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Tillerson: Russia Failed in its Responsibility; North Korea Nuclear Threat; Sean Spicer's Big Blunder; Steve Bannon & Jared Kushner Battle for Position; Man Bloodied When Kicked Off United Plane; Trump Racking Up Costs for Trips to Mar-a-Lago. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired April 12, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:19] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Showdown with Vladimir Putin. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slams Russia's role in Syria ahead of critical meetings in Moscow.
Just in time for Passover. White House spokesman Sean Spicer sparks a huge backlash by claiming Hitler never used chemical weapons. He later apologized
SESAY: Plus, the United Airlines PR debacle, a new low for an industry which once oozed glamor and chic.
VAUSE: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
VAUSE: Well, the U.S. Secretary of Defense is accusing Syria's government of trying to cover up its role in a deadly chemical attack and says U.S. intelligence shows the Assad regime used sarin gas on its own people.
SESAY: That has prompted U.S. missile air strikes on a Syrian air base last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself. The Syrian regime should think long and hard before it again acts so recklessly in violation of international law against the use of chemical weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just hours away now from what looks to be a difficult meeting with Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. SESAY: At a stop in Italy for a G7 meeting of foreign ministers,
Tillerson criticized Russia for failing to make sure Syria got rid of its chemical weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Stockpiles and continued use demonstrate that Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on this 2013 commitment. It is unclear whether Russia failed to take this obligation seriously or Russia has been incompetent. But this distinction doesn't much matter to the dead. We can't let this happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well, for more, let's bring in our panel now. Gayle Tzemach- Lemmon, she's a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; also James Gelvin, professor of history at UCLA and Mideast expert; and CNN's Paula Newton, standing by live in Moscow.
And Paul -- first to you -- it seems Secretary of State Tillerson heads into that meeting with Sergey Lavrov essentially with a list of grievances coming from the White House. How is he expected to be received?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, obviously the list of grievances is pretty plain for everyone to see. And what was interesting yesterday, John, that you saw this battle of the dossiers. Russia coming out and saying one thing about what they thought happened on the ground and as you just heard Secretary Mattis there setting out exactly what they believe happened.
They're setting the table here -- John. And yes, it will be a very difficult meeting. What was interesting though is coming out of that G7 meeting that you just heard Rex Tillerson, he had a comment. You know, the allies even there, John, did not have a unified stance on whether or not there should be added sanctions even against Russia for what had happened.
And I think the G7 allies, even they are urging Secretary Tillerson, find out if we've got any common ground to go on here. Everyone realizing that as tough as you want to be when you approach these meetings with Russia they hold a heck of a lot of leverage on the ground right now in Syria. And unless they can get again some kind of common ground with Russia, we will get into that same cycle, John that is so familiar to all of us of a very tortured process in terms of what can happen for a political solution in Syria.
SESAY: And Gayle -- too you -- to that point, with Russia and the U.S. occupying opposing and hardening positions, how much room is there for negotiation between Tillerson and Lavrov in this meeting?
GAYLE TZEMACH-LEMMON, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think we will find out pretty soon. I mean as you and I have discussed for months, Isha, now, you know, Russia has determined facts on the ground in Syria. And the question now is whether anything the Americans did or do will make a difference, because they have been all in -- Russia and Iran -- on the side of the Assad regime, for years now. And the question I think that we will see the answer to in the coming days is whether there's anything America can do that will somehow open up a gap wide enough between the two of them that a Geneva process which started years ago could actually begin to take hold.
Can you get people to the table for a serious conversation about what comes next in Syria? And a political transition from Assad?
VAUSE: For Rex Tillerson, you know, before he headed off to Moscow, he essentially accused the Russian regime of trying to cover for the Assad regime. He also said that the Assad regime in Syria is coming to an end and it's now up to the Kremlin to make a choice. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[00:05:12] TILLERSON: Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians and Hezbollah. Is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia's interest? Or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States, with other western countries and Middle East countries who are seeking to resolve the Syrian crisis?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So James Gelvin, to you -- what's the reality, though? Because while that sounds like an ultimatum, it seems that the Assad regime really isn't about to fall any time soon, especially while it has Kremlin support.
JAMES GELVIN, UCLA PROFESSOR OF HISTORY: It's also a very strange way of trying to open up negotiations. You insult your negotiating partner and then you try to sit down with them to resolve an issue.
Look, negotiations are going to go nowhere. At this point, the Assad regime has the upper hand. There's very little chance now for a divided opposition to be able to do anything about that. The talks that are being held, the cease-fire talks in Astana have broken down actually. The United States has been pretty much eliminated from that.
Can we break Putin from Assad? Sure, we can give him Crimea, we can give him Ukraine, we can do something really big with sanctions for example. Otherwise, this is an alliance that is in both their interests.
VAUSE: And Paula, very quickly -- back to you, any signs that Vladimir Putin is willing to abandon Bashar al Assad?
NEWTON: Oh, absolutely not. In fact, quite the opposite, John. I mean yesterday, Vladimir Putin -- we still don't have it confirmed whether or not he'll meet with Rex Tillerson, but he is very much setting the rules of the game for the negotiation -- really even challenging the accepted facts on the ground that the United States and Turkey have already put out.
I want you to listen to Vladimir Putin yesterday explaining what he thinks happened with that Syrian chemical attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF Russia (through translator): We have information from various sources that this kind of provocation -- and I can't call it anything other than provocation -- is being prepared for in other regions of Syria, too, including the southern suburbs of Damascus, where they're preparing to drop similar chemicals and then accuse the Syrian government of it.
But we believe that any manifestation should be carefully investigated and we intend to apply to the relevant U.N. bodies in The Hague and to urge the international community to investigate these matters very carefully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Well, he called for an investigation there Vladimir Putin putting a very fine point on it. Look, we believe it was the rebels that are responsible for that chemical attack. They're still going to give that message to Rex Tillerson, saying don't come to us with evidence that we think is, to use a term, John, trumped up. We want an investigation. We think the rebels are at issue here.
And if you can't even agree on the basic premise of what happened on the ground in Syria, as James was just saying, you can kind of figure out where negotiations are going to go.
SESAY: Yes. And Gayle, to go back to you -- complicating matters or maybe law of unintended consequences -- we are seeing Russia and Iran take a public stance of coming together. We saw that on Monday as they talked about essentially retaliating against the U.S. and Syria if they cross so-called red lines.
How much does that, you know, public alliance complicate the calculus for the U.S. going forward?
LEMMON: I mean I think there has been a complicated calculus the entire time, right. And I do think that, you know, the focus has been on the ISIS fight for a long time. If you look at the northern Syria battlefield, the ISIS battlefield, there has been a very uneasy, uncomfortable co-existence among Russian, Syrian, Iranian forces, all focused on ISIS.
And so I don't think that anybody is eager to disrupt that. And I think the Americans were very clear when they launched the attack that it was aimed at basically deterring, not escalating. And I think that both Russia and Iran got that message.
However, what you say before the cameras is not always what is going on behind closed doors. And I think really the only question is at what point is a political solution seen to be in the interest of Russia in terms of helping Syria get to the peace table, and we are not there yet.
VAUSE: You talk about people going before the cameras. We heard from the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley going much further it seems than many others within the White House essentially saying that the Russians knew about this attack ahead of time.
She offered no evidence, but Professor Gelvin, given, you know, the closeness between the Russians and the Syrians, expect the Russians were at this air base before the attack was carried out. I mean that would seem to be a very logical assumption to make. But at this point, there's no evidence for it, right?
GELVIN: Well, it's a logical assumption that the Russians knew. Again, I don't see the purpose of insulting your future negotiating partner. I think what really has to happen here is that Tillerson and Mattis, McMaster, Haley and Trump have just got to get together, sit in a room and figure out what the story is.
[00:10:09] And most importantly, one strike does not make a strategy. One strike is just a strike. What do we want to get out of this in Syria? How do we want actually to see it? What it looks like now is that the only way that this war is going to end is to -- is for the continued successes of the regime and Russia on the ground, and then maybe negotiations at the end to pretty much negotiate the surrender of the opposition.
VAUSE: James Gelvin and Gayle Tzemach-Lemmon, and also Paula Newton there in Moscow -- thank you all for being with us.
SESAY: Many, many thanks.
VAUSE: U.S. President Donald Trump is again making a promise he may find hard to keep. This one is about North Korea. Mr. Trump says the U.S. will resolve Pyongyang's nuclear threats with or without China. The U.S. has limited options here, though, and some of it have failed before.
SESAY: Well, the President is also trying to gain more leverage over China. Mr. Trump says he told China's President Xi Jinping, Beijing could get a better trade deal if they solve the North Korean problem.
VAUSE: Pyongyang though remains defiant even after though the U.S. devoted warships to the Korean region. That is not an unusual military move for the United States but it was in direct response to recent North Korean nuclear provocations.
SESAY: Later Kim Jong-Un attended a high-profile political gathering. Here's our own Will Ripley from the North Korean capital.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brand new images of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un presiding silently over the supreme people's assembly in Pyongyang. The man they call Supreme Leader sitting beneath giant statues of his father and grandfather -- North Korea's two late leaders. The symbolism is clear. The third generation leader, like his father and grandfather before him, continues to hold absolute power over North Korea and its growing nuclear arsenal. That arsenal has become central to what many here see as a potential showdown with the U.S.
After a frantic series of North Korean missile launches, this week, the U.S. moved warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson off the Korean Peninsula. That move prompted an angry response from the North Koreans, hand delivered to us in Pyongyang, calling the warship reckless acts of aggression.
The government told us if the U.S. dares to choose a military option, the DPRK is willing and ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.
President Trump responded in turn on twitter, writing, "North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them. USA."
And in a second tweet, "I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem."
Blunt words for the Kim Jong-Un regime and for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who made no promises of specific action against the North Korean government after meeting Trump at Mar-A-Lago last week.
China is North Korea's only meaningful trading partner, but it's not clear how far China is willing to go to reign in Pyongyang, or even if economic pressure would work.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula at their highest level in years, with U.S. Warships off the coast and just days after President Trump ordered a missile strike on the Syrian government, perceived by some inside North Korea as a thinly-veiled threat.
This North Korean news reader saying, "We are not intimidated". North Korean state media warning of a nuclear strike if provoked.
Will Ripley, CNN -- Pyongyang, North Korea.
SESAY: Well, Philip Yun is executive director of the Ploughshares Fund, the group that is working to eliminate nuclear weapons. He's also a former adviser on North Korea to the U.S. administration of Bill Clinton. Philip Yun joins us via Skype from San Francisco.
Philip -- always good to have you with us. I want you to take a listen to what President Trump had to say about the U.S. show of force there off the Korean peninsula. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. And we have the best military people on earth. And I will say this -- he is doing the wrong thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Philip, you know, when you hear the President there saying we are sending an armada. But when it comes down to it, does the dispatch of the USS Carl Vinson and other elements to the Korean Peninsula, does it point to the lack of good options when it comes to dealing with North Korea?
[00:15:02] PHILIP YUN, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: Yes, I think so. It's something that politically the President seems like -- he feels like he has to do. The main problem right now is, as you have mentioned -- Will had mentioned earlier, we're in the middle of a tit for tat of cycle of escalation.
The North Koreans are doing something, then we do something. They shoot off missiles, then we respond with aircraft carriers. And there's this whole cycle of rhetoric right now.
And we've got a lot of military assets right now that are around the peninsula. We have 1.2 million-man army in North Korea; we have 700,000 troops in South Korea; and 30,000-some U.S. troops on the peninsula. It's an accident waiting to happen. And if that's the case then things could spin out of control greatly.
And that's what I'm most worried about. It's not so much a preemptive nuclear strike by North Korea. North Koreans are not suicidal. They're not going to attack us, because they know they would cease to exist. So right now we've got to try to temper things so things do not get out of control and just get through this period right now.
SESAY: So let me ask you pointedly, was it the wrong move on the part of the President to send the USS Carl Vinson and other assets to sit off the Korean Peninsula. I mean do you think that the wrong calculus for dealing with someone like the North Korean leader?
YUN: Well, I think it's fine to send something like that. You have to send a message, and I think politically there's a fine line that you have to walk on this.
I don't know if rhetoric, the kind that the President spoke about is really helpful to the situation. Certainly politically it might be something for his domestic constituency that might make sense. I'm not sure it really makes sense given the circumstances right now and given how high tensions are in the region.
SESAY: And let's be clear, I mean we hear the U.S. say all military options are on the table as they talk about response to what they call North Korean provocation. But, you know, a strike on North Korea is a very different proposition from what we saw in Syria some days ago, and the strike we saw there on an air base, correct?
YUN: Yes, absolutely right. And we're talking about unilateral actions -- there are very few options that we have. North Korea is a land of lousy policy choices. A lot of things have been tried before. What sounds like the United States is going to be doing and Rex Tillerson the U.S. Secretary of State has said we're going to do something different but it sounds more of the same. More pressure, more sanctions -- we've gone down that path, it hasn't worked and we basically now have North Korea on the verge of a small nuclear arsenal.
The alternative as what you talked about is a preemptive strike of some kind. That will cause tens, maybe hundred thousands of casualties. And I can tell you that South Korea and likely Japan would not stand for it. So there's not really a lot that they're going to be able to do in that area. And ultimately what you can do is use pressure to have some kind of talks to hopefully get a freeze, get North Korea to stop doing its missile test, get North Korea to stop improving and having nuclear tests. That's right now -- where in the short-term the best we can hope for.
SESAY: As you make a point, this is a lousy choices. Philip Yun, executive director of the Ploughshares Fund -- thank you so much for joining us. Great insight.
YUN: Thank you.
VAUSE: German police are searching for a motive for an attack on the Borussia Dortmund Football Club. The team's (inaudible) was hit by three explosions on Tuesday slightly wounding one players. Prosecutors say a hand written letter was found near the scene claiming responsibility for the blast.
SESAY: The bomb went off after 13 kilometers from the stadium which was promptly evacuated. Authorities say the team was specifically targeted. They were due to play a huge champions league match that night. The match was postponed until Wednesday.
VAUSE: A short break.
When we come back, White House spokesman Sean Spicer sparking another backlash -- this time claiming Hitler did not use chemical weapons only this time within hours came a rare apology from the White House.
[00:18:57] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SESAY: Hello, everyone.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer is apologizing for saying even Adolf Hitler didn't sink to using chemical weapons during World War II. Spicer was trying to draw a contrast with Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
VAUSE: Well, the White House spokesman tried to clarify later saying he is aware Hitler used gas chambers to kill millions of Jews and others during the Holocaust. He said he should have stayed focused on Syria.
Here is the moment during the White House briefing. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a -- someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons.
So you have to, if you're Russia, ask yourself is this a country that you and a regime that you want to align yourself with?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Joining us now are Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas. Guys -- thank you very much for being with us.
SESAY: Welcome -- gentlemen.
VAUSE: Happy Tuesday, Wednesday where I think you're watching us from Europe right now.
Spicer tried to clarify his remarks during the briefing. He was given that opportunity by another reported. He failed during that clarification. He then issued a statement after the White House briefing to try and explain what he said -- that was a fail, as well.
Luckily, third time lucky right here on CNN. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week using chemical weapons and gas. Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust for which frankly there is no comparison. And for that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So Dave to you -- at this point Sean Spicer, should he just quit his job and go and do PR for United Airlines?
DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Precisely, I know. But in all reality, like President Trump needs to fire the guy. I mean this is emblematic of the larger sort of anti-Semitic problem of the Trump administration. We saw this throughout the course of the campaign. Of course, we've seen it in the administration where, on Holocaust Awareness Day or Remembrance Day, of course, they neglected to mention the slaughtering of millions of Jews.
But Sean Spicer's statements today were abhorrent. They were tone deaf. And I think it's a glaring example of this press secretary increasingly everyday losing flat-out credibility.
SESAY: And let me ask you this -- John. How does he manage it? How does he manage to consistently become the story? Isn't that a big no- no for being the spokesperson?
JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I mean it is. This is a screw-up through and through. I'm pleased to hear that he did at least apologize for it. But rule number one of not just political communications but communications in general is you don't ever compare anything to the Holocaust or Hitler for that matter. I mean it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that. He screwed up.
You know, Kellyanne Conway was making similar mistakes in the sense that she was becoming the story. And you'll notice she hasn't had as much of a public profile of late.
The problem is Sean Spicer's job is to have a public profile. So he needs to tighten this up quickly or he should find another job. It's just that simple.
VAUSE: Ok. Well, speaking of people finding another job, there is -- we've been reporting on this power struggle under way in the White House. On one side there's Steve Bannon, the White House strategist and you know, the former boss of the alt-right Web site Breitbart.
On the other side you've got Jared Kushner, senior aide, adviser to Donald Trump. He's also happens to be the son-in-law.
VAUSE: And, you know, there's been a tussle between the two.
So we now learned in the last couple of hours that Donald Trump has thrown Steve Bannon under the bus. He gave an interview to the "New York Post" and he said this. "I like Steve, but you have to remember, he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors and I didn't know Steve. I'm my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing Crooked Hillary. Steve is a good guy, but I told him to straighten it out or I will."
[00:25:14] You know, so Dave to you once again -- it seems Trump is using the "I hardly know the guy" formula here. But also what's interesting about this, not necessarily to quote an opinion of the "New York Post" but when CNN called to get it confirmed, they confirmed that this is what the President actually said.
JACOBSON: Look, Donald Trump is never the person who creates the issue. It's never Donald Trump's fault. Donald Trump didn't hire Steve Bannon to be his chief strategist. He didn't put him on the National Security Council.
Look, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the President. He has empowered this white nationalist, this white supremacist. But I think going to Steve Bannon, I think the glaring issue there is why would you pick a fight with somebody in the Trump family? There's no way that like Donald Trump is going to detach himself from his daughter's husband.
And so I just think it was a poor choice for him to sort of create this turf war and this bickering process between someone who is closely aligned and part of the family. I don't understand the calculus there. SESAY: And John, optics aside, let me ask you, does this distancing
from Bannon, because that's effectively what we're seeing and what we're hearing in these comments, does it signal a change in this organization, that this administration's priorities, its policy priorities?
THOMAS: It potentially does, and it gives a lot of people in his base cause for concern because Jared Kushner is more of the -- more moderate, kind of neo-con wing of the party. So that does give people concern. I think what you have to remember about Donald Trump is really he's more of a guy of what have you done for me lately?
And Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, has presided over several significant failures or inability to pass health care reform, not recommending going for tax reform out of the gate. Perhaps this wiretapping situation might have had something to do with Bannon's recommendations. So I think --
JACOBSON: Or perhaps the travel ban, too.
THOMAS: Right, exactly. So I think President Trump is basically trying to give someone else a try. What's more fascinating to me is you have the President of the United States talking to the "New York Post" about inside baseball stuff like this. You would never see George W. Bush or Barack Obama do this.
VAUSE: Or pretty much any president in the past, you know, 80 years we think. We didn't get to the Carter Page story. We should mention here the "Washington Post" reporting FBI had obtained a warrant to monitor communications of Carter Page. He was an adviser at the time to candidate Donald Trump. This suspicion being he's working as a foreign agent for Moscow.
We don't have any time for this. But we should mention that we haven't confirmed the reporting, but Page did issue a statement to us. We want to read this very quickly. This is what Page said to CNN about this FBI warrant essentially to monitor him.
Page said, "It shows how low the Clinton-Obama regime went to destroy our democracy and suppress dissidents who did not fully support their foreign policy. It will be interesting to see what comes out when the unjustified basis for those FISA requests are more disclosed over time.
And yes, Carter Page, the man that Russian intelligence described as an idiot, it will be interesting indeed.
Dave and John -- thanks for being with us.
THOMAS: Thank you.
SESAY: Thank you -- gents.
All right. Coming up, new reaction from the CEO of united airlines after videos of a bloodied passenger being dragged off a flight sparked global outrage.
[00:32:00] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.
The U.S. Secretary of State is in Moscow to meet with Russia's foreign minister. Syria will be the big focus after last week's U.S. missile strikes there. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, who the U.S. blames for a deadly chemical attack on its people. Russia denounces the U.S. strike and says the chemicals belong to rebels.
VAUSE: White House spokesman is apologizing for saying Hitler did not use chemical weapons during World War II. Sean Spicer said he was trying to draw a contrast between the Syrian President Bashar al- Assad. Spicer says he knows Hitler used gas chambers and his remarks were a mistake.
SESAY: U.S. President Donald Trump is promising again to stop North Korea's nuclear threat unilaterally if China doesn't help. The president also tweeted China would get a better trade deal if they solve the North Korean problem. Pyongyang is defiant after the U.S. sent over warships to the region.
VAUSE: You know, there was once a time when air travel was an experience, not an endurance. We flew the friendly skies. Passengers were pampered, not prodded, and a stewardess served up a hot meal as opposed to a flight attendant serving up attitude. It was -- well, it was like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new concept in air transportation. The travail has been taken out of travel.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We're now at cruising altitude 35,000 feet. Our flying speed is 575 miles per hour. In addition, we're benefiting from a substantial tail wind, courtesy of the jet stream. Hence, our ground speed is now approximately 658 miles per hour. Indications are that our arrival at London airport may be ahead of schedule. I'll be speaking with you again from time to time. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Ahhh. The chic, good old days.
These days, worst case scenario, it's like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [SCREAMING]
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, hey, come on. Come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Umm, so is that the price passengers have to pay for cheaper air travel? Well, the glamorous days. Well, they are so glamorous, anyone?
VAUSE: OK. Let's find out more.
We're joined by Global Business Executive Ryan Patel.
Ryan, nice to have you with us here. OK, so maybe the glamorous days weren't so glamorous after all. I mean, we're just so being delusional, but United has now revealed that the flight was not actually overbooked, when they went to remove the four passengers. It was just booked, fully booked, and so they are removing these passengers to give up their seats for employees of the airline.
That, to one side, overbooking is a common practice. It's done by most of the major airlines, not just in the United States but around the world. Hotels do it, rental car companies do it, and it is one factor in bringing costs and prices down. If you want a cheap airline ticket, this is the price you have to pay.
Is that a fair statement?
RYAN PATEL, GLOBAL BUSINESS EXECUTIVE: Yes and no. I mean, for me, it is using hotels and other rental cars, but for airlines, it's a practice that causes real distraction in a lot of places.
And in this, in the airline industry, they're able to get away with it because there are not a lot of competition to be able to do it. So at least in hotels and rental cars, you have consumers, you have feedback and there's a change.
Right now, what we're seeing with the airlines, you're getting a lot of pushback right now from consumers and you can see that today in the market, that they got really bad press for a policy that you said, that is normal for all the other airlines, but got deemed as, hey, this is not the right thing to do.
[00:35:30] SESAY: And as you talk about the lack of competition, which has made these airlines so much more powerful, I mean, it's really driven home visually when you see the images of this passenger, bloodied and battered. I mean, it shows that, you know, really airlines treat customers, consumers with something approaching contempt these days.
PATEL: Yes, I know. And I think it's kind of the norm. I can't believe I'm saying that right now. Consumers who are flying expect not to be treated well. And especially in the U.S. on the majority of the airlines, and for any company to come out and say, you know, apologize twice during the day, that means you did something wrong.
No matter if United said we're following the book, they did something wrong when it comes to protecting the consumer and taking care of how it's supposed to be and feeling really apologetic on what happen and trying to find the solution to fix it.
If it was any other company outside this industry, we would be talking about a different story today.
SESAY: Yes, absolutely.
VAUSE: OK. The CEO of United finally issued an apology, which you sort of eluded to there. It came out on Tuesday. This is like the third time lucky for United.
This is what he said. "I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way."
OK. So maybe we've now hit, you know, the lowest of the low point in customer service for U.S. airlines. It does seem, though, it has been a race to the bottom for airlines, especially in the United States.
They say they have a lot of competition from subsidized airlines like, you know, the national carriers like Emirates and that other kind of stuff, and they can't compete. So instead of trying to improve their service, they cut their costs, right?
PATEL: Yes. And I think that's one excuses that, you know, is to say, hey, we don't want to intervene and provide good services, right? If the policies to allow the (INAUDIBLE) and Emirates and even though recent air to kind of come in to have more flights, Emirates CEO would tell you, hey, we're pausing more competition, more routes, better service, we're actually pushing innovation.
And I think it will have to force American, United, Delta to provide, hey, what are we doing next instead of staying status quo? So we're kind of in that between stage where, yes, they're being subsidized. We don't know how -- what the numbers per se is but it causes competition for all of us, a global marketplace. I think, which it would be better for everybody. But if you've got status quo right now, you don't want to change it. That's what the U.S. airlines have done for over 20, 30 years.
SESAY: And so quickly, Ryan, you know, I can't help but ask in this kind of warped market or warped system where the airlines are so powerful, where is the oversight?
PATEL: You know, that's with all the politics that's going on right now. And the oversight should be coming from the department of transportation. And they have said, hey, if you've got complaints, come to us, come straight to us first, but there's no teeth, right?
Because, really, you know who has the teeth? It's the consumers who have the teeth. They stop flying with whomever they don't like. That will make Wall Street and everyone will pay attention to that.
VAUSE: Well, they showed their teeth today. They sold United stock. They're starting cutting out their United Airlines credit cards and maybe the social media can change the equation.
SESAY: One evening.
VAUSE: Ryan, thank you so much. Good to see you.
SESAY: Thank you, Ryan. Thank you.
Time for a quick break.
The costs are piling up with no end in sight. Ahead, the bill taxpayers are footing for President Trump's weekend getaways.
[00:40:42] SESAY: So talking the talk and walking the walk.
VAUSE: Walking the walk and playing the golf.
SESAY: Two different things when it comes to cutting cost, in fact.
VAUSE: That's true.
SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) President Trump.
VAUSE: Yes. He went very hard on Barack Obama when Barack Obama was president about all his golf trips and how much it cost, made it a political point. But now it seems that Mr. Trump is actually set to surpass the entire travel bill for Barack Obama's entire presidency, and Mr. Trump could do that in less than a year.
SESAY: Setting a record.
VAUSE: Here's Tom Foreman with the numbers.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president keeps taking off, and the bills keep piling up. The latest getaway itinerary --
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president plans to spend the Easter holiday in Florida and he'll return to the White House on Sunday.
FOREMAN: Since assuming office, President Trump has spent six weekends at his Florida resort, Mar-A-Lago for a Super Bowl party in early February, a meeting and dinner with the Japanese prime minister, a little golf the weekend after that, a little more golf two weeks later, still a few more holes in mid-March, and then his meeting in early April with the Chinese president.
To be sure, he ordered the strike on Syria during that last visit and his staff insists he is always working.
SPICER: And I think the president, wherever he goes, he carries the apparatus of the White House with us. That is just something that happens.
FOREMAN: But in just eighty days, Trump's travels have cost taxpayers an estimated $21 million, all while drawing attention to and boosting the value of his private properties. Membership fees at Mar-A-Lago, for example, have already doubled to $200,000.
The Secret Service insists you can handle the load of protecting all that travel, but the head of Homeland Security notes agents are pulling long shifts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a larger secret service because we need to get some of these people a little bit of time at home with their families.
FOREMAN: Law enforcement officials in Florida say they too are spending tens of thousands a day and working their officers as if a hurricane has hit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is 12 hour shifts and cancel vacations and we're going to use all of our manpower that we have at our fingertips.
FOREMAN: And in New York, where First Lady Melania Trump lives, taxpayers are shelling out up to $146,000 a day to secure Trump Tower.
(on-camera): The White House suggest once it gets hotter in Florida this summer, the president may not be going down there so much, but he may start taking trips to New Jersey and Virginia and other Trump properties in other places.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
SESAY: Wow. Well, thank you for watching, I'm Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause. "World Sport" is up next. You're watching CNN.