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Malaysia Releases Satellite Data from MH370; Nigerian Official Claims to Know Missing Schoolgirls' Location; Ukrainian Troops Square Off with Separatists; Shelly Sterling Moving Forward with Clipper Plans.

Aired May 27, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

Coming up in a little over an hour from now, President Obama will lay out his future plans for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. CNN has learned the president planned to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan past the end of this year and to draw down all the way to the end, by the end of 2016. All this comes after the president met with top officials in Afghanistan over the weekend. CNN will bring the announcement live from the White House, 2:45 p.m. eastern, later today.

Malaysia today released satellite data from the missing jetliner MH370. The data from the private company Inmarsat led to the conclusion the plane is in the Indian Ocean. The 47-page document includes communication logs between the plane and Inmarsat satellites. Authorities say it's not the complete picture but a readable summary. Critics say the report does not provide enough information for independent outside experts to test and verify Inmarsat's conclusions. The company says it's willing to provide the model and the procedures it used to analyze the data but the CEO says it's up to the Malaysian government whether or not to release that information.

Let's bring in our panel of experts. Peter Goelz is a CNN aviation analyst, former NTSB managing director. Tom Fuentes is a CNN law enforcement analyst, former assistant director of the FBI.

Peter, what's your take on the release today?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's the basic data. The investigators will also tell you they've already brought in outside experts. This was done not just in Inmarsat, the Brits, the American investigators and the Malaysians. They brought in outside satellite experts who confirmed independently their conclusions. I'd say they're pretty comfortable with there this data drove them.

BLITZER: What the family members want, they want that other information, how everyone looked at this raw data, which has now been released so they can have a better appreciation.

I want you to hear what the CEO of Inmarsat told our own Chris Cuomo on "New Day" earlier this morning.


RUPERT PEARCE, CEO, INMARSAT: We have absolutely no problem putting our model in the public domain. That is a decision for the leading country to put out there. It's clearly information, materials and workings that we've contributed into the investigation. So the proper decision making around that lies with the Malaysian government.


BLITZER: You buy that, it's up to Malaysia to release everything so the family members will get peace in mind if the conclusions are accurate?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It is up to the Malaysian government.


BLITZER: Why don't they release it?

FUENTES: That's a good question. I think they could. I just have the feeling they could release more volumes than the Warren Commission and it wouldn't satisfy everybody. I think at this point, there's just about nothing they can do.

BLITZER: Any legitimate reason, Peter, why Malaysia would not release that information?

GOELZ: Only that it would contribute to confusion. I can see them releasing the information, having a panel of experts sit there for four or five hours, answering every question. That might satisfy 90 percent --


BLITZER: What sense of information could there be -- why wouldn't they transparently release it all?

GOELZ: It's not sensitive information. It's how so-called experts analyze data. They'll cherry pick information. People are still trying to sell the idea that TWA 800 was shot down by missiles. And the idea is, this data is hard to analyze. They brought in outside experts. They came to the same conclusions. Now, should they defend it publicly? They should.

BLITZER: You agree?


BLITZER: What about the search, because now Australia's suggesting, you know what, the actual search in the Southern Indian Ocean, not necessarily going to go forward with government assistance, private companies are going to get involved. It looked like the search situation in the area where they thought they heard some pings from the black box, that might be going away at least for now.

GOELZ: I think the Australians were a little enthusiastic at the beginning.


BLITZER: Where they said they would not end that search, they would go forever?

GOELZ: Also about their optimism about the pings. This is very hard work. It's going to take a very long time. And the Bluefin did not have the capabilities to get the job done in all aspects of this search.

BLITZER: They still haven't found -- just to be precise, remember, 239 people are still missing. A U.S.-made Boeing 777 that cost about $250 million disappeared. There are about 1,200 of them flying around the world right now. We don't know if it was an individual or terrorism. We don't know if it was a catastrophic or mechanical failure. We don't know anything right now, do we?

FUENTES: No, but what we do know is they had a location that had over two hours of pings and that location has yet to be searched because they don't have the right equipment, did not have the right equipment on the search. That Bluefin can't do everything. It cannot go deep enough to do the one location that had the strongest pings and the best information.

BLITZER: They haven't found a tiny piece of wreckage.

FUENTES: They aren't searching in that area until two or three weeks later after the disappearance.


FUENTES: They had typhoons, all kinds of bad weather.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you.

Still ahead, a top Nigerian official claims to know the location of the missing schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. He said there are limits to what can be done to get those girls back. We'll have a live report. Arwa Damon is in Abuja.


BLITZER: For more than six weeks, the parents of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have been waiting for word on the children. This is what they got from the government.


ALEX BADEN, AIR MARSHALL, NIGERIA CHIEF OF DEFENSE STAFF: The good news for the girls is we -- OK, we cannot tell you military secrets. Leave us alone. We are working. We gill get the girls back.


BLITZER: Our senior correspondent, Arwa Damon, is joining us from the capital Abuja.

Arwa, the military, you just heard it, they say they know where the girls are but they can't rescue them. What's going on?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been trying to figure that out ever since that comment was made about 24 hours ago, trying to reach out to various Nigerian authorities, unsuccessfully. Some sources telling us at this stage they don't know where the girls are but they do have credible leads they're following. The U.S., for its part, saying it does not have information as to the specific location of the girls, specific evidence as to where they may be, but they do have information as well. The defense chief taking the military option off the table saying it will put the girls in great danger. Launching the kind of military operation it would require to bring them home safely would be incredibly challenging, if not impossible, for even the best of armies, given the terrain that Boko Haram is keeping the girls in, and that they are most likely not in one group. They've been spread out over various cells.

Negotiating with Boko Haram is something the Nigerian government at this stage says it is unwilling to do. Even that would pose great challenges. This is not necessarily a top-down organization. The different cells presumably holding the groups of girls all have different kinds of leadership.

So while those comments do seem to create an aura of optimism that perhaps the girls may be located, once they are located, getting them back home safely, that is going to potentially be the even bigger challenge -- Wolf?

BLITZER: As you know, a lot of Nigerians have criticized their own government for the slow response to the kidnappings. How have they responded to the latest statement? What's the mood over there?

DAMON: Well, there's been quite a lot of skepticism because they heard their government waffle when it comes to what happened to the girls, how many of them were missing, exactly what kind of military operations were under way. People want to see that concrete evidence that the military is actually doing something, especially those that are living in the three states in the northeastern part of the country that are most affected by Boko Haram. Because since this kidnapping has taken place and Boko Haram has been thrown into the spotlight, even though they've been terrorizing that part of the country for years, we've seen them launch even more brazen, even more numerous attacks with that sense of insecurity growing, despite the fact the government says it has put all this military into place to try to hunt down the girls.

So people at this stage really wanting to see the government do more, really wanting to see the military do more, and also looking towards the international community for that critical support that the Nigerian government and military may be needing -- Wolf? BLITZER: Arwa Damon in Abuja for us, watching this important story. Let's hope they find these girls and bring them home to their parents soon.

Up next, Ukrainian troops squaring off against separatist forces, but what role is Ukraine's new president playing in the continuing crackdown? We'll go there live for a closer look.


BLITZER: Four international observers have gone missing in eastern Ukraine. Members of a special monitoring team from OSCE were patrolling Donetsk when they were last heard from. Donetsk is a stronghold of separatists. Earlier this month, a group of seven OSCE observers, who were abducted in another region of eastern Ukraine, they were released after a week.

Bodies piled up in the morgue.




BLITZER: That's the result of a major battle in eastern Ukraine between government troops and separatists who stormed the Donetsk Airport.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is on the scene for us.

Nick, first of all, who controls the airport right now?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty clear, I think the majority of it is held by Ukrainian military personnel at this point. The separatists seem to be moving around, trying to block some roads. We heard earlier occasional heavy exchanges. I think now they went back and forth, it seems to be settling into the Ukraine military's favor here. We saw this morning, the extent of the violence yesterday, going to the more dignified pile of bodies simply brought in, bullet wounds, some unrecognizable through the damage caused by heavy weaponry. Two trucks were torn to pieces by heavy weapons. The Ukrainian military resorting to the heaviest firepower they have in taking the airport. There was always a red line for them in many ways. The numbers of dead, according to the mayor here, 40 dead, two civilians. One woman's head was basically blown clean off, in the morgue as well. This city really waking up today to assess the level of violence yesterday, the damage, and also brace itself for what it appears as a war.

BLITZER: An awful situation. Nick, is the newly elected president of Ukraine calling the shots now in the crackdown in eastern Ukraine?

PATON WALSH: Well, it's curious timing, that the most consistent and forceful move by the Ukrainian military occurred the first day in power of Petro Poroshenko. He gave a speech suggesting he would like some reconciliation. It was strange to see this level of military might so shortly afterwards. The airport has always been a red line here. The governor saying they wouldn't let it fall in the separatists' hands. The question you have to ask now, is this military move designed to increase his hand for negotiating or is there more fighting ahead -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Nick Payton Walsh on the ground for us in the Ukraine. Stay safe, my friend. Good luck to you.

Earlier today, President Obama called the newly elected Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, offering congratulations, extending an offer of assistance and cooperation. But in an interview with CNN just a little while ago, Ukraine's deputy foreign minister challenged the U.S. to do more. He said, and I'm quoting now, "I do believe that we have to exercise more sanctions. The international community has to exercise stronger influence on the Russian authorities to convince them to get back to the civilized relations with other nations."

Up next, the next step in the Donald Sterling saga. Shelly Sterling, his wife, seemingly moving ahead with her plans for the Clippers' future.


BLITZER: Today is the deadline for Donald Sterling to respond to the NBA in the charges related to his racist comments, all caught on videotape. As reported last week, Sterling has backed away from the fight, and now it seems his wife is moving closer and closer to unloading the team.

Brian Todd is following the story for us.

What do we know about Shelly Sterling? She's now the point person actually trying to sell the Clippers?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Giving indications this is moving very fast. CNN learned that Shelly Sterling met over the weekend with former Microsoft CEO, Steve Baumer. He's interested in buying the Clippers. But she is also, according to TMZ, interested in possible bids from Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim Partners, from a group led by former NBA all-star, Grant Hill, from California Mobil.

Magic Johnson was asked weeks ago by Anderson Cooper if he is interested in buying the Clippers. This is his response.


MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: If it comes out it's for sale and my Guggenheim Partners and I say, OK, we want to take a look at it and we want to buy it, of course, we'll make a run for it. I could be an owner tomorrow.


TODD: Magic Johnson may be in the running for the Clippers at this time. According to TMZ, Oprah Winfrey is out of the running for the ownership. The NBA is not commenting on any of this. Shelly Sterling's attorney is also not commenting on this. We've talked about what the team could be worth. The latest reports, about $1.5 billion, maybe even more.

BLITZER: There's a huge bidding. I'm hearing a huge bidding war already under way. Let's give some perspective. The Sterlings bought the team in San Diego for $11 million. When this whole saga came up, they thought they could go for $700 million or $800 million. I suggested at the time $1 billion, given the media market of Los Angeles. But now, I'm even surprised to hear that there are bids coming in, as you point out, for $1.5 billion. And it could go higher. Some experts are saying it could go for $2 billion.

TODD: Could go for $2 billion. One thing to remember, Wolf, it looks like right now the NBA wants to get this done quickly, maybe before the June 3rd vote by the NBA owners, whether to oust Donald Sterling or not. We're getting a strong sense that the NBA does not necessarily want to come to that vote.

BLITZER: Nice consolation prize for the Sterlings.

Thanks very much, Brian Todd.

President Obama got a science lesson from some kids today at the White House, the fourth annual science fair. Listen to 12-year-old Payton Robinson explaining his invention, sandless sandbags.


PAYTON ROBINSON, STUDENT: This is what polymer looks like. But then when you add water, it straightens out and expands, like this. You want to try it?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do. I actually have one of these.

ROBINSON: Oh, you do?


OBAMA: But they're very cool.


OBAMA: Sometimes I just stare at them in space.


Sometimes in the Oval Office I just look at one of these.


BLITZER: Payton already has two patents pending, and at just 8 years old he attended classes at the University of Mississippi. Good work, Payton. Coming to CNN, a new series from executive producers, Tom Hanks and Gary Getsman, "The Sixties," the decade that Reshaped Americans' lives, that still affects all of us today. To go along with it, a brand-new museum style installation at Grand Central Station in New York City. Today, CNN teamed up with the Smithsonian affiliates to curate an exhibit that brings the series to life. The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, and CNN Worldwide president, Jeff Zucker, cut the ribbon just a few hours ago. Be sure and watch, or set your DVR, for the premiere of "THE SIXTIES," this Thursday night 9:00 Eastern and Pacific on CNN.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 2:45 Eastern for special coverage of President Obama's announcement of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.