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White House: No Sign of Russians Withdrawing; Marines Ready to Evacuate Libya; NBA Acts to End Sterling's Ownership of Clippers; Inmarsat Ready to Release Data on Malaysia Flight 370

Aired May 19, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Jake.

Happening now, breaking news. Ready to evacuate. U.S. Marines, they are standing by at a moment's notice to rescue Americans from the U.S. embassy in Libya, as fierce fighting rages on.

Sterling showdown. The NBA now taking the first legal step to terminate Donald Sterling's ownership of the L.A. Clippers. How will he respond?

And vanishing act. The public may soon get a look at the raw satellite data in the mystery of Flight 370 as we get a first look at a planned movie about the airliner.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All that coming up. Let's begin with the situation in Ukraine, where it's getting very, very tense. Is Vladimir Putin pulling back or pulling a fast one?

The Russian leader vowing once again to move Russian troops back from Ukraine's border, but the United States is saying, "Show me." A top U.S. diplomat for the region, Ambassador Daniel Baer is standing by.

Let's go first to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, for the very latest -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. officials certainly open to good news, but they are extremely skeptical. They say they've heard similar promises before and will wait to see, quote, "clear, hard evidence."

Meanwhile, they struck back at the Kremlin's description of Russian troop movements as routine, calling them, the U.S. officials, menacing. All this as they watch the situation on the ground for a sign that this Sunday's election can take place freely and fairly but there are lots of challenges on the ground.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Daily life in Eastern Ukraine. Interrupted yet again by explosions and gunfire. These are the sounds of Ukrainian troops attempting to reclaim towns overrun by pro-Russian separatists. Today, Russia announced that President Putin has ordered his own troops, tens of thousands of them now on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border, to return to their bases. But NATO and U.S. officials, already disappointed with previously announced withdrawals, said they'd seen no evidence this one is different.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: No I think it's the third Putin statement on withdrawal of Russian troops. But so far, we haven't seen any withdrawn.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We see no indication of any movement, which has been the case, as you know, several times before. I think it's fair to say that we would know and would be able to confirm for you if the Russian military had, in fact, moved back, deployed away from the Ukrainian border.

SCIUTTO: It's been nearly two weeks since President Putin first vowed to withdraw his forces. Sensitive satellite photos released by NATO have shown tanks, troops, and war planes not budging an inch.

Ukraine is now only six days away from a crucial vote to choose a new national government. The show of force inside and outside its borders threatening a free and fair election. And that, say many policymakers, may have been Putin's intention all along.

CHRISTOPHER CHIVVIS, RAND CORPORATION: The principal objections are threefold. First of all, to avoid allowing Ukraine to move any closer to NATO. Second, to avoid allowing Ukraine to join the European Union. And third, to demonstrate to his domestic populace that he stands up for the rights of ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine but also elsewhere throughout Eurasia.


SCIUTTO: Election monitors from the National Democratic Institute released a report today saying that a credible election is possible in most of Ukraine. And I spoke today with the two-time defense minister of Ukraine, who told me that he is sure elections will happen, though he acknowledged limitations, of course, and region controlled by separatists. He also cited a poll there saying that 70 percent of Ukrainians who are eligible to vote plan to vote.

This is, of course, key, Wolf, because remember, President Obama, set these elections coming off as a key test, and if Russia impeded them in any way, that would be the trigger for painful sectorial sanctions against the Russian economy.

BLITZER: That's the threat that clearly is there. All right. Jim Sciutto reporting. Thanks very much.

Let's go in-depth right now with Daniel Baer, the United States ambassador for security and Cooperation in Europe. He's joining us live from Vienna. So Ambassador, do you believe anything that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says right now?

DANIEL BAER, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR FOR SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE: Well, it's pretty tough, Wolf, given the fact that we have been told the troops would be pulled back from the border. Now this is, I count, the third time. Previous times, it hasn't been borne out. So obviously, we'd welcome such a move. But as reporter Jim said, we haven't seen evidence of that so far.

BLITZER: So far you have seen no evidence. And the estimate, NATO estimate is, what, 30,000 or 40,000, 50,000 troops along the border with Ukraine? What is the number as far as you know?

BAER; That's right. It was tens of thousands; 40,000 was an estimate that we had made previously. Tens of thousands massed on the border. They've also announced air exercises. Timed for the next five days starting May 21, which obviously also coincides with the elections. So both the troops massed on the border and these new exercises. Neither one of them is a positive contribution. Both continue to be a menace aimed at intimidating. And our focus is really on these elections this Sunday, which are a real opportunity for Ukrainians to come together, to choose a new president, turn the page on the Yanukovych era.

BLITZER: Well, do you believe there can be free and fair elections in Ukraine with these Russian military right nearby?

BAER: I do. I do, Wolf. The technical preparations have been going on for the last few months. I do know the OSCE has had a number of observers on the ground. For a couple months now, there will be 900 more joining this week. Short-term observers. So there will be 1,000 observers on the ground from the OSCE, as well as a number of other organizations sending them.

All of them have reported that technical preparations for these elections are proceeding as planned. Obviously, there are localized pockets, particularly in the east where violence is disrupting.

But it's important to remember, this is -- we're talking about 2 out of 24 oblasts (ph) in Crimea, where Russian actions are undermining the right to vote of some Ukrainians. But in the vast majority of the country, the technical preparations are on track.

And there should be a free and fair vote this weekend. I think in addition to the technical preparations, it's important not to forget the emotional preparation.

And one other thing: CNN did a poll last week. There's been a lot of focus on the divisions between Moscow and Europe reflected in the poll. But to me, the most important number in that poll was 82. And that was 82 percent of Ukrainians who are optimistic about the future. That tells me that the emotional preparation for this election on Sunday is well in hand and that people are ready to come together and build a stronger Ukraine.

BLITZER: There will be, as you point out, hundreds if not a few thousand international observers coming in to monitor these elections, including a lot of Americans who will be part of the OSCE delegation and other groups that will be going over there. Here's the question: How safe are they in some of the more disputed areas of Ukraine? Some pretty high-profile Americans are going over there.

BAER: Well, obviously, security remains a concern. Of all the folks from the international community who are registered. And I think I saw something today that there are close to 3,000 international observers who have signed up to come from various organizations.

And we'll be, obviously, looking to make sure that people are staying safe as they conduct this very, very important work. As you mentioned, there are a number of high-profile folks, former ambassadors. There are some members of Congress who will be part of the OSCE parliamentary assembly delegation that is observing these elections.

And, you know, what people are going to see is -- to see how these are carried out, the technical process, the vote counting and tallying. And to witness these Ukrainian people exercising their right to vote this Sunday.

BLITZER: What about you, Ambassador? As the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, are you going to be in Ukraine for these -- for these elections?

BAER: Unfortunately, I'd love to be there. I'm sending a couple of members of my team. I'm going to stick here in Vienna. And I will certainly be cheering the Ukrainian people on. This is a really momentous occasion. It reminds us that this was, though it's been painting as something of a contest in geopolitics, this is first and foremost about the Ukrainian people.

They are sick and tired of corrupt governments. They are sick and tired of not being able to trust their government, of not having a firm economic footing. This is their moment to start making a new Ukraine together. And I will be cheering them on every step of the way.

BLITZER: Let's hope the Russians do not interfere. Additional sanctions won't be implemented if they don't interfere. We'll see what happens. Let's hope for free and fair elections. Ambassador Daniel Baer, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE. Thanks very much for joining us.

We've got some breaking news we're following right now out of Libya. Less than two years after the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, U.S. Marines and aircraft, they are now ready for a possible evacuation of Americans from the U.S. embassy in Libya's capital of Tripoli. The alert comes amid bloody street fighting.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an evacuation, if it indeed does come to that, U.S. officials increasingly worried by the hour that Libya is on the brink of civil war at this point. One Libyan general dating back to Gadhafi's time gathering support against the Islamist militias, as he calls them. And these militias also fighting parliament, the interim parliament attacked. All of this leading to violence not just in Benghazi but across Tripoli.

So what is the Pentagon doing? Well, this time, unlike the last time in Benghazi, when they had no forces nearby, just across the Mediterranean in Italy, troops and fire power assembled, ready to go if the order comes. About 250 Marines. Eight V-22 aircraft standing by. And they are on a two-hour string, Wolf. What does that mean? That means if the order comes from the State Department to evacuate the embassy, those Marines will be in the air on the way to Libya within two hours. They will go to Tripoli and evacuate some 200 Americans that are still there working at the embassy: diplomats, security personnel, an additional military contingent that's in station there.

This is very different than what we saw in Benghazi about two years ago, when there was no available military force nearby close enough to do anything. The administration is not going to have a second round of that. So these Marines will be ready to go, Wolf, if and when the order comes.

BLITZER: Why not just bring them out, those 200 Americans, right now? Why wait? Because you know the situation in Libya is only going to get worse.

STARR: Well, officials tell us this is a question of, again, the diplomatic presence of the United States. They don't want to take any chances with people's security. That's for sure.

But this violence for the last couple of days has been ebbing and flowing. If they can ride it out, the preference of the State Department, we are told, is to keep embassies around the world open, as many as possible; to have a U.S. diplomatic presence on the ground. And once you pack up and go in a tough security situation, it's very hard to go back in and reopen an embassy up. Things don't get better very quickly.

So they're going to try and stick it out if they can. But we are told no chances are being taken. And that's why they have the Marines nearby, ready to go if it looks like it's going to get too tough, too dangerous for Americans to stay, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much. Barbara Starr reporting the breaking news from the Pentagon.

Now there's more breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well, including the NBA now making a direct move against Donald Sterling. The first legal step to end his ownership of the L.A. Clippers. They've just done that. So how will Sterling respond to the new charges that have been leveled against Sterling? Our panel is standing by. We'll take a closer look at that.

And we'll also get a first look at a planned movie on another subject, about the disappearance of Flight 370, even as the public may soon get a firsthand look at the raw satellite data for the airliner's final flight.


BLITZER: Some breaking news. The NBA has just taken the first legal step to strip Donald Sterling of his ownership of the L.A. Clippers. A major showdown is now brewing. Our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is joining us. She has the details.

Suzanne, tell our viewers what we've learned?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you know, Wolf, this is big news from the NBA, because today, the league initiated a charge to terminate Donald Sterling's ownership of the L.A. Clippers. Now, if the NBA board of governors supports the charge by getting three-fourths or 75 percent of the vote, all ownership interests -- and this is important, because it also means his estranged wife, Shelly, too, will be terminated. That is the statement.

Now the team would be sold to new owners.

Now, the charge asserts that Sterling engaged in conduct that ha damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its team. How? Well, the charge includes by disparaging African-Americans and minorities, directing a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games, and criticizing African-Americans for not supporting their communities.

Now, the charge goes on to conclude that Sterling's actions and positions significantly undermined the NBA's efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, damaged the NBA's relationship with its fans, harms NBA owners, players, and Clipper team personnel and impairs the NBA's relationship with marketing and merchandising partners.

Now, the NBA says that this is all grounds for termination under several positions of the NBA constitution, as well as related agreements. So under the NBA constitution, Sterling has the opportunity to respond to this charge. That is by May 27. He also has the right to appear and make a presentation at a special meeting of the board of governors. And that, Wolf, is now planned for June 3.

BLITZER: Suzanne, I want you to stick around, because I want to discuss what's going on. I also want to bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, as well as our senior -- as well as our anchor, I should say, Don Lemon.

Jeffrey, you're the legal expert. I see this sort of like an indictment. They've released the specific charges. They've based their arguments, their legal arguments. What do you make of this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is exactly what Adam Silver promised he would do at his news conference last month. What's interesting about the charges is that two of the core charges against Sterling relate to the tape that came out with V. Stiviano.

The third relates to Sterling's interview with Anderson Cooper. So his effort at damage control seems to have backfired considerably. So it's another count against him.

But this is exactly as Adam -- Adam Silver promised. And we'll see if Sterling responds under the NBA constitution or he simply goes to court to try to stop the process altogether.

BLITZER: Adam Silver promised, Don, as you know, that he would act quickly. They're acting pretty quickly. They're going to give him another week or ten days to come before the panel, make Sterling's case. But if it doesn't work, he's anxious to get this over with.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: He is anxious to get it over with. But it seems Donald Sterling is not. As you know, we were talking about that letter that this, you know, litigator sent to the NBA saying, "Hey, listen, you know, his rights were" -- what did they say, due process. He was denied due process and that he should not be fined at all. He should not be punished. And he's not going to pay the $2.5 million.

So yes, Adam Silver wants this over with quickly. I don't think Donald Sterling wants it over quickly, unless the NBA relents quickly.

So -- but it seems like now, there is some movement, because the NBA hadn't charged him. Right? And so now they've released their charges. And Jeffrey, you know, you're astute. I noticed that. I said, "Hey, listen, the first two things in the charges, that's from the conversations. Then he dug himself a deeper hole because that last one is from his interview where he didn't help, but he really hurt his case."

BLITZER: And Jeffrey, as you saw what they did in this formal indictment. I don't know what to call is in charges, but the release that they put out today, is that they accuse him of being in violation of the NBA constitution, which was made public in recent weeks. But also separate agreements that he signed over the years with the NBA that would suggest a violation of the constitution, the NBA constitution. That's what they're pinning their legal argument on.

TOOBIN: Right. That's the wild card in all of this. Because as you say, the constitution has been public for some time. So we know that Sterling is accused of violating the constitution. There are references to other agreements that he'd signed.

Wolf, you've learned about this from our own reporting about whether there are general good behavior covenants that these owners sign. And apparently, Sterling is being charged with violating those, as well. That is something that presumably we'll learn more about as the process goes forward. Because as far as I know, those other agreements have not been made public yet.

BLITZER: I assume they will be. And I assume if Sterling is going to fight it, and I know everybody thinks he is. he's hired this high- powered lawyer, a litigator, Don, as you point out, to go in and fight it.

But I watched very the interview, long interview that he did with Anderson Cooper. He was going back and forth. And remember, he's not 40; he's 50. He's over 80 years old now. I'm not personally 100 percent convinced this is going to go to the wall and battle it. Maybe he'll take the $1 billion and run. But I know you think he will fight, Don.

LEMON: I do think he will fight, because I don't think he has anything to lose. He's got a lot of money. And I mean, what else does he have left in his life. I mean, his girlfriend is gone. His wife is divorcing him. He has this team. He likes to go see them play, and he likes feel the ownership over the team. It makes him feel like the big guy, right? The big man on campus.

So I think he's going to fight tooth and nail. I don't see him going away. And, you know, listen, if he was younger, I might see him saying, "Listen, I have the rest of my life. I can do a different career." But what can you do at 80 or 81 years old?

And if you look at the charges against the NBA, everything -- they seem to be relying heavily on this, what he called the morality clause. The first two say mentioned that he brought negativity to the team and -- a negative light to the team and the NBA. And the third one, as well, is that he brought negativity to the team and to the NBA by disparaging people.

So I think that they are heavily -- very heavily on the morality clause. And I think as a backup, Jeffrey -- you can correct me if I'm wrong -- they will rely on the other agreements that he signed.

But this seem seems to me to be that morality clause. You have to act a certain way. You can't bring anything negative on to the team and to the franchise. And it appears that he's done that at least three times.

BLITZER: Very quickly. You want to just weigh in?

TOOBIN: The statement does say that it brought economic damage to the NBA. So, they are very much relying on the constitution as well as these morally clauses. We haven't seen those. It's a little murky what they're relying on there. But they do talk about money damages to the NBA.

BLITZER: Yes. My own suspicion is the guy is over 80, and there are these reports he's suffering from prostate cancer. Let's see if he really, really isn't going fight it if he'll take the money and walk away.

Don, I know, you're going to have much more of this coming up later tonight. Don is going to be anchoring CNN tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, the mystery of Malaysia Flight 370 on the big screen. We're getting a first look at the trailer for a controversial new film about the vanished plane.

Plus this: partisan questions about Hillary Clinton's health. Is it fair game? Could they eventually hurt her campaign if she decides to run for president?


BLITZER: Potential turning point in the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A senior Malaysian official now says the raw satellite data that's been the cornerstone of the unsuccessful search may soon be made public. And now we're getting a firsthand look at a planned movie about the missing plane at the same time.

Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is joining us with more. Rene, what's the latest? First of all, what are you hearing about the Flight 370 raw data?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are hearing that it could eventually be a win for the families.

But you were talking about that movie. It was only a matter of time. You know, before we even have concrete answers about what happened on board Malaysia Flight 370, there is talk of a film, and it's rubbing families the wrong way.


MARSH (voice-over): With no wreckage, no passengers, and few answers, fiction is filling the void. A filmmaker seeking investors to make a movie showed this trailer at the Cannes film festival, featuring a gun, a kiss, and panic passengers. Bu already backlash on social media tweeting pitching a movie regarding missing Malaysia airlines plane already? This desensitized money hungry world at its brazen best.

MARK DOMBROFF, AVIATION ATTORNEY: We pretty much know nothing except that the airplane is gone. And it is certainly is typical that when you don't have answers, speculation fills the void.

MARSH: And there's plenty of speculation. In an op-ed, a former Malaysian prime minister points the finger at the plane's manufacturer and the CIA. Saying quote "clearly, Boeing and certain agencies have the capacity to take over commercial airliners of which MH 370 is one. The plane is somewhere maybe without mass markings." The same prime minister is known for suggesting the U.S. government was behind September 11th.

Meanwhile, the brother-in-law of flight 370's captain is knocking down one theory saying Zaharie Ahmad Shah was not suicidal and had no life insurance.

Flight 370 families could soon get what they have been demanding, the raw data that led searchers to the South Indian Ocean.

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF FLIGHT 370 PASSENGER: I think the world has the right to have that data released.

MARSH: Malaysia's transport asked officials to discuss its release with the satellite company Inmarsat. But that might not end all of the theory. DOMBROFF: I think the release of the data is going the first and foremost feed the speculation machine. I think all sorts of self- styled experts from whom we have heard are going to analyze that data and they are going to come out with all sorts of different results.

MARSH: Malaysian sources tell CNN they do not object to releasing the data. But right now, only have 14 numbers from the satellite handshakes. They need help presenting the volumes of data they expect. But Inmarsat tells us those 14 numbers are all there is.


MARSH: And the search mission is still on pause as we speak. Bluefin and the Ocean Shield are at port in Western Australia for repairs. Remember, Bluefin and the transponder on the Ocean Shield, they were damaged when the underwater vehicle smashed into the ship.

In the meantime, we now know, a Chinese ship will be sent to the search to map the ocean floor -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rene, I want you to standby with us. Also, I want to bring in our CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz, the former managing director of the national transportation safety board, along with our aviation correspondent Richard Quest.

Richard, this Inmarsat data -- first of all, is Inmarsat really ready to release all of these data based on what you're hearing?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They've been ready for ages to hand it over. They sort of say when Malaysia wants it to be released, fine, it will be released. And the only debate between there seems to be at the moment, because now Malaysia is saying, yes, release it. Is just how much.

I will give you an example. If you have 500 pages of satellite logs, and only three of them are specific to that flight for that day, do you release all 500? And how much information do you have to give about the satellite? And the way it's wobbling around?

So, it sounds so deceptively easy to say release all the raw data and the analysis. But I understand now what the process is, is putting that information into a format that will be available and usable by anybody that wishes to have a go at interpreting it.

BLITZER: Peter, is there any downside that in releasing all this data assuming that Inmarsat goes ahead and releases all the data? I asked the question because some have raised fears. We heard a little bit of that in Rene's piece, that maybe this will create all sorts of wild conspiratorial theories? They are based on all these new information.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, Wolf, if it's not done correctly, it will do just that. It will raise more questions. They need not just to release it. They need to release it with the experts there ready just to, in a marathon session, answer every question, explain every detail. They need to be there for hour on end to make sure this data is understood and understood correctly. You know, there are overcoming ten weeks of mistrust. They've lost the trust of the families. They've lost the trust of the public. This is their last chance. They've got to do it right.

BLITZER: Rene, what are you hearing? How long -- we only a few days away from the released of this data? What are you hearing?

MARSH: Well, how long will it take to release? You know, if it's just 14 numbers, like Inmarsat is saying, that it really shouldn't take long. But what they drag this out is the debate that Richard was just talking about, the back and forth.

But I think Peter just hit the nail on the head here. It's not just about this raw data and putting out the number. But also the analysis and the experts who made the analysis so that they can explain, how did they arrive here? What assumptions were made? What kind of equation did they set up to arrive at the South Indian Ocean? That is what is really critical. Not just the numbers on a piece of paper, but the analysis behind it. Because I think what is going to happen, if it's not done correctly, as Peter points out, is you are going to have crowd sourcing, where you have every man and his brother having access to this data and doing their own analysis. And it could potentially become one big distraction. One person saying search here, while another person says, no, my analysis think you should search over there. So, it could become a problem.

BLITZER: Certainly could.

Richard, I know that you had one of the only exclusive interviews with the current Malaysian prime minister. What do you make of the former prime minister basically accusing Boeing and the CIA of plotting the disappearance of this plane?

QUEST: Not the first time that (INAUDIBLE), as you well know, Wolf, has lambasted the United States in some shape or form. He's done it also, by the way, several times on this particular case. He does believe it's a CIA-Boeing, Americentric, U.S. corporate plot, or at least something is being hidden.

The only plots I can say is even in Malaysia, no one is taking it seriously.

BLITZER: Richard Quest, Peter Goelz, Rene Marsh. Guys, thanks very, very much.

Up next, a deadly virus spreading in the United States. We have detailed of the first person to person transmission in the U.S. and why does the health officials increasingly concern.

Plus, top members of China's military now accused of cyber-warfare against U.S. businesses.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton has not officially jumped into the 2016 presidential race. But the presumed front runner among Democrats is facing a series of preemptive strikes by Republicans. And now, some are wondering if the strikes are, in fact, a smart political move or could they backfire?

Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is here with more on what is going on -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, Hillary Clinton is likely months away from her decision on plans for 2016. But an increase in recent attacks by high-profile Republicans shows there's an effort to define her before she's even saying she's running.


KEILAR (voice-over): Ready, set, go.


KEILAR: Republicans getting more aggressive in their attacks on Hillary Clinton, from Benghazi --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would expect she will be held accountable during the course of the campaign.

KEILAR: To whether she's physically up for a presidential run.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: She'll be 69 at the time of 2016 election. If she gets elected and serves two terms, she'll be 77.


KEILAR: Clinton, herself, is wading back into politics taking a campaign message for a test drive.

CLINTON: The dream of upward mobility that made this country a model for the world feels further and furtherer out of reach. And many Americans understandably feel frustrated, even angry.

KEILAR: At stake, the image of a politician who has been on the public stage for years. One Republican official tells CNN the GOP is trying to define Hillary Clinton for younger voters, who don't remember the Clinton White House years. Some think the attacks will make her think twice about getting in the race.

PRIEBUS: Given the month she's just had, I actually doubt very much whether she actually will run for president.

KEILAR: Yes, right, say many Democrats.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: There is one thing I know for certain, Karl Rove engaging in cheap shots will not back off Hillary Clinton.

KEILAR: But they also worry wading into politics too soon will tarnish Clinton 's standing with voters.

GOV. DUVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I do worry about the inevitability thing. Because I think it's off-putting to the average voter.


KEILAR: And after a flurry of events this month, Hillary Clinton will have a lower profile this week. So no public events. But Wolf, don't expect this debate to subside.

BLITZER: I'm sure, it won't. Brianna, thanks very, very much. See you later on Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT." You would be filling in for her this week.

Brianna Keilar here on the SITUATION ROOM.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger for some analysis.

So, what do you think about that last point. We heard Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts make that this inevitability thing could be a problem?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it could be a problem. And the tables are kind of turned. Republicans are usually the ones that normally nominate the inevitable candidate, the one whose turn it is. John McCain was nominated. Mitt Romney was nominated. Usually, the Democrats who picks somebody out like a Barack Obama, somebody who is new blood, represents change.

This time, if Hillary Clinton runs, she becomes the inevitable candidate. And they don't really do very well, Wolf. So what you have to do is present yourself as a candidate of change. Rare times she ran as the candidate of experienced, this time she is going to run as a woman and a candidate of change.

BLITZER: I want to play a clip for you, Gloria, and for our viewers, that former President Bill Clinton speaking about the recovery.


BLITZER: The therapy, if you will, that Hillary Clinton had to go through during that long period following that blood clot in her brain. Listen to this. This is Bill Clinton.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I was sort of dumbfounded. They went to all this trouble to say that she had staged what was a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over. Something she never low-balled with the American people. Never tried to pretend didn't happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: I mean, what he said there, six months of what, very serious work. A terrible concussion. If you listen to that, he's sort of making the case that Karl Rove seemed to make that she had a real serious problem.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: For example, I didn't know she had to go through six months of therapy after that blood clot.

BORGER: You know, I don't think we got all the details of that. I think that the Clinton folks were pretty closed-mouthed about it. She was quite about it. I think we were learning new information here from Bill Clinton about a long six months recovery. And the question is, you know, does this affect her and the campaign if she runs? And I think she will. And I think, you know, age and health are issues.

And she's going to have to disclose more about that. She'll be in Ronald Reagan territory if she were to win the presidency. I think the way Karl Rove raised all of this was graceless. But they think kind of get in the ether, Wolf, and you remember, you know, John Kerry early on was characterized as an elitist. And Mitt Romney didn't care about the poor. And these kinds of things sort of tend to stick. So the health questions are going to be asked more and more.

BLITZER: And when some Republican strategist like Alex Castellanos suggest that this will only -- the way Karl Rove said it.


BLITZER: Will only aggravate as the problem Republicans have that this negative perception that a lot of people have of Republicans to begin with. What say you?

BORGER: Well, I think it came across more of -- as an attack rather than a question. If you want to question someone's health, there's a way to do it. You don't -- you know, you don't say that they've suffered so-called brain damage if you don't have any proof of that. I think you can raise a question about it in a -- in a different way, in a different kind of forum. But I think the way this was raised was, you know, very sort of off-handed way without backing it up.

So I think it could hurt particularly because she's a woman and the question is going to be, you know, you could raise that differently. And there have been men, like John McCain, who had cancer, who also ran for the presidency.

BLITZER: If you're running for president of the United States, if you're young, middle age or old, man or woman, questions about your health --

BORGER: There are questions. Right.

BLITZER: Certainly fair to be sure.

BORGER: And about everything else. Right. BLITZER: Of course. All right, Gloria. Thanks very much.

Just ahead, a deadly virus and a troubling new development. Is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome more contagious than anyone initially realized?

Plus, more on the breaking news. The NBA's first legal moves against the Clippers owner Donald Sterling. We're learning new details of the effort to force him to sell his team.


BLITZER: Disturbing news about the deadly virus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Health officials are reporting the first case of person-to-person transmission here in the United States. Raising serious concerns the virus may be much more contagious than originally thought.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with more -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, health officials say this case indicates that it's probably easier to transmit the MERS virus than they previously thought and they're scrambling now to track everyone who this latest victim came in contact with.


TODD (voice-over): Health investigators have expanded an intense medical forensics probe on the first case of MERS transmitted on U.S. soil. Officials say the latest victim, an Illinois businessman, had extended face to face contact with the first patient confirmed with MERS in the U.S. who had traveled from Saudi Arabia to Indiana. The men had two meetings. One lasting 40 minutes. Sat six feet apart and shook hands both times.

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, U.S. PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE: In general, we think it's easier to spread in the hospital environment when a person's very sick, but this individual with the antibodies may be telling us that less intensive contact before very severe symptoms are evident maybe enough to spread the virus.

TODD: The person in Illinois never felt sick. Never (INAUDIBLE) when they found his body had already fought and killed the MERS virus. Now Illinois health officials say the latest victim is not contagious, but he could have been at some point.

(On camera): Could this be the tip of the iceberg? Could other people be carrying MERS and not even know it?

DR. GLENN WORTMANN, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: It could be -- I don't think so. Based on the experience over the last two years, it's not easily transmissible, it does not appear to be like measles or chickenpox or smallpox which spreads very easily.

TODD: While so far it appears close to 30 percent of MERS cases are fatal, 20 percent have no symptoms or symptoms so mild they don't know they have it, but it's unknown how many have been infected by MERS so far. Experts say investigators will have to track all the people the latest American victim came in contact with. They say they'll have to go about two weeks forward from the time he was believed to be infected in late April.

How involved will that process be?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT MEDICAL CENTER: Tracking people takes a lot of shoe leather epidemiology. You've got to get a list of all those people, track them down. We're all very active. Calls have to be made at night. So it's a vigorous process.


TODD: Experts say they believe that tracking system is working well inside the United States and there are other positive signs, Wolf, not too many cases of this spreading from one person to more than one other person at one time.

BLITZER: Let's hope for the best, Brian. Thanks very much.

Up next. The breaking news. The NBA charging Donald Sterling, trying to force him to sell the Clippers.


BLITZER: Happening now. Members of China's powerful military indicted. They're accused of hacking into American businesses, stealing trade secrets. We have new information on this unprecedented cyber war case.