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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Major Discovery in EgyptAir Crash; France Taking Maximum Security Precautions at Charles de Gaulle; Terror Suspected in EgyptAir Crash; Greek Official: Plane Found, U.S. Offers Help; Lindsey Graham Talks EgyptAir, Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 20, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:05] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much, John.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you for joining us right now.

We are following breaking news in the search for EgyptAir flight 804. A major discovery at sea. The Greek defense minister saying that two plane seats, a suitcase and, tragically, a human body part have been found. As searchers comb an area 180 miles off of the coast of Alexandria, an oil slick reportedly has been spotted in the eastern Mediterranean near where they believe the jet disappeared.

Also this morning, we're seeing pictures of the two pilots for the first time.

U.S. and Egyptian officials suspect the plane's demise was the result of a terrorist act. That is the initial theory. That's where things stand at this moment. No concrete evidence at this time. That has not been confirmed. Thus far, as we've said, there is no claim of responsibility.

We're going to be covering this like only CNN can. Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is covering the story from Washington. Senior international correspondent, Atika Shubert, is live in France at Charles de Gaulle Airport where that flight originated.

And let's begin though with international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. He is at an air base in Greece where the search is going from.

Nic, what are you picking up right now? What are you hearing there about the search?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, we're hearing that this aircraft, a military cargo C-130, may be taking off from here shortly to go join that search effort. There is another Greek C-130 cargo aircraft in the air at the moment along with a surveillance aircraft. They're helping the Egyptian authorities who are on the scene. We also know there is a British naval vessel in the area of that search. We know now as well there are several United States P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft that are joining that search effort.

Now that some of debris has been found the defense ministry confirming what we heard from Egyptian officials, that human remains has been found, two seats from the aircraft have been found, and a suitcase or suitcases have been recovered from the sea. That should aid the search of these aircraft here as they fly over, try to identify what is on the surface of the water. They'll also be using that information that we're now getting from the European Space Agency saying that their satellites have spotted what appears to be an oil slick on the surface of the water. This area is close to the area that's already where the debris has been found in which is just southeast of where the aircraft disappeared off the radar on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. And we know from previous crashes that there is a likelihood when a plane goes down, it will leak hydraulic fluid, it will leak aviation fuel.

Now, it's not until the aircraft can help get a more pinpoint location that ships on the surface can get to that material that's floating, that they can make a determination whether or not that is from the EgyptAir 804.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Nic, but it sure does -- all indications that you're bringing to us sure do look like they are quickly being able to narrow in, more pinpoint an area where this plane may have come down.

Much more to follow there.

Nic in Crete for us.

Nic, thank you so much.

So the French interior ministry is also telling CNN right now that it is taking maximum security precautions at Charles de Gaulle Airport and other transit areas. What does that look like?

Atika Shubert is there now.

Atika, what do the extra security measures look like?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The airport has already been on its highest state of alert for several months now, but we regularly see armed soldiers patrolling inside the terminal. There are random spot checks of passengers with bags. And earlier, today there was one bag people weren't sure where it belonged, and so they quickly moved people out of the area to check it.

So it is very high security here, but the airport authorities here have said they're going to add even more. In fact, today they announced they will add on an extra 30 extra intelligence officers. They will be deployed as of the beginning of June. That's on top of the 5,700 security agents already inside the terminals patrolling.

So this is one of the most secure airports in Europe, but nothing is 100 percent. What they're really focused on here is less on the passengers but more on the backdoor vulnerabilities, about the personnel who have access to restricted areas? We now know there are 85,000 employees with so-called red badges.

This is what gives them access to restricted areas, but in order to get that red badge, you need to have a police check, you need to be screened again. And then just like you and I might get into an airplane where we are checked for liquids and laptops, they go through those checks, too. So it is a pretty tight ship here.

BOLDUAN: Atika at Charles de Gaulle Airport for us.

Atika, thank you very much. We'll come back to you.

Let's discuss all of this right now with Daniel Rose, an aviation and maritime attorney; CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA official, Phillip Mudd; CNN aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien, who is also a pilot and a science correspondent for "CBS News Hour"; and CNN aviation analyst, Les Abend, also a 777 captain and contributing editor to "Flying" magazine.

Thank you very much for joining me.

Miles, to the news that we -- it is grim news to be reporting but important news to discuss. The debris they believe they have found, human remains, seats, one or two suitcases. What does that tell you right now?

[11:05:43] MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it's a reminder of what a tragedy this all is first and foremost, but the initial debris here is as important as anything for helping find the main part of the wreckage Beneath the sea. Knowing where it is, knowing the drift patterns, and knowing how long it's been in the water, you can backtrack to the point of impact pretty closely, and so without too much time I think, it should be fairly quick before they'll have ships on station at a location that is pretty close to where the impact was, and they can put sonar listening devices in the water to listen for the pinging noise that the black boxes make and that's where the real answers lie. In the meantime, additional wreckage that might surface could offer some clues as well.

BOLDUAN: Les, yesterday, as we were speaking, you were still holding out that this could be technical. The initial theory as they're describing it from U.S. Officials and others is that they think it is terror, that the suspicion is it was a bomb on board. What's happened? What have you seen in the last 24 hours that swayed you one way or another on the cause of all this?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Really at this point there's no information or evidence that would prove or disprove any particular theory, so, you know, I'm still standing by the possibility that maybe it is a mechanical or technical problem that occurred, catastrophic failure as I have discussed before. You know, this is an airplane that was out of control at some point in time and there was a catastrophic event that occurred to get it to that point, but, you know, what got it to that point, you know, it's hard to say and it's anybody's best guess. But all that floating debris may provide us evidence in addition to the gruesome aspect of the human remains may be able to tell if there was an explosive device in lungs and so on and so forth. An autopsy might be able to go there.

In addition, there was reference to an oil slick?

BOLDUAN: Yes.

ABEND: That's kind of interesting. It's a fluid slick as far as I'm concerned because is it is it fuel, or is it oil?

BOLDUAN: Does that matter?

ABEND: Yeah. And I think it does from the standpoint of if it's oil, there's not a lot of oil in a modern-day jet engine. It's very little, so you're not going to see a lot. Fuel is the biggest quantity out there. If it's not a fuel spill and you don't see -- that would indicate that it broke apart in the air because there wouldn't be a lot of fuel and it just vaporized in flight or broke up in flight so you wouldn't see that. So that might say something right there if you're not seeing hydraulic fluid which is more than oil.

BOLDUAN: That's fascinating.

Phil, leaning on your expertise, if you're in your old post at the CIA, regardless of what the leading theory is at the moment, what are you doing?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: First, would go toe-to-toe with U.S. officials on this. There is no theory if you're sitting in the chair. There are facts. What you're going is checking the flight manifest, the not only looking at databases but looking at the postings to say did something happen in terms of their interest and support for a militant organization. That's looking for the communications you might get out of Syria or Libya or Iraq or some level of ISIS or even al Qaeda in a place like Yemen who has been involved in operations like this. That's talking to detainees, folk, from the Brussels and Paris attacks, going through authorities in Belgium and France to say do they know anything about this? There's a lot of work beyond what's going on, on the scene, to determine whether something happened right now. I don't have a theory, and I find it surprising that U.S. officials say they do. We don't know what happened here.

BOLDUAN: I think that's why everyone was -- has been very hesitant and kind of head scratching about this even terminology and initial theory and a suspicion, but regardless that is what we're picking up.

So, Dan, the families. Everyone, of course, thinks of the families after this. But when this news comes out, the grim news that human remains was found, that really drives home the tragedy, the tragic factor of this, as Miles puts it. What do the families do right now other than wait desperately? What do they need?

DANIEL ROSE, AVIATION AND MARITIME ATTORNEY: Well, what they need is support. They get that primarily from the families, of course, but the airlines should be there. The countries should be there to support them. They should have that infrastructure to rely on, but they also want answers. I mean, you know, a lot of what we're talking about today here is the same thing going on in their minds and they want to know what happened, why it happened, and, you know, that's going to provide some modicum of closure at some point down the road. But right now, you know, it's really the acceptance phase, trying to deal with denial, and getting them on to the next step.

[11:10:25] BOLDUAN: A lot more to discuss, Guys, so stick around with me, if you could.

Much more to discuss on these new details as they have been coming in and will continue to come in throughout the hour.

Our breaking news continues. Debris, personal items, human remains found from EgyptAir flight 804, two seats, luggage, suitcases, as we've discussed, and terror remains an early theory. Ahead, we will speak with Senator Lindsey Graham about what he is hearing about the investigation, his take on all of this.

Plus, search teams continue to look for the plane's ever-important black boxes. The challenges that they're up against in the Mediterranean Sea in finding those key pieces of the puzzle.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:14:52] BOLDUAN: We continue to follow breaking news. Debris from EgyptAir flight 804 has been located, according to Greek officials, including parts of the aircraft, passenger belongings, and even human remains. This, as the U.S. is continuing to offer help and support in this search effort for actually locating the plane and what brought that plane out of the sky.

Let's bring in CNN's justice correspondent, Evan Perez, for much more on this.

Evan, what are you picking up? How is the U.S. helping in the search right now?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We know, for instance, that the U.S. military now flying P-3 surveillance aircraft over the area to help in the search. They are trying to help find the wreckage and then most importantly to try to find these data boxes because that's really the key here to try to solve this mystery.

But behind the scenes, there's also a lot of other work being done. We know that the U.S. intelligence community is looking at satellites. They're looking at radar. They're trying to get images that are being shared perhaps by other countries in the region, the allies like Israel, for instance, which has a lot of coverage of this region and behind the scenes here in Washington and elsewhere, we have U.S. intelligence analysts who are building dossiers essentially on everybody who had anything to do with this aircraft. We know, for instance, that they already have the names of the people who are on the plane's manifest, the 66 people, including the 56 passengers and the 10 crew members. What they want to do is certainly get to know as much as possible about these people, to see if there's anything recently that might have turned up that will show some association with any Islamists or radical groups that would raise the type of concern for investigators.

Again, this is something that is done routinely in these types of cases. It doesn't mean that they believe that any of these people had anything to do with this, but simply because they don't have the wreckage, this is where you begin, and it's a way for to you make sure that you cross off all the possibilities if there is a terrorist angle to this crash -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: You can have these investigations going on, on parallel tracks.

(CROSSTALK)

PEREZ: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: You have to exhaust every possibility as they're trying to figure out what happened and do it urgently.

Evan, thank you so much.

PEREZ: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Evan will continue to work his sources on how the U.S. is helping and what they are seeing in their search.

Thank you, Evan.

Let's continue the discussion with CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, and editor-in-chief of the CTC "Sentinel"

Paul, it's great to see you.

As this all played out, over the last 24 hours, I'm reminded that you have, especially in the recent past, talked a lot about the clear desire of terror groups to get bombs on planes. When you see something like this happen, yes, it is early, there's no concrete evidence, but terror is an initial theory folks are working with. What is the gap right now between the desire for terror groups to get bombs on planes and the state of the art technology to stop that from happening, the methods that are in place at major airports around the world?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Kate, the good news part of the story is the state of the art technology is actually really good at detecting bombs. We're talking about multi-view x-ray machines with a lot of resolution, talking about, those swabs they use at the airport to see if even the minutest amount of explosive residue is on our clothes or bags. There's a layered security system in place in airport in the United States, in Europe, in the developed world which is difficult to beat. But at the same time, terrorist groups, notably al Qaeda in Yemen, are constantly innovating trying to come up with new ways to beat these machines. The master bombmaker developing new generation of shoe bombs, underwear devices. The group even experimenting according to recent intelligence with surgically implanting bombs into human beings. So there's this technological arms race between the terrorists on the one side and people working explosive detection on the other. Is hasn't developed the same kind of sophisticated devices yet that al Qaeda has. It's been relying on recruiting insiders at airports, and that's how it managed to take down that Russian airliner back in October.

BOLDUAN: That's one of the weak links obviously that exist in airports that they're also looking into as a possibility, of course. If it is terror, does it surprise you that there has been no claim of responsibility yet?

CRUICKSHANK: Yes, it does surprise me. I mean, we're about 40 hours into this event at this point. To give you a point of comparison, when that MetroJet went down over the Sinai peninsula in October, an attack which was the responsibility of ISIS in the Sinai, the group claimed that attack within just five hours. ISIS is very trigger happy when it comes to claiming attacks. In the last 40 hours it's claimed all sorts of other operations and attacks in the Middle East and elsewhere. But there's been a deafening silence from ISIS on this particular attack. And that certainly is very, very notable for people working in counterterrorism because it's in the interests of these terrorist groups to bask in the, quote, unquote, "glory" of launching these kinds of attacks. This would be a big, big break through from ISIS to down a plane leaving from Charles de Gaulle Airport, one of the airports with the best security anywhere in the world. It would be a huge achievement, and it really would be a warring moment for the West. So we have to wait and see.

[11:20:28] BOLDUAN: No solid evidence, as you were saying that this is terrorism. There may be some other explanation. It may not be terrorism at all.

But one other data point, al Qaeda has historically taken a bit longer to claim responsibility for attacks, notably the attempt on that Somali airline. It took 11 days for them to put out a statement but that was a failed attack. For a successful attack, you would expect something out by now, and we just haven't got that yet.

BOLDUAN: It's an important thing to keep in mind. I know that you are.

Paul, thank you very much. Great to see you. Thank you.

So ahead for us, more on the search for EgyptAir flight 804. And also -- and, of course, what forced that plane out of the sky. We're going to speak to Senator Lindsey Graham. We're going to talk to him about the investigation, the initial suspicion from U.S. officials that it was -- that that plane was taken down by a bomb, the initial theory that this was terrorism. We'll get his take coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:25:45] BOLDUAN: New evidence may provide some concrete answers into the mystery of what happened to EgyptAir flight 804. Officials in Greece have announced investigators found human remains, an airplane seat, luggage, other debris. Investigators also discovering what they believe could be a possible oil slick in the area. That coming from the European Space Agency. But questions surrounding the crash still unanswered and the initial

theory from U.S. officials, terrorism.

Joining me now is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He's also a former Republican presidential candidate, of course.

Thank you so much for being here.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So EgyptAir, the flight, what are you hearing? What is your gut?

GRAHAM: Well, really, we haven't been briefed, at least intel people but I doubt that the average member of Congress has been briefed. I have met with the Egyptian ambassador yesterday and passed on my condolences.

If it is terrorism, and nobody knows, there's no use to guess. But the first question I have is, who did it and what kind of capability do they bring to the fight, because you're no stronger than your weakest link when it comes to flying and, you know, loading an airplane with luggage and food. But they made multiple stops, so the question I would have is what kind of capability did they possess because this is a fairly sophisticated thing to do.

BOLDUAN: And as you said, if it is terrorism, you have got a lot more questions and it has huge implications for the world we live in right now. And that is something that you speak directly about all the time, the threat of terrorism and what that means both abroad and here at home. It's something that the next president is going to have to deal with, something that you talked about on the campaign trail very much.

You talked recently about ISIS, about the threat of terror with Donald Trump when you spoke to him on the phone. Even the phone call surprised a lot of people, that you would get on the phone with him. Surprised me. You called it pleasant.

With all of this in mind, I wonder, I want to talk about the foreign policy position, but just having the call with him, and what you spoke with him about, are you warming to Donald Trump?

GRAHAM: Well, I'll talk to him. I mean, we have major differences when it comes to immigration, and I think he's taken the party down a road that I choose not to go. But he's got a 50/50 chance of being president of the United States. He did an amazing thing. He beat me and 16 other people. The bottom line is he wanted to pick my brain about ISIL. The threat -- look at ISIL as a threat to the homeland. Look at it as a threat to the region. How do you protect us from ISIL? The more you can disrupt their operations, the smaller you can make the group. They're large, they're rich, they're entrenched. I want to make them small, poor, and on the run. And I talked about the Iranian influence in Damascus through Assad, that we have two challenges in Syria, and Syria is the cancer of the Middle East. You cannot give Damascus to the Iranians by keeping Assad in power. The Arabs won't accept that. And if you don't deal with ISIL, they're going to hit us here.

BOLDUAN: That is a very important point you're making, especially right now.

It seems while you talked about that with Donald Trump, he says he disagrees with you on that point.

He talked about you just this morning. He was on "Morning Joe" and he said specifically on the point of the U.S. approach to ISIS in Syria, he disagrees with you. He would stay out of Syria and he would not fight for Assad.

For out viewers, here is what Donald Trump said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (voice-over): We have Iran and we have Russia totally on the side of Assad. And that's not the reason I stay out necessarily, but certainly it's a complicating factor. But we have them totally on the side of Assad. We have to knock the hell out of ISIS. And if we are going after Assad and ISIS, and they're fighting each other, people are going to say, what the hell are we doing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So, Senator, this speaks to a broader foreign policy. This speaks to a broader foreign policy view. From what you hear, do you think he is ready to be commander-in-chief?

GRAHAM: Well, we can disagree about -- you know, Ted Cruz said it's OK to leave Assad in power. I respectfully disagree. Assad is the magnet for recruitment. He's an Alawite in the Shia strain of their religion, backed by Iran. He's a proxy of the Iranians. The Sunni Arab states, Saudi Arabia and others, are not going to accept Assad staying in power because you're giving Damascus to Iran. ISIL uses Assad as a recruiting tool.

So, here is what I would say to Mr. Trump. If you leave Assad in power, then you're expanding Iranian influence, which is not in our interest, and the war in Syria never ends --