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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

One Person Killed in Southwest Jet Engine Failure; Confusion From Trump Administration Over Russia Sanctions. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 17, 2018 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:00]

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn't already. And they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: But those sanctions didn't come. The president rejected the idea, despite his pointed words while announcing airstrikes against Syria.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path, or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace.

Hopefully, someday, we will get along with Russia and maybe even Iran, but maybe not.

ZELENY: In Florida today, the president did not address the controversy, as he welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a summit at Mar-a-Lago. Larry Kudlow, the president's chief economic adviser, telling reporters there was no backpedaling.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: No, I think the issue here is, we have a set of sanctions and additional sanctions are under consideration, but not been determined.

ZELENY: But asked directly about Haley, he said her announcement was premature.

KUDLOW: She got ahead of the curve. There might have been some momentary confusion about that.

ZELENY: The White House effectively throwing Haley under the bus. A senior administration official telling CNN Haley walked away from a West Wing meeting on Friday believing the sanctions were finalized, even though Trump had yet to sign off on them.

At the United Nations today, Haley didn't address the matter. Asked about the sanctions, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker had one word in mind.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Confusion.

ZELENY: He said he has not received an explanation from the White House on why the president didn't sign off on the new round of sanctions.

CORKER: It just sounds like confusion from the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So no word, Jake, from Ambassador Haley on what exactly happened, her side of the story, if will you, from her announcement on Sunday to the president rejecting this on Monday.

The State Department, though, is saying this afternoon that sanctions could come soon against Russia. That is what Larry Kudlow, the president's economic adviser, here in Florida told us earlier this afternoon. So, Jake, certainly one more sign of at least apparent confusion over this White House's strategy toward Russia -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jeff Zeleny with the president, thanks so much.

My panel is back with me.

Kevin, take a look at this picture from "The New York Times," reporter Glenn Thrush, of the contradictory headlines from Monday's paper vs. today's paper about the sanctions.

I have to be honest. I have a tough time believing that Nikki Haley was confused.

I think it would fit perfectly with this White House and this administration that everybody agreed on it, and then President Trump either changed his mind or hadn't understood it to begin with.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I think that is right.

I just think -- it is pretty simple, actually. I think that members of the administration are just not on the same page with the president. And the president is oftentimes resistant with some of the policy recommendations that they are making.

They want to talk tough. They want show some sense of resolve. They want to provide some sense of clarity when it comes to Russia. But the president doesn't. And I think he meets every single one of those overtures from his internal staff with resistance.

And that is one of the big problems they're going to continue to have, because this kind of foreign policy -- foreign policy requires that you have clarity and resolve on exactly what you are doing. Not looking like there are internal deliberations that both are -- that our opponents can then exploit.

TAPPER: And, Nia, there was a great story in "The Washington Post" just yesterday about the fact that there have been times throughout this administration where the Trump administration is pushing President Trump to do something strong, to sanction Russia for the behavior, whether it is the 2016 election interference, or now with supporting Assad, and President Trump has rejected it or not liked it or gotten mad after the fact because he didn't realize it was going to be so tough.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right.

Particularly when they were talking about the expulsions of those Russians and the fact that it was 60, once it came out, he was said to be enraged that it was so many and it was not in keeping with what some of the European countries did.

"Vanity Fair" had a pretty funny headline, which was about these sanctions, which said Trump enraged after finding out he stood up to Putin.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Who said that?

HENDERSON: It was "Vanity Fair." It sort of sounds like an Onion headline, but that's exactly what it seems like.

TAPPER: But it's true.

HENDERSON: Yes.

And it seems like that is what happened here. And I agree. Nikki Haley is very careful, very cautious, sounded very confident in the interview there. And you see her under the bus.

And it's almost -- you have seen this with other officials. How often was Tillerson under the bus? He was a permanent resident there, essentially, often contradicted by this president once he went out and then you would find something on Twitter that the president would say.

And here you have Nikki Haley in a position where she's sort of a de facto secretary of state at this point, because there is nobody in place there. So she is kind of the forward-facing person in terms of Syria and foreign policy right now. So we will see what happens.

[16:35:01]

TAPPER: Take a listen to Madeleine Albright, also a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, about the disconnect -- I was talking to her -- the disconnect between President Trump and Nikki Haley on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I feel sorry for Nikki Haley. She has been very tough up there making points. She makes very clear that she represents the president. And all of a sudden she's put into this ridiculous situation of looking as though she is out there by herself on something.

And that undermines the whole decision-making process and makes us, frankly, look absolutely inept.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Nikki Haley, I think it is fair to say, is one of the stars of the Trump administration.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.

TAPPER: Highly regarded among Republicans and Democrats. Do you think that this could be problematic for her?

PSAKI: Well, it could send a signal that things are more problematic for her internally than we suspect.

Nikki Haley, yes, she is a star. Trump clearly has liked her over time. She has gotten ahead of him on Russia and been stronger and more strident in her language consistently over the last year, so nobody should miss that particular piece.

There was some reporting today about how Trump was also angry that she had gone out and made this announcement. And that often has been a determinant of somebody's rise and fall in the administration.

We will see. Externally, it is clear that she looks like -- I don't think most people believe she was confused. I think most people believe, including people in foreign capitals, that she was speaking on behalf of the decision made. But then the question is, does she still have the confidence of Trump? And that can be equally damaging, if not more, on the international stage.

TAPPER: What is also interesting about this, Kevin, is that this comes at the same time that Comey said not only does Trump not want to criticize Putin publicly -- although he did recently when it came to Assad issue that one tweet -- but generally speaking President Trump has been very reluctant to criticize Putin publicly.

But Comey said he won't even do it privately.

MADDEN: Yes. But I also think that is not inconsistent with what the president argued during the campaign, which is that wouldn't it be a good thing if we had Russia and we were closer and had a better relationship with Russia?

But I think the problem here is not that. The problem is that we had dueling policy proclamations in the space of 24 hours that confused not only -- not only opponents, but which I think they use to exploit, but our allies.

When you have somebody who is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee like Senator Corker using the term confusion, confusion, confusion over and over to describe what he is getting as far as policy proclamations out of the White House, that becomes a huge problem.

TAPPER: Nia-Malika, I want to get your response. President Trump just made a comment. He's meeting with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, talking about the potential meeting between the United States and North Korea. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will probably be, depending on the various meetings and conversations, we will be having meetings with Kim Jong-un very soon. It will -- that will be taking place, probably in early June or a little before that, assuming things go well.

It's possible things won't go well and we won't have the meetings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Possibly having meetings in early June or a little before that.

HENDERSON: Yes, confusion, confusion, confusion. It is unclear whether or not the meeting is going to happen.

It apparently was supposed to be in May initially. This was a decision that the president really seemed to make unilaterally to meet with KJU.

And then there was some confusion even after that. Some mixed signals from this White House and more mixed signals from the White House on this -- what would be a huge meeting. And we will see if it happens. We don't know.

TAPPER: All right, everybody, stick around.

Chaos all around. Passengers say they saw a woman sucked toward a broken plane window during a deadly engine explosion on a flight to Dallas. The terrifying air traffic control audio coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:42:55]

TAPPER: We have breaking news.

A terrifying incident on a plane has meant that one woman is now dead after a Southwest Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia today due to engine failure.

The passengers aboard the Dallas-bound flight heard an explosion before oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Air traffic control captured the mayhem on board, including one passenger being sucked toward a broken window board the aircraft, according to an eyewitness.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Injured passengers. OK. And is your airplane physically on fire? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not fire, not fire, but part of it is missing. They said there is a hole, and someone went out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. You said there was a hole and somebody went out?

It doesn't matter. We will work it out there.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me now live from Philadelphia.

Polo, what exactly caused the engine failure?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, that is a key question that federal investigators are on the ground now to answer officials from the National Transportation Safety Board who are now here essentially going through what is left of the engine of the plane that is way off in the distance that has since been removed from the tarmac to allow those airport operations at Philadelphia International Airport to continue.

What we know at this point, that that flight left New York's La Guardia shortly after 10:30 this morning. Not long into that flight is when passengers board that flight described that loud jolt, the engine failure that has been described, and then followed by that emergency call that was placed into air traffic control at about 11:15 in the morning.

It wasn't until 11:27 a.m. that that plane was wheels down here in Philadelphia. Jake, do the math, that is 12, 13 minutes that must have felt like a lifetime for the 143 passengers and five crew aboard that Boeing 737.

TAPPER: And it must have been so traumatic for everyone on board, Polo..

SANDOVAL: Yes. Yes.

Marty Martinez, one of the passengers aboard that flight, described some horrific moments there. Part of the debris that essentially came off that engine hit the fuselage, creating that hole, shattering or breaking that window.

Mr. Martinez describing a female passenger essentially being partially ejected from the plane at one point, passengers holding on to her as the flight made that sudden descent, the plane made that sudden descent.

In the meantime, some of her -- his colleagues, for example, were describing what they were experiencing. One of them even writing a note to his wife and his unborn son preparing for the worst. We now know though that the crew, the pilots aboard that plane were able to successfully land that plane here on the ground in Philadelphia. Officials here on the ground, Jake, certainly considering that nothing short of a miracle that at least the losses were kept at a minimum. Particularly though, we do know that at least one person now confirmed dead. That woman -- the circumstances of her death or the direct cause of death, well, that still hasn't been confirmed by officials here in Philadelphia.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So just to -- just to be clear, we don't know that the woman who died from this tragedy in the air is the same woman who was sucked almost out the window?

SANDOVAL: That is correct, Jake. That's going to be a key question. Oftentimes it was quite stressful, a stressful moment that was left aboard that flight. So there certainly is no telling what some of these passengers experienced and if that death was a direct result of some of the debris that hit the fuselage of that plane. Certainly part of the investigation will eventually reveal that.

TAPPER: We're hearing praise for the pilots that they landed so quickly and they kept losses to such a minimum.

SANDOVAL: Absolutely. That's what passengers are describing. Many of them taking to social media to express their appreciation. The way some of the passengers were describing those moments after the plane landed was -- immediately after chaos, these passengers breaking into tears, realizing that they were finally safe on the ground. But of course, the worst certainly was not over. Many of these officials -- these first responders rushing to the scene on the tarmac you see behind me to try to get to the injured. We understand there were about a dozen people who had to be treated on scene, one person that was taken away, that woman that was critically injured we now know sadly did not make it.

TAPPER: All right, horrible tragedy in the air. Polo Sandoval in Philadelphia, thank you so much. Actor Sean Penn is taking on President Trump in way in his new novel ripped from the stranger than fiction, headlines of modern-day America. The Oscar winner joins me next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: In our "POP CULTURE LEAD," Oscar Winning Actor Sean Penn is out with the debut novel, it's a satirical look at political culture in this new Trump era. A no holds barred look at everything from President Trump to the American electorate.

Joining me now is Sean Penn. He's the author of Bob Honey just do stuff, a novel that is out now and very enjoyable and very intriguing and I want to get to it in a second. But there's fiction and then there is reality and I just have to ask. I mean, right now we're in a world where the President is being investigated for possible ties to Russia, his fired FBI Director James Comey says he's unfit to lead, morally unfit to lead. And then there's the porn star dragging his lawyer into court, his lawyer is under criminal investigation. For somebody who works in fiction, whether film or now novels, is it challenging in the environment we're in to come up with things that are more bizarre than what the truth that we're living?

SEAN PENN, ACTOR: Yes, I think that we want to redefine satire. Of course, in fiction, the stakes are less severe than what we've got going. I thought -- I thought a lot lately about how we kind of passed that moment of the Paddy Chayefsky moment of I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. The word mad was a sort of righteous indignant anger. Now it's -- it really means madness and it seems that we're more and more at the stages -- I'm mad as hell and I'm just going to keep taking it. The normalization of it all is the part that's not satirical and the part that concerns me the most.

TAPPER: And when you talk about madness, what do you mean? Obviously, there are -- there are 63 million Americans who voted for President Trump and support his goals. Some of them have concerns about his behavior, many do not. What specifically in your view is madness?

PENN: Well, I think that when we do things, as I believe a lot very good Americans did who as I -- and as I say in the book in a fictional context, you know, might vote out of rage and pain. That they, a lot of good Americans did that. Evidently, some Russians did too in some sense. And we are kind of you know, kicking the tree instead of really making rational decisions. And I -- and I don't see that ending very soon. I think that we're really up against that this is -- you know, I don't say this lightly, but Norman Mailer had once said this is the first century that mankind may not complete and balancing hope, with that looming reality, given the climate and the kind of degradation of integrity that seems to be so pervasive, I need to write a book that I could talk about these things but laugh.

TAPPER: And it is -- it's a satirical book. The character, an old- fashioned American man living in today's current political-cultural climate, I'm wondering, there is a character Mr. Landlord. At one point, to make our (INAUDIBLE) talks about impeaching Mr. Landlord at the end. Is that a stand-in for President Trump per se?

PENN: That's the reader's choice. For me, the book is much more about -- say the cumulative 15 years or so in particular that all of us have participated in and in what President Trump or many other things in the culture today in creating that. Those are more the end result. So I wasn't determined that it be interpreted as one leader or another, it was much more about the culture at large and where we are.

TAPPER: Sean Penn's debut novel Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff is out now. Sean Penn, thanks so much. It's an honor to meet you.

PENN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Good to see you.

PENN: Pleasure.

TAPPER: And Stormy Daniels wants to know, can you help her I.D. the thug? That's ahead. Stay with us.

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