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EARLY START

Don Sterling: CNN Exclusive; Escape from Terror; Rebels Declare Victory in Ukraine; Mystery of Flight 370 Continues; Clippers Rally Late to Stun Thunder

Aired May 12, 2014 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Don Sterling on the record saying "I'm sorry." In a CNN exclusive, apologizing for the racist remarks that got him banned from the NBA. The L.A. Clippers owner opening up about what he'll do if he's forced to sell that team, and he's talking about the woman he says has been secretly recording him for years.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Escape from terror in another CNN exclusive. A young, Nigerian girl kidnapped from school by armed militants explains how she managed to break free and make it back home. We're live in Nigeria with this harrowing tale.

ROMANS: Breaking news this morning. Ukraine in crisis. Pro-Russian rebels claiming victory after eastern provinces vote on whether to secede from the nation. Will this country be split into pieces? We are live with the very latest.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. A lot going on. It is Monday, May 12th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we do begin with a CNN exclusive. Donald Sterling on the record, out loud for the first time about the racist comments he made and the push to force him out as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Donald Sterling sat down with CNN's Anderson Cooper. He did apologize, calling what he said a mistake, insisting he was baited by V. Stiviano into saying that she shouldn't be seen with black people, including Magic Johnson.

Now, as for Johnson, Sterling called him a good person, but get this, not a good example for the children of Los Angeles. And he said that V. Stiviano was a friend he thought liked him and cared for him, but apparently tricked him.

Sterling's wife, Shelly, is also speaking out. She told ABC News she thinks her husband is suffering from early-stage dementia, and she plans to get a divorce. But she says she doesn't want to give up her share of the team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHELLY STERLING, WIFE OF DONALD STERLING: I've been with the team for 33 years, through the good times and the bad times. And it's my passion and I love it. I guess, whatever their decision is, we have to live with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The NBA says under its rules, if Donald Sterling loses control of the team, Shelly Sterling will as well. Now, as for the Clippers themselves, remember, there's a basketball team playing in the playoffs here.

ROMANS: This is where the drama is supposed to be.

BERMAN: That's right. A dramatic, amazing fourth-quarter comeback in their conference semifinal series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They rally back from a double-digit deficit. They won 101-99. This was a stellar comeback. That series now tied at two games apiece.

And while you wait for game five of that series, you can see Anderson Cooper's exclusive interview with Donald Sterling. The first bit comes up on "NEW DAY" at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. The full interview tonight on "AC360," 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN.

ROMANS: It sure is something.

All right. Now to another CNN exclusive. We're hearing this morning from a young Nigerian girl who escaped after being captured by terrorists when they rounded up more than 270 of her classmates. Those girls are still being held by Boko Haram. This morning, hundreds of people, including U.S. troops, are out looking for them without any success yet.

CNN's Nima Elbagir is the first international reporter to reach Chibok. She's live this morning in Abuja, Nigeria.

Tell us what this girl told you and about your harrowing trip to this part of the country that is still very, very terrified by Boko Haram, Nima.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is still very much a very isolated part of Nigeria. It took us a very long time to get there. A lot of that was down to just the slowness of the movement. The security threat at the moment is so high that we're going through checkpoint after checkpoint, crucially, until we got into that Boko Haram heartland.

Then, you realize why these people feel so abandoned and on their own, because I have to tell you, there was very little evidence of that promised security build-up that the Nigerian authorities have been talking about. On a road where Boko Haram still have a sustained presence, just the day before we were supposed to make that final leg of our journey into Chibok -- in fact, we were supposed to leave on this actual day before we heard about this incident -- police and Boko Haram militants exchanged fire after the militants were found coming back from a raid on another village, Christine. So, it's no wonder that the people who lived through the attack in Chibok are still very, very afraid. And you get a sense of that when we asked the girl we spoke to to describe what the men who took her looked like.

Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELBAGIR: Can you describe the men that came and took you? What did they look like? Were they wearing civilian clothing or military uniforms? What were they wearing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know understand.

ELBAGIR: But what was their dress? What were they wearing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel afraid.

ELBAGIR: Did they look like soldiers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we are a little afraid.

ELBAGIR: You feel afraid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ELBAGIR: You don't want to talk about what they look like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

ELBAGIR: That's OK. I understand. I'm sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELBAGIR: It feels almost like she is so aware that she and her family are among the very, very few lucky ones remaining in Chibok that she can't quite believe her luck, and she told us, any moment she's expecting Boko Haram to come back and finish what they started, Christine.

ROMANS: Clearly terrified. And the people who live there must be terrified.

Tell us a little bit about, you know, what the people in the village are doing to protect themselves. You say they're actually patrolling on their own in the absence of any kind of, you know, government effort.

ELBAGIR: They feel very much alone, Christine. We spent the night with them, and I have to tell you, as that sun sets, it starts to hit you that this is what these people have been dealing with every single night for almost three weeks since that incident, that the fear is, of course, there during the hours of daylight, but the reality of the possibility that tonight could be the night, it hits you after dark. And the men, I think, are tired of being victims. They're tired of being helpless in front of this terrorist threat. And so, they're doing what they can.

They're doing, I think, what any father or brother or son would do to protect their loved ones. They're going out there, they're risking their lives, and they're doing it with what little they have at hand. They're doing it with machetes, with knives, some were even just carrying sticks, but they're doing it.

And they told us, in fact, when we saw this, they said most of the men in Chibok do not sleep. They do not sleep at night, Christine, because they believe that any night could be the night that Boko Haram come back.

ROMANS: All right. Nima, thank you for that really, really compelling report. Thanks.

BERMAN: She says the people there feel alone. It's incumbent on those of us in the rest of the world to show them they are not alone.

ROMANS: Indeed.

BERMAN: Let's move now to eastern Ukraine, where this morning it looks like many voters are saying yes to independence. Preliminary results, if we can call them that, now show that 89 percent in Donetsk approved of a measure to secede from Ukraine, that amid more deadly violence. Gunmen opening fire on crowds. That's about 30 miles from Donetsk. Not clear this morning just who those gunmen were, who was firing at whom, exactly.

Nick Paton Walsh is live in Slaviansk this morning, another one of these towns affected.

Nick, give us a sense of the latest.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I was awoken at 5:00 this morning by what sounded like half an hour's worth of tank fire on the outskirts of town, to give you an idea how tense the city still is. The referendum's results, let's be honest, never really expected anything other than the 80 percent turnout, roughly, and the 89 percent possible preliminary results suggest endorsements, the idea of Donetsk republic becoming independent.

The key question will be what is Kiev and Moscow going to do? Well, Kiev said the referendum was a farce. I think being here, seeing the conditions, being that we're in the state of civil war here, it's fair to say it doesn't meet normal democratic standards, but we're also hearing now what the Kremlin have to say.

Now, remember, Vladimir Putin suggested the referendum be delayed. We've just had a statement put out by the Kremlin press service, remarkable in that it says "the will of the people of Donetsk should be respected," but then it seems to fudge what actually happens next, encouraging, it seems, dialogue between the people here and the central government in Kiev, suggesting that in order for the implementation of the outcome of the referendum to go through in a civilized way, there should be talks.

Now, it's clear here in Slaviansk they don't want to talk. They consider the only conditions for talking, the army being pulled away, prisoners of war talks being begun, and their local army here, their militia being recognized. Now, that's never going to happen and Kiev calls them terrorists, saying the only way to respond is to send in the army.

So, a messy situation, but bizarrely now, the Kremlin, which many say fermented unrest here but at the last moment tried to distance itself from this referendum, now saying everyone has to talk, and crucially here suggesting that perhaps political security monitors, the OSCE, should be involved in the process, an interesting development from Moscow. That will leave people very confused here as to where Russia actually stands -- John.

BERMAN: Interesting. You say it's a messy situation on the ground. Sort of a messy statement, I'm just looking at it now, from Russia, as you say. I think it will take time for that to sink in with the pro- Russian separatists, see how they react to what the Kremlin is now saying.

Nick Paton Walsh live for us this morning in Slaviansk, watching the situation as it develops.

ROMANS: All right. Now to the weather for your Monday and the significant threat facing a huge part of the country again today, from Texas to the great lakes. There could be more thunderstorms and there could be tornadoes.

BERMAN: In Nebraska, significant damage being reported not far from Lincoln after this tornado. Look at this and others like it roared across on the ground there. I want to show you some clouds now, ominous, Armageddon-like clouds in Grafton. No word yet on damage there.

But this farm in Sutton, Nebraska, as you can see, was destroyed. That used to be a house and a barn. It's just gone now. The owners, luckily, got away before it all happened.

ROMANS: Missouri still in the crosshairs this morning as many start cleaning up after these tornadoes raced through an area near Kansas City. In the town of Orrick, there was significant damage, but officials and those who live there grateful that no one was seriously hurt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAWN REZNICEK, ORRICK RESIDENT: My son and I were holding each other and the house was shaking. You can tell that it was, like, the structure was moving because dirt was coming down.

CALEB STEGNER, ORRICK RESIDENT: I was scared. I thought, like, the whole house was going to collapse on us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: All right, something different to show you now from Colorado, snow, heavy snow this weekend near Denver, leading to accidents. Some areas could get up to 10 inches by the time this system moves out.

ROMANS: All right, Indra Petersons tracking the latest on this dangerous weather.

This is what spring looks like. This is it.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: When you talk about snow, right, but, of course, you have that cold air next to the warm air, and of course, we had the threat for severe weather.

Just take a look at what we saw yesterday. It was unbelievable. Things really just erupted in the overnight or afternoon into the overnight hours. We saw 35 tornado reports across the area, but even the straight-line winds and hail, all that will still be in the forecast today as yet another day of severe weather is expected.

What are we looking at from Detroit back through Minneapolis, all the way back down through San Antonio today, this is where we have the slight risk for severe weather. Yesterday, we had a heightened risk, but regardless, we're talking about the threat even for isolated tornadoes out there again today.

The big story's really going to be some of the cool air shifting farther to the east. We see the jet stream kind of dip down and with that, scattered showers will spread farther off to the East. So, the next several days, you're going to be looking at spotty showers, maybe heavier showers farther to the South where you pull up that gulf moisture.

But either way, this is going to be the story, kind of breaks from the cloud cover, some showers, raining again, sunny. That's the story here.

Temperature-wise, look at it. New York City 71 today. We talked about this. Denver, look at the other side, 33 degrees with snow this late in the season. So hard to believe. Again, you have that contrast and we'll see more showers spreading east over the next several days as a frontal boundary moves to the East.

I mean, really, Denver, snow this time of the year. So not happy campers.

BERMAN: Completely unnecessary. Thanks, Indra.

PETERSONS: Sure.

ROMANS: All right. European stocks trading mixed right now. Dow futures pointing to a higher open on Wall Street if this holds over the next few hours. This after the Dow hit a record high Friday, topping 16,583, the second record close for the Dow this year.

Last year, the Dow hit a record 52 times. So, it's been a slow advance. This is all part of this massive five-year bull market. This year, the Dow has struggled to top the record hit December 31st of last year, topping it now just twice.

BERMAN: That's a lot of bull.

ROMANS: It's a lot of bull, but it's an old, slow bull now. As the Dow regains its footing, the NASDAQ is not. Look, it started the year strong, but now the tech-heavy indexes closed lower last week. It's down 2.5 percent for the year. A lot of the busy, cool tech stocks that were really great winners last year are not great winners this year.

And what you're seeing is people rotating, as they say on the street, rotating into dividend-yielders, sort of slower growers, bigger names. That's when will the Dow's doing that.

BERMAN: It's hip to be square.

ROMANS: It's hip to be square! John, you just wrote my headline for the rest of the day.

BERMAN: There you go.

Twelve minutes after the hour, and new this morning, the man in charge of the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 speaking to CNN after months of coming up empty. He explains what comes next in this search. We're live in Australia with his new plan. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: New this morning, we're hearing from the man responsible to find Flight 370 months after the jet disappeared, with hundreds onboard.

Angus Houston sat down with our Anna Coren to talk about the status of the search, what's happening right now, and whether they will ever find that plane.

Anna is live for us this morning in Canberra, Australia.

What did Houston have to say about the search and the difficulty of finding this plane, Anna?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, there's no doubt about it. This is probably the biggest challenge of his career. We're talking about a military man, a former chief of the Australian defense force whose career has spanned 40 years. He describes this as the most difficult search in history, but he is confident that they will find MH370 and that it is in the southern Indian Ocean.

Obviously, they are going off those four pings that they detected at the beginning of April that they believe were signals emitted from the black boxes on board that plane. The Bluefin-21 that is making its way out to that search area, it will be in the water within the next 24 hours and will be going down for its 19th dive, scouring the bottom of the ocean. It's managed to reach about 5,000 meters deep.

The problem is, however, you know, some of these areas go as deep as 6,000 meters. So, once they have exhausted this lead using the Bluefin-21, they think that will take about a month, they will then bring in the next phase of the search, covering an area of 20,000 square miles, which then could take eight to 12 months. But as far as Angus Houston is concerned, you know, he is committed to seeing this all the way through for the families of the victims of the 239 people on board and also for the general flying public.

But he emphasizes, Christine, that you know, changes need to be made to the way that airplanes around the world are tracked.

Let's have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGUS HOUSTON, HEAD, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER: We need to have jetliners that are equipped with some sort of tracking device that can't be turned off, that can be tracked all of the time. And with satellite technology available, I think that can be done, you know, in the near future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: Now, Mr. Houston was brought out of retirement to lead this massive search. He really has restored credibility to this search area. Obviously, when this all unfolded, you know, in March, there was a real sense of confusion and a great deal of angst and frustration, obviously, from the families of the victims. Obviously, that still exists, but Mr. Houston says, you know, please, trust me, trust my team, because we are going to, you know, exhaust this search, and we are going to find the remains of MH370, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks for that, Anna Coren, for us this morning in Canberra, Australia.

BERMAN: Eighteen minutes after the hour.

Happening today, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel begins a four-day, three-nation tour of the Middle East. This is his third trip to the region in just over a year.

First up, the secretary goes to Saudi Arabia for a meeting on regional security, then to Jordan, finally Israel. The secretary's making news in this country as well, saying the military should continually review its prohibition on transgender people serving openly. That is raising some hopes that the ban could eventually be lifted.

ROMANS: The U.S. embassy in Yemen will remain closed to the public, at least through Thursday. And this morning, we're learning new details on why. Yemeni officials tell CNN al Qaeda gunmen attempted to kidnap two embassy employees last month but the gunmen were shot and killed instead. Officials believe this may have been part of a wider plot.

And there was more bloodshed Sunday outside of the capital. Two separate attacks left as many as 13 Yemeni soldiers and three suspected militants dead. BERMAN: Tough questions this morning for former Secret Service director Mark Sullivan. "The Washington Post" says the top agents guarding the White House were pulled twice a day for about two months in 2011 to monitor the home of Sullivan's then assistant. Sullivan says he did not personally issue the order and that threats against the employee justified the response. An agency spokesman says the operation lasted only a few days and the inspector general has been asked to look into it.

ROMANS: Happening today, the public gets its first up-close look at the Washington Monument with a formal reopening nearly three years after the iconic tower shut its doors to repair damage from an earthquake. The 555-foot-tall structure was closed in August of 2011 after that 5.8-magnitude quake shook the D.C. area, causing some significant cracks. Officials say that's all now repaired.

BERMAN: So, the L.A. Clippers not letting the ownership fight get in the way of serious drama. An amazing come-from-behind victory to tie their playoff series against the Thunder. This was amazing!

Brian McFayden has the details in the "Bleacher Report," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So, despite all of the off-the-court controversy, the Los Angeles Clippers pulled off a ridiculous comeback in the NBA playoffs last night.

ROMANS: Brian McFayden has more on the epic rally in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning.

BRIAN MCFAYDEN, BLEACHER REPORT: Good morning to you guys. Hopefully, you didn't turn the game off after the first quarter. Wow!

Oklahoma City was cruising, up by 22 in the first quarter. Then, Lob City came alive. L.A. staged a ginormous comeback, chipping away and taking the lead for the first time with 90 seconds remaining. Darren Collison, hometown kid, was the unlikely hero, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. Clippers win 101-99. Now the series is tied up at two games apiece.

The Indiana Pacers are looking more like the team that dominated the East during the regular season. Paul George showed everyone why he's a superstar in last night's game against the Wizards. He put up a playoff career-high 39 points, 15 of those in the fourth quarter. The Pacers have a commanding three games to one lead and can now close out the series at home on Tuesday.

Trending this morning on bleacherreport.com, an emotional Mother's Day win at TPC Sawgrass. Martin Kaymer sunk this 35-foot putt for par on the famous island dream. The German almost blew the three-shot lead after an hour and a half rain delay. The only time he lost his composure was talking about his mom, who died of cancer six years ago. He has a sunflower, her favorite flower, on his golf bag. Back to you, guys.

BERMAN: That's great. What a nice tribute from him, and congratulations.

ROMANS: Thanks, Brian.

MCFAYDEN: It really is.

BERMAN: Twenty-five minutes after the hour.

Coming up, a dangerous escape. A young girl kidnapped from her school in Nigeria. She manages to get away. How did she do it? We're live with the CNN exclusive, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)