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White House Tries To Clean Up Trump's Sessions Tweet; Manhunt Underway For Suspected Killer Of Houston Cardiologist; Ohio State Places Urban Meyer On Paid Leave; Passengers Capture Moment Their Plane Crashes. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 2, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:30:44] DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: So, the White House and President Trump's legal team have been in a bit of clean-up mode after President Trump called on his attorney general Jeff Sessions to end Mueller's Russia investigation right now. You'll remember, Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe last year.

So is this obstruction of justice? Is this another example of obstruction of justice, which we know the special counsel is looking at?

Let's bring in CNN legal and national security analyst and former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa. And, CNN legal and political commentator Ken Cuccinelli, who has just been hiking in the Shenandoah and was done in time to join us here this morning.

Hey, Ken. I want to start -- I've been making the point this morning if the president wanted to obstruct justice he wouldn't have been yelling at Jeff Sessions to end the inquiry because Jeff Sessions doesn't have the ability to end the investigation.

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE OF VIRGINIA: Right, right, right.

GREGORY: He -- you know, he would have been a little more pointed. So this really is, to the White House' point -- again, you can argue the wisdom of this and whether it makes your lawyer's head explode --

CUCCINELLI: Right.

GREGORY: -- but it's just ranting and raving against the investigation.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, absolutely. And I had zeroed in on the Jeff Sessions aspect of it myself when I first read it, just like you did David, and I will say it's a category -- it's sort of one more tweet on a pile.

It fits in a category of what we'll call evidence. The president has done this very openly, repeatedly.

And you are right. As a lawyer -- if I was his lawyer it would make my head explode.

But I don't think it's anything more than. This is in the ramp category, not in the obstruction of justice category.

You, I think quite pointedly, identified the Jeff Sessions piece of it. But also, because it isn't new.

GREGORY: Right.

CUCCINELLI: Whether especially, the president's lawyers like it or not, this is more a kind, you know. He tweets --

GREGORY: Right.

CUCCINELLI: -- and he tweets rather kind of off the top of his head, and this is just one more on the pile --

GREGORY: And again --

CUCCINELLI: -- and it is quite a pile.

GREGORY: Yes.

And so, Asha, here's the point and I want to play sound from Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, because I think it underscores something else.

If we were headed toward a court of law and a trial maybe it would be different, but this is a political process and they are engaged in an argument. And the argument is for the constituents of these senators who would ultimately have to make a decision if there were impeachment charges.

Here is what Sarah Sanders said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is not obstructing, he's fighting back. The president is stating his opinion. He's stating it clearly and he's certainly expressing the frustration that he has with the level of corruption that we've seen from people like Jim Comey, Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe.

There's a reason that the president's angry and frankly, most of America is angry as well. And there's no reason he shouldn't be able to voice that opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: So that's the argument, but do you have a different view about whether any of this constitutes obstruction of justice?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT, FBI, LECTURER, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, I'm going to agree with Ken here -- and we don't often agree -- but that this tweet, in and of itself, does not constitute obstruction unless it were an order to someone who could carry it out, and Sessions is off --

GREGORY: Right.

RANGAPPA: -- catching people growing marijuana. So this is not -- he can't even do this.

But it is evidence and that's where Sarah Sanders is kind of conflating something. She's trying to suggest that if it's speech it cannot be used against you and that's not true.

What this does add to is a consistent attitude towards the Russia investigation that he's had for over a year now. Even this time last year, there was railing every day against Jeff Sessions --

GREGORY: Right.

RANGAPPA: -- in tweets, and to people.

And it does go to the Mueller probe and what could have been in his mind. Did he have corrupt intent when he fired James Comey? Did he want this --

GREGORY: Right.

RANGAPPA: -- investigation?

GREGORY: Well, and that's the thing. So can we know that the president has said publicly after he fired Jim Comey for which he had a basis that he would argue, given to him by his deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein --

CUCCINELLI: Right.

GREGORY: -- who then hired the special counsel. But then he said in a subsequent interview that the Russia investigation was on his mind.

So obviously, Bob Mueller and his team of prosecutors understand what's going on here and obviously, they understand the elements --

CUCCINELLI: Right.

GREGORY: -- of obstruction.

So if we know that he has the power to fire these people, to end the investigation -- which would not be an obstruction of justice charge -- what's the dynamic like?

What are prosecutors after? What are defense attorneys trying to protect against with regard to an interview if they're trying to get to the bottom of obstruction?

[07:35:12] CUCCINELLI: Well, you know, of course, that the discussion about what Trump would talk to Mueller about has been narrowed and obstruction of justice is part of it.

GREGORY: Right. CUCCINELLI: And what they're looking for -- it's a little difficult in a situation like this about what they're looking for because you don't expect to actually see any sort of criminal indictment against the president. That is not going to happen.

And, you know, we hear it discussed in the context of Brett Kavanaugh. That is not going to happen. And that's a big part of why the president does fight back, to use Sarah Sanders' words.

I mean, think back to the 90s. I think we've forgotten the level of ferocity with which Bill Clinton and his entire legal team were really assaulting the Ken Starr investigation. And they had success, let's face it.

And if you're President Trump, you look back on that and say look, I mean, this guy did nothing but attack and it worked for him.

GREGORY: Right.

CUCCINELLI: He had to play along with the investigation but it worked for him.

GREGORY: But what --

CUCCINELLI: And this is playing out in public.

GREGORY: Right. No, I totally agree with that. But Ken, you first.

But defense attorneys have to be worried that he could give something up with regard to his mindset that could be incriminating not for the purpose of an indictment but even if impeachment were to be the process that's followed, right?

CUCCINELLI: Right, right.

Absolutely, though, as much as these tweets may make a legal team's head explode, what they're really focused on is that interview with Mueller. I mean, where it's really down to the nuts and bolts and the elements of obstruction, state of mind, and trying to determine whether they can establish a circumstantial case or heck, whether this president will just say it --

GREGORY: Right.

CUCCINELLI: -- in an interview.

And on the defense side, just say it is something I'd worry about as a defense lawyer.

GREGORY: Right.

CUCCINELLI: I think the president really does try to taunt the other side --

GREGORY: Right.

CUCCINELLI: -- and get close to that line and almost tempt them --

GREGORY: Right. And actually --

CUCCINELLI: -- in many ways.

GREGORY: -- the lack of precision in an interview like this, whether it's obstruction or in other areas.

CUCCINELLI: Yes.

GREGORY: He could open up new areas for them just by sitting down, right?

RANGAPPA: The president meanders and often goes off topic.

GREGORY: Right.

RANGAPPA: And the FBI is trying to ask open-ended questions, precisely so that the subject will offer up information that they may not have intended to. And I think this is the worry.

I think they're going to kick this can down the road, though. I don't think his lawyers if they're smart, would ever let him sit down for an interview. And they're going to try to play constitutional chicken with Mueller and see if he issues a subpoena.

GREGORY: Yes. And again, I think it's so important you both made the point this is a political process. This is a public process more than it's even a legal --

CUCCINELLI: Yes.

GREGORY: -- process despite all the back and forth.

Ken, Asha, thank you both very much.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, David, I'll take it.

There is a manhunt underway for a man that police say killed a prominent Houston cardiologist in broad daylight. The reason police believe goes back decades. We have all of the details on this manhunt for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:41:57] GREGORY: We are following breaking news this morning.

The Catholic Church is formally changing its teaching on the death penalty, saying it should never be allowed. The Vatican says it changed its policy to reflect Pope Francis' opposition to the death penalty in all cases.

Previously, the church's teaching had been to allow the death penalty in rare cases and now they've switched.

CAMEROTA: All right. A worker at an immigration holding facility in Phoenix, Arizona is

charged with molesting a 14-year-old girl. Police say they responded to a call at the Southwest Key center last week.

Authorities say the suspect is 32-year-old Fernando Negrete and he inappropriately touched the victim. He is now facing several charges, including sexual abuse.

GREGORY: Dramatic video of a fire at a gas station in New Mexico that explodes into a towering inferno. It happened in the town of Gallup.

Authorities say the fire started in two nearby buildings where hay, oil, and fireworks were stored. Not clear how the fire started.

Thankfully, no one was injured.

CAMEROTA: All right.

Police are -- have identified a suspect in the brazen murder of a prominent cardiologist who once treated former President H.W. Bush. The suspect is still on the loose at this hour but police are now revealing what they believe to be his motive.

And, CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us live in the Houston area with the latest. What are they saying, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, according to Houston police, it has nothing to do with his political -- or his connections to the political world and being that he treated George H.W. Bush many years ago.

This actually has to do, according to police, to a 20-year-old grudge. Police say that Joseph Pappas' mother died on the operating table while being operated on by Dr. Mark Hausknecht who was killed on July 20th.

Police say it is that grudge based on that -- on that operation where his mother died some 20 years ago which led the suspect, Pappas, to gun down the doctor as he was bicycling his way to work on the morning of July 20th.

Now, police say that they have searched his home but that they do not know where Joseph Pappas is at this point. So they have been circulating his picture here since yesterday afternoon in hopes that that will generate more leads.

The leads that led them to this particular suspect was based on the release of home surveillance video that showed the suspect, Pappas, riding his bicycle away from the murder scene.

So that is what police are urgently doing right now getting that -- circulating that picture and hoping that generates another lead as to where his whereabouts are right now -- David.

GREGORY: Ed, thank you so much. Meantime, Ohio State has placed football coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave as it investigates what he knew about domestic violence allegations against a former assistant coach.

Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, David. This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

Former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith was fired last week after being served a civil protection order on behalf of his ex-wife Courtney Smith who told the sports outlet Stadium that Urban Meyer's wife knew about the alleged domestic violence in 2015.

[07:45:13] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With Shelley Meyer being aware of everything that was going on and saying that she was going to have to tell Urban, do you think that he knows about all of this?

COURTNEY SMITH, ALLEGES ABUSE BY EX-HUSBAND ZACH SMITH: I believe he does.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he ever directly talk to you about what was going on in your marriage or between you and Zach?

SMITH: Not the abuse. He never spoke to me about the physical abuse but he had made a couple of comments to me and we had had a couple of conversations, very brief. How are you guys doing? Everything OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: The full interview is available on watchstadium.com.

Urban Meyer says he did know about an incident involving the Smiths in 2009 but denies knowing about anything that happened more recently.

He released a statement yesterday saying in part, quote "Being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion. This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction."

Ohio State says quote, "We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible."

Zach Smith's attorney tells CNN once Smith gets his chance to tell his side it will be corroborated by police.

Coach Meyer has a $38.1 million buyout if he's fired without cause. If Meyer is found to have known about the alleged incident he could be fired with cause. Offensive coordinator Ryan Day will act as head coach while Meyer is on leave.

The Buckeyes open their season against Oregon State on September first.

CAMEROTA: OK, Coy. Thank you very much for that report. So, the woman who shot that dramatic plane video from inside what is about to be the crash, she's going to join us next with her incredible story of survival.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:51:33] CAMEROTA: Aeromexico flight 2431 crashed upon -- just seconds after take-off. This was in Durango, Mexico. All 103 people on board survived but you do see them running for their lives as the aircraft went up in flames behind them.

So there was a passenger who recorded this very frightening scene -- watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(Screams)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

(Coughing)

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. So that passenger that you hear crying there in that video who recorded the video, her name is Ashley Garcia and she joins us now.

Ashley, thank you for being here. It must be so shocking for you still to watch that crash that you recorded.

ASHLEY GARCIA, PASSENGER, AEROMEXICO FLIGHT (via Skype): Yes, honestly, it's like horrifying to like think that I went through that but it's just good knowing that I made it out alive with minor injuries.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, it's just such a miracle, Ashley.

But can you just take us back to the moment of take-off? What was going through your mind as you were getting ready for take-off?

GARCIA: Honestly, I had sensed something happening because from the start, the winds were just so heavy and the rain was just -- like I said, it was just pouring down and I was like how are you about to take off like this?

Which is exactly why I pulled out my camera before we started leaving. And when we started going it wasn't even like five seconds that we were in the air when everything just started going downhill from there.

CAMEROTA: And so you were taping because you thought the plane was going to crash? GARCIA: I mean, I thought the plane was going to crash. I just had a weird feeling because I had never been in a plane when it was raining or like taking off in such bad weather so I was like I need to record this. I need to see what's going to happen next because this isn't right.

CAMEROTA: Did any of the airline officials, before you got on the plane or maybe when you were on the plane, explain why they were going to take off in such bad weather?

GARCIA: No. To be honest with you, we didn't get an explanation. We kind of -- I mean, they just told us our basic safety drills but aside from that they didn't tell us anything else about weather or anything.

CAMEROTA: OK. So how far into the flight -- how far off the ground were you when things went horribly wrong.

GARCIA: We were not too high. Like I said, we were probably like -- it had been like five seconds that we were like taking off when I saw -- I don't know what it was. Maybe like the wind was too strong and it just pushed the airplane down. And from there, I just don't really know.

CAMEROTA: And then what happened inside that plane after the crash?

GARCIA: Well, after -- like I said, we were in the air probably for five seconds and the wind just driving the plane down and it just kept hitting the ground. And then I don't know if it was maybe one of the wings that might have hit the ground and that's when it caught on fire.

And so basically, the plane was just going through fields and it didn't have brakes so basically, the plane was just going to come to a complete stop when it came to a complete stop on its own. And so when it did do that obviously, the plane was on fire and that's when the panic started. That's when everybody tried to rush off.

[07:55:15] And where I was seated I was more in the middle, only a couple of seats behind where the fire was. So my closest exit was obviously the window in the back but there were so many people who obviously had to get off before me. I ran into the back and it was obvious we all wanted to survive this.

It was just hard because of all the smoke that was coming in and like it made it so hard to breathe, and I think those were probably some of the scariest moments.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, it sounds terrifying. I mean, knowing -- first of all, not wanting to take off, and then the horrible take-off, and then the crash, and then knowing that you had to get out before the plane caught on fire.

We can hear your raw emotion there afterwards once you're in the field after you've evacuated and how just in shock you are.

How do you explain how everyone survived this crash? GARCIA: Honestly, it was just thanks to like -- it was just a lot of passengers helping each other out. If it was like trying to get off of the plane. I just remember people -- passengers being there to help each other out and get out of the plane.

We were all just trying to stick together and get as far away as -- as far away from the plane as possible because we didn't know if it was going to explode or we didn't know what was going to happen next. All we knew was let's get out of this plane and let's just get as far away from -- as far as possible as we can.

And I think that's really what -- like how we stayed more calm because I knew that I wasn't alone and there was others going through this and we were all in -- all in it together.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Ashley, stand by if you would because one of your fellow passengers -- another survivor, Alberto Herrera -- he just landed in Chicago. He's already flown back from Mexico and gone home to Chicago.

We want to welcome him in. Alberto, thank you very much for joining us.

What was that like to get on another flight to go home?

ALBERTO HERRERA, PASSENGER, AEROMEXICO FLIGHT (via Skype): Honestly, it was very petrifying.

I sat in the exact same plane. I sat a couple of rows behind of my seat. I was in 20D. This time I was in 25A just a few rows behind and like all the emotions came back to me.

It was kind of hard to be honest with you and I teared up and I cried a little.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, how could you not, Alberto? I mean, it's amazing that you were even able to get on a plane after this happened so recently.

So tell us what your experience was in Mexico during this plane crash. Where were you sitting and what happened?

HERRERA: I was in 20D so I had a window seat. So I like to sit by the window so that I can -- I like to look outside as I take off and what I know it was going to be a day take-off, so I was like good. I'm going to see some nice mountains or whatever.

And as we were taking off there was a light rain but you don't think anything of it because it's a light rain. But as we started our approach, we started going forward in a cloud that looked like a thunderstorm so you didn't think anything of it at the time.

But as we started getting closer to it and starting our ascent and we started getting pelted by hail -- by hail and probably some gale-force winds. So as the plane nose went up to make its ascent to start its climb, it started struggling with the turbulence. And then I'm assuming it got probably anywhere between 50 and 200 feet off the ground as it -- we were off the ground and climbing when that happened because I looked out the window and I could see us going into the clouds and what not.

And then all of a sudden, boom, we were back on the ground and skidding straight -- I guess hitting things on the ground as we skidded. And that's where the engines caught on fire.

CAMEROTA: Alberto, it's interesting to hear you say that you didn't think anything of the light rain because the woman that was also on the plane, Ashley, who took this video that we're watching, said that she found that really nerve-wracking because she could tell that it was getting stormy and that there was wind around.

But you weren't seeing signs like that from where you were sitting.

HERRERA: Well, I've flown in rain before, I've flown in snow before, so I didn't really think much of it. I've had -- I've had take-offs in thunderstorms before so I know that once you start your climb you go like five to 10 seconds up and then you're -- boom, you're over the cloud and you're done.

The difference here was that the hail and the wind hit us at the right amount of force that it prevented the wind from having enough acceleration to go up and it just brought us right back down.

CAMEROTA: Ashley, I know that you're still in Mexico. You are there with your cousins. I believe you came -- you went there for a wedding.

And you're going to have to get on a plane to come back to the U.S. How are you going to do that?

GARCIA: Yes, I mean my flight is on Friday which is the same flight at the same time. But I don't know. I mean, I've already been -- I've already experienced that so I was just kind of like whatever happens is meant to happen.