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L.A. Clippers Sold: $2 Billion Deal; More Calls for Shinseki to Resign; Edward Snowden: Patriot or Liar?; Ford Recalls 1.4M Vehicles

Aired May 30, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Some of the e-mails were so nasty, we couldn't print them in our story. My advice to all of you, young snappers, don't say stuff like that. You're going to be successful one day and it's not going to disappear.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And it's also unkind, among other things as well.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. Donald Sterling, for example, is going to lose his team over saying a bunch of nasty things. Keep that in mind.

BERMAN: EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: It could be game over between Donald Sterling and the NBA. The L.A. clippers set to be sold to the former Microsoft CEO for a record-breaking $2 billion. Details of the signed deal and why it still may not be a sure thing, ahead.

BERMAN: Yes, two words: Donald Sterling.

New calls this morning from top Democrats, Democrats now, for V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. This, as new details emerge of widespread problems and cover-ups at medical centers across the country.

ROMANS: Edward Snowden, patriot or just a liar? Newly released e- mails raising questions on whether the NSA leaker raised concerns about U.S. security procedures to his bosses before then exposing them to the world.

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

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you today, why? Because it's Friday! May 30th, it's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And up first, wow, the Donald Sterling saga, it could soon be over. It is certainly interesting.

A source telling CNN former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, a very, very wealthy man, has signed a binding agreement to buy the Clippers for $2 billion. That's $2 billion. Now, the sale was negotiated by Shelly Sterling, the team's co-owner and the maybe estranged, maybe not-so-estranged wife of Donald Sterling. It must be approved by the NBA board of governors. The question now is, will Donald Sterling give it his approval? Overnight, his lawyer said no, at least for now.


MAXWELL BLECHER, DONALD STERLING'S ATTORNEY: There is no sale, and he is not yet agreed to sign off, period.


BERMAN: Earlier on "THE SITUATION ROOM," this lawyer told Wolf Blitzer that the FBI -- the NBA, rather, went too far in painting Sterling as a racist and he wants some form of vindication.


BLECHER: Mr. Sterling is entitled to his views about Magic Johnson, and they don't have to conform with your views or my views. The fact that he doesn't like Magic Johnson or doesn't have a lot of respect for him does not entitle the National Basketball Association to confiscate his team, fine him and banish him for life. Those are draconian remedies.

No one has ever, no sport has ever imposed remedies like that for a man expressing his personal opinion however reprehensible the rest of us may think those opinions are. This is still the United States of America.

We don't think the team can be sold without Mr. Sterling's consent. Mr. Sterling is not going to consent unless the NBA does something about the scurrilous and legal charges they filed against him. And so far, we've heard nothing to indicate that will occur.


BERMAN: It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next few hours. If the reported $2 billion deal goes through, this would be the most ever paid for an NBA franchise.

Sterling bought the team in 1981 for about $12.5 million. So, you know, it's basically almost a $2 billion profit.

ROMANS: All the accountants at the state of California are sharpening their pencils for the tax bill that's going to come in.

BERMAN: I hope they've read "Smart is the New Rich" by Christine Romans, available on If you have to deal with --


ROMANS: I don't deal with corporate taxes, sorry.

Now to the new developments in the scandal at the V.A. as more and more lawmakers are calling for the V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. He speaks today before a homeless veterans group, a day after going to Capitol Hill and speaking privately with lawmakers. This as he seems to be losing the support of his boss, the president, all after the V.A.'s own probe found a CNN investigation was true.

Hundreds of vets in Phoenix were kept off the official books and not given appointments, possibly with deadly results. Now, many are asking, how long can Shinseki keep his job?

Our Jim Acosta has more this morning for us from the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, the writing may be on the wall for V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki. For the first time since the V.A. scandal broke, the White House is declining to say whether Shinseki has the confidence of the president.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to answer that question of whether Shinseki has the president's full backing. Instead, Carney said the president wants to see the findings of an internal audit Shinseki is expected to hand over to the president any day now.

How does he run the department if he doesn't have the full confidence of the president? How does he conduct this investigation if he doesn't have the full confidence of the president?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president looks forward to the preliminary review that he asked the secretary to provide to him.

ACOSTA: A growing list of senate Democrats, many up for re-election, are calling for Shinseki to go.

The last straw for those senators? An inspector general's report pointing to systemic issues in the V.A. system, noting in Phoenix, 1,700 veterans were never put on a waiting list and were likely lost or forgotten.

As for the White House, an official cautions, the president's loyalty only goes so far. Mr. Obama stood by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius because officials were confident here that the broken Obamacare Web site could be fixed. The White House is not so sure about Shinseki's ability to repair the damage at the V.A. -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: Still, to hear the words veterans and lost or forgotten in the same sentence is just outrageous.

As the president waits to see that internal report, for the first time, a member of the House leadership is calling for Shinseki to resign. Democratic Congressman Steve Israel tells Jake Tapper on "THE LEAD," there needs to be a criminal investigation because there are simply too many questions right now about who did what at the V.A. and why they might have been encouraged to manipulate the wait times for veterans. This is bureaucrats over veterans.

He's now asked Attorney General Eric Holder to look into it.


REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Anybody, anybody at the V.A. doctored papers, engaged in a cover-up, withheld health care for veterans. They need to be investigated. They need to be prosecuted. They need to be fired.


ROMANS: The inspector general's report finds the V.A. awarded bonuses to top officials based in part on performance goals. Those performance goals included shorter appointment wait times. That may have been the incentive for some of those managers to cook the books.

BERMAN: The NSA this morning is firing back at Edward Snowden's claims that he tried to blow the whistle on the agency's spying practices while he worked there. During his interview with NBC News, the former contractor said he raised concerns on multiple occasions in writing and verbally. And Snowden claims he was told to stop asking questions. The NSA says it only has one e-mail from Snowden to its office of general counsel asking about the legal power of an executive order, but nothing about the spy programs.

In the reply, Snowden is told to follow up if he had additional questions. Snowden called the e-mail release incomplete.

ROMANS: All right, new details this morning of just who in China may be responsible for hacking into servers in this country. "The Wall Street Journal" says U.S. officials believe many of those hackers were contractors for hire and they worked for defense companies created on the fly to do the dirty work of state-owned firms. That's the Chinese government.

Security experts say because they aren't government employees, it would be very difficult for the Chinese government to stop them.

Time for an EARLY START on your money this morning. Here's a look at stocks around the world.

U.S. futures slightly lower, but you know what? A little bit lower on a Friday after what, 13 record highs now for the S&P? Yesterday, the S&P topped 1,920.

Big, big record week and a good month for stocks. This, despite news that the U.S. economy actually shrank last quarter. Revised data showed a 1 percent contraction in the winter, the first in three years. Most economists say it's likely a weather-related fluke, so don't get too -- stocks yesterday weren't too worried about it.

Meantime, Ford issuing a massive recall, 1.4 million vehicles. The bulk of that, 1.1 million, are popular SUVs. It's the Ford Escape, Ford Explorer, the Mercury Mariner, all recalled for a steering issue. Ford says at least 20 accidents and 8 injuries may be tied to this problem. Another 200,000 Ford Tauruses recalled for a potential corrosion issue that likely caused 18 fires.

BERMAN: House Republicans are trying to slow down the new school nutrition standards, which were backed by Michelle Obama. A House committee is advancing a bill that would allow schools to opt out of the program for a year, if serving healthier meals to children is causing them to lose money. Under the current rules, schools are adding more fruits and vegetables and cutting salt and fat.

So, on the subject of food, talk about a power lunch. The former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, stopped by the White House Thursday for a private meal with the president. Why? The answer is out there.

The profile, you know, was not -- or the meeting was not on the president's calendar, but when word leaked on Twitter, the White House ultimately confirmed the visit. They're not saying much else except to say that the lunch was informal.

ROMANS: Is anything really informal between a president and the former secretary of state who may be running for office at the White House?

BERMAN: Having lunch, it's just lunch.

ROMANS: All right, attacked on the street by a stranger. We're going to have this amazing firsthand recount from this college student describing how he managed to survive that massacre that left six others dead.

BERMAN: And tourists sharing their story of an incredible scare 1,500 feet in the air, nearly 1,500 feet. What happened when the glass beneath them began to shatter? That's next.


ROMANS: Welcome back.

Chilling, new details about Elliot Rodger and the weeks leading up to the deadly rampage that left 6 dead and 13 wounded in California. Police now say deputies questioned him about disturbing online videos during a welfare check in April.

But after speaking with Rodger, they concluded he wasn't a threat, and they didn't view the videos. They did not watch them. The videos, of course, were the reason why his mother and therapist were so concerned. Police did not view those videos. Of course, at the same time, we're hearing from a survivor of the attack, run over by Rodger while he was riding a skateboard.

Nick Pasichuke tells Anderson Cooper he had no warning.


NICK PASICHUKE, SURVIVOR: It was one of those things where I'm on a long board and I'm not really thinking like, oh, the car behind he's just going to come up and veer right into me, so I didn't really think about it. I was just talking with my friend.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, the car came from behind and hit you?

PASICHUKE: Yes, it did.

COOPER: Wow, so you had no warning at all.

PASICHUKE: None. Didn't even hear anyone yell, like hey, look out, or anything prior to that. We were just hit by the car.


ROMANS: Pasichuke broke both his legs. He has multiple facial fractures. He is out of the hospital now and is recovering at home.

BERMAN: Lawyers for James Holmes are asking for closed jury selection. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing 12 and wounding dozens more in a 2012 massacre at a Colorado movie theater. Prosecutors agree that the public and media should be barred during individual questioning but want the last step to stay open when 12 jurors and 12 alternates are chosen. Jury selection is slated for October 14th.

ROMANS: A dodgers fan nearly beaten to death at a Los Angeles Dodgers game in 2011, he is now taking the team on in court. In opening arguments, lawyers for Bryan Stow claimed former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was too cheap to provide adequate security at the time of the brawl. The incident left Stow disabled and brain-damaged. McCourt's attorneys claim Stow was aggressive and drunk and responsible for the fight that broke out.

BERMAN: The top law enforcement official in Texas says that the state doesn't have to reveal sources of its execution drugs. Attorney General Greg Abbott responded to multiple requests for information about which pharmacies make those drugs, and he says those facilities could face harm if their identities are revealed. This is a reversal of what Abbott has said in the past, and it is likely to be appealed to the courts.

ROMANS: This morning, the CDC is warning of a dangerous surge in a disease once eliminated in the U.S. measles on the rise, with 288 cases reported this year, the highest number since 2000. More than half of those cases are among adults, and almost all cases are linked to travel overseas.

Health officials warn that measles can be deadly and they're urging people to get vaccinated. If you do not know your status, they say it is safe to get another shot, to get a booster.

BERMAN: New safety warnings coming to tanning beds. The FDA is now requiring manufacturers to put a so-called black box warning on the devices, saying they should not be used by anyone under the age of 18, but the agency stopped short of prohibiting minors from using beds completely. The FDA also reclassified the devices so they can have stricter oversight. This gives federal regulators more power to review their design before they're sold.

ROMANS: We're just days away from same-sex marriage becoming legal in another state. Starting Sunday, same-sex couples across Illinois will be able to say "I do." Some of the counties there have been issuing marriage licenses for months after a court ruling, but a state law officially takes effect on June 1st. One think tank expects same-sex marriage in Illinois will generate up to $75 million a year in new wedding business.

BERMAN: On the subject of Illinois, this morning part of one of the biggest tourist attractions in Chicago will be open to visitors again. One of these glass boxes hanging off the observation deck on the Willis Tower, that's what we're talking about here. There are four in total. One had to be shut down after the glass seemingly started to crack. Obviously, it was terrifying to those people inside.


ALEJANDRO GARIBAY, TOURIST: I hear the crack and I feel the crack on the palm of my hand and my hand, I feel like glass just completely shattered or cracked, however you would like to say it, and I just feel that. And as soon as I feel it and I hear it, I look down and I'm like, oh, my God.


BERMAN: Yes, that's 1,300 feet down. Officials insist that no one was ever in danger. They say it was just the coating of the glass that was cracking, not the underlying structure. That is very reassuring to me 1,300 feet in the air, if I'm standing there. That is just nuts.

But they'll be reopened today, so if you want to stand in them and look down, that is totally your prerogative.

ROMANS: I say it's good for business. All the thrill seekers now will be like, I want to stand up there. It's very scary, I've been up there. It's very scary to be standing suspended over the streets of Chicago below you.

BERMAN: I've got better things to do.

ROMANS: It's Friday, almost the weekend. What will the weather look like, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I want nothing to do with that, especially when I see a crack. Never again. I can't even get that out of my head.

All right. Let's talk about what's looking like this weekend. How about what it looks like for the last week? This is a loop from just last Monday. Notice storm after storm. I can say it, storm after storm, because that's what they've been seeing in the Southeast. And still, we're talking about the same thing, guys, another two to four inches of rain right there again into the South. You can actually see how much we're going to be dealing with. It's the same low slowly moving.

Watch it blow up on Saturday, but eventually by Saturday night in through Sunday, it gets better. There is hope on the horizon. Meanwhile in the Northeast, we are looking at a little bit of milder air, so kind of a cool down. You're going to notice that the farther North, you are into the Northeast, and then it kind of rebounds by Sunday. Very easy to see that.

Boston goes down to the 50s. Kind of a gloomy Saturday, but by Sunday, up to about 67. Also, Philly goes up to about 75. D.C., beautiful, going up to about 76 by the end of the weekend. So, really nice out there.

Rest of the country, we have the low down here, we have the two fronts we just talked about, but notice by the time we get to the weekend, we do have a threat for severe weather again up into the upper Midwest. We'll watch that. Here's how it pans out Saturday and Sunday. Slight risk areas for severe weather.

So, a lot of kind of variety going on this weekend, but Sunday the nicest day in the Northeast.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks for that, Indra.

All right. Breaking overnight, it's a tie. Co-champions in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

BERMAN: That's spelled B-E-E.

ROMANS: In the end, 13-year-old Ansun Sujoe and 14-year-old Sriram Hathwar, they were competing against the dictionary, not each other. They spelled so many words correctly, John Berman, the judges ran out of words.

All right, for the record, Sujoe's final-round word was --

BERMAN: Stichomythia.

ROMANS: What does it mean?

BERMAN: Like alternating lines of dialogue in a play, obviously.

ROMANS: And Hathwar got --

BERMAN: Feuilleton.

ROMANS: The feature section --

BERMAN: I have no idea how to say that. I just slew a lot of letters together -- ROMANS: The words up there of what we're trying to say, because, you know, they're hard, very hard. John Berman and I, neither of us are eligible for the spelling bee or ever were. Were you a good speller?

BERMAN: I was second in my class in spelling in fourth grade, but because I lost, I was so bitter, so I gave up.

ROMANS: So you're a soar loser.

BERMAN: That's exactly right, which is spelled L-O-S-E-R.

ROMANS: B-E-R-M-A-N, sore losers spelled B-E-R-M-A-N.

BERMAN: I gave up completely.

All right. Another big set of winners from New York. King Henrik extending and giving New York a chance to play for Lord Stanley's Cup. No one in New York is talking about this, and by that, I mean everyone is talking about it. It is really annoying.

Joe Carter has the highlights with "Bleacher Report", next.


ROMANS: Did you have a mullet in 1994?

BERMAN: I did not have a mullet in 1994.

ROMANS: It's time for John Berman to party like it's 1994. The New York Rangers are headed to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Maybe you'll get a, a mullet if they win.

BERMAN: I will not make any promises like that.

Joe Carter has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Hello, mullet-free Joe Carter.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes, you have the perfect hair in television, John. Every time I watch you, I think, man, not a hair out of place on his head. I thought my hair was perfect.

BERMAN: I have a helmet, I put it on every morning.

CARTER: It works well for you.

The headline from (INAUDIBLE), Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was sensational. He had one of the worst games of his career the game before, but really last night, he bounced back with a performance that put the Rangers in the Stanley Cup final. He stopped all 18 shots on goal, including one in the second period that could be deemed the best save of the playoffs.

And it seemed only fitting that Dominic Moore scored the game-winner last night, his first season back after a year off when he mourned the death of his wife who passed away from a rare form of liver cancer. For this team, the blue shirts, it's been a stunning turnaround. Even their coach back in October couldn't imagine this moment at beginning of the season.




Probably would have said what are you smoking?



CARTER: Great response.

CARTER: Trending this morning on, Tim Duncan says this has been the craziest series he's ever been involved in. So far in the Western conference finals, the home team has won every game by double digits. Last night, the Spurs dominated the game and won by 28 points. San Antonio did most of the damage from behind the three- point line, knocking down 13 long balls.

This series now shifts back to Oklahoma City for game six Saturday. You can watch it on our sister station TNT.

Well, the Miami Heat can advance to the NBA finals tonight with a game six win against the pacers. Earlier this week, LeBron James sat down with CNN's Rachel Nichols to talk about how much he's matured since his first playoff game in 2006.


LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT: I'm just a smarter, more seasoned basketball player, more veteran. I mean, I've been in it so many times that, you know, I kind of know what to expect. And for me, at a younger age, I was never even keel, you know? When I went into a playoff game when I was younger, I was excited on my mind and you would lose and I was the worst person in the world.


CARTER: All right. So, you can catch Rachel's show tonight at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

In addition to LeBron James, she also sat down with Kurt Busch. The two of them talk about his historic attempt at the double. Of course, he raced this past Sunday in the Indianapolis 500 in the afternoon and in the Coca-Cola 600 that evening, guys.

ROMANS: Wow, that's something. All right.

BERMAN: It's a big day.

ROMANS: All right, good hair. Both of you guys have good hair.

CARTER: Thank you.

ROMANS: It's like the spelling bee, it's a tie between the two of you for the hair bee. You guys are tied.

All right, thanks, Joe. Have a great weekend.

The fight between the NBA and Donald Sterling, maybe it's going to be over here. A $2 billion deal could change everything. The details, next.