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Sen. Ron Johnson Discusses White House Briefing On Syria Strategy; Trump Again Claims "No Collusion" With Russia; Is Comey's Media Blitz Helping Or Hurting His Credibility; Castros End Decades Of Rule In Cuba As New Successor Is Named; Southwest Pilot Hailed For Having "Nerves Of Steel." Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 19, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI), MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I'm really glad that France and Britain joined in that to make that very clear statement. We simply can't allow ongoing use of chemical weapons to become a normative occurrence.

So, you know, that's the --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: If you were going to extend that rationality you would have taken action against Russia for what they're believed to have done to that former spy and his kid.

JOHNSON: Well, I think action was taken. We've expelled numerous --

CUOMO: Not military action, thank God.

JOHNSON: Well, you know, Russia has 7,000 nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them which is why I think it's important, if at all possible -- if we start improving relations with Russia. But it --

CUOMO: So you only use military action when somebody can't hit you back? Is that the rule?

JOHNSON: Well, I think you'd have to always weigh exactly what could be the repercussions of using any military action -- absolutely, Chris.

CUOMO: Look, the legal standard of Article 2 -- and look, I know people don't like having this conversation. It's not in the headlines, it's not sexy. Congress doesn't want to own its responsibility because you don't want to have this kind of onus on you and authorize military action.

JOHNSON: No, it's simply a gray area.

CUOMO: But Article 2 is pretty clear.

These people are about to attack us. We have to do something right now. I'm president, I'm going to do it. That's what it covers.

That's not this. He didn't even stipulate a case for it being that. JOHNSON: I would say -- I would say the Constitution is not all that clear. It certainly gives Congress the responsibility and duty to declare war but it invests in the president -- the commander in chief as well as foreign policy --

CUOMO: To make war.

JOHNSON: -- and keep this nation safe.

CUOMO: The War Powers Act --


CUOMO: -- and the AUMF govern these kinds of situations.

JOHNSON: And, of course --

CUOMO: They don't seem to cover what happened in Syria.

Here's why I'm asking you --

JOHNSON: And, of course, the --

CUOMO: -- and I'm not saying going after war powers is wrong.

JOHNSON: The War Powers Act has never been agreed to by any president who has not signed -- the veto was overwritten.

CUOMO: That's why you have checks and balances. That's my point.

JOHNSON: And -- well, I know, and presidents by and large comply with it because what generally --

CUOMO: Well, they actually don't --

JOHNSON: What generally -- what generally governs --

CUOMO: -- and you guys let them get away with it.

JOHNSON: What governs action is American public opinion and that's really what constraints any president, regardless of the --

CUOMO: That's where you come in.

JOHNSON: -- legality.

CUOMO: That's where you come in.

JOHNSON: I know it. So --

CUOMO: That's why Mattis reportedly said we need to have military and popular sentiment, so we have to go Congress.

Will you back the new AUMF that Kaine and Corker and others are trying to come up with? JOHNSON: We'll see but I think the chairman -- I think Tim Kaine and Jeff Flake did a really good job trying to craft an AUMF. I've been generally supportive of it.

I have some concerns. We were just in a meeting -- the Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday.


JOHNSON: There's all kinds of concerns. I'm not sure it can pass a committee, quite honestly.

CUOMO: Well, we'll see because you guys have a role in this and it's a role that's been rolled over, so we're going to be following this.

JOHNSON: I realize it. Oh, I know.

CUOMO: Senator, the invitation stands. Please come up here and help us understand how we get out of these deficits that are looming, and you are always welcome on this show to address the American people.

JOHNSON: I'm already thinking about the charts I'm going to be bringing up, Chris. Happy to do it.

CUOMO: You work the board like no other senator I've ever seen. Thank you, sir, for being on the show.

JOHNSON: Have a great day.

CUOMO: Alisyn --


President Trump repeating his defense in the Russia investigation that there was no collusion despite the fact that the investigation is not over. So, are Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein's jobs safe? We dig deeper with FBI agents, next.


[07:37:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as the two gentlemen you told me about, they've been saying I'm going to rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they're still here. So we want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us, and we have to get back to business.


CAMEROTA: OK, that was President Trump addressing whether he plans to fire special counsel Robert Mueller or deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. And, he also repeated one of his favorite lines that there is no collusion despite the fact that the investigation has reached no conclusion yet.

Joining us now is CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd and CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell. Great to see both of you.

So, Mudd, how do you hear the president's mindset there and his response? Does that mean that Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller are safe?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL, CIA: Heck, no. I would look at Rosenstein before I'd look at Mueller. I mean, if you look at the law I think the president would have a challenge firing Mueller.

I think, though, people are forgetting one key element of this and that is the investigation will live on regardless of what the president does about Rosenstein and Mueller. First of all, if he ever did that, the president --

CAMEROTA: But just explain that to us one more time Phil because we hear so many people with different opinions about that, which is if he puts in one -- if the president puts in one of his guys who's like- minded with him who says you know what, I think we're done with this, how does the investigation live on?

MUDD: Well, there's a couple of elements here.

First, if he puts in one of his guys that person has to be confirmed. Do you think the Congress is going to confirm somebody who doesn't affirm that they'll let the investigation continue? I'd like to see that confirmation process.

There are a couple of other boring pieces here so let me bore you for just a moment.

Number one, in the digital age, this entire file will live forever in the FBI so even if you eliminate one person the files will survive for the next team.

Secondly, the team below Mueller is not going to be terminated. I know some of the senior lawyers on this -- that team. Those guys are brilliant.

So I think Mueller is critical partly because of the -- his character -- the esteem he brings to the job. But both the documentation and the team behind him, and then the congressional support to continue the investigation if the president ever does anything -- I think this investigation will go on even if it gets ugly, and I expect it will get uglier.

CAMEROTA: Try as you might you cannot be boring, Phil Mudd.

Josh, do you agree with that assessment?


And I'll tell you from a practical standpoint if you look inside the FBI -- I mean, the focus of an investigation -- counterintelligence investigation is to identify a threat and to mitigate. So just because you have political actors that are trying to shut down investigations that doesn't mean that the threat goes away.

So within the FBI -- and Phil knows this from his time there -- there's a process for actually closing an investigation. You have to go in and affirmatively state that there's either no longer evidence or you no longer see a threat. There is no box to check that says closed because of political pressure.

CAMEROTA: OK, very good context for us to know.

Next topic, James Comey. As you know, he's on this media blitz.

So he went on "THE VIEW" and he got some very tough questions from all sides. So let's listen to the questions that they posed and some of his answers.

[07:40:06] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, CO-HOST, ABC "THE VIEW": Your second in command, McCabe, was fired for lying multiple times within the FBI. You defended his character on Twitter. That's OK -- lying is OK internally?

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC "THE VIEW": You said that you reopened the investigation into Hillary's private e-mail server 11 days before the election because quote-unquote, "I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump."

Now, should the FBI have taken it upon himself -- on yourself to guess who was going to win? I mean, that seems out of your purview.

SARA HAINES, CO-HOST, ABC "THE VIEW": One thing I wanted to know when I read the book. You referenced Trump's possible self-tanning, the size of his hands, his hair.

Was it worth it when we've seen that all already, at the expense of possibly some credibility?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I think you're right. If I had it to do over again I wouldn't put that paragraph in.


CAMEROTA: OK, this wasn't "60 MINUTES." This was " THE VIEW," Phil Mudd, and I wonder if James Comey is now regretting more than just that paragraph. I mean, since he's been under fire for the choices that he made and his judgment.

MUDD: Well, as he should be. I mean, you can't go on these T.V. shows and expect that somebody who reads a paragraph where you characterize the size of the president's hands isn't going to say hey look, you're trying to portray yourself as the high road guy and you put this stuff in your book. You didn't expect that people would pick up on that and now you're saying it shouldn't have been in there?

That said, I think we're skipping over one key issue. There's been confusion in the past few days about the style of what Comey wrote -- should he have put in some of the stuff, should he have taken the low road in a few cases, and the substance.

How many people on those shows are questioning whether or not he told the truth when he characterized whether the president asked for a sort of loyalty oath? I don't think anybody's questioned that.

So the key here is is it an accurate portrayal -- is this book an accurate portrayal of his interaction with the president? Meanwhile, the conversations have been about why the heck are you talking about the size of the president's hands when you're trying to claim that you're a high road guy? I didn't get that either.

CAMEROTA: Well, sort of, Phil. Hold on --

MUDD: I'm ready for my role on the view, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Hold on one second. I mean, sort of that yes, there is some interest in why he included some of those more petty, I guess, details.

MUDD: Yes.

CAMEROTA: But you heard the women there. I mean, the women there were asking, I think, interesting, relevant questions. Meghan McCain was asking an important question about why he would defend Andrew McCabe who it was then revealed lied.

So here's the answer to this, Josh. Let me play for you what James Comey -- oh, I actually have to read it, hold on.

So, Meghan McCain said you defended Andrew McCabe on Twitter. That's OK? Is lying OK internally?

Here was his response. I'm going to read it to you because we don't have it ready.

"No, it's not. In fact, the McCabe situation illustrates what an organization that's committed to the truth looks like.

We investigated. I ordered that investigation. We investigated, hold people accountable. Good people lie."

What do you think of that, Josh?

CAMPBELL: Well, it's true. I mean, if you think of all of the people that you know that you've come across in your life, that you've worked with, maybe they're your friends -- there is no one out there who has never lied. But that doesn't mean that they also can't be good people.

In the case of Andrew McCabe, I think what this shows is that there's a process in place to hold accountable those who stray. And in this case, according to the inspector general, it looks like that he lied and that severe action was taken, as it should have been.

But if you step back and look this is a process working. This is saying we don't care how great you are, how nice you are. If you lie, if you break the law, if you violate these policies you will be held to account. And I think that that's what Comey's saying.

CAMEROTA: OK, we really appreciate getting both of your perspectives. You guys know this situation, the FBI and James Comey, well.

Philip Mudd, Josh Campbell, thank you.

And we should let everybody know that today, Jake Tapper will ask James Comey the questions that others have not asked. This will be live on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

CUOMO: An historic day in Cuba. After nearly 60 years, the Castro dynasty is over. Over, though, must stay in quotes.

Who's taking over and what does it mean for the Cuban people really being free, next.


[07:47:48] CUOMO: OK. So, for the first time nearly six decades Cuba will not be led by a Castro, at least by name. The communist country's National Assembly is selecting Raul Castro's successor. Who is he and what does it mean for relations with the U.S.?

CNN's Patrick Oppmann, our man in Havana, Cuba, with more.

Now, Patrick, you hear how I'm qualifying this fore coming process. I've been a student of yours down there in Cuba on more than one occasion.

What do you believe the promise is here to the people of Cuba? Is this an opportunity for real change?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No is the short answer, Chris. This is an effort by Raul Castro to keep the revolution going. He's 86 years old. It's a matter of turning it over to someone younger who he can keep an eye on for the next several years.

But what's going to happen in the next few hours, something that no Cuban has seen in their lifetime, pretty much, is that it will be a Castro turning over power, leaving the presidency of this country.

And there's not going to be any surprise. Even though there was an election yesterday in the Cuban National Assembly, it was really more of a coronation. There was only one candidate on the ballot. The results, such as they are, will come out later this morning.

And then we expect to see something, again, that Cubans never thought they would see -- Raul Castro turning over power to Miguel Diaz-Canel, one of the most loyal deputies. Someone who was born after the revolution, only 57 years old.

Someone who recently, when speaking, has taken a much harder line. As President Trump has taken a harder line on Cuba, he's taken a much harder line towards the United States, saying Cuba doesn't need to give them anything. While Castro will stay on as the first secretary of the Communist Party, so he's not leaving the scene entirely. He will be here to oversee this transition.

Again, for many Cubans, something that they never expected to take place. By the end of today, a different president will be leading Cuba.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely, Patrick. An end of an era. What a historic day.

Thank you very much.

So, passengers on that crippled Southwest Airlines flight endured 20 minutes of terror not knowing whether they would live or die.

[07:50:02] But inside the cockpit, nerves of steel. One of the pilot's close friends joins us next to describe it.


CAMEROTA: The FAA will order inspections of similar jet engines after investigators say a broken fan blade led to that deadly midair engine failure on the Southwest Airlines flight. Debris from the engine shattered a window, killing a passenger.

The situation for all the passengers was terrifying but for the pilot, we hear a stoic steadiness. Here is some of the communication between the control tower and the cockpit.


AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Injured passengers, OK. And are you -- is your airplane physically on fire?

TAMMIE JO SHULTS, PILOT, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT 1380: No fire, no fire, but part of it's missing. They said there's a hole and someone went out.


CAMEROTA: OK. That calm voice was pilot Tammie Jo Shults. Passengers praised her for having quote "nerves of steel."

[07:55:00] Joining us now is Linda Maloney. She's a longtime friend of Tammie Jo Shults.

Linda, thank you very much for being here.


CAMEROTA: Good morning to you.

What did you think when you heard the news that your friend Tammie Jo Shults was at the helm of that crippled aircraft?

MALONEY: Well, it didn't surprise me when I heard her voice and how calm she was. That's really her personality. She's very competent, a very skilled pilot, and I was just glad she was the pilot in command that day.

CAMEROTA: I think everyone was. I mean, we talked to two passengers yesterday on our show. They were so grateful to her.

But how can she be so calm when there is a hole blown in the plane?

MALONEY: Right. Well, Tammie Jo and I have known each other for over 25 years.

We flew together in the Navy so her training really started back in flight school and her training throughout the Navy, and it continued until today. She's working for the airline. She's a captain with Southwest.

So it's just been a continual training continuum over the years and the military offers outstanding training to its aviators.

CAMEROTA: I guess so. I mean, absolutely.


CAMEROTA: Everybody should become a female -- well, not a female fighter pilot, but a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy if this is the outcome.

I mean, how much a part of --

MALONEY: That's right.

CAMEROTA: -- her identity was being one of the first female fighter pilots?

MALONEY: Well, back in 19 -- the early 1990s when we were flying together in the Navy, it was a really interesting time period. Women were not yet allowed to fly in combat and -- but we still went through all of the same training.

And we had a small group of friends that forged -- women -- other women aviators that forged strong relationships -- strong bond. And so we went through a lot together -- a lot of challenges and really great times, successes and just really appreciated the training that the military puts us through.

We all get the same training whether you're a guy or a gal and I think that really set her up for her time at Southwest.

CAMEROTA: It really seems like it Linda, and it's really interesting to see these old pictures of you both because the culture was so different back then. How did you both have the drive and ambition and confidence to do that? MALONEY: Well, I think -- well, I think for Tammie Jo -- I mean, you see it in the book "Military Fly Moms," my book that was published back in 2012, and her story is in there. It's one of 70 women's stories.

And from her story, you see that she really had a passion to fly and she pursued it even when she was turned away by the Air Force.

And she had the opportunity with the Navy and she just never gave up and that's Tammie Jo. She's very determined. She was very passionate about wanting to fly in the military.

CAMEROTA: I know that you've been in touch with her since this happened and I know that you don't want to reveal your personal communications with her, but can you tell us how she's doing today?

MALONEY: I think she's doing OK. We've texted back and forth. And you're right, obviously, she can't talk about the accident.

But when I had first texted her and asked if she was OK and she said yes, I am and her remark was God is good. And that's the one thing about Tammie Jo is she has a really strong faith and that's the one thing that brought us together over 25 years ago is our faith.

And I think she really relies on him and she was just really grateful that God was with her that day and all those passengers and the crew. She was their hero that day so I'm just grateful for that.

CAMEROTA: Oh, she really was. Let me read to you what one of the passengers said.

Anytime I'm on a plane and there's even mild turbulence I want to hear from the pilot. I don't like when the pilot is quiet. I need to know what's happening.

And it sounds from this passenger's report that she was keeping the passengers -- even in the middle of this chaos she was keeping them calm.

Here's what they report.

"She was talking to us very calmly. We're descending, we're not going down, we're descending. Just stay calm, brace yourselves.

She was cool when she brought that down into Philadelphia airport. It was amazing that we made it to the ground."

Your response?

MALONEY: Well, when I heard her voice -- I listened to the audio and it just didn't surprise me. I mean, that was just classic Tammie Jo.

And she's just a wonderful, warm, personable person and people are really drawn to her. And she's also really confident and so that just really came through in her -- the audio that I heard and that just was her way. And I also heard that -- I saw on the news that she went and greeted everyone as they got off of the airplane, and that's just really her. That's just who she is. She's very genuine, very authentic person, and I -- you know, I just can't say enough great things about her.

CAMEROTA: Well, Linda, we really appreciate you giving us this first- person account of what your friend is like.