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Obama Announces Afghanistan End Game; White House Blows Cover of Top CIA Spy; Source: Shelly Sterling Accepting Clippers; Source: Shelly Sterling Accepting Clippers

Aired May 27, 2014 - 17:00   ET


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

Happening now, breaking news. Afghanistan end game -- President Obama announcing he'll keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond this year.

But will combat really be over?

U.S. spy exposed -- the White House accidently outs the CIA station chief in Afghanistan.

Is his life now at risk?

I'll get reaction from the president's deputy national security adviser.

And deadline day for Donald Sterling -- as the NBA demands that he ends the ownership of his team, has his wife already found a buyer for the LA Clippers?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news.

Twelve-and-a-half years after the United States went to war in Afghanistan, President Obama has announced a new plan to end America's military involvement. But that plan calls for thousands of U.S. troops to remain in a hostile environment beyond this year. It will require the cooperation of Afghan leaders. And it's certain that the Taliban and al Qaeda will not be cooperating.

CNN's Barbara Starr is standing by at the Pentagon.

I'll speak with the president's deputy national security adviser.

But first, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for months, the White House has resisted calls to specify exactly how many U.S. troops will be in Afghanistan after 2014. But today, the president put his plan on the table.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Declaring the combat mission in Afghanistan over by the end of the year, President Obama laid out the final chapter for the nation's longest war.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is it's time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

ACOSTA: Beyond 2014, a small residual force will be limited to training Afghan forces and counterterror operations. Under the president's plan, there will be just 9,800 U.S. forces next year, about half that by 2016, And embassy security only in the Afghan capital, as President Obama prepares to leave office.

Mr. Obama's proposal stops short of the full withdrawal he promised voters in 2012.

OBAMA: We will have them all out of there by 2014.

ACOSTA: But worried about a repeat of the bloodshed that followed the pullout from Iraq, U.S. military commanders pushed for a minimum of 10,000 troops. And that plan, the top general in Afghanistan cautioned, won't be perfect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There would be increased risk.

ACOSTA: In a statement, three key GOP senators called the president's plan "a monumental mistake" and "a triumph of politics over strategy."

The White House proposal hinges on a new security agreement with Afghan leaders. Afghanistan's current president, Hamid Karzai, has refused to sign it, leaving it to the two men vying to replace him to seal the deal.

OBAMA: The two final Afghan candidates in the runoff election for president have each indicated that they would sign this agreement, probably after taking office. So I'm hopeful that we can get this done.


ACOSTA: And a senior administration official tells CNN that those two run-off candidates have told U.S. officials privately that they will sign that security agreement. Without that agreement, White House officials say there will be no U.S. troops past 2014. And aides to the president say that the president's plan on Afghanistan will be a part of a larger speech on foreign policy that he'll deliver tomorrow at West Point tomorrow. He's going to get past the trees and talk about the forest -- Wolf. BLITZER: And we'll have live coverage starting at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. The president is giving the commencement address at West Point.

Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

The troop drawdown in Afghanistan may have a ripple effect in the region.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara, right next door to Afghanistan, as all of us know, is Pakistan.

So here's the question, with fewer troops Afghanistan, will that limit U.S. options in dealing with terror in Pakistan?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this may be a key question for what does happen two years from now, when U.S. troops pack up and do go home.

What happens if the U.S. spots an al Qaeda terrorist training camp right on that Afghanistan/Pakistan border?

What if Pakistan's nuclear weapons are not secure?

How does the U.S. operate against terrorist elements inside of Pakistan?

Nobody is really talking about that right now. That seems to be a black hole of discussion. But behind-the-scenes, U.S. officials say they're going to have to look at all of this and figure out, do they need additional bases in the region?

Do they need places to be able to base troops if there is a crisis, a place to possibly be able to fly drones if they have to take action -- Wolf.

BLITZER: On another front, Syria, the war is raging on over there. Now the Obama administration, Barbara, is looking to expand military training for anti-Bashar Al-Assad Syrian rebels.

What do we know about that?

STARR: Well, you know, we've heard about this for months, if not years now, that the administration has been considering this. The State Department clearly would like to have some kind of additional training of moderate Syrian opposition forces. The Pentagon perhaps a little more wary of it. A Pentagon official telling me the key question on the table remains how do you vet these Syrian forces?

How do you know that they are not part of the growing al Qaeda movement inside Syria, that if you give them the training, if you give them the weapons, they won't use it with their -- with an al Qaeda cell in Syria.

So where do we stand on this? The administration considering it. A lot of people saying that President Obama may -- may be close to signing some kind of order to move ahead with this kind of idea.

But we are told still, no final decisions have been made -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what, if anything, he says about that in his West Point commencement address tomorrow.

Thanks very much, Barbara Starr.

The U.S. Drawdown in Afghanistan down to fewer than 10,000 troops next year will still have a surprising price tag.

And the president's deputy National Security Agency, Tony Blinken, is joining us from the White House.

Tony, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: The president made an historic announcement today in the Rose Garden. A couple of technical questions that you can answer for our viewers.

First of all, those nearly 10,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan next year. I assume they will have complete immunity from Afghan prosecution. That was the big issue that forced the U.S. To pull out all U.S. Troops from Iraq.

BLINKEN: They'll only remain if they have immunity. And what is required to do that is for the next Afghan president to sign this infamous bilateral security agreement.

Both of the leading candidates for president have said that they would sign it promptly upon taking office. And that's what we expect. And that's one of the reasons the president made the statement he did today.

BLITZER: How much is it going to cost American taxpayers to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan next year?

BLINKEN: Well, you're looking at a -- in the tens of billions of dollars. We're looking at probably in the vicinity of about $20 billion, when you factor everything in.

BLITZER: Twenty billion dollars. And that includes, in addition to 9,800 U.S. Troops, NATO forces as well as private contractors, many of whom will be Americans.

Do you have any idea how many private contractors will be needed to support those 9,800 U.S. Troops?

BLINKEN: You know, you're looking at several thousand private contractors. But we're also looking at significant support from our NATO allies and other partners who have been engaged in Afghanistan from the start and who will remain engaged. There will probably be in the vicinity of another 4,000 or so NATO and partner troops alongside our own in 2015.

But keep in mind, Wolf, we'll be at 9,800 troops at the beginning of 2015, as the president said. We'll be down to about half of that by the end of the year. And then by the end of 2016, we'll be into a normalized position where we have our embassy and a small number of troops necessary to protect the embassy.

BLITZER: We're getting some indication that maybe as many as 1,000 American troops would be stationed in and around the U.S. Embassy even after 2016.

Is that right?

BLINKEN: The numbers are not yet set. But here's what would happen. There would be a certain number of troops required to secure the embassy. And we're talking probably in the hundreds. You also have, in any embassy, where we have a defense relationship with the host country, some troops who are working on military contracts. The country buys equipment from the United States. You have experts who help them acquire the equipment and learn how to use it.

So between those two functions and also some continuing advising of the Afghans, including their ministries, the defense ministry, the other security ministries, you'll have some folks there to do that.

BLITZER: Tell our viewers why it's in their interests, American citizens, to spend tens of billions of dollars to stay in Afghanistan next year and the year after, especially because the Afghans themselves, they have more than 350,000 of their own domestic police and security forces.

BLINKEN: Wolf, we want to complete the job that we started. And we've been on a very clear trajectory under this president to end the war responsibly. And that means as we draw down our troops, building up the Afghans to the point where they can take full responsibility for their own security and their own future. And that's exactly what we've been doing.

Doing it as the president announced today, that is, going from where we are now, which is about 32,000 troops, down to 10,000 and then down to about half of that and finally down to a very small presence to secure the embassy is a trajectory that makes sense.

It will allow the Afghans to continue to assume responsibility for their future and do it in a way that, again, get our folks out and builds them up.

BLITZER: I'm going to play for you two comments that the president made, one in 2012, one in 2013, about his objectives in Afghanistan.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. And I've set a timetable. We will have them all out of there by 2014.

This drawdown will continue and by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.


BLITZER: So on the first point, in 2012, when he said all U.S. Troops will be out by the end of 2014, that's not necessarily happening, if you think 9,800 U.S. Troops, they're still going to stay there.

BLINKEN: First of all, Wolf, let's put this in perspective. When the president took office, there were about 170,000 Americans in harm's way between Afghanistan and Iraq. By the end of this year, we'll be down to 10,000 or so, the ones who will remain in Afghanistan.

Second, the president was very clear today, the combat mission in Afghanistan ends this year. And so the Americans who will remain in Afghanistan in 2015 will not be out patrolling the streets or in the mountains or in the valleys, they will be there to support the Afghan military to help train them and advise them. And they'll be there in small numbers to deal with the remaining terrorism threat, the remnants of al Qaeda.

That's what they'll be doing. That advances our security and it also helps Afghanistan.

BLITZER: You saw the statement that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte put out. I'll put it up on the screen. "The president's decision to set an arbitrary date for the full withdrawal of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan is a monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy. This is a short-sighted decision that will make it harder to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly."

Your reaction?

BLINKEN: Wolf, we respectfully disagree.

First, it's very important to let the Afghans know what they need to do going forward so that they can work on their responsibilities and step up to the plate. That's worked very effectively. When we told them we'd be ending combat operations at the end of this year, they stepped up and the Afghan security forces are more effective for that.

So we needed to give them a clear trajectory, a clear understanding of what we'd be doing, when we'd be doing it.

Second, since our combat mission is over at the end of this year, it makes no sense to keep 10,000 or more American troops in Afghanistan.

To do what?

Third, military was fully supportive of this trajectory down. And, finally, we can't be in -- in an endless war posture. This is about ending these wars responsibly and then redirecting some of those resources to deal with some of the new threats that we face in different parts of the world in different ways.

BLITZER: In Afghanistan, how much damage was done by the inadvertent naming of the CIA station chief over the weekend in Kabul?

BLINKEN: Wolf, it shouldn't have happened. We're trying to understand why it happened. In fact, the chief of staff, Denis McDonough, asked the White House counsel to look into it, to figure out what happened and to make sure it won't happen again.

BLITZER: Will that individual, that station chief, have to leave Afghanistan now because his identity is well known?

BLINKEN: Wolf, you'll understand that I can't comment on the details, but you can rest assured that the security of this person is foremost in our minds and will be taken care of.

BLITZER: And do you -- can you tell us who made the mistake, where the blunder occurred?

BLINKEN: I can't. And that's exactly why the chief of staff, Denis McDonough, asked our White House counsel, Neil Eggleston, to look into this, to figure out what happened, and, again, to make sure it doesn't happen again.

BLITZER: Tony Blinken, the president's deputy national security adviser, thanks for joining us.

BLINKEN: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: Valerie Plame, the CIA officer outed by the Bush administration, calls this latest incident "astonishing." She'll be my guest tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Valerie Plame.

Up next, secrecy kept the spy in Afghanistan and his family alive.

Are their lives in danger right now?

Plus our exclusive reporting on the future of the LA Clippers.

Is Donald Sterling's wife already shopping for offers?


BLITZER: There's growing fallout from the White House's accidental outing of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan. Joining us now is CNN national security analyst, the former CIA officer, Bob Baer, along with Jeremy Bash. He was the chief of staff for both the CIA and for the Pentagon. Both of these guys know a lot about this subject.

So what do you make of this, Jeremy, this outing of the CIA station chief? Is that a big deal as far as national security is concerned? JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR CIA AND PENTAGON: Wolf, it was clearly a mistake. It was pretty sloppy. It was one of those makes you wince moments in an otherwise successful visit by the president under secrecy in Afghanistan.

But look, I think the agency is probably taking steps right now to figure out what this means. As you heard from deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken, the White House counsel is going to now look at not only how this happened but how to prevent it from happening.

BLITZER: When I hear White House counsel are involved, I immediately think maybe some criminal action. Is there any suspicion, as far as you know, that somebody may have broken the law?

BASH: I don't think we know that yet. I think it's too early for us to figure out exactly what happened, under what circumstances was the name revealed? But look, this is serious, and it's why the White House quickly corrected the mistake. It's why they want to try to figure out how to not make it again.

BLITZER: Bob, is there a difference -- and I suspect there is -- between the outing of Valerie Plame. She was a clandestine officer under cover during the Bush administration and a former CIA station chief, the outing of the station chief who I presume is well-known to counterparts, Afghan intelligence officials in Kabul?

BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, I agree with Jeremy. It was an accident. Someone in the White House staff, probably low level, put the name on a list and it got sent out to the press. I don't think we're going to find much at the bottom of this.

But it is very serious in the sense that I don't see any choice but they have to pull this man out. He will become a target. Yes, the Afghan government may have known who he was, but not the Taliban, and he certainly would be the focus of an attempt on his life if he were to stay.

BLITZER: But Bob, if you were the CIA station chief in Kabul and high-ranking Afghan intelligence officials, you deal with them on a daily basis, don't you automatically assume that that information could be leaked? How secure is that whole Afghan intelligence operation?

BAER: Well, Wolf, you're absolutely right. I wouldn't trust it myself, but presumably he meets with the top people in that country who are committed to one side. But the names always do leak out, and you see CIA people that hold out on very short notice because they're under threat because of this very problem.

BLITZER: Jeremy, Valerie Plame, the CIA clandestine officer, was outed during the Bush administration. She tweeted this yesterday, quote, "Astonishing. White House mistakenly identified CIA chief in Afghanistan."

But there is a difference. You know a lot about this, in the world of espionage.

BASH: There is a difference, and you pointed to one of the differences. Which is that this individual is declared to the Afghan government. He's also probably declared to other governments with whom he works, including possibly the Pakistani government.

So again, it's a problem, but there are other ways to protect an officer beyond just covering. There's trade craft. There's also physical security. So I think the CIA is probably reviewing all of that today and trying to figure out how best to protect the officer. If bringing him home is the answer, that's what they'll do.

BLITZER: I'd assume they will. Wouldn't you bring him home, Bob Baer, if you were in charge, just out of an abundance of precaution right now, since the name is out there?

BAER: Wolf, absolutely pull him out within 24 hours. Why take the risk? You know, it's a very dangerous country, and we can't depend on the government completely. Pull him right out, same day.

BLITZER: Do you have a good handle of how this happened, Jeremy?

BASH: I don't. But I presume it was an accident, an innocent mistake by some staffer who put together a list on a frantic trip to Afghanistan to the pool reporters. We don't know that yet, and that's why the chief of staff have asked the White House counsel -- asked the White House counsel to take a hard look at this. If any wrongdoing happened or if any negligence happened, I presume that person would be admonished and probably punished.

BLITZER: There's a lot of concern out there about this blunder, Bob. How do you make sure it never happens again? That's what Tony Blinken said has to be done; wants to do this review to make sure it never happens again. How do you make sure?

BAER: You can't. People don't understand the CIA. They don't understand the CIA has to operate under cover, especially young staffers coming in. They say, so what, the CIA station chief. They put it on a list. It's a constant problem, and it can never be fixed entirely.

BLITZER: Did you see a difference? You say this was a blunder right now by presumably a relatively low-level official in Kabul who inadvertently put the list together. The president was having a briefing in Kabul. He made that Memorial Day visit there. And all of the people who were in the briefing room were listed: the deputy chief commissioner, all of these military officers, diplomats, and then it said station chief.

This is a different kind of outing of a CIA operative than during the Valerie Plame outing. That was different.

BASH: It is different. I think this appears, again, to be a blunder, an accident. But look, the agency is very sensitive to the safety and security of its officers. After all, seven CIA officers were killed by a suicide bomber on December 30, 2009. It was the worst day for the agency since the 1983 Beirut bombing.

BLITZER: That was in Afghanistan.

BASH: Eastern Afghanistan, our post, Afghanistan and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) post. The worst day for the agency since the 1983 Beirut bombing. So the agency is very sensitive to how its officers are treated and secured and handled in country. And again, I assure you, Wolf, they are going to do everything that they can to ensure that this officer's cover, his tradecraft, his physical protection are all bolstered here in the coming days, possibly to include bringing him home.

BLITZER: And so I assume, Bob, that this CIA station chief, as far as being a clandestine officer of the CIA, whether as a station chief someplace else or some other kind of role, that's over?

BAER: You could send to London, to Paris, but a war zone, I'd keep him out just as a matter of precaution. His name is out there, you know, and it really will complicate his career, for the rest of his career.

BLITZER: And like other major news organizations, we're not revealing the identity of the CIA station chief in Kabul. Bob Baer, Jeremy Bash. guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Valerie Plame, once again, the CIA officer outed during the Bush administration, called this latest incident astonishing. She will be my guest tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We've got lots to discuss with her.

Coming up, a CNN exclusive. With the clock ticking on the NBA's demand that Donald Sterling give up his team, has his wife already found a buyer for the L.A. Clippers?

And the families of the missing -- of those missing on Flight 370 finally get what they wanted, the raw satellite data used to track the airliner. But will it help?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Some breaking news. We're getting some exclusive new reporting about possible maneuvers under way right now on Shelly Sterling's behalf to sell the Los Angeles Clippers in the wake of her estranged husband, Donald Sterling's, racist rant.

Brian Todd has been working his sources.

Brian, what's going on? What's the latest? What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, sources are telling us Shelly Sterling has been aggressively meeting with potential buyers for the L.A. Clippers. A source familiar with the situation tells us Shelly Sterling met with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at her home in Malibu over the weekend and that Ballmer made an aggressive offer to buy the Clippers. Shelly Sterling's attorney has no comment on this. We could not reach Steve Ballmer for comment. The NBA has no comment.

Our source tells us Shelly Sterling is also interested in other potential buyers, including that man there on the left, former Laker and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Johnson told Anderson Cooper a couple of weeks ago he would be interested in the Clippers if the right opportunity came up.

We are continuing to work our sources, Wolf, gather more information on all of this and hope to have more at 6 p.m.

BLITZER: As you know, today is the deadline for Donald Sterling and his lawyers to actually respond to the NBA charges. What are you hearing? As of right now, I take it he hasn't responded?

TODD: Working our sources very hard on this all day, Wolf. As of now, we've not heard about any response yet from Donald Sterling. We're going to continue to work that angle, as well.

BLITZER: He has until midnight tonight to respond. He still hasn't paid that $2.5 million fine that the NBA imposed on him for the racist comments, as well.

TODD: That's right. He has not.

BLITZER: Got a lot of work to do. We're still working our sources. Don't go too far away. I'm going to continue the conversation right now.

There are dramatic developments. Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is with us, along with CNN's Don Lemon and CNN commentator L.Z. Granderson.

What's your reaction to these names, L.Z.? Out there, we're talking maybe a billion and a half, $2 billion. There's a bidding war going on right now for the Clippers.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, I was just telling someone that I've been hearing this billion and a half, $2 billion number put out there, and I think people are getting ahead of themselves.

You know, this is the NBA. This isn't the NFL. When you looked at "Forbes" list of the top richest franchises in the world, you know, 30 teams came from the NFL. The NBA only had three, led by the New York Knicks, $1.1 billion.

To let you know how much value the team actually could have pulled in when the team does sell, so I wouldn't go 1.5 to 2 billion just yet. There will be a bidding war, but I don't think you're going to see those numbers.

BLITZER: Well, I'm hearing that those numbers are pretty realistic. It was shocking to me. I've got to tell you. I agree with you, L.Z., because I know how much NBA teams have gone for, but apparently, there's a serious bidding war.

The word on the street, Don, Oprah may be out, but Magic Johnson's name is certainly in there. How appropriate would that be if Magic Johnson, who is the victim, who was attacked by Donald Sterling, emerged as at least one of the co-owners of the Clippers?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it would be very interesting and I have to tell you the talk over at dinner, everywhere I went this weekend, people were like, "Hey, what's going on with Donald Sterling? Wouldn't it be amazing if Oprah was the owner? Wouldn't it be amazing if Magic was the owner?" And they didn't really talk about the other people. So I think you're exactly right. Can you imagine Oprah and Magic Johnson both being?

I have to say, though, $1.5 billion, it seems like a lot to you basketball guys. It seems like a lot to most people, but I have to say, "Great." I think it's great for the Clippers, if out of all of this mess, that the team goes for a lot of money. I know it means more money for Donald Sterling, but it also means more money for the league and it means more prestige for the Clippers. I'd say, you know what? Get as much money as you can. And go Clippers, go Oprah, go whoever is going to buy it, and go sit down, Sterling.

BLITZER: Jeff, on the legal side, as you know, the NBA said you have until today, midnight tonight, to respond. Apparently, as of we're speaking right now, they have not yet responded. They also haven't paid the $2.5 million fine that the NBA imposed.

I guess if he doesn't respond, they're going to go ahead on June 3 with the board of governors for 29 other owners, and they're going to vote. They need 23 to vote to kick him out of the NBA. I assume they have that. Plus several others if not unanimously. What happens?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This looks like the Sterlings are throwing in the towel on any sort of legal fight. They are recognizing that their choice is to sell now or sell later after they're -- after they're forced to do it. If today passes with their not having submitted -- submitted any legal objection, that's yet another sign that they are giving up.

And remember, we are talking about an asset that Donald Sterling bought for 12 or $13 million. He's now talking about selling it for a billion or perhaps more. You know, for a guy who did something wrong, this is a pretty sweet conclusion.

BLITZER: That's a nice consolation prize if he's forced to do that.

You know, L.Z., as you take a look at this whole big picture, I know, based on everything I've heard, the NBA would be thrilled if he just sells the team, gets a billion, a billion and a half, 2 billion, whatever he gets, and they don't have to get into a legal war. This would be good for Donald Sterling. It would be good for the NBA. It would be good for business, for the fans, because then the Clippers could go on to the next season.

GRANDERSON: Absolutely. What the NBA doesn't want to do is air his dirty laundry, because if you start putting Donald Sterling through this longer process, then the media, us, will be forced to start asking ourselves, "Well, who else could be like Donald Sterling?"

And then you start looking at comments like the Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos and what he had to say about gay people. Took a look at some of the other activities that the other owners are doing. The longer we have this kind of scrutiny on one owner, the more tempting we have for the others. The NBA doesn't want to do that.

And it also doesn't want to answer this one question, which is why do you do something similar. We know the investigation pulled a lot of information together over the last 10 or 12 years. So the question is, why do you wait until you get this tape that was out there, leaked by TMZ? If you have this information already, why didn't you do anything sooner?

LEMON: But L.Z., I say bring it on. If there are other people like Donald Sterling, if there are other racists, other homophobes, other anti-Semites or whatever it is, I say let them come out of the woodwork so -- and bring the light of day. I know -- I agree with you.

GRANDERSON: You can say that. You can say that. The NBA doesn't want that.

LEMON: Right. You're right.

GRANDERSON: -- not the NBA owners.

LEMON: Right, right.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, the NBA is making it clear to the Sterlings, both Mr. and Mrs. Sterling, that neither one of them can have any equity role, any interest at all when they sell the team, not even have a little piece of the act. They want them both out, not just Donald Sterling but Shelly Sterling as well. That's the case that they're making.

TOOBIN: That's the case that they're making, and I also think that this is a good teachable moment about lawyers. Think about how often we heard from Shelly's lawyers, from Don's lawyers that "This is outrageous, we're going to fight this, this is unlawful." And now it appears they are going meekly to sell the team and cash their checks.

And when lawyers threaten lawsuits, it's one thing, but it's very different from actually filing one, and there's been no lawsuit filed by either of them. And it certainly doesn't look like anyone will.

BLITZER: Let's see if this thing is resolved by June 3. That's when the board of governors of the NBA meets.

Jeffrey Toobin, Don Lemon, L.Z. Granderson. I know Don's going to have a lot more on this coming up, 10 p.m. Eastern, CNN tonight with Don Lemon. We'll be watching it.

Don't go too far away, because we're checking with sources; we're working to get some more information. And of course, we will share that with all of our viewers.

Coming up, a rare challenge to the Congress from the first lady, Michelle Obama. She took issue with House Republicans who are weighing major changes to the 2010 Child Nutrition Law, a hallmark of her Let's Move campaign against childhood obesity. Listen to this.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: We're now seeing efforts in Congress to roll back these new standards and undo the hard work that all of you, all of us have done on behalf of our kids and, you know, this is unacceptable. Parents have a right to expect that their kids will get decent food in our schools. And we all have a right to expect that our hard-earned taxpayer dollars won't be spent on junk food for our kids.


BLITZER: The House Appropriations Committee has said it plans to allow cash-strapped schools opt out of nutrition regulations. We're watching this story.

Up next, bullets and bloodshed as Ukrainian troops take on separatist forces. The militants now asking Moscow for direct help. Did Kiev's assault catch them off-guard?

Plus, threatening new video from the massacre in California. A surveillance camera catches a peaceful night at a pizza place turning to panic.


BLITZER: Ukraine's new government taking forceful and deadly measures against the pro-Russian separatist movement. Bodies are piling up. Militants are appealing to Moscow for help, and foreign international observers are now missing in the volatile eastern part of Ukraine.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us from Kiev right now. He spoke with top government officials there. What can you tell us, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: well, Wolf, it's a measure of the instability in the east that even the observers aren't safe. The OSCE lost touch with its team last night. They still don't know their whereabouts. You may remember that last month another team of OSCE observers disappeared. They ended up being in pro-Russian militants' hands. They were held for more than a week.

This happens as the new government here in Kiev, fresh off successful elections on Sunday, greatly escalated its assaults on these militants. A senior Ukrainian official telling me this morning that it is, quote, "now or never" for this government to fight this insurgency.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): Ukraine's new government is only two days old, but it is already riveted with gunfire and drenched in blood. A newly aggressive Ukrainian military assault on pro-Russian militants in the east has left dozens of militants dead. Residents lined up to donate blood for victims on both sides.

A senior Ukrainian official told us the time is, quote, "now or never" to confront a broad insurgency numbering in the thousands.

PETRO POROSHENKO, PRESIDENT-ELECT, UKRAINE: They just abandoned. They just a killer. They just a terrorist. That's the case. And if you expect that they will find out the support of these people, no way. No chance. In no -- in no civilized country of the world, nobody have negotiation with the terrorists.

SCIUTTO: Perhaps surprised by the scope of the operations, the militants appealed to Russia for rescue.

DENIS PUSHILIN, SEPARATIST LEADER (through translator): We have to appeal to the president of the Russian federation, Vladimir Putin, personally and to the whole of Russian people.

SCIUTTO: An appeal Mr. Putin answered, calling on Kiev to stop what he described as a military operation against its own people.

Ukrainian officials blame Russia, however, for directing and supplying the insurgency. They reported 40 trucks filled with arms attempting to cross the Russian/Ukrainian border. Ukraine's deputy foreign minister told me it is time for new economic penalties on Moscow.

DANYLO LUBIVSKY, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: The national community has to emphasize (ph) stronger plans on the Russian authorities to convince them to get back on the civilized relations of the nation.

SCIUTTO: Stronger influence means more sanctions?

LUBKIVSKY: I do believe that you have to exercise more sanctions.


SCIUTTO: President Obama two weeks ago had set the standard for new economic sanctions against Russia's sectoral sanctions, as Russia, quote, "impeding this election." If you speak to many Ukrainian officials here, they say it was clear that Russia did already impede this election. There were many polling stations shut down in the east.

We visited many of them over the weekend forcibly shut down, voters intimidated. As a result turnout there greatly reduced. A spokesperson at the White House said today they are still assessing how Russia reacts to Sunday's election. They have no new sanctions to announce yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto on the ground for us in Kiev, thanks for that report. I want to share with you an important programming note. Thursday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, don't miss CNN's new 10-part series, "THE SIXTIES." The hot culture, the music, the politics of that decade that's literally changed the world. The Smothers brothers, by the way, mixed all three of those elements with some clean cut and topical satire every time they appeared in America's living rooms.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our government is asking us as citizens, good citizens, to refrain from traveling to foreign lands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. All you guys in Vietnam, come on home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The times were changing so quickly in the '60s, and we didn't change them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just reflected on them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting ready to go to college.

DAVID BIANCULLI, TVWORTHWATCHING: CBS gave the Smothers brothers that show, because they were clean-cut folk satirists. You know, they wore blazers, they could sing well, they were funny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom liked you best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lower your voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom liked you best.


BLITZER: Each (INAUDIBLE) episode is executive produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, "THE SIXTIES" premiers Thursday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on CNN. You will want to watch all of these 12 episodes.

When we come back, dramatic new surveillance video has just been released as that deadly shooting massacre in California was happening. The disturbing details, that's coming up next.

Plus, an incredibly close encounter with a tornado. You're going to see the amazing video. That's coming up as well.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude, where do we go? You've got nowhere to go.


BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news, some dramatic new video from inside a pizza restaurant near the scene of that horrific Santa Barbara shooting.

CNN national correspondent Kyung Lah is outside the University of California Santa Barbara stadium, where a huge memorial service is about to get under way just a little bit more than an hour or so from now.

Kyung is joining us live. This is very dramatic, powerful video. What a horrible tragedy has occurred, Kyung. What's the latest?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What it tells us and what it really depicts, Wolf, is the sheer terror. What was happening inside these businesses. Remember, this happened on a Friday night, 9:30 Friday night. The streets are packed, the businesses are full.

Take a look. What you're seeing is a pizza restaurant. This is right along the street where the gunman was firing. No one inside this restaurant was hit by any bullets. There was nothing shattered, but you can see them crouching, you can see the students running.

We also spoke to a number of people who were outside the pizza restaurant who were in the apartments who live right above this pizza restaurant, and they happen to be rolling on their iPhones.

I want you to listen as the bullets went right by them.

So this gives you a sense of just how frightening it was for many of these people who were only 20, 19, 20, 22, 21, just in that general age range, and what they all tell us is that they tried to hide, they tried to run. They didn't know where it was coming from because it was that loud, it was that chaotic.

This community, Wolf, is trying to heal. But where we're at is a vigil, as you mentioned. It's going to be a large memorial service. There's going to be many, many students who are coming here, there are going to be a number of speakers. Among them, Richard Martinez, he is the father of a victim who died, not in that pizza restaurant, but at another business, and there are also going to be speakers like Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California School Systems, so a number of people, all with the same message, that they have to get beyond this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Showing some pictures of Richard Martinez, who lost his son. What an emotional, powerful statement he made. He, clearly, is so, so angry. He wants major gun control.

LAH: He absolutely does. What he is saying is that it is Washington and the politicians, who have failed in trying to do anything in light of the Sandy Hook shooting, and that, Wolf, that inaction, is why he says his son died.

BLITZER: What a horrible story that is.

Kyung Lah, we'll stay in touch with you following this memorial service that's about to begin. Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, more dramatic video just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, look at this, an unbelievably close encounter with an apparent tornado in North Dakota. You can see the twister initially forming in the distance, then panic erupts as it gets closer and closer.

The video ends with an amazing close-up of the swirling vortex. The two men just barely managed to escape. A damage assessment team from the National Weather Service is now investigating a very, very close call.

Coming up, as Donald Sterling faces NBA demands to sell his team, has his wife already found a buyer for the Clippers? We have some exclusive new information we're working on.

And Flight 370 families finally get their hands on the satellite data used to hunt for the missing airliner, but will all those numbers and codes really make a difference?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, Donald Sterling's wife taking offers for the L.A. Clippers, hoping to reach a deal this week. Sources are now revealing new details to CNN about efforts to head up a forced sale by the NBA.

Flight 370 data has now been revealed. The world gets a first look at communications between satellites and the plane in its final few hours, but if experts are reading it correctly, why hasn't the plane been found?