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Hillary's Book Released; Karl Rove's Statement; Rescue Crews Racing Against Time In Turkey; At Least 238 People Died; Fire Season Beginning Early In California, MERS Virus Outbreak; Bernardo Fire Burns; MH370 Search Halted; MERS Cases in the U.S.

Aired May 14, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Bill Clinton pushes back. He says Hillary Clinton's health is strong. But the attacks, like Karl Rove's, in his words, are just the beginning.

Also right now, as many as 120 miners are trapped inside a burning mine in Turkey. Their families, they're holding out hope, even as officials say the odds of finding more survivors are small.

Right now, serious and urgent. That's how the World Health Organization is characterizing the MERS outbreak. We'll have the latest on the spread in the United States.

And right now, Magic Johnson says Donald Sterling is fighting a battle he can't win. You're going to hear more of Anderson Cooper's exclusive interview with the basketball great.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. Hillary Clinton hits the speaking circuit without mentioning the political fire swarm swirling around her but her husband did. Mrs. Clinton addressed the American Jewish Committee forum in Washington, D.C. today. She did not respond to Republican strategist, Karl Rove's, comments that she may have suffered a serious brain injury. But here is what Bill Clinton said about his wife's health at a different event here.


BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She works out every week. She is strong. She's doing great. As far as I can tell, she's in better shape than I am. She certainly seems to have more stamina now. And there's nothing to it. It -- I didn't even -- I was sort of dumfounded. They went to all this trouble to say that she had staged what was a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over. Something she never low-balled with the American people, never tried to pretend didn't happen. Now, they say she's really got brain damage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think they're just trying --

BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If she does, then I must be in really tough shape because she's still quicker than I am.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Let's bring in our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and our Senior Political Correspondent Brianna Keilar. What -- first of all, what do you make of the president addressing the Karl Rove allegations?

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: There's nobody better to do it. I mean, I -- you know, obviously, as Brianna knows, the Clinton campaign put out -- or the Clinton people, I should say, put out a very strong --


BORGER: -- yes, easy -- put out a very strong statement about this yesterday. But there's nobody better to answer the charges about brain damage than Bill Clinton. The way he handled it was kind of offhand. He didn't dismiss what occur to her. He's a very good surrogate for Hillary Clinton. She's got the stamina. She's this. And, you know, he turned it around and said, now, they're going to make it an issue that she's got brain damage? I mean, very well done.

BLITZER: What do you think?

KEILAR: And to do it with humor I thought was pretty effective. I mean, I thought that it was effective that he did that. But I will tell you, just having been to so many events, because Hillary Clinton since, finishing up her book, has really been making the rounds

And you can go and you can see, she's kind of been, I think, working on some of her political muscles as she gets sort of back into that gear. But there's really no indication, as you watch her at these events and as she keeps a rather busy schedule, that there's anything the matter. So, what he's saying really does seem, from that point of view, as we go and follow her around, to be true.

BLITZER: Because you saw her this morning --

KEILAR: I saw her this morning.

BLITZER: -- here in Washington at the event. How did she look?

KEILAR: She looked great. I mean, she has a lot of -- she does seem to have a lot of stamina because we know she's keeping a schedule and we expect that very much to pick up as her book drops here June 10th.

BLITZER: Her book is released. That's coming up next month. Let me read to you -- Gloria, Peter Beinart, our friend from "The Atlantic," he wrote an article, "Why Karl Rove Uses Dirty Tricks, They Work." That's the headline of the article.


BLITZER: Rove didn't say Hillary Clinton has brain damage. He writes -- he hinted it thus giving himself deniability while ensuring that the slur lingers in the public mind which is what he's been doing his entire career. BORGER: You know, this isn't rocket science and it's not limited to Karl Rove. If you remember, during the last campaign, at one point, Harry Reid mentioned that he heard that Mitt Romney had paid no income taxes. Remember that?

KEILAR: It turned out not to be true.

BORGER: It turned out not to be true.

KEILAR: Completely not.

BORGER: But you sign that -- you sort of put it out there because it fits into a narrative that you may want to go back to. So, at a certain point, if you want to -- if the Republicans have a young candidate who want to challenge Hillary Clinton's health and well- being, I mean, Ronald Reagan went through that, then they've sort of laid down the markers. Whether it's this. Whether it's Benghazi. It's just the way Harry Reid did it.

BLITZER: At her event here in Washington today, the former secretary of state did speak about her record at the State Department, including a sensitive issue like Iran, the nuclear deal. Let me play a little clip of what Hillary Clinton said.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The meeting has resumed in Geneva. The goal now is to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that will resolve all of the international community's concerns. To get there, we will have to be tough, clear eyed and ready to walk away and increase the pressure if need be. No deal is better than a bad deal. And from --


BLITZER: If you look, she does look great. You've got to admit. At that appearance there, she was pretty well received?

KEILAR: Yes, very well received. And she's talking to an audience, keep in mind, the American Jewish Committee, that is very skeptical of what's going on with Iran. So, it was -- the fascinating part of watching her today, for me, was how she was threading the needle between -- as she gets all of these attacks from Republicans about her time at the State Department, what did she really do? They'll say, she's there saying, here's what I did on Iran and I got them to this point.

But she's also talking to a crowd that's very skeptical about whether this is going to work with Iran. So, you heard that from her as well that she's skeptical, that also that you need to give diplomacy a chance to breathe. So, it's a tightrope that she's walking.

BORGER: She's also -- she's also got to talk to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which -- so she can't be too muscular and --

KEILAR: Sure. BORGER: -- too much of a hawk. So, she has to, sort of, defend what President Obama did which is engaging Iran, because you don't want the use of force to be your de facto move. So, she's threading a lot of needles.


KEILAR: Exactly, covering a -- definitely covering a lot of bases to, sort of, borrow a phrase there. And she also put out -- you know, one of the things she was saying was, I brokered a cease-fire when it -- you know, to try to stop what was going on with Hamas, trying to preserve a cease-fire --

BORGER: Right.

KEILAR: -- the cease-fire that has been preserved. So, she was -- I will tell you, watching this today, this is the most comprehensive defense of her record at state so far that I have seen her give.

BLITZER: Her new book will have a long defense --

KEILAR: And she -- and she said, yes, --

BLITZER: -- of her four years --

KEILAR: -- there will be more in the book. Yes.

BLITZER: -- at the -- at the State Department.

BORGER: And we're all -- and somebody's still thinking she's not running for president?

KEILAR: It feels like it, I'll tell you.

BLITZER: I don't know who those people are.

KEILAR: Yes, who are they?

BLITZER: That lady. All right, guys, thanks very much. I think, by the way, the best way she can respond to Karl Rove and that kind of criticism about her health is to do exactly what she's doing, going out, looking great, sounding great, giving a forceful speech, and she's going to be doing a lot of that in the next few weeks.

BORGER: And she's got plenty of surrogates.


BORGER: Number one, Bill Clinton.

BLITZER: Let other -- let others talk about her, yes.

BORGER: Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Rescue crews are racing against time right now. They're hoping against the odds in Turkey. A fire and an explosion inside a coal mine has killed at least 245 people and as many as 120 may still be trapped inside the mine near the town of Soma. Pope Francis has asked the world to pray for the miners.

Earlier today, crews were able to pull dozens of people to safety. You're looking at live pictures coming in from Turkey outside that coal mine right now. Some have managed to crawl out on their own. Officials say hopes of finding any more survivors, though, are fading.

Our Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson is at the scene in Turkey. I think, Ivan, you were one of the first western reporters there on the scene. Give us an update on the search and rescue operation.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the sad truth, Wolf, is that there are far more bodies of lifeless miners that are being pulled out of the mine, over my shoulder here, than survivors. The government statistics, around 90 survivors that they managed to bring out.

And according to the latest figures, at least 238 miners killed. And we were just down below here near the entrance to the coal mine shaft where there is this grim vigil underway. And we saw this steady procession of bodies being brought out on stretchers to waiting ambulances.

And gathered around there, not only rescue workers, but many fellow coal miners. Some of whom I spoke with. One man telling me that he has buried four of his friends today, and he's back to wait for other friends and a cousin who are still missing. I asked that man if he has any hope that perhaps one of these men made it to one of the emergency safe rooms where there could have been supplies of oxygen. And he said no, no, it's far too late for hope.

Some of the rescue workers we talked to, they say, it's never too late. But the conditions grim. The air down there very bad. There has been a fire burning. And most of the casualties have been to carbon monoxide inhalation.

The Turkish prime minister has declared three days of mourning in Turkey. He's canceled a trip. He came to visit here and to express his condolences and to argue that his government's inspectors looked at this mine in March and they gave it a clean bill of health. There have been explosions of anger against his government in the nearby mining town of Soma where his party's office was attacked and windows were broken there.

But in the meantime, the chief priority here is trying to go through the miles of labyrinthine passages in this coal mine and try to recover all of the hundreds and hundreds of people who were trapped there when the fire broke out on Tuesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let's hope for the best. But as you say, those hopes are fading. Ivan Watson on the scene for us. Thank you. Though Turkish officials are dashing hopes there will be more survivors, there have been miraculous mine rescues over the years. Back in October of 2010, the world watched as 33 Chilean minors were pulled to safety. The men were trapped for 69 days after a main ramp into their mine collapsed. In January 2006, 13 miners were trapped after an explosion at the Sago mine in West Virginia. Only one of them survived. Randal McCloy was rescued nearly two days later. In July 2002, a wall collapsed, trapped nine miners at the Quecreek mine in Pennsylvania. Four days later, all of the miners were rescued.

Just ahead, fire season beginning early in drought-stricken California, and officials warning of dangerous days ahead. We'll have a live update from the San Diego fire chief.

And a menacing virus makes its way to the United States. We're taking a closer look at what you need to know about the MERS virus. That's coming up.


BLITZER: California wildfire season is off to an early start. It could become one of the worst on record because of the state's crippling drought. The Bernardo fire near San Diego broke out just about 24 hours or so ago and quickly spread into the hot, windy conditions. It's now doubled in size since last night to nearly 1,600 acres with 25 percent containment. Fortunately, no homes have been lost. Thousands of evacuation orders have now been lifted. But fire officials warn that danger is far from over. Joining us now is the San Diego fire chief, Javier Mainar. He's joining us by phone.

Chief, thanks very much for taking a few moments out. How worried are you that this -- the Santa Ana winds could make this fire even bigger?

JAVIER MAINAR, SAN DIEGO FIRE RESCUE CHIEF (via telephone): Well, that's exactly the worry. The winds have returned this morning. They're projected to last through Thursday evening. All it takes is for those winds to pick up an unextinguished ember, move it across the fire line and then we'll find ourselves in the very difficult situation we found ourselves in yesterday.

BLITZER: Do you have enough resources right now to deal with the fire risk in and around San Diego, which is obviously a very heavily populated area?

MAINAR: We do. There are some 350 firefighters committed to this particular operation today. The concern is, if additional fires were to start in our region, we'd divert resources to hit those pretty hard early to keep them small and that would compromise our efforts here to finalize containment.

BLITZER: What advice are you giving the folks who live in what you're calling the danger zone? What advice to minimize these fire threats to their homes, their families?

MAINAR: Well, all of San Diego County and really southern California is a very fire prone region. In fact, the measures already taken by the folks in the areas that were impacted yesterday really, in large part, helped to save their homes. There were some homes we could not get to due to insufficient resources and the size of the fire. The precautions that the residents had taken did a lot to save those homes on their own. So, defensible space, making sure you have roofs that do not ignite, a lot of different things that you can find on many fire service websites. And ready, set, go, which is something that says, prepare well in advance of the fire, as it approaches get ready to leave your property, and when we ask you to go, please leave immediately.

BLITZER: Well, good luck to everyone in the San Diego area. Javier Mainar is the San Diego fire chief. Thanks so much, chief, for joining us.

Let's turn now to the ongoing hunt in the Indian Ocean for missing Flight 370. Equipment failures have brought the search to a stop. Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is here with the very latest.

How serious of a setback is this, Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a big one. This is a big blow to the search here, stalled for four to five days, possibly longer. The only underwater vehicle that is searching for Flight 370, we now know it is out of commission. And this will not be a quick fix. We know that there are problems with the communications link, which that's a big issue because the crews will not be able to give it basic instructions when it's under water. We also know that there's a problem with the transponder on board the Ocean Shield. That's an issue as well because that transponder essentially helps tracks Bluefin when it's under water. We did tell you yesterday that Bluefin crashed up against Ocean Shield as they were pulling it out of the water, so these damages are a result of that incident.

But again, talk about a big blow to the search here. Now, it didn't search yesterday. Now we're talking about another four to five days, possibly longer, where no searching is going on under water for Flight 370.

BLITZER: It's been 69 days since that -


BLITZER: That plane disappeared. They found absolutely no wreckage. They think they may have heard a ping. They're not even 100 percent sure any longer those pings were authentic. That Inmarsat satellite handshakes, they're not even 100 percent sure if those are accurate. Are they confident they're even looking in the right area?

MARSH: Well, you know, they're - as Angus Houston has been sticking to his guns throughout this whole process saying, this is the best data that we have. He's pretty firm in our one-on-one - CNN's one-on-one interview with him essentially saying, this is what we have, we're going to search that entire area, which includes pings three and four, which they're not confident about, but they don't have any other data to visit, so they're going to work with what they know. But again, not even that is happening at this point, Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Rene, thanks very much. Rene Marsh all over this story.

Coming up, Magic Johnson responding to allegations from Donald Sterling, calling him delusional. We're going to hear more from Magic. That's coming up.

And the rise of a potentially deadly virus. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, MERS, causing new concern.


BLITZER: A potentially deadly disease, a growing number of cases around the world. Health experts are keying a very close watch on the MERS virus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. There are now two confirmed cases here in the United States. Both health care workers who contracted the disease while in Saudi Arabia. Let's get straight to the Centers for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is there for us.

Elizabeth, lots of concern about two other health care workers who became ill after taking care of these MERS patients - at least one of the MERS patients in Florida. Do health care workers - do these two health care workers have MERS?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Florida -- the state of Florida tested these patient, Wolf, and they say, no, they don't have MERS. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control. Now, specimens from these two health care workers arrived here at the CDC this morning in Atlanta. And as we speak, the CDC is retesting these specimens to make sure that Florida got it right. But what we're told now is that their tests have turned out negative and they are working to confirm that. BLITZER: Now, as you know, new posters are going up at major U.S. airports warning about MERS. I've seen those posters. So do passengers, all passengers, need to be worried right now about getting this virus?

COHEN: You know what, all passengers don't need to be worried. What the CDC says, if you've come off a flight from the Arabian peninsula and you have certain symptoms, like a cough or a fever, you should talk to your doctor. As a matter of fact, if someone gets off a flight from the Arabian peninsula and they seem ill, airline employees are told, hey, pull that person aside and call the CDC. The CDC, which has offices at airports, wants to talk to these passengers. So, you know, if you're not going to the Arabian peninsula, there's no special reason for you to be concerned. But, if you've come from the peninsula and you're feeling ill, then you should go see a doctor.

BLITZER: I'm going to be speaking later in "The Situation Room" with the assistant director general director of the World Health Organization in Geneva. But MERS is now no longer just in the Arabian peninsula. As you know, Elizabeth, it's spread to about 18 countries, including the United States. So, I suspect that that's why folks have to be worried about too much potential contact, not just in the Arabian peninsula, but maybe elsewhere. COHEN: Right. That's true. I mean these - for example, let's take the two MERS patients who are in the United States, in Florida and Indiana. There is the potential that they've spread it to other people. For example, health care workers who were taking care of them before they realized they had MERS, could they have spread it to them? Well, what we know is that so far they haven't. Or these two patients, who were both on long flights, and in Indiana, the Indiana patient, he was on a flight from London to Chicago. And that patient did not give anyone on that plane MERS.

So is there reason to be concerned, yes, but what we've seen so far is that these two patients in the U.S. have not spread it to anybody else. And that speaks to how difficult it is to spread this virus. It's not like the flu, Wolf. It's a whole different kind of virus.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, though, it apparently kills about a third of those who get this virus. And that's, obviously, very, very terrifying when you think about it.

Elizabeth Cohen outside the CDC in Atlanta. We'll check back with you. Thanks so much.

Terrified to go to school. After more than 200 girls in Nigeria were snatched from their dorm beds, fear is spreading in the region. We'll have an exclusive report.

Up next, Magic Johnson's advice for Donald Sterling. All part of his exclusive interview with our own Anderson Cooper.