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Witnesses Recount Man Being Forcibly Removed from United Airlines Flight; White House Policy on Syria Examined; Interview with Michael Cohen; Author of the Book that Shaped Bannon's Worldview Speaks Out. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 11, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] JAYSE ANSPACH, PASSENGER ON UNITED FLIGHT 3411: So we were suspecting that maybe they sedated him in the back to kind of calm him down and get him to go forward, because other than that, there's no reason for him to collapse.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my gosh. So, John, I mean, having lived through all of this, who do you blame here for this ugly scene?

JOHN KLAASSEN, PASSENGER ON UNITED FLIGHT 3411: Well, blame -- blame is hard, but all United had to do was try and convince some passengers, and it wouldn't have taken much more convincing to get some folks to leave that plane. But after the first offer was made, the United employee left, and it escalated. She chose people who were going to be taken off the plane. No one was talked to personally. Had she just come and talked to people, had they just tried some diplomacy, none of this had to take place.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Overbooking is not unusual, but it usually is resolved before you get on the plane and wind up taking off. That made this a little bit unusual. But Jayse, what was it like after all of this? What was that flight like? Like, once all this drama finished?

ANSPACH: Well, I mean, there was some chatter going on afterwards, just about what happened, trying to process it. But after maybe 30 minutes or so -- it was only a 50-minute flight. They turned off the lights, the United -- the lights went off, so everybody was tired and things just got quiet from then on out.

CAMEROTA: I want to read the statement from the United Airlines CEO about all of this, because he -- here's the one -- and the e-mail that he sent to employees, OK? He says that that man, he says he was approached a few more times after that offer to leave to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft. And each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent. First of all, is that what you both saw? Did the passenger become more and more belligerent?

KLAASSEN: I don't remember multiple times. I remember her coming on the airplane, offering everyone, then coming on the airplane and telling him he had to leave. There was an altercation at that point, a verbal altercation, where he said, you're racially profiling me. Why do I have to get off this plane? I'm a doctor. I have to go to work tomorrow. I have patients to see. And there was no negotiation that I saw or I heard or that I experienced. And then that was it. Then the police came on. And once the police were on, there was no -- there was no discussion. It was you're getting off the plane. And they said, we'll sort it out when we get on the tarmac, but on the runway, or out of the plane, but everybody knew as soon as he was off the plane, it was done.

CAMEROTA: And so very quickly, will either of you ever fly United Airlines again?

KLAASSEN: It's such a hard question --

ANSPACH: We were just talking about that.

KLAASSEN: -- to answer. How do you answer that?

CUOMO: Yes or no, would be one option on how to answer.

KLAASSEN: I would think twice about it, three times about it, yes. If there's an alternative, I'm taking the alternative.

CUOMO: Well, I've got to tell you, we've seen a lot of crazy things happening when it comes to airplanes, but this one I think is in its own category. John, Jayse, thank you. Sorry you had to relive this situation, but appreciate telling this story for us this morning.

CAMEROTA: We appreciate you being here, guys.

KLAASSEN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, we have a lot of breaking news on the international front this morning. Let's get after it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russian government, they have aligned themselves with an unreliable partner in Bashar al-Assad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was always going to be a controversial visit for Rex Tillerson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Tillerson's chance to really lay out where they want to go.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to be the president of the world. I'm the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bomb in to innocent people, you will see a response.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Military action in response to barrel bombs could signal a dramatic escalation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We called out Russia, we put Iran on notice, and we have told Syria, this is a president that is not afraid to act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our battles and our policy differences need to be behind closed doors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot have this strategic confusion coming out of the White House.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: What a morning. Good morning to you. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We begin with breaking news. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson right now on his way to Moscow. Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are literally reaching a boiling point. Tillerson calling out Russia for its support of Syria's brutal dictator and defending U.S. missile strikes in Syria.

CAMEROTA: So this is a big test today for America's top diplomat on the world stage. How will Russian President Putin respond to any U.S. demands? It is a critical day of diplomacy on this, this 82nd day of the Trump administration.

Let's begin our coverage with Nic Robertson live from the G-7 summit in Italy. Nic?

[08:05:09] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Alisyn. There's consensus here that there is a window of opportunity for President Putin to back away from his support of president Bashar al-Assad in Syria. What Secretary Tillerson heard today from the Italian foreign minister was that there's support from the allies who were here for the strike against Syria last week, that there's support for existing sanctions against Russia, but there wasn't consensus and support to have new sanctions put on Russia. The Italian foreign minister indicating that he thought that that would box Russia in, better not to put that kind of pressure on ahead of Secretary Tillerson's visit. Better to have Russia fully engaged in a political process, a political dialogue.

Secretary Tillerson very clear that he feels that Putin has a choice now, either you stay engaged with Assad and Iran and Hezbollah or you cross the table and join the U.S. allies. He also said that right now Russia has so far abrogated on agreements and obligations.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is also clear Russia has failed to uphold the agreements that have been entered into under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. It is unclear whether Russia failed to take this obligation seriously or Russia has been incompetent, but this distinction doesn't much matter to the dead.


ROBERTSON: But if you look at the broad, bigger picture here right now, the impression that's created among the allies here is that the United States, the Trump administration, has caught up politically with the Obama administration in wanting Assad transitioning out of power. However, what Tillerson thinks into Moscow is the fact that this administration is willing to use some military force to back up where it wants to go diplomatically. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Nic, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Trump administration officials are sending several different messages about when and why President Trump would act again against Bashar al- Assad. CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more on that. Hi, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn. The administration is certainly applying pressure to Russia, but other than that, the president has been pretty clear that he does not want to telegraph his intentions as to Syria. Nonetheless, in the big picture, when you look at everything, the United States has been sending a lot of mixed messages in the region.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you gas a baby. If you put a barrel bomb in to innocent people, I think you can -- you will see a response from this president.

JOHNS: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling reporters that another chemical attack or use of barrel bombs could result in more missile strikes.

SPICER: When you watch babies and children being gassed and suffer under barrel bombs, you are instantaneously moved to action.

JOHNS: This would mark a dramatic escalation of U.S. action considering that Assad's regime has dropped 495 barrel bombs last month alone according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Hours later, the White House walking back this apparent red line, saying Spicer meant to signal that the president is never going to rule anything out. Further muddying the waters, this interventionist comment from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the G-7 summit in Italy.

TILLERSON: And we will rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world.

JOHNS: Very different from Trump's America-first vision.

SPICER: We're not just going to become the world's policeman running around the world.

JOHNS: The Trump administration's stance towards Assad also remains unclear.

SPICER: I can't imagine a stable and peaceful Syria where Bashar al- Assad is in power.

JOHNS: Spicer seemingly taking the position stated by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Regime change is something that we think is going to happen. It's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad.

JOHNS: Which was the opposite of statements from Secretary Tillerson.

TILLERSON: Once we can eliminate the battle against ISIS, conclude that, and it is going quite well, then we hope to turn our attention to achieving cease-fire agreements between the regime and opposition forces.

JACK REED, (D) SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I think they're still searching, frankly, for a policy and for a strategy.

JOHNS: Meantime, Syrian war planes are back in the sky, taking off from the air base hit by the U.S. with dozens of cruise missiles. The Pentagon claims the strikes caused 20 percent of Syria's operational aircraft to be destroyed. But two senior military officials tell CNN it was 20 planes, not 20 percent.


[08:10:00] To clear up any questions, the president has asked the Pentagon for a full assessment of the bombing run on Friday. Military issues will continue to be on the president's plate today. He's expected to meet with his national security adviser and then dinner with some top military officials this evening. Chris?

CUOMO: It's very interesting. Joe Johns, we have the G-7 going on in Italy dominated by discussion about Syria and what to do. We have the secretary of state in the air right now, on his way to Moscow. Syria, obviously, on the plate. The president tweeting this morning, twice in the last 10 minutes, both about North Korea and China. No mention of Syria. Why?

Let's get a man who has some good perspective on this and so much more. Michael Cohen, personal attorney to President Trump and now national deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee's Finance Committee. It's a lot of committees.


CUOMO: All right, congratulations on the new gig. We'll talk about it.

Let's talk about the state of play going on with international affairs. The first question is, the president always says, "I am my best advocate. I want to speak directly to the American people about what matters." Why so quiet on Syria?

COHEN: I think right now, he's evaluating what's going on. He is listening to a lot of people. He formulates, like any intelligent person would do, he formulates an answer, and that's going to be the route that he's going to take. I think President Trump sent a very clear message to Syria. He is not President Obama. He will not sit back. He will not watch the atrocities that are taking place there. And as the president of the United States of America, a compassionate man, he's going to act. CUOMO: Does he -- how does he feel, or his take about McMaster,

Haley, Tillerson, Spicer all saying different things. It reads as mixed messaging.

COHEN: They should be on the same message and they should be on President Trump's message. So maybe they do have to get together and they have to come up with a unified statement. But it doesn't matter. The president has his own agenda. The president is going to do what the president feels is right for him, for the country, for the people that he's trying to protect.

CUOMO: What's your gut on what that is? Because such a big part of the campaign, all the way up until last week -- we have to remember that, until last week it was, hey, leave that world's policeman thing to a bygone era. The Syrians should deal with Assad.

COHEN: But remember something. When we were watching, whether it was here on CNN or any of the other stations, the Syrian refugees that were leaving, they weren't the young, they weren't the aged, they weren't women. They were all these 19 to 25-year-old men that when they were walking to these makeshift homes in Germany that they put up for them, it looked like a military --

CUOMO: But those were selective videos that some people were putting out. The numbers tell a different story. Women and children are at the top of the list. Yes, you have young men, but those refugees are the same people that the president is saying he cares so much about.

COHEN: You certainly remember those visions of the men --

CUOMO: Yes, the question is, why were people picking those videos? Was it misleading? The data would say yes.

COHEN: But maybe it wasn't misleading. Maybe it was more of the reality --

CUOMO: No, but the numbers, Michael, say it's not the reality.

COHEN: Again, I don't want to start talking about numbers. Numbers have not proven to suit me well.

CUOMO: I know.

COHEN: Especially on this station.

CUOMO: But I'm saying, the facts are the facts, right? Women and children are the main threats there. The U.N. says you have 5 million refugees who are now outside of Syria. The president had been very strong, saying I'm sending those people back. It is OK to have a change of heart in politics.

COHEN: Absolutely.

CUOMO: To see that a position was wrong or you were motivating the wrong sympathies. But you've got to own it and you've got to be clear and you've got to lead. Right now, we don't know what the president thinks about Syria.

COHEN: What the president has done with Syria is he's sent a message. He's strong, he's swift, he's decisive, and he is going to protect the innocent from these types of atrocities.

CUOMO: Every time?

COHEN: That's the type of person that he is.

CUOMO: Because as Rex Tillerson said, painful in its eloquence, barrel bomb, chemical, whatever the munitions, doesn't matter to the dead. If you want to take that position, it's a legitimate position to take, but you've got to take it every time. They're dying on a daily basis.

COHEN: But I'm not so sure everything has to be either all or nothing. There's degrees. And the president will pick and choose the ones that he feels are in line with his thought process.

CUOMO: What does that tell the people on the ground there? Only protect your lives sometimes?

COHEN: No. What I believe the president will do is I believe that the president will ultimately address the country. He's not shy of the media. He's not shy of television. And I think that what he will do is he will discuss his thoughts ultimately.

And I do agree with you, though, everyone needs to get on board with the president's message, whether it's Tillerson or Spicer or whoever.

[08:15:10] They need to get on the president's message because the American people want to hear a unified message.

CUOMO: They elected him. They had a whole group. He's the only one who got votes.

COHEN: And he is the one who will ultimately make the decision. You know, a smart man will go ahead and listen to many different people and he will then take that information, digest it, and use it in order to make the best case for what he wants to effectuate, and that's President Trump.

CUOMO: Right.

COHEN: He's a smart man, he's a decisive man, he's a swift-acting individual, but he's also willing to listen to people.

CUOMO: The process, though, is frustrating the intentions, right? Usually, it's let's get in a room, let's talk, I'll make the decision. I go out, we're all on the same page. Here, that's not happening and it leads to a critical question. Tillerson's getting off that plane, he's going to Russia, he's sitting with his opposite.

What's the message?

COHEN: The message has to be the president's message, always. CUOMO: Which is what?

COHEN: The president will probably come out and make that message clear.

CUOMO: They're meeting now, Michael, you know, and we haven't heard from the president. But when you're assuming Tillerson talks to the president in a way that --

COHEN: One-hundred percent and he will -- and he will be -- or he should definitely be on message with the president.

CUOMO: Is their regret for the president having been so quiet, so forgiving of Russia up until now, because now we've seen, even by their own reckoning, the Russians. Forget about the U.S. or the media or the people. This is the worst since the Cold War in terms of their perception of tension. He had been very forgiving. He was very slow to want to condemn Putin on any level and now look where we are.

COHEN: Now why is that bad? So, there's -- at least there's a relationship that's been started between the president and President Putin. Now he can actually reach out to him and have a conversation with him that's not already predicated on tension, right? The president will get done what he needs to get done.

You know, when he made the four promises at the inauguration -- he wants to make America safe again, he wants to make America strong again, he wants to make America proud again, and ultimately, he wants to make America great again. That's why he's going to put 50-plus billion dollars back into our military. Why the economy -- he's going to grow it where it's a greater than the two percent that we need. He's going to put money back into people's pockets. This is going to give America a lot of pride. Americans will be proud, we're going to be economically strong.

But one thing Donald Trump is, he's a compassionate man. I've been saying that to you since the day that he made the announcement. The media has him wrong. He's a compassionate man and he understands so much more than the media wants to give him credit for. And he will ultimately -- and I've said this so many times -- he will ultimately go down in history as the greatest president.

CUOMO: Well, you get judged for what you do and for what you say, and as that goes on so do the roles of history. We're seeing it play out in real time right now. The question is, why the mixed messaging, why the frustration?

One of the suggestions is chaos in the White House. Kushner versus Bannon. The president doesn't know which way to have his head settle. Do I stay with my base, stay out of interventionism, stay with what I said about Syrian refugees or do I go with Kushner? And the presumption is that he and Ivanka -- Eric Trump, in an interview, said my sister probably helped convince the president to bomb Syria because she's a mother. Is his head this divided between these two people?

COHEN: OK. First of all, again, the president already knows what he wants to do instinctively, but before he acts he does, again, what any intelligent individual does. You take in information, you absorb it, you digest it, and then you come up with your plan. Whether Ivanka's statements to him or Jared's statements or Bannon's or Priebus' or anybody's statements are heard, he will take the parts that he wants and he will ultimately decide what he wants to do.

CUOMO: Do you think he looked at Jared and Bannon and said work it out?

COHEN: OK. If you look to see what the media's doing, everything today is based off of unnamed sources. To me, unnamed means uncredible. I don't know who's leaking the information if there's a leak at all. It doesn't -- to me, it doesn't make any sense. There's -- is there fighting between Jared and Bannon, and Bannon and Priebus, and this one and that one? Probably, and it's not fighting the way that the media wants to portray it. It's a difference of opinion. That's all that is it. They have different views.

Do you think the president didn't know that there were different views when he asked Sean Spicer or when asked Reince Priebus to be his chief of staff or Jared to come in as an adviser, or Bannon? They all started with varying views and these views were different months ago and years ago.

[08:20:03] That's, again, an intelligent man. You take different views from people. If everybody had the identical view you really wouldn't need anybody.

CUOMO: So you're saying it's not existential -- nobody's on their way out.

COHEN: Nobody's on their way out and if someone's on their way out the only way you'll know is the president will tell you that the person's on their way out.

CUOMO: So let's talk about you, quickly. You left the Trump Organization. You're the personal attorney for Mr. Trump and now, you've changed parties. People won't know this --


CUOMO: -- but Michael Cohen was a registered Democrat.

COHEN: Well, I've said it on every show that I've been on with you -- I think all 100 of them.

CUOMO: So now you've changed?



COHEN: Well, I was asked by Steve Wynn who is an amazing --

CUOMO: He's the finance chair for the RNC. COHEN: He is the finance chair of the RNC. I've gotten the chance to spend time with him and his wife and they're really amazing people. And together, along with guys like Lou DeJoy and also Elliot Broidy, we're going to raise about $150 million a year over the next four years.

CUOMO: Ambitious.

COHEN: We're on path for it. When did I start, 30 days ago? I'm already in excess of $2.5 million and that's in between doing everything else that I'm doing. I also created a strategic alliance with Squire Patton Boggs where my office is at, both here in D.C. and also in London -- my dedicated offices and representing a handful of individuals and some companies on the outside. But it gives me the opportunity to raise a substantial amount of money for the RNC Finance Committee for what? For the mid-term elections and ultimately the 2020 reelection.

CUOMO: We'll see what the numbers are in the filings. Good luck to you.

COHEN: Can I ask you for a donation?

CUOMO: Yes, you can ask.

COHEN: All right.

CUOMO: The answer's no.


CUOMO: The last brash New Yorker who changed from Democrat to Republican is now sitting in the White House, so we'll keep an eye on you.

COHEN: Right.

CUOMO: Michael Cohen, thank you very much.

COHEN: Really nice to see you.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

COHEN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn?


Up next, we have a fascinating segment. It's the book that inspired the vision of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. We will have the author of "The Fourth Turning" with us next. He's going to tell us why Steve Bannon thinks the U.S. is facing an imminent catastrophe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:25:50] CAMEROTA: So, it's the book that is said to have inspired White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's world view. The book is called "The Fourth Turning" and it lays out a history that America goes through these 80-year cycles of prosperity and catastrophe. And if the pattern holds, we're due for catastrophe.

Neil Howe is the author of that book. He's also a managing director at Hedgeye Risk Management and he joins us now.

Mr. Howe, thanks for being here.

NEIL HOWE, AUTHOR, "THE FOURTH TURNING": Thanks to be here, Melissa.


HOWE: Alisyn, sorry.

CAMEROTA: But I'll put that aside.



CAMEROTA: But meanwhile, look, critics have taken some issue with the premise of your book, but let me put it up for people that you say that there are these sort of 80-year cycles.

And so, here are the crisis periods as you lay it out in your book. 1767, there was the American Revolution. Eighty years later, 1843, the civil war. Eighty years later, the Great Depression, World War II. Eighty years later, 2005, we see the Great Recession or at least ones the cusp of it and in the middle of the war on terror.

Obviously, you know, critics say that you left out a few important historical moments and Vietnam could have been in there, Kennedy assassination, but it doesn't fit the 80-year premise.

Let's put that aside for the moment, because the real point is that Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist to Donald Trump was quite inspired by your book. And in fact, worked with you on a documentary about the book called "Generation Zero."

So, tell us about Steve Bannon, working with him, and what you see as his world view.

HOWE: Well, I think that he saw certain things in our book, and I should, you know, hasten to add that we look at other societies, too, not just America. But we think that this pattern of a, you know, long cycle has been identified by going back to Arnold Toynbee, as kind of an enduring and interesting feature of modern societies, and other aspects of it, too. You know, roughly halfway in between these periods of kind of outer civic world crisis, we have the great awakenings of American history where we re-shape the inner world of culture and values and religion --

CAMEROTA: Right, but we're headed for a cataclysm. I mean, is that the thinking?

HOWE: Well, the cataclysm -- well, you know, if you want to call the Great Depression and World War II a cataclysm, it also solved a great deal of problems around the world, right?

CAMEROTA: Aha! OK, I'm glad you said because what we understand to be Steve Bannon's world view, but you know him better, is that there's a certain burn it down quality, let it blow up quality, so something better can come of it. Go ahead.

HOWE: I don't think it's just Steve Bannon. I think it's the American electorate.

We have a rising share of Americans who have absolutely no trust in the system. They're losing faith that their kids are going to be better off than they are. Our economy is losing its business dynamism. There's a great deal of uncertainty about the basic underpinnings of our institution, so a lot of Americans voted for a wrecking ball and pretty much admitted that.

If you look at the exit polls, many of them just said, it's time to put in place anyone, even a guy I don't particularly like very much, who can kind of tear some stuff down so we can start building over again.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but, you know, look, let me just say that there are other catalysts for change, other than catastrophe. But it's interesting, if that is Steve Bannon's world view, than it feels as though, is he hastening the catastrophe so the, you know, sort of flower can emerge from the scorched earth?

HOWE: No, I think you're distorting -- I think you're distorting the outlook. To be aware of the rhythms of history, to be aware of the mood of the times we're in is simply to be aware of the possibilities that exist. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to hasten it.

You know the difference between winter and spring or daylight and nighttime. It constrains you and it presents you with a certain set of options you wouldn't have in another time.