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Rand Paul Builds New Network; Candidate Literally Cuts Pork; Pope And Change; Planes Grounded In Flight 370 Search; Pistorius May Testify Tomorrow

Aired March 27, 2014 - 07:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. So glad you could be with us. We'll get back to our coverage of our top story, but let's get inside politics right now with John King. How are you, my friend?

JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S "INSIDE POLITICS": Michaela, good morning to you. A busy and a colorful day driving it inside politics. Let's get right to it. With me to share their reporting and their insights, Juana Summers of "Politico" and Robert Costa of "The Washington Post". We want to begin with a scoop Robert has out this morning. Rand Paul, Robert, laying out now rolling out a 50-state network. He is the son of Ron Paul. He is the libertarian conservative, but you say he's rolling this out to try to make an important point. Don't pigeon hole me, is that what he's up to?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That's exactly right, John. You see Rand Paul today trying to flex his political muscle. Show that he's been reaching out to Wall Street titans, the hedge fund managers from Silicon Valley. He's trying to show that he has the libertarian activists behind him, but he is also trying to build a model of a campaign more like Mitt Romney did or George W. Bush did.

KING: And so Juana, there are some skepticism of Rand Paul from the Republican establishment. Part of it is because of his dad's libertarian streak, part of it is because of his views on some of the issues. I have to check the calendar every now and then. The prospective candidates are so busy. But in March 2014 to sort of thump your chest a little bit, there are reasons to do it. Are there also some risks?

JUANA SUMMERS, "POLITICO": A little too soon. Having a network like this is a very ambitious, very interesting, lots of names and people involved here. But again, it is March of 2014, 2016 is a long way from now. You've seen Rand Paul over the last four months trying to reach out to younger voters to see how this strategy dove tails with that is going to be an important test if he wants to be taken seriously as a 2016 conceptor.

KING: Is part of the play, Robert, to test the other guys to see if they will react, to see essentially here is my cards, at least my early cards? What do you got? COSTA: When I sat down with Paul's camp, there seems to be two reasons why they're coming out now with this 50-state network, 200 plus people. One, they want to show the establishment, of course, that he's not his father. But at the same time, they really are aware that they are already getting tagged in some recent news reports as not having a national level operation. They want to show they have that and they want to get ahead. They know it's going to be a very difficult nomination fight in 2016. They have Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and so many others are in the mix. They want to get a step ahead.

KING: One thing you didn't mention is Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor. He says he is looking hard at this. He is going to spend some time in Vegas tonight with Sheldon Adelson, who spent I think $92 million of his own money in the last campaign. He was a Newt Gingrich backer.

The establishment, a lot of the establishment they think Chris Christie has been wounded by bridgegate and they look at Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. They say we are a little nervous about these guys. They want Jeb to run. How important is this for Jeb to get a sense of if I run, you know, how deep will the money will be?

SUMMERS: It's incredibly important. First of all, I'd like to point out, there will be no cameras in that room. You know, there will nobody will sitting there watching this weekend. This weekend in Vegas is a very private, very closed event. This gives him the opportunity to speak to other Republicans, to speak in front of a very deep-pocketed donor, as you noted and get a tap of is this the right time for me to jump in. He's one of the people many Republicans are watching. I think he'll be a very attractive candidate if he gets into the race or flirts more aggressively even with the candidacy.

KING: I suspect because it's politics that most, but not all of what happens in this meeting in Vegas will stay in Vegas, but not all.

Let's move on, there's a mama grizzly endorsement. That's Sarah Palin. She endorses candidates that way. She's endorsing Jodi Ernst. She is one of several Republicans in a crowded Senate primary. We talked about the Democratic candidate, Bruce Braley in a big misstep he had yesterday.

Well, Sarah Palin is backing this female conservative, Jody Ernst, who's already gotten a lot of attention including from the last comedians for this, perhaps the most colorful ad yet of 2014.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jodi Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm so when I get to Washington, I'll know how to cut pork. Let's make them squeal.


KING: I've never heard the word "castration" in a political ad before. That's the first. Jodi Ernst, let's make them squeal, cutting pork. In a crowded primary, A, a colorful ad helps. We saw Suzanna Martinez, now the governor of New Mexico do this shooting, showing herself out shooting guns back a couple campaigns ago. How important is the combination of a provocative ad, which is actually not spending a lot of money. She is getting a lot of media attention and then a Palin endorsement.

COSTA: Last year, I actually hosted, moderated the first Republican Senate primary debate in Iowa. I spent some time on the trail of all of the candidates including Jodi Ernst and what she was tagged early as the establishment candidate. She is a state senator. She is close with Governor Terry Bransted. So this ad is very important so is the Palin endorsement. She's trying to move away from that establishment tag and count herself more as a Tea Party warrior.

KING: Tea Party warrior. If you look at the ad when she pops up doesn't say Republican. It says conservative. The conservative base often doesn't even like that party label.

SUMMERS: That branding is super important in a state like Iowa where you have Evangelicals hard right conservatives make up such a big chunk of the voting block that comes out in a primary. She is one of six people running in the Republican primary. It's a very crowded race. Having that Palin enforcement, billing herself as a conservative could be huge for her as she's looking to close the gap and make waves in race. I think it actually boost her towards the top of the pack.

KING: She's one of six in the Alabama sixth congressional district, there's also a crowded Republican field. So Will Brooke like all of the Republicans running doesn't like the president's health care law, but watch how Will Brooke in this web video shall we say illustrates his point quite colorfully.


WILL BROOKE (R), CANDIDATE U.S. HOUSE: We're down here to have a little fun today and talk about two serious subjects. The second amendment and see how much damage we can do to this copy of Obamacare.


KING: Some -- that's Will Brooke in Alabama. Some Democrats say we need to fix Obamacare. Some Republicans say repeal and replace. I guess, the slogan for that ad would be what, decimate?

COSTA: Fix it, don't shoot it. It reminds me a lot of that Joe Manchin ad when he shot the climate change legislation when he was running for Senate. I think Republicans have to be worried though as much as they go hard against Obamacare. Where is their alternative plan? It's still brewing in the House right now. So you are going to see them real hard against it, but I think Democrats, even though they lost Florida '13. They're not ready to run totally against the president and from this law.

KING: Again, a provocative ad gets you attention, is it enough in a crowded field? SUMMERS: You know, I'm not really sure it's enough. It will get people in the national political conversation talking. But we've seen the Manchin ad, for example, back in my home state of Missouri. There was a similar ad on gun control legislation. I'm not sure frankly it's enough to move that many votes.

KING: Let's close on the president's meeting just moments ago with Pope Francis. It's their first meeting. The president himself called himself a great admirer. The White House makes no secret of the fact, Juana, that they hope this image together helps the president sell part of his domestic agenda back home, the minimum wage, dealing with income inequality. How important for this president that is struggling at the moment. The pope has approval rating of 80 percent. Can it help at home?

SUMMERS: I think it absolutely can when you are looking at this pope. Pope Francis has moved away from some of the traditional issues that you associate with the Vatican, abortion, gay rights and gay issues, has talked about income inequality, social justice, reaching out to the poor, those kinds of topics that dovetail very nicely with the things that the president is looking at now. You have a president who is at the second term. I think it gives him a unique opportunity to emphasize the program that can really help the vulnerable.

KING: Is there a Francis bump?

ACOSTA: I think so. Among Catholic voters, Francis is very popular. I don't think it's going to get a huge bump for the president in terms of his messaging. There is only so much he can do to tie himself politically to the pope. But I think Catholics will respect that he went over there and meeting with him.

KING: Robert Costa, Juana Summers, thanks for coming in early. Back to you guys in New York. We've seen all these great pictures, the Swiss Guard out in the courtyard. I want to share a picture with you, Michaela and Mr. Berman. This is one of the greatest professional days of my life. I got to meet Pope John Paul II. He has since passed, obviously. They came and brought us in for a brief audience with the pope. He blessed us, gave us some rosary beads. It was a wonderful moment.

BERMAN: That is the moment of a lifetime.

PEREIRA: You'll never forget that.

KING: I love that picture, the pope and Dick Cheney.

PEREIRA: Thanks for sharing that with us.

BERMAN: A very young John King in that picture, not so much gray. Just saying. All right, John King, thank you so much.

PEREIRA: Next up on NEW DAY, weather grounds certain planes in the ongoing search in the Southern Indian Ocean. We get a fresh lead though in the hunt for Flight 370. Satellite imagery detecting hundreds of objects near where the plane may have gone down. Our experts break down the theories about what may have happened on board.

BERMAN: Plus the Oscar Pistorius murder trial start today, but the blade runner is expected to testify in his own defense when court resumes tomorrow. Could this be a game-changer? A live report from South Africa just ahead.


BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. The breaking news this morning, new satellite images of possible debris in the Southern Indian Ocean. These images taken by Thai satellites, 300 pieces of debris spotted in these images here. This is all in the search for Flight 370. What could have happened to that plane? These pictures taken by satellite. The problem is planes have not been able to verify it this morning. Nine planes did reach the search area. They had to return to base because of bad weather.

Six ships were deployed and they do continue their search despite the poor conditions. It will make it much more difficult to find the objects spotted by these new satellite pictures. They were taken on Monday. They are searching for it today. Still so many questions about what happened on board Flight 370. These questions remain unanswered.

We want to talk about the theories. Here to walk us through the facts right now to see what lines up, our aviation analyst and contributor, Jeff Wise. Jeff, there are two prevailing thoughts here of what could have happened to Flight 370.

Number one, it was some kind of catastrophic mechanical failure. Number two, it was a deliberate action in the cockpit by a pilot or someone who broke in there. I want you to make the case for why it could be each one. Let's start with the idea that it was mechanical failure. They made that dramatic left turn to avoid some catastrophe or maybe because of some catastrophe.

The co-pilot said, all right, good night. It sounded like nothing was wrong so maybe nothing was wrong and finally as far as we know neither the co-pilot nor the pilot had any clear motive. The background checks as far as we know at this point have turned up nothing. In your mind, what is the most compelling case for catastrophic mechanical failure?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Clearly, you know, something happened when the plane deviated from its planned route to Beijing. Made this dramatic left turn over the sea. That's when things started to happen. If something catastrophic has occurred that's where you'd start to see evidence of it.

BERMAN: So of these arguments, dramatic left turn the most compelling to you? Something big was going on. Something radical had to be done. That's to you what points most to mechanical failure. All right, let's look at the other argument here in general terms. This theory, that it was some kind of deliberate action. They diverted from the flight path, perhaps putting in those way point. There was zero communication after the, all right good night, they just stop talking.

And then of course, the idea that they changed altitudes, going as high as 45,000 feet, as low as 12,000. All right, Jeff, in your mind what's the most compelling case that it was a deliberate action?

WISE: Well, clearly, somehow it got on a new heading. It does not look like someone turning around trying to find safety. It was a straight path. With a little bit of this, because listen, not only we're not issuing a distress call, the ACARS stopped working. Too much was happening. This argument would have it.

BERMAN: So this with a little bit of this?

WISE: Yes.

BERMAN: All right, I think I know where you fall. Explain to me now what you think your best guess is right now for what happened based on this two arguments.

WISE: My best guess and I think really this is where the Malaysian investigators are leaning towards is that some deliberate action was taken to divert this plane from its course to take it in a very intentional and deliberate manner to the west, ultimately to the south. To what end, we have no idea. The funny thing about this case is that the beginning of it doesn't really seem to match up with the end of it. You start out with what seems like a carefully planned and well-executed maneuver, then ends in a long flight out over the ocean in straight line and ultimately crashing into the sea.

BERMAN: You seemed to say also that some of the arguments for the mechanical failure also work against it. Explain.

WISE: Well, for instance, look at this transmission, all right good night. That doesn't sound like someone who is struggling with fire or some other malfunction would say. There's no indication of panic or concern. The fact that there's no clear motive doesn't -- it's not positive either way. So the absence of any evidence for catastrophic failure, you also have to take into consideration the safety record of the 777.

It's a very robust, well-built platform. All modern aircraft are so redundant that they don't spontaneously combust. These -- we're talking about ACARS, radio transmissions. That somehow these are all spontaneously fall and override their own fall backs very unlikely.

BERMAN: It doesn't add up and as you say, you don't like the idea they said, all right good night, if something was wrong, you don't think they'd be saying that quite as casually as they were.

WISE: We have to count that as counter evidence.

BERMAN: All right, Jeff Wise, thank you so much. Appreciate it -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, John and Jeff, thanks so much. Next up on NEW DAY, we're taking you to Perth for the very latest on the search bad weather break. Can planes try to hunt down these new clues? We're hoping for that tomorrow.

Plus, Oscar Pistorius is set to take the stand in his own defense. Could this be a game-changer in his murder trial? We'll take you live to South Africa next.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Now to the latest in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. Court will be back in session tomorrow. Pistorius himself is likely going to be the first witness to take the stand as his defense takes over. Robyn Curnow has been at the courthouse from the very start. She joins us now from Johannesburg, South Africa. Good to see you, Robyn.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Michaela. There's only one person, isn't there, who knows what happened that Valentine's morning. Now that the state has rested their case, Oscar Pistorius has a lot to answer for.


CURNOW (voice-over): At times stoic, at times physically ill. Oscar Pistorius in court for more than three weeks as the state made its case for premeditated murder. The prosecutor waiting until this week to reveal what legal analysts say is his strongest evidence.

CAPT. FRANCOIS MOLLER, CELL PHONE EXPERT: I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me.

CURNOW: A police expert reading texts between the Olympian and his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, including this one sent just days before he shot and killed her.

MOLLER: I can't be attacked by outsiders for dating you and be attacked by you. The one person I deserve protection from.

CURNOW: Pistorius claims the shooting was a tragic mistake. That he thought Steenkamp was a burglar. In cross-examination, his defense tried to put those messages from Steenkamp into context. The experts admitting that 90 percent were loving. But was it enough?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: His state's case has been heavily circumstantial so far. Those texts are the first piece of compelling evidence we have to establish some sort of motive from which his intention can be inferred.

CURNOW: The defense plans to put Pistorius on the stands to tell his story. One challenge by expert witness after expert witness. Most damning for him, the ballistics expert. Placing Reeva Steenkamp in a defensive position when the Olympian shot and killed her. Some of the most chilling testimony, neighbors who heard Reeva Steenkamp's screams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The intensity and the fear in her voice escalated, and it was clear this person's life was in danger.


CURNOW: Now when Oscar Pistorius takes to that stand, legal experts say it's not just about sticking to his story. It's also, of course, about his emotional state particularly under cross-examination. Michaela, John, back to you guys.

PEREIRA: All right, it's going to be interesting to watch. Robyn, thank you so much for that.

BERMAN: All right, next up on NEW DAY, we're going to go back to the breaking news. The search for Flight 370. New images from a Thai satellite. Some 300 pieces of debris. Could it give new insight to what happened to Flight 370.