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President Trump: We Are Not Going Into Syria;vUnited CEO Apologizes For "Horrific" Removal Of Passenger; Spicer Firestorm. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 12, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- in Ukraine when, obviously, the G7 were very interested in trying to police what Russia has done there. What do you make of that?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST, AUTHOR, "THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE": You know, Chris, when you don't know where you're going any road will get you there. And you don't have a sense with Tillerson or this administration, in general, of a set of core beliefs, and what have been the traditional core beliefs. And they are beliefs that Ireally subscribed to and that is that the European Union -- you know, Western Europe -- it's the other United States in the world. It's the United States of Europe. It's the other great center of democracy, liberal ideas, and free markets. And I'm a big believer that two United States are better than one.

Ukraine is not in the European Union but in -- what Putin was trying to do in going into Ukraine was prevent it from getting closer to the European Union. Prevent it from becoming a model of democracy, liberalism, and free markets that the Russian people might look at and say hmm, if Ukraine's really getting that much better why don't we have that same deal here? And so, what you don't sense with these people is any commitment to core beliefs -- traditional core beliefs.

And I would not -- you know, the European Union, Chris, is the most boring institution in the world. I once did a column about it and just to fool the search engine I called it Trump's European Union just so people would read it, OK?

CUOMO: (Laughing).

FRIEDMAN: But the European Union is the other United States in the world. It's our wing man in the world and if it is weakened, which is Putin's direct objective, we are weakened.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Trump spokesman, Tom Friedman -- no, just kidding. Thank you very much, Tom. We always appreciate getting your perspective.

FRIEDMAN: Great to be with you guys.

CAMEROTA: So, United Airlines is, of course, still reeling from that flight fiasco after this video of a man being dragged from his seat screaming. What is the airline doing today to turn things around? We have the CEO who helped JetBlue through their P.R. crisis joining us with advice, next.


[07:35:50] CUOMO: All right. So this morning, the CEO of United Airlines is offering his deepest apologies to the man in this viral video screaming for his life. He's still in the hospital after being forcibly removed from a flight. The incident and the airline's initial response caused a big hit to United stock yesterday. By a percentage, it didn't look like much but it was hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course, that could all be erased today, we'll see. Now, United's CEO is calling the confrontation "truly horrific." Is this apology enough?

Let's discuss with JetBlue founder and former CEO, David Neeleman. He led that company through a P.R. crisis of its own. You remember, almost 10 years ago, right about -- during this -- in the wintertime 10 years ago, paralyzed on the runways. He's now the founder and CEO of Brazil's Azul Airlines. It's good to have you. Important perspective this morning. What is your out-of-the-box take on what happened on that plane?

DAVID NEELEMAN, FORMER JETBLUE CEO, FOUNDER AND CEO, AZUL AIRLINES: Well, I think it's always difficult for people who are working in an airport if they have to go on try and get someone off an airplane.

And I was on a plane coming from Brazil one time on another airline, not United, and the crew rest area went inoperable and so they came on and said we need two volunteers to get off the airplane because our crews need those seats to rest during the flight. Well, nobody took them up on it and so they said OK, we're going to cancel the flight. We had 280 people on the airplane and they said we're going to have to cancel it and get off the plane.

And Iwas running around -- you know, I ran over to gate agent and I said hey, just offer more money and they said no, we have policies that only allow us to go this far. And I said well, you've got like $200,000 in revenue on this flight. Can't you just offer a little more to get some people to get off? And eventually, I said I'll give tickets. How about if I start giving money? I'll take a pool amongst passengers.

CUOMO: Right.

NEELEMAN: So the problem is the policies of the airlines. If these people would have just been allowed to offer more money --

CUOMO: Right.

NEELEMAN: -- then it would have resolved itself. I mean -- and Oscar's first instinct -- you know, I know him well. He's a good -- he's a good man. He's all about his people and trying to preserve and protect them so his first instinct was to protect his people. But really, it was the policy of the airline that wasn't his making -- it had been in place for a long time -- that kept those people from going from $800 to $1,000 to $2,000 becausethey needed those seats for a crew to fly -- CUOMO: Right.

NEELEMAN: -- to Louisville so they wouldn't have to cancel two other flights.

CUOMO: Right.

NEELEMAN: So it was just an unfortunate incident. So I think -- I think they're on the rebound now and I'm sure they'll get it figured out.

CUOMO: Right, but look, the money's relevant. Why were they only at $800? They should have done more. Policies -- you have the CEO out this morning saying it's never going to happen again and he's very sorry, but let's not get away from what the obvious point is here. It's not your policy, it's how this happened. Those guys wound up ripping him out of the plane, messing up his face, dragging him down the front. It's -- how could it ever come to that? You know, I don't care what your overbooking situation is. I don't care who you have to get where, but how is this an acceptable outcome to a situation that doesn't involve terrorism?

NEELEMAN: Well, first of all, it wasn't the United employees that went on and took him off the airplane.

CUOMO: It's true. It was the Chicago Air Police, but the captain --

NEELEMAN: Right, so --

CUOMO: -- is the master of the tube and we don't know that he went in there and tried to stop it because, technically, it's his house, right?

NEELEMAN: Sort of. I mean, when you turn over to the police, the police take care of it. And, obviously, if the gentleman would have said OK, I'll get off, butit never should have come to that. It wasn't United that did it. It was just an unfortunate serious of events that people can all learn from. I mean, my concern is that someone in Congress says OK, let's make a law now no one can overbook.

CUOMO: Right.

NEELEMAN: There's a lot of people that make a ton of money being bought off airplanes in America and that wouldn't be good for anybody. So, I think this is a situation -- a heightened awareness. It's going to be resolved. Oscar's going to take care of it. It will -- it will never happen again at United, I can promise you that, because you learn from these experiences. I know from experience and so it will get resolved and some good will come out of it for future -- passengers in the future.

[07:40:00] CUOMO: Well, once this man gets out of the hospital some financial good will probably come out of his because he's probably going to sue --

NEELEMAN: Right. CUOMO: -- and if United has any brains at all it will settle right away. But, you know, the CEO said this morning, "I'll never use those police officials again to take somebody off a plane." Is that part of the lesson here now? You can't take someone off by force if they bought a ticket legitimately and then you just have some kind of --


CUOMO: -- booking problem on your plane.

NEELEMAN: Absolutely. I mean -- and that's why on the airline I was flying on said I'm just going to cancel the flight. They didn't choose to forcibly remove somebody, they just said everyone's going to have to get off because we're not operating this airplane. So, it's just a financial solution. Had they gone to $1,000, $2,000 --

CUOMO: Right.

NEELEMAN: -- whatever it would have taken, the people would have raised their hand. There would have been a stampede to get off the airplane for the right price. And they were obviously losing revenue had they canceled those other two flights and inconvenienced hundreds of people. So it's any easy solution and Oscar will put it in place and this won't happen again.

CUOMO: Now, we wanted you on because you learned -- nothing like that. I'm sure you felt at the time nothing could be worse than what we're dealing with, with these hours of these people stranded on the tarmac, but this is worse -- what happened to this man. What did you learn from that? How did it lead you to come up with the creative solution of saying hey, you know what? All customers we're flying should have a bill of rights, and how have you carried in your lessons to Azul, which went public yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange -- congratulations?

NEELEMAN: Well, we don't -- I think what's ironic is that in the first situation in a crisis situation, CEOs I think are probably told by their experts don't apologize, and I think that was maybe the -- a couple of days into this thing. Oscar probably went with his gut as opposed to advice. And my first reaction was to apologize. I was very sorry what happened so I kind of went on a little apology tour. It probably led to my dismissal as the CEO. My board kind of told me don't ever apologize, it's not -- and so, I always think the first andmost important thing to do if you make a mistake is to apologize and so I did that.

And so, we instituted the customer bill of rights and I learned a lot from that experience. Today, Azul is a great company in Brazil. We fly 80,000 people a day. We went public yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange and got great value. And, you know, life is all about learning lessons and doing better and even though I'm sad what happened to JetBlue -- you know, obviously I love that company. I'm the founder of it. And now there's 10,000 who work for me in Brazil and 25 million people that travel with us every year that are happy it happened. So, it's like not what happens to you in life, it's how you deal with it. CUOMO: Very well said. David Neeleman, thank you very much. And that's an interesting insight. CEOs are told not to apologize. It may explain a little bit of the culture we're seeing in the White House right now. It's good to have you on NEW DAY, sir. Good luck to you.

Coming up in just minutes, we're going to have New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joining us to talk about why he wants the federal government to stop airlines from overbooking flights.

CAMEROTA: So, Sean Spicer made such a shocking statement yesterday that today, people wonder if he can stay on as press secretary. Two former White House press secretaries with us, ahead.


[07:46:45] CAMEROTA: Storms are expected to hit the central and eastern U.S. today. What does this mean for your holiday travel? CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Maybe a few bumps in the road if you're flying cross-country, for sure. This weather is presented by Xyzal. For continuous 24-hour allergy relief take wise all. Be wise all and take Xyzal. New Xyzal is out there for sale. There you go.

Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland, and for Stockton we'll see some rain showers and thunderstorms later on this afternoon and some will be severe. These are the bumps I'm talking about here across parts of the country. What you'll notice about the northeast, I think today, even D.C. northeast all the way to Boston, is a cooler day today than yesterday where we were 84 in D.C. -- 76 we'll be today. But by the end of the weekend, guys -- Chris, you'll be back up into the eighties in New York City. Sunday it will be 82 after a couple of cool days in a row.

CUOMO: I like it. That's the right way to say rebirth and renewal on Easter with some warm weather.

MYERS: That's right.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. So, there are growing calls for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to step down because of his latest gaffe which was a huge blunder. He said that Hitler did not use chemical weapons. He apologized, he owned the situation. Is that enough? Two guys who did the job offer their take on the challenges for Spicer and any chance at redemption, next.


[07:51:50] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust for which, frankly, there is no -- there is no comparison, and for that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.


CAMEROTA: A rare apology from a key member of the Trump administration. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying that he is sorry for comparing chemical attacks in Syria to the Holocaust. How will his mistake impact his future? Joining me now are two men who have done the job. We have former White House press secretary for George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer. And, CNN political commentator and former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, Dan Pfeiffer. Gentlemen, great to have both of you here.

Dan, when you heard what Sean Spicer said yesterday about how well, even, Hitler never used chemicals on his own people or never used gas, what did you think?

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I mean -- I mean, I was shocked. It was a, you know -- one of the cardinal rules of communication, whether you're a press secretary or communications director of whatever else, is never make a comparison to the Holocaust. It never goes well and this will go down in the annuls as one of the sort of most ill-informed and most outrageous ones. You know, I give Sean credit for apologizing but it's pretty hard to put the horse back in the barn here.

CAMEROTA: And meaning what, Dan? That you think that his days are numbered?

PFEIFFER: Well look, I don't -- I don't know, you know. You can't never really tell what's happening inside the Trump White House. I think his days as an effective press secretary, as one who is taken seriously by the White House press corps, you know, may be numbered. We may have already crossed that threshold.

CAMEROTA: Ari, you're not only the former George Bush press secretary, you are also on the board for the Republican Jewish Coalition. How do you explain what Sean Spicer said?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think you have to listen to what Gen. Mattis said -- the Defense secretary -- when he was asked about it later and he properly said that chemical weapons were never used on the battlefields in World War II and chemical weapons were never used on the battlefields in Korea. That's obviously what Sean was intending to say and he made a terrible, terrible mistake.

And I'm glad, as both a press secretary from a professional point of view but somebody who lost many of my family in the Holocaust, from a personal point of view that he apologized. He did the right thing to just come out and apologize. But, you know, the notion that this is somehow nefarious or indicative of Holocaust denial, I dismiss. I just think that's just normal Washington. If somebody you don't like in the party you don't like says something you don't like, you just say the worst things you can about him. That's not Sean and I know that for a fact. So he made a bad mistake. I wished he had never done it.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Ari, you're being -- you're being very magnanimous. And look -- I mean you know Sean from before he was press secretary for Donald Trump -- a lot of people do -- and everybody universally says this is a good guy, this is a nice guy, this is a smart guy. So, Ari, do you think then -- can we conclude that maybe he's overwhelmed by the job?

FLEISCHER: No. You know, I think he's actually representing, this issue aside, his boss very well. He's doing what Donald Trump wants him to do in the way Donald Trump, largely, wants him to do it. But, you know, I did some 600 briefings, 300 on camera, 300 gaggles, and Itwice had to retract my words. It happens when you are responsible for every word you say. Every syllable is written down and you have to be so careful each and every day. And it does happen. You say things -- anchors say things they wish they hadn't said --

[07:55:15] CAMEROTA: Never.

FLEISCHER: -- and -- that's right. When you're the press secretary, if you make a mistake you get pounded for it.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, I guess, Dan, that the problem is that people wonder if this is a pattern and that if, in fact, he is even unconsciously representing something about this administration that they -- it shouldn't be public and that is that there have been other gaffes or omissions that seemed insensitive to the Jewish population. For instance, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, in their proclamation they didn't mention Jews. Donald, Jr. said in an attempt to criticize, I think, Democrats -- he said, I mean, ifRepublicans were doing that they'd be warming up the gas chamber right now. Do you think that this -- what Sean Spicer said is somehow indicative of something deeper than just a gaffe?

PFEIFFER: Look, I don't know -- I know Sean a little bit. I have no reason to suspect that he has, you know, some sort of anti-Semitic views and this is not the case of a very poorly worded gaffe. But there is no question that there have been a series of things, the ones you mentioned. Some of the content that Steve Bannon's former publication "Breitbart News" that are very troubling. I just am hesitant to connect what Sean said yesterday to that without some knowledge that he shares those -- the feelings of -- that draw on some of those other examples you've cited.

CAMEROTA: Why not, Ari?

FLEISCHER: Well look, let me jump in here. This is nonsense to even go down that road. It reminds me of people saying all the rise in anti-Semitic events in the United States -- the attacks on the JCCs were because Trump became president. We only learned later it was done by a journalist and by an Israeli teenager. You know, this notion that anything happens, you attribute the bad to Donald Trump, I don't accept. Anti-Semitism is vile. I will fight it with everything in my power but I will call it when it's legit. Don't confuse it with other events such as this foolish gaffe.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, just to be clear, the teenager didn't do all of that. He called in the threats.

FLEISCHER: He and the journalist did. The two of them together are the ones who called in the threats to the JCCs.

CAMEROTA: Sure, but I mean in terms of the vandalism and in terms of the desecration of burial sites.

FLEISCHER: But that -- you can't blame that on Donald Trump. Why is that Donald Trump?

CAMEROTA: No, no, of course, not. No, I'm just correcting the record that they weren't responsible for the, you know, wide swath of all the things that were happening around the country. But I take your point, Ari.

FLEISCHER: But there's much of the political left that does blame it on Donald Trump. They attribute it directly to Donald Trump's election and that's nonsense. Sadly, there have been these types of horrible attacks before Donald Trump. Sadly, they'll be attacks like that after Donald Trump. It's a teeny, tiny portion of America that deserves and must be condemned.


FLEISCHER: I will never confuse it with the broader population.

CAMEROTA: So, Ari, in terms of Sean Spicer, does he stay in his job?

FLEISCHER: Oh, yes, I think he does. I think -- again, he -- yesterday's apology went a long way. It was the appropriate thing to do. I personally accept his apology. If he hadn't apologized I think he really would have created a problem for himself. But it was a -- it was a remorseful, genuine apology.

CAMEROTA: Ari Fleischer, Dan Pfeiffer, thank you both very much for your expertise in weighing in on this.

We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rex Tillerson face-to-face with his Russian counterpart.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Russian government have aligned themselves to an unreliable partner.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the attacks.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Quit having your head in the sand. Putin's a war criminal, Assad's a war criminal. They're birds of a feather.

SPICER: Someone as despicable as Hitler didn't even sink to using chemical weapons. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if he needs to be fired. He certainly does need to get better at his job.

SPICER: It was a mistake. I shouldn't have done it.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: That P.R. nightmare for United has a price tag, a quarter of a billion dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: United Airlines is tail spinning.


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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We do begin with breaking news for you at this hour. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart meeting for several hours this morning in Moscow as the rhetoric from both sides heats up over Syria. The big question, will Secretary of State Tillerson meet with President Putin?

CUOMO: And we have major developments in the Russian interference investigation. Exclusive CNN reporting that shows a very different conclusion about surveillance than that which Devin Nunes tried to sell, and a big blow to Trump's claim that Obama officials broke the law unmasking individuals. There's also an explosive new report out that one of Trump's campaign aides was being investigated as a possible Russian agent.

Day 83 of the Trump presidency begins. We have it all covered. Let's begin with Michelle Kosinski live in Moscow. The meeting between Lavrov, the Russian counterpart to Rex Tillerson, about two-plus hours. What's the word?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: And, you know, this was always going to be an extremely difficult meeting/