Return to Transcripts main page


Hillary Clinton Releases Medical Records; Flight 370 Search; Outrage Over Death of Lion; Deliberate Act in MH370 Cockpit; Clinton Attacks Bush As They Share Stage in Florida. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 31, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Investigators nearly certain that a washed- up piece of plane wreckage is from Flight 370, as we're told someone steered it off course on purpose.

I'm John Berman. And this is THE LEAD.

The world lead, a small piece of plane wing is now on its way to France. Families hope it could unlock the answers to one of the biggest aviation mysteries ever. And, today, the focus turns back to the pilot, as U.S. intelligence says the sharp turn that MH370 made, it was no accident.

The politics lead, happy dump day. Any minute now, Hillary Clinton releasing her tax history on top of a new crop of State Department e- mails, on top of her medical records, on a Friday afternoon, in the middle of summer. Ah, the timing.

Plus, he killed the king of the jungle. Now Zimbabwe wants to bring Walter Palmer to justice on their turf. It looks like someone close to Palmer has finally contacted U.S. game officials, but the hunter is still in hiding. So exactly where is he?

Good afternoon. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in this Friday for Jake Tapper.

Our world lead, highly confident, most certainly, almost no doubt, today, Australian, Malaysian and French officials using those words as they come to a consensus that this piece of debris, a flaperon found on the shore of a remote island most likely belongs to a Boeing 777.

And barring some wholly unforeseen explanation, the only possible Boeing 777 it could have been come from is the missing plane Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is in Washington.

Rene, the Paris prosecutor says the forensic team will begin analyzing the debris next Wednesday. What are officials saying at this hour?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, just a short time ago, we learned that investigators with Boeing and the NTSB, they are preparing to launch to France to assist in analysis of this debris that was found.

In just a matter of days, we could begin to get answers about the circumstances surrounding the airplane part, and, of course, where it came from.


MARSH (voice-over): Tonight, what could be the first critical piece of evidence in the disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370 has been carefully crated and put on a plane. The debris discovered on remote Reunion Island is now en route to France. It arrives Saturday, and by next week crash investigators will begin their intense examination.

WARREN TRUSS, AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: The accident investigators will want to have a look at the part to see whether it gives any indication as to the way it may have separated from the rest of the aircraft.

MARSH: By Tuesday, CNN is told representatives from Boeing and the NTSB will be at the lab in Toulouse, site of the analysis. CNN has also learned of a second identifying number found on the debris. Besides component number, 657BB, which corresponds to a 777 flaperon, investigators also have a second number, 11 digits long that also links the debris to a Boeing 777.

Meantime, sources tell CNN that U.S. intelligence agencies' preliminary conclusion earlier this year was that someone in the cockpit deliberately directed the aircraft's movements before it vanished. The plane flew towards specific waypoints, crossing Indonesian territory and eventually toward the South Indian Ocean, but sources note it will take finding more of the plane to further substantiate any conclusions.

MICHAEL GOLDFARB, FORMER FAA CHIEF OF STAFF: Neither the intelligence report or the theories of -- the speculative theories of kinds of failures of that aircraft are really helpful until we have more than the flaperon, we actually have significant pieces of the aircraft and, of course, the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder.

MARSH: Investigators have already taken a deep dive into the pilot's background, scrubbed computer hard drives, inspected the captain's flight simulator, even studied their body language on airport security cameras, but never found any evidence to suggest anyone on board posed an obvious risk.


MARSH: Well, as you know, the search for the rest of the plane is some 2,300 miles away, but Australian officials in charge of the search operation made it clear there are no plans to divert assets from that area to Reunion Island because of this one piece of debris.

They remain confident that the area they are searching is where the plane went down, John.

BERMAN: Rene, you said U.S. intelligence concluded that the plane's movement was deliberate. That could mean a lot of different things. Is it exactly clear where they're leaning right now?


MARSH: What we know is that the analysts, they have looked at the flight path of this plane, and they noticed that it was hitting very specific navigational waypoints, which are essentially designated points in the sky.

And based on that flight path, they made the determination that there is no way that an airplane could hit such exact points on its own. So, based on that and other evidence available at the time, they say they came to the preliminary conclusion that whoever was in the cockpit, they deliberately made the plane go in the direction that it went to, although they're very open to changing this stance if they get even more evidence.

BERMAN: Rene Marsh in Washington, thanks so much.

CNN senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir is on Reunion Island, where people cleaning a beach found this piece of wreckage. Nima joins us now by phone.

Nima, you saw this part of wing being crated up. It's not an easy thing to ship.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not, and especially given the considerations that go into this. We really saw how delicately this was being handled. There was an escort of police as it was lowered into that crate.

You could see that it was wrapped very carefully, because they want to preserve everything about this, not just the integrity of the piece itself, but also anything that's clinging to it, the striation patterns, any of the wear and tear, because all of that, the barnacles on it, the plant life, all of it will allow investigators to further narrow where this piece of debris is from.

And, of course, there are two pieces of debris. There's the section of the wing that is going to go to Toulouse, but the remnants of the luggage, that's going to Paris. There are going to be two separate analyses going on at the same time. And we understand that because this is a French judicial investigation, a court judicial investigation, I should say, that is under way here, it will be under the auspices of the presiding judge.

And he's given the instruction that the analysis will start on Wednesday, after he's had a chance to meet with Malaysian investigators and representatives of the various French agencies involved in this, John.

BERMAN: All right, Nima Elbagir for us on Reunion Island on this piece of debris now headed back to France.

You can see from the images of the flaperon it suffered a lot of damage, but what is unclear right now is how this plane part wound up so mangled? Did it fall off the plane in flight? Did it happen on impact on the ocean? All questions investigators hope they can answer soon.

Our Tom Foreman standing by in the virtual room.

And, Tom, anything analysts can tell by looking on the photos of this flaperon?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it can start there, John, because even on the photos, you can see, as many have noted, that the front edge of it really doesn't seem to have a lot of damage.

The back edge of it seemed to have a good bit more. Let's talk about the scenarios that they have to consider in all of this. Let's talk about this plane flying along at full altitude, simply doing what it's doing up there. And in the process, the flaperon would be -- moving in a schematic here, would be stowed in sort of a position like this, in line with the wing.

If that plane ran out of fuel, or was put into a steep dive, then what would is, as it gains speed from 500-plus miles an hour, as it started rocketing upward to maybe 600, pushing 700 miles an hour, this would create a great instability of the air flow and a lot of vibration on the back of this flaperon, enough that you could have damage back here.

And our aviation analysts say it could be torn off ripped off or thrown off in the air, signature damage that would tell them something about this. Second possibly here, let's talk about the idea that the plane in fact is flying along at a level stance, and was coming in, they were running out of the fuel and they were trying to land on the water. Very difficult to do.

In that case, the flaperon would be deployed. It would down like this to slow the plane down to create a little more wing surface, and try to get down to about 150 miles an hour, and that's still really fast hitting the water. The impact of that water against that flaperon would produce tremendous torque, and tearing, and damage, probably a lot of it along the front side, according to our aviation analysts.

And then there's still the possibility of an explosion or a catastrophic fire. The plane is at level flight and something simply goes terribly, terribly wrong up here. In that case, you may or may not have any evidence of an explosion or fire on the flaperon, but you could have a catastrophic crash that tears it in many different ways as it comes down to the water in the air.

Those are the kinds of things they have to look for, John. And there's going to a very drawn-out investigation to know exactly what they're seeing.

BERMAN: It's a seven-to-10-foot piece of twisted metal right now. In the end, will this part alone give them any significant answer to what happened to this plane?


FOREMAN: I think all it can give them is a start, maybe. You mentioned that it's seven to 10 feet. That's a really good point, because the wingspan of this plane is close to 200 feet. So you take that and consider that this is one piece of that plane. After the TWA crash over Long Island Sound, they collected all of these parts of the plane, they got huge portions of it, and they needed all of that to figure out what went wrong with that flight.

And even with all of that evidence, to this day, there are people who dispute the findings, so a very, very small start, John.

BERMAN: No, but an important one and a long-awaited start, to be sure.

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

A preliminary assessment by U.S. intelligence suggests that Flight 370 was deliberately taken off course by someone in the cockpit. Is it time for a new look at the pilots, the crew, the passengers on that doomed jet? That's next.


[16:15:09] BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, today, in for Jake Tapper.

As officials sound more confident that this debris came from a Boeing 777, a newly revealed U.S. intelligence report says now the only possible way MH370 swerved so suddenly is because of a deliberate decision in the cockpit. Intelligence sources did not assign any motive to why this plane drastically altered its course, but the disclosure re-raises questions about the policy, the crew and whether anybody could have intentionally guided 239 people onboard to their doom.

I want to talk this over with our expert, CNN safety analyst David Soucie, CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, and Nick Mallos, a conservation biologist.

Juliette, let me start with you here.

Do you think the investigators cleared the pilot, the crew and the passengers too quickly?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. So, there's an old saying in disaster management, that if you get the call at 2:00 in the morning, go back to bed, because chances are 15 minutes later it's either false, or, you know, sort of bad information or you may need it because you're going to be up the next couple days.

I think in this case they thought they knew -- they thought they knew something, which clearly is not true anymore, which is you could say that we're not going to worry about the pilots, we're not going to worry about any of the airline personnel. That's clearly wrong, and it's bad for a variety of reasons. One, it leads investigators in the wrong way, right? So, if you say

it's not A, then they're not going to look at that group of people. Also, it is completely unfair to the families, right? I mean, you know, Malaysia Airways and the Malaysian government owe responsibility to the families to get this right. And if they close off a line of inquiry early -- I'm not saying it was them. I'm just saying don't close it off yet. It is completely unfair to the families that have needed closure for over a year now.

BERMAN: It's been at least 500 days though, and the U.S. was looking into it. The Malaysians were looking into it, the Australians were looking into it, a lot of the other -- Chinese were looking into it. Any indication any of these other agencies found anything?

KAYYEM: No, and we have to put that line that you just read in context. So, first of all, it does not ascribe motives. So, in other words, a pilot and a totally benign pilot, one who's trying to save the plane, can swerve quickly to save the plane. So, we don't know what the motive is. And secondly, as you point out, there are close to a dozen countries investigating this right now. And ours, as far as we know, the U.S. is the only one to make this assessment.

But my theory -- you know, on any investigation until you don't know, assume it can be true. So, I agree with the U.S. in their assessment right now. Maybe we'll be able to close it off in terms of malfeasance, but not now.

BERMAN: David, that's sort the intelligence view right now. But people I talk to on the aviation side, your side of it, say, not so fast, that perhaps the intelligence isn't really there, and the aviation proof isn't there.

And as Juliet says, there are several different reasons that a plane could be deliberately taken off course, instead of -- including completely benevolent once.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Exactly. One of the reasons it could have been taken off course was simply because it did have a malfunction or a catastrophic failure or some kind on the aircraft, which in that case, of course, the pilot would deliberately turn the aircraft back towards its maintenance space, which, by the way, this trajectory that it was on after that first turn was directly towards their major maintenance facility for Malaysia Airlines.

BERMAN: So, it could have been headed back to safety. That could be why someone deliberately turned it. So, all these things could be working in conjunction.

Nick, the debris was found some 2,300 miles from the original search site. You say that confirms that the recovery efforts, the search site, not on this map, but off the western coast of Australia, you say that the sighting of this debris on Reunion Island, confirms that they're looking in the right place off Australia for this sunken fuselage.

NICK MALLOS, CONSERVATION BIOLOGIST: I think it very much supports they are. They are working and searching the right area.

What we know is that the currents that run east to west along the equator in the Indian Ocean are very strong currents. So, if in fact the plane went down in the area where they're currently search, it is certainly possible that a piece of wing the size of that which has washed up on Reunion Island, could make its way north, drift across the Indian Ocean and wash ashore on Reunion Island. So, I think it's a very good data point that suggest they are in fact searching in the right area.

BERMAN: So, David, this flaperon on its way to France right now, to be looked at by investigators, beyond just confirming that it does come for a 777, that it does come perhaps from MH370, what can investigators find out from this piece of wreckage?

SOUCIE: Well, it's interesting, John, because you might think that this has nothing to do with, and in previous segments we talk about and I get this tweets back saying, why are we so concerned about how it came off the airplane?

Well, let me tell you, there's one thing that's really important, really profound here, if it was indeed torn off of the airplane, in a rapid descent, which is a transonic range where it gets flutter at, it's kind of a technical thing, but it burbles the air over the top and it literally tears pieces off when you're approaching mach 1, which is the speed of sound.

[16:20:00] So, if that's true, if that's the way it came off, what it tells us is that shortly after it ran out of fuel, the assumption that the independent group that was looking at this, that help with determining where the search is, can validate one of their assumptions, which was that the aircraft made an abrupt straight-down descent. If that's true, then they could actually narrow that search significantly, because currently the assumption is it could have glided for as much as 8 to 10 miles in either direction.

So, now, if they determine that it did indeed make a straight descent, they could really narrow that search and could really help the search efforts if that's true.

BERMAN: Hey, Nick, what about the possible marine life on this piece of wreckage, the barnacles? What kind of clues could they provide?

MALLOS: Well, they certainly tell us that the debris has been drifting for some time. So barnacles are actually relatives of lobsters and crabs, so they're crustaceans. And it only takes a few days to a week for these organisms to start growing anything that's drifting in the ocean.

I do think it's interesting that David shared with me the coating on aircraft provides protection against from fouling from organisms like this. So, you know, around the perimeter of this wing, where we see it's been broken from the aircraft, and we are seeing a lot of growth. So, it certainly points indications based on the species that it could indicate what part of the region this wing was drifting through to end up on Reunion Island. BERMAN: That's really interesting.

All right. Nick, Julia, David, thanks so much for being with us.

Make sure to tune in tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for a CNN Special Report: "Vanished: The Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370".

In our politics lead, Hillary Clinton taking a direct swipe at Jeb Bush not just one but kind of a few, just moments before he took the stage, suggesting his policies are not good for African-Americans. That's next.

Plus, a campus police officer indicted for murder now out on bail. What if the other officers would first appear to back up the story? We have new details on them ahead.


[16:25:56] BERMAN: All right. Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Topping the politics lead, a major document dump from the Clinton campaign on a Friday afternoon at the very end of July -- actually, not just one but sort of three.

The State Department released more of her e-mails. The Clinton campaign released medical records. Any minute now, we expect to see eight more years of tax returns. Wow!

CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is following all of this for us.

Happy Friday, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITCAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. There's a lot to sift through today, John.

Health information coming in the form of a statement from Hillary Clinton's longtime personal physician. We have learned the bottom line here basically, according to her doctor, of several years is that she is fit to serve as president of the United States. That's actually how this health statement ends. There's that.

And then there's also information about Hillary Clinton's taxes, we're expecting very soon to get information of the last several years of earnings for the Clintons as a couple. Obviously, this is key. And when you think of a document dump like this, you normally think of in a way sort of having something to hide. But the Clinton campaign trying to make the point that they're putting out this information and they're trying to be very transparent.

But, of course, it also comes on a day when the State Department is releasing a number of e-mails from Hillary Clinton's several thousand, really tens of thousands of emails that she turned over and that are being put out publicly in the tranches of emails. Meantime, and this is a busy day, here just six days from the first Republican primary debate, we got a preview of a possible general election pair up between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.


KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton going after Jeb Bush in his home state of Florida, not by name, but with a reference to Bush's Right to Rise slogan.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think you can credibly say that everyone has a right to rise and then say you're for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare. People can't rise if they can't afford health care, and you cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote.

KEILAR: She leveled that critique at the National Urban League Annual Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Bush addressed the crowd an hour later but did not take on Clinton directly.


I believe in the right to rise in this country and a child is not rising if he's not reading.

KEILAR: But Bush's communications director did not hold back, tweeting, "Clintonesque move to pass over chance to unite in favor of a false cheap shot, when you have no record of accomplishment to point to, dot, dot, dot."

Clinton and Bush also tangled today over the U.S. policy towards Cuba. Speaking later in Miami, Clinton called for an end to the Cuban trade embargo.

CLINTON: The Cuba embargo needs to go once and for all.

KEILAR: And she took a swipe at the Republican field for their views about the communist island.

CLINTON: Fundamentally, most of the Republican candidates still view Cuba and Latin America more broadly through an outdated Cold War lens.

KEILAR: Bush shot back in a statement, accusing Clinton of abandoning her previous opposition to ending the embargo. He wrote, "The American people need principled leaders who will stand up to our adversaries and stand up for our values. Secretary Clinton's politically expedient embrace of President Obama's unilateral concessions to Cuba makes clear she will do neither."


KEILAR: And meanwhile, John, we do have a team that is going through these e-mails of Hillary Clinton's that were from her private account, that were housed on her private server, and recently turned or not recently, several months ago, turned over to the State Department. We are going through those as we speak. There is one rather colorful tidbit I will tell you, and perhaps

ironic, Hillary Clinton asking an adviser if she can borrow a book -- the book "Send" by David Shipley, and the subtitle on it, "Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better."

BERMAN: Ah, to read that book now in different context, Brianna. Those are the emails as opposed to the medical record, as opposed to the tax records.