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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Ukraine Claims Armed Invasion by Russian Troops in the Crimea Region; Powerful Storm Drenches Southern California, Forces Evacuations; Ice Jam: Arctic Blast Slams the Midwest; Facing Justice Pistorius Expected to Take the Stand at His Murder Trial; NBA's First Gay Player Jason Collins: "It's Really Cool to See the Support That's Out There"
Aired February 28, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
We begin tonight with breaking news. An extremely tense situation escalating tonight in Ukraine and a warning today from President Obama.
Take a look at this video that we've just gotten into. Crimean television says there are Russian helicopters entering Ukraine. This is from earlier today. But we just got this video. They say those are Russian helicopters. The growing concern tonight, Russians getting close to crossing a dangerous line, sending troops to the Crimean region. Armed men outside two airports and surrounding the major state broadcaster. It is a complicated situation on the ground, one that's far from clear at this point.
We want to make sure everybody knows that it is far from clear but it's the assessment of the U.S. government and their belief the Russian military forces. We don't know at this hour what their operational orders are. We do have this statement just in from the house intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers and I quote "it appears that the Russian military now controls the Crimean peninsula. It's aggression is a threat to Ukraine and the region's peace and stability. Russia's latest action is yet another indicator that Vladimir Putin's hegemonic ambitions threaten U.S. interests and allies around the world." Ukrainian government has not (INAUDIBLE)calling in armed invasion.
President Obama is taking more measure tone warning against violation in Ukraine sovereignty. The White House earlier this evening, the president said the Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future and he is in daily communication with Russian officials. He is more of what we said. We made a late decision today to address the press in a briefing room.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movement taken by the Russian federation inside of Ukraine. Russia has historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties and a military facility in Crimea. But any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing which is not in the interests of Ukraine, Russia or Europe. It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people. It would be a clear violation of Russia's commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine and of international laws.
And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We have reporters all throughout the globe covering the story. Joining me now live Ian Lee in Kiev, Diana Magnay in Crimea and chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto in Washington.
Diana, let me start with you. We have seen the image of reporting to show Russian helicopters and tanks. We have seen the troops on the ground. What's the latest that you are seeing and you are hearing there?
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS: Well, it is the troops on the ground that really, you feel the most when you are here. You can't tell, I can't tell you for sure, Anderson, that they are Russians. They are not wearing any kind of military insignia. They are all wearing military fatigue. But they are going to very great lanes trying to seal their identities (INAUDIBLE) vehicles that they have. The number plates they can seals. But they do seem to have taken over the two main airports in here in the capital of Crimea and in Sevastopol, base of the Russian black sea fleet.
As you said, the state (INAUDIBLE) here has been surrounded by what they say, what the general told us would have 20 Russian marines who are protection the station which is a pro-Russian station. The main telecommunications company here in Crimea says their networks have been sabotage. So they are now on no landline communication or telecoms between Crimea and the main land through their networks.
So, it would appear as though the key infrastructure in this part of Ukraine has affectively been taken over by these forces. We don't exactly who they are. But their skill, organization would suggest that they did have at least the backing of Russian behind them, Anderson.
COOPER: Obviously, this is a Russian-speaking area. Are they are welcome there? I mean, are the people there that are you are running into, do they seem happy that the troops are there?
MAGNAY: Well, we have seen uproar -- sort of operating in areas where these mass gunmen have been standing alongside pro-Russian local self- defense unit who say they are keeping the order. They have said to us, we don't know where these men come from. We just sort of chatting to them and exchanging cigarettes. Frankly, I don't really believe that. But these are pro-Russian guys in the south of this country as very much an ethnic Russian majority here. And they almost see pro-Russian, that is not the case across the hall of the Crimean Peninsula. You have also Ukrainian -- pro- Ukrainian sort of nationalist, 20 percent and ten percent Muslim ethnic tartar (ph). So, it is really a very inslametry (ph) mix. But certainly, there has not being very much resistance to the sets that have been taken over in the past few days, taking over the government, taking over the airport facilities.
These guys haven't met with any resistance particularly leader to manage to do what they have done which looks a little late like a sort of mirror image of what went on in Kiev. It is just here, you have pro-Russian forces who been put in to place.
COOPER: Jim, obviously the fact that President Obama himself spoke out about this underscores the concern within the White House right now. And you have Congressman Mike Rogers saying Russian forces control Crimea. What's the latest you are hearing from your sources?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen. The U.S. believes these are Russian troops. Whether they have the markings on their uniforms or not. And I think in light of our intelligence capabilities, you can be pretty confident they know the scale of the number of troops and so on on the ground there.
Remember, you're looking at those photographs, those videos in fact of helicopters coming in. That's a Russian airplane. That's a Russian helicopter that the Russians used coming across into Ukrainian territory. So, the question now is what are the Russians' intentions? They've taken over the airports, they sent more troops to their sea ports there, they have some what appear to be forces around a pro- Russian television station. You know, are there intentions to protect some Russian interests in Crimea or do they have greater intentions to take control as representative Mike Rogers said at the Crimean peninsula.
What administration officials are saying at this point, they're still assessing what the intentions are. But the fact is, whatever their intentions are beyond what we've seen already this is already well beyond what U.S. officials wanted, right? They have been -- we've talked about this over the last 24, 48 hours they have repeatedly U.S. officials been warning Russia not to send troops into the country. So what we've seen to this point, you know, it's already crossed that line as defined by U.S. officials.
COOPER: And in terms of threats that the U.S. has made. I mean, they say the U.S. might not attend the G-8 summit in Russia in June if Russian troops are in the Ukraine. Does that really pull much weight. I mean, obviously, Russia wants involvement in the G-8. Russia doesn't want to be punished in its membership in the G-8. But that's far down the road in terms of a threat.
SCIUTTO: It is. There's some time between now and then. but I think conceivably, you know, if the G-8 becomes the G-7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, you know, particularly if you get some U.S. allies in Europe, the U.K.. Germany, et cetera to do the same, this is going to be a marquee event for the Russians in Sochi, the side of the Olympics to not have the player show up. That would be a blow. And the White House officials also reference other measures. They said that the Russians have been reaching out for greater economic and trade ties, that that's something that the U.S. would not pursue in light of this.
But it's interesting. Even John Boehner when he issued a statement today, critical statement of the president saying in effect that the U.S. has been too weak to this point. He talked about maximizing economic and political punishment at this point, right? Now, even he was not mentioning military or, you know, a more kinetic response in that sense. So really, when you think about it, the practical tools that are available to the U.S. are largely in the economic and diplomatic sphere. There are other steps you could take.
Senator John McCain was on our air earlier talking about revisiting putting U.S. missile defense in the Czech Republic. Remember, Russia's response to that when we went through that a couple of years ago. But that to this point is something that we have not heard the administration is considering.
COOPER: And Ian, you're on the ground in Kiev. What's the scene like there? How are people responding to what's going on in Crimea?
IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the government here is definitely very concerned, Anderson. They see this as an invasion by the Russians of the Crimea that is an attempt to annex the Crimea as part of Russia. But really though, they're looking at a diplomatic effort now. There is no doubt the Ukrainians just could not go blow to blow with the Russians. They just don't have the fire power and that the Russians do. So they're looking abroad.
And that look goes towards the United Nations. They're asking the U.N. security council to get involved. It's unclear what role they would play as Russia as you know has veto power in the security council. And Moscow has been concerned over the ethnic Russians in the Crimea. One thing that the Ukrainian government has asked that they are going to do was ask the EU to send monitors in here to monitor the situations in the Crimea to show that the ethnic Russians aren't being discriminated against or not being oppressed.
But really, one thing we should bring up is, there was a peace treaty, a memorandum, the Budapest memorandum signed in 1994. But the United States, the U.K. as well as Russia and Ukraine saying that they will respect Ukraine's national integrity if Ukraine gives up their nuclear weapons. So countries are going to have to be held accountable who signs this memorandum, Anderson.
COOPER: Although, certainly Russia is saying that what's happening right now in Crimea does prescribe to bi-national agreements that currently exist.
Ian Lee, who are in the ground in Kiev. Thank you, Diana Magnay and Jim Sciutto as well.
Joining me now live a CNN military analyst Major General James "Spider" Marks and CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend, member of the CIA and DHS external advisory boards.
So General Marks, I mean, when you look at what these Russian troops have done, seizing two airports, surrounding this television station, it seems like coup planning 101 these are the first steps people always do in any part of the world when they're seizing a area, correct?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's not a coup, it's an invitation, Anderson. I think we can state clearly, albeit the administration has not come out and stated this with this degree of certainty, is that the Russians have invaded the Ukraine. Remember that Crimea is a part of the Ukraine. There isn't any additional sovereignty that Crimea enjoys beyond what the Ukraine has right now.
So this type of activity by Russia clearly is an effort on their part to ensure that their influence isn't waning. Clearly the United States cannot by itself take a leadership role. But there are activities that we can take and we can encourage with our partners in NATO, primarily through the partnership for peace, and that Kiev can call for, which is through partnership for peace has this affiliation with NATO can come forward and say we'd like to request different types of delegations to come in here and try to provide some degree of surveillance or at least some additional insights into what's taking place.
And also we have a mission in Kiev. I would hope that defense attache right now, appropriately armed and appropriately protected is on his way to Crimea to do some first-hand reporting, some human intelligence reporting, on what in fact is taking place so we can get a better sense and give our administration some additional political ammunition to be used to declare what this really is, which is an invasion.
COOPER: And Fran, the real thing is -- I mean, it doesn't seem like we have a clear idea what Russia's next step is. And you can talk all you want about what the U.S.'s next step and European Union's next step is or even though the government in Kiev where there step is. But we don't know what the Russian intentions are.
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: No. And Anderson, this I is a very difficult intelligence environment to operate in. And after all, the Russians have been so sort of nervous about western and in particular American presence in Ukraine and other states on their borders. That they threw out people from nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations that were providing sort of social support and democratic training and leadership training because they believe that they were agents of the American government. Nothing could be further from the truth.
But that it tells you something about this being a real denied environment. So what do you do? You then go to all your technical means of intelligence. Satellite, electronic surveillance. You be sure that all the assets of the U.S. government and our allies around the world are being used to understand military what the order of battle is, exactly what assets they're moving closer and into the Crimea. But Spider Marks is quite right. I mean, this is an invasion. It is what it is, you know. And to sort of threaten that in June we won't show up to the G-8 isn't really tells you we don't have a lot of leverage over the Russian.
Let's remember, the president and the White House need Vladimir Putin and Russia on Iran and the negotiations. They need him on Syria. They need him as we begin to remove assets out of Afghanistan. We're not the ones holding the power here. And I think that you see that in the president's statement.
COOPER: General, how much do you think this is about Russia, intimidating Russian, bullying the new government in Kiev so that as the situation Kiev kind of calms down, and they start to plot the future economically of their country, they are going to be deciding between the west and between Russia. And does this try to just remind them of the importance of Russia on their border?
MARKS: Anderson, it does very clearly. Look. This is recidivist behavior. We are certainly not surprised by this activity. The status of Yanukovych, for example, clearly is irrelevant. He's in Russia and he now speaking out. We shouldn't do anything with that. Just let that go because he is irrelevant to a possible solution moving forward. And I think Moscow understand that. But clearly, Putin does not want to lose an opportunity to ensure that he maintains preeminence in that part of the world.
COOPER: They have a Navy base there in Crimea.
MARKS: Well, this warm water port called Sevastopol, it is the only warm water port that Russian owns. Everything else is covered with ice right now. So, this has great historical ties for the former Soviet Union, now, Russia, the Russian federation. And Russia will never allow that thing to get in extremis if you will this.
So this activity clearly is design to ensure that overall, Ukraine is not going to spin in a direction that they'd prefer it not to and to ensure that what they have in Sevastopol remains intact.
All right, General Marks, Fran Townsend, appreciate your perspectives.
Let us know what you think. Follow me on twit twitter @Andersoncooper. Tweet us using #AC360.
Coming up why Ukraine matters? We will take a look at where it is. Obviously, who lives there and what is dividing them.
Also ahead, torrential rain soaking southern California. Evacuations are under way and growing fears the mudslide and flash flooding. Get a live update and tell you where the weather is headed next in the U.S.
COOPER: The breaking news tonight, Ukraine says there's been an armed invasion by Russian troops in the Crimea region. President Obama warning that there will be quote "costs for any intervention in the Ukraine." The first indication that something might be happening in the region really came about 20 hours ago when gunmen of unknown origin showed in force at two separate airports in Crimea. Here's what happened when our Diana Magnay tried to to ask them where they're from.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGNAY: Can we ask you guys where you're from? You're from Russia?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAK FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, they obviously did not answer. Understand what happens there. a little bit of recent history along with some geography can help put things into context.
Tom Foreman has that tonight.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Ukraine is a little smaller than Texas, 45 million people living here, two million of them living down in Crimea. And most of them feel stronger ties to this gray area over here, to Russia, than they do to the rest of the Ukraine. Why? Because Russian is their first language. Some of the older ones will even remember when they were actually part of the soviet union until 1954 when they were given to Ukraine as part of a big deal back at that time.
How far is it from Crimea up to Kiev up here? Well, it's about 400 miles or the same distance from New York to Pittsburgh. Moscow is much further away, about twice as far. But look again at the Russian border over here. It's not so far. And if you talk about Russian troops coming in, all of this red area is more pro-Russian, so much so that this color doesn't even change if you look at the last election results. That was the area that supported the now ousted president Yanukovych. And because of this ethnic breakdown, this very Russian nature of the eastern part of the country, that's why you have to watch it very closely as these events unfold -- Anderson?
COOPER: And Pulitzer prize winning journalist David Remnick is an expert on Russia. He has an awful lot of time there written extensively about the country. He is currently editor of the "New Yorker" magazine. David Remnick joins me tonight.
So David, I mean, obviously, it is a very fluid situation on the ground right now. What do you make of what's going on?
DAVID REMNICK, EDITOR, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: Well, it's very very dangerous. If in fact, and this is what people in the White House are saying. that these are Russian troops, this is extremely scary not only from the point of view of Ukraine but from a geopolitical point of view. And at the very best we're looking at the possibility of a cold war-style conflict and that is extremely worrying.
COOPER: A conflict that leads where, to a divided Ukraine? I mean, would more Russian troops come in? I mean, there are so many unknowns at this point.
REMNICK: Well, let's be clear. I'm not sitting in the meetings in the Kremlin to say the least. But the difficulty here is that Russia is asserting what it sees as its interest, its sphere of influence and it could not be more interested than its ties to Ukraine.
Russia has been tied to Ukraine historically for half of forever. The seat of Russian power originally was in Kiev. And there's a long history there. Crimea itself was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in the 50s by Nikita Khrushchev in Soviet times. And the population there is extremely sympathetic to Russia, as is eastern Ukraine.
What's happened here in general in Ukraine is so complex, you have a democratically elected leader who also was extremely corrupt and is guilty of killing his own people, who's now fled to Russia and who's saying he's still in power. And you have a leader of the Russian Republic who's trying to reassert power not only in Ukraine and in the area around Russia but globally as a way of recovering from what he sees as the geopolitical catastrophe of the collapse of the soviet union in 1991. All of these factors are in play.
COOPER: The just departed U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, told CNN's "NEW DAY" today that the situation is dire. Do you agree with that?
REMNICK: You're talking about Michael McFaul? And I couldn't agree more. I think it is really -- Vladimir Putin is playing with fire here. And I think to some extent, he's enjoying the spectacle. He's enjoying the spectacle of seeing Europe and the United States squirm and almost daring the United States and Europe to do something about it. This is a really dangerous situation.
COOPER: And how do you think the Obama administration has reacted to this? And we heard from the president today. The U.S. is calling it an uncontested arrival of Russian forces, not an invasion. I mean, is there a real difference there?
REMNICK: You can have distinction without a difference. I think you can only imagine the oval office meeting in which they looked over that language. And to be fair, we're not absolutely sure who these unmarked troops are, whether they're all Russian troops coming in from the Russian fleet, whether some of them are sympathetic to Russia and Ukrainian. We will find this out in the hours to come. But there's no question, there's absolutely no question that this is extremely dangerous.
COOPER: The 2008 there was Russian invasion of Georgia which was a different situation. What can that tell us though about what might happen in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine?
REMNICK: Well it's part of the larger picture. Remember, again, the soviet union collapsed in 1991. And this president of Russia feels that the west has been dancing in the end zone ever since and he's sick of it. And he feels insulted by the west, lectured to by the west. He's constantly reminding us that in fact it was the United States that's very prone to invading other countries, namely Iraq. We're in a real bad way with our relations between the United States and Russia.
And the Ukraine is Georgia writ large. Ukraine is an enormous country of 40 plus million people. It's deeply divided within itself. It's a political mess. It's broke. And Russia does not want to allow it to drift to the west, to drift toward the European union and drift into the sphere of influence beyond its reach. And by sending troops today, and again, I caution us to wait to see what the final story is on how many of these troops are actually from Russia itself. Let's be very cautious. Nevertheless, nevertheless, Vladimir Putin is clearly trying to put -- he is trying to set down a marker. And you know, unpredictable consequences can come of it.
COOPER: All right, David Remnick, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.
As you always, you can find out more on the story and others at CNN.com.
Now just ahead tonight, March simply coming in like a lion, flashfloods and mudslides forcing evacuations in California, an arctic blast making life miserable in the Midwest. The latest on the worst of it coming up and where is it heading next.
Plus, what we can expect to see and hear in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial now just days away from starting.
COOPER: Powerful storm is slamming southern California tonight. Take look at this. NASA satellite image, the view from space, that shows just how huge this storm system is. On the ground it is wreaking havoc, bringing torrential rain to a bone-dry region that certainly has needed rain. California is in the thick of its worst drought in 100 years. Wildfires have created ideal conditions for flash floods and mudslides. That's the problem now. Evacuations have been under way all day. Six inches of rain are predicted for some areas. Kyung Lah has the latest.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's happened in minutes. Fire scorched land couldn't hold the rain, so mud poured down from the Glendora foothills below.
RYAN FRIEND, RESIDENT: That's havoc. It's bad. It's bad. It hasn't been this bad in a long time. It wasn't like this 20 minutes ago.
LAH: They're getting out while they can.
(on camera): But you're not taking anything with you. You're just grabbing your dog?
MARIO VASQUEZ, RESIDENT: No. We've got my laptop. I don't need too many things. Everything's going to be fine. It's all replaceable.
LAH: Just a couple of inches of rain and you can see the effect here when the ground, which is burned by the fire can't hold all of this. And something you'll notice, the debris. It shows it's been scarred by wildfire.
(voice-over): A 1,000 homes are under a mandatory evacuation order because they sit below the scorched hills. Two months ago it was wildfire. Today, mud into their pools and backyards. California's been in drought for months. The sudden rain caught some by surprise.
Two people were found stranded in a tree trying to escape the rising water of the Los Angeles River. Take a closer look. It's not just people, but their two dogs. You can see the rescuers, the Los Angeles firefighters, as they carefully move the frightened animals out of the tree one by one to the nearby rescue boat.
And there's more rain coming, which is bad news for Kim and Dennis Craley. They chose not to listen to mandatory evacuation order. Their one road in and out too covered in mud to drive.
(on camera): Because you can't get out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Not right now. Until they clear this, we're stuck here.
LAH: What has Mother Nature been like the last couple of months for you?
KIM KRALIX, RESIDENT: We had fire, drought, and now torrential rain.
DENNIS KRALIX, RESIDENT: Wind.
KIM KRALIX: So, yes, pretty much everything.
DENNIS KRALIX: Yes. We've hit all four elements at this point. I think we're done at this point with any more crazy storms.
COOPER: It's unbelievable how much mud. Kyung Lah joins us now live. So there's more about the recent evacuations?
LAH: The evacuation is actually being widened in an area just to the west of me. We learned about it via Twitter. It's a neighborhood that looks very much similar to what this is. It's in an area right below a burn area and in all caps the police there said, evacuate immediately. They're even asking the local reporters to please report that they want people to get out of these neighborhoods.
A lot of these people, Anderson, are not leaving their homes, and the reason why this is dangerous is that you can see how dry it is behind me. Just a short time ago, water was rushing down here. The weather here is very unpredictable when you talk about the burned areas meeting these water areas. It is flash flood conditions.
COOPER: You mention more rain coming. How much more rain? I mean, how many more days is this supposed to go on for?
LAH: We are only about halfway through. So Saturday into Sunday, more rain is predicted. A total of 6, perhaps even more inches for this area, and it's very difficult to predict exactly how much rain these lands can actually hold onto and it can completely dry up, Anderson, in a couple of weeks. Maybe the land will give way then. So that's what is really scary to the people who live here.
COOPER: All right, Kyung, thanks very much. Amazing video seeing those dogs being rescued.
Now to another part of the country that's getting walloped, an arctic blast bringing subzero temperatures to the Midwest. Gary Tuchman has been on ice jam duty for us all this week. We sent him out into the cold again tonight. He joins us live from Illinois -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've seen some changes, Anderson, on the Kankakee River. Although it's still frigid it was a little bit warmer today. So the ice levels in this surreal have gone down a little bit. That being said, I know I'm very safe here. I have the confidence of an ice fisherman because I'm several feet above the Kankakee River right now.
We know it is sturdy, there won't be flooding, but it will be coming in the next several days. However, the top levels of the ice are soft now. It breaks like glass. You hear that. That's just the top level. There's still three to five feet below me of ice. What's amazing about this is just last week, Saturday as a matter of fact, there was no ice like this at all on this river.
It was iced over, but it was as flat as a hockey rink. Then the weather got warm, it started melting, then it got frigidly cold. That's why this developed. Old timers we've talked to who live in this area say they've never seen it like this before. But issue is starting about this Thursday coming up the weather is supposed to be above freezing.
It's supposed to last that way for several days. Two weeks from now it's supposed to be in the 50s and 60s. That's when the danger occurs because this will all melt and the people nearby could be in some trouble.
COOPER: So what are they doing to prepare for the potential flooding?
TUCHMAN: Well, it's interesting. When we cover floods and hurricanes, a very popular and important and wise pastime is to put sandbags in front of your house. But because so many people here don't know what to anticipate because they've never seen anything like this before we see almost no sand bags.
People have left their homes, but they are not really preparing for it because they don't know what to expect. But by all accounts, if it gets warm very fast, it could be catastrophic for the homeowners who live near the river here in Illinois.
COOPER: All right, Gary, appreciate the update. Thanks.
Just ahead, for more than a year Oscar Pistorius has stuck to his story. On the eve of his murder trial begins on Monday we'll look at how the case is unfolded. Plus the NBA's first openly gay player, Jason Collins, describes what it's like to be back in the game now that he's come out publicly. Rachel Nichols has the CNN exclusive.
COOPER: Welcome back. On Monday the world's most famous amputee athlete, Oscar Pistorius, known to many as the "Blade Runner" will go on trial for murder. It's being called South Africa's trial of the century. The man at the center of it a sports idol who has fallen far in some people's eyes.
The Olympic runner is charged with murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he says he loved more than anything in the world. He does not deny killing her, but he claims it was a terrible mistake. For more than a year we've been hearing about the case, the prosecution is likely to make.
Just days ago a judge ruled that cameras would be allowed in the courtroom for the first time in South Africa. Tonight, Randi Kaye reminds us how all of this began.
RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Valentine's Day 2013 marked not by romance, but by gun fire inside the home of Oscar Pistorius. Neighbors say they heard arguing. Pistorius says he heard an intruder. Whatever it was it left Pistorius's girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, dead, shot in the head, arm and hip.
(on camera): So was it murder or a terrible mistake? Oscar Pistorius detailed his side of the story in a rare affidavit given to the court. Hours before the fatal shooting, Pistorius wrote, "it had been a normal evening at home. A quiet dinner, TV and bed for him, yoga for her. He told the court hours after they went to bed he was jolted awake, filled with fear after hearing a noise in the bathroom.
(voice-over): Pistorius wrote in the affidavit, "I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed and screamed at the intruder to get out. Then he explained he fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police.
MARCIA CLARK, FORMER PROSECUTOR: To me the instinctive thing, you hear sounds in the bathroom. If only to say, honey, did you hear that? You do that first before you move in the bathroom to fire shots.
KAYE: According to the affidavit, Pistorius who said he did not have his prosthetic legs on at the time of the shooting found Steenkamp slumped over adding she died in my arms. Pistorius's agent got a frantic call at 4:00 a.m.
PEET VAN ZYL, OSCAR PISTORIUS' AGENT: Just had this voice frantically shouting please you have to come to Oscar's house.
KAYE: Prosecutors say this was no tragic mistake, that Pistorius calculated the perfect angle aiming downward at the toilet. There's this, a floor plan of the apartment, which the state says proves Pistorius could not have crossed the bedroom without realizing Steenkamp wasn't in bed. Photos leaked to the media by police show the bloody crime scene.
Reeva Steenkamp was just 29, a model and law school graduate. These exclusive photos are from happier -- to CNN from a source close to Pistorius, they are some of the last photos the couple had taken together. Reeve Steenkamp's family still heartbroken.
MIKE STEENKAMP, REEVA STEENKAMP'S UNCLE: You sort of wake up in the morning expecting Reeva to give a phone call.
KAYE: Still so many unanswered questions. Did Steenkamp really enter the bathroom unnoticed? Why lock the door? Was she trying to protect herself from Pistorius or from an intruder? What about the bloodied cell phones inside the bathroom? How did they get there?
Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder, but released on little more than $100,000 bond. He's been awaiting trial here at his uncle's multimillion dollar mansion.
ARNOLD PISTORIUS, OSCAR PISTORIUS' UNCLE: Oscar is like we all are, still very traumatized.
KAYE: Some who know Pistorius tell CNN they're not surprised this happened.
MARC BATCHELOR, FORMER SOCCER PLAYER: He would have a trip switch. He'd get violent and angry and fight with people. He would cause a lot of problems. The incident with me and him was because he was drunk at a party and he started shouting.
KAYE: Pistorius's past will be on full display at trial. The blade runner himself is expected to testify, as are former girlfriends and forensic experts. And the cameras will be there. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Let's get caught up on some of the other stories we're following. Susan Hendricks has a 360 Bulletin -- Susan.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Kerry Kennedy was acquitted of charges of driving under the influence of a drug. The 54-year-old daughter of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy was charged with driving while impaired after swerving off the road and into a tractor trailer in July of 2012. She testified that she accidentally took this sleep aid, Ambien, after grabbing the wrong prescription bottle.
A 360 follow now, actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman died from a toxic mix of drugs, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepine and amphetamines. The New York Medical Examiner's Office released its findings today ruling the death an accident. A house next door to Spike Lee's former home in Brooklyn was vandalized just days after the director made a profanity-laced critique of gentrification. Someone spray painted do the right thing on the building's facade and broke the glass on the front door. "Do the right thing" as you may know was the name of Spike Lee's 1989 film.
And unbelievable here, a Mississippi man woke up in a body bag at a funeral home stunning workers who were getting ready to embalm him. A coroner had pronounced him dead at his home. Anderson, his heart started beating again. Now he's in a hospital.
COOPER: So bizarre. Crazy. Susan, thanks very much.
Jason Collins is making history as the first openly gay player in the NBA. Up next, a CNN exclusive, he opens up about how his week back has been and the true meaning behind the number on the jersey he's been wearing for years.
COOPER: In tonight's "American Journey," the NBA's first openly gay player and first on any major U.S. sports teams, Jason Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets last Sunday. This week his jersey with the "98" became the top selling one in the NBA. He wore that number with other teams, but last year when he came out as gay he revealed he chose the number for a special reason.
He's paying tribute to Matthew Shepherd, the Wyoming gay college student whose own dreams ended in 1998 when he was kidnapped, tied to a fence post, beaten and tortured. Matthew Shepherd died five days later. Last night, after the Nets beat the Nuggets in Denver, Collins met Matthew's mother, father and brother and gave them an autographed jersey with the special number.
Our own Rachel Nichols got an exclusive interview with Collins. His first since returning to the NBA. It's going to air later tonight, the full interview on our show "UNGUARDED." She joins us now with a preview. So many changes for Jason Collins. What did he tell you about what it's been like to be back in the game, back on the court?
RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It's been a very positive experience. He was on the visiting team coming into Colorado. But the Denver fans gave him a nice ovation. That shows the support he's gotten around the league. Jason told me he is happy that people are thinking of him as this big history maker. But what he also loves with each game he plays people are starting to once again think of him as just another basketball player. Take a listen.
NICHOLS: You have a great line when you first came out. You said I've been showering in the NBA for 12 years. Clearly it hasn't killed anybody.
JASON COLLINS, BROOKLYN NETS: Yes. NICHOLS: You're back in the locker room, back in the training room now. Have you noticed any difference?
COLLINS: No, it's the same environment. Everything is the same. Just like I said before, 12 years in the NBA, not a problem, not an issue. Year 13 not a problem, not an issue. Same old same old.
NICHOLS: Do you feel that you're inspiring some people out there? Have you heard good things?
COLLINS: Yes. I definitely have. I've met some other athletes who sort are in the same position as I am. And we're sort of like a fraternity just trying to help each other, just trying keep inspiring each other. Whether it be Robby Rogers or Michael Sam or the list goes on and on of so many great athletes I've met along my journey. And it's really great to hear each other's stories and keep inspiring each other.
NICHOLS: Jason's had a lot of people celebrating him. He was of course the guest of Michelle Obama at the state-of-the-union. When he played his first NBA game earlier this week he had a bunch of celebrities courtside in Los Angeles. But he said really the most special thing he got was a text from Billy Jean King after his first game. I guess one trailblazer to another, Anderson.
COOPER: It's also remarkable. He's worn this jersey number 98 for a while. Just now people are realizing the significance. You talked to him about that.
NICHOLS: Yes, absolutely. After he first came out, he did explain what the 98 was for. Matthew Shepherd's parents were stunned. Judy Shepherd, Matthew's mother, was able to put in a call to Jason. Jason told me a little bit about their conversation. She of course told him how touched she was, how proud she was, but she also told Jason, now, you don't let the haters get to you, she said.
You just keep doing what you're doing. Of course, Jason loved the fact that the 61-year-old white woman from Wyoming was telling him not to listen to the haters. So when they met last night, he made sure to tell Judy Shepherd he was following her advice.
COOPER: So he had a ten-day contract or has a ten-day contract with the Nets. Is that likely to be extended through the end of the season, do we know?
NICHOLS: Yes, I mean, they haven't said yet for sure. But certainly the indications are that they would extend his contract and that they would sign him for the rest of the year. They need a big man. They need a guy who can get in there and bump some bodies around. That's what he does as a player what he's always been good at. He's not a scorer. He's a big presence underneath the basket and he is doing his job right now, which is all he ever really wanted to do.
COOPER: All right, Rachel, thanks. You can see more of Rachel's exclusive interview with Jason Collins that's tonight on her program "UNGUARDED" with Rachel Nichols at 10:30 Eastern on CNN. Stick around for that. "The Ridiculist" is next.
COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight we're delving into art appreciation, specifically focusing on the garden of earthly delights. Painted around the 1500. Still a wonder especially for a college student named Amelia.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the most bizarre painting. It's so huge and there are all these tiny details. It's kind of like a 500-year- old where's Waldo poster.
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COOPER: So recently, Amelia was up late at night looking at the intricate triptych with some friends as college kids are want to do when she noticed something, a small detail that stood out to her.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was 1:00 in the morning. We were bored and we saw the dude's butt with music on it. I was like, I got to inscribe it, guys.
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COOPER: That's right. Being a cheeky college student and a music major at that, Amelia didn't just sit on the information, she got to the bottom of it. Transcribed the music and thus apparently became the first person ever to do so.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did it as a joke and I put it on my blog. And apparently it was historically significant.
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COOPER: So what does 500-year-old butt music sound like, you ask? Amelia played it on a piano even though she also plays tuba, which I believe is the preferred instrument for butt music. Anyway, here it is.
Not exactly catchy. Could use some percussion, maybe a little back beat. In defense of the song, there were some limitations to Amelia's transcription from a music theory point of view.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There wasn't a clef listed on the painting. Most Gregorian chant I've seen it was c clef. I thought this is a really bad Gregorian chant. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I like Amelia. I like her a lot. Sure enough someone online called a well-manicured man turned it into a Gregorian chant.
All right, so now you know. For the record Amelia never expected this would be her magnum opus at 20 years old.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not on earth what I expected to ever be famous for if I was ever to be famous at all.
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COOPER: Well done, Amelia. Well done indeed. Thanks very much for helping us end on a high note on "The Ridiculist" tonight. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.