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EARLY START

Search for Flight 370: New Stage Begins; Crisis in Ukraine: Brink of Civil War?; Deadly Jewish Center Shootings; Pistorius on Trial

Aired April 14, 2014 - 04:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. A new undersea search begins for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A submarine soon deploying to the bottom of the ocean to find the plane and those black boxes. Investigators now believe the black boxes have gone dead. Live team coverage of these new developments, ahead.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, tensions rising in Ukraine. The government threatening to send in troops to disarm pro- Russian protesters. Is Ukraine on the brink of civil war? We have live team coverage on the very latest.

ROMANS: And three people murdered outside Kansas Jewish centers. A suspected white supremacist behind bars this hour. New details we're learning about this attack.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Bottom of the hour now.

And there is breaking news this morning from Australia.

Officials have now admitted, a week after the last signal was received, they're not expecting to hear the black box pingers from Flight 370 again. They're pulling out the ship with that pinger locator, and instead, they're putting on the final touches to preparations to launch an unmanned submarine, the Bluefin-21, that can map the ocean floor about a dozen square miles at a time. So, it's literally walking here.

But the search zone is this morning stretching some 18,000 square miles. Overnight, crews reported finding an oil slick that could be connected to the plane. But whether it is or not will take some time to figure out.

Michael Holmes is live in Perth, Australia, with the latest on the search.

Michael, why do they think now is the right time to switch from listening for this box to looking for it?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, as we've been reporting all along, those black boxes, the pingers on them have a shelf life, if you like, of 30 days minimum. Well, we're at day 38 now, and what the searchers have decided is those four pings that they did get is probably all they're going to get.

We're at day 38. The pingers are probably dead now, so they've moved on to the next phase, kind of expected this to happen. The Bluefin- 21, that submersible, was expected to be going down today. It's about 4:30 in the afternoon here. Haven't heard yet any confirmation that it has gone down.

As you mentioned, it's a tedious process. It covers about 15 square kilometers in a 24-hour period. It's two hours down, 16 hours on the deck, two hours up and then four hours to download the data and then start all over again.

The search leader or the man who's running the search here, Angus Houston, really exercising caution here, saying that it's their best hope now is to move into this phase, but they can't guarantee that they are going to find anything. Meanwhile, the surface and air search that has been going on, the dozen planes, the dozen ships, they're probably going to scale that back over the next couple of days. They really don't think they are going to find any debris after all this time, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, a new phase of the search and now moving from, as we said, listening for the pingers to now looking for this box, which could be below feet of silt at the bottom of the ocean.

Michael, thank you so much.

ROMANS: Numerous challenges ahead in the recovery, and as for the investigation into what happened to that jet, Malaysian officials have now grown quiet again, days after telling CNN new information about the flight's path and the actions of the pilot and the co-pilot.

Nic Robertson has the latest on the investigation. He's live for us this morning from Kuala Lumpur.

And, Nic, why have officials there seemingly pulled back once again? Why are they going quiet on details of the investigation?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's absolutely fascinating. I mean, we push to find out precisely who in the government knew what and when. There's clearly disagreement over when the military told the civil aviation here about their radar findings.

One source tells us three days. We were asking officials, government officials, a defense minister who is the acting transport minister, that question. We asked him that question twice yesterday. He refused to answer it. There are certainly some questions about this investigation officials don't want to answer.

He did say, however, that he was ruling back in all 229 passengers on board the plane. He said the fact that the chief of police had ruled them out couldn't be done until the black box had been discovered and all the information extracted from it, and that really does seem to be central to why officials here won't give us any more information. They really seem to feel that the black box holds too many keys that could change their perception of what happened, therefore, the outcome of the investigation, and they don't want to get ahead of themselves, it seems, until they get the black box.

That said, there are certain things here they have yet to put on the record that it does seem to be within their capability to do that won't be changed by the outcome of the black box data -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson for us this morning in Kuala Lumpur -- thank you.

Coming up in just a few minutes, we're going to go to China and CNN's Pauline Chiou for the families of those on the plane reacting to this latest news. That's coming up.

BLACKWELL: Ukraine this morning is on edge again. The deadline has passed for pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country to disarm or face the consequences. Well, Ukraine has now sent its forces into the region to oust the demonstrators that have taken over government buildings, demanding they be allowed to break away and join Russia. Well, this weekend, the clashes, as you see here, turned violent, and at least one Ukrainian officer was killed.

Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is live in Donetsk.

What's the situation there now?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have been expecting, 9:00 this morning, that deadline to pass, the interim president of Ukraine saying that demonstrators occupying buildings had to lay down their weapons and quit those buildings. They'd then be amnesty. Otherwise, he'd send in the Ukrainian army.

Now, the deadline passed. No sign really, much at all, certainly here in Donetsk, of any military movement or across the region. Social media videos we can confirm showing Ukrainian military on the move, but nothing substantial, despite the fact that the Donetsk governor has said, according to Ukrainian state media, that this anti-terror operation is under way.

So, the question, as we've been asking ourselves the last 24 hours, remains where is the Ukrainian government and police in all of this?

We went to the town of Slaviansk yesterday, really the center of a lot of the armed uprising here where pro-Russian militants have taken over key buildings. That was where the interior minister said there would have been an anti-terror operation yesterday, but we didn't even seem to get to the outskirts of the town and a gunfire exchange in the roads in the nearby town where a security officer was killed.

So, the question persisting here, exactly where is the Ukrainian army? And really, now, do they have the manpower, do they have the resources, do they have the will to bring enough personnel and equipment into eastern Ukraine to suppress these pro-Russian protesters and these pro-Russian militants who are remarkably well- equipped and armed and moving around with great freedom here at this point?

Extraordinarily hostile at times, though, too, to western journalists, and remarkably tense, I think it's fair to say, hours ahead. We've seen this last-minute U.N. Security Council meeting. (INAUDIBLE) repeat everyone's previously known positions. So, this deadline passing, like many have in the past, from the Ukrainian government without incident.

Simply now, the onus is on for the central government of Ukraine to act or effectively cede a lot of this territory to the pro-Russian separatist militants and protesters.

BLACKWELL: Resistance on the ground seems to be ineffective. We'll see diplomatically what can happen.

Nick, thank you.

ROMANS: And the diplomatic back-and-forth continuing with Russia's foreign minister speaking out after a rare late Sunday night Security Council meeting at the United Nations.

Diana Magnay is live in Moscow with that part of the story. Diana, what is Russia saying?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Russia is telling the Ukrainian authorities that they should not use force against their own people and telling the West that it's up to them to avoid civil war in Ukraine. Russia says this has nothing to do with us. It's got a lot to do with you. Stop interfering in Ukrainian affairs.

And Russia's position has always been: we would like the Ukrainian people to be able to get together, to form a national dialogue and to be able to discuss ways out of this situation and to form a new constitution, which in Russia's view, should provide them with a more federalized state, whereby each region would have far greater autonomy from Kiev. They argue that Kiev is illegitimate, that the government there is run by nationalists and neo-Nazis and fascists who do not represent the legitimate needs and interests of people in the south and east of Ukraine.

The West says that that is categorically not the case and it is Russian provocateurs and Russian agents who were working on the ground here and who were orchestrating these incidents in nine cities of the south and east of Ukraine now, where militants, pro-Russian militants, have taken control of civic buildings.

So, there is clearly, according to the West, a very real difference between what Russia is saying and what Russia is actually doing on the ground. All the while, you have, of course, the backdrop, which is that the Russian parliament in March justified military intervention in Ukraine, should the interests of Russians and Russian-speaking citizens there be threatened, and, of course, if the Ukrainians make good on their threat to use force to try and remove these militants from these various cities, then that could serve as a pretext for Russian military intervention, Christine.

ROMANS: It feels to me, Diana, like we've been talking for some time now and there's been talking about this crisis. But now, the talking is happening with bullets, and there's actual violence happening. We're in a new phase, it almost feels like here.

MAGNAY: Definitely. Over the weekend, you had what really upped the ante in southeastern Ukraine, where you had these militants with their uniforms and their weapons firing into the air and taking over buildings in a well-organized, orchestrated series, sequence of events.

And now, if the Ukrainians bring in the military, that really does up the ante. We've had these 40,000 troops massing on the border between Ukraine and Russia. Russia says they're not anything to worry about, but Russia has also said, if you use force in Ukraine, that may derail the talks on Thursday. There were going to be talks between Russia, the U.S., the E.U. and Ukraine.

So, Russia basically saying the time for talking is over. If you're going to use force -- well, you know, that sets a new stage in this game. So, very, very worrying times geopolitically, where diplomacy and talking doesn't seem to be getting anywhere.

ROMANS: All right. Fighting words with bullets, becoming very, very dangerous.

Diana Magnay -- thank you, Diana.

BLACKWELL: There are new details this morning about the deadly shooting at a Jewish community center and retirement community. This is near Kansas City, on the eve of Passover. A shooting left three people dead.

We now know the name of the suspect, 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross. And law enforcement officials tell CNN he has ties to white supremacist groups.

What you just saw and heard there is moments after the shooting, captured by CNN affiliate KNBC. The man yelling in the back of the police car is said to be the suspect.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says that Miller has a long history of anti-Semitic activity, is a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, and spent time in prison on weapons charges. And back in 2010, Miller ran a write-in campaign for the Senate. The FCC said the local radio stations did not have to air his ads, blasting Jews, African Americans and the federal government.

ROMANS: All right, three people died in the gunfire. Among them, a doctor, William Lewis Corporon. His 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood.

Dr. Corporon practiced medicine for nearly 40 years in Oklahoma. He moved to the Kansas City area to be closer to his grandchildren. His grandson was a high school freshman, an Eagle Scout, and aspiring performer. The two were at the community center so the grounds could audition for a singing competition.

Late last night, many gathered for a vigil to remember the victims, including members of their families grieving at this unimaginable loss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a daughter of the gentleman who was killed and I'm the mother of the son who was killed, and I want to tell you how much I appreciate you all being here. We all grieve in different ways, and I'd like to tell people thank you and let you know that I came upon the scene very, very quickly. I was there before the police and I was there before the ambulances. I knew immediately that they were in heaven. And I know that they're in heaven together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A third victim has not yet been identified, and it's not clear if they were targeted or shot at random. Corporon and Underwood were both Christians. The suspect is due in court later this morning.

BLACKWELL: Happening now, dramatic testimony from Oscar Pistorius, who's accused of murdering his model girlfriend. What the Olympic athlete is saying on the stand this morning. That's live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: It is a sixth day on the witness stand for Oscar Pistorius, accused of murdering his girlfriend, under blistering questioning from prosecutors this hour. Those prosecutors spent last week tearing apart every bit of his testimony. This morning is no different.

I want you to listen to this exchange between Pistorius and the prosecutor over why the autopsy showed Steenkamp, Reeva Steenkamp, had eaten two hours before her death, even though Pistorius argued she had gone to bed hours earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PROSECUTOR: Mr. Pistorius, let's deal with the question. The question is, that I put to you, you know that it's impossible for her to have eaten after you went to bed that night, on your version, am I right?

OSCAR PISTORIUS, OLYMPIC RUNNER: I was sleeping, my lady. I don't think Reeva went down again to eat. I think it's highly improbable that she did.

PROSECUTOR: It's, in fact, impossible on your version. Not improbable, impossible.

PISTORIUS: I don't want to argue the point, my lady.

PROSECUTOR: I want to, Mr. Pistorius.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: All right. CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps is live at the courthouse in Pretoria.

Kelly, it seems like this prosecutor is trying to find inconsistency in his testimony. How is Pistorius holding up, his believability holding up here?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he certainly faced a grueling day of searing questioning about all small, finite details to do with his version of events and probabilities around that. So far, he's managed to maintain his composure and he's answering back. But in a sense, that composure and the answers he's giving back is almost girding Gerrie Nel on more to become more aggressive with him.

So, we're certainly a battle of the worlds in court going on this morning.

ROMANS: Talk a little bit about this autopsy evidence about when Reeva Steenkamp ate or did not eat, and really, what is the point here the prosecutor's trying to make, that Oscar Pistorius has just lied about his version of events? What is the point of all that line of questioning?

PHELPS: Absolutely. With that particular piece of evidence, Gerrie Nel has clearly suggested that it is proof that Pistorius has lied about what occurred that night. In fact, today, we heard an additional detail to the state's version of events around that questioning that we hadn't yet heard, when Gerrie Nel said, I put it to you that you were both already up and that you then had a fight and, you know, then the killing ensued afterwards.

And he's referring to that gastric content in order to try to support that theory.

I have to say, I think that's probably one of the weaker points that he's been focusing on today, because as Pistorius said himself, you know, in his version, he's sleeping, so he's not saying that it's impossible. He's just simply saying what he can remember in terms of from when he was awake. We also know that the expert evidence around gastric emptying, both from the state pathologist and the defense pathologist did point to huge variabilities within the academic knowledge around the speed of gastric emptying.

So, it's not so important in and of its own right. It's, again, how it builds a picture of suggested improbabilities or impossibilities with the hopes on Gerrie Nel's behalf that the judge will be left with nothing else to resort to but assume that Pistorius is lying.

ROMANS: Six days on the stand now for Oscar Pistorius, and it is just as compelling today as it was last week.

Thank you so much, Kelly Phelps, for us live in Pretoria this morning.

BLACKWELL: Now, day 38 in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A new stage as crews now turn to the ocean floor for clues, but frustrated families of those on board are no closer to answers of what happened to their loved ones.

We're live with that part of the story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: We're following breaking news this morning in the search for Flight 370. Overnight, word coming from Australia that the hunt for sounds from the black boxes has come to an end, and now they plan to put the Bluefin-21, this unmanned sub, into the water to map the ocean floor to look for the wreckage.

Now, for the families, the news that it may take many more weeks or longer, maybe, to find the jet cannot help end their frustration.

Pauline Chiou was with the families for weeks, and she's in Hong Kong this morning.

Pauline, every one of these developments, obviously, as they say, this could be a great lead, and then nothing, must be heartbreaking for these families.

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's heartbreaking, Victor. It's frustrating. It's so difficult, as we're going into day 38 right now.

The relatives are fully aware that the deep-sea operation could take a very, very long time. And I reached out to a couple of them after this news conference out of Perth, Australia, that indicated that there had been an oil slick that was detected and also the decision to put the submersible into the water and to map the ocean floor.

We talked with one man whose wife is on the plane, and here's what he had to say about the developments.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

CHIOU: Now, this man is Wang Yung Chur (ph), he says "I care about the new development and news every day, but this kind of development is not what I care about the most. My wife was on the plane," he says. "As a family member, what I care about the most is concrete developments, like finding floating debris and where the passengers are."

And this is a theme that we've heard over and over from the relatives over the past couple of weeks. The relatives, the families, even though they hear about encouraging leads, they want something much more specific.

Now, Victor, my colleagues down in Kuala Lumpur also reached out to some relatives, and our correspondent, Sumnima Udas, spoke with the mother of the flight's chief steward and said the fact that searchers haven't heard pings for about six days makes her very sad. She also said only evidence will release us, our sadness is now just prolonged.

She says, "I cannot express what I'm feeling right now. I feel like they, the passengers, are somewhere. I just don't know where." And, Victor, she says, "I'm just praying to God. Miracles can happen" -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Indeed. And no debris, day 38. Pauline Chiou for us in Hong Kong. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. We'll be right back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Severe weather a major concern for a big part of the country. From the South to the Northeast, storms move East, leaving behind hail and flooding, even some tornadoes.

Indra Petersons is tracking the forecast for us -- Indra.

ROMANS: Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning.

I wish I could say it's all done with, but we're still looking at the threat for severe weather even at this hour. Very easy to see the line of damage that made its way across yesterday, five reports of tornadoes and a lot of straight-line winds, currently this morning again. Still looking for the risk area, today a little farther east, kind of from Birmingham extending all the way back into New Orleans this morning.

But again, here's what we're talking about -- even this morning, we're still looking at tornado watch boxes and severe thunderstorm watch boxes, so that activity is already out there. We're going to have to monitor this, especially as we get in through the afternoon.

Here comes the line of storms making its way across. Here's what you want to look at. Look at the back side of this. Look at all the cold air filtering in. So, yes, even snow will be in the forecast alongside the severe weather and even heavy rains. Thing about severe thunderstorms, of course, you have strong amounts of rain.

Birmingham had over two inches of rain, even New York City getting upwards of about an inch of rain over the next two days as the line makes its way across. And then there is the snow side of the equation, talking about an inch or so around Albany, even Chicago today looking for a trace of snow around Columbus, Ohio, looking for an inch, so not a lot.

But if there's snow, you know it will be cold. Look at this, temperatures well above normal into the Northeast today. Below normal, about 20 degrees below normal into the Midwest. Watch as that system makes its way across. Now we all start to dip down temperature-wise by Wednesday.

In the Northeast, you're going from 15 to 20 above to a good 15 degrees below, almost a 30-degree temperature drop over the next several days. It is not going to feel good. It is going to feel like winter. But I have to mention overnight tonight, if you want to see the lunar eclipse, you could definitely see that in the Midwest, looks to be 3:45 a.m. Eastern Time. Very hard to see with the cloud cover and snow.

BLACKWELL: But the snow won't be on the ground for Easter, come on.

PETERSONS: Better not be.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BLACKWELL: All right.

ROMANS: EARLY START continues right now.