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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Follow the Money; Interview with Foster Friess; Battle over Birth Control

Aired February 8, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Rick Santorum has a big night, but does he have the resources to win the nomination? Well the man bankrolling his campaign OUTFRONT tonight.

And President Obama finding himself in the middle of the firestorm; did the administration cross the line on birth control?

And the war machine behind the Syrian massacre. Who is providing all the weapons? We know.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight, the single best day of fundraising. That's what the pro Santorum Super PAC Red, White and Blue (ph) just told OUTFRONT about its cash raising today. The donations pouring in for the candidate who exceed frankly everybody's expectations last night beating Mitt Romney in a three-state sweep.

Santorum met with potential donors in Texas today and he's actually headed to California to meet even more potential deep pocketed donors. He's not stopping there. He just sent out another e-mail asking for money. Here's what it says. We have it.

Quote, "Reagan got on a roll winning in North Carolina and a slew of states after that. The conservative base rallied to him despite all odds. He went all the way to the convention." Clearly, Rick Santorum feeling pretty good.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're doing really well and we feel like going forward, we're going to have the money we need to make the case we want to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK, making the case though and winning are two very different things. Former Pennsylvania senator is lagging behind his rivals when it comes to something crucial. Whether you like it or not, money matters and the latest filings show that Santorum's major Super PAC was out-raised by Mitt Romney. You can see. Look at that. Wow.

Cash raised 41-1 and it probably won't stop there. Because we've been following the money going through the donor list and today we learned a few things. This among them, Romney has the backing of 17 American billionaires. Gingrich for his part has the backing of two. We've told you how important that can be.

For Sheldon Adelson $10 million is equivalent to about 45 for the average American. It's looking a bit like a David and Goliath story. Does Santorum have a chance? Absolutely yes says his money man Foster Friess. There's Foster Friess standing just behind Santorum giving his victory speech last night in Missouri there in the green tie. And here he is again in Iowa right after Santorum's surprising win there. But who exactly is this Foster Friess?

Well, he's a born-again Christian. He is a supporter of conservative Christian causes. He is Santorum's biggest bankroller, so far, funding about half of the candidate's major Super PAC. He has very deep pockets. We had an analysis run just for OUTFRONT by Wealthx (ph) and apparently the Wyoming based fund manager is worth $530 million.

Foster Friess came OUTFRONT tonight and told me he's known Rick Santorum for 16 years. I asked him why he is convinced the former senator can win now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER FRIESS, BIGGEST DONOR TO SANTORUM SUPER PAC: So, the reason I think he's winnable because if you called up central casting and said you know we have to have someone run against this dynamic 50- year-old Obama president, here you've got a guy 53 years old, starts each morning with 90 push-ups. He's the grandson of a coal miner. He's been able to win in blue collar areas where he had 100 million more Democratic voters registered against him, and so the likeability. In 75 percent, 65 percent likeability or personal favorability I guess is the term. Anyway, he just a great, a multifaceted candidate. He has all three legs of the Reagan stool.

BURNETT: So, are you -- how much money have you given him so far? Obviously the numbers have come out through the end of the year and I know you've given him about -- more than half his PAC, more than $300,000. How much money have you given him since then and are you continuing to pour money in?

FRIESS: Well I definitely have added some more money in, but I've got to keep this low profile. There's a good chance my wife might be watching television and if she finds out how much money I've put in this campaign I could be in big trouble. It'll come out in February. You'll see the results in February.

BURNETT: But you are continuing to put more in is the bottom line.

FRIESS: I have put some in just about 10 days ago, a week ago and I've very grateful for that opportunity. And it's not so much that I am a friend of his or that I believe in all his policies because he and I have some disagreements, but I just think he's the absolute best person to win because of his dynamic personality, the fact that he authored the Welfare Reform Act when he was like 42 years old and he was elected to the third most responsible position in the U.S. Senate as a young guy when all these other older senators revered him, so if you talk to the guys in the Senate, they just think he's a pretty special guy.

BURNETT: So, how important is religion and social issues to you in your making your decision of who to give to? And I ask this because obviously you've given a lot to social causes over the years and correct me if I'm wrong, but you're identified as being a born- again Christian, is that an important part of why you have chosen Rick Santorum?

FRIESS: Well I think if you look at the United States is 83 percent Christian and how important these Christian values are to us. Harry Truman said in 1946, he said we cannot -- in the two centuries since Jesus spoken his words have been validated and also here in the United States in this great country of ours have been shown the fundamental unity between Christianity and democracy. So that wasn't considered a theocracy.

And I think what's happened in the sexual revolution, the drug revolution there's been an attack on Christianity. People don't realize how important those values are to the underpinning of our country. And as Rick says, the Constitution is the how of America. The Declaration of Independence is the why of America.

And what keeps us together, the top wealthy people and the middle class and the poor people is we're Americans. And what makes us Americans is the fact the Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by our creator, not by government.

BURNETT: I'm curious last night, I saw you standing there behind Rick Santorum when he made his victory speech and it was pretty interesting. (INAUDIBLE) is that Foster Friess and indeed, it was you. And I ask this question because I know you've known him for a long time and you're friendly with him, but as a donor to a Super PAC, right, there are rules that say you can't work collude. You can't work together. You can't coordinate. And there you are standing next to him and I'm wondering if you think that was appropriate that you continue to spend so much time visibly with him or maybe that you think it's just transparent.

FRIESS: Well, by the way, Erin, how did I look? Did I look excited and fun?

BURNETT: You know what -- you know I'm going to be honest with you because the picture is up right now. I think you're wearing the same tie.

FRIESS: Now, the answer to that is so simple. Basically, our lawyers have told us is that it's very, very simple. You just don't talk about the Super PAC, so the fact that there is a Super PAC is irrelevant to all the other campaign people and by not talking about it is fine. Plus, I have so little control over the Super PAC all I did was write a check. In fact Newt came up to me the other day and made some remark about one of the ads and I said you know I don't even see the ads, so I'm not the hands on guy. I like writing a check and then I turn it over to the guys that make it happen.

BURNETT: So you don't say to the Super PAC -- I mean you have given about half the money, so you know you would think you would if you wanted have influence on how they spent it and even if you're not talking about the super PAC with Rich Santorum, you'd talk about hey, this is a good idea or that was a good thing that you did. None of that happens?

FRIESS: No. You know I'm not -- I'm not allowed to coordinate any of the Super PAC and it's pretty cut and dry. It's pretty simple. You just don't talk about the Super PAC.

BURNETT: And final question. If Rick Santorum does not become the nominee, will you give to Mitt Romney and does he fulfill the conservative Christian values that are so important to you?

FRIESS: Well, first of all, someone asked me my favorite choice for VP and I said Mitt Romney, so that will give you an idea that I'd surely gladly support him and I'd also support Newt. I saw him and Callista -- I met Callista the first time and they're lovely people. We're so blessed. I just a minute ago ran into Michele Bachmann here in the studio and when you think about the lovely, lovely, honest and integrity packed people that we have running, it's really a blessing to grow up in America and I tease -- I tease Rick -- I said now Rick, if you make it, you've got to promise me -- you've got to do me a favor and you invite Herman Cain into the Oval Office, say Herman, here's the keys to Air Force One and you go around the world selling America. So everyone has a talent to contribute and certainly Herman would be a wonderful spokesperson for our country as he went around the world.

BURNETT: Somehow I got the image of some kind of a movie that could be done on that. But let me just ask one more question here about you. I'm just reading a couple of articles about you. Here's one, eccentric Republican billionaire, Republican billionaire, Republican billionaire, Republican billionaire. I know that it's obviously probably not something you really want to talk about, but when we looked at the numbers, it doesn't appear you're a billionaire. Can you clear this up and can you say why it's so secretive?

FRIESS: Well, this is a very interesting question because when the press somehow -- I don't know where they got this, but a few weeks, months back, someone called me a billionaire. My wife comes up and she says honey, you're not squirreling money away, are you? So I want to clear that up. I -- and so they said well how do you want to be introduced and I said well how about billionaire-want-to-be?

BURNETT: All right, Foster Friess, thank you very much. Appreciate your taking the time tonight.

FRIESS: Oh, Erin, it's been a delight to be with you and God bless your family and your health and your career into 2012 and have a good year.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, sir. You, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Coming up on OUTFRONT, what's keeping GOP voters at home during the primaries and the role of evangelicals, something interesting in those numbers, the "Bottom Line" coming up, John Avlon with that.

And President Obama in the middle of an absolute firefight; did he go too far on birth control? And tonight, more are dead in Syria, the situation escalating. We have an exclusive look at where the weapons being used right now in the civil war are coming from. Who is bankrolling the government's weapons acquisition and a drunken defense, does alcohol excuse murder?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So is it an attack on religious freedom or essential health care for women? This is the debate surrounding President Obama's health care law and here's what it does. It requires all employers including those with religious affiliations to provide health insurance which covers the cost of birth control. House Speaker John Boehner calls the plan unconstitutional.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: This rule would require faith-based employers, including Catholic charities, schools, universities and hospitals, to provide services they believe are immoral.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: But the White House says the law has nothing to do with religious beliefs, pointing out that churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are exempt. They're also trying to work out what they say is an acceptable solution for institutions like religious universities and hospitals by giving them, well until August 2013 to actually implement the plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We want to work with all these organizations to implement this policy in a way that is as sensitive to their concerns as possible. But let's be clear. We are committed; the president is committed to ensuring that women have access to contraception without paying any extra costs, no matter where they work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Currently, there are 28 states that have some form of mandatory contraceptive insurance coverage and a recent poll shows that 58 percent of Catholics agree that birth control should be covered. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the former lieutenant governor of Maryland. She's on the board of Catholic Democrats.

Ralph Reed is chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Great to have both of you with us, and I really appreciate it. You got both sides appropriately represented here. So Kathleen let me start with you.

A new poll that came out yesterday shows this -- let me get it -- 55 percent of Americans agree that employers should be required to provide employees with health care plans that cover birth control at no cost. Why do you think that this is right? That birth control should be included and this is the crucial caveat, at no cost?

KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND, FORMER MARYLAND LT. GOVERNOR: It's right because it's about women's health and what the studies have shown and (INAUDIBLE) AMA and the College of Obstetrics have supported this is they say by getting contraceptive it helps to reduce ovarian cancer. It helps to reduce endometriosis. It helps to reduce ovarian cysts. In other words, it helps women to be healthier and if our goal, which I think is the goal of the health care plan, is to make sure that women get the best health care they can, it means they need contraceptive care.

BURNETT: Ralph, how do you respond to that and why should religious hospitals or others be able to deny that to women?

RALPH REED, CHAIRMAN, FAITH AND FREEDOM COALITION: Well here's the problem. What the Obama administration's directive requires is that religious institutions that are caring for the poor that are housing the homeless, who are feeding the hungry and clothing the naked are going to have to choose between violating their conscience or providing health insurance to their employers -- their employees and that is a ridiculous choice. I mean Erin, 90 percent of the homeless shelters in America are run by houses of worship, churches or synagogues.

One out of over 10 Americans who is below the poverty level is a client of Catholic charities. The Baltimore Archdiocese alone is touching 160,000 people a year and providing 300,000 hot meals to people who would otherwise go hungry and what they're saying is it's OK for you to not include things that are morally repugnant or violate your conscience if you're only serving the members of your church. But if you go out and help people who may not be members of your church then you have to cover this. So, think how absurd that is. If a church or another house of worship goes out and helps people without regard to their theology or their socioeconomic status or their gender or anything else, that's when they have to violate their own conscience. It's ridiculous.

(CROSSTALK)

TOWNSEND: Hey -- well first of all, as you saw, most Catholics, a vast majority of Catholics support this. So, many, many Catholics who work in Catholic charities actually support this, so I think that's really important to understand that they do support this --

REED: You don't take a poll on religious liberty.

TOWNSEND: I'm just telling you. You're saying Catholics don't support this. Catholics do support this, "A". Number two, the way to help people who are in poverty is to make sure that they do have contraceptive care. That's critical for them. It means that they don't have the diseases that I just described and it means that they get to use their own conscience to decide what's right for them. This is an issue of women's health and I think that Catholic charities believes very deeply that it's important that women get the health care they need. That's what this is about and that's why it's so critically important to women and women whether you can afford it or not, this will make sure that all women will have that opportunity.

(CROSSTALK)

TOWNSEND: It's really exciting and as you saw, 28 states already do this. Where was the outcry then? Twenty-eight states have already required this kind of rule and Catholic charities --

REED: First of all, a number of those states provide much broader exemptions to religious organizations.

TOWNSEND: And a number of states don't.

REED: Secondly it shows either ignorance, insensitivity, or outright hostility to tell religious organizations -- look I'm on the board of an inner city ministry in Atlanta called Safe House. They touch hundreds of thousands of people a year.

BURNETT: Right.

REED: The federal government is telling them that they have to provide to their employees -- think about this for a minute -- abortifations (ph) that cause abortion, which they consider to be the taking of an innocent human life. The federal government should never go into the walled garden of a house of worship or a religious ministry and tell them that they have to provide something that takes an innocent human life.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Kind of a broad question here. If birth control prevents someone from getting pregnant who doesn't want to be pregnant, and prevents them from having an abortion, from you, from a religious perspective here, isn't that better to use the birth control than to not use it and have the abortion?

REED: Sure, but that's not the issue. The issue isn't whether or not people ought to have access to contraception. The issue here is whether or not --

BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) who pays for it?

REED: Or a religious institution, all they had to do, Erin, was do what Barack Obama told the Catholic bishops he would do in the Oval Office, was provide them with an exception and part of the reason why this thing has exploded like a Hiroshima mushroom cloud is because the HHS directive was totally contrary to the repeated assurance that the president of the United States gave to the Catholic bishops. One out of every six patients in America is in a Catholic hospital. This is going to wreak havoc on the health care system in this country.

BURNETT: All right well thanks to both of you --

TOWNSEND: Excuse me, I think this is -- can we just say --

BURNETT: Final Word please --

TOWNSEND: Yes. Many Catholic hospitals and institutions already provide contraceptive care. It hasn't been publicized until now, but they already do it. They're able to do it because it does fit their conscience. There's a disagreement in the Catholic Church about contraception, as you know, and I think that what the Obama administration has done wonderfully is say we're going to protect women. We're going to help women's health.

BURNETT: OK. Thank you very much to both of you. Obviously an issue you're passionate about and a lot of others are. Please go on Twitter and let us know what you think about this issue and still on OUTFRONT, a father killing himself and his two sons. We have the 911- call made moments before the murders and we focus in on the social worker, and America striking a blow against China.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So America scored a goal against China today. Carlisle Companies is an American manufacturer with $3.2 billion in sales and Carlisle is going to make tires in America again bringing the production home from China, for real. The CEO of Carlisle, David Roberts, is a member of our "Strike Team" and he says quote "We plan to bring work back from China and put it in both of our Tennessee plants. We found we can actually manufacture as cheaply or cheaper here in the United States than we can in China."

Surprised, yes, well probably you are because for years we've heard that once manufacturing jobs leave the country, they don't come back. But Carlisle's new plant in Jackson, Tennessee, is up and running. In a few months they're going to add 75 new American jobs on top of the 500 they added when they opened the factory in 2010. And that brings us to tonight's number, $1.35.

For every dollar invested in manufacturing in America, $1.35 is generated in the economy. According to the National Association of Manufacturing, for every manufacturing job you get three jobs created in other industries. You know you get that new plant like Carlisle has and then the men and women who work there eat at restaurants, go to the grocery store and buy their tires for their cars, small numbers that might add up for the world's American superpower.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Still OUTFRONT the "OutFront 5", Russia's role.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Assad is off the reservation. He is being armed and supported by Russia.

BURNETT: Drunk as a defense. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The prosecution says this was a premeditated intentional murder.

BURNETT: All this OUTFRONT in our second half.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Let's start the second half of our show with stories we care about, we focus in our own reporting, do the work, and find the OUTFRONT 5.

First tonight, the single best day of fundraising for pro- Santorum super PAC. They spoke to OUTFRONT today and said it's been a big day. Donations pouring in. Obviously, the candidate beating Mitt Romney in a three-state sweep last night.

Santorum's biggest bankroller is a guy -- there with the green tie -- named Foster Friess. He came OUTFRONT, there he is in the victory speech. Friess alone has funded about half of the pro- Santorum super PAC. And I talked to him, I asked him whether he's violating any campaign laws by spending, well, you know, so much close time with the candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER FRIESS, BIGGEST DONOR TO PRO-SANTORUM SUPER PAC: Basically, our lawyers have told us it's very, very simple. You just don't talk about the super PAC. So, the fact that there is a super PAC is irrelevant to all the other campaign people and by not talking about it is fine.

Plus, I have so little control over the super PAC. All's I did was write a check. In fact, Newt came up to me the other day and made some remark about one of the ads. And I said, you know, I don't see the ads.

So, I'm not the hands on guy. I like writing a check and then turn it over to the guys that make it happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Number two. Could Iran be on a verge of a wave of protest similar to those seen in Egypt and Libya?

Rob Sobhani, an Iranian expert, told OUTFRONT that, quote, "The combination of regional dynamics and the desperate economic situation at home has emboldened the Iranians to demand regime change. The first victim could be the ailing supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."

Well, here's something else to consider: Iran's parliament has summoned President Ahmadinejad for questioning on the nation's economy. Nothing like this has happened since Iran's revolution of 1979. Ahmadinejad, of course, decided to take away many of subsidies regular Iranians rely for things like food because of the sanction's pressure.

Number three: magazine sales at the newsstand dropped 10 percent last year. People are spending less, at least on magazines, the hard copy kind. We looked through a report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Magazines aimed at women made the top seven spots. That will surprise nobody who goes into a bookstore or magazine store.

However, Oprah's magazine "O" saw a big decline, 32 percent drop, over the past six months. That's, of course, right around the time the television show ended. The worst-selling issue was October when she shared the cover with Rosie O'Donnell, something to learn. Don't share the cover.

All right. "Game Informer" magazine stood out with a nearly 50 percent spike in page subscribers. Wow. So, check that one out.

Number four, Cisco, the maker of computer networking equipment reported quarterly results tonight. They were better than expected. This is a big global economy and a Dow 30 company. It also said its quarterly dividend is going up.

CEO John Chambers is a member of our economic strike team on OUTFRONT and he told investors he expects the company will do more deals in the coming quarters.

Well, it has been 187 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Part of the reason we were downgraded was because of the negative discourse in Washington. That pessimism has led to a record low congressional approval rating. Every month we say this and it's kind of amazing because it has gotten lower.

The new poll from Gallup shows only 10 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. It was 11 percent a month before.

All right. Now on to the brutal crackdown in Syria. The images there are stunning. Four straight days of bombing, killing at least 60 in Homs alone. Adding to the death toll of more than 6,000 according to human rights groups that have happened since the uprising began in March.

While Washington has been condemning the assault, although not doing anything militarily, Russia has not condemned it, and today actually announced that the Syrian vice president maybe open to talks with the opposition. The Russians believe the crisis should be revolved diplomatically and the say, quote, "It is not really the international community's business to try to determine the outcome of national dialogue in advance."

Bashar al-Assad, of course, is the president of Syria, has virtually no allies left, even in the region. China and Russia are the exceptions. They don't just stand by him. They arm him.

Here are the numbers. Get ready for this: between 2007 and 2010, Russia gave $4.7 billion in weapons to Syria. China, a distant second, only $300 million in arms deals.

Now, Russia also signed a half a billion dollar deal to sell fighter jets to Syria. They already have 555 Russian MiG planes, sort of like the ones that you're looking at there, an air force of 100,000 people for Syria. And when Russia's navy needs a port in the Middle East, it has lease in Syria.

Russia's $4.7 billion has helped make Syria a military power house in a regional arms race. Its army has a ground force of 220,000, plus 108,000 in paramilitary troops. Syria has about 5,000 tanks, including the T-72 shown here, which has 125 millimeter gun and a range of 6,000 feet.

Tonight, the Russian-Syrian connection, why it matters so much to Moscow.

OUTFRONT tonight, national security contributor Fran Townsend, and foreign policy analyst and "Forbes" columnist Daniel Freedman.

Good to have both of you with us. We appreciate it.

Should it surprise us? First of all, just how important Russia is, bankrolling Syrian military, but also just how big the Syrian military is and how much firepower it has.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Erin, we haven't even gotten to the economic relationship. Let's remember, Russia forgave three quarters of the debt they held to the tune of $10 billion of Syrian debt and they have a huge trade and infrastructure relationship that is in the billions of dollars. And so, this is a strategic partner for Russia.

The port that you mentioned, Tartus, where they're leasing, this goes back to the 1970s. That port now under new agreement that Bashar al Assad signed with Russia allows them to bring their nuclear warships in there once it's finished being dredged and renovated.

So, this is a strategic point for Russia because it allows them to have ships on the Mediterranean, where otherwise NATO is patrolling.

BURNETT: Right. So, this is -- I mean, as Fran explained, this is why we have the unwavering support of Russia for the Syrian regime.

DANIEL FREEDMAN, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY AND POLICY ANALYSIS, THE SOUFAN GROUP: It's even bigger than that. Beyond the kind of historical support and beyond the port, Russia's kind of brought in national security guards. Now, Russia is worried, what happens next if Syria falls? Now, what's likely is the Stans, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, those countries on Russia's border, which views its sphere of influence, those are likely to be next.

BURNETT: In terms of autocratic regimes toppling.

FREEDMAN: Falling, and that's the last thing Russia wants. So, it's decided it's drawing the line in the sand on Syria. BURNETT: Well -- I mean, and also, you have unrest in Russia itself, an election that appears to be contested by a guy who has ruled, for all intents and purposes, without any kind of dissent for more than a decade, right? Vladimir Putin.

TOWNSEND: That's exactly right. And so, Putin wants to make it perfectly clear that Russia's policy is there should be no foreign intervention in domestic affairs because, of course, what he doesn't want is the international community to turn their attention to Russian protests.

BURNETT: All right. So, let's just be honest here, Daniel, that I think a lot of the perception out there is that Bashar al Assad now is going to go. And it's kind of for a while, they thought he would stay, and they think he's going to go. But you think he could still stay, right?

FREEDMAN: I think it's very likely that he will stay, especially if Russia and China maintain their support. I mean, as we've seen, he's got a very powerful military. It's a different situation to Libya or elsewhere.

If you have a look exactly where the rest of the towns are, they're on the borders with Jordan, with Turkey, they're not within the center of Syria itself where there is quieter and he's got a sudden ruthlessness where he's willing to do whatever it takes to survive, much like his father did, who was willing to just massacre 25,000 plus people.

And he's seen what's happened to Gadhafi. He saw what happened to Mubarak. So, he doesn't want the same thing happening to him. It's not just about him and his family. It's about his tribe, his religion, who are likely to be targets of whoever takes over.

BURNETT: Right. Now, can we count on the military? I mean, you obviously have the Free Syrian Army and you have questions as to the loyalty of troops or how long that will last. Can he count on them? Because I think it may have surprised many who are watching tonight, I mean, you have hundreds of thousands of people serving in the armed forces, in army, in the navy, in Syria.

FREEDMAN: But it's dominated by his family and his tribe. And also, he's been very strategic in putting other minorities who would likely be victims as well if the Muslim Brotherhood or opposition, one of the different rebel groups takes over, which is why as the rebellion started, he replaced his Alawite defense minister with a Christian defense minister, sending a signal, saying minority is Christians, you're safe with me, just be careful what happens next.

BURNETT: Fran, I'm just curious when the United States says, as they said this week and maybe for political posturing for this president in an election season, I'm going to investigate military options. Not that I'm going to do them, but I have plans.

But does the fact that Russia has $5 billion of deals with Syria and that China isn't backing off, actually make military involvement by the United States a very different situation than it would have been this Libya, where there was not that implicit support?

TOWNSEND: That's right, and it's different first and foremost because of the capability that you mentioned, that Syria has bought from Russia. This is not Libya with an antiquated air defense system.

BURNETT: This is a real military.

TOWNSEND: This is a real military with real capability that they know how to use them. And so, if you were to bring in an air strike or try to implement a no fly zone, you must expect that you are going to lose aircraft and you're going to lose them in urban areas. It's going to be an absolutely different situation and it's going to be much more bloody.

And so, this is -- we can talk about having a military option, but it's very difficult to do that, is it the United States, is it NATO, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

TOWNSEND: That's right. So, what we need to do is look at using our Arab allies, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia sells oil to China, they also buy Russian military equipment. They have leverage over those countries and we need to use our Arab allies to put pressure on Russia and China to try and change their positions.

BURNETT: It would be amazing if Saudi Arabia stepped up.

All right. Thanks very much to both of you. I appreciate you taking the time. Five hundred and fifty-five MiGs, it's pretty amazing for that Syrian military.

All right. Well, why are Republicans staying home? We've got the mystery next.

And a shocking, drunken defense. Does alcohol excuse murder?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Until last night, the majority of people who have voted in a primary or caucus said they were not evangelical or born again Christians, 57 percent of them said no. But something changed yesterday.

Just look at Minnesota alone. All of the counties in green are the ones Rick Santorum won and our John King who knows everything about every county in America, I think, notes that they are also the counties with high evangelical populations. It's very clear evangelicals were very motivated. Turnout in Minnesota is the real standout so far this primary season, in caucus season.

So why? Why the evangelicals come out and how powerful is this voting bloc in the 2012 election?

John Avlon is with us, along with Richard Land, the president of Southern Baptist Conventions Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Great to have you with us. We appreciate it.

I guess let me start with you, John Avlon. This was a real shift.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was. It was absolutely, and it was a shift that had been long promised. You know, evangelical leaders, including Richard Land, rallied around Rick Santorum in the lead up to South Carolina. But the evangelical voters in that high turnout primary ended up supporting Newt Gingrich, not Rick Santorum.

But you saw a decided shift last night with these Midwest caucus states in particular, rallying around Rick Santorum big time, delivering him three upset wins. So, it really is a game changer in terms of this Republican primary field. Mitt Romney is looking very weak by comparison.

BURNETT: Yes, I mean, when you talk about the enthusiasm gap which have been talking about for a long time, John.

Richard, let me ask you, though -- why suddenly did we see this surge in evangelicals? Was this a backlash, a backlash against not wanting Mitt Romney, not perhaps wanting a Mormon and wanting someone like a Rick Santorum?

RICHARD LAND, PRES., SOUTHERN BAPTIST'S ETHICS & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION: I think it was a combination of factors. Remember in Iowa, which started it all, 58 percent of the people who attended the caucuses identified themselves as born again evangelicals and half of those described themselves as very conservative. And they voted 32 percent for Santorum with 14 percent for Gingrich and 14 percent for Romney.

So, this was more a return to Iowa with non-Southern evangelicals and I think that you have -- you can't discount the fact that in South Carolina and in Florida, that Newt Gingrich won more because he was from Georgia than that he was an evangelical. And now, you move back into non-Southern states and Santorum has returned to his Iowa form. Plus, that meeting I attended in Texas, where I don't endorse candidates, but I was there and they formed a strong consensus, the social conservatives, Catholic and the evangelical groups, behind Santorum.

And I said after the South Carolina primary, these are national grassroots organizations, they're going to go home, they're going to plant seeds and the grass is going to grow. Well, we saw the grass growing last night.

BURNETT: It sure did. I was -- winter wheat ready for harvest it was so high.

But, John Avlon, is there something to talk about here again on this Mormon question for Mitt Romney? Is that something that it all becomes relevant again?

AVLON: I don't Mitt Romney's religion makes a difference in the vast majority of states. I really don't. I think what it more gets down to is a credibility gap that Mitt Romney has to because he seems like a opposite of a conviction politician, someone who is enormously, you know, deeply held personal beliefs. But the question is: how much that extends to consistency in his political beliefs.

And I do think when you speak to a lot of social conservative voters, that's the question. Who is Mitt Romney? Is real Mitt Romney the guy who ran for governor in 2002 in Massachusetts or the guy who's been running for president over the last four plus years?

BURNETT: And, Richard, does this really come down to social issues? Because it's interesting how you point out, and very fairly so, that you had a much higher percentage of evangelicals in Iowa than you did in New Hampshire. New Hampshire obviously brings down the average on that.

But you did see in a lot of places the economy by far the most important issue trumping abortion.

LAND: Well, the economy is very important. Look, when the economy's as bad as it is, it's going to be very important and there again, I think Rick Santorum has a message that appeals to blue collar Democrats, those Reagan Democrats. It's going to be a very appealing message in the former Rust Belt states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Ohio.

What blue collar, trickle down from the blue collar is what "Wall Street Journal" called it, where you have a tax break for manufacturing jobs, you have tax breaks for parents. "Wall Street Journal" criticized him because he made -- he played favorites with parents.

Well, good. Parents are doing a more important job for the next generation than a bachelor arbitrage lawyer is.

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it.

All right. Anderson Cooper, what's coming up on "A.C. 360" tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": We're keeping them honest tonight. President Obama drawing a line in the sand against accepting super PAC money until he's not. Now that the Democrats are being outfundraised by a reported four to one ratio by Republicans and the super PACs, the Obama campaign suddenly on board with opening the campaign floodgates. We'll talk with Ari Fleischer and Democratic super PAC cofounder and President Obama supporter, Bill Burton.

Also tonight, an exclusive on "360," you'll hear from the brother of Tyler Clemente. He's the Rutgers University freshman who killed himself back in September of 2010 after his roommate allegedly used a web cam to watch him having a sexual encounter with another man. Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge. James Clemente, his brother, talks about what he believes happened in the days and hours before his brother's death.

Those stories -- also, the inside story of the carnage in Syria and the "Ridiculist" and a lot more tonight at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Anderson.

Well, it was a perfect storm of terrible, terrible coincidences, not murder that led to the May 2010 death of 22-year-old University of Virginia Lacrosse player Yeardley Love. The drunken accident is what attorneys for former UVA student athlete George Huguely argued in court today. It was opening statements.

Prosecutors, though, say Huguely kicked down his ex-girlfriend's bedroom door, banged her head against a wall and left her bleeding, two days after sending her threatening emails. Love's roommate found her death face down her pillow.

Huguely has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and his lawyer say he was too drunk to plan Love's death.

Criminal defense attorney and former NYC prosecutor Paul Callan is with us, along with legal analyst Sunny Hostin.

All right. Great to see both of you. We appreciate it.

We have some e-mails, Paul, that I want to start with. We're going to put them up back and forth between Yeardley and George, talking about, well, potentially him saying, well, "I should have killed you last night," and her saying, "You should have killed me?" And there it is right there.

And he says, "We should talk tonight." They obviously talked a couple days later and she died.

Doesn't that establish intent?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, it doesn't. Prosecutors are trying to put on the board that this is intent to kill and it's clearly laid out. It's premeditation.

What it establishes is a very contentious, tempestuous relationship between these two young people. And I don't -- I think prosecutors are going to have a hard time saying that proves an intent to kill. That's what they're saying, but I don't think the jury is going to buy it.

BURNETT: She was bruised, beaten, door kicked down, does that?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND LEGAL ANALYST: I disagree with you, Paul. You know I love you.

But bottom line is we've got an e-mail that says I should have killed you and then he carries through with that threat just a couple days later and he does kill her. And so, I think the prosecution has a pretty strong case actually for premeditated murder. Certainly, they charged premeditated murder. They charged felony murder. They charged burglary. They have a lot on their list to prove. But certainly in my view, they're going to be able to prove it.

CALLAN: They have way overcharged the case. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: And this is a question that's come up with a lot of these rape cases recently.

CALLAN: Yes?

BURNETT: Can alcohol ever take away intent? I mean, is that something that he can use as a defense? As a crutch?

CALLAN: Well, it can be used on the issue of intent. But I don't think -- I don't see the alcohol defense as key here. What they're putting on the board is that these were college kids who had a relationship that went back-and-forth. They fought with each other. And this was a fight that took place but it was an accidental death.

HOSTIN: But I think involuntary -- voluntary intoxication rather is their only defense to premeditation, because it's not going to excuse the criminal conduct but it can take premeditation off the table, and that's what they have to go for, because if they get a conviction, the prosecution on premeditated murder, we're taking about life in prison. The kid was only 22 years old when this happened.

CALLAN: Versus 10 years.

BURNETT: Versus 10 years.

CALLAN: Ten years for voluntary manslaughter. And you know -- but the thing that I'm left with, you know, on this issue is in terms of the actual killing itself. Here's a big, strong lacrosse player, if he wanted to kill her, he would have killed her. He wouldn't have left her breathing when he left the room.

HOSTIN: But he did kill her.

BURNETT: All right.

CALLAN: Well, he did. But he didn't know he did. So, it was an accident. That's what the defense says.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you. We're going to keep talking about this.

And, everyone, let us know what you think. Alcohol as a defense -- difference between 10 years or life in prison. What do you think?

Well, the desperate 911 call placed moments before a murder/suicide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Every week, a social worker drives children to see their father, supervises the visit, takes notes, files reports, tries to do what is best for those most vulnerable.

With more than half a million children in some form of foster care in America, this scenario plays out thousands of times across this country every day. It's a huge responsibility for the people who are hired to be, quote, "visit supervisors."

Elizabeth Griffin-Hall was a social worker hired to supervise 5- year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charles as they visited with their father, Josh Powell. She took her responsibility incredibly seriously. For months, everything was fine. Until this --

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SOCIAL WORKER: I'm on a supervised visitation for a court- ordered visit and something really weird has happened. The kids went into the house and the parent, the biological parent, his name is Josh Powell, will not let me in the door. What should I do?

DISPATCHER: What's the address?

SOCIAL WORKER: But I think I need help right away. He's on a very short leash with DSHS and the CPS has been involved and this is the craziest thing. He looked right at me and closed the door.

Are you there?

DISPATCHER: Yes, ma'am. I'm just waiting to know where you are.

SOCIAL WORKER: OK. It's 8119 189th Street Court East, Puyallup, 98375. And I'd like to pull out of the driveway because I smell gasoline and he won't let me in.

DISPATCHER: You want to pull out of the driveway because you smell gasoline but he won't let you --

SOCIAL WORKER: He won't let me in.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BURNETT: As you know, this ended horrifically. Moments later, Powell detonated an explosion that killed himself, Braden, and Charles.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social and Health Services said authorities had no evidence that Powell was a danger to the children or to himself. That was a claim repeated by a detective Ed Troyer (ph) at a press conference today.

And we all know there will be investigations and there'll be finger-pointing, of course. But on the surface, it seems like everyone did everything not only that was required of them under the law but also everything that felt right. And it got us thinking about a broader issue. Across America, counties have been forced to make tough decisions and make very deep cuts. Services like foster care and emergency dispatch are often hit first and hardest. Lower budgets lead to longer hours and larger case loads for the workers. Social work is one of those jobs like police that we rarely hear about until something has gone horribly wrong.

There are so many social workers out there who are trying to do the right thing and juggle all those cases that they have to handle and they do it with compassion and they do it with love, and when something goes wrong, it's their lives that are ruined, too.

Elizabeth Griffin-Hall supervised visits with Powell and the boys every Sunday for months. She grew close to them and she did her best to protect them.

And it just made us think today and I was hoping that as we look for answers at what happened here, that we don't forget what she did and tried to do for those boys but also what so many social workers across this country do. As budget cuts come, some of those people don't have a voice to try to fight for what really matters.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.