Return to Transcripts main page


Report: Justice Department Submits Criminal Referral on McCabe; Ex-Trump Lawyer Says Cohen Likely to Flip; Trump Says Willing to Walk Out of North Korea Meeting; Passenger Sucked from Seat Died of Blunt Force. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 19, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Senator Menendez, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: That's it for me. The news continues on CNN right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you so much. Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN on this Thursday afternoon, just hours before James Comey is set to speak with Jake Tapper at 4:00. He's one step closer to facing a criminal investigation. Andrew McCabe was fired after an inspector general report indicated that he, quote unquote, lacked candor when discussing the investigation of the Clinton foundation. Laura Jarrett has all the breaking details. What do you know?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, has just broken this. According to a source familiar the inspector generals office here at the Justice Department made a criminal referral on Andrew McCabe to the local U.S. attorney's office here in D.C. we do not know exactly when this referral was made but the inspector general's office issued a scathing report on McCabe just last Friday outlying a series of lies to former director James Comey, to internal FBI investigators as well as to the inspector general's office itself.

Now, McCabe completely denies all of these allegations, maintaining he did nothing wrong. And the issue stems from a "Wall Street Journal" report back in October of 2016 and McCabe, according to the inspector general, authorized two FBI officials to speak with a reporter about that story. It was on the Clinton foundation. It was an ongoing investigation at the time. The inspector general's office said McCabe was not forthcoming about his role in approving officials to speak with reporters about that story. McCabe said he was one of the few people at the department who was actually able to do that and authorized to do it. FBI director James Comey is in the mix here as well because he says he was never told that McCabe was doing this. McCabe again denies that. A spokesman for McCabe, the justice department and the U.S. attorney's office all declining to comment here, Brooke. BALDWIN: OK, Laura Jarrett, thank you so much. I've just been

jotting down some notes as I bring in former federal prosecutors Jennifer Rodgers and Daniel Goldman. Explain.

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: A criminal referral means some entity, in this case the inspector general's office though there was a reason to potentially start a potential criminal investigation based on evidence that they had gathered. Now the District of Columbia's U.S. attorney's office will take a look and see if there were any crimes committed here that warrant charging. It doesn't mean there will be charges. It just means the inspector general's office has uncovered something they feel like they need pass on to potential charging authorities.

BALDWIN: This is all based upon as Laura laid out in that report in 2016, he allowed these two FBI officials to go with a reporter and discuss findings with regard to the Hillary Clinton investigation. That is now coming back. Interesting we have James Comey coming up with Jake Tapper in two hours. It sounds like Comey said McCabe never told him he was doing this.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: But I wouldn't expect Jim Comey to comment on an active investigation where he would be a witness to any potential criminal activity. It's not -- the conduct that they're investigating is not going to be in any relation to the actual investigation. It's going to be whether or not McCabe made false statements or lied under oath in connection to leaking or providing the information to "The Wall Street Journal." I suppose it also could be something in connection to whether that information was confidential or grand jury information, which it would be a crime to provide -- to disclose grand jury information to a reporter.

BALDWIN: OK. Let's move back over to the breaking news on the Russia. With prosecutors now pushing back against claims by President Trump's

allies that the man leading the probe has quote unquote, gone rogue. And out of control. Here is one example of the attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: We now have in this country what is a runaway investigation. It's spinning out of control. It's led by Mueller and his merry band of Trump hating deep state sycophants. That's just a fact.

BALDWIN: We're now learning exactly how much oversight Robert Mueller has been under by his boss Rod Rosenstein. Evan Perez has that piece of all of this. The hearing this morning, what exactly did it reveal?

[14:05:00] EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I was in court there and we were all waiting to see what exactly the argument from Paul Manafort's lawyer would be. They're trying to put aside some of the indictments, the charges filed against him, 12 counts here in the District of Columbia. Looming over all of this is the accusation from president Trump and others that this is a witch hunt. For the first time we heard the prosecutors today sort of describe what exactly Rod Rosenstein, the acting attorney general, is doing to oversee Robert Mueller. They said that he is in frequent contact with Robert Mueller and that everything Robert Mueller is doing is essentially with the say so, with the approval of Rod Rosenstein.

You know, in the backdrop of all of this is the August 2017 memo, which is something that president Trump has really, really gotten angry about because it's in that memo that Rod Rosenstein tells prosecutors that they can investigate whether Paul Manafort was in collusion with the Russian government. And so that memo, you know, came obviously several months after Mueller takes over this case. So, the question before the judge today was, well, what happened in between may and august and the judge seemed to kind of not really believe the Manafort argument that this showed that essentially that Mueller was going rogue or was not being carefully supervised. She hasn't ruled officially yet, Brooke, but I can tell you just from the read I had in court today, she doesn't seem to be buying the argument that Mueller has gone rogue.

BALDWIN: OK. Evan Perez, thank you for that. We are also learning about a warning to the president that he should keep an eye on Michael Cohen. The president was told that his long-time attorney may turn against him and join the long list of former allies cooperating against him. That advice coming from the president's former divorce lawyer that advice coming from the president's former divorce lawyer. A guy by the name of Jay Goldberg once served as a U.S. attorney.

Goldberg tells CNN that the president called him up on Friday and speculated that a person in Cohen's position would wear a wire potentially, adding, quote, anybody who is facing 30 years never stands up without exception a person facing a prison term cooperates. Trump had no response to that. Cohen is under criminal investigation for his business dealings. If he were to flip on the president, it would be a stunning turn about for a man who has probably called himself Donald Trump's protector and fixer as he told CNN back in 2011.


MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYER: I protect Mr. Trump. If there is an issue that is of concern to him, it is of course of concern it me. I will use legal skills to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.


BALDWIN: Jennifer and Daniel are back with me. So, it's stunning you have this friend, lawyer, giving advice who is coming on CNN and going public on all of this. To you first, would you agree his assessment of somebody who facing 30 years that they will absolutely cooperate?

RODGERS: Well, not absolutely. It depends on a lot of factors. Cooperating is a very personal decision. It's based on whether you think you actually can stand to go to jail, what will happen to your family, put up against your loyalty to the person against whom you'd have to cooperate. It also will involve for him how much jeopardy he thinks that he's in for things that the government doesn't already know about. So, he'll be facing some time if charges are brought but there may be things out there that the government doesn't know about. If you go in, you got to come clean about everything. If there are other things out there he doesn't want them to know and have to plead guilty to, that may be another thing.

BALDWIN: If he didn't do anything wrong, why is he talking about flipping in the first place?

GOLDMAN: You talking about the president?

BALDWIN: The president.

GOLDMAN: That's the obvious question. There would be no worry about Michael Cohen flipping if the president wasn't worried about he did something wrong. So that is the obvious inference here to be made. But if you are looking and trying to read the tea lives about whether Michael Cohen is going to cooperate or not, pay attention to his discussion about his family. He has mentioned a couple times how difficult this is on his family and it's just beginning. He just has now learned about this extensive investigation into him that he was unaware of before. If and when an indictment comes down or if his lawyers are told about charges and he see what his potential exposure is in terms of a jail sentence, then the family and that discussion starts to take on a much more prominent role. And it's always sort of a tell to us former prosecutors when you are hearing people talk about the difficulties that they have with their family and their family going through this, that's often an indication that someone is ready to cooperate.

RODGERS: That's what Gates said.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: Exactly. Exactly. What about the notion that Mr. Goldberg mentioned about potential for Cohen wearing a wire. True?

RODGERS: I would not expect that. As soon as something is overt, that pretty much means it is blown and everyone is thinking he might cooperate so no one talking to him anymore.

GOLDMAN: The investigation is open now, and everybody knows about it. So, you would never have somebody put a wire on when they know you're under investigation because, first of all, if you are suspicious of someone being under -- cooperating and wearing a wire, you often will say the opposite of an incriminating thing, which can be bad for the prosecution. So, in this case you would not see Michael Cohen wear a wire.

RODGERS: There are also legal rules. You're not allowed to go to represented parties and President Trump is represented in these matters. So, there are those considerations.

BALDWIN: Jennifer and Daniel, thank you both so much on that. In the meantime, President Trump's new national security adviser has just raised the prospect of a walkout in the middle of those high stake talks with the North Korean leader Kim Jong un. This shedding light on why the president said something similar.


TRUMP: If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting when I'm there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.


BALDWIN: Our national security and foreign policy analyst worked as a Middle East and Iran analyst at the Century Foundation, a prominent think tank in New York City and Washington, D.C. So, Ari, welcome good to you have on.


BALDWIN: So why say this out loud, if it's not fruitful, I'll walk out. Is this some sort of pre-planned show? Who has the upper hand in such a high-pressure meeting?

ARAMESH: It's going back to who has the bigger button. This is not exactly a meeting between George Herbert Walker Bush and Helmut Kole. This is a meeting between Kim Jong un and Donald Trump. A lot comes down to personality and a lot comes down to showmanship and fanfare. A lot of the substance, important work is going to be done behind the scenes by sort of at the deputy level and principal level. You saw Mike Pompeo going to North Korea, acting as would-be secretary of state.

But on the other hand, the president is getting advice from more hawkish elements like John Bolton. They're saying if you come out too nice and too soft, Kim Jong un might think his nuclear button is bigger than his. We are setting our expectations way too high. Having said that, with all the criticism that goes towards president Trump and his foreign policy, being able to sit down with the North Koreans and getting something substantive about this would be a huge achievement.

BALDWIN: I think according to reports, John Bolton is the one who had floated this notion of walking out of this meeting. But we don't know a lot about Kim. We think we know he can be quite unpredictable. How would he react to this move of if the president were to up and walk out and disrespect him?

ARAMESH: You know, we don't know. And that's the thing. The unpredictability in foreign policy is venomous. That's why you have these on-the-ground meetings. For months and years in the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. delegation and Iranians met in the country of Oman in the Persian Gulf. But when the principals met with other delegates from Germany, Russia, China, you know, Britain and France and so on and so forth, most of the substantive work had already been done. There were very few surprises. This is not the case here because you can brief president Trump, if you can actually get to brief him, or Kim Jong un for that matter, which we don't know much about him. But again, they're unpredictable. Secondly, this sort of rhetoric, which seemed to be unproductive, the president saying he's going to describe North Korea or the president will face fire and fury --

BALDWIN: That was several months ago. It seemed like the conversation has changed, trying for diplomacy, getting a seats at the able and the president in the last couple of days saying maybe it will happen, maybe it won't but we're going to continue the conferring conversations because this is a huge meeting to take place. Ari Aramesh.

I want to move on to the hero firefighter who helped pull back the passenger as she got sucked out of that plane as we're learning how that mother of two died after the engine exploded. Also, he is the sitting president, yet a number of Republican lawmakers are not ready to say whether they would support the president for reelection. Why one senator says it's not a given the president will run. And any time the president speaks to reporters, it's always an experience. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: We're back, you're watching CNN. Health officials in Philadelphia have released the cause of death for southwest airlines passenger Jennifer Riordan. They say she died from blunt impact trauma to the head, neck and torso. Her death is being ruled accidental.

One of those passengers who helped try to save her, this married mother of two, from New Mexico speaking out, Texas firefighter Andrew Needum helped pull her back into the plane after that window had shattered. He spoke emotionally about what happened and how he reacted quickly.


ANDREW NEEDUM, FIREFIGHTER: I never was in fear of my life. I'm sure my family to speak otherwise. I'm trained for emergency situations and that's just exactly what it was. Just thankful, you know. So again, my heart goes out to Jennifer and her family and I can't imagine what they're going through. She had two kids and a loving husband and a community around her that loved her. So, my heart is broken for them. I just pray they find comfort, they find healing, whatever that may be, however they seek it. But time will heal.


BALDWIN: Hmm. Wow. Meantime the flight's hero pilot, Tammie Jo Shults issued a statement shrugging off the praise she's been receiving by saying, quote, we all feel we were simply doing our jobs. Our hearts are heavy. On behalf of the entire crew, we appreciate the outpouring of support from the public and our co-workers as we al reflect on one family's profound loss. On the heels of Southwest ordering inspections on engine, there will be ultrasonic inspections on fan blades. Jennifer Riordan was seated with her seat belt on in row 14 and seated in that very same row was my next guest Hollie Mackey, who desperately tried to hold on to her. Hollie, thank you so much for being with me and of course all of our thoughts go out to Jennifer and her family at this time. I have to ask just in the last 48 hours, holly, how many times have you thought that could have been me?

HOLLI BOTHE MACKEY, PASSENGER IN SOUTHWEST FLIGHT: Yes, I thought it many times. Oftentimes I take the window seat on long flights, so I can sleep. I think many of us do. So, you just never know where you're going to be sitting on the flight.

BALDWIN: And take us back. So, the window breaks. How do you notice that the window breaks? Is it you see it? You hear it? Describe just everything that happened from there.

MACKEY: Everything was very fast. You know, we heard the sound and it was very loud of course in our row because it was right there. And we had just been told to stay in our seats with our seat belts on because there was some turbulence. And so, the sound and the accident was all at the same time. So, when I looked over to see what was going on and if the people I was sitting with were OK, it was all somewhat instantaneous. I immediately jump ed over to try to help Jennifer and the girl sitting next to me did as well. And we just -- we weren't strong enough. But quite a bit of time passed between then and when the flight attendants were able to start checking the rows and come back and notice that we were in distress and that we needed help because they had to of course make sure that this were safe and had their oxygen and there were a number of passengers who need help in between us.

But the sound was so loud that yelling for help, nobody could hear. A number of people right behind us in row 15 they were so helpful trying to help us get attention because you couldn't see. The way that the plane is set up, you can't see. So, really, we had to make some decisions on what to do and we thought it would be best to stay as calm as possible and just stay with Jennifer and be there for her, so she wasn't alone.

BALDWIN: Were you at all speaking to her? I don't know if she was conscious at all. I understand she was out that window for some 20 minutes, though I'm sure that felt like a blink when you have no idea if your life is ending. Can you tell me more about that?

MACKEY: No, we didn't speak to her. She wouldn't have been able to hear us. So, I had pulled the girl next to me in and tucked my arm around her from my side. We had -- there was still some pulling and she was so light. We weren't sure if we should unbuckle and try to move to the back. One of my colleagues had been trying to get me to unbuckle to move back. She didn't understand why I wasn't. And she didn't realize that the younger child was there. So, I was afraid if I unbuckled the child, that she was so small that she would get sucked over, so I decided to stay. So, I put my hand on the small of Jennifer's back, so she wasn't alone, but she wouldn't have heard us talking to her.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you about this hero pilot in a second. I was talking first probably to a passenger yesterday and she said a lot of people in that blink of an eye thinking that was it, were reaching out to loved ones, trying to get on the WiFi on the plane, what was going through your mind?

MACKEY: I didn't think to do that. I always text my family before I get on the flights and we're very open. They know I love them and they know that the work that I do is very important to me and why I do it. But also, I had a child right next to me who was scared and cold and didn't know what was going on and I had another woman next to me who was in incredible distress. In that respect my family would understand. And I also knew that there were very few of us who could actually see what was happening. So perhaps had I been in another row or not known what was going on, I might have done that but ultimately, I thought if we're going down, then I'm very much at peace with my family and friends knowing just how much I love them.

BALDWIN: Just last quickly, do you have a couple of words for this Tammie Jo Shults, this hero pilot?

MACKEY: Yes, she was amazing. Now I've heard that she's said that she was just doing her job. I mean, if that's doing your job, then -- I mean, there's not praise enough. And also, for Andrew and Tim and Peggy, people do remarkable things under pressure.

BALDWIN: They do.

MACKEY: And there were so many other people. The whole plane. And children who were scared who stayed calm and mothers and fathers and perfect strangers are who helped keep everybody calm. It was really an entire plane full of people working together in a very frightening situation.

BALDWIN: Hollie Mackey, we wish you well. Thank you so much.

MACKEY: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Imagine? Coming up, a public war of words as James Comey rolls out his tell-all book and this morning Comey faces Jake Tapper. Jake joins me live next.