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State Dept: Tillerson Would Accept Putin Meeting Invite; Sean Spicer Comment on Hitler Causing Outrage; Eric, Ivanka Influenced Syria Strike Decision; White House Weighs in on United Dragging Passenger Off Plane. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 11, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You look back to any secretarys of state, left or right, inaugural visit, they've always met with the head of the Soviet Union or Russia. This is significant thus far that he is not, Clarissa. What does he say and what does this look like, with Lavrov, the meeting?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATINOAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it remains to be seen what he says. And I think you heard Colonel Leighton talk about the carrot and the stick. I've heard from various analysts all sorts of why are being thrown out there, potentially the G-7 could bring Russia back in and become the G-8 once again, that it could be something that might intrigue them. I don't think that's entirely realistic, given the way that President Vladimir Putin operates. And I don't really know what other options there are out there.

The most obvious, of course, would be sanctions, of the promise of lifting sanctions at some point, and the promise of returning to the fold, I guess, of no longer being considered an international pariah.

You heard Sean Spicer say over and over again, there are a group of reprobates. He referred to failed states, with the exception of Russia, though I would argue that Iran is not a failed state. This was the idea behind it, the rhetoric. The idea is trying to paint them as a sort of band of misfits not accepted by the rest of the world. So perhaps this is also something that as Secretary Tillerson will be taking into his meetings.

But, listen, everybody knows that Sergei Lavrov is one of the most astute, experienced, ruthless, cynical diplomats in the world and Secretary Tillerson will have to bring his A-game to these meetings if he is to come out with a result like getting the Russians to disengage from Bashar al Assad, which I believe is impossible.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, David. Jump in.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: I want to add in one quick thing. The carrots, as important as they are, have gotten so complicated because of the ongoing investigation into the Trump associates and Russia. Even Donald Trump himself has said that makes it harder for him to deal with Russia, and Putin knows that.

BALDWIN: It's almost like, what's in it for Putin to sit down and meet with Secretary Tillerson.

Let me ask you, Colonel Leighton, I was handed an update from Mark Toner at the State Department: "If Putin extends an invitation to Rex Tillerson, Tillerson would be willing to meet with him."

But so far, such a meeting has not been requested from the Kremlin. Why Should Vladimir Putin say yes to a meeting? What's in it for him?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If he wants to, in essence, say, OK, United States, I've put you on notice that I'm very displeased with how you've handled this with the attack in Syria but I will meet with you in the interest of dialogue and in the interest of working together at some point in the future, that would be a good thing. It would show him, in essence, to be a bigger man. But I don't know if he can bring himself to do this. Putin feels that he needs to not only control what is going on diplomatically in Syria but he also needs to make sure that he maintains Russia's presence in Syria and that's really the key that is driving him.

BALDWIN: On Syria, one other piece of this briefing -- let me set this up for everyone. One of the questions -- I believe it was from Kristen Welker, over at NBC -- did Ivanka Trump influence her father whatsoever in all of those Tomahawk missiles heading in Idlib's direction. This is what Sean Spicer said.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no question that Ivanka and others weighed in with him -- as it was asked earlier, Haley (ph) asked it -- that when he himself saw images, he was very, very moved. And I think Ivanka and others, quite frankly. I don't think there's many humans that came into contact with the president during that window of time that said did you see those images on television. So I don't -- I think there was a widespread acknowledgement that the images and the actions that have been taken were horrific and required such an action.

WELKER: What about those who --


SPICER: I think -- again, I saw the reports that Eric gave. Again, I don't think Ivanka stands any different than anyone else when it comes to the response that we got.


WELKER: Do you know what her personal reaction was?

SPICER: I don't know. But I don't think it's not dissimilar to what any human being would have asked.


BALDWIN: Maeve, give us the context. The question came out of the interview of "The Daily Telegraph" of Eric Trump. MAEVE RESTON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: This is an important point.

Ivanka has a huge influence on her father and she was deeply affected by these pictures. But what we've been talking about, is there a Trump doctrine? I think right now the answer is no. What we know about Trump and how he reacted to the situation is that he reacted emotionally. It was a very sort of impulsive reactive response to what he saw in these pictures and I think that it's important going forward as we try to figure out how he's going to define his foreign policy that he is unpredictable and it's difficult and people say the person who was last in the room has the biggest impact on him in terms of how he makes his decisions and that's going to create a very interesting approach to foreign policy and Ivanka may have had a huge influence on her father. We don't know. We haven't heard from the president in any real way yet.

[14:36:06] BALDWIN: David Chalian, just playing devil's advocate, a lot of people say there's no Trump doctrine whatsoever. What's wrong with that, to use the president's own word, "being flexible."

CHALIAN: President Trump, as a candidate throughout the entire campaign, and clearly in the beginning of this administration, prides himself on unpredictability. He has stated as such that he sees that as an asset, that that is a huge sort of tool in his arsenal as a leader on the world stage to be entirely unpredictable. It obviously makes both allies and enemies or at least adversaries a bit nervous, but he thinks keeping people on their toes without having a clear telegraphing of here what we do, follow by A, B, C, he thinks that benefits the United States.

BALDWIN: David Chalian and Maeve Reston, thank you.

Also, in that briefing a question was asked about the video from United plane. Sean Spicer revealing the president has probably seen the video of that passenger being dragged off the United Airlines flight. That response. We'll discuss what happened.

Also, more on Sean Spicer's Hitler reference that is sparking lots and lots of criticism.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.



[14:41:19] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's a strong one. It goes back decades. President Putin has supplied personnel, military equipment to the Assad government. What makes you think that, at this point, he's going to pull back in his support for President Assad and for the Syrian government right now?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think a couple things. You look -- we didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You had --someone as despicable of Hitler, who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons. So you have to, if you're Russia, ask yourself if this is a country and regime you want to align yourself with. You have previously signed on to international agreements, rightfully acknowledging that it should be out of bounds by every country. To not stand up to not only Assad but your own country is troubling. Russia put their name on the line. So it's not a question of how long that alliance has lasted but at what point do they recognize they are getting on the wrong side of history in a really bad way.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Quote, "Hitler didn't even sink to the level of using chemical weapons." What did you mean by that?

SPICER: I think when it comes to sarin gas, he wasn't using that on his own people the same way Assad is doing. Clearly -- I understand your point.


SPICER: Thank you. I appreciate that. There was not -- in the -- he brought them into the Holocaust center. I understand that. But I'm saying in the way that Assad used them where he went into town, dropped them down into the middle of towns. So the use of it, I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent.


BALDWIN: We're listening to a sound bite over and over to try to understand what Sean Spicer meant.

I have Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," joining me.

I've heard it two times and now when he references Holocaust centers. Do you think he's referencing concentration camps?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: There was a gasp in the room and people were surprised by what Spicer was saying. In this case, Spicer was trying to clarify and made things much worse. The second sound bite that you just played, the time when he was clarifying when he says on his own people, raising the question about who his people are and then brought them into the holocaust and it sounds like he says center, sounds like he's referring to concentration camps as holocaust centers. Let's let him speak for himself.


STELTER: This is a pretty shocking standard, even for Sean Spicer. And it seems like every day in the briefing there's something that chips away at his credibility. It seems like on a daily basis there's these strains on his credibility. This is shocking, given that it's Passovers, Jews around the world are marking Passover and that just last night there was a Seder at the White House that President Trump did not attend. There's all of these contextual issues that will come up because of the comments at the briefing.

BALDWIN: I was sitting at dinner last night and a couple from Israel, whose parents survived the Holocaust. And I'm thinking about, how they would have heard what Sean Spicer said, and to reference these horrendous gas chambers in which so many men, women and children were killed as Holocaust centers.

[14:45:02] STELTER: And saying that Hitler didn't do it to his own people. Many Germans were killed in the Holocaust.


STELTER: By the way, this was a talking point we were hearing yesterday. I don't know if that's where Sean Spicer was hearing this. But a survivor of the chemical attack was referred to as "worse than the Holocaust." I wonder if that's what he was hearing. We've seen in the past that President Trump and his aides have tweeted and made comments based on ideas that --


BALDWIN: Do you think this is the worst one?

STELTER: Ask me that tomorrow. There's a long list of errors and misstatements and confusing comments Sean Spicer has made from the podium. It's troubling when he's mispronouncing names like Assad's name and asked to clarify a comment like this and then seems to make it worse.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Brian Stelter. Thank you.

The White House also revealing the president has seen the video of the passenger being dragged off the United Airlines flight. Here that response.

Also, does this man have a case? And what about the other passengers who sat there and had to watch this on the flight? Stay here.



[14:50:48] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Has the president seen that video?

SPICER: I'm sure he has.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's his reaction?

SPICER: I don't think anybody looks at this video and isn't a little disturbed another human being is being treated that way. But again, one of the things that people have to understand is that when there's a potential law enforcement matter, for the president to weigh in, pro or con, would prejudice a potential outcome. I don't want to get in. But clearly watching another human being dragged down an aisle, watching blood come from their face after hitting an armrest of whatever, I don't think there's a circumstance that you can sit back and say this could have been handled a little better when you're talking about another human being.


BALDWIN: Even the White House now weighing in on the global outrage and P.R. crisis facing United Airlines.

You've heard these screams. This is all over this video. It shows a screaming passenger being violently dragged off this overbooked flight out of Chicago. The passenger was yanked from his seat after he refused to voluntarily get off the plane. Moments later, there is video of him returning. You can see the blood on his face, bruised, crying that he just wanted to go home.

That move now prompting boycotts, people claiming they will not fly on United, others cutting their United Chase credit cards.

In an internal memo, Oscar Munoz, the CEO, appears to put the blame on the passenger, claiming that his flight crew, quote, "followed established procedures," and that the passenger was approached several times to come off the aircraft and, quote, "each time, he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent." Even the CEO's initial tweet following the incident is getting some heat.

Jimmy Kimmel weighted in, blasting the response on his show.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: The CEO of United released a statement via Twitter. This is what the CEO tweeted: "This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers."


He said "re-accommodate." Just like we re-accommodated el Chapo out of Mexico.



KIMMEL: That is such sanitized, say-nothing, take-no-responsibility, corporate B.S. speak.


I don't know how the guy who sent that tweet didn't vomit when he sent it out.



BALDWIN: Meanwhile, United's stock has dropped 3 percent. The company lost $1 billion of its value on the stock market.

Randy Zelin is with me, a defense attorney; and George Hobica, travel columnist and founder of

Good to see you.

George, this is a P.R. nightmare. If you are the United CEO, where do you go from here?

GEORGE HOBICA, TRAVEL COLUMNIST & FOUNDER, AIRFAREWATCHDOG.COM: It's a flightmare from hell. Number one, apologize already. Oscar Munoz came from the railroad industry. And, Oscar, you're no longer moving cars and cattle. You're moving people. Get with it.

BALDWIN: The fact that he described the passenger as, quote, "disruptive and belligerent," the company has no blame so far. How can he -- what should he do next to make this right?

HOBICA: You know, apologize. Just say, I'm sorry, and apologize for his statements that were supposedly apologizing.

BALDWIN: Do you think that's good enough?

HOBICA: It's a start. It's a start. And then double down. And there's so many things they could do. Somehow compensate these passengers on the plane who saw this happen.

Look, they are going to get sued. It will probably be settled out of court. This is going to cost United millions and millions of dollars in all kinds of losses. If they had spent maybe $500 more in the bump offer, this would have never happened. They were cheap and stupid, and I think this is probably the worst P.R. disaster I've ever seen.


HOBICA: If a plane had crashed, it probably would have been less of a disaster.

BALDWIN: Well, my goodness.

HOBICA: They would have handled it better.

BALDWIN: Let's be glad a plane didn't crash, but this is horrible all the way around.

Randy, to you, on the legal side. I should also say, we're trying to get more information about who this passenger was. There's not a lot out there. We're unaware of any lawsuits pending this man's name.

But if you're United, yes, I hear him on, we need to apologize, but how do you defend United?

[14:55:27] RANDY ZELIN, DEFENSE ATOTRNEY: Well, the first thing I would do it check to see if we can change the name from "fly the friendly skies" of United, to fly the friendly skies of Dow," because he's going to end up owning the airlines.

BALDWIN: You think so?

ZELIN: From a defense posture, let's face it -- and I got this from my buddy, if you got a dollar from everyone watching the video, this is global emotional distress. The entire world has seen what happened to this man. From a legal representative, if I'm representing United, what am I

doing? I'm grabbing this guy into a conference room with his lawyer. I will have a number of checkbooks out. I will have a band saying I'm sorry and I will settle this quickly and quietly.

BALDWIN: What about -- George hit on this. We have the sound.

Guys, let's go to the sound.

I talked to this woman on this plane, seated across from him, and she was told to sit in the back so that security could swoop in and pull him off. This is what she told me.


UNIDENTIFIED AIRLINE PASSENGER: Even just now hearing the video again, it gives me chills. It was a traumatic experience. I was sobbing as the man left the plane. And one of the flight attendants handed me tissue because I was so upset at what had just gone down.


BALDWIN: Last question, what about the passengers?

ZELIN: Well, the passengers are the best jury, the best mock jury you will ever see. Remember -- and I'll get to this zone of danger issue in a minute. But remember, most passengers would applaud an unruly passenger being taken off the plane. The horror, that's what a jury is going to do. As far as the passengers go and their damages, that may be more difficult. We learned back in law school, the zone of danger, were they in the zone of danger? Are they going to say I can't sleep at night, I've been foaming at the mouth, I can't talk to my kids, I can't have sex with my wife anymore? Will they do that? Absolutely. But the reality is, this poor doctor who was just trying to get home to his patients, his wife watched, the world watched, break out your checkbook.

BALDWIN: Randy Zelin, thank you so much.

ZELIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Poor guy.

And, George, thank you as well on that.

We'll follow that one for you.

Meantime, we are watching to see the secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, and the commander of U.S. Central Command, holding a news conference there from the Pentagon momentarily. We'll take it there live. This is a big deal, because this is the first on-camera appearance since the U.S. missile strikes in Syria last week. We'll take the whole thing live. We'll be right back.