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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

What the Rants Will Cost Sterling; Tornado Warning in North Carolina; Mississippi Braces for More Potential Tornadoes; A New Lead In Search For Flight 370?; Could Flight 370 Have Gone North?

Aired April 29, 2014 - 16:30   ET

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


GABE FELDMAN, DIRECTOR OF SPORTS PROGRAM, TULANE UNIVERSITY: For all of the owners whether they agree or disagree with what he said privately. I think there's no question that no one agrees with what he said privately. Everyone agrees that it is horrible, it is harmful, it is offensive. But if we expand the power of the owners to vote out another owner just based on something they don't like, whether it was said privately or just said publicly, and the other owners said, I don't like what they said, I don't like that person, do the owners want to subject themselves to that, where they've got hundreds of millions of dollars invested in these teams?

Does this open up the power of the commissioner and other owners too broadly to allow them to force someone out just because they don't like them? So I think that's got to be in the back of some owners' minds if not on the front of some owners' minds. And the better resolution would seem to be here, rather than have this dragged out in a vote, and then in court to encourage Donald Sterling to sell the team on his own, but not as part of the vote and not as part of a forced sale.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: If Sterling is forced to sell the team, he stands to reap an enormous profit. He played chump change, $12 million, for the Clippers in '81. It could potentially be worth almost $600 million. At the end of the day, could this -- could this backfire in a way?

FELDMAN: Well, I don't think if it'll backfire on the NBA. And I think the $600 million is probably a little understated. The Milwaukee Bucks just sold for about $550 million. So if you use that as an anchor, I think the Clippers are probably worth closer to a billion dollars than $600 million. But I don't know if it'll backfire. It'll certainly lead to a windfall for Donald Sterling. It may be a windfall earlier than he had hoped.

But the question is, is this better for the NBA in the long term? And can we shift from talking about sponsors leaving the Clippers, maybe leaving the NBA, players boycotting, fans boycotting, and shift back the focus on the court. Because right now we're in the middle of what maybe the best NBA playoffs of all time and people are talking about a racist owner. And so he may get a lot of money from the sale but I think it will allow the NBA to shift their focus back on to the product on the court.

TAPPER: At the end of the day, I think "Mother Jones" magazine did a computation that for the average American family, compared to $2.5 million for Donald Sterling, the average American family, this is something like a $51 fine, when you look at the math. So there's a question, of course, how much is this actually really going to hurt him financially.

In any case, Gabe Feldman, thank you so much.

When we come back, the storm intensifies. The tornado warning now for part of North Carolina. We'll get an update on that threat, next.

And later, a breakthrough for families as they finally hear the last words spoken by the captain of Flight 70 just before the plane disappeared. You'll hear it, too. Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're going to turn back to our "National Lead" now, that very same deadly system that spawned dozens of tornadoes over the past two days. It is now barreling towards as many as 75 million Americans as we speak. It's still packing the kind of punch that a city or town could feel not just when it hits but for years to come. Already 35 deaths are blamed on this outbreak of pulverizing weather.

Let's get the big picture. Our Jennifer Gray is standing by in our Severe Weather Center.

Jennifer, what do you have your eye on right now?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the focus right now is actually North Carolina. And that's not even in that moderate risk that we've had circled over the past day or so. This is outside of that but still in the realm of the possibility of storms.

And, man, are we seeing them. We have one, two, three, four, five tornado warnings right now just outside of the Raleigh area and they're all pulling to the north and east. And I'm using an app called Radar Scope. You can actually pull this up on your cell phone. It's very easy to use and you can zoom in and look at some of these storms. And that's what I'm going to do.

I'm going to circle some of these storms that we need to pay attention to. Especially right outside the Plainview area. We're watching a very strong cell that's moving to the north and east at about 40 miles per hour. We're also looking at one just on the west side of Newton and Grove. You can see that cell moving to the north and east.

All of these moving in the same direction, and they all are going to be very, very powerful. These are storms that you should definitely take seriously. I also want to pull up a different look at the velocity. And this is where we can get a very good idea of circulation on the ground, the cell right here pulling toward Linden. Be on the lookout.

Jake, these are very powerful storms and we don't need to let our guard down through the afternoon. And even Mississippi and Alabama could be hit again.

TAPPER: All right. Jennifer Gray, in the CNN weather center, with some stern warnings for people in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I want to get to the phones now. Let's bring in Matt Shaw, he's the communications coordinator for the city of Wilson, North Carolina.

Matt, can you say for sure that a tornado hit your area?

MATT SHAW, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, WILSON, NORTH CAROLINA: Well, we've been told that there was a funnel sighting just -- in the area just south of Wilson that's moved through our area. We don't know that for a fact that there was a tornado, but we're -- you know, there's certainly a lot of evidence of bad storms.

TAPPER: Where exactly is Wilson?

SHAW: We're about an hour to the -- we're about 60 miles from Raleigh, in the middle of the state. We're on the eastern coastal plain of North Carolina. About on I-95, about midway between New York and Florida for your viewers.

TAPPER: What's the damage level and what are you telling residents?

SHAW: Right now we're still in the middle of it. I mean, it's moving through our area right now. We have -- we're under a tornado watch -- warning right now in Wilson and we are trying to determine what is going on. But we are experiencing a lot of lightning and thunder here. The thunder has been like canon shots. We've had hail about the size of marbles falling this afternoon. And it's going to be -- we have a tremendous wind here as well.

TAPPER: All right. Matt Shaw, thank you so much. Stay safe.

Our meteorologist Chad Myers is standing by in the eastern Mississippi. Let's get back out to him.

Chad, are conditions picking up near you?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're starting to see some bigger storms to our southwest that we will wait on. We'll wait them to come to us -- for them to come up the line. We do have a picture, though, up here. This is a pretty impressive storm, kind of heading toward armory, not rotating, not tornadic, but you could see some hail. And maybe that will be a bigger deal today. Hail and wind damage than tornado damage.

This doesn't seem to be an F-5 day. It's still going to happen. Don't get me wrong. There are still going to be very large tornadoes today and there's a moderate risk that that could happen. But today seems to be that in-between kind of day, where yesterday we used a lot of energy. We had major tornadoes on the ground at the same time. Six to 10 tornadoes on the ground all the way from southern Alabama, almost all the way to Tennessee.

And today is a middle kind of off the road day. So F-2s, F-3s certainly possible. We'll continue to watch that. Doesn't really take a big F-1 if it's on our house to make a big difference. You need to still pay attention today to the weather that we have outside.

You can see kind of a low-hanging clouds here that up -- as it moves on up -- we call it scud as it rises toward the cloud. That is -- it looks and can deceive you, wow, is that something falling out of the cloud? No, actually that's the scud, that's the clouds going up into the clouds and being sucked up because there's such a big updraft with all these storms, so going up now.

And when they go up and they begin to spin in a couple of hours here in Mississippi and Alabama, maybe even one hour, that's when we'll have the chance, the threat for tornadoes.

TAPPER: That's a scary looking image, Chad. Something wicked this way come. You were seeing people on the road when we talked to you at the top of the hour. Are you still seeing a lot of traffic out there?

MYERS: Yes, people know now they want to get home. It's time to get home. It's time to get the kids, it's time to get all the family in one place. And we know that because once you get the watches, the warnings going, it's time to gather the troops and say, OK, ASAP in school is over. You're coming home with me and everybody stays safe. So, yes, I think people are kind of -- are doing the hunting and gathering now, and gathering the kids, gathering the family to ride this one out because they know it's going to be another rough night here.

TAPPER: Chad Myers in Aberdeen, Mississippi, thank you, stay safe, and to all those in the area, get off the road. Get to shelter.

Coming up we'll bring you more on the tenuous situation in the vast regions across the American south being affected by this tornado warning.

Plus, a private company says it found something under water thousands of miles from the current search area for Flight 370. Why they think this could be the missing plane. Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now to our "World Lead" and dramatic and odd developments in the search for Flight 370. Take a look at these images. Do they look like a plane to you? The Australian survey company, GeoResonance, released these to the public in a potential new break through to find the missing plane.

CNN aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is here with more. Rene, what exactly is this new information that the company, GeoResonance says it has?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, the private company, they believe that they found wreckage of a plane. Some say it's worth investigating, others a bit skeptical. Also never before released information about Flight 370 and its last moment finally shared with families of passengers on board.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): Newly released images from private Australian company, GeoResonance, it says it's found something they think could be the missing plane off the coast of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal where searches ended six weeks ago.

PAVEL KURSA, SPOKESMAN, GEORESONANCE: We identified chemical elements and materials that might be a Boeing 777.

MARSH: The company uses technology intended to detect nuclear, biological and chemical weapons below the sea. They applied that same strategy to search for the plane four days after it disappeared. Soon after they detected titanium, aluminium, steel and copper in this area. Materials that make up a 777. They said they notified search officials a month ago, but went public Monday after getting no response.

MICHAEL KAY, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: If you rewind to March, the fifth, GeoResonance have information to say that those materials were not in that location. That to me is a corroboration as to why we should be pursuing this a little bit further.

MARSH: Malaysia's transport minister said they're verifying the credibility of the information, but Australian officials and the company behind the satellite data are confident the plane went down 3,000 miles away in the Southern Indian Ocean. That's where all the satellite data points and where the pings thought to be from the plane's black boxes were detected. Satellite imaging expert, Keith Masback is skeptical of the Australian company's claim.

KEITH MASBACK, UNITED STATES GEOSPATIAL INTELLIGENCE FOUNDATION: I'm not aware of anything in any level of the spectrum from aircraft or space that's going to penetrate 1,000 meters down into the ocean.

MARSH: Meantime a breakthrough for the Flight 370 families. They finally got information they've been demanding for weeks including never before released radio calls from the cockpit and air traffic controllers. The final words before Flight 370 disappeared. Everything appeared normal.

Officials also provided a trove of information like the serial number of the flight data recorders, a map of the plane's flight route and the cargo manifest. The other development after seven weeks of intense aerial searches, the planes are silent. Hundreds of flight crews from at least seven countries are going home.

The underwater search canceled today because of high seas, but the Bluefin and other equipment will continue scouring an area the size of West Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: And the Australian company won't say what the exact coordinates of their find are. They are only giving that information to the government involved in the search. But if -- and that's a big if, something of interest is in this area, the next question would be what did radar from both India and Bangladesh pick up. You want to revisit that data. But again, I spoke to quite a few people and they all seemed very skeptical. Even the ones who say we should investigate it, they're skeptical.

TAPPER: All right, thanks, Rene Marsh. So this claim from this private company that it may have found the plane, is it a legitimate lead at all? Let bring in our panel, David Soucie is a CNN safety analyst and author of the book "Why Planes Crash." Tim Taylor is president of Teburon Subsea Services and he himself is a sea operations specialist.

David, let start with you. I want to talk about -- GeoResonance said they've submitted this report privately and they were rebuffed by the Australian-led searching team. Now the joint agency of coordination center has put a statement.

Let me read and get your reaction, quote, "The Australian-led search is relying on information from satellite and other data to determine the missing aircraft's location. The location specified by the GeoResonance report is not within the search arc derived from this data. This joint international team is satisfied that the final resting place of the missing aircraft is in the southerly portion of the search arc. Do you think -- they're just dismissing it saying it's false. What do you think?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: I don't think they should be dismissing it completely. I still feel very confident that those pings came from the aircraft. Here's the a situation. How many hours and millions of dollars were spent trying to find debris on top of the ocean because we wanted to give the families something to hang on to, something to go by.

Now we have this unverified claim, whether it's true, whether it can be done technologically or not. That's all in question. The bigger point for me, what are the families thinking right now? How hard would it be to simply go up there, verify. Send an Orion up there. They've got plenty of them sitting on the ground right.

Send an Orion up there or ask Bangladesh to go look at these coordinates and verify, is it there or is it not. Think of what that would do for the families. It would allow them to focus back and quickly distracted by something or maybe it is something, but at least at that point we would know.

TAPPER: Tim, this company says they used what's called multi- spectoral imagery, what is that?

TIM TAYLOR, SEA OPERATIONS SPECIALIST: Looking at spectrums of light and UV. I'm not familiar with anything that could do this 1,000 meters into the water. This company claims they have some secret recipe like they are making chicken that says we can take all of this data and do things that major military secret classified people can't do, so it just reeks to me, very suspect. And the way they introduced it to you guys, the press. Maybe they introduced it and it was shot down by the JACC, and there are better channels to bring this to light and they should be using those channels, not trying to get press for their company in what they do, which they can't tell you how they do it, because it's classified and secret. It's suspect all of the way through for me.

TAPPER: Tim, before I let you go there's talk about bringing in private contractors for this search. How long will it take them to get to the search area?

TAYLOR: Well, depends who they are bringing in. If they're bringing in another vessel with another autonomous vehicle, they have to deploy it from whatever part of the world they're in and get it there. So that could take weeks. If this is expanded to the north like they say they are, 60,000 square kilometers, that's a type of project that will last for months if not close to a year if they don't find anything. It's a large, large undertaking and they might have to bring that in from across the planet.

TAPPER: Tim Taylor, David Soucie, thank you so much.

When we come back, residents of North Carolina are being urged to take shelter as storms trigger a new tornado warning in the tar heels state. We'll have the latest on the threat coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We are following some breaking news, severe weather across a huge swath of the south, 70 million Americans remain in the path of the severe weather. Now we have reports of spotting of several tornadoes in area of Steadman, North Carolina. Jennifer Gray in our severe weather center, what is the latest?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you are talking about this tornado warning right here affecting Cumberland, Hornett, Johnson and Sampson counties and this is in effect until 5:15. This is one furthest to the south and it is continuing to travel to the north and east affecting Dunn and Erwin. Next up, Stedman is down to the south. So it's already passed due just to the north, but it is right on the heels of Dunn.

And we have a parade of tornado warnings if you will. We have them lined up one after another. Five tornado warnings in effect right now just outside of the Raleigh area just to the south and east. These are crossing over I-95, very dangerous. These are impacting a lot of people, stay indoors. Stay off the roads.

Jake, folks need to get to a safe spot and stay inside where it is safe in the small interior room until these storms pass. They are very, very dangerous and have a history of producing damage.

TAPPER: Jennifer, what can you tell us, about Alabama and Mississippi where there have been storms and tornados that have hit that we've been covering over the last few days. GRAY: Right now, Alabama and Mississippi staying relatively quiet. But we do have some pretty strong showers and storms starting to fire up on the south side of Jackson, those are all pushing into portions of Alabama. We don't have any warnings per se. In portions of Alabama, but just give it time. We're going to see some pretty nasty weather as we go through the next couple of hours.

TAPPER: A rough weather system especially those outside the area of Raleigh, North Carolina. Please seek shelter. Five tornado warnings outside the Raleigh, North Carolina area. Jennifer Gray is in the CNN Weather Center, thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Right now, I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Jake, thanks very much.