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First MH17 Bodies to Arrive in Netherlands; FAA Suspends U.S. Flights to Israel; Interview with Senator Tim Kaine

Aired July 23, 2014 - 08:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We are live from where MH17 began its journey in the Netherlands. We all know how it ended, but today is a very different day. Behind us rows and rows of flowers and notes and people standing in support of the victims who are finally on their way home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can do nothing but wait for their bodies.

CUOMO: A plane carrying the remains now in the air, a day of mourning declared all across this small country. We talk to those who lost loved ones as they plead for answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to find my son's body. Please release it.

CUOMO: Now, the U.S. releasing new intelligence on who shot down the plane and why. The big question, just how involved was Russia? We have the very latest.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. Also breaking, Secretary of State John Kerry now in Israel.

Chances for a cease-fire looking increasingly dim with each passing hour.

Flights into Tel Aviv from America now halted after a rocket landed near the airport. Israel pushing to end the ban. Will the U.S. lift the restriction?

CUOMO: A special edition of NEW DAY continues right now.


CUOMO: We are here in Amsterdam. This is where MH17 started its journey.

Behind us, a number of people here is growing. They're coming to pay respect. There are rows and rows of flowers here. Of course, Holland known for flowers, but this is not about beauty, this is about paying respect, and the people here are leaving notes for those who were lost and just for calls for peace. This is a very small country, some 17 million. So there's an intimacy

when something like this happens, 200 lives lost from the Netherlands of those 298, and this comes as there is more troubling news out of eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government reporting two fighter jets were shot down, and our understanding is they were shot down in a region very close, within several kilometers, of where a missile system may have been believed to be that could have taken down MH17.

So this picture continues to get more and more troubling. We'll take you through it this morning.

But let's start back in New York with Kate and John.


We also have our eye on the Middle East, of course. Wolf Blitzer is on the ground in Jerusalem. As Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Israel hoping to bring about a cease-fire, Wolf is going to be talking to the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mark Regev is going to be joining Wolf later this hour.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also, we have now intelligence about how, at least according to the United States officials, about how MH17 was shot down. We'll describe this new intelligence to you.

Of course, amid the breaking news that Chris just mentioned, that Ukrainian officials say two fighter jets, two of their fighter jets, were shot down in this same region controlled by pro-Russian rebels. We do not know the weapons system used to shoot them down. That will be a key question going forward.

Let's go back to Chris now in Amsterdam.

CUOMO: And, obviously, the question of who did this is dominating geopolitics right now, but here in Holland and for these families, that's not what is heavy on their heart. It's the loved ones that they lost, and today finally the bodies are coming home. How many? We're not sure. Whom do they belong to? That's going to be a longer process.

Nothing is simple in a situation like this. But at least today there's a cause for hope.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We feel that the eyes of the world are upon us to do this right.

CUOMO (voice-over): Coming home, at least 200 bodies recovered from Flight MH17 placed aboard a Dutch military aircraft just hours ago, now on their way to the Netherlands.

Once handed over to forensic experts, they will begin what's expected to be the difficult task of identifying each victim. But more agony for the families this morning. European monitors now

say that up to 100 bodies, nearly a third of the 298 on board, may be missing. They didn't arrive on the train from the crash site as expected, raising new questions about where they may be.

The plane's two black boxes arriving in the U.K. this morning, but experts say getting to the actual wreckage is vital because the boxes likely won't hold the key to who shot down the plane and why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crime scene, which is what MH17 is, has been I think picked clean by the various groups that were in control of that area. I think the entire site has been compromised.

CUOMO: U.S. officials now ramping up the pressure on Russia, briefing reporters on what they say is convincing intelligence that Russian militants shot it down accidentally. They point to this graphic showing the trajectory of the flight. U.S. intelligence picking up the missile launcher being turned on, then the vertical ascent of the missile and its heat plume.

The U.S. also releasing evidence of a buildup of Russian forces in Rostov City, releasing this satellite imagery of a military area just inside the Russian border, where they continue to ship weapons, many headed for Ukraine.

Today, former U.S. President Bill Clinton delivered the keynote speech at the International HIV/AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. Onboard Flight 17, six leading AIDS researchers planning to attend.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We had to remind people that the people we lost on that airplane gave their entire lives to the proposition that our common humanity matters a hell of a lot more than our interesting differences.


CUOMO: Right now, there are two Australian planes in the air on the way from Ukraine to here in the Netherlands. They're going to be landing an hour from where we are right now.

Today is a national day of mourning in the Netherlands. It's first one they've had since 1962 just to give you a sense of how profound an impact this has had on the entire country. We will take you live to the ceremony that will be in place there in the moment of silence that will be observed there and around the world.

But we're also monitoring another major situation in the world right now, the ongoing conflict in Israel, and we have Wolf Blitzer there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there's no doubt, Chris, that the shoot down of those two jet fighters, Ukrainian jet fighters, that's only going to exacerbate the tension in that part of the world right now.

In this part of the world, there's plenty of tension as well. The Secretary of State John Kerry, he's now hear in Jerusalem. He's trying to broker a Gaza cease-fire deal. He says progress has been made in bringing an end to the fighting. You heard Tony Blinken, the deputy national security adviser to the president, also say some progress has been achieved. Let's see if they can close a deal though.

The Palestinian death toll rising to 649, so many of them civilians, most, in fact. Israeli soldiers, more of them were killed, two more killed in combat on Tuesday, bringing the number of Israeli troops killed to 29.

Now, the U.S. is taking action to try to protect travelers. The FAA back in Washington suspended flights to Israel's main airport. That would be Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, that 24-hour time period getting ready to end in the next few hours. That happened after a rocket was fired from Gaza and landed about a mile or so away from Ben Gurion Airport.

U.S. Airways, one of three carriers from the United States that flies to Israel, says it is planning to resume flights to Tel Aviv from Philadelphia as early as tomorrow, pending FAA approval. No word yet from Delta or United. All of that is adding a sense of urgency here in Israel.

Let's go to Ben Gurion Airport, CNN's Martin Savidge has been there for the last several hours.

Tell our viewers, Marty, what's going on.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, there have been well over 2,000 missiles that have been launched. This is according to the Israeli military, from Gaza by Hamas to Israel.

But it was the one that landed just about a mile in that direction that may have done the most damage of all. It wasn't the home that was heavily demolished, it was the impact on air traffic and as you point out, particularly airplanes coming from the U.S. and Europe.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): This morning, all U.S. air carriers offering flights to Israel still grounded. The FAA ordering airlines to suspend trips to Ben Gurion International Airport for at least 24 hours after a rocket launched by Hamas demolished this home about a mile from the runways.

CNN's own John Vause was aboard a Tel Aviv-bound flight when the ban took affect. He shot this video while walking off the plane diverted to Paris.

Some passengers taking off from Tel Aviv to New York on Tuesday seen rushing out of the airport after sirens sounded warning of a possible rocket attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to run off the plane to shelter in the middle of the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was crazy. I was very nervous.

SAVIDGE: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg boarded an El- Al flight to Tel Aviv from JFK last night in a show of confidence in Israel and suggesting the FAA ban should be lifted. El-Al is not one of the affected airlines.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I'm just trying to show that it's safe and it's a great place to visit and Israel has a right to defend its people.

SAVIDGE: But the administration says they're not going to overrule the FAA.

BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Frankly, the situation that we saw in Ukraine only underscores the need to take extra precautions when it comes to the safety of civilian airliners.

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, the bloodshed continues in Gaza. The Palestinian death toll rising to more than 640, and two more Israeli soldiers were killed there overnight, bringing Israel's death toll to at least 29 soldiers and two civilians.


SAVIDGE: Israel believes that it's being punished even though it was a terrorist act committed by Hamas that basically brought about the entire closure. Economically, it is hurting them and it certainly doesn't help that your top international airport of your nation is quiet.

There are flights going, but certainly nowhere near as many as 24 hours ago, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, there's been an enormous amount of cancellations. We'll see what the FAA will do over the next few hours.

Martin Savidge at Ben Gurion Airport for us, thanks very much.

Let's talk a little bit about all of this. Joining us is Senator Tim Kaine. He's a Democrat from Virginia. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the Armed Services Committee.

Senator Kaine, thanks very much for joining us.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: You bet, Wolf.

BLITZER: Would you feel comfortable getting on a Delta or United or US Airways flight and flying to Tel Aviv right now?

KAINE: Well, you know, I was in Israel a couple months ago, and, yes, I would feel comfortable, but I can understand why the FAA or other airlines who have liability concerns, who are worried about not just what one or two passengers feel but what everybody feels, I understand why they're being cautious, and the Air Malay incident of last week demonstrates reason for caution. BLITZER: And the gesture, for example, of the former New York City

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he's on a flight that left New York on its way here, should be landing at Ben Gurion Airport. El-Al is still flying obviously in and out of Ben Gurion Airport.

KAINE: Right.

BLITZER: The fact that he wants to show solidarity, he's very convinced it's safe. What do you say when someone like that, a politician like that, does that?

KAINE: I think, look, I don't mind it at all, and I would encourage others to do it as well but I don't think you can indict airlines for trying to be concerned about the safety of their passengers when there are rockets falling near the airport.

Again, we just have a recent airline incident of the tragedy of loss of civilian life, in an airline incident, and airlines need to be careful about their passengers. I don't question their decision.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll see what the FAA decides. That 24-hour period is about to end in the next few hours. We'll see what they decide to do, whether or not they lift the ban or they continue it another 24 hours. We'll see what they do.

You heard Tony Blinken say the White House has not yet been informed by the FAA of that decision.

If you look at the fighting that's going on, and you have been to Israel several times, you understand the nature of rockets coming in, missiles coming in, more than 2,000. Israel has now responded. Some are saying Israel has gone too far.

Madeleine Albright on this program yesterday said Israel seems to be overreacting.

You say?

KAINE: Well, Wolf, I say they have a right to defend themselves. Hamas is intentionally trying to destabilize the peace discussions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. They did that in 2010, and they're doing it again in 2014.

Now, when they do that, Israel has a right to defend itself. The sad fact of this is that, you know, there are victims on both sides, and in a way Israel is doing exactly what Hamas wants it to do. Hamas is trying to destabilize the peace process. They hoped to provoke a significant response by Israel, which they have, and Israel has that right.

But for those of us who care deeply about ultimately finding a peaceful solution where an Israel and a Palestine can live side by side, this is very, very grievous to see what's happening.

BLITZER: Because there are some optimists -- and there are a whole lot of optimists I have to tell you, senator, in this part of the world, but there are some who believe that maybe something positive can emerge out of this and maybe that effort to achieve that so-called two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, could once again get off the ground.

Are you among the optimists or the pessimists?

KAINE: Well, Wolf, you have to be on optimist. Even in the darkest times what you can say is we're either going to find a peaceful two- state solution as the U.N. intended in 1947, it's been the U.S. policy since then. We affirmed it in the Oslo Accords.

We're either going to do that and resist the efforts of Hamas or others who want to pull that apart or we're going to -- what we've seen in the last two weeks is what we're likely to see for a very long time, grieving parents, dead kids, rocket attacks, destruction, and that is not a path forward.

So, as hard as the path to a peaceful solution may be, and it begins with a cease-fire, and then it begins with the parties back at the negotiating table, as hard as that path is, we've seen that the other path is even harder, is even more dangerous, is even more destructive, and hopefully that will hold a mirror up to all and want to have folks get back to the table.

Wolf, tomorrow in Israel, a new president will be taking the place of Shimon Perez and the new Israeli president, he has said he doesn't believe in the need for a Palestinian state. So, you have Hamas who does not want to recognize Israel. You have some in Israel who say they don't think there should be an independent state of Palestine.

But if you play that logic down the road, I think it only leads to more destruction and more tragedy. So, hopefully, this will raise a mirror to Israel, to Palestine, to the world, Hamas will stop the unprovoked rocket attacks, there can be a cease-fire where issues like the blockade of Gaza can be discussed, and then we can find a path forward.


We want to turn your attention if we can to the tragedy of the downing of Flight MH17. I want to get your take on the latest U.S. intelligence assessment of the situation on the ground because there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Most specifically I think is key -- have you seen any evidence that directly ties the downing of that plane to Russia?

KAINE: I have not seen any evidence to suggest that there was a Russian, you know, with his finger on the trigger saying, you know, we are going to bring this plane down, but what we have seen I think is very credible evidence that the weapons systems themselves were Russian supplied, that their weapons systems that are very difficult to operate without sophisticated training. In all likelihood, that training was provided by Russian.

And when the separatists immediately called Russian military leaders, you know, they didn't have to look up their numbers in the phone book, they called them on speed dial, called them right away and told them, hey, here is what we've done -- all of that evidence suggests to me that Russian fingerprints are all other this incident and the effort by Vladimir Putin and others to deny it is going to be seen through by the international community.

BOLDUAN: Senator, you said it suggests that Russian fingerprints are all over it. Do you think that the world needs more definitive evidence? Do you think the world will get more definitive proof that Russia is more involved rather than just suggesting that they were somehow influencing the situation?

KAINE: Well, I would say -- I use the word suggest, but, look, it is clear to me beyond a reasonable doubt.


KAINE: And, yes, I believe more evidence will come out that will make absolutely plain that the downing of this airline was Russian.

Now, it may have been a mistake. It looks like the separatists thought it was going to be a military plane and then it turned out to be a passenger airline, but that's no excuse for the behavior.


KAINE: And watching the outrageous treatment of the crash site, of the human remains, the kind of lying campaign that Putin has engaged in -- I think all of this is going to demonstrate to the nations of the world that Russia is very dangerous and that the Ukrainian people's desire to move closer to Europe, which is what sponsored -- which is what provoked the reactions and the demonstrations last fall, it's a very understandable desire to merge closer with Europe.

I hope the downing of the plane will also make the European nations decide to be more serious about sanctions against Russia, especially in the energy sector because it's energy that Russia is trying to hold as a club over other nations' heads to buy friendship. We ought to be working with European nations to help them find alternative energy paths.

BERMAN: Well, let's talk about that, Senator, because you may hope they'll do more but they've shown no sign, in fact, that they will. European leaders have been meeting this week and a lot of people like you expected them to finally step up and issue some much more stiff sanctions that would hurt Russia, hurt the energy sector there, perhaps hurt Vladimir Putin some kind of way at least diplomatically. It didn't happen.

Take France. France has a billion dollar deal with warships to sell to Russia. They're going ahead with it. Now, I know you're a senator from Virginia, not Versailles, but what's your message to France about this?

KAINE: Well, look, you -- being too closely associated with Russia is going to lead to problems. Russia is using energy to try to buy friends but then they try to exercise influence in way that is destabilize the nations that they're trying to influence. That's what the Ukraine example suggests.

And I do think that there's E.U. meetings going on right now and then there's a very important NATO Summit in Wales at the end of august, and I think E.U. discussions and the NATO discussion in Wales is going to produce a stiffer resolve in Europe to try to face off and not just kowtow to Russia.

So, on the energy side, here's what we should do. The United States should be helping Europe to develop their own energy resources. We should be exploring whether strategic export of liquid natural gas from the U.S. can help European nations wean themselves away from Russian energy.

There are other partners like Algeria, for example, that wants to build a new energy pipeline under the Mediterranean to supply Europe. We ought to be helping European nations find other suppliers. These are all things that we can do.

Russia is a rust belt economy with natural resources. If we can reduce the reliance of other countries on their natural resources, that's the thing we can most do that would affect the Russian economy and hopefully curb this kind of completely outrageous aggression by Putin.

BOLDUAN: I think on the part of the United States and the part of the Europeans, you say this is what we can do. But what will Congress do I think is what the focus needs to be going forward, because obviously the United States' economic ties to Russia are not nearly as strong as those of Europe.

KAINE: That's correct.

BOLDUAN: But the United States does still hold quite a bit of influence in the U.S. Congress still holds quite a bit of influence over there.

Senator -- go ahead.

KAINE: Right, and I think economic sanctions is likely what you'll see Congress embrace. But you're right, they're going to be much more effective if European nations join with us in those sanctions.

BOLDUAN: Senator Tim Kaine -- Senator, thank you very much for your time.

KAINE: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

A lot of other news we're following. Let's get straight to Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Right, here is a look at the headlines for you.

The legal fight over Obamacare ramping up after conflicting rules from two federal appeals court. One says insurance subsidies can only be awarded through state-run health exchanges, the other says people can get subsidized through both state and federal health care marketplaces. It is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Former Reebok CEO David Purdue won a Republican Senate primary runoff in Georgia, defeating 11-term Congressman Jack Kingston. He'll now face democratic nominee Michelle Nunn in the race for seat of incumbent Senator Saxby Chambliss who is retiring. It's a seat the GOP has to keep in order to win control of the Senate in the November midterm elections.

The Department of Homeland Security says it has arrested 192 immigrant smugglers along the U.S./Mexico border. These arrests were made in a month-long crackdown called Operation Coyote. DHS says it targeted smugglers involved in the current wave of children that are arriving from Central America. DHS agents have also seized some $600,000 from human smuggling organizations.

Another recall to tell you about. Chrysler recalling about 800,000 SUVs for possible faulty ignition switches. The recall targets 2006 and 2007 Jeep Commanders and Jeep Cherokees from 2005 to 2007. Chrysler says the ignition could turn off in the switch is bumped causing the engine to stall and air bags to stop working. Chrysler says it is aware of one accident linked to the problem. Thankfully no injuries though.

BERMAN: Year of the recall.

PEREIRA: It is the year of the recall, 2014. Put it in your books for that.

BOLDUAN: Not a good year for that.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, as families in Amsterdam are preparing to receive the remains of their loved ones, we'll hear from a forensic investigator about the very difficult task of identifying the victims and what that process will take.

BERMAN: And a family's grief after losing two young boys in the downing of flight MH17. You're going to hear Chris' very, very emotional interview with the family and one grandmother's remarkable message to the world.


CUOMO: We're here in front of the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. This is where MH17 began its journey.

Behind us, you see all these beautiful flowers and expressions of grief and of memories and peace and love and support for those who were lost, 200 people from the Netherlands were lost on this flight, the most of any country.

Today is the day they begin their journey back home, but it won't be a simple journey, nothing has been simple so far in this, but how many bodies we're not sure. Which bodies are they is not an easy a question to answer as you might

think, but there are experts involved who are helping and hopefully it will get done right.

Let's help understand that process better. With us now, I have Dr. Frank Van De Goot.

Was I even close? Good enough.


CUOMO: Forensic pathologist. I'm sorry that the conversation is about this but your expertise is very needed.

Take us through it. We were at the crime scene. We saw the bodies there and how they were mistreated but eventually put into body bags, now in coffins.

How do you go about figuring out which body belongs to which family?

VAN DE GOOT: Well, very first although it's a huge amount of losses, we know who they are. It's a distinct list.

CUOMO: The list of possibilities.

VAN DE GOOT: Yes. Meaning that everyone we find belongs to that list. First of all, what I do is open up the first body bag, just look who is inside. It's male, it's female, how long is he, how big is he? Is he old, is he young?

That's the very first step. Blue eyes, blond hair, whatever.

CUOMO: It assumes they're intact, though.

VAN DE GOOT: That's for the intact parts.

Second, tattoos, scars, jewelry. Third, dental records. And, last, DNA.

CUOMO: And then -- so last becomes DNA. If you have body that is are difficult to work with, the forensic pathology becomes very important. What do you do?

VAN DE GOOT: Well, if they come in, we have to just have to look at all the parts, describe the parts. If there are distinct scars on it. Could be very typical for one specific person.

DNA is, of course, a very good instrument to distinguish -- to look for who it is, but the bodies were in very close contact with each other and you have to take -- you have to be absolutely sure it belongs to the body part you're investigating.

CUOMO: So, based on what we've seen, you're going to have to do a lot of this the difficult way, the more -- the long you are duration way. How long could this process take? VAN DE GOOT: If a body is just intact, I think within a few hours you

know who it is. But we must be 100 percent sure. I don't think in the next coming days, the first one will be identified. I think this three or four days, the first one can be released until the last of the entire group is identified will take weeks if not months.

CUOMO: So, now, Doctor, what happens when you get to the point where all the bags are accounted for and you look at the list, and there are names that are still there? You know in eastern Ukraine, not only do you have an active conflict zone, two Ukrainian fighter jets just shot down today, but that crime scene has been so abused.


CUOMO: Would you have to go? Would they still be there? Would that be a step that would simply be necessary to bring closure?

VAN DE GOOT: I'm afraid we're not going to find everyone.