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Heroic Passenger speaks Out; Trump Pretended to be John Barron; Trump Lied to get on Forbes List. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 20, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And 25-year-old Taylor Lindsey. Authorities say the alleged shooter, identified as John Hubert Highnote, was found dead from a gunshot wound near the scene. President Trump expressing his condolences to the families of the slain officers.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: In the wake of this week's deadly midair engine failure, we are learning Southwest Airlines opposed recommendations by the engine maker and the FAA for annual fan blade inspections.

It comes as we're learning more about the heroic efforts to save the passenger who died on that flight.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in Philadelphia with more.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, you know, we often hear those stories of brave firefighters putting their lives on the line. Well, Andrew Needum did just that at 30,000 feet. He was on that plane when it experienced that catastrophic engine failure. He says he looked at his wife, got a nod. It was his cue to spring into action.


ANDREW NEEDUM, FIREFIGHTER, SOUTHWEST 1380 PASSENGER: God created a servant heart in me. And I felt the calling to get up and do something. Stand up and act.

SANDOVAL (voice over): Andrew Needum recounting his experience on that Southwest flight after an engine failure smashed a passenger window. The Texas firefighter running in action to try to save a woman who was partially sucked out of a broken window.

A. NEEDUM: I'm no different than any other firefighter in this -- in this country. For some reason, whatever reason that is, it was me that day.

STEPHANIE NEEDUM, WIFE OF ANDREW NEEDUM: I just knew that at that moment that someone else needed him much more than we did. And that's what his calling is, is to help. And that's what he did. SANDOVAL: Needum was seated in the eighth room with his two children,

wife and parents. A few rows back, fellow passenger Tim McGinty ran to the 14th row where Jennifer Riordan, still buckled in, was sucked into the window. But he struggled to pull her back in.

TIM MCGINTY, SOUTHWEST 1380 PASSENGER: I tried and tried and I couldn't. I just couldn't. And then Andrew came over, just trying to get her -- just trying to get her back in.

SANDOVAL: The two men were able to pull the mother of two back into the plane. Then Needum and registered nurse Peggy Phillips took turns trying to resuscitate her.

PEGGY PHILLIPS, SOUTHWEST 1380 PASSENGER: And they started CPR on the lady, which we continued for about 20 minutes. We were still doing CPR when the plane landed.

SANDOVAL: The medical examiner says Riordan died from blunt impact trauma to the head, neck, and torso.

NEEDUM: I feel for her family. I feel for her two kids, her husband, the community that she lived in. I can't imagine what they're going through.

SANDOVAL: Hollie Mackey, who was seated next to Riordan, praising the heroism of fellow passengers.

HOLLIE MACKEY, SOUTHWEST 1380 PASSENGER: It was really excellent teamwork between all of them to try to get Jennifer back in and safe and keep everybody else safe at the same time.

SANDOVAL: Southwest sent passengers on the flight a check for $5,000 and a $1,000 travel voucher and hopes that will restore confidence in the airline.


SANDOVAL: The Federal Aviation Administration ordering the immediate inspection of the same model engine that was on this flight. This Southwest Airlines company saying that they hope to accomplish that in the next month, Chris. Clearly a move here to try to prevent something like this from happening again.

CUOMO: Yes, that's the key, got to respect the heroism that took place with the pilot and others on that plane like that first responder, but we also have to stay on top of efforts to either cut corners on safety or to do the right thing. We'll stay on it.

Polo, thank you.

"The Washington Post" is out with a very interesting report. Donald Trump, on tape, pretending to be someone else. A man named John Barron, his fictional publicist. You have heard this before if you've been following the news, but you haven't heard it this way before. We have a reporter who spoke to him and says he got duped by Trump in his efforts to get on the Forbes 400 list. You're going to hear it for the first time as we're joined by the reporter, next.


[06:37:54] CUOMO: All right, we're following breaking news.

A former Forbes reporter says Donald Trump lied to him about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400 list, but this is really a story about how Trump did this. And we hear the proof in a new audio released by "The Washington Post." It is the first known publicly available sound of Mr. Trump posing his vice president of finance, John Barron. The audio is from 1984. And the journalist is named Jonathan Greenberg. He says Barron tricked him. Take a listen and see if you can tell who it is.


JOHN BARRON: Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump, you know, because you have down Fred Trump, and I'd like to talk to you off the record, if I can, just to make your thing easier.



GREENBERG: Yes, that's fine.

BARRON: All right. But I think you really use Donald Trump now and you can just consolidate it I think last year somebody showed me the article on it. I think you had 200 and 200 and really it's been pretty well consolidated now for the most part, as -- as I also think somebody had mentioned that you had asked about that or somebody had, and it's been pretty well consolidated, OK?


CUOMO: Jonathan Greenberg joins us now.

Thank you very much for joining us and for taking the time to dig back into the annals of memories/painful memories, and to remember that might have had tapes of these conversations.

People will hear them and say, how could you not know that was Donald Trump. But this was in the '80s, before all the TV, before he was such a nationally -- even internationally recognized person. We weren't used to hearing him the way we are today. What made you look back at this?

JONATHAN GREENBERG, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I had heard him, Chris, and -- and I -- because I had interviewed before he called as John Barron the year before and yet no one could imagine the unimaginable. No one could imagine that someone would do something like this, call as their own PR person.

I heard about Trump and I looked into my files and I guess I am something of a pack rat. And I thought, I'd like to see those tapes about, you know, the Forbes 400 and the rich list. And I looked and I was like, wait a minute, this is John Barron. And when I heard them I thought, these things were much better crafted lies than I thought. And that led me to further research about how much was he really worth in '82, '83, and '84. And it was under $5 million. I'd put him down for $100 million. He was -- should never have been there in the first place.

[06:40:12] CUOMO: You got duped. What made him successful at doing this, in your opinion?

GREENBERG: You know, he is a consummate con man. He understood what I was doing, you know, going around the country, putting people on, asking them, and he figured out what he had to do in order to deceive me and get onto that list. And he did it very well. And he maintained that persona of just sort of talking about his assets without any sense of debt and lying about it. He had Roy Cohn call me to lobby for him about his net worth and lie for him, you know, where is my Roy Cohn. He was there back then and he was calling "Forbes" magazine and talking about fictitious income statements. So he knows -- he knows -- knew where to -- where we couldn't go and he -- he went right there and deceived me.

CUOMO: So you have this so what value of this. People have heard this. They haven't heard the tapes the way they will now because of what you have discovered in your own memory bank. But why should people care about what Donald Trump did to try to reestablish his financial prowess all the way back in the '80s?

GREENBERG: Well, you know, it -- he really -- it shows what he did to the media or as a journalist during his career, he also did to the banks. He basically lied and deceived in order to get his net worth up so he could borrow money, which, of course, led to the first bankruptcy and the collapse, $3.5 billion, you know, that he -- that he borrowed and then collapsed. And he also did -- has done as president, he has, you know, -- in the most -- in a way that -- just like we weren't prepared for him as the media, I don't think the media was prepared for him as a politician. Like, we weren't prepared for him as a businessman. No one -- no one is prepared for the level at which -- of his deception.

I used to be proud, Chris, I was the guy who kept him in check. He said he was worth $500 million. He was only worth $100 million. In fact, he moved the guideposts. He knows how to change the question. Not whether he should be on the Forbes 400, but where he should go and stopping him from his claims that he's at the very top, worth more than any other real estate tycoon in New York City.

CUOMO: Now, Jonathan, you know me and you know that ordinarily this is a situation where I might be hammering somebody who's in your position. But I can't. You know why? Too hypocritical. I was in the exact same position when I was at ABC News with a really good investigative team and he was coming into full flower as Trump the TV icon. And we did a net worth story about him. And he talked us into a situation where we were only comfortable going to air with what his net worth was if he agreed. And he wound up going up by about 50 percent every phone call I had with him. And so he didn't even need to have a fake persona. He wasn't even -- he wasn't even pretending to be somebody else. He's very persuasive.

But people will look at this and say, OK, so he's good at it and guys like Greenberg and Cuomo are dummies and they go for it. But this is what he's a good businessman. You have to do what you have to do to get there. Fake it until you making it.

GREENBERG: That's funny.

You know, the -- you know, he -- he -- there's one thing about exaggerating and there's another thing about sort of totally lying. He lied about -- there are 25,000 apartments in Brooklyn and Queens and Staten Island. There were -- there were 8,000 apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. He lied about his father, that he owned all of his father's assets. And he borrowed gets his father's assets, you know, which supposedly were his and had been consolidated. He didn't own any of them until his father died in 1999.

CUOMO: Right.

GREENBERG: So banks loaned money. What -- it's hard to imagine that business could be built on this deceit and that banks could lend on the same, you know, inflated assets with no sense of debt.

What we did learn, Chris, is the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1981, in a document no one saw for 20 years, did know what he was worth that year. And, in fact, it was like he had a million dollar trust fund and $400,000 in the bank.

CUOMO: Right.

GREENBERG: And it was a complete fabrication.

CUOMO: He deserves credit for building himself back up in an unprecedented way. But how he did it warrants scrutiny, especially now that he's the most powerful man in the world. And we are dealing with his pension for deception right now. He won't show his taxes. Why? Lots of excuses. We know none of them to be true.

Jonathan Greenberg, very important to focus on the nature of the man in power. Thank you very much for giving us this window into your own experience.

[06:41:05] GREENBERG: Thank you. It's been a pleasure, Chris.

CUOMO: All right.


HILL: We are going to continue to break down what you just heard. Why does President Trump seem to be so concerned with inflating his status? Not just his wealth, but also being in magazines. We dive in, next.


HILL: "The Washington Post" out with this new bombshell report and audio a former "Forbes" reporter who says he was conned into overstating then private citizen Donald Trump's wealth all the way back in 1084 so that Donald Trump could get onto the Forbes 400 list. Jonathan Greenberg says he was tricked by Trump himself, who was posing as John Barron. You can hear it for yourself. Here's the audiotape.


JOHN BARRON: Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump, you know, because you have down Fred Trump, and I'd like to talk to you off the record, if I can, just to make your thing easier.



GREENBERG: Yes, that's fine.

BARRON: All right. But I think you really use Donald Trump now and you can just consolidate it I think last year somebody showed me the article on it. I think you had 200 and 200 and really it's been pretty well consolidated now for the most part, as -- as I also think somebody had mentioned that you had asked about that or somebody had, and it's been pretty well consolidated, OK?


[06:50:05] HILL: Let's bring in now John Avlon and CNN contributor Michael D'Antonio, a Donald Trump biographer and author of "The Truth about Trump."

How much of the truth are we hearing in that audio about Donald Trump?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you're hearing the absolute truth about his method. This is the most successful con man perhaps in history. So he uses superlatives. I'll use them too. It began actually in the early '70s with him tooling around Manhattan in a chauffeured car that his father owned with a person who was very -- was armed, and he made that known and then got himself in "The New York Times," had the reporters say that he was like -- very much like Robert Redford. And he just started building this image that was completely false. And it's continued to this day. This is why it's hard to have any reality when you deal with Donald Trump. So that part's 100 percent true. That's -- that's who the man is.

CUOMO: The pushback is, fake it till you make it. He was down and out.


CUOMO: He built himself back.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He was not down -- well, at certain points of his career, yes, he was down and out.

CUOMO: He had to go to the Russians and the Chinese for money. That was unheard of in those days. In New York City, the finance capital of the world.

AVLON: And that's because he get a banker in his home town to back him.

CUOMO: They wouldn't -- that's right. That's right.

AVLON: But, look, I think the point here is, fake it till you make it. You know, there's certain -- you know, power of positive thing. You know, Norman Vincent Peale stuff we can return to. But this is simple duplicity with a self-interested angle. So let's not, you know, cozy it up too much.

First of all, most normal human beings don't call people and pretend to be other people talking positively about them. Let's just reality check that.

The second thing is, he has an obsession with perception. And it has served him well. His fixation on his wealth isn't only to get on that list. And the details in this article are fascinating, right? He's saying, you know, he's probably worth $100 million, when, in fact, it appears he's worth closer to $500 million. But it's to get on the list itself becomes a kind of collateral that can be used to get more loans for his banks before his initial bankruptcy.

And this is someone for whom truth is clearly transactional. That is the fundamental thing we're forced to confront with this sort of "House of Cards" type recording from back in the day. His obsession with perception. He used it very successfully to parlay that into real wealth, real political influence, and now the presidency.

HILL: But it's not just there. I mean, look, there -- there is, to this day, a back and forth about how many floors there are in Trump Tower, right, and what floor does he actually live on versus the floor he says that he lives on.

AVLON: It's a metaphor.

HILL: Because if I tack a few extra floors on there -- yes, yes, indeed, it is. But what does this say too about the fact that he has, for decades, from the very beginning, Michael, been consumed by status and what it could potentially bring him.

D'ANTONIO: Well, he understands the way that the modern world works. So what's fascinating about Donald Trump is that at every moment when the media platform changed, so it went from tabloid newspapers, to tabloid TV, to online presence and social media, he captured it. He was so far ahead of everybody else in understanding that the surface was all anybody was going to see. So the -- it's not gold letters that say Trump, it's polished brass that say Trump. But it doesn't really matter because they're colored gold and now everybody thinks I'm Midas.

You know, it's just -- it's crazy and mind-bending. And I think one of the things that this piece points out is that he puts the stake in the ground so far down the field. So it's now, I'm worth -- it's not that I'm worth $10 million instead of $5 million, it's worth -- I'm worth $200 million, or $400 million.

CUOMO: Right.

D'ANTONIO: And it was always Fred in the background. You know, he -- he was always there with his wealth that could bail out Donald until he died. It's, you know, he's saying in the '80s that he controlled all of this money. He didn't. 1999, when he got his inheritance, was the moment.

AVLON: And, I mean --

CUOMO: And, hold on, John, because I just want to give you some context and, please, take it from there.

AVLON: Sure.

CUOMO: People have heard some of this before. They've read your book. They've heard you do it.

My question is a very simple one. Why don't you care? We tell you these things. You've never heard anything like this about anybody who's come to any measure of power before. Never. Yes, people lie in politics all the time. You've never heard of anything like what we hear about consistently about our current president. But they don't care, the people who support Donald Trump. I'm telling you, if they did a poll about him after today, his numbers would be the same, maybe even up. He'd get points for creativity.

AVLON: Yes, but -- but as Donald Trump said during the campaign, he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and his core support would stay with him.

CUOMO: But that's not because American people are dumb.


CUOMO: Or that they don't get it.

AVLON: No, no.

CUOMO: So what does it tell us about what he has tapped into that is more powerful than the mendacity?

AVLON: His strongest support, and polling is pretty consistent, 28 percent. Twenty-eight percent of the American people stick with him through thick or thin, no matter what, because they feel he's been unfairly attacked and he's a great leader and they're buying into him and he's certainly better than Hillary Clinton. Some narrative like that.

First of all, 28 percent of the American people is not anywhere close to a majority. Second of all, I do think we are watching -- you reap what you sow. This is about celebrity culture meeting the imperial presidency. That has brought us to Donald Trump and this moment. And so we're all complicit in it to some extent. But he played it incredibly well. You know, used to say politics is perception. Donald Trump understood that early on, even before he was in politics, and parlayed it into some kind of real success. But we're all reaping the whirlwind here.

[06:55:26] CUOMO: All right, John, Michael, appreciate it, as always.

We've heard all about them. Now you can read them for yourself. What am I talking about? The Comey memos. Details of interactions between the former head of the FBI and the president of the United States. What attempts were there to influence the Russia probe? How were they reported at the time, next.



JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I tried to be transparent throughout this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president wasn't such a big fan of Mike Flynn after all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reince Priebus asking if there was a FISA warrant on Flynn. What's his need to know about that?

[07:00:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think his congressional allies did him any favors by reviewing these memos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This false narrative about this Russia trip, that's normal for any individual to want to have cleared off the table.