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Donald Sterling Writes Defiant Letter to NBA; President To Give Speech on Foreign Policy; Name of CIA Station Chief in Afghanistan Accidently Provided to Press; First Lady Testifies on Healthy School Lunches; Interview with Rep. Tim Murphy; The Stigma of Mental Illness;

Aired May 28, 2014 - 07:00   ET


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Donald Sterling comes out swinging in this 26-page letter to the NBA claiming his constitutional rights have been violated and that a forced sale creates an egregious tax for his family. Let's not forget, he purchased the Clippers for about $12 million and the team may sell for as much as $2.5 billion.


FLORES: The letter does not hold back, 26 pages ripping into the NBA, calling the penalties draconian, the process a sham and unconstitutional, and vowing to fight to the bitter end. The main argument of the letter, quote, "A jealous rant to a lover never intended to be published cannot offend the NBA rules." The letter describes this taped outburst as a, quote, "inflamed lover's quarrel" in which he was clearly distraught.

DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: Don't come to my games. Don't bring black people and don't come.

FLORES: After the tape went public Sterling was banned for life from NBA facilities and functions and ordered to pay a record $2.5 million fine. Sterling and his lawyers say the tape was illegally recorded and cannot be used against him. And though Sterling himself apologized in an interview with CNN --

STERLING: I'm so sorry. And I'm so apologetic.

FLORES: He now says those offenses, though not justified, don't compare to these committed inside the NBA, like Kobe Bryant using a homophobic slur at a ref. Bryant was fined $100,000 for that.

To make even more confusing, his wife Shelly reportedly has written permission from Sterling to sell the team and a source says she's moving quickly, having already met with several perspective buyers.


FLORES: The NBA responded to Sterling's letter by saying the board of governors will meet on June 3rd and, quote, "should the board vote to sustain the charge the Sterling's interest in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold." We should also add that, by the way, that in that letter, Sterling also says that he will not give up his right to sue.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Rosa, thank you very much.

So he's been accused of showing a lack of grit on foreign policy. Now president Obama is going to lay out a new vision for his final two years in office. He will be speaking at West Point's commencement later this morning where he's going to try to balance global security with a war weary American public. It comes just a day after the president announced a troop drawdown in Afghanistan within a year.

Let's bring in Peter Beinart, a CNN political commentator, also a contributing editor for Atlantic Media and a senior fellow for the New America Foundation. Peter, it's great to see you.


BOLDUAN: The big question, we're all going to pontificate until we hear what he says, and then we can talk about it afterward, of course. But your perspective, what does the president need to do today? White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski I think put it really well today. It's almost -- talking about trying to balance in his speech, almost seems like mission impossible.

BEINART: The president has gotten a significant amount of criticism over the last few months. The idea that America he has looked weak, that he's lacked credibility on the world stage.

BOLDUAN: On that point, Peter, how does he push back on that? How does he effectively push back on even, if it is just perception, perception at some point seems to become reality when it comes to this?

BEINART: I think he has a good to make on certain things. Look at Ukraine, for instance, where a lot of the criticism is focused in recent weeks. We now have a legitimate election in Ukraine. The Russians seem to be moving troops away from the border. The threat of Russian invasion has receded. The Russians have said they accept this new leader. We now have a better prospect than we've had in months for a unified Ukraine. I think American sanctions and leadership actually deserve some credit for that.

BOLDUAN: There's two sides of the coin. Republicans say that economic sanctions, while they've very been tough against Vladimir Putin, has done very little to stop the violence we are seeing every day still play out in Ukraine.

BEINART: Right. There is still violence in the east, but the Russians have pulled back and Ukraine has a moral legitimate government than it had to prosecute that violence. I think Obama can also in Asia which is ultimately going to be America's most important foreign policy concern, I think that America's alliances with Japan, with South Korea, the Philippines have invited us back in militarily, are stronger than they were when he took office. Of course he killed Usama bin Laden, and while there's still a terrorist threat there has not been a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. So I actually think he has some good things to say. BOLDUAN: Do you think he should focus more time on defending his foreign policy actions to this point or speaking forward to the two years left and what can be done, because a lot of criticism coming at him today is the timetable that some of his critics will argue is an arbitrary timetable and drawing down troops in Afghanistan?

BEINART: The president made it pretty clear, I think, that part of what he wanted his legacy to be is ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BOLDUAN: But what if the conditions on the ground say differently?

BEINART: I think there's a reasonable argument we should have done it -- we should be doing it a little bit more slowly, but let's not kid ourselves here. This is a mission against Al Qaeda. That's what's in America's interest. We do not have the capacity to defeat the Taliban insurgency or to remake Afghanistan into a modern, successful country. I certainly hope it becomes that way, but the American people at a time when we are deeply in debt, when we're not even funding, giving people unemployment insurance here, that's not what we signed up for. I think the president has had the country fundamentally behind him at that point.

BOLDUAN: What would you deem -- what would you do that would deem a success when you hear this speech? So much is being put on foreign policy speech.

BEINART: I think he has to remind Americans that ending these two wars, not having a major terrorist attack, and starting to quench the terrible costs that we saw financially and the human costs --

BOLDUAN: Even a residual force in Afghanistan would still cost a whole lot of money.

BEINART: Right. Why is our veteran system overflowing? Why are we having these terrible problems? Partly because we've had hundreds of thousands of American troops in these terrible combat circumstances, huge spike in traumatic brain injuries. I think ending that is a signature accomplishment. And the one thing going forward that will make his legacy is this deal with Iran. That's the one big thing hanging out there. I think if he can get a deal with Iran it gives us some faith towards Iran not moving toward a nuclear weapon, I think that will be the crown in his foreign policy.

BOLDUAN: That may be the toughest one. That is still a big question mark if that's going to be able to be pulled off. But a lot of people, a lot being put on this speech as maybe it should, a lot of foreign policies. Peter, great to see you.

BEINART: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Coming up next hour we're going to talk more about the president's foreign policy with that man, Secretary of State John Kerry. He's going to join us in the 8:00 a.m. eastern hour. CUOMO: The White House has ordered an investigation into itself. The issue, how a CIA top agent in Afghanistan was exposed during the president's surprise trip to the country. Now the agent's top secret and dangerous mission could be in jeopardy. CNN's Michelle Kosinski is at the White House with more. How can the White House investigate itself, and what does it think it can find?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. At first the White House didn't have any comment about this incident, but now it's announced that the chief of staff has asked White House Council to thoroughly look at how this happened, to take a closer look at the processes involved and then make recommendations so that it doesn't happen again.

What we do know about how it happened was that a pool reporter who was covering the president's trip to Afghanistan had asked a White House staffer for a list of people who would be briefing the president, pretty much standard practice. That staffer asked the military for a full list, and somehow on that list was the name and title of the top CIA officer in Afghanistan. It was then distributed widely, and it was the reporter who noticed that that name was on there and brought it to everyone's attention. So of course this is both embarrassing and career ending at least in that position for the CIA officer.

The last time this happened where a CIA operative had their cover blown by their own government was Valerie Plame back in 2006, and she actually tweeted about this incident after it happened, calling eight astonishing. Kate?

BOLDUAN: I think we can all agree. It sure seems astonishing, we can agree on that one point. Michelle, thank you very much. A busy day for Michelle Kosinski at the White House.

The president himself isn't the only Obama battling with Congress right now. First Lady Michelle Obama is going after House Republicans for considering changes to the nation's healthy school lunch policy. She's been a major force behind getting children to eat better, especially at schools. But many in the Republican Party, many in the House, say the new standards are setting schools and students back, setting them up to fail. Athena Jones is in Washington with the very latest. What are the details here?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. We're seeing the first lady get publicly involved in a political fight for really the first time. This goes beyond, say, urging young people to sign up for health insurance, as we have seen her do. She's now taking a position in a legislative debate and it's over an issue she's been passionate about as first lady and as a mother, children and healthy eating.


MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: It's unacceptable to me not just as first lady but as a mother.

JONES: Fighting words from the first lady, sending a message to House Republicans who want to relax school nutrition standards she fought for four years ago.

MICHELLE OBAMA: The last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids' health, especially when we're finally starting to see some progress on this issue.

JONES: Reporter: It's part of a rare political push by Mrs. Obama to battle a bill that would give schools facing financial problems an extra year to comply with rules to limit fat and sodium and encourage more fruits and vegetables in school meals.

The mom in chief is known for her "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity, her White House garden, and her focus on healthy eating. But she hasn't waded into the political fights at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue until now.

MICHELLE OBAMA: Parents have a right to expect their kids will get decent food in our schools. And we all have a right to expect that our hard earned taxpayer dollars won't be spent on junk food for our kids.

JONES: Supporters of the legislation say some school districts are struggling to find keep, healthy options, and need more time to make sure kids will eat the healthier foods, not just throw them away.

JULIA BAUSHER, PRESIDENT ELECT OF SCHOOL NUTRITION ASSOCIATION: So we're not saying let's put junk food back on the serving line. For most districts, that hasn't been part of the school meal in many, many years. But we want to make sure that students are comfortable with these changes and are willing to take what is offered to them and will find it acceptable and enjoyable.


JONES: So this Bill is set to go to the full House appropriations committee tomorrow. And we expect the first lady to stay involved in this fight. As long as the current nutrition standards are under threat we'll probably be hearing more from her. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: I think so as well. Athena Jones, thanks so much for that.

Let's take a look at more of your headlines right now. Breaking overnight, two Americans were injured in an attack on consulate vehicle in Afghanistan. They were traveling on the main road in the western city of Herat when their vehicle was hit. Those two victims were hospitalized but their injuries are not reported to be serious. This attack comes a day after President Obama laid out plans to end the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by 2016.

U.S. warship is on its way to Libya this morning as the state department calls the security situation there, quote, "unpredictable and unstable." They are warning Americans to leave immediately, saying emergency services are limited. Officials say the USS Baton has some 1,000 marines and 18 helicopters on board. Libya continues to be rocked by deadly battles three years after its revolution. President Obama is trying to keep hope alive on immigration reform in Congress this year. He is directing Homeland Security Chief Jay Johnson to delay releasing a review of U.S. deportation policies until the end of summer to avoid potentially angering House Republicans. There's narrow window in June and July where the White House believes Congress could act before the focus then turns to the November midterms.

It's 12 minutes after the hour. You want to know what your weather is going to be like today. You're getting dressed right now. Indra Petersons is the one to tell you.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You want to take a look at Texas and maybe Louisiana, I'm going to say yes, a lot of severe weather is already out there. Check out all the lightning right now, even severe thunderstorm warnings around Galveston, Texas. This is a story. They've been seeing so much rain all the way since last Saturday. Look at this, five, six inches of rain, Houston, over five inches of rain, and it hasn't stopped yet. We're still talking about very slow- moving low still hanging around, even flooding potential around Louisiana and Mississippi. Think about the rain I just showed you. Now add all of this on top of it, another four of six inches of rain possible in that region. The threat of severe weather out towards New Orleans, they do have a threat including tornadoes in that region.

Otherwise, the rest of the country, think delays, delays, and more delays if you're traveling in D.C., Philly. Think about that. We still have the threat of thunderstorms that are going to be out there towards Houston as well, scattered showers kind of lingering around. North east, let's talk about the temperature drop. You felt it in Boston. Looks like New York City today is your day to drop temperature-wise about a good 20 degrees. Notice D.C., 76 today. Why don't we check out tomorrow? We go right back in the drop as well. Everyone playing a little bit of the cool weather game. It was hot and muggy. Maybe weren't used to it.

BOLDUAN: The cool weather game. I don't want to play.


BOLDUAN: Thanks. Coming up -- what?

CUOMO: It doesn't matter if you want to play the game. It just plays you.

BOLDUAN: Don't hate the hater. Hate the game?

CUOMO: That's exactly right.

BOLDUAN: That's why I don't try those things. I get them wrong.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the killing spree in Santa Barbara, California, is sparking once again the debate over mental health and the balance of what safeguards are needed to keep communities safe. We're talking with a congressman about his bill that gets at the heart of this issue, but it is coming up against a big fight in Congress.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Did you know there are 350,000 people in this country with untreated or undertreated mental illness and only 35,000 beds available to treat them? So what is that? Well, it's a recipe for disaster, right? Most of them wind up in prison or just out and among us. So this just played out in Santa Barbara, didn't it?

Our next guest was here in April after the latest shooting at Ft. Hood. It was carried out by a soldier, you'll remember, with undertreated post-traumatic stress.

Now, our guest is Representative Tim Murphy. He has a bill in Congress he says could help the attacks in the future.

Representative, it is good to have us -- have you here with us. Also important to note you're not just a Congressman; you are also a trained psychologist, a clinical one, so you understand the issues here very well.

I would submit to you, Congressman, you are up against it. You are getting beaten by culture on two fronts. Coming out of this, people want to blame the media. They want to blame guns, and they only want to talk about mental health on a third level and quietly. How do you overcome the bias?

REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, we have to understand that the stigma we place on mental illness is done by those of us who want to be in denial of mental illness, particularly serious mental illness. When you look at these heinous tragedies that occur, so often some with untreated or undertreated serious mental illness on top of 40,000 plus suicides a year, 10 times more likely to be in prison than you are in a hospital if you're mentally ill. We have increased homelessness, joblessness, victimization of the mentally ill. How much is enough before America and Congress says we have got to pass some laws here which change the way fundamentally that we approach mental illness. And I think that time is absolutely now.

CUOMO: Oh, you can't stop bad people from doing bad things. Maybe if you take away the guns, maybe if you make us never cover it again, so you have no copycats, and you make the movies cleaner. That's the real fix. What do you say of that?

MURPHY: Well, you know, I wish we could cure cancer by pretending it's not there. Let's cure heart disease by saying we're not going to pretend it's not there.

Look, this is a serious brain illness. And what our nation has tended to do is maybe pass some mild laws or look at the softer side of things and do a couple of prevention things. It's like saying let's get people smoke detectors but never buy a fire truck in the midst of fires.

And that's where we are with this. When you look at the signs that occurred, not just in this case in California, but so many other ones, the parents knew something was wrong. Sometimes the police had a peripheral knowledge of this.

But what we found, and this is going to be in the report that I showed to my members of Congress tomorrow here, is that we found that the confidentiality laws prevent parents from getting involved. We found there's not enough hospital beds. We found that Medicaid blocked some services. We found there's not enough psychologists and psychologists. The list goes on and on and on, and that's where we should be focusing our efforts.

CUOMO: So then if you can escape the outward culture issues, you then get political culture on you. Mental health advocates are coming after your bill saying, wait a minute, you can't reduce privacy laws. You will have a chilling effect on who wants to get treatment, and you're stigmatizing mental illness and mental health by putting rules and restrictions on us. You're getting beaten up outside; you're getting beaten up inside. How do you get bill like this passed?

MURPHY: Well, let's remember those privacy laws like HIPAA laws were meant to prevent people from being mistreated in health care. They weren't meant to prevent people from being treated in health care, and that's how it's working now.

These parents knew. The parents of Adam Lanza knew. The parents of Jared Lockman (ph) knew something terribly was going on, but so often doctors and police would say, look, say we can't do anything about it until they practically have a knife to their throat or someone else's. People knew when something was going on.

Now, I understand the issue of rights, but what about the rights of society to safety? I think those supersede this. And so, when someone says we don't want you putting us wrongly in a hospital or forcing them into treatment, look, I get that. But society is saying when the signs are there, that someone is gravely disabled or gravely ill from the mental illness, a brain illness, we ought to be treating them. Denial is not a treatment.

CUOMO: A little bit inside baseball here, but just in terms of how you get it done. Representative Ron Barber has got his own bill. He says it deals with some of the criticisms of yours. You have some problems with his. You thinking about teaming up, though, to just try to get something done?

MURPHY: The two bills are in two different places. You know, to be one that says let's expand federal programs; his says let's not have the accountability there. Look, I get what he's trying to do, but first you've got to deal with the crisis upon us, and that's those moment of crisis when someone with schizophrenia, bipolar illness, severe depression, et cetera -- the states don't have the services. They may have laws to try and help get people treatment, but those are not put in place. In California, for example, only two or three counties have the assisted outpatient treatment law in place, not Santa Barbara County, where you can help get someone treat that is denying it. Remember, that is one of the characteristics of severe mental illness in almost half the case where's the person says, "I'm not going to get treatment because I don't believe I have an illness."

That bill would not deal with it. Our bill does deal with that. Our bill does get parents more involved, trains police officers, works to get more psychiatrists, psychologists involved. We're dealing with a crisis here in mental illness, and not just talking about some aspects of prevention.

CUOMO: People want to deal with guns first. And even though that debate is completely toxified and cemented in terms of the positions, it always takes precedence over mental health no matter how many of us scream about it. How do you move us past that?

MURPHY: Well, it's not what's in their hands, it's what is in their mind and in their heart that we've got to deal with. The issue of guns -- California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, bar none. And so, it didn't work there. It also has what's called assisted outpatient treatment laws, which are up to individual counties to put in place. California isn't dealing with that. And that happens all around the country.

Some places like New York and counties in Texas and Dade County in Florida do a lot more to provide those kind of services and intervention for someone with serious mental illness. I'm telling you, that's the case.

Are we going to cure diabetes by banning some soft drinks? Are we gonna cure heart disease by, you know, banning certain kinds of meat? That's not the issue. We have got to deal with the treatment and the need for treatment as a standard, and -- those who are advocating for others things are missing the outcry from parents around this country who are saying, I know when my son or daughter, I know when my brother or sister has deteriorated and is severely ill. Can't we get help for them? Can't we pay attention to those loved ones? And I think we can, and that's what our bill seeks to address.

CUOMO: The good news is something can be done. The bad news is we keep seeing case after case, and the changes aren't made.

Representative Murphy, you know that we're with you on this. So let us know how to help you going forward. Good luck with it.

MURPHY: Thank you. We'll keep working this. We won't give up.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, on inside politics we're going to find out why personal finance guru Suze Orman said she would prefer a Democrat who is not Hillary Clinton in 2016.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Here's a look at your headlines.

Class is back in session this morning at UC Santa Barbara five days after a bloody rampage left six students dead. More than 20,000 students and family members packed the campus stadium last night for a tear-filled vigil. A father of one of the victims led a chant on "Not one more," as he called on Washington to bring an end to gun violence.

Ukraine's newly elected president vowing to put down the pro-Russian rebellion in the eastern part of the country. This comes a day after military forces regained control of the airport in Donetsk in a bloody battle with pro-Russian separatists. Dozen of rebels were killed in the fighting. Ukrainian leader says he'll ask the U.S. for help with military supplies and training.

This is quite a story. Four teenagers helped save a newborn thanks to social media. So the story is a baby just 16 hours hold was abducted from a hospital in Quebec, Canada Monday. Police quickly issued an amber alert. They posted details about the suspect and her car on Facebook.

This group of teens noticed the post. When they saw the picture of her, they realized one of them recognized her as -- as somebody they knew. The teens then said, let's go out and see if we can find this car. When they found the car they called police. The woman was arrested. And the baby is back with mom and dad.

Those parents were despondent. They thought they weren't going to see their child again. And how about that?

Can I tell you something else that's very interesting about that story?

CUOMO: Please.

PEREIRA: The four students, they're students, right, one is a psychology student, one is education student, one's an a nursing student, and one is a social work student.

BOLDUAN: The right people.

PEREIRA: The right people.


BOLDUAN: That is more than anything we talked about today.