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Close Call Between JetBlue and Private Jet at Boston Airport; FBI Director Says, Coronavirus Most Likely Leaked from Wuhan Lab; Fox News Fighting Dominion's $1.6 Billion Defamation Lawsuit. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired March 01, 2023 - 07:00   ET




DAVID SOUCIE, FORMER FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: So, the only way that airspace system can handle more flights and full flights is by getting them off the runway faster.

So, they need to slow these things down and get back to what is a sensible rate when we talk about departures. And it may delay it. It may be where you can't get the flights you want to have at this point but they have to do something about trying to slow this system down.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: So, you're just sitting there. You have no control. You don't know what's going to happen. You don't hear from the air traffic control folks. You don't know what's going on. All of these near misses --

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Let me tell you, I've been buckling up on my flights more lately.

LEMON: Yes. Wait, you didn't buckle up? Well --

COLLINS: Always.


COLLINS: On a flight.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you know, I mean, this is a big problem. Good morning, everybody. Welcome to CNN This Morning. We're so glad you could join us.

We have to talk about another alarming close call at one of America's biggest airports, this time between a private jet and a JetBlue flight coming in for a landing. That makes five close calls in just two months. That's way too many. I don't think it's normal. We're going to check. Is the FAA have a serious problem on their hands? Pete Muntean will help us break it down. HARLOW: Also to Chicago and the mayoral race there, where Chicago's mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has lost re-election, didn't even advance to the runoff. Rising crime the dominant issue in that race. What does her defeat mean big picture?

COLLINS: Also, a rare show bipartisanship in Washington, in the House. The new House select committee on China is vowing to investigate Beijing's threat to America. Is it all talk, though, or they can actually deliver some action here? We're going to talk to a Democrat who is on that committee, Congressman Seth Moulton, in the coming hour.

LEMON: Lots to come in this hour.

We're going to begin, though, with another -- yet another disaster at one of America's busiest airports. The FAA is now investigating five near misses between planes in just two months, five near misses between planes in just two months. Latest close call was in Boston. It happened on Monday night. Air traffic controllers stopped a private jet from taking off and running into a JetBlue flight that was coming in for a landing. It comes just weeks after a FedEx cargo plane nearly landed on top of a Southwest flight in Austin, Texas.

Federal investigators say that they were both cleared to take off and land on the same runway. The FedEx pilot was the one who told the Southwest crew to abort. They came within 100 feet of each other.

Just weeks ago, there was a close call in Honolulu. The NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board, says a United airlines Flight crossed a runway in front of a cargo plane that was landing. And days before that, an American Airlines jetliner crossed a runway where a Delta Airlines flight was taking off at New York's JFK Airport.

Pete Muntean on top of the story with the very latest on this close call. One is way too many, but now we have a series. What is going on, Pete?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big question here, Don, is why all these incidents are coming to light right now? The NTSB not investigating this one just yet, but we do have some very key and clear details from Flight Radar 24. They've reviewed preliminary details which say that these two flights came within 560 feet of each other. This was a very close call.


MUNTEAN (voice over): It is the latest incident of a near-collision at a major airport. Monday night, a JetBlue flight and a private Learjet nearly running into each other on crisscrossing runways at Boston Logan International Airport.

SOUCIE: This was a mistake that was made by the pilot and it was caught by air traffic control, which is their job. So, they were able to catch it.

MUNTEAN: The Federal Aviation Administration says as JetBlue Flight 206 was coming in to land on runway four right, the Learjet took off from the intersecting runway. Air traffic control recordings detail the pilot of the JetBlue flight being directed to abort its landing, the FAA classifying the move as evasive action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clear to land 4 right, JetBlue 206.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: JetBlue 206 go around.

206 fly runway heading, maintain 3,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Runway heading up to -- sorry, say again the altitude.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 3,000. JetBlue 206.

MUNTEAN: Worse yet, the FAA says the Learjet did not have takeoff clearance. Instead, the crew was told to line up and wait on the runway for the landing JetBlue flight. The FAA says the Learjet pilot read back instructions clearly but began a takeoff roll instead. Air traffic control brought the JetBlue flight back in for a landing all onboard unharmed.

ADAM JOHNSON, PASSENGER ON JETBLUE FLIGHT: The pilots did a really incredible job. We came in, it was a scary situation but it was very smooth. Like it wasn't like it was a jolting experience. It wasn't a jerky experience. We just went back up into the air and came back around and landed.

MUNTEAN: The incident is the fifth of the type this year following similar close calls at New York's JFK, Austin, Honolulu and Burbank.


Last month, the FAA's acting administrator told Congress that recent events remind us we must not being complacent and vowed a sweeping safety review.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: There is a lot of pressure right now on our airspace. And so we need to make sure that our regulatory system is as safe as it can be, that the aviation system is safe as it can be.


MUNTEAN (on camera): The FAA tells me it will determine how close these flights actually came to one another.

Let's put this in context, Don. 560 feet, we're talking less than two football fields. The NTSB not investigating this just yet, but the good news here is that the safety system did work. The controller noticed that problem, averted that collision, averting disaster. Don?

LEMON: Wow. Pete Muntean, thank you. COLLINS: Also this morning, the Biden administration is maintaining it does have the power to forgive student loan debt. This is during oral arguments at a very high-stakes hearing before Supreme Court yesterday. But several of conservative justices appeared skeptical of the government's authority to actually be able to discharge millions of dollars in loans.

CNN's Joan Biskupic is covering all of this live in Washington, as always. Joan, these conservative justices seem very skeptical that the Biden administration has the power to do this.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: That's, Kaitlan. Good morning. There were two main themes that emerged from the right side of the bench, first, just in terms of overreach. What is at issue here? Is it 2003 law passed in the wake of 9/11 called the HEROES Act, that allows the secretary of education to wave or modify federal student loans in national emergencies.

And several of the justices led by the chief, John Roberts, said, you know, you're talking about nearly half a trillion dollars here, more than 43 million borrowers. How does that just involve modifying loans? And he said the statute he suggested, and other conservatives did, that the statute just wouldn't allow it.

Now, Elena Kagan on the liberal side said, this statute is clear in terms of giving the secretary of education authority for emergencies. Of course, Congress couldn't spell out all emergencies. That's what emergencies are all about.

But then the other issue was fairness, Kaitlan. The chief and others and Neil Gorsuch, who you will hear from in a second, talked about how is it fair that someone who borrowed from the federal government to go to college is then going to be able to take advantage of taxpayer money to pay it back when someone who was not even able to have the opportunity for college, it will be without and essentially have not the same kind of earning power.

Let's listen to Neil Gorsich on that topic right now.


JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH, U.S. SUPREME COURT: What I think they argue that is missing is cost to other persons in terms of fairness, for example, people who've paid their loans, people who don't plan their lives around not seeking laons, and people who are not eligible for loans in the first place, and that half a trillion dollars is being diverted to one group of favored persons over others."


BISKUPIC: So, Kaitlan, there were a range issues from the conservatives. But one last thing I'll mention is that there is a gateway question of whether the states and the two borrowers who weren't eligible for these loans are able to even bring the case. And that's where the liberals really tried to make a case here that they should -- the full court should not reach the merits. And that's one thing the Biden administration can cling to here, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. And, Joan, as you know as well as I do, Washington is divided right now. Democrats control the Senate, Republicans control the House. One takeaway that I noticed is they seem to also just cast doubt on the idea of executive power overall and how far Biden can go, which obviously would limit what he can do going forward for the rest of his time in this term in office.

BISKUPIC: That's exactly right, Kaitlan. We've seen just in the recent years this court reining in what the Biden administration had to try to do in other COVID-19 types of cases, and then just last year, Kaitlan, I know you're recalling the EPA case when the justices, by a 6-3 vote, limited what the Biden administration can do to protect air quality regarding power plant emissions.

So, this is a real theme here of this court, mirroring what the polarization we see in the other branches that this court just really is trying to put the hammer down on regulatory power and executive branch power, particularly now that we have Joe Biden in the White House.

COLLINS: Yes. It's fascinating to see what happens. Of course, so many people's lives hang in the balance on this. Joan Biskupic, great reporting, great jacket color this morning, thank you so much.

BISKUPIC: Thank you, ,Kaitlan.

HARLOW: Aligned on all fronts.

This morning, an update for you, FBI Director Christopher Wray making his first public comments about the FBI's COVID lab leak theory.


This is a new interview in which Wray says it has been the FBI's assessment for some time now that the virus, quote, most likely originated in a, quote, Chinese government-controlled lab.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The FBI has folks, agents, professionals, analysts, virologists, microbiologists, et cetera, who focus specifically on the dangers of biological threats which include things like novel viruses, like COVID. And the concerns that in the wrong hands, some bad guys, a hostile nation state, a terrorist, a criminal, the threats that those could pose.

So, here, you're talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans. And that's precisely what that capability was designed for. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Just days ago, the Department of Energy said they have concluded with, quote, low confidence that the virus emerged from a lab in Wuhan. A Chinese official responded to that saying the U.S. report stops stirring up arguments about laboratory leaks, stop smearing China and stop politicizing the issue of the virus origins.

LEMON: A race that Democrats should be paying close attention to, I'll tell you why in a moment, because there will be no second term for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. She lost her bid for re-election on Tuesday, failing to finish in the top two for a runoff election. Here's why Democrats should be concerned. Because Voters are expressing growing concerns about crime in one of the nation's largest cities and they're doing it all over the country in the nation's largest cities. This is the first time in more than three decades that Chicago has voted a sitting mayor out of office. Watch.


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D-CHICAGO, ILLINOIS): Obviously, we didn't win the election today but I stand here with my head held high and a heart full.

And regardless of tonight's outcome, we fought the right fights and we put this city on a better path. No doubt about it.


LEMON: So, it's going to be between these two guys, Paul Vallas, a long-time public schools chief, and Brandon Johnson a Cook County commissioner backed by progressives and the Chicago teachers union. They'll advance in an April runoff to replace Lightfoot.

HARLOW: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's office says that he'll allow defendants facing criminal charges in the January 6th Capitol attack to access security video footage from that day. House Republicans are defending that move and claiming it's a way to ensure due process.

Melanie Zanona, joins us live from Capitol Hill. Good morning. Is this a sort of follow-on to his agreement to give all of the unedited footage to Tucker Carlson of Fox News?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, you're absolutely right, Poppy. Kevin McCarthy promised to release this footage as part of his bid to become speaker and to win over his right flank. But he is not just releasing this to the media. We've also learned at CNN that the House Administration Committee has started making accommodations so that lawyers for January 6th defendants can start coming in and view this footage. It was an issue that came up in court.

And Kevin McCarthy has defended that move. He says it's important in the name of transparency and due process. And he also claimed that Speaker Nancy Pelosi also gave access to defendants for January 6th, a charge that her office denies.

But this does come amid a broader debate on Capitol Hill about who should and should not have access to this January 6th footage. McCarthy agreed to give the exclusive to Fox News Host Tucker Carlson, someone who has down played the insurrection, spread conspiracy theories about it. And that has caused concern not just among Democrats but even among some Republicans. And so we learned that, yesterday, Kevin McCarthy behind closed doors to worked to assure his members that security would not be compromised with the release of this video. They are trying to work with Capitol police to make sure that vulnerabilities are not exposed. And he also promised that other media outlets will eventually get access to this footage but he warned it's a process and it's going to take time. Poppy?

HARLOW: Melanie, thank you, quite a development.

COLLINS: All right. Up next this morning, we're going to talk about whether or not Fox News' billionaire owner Rupert Murdoch and his testimony in the defamation case against him creates an existential crisis for the network. What does it mean? We have got the First Amendment guru, Floyd Abrams, and a former Trump insider, Alyssa Farah Griffin, here to break it down on their perspective, next.



COLLINS: Fox faces an existential threat from is multibillion dollar defamation case. That is the headline from CNN Business this morning after that explosive legal filing that came into public view this week.

These are some of the biggest revelations if you missed it. The billionaire owner, Rupert Murdoch, conceded that four of the main hosts on the airwaves, including Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, formerly, endorsed lies about the 2020 election. Yes, he said in his deposition, quote, they endorsed.

He also said he wished that Fox would have been, quote, stronger in denouncing those lies in hindsight. The told a reporter that half of what Trump was saying was, quote, B.S. and damaging. He also admitted that Hannity was, quote, privately disgusted by Trump but scared to lose viewers.

Fox's legal team says those quotes that are coming out don't tell the full story. They have called the lawsuit dubious but they have also cited the First Amendment as a defense there.

Joining us now to talk about this is renowned First Amendment Attorney Floyd Abrams and the former communications director of the Trump White House, Alyssa Farah Griffin. Thank you both for being here this morning.

Floyd, I want to start with you, because you, who have argued before the Supreme Court many times, you believe this is actually landmark case.

FLOYD ABRAMS, FIRST AMENDMENT ATTORNEY: I think it's an extremely threatening case to Fox, and I think it's a very important case. There hasn't been one, I would say, involving the media, not just broadcast, which so threatened the legitimacy of an enormous player in terms of informing the American public. [07:15:08]

HARLOW: Do you think on that point that it could have the potential to move the malice bar, what Times v. Sullivan set out? Is that what you're saying or not really?

ABRAMS: No. I think on that front, it's just ironic that it's the conservatives on the court --

HARLOW: The other way around.

ABRAMS: -- that want to move the bar. I don't think it will be -- I'm hopeful at least it's not going to be moved. But Fox is quite understandably clutching to it a raft in a sea, because it's very important to their defense.

LEMON: So, let's get to that. I will get to you in just one moment, Alyssa Farah Griffin, because I want to talk about the audience here. But you're making the point that we talked about earlier in our conversation where I said this was -- this has more than just an impact on what happens with Fox News, what will the viewers think, that's all very important. But this is First Amendment, freedom of the press. You have a news organization allegedly in collusion with political players here lying to their audiences, potentially, or at least in many people's eyes and court's eyes, or at least Dominion's eyes, starting an insurrection. There is so much at stake here.

And as you said, this is one of the biggest cases involving the media than I can remember in recent history. This is not just small potatoes.

ABRAMS: No. I mean, it's big time. Look, Fox is big time, the amount of viewers it has, the impact it has on the public. And here's a case -- I mean, I can't help but think that any new lawyer, and I'll bet any of the old lawyers, said to someone at Fox maybe this will be a good case to put behind you. Maybe there is some way to settle this consistent with rationality? I mean, if they're asking for blank, of course, you won't do it, but --

LEMON: Why isn't that happening?

ABRAMS: I don't think we know. If I had to guess, I'll bet there had been talks, but I don't know that. It's inconceivable to me that as savvy, whatever else one says about the Fox people, as savvy as they are that it hasn't occurred to them that they would really be in much better shape if they could just say, we paid the money, we didn't do anything wrong, but, you know, it's over.

COLLINS: Yes. And, Alyssa, you worked in the Trump White House. You know the influence and the communication that there often was between Trump himself, Trump officials and a lot of these hosts. What do you think about the political fallout of how damaging what we're learning is?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, despite having direct insight into how linked at times the Trump White House was with Fox News, I was even very shocked to hear about -- to read about Rupert Murdoch actually sharing a Joe Biden ad with Jared Kushner, a former senior White House adviser. I didn't know about that. I would be surprised if that was something that was widely known.

But it spells some issues for the Republican Party. So, take for example the fact Fox News will likely to host a primary debate. Who is to say that Fox, the network, won't put their finger on the scale in favor of the candidate who gets them the best views and the best ratings? Like this has always come down to -- there is a quote from Rupert Murdoch where he's like, it is not red or blue, its green. It's about making money.

So, there is a lot of potential fallout, I think, for both the Fox audience and the people who consume that information, but also this is a scary part. Most fox viewers are not going to hear about. They're not aware. I've been texting family members who are in that space, just, hey, are you aware of this? Are you aware you're being rampantly lied to?

HARLOW: Let's play one Howard Kurtz, who is a Fox employee who anchors their media show every week. Here's what he said about being muzzled. Here he was.


HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Some of you have been asking why I'm not covering the Dominion voting machine lawsuit against Fox involving the unproven claims of election fraud in 2020, and it's absolutely a fair question. I believe I should be covering it. It's a major media story given my role here at Fox. But the company has decided that as part of the organization being sued, I can't talk about it or write about it at least for now.


LEMON: They don't know. They're not going to hear about it.

GRIFFIN: You know what, and good for Howard Kurtz for telling the truth, but as we've seen throughout these depositions, people have been penalized or at least that they've been asked by senior people in the executive suite to penalize people for telling the truth. I think if Jacqui Heinrich, a very serious reporter at Fox who is just trying to do her job, fact-checking the election lies, and Tucker Carlson just texting executive she should she be fired. So, it actually takes a bit of bravery to go on your own airwaves and say, hey, the executives are muzzling me.

LEMON: Especially he is media reporter, he covers the media. Do you think that -- is that legit for him, for Fox to say, listen, there is so much at stake here, we can't have you discussing just in case -- just because?


ABRAMS: Look, anything he says will be held against them. And I get why they don't want him to speak. I suppose if he says anything honest, straight and critical of them, that then goes into brief of Dominion, as even the Fox's own ex has said that and acknowledged that. That means that they're in a situation now where almost any commentary and, God knows, emails or the like, which surely they must have learned by now that they are turned over in litigation. I mean, they're suffering as much from what they said to each other in writing as anything else because there's one embarrassment after another. There is one statement after another, which is harmful to them in the litigation.

And it's not -- I said this and then someone else said, I don't remember it that way, here it is. This is what they said. So, look, it would be -- no, please, go on.

GRIFFIN: No. I was just going to say, Donald Trump is a big part of this, by the way, because he started to create the narrative after he spread the election lies, that Newsmax is where we should be going, One America News Network is where true believers are going. So, there was the sense of fear within Fox that they were going to lose market share to those outlets.

The reality is that they never even picked up enough that in major way affected the very high viewership that Fox News had, but you can just see sort of the fear he instilled in the big time hosts, the primetime hosts. And I just want to say, there is a lot of really good journalists at Fox. Dayside programming, I don't have really any major problems with, but primetime is where they make their money. And it has descended into conspiracy mongering, it is basically anything to get people to tune in and drive viewership and not risk losing to the fringier outlets.

LEMON: Wow. It's interesting that not even a straight forward news story about this is what is happening, Dominion is accusing Fox News and Fox News responded this way. It could be a straight forward news story without any commentary, if they don't want to do commentary that explain to their viewers exactly what is happening.

ABRAMS: They don't want it to exist.

HARLOW: Well, it does.

LEMONS: My favorite Abrams. I would say don't tell Dan, but please tell Dan. This is Dan Abrams' dad, by the way, who is off and on program.

COLLINS: Also thank you both for joining us this morning.

ABRAMS: Sure, thanks.

HARLOW: Well, ahead, Russian forces pummeling continues their assault on Eastern Ukraine. Bakhmut is in especially bad condition after thousands of civilians remain in that city. We have a live report from Ukraine, next.

LEMON: And this morning, CNN is taking you to one of the remote regions on the planet. Our very own Bill Weir is heading to Antarctica and will join us live from the southern tip of Argentina, an area known as the end of the world. What he is learning from satellite images about changes to the sea ice, I should say, that's next. What an assignment.

HARLOW: Always the best.