Return to Transcripts main page


Crisis in Ukraine; Donald Sterling Speaks Out; Flight 370 Search Set to Resume

Aired May 12, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Stand by for more of Anderson Cooper's exclusive interview with the owner of the L.A. Clippers, as well as new questions about Sterling's health and state of mind.

And this: chaos and violence, as a new vote threatens to tear Ukraine farther apart. Will Russia annex another part of the country and throw more fuel on this explosive conflict?

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

CNN has learned that a new reevaluation of Flight 370 data is now under way. This comes just hours before the hunt for the plane resumes, and as serious new doubts are being raised right now about the possible pings from the so-called black boxes and whether searchers have been looking in the wrong place for weeks and weeks.

The Ocean Shield is closing in on that same area even as we speak. Our experts are standing by. They're looking at all the new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get the very latest from aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh.

What are you learning, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, Wolf, a U.S. Navy source telling me that reanalysis of some critical data is happening right here in the United States.

That source says a couple of U.S. agencies and consultants are taking a fresh look at the pinger data. We know that crews have centered their search around those four pings believed to be from the black boxes.

And CNN has learned, in three to four weeks, these U.S. agencies and consultants are expected to say whether they believe those sounds were from the black boxes or something else.


MARSH (voice-over): Bluefin-21 is about to return to the water on its 19th dive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still hopeful that we will find something in that area. MARSH: The underwater drone is going back to the area where four electronic signals were detected more than a month ago. But there's growing concern some or all of those electronic pings did not come from Flight 370's black boxes.

The captain of the Ocean Shield tells "The Wall Street Journal" that searchers increasingly doubt that the third and fourth pings came from a manmade device. Those transmissions were picked up on April 8 and according to the "Wall Street Journal" report, they had a frequency of around 27 kilohertz. That's a lower level than the first two pings detected on April 5, which had a frequency of about 33 kilohertz. Flight data recorders emit signals at a frequency of 37.5.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It's interesting to me, though, that this hasn't been mentioned before. Nobody said anything about this before. They had even told us before that they were searching within the area or plan to within the area of all four pings.

MARSH: U.S. Navy sources tell CNN they have always had greater confidence in the first two pings, including one that lasted two hours and 20 minutes. The Bluefin-21 is expected to focus on the area of the first ping when it returns to the water after scouring the vicinity of the second ping, and coming up with nothing, giving more fuel to skeptics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If their technology works, if this technology scanning the ocean floor works, you think they would have found something by that.

MARSH: But the search coordinator tells CNN's Anna Coren he still believes his crews are looking in the right place based on the pings and other data.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the transmissions was analyzed side by side with an emergency locator beacon, and the characteristics, the pulsing, was almost identical. So what we picked up from the ocean was something that was assessed as being very similar to an emergency locator beacon.


MARSH: Well, that U.S. Navy source says even though they have doubts about the third and fourth pings where the plane's black boxes -- they say that they will continue to go and search that area because of an absence of other data. So they are really going to hunt that down, search that area, even though there are those doubts.

BLITZER: Rene, I want you to stand by with us. I want to bring in our aviation analyst Peter Goelz, also our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.

Peter, is it possible all four of the pings are really not connected to this so-called black box and were just misidentified from the very start?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Sure. It's possible. But the NTSB still has high confidence in the area and in the first two pings, but, you know, they have got to search for it. I'm not disappointed that they haven't found it on the first go. I mean, it is really hard at that depth. They need to do a more intensive search.

BLITZER: They're bringing other U.S. agencies -- I'm not exactly sure which ones -- into this whole investigation right now. At least it's encouraging to get some fresh eyes.

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's encouraging, Wolf, but they also need to be looking at whether they have the right equipment.

So, even if you say the area of the first two pings is a much better place to be looking, they didn't look there initially because the Bluefin is limited in going that deep. So it also raises the question, as the Ocean Shield makes its way back to where they were with the Bluefin, instead of with an Orion or some other capability that goes deeper in the ocean, it could still come up negative.

BLITZER: The pings were supposed two 37.5 kilohertz, right?

MARSH: Right.

BLITZER: But one set was 20, what, 9?

MARSH: Twenty-seven.

BLITZER: Twenty-seven. The other one was 33. That's not 37.5.

I thought that was the specific number they needed.

MARSH: Right.

And, you know, when they first picked up those two initial pings on April 5, and they said that it wasn't quite the 37.5, it was closer to 33, a lot of people said, well, that could be because of the dying battery. It could also be because of how deep the water was.

So, that was the margin of error that they gave, and they kind of shrugged that off a bit. But when we're hearing 27 kilohertz for the second set of pings that they're not too confident about, now, that's a bit, a ways away from 37.5.

BLITZER: As we heard David Soucie just say, why are we just hearing about this now?

GOELZ: Well, that's been a problem from the beginning, and that leads to articles like that was in "The Atlantic." Without putting the raw data out, without being more open and transparent, there's going to be challenges at each and every decision that the search team makes.

BLITZER: Yes, that article in "The Atlantic" suggested that maybe the Inmarsat satellite pings, those handshakes, were wrong, too, that they're looking in the wrong place in general.


And it takes us back to the very beginning of the whole case, back on March 8 and shortly after, where the credibility of the Malaysian government was constantly being questioned because of changing data. Now we're actually seeing that from the search team, and we hadn't seen that before to this degree. Like David Soucie mentioned, this information should have been out a long time ago.

BLITZER: And it looks like a lot of folks are just losing total confidence in what those guys out there are doing. I know they're doing their best. They're working as hard as they can. But a lot of folks are just losing confidence.

And, Rene, my heart goes out to the family members who are still stuck in that limbo. They found no wreckage of the plane. On the other hand, they don't know to what believe anymore.

MARSH: Right. And it's fair to question the data, because when you -- and we have made the comparison so many times, but, you know, when you look at Air France 447, they had a lot of false leads. They had a situation where they heard pings.

At least they thought they were pings, and when they went to check it out, it -- they weren't pings from black boxes at all. Someone mislabeled a tape from a testing that happened days before. And they were listening to the testing tape. So these mistakes happen.

It's perfectly fair to raise these doubts about the data. But, you know, it is a tough position because there's no evidence. And without evidence, there will always be questions.

BLITZER: Rene Marsh, thanks very much. Peter Goelz, Tom Fuentes, thanks to you as well.

Still ahead: Donald Sterling's exclusive interview with our own Anderson Cooper. Anderson, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. There he is. We will speak with him live. That's coming up next.

And, later, a vote that Ukrainian officials are calling a farce, will it give Russia cover to take control of a nation key region in the country? We're getting new reaction. Stand by.


BLITZER: We heard just a little while ago from the new CEO of the L.A. Clippers. He doesn't sound impressed by Donald Sterling's apology for the racist remarks that got him banned from the NBA for life.

Take a listen to Richard Parsons' response to Sterling's exclusive interview with Anderson Cooper.


RICHARD PARSONS, CEO, L.A. CLIPPERS: I don't know this man, and I haven't heard -- I guess that was today, some sort of a -- I would observe, as most Americans I think would observe, that he's a little late, for sure. But, beyond that, I'm here to help turn one of the burners off under the pot, not to turn it up higher.


BLITZER: Let's get some more now.

Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. And he's got more on the Sterling interview, the reaction.


This is first time we have heard at length from Donald Sterling and from his estranged wife, Shelly, on this scandal. Donald Sterling told Anderson Cooper he will never do anything like this again. But consistent with his behavior in this case, there were some twists.


DONALD STERLING, OWNER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: I made a mistake. I hope it's in their heart to forgive me for that mistake.

TODD: Donald Sterling is apologizing, but in an exclusive interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, he insists he's not a racist and claims he was tricked.

D. STERLING: I don't know why the girl had me say those things.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're saying you were set up?

D. STERLING: Well, yes, I was baited. I mean, it's not the way I talk. I don't talk about people, for one thing, ever. I talk about ideas and other things, but I don't talk about people.

TODD: We reached out to V. Stiviano's attorney. He didn't respond to Sterling's claim that he was baited.

Stiviano, seen here after being arrested for shop lifting 10 years ago, has denied that she leaked the recorded conversation to the media. Her lawyer says that arrest was later expunged from her record. Stiviano has she said she doesn't think Sterling is racist. Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly, told ABC's Barbara Walters the same thing.

SHELLY STERLING, WIFE OF DONALD STERLING: It was horrible when I heard it. I mean, it was just degrading and it made me sick to hear it.

TODD: And Shelly Sterling hinted as a potential health issue.

S. STERLING: He saw the tape and he said: "I don't remember saying that. I don't remember ever saying those things."

WALTERS: What did you think then?

S. STERLING: That's when I thought he has dementia. TODD: Donald Sterling hasn't said anything to this point about his personal health. We asked a neurologist what if Sterling has a mild tomorrow of dementia?

(on camera): Could someone experiencing dementia start saying racist things and not mean them at all?

DR. MARC SCHLOSBERG, PSYCHOLOGIST: Someone might not mean to say them, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they don't have those beliefs. So if someone has held beliefs like that all his or her life, then a dementia might cause a disinhibition, so that he or she might be more likely to actually express those beliefs.


TODD: But what about severe dementia? Dr. Marc Schlosberg says with that, it's possible to have racist thoughts that you have never had before, but it's improbable. He says for an illness to actually manufacture that kind of world view is very unlikely, Wolf.

BLITZER: He clearly doesn't have severe dementia.

TODD: Not at this point.

BLITZER: Obviously.

All right, Brian, thanks very much.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Let's bring in CNN's Anderson Cooper, along with anchor Don Lemon and senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Anderson, you spent quality time with this guy. Did he give you the impression that he had at least early stages of dementia?

COOPER: Look, I think in order to judge that sort of thing, you actually have to know a person for a long time, you have to know what they were like 10 years ago as to what they are now.

I can certainly say I had no concerns about his state of mind doing this interview. If this was somebody who I felt had dementia, I would not have done this interview, nor would we put it on television.

Donald Sterling is clearly an accomplished attorney. He knows his way around a courtroom. He came into the interview knowing what he wanted to say and also being willing to answer just about any question that I put to him. You know, it was a contentious interview at times, an emotional interview at times. We talked for well over an hour. He answered all the questions that I put to him.

So he certainly, you know, sees his situation. He's aware of the situation he's in. It's a situation the likes of which he has never been in before, though he's certainly been in hot water before for things he said and been alleged to have done. And he clearly believes there's a way for him forward in this situation, that he can somehow remain owner of the L.A. Clippers.

BLITZER: But I got the impression, Anderson -- correct me if I'm wrong -- from the excerpts you have released that it looks like he's ready to accept this notion that there's not going to be a huge legal battle and maybe he should just walk away.

COOPER: I wouldn't jump -- I wouldn't say that. He says multiple things in this interview.

I think what -- I think his strategy, my sense of it is that is he's waiting to -- for the next shoe to drop, which is the owners actually voting.

But I -- he will not go on the record saying he's going to fight it in court. I think he doesn't want to do anything that impacts or sways the way the owners are going to vote. But, clearly, he's aware of his -- you know, the possible legal challenges that he could execute, aware of, you know, a pending divorce with his wife, which he acknowledges could very easily tie this up in divorce court.

The team is held in a trust. He also, I think, believes that there may be some sort of a negotiation with the NBA that might be possible. He believes -- and you will hear this tonight -- that the players still support him. He believes the players, the L.A. Clipper players, actually still love him and support him.

BLITZER: Well, that sounds -- let me get Don Lemon to weigh in. That sounds delusional, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It does sound delusional, but I think Anderson is right.

We don't know. You know, we're not doctors or psychologists. We don't know his medical history, whether or not he has dementia. But that certainly does sound delusional. He does not have to say that he's going to fight legally. He has Shelly is doing that. Shelly is in a sense sort of the bad guy, the bad cop. He's the good cop in all of this. He's trying to change his reputation and public opinion.

So he gives an interview where he says, I don't know about these things, I'm not racist, I'm not any of these things -- I don't remember saying that, nothing. She baited me.

Listen, I don't know about anybody else who is on this panel, but if something's not in my heart and if it's something that I'm not aware of, no one can bait me into saying anything that is beyond what I think. So, if I don't have racist thoughts in my head, there's nobody that can bait me into saying racist things. So, to me, it just does not make sense.


BLITZER: Jeffrey, I want you to weigh in, but I want you to weigh in also. Dick Parsons, the new CEO of the L.A. Clippers, former CEO, chairman of Time Warner, our partner company, he once ran, among other things, the Atlanta Hawks, an NBA basketball team, he said: "Only Donald Sterling was a controlling owner. There's only one controlling owner."

That means if the NBA bans him for life, all of the Sterlings basically are gone.


In the past couple of days, the NBA has made very clear that there is no Shelly option, as far as they're concerned, that all the Sterlings have to go. They are now referring to the ownership group. They're saying the ownership group has to go, which means Donald Sterling, who is the owner of record, but also the other shareholders.

So, at least as far as the NBA is concerned, they all have to go. And, frankly, I think legally they will be on very solid ground in getting rid of the lot of them.

BLITZER: Anderson, I know that all of us are looking forward to the full interview later tonight. Give us a little preview because the clips that we have seen are so compelling. Give us a little bit more of what we can expect 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

COOPER: You know, he hints at this in one of the clips we released, his comments on Magic Johnson. I think people are going to be stunned by his full comments on Magic Johnson.


BLITZER: Because that -- it's so shocking, what he -- Magic Johnson is one of the most decent guys out there, has done enormous work for minorities in urban areas, created a lot, a lot of jobs. He's really given back to the community. What on earth would make Donald Sterling say he has really been bad for minorities?

COOPER: Right. And it's not just his business acumen in urban communities. It's also the Michael Jordan Foundation, which for 20 years has given millions of dollars and raised millions and millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS awareness, for education, for community activities and outreach.

So, again, I'm going to leave it up to Donald Sterling to kind of try to characterize his beliefs on Magic Johnson, but, again, I think that's the thing that tomorrow you will see everywhere and people will be talking about.

BLITZER: Yes, Don, I think that there's nothing -- nothing that's more outrageous than to try to belittle Magic Johnson like that.


LEMON: It is.

So, let's just say that he does have those feelings about Magic Johnson. It's his right. It doesn't mean that he's correct about it? But if he does, and he's in this particular situation, he shouldn't say anything. He just say, I admire Magic Johnson, I'm sorry for what was said, and if I could take those words back, I would. He should not go on to then offend and say more bad things about Magic Johnson. It just does not make sense. For a smart man who's an attorney, he certainly said very stupid things.

BLITZER: Stupid things, indeed. All right, guys, thanks very much.

Anderson, the full interview, the exclusive interview, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Don Lemon, we will see you back here 10:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm sure you are going to have a lot of reaction to what's going on.

Jeffrey Toobin, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. A house in a quiet neighborhood just erupted in a fiery explosion. Look at these pictures. We will have details right after this.


BLITZER: Breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're monitoring a dangerous situation in New Hampshire. Look at this. A house exploded in a fiery burst only a few moments ago. Our affiliate WMUR reports multiple shots were fired in the house in Brentwood. One police officer was injured. Police were responding to the scene when the fire began, exploding moments later. Fire crews are battling the blaze right now. We're going to bring you new details as they come in, awful, awful situation.

BLITZER: Other new developments happening in crisis in Ukraine right now. The country is closer to unraveling after a controversial vote by pro-Russian separatists.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is following all the developments. He's joining us now with the latest -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have brand-new satellite photos from the eastern border of Ukraine here. This is Rostov (ph), just off to the east. Remember, President Putin made a promise last Wednesday, that he was withdrawing his forces from the border. Well, these satellite photos taken today show that that isn't happening. You still have armored vehicles, tanks just as they were at the end of March.

And this is happening as Russian separatists declared independence in two Eastern Ukrainian towns after a hastily arranged referendum over the weekend.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): It had all the trappings of an election: polling stations, ballots in clear ballot boxes. And pro-Russian separatists immediately claimed an overwhelming victory. As much as 90 percent of the voters in Donetsk and neighboring Lugansk voting to separate from Ukraine. CNN correspondents on the scene, however, reported seeing many people like this woman, both once--

-- and then vote again.

And officials in Kiev were quick to dismiss the election as pure fiction.

OLEKSANDR TURCHYNOV, ACTING UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): That farce which the separatists call a referendum is nothing more than propaganda and an excuse for those crimes. Awful crimes, such as murder, torture and kidnappings.

SCIUTTO: Russian officials expressed some public support for the vote.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We respect the will of the residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. And we are of the position that practical implementation as a result of the vote will be carried out in a civilized way.

SCIUTTO: But Moscow did not declare it would now annex the provinces, as President Putin did shortly after Crimea held a similar referendum in March.

With crucial national elections approaching May 25, European officials intensified efforts to find a diplomatic solution, backed up now by a modest new round of economic new round of economic sanctions, targeting a handful of Russian officials and two small Russian companies.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Any attempt to disrupt those elections on May 25 in Ukraine will be met by more severe sanctions. Imposition of more severe sanctions. So, in that that is something that our European partners support.


SCIUTTO: We also have new results today from a new CNN poll conducted inside Ukraine. This was a telephone poll, a thousand respondents. And it's a very interesting result. Two-thirds of people approve of sanctions against Russia, in response to intervention in Ukraine; and 56 percent feel a stronger sense of loyalty to Europe, only 19 percent to Russia. Very telling results there. You see these pro-Russian separatists in action, but when you look at the results of that poll there, it shows that the majority of the people, that they don't feel that pull towards Russia, that in fact, they support the major positions of the government in Kiev.

BLITZER: Looks like that situation is by no means getting better. Probably worse by the day.

SCIUTTO: No question, because you still do have those divisions. It may be a minority that supports separation, but it's a vocal, and as we've seen, it can be a violent minority, as well.

BLITZER: Certainly can. And Jim, thanks very much for that report.

Very different now. Take a look at this. Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and me, yes, we have something new in common. So happy to report that we both received honorary degrees from Howard University here in Washington on Saturday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Congratulations.


BLITZER: I was honored to be recognized by Howard University and the interim president. There you see him, Dr. Wayne Frederick. For my contribution to journalism.

I also got a chance to renew an acquaintanceship that I had with the hip-hop mogul, Sean Combs. There he is. He was a student at Howard back in the 1980s. Finished two years, never graduated, but he did give the commencement address on Saturday, and he did an excellent, excellent job. Congratulations to Dr. Combs.

I had a chance to speak with him and his mom. They were both thrilled that he finally got a degree.


SEAN "PUFF DADDY" COMBS, HIP-HOP MOGUL: This was my mother's dream. So she was kind of mad with me when I dropped out after two years. So to have it come full circle is just a blessing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank God I had my million dollar baby, Sean John Combs.


BLITZER: I loved spending some good quality time with both of them there. Nice congratulatory hug. I was honored. Thank you, thank you, Howard University.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Just tweet me, @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show, @CNNSitRoom. Please be sure to join us again tomorrow right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" and watch us live. DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Now let's step into the CROSSFIRE with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones.