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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Submarine Joining Search For Missing Jet; Why Crews Searched The Wrong Area For Days; Malaysia Airlines Announces Security Changes; General Motors CEO: "I Am Deeply Sorry"; NATO Suspends Cooperation With Moscow
Aired April 1, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next, a British submarine joins the search tonight for missing Flight 370, but are investigators looking in the right place. A live update from the search team straight ahead.
Plus new security procedures at Malaysia Airlines. Why the airline may not want a pilot alone in the cockpit.
And GM executives grilled over defective ignition switch that is linked to at least 13 deaths. Why the company failed to fix what would have been a 57 cent problem. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, new details in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The search intensifying tonight. Great Britain has sent a nuclear sub with special capabilities to the Indian Ocean to help find the missing jet. That's the sub you are looking at there. We're going to tell you exactly what it can do.
But is it, too late? Search planes went out today, 26 days after Flight 370 disappeared without a trace. It's been a long time and frustrations are growing. The international search now includes ten aircraft, nine ships. So far all of them failing to find any evidence of the missing Boeing 777.
Time is running out. The batteries in the plane's black box are expected to expire in the next few days. Literally the clock is ticking. They need a lead and they need it desperately. Our Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT in Perth and we begin our coverage tonight with Kyung. Kyung, how significant is the arrival first of all of that British nuclear sub?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you mentioned the ticking clock, Erin. That is certainly part of the equation why this particular sub was sent here. It was dispatched about a week ago. It is there. It is combing the seas right now. It has advanced search capabilities. It is equipped with sonar. It is it is "HMS Tireless." That's the name of this.
According to the U.K. government, it has been deployed to the Middle East. It is considered vital for its frontlines. It is considered the best opportunity as far as undersea searching to try to find the missing plane. Can it find it quickly?
It is still a tall order, Erin. There is a lot of sea out there that it has to search for, but it certainly is going to help.
BURNETT: It's also of course, a first in the sense that it's actually looking underneath the water, which obviously satellites couldn't do and people flying over can't do. But Kyung, I mean, this is the question. We're in day 26. What are officials telling you about the state of the search, how long they're going to look?
LAH: Well, what we're hearing from the prime minister's office is that this is still the ramp up phase. There are still planes being added. There are still vessels that are on the water, not just the submarine, but a number of sea vessels have stayed out there despite the poor weather. They're not going to leave. They are still continuing to ramp up.
But there's a reality check here, too. From the man heading all of this, what he's saying is that there has to be a reality check. They have to look at reassessing further down the line -- Erin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGUS HOUSTON, CHIEF COORDINATOR, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER: The need to pursue the search with vigor and we should continue to do that for some time to come. But inevitably, I think if we don't find wreckage on the surface, we are eventually going to have to probably in consultation with everybody who has a stake in this review what we do next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: So as far as being pressed on the exact timetable, he didn't give that, but he did say look, this is not something that's going to happen in the next two weeks as far as finding the debris very quickly -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Kyung Lah, thank you very much. I want to bring in Wing Commander Andy Scott now with the New Zealand Defense Forces. He joins me now via Skype. Good to talk to you again, Commander. Yesterday on this program, you said you were confident you were looking in the right place. Are you still sure?
WING COMMANDER ANDY SCOTT, ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE: Certainly the area we're currently in is still where the majority of evidence is suggesting that is the primary place to look. Obviously, over the last few days, there has been focused on a very similar area. It moves ever so slightly every day based on drift modelling and obviously the weather that goes through the area. But what we're likely to see over the next few days is that area starting to shift focus as we have been -- we have more confidence that that area has been covered.
BURNETT: And Commander Scott, I mean, the clock on the black box as we all know is ticking. If the batteries weren't stored perfectly, it might have stopped pinging already. It might last a few days longer than that, but we are right in the crucial window. If you don't find the wreckage in the next few days, what happens next?
SCOTT: So obviously, the black box is thing that's been highly reported. It will provide more information as to what happened in Flight 370. But at the end of the day, it doesn't fundamentally change the mission of the aircraft and the vessels that are out there, which is to just locate the wreckage in general or locate any signs of that aircraft. So as much as people are dealing with the -- when the batteries are likely to expire, that doesn't change anything significantly for the search teams.
BURNETT: Commander, what has been the most difficult part of the search for you?
SCOTT: Obviously, for us from New Zealand's point of view, we maintain our domestic commitments, as well and actually having the aircraft over there, we've been cycling crews through to make sure we've got fresh officers over there and that we're obviously managing any sort of fatigue. We've got strict limits what we impose on crews' duty days and do in the space of a month and made sure we're sticking to those.
BURNETT: All right, Commander Scott, thank you very much for taking the time. You mentioned something obviously we've heard a lot about, which is crucial at this point, just the fatigue of the people who are searching.
I want to bring in our own Richard Quest. Richard, you hear Commander Scott and Kyung talking about this. They're being very blunt uncertain starting point. They might have to reassess things.
RICHARD QUEST, HOST, CNN'S "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Let's go back to absolute brass tackles and basics. We have only two areas of knowledge on this. We have the radar data from the turn --from the transponder off to the turn and out over the Straits of Malacca. We have the radar data from the military and you have satellite handshake. That is it. There is no more and that is what they are working upon. And anything else is just bells and whistles to try and find out from that basic data.
BURNETT: Do you think though that they could have information we don't know, for example, that would be crucial in determining fuel burn, something like altitude or speed?
QUEST: If they have --
BURNETT: Those things could be crucial.
QUEST: If they have, they've not revealed it. It matters not as long as they know what's happening and are getting on with it.
BURNETT: What about the British nuclear sub? It's going to be searching underneath the water, which is something that has not happened yet. They've been looking at the surface saying that's the tip of the iceberg as the case may be, but this is a new strategy.
QUEST: It's a new strategy. It slightly goes against everything that they've said before, but in terms of we've always said, subs aren't useful because of the vast areas, but we don't really know really what capacity this submarine has. It's supposed to have some very specialized technology and capacity for underwater searches. That's why it's been brought in. I think at this point, they're getting all the assets in place for that moment if and when they do find debris and want to be able to move ASAP.
BURNETT: Very, very quickly. All right, Richard Quest is going to be with us.
OUTFRONT next, how the investigation, some say it was bungled, caused investigators to look in the wrong place for three days that could be so crucial.
And Malaysia Airlines is making security changes on its planes. There's a specific one that has us asking this question. Why are they worried about leaving a pilot alone in the cockpit?
Plus why a 2009 crash may be the key to finding Flight 370.
BURNETT: More on our developing story tonight, which is the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Tonight the Malaysian government released the full transcript of what was said between the pilots and air traffic control on the night the 777 vanished. It includes exchanges like good morning, cleared for takeoff, MAS 370, thank you, bye, and the final words, "Good night Malaysian 3-7-0."
For weeks, of course, we were told that final phrase was "All right, good night." But this wasn't the only major setback in the investigation, the investigation has been plagued with inconsistencies from the beginning. The shifting search areas and of course, objects that were spotted from space that later turned out not to be part of the missing plane.
Today, the man who has been the face of the investigation raising more eyebrows because the Twitter accounts for Malaysia's defense and acting transportation minister posted this hinge. It showed him in his bathrobe what he says getting word that the British submarine is joining into the search. He says he is in Honolulu in his hotel room in this picture.
OUTFRONT tonight, CNN aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien, Richard Quest and Bill Showfield, who was a researcher on the project that developed the first black box. Obviously, Bill, a crucial commentary to add to the conversation tonight.
Miles, let me start with you. Look, that picture doesn't help when you tweet out a picture of yourself in a bathrobe. He's trying to show probably that he's working 24/7. It doesn't come off like that. What's your take?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It misses the mark on several levels and frankly, speaks to the insensitivity that they've seemed to exhibit to the family members. They haven't been briefing them on a regular basis. They haven't been giving them any sort of factual narrative as to what they know might have happened. And then we see a picture of him in a rather luxurious suite in a bathrobe. This says a lot about how they think about how they come across, put it that way.
BURNETT: Richard, I know you're not as negative in terms of the overall investigation, but this picture --
QUEST: If they are accused and guilty of anything, it is appalling PR. It is appalling ability to get the message across in a succinct way, such as the bathrobe, such as allowing, for example the families in that sense. But this question of bungling the investigation, I think it's just simply wrong. I think it is simply erroneous to say that there have been -- knowing what we know now and looking back, I've got every statement they've made since the start of the investigation and I promise you this, Erin. The number of consistencies are the fog of war. They do not relate to --
BURNETT: People talk about how it took days to figure things out. For example, the turn. Why does it take you days to figure out the plane turned?
QUEST: I'm not going to go into the minute detail. They said on the 11th, we are not discounting the possibility of a turn, but this plane wasn't where it was supposed to be. They went to the obvious place to search for it. They found it wasn't there and then they started to look much more closely. But there wasn't one bit of evidence until they got the radar data.
Miles will no doubt question and say that radar data should have been -- should have been pulled up within seconds.
BURNETT: Well Miles, I know has frustration with that. Before I get your reply on that, I want to bring in Bill.
Because Bill, one of the crucial things is going to be whether -- it is whether we ever know what happened, right? Whether we know this was a deliberate act, whether we know who perpetrated it, if indeed there was a person behind this, is going to be finding the flight data recorder. You were one of the people who created the whole concept of a flight data recorder. Do you think we'll ever find it?
BILL SCHOFIELD, RESEARCHER ON PROJECT THAT DEVELOPED BLACK BOX: I think it's very remote chance of finding it. They did find the air France flight recorder in the middle of the Atlantic but they had a fair idea where that plane went down. They still took two years to find it.
At the moment, they are looking in a vast area in very deep waters I understand it, up to a couple of miles deep. We really have no idea where it went in. They shifted the search area by a thousand kilometers, not quite recently. There's doubts about how high the plane was flying. Therefore, how long before it ran out of fuel. And the chances of finding it without knowing where it -- the aircraft went in I think are very remote indeed.
BURNETT: And Bill, you know, what is also interesting when you look at the air France crash that you reference, you know, there were warnings and alarms. There was an airbus that went down to the ground that people received. There have been turbulence other pilots in the area experienced. People other pilots then say they saw the plane on fire. When you add all that up, there was a narrative no one knew exactly what it was, but they knew generally what it was. In this case, there's complete and utter silence.
SCHOFIELD: That's right. And we -- the search areas I've seen are roughly the size of the Australian state of new South Wales. I don't know how to but the that the into U.S. terms. So I would say twice the size of Texas and we're looking in very deep water and we have no idea where in that size -- in that area that we're looking for the black box.
So, and it's going to run out of battery very soon. And then we're into just finding really I mean a needle in a haystack would be much easier to find than what we're trying to do here I believe.
BURNETT: And Bill.
SCHOFIELD: And if we don't find some floating wreckage, we're then going to try and work out where the tides and have been and where the it might have drifted over three weeks away to get a general area of where it went down.
BURNETT: Right because we should point out -- sorry, I know there's a bit of a delay. Obviously you find it on the surface and that at this point has very little to do with where the body of the plane may be beneath the surface.
But Richard, I know you had a question for Bill.
QUEST: Bill, very briefly, are you still surprised we are using the black box in the way so traditionally it was invented, that we're not garnering more information from it in realtime and streaming and we don't have a better protocol for finding it if it goes down?
SCHOFIELD: Yes. I can see why you wouldn't -- it's a difficult ask to upload all the data that the black box records. The black box now records absolutely anything you can measure in an airplane and stores it in what is essentially a hard disk computer in a box that is -- that will survive an air crash and an air fire and all that sort of thing.
There's a huge amount of data in there. And the amount of the satellite time you would need to transfer all that data from all the aircraft that are flying commercially in the world is vast. You'd need a huge bandwidth going up to the satellites and cost the airlines quite a lot of money.
However, if you could -- you could take a small part of that information like altitude, speed, GPS could be uploaded through satellite at a fairly modest cost. I mean, to ask airline passengers to pay a large premium to have all the data uploaded through satellite into a central registry and this data will only be useful to people when they're dead is a pretty hard marker to ask. BURNETT: All right. Well Bill, we're going to leave it there. But we will be back in a few moments. Of course, Richard will be back. Miles will be back as we talk about the latest development. Why a crash in 2009 could be the key to finding the plane.
Plus, officials now tells CNN that they are treating the disappearance of flight 370 as a criminal act. It's a very specific term. And today they said that word where many used another word. There could be real insight there. We'll be back.
BURNETT: Our developing story tonight is the search for flight 370. Search crews now in the air and deep underwater too, actually for the first time tonight with the new British nuclear submarine looking for the jet.
The crucial piece of information though that could help investigators locate the plane may not come from the satellites or the search planes, but rather from the air France crash.
Deborah Feyerick is out front.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dozens of satellites from numerous countries are all trained on the Indian Ocean. But it's satellite images of the 2009 crash of the air France flight that might be key to finding the missing wreckage.
So rather than invent the wheel you're taking something that looks a lot like a wheel and shaping it for the current circumstances.
STEPHEN WOOD, CEO, ALL SOURCE ANALYSIS: With the Air France crash, well documented well photographed well cataloged, we now piece this all together. We begin to have a better story and better understanding of what we could be looking at present day.
FEYERICK: Stephen Wood spent 25 years with the CIA identifying satellite images and what they might mean. He believes analyzing data from the air France crash could speed up the search.
What is it that you as an imager can make out?
WOOD: To me, I see a very distinct shape. I see a color tone. I see something that stands out very clearly from the background.
One of the beauties of these satellites is you can actually precisely measure an object. So now we also have a size and scale that we can then backtrack against known debris that they found on the air France crash. So we're beginning to tell the story. We are putting all the forensic information together to assemble what an aircraft part looks like on top of the ocean.
FEYERICK: What is it? Wood is not sure. Though it looks remarkably like a piece of debris spotted in the Indian Ocean that is yet to be retrieved and analyzed.
Wood acknowledges there are big differences. Air France crashed in warm waters off the coast of Brazil. Malaysia flight 370 is believed to have crashed in stormy wintry waters. Air France debris was discovered almost immediately scattered over an eight-mile radius.
With so many satellite images, why haven't we been able to pick up anything that is a piece of that plane yet?
WOOD: Here's the million dollar question. Where is that plane that we need to look for? And I think that's the difficulty throughout this entire search. We don't know the where that precise location was like we did have eventually with the air France crash.
FEYERICK: It is it possible you could take an image from a satellite from the day the plane went down and layer that exact those exact coordinates over each other, sort of almost creating one of those books you had as a kid, you would flip it over and see something move across the screen. Could you do something like that?
WOOD: That is a great question. And I call it a time machine.
You're starting to see the patterns that emerge and with that kind of knowledge, you have insight or the ability to start predicting or modeling what could happen in the future.
FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: That's pretty neat how could you see that layer moving on top of each other.
Still to come, officials tell CNN they are treating the disappearance of flight 370 as a criminal act. We'll tell you why with the new news tonight.
Plus, 13 people killed in GM cars when a part failed. Today, the families of those killed fought back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put your kid in a cobalt. Would you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight inside the cockpit, that is the focus of the investigation into missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 right now.
Malaysian officials today released a transcript of the final communication between the cockpit and the air traffic controllers. Now, you read through this, nothing abnormal, 30, 40 back and forths, you know, all perfectly polite. At least the transcript itself. We don't have the audio. Officials say it doesn't change investigators' opinion, though, that the plane's movement shows a "deliberate action by someone on board." Sources, though, behind the scenes told CNN the airliner's turn off course is being considered a, quote, "criminal act."
Obviously, criminal and deliberate not necessarily the same thing because you could be deliberately choosing to change direction because you had a mechanical problem.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines is stepping up security measures for all aircraft with a new focus on cockpit safety and a very specific change. I want to hone on that with Nic Robertson. He's live in Kuala Lumpur this morning.
Nic, let's start with this issue of criminal and deliberate. Yesterday, officials in a briefing, you were there, said it was a criminal act. Today, they put out a statement saying it was deliberate. There is a difference, right?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It appears to us here that these are one and the same thing. What we are hearing officially, what officials are saying publicly is this is a deliberate act.
What sources behind the scenes are telling us is that this is a criminal act that whoever took control of the aircraft moved it off its original course, was doing so with criminal intent. And that's -- that is the understanding and all the briefings that are given on camera, if you will, a deliberate act we're told flown by someone who knew what they were doing all the indications are around, as you say, what happened in the cockpit who, precisely was at the controls, but very clearly a criminal act -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Nick, pretty interesting. I'm glad you're making it very clear to a lot of people that from your view, they perceive -- Malaysian officials perceive these two words to mean one and the same thing, criminal and deliberate.
Now, what about the security measures? We don't have a lot of details. It would seem from what you've been reporting this shows some concern from the airline about who was in the cockpit.
ROBERTSON: Yes, the airline is saying it's tightened its security. It says that it won't go into details of what those type -- precisely what it's tightening. Air crews are certainly indicating that it does involve them.
Again, the airline won't specify the details, but certainly it does appear as if who is on board the aircraft for the airline itself is something that needs reviewing or the security around them needs tightening. Again did, the airline won't go into those specific details, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. And, Nic, please stay with us.
And I want to bring in now again Richard Quest, Miles O'Brien, and the editor-in-chief of "Flying Magazine", Robert Goyer.
Robert, you heard Nic's reporting. Malaysian Airlines stepping up security in the cockpit.
Now, again, we're not sure exactly the details. This could be because they are concerned about people from the plane coming into the cockpit. It also could be that they are concerned about the pilots and how many pilots are in there, whether one pilot can lock another out. We are unsure at this point exactly what those changes are.
But what does it say to you about what they know about what may have happened?
ROBERT GOYER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, FLYING MAGAZINE: Well, it implies that they think it's possible that somebody came from the passenger cabin and attacked the pilots or tried to take control of the flight successfully, took control of the flight, because there would be no reason to take, you know, a big step like this, especially a public step if they thought the pilots were at fault because had it would actually make the pilots more invulnerable to being stopped in the act.
So, it implies perhaps they think it was a passenger involved. Although, once again, they're leaving us in the dark as to the details of it.
BURNETT: Right, Miles, they are, because -- you know, I mean, it could be some sort of security where there's rules of how many pilots need to be because they don't want one pilot alone, right? We just don't know.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I suppose, Erin, you could imagine a scenario in this case with this crew. Think about this crew for a moment. You have the senior high time 18,000 hour 30-year veteran check airman pilot. He's the pilot everybody wants to be with a first officer on his first flight after his initial operating experience.
So this is a dynamic in which the captain has more than the average authority over the first officer.
O'BRIEN: Could there have about a scenario where the first officer left the flight deck, the door was locked and that was it. There was one person inside the flight deck? That's another scenario which could be at play here.
BURNETT: That's an interesting point.
Now, Richard, let me bring new here. They are also saying someone with excellent flying skills was in control, was a part of this.
Here's my question to you. Given what you know, given all the reporting out there that you've been doing that we've seen, would we be at this point be aware if there was anyone who was a passenger on this plane who had that level, excellent flying skills of a 777 who was a passenger, not a pilot on this plane?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've looked at the manifest. We know that there was a flight engineer.
BURNETT: That's right.
QUEST: We know that -- we know they have not said anybody of any interest terrorism wise unless they're just not telling us a crucial fact.
QUEST: What I find interesting today to exactly what Nic was saying and what all the others are saying is, in this announcement today, where they gave us the transcript, this last line saying the international investigations team, that's the group, the whole lot of all the experts and the Malaysian authorities remain of the opinion that MH370's movements were consistent with deliberate actions by someone on plane.
Now, by throwing that in they throw it in gratuitously. They didn't have to add that paragraph into the statement.
BURNETT: That's right.
QUEST: They could have just released the statement with the transcript and left it at that. They chose to gratuitously put that into the statement because I think rightly so, they are now telegraphing something, although they're not prepared to give further evidence yet.
BURNETT: It certainly seems they're doing that.
And, Nick, is that the impression you get reporting on the ground? Because again, you're the one saying, look, they put the word deliberate in there, but to you, they're using the word criminal and to them, those words mean one and the same.
ROBERTSON: Yes, but we're talking to a source here who is very familiar. He has flown this aircraft. He knows the people involved. He believes that that moment that the last words that we have as we know, there was no communication on to Ho Chi Minh, the next air traffic control area --
ROBERTSON: -- that they were moving into. And he cannot fathom understand why one of the two -- one of the two people in the cockpit, the first officer or the captain didn't make that communication. It is absolutely drilled into them that they would do that. And the inference that he has and an air accident investigator that I've talked to, as well, the inference they have is absolutely that was the opportune moment to take control of the aircraft if you were going to do that.
And that appears to be what these experts are leaning towards. They're not part of the investigation. But they have a high level of knowledge of the people of the aircraft, of the airline, and this is the conclusion that they're coming to.
It would have been unconscionable that even one person would have left the cockpit per se without that the communication to Ho Chi Minh going ahead, possibly the person had left earlier but at that moment, unlikely.
BURNETT: And so, Miles, when you hear how Nic is walking through that, where does that lead you in the entirely hypothetical scenario you laid out?
O'BRIEN: Well, you know, this is the perfect time as Nic points out. If you want to go silent, you do it in the gaps between radio calls. That's a very opportune time to do that kind of thing.
O'BRIEN: I -- really, Erin, I just can't believe we haven't seen a transcript from Vietnam. And for that matter, why aren't we hearing the voice recordings of air traffic control to the crew? There's a lot that can be picked up in those recordings, background noise, stress, change in personnel talking, you name it, that would be helpful.
BURNETT: Right, because we don't have anything in terms of their tone of voice, of anything of that nature.
Now, Nic, to that point, sometime today which obviously is going to be overnight where we are, the families are going to get a so-called tech briefing from authorities.
Now, the families as you've reported are taking matters in their own hands. They're so frustrated. They felt like they haven't been dealt with forthrightly. They felt like they've been the last to know certain key pieces of information. They put up that map you reported yesterday which actually showed instead of a straight turn, which might be consistent with a plane facing mechanical issues, there was a loop de loop turn which would not be consistent with that.
How much credibility do the families have when you look at the map you reported on that this could be an accurate flight path?
ROBERTSON: The families are desperate. They're reaching to any measure to get the attention that they want to be able to ask the questions that they want, to put that map as the a potential scenario that they've taken -- that they've found and taken and want to put in front of Malaysian officials because they feel it needs to be addressed. It's a question in their mind. It's a desperate act.
Now, this level of desperation has brought them some success. Malaysian officials, international officials, people involved in the investigation who are going to, we are told, tell them and explain the methodology, the data that they collected, how they collected it, and give the families more comfort and more certainty. I mean, one of the key questions has been on the minds of the families, was there is some kind of radio communications black hole at the moment that the plane or the captain or the first officer should have communicated to Ho Chi Minh?
I talked to a former air accident investigator said he would like to put a plane up. We should be able to get it to the same height within a couple of files of where MH370 was and they should be able to test whether this radio communication at the set frequency is working or not.
We're going to see the families asking those questions, as well.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to all of you. And, of course, we're going to be reporting on that as these families are so desperate to know. Someone I was talking with -- a family member was saying how she imagined was her partner on the ocean floor strapped into his seat.
I mean, they are desperate to know and have every right to know whether it's humanly possible their loved ones were alive for these seven hours or not.
Still to come, the president's victory lap. Why he says Obamacare is here to stay.
And an emotional day on Capitol Hill. General Motors executives confronted by the families of 13 people who lost their lives in G.M. cars. The question is: did G.M. intentionally ignore the truth?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHERIE SHARKEY, MOTHER OF CRASH VICTIM: I close my eyes and think about how he died and it's not fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A dramatic day on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers tearing into the CEO of General Motors for ignoring warning signs of a faulty ignition switch that led to the death of 13 people and experts say it could be hundreds more. Members of Congress demanding answers on why G.M. took 10 years to recall the defective cars.
Some say G.M. turned down potential fixes because they thought it was, too expensive. But documents provided by G.M. actually show that the little piece needed to fix the defective ignition cost 57 cents.
One woman who lost her son nine days after he bought a G.M. car said the company only cares about their bottom line, not those who lost their lives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARKEY: I'm an angry mother. My family's hurt. I'll never forget that 4:30 in the morning knock at the door from two troopers. I just -- I want justice. He died at the scene. They will never be able to give me my son back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: CEO Mary Barra apologized but she could give families the answers they wanted.
Dana Bash has the story.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lining the back wall of the hearing room, pictures of 13 people believed to have died because of a defect in a G.M. ignition switch (AUDIO GAP) disabled air bags. Their family' members got a public apology from G.M.'s new CEO Mary Barra.
MARY BARRA, GENERAL MOTORS CEO: The families and friends who lost their lives or were injured, I am deeply sorry.
BASH: But those looking for answers didn't get many.
REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We don't know why they didn't replace the switch on the old cars as well as the new cars.
BARRA: I don't know the answer to that. That's why we're doing this investigation.
BASH: In fact, Barra pointed to an internal G.M. investigation.
BARRA: I can't answer specific questions.
BASH: As she deflected many of the lawmakers' questions in some two hours of testimony.
BARRA: We've hired Anton Valukas to do a complete investigation of this process. We are doing an investigation that spans over a decade. Again, that's part of the investigation.
BASH: Frustration was palpable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just answered is gobbledygook.
BASH: G.M. only issued a recall this year, but knew about this problem since 2001.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were warned again and again over the next decade, but they did nothing.
BASH: And documents show G.M. investigations as far as back as 2005 concluded the switch was bad but "tooling costs and piece price are too high."
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: Documents provided by G.M. show that this unacceptable cost increase was only 57 cents. BASH: Asked about G.M. concern about cost over safety, Barra said this.
BARRA: If that is true, that is a very disturbing fact. That is not the way we make decisions.
BASH: An open question is whether G.M.'s financial woes that led to bankruptcy and a government bailout colored decisions about safety.
BARRA: I would say in general, we've moved from a cost culture after the bankruptcy to a customer culture.
BASH: Another key question is whether NHTSA, the government agency in charge of car safety, is also culpable for not properly investigating G.M.'s problems. The acting administrator admits there were red flags but also blames G.M. for withholding some information.
DAVID FRIEDMAN, NHTSA ACTING ADMINISTRATOR: Our ability to find defects also requires automakers to act in good faith and to provide information on time.
BASH (on camera): G.M. announced they've hired Ken Feinberg, the man in charge of victim compensation after 9/11 and the BP oil spill. It's a noteworthy move since G.M.'s bankruptcy plan may shield the company from having to legally pay any compensation, though G.M.'s CEO wouldn't say what their plans are.
Tomorrow, she's going to be back before on Capitol Hill before a Senate committee, and the chairwoman there is already saying this may not just be G.M. incompetence but rather a cover-up -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Dana, thanks to you and Dana is going to be reporting on the Senate testimony tomorrow.
Meanwhile, major developments today in the Ukraine. NATO suspending all practical civilian and military cooperation -- their exact words -- with Russia. Russian president says he's moving troops away from the Ukrainian border, "says" being the operative word. Is it true, though?
Our Karl Penhaul was on the border.
And, Karl, what have you been seeing there?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Moscow's insisting that he's pulling back at least of his infantry battalions from Ukraine's eastern border. So far, NATO chiefs say they see no evidence of that, and based on its intelligence the Ukrainian government believes that the Russians are simply repositions or swapping out some of its units.
Now, we've just come back from Ukraine's northeast border. And there we saw the Ukranian military digging, in armored vehicles mounted with cannons and camoflauging Soviet-era battle tanks in strategic positions. Just back from that first line of defense, the army was setting up tents for an emergency field hospital.
All these are signs that Ukranian military remains on high alert and is taking the threat of war very seriously. One tank commander showed us what he said was their outdated military hardware and speculated that it would be a very uneven fight if the powerful Russian military machine did roll in.
At that point he simply shook his head and said, we know we'd be cannon meat, but this is the first line of defense. Our orders are to turn this area into a graveyard for all of us.
Back to you, Erin.
BURNETT: Now breaking news, the death toll in the Washington state landslide has just risen, 28 people now confirmed dead, victims ranging from 4 months of age to 71. At least 20 people are still missing, new images show the scale of the destruction. I want to show them to you, because this is an image taken a month before the landslide. So, this is what they would like normally. You see the river running through the center, through the middle of this image.
All right. Now, we're going to flip it, I'll show you the day after, taken just a day ago. Part of that river completely wiped away and the debris field stretches 640 acres. Finally, the pink in an infrared image we show you is healthy terrain. The dark images you're looking at, the blue, are just mud debris. In some places, the mud 70 feet deep.
This makes for daunting recovery and searchers though are still holding out desperate hope they might find someone alive.
And tonight, a major victory for President Obama. Months of low enrollment numbers, you've heard about them left right and center, a Web site plagued with technical problems, but vindication for the president in terms of enrollment. The number of people signing up for Obamacare exceeded expectations -- 7.1 million people have enrolled, 100,000 more than the government's initial goal. Now, the president did admit the rollout was a bumpy one but he was sure to let his critics know he won.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels. Armageddon has not arrived. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans. And in the coming years, it will help millions more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What we still don't know about the numbers, though, is how many people have actually paid for health insurance. You can sign up without yet paying and how many young people enrolled. Of course, that's going to be the key to future success, as well as things like how much will premiums in many cases set low to encourage people to sign up surge in the coming year. Still to come, it's April Fool's, a day when it's tough to distinguish between fact and fiction. So, luckily, we have Jeanne Moos on our team to help us sort it out. Her story is next.
BURNETT: April Fool's, the day when everybody seems to try to pull one other on you. So how best to distinguish between truth and trick?
Jeanne Moos --
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Which of the following stories is fake? A British morning show reported that a new breed of chicken lays square eggs, or the online grocery fresh direct offers eagle-caught salmon.
They're both false. Everything you're about to hear is April foolishness.
(on camera): It's sort of like the Super Bowl of April Fool's Day jokes, with companies competing to come up with the most talked-about prank.
(voice-over): Take the new fragrance, introduced by the makers of Cheetos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It smells like food.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like a grapefruit or something like that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dangerously cheesy.
MOOS (on camera): Actually, one of the cheesiest jokes involved crust, not cheese.
(voice-over): The edible box by Dominos' U.K. They call it the edibox for short. When it rains jokes, it pours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brand Drops, the world's first branded aromatic rain.
MOOS: Customized scents injected into water molecules?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you're a fast food company, well, we can make the rain smell like French fries.
MOOS: Come in out of the downpour and pour yourself a Samuel Adams heliyum beer.
JIM KOCH, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, BOSTON BEERS CO.: Infusing beer with helium -- it's slightly dry. MOOS: Heliyum was big this April Fool's. The Kings College Choir in England announced that high vocal parts will now be performed by altos breathing helium.
Politicians got into the spirit. Ted Cruz showed off his Winston Churchill tattoo.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: My wife was fairly astonished.
MOOS: And Bill Clinton unveiled his new Twitter background photo, a parody of a famous shot of Hillary that went viral. "I'm following my leader", he said. "That explains what happened to my iPad," said she.
The morning shows got silly with staff members being ambushed by a Bush. And co-hosts tricked into eating Oreos filled with toothpaste. But when HLN's Robin Meade said goodbye on her show "Morning Express".
ROBIN MEADE, HLN: I've enjoyed waking up with you so so much.
MOOS: Viewers got a real wake-up call.
NANCY GRACE, HLN: Yes. Ding dong. The witch is gone. I'm in. Robin Meade, bye-bye.
MOOS: Nancy Grace danced and tortured the weatherman for more than 10 minutes until --
GRACE: You're back.
MEADE: Well, we just played a little joke on our viewers.
MOOS: You call being graced by Nancy a little joke?
Jeanne Moos, CNN --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brand Drops --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cheeteau --
KOCH: Heliyum ale.
MOOS: -- New York.
BURNETT: I just have to say, if Mark Haines were alive, Cheetau would not be an April Fool's joke.
Thanks so much for watching. "AC360" starts right now.