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Putin Visits Crimea; U.S. Help in Nigeria; Interview With Arizona Senator John McCain; U.S. Airliner's Close Call With a Drone; Dr. Drew First Hip-Hop Billionaire?

Aired May 9, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Check out Vladimir Putin today strutting around Crimea like he's Sinatra at the Sands.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead, Russia's president swaggering around like he owns the place, making his first visit to Crimea since Russia annexed it from Ukraine.

We will ask our guest, Senator John McCain, is this the first of many victory laps for Putin in this Ukrainian crisis?

The politics lead. Anyone who tells you that absence makes the heart grow fonder was not thinking about running for the White House. Hillary Clinton suddenly everywhere this week, as a potential Republican rival in 2016 takes another shot at her husband.

And the national lead, they are losing a TV show. He may lose his NBA team after tapes of their controversial remarks surfaced, the public consequences of expressing personal thoughts.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD.

This hour, we're tracking major developments in three very big stories for you.

First, what's more foreboding than a glowering Vladimir Putin? A smiling Vladimir Putin, Russia's president looking triumphant today as he made his first visit to Crimea ever since Russia seized it from Ukraine.

Now, in Nigeria, it's not quite the cavalry. In fact, it's only slightly bigger than the starting lineup for an NBA team. Six U.S. military advisers arriving to help search for those 276 girls kidnapped by Islamist terrorists. Is that going to be enough?

And more outrageous accusations involving a second U.S. veterans hospital, this time in San Antonio, CNN's ongoing investigation revealing another alleged cover-up of ridiculously long wait times for those who served our country. So much to cover at this hour.

Let's get right into it with our world lead. This is the scene in Mariupol, a hotly contested city in Southeastern Ukraine, Ukrainian forces trying to flush pro-Russia separatists out of the city. Ukrainian officials say at least seven people today were killed in clashes there.

Meanwhile, about 300 miles away, Russian President Vladimir Putin set foot in Crimea for the first time since Russia annexed it from Ukraine in March, Putin striding around like he just won a Super Bowl. I guess he already has a ring.

Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, joins us now from Eastern Ukraine.

Nick, Putin's visit comes on a day already loaded with meaning for Russians.


And I think people will be deeply troubled because of the overtones of that display we saw in Crimea, quite remarkable. For a while there, for about five minutes, he simply got on his own private boat and went down a series of Russian ships, saying to each crew, I congratulate you on the 69th anniversary of our victory in what we call World War II, remarkable scenes, bombers in the sky, a display of military might.

In Washington Russian television throughout all of that, too, they kept reminding us of the losses inflicted 69 years ago by that obviously horrifying war. But it comes on a day in which we saw also the Ukrainian military moving in to a town, Mariupol, so close to the Russian border, where Russian forces are amassed.

And Mariupol itself is way to the south of where I'm standing. Key buildings there have changed hands in the past week or so, a very confused picture. Certainly, we're hearing from the interior military that they believe some pro-Russian militant moved on the police station, took it and then the Ukrainian army moved in, in a clash there.

Now, the death tolls are messy all over the place, local government officials saying seven dead, 30 injured. That prime minister tallies with most of what we're hearing, Human Rights Watch having seen five bodies in hospitals they have been to. But the interior minister, who has been known for rhetoric in the past few weeks, claims 20 pro- Russian militants were killed.

The scenes on the street showing civilians surrounding Ukrainian armor moving around, showing a lot of gunfire, a lot of heavy weapons potentially being used as well. This is going to do nothing but inflame the pro-Russian sentiments on the street here in Donetsk.

And this -- as I say, this town so close to the Russian border, about an hour's drive away from any Russian troops who feel they want to, and happening on a day where all of Russia is focused on what they consider to be their victory over fascism and Russian media really heavily blurting out the idea that what they are facing here in Ukraine is a Kiev government that is somehow fascist. Of course, that's not based on fact, but that's how it's being packaged, a tense day -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh, stay safe. Thank you so much.

Also in world news, a lot has been said about Nigeria's, shall we say, lumbering response to the militants who kidnapped close to 300 teenage girls. Now we're finding this out. Amnesty International says Nigerian military commanders had a four-hours -- four-hour heads-up that the terrorist group Boko Haram was heading to the boarding school, four hours.

But, according to Amnesty International, they sat on their hands because they could not round up enough troops to respond. Instead, they left it to a handful of soldiers and the local police force to take on a terrorist group that got weapons training from al Qaeda, according to American intelligence, one that may be responsible for the deaths of 2,000 people over the past year.

Today, finally, some help has arrived from the U.S. and the U.K., but will it be enough?

CNN's Isha Sesay is live in Nigerian capital -- Isha.


Well, the answer to that question will become clearer in the days ahead, but I can say that the Pentagon spokesman already saying on this Friday that time is not on their side. The bottom line is, these girls have been missing more than three weeks now.

He also added that the geography is not on the side of the Nigerians that are still in the lead in this investigation. Let's be very clear with our viewers. The U.S. team that is on the ground, they are not combat forces. They are here to provide critical expertise. We're talking about intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, hostage- taking expertise.

And that's what they will be here to do, to fill in the gaps in the capabilities of the Nigerian government. As to whether they will be able to make up for lost time, once again, we shall just have to wait and see. But that is the hope, that these girls will come home -- Jake.

TAPPER: Isha Sesay, thank you so much.

Now for our national lead, CNN's ongoing investigation revealing new allegations today that a second veterans hospital has been scheming to cover up excessive wait times for veterans, this time in San Antonio.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has already been hit with claims first reported on CNN that Phoenix VA hospital had a secret waiting list for veterans and that some of these people who served the country died while the hospital stalled and stalled.

I want to bring in CNN investigative correspondent Chris Frates.

Chris, I want to get to these allegations at the San Antonio VA in a second. But, first, you have got some follow-up reporting to our story about the Phoenix VA. What is it? CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right, Jake.

CNN has learned that criminal investigators from the Office of the Inspector General are on the ground in Phoenix. And what's more, a source within the VA tells us employees' computers are being taken for examination. The Phoenix VA is where a CNN investigation found that 40 veterans died waiting for care, according to our sources, and that the hospital kept this secret list designed to hide the fact that some veterans were waiting almost two years to see a doctor.

TAPPER: And, also, you're learning about the investigation expanding into other hospitals.

FRATES: Well, correct.

Right now, the biggest focus is on Phoenix, but the I.G. is also looking into similar allegations of delayed care in Fort Collins, Colorado, and in San Antonio, Texas, as well as other locations.

My colleague Drew Griffin spoke exclusively with a whistle-blower in San Antonio, who says he was told to make it look like veterans were not waiting months for appointments.


BRIAN TURNER, VA SCHEDULING CLERK: I believe that they have for the last year-and-a-half, I have been in a practice, coaching schedulers to change those dates in order for them to look better. It makes them look like there's not a huge wait period, when there really is.

There could be a three-month wait period, and they're showing nothing.


FRATES: Now, CNN has been asked Secretary Shinseki to comment on delayed care for months. We have gotten no response. But next week, the secretary will have to answer questions when he testifies before a Senate committee, Jake.

TAPPER: The Veterans Administration secretary is a Cabinet position. What does the White House have to say to all this?

FRATES: Well, I'll tell you, they say the same thing over and over and over again. The president has confidence in Shinseki and they are waiting for the results of the investigation.

TAPPER: Chris Frates, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Turning to the money lead now, the closing bell wrapping up the week on Wall Street moments ago, not a huge gain for the Dow, only about 32 points, but still enough to record another record high. But, despite these Friday gains, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 ended lower for the week.

Coming up on THE LEAD: Our CNN investigation might have outraged him the most. Now senator and veteran John McCain tells me that people maybe should be in jail over these allegations -- that interview coming up next.

Plus, Apple reportedly making its biggest purchase ever for a headphone company run by hip-hop mobile Dr. Dre. And it's more than just the product Apple wants. That's ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In national news, before the break, we reported on new allegations that a second Veterans Administration hospital, this time in San Antonio, has been allegedly covering up lengthy wait times for veterans in desperate need of treatment.

The House committee has already subpoenaed Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after CNN first reported an alleged secret waiting list at a Phoenix VA hospital.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona is in Phoenix right now, where he's speaking to fellow veterans about these cracks in the system meant to help those who served this country. McCain is furious, but he did save some of his strongest words today for Vladimir Putin.

And Senator John McCain joins me now from Phoenix in his home state of Arizona.

Senator, good to see you, as always.

I want to get your reaction to this video of Vladimir Putin strutting around Crimea like Sinatra at the Sands, like he owns the joint, on Russia's Victory Day, of all days. What do you make of that?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: He does own the joint, and he's gotten it literally without firing a shot. And the price he has paid for that, and his further fomenting unrest, and perhaps even dismemberment of the Eastern Ukraine, has that we have sanctioned a handful of people and he has paid no penalty whatsoever.

So, you can see why he's strutting around as he is. And, frankly, one of the many disgraces of all this is that we still refuse to give the people of Ukraine defensive weapons with which to defend themselves.

TAPPER: Do you agree with what we're told is the White House assessment, that Russia's going to go after Odessa next?

MCCAIN: Well, I certainly believe that that's very likely. Odessa is a major port and they send a lot of stuff through there, including weapons and drugs and other things. And then, of course, it's a hop, skip, and a jump to Transnistria, part of Moldova.

Look, the cost-benefit ratio so far has been virtually nothing for Vladimir Putin. He -- I'm not positive that he will go to Odessa. I know setting the table for it. And I know that his troops haven't withdrawn from the border as he claimed they were. So, it wouldn't surprise me. I predicted he'd go to Crimea because he needs the naval base in Sevastopol that he pulled into today with his entourage. But, you know, it's just -- I mean, the best example of how weak we are appearing is that we wanted to -- finally, after furious debate in the White House, they decided to send them MREs, but they didn't want to fly them in U.S. military airplanes because that would provoke Vladimir Putin. So, they leased German trucks to truck them in, and I'm not making up that story.

TAPPER: Let's turn now to Nigeria. There are six U.S. military advisers arriving in Nigeria today. Do you think that's enough or should the response look more like Uganda where the Pentagon has 150 Special Forces going after Joseph Kony?

MCCAIN: Again, I hate to use the words "if I were president". So, I won't. But what we should have done, as soon as we know that these young girls were kidnapped -- this is an issue that crosses international borders. This is offense against humanity. And we should have utilized every asset that we have, satellites, drones, any capabilities that we have to go right after them.

We didn't have to wait until a Nigerian government, the nonexistent practically government in Nigeria gave us the go-ahead. We should have mounted a humanitarian mission.

Now, it is very difficult. Nigeria is a big country, bigger than Texas. I'm not underestimating how hard it would be, but we should have utilized every effort that we had and should now today and the Nigerian government, frankly, if we help rescue those children, would be nothing but grateful.

TAPPER: Let's turn to veterans now. First, there was that scandal in Phoenix. Now, we're told that there are clerks at San Antonio V.A. who are admitting that they cooked the books when it comes to wait times for troops who -- veterans who honorably serve their country and wanted just the medical care that was promised them. You are not at least yet calling for the resignation of the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, but you did send him a letter with nine questions about the Phoenix V.A.

Did you ever get a response?

MCCAIN: Not yet. I received a phone call from him saying yesterday that they are in the process of providing it and his commitment that they're going to have an audit nationwide. Not surprisingly, Jake, this is spreading to Colorado, to Texas, to California, to Atlanta.

And it's really terrible. And we need to hold people accountable. By the way, if this is what it appears it may be and I'm not -- I've got to give people a chance to make their case, but if it is what it appears to be, this isn't just resignations. This is violations of the law. People should go to jail.

TAPPER: Senator John McCain, look forward to hearing more about the town hall that you're having with veterans and look forward to talking to you in the future, sir. Thank you. MCCAIN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: When we come back, Jay-Z and Diddy gave him a run for his money but it was actually an old school rapper who claimed the title of the first hip-hop millionaire. How did Dr. Dre do it?

Plus, Donald Sterling caught on tape again. This time, he's explaining his racist comments by saying he was just, quote, "trying to have sex with the girl", unquote. Sure.


TAPPER: And this just in to THE LEAD, a scary close call with a U.S. airliner and a drone.

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is here with more.

Rene, how close were they in colliding? And were the passengers ever in serious danger?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is what we know so far. According to an FAA official who was speaking at a conference, the information that he shared so far is simply that this passenger plane, a US Airways passenger plane was flying and came into such close contact with this drone at some 23,000 feet in the air.

According to this FAA official at this conference, the pilot thought that the drone actually hit this passenger plane. That's how close they came to one another. But once they got on the ground, they were able to inspect the plane. They were able to determine the drone did not actually make contact with this plane.

But, scary. I mean, we're talking about 23,000 feet. This is an example of just a recreational drone that you have here. You have all sorts of drones, but obviously, this one that made it up 23,000 feet and was not one of those recreational drones. But it really highlights the reason why the FAA has been working for so long to essentially come out with a blueprint for how to safely integrate these drones into the air space because they are predicting over the next five years, we're going to see thousands of drones flying, sharing the air space with these passenger planes.

TAPPER: Potentially very dangerous.

Thank you so much, Rene Marsh.

Now, let's turn to our money lead.

Straight out of Compton to Silicon Valley. Dr. Dre is in line to lift over the likes of Diddy and Piddy (ph) to become the richest hip-hop mogul in the world. "The Financial Times" reports that Apple is in talk to buy Beats by Dre for an insane, or Cre-Cre, $3.2 billion. The buy would be Apple's biggest acquisition ever. But the company may not be in it just for the trendy head phones but for what's coming out of them.


TAPPER (voice-over): Legendary rapper and producer Dr. Dre has been bouncing around music's big league for decades and now the hip-hop mogul-turned-headphone entrepreneur made him even richer.

That's because the next episode of his career may include this guy -- Tim Cook from Apple.

Apple has reportedly offered to buy Dre's ubiquitous headphone company Beats for $3.2 billion. That's with a trendy lower case "B."

Here's singer-actor Tyrese with Dre a since deleted Instagram video celebrating the moment.

DR. DRE, RAPPER: First billionaire in hip-hop right here.

TAPPER: So, what is Beats, anyway? And why does Apple want it so badly?

Beats are partly these giant headphones. Dr. Dre's Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, also known as the cofounders of Interscope Records once described teeny tiny ear buds this way.

JIMMY IOVINE, CO-FOUNDER, BEATS BY DRE: These things have nothing. Every song sounds like that.

TAPPER: But what speaks most loudly to a company is cash.

LADY GAGA, RECORDING ARTIST: When I listen to music through these headphones, it sounded exactly the way I wanted it to.

TAPPER: Along with star power and hip speakers, Beats launched the streaming music service in January to compete with giants like Pandora and its 76 million users.

Notice I did not say giant such as iTunes radio because they have less than half that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it looks even better.

TAPPER: And that's the hook. Apple had bet on iTunes that consumers would buy songs and albums, but streaming music is huge. And Apple's part of it is not as huge as they want it to be.

Beats would give them that and some street cred.

So, before you forget about Dre, just remember being the biggest acquisition in Apple history ain't nothing but a beat thing. Maybe.


TAPPER: Word (ph).

Coming up next, getting back in the game. Hillary Clinton weighing on everything from Nigeria to control and getting personal. Is she trying out her material for a possible 2016 campaign? TAPPER: Plus, twin brother TV hosts fired about comments about homosexuality from two years ago were published. Now, they are talking about a gay agenda that bullied, they say, to HGTV into canceling their show.