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Second Republican Governor Caves On Controversial Bill; Firsthand Look at Devastation Across Tikrit Battlefield; French Negotiator Rejoins Iran Nuke Talks; Lufthansa CEO Promises Help, But Gives No Answers. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired April 1, 2015 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:07] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Next, a major flip-flop. Two republican governors in two days both caving. Is this major turning point in the battle for gay rights?

And exclusive access tonight to a major battleground against ISIS. We are on the ground and you'll see the fierce fighting and the graphic images.

Plus, cell phone video of those last moments of Flight 9525. How could it have survived that incredibly devastating crash? We'll going to show you. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, caved. The second republican governor in two days is now back down from a controversial bill that's out raged Americans. A bill that critics say allows businesses to turn away gays and lesbians. Today, stunning reversal came from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. For weeks he said he's going to sign that bill but now he completely backed down under pressure. He's came just one day after Indiana's Governor Mike Pence backtrack on pretty much the same law. He is now pledging to, quote, "fix that law." Late today, lawmakers in Indiana said they are close to a deal to revise that bill. We are waiting those terms at any minute and that's where we begin tonight.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT in Indianapolis. And Miguel, everyone is saying, okay, he's back down, they're going to fix this. But it comes down, right, to the definition of fix. What are you hearing? Is this going to be enough to quiet the outrage?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm hearing that that definition is not easy to come by. Republicans are in that room there. They've been there now for just over four hours. They spent two hours earlier today and two hours later in the day. They have also been in meetings all day. All the schedule for here in the capitol here in Indianapolis have been put off to deal with this specific issue and try to figure out if there's a way that conservative republicans can get their way and please their base and that the left and lesbians and gays in the business community can get what they want which is something that tracks more closely to the federal government. Bryan Bosna, he is the speaker of the House here in Indianapolis in Indiana. And he is in the line of fire. He's trying to come up with a deal on this. Before he went into that caucus here to tell his members what they were coming up with. He spoke to us briefly. And an activist here also went after him. Listen to this.



UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: By the public. The outcry by your fellow legislatures. The former mayors of the city. Will you not consider repeal?


MARQUEZ: Now, the question is when will they come up with something. It may be late tonight that republicans will decide amongst themselves how far they can go and that's what they will go with. We expect, we believe everybody is saying that by tomorrow early morning, we will have a sense of where this thing is. They will go into conference committee and they will pass it in both the House and the Senate here. Very quickly suspending the rules and putting it on the Governor's desk before the NCAA shows up and there was that first tip off on Saturday -- Erin.

BURNETT: We desperately want to do it before that. And of course it isn't a quote-unquote, "fix" to satisfy his people when one can only imagine what will happen with that. All right. Thank you very much, Miguel.

In Indiana as Miguel is reporting, scrambling to make that quote- unquote, "fix." Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas today begin the second republican governor to bow to the pressure. And now he is saying, look, you got to make changes to pretty much the same bill in his state.

Victor Blackwell is OUTFRONT and he is in Little Rock.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A surprise from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: And I've asked the leaders of the general assembly to recall the bill.

BLACKWELL: After previously saying he would sign the bill into law, the republican governor is now asking the state legislature to make it more like the federal law signed by President Clinton in 1993. The intent of the bill is to protect business owners from being forced to engage in activities that contradict deeply held religious beliefs.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They are listening. They hear you.

BLACKWELL: Hutchinson is the second republican governor in his many days to ask for changes to controversial legislation that critics say would open the door to legal discrimination against gays and lesbians.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Clearly there's been misunderstanding and confusion.

BLACKWELL: But one of the Arkansas bill sponsors told CNN the law would not allow for discrimination. Here is his logic using a baker as an example.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I do not feel like he does not have the right to service a homosexual couple by providing them a cake. It's about the message that's on that cake. It's about freedom of speech.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: So, you're saying he could have to bake the cake but would not have to put congratulations on top of it?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That would be my opinion of the bill. That's absolutely right.

BLACKWELL: But influential business leaders in the state disagree. The CEO of Walmart which is headquartered in Arkansas is urging the governor to veto the bill. With 58,000 workers across Arkansas, Walmart is the state's largest private employer. Doug McMillan says, the bill threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's divided families and there's clearly a generational gap of this issue.

BLACKWELL: Even the Governor's son Seth Hutchinson posted a statement on Facebook opposing the bill calling for a ground swell of grass roots opposition to house bill 1228. Despite the strong opposition, State Senator Huster says that changing the bill is going to be tough.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's ultimately upon the governor. He's the one asking for these changes. I think it's a very steep road to climb.


[19:05:42] BLACKWELL: A breaking news tonight we receive, Erin. The Senate here in Arkansas is working potentially to give the governor these fixes he's requesting and what explains how this is going on. The deadline to introduce new bills for this session has passed. So, what the Senate has done is taken the language out of two existing bills and replace them with the language from the religious freedom bills. They have done two. In case once they vote on one and send it over to the House, that would have defeated, they have one in reserve. Both of these have now passed the judiciary committee. They are discussing amendments, debating amendments right now on the Senate floor. And if it passes tonight this House could come back and vote on this as soon as midnight, they possibly get it done this session before that adjourn before the Easter break -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Victor, thank you very much. You hears sure the breaking news from Victor, that they could have a fix that would protect gays and lesbians by midnight tonight in Arkansas beating Indiana even though the Arkansas stories sort of came a little bit after Indiana. So, they are moving incredibly quickly. Joining me now to talk about this, ordained minister Russell

Moore, he is in the Southern Baptist Convention. One of the most influential religious organizations in the nation. And democratic strategist Karen Finney. Dr. Moore, let me start with you. You know, we've got that breaking news out of Arkansas tonight. You don't think Governor Hutchinson in Arkansas, Governor Pence in Indiana, should have backed down. Why?

RUSSELL MOORE, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST ETHICS AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION: Well, because this legislation doesn't need a fix. This legislation mirrors substantially the federal legislation that we've had for 20 years which protects the free exercise of religion especially for unpopular religious minorities. This doesn't need a fix. This needs leadership. I wish these governors have the backbone that Barack Obama had when he voted for this legislation in the Illinois legislator. And so, what we need is leadership from these governors to say here is why religious liberty and the natural right to exercise your religion is crucially important. Not a message of we have nothing to fear but Walmart itself.

BURNETT: You know, Karen, what's interesting to the point that Dr. Moore is making though is when you look historically, this right to protect religion is something that has been both parties is been very core to the American values.


BURNETT: Bill Clinton, Barak Obama, I understand times of change. Things are different. But people point to those and with reason.

FINNEY: Yes. But here is the difference that many have acknowledged. There are very substantial differences between the Arkansas law as proposed and the Indiana law, and the majority frankly of laws that have been passed previously in other states and the 1993 law. I mean, we can start with the fact that '93 is not 2015 and the context of America in our demographics have dramatically shifted. But from a legal perspective, the 1993 law was specifically intended to speak about religious minorities and government interference. What happened with the Indiana law it vastly expands so that any person, any company, any individual, any employee of that company and for profit entity can decide, can basically discriminate against another individual. So, it's the expansion to include where the government is not involved. So, where it's for profit corporations having the ability to discriminate that I think has people very concerned about this being a slippery slope.

MOORE: That's not just true.

FINNEY: It is true. It's actually, I mean, it's in the language.

MOORE: That's a complete misreading of the law.

FINNEY: Do you want me to read it to you? MOORE: I have it right here in front of me. All the law says is

that the government must show a compelling interest for violating someone's religious liberty. You're acting as though someone gets card someone can pull out and discriminate at will on the basis of religious conscience. That is not true. And the only places where these pieces of legislation differ from the 1993 RFRA are in places that the federal courts have already further defined.

FINNEY: All due respect that's simply not true because --

MOORE: It is true.

FINNEY: -- the 1993 law was with regards again to federal law. These are state laws. These are laws that, I mean, look --

BURNETT: The point that Governor Hutchinson made about the generational gap.


BURNETT: And I want to ask you both about this. Because Dr. Moore, you have a Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz all coming out in favor of these laws, prefix, right? The way that they were. And here's Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio just this week.


FMR. GOVERNOR JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. I think once the facts are established people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: What about the religious liberties of Americans who do not want to feel compelled by law to provide a catering service or a photography service to same sex marriage that their faith teaches is wrong. And that's a valid constitutional right.



[19:10:31] BURNETT: Both of them Ted Cruz came out and said Indiana is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives across the country. And this though, Dr. Moore flies in face of the American public. The American public 60 percent of them now support gay marriage. And if you look at Americans under the age of 34 that support is 80 percent. This is across both parties. So, obviously, it really is based on age. I mean, that's pretty incredible. It would seem Dr. Moore, looking at those polls, those men who are likely to all run for president are on the wrong side, if not of history, of the American people.

MOORE: Well, that's the very point of religious liberty. Is that we don't have mob rule where unpopular opinions are simply done away with in the American population. And that really is what has changed here. What has changed is not the RFRA, what has changed is not the American principle of religious liberty. What has changed is there's an insistence coming from some sectors of this country that says religious people just simply shouldn't be in the way. We shouldn't get a hearing, we shouldn't get a day in court, to even talk about whether or not we have conscientious objections.

BURNETT: Final word to you Karen.

FINNEY: Well, I would ask you that what if in this instance the law referred to people who are African-Americans. I mean, we have moved past those kinds of laws, those kinds of discriminatory laws in this country. And I would also say, there's larger problem for the Republican Party as you pointed out because the party is trying to move beyond a small portion of its base. These kinds of positions that are again promoting discrimination, codifying discrimination against LGBT people are not part of expanding that is actually making the party seem less tolerant.

BURNETT: Right. Thanks very much to both of you as we keep an eye with that breaking news out of Arkansas. We'll going to update you. Should that move forward and go to that final vote?

Next, exclusive video from the battle against ISIS. Charred bodies, bomb out buildings. These are the images of the fierce fight against ISIS. These are exclusive images and tough to watch. But we have a special report, next.

And Flight 9525. Those final moments may have been captured on cell phone video. So, how did it survive the crash?

And the breaking news out of Washington, a top democratic senator indicted. Corruption, the reason. Will the White House abandon him?


[19:16:04] BURNETT: Tonight, a major victory against ISIS. Iraqi forces say they have taken back most of the city of Tikrit after fighting a year there. That city though is anything but safe tonight.

And our Arwa Damon has an exclusive look at this city where ISIS ruled for months. I want to warn you that some of what you're about to see is graphic. It is hard to watch. There's blood in the street. She saw a charred body, destruction at every turn. Arwa and her team were the only ones reporting on the ground in Tikrit today. They captured these disturbing images and so much more. And here is Arwa's report.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the main road leading through Tikrit. This is the center of the city. That building, we were told had a suicide bomber and it's a sniper on the roof. There's still various gunshots that you do here. Pockets of resistance still exist. That's the governor's compounds. Now, when the Iraqi forces went inside, one of the majors was telling us it was booby trapped. The stairway had explosives and one of their officers stopped, it detonated two officers were killed, another three soldiers wounded inside there. And if we swing around a bit more you still see smoke rising. And you see plumes of smoke throughout the entire city.

There were widespread concerns that when this force came through Tikrit, a Sunni area, it would be carrying out acts of revenge, retaliation. But that smoke were being told, is not because homes were deliberately burned. We have not been done there to see it. But because and you hear explosions there in the distance. Because they're trying to diffuse all of these IEDs and it's not just IEDs that have been placed in the streets, it's IEDs booby trapped buildings. There have been a few occasions where the force moving into a building as open the door, and the entire building has exploded and collapsed on top of them.


BURNETT: And Arwa is in Baghdad tonight. And Arwa, I mean, it's incredible that you were able to get to Tikrit, you were able to see these images. How difficult was it for you though to even get there?

DAMON: Well, Erin, we picked up an escort from Baghdad. We needed that to get through the various check points. And then once we were in Tikrit, additional individuals joined us to show us exactly what areas we could go to and perhaps more importantly what areas had not yet been cleared. The real threat, as you saw in that report, posed by the various bombs that exist strewn throughout the city but there were also some snipers and a few ISIS fighters that were still roaming around. Those posed a potential danger to us and of course the Iraqi troops there as well -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Arwa, thank you very much. And Arwa as we said in Baghdad tonight with that incredibly courageous and important report from Tikrit.

And breaking news now, the deadline extended for Iran. The French foreign minister is getting back on a plane. He says, he's going to go rejoin the talks overnight in Switzerland. The Secretary of State John Kerry delaying his return to the United States. All this in a last ditch hope of a deal in the next few hours.

Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT. Jim, the thing is, yet another deadline passed. And at this point, does it feel at all like if they get a deal it's a lot about saving face and not a lot about getting the right deal?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Last night I said we have to redefine the word deadline because so many deadlines have been passed. I think we also have to redefine the word agreement. Because really, the expectations of what would be agreed to in the next 24 hours or 48 hours have really been defined down. We're talking now about a statement of goals coming from the western side. Nothing written down on paper. Nothing hard and fast, nothing to commit it to. And that's a problem. Because this interim deadline was intended by the U.S. and the west to really test Iran's ability to make big concessions, test the possibility of coming to a hard agreement by that June 30th deadline, based on what we've seen this week, pushing back the deadline. Real difficulty on some of the major issues remaining. It really leaves that as an open question as we look to that final deadline in June.

BURNETT: All right. And of course, final, as you said perhaps another word that we should redefine.

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

BURNETT: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

I want to bring OUTFRONT now, democratic Congressman Steve Cohen. And Congressman, thanks for being with us. Obviously, we chuckle a little bit there redefining words like agreement and final. But I want to ask you this question very seriously. The first interim deal with Iran was more than a year and a half ago. Now, it's been a couple of day by day delays. We've had four delays in total. My honest question to you is, does this make the United States look weak? When you set deadlines and then every time the deadline comes you just extend it.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: Well, deadlines are self- imposed. And the ultimate victory if there is such a thing is going to be a nuclear free military weapon in Iran to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is worth the extension. You got to give peace a chance to quote John Lennon. And if takes more time and if you're getting close, there's no reason not to take more time because the stakes are so high. The alternative to not having an agreement is that Iran double down, get a nuclear capability and the only way to stop them is through war. That's not good for the United States. That's not good for Israel. That's not good for Iran. If we're at all close we need to continue to the finish line and protect the planet.

[19:21:40] BURNETT: I understand the argument you're making. You just heard Jim Sciutto though talking about at this point the word agreement has to be redefine. Right? So, we might get to the finish line with some sort of an agreement but it's not really an agreement. Not on the details or not on some key points. So, it could be just a brief statement. It might not even be on paper. If that worth it, I mean, should John Kerry take that or should he at some point say, look, I hear what you're saying. We don't want a military option but the United States needs to walk away.

COHEN: Well, I don't know that we need too. As long as sanctions aren't lifted and they won't be lifted, and they would be lifted gradually until there is an agreement, we're not sacrificing anything except the time that John Kerry and other diplomats are putting into the negotiations. And while I don't like the attitude of the Iranian government and saying, this is an opportunity for us or the five plus us. And we need to take it and we shouldn't turn back. It's really a great opportunity for Iran to join the wall of nation, peaceful nations. Use nuclear energy for peaceful reasons and not get into the nuclear armament business. But they have their tough negotiators.


COHEN: I hope we are too. I think that the speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the difficulty that's seen it was exacerbated the bad relations with he and President Obama have made it more difficult and strengthened the Iranians hands. And it's probably made it more lengthy and the discussions to come into an agreement. I just hope we can get an agreement for Israel, for the United States and for the world.

BURNETT: And you mentioned sanctions though that they are still in place and that's what the United States has on its side. I want to ask you about this though because the truth that I hear from a lot of businessmen in that region is that those sanctions have effectively in many ways already been removed. The New York Times this week reporter this week tweeted a picture of a Western Union open in Tehran. When I was in Tehran for the presidential elections there, I saw iPhones, iPads and Mercedes, BMWs all of that for sale. All of them banned under the current sanctions regime. Are you concerned that main U.S. bargaining chip sanctions simply is not as strong as it should be?

COHEN: Well, it's our only real bargaining chip and if it doesn't exists, then why would the Iranians still be considering entering into an agreement that allows us to have monitors and inspections in all of their capacities to create the weapon, to deliver the weapon, to make it militarized it. They wouldn't have any reason to do it unless they will get something out of sanctions being lifted.

BURNETT: All right. Fair point. Thank you very much, Congressman. And thank you for your time.

And OUTFRONT next, the growing outrage. Lufthansa CEO visited the crash site today, still calling it an accident. Refusing to take questions.

And cell phone video from the final moments of Flight 9525. It seems to defy belief that they were able to get that video. How can investigators pull data from a phone all but destroyed?


[19:28:29] BURNETT: Tonight, never been seen pictures showing the devastation of the horrific crash in the Alps up close. Searchers on their hands and knees as you can see it with ropes trying to pull together and sift through the debris of that Germanwings plane. The CEO of Lufthansa went to the site for the first time today and speaking to cameras he expressed his, quote, "deep sorrow" after seeing these images in person.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Tell us how somebody with psychological issues flies one of your planes?


BURNETT: As you could see and you could hear, he and the CEO of Germanwings didn't take questions. They turned their backs on reporters after their statements. They refused to answer questions about Andreas Lubitz. Why he was flying and his troubled past.

Karl Penhaul is OUTFRONT near the crash site.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aboard an executive chopper, Lufthansa and Germanwings bosses arrived to observe recovery efforts. Motorcycle outriders escort them to the mobile lab where crash victims' remains are identified. Then a short drive to the foot of the mountains where Flight 9525 went down. A wreath of pink roses, some incarnations and pale orchids, no written dedication. Silence as they stare to the snow line.

CARSTEN SPOHR, CEO, LUFTHANSA AIRLINES: There's not a single hour where we don't think about this terrible accident, the victims and the relatives and friends of these victims.

PENHAUL: Reading from a statement prepared earlier Lufthansa's CEO Carsten Spohr still calls this an accident. But investigators say it was no accident but a deliberate act by the co-pilot.

SPOHR: I think it will take a long, long time for everybody, all of us to understand how this could happen.

PENHAUL: That's the question on everybody's lips.

In a March 26th interview with CNN, Spohr denied Lufthansa had prior knowledge of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz's six-year battle with mental illness.

SPOHR: The pilot passed all his tests, all his medical exams. Crew can report without being punished their own problems, or they can report problems of others without any kind of punishment. There hasn't been used either in this case.

PENHAUL: But on Tuesday, the airline conceded it turned up corporate paperwork from 2009, indicating Lubitz reported his own mental issues when he suspended flight training.

So, why was his mental health not regularly monitored?


The airline bosses were not taking those questions Wednesday.

REPORTER: Mr. Spohr, can you tell us why you didn't stop the man with psychological issues flying your plane?

PENHAUL: A pledge to the families.

SPOHR: We don't only have this week. We want to help as long as help is needed. That's also my promise.

PENHAUL: And then they fly out of this mountain graveyard.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PENHAUL: Now, of course, it is not our intention to stigmatize

mental illness in any way. But we do believe that it was a reasonable question to ask Mr. Spohr to explain why Lubitz hadn't been monitored with any illness including the mental illness he even self-reported.

We don't know why Mr. Spohr decided not to answer questions. We don't know if that was because of a legal issue or whether it was simply his public relations people fretting around, the same public relations people that just before he made his statement were telling us to behave ourselves while the statement was given -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Incredible. Karl Penhaul, thank you very much -- reporting live from near that crash site.

You heard him say the public relations team told them to behave. You heard Karl asking a core question and the executives turning their back and walking away. It is that silence from executives of Lufthansa and Germanwings that is now angering so many of the victims' families tonight who want an answer to that question.

Families like the parents of the 16 students from that very small town in Germany who paid tribute to their children, all teenagers, all killed on Flight 9525.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT live in Dusseldorf tonight.

Will, you've been speaking to some of the family and friends. And what are they saying? How frustrated are they?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's so much grief. So much frustration, Erin, because they want to know why Andreas Lubitz, who the airline knew had a history of psychological problems was allowed to be in the cockpit alone at the controls, when there 149 people onboard, including 16 15-year-old high school students, 10th graders who are coming back from a school trip to Spain. They say, this time of year supposed to be a happy time, a time when students share their photos and their experiences about this trip that they went on.

But instead, they're families were joined by 600 people inside the church and hundreds more outside the church standing outside, braving the sleet and the rain and the wind and mourning the loss, and also wondering why this airline is not giving them the answers they are asking for.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We cannot believe Lufthansa anymore. At first they said, they didn't know anything. And now, it comes out they did know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The CEO is responsible for his crews. He has to tell the truth.


RIPLEY: Tonight, the families are saying they don't trust Lufthansa. They don't trust the CEO and they partially blame the airlines' inaction for what they are calling one of the darkest days in their city's history -- Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you so much, Will.

And OUTFRONT now, aviation analyst Miles O'Brien.

Miles, you just saw the CEO of Lufthansa and Germanwings, right? They flew in, in helicopter with their PR teams to the site. They gave statements. You heard Karl Penhaul asking that crucial question, how could you have let a pilot with this mental condition you knew about fly? They turned their backs and walked away.

This is the same CEO who two days after the crash said Lubitz was 100 percent fit to fly. And that now infamous statement, 100 percent fit to fly. Now, no comment.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: You know, Erin, in these case, there's a PR strategy and there's a legal strategy.

[19:35:01] And often times, actually almost always they go in opposite directions. And where it gets bad and where it gets ugly is when you try to meet in the middle and do both.

This was a public relations effort, but clearly, these guys have lawyered up and can't talk or won't talk because everything is at stake, their jobs and, frankly, the airline itself.

BURNETT: We are reporting, as you know, Miles, that Lufthansa knew that Lubitz suffered that episode during his training. So, my question to you is, how could this CEO has ever said that that pilot was 100 percent to fly? Maybe he hasn't seen that exact paper at that time. But why would you say he's 100 percent fit to fly if you hadn't actually seen the employment record? I mean, how could he ever said such a thing?

O'BRIEN: It's hard to imagine he would sit through an interview without going through the file. It's hard to comprehend that. And that's incompetence or arrogance or maybe some combination of both. But, you know, I can't imagine how he survives in that job. And given the stakes here, given the fact that they knew about this and there apparently was no follow up, the entire airline, that subsidiary of Lufthansa is at stake here.

BURNETT: And so, you think he's going to lose his job, most likely at this point, right?

O'BRIEN: I think so. I mean, I'd be very surprised if you can hang on at this point. It's pretty amazing. I mean, you have to think about there's a pilot shortage. I understand that. They want to put warm bodies in those seats.

How do you answer that? Do you lower standards? Do you try to rush people through? Here's a great idea -- why don't just you pay them a little more and maybe that would take care of the shortage?

BURNETT: Good point. Miles O'Brien, thank you very much, live at Tokyo tomorrow morning.

OUTFRONT next, reports of cell phone video from the last moments of Flight 9525. How did that video -- how could the video have survived that devastating crash?

And we have breaking news tonight, a top Democratic senator indicted. This, the biggest indictment of this sort in more than 30 years.


[19:40:53] BURNETT: Tonight, prosecutor in charge of criminal investigation into Flight 9525 demanding any video from inside the plane be turned over to authorities. The reason for this demand is that two major European publications have reported there is cell phone video of the last moments of flight. The online editor of the German magazine "Bild" told me what he saw in that video.


JULIAN REICHELT, EDITOR-IN-CHARGE, BILD ONLINE: People are being in panic. People are screaming and, you know, in the background, we hear that metal bang.


BURNETT: So, how could that video be? I mean, how could it have been salvaged from a phone that crashed in that horrific explosion?

Dan Simon is OUTFRONT.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Looking at the debris field, it seems incomprehensible that a cell phone or even its mangled parts would be intact enough to extract video. And while questions remain about whether those purported images taken moments before the crash are authentic, we wanted to find out if such a discovery would even be possible.

CHRIS BROSS, DRIVESAVERS, INC: Anything that stores digital data, we can recover.

SIMON: The recovery of cell phone video from a crash site begins in place like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pop off this cable.

SIMON: We're at a company called DriveSavers, just north of San Francisco, one of the leading data recovery centers in the world, whose clients include Apple and the federal government. Here, lab workers say they can extract data from practically any device, no matter how badly damaged.

WILL DELISI, DRIVESAVERS, INC.: On this one, we have text messages, contacts. SIMON: Like this phone that got run over twice by a car, or this

camera sitting in the bottom of the ocean for at least a year.

BROSS: Well, what most customers don't understand is that everything that's important to them, as far as the data lives on primarily one chip or a couple of chips inside of the device. That's NAND flash that stores data in these mobile devices.

SIMON: And NAND flash he says is extremely durable.

(on camera): In most cases, does the chip survive a major crash?

BROSS: It does. Even if the device is burned or smashes or crushed or wet, if we can extract that one chip or set of chips, we're going to be able to get the user data out of it.

SIMON (voice-over): Earlier in the day, I took video of the Golden Gate Bridge, while my phone wasn't destroyed, the principles of extracting data remain the same. Getting to the chip very deep in the phone and putting it in a special machine to extract those images. It can be a little more complex, but this is what investigators in France are likely doing with any chips they recover from the phones.

BROSS: Every one of those devices has got some user's data. And those phones and tablets, as we've already heard in the media, were probably recording the unfortunate last minute of those people's lives. And I would guess that most of that data is recoverable.


SIMON: Well, as we have been reporting, French investigators vehemently deny the existence of such video. But if this is real, one operating theory is that somebody who had access to the crash site got ahold of one of those mangled devices or chips and then leaked those images to the media.

The bottom line here, Erin, is that the people who knew best, the experts who deal with this stuff every day say you would likely -- in fact, you would probably be able to extract data or video from one of those destroyed devices that maybe found in the field -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Dan Simon, thank you very much. An incredible piece.

And, obviously, anything they get so important for the investigation but also for those families, any texts, any video would mean so much to them.

OUTFRONT next, the breaking news: a major charge. The first sitting senator, Democratic senator, indicted for bribery in more than 30 years. Hear him in his own words.

And Jeanne Moos with a scratch and sniff menu. Either a good April Fools or a great new idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it cookie dough? White chocolate?



[19:48:23] BURNETT: Breaking news: a top Democratic senator indicted on federal corruption charges tonight. New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is accused of using his Senate office to promote a friend's business, in exchange for nearly a million dollars in gifts, including lavish vacations.

According to a Democratic aide, Menendez has agreed to step aside. He's the top Democratic on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This is the first indictment of a sitting United States Democratic senator for bribery in almost 35 years.

Michelle Kosinski is OUTFRONT from the White House.

And, Michelle, this is an incredibly significant story.


BURNETT: You've got the attorney general indicting a fellow Democrat, a sitting senator. Menendez has responded. What is he saying?

KOSINSKI: Yes. I mean, and this is 14 counts we're talking -- bribery, conspiracy, fraud, making false statements. Just now, Menendez gathered some of his supporters for this fiery press conference. I mean, he came out swinging, saying he's been living under the cloud of an investigation for the last three years and that he is outraged about this indictment.

He said that prosecutors were tricked into starting this investigation through years ago by people who were politically motivated and he said that he will not be silenced saying, "I'm confident I will be vindicated and they will be exposed. This is not how my career will end."


SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I'm outraged that prosecutors at the Justice Department were tricked into starting this investigation three years ago, with false allegations by those who have a political motive to silence me. But I will not be silenced.


[19:50:02] KOSINSKI: He said that -- I mean, he defended his records saying that he has always acted in accordance with the law, that he's not going anywhere. And that he stands angry and ready to fight.

I mean, this involves his dealings with the friend and supporter of his down in Florida, a doctor, an ophthalmologist named Salomon Melgen. It was interesting to note that a lot of the investigation focuses on some trips he took with Melgen back in 2010 to the Dominican Republic.

And once the word came out that he was under federal investigation, Menendez did pay back $58,000 for some of those trips and he said that that was an oversight. Again, he insists he did nothing wrong. And, in fact, he said prosecutors can't tell the difference between friendship and corruption, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Michelle.

And joining me now is our legal analyst, Danny Cevallos.

So, Michelle touching on this, that Menendez is saying this is politically motivated. Look, it is the Department of Justice. The Obama administration, his attorney general. Bob Menendez is the loudest and most vocal and many ways the most influential voice, and he's a Democrat, against a deal with Iran.

There are some who say, well, is this a link to that? Some say that's crazy thinking. But it could be possible, right?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Federal criminal statutes are often criticized for being so broadly written that it really becomes a matter of discretion by the U.S. attorney.

And in cases like these, I've handled cases like these that are so difficult to defend, because this is a classic instance. You have very rich citizen giving gifts to public official and then public official happens to give some benefits, some official acts that benefit very rich guy. And under the federal criminal statutes and there is a panoply of them that address this kind of behavior, you may be guilty of bribery, honest services fraud, all of those things.

And really, it becomes the burden on the defendant to prove that they weren't so. They're very difficult to defend.

BURNETT: Right. As you said, broadly written. So, you could sort of look around and say, well, who do you want to pick? Because as you say, rich guy giving a lot of money to a politician, guy getting benefits kind of happens every day with a lot of people.

But what's going to happen to Menendez? I know he's going to court tomorrow. Is he going to have to be -- what's going to happen, arrest, bail, what's going on?

CEVALLOS: Well, once the indictment comes out, he'll be arrested and then brought for a bail hearing, a detention hearing at the initial appearance. And for the most part, bail or defendant should be released, unless he's a risk of flight, he's a danger to the community or his case falls within what we call presumption cases, and those mostly deal with drugs, terrorism -- these bribery cases are not presumption cases.

So, if the government really wants to detain him, they're going to have an uphill battle under the Bail Reform Act. BURNETT: So, he'll get to walk free. Will he get to go to the

Senate floor, will he be serving his Senate term on bail?

CEVALLOS: That's a political question. I guess that's probably above my pay grade. But in all likelihood, we can expect he'll be released without detention.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you, Danny Cevallos, this story going to continue with intricacies.

And next, it's the First of April, everybody. Jeanne Moos has the selfie shoe that you kick up heels and click.


[19:57:25] BURNETT: Here's a picture Tom Brady posted on Facebook today. The Patriots star quarterback and 2015 Super Bowl MVP in a full body cast. That would be a career ender, a major loss of money for a whole lot of people. He's set, after all, to make $27 million over the next three years and, of course, probably billions for the Patriots.

But don't worry, Pats fans or celebrates other fans, it was an April Fool's joke -- and here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a day of unforgettable introductions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Introducing the selfie shoes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Introducing the dog on a stick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The new HRV selfie edition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meet the fanny basket.

MOOS: You'd have to have your head up your fanny to fall for these. April Fools has become the corporate franks what a Super Bowl is to commercial.

An excuse for companies to introduce the most absurd dumb products that couldn't possibly exist. Could it?

I suppose Pizza Hut's scratch and sniff menus are technically possible. But pizza beer seems like a tall order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pizza Hut pepperoni pilsner.

MOOS: The selfie stick proves to be April Fools gold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you order your dog on a stick today, you'll only receive a free selfie stick get a harness for your cat -- the cat on a stick.

MOOS: There was the inner selfie stick for selfies where the sun don't shine. If the shoe fits, so will your phone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just insert your phone and support, raise it to the perfect angle.

MOOS: The Honda selfie edition features ten embedded cameras.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The visor cam is my cam.

MOOS: While BMW introduced a mouth car fashioned after the car's grill. The BMW motor mouth.

April foolishness wouldn't be complete without a new dating app. Play dating for toddlers.

Also cute, Google letting you use their maps to play Pac-Man.

And who needs shopping carts when there's targets revolutionary fanny basket, complete with cup holder, grab those diapers.

Kelly Ripa announced she's pregnant. She's not.

Crooner Sam Smith announced he's straight. He's not.

Tom Brady pretended he's in a full body cast. He's not.

And if for even a second, you fell for the selfie shoe, you are a shoo-in for April fool.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: I'd have to say, of all of those, that Target fanny basket is a great idea. I'm sorry, I really think it is. It actually makes the fanny thing kind of cool.

Thanks for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to watch OUTFRONT at anytime.

"AC360" with Wolf Blitzer tonight starts now.