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Tokyo-Bound Jet Returns to L.A.; Russia Offers Mediation; Sports Headlines; Trump Takes Aim at FBI. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 27, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:33:16] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Some Tokyo bound passengers are hoping to make it to Japan on the second try after an administrative mix-up forced their plane to turn around back to Los Angeles four hours after takeoff. And wait until you hear who is on board.

CNN's Rene Marsh is live in Washington with more.

This is really frustrating.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we're being kind about it. Very frustrating, you're right, Alisyn.

This was an Al Nippon Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. There were 226 people on board. So you can imagine just how loud the groans were when the pilot informed them that about four hours into the 11- hour flight they needed to turn the plane around. You had that image up on the screen. I want to bring it back up so you can see. That was the track of the flight. It went for about four hours. Did not make it to its destination before it had to turn back and return to Los Angeles.

The ordeal went viral partly because one of the flight's very famous passengers was live tweeting the entire situation as it unfolded. We're talking about supermodel Chrissy Teigen, who is also singer John Legend's wife. Her tweets were quite entertaining, actually. In one tweet she tweeted that L.A. to L.A. trip is complete after eight hours and 20 minutes.

This morning the airline tells CNN that during the flight the cabin crew became aware that one of the passengers boarded the incorrect flight. They then notified the pilot. And as part of the airlines security procedure, they decided to return to the airport in Los Angeles.

I will say that the airline is still trying to figure out exactly what went wrong here. We can note that United Airlines and Al Nippon Airlines, they do have a partnership. It's a code-share (ph). Perhaps that has something to do with it, but we still don't have solid answers on what happened here just yet.

[06:35:12] CAMEROTA: Right.

Bill. BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: You could almost hear the collective groan from that plane when they must have made that announcement. We're turning around.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. In this day and age, how do you get on the wrong flight? You're checked so many times.

MARSH: And you -- exactly, and you scan your boarding pass before you get on as well.

WEIR: Yes. Human error, it was always there.

Rene, thanks so much.

MARSH: Sure.

WEIR: Coming up, Russia is offering to mediate between the U.S. and North Korea. How generous. But could it work? We'll ask a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, next.


WEIR: The Kremlin says Russia is ready to act as a mediator between the United States and North Korea. This comes as Palestinian president says the U.S. is, quote, disqualified from peace talks entirely.

Is America in retreat on the world stage? Let's ask Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, now a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution, vice chairman at Hills and Company.

Ambassador, good morning. Thanks so much for getting up early for us.


WEIR: So let's talk about this Russia offer to mediate. They've had some efforts. I don't know how you would characterize them on the Syrian front. But what would -- what should we make, what does it say about America, the state of the world, Russia, that they're making this offer?

[06:40:13] PICKERING: Well, it says two things, Bill. One is that we are, I think, in the eyes of people overseas, declining. About 35 countries in a Pew study back in June said we've declined, some of them from 80 percent to 20 percent popularity and public opinion. And that's not something that I think the United States needs or wants in terms of being able to lead the international community.

North Korea is a particularly difficult problem. There's sort of three possible outcomes here. One is war. The other is chaos. And I think the people in the region, particularly China, don't want either of those.

The third is a negotiated solution. I'm not sure the Russians will be the greatest allies in getting us in the direction we want to go, which is I think a denuclearized peninsula, a very hard, very long term, very difficult subject. But I do think that Secretary Tillerson has been right in saying it's time for us to open channels to the North Koreans, to begin to take this military pressure and the sanction pressure in the direction we want to see it go with various steps that are going to lead, I hope, toward denuclearization without conflict. The U.S. public is not interested, I think, in another war, particularly in Asia. But that's what's happening around here and the drums are beating. And if we don't move that particular pressure into the direction we want to go, we may well get those first two alternatives. And I don't think, at this stage, the Russians want that easy -- that either.

WEIR: Right.

PICKERING: So they're jumping in to see what they can do to prevent chaos on their border.

WEIR: Those who have played the board game Risk might know that North Korea shares a border with Russia and China and our interests -- the United States' interests may not align. They might like that buffer there. When it comes to mutual interest, when it comes to North Korea, do we even share those with Russia?

PICKERING: I think we share a mutual interest in not having a nuclear Korea.

WEIR: Yes.

PICKERING: China has a deep interest in having a buffer. China has a deep interest in avoiding chaos. China has a deep interest in not seem to collapse --

WEIR: Right.

PICKERING: On a question where it has a strategic relationship to North Korea.

So those are the things that we have to deal with that are very difficult. But not having an opportunity across the table -- and I think bilaterally certainly to begin with -- is very important, U.S. and the DPRK, North Korea, to get something moving. And I would hope that it would move in that direction soon. The absence of diplomacy here is really the absence of, I think, the one viable alternative that lies out there.

WEIR: Right. Let's pivot to the U.N. You were ambassador to the U.N. for a number of years. The big news lately since that Jerusalem capitol embassy kerfuffle, much of the world voting against the U.S. position on that, and then came the cut in funding. Here's Nikki Haley talking about the quarter billion dollar cut. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked. That's $285 million cut after the U.S. efforts there.

What should we make of this?

PICKERING: Well, I think those kinds of approaches toward votes in the U.N., very hard line. Very difficult. They're only going to generate more and more, put it this way, distancing from the United States in United Nations votes. And while, obviously, it meets some of the demands of the White House in this particular regard, who sees foreign policy as not strategic but episodic, not governance but virtual reality television, not progress but how much the president can be further exalted in the television and in the front pages of the press and in the media. These should not things that I think should be the guideposts for U.S. interests. What they are is the guidepost for a presidency which seems to have diminished U.S. interests in favor of what is clearly personalismo.

WEIR: Well, the security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is trying to sell the idea America first doesn't mean America alone, but it looks like those around the world, that message hasn't sunk in yet.

PICKERING: I don't think so. And America first clearly is domestic and domestic policy is very important.

WEIR: Yes.

PICKERING: How the president deals with that is very much, I think, in the interest of the country that he do so correctly. But America first doesn't seem to be America leading. It doesn't seem to be America wise. And it doesn't seem to be America strategic. It seems to be America playing on virtual reality TV.

WEIR: Ambassador Thomas Pickering, thanks so much again.

PICKERING: Thank you very much, Bill.

CAMEROTA: All right, so James Harrison signs with one of the Steelers biggest rivals after being cut by the team and he's being welcomed with open arms. We'll show you. The "Bleacher Report," next.


[06:48:34] CAMEROTA: Bone chilling cold and snow gripping the northeastern U.S.. Now National Guard troops put on active duty in Pennsylvania after parts of that state tried to deal with this record- breaking snow. Near whiteout conditions in Erie prompting a disaster emergency declaration. Snow has buried that city in more than five feet of the white stuff with more on the way. Wowie.

WEIR: That's crazy. That's not your set. Do not adjust your picture.

After being cut by the Steelers, linebacker James Harrison finds a new home with their AFC rivals, the New England Patriots. Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.


You know, this is a typical Bill Belichick move, signing a player that was cut by a team that his Patriots may potentially play in the playoffs. Could get some good intel.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

Now, Harrison's a five-time pro-bowler, former defensive player of the year. A big time fan favorite for the Steelers, even though he's only played five games this year. And this is kind of twisting the knife in the hearts of Steelers fans. Harrison posting a selfie with Tom Brady saying, finally, a teammate that is older than me. Harrison's 39 years old. Brady one year older at 40.

All right, in the NBA last night, Suns-Grizzlies tied at 97, 0.6 seconds on the clock. They inbound the ball, throwing it right at the hoop and Tyson Chandler slams it home for the win. But that looks like offensive goal tending, right? Well, did you know you can't goal tend a ball that isn't going to count. So since the ball was coming from out of bounds, you can slam it home no matter where it is above the rim. Suns star Devin Booker, Alisyn, said he thought that Coach Jay Triano was crazy when he made them go over it in practice. You know, I'd actually be interested to know how many coaches in the NBA actually know that that's a rule that you can do that?

[06:50:19] CAMEROTA: Eighty-two. I know the answer to that. So, you know me, I'm like a whiz with these sports facts.

SCHOLES: Oh, yes.

CAMEROTA: So, there you go.

SCHOLES: All right.

CAMEROTA: All right, Andy, thank you very much.

President Trump attack the FBI again. What effect is that having on their day-to-day business? We get some inside insight, next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump calls the FBI tainted in his latest attack on the nation's top law enforcement agency. How is this affecting the bureau and Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Let's discuss it with Jeffrey Toobin. He's our CNN chief legal analyst. And Philip Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst who worked at the FBI and the CIA.

Gentlemen, great to have you here.

So every day there's -- there are new attacks on the FBI and other law enforcement.

So, Phil, I want to start with you because it seems the president has been leading this charge of attacking the FBI for a while, but now some right wing politicians are jumping on board. The latest comes from Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida and he goes even further. Listen to what he said.

[06:55:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: I'm very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it deep state or what, are kind of off the rails.

Oh, I don't want to discredit them. I just -- I would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it and say, look, we've got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here. Those are the people that I want the American people to see and know the good works being done, not these people who are kind of the deep state.


CAMEROTA: Phil, is the FBI the deep state, whatever that means?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Absolutely. This is a coup that's going to take over the president within the next 24 hours. Let's break --

CAMEROTA: Breaking news. Thank you for that.

MUDD: No, let's -- let me be clear about this because I think there's a broad misunderstanding here. There's 30,000 to 35,000 FBI employees working on everything from gangs and violent crime to white collar fraud. Most of them, as I would be, are looking at this saying, this is what's called at the FBI the seventh floor. The president's taking aim at a handful of top officials at the FBI. The Congress is taking aim because this is a political issue. They want to set up the American people and say any findings from the Muller investigation are tainted.

But there's a fundamental difference between the day to day work of FBI personnel, analysts, agents, support personnel and how they view this and what's going on at the seventh floor level, the FBI director level at the FBI. I don't think this has any effect, if anything a minimal effect on the day-to-day FBI workforce. They've got a lot of other stuff to do besides the Russia investigation.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, Jeffrey, is it possible to taint the FBI and then any investigations and then Robert Mueller's investigation beyond repair?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't know about beyond repair. But I think what the president is doing is he's trying to put the Mueller investigation into the political world. The incredibly polarized world in which we live, in which Democrats and Republicans at the moment see things so differently that, you know, when Mueller was first appointed, there was this bipartisan praise for him. But if you look at polls recently, Republicans are starting to see him much more critically and Democrats are seeing him much more favorably so that he's being seen as just another political actor rather than someone who is apart from politics.

CAMEROTA: But don't you think that that bleeds into the findings, the investigation? Don't you think that people will find it tainted?

TOOBIN: Well, I think -- certainly Trump partisans will. I mean I think Trump partisans now see Mueller, thanks to the president's efforts, as someone who is a political enemy of the president. I don't think that's true. And, remember, the Trump partisans are not a majority of the country. They are a shrinking, you know, plurality.


TOOBIN: Thirty-five to 40 percent. But they have really turned against Mueller in a big way.

CAMEROTA: But, Phil, let me ask you this. We've seen James Comey, fired. The deputy director, Andrew McCabe, said -- has just announced that he's retiring. The FBI agent, Peter Strozk, who sent those text messages with his girlfriend, another lawyer at the FBI, he's been reassigned to HR. The general counsel of the FBI, James Baker, has been reassigned. So are President Trump's attacks having a direct effect on the FBI?

MUDD: I don't think they are. Let's make sure we understand the difference between what's happening at the FBI and what's happening in the investigation. A lot of the people you're talking about, for example, Jim Baker, the former general counsel, aren't participating in the investigation. I'm sure Andy McCabe is retirement age. If you're retirement age at the bureau after 20, 25 years, I tell you what you do, you get out. So let's be clear when we talk about this. If the president wants to critique somebody who chooses to retire, if you can explain to me what that has to do with Mueller's investigation, you're a better man than I am because I don't think there's a connection.

CAMEROTA: Well, OK. OK, I'm happy to hear that you don't think there's a connection. It's that it's hard to be under siege every day. That Andy McCabe might have decided, I don't need this.

MUDD: No --

CAMEROTA: That he could have stayed, right, beyond his -- what the exact age of retirement is, but he's decided, like, I'm out of here.

MUDD: Heck no. Most of the people I knew at the bureau, this is not about the investigation, look at money and say especially if you've got kids in college, I'm going to go on the outside and triple my salary. That's probably what this is about. Don't tell me it's about the investigation and tweets from the president.

TOOBIN: I -- Phil, I mean, I don't know Andy McCabe's thinking but, you know, being constantly attacked as essentially a midlevel employee of the federal government, deputy director of the FBI, someone who is not a presidential appointee, the idea that he's attacked personally by the president, you don't think that has something to do with his wanting to leave? That certainly seems --

MUDD: No -- no, I do. I'm just saying, I'm not sure it's as black and white as saying he did -- he retired because of the president or he retired because he wanted to make a better paycheck outside. I suspect there's a combination of issues here.

CAMEROTA: All right, gentlemen, great to get your insight. Thank you both very much, Phil Mudd, Jeffrey Toobin.

And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could have started with infrastructure. I actually wanted to save the easy one for the one down the road.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: By rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. I think we can make some progress (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he could, shore up the health care system.

[07:00:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could begin to change the conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hopeful that there will be a bipartisan pick that comes sooner rather than later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's trying to get us to focus on the dossier. The indictments so far don't have anything to do with that.