Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Donald Sterling Lashes Out; Crisis in Iraq
Aired June 19, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fights any suggestion that it's time for him to go.
Plus, Donald Sterling caught on tape again, making offensive and outrageous remarks in his ugly battle to hold onto the L.A. Clippers.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD STERLING, OWNER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: I'm not incompetent. You are (EXPLETIVE DELETED) competent, you stupid (EXPLETIVE DELETED) doctor.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KEILAR: Wolf Blitzer is on assignment today. I'm Brianna Keilar and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The commander in chief who pulled American troops out of Iraq now is sending U.S. military advisers back in. President Obama has laid out his initial response to the onslaught by ISIS terrorists. He's holding out the possibility of additional action, promising that it will be limited and won't involve full-scale fighting.
But when it comes to Iraq, many war-weary Americans are skeptical.
CNN has a team on the ground in Iraq covering right now all of the angles.
And first to our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, what we understand that is going to happen, there will be troops put on the ground here in Baghdad and also troops put on the ground in the north of Iraq, but the president making very clear they're not going to be going into combat.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): President Obama says forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, as he announces his plan to deal with that country's rapidly escalating crisis.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisers, up to 300. And going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.
ROBERTSON: The question now, is it enough to turn back or even halt the stunning advances by the militant group ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, now in control of vast parts of north and central Iraq?
This ISIS video allegedly shows militants overrunning an Iraqi army base, burning an American Humvee. CNN cannot independently confirm its authenticity. While many Iraqi ground forces have fled the ISIS advance, Iraqi aircraft are striking back.
Officials claim this attack killed 50 militants. Thousands are fleeing the violence. Many residents of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, have wound up in Irbil in the autonomous Kurdish region, where refugee camps are growing.
Gas lines are popping up as ISIS fighters and Iraqi security forces continue to battle for control of one of the country's largest oil refineries. Each side is claiming to have the upper hand.
As the crisis grows, faith in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki plummets, with Western leaders blaming him for creating conditions that made the ISIS onslaught possible.
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There's no doubt that the government of Iraq has not given enough attention to healing sectarian divides, to including Sunni and Kurds in the government, to bringing the country together.
OBAMA: Only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.
ROBERTSON: The prime minister's office tells CNN it has not received an official statement asking for him to step down. But a senior Iraqi source tells us, only Iraq's religious leaders have the power and influence to force Maliki out. And so far, they're showing no inclination to do that.
ROBERTSON: And with Maliki continuing to cling to power as he does, and even with heightened security here in Baghdad, another three car bombs this day, three people killed, 15 wounded. And that kind of figure is relatively low for this city -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Oh, that is something. All right, Nic Robertson in Baghdad, thank you.
And let's check in now with more of our team on the ground in Iraq.
Arwa Damon is in Irbil. And, Arwa, watching all of this happen, it just begs the question
and we have heard U.S. officials say that they want to avoid -- we heard the president say this today -- to avoid sliding into a civil war. But what you're seeing happen, does it meet the definition of a civil war, do you think?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it's so multilayered and complex, Brianna. You really have this Sunni insurgency that is being currently dominated by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but it most certainly is pitting the Sunni population that has been feeling really disenfranchised by the prime minister's form of governance, viewing his policies as being geared towards the Shia majority, towards his Shia base, his politics incredibly polarizing and really ripping this country apart along sectarian lines.
And so it looks like it might be Sunni vs. Shia at this stage. But like everything that happens in this battlefield, again, it's a very multilayered tapestry of different things intersecting within one another. The Sunnis that are currently seeming to be fighting alongside ISIS do not subscribe to their ideology.
And some of the leadership amongst the Sunni politicians, they will tell you that what they're really looking for is a more even balance of power when it comes to Baghdad. Why are they allying with ISIS? Well, perhaps it is because they are hoping that this type of violent action will then put enough pressure on the government in Baghdad to give them the political concessions that they want to see.
So it's very difficult at this stage to really accurately define what is happening here.
KEILAR: So you're mentioning Sunnis fighting alongside ISIS. They aren't necessarily aligned with ISIS, but there they are. It seems like it's not just ISIS that Iraqi security forces are taking on, right?
DAMON: Right. And they're not.
You have the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters that are very well armed. That are incredibly well-funded. It's described as being one of the richest terrorist organizations in the world. Plus, they have a plethora of suicide bombers at their disposal. As one ISIS fighter on his way into Syria was boasting to CNN not too long ago, they have more volunteer suicide bombers than they have vehicles for them to drive.
When it comes to the other Sunni groups that have this loose allegiance with them, they don't have those kinds of means at their disposal. It is an alliance of convenience. According to one individual WHO IS very close to some of the Sunni insurgent leadership, he said, look, we have to make our bed with the devil, because we feel at this stage that we have no choice. But we also realize that there will come a point in time when we are going to have to figure out how we're going to deal with this problem that is called ISIS. KEILAR: Yes.
DAMON: But they're making the calculation that, at this stage, trying to deal with the political situation, trying to deal with this predominantly Shia government is a bigger priority than the fact that this terrorist organization is gaining a stronger foothold into the country.
The problem with that logic, though, and the problem that the nation is going to face in the future as this moves forward is that ISIS does not abide by any sort of rules that are set forward to it. It does have this agenda of setting up an Islamic caliphate. And at this stage on the ground, when it comes to the Sunni fighting force, it's the most powerful, so potentially going to create an even more violent situation than what we're seeing right now.
KEILAR: All right, Arwa, I want to bring Nic back in.
You're in Baghdad, Nic. How much concern is there that ISIS will get into Baghdad? It's not very far away.
I think the feeling here is that they're unlikely to come running through the streets, that the city's defenses, checkpoints are not going to collapse. But, essentially, ISIS is already here, because they have suicide bomb-making cells in this city. Witness the three bombs today and the half-dozen in the past couple of days.
So they're here, but it's, what can they do? The concern is that they may get closer, may try to launch some kind of offensive on the airport. The airport is a massive site, but what they could do is just stand back and shell it from a distance. They have now captured these huge Howitzer long-range artillery pieces. They have got tanks that they didn't have before that they have looted on this rampage through the north of Iraq.
So, they have got a greater ability. And it's that -- the fear would be cutting the city off, shelling into it. That's the concern, not them running through the streets.
KEILAR: All right, Nic Robertson in Baghdad, Arwa Damon in Irbil, thanks to both of you.
And still ahead, Donald Sterling lets loose again in that legal battle over the sale of the L.A. Clippers. He's very angry and, once again, his rant has been recorded. Stand by to find out who was the target of this verbal attack.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STERLING: What a horrible woman you are. All did was go to the Beverly Hills Hotel and drink liquor.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KEILAR: The Donald Sterling scandal just keeps getting uglier. His estranged wife now is accusing him of trying to intimidate witnesses in their legal fight over the sale of the L.A. Clippers and, once again, offensive audio recordings have surfaced.
Our Brian Todd has been digging on what I will say is a very -- this is a very weird story, as are all things Sterling.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It never stops getting weird, Brianna.
TODD: Donald Sterling had a bad afternoon on June 9. He made several calls that day to his estranged wife's attorneys and to doctors who had diagnosed him as mentally incompetent.
The calls were brought before a judge today, an effort to prove Sterling tried to intimidate witnesses. The judge rejected that. But this could hurt Donald Sterling in his attempt to block the sale of the L.A. Clippers.
TODD (voice-over): The calls were abrupt, menacing, crude. Donald Sterling, seemingly unable to avoid controversial tape recordings, apparently strikes again.
STERLING: I'm not incompetent. You are (EXPLETIVE DELETED) competent, you stupid (EXPLETIVE DELETED) doctor.
I'm going to get you fired from UCLA, because you're nothing but a tramp.
TODD: That voice-mail was allegedly left for a doctor who had diagnosed Sterling as mentally incapacitated, the audiotape presented in a California courtroom today by lawyers for Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly. A judge denied Shelly Sterling's request to protect witnesses like that doctor from allegedly being threatened and intimidated by Donald Sterling.
In another voice-mail message to a neurologist who had diagnosed him with signs of Alzheimer's and dementia, Donald Sterling goes off.
STERLING: What a horrible woman you are. All did was go to the Beverly Hills Hotel and drink liquor. You're nothing but a fraud and a liar and a cheat. And I'm going to see that you lose your license, and I'm suing you for conspiracy.
TODD: In court papers, Shelly Sterling's lawyer, Pierce O'Donnell, claimed Donald Sterling called him and -- quote -- "began by yelling, 'You're an a-hole.' Mr. Sterling then shouted even louder and said in a menacing tone, 'I'm going take you out, O'Donnell.'"
PIERCE O'DONNELL, ATTORNEY FOR SHELLY STERLING: I took that as a death threat. That hasn't happened in 40 years of being a trial lawyer.
TODD: Donald Sterling's lawyer Bobby Samini says he was with Sterling when he made that call to O'Donnell, says he never heard Sterling say he would take out O'Donnell.
BOBBY SAMINI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD STERLING: There was no threat made object his life. That's just a ridiculous statement.
TODD: Donald Sterling's attorneys acknowledge Sterling made those calls and left those voice-mails. They say he wasn't threatening the doctors, just frustrated that his medical records were released to the public.
But could this hurt Sterling's case next month? Could it prompt the judge to find he's mentally incompetent?
CHRIS LEIBIG, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Being rude isn't enough. Being a jerk isn't enough. Having bad judgment isn't enough. It has to be a true mental problem.
TODD: Attorney Chris Leibig says if Donald Sterling's lawyers can convince the judge that he was just maybe frustrated, that he was under a lot of stress, just frustrated because his medical information got out, and if Donald Sterling apologizes, that maybe he can get past all this.
That trial to determine Sterling's mental competence and whether Shelly Sterling can sell the Clippers on her own starts on July 7. Brianna, there will be some fireworks.
KEILAR: Oh, sure. And, as we see here, even with -- aside from these calls, there were issues or questions of his mental competence, right?
TODD: That's right.
Those doctors last week had reported that in tests they gave him, Sterling was unaware of what season of the year it was, that he was unable to spell the word "world" backwards, that he had difficulty drawing a clock. Donald Sterling's attorneys say that this is the best opinion money can buy, these people were paid off, and they're emphatic he's not mentally incompetent. That's really what is going to be the crux of that trial.
KEILAR: All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much.
OK, I want to go now to Don Lemon, as well as CNN's Rachel Nichols.
I'm just going to have you react to this. So, you heard Brian saying that his -- you know, there's this question of if he can prove that he's frustrated or stressed. I mean, you guys have been frustrated or stressed, I'm assuming you don't make these kind of phone calls. RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Where do you want us to start? Rachel, go ahead. Yes, Rachel, you go first.
NICHOLS: Look, there's nothing Donald Sterling does anymore that surprises any of us. Certainly, Don and I know that.
He could walk into that courtroom next month, disappear into a puff of smoke, leave a jack-in-the-box in his place and we would say, yes, that sounds about right. So, these aren't surprising. But they're certainly not good for him.
It shows once again how he is a bully. It shows once again, frankly, the misogyny that's been the underlying issue. The racism got all the attention over this last couple months, but there's been a lot of misogyny along the way with Donald Sterling as well, sexism.
And here he goes once again calling a professional doctor who has gone through years of schooling a tramp, just because he doesn't like her opinion. So, these are not helping him in the court of public opinion. They probably won't help him in the courtroom next month.
And, gee, Donald Sterling, you just got to give us more, don't you?
KEILAR: Oh, my goodness, Don, it's like never-ending. What were you thinking when you heard these?
LEMON: Well, everyone's going to be shocked. But it actually saddens me, because this is -- we are watching a man in the sunset of his life implode and unravel.
LEMON: And he is doing it publicly. And he should have the good sense about him. Most people do. When you have been caught on audiotape doing something terrible, he should not do it again.
You're leaving a voice-mail. It is being recorded. You are -- you have been accused of racism. Now you're going to be accused of misogyny.
Obviously, there's something wrong with Donald Sterling. This is what happens when someone of privilege is used to getting their way all the time, and all of a sudden the tide doesn't go his way and he's not getting his way. He's unraveling. This is what happens when you don't take the time to examine your motives, examine yourself, examine your beliefs, and...
NICHOLS: Examine your life.
LEMON: And examine your life. Thank you very much, Rachel Nichols.
KEILAR: So, Rachel, what does the NBA -- they're looking, they're hearing this, they're seeing this. What -- what are folks in the NBA saying about this?
NICHOLS: Well, look, Donald Sterling is still an NBA owner as of right now.
NICHOLS: He still technically owns the L.A. Clippers, so they got to pay attention to all this.
Now, they're expected to have a board of governors meeting in about a month. They will be able to officially vote in the new ownership, although they are looking for some of these issues in probate court to be adjudicated by then.
Obviously, though, this in some ways only helps the NBA's case, certainly, in the billion-dollar lawsuit that Donald Sterling has filed against them, claiming that the lifetime ban and the fine were inappropriate. Here, they can put out further evidence and say, look, he is harmful to the league. He's harmful to the image of the league.
LEMON: And, Rachel...
LEMON: Rachel and Brianna, everything he's done after the tape -- I mean, the tape was bad enough. The original tape with V. Stiviano, that was bad enough. But everything he has done publicly since that tape has done nothing but harm him. He has not helped his own case.
Even his own attorney here on THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER did not help his case. He's making things worse. And so I think, as I said, he's in the sunset of his life. He should have someone there, like a wife or a friend or someone, that says, hey, Donald, listen.
NICHOLS: He's driven them all away.
LEMON: ... stop it.
KEILAR: Yes, but I also wonder if you -- I'm assuming that some people are trying to counsel him, Don and Rachel, and he may just also not be listening. He seems like he's pretty headstrong, even if he doesn't quite
have a grip on what is going on.
LEMON: He needs what Britney Spears' parents did for her. I forget what you call it.
NICHOLS: A conservatorship.
LEMON: He needs a conservatorship.
KEILAR: Yes. Yes.
NICHOLS: Although, I will say, I will say listen and think about this as we go through this next month. Who stands to benefit from all of this? All the lawyers involved, right, that while...
LEMON: And Shelly.
NICHOLS: Perhaps. Perhaps, although it's her -- it's her nest egg that's being eaten away, too, by all these legal fees on both sides.
He's got longtime lawyers who have been with him for decades who are talking in his ear and saying to him, yes, you go get them, Donald. You sue. You fight her.
They're benefiting from this as well. So, you talk about confidantes, people who are close to him, who should be advising him for him to just turn the page and walk away. Well, some of his closest confidantes right now are sadly the lawyers around him.
LEMON: Yes. And they're eating into the profits that he might -- will have from the sale of this team. He would have even more money to retire on. So would Shelly. And now they're eating into that. I'm sure his legal fees will be into the millions of dollars.
KEILAR: Oh, but I think there's still going to be plenty left over.
KEILAR: Rachel Nichols, Don Lemon, thank you to both of you.
LEMON: How will he survive?
KEILAR: Yes. Thanks, guys.
KEILAR: Now, just ahead, an emotional first pitch at a softball game that brought members of Congress together against journalists, including me -- the play-by-play after this.
KEILAR: A very special beginning to this year's sixth annual Congressional Women's Softball Game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gabby Giffords, everybody.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, injured in a shooting in Arizona in 2011, threw out the first pitch last night.
And I will tell you, three months of 7:00 a.m. practices came down to this, members of Congress putting aside their differences to take on two common foes, cancer and, yes, the press.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Number 17, Kelly Ayotte.
KEILAR (voice-over): It's a rare thing on Capitol Hill these days, members of Congress from opposing parties cheering each other on.
But one night every year, the members team, a group of female senators and representatives, takes on the Bad News Babes. That would be my team, a team of Washington journalists with a strong showing from the women of CNN.
The Congressional Women's Softball Game brings out big names, Republican House Speaker John Boehner is a regular in the stands.
Wednesday, the lady lawmakers' bipartisan spirit propelled them to a 10-5 victory.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We love seeing our Democratic and Republican women, women House and Senate, working together. And you all played very well. We just played better.
KEILAR: The game raises money for the Young Survival Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting young women diagnosed with breast cancer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
KEILAR: An issue dear to DNC Chair and co-captain of the members team Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is a breast cancer survivor.
(on camera): You put your all into this.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, it's just -- it means so much for all of to us come out here and do all we can to make sure we can raise awareness about young women and their likelihood of getting breast cancer.
KEILAR (voice-over): But the game also fosters relationships inside of Congress that otherwise wouldn't exist.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: It's awesome, because it's bipartisan, bicameral. I have met people playing this game that I don't think I ever would have interacted with. And so it's great. The relationships you make here, you do take back to Congress.
KEILAR: And that sometimes tense relationship between the press corps and politicians, it gets a workout too.
(on camera): But let's be honest. Isn't a little bit of sweet revenge here?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: There's way more than a little bit of sweet revenge, my friend. We -- that #takebackthetrophy, that's what it was all about.
KEILAR: Now, the congresswoman actually pulled a hamstring last night as she was running into second base. She left the game on crutches.
So, we're hoping that she's certainly feeling better -- of course, good enough, we would say, for a rematch. She looked pretty good there by the end of the game.
And a reminder that tonight is CNN's original series "The Sixties: The War in Vietnam." You can watch it live or set your DVR for 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
And thank you so much for watching. I'm Brianna Keilar.