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A New Cold War?; Obama Takes Girls To China; GOP Strikes Against Tea Party; Did Fishermen See The Plane?; Testing The Hero Pilot Theory

Aired March 19, 2014 - 07:30   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Valor has no color. That was the message Tuesday as President Obama awarded 24 minority war veterans their long-delayed Medals of Honor. Vietnam war vet, Melvin Morris, one of only three honorees still alive, was shot in the chest, arm and left ring finger as he carried casualties out of the line of fire back in 1969 -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John, thanks for the headlines.

Now it is time to turn inside politics on NEW DAY with Mr. John king. John King, always great to have you.

JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S "INSIDE POLITICS": Chris, good morning. We are going start driving our day inside politics, Hillary Clinton talking about some issues on the world stage, also talking about whether she will run for president in 2016. With me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, Julianna Goldman of "Bloomberg News" and CNN's Peter Hamby.

Let's start with Secretary Clinton. She gave a speech in Montreal yesterday. She didn't talk much about her role in the U.S./Russian relations, the reset, which Republicans say a-ha, look what's happening now. Listen to what she is talking about Vladimir Putin and her hope that things don't get worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I hope there's not another cold war. Obviously, nobody wants to see that. I think that's primarily up to Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Did we learn anything, Julianna, about what she would do differently? She was a tad critical of the president saying the United States needs to do more to help the government, the new government in Kiev, but nothing very specific?

JULIANNA GOLDMAN, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": No, she was very careful. She talked about the U.S. needs do more to help Europe become more energy independent from Russia, but this is the challenge for Hillary Clinton right now, because she essentially is the de facto presidential frontrunner for the Democratic Party. Everything that she says on this issue is going to be looked at and picked apart and she -- she might be the frontrunner.

But does she necessarily have the campaign staff and -- that's advising her with these kinds of issues? And so, it sets her as, you know, she needs to run now like she is running 30 points behind, because she risks like 2008 where she can just walk in and get this nomination.

KING: She's been inevitable before to Julianna's point about her being essentially the de facto nominee, unless she decides no. Of course, Peter, the question came up. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILTON: I haven't made up my mind. Of course, I -- I feel a deep sense of commitment to my country and its future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's that last part, she always works something like that in you can't stay on the sidelines. I feel that deep sense of commitment that's what people who want her to run or Republicans watching her say a-ha, she is going to run. In the "Wall Street Journal" this morning, there is a fascinating story, very well documented about the Clinton inner circle, some of her close advisers don't want her to run.

Cheryl Mills, the former chief of state, they just think why go through that? But here's what struck me as most interesting. President Obama brings in former Clinton chief of staff, John Podesta, to help reorganize and get the White House running. The trains running on time.

The "Wall Street Journal" says John Podesta in the Obama White House, there is a guy named Vice President Joe Biden now wants to organize the weekly Hillary meetings to prepare her if she runs. Isn't that a slap at the vice president?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Certainly seems like it heads exploding in the vice president's office. It's not just Podesta. Remember Jim Messina, top presidential adviser recently left to advise a super PAC that will ostensibly supporting a presidential campaign for Hillary Clinton. That rankled Biden and his allies. Look, Biden, we don't know if he wants to run, but he's certainly keeping his name in the conversation and I think he just wants a little bit of respect. This has to really -- this really has to stick in his craw, I think.

GOLDMAN: He can't make him feel much better that we are talking about this, where you have Biden in Lithuania now and Poland yesterday dealing with this issue hands on.

HAMBY: Clinton gets all the attention right now. Biden does not.

KING: What makes Secretary Clinton fascinating, she was Secretary Clinton, she was Senator Clinton and also First Lady Hillary Clinton. She made a high-profile trip to China back in the '90s. I bring it up because Michelle Obama about to go to China with her mom and two daughters. The White House says that is not policy this is all promote cultural exchanges, let's build goodwill.

And on the one hand, smart, right? It's one of the most important relationships if not the most important the next 25 years, build goodwill. What do they think inside White House, any risks if she avoids any criticism, any public -- I say it in this context, here the "New York Times" lead when Hillary Clinton went in September 1995, "Speaking more forcefully on human rights than any American dignitary has on Chinese soil, Hillary Clinton gets that lead. Can Michelle Obama just stay back from all that?

GOLDMAN: Well, the White House says this is not going to be that kind of trip. They say that's -- the president and China's president Xi are going to be meeting next week at the Haig on the margins of the nuclear security summit. The first lady is going over there, her children are on spring break. Sasha, her daughter, learned Mandarin at a school here in Washington, D.C. when Hu Jintao, the former president was visiting. She was able to speak mandarin with him.

So what they are saying this kind of soft diplomacy, can be just as important, the people to people ties, the cultural exchanges, and look for her to subtly refer to some of these flashpoints so when she talks about her own personal story, American values, you know, that hits at human rights. They are going to be having these virtual ways of following the first lady's visit in China, blog posts some, that also speaks to the internet freedom and censorship issues in China

HAMBY: Obama leaning hard in the rebalance in Asia or whatever. So allies like Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, are also going to be watching closely what she says in China.

KING: A GOP crush is not a soda brand. Mitch McConnell said we are going to crush the Tea Party everywhere this year. He has his own challenge back home. But the establishment at the moment, Peter, seems to be winning. They convinced Scott Brown to get into the New Hampshire Senate race not a Tea Party, per se, but they think he is more of a mainstream candidate if he runs. Just in this last week in Colorado, first they convinced Corey Gardner, a mainstream House member to run.

Two of the Republicans dropped out, now the third one has dropped out to clear the field. The most interesting one is Mississippi. You have a Republican incumbent, Thad Cochran, who recently said I don't know much about the Tea Party. Hello. And now Haley Barber, the former governor and Barber's son and the whole Barber operation trying to get into Mississippi to help Thad Cochran. How important is this?

HAMBY: This is a big deal. This is a victory so far for the so- called establishment and the Republican Party. Look, some of this is establishment forces of kind of co-opted the tone and language of the Tea Party since they are sort of ascended here in 2010. Part is they are teaming up. We saw Rand Paul, you know, a hero of 2010, cut a radio ad for Karl Rove's American cross roads to run in that Florida special election.

But another big factor here is just that there's not a lot of heat in the Tea Party this year and frankly not a lot of great candidates. If you talk to some of outside groups, freedom works, club for growth, people around Sarah Palin, for instance, they just don't know who endorse. Who do we get behind?

Look at challengers in Tennessee, in Kansas, in South Carolina. These are places with sort of old long-time Republican established senators not facing potent challengers and one reason why the establishment is leading right now.

GOLDMAN: That's got to make the White House very, very nervous because you talk to Democrats, political strategist and they all say that something's changed over the last 60 days to a month where the president, his aides, are really waking up to the realization they could lose the Senate.

KING: As we toss back to New York, you guys can weigh in real quickly if you want, Peter and Julianna, men, I want to mention the president's final four. The president's final four bracket, guys, I know filling yours out in New York this morning, why we do inside politics, so you guys do other business on the set, Louisville, Florida, Arizona, Michigan State.

What strikes me there's the president on ESPN. I think he is channelling his inner Mitch McConnell, a chance for a great political detente, there is no greater Louisville fan in America than the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell. Cuomo, who is going to win it?

CUOMO: That's tough. That's tough. I can't answer that at this point, John. I don't like Arizona as a pick though and not just because Indra Petersons went to Arizona. I don't like Arizona, it's not going not be in my final four.

PEREIRA: It is in mine. Can I just give a shoutout to the people who do our banner at the bottom, "Barack-Etology."

CUOMO: Yes. JB, you have Arizona in the final four?

BERMAN: I do not have Arizona in the final four. Never do I find them that they lose early often. But you know, Louisville -- Rick Piteno, a close friend of President Obama. They do like each other a lot.

KING: My first job in Providence. Rick Piteno was the coach of Providence College at that time. So that's why I always that his teams to go a little bit deep.

BERMAN: Billy Donovan --

CUOMO: By the way, do we know if the president has any game when it comes picking brackets?

PEREIRA: Remember, Reggie Love said that they used to put their brackets together a lot.

CUOMO: Reggie Love, he has some depth. He played the game as a younger guy.

KING: A very smart White House correspondent is shaking her head, Julianna says no.

GOLDMAN: Making those fans nervous.

CUOMO: Appreciate it, JK. Have a good day. I will see you tomorrow.

PEREIRA: Ahead on NEW DAY, fishermen in a remote village off the coast claim they saw a low-flying airplane right around the time that Flight 370 vanished. What they said, just ahead.

CUOMO: All these theories, hijacking, pilot sabotage, others that you've probably read somewhere. But one pilot says he has a simple, logical explanation for the disappearance of Flight 370. It involves the pilots, but in his mind, they may be heroes, we'll give you that theory straight ahead and the basis for it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. I'm joining you live from Kuala Lumpur and we are following breaking developments in the search for Flight 370. There's one lead that everyone is now keeping an eye on. Fishermen who claimed they saw the plane, a plane, maybe the plane, flying low over the Gulf of Thailand. CNN Saima Mohsin travelled to Northern Malaysia to ask them exactly what they saw that morning -- Saima.

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I am just off the coast here in the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam. The Flight MH 370 made its last known recorded location and shortly after that, it made that crucial turn. Well, two fishermen believed they saw a very low-flying aircraft that evening. I have been out at sea with them today on their boat, talking to them about their sighting. Now, they say this was very unusual.

I asked them, have you ever seen a plane flying so low before? They see planes all the time because they go fishing underneath the flight path. They said, no, I have never seen a plane flying so low. We both remarked, wow, is this pilot crazy? I quote, I then ask them what exactly did you see of this aircraft?

He said it was flying so low, the lights looked the size of coconuts to me. Well, they went home. They told their families and their co- workers and they reported it to the police. It was shortly after that that they discovered flight had gone missing, but we cannot confirm if that was indeed Flight MH-370, but the timing is pretty close, they saw it at 1:30 a.m.

BOLDUAN: One piece of the puzzle, thank you, Saima. One piece of the puzzle that doesn't yet seem to fit together. We will continue to stay on top of it of course.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, many theories floating around about what happened to Flight 370. Some think the pilots of the missing plane acted heroically, but does the theory hold up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has fuelled so much speculation. A lot of people are paying attention to a theory that's emerged online, a simpler theory. This one comes from a Canadian pilot by the name of Chris Goodfellow. I'm telling you. It's getting a lot of traction online.

He suggests that after pilots made their contact with air traffic control around 1:19 a.m., they were forced to change course. He contends in this theory that there was a fire, maybe an electrical fire, overheating somehow, caused the cockpit to fill up with smoke then the pilots were forced to focus on controlling the plane.

First changing the course on the flight towards the most desirable airport for them to land at, which would be Langkawi International Airport, which is an island right off the coast of Malaysia there. The smoke likely left, and again in his theory, the pilots and the passengers on board incapacitated, unable to communicate with air traffic control.

The plane then continues on its last program course, eventually running out of fuel and crashing somewhere in the Indian Ocean. It's a big search area. We want to bring in Jeff Weiss. He is going to test our theory. He is an aviation journalist for slate.com, also the author of a book called "Extreme." Really good to have you here. You see some holes and some problems with this theory.

JEFF WEISS, AVIATION JOURNALIST, SLATE.COM: I looked at that time for slate.com, popular online, excited about this theory, unfortunately, major holes in it. It doesn't really stand up, if you look at some of the data points that we do have about this flight. Indeed it is true that the airplane did turn off its assigned heading sharply to the west towards Langkawi. Unfortunately, what happened after that is what the real problem of this theory.

PEREIRA: OK, so let's back up a second. He seems to see the pilots -- again we don't know. In his theory he's looking at the pilots as heroes. They took heroic measures to try and you know, save this plane, save the passengers on board.

WEISS: Well, exactly. This is why the narrative is so emotionally compelling. The focus of the investigators as the Malaysian authorities have said is on the pilots being culpable. That they enter these way points to abduct the plane, to essentially hijack their own plane. They are villains essentially in this narrative. No, they are not villains they are actually heroes. If the narrative holds up, it's very nice to believe that.

PEREIRA: Let's go under the fire. Is that plausible to you at all, a fire under board, electrical fire, overheating of some sort.

WEISS: Well, it's definitely true that if the pilots had a fire on board, they would have immediately taken action. A fire on board an airplane is one of the worst, most perilous things to happen on the plane. They would immediately try to go to the nearest airfield. In fact, anything over 5,000 feet would be perfectly fine. Langkawi has 13,000 foot massive runaway. So you wouldn't had to head for something as far as that. There are closer --

PEREIRA: Would they have been easier to land at or more difficult?

WEISS: They have been more difficult to land at, but you don't care. If your plane is on fire, you want to get down.

PEREIRA: In this scenario, would there have been time to make some sort of mayday call?

WEISS: Well, yes. Unfortunately, it is the case that in many airline incidents pilots don't make mayday calls. Air France 447, for instance, they were completely out of control of the airplane, but they never were so hopeless that they actually gave up and called mayday. But the theory, they didn't enter the code for Lankawi.

They were continuing to navigate. An important point, if the plane had continued on this ghost ship scenario, it wouldn't have continued on. If the plane was on this trajectory it would have gone to the middle of this circle area towards Madagascar. It was either down here or up here.

PEREIRA: The ascending 45,000 feet, he says that, again, in this theory, Goodfellow says maybe it was a last ditch effort to seek breathable air or to change the climate within the cabin.

WEISS: Yes. I mean, I don't know if the worst part of his theory is the explanation or 45,000-foot climb. That's one of the more suspected data points. It might not have even been physically possible for this plane --

PEREIRA: Right. We've seen in the simulator it sounds like the plane might not even hold together.

WEISS: I think one of the most damning things for this theory is the information that came up more recently. The idea this waypoint was entered 12 minutes before the co-pilot said good night and the plane began its change. This was not the result of a last minute panic to reach an airport. It had been planned well in advance. So it doesn't really jive at all with this theory.

PEREIRA: It's interesting though as you said I think so many people want to find resolution for the families, for our own peace of mind. It makes sense this has the heroic theory and the heroic story line. I can see why people are attaching to it.

WEISS: You know, we tend to think that we're rational creatures. We are not rational creatures as much as we like to believe. We are driven by emotions and our beliefs are shaped by the emotional value we find in those stories we tell ourselves. It's been almost two weeks now and so little information. We're grasping at straws. We want to understand.

PEREIRA: We've seen from the press conference today the desperation in the families. Jeff Weiss, really a pleasure. Thanks for walking through this theory with us -- Chris. CUOMO: All right, Mich, fascinating stuff. Coming up on NEW DAY, breaking news in the search for Flight 370. Data reportedly deleted from the captain's in-home flight simulator. What could this mean for the investigation? Straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some data has been deleted from the pilot's simulator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Breaking this morning, officials say data has been deleted from the flight simulator, the pilot of that missing plane had in his home as CNN learns more about the timeline. The co-pilot signing off after the change in course had already been punched in.

BOLDUAN: Boiling point, a painful scene here in Malaysia. Just hours ago family members of missing passengers being dragged away after protesting their frustration spilling over.

PEREIRA: Also breaking this morning, standoff in Crimea, a day after Putin declared Crimea is part of Russia, resistance on the ground and tough talk from all sides. We have the very latest.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.