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Clintons Fight Back; Wildfires Scorch Southern California; Sterling: Wife Should Keep Her Stake In Team

Aired May 15, 2014 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing but black. And I saw the flames all of the way up at the bottom of the hill here.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight. Out of control wildfires tearing southern California. Thousands evacuated, homes destroyed, schools closed, even the Marines forced to flee. And this, a fire tornado in the middle of it all.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Not letting go. A CNN exclusive, Donald Sterling on what happens next. Is he going to give up the team? And what he now says about his wife and mistress.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Battle of the great lady, was the head of the "New York Times" forced out because she discovered she was paid less than her male predecessor and less than one of her male employees? The latest high-profile round in the battle for equal pay.

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's Thursday, May 15th, 6:00 in the East. And listen to this. Thousands of people leaving everything behind. Their homes, their belongings, just to save themselves and loved ones from epic wildfires in Southern California. Crews are stretched to the breaking point as they struggle for control of lines of burn that keep popping up even through the night. Right now, nine fires, 10,000 acres scorched, and a perfect storm of bad elements for fighting a fire.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons following it all for us. What's the latest?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Chris, we knew this was going to be a horrible fire season in California as much of the state is sitting in an extreme drought conditions. Now, on top of that add record-breaking heat, low humidity, and a horrible Santa Ana wind event.


PETERSONS (voice-over): Breaking overnight at least nine fires now spreading rapidly erupting one right after another already destroying dozens of homes. You can hear the roar of massive flames engulfing close to 10,000 acres in San Diego County. The governor declaring a state of emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing evacuations.

PETERSONS: Tens of thousands now fleeing. Their homes in jeopardy. Even Legoland, one of the county's popular amusement park, is forced to close, along with the university campus, a nuclear power plant, and Camp Pendleton, one of the largest military bases partially evacuated.

CAPTAIN BUZZ MILLER, SAN DIEGO FIRE DEPARTMENT: We have winds, low humidity down into the single digits.

PETERSONS: Attacking the blazes from the air and on the ground. Thousands of firefighters working around the clock. Stunted by 100- degree heat and wind gusts close to 50 miles per hour.

MARISA GUSTAFSON, CARSLAND RESIDENT: The wind can change and all of a sudden it seems like we're going to be safe and we're not. We packed everything and we're out of there.

PETERSONS: The winds producing terrifying fire whirls in some parts. The phenomenon caused by intersecting wind patterns slinging fire debris further complicating efforts to douse the flames. The blaze is so out of control the military is intervening. Battling the inferno within seven tankers and a DC10 plane mounted with tanks that can hold up to 50 tons of water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're getting help, but the fight is very from over.


PETERSONS: It looks like it's going to be another tough day for firefighters. Fire danger in the region. Keep in mind they have a deficit of rain, typically you see the peak of fires right around the fall but now with all this dry brush and the rough conditions you're looking at the peak already starting this early. Let's hope this is not a trend that will continue.

BOLDUAN: Indra, you see it's ticking up early this year. Thank you so much. Let's turn now to more of Donald Sterling in his own words. Part of the CNN exclusive interview. Sterling still insists he is not a racist and hopes his fellow owners, players, and fans will forgive him. Remorse, he offers for what this all has done to his estranged wife, Shelly, and sterling believes when the smoke clears he will still own the Clippers.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN "AC360": Do you believe you will be able to keep the team though?


COOPER: The advertisers certainly, you know --

STERLING: The advertisers are all coming back. Let's not be crazy. The fans will all come if you have a good team. If you don't have a good team, they will come.

COOPER: Even if you are?

STERLING: What am I, a Frankenstein? What am I, some kind of ogre? I'm a good person. I'm warm person. I say hello to everybody who comes to the team.

COOPER: There are some players though who talked about a boycott of the season?

STERLING: Let's talk. The media pushes that. Why would they do that if they get their salaries, they're going to play. I mean, one day they all love you and the next day you make a mistake and say something and something and they hate you? Is that the way it is? What if a player said, I don't like working for that Jew, what would we do? I wouldn't do anything. I would ask him why, why? I want to make you happy. If you want more money, you know, more attention, more love?

COOPER: Do you think your wife, Shelly, should also be removed as an owner?

STERLING: Do I think she should what?

COOPER: Should she be able to maintain her stake, her ownership stake? The team is owned by a trust.

STERLING: My wife, Shelly and I are in the process of a divorce. You know, she's worked with me for 58 years, my wife. One wife, 58 years. And she loved the team and always helped me with everything. If for some reason I can't have the team, I think that she should have her interest -- I mean, she didn't do anything. I brought all this on her. The poor girl. I don't know how she can live and deal with this. I guess I was bad committing all of those terrible -- I don't even want to say it.

But, you know, people say, how do you commit adultery? You justify things. You say, well, every man in Paris or France has a mistress. I mean, it may make you smile, but when you're so old you don't think it's wrong anymore, if you have a little bit of fun. You don't have much time. If you have a little bit of fun, you can't do what you did before and nobody expects -- but you want to be cared for. Everybody wants to be cared for. I made such a mistake. I thought that woman really cared for me.

COOPER: If your wife maintained her stake in the team, would you be able to influence events through her?

STERLING: Probably not. If they want to negotiate, they would probably deal with me separately.


CUOMO: Now you have to balance your instinct to say I've had enough of this guy I don't want to hear about this anymore with the urgency we need to maintain to see what happens here. So let's bring Doug Eldridge, a sports agent, a managing partner at Mel Robbins, CNN commentator and legal analyst. Good to have you both here. Anderson laid out an interesting hypothetical that I think probably is only a hypothetical, but I want your take, Doug. The idea that Shelly may keep the team. Is there any basis for that in what we understand about how the franchise agreement works?

DOUG ELDRIDGE, MANAGING PARTNER, DLE AGENCY: Well, there's a real question with that right now, Chris, between the interpretations of the NBA constitution. Again, we keep going back primarily to Section 13-D and relevant language there being deviate from your contractual agreement to do anything to negatively impact the members or the association. And when you pull that singular sound bite from Mr. Sterling's sit-down with Anderson Cooper I did a terrible thing, I humiliated the owners. We have the best owners in the league and I hope they forgive me. That is broad language. Certain provisions are deliberately written broad such that they can be used to utilize situations such as this.

CUOMO: Mel, the way I read it is the league owns the rights to who gets a franchise just like McDonald's. It's like owning a McDonald's, owning one of these teams. It doesn't matter if your ownership of your interest in McDonald's is in a trust or only you own it or whatever. If, as McDonald's, pull you franchise, I pull it from anyone who owns it on your side. So Shelly has no shot at keeping it. What do you think?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You're absolutely right, Chris. There's a couple of things. People keep confusing the term owner. In the NBA contracts there's a couple of layers of ownership, Chris. There's a controlling owner of which there are only 30 and Donald Sterling is the controlling owner. And then there are lots of other folks that are general owner where's they get to brag that they own a team, they get some of the benefits of owning a team, but they don't make controlling decisions.

Who is it, by the way, that put Dick Parsons in place as CEO of the Clippers? It wasn't Shelly sterling because she wasn't the controlling own per it's the NBA because they're in charge of the team. The interesting thing, Chris, is how does the fact that Shelly is a part owner due to this trust and the fact that they may be going through a divorce impact this? I think in the end what's going to happen is that the divorce proceedings, any injunctions that the Sterlings may file, are only going to delay things.

That could make it a pain for the NBA, but ultimately there is language here in the contract. We haven't even seen the franchise agreement, Chris. We have not seen the joint venture agreement that gave Donald Sterling control or ownership. But there's language in there according to sources that everybody's citing including "Sports Illustrated" that have a morals clause. And here's one more thing I think you will find interesting, Chris. The only defense that Donald Sterling truly had to any of this was that his conduct wasn't willful.

Right? That he was taped against his will because one of the provisions in the NBA bylaws say it has to be willful. Well, I kind of think that Anderson Cooper's interview and everything he said in the interview, which he consented to, is additional impact to the NBA and could be used by the NBA to say, look, buddy, if it wasn't the taped conversation, it's certainly all this stuff that you said to Anderson.

CUOMO: Strong point. I want quick takes on two other issues. One, Doug, if you will consulting with the league, do you think the owners should vote sooner or later? What's your take?

DOUG ELDRIDGE: Quickly, I think they would have to do their due diligence because there's a difference in a viable defense and certifiable last stand. I think that's what my colleague was referring to. I'm not saying that ultimately Mr. Sterling will have a viable defense, but I think he will put up a fight. The more permanent the decision will be.

CUOMO: Mel, you've got the players coming out saying they better do it or we're going to boycott, this matters, this matters. There are optics involved, not just legalities.

ROBBINS: I think you have to go immediately because the longer this thing draws out, Chris, the more fatigued people are going to get. You got to go fast and furious on this one.

CUOMO: Last quick take. The Maserati factor. This guy comes out who is called a nickname, "Maserati." He says I'm the run, I taped the conversation with sterling. If that is true, if this guy was the one having a conversation with sterling, does that mean that Sterling either forgot about it or lied about only having a conversation with Magic Johnson? What's the impact on that, Doug?

ELDRIDGE: That's hard to tell. California has a clear law. So far as unconsented recordings of an individual absent their knowledge or consent. I think Maserati is open to liability and others who have leaked it as well.

CUOMO: Let me end on this because I get you on the law. But on just the nature of how it smell, Mel, if sterling put it out there that he was only talking to Magic Johnson and it turns out he was also talking to this guy named Maserati or Ferrari or whatever you want to call him, does that change how you see him?

ROBBINS: Of course, every little piece of this, Chris, just builds a case that the guy is a ticking time bomb and bad news for the NBA. It's just one big package of get us away from him.

CUOMO: One big package of get us away from him. Well said. Mel Robbins, thank you very much. Dough Eldridge, appreciate the insight, thank you very much -- Kate. PEREIRA: I'll take it here, Chris. Thanks. No problem. Let's look at more of your headlines. Hope is fading for survivors from this week's mine explosion in Turkey. Nearly 300 people are already confirmed dead. Another 100 more are still trapped deep inside that mine. If any are still alive the rescuers will be dealing with wretched conditions. Happening today, devastated families are venting their anger at government officials since the mine passed safety inspections.

Happening today, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki will testify in prepared testimony first reported by CNN Shinseki will say he's angered and saddened by deaths of dozens of veterans waiting for care. But Shinseki won't say much else. He's been advised not to comment. White house deputy chief of staff neighbors has been assigned to help the review.

Breaking overnight, murder charges now for the captain and three officers from the South Korean ferry that capsized and sank killing nearly 300 people, many of them high school students. Prosecutors have said the crew failed to help rescue those on board and even fled the ship themselves before passengers. If convicted the captain and officers could face the death penalty.

BOLDUAN: Still unbelievable that it continues to unfold. We've been watching it.

CUOMO: Also interesting that right now it seems the assumption is these people ran the ship, but where was the supervision of it by the state involved? Where is that level of accountability? We're waiting on that.

BOLDUAN: We're obviously watching closely the wildfires in Southern California, but let's get back over to Indra Petersons for a check of the national forecast as well.

PETERSONS: Another big story today is going to be the flooding. Look at where the flood advisories are stretching from New York down through Florida. Very easy to see where that cold front is. You can see how slow the system is. This is the same system we've been watch for days here. Look at where this cold front is. And now let's talk about how much moisture is available to the slow-moving system.

Right there in that same alley. All of this available moisture. That's the reason we have this threat for flooding. Lots of rain out there expected. Especially in the mid-Atlantic. Three to five imagines of rain over the next several days. Eventually spreading into the northeast. See another several inches as we get closer toward the weekend. It's not the only thing. We still have a threat for severe weather out there. Where are we looking today from Roanoke down through Charleston.

A lot of rain in a short period of time. We're still talking about the system even as we get closer towards the weekend. Not only until Saturday do we see this frontal system make its way offshore but talking about rain here for the second half of your week. After that, cooler temperatures spilling and I know it was warm. Start to see milder temperatures right behind that cold front. Big changes. A lot of flooding into the future.

CUOMO: Indra, thanks so much. Let's take a break. Coming up next on "NEW DAY," fighting back. Former president Bill Clinton coming to his wife's defense after Karl Rove raised questions about Hillary Clinton's health. So what did President Clinton have to say about all of it? You'll hear it.

And it is not September 11th, obviously, but it is a big day to remember the attacks as the 9/11 museum opens its doors. We're going to show you what it holds and who will be the first to be allowed to enter an area that is only for them.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Karl Rove may have thrown the first punch but the Clintons don't seem to be afraid to swing back. Wednesday, both Clintons held public events, and while Hillary stayed quiet on the topic of her health, the former president had more to say. Take a listen.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: First of all, I got to give him credit, you know, he did that embodies that old saying that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. First, they said she faked her concussion and now, they say she's auditions for a part on "The Walking Dead," now they say she's really got brain damage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think they're just trying to --

CLINTON: If she does, then I must be in really tough shape because she's still quicker than I am.


BOLDUAN: For more, let's bring in Richard Socarides, former senior adviser to Bill Clinton and Democratic strategist, and Cheri Jacobus, GOP strategist and president of Capital Strategies PR.

Good morning to both of you.



BOLDUAN: So, this, of course, to reverse and to go forward, this stems from Karl Rove in this off the record gathering saying that he -- saying that Hillary Clinton suffered a traumatic brain injury and then it's kind of in her health is a big question and should be a big question is what he said.

Now, you have Bill Clinton coming out to his wife's defense before she comes out. Are you surprised he did?

SOCARIDES: No. I think he says whatever he wants whenever he wants to and I think --

BOLDUAN: Is it dangerous, though?

SOCARIDES: I mean, I think -- I don't think it's dangerous because I think he's a great communicator and he always speaks the truth and right on point. So, you know, I mean, I think people admire him and respect him and know that he's telling the truth.

CUOMO: There are gnashing of teeth going on right beside you.

JACOBUS: Yes, I don't know if Bill Clinton always tells the truth, but there are a couple of things wrong with this.

He also said that his wife took six months to recover from the fall and concussion. That raises serious issues. I think it's a mistake to make it be a partisan thing saying Republicans are saying "x", whatever. Any serious presidential candidate's health is going to be looked at as well as everything in their life and career.

Another interesting thing that I find interesting is that Bill Clinton is out there talking about it. She cannot -- Hillary Clinton cannot hide behind her husband on this. I think it was an interesting decision if it was one to have him come out and say anything perhaps they should -- Clinton camp should make a decision that Bill Clinton's role should be that as a former president who is related to the candidate much like the senior George H.W. Bush was to George W. Bush and that's probably the role for him. I think his response was a little sloppy. He's a little out of practice. And they better clarify his role.

BOLDUAN: How can it backfire, Cheri, do you think for the Clintons if he's out there speaking?

JACOBUS: He's off the cuff. He's claiming things about her health that we don't know. This is going to come up with a Democratic primary, by the way, just as Joe Biden had two brain aneurysms, one time given last rights. This is serious business.

So, to try and claim this is an attack by Republicans or this is -- she's a hot house we can't talk about this about Hillary Clinton and that. We're going to talk about her record or her lack of record. We're going to talk about when she's trying to hide behind either the Obama administration or her husband. She has to be responsible.

CUOMO: The criticism is then do that. This did come off like a cheap shot. That's why the other Republicans went after Rove for it.

JACOBUS: But he's not running for president, she is.

CUOMO: I know. But going after the -- she may have a brain injury was too far and that's why he got slapped back. It was a smart move because he got us talking about it.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: It's already out there in the conversation, right? CUOMO: But then you get to a second point that I'll give you more credit on which is, is bill Clinton, whom you use, to say this is what the truth is about something. No disrespect to the president, but especially talking about Benghazi and he says here's the truth -- given his past with the truth.

BOLDUAN: Well, let's listen to this sound bite. We've got that sound bite of Bill Clinton talking about what happened in Benghazi.


CLINTON: I looked into what was wrong. They gave 29 recommendations. She took them and started implementing them. And they established the fact that, whether it was right or wrong in the past, secretaries of state never were involved directly in these security decisions.


CUOMO: Is it open you up to people saying this is the guy who said what is is, and, you know, this -- and now he's telling us what's true?

SOCARIDES: Here's the point: he's a former president. He's Hillary's husband but also a former president of the United States. He was asked a question. So, you know, he's got to respond. I don't think he's giving the official response, right?

I mean, I think he responded in a fairly muted fashion. He said there are recommendations. They were followed.

I mean, I think he, is you know, entitled to speak on foreign policy issues.

CUOMO: True.

SOCARIDES: He's a former leader of the free world. But, you know, her record obviously will be fully considered. I mean, I don't think, you know, she was secretary of state for a long time. The world is a complicated place. I think people understand that.

We don't blame everything that goes on in the world on the person who is the secretary of state, just like we don't blame 9/11 on President George W. Bush. We don't blame everything that happens in the world on the person who is the secretary of state at the time.

So, you know, there's a lot here. I think Mr. Rove was very effective -- has used a very effective --


CUOMO: Respond to the point.

JACOBUS: On the Benghazi issue, former President Bill Clinton probably really stepped over the line on this one. I imagine they're all trying to pull him back on that. The question about Hillary Clinton and secretary of state and Benghazi has more to do with what happened before and not the recommendations afterwards, as Bill Clinton was talking about. What happened before and her role in that in the decisions in terms of denying the help that was requested by the now late Ambassador Stevens.

So, this and other questions are key. And I think they need to really pull Bill Clinton back. He's not as good at this now as he used to be. He is not up on the facts.


SOCARIDES: I don't think they'll be taking your advice, but --

JACOBUS: If he is speaking for his wife and on behalf of the Obama administration, then, you know, that should be a decision. This sounded like it was an accident.

SOCARIDES: I'm not sure what that means. He's speaking for his wife on behalf of the Obama administration, I think that's what's happening is that a lot of things are being, you know, mushed together, conflated.

I mean, the truth is, is that she is not a declared candidate for president. Her husband, the former president, was on a panel. He was asked a question. I think he gave a fairly straightforward simple answer defending his wife who has just been attacked by the Republican Party because they have nothing else to talk about.

So, you know --

BOLDUAN: There is -- we'll leave it there but it is interesting there is speculation we have this discussion, part of our discussion yesterday about how they had been above the political fray but does this show that they are no longer above the political fray, the fact that Bill Clinton is coming out to take on Karl Rove, defend his wife's record on Benghazi -- what happened in Benghazi and his wife's record at the State Department.

Does this show an entering into the new phase of the potential possible maybe/maybe not candidacy?

CUOMO: I'll say yes so the E.P. doesn't yell at us.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, thank you.


CUOMO: It may not be about all politics, but this feels like political season now. I got amped up during this conversation.

SOCARIDES: There's no more break, right? There's no more break.

CUOMO: You guys are doing the right jobs. It's happening, it just started. Everybody, the election just started. This is the official start. This is how it happens.

BOLDUAN: You didn't know it. Thanks, guys. Good to see you.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, 9/11, you know, there are things you heard about but never seen until now, as the museum finally opens its doors. We're going to take you there and preview all that unfolds today.

BOLDUAN: And former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice weighing in on Donald Sterling, sending more troops overseas as message to Vladimir Putin, and who she thinks should run in 2016. Would she join a Hillary ticket? We'll tell you, coming up.