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Trump's Answers Raise Questions; United CEO to Testify; Kimmel Reveals Health Crisis. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired May 2, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:51] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it has been a dizzying 24- hour period for the White House. In series of interviews, the president has given several odd, confounding answers to different questions on North Korea. He said that he would be, quote, "honored" to meet with dictator Kim Jong-un if the circumstances are right.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would absolutely - I would be honored to do it.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now he also promised something his current health care plan does not deliver.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pre-existing conditions are in the bill.


BERMAN: And he also questioned why we had to have a Civil War, the American Civil War, that big war 150 years ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why was there the Civil War? Why could - why could that one not have been worked out?


BERMAN: All right, joining us now to discuss this, Julian Zelizer, historian at Princeton University, author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now: An Account of the Battle over Lyndon Johnson's Great Society," and CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali, former director of the Nixon Presidential Library and author of a biography of George H.W. Bush.

Tim, let me start with you. Your fellow historian, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said this. He says, "this seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history. It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the president." A confused mental state. Those are strong words.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. And sometimes, you know, it feels like this is the longest Thanksgiving dinner ever with the crazy uncle who believes that cows are the reason for climate change, and then you realize that, no, he actually is the president of the United States and he has a - he has the nuclear codes and he can kill Obamacare.

So if you step back and look at the rhetoric all by itself, you are stunned by the president's seeming inability to actually engage in logical thought. But then if you look at it at tactical, some of it is tactical. He wants people - he - he's in his full disruptive mode right now. He wants people to know, I can say whatever I want. I have confounded all of you, all you experts, and I will continue to do so. And, you know what, in the end, I can always make the deal, which is why he says, I'll meet Kim Jong-un, this is why he goes on about Andrew Jackson because somebody has told him that he's like Andrew Jackson. In many ways, this is a man who doesn't prepare for his interviews because he thinks he can wing it. And that's - it's very dangerous for the country. Doug is right, it's the weirdest set of rhetoric we've ever seen from a president who tend to prepare before they talk publically.

HARLOW: But, Julian Zelizer, you know, there are other presidents, namely President Reagan, who were criticized at the time for, you know, words that he chose and what he said, and then there is - we were - John and I speaking earlier before the show about Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who said about Teddy Roosevelt, right, he said, "second class intellect, first class temperament." I'm not asking you to give us a judgement on the president's temperament. I'm just saying, are there examples in history that we should be looking at right now?

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN & PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Sure. There are examples when presidents make off the cuff remarks. Reagan famously made a joke about potentially starting a nuclear war that sent shivers up the spines of many Americans and Soviets. That said, the difference is, people don't really know if there's a there there behind all these statements. The strategy is to say what one is to confuse both your opponents and supporters and ultimately promise to make a deal. But on foreign policy, he's saying different things about some pretty serious problems. And it's unclear if he has a road map about where he's going.

[09:35:27] With health care he's making promises about something that's in the bill that isn't really part of the bill. It's the opposite. And so that creates problems for members of Congress. So Reagan had a core (ph). He was a strong conservative, a strong anti- communist. We don't know if Trump has that in him and that creates more confusion.

BERMAN: You know, put the mental state question aside, maybe it's just extreme imprecision or aggressive lack of detail, Tim, but it does have consequences. Just - you know, just what (INAUDIBLE) was talking about right there, you know, on health care, it hamstrings the Republicans in the Congress right now and the fight. You know, if their - the president says that there's something in the bill that's not in the bill, how the heck am I supposed to vote for it?

NAFTALI: Well, Julian brought up Ronald Reagan. And Ronald Reagan is a great case study. Ronald Reagan wrote his speeches out by hand. Ronald Reagan kept a diary every night. Ronald Reagan thought in terms of sentences.


NAFTALI: So if you asked Ronald Reagan, what are your core beliefs, what is your strategy, he could tell you because he had worked through it. Donald Trump gives the impression of being - it's all staccato. It's all improvised. It's - one doesn't get the sense that he actually sits down and lays it out. If he did, he'd realize that he's hurting his allies in Congress -

HARLOW: And since -

NAFTALI: By making promises he can't keep.

HARLOW: Since we've been talking about the Civil War quite a bit in the last 24 hours, right, Julian Zelizer, President Lincoln did not like to stay anything off the cuff.

ZELIZER: Well, that's true. And most presidents don't. Certainly Lincoln and certainly the presidents who have followed in the current media age. And that's the realization that words matter. Speech does matter when you're president. I don't think President Trump is correct in dismissing the power of words. Every statement matters to members of Congress. It can matter to parts of the country, whether you were dealing with the issue of slavery back in the 1860s or you're dealing with matters of foreign policy today. A president can't write off those consequences.

HARLOW: However, he got elected this way. And they didn't elect a history teacher.

NAFTALI: But it's not a matter of history teachers. Go to any presidential library. You'll see how presidents prepare for press conferences. They're not given the words to say, but they're given the data to use. The - really, it's not about being a history teacher. It's about being prepared. It's about doing your homework.

HARLOW: Yes. And it's different when you're running than when you're governing.

Guys, thank you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, still to come for us, a big day for the United Airlines CEO. He is in the hot seat in Capitol Hill. Lawmakers gearing up to grill him after, well, you've seen the video. What's he going to say and what's going to change going forward, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:42:09] HARLOW: All right. You're looking at live pictures of a hearing just getting underway on Capitol Hill at any moment. We're expecting to hear from the CEO of United Airlines, set to face a lot of tough questions from lawmakers over that very disturbing incident where Dr. Dao was bloodied and dragged off that United flight a month ago.

BERMAN: Yes, United has since reached a settlement with Dr. Dao and unveiled a new customer service change, several changes, actually.

Joining us now to discuss, someone who knows the airline industry very, very well, Ben Baldanza. He's the former CEO of Spirit Airlines. He now works as an adjunct professor at George Mason University.

Ben, thanks for being with us.

So Oscar Munoz has been on sort of this national, I'm really, really sorry, you know, humbling tour. He's before Congress today. You know that those members are itching to criticize the airline industry. It's the easiest way to score points with voters right now. So what does the United CEO need to say?

BEN BALDANZA, FORMER CEO, SPIRIT AIRLINES: Well, you know, I think the way United has responded sort of 48 hours after the event has generally been really quite good. They stumbled their toe maybe initially, but have come back quite strong and I think the ten-point plan that they put out was quite good. It was rational. It was understandable. And I think most airlines will probably end up copying what United has done in relation to that. And I think what they're really trying to do is maybe try to stem off what might be some reactionary regulatory effort by the Congress.

HARLOW: Yes. That's a really, really good point because, as you know, running an airline before, you just love more - more regulation.

I should note that we did invite Oscar Munoz to come on the show. He's welcome any time. We've love to have him. I'm told he's not doing any one-on-one interviews today, focusing on this congressional testimony.

However, you said that these changes are good and may be adopted by the entire industry. What is the single most important change that will come from this that United is doing that's needed big picture?

BALDANZA: I think the biggest thing is better training of the crews of the team. As people understand the situations better, not board the plane before you understand everyone who needs to get on the plane so you can deal with the situation up front, better communication systems. So I think it's more training and systems internally.

I also think not over relying on security when it's not a security issue is a real important thing. And United addressed all of those things in their points.

BERMAN: And they're also up the dollar figure, right? HARLOW: Ten grand.

BERMAN: If you get bumped. That's pretty high.

Now, you called it, Ben. You called it reactionary regulatory changes, right? Congress stepping in and doing something. You say reactionary. Other people may say common sense. And one of those common sense changes is, how about stop overbooking people. How about stop selling more tickets than you have seats?

Now, again, that's what people say because they say that it just doesn't make any sense.

BALDANZA: But that's what I mean by reactionary because like this situation really wasn't caused by overbooking. And overbooking saves customers a lot of money because a lot of people just don't show up for flights. I think managing overbooking is really important. Stopping it would raise fares for customers and they wouldn't really like that - that reaction.

[09:45:12] By reactionary what I mean, if you go back to 2007 when, you know, an airline kept passengers out on the ramp for a couple - you know, ten hours or so.


BALDANZA: Then years later we have this tarmac rule that just really increased cancellations. A study at Dartmouth showed that for every minute saved from that regulation cost customers three minutes of delays elsewhere because of so many canceled flights. So we're living in a world of what I would call like YouTube regulation, a bad YouTube comes out and the government feels they have to respond and they end up putting in some regulations that don't always even affect what matter. And a regulation on stopping overbooking would do nothing to stop the incident that happened here with United.

HARLOW: But, you know what, the threat of government regulation, the grilling that Munoz is about to get, that sometimes pushes the private sector, as you know, Ben, to actually make the changes itself. Thank you very much. We're out of time. Appreciate you being here.

BALDANZA: Have a good day.

BERMAN: Yes, always interesting to hear from a guy who was in the fray.

HARLOW: Totally in the fray, yes.

BERMAN: All right, a heartfelt message from Jimmy Kimmel overnight, in tears over a health crisis faced by his newborn son.


[09:50:32] BERMAN: All right, live pictures from Capitol Hill. Any minute now we will hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan. Republicans have been meeting behind closed doors to talk about this latest effort to repeal Obamacare.

Our Phil Mattingly just got word from inside that meeting that there was an implicit message to the Republican members that they do not have the votes to overturn Obamacare, at least not now. So stay with us. We will see if the speaker says that when he goes to that microphone.

HARLOW: Yes, you're going to hear from him in just moments.

Meantime, it was a side seen rarely from comedian Jimmy Kimmel. The late night host in tears last night as he revealed that his newborn son Billy underwent heart surgery just three days after he was born. Kimmel talked about his son's diagnosis, his treatment and the impact of the current health care debate in Washington right now. Listen.


JIMMY KIMMEL, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": They did an echocardiogram, which is a sonogram of a heart, and found that Billy was born with a heart disease, something called Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia. It's hard to explain. Basically the pulmonary valve was completely blocked and he has a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of his heart.

We decided to take him to Children's Hospital, where there's a world renounced cardiac surgeon, who is by all accounts a genius. His name is Dr. Von Starns (ph). So we put the baby in an ambulance to Children's Hospital Los Angeles and on Monday morning Dr. Stars opened his chest and fixed one of the two defects in his heart. He went in there with a scalpel and did some kind of magic that I couldn't even begin to explain. He opened the valve, and the operation was the success. It was the longest three hours of my life.


HARLOW: CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter joins us now with more.

It's a side we've never seen, but an important one to share what he's gone through.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Indeed. This was Friday, April 21st when he wife gave birth. For three hours everything seemed fine. They were in the recovery room at the hospital until a nurse, who he was crediting the news, she said, if it has turned out to be a girl, they would name the baby Nanush (ph). A nurse noticed some issues, the baby was looking a little purple, there was a heart murmur. This escalated very quickly, according to Kimmel. He's describing their rushing to Children's Hospital, enduring a three hour surgery.

There will be more surgeries. Perhaps in about three to six months another surgery. And then down the line maybe again when the - when the child is a teenager. But Kimmel saying they're now at home. The baby's doing well. It's incredible to hear a comedian, someone who is up there usually making fun of others, instead thanking dozens and dozens of people.

BERMAN: I cannot imagine doing what he did last night and telling everyone what he has been going through.

HARLOW: I know.

BERMAN: Then I can't imagine, you know, sitting down and doing a show. Was he able -


BERMAN: To get through? How can you concentrate? I mean he -

STELTER: Yes, a 13 minute long monolog there where he is tearing up, where he is crying. And I would defy our viewers, if you watch the whole thing on YouTube, you're probably going to be in tears about it also.

He was able to end it, get to his interviews, get to the rest of the show, but this is something that's going to be with him for a long time. You know, I think this is something that's going to -


STELTER: Maybe even change his persona on the program a little bit.

HARLOW: Yes. I will say, we have friends who have gone through something similar. I don't know if it's the exact same diagnosis, but a hole in their son's heart. He's now a seven years old boy running around. It's been a challenge, but these doctors, the nurses are remarkable.

He talked about it in the broader context of the debate in Washington as well.

STELTER: Right. Right. You have a new baby at home. I have a baby on the way in a few weeks. Nothing is more relatable for everybody all across the country than child - than a child, a new child. And that's what Kimmel was reflecting on here, talking about the political climate.


JIMMY KIMMEL, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": They did an echocardiogram, which is a sonogram of the heart, and found that Billy was born with a heart disease, something called Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia. It's hard to explain. Basically the pulmonary valve was completely blocked and he has a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of his heart. And then they brought my wife -


STELTER: I think we have -

HARLOW: All right that - sorry about that. STELTER: That was the sound we played a little bit earlier. Later in

this 13-minute monolog, toward the end, Kimmel talks about the political climate, about health care, about how there are efforts to change health care laws, recently an effort to take away some funding from the National Institute for Health. The idea he is saying that everyone across the country, Republican, Democrat, whatever you are, should want the best possibility health care in these situations.

[09:55:17] HARLOW: NIH did just get $2 billion more in this budget.


STELTER: That's right. The point, that despite the attempts to take away funding, NIH actually has more funding. He also urged people to donate to Children's Hospital.

BERMAN: And you know it's not an abstraction, it's not a number when it's your kid or your family and that's important to keep in mind whenever you're discussing health care.


HARLOW: Thank you, Brian.

BERMAN: Brian Stelter, thanks so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

BERMAN: Really appreciate you being with us.

All right, this discussion about health care very pertinent right now. Live on Capitol Hill, we are waiting to hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan. The Republicans just had a closed-door meeting about whether or not they have the votes to repeal and replace Obamacare. We heard from one member inside the meeting. What did he tell us? That's next.


[09:59:51] HARLOW: Good morning, everybody. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: Yes, and I'm John Berman.

A lot going on right now.

We are moments away from hearing from House Speaker Paul Ryan. Republicans just coming out of a meeting discussing the plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, to discuss, frankly, whether the plan might be dead at this point.

HARLOW: A source from inside of that critical meeting this morning telling our Phil Mattingly where things stand at this moment.