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March 16, 2014

The mystery of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has moved from being simply a search operation to a criminal investigation, with authorities probing the flight crew's and passengers' backgrounds for a possible motive. The new phase of the investigation began shortly after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday that authorities determined "deliberate action" diverted the plane.

Malaysian authorities this weekend searched the homes of the plane's pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and co-pilot, Farq Ab Hamid, removing a flight simulator from Shah's residence for further examination. And a Malaysian official revealed Sunday that a signaling system onboard the plane was already turned off when Shah radioed air traffic controllers and reported that nothing was amiss. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials told CNN they are "leaning toward the theory" that the flight crew was responsible for the plane's disappearance, though they haven't yet ruled out other possible explanations. Jon Terbush

10:12 a.m. ET

Nearly two weeks after alleging that she was sexually assaulted by Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore when she was just 14, Leigh Corfman gave her first public interview Monday. Speaking with the Today show's Savannah Guthrie, Corfman recounted how Moore brought her to his home, stripped her down to her undergarments, and began touching her before she told him that she was uncomfortable and wanted to go home.

"I was a 14-year-old child trying to play in an adult's world," Corfman said, "and he was 32 years old."

Corfman first told her story to The Washington Post, which included her as one of four women who alleged inappropriate conduct by Moore. Corfman was the only one of the women who alleged that Moore had sexually assaulted her; the others said he courted or kissed them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. Since the Post's story, five more accusers have come forward to allege that Moore groped, assaulted, or pursued them when they were minors. Moore has mostly denied the allegations.

When asked to address Moore's claim that he did not know Corfman, she replied, "I wonder how many me's he doesn't know." Corfman stressed that the Post sought her out for its story, and that she was reluctant to come forward until reporters were able to find other women who had similar experiences with Moore. She added that she blamed herself for her encounter with Moore for decades and did not speak out earlier in fear that she and her family would be "castigated."

Watch her interview below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

9:55 a.m. ET

Fox News host Sean Hannity has provided perhaps the most sympathetic media space for embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to respond to multiplying, credible allegations of his sexual misconduct toward girls as young as 14. It was on Hannity's show, for example, that Moore felt comfortable revealing he doesn't "remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother," an unusual detail when one dates adults.

Still, Hannity's confidence in Moore seems to have been shaken, especially as his show bleeds advertising revenue because of the Moore scandal. This is perhaps why his staff reached out to one of Moore's accusers asking for an interview. The response from her attorney, Paula Cobia, was swift and brutal.

"Mr. Hannity has belittled, defamed, and engaged in an on-air intimidation campaign against the victims of Mr. Moore," Cobia wrote. "He is totally uninterested in discovering the truth. He gave Mr. Moore a lazy, softball interview which his own panel did not find credible. In fact, the panel mocked Mr. Moore over his inconsistencies and lies." Read the full response below, knowing that somewhere, right now, Hannity may be taking out his anger on a coffee machine. Bonnie Kristian

9:21 a.m. ET
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

A second woman has come forward to complain about the conduct of Democratic Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), CNN reports. Lindsay Menz, now 33, claims Franken "put his hand full-fledged on my rear" when she posed with him for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

"It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek," Menz told CNN. "It wasn't around my waist. It wasn't around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt. I was like, oh my God, what's happening."

Menz's husband, who was taking the photo, said that while he could not see the contact his wife described because he was standing in front of the pair, he could confirm that Franken had "reached around [Lindsay Menz] and kind of pulled her into him." Menz posted the photo to Facebook and replied to a comment from her sister by writing: "Dude — Al Franken TOTALLY molested me! Creeper!"

Menz reached out to CNN after reporter Leeann Tweeden accused Franken last week of groping her in her sleep and kissing her without her consent while on a USO tour in 2006. Menz said of her own experience: "I felt gross. It'd be like being walking through the mall and some random person grabbing your butt. You just feel gross. Like ew, I want to wash that off of me."

Franken said in a statement that he did not remember the events Menz described. "I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture," he said. "I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected." Read the full report at CNN. Jeva Lange

8:52 a.m. ET

The American public historically disapproves of President Trump, although you wouldn't know it from talking to pest control company owner Mark Lee. Appearing on a CNN panel of Trump voters Monday morning, Lee claimed that the president is standing up for the "little guy" and that no amount of negative press will change his mind.

"If Jesus Christ gets down off the cross and told me Trump is with Russia, I would tell him, 'Hold on a second. I need to check with the president if it's true,'" Lee said as his fellow panelists reacted with shock.

The moderator probed further: "Why do you believe Donald Trump over everybody else? Why?"

"I believe in him," said Lee. "He's a good man. He's taken so [many] shots for us." Watch below. Jeva Lange

8:15 a.m. ET

Mel Tillis, an eminent country singer-songwriter famous for his song catalog and stuttering when he spoke but not when he sang, died on Sunday in Ocala, Florida, likely of respiratory failure though his publicist said Tillis had "battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered." He was 85. Tillis' long career began in Nashville in 1957, after a stint in the Air Force and trucking and railroad jobs, plus some college.

When he was playing rhythm guitar for Minnie Pearl in the late 1950s, Pearl urged him to use his stutter for comedic effect, and he found that audiences responded to his humor. But he is remembered more for serious songs like "Detroit City" and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," the latter about a paralyzed Vietnam War vet whose wife is cheating on him. It was a 1969 hit for Kenny Rogers, but here is Tillis singing it on The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967:

Tillis himself scored six No. 1 singles on the country charts, including "Coca-Cola Cowboy," and 35 singles in the Top 10, mostly in the mid-1970s through early 1980s. He was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1967, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007, and awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2012. He had mixed feelings about his stutter, saying he always hoped to beat it even as it propelled him to fame — as in the 1972 bit for the The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

Tillis is survived by six children, six grandchildren, one great grandson, his longtime partner, Kathy DeMonaco, and his first wife, Doris Tiliis. Peter Weber

8:09 a.m. ET
RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

Jana Novotna, the Czech tennis player who earned 17 Grand Slam titles over the course of her career, died Sunday at the age of 49, The New York Times reports. In a statement, the Women's Tennis Association said Novotna's passing followed "a long battle with cancer" and that she "died peacefully, surrounded by her family in her native Czech Republic."

Sixteen of Novotna's Grand Slam titles came in doubles and mixed doubles, and she also earned three Olympic medals in the category. Novotna was famously consoled by the Duchess of Kent after losing to Germany's Steffi Graf at Wimbledon in 1993. Novotna eventually won her solo Wimbledon singles trophy five years later after overcoming Venus Williams, Martina Hingis of Switzerland, and Nathalie Tauziat of France.

"Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her," said WTA CEO Steve Simon in a statement. "Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA." Jeva Lange

7:50 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Here is another name to add to your list of potential 2020 candidates: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

De Blasio will travel to Iowa in December in a move many interpret as testing the waters on a national next step, Politico reports. Although de Blasio denies he is running for president, he has also signaled in interviews that his sights are set on much more than just his city: "I think the Democratic Party is ill-defined right now and I think it's ill-defined because it's lost touch with what should be its core ideology," he said Sunday. "Because it's ill-defined, they're not winning elections and the two go together."

While de Blasio ran Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign in 2000, Politico reports that he is now "fully embracing the Sen. Bernie Sanders wing of the party." De Blasio's trip to Iowa is paid for by Progress Iowa, which, as the name implies, champions progressive candidates. The mayor is scheduled to be the headliner of the organization's holiday party, "the group's largest event of the year and its most important outlet for fundraising," Politico notes.

Hizzoner waved off speculation about his trip as being "infantile," but he didn't deny he is looking at the big picture these days. "The big future of this country is when a handful more states start to move and they include Texas and Arizona and Florida too," he said. "Those will be decisive to the future of the country and the future of New York State and New York City. That change is available — I'm saying that as a Democrat and a progressive — that change is available to us and I'm obsessed with it." Read more about a possible de Blasio 2020 bid at Politico. Jeva Lange

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