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Report: Trump Contradicts Self on Denying Comey Firing Over Russia Probe; Trump Calls Daniels Sketch Total Con Job; CIA Chief Met With Kim Jung Un; Nikki Haley Unfairly Criticized and Left Out of White House Loop; Southwest Airlines Pilot Among First Female Navy Tactical Pilots. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 18, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi everyone, I am Brooke Baldwin you are watching CNN on this Wednesday afternoon. Let's get to it. James Comey is hitting back at the president's attempt to rewrite history on why Comey was fired from the FBI.

Just a short while ago Comey himself whose book came out just as week, he reacted to this tweet today from President Trump quoting the president, "slippery James Comey, the worst FBI director in history was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation, where, by the way, there was, in all caps, no collusion, except by the Dems." Now hang on a second here. Do you remember what the president said to NBC just last May?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


BALDWIN: Let me add to that. The day after Trump fired James Comey, "The New York Times" reports Trump bragged about Comey's termination to top-level Russian officials when they were standing in the oval office. That is according to a document on the meeting that was read to "The Times." It details the president as saying as follows, quote, "I just fired the head of the FBI, he was crazy, a real nut job, I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." Comey mentioned both of those incidents today on "The View."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you believe you were fired?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don't know. I took him at his word when he told that to Lester Holt and then I read in the media he also said that privately to the Russians the next day in the Oval Office. Today's tweet, I don't follow him on Twitter, but I've seen the tweet. Both of those things can't be true. I think that illustrates part of the problem I'm trying to bring up. It matters that the president is not committed to the truth as a central American value, so I don't know what to make of it.


BALDWIN: Dana Bash is our CNN chief political correspondent and Jeffrey Toobin is our CNN chief legal analyst. Dana. For a man who says he has the greatest memory of all time, did the president genuinely forget what he said on national television to Lester Holt, A? Or B, is this revisionist history?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'll take B, Brooke, and that is my final answer. Look, there's no question that the president is just annoyed beyond belief about James Comey's book, about his book tour, about his interview after interview, talking about the fact that he believes that the president is morally bankrupt, talking about private conversations that the two of them had and challenging the president on just about everything.

And the president just like with the Stormy Daniels situation took the bait. Comey might not follow president Trump on Twitter, but 50 million people do. And that's really all the president cares about. I mean, from everything I've been told is that he understands so well the tool that he has with those 50 million followers, many of whom are dire supporters and he wants to get to them. And for many of them, it doesn't matter what he said before.

BALDWIN: Hmm. Hmm.



TOOBIN: This is not just an abstract debate over one thing, one person saying one thing or one saying the other. It's extremely important why the president fired James Comey, because if he fired James Comey, as he said to Lester Holt, as he said to the Russians, that it was a way of getting relief from the Russia investigation, that is possibly obstruction of justice. If he fired him because of Rod Rosenstein's memo that he didn't do a good job in the Clinton investigation, that's a perfectly appropriate reason. But the issue of his motivation for firing Comey is extremely important.

BALDWIN: Isn't it also just to keep peace in this investigation, the whole why did he fire Comey and the fact you have the president of the United States commenting on an active investigation and pondering aloud about this. The fact he's putting on Twitter, are his lawyers spinning over this one?

TOOBIN: This one, if you believe the tweet, it's actually exculpatory because he says there are other reasons that he fired him. The question is do you believe the tweet because the tweet is contra- indicated as Dana was saying by what the president said at the time.

[14:05:00] BALDWIN: OK. Dana, back to you. You mentioned taking the Stormy Daniels bait. Thank you for the segue. There was the other tweet this morning from the president on the Stormy Daniels sketch that was released yesterday on "The View," this was a sketch of the man she believes threatened her in a parking lot when she was with her newborn seven years ago because she was about to go public with her alleged affair. Here's the tweet, "a sketch years later about a nonexistent man, a total con job playing the fake news media for fools, but they know it."

There are two pieces of this. There's the moral and the legal. Dana, on the moral piece first. Again, first of all, how would he know it's false? He wasn't there. And secondly, here is a man basically saying his accuser is a liar and her story of being threatened is a lie.

BASH: And there's even another aspect to this, which is very important right now in 2018, which is the political aspect of this. Brooke, I'm in the Capitol right outside the House of Representatives, the chamber here, where every single person who is running, a lot of them have decided they don't want to run, is going to have to face voters in November. And for Republicans, particularly those in suburban districts who are very concerned about the feeling of chaos and discord in Washington, particularly for female voters, they are just dying that the president has given this even more oxygen with his tweet.

The first time I believe that the president has acknowledged Stormy Daniels on his Twitter feed. And so, there are consequences for the president, both as you said legally and morally and politically it really is a consequence that could have real implications for what happens in November and then come January when the next Congress comes, whether or not the Democrats can get those 23 seats to take the majority here.

TOOBIN: Can we get the sketch back up? Dana and I are having a dispute about it. Yes, I am. Not on am I going to say it looks like Bon Jovi --

BALDWIN: Guy, put the sketch back up. I've seen the Tom Brady resemblance.

TOOBIN: And what's his most favorite song? Wanted dead or alive, so it all fits together. It's my singing debut on CNN.

DANA: As a jersey girl, I hope that Jon Bon Jovi calls you right now and says please start comparing me to someone who threatened her.

TOOBIN: Bon Jovi is totally innocent. I will leave the politics to Dana. Legally I don't think this is going anywhere. This is so many years ago. The statute of limitations has probably run. This is yet another great Michael Avenatti stunt to keep the story in the news. It's a sketch of someone a long time ago. It's not Bon Jovi, it's not Tom Brady, even though it looks like both of them.

BALDWIN: I don't know what to do with this.

BASH: We're talking about it because the president of the United States tweeted on it and Jeffrey is right that Stormy Daniels is playing the president like a fiddle on this. BALDWIN: Check success, Dana Bash, Jeffery Toobin.

TOOBIN: I will be see the rest of the Bon Jovi catalogue.

BALDWIN: Jon Bon Jovi, free feel to call. Thank you, guys so very much. We needed that moment of levity.

To this extraordinary admission, the president revealing his CIA director just went to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong un. Hear what we're learning about that secret meeting. And in eight little words, Nikki Haley owns a White House director who said she was confused by announcing new sanctions on Russia. There is more to this view than meets the eye.

A new details on the horror on board the Southwest flight in which a woman was nearly sucked out of the window after the engine failed, she later died. Are there other risks with other planes? You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: Confusion triggered by the president's tweet. President Trump tweeting confirmation of the unprecedented meeting this morning writing this, "Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly, and a good relationship was formed. Details of summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for the world but also for North Korea."

Soon after, though, the White House scrambled to clarify that the meeting actually took place way back on Easter weekend, not last week. Regardless, it's a big deal and marks the start of a shift in U.S. policy toward the nuclear arms state. This as the president whittles down the location for his own meeting with Kim and says there may or may not be a meeting after all. "We have not picked a site yet, but we've picked five sites where it's potentially going to be. We'll let you know fairly soon. We'll see what happens. We'll either have a very good meeting and or we won't have a very good meeting or maybe we won't have a meeting at all. But I think there's a great chance to solve a world problem."

BALDWIN: Jeff Zeleny down in West Palm Beach for us. Jeff, first on the Pompeo meeting, tell me more about how they met, what was discussed?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, certainly that was the most interesting development of this whole discussion since the president walked into that briefing room several weeks ago and said he wants to have a summit. When the president confirmed that meeting that happened over the Easter weekend, his timing was a bit off, but the reality is the fact that the Secretary of State designate, the current CIA director, went to meet with Kim Jung un, this is the highest-level diplomacy virtually in a generation here since Madeleine Albright went at the end of the Bill Clinton administration.

But we don't know exactly, Brooke, what they talked about. We know the topics in general. Of course, the centerpiece here is denuclearization. Will Kim Jong un agree to denuclearize, essentially end his nuclear program? Much skepticism about that. From what we're able to gather so far, much of the discussion was about logistics, was about sites where the meeting would be and things like that. The fact that there is such high-level negotiations going on certainly makes many administration officials believe there's a better than 50/50 chance this meeting will happen. Of course, Brooke, so many questions about when they do sit down. A question of if it's a good idea, what Kim is going to get from this beyond the prestige of sitting down with the U.S. president. It's one of the discussions going on here as President Trump is meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

BALDWIN: I am going to talk much more about this in just a second. Jeff Zeleny for now, thank you so much. Also, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, standing up to the president, unlike any adviser we've seen before, it all started on the Sunday talk shows where Ambassador Haley said the U.S. would level additional sanctions against the Russians and "The New York Times" reported that the president got really angry when he saw Nikki Haley speaking about it and yelling at the tv. The White House squarely placed the blame on the ambassador.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: She got ahead of the curve. She's done a great job. She's a very effective ambassador. There might have been some momentary confusion about that.


BALDWIN: But the ambassador wasn't having it, issuing this statement, quote, with all due respect, I don't get confused. Let's go to Elise Labott, she's are CNN global affairs correspondent who has been covering the ambassador there. Elise, A, that was quite a statement from the ambassador. And, B, Larry Kudlow has apologized to her. Yes?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: He has, Brooke. Let's start with B, Larry Kudlow called up and told Nikki Haley, you're right, when you made that statement, that was the policy. But the policy has as soon since changed. There was a meeting at the White House in which Nikki Haley left on Friday before the Sunday she went out, she thought that was the policy. The policy changed over the weekend. Nobody bothered to tell Nikki Haley about that. Larry Kudlow called her up, the policy changed, we're sorry we left you out of the loop. She doesn't want to pick a fight with the president, but she was definitely fighting back about that disrespectful comment against Larry Kudlow. And I have to ask would Larry Kudlow have said that about a man and it was a demeaning statement and I think Nikki Haley stood up for herself.

BALDWIN: Elise, thank you so much, let's talk about all of this. David Priess is with me, is a former CIA intelligence officer and author of "The President's Book of Secrets -- The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents." David, good to see you. First, just off of this whole Nikki

Haley/Larry Kudlow, the fact of Kudlow's own phrase, she was boxed out, she's going on all these Sunday talk shows and they don't keep her in the loop unworthy administration stands on the sanctions. Do you buy their explanation that the plan changed, and they just didn't loop her in?

[14:15:00] DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: I would not have bought this explanation with any other White House, but this White House has taken a different approach to planning and executing national security. Listen, in past administrations this is the kind of thing that's worked out in various meetings in a functioning National Security Council staff process.

Everyone gets on board, everyone contributes to the talking points, they decide who is going to go on which program to spread the message and then they execute. But we have something different here. We have a group of people who may have succeeded very well in other aspects in their lives but have never served in a functioning White House National Security Council process before.

Even people like General Mattis, a very well regarded general, he had not been a deputy national security advisor our a senior director at the NSC to see how the process works. We should expect more of these kinds of things as Ambassador Haley is out there trying to execute the policy that they thought they had agreed to.

BALDWIN: Right, then therein lies the central question that has still yet to be answered which is why the president put the brakes on the sanctions in the first place?

PRIESS: The president has shown again and again that he is going to make policy by the seat of his pants. Even the clip you showed earlier about him talking about the North Korea meeting. He said maybe we'll have a good meeting, maybe we wouldn't have a good meeting, maybe we won't have a meeting at all. He's leaving open all potential futures, so he can set policy with a tweet and immediately set new policy after that. It's very hard for somebody like Ambassador Haley to keep up.

BALDWIN: On Pompeo and Kim Jong un in a meeting, walk me through what that would have looked like.

PRIESS: It's not unusual for a senior intelligence official to be used to broker national security meetings. The most famous example, back in the late 1990s, the deputy director of central intelligence at the time, George Tenet, who went on to become director, he was working with Palestinians and Israelis to get security deals moving in the peace process.

For two reasons -- number one, he was trusted by parties on the ground; number two, the administration felt he was the best voice and not make it into a diplomatic kerfuffle. Pompeo seems to have a comfortable relationship with the president, but he would be also seen as a serious interlocutor as they work out all of the logistics of the talks. BALDWIN: They said maybe it will happen early June, we don't know

where it's going to happen. If it doesn't go well and I think defining well depends on which side you're talking to, what then?

PRIESS: This is why the logistics really matter. I suspect what Mike Pompeo was doing in PyeongChang was talking about things that were boring. In the Vietnam discussions in the 1970s, they argued for days because of the shape of the table because optics were so important over who would have primacy and who would dictate where they were going to go in the agenda. That's the kind of thing they were probably talking about. If it doesn't go well, they can say the North Koreans just didn't do what they said they would do.

BALDWIN: The shape of the table. I'm still back on that. You wouldn't have two heads of a table or you would. All of this matters. We know that the president teased five potential locations for this meeting. What do you think is the most likely place?

PRIESS: The North Koreans clearly want to have it on their home turf if possible, but I doubt the administration would agree to that. A neutral site nearby like Mongolia does make a lot of sense because both sides can claim some advantage to that. China would be an interesting choice. China an interesting choice to anything that develops in North Korea but given their close relationship with the North Koreans, that would put the United States at a bit of a disadvantage going in.

BALDWIN: David Priess, thank you so much.

PRIESS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Cool under pressure, this Southwest pilot being praised for her nerves of steel. Why her resume made her the perfect candidate and woman for this emergency. Plus, as we await for new details from the NTSB, the question top of mind, could this happen on other planes?


BALDWIN: Southwest Airline passengers are praising this pilot who miraculously landed that flight 1380 in Philadelphia after an engine failure. The pilot is a veteran Navy lieutenant commander captain Tammie Jo Shults.

[14:25:00] She was among the first class of female Navy fighter pilots trained in tactical warfare. Listen to her voice as she is calmly describing this harrowing moment as her jet engine has just exploded.


AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Injured passengers OK and is your airplane physically on fire?

TAMMIE JO SHULTS, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES PILOT: No fire, no fire, but part of it's missing. But they said there's a hole and someone went out.


BALDWIN: Passengers celebrated her courage and how she handled the emergency.


JOE MARCUS, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES PASSENGER: This is unbelievable. I mean, she's a true hero. You know, the courage it took for her to take control of that situation and really just save everyone on board is really just unbelievable. I feel like I did win the lottery a little bit, as soon as that plane landed, it was like, oh, my goodness, this is crazy. But I'm just trying to, you know, just move on and just put it behind me.


BALDWIN: Unfortunately, one woman did die: passenger Jennifer Riordan from New Mexico, a Wells Fargo executive, a wife and mother of two. Riordan was nearly sucked out of the plane window after the explosion shattered it. Meantime, Southwest Airlines just announced it is quote unquote, accelerating existing engine inspection program relating to the CFM --