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Malaysian Prime Minister: Plane Debris Belongs To MH370; Republicans Debate How To Debate Trump. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 5, 2015 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Malaysian prime minister today saying that the piece of debris found on Reunion Island last week does indeed belong to the missing airliner.


The washed-up wing is the first piece of evidence definitively from that missing flight. It went down more than 515 days ago with 239 on board. However, French and NTSB authorities are not yet 100 percent sure that this is part of the missing plane.

Let's bring in CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh.

Rene, this seems like a huge break. How did the Malaysian authorities confirm this?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this was based on Boeing's experts recognizing this as a piece of a Boeing 777, and Malaysian officials saying aspects of part of this piece here matches the technical specifications of MH370.

But all that is visual confirmation and no word yet of actual test results to prove this. Adding to the drama of today's announcement, I'm learning from a source close to the investigation that there are some that are grumbling behind the scenes. Investigators say that the Malaysian prime minister's announcement was premature and experts looking at the piece have not found anything precise that definitively links it to MH370 just yet.


NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: That the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370.

MARSH (voice-over): Malaysia's prime minister for the first time uttered words families of the 239 people on board have waited 515 days to hear.

RAZAK: We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, Flight MH370 tragically ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.

MARSH: The French prosecutor working on behalf of families of four French citizens was not ready to say for certain the piece of a wing called a flaperon found on Reunion Island belonged to MH370.

SERGE MACKOWIAK, PARIS DEPUTY PROSECUTOR (through translator): There's a very strong supposition that the flaperon actually does belong to the Boeing 777 of Flight MH370.

MARSH: The question is, what can investigators learn from the flaperon?

We went to an aviation forensics lab in Maryland to find out. Joe Reynolds worked on high-profile crash investigations like ValuJet and Air France 447.

(on camera): Let's talk about these tears here.

JOE REYNOLDS, CEO, RTI FORENSICS: It's very helpful for us to know whether things came apart because of a lot of force, impact or whether they broke up because of let's say fatigue in the air.

MARSH (voice-over): That analysis is not done with the naked eye, but heavy-duty microscopes.

REYNOLDS: It has a rotating capability to scan the object, which we're doing right now.

MARSH: The pattern in this 3-D image will tell a story.

REYNOLDS: Every time it bends or breaks, it forms a little tiny mark. And that way, they can see whether it was an instantaneous break or something that happened over time.

MARSH: Now that investigators may have a piece of the MH370 mystery, they're tasked with answering not only where, but how the jetliner went down.


MARSH: Well, it's worth noting Boeing put out a statement a short time ago and made no mention about whether they have confirmed the piece to be from MH370. Most will agree it probably is, but at this point, they have nothing definitive that they can touch, point to and say this is it.

TAPPER: All right, Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

And while we are finding out more about the wreckage, the family members of passengers who have been waiting and hoping for some, any kind of information on this are finally receiving word. Malaysia Airlines issued a statement saying: "Malaysia Airlines would like to severely convey our deepest sorrow to the families and friends of the passengers on board Flight MH370 on the news that the flaperon found on Reunion Island on 29 July was indeed from Flight MH370. Family members of passengers and crew have already been informed, and we extend or deepest sympathies to those affected. This is indeed a major breakthrough for us in resolving the disappearance of MH370."

Will Ripley is in Beijing. Despite the statement, there has been a lot of confusion, you might

not be surprised to find out, and we are not 100 percent sure this is debris. What do family members know, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All of the family members who we are speaking to, including two who I just interviewed a few minutes ago, Jake, are saying that they feel the Malaysian prime minister and Malaysia Airlines have put out this information prematurely and they're angry, they're frustrated. They continue to have so much distrust when it comes to the message from the Malaysian government.


One man who is the son of one of the MH370 passengers told me he thinks that the officials in Malaysia are trying to force closure on this issue for themselves and not for the families. Many family members still simply cannot believe that the plane crashed. They believe that there is still some hope that their loved ones are alive and they will continue to cling onto that hope, Jake, until the very moment that this plane's fuselage and remains are located.

As we know, that could potentially be a very long way away, even if this debris is confirmed officially to be from MH370 by the French investigative team there.

TAPPER: Will, we can't even begin to imagine what these family members have gone through, but I'm told some of the family members are issuing statements saying they do not believe this. Can you help us understand that?

RIPLEY: Again, it goes back to the fact for 515 days, they have received so much misinformation. From the very beginning, there was a lack of information. There were false leads, and so you have people who have gotten to the point where frankly they will not believe anything until they have proof presented to them that their loved ones are gone.

They continue to live in a painful state of limbo, and there is still no closure for them, despite the statement, despite the fact that they received an e-mail message and in some cases phone calls before the prime minister's remarks. They still don't feel they have any more closure now than they did yesterday or then they did 515 days ago, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Will Ripley in Beijing, thank you so much.

Joining us now on the phone is Sondra Wood, whose son Philip Wood was a passenger on MH370.

Sondra, thank you so much for joining us, on a day that I can't imagine is an easy day.

How did you find out the news that this piece of the plane had been found was confirmed to have actually been from MH370? Where did you learn that? SONDRA WOOD, MOTHER OF MH370 PASSENGER: From a -- actually, I heard it from someone who called me on the news, a reporter, and told me that it was definitely a piece of the plane. That's how I found out.

TAPPER: It came from a reporter? You didn't hear from the airline or from the Malaysian government or from the U.S. government?

WOOD: No, I did not.

TAPPER: Have any of them reached out? Any of those three groups?

WOOD: No, no. They haven't.

TAPPER: Some families have said that this news does not bring any closure to them, that they need to find their loved ones, and they need to find out why the plane crashed. How are you feeling about this news?

WOOD: Well, a little bit of both.

I feel that at least this is the beginning of closure. We know that it's definitely in the ocean. It may be a journey, or we may never find the plane, but at this point at least, we don't have to wonder or guess or, you know, fruitlessly hope that they could still be alive.


TAPPER: I'm sorry. Keep going.

WOOD: Well, I can't -- I can't -- it's hard to express my feelings. I feel sad. I'm very sad.

In fact, I cried the first time last week when they announced it could possibly be a part, but at the same time, like I said, I'm glad it's been found.

TAPPER: As long as I have you, if you would, Sondra, tell us about your son. What do you want people to know about him?

WOOD: Philip was very creative. He was fun to be with. I was just talking to both of my other sons, his brothers, James and Thomas, this week, and they were remembering, you know, good things about Philip and the fun they had.

We lived in Upstate New York. We lived in German, and Philip graduated from the international school in Munich. So we have lots of memories that, you know -- of them being together and growing up together. And just the fun of him, he was an artist. He was very creative, for every picture that he drew, and he even sold some in high school, but continued with his artwork and has a lot of wonderful hangings in his children's home, where they are now, in the Gellar (ph).

He always wrote a poem to go with the painting. He made furniture. He could -- you know, whatever he did, he did well. He loved to ride motorcycles, and had pretty much been all over the USA on his bike with some of his friends. Some of his friends that are as old as his father even would ride together. And so he was just -- he was an interesting person.


He was very benevolent, helped with people, very kind, and very mischievous at the same time. So, I loved him, miss him. He's just -- there's a hole there where Philip isn't in my heart.

TAPPER: He sounds like a very special guy, Sondra. I can't even begin to say I hope this brings you some sort of peace or closure, but I know I speak for my viewers when I say, I hope it does.

God bless you, Sondra. Thank you for talking to us today.

WOOD: Thank you, Jake. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: So, with word from Malaysia that this debris does belong to MH370, what does this mean for the search for the rest of the plane? We will take you right to Reunion Island, and our panel of experts is here next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. More now on our World Lead, Malaysia's prime minister says that this hunk of composite material discovered on a Sandy beach is from that missing plane MH370.

French and American officials are not ready to say that definitively as of right now. But while forensic investigators work towards confirmation that this part of the plane called the flaperon belongs to that Malaysia Airlines plane.

Officials back on Reunion Island where the piece of wing washed up are hoping they can possibly find more pieces, more evidence. And CNN's Erin McLaughlin has that part of the story.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the search efforts are expected to continue if not intensify here at Reunion Island, and they're not only searching here, but they're also searches on nearby Mauritius Island as well as Seychelles over 1,200 miles away.

They realize this people who are searching, that this is a tough task. You got on an expansive ocean. Australian authorities saying more debris could be found anywhere within the hundreds of thousands of kilometers of the Indian Ocean.

That ocean is full, of course, of garbage and plenty of room for false alarm. That's not deterring people here. They are committed to finding more clues that could help solve this mystery, to giving the families of the victims of MH370 some closure.

One searcher tells me that the ocean operates on its own timetable and she is dedicated to being vigilant in the days and weeks ahead -- Jake. TAPPER: Erin McLaughlin on Reunion Island, thank you so much. Let's bring in our panel of experts, Peter Goelz, CNN aviation analyst and former NTSB managing director, Captain Tim Taylor, he's a sea operation specialist, and CNN aviation analyst, Mary Schiavo.

Mary, let me start with you. Obviously, there is hesitation by the French authorities. Reunion Island being a French territory and the NTSB as to saying this definitively belong to MH370, but there's really no other explanation, is there?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No, and that's unfortunate. I think they should have explained their hesitation. I think everyone was hoping they would find serial numbers or part numbers or perhaps a tail-tail repair because every airline has to keep track of the repairs on the parts of their plane.

But by not explaining why think couldn't come forward and explain what it is. For example, no serial numbers, et cetera, I think it left a lot of questions out there and it was unfortunate, but hopefully they will rectify that in the days to come. TAPPER: Peter, you and I were talking about this complication here

isn't that -- it isn't and the complication is basically this is a jury of really, really smart engineers and who knows, you know, you need consensus, it's not easy to get.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That's exactly right. There is probably a dozen or more engineers from multiple countries looking at this piece of equipment. They need consensus to go forward. They haven't gotten it yet.

They will get it in the next day or two and it will be done. But I think the prime minister was intent on Malaysia staying in front of this. He was not going to let a French magistrate announce that this was a part of Malaysian Flight 370.

TAPPER: Right. He wants to show leadership and he also wants some closure for his country.

GOELZ: That's right. He needs to move on.

TAPPER: Tim, let me ask you. If you were in charge of the search because obviously they still need to find the plane and the black box and the bodies. What would you be advising in terms of the search area?

CAPT. TIM TAYLOR, SEA OPERATIONS SPECIALIST: I don't think they're going to change the search area, and I wouldn't change the search area. You have to stick on target with all your good data that you have to date. This drifting debris even after 500 days at sea is very difficult to refine the current search area.

We can find that it came from the plane. We know it came from the ocean. There's a lot good positive data that can come from these finds, but they are not going to change the location where they're looking for the Flight 370. Ultimately that is what needs to happen next. At least that effort has to be run to its conclusion to try to find the black boxes and the actual wreckage.

TAPPER: And Peter, do you think they're going to find more debris? Is that usually the standard when you find one piece, you're going to find more?

GOELZ: I would be surprised if they found more after 515 days. This was an extraordinary piece of luck. It was miraculous almost. I'm not optimistic. As Tim said, they're searching in the right place. They need to double down on that, and let's hope that they find something in the next six months.

[16:50:08] TAPPER: Mary, you do a lot of work with families who lose loved ones in crashes like this. These families still -- you heard our interview with Sandra Wood, the mother of one of the missing passengers, the presumed dead, still hadn't heard anything specifically from the airline, from the U.S. government, from the French government, from the Malaysian government. Is this normal behavior?

SCHIAVO: No, not at all. I've worked with families from Air France 447 too and many other crashes, what most countries have is a dedicated unit, our NTSB has a dedicated unit that communicates with the families.

If they miss something all the families have to do is call them up and say make sure you keep me informed. That's what's missing here. Most countries are moving to that direction to have this kind of unit, and it's very, very helpful all the way around it.

Without it you're left in this tug of war among nations and as we saw today, somebody trying to get out front, and families as a result are learning from CNN what's happened to the plane their loved ones was on.

TAPPER: That's very tragic. Mary Schiavo, Peter Goelz, and Captain Tim Taylor, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.

The Politics Lead now, Jeb Bush trying to dig out of a hole that he dug with a comment on women's health as all the top Republican contenders prepare to dig in against Donald Trump. It's getting hot in Cleveland on the eve of the first debate of the race. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Politics Lead now in Cleveland, Ohio, the land of Cleves, the stage is set. Now all the Republicans angling for the oval office have to do before 9 p.m. tomorrow night is memorize every policy statement they have ever made.

Jeb Bush has reportedly holed up with his top advisers to work on whittling down his winding explainers into crisp, clean one-liners, but other candidates seemed to be taking what I'll call the Allen Iverson approach and foregoing the marathon debate prep sessions altogether.

Because the big question is how nine people will handle the one person smack-dab in the middle of the stage, one Mr. Donald J. Trump. Let's get right to CNN chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She is in the land of Cleves.

Dana, campaigns are wrestling with how much caution to proceed when it comes to the frontrunner. Mr. Trump says he would like everyone to be civil. He's not going to punch, only counter punch. Do you expect fireworks?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I expect that there could be something perhaps through generated by the moderators, this is going to be a television show don't forget, but also, look, you're exactly right, Jake, that these candidates, most of them have been prepping for months, but prepping is one thing. Thinking on your feet is a whole different one especially with that x-factor you mentioned, the Donald.


BASH (voice-over): The biggest event at this Cleveland arena these days is usually when the man on the mural across the street plays, NBA star, Lebron James. But all these satellite trucks are lined up for a political sport, the first Republican 2016 presidential debate.

Sources close to the nine GOP contenders sharing the stage with the unlikely frontrunner, Donald Trump, insist he will not be their focus.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of us who are running owe voters an explanation about who we are, what we plan to do if we're elected. That's what I plan to focus on.

BASH: As for Trump, he insists he wants to focus on issues.

TRUMP: I'm not looking to hurt anybody. I'm not looking to embarrass anybody. If I have to bring up deficiencies, I'll bring up deficiencies, but certainly I'm not looking to do that, I would rather go straight down the middle. You don't know what's going to happen.

BASH: And tries to lower expectations politician style.

TRUMP: I've never debated. Sort of my whole life has been a debate, but I've never debated before. These politicians all they do is debate.

BASH: The question is whether the man who retaliated against an opponent by reading his cell phone number on live TV can help himself. Trump's hard-charging lawyer warned maybe not.

MICHAEL COHEN, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Look what hand to Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, not even in the debate. You attack Donald Trump. He's going to come back at you twice as hard.

BASH: But while Trump maybe the most entertaining, Jeb Bush may have the most to lose. He's still the favored among many establishment Republicans and this is a critical chance for him to prove he's worth the record $100 million-plus he raised.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the -- my dad is the greatest man alive. If you don't like it, I'll take you outside.

BASH: That shaky performance at a New Hampshire forum earlier this week has some backers worried. Not to mention this stumble yesterday when talking about funding for Planned Parenthood.

BUSH: You could take dollar for dollar although I'm not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women's health issues.

BASH: But his campaign is trying to stay on message in a new ticky way, the Jeb Bush swag store, selling things like this vintage tank top.

BUSH: This was a serious decade.


BASH: Now, this will be a two-hour-long debate, Jake, but each of the candidates have been told to keep their answer short to 60 seconds. They will get 30 seconds to rebut anybody who calls them out by name. So it does seem like it would be a long time, but not a long time to do that deep dive on substantive policy issues -- Jake.

TAPPER: And Dana, there will also be this undercard debate for the candidates that didn't make the cut.

BASH: That's right. Lindsey Graham is tweeting that he is calling it the happy hour debate because it's going to be at 5:00 tomorrow afternoon. The irony is that first of all these are a lot of people with some serious resumes, the senior senator from South Carolina, as I just mentioned, the former governor from Virginia, and so on. They might have even more time to discuss policy issues at that earlier debate than the one in primetime.

TAPPER: Dana Bash in Cleveland, thank you so much.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Brianna Keilar right now. She is subbing for Wolf Blitzer next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."