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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Lindsey Graham Talks EgyptAir, Trump; Major Discovery in EgyptAir Crash; Urgent Search for EgyptAir Flight 804 Black Boxes. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 20, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: ISIL uses Assad as a recruiting tool.

So here is what I would say to Mr. Trump. If you leave Assad in power, then you're expanding the Iranian influence, which is not in our interest, and the war in Syria never ends, because the 250,000 people that have been killed have family members. They'll never accept Assad staying in power and being president even of a portion of Syria.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: But if you completely disagree with what he just said and his approach, what does that say to his readiness in your mind to be commander in chief? As you said, there's a 50/50 shot here.

GRAHAM: But he does make a good point. Russia and Iran have doubled down for Assad. What I would do is look at ISIL as Germany and Assad as Japan. I would get the Arab world to do most of the fighting because it's in your interest to destroy ISIL as well as ours but we'll have to put military pressure on the Assad regime. I don't think Russia will go to war to keep Assad in power. The big mistake Obama made was drawing a red line against Assad. He crossed it, he used chemical weapons, he's still standing. The Russians saw that as weakness and when they intervened, it made Syria much more complicated. You will never end the war in Syria if you leave Assad in power. The Syrian people won't accept it. The Arabs won't accept it. And ISIL is a direct threat to our homeland.

BOLDUAN: This is why I'm pushing you on this because I look back at things you said in the debates and what you said when you came out and you said you will not vote for him as president. You said that -- you've said he clearly doesn't understand the war against ISIS and how to win it. He said Reagan would be rolling over in his grave. You said that he does not have the temper am to serve as commander in chief. Do you stick by that?

GRAHAM: Well, my criticism has been wide and it's been deep, but we did have a good conversation. He asked good questions and I think he's reconsidering a little bit about what to do in Syria. I don't know if Hillary Clinton -- what will Hillary Clinton do different than President Obama? President Obama has no strategy to destroy ISIL.

BOLDUAN: Right now, do you think Donald Trump is more qualified to be commander in chief than Hillary Clinton? GRAHAM: Well, at the end of the day, that's up to the American

people. What I see is a failed strategy under President Obama that's pretty much been adopted by --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Senator, you are not a man to mince words. Why is it uncomfortable when I ask that question?

GRAHAM: It is uncomfortable to say that somebody is not qualified, who beat you. So the bottom line is the American people need to choose wisely. What will Hillary Clinton do different than Barack Obama? The people we're training in Syria will never be able to take Raqqa back from ISIL because they're Kurds, they're not Arabs. So the strategy to destroy the caliphate inside of Syria is a false strategy. It's crippling and hurting ISIL, but it will not destroy ISIL. And Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seem to have no strategy at all when it comes to Iran. They basically dominate four Arab capitols and the Arabs are tired of this.

BOLDUAN: What was your gut reaction when you heard that Donald Trump said he would have no problem talking to Kim Jong-Un?

GRAHAM: Big mistake because every other dictator in the world is going to look at you differently. The last thing you want to do is empower this guy in North Korea. Donald is right to say that China is the key to North Korea but I think it would be a mistake for the president of the United States to meet directly with this butcher. Focus on China.

And to Mr. Trump, you better come up with a strategy in Syria.

To Hillary Clinton, you better come up with a strategy different than we have today or we're going to get attacked.

This airliner if it is terrorism should be a wake-up call. My big fear is that they're coming here. The longer they stay in power, the more land they control, the more fighters they recruit, the more likely we're going to get hit, and my goal would be to destroy this caliphate sooner rather than later and I don't see a plan to do it coming from anybody, quite frankly.

BOLDUAN: Do you think -- you said very clearly you don't know if it's terror yet.

GRAHAM: I don't.

BOLDUAN: Do you think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton jumped the gun by saying it looks like terror, they think it's terror?

GRAHAM: I think, if I had to guess, it would be terrorism, but I don't see where we benefit guessing, because this is too important. I just want to get back to my message here. I have always said that we need more capability on the ground in Iraq and Syria. 8,000 to 10,000 American troops in Iraq helping the Iraqis. 8,000 to 10,000 American troops helping a large regional army in Syria. We don't have that. BOLDUAN: Donald Trump says he wouldn't be in Iraq either.

GRAHAM: That would be a mistake. Iraq is a safe haven for ISIL. He had really good questions. I must say he reached out, number one, and I was glad to talk to him. To destroy ISIL, you have to take the land away from them, and you have to look with who you have to work with. The Iraqis do not have the ability by themselves to take Mosul back, which is a city of almost a million people.

To Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton, it is in our national security interests not only to destroy ISIL but to hold the territory after they're destroyed so they don't come back. That means we have to have some presence over there to keep them from coming here.

[11:35:13] BOLDUAN: You have a lot more work ahead for you on that front if you want to get Donald Trump to listen to you, at least it sounds like that today.

Can you give me your assessment on what's happening on the Democratic side? When we talk about vitriol in a primary and it being a bloody and brutal primary, we think of the Republican primary that you know so well. When you saw what happened in Nevada it convention, Barbara Boxer coming on, saying she feared for her safety. And folks afterwards saying Bernie Sanders is hurting Hillary Clinton by staying in the race, do you think that's true?

GRAHAM: I don't know if he's hurting Hillary Clinton. But if I was a Bernie Sanders supporter, I would be pretty upset. There's no excuse for violence. You have to channel your energy in a proper fashion. But when you win a primary by 13 and 15 points and you pick up 5 delegate delegates, what kind of system is that? He's going to end up winning 19 of the last 25 contests and he seems to be making no progress toward becoming the nominee. They'll probably come together. I don't know.

We've got our problems inside the Republican party, but I tell you this division in the Democratic party worries me as an American. I can see a version of the Tea Party being formed in the Democratic party from the left going after moderate Democrats who won't toe the line toward a Socialist agenda, and you're going to wind up not being able to do anything. If the Democratic party begins to declare war on their more moderate centrist candidates through the Bernie mechanism, then how do you ever solve any problem inside of Congress? That's a real concern of mine. And you see that split beginning to emerge.

BOLDUAN: Senator, it's always great to have you. Thank you so much.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Really, really appreciate it.

A lot more to discuss, but, Senator, we don't have all day.

GRAHAM: We don't.

BOLDUAN: So thank you very much for your time. Still ahead for us, families of the passengers of EgyptAir flight 804 are now in a desperate wait for concrete answers on what happened to their loved ones. Their stories ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:42] BOLDUAN: Breaking news. Debris from EgyptAir flight 804 has been located. That is according to Greek officials. When we're talking about debris, it includes parts of the aircraft, passenger belongings, as well as human remains. Grim, but important details.

Let's bring back our panel, Dan Rose, Phil Mudd, Miles O'Brien and Les Abend. Everyone is back here with me, as well as we have a very important prop, but Les seems to be hogging it, the black box.

Speaking of the black box, when are we really going to start getting answers? Phil, you have some thought on that.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: These investigations tend to typically have three stages. When you start to get your first clues, for example, a claim, some sort of comment by an ISIS or al Qaeda person, some sort of indication that something happened in the cockpit, information will explode, and then the third phase after that speculative, then the information explosion, you start to center on the real cause. By the end of the weekend we should start to have some indication. If we don't have a claim by then, that's a clue. If we have no indication anybody ever had contact with anybody, that's a clue. I'd say another 24, 48 hours we should have some idea what happened here.

BOLDUAN: Miles, when it comes to the insider threat, I think you and others have described it as the weakest link, all the access folks have to the plane. How real is the threat in a major airport of an insider threat like that?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: The reporting this morning is there are 86,000 people who have a security clearance to be on the ramp or on the other side of the security perimeter at Charles de Gaulle. That's a huge thing to manage, and it's a very -- you know, when you think about that number of people having that kind of access to the ramps. Now, we're told --

BOLDUAN: What about redundancy? The sweeping of the plane every time it lands --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: That's why we don't have this more often, frankly, because there is a lot of that. But the European airports by all accounts are stricter than the U.S. airports, frankly, and we've had gun running out of Atlanta-Hartsfield involving ramp workers. The security we don't see, the stuff away from taking our shoes off and pouring out our waters, is the security we should be focused on. That's the Achilles heel right now.

BOLDUAN: Les, you're a 777 captain. If you're flying into CDG today, what's the conversation you're having?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: The conversation we're having is, you know, is safety related, normally --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Doing your job.

ABEND: Doing our job.

BOLDUAN: First and foremost.

ABEND: End of story there. But related to security, I mean, that's already been provided for us on departure. I feel very comfortable in the states. And honestly, in Charles de Gaulle, I used to fly in and out of Paris all the time, that was a safe place. It was the last place in the world that I would think that something could be infiltrated. But, you know, we all talk about link and, you know, where is that weakest link? But there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes and we should be reassuring the public for the most part getting on an airplane is still a safe bet, more so than getting out here on the West side highway. That doesn't necessarily make people feel any better, but it's statistically the truth. But at the end of the day --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Miles, you can take that later. It's OK, Miles. Don't worry.

ABEND: At the end of the day, I think we all have to be cognizant of our surroundings and be situationally aware. Just as quick example, flight attendants are the best people for security on board the airplane. Somebody gets on in the middle of July in Miami with a parka, that kind of says something. So, you know, in a way, after 9/11, we've become more alert, you know, in that particular venue, but at the same token, you can't cover everything. And what's going on behind the scenes we can only hope -- you know, Phil can refer to this -- there's some type of eye-to-eye contact and other type of behavioral sciences that's being exercised to keep us safe.

[11:45:44] BOLDUAN: Of course, this is a conversation that's all while there still aren't concrete answers, all pieces of the puzzle that everyone is trying to fit together as we wait to try -- they try to recover the black boxes to really start getting some of those answers.

What is the biggest question outlying for you, Dan, right now as they are combing the water, they're looking for more debris, looking for black boxes, checking the backgrounds of all these passengers? What's the biggest outlier for you?

DANIEL ROSE, AVIATION & MARITIME ATTORNEY: Clearly, the focus is on what happened. Everybody wants to know the answer to that. In terms of what is the outlier, you know, I think that if we don't hear some claim of terrorism or untoward conduct, you know, that comes more of a focus on mechanical issue with the aircraft. But there's a lot of explanations that are still in play, and, you know, we're going to have to wait it out. As everybody here says, you know, we're going to get the information sooner rather than later. Everything is lined up so that we can. The black box will -- it's orange actually -- will provide the information and, you know, I'm pretty confident that experts --

BOLDUAN: No matter what the answer is, they will start coming sooner rather than later.

Gentlemen, thank you very, very much. Thanks for walking through it with us right now.

So investigators do face the monumental task of attempting to identify and recover crucial crash evidence, potentially two miles down in the Mediterranean Sea. An inside look into the complicated and urgent effort to, first and foremost, find those black boxes. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:51:11] BOLDUAN: Breaking news. A report of a possible oil slick in the area where flight 804 is believed to have disappeared. Search crews from many countries, including the U.S. Navy, are making new discoveries by the hour.

Here to walk us through the underwater search, what they're doing, as we speak is Tim Taylor, a sea operations and submersible specialist, and president and CEO of Tiburon Subsea.

Tim, thank you.

TIM TAYLOR, PRESIDENT & CEO, TIBURON SUBSEA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for being here.

We are going to map the area where they found some of this debris, where they're going to start zeroing in a lot of their efforts. Before, when you're looking at the Mediterranean Sea, I feel like the last time we were on a map together, it was talking on MH370. Searching the Mediterranean.

TAYLOR: The Mediterranean is a smaller body of water and it is heavily trafficked. If you did a great map of this area, there's basically not an area on the Mediterranean that a boat doesn't travel within a year of travel. So lots and lots of traffic. It's not a remote location. If you do, it's 300 miles across to Greece from Egypt. So not thousands and thousands of miles. So a much smaller geographical area to search.

BOLDUAN: Still challenges though when you look for this. And we were showing on ROV is what we popped up on the screen. You watch the underwater operation, what are you doing? How are you using ROV?

TAYLOR: Well, the ROV is going to go to the bottom and recover items from the bottom. But preliminary, before we can get into the ROV, actually man-driven from the boat with a tools and whatever pay load you do the work, it's a physically working vehicle. The primary thing is before you can do that, you're going to look for it and map it out.

BOLDUAN: That's what we look at here.

TAYLOR: Yes. Think of it as an archaeological dig. You have to map it out first.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

TAYLOR: It runs a path of survey and takes a picture of everything there and have a topographical map of all the areas and the debris.

BOLDUAN: What do you make of this oil slick from the fuel, this kind of liquid that they're reported to have seen? What does that mean for you?

TAYLOR: It happens a lot from boats. It's not as definitive of a find, but it is a good indicator that it could be possibly from the plane. Jet fuel is very light. It's not like bunker oil that comes out. It comes out and evaporates quickly. They can sample it and tell you if it's jet fuel versus diesel fuel. Because it's coming from someplace and it doesn't get far.

BOLDUAN: A lot of questions. All kind of leaning on your expertise of what they're going to find in the urgent search for the black boxes.

TAYLOR: It also indicate the drift of the oil will indicate where it's coming from, the wind driven, so if it's coming from this way and you can follow it back up current.

BOLDUAN: Tim Taylor, thank you very much. I really appreciate it

Still ahead for us, officials at Charles de Gaulle Airport are ramping up security as we speak, attempting to identify any possible insights, threats at Europe's second-largest airport. We're going to take you there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:58:54] BOLDUAN: This week's "CNN Hero" is helping children in need find hope and help in a very unique way, through the sport of mountain bike racing. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG DODSON, CNN HERO: What a lot of people can't see is that our kids have equivalent of ten suitcases each of baggage that they are carrying on that bike. These kids can tell me to piss off and in time, what am I going to do? This is a war to me. It's me against the circumstances that these kids live in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: To find out more about Greg Dodson, go to CNNheroes.com. And while there, nominate someone else you think should be a 2016 "CNN Hero." Thank you so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

We're continuing to follow the breaking news on EgyptAir flight 804. That continues right now with "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[12:00:00] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is "Legal View."

Daylight is fading now in the eastern Mediterranean but a long day of searching for the remains of EgyptAir flight 804 --