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Donald Sterling Could Testify in Court Today; No Military Options to Resolving Iraq Insurgency; No Fireworks for July 4 Weekend Box Office

Aired July 8, 2014 - 08:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Chicago's police superintendent blaming the recent surge in violence on weak gun laws. Over the holiday weekend, at least nine people were killed, dozens more wounded after shooting incidents across the city.

President Obama has offered to meet with Governor Rick Perry over immigration when he visits Texas tomorrow. At this point there are no plans, though, for the president to visit the border.

Donald Sterling could be called to testify today in the ongoing court battle over the Los Angeles Clippers. The trial will determine if his wife, Shelly Sterling, can make a $2 billion deal to sell my Clipper, I did say my?

We're always updating the five things to know. So be sure to go to for the very latest -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much, Michaela.

So did the Obama administration ignored warnings that Iraq would collapse in the sectarian violence if the prime minister there stayed in power.

Now, "Washington Post" op-ed of former American official in Iraq admits he support Nouri al-Maliki but eventually raised the alarm saying quote "in 2006 I helped introduce Maliki to the U.S. ambassador recommending him as a promising option for prime minister. By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki."

Joining us now is the author of that op-ed, Ali Khedery. He worked with five U.S. ambassadors, three heads of U.S. sector command in Iran. He is currently the chairman and CEO of Dragoman partners.

Ali, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.


BERMAN: I want to do two things here. I want to get your elevator pitch. Back in 2006, what did you like so much about Nouri al-Maliki? Why did you think he would be such a good prime minister? KHEDERY: Well, we have to go back to 2006 and remember that Iraq had

just plunged into a civil war as a result of the Samarra mosque bombing. And the elections winners, the Shi'a alliance were deadlocked between two leaders who are very close to Iran at the time. And so, what I and several colleagues recommended to the ambassador was that we find somebody who was more of an Arab nationalist who was more isolated from Iran, somebody who was thus politically weak and would have to build a broad coalition among Iraq's other leaders in order to lead the country out of the civil war. And frankly, that he's exactly what Prime Minister Maliki did until 2009. And after 2009 he became more dictatorial than a nationalist.

BERMAN: More dictatorial. What did you not like about him? You thought he was great in 2006. You thought he was man, the Shi'a nationalist, the Arab nationalist to bring that country together. By 2009 you had turned on him, why?

KHEDERY: Well, in 2006 and 2007 Prime Minister Maliki moved very aggressively to crush Al Qaeda. And then in 2008, in the famous charge of the knights operation in Basrahi (ph), he crashed (INAUDIBLE) militia that killed hundreds if not thousand American soldiers. So again, Maliki did exactly what he should have done until 2008.

Unfortunately though, by 2009 after President Obama was elected and vowed to extract the United States from Iraq very quickly, Maliki sensed that vacuum and began to fill it and he did so by essentially hijacking the organs of the Iraqi state and replacing them with his own party and his own inner circle.

BERMAN: And you now say that you warned the Obama administration that you saw bad things coming from Prime Minister Maliki. So what did you want the Obama administration to do about it?

KHEDERY: Well, now I think it's very important for the United States first to be realistic with the situation on the ground. We have to admit that, frankly, we allowed ourselves to be strategically defeated in Iraq, when we backed Maliki was a second term in 2010. Then we have to acknowledge the fact that Iraq is now an Iranian vessel, an Iranian ally, which is actively supporting the genocide in Syria, which is feeding into a broader regional holy war, and then what we need to do is freeze all American cooperation with the Iraqi government until Prime Minister Maliki steps down, and until the Iraqi political leaders are able to form a national unity government that fairly represents all Iraqis, because if we continue to sell Baghdad f-16s, apaches and hellfire missiles, all that's going to do is feed into the regional holy war which will devastate American industries and probably lead to another 9/11.

BERMAN: You occupy an interesting place in this debate, though, essentially what you're saying is that the U.S. should have turned on Maliki sooner, didn't do enough against Maliki sooner. I'm still not clear what the United States could have done? He was more or less elected by, you know, in the end. He, through parliamentary maneuvers got himself a second term as prime minister. Then Obama with the status of forces agreement didn't want to leave U.S. troops there, saying you know what prime minister, if you're going to be so hard, if you're going to make this so difficult you're on your own, pal.

KHEDERY: It's actually a common misperception that Maliki was elected into office. In fact he was not. He lost the 2010 elections to a more secular, moderate pro-western Iraqi coalition led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, known as Iraqiya (ph). And we sat back and actively watched as the Iranian government formed Maliki's cabinet in Iran in September 2010, and that's when I urged vice president Biden and other senior White House officials that we need to do something about this to make sure that Iraq does not become an Iranian client state. Unfortunately, the White House refused to do so. And that's now why we're facing this tragic situation in Iraq. It is very dangerous situation for the United States and its regional allies.

BERMAN: Dangerous for the entire world right now as everyone's watching this.

So in closing, do you want to see the U.S. do more or less in Iraq? Do you want to see more U.S. advisers on the ground? Do you want to see more U.S., the U.S. trying to put its thumb pressure on what goes on in that country or do you think the U.S. needs to pull back right now because Maliki is still very much in power there?

KHEDERY: It's not an issue of more or less. It's an issue of doing the right things. What we need to do is again acknowledge and identify who our real friends are across the Middle East are and who are our real enemies. And rather than encouraging, for example, Iranian intervention in Iraq and rather than continuing to arm prime minister Maliki with advanced American hard wire as he welcomes Syrian and Iranian air strikes inside Iraqi territory, what we need to be doing is freezing all of our cooperation with the Iraqis until prime minister Maliki and other leaders are able to form a unity government that brings together all Iraqis, because that's the only way you can ever restore security and stability to Iraq is through a political solution.

There are absolutely no military options to resolving this insurgency, as indeed the United States military learned throughout the Iraqi civil war from 2004 until 2007 when General Petraeus succeeded in restoring order through the surge because that was a political campaign primarily, not a military campaign.

BERMAN: Well, the political campaign doesn't seem to be going well as the parliament there says it won't meet again for about another month now. They can't get their act together.

Ali Khedery, thank you for being with us. Appreciate the discussion.

KHEDERY: Thank you for having me.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the latest in the Sterling family battle over the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, after a very rocky start, Donald Sterling could be called to testify. What would that mean? We have the very latest.

Also, it was no holiday for Hollywood. The 4th of July weekend was a big box office bust. What's behind the dramatic summer ticket sale drop off?


BERMAN: Hi. Welcome back, everyone.

Donald Sterling could take the witness stand today at a hearing which will determine if his wife, Shelley, is legally allowed to sell the Los Angeles Clippers in a record $2 billion sale. A federal court kicked the legal battle back to the state level Monday and proceedings began immediately. And boy, did they get interesting fast.

Robin Abcarian with "the Los Angeles Times" joins us this morning.

Robin, I want to start with the question of which court, first of all, and get past that very quickly. Donald Sterling wanted this to stay in a federal court. Was that more than just a delaying tactic?

ROBIN ABCARIAN, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: No, I actually think it was a delaying tactic because what he was trying to get a federal judge to say was that his medical privacy rights which are federal privacy rights had been violated. But the federal judge basically said, you know, we don't handle these kinds of probate cases in this court and the probate court is well able to handle those issues. So he kicked it back to probate court yesterday, and that's when the proceedings began.

BERMAN: Donald Sterling lost that one and the proceedings began and they began fast, with lawyers for Shelley Sterling saying, you know, we want Donald Sterling on the stand. What's going on there?

ABCARIAN: Well, I think there was a little bit of drama in the courtroom. I mean obviously they knew Donald Sterling wasn't in the court, so when her lawyer stood up and said I'd like to call as my first witness Donald Sterling and turned with a flourish to look at the door, there was no Donald Sterling. So that sort of gave off the dramatic impression that the man was absent, you know, and this is the whole issue in this case, his mental presence or absence.

BERMAN: Let's talk about that, because that is what is at issue here, the mental state he is in, particularly, after this interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper. That's a big part of it. Is he mentally fit? Because in the ownership documents for this team between Shelley and Donald Sterling, if one of them is not mentally fit deemed so by a doctor, you know, control of the team goes to the other. That's the issue here.

ABCARIAN: That's right. And he says he is mentally fit, and Shelley Sterling has brought two experts in. The circumstances of her bringing them in is what Donald Sterling is disputing. He says there was fraud and that he was misled by these two people who came in and declared him slightly mentally incapacitated.

So I think both sides agree that there is some slight cognitive impairment, but Donald Sterling is arguing that he's not that impaired and Shelley is arguing that you are impaired enough to be removed from the trust, leaving me in charge of the Clippers' fate. BERMAN: You know, you make a key point there. He's arguing he's not

that impaired but he's also arguing that he was somehow tricked in to these examinations. Explain that.

ABCARIAN: Well, I mean, the both sides agreed that they're not going to make his mental condition the issue in this courtroom proceeding. So he is arguing, as is his only avenue I think to fight this thing, that he was tricked by his wife, who brought two experts in to his home to do tests. He claims he was tricked into a cat scan, a pet scan, some verbal testing and some conversation, and is saying now that he did not realize, you know, what the ultimate goal of that testing was. So he feels betrayed and in some ways, you know, this has taken a very sad twist in this case. This is a guy who, whatever else you think of him, has been betrayed a number of times as we've gone down the line. So it's kind of sad but it seems like it's marching toward a pretty inevitable conclusion.

BERMAN: And that conclusion is?

ABCARIAN: The sale of the Clippers, I would say. I mean we've got until July 15th as the sort of first fake deadline. And then ultimately, I think September 15th is the drop dead deadline. And I think the probate case or the probate judge is working in an expedited fashion so we'll have an answer long before September.

BERMAN: You know, whatever does happen, he'll end up with a lot of money, though, because this team, if it is sold, will sell for $2 billion. But as you said, Robin, it is interesting, this guy who has not engendered a lot of sympathy over the last several months for obvious justifiable reasons, many are saying is this old guy being treated fairly here.

ABCARIAN: That is the weirdest twist in the case I think.

BERMAN: All right, Robin, great to have you with us. Appreciate the discussion this morning.

ABCARIAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Next up for us on NEW DAY, Hollywood recovering from a 4th of July with no fireworks at all.

And one of the summer's big ticket sales weekend turned into a blockbuster bust?


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

There were no fireworks for the 4th of July weekend box office. The holiday weekend, I see you reaching over to tap Ryan. The holiday weekend brings in all sorts of big bucks for blockbuster movies and family affairs. This year, though box office sales were down. They are bringing in $130 million compared to last year $230 million, making it one of the weakest 4th of Julys in at least a decade. Joining us Brain Stelter we'll call him, Brian Stelter, CNN media

correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCE." He is riding went out and just called it a dreadful 4th of July box office. It was that bad.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCE: It really was. It was down like 45 percent from the same time, same week last year and it was enough to drag down the whole average for the whole year so far. Now, this year compared to 2013 box office in the country is down four percent.

So this is probably a temporary blip. It's because none of the movies are actually worth seeing. But it was a pretty dramatic drop.

BERMAN: But that makes a big difference. It helps having actual good movies. I should say I did my part.


STELTER: What did you see?

BERMAN: I saw "how to train your dragon 2." I went to my annual trip to the movies with my boys. But there was nothing else there. I was looking. Not a darned thing to see.

STELTER: (INAUDIBLE) is tweeting us before the block says "and I actively want to go to a movie but there's nothing on I'm the least bit interested in."

BOLDUAN: I also saw the studios, weren't they also blaming the world cup as well.

STELTER: So many excuses. Great weather across the country, but regardless of the weather, and by the way, there was a hurricane going up the east coast last weekend that would have maybe kept people indoors going to see movies.

These are all excuses. The reasons are these movies are stinkers and it's good that the box office is down because hopefully that means people are voting. People are voting with their dollar.

PEREIRA: Hold on a second. Are they excuses or is this a real thing? For example it was on a, 4th of July was on a Friday. That's taking one of the days that people really typically go to see movie, date night, et cetera, et cetera on Friday night. So their box office would be hit by that. Is that not a reality?

STELTER: There is some truth to that and there are some larger trends that the industry has to grapple with. One is the fact it's getting better to watch movies from the couch.

BOLDUAN: That's what I was wondering.

STELTER: You know, I find myself more and more renting those films that are still in theaters.


STELTER: Well, there is that. Bu there is also building out rent movies still in theater for $10, or $15 or even $20.

PEREIRA: Better snacks, better seating and better company, especially at Michael's place.

STELTER: Four or five people around the couch, actually, is worth paying $20 for that movie at home.

BERMAN: What were supposed to be the big summer hits? I feel I don't know what the big movies were the summer were supposed to be.

STELTER: You know, "fast and furious 7" was going to be one of them. And unfortunately, Paul Walker's death caused that film to be postponed. It will still premiere, but it will premiere later. The studios aren't too worried about this current summer because they think about 2015, they think about 2016, they have films scheduled for the summer two years from now.

BERMAN: "Star Wars."

Lots of sequels coming.

STELTER: They know they got -- they get how many lots of sequels coming. But right now we are in this moment where --

PEREIRA: They're willing to take the hit?

STELTER: I think they are willing in this moment to take the hit. Of course, they'd like to have "deliver us from evil" or "earth to echo" be a big hit. But we are talking about "Tammy," before the break. There are movies that good/bad, and bad/good, bad/bad. There are some movies you just can't rescue.


STELTER: It still made $33 million over the weekend. Only cost --

PEREIRA: 20 to make it.

BERMAN: Is it harder to make good movies now. You know, everyone says this is the golden age of television, all the great art, all the great performances are happening on the small screen. Is it harder for the studios to make good films?

STELTER: I'd like to say it's easier. I'd like to say the technology makes it easier than ever, just last night I saw one of my favorite movies of the year so far. It is called "boyhood." It was filmed over the course 12 years and it cost, I think, only $5 million to make. And even though, it shows a boy grow up from age six to age 18. So the technology is there to make it easier to make these incredible events happen in theater.

PEREIRA: Should we say good-bye to those big box office, you know, record weekends of the past? BOLDUAN: Generally low expectations?

STELTER: I don't think so. Actually, I think last summer was the biggest mystery. So this feels like --

BOLDUAN: Can you remind me, what was the big hit last summer? I can't remember.

STELTER: There's one this summer.

BOLDUAN: "Despicable Me 2."

STELTER: There isn't a movie people can see again and again, there's one of those big ten-fold, that then brings other people to see other films as well. You need a couple of those each summer. And that's what's missing this summer, so far at least, home runs. There's been some singles and doubles but no big home runs.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be a good day this morning.

PEREIRA: Be sure to watch "RELIABLE SOURCES" Sunday at 11:00 a.m. eastern. Always a pleasure to have you, Brain.

STELTER: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Coming up for us, a 6-year-old Missouri boy on a mission and the community helping him out. This is "the good stuff" coming up next.


PEREIRA: All right, I'm going to warn you that today's "good stuff" might be a bit a tear jerker. It totally got me.

I want you to meet 6-year-old Braden Johnson from Cass County, Missouri. One day he noticed some of the gravesites at the local cemetery did not have flowers on them. That did not sit well with him. So for the last three years he has been on a mission to fix that. His simple and honest gesture of placing a single white flower on each and every grave is making his community take note.


HOLLY MILES, MISSOURI: He has lemonade stands, he sells brownies, he does whatever he can to raise money. Makes me want to cry, but to raise money to buy flowers to put on everyone's grave so no one is left out.


PEREIRA: You and me Holly Miles, I'm a mess talking about this. Holly heard about Braden's good deed was so touched by his kindness as she let a local news station know about it. They donate money to outstanding examples of paying it forward which is clearly what he is doing. Miles and a TV crew presented little Braden within $300. They asked him why he goes above and beyond, and he said he simply wants to honor the people that have passed away.

BOLDUAN: Tear-jerker.

PEREIRA: Is that just not the most lovely gesture from such a young soul.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is heartening. I want to see what he does later in life, if this is what he's doing now.

BERMAN: Who raised that kid? Because whatever they did and however they did it, they did a great job. I don't think those are most just pop up in a young man.

BOLDUAN: Yes, to have that perspective at such a young age. You said it, an old soul that little man has.


BOLDUAN: That's a good way to end the show. But a lot of news is going on. We'll pass it off to our friend, Brianna Keilar in the "NEWSROOM" in for Carol Costello.

Hey, Brianna.


Yes, that sure is the sweet little boy. You guys have a great day today. "NEWSROOM" starts now.