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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Steve Ballmer to Buy Clippers in $2 Billion Deal, Most Expensive Deal in NBA History; Shinseki Resigns as VA Scandal Deepens; VA Scandal Could Spark Criminal Probe; American Bomber in Syria Attack from Florida; Shinseki Resigns over VA Scandal; Film on Maya Angelou's Life Soon; Fabien Cousteau Will Spend a Month Underwater on Mission- 31

Aired May 31, 2014 - 08:00   ET

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


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Next hour of your NEW DAY starts right now.

One man out, but will there be more to go? The scandal that sacked the leader of the VA is not over yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If people have committed criminal acts, they should punished. No ifs, buts and maybes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Seventeen tons of explosives packed into a truck in Syria and the man behind it is American. This American. Who is he? We are going to tell you what we are learning about him this morning.

BLACKWELL: He may be about to lose his team, but the embattled Clippers owner for now, Donald Sterling is not going down without a fight and it is a $1 billion fight.

PAUL: So if you are going to rise, you might as well shine. Good Saturday morning to you. Thank you for shining with us. I'm Christi.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It is 8:00 now. NEW DAY SATURDAY here, and first up this hour, Donald Sterling, he is now suing the NBA for $1 billion.

PAUL: The embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner says he is taking the league to court because of its decision to ban him for life and forcing him to give up his franchise.

BLACKWELL: This is coming after his wife, Shelly, agreed to sell the team for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. This is the most ever, the most ever someone has paid for an NBA franchise, but did he pay too much? We are talking $2 billion for the Clippers here.

Alexandra Field joins us live from New York, big price tag. It could have the implications around the league, around all of the major five sports.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. The league and beyond. That is what a lot of people are focused on right now because $2 billion is an eye-popping figure, a record setter for the NBA. It is all the more surprising when you consider the fact that the L.A. Clippers have never been considered the league's most valuable franchise.

And that is not by quite a bit. The most recent "Forbes" estimate puts the Clippers at 13th most valuable as far as the league's teams with an estimated worth of about $575 million. So why is Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft mogul, willing to pay 3.5 times that much? He outbid the next closest bidder by about $400 million.

Well, we put the question to Steve Bozanian, a writer for "Forbes" magazine and here is what he says is in it for Ballmer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE OZANIAN, "FORBES" MAGAZINE: In the first few years, profits are going to be very minimal. This is not something he is buying principally because he wants to make money. This is someone who is going to take 10 percent of their net worth and they are going to buy a sports team in L.A., which is going to give them a lot of prestige.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FIELD: Now there should be some added revenue for the team in the next couple of years. There will be future and local and national television deals, which are estimated to bring in an extra $100 million for the team. So not a small amount of money, but really the big impact of the $2 billion bid is a little bit more global. A lot of analysts saying that this will certainly drive up the value of other teams especially other big market team, Chicago, New York, Boston.

Teams that don't come on the market much. Analysts predict those could go closer to $3 billion, really big numbers especially when you put that into context and consider the fact that the Milwaukee Bucks were sold just last month for the record-setting price at the time of $550 million.

PAUL: Setting a new record now. Alexandra Field, thank you so much, Alexandra.

BLACKWELL: So it is Saturday, but you better believe that people in Washington are working this morning. It is the first day of the fix for the Veterans Affairs Department and the search for a new head of the VA. President Obama accepted VA Chief Eric Shinseki's resignation yesterday after the two agreed that Shinseki's leadership would be a distraction now.

PAUL: The announcement comes amid allegations, of course, that VA hospitals across the country tried to hide delayed wait times for sick veterans. CNN's Erin McPike is live at the White House for us. Erin, what have you heard this morning? ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi and Victor, in his own remarks just yesterday, Eric Shinseki saying he was, quote, "too trusting of some." It became clear yesterday that the growing chorus of calls for him to resign was something that he just couldn't survive even though he already begun to fire some top VA officials.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE (voice-over): Taking reporter questions about how it came to this. President Obama explained.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We occupy a not just an environment that calls for management fixes, but we also have to deal with Congress and you guys and I think Rick's judgment that he could not carry out the next stages of reform without being a distraction himself. So, my assessment was unfortunately that he was right.

MCPIKE: But Shinseki's resignation might not end the firestorm.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, the distractions that Rick refers to in part are political.

MCPIKE: House Speaker John Boehner warned --

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: One personnel change cannot be used as an excuse to paper over a systematic problem. Our veterans deserve better. We'll hold the president accountable until he makes things right.

MCPIKE: The president tapped Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson to lead the VA for the time being acknowledging Gibson has been on the job for only three months.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We are going to need a new VA secretary so Sloan is acting. Sloan I think would be the first to acknowledge that he is going to have a learning curve that has to deal with.

MCPIKE: But Obama insisted Gibson can bring order to the VA.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I want somebody spending every minute of every day figuring out have we called every single veteran that is waiting. Have they gotten a schedule? Are we fixing the system? What kind of new technology do we need? Have we made a realistic assessment of how long the wait times are now and how are we going to bring those wait times down in certain facilities where the wait times are too long?

MCPIKE: Still, he will have investigations and Congress to contend with.

REPRESENTATIVE JEFF MILLER (R), HOUSE VETERANS AFFAIRS CHAIRMAN: Our committee in the House will continue in full force investigating all of the systematic problems that exist within the department, up to and including the criminal activity that is growing more apparent every day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE: And President Obama said he will leave it to the Justice Department to determine whether or not criminal activity took place -- Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Erin McPike at the White House for us. Erin, thank you very much.

PAUL: And of course, before he resigned, Secretary Shinseki described the deficiencies spiking the VA as, you've heard that several times, just a minute ago, systematic is the word being used.

BLACKWELL: So will installing a new chief at the top of this massive apparently very troubled bureaucracy really change anything? One person out of 300,000.

PAUL: Yes, let's talk to Joe Violante. He is a retired Marine Corps sergeant and national legislative director for the organization, Disabled American Veterans. Joe, thank you for being here. Glad to have you with us, thanks.

So let me ask you, we've heard, you know, a lot of people say Shinseki was a good guy. The people around him may have been more of the problem than Shinseki himself. Do you think he was the fall guy for this?

SGT. JOE VIOLANTE (RETIRED), NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS: Unfortunately, I think so. I mean, Secretary Shinseki, over the last five and a half years has been able to tackle some big problems at the VA. The claims backlog. Making it easier for women veterans to get into the system. He had a new GI bill, post-9/11 GI bill, dumped on his lap. He managed that and also the homeless veterans issue.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about who should go in next because we know that Sloan Gibson is only a place holder as they transition to this new more permanent leader. There is a list that's floating about. "Washington Post" has a few out, some people who want to put the names in the hat.

I'll just go through a few of them, Senator Jack Reid, Admiral Mike Mullen, General Peter Chiarelli and former Senator Jim Webb and Congressman Tim Walz also mentioned this morning by the IAZA added to that list, Patrick Murphy also. Who do you think should get the job? One of these gentlemen or someone else?

VIOLANTE: Those are excellent candidates, but it doesn't make a difference who gets the job next if they don't have the direct access to the president and if they don't put forth an honest assessment of VA's needs. VA has their own analysis of construction, which is roughly about $2 billion a year. They have not asked for it and so what we need is an honest assessment. The next person coming in needs to be able to do that.

PAUL: Do you think more people other than Shinseki need to go as well? Do we need to see an entire new leadership there? VIOLANTE: That I don't know, but I certainly think that we allow these inspector general investigations to go forward and to find out how in depth this wrongdoing is and hold those people accountable. Also the secretary has started audits. The DAV believes that we need independent third party experts to go out on those audits and look what we found.

BLACKWELL: I wonder if the modern VA with as many veterans, thank God to modern medicine, they are surviving, but they are coming home and they need care. Can this modern VA care for every veteran should some get vouchers and the VA hospitals reserved with those with the least resources and indigent?

VIOLANTE: Right now, we have about 22 million veterans. Only 9 million have enrolled in VA health care. Only 6 million are receiving their health care from the VA. So I think the model works and you know VA has the authority to send veterans outside the system when it is necessary. I don't know they used it properly. When they do send someone out, they need to also coordinate and manage that care so it is not an easy answer.

PAUL: All right, Joe Violante of Disabled American Veterans, thank you for making time for us, Joe. We appreciate it.

VIOLANTE: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Another story that they watching in Washington and we are watching here. The suicide bomber in Syria. He gets the attention of the U.S. after learning that he is an American from Florida. We'll talk to our terror expert about this disturbing discovery.

PAUL: And later, Fabian Cousteau is talking to us about his upcoming underwater adventure. Wait until you here what he is attempting. We are talking about something no other exploration team has ever done before.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Wow. That is video of a deadly explosion in Syria and it is being blamed on an American who grew up in Florida.

PAUL: He is now believed to be the first American suicide bomber in Syria. There are fears that he is not going to be the last, quite frankly. He has been identified as Moner Mohammad Abusalha. CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen joins us via phone from Washington. Peter, thank you. We know that this man grew up in Florida. He went to Syria to join extremists there. Are we getting any indication of what compelled him to do so this morning?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Well, good morning. I think judging by his Facebook postings, he is a guy who subscribed to the al Qaeda ideological beliefs. He is not the only American, unfortunately. We found four other Americans who have been indicted for trying to join the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Another American, who is actually an army veteran, who is convicted in 2012 for fighting with the al Qaeda affiliate there. A woman from Flint, Michigan, by the name of Nicole Mansfield may have died fighting alongside an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. It is part of a pattern. U.S. officials assessed that something like 100 Americans have gone to Syria, not necessarily to join al Qaeda. As you know there were multiple different factions fighting there.

But there is a great concern about any of these folks returning to the United States with battle training and I think even more concerning is the idea that Europeans have also fought in Syria. They come from the visa waiver program countries where they don't have to get a visa to come to the United States, 450 from Britain, hundreds from France. One or two of these folks also come in. That is really the big concern.

BLACKWELL: Peter, let's pull that thread a bit about potentially some of these people coming home. Is it their M.O. that we've seen, to simply go after the enemy there, in which we saw fighting the Syrian government or to come home and use those skills to, I guess, pressure the U.S. to get involved more in the fight in Syria?

BERGEN: I think Victor, it is more the former. I mean, people are volunteering to fight in a war where they see, you know, Assad inflicting a totalitarian war in its population. He is alawhite, which is a sort of the radical form of Shiitesm. He is almost a perfect villain for these people who are inspired by these ideas.

You know, often this is going to be a one-way ticket. This Abusalha who killed himself, you know, he is not coming back to the states. The woman I mentioned earlier, Nicole Mansfield, was killed there. The government has every right to be concerned. With all these folks, they will end up dead because they don't know what they are doing. They got caught in some kind of crossfire or die in a suicide attack as this man did in the last several days.

BLACKWELL: All right, CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen. It's alarming to say the least. Thank you so much for your insight.

BERGEN: Thank you.

PAUL: So an ash cloud forms over Indonesia after a volcano erupts. Look at this thing. We will show you what it is doing to the region.

BLACKWELL: And later, remembering Dr. Maya Angelou. We will talk to filmmakers behind a documentary that you probably didn't know was in production about her life. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: It's 22 minutes after the hour now. Look at this. This volcano in Indonesia. Left behind this huge ash cloud. It is forced airlines to cancel all flights to and from Northern Australia and other airports could be affected in the next few days. Now this cloud has also left hundreds of passengers stranded, no flights. The flight disruption is expected to continue until tomorrow.

PAUL: I just got a post on Facebook from somebody in the airport. They are waiting to take off. I hope you get there because there is some stormy weather ahead for a lot of us. We are talking about strong winds and rain even tornadoes possibly.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it could be dangerous. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is live in our Severe Weather Center. Who is under the gun?

PAUL: All right, we have two areas that we are focused on for this afternoon. Along the gulf coast, this has been persistent. A sluggish weather pattern ushered in the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico across the southeast particularly along the gulf coast. It started around Texas moved over towards Louisiana and Mississippi. Filtered around the region for a while.

Our next focus is across the high plains. I'll talk about that in just a second. Here's that area of low pressure just kind of wagging along the gulf coast region. It will allow the rivers to rise above flood stages. That will happen over the next 24-to-48 hours but not before dropping as much as 4 inches of additional rainfall off along lower sections of Louisiana and into Mississippi.

You see here in the orange and red shaded area from Billings, Montana to Rapid City and Cheyenne. That's for today. The threat of some isolated tornadoes and possibility of hail and high winds with some good old afternoon and evening thunderstorms. It shifts to the east. From South Dakota extending all the way down to the panhandle of Texas. Very typical for this time of year.

What is not typical, 86 degrees in Chicago, typically they would be in the mid-70s. These readings are a good 10 to 12 degrees above where it should be for this time of year. Washington at 77, Denver, 82 and Seattle, a comfortable 75. Back to you guys.

BLACKWELL: All right, Karen, thanks. We are going to head down to Florida where geologists are checking out a sinkhole that opened up in a parking lot. That parking lot is across the street from Legoland.

PAUL: Don't let your kids too close. People noticed a small depression by Thursday morning. By evening, it is growing bigger. None of the buildings around the parking lot has been effected. You can see the tape blocking it off. Hopefully they will get it under control.

BLACKWELL: A few minutes ago, we were playing, "Under The Sea" from "Little Mermaid." I know kids perked up. You will actually meet the man who will live under the sea, Fabian Cousteau. His exploration is coming up. Promises to accomplish something even his grandfather never pulled off. He is going to join us live this hour.

PAUL: And a little bit later, a look back at world tension in the '60s and how close we actually came to a World War III nuclear disaster.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: It's 28 minutes past the hour. Stay in your jammers. You're allowed. I'm Christi Paul. BLACKWELL: Your jammers. I'm Victor Blackwell. Five things you need to know for your NEW DAY. Up first, Donald Sterling is now suing the NBA for $1 billion. He is taking the league to court because of the decision to ban him for life and force him to give up the franchise. The move comes as a shock to people because his wife, Shelly, just agreed to sell the team for $2 billion. That is not just a good deal. It is the most ever paid for an NBA franchise. Stay with us all morning for much more on the story and the bizarre twists and turns here.

Number two, the State Department is confirming claims that Jihadists that an American carried out a suicide bombing in Syria one week ago. They have a name for him, Moner Mohammad Abusalha. He grew up in Florida and went to Syria late last year to join extremist fighters there. Intelligence officials are interviewing his family and friends to find out more about him.

Number three, beaten and shackled to his bed given no food or water. That is what a Marine says has happened to him in a Mexican prison. Marine Sergeant Andrew Tamaricci has been in a prison for more than two months now. He said he accidentally crossed the border with guns in his car. He is coping with phone calls to his family and prayers of course, and hope that he will get out soon. We will continue to follow this, this morning.

And number four now, if you want to eat at Sonic or Chili's, you've to leave your gun at home. No Glocks there. The two chains adding their names to the list of businesses that would prefer its customers do not carry weapons in their restaurant. Both said they respect local gun laws, but they want their customers to feel comfortable.

And five, the search is on now the first day of the search for the head of the Veteran's Affairs department. President Obama accepted V.A. Chief Eric Shinseki's resignation yesterday, of course, after the allegations of a massive cover up by V.A. hospitals. Now the V.A. acknowledges at least 23 veterans died because of the delayed care. For now, Shinseki's deputy, Sloan Gibson will act as temporary head of the VA that's until a permanent replacement is named.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: But you know I sat down with Dr. Graham Allison is a former national security advisor to the Reagan and Clinton administration just as news was breaking of Shinseki's resignation. Now he, Dr. Allison is a political scientist at Harvard author of numerous books on national security, terrorism and decision making and he shared his thoughts on the V.A. scandal, President Obama's foreign policy speech and his exception insight of the Cold War nuclear conflict back in the 60s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. GRAHAM ALLISON, POLITICAL SCIENTIST & HARVARD PROFESSOR: It was appropriate that he resigned and it was appropriate that the President accepted the resignation. Secondly, the V.A. is a mess, has been a mess, will be a mess and the problems at the V.A. are not going to be solved by simply changing one executive or another. But nonetheless, I think it was correct that he had become so much of a distraction in trying to do better at the V.A., that it was time for Shinseki to go.

PAUL: Let's talk about foreign policy because I heard a lot of people talking about the world was watching this week as President Obama spoke -- how this big speech on foreign policy. When you listened to it, what stood out to you?

ALLISON: I like very much his line about the fact that we should remember in the Cold War, America was and Americans felt, much more at risk of attack by countries. And as he said rightly, there is no country that would attack the U.S. today. We're safe from any urgent or immediate and existential fear that we might find ourselves in a war.

In the Cold War, that was not the case. If you go back to the Cuban missile crisis, we were eyeball-to-eyeball with the possibility that a 100 million Americans would die within an hour. That's just not even in, you know, any part of our consciousness today.

But in this more complex world the effort for -- given -- given a public that's got a very short attention span and a journalistic community that wants some you know -- something that they can help explain to the public in one liners, that the -- this idea that well gee in the Cold War, we had one enemy, the communist Soviet Union. We had an existential threat. All of us could relate to it. We killed in the nuclear war. And we had a strategy that you can express in a single word -- containment.

Well many people longed for that degree of simplicity and I think the President was trying to, in the speech, explain we live in a much more complicated world today. So that's not as comfortable and it's not as easy to explain but that's the challenge that he was taking up and I think he did a good job, as I say, not -- not great, but good.

PAUL: How close did we really get to say a World War III nuclear disaster?

ALLISON: Today, for people that are 25 years old, they simply cannot believe or imagine that somehow or another over Cuba the U.S. and the Soviet Union were seriously contemplating choices that would in a very short period of time have killed hundreds of millions of people.

But during the crisis at one sort of aside, President Kennedy was talking to his brother, Bobby Kennedy, who was then the Attorney General. And he said he thought the odds that this would end up in war were somewhere between one and three and even. So think about that. That's as if you've got a revolver and it's got either two or three shells in the -- in the chambers and you spin it in the version of Russian roulette and pull the trigger and see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: And so many thanks to Dr. Graham Allison. For more on the Cuban missile crisis, you can watch CNN's original series "The Sixties: World on the Brink". It's Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here. BLACKWELL: Well she was a writer and a dancer and a professor. And the list goes on when you're talking about Dr. Maya Angelou. We'll talk to the filmmakers behind the documentary about her life that was already in the works when she passed away.

And later, the dramatic rescue -- look at this -- of a toddler on a busy street. You'll want to see how this ends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Poet, writer and so much more -- Dr. Maya Angelou. She died this week, she was 86 years old. Truly an inspiring life; she was known for her frank chronicles of personal history and she won three Grammys for her spoken word recordings and the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well.

PAUL: And her passing can be summed up in these words from her own poem "When Great Trees Fall". She writes "When souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile."

And the documentary called "Maya Angelou the People's Poet" is being made about her life. It was already in the works when she passed this week.

But we want to talk to the director of that film, Bob Hercules. Bob thank you for taking time for us here. Help us understand what went through your mind when you heard the news this week.

BOB HERCULES, DIRECTOR "MAYA ANGELOU THE PEOPLE'S POET": Well, we were both shocked. My co-director Rita Coburn Whack is also here off camera. But Rita got a call from the family early Wednesday morning and it was shocking news. And then she called me and it was very sad and it was like somebody punched you in the stomach. It was just unbelievable painful.

BLACKWELL: You know every time she spoke and some things just in passing were profound. I remember I used to keep an episode of "The Master Class" that she did for Oprah Network OWN.

PAUL: Yes I did too.

BLACKWELL: And there were so many gems in that episode.

HERCULES: Right.

BLACKWELL: What was your perception -- what of her when you met her and you conversed with her and you interviewed her?

HERCULES: Well, she was -- of course she's a -- she's a riveting story teller. And just one of the most interesting people we've ever interviewed. Her ability to take you into those times she lived was unbelievable. And so, it was just -- I also felt, Rita and I both felt we were honored to be the ones telling the story. The film we're making is called "Maya Angelou, The People's Poet". And it's going to air on PBS American Masters probably in early 2016. And believe it or not, nobody has ever made this film before. So Rita and I both felt incredibly privileged to make this film.

PAUL: I know you met -- the last time you met with her was in January. What was that meeting like?

HERCULES: Actually we met -- well the last time we saw her was actually in April. We went to the installation of her portrait at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. We filmed that. And that was the last time that Rita and I and our crew Keith Walker our VP and everybody that was the last time we saw Maya Angelou in person.

And she was in tremendous spirits. I mean can you imagine a woman who came from her roots, from Arkansas, from the Deep South, from tremendous segregation and poverty to having her portrait installed at the National Portrait Gallery is an amazing event.

PAUL: Well that's what I was wondering. What did she think of the fact that you were doing the documentary of her?

HERCULES: Well she was very supportive of the film we started working on this film about two and a half years ago. And we got her permission and her exclusive basically to do the film. She was very supportive of doing the film. We -- I think we have done over the past year and a half three days of interviews with her so we got a lot of her story on tape, luckily. She was in great spirits. She was full of energy during all of those interviews. Like I said she is a riveting person. I -- I still think of her in the present. It's hard to imagine that she has passed. But she was -- she was a giant in the world of arts and politics and political activism in America. She was a true American icon.

And her story is -- I just tell people she was a woman who lived the lives of 12 people. So it's -- our biggest challenge probably is how to take this enormous story and take it down to a 90-minute film.

BLACKWELL: You know you could have named this a lot of things: the world's poet, the poet of the times, the 21st, 20th century poet. Why did you choose "The People's Poet" specifically?

HERCULES: Well "The People's Poet" I think is an appropriate name because Maya comes from a hard scrabble background and comes from a difficult background and overcame a lot of challenges just like a lot of people in life. And she always connected to average people. She was -- she was a -- she had a way of communicating with people from all walks of life.

And one of -- I think one of the greatest traits she had was she bridged across all kinds of divides. Racial divides, religious socioeconomic everything. That was one of her true gifts. And so "The People's Poet" title kind of evokes that ability she had.

BLACKWELL: Bob Hercules, thank you so much. We look forward to seeing the documentary on 2016 on PBS.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: We're looking forward to it.

HERCULES: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Bob.

HERCULES: All right. One quick shout-out to Rita Coburn Whack. The co-director who should be on the show right now.

BLACKWELL: And thank you to Rita too.

PAUL: And thank you to Rita.

RITA COBURN WHACK, CO-DIRECTOR, MAYA ANGELOU: THE PEOPLE'S POET: Thanks guys.

HERCULES: Ok. Thank you.

PAUL: So listen, get ready for a historic event here. Fabian Cousteau is attempting something no exploration crew has ever done not even his own grandfather.

Hi, Fabian. We are talking to him in a minute.

FABIAN COUSTEAU, UNDERWATER EXPLORER: How are you?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Michael Smerconish.

Coming up on my program this morning, heads are rolling at the V.A. and joining me will be two members of the Congressional Veterans Committee.

Plus, one of my guests has profiled, interviewed and been alone with more than 80 serial killers. Hear what she has to say about the murderous crime spree in California.

Plus, what if I told you that your right to bear arms is not your right at all.

We have a great program, terrific guests. I'll see you here at the top of the hour. Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: That's a provocative question right there at the top.

PAUL: I was going to say.

BLACKWELL: Michael thank you very much. "SMERCONISH" airs this morning at the top of the hour 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Just 12 minutes from now.

PAUL: Yes. That will have a lot of people talking.

All right. Would you live under water for an entire month if you could? Well, maybe you could. Coming up soon. BLACKWELL: Yes. In just a matter of hours, ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau will splash down near the Florida Keys. He's going to start his month-long under water study more than 60 feet below the surface.

PAUL: It is called Mission 31. So for 31 days, he and a team of aquanauts are going to live, work and dive under water to study things like pollution and climate change. It is all happening in a one-of-a- kind research lab here.

BLACKWELL: Guess what? We have Fabien Cousteau live with us now from Islamorada, Florida -- also the grandson of the same ocean pioneer Jacques Cousteau. Good to have you doing something that even your grandfather never did. First up, do you have to live under water for 31 days to find out what you are hoping to find?

COUSTEAU: It's great to see you guys virtually. I wish you were down here. It is a beautiful day out.

PAUL: Hey, you know, we will come down if you want us to come to Florida. I mean what the heck.

BLACKWELL: You just have to ask once.

COUSTEAU: You should. You should come, play with our beautiful toys. It is necessary to live on the frontier in order to be able to film things that you can't from the surface. And giving us a full lunar cycle to do so gives us the luxury of seeing and documenting things as well as bringing back scientific data that otherwise you just can't do.

PAUL: Ok. But you're going to be under water for 31 days, I mean physically and mentally. How have you all prepared for this?

COUSTEAU: It is a fairly unusual endeavor. It does require a lot of preparation. So we have been just through the last ten days of very intensive training with helmets as well as full face masks and we're training with some of our latest greatest equipment.

And this is very unusual diving. It allows us to dive anywhere from 8 to 10 hours a day, but we have to be able to go through some of the contingencies that normal recreational scuba divers do not. Now I brought a smattering of some of our equipment that we will be using down there specifically for Mission 31 from these wonderful water shot housings that were custom-built just for us so that we can share stories via social media.

PAUL: Wow.

COUSTEAU: And we can bring these lovely Nokia devices that we'll be able to put in there and go down to up to 100 meters into the water. Beyond that, we have some wonderful cameras that only the best and the brightest in Hollywood use such as James Cameron. We have the Red Dragon 6K resolution camera which is nine times what HD can bring you in resolution.

BLACKWELL: Wow. COUSTEAU: As well as these wonderful amphibical (ph) housings and we've got some of the top cameramen in our team such as Tom Hamilton, Cape Evans, and Matt Ferraro and others who are going to help us bring back live and taped beautiful imagery from underwater at Mission 31.

BLACKWELL: I'm sure the pictures are going to be phenomenal.

PAUL: Right. But from 60 feet under are you telling me -- you mentioned Twitter and Facebook. Are you going to be able to communicate to Facebook and Twitter?

BLACKWELL: I can't get Wi-Fi in my kitchen. You are getting it 60 feet below the surface?

PAUL: Is that right?

COUSTEAU: Well, that's a wonderful point. For the first time ever, we are able to invite the world in real time on a Cousteau expedition which was never available before but now in the only under sea marine laboratory in the world, Aquarius, run by FIU, Florida International University, we have Wi-Fi. So we're able to talk to you like we're doing right now from under water.

BLACKWELL: So, we hope, of course, everything goes well. But in the case of an emergency, what is the plan?

COUSTEAU: There are a lot of plans. It depends on the emergency whether it is a physiological emergency or whether there is a problem with something functioning or misfunctioning in and around the habitat. There are a lot of contingency plans. We have been training for that. And hopefully, just because it is the start of hurricane season, we won't need to deal with that either. But there are a lot of considerations with something so complex and, of course, living under water for 31 days, which is a very, very unusual thing to do.

PAUL: So, we have to ask, what do you think your grandfather would be thinking of this whole thing right now?

COUSTEAU: Well, as you probably know, this is based on the exploits of Con-Shelf 2 where his team lived and worked under water for 30 days in the Red Sea. We are symbolically doing one day longer to honor him and aquanauts after that and future aquanauts, we hope.

I think he would be thrilled because this is the next fin step in ocean exploration with regard to human beings. We will be using a lot of different kinds of tools that just weren't available to him in his time.

PAUL: Well, Fabien Cousteau, we will be entrenched with you watching this whole thing. Thank you so much. And best of luck to you. We will be keeping you in our thoughts and prayers for sure.

COUSTEAU: Thank you so very much. Watch us live at Mission-31.com.

PAUL: All right. That's what I was just going to say, Mission-31.com is where you can find it. Good luck, my friend. Thank you. BLACKWELL: Fabien, thank you.

COUSTEAU: Thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: Looking forward to seeing those photographs especially.

COUSTEAU: Me too.

PAUL: That's awesome.

BLACKWELL: You know, something else you have to see and we've got it right now. This Oregon bus driver being called a hero after quick thinking on a busy street -- you have got to see these pictures.

PAUL: You know what that is there on the side of the road?

BLACKWELL: Yes. It's a toddler.

PAUL: It's a kid.

BLACKWELL: Just here abandoned on this road all alone. You will want to see how this ends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Good stuff now. This actually is great. This is great stuff.

PAUL: You know what -- very good point.

BLACKWELL: This bus driver in Oregon, understandably being called a hero this morning because of this dramatic rescue.

PAUL: Bill Clark's quick thinking saved a two-year-old from what really at the end of the day could have been a horrible accident.

Here is CNN's John Berman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLARK, BUS DRIVER: He was in the middle of Linden Avenue.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A routine bus ride comes to a halt as an eagle-eyed bus driver sees a toddler wandering on to a busy street alone.

CLARK: I have to stop that bus and get that child out of the street.

BERMAN: Bill Clark hit the brakes on this city bus spotting two-year- old James in the street barefoot and wearing only a diaper and t- shirt.

CLARK: He started and made a beeline for me and the bus. I asked him several questions. And when I realized I wasn't going to get any response that is when I took his hand and headed toward the bus.

BERMAN: After calling the police, Clark and the passengers patiently waited with the boy who did not speak until Clark said the magic word.

CLARK: When I finally got the hot chocolate, he came right back with his own little "chocolate" and there we were.

BERMAN: Police say James wandered out of his apartment while his father was asleep and his mother at work. The toddler was eventually reunited with his parents who had reported him missing. As for Clark, he says he is no hero.

CLARK: I just think that it is my place to do whatever I can to help out in this world when I can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Boy, did he ever.

BLACKWELL: Well done. Child services interviewed James' parents, but they are not facing charges. Clark also says that he hopes that they put better locks on their doors.

PAUL: It was frantic time for that mom and dad.

BLACKWELL: Hot chocolate.

PAUL: My kids, they would recognize that, too. Trust me.

BLACKWELL: The international offering of goodwill.

Thanks for starting your morning with us.

PAUL: "SMERCONISH" starts right now. We will see you at 10:00.