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EARLY START

Sterling Breaks Silence: 'I Was Set Up'; Schoolgirl Describes Harrowing Escape; Two Ukrainian Provinces Vote for Independence; Hundreds Evacuated in Texas Fire; Updates from Head for Search for MH- 370

Aired May 12, 2014 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He says he's sorry. He's asking for forgiveness.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on the record, out loud in a CNN exclusive about the team he doesn't want to lose and about the woman he believes was setting him up from the very beginning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Escape from terror. A young girl kidnapped from her school by gunmen. She explains how she got away and why it was worth the risk. We are live in Nigeria with this CNN exclusive.

BERMAN: Breaking news this morning. Pro-Russian rebels declaring election victory in eastern Ukraine. And now, new response from the Kremlin itself. What are they saying? We are live with what's happening on the ground and in Moscow, next.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Monday morning. It's 5:30 in the east.

We are hearing this morning from Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner, sitting down exclusively with Anderson Cooper, and he's speaking on the record for the first time about the racist comments that got him banned for life from the NBA.

As the league moves to force him to sell, Sterling says he's sorry, that what he said was a mistake, that he hopes his fellow owners give him another chance and that V. Stiviano tricked him into saying she couldn't be seen with black people, including Magic Johnson, who Sterling says he has spoken to on the phone.

Now, he calls Magic Johnson a good person but not a good example for the children of Los Angeles. Sterling called himself foolish, saying he was deluding himself into thinking Stiviano cared for him, and she tricked him.

Now, we're also hearing from Sterling's wife, Shelly. She owns half the team, 50 percent of the team. She tells ABC News she does not want to give up her share. Shelly Sterling says she plans to divorce her husband, who she says is likely suffering from early-stage dementia. But is he a racist? She says no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHELLY STIVIANO, WIFE OF DONALD STERLING: I have never heard him say racial things. I don't know. It was horrible when I heard it. I mean, it was just degrading, and it made me sick to hear it. But as far as a racist, I don't really think he is a racist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The league says, if fellow owners decide to force Donald Sterling to sell, Shelly Sterling will lose her share of the team, too.

All of these new comments coming as the Clippers -- this is where the real drama is supposed to be, right? On the court, battling the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four of their semifinal series. The Clippers overcame a double-digit deficit in the final minutes. They won 101-99. The series now tied at two games apiece.

You can see Anderson Cooper's exclusive interview with Donald Sterling coming up on "NEW DAY," 6 a.m. Eastern, and this evening on "AC 360," 8 p.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN.

BERMAN: Will be very interesting to see.

All right, in Nigeria this morning, we're getting a closer look at just what happened when armed militants took more than 270 girls from a school. Those girls still being held today, despite an intense international effort to find them.

One of the students, who escaped from her captors, is now speaking exclusively to CNN. She's talking about the scary moments, talking about what she did to get away.

CNN's Nima Elbagir is live in Abuja in Nigeria this morning.

And Nima, you were the first international reporter to reach this town where these girls were taken or where they're from. What did you see?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we saw is very much evidence of a still strong Boko Haram presence, almost a month after the attack, during which time, all we've heard from the Nigerian authorities, and indeed, the international community, is that they are working on this. They are, you know, they are moving to try and find these girls.

And the U.S. president has pledged his support. The British prime minister has pledged their support, but on the ground where these people are trying to get over this trauma, this horrifying event, that is not being felt.

And the girl we spoke to still very much afraid, asking us to hide her identity, gave us some detail about how brazen this attack really was, John. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they say, OK, enter this lorry. We go. I say, "I will drop down."

ELBAGIR: That was really brave of you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we would rather die than go. We run into the bush.

ELBAGIR: You ran into the bush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ELBAGIR: And what happened then?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We ran and we ran and we were gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELBAGIR: And we have some breaking news for you now, John, on the fate of those abducted schoolgirls. Boko Haram have released what appears to be a video of the abducted schoolgirls out in the bush in northern Nigeria, wearing Islamic hijab, quoting verses of the Koran.

And the leader of the militant group is shown on video, saying that they have converted to Islam and that they are now safe until their prisoners will be released.

So, this seems to be moving very quickly into what Boko Haram would like to become, clearly, a hostage swap situation. That's very different from what they were saying early on, and you get a sense that the criticism that's been leveled towards them by many even within their own communities in the north seems to be hitting home, the accusation that this wasn't about their Islamist fundamentalist edicts about female education. This was as much about trying to make money by selling these girls on as anything else, John.

BERMAN: Interesting. Well, now seeming to coerce these girls into a religious conversion, moving away, perhaps, from saying they'll be sold into slavery. Nevertheless, they're not with their families at home right now. That is the key, and they don't appear any closer to getting home. Nima Elbagir, important news from Nigeria. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: And now to Ukraine where it appears voters in two eastern provinces have voted they want their independence, if you believe the just-released preliminary results of a weekend referendum.

But the voting turned violent in one town near Donetsk, gunmen opening fire on a group gathered outside a town hall, and there are reports this morning of fatalities.

Nick Paton Walsh is live in Slovyansk this morning. Nick, the Kremlin now speaking out as many ask what happens next. What is Moscow saying this morning? NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's sort of remarkable, again, the lack of clarity we're getting from the Kremlin, who blamed from the beginning by Washington and Brussels for fermenting the unrest here.

After saying they wanted the referendum we saw yesterday to be delayed, it went ahead regardless. They've now released a statement saying, "Look, we respect the will of the Donetsk and Luhansk people as expressed in this referendum, but the most important way in which to realize the results in the referendum," in what they refer to as a civilized manner, is for negotiation between the central authorities in Kiev and the self-declared separatist authorities here inside Donetsk.

Now, that's very far from actually going to happen. At this point here in Slovyansk, the self-declared mayor says he wants the local militia recognized as an armed force. He wants talks on the prisoner of war exchange, and he wants the army to pull way. They're all around this town. I was on a woken up by the sound of what seemed like tank fire for about half an hour.

Kiev calls what's happening here the acts of terrorists. So, the rhetoric is extremely far apart, and as all that we would see Moscow try to come in the middle here and try and calm things down.

People perhaps suspect Vladimir Putin's playing a longer game here. He doesn't need to send the army in at this point. The unrest is palpable here. The militants we're seeing are adequately armed and doing quite a good job of keeping the Ukrainian army at bay.

He's certainly managing to undermine the May 21 presidential elections, because many people here say they're not going to hold them at all. So, that will make results in Ukraine hard to say represent everybody here. And he's certainly, I think, reminding the authorities in Kiev that Moscow still can cause some pretty substantial shots here in eastern Ukraine -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nick Paton Walsh for us this morning in Slovyansk. Thank you, Nick.

BERMAN: Thirty-seven minutes after the hour. It was a dangerous weekend for a big part of the country.

ROMANS: Wow.

BERMAN: And this morning the threat remains from Texas all the way to the Great Lakes. Could be seeing some more severe thunderstorms, perhaps even tornadoes.

ROMANS: Take a look at this from Nebraska. Tornado on the ground near Lincoln, just one of many reported there, and it caused serious damage. Take a look at these clouds in Grafton. The sky turning dark gray and black. It's unclear if the storm caused any damage there.

Damage to this farm, though, pretty serious. A house and a barn reduced to rubble. This is Sutton, Nebraska. The owners got away before the storm hit, and now they're staying with relatives, they tell us.

BERMAN: KMissouri one of the many places that could see more weather issues today like what it experienced over the weekend: significant damage near Kansas City. The result of a tornado on the ground in the town of Orrick. Amazingly, no one was seriously hurt in this. But those who do live there say riding out the storm was just flat-out scary.

(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)

ROMANS: In the Rockies, the story is snow. There were accidents throughout the Denver area as snow piled up on the highways. Some areas could get up to 10 inches by the time this storm system moves out.

BERMAN: Yes, so what are we supposed to make of all of this?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Put on your cross-country skis if you're in Denver.

BERMAN: Ski into the sun in the southeast. Indra Petersons here with the forecast.

INDRA PETERSONS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's literally the one time in the northeast, I was like you know what? We are not the coldest people right now. It's actually snowing in Colorado.

Meanwhile, in the northeast, it was a gorgeous weekend. Let's take a look at what it looked like over the weekend. You can actually see the spin that brought in the snow, and look how it really blew up the storms yesterday. So, that's where all that severe weather threat came from, that warm air in the southeast and the really cool air that brought snow out towards Colorado.

What are we looking at again today? Well, that same system is out there. It's just gone a little bit farther to the east. So, there is a slight risk again for severe weather Detroit through Minneapolis, all the way back down through San Antonio. We're still looking for the threat for, yes, heavy thunderstorms and even an isolated tornado.

What is the story? Cool air still progressing farther to the east. So scattered showers are going to be out there, really anywhere along the entire Eastern Seaboard over the next several days. How much rain? Not really a lot. It's very scattered in nature unless you're farther to the south, kind of around the Gulf. That's where we see some of those heavier amounts. And the temperature story, that's going to be interesting. Remember all this all the cool air that brought snow up towards Denver? Places like Kansas City. They're going to be warmer in the morning than they are in the afternoon. Once that cold air moves in, temperatures are going to be going down.

Eastern Seaboard, take a look at the temperatures. Look at the difference. Boston goes from 80s down to 50s tomorrow. Meanwhile, D.C. goes shooting up to the 90s. So, variety is the key. It's all over the place, all over the map.

ROMANS: Variety's the spice of life.

PETERSONS: Right.

ROMANS: That's what they say. Thanks, Indra.

All right. Stocks in Europe trading mixed right now. Another Dow record could happen today. Futures in the U.S. pointing to a higher open. It was a record high for the Dow on Friday, the second record for the year for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Meantime, you care about your paycheck, right? 2014 could be a good year for your paycheck.

BERMAN: Ooh.

ROMANS: "USA Today" surveyed 40 top economists about what they saw happening this year, and a majority said wage growth would accelerate this year, seeing average pay increases close to 3 percent.

So far, wages have been growing about 2 percent a year during the recovery, which is just barely enough to keep up with inflation. Higher wages spell good news across the board. People getting paid more means they spend more, and consumer spending drives about 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

BERMAN: It would be nice to see those wages going up right now.

ROMANS: Look, you're speechless.

BERMAN: I know. We've been waiting for this for a long, long time.

ROMANS: Three percent. So that would be nice if that happens.

BERMAN: All right, 41 minutes after the hour.

Breaking news this morning, wildfires tearing through Texas. Dozens of homes destroyed. We'll have the story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: In Texas this morning, fire crews are reporting some success in their fight against this huge fire raging north of Amarillo. It's believed to have destroyed 100 homes. Hundreds more were evacuated, but officials say the fire now 75 percent contained. So far, no injuries have been reported, but this morning, crews plan to search the burned-out homes looking for victims.

BERMAN: Remembrances this morning for the three people killed in that scary hot air balloon crash in Virginia, as investigators try to piece together what caused the balloon to hit a power line and burst into flames. The remains of the pilot, 65-year-old Army veteran Daniel Kirk, were found on Sunday. He is being remembered as an experienced operator who spent 30 years at the controls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD KIRK, FATHER OF DANIEL KIRK: Greatest feeling I have, that he was doing what he loved. We could go out here tomorrow and be in an automobile accident, but he was doing -- actually doing what he loved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The other two victims were officials with the University of Richmond's women's basketball team: associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of operations Natalie Lewis.

Officials say the pilot tried to regain control of the balloon when the fire started, but the gondola separated and crashed.

ROMANS: This morning, Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones has been suspended, fined and ordered to undergo training after tweeting out what he admits were inappropriate comments about Michael Sam.

Michael Sam is the openly gay football player who's now been drafted by the St. Louis Rams. When his selection was announced, Sam, who was shown live on ESPN, kissed his boyfriend. Jones tweeted, "O-M-G," and then he tweeted, "Horrible."

The team called the tweets unacceptable. Jones issued an apology, saying he regrets that what he tweeted took away from Michael Sam's moment.

Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joins us now. Hey, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Happy Monday. Happy Mother's Day to you as well, Christine.

ROMANS: Thank you.

CUOMO: Sorry I didn't catch you on Friday. We have two big exclusives for you today.

The interview you've been waiting to hear. Clippers owner Donald Sterling is going to answer the tough questions from Anderson Cooper. Racist comments, as you know, got him banned from the NBA. The question is, will it stick? Will they get him to sell the team? What are his feelings about it?

You're going to hear also what he says about Magic Johnson, and I can tell you this: it will not make this controversy go away any time soon. Anderson will be here as well as former NBA stars Malik Rose and Greg Anthony, to get a full kind of compliment of take on this situation.

The other major exclusive is that CNN is the only network inside the town where those 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria. We're going to talk with the correspondent who literally risked her life to go there, and hear from one girl who managed to escape those captors, Boko Haram. An amazing story.

We'll bring you both of those things this morning as well as all the major news items, of course.

BERMAN: Of course. Looking forward to seeing it all, Chris. Have a great one.

ROMANS: And on the Don Sterling story, it is the Magic Johnson comments that really surprised me. I mean, I expected him to say, "I'm not a racist." I expected him to say that. I didn't expect him to sort of backhanded, strangely nuanced conversation about Magic Johnson.

BERMAN: I'm not sure anything that Donald Sterling says anymore surprises me completely.

ROMANS: True. True.

All right. New information this morning on the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The man in charge of the search sits down with CNN. We are live in Australia with what he had to say. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: This morning, the man at the center of the search for Flight 370 insists they're not giving up. Angus Houston sat down with our Anna Coren to detail the next phase in the hunt for the missing jet. This comes more than two months after it disappeared and a day before the Bluefin-21 goes back underwater to continue the search for the jet.

Anna's live in Canberra, Australia, this morning.

And Anna, what did he tell you?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's hard to believe, but it was more than nine weeks ago that MH-370 disappeared on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

The search thus far has found absolutely nothing, but Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, in charge of this massive effort, is confident that they will find the plane in the southern Indian Ocean. He says they are looking in the right area. He is confident of that.

They are, obviously, basing this on those four pings that they detected over a month ago. And while they haven't found anything, he says that the Bluefin-21 submersible, which is on its way back to that search area, is going down this time tomorrow. It will be in the water within 24 hours, and it will be conducting its 19th dive to really, you know, scour the bottom of the ocean.

It's managed to reach depths of 5,000 meters. Well, you know, some of these areas are up to 6,000 meters deep, and that's the problem. They're going to exhaust this lead. If they don't find anything, that is when it will move to the next phase, and that will cover an area of 20,000 square miles and could take, you know, 8 to 12 months to complete.

But as far as Angus Houston is concerned, John, he says those pings that were detected, you know, he believes were signaled emitted from the black boxes just before the batteries died. Let's take a listen to what he had to say a bit earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGUS HOUSTON, HEAD OF SEARCH FOR FLIGHT 370: What we picked up from the ocean was something that was assessed as being from a manmade source, and the characteristics of the transmission were very similar to an emergency locator beacon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: John, Angus Houston has been praised for restoring credibility to the search. He says he's going to see this through to the very end. All he's asking is that for the families of the victims to trust him and his team, and he's confident that they will find the wreckage of the plane, John.

BERMAN: That trust is hard to come by for a lot of these families, some nine weeks into this. Anna Coren live for us in Canberra, Australia. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. We're just minutes away from a hearing -- from hearing a CNN exclusive. Donald Sterling in his own words.

But first, could the bailout at the height of the recession actually have made the taxpayer money? New numbers in "Money Time," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's Money Monday. "Money Time" this morning.

European stocks are mixed right now, but we could see a record high in the U.S. The Dow Jones Industrial Average notched a record Friday, and futures right now indicate strength. If that holds, you'll see the Dow in territory it's never seen before this morning.

OK, goodie, goodie, today you can get a new book for the crisis corner of your book shelf. John Berman, "Stress Test" is available in book stores today from former treasury secretary, Tim Geithner. He defends himself to a Main Street audience, explaining why he bailed out Wall Street banks, a hugely unpopular rescue of the very banks who brought the world to the brink. Why did he help them? Those bailouts were hated! Hated! But CNN Money analysis shows taxpayers have made a $52 billion profit on those Geithner bailouts. About $25 billion came from the bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but taxpayers still lost -- lost -- more than $11 billion bailing out Detroit. We are still writing the history of that very recent, recent past.

BERMAN: But as you say, goodie, goodie.

ROMANS: Goodie, goodie!

BERMAN: Because the crisis corner of your book shelf...

ROMANS: Mine is full, actually.

BERMAN: ... gets another book. That sounds fantastic. Or as you say, it sounds goodie, goodie.

Now for something even more goodie, goodie, it's time for "NEW DAY"! Chris, Kate, all yours.

ROMANS: Hi, guys.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, guys.

BERMAN: Good morning to you. Welcome, everybody. This is "NEW DAY." It's Monday, May 12, 6 a.m. in the east. And we're going to start with a CNN exclusive. The man at the center of the NBA racism scandal, Donald Sterling, breaking his silence. The embattled owner of the L.A. Clippers sat down with Anderson Cooper and apologized for the scandal that has him on the verge of losing his franchise.

BOLDUAN: But Sterling could find himself in even more hot water after what he -- he had to say about the man whose picture started the whole thing, Magic Johnson. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON STERLING: I'm a good man who made a mistake. And I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness. Am I entitled to one mistake after 35 years? I mean, I love my league. I love my partner. Am I entitled to one mistake? It's a terrible mistake. And I'll never do it again.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The vice president of the NBA players association, Roger Mason, he said that the players won't accept anyone in the Sterling family owning the Clippers. Not you, not your wife, not your son-in-law, not your daughter. Do you believe that?

D. STERLING: I really don't know that. People that are going to decide my fate, I think, are not the media and not the players union but the NBA.

COOPER: The owners?