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Plane Crash in French Alps; Ted Cruz Speaks Out; Jet Dropped Nearly 27,000 Feet in Eight Minutes; Feds Slam Shootings By Philadelphia Police; Sen. Ted Cruz's Surprise in New CNN Interview. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 24, 2015 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:01] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Zimmerman vs. Obama. The man acquitted in Trayvon Martin's death is publicly blaming the president of the United States for racial tensions in America, but he's apparently not blaming himself.

And Ted Cruz's surprise. The senator and newly announced presidential candidate reveals new personal information in a one-on-one interview with CNN.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news: Hundreds of first-responders and investigator are converging on a remote mountain crash site where a commercial passenger was obliterated after plunging out of the sky.

The search has been called off for the night, but the helicopter crews have spotted wreckage of the German airliner in the French Alps along with some remains of 150 people on board. French officials say at least one of the Airbus A-320 black boxes has been found.

The mystery tonight, why did the flight from Spain to Germany make a sudden and a rapid descent after reaching cruising altitude, which is usually the safest part of the flight?

Our correspondents and analysts, they're standing by here in the United States and around the world to cover this devastating crash and all of the news that is breaking right now.

Let's again with our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh. She has the very latest -- Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials say the airliner is in pieces, none of them bigger than a small car. But the mystery tonight is what went so terribly wrong on board an aircraft with an impeccable safety record, a plane that had just passed a maintenance check the day before and had experienced pilots in the cockpit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARSH (voice-over): Tonight, this is the challenging rocky terrain first-responders and investigators are navigating. Germanwings Flight 9525 with 150 people on board went down in the snowy French Alps, where peaks as high as 10,000 feet.

What seemed like a routine flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf suddenly turned deadly. The flight took off at 10:01 a.m. local time. Flight tracking sites show the plane climbed to a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, but it only stayed at that altitude for about three minutes before starting an unplanned descent.

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It seems to me that it was still a controlled descent.

MARSH: Forty-five minutes after takeoff, the airline's CEO says the plane held at 10,000 feet for about a minute. Eight minutes later, air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane, its last known altitude 6,000 feet. Then Flight 9525 disappeared from Radar.

THOMAS WINKELMANN, CEO, GERMANWINGS (through translator): A terrible, very sad day for Germanwings and the whole Lufthansa family. Sadly, I have to inform you that today we have been informed by the French Department in Southern France that a Germanwings airliner had an accident.

MARSH: A French government official says the plane was -- quote -- "obliterated," human remains strewn several hundred meters. French aviation authorities say the pilot did not send a distress call or signal that there was trouble.

It was air traffic control that declared an emergency because they couldn't reach the pilots by radio, leaving many unanswered questions.

KEITH WOLZINGER, THE SPECTRUM GROUP: Normally, even if you're on an oxygen mask in a depressurized plane or a plane filled with smoke, you are still going to transmit on the radio, you can still set your transponder to the emergency code that air traffic control would pick up. If they're overcome in some fashion, then they may not have been able to respond.

MARSH: Authorities say ground teams have located one of the plane's black boxes, critical in finding out what went wrong on board this plane that's considered the workhorse of aviation.


MARSH: Well, according to Airbus, the plane had over 58,000 flight hours. It is an older plane, so that's a lot of flight hours, but nothing to raise a red flag.

As far as the NTSB and potential U.S. involvement in this investigation, I have been on the phone with them today and at this point no indication that the French have asked for the NTSB's assistance -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see if that changes. Thanks, Rene. The White House says President Obama has called the German chancellor,

Angela Merkel, to offer his condolences on the plane crash and offer U.S. assistance if needed. Many of the 150 passengers on board were German.

Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is joining us now life from Dusseldorf, Germany, where Flight 9525 was heading.

You're learning more, Fred, about the passengers.


And one of the things that you have to note is that Germany really is a nation that's in mourning, also a nation that's, quite frankly, devastated and shocked. I mean, keep in mind, this is a country that prides itself on its ingenuity, on its high technology and certainly airline safety has something to do with that as well.

But, of course, at this point in time, it's the victims and the victims' family that are at the center of the sympathies here in this country. A crisis center has been opened here at the Dusseldorf Airport. Also, Lufthansa and Germanwings say they are going to bring everybody who has relatives who were killed in this flight and wants to go near the crash site there as well. Let's have a look at how this day unfolded here.


[18:05:22] PLEITGEN (voice-over): Devastated family members are gathering at Dusseldorf Airport, where the doomed flight was headed, and also at Barcelona Airport, where the flight originated. A crisis center has been set up with a team of psychologists for those who need care.

Relatives, many crying, were escorted by police and airport staff as they made their way to the airports. Officials believe there were no survivors after the Airbus A-320 crashed Tuesday in the foothills of the French Alps.

WINKELMANN (through translator): On board, there were 144 passengers, including two babies on board, as well as six crew members. Two were in the cockpit and four in the cabin.

PLEITGEN: Sixteen students and two teachers from this high school in Haltern in Northwest Germany are among the 150 presumed dead. The students had spent a week at exchange students in Spain and were returning when the flight crashed.

BODO KIMPEL, MAYOR OF HALTERN, GERMANY (through translator): The whole city is shocked and we can feel it everywhere. This is the worst, what happened.

PLEITGEN: The students are among the 67 Germans the airline believes were on the flight. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to travel to the crash site on Wednesday. Officials in Spain said 45 passengers had Spanish names. KING FELIPE VI, SPAIN (through translator): There are no known

survivors. There's a high number of Spaniards, Germans and Turks.

PLEITGEN: A high-level official briefed on the search operation says human remains are strewn for several hundred meters. Authorities said it could take days to recover the bodies because the mountainous terrain and bad weather are making it difficult to reach the crash site.

WINKELMANN (through translator): We express our deepest sympathy for the relatives of the passengers killed and the crew members. We think about the victims at this moment. At the same time, we will do as much as possible with the authorities to find out the reason for this crash.


PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, we have also since then learned that two of the passengers on board were actually opera singers who had been performing in Barcelona for about a month. One of those opera singers was actually traveling with her little baby. And so that's one of the two babies that were killed on this flight. There were also passengers from various other countries on board as well, so a big, big tragedy, not just here for Germany, but for Europe and many other countries as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is, Fred Pleitgen in Dusseldorf. That was where the plane was supposed to be landing an hour after it crashed, but unfortunately it didn't. Thanks very much, Fred, for that report.

I want to take you closer right now to the crash site, right at the foot of the French Alps.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, he has just arrived in the area. He's joining us on the phone right now.

Nic, set the scene for us. What's it like over there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're still making our way through the French Alps to the recovery site, where they're all sort of been based throughout the day.

We're climbing through the mountains and we're over 3,000, 4,000 feet in some places. The temperature is dropping close to zero. There's heavy rain. We're hitting patches of fog. The crash site is even higher in the mountains, the terrain there very steep, very rugged where the aircraft hit the hillside.

The access to that area is very difficult, particularly in the winter, snow on the ground. Helicopters will be the main way in for the recovery teams. What we're being told by officials tonight is that this weather, the low clouds, they believe there could be snow at the altitude of the crash site tonight, where we have rain a little lower down. There will be snow higher up.

They believe that this could well hamper the recovery efforts. They have paused for the night. It's of course dark here right now, but they hope to begin with first light in the morning, but that really is going to depend on the weather conditions and right now it's raining here quite steadily and, as I say, we're hitting patches of fog and it will be much lower, if you will, on the mountaintops by the crash site -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And by that crash site, Nic, the wreckage is really spread around a huge area, given what happened when that plane crashed into the side of that mountain at a fast, fast speed.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. Hundreds of meters is how it is being described, no piece larger than a small car, bodies strewn along, across the hillside.

And the concern is that tonight if the temperature at that altitude, and it could be as high as 2,000 meters, and we're talking about 6,000 feet, maybe a little lower, and we will see the temperature gauge on the vehicle we're driving in now when we get up to within a couple of thousand feet at that altitude, it drops to almost freezing.

[18:10:04] So, up there, it's freezing. And the recovery teams are saying that, if it is frozen terrain there, that means additional equipment that the recovery workers need there when they're on the ground, because obviously (INAUDIBLE) again make it harder to discover the debris and see remains on that hillside, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson making his way to the crash site over there in the French Alps, we will stay in close touch with you.

In the meantime, let's bring in our aviation analyst Peter Goelz, our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, our safety analyst David Soucie, and Philip Crowther. He's also the Washington correspondent for TV network France 24, and our aviation analyst Miles O'Brien is joining us on the phone as well.

When they pick up all this wreckage -- forget about the so-called black box. What can they learn from the wreckage, the pieces they're going to pick up over this wide area in the French Alps?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: With this kind of accident, with such a high rate of impact, it's going to be very difficult to get any kind of real evidence without the black boxes.

This was a composite aircraft, you know, made of composite materials. It shatters on impact at this kind of speed. Unfortunately, they are not going to get much from the fuselage. They will always get information from the engines.

The search operation, Philip, is going to be really, really difficult because of the nature of this area. Talk a little bit about that.

PHILIP CROWTHER, FRANCE 24: It's a remote area.

The crash site, 1, 614 meters, inaccessible by car. We have seen Gendarmerie -- that is the French military police essentially -- on the ground. One must presume that they were dropped by helicopter. It's pretty much impossible to get there on foot. There are investigators from the BEA, and that's the French air accident investigation authority. They are on the ground, at least one, more to come from Paris, their equivalents from Germany as well.

But this area is complicated, as Nic Robertson just said, on the ground. It's now nighttime, meaning that any search-and-rescue operation is halted for now, rescue operation being a very optimistic term at this point, having seen the images that we have seen. It's very unlikely that there will be any survivors, of course, and, as your reporter said, it's now raining down on the ground.

It could possibly be snowing up in the hills. That makes things a lot more difficult. It took a while to get those first images. French television was able to get a helicopter over the crash site and see those awful images. This plane disintegrated on impact.

BLITZER: The French president, Francois Hollande, he says he doesn't believe there are any survivors, right, 150 people on that plane.

Stand by for a moment.

I want to bring in Geoffrey Thomas. He's the managing director of He's joining us from Perth, Australia, right now.

Geoffrey, as you can see on the screen, the plane was completely obliterated. What can we tell, from your perspective, the small pieces of debris that are being found once the search operation resumes with daylight?

GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look, clearly, the aircraft has impacted the mountains at high speed.

I don't believe the pilots had any idea in the very end where they were. They had the emergency descent from altitude. The plane appeared to be under some sort of control, because it did level off at about 6,000 feet, we understand, or 7,000 feet, but impacted these mountains, which are up to about 8,000, 9,000 feet, I should say.

So mercifully, at the last minute, the passengers and the crew would not have been aware of the impact. But the question then is, how come the aircraft ground proximity warning system didn't alert the pilots or was that part of the problem, they had some avionics problems, some navigation problems, electronic problems possibly? But this is a terrible tragedy, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is. It's the second fatal Airbus A-320 crash, Geoffrey, in, what, less than three months. There are around 3,600 of these Airbus A-320s in operation around the world right now. It's an incredibly popular plane. Could there be a bigger problem here with the plane's manufacturing?

THOMAS: Look, I don't believe so, Wolf.

You're absolutely right. Very popular aircraft. The backbone of the world's airlines, along with the 737. But one of the things about this airline, it does about five or six sectors a day. This airplane had 58,000 hours on the clock. It had 47,000 flight cycles on the clock. Each of these flights is only just a bit over an hour. So it's a hardworking airplane.

We have to look at the statistics in the context of, say, five or six flights a day, whereas, say, a 747 might do one flight a day. It's a very hardworking airplane. I don't believe it's an Airbus problem. Otherwise, it would have surfaced a long time ago. This plane has been in service, the type has been in service since 1998. This one was delivered in 1991 to Lufthansa, immaculately maintained by one of the best aircraft maintenance outfits in the world, Lufthansa Technik. It should tick all the boxes.

[18:15:32] BLITZER: Is there a potential problem of a plane like this being overused?

THOMAS: No, not at all.

I mean, I recently, Wolf, flew on an airplane that was 47 years old. It was an immaculately maintained airplane. These airplanes are designed for two or three lifetimes. And an airplane doing over 100,000 flight hours and 80,000 and 90,000 cycles is not an issue as long as it's well-maintained and you couldn't get a better maintenance outfit than Lufthansa.

BLITZER: Are there unique weather concerns when you're above the mountains? Let's say you're flying at 38,000 feet and all of a sudden you begin this descent, are there weather conditions that could have contributed to this problem?

THOMAS: The weather was reported to be fine at 38,000 feet. Now, whether, for instance, there was an icing issue, the pitot tubes, they're the senators that sit out into the airstream that feed the computerized airplane all its flight data, whether they iced up, unknown, of course, but I wouldn't have thought so.

Certainly, the weather was a factor when it got down low. But I don't think the weather was a factor at altitude.

BLITZER: Yes. They have to figure out what happened and they have got figure it out quickly because there's so many of these Airbuses flying around the world right now.

Geoffrey, everyone else, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. Much more on the new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.


[18:21:31] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts and the breaking news, a deadly airline crash in the French Alps, 150 people, everyone on board presumed dead.

The German foreign minister is now describing the scene as a picture of horror.

Let's get back to our panel of experts. David Soucie, the flight was originally cruising, what, at 38,000

feet. That's thought to be the safest point of a flight, about an hour after takeoff, an hour before it was supposed to land. What are the options that the investigators are considering as to what possibly could have forced this plane to all of a sudden begin what seemed to be a controlled descent?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, mostly all bets are off right now as far as what might have caused it.

But there are a few clues that are very telling and that is that it was a controlled rate of descent. It appears to me there was controlled flight into terrain, a CFIT accident. And what that tells me is that there was control. The aircraft -- something occurred to cause this descent, whether it was caused by the pilot setting it or something on board the aircraft.

So the first things we would be looking at on the cockpit voice recorder is what was going on in the cockpit. But, of course, we don't have that yet. We do have the flight data recorder, which tells us what happens. It doesn't tell us why it happened. And that's the second part of the clue that needs to be figured out. That's where they are looking is for this cockpit voice recorder.

I'm very concerned that with the snow coming in tonight and if you notice all the foliage in that area has been burned away, so now you're working with mud, a lot of mud. This snow tonight and then melting tomorrow could easily cover up and hide a lot of evidence, and hopefully not, but it could even cover up that cockpit voice recorder, making it very difficult to recover.

BLITZER: But, David, isn't there some sort of a beeping sound for 30 days that comes out of that flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder?

SOUCIE: You know, that is called the underwater locator beacon.

And it's attached to the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, but, unfortunately, unless it's underwater, it's not going to send a signal out. They won't even be listening for that signal, which is about the pitch of a dog whistle. You couldn't hear it with the human ear. You have to bring in tools to do that.

But unless that is sitting in a puddle of water, it's not going to be sending out anything and even at that point you wouldn't be able to hear it unless you're in that same puddle of water. Unfortunately, there's nothing to help you find it at this point.

BLITZER: Yes, that's pretty depressing.

Miles O'Brien, you're a pilot. Could this have been pilot error?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I don't think you can rule anything out at this point, Wolf. And pilot error is certainly on the list as investigators go through the three big buckets that they look at, which are the human being, the machine and the environment. The environment, I would -- I'm downplaying that initially at least.

There's no indications there was adverse weather at altitude. The machine itself, we need to look at the maintenance records, see if there was some specific problem with the aircraft. The cockpit voice recorder and more importantly the flight data recorder will shed an awful lot of light on that.

And I suspect they will find it in due course because the wreckage, while in a rough area, is concentrated in a relatively small space. It's not like it appears as if it was an in-flight breakup. So what was going on in the cockpit is where we're going to be talking a lot in the coming days.

Was there a mistake made by the crew or was this some sort of deliberate act either by the crew or some other individual on the plane that would cause this descent, not an emergency descent, a rapid descent, but not an emergency descent, no radio call and a flight that continues onto the mountains? None of that adds up in the realm of a typical emergency scenario. So, I think pilot error will be high on the list, but also the thought of some sort of deliberate act here.

[18:25:09] BLITZER: On that point, Tom Fuentes, some sort of deliberate action, whether criminal or terrorism, at this point, they really don't have a clue, right?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, they don't know whether it's that or not at this point until they get the recorders and see, what were the discussions were going on in the cockpit with the crew and then where did the flight data recorders go?

It looks like it was not an explosion or a rocket attack because usually that results in bigger pieces raining down on the ground. This looks like just a high-speed straight impact into the side of a mountain.

BLITZER: Philip Crowther, what are you hearing from your sources in France, here in Washington, because you're all over the story as well?

CROWTHER: Here's what our reporters know on the ground.

BLITZER: This is French 24 TV?


CROWTHER: Yes, absolutely.

French television, that was the domestic channel, got into a helicopter with the Gendarmerie and were able to fly over the scene. They saw these tiny pieces of this airplane, the largest one seemingly the size of a small car, they were being told by the Gendarmerie as they were flying over the scene. They also saw the code on the side of the airplane on the fuselage so they were able to identify the plane, of course, and of course there were bodies and body parts there on that scene.

There's also what has been recuperated. One of the black box recorders has been recuperated. The must be now on its way back to Paris. From what we're hearing, though, that could take somewhere between -- you probably know more about this than I do, but somewhere between hours and days, all the way until Sunday, I have been hearing, Sunday of this week, to be able to get the contents of that black box recorder and to find out a little bit more.

And in terms of getting those pieces of the airplane off that mountain, to be able to really investigate and, of course, getting the bodies back to the families and their respective countries, that could actually take a long time simply because of the remoteness of this area.

We're looking at around a week again. Of course, because of the weather conditions, as we just heard, possible mud in the area, the snow as well, this could take a long time. It's a pretty ugly scene right now and I could just get even more difficult to really find out what happened there.


All right, stand by, everyone. We have more information coming in.

Just ahead, we're going to map out the plane's flight path. We're looking for clues about what went so horribly wrong and how the pilots responded.

Also, a new federal report reveals Philadelphia police officers have shot unarmed suspects with alarming frequency. Are they biased? Are they simply badly trained? Stay with us.


BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news on that passenger plane that crashed in the French Alps. There's enormous pressure to try to figure out why the Airbus A-320 plunged from the sky. More than 3,000 of those aircraft, they are in service right now, many of them flying right here in the United States.

CNN's Tom Foreman is taking a closer look at what possibly went so wrong. Is this looking like a catastrophic failure, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does not look like a catastrophic failure in flight, because if you have a plane this big and it loses a tail or a wing or something like that, it's very unlikely it's going to have the sort of controlled descent we're talking about all day. And it would be scattered all over the ground, not largely in one area.

If you had something like a foam (ph) in the cockpit that disabled the crew and they were unable to control the plane, pointing it down, and they passed out, maybe it could happen then. But they have oxygen masks right there, Wolf, so that also does not look likely.

BLITZER: Is it possible this is a problem that they're dealing with it and they just ran out of time? Is that what potentially could have been going on? TODD: That's one of the ideas here. The notion that maybe if you look at the overall pattern of how this plane came easing in. Talking about being fast -- relatively fast, not that fast, though. Over a long, straight distance. So maybe they were dealing with a problem, thought they could deal with it, and simply ran out of space and then ran out of time.

But here's the problem. If they had this much control -- let's go back to the big map -- then why did they not veer away from the mountains? Why didn't they try to go to one of the airports? They could have easily hit somewhere along the coast there, Wolf. So there's no evidence of that. That's one of the things arguing against that possibility, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's a big airport in Marseille not that far away with a long runway. Is it possible that these pilots didn't know they had a serious problem?

FOREMAN: Well, that's one of the more intriguing ideas here. If you had some sort of false reading from the pitot tubes that gave you an idea that your speed was wrong or your altitude was wrong or something that made you unaware situationally of where this airplane was, yes, it's possible they could simply become so distracted in simply dealing with something else that they didn't realize that they were flying into the mountains.

This sounds outrageous but, in fact, it has happened before, Wolf. We don't know if any of these scenarios is really what happened. We do know that investigators have to look at all of them right now.

BLITZER: They certainly do. All right, Tom. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

Let's go back to our analysts. They're following all the new details on this plane crash.

David Soucie, in November, a Lufthansa A-30 -- A-321, three hundred twenty-one Airbus dropped 4,000 feet in one minute after the autopilot lowered the jet's nose. How closely should investigators be looking at the autopilot system of these Airbus planes?

SOUCIE: Well, understand, Wolf, that these airplanes have been flying for a long, long time, and these problems would arise more frequently if it was something that was repetitive.

However, that being said, it's definitely something that's going to be looked at. Every aspect of this airplane is going to be looked at. But what has to be done first is find out where you're going to focus all your efforts, because these investigations could go on for years and years and years.

If you just simply say, "We're going to look at every possibility," which you have to do, but you have to narrow those possibilities to the most likely and most probable. And of course, right now we just don't have a lot of facts. I would expect that the cockpit -- cockpit voice recorder is going to

give us the most of the reasons why, when that's found, and I'm confident it will be. And then the flight data recorder, which they already have in their possession, is going to be analyzed. It won't take very long. The in-flight data recorders which this aircraft has, is just a matter of downloading, literally downloading the information onto a computer and doing the analysis.

If there's any delay, it will just simply be because of the analysis portion, not because the actual downloading of the information.

BLITZER: Peter Goelz, if you got your hands on the maintenance records, the report of this specific plane, what would you be looking for?

GOELZ: You'd be looking to see that every bit of maintenance that had been required was done. And was there any unusual maintenance events in the recent past that, you know, drove special work to be done on the plane, and could it have been a contributory factor? Maintenance is going to be poured through from the day the plane was manufactured to see what, if anything, could have occurred.

BLITZER: And what happens if they find the cockpit voice recorder, Peter, and there's nothing on it; there's no talking; it's silent in there, which is possible, right?

GOELZ: Yes. That's happened in the past. That's going to lead to a greater mystery, that they're going to have to dig and get that data recorder, because that's got upwards of 1,000 parameters that will tell you what the plane is doing. And it will also reinforce recommendations about video recording in the cockpit.

BLITZER: Because they don't have that, video recording.

GOELZ: They do not.

BLITZER: A lot of people think they should have that.

GOELZ: It's been recommended.

BLITZER: Pilots' unions don't want that video recording.

Extraordinarily rugged terrain certainly has made it very difficult for search-recovery teams to reach the crash site in the French Alps. Bad weather is making the situation even worse.

Let's go to our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. She's got an update on what's going on over there -- Jennifer.

GRAY: Yes, Wolf. The terrain itself is going to be the most challenging aspect of this. You literally have to hike in to where the crash site is. Add to that, the nasty weather that is moving in as we speak. And it's going to last for possibly several days.

We know when the plane took off, the weather was OK but then after it crashed, that's when we start to see the bad weather move in. We're looking at rain and we're looking at even snow in the higher elevations. And depending on the exact elevation of where the crash site is, they could actually pick up a little bit of snow in the next 24 to 48 hours.

We could get a little bit of a clearing as we go through the next couple of hours. It looks like it could possibly be during the overnight hours, though. That's the bad news in all of this.

As this front continues to push forward, we're going to see cloudy conditions, which is not good news when you're trying to get helicopters in the area. We could also see that rain and, of course, that snow, as well. We're looking at the clouds and the messy weather to last for at least the next 24 hours, possibly go through the next 48 hours, Wolf. And so not helping those searchers, for sure, as we go through the next 24 hours.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Tom Fuentes, if you were brought into this investigation, you're a former assistant director of the FBI, what would you be looking for specifically?

FUENTES: Specifically the passenger list: who was on that list, passenger and crew, all of the background that you could have; how many different countries they go through, dealing with their services throughout Europe, the FBI, the FBI offices in Europe, the host countries, Interpol, every possible bit of data you could get on the people that had anything to do with that plane.

BLITZER: Including the pilot and the co-pilot?

FUENTES: Everybody.

BLITZER: Flight attendants. Everybody.

FUENTES: Everybody.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, guys. Stand by.

There's more news that we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including a shocking report that finds that, as violent has fallen in a major U.S. city, shootings by police there have soared, with many of the suspects unarmed.

And George Zimmerman is back. He's saying he doesn't feel guilty about his fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. He's accusing President Obama of fanning racial tensions in the case.


[18:44:00] BLITZER: Stand by for more on the breaking news on that deadly plane crash in the French Alps. But right now there's another story we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

An alarming new U.S. Justice Department report showing that shootings in Philadelphia by Philadelphia police officers have gone way up, while violent crime has actually been going down. Nearly 400 suspects were shot over eight years. That, according -- that's about one shooting a week. Fifty-nine of those suspects were unarmed and almost half of those incidents, police mistakenly believed the suspects were reaching for weapons when they weren't.

The report blames the problem in large part on inadequate police training. It doesn't include any allegations of racial discrimination.

Let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez; our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes; and our CNN anchor Don Lemon. So what is the Justice Department, Evan, doing about this?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they worked with the Philly police to produce this report. This is actually a request of the Philadelphia Police Department. So now what they're working with then is to try to implement recommendations to improve training, to make sure that the police who are on the beat are able to respond to these situations and, you know, without -- without the use of force.

[18:45:06] BLITZER: So, do the police have enough training if they go to arrest somebody and somebody is going to reach in their pocket and get their driver's license or something, sometimes they just think they are going to go for a weapon or a gun and they shoot and kill them.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That may be, Wolf, but it's not strictly a training thing when you're in the dark and not sure what somebody is pulling out and that happens.

But I think the Chief Ramsey did a smart thing here. He knew that there had been so many police shootings over the last seven years, he orders the study. The study says do more training.

Now, he can got to the city fathers and say, OK, pay for more police training, pay for more community policing. And if they don't, he's almost got himself and the department --

PEREZ: It can't hurt, though, right? I mean, it can't hurt.

FUENTES: No, it can't hurt. But the city is going to have to approve the expenditure for that training. It's not going to come out of --

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: He didn't just order the report, though. It was found out after a report showed that crime was down, that the shooting of suspects or people was still up. He was pushed to order that report after a investigation. So, it wasn't just Chief Ramsey going, hey, I'm going to get this report.

We've been talking about Ferguson. This is way more important than Ferguson. This is bigger than Ferguson and perhaps we should be focusing on this because it talks about police training, police tactics, and about whether police are being too heavy-handed and this is way more damning because Philadelphia is a small city.

It's bigger than Ferguson, much smaller than New York, but it shows in the years they did this study in Philadelphia, they saw more police shootings than New York city which has five times the number of residents and officers. That's serious stuff, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Evan, if it's happening in Philadelphia, which as Don correctly points out, it's a major city, I assume stuff like this is happening in other major cities as well.

PEREZ: Well, I mean, we've talked about this on this program. It's the same thing. It's the same story around the country. I think this is the theme that Ferguson has brought to life.

But, as Don says, this is not just a Philly problem. There's, you know, the justice department has brought cases like this against the New Orleans Police Department, Oakland, Seattle. There's a variety of these types of investigations around the country.

This one was done cooperatively with the Philly police. But, you know -- and they were smart to do it this way because that way, they are not getting sued to be forced to make changes.

BLITZER: Let me shift gears. Let me -- let's talk a little bit, Don, about George Zimmerman. He's back in the news today. His law firm posted a picture of him accusing the president of fanning racial tensions around the Trayvon Martin shooting. Listen to this.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: President Obama held his Rose Garden speech stating if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon. To me, that was clearly a dereliction of duties, pitting Americans against each other, solely based on race.


BLITZER: It's been two years since Zimmerman, Don, was acquitted of murder in the Trayvon Martin's death. In the video, he said he can't feel guilty for surviving.

What's your reaction when you see this?

LEMON: Well, not only did he say he does not feel guilty, he believes in some way that all of it was God's will and that he says he doesn't feel guilty for surviving. I think, listen, I think many people feel that George Zimmerman probably should not have followed Trayvon Martin and Trayvon Martin might be alive today. George Zimmerman wouldn't be in a trouble that he's in today.

Even if George Zimmerman feels that he is right, at this point, even his own attorney, his former attorneys are saying he should probably just go away for a while and sit down and be quiet. That is my feeling.

I cannot believe that he went back to his attorneys after the Justice Department investigation and then asked to be put on tape so that he could talk about the investigation. Perhaps he should just be quiet because he is a free man and there's a dead teenager involved. The country really doesn't want to hear from him.

BLITZER: What do you think, Tom Fuentes?

FUENTES: I agree with Tom on that point. But what bothers me about the whole story is that when shootings of police officer and black young men come up, somehow Trayvon Martin gets included at this. Zimmerman does not deserve to be put in the category of police officers. And that's the problem I have with this story. He's an untrained community guard. He shouldn't have had a gun. He shouldn't have been running around in that community.

LEMON: I agree.

FUENTES: He shouldn't have been in a position to encounter Trayvon Martin. He should not be included in the narrative of police shootings.


LEMON: He happened to be a person who was in position of authority, at least he felt that -

FUENTES: But he's not a trained police officer.

LEMON: He's not a trained police officer.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right on that.

What is he doing nowadays, George Zimmerman?

PEREZ: Well, you know, he says he's trying to move on with his life and, as Don says, this is not the way to do it. I mean, it's just reminding people that this guy is applying for a job anytime soon, this doesn't really help.

BLITZER: It certainly doesn't.

All right. Guys, thanks very much. Don, by the way, will be back with a whole lot more on this story and all the day's important news later tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on his show, "CNN TONIGHT". We'll be dancing Don at 10:00 later tonight.

Just ahead, a revealing CNN interview with the Republican senator and newly announced presidential candidate, Ted Cruz. President Obama and other Democrats may be especially surprised about what he has to say.


[18:54:39] BLITZER: Standby for more on the plane crash in the French Alps that killed 150 people today. Local officials say the plane is right now in many pieces. Human remains are strewn over an entire vast area of the crash site along the French Alps.

Right now, there's another story that's breaking, involving Senator Ted Cruz. It may rattle his conservative Republican base, only a day after he announced his presidential candidacy.

[18:55:03] CNN spoke -- Cruz spoke, I should say, with CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, who's joining us now.

Dana, tell us what he had so say?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Ted Cruz, obviously, has been one of the leaders, if not the biggest on the forefront of trying to repeal Obamacare. He's had the luxury of making that argument in a pure way because he personally -- his family -- they haven't gotten their health care through Obamacare because they've gotten it through his wife's company. But now that he's running for president, she's no longer working there and things have changed.

Listen to this.


BASH: You and your family have been getting your health insurance through your wife's job. Her company has been Goldman Sachs. She's now left that to help you with your campaign. So, where are you getting your health insurance now?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, she's taking an unpaid leave of absence from her job. So, we're transitioning. We'll be getting through new health insurance. And we'll presumably do it through my job in the Senate. So, we'll be on the federal exchange like millions of others on the federal exchange.

BASH: But, Senator, for right now, the irony is just kind of unbelievable that you have made your name fighting against Obamacare, and you now are going to sign up to get your insurance through that very process, Obamacare.

CRUZ: Listen, it was the case before Obamacare that federal employees could get health insurance through their jobs. That's not a new development. So, yes, I'll get my insurance through my job like millions of other Americans. That's not a shocking --

BASH: Will you take a subsidy from your job, which is the federal government?

CRUZ: We will follow the text of the law. I strongly oppose the exemption that President Obama illegally put in place for members of Congress because Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats didn't want to be under the same rules as the American people.

BASH: That means you are going to take a government subsidy?

CRUZ: I believe we should follow the text of the law.

BASH: The law that you want to repeal.

CRUZ: Yes. I believe we should follow the text of every law, even laws I disagree with.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: Now, Wolf, let me explain that question about government subsidy. What I was asking about the fact that many Republicans have tried to kind of get around the fact that they did have had to sign up for Obamacare and kind of try to stay politically pure by saying, you know what, I'm going to do this because I have to, but I'm not going to take the subsidy which will be the employer contributions since their employer is the federal government. He didn't answer there. Later his spokeswoman told me if he does, in fact, do Obamacare, he would not take that contribution.

BLITZER: How unusual is it for a Republican who strongly poses Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act as it's known, to actually sign up for it?

BASH: It's a great question and it's certainly part of the pushback we have been getting from the Cruz campaign, saying, you know, why should he be held to a double standard? Because the answer to your question is, certainly, there are lots of Republicans who have had to sign up for their own personal health insurance through Obamacare.

As I said, some of them decide not to take the employer contribution because they don't want to take the money from the federal government but a lot of them have had to do that. However, having said that, others have, as he had done before, gone for their spouses work. Others have gone just on their own outside of the exchange into the individual market, and the point that the Cruz campaign makes is that that is just almost prohibitive now because they insist the Obama care system has ruined the individual market.

But it is not unusual but given Ted Cruz and how he made his name and the fact he announced for purpose on the fifth anniversary of Obamacare is certainly noteworthy.

BLITZER: So, basically, what I hear is that he had really no other choice since his wife was taking a leave of absence from Goldman Sachs, where she worked. They were on her health insurance program, through Goldman Sachs. She's no longer there.

The only option he really had was to go on the federal government exchange program. If he would have gone on private health exchange, it would have been prohibitively expensive, right?

BASH: There are other options. And in fact, that the Cruz campaign is again pushing back saying to note he said, presumably, we will go on Obamacare. Now, as sort of this story has exploded, suggesting maybe he will find an alternative.

I mean, look, when people live their jobs, they go on COBRA, there are potentially other ways to do it. But he has a wife and two small girls and they're trying to figure out exactly how to do it. But, yes, the answer is, there is way to get insurance without going through Obamacare. It is possible.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. Dana, thanks very much.

That's it for me. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please tweet me @wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom. Please be sure to join us again tomorrow right here on THE SITUATION ROOM. You can watch us live or DVR the show, you won't miss a moment.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.