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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
U.S. Default Avoided; Violence Escalates in Syria
Aired August 2, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with the elite group of 12 lawmakers responsible now for hacking $1.5 trillion over 10 years from the federal budget deficit. This is called for in the debt deal which was finally passed today.
They're calling it the super committee. Senator Olympia Snowe today called it the mega-super committee. The question tonight, though, will it actually work?
President Obama today started the clock ticking, signing debt reductions legislation into law, calling for committee members to be named within 10 days. So the clock is ticking. Now, the four House and Senate party leaders each get to name three members, meaning the panel will be evenly split, 6-6, along party lines. They will have until Thanksgiving to come up with a package of cuts and/or taxes to get the $1.5 trillion.
Now, Congress would then vote up or down on the entire chunk. And they have to vote. But, remember, this super committee was set up to do what Congress and the White House failed to do.
And, "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, it's not like this is the first time politicians have decided to set up a committee to do what they themselves have failed to do. In fact, we have all been to this rodeo before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This commission has given us a warning for the future. But you have also presented us with a program for action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Ronald Reagan back in 1984 talking about a commission which was set up back in -- which was called for back in 1982. So we have heard this time and time again from politicians. And it wasn't just starting with Ronald Reagan. It goes back -- well, it's happened a lot even since him. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: From now on, when the public hears the names Gramm, Rudman, or Hollings, they will think deficit reduction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, maybe not because Congress managed to find ways around the spending limits. The Supreme Court struck down parts of it and the deficit grew. Since then there have been nearly a dozen commissions, a dozen commissions and committees set up to deal with deficits, government spending, taxes, entitlements, four within the last year alone, including the one headed by former GOP Senator Alan Simpson and ex-Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
And for a while, you will remember, politicians were lining up to praise that commission or compare it to their own plans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: It's modeled after the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles proposal.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: A proposal exactly along the lines of what the Simpson-Bowles commission.
BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Along the lines that Simpson-Bowles talked about.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of the components of Bowles-Simpson.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: A lot of voices from the participants in the Bowles-Simpson.
VAN HOLLEN: Borrows from the framework of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles proposal.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Simpson-Bowles.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Simpson-Bowles.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: The Bowles-Simpson commission.
CARNEY: Simpson-Bowles commission.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The Simpson-Bowles commission did that. Why can't they?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Everyone was talking about the commission. They heralded the arrival of the recommendations of the commission. But unfortunately, the Simpson-Bowles commission couldn't actually agree on a final set of recommendations.
However, to be fair, the new super committee may have a better chance. And that's because if it can't agree, this new super committee, if they can't agree on that $1.5 trillion in debt reductions, the new law calls for $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts designed to be painful for both sides. On the other hand, one or both side may try to stack the deck with committee members who simply will not compromise.
House Speaker Boehner says he won't approve anyone who will even consider raising taxes. Wall Street seems less than impressed, the Dow plunging 265 points today, the eighth straight losing session.
Now, the only bright spot is Moody's, which had threatened to downgrade America's credit rating, keeping it steady at AAA. Of course that may change if this new super committee lays an egg.
I talked about it, but just before airtime, with chief political analyst Gloria Borger and John King, chief national correspondent and host of "JOHN KING, USA."
COOPER: So, John, what makes this committee any different from all the other panels that have come before? Does the process actually have some teeth this time?
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": It does have some teeth. There are a lot of skeptics about this committee. But this committee has a deadline. It has to report to Congress by Thanksgiving.
And then Congress cannot say, oh, I don't like this, I don't like that. You can't have another debate about amendments, something that could throw it off the tracks. It's like the old base closing commissions when they wanted to close a military base. You have a committee, it comes up with a plan. Congress gets to vote yes or no, up or down.
And if this committee collapses, I won't get into all the details of this agreement, but there are automatic spending cuts that could take place. There's a whole debate about whether then Congress would have to pass a balanced budget amendment and send it out to the states.
But the threat of mandatory cuts, a trigger that just says we're going to cut defense, we're going to cut Social Security, that is the sword over the head of this committee if you will. It has to come up with a package that equals $1.5 trillion. And I should note, it could do more than that, Anderson. That's the floor. It could go higher.
COOPER: Gloria, to John's point, Congress has tried to put some kind of triggers in before, haven't they?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
COOPER: And they find a way to kind of get around their own rule.
BORGER: And they can find ways. And they can always find ways to get around the rules. And I think that's the problem. That's why a lot of people are skeptical who have been in Washington for some time, because they know that you can always do that.
I was talking TO a senior administration official who was skeptical about it. And he said to me, look, there are those who believe that The threat of these cuts will cause some outbreak of reasoning around here. Why would that happen? So we really don't know. It's very uncertain, I think.
COOPER: I mean, John, you look at the last committee, what, the Simpson-Bowles, I kept hearing for months from politicians, from President Obama and others, saying, well, you know, we have got this deficit-cutting commission that as soon as they put in their report, then we're going to act on that stuff.
And it comes and everyone -- it makes a headline for a day, and then people move on.
KING: The difference is that committee or those reports from the Simpson-Bowles commission, that was the president's commission. But if you didn't have a supermajority, Congress wasn't required to vote on it.
This plan Congress will be required to vote on. That is what makes it different. If they have recommendations, they give them to the Congress, they have to vote up or down. They have no choice. So you can't take the Simpson-Bowles commission and say, I like items one, two, three, and four, but no way on items six or eight. This one will be, here it is. Eat your peas like it or not, yes or no.
COOPER: And I guess a lot depends, John, on who is sitting on the panel, right?
KING: That is the magical question. And Gloria has been tracking this all day. I have been tracking this all day.
KING: I asked the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, today are members volunteering or when they see you in the halls, are they running away?
Look, we know there are some members who are committed to some painful, politically painful things. They're willing to put Social Security and Medicare on the table. We also know there are members going to the leadership on the Republican side saying, appoint me. I will fight to the death, no new taxes. And on the Democratic side, appoint me. I will fight to the death, no touching Social Security or Medicare.
So the question is, who do the leaders decide to appoint? Do they appoint people with an open mind, or do they appoint people who are already dug in? BORGER: And the question that I have is that, is it a good political move for you if you're a member of Congress to actually be on this committee? Because you don't know what the results are going to be, and it could be politically bad for you at home.
There are some, Anderson, who have suggested to me, someone inside the administration who said, why not put those gang of six on the committee, because they're the only ones who have come up with actually a bipartisan way to approach the deficit? So we will see if some of those folks get on it.
COOPER: How much of a voice do you guys think the Tea Party may have or not have on this panel?
KING: That was one of the questions...
BORGER: I think a lot.
KING: ... I tried to get Leader McConnell to answer. I think Gloria is right. They will have influence because they have sway on the House side on Speaker Boehner. They have sway on the Senate side to a lesser degree. But they're the new members of the Senate. And so I was asking, for example, Jim DeMint, who is the hero of the Tea Party in the Senate, the new members like Rand Paul or Mike Lee, what if one of them comes forward and says we need to be represented on the committee?
Mitch McConnell says he was not going to make his decisions that way, but you do have to consult people. And that's one of the issues here. We have this super committee. It has awesome powers, Anderson. Before we get to the committee, there's going to be a huge debate about who gets to get on it. And within each party, you are going to have the internal politics play out. Then we will have the committee. And we will have a lot of what we have seen over the past few weeks play out.
COOPER: John King, Gloria Borger, fascinating. Thank you.
COOPER: Well, whatever the super committee ends up looking like, new CNN/ORC polling reveals that Americans aren't exactly crazy about the entire process -- 44 percent approve of the deal -- 52 percent don't.
But look at this. Only 17 percent believe elected officials acted like responsible adults throughout the negotiating and lawmaking -- 77 percent say they acted like spoiled children. By about a 2-1 margin, people approve of the spending cuts included in the debt ceiling agreement, even though the actual items to be slashed have not been named. And 60 percent object to not having tax increases in the debt deal.
Now, the super committee could call for tax reform or even tax increases, but the law does not mandate that. Some more perspective now from Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. You can follow him on Twitter @AriFleischer.
So, Paul, you were part of a White House team that saw some -- balanced budget. What do you think? Can this work actually approach -- will this approach work?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know if it will, but it can. I'm a little more bullish on it perhaps, Anderson, than you are.
The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings plan that you mentioned before, President Reagan signed into law in 1985 and then it was revised in 1987. It put real triggers in, and Congress did respond to that. We all remember 1990, when George Bush Sr., George H.W. Bush, broke his "Read my lips, no new taxes" pledge. He raised income taxes, gas taxes, and Medicare taxes.
He did that because the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law was going to force very deep cuts in defense. And he decided he'd rather have the tax increases than slash national defense. So it actually -- it has worked. I wouldn't say it has a stellar record. But it's certainly -- I think it's certainly better than nothing.
COOPER: You don't think they will be able to come up with some ways down the road to avoid voting or to overcome this kind of what seems to be automatic trigger?
BEGALA: Well, they can't. Well, first off, this is passed by this Congress binding this Congress. So it's not like this is a commission that meets 10 or 20 years down the line.
And here's what we need, maybe if we had somebody every night who was keeping them honest. The whole country is watching and they are going to have to act on this. I think the panel's right. Let's watch and see who they put on. That's going to be telling.
COOPER: Ari, what do you make of this? Do Republicans on this panel need to consider raising taxes if they're serious about balancing the budget?
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think Republicans do need to consider loophole closures. And I think there are some things in the tax code that can and should be cleaned up.
I don't think they should support income tax rate increases. I don't think that would be good for the economy and it's not what Republicans believe and so it won't happen. But I am also optimistic about this. I think people are making too much of commission, commission, we have heard it all before.
This is really -- if you pretend the House passed a bill and the Senate passed a bill and it goes the routine way to what they call is a conference committee, that's what really this is. This has short- circuited the legislative process to create in effect a conference committee that then takes the House, Senate, puts it together in one package and then the House and the Senate have to vote yea or nay, up or down.
That's really what you have here. And unlike commissions of the past, which include people who are not members of Congress, this is all members of Congress. So it's actually a pretty smart way to go about this. And then it surely is a big sword hanging over their head. They know if they don't get this done, number one, the Tea Party is breathing down their throat. And I'm glad to see that. They will put the pressure on. Their voices will be heard.
And, two, Medicare and the Pentagon are going to get cut. And so those are pretty good incentives for action to be taken. And you do get the sense that there's a different mood in Washington. The appropriation bills were settled with a big spending cut. For the first time ever we have a debt limit increase that was attached with dollar-for-dollar bigger cuts than the debt limit was increased. This is a different year in Washington. So I'm optimistic.
COOPER: I'm about to tweet out that you guys actually agree. I'm expecting you guys to break out singing kumbaya in a moment.
COOPER: This is extraordinary. In fact, I have got to take a quick break just to collect my thoughts on this. We are going to have you both on right after break, so stick around.
We will talk more about where this all leaves President Obama and future presidents, as well as the issue no one was talking about for weeks that could make a big difference next November, jobs.
We're on Facebook. Follow me on there or on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight as well.
Truly stomach-turning day also in the Warren Jeffs trial, the polygamist prophet -- audiotape played in court believed to be Warren Jeffs himself instructing his underage followers, female followers, how to have sex with him, and all the while, Jeffs defending himself, loudly objecting in the courtroom. They basically ignored him. We will have a live report.
Also, let's check in with Isha Sesay, who is following other stories for us tonight -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the growing violence Syria, the regime is cracking down hard, especially in the city of Hama, where the U.N. estimates nearly 150 people have been killed since Friday. We will have the latest on the escalating bloodshed.
And you will hear from an activist who's right in the middle of it -- that and much more when 360 continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Back now talking politics in the debt deal.
Critics on both sides of the aisle have talked about how unnecessary and self-inflicted this whole episode was. Jobs, they say, should have been priority number one. And as if to confirm that notion, barely nanoseconds after the bill passed, that was all politicos were talking.
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SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The number-one job that we have as a Congress must be creating jobs for the American people.
SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: Republicans have never taken our eye off of job creation.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: But it's now time for Congress to get back to our regularly scheduled programming, and that means jobs.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will continue also to fight for what the American people care most about, new jobs, higher wages, and faster economic growth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, we will see how long their focus will stay on jobs or how effective their focus will be, especially if the debt committee keeps making news.
Back now with us is Paul Begala and Ari Fleischer.
Paul, Politico quoted one lobbyist calling the 12 members of this committee the dirty dozen. He said they're going to be lobbied harder over the next few months than anyone else in town. How ugly could it get?
BEGALA: We can't even imagine. Not only are they going to be lobbied. They're going to be covered by the press. There will be huge tension between those of us in the media, who want transparency, will they broadcast all their meetings, and people who want a deal, because frankly deals are usually made behind closed doors. That's how we got the Declaration of Independence, after all. That was closed to press.
That's going to be a really tough one. But these lobbyists -- it's not even just the lobbyists. It's the activists. The Tea Party has interjected a lot of energy into our politics. Sometimes, some on the fringe, just on the fringe, have been a little frightening me. But you could see -- I didn't even want to suggest, but you could see the sort of activism that we saw during the health care debate, which in the main was very healthy, but there was a fringe there that was a little scary.
COOPER: Ari, do you see the Tea Party having a seat at the table on this commission?
FLEISCHER: I hope so. I think the Tea Party deserves it. I think they're the ones who have made this whole debate and this whole fact, now that we're actually trying to cut spending in Washington, reality.
And I looked at the numbers, Anderson -- 68 percent of all House Republican freshmen voted for this Boehner-Obama compromise agreement. Only 50 percent of the Democrats did. So what you really have here is a group that came to Washington to make big change, but they're also going about it in what I think is a pretty reasonable way, more reasonable than, if you look at the numbers, that Democrats wanted to even agree with their own president on this one, but House Republican freshmen were more willing to do.
So I think they deserve it. And I also just have to remind everybody that the debt limit always was increased with nothing attached to it until this year. This is really a change in Washington. And that's why I think when Senator McConnell says this is a new way we are going to do business, we will never again raise a debt limit without spending cuts, it's what we need.
The other reason we need it is because, even under all best circumstances, assuming no further recessions, under the budget the president proposed to the Congress this year, the debt goes up to $20 trillion by 2020. So because of the aging baby boomers and because of all the spending we have, we still have huge debt problems we have yet to face.
And it's going to take a lot of strong medicine to help us all, both parties, face those problems.
COOPER: Paul, Ari mentioned something that Mitch McConnell said. I actually want to play something that he said similar to what Ari said, but just give you -- let's just play that for our viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: What we have done, Larry, also is set a new template. In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling, it will not be clean anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Paul, moving forward, for debates in the future, now that this bill has been signed, kind of the drama of it has kind of worn down, what's the takeaway from this? What does this mean moving forward for debates in the future, for the tenor of debates in the future and for the president?
BEGALA: Well, and for tactics in these showdowns. I think Senator McConnell told the truth. I think Ari is right.
I disagree with Ari that it's a good thing. I think it's a monstrous thing. I think it's a terrible thing. COOPER: Monstrous?
BEGALA: Monstrous, because the full faith of credit of the United States of America has been preserved even through the Civil War, even through the Great Depression. There should be some things that are taboo, that are off-limits.
And there was -- one tiny correction in the historical record. Gramm-Rudman-Hollings actually was tagged onto a debt limit increase under Ronald Reagan. That debt limit increase, I looked it up today -- actually, Fleischer, this would kill you -- it was $2 billion. Now we just raised it $2 trillion.
But once in a very, very blue moon, only one other time in history that I saw, has the debt limit been used. And even then nobody was threatening to renege, to default on the full faith and credit of the United States.
I think this is a recipe for mischief. It will continue to work until it doesn't, in other words, until finally somebody pushes us into default. And that's going to tax every single American and could be catastrophic.
FLEISCHER: You know, Anderson, I have been -- I have been very public about saying that anybody who wants to default this nation is making a big mistake. They're wrong to think that we can do that and it won't have terrible consequences. It will.
But people are also wrong to think that we should just keep raising the debt limit and keep on spending. That's why we keep having to raise a debt limit. And so if a limit is going to actually have any meaning and be a limit, you have to take it seriously. You don't just keep raising it every time it comes up.
That's what's gotten us into the big hole that we're in. And that's why I thin, as messy as this system was to get to where we are, it achieved a good result. We stopped just raising the debt limit willy-nilly. And now there's a price to be paid. Cuts have to be made. That's the only way debt limits get increased further.
And it would be nice actually to go back to the days when we didn't have to do it if we can get to that point by putting together more agreements, Democrats and Republicans. The president is going to have to show leadership to really take on entitlement spending.
BEGALA: I would hasten to add the president I served balanced the budget and put us of a glide path to zero national debt. The president Mr. Fleischer served exploded the debt and created the mess that Mr. Obama inherited.
But there should not be a debt limit at all. The founding fathers didn't put it in the Constitution for a reason. Congress already voted for this debt. This is what's different. The question is only whether we pay it. So it's an artificial construct. And now it's an artificial construct that has handed a very, very potentially damaging weapon to potential political extremists. COOPER: We're going to...
FLEISCHER: But Paul is -- as usual, Paul's half-right.
FLEISCHER: President Obama did inherit a recession from President Bush.
BEGALA: That's better than...
FLEISCHER: But then his policies made it worse. And that's one of the reasons that we have such big deficits now that explode.
And how can you just look back and blame things on your predecessor when your own budget says you have a worse problem 10 years from now? The problem President Obama has with the country is, they don't want the blame. He's the leader. They want a solution. And that's where we are today. And that's what I think people have to focus on.
That's where, until we have divided -- as long as we have divided government, we have got to work together to get this done. And if Paul really wants to get rid of the debt limit, he should have a Democrat Senate, a Democrat House and a Democrat president, because then there won't be any limits.
COOPER: I knew we could end on some kind of disagreement between you two. We started so nicely.
BEGALA: Happy to oblige you.
COOPER: Thank you.
Ari Fleischer, Paul Begala, thanks for your perspectives.
Still head: disturbing new reports out of Syria tonight, incredibly disturbing -- new signs the violence may be spiraling out of control. Certainly, the government is cracking down a lot harder. We are going to talk to a human rights activist, a woman on the ground risking her life to tell us what she has seen.
Also ahead, in "Crime & Punishment" tonight, the jury in Warren Jeffs' sexual assault trial, the polygamist prophet, they hear audiotapes. The jurors heard audiotapes today of Jeffs allegedly instructing female followers, one of them reportedly a minor, how to basically have sex with him -- disturbing stuff ahead.
COOPER: Well, tonight, senior State Department officials say the White House is on the verge of imposing new sanctions on Syria, where the death toll from the government's crackdown is spiraling.
Now, overnight, at least 24 people were killed after Ramadan prayers and dozens were wounded, according to one human rights group. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says at least 145 people have been killed across the country since Friday. Now, CNN can't verify the reports we're getting, since we aren't allowed inside Syria.
We can only show you what we're hearing and seeing secondhand, like this video reportedly shot in Hama purporting to show government security officials firing on civilians as they try to carry an injured man from the street. Watch. It's not enough to shoot people dead in the street -- then shoot at the people trying to bring back their bodies.
One of the most disturbing videos we have seen surfaced today on YouTube. Now, we want to warn you, the images are extremely graphic. If you need to turn away, please do it now. We think it's important, though, to show you this, because it seems to reveal a new level of violence or certainly just the kind of brutality, evidence perhaps that a dire situation may be spilling out of control, purportedly shot near Hama and shows bloodied bodies being tossed into a river.
It's incredibly disturbing, obviously. Again, CNN cannot independently verify this video's authenticity. The posting says the bodies are anti-government forces being dumped by thugs loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian state television says the bodies are being dumped by anti-government protesters.
A prominent anti-government activist told CNN the state TV report is actually correct. The bodies are those of Syrian secret police killed by Syrian fighters from Iraq who joined the protest movement.
But, again, there's really no way for us to verify what exactly is happening in that video. The images, though, are certainly just -- give you a sense of the brutality that is occurring.
In Washington today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Syrian democracy activists.
Earlier, I spoke by telephone with a Syrian activist named Razan Zaitouneh. She wants us to use her name. She's inside Syria. And she's risking her life to get the story out.
COOPER: We have seen just some horrific videos lately out of Hama of protesters being shot in the street and, as other people try to go to bring their bodies out, more shots being fired, more shots ringing out.
What's the latest? How many people have been killed over the last several days?
RAZAN ZAITOUNEH, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: Only today, there was five people at least got killed in Hama.
Yesterday, there was more than 20 people got killed. The day before, it was more than 100 people got killed. In Hama, it is really a massacre. Daily, a huge number of people that got killed there. It's tanks, it's armies still shelling the different areas inside the city.
The medical situation is very hard. The hospitals, they need blood. There's not enough doctors, not enough medical treatment.
COOPER: Why do you think they are cracking down more now than in previous weeks?
ZAITOUNEH: It's clear the regime has decided to crack down the whole movement, the whole revolution with the coming of Ramadan, because they -- they knew that, in Ramadan, every day will be like a Friday.
And that's what's going on right now. Today and yesterday, there was protests all the day, afternoon, at evening, at morning, during -- around the country, everywhere huge numbers of people in the street. The regime felt that if they use a higher level of violence against people, they will be able to calm down this movement, to crack down this movement.
COOPER: There has also been video that's posted on YouTube, and there's controversy about what it actually shows. We see bodies of people who look like they've been beaten to death dumped off a bridge, falling into a river, while people are yelling, "Allah Akbar, God is great."
State TV in Syria says this is -- these are Syrian government officials, security officials who have been thrown off a bridge by armed gangs, which is the term they use for protestors. Others on YouTube are saying these are anti-government protesters being thrown into the water. What have you heard?
ZAITOUNEH: There is lots of stories, different stories about this video, actually. The most important thing: different active parties in the revolution condemn this video, condemn the violence, no matter who's committed it.
Anyway we don't know the truth right now. We know that a lot of violence is counted by the regime. The regime is trying to create lot of lies and stories to make the -- to try to convince the people that our revolution is violent, and it's not. Because everybody has condemned the violence and insisting that our revolution is peaceful.
COOPER: In any situation there's often violence on both sides. But overwhelmingly, obviously, the violence is being perpetrated by the Syrian government against, overwhelmingly, unarmed protesters who have been just trying to voice their opinion.
Just on a personal note, I know your husband was abducted months ago. You just now have been reunited. He was just released. How is he doing?
ZAITOUNEH: He's doing great. His spirits is great. He's a bit tired, a bit sick because he spent the last 25 days in solitary. There was no medical treatment. But the most important thing that he's very brave and his spirit is very high. That's the most important thing.
COOPER: Well, I'm so happy he is back with you. And I hope you both stay safe and continue being the voice for so many whose voices are silent in Syria right now. Thank you so much for being with us.
ZAITOUNEH: Thank you.
COOPER: Incredibly brave lady.
Just ahead, a Texas jury hears the most shocking evidence yet of Warren Jeffs' sexual assault trial. Audio tapes of Jeffs allegedly instructing underage teenage girls, one of his so-called spiritual wives, how to please him sexually.
But first, Isha Sesay joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, drama outside the White House caught on CNN's cameras. A man jumped the White House fence, and moments later Secret Service officers, guns drawn, apprehended him. It happened during "JOHN KING USA" with John standing nearby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: The Secret Service has just rushed out of the White House moments ago, guns drawn is the part that was interesting. I covered this building for eight years. You see right there someone has jumped the fence. You see on the video here crawling on the fence.
Sometimes this happens, unfortunately, as a stunt. It has happened in the past. Something more serious. You see the person has been told by the Secret Service to lie on the ground there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, the Secret Service says the suspect, a 41-year-old homeless man, will be charged with unlawful entry. And also contempt of court. He previously was ordered to stay away from the White House due to past incidents
The Texas (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has uncovered a piece of history. Debris from the Challenger [SIC] space shuttle was found in the lake where the waters have receded. NASA says it's a tank that provided power and water for the doomed mission. The Challenger [SIC] broke up during re-entry in 2003.
A bill to provide stop-gap funding for the Federal Aviation Administration has stalled in the Senate. That leaves some 4,000 aviation workers furloughed through the August recess. The expected costs to the government, about $25 million a day in lost tax revenue.
And, Anderson, in the weak economy, the tooth fairy is cutting back. According to a survey commissioned by Visa, a lost tooth is fetching only $2.60. That is down from $3 last year. And that's the national average. In the east, the rate fell a whopping 38 percent, and in the west, kids are getting about 4 percent more per tooth.
COOPER: Really? So it pays to be a tooth fairy on the West Coast.
SESAY: I guess. So having said that...
COOPER: That's what I've taken away from that.
SESAY: That's what you take away. I'm taking away the fact that in England we don't even have a tooth fairy.
COOPER: Really? No tooth fairy in England?
SESAY: Have you seen the teeth?
COOPER: Wow. I'm glad you said that and not me.
SESAY: Look. I can say it. I can say it. But Piers Morgan has nice teeth.
COOPER: Does he? I don't know. Because he keeps saying to me whenever I pass him in the hall, he keeps saying you know, "Don't look me in the eyes." So I -- I have to look elsewhere.
SESAY: Let's leave this one.
COOPER: Time now for "The Shot." Tonight our favorite talking dog is back. I haven't seen this one yet. Mishka the husky has made another video. And in this one we find out that she -- not sure I should say that. Anyway, let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mishka, are you proud to be a Jersey girl?
DOG: I love Jersey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're proud to be a Jersey girl?
DOG: I am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good girl.
DOG: I like to call it my home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Oh, wow.
SESAY: Yes. We'll get you Mishka, so you can hang out. COOPER: We played another video, I think, of Mishka talking, and it was uncanny. That one was a little -- I'm a little more skeptical.
SESAY: You saw yourself in Mishka? I'm not sure. Which was the uncanny bit?
COOPER: I don't know. Your question confuses me. I will think about it. We've got to take a quick break.
Coming up, serious stuff. The latest from the trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs accused of two counts of sexual assault of a child. The jury hearing this incredible audio tape, tapes of Jeffs' alleged sexual encounters with his female followers, one of them a minor. Gary Tuchman was in the courtroom. He heard the tape. We'll talk to him next.
Also ahead, trying to make it easier to get food to the starving Somalis who so desperately need it. What the United States has decided to do and how al Qaeda plays into this story.
COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" segment tonight, the prosecution is expected to rest tomorrow in the child sexual assault trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs. He calls himself a prophet.
Court let out just a short time ago after the trial took a really bizarre turn today. The jury heard audio tapes of Jeffs allegedly giving 12 of his female followers sexual instructions, at least one girl reportedly a minor, keep in mind. And yesterday DNA evidence came in showing that it's nearly 100 percent certain that Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl.
Jeffs fired his attorneys and has been representing himself which is not going so well, only adding to another level of strangeness to the trial.
Gary Tuchman has been in the courtroom as it all played out. He joins us now live.
Gary, the prosecution is expected to play even more disturbing audio tapes tomorrow. What did you hear today?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Warren Jeffs to his followers is a prophet, the closest man on Earth to God. But tonight he came off as a orgy ring master, at least that's what the prosecution wants the jury to believe.
They played this audio tape in court that Warren Jeffs wanted recorded. And on the tape, Jeffs refers to 12 women who are with him as his quorum of 12 ladies. And he says these are heavenly sessions. And what it sounds like, or what the prosecution says to the jury, is that sex is going on between Warren Jeffs and the 12 women and between the women themselves. It certainly sounds that way on the tape.
It's very creepy, suggestive, uncomfortable listening in the courtroom to what was going on on these tapes. And we do know that at least one of the 12 women whose voices we heard was a 13-year-old girl at the time.
What was so weird about this, Anderson, surreal actually, is Warren Jeffs has been interrupting this trial many times. And he started standing up while this audio tape was playing. He was giving a sermon. So we hear him out of our left ear giving a sermon live. Out of our right ear through the speakers on these sex tapes. And they're going on simultaneously. The jury is wearing headphones, so they didn't really hear Jeffs. But it was just a weird scenario with Jeffs talking live and the sex tapes going at the same time.
COOPER: And the judge is basically saying, "Look, you are in danger of being, you know, thrown out and not able to act as your own lawyer." I understand at one point Jeffs even allegedly -- he went to the parents of this girl and basically said, "I've decided I'm taking your daughter."
TUCHMAN: Well, that's absolutely right. And the parents, who revere this man, they consider it a great honor when Warren Jeffs marries one of their daughters.
We believe Jeffs is married to as many as 80 different women. And many of them were under the age of 18.
But it's a really strange scene inside there. Warren Jeffs has interrupted at least 30 or 35 times. He keeps delivering objections as his own attorney, Anderson, but they're not just objections. They're sermons. He keeps saying that you are basically -- this is sacrilegious and there's no respect for the word of good.
But this is a very important point. No matter what you say about your religion, you are not allowed to molest children, no matter what. If you say that's your religion, it's not allowed in the United States of America. And Warren Jeffs at not one point in this trial so far has not said he wasn't molesting these girls. He may say that in closing arguments. We don't know. But at this point all he's saying is, "You're violating my religion."
COOPER: And court went late tonight. I think they just wrapped about 20 minutes ago. Why did it go so late into the night?
TUCHMAN: That's right. It's very unusual. Usually court only goes into the night when there are jury deliberations. But this judge really wants to get this case over. It's been so strange and weird.
And what Warren Jeffs is trying to do, he wanted this trial to be postponed. It's not clear why. He wants it to be canceled for the time being. She does not want that to happen. So it's getting weird. He's interrupting -- he's interrupting witnesses. He's interrupting the jurors listening. But she doesn't want this trial to come to an end because of his antics. So she seems to be trying to rush it along. And it does appear that tomorrow closing arguments will be delivered.
It's not clear yet, though, if Warren Jeffs will deliver his own closing arguments. It's anyone's guess what would happen if he starts delivering his closing arguments. He didn't have an opening statement.
COOPER: Will he present any kind of an actual defense? I mean, if the prosecution is resting, that's when the defense usually starts.
TUCHMAN: Right, right. He has not cross-examined any of the prosecution witnesses. And our understanding is he has no witnesses to call for a defense case. So we anticipate the prosecution will finish this case by playing one more sex tape tomorrow with an alleged 12-year-old victim. That's one of the charges against Warren Jeffs, which could leave him life in prison, if found guilty of sexual assaulting this 12-year-old girl.
And a tape will be played where apparently, we'll hear this 12- year-old girl on the tape. And then it's expected the judge will say, "OK, Mr. Jeffs. Time for your defense case." We don't believe he'll have a case, and then both sides will be permitted to give closing arguments.
COOPER: Bizarre. Gary, appreciate the reporting. Thanks. We'll talk to you tomorrow.
Joining me live from San Angelo, Texas, KTVK award-winning investigative reporter Mike Watkiss. Also a former member of Warren Jeffs' church, Flora Jessop, joins us as well.
So Mike, was this the most shocking moment in trial that -- I mean, there's been a lot of shocking moments. Was this kind of the most bizarre day?
MIKE WATKISS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Yes, I think that it's difficult to think that this -- they could ratchet the drama up in this trial each and every day, but they seem to have done just that.
This was certainly the most emotional moment, listening to almost a mind-numbing hour-long sermon delivered by Warren Jeffs to a number of his young brides, basically telling them that they need to be -- if they're not -- if they don't qualify to be with him, they are concubines. And these are young girls.
You hear the girls periodically. And it really sounds like you're hearing very -- very light voices. And it almost sounds like you're hearing members of a third-grade class. Juxtaposed to Mr. Jeffs sermonizing them.
And then at one point he tells them to take their clothes off, then gives them instructions, very graphic instructions on how they're to shave their bodies. And telling them that when they come to him they should shower in advance, provided that he might call them to service.
So as Gary alluded, it really is more of a sex tape than anything else. And I think it certainly had the most emotional impact today.
COOPER: And Flora, for you the audio was really the clincher of the trial. Why? How so?
FLORA JESSOP, FORMER MEMBER OF FLDS CHURCH: Well, you know, it's so, so disturbing on so many levels. And what's really disturbing for me is now to think that there are these 12 girls that have been introduced to this perverse sexual deviant and think that this what is God has ordered should -- that their lives should be like.
And my big worry right now is what kind of help are these girls going to get? They're still trapped inside this cult. They aren't getting help. And that's one of my big worries right now.
COOPER: You know, Flora, let me ask you, because you were inside this and you saw it from the inside. What is the -- what's the power this guy has? Because I mean, I look at him. I've heard him sing on tapes. I've heard him talk on tapes. He doesn't seem particularly charismatic or anything. What is it? What is the hold he has over people?
JESSOP: You know, it's not a hold that was -- that was garnered overnight. This was set up. He carefully orchestrated his power base when his father was alive.
But what's fascinating to me is, even coming from this and working with the abuse victims that I've worked with in the last 20 years, I came into this courtroom and didn't really understand that my foundation was based in this religion, this cult. And so for me, even 25 years out, Warren Jeffs was still in a lot of ways larger than life.
And it's been kind of interesting to me to sit there and, for the first time in 25 years, hear his voice in person.
JESSOP: And realize he is just such a sick, sick person...
JESSOP: ... doing this to these kids. And I don't understand the women at all in this.
COOPER: Mike, beyond the audio tapes, the real smoking gun is DNA evidence. The prosecution's DNA expert testified with a certainty of like 99.996 percent that he fathered a child with one of his accusers when she was only 15. So that would seem beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction.
WATKISS: Well, there's no doubt about it. There's the two charges, one involving a 14-year-old girl whom he married at 14 and had a child with at 15. They presented that DNA evidence. She was one of the girls inside that instruction session basically being told how to sexually gratify Mr. Jeffs.
I think prosecutors have made a rock-solid case in that instance. They're going to focus on the 12-year-old tomorrow, and apparently, as we have been reporting for some time, they have an audio tape of the actual sexual assault, recorded during Mr. Jeffs having -- assaulting this child. That, I think, will also be very profound and moving evidence for this jury.
And I can tell you, as -- ten women on this jury, while they were playing this audio tape, this sort of sex instruction tape today, I was watching some of the women. A couple of them were glaring at Mr. Jeffs, just glaring at him. A couple of people in the audience crying. Again, it really had an emotional impact.
And on your point about what does this guy have going for him, I think that fails to recognize, this is not a charismatic guy who generated his own church on the strength of his personality. He inherited a mantle of power. Flora's family has been at him forever. This guy inherited this power. He has certainly manipulated it and driven it much further off course than the previous prophets. But Mr. Jeffs is not the kind of charismatic guy who could have started this himself. He inherited all of this power.
COOPER: Yes. Interesting point. Good perspective. Michael Watkiss, appreciate it. Flora Jessop, as well. Thank you.
Take a look at this video. A police officer getting out of his patrol car after setting up a road block, hit by a driver from a stolen car. He's OK, though. I want to point that out. It's amazing what the officer did next. We have details on that coming up.
And people who mess with Matt Damon, be warned. Not only will he school you, you will end up on our "RidicuList."
COOPER: Coming up on "The RidicuList," why you shouldn't mess with Matt Damon. The answer is on "The RidicuList." But first, Isha is back with serious stuff in the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.
SESAY: Isha, the U.S. is relaxing rules on aid to starving Somalis. The Obama administration says aid workers in the famine- stricken country won't violate U.S. laws if some of their food and other supplies end up in the hands of an al Qaeda-affiliated militant group. U.S. officials say the No. 1 goal is to save lives, and humanitarian groups won't be prosecuted for good faith efforts.
Americans chose to save, not spend their cash last month. The Commerce Department says personal spending fell 0.2 percent in June. That's the biggest monthly decline since September 2009.
And Anderson, watch this. While my people's teeth may not be great in Britain, check out our cops. A British cop sets up a road block and is hit by the driver of a stolen car. Amazingly, the constable got up.
SESAY: Check this out. And then he chased down -- yes, he chased down... COOPER: Wow.
SESAY: ... and tasered the thief who tried to escape on foot. Luckily, the British bobby only suffered bruises...
SESAY: ... from the very nasty collision.
COOPER: That's got to be a good feeling, to be able to arrest the person who knocked you over.
SESAY: And to have tasered him, as well. I'm sure that added something.
COOPER: Well -- that added something.
All right, Isha. Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding anyone -- and I mean anyone -- who messes with Matt Damon. Just don't do it, people. Don't mess with Matt Damon.
As a big fan of Matt Damon, and I am, I know not to mess with him. Not that I ever would even want to. But some folks, they haven't learned that. It's a lesson that a certain reporter and a certain cameraman had to learn the hard way over the weekend.
Matt was in -- and I think I can call him Matt. Matt was in Washington for a "Save Our Schools" rally along with his mom who's a teacher. He spoke out against teachers' job security being based on how students perform in a standardized test. Afterward, some reporter from, I think, a libertarian Web site called Reason.TV took him to task. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In acting there is -- there isn't job security, right? There's an incentive to work hard and be a better actor because you want to have a job. So why isn't it like that for teachers?
MATT DAMON, ACTOR: Do you think -- do you think job insecurity is what makes me work hard?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: See, right there, she just messed up. She just messed with Matt Damon. Not a good idea. And now she's about to get a well- reasoned, highly intellectual smack down, a Smatt-down, if you will. Granted, it isn't as explody as "The Bourne Identity," but I have to say, it is still awfully thrilling to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you have an incentive to work harder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not an intensive. That's the thing. You take this style of thinking. It's this intrinsically paternalistic view of problems that are much more complex than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Snap. Holy dictionary, Matt-mann. He just said intrinsically paternalistic view. I think Matt Damon just proved once and for all his brain is a whole lot more "Good Will Hunting" than it is Team America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Matt Damon. Matt Damon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK, yes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone messed with Matt Damon over and over again but they are brilliant so they get a pass. This reporter? We're talking about not so much. And Matt isn't quite done making his point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON: A teacher wants to teach. I mean, why else would you take a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: My OK, she messed with Matt Damon and she is facing the dragon. Now, people can debate all day about ed policy. That's the cool way to say education policy, which I just learned from Matt Damon.
But good teachers are highly dedicated and should be compensated appropriately. Stand by, though. Stand by. A cameraman is about to mess with Matt Damon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So 10 percent of teachers are bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you get that number?
OK. But I mean, maybe you're a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) cameraman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Matt Damon doesn't need special effects or stunt doubles or even hair to go all action adventure on people. His words are his nunchecks. By the way, don't mess with Matt Damon's mom, either. Could we see that again?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 10 percent of teachers are bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you get that number? (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Go, Matt Damon's mom. I love how she just jumped in there. Where did you get that number sunny bet she's a great teacher, great mom and really proud of her son. He's an Oscar-winning screenwriter great actor and he has really great taste in the ladies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON: I'm (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Matt Damon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Matt Damon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I know it's old but I still think it's funny. All right. So let's bring it all home, Damon style. Unless you're Sara Silverman or Trey Parker or Matt Stone, a word for the wise: don't mess with Matt Damon. And if you do you'll end up smatted down and on "The RidicuList." We'll be right back.