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U.S. Pilots Raised Concerns Over Flying Boeing 737 Max 8; Soon: Manafort to Be Sentenced for Conspiracy, Witness Tampering; Sen. Chris Coons (D) Delaware is Interviewed about Joe Biden's Potential Presidential Bid. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 13, 2019 - 07:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to make sure that the FAA is not trying to keep these planes flying just because airlines want it that way.

[07:00:22] They see a very reliable plane. The FAA is not going to move.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is very early in the process. I think the first place we have to start is by offering our condolences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Ellis is lenient. Judge Jackson has a lot more reasons to be unhappy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This stuff Manafort is accused of doing has nothing to do with the Trump campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's obstructed justice. He's lied to prosecutors.

I can't imagine she would look kindly upon that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Parents flaunted their wealth so they could set their children up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking about deception and fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm pissed off and appalled. These people have to be held accountable innocence accountable.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We do begin with breaking news for you, because CNN has learned that at least five pilots in the U.S. have raised concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 jets. This is according to records in a federal government incident database. They could leave their complaints confidentially, and they did so.

This is the aircraft, of course, involved in those two deadly crashes in just the last five months. In one incident, a pilot reported that the aircraft pitched its nose down with autopilot engaged, triggering a warning in the cockpit of "Don't sink, don't sink." So why is this plane still flying here in the U.S.?

BERMAN: Yes, why indeed, when it has been grounded in Europe, in Asia, in South America? The head of Ethiopia Airlines -- that's the plane that just crashed -- told the BBC he thinks that Boeing should voluntarily ground this plane. But, again, it has not been done so yet.

Also this morning, we are watching Paul Manafort, the new sentencing in this second trial. Today Judge Amy Berman Jackson could hand down a sentence of up to ten years. We'll have much more on that in a moment.

But we want to start with the latest on the Boeing jet. Joining us now is Jim Hall. He was chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board from '93 until 2000. And Richard Quest, CNN business editor-at-large.

And gentlemen, I want to read you these postings from pilots to this anonymous database where they put complaints about concerns that they have.

Here is one about the 737 Max 8. "The aircraft accelerated normally. The captain engaged in autopilot after reaching set speed. Within two to three seconds, the aircraft pitched nose down. The captain immediately disconnected the autopilot and pitched into a climb." The remainder of the flight was uneventful but clearly there was a concern there.

CAMEROTA: All right. All right. Let me --

BERMAN: There's another posting, as well.

CAMEROTA: OK. Here's another one that's also chilling. Here's -- this is from a pilot. "As I was returning to my primary flight display, the Pilot Monitoring called 'Descending,' followed by an almost immediate: 'Don't sink, don't sink.' I immediately disconnected the autopilot and resumed the climb. With the concerns about the Max 8 nose down stuff, we both thought it appropriate to bring this to your attention."

BERMAN: So Jim Hall, when you see these complaints coming before the Ethiopia crash, how does it strike you?

JIM HALL, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NTSB: Well, it's very disturbing, but unfortunately not surprising. Boeing and the 737 in the '70s and the Max 8, I mean, the incident with the 787 and this incident, has unfortunately not been transparent in terms of important safety- sensitive information that the regulators and the flying public should be aware of. CAMEROTA: Richard, the fact that the -- CNN has learned that these

five different episodes happened at least -- I mean, these are just the ones that they've called into this anonymous federal government database -- that five pilots felt so compelled that something bad had happened on their flight, on this model, what is -- I mean is that a game changer today? Does the FAA and Boeing do something different today because of this?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: No, I don't think they do, because the FAA and Boeing were well aware of the various issues concerning both the nose down and the training for the MCAS, the new system that was on board.

This is not new to Boeing, by the way. Boeing has learned over many months that there have been questions over the flight manual that was given, the instruction that was given, and the procedure that was laid out to deal with in these nose-down situations.

So the fact that these are warnings were about exactly the incidents that took place is what's most distressing.

Equally distressing this morning is the FAA; and they are stubbornly sticking to their view, their matter of principle that, in the absence of any evidence or new evidence other than the facts that they know already, they're not going to ground the planes. When everybody else is saying ground out of an abundance of caution.

BERMAN: The European Union now, Asia, South America, around the world except the United States and Canada. U.S. carriers still flying these planes domestically, Jim Hall. And you have serious concerns about that. You think they grounded here in the United States as well, Jim?

HALL: Well, I think we should put aviation safety first. Since Orville and Wilbur Wright, we've built a strong structure; and we should be proud of our safety record that we've demonstrated worldwide. The FAA, NTSB, Boeing, are really the gold standard in terms of aviation. I think that's being put at risk by the decisions being made by the FAA and by Boeing not to ground this aircraft.

CAMEROTA: Richard, I want to just read what one of the pilots said, another confidential report called into this federal database, that alludes to what you were talking about in terms of they don't feel adequately prepared to fly this 737 Max 8.

He says, "I think it is unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines would have pilots flying an airplane without adequately training or even providing available resources and sufficient documentation to understand the highly complex systems that differentiate this aircraft from prior models. The flight manual is inadequate and almost criminally insufficient. All airlines that operate the Max must insist that Boeing incorporate all systems in their manuals."

QUEST: The problem is that the Max aircraft or variant has envelope protections that did not exist before. The plane will do things if it thinks it's in trouble. This is a unique departure, by the way, for Boeing. Airbus planes have had them for decades. But Boeing has more and more introduced these various protections for different reasons.

So pilots of the 737 knew there was something. They knew the MCAS was there or maybe about it. But there was never a full emphasis in training, from those pilots I've spoken to, that this is new; this is what it does; this is what you need to be aware of.

The difference, of course, here is with Ethiopian, as the CEO made clear to me yesterday, the pilots would have been very well aware now of the MCAS, its limitations and its ramifications. So that's not so relevant here. Which begs another question: what did happen that caused the plane to go down that may or may not be related to MCAS? All these reasons suggest safety first and the grounding of the fleet.

BERMAN: Jim, you have raised concerns about what is essentially a cozy, to say the least, relationship between safety inspectors and Boeing. In some cases, these inspectors work in Boeing factories. They are side by side with the manufacturers as the planes are being built. You say, essentially, the aircraft makers persuaded the FAA to let them certify their own aircraft so they could save money. Explain.

HALL: Well, there are fundamental concerns that have been raised, again, since -- since the 787 incident and in this incident with the certification process procedures that are used for new model of aircraft.

And in this situation, now Boeing is essentially self-certify -- is in the business of self-certification of its own aircraft.

Our oversight structure at the congressional level and the FAA needs an overhaul. We should not be relying, unfortunately, on Boeing or any other manufacturer to ensure the safety of the aircraft. That's always been a partnership. That's how it's been built. And the changes in the system have essentially provided Boeing a system where they're -- they're self-certifying the new series of aircraft.

CAMEROTA: Richard, explain to us the issues around the black box and the questions about where it should be sent for analysis?

QUEST: It's really very simple. First of all, what condition is it in? We've heard rumors that it might be severely damaged. That would not come in.

The thing is built to survive extreme forces, but look at that crash and debris field; and you realize this plane turned to dust. There's no large parts of fuselage. There's no obvious pieces of engines. A few wheels. This thing went into the ground and just about disintegrated.

Now, how did that leave the black boxes? If they're in a bad condition, even if they're in a reasonably good condition, it's a very specialized business reading them out. Jim Hall is far more qualified to tell you the level of expertise necessary.

But Ethiopia doesn't have that expertise. Not a criticism, it's just that many countries don't. So the boxes will go somewhere where they are -- so have it. I'd say the U.K., France, Germany, the United States, one of those countries.

[07:10:14] BERMAN: It's interesting. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting there are folks in Ethiopia who would rather the black boxes

go to Europe to perhaps have an impartial adjudicator look at the data from it, than send it to the United States, given what has been the reluctance of the FAA to take action here domestically.

Richard, do you want to weigh in on that?

QUEST: I'm going to -- I'm going to -- yes, I mean, I personally have absolutely -- I would throw that theory well and truly into the bin and as quickly as possible. But Jim may be better qualified to == on the question of whether there's any incidents that needs to be thought of for that.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Jim.

HALL: Well, clearly, this whole situation has damaged, I think, the image of both the FAA and Boeing worldwide.

Had either one of these accidents occurred in the United States, in my opinion, there's no question that this aircraft would have been grounded. We grounded the 787 without any accident, fatal accident occurring. So why are we not acting in this situation? I think it's a tremendous mistake both for Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration, and our image worldwide.

And at the same time Boeing seems to be pointing the finger at foreign airlines and their inability to grasp the training for this new aircraft. And I don't think -- I think that's going to leave a bad taste in -- around the world in people's mouths of the United States not being the responsible party and putting aviation safety first.

BERMAN: Right. Jim Hall, Richard Quest, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: All right. Now to another big story. In just a couple of hours, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will be back in federal court for sentencing in his second criminal case. And Judge Amy Berman Jackson could give Manafort the maximum, which is ten years in prison, for conspiracy and witness tampering.

So joining us now to talk about this is CNN political correspondent Sara Murray; and CNN political analyst David Gregory. Great to see both of you.

So David Gregory, Judge Amy Berman Jackson --

BERMAN: No relation.

CAMEROTA: -- could give him ten years. That is the maximum sentence. And the question is, will she -- she has had more run-ins with Paul Manafort and been more vocal about the times that she has felt that he has been flouting, you know, the legal system. So what are you looking for today?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you want to see the length, obviously, and how she makes that determination, whether it's concurrent or consecutive. Does he -- because he was sentenced in the Eastern District of Virginia by Judge Ellis, whether those -- that time runs all together or whether it's stacked on top of each other. That would obviously affect how long he spends.

We have a difference in the approach of the two judges. Obviously, Judge Ellis made it very clear early on that he felt there was some government overreach in the case against Manafort. With Judge Berman Jackson, it's been different. She also has seen more of Mueller's case against Manafort, more of the record, including witness tampering and the like. So she'll likely send a different message.

But the point is, they'll be guided by the law here. I think there's a lot of people who are looking into the politics of this and what it means for Mueller, what it means for the prosecutors, and ultimately, the report and how Congress will treat it. And I think these judges are trying to operate in a -- in a different space, based on what they -- what they think the law tells them, their own sentencing history, and what they think is appropriate here.

BERMAN: I think the expectation that the judges are behaving in a legal space is absolutely right. That doesn't mean there aren't political implications here.


BERMAN: And perhaps a political prism by which Mueller will be viewed here, depending on the sentence.

Jonathan Turley wrote an op-ed overnight, Sara, that's interesting, suggesting that maybe the Mueller team got played by Manafort, and we'll know more after the sentencing. Turley writes, "For Mueller, a less than five-year sentence would leave him in a position that no prosecutor relishes. He would look cuckolded and comical. In reducing the counts to two and bringing Manafort under his tent, he may have given the Trump team badly needed intelligence while limiting Manafort's exposure."

What do you think of that?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it's certainly a possibility. One of the issues with Paul Manafort's sort of plea agreement with prosecutors in D.C. is that his team was still sharing information with the president's lawyers. You know, Paul Manafort got in trouble for lying when he was supposed to be cooperating, so that's certainly a possibility.

You know, I think when you think about the sentencing he could face today, the maximum is ten years. We rarely see judges go for the maximum sentencing guidelines, but this is a different case. Because when Paul Manafort decided to sign his name to that plea agreement, he admitted to a bunch of other crimes that he wasn't even charged with. And he agreed that he deserved, essentially, 20 years in prison for those crimes, but that's not what he agreed -- you know, that's not what they agreed would be the sentencing guidelines for the things that he was actually charged for. [07:15:11] So this is a little bit of a different situation. You

know, you have Paul Manafort's name on a document saying, "I deserve to spend 20 years in prison." And that could mean Judge Jackson feels much more comfortable sentencing him to ten years.

You know, the reverse of that, John, as you were just saying, is this could be another embarrassing blow for the special counsel's office. And you had to just see the looks on the faces of prosecutors when Judge T.S. Ellis handed down his sentence. It was -- it was no mystery that they were very disappointed by what they got in Virginia.

GREGORY: But just a couple points on that. First of all, cooperators do this all the time, right? If they enter into a plea agreement and say, well, this is what you could ultimately face, and then they are evaluated by prosecutors and ultimately the sentencing judge based on what help they actually provided the government team, which is why his lies to prosecutors could loom large here. And Sara's absolutely right.

There's another point about generally, when prosecutors bring a case, and we'll be talking about the U.S. attorney, the Justice Department up in the Massachusetts district bringing this case about parents and colleges. You know, they're amassing evidence; and they're telling a story; and you know, they're making a case.

Here you have Mueller, who is investigating no matter where that takes him. And in the end, he gets a cooperator in Mueller -- I mean, in Manafort. And maybe that has limited value. Maybe it has more value. We'll find out ultimately. But it plays out wherever it takes him. It's not in service of a grand narrative, because it could be he finds ultimately nothing.

I think that's the difference in these -- in these cases. And so when you and so when you think about the political blowback, potentially, for Mueller, he's approaching this differently than -- than another kind of prosecutor.

CAMEROTA: Sara, let's look forward, because it's a big week for Mueller for the investigation. Today, obviously, the Manafort sentencing. Thursday, Roger Stone's status hearing. Friday, Rick Gates's status report, and the reason that that is significant is because that will let everyone know whether Rick Gates is still needed, whether there's more to come, whether he's still cooperating, whether they're done with him. And then, as John Berman likes to point out, at any moment the Mueller report could also come out.

BERMAN: Or not.

MURRAY: At any moment it could come out. It could come out next week, could come out the week after.

CAMEROTA: It could come out whenever Beto O'Rourke announces.

BERMAN: That's right. He's -- they merge.

MURRAY: Right. All of these things are very -- CAMEROTA: That's what he's waiting for.

MURRAY: -- expected. Maybe, maybe not. Yes.

GREGORY: He could announce it.

MURRAY: Yes. You know, I do think it's a big week, though. Look, we saw in the Michael Flynn, you know, status report yesterday that they said, "Look, we're done with Michael Flynn, but we don't want to move forward with sentencing. We need him to testify at this trial."

And if they do something similar with Rick Gates, where they say, "We may not be ready to move forward and set a sentencing date, but essentially, his cooperation with us is complete, aside from one or two things," I think that's a big signal that Mueller is, in fact, winding down; and you know, that it could be imminent that we could get an end to this investigation.

The Roger Stone thing, it will be interesting, because they may set a trial date when he's here in the status hearing; or he may just get another dressing down from this judge. You know, she really has not approved his conduct so far when he has been in front of her. She may decide that he has violated his gag order and decide to take some action against him.

This is another indication of something that will continue even after Mueller decides to wrap this thing up. You are going to see prosecutors for Mueller's office in court for Roger Stone, but you're also going to see folks from the D.C. U.S. attorney's office; and they're the ones who are really taking the lead on this case.

BERMAN: All right.

GREGORY: Just one political point, quickly. I think what's interesting about waiting for all of this, is that this is still something of a side show. These are people close to the president. People have absorbed this politically. Republicans haven't moved on the question of this investigation, based on people close to the president getting into legal trouble. If this doesn't add up to something that implicates the president, the question, politically, will be, where does it go? The fact that these other players are enmeshed.

BERMAN: I will say, campaign chair, deputy chair, you know, longtime political advisor.

GREGORY: Yes. No question.

BERMAN: It's quite a side show. Quite a side show.

GREGORY: No. Well, but I'm not diminishing it, John. What I'm saying is we've seen the political impact of it. And particularly on the president's party, where you'd have to have some agreement to have impeachment, it has not sufficiently moved the needle. That's why I think the bar is high for the Mueller report.

BERMAN: All right. David Gregory, Sara Murray, thank you very, very much.

Former vice president, Joe Biden, telling supporters to save their energy for a couple of weeks. So, is the presidential campaign ready to kick off? We're going to ask someone who I honestly think knows the genuine answer to this question --

CAMEROTA: Oh, good.

BERMAN: -- one of Joe Biden's biggest supporters. Next.


[07:22:23] BERMAN: Former Vice President Joe Biden appears to be ready to run for president, and he is giving crowds his clearest signals yet.


JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I appreciate the energy you showed when I got up here. Save it a little longer. I may need it in a few weeks.

Be careful what you wish for.


BERMAN: All right. Joining us now to discuss, Democratic Senator Chris Coons from Delaware. He has been speaking to the former vice president about a potential run.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us. You've been a supporter of Joe Biden for decades. Do you believe he is going to run for president?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: John, I'm optimistic he's going to run for president. I'm actually confident he's going to run for president. He's 95 percent there. And everything that needs to be in place for him to have a strong and successful launch is being put together.

Look, I understand why he hasn't yet made the final decision. This is something he and Jill need some time to reflect on and pray on. But I think this is a big and an important moment in American history.

The former vice president has a huge reservoir of experience, both in the Senate and as the vice president in the Obama/Biden administration. But I expect him to run looking forward, setting us on a path towards making America work again, pulling us together, not cracking apart the divisions in our country as President Trump does. But seeing our divisions, knowing who we are, and inspiring us to pull together and to strengthen our place on the world stage, to restore respect for the presidency, and to be able to actually make Congress and our government work again.

[07:25:03] BERMAN: All right. Making America work again, looking forward. Spoken, if I may, like someone who may have an insight as to what the themes of the campaign might be.

Let me just get this out there. Has he told you definitively whether he will run?

COONS: He's told me that is all but certain he's going to run. He hasn't made that last decision, but as you heard in his remarks to the firefighters' convention yesterday, he's feeling very optimistic about the prospects and is preparing for a run but has not made that final decision. I expect that soon.

BERMAN: All right. The "all but certain he is going to run" is the new "almost there" bar. You've just raised it, I think, from 95 to 97.5 percent, and that's new this morning. I do appreciate that.

You listened to what he said yesterday before the firefighters. You just said looking forward, make America work again. What did we hear in his speech to the firefighters yesterday that should inform us about what campaign he would run?

COONS: Well, you know, firefighters who were gathered at that national convention come from every city, every town, every community in our country. And they're the kinds of folks who get up and work hard every day, who risk their lives for the rest of us, who do long and difficult and sometimes dirty and dangerous work and who deserve our respect.

Those are the kind of folks Joe Biden has fought for his entire life. He gets in his gut what America's middle class needs and wants in order to move forward. He knows and understands the complexities of American society, the ways in which we do have some differences and challenges, but he's never seen those as something that he should exploit for political advantage. That's really, I think, what Donald Trump has done as our president.

And what I expect us to hear from Joe Biden is ways in which he inspires us, reminds us of the big challenges we've overcome in the past, and focuses us as a country on the big challenges we face today, whether it's Russia and China overseas, or you know, making education affordable, making healthcare accessible and affordable, fixing our roads and bridges. There's a lot of hard work to do, and he's just the kind of guy to inspire us to do that work together.

BERMAN: This sounds, by the way, like a nominating speech at a convention that you're delivering right now. Again --

COONS: I should be so lucky.

BERMAN: Well, I think maybe you have some eyes on this.

Senator, you say that the former vice president wants to look forward. There are those who say that looking past or looking backwards for him could be a problem because of some of the things he has stood for in the past and the position he has taken.

Last week, "The Washington Post" wrote about his positions on bussing. Which were known. I mean, we all knew where he stood on bussing, which was controversial in the '70s.

But some of his language really is, I think, perhaps surprising in the prism of 2019. Let me just read you something he said about bussing way back in 1975. "I do not buy the concept, popular in the '60s, which said, 'We have suppressed the black man for 300 years, and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start or even hold the white man back to even that race.' I don't buy that."

How much do you think he needs to explain that statement today and where he has been on the past on issues like that?

COONS: Well, I look forward, John, to the opportunity to defend what was Joe Biden's strong record of public service of leadership in the Senate of the United States.

But I don't expect him, as a candidate, to be spending his time relitigating things that were said or might have been said three or four or even five decades ago.

Obviously, the United States is in a very different place today. Race relations are different. The challenges we face are different. I grew up in Delaware. Bussing was very challenging, very divisive, but ultimately in the state of Delaware, we've made enormous progress.

And Joe Biden was someone who, in his entire career in the Senate, was a tireless advocate for civil rights. I could cite you chapter and verse the bills he led, that he cosponsored, that he wrote, the ways in which his decades of public service, he has fought for racial justice.

But I expect him to be looking forward and talking about how we're going to tackle the challenges ahead of us.

BERMAN: OK. I want to get one question in on really, some stunning breaking news this morning. It has to do with the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

Around the world, countries, entire continents have grounded this plane but not the FAA, not in the United States. Given these two accidents in less than five months, given the breaking news overnight that pilots had expressed concerns in the United States about the safety of this plane, do you think the FAA needs to ground the 737 Max 8?

COONS: John, I think they need to be conducting their accident investigations as quickly and thoroughly as is possible. I have confidence in American professionals at the FAA.

But that news overnight that I also heard, that there were five American pilots who had expressed concerns about the flight systems, about the operation of this plane, I think raises the bar. And it's my hope that the FAA will make a decision to ground the planes soon and that they will conduct, in the interest of public safety, a thorough investigation promptly. BERMAN: All right, Senator Chris Coons from Delaware, thank you for

being with us this morning. Appreciate it.

COONS: Thank you, John.

CAMEROTA: All right, John, now to this crazy story.