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Giuliani Contradicts Self on Trump's Comey Conversations; FBI Agent Peter Strzok Fired; New Details on Employee Who Stole Passenger Jet & Flew It; Turkey's Economy in "Perfect Storm" as Erdogan Warns of Abandoning U.S. Alliance. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired August 13, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:32:09] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Welcome back. There's more confusion, more contradiction from President Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani. This time, it involves what President Trump did or did not tell then-FBI Director James Comey about fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Comey says that the president asked him about dropping the investigation into Flynn.
Take a look at what Giuliani told our Jake Tapper a day ago compared to what he told George Stephanopoulos over a month ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The president says he never told Comey that he should go easy on Flynn. Comey says the president did. He put it in his memo. If he goes in and testifies to that under oath, instead of just being a dispute, they can say it's perjury. If they elect to believe Comey instead of Trump.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: How is he a good witness for the president if he's saying the president was asking him, directing him, in his words, to let the Michael Flynn investigation go?
GIULIANI: He didn't direct him to do that. What he said to him was can you --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Comey says can you --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Joining us now to talk about that and much more, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, of California, also a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence as well as the Judiciary Committee.
You're a lawyer. Can you figure out what Giuliani is trying to say there?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D), CALIFORNIA: I trust the guy who went under oath a number of times and told Congress under the penalty of perjury that the president told him to make the Flynn case go away. That was James Comey. The president has had a number of opportunities to go under oath, to go to Bob Mueller. He's even been given the questions, and he won't go in. Giuliani is a lawyer. He's got a tough client. I expect him to continue to be inconsistent.
SCIUTTO: In a court of law, or before a grand jury, if you have James Comey, a former FBI director who kept contemporaneous note, the famous memos, who apparently told colleagues immediately after that meeting, all the things you do to corroborate your version of events, versus a president whose lawyer and in his tweets has changed his story. How does a grand jury, in your experience, weigh those two against each other?
SWALWELL: Jurors are told all the time you can rely on a single witness' testimony if you believe that witness. Particularly if there's contemporaneous notes, if other witnesses say that person told them that this was concerning to them. I think Comey has a lot of credibility here. In our investigation, we asked all the people who had ever worked with Comey what they thought of his credibility. Every person said that, you know, he had very high integrity. I think the president, you know, ball is in his court. And if he's not going to come forward, I think that tells us all we need to know.
SCIUTTO: Do you believe the president will actually sit down with the special counsel?
[13:35:46] SWALWELL: I don't. I think he's had a -- very few times in his life has this guy met the truth. I can't imagine him going into that position. Here's what's interesting. This grand jury subpoena that may be coming for the president will be coming at about the same time that Kavanaugh, Justice Kavanaugh is going through his confirmation hearing. Now, he's written this law review article saying that no president should be indicted or sued civilly. I think this is going to make questions about that belief and whether he should recuse himself all the more relevant.
SCIUTTO: Do you know or believe that Mueller is going to subpoena the president in the next month or so?
SWALWELL: Well, I don't think he's going to treat him any differently than any other criminal subject. If that's the case, Mueller has already shown he will grand jury subpoena witnesses in the case. If he's consistent, I think the president will be facing a subpoena.
SCIUTTO: We had some news today. The FBI deciding to fire Peter Strzok, famously the anti-Trump text messages with Lisa Page, overruling, in effect, the inspector general, who looked into this for the FBI and said, well, by protocol, 60-day suspension, other punishments, reprimand, et cetera. Do you think the FBI made the right call?
SWALWELL: He wouldn't be working for me. I think he had a solid career, but a mistake this large with the stakes so high, you have to send a message to the other agents that, you know, we expect them to do what they always do, which is be above -- but that does not change the fact that nearly a half dozen people have pled guilty. A case with Paul Manafort is about to go to verdict this week. About two dozen people have been indicted. That all happened with Peter Strzok's role in the case. So you don't plead guilty if you believe that Strzok was doing something untoward. SCIUTTO: Understood.
If I can turn to politics, we're two years away from 2020. It has not gone unnoticed that you spent a lot of time in the great state of Iowa, which happens to be one of the first places you vote.
SWALWELL: I was born there.
SCIUTTO: I know you had some roots there. You've called President Trump a wrecking ball. Are you laying the groundwork to challenge him?
SWALWELL: I'm laying the groundwork to win three congressional seats in Iowa. We have great candidates. I'm going to make that decision after the midterms, but the president has been a wrecking ball. A wrecking ball to health care ex protections, a wrecking ball to paychecks and wages on the decline, and a wrecking ball to our democracy. There's a culture of corruption where, you have the Situation Room, secret recordings with Omarosa, a domestic abuser serving as staff secretary to the president, and the president himself divulging national security secrets to the Russians in the Oval Office. This White House needs to be cleaned up. The best way is to first change the people's House. That means changing Congress.
SCIUTTO: What you just laid out there sounds like a presidential campaign.
SWALWELL: Well, I'm going to decide after the midterms. I also have a full term coming. My wife is due in November. What decision will be made out of sleep exhaustion.
SCIUTTO: You're not closing the door to running?
SWALWELL: No, I'm not.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
SCIUTTO: An airline employee, he stole an airplane, and we heard joking with air traffic control before crashing. All this near Seattle. Why he did it, in his own words, and how he did it.
[13:42:30] SCIUTTO: The FBI has now located human remains in the wreckage of an airliner stolen from Seattle's airport and flown around for a full hour before crashing in a remote area nearby. And 29-year- old Richard Russell was identified as the airline ground worker who was able to board the empty plane and fly it out of the airport without being stopped. He spoke with air traffic controllers as he flew it around, even doing air stunts at one point. Have a listen to the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD RUSSELL, FORMER AIRLINE EMPLOYEE WHO STOLE PLANE: Hey, pilot guy, can this thing do a back flip, do you think?
I think I'm going to try to do a barrel roll and, if that goes good, I'm going to go nose down and call it a night.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: No, let's try to land that airplane safely without hurting anybody on the ground.
RUSSELL: All right. I don't man, I don't know. I don't want to. I was hoping that was going to be it, right?
I've got a lot of people that care about me and it's going to disappoint them to know that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew until now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Just a sad tape to listen to.
Joining me now is former NTSB managing director and CNN Aviation Analyst, Peter Goelz, and CNN's Aviation Correspondent, Rene Marsh.
Rene, if we can, starting now, where does the investigation stand, particularly as to what led to the crash?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right, so the FBI still, which is leading this investigation, still trying to piece all that together. We know they recovered the flight data recorders. By midweek, we expect that the NTSB will start the analysis on the data recorders. However, the cockpit voice recorder, which could pick up any other conversations he had, maybe he was talking to himself, maybe he called someone beforehand, we don't know. If that happened, that would be picked up on the cockpit voice recorder. But at this point, the FBI is saying they have only been able to recover components of that recorder. So they don't have the full thing just yet.
Outside of the investigation, I can tell you that the focus really is now zeroing in on this idea of the insider threat at airports. We know in this hour, airport and airline leaders are meeting in Seattle to discuss this issue. I spoke to a lot of people on Capitol Hill. They're pushing legislation. We know there was some legislation in the House from the House Homeland Security committee that pushed for more vetting of these type of workers. Renewed interest in pushing that through because it stalled in the Senate. That really is the focus now, the insider threat.
[13:45:14] SCIUTTO: Peter, that would seem to be a natural -- 17 years after 9/11 that someone can walk into a plane and fly it off. I guess it exposes this idea that anybody who's inside, who has that ground crew pass could do the same thing?
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Sure, the threat of an insider is always the greatest threat. At some point, you have to have someone who's approved to move the plane. If that person is the weak link, then you've got a problem. The thing to avoid, though, are quick, easy answers. There are always unintended consequences. The aviation industry, airplanes are complex devices. It's a complex system. A quick answer may end up causing trouble in other areas. So I think the industry, the air carriers, and law enforcement are going to be looking at this for a number of months.
SCIUTTO: Rene, there were two F-15s up in the air. They scrambled very quickly. They followed this plane around as it went. I believe they were in contact with the cockpit directly. Do we know what their orders were? Were their orders to shoot it down if it came close to an urban area?
MARSH: We know they were armed. We have that confirmed. The pilots on the military jets were in communication with the Air Horizon employee at the time.
SCIUTTO: Do we know if they had orders to shoot it down?
MARSH: We don't. What we do know is situations like this prompt a conference call with all the key players, the military, FAA, TSA. They're all having a conversation, and they're assessing the situation in real time. We know how this story ended. They did not shoot this plane down. And that is likely because they made the assessment that this plane was over the ocean, the military jets led it over the ocean, and that they made the determination in that real time that it was not a threat to the greater population. They were able to contain that threat. So that is likely the reason why we did not see it get shot down. However, the military not revealing much more.
SCIUTTO: Peter, you talk about not a quick reflexive fix, but Rene was mentioning legislation already pushing for greater background checks for ground employees. Reasonable step?
GOELZ: Sure. Background checks have been an issue of contention since 9/11, on both sides. You have the secure side, the airside, where he worked. Then you have the semi-secure side, inside the check points. Inside, the check point employees, that's been a real contention. They're lower wage jobs, and they have high turnover. Do we need to have better background checks? Do we need to have quicker background checks? The answer is yes.
MARSH: Right now, it's only mandated once every two years for background checks. This bill would do it much more often.
SCIUTTO: And there are thousands of people, I imagine, with that kind of clearance at dozens of airports around the country.
SCIUTTO: Rene and Peter, thanks very much.
Coming up, President Trump is firing back after Omarosa releases yet another secret recording. Are there more tapes to come? The White House seems to think so. Is any of it illegal?
And a key U.S. ally accuses the Trump administration of, quote, "a stab in the back." The details of that conflict up next.
[13:52:58] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Turkey in a currency tailspin. The value of the Turkish Lira falling again today, threatening the country's economy, just days after President Trump vowed to double steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, which we should mention is a key NATO ally. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is accusing President Trump of waging, quote, "economic warfare" and is now threatening to abandon his alliance with the U.S.
CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Arwa Damon, is in Istanbul with the latest.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. Times are tough here, to say the least. It's not just because of the deteriorating relationship with the United States. It's important to remember that the Turkish Lira has slowly been losing value. Yes, it was most certainly dealt a devastating blow by America's more recent actions to include the sanctioning of two Turkish ministers. And then, of course, those tariffs have the U.S. slapped on imports of aluminum and steel, akin to what analysts are saying to someone punching someone this the gut when they are already down. And the Turkish president has called it a stab in the back.
Made more bitter because these two countries are made to be NATO allies. But America's and Turkey's relationships has been spiraling downward, stemming from a number of issues, for example, the opposing views they have on Syria's Kurds. As well as America's refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey blames for the failed 2016 coup. And more recently Turkey's refusal to release detained American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who its accuses of having links to terrorism.
What we are seeing now is shaking investor confidence, despite measures that the Turkish government has tried to put in place to try to reassure investors and the population as well. Turkey and America's relationship has a direct impact on this country's economy, which is why the government is saying America is basically waging a war on the economy. Turks we have been talked to, as you can imagine, filled with anxiety as they're watching not just their economy deteriorate but their future is hanging in the balance. Some feel as if they are sinking in quicksand -- Jim?
[13:55:24] SCIUTTO: Arwa Damon there. Thanks very much.
FBI Agent Peter Strzok fired for sending anti-Trump text messages. President Trump now weighing in. How he's responding. That's next.