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Few Options For U.S. On Ukraine; Dems Fear Obama Drag In '14; Why Can't Investigators Finds Flight 370?; Passenger's Girlfriend Speaks To CNN

Aired March 17, 2014 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's get to John Berman for today's top stories. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Chris. Let's begin with the latest on the search for Malaysia Flight 370. One report says the plane could have been flying as low as 5,000 feet across three countries. The intention there apparently to avoid radar. That's from Malaysia's "New Straits Times" citing unnamed sources.

And officials in Malaysia are defending their choice not to release information until it has verified with law enforcement. Plus, we've learned a Malaysian civil aviation engineer was on that flight. He will now be scrutinized because of his professional background.

Also we've learned that the missing jet may have flown as long as seven hours after losing contact, which would drastically expand the search area. It already has drastically expanded that search area.

The vote count is official. Crimeans overwhelmingly deciding to break away from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russia's lower house of parliament will begin the legislative process of annexing the peninsula at the end of the week. President Obama and other Western leaders call the referendum illegal' they are rejecting it and promising stiff sanctions if Moscow does not pull out of Crimea.

Day 11 of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. The crime scene photographer now on the stand admitting that blood-splattered pictures labeled as taken the day after the shooting were actually taken three weeks later. And for the first time since Day 1 of the trial, Reeva Steenkamp's mother, June, was in court, but she abruptly left when those bloody images started to appear.

Now to another trial we are watching closely, the court martial of an army general accused of sex crimes. Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair is set to plead guilty as early as today lesser charges. Among them that he disobeyed a commander and maltreated a junior officer who was his mistress. Prosecutors will dismiss far more serious sex charges and charges that he threatened to kill her and her family -- Chris.

COUMO: All right, thanks, John. Now it is time to get "Inside Politics" on NEW DAY with Mr. John King -- John.

JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S "INSIDE POLITICS": Chris, good morning to you. Happy St. Patrick's Day. Driving our discussion "Inside Politics" today is a presidency in crisis, both abroad and here at home. With me to share their reporting and their insights this morning, Nia- Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post" and Manu Raju of "Politico."

Let's start with Ukraine. The president speaks to President Putin again. He essentially says, my words, not his, but this will not stand. We view this referendum as constitutional, but we're starting to hear more criticism from Republicans so perhaps it's political that the president is weak and that is soft and that somehow he invite his by his actions.

I want you to listen to someone we don't hear from that often anymore, but the former secretary of state, Condoleezza Right, speaking over the weekend to the California Republican Convention saying the United States must stand with the people of Ukraine.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And we have to continue to speak for those people who want the liberties that we have. We cannot abandon them. We were once them and if it is God's will and if it is humans' power, they will one day be us.


KING: Nia, she didn't use the term, but in an interview with the "New York Times," she seems to suggest the president was naive, that he had this hope as he pulled back from Iraq and from Afghanistan, that good intentions would fill the void and it's not necessary to project American power. How does the president answer his critics here or does he have to ignore his critics?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think in some ways he has to ignore his critics and that's what we've seen him do. We have to remember that this is why this president was elected. This is what he ran on, retrenching from one war he called dumb and another that he wanted to wind down. In some ways, he's doing exactly what the people elected him to do through the anti-Bush figure and presiding over what it essentially American retrenchment from the foreign stage. And I think with Republicans, you have them trying to sort out what did this post-Bush era mean for their sort -- sort of approach to the world.

KING: You make an important point and we should note, Republicans weren't just critical when Vladimir Putin took pieces of Georgia during the Bush administration and it is Republicans right now because of their fight over IMF funding who are holding up the APEC. Republicans have a little looking at the mirror moment here as well. But as they criticize the president, Manu, here's Newt Gingrich and Lindsay Graham, a senator from South Carolina, the former speaker of the House, writing this on

"Theodore Roosevelt is famous for a foreign policy he summarized as speak softly and carry a big stick. Obama's foreign policy is closer to scream loudly and carry no stick." Their point especially is that after drawing red lines in Syria, he didn't do anything. The president is paying a price for that a bit at least in the political debate, is he not?

MANU RAJU, "POLITICO": That's right. I mean, there is (inaudible) defense hawks. The biggest concern is the fact that the president did not carry through with that Syria threat, really backed off. The White House says that they're happy to resolve it diplomatically, but the defense hawks say that this is the reason why Putin is not listening to you. This is the reason why we need to amp up our push sanctions, more military aid.

What Graham and Gingrich are also saying is push for more natural exports and to alleviate that harm that Russia could pose to different European economies. The issue though for anything through Congress is as we've seen, getting simply a $1 billion in loan guarantees, which is should be supported by both parties is difficult to move quickly through the process.

They'll eventually pass that, but that will be hard. Now what do you do if you add more military aid. What do you do if you continue to up the price tag? It's just going to get a lot harder and politically difficult. It may not even happen in this Congress.

KING: And that's on the overseas front, perhaps inevitable also escalating criticism on the domestic front. The Democrats lost that special election in Florida last week. The president's approval rating if you look at the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll at 41 percent. So lo and behold, amid all this talk, maybe more House Democratic retirement I'm told. Democrats in a bit of a panic about holding the Senate.

Listen here, Robert Gibbs, former Obama spokesman, Karl Rove, former Bush architect, almost in agreement


ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's real, real danger that the Democrats could suffer big losses because the real estate and the turf on which these elections are taking place, begin with an advantage to the Republicans.

KARL ROVE, GOP STRATEGIST: There was 14 seats in play and I think it's highly unlikely that the Republicans pick up a majority.


KING: So no one is talking about the House anymore. We talked a little bit about this yesterday. Everyone is starting to think this map is expanding for Republicans when it comes to the Senate. One Democratic lawmaker quoted in the "New York Times" this morning saying the president is poisonous to the party's candidates." This is a snowball rolling down the hill now?

HENDERSON: It feels like it, yes. I mean, and I remember back in 2010 Robert Gibbs said a similar thing about the House was wrapped on the knuckles by Nancy Pelosi at the time -- I think they are pressing the panic button over and over again because it just looks like the GOP has been more disciplined this cycle. They've expanded the map. Democrats just haven't been able to do it --

RAJU: It feels like 2006 in some ways when the Republicans were running away from George Bush at all costs. Now to some extent the president is feeling the same thing from his party. I mean, he's still going to be beneficial in the money front. He's actually raised a lot of money for Democrats this cycle when he did not do that in 2012. So they're going to need him for that. They may need him in some areas to drive out the base, but in those swing states and those red states, you're not going to see the price --

HENDERSON: I think it does go back to this idea of the president as a party of one, right? In 2010, you had similar criticisms from Democrats. I think there also is an issue. They are Obama-crats and then there are Democrats. The Obama-crats show up to vote for Obama and they usually stay home --

KING: We are having this political conversation. It is great political theatre, tough for the White House as it was for Bush back in '06, you make a good comparison there. But there are policy consequences. The president's nominees pick to be the surgeon general of the United States. He was nominated back in November. He had his confirmation hearing in February.

His name is Dr. Vivek Murthy. He cannot be approved because now Democrats are pulling away. Republicans oppose him and now Democrats and again, look at the Senate map. Look at Arkansas, look at Louisiana and look at West Virginia. There's not an incumbent running there, but look at all these states where gun rights matter.

Dr. Murthy's crime is he agrees with the president that you need more gun controls. He agrees with the president of the United States, but he can't get a vote because the National Rifle Association has served notice, it will punish anybody who supports him. What's the president to do?

HENDERSON: I don't think this is ever going to happen. I think the president (inaudible) some feather with nominating the guy for the civil rights -- to head that. They had to take a tough vote on that. I don't think this is going to happen. But the amazing power of the NRA to be in this fight over the surgeon general.

RAJU: Why walk the plank if you're a red state Democrat on a difficult vote like this. When the NRA is scoring this vote, when they are actually going to use it against them. We are seeing already, Mark Begets, the Alaska Democrat. He is in a tough race saying probably he is not going to vote for the Vivek Murthy. I mean, also you are also seeing other Democrats being kind of skittish about it.

Democratic senators think there may be about ten Democratic votes that don't go along with this. Harry Reid wants to protect his vulnerable Democrats in tough races. I don't -- KING: You know, I had an e-mail exchange with a Democratic aide this morning who said this guy is toast. The question is if you are in the Obama cabinet, is it now a hostage crisis? And that you can't leave because they can't get your replacement confirmed. Nia, Manu, thanks for coming in.

Chris, as we go back, here's the guy to keep an eye on this week. We've talked about him a lot, but Rand Paul, the freshmen senator from Kentucky is maneuvering to run for president. He is at the top of a new CNN/ORC poll as the Republican choice for president. He won the CPAC straw poll. You see him there at his jeans and his boots.

He also won a straw poll in New Hampshire over the weekend where he's very well organized and he's off to that noted conservative bastion, Chris and Michaela and Berman, you know it, Berkeley. He is going to Berkeley this week to talk about privacy. Keep an eye on Rand Paul.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: There's one or two conservatives in Berkeley.

CUOMO: And he's got good hair, which you can never discount anywhere or any level. Happy St. Patricks Day to you.

KING: I'll tip a pint for you I promise.

CUOMO: Let's take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, with all the technology in the passenger's pockets these days, how could this plane still be so hard to find. Why didn't our devices work here? Why can't we at least track those? There is an explanation and we will give it to you.

PEREIRA: The girlfriend of one of three Americans on board is speaking out. Her desperate wait for any word of what may have happened.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. We have some new information to share with you on Flight 370. It's been ten days since the disappearance of this flight and as time passes, it becomes more unbelievable that in this age of sophistication and technology, and surveillance anywhere, it seems like just about anything can be tracked. So why can't they find anything that leads us to this 777 commercial airplane.

Here to walk us through some of the reason that may not be so evident to the uninitiated. We have CNN aviation analyst and former U.S. DOT inspector general, Mary Schiavo and we'll also going to bring, Chuck Schofield, in a second. He is the senior vice president of Dukane Seacom, a company that makes locator beacons for airplanes. So we got top experts as always.

Mary, it's good to have you back. Let's start with the news today. This plane may have been below 5,000 feet. We don't really know that, it's coming off unsophisticated radar data. But instead of it just being deception, there is a practical reason as well that it may have been if it were at all.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Right. It might have been at 5,000 feet because once the transponder is off, for whatever reason, then your crash avoidance system won't work and if you're flying up in the commercial plane flight level to the 23,000 to 35,000 feet level, you're expected and you are required by law, by federal regulations in most countries to have T-CAS. If your transponder is off, you know you don't have T-CAS, you got to get down into the general aviation levels when you're not expected to have it. So that's another explanation besides avoiding radar.

CUOMO: It's worth suggesting because even if this is true about the 5,000 feet, which we don't know, because it's coming from unsophisticated information. It also makes just as much sense because you're not going to avoid radar below 5,000 feet anyway. You know, you'd still would have been -- it's still would have been detectable. So why would they be there?

So now the big question of the morning. All right, now when we're dealing with this, I have my phone and you can find it anywhere. We're assuming so many people on board had it, what are the different factors that we can check off about why the plane hasn't been located by those devices?

SCHIAVO: Well, you know, a lot of people say why aren't there any cell phone message, et cetera? Well, this plane didn't have that system on board. It's a separate system from T-CAS or the transponders or the ACARS. You have a separate system on the plane to provide Wi-Fi or cell phone service if you choose that for your airline. This didn't have it.

CUOMO: So no Wi-Fi?



SCHIAVO: So what the cell phone usage has to depend upon is good old fashion towers and you know, sometimes when you are flying on the plane and you forget to turn your phone and you get sporadic service. You're like on 9/11, a few people got phone calls out. They actually had to hit a tower and that was one of the reasons the FCC didn't want cell phones because they thought as you flew over a tower, they would pull the service from the tower and take it away from people who are subscribing to that tower.

CUOMO: What about when they were going back over Malaysia, if it's true about this left-hand turn that the plane made?

SCHIAVO: You know, that is what suspicious to me. They did have to go back over land and there's a possibility that they would have passed a tower and if they are at 5,000 feet, you might have gotten a signal from a tower, but there were none. And then of course, over the ocean, you would have none. You would expect none.

CUOMO: Now if the plane was taken. It was landed somewhere and is there, how about all those apps and things that's supposedly can find your cell, wouldn't they then come into play?

SCHIAVO: Well, they should. There's lots of -- battery power, people were able to get messages out. The cell phones were still, you know, within range of some tower, you would think out of 239 with cell phones, there would be something.

CUOMO: Mr. Schofield, let's bring you in here. First of all, help me with this. Dealing with the level of sophistication in the world today, yet what we are dealing within this situation. How do planes in a post 9/11 world not have like dozens of different ways to identify it, the way my dog does, that has a chip in it. The way my car does. That has like 10 different ways to be identified.

Is it really the case that these airplanes don't have as much tracking information attached to them as we would assume?

CHUCK SCHOFIELD, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, DUKANE SEACOM: Well, the product that we make actually is a mechanical, it's been around for quite some time. You're right, it does seem like there would be other ways to locate the aircraft. As far as new technologies and what not, I'm -- I had the same question to be honest with you.

CUOMO: So what do you make and why would it help?

SCHOFIELD: Actually, we make the underwater locator beacon, which triggers when it comes into contact with water. It is located on both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder --

CUOMO: Does this plane have one of your products?

SCHOFIELD: That is correct.

CUOMO: So it's on there. So if this plane, God forbid, were to have hit the water, OK? What would happen?

SCHOFIELD: It would emit a signal, which would transmit for approximately two nautical miles depending on the sea state, which is essentially the condition of the ocean, traffic, et cetera.

CUOMO: So you'd still have to be within two nautical miles of it to pick it up. It's not like it's sending a signal home to some base?

SCHOFIELD: That's correct. It doesn't transmit a signal. It is an audible signal that's picked up by a listening device.

CUOMO: So you have to be pretty close and we do know the "USS Kidd" and a dozen or so other countries are searching the waters. How long will it last?

SCHOFIELD: Right now, it is certified to last for 30 days. There is a regulatory direction to extend that to 90, which is in development at the moment. But the current system that's in place will last for 30 days.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much for that insight. That's important. And Mary and I, as we are figuring this out, we will finish with this because another thing that's very important with the news today. Again, Malaysian officials saying we believe the plane may have been off future, but they have not adjusted the search zone. If they believe it was below 5,000 even on and off, don't they have to adjust this and way.

SCHIAVO: Well, they do because at 5,000 you are going to burn a lot of fuel. These planes are meant to fly it really highest flight levels at 35,000 feet where it's very efficient. That's how the engines are tuned in May. That's what they are meant to do. At 5,000 feet, you're going to burn fuel. We learned over the weekend the pilots did not call for extra fuel. They have enough fool to get to Beijing and then 10, 20 percent more. This there's no way given the complete paranoia about each other and sending in anything that could be a threat, highly unlikely.

CUOMO: And we leave you with this, the idea of flying anywhere around here or around here, without these two countries, India and Pakistan picking it up given the sophistication of their military radar. And just as important their complete paranoia about each other and sending in anything that could be a threat, highly unlikely.

SCHIAVO: And they've said they've checked the radar and there wasn't anything.

CUOMO: So those important facts as w continue to test what's being put out. Mary Schiavo, Chuck Schofield, thank you very much for the perspective -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, friends and family of 239 passengers and crew from Malaysia 370, they are waiting for answers. We spoke to one of them, the girlfriend of American Phillip Wood. What does she have to say? You'll find out next.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. A quick update for you now on the search for Malaysia Flight 370. We're joining you from Kuala Lumpur, of course. Right now a new report from Malaysia's "New Straits Times" says the missing jet could have flown over three countries by flying low, very low to avoid any radar detection. The search is now stretching from Central Asia all the way to southern parts of the Indian Ocean, a massive search area that seems to only be getting bigger.

One person paying very close attention to every minute of the search is Sarah Bayjack. She is the girlfriend of Phillip Wood, one of three Americans on the flight that never made it to Beijing. What does she think of what's happening and does she think she'll ever see her boyfriend again? She spoke with CNN's David McKenzie.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My bag is packed and ready to go. It has been since Saturday morning.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ready to go where? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wherever he is. My son even helped me pick out, which clothes to bring for him so I have an outfit for him in my backpack because he wouldn't want to wear his dirty old stuff anymore and wouldn't want to wear a hospital gown if that's the case, so, yes, it's all ready. If there's anybody who can survive a situation like that it's him. He is very level headed and I think he's the kind of person who would help to calm a really chaotic situation.

MCKENZIE: You need to be prepared for whatever the news is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, I have to prepare for the worse because no matter what I still have to go forward. No matter what, his family has to go forward. So we need to know where that fork in the road is going to go. And we're not ready to take either branch, but we have to know what's coming because otherwise when it comes you won't be prepared and that's when you get into trouble, I think. The entire U.S. population is reliving things like 9/11 in this experience, right? If an unthinkable thing can happen even after we've and the all of these precautions what could happen next?


BOLDUAN: Prepare for the worse, but she's surely praying for something much better than that. Maybe a miracle at this point. We're going to take another break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, more of CNN's in-depth continuing coverage of the disappearance of Flight 370. Did one of the pilots fly the jetliner around 5,000 feet to avoid being detected on radar? That's one of the theories making the rounds. We're tracking it all for you right now. We'll be right back.