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Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) Sets To Vote For Aid Bills Despite Conservative Revolt; U.S Senate Dismisses Mayorkas Impeachment Charges; Whistleblower Says, Boeing Putting Out Defective Airplanes; Hawaii AG Releases First Phase Of Maui Wildfires Investigation; Trump Ramps Up Diplomacy Ahead Of Possible Second Term. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 17, 2024 - 18:00   ET



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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Speaker Mike Johnson says the House will vote on foreign aid bills for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan this Saturday, the speaker moving ahead despite deepening anger among conservatives and new threats to take away his gavel.

In the U.S. Senate, Democrats move quickly to dismiss the impeachment charges against the Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, the historic trial coming to a close after just a few hours.

Also tonight, very disturbing warnings from Boeing whistleblowers accusing the company of putting out defective airplanes while engaging in a, quote, criminal cover-up. We have details from their alarming testimony up on Capitol Hill.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

Our coverage begins tonight up on Capitol Hill where Speaker Mike Johnson is staring down a conservative revolt, vowing to put critical foreign aid bills to a vote despite Republican hardliners pushing to oust him.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is up on Capitol Hill for us. Melanie, what's the latest?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Speaker Mike Johnson in the fight of his political life right now, he's decided to plow ahead with a package of foreign aid bills and really setting up a showdown with his hard right. They are furious over this funding for Ukraine and also the fact that it does not include border security provisions. Johnson has promised a separate vote on a border security bill, but some hardliners say that is not enough.

So, there are issues now heading into some of these votes and it's looking like some of these Republicans are threatening to vote against the procedural rule. That is a key vote to get these foreign aid bills over the finish line, which means Johnson is going to have to rely on Democrats to get these bills over the finish line and he also might need to rely on them to save his speakership.

Our Jake Tapper did interview the speaker in the last hour here and asked him about all of these threats to his speakership. Here's what he had to say.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): I've not asked any Democrats to get involved in that. I believe the House will do its will.

I don't walk around thinking about the motion to vacate. It's a procedural matter here that I think has been abused in recent times.

Maybe at some point we changed that. But right now, I've got to do my job, and so do all my colleagues.


ZANONA: So, the House is planning to vote on Saturday on a number of these foreign aid bills. It does include $9 billion in assistance for humanitarian aid for Gaza and other conflict zones. That was a key demand from Democrats.

This package has also earned a stamp of approval from President Joe Biden. So, after that is passed, if it does pass, it will be merged together and sent over to the Senate where they will still have to pick it up before it goes to Biden's desk here.

BLITZER: And, Melanie, I understand we just heard from the Democratic House leader, Hakeem Jeffries. What did he say?

ZANONA: So, Democrats have not yet committed to saving Johnson. Jeffries did say that Johnson has not asked him for his support, either on that procedural vote for the foreign aid bills or on a potential motion to vacate.

That has not come to the floor yet but it's certainly something that hardliners like Marjorie Taylor Greene are threatening to do in the days and weeks ahead.

Jeffries did say that the Democratic caucus is going to meet together tomorrow. They're having a special meeting where they're going to come together and talk this over more so we could see a decision coming out of that meeting tomorrow, something definitely to look out for here, Wolf. But it's just remarkable that Democrats, for the second time this Congress, now find themselves in a position where they could determine the fate of the Republican speakership.

BLITZER: Yes, lots of stuff going up on Capitol Hill. Melanie, thank you very much, Melanie Zanona reporting.

We have more news up on Capitol Hill tonight as well the U.S. Senate moving very quickly to throw out the impeachment charges against the Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas.

Let's get reaction from the White House. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is standing by there. Priscilla, how did this unfold? And how is the White House now responding?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, this ended perhaps as quickly as it began. Of course, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas became a top target for Republicans early on as an affront to President Biden's border policies.

In fact, in February, the House voted to impeach him, making him the first cabinet official to be impeached in nearly 150 years.


And today, the Democratic-controlled Senate squashed the impeachment articles only hours after being sworn in.

And since then the White House has praised the Senate for doing exactly that. Here's a statement from the White House spokesperson for oversight and investigation saying, the Senate has rightly voted down this baseless impeachment. President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas will continue doing their jobs to keep America safe and pursue actual solutions at the border. And Congressional Republicans should join them instead of wasting time on baseless political stunts while killing real bipartisan border security reforms.

Now, of course, in some respects, this also ends the work that was done within the administration over the course of the last few months. White House officials and Homeland Security officials were working behind the scenes to game out strategies and responses as all of this unfolded.

And many times what they did is use the split screen strategy and basically saying that Republicans weren't doing any of this seriously and weren't interested in border solutions, again, calling it all meritless and a political stunt.

But, Wolf, was never in question was that the Homeland Security secretary was going to leave his post. He said from the very beginning that he was going to stay at the helm of the department and telling reporters earlier this month that he was focused on the work.

But at the end of the day, where this boiled down to was the Biden administration's immigration policies. And on that front, House Republicans are still very much going after the president for that. BLITZER: All right, Priscilla, thank you, Priscilla Alvarez at the White House for us.

For more on what's going on, I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Adam Smith of Washington State. He's the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

We'll get to the dismissal of this impeachment trial in a few moments, but, first, would you vote for each of these foreign aid policy bills that the speaker, Mike Johnson, laid out and then a possible plan to bundle them all together for the Senate? And can the House accomplish all of this by the end of this week?

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): Yes and yes, I believe. I will certainly vote for the first three, Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. But the fourth bill hasn't actually been released yet. I think it's supposed to be released like minutes from now. So, I'll have to take a look at that. But I support this plan. I think the House will pass it, and it will be bundled together as one coming out of the Rules Committee. That will be the rule. And then it will go to the Senate. And I've heard the Senate is prepared to take it up fairly quickly.

BLITZER: Yes. And it looks like the Senate's got the votes to pass it very quickly as well.

You warned it could take at least, what, two months to ultimately turn this convoluted process into law and that all of this is, quote, boiling Ukraine to death slowly, your words. How much is the delay hurting Ukraine right now on the battlefield?

SMITH: Well, look, it was seven months ago when we should have done this, and, you know, and gosh, two months ago when the Senate passed their bill. So, the stalling and the laying that the House Republicans have done has put Ukraine in an incredibly perilous position.

And it has also undermined the faith and the coalition that is helping them to defeat Putin and to protect Ukraine. It's a huge problem, and I'm glad that we now appear to have a path to get this done, but it is months later than it should have been, and the cost has been high for Ukraine, without any question.

BLITZER: Right, that's true. You heard the House Speaker Johnson say he's not asking Democrats to get involved in a possible vote to oust him as speaker, but he'll have just a one-vote margin, as you know, one-vote Republican majority margin in the House. Won't he need your party for help and are you personally still willing to help him?

SMITH: I am, yes. Now, look, I am not under any illusion as a Democrat that I'm going to love the Republican speaker of the House. All I ask is for someone that we can work with. And Mike Johnson has kept the government open. He allowed us to pass the appropriations bill. So, that process would go through a normal process. And now he's allowed us to have a vote on this incredibly important supplemental. And I think that, you know, it shows that he is someone we can work with, all right, in a respectable way. So, it's not an endorsement of everything that Mike Johnson supports but I don't think vacating the speaker would be good for the institution in this moment. And I certainly don't want to see what Marjorie Taylor Greene would try to put in his place. So, yes, I am prepared to not vacate the chair.

BLITZER: Interesting, and that's significant indeed.

President Biden, he faced more protesters over his handling of the Israel-Hamas War when he was out on the campaign trail earlier today. This aid bill doesn't include humanitarian aid to Gaza, but what message would it send to Democratic voters who are upset, very upset, with U.S. support for this war to pass more weapons to Israel without any real conditions?

SMITH: yes, I mean, some Democratic voters are upset about it, but there's also, well, what I believe is the majority that still recognize the threat that Israel faces. I mean, Iran drove that point home last weekend.


Israel faces a threat to their varied existence, certainly from Hamas, but also from Hezbollah, Iran, the Houthis, various other proxies of Iran. So, preserving Israel's right to exist is something that a majority of Democrats do support.

I understand there's a divide in our party on this, but I don't think it's the case that the Democratic Party is all against Israel. We are in favor of getting to a ceasefire and in favor of getting more humanitarian assistance in and a long-term solution that ultimately gives Palestinians self-governance and a future. But that's not the same as abandoning Israel to the mercies of what Iran and Hezbollah would choose to do to them.

BLITZER: Yes. President Biden keeps saying U.S. support for Israel and its security is ironclad. He keeps using that word, ironclad.

On that point, Congressman, Prime Minister Netanyahu said today that Israel alone will decide how it responds to Iran's weekend attack with cruise missiles, with drones. You have warned that Israeli retaliation would be a mistake. So, how should the Biden administration handle this very, very delicate issue?

SMITH: Well, I think exactly the way they're handling it. Look, we proved that we would stand up for Israel if they were attacked last weekend. The coordinated response that enabled them to not suffer significant damage from that barrage from Iran was in large part because of Joe Biden's leadership in bringing that coalition together.

But we've also made it clear that we clearly have opinions on how to get to a more de-escalated situation in the Middle East, and we're going to express those opinions. Look, literally, Prime Minister Netanyahu is correct. We are not going to fight any fight for Israel. They will have to decide what is in their best interest. But it's absolutely appropriate for us to say what we think is in their best interests, given our long-term alliance and the stakes that we have in it.

And Israel, responding at this point, would risk a dangerous escalation that I think would place Israel at greater jeopardy, not less.

BLITZER: That's interesting. All right, Congressman Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, thank you very much for joining us.

SMITH: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, how prosecutors are now planning to discredit, at least to try to discredit Donald Trump on the witness stand if, and it's a huge if, if he testifies.

Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: We're learning new information tonight about prosecutors' plans to try to discredit Donald Trump on the witness stand if, if he chooses to testify in this hush money trial.

CNN's Kara Scannell has the latest details for us. So, what do prosecutors want to bring up, Kara?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, prosecutors have identified a number of past instances of misconduct that they want to be able to confront Donald Trump with if he does testify. That includes the civil fraud verdict in the most recent case by the New York Attorney General's Office. They want to be able to use that a judge had found Trump liable for persistent and repeated fraud in that case, also the judge's determination that Trump violated a gag order in that case and that the judge did not find Trump's testimony credible on the stand.

They also want to bring up the two verdicts in the E. Jean Carroll case where the jury awarded her nearly $90 million after funding that Trump defamed Carroll and also sexually abused her. They also want to mention a sanction by a judge in a different case where he found that Trump filed a frivolous lawsuit against Hillary Clinton.

They also want to bring up a settlement agreement between the Trump Foundation and the New York Attorney General's Office, where Trump agreed to dissolve that foundation as part of that deal. And they also want to bring up the 2022 tax fraud convictions of two Trump Organization entities. That was just the case that went just before the same judge as Justice Juan Merchan. These are all issues they want to be able to confront Trump with on the stand to try to discredit him.

Now, Trump's team has indicated that they're going to oppose some of this. The judge said that he will hold a hearing on this issue before he determines what prosecutors are allowed to do. Now that hearing could be as soon as Friday if they do finish and select a full jury and alternates by Friday. If not, it will be later, but jury selection will continue tomorrow, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed, potentially very significant. Kara Scannell, thank you very much.

I want to bring in our legal and political experts for analysis right now. Carrie Cordera, is the introduction of Trump's previous legal problem something that Judge Merchan on might allow to come up if Trump testifies?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, of the many different potential areas that the prosecutors want to bring up that Kara just reported on, I think some of them potentially could come in, but I would be surprised if all of them would, the issues that pertain directly to his credibility. So, again, this is all in the context of if he decides to take the stand.

It is his right to do that or not do that, as any criminal defendant. But things that go to the specific issue of his credibility, I think those the judge would take carefully. But if it starts to sound like the prosecutors are trying to just bring any derogatory information regarding his involvement in the legal system, I think the judge would want to cabin that to some degree.

BLITZER: Alayna, as you know, Trump has said he is more than ready to testify in this upcoming trial. But he said that in the past that he's willing to testify before various forums, but he never did. What do you think?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, he did testify a couple of times very briefly, once in his civil fraud case that Kara was just breaking down, as well as very briefly in the E. Jean Carroll defamation trial. Both times he really gave his political line saying that this is a witch hunt, kind of campaigned from the stand.


But you're totally right, Wolf, that a lot of times he says he wants to testify, and then he doesn't end up doing so because his lawyers tell him that might not really be a good idea.

I think they're telling him that in this case as well, especially now that they're seeing what prosecutors may want to ask him. And I think, look, from Donald Trump's standpoint and just of covering him for as long as I have, he thinks he is his own best defender. He wants to be able to get up there, defend himself, say that this is a sham trial, which is exactly what he's been saying when he goes in and out of the courts to the cameras.

However, there are a lot of potential landmines he could step on if he does take the stand. And I know that those are things that his team is telling him, particularly with this gag order in place as well.

And so we'll see whether or not he ultimately ends up doing so. If he does, I imagine it will only be very brief.

BLITZER: He says he will testify. Let's see if he actually does. Audie, what do you what do you think you think, that he will?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR: I think reporters so far have been describing a very different Trump inside the court versus the one who comes out and speaks to everybody and tries to spin the day. Also to your point in that E. Jean Carroll defamation case, I think he was on the stand for something like three minutes and managed to be chastised like every 30 to 45 seconds.

I don't know if his lawyers will want to go through that same process in front of a jury, but what I do know is that there are moments where Trump is disciplined when it comes to the legal process. And so we will know the truth about whether or not he's listening to counsel if he is disciplined during this process.

BLITZER: He keeps saying that, nothing to hide, nothing to hide, more than willing to testify. Let's see if he --

CORNISH: Yes. So, in depositions in past cases, those comments have come back to haunt him. And they may not want to go through that process here.

CORDERO: Well, and whether or not he continues to want to or thinks it's in his interest and what his lawyer's advice ends up being regarding his testifying is going to be determined by how the trial itself plays out.

BLITZER: And so his lawyers (INAUDIBLE) don't testify.

CORDERO: At the beginning, I would think that probably is their advice now, but they also have to see how the trial plays out and whether they think it would be in his interests or not.

BLITZER: What do you think about the way Trump is reacting publicly right now? Alayna, you're covering him very closely. What he's saying about all of these things.

TREENE: Well, I think what he's saying is the same type of rhetoric. We've heard him use with all of his different indictments as well as other three criminal indictments that he is facing. But I will say, I think one of the very interesting things about this case is Donald Trump's team actually sees this as the weakest of the four criminal indictments that he is facing.

However, the fact that it is in Manhattan and this whole jury selection process that we're seeing him sit through right now, that is what is very concerning, both to Donald Trump himself, but also his legal team.

And there are a lot of questions of whether or not he could get a fair trial in New York. We know -- we saw Donald Trump today say that he thinks there should be unlimited strikes from his team to be able to remove people from the jury, not just the ten that they are allotted, and that's because he's worried about the makeup of New York. Biden won New York City or Manhattan specifically overwhelmingly in 2020. And that is very much playing on Donald Trump's mind here. And I think that is also, you know, affecting some of his rhetoric when he comes out and speaks to the public.

BLITZER: His lawyers and the prosecution, they each have four strikes left to eliminate various potential jurors.

You know, a lot of legal observers, Audie, think that the seven jurors who have already been seated from Trump's perspective seem to be pretty good.

CORNISH: I mean, I would defer to you a little bit about that. I think that we are all trying to overlay our ideas about partisan politics onto the legal process. And even some of these jurors themselves have made comments about how and why they believe they can still be fair.

And I think we'd like to be open-minded about that, to still have this sense that our legal system works, because, arguably, Donald Trump believes that not one of these trials is fair. I don't think it would matter if it was in New York or down in Florida or where.

To him, if he's saying publicly that these are partisan, if he's disparaging them, it really doesn't matter who's in the jury box. What matters to him is how he can reframe it for voters.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

And to our viewers, you can always find Audie's podcasts, The Assignment with Audie the Cornish, wherever you get your podcasts. I recommend you do so.

Coming up, we're live in Arizona where lawmakers voted today on a move to repeal the state's Civil War-era abortion ban. We'll update you on what happened when we come back.



BLITZER: We're following new developments in Arizona's abortion battle, the state's highly controversial Civil War-era ban still on the books tonight after Republican lawmakers once again blocked an effort to repeal it.

CNN's Natasha Chen is joining us from Phoenix right now. Natasha, this failed repeal comes after public pressure from Donald Trump, Republican Senate Candidate Kari Lake, among many others, to try to do away with this ban, but what happened?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there were two failed attempts to try and get past procedural hurdles to even consider this repeal on the whole House floor, and that's because, typically, a bill needs to be heard in committee before it goes to the full House. That's what they were trying to get past and couldn't get there. It was a 30-30 split. There's a razor-thin Republican majority here, 31 Republicans to 29 Democrats. And they just couldn't get another Republican to go with the Democrats along party lines there.

So, we are hearing from both sides of this issue.


And it's very difficult, because whether you call yourself pro-life or pro-choice, there are a lot of nuances where each person really considers different things on what's reasonable and allowed as far as exceptions and punishments.

Here are a couple of lawmakers, one, the Speaker of the House, a Republican on the House floor, followed by a Democrat in a press conference, after the fact.


DR. DESHAWN TAYLOR, DESERT STAR INSTITUTE FOR FAMILY PLANNING: There are criminal penalties associated with this, and that's a chilling effect. Each of us have to make our own determination about what level of risk that we're willing to take to continue to provide abortion care in this state.

CHEN: What's your threshold? Are you willing to go to prison for this?

TAYLOR: My threshold is not going to prison.


CHEN: I'm sorry. What you heard there was a comment from Dr. DeShawn Taylor. She is a provider at one of the last remaining clinics that offer abortion services in the state of Arizona. I think there are eight of them left.

And she was talking to me about how challenging it is at this moment, because patients are confused. When that decision came down last week, people thought abortion care was over. Right now, she's still offering abortion services for the short term, trying to figure out legally what's next, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Natasha, thank you very much, Natasha Chen in Phoenix for us.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentator Karen Finney and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

Charlie, let me start out with you. Is this a blunder for the Republicans in a key battleground state like Arizona and a state where potentially the majority of the Senate could be at play?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's a horrible blunder. I mean, Republicans have not only a messaging problem, but a policy problem. They can't get out of their own way. They don't know what to do on abortion. With Roe gone, this has returned to the states, and now we have Arizona with this egregious ban and they don't know how to deal with it.

And they're on the wrong -- That law in Arizona probably has 5 percent public support right now. And so as long as they're in that position, they've just put the Senate seat at risk, some House seats are at risk. So, this is a catastrophe for the Republican Party, and probably the biggest challenge they're going to face in this election is this issue.

I was the last Republican in the House of Representatives to vote against the 20-week abortion ban to not defund Planned Parenthood, warn them about this, there are consequences, post-Dobbs, and you're experiencing it right now in Arizona.

BLITZER: Karen? What do you think? How does this move by Republicans in Arizona impact the Democrats in their hopes not just to carry the state in the presidential election but also in the Senate?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, I mean, look, it's been a disaster. Since Dobbs fell, we've seen women being criminalized, doctors being criminalized, we've seen just a parade of horrors with women having their lives endangered.

And now just the idea that in a place like Arizona, we're talking about a law that was passed at a time when women did not control pretty much anything of their life, let alone vote, right? Black people weren't even considered full human beings who were three fists.

That's the kind of archaic, as President Biden would say, old ideas, right, that the Republican Party, many in the party, are still defending. So, I think it's going to be a real problem. We've already seen President Trump trying to have it both ways on the issue.

You're going to see President Biden and Democrats holding his feet to the fire, of course, for, you know, as the vice president said, it's his fault that we're in this position with Dobbs. So, I think it's going to play out up and down the ballot.

Frankly, we're going to see ballot initiatives that I think will help energize the Democratic base, where also there could be a fight on access to contraception. So, this, you know, message about reproductive freedom all together is going to be very powerful.

BLITZER: It's a significant development indeed. You know, Charlie, President Biden was in Pittsburgh today for a campaign stop. And he was near your old district, your congressional district in Pennsylvania as well.

He was greeted by some protesters with signs, anti-Israel, pro- Palestinian signs, they're opposing his support for Israel in this war against Hamas. How much of a problem potentially is this in a state like Pennsylvania, those who are opposing President Biden's position on the Israel-Hamas War?

DENT: Well, I'm not sure how big an issue it actually is in Pennsylvania. Certainly, in Michigan, it's a big issue because of their very large Arabic population. But in Pennsylvania, it is an issue. It's clearly dividing Democrats in Pennsylvania.

I know Democratic House members in the state, you know, who are under tremendous pressure from their own base over this issue.

So, it is a base erosion issue, potentially, for Democrats. So, I think they have to be concerned about it, but I don't think Pennsylvania will be ground zero right now.

BLITZER: I asked the question because Biden narrowly won Pennsylvania in the last election, not by many.

DENT: Correct. But the question is, are these disaffected Democrats going to turn around and vote for Donald Trump over this issue, or do they just sit it out? And so that's a real challenge for the Democrats right now.

FINNEY: But I think the issue is and this is what we see with the young people, right, on college campuses, as you know, this is where we're seeing a lot of the activity and particularly among African- American voters, because a lot of African-Americans actually are Muslim and have real feelings about these issues.


I think that what's positive is that the things that the Biden administration is doing has created some space and progress. And, frankly, I think it's important for these folks who are peacefully protesting, because I certainly do not want to do anything to endorse violence, it's actually having an effect. Because as we're seeing, Biden is being tougher on Netanyahu and is really putting up more boundaries in terms of where and how the United States is able to be supportive, and I think that's a positive sign and want people to know that their voices are being heard.

BLITZER: Another interesting political development, Charlie, and I'm anxious to get your thoughts, the Trump campaign is now asking GOP candidates around the country who may be using his name or image to raise money, to give a chunk of that money to the Trump campaign.

DENT: This name image like this, just like college sports. Okay, except no. Look, if I were a candidate running for office and the Trump campaign came to me and said, you need to pay me, I would have said no, we're not going to pay you. You should be supporting us. So, he's got this backwards.

Top of the ticket is supposed to help those down ballot, not the other way around. It's just the money grab by Donald Trump.

FINNEY: This is Donald Trump, though. Come on. He's licensing his name like he does to buildings. Come on.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, very much, Karen Finney, Charlie Dent, I appreciate it.

Just ahead, today's bombshell hearing up on Capitol Hill, new details that are former Boeing employee accusing the world's largest plane maker of a, quote, criminal cover-up.



BLITZER: There is new scrutiny on Boeing tonight after whistleblowers warned lawmakers the airplane manufacturer routinely dismissed safety concerns and tried to cover up records of shoddy workmanship.

CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean has more on this very disturbing testimony.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The crisis facing Boeing has landed on Capitol Hill. In dueling Senate hearings Wednesday, rapid fire allegations against the manufacturing Goliath once considered to be squeaky clean.

ED PIERSON, FORMER BOEING MANAGER: Every person stepping aboard a Boeing airplane is at risk.

JOE JACOBSEN, FORMER FAA ENGINEER: Boeing concealment led to two crashes and 346 deaths.

MUNTEAN: The newest whistleblower claim that Boeing's flagship 787 is dangerously put together. Sam Salehpour served as a quality engineer at the 787 factory in South Carolina. He alleges that large sections of the fuselage are put together with gaps that are too big, creating stress and wear, which over time could cause catastrophic failure.

SAM SALEHPOUR, BOEING ENGINEER: When you are operating at 35,000 feet, details are that the size of a human hair can be a matter of life and death. They are putting out defective airplanes.

MUNTEAN: Boeing insists there is no evidence of fatigue failure in the 16 years the 787 has been flying. There are about 1,100 operating worldwide and none have been lost to a crash.

In a briefing for reporters Monday, Boeing detailed that it tested the 787 to 275 years of flights. Boeing is standing by the design, saying, quote, claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate and do not represent the comprehensive work Boeing has done to ensure the quality and long-term safety of the aircraft.

Senator Richard Blumenthal called this hearing.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): What we see here is simply management that has been failing, manufacturing that has defects and a broken safety culture.

MUNTEAN: Lawmakers' anger is the latest chapter in a years-long saga of Boeing disasters. Two 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 killed 346 people abroad. In January, a door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9. Whistleblower Ed Pierson told lawmakers Wednesday that Boeing is hiding key documentation about workers failing to install the door plug properly.

PIERSON: I'm not going to sugarcoat this. This is a criminal cover-up. Records do, in fact, exist. I know this because I've personally passed them to the FBI.


MUNTEAN: Boeing, for the record, referred our questions about the missing documents to the National Transportation Safety Board. As for the alleged gaps on the 787, they are very small, about the width of a single human hair or two pieces of paper. That is on a huge jetliner that can sit nine people across.

Senator Blumenthal says passengers should not be afraid to step on a plane today, but that the issue is important to investigate. Wolf?

BLITZER: They're investigating. All right, thank you very, very much, Pete Muntean reporting.

Coming up, the first findings from an investigation into the deadly Hawaii wildfires just being released with details on how it all unfolded and the lessons learned.



BLITZER: Eight months after those devastating wildfires tore across Hawaii, killing more than 100 people, the state's attorney general is now releasing the first phase of the investigation.

I want to bring in our chief climate correspondent Bill Weir. He's the author of the brand new, very important book entitled "Life As We Know It (Can Be)". There's the cover right there.

Excellent book. Congratulations, Bill, on the book.


BLITZER: You were -- you were on the ground covering these fires out in Hawaii, walking to tell us about this investigation at a time when many places are potentially vulnerable to this kind of catastrophe?

WEIR: Yeah, there are so many important lessons that can be learned from this fire that took 101 lives, cost $6. This is the first phase of a three-part huge sweeping report from the attorney general there. And it really just lays out the facts, 400 pages, almost detailed. Second by second movement of every first responder, how the fire moved.

No real blame assessed to the emergency management and the decisions that were made, like the mayor of Maui declining to declare an emergency and accept state health, the emergency manager who didn't sound the alarms.

There was another report that just came out yesterday that was commissioned by the fire department in Maui. It was done by Western fire chief association and it really had very pointed things that went wrong in terms of communication. They used WhatsApp to manage staff and a lot of the firefighters didn't have that app on their phone. They didn't have enough staffing despite the red flag warnings.

But overall, Wolf, the lesson here is that nobody had the capacity to imagine 80-mile-an-hour blowtorch winds fueled by a hurricane, sending, you know, embers like rain across tinder-dry grassland that is the new world we live in, whereas our first response systems are still made for the old world. And that has to change.


BLITZER: It's so worrisome. And there are separately in another report came out today and found that extreme weather is going to make the world poor by reducing global income.

Your new book centers on the letters you wrote to your young son about climate change. What kind of world is he inheriting?

WEIR: Well, it's going to be a lot tougher. Its going to be hotter, its going to be more -- the weather is going to be more erratic. The water cycles, it'll be harder to grow food and move it, and our shelter will have to be stronger. Our energy systems obviously causing this change with planet cooking pollution have to change.

And that's a scary thing. When I first started these letters to him in 2020, I was in a dark place and there were so many, so much science around it. But the more I focused on the solutions, the Dreamers, the doers, the innovators who are tackling problems with our air and water and shelter and food systems, and really inspiring sweeping ways, the more hopeful I got.

And so I just began collecting all these ideas on life as we know, it may be changing. Life was annoyed can be, is a healthier, more resilient place and actually took lessons from people I met in Maui who were just models of calm in the storms and how to keep people connected together and fill every part of their pyramid of needs at the time of the lowest point of their lives.

I think we have to learn those skills to be able to be ready and take care of each other come what may.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit more, Bill, about solutions as people clearly are growing more anxious about the climate.

WEIR: Well, I was just back in Paradise, California, where they're building now fireproof construction that is much stronger and much more resilient.

I met -- you know, in Texas. Were seeing how that very red state politically is the greenest in terms of energy. There's more wind power and solar being installed in Texas than California or other places because is now so cheap.

Now, the challenge is creating ways to door that energy overnight and run factories. There's an industrial revolution happening, Wolf, that were just not seeing. It's under the surface, but billions will be made for new sectors that we're not talking about. There's so much worth saving and so much possibility for this next-generation if we just tell a different story.

BLITZER: You're doing such important reporting for all of us.

Bill Weir, thank you so much.

And to our viewers, be sure to check out Bill's brand new book -- there's the cover of -- "Life As We Know It (Can Be): Stories of People, Climate, and Hope in a Changing World". It's must read, so important. Thank you so much, Bill, for writing it.

And coming up, we have more news right after this.



BLITZER: As Donald Trump lays the groundwork for a potential second term in the White House, behind the scenes, the former president is already dusting off his diplomatic playbook.

Brian Todd is here. He's taking a closer look into all of this for us. So, Brian, Trump has been ramping up his so-called shadow diplomacy recently.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Between his higher profile meetings with current world leaders and all the jockeying going on between Trump's aides and foreign diplomats, there is a lot of maneuvering taking place and it's not without serious risk.


TODD (voice-over): Between court dates, he's acting like a man who's back in the White House. Former President Trump slated to have dinner tonight with right-wing Polish President Andrzej Duda at Trump Tower in New York, the latest in a series of private interactions Trump has had with foreign leaders or diplomats. He's basically been holding court at his various properties in New York and Florida.

Hosting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at Mar-a-Lago last month, heaping praise on the hard-line leader in videos posted on Orban's Instagram account.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said this is the way it's going to be and that's the end of it, right? He's the boss. And he's a great leader, fantastic leader.

TODD: That meeting drawing the scorn of the man who is in the White House. JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know who he's meeting

with today down in Mar-a-Lago? Orban of Hungary who stated flatly he doesn't think democracy works. He's looking for dictatorship.

TODD: Trump had recent phone calls with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the king of Bahrain. But it's not just strongmen who are queuing up to meet with Donald Trump. British Foreign Minister David Cameron came courting at Mar-a-Lago in recent days?

Why this shadow diplomacy? Analysts say the foreign leaders are hedging their bets for the possibility of Trump returning to the Oval Office.

EVELYN FARKAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE MCCAIN INSTITUTE: Foreign leaders will also want to make sure that they have some kind of knowledge of President Trump and what his intentions are vis-a-vis their country and the country's interests before he gets into office, that they signal that they're not going to be adversarial towards President Trump should he get into office, or at least to collect intelligence.

TODD: CNN and other outlets have recently reported that foreign diplomats in Washington are frantically trying to set up meetings with Trump's allies, and that Trump's aides are encouraging other nations to send their emissaries to Mar-a-Lago. It's not unusual for an opposition presidential candidate to meet with foreign leaders.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney traveled overseas to do it they were running for president. But there's a risk for Trump if he uses these meetings to undermine President Biden.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: We know the Donald Trump doesn't truly respect red lines. So, of course, there is a risk that he is going to engage in some perspective foreign policy see making in these negotiations.

TODD: And that would be a violation of the Logan Act, a law making it illegal for an American citizen to engage in foreign policy without the authorization of the current president.


TODD (on camera): And a short time ago, the Polish President Andrzej Duda, was asked by reporters about his dinner meeting tonight with Donald Trump. Duda said, quote, this is normal practice.

There's nothing extraordinary about it. He emphasized that this is a completely private visit and said its taking place only because he happens to be in New York.

Wolf, these foreign leaders are walking a very delicate line with this and they're being very careful.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens.

All right. Brian, thank you very much for that report. Brian Todd reporting.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern for "CNN NEWSROOM" back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.