sort of non- resilient, weakened, and fragile system, especially right now in the wake of COVID.

So it's incumbent upon us I think to understand how we make sure we are competitive with the Chinese across the world as we go into this new global economy.

COLLINS: Congresswoman, thank you so much. You know, a very busy two years ahead of you. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us and talking about those committees.

SHERRILL: Well, thank you for having me.

COLLINS: Thank you.

Don and Poppy, I know there's a lot of breaking news back on the FAA. Here in Washington, we're also monitoring that as well.

LEMON: Yes. We're going to continue to check back with you, Kaitlan -- yes. But we are monitoring what's happening out of the FAA, announcing that they're ordering all domestic departures on hold until 9:00 a.m. That's why you see the planes, Poppy, just sitting there --


LEMON: -- on the runways. We're checking on it to figure out exactly what's happening.

But as of now, we're told there are about 1,200, and probably counting, flights --

HARLOW: Oh, yes. LEMON: Look at that. That's California, LAX, just sitting there.

Breaking news on the other side of this break.



LEMON: Here is breaking news this morning, and welcome back to "CNN THIS MORNING," everyone.

You're looking at live pictures now of Newark Liberty International Airport. Those live pictures are up because the FAA is announcing -- has announced it is ordering all domestic departures on hold until 9:00 a.m. They say they, quote, "want to validate the integrity of the flight and safety information." That is because a system that guides the pilots and air traffic control -- it is down and it has been down -- and so they're trying to figure out exactly what is going on.

The Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg monitoring. Also, the White House as well.

Our Kaitlan Collins is in Washington, D.C. with information on that. What is the president saying, if anything? What is happening, Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Well, he actually is set to leave the White House in a few moments so we'll see if he comments on this, Don. He has been briefed by the Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg. As we were noting earlier, Pete Buttigieg has been in contact with the FAA about this.

I will say that Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary, says right now, there's no evidence of any kind of cyberattack at this point. They said that Biden has directed DOT to conduct a full investigation into the causes. And the FAA will provide regular updates to the White House. So we'll continue monitoring what the White House is learning.

I do want to bring back in the congresswoman we were just speaking with. She is a former Navy pilot. She knows very well just how critical these notices are to pilots as they are flying and navigating on the ground.

And so, I think for people who aren't familiar, if they're sitting on a plane right now and they're wondering why their plane is not taking off, why they're grounded, explain just how critical these are to the safety of these flights.

SHERRILL: Certainly. These NOTAMs -- they used to be called Notice To Airmen and now they're Notice to Air Missions -- are incredibly important. Every pilot, before he or she -- as they are doing flight planning, they review the NOTAMs. These are abnormal things happening at an airport that happen too recently to get out the word by other means. So they're near-term different abnormalities at airports.

Say, in California, for example, maybe one of the taxiways was flooded out by recent weather. And so, they'll alert pilots that taxiway is down. So you, as a pilot, do not want to fly into any airport or any area

where you haven't reviewed the NOTAMs. You don't know what the status on the ground is.

COLLINS: Because you don't know what's happening on the ground.

SHERRILL: Exactly.

So everyone who is in the air now who will be landing is safe. That -- you know, that airport will ensure that the pilots understand how they're landing and where they're landing on an individual basis.

But generally, you would never take off, as a pilot, without reviewing the NOTAMs for the airport you are headed to.

COLLINS: So, Poppy was just asking for flights that are already in the air because we know they've grounded the flights until 9:00 a.m. What happens if you are a pilot and you're in the air right now, the system is down and you're trying to land?


SHERRILL: So, your air traffic controller will know his or her airport and will be -- will be relaying to you on an individual basis as a pilot. Look, this taxiway is down. We're going to route you through here, or we're going to have you land here, or be aware that there is construction going on in this area.

So everyone should feel safe and confident. But as you can imagine with the aviation system of the United States of America and all of the various planes -- and some of the smaller airports that don't have as -- you know, don't have the air traffic controller system right there to tell you what's going on. You need this system of NOTAMs. But everyone in the air will be safely landed at our airports.


And we're going to let you go so we can monitor the breaking news. Thank you for staying with us a few more moments.

One last question, though. The FAA is still run by an acting administrator. They do not have someone permanent in that position. We were just talking about this. Biden is going to have to renominate the person because of the new Congress.

Does it concern you that at a time like this when something this significant is going on that there's no one permanent leading the FAA?

SHERRILL: You know, I'm sure the acting person is going to do a great job. But I think it just speaks to a broader effort by many members of Congress to try to get the business of the people done in regular order. To try to get these nominations through more quickly. To try to not politicize so many of the nominations of good quality federal servants that we really need in office on a regular basis, not on an acting basis. COLLINS: Congresswoman, thank you for sharing a few more moments with us. You are a former Navy pilot. You have great experience here. So we really do appreciate your perspective on this issue.

SHERRILL: My pleasure. Thank you.

COLLINS: Don and Poppy, it obviously is affecting so many people sitting on tarmacs at airports --


COLLINS: -- right now trying to board flights.

LEMON: Yes, and we're going to get to one of those people in just moments. Stand by, Kaitlan.

But again, the FAA announcing, right now, 9:00 a.m. -- nothing is going to take off here in the United States.

That NOTAM system that you heard the congresswoman speak of there -- it's a Notice to Air Mission system. Basically, it's a system that keeps everything coordinated --


LEMON: -- in the sky -- coordination so that there are no accidents and everyone is safe in the country.

We were looking at, as we were talking about it, Poppy -- we were talking about your question --


LEMON: -- of what happens to planes in the sky. We did see something coming in at an airport. I'm not sure if it was Reagan or exactly where it is.

HARLOW: That was Vegas.

LEMON: That was Vegas.

But that is D.C. And speaking of D.C. --

HARLOW: David Urban. You see him often on this show, a CNN contributor. David, you're stuck, my friend. I'm sorry.


HARLOW: But I -- we're just -- you know, we're sitting here at the desk --


HARLOW: -- telling you what we're hearing. But we -- you're there --

URBAN: Right. HARLOW: -- living it.

LEMON: But we're -- the only form of communication is a cell phone and David texted me saying, Don -- what is it? Two or 2 1/2 hours you said, I'm sitting here in D.C. Are you on a plane, or are you in the airport?

URBAN: No. No, Don. So I was -- Poppy, I was watching you guys this morning, right? I was at a hotel in downtown D.C.


URBAN: And knowing this was happening, I checked FlightAware because I saw the news and everything was clear. So I said OK, I'm going to head to the airport. So I pulled up to National and I saw there were no planes on the -- on the ramps -- none on the runway --


URBAN: -- and it didn't bode well.

And then as soon as I got in the security line I got a notice from American saying two-hour delay. And I looked at the board here and it's quite a scene -- the departure board. There are five televisions. Most of the televisions are red with flight -- either cancellations or delays. Probably on each board, 95 percent of the flights are canceled or delayed that are on the boards.

And people are just showing up and with kind of an air of resignation that this is the new normal in American air travel. That even on a good day your flights are delayed or they're just inexplicably postponed.

And today is like something I've never -- I've never experienced anything like this. I'm looking out on the ramp and every flight -- every gate is full. Planes are all just sitting there. Nothing's happening.

LEMON: Can you take some pictures of that, first of all, of the --

URBAN: Yes, sure.

LEMON: -- pictures --


LEMON: -- the televisions you were talking to us about?

What's the temperament of the folks there?

URBAN: Well, you know, resignation. Kind of a shrug and like, well, this is the new normal, right? There's -- it's -- I heard Anna say it's too early to be too frustrated. I think people are just showing up and -- for six and seven and 8:00 a.m. flights.

And I was standing at the board watching people come up and just kind of shake their heads and say oh, no -- are you kidding me?


URBAN: A lot of people hadn't tuned in and are just finding out for the first time when they get here, and it's obviously quite disappointing. If you're planning on going someplace and making a connection today, it's probably -- it's probably not going to happen. So I would strongly advise everyone to check before they leave because it looks like it's going to be a long, long day.

HARLOW: Just one note, not the airlines' fault -- this one. This is -- this is a big system and they need to work carefully, right -- not fast, but carefully to get it --


HARLOW: -- fixed.

LEMON: David Urban, stand by -- but I guess you have no choice. Sorry about that.

HARLOW: Oh, David.

LEMON: David, thank you.

URBAN: I'll be -- I'll be -- I'll be here until at least 10:30.

LEMON: All right, David. But keep us updated and send us any information --



LEMON: -- you have, including some pictures --


LEMON: -- of the monitors and we'll get it.

URBAN: Great.

LEMON: We want people to see what's happening inside the airports.

That's our own David Urban, a political analyst here on CNN and a political contributor.

So, listen, this is what's happening around the country. There is an outage here of the system that -- called the NOTAM system or Notice to Air Missions system, which keeps everything coordinated in the skies and on the ground to make sure that passengers and planes are safe. That is out.

The FAA announcing -- ordering all domestic departures on hold until 9:00 -- in just over an hour. We'll see if they extend that beyond 9:00 a.m. But it's affecting a whole lot of flights -- but more importantly, a

whole lot of people just sitting there, like David Urban.

Back in a moment with the breaking news.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

LEMON: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us here on "CNN THIS MORNING."

We are monitoring the major breaking news from here in New York and also Washington, D.C. This morning.