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Windshield Blows Off Chinese Airliner; New Report: M.H.-370 Flight a Pilot Suicide; Questions Over Melania Trump's Kidney Procedure; Michael Flynn Praises Trump in New Book; Question on Who Will Walk Meghan Markle Down the Aisle Days Ahead of Royal Wedding. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 15, 2018 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[13:32:58] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hanging out of the plane at 30,000 feet, that was the fate of a co-pilot on a Chinese airliner who was sucked halfway out of the cockpit when the windshield blew off. In the end, he suffered only a few scratches and a sprained wrist. The plane was 80 miles into flight to Tibet when the windshield simply came off. The pilot was able to control the aircraft and make a safe, smooth emergency landing.

Joining us from London, our aviation correspondent, Richard Quest.

Richard, every plane goes through a series of mechanical checks and inspections, but does anybody really regularly check the windshield integrity and the seals? We've seen a few problems of this lately.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. In fact, you check the windshield more than you check the rest of the plane's windows, because the windshield -- the cockpit windshield is an extremely complicated piece of equipment. It has multiple layers, it has heating, it has defogging devices, it has filters on it for the light. So the windshield itself is very important. It's crucial and it is regularly checked.

But, Wolf, it is also bearing the brunt of the plane's forces as it goes through the air at 500 miles an hour. So cracks in plane windshields are not uncommon. However, mostly, it's a crack and you land safely. In this case, something far more serious took place and could have been catastrophic.

By the way, Wolf, it's not the first time this happened. A British Airways pilot almost got sucked out once when the windshield cracked and exploded, and he had to be held in by the captain until they landed safely.

BLITZER: A pretty awful situation. I know they'll take a look at this down the road.

QUEST: Right.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at another aviation issue. It's been four years since Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared. Now there's a report out of Australia. Experts say they believe it was possibly suicide by the pilot. That's certainly not the first time we've heard this theory. You wrote a whole book about this whole issue, "The Vanishing of Flight M.H.-370." There's the book cover right there.

Take us through this theory of suicide and why it's often been discounted in the past.

QUEST: This was a program in Australia. It brought together experts, including the former head of the NTSB investigating body, for the first time. And the conclusion was that it was the captain, Captain Zaraha Shah (ph), who did bring down the plane. Or at least he took command, he turned off the navigation aids, he turned off the radar, and then he flew around Indonesia down into the southern ocean.

The problem with the program is it didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. This theory that the captain did it has been around since day one, and this program didn't really advance the argument as to the evidence that proves it.

Wolf, I promise you, there's not a single shred of new evidence as to what happened to that plane. There's lots of extrapolation, there's lots of conclusions, and people thinking if you take one and one it must equal two, but was it nefarious? Was it mechanical? Was it something else? We still do not know. Having said that, they were the experts, and they did a good job of actually, if you like, reprising the evidence.

[13:35:23] BLITZER: Richard Quest, with the very latest on that front. The mystery clearly continues. Thank you very, very much.

Other news we're following, the first lady of the United States, Melania Trump, expected to spend a few more days in the hospital after a procedure to treat a benign kidney condition. But now there are questions about the length of her hospitalization.

And Meghan Markle's family drama dominating the headlines just days before her wedding to Prince Harry. There are new details.

We'll be right back.

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[13:40:13] BLITZER: Right now, Melania Trump is recovering from a medical procedure to treat a benign kidney condition. While the procedure was performed yesterday, the first lady is not scheduled to leave the hospital for a few more days. The length of Mrs. Trump's hospital stay is raising some questions and her office is declining to comment on those questions.

The president did offer this upbeat assessment just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to start by saying that Melania is in the hospital, doing really well. She's watching us right now. And I want to thank the incredible doctors, Walter Reed Medical Center. They did a fantastic job, so thank you. And she sends her love.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, tell us about this embolization procedure on her kidney and what kind of hospital stay this would normally involve.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, sure. This is a procedure as opposed to a surgery where you're actually making an incision and examining the kidney in this case directly. With this it's sort of like a large I.V., if you will, in one of the blood vessels and a catheter is put through that blood vessel and threaded to the area up around the kidney and around this abnormality specifically. Then a type of glue substance, something that basically blocks the blood vessels, is injected to basically eliminate any more blood flow to this area that's abnormal. You want that area to not receive blood flow and eventually it causes it to wither away. Or if it's at risk of bleeding in some way, it will really limit that risk of bleeding. That's what the procedure is, an embolization procedure They do this in various parts of the body, in this case, on the kidney.

Typically, to the second part of your question, someone could go have this procedure done in the morning and go home the same day. An outpatient procedure, it's called. If they're more worried, then staying overnight to see if somebody might develop pain or some other problem to basically try and control that. But not the entire week. That's not typical. We looked at data. We talked to several doctors who perform this sort of procedure. That's just not typical.

BLITZER: What does that say to you?

GUPTA: I don't know, Wolf. I think anything is really sort of speculation. You always wonder, look, is there something more going on here? Is this an abundance of caution in some way? Obviously, this is the first lady, so is this situation being treated differently for some reason?

From a medical standpoint, the questions I would ask is, what was it exactly that was being embolized, and why has that raised a greater level of concern based on the number of days she's staying in the hospital? Could it mean that the embolization was the first procedure out of another procedure still to come? Sometimes you will embolize something to make it less likely to bleed when it is subsequently operated upon. But, again, Wolf, we don't know. There was a very short statement from the first lady's office telling us she had that procedure yesterday, and then another statement today basically saying she's resting comfortably and we would likely not hear anything more.

BLITZER: The president tweeted just a little while ago, "Our great first lady is doing well. Will be leaving the hospital in the next two or three days. Thank you for so much love and support."

I think I speak with all of us here at CNN --

GUPTA: Yes.

BLITZER: -- all of our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, we wish her a speedy and safe recovery --

GUPTA: Right.

BLITZER: -- from this procedure.

Sanjay, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: Michael Flynn, HE pled guilty for lying to the FBI and is cooperating with Robert Mueller's special investigation. Now the disgraced former national security adviser to President Trump is praising his former boss in a brand-new book. So how could it impact, could it impact the overall investigation? We have details.

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[13:48:34] BLITZER: Michael Flynn, the man who was briefly President Trump's national security adviser, and is now cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, is praising his former boss in a new book. Flynn wrote a foreword to this book. The book is entitled, "America First: The Make America Great Manifesto." Flynn said this in the forward, quote, "We must support the mission by electing the Congress that President Trump requires to further enact his vision for our country. The midterm election is only a few months off. It's time we put possible Make America Great Again candidates through their paces, choose those we can strongly support, and do whatever we can to get out the vote this November," closed quote.

Let's bring in our legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates.

Is it remarkable at all, unusual that someone awaiting sentencing, he's already pleaded guilty to these charges, would come out and say these nice things about the president of the United States?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's most remarkable and surprising that he would do so. Not that he preserves some loyalty to the president and the mission he initially signed onto on the campaign, but that in the position he's in right now as a cooperator -- remember, he's not someone who just pled guilty, he is a known cooperator of the Mueller probe whose job it is to figure out whether anyone who was part of the Trump campaign had any collusive engagement with Russian nationals or foreign nationals like Russia. It seems to me it's quite a signal to the administration and Donald Trump that there's no love loss in spite of a cooperator's agreement. But it begs the question, why he's taking such a prominent and vocal role, knowing that just a few weeks ago, Mueller said we want to delay the sentencing. The reason that's important, Wolf, is when you are a cooperator in a federal investigation, oftentimes, they'll hang that carrot and dangle it. The more you cooperate and the more your evidence and reporting and everything you're going to give them is assisting them or beneficial, and they will put off the actual recommendation for sentencing. It may be much more lenient if you're cooperative enough. If they're dangling this now in front of him two months out and this comes out, it's pretty surprising.

I will note, it was written, I think, back in March before the request was made for that to be a delay in sentencing, but it's quite remarkable.

[13:50:46] BLITZER: He's also out there campaigning for certain candidates publicly. Is that unusual for someone awaiting sentencing in a case like this.

COATES: Absolutely. He's pled guilty in a case that involves, at its core, election-related matters and interference. I'm not sure who would like him to be somebody who is jockeying for them or championing for them. The credibility is always at issue, especially someone who has been charged with and admitted to lying. I'm not sure why you'd have them on your platform speaking for you. But odd things have happened in this administration. Certainly, the push towards the midterm elections is compelling otherwise odd behavior to become more normalized and you're seeing that here.

BLITZER: Some have raised the possibility of a presidential pardon. Maybe he's shopping for a presidential pardon. He's already pled guilty.

COATES: He has, but he hasn't been sentenced. Remember, the presidential pardon power could be extended before he is even charged. Remember Sheriff Arpaio wasn't yet sentenced when he was pardoned by the president. You're not seeing that here. The primary difference being one was a cooperator in the Mueller probe and one was not. It's not very known at this point in time to what extent and what information Michael Flynn has provided that may entice the president to give that extreme support of loyalty.

BLITZER: I assume by now he's already told the special counsel everything he knows. This has been going on for months and months. Or do you think they're going back to him all the time saying we need more answers?

COATES: There may be the bulk of his testimony already given but there's corroboration. As every statement is made and you see from the different legal teams representing President Trump, there's new questions being raised going back to a point in time that Michael Flynn may have been knowledgeable. The more statements that come out, the more there is a need for corroboration. And remember, Mueller is strategic, and every prosecutor would be to delay sentencing. That is essentially keeping the person on the line longer and there's got to be a reason, and it's not gratuitous.

BLITZER: Interesting development.

Laura Coates, thanks as usual for joining us. COATES: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just days before Meghan Markle is to marry Prince Harry, there's still some uncertainty about whether her father will be attending the wedding. Who will walk her down the aisle? We have new details.

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[13:57:04] BLITZER: Right now, there's one big question in the leadup to the royal wedding on Saturday, who will walk Meghan Markle down the aisle. Thomas Markle has reportedly said he will not attend his daughter's wedding to Prince Harry due to the embarrassment over a series of staged photographs of him preparing for the big event. But now there's some question about that.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo is joining us now from Windsor in England.

This is rather unusual, Bianca. Any word, first of all, from the palace?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have had word from the palace, Wolf. They have stressed the fact that this a deep and personal time for the bride, Meghan Markle, of course, and they've also asked that understanding and respect be extended to Meghan's father, Thomas Markle. Let's not forget this is a man known to be fairly reclusive. He's used to working behind the scene. He's a lighting director. Not comfortable with the spotlight in the same way his daughter, Meghan, would have been with her experience with stardom and acting. But at the moment, the British tabloid is going crazy over this. Their speculation is, is he coming or not coming? Why isn't he coming? Is it due to health concerns? Is it due to embarrassment? One thing for sure, Wolf, there's so much stress and pressure and media attention on this man who is, quite frankly, thoroughly unprepared for it.

BLITZER: So if he doesn't walk his daughter down the aisle, who will?

NOBILO: We don't know the answer to that question. But I was speaking to a royal wedding planning and a royal party planner yesterday, and they were saying it might be a very modern step but a very reasonable one, that it might be Meghan's mother that would do that. They have a very close relationship, as she has with her father, too, and that's a possibility. But we don't know at this stage. There are so many in the U.K. that are hoping he will come. At the moment, we have kind of been equivocating between the two. It's just as likely he will come as that he won't come. Obviously, it is a deeply personal time for the bride.

But wedding preparations here in Windsor continue. And I've been walking up and down the streets near the castle speaking to people about the royal wedding, and I think the issues with Meghan's father is something which people find eminently relatable, Wolf, that family drama in the buildup to big occasions like a wedding, and it makes her even easier to relate to for the people in Britain as well. Many people thinking he should just come because that would be the best way to support his daughter. Others thinking he should steer himself out of the spotlight. But it's certainly the question on everyone's lips today -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Let's hope he can make it and walk his daughter down the aisle.

Bianca, thanks so much for that report. Appreciate it very much.

To our viewers, join CNN for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. We will be live from Windsor for special coverage throughout the day. Coverage begins Saturday 4:00 a.m. Eastern.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is next.

For our viewers in North America, NEWSROOM with Brianna Keilar today starts right now.