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Rudy Giuliani Walks Back Comments on President Trump's Influence on AT&T-Time Warner Merger; White House Does Not Apologize for Controversial Comments Made by Staffer about John McCain; Russian Bombers Fly Off Coast of Alaska; Tensions Increase in Middle East after President Trump Pulls U.S. Out of Iran Nuclear Deal; NORAD Continues Watch for Missiles Incoming to North America; Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Profiled; Pilot who Landed Southwest Airplane with Blown Engine Discusses Experience; Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Draws Controversial Remarks Online. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 12, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again and thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We start with breaking news of another growing drama inside the White House. More leaks giving us a behind the scenes look as Press Secretary Sarah Sanders berates her communications team. It comes after a White House aide Kelly Sadler dismissed McCain's lack of support for Trump's new CIA director pick, saying it doesn't matter because, this was the aide saying this, he's, quote, "dying anyway," during a meeting on Thursday. And now we are learning Sanders privately scolded her team during a staff meeting on Friday, not necessarily for the original tasteless comment, but for the fact that someone leaked that information. CNN's Boris Sanchez joining us live from the White House. Boris, what more have you learned?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, despite the fact that Sarah Sanders has been hesitant to publicly criticize these comments apparently made by Kelly Sadler about Senator John McCain, in private, at least, among staffers, she's apparently called them inappropriate according to a number of sources, though one source indicates that the nature of the meeting with these communications staffers had more to do with Sanders being upset that that leak was put out there in the first place. She apparently chided them, taking exception to the idea that someone leaked the information to hurt Kelly Sadler in public.

We should point out that Sanders sort of carried a similar tone when she spoke publicly about these comments, being upset about the leak, saying that she wouldn't validate that sort of talk, and going as far as to say the White House would not apologize for this remark. Listen to this from Sarah Sanders at the podium yesterday.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly there is not a tone set here. We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do both in word and in action. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not apologize to Senator McCain?

SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.


SANCHEZ: Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was asked about Kelly Sadler, how he felt about the comment that she made. He essentially said that it was an inappropriate joke, but that Sadler should have the right to speak candidly when she's in a private meeting and that she shouldn't be fired for making the statement. Here's Mick Mulvaney.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: I think the remarks are awful, but let's look at this in context. That was said in a private meeting inside the White House. It's not like -- you might say something really nasty about me off the air, and it really doesn't have that much impact. You come on air and say it officially, now that's a problem. This was a private meeting inside the White House. It was a joke. It was a badly considered joke, an awful joke, that she said fell flat. And I get all that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that's right, proper?

MULVANEY: I don't. I honestly don't. You have to have some freedom to speak in a private meeting, to speak candidly. We've all said things in private, especially in smaller groups that we work with that we would never see publicly. I think she's handled it appropriately.


SANCHEZ: And Fred, we should point out that another thing we've heard from multiple sources is that in light of this comment, Sadler's job is not at risk. It appears she will remain on in her current role.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

All right, all of this as the back and forth continues between Trump's outspoken lawyer and mouthpiece Rudy Giuliani and the escalating White House chaos and confusion. This morning Giuliani once again backtracking on his comments that directly contradicted the White House, this time on the AT&T and Time Warner merger. Time Warner is a parent company of CNN. Giuliani originally saying on Friday Trump personally denied the deal. The White House jumping into damage control mode this morning, saying not the case. Then one hour later Giuliani is scrambling to clarify his original comments. CNN politics reporter Jeremy Herb joining us now. So, Jeremy, what is going on?

JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Rudy Giuliani has the White House back on the defensive over his comments last night when he told them President Trump denied the AT&T-Time Warner merger. He was trying to argue that Michael Cohen's work for AT&T did not have any impact on the merger, or on swaying Trump, but he also contradicted with the White House had been saying for months. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders today had to clarify again saying that the DOJ was the ones who denied the deal, and then an hour later Giuliani called CNN's Dana Bash to walk back that comment, basically said the president told Rudy Giuliani that he was in the directly involved in denying the deal.

So the White House has said for months that the Justice Department is the one that was behind this, but the president on the campaign trail and in the time in the White House, he -- the president has been opposed, or has expressed his opposition to the merger.

[14:05:00] WHITFIELD: So then I wonder does this latest round kind of highlight that the White House isn't always in step with what the president may be conveying to his personal representation, or does this underscore that there is a communication problem between the president and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani?

HERB: Yes. I think it's clear that they're not on the same page. This is the latest in a number of instances where Rudy Giuliani has been out on his own and contradicted what we've heard from the White House. You had the Stormy Daniels payment. You've had his talk about the North Korean hostages.

And so it's -- it's unclear to see whether Rudy is the mouthpiece here for the president, kind of channeling what he really thinks, or if he's just kind of out freelancing on his own and making the missteps. Either way, it's the White House who has to clean up after this as we saw this morning with the latest statement. So it's certainly putting them into a difficult position.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much. Jeremy Herb, appreciate it. Let's talk even further on this with CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Stewart with me and CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Keith Boykin. Good to see you both. So Alice, how do you see it? Is there a real disconnect between the White House and the messaging from an agreement between Trump and Rudy Giuliani, or is there a problem in the messaging between the president and Giuliani?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is a problem, Fred. I think someone needs to pull this mouthpiece aside and tell him to shut his mouth until he gets the facts straight. Look, from a communications standpoint, even under the best of circumstances, if all the trains are running on time with the story, whether it be tax cuts or immigration, everything is great as long as everyone is on the same page. The problems come up with when you have conflicting stories and one person is saying one thing and another person saying something else, and it throws the entire message off course.

Here we have Giuliani not just with this case saying that the president denied the merger, he didn't interfere, he knew about the Stormy Daniels' payment before he denied it. These are problems that can be corrected or avoided if he would get his facts straight on the front end and stop talking out of school or about information he has absolutely no knowledge about.

WHITFIELD: I wonder, Keith, because I feel like this is a broken record, because if it's not Rudy Giuliani, then there's somebody elsewhere seems to be catching the blame on the messaging problem, but what's consistent is there are mixed messages. What does the president real feel? What does he really think? What's the action really? So what's really the problem here?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Donald Trump. A fish rots from the head. There's never been so much chaos and miscommunication in any modern White House in my recollection. And it all stems from Donald Trump. He is inconsistent in his own messaging. He can't stay on message whatever the message is for the day. And so it's not a surprise that you have press secretaries and communications directors and lawyers and staff members and cabinet members consistently in conflict with what Donald Trump says, or on occasion, they are consistent with Trump on one day and the next day he changes his position. So it's impossible to keep up with where he is because the man is a reflection of conflict and contradiction.

The problem, though, larger problem for Donald Trump is that he continues to pick these people who are not good for him. He picked not only Rudy Giuliani, but before that he picked Michael Cohen as his lawyer. He's paying off $130,000 to porn stars. He picked Ty Cobb, I think it was, having a meeting in a restaurant in Washington D.C. and was overheard by reporters revealing his strategy. Donald Trump said he's going to pick the best people. He picks all the worst people instead. He's not very good at picking good people to represent him.

WHITFIELD: OK, and then we just heard this report about the communications press secretary for the White House Sarah Sanders berating her staff over leaks. Namely about the White House aide who used some very offensive language in which to describe John McCain in his current state with the terminal illness. So, Alice, is the anger being placed correctly. Mad that there's the leaks, but then the White House is not necessarily conveying that it's mad that this language was used, that he's dying.

STEWART: No, Fred. Look, it's bad when you have leaked stories about a leaked story. And that's where we have a problem with this administration. And in my view, the comments that were made about Senator McCain were disgusting and despicable. And, look, it's not a surprise that under the administration of president bone-spur that people may have a cavalier attitude about a war hero like Senator McCain. But it's one thing to think something this disparaging and this hurtful. But it's another to say it out loud. And in my view, I can't imagine under any circumstances how someone couldn't apologize for this from an administration standpoint. But the fact is clearly they're standing by her and they're not going to back down. But I would be certainly more concerned about what was actually said than how it had gotten out to the press.

WHITFIELD: Because it seems, Keith, at least what's being reported, that anger is being conveyed, anger at the leaks but not necessarily anger about the language used.

BOYKIN: Yes. I mean, it's not surprising because Donald Trump himself doesn't apologize when he makes mistakes or errors. Instead, he blames the media and blames the leakers instead of taking account of why people are upset in the first place or why stories are being leaked. In this case, this could have been a one-day story, a few- hour story, if someone had told this woman and the White House, look, you need to apologize or we need to fire you. One or the other. That would have moved the story on. But the White House --

WHITFIELD: She apologized to Meghan --


WHITFIELD: -- the daughter. Not enough?

BOYKIN: No. A public apology. And the White House needs to apologize itself.

I'm not a big fan of John McCain on his political views, but I would never say something like that about John McCain or any other public figure. And if I did, I think I should be held accountable for that, and I'm not even in the White House. So the fact that we're holding the White House to a lower standard than we hold others public officials, other people in our society, says a lot.

But Donald Trump hasn't apologized still for five and a half years of lying about Barack Obama's birth certificate. He still hasn't apologized for lying for 20 some odd years about the Central Park Five who he wrongly accused of raping a woman in Central Park. Donald Trump has a history of doing bad things and not apologizing. He even told Frank Luntz during an interview during the campaign that he's never sought forgiveness from God even though he calls himself a Christian because he doesn't feel like he needs to do that. That is who Donald Trump is. It's part of his DNA. And he's infected and infused that into the White House as well.

WHITFIELD: Keith Boykin, Alice Stewart, we'll leave it right there.

STEWART: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

Next, new details on the U.S. intercepting Russian bombers. A live report on the drama off Alaska's coast straight ahead.


[14:16:16] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're following new developments in a drama that unfolded off Alaska. U.S. stealth fighter jets scrambled to intercept a part of Russian bombers in international airspace Friday. The Russian long-range bombers flew into the air defense identification zone which extends about 200 miles off Alaska's coast. CNN Pentagon reporter Ryan Browne joins us now with more on the developments. So Ryan, what more can you tell us?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, this instance of two Russia TU-95 Bear bombers flying off the Alaska coast, it has been a long time since the Russians have done this. They do this as part of training exercises. The U.S. monitors this closely. U.S. monitored these bombers entering the air defense identification zone and scrambled these F-22 stealth jets to intercept. We're told this was all done professionally and all done in

international air space, but it's been some time since the Russians have conducted one of these probing flights near Alaska north of the Aleutian Islands. In fact it was May of last year, 2017, was the last time the Russians did that. In that instance similar bombers flew once again off the Alaska coast but staying in international airspace, and that was the fourth time in a period of about a month last year.

So officials thought then it was sending a message to the United States that Russia was flexing its military muscle off the coast of Alaska in U.S. backyard. Part of a training exercise perhaps but also very much a sending of a message. So U.S. officials now will be watching closely to see if Russia attempting additional flights like this, if additional bombers make their way off the Alaska coast. But again, this all comes as tensions with Russia on various security issues remain relatively high, so the U.S. will be closely watching Russian bomber activity off the coast of Alaska in the coming weeks and months. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Browne, thank you so much.

Coming up, how Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went from being a presidential favorite to a Trump target.


[14:22:40] WHITFIELD: He's the man at the center of the Russia investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein facing constant pressure from not just the White House but lawmakers on Capitol Hill with several congressional Republicans threatening to impeach him. CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger takes a closer look at Rod Rosenstein.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: If the president is your boss, this is not what you want to hear when he's asked if he'll fire you.


BORGER: Trump was dissing his own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, for whom every day can be a near death experience as a frustrated president lashes out at the Russia investigation.

TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt, and there is no collusion.

BORGER: Rosenstein became the man in charge once the attorney general recused himself. So he's the one who hired the special counsel, which leaves him as the man in the middle between Trump and any move to fire Robert Mueller, a precarious place. Oddly enough, Rosenstein started out as a teacher's pet.

TRUMP: He's highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. And the Democrats like him, the Republicans like him.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This guy is a man of upstanding character and essentially the gold standard at the Department of Justice.

BORGER: Rosenstein's stock rose even higher when after just two weeks on the job he wrote a now infamous memo at the request of the president lambasting FBI Director James Comey for mishandling the Clinton email investigation.

ANDY WHITE, ROSENSTEIN FRIEND AND FORMER COLLEAGUE: If the president asks you to look at this and give me your thoughts, you can't say no.

BORGER: So he writes the memo.

WHITE: Writes the memo.

BORGER: And then?

WHITE: All hell breaks loose.

BORGER: The president loved it almost as much of he hated Comey. So much in fact that he received it, released it, and fired Comey all on the same day last May.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, we have a major breaking news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States has terminated the director of the FBI, James Comey.

BORGER: Josh Campbell, a close Comey aide, was with him in Los Angeles when Comey learned, watching CNN, that he had been fired.

[14:25:06] JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO JAMES COMEY: They said we have a letter from the president that was dropped off at the visitor's center at FBI headquarters.

BORGER: Visitor's center?

CAMPBELL: At the visitor's center indicating you've been fired. They said there's something else. There's something attached to this letter. There's a lengthy explanation from the deputy attorney general laying out a case against you.

BORGER: Was he surprised at Rosenstein?

CAMPBELL: He was very surprised at Rosenstein. And again, not that they were chummy or friends or you would know what to expect, because none of this was telegraphed.

BORGER: Do you think he knew it was going to be used by the president as the rationale, publicly, for firing James Comey?

WHITE: Well, I think he had to know it was going to be used in some degree. I don't think that he realized that the president was going to put Greyhound Bus tracks on his back with that memo. I don't think he realized it was going to be used in that way.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: My memo truthfully reflects my views. I'm not in position to comment on anybody else. So from my perspective, senator, that memo is about what it's about. I do not know what was in anybody else's mind.

BORGER: But in Comey world, Rosenstein is seen as a Trump collaborator, not an independent actor.

So what's the motive?

CAMPBELL: I think the motive is to keep his job.

BORGER: What's Rosenstein's rep now?

CAMPBELL: There's conflict there. He's someone that people are suspicious of, but in these interesting times, people are looking at him and thinking he might be the last best hope that we have to ensure that Bob Mueller is allowed to do his job, which is a strange place to be in.

BORGER: Rosenstein is 53, married with two teenage daughters.

WHITE: He's a dad. His world has changed a lot because of this.

ROSENSTEIN: My younger daughter was 14 at the time when she heard I was going to become deputy. She asked me a very important question. She said dad, does this mean you'll get your picture in the paper?


ROSENSTEIN: And I said no.


BORGER: But he keeps his own counsel even with his friends.

WHITE: With Rod you scratch the surface and you get more surface. But that's him. He is inscrutable publicly. Professionally he is devastatingly effective. He's methodical, he's thorough.

BORGER: A career Justice Department official with a Harvard law pedigree. A former U.S. attorney from Maryland for a dozen years. A Republican appointed by George W. Bush.

JAMES TRUSTY, ROSENSTEIN FRIEND AND FORMER COLLEAGUE: He's been presiding over a small district that was bringing every case you could imagine from material support of terrorism to public corruption to MS- 13 to corrupt jails where almost all the guards get indicted. He's been aggressive, and he has not shied away from the political spotlight when it comes to prosecutorial decisions.

BORGER: He was confirmed for his current job last April 94 to six, but the shine wore off quickly after the Mueller appointment. And then Rosenstein further enraged Trump by not stopping the Michael Cohen raid.

TRUMP: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, and it's a disgraceful situation.

BORGER: And an increasingly tenuous one for Rosenstein.

SALLY YATES, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: No one is above the law, even the president.

BORGER: Obama appointee Sally Yates is a former deputy attorney general fired by Trump last year.

YATES: The president can't fire a prosecutor because he's mad that he authorized a search warrant of his lawyers' home and office.

BORGER: He could be mad about it.

YATES: Sure, he could be mad about it, as long as he's not trying to influence his conduct.

BORGER: At a recent meeting with the president, Rosenstein himself volunteered that the Cohen raid did not put Trump in any legal jeopardy. But the president remained furious.

TRUMP: I'm very disappointed in my Justice Department, but because of the fact that it's going on, and I think you'll understand this, I have decided that I won't be involved. I may change my mind at some point, because what's going on is a disgrace.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I believe that Attorney General Sessions, my good friend, and Rosenstein, who I don't know, I believe they should in the interest of justice end this investigation.

WHITE: If he asks Rod to fire Mr. Mueller, Rod would resign. That's my guess, because at that point, it's untenable. You have a president who's not respecting the process and not respecting the constitution. He won't do it.

BORGER: He won't?


YATES: It would be a red line for the president to fire Bob Mueller. But it should equally be crossing a red line if he were to fire Rod Rosenstein as well.

BORGER: And what red line is that?

YATES: It's a red line in terms of totally turning the rule of law on its head.

[14:30:00] BORGER: Some Republicans would see it as a step in the right direction, calling Rosenstein conflicted because he wrote the Comey memo. They also fume he won't provide his unredacted internal memo detailing the scope of the Mueller investigation. The president himself again threatening, "At some point, I will have no choice but no to the use the powers granted to the presidency and get involved."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you afraid of President Trump firing you?

ROSENSTEIN: No, I'm not.

TRUSTY: Rod is -- he's like shockingly fatalistic.

ROSENSTEIN: There are people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now the department of justice is not going to be extorted.

WHITE: He is a career public servant. He's a career prosecutor. Whatever Mr. Trump wants to say, frankly, can only make his reputation go up.

BORGER: Even if he gets fired?

WHITE: Especially if he gets fired.


BORGER: But he's on the job at least for now. The rest is up to Donald Trump. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Gloria.

All right, next, the president pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal, sparking clashes across the Middle East. Now Iran says it's ready to restart its nuclear program if the deal collapses. What does that mean for America's allies?


[14:35:43] WHITFIELD: All right, the Middle East is on edge after days of protests and violence in the wake of President Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. Iran says it is making preparations to restart its nuclear enrichment on a, quote, industrial scale as a result of the U.S. withdrawing from the pact. Thousands of Iranians protested in the streets on Friday, angry with President Trump's decision.

Meanwhile Israel and Iran are trading blows across the Syrian border, firing missiles at each other and at the Israeli-Gaza border. Hundreds have been injured and a Palestinian was killed in protest over the last several weeks.

We have team coverage on the ground. CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott in Jerusalem and senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen in Tehran. So Elise, let's begin with you. Could the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem set to open on Monday prove to be an explosive situation in an already combustible region?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Fred, I think there is a concern that that could happen. This is coming on the heels of a lot of conflict, as you said, in the region, that trade of unprecedented gun -- rocket fire between Iran and Israel retaliating.

And then you have the embassy. You have the start of Ramadan also early this week, and Nakba Day, which is the day after the embassy opening. So a lot of this toxic mix of tension, really, at this time. I think the Israelis are certainly ready for a lot of protests from the Gaza Strip. There's a lot of concern that thousands of protesters could breach the wall between Israel and Gaza. Already the Israelis have closed Kerem Shalom crossing which is where a lot of goods go across because rioters on Friday had really threw a lot of pipe bombs and really tried to cause a lot of chaos there. So certainly there's a lot of concern about the situation in Gaza.

And then you have the situation with Iran, this unprecedented direct fire really escalating in the wake of President Trump withdrawing from the Iran deal. Iran really on the defensive right now.

WHITFIELD: And Elise on that, Iran saying the U.S. decision to withdraw will, and I'm quoting now, speed up annihilation of Israel. How is that being interpreted?

LABOTT: Look, that's a lot of rhetoric that you typically hear from Iran, and certainly Israel sees Iran as an existential threat. I think for right now this flareup between Israel and Iran might have dissipated. But I do think you're going to see this kind of level of slow burn escalation for some time. Israel has been very concerned about what it sees as a growing Iranian military presence in Syria, although the Iranians deny it. But they will continue to go after those targets if they feel they're a direct threat to Israel. And Iran cannot help but respond, even though, obviously, Israel is outmatching them not only in military power but intelligence.

So I think certainly the tensions are going to remain high. You may not see a major escalation, but I think you're going to see this kind of tit for tat going on for some time, Fred. And obviously these events coming together Monday, very concerning. I will say very quickly, though, I think that right now Iran is on the back foot and Israel sees this as a prime opportunity to go after Iran after President Trump withdrew from the Iran deal. Their currency is really plummeting. Israel sees it as their opportunity.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, well, Fred, Iran's foreign minister says he will still try to save this deal through a round of international diplomacy. Is that possible?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, it might be possible. I think it's going to be something that's very difficult. But I think at the same time, Fredricka, what you're also seeing is that the hardliners here in Iran, certainly the Iranian military structure, from the statement they were talking about before, they're saying we're not going to back down in any of this, either with the nuclear agreement or some of the tensions there with Israel.

[14:40:01] At the same time, yes, they are trying to salvage the nuclear agreement. Javad Zarif is going to embark on a trip. He's going to go to China, Russia, and then to the European countries to try and salvage the nuclear agreement. What Iranians are envisioning is they say they want basically the original agreement but then minus the United States.

The countries that are really under pressure in all this, Fredricka, are the Europeans. And a lot of the European countries are not very happy with President Trump's decision. In fact, there was a cover of a German magazine called "Der Spiegel" which was quite graphic, showing how some of the European countries feel. Angela Merkel went to see President Trump and lobby for the nuclear agreement, Emmanuel Macron of France did exactly the same thing. They don't feel the Americans took their concerns into consideration.

And what the Iranians are now saying is, look, you can save the nuclear agreement, but the main thing is Iran's interests need to be protected. And what the Iranians really want is European companies to be able to invest here in Iran, to bring money and jobs into the country. The big problem is that the White House, the U.S. administration, does not want that to happen. So the Europeans are going to have to try to find some way to finesse that. Otherwise the Iranians will say the deal is null and void. They can start uranium enrichment again, as you said. They said they can do that on an industrial scale without any restrictions, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Frederik Pleitgen, Elise Labott, Thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

While tensions between the U.S. and North Korea appear to be calming for now, the U.S. military is not letting down its guard. CNN received unique access to facility that monitors incoming threats to North America in the sky, including Kim Jong-un's missiles. Our Scott McLean reports.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the first time in a long time, there are positive signs coming from North Korea, but the political optics here mean very little for the people at NORAD who are tracking the North Korean nuclear threat. In fact they're just as leery of North Korea now as they were a year ago. Their work is done in two command centers here in Colorado Springs, and one of them is buried under that mountain.

MCLEAN: This is America's first line of defense from an incoming nuclear missile. Deep inside Cheyenne Mountain, south of Denver, this sprawling underground bunker is the home of NORAD, the North America Aerospace Defense Command. The U.S.-Canadian partnership formed to defend against long-range Soviet bombers during the cold war. Today it warns of incoming threats from the sky 24 hours a day, including a North Korean missile, something that seemed like a real possibility just months ago.

KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER (through translator): They must never forget that the nuclear button is placed on my desk at all times. They must realize that this is not a threat but a reality.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. MCLEAN: Since then tensions with North Korea have cooled down. Kim

Jong-un's missile tests have stopped, and threats of fire and fury have been replaced with handshakes and talks of optimism ahead of a Trump-Kim meeting next month. But here inside the NORAD commander center, you'd never know it.

COL. TRAVIS MOREHEN, DIRECTOR, NORAD-USNORTHCOM COMMAND CENTER: We have a job to do that's measured in minutes and seconds. And for us to try and account for that, the political rhetoric, it doesn't fit in. We are worried about pieces of metal flying through face coming to North America.

MCLEAN: CNN was granted rare access to this complex buried under 2,400 feet of solid granite at the end of a nearly mile-long tunnel. It's designed to survive a nuclear blast and maintain communications even after being hit. It's secured by 23-ton blast door. Five underground lakes store water and fuel, and its 15 buildings sit on more than 1,300 giant springs. The buildings sway up to a foot without being damaged in an earthquake or missile strike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We like to say it's the most secure facility in the world.

MCLEAN: Colonel Travis Morehen, a Canadian, has been at the helm of the command center standing watch during five North Korea missile tests. Despite North Korea's talk of denuclearization, he says NORAD gets intelligence on Kim Jong-un's nuclear program three or four times a day.

What should we read into that?

MOREHEN: You shouldn't read anything into that. It's just that that's the scan of the intelligence community looking at North Korea. We have been watching the same as we were previously, the same as we watch any other nation that poses a threat to the United States and Canada.

MCLEAN: The persistent focus on North Korea comes despite President Trump's announcement that the U.S. is pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. Iran's president has yet to commit to staying in it, meaning the world could soon have another aspiring nuclear power, or even two more with Saudi Arabia makes good on its pledge to follow suit if Iran restarts its nuclear program.

If there is a deal to actually denuclearize the Korean peninsula, is your work done here?

[14:45:04] MOREHEN: No. No, it's not. We need to be able to respond to any threat from any nation. In my opinion here, our work will never be done.

MCLEAN: NORAD is marking its 60th anniversary this weekend. It is the only bi-national command of its kind in the world, but it is not the only tenant inside Cheyenne Mountain. There are actually some 15 other U.S. government agencies who operate inside, but the officials who took us in wouldn't say which ones. Scott McCain, CNN, Colorado Springs, Colorado.


WHITFIELD: And still ahead, the pilots who safely landed a Southwest Airlines jet after an engine exploded killing a passenger are speaking out. Why one of them wasn't even supposed to be in the cockpit that day.

But first, here's a look at the all new episode of United Shades of America.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Gullah are fighting to preserve their culture, and like all marginalized groups in America, it is always a fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, people would say to me, boy, you're too geechee (ph). And the reason they said that, because you need to change. You came from the plantation, you can't get ahead. But we were losing our own culture. To learn about these people that talk funny, we still carry on those traditions, and if we don't carry it on, it's going to die out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I took the way I used to talk a long time ago from the plantation. I remember like yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like it was yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you going?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going to the schoolhouse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Walk in the yard.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw a turtle crawling across the yard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I seen two of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One was fat like me and one was skinny. That's the language we teach.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what we do.



WHITFIELD: Catch "United Shades of America" tomorrow, 10:00 p.m. eastern and pacific right here on CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:51:35] WHITFIELD: The pilots of a Southwest Airlines flight that had an engine break apart are talking for the first time about their harrowing experience. CNN's Polo Sandoval has their incredible story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you descending right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Single engine descending.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When an engine failed on a Southwest Airlines flight last month, pilot Tammie Jo Shults didn't panic. Instead she relied on her extensive Navy experience.

TAMMIE JO SHULTS, PILOT, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: My first thoughts were actually oh, here we go, just because it seems like a flashback to some of the Navy flying we'd done.

SANDOVAL: Shults, who navigated Southwest flight 1380 to safety discussed the incident for the first time since the April 17th emergency that left one passenger dead. Shults said on ABC's "20/20" that she wasn't even supposed to be in the cockpit that day. She traded with her pilot husband so she could attend her son's track meet.

SHULTS: Dean, being the amazing husband he is, said you go to the track meet. I'll switch and take your trip. So that's why I was on the trip.

SANDOVAL: Shortly after the Boeing 737 took off from New York's LaGuardia airport, the fan blade on the left engine broke. Debris from the engine struck the body of the plane, cracking one window which eventually broke open. The passenger in the seat next to the window was pulled partially out of the aircraft but was brought back in by other passengers. However the passenger, Jennifer Riordan, didn't survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can imagine everybody was going crazy and yelling and screaming.

SANDOVAL: First Officer Darren Ellisor also spoke with ABC News about the incident.

DARREN ELLISOR, FIRST OFFICER, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: We were passing through about 32,000 feet when we had a large bang, and a rapid decompression. There was shaking, everything. And that all kind of happened all at once.

SANDOVAL: Shults said she and her first officer used hand signals to communicate in the cockpit because of the noise level.

SHULTS: It was loud, and there was -- it was just hard to communicate for a lot of different reasons.


WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Tonight CNN's Alisyn Camerota shares the untold stories of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Harry wants to keep his relationship with Meghan private as long as he can. But just four months after that first date the news is out. And the paparazzi pounced once again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a photographer who got inside Meghan's house in Toronto. The paparazzi were camping on her mother's front lawn and following and harassing members of her family, anybody who knew her.

CAMEROTA: Despite starring in a TV show, Meghan is relatively unknown. Now the British press wants to know who she is and if she's fit for the royal family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was a woman who has been married. People are fascinated by the fact that she was divorced. People are fascinating by her background, her acting, a career woman. How would that work being with someone in the royal family? That's not what we've seen before.

CAMEROTA: They also have not seen someone biracial dating a member of the royal family. And some of the conversation is blatantly racist.

AFUA HIRSCH, JOURNALIST: There was one newspaper headline saying straight out of Compton, suggesting that she was from a gang-ridden neighborhood.

CAMEROTA: Afua Hirsch is a journalist and recently wrote a book about race, identity, and belonging in Britain.

HIRSCH: Would Harry be dropping around for tea in gangland, which was very clearly racially loaded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another issue exploded which was the number of horrific social media racist comments began to flood in from the darkest, vilest corners of the internet.


WHITFIELD: CNN Special Report, "A Royal Match, Harry and Meghan," airs tonight 8:00 p.m. eastern followed by another special "Diana, Chasing a Fairy Tale," that's at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

Thanks so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The Newsroom with Ana Cabrera starts right now.