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Ethics Officials Sound Alarm Over Trump-Linked Project with China & ZTE; Will Meghan Markle's Father Walker Her Down the Aisle in the Royal Wedding; Windshield Blows Off Chinese Airliner. Aired 2:30- 3p ET

Aired May 15, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:18] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Some ethics officials are sounding the alarm on a Trump-linked project that has ties to the Chinese government. AFP is reporting that just days before the president tweeted his intention to save controversial Chinese technology firm, ZTE, the Chinese government reportedly agreed to loan $500 million to a development project in Indonesia that is going to include a Trump-branded golf course and also hotels. That money would be going to a theme park, but the theme park would certainly benefit those Trump properties. Whether or not these two deals are linked is the question here. But either way, ZTE, the Chinese company that Trump is supporting, has been accused of shady behavior.

Here's Senator Marco Rubio.


REP. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: And, ZTE, is company that has, in addition to posing a significant espionage threat against the United States, it's part of an overall industry in China that steals with intellectual property. Number two, they were sanctioned for violations of the sanctions against North Korea and Tehran. And so, somehow now, removing sanctions on them in exchange for removing tariffs on farmers that didn't do anything wrong, it doesn't sound like a good deal to me.


KEILAR: Joining me now, CNN senior economic analyst, Stephen Moore, a former economic adviser for the Trump campaign, and CNN contributor, Norm Eisen, the former White House ethics czar under President Obama.

Norm, you look at this and you say this is a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause. Explain your perspective.

NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me back on, Brianna.

The founders of our country and the framers of our Constitution were so concerned about just this kind of deal. Foreign governments siphoning huge amounts of cash to the president of the United States, with the potential -- think of it, $500 million -- with the potential to distort his judgment that they put a prohibition in the Constitution. It's called the Emoluments Clause. A president may take no emoluments of any kind whatsoever. All emoluments means is cash or other things of value. Here Trump's doing it. And the facts explain why they were so worried because did it affect his judgment on it ZTE call to preserve this troubling Chinese company. So this is just what our founders were worried about.

KEILAR: Stephen, I wonder what you think about the president making this move because there are multiple reasons to --


STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: What move are you talking about? You me the move to --


KEILAR: Let me explain.


KEILAR: ZTE had used American parts, and THEN sells product to North Korea and Iran. Again, right, so sanctions. And ZTE just really, days ago, the DOD says this poses a threat, we're not even going to sell these products on military bases because they're worried about this back channel and espionage being an open door from foreign countries. Why would the president be doing? And then you have this ethics concern.

MOORE: There are two different things.


MOORE: Let's hope that they're not linked.

But when it comes to the first issue about ZTE, look, it was Trump who put the sanctions on in the first place, right. And from everything we know, this is a company that violated, you know, our security laws twice, two times. And so it is somewhat troubling that he's basically saying, well, we're not going to impose those sanctions.

Now, the idea is that this is not linked to any kind of personal benefit --


KEILAR: You don't believe that when --

MOORE: There's no evidence of it. I don't believe it. I know Donald Trump. If there's evidence, it's a big problem, if there were some kind of quid pro quo. We're far from having any evidence of this.

My point is, what Trump is trying to do right now -- let's put this in the biggest context -- Trump is trying to negotiate the biggest trade deal with China ever, where they would make major concessions in terms of opening up to America and stop stealing from us. And we're starting to see the opening rounds of this. Now on the issue of the --


KEILAR: Except Wilbur Ross tried to clearly say this is not linked to the trade deal and that President Trump tweets and makes it clear that it is.

MOORE: Yes, I think --


MOORE: It probably was because --

KEILAR: Wilbur Ross admitting it's problematic to link these two things.

MOORE: You mean the ZTE --

KEILAR: The trade deal and the rescuing of ZTE.

MOORE: It may be, but it depends on what we get in return for it. Now the latest report is that China is agreeing to take off of these tariffs on our soy beans and our pork and so on. I guess my big point, this is all in action right now. We have to see what the final deal is before we can criticize it.

[14:35:09] KEILAR: Norm, what are you saying about that? Stephen is saying there's no evidence of a quid pro quo. Yet three days before this tweet about rescuing ZTE, you do have a big influx of Chinese government money to a project that is going to benefit a Trump project.

EISEN: Well, I admire Steve's economic knowledge, but his constitutional acumen leaves a little bit to be desired.

Brianna, the founders knew that questions like this were dangerous and so hard to prove. They so wanted to avoid this exact situation that we're in that they didn't require a quid pro quo for emoluments for foreign government cash. You just can't take it. Why? Because of the extreme peril. Look at this situation. Republicans are the ones saying ZTE is linked to Iran, to North Korea. They're a cyberthreat, they're a security threat. This isn't about pork and soy beans. This is about the national security of the United States.

MOORE: Norm, Norm --


EISEN: And the money raises a constitutional violation.

MOORE: But, Norm --

EISEN: It is just wrong, Steve. It's wrong!

MOORE: Let me -- let me ask you a question because you are the ethics czar, I'm not. What should Donald Trump do? Does he have to divest himself from every -- he owns real estate developments all over the world. He's one of the biggest real estate developers. So I mean, a lot of these things are going to be an appearance.


EISEN: I'll answer the question.


EISEN: I'll answer your question, Steve. He should do what every president has done for the past 40 years, Democrats and Republicans alike, roll that property into a blind trust, let a trustee worry about it --


EISEN: -- and then he says -- and then he can say, hey, I'm not involved in that, talk to the trustee. He broke that long tradition and the others did it with less reason.

This is not the only time that this has happened. We've had questions about Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, India. The president is sucking in money in his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue from foreign governments all over the world. He even hired a director of emoluments, although what he calls that person is a director of diplomatic sales. This is directly against the United States Constitution. And now we see the peril that this was designed to prevent with the ZTE deal.

KEILAR: Well, I do find it interesting that both of you gentlemen agree that maybe divesting would be the right answer here. I want to highlight that as we say good-bye.

Stephen Moore, thank you so much.

Ambassador Eisen, we appreciate you as well.

MOORE: Thank you.

EISEN: Thank you, Brianna. Thank you.

KEILAR: So next, the latest in a bizarre string of aviation incidents. A cockpit window shatters in midflight. It sucks the co- pilot halfway out of the aircraft. Next, we're going to go live inside of the cockpit to better understand just how something this wild could happen.


[14:42:09] KEILAR: So this just in to CNN. Meghan Markle's father, Thomas Markle, who initially had backed out of his duties of this much-anticipated royal wedding, now wants to walk her down the aisle, according to TMZ, but his health may stop him from traveling overseas. Thomas Markle has faced a lot of criticism over some stage paparazzi photos that you see here that showed him preparing for the wedding. He later apologized and said he doesn't want to embarrass his daughter nor the royal family. A Kensington Palace spokesman called this a difficult situation and that Markle and Prince Harry wish for understanding and respect.

CNN royal commentator, Victoria Arbiter, is joining me now to talk about this.

A lot of back and forth. We almost have whiplash from this situation involving Thomas Markle. But the palace, Kensington Palace, called this a deeply personal moment for Meghan. So where are we in all of this?

VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: That is the million-dollar question. This has been an extraordinary development this afternoon because, just yesterday, through TMZ, Thomas Markle was saying he was not prepared to travel to the U.K. to walk his daughter down the aisle because he was embarrassed, he was humiliated, and he didn't want to further embarrass his daughter or the royal family. Suddenly, here we are 24 hours later and, yet again, Thomas Markle is using TMZ as his conduit for information, saying he's had a change of heart and, yes, he does want to travel to England to walk his daughter down the aisle. And the problem now is he's saying he's in hospital having a battery of tests because his heart was seriously damage in the heart attack he said he experienced last week. He's also saying he's hoping his doctors, he'll be given the all clear to travel to London, but that remains to be seen.

So here we are, yet again, with another member of the Markle family changing the story, changing the narrative. And at the end of the day, there's a bride just wanting to know whether her father is going to walk her down the aisle or not come Saturday.

KEILAR: It just so odd, Victoria, all of this attention-seeking behavior of family members of Meghan Markle when the focus should be on Meghan Markle and not on them at all. This must be a very difficult and embarrassing situation for her. And also, I wonder how the royal family is responding to it.

ARBITER: This must be a deeply devastating time for Meghan and, of course, Harry, because Harry is incredibly protective of Meghan. He came out with a scathing note to the media and public at large calling for tolerance and everyone to sort of mind their "P"s and "Q"s when it comes to coverage of he and his girlfriend. Now here we are four days from the wedding and this coverage has absolutely blown up.

But you're right, the focus is in the wrong place. The royal family will do what they always do in situations similar to this, is just keep quiet. If they comment, it only fuels the story. The Queen Mother had a famous mantra, "Never complain, never explain." Unless there's sort of something serious or libelous, that's what they tend do to.

I think they'll be keen to gather around Meghan and make her feel supported, make her feel comfortable. Because, of course, this isn't her fault. Her family's not her fault. But it does illustrate all the reasons as to why she hasn't extended to family at large. It was only her mom and dad that were included in the wedding, and now her father has just let her down spectacularly. Not just her, but doing this in front of the world's media four days before she's due to get married. It beggars belief.

[14:45:31] KEILAR: Just real quick, Victoria, can you imagine a situation where he does attend? Do you think he's not going?

ARBITER: No. I'm hoping he's remorseful. I'm hoping it's set self aside. Meghan wants him there. The right thing to do would be to keep quiet now and show up on the day.

KEILAR: All right, we will see.

Victoria Arbiter, thank you so much for your insight.

Coming up, some rare remarks from Michael Flynn, who has kept a low profile since pleasing guilty to lying to FBI. Does the former national security advisor still support his former boss, President Trump? What he's now revealing.

Plus, a cockpit window shatters in midflight sucking the co-pilot halfway out of the aircraft. A live report next.


[14:50:40] KEILAR: Just in, we have some breaking news. Democratic Senator Mark Warner says he's going to vote yes for the president's CIA pick, Gina Haspel. Significant because he is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And also because it comes on the heels of Haspel sending him a letter saying the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation program was a mistake. She disavowed it. That is key because she oversaw a black site in Thailand where detainees were tortured following 9/11. They were subjected to torture there. And when she was giving her confirmation hearing, where you see photos of that no your screen, she didn't go this far. She didn't disavow the program. Now she has disavowed it to Senator Warner. And he says he is on board, potentially paving the way for Gina Haspel to be confirmed and become the first female CIA director of the United States.

Let's talk about some other news now. The co-pilot of a Chinese passenger jet is doing remarkably well considering that he was sucked halfway out of the cockpit when the plane's windshield blew out. This frightening incident unfolded at 30,000 feet in the air. Fortunately, the co-pilot was buckled into his seat. He suffered scratches and a sprained wrist. The broken window caused considerable turbulence. Flight attendants were turned around in the cabinet. Some electronics in the cockpit were malfunctioning. Amazingly, the pilot of this Airbus jet was able to control the plane and make an emergency landing in Tibet. This comes nearly a month, of course, after the death of a New Mexico woman who was partially sucked out of a window on a Southwest Airlines flight.

Joining me is Alan Armstrong, a pilot and an aviation attorney. He's going to give us a little look-see here was what was a very bizarre situation.

Tell us about, Alan, the kind of conditions that a pilot and co-pilot would be experiencing at 30,000 feet if they had a broken windshield. ALAN ARMSTRONG, PILOT & AVIATION ATTORNEY: Brianna, good afternoon.

The pilot and co-pilot would have a very violent ride. The airplane would be shuttering and shaking, wouldn't be able to talk to air traffic control. It would be a very, very difficult environment to control an aircraft in. Very, very difficult for the pilot. Very stressful.

KEILAR: Is this like the worst to be time for this to happen. They were at cruising altitude at 30,000 feet heading from China to the capital of Tibet.

ARMSTRONG: No, it's not the worst possible time. The worst possible time would be during landing to have a loss like that. That would be very distracting. It not optimal but it not the worst that could happen, no.

KEILAR: So some of the equipment was malfunctioning, as we understand it, in the cockpit. What would that have been like for the pilot? In addition, they can't hear air traffic control. They're trying to keep the co-pilot, obviously, just keep his person inside of the plane. How would they be handling the malfunctioning of equipment?

ARMSTRONG: It's really bedlam, frankly. In that particular aircraft, you see it in the center panel. In that aircraft, the auto-pilot, the flight system is up here. From the photographs I've seen, this system was displaced by the failure of the windshield. That was going. Now you're flying on raw data. The pilot is flying on raw data. He doesn't have the aid of an auto pilot to assist him, so it's a very difficult environment. So the captain, he's trying to fly the aircraft and trying to stop his co-pilot from being exited out of the aircraft or sucked out of the airplane.

[14:54:17] KEILAR: All right, Alan Armstrong, thank you so much for showing up exactly what they were dealing with. We appreciate it.

Next, back to our breaking news. We have new details emerging from President Trump's lunch with Senate Republicans. They planned to press him on a number of issues, including why the White House is refusing to apologize for insensitive remarks to one of his own, Senator John McCain. We'll have a live report about maybe why that did not happen from Capitol Hill, next.


[14:59:11] KEILAR: We're at the top of the hour now. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Brooke Baldwin. And you're watching CNN.

The president was just on Capitol Hill. He was meeting with Republican Senators. They did not talk about the elephant or elephants in the room. Republican Senators say the offensive remark about Senator John McCain did not come up, a remark made by a lower- level White House staffer. That, despite the fact that a growing number of GOP Senators want the White House to apologize for what a White House said about McCain, who is battling brain cancer. Kelly Sadler dismissed criticism by McCain over the president's CIA pick, Gina Haspel, saying, essentially, it didn't matter because the Senator was, quote, "dying anyway." Sadler did apologize to his daughter, Meghan McCain, on the phone. But asked to apologize publicly, she said she would, and then we never heard it. Moments ago, the Senate majority leader said that that should happen.