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NEW DAY

Search for Missing Malaysian Plane Continues; Obamacare Enrollee Number Reaches 7.1 million; Interview with Mark Hood; GM's Faulty Ignition Switch Under Review

Aired April 2, 2014 - 07:00   ET

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


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also new this morning, Malaysia Airlines increasing cockpit security and new measures that a source to CNN said directly relates to the missing flight. Let's talk more about this with Mary Schiavo. She's a CNN aviation analyst and a former inspector general for the Department of Transportation, now an attorney who represents victims and families after airplane disasters.

And also with us, David Soucie, CNN's safety analyst and the author of "Why Planes Crash," also a former FAA inspector.

Good morning again. Another morning, another round of details we need to work through. David, let's start with the cockpit measures. I find this interesting that they're announcing new cockpit measures being put in place. I'm sure there's much more than what they've released publicly. What they described is the pilot and the co-pilot, they cannot be alone in the cockpit at any point. If one leaves, one of the crew needs to go into the cockpit until they return.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Right.

BOLDUAN: Does this seem -- this seems like a smart move I would assume you would think, but what do you take from it?

SOUCIE: It is a smart move. But again, what I'm impressed with Malaysia Airlines is they're not waiting for the end result. Here's why they typically do wait for the end result, is because if they say we're making these changes now, it could put them in a liable situation. They're going to say, you knew you had a problem and you're admitting to it. Later, it could be thrown back in their face and say, well, you took action so there you knew you had this vulnerability and you took action on it, so therefore you had some more liability than you have.

So a lot of airlines will wait until the end report, react to that end report or even wait for the FAA or someone to force them to do it so they're not saying we knew about it and tried to take action. I'm really supportive of Malaysia Airlines for taking action now, not waiting, because that's the lives now. They're protecting lives now.

BOLDUAN: Mary, looking at this from the outside, it does make you wonder why isn't this already standard procedure, this cockpit security?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Right. And it's standard procedure in the United States and a lot of other countries for two reasons. One, obviously for security. And for example, the pilot is not allowed to open the door until he or she looks through the peephole. So what, you're going to have no one at the controls if the other pilot has to leave to use the restroom. So we've had that rule since the locking cockpit doors. And before 9/11 it was because if one pilot is flying and the other is in the bathroom and the pilot flying has a heart attack, gets sick, dies, that has happened, then the flight attendant is there to let the other one back in. So it's a security measure and just a practicality measure. And we've had that rule for a long time.

BOLDUAN: Let's bring in Jim Clancy who's been leading our coverage in Kuala Lumpur for the very latest on the ground. One thing that's been interesting, Jim, is hearing from Malaysian officials acknowledging today, saying for the first time that, we may not find out what happened to that flight 370. What did you hear?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the police inspector general was very clear that they have exhausted a lot of leads here. They have cleared the passengers of all four areas that, you know, wasn't financial duress that anybody was under, it wasn't mental problems, they weren't involved with any known terror groups. They weren't involved in this in a negative way. So this is the first time it has come out clarifying that.

But he also notes that they've got leads. They've done 170 different interviews, interrogations, taken statements, but it's really not giving them any solid evidence of where they can go from here. No motives, nothing that jumps out at them and can tell them yes, we have discovered what happened to this flight. They have said very clearly until and unless they discovered that flight recorder, they're coming to a dead end.

BOLDUAN: Jim, thank you very much. And Jim raises a really good point. You have the four possibilities that investigators say they're looking into, hijacking, sabotage, personal problems, and psychological issues. They also say they have gotten 170 statements, they are continuing to look into more. But they have no direct evidence leading them one way or the other so far. Where do they go then?

SOUCIE: Well, I was going to say we have to consider the source on what he's saying going back to will we ever find what happened. The source is coming from the people doing the criminal investigation. This doesn't mean that we won't find out what happened to that airplane. In my estimation, what he's saying is we may never find out what happened from a criminal perspective, which is true, because we may not ever know what happened in the cockpit. The cockpit voice recorder is only two hours long, so all you're going to know is the last two hours, which is not certainly going to provide any conclusive clues as to whether it's criminal or not.

So I want to frame that a little bit. At least in my mind what I hear is that that's coming from the criminal investigation side of it. And again, I don't think anybody's going to give up on this investigation if we are going to continue to look for that airplane as long as it takes, and I think we're going to find something at that point.

BOLDUAN: Mary, from your position of expertise, what do you make of the fact that while we have no direct evidence that has been released publicly pointing us one direction or another, authorities continue to say that this is a criminal investigation and what we know what happened, that left turn that was made, was a criminal act? What do you take from these statements?

SCHIAVO: I take from the statement that I'm hoping they have something else, because what is publicly available is a lack of evidence. There is just an absolute silence from any kind of terrorism activity, criminal sabotage. There's no intelligence coming over the wires. And by the way, if they cleared everybody on the plane and come up empty on the pilot and co-pilot for any motives and everything was calm from the transcript on the flight until they made that turn, whatever happened, happened very suddenly, and they made that turn. And so I take it that they just are looking anywhere at anything and they don't really have anything right now. And that's not surprising. We have had in the United States accidents that remained a technical unsolved, meaning they didn't have a solution for them for four years. So it can take a while.

BOLDUAN: Let's get Jim Clancy's position on this. I think you would know better than anybody, Jim, as you've been speaking to investigators and you've been at every press conference that they've been holding. Do you think even though they are running down every lead they possibly have, which isn't much at this point, do you get a sense that they're nearing in this investigation -- I hesitate to say give up, but they are reaching a dead end that they're not going to be able to circumvent?

CLANCY: First of all, let me clarify. I think in the police inspector's statement, he was talking about the passengers alone, not the crew members, all right. Let's make that clear. Second of all, yes, they are going back. They are recovering the leads. They scanned the passengers another entire time. They've done it now three times because they don't want to leave anything unturned. But they have so little to go on. He brought up food poisoning today. But no one is thinking a bad salad caused the com system to go down or turned off the transponder. But they have just explored everything and looking at all possibilities. Dead end, you can't say that, because an investigation can always take new twists and turns. But I think they're stymied. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right, Jim, thank you very much, important perspective from Jim Clancy in Kuala Lumpur. David, Mary, always great to have you. We'll obviously continue this conversation throughout the morning as continuing as this investigation continues. But we have no hard leads as we see right now. Thanks guys. Let's get over to Chris right now.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: I'll take it here, Kate. Let's take a look at more of your headlines at this hour.

The White House is claiming victory after 7.1 million Americans signed up for health care coverage under Obamacare, surpassing the original target of 7 million. President Obama says the Affordable Care Act is here to say, but Republicans opponents say the fight to kill it is not over. Anyone who began enrolling in an insurance marketplace but could not finish by the deadline now has a grace period in order to complete it.

The Mideast peace process put on hold. Secretary of State John Kerry scrapping a return trip to the region today after Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas defiantly took new steps towards seeking international recognition for a Palestinian state. Earlier this week, Kerry had reportedly offered to release an American spy who was accused of spying for Israel in exchange for major concessions from Israel. The negotiations are set to end on April 29.

This morning, crews will be back out digging through the site of the devastating mudslide northeast of Seattle looking for the 20 people that remain missing more than a week after the ground gave way. . The death toll is now at 28. Officials say hundreds of people and cadaver dogs are involved in the search. Weather conditions in the area have been good in the recent days drying out the mud and making it easier to dig.

Pacific Gas and Electric now criminally charged over a deadly 2010 pipeline explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Utility indicted on 12 counts of willfully violating federal pipeline safety laws between 2003 and 2010. It faces a possible $6 million fine, but that could go up if the court finds PG&E benefited financially from the disaster. That explosion killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

Yes, that is a chain saw imbedded in James Valentine's neck. The 21 year old tree trimmer from Pennsylvania was in a harness halfway up a tree when he says somehow the saw came back at him when the power was on. Luckily for him he and a co-worker were able to get him off the tree. They turned off the chainsaw, held the blade in place in his neck. But keeping the blade in his neck doctors say is what kept him from bleeding to death. He's doing fine after surgery and is expected to make a complete recovery, 30 stitches, an hour of surgery, it was a quarter inch from his carotid artery.

BOLDUAN: Stop it. Amazing. I have goose bumps.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Only 30 stitches?

PEREIRA: Only 30 stitches. You had a chain saw in your neck.

CUOMO: Because he survived, he has a phenomenal tough guy story.

BOLDUAN: You can't out tough him, Chris Cuomo.

CUOMO: Nope.

BOLDUAN: Don't even try.

CUOMO: Who me? I had a chain saw in my neck. You can't beat that.

PEREIRA: Yes. BOLDUAN: Right?

CUOMO: Yes. The only person I know who has had something tougher than that happen to them is probably our meteorologist Indra Petersons.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Didn't you fight off a pit bull or something like that using nothing but a high-heel shoe.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know my love for pit bulls. No. Unbelievable. I do want to quickly change subjects. We are going to be slowly ramping up to moderate risk for severe weather. That's not slight, but a moderate risk. That's the second category here in through tomorrow. Let's talk about the set up and what it is that we're looking at.

Notice the big temperature contrast across the country. We're talking about a front making its way across the country going between the cold air and the warm air. When you see that, most of you looking for showers through tomorrow and through the northeast lasting even all the way toward weekend, Saturday morning, still looking for showers in the northeast.

Again, here is the concern, today already, a slight risk. That's the first category. St. Louis to just north of Dallas, you have the threat for thunderstorms, even a threat for isolated tornadoes. Where you see the red, that is tomorrow, that's where we have the second level, that moderate risk is expected to be out there, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, all the way back down through even Houston, you are looking for this threat for severe weather. And then through Friday, as the front makes its way farther to the east, still looking for that threat from Pittsburgh down through New Orleans.

The other side of it of course means rain. Yes, spring is here. And heavy rain, even some flooding concerns. Look at this Indianapolis, about four inches of rain. Something I really want people to pay attention to. A lot of times we hear that severe weather is out there, people have no idea it was coming. Here you go, here is the forewarning. It's the season.

CUOMO: I'll take rain over snow, though.

PETERSONS: Yes, I will, any day.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, the difference between life and death just one millimeter. We're talking about that faulty GM ignition switch secretly redesigned. We're going to talk to the person who discovered it. They don't work for GM. They literally were digging through junkyards and wound up discovering this situation. Does he think there was a cover up? We're going to ask him.

BOLDUAN: Plus, how did Republicans respond to Obamacare's big news yesterday hitting more than the 7 million enrollee mark? A new plan to repeal the health care law, we're going to take you INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Sometime after 2005, GM redesigned ignition switches kind of like this one, now linked to 13 deaths. But there's a chance that this change went somewhat unnoticed in house because, against company policy, GM didn't change the part number. Is that oversight or was it a deception? It actually took an year who does not work for GM digging through junk yards to uncover the change. He discovered the difference between life and death was an extra millimeter of plunger length and a few extra Newton meters of torque, whatever that means.

The engineer joins us right now to explain how this happened and more importantly how he discovered it. His name is Mark Hood; he's a material engineer at McSwain Engineering in Pensacola, Florida.

Mark, thank you very much for joining us. Just to give a quick explanation here, what is the difference between a good and defective switch in this situation? Explain the millimeter and other torque ratio that we were talking about.

MARK HOOD, MATERIAL ENGINEER, MCSWAIN ENGINEERING: Good morning, Chris. Based on the information and the work that we did, a 1.6 millimeter difference is what I found to be the difference between the plungers in a new switch versus the switches which were in the 2005 to 2007 Chevrolet Cobalts which I examined. 1.6 millimeters is approximately the thickness of a quarter. And what that shorter plunger does is it does not exert enough force to hold the switch in the run position.

CUOMO: And as a result, it can switch out and that disables a lot of electronic systems including the airbags, and that's the problem we're dealing with, right?

HOOD: That's correct. It disables airbags, power steering and the power brakes.

CUOMO: Right. Now, you don't work for GM. You didn't work for GM. This was done independently in pursuit of somebody's claim and that's why you were looking into it. You went to the junk yards. And, in your opinion, if this was changed, they had to know why they were changing it, right?

HOOD: Well, that's correct. And there were -- there are indications early on, at least with the launch of the 2005 Cobalt, that there was a problem with the torque of the switches. And at that point, the cars, as we know now, went into production in April of 2006. There was a change made to the switch, a change to the detent plunger, which is the part we were just looking at, and that additional length and the additional force that that new detent plunger adds to the switch is what helps to hold the switch in the run position.

CUOMO: So now while they didn't change a huge part of the piece, they did change it for a huge reason. And yet, when they did it, you were able to discover that they did not change the serial number, is that right?

HOOD: Correct. The part number for the switches in the -- starting in 2005 through the 2007 Cobalt remained the same. The part number for replacement switches remained the same vehicles remained the same, and remained the same through --

CUOMO: Which, you don't work for GM, but it seems unusual to you. You did a little research. You couldn't find that being done with other parts. In fact, for even for GM, it proved cumbersome because it made them -- difficult for them to calculate how many vehicles to recall, right? All this is true, yes?

HOOD: Chris, yes, that is correct. As a matter of fact, I think that's what has continued to expand the number of cars being recalled for this issue.

CUOMO: All right, so now let's get to a little bit of speculation here, but within your realm of expertise. Why do you think you would change a part for such an important reason, because you learned that there is not enough plunger length and torque to keep the electrical systems running, so you change, and not change the serial number? Why would you do that?

HOOD: You know, at that point, I guess, after listening to the hearings yesterday, that's still under investigation. It doesn't -- from an engineering standpoint for me, it doesn't make sense, particularly at least in a lot of my work. It's at least typical to start adding a letter, a revision, A, a B, a C, something after the part number to identify that there are variations, so that if you have an issue, you can contain -- you know which switches may be at issue.

CUOMO: So now it gets even (inaudible), because you discover this. You discover the weird thing with the part number. You go to GM, present your findings, and they say --

HOOD: They basically -- after I took pictures, documented the differences in the plunger lengths, I gave it to my clients, Lance Cooper, who in depositions with the GM engineers, the design engineers, they couldn't explain why we were seeing a difference in the plunger lengths.

CUOMO: So they were playing dumb essentially. They were saying the parts were all the same.

HOOD: Yes. That's what they were telling us, at least in early 2013.

CUOMO: Now, do you believe they had to know at that point that the plunger lengths weren't the same length for a reason?

HOOD: Yes. an the documentation that has come out as of the hearings shows that the detent plunger was changed, increased, torque in the switch.

CUOMO: Now, it's one thing in litigation for lawyers to play fast and loose, especially in a deposition. They don't want to give anything away until it's actually proven in court. We get that. It can be a dirty game but we understand that's what litigation is.

However, these calculations that were being made on the corporate level about whether or not it was worth the money to change these, what do you make of that calculation, that how many cars will get -- become defective, how many accidents that can cause, is that worth the calculation of the price of fixing it? Do you believe that's the way it worked inside GM?

HOOD: I think there's some indications right now that at least for this particular switch and some of the preventive actions that could have been taken, yes, the cost factor was evaluated and some of the -- at least the partial fixes were excluded because of cost-related reasons.

CUOMO: And just to be clear, you would have to know, in the decision to change this part the way they did, that the reason you were doing it is that something dangerous could happen if the plunger length wasn't long enough, right?

HOOD: Yes. It was fairly clear that there was a torque issue with the switch and increasing the length of the plunger will increase the torque in the switch.

CUOMO: And there's no question in your professional opinion that the part was changed? It's just that the part number wasn't, right?

HOOD: That's correct. The length of the plunger in new switches is definitely longer.

CUOMO: So just to sum up for everybody, you know the part was changed, somebody had to know they were changing the part otherwise it wouldn't have been changed, and this part number wasn't changed. And when you told that to the company through counsel, they denied it initially. All that's true, right?

HOOD: That's correct.

CUOMO: A little bit --

HOOD: That's correct. It was denied initially.

CUOMO: A little bit of a scary situation, but look at it this way, Nark, if you hadn't gone digging through those junk yards to find the old switches versus the new ones, we may have never heard of any of this. So thank you for the work that you did. I know it was part of an ongoing litigation, a civil litigation. But at least now we know, because a lot of lives could be affected by it. Thank you for the work you did. Thanks for coming on NEW DAY.

HOOD: OK, thank you.

CUOMO: Appreciate it. OK, Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, these days everything is tracked, right? So how could a plane simply vanish? Why the latest technology has not been enough to find Flight 370. And also ahead in "Inside Politics," secretly recorded comments from former vice president Dick Cheney slamming members of his own party. What did he have to say about possible 2016 front runners?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's take a look at your headlines at this hour. Starting with breaking news, Chile's been rocked by an 8.2 magnitude earthquake. It struck late last night triggering fires, landslides, and widespread power outages. At least six people have died. Hundreds of thousands of people are evacuating along Chile's coastline where 7-foot waves came crashing into communities. There are reports of extensive damage. Officials are trying to get a handle on just how bad the situation is right now.

Malaysia's police chief confirming overnight the search for Flight 370 is a criminal investigation and has been for more than two weeks. Almost 200 interviews have been conducted with people who knew the pilots and had access to the airplane. Now, Malaysia Airlines is tightening cockpit security, preventing either pilot from being in there alone. Investigators are also looking into the food served on board the plane to see if it could have been poisoned.

Breaking news out of Afghanistan, officials say a suicide bomber blew himself up this morning outside a government building in Kabul. The bomber was apparently trying to enter the Interior of Ministry when he triggered that explosive vest he was wearing. Reuters reports at least four police officers were killed in the attack.

Another vehicle recall to tell you about, this time Chrysler recalling nearly 870,000 SUVs to install a shield to protect brake boosters from water corrosion. Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs from the 2011 through 2014 models will be inspected and will have those boosters replaced where necessary. Chrysler says joints in the brake boosters can corrode, making the vehicle's brakes harder to use. And that is obviously a safety concern.

All right, let's get to "Inside Politics" on NEW DAY. Mr. John King joins us, as he always does. Hello, my friend.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Michaela. Good morning to you. Chris and Kate as well.

A lot driving our day inside politics. We're going to start with Obamacare. 7 point plus million enrolled in the program. Now what for the politics? Joining me to share their reporting and their insights, Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg News, Scott Conroy of RealClearPolitics.