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Al-Shabaab Says It's Behind University Massacre; Prosecutor: Co-Pilot Researched Suicide Methods; Senator Menendez Pleads Not Guilty To Corruption Charges; Cute Robots Helping Children With Autism. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 2, 2015 - 16:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- as we resolve this matter.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The siege ongoing for hours as Kenyan security forces fired back and rescue forces tried to move in.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: We have been hearing the gunfire. Military tanks have also moved into the university compound and they are using the tanks as cover.

STARR: The U.S. has targeted several top al Shabaab leaders finally killing Ahmed Ghadani, the group's leader, after several failed attempts. He was allegedly behind 2013's deadly four day siege of the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed at least 67 people. Something U.S. officials fear could happen here.

In February, an al Shabaab video threatened to attack the mall of America and other U.S. targets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anyone is planning to go to the mall of America today, they have to be particularly careful.


STARR: Now thankfully, since that February comment, of course, no attack at the Mall of America or any other U.S. mall. Al Shabaab, however, a continuing concern, their other strength may be their ability to recruit Somali Americans to their cause, to go fight in Somalia or potentially inspire them to conduct these so-called lone wolf attacks -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

More world news, a huge break in the Germanwings crash investigation in the French Alps, the second black box holding critical information on the flight's final minutes has been found and we are also learning the co-pilot had seen at least five different doctors in the weeks before the crash. All that plus the searches he was doing online coming up next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In more world news, there were some dramatic developments today in the investigation into the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 that killed 150 people. Investigators have found now the plane's second black box containing the charred flight data recorder.

Let's take a look at this photo of the damage. A French prosecutor described it as quote, "blackened and burned," but despite that, investigators are hopeful it will still provide critical information about the actions of co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, in the final moments of the flight.

Lubitz is believed to have deliberately crashed the airplane into a mountain in the French Alps. Sources tell CNN it's becoming more clear that his actions were not spontaneous, but an act of premeditated murder, mass murder.

Let's go live now to CNN's Pamela Brown in Dusseldorf, Germany. Pamela, you learned some disturbing new information today.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. The German prosecutor today saying that Andreas Lubitz made some alarming internet searches in the week before the plane crash, even the day before the plane crash, showing just how premeditated his actions were.


BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, evidence reveals Andreas Lubitz allegedly searched the internet for ways to commit suicide in the week leading up to the crash. The prosecutor in Dusseldorf, Germany says a tablet recovered from Lubitz's apartment also shows a recent search about cockpit doors and their security measures.

A European official tells CNN the new evidence shows Lubitz's actions were premeditated. A French prosecutor today said Lubitz voluntarily brought the plane down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): To prevent the over speed alarm he would have had to have acted twice in the final minutes of the flight, not only the loss of altitude but also adjusting the speed of the plane, so he was alive and conscious up until the moment of impact, we are almost certain.

BROWN: Investigators today finally recovered the charred flight data recorder. It was found buried in the ground. The data will include information about whether the plane was on autopilot or whether Lubitz manned the controls all the way down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The speed of the plane, the altitude, the power of the engine, these elements are absolutely vital in order to ascertain the truth.

BROWN: A law enforcement source says after a severe depressive episode in 2009, Lubitz relapsed in late 2014, just before the crash, Lubitz was shopping around for doctors, seeing at least five, including a sleep specialist, an eye doctor and a neuropsychologist.

Lubitz apparently told some doctors he was fearful of losing his pilot license because of his medical issues. Investigators say that remains a leading motive for the deadly crash.


BROWN: But investigators have not yet reached a conclusion. They want to see what they can retrieve from the flight data recorder. But Jake, it's interesting to note, I learned today from a source that the pilot who flew with Lubitz the day before told investigators that everything seemed normal, that they had ordinary conversation and he was shocked by what happened -- Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Let's bring in our panel of experts to talk about these new developments today. Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist and a social professor of psychiatry right here in New York City at New York City Presbyterian Hospital.

John Golia is an aviation expert and a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board. Thanks to you both for being here. Dr. Saltz, let me start with you.

If the co-pilot was exhibiting signs of extreme depression and he told doctors that he feared it could impact his work, why would doctors trust him to self-report that to the airline?

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: I think what you're getting at is this gray area. Right now, as it stands, doctors are bound by confidentiality and it is really, it violates HIPAA for them to say anything unless it fits in the category of duty to warn which says basically he would have had to say I'm really depressed, I'm so depressed I'm thinking about bringing down a plane.

[16:40:05] He would have had to say something that really made you think he was a threat to himself and/or someone else directly and it is a gray zone and certainly in hindsight, if he thought he was saying I'm so depressed, I think I'm not, you know, I'm really not fit to fly, you deem him not fit to fly and there was anything that made you think he wasn't going to report it, you should report it.

TAPPER: Obviously that's here in the United States. I assume you are referring to the European equivalent.

SALTZ: Similar equivalent that bound by confidentiality.

TAPPER: John, let me ask you, if psych evaluations were mandatory for pilots, do you think pilots would be less likely or more likely to tell the truth about depression or any other issue?

JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER BOARD MEMBER, NTSB: Well, human nature says that you won't disclose. What you really need to do is have professionals that can recognize the signs and ask the right kinds of questions that could ferret out the signals that somebody is in distress like that. It can be done, but it can't be done by the chief pilot. It has to be done by a professional like the doctor who has experience in identifying these kinds of issues.

TAPPER: Exactly. Doctor, I do want to bring up the fact that we don't want to stigmatize people with depression or with other mental illness. Saying somebody is -- has severe depression does not mean that person is suicidal or certainly homicidal.

SALTZ: Right.

TAPPER: So when we hear that he suffered from severe depression, this pilot, he must have also suffered from something else, right?

SALTZ: Completely.


SALTZ: In fact, even though it may be that he suffered from depression. Let's remember that sociopaths and bad and evil people essentially can also suffer from depression. So that may be true, true and unrelated in the sense that he may have been ready to take his own life and he wanted infamy.

And he was angry and he was disenfranchised, and he was charismatic enough to pull off, you know, appearing normal, let's say, which is not unusual for people who do commit mass murders.

TAPPER: But is severe depression in and of itself enough?

SALTZ: I'm saying no, I don't think so. No. Of all suicides that are committed, only 2.5 percent of them, the person takes out someone else with them. It's usually in the vast majority of cases one person, the person they are angry with like their ex or their boss.

A mass murder like this is not genuinely -- generally committed by somebody who is depressed. I think this is something else going on. Yes, he was also depressed and yes, it's too bad that we don't have psychiatrists doing biannual exams so they could pick up something and perhaps prevent some of this from going on.

TAPPER: John, what if anything can airlines change in the wake of all this to try to identify pilots dealing with any issues so as to prevent further tragedies?

GOGLIA: I think the onus is not on the airline. It's now going to be on the government to find a way around the laws, the privacy laws so that we can have some indication of what's going on. It seems that in this case, this pilot was seeing a number of doctors and if that information had gotten to the airline, they probably would have taken him off the schedule.

So there are a number of issues here that revolve around the privacy issues that we have. So we need to find a way to make these not so obscure that you can't see them. Maybe it's not going to the airline.

Maybe the FAA through their office of medical folks needs to step up to the plate and they need to be the neutral party in this to get the information and make some determinations that somebody needs to be looked at a little more closely.

TAPPER: All right, John Goglia, Dr. Gail Saltz, thank you both for joining us. Appreciate it.

Coming up, he's charged with corruption for trading favors for gifts including claims he helped his wealthy friends secure visas for his young girlfriends. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, just got out of court. How is he defending himself today? That's next.

Plus, he's a friend to kids who have trouble making friends, this robot connecting and helping children with autism. It's an incredible story coming up.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Our Politics Lead today, a top Senate Democrat fighting for his political life. New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of corruption, including bribery earlier today.

Federal prosecutors accuse the senior senator of accepting more than $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from a longtime friend in exchange, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange they alleged, for political favors, among those favors, helping his friend's foreign girlfriends obtain travel visas to the United States.

Let's bring in CNN's Athena Jones who is live in Washington with the latest. Athena, Menendez, we should point out, denies the charges, says he will be vindicated, but this 68-page indictment is filled with a lot of rather juicy allegations.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. This lengthy indictment makes for very interesting reading, as you mentioned, 14 counts including eight counts of bribery. We are talking about flights, some 20 flights on private jets, $5,000 three-night stay in a Paris hotel and the use of Melgen's private villa in an exclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.

So some big gifts but also money, a lot of money, $750,000 in campaign contributions in 2012, another $600,000 in contributions to a political action committee that only benefited Senator Menendez, also in 2012 so a lot of money was exchanging hands. And in exchange, Menendez intervened in a dispute over millions of dollars in Medicare payments to the doctor.

[16:50:03] He also tried to pressure the State Department to convince the Dominican Republic to honor a multimillion dollar port contract that Dr. Melgen had with that country. Part of his defense is that he and Dr. Melgen are long-time

friends that this is all on the up and up. It's interesting that my colleague, Evan Perez, who was in the court today, said that when Menendez walked into the courtroom, Melgen, the doctor, who was also indicted today, gave him a big broad smile.

Now it took the senator a few minutes to acknowledge his good friend, but eventually he did smile at him and the two did have a little bit of chit-chat so interesting.

TAPPER: All right, Athena Jones, thanks. And of course, we should reiterate and underline that Senator Menendez denies the charges vociferously and says he will fight them until the end.

Coming up, it's one of the biggest challenges for autistic children, connecting socially with others. That's where Milo comes in, a specially designed robot that is reaching them like nobody else can. It's a remarkable story. We will introduce you to this robot next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Money Lead, just a few minutes ago, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson put his signature on a religious freedom bill, one that more closely mirrors federal law in contrast to the law in Indiana that has ignited a world of controversy and put a family-owned pizza parlor in small town Indiana in the middle of this national debate over the controversial Religious Freedom bill.

Memories Pizza in Walkerton had to shut down after the owners came forward and gave a TV interview supporting the bill that some say could allow legal discrimination against gays and lesbians in Indiana in the name of religious liberty.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If a gay couple was to come in like say we wanted -- they wanted us to provide them pizzas for a wedding. We would have to say no.


TAPPER: After that interview aired, the social media backlash against the pizza parlor was intense but so was support. A "Go Fund Me" page for Memories Pizza has already raised more than $240,000. In Indiana, today lawmakers approved major changes to that controversial Religious Freedom Bill, ones that are said to protect members of the LGBT community from discrimination.

For a moment this felt like a story that would give McDonald's employees you know that feeling you get when you find a few extra French fries at the bottom of your takeout bag. But when you dig a little deeper, it may not be that after all.

Yesterday, McDonald's announced that it was raising the minimum wage for its employees to as high as $10 an hour by next year but it turns out only about 90,000 of the 750,000 McDonald's workers nationwide will get that raise, since a huge majority of McDonald's restaurants, 90 percent of them, are operated by franchisees who will make their own pay decisions.

The Buried Lead now, you may be noticing a lot of blue on your social media feeds today. That's because people are lighting it up blue to raise awareness for World Autism Awareness Day.

The Centers for Disease Control now says that one in 68 American children is on the autism spectrum, but now a technological breakthrough, breakthrough being the key word. It's connecting with autistic children in ways in which adults have never been able. CNN's Tom Foreman has this incredible story.


ROBOT: I can dance.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet Milo, partially plastic, two feet tall and rising giant in the autism community.

ROBOT: You do it, too.


FOREMAN: This robot programmed to teach kids about a wide range of social interactions, is proving more successful than humans in helping children with autism, by a long shot. Pamela Rollins who studied communications disorders for years is working with a company called "Robokind" to develop Milo.

DR. PAMELA ROLLINS, CENTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS DISORDERS: All children with autism have problems with social interactions but they are really, really good at technology. So Milo creates that bridge where he is humanoid, has a human-like face but it's cartoonish so children on the spectrum are engaged with him.

FOREMAN: How engaged? Children with autism often have a hard time talking with or even looking at human therapists like this boy. But look at how he lights up with Milo.

ROLLINS: We found that especially with the fluent children, they were engaged with Milo 87 percent of the time. We also looked at how much they are engaged with the therapist when she tried to talk to them. It was about 3 percent.

ROBOT: That was fun.

FOREMAN: The robot speaks 20 percent slower than an average human and has a broad, but still limited range of facial expressions so he's less likely to display emotions that get in the way of learning.

FOREMAN (on camera): He's not judgmental. He doesn't say anything bad about you. He just interacts with you.

ROLLINS: Exactly. He can repeat it over and over and over and never get frustrated, say it in exactly the same way, take his time.

FOREMAN: That's what autistic kids need.

ROLLINS: They need a lot of repetition.

FOREMAN (voice-over): They also need a lot of Milos. The CDC says one out of every 68 children born in this country has some form of autism. Rollins is convinced a great many could benefit from a friend like this.

(on camera): Is this how robots will take over the world?


FOREMAN: And it's good.

ROLLINS: It's good for autism.

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD.