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Investigators Respond to Controversial MH370 Report; Gunfire on the Streets of Ukraine; Clippers Vs. Warriors

Aired May 2, 2014 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. Investigators on the record for the very first time since releasing a controversial report on what they believe happened to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. So, what's next in the search? How are families reacting this morning?

We're live with every angle of this story.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Major developments overnight. Gunfire in the streets of Ukraine, troops trying to take back towns from pro- Russian militants, all this happening as President Obama meets with a key world leader today about what the West should do next. We are live on the ground with what's happening right now.

ROMANS: While you were sleeping, an action-packed game between the Golden State Warriors and L.A. Clippers. High drama on and off the court as NBA owners decide what to do with Donald Sterling. We're breaking that down.

BERMAN: More than just a game at this point.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Great to see you this Friday. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: You said it's Friday.

BERMAN: I said it's Friday.

ROMANS: It's Friday. I'm Christine Romans. It's 31 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

BERMAN: Up first, the fallout of from the Malaysian government report on Flight 370. Seventeen minutes, that is how long it took for air traffic controllers to realize the plane had disappeared from radar. I find that astounding.

Then, Malaysian authorities failed to initiate any kind of search for four hours, even more astounding. Overnight, government officials in Malaysia held a news conference, their first since releasing their findings. So, let's go to Will Ripley, who's live from Kuala Lumpur this morning.

And Will, what are these authorities saying at this point?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they haven't said much about the report, other than to say that they feel in the interest of transparency, it was time to release it.

And, you know, it's interesting. The prime minister told our Richard Quest in his exclusive interview that he didn't think there was anything on there that was embarrassing to the Malaysian government. So, I suppose you could spin the contents of the report in one of two ways.

You could look at it and think, 17 minutes, nobody noticed this airliner had disappeared from radar. And then four hours before search planes were dispatched, that's an unacceptable amount of time. Or you could look at it as there was a lot of confusion. This is an unprecedented event and you can see on the transcripts, the panic level increased, the miscommunication, the thought that maybe the plane's in Cambodia, when it certainly wasn't.

There were a lot of things happening at once, and at the very least, it showed, it was an inefficient response in the initial hours, and there were hours that were wasted, hours when this plane was flying somewhere full of 239 people, and now we're at the point where we are, eight weeks later, we don't know where the plane is.

So, that's what brings us to what happened here in Kuala Lumpur. This overnight press conference with, among other people, the Australian search chief, Angus Houston, his first public appearance here in this city talking about the next phase of the search.

Take a listen.


ANGUS HOUSTON, AUSTRALIAN SEARCH CHIEF: I'm confident that the area in the southern ocean is the right search area, and I'm sure that in the fullness of time, we will find the aircraft in that area.


RIPLEY: Houston joined there by the acting transport minister and also the lead investigator for Air France Flight 447, someone new to the mix who's going to help assist with the next phase of this search, the underwater search.

And, John, they also announced that there's going to be a meeting on Monday in Canberra, Australia, a trilateral meeting with Australia, Malaysia and China, laying out the path ahead, estimated to cost $60 million and it could last up to 12 months, John.

BERMAN: This is a turning point here because this is about to enter a new phase, which will take even more time and every step will develop much more slowly. Will Ripley live for us in Kuala Lumpur -- thanks so much, Will.

ROMANS: Flight 370 families outraged this morning. They are not satisfied with the findings of that preliminary report, and now they're being told to go home. Authorities in Kuala Lumpur announcing assistance centers where the families have been gathering for weeks, those assistance centers will be closing.

Sarah Bajc, whose partner was on 370, insists Malaysian officials used the closing of the centers as a distraction. This is what she told CNN's Michael Smerconish.


SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF PHILIP WOOD: The average Chinese person, when they go home, they will have no other means of communication. So, Malaysian Airlines is sending everybody home, but they haven't actually created any kind of interim step for them.

But you know, I think there's something very important to raise here, is that the timing of this was almost too perfect to distract from the release of the ICAO report, because that report raises far more questions than it answered. It is riddled with discrepancies. It contradicts itself, even between the maps given and the document of the report as well as the list of actions taken. There are actual contradictions between what they've put in those three documents.


ROMANS: So, what's next for the Flight 370 families?

David McKenzie's been spending time with them. He joins us this morning live from Beijing. You can hear her frustration. These families, certainly, this is not over for them.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, it's not over, and it could be just beginning. It's hard to imagine, but with eight to 12 months, according to Australian authorities, to go just to find any kind of evidence, they could be in for a very long wait indeed, but that wait, it appears, is not going to be happening at the hotel where they've spent all these nearly eight weeks.

They've banded together, they've made friendships, they've elected leaders, and these family members are now being told to move out. There were emotional scenes here in Beijing when they got that news. Many of them actually just, I think, realizing that this has gone into a new phase and that the hope they might have had up to this point has dissipated.

Now, the Chinese government is also involved -- a very big police presence at that hotel. Media not allowed inside the hotel walls. And so, it appears in the coming hours, many of the family members will be going out.

It also is important to note that some members I've been speaking to have told me they wanted to leave, that it was just getting too exhausting through these many days of briefings, but there are some others who wanted to stay. But as one man said it, they don't have a choice.

ROMANS: All right, David McKenzie, thanks for that.

BERMAN: The crisis in Ukraine, it is dominating the president's agenda today when he meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House. Tougher sanctions against Russia almost certainly on the table, this as the violence in Ukraine escalates. CNN right now monitoring large-scale anti-terror military operations being launched by the Ukrainian military. And all this is happening while Russian President Vladimir Putin calls on Kiev to withdraw its troops from southeastern Ukraine, withdraw its troops from its own country if it wants to keep the peace.

For more on today's planned meeting between the president and Angela Merkel, let's get this report from senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the White House comes at a critical time. Both the U.S. and Germany have tried to apply pressure on Russia to try to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, the U.S. taking the lead on sanctions, while Chancellor Merkel has tried to use her closer relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the crisis, but it's not clear whether those closer ties are helping.

In a phone conversation that the two leaders had on Thursday, Putin told Merkel that he wants to see Ukrainian troops pull out of the southeastern part of their own country. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called that suggestion preposterous.

Now, the White House expects both leaders, both President Obama and Angela Merkel, to talk about another round of sanctions against Russia. That next round would likely be targeted at Russia's economy, key sectors of the Russian economy, such as banking and energy sectors, but that would hurt the German economy as well. So, expect that question to come up at a news conference with President Obama and Chancellor Merkel later today.

Also, one other big question to expect will be about those revelations that the U.S. has been spying on foreign leaders, most notably Angela Merkel -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: All right, should be interesting.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government is launching a large-scale operation to recapture the eastern city of Slaviansk, as the violence in Ukraine escalates and threatens to erupt.

Let's get the latest now from Arwa Damon. She's live for us this morning from Donetsk, where Ukraine riot police have been clashing with pro-Russian activists.

What is happening there, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yesterday we saw the pro-Russian camp taking over yet another building here in Donetsk, the prosecutor's office, clashing with riot police there. Kiev coming under harsh criticism for its lack of control over various cities throughout eastern Ukraine, launching its own operation in the early hours of the morning to try to at the very least reassert its own authority to a certain degree.

According to the ministry of defense, though, two helicopters have been shot down by pro-Russian militants. Two soldiers, potentially, possibly killed as well in that effort to try to retake control over the towns of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk.

Reportedly, the Ukrainian military managing to take back around nine barricades, bearing in mind, though, that these are barricades that are in place outside of the cities themselves. The big challenge as the Ukrainian government does, in fact, move forward in this military operation is going to be the fact that these pro-Russian militants have hold up, have barricaded themselves into various buildings in the very heart of the cities. The potential for urban combat out there, the potential for more bloodshed and violence very much on people's minds, and understandably of great concern.

ROMANS: Absolutely concerning.

All right. Arwa Damon -- thank you, Arwa.

BERMAN: Still right here in the United States, you know, dramatic, overnight sports news, everyone looking at the Los Angeles Clippers. Will they have some dream Hollywood ending where they win the NBA championship, move on to the next round of the playoffs?

Well, not yet. Nope. They lost game six in their series to the Golden State Warriors last night. That game was in Oakland. It was a heartbreaking loss for them, 100-99. So, it will take a game seven victory for the Clippers to move on.

Meanwhile, a panel of NBA owners met Thursday and they unanimously agreed to proceed as expeditiously as possible to oust Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for his racist comments.

Now, three-quarters of the owners will need to vote to approve his removal. Meanwhile, the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP has resigned. Leon Jenkins stepped down. Why? Well, you'll remember, the L.A. chapter of the NAACP was going to honor Sterling for promoting civil rights.

ROMANS: Which, obviously, would be completely inappropriate.

BERMAN: It would seem an inappropriate honor.

ROMANS: All right. The death toll rising this morning as the Southeast cleans up from the series of brutal storms, communities torn to pieces or under water. And you know what? There's more rain in the forecast. We're going to tell you where you need to be concerned, next.


ROMANS: Good morning, welcome back.

One more day of storms on tap for the southeast, one more day. The worst has moved out, but torrential rains in the forecast today for Florida, the so-called Sunshine State is already swamped.

BERMAN: We're talking about historic flooding in the panhandle. The water's still not receding enough to start a serious cleanup. Many homes and businesses just destroyed. Local insurance agents have been inundated with flood claims.

Two inmates at the county jail in Pensacola were killed by a gas explosion. Over 180 others were hurt. Officials now say that facility was flooded with two feet of water when the blast ripped through the building. You've got to take a look at this.







ROMANS: Wow. You just witnessed incredible video of a landslide swallowing up ten cars, swallowing up a retaining wall, then dropping them on to the railroad tracks below in a rain-soaked Baltimore neighborhood.

Now, the city suffering its worst flooding in decades.

BERMAN: I still can't believe this video.

ROMANS: The way the light poles all slide down.

BERMAN: No, where they're standing, how do you know you're safe? The road is falling down!

ROMANS: I know. I thought that, too. I'm pretty sure I would be filming, I'm so brave and courageous. I would be running the other direction.

BERMAN: You're a journalist. You'd be running right toward it, jumping in to get a better shot.

ROMANS: I actually am pretty sure I wouldn't.

BERMAN: All right, flooding also a big problem in parts of Pennsylvania today. So much rain fell, the Schuylkill River actually crested higher than it did during Hurricane Irene and superstorm sandy. Big problems.

ROMANS: Yes, really tough there.

More grim news in Mississippi. You know, the death toll in that state from this week's tornadoes is now 14 with the discovery of the body of a missing boy.

We're getting new images of the devastation in Jackson. At least nine twisters touched down in the state on Monday. And look at the flooding. Rivers are so far over their banks. Residents have to use jet skis and sea-dos to leave their homes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been kind of crazy. Woke up at 7:00 to head to school for a final and saw the water was above our mailbox out in the front yard.

There was a Papa John's car we saw over there that was completely flooded.


BERMAN: All right, so, when will any of us get a break here on the East Coast? Let's get an early look at the weather now with Jennifer Gray.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John and Christine, the big story today still the rain in Florida, not in the panhandle, but more in central Florida. We could see anywhere from four to six inches along the coast. That includes Daytona Beach, all the way down to West Palm Beach area. Central Florida, the interior sections could see two to four inches. That includes Orlando, and one to two up in portions of the panhandle, especially east of Tallahassee.

Temperatures are going to stay in the low 70s across the Southeast, slightly cooler temperatures in place, 69 in D.C. and New York City, not bad for a Friday afternoon.

As we go through tomorrow, still rain, but it's moving down into portions of south Florida now, mostly sunny across much of the country's midsection. Just a couple of showers moving into the Northeast.

Temperatures will gradually warm up. Look at Dallas, 90 degrees by Saturday, 74 in Atlanta, 79 in Memphis, so warmer air moves in quickly over the weekend -- John and Christine.

ROMANS: I'll say. All right, Jennifer Gray -- thanks for that report.

This morning, dozens of colleges across the country facing federal sex assault investigations. An unprecedented report released. What comes next for these universities? That's ahead.

BERMAN: And then, a teenager accused of planning a massacre at his high school. There are stunning details in this, folks. Police finding bombs, ammunition and a journal detailing the plans. That story next.


BERMAN: For the first time, the Education Department has revealed a list of 55 colleges and universities under investigation for how they handle sex assault claims on campus. Small colleges, state universities and some of the Ivy League schools are included. The White House says this is part of an effort to bring more attention to the issue of sexual violence and that there is zero presumption of guilt.

ROMANS: We're learning more this morning about an alleged plot by a Minnesota teen to murder his family and bomb his school. Police say this 17-year-old, an admirer of the columbine killers, kept a detailed journal outlining his plan, and it was less than two weeks away from carrying it out. Police uncovered the plot after receiving a phone tip. Someone had seen him suspiciously entering one of these storage lockers.

They found three fully functioning bombs, numerous firearms at the suspect's home and at that storage locker. He faces four counts of attempted murder and explosive charges. He was going to kill his parents and his sister, according to police, and all of the neighbors, people at the school, even some of his teachers saying they had no suspicion that this kid could have done something like that. He had been plotting it for months.

BERMAN: Obviously, it's a good thing they caught that in time. Lucky.

Behind bars and facing first-degree murder charges. Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez indicted yet again on Thursday, and this time it's for assault and battery stemming from a jailhouse fight in February. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge in a shooting death last June. No date has been set for arraignment on the new indictments.

ROMANS: After taking leave from his mayoral duties and pressing pause on his re-election bid, rob ford has flown to Chicago. Toronto's troubled mayor, who has admitted to smoking crack in the past, announced Thursday he is going to seek help for a problem with alcohol. Ford made the decision following reports of a lewd audio recording and a second alleged video of him smoking crack. Ford's brother says he'll spend at least 30 days in treatment.

BERMAN: Hope he gets the help he needs.

Amanda Knox convicted by an Italian court of killing her friend over money. And now for the first time, in a CNN exclusive, Knox reacts to the latest verdict. That is after the break.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Amanda Knox speaking out for the first time since an Italian court reinstated her murder conviction. An exclusive interview with "NEW DAY's" Chris Cuomo, Knox vehemently denies killing her roommate, Meredith Kercher, insisting there is no evidence to back up her conviction or the claims of Italian prosecutors.


AMANDA KNOX, CONVICTED OF MURDER IN ITALY: I had no criminal record, so I am not the type of person who's going to violently kill someone for any reason. And furthermore, I had saved up to go to Italy. I was not in need of stealing any money, unlike Rudy Guede, who was a known thief, who was a known burglar, who did this on a regular basis to survive. And why they would think that I was a thief, when in Meredith's own purse, there are Rudy Guede's fingerprints.


BERMAN: Wow. Knox says she is still haunted by how people perceive her. She believes she will ultimately be cleared. Earlier this year, a court in Florence reinstated her murder conviction and sentenced her in absentia to 28 1/2 years in prison.


All right. EARLY START continues right now.