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New Allegations Of VA Cover-up; Democrats Debate Joining Benghazi Probe; American Help Arrives In Search For Girls; Putin May Celebrate Russian Pride In Crimea; Sterling's Wife Wants to Keep Clippers

Aired May 9, 2014 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Did a V.A. hospital cook the books as veterans waited months for care?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Benghazi boycott, as Republicans form a special committee to investigate the attack that killed four Americans. This morning Democrats are deciding whether to play defense or simply boycott the panel entirely. One of the lawmakers making that decision joins us live.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Not for sale. Donald sterling apparently speaking out for the first time since getting a lifetime ban from the NBA, but it is his wife who may hold all the cards which is shaping up to be an epic fight.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Friday, May 9th, 6:00 in the east. Up first, if you care about veterans please pay attention. We have new evidence of deadly delays and deception at the V.A. Clerks at a V.A. hospital in San Antonio are accused of cooking the books to hide dangerously long treatment delays.

The kind of delays that are being blamed for at least 40 patient deaths at V.A. facilities. The department's embattled secretary, Eric Shinseki ordering face to face audits at every single V.A. clinic while he himself faces a subpoena from the House and growing calls to step down.

Let's bring in Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara, good morning and what is the latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Well, so far President Obama standing by Eric Shinseki, himself a veteran of Vietnam, saying that he has confidence in him. But make no mistake Shinseki is embattled. Now he has ordered in his own department for the first time, a face to face audit of all the VA clinics looking into this question, were there secret wait lists where veterans made to wait for appointments that nobody recorded the delays and veterans may have died over all of this.

The House has subpoenaed Shinseki to come before the Veterans Affairs Committee. They want to see e-mails, they want to see all communications about this issue. Much of it first reported by our own Drew Griffin. The Senate, they have not subpoenaed him, but he will appear before the Senate next week to testify.

If you wondered about the scope of this, there are 23 million veterans in this country. The U.S. government has always made an unfettered vow to serve and protect them and provide for their health care -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: How are they going to continue that going forward? That is the key question, especially in the face of these allegations. Barbara, thank you very, very much.

So this morning House Democrats, they are meeting on whether to join a new committee on Benghazi. Lawmakers approved Thursday the new investigation into the attack that left four Americans dead. Many Democrats are calling the committee itself and the investigation a political witch hunt. But does that mean that they should boycott it all together? That's the question.

And also this question, what does this have to do now with the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Joining us to discuss, CNN political commentator and Republican consultant, Margaret Hoover, and CNN political analyst and senior political writer at "Politico," Maggie Haberman joining us in D.C. Good morning to both of you.

Margaret, tell me first. We've got Republicans saying that despite all the investigations and all the hearings and everything that's been going on, on the Hill regarding Benghazi they still have key questions and so they are putting this committee together to investigate. Democrats say this is all political show. Which is it?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, whatever it is it's become a partisan joke.

BOLDUAN: Flash point.

HOOVER: It's a flash point. It's a partisan joke. It's a rallying point. Certainly after 13 hearings so far it doesn't appear that it's anything more than a political -- look. It seems very much like a political witch hunt. There are a lot of things at which you can get the Obama administration and Hillary's tenure at the State Department that you can point to as questionable, especially most recently this failure to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization in light of her going after 300 Nigerian girls back. Look, it's a flash point. I don't see a lot of it there.

BOLDUAN: Also, let's not be holier than thou and speak of the reality of Capitol Hill. Political theater is just kind of par for the course. It is what happens on Capitol Hill. Press conferences are held just in order to say we held a press conference and committee hearings are held just to say we sat here and we held a committee hearing, Maggie. But what do you think of the Democrats' decision now this time. They are considering boycotting and one of the reasons behind this consideration is the fact they don't think there's enough equity on the panel. They think they need more seats on this committee. The majority always has more seats on these kinds of panels. What do you make of it?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not surprising that Democrats are considering boycotting this, as Margaret said, this is being looked at as a strict partisan maneuver. Remember this committee was created along a very strict partisan line vote. Democrats are in a bit of a bind. If they boycott this committee, they don't have a say at all. If things go very badly, then that could be a problem. If they do just one seat or two seats, then that's problematic.

BOLDUAN: Is boycotting a good idea though, if you're not in the ring you can't win the fight. If you're not there at all you can't defend your own position, right?

HABERMAN: That's what they're looking at and that's what their consideration is. There are members of leadership who very much want to be in the ring fighting, not just the obvious talking about the Hillary Clinton piece of it. That's just a piece of it. There is also the reality the other party in Congress and they feel like they ought to be there holding their own. They genuinely believe this is a as far as and they believe this is not, as Margaret said, the latest in a series of hearings that is not going to drudge up anything new. That's their view.

BOLDUAN: And Margaret, what's your take on -- the Republicans are taking a lot of heat right now over the NRCC. This is the congressional campaign arm. Fundraising off of this committee, off of the whole situation in Benghazi, what happened there? The guy in charge of the committee now says they should not be fundraising off of it, but regardless, it has happened, it is happening. Is that a huge misstep, fly in the face of their argument this isn't political?

HOOVER: It's a political cycle. The Democrats are always going to fund raise off of something that happens, too. This is what happens in political realms. Unfortunately, this is what happens. It generates media and a lot of small dollar donations that goes to the bases, especially in states like Troy Gowdy of South Carolina where you have really strong red states and fervent Republican base.

BOLDUAN: Does it work though, Maggie?

HABERMAN: Margaret's right. There's two conflicting impulses here. On one hand, the negative press here that when John Boehner got asked about this the other day this is not what he wanted to talk about. But on the other hand, this does generate a lot of low dollar contributions. This does up the fundraising base. They are ultimately looking at winning this November and that's what their goal is.

BOLDUAN: One quick question. Clearly one of the things here, Maggie, they're trying to make this connection to Hillary Clinton. She is finally have spoken out about the committee. She spoke about it this week. What do you think about her response so far, do you think she's going to have to say more and do you think she's going to be called to the committee and obviously do you think that she's going to be called to the committee and she'll go?

HABERMAN: There's a chance. Ultimately she's going to have to say more because this is going to be ongoing. The big question right now is what's going to happen in terms of her book? She addresses Benghazi in her book. The book is coming out in a couple of weeks. The events are going to overlap. She was pretty briefed the other day. She addressed it at the top of an event in New York at the Ford Foundation.

Clearly wanted to discuss this. Robin Roberts was interviewing her, brought it up right away. Her response was a couple of sentences. She's clearly going to have to say more, especially if something does come out of this committee. If she doesn't, she will say as little as she can for as long as she can.

HOOVER: Exactly. I couldn't agree more with Maggie. She's going to be in very safe, very comfortable places where she can say exactly what she wants to and no more and nobody is going to push her to say more until she gets closer and closer to making exploratory committee or running. The rubber is not going to hit the road for Hillary Clinton until she decides to make that step.

BOLDUAN: You have two conflicting things going on here. We got to wrap it up. You have the hearing happening and then you have the reality of what are the American people going to be getting out of it. I don't think those two things actually coincide yet. I haven't seen a compelling reason. If this is really a political cycle and really is kind of political theater, what are they going to get out of it? Republicans think they will find answers, we will see. First, we have to see if Democrats will show up to the committee. Maggie, Margaret, thank you so much -- Chris.

CUOMO: Let's turn now to the search for hundreds of missing girls in Nigeria where American help has finally arrived. That's the good news. Seven military experts are set to land today to support a team of advisers already on the ground for a search that may now have to stretch to neighboring Cameroon.

Here's the latest development. We are now hearing from girls believed to have escaped the mass kidnapping. Let's check in with CNN's Vladimir Duthiers. He has the latest from Nigeria. Vlad, what do we know?

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. Well, for the parents in Chibok, this is their worst fears realized. The fact that their daughters may not be in Nigeria any longer. We're learning more about what life is like in Chibok under veil in the threat of Boko Haram. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DUTHIERS (voice-over): Boko Haram's campaign of terror, shocking the world into action. Global outrage over the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls and the Nigerian government's inability to subdue their captors' mayhem. The country's president vowing the abduction will be the group's undoing.

PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN, NIGERIA: I believe that the kidnap of this girls will be the beginning of end of terror in Nigeria.

DUTHIERS: Pledges of help in the fight against Boko Haram from the United States and other governments are gaining traction.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We should be clear, this is not just a Nigerian issue. It is a global issue. There are extreme Islamists around our world who are against education, against progress, against equality, and we must fight them and take them on wherever they are.

DUTHIERS: A team of seven United States military personnel consisting of law enforcement experts and military advisers expected to arrive today joining a team already on the ground. France is sending a small specialized team to help as is Britain. But the task of rescuing the girls growing more complex with news that U.S. intelligence believes they may have been split up, moved out of Nigeria and into neighboring countries.

GORDON BROWN, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It's really vital to use the next few days before they are dispersed across Africa, which is a possibility.

DUTHIERS: Many fear the worse for the girls, still missing three weeks after being abducted by the terrorist group. Its leader threatening to sell them into sex slavery. These two girls know all too well the brutality of Boko Haram, recalling how they escaped the fate of their classmates. They described the frightening moments when Boko Haram stormed their school.

This girl says the militants threatened to kill them if they didn't tell them where the food was, and then burned the school to the ground. This girl says they forced her and the classmates into the bush, threatening their lives. She started running, she says. Finally reaching help.


DUTHIERS: And, Kate, CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video, but compelling glimpses of life in Chibok -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Vlad, thank you so very much.

Let's go to Russia now where national pride and military might are on full display as the country marks a major World War II victory. President Vladimir Putin is celebrating victory day with an elaborate parade in Moscow then reportedly heading to Crimea to continue the festivities. Yes, Crimea, which has Ukraine on high alert over concerns the celebrations could spark more violence than they're seeing in the region already.

Phil Black is in Crimea right now with much more. What are they expecting, Phil?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you mentioned, President Putin started victory day with the annual really quite intimidating display of Russian military might in the Red Square. And if the reports were correct, we believed he is now making his way here to Sevastopol at the south of Crimea. We are seeing here they cheered for a big military parade through the streets here, chancing, waving Russian flags.

And from here the party, the celebration is only supposed to get even bigger. Behind me we're going to see a display by warships from the Russian naval black sea fleet. President Putin is expected to be here to see it. It's not confirmed because the Kremlin hasn't said he is coming, but if he does it will be an act of defiance from to the international community who has condemned him so severely for annexing Crimea.

But it is likely to be welcomed, very warmly by the crowds here in Crimea and to a significant extent across Russia as well by people who have always believed that Crimea is an unquestionable part of the Russian federation. Michaela, back to you.

PEREIRA: Phil Black in Crimea with the latest on the situation there, thank you.

Let's take a look at more of your headlines now. The Syrian government is retaking the city of Homs. Most rebel forces and their families reportedly have been evacuated marking the end of three years of resistance in Syria's third largest city. Homs fell to the opposition in 2011, but a relentless bombardment campaign over the last two years by government troops has the city back in the control of the Assad regime.

A plan to end the NSA's bulk collection of American's phone data will head to the House floor in the coming weeks. The U.S. Freedom Act was passed unanimously by the House Intelligence Committee Thursday following a unanimous vote by the Judiciary Committee. The bill would bar the bulk collection of phone and other personal records and require the NSA to get a judge's permission to access the data of suspected terrorists.

President Obama is set to talk energy efficiency at a California Walmart today. This comes after his speech at the DNC reception in San Jose last night where he was repeatedly interrupted by an audience member.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I want to hear from you. I love you back. Yes, you kind of screwed up my ending, but that's OK. That's OK. And we got free speech in this country, which is great, too.


PEREIRA: The heckler was yelling about his freedoms as a voter. No word on that person's identity.

Draft day's biggest drama finally ended when Johnny Football went to the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick of the first round. Brown traded up four spots to get Johnny Manziel. As most experts predicted, Clowney was number one in the draft by the Houston Texans. More in this coming up in our "Bleacher Report" with Mr. Andy Scholes. Big day for Andy too. We'll talk about that.

Right now, let's get to meteorologist, Indra Petersons looking at some of the forecast for the weekend. But really a situation there tornadoes again spotted. Severe weather this year.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I mean, we're still talking about severe weather. These are the sights we saw yesterday out towards Minnesota. Yesterday, six tornado reports out there, including this one in southern Minnesota. And today, that threat is not over with just yet.

Let's talk about who is under the gun today. We're talking about 27 million of you again today. Indianapolis, St. Louis, Memphis, Little Rock, Shreveport and even San Antonio. All of you are looking at that risk for severe weather, not as heavy as yesterday but still we cannot rule out the threat of even a tornado today.

So, what is going on? We have the warm front and the cold front. So, the Northeast seeing light showers and the warm front are going to be looking at more heavier thunderstorms watching the cold front today.

Temperature-wise, they're going to be going up in the Midwest and East Coast. New York City going from 60s to 80s by tomorrow. It's going to feel hot, humid, and muggy out there. Notice, by tomorrow the Eastern half of the country getting into the showers. But in Midwest, you get a break for one day.

Now, we go into Mother's Day. Yes, it clears out of the Northeast. You stay warm but also the showers into the Southeast and unfortunately back into the Midwest again. The second line of storms is going to be moving in and this one unfortunately is going to be another round of severe weather so by Sunday from Chicago all of the way back down through San Angelo we're going to talk about another round of heavy thunderstorms on Mother's Day.

So, hopefully, nobody has any travel problems to go home and see mom.

PEREIRA: Or get back from seeing mom. One or the other.

BOLDUAN: That's fine. You get stuck a little bit longer.

PETERSONS: Mom will like that.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Every mother praying for the thunderstorms.

Thanks so much. Coming up next on NEW DAY: impassioned plea from the families of Flight 370 passengers. What are they demanding this morning? The partner of one of the American passengers on board joins us to lay it out.

CUOMO: And a new twist in the fight for control of the L.A. Clippers. Donald Sterling's wife, she insists she owns 50 percent of the team and she's not selling. So what does the NBA do now?


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The L.A. Clippers return to action tonight for game three of their NBA playoff series with Oklahoma City Thunder. But the real drama, of course, continues off the court. The league's effort to force owner Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers has gotten even more complicated with Sterling's wife now saying she'll fight to keep her stake in the team.

At the very same time, another secret recording reportedly of Sterling -- Donald Sterling, that is -- has emerged.

More on that from CNN's Stephanie Elam.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a shocking new audio recording, a man said to be Clippers' owner Donald Sterling stands his ground. Sterling says he's not a racist -- in a secret recording posted by gossip Web site "Radar Online".

DONALD STERLING: You think I'm a racist? You think I have anything of the world but love for everybody? You don't think that. You know I'm not a racist.

ELAM: CNN cannot independently confirm the voice is Sterling. Radar says the call was between Sterling and a long-time friend and that their source provided an affidavit that the proof was Sterling.

STERLING: I mean, how can you think I'm a racist knowing me all these years? How can you be in this business and be a racist? Do you think I tell the coach to get white players or to get the best player he can get?

ELAM: Sterling's outrage an apparent response to a fallout over another recording posted on line last month. And that audio, Sterling is making racist comments in a conversation with V. Stiviano.

The harsh words apparently triggered by this Instagram photo of her with NBA star Magic Johnson.

STERLING: It breaks my heart that Magic Johnson, you know, a guy -- a guy that I respect so much, wouldn't stand up and say, well, let's get the facts, let's get him and talk to him. Nobody tried. Nobody.

ELAM: This as the NBA's finance committee is deliberating on a for sale of the team.

STERLING: You can't force someone to sell property in America. Well, I'm a lawyer. That's my opinion.

ELAM: Shelly Sterling, Donald's estranged wife, wants to keep her half of the team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth of the matter is that Mrs. Sterling has denounced in the strongest terms possible her husband's racist comments. And while they share business, you know, business properties, he's out of the team, has nothing to do with it, and she's the owner in charge.

ELAM: Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.


CUOMO: All right. So, will these tapes make a difference and how about this complication? Who exactly owns the Clippers and what the league can do about it?

Let's bring in Malik Rose, two time NBA champ and game analyst for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, and Sean Gregory, senior writer for "TIME" magazine, and

Gentlemen, good to have you here.

Sean, what's your take on hearing Sterling there? Let's assume it's him.

SEAN GREGORY, "TIME MAGAZINE": Yes, not surprised. He's defending himself. It was the kind of thing you would expect from him if you were interviewing him or I were interviewing him.

You know, he's saying he has good in his heart. He's grown up in an adverse environment. But again, on the other side, we have what he said and hearing is believing. So, you have to kind of take both and make up your opinion for him.

CUOMO: Move the needle for you at all or no?

GREGORY: I mean, I think -- it's not that he's an evil man, there's all evil in his heart it seems. But again, you say one thing and you say another thing and it sounds like he's just trying to protect himself here.

CUOMO: Malik?

MALIK ROSE, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I think it's kind of laughable that the tape came out right now a week after he said so many heinous and disgusting comments to the contrary. I mean, I don't believe in the tape one iota and, you know, I have documents that I've researched and lawsuits that say what kind of man this is. And this tape isn't going to change that one way.

CUOMO: And now let's get to this other issue here, which is, let's say the league decides we don't want him, OK? It doesn't matter about the tape, it doesn't matter what we learn about him, we want him out of our club.

What do you think about this complication, Malik, with the wife? What's your understanding of the she's the owner, does that change the equation for the league?

ROSE: I don't know it changes it for the league as far as wanting regime change in Clipper land in L.A. It makes things difficult, absolutely, but the league as well as the NBA Players Union were prepared for this. This is the first step in a long set of moves to for the Sterlings to thwart this sale.

But the bottom line is the league can and will act to force the sale of this team. It's just going to be a matter of time as to when this gets done.

CUOMO: What's your understanding? Do you think it's as cut and dried as that?

GREGORY: Yes, it's a country club. And the franchise agreements and the bylaws say that once a decision is made, a decision is final. That's not going to stop Donald Sterling to try and get a judge involved and try to get divorce proceedings to get other lawyers involved.

So, as Malik said, it could be a protracted process but I don't think it's going to change anything.

CUOMO: The fact that it is a club. The fact that it is membership based is clear.

What are the provisions not to take membership not as clear. I think that it's going to be more complicated than people assume, Malik. Not because of the basis for it. I'm not saying what he said isn't bad. I'm saying I don't think it's as clear as we may suspect.

ROSE: No, it may not be as clear but the rules state that the league has a right to act when the -- when it's threatened or the brand is threatened. Right now, with the Sterlings being involved with the team, players are already on record, you've heard Doc Rivers --

CUOMO: Yes, Doc Rivers, tell them what Doc Rivers said.

ROSE: Basically saying it's going to be very hard for anybody to want to be a part of that organization as long as Sterlings are still involved. What that does is it still keeps the black cloud over the Clippers.

We've seen what's with Kia and Virgin Airlines and all the -- you know, State Farm and all the advertisers leaving the clippers. They're going to start to leave the NBA if the Sterlings are allowed to stay there. Once the advertisers leave, it's going to be TV revenue that's going to be lost and the TV deal is in jeopardy.

All of this stuff -- the global expansion the NBA what's wants to do, all of that will be in jeopardy, and that's going to compel the owners to act because it starts to mess with the revenue and the revenue sharing that the players and the owners share?

CUOMO: Two quick points to push back. I'll start with you and end with Sean. First one, the idea that this is about being thought police. You are punishing this guy for what he thinks that he believes in a private conversation that wasn't made manifest as far as we know and how he ran the team and now you're taking his property for it. Is that going too far in the name of political correctness?

ROSE: I don't know about the political correctness part but I'll just go back to the rules and the bylaws that this lawyer, former lawyer, Donald Sterling, and his wife Rochelle Sterling, signed in to. They're part of a unique group that is private and it's not really, you know, taking anyone's property. It's what they're doing is threatening a multibillion dollar industry and the other 29 owners in the league, as well as the players, can't have that happen. So that's what's ultimately going to drive this forced sale.

CUOMO: So, you're saying it's not about the right to free speech. It's about that you also have the right to consequences. They're part of a private club. This could be the consequence.

Sean, let me end with you on this -- the idea that Doc Rivers isn't happy. He says I don't know if Shelly being involved is good for the team and the players. I don't know. Do you think this is news to them? Weren't they comfortable taking this man's money before all this?

GREGORY: Yes, they were. And you join the organization but that's your recourse in a way. It's like, OK, I know this guy might be a bad guy. I am going to take his money, you know? He's giving me a job opportunity.

So, it's kind of you play well for him and you represent yourself and, you know, he's not the it greatest guy in the world but you do it for your team and yourself and your fans. You're not playing for your owner. So, yes, a bad guy gives you a great deal, you're going to take that great deal. I have no problem with the Clippers doing that.

CUOMO: All right. Malik Rose? Go ahead.

ROSE: Really quickly, really quickly. As a player, when I played in the NBA from '96 to 2009, I had no idea of all the other stuff, the lawsuits and things going on with the Sterlings. I heard of allegations but I didn't know all of this stuff that I know today was going on. So that's kind of -- it's not known all this stuff that was going on before the players took the Sterlings' money.

CUOMO: Suspicion versus knowing. Malik, thank you very much for that.

Sean Gregory, appreciate it as well.

Kate? BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, open letter from hundreds of the families of Flight 370 passengers demanding to see all the data from Flight 370. What are they hoping to accomplish? We're going to have Sarah Bajc whose partner was on the plane.

And also ahead, controversy erupting at HGTV. The network just scrapped plans for a new series before the first episode even aired. What did the host say that lost them the show? They're going to be joining us to discuss.