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Tornado Hits Denver Area; Obama: If True, V.A. Allegations 'Disgraceful'; New Twist In Donald Sterling Scandal

Aired May 21, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, we're following the breaking news. Tornado spotted. A twister on the ground near the Denver airport. Passengers are being warned to take shelter as hail bombards the metro area. Stand by.

President Obama breaking his silence on allegations of cooking the books at veterans' hospitals. But as the scandal grows, he's taking some serious heat for sticking by his V.A. secretary.

Seconds away from catastrophe. Near collisions in mid-air. You wouldn't believe how often they actually happened. The numbers, we're being told, the numbers are staggering.

And new allegations against the Clippers owner as his girlfriend goes public with Dr. Phil.


V. STIVIANO, GIRLFRIEND OF DONALD STERLING: I have never had any sexual relationship with Mr. Sterling.

DR. PHIL MCGRAW, TALK SHOW HOST: I want to be sure we're not having a Bill Clinton moment here. Define sex.


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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news: a tornado hitting the Denver area right now very close to the international airport there where flights have been halted. Passengers are being told to prepare to take shelter. Our severe weather expert, our meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking all of it for us.

So Chad, update our viewers. What do we know right now?

MYERS: One single cell, major mezocyclone tornadic thunderstorm with the tornado on the ground. It's a lot to say. Here's Denver. It missed you. Now there was a lot of hail, and there's a lot of damage from the hail, and even a small tornado reported not just south of Aurora, the same storm that has moved to the south of the runways here at DIA, but DIA also picked up an awful lot of hail. Airplanes that are made of aluminum don't do well with hail. We'll have to see what type of damage is happening there.

The storms continuing to move to the east. H ere is I-70. If you're on I-70, you're OK for now because the storm has not decided to turn toward you, but if you're listening on Sirius radio, and you're on I- 70, it's a really great time to stop and see what's going on, watch it go by you.

There's the velocity, Wolf, that this is the most impressive I've seen in a long time. Think of the headlights or tail lights of a car. The tail lights are always red. That means it's going away from you.

This part of the storm is moving away from the radar site. This part is moving toward the radar site which is pretty much there, there, and there. And that is the rotation. That's where the tornado is on the ground, a significant, likely EF-3, EF-4 tornado on the ground no question about it.

And we're so thankful that this did not happen in Littleton or Denver or Centennial, because when you get out here, when we get out from where they put the airport, here the runways of the airport right there, there's not much out there.

Now Denver has accessed -- annexed all of this to get the highway out of the airport, but it's not Stapleton, which was way back here. This is DIA out in the plains. There are the runways or south runways. And there's where the storm is going. A lot of farm and ranchland out there, thank goodness. Because this is the major tornado on the ground right now.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Chad, because we've got a storm chaser in Denver who's joining us right now. Tony Laubach is joining us. What are you seeing? What are you hearing, Tony?

TONY LAUBACH, STORM CHASER (via phone): Well, I'm about 20 miles east of Denver. We're watching the leading edge of the storm, which has been pushing in and has been mentioned many times by you guys. This is a rain-wrapped circulation. It's very, very difficult to see into this thing to confirm whether or not there is an ongoing tornado.

I know radar signatures right now are definitely showing some strong rotation, and it is quite likely that there is something ongoing in the rain and hail right now. But it's just possible to tell.

BLITZER: And we're showing our viewers, Tony, some live pictures courtesy of your camera out there. It certainly looks ominous to me. How does it feel up close there?

LAUBACH: Well, it's actually very calm where I'm at here. We have no wind, which actually kind of bodes well in terms of not having a tornado. If we had very strong winds blowing at my back into this storm, it would be something concerning, probably indicating more that there's an ongoing tornado further. But it is actually almost dead calm, very, very little wind here at this point.

BLITZER: How close is this area to the Denver International airport? A lot of us are pretty familiar with that major airport?

LAUBACH: We're probably looking at about ten miles southeast of Denver International Airport where the storm is rolling through. They probably had a significant amount of heavy rain and hail as it moved over the airport, but I think the main circulation stayed just south of the concourse and runway.

BLITZER: Where is it heading?

LAUBACH: I think it will go past Byers, Strasburg, those towns, Bennett, as well, probably need to think about taking cover. Again, if there is a tornado here you will not see it so you really need to take heed to the warning.

BLITZER: I want to see if our Chad Myers is still with us. He's got a question or two for you, as well. But I want to make sure he's still with us.

Is this a pretty rural area? Are some of these towns you're mentioning, are there a lot of folks there?

LAUBACH: This is a pretty rural area. Most of these towns are pretty small. I believe the bigger of the three towns, the storm is kind of making its way toward us. But the big thing, though, is going to be the travelers on I-70 that probably do not want to be caught on the interstate when this thing rolls through.

BLITZER: All right, Chad, go ahead. I know you have a question for Tony.

MYERS: Yes, I see a lot of traffic there on the bottom of the screen. I was trying to get close to the TV to see it. Is that I-70 right there, Tony?

LAUBACH: No, I-70 -- I'm looking at one of the frontage roads, U.S. 36. I-70 is actually just to my south. So I'm north of it probably by about half a mile.

MYERS: So you have access to I-70 to get a little bit farther to the east, maybe towards Strasburg, and then travel maybe back up to the north. You're still in it, though. This could be a very big tornado. It did turn right earlier, to the right.

We're talking, Wolf, for the most part the storm was going to the northeast and then for a while sort of turned to the east. And Tony, you still could be in what could be the back side here on the south side of what was a very impressive hook. I know you can't watch CNN in your car right now, but the hook here is very, very impressive.

LAUBACH: No, I've got -- I've got live radar in the car. And I definitely feel that this area I'm in will have some real flank down drift, the winds that kind of wrap around the south side of the tornado. That will probably be a big concern down in this area.

BLITZER: Hold on, Tony, Chad, because we've got another storm chaser joining right now. Jeff Piotrowski in southeast of the Denver airport.

What's it like where you are, Jeff?

JEFF PIOTROWSKI, STORM CHASER (via phone): Well, Wolf, we had the first tornado touch down northwest of 7.5 northwest of Aurora about 45 minutes ago. I tracked the circulation to the southwest side of the international airport about a mile south of the runway. It became rain-wrapped. And then we had a new tornado develop that was actually quite large.

I've got one south of the DIA runway. That was very intense, rain- wrapped. Large tornado. That was on the ground for about two minutes. Then it lifted. And then as that tornado lifted a new one came down, and I got a tornado on the ground right now. Stand by.

Tornado is now on the ground, one mile, just -- tornado on the ground, again, three and a half southeast of DIA airport, moving rapidly to the north and south at 40 miles an hour. I think it's the fifth tornado on the ground right now. It's 100 yards wide, white cone. It's about 65 miles an hour, accelerating to the north. Right in front of me about half a mile it's moving northbound about 60 miles an hour. A round circulation.

There it goes, large tornado four miles southeast of the airport moving tracking southeast, moving east-northeast around the circulation. That was northwest of me now. Multiple tornadoes, there are tornadoes on the outer ring of the circulation, if you will. This is the outer ring, and then there is a main tornado vortex closer to the center of the storm, producing multiple tornadoes in two different locations about four miles apart.

BLITZER: And you say you're pretty close to the Denver International Airport. How close are these tornadoes to the actual runways, the terminal buildings?

PIOTROWSKI: Wolf, just about -- I think about 30 minutes ago, right now the farther southeast of the airport -- they're farther southeast, 30 minutes ago the first was probably a mile and a half south of the terminal. I was on the south end of the runway, literally at the south end of the runway by the security gate, and the tornado was just about half a mile south of the runway there, just between the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It missed the airport probably by a mile to two miles max.

The main tornado vortex, I don't know what kind of damage is current occurring based on the Doppler radar. Looks like we had win over 100 miles an hour back to the west-southwest, but we may have wind damage along 70 and just south of the DIA airport, and powerful winds and large hail.

BLITZER: Jeff, hold on for a moment. Because I think Chad Myers, our meteorologist, has a question for you.

Chad, go ahead.

MYERS: First, let's put it into perspective, too. Jeff is in a good spot right here. Here is the airport. There are the runways. Here's where Jeff is right here. But you are in the middle of it, Jeff. And as that storm went by you, multiple vortex tornadoes, is that what you were seeing or just one and then another tornado out of the same cell?

PIOTROWSKI: There is one after another, Chad, we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the tornadoes would cycle in the wall cloud. They became rain-wrapped, and then as the circulation got larger you started having tornadoes small enough on the plain, the large mezocyclone to the west, but the main anchor back to the west. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I had the big cloud to the northeast into the north wall of the rain and then into the rain all the way around, the storm on the south side of DIA airport.

And then the rain evaporated on the plain, the large mezocyclone to the west, I had the big cloud to the northeast and the wall into the rain. All the way around, the storm on the south side of DIA airport, and then the rain evaporated from where it was raining around the tornado. And the large northwest tornadoes were inside the rain, I saw it for 35 to 40 seconds. It was violent motion, very violent. I would call it a large significant tornado about a mile and a half to two miles in the open field. To my knowledge, no damage that I'm aware of. But this is an open field south of DIA airport.

BLITZER: Jeff, I hope you'll hold on for a moment. We have another storm chaser on the phone near Denver. Storm Sarnes (ph) is joining us. Where are you, Sam, what are you seeing?

STORM SARNES (PH), STORM CHASER (via phone): OK, Mr. Blitzer, I'm about nine miles north of Bennett, looking (UNINTELLIGIBLE). If you look at my widescreen, which should be coming in live under my storm name, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to your studios, we're looking at a large rapidly rotating wall cloud. We've seen multiple tornadoes kind of coming in and out of the precip. It is a fairly heavily precip- wrapped storm.

There is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) circulation back here. Probably about four or five miles to the west -- we have been zig-zagging in front of it to stay in the in-flow notch and keep ahead of it. There is some baseball sized hail back in that corner. There is a real mean son-of- a-bitch. Pardon my language, but this is a powerful super cell with multiple tornadoes and extremely large hail with it.

And right now we're looking due west. I am inclined to say that there is probably a tornado buried back in that circulation moving north into the areas north of Bennett.

BLITZER: North of Bennett, moving towards more rural areas or towards the towns?

SARNES (PH): it is moving away from the towns. There are quite a few ranches and little houses that people have built up here, about the last probably five or ten years. So there is a lot more stuff to hit out here than there ever used to be. So it's not out of the question that something could get hit up here. This used to be in the middle of nowhere, but not so much anymore. There's quite a few houses out here. So to the east, Bennett -- BLITZER: Hold on for a minute, Storm. I want Chad to weigh in, as well. So we're getting multiple reports, Chad, in this area outside of Denver. Not far from the Denver International Airport, but what is very worrisome, not only tornados but major hail storms.

MYERS: No question we've already had baseballs on the ground. I'm sure of this, because even though the Doppler has the signature had 3.2 inches in the cloud that was falling out. Some melting, some evaporating on the way down.

Let me go through some layman's terms and what storm they're just talking about, the in-flow notch. Right there. He wants to be right here so he can see what's circulating right there.

You don't want to be down here where you want see anything, or even up here, that is where you will really get pounded. So he is in the correct area looking back into the circulation there, and I can zoom in. It looks just like a big hook. And right there is the tip of the hook just like a big fish hook.

BLITZER: Chad, I want you to stand by. I want the storm chasers who are watching what is going on in the Denver area to stand by. We'll continue the breaking news coverage, tornado watch, tornadoes on the ground in the Denver area. Much more coming up after this.


BLITZER: We're continuing to monitor the breaking news out of the Denver, Colorado, area where there have been tornadoes on the ground, not far away from the Denver International Airport. You have heard a bunch of storm chasers report on what's going on. Heavy, heavy hailstorms in the midst of all of these tornadoes. We'll continue to monitor what's going on in the Denver, Colorado, area. Stay with us for that.

Meanwhile, there's other news we're watching, including the exploding scandal of V.A. hospitals finally drawing a direct response from President Obama.

The controversy has been growing since CNN first reported fraudulent record-keeping and the deaths of dozens of veterans waiting for care. Now the president says he won't stand for that. He's ordering the V.A. to speed up its review of the entire situation.

President Obama isn't getting rid of his embattled secretary, at least not yet.

We have full coverage, Drew Griffin who broke the story for CNN. He's standing by. And we'll have our correspondents and guests. And let's get to the White House first, though. our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta has the very latest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in his first comments on the V.A. scandal in four weeks, President Obama is vowing action and accountability. But that's not good enough for the president's critics, who want heads to roll now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA (voice-over): For President Obama it's another "buck stops here" moment. This time over allegations of veteran wait times at V.A. Facilities.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If these allegations prove to be true it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful and I will not tolerate it, period.

ACOSTA: After meeting with the Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, the praised the general he called "Rick," but he suggested the secretary's days may be numbered pending an internal investigation.

OBAMA: I've said to Rick, and I said it to him today, I want to see what the results of these reports are, and there is going to be accountability.

ACOSTA: Veterans groups were quick to slam the president's comments, the American Legion saying his decision to keep Secretary Shinseki at his post is an unfortunate one. Even Democrats are pouncing.

REP. DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: Mr. President, we need urgency. We need you to roll up our sleeves and get into these hospitals.

ACOSTA: The White House faces a political crisis that's building with 26 V.A. facilities now under investigation.

OBAMA: I don't yet know. Are there a lot of other facilities that have been cooking the books? Or is this just an episodic problem?

ACOSTA: This is not the first time the president has been caught off guard by its administration's failures. The president touted before it launched.

OBAMA: -- on Kayak.

ACOSTA: Then found it didn't work.

OBAMA: Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the Web site isn't working as well as it should.

ACOSTA: Republicans charge there's a pattern, pointing to his response to the IRS scandal.

OBAMA: I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday.

ACOSTA: And the president's crisis management is also familiar, standing by Shinseki as he did with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

(on camera): Is he too detached from some of the nuts and bolts of running the government, running the administration?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think if you look at the way the president handles a challenge like the Web site and handles this challenge, he responds by demanding action.


ACOSTA: And so far, the only action the president took today is demanding that his secretary of veterans affairs, Shinseki, complete that internal investigation that he has under way right now and that his top aide, Rob Nabors, finishes the broader review of the department by next month. And, Wolf, as we've seen in crises past here at the White House, this administration is back in bunker mode -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

President Obama made at least a dozen claims about ways in which the administration has improved services for veterans. Tom Foreman has been doing a fact check for us.

So what are you finding out, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. The president's claims about the facts are clearly designed to bolster the very things that Jim Acosta was talking about. But some veterans advocates say those facts do not tell the whole story. And neither did he.


OBAMA: We have made progress over the last five years.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Claim: veterans among funding has been boosted to record levels. True, the V.A.'s budget request for this year is $164 billion, way up from a few years back, when it was $113 billion.

What's missing? The White House is facing overall budget issues may not yet be asking for enough to provide promise services to all the vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to some veterans advocates.

ALEX NICHOLSON, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: As they say in the Army, failing to plan is planning to fail. And it is clear the V.A. Has failed to plan for the numbers of troops and vets that it was going to be services for years now.

FOREMAN: Claim: the V.A. has slashed the backlog of disability claims cases by half in the past year.

OBAMA: We launched an all-out war on the disability claims backlog.

FOREMAN: Also true but complicated. Claims rose in 2011 after a court decided 150,000 cases involved with troops exposed to Agent Orange, cases which had been decided, must be reconsidered. The V.A. instituted new procedures which would cut down on that spike, and the secretary made a big promise.

GEN. ERIC SHINSEKI, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: We're open for business, and we'll end the backlog in 2015.

FOREMAN: That could be a stretch, but supporters say he's made a good start.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't just get to the bottom of something like this in a week.

FOREMAN: Claim: the V.A. has reduced homelessness among vets. In 2009, almost 76,000 vets were homeless. The administration missed its goal last year but still saw the number fall to about 58,000.

OBAMA: We've helped hundreds of thousands of veterans find a job.

FOREMAN: Claim: the administration is helping veterans find jobs. The jobless rate for all veterans in 2009 was 8.1 percent. By 2013, it was down to 6.6 percent. That's better than what the general population has experienced, although the numbers are not nearly so good for younger vets.


FOREMAN: Now, of course, many veterans groups will say there are still plenty of very serious problems out there that they are concerned about. And they accuse the president of shading the facts to fit his politics. But that aside, Wolf, the facts in the areas he raised seemed to put him on fairly firm ground to say the administration has been making progress on this.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you.

Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, who first broke the story, is joining us now from Phoenix, which has become the epicenter of the V.A.

Also joining us, Lou Celli, who's the legislative director of the American Legion.

Drew, let me get to you first, your reaction to what the president had to say today.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I was somewhat taken aback by what he said today for this reason. I thought this was something the president could have come out and said months ago when these allegations first broke, that he was mad, that he wouldn't stand for it, that we're going to investigate and find out.

But a month later, a month of all of this reporting, Wolf, and quite frankly, after all this evidence from the government's own reports, the V.A.'s own reports, from these memos that have surfaced that this is a systemic problem to come out now a month later, and say, "If true, I want to hold somebody accountable. We're going to look into this"?

I felt it was a lack of substance in actually doing something other than what Eric Shinseki told the Senate last week. Have patience, we're looking into it.

BLITZER: Let me bring Lou Celli into this conversation from the American Legion. Your organization, a powerful organization, very important organization. You want the secretary of veterans affairs, Eric Shinseki, to step down.

The president says he's in the middle of an investigation right now. He's got an audit under way. The inspector general's report is about to come out. He doesn't want to fire someone, at least not yet until he has all the information. What's wrong with that?

LOU CELLI, AMERICAN LEGION: Well, Wolf, the president has had the information, and so has Secretary Shinseki, at least since 2010. There was a memo that had come out that was introduced last Thursday that specifically said these are the ways that the V.A. is gaming the system. We need it to stop, we need it to stop immediately.

So for four years, Secretary Shinseki had the time to get in front of this and to put an end to it. And now we're just hearing from the president today that now is the time for it to stop. The time for it to stop was four years ago. Secretary Shinseki was brought in specifically after Chief (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to change the culture in the V.A. At one point the American Legion even stood behind him and defended him, and we've just lost conference.

BLITZER: You've totally lost confidence in him. You are the American spokesperson now for the American Legion. You want him to go away?

CELLI: It's time -- It's time for -- We believe at this point, Secretary Shinseki is nothing more than a distraction. The only time that we're going to be able to watch the V.A. start to heal and get better is after this leadership is done, we start to infuse new leadership, we start to clean it up from the middle, from the bottom and from the top.

BLITZER: Let me go back to Drew. Drew, one of the arguments you hear being made is that there may be problems at 30 or 40 V.A. facilities across the country, including where you are in Phoenix right now, but there are hundreds of others where there have been no problems. And you can't just go along with these problems that some of these hospitals and other facilities and ignore all the good work that's being done elsewhere?

GRIFFIN: Of course you can't ignore the good work. But, you know, this is the problem with the bad work, and the bad work needs to be fixed. Because veterans aren't receiving -- not receiving care. And the allegations are that many of them have died out here in Phoenix. And we know dozens of veterans, two dozen veterans have died because of delayed care.

So just focusing on the positive spin is not going to make the bad stuff any better.

I just want to add one thing. I talked to some would-be whistle- blowers last night, today, people who want to come out and tell their stories, who were looking for some direction last week from Eric Shinseki. They wanted assurance that, if they came out and told the truth, that they wouldn't be retaliated against by V.A. administration. There is a very big fear factor. They didn't fear that. And they're telling me they're not coming out right now, because they're afraid of ruining their career or ruining their reputation reporting these things to a V.A. administration they believe is not listening to them.

BLITZER: Drew Griffin, who has been doing excellent reporting on this breaking news story from the very beginning, thanks very much.

Lou Celli from the American Legion, thanks to you, as well.

Coming up, stunning new allegations against the Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. Shocking revelations as his girlfriend now goes public with Dr. Phil.


V. STIVIANO, GIRLFRIEND OF DONALD STERLING: Mr. Sterling also said that I'm an animal in bed. So what do you want me to tell you? How am I supposed to know why he says the things he said. This is why I recorded it.



BLITZER: Some dramatic new twists in the Donald Sterling-NBA scandal, including some surprising remarks by V. Stiviano about the relationship allegations Sterling tried to get her to lie about the recording of his racist remarks.

CNN's Brian Todd, he has got the new information for us.

What is the very latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the NBA is ramping up its case against Donald Sterling saying evidence in this case was destroyed and that false and misleading evidence was provided to league investigators.

We have confirmed details of an NBA document on the league's allegations against Sterling, the charges are very powerful and if true could be very damaging.


TODD (voice-over): New allegations of cover-up and lying on the part of Donald Sterling and his wife putting his attempt to keep the L.A. Clippers in peril. The NBA alleges Sterling tried to persuade his companion, V. Stiviano, to tell league investigators she had lied, had altered the audiotape with his racist remarks and that this voice on the clip posted by TMZ wasn't Sterling's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you are associating with black people. Do you have to?

TODD: The allegations contain the NBA's formal document trying to remove Sterling as owner of the Clippers are confirmed to CNN by a source familiar with the document. According to the source, the NBA's document says Sterling asked Stiviano to cover for him about a week after TMZ first posted the audiotape.

JEFFREY JACOBOVITZ, TRIAL ATTORNEY: In the real world, people go to jail for asking a witness to change their testimony. It would add additional evidence for league to concluded that he does not belong in the league and they should throw him out.

TODD: Sterling's attorney told CNN, he wouldn't comment on the NBA document. "The L.A. Times," which first reported the details, quotes "an associate of Sterlings calling the NBA claims a smear." Today, V. Stiviano, in a new interview with Dr. Phil contradicted Sterling's claims that he didn't know he was being recorded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he know he was being recorded?

V. STIVIANO, DONALD STERLING'S EX-GIRLFRIEND: Absolutely, with his permission.

TODD: The NBA's document, according t our source, also cast doubt on the Sterling's claims that there estrange. The document says they are inextricably intertwined. One sports agent says this has to do with Shelly Sterling's attempt to keep her share of the Clippers.

DOUGLAS ELDRIDGE, SPORTS AGENT: This is really a preempted attempt presumably by the NBA to create guilt by association context. Not only are they still inextricably connected, but that Ms. Sterling shares the same beliefs or was otherwise tacitly indifferent toward the known actions of her husband.


TODD: The attorney for Shelly Sterling disputes the claim about or in the NBA document telling CNN, they are as strange that have been living apart for more than a year and they both announce their intentions to divorce. In a statement, Pierce O'Donnell says Shelly continues to be unfairly tarnished by the words and actions of her co- owner and estranged husband -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you also have new information about when the Sterling camp originally heard the audiotapes of those racist conversations.

TODD: That's right. According to our source, the NBA documents says that the then Clippers president Andy Roeser received a copy of the recording on April 9th, that is two weeks, more than two weeks actually before TMZ posted that clip. The document says that Andy Roeser told Donald Sterling about the recording and that Sterling ordered the employee who provided clip or who provided that recordings to Sterlings, to delete the recording from a phone. Again, no comment from Donald Sterling's attorney to that information.

BLITZER: That is an explosive charge.

All right, thanks very much, Brian for that.

Let's dig a little deeper right now with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin and our CNN anchor, Don Lemon.

And Jeff, if this "L.A. Times'" report is true that the team president, Andy Roeser, Donald Sterling asked an employee to delete the recording from the smartphone, if you will. How serious of a charge is that could there be some legal recourse?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think it would actually lead to a criminal case against Donald Sterling. This was not after all a government investigation that was being obstructed. But it is yet another ground for the NBA to take the franchise away. And it would make -- and if it is true it would make any effort to get the courts to intervene and stop the forced sale of the Clippers that much more difficult. So it is very bad news to Donald Sterling. But it is not news that I think puts him in any sort of criminal jeopardy.

BLITZER: Because trying to destroy evidence or lying, Don, as you know they are very serious charges that the NBA is now leveling formally in this 30-page document that was submitted to the attorneys for Donald Sterling and his wife, Shelly Sterling.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Listen. The more I read about it, Wolf, the more we covered every day, it is a mess, it is a soap opera. And you're right, and I think anyone who is involved in this, in the Sterling camp whether it is Roeser, whether it is Donald himself or Shelly Sterling, they should be looking at this. Because if they take this into a courtroom outside the NBA, right, then they may have some exposure, I would think, because if you look at all of this about making the recordings public or not knowing about the recordings or trying to pay somebody off back in it, that is bribery or what have you, if Roeser has any exposure.

The best thing to do is for him to go away. Yet he continues to fight. And the more the documents come out the worse it gets for him. If I were him I wouldn't want any of this coming out I would say OK, what do you need me to do? Make it stop.

BLITZER: Because they have five days, the lawyers for Shelly Sterling and Donald Sterling, Jeffrey, to respond to this 30-page legal brief or legal -- the accusations that they formally leveled. They haven't made that 30-page document. There are a bunch of other pages with exhibits attached, exhibits at all sorts of stuff like that. What happens if they don't respond, let's say, within the five days that the NBA has asked them to respond.

TOOBIN: Well, then the NBA proceeds on June 3rd to have its hearing, with or without Donald Sterling, about whether to take the franchise away. And presumably, if there is no defense, it would be a very easy judgment for the owners, three quarters, probably unanimous -- unanimously to take the franchise away.

He has got to persuade them not to take the franchise away or persuade a court to intervene. And so far he has done nothing in either direction.

BLITZER: All right, Don, hold your thought for a second. I want to continue this conversation. Both of you stay with us. So what should we make of these latest shocking revelations from the woman at the center of the scandal?


STIVIANO: I have never had any sexual relationship with Mr. Sterling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be sure we're not having a Bill Clinton moment here. Define sex.




STIVIANO: I have never baited anyone. I have never force anyone to say anything that they did not choose to say themselves. He has his bipolar moments where he would just lash out and say certain things that were absurd, things that were mean, things that were just out of the norm. And I would play those things back to him just to remind him of how he acted or how offensive he can be towards another person.


BLITZER: Donald Sterling's girlfriend speaking to Dr. Phil earlier today on a syndicated TV program. We reached out for Sterling's office for comment, haven't been able to get any reaction from them yet.

But in another surprising new twist in this whole Donald Sterling-NBA scandal. We're continuing our conversation with our legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and our anchor. Don Lemon.

Let me get your reaction, Don, to what V. Stiviano is now telling Dr. Phil.

LEMON: Well first, she is an assistant, and then she is an archivist, and now she is a therapist. Because she said he had his bipolar moments, and I don't know if she can diagnose him with bipolar disorder unless she is a therapist.

But listen. She was -- in the very beginning, quite honestly, V. Stiviano was a sympathetic figure who had caught this racist man on tape and had, you know, sort of help the world to uncovered -- to help uncovered this racist guy. That she went on television with the visors. And then she did the other -- now, she is doing this interview. She has quickly gone from sympathetic figure, really, to selling out. And to -- I just think that everyone in this particular situation, especially Donald Sterling, he needed to shut his mouth a long time ago, she needs too as well. She just needs to stop it until this is over.

BLITZER: Don, I want you to stand by. Jeffrey, I want you to stand by as well. We're going to have much more coming up in our next hour. I want our viewers to also remember to watch Don's program later tonight, "CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON." That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. So we got more on this developing story coming up.

But just ahead, passenger planes on a collision courses happens much more often than a lot of people think. Why are so many planes coming so close to disaster?


BLITZER: The dust is now settled after primaries in half a dozen states. It's now clear the GOP establishment has regained the upper hand against the Tea Party upstarts. But in November, women candidates, women voters potentially could decide who controls the United States Senate.

Let's take a closer look right now with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger along with CNN political commentator, the Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. We should note that Alex, one of your super PACs did financially support Monica Wehby.


BLITZER: In the Oregon contest. But, Gloria, women potentially last night we saw a whole bunch of women do well. There are a bunch of women who are up for re-election this time. This could be a decisive factor in who controls the Senate.

BORGER: Sure. In two key races that we saw last night, in Georgia, you've got Michelle Nunn and in Kentucky, Alison Grimes going up the big dog Mitch McConnell.

BLITZER: Both Democrats.

BORGER: Both Democrats. And you also have Democratic women who are kind of in the hot seat, Wolf. You've got Kay Hagan of North Carolina. She's got a tough race against Republican establishment candidate Tom Tillis, Mary Landrieu, Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen up against Scott Brown in New Hampshire. So they need to win re- election. The Democrats obviously. There's a six -- the Republican -- I'm sorry.

The Republicans want to win six seats to get control of the Senate. So the women are really key here and, of course, they're trying to appeal to women voters.

BLITZER: Normally, as you know, Alex, women voters tend to do better with Democrats than they do with the Republicans.

CASTELLANOS: They do. And the one thing everyone hates in the entire country is Washington. Right? It's dysfunctional. Democrat or Republican. Who's the ultimate outsider when you look at the old boys club in Washington? Women. So a fresh face like that, a female face, I think it's a very powerful case to make this year. For example, look at Kentucky how that can change. Alison Grimes started that race so early against Mitch McConnell. That by the time that race is done, it's everybody's going to be so political.

The old saying in politics is don't wrestle a pig, you get mud on you. And eventually voters can't tell you apart. So I'm not sure she'll be the outsider by the end of this race.

BORGER: Well, you saw last night, Mitch McConnell had his wife introduce him. He spoke about three women in Kentucky that meant so much to him. I mean, this is going to be a fight for women voters and he's already unpopular to begin with, I might add.

BLITZER: The Republican establishment was pretty happy, though, with the outcome last night. You're part of that Republican establishment.

CASTELLANOS: The establishment guy?


CASTELLANOS: I'm kinder, gentler now I guess. Yes, it turns out that when you challenge bad Republican candidates in primaries, the mistakes they would have made in the general, they make earlier. So I think Republicans have a better field this time. You do have fresh faces like Monica Wehby in Oregon, but not only good candidates, this is a better year.

The Democrats are running around saying that Obamacare is not going to matter and it's a little bit like the hunchback of Notre Dame saying what hump? Voters, it's become a symbol of a dysfunctional government in Washington. This is going to be a good off-year election for Republicans.

BLITZER: The Democratic leader in the House, minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, she announced that the Democrats would participate in this House Select Committee investigating the Benghazi. She named five Democrats. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat, to be on this select committee. There will be seven Republicans as you know. Smart move on Nancy Pelosi?

BORGER: I think so. I've always thought, you know, there was a lot of talk among Democrats, let's just boycott the committee. And I think that --

BLITZER: So not to give it legitimacy.

BORGER: Not to give it legitimacy. In the end they decided they'd rather be on the inside because then they can shape their own narrative and know what Democrats are going to come out. And of course it's likely that Hillary Clinton is going to testify.

By the way, Hillary Clinton has got a book that's coming out, Wolf. I guarantee you it's going to have some stuff in there about Benghazi and they would rather be on this committee defending her than not. And so in the end, Nancy Pelosi said, it was a tossup, but I think she did the right thing.

CASTELLANOS: And that's exactly right. Frankly, they would have helped it make more news by opposing it than being on the inside and helping imagine it.

BORGER: Yes, absolutely.

CASTELLANOS: So that was the right strategic call.

BLITZER: And if you -- if they did subpoena Hillary Clinton to testify and seven Republicans are asking questions and no Democrats, that's tough. Five Democrats are there to help save her, protect her a bit, that would be for her perspective a lot better.

CASTELLANOS: I'll be surprised if subpoenas are issued. If you're Hillary Clinton, you'll volunteer before anything like that happens.

BORGER: You know, and can I just say? Hillary Clinton is a big girl. She's going to write about Benghazi. She knows how to defend herself. But politically speaking, the Democrats need to be inside that room, understanding the narrative and the documents and trying to effect the show.

BLITZER: They want access to all that information.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: That the Republicans will have access to. We'll see where it goes.

Alex, good to have you back in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CASTELLANOS: Good to be back.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, a dire warning about a growing terror threat possibly involving dozens of Americans training overseas.

Plus, frightening near collisions like this. Multiple planes are getting way, way too close for comfort every day. Why are there so many close calls that could lead to disaster? Stay with us.


BLITZER: Happening now, a secret U.S. plan is revealed to deal with a dangerous al Qaeda safe haven that could be the launching pad for a new attack on Americans.

Plus, more twists in the Donald Sterling scandal. V. Stiviano opening up about their relationship as new allegations surface that the L.A. Clippers owner asked her to lie about his racist rant.

And a terrifying reality for all of us who fly. Stand by for a shocking assessment of how often planes come close to colliding.

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