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Millions at Risk for Severe Weather; NBA Owner under Fire; Clippers Protest Racist Talk By Owner; Republican Grimm Indicted

Aired April 28, 2014 - 12:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Sixteen people dead in three states. Hundreds of homes torn apart. Many of them simply gone. And more tornado watches and warnings on the way for millions of people across the Midwest and the south.

Also ahead, racist and raunchy recordings purportedly of L.A. Clippers' owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend, tarnishing the NBA. Now everyone from Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to President Obama weighing in as the league launches a full investigation.

And things looking fairly grim at this hour for New York Congressman Michael Grimm. He's just been taken into federal custody over alleged bad business dealings. Remember, this is the same congressman who threatened to throw a reporter off the balcony during the State of the Union earlier this year.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Monday, April the 28th and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

They are devastating and they are on the move. Strong storms with destructive tornadoes ripping through the central plains and the mid south and killing at least 16 people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My ears are popping. Yep, we're in it right now. We're in the tornado. All right. We're pulling over.


BANFIELD: Look how dark it became in just seconds. This video was taken in Mayflower, Arkansas, one of the towns that was worst hit. The man behind the camera says he shot it just before God spared his life. Others around him weren't as fortunate. They were killed.

Right after the tornado moved through, other devastating images now south of Mayflower. Just take a look at your screen. Almost imperceivable (ph). The Arkansas governor has declared a state of disaster. In fact, for three different counties. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is in Mayflower to show us the damage up close and personal. And our Jennifer Gray is in the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta because the forecast does not look good for later on today.

Chad, I want to begin with you though. When the light first hits, after there's tornadoes, it must be just remarkable to see. CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is because our TV cameras go about 15 feet, the sun goes all the way through. And when you can see the damage as far as it went, at least I'm thinking 30 or 40 miles, a half mile wide, that's 20 square miles worth of damage. And we saw that. At least F-3 damage here where the walls are gone on the outside, the roof is certainly gone, but most of the interior part of the homes of Mayfield (ph) are still there. Now, if you get out towards Vilonia, we're hearing that some of those homes don't exist at all.

But, Ashley, I -- there's been friends helping friends, neighbors helping neighbors effort here now because it's the rescue, it's the search, it's the recovery at this point in time, although we're obviously still trying to rescue those who need it. But Dwayne Maynard, a pastor down in Little Rock, is here helping.

I have to say, you're dirty.


MYERS: But what do you tell the people here that you're helping?

MAYNARD: That, you know, we - I just - I just tell them, this is what it's all about. This is life at its best. People coming out and helping other people. When I got here on the scene last night a few minutes after the tornado went through, it was within minutes that the entire life group of our 20s age in our church were out here helping their friends who lost their entire home right out here.

MYERS: This -- this is stuff.


MYERS: But people lost loved ones. People lost pets. How do you comfort them?

MAYNARD: That's right. You know, (INAUDIBLE), our youth pastors, and they lost their pet, and that was their child. And, you know, I just - I just - I just want us to remember that life comes from God. And when we look at things like this, we realize that anything can happen at any time.

MYERS: And, Ashleigh, we are afraid that more will happen like this a little bit farther to the east and Jennifer Gray will have more on that.

BANFIELD: And, Chad, before I let you go though, do we have any idea about the death toll? Are they still finding people? Are they still worried there are people that are missing?

MYERS: We do know that there are people missing, and that's not unusual for this time of a storm. It's only been, what, less than 16 hours. So the easiest way to contact someone here is by a text message. The cell service is horrendous now. Power's out everywhere. So the cell service isn't really working. When you pick up the phone to call, a lot of the times you just get beeps. But if you can send a text that says, are you OK, and they send it back, yes, I'm OK, that takes no bandwidth whatsoever. You don't have to make a phone call to get those things, and that will start taking people off of that missing people list.

BANFIELD: And, Chad, I'm just hearing now that the governor has announced that they're going to be setting up temporary cell phone towers. So that's great advice that you've just given out and hopefully that will help for those who are still missing and those who are searching for their loved ones amid all that debris.

And, Jennifer Gray, maybe you could just weigh in on this because, you know, there is nothing worse than bad weather on the horizon when you have all of that loose and dangerous debris -- nails, shards. There's just so much that's dangerous.

GRAY: Yes, they just -- very, very quickly can be picked up by the wind and they will be carried around. Luckily, though, the good news is, the storms won't be in Arkansas for today and tonight. The storms are going to shift a little bit farther to the east. And so folks in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, really need to watch out with these warnings as we go through the afternoon and evening hours.

Right now, a tornado watch in effect until noon central time. So for about another hour we'll be on the lookout there. Some of the stronger storms right now, though, are up through portions of Tennessee, along I-40. And you can see right outside of Nashville, seeing some pretty nasty storms pull through there. No warnings out right now, but we just have that one tornado watch.

What's going to happen is we will see those showers and storms sort of die down just a little bit. And then with the daytime heating throughout the day, by this afternoon, into this evening, we'll start to see those strong showers and storms fire up once again.

This is also going to be a huge rain event. We could see anywhere from three to five inches in the coming days push to the East Coast. So the set-up for today, you still have that warm air in place. We have a moderate risk of severe weather right over Huntsville, Jackson, Mississippi. It goes into southern portions of Tennessee. These will be the folks that really need to be on the lookout as we go through the late afternoon and evening hours. Just like yesterday, we could see another round of very strong storms. But you see the entire area of yellow, we're also under a slight risk. So we could see severe weather anywhere from Indianapolis all the way down to New Orleans. So this is a huge area, Ashleigh, and this is going to be affecting a lot of people later today. It's going to be pushing even more to the east tomorrow. So we're going to be talking about this today and tomorrow once again.

BANFIELD: Right, Jennifer Gray, thank you for that. And, Chad Myers as well, thank you.

It's so important to stay tuned to those weather forecasts. Make sure you do. Not only CNN, as we'll be updating you, but your local forecast as well. That can save your life. Also want to let you know if you're watching and you want to help the victims of these terrible tornadoes, CNN's here to help you as well. Please, just go to Plenty of different ways that you can lend your help and your support.

Some stunning comments about race allegedly from the owners of the Clippers. And it is shaking up the NBA. Players are taking a stand, wearing their shirts inside-out to hide the team logo. We're going to talk to another basketball franchise owner next. And, by the way, have you heard about what that man has allegedly said about women? That's coming next too.


BANFIELD: A firestorm in the NBA over racist remarks attributed to L.A. Clippers owner Don Sterling. A recorded phone call allegedly between Sterling and his girlfriend certainly drawing a lot of fire from the players, from the fans, from fellow team owners, even President Obama weighing in from halfway across the world. CNN's Dan Simon is following all of the fallout from Los Angeles.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The L.A. Clippers took to the court Sunday, stripping off their warm-up uniforms in solidarity. The team's red T-shirts with the logos invisible, sign of protest against owner Donald Sterling after an edited audio recording surfaced on TMZ Sports over the weekend. A man, purportedly Sterling, making racist comments in a conversation with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano.

V. STIVIANO (voice-over): People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram and it bothers you.

DONALD STERLING (voice-over): Yes, it bother me a lot that you want to promo -- broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?

STIVIANO: You associate with black people.

STERLING: I'm not you and you're not me. You're supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latino girl.

STIVIANO: I'm a mixed girl.

SIMON: This fiery exchange allegedly erupting after Sterling saw this photo Stiviano posted on her Instagram feed, posing with NBA legend Magic Johnson.

STIVIANO: And I took a picture with someone I admired.


STIVIANO: And he happens to be black and I'm sorry.

STERLING: I think it's nice that you admire him. I know him well and he should be admired. And I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire him privately.

SIMON: Magic Johnson outrage over Sterling's alleged comments.

MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: We're all upset who are African- American people. If you're going to be like this, why you owning a team in the NBA, which, what, is over 70 percent African-American basketball players? So I think he should step down.

SIMON: The NBA now launching an expedited investigation as fans, players and officials express their disgust.

LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT PLAYER: For comments like that, it taints our game and we can't have that. We can't have it from a player. We can't it from an owner. We can't have it from a fan and so on and so on.

KEVIN JOHNSON, SACRAMENTO, CALIF., MAYOR/FORMER NBA PLAYER: There's absolutely no place in the NBA family for ignorance, intolerance, reprehensible comments that are unacceptable and not fitting for what this league is all about.


SIMON: Well, Donald Sterling did not attend the game yesterday, but his wife did. Yes, he is still married. His wife, Rochelle, told ESPN that she is not a racist and she does not condone what was on that tape, although she did not confirm that it is her husband's voice.

Now, as if the story couldn't get even more bizarre, the wife, Rochelle Sterling, filed a lawsuit against Miss Stiviano claiming that she came into some possessions fraudulently. Those possessions, Ashleigh, include a Ferrari, a Range Rover and a $1.8 million condo in Beverly Hills. Miss Stiviano says those were gifts from Mr. Sterling and that she has done nothing wrong.

Back to you.

BANFIELD: Those are some assets, I'll tell you. Dan Simon, thank you for that. Dan reporting live for us in Los Angeles. So there is a lot to talk about on this subject, to say the very least. My colleague, Don Lemon, is here with me live, and also joining me from Los Angeles is Paula Madison, former owner of the WNBA's L.A. Sparks, who spent years as a journalist and news executive before heading up her own media company

OK you two hold on because this is going to be a wild ride. The players have been protesting. The fans are outraged. But we still don't have any definitive proof that this is Sterling on the recording. But if it is, big question, what should happen? Don, I'm going to turn it over to you first but we're going to have to hold down the lid because I know how you feel about this. I've been watching you all weekend, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: What should happen? The guy should go. I mean it's as simple as that. But it's not as easy to get an owner out. And Paula can speak to that. But I think he should go. And I think that the commissioner should be - I personally feel he should be stronger. Any time there is an investigation into wrongdoing, most people are suspended or there's something that happens to them as an investigation is happening.

BANFIELD: This has only had about, you know, 24 or 36 hours --

LEMON: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. If it was not him on the tape, he would say it's not me. He has not said it's not him. He says, I am sorry for the comments that were attributed to me. He has not come out and said, this is not me. And so I think - I think that it is insulting to the players who had to go there yesterday in protest and play to still have this man as their owner and not have any disciplinary action taken against him so far. So I think that the commissioner should do something pending the investigation.

BANFIELD: So, Paula, I want to bring you in on this, because what Don says has to do with what we've been talking about just since Sunday, but this is not the first time.

As many people know, this man has a long history of questionable behavior, going back to -- let's just go most recent. 2009, he was sued by the executive vice president and general manager of the Clippers, Elgin Baylor.

The jury sided with Sterling on this one, but the allegations were that he was very racist and that he treated -- he wanted the Clippers team to be composed of, quote, "poor black boys from the South" and a white head coach. Those were the allegations.

2006, Justice Department filed suit. This was settled with no admission of liability, and it was all about the kinds of people that he would rent to. And it was none too sweet on his behalf, shall we say?

And then in 2003 might be the most offensive of these allegations. The Housing Rights Center and a group of tenants who lived in his property filed a federal lawsuit, settled confidentially, but here are the quotes.

"Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang out around the building." The accusation was also that he said, "black tenants smell and attract vermin," and that he believed Korean-American tenants, quote, "will live in whatever conditions he gives them and will still pay the rent without complaint." So it's not the first time we've had this. There's been a long decade of this. Why is he still where he is?

PAULA MADISON, FORMER OWNER, WNBA L.A. SPARKS: Ashleigh, I think that a lot of it has to do with money, a lot of it has to do with the power that he's accumulated, and the fact that, frankly, he owned the Clippers when the Clippers were kind of, you know, a hard-scrabble team.

And now the Clippers have accumulated a fan base and a wealth that affords Donald Sterling even greater wealth. Nothing has happened, I think. to him in the past because he's been strategic.

I'm very interested and curious as to how he was receiving these NAACP awards for the Los Angeles branch, because what's happening, or what appears to be happening is that he sort of buys his way out of trouble by giving free tickets to hundreds, if not thousands, of inner-city kids who can come to a basketball game.

He buys his way out of it by donating maybe $100,000 or more to a civil rights organization, but there comes a point like today. Today is a point in the history of African-Americans in basketball where something significant can happen.

The players are predominantly black. The head of the players association is African-American. Kevin Johnson, who is representing them, is African-American.

Do I think that only African-Americans can do the right thing here? Not at all. I don't believe that at all, but I believe that they have a voice, and they have a power and right now it's important for them to demonstrate it as they did yesterday.

You can't expect these men -- who Donald Sterling seems to believe that he's on a plantation. He seems to believe that he can control and manipulate just on the basis of his ownership.

BANFIELD: You brought up a great point. Now we're talking about the specifics of leadership and what the NBA can do. But you brought up the point that he was awarded a lifetime achievement in '09 by the NAA --

LEMON: Another one in '08. Another award in '08, two awards.

BANFIELD: And he was up for one.

The NAACP's Los Angeles chapter gave him one in '09. He's up for one that will likely not happen --

LEMON: He was given two. He was given one in '08 and one in '09.

BANFIELD: Let me ask you this. Very few people are even talking about the other aspect of this man.

Look at the woman sitting beside him. This is a married man with a woman 30 years his junior. This is what was he said on the quotes and I want to read this for people. On the same tape with these racially insensitive and freakish comment, he says about the girl, "If my girl can't do what I want, I don't want the girl. I'll find a girl that will do what I want.

"Believe me, I thought you were that girl. Because I've tried to do what you want, but you're not that girl." I mean, it's not just racist, it's sexism, it's everything.

Go ahead, Paula.

MADISON: Thank goodness for that girl. Thank goodness for her. Thank goodness that she was able to record that. Thank goodness that she continued the conversation. He must have tried to cease that conversation at least 10 times. BANFIELD: I need to clarify really quickly --

MADISON: She continued to --

BANFIELD: Paula, I need to just clarify. So far, this is an allegation. We don't know that she recorded it or released it. There's a lot flying about. I want to be super clear on what CNN knows and doesn't --

LEMON: Can I say something?

BANFIELD: Fire away.

LEMON: We're talking about the young girl who is sitting there and who allegedly, you know, gave this tape or recorded this --

BANFIELD: And depositions from other mistresses who he said horrifying things to --

LEMON: -- who is half black and half Latina.

Let's not dance around it. I'm African-American. Paula's African- American. Donald Sterling is part of -- is a member of one of the most discriminated groups of people in history.

There's this little thing called the Holocaust. And if anyone -- where people were murdered -- in anyone should know discrimination, it should be someone like Donald Sterling, and he should be preaching tolerance and acceptance rather than discriminating.

If anyone knows, he should know. He was born Donald Tokowitz. He should know that. And I think it's even more vile and even more disgusting coming from someone who was part of a discriminated class.

BANFIELD: He also made that comment about black Jews and white Jews, and when questioned --

LEMON: That doesn't even make sense.

BANFIELD: -- a difference between them, he said, you bet, or something to that.

LEMON: Yeah, it's a difference -- black Jews are treated worse than white Jews in Israel, and it's all just b.s., and it's silly.

BANFIELD: Is this a turning point, Don Lemon? Is this going to make a difference?

There have been so many things that we think when we cover these news stories is a turning point. Is this one?

LEMON: I think Paula could speak to that, but I think that Mayor Kevin Johnson says yes.

And when you have people like Kevin Johnson, you have people like Magic Johnson, you have Michael Jordan, who rarely speaks out, you have all these people who are speaking out, yeah, I think it is going to make a difference.

When you have fans who are saying next year if he's the owner I'm not going to the games. Yeah, I think it's going to make a difference, and I think it will be a turning point, just starting with the NBA.


MADISON: And I would hope that, frankly, Donald Sterling will listen to this. Maybe there's a point right now where he can decide it's time for him to come out of the NBA.

Maybe it's time for him to say to the commissioner, rather than prolong this any more and rather than damage the Clippers any more, let him sell the team and let him make the immense profit that he can make and just go sit down.

Because I think right now having him as a member of the Board of Governors of the NBA and having him be the top Clipper is an embarrassment not only to the league but to right-thinking people everywhere.

BANFIELD: You know, the two of you both being African-American and weighing in on this topic and then me throwing in the misogyny just for good measure as the woman who's so offended by the comments, I encourage our viewers go to

Have a read of some of the deposition pages that they were able to retrieve from 2004 and what he had said about another mistress that was being sued to recover more toys.

LEMON: It's crazy.

BANFIELD: I can't. I can't.

Don Lemon --

LEMON: Good to see you. Paula, thank you.

Good to see you.

BANFIELD: Good to see you.

MADISON: Thank you, thank you.

BANFIELD: Good to see both of you. Don Lemon, thank you for coming in so early. You never stop working, my friend. And, Paula, good to see you as well.

Another story, just another head shaker, a congressman in custody, facing charges.

You may remember him from that really delightful and testy exchange with a reporter on Capitol Hill. Feast your eyes.


MICHAEL SCOTTO, REPORTER: We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that.

Back to you.

CONGRESSMAN MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: Let me be clear to you.


GRIMM: You ever do that to me again, I'll (inaudible) throw you off the balcony.


BANFIELD: Throw you off the balcony. Well, if you can believe it, the charges don't even stem from that. They stem from something else. And we've got some choice words from the authorities on what they say Michael Grimm has done, next.


BANFIELD: A former FBI agent who won a seat in Congress in 2010 was in FBI custody today. Do the math. He's charged with perjury and fraud and obstruction and hiring undocumented workers, and that's just a start.

Michael Grimm represents Staten Island and the southern edge of Brooklyn, New York.

To the extent he's known outside of the Eleventh District is probably because of some anger-management issues that came out after a live TV interview that hadn't gone the way Grimm expected.. It happened in the U.S. Capitol on the night of this year's State of the Union address by that reporter. Have a listen closely.


GRIMM: Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this (inaudible) balcony.

SCOTTO: Why? Why? I just asked you --

GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again --

SCOTTO: Why? Why? It' a valid question.

GRIMM: (Inaudible).

SCOTTO: It was a valid question.

GRIMM: (Inaudible). No. No, you are not man enough. You're not man enough. I'll break you in half like a boy.


BANFIELD: First rule of Fight Club, the mikes are always hot.

The questions Grimm didn't want to answer concern a campaign finance investigation, but the 20-count indictment that was unsealed today against him does not involve campaign financing, oh, no, no, no, because there's so much more.

CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash has all the details, and she joins me live. And I'm also joined here in New York by CNN's legal analyst, Danny Cevallos.

Dana, I want to begin with you if I can just to outline how we ended up with charges that actually don't have what to do what we thought they would have to do with, campaign financing, and have everything to do with kind of business.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the bottom line -- I was just talking to our justice reporter, Evan Perez, who first reported these pending charges on Friday, who said, you know what? Messing with campaign finance laws is one thing. Messing with the IRS is a whole different story.

And that is what he is alleged to have done here, $1 million in cash that he didn't pay or at least record for the IRS.

Listen to what the U.S. attorney, who brought these charges, said about him


LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY: When it came to his restaurant, Michael Grimm never met a tax he didn't lie to evade.


BASH: So the 20-count indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, aiding and assisting the preparation of false tax returns, conspiring to defraud the United States and so forth.

Now I should tell you that his attorney just entered a not-guilty plea for him in New York. He was released on $400,000 bond.

It's possible we might actually hear from him for the first time since all of this happened, but certainly when it comes to any kind of hot water that a congressman is in, this really is up there. I mean, this looks pretty bad for him.

BANFIELD: Yeah, I'd say a 20-count indictment --


BASH: Exactly. And I was just going to say - exactly.