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Former Microsoft CEO Buys Clippers; Veterans Affairs Scandal Grows; Sudanese Woman Faces Death Penalty for Faith

Aired May 30, 2014 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman is with us. Chris Cuomo had to cut out early today. Let's continue.


BOLDUAN: OK. It's a done deal and the NBA could finally be turning the page on the Donald Sterling controversy. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ponied up what we believe $2 billion to buy the L.A. Clippers. The sale negotiated by Shelly Sterling needs to be approved by the league and appears, here estranged husband.

CNN's Rosa Flores is following all of the developments. Quite a few overnight, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lots of moving parts. So, one thing is very clear this morning. Donald Sterling wants to see all the cards on the table before deciding to sell or sue.


FLORES (voice-over): It is one of the biggest deals in sports history, and the winning bidder, this man, Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, the price tag, $2 billion, handedly beating out competing bidders like Oprah Winfrey and David Geffen by at least $400 million.

But the deal is no slam dunk. Ballmer has signed an agreement with Shelly Sterling. But the next play belongs to Donald Sterling.

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

FLORES: His lawyer telling Wolf Blitzer before news of the agreement that while Donald gave her permission to negotiate selling the team, he did not give her permission to actually sell the team.

BLECHER: Not without reaching an accommodation with the NBA, which gives him some form of vindication. The money is not critical to him.

FLORES: The NBA is pushing for a quick sale, trying to ward off a contentious meeting scheduled for this Tuesday where owners will officially vote to force Sterling out. The reaction overnight was quick, with Magic Johnson tweeting, quote, "Clipper fans, you'll love Steve Ballmer as your owner."

But either way, Donald Sterling will not leave empty handed. He originally bought the team for $12 million. If the sale goes through, he stands to make over $1.9 billion in profit.


FLORES: That is some mega cash.

Shelly Sterling released a statement overnight announcing she is, quote, 'delighted that we are selling the team to Steve who will be a terrific owner. We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premier NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success."

And, John, we cannot forget about those $2.5 million in fines that Donald Sterling still has to pay.

BERMAN: Yes, $2 billion might make that easier to pay.

We're going to bring in senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He, along with Wolf Blitzer, interviewed Donald Sterling's lawyer yesterday.

Jeffrey, thank you so much for joining us.

I have to say, you know, of course, are a very prominent legal expert, but this is about business to me. It's about dollars and cents, a business deal. You have been saying the Sterlings are playing good cop, bad cop here. Explain how they're playing this game.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Shelly Sterling has been the good caught. She has been the one who says I want to sell the team, let's get this over with, let's move on.

Donald Sterling has been the bad cop. He's been saying, oh, no, I want to sue. I don't want to sell the team. I think the two either intentionally or not very much worked in concert to jack up the price because Don Sterling created a situation where Shelly could say to prospective buyers, oh, Don doesn't want to sell, you have to make it worth it for him to sell.

And I think it really paid off in a big way. $2 billion is a lot for any franchise especially for the Clippers.

BERMAN: It's a lot for anything, let alone a basketball franchise that hasn't really won too much of anything.

Besides the $2 billion reason they have to play this game, that Donald Sterling may have to drag his feet publicly? What else can he gain out of this? What else can his legal team get by being as obstinate as they are at least publicly?

TOOBIN: I don't think they can get much of anything which is why I think this deal will go through. His lawyer, Mr. Blecher did a very good job of saying this was outrageous, this was a private conversation, illegally taped. It's not a justification to take away the franchise.

But the fact is the NBA constitution gives the owners the power to take away the contract. Everybody knows that, and everybody knows that on June 3rd, that's precisely what the NBA is going to do. So, Donald Sterling's leverage is really very minimal.

I assume there will be more drama in the next couple of days and people will be making statements, but the fact is this tragic comedy is coming to an end, and the franchise is going to be sold.

BERMAN: You know, we keep talking about the legal ins and outs here. The legal issues seem very much settled here. There's the business side we've been talking about, $2 billion worth of business.

There's also a PR angle here, Jeffrey. He could be negotiating to come out of this somehow better off than he is right now which would mean no lifetime ban, lessen the fine. Let him go a little bit gracefully. The NBA you could make a case would benefit a little by putting this nasty fight behind them?

TOOBIN: I think that's right. Although, John, if you could think of anyone who may be beyond public relations help, it may be Donald Sterling. He could get some sort of offering from the NBA to make this a little less embarrassing for him. For example, one idea I put out yesterday which Mr. Blecher didn't reject entirely was that instead of paying the $2.5 million in a fine, he could pay $2.5 million to some charity that everybody agrees on.

The NBA could thank Donald Sterling for his long service to the league. The proceedings could end with a nice statement from the NBA and the sale of the team. I think that's the kind of resolution we're heading towards, but the key point is Donald Sterling and his whole nutty family is going to be out and Steve Ballmer is going to be in.

BERMAN: Yes, the other key point is $2 billion by you just can't get past. That brings me to the other interested party here, the other owners in the NBA. If this goes forward to a vote on June 3rd whether or not to keep Donald Sterling in the league, now they have to look at this $2 billion number for a team, as we have been saying, which hasn't really won much of anything. The value of NBA franchises has just gone through the roof.

TOOBIN: I mean, June 3rd is going to be a celebration, not a meeting of the NBA owners, because it was just a couple months ago that the Milwaukee Bucks, admittedly a small market team, sold for $550 million which everybody thought was an outrageously high price. Now these owners are sitting on franchises probably worth hundreds of millions of dollars more than they thought.

So, you know, the good times are rolling for NBA owners, and I think that's why this is all going to end in a great big wheelbarrow of money that everybody is sloshing around in and having a great time.

BERMAN: That's right. As much distaste as they might have for Donald Sterling, they can thank him as they kick him out the door which makes this is a forgone conclusion. Jeffrey Toobin, great to see you this morning. appreciate it.

TOOBIN: Good to talk with you.


BOLDUAN: In less than 30 minutes, V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki is scheduled to speak to a veterans group in Washington, really with his job on thin ice. We're going to bring you that speech live.

Also this morning, President Obama says he'll have a serious conversation with Shinseki about whether he's the right person to address the scandal surrounding long treatment for veterans that CNN was first to report.

And now, a growing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for Shinseki to step aside.

Athena Jones is live from the White House with much more. What are you hearing from the White House this morning, Athena?


We know today is the day Eric Shinseki is supposed to give President Obama the preliminary results of his investigation into the V.A. system. So, we're going to be watching for that report, for that review all day today.

But we're now hearing a little bit more from the president about his plans for Secretary Shinseki. He spoke -- and they aired this on "Good Morning America" this morning, an interview with ABC. (AUDIO GAP) what the president said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll have a serious conversation with him about whether he thinks that he is prepared and has the capacity to take on the job of fixing it because I don't want any veteran to not be getting the kind of services that they deserve.


JONES: So what's interesting here is we heard the president echo some of what he said last week when he first talked to reporters about this. He seems to make it sound as though it's up to Secretary Shinseki to see if he's up to the task of fixing the problems at the V.A.

Last week, the president said Rick's attitude is, if he doesn't think he can do a good job on this, if he thinks he let our veterans down, I'm sure he's not going to be interested in continuing to serve. But, of course, the president has also said the buck stops with him. So, the president and Shinseki are under a lot of pressure not just from Republicans, but also Democrats, many members of Congress calling for a criminal investigation, calling for a Justice Department investigation. So, we're going to be closely watching not only what Secretary Shinseki says about half an hour from now, how he addresses this scandal, but also, as I mentioned, waiting for the results of that -- preliminary results of that review that Shinseki owes the president today.

So, a lot to watch today -- Kate, John.

BOLDUAN: A lot to watch today. Hearing from the president there, even increasing the stakes even more on what's going to come out in that report. It sounds like that's going to be the deciding factor.

BERMAN: Increasing the stakes, Eric Shinseki speaking in 20 minutes from now. We'll bring it to you live when it happens 20 minutes from now, very important.

Next up for us on NEW DAY, Hillary Clinton's Benghazi chapter. The former secretary of state takes aim at Republicans and continues to look for answers on this subject. We have details from her upcoming book. This is her most detailed account of the deadly attack to date.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Just minutes from now, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will be addressing the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. We will bring that to you live as President Obama says he will have a serious conversation with Shinseki about whether he's the right person surrounding these delays for veterans. That really is, we're finding out, more and more systemic scheduling issues throughout the Veterans Affairs system.

So, we're going to listen to what Shinseki has to say and then, of course, what comes in that serious conversation with the president.

Let's discuss this and more with CNN political commentator Ana Navarro. Republican strategist, and CNN political analyst and editor- in-chief of "The Daily Beast," John Avlon.

Good morning, good morning.

So, John, we're waiting to hear from --


BOLDUAN: Good morning, Ana.

We're waiting to hear from Eric Shinseki. You do wonder what can he say to help his case, to make his case, to begin to regain the trust of -- let's be honest -- most importantly, veterans?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is make or break testimony he's going to be giving because right now all the pressure is pulling against Eric Shinseki. We have Democrats calling for his resignation now, red state Democrats for re-election and swing state Democrats, not a coincidence there, but the pressure is ratcheting up.

And the White House hasn't been backing him up. So, this is one of the key times he has to address the concerns directly, lay out a path for correcting the problem and win back that trust and confidence. Otherwise, he could be a bridge too far right now.

BERMAN: I mean, Ana, is there any way he survives this at this point? The only compelling case I've seen for why he continues to fight this was in "Politico" this morning says this guy who doesn't quit, got half his foot blown up in Vietnam, continued to serve in the military, was nearly forced out, everyone wanted him out from the bush administration army chief of staff. He refused to go.

At this point, is that the only think you think driving him to stay?

NAVARRO: And I think it's really important to remember, John, that this is a man with a store read military career. This is a four-star general who has served his country honorably for decades. He's a wounded veteran himself.

But sometimes even the most decent and honorable of public servants aren't the right person for a particular job, the right fit for the job. I think the problem he has is that he's been in charge there for almost six years. Somebody has got to be held account. Somebody has got to be held responsible. And he's become symbolic of the systematic problems that, yes, preceded him but have now been going on for six years under him.

It's becoming an increasingly difficult political issue for the president, because it just seems that President Obama is humanly, physically, emotionally incapable of pulling a Band-Aid. And now, if he fires Shinseki or forces him to resign, it will look as if it's under the duress and pressure from Congress.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, John.

AVLON: Ana is being very fair in addressing a lot of the conventional wisdom, criticisms of the president. Namely, that he doesn't hold people accountable enough, he doesn't rip off that Band-Aid when it comes to taking tough decision, and getting ahead of a story before it becomes a political crisis.

The big question is whether a political scalp will actually help save the problem, because this is an issue with bipartisan concern and outrage. Ana raises a very fair point, which is that, can someone who's been in charged for six years, and had these reports pile up, be the one to fix it. He has such credibility with the military it's worth give a shot to try.

But the White House is definitely in a wait-and-see mode. Congress is pouncing on Shinseki. And this is a pivotal moment for him, if he wants to save his legacy at the V.A. and help solve the problem.

BOLDUAN: Why, Ana, when you hear all of this and you lay all that out, why do you think we have not heard from Republican leaders like John Boehner and Eric Cantor calling for Eric Shinseki to resign? They seem to be more focused on blaming the president.

NAVARRO: Frankly, I think a lot of it has to do with the goodwill Shinseki has had in Congress because he has had such a heroic career and he has been in Washington for so long.

I think it's why you saw John McCain be very hesitant and not come out and call for his resignation until yesterday, even after many others had and even though it's in Arizona, because this is a man with whom they have worked for many decades in his military capacity and as army chief of staff.

At the end of the day, this is Obama's problem. This is the White House's problem because it's a recurring pattern where we see the president say over and over again, oh, I found out from the news, I'm madder than hell, nobody is more mad than I am. I'm going to appoint a committee to investigate.

So, there's that lack of sense of urgency that I think is very frustrating to veterans and to the American public that's watching this unfold and become worse and worse with every number that comes out.

BERMAN: John, I want to bring up another issue that's got a lot of people talking this morning. "Politico" got a chapter of the Hillary Clinton book which is due out on June 10th, the chapter that deals with the issue of Benghazi.

Let me read you one sentence from this. She says, "I will not be part of a political slug fest on the backs of dead Americans." She writes that while she's in the midst of a 34-page chapter on the subject of Benghazi.

You can't unilaterally withdraw from this shrug fest, can you? Do you think she's serious that she will?

AVLON: Look, she's definitely trying to frame it in a way that puts herself above politics. The whole issue of Benghazi has become a hyper-partisan echo chamber, with people going to almost indecent, excessive lengths on it, that she's got a credible chance of success. A lot of people have simply tuned this issue out, but the investigations go on. And there are people deeply committed and feel fundamental questions haven't been answered.

It's a smart political tactic if you're trying to appeal to the political middle. The details of the chapter will be parsed with close readings like we haven't seen in a long, long time. But you see the political tactics she's taking. It's a smart one. And Republicans have done themselves a disservice by taking what should be a quest for the truth and making it look like a political witch hunt, whether it is or not.

BOLDAU: Ana, she seems to be making calculation that she does not think this is going to be a potent enough political issue if she needs to go any further into it than what she says in this chapter.

NAVARRO: I'm not sure about that, Kate. You know, last week it came out that it was Hillary Clinton world that pressured Nancy Pelosi to name some Democrats to the Benghazi panel, something Nancy Pelosi had been very hesitant and reluctant to do. So, it's someone ironic she says she's not going to get into the political slugfest on this when she is in the midst of the political slugfest.

I would argue to you that having this most detailed of chapters in this book about Benghazi is part of the political slugfest. So, I think it is a recognition in her part that it can be a bombastic issue.

And, you know, she says in part of the excerpts that there's been all of this speculation, misinformation and flat-out deceit. The problem is a lot of Republicans and a lot of people watching today feel the same way, but they feel that that deceit, misinformation, speculation, came out of the administration she was working for that brought out the story that it was caused by a video.

BERMAN: John, she brings up a good point. The Democrats decided to be part of this Benghazi panel. Hillary Clinton says she doesn't want to be part of the slugfest, but "Politico" is reporting she's bringing on a key Democratic operative, Tommy Vietor, who worked for the National Security Council to help handle the press surrounding the book, really help handle the Benghazi issue.

So, while she says she doesn't want to be part of the slugfest, she's clearly geared up to handle the slugfest.

AVLON: Yes, this isn't a book tour. This is the beginning of a political campaign. Whether or not she runs, they're approaching it with political operatives, the way you would a campaign. And the Benghazi issue as well, the issue Ana raises with Hillary Clinton saying put Democrats on that panel, indicates the desire to not politicize the panel any further,

But let's engage, let's really, as opposed to stonewall the problem. But it indicates she understands this is a real issue, whether or not she thinks it's going to be a distraction early on that she takes the threat seriously. It will be a front in the upcoming political fight. No question about it.

BOLDUAN: Yes, ignoring it doesn't make it go away when you're in a presidential election.

NAVARRO: Kate, you can blame the vast right wing conspiracy on this one, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I'm not blaming anybody.

Ana, John, thanks so much. We'll talk to you guys in a little bit.

BERMAN: I want to turn now to another story, another really important story. Chained during childbirth, shackled while she breastfeeds her newborn. A Sudanese Christian woman faces the death penalty for her faith.

CNN's Nima Elbagir has the exclusive with the woman's husband. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five years ago, Daniel Wani thought he had it all, a beautiful wife, a new future.

This is his new reality -- the first glimpse of his baby girl inside a jail cell. His wife's shackles just out of view.

Daniel told us his wife Mariam Ibrahim was accused last September of apostasy, abandoning her Muslim faith. It's a crime punishable by death under Sudan's harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

(on camera): When you met her, she told you she was a Christian?

DANIEL WANI, HUSBAND: She was a Christian.

ELBAGIR: And she was a practicing Christian?


ELBAGIR: A court here in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, ruled on May 15th that Mariam was guilty and sentenced her to death. The ruling has sent shockwaves both in Sudan and around the world.

(voice-over): Daniel now faces losing not just his wife, but life as he knows it.

(on camera): How did it feel for you to hear that your marriage wasn't valid?


ELBAGIR: And your children were baptized?

WANI: Martin, yes. Martin was.

ELBAGIR: And your new daughter?

WANI: Not yet. She's only a day old.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Daniel's case is closely watched throughout Sudan. The Christian community here says they are praying for him, praying that he'll be able to keep his family together.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Khartoum, Sudan.


BOLDUAN: Unbelievable story. Nima, thank you very much for that.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, embattled V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki is getting set to speak to veterans all while the scandal inside his department continues to widen. Will he directly speak to the controversy? What will he say, how will he handle the scandal in his first public remarks since the scandal came out? We'll carry his comments live. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. Welcome back.

You're looking at live pictures of V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki. He is set to speak any moment right now at a veterans event in Washington, D.C.

Will he address the growing calls for his resignation? That is the big question. We will bring that to you when he starts -- actually, let me go to Erin McPike who is standing outside this event.

Erin, this is an event right now for homeless veterans, these are the types of people that Eric Shinseki has been working with for decades we should say.

What is the expectation? Will he address the controversy swirling around him and his agency?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we absolutely expect he will address the controversy. Whether he'll address these calls for resignation, we don't know. Obviously, that's what we're waiting to hear today. I can tell you that the people who are gathered downstairs waiting for him to talk weren't really talking about the resignation.