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White House: Shinseki on Thin Ice; Donald Sterling May Sue as Wife Plans to Sell Clippers; Jay Carney Answers Questions About the V.A. Scandal; American Legion Responds to White House Briefing on V.A.; Woman Killed in Pakistan Honor Killing

Aired May 29, 2014 - 13:30   ET


PETER GAYTAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN LEGION: When we heard these initial accusations at Phoenix we said, OK, let's wait and see what happens. Then when Fort Collins came out, it was proof to us that this was systemic. And the results of this latest IG report were beyond anybody's expectations.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I think there were 1700.

GAYTAN: 1400 in the initial list recorded. The 1700 you referred to aren't even recorded in the V.A., separate. The I.G. reports these 1700 in addition to 1400 could have been lost because they weren't on official lists. We're letting our veterans get lost in the very health care system created to treat their unique needs.

BLITZER: Senator McCain told me yesterday, on this program, 24 hours ago, he thinks there should be a criminal investigation. The FBI should be brought in to look for potential crimes. Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut, he told me that earlier. What does the American Legion think?

GAYTAN: The American Legion agrees. Just yesterday, after the I.G. report was released and reviewed by the American Legion, the international commander made a decision, along with leadership, that the American Legion is calling for criminal investigations in Phoenix at the Phoenix V.A. medical center because of accusations in this document are criminal. If V.A. employees are capable of manipulating wait times and manipulating federal documents, which V.A. appointment sheets are, that is a crime. That crime is not only resulting in bonuses for V.A. supervisors, resulting in delay of care. And delay of care for America's veterans who have worn the uniform of this country --


GAYTAN: -- is denial of care

BLITZER: If they lied and cheat and create false numbers to say I am doing great job and I'll get a bonus, that's a crime

GAYTAN: It's a crime. It's an injustice and a shame on us as a country. This isn't a veteran issue. This isn't a military issue. This is an American issue. And every American should take stock in this and be a part of the solution. That's what the American Legion is. We want to partner with V.A., solve these problems, and it starts by getting rid of the leadership.

BLITZER: Is Nancy Pelosi right when she says this problem existed 10 years ago?

GAYTAN: It would be another fault of ours if we spent time placing blame on 10 years ago. Today, veterans are waiting. It doesn't matter what happened 10 years ago. We have a problem now, and it affects those who have worn the country's uniform and sacrificed for all of us. It's our problem. We have veterans medical centers who are watching this circus in Washington, D.C., saying, when will it improve my situation? The American Legion is focusing on improving veteran's situation.

BLITZER: Your message to Secretary Shinseki and President Obama is?

GAYTAN: Make a change that is effective. Make an effective change to the men and women all across this nation, our husband, wives, fathers, mothers, granddaughters, sons, daughters, who have worn the uniform of this nation. Let's tell them when they come back they will receive the thanks of a grateful nation.

BLITZER: Peter Gaytan, thanks for coming in. We hope this works out because our veterans deserve only the best.

GAYTAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

The White House press briefing set to begin any moment now. You're looking at live pictures. They've just been told Jay Carney, the press secretary, will be out. I assume there will be a lot of questions on the V.A. scandal. We'll have coverage when we come back.

And also a two-track strategy for the Sterlings. Donald Sterling may be preparing to slap the NBA with a lawsuit while his wife, Shelly, is moving quickly to try to sell the team. The interest is high. We'll have the latest developments coming up as well.


BLITZER: Let's take a look at live pictures coming in from the White House briefing room. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, walking in right now and will be answering reporters questions, I assume. There will be a lot of questions about V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki and his future in the aftermath of this interim report from the inspector general of the Department of the Veterans Affairs outlining enormous, enormous problems at the Veterans Affairs facility in Phoenix, Arizona. And we just heard -- in addition, we heard there's all sorts of other problems, systemic problems, elsewhere around the country at V.A. facilities. He is making some other announcements right now. Once the questioning starts, we'll go there and hear what he has to say. This is the first time we'll hear from the White House since that interim inspector general's report has come out.

Meanwhile, I want to get an update from Brian Todd on the latest developments of the Donald Sterling saga?

What's going on? Will the team be sold before the deadline comes up, June 3rd?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Shelly Sterling's side is working feverishly towards that. And I just got off the phone with Maxwell Bleacher, who is Donald Sterling's attorney. He said Donald Sterling is considering a lawsuit against the NBA, but no decision has been made yet. They're weighing their options. Bleacher said Donald Sterling gave him marching orders to fight this effort to oust him, and that's what he will do. That's what Maxwell Bleacher will tell KTLA this when he was asked, why Sterling changed his mind from last week when he said he would not fight this.

BLITZER: Let's go back to Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. He's about to answer questions about the V.A. scandal.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you saw the statement that I put out yesterday reflecting that the president was extremely troubled by that preliminary report.

When it comes to the overall issue, as you know, from what the president has said and others have said, we are focused on getting to the root of the problem and full scope of the problem so we can get, most importantly, veterans care they deserve and they need and they've earned. As the president said last week -- and this is very important -- the V.A. should not and must not wait for current investigations of V.A. operations to conclude before taking steps to improve care. You have seen a reaction to that insistence in reactions the V.A. has taken this week, when it comes to moving more quickly to reach out to those veterans who have been identified as having been on waiting lists for far too long, and allowing for greater ease when it comes to, if there is a need to, having veterans receive care from private or nonprofit hospitals.

Earlier this week, as I -- this is repeating what I just said. But they're redoubling their efforts on this issue to take steps at national and local levels to ensure timely access to care. And this is very important. It's not enough but it is a step in the right direction.

When it comes to accountability, the -- I think the best way to describe the president's view is to recall what he said when he stood in this room and spoke to you last week. He believes that Secretary Shinseki has served his country as a soldier. He believes that he is committed to his fellow veterans and is passionate about serving them. As the president said, Eric Shinseki has performed overall well as secretary on issues like homelessness, on the G.I. Bill, the 9/11 G.I. Bill, and on working with us to reduce the backlog. He's put his heart and soul into this thing and taken it very seriously. That's quoting the president.

When it comes to the current situation, the inquiries and investigations and some of the allegations, the president wants to see the results of these reports and he, as you know, made clear he believes there ought to be accountability once we establish all the facts.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But the facts leave open the question whether Secretary Shinseki can continue to lead this department?

CARNEY: I think the president identified last week he expect add preliminary report from Secretary Shinseki's internal audit very soon. When he receives that he'll be able to evaluate those findings along with what we received from the interim report from the inspector general and assess where we are at that time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it fair to say the White House has moved from the point where you from this podium said the president has confidence in Shinseki to the point you are evaluating whether he --


CARNEY: I think the president himself more than a week ago made clear his views on that specific matter and on how he will assess the issue of accountability when it comes to the accusations of mismanagement and misconduct at the V.A. He ordered up the internal audit Secretary Shinseki has undertaken, an audit that is involving more than 200 people, and he expects to receive a preliminary report very soon, as he mentioned last week from the podium. And will be very interested in the results.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it your understanding that the president will wait until that review and whatever Rob Nabors is working on until those reviews are complete before making a decision on leadership at the V.A.?

CARNEY: I'm not going to speculate more about personnel. I almost never do. Because what matters most to the president is making sure we're not waiting even for preliminary or interim reports from these inquiries to take action to ensure our veterans are getting better care and better service more quickly. That's why you've seen the steps already undertaken by the V.A. And he expects further action to be taken. So that the most important mission we have here, which is providing benefits and health care to our veterans, is being performed more effectively.

BLITZER: So there you hear it, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, saying the president is ready to give Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, more time and not yet calling for him to resign.

Let's get more reaction for what we just heard from the White House.

Peter Gaytan is still with us, the executive director of the American Legion.

What do you think?

GAYTAN: The American Legion's point is, how much do we have to wait for? Jay Carney keeps insisting we need to ensure that V.A. meets its obligations to America's veterans, that V.A.'s goal is to provide health care. That's been V.A.'s goal since its creation. The American Legion was part of the creation of the Department of Veterans Affairs as a cabinet-level agency. What we need to see now is the failures that have come to light because of these I.G. investigations have to be fixed. He's right. The important thing is deliver quality health care in a timely manner to America's veterans. But it's obvious that the management at every level of V.A. was unaware how bad this system was. We've gone from 26 facilities to 42 facilities from an interim report that are being investigated. If that has grown that broad in terms of infecting the entire system, leadership -- either they didn't know about it, which is poor leadership, or they knew about it and didn't do anything about it, and that's even worse.

BLITZER: Peter Gaytan, from the American Legion, thanks very much. I know the American Legions has called on Secretary Shinseki to resign. You did that three weeks ago.

We'll be right back. More news coming up.


BLITZER: In Pakistan, people stood by and watched as a pregnant woman was stoned and beaten to death by her own family. It happened in front of this high court on Tuesday because she refused to marry a man in an arranged marriage and married the man she loved. He says her family had demanded 100,000 rupees, about $1000, if the couple wanted to stay alive. But it gets worse. Mohammad Ikmal (ph) has admitted to killing his first wife six years ago in yet another honor killing.

For more on this, I'm joined by the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

Ambassador, this is awful. How often do these kinds of so-called honor killings occur in Pakistan?

HUSAIN HAQQANI, FORMER PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Unfortunately, a little too frequently. What is really bad is that the police and the judiciary do not seem to sympathize with the victims as they ought to. That has really become Pakistani's problem. The country is divided between those who would like to lead it into the 21st century and those who would like to drag to it the eighth. Instead of standing by the victim, they tend to look at these things as cultural crimes rather than recognize them for human rights violations they are.

BLITZER: That's truly a horrible story.

But I want to turn, Ambassador, to another truly horrible story that has unfolded recently in Pakistan. Dr. Miti Ali Humar (ph), an American citizen was in Pakistan to provide free medical care to heart patients. As he was visiting a local graveyard to see the graves of relatives, he was shot and killed by two men right in front of his wife and 3-year-old son. Many believe he was killed for his faith. He is a member of the Amadians (ph) Muslim community. This isn't a first time that a member of this Muslim community has been gunned down in Pakistan. The question is, is there state support for these kinds of murders?

HAQQANI: The problem is the Pakistani constitution declares this Amadians (ph) as non-Muslim. I can understand people in the United States who consider members of one sector or another as not sufficiently Christian. But the state has no business declaring somebody in that position. Unfortunately, there are many laws in Pakistan that discriminate against Amadians (ph). For example, they are forbidden from calling themselves Muslims or calling their places of worship mosques. And there is a hate campaign against them, which is often affected by the media. Once there was an Amadians (ph) that was killed after a cleric came on television and said we must kill Amadians (ph). And the guy said, I was inspired by the television preacher. It is a culture of impunity that has been created in an environment of hatred that has been fanned by extremists. And the state has spent most of its time and energies preparing for war with India instead of paying attention at home. For example, the country has a very young population. 60 percent of Pakistanis are below the age of 30 but almost 42 percent of children who should be in preschool or primary school don't go to school. And those who go to school are taught hate. So the Amadians (ph), the Christians, the Hindus and now increasingly the Shias of Pakistan are all being targeted by various extremist groups that target them for their religious beliefs. And that's what happened with the doctor, although he had gone there to do a noble job.

BLITZER: He leaves Ohio. He's a cardiologist. He wants to help Pakistanis. He goes there, he volunteers his free time, and he's gunned down in front of his wife and 3-year-old little boy for no reason at all. No reason any of us in the West can certainly understand. A true, true tragedy. A heartbreaking situation unfolding in both of these cases in Pakistan.

Ambassador Haqqani, thanks very much for joining us. We'll continue our coverage of these stories down the road.

Husain Haqqani is the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.

Coming up, a time of revolution in the United States. In "The Sixties." "The Sixties" brought change like we've never seen before. We take a look at remarkable images.


BLITZER: There was a revolution in the streets of the cities in the United States as the country grabbled with tremendous change. The civil rights movement is exploding, the anti-war protests, rage across college campuses. Tonight, at 9:00 p.m. eastern, the CNN series, "The Sixties" takes a close look at the turbulent times and the way television helped shape them.

Let's bring in Professor Robert Thompson, from Syracuse, New York. He founded the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. He's been a real expert on this subject for a long time.

Professor, thanks for joining us.

Looking back, what role did television news specifically play in those days because my recollection is it changed the way all of America watched the news?

ROBERT THOMPSON, PROFESSOR, BLEIER CENTER FOR TELEVISION AND POPULAR CULTURE, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: It did. I mean, what happened during that decade of such extraordinary change was that television conveniently now was placed to become a delivery system. All of this stuff that people weren't understanding, all of this change. We had a civil rights movement, a Cold War, a Vietnam War, all of this stuff. Not to mention a burgeoning modern women's movement, the emergence of rock and roll. The entire way that the United States used to live was changing and television was, on a nightly basis, delivering that information. And everybody, let's remember, was seeing the same things at the same time. There were three networks. Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. It was a way to sort of force everybody to a kind of forced-center during the time of extreme change.

BLITZER: the first televised presidential debate, the Nixon/Kennedy debate in 1960, changed the way we all cover politics, as all of us have come to learn. Then the tragic assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. All of America, indeed, the world glued to TV sets. How could anyone forget that? And of course, Walter Cronkite, reading the body count at the end of the CBS broadcast during the Vietnam War. The nightly news show started reporting the daily body counts. That changed public opinion dramatically and had an enormous impact, didn't it?

THOMPSON: It did. Michael Harlan (ph) called it the living room war. And every night, over dinner, on these '60s portable TV sets, people were seeing air attacks. And Morley Safer's famous report, known as the Zippo lighter reporter, showing American soldiers using disposable lighters to light these thatched houses. Then Cronkite's 1968 editorial that -- he came back from Vietnam and said, "This is a war we can't win." And Lyndon Johnson is reputed to have said, if we've lost Walter Cronkite, we've lost the nation.

I'm glad you brought up the Kennedy/Nixon debate. 1963 had just begun, September 26th, and the show that was supposed to air that night on CBS was the debut of "The Andy Griffith Show." And instead, we get the first of four Kennedy/Nixon debates. In many ways, that tells us about the two things about '60s television, the important stuff that TV was now learning how to do. First presidential candidate debate, and the entertainment stuff that pretended none of this existed while we were seeing debates and assassinations and landings on the moon. Most of what entertainment was giving us was talking horses and talking cars and flying nuns and witches and genies and "Gilligan's Island."


THOMPSON: There was a bipolar nature to TV.

BLITZER: It certainly did. And everyone knows how TV shaped the way all of us, I guess, exist as a result of what happened in those years in "The Sixties."

Robert Thompson, of Syracuse University, thanks very much.

And don't forget, you want to watch our original news series. Be sure to watch it live tonight. Set your DVR for the premiere, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on CNN, "The Sixties."

I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM." "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.