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New Details of Shinseki Resignation; VA Audit Suggests Changes May Be Pending; Former Microsoft CEO to Buy Clippers Team; Suicide Bomber in Syria Born in the U.S.; Search for Missing Malaysian Flight 370

Aired May 30, 2014 - 17:00   ET



Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, breaking news. There are new scandal revelations. We're learning much more about the shocking failures in the VA hospital system which forced the resignation of the secretary, Eric Shinseki.

Is a criminal investigation next?

Sterling's mental state -- independent doctors declaring the LA Clippers' owner incapacitated.

Does that free his wife to go ahead with the $2 billion sale of the team?

And nightmare scenario -- Americans fighting along -- alongside al Qaeda in Syria, including this suicide bomber, who grew up in Florida.

Will others bring their war back home?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We begin with new details on the growing scandal that today led to resignation of the Veterans Affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki.

The final blow, an internal VA audit showing misconduct at hospitals across the country. President Obama says firings are underway, bonuses being canceled. There may even be a federal criminal investigation.

CNN was first to shine the spotlight on the VA scandal and our correspondents are standing by to bring you the full coverage that we can.

We begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who takes us behind-the-scenes of today's stunning new developments -- Jim. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT:

Wolf, in a day of high drama here at the White House, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was gone in 60 minutes. With Democrats calling for his head, according to one administration official, Shinseki decided to step down on his own.


ACOSTA (voice-over): For President Obama, there was no time to wait.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secretary Shinseki offered me his own resignation and with considerable regret, I accepted.

ACOSTA: According to White House officials, the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki was over in one hour.

First, Shinseki met in the Oval Office with the president, chief of staff Denis McDonough and the top White House aide now overseeing the VA, Rob Nabors. Then the president and Shinseki went for a walk on the South Lawn for a private conversation. Minutes later, Mr. Obama said Shinseki had concluded he was too much of a distraction.

OBAMA: And so my assessment was, unfortunately, that he was right. I regret that he has to resign under these circumstances.

ACOSTA: Shinseki's departure came as the VA released an audit of its health system that found facilities around the country were flagged for further review because of concerns about questionable scheduling practices.

The VA secretary was more blunt in a morning speech, claiming his own officials have been lying to him.

ERIC SHINSEKI, FORMER SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: I was too trusting of some and I accepted as accurate reports that I now know to have been misleading with regard to patient wait times.

ACOSTA: The president said the White House was also in the dark that VA officials were concealing wait times.

OBAMA: This issue of scheduling is one that the reporting systems inside of the VHA did not surface to the level where Rick was aware of it, or we were able to see it.

ACOSTA: Over at the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner had his own rapid response, that Shinseki's departure is not enough.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: His resignation, though, does not absolve the president of his responsibility to step in and make things right for our veterans. Business as usual cannot continue.

ACOSTA: Besides the internal probes of the scandal already underway, the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said the Justice Department is also involved.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Criminal acts, they should be punished, no ifs, buts and maybes.

ACOSTA: White House aides say expect other VA officials to go.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We'll be holding accountable specific individuals.


ACOSTA: But the VA will be doing that with an interim secretary at the VA, Sloan Gibson, who has only been on the job in his current role as a deputy secretary of the VA for only three months.

Now, we should point out, Wolf, this was not the only big news of the day here at the White House. As you saw in the Briefing Room, later on in the afternoon, the president made a surprise appearance to announce that his, press secretary, Jay Carney, who's been on the job for three years, is stepping down in a couple of weeks. The principal deputy press secretary, Josh Earnest, is being given his job. Josh Earnest stretches back -- all the way back to the Obama '08 campaign in Iowa. So he is a seasoned veteran of the Obama team. And that transition will be taking place in a few weeks.

It just goes to show you, a very unusual Friday here at the White House -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, two very different resignations, one clearly forced, the other one voluntary.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Jay Carney wanting to move on five and a half years working for the president.

All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, first broke this story for CNN. And as the depth of the scandal becomes more clear by the day, lawmakers are calling for a criminal investigation.

Drew is here.

So where is this potential criminal investigation headed?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's very clear that General Shinseki believes he was totally lied to about these numbers, facts and figures coming into his headquarters and perhaps even within his own headquarter building.

If that is true and if these people lied to get bonuses, that is why there was a call for the Department of Justice to get involved.

I have not heard that an actual criminal investigation is underway, only that the Justice Department is looking at this. BLITZER: Yes, because Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he told me he thought a criminal investigation was already underway. And I guess maybe there's a nuance there, that maybe they're thinking about it and looking at it, whether it's worthwhile.

But if there is a criminal investigation, they've got to get a grand jury, they've got to get subpoenas. They've got to start working quickly.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And this is widespread across the country, so they do need to get their handle on it. And they also have to get the records. Remember, we're talking about the destruction of records in many of these places.

So is the evidence still being destroyed?

We don't know. Obviously, the problem is very large and widespread, which is what Eric Shinseki found out, I guess, last night.

BLITZER: And the allegation is, the fear is that individuals, bureaucrats at the Department of Veterans Affairs, were lying and cheating, misleading people about lists and wait lists for whatever, trying to make themselves look good so they could collect their bonuses, even though veterans were not getting the treatment they needed.

ACOSTA: That's the allegation, that they were strictly, on paper or in reports, trying to meet performance data that would be factored into whether or not they got a bonus or what size that bonus was.

BLITZER: And if that is true, and if they can prove that, I suspect people are going to jail as a result of that, especially if they could prove that individuals who were supposed to get treated weren't on any lists and they died in the process. That's the enormous fear.

GRIFFIN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right, Drew, don't go too far away. We have more to discuss.

I want to go to the Pentagon right now.

Our correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by -- Barbara, you know Shinseki.

You covered him for many years. He was the number two guy in the U.S. Army. He was the Army chief of staff at one point.

So why was he unable to fix this problem in the Department of Veterans Affairs?

Tell us about what American -- America's veterans need to know, and what they need to know as far as a replacement to reassure them that the problem will be fixed?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, I've talked today to some of his closest long time friends and colleagues, and asked this basic question. They're sad he's left, honorable man, but not terribly surprised, I have to tell you.

One of the things you hear about Shinseki that will be very much looked at in his successor is management style. Eric Shinseki always has been a guy who pretty much keeps to himself, works with a very small team.

One of the big criticisms was that he didn't reach out enough, he wasn't open enough to hearing some of the problems, having people feel free that they could come to him with the problems at the VA.

So the political firestorm overtakes him. But what really was the deal killer here, if you will, was this information that came to light that he was being lied to, misled, that the problems were systemic across the department.

Once that happens, management style or not, a leader has a loss of confidence from the president. And it seemed very inevitable that he would go.

With that groundwork, who do you pick to be the next guy?

Many people say you are going to have to pick someone who is not just a veteran, not just maybe a combat veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan, but someone with significant management experience, someone who understands a large health care delivery system, and someone who can politically reach out, perhaps, more to Congress, more to the veterans organizations, and explain to America what the Veterans Affairs department is really trying to do.

It's going to be a very tough order to fill. What one official said to me is we need a turnaround king, someone who can come in and turn around what is essentially a failing company -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And reassure all those veterans out there.

If you want to be a cabinet secretary, you've got to go out there. You've got to not only speak to your constituents, if you will, veterans, but you've got to speak to the American people. You've got to make statements. You've got to go on television. You've got to do what you've got to do in order to make the case. And you can't just stay in an office and try to get the job done. You really have to be an effective spokesperson, as well.

All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

Up next, there are new revelations about the Pittsburgh VA hospital, where CNN first broke the VA story. I'll speak with a congressman who's demanding a federal investigation. There he is.

And breaking news about Donald Sterling's mental health and an incredible lawsuit that may be in the works. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Donald Sterling's attorney, reached by our own Brian Todd, is not denying a brand new report that Sterling is getting ready to sue the NBA.

Brian is working his sources. He'll join us in a few minutes with more details. But that story just coming in.

There's other important news we're following, including shocking new details on the scandal that forced today's resignation of the Veterans Affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki.

Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, who first broke the story, he's back with us. He has some more information on a major problem that developed at the VA hospital in Pittsburgh.

What are you learning?

GRIFFIN: And this is a hospital that's been in trouble before.

Late last night, we learned that 700 veterans are on a wait list there, waiting for care, some since back in 2012. They are now being rushed to get appointments, but it's part of this bigger widening scandal.

And I want to bring you up to date, Wolf, with what happened at this hospital. In 2011-2012, there was legionella bacteria running through this water system in this hospital. They didn't have enough disinfectant in the water. Management knew, didn't say anything. Didn't tell the staff, didn't tell the patients. And as a result, five veterans actually contracted Legionnaires' Disease and died.

The accountability there? The people in charge actually were given bonuses. The V.A. never talked to us about what happened at the Pittsburgh -- the hospital involved in this Legionnaires' Disease outbreak. But it's just part of the continuous management problems that we've been uncovering for the last two, three years.

BLITZER: Yes. The more you hear the more horrible it becomes.

Drew, stand by for a moment, because I want to bring in Republican Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. He's called for an investigation into the Pittsburgh V.A. facility.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. You're joining us from Pittsburgh right now. What is the latest? Because these reports, they're really shocking to hear, how Americans' veterans are being treated.

REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I tell you, just got an update a couple of minutes ago from the Pittsburgh V.A., and here's what's happened. So the 700-name list shows up of people who were requesting initial contact with the Veterans Administration. None of the administrators I spoke with even knew that such lists existed. So they were shocked, as well, to find out about this. And we asked them to tell us about every single person. They're calling every single person on that list. They've already made 100 or so appointments, and they're working down the list even more.

But here's the interesting thing. They've traced this list down to it seems like one person who, when this person would get those requests, wasn't processing it. And the supervisors of that person are also being questioned, to say why didn't you know that this was piling up? I mean, just imagine as if requests were coming in every day and this person more or less was taking the paper and shoving it in a desk drawer. So it looked like the desk was clean.

We've also asked the question, did this person receive a bonus, a promotion, a raise, because it looked like they were processing all their work? We're waiting and standing by. The V.A. is looking into that. They're taking some quick action on this, which is what they should be doing. And so we'll find out more in the coming hours or days.

BLITZER: Because it's pretty shocking. You also, in a statement you put out, earlier together with Congressman Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, you said this: "We have also learned that higher-ups within the Department of Veterans Affairs may have instructed officials at the Pittsburgh V.A. not to inform members of Congress about the existence of a wait list." That, in effect, would be lying to members of Congress. What's going on here?

MURPHY: Well, we were very concerned about that. I talked with some other folks within the V.A., and they -- what their version is, they said, "We wanted to wait until we got more information for you."

And I just talked a few minutes ago with another administrator who says, "I wasn't told that, that information."

This is some of the confusion within the system. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they're trying to clean this up. But I think this speaks to -- multiply this throughout the Veterans Administration. When people may not know what's going on, may not be the right kind of supervision. They may not even know that such things exist. The pressure in the eyes of the members of Congress and the country is on them now. They've got to take a lot of quick cleanup action, but there are many things still to follow.

BLITZER: All right. Drew -- Drew has a question for you.

Go ahead, Drew.

GRIFFIN: Congressman, you've talked about this legionella outbreak, as well, at that hospital, and you've been trying to get some accountability there. Have you been stymied, as we have, as to find out what has gone on in terms of trying to get accountability? And are you as frustrated in trying to get answers from the V.A. as we have been here at CNN?

MURPHY: Well, that's what has frustrated us all along, myself and my other colleagues from southwestern Pennsylvania. When we would find we had to kind of guess what the exact right question was with the legionella outbreak.

And finally, when an inspector general who studied this found that they were not quick in their informing doctors and patients about the legionella in the water system, when they told us they were doing fests on the water system, we didn't ask the right questions, only to find out they were testing, but it was always the same pipes, the same faucets. They were not really testing the things in a systemic way.

And then, not too long ago, uncovered an e-mail in which a staff member of the V.A. specifically said to another one, "Let's not get this out in the news before 5 p.m., because we don't want this basically showing up on the evening news."

Last November I wrote a letter to Secretary Shinseki and said, "I want to know who is being disciplined for these actions and what is taking place." I still have not received an answer from that. However, in a phone call yesterday I had with folks in the V.A. and today, they said they -- some disciplinary action has taken place, more will follow. And I'm thinking, boy, this is a long wait period. But at least they're beginning to respond to us now about that. We'll find out more.

BLITZER: I want you to listen, Congressman. Our Brooke Baldwin, one of our anchors here at CNN, she spoke with parents of a veteran who committed suicide after being treated at that Phoenix V.A. Hospital. They were forcing him to switch psychiatrists.

His father then read on CNN part of a letter that the son, Daniel, had written before committing suicide. Listen to this.


HOWARD SOMERS, PARENT OF VETERAN WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE: "I cannot laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing."


BLITZER: Obviously, a very emotional, very emotional situation.

So what can be done? You hear about a vet who comes back, gets treatment at a V.A. facility in Phoenix and then is so frustrated by that treatment he goes ahead and kills himself.

MURPHY: My gosh. Well, you know, we've got -- this is awful -- 22 suicides per day, one active duty and the rest veterans of recent wars. Those are preventable when you get the person the right care.

Also read a study that said that perhaps 20 to 40 percent of people who go to the V.A. for mental-health care get appropriate treatment. This is one area where you cannot have a waiting line.

And I've heard from a number of veterans, when they call, for example, they're sent to group therapy. They're dealing with an anxiety disorder of PTSD. That simply is not the standard of treatment that should be there. There should be no waiting list.

I think some V.A.'s, Shinseki did say he hired something like 1,600 more people to work in the mental health area to reduce these waiting lists. There should be no waiting lists at all.

But I should say that part of the problem is that a lot of those positions, we understand, came out of the military, which means I think there's a shortages of psychologists, psychiatrists, other folks within the military to take care of problems there.

We've shifted some of the problem. We haven't really resolved the issues here. But boy, how sad -- how sad that is. It breaks your heart to hear that story.

BLITZER: Breaks your heart. But here's the question, and then I'll let you go. Do you believe crimes were committed? And do you know if there already is a federal criminal investigation under way?

MURPHY: I have not heard yet of a federal criminal investigation. Look, if someone gamed the system for the purpose of getting a bonus, a promotion or a raise, I think you have some issues there. You may have criminal negligence in cases of people purposely manipulating data that led to some harm to an individual, and along those lines, I hope the Justice Department takes a long, hard look at this.

I think the inspector generals that have been looking at these things from outside the internal parts of the V.A. should be commended for some of their work. And, you know, we certainly want to hear more from individuals as they hear these stories or they want to come forward and tell these stories.

And we as Americans, we may have a few more heartbreaks in this, but maybe the good news is we're finally going to clean up the system.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens. Congressman Tim Murphy, thanks very much for coming in.

MURPHY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Drew Griffin, he's going to be sticking around. He's got more to report later.

When we come back, there's breaking new information about a potential lawsuit involving Donald Sterling and the L.A. Clippers. Brian Todd working his sources.

Plus, new questions about the search for the missing Flight 370 just days after CNN first reported those suspected underwater pings didn't come from the flight at all.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, involving a possible lawsuit Donald Sterling may be filing against the NBA. Brian Todd has been out front of the story since it began. He's working his sources. He's joining us now with the breaking details.

What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the moving parts never stop moving in this story. I've been in contact with his attorney, Donald Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, this afternoon via e-mail. Blecher said he is not denying a new report that the Clippers owner is suing the NBA for damages in excess of $1 billion. His office tells us they may have something posted on their website shortly.

Now, does all of this mean he's contesting the sale of the Clippers? Maybe. Maybe not.

Earlier today Maxwell Blecher had told us Sterling would look at the sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer and decide where to go from there, saying, quote, "He doesn't want to fight with Shelly. That's the bottom line." That's a quote from Max Blecher to me on the phone earlier today. I don't know what the lawsuit means versus what he said to me about contesting the sale, Wolf.

Another key piece of news we have today. Sources telling us the doctors have determined Donald Sterling to be mentally incapacitated. This was a finding by two independent doctors, neurologists, presumably, we believe, earlier this month in two different examinations. And we have learned from one source that there is a clause in the trust between Donald and Shelly Sterling that says if one of them were to become mentally unfit, then the other would be the sole trustee. And that presumably opened the door for her to negotiate that sale with Steve Ballmer.

Again, I tried to get reaction. I did get reaction from Maxwell Blecher to that finding. He said that's a vast overstatement of mental incapacitation. That this was a diagnosis really of, quote, "modest mental impairment." And that maybe something akin to just slowing down mentally. And he is basically saying that mental incapacitation is not the case. At least not that degree of it.

BLITZER: All right. I want to discuss both of these, Brian. Stand by for a moment.

Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, our CNN commentator, L.Z. Granderson, and our CNN anchor, Don Lemon.

Let's talk about this possible lawsuit. Jeffrey first, a billion dollar lawsuit he's going to file against the NBA? What do you think of that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the odd thing is it doesn't seem to be a lawsuit, if it is a lawsuit at all, designed to stop the sale. It may be simply suing the NBA to recover the capital gains tax he's going to have to pay because of this forced sale. That would be a sideshow irrelevant to who owns -- who owns the Clippers.

I am not inclined to believe there is a lawsuit until I actually see a lawsuit. You know, we've been hearing from Mr. Blecher for a long time, "I'm getting ready to sue, I'm going to sue any day. And nothing happens. Nothing has happened yet.

LEMON: You asked him yesterday, Jeffrey. You asked him. You said, where is the suit? And he said -- yes, and he kind of backpedaled a little bit. But I don't know if you guys remember yesterday, I said I really -- I'm very skeptical. I said, I don't trust anything that comes out of their mouths. Until there's an actual sale, I won't believe it. And the interesting thing is, is that he's saying, everyone, that he wants to be vindicated.

Well, he's not understanding it. Imagine this scenario. If he had said, you know, I'm going to sell the team, I don't believe -- none of this is stuff about me is true but I'm going to sell for the better interest of the NBA and for my family and then he sells. That would have been weeks ago.

Americans have short memories. He could have then come back on television and said why he did it and probably gotten some sort of redemption. This would be out of the news had he already sold that team. He keeps putting himself --


LZ GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: It may have been out of the news.

LEMON: Right.

GRANDERSON: It may have been out of the news, but the fact is he still would have been banned for life. And I think that's part of the stuff he's play trying to play.

LEMON: That's true.

GRANDERSON: You know, perhaps he's trying to get this ban lifted. That's part of the vindication that he's referring to. And then there's also this. He is the oldest owner in the NBA right now. Imagine how much dirt he has on all these other owners. That lawsuit just began to throw a little mud, air a little dirty laundry to the public in terms of what he already knows about some of these owners.

I think that this lawsuit or the threat of a lawsuit is just another reminder to Commissioner Silver as well as the other owners that this could get really, really dirty and perhaps what he's really trying to do is get this ban lifted, in addition to recoup the capital gains and sales tax in California which is ridiculously high, by the way.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Because yesterday that's what Blecher, the lawyer for Donald Sterling, said on this program. He said that -- what Donald Sterling wants is a little vindication. He wouldn't explain what that meant but he wanted vindication.

This other issue, Jeffrey, the two neurologists saying he's mentally incapacitated. There's a clause in this trust agreement with his wife that if one is mentally incapacitated the other gets full authority to do with the trust whatever he or she wants. What do you make of that?

TOOBIN: Well, that would be one ground for Donald to sue Shelly if he wanted to sue Shelly saying, you know, this is unjustified. I am not incapacitated. But as far as we can tell from Brian he's not interested in suing Shelly. So it seems like, if this judgment has been made, then she does have the right to sell the team, which would basically turn this lawsuit into a sideshow about who gets the money, not about whether the team is sold.

BLITZER: Because, Don, as you know, he did authorize his wife -- estranged wife, whatever you want to call her, he did authorize her to go ahead and try to negotiate a sale, which is exactly what she did. She got a $2 billion offer on the table from Steve Ballmer. That's a record for an NBA team. The L.A. Clippers certainly a few weeks ago, who would have thought they could get more than $600 million, $700 million, $800 million, now we're talking about $2 billion.

So he authorized her to negotiate the sale, but we heard from Sterling -- Maxwell Blecher, Donald Sterling's lawyer, yesterday he may have authorized her to negotiate but he has to approve the sale.

LEMON: Well, here's the thing. I just -- you don't get to be where these people are without being pretty cunning, without being fairly cunning, and business savvy. And he is an attorney. I just wonder what the scheme is. I don't know if -- listen, I don't know if he's mentally incapacitated. Anderson sat down with him and Anderson he said he seemed to be fine. He's fine. He seemed to be -- have his wits about him.

So I don't know. And I -- there is something that in my gut that tells me that Shelly and Donald Sterling are in cahoots and they are strategizing in some way to try to pull a fast one on the NBA. If someone says -- if the doctors say he's mentally incapacitated, then he may say well, he can't sell the team.

Something is really up here. And I think pretty soon we'll figure it out, but right now we haven't figured it out. I don't know what's going on.


GRANDERSON: Well, I'm trying to figure out -- I'm trying to figure out why if you feel fine do you have these two examinations to declare that you're not feeling fine? Right? What were the circumstances in which he would go see a physician to be evaluated in the first place? Whose idea was it and what was the purpose of it? If he feels that he's not, you know, having any sort of mental problems, if he's not having problems with his synapses firing, then why was he being examined in the first place? And then twice on top of it? Was that Shelly's idea? Is this part of a larger scheme that Don is kind of insinuating? I'm really curious about that part of it.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect -- my own suspicion is they want the $2 billion to sell the team but they also want, especially Donald Sterling -- I'll let Jeffrey weigh in on this. He also wants what he calls vindication. He wants the NBA maybe to eliminate the ban on him attending NBA games for life or something along those lines. He wants something relatively, I guess, from his perspective modest so he can be, quote, "vindicated".

TOOBIN: Right. I suppose he wants that. I wouldn't doubt that he wants some of those capital gains taxes paid as well because just because you have $2 billion doesn't mean you want more money. I mean, that's one of the laws of American life. But I just think, you know, the good news about all of this is there's a deadline coming on Tuesday. The NBA owners are going to meet. So people are going to file lawsuits perhaps. Maybe they -- after Tuesday, he's going to be out.


TOOBIN: Then the only question is who -- who owns it.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Don.

LEMON: Can I say something? Look, this is what it -- this is what it says about -- if he's mentally incapacitated. It say the trust agreement that governs the family's ownership, again, this is not CNN's reporting but the ownership of a team provides if two qualified doctors determine either Donald or Shelly, shows an inability to conduct business affairs in a reasonable and normal manner, they will then be stripped of control over the team and that means that it goes to the next in succession.

That's how I'm reading this. So I'm telling you I feel -- this is me personally talking -- there is some strategizing going on here, some sort of scheme that we really haven't gotten to the bottom of yet.

BLITZER: We'll see what they pose. The NBA did put out a statement and I'll read to you a line from it. A couple of line. Commissioner Silver has consistently said the preferred outcome to the Clippers proceeding would be a voluntary sale of the team. Shelly Sterling advised the NBA last night that an agreement had been reached with Steve Ballmer and the NBA Advisory Finance Committee met via conference call this morning to discuss these developments. We await the submission of the -- of necessary documentation from Mrs. Sterling. In the meantime, the June 3rd special meeting of the NBA Board of Governors remains as scheduled.

That's from Mike Bass, the executive vice president of communications for the NBA. That's a pretty specific -- they're going ahead with this meeting unless they have the paper work that a deal is done, proved by all the owners and the buyers.

TOOBIN: That's the only way this thing is going to be resolved, by setting deadlines. The NBA has set a deadline. And they will either throw him out on June 3rd or they will simply approve the sale on June 3rd. But the key point is that Donald Sterling is going to be out on June 3rd.

BLITZER: You know, LZ and Don -- let me let Don weigh in first. He sells the team, they sell the team for $2 billion. They paid $12 million for it 33 years ago. So that's a nice profit. They will have to pay 20 maybe 25 percent capital gains, whatever they have to pay. So let's say they get $2 billion, they walk away with $1.5 or $1.6 billion after taxes, Don. What kind of punishment is that?


LEMON: Is that rhetorical, Wolf? I mean, come on.

BLITZER: I mean, $1.5, $1.6 billion for a team -- a team only a few weeks ago probably could have gone for $600 million or $700 million?

LEMON: That is 166 percent profit, or 166 percent of what they bought the team for.


TOOBIN: No, no, no.

LEMON: I would love to have that sort of investment. I would love to have that --

TOOBIN: Don. Don. Don, we need the common core for you. It's 1600 percent.

LEMON: 1600 percent.


LEMON: Well, I'm just saying, I would love to have that sort of investment, and especially if I did something wrong and someone was pushing me out, to have that sort of nest egg if you want to call it. I mean, that's a dream.

LEMON: Yes. LZ, final word.

GRANDERSON: But there is -- but there is ego involved, you know. Let's go back to the beginning of the story. Him paying money to NAACP to vindicate his racist past, him taking adage on the "L.A. Times" talking about all the great charity work he's doing to clean up his name in the area. There is more to him or he desires more than just money. And I think Don might be on to something because if Shelly finds herself incapacitated and it passes to their children, the NBA Commissioner Silver never went after the children.

It was the players who said they wanted no Sterling involved, but as far as Commissioner Silver is concerned, it's about Donald Sterling and perhaps Shelly. So I think it's passed down to the children, then what does the NBA do? So I agree, there's a lot more still here that have to weave through. BLITZER: We're going to wait for the top of the hour because we're expecting some announcement to be posted on the law firm's Web site, Maxwell Blecher's Web site, he's the lawyer for Donald Sterling. We'll have that as soon as we get it, guys. Don't go too far away. We'll continue our reporting and analysis.

Up next, a nightmare scenario. Americans fighting alongside al Qaeda in Syria, including this suicide bomber who grew up in Florida. Several others bring their war back home.

And we're also learning new details about what could be the next phase in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370? Will it be in the hands of private contractors?


BLITZER: It's the deadly work of an American terrorist, the State Department now confirming this suicide bombing in a government checkpoint was carried out by an American man who went from classroom in Florida to the killing fields of Syria.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is working the story for us.

Mohammed, what else are you finding out?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, new details are beginning to emerge about the man currently known as Abu Hurayra al-Amriki. The American. He is the first American suicide bomber in Syria. And while there are a lot of concerns by U.S. officials about Americans that are currently fighting against Syria, they are even more worried about American militants who might come home after fighting in Syria.


JAMJOOM (voice-over): This deadly explosion thousands of miles away is now being blamed on this man -- an American citizen. CNN has learned the man known by the pseudonym Abu Hurayra was born in Florida. U.S. officials have not said if Hurayra is his given name. Officials won't say when he went to Syria or why, but tonight they believe he is responsible for packing 17 tons of explosives into a vehicle and blowing it up. Becoming the first American suicide bomber in Syria.

Experts say he may not be the only American training for such a deadly attack.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, you with the Arab, you know you meet a lot of very hardcore al Qaeda types, if you're associated with these groups, and they indoctrinate you further. And based on previous historic examples, particularly the Afghan war against the Soviet rebels, people trying to maintain and bomb the World Trade Center in 1993, and other veterans planned the 9/11 attacks. You know, people are very concerned. And they have reason to be. JAMJOOM: Analysts say at least 100 Americans have flooded into Syria since the start of the civil war. And U.S. officials fear many more may already be joining a bloody battle, getting expert training on how to plot attacks once back in the U.S.

ANDREW MCCARE, FBI: Syria remains a significant destination for our homegrown violent extremist population.

JAMJOOM: Even more frightening sources say it's a group that's becoming increasingly difficult to track.

MCCARE: There isn't a single easily identifiable community from which our Syria travelers all spring from. They are a very diverse group. They are of both genders. When you put them all together, they look like America.


JAMJOOM: And another reason U.S. officials are so concerned, not just because of the actual war that's going on in Syria, also because of the propaganda war. When you see videos like this, U.S. officials get worried that al Qaeda is going to be able to recruit even more jihadists trying to join the fight in Syria -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it goes by this (INAUDIBLE) that Abu Hurayra al- Amriki, the American. We don't know his real name, though?

JAMJOOM: No, we don't know yet. We've been checking with multiple sources of the U.S. government and it seems they're not ready to release that information yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mohammed, thanks very much.

Mohammed Jamjoom reporting.

Just ahead with the search for Flight 370 suspended, and an apparent dead end, will private contractors now trying to find the missing plane?


BLITZER: Learning new details about what could be the next phase in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has got some new information.

What are you learning?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the multinational search may be over as far as the day today. But there are new questions about when the search will resume again and who will lead it. And, again, where will they look?


MARSH (voice-over): Tonight, private contractors around the world are vying to take over the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, preparing bids that could run into tens of millions of dollars for a search that most likely won't resume for months.

MIKE PURCELL, SENIOR ENGINEER, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTE: I think that a lot of people are interested in getting the job because it's potentially profitable because it could be a long duration, so it certainly, any company that could put their equipment to work and keep it out there is going to probably be successful.

MARSH: While the multinational investigative team may have canceled its day-to-day search, the Chinese Navy is continuing to map the ocean floor, all in an effort to give a head start to whatever private contractor takes over. 153 of the 239 passengers onboard Flight 370 were Chinese.

Complicating matters, the bombshell revelation to CNN this week by one of the U.S. Navy's top salvage experts who says the pings believed to be from the airplane's black boxes were likely not from the plane at all.

MICHAEL DEAN, DEPUTY DIRE FOR SALVAGE AND DIVING, U.S. NAVY: If that black box were nearby, we would have picked it up on the imagery data.

MARSH: Tonight, there is still disagreement about where the next phase of the search should go, some including Australia's deputy prime minister, believe contractors should move on from the area of the Indian Ocean where four pings were detected over the course of several days.

WARREN TRUSS, AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No signs of aircraft debris have been found. The area can now be discounted as the final resting place for MH-370.

MARSH: While others say at least some of the underwater pings must have come from the black boxes. And the search area shouldn't be discounted just because the plane hasn't been found.

DAVID MEARNS, BLUE WATER RECOVERIES, LTD: You cannot reproduce this stuff and you can't reproduce it by natural means or the earth isn't doing it, the ocean isn't doing it. The animals are not doing it. And their ship is not doing it.


MARSH: Well, despite the doubt in the underwater pings and discounting a particular area, authorities remain positive that the plane is in the South Indian Ocean. The chief commissioner of the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau was asked if he thinks that the plane will ever be found. He's quoted as saying we can't be too confident but they are cautiously optimistic. Keyword, cautiously.

BLITZER: Cautiously. All right, thanks very much, Rene, for that report.

Turning quickly to the political battle for 2014. Mitt Romney's paying a visit to Iowa. And it's politically significant, but not necessarily for the reason you might think. The former Republican nominee for president stumping for Jodi Ernst, a state senator in the GOP's field for next Tuesday's U.S. Senate primary.

Here's why his visit is significant. Jodi Ernst also has been endorsed by Sarah Palin. The establishment and the Tea Party wings of the Republican Party may be coming together ahead of the 2014 midterms at least in this contest in Iowa.

Coming up, Donald Sterling's attorney comments on word that the L.A. Clippers' owner may be filing an extraordinary lawsuit against the NBA. Even as doctors find Sterling to be mentally incapacitated.

And Hillary Clinton lashing out at critics who keep slamming her over the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.