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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  May 23, 2014 2:00pm-3:31pm PDT

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a fresh look at the decade that changed the world. i'll have a special with chuck hagel. please be sure to tune in on memorial day and follow me on twitter @jaketapper. i turn you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." wolf. jake, thanks very much. happening now. breaking news, sterling agrees to sell the l.a. clippers. the owner is getting ready to get rid of this team and to let his estranged wife do the negotiating. is that good enough for the nba. and a clash on the eve of a critical election. why is president putin blaming the united states? and terrorists go hollywood but their brutal new video with sophisticated scenes of killings and bombings is all too real. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." let's go out to the breaking
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news. donald sterling may be bowing down after the inevitable after a rant was released by a girlfriend which has vowed to strip him of his team. the l.a. clippers' owner has agreed with his estranged wife to have her work out the sale. our analysts are standing by to give us the coverage that only cnn can deliver. let's begin with brian todd who has been working on breaking the latest details on this story. brian? >> new information tonight in a crucial turning point in this story. donald and shelly sterling now sending the first signals that they may be giving in and may sell the team that both of them had vowed to fight for. donald and shelly sterling have reached a deal for shelly sterling to negotiate what they would likely negotiate a voluntary seattle of the l.a. clippers. there have been discussions between shelly and the nba. >> this looks like the beginning of the end. >> reporter: attorneys would not
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comment. the league saying in a statement it's going ahead with its own process of terminating the sterling's ownership and proceeding towards a hearing on this matter on june 3rd where owners will vote on the matter but the league will not wait for ten days. privately, the league says the nba may want to avoid the vote for possible court proceedings. >> it's going to be very expensive. it's going to be politically disastrous for the nba if they have to go through a prolonged fight with the sterlings and this is a best solution for everyone. >> reporter: donald sterling told anderson cooper it would be hard to give up ownership but he hedged. >> sometimes it's better than fighting and maybe i have to settle for whatever they want to do. >> reporter: but shelly sterling, in an interview with abc, showed no signs of giving in. >> i think half the team is mine and i'll fight for it. >> reporter: what changed things? >> perhaps the sterling resolve has changed.
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and what all changes over time is perspective. i think the more crushing and sinking reality of that we're not going to win. >> reporter: the sterlings are also motivated to maximize the sale of the clippers. if they were to drag this out -- >> chances are sponsors would continue to leave the team and players would not renew their contracts. some players would boycott. what does that mean? people may not show up. the value of the team would go down. >> one thing that's not yet clear, whether shelly sterling would sell all of the clippers or if she's hoping to keep part of the team. her attorney a couple of weeks ago said she wanted to be a passive owner, not have a role in running the clippers but have a little bit of the team. for it is part, the nba says they both have to go completely. >> are you getting a sense that either way this is going to be resolved relatively quickly? >> we do believe that.
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for the nba to remove the sterl sterlings is scheduled june 3rd. they want this to move quickly so they can resolve it between now and then. >> the lawyers are very, very busy. or not so busy. thanks very much, brian, for that report. let's dig deeper right now. joining us is jeffrey toobin and lj granderson. does it look to you, don, as if the sterlings have blinked? >> i don't think so. i'm very skeptical about this, wolf, about him turning ownership over to her because i'm always looking for the angle of the out. what happens if they say, okay, legally he doesn't own the team anymore. you said it first that this only applied to donald sterling and now that she owns it, we don't need to go through these proceedings? i'm a little bit skeptical about this. i don't think the nba, and they have said as much, is going to
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accept it. they still see donald sterling as a principle owner and if i were the nba, that's the way i would look at it, too. >> lz, what about you? >> donald sterling has done this routine in the past. back in 1982 he said racist remarks in regards to a draft pick. ten owners got together and wanted to vote him out. he's apologized and promised to sell back in 1982 and he waited for the firestorm to go down. if i were the nba, i would push towards this june 3rd meeting, i would continue to say what commissioner silver has said in public to remind the sterlings that they are not going to get out of this by playing some sort of shell game. >> what do you think, jeffrey? >> i think it's over. they are selling the team. and if you look at what we've reported, it's not that donald sterling is turning over ownership to his wife shelly, he
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is saying that she can handle the sale. who is negotiating is irrelevant as long as the end result before june 3rd is that both sterlings are out the door. >> you know, there is a history, don, as you well know, of the sterlings getting involved in lawsuits, lit tig jous. they are getting up there in age. there's reports that he has prostate cancer. maybe he's ready to take the billion dollars and move on. >> maybe he is. and let's hope that he is. but you heard what he said. and he said, you know, i'm not going to sell my team and waffled a little bit, my partners, i'll do whatever they say. shelly sterling has said explicitly that she does not want to sell the team. why would they have a change of heart all of a sudden? i don't know how much age has to do with it, especially if you were someone or two people who were not used to other people
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telling you what to do, that you have done pretty much in your life exactly what you wanted to do and, as lz said, you've had lawsuits before. you've been caught at a similar game before. i just don't trust this deal. i understand what you're saying, jeffrey, that she can do the negotiating. i still don't trust it. i don't -- there's something that stinks to high heaven about this whole thing. >> there's one argument, lz, and it sort of backs up what jeffrey is saying and it's, for all practical purposes, over the sterlings have capitulated and they have blinked, if you will. that's one argument. the argument being that their lawyers and other atheir advise told them they have no case and may have to walk away with a lot less than the billion dollars. that's one argument that i've heard all day, lz. >> absolutely. i was with a high-ranking nba
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official yesterday and mark cuban made his comments regarding race tied to don sterling. the league is not blinking in terms of what they want to have happen. i think one of the other things that we need to talk about is the report that came out in "the l.a. times" in regards to the investigation that the nba did. it looked as though shelly sterling could pretend that she's he she's estranged but more and more reports are coming out that are linking her to him, the behavior within the clippers organization as well, saying that we don't want her involved as well because of things she has done. i think with the nba presenting this information, as much as the oral argument, the legal argument, just knowing that this information is there as well, also might have pushed them to make the move. i would keep pushing. i wouldn't stop pushing. >> the nba has made it clear they don't want him involved or her involved in the team in the summary of the sterling termination charge, the legal
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document that they filed, it said if the nba board of governors sustained the charge, the ownership interest of mr. and mrs. sterling in the clippers, will be terminated. they don't want her involved, certainly as a minority. >> and if people go to and read this incredible story about the machinations and the panic and lying and obstruction of justice by both donald and shelly sterling, as crazy as you think they are, they in this story, they are even crazier. so this thing is going to be over june 3rd one way or the other and the only thing the sterlings have to decide is whether they decide they leave or they are kicked in the pants. they appear to be moving in the right direction of selling the team volume ltearily.
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>> appear. that's the key word. >> just yesterday, we were having a different conversation with you, wolf. and the day before that we were having a different conversation. the day before that, it was a different conversation. as i said, when you read that l.a. times' article that jeffrey pointed out and also that lz pointed out, then you realize just how underhanded, allegedly, these guys can be. so that's why i say, you fool me once, shame on me. fool me twice, shame on you. so their stories and i would push as donald sterling as the principal owner, not as shelly as a principal owner. you never know with the law. you never know. >> lz, you cover sports. you know what is going on with the nba. back in 1981 when the sterlings bought the clippers, they paid 11 or $12 million for the team.
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now there are estimates that it would be worth 1 billion. one of the writers is suggesting that if they get a real bidding war going, it could go for 2 billion. is that realistic at all? >> i don't think so if you shake down the numbers. you've got to remember, this isn't the l.a. lakers. this is the clippers who just got good and they can sustain the success that they recently have had. success that is helped by the previous commissioner, commissioner stern. this is not as though it's a franchise that has a large number of base to compete with the l.a. lakers and so i think that's a hyperbole that the writer was making. >> a lot of people get mad at the players, oh, they are so overpaid. look how much money donald sterling is going to make for
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being an incompetent, horrible, racist owner. >> you took the words out of my mouth. look how much money those black people are making him, even a billionaire twice over now if he sells this team. >> and none of those fans could. to the game to see donald sterling. they come to see chris paul, they come to see blake -- i mean, this is why the players make a lot of money and they don't probably make enough money. >> guys, thanks very much. don't go too far, as i like to say, because you will be back later in "the situation room." more major developments moving ahead. our panel will be here. also, i'll speak live with james rainy, one of the l.a. times' writers who has obtained new dramatic details about the audiotape that started it all. he'll be joining us in "the situation room." up next, a possible tourist area threatened by a massive wildfire just as this holiday
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weekend gets under way. we're going live to arizona. and russian's president vladimir putin call it is a dangerous civil war. dozens are dead. cnn is on the ground. we'll go there. vo: once upon a time there was a boy who traveled to a faraway place where villages floated on water and castles were houses
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he's the softy: his sleep number setting is 35. you're the rock at 60. and snoring? sleep number's even got an adjustment for that. you can only find sleep number at a sleep number store. hurry in for memorial day weekend savings. all beds are on sale, starting at just $649.99. know better sleep with sleep number. let's get to a vi serious situation right now in arizona. enormous wildfire burning out of control between flagstaff and sedona. hundreds of wildfires are trying to contain it. this popular tourist area could be in trouble as the memorial day weekend is beginning.
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what can you tell us, ana? >> reporter: hey, wolf, this is still a very active firefighting situation. we have seen, for the most part, cooler, calmer temperatures and weather conditions today which has helped firefighters make progress but you can see that big, brown cloud of smoke behind me. we had a chance to go into the zone today and we saw that the fire fight was far from over. the heart of a fire is an inferno, unpredictable and confronting these flames, crews are fighting fire with fire. >> the smoke around the bend here is from burnout operations, controlled burns to get ahead of the wildfire by eliminating the fuel. >> reporter: nearly 1,000 firefighters are bad telling this blaze between sedona and flagstaff, arizona. it has charred more than 75 hundred acres of rocky forest lands. >> how challenging is this for you? >> it's extremely challenging. >> reporter: this is the northeast flank of the fire
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where trees are torching. we watched a fire go up a canyon wall. it's still a challenge to keep the fire from edging closer to hundreds of homes. >> this makes it too dangerous. that's why they have got the helicopters. >> reporter: nine helicopters are part of the air attack dousing the flames with 2,000 gallons of water in each run. the elite, highly trained hot shot firefighters are on the ground, cutting the fireline and doing back burns while watching the weather and especially the winds. it wasn't even a year ago that the deadly wildfire in yarnell claimed the lives of 18 colleagues. >> any lessons that you're implementing here? >> again, back to the basics, be prepared and make sure that the safety zones are in line. every time they are evaluating them and they have a place to go. >> reporter: overcommunication is the rule of thumb. safety reins supreme.
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are you worried about your house? >> no, not at all. >> reporter: why is that? >> those things are material. they can be replaced. the kids, the pets, the photos, those can't be replaced. >> reporter: so far, no homes lost and no injuries. no small feat in the ongoing fight to control the flames. still, just 5% contained, that's what they are saying right now. we should get an update on those containment numbers in the next few hours. we hope to see those numbers go up and the conditions are looking good but because of the challenges of where this fire is burning, that steep area is tough to get the ground crews in there and it could be seven to ten days before the fire is fully contained. >> it's going to ruin a lot of people's weekend plans. ana, thanks very much. firefighters are dealing with weather in rough terrain as they try to get the situation under control. let's discuss and get more information from holly with the u.s. forest service in
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flagstaff. does it look like it's going to be contained any time soon, holly? >> today we are winning the battle, wolf. and that's through the use of air support. they are doing burnout operations aerially, which means that they are dropping incendiary devices to help in the rugged terrain. >> what about the wind? is that a major factor today? >> the winds have actually been calmer than expected. however, we are always cautious with the low pressure systems that can bring thunderstorms and erratic winds and downdrafts. again, safety remains our number one priority. >> i assume one of the complicating factors is the drought that has been in the area for quite some time now, right? >> that is correct. northern arizona has about 25% of our normal snowpack. so in addition to the existing drought that has led to extremely dry and very flammable fuels across the forests. >> do you know the cause of
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these fires because there is some suspicion it could be arson. >> right now it is human caused. however, the exact cause is still under investigation. >> when you say human caused, does that mean some sort of criminal or just the mistakes, somebody threw a cigarette out of the car? what do you mean by human cause? >> it is still under investigation. however, the only other reason that fire start in this northern arizona area is due to lightning and we have not had any lightning in the area. it's human caused but still undetermined at this time. >> it seems to be pretty neearl in the season for these kinds of fires s there anything else going on that you can sense? >> we are about a month ahead of schedule due to the lack of snowpack and ongoing drought, like you mentioned earlier. so this is earlier in the year than normal. but we are prepared for it and we brought on crews that are training earlier than normal as well to prepare. >> the crews have a tough, tough
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job and we know that it's a dangerous job. a lot of -- remember what happened a year ago, 19 firefighters died in that yarnell hill wildfire that was going on. i guess for some of these firefighters, maybe all of them, it's an emotional moment right now. >> our number one priority is safety and that goal really means that every firefighter comes home safe every night and we do that in part by learning from previous incidents. >> thanks, holly. good luck to you. all of the men and women fighting these wildfires. thank you. >> absolutely. thank you as well, wolf. coming up, russia's vladimir putin blaming the united states for the escalating violence in ukraine. but does he already have his eyes on another target? and terrorists go hollywood. a group that is even too brutal for al qaeda puts its kidnapping
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it's now become the deadliest moment in ukraine, dozens are killed in bloody clashes as the deeply divided nation prepares for weekend presidential elections. pro-russian separatists are making an all-out effort to block the voting through violence and intimidation. but vladimir putin is blaming the u.s. for the unrest. jim sciutto is joining us now from donetsk, a rebel stronghold. what's the latest, jim? >> reporter: well, wolf, i'll tell you, in ukraine today, the contrasts are just jarring. in kiev it's calm. even on this main street in donetsk it's calm but we went 20 minutes outside of this town and found russian separatists acting with impunity. they say russia is directing them, even accusations of russian mercenaries on the ground and they say it's a
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direct threat to elections on sunday. it's a new explosion of violence in eastern ukraine that has the united states on edge. this is the bloody aftermath of several clashes between the ukrainian military and pro-russian militants. across the volatile region, it's the new flashpoint between the west and moscow. more than 30 people were killed. witnesses here expressing fear and confusion. >> translator: what is happening here? for a person who understands politics, i can't believe it. >> reporter: the challenges to sunday's election are growing more severe. here the self-declared donetsk people's republic destroyed ballot boxes and as we traveled east, we saw even worse. this is an election headquarters that was meant to be running sunday's vote but eyewitnesss say that armed pro-russian
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separatists gathered up all of the materials. this is an election manual and these are i.d. cards for election observers and burned them up and shot the headquarters down. the election commissioner told me some of the masked men armed with machine guns and grenades appeared to be russian soldiers. >> translator: they came in suddenly armored into our office and began shouting at us to gather in one place and to put our cell phones in one pile and then began to ask us where all of the election stuff is. two women fainted. >> reporter: all 116 polling stations in this district, serving some 360,000 people, are now closed. >> do you think that donetsk and this area can hold a free and fair election on sunday? >> translator: there will not be an election. there is no one who can provide an election. the central government does not control the situation.
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>> russian president vladimir putin was back on the bully pulpit taking aim at president obama asking, who is he to judge what is happening here in ukraine and that he should find a position on a court somewhere but putin also saying that he'll respect the results of sunday's election this as he's influencing and disrupting that election, perhaps keeping his options opened. but administration officials say they will wait until after the election to consider any new economic penalties against russia. wolf? >> because earlier they said if there was evidence russia was directly interfering with free and fair elections, the u.s.-led sanctions would immediately be intensified. that was the threat that was made by the president a couple of weeks ago. but you're saying now they are going to wait until after they count the ballots before deciding whether more sanctions should be imposed? >> reporter: that's what administration officials are telling me.
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they say they don't want to prejudge the results on sunday and say that in the vast majority of the country there's some truth to this and would be likely to vote. i think the problem is that that standard left a little wriggle room and the question was never defined when impeding would lead to new sanctions and now they are only saying that it would occur after sunday. >> i want to bring in josh rogin, the senior correspondent for "the daily beast" who is here with me. what do you think of putin who is directly blaming the united states for the violence in ukraine. he says, they just want free and fair elections and if some parts want to be reunited with russia, they should have that option. >> right. there's a gap between putin's words and his actions. easy f he's effectively prevented 25%
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of the population from being able to participate in the elections. and after sunday, this will be the beginning, not the end of a process. and the sanctions will be delayed because the u.s. administration wants to give both sides time to understand what the new normal is and maybe there's an opening for diplomacy. based on what we're hearing, there doesn't seem to be an opening at all. >> we know that there are international monitors that have tried to come in and monitor the elections, including high-profile americans. how safe are they right now? >> reporter: i think they have been safe. we spoke to one of them, jane harman, former u.s. congresswoman yesterday. they feel safe and they feel like the administration, that in the vast majority of the country, ukrainians will be able to vote on the weekend. i'll tell you, in our experience today, 20 minutes from where i'm standing right now where you saw and heard accounts of these militants acting with impunity, threatening local stations, they
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certainly would also keep monitors in their sights as well, anything to disrupt the elections, i'd say it's risky there. thankfully, not in large parts of the country but in some parts of the country, very risky. >> you're reporting, josh, that moldova, which is right next to you, which borders ukraine, moldova could be next on putin's target list? >> right. moldova has 2500 russian troops in transistria, the same trigger that caused the russians to push back so hard late last year. what the moldovan leaders have been telling me is that the russians are pouring in russian forces and threatening to do economically destabilizing things in moldova in order to destabilize the process there so that they can defeat the liberal democrats. >> that is where moldova is, right next to ukraine. not a member of nato.
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so technically, there's no automatic trigger that the u.s., the other nato allies would have to come to nato's defense. >> that is the problem with small towns like moldova. they recognize the international checks and balances has gone by the wayside now that putin is not respecting it so they are coming to the u.s. and saying we may not be in nato or the eu but we need to push back against the russians and we need your help. >> if this goes on like this, jim, and you know this as well as anyone, crimea, eastern ukraine, moldova, that would clearly, totally, i suspect, poison what is even left of a semblance of a normal u.s./russian relationship. >> reporter: absolutely. and you heard from administration officials in the last several weeks that they know and acknowledge that they are entering a new phase, that the phase in the last 20 years after the fall of the berlin wall of cooperation has come to
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an end. it doesn't mean no cooperation. there arie issues that they are working on. this friendly and warm and fuzzy period, if you will, between the u.s. and russia is over, really, and they've got to change, change relationships including the countries like moldova. as josh said, those countries, moldova, the baltics, they are looking for reassurance, not just in words but in actions, in troops, in new alliances with the west so they can feel safe from the same thing that happened here in the ukraine. >> very quickly, josh, even nato allies like poland, the president is going to be going to poland in the next couple of weeks to reassure the polands. even though poland and the nato allies are still concerned as well. >> and you saw vice president biden visit romania, another nato ally. not to say that they are not very important, what will be the
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test is over weeks, months, and years whether there is increased commitment by the nato allies to bolster defenses and come up with a common strategy to combat russian aggression. we don't know that yet. we'll have to wait and see. >> josh rogin, thank you. jim sciutto, be careful. we'll check back with you as we get ready for the critical elections on sunday. up next, millions of americans are heading to the roads to start the holiday weekend. our reporters are out there with the latest on gas prices, traffic, the weekend weather forecast. stay with us. we'll update you with information that you need to know. plus, terrorists taking cue from hollywood but their brutal new video with sophisticated scenes are all too real.
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summer is now off to an unofficial start for so many americans out there. millions of people are hitting the roads right now. we have full coverage. cnn's atheen yena jones has the latest on gas prices and jennifer gray has the latest forecast. athena jones is out there in the middle of the holiday traffic. what is going on there, alexander? >> reporter: wolf, you like rain and gridlock in your travel companions, you're in pretty good shape. otherwise, we hope that where you are going is going to be worth it. it's been slowly moving out here. we left midtown manhattan at 4:20. that was about an hour and 20 minutes ago. we've gone the distance that it would take us to go 20 minutes just getting on to i-95 north,
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this is the route people would take leading into parts of new england. a popular road to travel this holiday weekend and for anyone on the road, they probably left at the very worst time. aaa says leaving at 5:00 on a friday is just about the worst step you can take. that's when you're going to hit the heaviest traffic. it's when most people are getting out of work and there are 36.1 million people traveling for the holiday. that's up from last year. and again, you're going to hit heavy traffic if you leave on monday any time between 6:00 and midnight. wolf? >> i'm not surprised. alexandra, thank you. athena jones is at a gas station in maryland. what are you seeing at the pumps, athena? >> reporter: wolf, we've been at this station a few miles north of d.c. for several hours watching a steady stream of folks coming in to fill up. let me show you the prices. you can see it on the sign right there on the board, 3.67 a gallon. that's actually really good for this area. it's just 2 cents above the
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national average. many other gas stations in this region are seeing prices 10 and 20 cents higher. i can tell you that in the washington, d.c., region, new york, connecticut have the highest prices. you might want to fill up somewhere else. wolf? >> athena, thank you. our meteorologist jennifer gray has a look at the forecast from the cnn severe weather center from atlanta. jennifer? >> it's going to be a mixed bag across the country. we're not really expecting much in the form of widespread severe weather. we could see severe weather across portions of southwest texas and in west texas as we go through the next couple of days. san antonio, you're going to have rain on sunday and possibly monday. warm, though, leading up to memorial day. temperatures tapping out at 87 degrees on sunday. chicago, the place to be, look at that. temperatures warming up to the
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mid-0 mid-80's is. that should be pushing out by monday. boston, 76 degrees and partly cloudy skies. of course, miami is going to stay sunny and nice but warm. could see a few showers in minneapolis on your memorial day as well as well as austin, texas, and then as we move into st. louis, 82 degrees and sunny on sunday. looking good in d.c. all weekend long. atlanta, we could see showers on sunday, clearing out on monday, though, and staying warm. wolf? >> sounds good all around. jennifer gray, thank you. president obama is planning to mark the memorial day holiday by observances at arlington national cemetery by laying the wreath of the unknown. president obama will nominate julian castro as his next secretary of housing and urban secretary replacing shawn donovan. his name is often brought up as a potential candidate for vice
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president in 2016. he's 39 years old. you might remember he was on the national stage two years ago when he delivered a keynote address at the democrat convention. his twin brother is a congressman in texas. also, a new series from executive producers tom hanks "the sixties," the decade that changed the world, free love, civil rights, much more. be sure to watch or set your dvr for the premier next thursday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern and pacific, only here on cnn. just ahead, airliners coming within just seconds of catastrophe. what is behind the latest near collisions? and next, a brutal new terrorist video stunning in its violence and sophistication. these killers may be taking a cue from hollywood but their images are all too real.
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we're getting a first look at a chilling new video, terror video by a group so extreme even al qaeda doesn't want anything to do with it. what sets this video apart is not only its sheer brutality but also remarkable production.
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cnn's mohammed jamjoom is here with details. >> the film is called "the clanging of the swords" released days ago, by far one of the most horrific and bloody terror videos i or any analysts have seen. this is a group that's so extreme, al qaeda has disowned it. this is a film that runs over an hour long and it's shocking not just because of what it shows, but because a lot of the techniques that are employed it in look like they're straight out of hollywood movies. this is real life terrorism. not a hollywood movie, but designed to look like one. horrific killing sprees in iraq. deliberately recorded on video. bombings. executions. kidnappings. and worse. a far cry from the grainy, shaky, unfocused terrorist videos we're used to seeing. this production displays glossy camerawork and high level
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production techniques. as though they were taking cues from hollywood films such as "zero dark 30" and the "hurt locker" to maximize the terror. this video is by the islamic state of iraq in sere where or isis. a group so extreme even al qaeda has disowned them. analysts say the video shows isis is becoming an even deadlier threat, waging an extremely effective propaganda war. >> there's money behind it. it's not just idiots. these idiots have somebody controlling them and providing them with equipment that is very expensive. you just can't get in a cave. >> reporter: one frightening sequence shows isis fighters disguised as iraqi soldiers setting up fake checkpoints. this man, accused of being part of iraq's security forces, is hauled off and executed. in another scene, a man is hunted down. after being shot, he pleads for
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his life. "i'm just a driver" he says, "just a driver." what appears to be the man in an iraqi uniform is shown. then sheer brutality. a hail of bullets shot into his back. and that's not the worst of it. this man was accused of working with the u.s. he and his two sons forced to dig their own graves. >> what happened to these people to lose their humanity? their propaganda is the tool, the only tool that can defeat them. >> reporter: experts say to judge by this video the reign of terror shows no signs of abating which is exactly what isis wants even at the risk of their tactic backfiring. >> now, whether or not this propaganda tool backfires on isis or not, that's yet to be determined. one of the things this video really showcases is just how much the situation on the ground in iraq has deteriorated. and to that end, yesterday we learned that over 30 people killed across iraq in sectarian
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attacks. so getting much worse there. wolf? >> we haven't paid a lot of attention to iraq. after the u.s. pullout, the whole place seems to be on fire right now or at least it's brutal. >> yeah, the sectarian attacks are getting much worse. many of them blamed directly on this group and other al qaeda-related groups that are still there. so really getting worse. these groups taking the fight not just to who they consider to be their enemies, whether it's the u.s. or the iraqi government but the innocent civilians caught in between this. >> mohammed, thanks very much, mohammed jamjoom working his sources for us. coming up, so what caused the donald sterling scandal to explode in the first place? i'll speak live with a "los angeles times" reporter who's just broken new details. and another shocking near collision. are there too many airliners, too few air controllers, air traffic controllers, working right now? mine was earned in korea in 1953.
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happening now, donald
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sterling surrenders. we have new information about secret negotiations to sell the l.a. clippers and the leading role played by sterling's wife. plus, seconds from disaster. another near collision between two jets adding to passengers' fears raising new questions about the air traffic system. and holiday danger. out of control fire tears through thousands of acres of a popular tourist destination as the memorial day weekend begins. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> right now, donald sterling appears to be giving the nba what it wants. more than three weeks after he was banned for life from the league for making racist remarks. cnn has learned sterling and his wife, shelly, have agreed to sell the l.a. clippers before an expected vote to terminate their ownership. we're also told mrs. sterling now calling the shots in secret negotiations under way with the
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nba. our panel is standing by. there's a lot of information tonight. including new details on how and why this scandal exploded in the first place. let's get the latest from our national correspondent, suzanne malveaux. suzanne? >> cnn has learned that donald sterling has turned over controlling ownership of the clippers to his wife of 58 years, shelly, in hopes of selling this team. now, after threatening to sue the nba, he is now using another tactic to play hard ball with the nba that if successful could mean a half a billion dollars in profit and a speedy resolution. the ball is now in shelly sterling's court. now that her husband and longtime business partner donald sterling has handed over his control of the l.a. clippers. shelly sterling is now negotiating with the nba to possibly sell the team. >> the nba made it clear this was all about donald sterling. they weren't penalizing shelly sterling, so in a sense, this is
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really a game of legal chess. >> reporter: why? with the nba draft fast approaching in june, a quick resolution would benefit the team and the league. tuesday, nba commissioner adam silver seemed to offer a way out for donald sterling. sell the team now and sterling would avoid the special hearing early next month requiring him to face charges that he damaged the league and the vote by nba owners potentially forcing him to sell. >> i prefer he sell it than we go through this process. so if that's what you by man to man, i'm open to that. >> reporter: a move toward selling the team is an about face for all sides. from donald sterling who through his attorney refused to pay the fine or sell the team, threatening to sue the league. >> money is not what i'm interested in. >> so why not walk away? >> i want to show all the people that are associated with basketball and the world i'm not
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a racist. >> reporter: and shelly sterling who throughout the firestorm professed love for the team. >> i talked to some of the players. they hugged me. >> reporter: while swearing she'd hold on to her 50%. >> i think half the team is mine, and i'll fight for it. >> and a spokesman mike bass now is responding to the reports about donald sterling s surrendering ownership of the clippers. he states "we continue to follow the process set forth in the nba constitution regarding termination of the current ownership interests in the los angeles clippers and are proceeding toward a hearing on this matter on june 3rd." so, wolf, what we're looking at here is potentially bare knuckle negotiations until june 3rd and we'll see how it unfolds. >> not many days left. >> not at paul. >> suzanne, don't go away. joining us, cnn commentator, l.z. granderson, don lemon, and james rainy from the "los angeles times" who has broken
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details in the story. what are your sources telling you, james, first of all, an shelly sterling to try to maintain some ownership in the team. what's the latest you're hearing? >> well, i am hearing the same thing i think you are, she would like to maintain an ownership interest perhaps to make an immediate sale, but the thing everyone here has to remember, maybe you've already spoken about this is there can be no transfer from donald sterling to shelly sterling without approval of the nba owners. so if the other 29 owners don't approve this, it's as if it didn't happen. donald can do whatever he thinks he's doing with the transfer but it's like it doesn't exist. it could be much adieu about nothing. i don't know if this is going to be a hiccup in the long-term transformation. >> clearly the nba is hoping to avoid legal battles and avoiding a vote on june 3rd by the 29 other owners, james. let the two individuals, the
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steri sterlings to sell the team. is that likely? >> that might be one good people to ask the people in shelly sterling's camp. they haven't gotten back to us yet. why do we need a transfer to shelly sterling if the sbeintens to sell the team? don is the controlling owner right now, most important to the nba. he can go ahead and sell the team and inform the commissioner, i'm moving ahead with the sale, and that perhaps maybe the nba could call off the hearing. why it would make a difference? in terms of the legal gambut of the sterlings, not facing directly the charges that have been levied and we at times have taken a look at, that could put them in a stronger legal position. in terms of really wanting to sell the team and move ahead expeditiously, it's unclear that that's really what this is about. >> don lemon, everything i'm hearing is the nba doesn't want,
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certainly doesn't want donald sterling to have any role but don't want shelly sterling to have a significant if any role at all. i assume you're hearing the same thing. >> i'm glad james said that because i'm skeptical about this, too, transferring, whatever it is, ownership, whatever they want to do. as i've said to you on this program, wolf, i'm skeptical about that. i don't see the reason or understand it except if there's a backhanded legal maneuver they're trying to do. the nba has made it perfectly clear, players have made it perfectly clear, the public at large perfectly clear they don't want any of the sterlings having anything to do with the l.a. clippers. >> l.z., you think the sterlings have blinked? >> no. i think they're maneuvering. >> right. >> the only reason why i would think they are blink, we haven't seen the entire document the nba has compiled through its investigation so we don't know how much hardcore evidence they have in terms of charges against shelly sterling and being racist either directly tied to the
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housing diskr kracrimination la or within the organization, itself. we know in the "l.a. times" story there have been employees who have said they don't want shelly sterling involved either, she's a horrible individual as well. i don't know how much ammunition they have in their investigative reporting to help push shelly along but on the outside looking in, it looks like a game to me. >> suzanne, the timeline is pretty specific. the sterlings have to respond to a legal brief submitted by the nba by may 27th then all of the owners are scheduled to meet june 3rd in new york. if 3/4 of them vote to terminate the sterling's ownership of the clippe clippers, it's over for them. >> the nba made it leer they want to move forward, that's going to happen no matter what kind of deal there is between the sterlings. what i think is interesting is the fact we heard from mark cuban yesterday, the dallas mavericks, the owner of the team, the thing he was most worried about is being a
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hypocrite. he said, you know, i've had bigoted thoughts as well, i cannot throw stones when i live in a glass house. i wouldn't be surprised from donald sterling put that out there to give breathing room to the owners, there's an escape hatch, you don't have to make this decision, because there are owners who are scared, worried about their own potential behavior being a problem in owning their own team and losing their teams. >> you and your colleagues at the "l.a. times" have done pretty significant reporting on going back on how this whole story exploded weeks ago. and the relationship that clearly deteriorated between donald sterling and then-girlfriend v. stiviano. give us a couple of those headlines you've uncovered. >> well, 16 days before this whole thing blew up on tmz, we know there was a copy of the audio sent by v. stiviano to some employee of the clippers. we don't know which employee.
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right before sending that, she sent a text to this employee saying, let the games began. we think she meant let the games begin. this was after being told by this clippers employee that she was out for that night. this is one of the last regular-season games. it was against the oklahoma city thunder. big game. she was used to being there courtside or in a suite with her friends kind of living large. she'd just been given bad news and said, look, i'm coming to the game anyway, i have my own tickets. then she sent this very provocative message of -- this very provocative audio to this clippers employee who immediately passes it on to the president of the clippers who in turn gives it to donald sterling. and then we have the whole scenario where they don't tell the nba something that the nba clearly thought was nefarious. if you listen to donald sterling's people, they say,
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hey, private conversation between two adults, why should we tell the nba about this? we destroyed it, maybe it's the best thing we could have done. we didn't know at that point it was going to tgo public and got rid of it. >> don lemon, is this a case of a woman jilted, going public, leveling these charges and making the audiotape available? >> why would i think she's jilted? she's already said they didn't have a sexual relationship. she loved him like a dad. come on, yes, of course it's a jilted -- i'm being facetious here. of course it's a jilted lover or something happened between the two of them that frayed their relationship. and, you know, i was just reading the text that was sent about needing tickets to the games, no, i got it from another regular, i don't really need him. then let the games began. however she put it. yet, swrilted lo ejilted lover
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claims is not her lover. she was mad. she sent it at someone who get back at him and now here we go. >> out there, that was threatening her as well. so it wasn't just a matter of -- >> shelly sterling wanted to get some of that supposedly $2 million in houses and cars and jewels and clothes. she wanted a piece of that $2 million suggesting it was half of it was hers, if you will, because of joint custody of all of that money with her husband. >> absolutely. >> wolf, the thing is wolf, she had just put a lien, shelly sterling six days before the provocative messages were -- shelly sterling had put a lien on this $1.8 million home which would appear to up the ante, again, against v. stiviano who allegedly according to donald sterling told him, hey, get your wife to back off or words to that effect or there's going to be trouble. her defense is, mrs. stiviano, i
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never knew about that lien, i knew about the lawsuit but didn't know about the lien on my home days before. people can take that for what it's worth. clearly she sent the provocative message and audio. to remind the viewers, she denies sending the audio to tmz. she says perhaps one of her friends who was holding on to it sent it to tmz. >> give me a quick thought, l.z. >> well, you know, i just keep going back to the nba. i've been really hard on commissioner silver because i just feel this whole idea that they're moving swiftly negates the fact they've had information about this man for the past three decades. with that being said, i'll applaud the fact they're staying on task. again, i met with a top ranking nba official yesterday and i was asking if they were going to say anything about mark cuban's comments. they said, no, we're focused in on sterling. so i definitely applaud them. i don't think they should back off any of the pressure, shouldn't fall to any of the shell games. they should stay on task. >> got any more bombshells, james? >> yeah, we got some more good
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stuff to come. a couple of my colleagues are taking a look at the sterlings and their history as landlords. hopefully that will be in the paper in the next couple days. we know everybody goes to first anyway, and this is another opportunity. >> we'll be monitoring it. >> let the games began. >> let the games began. new nba slogan. >> i expect there will be a hash tag, #letthegamesbegan. i can see that coming up pretty soon. guys, thanks very much. good conversation. >> thanks, wolf. a very serious story. a serious close call in the skies. we're now learning about the fourth near collision between two jets in recent weeks. our aviation correspondent rene marsh is over at reagan international in washington. rene, explain what you're learning. >> reporter: wolf, this shouldn't happen. it did happen. we're talking about a passenger plane on the wrong path, and now we're learning it was an air traffic controller new to this
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position who put the plane on this path and this evening the faa is investigating why it happened. an air traffic controller in training directs a united jet to turn, putting it on a possible collision course another plane departing houston bush intercontinental airport. seconds later according to the faa, the controller realizes his mistake. >> stop your climb. stop your turn united 60. >> reporter: the two flights each traveling more than 200 miles per hour less than a mile apart sending off collision warning systems. listen to stunned pilots seconds later. >> i have no idea what was going up there in the tower, but it was pretty gnarly looking. >> i expect they were supposed to give us a left turn. >> reporter: another potentially dangerous moment in the sky where two planes nearly collide. in recent weeks, in the skies over the pacific, at new york's jfk, and newark.
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>> he's real close. >> reporter: the rules of separation in the skies breached. the faa's latest numbers show planes came too close nearly 4,400 times in one year. 41 of them deemed high-risk events. >> they are scary. they're unacceptable. they're worked on. but there's a backup system and people are safe. >> reporter: it's an air traffic system under stress. increasing air traffic and a potential shortage of controllers. thousands more need to be hired and trained over the next seven years. some experts worry the agency's new hiring practices could make matters worse. the agency no longer gives preference to recent graduates from aviation colleges. just last month, a government auditor said he would study controller staffing levels and the impact of retirement. but incidents where planes get too close aren't necessarily controller errors. >> these mistakes can occur through a controller making an
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error, through a pilot making a mistake, but remember, there's avionics on board, particularly one called tcas, collision avoidance assistance. >> reporter: the faa has taken steps to prevent occurrences in the future but didn't say what the steps are. the faa also telling us an instructor was there at the moment of this incident ready to step in if necessary. however, the faa saying that this trainee was able to correct the problem immediately. we want to point out one other thing, wolf. ever since that technology, the collision avoidance technology has been placed in cockpits we haven't seen any actual collision and of course, that is a good thing. >> that's a very good thing, indeed. rene, thanks very much. let's bring in aviation correspondent richard quest to talk more about the close calls in air. is it getting close, richard,
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better? a lot more planes are flying all the time. >> right. and the interesting thing, of course, is whether or not it's actually getting worse or whether we're merely hearing more about them. the numbers involved are extremely small. and that, of course, is deceptive. you're talking if you look at the last data for 2012, 300,000th of 1% of flights had what we might describe as a near miss. the problem, of course, it's a very small number, but the consequences are so devastating. if you also factor in things such as better reporting, amnesty for air traffic controllers who do report, an entire reporting structure that makes it more available to give out this sort of data, you start to see the complexity of understanding these very serious incidents. and ultimately, wolf, what you're really looking for is not the one-off. you're looking for the systemic. you're looking for the thing
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that tells you something is wrong in the system, i.e. poor training, weak experience, bad management, pilots not understanding, lack of investment. those are the systemic issues that ultimately you seek. >> so should fliers, especially on a memorial day weekend like we have here in the united states this weekend, how concerned should the flying public be? >> not at all. come back to that statistic i said. 300,000th of 1% would be the number. you're talking about 135 million takeoff and landings in 2012. of that, only 4,300 would be regarded near misses. of that, a fraction, 40 of them, were what would be regarded as high-risk. now, again, i keep coming back to this foible. the consequences are so serious that even one has to be taken
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very seriously, but if you look at the newark incident, for example, where one plane went over the other on the runway, newark has immediately instituted a new runway policy to prevent that happening. i would expect in houston, again, you be looking at something to be instituted. you take the kennedy example where one plane turned east while the other plane was turning at the same time in the opposite direction -- in the same direction. you're always looking to see why it happened and crucially was it a one-off? did somebody make a mistake? or is there something wrong in the system? >> while i have you, a different subject, richard. this inmarsat satellite data that was supposed to be released this week, so far it hasn't been released. haven't released all of the data of the so-called pings, handshakes, why they're searching in the southern indian ocean for malaysia airlines flight 370. now, are they going to at least release a summary?
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what's going on? >> what is going on is the information has now been sent from both inmarsat and the soft rail y australians. i can tell you absolutely it has been sent to malaysia. malaysia are now compiling it into however they wish to put it in a digestible format, but inmarsat has already compiled the data, the important figures, and an explanation and rationale and understanding. when malaysia will finally release it, well, that we're waiting for, and we're pushing as you can imagine extremely hard. i was expecting it today. my guess would be now probably not the weekend. monday or tuesday. any later than tuesday, we will be certainly wanting to know why. >> richard quest in london for us. thank you as usual. still ahead, he died while waiting for care from veterans affairs. now his daughter is accusing the va of humiliating her father. the former veterans affairs
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secretary jim nicholson is here in "the situation room." we'll talk about the current va scandal, who's to blame, and more. fire threatens a tourist hotspot as a long holiday weekend begins. cnn is in the fire zone.
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we have some emotional new reaction from the daughter of a veteran who died while waiting for care from a va facility. president obama's promising the widespread problems within va system will be fixed after cnn exposed some dangerous delays in treatment and allegations that records were falsified. so far, the president has resisted calls for the
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resignation of the veterans affairs secretary eric shinseki. our senior investigative correspondent drew griffin is joining us. he broke the story. what is the latest, drew? what are you learning? >> wolf, we just wanted to bring this into perspective about what the families are dealing with. i talked with per sill a valdez. he developed shortness of beth but could never net in to see a doctor. when priscilla went to the hospital, herself, to try to get her dad that appointment, the soonest they had was three months out. they'd already waited ten months. pedro valdez died before he could make that appointment. he had acute respiratory failure. wolf, he was just 66 years old. the inspect eor general's offic has criminal investigators on the ground now at phoenix va looking into these allegations of secret waiting lists and as many as 40 deaths due to delays in care. but last week, the head of that office told the senate so far, although they did find evidence
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veterans suffered harm because of delays in care, they couldn't attribute any deaths to the actual delays. because of privacy laws, it's hard to know if pedro valdez was on anyone's list at the phoenix va, secret or not. priscilla valdez, though, only knows this. her dad died before he was seen by a va doctor. >> i asked several different people how do i find out if my dad was on that list? but to me the list is just a piece of paper. i know because of what i witnessed. because what i see my dad go through. whether he was on that list or not, i know what he went through, and he was a true victim of the delays, the refusal, the embarrassment that they put him through. they -- they took a man and broke him down and kicked him when he was down, when he needed them. and he willingly went through
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fighting this war to defend his country so these people who are supposed to take care of him are able to live freely the way they do in this united states of america. >> pedro valdez died this past january. th. priscilla tells me she had no idea at the time of his death that these allegations and secret wait lists and denied care were happening. looking back, wolf, she believes she was living it and her father she believes died from it. wolf? >> what a horrible story that is. how tragic that is. stand by, drew. i want to bring in the former secretary of veterans affairs jim nicholson as well as cnn political commentator. you heard a story like that. you worked there a few years. you were secretary. there was criticism at that time as well. what do you think, shinseki, should he go? >> i've known general shinseki a long time. i know his wife. they're wonderful people, great americans. they've served almost all their adult life serving our country.
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i think it's premature to make that decision. there's a lot of investigating that needs to go on. what concerns me the most are the veterans. in just talking about the veteran valdez, we need to focus right now on the veterans because if this has been going on, it means that some of these hospital centers are so crowded that they haven't been able to comply with their own standards. so we need to conduct some kind of an emergency action here, and i think the president of the united states has a discretion, certainly the responsibility to move on this and say if you're not seeing these people and can't get them in within 12 days, send them to an outside health care provider. >> what's delaying that? i've heard that now from several people that the option is there to outsource them, if you will, send them to another local hospital, not a va facility if they need critical care. >> i have no idea why they're not doing that. >> did you do that when you were secretary of veterans affairs? >> absolutely. that was a mandate, and i think one of the reasons that they
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don't do it, there's sort of a perverse incentive at these medical centers that if they do that, it comes out of their budget and they all get compared to each other. >> that sounds like a ridiculous bureaucratic reason, dealing with the lives of veterans, especially people who have served their country heroically. >> absolutely. we're sitting here memorial day weekend, and we ought to have this whole thing focused right now on the veterans. the blame game, the responsibility, the politics, they'll play out because they always do, but we ought to have a laser focus right now on taking care of veterans that are still out there, that are not getting these appointments. >> how much pressure, ryan, is the president under right now to force general shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, to step down? >> i think he's under a little bit more now because there's some democrats that are involved now in calling for shinseki to resign and obviously midterm politics is getting involved here. democrats in tough races are making this an issue. i think he's dealing with this quite similarly to how he dealt with hhs and secretary