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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Rising; Debris From Flight 370 Possibly Located; Source: Number on Debris Matches Boeing 777 Part. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 30, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:10]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Are we about to find out finally what happened to that missing Malaysia airplane?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead. Investigators are now confident that debris found on an island is from a Boeing 777, and it might be observed, Flight 370 was a 777. After all the false leads and dashed hopes, loved ones of the 239 people on board enduring another agonizing wait right now. What comes at the end of this one?

The national lead, the prosecutor calling his actions asinine, but today the University of Cincinnati police officer accused of murdering an unarmed black motorist stood in front of a judge and pleaded not guilty. Do new body camera videos show us anything to back his side of the story?

In the politics lead, after comments that would have likely sent any candidate into the flash in the pan column, a new poll shows that Donald Trump's lead may be growing, and that former Republican front- runner Governor Jeb Bush is now chasing two candidates.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And 239 people from across 14 countries missing and presumed dead for 16 months, no one can say for sure exactly what happened to all those souls who took off on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but now investigators could be closer to finding out.

People cleaning a beach on a remote island off the coast of Africa called Reunion found this piece of debris and today a source tells CNN that investigators are confident that this broken piece of steel is from a Boeing 777. Only one Boeing 777 has ever disappeared over water in this part of the world.

CNN has correspondents around the globe following this story, from Reunion Island, to Beijing, to Mississippi, to right here in Washington, D.C., along with our aviation experts, who have been following every development since the plane was first reported missing from March 8, 2014.

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is going to start us off. Rene, Australian officials calling this a major lead. Now we're being

told that people in Reunion say something reassembling a suitcase washed ashore on Thursday morning. What are we hearing from American officials?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we can tell you that all of the investigative entities, including Boeing, including NTSB, they have been in constant communication behind the scenes.

Confidence is growing, but they have to get their eyes on the part before they are 100 percent sure. So far, their assessment has been based on photos, but it's not a matter of if, but when U.S. officials will launch to get a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): Tonight, confidence is rising debris found on Reunion Island is that of a Boeing 777, the same type of aircraft as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A newspaper on the island publishing images of what it says I the debris with the component number stenciled on it. A source close to the investigation tells CNN Boeing engineers have scrutinized photos and say there is a component number that that -- quote -- "corresponds to a 777 part."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a number on the parts, the 370 that is not a serial number or a registration number, but it's possible it could be a maintenance number.

MARSH: Images posted online of an internal Boeing 777 maintenance manual also shows a key section of the aircraft wing, and the same component number, 657BB, that appears on the debris. The flaperon is the part investigators believe they have. It's the back edge of the wing that helps pilots control the plane at lower speeds.

But does it belong to MH370? Australian officials in charge of the search acknowledge the race is on to rule the aircraft part in or out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The French authorities are working with Malaysia authorities and us to do this as quickly as possible, and we are hoping that something could be done in the next 24 to 48 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good night, Malaysian 370.

MARSH: The pilot's last words before the passenger jet vanished en route to Beijing in March 2014, with 239 people on board. While officials publicly express cautious confidence, behind the scenes, logic is quickly leading investigators in one direction.

Only one 777 has crashed in this area of the world and remains missing. That's MH370. But for further confirmation, they're also working to analyze the marine life growing on the debris to try and determine how long it's been in the water and whether that matches the timeline of when MH370 disappeared.

[16:05:10] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The substantial growth of barnacles on the wing,

that indicates to me that that debris was floating in the ocean for a period of about a year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: So, a lot of questions have been raised about whether investigators could learn anything substantial from the debris if it does indeed belong to MH370.

I spoke with a former Boeing accident investigator who said they will analyze the damage, specifically how did the attachments break. That could tell the investigators if the flaps were down. If they were down, Jake, that could indicate one of two things. It could indicate that the aircraft was slowing down or that it was preparing to land.

Of course, that's just one piece of the puzzle. That doesn't necessarily crack this case wide open.

TAPPER: No, but the most promising lead perhaps since this all started.

Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

I want to go now to Nima Elbagir on Reunion Island.

Nima, investigators are searching for new debris. We now say -- we now hear that officials say there's a suitcase that washed ashore this morning. What can you tell us about that?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, debris is washing ashore and it appears to be remnants of what investigators describe as resembling a passenger carry case.

We have seen pictures of it. It does indeed resembling a passenger carry case. But, of course, until the investigation goes much deeper, we won't know for sure. We have confirmed from police officials, though, that it is being treated as part of that official investigation.

Of course, it's not just what you find. But it's the state you find it in. And that's why throughout most of today, police helicopters have been flying very low, Jake, to keep on everything that's coming onto the shore.

It's horrifying to think that a lot of that debris though might not have made its way into any of these investigators' hands if it wasn't for the action of a man called Johnny, who was part of the cleanup crew. He said he just saw the initial part of the debris, the initial part of that plane, and he felt it was something important.

Take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY BEGUE, DISCOVERED DEBRIS (through translator): I thought perhaps it's from a plane crash, so I said don't touch it anymore, because if it's a plane crash, the people died, and you have to have respect for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELBAGIR: And because of Johnny, so much of that crucial evidence the we have been hearing about, the barnacles that will help indicate decipher where exactly in the ocean these parts were floating and for how long, a lot of that is still intact, and we're expecting to hear that it will be making its way in the next day or so to Toulouse in France, Jake. .

TAPPER: Nima, thank you so much, Nima Elbagir on Reunion Island.

As we said, that ill-fated flight's intended destination was Beijing. For months, families of the passengers on that plane waited in Beijing outside of a makeshift crisis center, clinging to hope, lashing out at the lack of progress in the search.

Now, this new development has stirred the suffering of those families all over again.

Our Will Ripley is in Beijing.

Will, are the families getting any information from the government? From the airlines? Is anyone helping them?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what's so troubling, Jake, is that they're not getting any updates or information from anything other than news reports. That's how they learned about this. They have been talking to each other using the popular social media app WeChat.

However, Malaysia Airlines not communicating with them, the Chinese government not communicating with them. They don't even have the crisis center anymore. The closed more than a year ago. They didn't even have the hot line number available. They don't have any psychological assistance, so they are really going at this on their own.

After so many false leads, the family members continue to be suspicious about whether anybody is telling them the truth, and many of them, a large number of them do believe their loved ones are still alive. I want you to listen to Jiang Hui. He is the son of one of the passengers and his views sum up what a lot of people are thinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIANG HUI, SON OF PASSENGER (through translator): So, last night, when we heard of this information, everyone consoled each other, discussed together. Then, finally, everyone thought that there is no need to believe it. Even if we find out this piece of debris belongs to MH370, there's no way to prove that our people were with that plane.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RIPLEY: So Jake, here we are some 500 days on. Even if this is a piece of MH370, they still don't have the remains, the proof that they would need to have closure.

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

Sources telling CNN this part appears to have come from a Boeing 777, and potentially from Malaysian Flight 370. That stunned many people, because this piece of debris was discovered so very far from the original search area that teams have been exploring for months.

[16:10:01]

Tom Foreman is standing by for us in the virtual room.

Tom, it all seems to defy logic to find this wreckage 2,300 miles away from the original search area, but experts say it's perfectly possible debris did drift that far?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it sounds impossible, and 2,300 is the smallest measurement.

Remember, we have been talking about search areas over here off the coast of Australia, and now we're talking about finding this debris over here, yes, at least 2,300 miles away, the width of the United States or more, and yet take a look at this animation that some scientists put together that show you, if you were to drop something in here, watch what the natural currents do.

The natural currents in this part of the Indian Ocean in fact do push steadily over this direction. Yes, they may meander about, some things will be kicked out here or there, but as a practical matter, something dropped in here is going to start flowing this way.

On top of which, we know this plane has been missing for about 500 days, a little bit more. What that translates to in the math is that whatever you would drop there would need to move at a rate of four- and-a-half miles a day to be here by this time.

Well, some of the currents out here can move five miles an hour, so the math all works out, the physics work out. Yes, Jake, there's reason to believe this is fully possible, even though it may not seem that way at first blush.

TAPPER: I guess the other thing that's so surprising, Tom, is that after 500 days-plus, anything would still be floating from this wreck. If this is in fact proven to be part of the Malaysia airplane, should investigators expect to find even more pieces?

FOREMAN: There is good reason for them to be looking off that shore.

Let me bring in a model and talk about why. Think about what airplanes are. They have to be light, they have to be airworthy and they have to be durable. What that means is that there are many parts of the plane, the wings and the tail notably, that are very tough, and can be buoyant and can be buoyant for a long, long time. Yes, there are big parts that can float, on top of which, yes, there

could be in the belly of the plane, in the baggage areas, down here, there could be plenty of things that might float for a while. On top of which, go into a cabin. And think about this, what you're told before every flight. The seat cushions all float. There will be all manner of things that people would bring on board, water bottles, toiletries, and chips, and cookies, and all sorts of things that might be sealed in bags that have air in them, all of which could float for a very long time.

So, yes, keep searching the shore there, because if this has now arrived, there could be a lot more. Importantly, though, this will not float. The voice and data recorders, that's what they really need to understand to get those answers for those families about what happened. And investigators fully believe those are still at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

What exactly are we seeing when we look at this piece of debris? Our own CNN reporter gets an up-close look at the Boeing 777 -- that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:14] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

More in our world lead now. French officials are saying they cannot confirm anything yet, but, quote, "no hypothesis can be excluded", including the possibility that this piece of debris could be from a Boeing 777, and that the Boeing 777 in questions could be the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The critical next step, of course, is matching the part to the plane.

Our own Nick Valencia is in Tupelo, Mississippi, at a place that could help us understand this.

Nick, explain exactly where you are.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Universal Asset Management here in Tupelo, Mississippi, Jake, a place that knows a lot about aviation, has a lot of experts tied to this Boeing 777, the resident expert here, the senior vice president Michael Kenney.

Thanks so much for taking the time.

We're standing right here in front of your Boeing 777s. Explain to us where this flaperon would be and what it does, more importantly?

MICHAEL KENNEY, SENIOR VP, UNIVERSAL ASSET MANAGEMENT: Yes, the flaperon is a flight control surface. You can see it between these two bigger pieces, right?

VALENCIA: So, that part, that six-foot part in the middle there?

KENNEY: Right there.

VALENCIA: Got it.

KENNEY: These places are called flaps. And a flaperon is a combination of flaps and aileron which you see on the outside. Ailerons control roll on the aircraft.

Flaps extend from the wing and create greater lift at slower speed.

VALENCIA: Certainly, it plays a significant role in this aircraft. We have one here, just eye level to walk us through exactly what investigators will be looking at Reunion Island. This part right here is important. Tell us why/

KENNEY: Yes, this is from a 777. This is an exact piece that's in discussion right now. This is the data plate off of the aircraft. The data plate shows both part number and serial number of that specific component and you could tie it to an aircraft.

VALENCIA: But that's missing in the photographs here that we have from the debris that washed ashore. So, how are investigators exactly going to tie the debris that they found back to perhaps MH Flight 370?

KENNEY: That's a great question. This is actual pictures from Reunion itself. With the data plate missing, they can try to use other serial numbers or part numbers that may be found inside the component --

VALENCIA: Which we've seen our Rene Marsh was talking about some numbers that were found here on the surface of this flaperon.

KENNEY: Exactly.

VALENCIA: Let's go to other side here, because you were pointing out something as well that this is certainly distinguishes as a part of being from a Boeing 777. Explain to us. Walk our viewers through what we have here.

KENNEY: Yes, another picture here. Every airplane part is different on how it attaches to the aircraft. In the case of this flaperon, it attaches with an actuator here underneath, and another actuator by where we were looking, that's specific to the 777.

VALENCIA: So this gives you confidence and somewhat hope that this piece of debris we found could be attached to a Boeing 777?

KENNEY: From comparing the pictures, I'm confidence that this is a 777 flaperon.

VALENCIA: And all of that important, Jake, because the Boeing 777 in this part of the world that the MH Flight 370, the only known Boeing to go down -- Boeing 777 to go down in this part of the world.

[16:20:03] So, experts are very hopeful and optimistic that this could be tied to that missing Malaysian Airlines flight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Valencia in Tupelo, Mississippi -- thanks so much.

Let's talk about the latest in this investigation with our CNN aviation analyst Les Abend, Mary Schiavo, and submersible expert, Captain Tim Taylor.

Thanks to all of you for being here.

Mary, let me start with you.

The Reunion Island prosecutor says that this piece of debris has not yet left for France. Once French investigators have that part, how long do you think it will be before they'll be able to identify if it definitively came from a Boeing 777, or more specifically from Flight 370?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it would depend on what's left on there to be seen -- the serial and parts numbers will as the gentleman before just said, they are on the inside as well, and that means, of course, that they may have to do some destructive testing and take it apart to see that. Hopefully, the Boeing engineers are en route as well. And as soon as they see it, they can also identify it from the measurement that's unique to the 777. The 777 was a wholly new redesigned plane. So, this was a very unique development for the plane. And then if they have to take it apart, if they do open it up, they will do a lot of testing and examining before they that do.

But I think the Boeing engineers will be able to identify it almost instantly.

TAPPER: Tim, Australian officials are saying that the search area is not going to relocate. Can you explain that to us?

CAPT. TIM TAYLOR, SEA OPERATIONS SPECIALIST: Well, this has obviously drifted across the ocean. The currents are such that it has to have come from a long ways away. It possibly could have gone around the gyre twice, as long as it's been. I mean, they did the math earlier, you guys -- it only has to move a couple thousand feet a day and it can travel all this distance.

So, the search area is where it started. This is where it ended up. I think looking for more debris in this possible landfall is probably the next best thing, and really this is the first evidence of the plane since it went down. So, we know that it's been in the ocean.

TAPPER: Les, if this is confirmed as a piece from MH370, it would rule out some conspiracy theories out there like, such as that it was hijacked and landed in Uzbekistan, for example. But what information can investigators learn specifically from the wing flap in terms of what happened?

TAYLOR: Well, if you look at the wing at the flaperon itself, Jake, it's possible to determine whether it's a high speed or low speed impact event with the water, a high angle or low angle. You know, the fact that this thing ripped off might be a possible indication, speculative at best, that the airplane was banking in a specific direction. In this particular case, the airplane -- this was on a right wing is my understanding, and that would have meant the airplane was banking to the left.

So, you know, that kind of gives you a little bit of clue. Maybe human intervention was involved, or more likely the autopilot itself was just in command of that aircraft until both engines flamed out because of fuel exhaustion. You know, we're going into the theories at this point. But looking at that piece, there are some aspects that can be determined. I think it could be more helpful to get our pieces and collaborate those pieces along with it.

TAPPER: Mary, is there anything in particular about the flaperon on the Boeing 777 that investigators could use to determine what led to this crash?

SCHIAVO: Yes, they'll be looking at a lot of things, particularly how it detached from the aircraft. As les just mentioned, he's absolutely right, when the engines flame out due to fuel starvation, they don't usually do it at the same time. One would have gone before the other.

And the 777 tries to maintain stability, it tries to keep itself flying. It's very advanced aircraft, that's why they've been few crashes of them, and it could have been banking. If that's the case, sometimes you can tell in a crash sequence and you can tell from the parts, if the plane was in a turn when it hit, you can see how it detached, you can look at the attachments.

And, of course, they will first want to rule out any sign of explosion, any pitting in the metal composites, any possible trace of any residues. This will be a very, very examined piece of wreckage.

TAPPER: Tim, earlier in the show, we heard Tom Foreman explain that there could be other pieces found near Reunion Island. Do you expect, based on your experience, that there will be?

TAYLOR: I would expect so, and I would expect there would be a dedicated search for this. Now that one item has been found, it kind of alerts everybody to keep an eye out for it.

Debris is debris, and people could walk past not even thinking of it. Now that the bells have been alarmed here, they're on watch. There's a lot people may come up with artifacts.

This -- this is a -- this big piece of plane that was found, the big question I think I have is how long was it on the beach?

[16:25:01] Because it could have been there for six months. So, I would wait for the forensics on the biological life that are on it to find out how long it's been sitting there and people have been walking past it. So, that's important.

TAPPER: Great question.

Tim Taylor, Les Abend, Mary Schiavo, thank you all of you for being here.

In our politics lead today, even in Scotland, Donald Trump is being asked about his campaign, and he got another bump in a brand-new poll, holding on to his lead. What about his Republican rivals?

Plus, new police body cam videos released after an officer is indicted for murder in Cincinnati. We will show that to you, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Time now for our politics lead. A new poll out today showing Donald Trump with a commanding lead over his Republican rivals with 20 percent support from registered Republican voters.

More surprising, perhaps, is who is in second place. No, not former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, perceived to be the establishment favorite and a former front runner, but rather in second place, we have Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

This coming as all the candidates battle it out for one of the ten coveted spots for next week's first Republicans debate in Cleveland.

Let's get right to CNN's Dana Bash, who joins us live with all the latest.

Dana, Trump is on a brief break from the campaign trail. She's attending the women's British Open on his golf course in Scotland.