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Tornado Warning for D.C. Metro Area; Lawmaker: V.A. Scandal is 'Tip of the Iceberg'

Aired May 22, 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 ANCHOR: Jake, thank you.

Happening now, Arizona inferno. A raging wildfire threatening hundreds of homes and vacation cabins in a very popular tourist area. Thousands of people are ready to flee at a moment's notice.

Deadly ambush. Ukrainian troops are gunned down in a pro-Russian separatist area ahead of a very crucial election. There are fears the violence will spread. We're on the ground in Ukraine.

NBA owner speaks out, always controversial Mark Cuban speaks out. He says his disgraced colleague, fellow billionaire Donald Sterling isn't the only one that people may consider a bigot.

And terrorists go Hollywood. A group that's too brutal even for al Qaeda putting its killings and kidnappings on videotape for the entire world to see.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news. Severe weather, a tornado warning in effect right now, actually here in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Millions of people possibly affected. Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is standing by in the CNN severe weather center with the breaking details. What is going on, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Three separate tornado warnings right now, Wolf, for the D.C. area and also almost down to Fredericksburg and Richmond. There is D.C. proper fairly in the clear. I don't see anything in the west yet. Storms are moving from the northwest. That would be Cedar Hurst right there. It's moving just south of Annapolis, Shady Side. Another one south of Dover. Rotation there. Funnel reported with this cell.

A brand-new tornado warning a little farther to the south just popped up right here. We're talking about Virginia. This right here would be the Chesapeake. Here's Chop Tank (ph). Here's Port Royal. This storm right there moving towards Colonial Beach and maybe far south, if it keeps going, toward Hampton Roads. That's the stuff in the east.

Believe it or not, there's even more stuff out there and another storm for Denver. And a tornado warning earlier. It's now a warning for hail here in Denver. And it's taking almost the exact same track as the storm took in Denver yesterday, Wolf.

BLITZER: This is not a rural area here in the Washington, D.C./metro area. Chad, as you well know, there are potentially a lot of folks out there that could be in the bulls eye.

MYERS: No question about it. As I saw it coming across P.G. County and eventually it came through, over Bowie with some hail and then to the south right there, Annapolis. I lived right there for a very long time. I know this area very well. Just over the bridge, just south of the Bay Bridge and now into this -- probably if it keeps going, I'll call it the Salisbury, Maryland, area. I'll wait 20 minutes. We'll see if this one holds together -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There are a lot of people throughout that entire bay area. A lot of folks potentially could be impacted. Any words of advice for folks who might be watching us right now?

MYERS: Well, I know you're on the Eastern Shore. You're going to say, "I want to go out and look at it." Please don't look at these storms. Go inside, stay inside away from windows. These are not F-5 tornadoes. Not 280 miles per hour tornadoes that hit Moore, Oklahoma. But they can still hit your house and still hit your house with hail. Almost two inches in diameter. And that would break the window if you're sitting there trying to look at it.

Stay inside. Get the pets inside. Get the kids inside. Get your car inside if you have time. And that's it. These things will pass in 15 minutes. Just give it 15 minutes and be safe.

BLITZER: Chad, we're going to get back to you, but stand by. I want you to be part of this conversation.

Joining us on the phone right now, the storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski.

Jeff, first of all, tell our viewers where you are and what you're seeing.

JEFF PIOTROWSKI, STORM CHASER (via phone): We're in Aurora. About 15 minutes, we had a storm approaching downtown, and in the last 15 minutes it is now weakening. It had a wall cloud and you could clearly see an indicator of a different trajectory (ph), where there's varying lengths (ph).

But you had quarter-sized hail downtown. They've replaced the tornado warning now with a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) warning. Denver Airport (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And coming out of the north side there's a tornado, an actual storm has increased significantly over the last 15 minutes. But south of Denver and north of Denver until later on this evening.

BLITZER: And the tornadoes that you were telling us about yesterday in the greater Denver area, they were pretty significant, weren't they? PIOTROWSKI: Well, there were a couple significant of the airport south of DIA and then also north of the area is where most of the tornadoes were. There was hail damage. Jetliners had -- saw significant hail damage to the wings and the planes. They were grounded, and they're doing inspections were done today as well as tens of thousands of cars have major hail damage on the northeast side of Denver as well as the airport.

They had it so deep they had to bring out the plows. To plow the streets and the area clear of 4 to 8 inches of hail. And that was yesterday. More damage. Like right now the storms are just now getting under way and we expect more severe weather as the day rolls on.

BLITZER: A lot of people impacted in the Denver area, as well. Chad Myers, I know you have a question for Jeff. Go ahead.

MYERS: I can see exactly where you're trying here, Jeff. Here's Aurora, Colorado, right here. Eventually on I-70 and moving to the east as this storm tracks up towards the northeast here is going to take a very similar track. Did you go yesterday or even today and look at the damage from yesterday's tornadoes?

PIOTROWSKI: We did go by that area, and there were a dozen telephone poles down and not a lot of damage, like I said, rural areas. The big story was the hail damage. Houses on the northeast side of Aurora, a lot of houses had considerable hail damage and a number of them had holes as well as a lot of roof damage. Homes as well as cars on the northeast side of Denver yesterday.

MYERS: Jeff, be safe out there. This thing could recycle any time.

PIOTROWSKI: Yes.

BLITZER: Jeff Piotrowski, we'll stay in touch with you.

Chad, I want to go back to the greater Washington, D.C., area. These are live pictures that we have coming in right now. This is courtesy of our affiliate, WJZ. You see it looks relatively calm out there, but that could be deceiving.

MYERS: Well, it is. They're flying now off to the east. This is the shoreline. This is the Western Shore. We call the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake on the other side near Madison and in Cambridge and Lincoln and Bucktown.

But this storm, I believe now, is probably even getting more dangerous than it was just an hour ago. We have the storm right there, and it's going to travel across the Chesapeake, maybe even as a waterspout on the Chesapeake and then across the Eastern Shore.

So anywhere here, just I would say 10, 15 miles south of where the Bay Bridge hits the other side, hits the Eastern Shore, I need you taking cover right now, because we still have that signature there. The rotation, you can see it on my graphic right there. Even though that camera didn't see rotation, didn't see a tornado, the tornado could be in the sky, in the air, in the cloud waiting to drop down. That happens a lot, especially now.

There's no -- there's no geography here in this water. There's no topography to slow the storms down, and storms can spin up quicker if they're over water. As soon as that waterspout makes landfall, it becomes a tornado, Wolf. Not a waterspout any more as soon as it hits land, and it could be damaging to the Eastern Shore.

BLITZER: Why is it, Chad, that so often we see the severe weather developing late afternoon, early evening?

MYERS: Well, because the air is hot. Think about you just take the little handle and you put that in a hot air balloon, and the hot air goes up, and the hot air balloon rises. In the heat of the day, the air wants to rise.

That bubbling air goes up into the sky and then runs into a cold layer above us, and it just keeps going up and up and up. It can go 30,000, 40,000 feet. And those storms then can rotate. These storms have been moving at a very strange direction today. They've been moving almost from the northwest to the southeast. And that tells me there's more shear in the atmosphere. So any big storm that's all by itself, that one there, that one there, that one there, not competing with other moisture can rotate and produce a tornado at any time.

It's the heat of the day that makes them go during the day. It's the cool of the night that makes them calm down, because the air doesn't want to rise at night. It actually sinks.

BLITZER: I assume for folks in the D.C./metro area, with the tornado warnings popping up, people should get ready to take shelter. They are already doing that.

MYERS: Well, here, I see another one here. This is another place where I used to live. I'm going to see if I can get to that storm right down there.

Metro D.C., Baltimore, I think you're OK. Trying to move this year to see if I can move the camera and slide this up and down. Here is, Henrico County. Here's Richmond proper. Here's the south side right down towards Midlothian. It's so touchy today. My fingers are nice and hot because I'm so worked up over the storms.

D.C., you're in the clear. Right here, the James River -- our $200,000 iPhone here. Erase everything else. There's the storm for Richmond down towards the south side and Henrico County. It looks you're going to be in the clear. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) proper. Looks like you're going to be on the south side. You have a tornado warning for you. You need to be taking cover there in Richmond, Virginia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of the severe weather. Tornado warnings here in the D.C. metropolitan area. And not too far away. We'll get back to you, Chad Myers. Stay with us.

And there's also other important news we're following. Scenes of slaughter as Ukrainian troops are ambushed in the pro-Russian separatist area. We'll take you there live to the rebel region. That's in the Ukrainian capital.

Also, one of the NBA's most outspoken owners, the "Shark Tank" star Mark Cuban, suggests Donald Sterling isn't the only person out there who may be considered a bigot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're monitoring the breaking news, a tornado warning here in the Washington, D.C., metro area; severe weather warnings in Denver, Colorado, right now. We're going to stay on top of this story. Much more coming up in a few moments.

But there's some other important news I want to get to right now. There are fresh and new shocking developments in the scandal surrounding the V.A. health care system. We've been learning more about wounded war veterans forced to wait months for treatment.

The veterans affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki, who's under a lot of pressure right now to step down, was up on Capitol Hill today. He says he has not offered to resign.

Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, was the first to expose so much of the scandal at a V.A. facility in Phoenix. He's there. He's got more. He's joining us with the very latest. What do you know right now, Drew?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Right now at this hour, Wolf, Rob Nabors, President Obama's White House deputy, is speaking and meeting with the veterans services organizations over at that Phoenix V.A.

Nabors arrived just before 9 a.m. this morning to get a briefing on the situation and then, more importantly, perhaps, to tour that hospital to talk with medical providers and I hope to meet with some of the whistle blowers and sources that we have inside the hospital who are giving us information about the deplorable wait times, including Dr. Katherine Mitchell. I want you to hear what she told us. She heads the post-deployment clinic at that hospital, and she confirmed to us that as recently as just three weeks ago, veterans literally who are coming home from war, just separated from the service, are having to wait in these lines for doctors' appointments like everybody else.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Our troops coming back from war, now separated from active service...

DR. KATHERINE MITCHELL, HEAD OF POST-DEPLOYMENT CLINIC, PHOENIX V.A. HOSPITAL: Who should have priority for scheduling do not.

GRIFFIN: ... who are coming to the Phoenix V.A. for follow-up care for war injuries...

MITCHELL: Correct.

GRIFFIN: ... are being put on a waiting list and made to wait six to ten months?

MITCHELL: Yes, or longer.

GRIFFIN: You're kidding me.

MITCHELL: No. But it's the same for everyone. Everyone is made to wait.

GRIFFIN: That's now? That's happening now?

MITCHELL: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: And Katherine Mitchell reported that to the Office of Inspector General months and months ago. Still, the practice continued up until three weeks ago before the new OIG investigation began there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Drew, I want you to stand by, because the Republican chairman of the House Government Affairs Committee is here with us. He says the scandal so far is just the tip of the iceberg. He said his panel was actually stood up today by V.A. officials.

Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida is here, along with Gloria Borger and chief political analyst, presidential historian Doug Brinkley of Rice University is with us, as well. You hear a story like that, that vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, they need treatment. They have to wait for months to get treatment at a hospital in Phoenix? Are you shocked?

REP. JEFF MILLER (R), FLORIDA: It's totally unacceptable. These are individuals who put on the uniform of this nation, put their lives on the line. They should get first priority when they go to get their health care. They've earned these benefits. And for people to have secret waiting lists, to make these individuals stand in line, it borders on criminal.

BLITZER: Criminal because there are some people like Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut. He wants the FBI to investigate. Apparently, they haven't decided to do that yet. They're waiting for more information. Are you saying the FBI needs to get involved, there should be federal investigators looking at potential criminal violations?

MILLER: Any time you manipulate numbers at the federal level, especially manipulate numbers that cause the deaths of individuals, I would hope the Department of Justice, especially the FBI would get involved.

BLITZER: Tell us what happened today, because you had a hearing, and you were expecting top V.A. officials to come and testify. Tell us what happened. MILLER: We have been trying to get information from the V.A. We subpoenaed them two weeks ago today. We told them that we needed particular information. Unfortunately, they've been less than forthcoming with that information.

Last night at 2:30 in the morning we got 3,000 e-mails from them in the dark of night. We asked them earlier in the evening if they would please come and explain to use why it is taking so long. We got a letter back that said you can't come because you've asked us 15 hours ahead of time.

The general council said he would come to the hill tonight at 4 p.m.. So I canceled my flight home so that I could be here for a brief. We called him and said, you're welcome to come up for the brief, but only if it's open to the public and the press can be there.

We waited all day long. We called nine times for them to tell us whether or not they were going to come, and he never came. We got a call at a quarter to 4 from three low-level staffers who basically said he didn't want to brief members of Congress. He wanted to brief the staff and not in front of the press.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Should -- is there anything the president can do to say to them we want you to be forthcoming? I mean, he spoke about congressional oversight. Can the president say to them "I think you ought to go to the Hill?" Should he say that?

MILLER: The secretary has been to the Hill. I haven't seen him.

BLITZER: He's been on the Senate side...

BORGER: On the Senate side.

BLITZER: He's testified before Senator Bernie Sanders, committee on veterans affairs, but I take it he hasn't yet come before your committee?

MILLER: No. And again, after seeing him testify in front of the Senate last week, I don't think he needs to come to the House, because he didn't say very much.

BORGER: But what can the president do? What more can he do that he's not doing?

MILLER: The president should order the people of the Department of Veterans Affairs to do their job, and that is to provide the health care that is supposed to be given to the veterans and also to cooperate with Congress, and they just are not doing that.

BORGER: And let me ask you: You've looked at a lot of documentation. You said this morning on CNN that this was just the tip of the iceberg. Have you referred any of what you have seen to the Department of Justice for further investigation?

MILLER: No. At this point what we've done is given all of the information, and we continue to do so, including parts of the information that was provided to us last night and constant calls and e-mails from whistle blowers to the office of inspector general. And I have already said that I think the office of inspector general is about to be overwhelmed with what's going on out there. They are capable of doing a normal investigation, but we're talking about one that encompasses the entire V.A. system.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on for a moment. I want to bring in Doug Brinkley, presidential historian into this conversation. Doug, you started a lot of American presidents. Take a step back. Give us a big picture. This current president, President Obama, this current crisis involving the V.A., how's he doing?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, he's trying to be judicious about it. He doesn't want to throw out the window or under the bus somebody like Secretary Shinseki, one of the great American heroes. So he's trying to be very cautious.

But I think the president has got to up the game a little bit here. The public is angry. It's been -- this has been a long problem. It's not just President Obama's problem with the V.A. But I think the president needs to get a little bit tougher. All presidents like to say, the buck stops here. The buck has to stop at President Obama on this, and I think the public is demanding answers faster than perhaps the White House wants to provide it this time.

BLITZER: Congressman, you stopped short of saying that Secretary Shinseki should leave.

MILLER: No. Because I know the secretary very, very well. And I think he's an honorable man. However, I have consistently said that his people are not serving him well. They're not providing him the truth. They're not giving him accurate numbers so that the can make the decisions necessary. So what I've decided to do is wait until the Office of Inspector General finishes their report, but I will tell you this. Just getting rid of Secretary Shinseki is not going to solve the problem.

BLITZER: Let me ask Drew Griffin, who's been investigating this more than anyone. I know, Drew. I assume you have a good question or two for the congressman. Go ahead.

GRIFFIN: Congressman, I just talked to you before about this. But what I'm not seeing from the president or from Shinseki is anybody stepping up to the plate and said, "OK, now we may not know -- we may not know who is involved in shredding evidence or secreting out here in Phoenix, but we know that vets are waiting for care. How do we solve that right now? Can we just say to every single V.A. in America, "Listen, if you've got a waiting list, tell those vets to go to a local health care, private health care and send us the bill"?

MILLER: And what's very disappointing is they have the ability to do that already, Drew. There is, in law today, the ability for the Department of Veterans Affairs, to send veterans now into the private market through fee-basis care and to have them stand in line and wait, just so they can keep their numbers up inside particular V.A. facilities is wrong. The veterans need to get the care when they need it and where they need it.

BLITZER: Is the president right now -- Gloria, I want you to weigh in on this. Is the president of the United States doing what he should be doing to reassure veterans, the families, the American public that he's on top of this? Because he came out yesterday, we all saw and made an impassioned statement.

BORGER: You know, this is the president's M.O. I mean, you know, he is no-drama Obama, as we've said all along. During the BP oil spill, people were saying, where's the outrage? I think there are people saying this about this particular case. He's called for accountability. He not a scapegoat kind of guy. I was speaking to a former senior White House adviser today who said to me that his impulse is to find out what's wrong first and then figure it out. I think that's what you're saying, Congressman, that he doesn't believe -- he left the door open that he might ask Shinseki to resign, but he didn't call for it right away. He wants to get to the bottom of it. That's the way -- you know, that's the way he operates.

My question to you is, is there anything more he can do to, in statue right now, to answer Drew's question about making sure that these veterans get the health care they need immediately?

MILLER: Absolutely. They have the ability today to use the fee basis care model that is in the current books. The V.A. won't do that because they see that as taking money out of their budget, out of the V.A. budget. It's not the V.A.'s. They're a pass-through. It's the taxpayers' money paying for the veterans to get their health care.

BLITZER: You say this is the tip of the ice berg. You want to give us what you fear most?

MILLER: What I fear most is that you're going to find this in the vast majority of facilities that exist out there today. And again, we're talking about veterans' health care. We haven't started talking yet about the claim that's being made by the secretary and the president that they reduce the backlog for disability claims by 50 percent. That is not true.

BLITZER: Congressman, we've got to leave it there. We'll stay on top of the story. Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida, thanks very much for coming in. Gloria, thanks to you. Professor Brinkley, as always, thanks to you. Drew Griffin, you're doing amazing work for CNN and for the American public right now .

Coming up, the deadliest day yet for troops in the escalating Ukraine crisis. A brazen attack just three days before critical presidential elections in Ukraine. We're going live there for some dramatic new information.

Plus, controversial comments on race from one of the NBA's most outspoken owners, the star of the hit TV show "Shark Tank" suggesting Donald Sterling isn't the only person out there who would be considered a bigot.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Scenes of slaughter today in Ukraine. Government troops mowed down in a pro-Russian separatist area. The latest attacks come just ahead of a crucial election and the government in Kiev is calling the United Nations for help.

We're on the ground in the Ukrainian capital and in the rebellious city of Donetsk. That's in Eastern Ukraine. Let's begin with our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. He's now in Kiev with the very latest -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there have been something of a fragile calm the last week leading up to these crucial elections on Sunday. That calm now broken in dramatic form today by one of the deadliest days of this crisis so far. I spoke to Ukrainian official today. They see pro-Russian separatists behind this violence but they draw a direct line between those separatists and Moscow. And in this violence they see a direct threat to these crucial national elections.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): It was the deadliest day of the crisis so far. A brazen attack on the Ukrainian military checkpoint in Donetsk that killed 15 troops, leaving their armored vehicles in flames and a tangle of dead bodies. A second attack killed one more soldier.

Witnesses said the attackers were likely pro-Russian separatists but officials in Kiev place the blame firmly on Moscow, calling for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. Just three days before Ukrainians vote to choose a new president, election observers urged calm on all sides.

WOLFGANG ISCHINGER, ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE: I don't care whether there will be a formal arrangement or whether simply both sides are wise enough to try to allow democracy to take its course this coming weekend.

SCIUTTO: In the capital Kiev, there are fears the violence could now spread beyond the east.

(On camera): The men in these tents are not peaceful protesters, they are militants and they are armed. And when we asked them what they would do if they don't accept the results of Sunday's election, they told us they would resort to violence.

(Voice-over): Kiev's main square is still crowded with barricades and tents from the demonstrations that brought down Ukraine's pro-Russian government. And Ukrainians I met vowed to make one more stand inside the voting booths.

(On camera): What do you hope to happen in the election?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are -- not only me. I think whole country hope that we will choose different president who will lead our country forward.

JANE HARMAN (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: A lot of the people are still here. The Christmas tree is still here with all the slogans on it.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Election observer, former U.S. congressman, Jane Harman, told me the vote, however, is just a first step.

(On camera): The conflict doesn't end on Sunday, does it?

HARMAN: Sunday is the culmination but it's also the beginning of something else. For the first time, an opportunity for Ukrainians as a country to form a decent government that represents all of them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: The eyes of U.S. officials, NATO officials now very much on Russia's border with Ukraine. They are watching those 40,000 to 50,000 Russian troops for signs of movement. Today, the secretary general of NATO said that there are signs of preparations for withdrawal of those Russian forces but no sign yet that those Russian forces are indeed moving back as President Putin has promised.

They've been burned before on promises like this before, Wolf. Their position right now very skeptical as to whether Russia is going to follow through this time.

BLITZER: Jim, stand by for a moment. I want to bring in Julia Ioffe. She's the senior editor of the "New Republic" magazine. She's in eastern Ukraine in the city of Donetsk where she's written a very stunning article about the pro-Russian separatists who have declared what they call a people's republic basically in a single 11-story building.

Julia, I read your amazing article. You say where you are right now, for a lot of folks, whether or not Russian troops formally are there, for all practical purposes, you're seeing Russia there. Is that what you're seeing?

JULIA IOFFE, SENIOR EDITOR, THE NEW REPUBLIC: No. I mean, this is a region that is historically been and culturally been much closer to Russia, especially during the Soviet periods. What you're seeing are these vestiges of the Soviet Union. And the city itself just have these -- I don't know how many people holed up in this 11-story building and you know, a little bit in front of the yard in front of the building.

Otherwise, the city is totally calm. People are sitting around in outdoor cafes, drinking coffee, walking around with their kids. Kids are playing in the sandboxes. The real mayhem is happening out in the region of Donetsk and Lugansk, in Slovyansk, in Horlivka, just -- but the city of Donetsk itself is calm except for this one building.

BLITZER: Well, what about the sense you're getting, these pro- Russian separatists, if you will? Do you get the sense they really are being controlled by Russia or is this internally what they really want?

IOFFE: You know, you get the sense that whatever -- whoever was orchestrating this from the beginning has lost control of the situation, both in Donetsk and in the -- and in the wider region. What I saw in the building is a lot of people who have tasted power, both in handing out basically glorified hall passes and journalistic accreditations with homemade stamps. Also with Kalashnikov and pistols and clubs, you know, but night sticks. They have tasted power. They have chased the government out of this building and it's hard to see how this will go back to normal, how the genie will be put back inside the bottle, if you will.

BLITZER: Let me go back to Jim Sciutto in Kiev.

Jim, a lot of observers have come in from Europe, from around the world including a lot of Americans. We saw Jane Harman with you, the former U.S. congresswoman. Do they really think there's going to be a free and fair election on Sunday?

SCIUTTO: They believe there's going to be a fair and free election in parts of the country. They've resigned themselves to lower turnout in those eastern region of Donetsk and Lugansk. The question is how low will the turnout be there and will the turnout be high enough here in Kiev in the western parts of the country, the other eastern parts of the country that aren't as violent to make this a credible election, a legitimate election.

And that's a question because when you have violence like you had today, that's the kind of thing that could deter people from going to the polling stations. That's a real concern. And then, also, you know, beauty will be in the eye of the beholder, right? There are so many other countries that have a hand in this. You know, will Russia declare that the election is legitimate in their eyes? We don't know regardless of what the turnout is. So a lot of variables that will lead up to and pass Election Day on Sunday.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting from Kiev, Julia Ioffe, reporting for us from Donetsk. We'll be in touch with you tomorrow throughout the weekend, obviously, as these elections go forward. A very important story developing in Ukraine.

When we come back, controversial comments on race from one of the NBA's most outspoken owners. The start of the hit TV show "Shark Tank" suggesting Donald Sterling may not be the only person out there considered that so many of us would consider to be a bigot.

Plus, terrorists go Hollywood. A group that's even too brutal for al Qaeda. Yes, a group that's even too brutal for al Qaeda puts its killings and kidnapping on video for the entire world to see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some controversial comments about race from one of NBA's most outspoken owners, the star of the hit TV show, "Shark Tank." Mark Cuban, suggesting the disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling isn't the only person out there a lot of folks would consider to be a bigot.

Let's bring in our national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's got details -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this is fast developing. This is the outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks, billionaire Mark Cuban, and his comments now that's generating a ton of buzz and it's coming from interviews that he did with "Ink" magazine. Part of it was in front of a live audience and before this thing even started, he apologized in advance for cursing and offending but it's his very candid remarks on his own bigotry that has many wondering whether or not he and the NBA owners will vote Sterling out of the league.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban known for his on-court tantrums and hundreds of thousands of dollars that follow in NBA fines is now revealing his views on race.

MARK CUBAN, OWNER, DALLAS MAVERICKS: I know I'm prejudiced. I know I'm bigoted in a lot of different ways. You know, and I've said this before. If I see a black kid in a hoodie in night on the other side of the street, you know, on the same side of the street, I'm probably going to walk to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and lots of tattoos, I'm going back to the other side of the street. If I see anybody that looks threatening, you know, chances are there's part of me that takes into account races, gender, and age.

MALVEAUX: This revelation in an interview with "Ink" magazine created an immediate discussion on social media, trending on both Twitter and Facebook.

CUBAN: I think we're all bigots. All right? I don't think there's any question about that.

MALVEAUX: Cuban is one of the NBA owners who' will decide whether the racist remarks made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling is damaging enough to force him to sell his team.

Sterling was heard in a recorded private phone conversation discouraging his girlfriend from taking blacks to Clippers' games. And later he told CNN's Anderson Cooper this.

DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people. And some of the African- Americans -- maybe I'll get in trouble again -- they don't want to help anybody.

MALVEAUX: Early on, Cuban condemned Sterling's comments as abhorrent and obviously racist but warned banning Sterling could lead down a dangerous path. CUBAN: I think it's a slippery slope when you start trying to remove people from the NBA or any organization based off of their private thoughts that they have at home.

MALVEAUX: Cuban is calling for more tolerance.

CUBAN: On this day and age, the country has really come a long way putting any type of bigotry behind us, regardless of who it's towards, whether it's the LGBT community, whether it's xenophobia, you know, fear of people from other countries. We've come a long way and with that progress comes a price where we're a lot more vigilant in what we -- and we're a lot less tolerant of different views.

MALVEAUX: Could Cuban become Sterling's saving grace? While Cuban won't say whether he'll vote Sterling out of the league, he does advocate giving people second chances.

CUBAN: I try to always catch my prejudices and recognize and be very self-aware that, you know, my stream of thought is never perfect, and I've got to be careful and, you know, to me that's part of growing up and that's part of -- you know, it's what I try to instill in my kids.

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MALVEAUX: And this just in, we are hearing from Mark Cuban. He's responding to a lot of the criticism. He's tweeting out and this is what we just got. In hindsight, he says, "I should have used different examples. I didn't consider the Trayvon Martin family and I apologize to them for that." He goes on saying, "Beyond apologizing to the Martin family, I stand by the words and substance of the interview."

And Wolf, I have to say, you know, we all know Trayvon Martin who was killed, you know, young black guy just walking home from the store wearing a hoodie and the one thing that was so disturbing about his interview was the fact that -- I mean, had we learned anything, really, from Trayvon Martin, that he brought up that stereotype.

This is a guy who has traveled the world, who's able to retire at 29 years old. He's had a lot of exposure around the globe to different people to bring up that black male stereotype, it just seemed like it did not make any sense. It was intolerable, that level of ignorance. That is what he is addressing firsthand.

Aside from that, he did have some insightful remarks when it came to racism and his own sense of self-awareness in stereotyping people.

BLITZER: That's why he's apologizing to the Trayvon Martin family.

Suzanne, stay with us. I want to bring in our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, our CNN commentator LZ Granderson.

Quick reaction, LZ. What do you make of all of this? LZ GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, Mark has a long history of getting himself in trouble with the things that he says. We all know this is well-documented. I think he attempted to have a nuance conversation. I don't think that it was received as well and a lot of that has to do with the way the media portrayed his thoughts.

With that being said, the thing that I found disturbing was the fact that he kind of characterized a stereotype that black men have been fighting for decades, if not centuries, that have led to death and murder and all kinds of things that have hurt the black community with something like, if I see a white guy with tattoos -- like you can't equate those two things. One has history and the other just doesn't have the same sort of history and the same sort of emotional response. So the fact that he could hit on those two things I thought was the most disturbing part.

BLITZER: And, LZ, I want you to stand by. Suzanne, Jeffrey, we have a lot more to discuss. We're going to break down Mark Cuban's comments, what they mean when we come back.

Also, a failed security test reveals just how vulnerable America's missile nuclear sites might be right now.

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BLITZER: Let me bring back our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, our CNN commentator, LZ Granderson, and Suzanne Malveaux.

Jeff, these comments of Mark Cuban, how if at all do you think it could impact the NBA's decision, their efforts right now to get rid of Donald Sterling as owner of the Clippers?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I thought the comments were smug, arrogant, and stupid. But I don't think it tells you anything about whether Donald Sterling is going to be thrown out. Fortunately Adam Silver and most of the owners are a lot smarter than Mark Cuban and certainly smarter than Donald Sterling, and they recognize as Adam Silver said at his press conference earlier this week, you know, we are a majority black league in terms of the players and we are all white owners.

And we have to be especially sensitive on issues of race. I thought that was candid. I thought it was smart. And, you know, for Mark Cuban not to know that the hoodie was the symbol of the whole Zimmerman case, the whole Miami Heat wore hoodies as a protest against his death, I just thought it was real dumbness on his part.

BLITZER: Is it going to make any impact at all? I assume all 29 of the other owners, LZ, that are going to vote along in strict solidarity line and vote against Sterling.

GRANDERSON: You know, I expect Mark Cuban to also vote against Sterling. You know, if you listen to the entire interview, he'd certainly made it sound as if he's going to vote Sterling out but not without some regret. And he voiced that regret which is we all have bigotry. That's the way he kind of characterized it. Sort of like the Avenue Q. song. Everybody is a little bit racist. I guess that was an excuse before he went off and said what he said.

But, you know, I think Mark Cuban actually is a smart man. I just think that he tried to have a nuanced conversation and he didn't do it very well.

BLITZER: Suzanne, I can see you were pretty angry about that hoodie comment.

MALVEAUX: Well, yes, I mean, I really was disturbed by it because it was one of those situations where, you know, clearly he hadn't really learned from that story and that was an experience, a collective experience. I think if one thing, maybe he is learning now because of Trayvon Martin. That is what people certainly had hoped.

The one thing I took away from this was that he was most concerned about being a hypocrite is what he said because, you know, don't throw the stones if you live in a glass house. I would imagine there are other owners who are also thinking the same. That what have I done, what have I said that could also cost me my team? That that's something that he's thinking about and everybody else is thinking about but ultimately they'll vote him out.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: You know what --

BLITZER: Adam Silver -- hold on, hold on, Jeffrey. But make a quick point because we got to go.

TOOBIN: Well, I've got a good idea. Don't be a racist in public or in private, and you don't have anything to worry about.

BLITZER: That's a quick point. Jeffrey Toobin, LZ Granderson, Suzanne Malveaux. Guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, nuclear insecurity. Disturbing revelations about how vulnerable the U.S. arsenal really is.

Plus, similar fears about our water and power supplies. Hackers have already attacked some public utilities. Could they cut supplies to millions of Americans?

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