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No Sign Of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; Russians, Ukrainians Clash At Rally; Mexico: Drug Kingpin Killed In Shootout; Poll: Should U.S. Help Ukraine?; Rand Paul Rising?; Gruesome Details In Pistorius Trial

Aired March 10, 2014 - 07:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Half past the hour. Let's take a look at your headlines here on NEW DAY. Search teams from eight nations are unable to find a trace of Malaysia Flight 370. That flight took off from Kuala Lumpur early Saturday with 239 passengers on board and then simply disappeared from radar screens. The FBI has now joined the investigation. The focus now is on two passengers who boarded the Boeing 777 using stolen passports.

Escalation in Ukraine. Twenty pro-Russian activists broke into a Crimean hospital, threw out the chief and refused to let the staff leave. That came after supporters of Russia interrupted a pro- Ukrainian rally whipping and beating the demonstrators.

CNN also has exclusive pictures where Russians have built a new border separating Crimea from Ukraine, complete with mine fields and barbed wire.

Mexican authorities say a drug kingpin really is dead this time. Navy forces reportedly killed the head of the Knights Templar cartel in a shootout. This isn't the first time Nazario Moreno was reportedly killed. Officials thought he died in a gun battle back in 2010, but apparently he survived. Investigators are now doing several test on the body to make sure they got the right man.

Thirteen nuns and three workers now free and back in Syria this morning. They were kidnapped from a Greek orthodox monastery in Syria last November, were being held by rebels with possible connections to al Qaeda. The 13 women were initially released in Lebanon, but arrived back in Syria last night. Lebanese officials say the nuns were freed in exchange for 150 women that the Syrian government was holding.

Those are your headlines -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Attacks on Christians in that part of the world, an under reported story. It's good to have it though, Mich. You know, a lot of people want more politics, get in there deep, Brooke. You know, get an insider's into the game and let's see if he can do it. I don't think anybody could do as well as the man we are going to take you today. A new segment, you know him, but you haven't seen him like this. "INSIDE POLITICS" with host, John King, right here on NEW DAY. Great to see you in the split screen, John. Great to see you.

JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S "INSIDE POLITICS": Good morning to you, Chris, and Brooke, and Michaela.

With me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, two of the best in the political reporting business, Maeve Reston of the "Los Angeles Times" and Robert Costa of "The Washington Post." We're going to again with a brand new CNN/ORC poll looking at how the American people think the president is handling the situation in Ukraine, you just talked about that, and his overall job approval.

Look at this right now. That's the president of how he's handling his job as president. That's his overall approval rating right there 43 percent approve, 58 percent disapprove. But let's look at how he is handling Ukraine. A 48 percent approve of how he's handling the crisis in Ukraine, 43 percent say they disapprove of how the president is handling Ukraine.

So plurality approval when it comes to the question of Ukraine. He's going to meet with the Ukrainian prime minister in the coming days. That prime minister said he's not going to give up one inch of territory if Russia tries to take Crimea. If the voters in Crimea, the people of Crimea say they want to secede and move to Russia.

So that's the president's challenge. Listen here to Robert Gates. Remember he was the Bush administration defense secretary carried over to the Obama administration. Listen to him on Fox News Sunday. He thinks Crimea is gone.


ROBERT GATES, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia's hands.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: You think Crimea's gone?

GATES: I do.


KING: "I do," Maeve Reston, Robert Gates says. How does race the bar for the president as he prepares not only to keep calling international leaders, but now to sit down face to face with the prime minister of Ukraine. How does he stop that?

MAEVE RESTON, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": I don't know that he can. That is going to be his huge challenge over the next couple of weeks is to really show he's bringing the international community together and that he's working on all these diplomatic maneuvers that obviously are the most popular options among the public here.

But I think we just really don't know how this is going to play out. And of course, as we saw last week at the conservative gathering CPAC, this has become sort of a rallying cry for Republicans saying that the president has not been strong enough in supporting these democratic forces around the world.

KING: Secretary Gates did weigh on that as well, Robert. He said, you know, Putin took part of Georgia when George W. Bush was president, where were the Republicans saying he was weak? Where were the Republicans then saying, you know, why didn't Bush use military force or do something more muscular? So Mr. Gates who is by pedigree a Republican see some hypocrisy here.

ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, when you look at these new CNN poll numbers, you're seeing the president on pretty solid ground. The American public has not turned against him, but I think he's going to have a challenge now. He is going to start engaging with the Ukrainian president. He is already engaged with Vladimir Putin.

I think there is going to be an expectation, not only in the country, but especially on Capitol Hill, where are the results. Where's the policy? Where is the vision? I think we have yet to see a coherent vision from the administration. We see the president working hard to engage. But the situation is so fluid, I think the poll numbers are good now, but its places where they could be mixed up in the future.

KING: An interesting point. I want to show some other numbers here because you see what I'll call the Iraq/Afghanistan legacy here. When you give the American people a list of options, what should the president do about Ukraine? Economic sanctions 59 percent of Americans say they favor economic sanctions. That's a good number for the president.

Forty six percent say give economic aid to Ukraine, but look as you get deeper, more punitive actions, cancel a diplomatic meeting, the G8 Summit, military aid only 23 percent of Americans even want to give aid to Ukraine. U.S. air strikes, U.S. ground troops in the low to mid-teens there.

You see a hesitancy here, which tells me two things, the American people think we don't want to touch anything overseas that we think it could get overly complicated and, number two, the president has yet to convince the American people there's a vital U.S. interest here.

RESTON: Well, I mean, this is a very complex subject for all of us to understand exactly what's going on in the ground, what Russia is actually doing. And so I think from what you've seen, especially among the younger generation is that even in the Republican Party, you talk to some of these younger kids, the younger activists and they said we've been dealing with war for 10 years now. We don't want any more of this and so even in the Republican Party you're not seeing a push for a military option in this situation.

KING: A big split in fact between sort of the John McCain or the younger generation, Marco Rubio, the muscular Republicans and the Rand Pauls who say step back and do what you can diplomatically --

RESTON: And rebuilt here at home. I mean, that was Rand Paul's big cry. KING: I want to look at -- want to talk more about this CPAC meeting, the conservative meeting here in Washington this weekend. But first, let's look at the context, the president of the United States in our poll, we also looked at his approval rating, and we look at it overtime.

His overall approval rating right now 43 percent. In February, it was 45 percent. In December, it was 41 percent. In November, it was 41 percent. Robert Costa, that's pretty much a flat line. The president in the low to mid 40s. If that holds up come November, Republicans will add to the House of majority, maybe 8, 10, 12's, maybe even more seats.

But that tells me a president in the mid 40's, low 40s, if that number holds in November, the Republicans will get the Senate, will they not?

COSTA: I think you're right, John. I think a lot of red state Democrats who are running for Senate, they're looking at those CNN poll numbers and they're nervous because the president is not providing the kind of buoyancy that he would have provided in past campaigns.

And so who is out there right now? You have some popular Democrats, Hillary Clinton is trying. Joe Biden is hitting the campaign trail. But the president's political capital has diminished towards at least flat line and that's a problem for Democrats if they really try to hold on to a slim majority in the Senate.

KING: And so the question is can Republicans take advantage of that opportunity. Maeve, you were at this conservative meeting in recent days. Rand Paul was the winner, if you will. He wins the CPAC straw poll. Those conservatives at that meeting want him to be the next president of the United States, think he should be the guy. Who else -- who else was a winner at CPAC?

RESTON: Well, clearly, Rick Perry had a very week, a big, big, huge crowd reaction to his speech there. Marco Rubio did not do well in the straw poll, which was really telling about how far his numbers have plummeted in the party especially among those activists.

But I think what we also saw and we both read about this last week was just a very scattered message coming out of CPAC. I mean, they're still trying to figure out what their message is to women, minorities. A lot of these groups that Obama did well with. At the same time, Obama not doing well with Latinos. That's going to be a struggle for him this year.

KING: So still searching for a message, which makes it harder to pick a messenger.

COSTA: Exactly. I think looking at CPAC, it's a three-day conference. Conservatives come together, mostly libertarian crowd. But Chris Christie though he's embattled in New Jersey, he had a -- he had a pretty warm reception. He came out there threw a lot of red meat to the conservative audience. I think he escaped with some positive reviews. Rick Perry as well had a very positive experience there.

I think you have to look at some other people there. Paul Ryan had a solid speech, a solid reception. I think he's still on the map for 2016. I think you're seeing (inaudible). The party is looking for a leader. The president has flat-lined, but in terms of coming around it could even be Paul because he is bringing new people into the party. That has a lot of people in the GOP excited.

KING: A familiar face from the McCain/Palin ticket. I want everyone to listen here to Sarah Palin. She's colorful but on the other side of this, let's see if she's relevant.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: I do not like this, Uncle Sam, I do not like his health care scam. I do not like these dirty crooks or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like this spying, man, I do not like, yes, we can.


KING: Entertaining. She's colorful. Does she still have anyplace, an influential place in the party or is she just a great public speaker?

COSTA: I wouldn't say she has an influential place in the party, but she has an influential place within the conservative movement. She is a grassroots favorite. She still so in terms of being a national figure, someone who is going to be a presidential campaign candidate, unlikely.

RESTON: Well, I mean, at the same time she does a great job reading her version of "Green Eggs and Ham", right? But I think we have to remember why she came on the national stage in the first place and that was because McCain was trying to make inroads with women and moderates and obviously that did not happen. Palin does not have any pull, you know, among those voters and so it's just hard to imagine her doing more than kind of rallying the base at these gatherings going forward.

KING: Closing thought on Mitch McConnell who told the "New York Times," that the conservative Tea Party challengers who are running against him and some of his friends in the Senate, he says we're going to crush them everywhere, I don't think they're going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.

For him to say that, Robert, Mitch McConnell is one of the most disciplined politicians in America. That tells me, number one, he's reached his boiling point with his own primary challenge back home. But his friends being challenged by these Tea Party in conservative challenge.

Number two though, it also tells me he wouldn't say that if he's not convinced he's going to beat them, crush them in November. Now conservatives are saying that's the stakes of the elections, crush or be crushed. Is this going to cause more civil war? COSTA: I think so. To understand Mitch McConnell, you got to look at his biography. He started out as an intern in the U.S. Senate in 1960s and was elected in 1980s. He has been trying to be Senate majority leader his entire life. He sees it's possible this year and so that's why he's pushing back against some of these conservative primary challenger saying it's about time the Republicans win the Senate instead of continuing to have this civil war.

KING: It's risky though, is it not?

RESTON: It's a really bold on his part and one that certainly is going to just amp up the friction that had been this huge problem for the party and it keeps them from getting to the broader message that they're looking for. I mean, if you're spending your whole time fighting a civil war, you can't get to the next step and think about 2016. That's important because the numbers look good for Republicans right now, but what about, you know, moving into the next realm for elections?

KING: Tell me what you're looking for today? Every morning you want to get a sense of what's going to drive the day and drive the buzz in politics, what are you looking for?

COSTA: Well, I'm going to head to Capitol Hill right after this and I'm going to pay attention to what the Republicans will do in Ukraine. You already see Republicans in the House quarrelling with the administration about emergency aid for Ukraine. I think because the Republican Party though is divided, hawks versus doves, Rand Paul versus Marco Rubio, we're not going to see a real consensus on the GOP side. Look to see what happens this week. Will there be some infighting on foreign policy within the Republican Party?

RESTON: This is a huge week for Obamacare. We are moving right toward the end of the open enrolment period. The White House is going to be making a big push to moms, to women to try to turn out those younger Americans to get them signed up. And also Latinos who have really been not signing up for the law and then in the numbers that the administration was looking for.

KING: All right, here's one thing I'm looking for, Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator starting to send more firm signals he will run for a Senate seat in New Hampshire. He's already moved north from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, but Republicans in the state are still sceptical. He is saying he is more inclined to run. They want to see proof. He's more inclined to run and they are pressuring him in the coming days. Because if he's not going to run, they want to look around, see if they have to look to somebody else.

Before we go back to you guys in New York, you know, we want to have a little fun sometimes too. "Saturday Night Live" looking at the Ukraine crisis in its own unique way. Let's have a look.

A difficult crisis for the president, Brooke and Chris, but you know, it's OK to have a little fun.

CUOMO: It is. An interesting little window into the perspective of what the president should and should not be. It reminds me of John King throwing me over his shoulder in Washington, D.C., just to show me who's the boss of that city.

KING: I'm going to hit the gym right now in case you come back.

BALDWIN: I have a wonderful visual in my head, John King. Nice work there.

CUOMO: Pick me up like a sack of potatoes. John King, thank you very much for the debut segment, strong stuff.

BALDWIN: Thanks, John.

KING: You guys have a great day.

CUOMO: You, too. Really interesting they laid out those exclusive poll numbers this morning, 59 percent of Americans say stay with sanctions, showing what the appetite is here for that kind of work in Ukraine, only 48 percent though say that the president's handling it the same way. So those are numbers for you to digest this morning.

We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, we will give you the latest on this extraordinary testimony in the Oscar Pistorius trial. The judge is deciding right now what are the details are too much for live TV even Twitter. We are going to tell you what's being testified to that's pushing her over the edge.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Oscar Pistorius reportedly retching and vomiting in court as details of his girlfriend's autopsy are revealed in testimony. Those autopsy details are not being made public not even for Twitter because the judge is deciding whether the details are just too graphic for live TV, the web, social media, as I said.

So let's break down this trial. What do they mean? What's does it mean what's happening today? We have Danny Cevallos, a CNN analyst and criminal defense attorney and Mr. Vinnie Politan, the host of "HLN NOW ON THE CASE" and also a former prosecutor. Gentlemen, thank you for both of you.

Vinnie, let's dispose of this issue first about the graphic nature of the testimony. Just quickly, this would be another thing that would be unusual to see in a U.S. court. But what does this mean what's going on right now?

VINNIE POLITAN, HOST, "HLN NOW ON THE CASE": Well, you know, one of the things with this whole trial, it's the first time they've had cameras in South Africa, trying to show the world how open and fair their system is. Now you're shutting it down during an integral part of the case and I don't know how much confidence the public will have in a verdict. So I think -- I think it's a mistake by the judge.

CUOMO: All right, so now we go to what's actually being heard and evidenced by the public and everybody else at the trial. Danny, I'm going to come to you. The screams hurt your client assuming you were representing Pistorius. You are playing the defense here as always. However, the latest development in testimony is that as graphic as this autopsy and the details about to Reeva Steenkamp are, the shot to the head seems to negate the ability to hear a scream after that shot. So how does the defense use this?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they've already been developing their theory because it's critical, there are multiple shots fired. So if she was only mortally wounded at the very last shot, she may have been able to scream before. Obviously, if she had been mortally wounded in the head with the first shot it's impossible that there could have been a female screaming any time after that point.

Each side has an interest in having that mortal wound come at a different time, either earlier or later and throughout the trial you can see the defense attorney developing this theory with each and every ear witness.

CUOMO: All right, and then, Vinnie, back to you, they bring on the ex-girlfriend. People thought we were joking. He screams like a woman is now a big component of this testimony. They bring on the ex- girlfriend. She says a lot of thing that's irrelevant about their romans. But she says I've heard him scream. He screams like a man. Compelling, instructive, what do you think?

POLITAN: I think it's important because this is someone who was as close as anyone else to Oscar Pistorius and heard him in many different circumstances. This whole premise of screaming like a woman, there's another part to it and it has to do with the cricket fact, Chris. Here's the other part what the defense has to find reasonable in order to convince this judge.

Number one, Pistorius screams like a woman and number two, a cricket bat hitting the door sounds like gun shots. Those are the two things they need this judge to believe is reasonable. That and Oscar Pistorius can find his gun in the dark, but can't see that his girlfriend is not in the bed.

So those are the three foundational things that the defense has to convince this judge is reasonable. I just don't think it's reasonable.

CUOMO: Very quickly, tell me why the cricket bat sound is relevant. Who is saying what about that?

POLITAN: Well, there's a group of noises after the female screaming. So, if the loud noise after the screaming is gun shots then Oscar Pistorius knows that Reeva is there and he knows who he is shooting. The defense is trying to say no. He shot her -- the defense is saying the loud noise is actually this. A cricket bat, him trying to knock down the door to try to get her out and the screams happened before the cricket bat, but after the gun shots.

Whereas the prosecution is saying the screams happened then the gun shots. So those loud noises, the last noises that are heard just after the screams are at issue here, and the defense is saying it's a cricket bat, prosecution and the witnesses are saying it's gun shots.

CUOMO: Now, Danny, I'm not going to lie, the use of a prop by Vinnie Politan of the cricket bat is compelling and it puts you on your heels. So let me try to help you with something that was also suggestive at trial. The call to security originally the prosecution was pushing them and saying, we caught Pistorius lying about when he called security. Now they bring in these cell phone records it seems like there's been a turnabout into fair play on the calls. What is the defense now making the case of?

CEVALLOS: Well, they need to make the case. They need to diffuse the idea that Pistorius was dishonest about his calls to security. I have to wonder if the judge isn't going to take all of that confusion and disregard it because it really can be an ancillary issue. That and whether or not he told the security guard I'm fine or everything is fine. It does seem to be a little bit hyper focusing on issues that don't go to the ultimate what was his intent at the moment he fired the shots.

I think Vinnie is dead on right. One of the most critical pieces is when will this judge believe any screaming happened that was arguably female within either the first set, whether it's gun shots or not and the second set of noises, whether sounds of a cricket bat hitting the door -- I wish I had Vinnie's prop, but it comes down to what the judge believes happened.

Thank you, Vinnie. Thank you for that sound. What the judge believes was happening and what sounds people were hearing.

CUOMO: Also though, Vinnie, let me toss it back to you on this and make this final point for us if you can at this point. How this was investigated is going to be important. It always is in these kinds of cases. If you have the security guy and the prosecutor is standing up there saying Oscar lied, Oscar lied and now the cell phone records show he didn't lie.

He did call security first and the guy on stand from security said, yes, he may have said he was OK not that everybody is OK, doesn't that kind of put a hole even though you have these professional fact assessors and not a jury. Doesn't it show we can't believe exactly what the prosecution is putting forward here?

POLITAN: Well, this is a security guard. It's not an investigator. I know they have a problem with the first investigator in this case as well. But he doesn't work for the prosecution. He's just a private security guy who works at the facility. So his testimony is what it is, prosecutors have to live with it.

The bottom line is the witnesses, what did they hear and it comes down to the screaming and the cricket bat versus the gunshot and all the witnesses are very clear about hearing a gunshot. It was absolutely a gunshot after the woman screaming.

CUOMO: And the testimony from the doctor and others was identified as gun shots not sounds. Vinnie Politan, Danny Cevallos, as always, thank you very much for this. Danny, we look forward to you coming back on. Vinnie as every day as this trial continues, we'll be watching you on HLN. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

POLITAN: Thanks.

CUOMO: Brooke.

BALDWIN: Chris, thank you. Coming up next on NEW DAY, this frantic search under way for clues about what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight that seemingly vanished into thin air. Lots of new questions this morning about stolen passports and whether or not that was an act of terror.

PEREIRA: We're watching the crisis in Crimea. President Obama is set to host the prime minister of Ukraine's interim government this week. The big question, has the U.S. done enough to stop the ongoing crisis in Crimea. Senator John McCain joins us live. He's coming up next.