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Spiraling Violence Across Ukraine; Donald Sterling Breaks His Silence; Search for Malaysia Airline Flight 370; North Korea Ready to Conduct Nuclear Test

Aired May 2, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, breaking news, brink of war -- pro-Russian militants down two Ukraine helicopters and the death toll climbs, as unrest boils over in multiple cities.

Is the crisis spiraling out of control?

Breaking his silence -- Donald Sterling speaking out for the first time since he was banned from the NBA for life over racist remarks.

What is he saying now about his alleged girlfriend and their secretly recorded conversations?

Nuclear threat -- disturbing new signs North Korea may be closer to developing the weapon Washington fears most.

Could the country soon have a mobile nuclear missile in its arsenal?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: And we're following two major breaking stories this hour. Violence sweeping cities in Ukraine, leaving dozens of people dead. and Donald Sterling breaking his silence about the scandal sparked by his racist remarks, reacting to NBA efforts to force him to sell his team and saying he now wishes he had just paid off his alleged girlfriend.

We're on top of all the fast changing developments with our correspondents and our analysts. They're standing by.

But let's begin with the crisis in Ukraine.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working his sources. This seems to be getting worse and worse.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no question. You're seeing an escalation in the violence on the ground at the same time as you're seeing an escalation in the capabilities of the pro-Russian militants. These two helicopters shut down today, apparently with missiles. And this comes as Ukrainian forces launched their most ambitious efforts so far to reclaim one city in the east taken over by paramilitaries, that is one city of several. But that offensive so far has not been successful.

And this comes as the administration struggling with a response that works announced a new trigger for sector wide sanctions against Russia today. And that trigger is the continued destabilization inside Ukraine, to the point that it would impede crucial elections in Ukraine set for May 25th, just about three weeks ago -- three weeks from now.

And as the U.S. sets this new red line, the U.S. and Russia are moving further apart in their views of the situation. The U.S. is blaming Russia. Russia blaming the US.

Today, you had the president saying that, clearly, Russia must be involved, that these protesters can't be peaceful if they have missiles to shoot down helicopters.

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to the U.N., after they called a special meeting at the U.N., accusing the U.S. of orchestrating the violence. He made the point that every time a U.S. official visits Kiev, that the violence on the ground increases.

You also have Western officials taking a more darkly humorous take on events. The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, Tweeting, "Ukrainian helicopters shot down in Slovyansk, some elderly ladies must have bought RPGs or missiles at the local grocery store, I assume." You know, this is dark humor, Wolf.

But you have heard from U.S. officials, Western officials, for some time, saying that they have to find a way to push back at this Russian propaganda, because this Russian propaganda is really inflaming those tensions on the ground and it's leading ethnic Russians here in the eastern part of the country to support these paramilitaries. And we're seeing the effects of that right now.

BLITZER: And the violence and the brutality could get worse.

Stand by for a moment.

I want to bring in our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh.

He's on the ground in Eastern Ukraine.

He's right near Slovyansk, where those helicopters were shot down.

What is the latest -- Nick?

What are you seeing, what are you hearing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are here on the ground here, just outside of Slovyansk, where all of today's events have been unfolding. Two paratroopers have been confirmed killed by the Ministry of Defense near a bridge where we were standing just earlier on today, where a large number of Ukrainian armed personnel cars rolled into the outskirts of Slovyansk to meet a hostile reception from local residents.

And, really, the last 24 hours, Wolf, have just seen the situation here on the ground in Slovyansk and in Eastern Ukraine spiral out of control.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): At dawn they finally moved in en masse for the first time toward the seat of unrest. Ukraine troops a little nervous, backed by the National Guard and a little lost, helicopters in support. And around Slovyansk, the sound that everyone had been dreading. The army piling in and pro-Russian militants fleeing on foot, leaving in their wake the missile launchers they fired at helicopters, the van they drove around town for days. Pockmarked walls and shell casings, one from the army's heavy weapons.

Nothing slowed them down except, of course, the people. This ambulance drove away carrying more protesters and a soldier, said he was an older man who tried to block an armored personnel carrier, but his legs were run over.

The welcome here perhaps not what they had expected.

"We didn't expect to come here at all," he says. "It's giving me a headache."

After weeks of empty rhetoric, this is Kiev's first serious move to reassert control. And it is both determined and messy.

(on camera): Well, now the dilemma here, really, do they move further into the town or just stay in this position, surrounded by hostile locals?

And it's that animosity, really, that will be the biggest obstacle for these troops.

(voice-over): The numbers rise as the storm moves in. On the main highway, the army has removed the pro-Russian militants, but deeper in, they remain. And here, where the night before, militants were pulling back, Ukrainian troops, far from their homes in the country's west, are digging in. One tells me their orders are to keep the perimeter. And another force may move in to the city center.

New, unimaginable, terrifying ground for them, for Ukraine and for Europe, whose stability hangs on face-offs on these quiet country roads.


PATON WALSH: Now, I think people's worst fears, Wolf, being realized tonight in Slovyansk. The sound of gunfire reported by residents. I've just spoken to this self-declared mayor, Vacheslav Ponomarev, who was, according to unconfirmed reports on Twitter, considered to have been killed. He's very much alive and fine, but says there is still shooting inside the center of the town. Those Ukraine troops perhaps now in the vulnerable positions they have taken up, despite being with armored vehicles, may well be the target of some of that shooting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the ground for us in Eastern Ukraine.

Nick, be careful over there.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now.

Joining us, Fareed Zakaria. He's the host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is still here.

And our CNN military analyst, retired U.S. Major General James "Spider" Marks -- General, Defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, said today the U.S. will be, in his words, "judged harshly" if the U.S. shrinks from the Russian challenges right now.

Is Putin putting the U.S. military to some sort of test right now?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think the United States has an obligation. Putin is not putting anybody at a test. We make the determination as to how we want to respond to this. And right now, we have not demonstrated, other than through words, that we're going to back the government in Kiev. And there certainly are more options that are available to us, through those various elements of power. Arguably, the strongest element of our powers are military. And that, a priori, has been taken off the table.

BLITZER: The U.S. has engaged in serious sanctions, though.

MARKS: Oh, sure. Oh, that's economic and there are diplomatic means, elements of power, as well.

But when you have four elements of power and you take one of those completely off the table and you haven't used them all, you've discounted an ability to get some immediate results where I know Putin would understand.

BLITZER: Fareed, I know that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is here. She's been making the rounds in Washington. She obviously met with the president.

You've got some insight into what she, potentially, together with President Obama, might be able to do to rein in Putin.

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Wolf, I think that Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, realizes that they to do something. I think that there have been a tendency to believe that Europe is not going to do anything here. I think they realize they have to respond, as you put it, to the Putin challenge.

I think military options are -- they're not off the table because we're weak, they're off the table because they are, you know, impossible to imagine. You're talking about going to a place that borders Russia, where Russia spends 20 times what Ukraine does on its defense budget. And it's not entirely clear what the composition of the Ukrainian Army is.

Remember, large parts of this Ukrainian Army in the east are ethnic Russians. It's not entirely clear that they would side with the Kiev government if there were to be some kind of war.

So the sanctions route has to be the one that is tried. And the German chancellor seemed pretty firm that if this continues, the Germans, the Europeans, would join in broader sanctions. And they want to keep ratcheting them up.

But I think it's very important to note how much of an effect they've already had, because they have created so much uncertainty about Russia that no one is investing. The stock market is down 13 percent. Russia tried to issue a bond offering -- in other words, they tried to borrow money on the international markets last week. They had to withdraw the offering because they couldn't borrow any money. And, of course, huge amounts of capital have fled Russia.

So let's keep in mind that the economic sanctions strategy does have deep -- and it could work if it were more broadly implemented. And let's hope that that is a track that these two leaders are on.

The sense I got from meeting with Merkel, which I did this morning, is that the Europeans and the Americans are more united than people realize. Of course, Europe is a more complicated story. It's, you know, 29 countries. They've got to agree on everything. But they're being tougher than I expected initially.

BLITZER: And the president today, Jim, he has sort of a new trigger for even tougher U.S.-led sanctions, relating to the scheduled elections in Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: No question. And this is news, because you've heard from the officials from some time -- for some time, that they needed to keep sector-wide sanctions, you know, the ones that are really going to hit the Russian economy in the gut, in case there was an invasion, in case those 40,000 or 50,000 troops you see massing on the border, in case a portion of them come across, that they needed something, you know, in their quiver -- another arrow in their quiver to respond to that.

Now, as you see events spiral on the ground here, they know that they have to react more quickly. And so this new standard, continued disruption. If you see this disruption continue for the next three weeks going up to this May 25th election data, they're going to bring in some sector sanctions.

Now, we still have to see how broad those are. But I think to Fareed's part -- point, clearly, you know, the Germans seem to be backing that, as well. And that's a point administration officials have been making consistently for weeks -- we need unity with Europe, we can't lead on our own on... BLITZER: And...

SCIUTTO: -- on economics.

BLITZER: And on that point, it looked like President Obama and Chancellor Merkel were on the same page, at least publicly, in their comments at their news conference earlier in the day.

What might trigger Putin to order Russian troops poised on the Russian side of the border into Eastern Ukraine?

MARKS: I don't think that he is prepared to do that. He knows that the costs would be exceptionally high if he were to cross the border. He doesn't -- and if he were to do that, if you do the normal kind of calculations, it would cause in excess of about 100,000 of his troops to occupy that part of East Ukraine. He doesn't have the military. He doesn't want to commit his military forces to do that.

But he understands by poising them north of the border, it's exceptionally strategically disruptive.

What I don't understand is what other additional trigger events need to take place for us to have an additional economic surge...

BLITZER: Well, the argument...

MARKS: -- a sanctions surge...

BLITZER: -- the argument that the president made...

MARKS: -- if you will.

BLITZER: -- is if they, the Russians, disrupt the May 25th elections, that would trigger additional sanctions.

MARKS: And this isn't disruption enough right now?

SCIUTTO: The president's words were, you know, if the disruption continues to the point where it impedes these elections from taking place. I guess, in effect, they're still holding out this possibility that Russia can pull back, because it's the administration's contention that the Russian government has the ability to control these paramilitaries here...

MARKS: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- to -- and, of course, they say they have not done that yet. They...

BLITZER: How would...


BLITZER: -- Fareed, how worried should the -- some of those NATO allies in Eastern Europe, whether Poland or the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, how worried -- they're all worried right now.

But how worried should they actually be about some sort of Russian move into those NATO allies?

Because that would trigger Article Five of NATO and the U.S. would have to come to their defense.

ZAKARIA: Well, I think if you imagine, Wolf, the Baltic states -- Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, which were, as you know, part of the Soviet Union. They were republics of the Soviet Union, never recognized by the United States, but they were republics. They have two of those states, the Baltic states, have significant Russian populations. And were they not members of NATO, I would imagine they would be very nervous right now, because, after all, it is the rights of the Russian population that Putin is ostensibly using as his pretext.

The fact that they're part of NATO, I think, has given them enormous assurance. I think that's one of the reasons why you notice many of them asked for American troop maneuvers, you know, various kinds of things. The Germans have also participated in that.

So I think this has been very, very helpful that the Americans and other NATO allies have reassured those NATO countries bordering this region that they have some security.

But, you know, Wolf, I think it's important to point out -- to underscore what Jim Sciutto was pointing out. We're in a very volatile period for the next three weeks. These elections are either going to happen or not happen. And the road to the elections is going to be one where either there is a period of de-escalation, or if it is the Russian goal to make the elections impossible, we're going to see a lot more of what you're watching on the screen right now.

This could get very messy for the next three weeks.

BLITZER: It certainly could.

And we'll stay all over it.

Fareed, thanks very much.

Jim Sciutto, "Spider" Marks, thanks to you, as well.

You can see, by the way, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" every Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern and once again at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

More breaking news coming up.

Donald Sterling, he's speaking out for the first time about the scandal sparked by his racist remarks. We have some exclusive inside information of what he's now saying about selling the Clippers, about his alleged girlfriend.

CNN's Rachel Nichols and Don Lemon, they are standing by. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: And the breaking news in the scandal surrounding the embattled owner of the L.A. Clippers. Donald Sterling has not broken his silence, speaking out for the first time about the effort of the NBA to force him to sell his team about his alleged girlfriend, the woman at the center of this scandal.

Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, what's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight we've learned about these new comments from Donald Sterling. We believe his first public comments since the scandal broke. He spoke to Jason Binn, publisher of "DuJour" magazine, and Sterling indicated he's not going to take this lying down.


TODD (voice-over): Donald Sterling tells Jason Binn of "DuJour" magazine, quote, "I wish I had just paid her off," referring to V. Stiviano, the women reported to be his girlfriend. As he faces intense pressure from the NBA to sell his team, those who have tangled with Sterling say he's not about to roll over.

DOUGLAS BAGBY, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD STERLING: I'd be very surprised if he doesn't make a big battle out of it.

TODD: Doug Bagby represented a former girlfriend of Donald Sterling's in a lawsuit Sterling filed against her. Sterling has got a long history of contentious litigation, has been sued for sexual harassment, has given contentious depositions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have an understanding of what sexual is?



STERLING: Well, the word sexual is sexual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does it mean to you?

STERLING: What does it mean to you?

TODD: Sterling won that case. And experts say there's at least one legal strategy he can use to stall the NBA's effort to force him to sell the L.A. Clippers. It involves Sterling's estranged wife Rochelle.

NELSON GARCIA, DIVORCE ATTORNEY: He could file for divorce, of course requesting that the court distribute their community property which the L.A. Clippers certainly are. TODD: Divorce attorney Nelson Garcia says filing for divorce alone wouldn't fend off a forced sale of the Clippers. Garcia says Sterling could try to sue the NBA separately, try to make the two cases related, and ask for a court order.

GARCIA: What he would then do is file for an injunction against the NBA to delay any sale until the divorce or just to have the family court distribute that property.

TODD: That means more courts involved. Another layer of legal complexity which Garcia says could stall the forced sale of the Clippers for two years or longer.

Sterling reportedly stalled an attempted forced sale before. The "L.A. Times" reports in 1982 Sterling was heard saying the Clippers needed to finish last in order to draft a top player. A committee of NBA owners voted to remove him for that, the "Times" reports. Sterling later announced his desire to sell the team. That bought him time.

And a few months later, according to the "L.A. Times", NBA official David Stern who later became commissioner said the league wouldn't pursue the matter any further, even said the Clippers were operated in a, quote, "first class fashion."

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Now I'm wondering, can Commissioner Stern come forward now and tell us exactly why he gave that organization his blessings back in 1983?


TODD: A spokesman for former Commissioner Stern told us that he's traveling and unavailable for comment. As for Donald Sterling's remark about paying her off, we couldn't get comment on that quote from the lawyer for V. Stiviano, the woman accused of recording Sterling's racist comments, but earlier that lawyer did say that Stiviano was not Sterling's girlfriend and that she did not leaked the recordings later published on TMZ -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there's other information emerging now, Brian, about Sterling's health.

TODD: That's right. ESPN and the "New York Post" are reporting that Sterling is battling cancer. A Clippers spokesman said he could not comment on that to us when we called back.

BLITZER: Yes. They are saying that he has prostate cancer.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: We'll get some more information on that.

Brian, thanks very, very much.

We're going to talk all about this. CNN's Rachel Nichols is standing by, so is Don Lemon. I just received more information about what Don Sterling actually is now saying. I spoke with Jason Binn about what Sterling has in his mind, about his next steps. Stand by. There's more breaking news right after this.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. Donald Sterling now speaking out for the first time about the racist remarks that he made, got him banned for life from the NBA.

CNN has learned new details now of what he's saying, what he wishes he had done differently and what he plans to do next.

We're back with Rachel Nichols, she is host of CNN's "UNGUARDED WITH RACHEL NICHOLS," CNN anchor Don lemon. Also joining us is Jeffrey Toobin on the phone.

But, Rachel, let me get to you. I just spoke with Jason Binn. He's the publisher of "DuJour" magazine. He had an extensive phone conversation with Donald Sterling. There's Jason Binn. And he made it clear, Sterling made it clear to Jason that he has no inclination to sell the team. He's ready to face the NBA. Does that surprise you?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN ANCHOR, UNGUARDED: No, it doesn't surprise me at all. We've said all along that Donald Sterling is not one to give up without a fight, that there are some legal questions here about whether the NBA can go ahead and force this sale, and that Donald Sterling is a litigious guy. He's a lawyer. You have to think that he is not going to go quietly into the good night.

And, look, this is a guy whose identity is so wrapped up in being the owner of his team, I think it's going to be tough for him to just walk away.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, he also said this and it's on the Web site. He says of the alleged girlfriend, V. Stiviano, he says, quote, "I wish I had just paid her off."

What does that suggest, Jeffrey, to you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It suggests that he has a PhD in making a bad situation worse. Instead of showing a little remorse, showing some understanding of how his comments were perceived, instead of apologizing, he's just acting like the jerk that he appeared to be on the tape, which is certainly not going to change the vote in the NBA which at least initially worked unanimously against him and will probably remain that way.

BLITZER: Because, Don, I'm also told by Jason Binn, who's the publisher of "DuJour magazine, that Sterling never thought this -- his comments would create the huge uproar that it has clearly developed out there. Give me your reaction to these comments we're now hearing for the first time. DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Listen, I didn't do the interview but if what Jason Binn says is correct, then I have a couple of names. First of all, he should have said, instead of I should have paid her off, the first thing that should have come out of his mouth should have been, I should not have said what I said. I am remorseful. I'm not a racist.

He's not saying any of that. I should have paid her off? It's ridiculous. Jeffrey is being extremely nice when he calls him a jerk. I have -- I have some names for him. OK, people at home, get ready. I think he is a narcissist. I think he's a privileged you know what, it starts with a B, I think he's obnoxious, I think he's a pompous ass, and I think he is an unrepentant racist. So there are a lot of things that he could have said. And if he indeed said that then he really doesn't get it. He has really -- he has no self-awareness.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect --

NICHOLS: He's not going to apologize. He doesn't think he did anything wrong. He doesn't think he did anything wrong years ago when he was sued for housing discrimination, he doesn't think he did anything wrong when he discriminated against Eljin Baylor. He doesn't think he did anything wrong here. It is amazing but it is consistent.

BLITZER: He told Jason Binn, Rachel, that he's ready to talk to the NBA and Barbara Walters but that's it. He's ready to do an interview with Barbara Walters. He's ready to talk to the NBA but he's not going to talk to others. What do you make of it?

NICHOLS: We'll see. I'm not sure I believe any of that. I got to tell you. I mean, we're going to see as this unfolds with Donald Sterling whether he gets himself, as Jeffrey said, into deeper hot water. He's certainly not making any friends for himself and really I would have to think his only avenue now is the courts. The court of public opinion is against him.

LEMON: Right.

NICHOLS: And this is probably going to make it worse.

LEMON: What about --

NICHOLS: The court of the NBA internally against him, and this is probably going to make it worse. The only avenue he may have is the courts and Jeffrey can speak to the theory that's been going around today that maybe he and his wife Shelly, one or the other, would file for divorce as a way of getting the -- getting the Clippers ownership tied up in a community property battle.

LEMON: Yes. How about he -- he wants to speak to Magic Johnson, instead of saying I want to speak Barbara Walters? How about that? How about, I want to speak to everyone on the team personally? How about I want to speak directly to America directly?

NICHOLS: He doesn't want to. He doesn't want to apologize, Don. He doesn't think he hasn't. LEMON: I understand that. And you said yesterday, yesterday, when Wolf and I said it would have been a good idea if he had done this, if he came out and said, listen.


NICHOLS: I told you.

LEMON: I'm going to spend the rest of my life. You said it's never going to happen. And you're absolutely right. But how about he shows some compassion and some kuth and at least he's a human being instead of a jerk? He's not making anything better.


BLITZER: Let me bring Jeffrey --

LEMON: Get rid of the team.

BLITZER: Jeff, we got a legal issue I want you to explain because we spoke, CNN spoke with V. Stiviano's attorney before, before we learned of the comments -- of what Donald Sterling was telling Jason Binn. Here's what the attorney for V. Stiviano, the alleged girlfriend, said.

"V. Stiviano did not leak the recordings. We are narrowing down who might have leaked the tapes but we do not want to divulge at this point."

Apparently Sterling believes that -- Sterling believes that V. Stiviano did leak those tapes. But go ahead. What's going on here from a legal perspective?

TOOBIN: Well, it's an interesting sideshow about whether she taped him surreptitiously, whether she taped him illegally, whether she violated the law or violated Sterling's right in some way that he might be able to sue her. None of that has anything to do with whether he will be able to hold on to the franchise. The NBA has the tapes. They were made public. He has acknowledged to Adam Silver that it's his voice on the tapes. So it is a complete legal and otherwise sideshow about whether she -- whether she did something wrong. It has nothing to do with whether the NBA will remove the team from him.

BLITZER: Rachel, V. Stiviano was asked to comment today on these reports that Donald Sterling, who is 80 years old, is suffering from prostate cancer. Here's what she said. Listen to this.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you know that Donald Sterling was fighting prostate cancer?

V. STIVIANO: I love your sandals. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

V. STIVIANO: Where are they from?


V. STIVIANO: I love Banana Republic. They make my things.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. Why are you wearing the shield?

V. STIVIANO: Why are you holding a microphone?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I don't know. It's my job?

V. STIVIANO: Well, then it's my job.



BLITZER: That was --

NICHOLS: If only we could all get paid for wearing a shield.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Rachel.

LEMON: Are you kidding me?

NICHOLS: Wolf, where are your shoes from?

BLITZER: Go ahead, respond to that. I don't know what to say.

NICHOLS: Well, we've already discussed on this show her night shield versus her day shield, black versus pink. Very important. I don't know when that was shot, during the day or night or if she's making some sort of shield faux pas. But whether you're interviewing someone who looks like Darth Vader or not, it's a distraction from the central issue, right?

The central issue is that a man who owns a professional sports team, and one of the most popular leagues in our country, not only said these things, not only is alleged to have done much worse things, but now seems to be intent on continuing this campaign of insanity. And I'm very curious to see how the next few days unfold because if he does fight this, if he does drag this out into something longer, we're going to get more of this.


NICHOLS: She's on roller skates the other day. Did you guys see that? That was the winner for me.

LEMON: Did you hear? Rachel and Wolf, I have the real-life Olivia Pope on my show, Judy Smith, the other day. The fixer. And her advice was perfect. It was very simple for V. Stiviano. Stop giving interviews. Stop talking. She is becoming just as hated as Donald Sterling by doing this.

And why do we keep calling her his girlfriend? She was a sugar baby, he is sugar daddy. That's what it is. This isn't girlfriend- boyfriend. This is a relationship where they were -- one person was getting something out of it, or both people were getting something out of it, and one was -- anyway, I won't go on. You know where I'm going.


NICHOLS: You want to explain that on national television how that works?

BLITZER: All right. So let's try to move this story ahead a little bit, Don.


BLITZER: Now we've got, you know, what Donald Sterling was telling Jason Binn, we've got a whole bunch of little nuggets there suggesting that he is going to resist these efforts to make him give up the team. He's willing to talk to the NBA but he has no inclination to sell the team.

Jeffrey, first to you, where is this story moving?

TOOBIN: Well, I think the next key development is when the owners will actually vote to take the franchise away. There was a preliminary meeting a couple of days ago with nine of the most important owners where they voted unanimously to support Adam Silver. The next step is for the league to take the formal action against Sterling.

At that point, we may see what his legal defense is. I mean, it's one thing to spout off to an interviewer. The next really important step will be when Sterling or his lawyer lays out what reason he has that the NBA lacks the authority to take it away. That will be a significant development and we'll see if he can even muster an argument against the NBA. But that should be in the next few days.

BLITZER: And Don, I just want to point out, when I spoke to Jason Binn, who is on his way here to Washington, by the way, to attend the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, when I spoke with him, he said that Sterling in his phone conversation had no idea that his comments would create this huge, huge uproar. It came as a total shock to him. Go ahead and react to that.

LEMON: Lack of self-awareness.

NICHOLS: He doesn't think he's racist.

LEMON: Yes. He doesn't think he's racist. And I -- Wolf, I wrote in a column that's online now that, you know, some of -- when you look at him and you look at Cliven Bundy, the new racism is not knowing that you're racist. And he -- how could he say those remarks and think those things? And not think that he's racist or not think that they would cause a stir. He's just completely, completely unaware.

BLITZER: Rachel, give me your final thought.

NICHOLS: It's just amazing to me that we can have this play out on this kind of stage during the playoffs in the NBA's most crucial time. This is a huge embarrassment for the league and it's about to get worse if he's giving statements like this.

As Jeffrey mentioned, yesterday the owners voted to move forward on that advisory committee. You would think that they said they're going to move forward expeditiously. You would think that they would move even faster than that. You would have thought they would have served him notice by today because this has got to end.

BLITZER: And, Rachel, before I let you go, just a sports-related question. The fact that this story exploded just as the Clippers were going through their first round of the playoffs, doing well, obviously having an excellent season this year and the Clippers have had horrible seasons for decades, if you will. All of a sudden, they're doing well.

Is it a coincidence, do you believe, that this story erupted now or is there something going on, whoever leaked all of this information to TMZ deliberately wanted to do it when it would get maximum exposure?

NICHOLS: Well, it's not a coincidence because this story was purposefully leaked. So whoever leaked it decided they wanted to do it now. There's no coincidence about it. You could have leaked it a month, you could have leaked it a month from now. Obviously this was a decision that they made on purpose to get maximum bang for the buck and it certainly worked.

BLITZER: Rachel Nichols, Jeffrey Toobin, Don Lemon, guys, thanks very much.

When we come back, breaking news, new concerns North Korea is ready to conduct an underground nuclear test and test a missile capable of reaching the United States. The disturbing details just ahead.

And new details in the search for Flight 370 as investigators extend the Bluefin's underwater mission. That's coming up as well.


BLITZER: Another major story we're following here in the SITUATION ROOM. We're getting new details in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 where the Bluefin underwater search device has just wrapped up its 18th mission without finding any, any debris.

We're learning this isn't the end of its deployment, though. CNN's Anna Coren is joining us from Perth, Australia with the very latest.

What can you tell us, Anna? ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, far from the end of this search, if anything, it's just gearing up. As you say, the 18th mission of the Bluefin-21 has completed, no sign of debris from MH-370. Now we know that the Ocean Shield, which is hosting the Bluefin, will be coming back to port here in Perth in the next few days to restock and refuel before heading back out.

But we know that this search is heading into a new phase, which will cover an area of some 20,000 square miles north to where they have been searching. We believe that this will take, according to authorities, between eight months to a year to cover this entire area. But as far as authorities are concerned, they are meeting in Canberra on Monday -- Australia, Malaysia and China, and we will be there, Wolf, to bring you the news as to what happened out of that press conference.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens.

All right, Anna Coren in Perth for us.

Let's bring in our aviation analyst Miles O'Brien and CNN's Richard Quest.

What do you make of this meeting that's about to take place in Australia? A three-way meeting. Maybe they're going to start from scratch and review all of the evidence?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: You know, I think, Wolf, the counterintuitive thought here today is that a pause might be a good thing. The fact that the Ocean Shield is coming back, the fact that the principal parties are getting together, maybe a fresh look at everything that we've been talking about, these 50-plus days is a good thing. Maybe some blinders have been on. Maybe some clues have been overlooked. And maybe this is a good opportunity to reinvigorate the investigation.

BLITZER: The acting Transportation minister, the Australian prime minister, as well, if I could point out, Richard, says this new search area could last, what, eight to 12 months now. They are just going to begin a long, long process.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: And I think that's exactly what most of us had expected when nothing was found in the first few days. The long, hard, slow slog is going to get under way.

Miles is probably spot on when he says, what are they going to do? They've got to work out the practicalities, they've got to work out the commercial arrangements, the cost sharing and burden sharing, the commercial contracts, and I think the big agreement between China, Australia, Malaysia, that's what they're going to be talking about, and a full reappraisal.

This is what you would expect to see in any academic environment. They haven't found what they are looking for. They've got to go back and look at every single aspect of the search data and really come to the idea, are we still happy with all of the conclusions we've reached?

BLITZER: You know, Miles, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the next phase of the search could be delayed for at least for, what, six weeks because of negotiations with private contractors for specific high-tech equipment. What do you make of that?

O'BRIEN: Well, it's unfortunately because think about what's going to happen in six weeks. The weather is going to be much worse there and that does, you know, kick the can down the road a little bit.

You know, I think it's really important, and this is just such a hard thing to tell the families, that this is the time frame and the expectations for when they might find something is not really in sync with the pace of the investigation up to this point. I think everybody expected once they heard the pings, it would just be a short period of time before there would be some eureka moment.

It's not going to happen that quickly, it's going to be a long haul. And six weeks, in the grand scheme of things, is probably appropriate.

BLITZER: Miles O'Brien, Richard Quest, guys, thanks very much. We'll of course stay on top of the story.

Just ahead, breaking news out of North Korea. There are now new concerns North Korea is getting ready to test a missile potentially capable of reaching the United States. We have disturbing details.

And more breaking news we're monitoring. Two downed helicopters, dozens killed. Just today. We're going live to Ukraine on the brink of war. That's coming up at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: Breaking news just coming into the SITUATION ROOM out of North Korea. New satellite images from a test site now raising serious concern here in the United States.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's working the story for us. Has some new information.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are a number of new classified intelligence indicators that North Korea may be about to embark on a new round of very dangerous weapons testing.


STARR (voice-over): U.S. military intelligence now believes Kim Jong- Un's regime is ready at any time to conduct both an underground nuclear test and to test a missile that could reach U.S. shores. The problem? No one knows if and when North Korea might do it.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We continue to monitor the situation on the Korean peninsula very closely as we always do. STARR: What the U.S. is watching is this test site in North Korea. The Web site, 38north, which closely monitors North Korea, says commercial satellites snapped these pictures showing engine testing for a crucial long-range missile called the KNO8.

The KNO8 first shown as a mock-up at this parade is a mobile intercontinental missile. A huge worry. Because if North Korea can develop a mobile missile with a nuclear warhead, they can move it around quickly. A U.S. spy satellite might not find it before it launches.

VICTOR CHA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It's estimated that these road mobile missiles could have a range of as far as 6,000 miles. Again, we don't know if that's true because they haven't tested one, but if they can fire a road mobile missile that far, that puts places like Alaska, Hawaii, and Los Angeles within range.

STARR: Analysts say the imagery shows evidence the engine test happened in a recent two-week period. Fuel tanks have been moved from the immediate test area to a post-test storage site.

As you can see here, from the Web site 38north, it also shows vehicles have been brought in carrying personnel and equipment and a trench has turned white, possibly from the blast of an engine test.


STARR: And if there is a nuclear test, Wolf, the U.S., the CIA, the Pentagon, everyone will be watching very closely to see if North Korea has been able to develop a miniaturized nuclear warhead. That is what is needed to go on the front end of a North Korean missile. When you match up a miniaturized nuclear warhead and a mobile missile that can reach the United States, that satellites might not be able to see quickly enough, this becomes a complete change in how the U.S. has to calculate the North Korean threat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very disturbing news coming out of North Korea.

Barbara, thank you.

Coming up at the top of the hour. Breaking news. Dozens dead just today as violence explodes across Ukraine. We're going live to the region. That's coming up next.