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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Aircraft Debris Found Off Madagascar; Former Governor: Diplomacy Doesn't Mean You "Surrender"; Rep. Fattah Indicted On 29 Counts Of Corruption. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 29, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:47]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN: A surprising discovery in our world lead today, perhaps a major clue, in one of the biggest mysteries in recent memory. What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

Today, we learned that a piece of debris washed up on an island not far from Madagascar. French officials say this could, could be part of MH370. It vanished off radar of course after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. That was March 2014, slightly more than a year ago.

An international team of experts came to the conclusion that the plane must have crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean, but there's been no hard evidence until possibly now.

CNN's Tom Foreman joins me now with the new discovery.

Tom, I am as skeptical as everybody in our viewership about, is this real? What is being done to determine if this is or is not MH370?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're starting with the obvious, Jake. They're taking a look at this thing.

It appears to be about seven feet long, maybe three or four feet wide. And if it part of this missing plane, they're trying to look where it might fit into the plane. Our aviation analysts have looked it over themselves and they basically say, this could be a part that would be right in here. That's sort of the inner flap right up next to the body of the plane there.

So, they have to consider, is it the right type to fit there? Is it the right color to fit there? Was it found in the right place?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Airplane debris discovered on the tiny African island of Reunion has investigators scrambling to figure out if they may finally have evidence as to what happened to the missing plane, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

At first blush, experts say it at least looks like the right kind of equipment. LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: When I look at the pictures, I see a

portion of the wing. And it could be either a flap, aileron, or what we call on the 777 a flaperon, which is a combination of both.

FOREMAN: MH370 disappeared after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8 last year, bound for Beijing with 239 people aboard.

After signing off with the control tower for the last time, the flight veered dramatically off-course and disappeared from radar.

It's incomprehensible that this airplane has been missing for this long without any trace of it debris-wise for about a year-and-a-half now.

FOREMAN: For months, investigators searched the water from Vietnam to Australia for any signs of wreckage, always coming up empty. They also looked into the backgrounds of the pilots, going so far as to examine body language on airport surveillance video. And, again, they found nothing.

Malaysian authorities eventually declared the flight a loss, and said the passengers and crew were all presumed dead, something many families refused to accept, and now this, after almost 500 days of fruitless searching, finally what may be the first real clue and hope for answers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: There have been other crashes over here near Reunion Island, so it's possible this debris could be linked to something like that. They will have to check the serial numbers on the and then they will know for sure if they have a match.

But even then, they will have a big question, Jake. And that is what was it doing way over here near Africa, when all these search areas have been over here toward Australia, Jake?

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

So now the question, where does the investigation go from here? How soon will we know if the debris is in any way connected to the missing Malaysian airplane. Our aviation experts will weigh in on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:33]

TAPPER: Welcome back.

We're back with more questions in our world lead about the plane wreckage found on an island in the Indian Ocean. It's a matter of time now before we learn if it belongs to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

We have a team of CNN analysts here to weigh in. Les Abend is a 777 pilot. David Soucie was an FAA safety inspector. And Mary Schiavo was the inspector general for the Department of Transportation

Thanks to all of you for joining me.

Let me start with you, Mary.

This debris, how long might be it take to inspect it and get some definitive answers?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: If the part numbers that are stamped on the pieces of the plane still survive, it literally could be a phone call to Boeing or to the parts indices to look up parts number to see if it belongs to a 777.

If it belongs to a 777, it is MH370, because there have only been five accidents or crashes of a 777, one in London, one in San Francisco, the shoot-down by the Russians of MH-17, one where there wasn't any debris, and this one. The answer could come within hours if Boeing has been contacted and has been provided part numbers.

TAPPER: The shoot-down by the pro-Russian separatists, I should note, just so we don't get a letter from have Vladimir Putin.

David, the debris was discovered on an island near Madagascar in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. That is in the region where the experts feared it went down. Do you believe the theory could finally be panning out?

[16:40:03]

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, to me, the odds are against it because of the fact that we have got so much contradictory evidence both ways. But I think that it is possible. I'm not ruling it out certainly.

TAPPER: Les, MH370 was headed northeast towards Beijing. This area is close to 4,000 miles from where the plane was last spotted, thousands of miles from the search area. What could have possibly pushed it so far southwest, so far off-course?

ABEND: Well, you know, that's what we have been talking about for so long, almost a year-and-a-half now, with the Inmarsat theories and, you know, how it got that direction. Was it controlled by a human through the autopilot? Was the airplane on its own with the autopilot due to some flight control damage because of a mechanical issue?

It's hard to say. If this is indeed a part of MH370, and I think it's possible that it could have drifted that far to the west, with the two typhoons that went through during the search process, certainly, I think it's possible, especially if air was maintained in that particular piece of flight control surface there. So anything is certainly possible.

TAPPER: Mary, if this debris does belong to MH370, but they're still not ever able to recover the black boxes, could this debris be used to determine what brought the plane down?

SCHIAVO: Well, it's going to be very difficult this long in the water.

Lots of clues that might have been on it will have been erased by the saltwater and of time. But I think what it will be used for, if this is 370, if it's a 777, is they will go back and look at the search right at the inception and they will say, look, if the plane was turning back and did not follow the arcs that Inmarsat had projected, then where would the fuel starvation be if the turn-back was a straight projection?

Remember, before people got the Inmarsat data, this is kind of the area where on a decompression and a simple turn-back where the pilots just trying to get home where the plane might have ended up. I think, whether or not they ever find the black boxes, this might cause some reevaluation of the theories as to where it went.

TAPPER: All right, Mary Schiavo, David Soucie, Les Abend, thanks to all of you.

Coming up, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee invoking the Holocaust when talking about the nuclear deal with Iran. What does he think about those comments? Should he take them back? We will ask him next.

Plus, a sitting member of Congress indicted on 29 charges, including racketeering. A Democrat goes down. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: More on our Politics Lead today, the 16 major Republican presidential candidates have only six days now to rise enough in the polls to merit a golden ticket, guaranteeing one of the top ten spots in the first Republican presidential debate next week.

Many of the White House hopefuls are upping the rhetoric, appearing on media, jockeying, rhetorically attacking, pivoting, thrusting and parrying, sitting down with news anchors to get their messages out and their numbers up.

That includes former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Governor Mike Huckabee joins us now. Governor, great to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

I want to ask you about the comments you made, some Jewish groups taking issue with the language you used to denounce the proposed nuclear deal with Iran saying, you said, it would, quote, "take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven," a stark reference to the holocaust.

The founder of the Simon Weisenthal Center while calling you a strong support of Israel also said that your language was very harsh over the top and said he would advise you that no president of the United States should be compared in any way to Adolf Hitler. What's your response?

GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wasn't comparing the president to Adolf Hitler. I'm comparing the situation that we face when we did not take seriously the threat that was made to Jews for 20 years after the writings of Hitler. We still went into an appeasement mode with the efforts of chamberlain.

It was disastrous and the result history will never forgive us for. I'm simply saying when you've had 36 years of Iranian threats to destroy Israel, and when they use words saying we developed the missiles that will deliver Israel to a holocaust.

And when they are the ones who as an official government say they want to bring death to America. When they say that they want to be able to destroy Israel and all the Jews by having them in one place and that Israel is a one-bomb country, those aren't my words.

Those are their words, the words of a government, and I think the last time that we did not take seriously when people were making threats again the Jewish people, it was a disastrous consequence. We cannot stand by and let that happen again.

TAPPER: But the words that you are talking about, the horrific threats from Iranian leaders, they're not new, and in 2008, you wrote an article in which you discuss foreign policy towards Iran and you said, quote, "we must be as aggressive diplomatically as we have been militarily since 9/11," talking about Iran.

And you went on to say, "Before I look parents in the eyes to explain why I put their sons or daughters' lives at risk, I want to do everything possible to avoid conflict with Iran." Is that not the same philosophy guiding President Obama?

HUCKABEE: It's exactly the same philosophy that I hold today, but diplomacy doesn't mean you go in and surrender. We got nothing out of this. I read the whole deal. Jake we got nothing. The hostages are still there. We freed up $150 billion for them to buy conventional arms, which we did not restrict.

They're going to finance terrorism now through Hamas and Hezbollah at a level that they never had the funds to do over the time since we put the sanctions in place.

Of course, diplomacy is a great tool when you actually use it, but diplomacy means that you go in and you might give up something, but by gosh you get something.

I'm not sure what we got other than we simply delayed the inevitable, and that is the Iranians having a nuclear device, which they've already said they can't wait to have so that they can wipe Israel off the face of the map.

[16:50:10] And even as we negotiate with them, they're chanting death to America. I just don't consider that very smart diplomacy. If that's smart diplomacy, we need to get smarter than that.

TAPPER: Secretary of State Kerry might respond, there is something that the U.S. and the international community got out of the deal. They got inspections. They got an opportunity to monitor and prevent the building of a bomb. Your response to that? HUCKABEE: If you believe that the Iranians are truly going to give access in a 24-day period between the time the inspections are announced, and they are actually conducted. You can be guaranteed the Iranians, honorable as they are, because we know how much they've always kept every deal.

If you truly believe they are not going to move some of their -- maybe material around then I guess, this is a great deal, but Jake, I don't trust them. I don't know why anybody would.

This is a nation that has not only murdered some of their own people who rose up against the regime, but they have sponsored murder and kidnapping all over the world including murder and kidnapping of Americans. I guess, I'm not as trusting perhaps as the secretary of state when it comes to the Iranian government.

TAPPER: You spoke today with members of the AFL-CIO, a labor union organization, representing more than 10 million active or retired workers. Union leaders typically I think is not a surprise to you support Democrats typically.

You're the only Republican presidential candidate who accepted the group's invitation. You do oppose a lot of things the group supports, Obamacare. I don't think you support a minimum wage increase. What was your message to them?

HUCKABEE: Well, what I made sure they understood was, look, you've supported, you being the AFL-CIO, you've supported Democrats 100 percent. For that you got a 40 percent tax on your health care plans. You've supported the Keystone pipeline, yet the Democrats are the ones keeping us from having it.

I reminded them that at the time of the trade agreement, which will dislocate even more Americans from their jobs, we haven't enforced both sides of the trade agreements we have.

I'm fine with free trade, but what we have is not the fair and free trade that gives Americans jobs. We've lost 5 billion manufacturing jobs and 60,000 manufacturing plants closed since the year 2000.

So if putting all of your eggs in the Democrats' basket and this is what you get, you might want to put a few of your eggs in the Democrat's basket and this is what you get, you might want to put a few of yours eggs in another basket.

And see if maybe the philosophy and the policies of a guy like me could be more helpful to your members in getting them better jobs and making sure they keep those jobs and take care of their families. The economy is hurting the people who sweat through their clothes and who get dirty and lift heavy things every day.

TAPPER: Governor Mike Huckabee, thanks so much for being here. We really appreciate it.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Jake. TAPPER: Coming up, a Minnesota dentist is in hiding after he allegedly hunted down the real life lion king. Zimbabwe's most beloved big cat, and in doing so, he unleashed waves of disgust on social media. So how is the dentist defending himself?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:57:26]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Also in politics, today the Department of Justice released an 85-page indictment against long-time Democratic congressman, Chaka Fattah, and four associates.

The 29 charges including racketeering, bribery, mail fraud, falsification of records, bank fraud, money laundering and much more, most of it stemming from 2007 when Congressman Fattah ran for mayor of Philadelphia and lost.

Prosecutors say the congressman and his team devised schemes to use charitable and federal grants to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a wealthy contributor while furthering their political and financial interests.

Today the Democrat told reporters he plans to step down as ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee. He maintains that he and his staff did nothing wrong. Congressman Fattah was elected in 1994 as a reformer.

The Sports Lead now, the helmets are polished. The balls are inflated to what psi level we do not know yet. As the world champion, New England Patriots arrive for training camp, owner, Robert Kraft is going to war with the NFL over its decision to uphold Tom Brady's four-game suspension over deflate-gate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT KRAFT, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS OWNER: The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable to me. The league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the psi levels of the footballs. I continue to believe and unequivocally support Tom Brady.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Brady himself is also responding to the league for accusing him of destroying his cell phone. In a Facebook post, he wrote, "I have never, written, texted, e-mailed to anybody at any time anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the FAC championship game in January to suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong," unquote.

I guess we'll never know, though, right? That's what happens when you destroy phones or wipe servers clean.

The World Lead, growing outrage directed at an American dentist after he hunted down Africa's famed Cicile "The Lion." Dentist Walter Palmer put out a statement through a PR firm, saying, "He regrets the kill."

He says, "He thought his hunt earlier this month in Zimbabwe was legal and not on protected ground. Little did he know then the lion was a tourist attraction.

Now the dentist is the hunted as investigators in Zimbabwe want to talk to him and animal activists protest at his Minnesota dentist's office.

Two other men hired by Palmer for the hunt appeared in court. They are now both free on bail. Palmer said he would cooperate with any investigation, but yet to be contacted by the U.S. and Zimbabwe.

[17:00:16] That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.