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Unrest in Syria; Donald Trump Speaks Out

Aired April 26, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, with the birther battle building and Donald Trump escalating his unsubstantiated claims about President Obama, we continue our exclusive investigation into President Obama's birth and the false conspiracy theories surrounding it.

You will hear more from Donald Trump directly tonight, my interview with him, refuting his claims with facts point by point, "Keeping Them Honest." Trump taking it up yet another notch, telling the Associated Press now he's now suspicious of the president's academic record.

As with the birther claims, he's long on insinuation and allegation, short on proof. In fact, he has no proof on this one. We on the other hand have sent a team to Hawaii. They spent five days interviewing and talking with dozens of people, including the former director of Hawaii's Department of Health, a Republican who actually looked at Barack Obama's actual 1961 birth certificate in storage at the Health Department. Listen.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Did you see Barack Obama's original birth certificate?


TUCHMAN: And what did it tell you? Was it authentic? Was he born here in the state of Hawaii?

FUKINO: It was absolutely authentic. He was absolutely born here in the state of Hawaii.


COOPER: Well, she's seen the very document the birthers, Donald Trump included, want President Obama to release, so-called the long- form birth certificate, which is actually called the certificate of live birth in Hawaii.

Now, they say this, the computer generated version, called the certification of live birth, is for some reason not enough, even though it's got an official stamped signature, an official seal and says on the front -- quote -- "This copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding."

In addition, that copy right there gets you a driver's license in Hawaii and most other states. It also gets you a U.S. passport. That is what the state of Hawaii sends to anybody requesting their birth certificate.

Now, doubters, though, Donald Trump included, continue to say this certification of live birth doesn't carry the same weight as a copy of the original. What they don't know or maybe refuse to admit is this is the only form of birth certificate Hawaii now recognizes or hands out.

We found that out by asking Hawaiian native Stig Widenick (ph) to come with us to the Health Department to get a copy of his birth certificate.

TUCHMAN: I'm Gary Tuchman with CNN. We're here to get a birth certificate for Stig.

We asked Stig because we also saw his birth announcement in the Honolulu newspaper. In the same article, four names down, another newborn, born 13 hours earlier, Barack Obama.

Now, do you give him his original three certificate or an electronic copy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a computerized version.


COOPER: Now, notice the woman behind the counter even refers to the certification of live birth document as a computerized birth certificate.

What's more, Gary discovered that Hawaii no longer even uses the old long-form document, the certificate of live birth, which is what they call it, for official purposes. You can still get one, but it involves making a special request through the Freedom of Information Act, and as Gary reported last night, the Health Department in Hawaii has gotten only one such request for that document in the past year.

Donald Trump also claims that he has got investigators on the case in Hawaii. We challenged him to give specifics, to name even one person in Hawaii that they have allegedly talked to. He refused. He said it wouldn't be appropriate. In Hawaii, Gary Tuchman and producer Susan Chun (ph) asked the people they talked to whether they had also spoken or been approached by Trump investigators. None of them said they had seen or heard from anyone working for Trump.


TUCHMAN: Have you seen any sign of Donald Trump's investigators here in Hawaii trying to find out that he wasn't born here in Hawaii?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I haven't seen anybody.

TUCHMAN: Have you seen any sign of Donald Trump's investigators here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I haven't seen them.

TUCHMAN: Have you seen any of Donald Trump's investigators?


TUCHMAN: Donald Trump has said he is sending investigators to Hawaii. Have you seen any of the investigators yet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they investigating his latest bankruptcy?


COOPER: Well, some other basics. The birth announcement placed in both Honolulu papers, contrary to birther claims, Gary found out they could not be placed by the family. Each and every birth notice only comes straight from the Health Department in Hawaii.

As for why it took two weeks to actually have that birth announcement in, there's no conspiracy there either. The Honolulu advertiser today telling our producer Susan Chun (ph) the announcements run every Sunday. The president was born on a Friday and that combined with a backlog of births that week delayed the processing of it.

Every other child, by the way, born that Friday also had their birth announcement delayed. That's neither enough for Donald Trump, nor others in the movement. More with Mr. Trump in a moment.

We begin, though, with more firsthand facts from 360's Gary Tuchman in Hawaii.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): "The Honolulu Star Bulletin" newspaper in August 1961 announces not only the birth of Barack Obama, but also where the family lived.

(on camera): The address on the birth announcement is in the eastern part of Honolulu. A half century later, the property is in great shape. There's a yellow house and a bungalow behind it. And they're owned by registered Republicans.

(voice-over): Rick and Nani (ph) Smethurst say they voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008, but were pleased when they found out the history of their home.

RICK SMETHURST, HAWAII: It gives me a little bit of pride. And as you came in, you can see we were obviously painting and taking care of it and sprucing it up a little bit.

TUCHMAN: Interestingly, though, Rick Smethurst is not ready to say Barack Obama was definitely born in Hawaii. Like many Americans, he's unsure.

The only way to be sure he and others say would be to find someone who saw Barack Obama immediately after he was born.

So, You saw him when he was an infant?

REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE (D), HAWAII: Oh, sure, of course.

TUCHMAN: Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie says he met the future president soon after he was born, because he was close to both of Barack Obama's parents. He remembers his mother, Ann Dunham, living in Hawaii and pregnant and remembers celebrating the birth with his friends the Obamas.

ABERCROMBIE: His mom and dad went to school with me here, and with other folks here in Hawaii. And, of course, we had no idea at the time that the future president of the United States was that little boy, that little baby, and we were very, very happy, of course, that that took place.

TUCHMAN: At the University of Hawaii, where the Democratic governor and the president's parents went to school, Professor Alice Dewey has taught for almost a half century. She was a faculty adviser to President Obama's mother and met her son as a child, whom she knows as Barry. She remembers Ann Dunham talking about giving birth to her daughter, Maya, Barack's sister, who was indeed born outside the United States.

ALICE DEWEY, UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII: She said, when I had Maya, it was -- we were -- a lot more difficult, because Indonesia doesn't believe in painkillers while you're giving birth. And, of course, in the United States, giving birth to Barry was quite different and much more comfortable.

TUCHMAN: Then there is this woman.

(on camera): What's your son's name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stig John Widenick (ph).

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Stig was one of the babies listed in the newspaper the same day as Barack Obama. And his mother has a unique memory from 1961, from looking at all the newborns in Honolulu's Kapi'olani Medical Center.

(on camera): Do you think you have seen Barack Obama before in person?


TUCHMAN: Next to your son in the nursery?


TUCHMAN: You're pretty sure about that?


In Hawaii in those days, there were hardly ever any black people. TUCHMAN (voice-over): We asked hospital officials about that, but they would not give out any patient records. But back in 1961, Hawaii's African-American population was less than 1 percent.

(on camera): When was your son born?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was born August 5, 1961.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is the birth certificate of Monica's son. It's the exact same type of document that Barack Obama has made public. It's the same computer generated version that every Hawaiian now gets when they need a birth certificate.

The original long-form documents are kept in a vault in this building and are no longer certified for official usage according to the state Health Department. But the former director of that Health Department felt it was her duty to see Barack Obama's original birth certificate.

(on camera): Do you know, has anyone else looked at the certificate?


FUKINO: The registrar has actually seen it as well.

TUCHMAN: The registrar is someone in your...


FUKINO: Alvin Onaka, he is the chief registrar for the state, and he has -- he is the one that took me to see the documents.

TUCHMAN: And you are a registered Republican?

FUKINO: At the present time, yes, I am.

TUCHMAN: And worked for a Republican governor?

FUKINO: Yes, I did.

TUCHMAN: And you still say that the birth certificate of this Democratic president is authentic?

FUKINO: Absolutely.

TUCHMAN: Does it anger you that this has become such a controversy and has taken attention away from issues that are important to you?

FUKINO: No. I find it a bit amusing, in the sense that it keeps resurfacing and over and over again, despite whatever I say. And it really tells us that the whole conspiracy notion out there that if there's an issue that needs to have a following, it will find one.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The current governor agrees. ABERCROMBIE: Obviously, I'm going to do what is legally possible.

TUCHMAN: So much so that when he came into office, the Democrat announced he would release the birth certificate and put the controversy to rest. But he didn't. And that's fueled another part of the conspiracy, that he learned something that would hurt the president and his family, so he kept the original document locked away.

But that part of the conspiracy theory is not true either. He didn't release it because he couldn't. Hawaii state law only allows non-family members with a direct and tangible interest to look at birth certificates, which the Health Department director had because she was in charge of the certificates. But the law does not allow any non-family member, not even the governor, to release someone else's birth certificate.

ABERCROMBIE: And I would just like to ask people who have this political orientation towards the president, respect us here in Hawaii. Respect his mother and father. Respect the people that I loved and the people that I knew and the little boy who grew up here in paradise and became president.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This is very emotional for you.

ABERCROMBIE: Thank you. Yes, certainly, sure, it is.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): It is emotional for many people. But emotions and conspiracy theories aside, facts are facts. And the fact is, according to all the evidence, Barack Obama was born just as the Honolulu newspaper announced it in August 1961.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Honolulu.


COOPER: All right, well, look, part of the problem with conspiracy theories is that believers cling to them in spite of the facts. Or when the weight of the real evidence gets too heavy, they find something else to object to, they change the topic.

Donald Trump is now shifting focus from the president's birth certificate to his academic record, telling the Associated Press -- quote -- "How does a bad student go to Colombia and then to Harvard? I'm thinking about it. I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."

The truth is, we don't know what kind of grades Mr. Obama got. College records are private. Schools aren't allowed to release them. And few, if any, modern presidential records have released their own grades. George W. Bush didn't, John McCain didn't, and Barack Obama didn't.

Some candidates' college grades have been leaked. Now, in his memoir "Dreams From My Father," Mr. Obama admits he used drugs in high school and his grades suffered because of it. However, he worked his way through Occidental College, transferred to Columbia, and was accepted into Harvard Law School, where his fellow students elected him president of "The Law Review." And he graduated magna cum laude, which is a Latin term which means high honors, graduated in the top 10 percent of his class at the Harvard Law School.

But Mr. Trump has doubts about the president's grades and especially his birth certificate. Here's part two of my interview with Trump, unedited about the birth certificate.


DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: The fact is, a lot of people are troubled with this, just like I am.

COOPER: Yes, but a lot of people believe 9/11 didn't happen, or...


TRUMP: The governor, previous governor, said that he saw the birth certificate. Now they're saying, oh, it wasn't a birth certificate. It was a certificate of live birth.

There was supposed to be a birth certificate. I don't think it exists, Anderson. I hope it exists, but I don't think it exists.

COOPER: It wasn't previous the governor. It was the health director for the previous governor, who we have just interviewed on camera, says yes, she has actually seen it. And it doesn't say he's a Muslim. It doesn't say anything...

TRUMP: Well, that's fine. Then you know what Obama should do? Instead of spending millions of dollars on lawyers, he should say it's OK to release my birth certificate. No, he should do that.

COOPER: You have said this millions in lawyers -- you have said this idea that he's spending millions of dollars on lawyers to refute this. And in other interviews, you have said he spent $2 million.

TRUMP: I have heard over $2 million.

COOPER: Right. All that is according to an FEC filing. But in truth, though, you...

TRUMP: Well, that's a pretty big filing. He's not lying to the SEC -- or the FEC.

COOPER: But you have no idea what that money was spent on. No one does. You can't say he spent $2 million....


TRUMP: Well, they say it was spent on lawyers trying to protect him.

COOPER: Right.


TRUMP: No, no, they say it was spent on lawyers trying to protect him from showing a birth certificate that may not exist.

COOPER: Well, that's not true. The FEC filing is about lawyers. Candidates spend a lot on winding down campaigns. He also has to defend against FEC investigations into campaign financing.

TRUMP: Look, he spent a lot of money, whether it was millions of dollars or hundreds of thousands, but I have a feeling it was millions. He spent a lot of money.

Now, why should he waste money? He could do what I did just a month ago. I called in. I said, you're right, it's a private document. Thank you very much. You can release it.

It is a private document, Anderson, but he can release it.

COOPER: All right. John McCain, by the way, spent $1.3 million on legal fees according to "Roll Call" since the election.

But you repeatedly, though, in interviews say that there's no serial number on the certificate of live birth.


TRUMP: No, what I say is the following, Anderson. What I say is it's a stamp signature, a stamp. It's not a signature; it's a stamp.

COOPER: Right.

TRUMP: Anybody can get a stamp. Anybody can make a stamp. But it's a stamp signature.

But much more importantly, if you look at your birth certificate or my birth certificate, it's got details all over it, lots of details that you don't have on a certificate of live birth. A certificate of live birth, you can get over a telephone, Anderson. It's not the same thing.


COOPER: Well, we will have the final part of my interview with Donald Trump after the break. We just had to cut right here for time. But we haven't edited this interview at all.

I asked him why, if he doesn't trust Hawaii's computerized birth record, he thinks he can trust Hawaii's long-form birth record. His answer ahead.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.

And later tonight, the shocking brutality in Syria. Witnesses say troops are gunning down civilians and when other civilians try to go to pick up their loved ones' dead bodies, they got shot at as well. You will hear from an extraordinarily brave woman speaking out tonight at great risk to herself. She knows she can be arrested, tortured. But she doesn't want her fellow countrymen killed in silence, murdered in silence. Her bravery is inspiring.

Let's also check in right now with Isha Sesay. She's in London where I'm heading in a few hours to cover the royal wedding, which is now three days away -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, preparations really picking up speed here. The VIPs start to arrive. See you right here tomorrow.

Coming up tonight, a look at Princess Diana's enduring influence on her eldest son, and how she will have a presence in spirit at the wedding. Also, how Prince Charles gets along with his future daughter in law. That and more live from London when 360 continues.


COOPER: All right, part two of the interview with Donald Trump. Hawaii says the computer generated certification of live birth, which the Obama campaign has put forward, which the state sends out when people request their birth certificate is the authoritative word on whether someone was born there. The state of Hawaii no longer even accepts the old long-form document for official purposes, yet Mr. Trump says he trusts the old, but not the new.

So in this, the final part of our interview, I asked him why, if both come from the same source, would he trust either?


COOPER: Isn't this a problem you have with the state of Hawaii, because...




COOPER: ... if some person came to work for your organization and gave a certificate of live birth as proof of identification, you're saying you wouldn't accept it?

TRUMP: No, I don't have that problem with Hawaii, because they take birth certificates.

And until just recently, when obviously they're starting to get a little bit nervous...


TRUMP: Anderson, they're starting to get a little bit nervous. And until just recently, they said we have our birth certificate, but it's private. We don't want to show it. It's private. We have it. And we also have a certificate of live birth.

So, here's the certificate. And a lot of reporters, like George Stephanopoulos, who, by the way, was very nice to me except on this issue. He was like a crazed lunatic.

But I will tell you what. Until recently, they said we have a birth certificate, but it's private. Now they're sort of saying, well, maybe we don't have a birth certificate. We have a certificate of live birth.

All of a sudden, they're changing their tune, because I'm hearing that the birth certificate either disappeared, one or the other, or never existed. And if that's the case, he has a problem. Let's go onto how gas prices are going to destroy this country.

COOPER: Well, let me ask you just one more question on this. On Bill O'Reilly's show, you said maybe he doesn't want to release it because it might say he's a Muslim.

TRUMP: No, I didn't say that. I said there may be something on it. And they asked me like what? I said, well, perhaps because he's a Muslim. Perhaps something.

Who knows what's on it? I don't know. But he didn't want to release it maybe because if they had it, there's something on it, because I can't understand why is he spending all this money in legal fees when all he has to do is say release my birth certificate?


TRUMP: I released mine a month ago.


COOPER: Again, you don't know how much he's spending on this particular issue.


TRUMP: Anderson, he's fighting all over the country on this issue.


COOPER: But on the long-form birth certificate that you're talking about, there is no form -- there is no part for religion on that, just for the record.

TRUMP: Unless he has cheaper lawyers than I have, Anderson, he's fighting all over the country on this issue, and it's getting -- it's bothering them greatly, and they're very concerned.

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: The birth certificate -- and I will tell you this, Anderson. When I got involved, when all of a sudden the polls had me started to rank number one -- you do admit that I'm ranked number one, do you not?

COOPER: Yes, I think tied with Huckabee.

TRUMP: Yes, in almost every poll.


COOPER: But I will give that to you, absolutely.

TRUMP: But prior to that, I will tell you, when I first started this, which was a few months ago, I had heard this issue for a long time about his birth certificate or the lack thereof and about where he may have been born or whatever. I had heard it for a long time.

And I didn't pay too much credence, I didn't pay too much attention to it. And then every day that went by, it looked more and more suspicious.

COOPER: Again, he has released his birth certificate. It is the certificate of live birth. That is -- in Hawaii, that is what is official.


TRUMP: Anderson, you're a smart guy. And I watch your show and I like your show. You're a smart guy.

A certificate of live birth is not a birth certificate. You know it and I know it.

COOPER: The other thing you have been saying is that President Obama's grandparents probably planted his birth announcement in the local newspaper.

TRUMP: Yes, and not because they thought he was going to be president. Because they wanted him to be a citizen of the country. And who blames them?

COOPER: But you know that's not possible.

The Hawaii Department of Health, the hospital, and the newspaper all confirmed to us -- we were just there -- that that wasn't possible. In 1961, the only way to get a birth announcement was directly from the Department of Health. The newspapers didn't accept birth announcements any other way back then.

TRUMP: But they put it in at your request, Anderson. And we have that checked also. They put it in at your request. And they will put it in at your request.

COOPER: They don't. TRUMP: Plus, the grandparents could also have put it in. What, the newspaper is not going to take their ad? It doesn't work that way.


COOPER: It does. And to this day, it works that way.


TRUMP: Well, what can I tell you? And, by the way, you know when the ad was placed? Anywhere from eight to 14 days later.

COOPER: Again, it came from the Department of Health.


TRUMP: The ad was placed from eight to 14 days later. So you mean they wait eight to 14 days and then they put in an ad that he was born? I don't think so.


COOPER: And we have more with Donald Trump talking about the Middle East, talking about the situation in Libya and Iraq and what sort of a Trump foreign policy would look like. We will play that in the coming days.

As to his last point about why of a delay of eight to 12 days, as we told you earlier in the break, Barack Obama and many other people in Hawaii were born on Friday. Because of the backlog, the birth announcements are only published on a Sunday, so it took to the following Sunday to have them put in by the Department of Health.

Donald Trump, our interview and Gary Tuchman's reporting came up this morning at the White House. Listen to what was said.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think CNN recently did a highly credible piece on an established fact, which is that the president was born in the United States of America. And, you know, this was a settled issue.

The birth certificate that the campaign put up online has been available for everyone to see around the globe. It's the same birth certificate you get to get a driver's license. Anybody who was born in Hawaii who asks for their birth certificate gets the same thing that we -- this -- that the campaign and the White House has provided to the press.

I just think this is a -- it's a distraction and it's an unfortunate distraction from the issues that I think most Americans care about.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Joining me now, White House correspondent Ed Henry, who asked a question to the spokesman today about that at the briefing. Also on the phone, political contributor Cornell Belcher, who did polling for the 2008 Obama campaign and will be working for the 2012 campaign Obama campaign as well.

Ed, you got even more reaction from the White House behind the scenes today. I know you have been talking to administration officials privately. do they think there's any possible political benefit to this, any downside for some of the president's critics?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, senior advisers, I spoke to two of the president's most senior advisers today about this, and they insisted with real deep conviction that they think that they're not thinking about the politics, that this is bad for the country, in their words, because they say this is settled law to us, basically. They say the president put out the certificate of live birth, as you have been noting, and people like Donald Trump just won't listen.

And they say, in a situation like that, that is just bad for the country because people just want to make the president illegitimate at all costs just because they're critics and it makes it harder for the president to actually cut deals with Republicans, do his day job because it just persists

COOPER: Let me argue Donald Trump's point here because he's not here to argue for it himself. Why not, if they want this to go away and they don't like the conversation, why not release the original birth certificate form, the so-called long form, which is actually called a certificate of live birth, rather than the certification of live birth, which they have released?

HENRY: I asked Jay Carney the very question as a follow-up. And he basically said, look, the critics like Donald Trump are just going to move the goalposts. Even if you put out the actual birth certificate, they would raise questions about the signature. They would raise questions about, well, was this doctored? As you heard Donald Trump, every time you presented him with a fact, Anderson, he came up with, well, he was born on a Friday, but it came out on a Sunday, this, that. The goalposts keep moving. That's the way Jay Carney basically feels. That's what they feel at the White House, that no matter what they do, the conspiracy theorists are going to persist. So they believe the president dealt with this and it's over.

COOPER: Cornell, you have polled for President Obama. You will be again, I assume, for this next campaign. Does this issue hurt him or does it help him?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think it necessarily hurts him. I think it's interesting if you look at what some of the national Republicans have been doing.

And Trump aside, because Trump is a huckster and he's doing this for his own gain. And it's the most cynical awful politics around. But this is how I think it hurts Republicans. If you look at what even Michele Bachmann is backing away from this, and Governor Brewer out in Arizona sort of backing away from this, it goes to the idea of judgment.

If you have got your middle American sort of moderate independent voter out there, you cannot be the party of birthers and have independent voters think you are of good judgment. So I think you're seeing some of the national Republicans pull back from this because it goes to an idea of, they're on this birther thing, you cannot trust the judgment of this party.

So I think you see some of the national Republicans pulling back from this in a way that they think is going to be hurtful with them with independent voters.

COOPER: Cornell, I think Fareed Zakaria makes the argument or has made the argument that this comes down to kind of coded racism. Do you believe that is part of this, not necessarily on any one person's part, but for some in the birther movement?

BELCHER: Well, look, if you back down -- the evidence is overwhelming, categorical, so you start to ask the question, OK, what is it about this president that makes them not want to believe the truth? What is it about this president that so shakes their world view and sort of what they want to believe that they have to make him illegitimate?

And I don't back away from the idea that race is at the forefront of that. The election of the first black man president is going to want some people want to make that illegitimate because it shakes up their whole foundation and their world view.

And I think we do ourselves a disservice when we don't tackle that question head on. What is it about this black man being the president of the United States that makes these people not want to believe the truth?

COOPER: Let me ask you the same question that I asked to Ed. If the White House doesn't like this conversation being out there and this story out there and people still discussing it, why not take the extra step, even though it's unnecessary, even though they have already released the certification of live birth and that's a valid document, why not release this certificate of live birth, the copy of the original document?

BELCHER: Anderson, you're being too rational, because the goalposts keep moving. There's no evidence -- the evidence is already overwhelming. There's no evidence that's going to make those people want to believe that he's illegitimate, make them believe that he's legitimate, because it's not coming from evidence, not coming from fact.

It's coming from somewhere ugly and someplace else. All the evidence in the world is not going to prove it to them. It's interesting. Going back to the primaries before he was even the nominee, this issue came up, and the campaign thought, well, it will go away because it's so ridiculous and the evidence is so overwhelming.

But it's not based on evidence. It's not based on anything rational. It's based on something very visceral and something very ugly.

COOPER: Ed, does behind the scenes anyone at the White House invoke race in this?

HENRY: They don't to be honest in public, but you're right. Behind the scenes I was speaking to one of the president's advisers today who was basically saying, look, you have to put this in the same category as the people who not only talk about the president's race, but think his name is a little funny. There's a certain element in the country that, as Cornell is suggesting, just don't believe he's legitimately president and no matter what you do, they're just going to believe that.

Bottom line is, when you talk about the politics with Cornell, I want to pick up what he was saying about independent voters. I had a conversation earlier tonight with Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman. He said, I know the White House is saying politics, this won't have any political benefit for them.

But McAuliffe said it will because he believes the independent voters decided the election for Barack Obama in 2008. They went with the Republicans in the midterms in 2010. And he now believes they're up for grabs in 2012. Those independent voters are looking for an alternative because of the economy, because of jobs, because of high gas prices.

And when they look at the alternative, they're hearing Republicans like Donald Trump talk about birther issues. And Terry McAuliffe said, when they hear that, they're going to say, you know what, Barack Obama is not so bad.

COOPER: Ed, do people in the White House believe, I don't know if they talked about this behind the scenes, do they believe that Donald Trump is going to run?

HENRY: They believe many of them that he will go right up to the edge of the moment when he has to file his tax returns. And when has to actually lay on the table his own -- he's demanding Barack Obama's records and his birth records, his academic records.

A lot of people in the White House behind me are wondering when Donald Trump is going to lay on the table all of his financial records, all of these transactions that people have raised questions about, the questions we and others have raised about how much is his net worth, is it really as high as he suggests, and that when he has that gut decision about releasing the tax returns, as presidential candidates as a standard have to, will he actually do it?

So, they think he...

COOPER: For the record he had said, look, he's going to be very happy to do it. It's going to be a higher, you know, amount of money than most people believe or that some reporters have, you know, insinuated. He says he's confident that he's going to do it, if he makes that choice.

HENRY: And they're wondering whether he's actually going to do it. But they love in private, while they won't say it publicly, the fact that he -- as he pointed out to you, he was very brash about that. He's No. 1 in the polls, at least some of the polls right now.

They love that in private at the White House, because the more Donald Trump is up there, the less Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, all the other potentials, the less attention they're getting. Donald Trump is sucking up all the oxygen right now.

COOPER: Interesting reporting. Ed Henry, thanks very much. Your shot was taking a hit there for a minute. You looked like kind of Max Headroom for a second, like your head was...

HENRY: I've never been told that.

COOPER: But we heard exactly what you said, so appreciate you being on.

Cornell Belcher, appreciate you calling, as well.

Still ahead, incredibly disturbing reports tonight of an escalating crackdown in Syria. First-hand account of the danger and the fear ahead from a very brave woman on the ground in Syria.

Plus, those who know him say Prince William is very much his mother's son. How his close relationship with Princess Diana has shaped the heir to Britain's throne.


COOPER: The situation in Syria appears to be growing more dangerous by the day. This amateur video seems to show heavily artillery bombarding the southern city of Daraa today. Listen to this.

Since Syrian officials won't let us into the country, we can't verify the accuracy of videos like this or eyewitness accounts either. Witnesses have described tanks patrolling the streets of Daraa today, dead people lying the streets. And when others try to go to collect their bodies to bury them somewhere, they get shot at, as well -- as well.

In one western city, a witness said security forces have set up checkpoints and are arresting people. Today's reported violence follows a major crackdown yesterday in Daraa. Thousands of army troops and security forces carried out predawn raids. Dozens were reported killed.

And over the weekend, a funeral procession in Damascus became a target, as well. Peaceful protesters were fired on in the streets. Today, a human rights group said at least 416 people have been killed across Syria since mid-March when protesters began demanding freedom and political reforms.

Tonight the State Department is urging U.S. citizens to delay any travel to Syria. It's also ordered all eligible U.S. embassy dependents and nonessential staff to leave the country.

Meantime, the Syrian government is sticking to their story, saying it's targeting armed criminals and terrorists.

Earlier, I talked to a woman named Razan Zaytouni, a Syrian woman in Damascus who insists that we use her name. She was talking to us at great personal risk, but she's determined to speak out. She's among those calling for reforms. Here's what she told me.


COOPER: Some of the bloodiest violence appears to have taken place in Daraa, where the regime has sent in tanks, perhaps thousands of soldiers to try to quell the protests. Do you know what's happening there?

RAZAN ZAYTOUNI, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: It's like a war. It's like a real war there. It's three days now, no electricity, no water.

COOPER: I understand a number of people have been killed trying to go out and get dead bodies of their loved ones. And they have been shot at by snipers if they leave their house to retrieve the bodies of others who have already been shot and killed.

ZAYTOUNI: That's why the dead bodies are still in the streets. They could only get 35 bodies from the streets. The others are still -- they cannot reach them.

COOPER: The regime says that the people of Daraa had asked the soldiers to come in to protect them from, quote, "terrorist groups." Is that just a lie?

ZAYTOUNI: It's just rubbish, actually. These people, innocent people are killed now, including children and women. We got two names of two children who were killed. The only terrorists are those who are killing our people now.

COOPER: What do you think will happen? I mean, will people continue to protest?

ZAYTOUNI: Until this moment, it seems people have very high spirits. Yesterday evening, protesters were in the streets in different cities in Syria. So people are still insisting to go on.

COOPER: You're insisting on using your name and insisting on talking and telling the world about what is happening. Why are you doing this? I mean, this is a very dangerous thing that you are doing. ZAYTOUNI: The regime is playing very dirty rule about -- about media. They made all this propaganda. They made all of these lies. We see what is going on the ground. Those who are protesting, those who are killed in the streets, those who are arrested and tortured, we know the truth, and we need the whole world to know it.

COOPER: Do you worry they could come for you?

ZAYTOUNI: Sure, nobody is safe these days. Many of our friends are in prison now.

COOPER: Razan Zaytouni, I appreciate your courage. Thank you. Please try to stay safe. Thank you for talking.

ZAYTOUNI: Thank you.


COOPER: Incredibly brave.

Let's check in with Isha Sesay. She's in London, covering the royal story, but she's following other stories for us, as well, with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in Libya, the reports of pro-government forces today launched their most aggressive attack yet on Misrata, despite the government's claim it has suspended military operations in the besieged city.

This video shot in Misrata Sunday shows fierce fighting between government and opposition forces. Today, security officials told CNN refugees in a camp (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were targeted. Misrata has been under siege by Gadhafi's forces for seven weeks. Hundreds of people have been killed.

The Census Bureau has released new data on the education gap between women and men in the workforce. Last year, 37 percent of employed women age 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 35 percent of working men.

And take a good look at this bottle of bubbly. It's one of two bottles of champagne headed to an auction block in June. They were recovered from a 19th Century shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. Their estimated age, about 200 years ago.

Anderson, I don't know about you, but that seems to be taking vintage a little too far in my book.

COOPER: Wow. Yes, definitely.

All right. We'll check in with you in a moment, Isha, on the royal story. Coming up, scores of people are expected to watch the royal wedding on Friday. One woman, of course, will be absent, the mother of the groom. We're going to have a poignant look at Diana, Princess of Wales, the life with her son, William, cut far too short, and how her legacy will be present on William's wedding day. And later, emergencies declared in three Midwestern states because of flooding, and it's not over yet. We'll have the latest when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, the countdown, of course, is on to the royal wedding, in case you haven't heard. An estimated half a million people are expected to actually line the wedding procession route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey on Friday. Another half a million people are expected to watch the wedding on screens in London's Hyde Park, and, of course, people all over the world will be watching, as well.

It will be a very happy day, of course. Also bittersweet, with thoughts sure to turn to the mother of the groom, Diana, Princess of Wales. Sadly, Prince William lost his mom when he was just 15 years old. Randi Kaye tonight has a look at Diana and William's too-short time together and how her legacy will be part of his wedding day.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): June, 1982, on the steps of London's St. Mary's Hospital. Princess Diana and Prince Charles introduce the world to their first born.

Prince William, the boy who one day would be king, grew up before our eyes. There were picnics, photo shoots in the garden, the first day of kindergarten and more. Through it all, Diana was at his side.

Nick Davies knew Princess Diana and has written books about her. He says she and William were especially close.

NICK DAVIES, KNEW PRINCESS DIANA: He hated -- hated -- to see his mother cry. Because he would get tissues and push them under the door for her so she had something to cry into, because she didn't want to be seen in front of the lads crying over the rows she was having with Charles.

KAYE: Davies says Diana found great comfort in William and later in his younger brother, Harry, too.

PRINCESS DIANA, MOTHER OF PRINCE WILLIAM: My first priority will continue to be our children, William and Harry, who deserve as much love and care and attention as I am able to give.

DAVIES: What she didn't want to do is bring them up as little princes, sort of sitting on silken cushions and never getting their hands dirty or never playing in the mud.

KAYE: But on August 31, 1997, Princess Diana's dream of witnessing William being crowned king ended in a fiery car crash in Paris. The princess died at the hospital after being chased by paparazzi. Harry was just 12. William was 15, old enough to understand the gravity of the loss. DAVIES: To have her taken away from him in a car crash so dramatically like that, I think it rocked him very, very severely. Very severely.

PRINCE WILLIAM, UNITED KINGDOM: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I remember is one of the hardest experiences that anyone could ever endure. To never be able to say the word "Mommy" again in your life sounds like a small thing. However, for many, including me, it was now already just a word, hollow and open (ph) of any memories.

KAYE: Still, in the short time William had with his mother, her influence is clear. She instilled in this handsome polo-playing, rescue-helicopter-flying prince, a sense of compassion for those less fortunate, through her work with AIDS victims, the homeless and those disfigured by weapons of war.

In 2009, William slept in a cardboard box in the streets of London to call attention to homelessness.

DAVIES: He found reprieve (ph) in charity work. He thinks that it's the duty of the royal family, as Diana did, and he wants to emulate his mother to remember her.

KAYE (on camera): Also like his mother, William is bound to his duties as a royal but determined to live a normal life. He reportedly drives his own car, a Volkswagen, and at university, asked that nobody call him "prince" or "sir."

He and Kate Middleton apparently do their own grocery shopping, too.

William also learned a tough lesson from his mother: how to deal with media scrutiny.

(voice-over) After their engagement, he and his fiancee seemed in control of the media frenzy as they showed off Kate's engagement ring, which once belonged to Diana.

PRINCE WILLIAM: Of course, it's very special to me. It's my way of making sure that my mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement, the fact that we're going to spend the rest of our life together.

KAYE: William and Kate will be married at Westminster Abbey, where nearly 14 years ago, Princess Diana's funeral was held. Coincidence? Or William's way of allowing his mother to witness his marriage? Whatever you believe, Princess Diana remains firmly in William's heart.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Isha joins us again from London. You know, obviously, a lot has been said about the closeness between William and his mom. What's William's relationship like with his father, Prince Charles? SESAY: Yes, no doubt about that. The relationship between the late Diana and William has somewhat overshadowed the relationship between William and his father, Prince Charles, because they are actually very, very close. And I think every time you see pictures of the princes, William and Harry, with Prince Charles, I think that is very evident that there's a warmth. There's an ease and great laughter between the trio.

Charles is known to be a very attentive, a very hands-on father and very supportive of William, particularly supportive of him during the tumultuous period in the relationship with Catherine Middleton when they briefly broke up.

And I think, indicative of the bond between father and son, Prince Charles is playing a very, very big role in the wedding that's taking place on Friday, Anderson. He's been very hands on with the choice of the music. And he is, of course, throwing that shindig on Friday night, Anderson.

COOPER: Right. Which is the more private event, which is really supposed to be kind of, sort of for friends and family.

SESAY: Yes. No, that's right. I mean, there's going to be the big formal reception that will happen after the event itself at Westminster Abbey just behind me. There'll be about 650 guests at that one.

But as you say, the one in the evening, the one that Prince Charles is hosting, is going to be much smaller, more intimate. There's going to be dancing, and that really is, I suppose would be, the pride of the heartfelt celebration between William and Catherine.

COOPER: Have you decided which one you're going to go to yet or are you just going to go to both?

SESAY: Well, you know, I'm thinking I want to go to the one in the evening, because apparently Harry is having a survivors' breakfast.

COOPER: A survivors' breakfast? Really? I've never heard of that. Survivors' breakfast?

SESAY: You haven't?


SESAY: Stick with me. You're on my pad now. I'll take you around London.

COOPER: Do we know -- has Prince Charles always been a fan of Kate's, do we know?

SESAY: As far as we know, since the relationship was made public, that has been the case. Even before the engagement was made public, we know that Catherine Middleton had been on vacation with Prince Charles and William and other members of the royal family. They've been skiing in Switzerland.

And the bond had always been there. There had been events, in fact, in the past where Catherine, Kate, had been present and William hadn't been present. When it was announced that they were indeed engaged, Prince Charles said he was absolutely thrilled. He said that they'd been practicing long enough.

And Anderson, also of note to bring to our attention for our viewers is the fact that Kate Middleton has a really good relationship with Camilla. They've been known to go out together. In fact, it was overheard at one London restaurant that Camilla was egging Kate Middleton on, so to speak, saying that she should wear a tiara on Friday, because there's been a speculation that Kate really just wants to wear flowers in her hair. I'm not quite sure why. But anyway, she wants to wear flowers. Camilla saying, "Go for the tiara, love. That's what you want."

COOPER: Wow. It's amazing how many people are focused on -- on, you know, whether she's going to wear flowers in her hair or a tiara.

SESAY: These are important things...

COOPER: Listen, I'm not knocking it. I'm just saying...

SESAY: ... you know, Anderson. You may want to mock...

COOPER: No, I'm not mocking at all. I'm not mocking. Very excited.

SESAY: If we found you the right tiara, you'd be all for it.

COOPER: For her, yes. I suppose so.

I'm getting on -- I'm getting on a plane in about five or six hours, and I'll see you very shortly. So I shall look forward to it. We'll be on live from London tomorrow night.

SESAY: I will be here.

COOPER: All right.

Up next, late developments. Back home, a man suspected of planting a bomb in a Colorado mall was arrested nearly a week after the search began for him. Details on that ahead.

And after posing nude for a magazine, starring in a music video, what has Levi Johnston done now to land himself on our "RidicuList" tonight? Well, we'll explain, ahead.


COOPER: A lot more happening tonight. Isha Sesay is back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, a "360 Follow" in Colorado. A man suspected of attempting to bomb a mall was arrested at a grocery store. Earl Albert Moore was taken into custody by Boulder police and handed over to the FBI. Moore will face a federal judge tomorrow morning.

Authorities say the incident last week in Littleton had no connection to the 12th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.

Well, or parts of the Midwest, days of heavy rain have led to flooding. Governors in Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky have declared emergencies. In Missouri alone, at least three levies are breached, and it's far from over.

There's a potential for historic flooding into Ohio and Mississippi river valleys over the next week.

There's a new voice for the Aflac duck. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daniel, this is Paul Amos.

PAUL AMOS, AFLAC: We would love for you to represent us at the next voice of the Aflac duck.

DANIEL MCKEAGUE, NEW VOICE OF AFLAC DUCK: Well, I would be -- I would be absolutely honored. Thank you very much.


SESAY: And that's how Dan McKeague, 36-year-old radio station sales manager and father of three, living in Minneapolis, found out. He beat out some 12,500 others for the job. He replaced comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who was fired after making inappropriate comments on Twitter about the Japanese tsunami.

And Anderson, Katie Couric is leaving "CBS Evening News" after five years at the anchor desk. She told "People" magazine she's looking for a new format where she can do more multidimensional story telling. The big news today, Anderson.

COOPER: It was. Well, we certainly wish her well.

All right. Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, we're adding -- well, you knew it would happen sooner or later -- Levi Johnston.

Now, Levi has a book coming out in the fall, in case you haven't heard, and we're adding him to the list not because he's writing the book. We're adding his to the list because it's taken him this long.

Sarah Palin has a book. Bristol Palin is coming out with a book this summer. Snooki has a book, as we've talked about on this show. The Situation even has a book. Fabio has a book. Paris Hilton has several books. Tila freaking Tequila has a book. Yes, that's right. Tila freaking Tequila.

So thank goodness Levi has taken pen to paper, because if there's one thing that's always struck me as a gaping chasm in American literature, it's the musings of someone who impregnated the teenage daughter of a failed vice-presidential candidate.

Levi's publisher has announced the book's title -- wait for it -- "Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin's Crosshairs."

I got one word for that, freaking genius. All right. It was two words.

This photo was attacked to the press release, which I think is very outdoorsy for a writer. Kind of a modern Thoreau, if you will.

In the press release, Levi says, and I quote, "I want to tell the truth about my close relationship with the Palins, my sense of Sarah, and my perplexing fall from grace."

Perplexing fall from grace. Hmm. Can Levi's trajectory really be described as a fall from grace? I've always thought of it as more of an unfortunate plummet out of obscurity.

For the sake of argument, and for the sake of the poor Simon and Schuster employee who went into publishing dreaming of Jonathan Franzen and ended up writing press releases for Levin Johnston. Let's just assume that he did, indeed, fall from grace. Was it really all that perplexing? I mean, it's not like he posed naked on the cover of "Grace" magazine. Yes. This is Levi's other contribution to the publishing world. He posed for "Playgirl." And then he went on to talk shows, talking a bunch of smack about the Palins.

And then he starred in a music video for some pop singer named Brittani Senser. Some of the younger people in the newsroom were saying that she was his rumored girlfriend or something. I don't know. I just could not bring myself to research that any further.

But I am excited about his book, as I am excited by all new young authors. You may think he's mined every interaction with the Palin family already for talk shows already, but I'm sure there's still something we haven't heard.

Still, why is he finally writing Levi shares his motivation with us. "I'm doing this for me, for my boy trip, and for the country." Now, far be it for me to speak for the boy, although I don't think some trashy tell-all about his own mother's family, but I will speak for the country. Thank you.

When Levi's book comes out in the fall, it will be a gargantuan hit, especially since people can read it on their Kindles without having to take the cover off to pretend they're reading something else. The book clubs of America thank you, Levi. And as a reader and as an American, I thank you. But it's ridiculous you made us wait this long. And for that, you get a page on the "RidicuList." Looking forward to reading it.

Serious stuff at the top of the hour, starting with Donald Trump's birther claims. His new charges and the facts. "Keeping Them Honest." We'll be right back.