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Trump Calls to End Probe; All Survived Crash in Mexico; Website Suspends Downloads. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 1, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:32:229] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember I said, when I'd be a little bit wild and we'd have a lot of fun, they'd say, he's not acting presidential. And I'd say, well, it's a lot easier to act presidential than to do what I do. Anybody can act presidential.

You are tremendous people. And I will leave now because I am boring you to death.

Thank you.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That was the president last night in Florida channeling his 2016 campaign style at that rally. Sources tell CNN he plans to ramp up how many of these events he holds over the next couple months. Is it a winning strategy?

With me now is Patrick Healy, our political analyst, and Caitlin Huey- Burns, national political reporter for "RealClearPolitics."

Thank you both for being there.

And moments ago I was going to begin with this, but let me bring you some breaking news that we just got from the president.

Guys, let's throw it up on the screen here.

The president just directly directing his attorney general to end the Mueller probe, the Russia probe. Let me read you part of this tweet from the president. This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this rigged witch hunt right now before it continues to stain our country any further.

Patrick Healy, your read on this, as I -- Kaitlan Collins is tweeting, our reporter, this is a first that he's directly -- directly directing, if you will, the AG to stop it.

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, this becomes a big moment for Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein. They made pretty clear, especially Rod Rosenstein, that the Mueller probe is legitimate, that it should continue, that Robert Mueller should be allowed to do his work.

So, you know, the president doesn't see this as interference. He sees it as he can do whatever he wants. I mean he sort of famously talked about how much President Obama was protected by his attorney general, Eric Holder.

But, Poppy, this president has a very unusual -- and that's a nice way of putting it -- view on how to use presidential power with his attorney general. And this looks like a real pressure tactic. And it's going to have to be a moment where Jeff Sessions, you know, probably talking to John Kelly, the chief of staff and others, you know, has to ask themselves, what do they do in response? Do they just hunker down or do they need to -- do they need to take some kind of action?

HARLOW: When it comes to overseeing the Mueller probe, though, Caitlin, Jeff Sessions recused himself --


HARLOW: From all things Russia. So I mean it's a bit confusing because it would be Rod Rosenstein that has the purview to do that.

[09:35:02] HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. Rosenstein is ahead of this investigation. And in public comments that Rosenstein has made, he has exuded confidence in this investigation and in the way in which it is going. Remember, he has been at those announcements, announcing those indictments that have come from this investigation. So he is in charge here. And we have seen the president use pressure tactics against his own attorney general in the past. The question has always been, why continue to kind of hang him out there? If you were so concerned about this, why wouldn't you make that step in actually firing Jeff Sessions? And that would be, of course, the unraveling on this investigation, but also creating a whirlwind of political problems for this president. So I think that question is still out there, but I think it's really important to note the way in which Sessions and Rosenstein have exuded confidence when it comes to this investigation and how it's being conducted.

HARLOW: I think, Patrick, for many Americans watching this morning they might think, yes, this is nothing new. The president all the time is blasting the Mueller probe, the Russia probe, calling it a witch hunt, calling out his attorney general. Why is this different?

HEALY: Well, he's -- basically he's sort of delegitimizing our system of government in terms of how we go about approaching presidents who have had either credible -- either credible allegations or there's information that needs to be investigated independently of the president's own administration. You know, Jeff Sessions recused himself. Rod Rosenstein is running this. And while, you know, folks may look and say, oh, President Trump is -- maybe, you know, the Paul Manafort trial is underway, he's seeing the coverage, it inflames him, you know, he sends out a tweet, you know, that's just his style.

I -- that's not quite the right way to see it. I mean the right way to see it is this is a president who is exerting pressure on his Justice Department, as he has now for, you know, for many months, but not willing to go the extra step and actually fire Jeff Sessions. It just -- it creates the sense of sort of chaos and uncertainty and where things stand, but also just delegitimizing or trying to delegitimize, you know, the independent counsel.

HARLOW: And I think, you know, Caitlin, it goes beyond just trying to delegitimize. It goes to, how do you view the Justice Department, as working for the American people or working for you? Is it about loyalty to you, the president, or loyalty to doing the right thing for the American people?

And there's a new tweet that just came in from the president, we're working on getting it up, but let me read you part of it. He's talking about Paul Manafort and this is the first time we've heard from him on Manafort since the trial kicked off yesterday. He writes, quote, why didn't the government tell me that he -- Manafort -- was under investigation? These old charges have nothing to do with collusion.

The government has zero responsibility, Caitlin, to tell the president that the guy who ran his campaign for five months is under investigation, right?

HUEY-BURNS: That's right.

I think what we've heard from the president as it relates to this whole legal standing with Paul Manafort is, he's tried to make the argument, well, Manafort worked for other Republican candidates as well. He wasn't just hired by me. That doesn't, however, negate the fact that Paul Manafort is under all of this legal scrutiny right now and --

HARLOW: But him calling out, Caitlin, him calling out the Justice Department and saying, why didn't the Justice Department tell me?

HUEY-BURNS: Right. This --

HARLOW: I mean why should the Justice Department tell him when it's tied to his campaign?

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. And Paul Manafort was, as much as Giuliani and others try to say that Paul Manafort wasn't a big part of this campaign, he was the campaign manager. He guided the campaign through that arduous delegate process that we all covered. He was very much a big part of that campaign for several months. And we have seen the president denigrate the Justice Department to the extent that the public responds to it in the way that Trump does.

We've seen the negative polling from the public as it relates -- especially among Republicans -- as it relates to the Justice Department. And that is a really startling and quite dangerous development.

HARLOW: Patrick, final thought on these two big developments from the president just the past two minutes.

HEALY: Yes, I mean, you know, we came into this -- the president is looking at going out on the campaign trail a lot this summer and fall. He's going to Ohio on Saturday. He was in Florida last night. I mean he is going to beat this like a drum. He is, in some ways, running against the American government. You know, he's not on the ballot this fall, but he is using Twitter, he is using his language to sort of create uncertainty about his own Justice Department. But it's also the Justice Department. Raising concerns that the intelligence agencies, the FBI, you know, others, aren't doing the work, you know, in a credible way for the American people.

[09:40:03] And it just -- it is corrosive, Poppy. It has that effect over time. And I just think this fall President Trump's not on the ballot, but in a way he's -- he's running against these American institutions and just trying to whack them over and over again to inflame the base to make that they turn out.

HARLOW: Patrick Healy and Caitlin Huey-Burns, thank you for being here and for the quick pivot on that breaking news.

Call it a miracle. How did 103 passengers -- all of them -- survive a fiery plane crash? The details ahead.


HARLOW: High winds are the leading suspect in yesterday's crash of an Aeromexico plane with 103 people on board. All of them miraculously survived. Many passengers walked away from the crash. Just walked away. It is stunning.

This happened just after takeoff from Durango, that's in northwestern Mexico.

Our Leyla Santiago joins me now from Mexico City.

[09:45:00] It's remarkable Leyla. What have you learned?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. So many people, Poppy, waking up this morning feeling grateful, sort of having this sigh of relief after this accident that occurred yesterday. This was a flight from Aeromexico. It was actually headed here to Mexico City. And government officials are now pointing the finger at a wind gust.

Now, that said, the investigation continues. They're still trying to get more information as to the sequence of events that led up to this.

But we know that there were 103 people on board. They were injured. People injured. At least 49 people hospitalized, and that includes children on that plane. Also, there were infants. So really remarkable to know that when you see the images of the plane, that had billowing smoke and even flames once it went down in a field near the airport, remarkable, unbelievable to understand that everyone walked away and there were no deaths.

There were injuries. We understand the pilot, as well as one other passengers are in critical but stable condition. I've also spoken within the U.S. embassy here in Mexico and they tell me that there were U.S. citizens on that plane. Now, we understand that one of them was Reverend Eseculo Sanchez (ph),

the archdiocese of Chicago, confirming that he was injured, but that he is resting and he is alert.

We also spoke to another woman who lives in Illinois that was on that flight and she said there were two major impacts. The first one, she bumped her head. The second one, she saw flames in the cabin and was just like everyone else, trying to get off that plane.

We are waiting to hear from the crew members. Hopefully the pilot, who I'm sure were really heroes in this in getting everyone off this flight without any deaths. But, again, still, 49 of those passengers that were injured, hospitalized. And now we are waiting to get more information of what led up to the plane going down just seconds after it took off.


HARLOW: Leyla, thank you so much for the reporting. And we're hoping for the best, of course, for those two people you mentioned in critical condition.

Happening right now, day two of what has already been a fiery trial for the president's ex-campaign manager, Paul Manafort. We are following all of the breaking details ahead.


[09:51:46] HARLOW: This morning, a website that promises downloadable blueprints for functional plastic guns made with 3-D printers is itself not functional today. That's after a judge's ruling late last night in Seattle. The judge put a temporary hold on a settlement between a Texas group called Defense Distributed and the Trump administration that would have allowed these gun plans to be posted widely and distributed online starting today.

Our senior political analyst and anchor, John Avlon, is with me now.

So, nothing to worry about here?



AVLON: But let's cut through the spin to get some stats and facts.

So yesterday, Poppy, immediately after we reality checked the dangers of the 3-D printed guns, President Trump tweeted this -- I'm looking into 3-D plastic guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to the NRA. Doesn't seem to make much sense.

So, great. The president was going to do something.

And then several hours later we found out what he actually did, which is echoed the NRA by invoking a 30-year-old law. Now, Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters, quote, in the

United States it's currently illegal to own or make a wholly plastic gun of any kind.

Now, make no mistake, that is an example of the art of the dodge and it misses the point.

The problem isn't that plastic guns are illegal. It's that thanks to a Trump administration settlement, plans for the 3-D printing of guns were being put up on the web after the Obama administration stopped it. Now, in that settlement, the Trump administration specifically said 3-D printing instructions for guns were now available for, quote, public release, i.e. unlimited distribution in any form. Which caused the Texas group you just referenced, Defense Distributed, to proclaim the age of the downloadable gun formally begins.

This is clearly a celebration of a new era, not the sound of the status quo. And so it should come as no surprise that the president's stance now echoes the NRA, who also pointed to and praised the Reagan era Undetectable Firearms Act.

But here's the tell. A few years ago when a group of bipartisan lawmakers proposed modernizing the law to account for new technologies, like 3-D printing, the NRA said it, quote, strongly opposes any effort to expand that law. And the NRA is already on record calling 3-D printed guns exemplars of freedom and innovation.

So, don't believe the hype that there's been un-unified opposition to 3-D printed plastic guns in the past. While the president deserves credit for recognizing that his own administration's settlement was about to lead to a policy that, quote, doesn't make much sense, which is putting it mildly. Under pressure, the administration ran right back to the NRA for approval of its position. If it weren't for the late night actions of a judge, this policy would have gone forward despite the president's tweet.

But here's the good news. Public pressure, brought by the press and a handful of states, stopped this nonsensical policy from slipping through the cracks. At least for now. And that's your reality check.

HARLOW: Important reality check this morning. At least for now.

Do you know why the -- after the Obama administration fighting so hard against this, why the Trump State Department, just a few months ago, completely reversed course? I mean if the president tweets he didn't -- this doesn't seem to make sense, why did his own State Department do it?

AVLON: The president might not know everything his State Department is doing, but they take cues, tone comes from the top.


AVLON: And so it is that reversal, the fact that not only they settle it but paid the Defense Distributors --

HARLOW: Right.

AVLON: $40,000 of taxpayer money.

HARLOW: Our money. Our money.

AVLON: That's right.

So this is where there's a real disconnect. And it's hard not to believe they're just not following the tone that seems to kowtow to special interest on this issue.

[09:55:04] HARLOW: So our Laurie Segall spoke with the man at the helm of -- head of all of this, Cody (ph), about all of this. We're going to hear from him next and his argument.

AVLON: Fascinating story.

HARLOW: Thank you. Appreciate it very much.

All right, our next hour begins now.


HARLOW: Top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

And we begin with breaking news.

The president directly calling, just moments ago, on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Russia investigation. That is the same attorney general who recused himself from all Russia-related matters.

[10:00:03] And also this morning, the president seems to be calling on the Justice Department to be loyal to him above all others, asking why the department did not tell his -- tell him that his former campaign chair was under