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Eight More Girls Kidnapped in Nigeria; Al Qaeda Allies Pose New Terror Threats; Clippers' President Takes Leave of Absence; Legal Battle Brewing Over Clippers Sale; U.S. Troops Join War Games in Europe; Abduction of School Girls Sparked Protests; Wildfire Forces Oklahoma Residents to Flee

Aired May 6, 2014 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now -- new al Qaeda threats. More schoolgirls are kidnapped by Islamist terrorists vowing to sell hundreds of others into slavery.

And Saudi Arabia busts a terror cell, arresting dozens of people accused of plotting attacks.

Wildfires exploding out of control. More than 1,000 are forced from their homes, as scorching heat and high flames fan deadly flames in Oklahoma.

And bloody battles -- Ukrainian troops crack down on pro-Russian separatists, as world leaders warn of an all-out war.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Another savage terror assault and a major bust of an al Qaeda cell, right on the heels of a U.S. warning that al Qaeda's affiliate groups are gaining strength right now. Eight more Nigerian school girls have been kidnapped by a vicious Islamist group, even as its leader boasts that he plans to sell more than 200 other young victims into slavery.

And Saudi Arabia says it has uncovered an al Qaeda faction, arresting dozens of people who it says planned to carry out attacks and assassinations.

We have full coverage of these and other major stories, including the bloody fighting in Ukraine.

Our correspondents and analysts are standing by here and around the world.

We start with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this hour, the Obama administration has issued a new travel warning for those Americans even thinking about going to Nigeria, warning of kidnappings, attacks, robberies, muggings, all of it. There is plenty of reason to worry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Even as the world watches horrified, Boko Haram continues its terror -- kidnapping eight more girls. It's just the latest vicious attack inflicted on Africa's most vulnerable by rising extremist groups. But there is also growing worry Africa's al Qaeda are joining forces on bomb making and assassinations and threatening attacks on Western interests.

Boko Haram, which has killed hundreds of Nigerians, is stepping up its capabilities.

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: They have directly threatened the United States, the United States' interest in Western and Northern Africa, and have vowed that they could conduct attacks again U.S. embassies in the region.

STARR: The U.S. believes Boko Haram's leader had contacts with Osama bin Laden. Most worrying, it currently has close ties to another affiliate in Africa which was behind last year's attack on an Algerian natural gas plant that killed 40 hostages. The two groups may now have trained together.

A third al Qaeda affiliate, Al-Shabab, has also stepped up its operations, even after the attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi. Just this weekend, suspected militants attacked two buses in Kenya, killing and injuring civilians.

A growing worry -- senior Al-Shabab operatives have continuing contacts with Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen, who has vowed to attack the US.

Washington Monday announced it signed another 10 year lease to occupy a base in Djibouti, a major hub for U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism operations in Africa. The U.S. now hopes to send a team to Nigeria to help find the schoolgirls.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It would include U.S. military personnel, law enforcement officials with expertise in investigations and hostice -- hostage negotiations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And then there is al Qaeda in Yemen, Wolf. A source with access to the latest intelligence says that there is recent evidence they, too, have stepped up their active planning against the United State -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, stand by for a moment.

I want to bring in CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom.

He's joining us -- Mohammed, you have new details of Saudi Arabia's bust of a large cell tied to al Qaeda. Dozens of people arrested there.

What are you learning?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This was a huge bust that happened over the course of a couple of months in Saudi Arabia, Wolf. It encompassed multiple terrorist cells. The Interior Ministry there saying that at least 66 al Qaeda affiliated militants, most of them Saudi citizens, were arrested in these counterterror sweeps across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Major General Mansour al-Turki, he's the spokesman for the Interior Ministry, he told me a short while ago that while most of these men were Saudis, some of them were Yemenese, some of them were Pakistanis and that the threat there wasn't just for Saudi Arabia, that they were trying to disrupt a network that was smuggling weapons not only Al Qaeda in Yemen, but also to al Qaeda affiliated groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Inside Syria.

This really goes to show just how grave a threat al Qaeda still is in Saudi Arabia. Let's remember that in 2009, when Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is in Yemen, when it formed, it formed because most of the militants that had been inside Saudi Arabia went to Yemen. They were driven out of Saudi Arabia. They went into Yemen. And most of the top tier of leadership of AQAP is actually Saudi leadership.

So once again today, a major bust. And we're told that, in fact, still 44 people on the run, still being pursued by Saudi authorities today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Mohammed, I'm going to have you stand by.

Mohammed is here.

He's got these new -- this new information on the terror threats, what's going on in Saudi Arabia.

Barbara Starr is still with us, our Pentagon correspondent.

And our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director -- Mohammed, how significant would you say that this busting of these al Qaeda-related terrorists in Saudi Arabia might be?

Because I asked the question remembering that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.

JAMJOOM: It's very significant, Wolf. In fact, Saudi Arabia has said over the years that they still have problems with militancy. We've seen, over the course of the past four or five years, that once or twice a year, there are these huge busts of this type in Saudi Arabia, these operations that take a couple of months. And then this big announcement is made. They talk about caches of weapons that were seized and smuggling routes that were disrupted.

The fact of the matter is, Saudi Arabia the biggest oil exporter in the world.

One of the reasons that the U.S. and other countries are so concerned about al Qaeda in Yemen is because Al Qaeda in Yemen is not just a threat toward -- toward the U.S. and toward other countries, and Yemen, but also a huge threat toward Saudi Arabia. A few years back, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula actually tried to assassinate the deputy interior minister of Saudi Arabia. They almost got away with that. It was a very close call.

And this really goes to show that militancy and al Qaeda still very much a problem in Saudi Arabia and still something that's very much on the agenda when it comes to the interior minister there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me bring Tom Fuentes into this -- Tom, you're a former assistant director of the FBI.

It looks like al Qaeda is far from gone right now, not necessarily al Qaeda core, the main al Qaeda, but all of these affiliate groups. We see what's happening in Nigeria now, this pro-al Qaeda group, Boko Haram, kidnapping hundreds of these schoolgirls, getting ready to sell them into captivity.

This is a huge problem. And I take it the U.S. is deeply concerned, based on everything you're hearing, as well.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Now, you have many al Qaeda groups that are basically somewhat unaffiliated or more or less independent. Boko Haram in Nigeria has been somewhat independent from the mainstream al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia is the birth place of al Qaeda. And for years, the Saudis ignored the problem, didn't want to bother with it because of the stature of Osama bin Laden's family and their relationship to the royal family of Saudi Arabia.

The al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia broke that truce in 2003 with a number of bombings that killed a number -- hundreds of Saudi Arabian citizens. That's when the Babaheth (ph), their security force, the Babaheth, cracked down. And many of the al Qaeda then fled into Yemen. And Yemen is one of the poorest countries on the planet. They were overwhelmed. And to this day, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based from Saudi Arabia, but with a place to grow in Yemen, because of the weak government in Yemen.

BLITZER: Let's not forget the bin Laden family, a prominent Saudi family...

FUENTES: Right.

BLITZER: -- including bin Laden, as well -- all right, so, Barbara, where does Boko Haram, this terrorist group -- this Muslim terrorist group that's kidnapped all these girls in Nigeria right now -- where does it fit into the big picture from the U.S. perspective?

STARR: Well, look, they may be an independent -- Tom is right -- an independent part of the al Qaeda movement. But what U.S. intelligence is noting is they have fighters that have moved out of Nigeria, moved into other surrounding countries in Africa. Mali may have even gone further north along into Libya, have been training with other al Qaeda affiliates, learning bomb making techniques, assassination techniques, attack operations planning, that sort of thing.

So this is the fundamental problem with all of these affiliates. As they increase their potential communications, operations and training, all of these affiliates begin to pose essentially the same threat. Their attacks may be inside their own countries, but they can cross borders and they can pose a very credible threat to Western and U.S. interests in the region -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Al Qaeda very much still on the move after all these years.

Barbara, thanks very much.

Mohammed Jamjoom, thanks to you.

Tom Fuentes, thanks.

Just ahead, the families of those kidnapped girls are beyond desperate. We're going live to Nigeria. And I'll talk to the "New York Times" columnist, Nicholas Kristof,

Plus, are we about to see a major legal battle between the NBA and the ousted Clippers' owner, Donald Sterling?

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're seeing new signs of a potentially monumental legal battle brewing between the disgraced L.A. Clippers, Donald Sterling, and the NBA.

Our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is working this story for us -- Suzanne, you're just hearing about another important development just emerging?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean this just happened within the hour or so. L.A. Clippers president, Andy Roeser, he was the guy who was supposed to be taking over the Clippers after owner Donald Sterling was banned for life by the team. Well, now, he's going to be taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately. That announcement came from the NBA just this past hour.

MALVEAUX: Andy Roeser, the guy who was supposed to take over the Clippers after Donald Sterling was banned for life by the team. Well, now he's going to be taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately. That announcement came from the NBA just the past hour.

You might recall it was Roeser who immediately defended Sterling when the tapes of Sterling's rants -- rants -- racist rants surfaced, saying it was the antithesis of who he is and what he believes. Well, now the NBA is saying that Roeser's removal provides a new CEO to come in with a clean slate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One twenty-two, 105.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): It was an offensive show of force on the court from the Clippers last night, and beleaguered owner Donald Sterling could be looking to do the same tin the courtroom.

TMZ is reporting that Sterling is shopping for a legal team to fight the NBA, possibly forcing him to sell the team, including the firm who recently represented Paula Deen after she was caught making racist comments. None of the parties involved would comment.

A protracted legal battle may be just what Sterling has in mind to keep the Clippers.

DARREN KAVINOKY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There is nothing to be gained by a quick transaction. One of the things that people are speculating about now is that he's actually engaged in a litigation strategy to stave off any sale of the team until after he naturally expires.

MALVEAUX: While keeping the team isn't a certainty, death and taxes are.

However, in this case, if Sterling dies, his family could be spared from having to pay millions of dollars in capital gains taxes. Should Sterling be forced to sell the team himself, he, too, could be spared because of an obscure tax law that might keep him from paying a $300 million tax.

KAVINOKY: We can expect that Donald Sterling, given his appetite for litigation, given his appetite for lawyers, that he would perhaps try and shield himself using this particular code section.

MALVEAUX: If Sterling isn't forced to sell, it could hurt the NBA. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti hinted that he would support a boycott of Clippers games.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: As for the Clippers team, the league will appoint a new CEO of the team and that CEO will have the authority to decide whether Clippers president Andy Roeser the NBA has put in a leave of absence stays or goes. We're also still waiting to see what that group of NBA owners decides, whether or not the three-fourths of them vote to force Sterling to sell the Clippers team.

BLITZER: We're told that vote is going to be happening fairly soon. Our Suzanne, thanks very much. Suzanne Malveaux reporting. Let's dig a little bit deeper now with our CNN anchor, Don Lemon, our CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. All right, Jeff. Explain what a tough bunch of lawyers, or at least one lawyer, or a tough bunch of lawyers could potentially do with aggressive tactics, if you will.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Think about depositions. The issue is misconduct by the owner. One tact a lawyer representing Don Sterling could say is, "OK, let's get all the owners of the NBA and put them all under oath and ask them what they have said in private conversations. And do they have mistresses, as well? And do they have, you know, women who have tape recorded them?" That would certainly give pause.

Now, I don't know if a judge would allow those depositions to take place. Certainly, lawyers for the NBA would fight it, but the best defense is usually a good offense, and putting the NBA and its owners on trial is certainly what one thing that would be on their minds.

BLITZER: How ugly, Don, do you think this legal battle could become? It could hurt the league tremendously, potentially.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's going to get really ugly. And I think the league is ready for it. They were selling T-shirts. They've been selling T-shirts saying, "We are one" with either the league logo on it are or the Clippers' logo on it.

I think the league is ready to fight this. They would rather have it over. But I think it's going to be a long protracted one. They know it's going to hurt them.

But I think what's worse for the league is to have an owner like Donald Sterling; and they know it, and the Clippers know it. That's why they put that CEO on indefinite leave, because they want to start with a clean slate, Wolf. They don't want to have this. They want to put this in the rear-view mirror.

And Wolf, look what happened last night when they had their minds on basketball. Chris Paul, 32 points. They came out on fire last night, and they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.

BLITZER: They certainly did. Congratulations to the Clippers on that. Congratulations to my Washington Wizards for winning last night, as well. We're not going to talk about basketball. Other aspects of basketball.

He's 80 years old, Jeffrey. Supposedly he has prostate cancer. Some people have told me it may be more serious than meets the eye, if you will. Do you think at this stage in his life he wants to get involved -- his legacy already has been so badly damaged. He wants to get involved in a brutal fight with so many of his fellow owners and the new commissioner of the NBA?

TOOBIN: You could look at that precisely the other way and say, he's got so little time to lose, why not fight it out? Why not protect his name? Why not go out, you know, in a blaze of glory as opposed to surrendering? BLITZER: He could protect his name in a lot better ways than having a bruising legal battle.

TOOBIN: I know.

BLITZER: We've talked about this, Don. You agree with me?

LEMON: I do, but you know, Wolf, he's denying those cancer rumors, at least to Barbara Walters. I watched it the other day. And Barbara Walters said, you know -- I think it was yesterday. Barbara Walters said he denied having cancer. He said, "I'm not his doctor," but he did not confirm to her that he had cancer and she spoke to him. So we don't know, and that's so far CNN has not confirmed that.

I think that the best way, I agree, for him to go out is to be -- at least have a conciliatory tone and say, "Listen, I'm not a racist and whatever happened on the tape is not how I feel. I was having a fight with my girlfriend, and things escalated. And I will work the rest of my life to try to correct that. And I'm going to go out the way that I should and hand the team over, and I love the team and I wish them well."

TOOBIN: Don...

LEMON: You feel the same way, but I know he probably won't do that, Jeffrey. We're just saying here.

TOOBIN: Sure. Short of a personality transplant, I don't think any of that is likely to happen.

LEMON: We know. We know.

BLITZER: Stuff happens. We'll see what happens.

Guys, don't go too far away.

Up next, world leaders are warning of an all-out war, as Ukrainian troops fight bloody battles with pro-Russian rebels.

And also coming up, more than 1,000 are forced out of their homes as wildfires are exploding out of control in Oklahoma. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Bloody clashes in Ukraine as government forces step up their campaign to dislodge pro-Russian separatists who've taken over cities and towns.

After an urgent huddle of top diplomats today, European leaders are worrying that Ukraine is headed toward all-out civil war. And U.S. troops are putting on a show of force in the region meant to calm Ukraine's nervous neighbors.

We have our correspondents and analysts here and in the region. Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is standing by. He's in eastern Ukraine, right in the middle of all this. Let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the very latest.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, nothing clearly moving in the right direction. You can hear the frustration in Secretary Kerry's comments today after meeting with E.U. foreign minister Catherine Ashton.

He took aim at claims from pro-Russian separatists for a Crimea-like independence referendum this Sunday in eastern Ukraine. He lambasted Russia for fulfilling none of its obligations under the Geneva agreement and he practically joked at Russia's claims that Syria is safe for election but Ukraine is not for its own on May 25. And that as NATO is expanding its military exercises as a message to Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): American paratroopers landing in waves in Poland alongside NATO allies, part of a series of expanded exercises in Eastern Europe. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made clear the show of force is a direct response to Russian action in Ukraine.

CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: As we've seen in Ukraine and elsewhere, we must prepare for shadowy conflicts in which nations deploy irregular forces, conduct cyber terrorism and seek ways to counter our technological edge.

SCIUTTO: On the ground, that shadowy conflict is already under way. Here residents of Slovyansk pick over one of several Ukrainian helicopters shot down by pro-Russian separatists, and as they push farther into the east, the death toll is rising.

Over the past several days, five Ukrainian soldiers and 30 pro-Russian paramilitaries, killed.

VALENTYN NALYVAICHENKO, UKRAINIAN SECURITY SERVICE CHIEF (through translator): We confirmed there are foreign soldiers from the Russian federation, foreign soldiers who are coming from the territory of the autonomous Republic of Crimea, and local criminals who immediately possess weapons and shoot our people.

SCIUTTO: Today, those same pro-Russian separatists announced a referendum Sunday on joining the Russian federation, a vote that U.S. officials summarily dismiss.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We flatly reject this illegal effort to further divide Ukraine, and its pursuit will create even more problems in the effort to try to deescalate the situation. This is really the Crimea playbook all over again, and no civilized nation is going to recognize the results of such a bogus effort.

SCIUTTO: All this makes a difficult backdrop for national elections, scheduled for May 25. The Obama administration has declared any disruption of the vote cause for broader and more painful, sectoral sanctions against Russia.

Former congresswoman, Jane Harman, will be an election observer.

JANE HARMAN, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: I don't know what happens. If it doesn't happen, hopefully it doesn't happen because it's being delayed for a good reason. If it doesn't happen because this -- whatever we call it, insurgency, asymmetric illegal attack, shooting on the ground is going on, that's a bad reason.

SCIUTTO: With ITS propaganda machine in full force now, Russia is building two narratives at once, each of them with a political aim, for one making a case that Ukraine is just too unstable to hold elections later this month. This is not Afghanistan, the foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said.

At the same time, Russia questioning Ukraine's ability to keep its own territory under control. One example caught my eye, the Russian government, Wolf, claiming that it's received thousands of phone calls from ethnic Russians inside Ukraine, begging for their help. Of course, this is part of that narrative saying that "Eastern Ukraine needs us to come in to stabilize the situation."

BLITZER: We heard that about Crimea, too. And we know what happened there. Jim, stand by for a moment.

The bitter hatred, the brutal fighting continues. The conflict on the ground is escalating big-time amid serious fears it will get even much worse. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in the battleground city, at least nearby, of Slovyansk in Eastern Ukraine. What is the latest there, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's been comparatively quiet today, but that's really just the town of Slovyansk girding itself for what it knows or fears is a serious assault in the days ahead. Most soldiers on the Ukrainian side we've spoken to believe at some point they'll have to penetrate deep into that city center.

And really, people really wondering quite what the intense violence of yesterday, which a militant spokesman told me killed 10 pro-Russian militants and Ukraine says killed four of their soldiers, at least 40 other people injured, too, quite what that achieved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): Crossing between Ukrainian and pro-Russian lines seems to take an age.

The army the day before amassed on this highway checkpoint and advanced in the worst fighting yet. But now drive into the wreckage of the violence, and it's clear they have vanished.

(on camera): It's one of the hardest things to understand about the Ukrainian military campaign here. They fought intensely for this highway yesterday, to great loss of life, but like in many towns where they advance, they don't hold the ground and have pulled back.

(voice-over): Where 10 militants died, said their spokesman, now unarmed locals pile up tires and trash, everyone keeping a distance, everyone digging in.

Particularly here, the nerve center of the militants, a sense of finality about the stand they are taking, rumors of rocket attacks, snipers, symptoms of the storm they think is coming.

Sergey (ph) used to run the checkpoint you saw earlier, but now mourns his friend Dennis (ph), shot in the head by a large caliber bullet, he says.

This MRE packet, part of meals America is supplying Ukraine's army, is to him evidence of something bigger.

"I can show 100 percent," he says, "this is evidence of American mercenaries fighting against the people here."

But, earlier, the scene was different, of anxiety, parents of those detained inside gathering tearfully. The basement of the security service building is apparently filling up.

Igor Opria (ph), a student from Kiev, is, his parents believe, in there. A topography student, he was caught with a rucksack and a sleeping bag with dirty clothes and detained as a spy.

"I rang and asked about him," she says. "They said they only make prisoner swaps for fighters. I asked, "Would you use him as a human shield if the army came? They said they didn't have enough. I asked, would you shoot him if you have to flee? They said they didn't know."

The new order here subsuming the old, but aware that, as the army's blunt strength nears, how it came to power may well be how it leaves, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now, really asking if the elections on May 25 will happen here in an orderly or normal fashion, that's sort of a joke, frankly, to people living here, with the threat of conflict happening on a daily basis.

All eyes are on May the 11th, simply five days from now, when the referendum the pro-Russian militant and protesters say choose to the fate of Donetsk, most people saying it will simply bring it closer to Russia, if not make it part of Russia. The question is, what does the Ukrainian army actually do? They have little combat experience, little counterinsurgency experience.

It's curious to try and divine what they're actually trying to achieve here, and many fearing that if they do finally move into Slavyansk in earnest, it will be extraordinarily bloody -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Could be very, very bloody. Let's hope not. Nick Paton Walsh, be careful over there. Thank you very much.

The violence is not, repeat, not limited to only Eastern Ukraine.

Let's dig a little bit deeper. Jim Sciutto is still here. Julia Ioffe, the senior editor of "The New Republic," is also here.

What is very worrisome, in addition to being just here in Eastern Ukraine, but in Odessa, which is further south, to the central part of Ukraine, there's violence, bitter violence in Odessa.

JULIA IOFFE, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": That's right.

The problem is, you can't really tell to what extent this has anything to do with how the local population feels or if this is, you know, fringe elements kind of fighting it out on the streets of Odessa. What's also clear is that, as this escalates, it's going to be harder and harder for all sides to walk it back.

BLITZER: Is there an endgame that Putin has here? You have spent a lot of time in your career, Julia, studying Putin. What is his endgame? What does he want?

IOFFE: I'm not sure -- I'm not sure he's figured it out yet. I think he's trying to keep his options opened.

I'm not sure that he wants to annex Eastern Ukraine, the way he did Crimea, though he probably hasn't ruled that out. What it looks like is, he wants to destabilize Ukraine enough, make these -- throw -- cast enough doubt on these coming elections on May 25 to say, look, Ukraine is a failed state. Ukraine can't handle its own territory. Its police force doesn't work. Its army doesn't work. Is this the kind of nation you want, the NATO and E.U.? And also here we are exercising some, you know, control, shadowy control over the country.

BLITZER: Jim, you're speaking to U.S. officials who are working this 24/7. How concerned are they that this could explode into some sort of all-out civil war, maybe even along the lines of what we have been seeing for the last three years in Syria?

SCIUTTO: Well, no one is talking about a Syria situation yet, but they're certainly concerned about it going much worse.

And Julia makes a good point. These paramilitaries, et cetera, can be directed from Moscow, but can they necessarily be controlled, right? This is a difficult thing.

IOFFE: Yes.

SCIUTTO: You let the genie out of the bottle, and not only the people themselves, but also the animosities, right? You're creating these divisions within a country that is divided historically.

And that creates anger, fear, all these kinds of things that are difficult to complain. And the point you will hear consistently from U.S. officials -- and John Kerry said it again today -- all the stuff that is happening here in Eastern Ukraine and now even down in Odessa is straight out of, in Secretary Kerry's words, the Crimea playbook.

And that's why they're worried, because that -- they are not sure what Putin's intentions are, but it looks like a similar lead-up to what happened here. BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we're following some important news just coming in.

The White House, guess what, it is currently on a lockdown situation due to a security problem over at one of the entrances to the White House.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. She's standing by.

Michelle, I take it you're inside the White House right now. What do we know?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

You have recognized that we're in the Briefing Room. And we haven't been able to leave for an hour now. That's how long the White House has been under lockdown.

Just a few minutes ago, we got some confirmed information as to what exactly happened here. And it's an unusual situation. A car, just a civilian, regular person's car, followed a motorcade -- we're not sure whose -- there's no information on that -- into the security perimeter of the White House.

I don't know if you know Pennsylvania Avenue, for all those who are watching. It's blocked off with these barriers that come up. So, it's a pedestrian area right outside the wall -- outside the White House, but cars can't go in there. It's been that way since '95.

Well, the barriers came down, let in the motorcade. A car followed that motorcade in. Secret Service says that it was immediately stopped, though, and the driver is now in custody.

Now, all these journalists here in the Briefing Room are somewhat trapped trying to make their deadlines. They had their big interviews with the president today, and they are not able to leave here. We don't know exactly how long this will continue, although since the driver is in custody, we assume that this is going to end soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: I assume they're just making sure there is nothing is in that car. So out of abundance of caution, they want to thoroughly go through that vehicle to make sure there is nothing inside that could be damaging to the White House or to the president or anybody else, for that matter.

Michelle, we will stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much.

Let's hope that lockdown ends very soon.

Coming up, we have another breaking news story we're following, a new wildfire threatening homes, forcing evacuations. We're going live to Oklahoma.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following more breaking news.

President Obama is speaking out about the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by Islamic militants in Nigeria. Listen to what he told NBC News just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a terrible situation.

Boko Haram, this terrorist organization that's been operating in Nigeria, has been killing people and innocent civilians for a very long time.

We have always identified them as one of the worst local or regional terrorist organizations there is out there. But I can only imagine what the parents are going through. So, what we have done is, we have offered -- and it's been accepted -- help from our military and law enforcement officials.

We're going to do everything we can to provide assistance to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And we're learning that at least eight more girls have been abducted. The victims, age 12 to 15, were taken at gunpoint from their homes in northeast Nigeria, apparently by Islamic militants who have kidnapped hundreds of girls so far. They are vowing to sell them.

CNN's Isha Sesay is joining us from the Nigerian capital city of Abuja right now.

Isha, what is the latest you are seeing and hearing on the ground?

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, news that more girls have been taken from their homes is resonating across Nigeria. And this is really a country united in grief and anxiety, as Boko Haram continues to launch these incessant attacks in the northern part of the country.

This is a time of great anxiety here, and the fact that the president announced on Sunday, the president of Nigeria, that they have no idea where the previous 200 girls are makes this assistance from the United States all the more crucial, all the more essential.

And people are really hoping, Wolf, that this will be the turning point in the search-and-rescue effort.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY (voice-over): Nigeria's first lady breaks down in tears, overcome, like her country, at the plight of hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group that reveres al Qaeda and opposes Western education, especially for females. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Girls, you should go and get married. I will repeat this. Western education should fold up.

SESAY: Boko Haram has waged a five-year campaign of terror, killing thousands of men, women, and children in attacks on mosques and churches, schools and villages.

But it's reached a new level of depravity with its latest move, abducting schoolgirls for human trafficking.

This man claims to be the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Enough is enough!

SESAY: The horror of his threat is now drawing global attention, sparking demonstrations in London and in Washington.

OMOLOLA "LOLA" ADELE-OSO, PROTEST ORGANIZER, ACTIVIST: The fact that you're looking for an education and then you're snatched in the middle of the night, that to me is deplorable.

SESAY: The U.S. is reiterating offers of help.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: It would include U.S. military personnel, law enforcement officials with expertise and investigations and hostage negotiations.

SESAY: Nigeria is welcoming help. The question is, will it arrive in time to save the hundreds of girls who face being sold as child brides or slaves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: That is the hope and the prayer that it will arrive in time. People are anxious in this country to see those girls returned home to their families -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Isha Sesay in Abuja for us. Isha, we'll check back with you tomorrow.

Let's get some more now with "New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Nick, you've written some powerful pieces including one entitled "Bring Back Our Girls." You spoke with the fathers of one of these girls. Describe that conversation.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the communications are really rough so we took a few conversations to get through but he and the other parents are just beside themselves because their daughters -- this is an area where most women are not literate and their daughters are the brightest lights in their communities. They are now on the cusp of graduating from high school, becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers. They embody their families' hopes, their community's hope, and then because of a lack of security they've now been kidnapped and instead of becoming doctors they're being sold for $12 each to be sex slaves for militants.

And it adds to their grief and despair when the Nigerian government seems to have little interest, frankly, in pursing the kidnappers. These dads went after the kidnappers armed with bows and arrows into a nearby forest, pursing them, and villagers said that, yes, the girls were taken in here and they told the Nigerian authorities who then didn't do much of anything except to announce that, oh, yes, an operation is under way and the girls will soon be free and that was almost three weeks ago.

BLITZER: I know you had a chance to speak with the Secretary of State John Kerry about this. Is the U.S. doing everything it can possibly do to get these girls freed?

KRISTOF: I just -- I really don't know. I think it does help when Secretary Kerry speaks out, when President Obama speaks out. I mean, essentially, there's been a real lack of will on the part of the Nigerian president and I think that this kind of global spotlight does increase the heat on him to do more. I think that the U.S. may be able to help with intelligence cooperation, either through satellites or through reconnaissance aircraft to see what is happening in northern Nigeria to try to locate those girls and also, for example, a report some were taken to an island in Lake Chad.

And that area is not -- is not forested and the lake. And if there are a bunch of girls there, we should be able to find that relatively easily. And so I'm hoping that we can at least, you know, locate them and then help prod and shame the Nigerian authorities into really working to get these girls back.

BLITZER: I hope you're -- I hope so as well.

Nick Kristof, thanks for the excellent work you're doing.

We're going to stay on top of this story as we have over these past several weeks.

Nick Kristof with "The New York Times," thank you.

Just ahead, residents flee a wind-fueled wildfire. The latest to ravage western Oklahoma. We're going there live.

And Monica Lewinsky now breaking her silence, writing publicly about that affair that nearly toppled a presidency, changed her life forever.

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BLITZER: We're following a new wildfire that's threatening homes, forcing residents to flee in western Oklahoma. It's the latest in a series of blazes fueled by high temperatures, high winds, very low humidity. CNN's Martin Savidge is in Guthrie, Oklahoma, for us.

Martin, what's the very latest on these fires?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the fire danger in Oklahoma is said to be extreme. A red flag warning is out for just about the entire state. Today was bad, tomorrow is expected to be even worse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): High winds, record heat, and drought have become a lethal mix in the southwest. The combination exploding in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Monday, winds above 30 miles per hour propelled flames from what was supposed to be a controlled burn, turning them into an out-of-control raging wildfire. Upwards of 1,000 people were forced from their homes as the flames raced across 3,000 to 4,000 acres, destroying as many as 30 structures.

Two separate fires affected mostly rural areas, but the high heat took a toll on those trying to bring them under control. At least 84 firefighters were treated for various heat-related illnesses, including dehydration and exhaustion. Helicopters flew low overhead carrying huge buckets of water to try and slow the fire's advance. By this morning, crews had the blazes largely contained. Authorities say one resident died after refusing to leave his mobile home as the flames advanced.

Guthrie's nightmare could soon be felt by many across the region. Forecasters this week predict soaring temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees. Add low humidity and gusty afternoon winds and even a small fire could turn into a blowtorch. It's why many here are keeping a nervous eye on the horizon, looking for smoke, while keeping another on the weather forecast hoping for rain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: Back here in Guthrie, we can show you what the fire did. That house burned down to its foundation. Look at this, this was a trailer home. By the way, this isn't material here. This is all the roof and the walls of what was left of it. Here you can see the frame of the trailer burned absolutely to the ground.

And then this was the SUV that was parked in the driveway here. It's absolutely destroyed, and yes, this, that's not modern art, that's what happens to aluminum in a high temperature environment. You could say, at least, when the fire came through here for awhile, it was hell on earth -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly was. Awful situation. Martin, thank you.

Coming up, fires and drought, floods and storms, the White House now warning catastrophic climate changes are already taking place.

And she was the White House intern in the sex scandal that's almost brought down President Clinton. Now Monica Lewinsky is speaking out.

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