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As Donald Sterling Talks, Shelly Sterling Makes Bold Statements; Mother Played Big Role in Hillary Clinton's Life; A Vote for Independence in Ukraine; People Return to City of Homs, Syria

Aired May 12, 2014 - 13:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But Shelly Sterling, she also gave her own TV interview. She's making some bold statements.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She really is, Wolf. She told Barbara Walters of "ABC News" she was horrified when she first heard about those comments that her estranged husband had made to V. Stiviano. Specifically to the question that Walters asked her is Donald Sterling a racist, here is her response.


SHELLY STERLING, WIFE OF DONALD STERLING: It was horrible when I heard it. I mean, it was just degrading. And it made me sick to hear it. But as far as racist, I don't really think he is a racist.

BARBARA WALTERS, CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Have you discussed these remarks at all with your husband?

SHELLY STERLING: He saw the tape. And he said, I don't remember saying that. I don't remember ever saying those things.

WALTERS: What did you think then?

SHELLY STERLING: That's when I thought he has dementia.

WALTERS: Really?



TODD: Now, we have tried to get comment from Donald Sterling to that remark by his estranged wife that she thinks he might have dementia. We've not been able to get comment. Shelly Sterling says, of course, she's going to try to fight the NBA's decision to oust her as part owner of the Clippers.

BLITZER: On the dementia issue, there are some I guess studies that people who are dementia, early stages, mid stages, they do sometimes say some really clearly outrageous things.

TODD: It certainly is possible. I spoke with a psychiatrist on the phone who said that as far as, you know, it's called a coarsening of the personality. There might be some things you thought in your mind when you were younger that you self-censored that could come out. He said it's because your frontal lobes, part of your brain responsible for mental judgment, are not working as well. So it's possible to repress racist thoughts in your mind when you were younger but they may come out necessarily when you were older. As far as if you didn't have any racist thoughts, could they make you say something racist? I'm told by a psychiatrist that's possible but unlikely.

BLITZER: As far as the NBA saying they're kicking her husband out for life so he can't own the team, she says she doesn't accept this notion that she at the same time can be kicked out. She's ready to fight that.

TODD: She's ready to fight it. Here's a statement from her attorney. Quote, "We do not agree with the league's self-serving interpretation of its Constitution, its application to Shelly Sterling or its validity under these unique circumstances. We live in a nation of laws. California law and the United States Constitution trump any such interpretation."

That seems to be basically telling the NBA, from Shelly Sterling and her attorney, you can try to do this, but we're going to fight you and we'll probably take it to court. I imagine that's where it's going to end up.

BLITZER: We'll see how far it gets.

All right, Brian, thanks very much.

TODD: Sure.

BLITZER: I know you're working the story for "The Situation Room.:

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: A reminder, you can see the entire Donald Sterling interview later tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360," 8:00 p.m. eastern.

Just ahead, Hillary Clinton's new book won't be released until next month but revealing excerpts show the critical role her mother played in her life. Brianna Keilar standing by with a live report.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton's memoir hits the bookstores next month. It's entitled "Hard Choices." Just released excerpts revealed the role her mother played.

Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has been looking into all of this.

Pretty fascinating. What have you found out?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is pretty fascinating. As you know, as this book comes out, there's going to be a lot of attention, a lot of attacks. This is obviously a noncontroversial topic. Hillary Clinton's mother. Hillary talks a lot about the kind of grandmother that her mom was as she gets ready for that step in her life as well.


KEILAR (voice-over): It's the first look inside Hillary Clinton's highly anticipated memoir, a revealing moment to her mother, Dorothy Rodham, in an audio excerpt released on "Vogue's" website for Mother's Day.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: No one did more to shape the person I became.


KEILAR: Clinton says her mother stressed social justice as she raised the future first lady and secretary of state. Sent to live with severe grandparents who locked her in her room for a year as punishment for trick or treating. Leaving at 14, striking out on her own. Clinton asked her how she survived.


CLINTON: I'll never forget how she replied, at critical points in my life, somebody showed me a kindness, she said.


KEILAR: By contrast, Clinton said her mother always gave her unconditional love and support, including after she lost her campaign for president.


CLINTON: Having her so close became a source of great comfort to me, especially in the difficult period after the end of the 2008 campaign. I'd come home from a long day at the Senate or the State Department, slide in next to her at the small table in our breakfast nook and let everything just pour out.


KEILAR: And when her mother died in 2011, Clinton said she longed for one more conversation, one more hug. She also said she felt moved to take the advice she's sure her mother would give.


CLINTON: Never rest on your laurels. Never quit. Never stop working to make the world a better place. That's our unfinished business.


KEILAR: Clinton doesn't say if that unfinished business includes another try for the White House.


BLITZER: A lot of her book is going to be about her tenure at the State Department when she was secretary of state during those four years. Several critics now, including Marco Rubio, who might run for president himself, they're beginning to pounce, saying her tenure was a disaster. Listen to this.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: I'm sure she's going to go out bragging about her time in the State Department. She's also going to have to be held accountable for its failures, whether it's the failed reset in Russia or the failure in Benghazi that actually cost lives.

If you look at the diplomacy, it has failed everyone in the world. So here's what I would say. If she's going to run on her record as secretary of state, she's also going to have to answer for its massive failures.


BLITZER: That's the word a lot of Republicans are using. What are you hearing about this?

KEILAR: It's certainly in the eyes of beholder, I think, when it comes to what her tenure at the State Department is. That's going be to the controversial part of the book. A lot of it being Benghazi.

When she came out of the State Department, by many assessments, it was seen as a positive for her. She was seen as a good manager of the Department, managed to erase a lot of the stain of her poorly managed campaign in 2008. But it's been very colored by Benghazi, the attack on the consulate where four Americans were killed, including the ambassador. Republicans are certainly taking aim at that.

Either way you cut it, this is going to be big in 2016. Voters, when they're polled, think this is one of her best assets. So when you're looking at it in terms of politics, it is smart politics for Republicans to be trying to chip away at what voters consider to be a positive.

BLITZER: I'm sure they do.


KEILAR: It's just beginning.

BLITZER: I'm sure they will.

Thanks very much, Brianna Keilar. Brianna Keilar, reporting.

Let's take a closer look now at how the markets are doing today. These are live pictures. You see it's up about 104 points. The Dow Jones Industrials hitting a record high today. Wall Street will be watching retailers for some signs of life in the economy. Macy's, Walmart, JCPenney, among others, they'll be reporting earnings in the coming days. We'll watch. Right now, the markets up. Record highs. Over 16,000 right now.

There's a second confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome here in the United States. Federal health officials announced MERS, as it's known, was found in Florida but they stress the virus poses a low risk to the general public. The very first cases of MERS were diagnosed in the Arabian Peninsula back in 2012. While no one knows how it originated, there is evidence linking it to camels.

Up next, an overwhelming vote for independence in eastern Ukraine. But evidence of massive voter fraud puts legitimacy in question. We'll take a closer look.


BLITZER: Just a short time ago, the Nigerian government said all options are on the table when it comes to securing the release of the kidnapped girls. This comes just hours after the leader of Boko Haram made this statement.




BLITZER: Boko Haram's leader also says that this video, this is the video of the kidnapped girls. If true, it would be the first sighting since their abduction. The footage shows the girls dressed in Muslim head dresses reciting the Koran. While it's unclear when the video was shot, it does offer some hope that the girls have not yet been sold or separated. They are together at least in this video.

Let's go to Ukraine. An overwhelming vote for independence. Around 90 percent of the people in two regions of eastern Ukraine voted to break from the government in Kiev. The vote is being disputed by Ukraine's central government. In Moscow, they say -- and I'm quoting -- "Moscow respects the will of the population and hopes that the practical implementation of the outcome of the referendums will proceed along civilized lines."

Joining us is Atika Shubert, from eastern Ukraine.

Atika, are there questions -- and I assume there are plenty -- about the legitimacy of this entire vote?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely. Kiev has said it's illegitimate, it doesn't accept the results. We at a polling station saw plenty of voting irregularities. We caught on camera several of them, people voting twice, putting in multiple ballots into the ballot box. Was it was out-and-out voter fraud? We really can't say. For whatever reason, there were a lot of irregularities that we saw. It certainly calls into question the validity of this referendum.

But it hasn't stopped the Donetsk People's Republic. They have declared independence from Ukraine and they are turning to Moscow, appealing to Russia, to make Donetsk a part of the Russian Federation. We haven't had a formal response from Moscow yet, but clearly Donetsk is hoping for action from Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: Atika, what happens next in these regions?

SHUBERT: Well, this is the big question, is Moscow going to say, yes, you can be part of the Russian Federation? Will they opt for something else like putting peacekeepers in here? If not, it goes into this limbo. Right now, there's an increasing amount of violence and lawlessness on the street. Just a few days ago, about an hour and a half away, several people were killed in fighting there. It's likely only to increase as the elections, the general elections, are to take place on May 25th. Kiev insists this is the only way forward to resolve the crisis, but Donetsk People's Republic said they're not going to have it, there will be no election taking place here. And there are concerns there could be a growing standoff until that election date.

BLITZER: I know there's a huge standoff, Atika, right now. But as far as violence is concerned, what's going on on the streets of some of these towns and cities in eastern Ukraine, between the government forces and the pro-Russian elements?

SHUBERT: Today and yesterday, during the referendum, it was relatively quiet. But you can feel the tension. There are still men walking on the streets of Donetsk carrying weapons, looking edgy and, frankly, a bit trigger happy. In Mariupol, we saw extreme violence and really mob violence. It was just out of control. It's not as clear as Ukrainian troops against pro-Russian groups. The police, for example, in Mariupol, appear to be split in two. Some of them siding with pro-Russian groups. So it's become very complicated. It's going to be very difficult if those tensions continue to rise for Ukraine to try to take any action at all.

So how this is going to move forward is the big question. Russia, clearly, has said that they're hoping for some sort of a negotiated settlement, but it's not clear if any of the players will even sit at the negotiating table.

BLITZER: Atika Shubert, joining us from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. We'll stay in touch with you as well.

Thank you, Atika.

Other news, a 700-day siege in the Syrian city of Homs is now over. Rebel fighters have left the city. Tens of thousands of people who live there, they are going back home. But what they're coming to, that home, is a devastated area. Much of the city right now is in ruins. Many see it, potentially at least, as a new beginning.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is the first Western journalist there.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the ruins of the old town of Homs, a mass migration as thousands enter this battle- scarred neighborhood, either to come back in or to get their belongings out. Very little seemed salvageable but that doesn't stop residents from trying.

Hasan Detash (ph) and his workers are clearing out what's left of shoe store as they fled the area two years ago.

"Of course, it was awful," he says, "when the fighting started, I had to get out of here. I have not been back in two and a half years."

Only a few days after rebel fighters left the old town of Homs the clean up effort is already underway. Even as the Syrian Army says it is still clearing streets and buildings of improvised bombs.

(on camera): This is the main square in Homs. The authorities are moving very quickly to open this place up again. Behind me you can see that they're starting to clean up. But if we look around, we can see that all the buildings around this main square and this entire neighborhood are absolutely destroyed. They're flat. It shows the tragedy of what happens here in the past two years. And it also shows just how long it will take to rebuild the whole town.

(voice-over): Homs was one of the first towns with large demonstrations against Bashar al Assad in 2011. They were crushed by Syrian security forces. But soon, defectors from Syria's military starting fighting to protect the protestors. Homs became the epicenter of the uprising against the Assad regime.


PLEITGEN: Then government forces launched a brutal campaign to win back the territory, including heavy shelling and a siege that cut off residents from food and water. Finally, both sides agreed to a truce and the rebels withdrew from Homs last week. A deal these government soldiers say they endorse.

"I think it was the best thing to do," he says. "It gives the people a chance to come back and start rebuilding their lives."

With so many killed and wounded, so much of this historic town destroyed, there are no winners in Homs. But many people returning back are still optimistic that maybe there is a new chance for a renewed beginning.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Homs, Syria.


BLITZER: More than 150,000 people have been killed in the fighting in Syria over the past few years. Millions have been made into refugees.

He travels the world going on incredible adventures in exotic locations, but there is one place Anthony Bourdain doesn't like to visit very often. He tells our Anderson Cooper. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: It's been nearly a decade since Anthony Bourdain has set foot in Russia. There's a reason. He spoke to our own Anderson Cooper about why it's been so long and what it's like to live there under the power of Vladimir Putin. Watch this.


COOPER: So you went to Russia. You had not been to Russia for quite a while.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, PARTS UNKNOWN: I try to space out my trips. I have a hard time with the drinking. Making friends in Russia, getting people to open up, it requires a lot of drink and more than I can be comfortable with.

COOPER: You can drink a fair amount. I've seen your show.

BOURDAIN: A bottle a day of vodka, it has an effect. I need time in- between shows. It's been a few years.

COOPER: How long has it been?

BOURDAIN: A few years.


BOURDAIN: You get a sense of what it's like to live in Putin Russia. It's is Putin Russia. Nobody else's Russia. It's his.

COOPER: Do you find it very different from the Russia you had visited previously?

BOURDAIN: You really feel any -- in earlier trips, any notion that this is a functioning democracy is a joke? They kill journalists there. They're happy to do it. Then, it's OK.

COOPER: People get killed in business dealings there.

BOURDAIN: There is a line. Everyone we spoke to comes up against the line. There are certain things you can say. But when you start talking about corruption and Putin's possible connection to corruption, you can see it in their eyes, a real fear.

We spoke with, you know, one billionaire oligarch who had been stripped of absolutely everything. There's a couple of those. Bad things happen to you when you cross Vladimir Putin.

COOPER: And food in Russia?

BOURDAIN: Food in people's homes can be really good. Food, the traditional Russian dishes can be really delicious. The soups, the dumplings. I like traditional Russia food.

The best restaurants are sort of like 1989, post-disco era, pan-Asian- fusion horror show.


Generally speaking, it's sort of -- eating in the best restaurant in Moscow is a worst-case scenario.


BLITZER: Go to to watch full episodes of "Parts Unknown," including Anthony Bourdain's visit to Russia.

The Washington Monument reopened to the public after being closed for nearly three years. Take a look at a live picture from the National Mall. There it is right there. The monument was damaged back in 2011 by a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. Repairs cost about $15 million. Public tours resumed about an hour ago following a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this morning. The Washington Monument is back open.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I will be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much.

Wonderful being back in the big chair here today.