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Ohio High School Shooting; Michigan and Arizona Primaries; Is Afghanistan War Worth It?

Aired February 27, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Breaking news tonight. A deadly school shooting at a high school in Ohio; we talk to people who were there. And Santorum's campaign confirms to CNN it's robo calling Democrats in Michigan asking them to vote for him and send a quote "message to Romney". Is this unpatriotic?

And the Russians claim they have foiled a plot to kill Vladimir Putin. How real was the assassination threat? Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, some breaking news. CNN can now confirm the name of the student who allegedly shot five of his fellow classmates at an Ohio high school this morning. His name is T.J. Lane. He's a junior. Looking at a picture of him there, he was described as -- by friends as quiet, but a nice kid from a broken home.

No matter what, he created a scene of horror and chaos in Chardon, Ohio today. Allegedly opening fire in the high school cafeteria, leaving one student dead and four others wounded. Two remain in critical condition tonight. Nate Mueller was in the cafeteria. He's a fellow student and he described the scene.


NATE MUELLER, CHARDON HIGH SCHOL STUDENT KNOWS ALLEGED GUNMAN: He didn't say anything the entire time. He took one shot and then that's when we looked to see what was happening. I saw him shoot, which hit one of my other friends that was sitting at the table with us, and then as I was turning around, that's when he hit me.


BURNETT: Ted Rowlands is outside the high school in Chardon for us tonight. And Teresa Hunt is going to join us in a couple of moments on the phone. Her daughter was in a classroom during the shooting. She'll be with us in a moment.

Ted, I wanted to start with you though. What can you tell us that you have learned today from reporting on this about who T.J. Lane is, the shooter here?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you alluded to it, Erin. A young man with a tough childhood, apparently from a broken home, lived off and on with his mother or grandparents and/or grandparents, has a brother that has been in and out of jail. One student described him as very quiet. Said that he didn't have a very good attendance record, but when he was here, he was a fairly nice child or young man and according to one person, they say this was a complete shock. He was however, according to students a victim of bullying on and off and that's sort of the picture that we're getting, a young man who didn't say a lot, but was the target of some bullying from a broken home.

BURNETT: And is that bullying the link to the students? I mean I know you're been talking to students throughout the day. What have they been saying about how the five kids who were shot were targeted? Were they specifically targeted?

ROWLANDS: Well, that according to witnesses, it seemed to many eyewitnesses that these students were targeted. Now, the reason for that targeting likely according to one student we just talked to was the bullying. In fact, the student just said to me a few minutes ago they picked the wrong kid to bully. They didn't realize it. And so that's what we're getting from eyewitnesses, that he apparently did target this group of students specifically and we'll find out more later, presumably that bullying may have been the root of it.

BURNETT: Ted, I'm curious there are reports that T.J. may have posted on social media, perhaps on Twitter, that he was going to bring a gun to school Monday, but no one took him seriously. Have you heard anything about that?

ROWLANDS: Yes, we've heard about that, but the tweet is not online now and according to students that we've talked to, there are some students that say that they did read a tweet where he said some people are quote "going to get hurt tomorrow" that it was posted last night and then was removed presumably by him at some point last night, so we haven't been able to independently verify that he actually did tweet that. However, if you look at his Facebook page, there are some disturbing writings on there. At one point in one of the writings he says I want you to feel death.

BURNETT: Ted, what can you tell us at this point about the gun? I know that it's now in the hands of the ATF. Do you know anything about it, legal, illegal, where he may have obtained it or are all of those still question marks tonight?

ROWLANDS: We don't have any specific information in terms of where he got the gun. The local authorities were able to recover the gun and they turned it over, as you mentioned, to the ATF for ballistic analyzing. We do know, however, from a friend that he said he liked to hunt. So whether he had access to guns in his home or had to go out and get a gun we just don't know that yet -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Ted. We appreciate it. Of course if Ted gets more he'll be back with us. Our reporter Martin Savidge is also on the scene and just a few moments ago had the chance to speak to Tory Lynn Lacast (ph) who is a 16-year-old junior at Chardon High School. Here's what she told him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard over Twitter that it was a student and when I heard T.J. Lane I heard from one of my friends sitting next to me and it just hit me, you know.


BURNETT: Shock at such a horrible event this morning. Teresa Hunt joins us on the phone now. Her daughter was hunkered down in a classroom during the shooting. Teresa thank you very much for being with us, your daughter I know was in a classroom. How did you find out what happened?

TERESA HUNT, MOTHER OF STUDENT (via phone): At about 7:45 this morning, she had texted me, mom, we're in lockdown, there's been a shooting. And I texted her back saying you're not joking around, you're serious and she said, yes and I said where are you now? And she told me she was in her first period science class down the hall from the cafeteria and they were on lockdown. The doors were locked. Students had the lights off with the teacher and they were sitting on the floor against the wall.

BURNETT: And how long were they there? I know you were texting back and forth the whole time?

HUNT: Yes. She -- they didn't release her out of that classroom until 9:15 to the elementary school, which is right across the street.

BURNETT: So awhile, they sat there for a long time. Your daughter, I know was -- knew some of the victims.

HUNT: Yes --

BURNETT: What did she say about them?

HUNT: She was friends with one that's in critical condition right now down at Metro in Cleveland.


HUNT: And her one friend that's over in Hillcrest (ph).

BURNETT: Does she have any feeling? I mean I know she has obviously got to be in shock, but did she have any sense as to why they may have been targeted? I don't know if you just heard our Ted Rowlands was reporting that bullying perhaps may have been at least the reason that T.J. is giving for the shooting.

HUNT: No, but I know this boy doesn't attend Chardon school. He is -- goes to Lake Academy, which is out in Willoughby Hills (ph). He goes to an academy that is for troubled teens. My niece goes to the same school. She knew of him and she said he was nice and polite to her, never thought that he would ever do anything like this. He was a dark kid. Didn't really talk to a lot of kids, but she rode the bus with him every day and they talked, so I mean I -- she didn't think this could ever happen.

BURNETT: She didn't -- I mean any sense of anything abnormal about him other than being at that school?

HUNT: No. You know he had a, like you said, hard time with his parents. Living with his grandma and you know kind of a loner.

BURNETT: And did she know anything about him ever having a gun or talking about guns or that might have been something that would have never come up. I'm just curious.

HUNT: No, my daughter didn't, but my niece said that he did talk about he liked to hunt, so that I know is true.

BURNETT: Right, your niece who knew him.

HUNT: Yes.

BURNETT: And what is your daughter doing tonight? I can only imagine she's in complete shock along with all the other kids who were there today.

HUNT: She went over to her best friend's house and they're kind of holding it together themselves. I know she's in shock. I know they're both in shock. She goes to Auburn with the four students that went to Auburn Career Center, also. This is just really, really a shocker for this community.

BURNETT: Well, Teresa, thank you very much for taking the time out of your evening to talk to us. I appreciate it.

Well as Teresa was saying, her daughter began to text her around 7:45 after the shots. We heard that they began just after 7:30 as students were starting their day. Minutes after the shots rang out, dispatchers can be heard sending police and rescue to the scene.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attention Chardon Rescue, we have an active shooter at the high school. Repeat, active gun shots at the high school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chardon, we have three students down in the cafeteria at this time. We still don't know where the shooter is. Also, there's a fourth going down in room 200.


BURNETT: Many called teacher Frank Hall (ph) a hero tonight. He was monitoring the cafeteria. He chased the shooter out of the school saving countless lives. Former New York City homicide prosecutor and legal contributor Paul Callan has been following the story OUTFRONT tonight. Paul, I guess let's just start off with -- we're learning a little bit more about the shooter tonight and you just heard we learned some new details from Teresa Hunt just a couple of moments ago. His gun, though, we don't know anything about that yet. It's in ATF control. What do you think we may find out? How difficult is it to get a handgun in Ohio?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: This is obviously one of the first questions I think, Erin, people will be asking, how does a high school kid get a gun to use on fellow students? I was looking at Ohio gun laws this afternoon. It's very easy to get a gun in Ohio. You don't need a permit or even a license to buy a gun in Ohio.

It's different though to carry a gun. You do need a concealed weapon permit to carry a handgun and if you're selling a handgun to somebody under the age of 21, which obviously is the situation we have here, that is illegal and is a crime in Ohio, but I did note one exception. You can sell to somebody under 21 if he's using the gun for hunting, educational or sporting purposes.

BURNETT: Well interesting what we just learned there that he talked about loving hunting, so there may be a connection there.

CALLAN: He may have squeezed in through one of these exceptions which allows possession by a minor.

BURNETT: He is of course -- he was a junior, so we believe he's under the age of 18, although it's conceivable he may not be, but that's out understanding. What kind of penalties could he face under 18, over 18?

CALLAN: Like a lot of states, they have changed their juvenile justice system in Ohio and when you have a serious crime like murder, the judge can decide whether you will be tried as a juvenile. Now let's say he was tried as a juvenile. He would be out of jail even with a maximum sentence in his early 20s. If the judge decides to try him as an adult though, he faces full adult penalties and would likely face life in prison without parole on a murder charge.

BURNETT: -- juvenile could be just five years or --

CALLAN: Yes, it could just be -- it's shocking how lenient the juvenile penalties are and it's not just Ohio. Pretty much the entire country operated this way, but most states now leave it in the hands of a judge between the age of 16 and 18 or sometimes as young as 13 to 18 to try them as an adult when it's a particularly serious or heinous crime and I think you're going to see that here.

BURNETT: Paul Callan, thank you very much.

CALLAN: Nice being with you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right we have new developments in the case of a woman found strangled to death in her Mercedes. You know we've been covering this. Police tonight testing materials they found in the family garage and Rick Santorum today called the president a snob, Obama's response. And Merrill Streep (ph) on her third Oscar last night, but we're going to tell you why her next project is way more important.


BURNETT: We have breaking news right now out of Newark, New Jersey. The airport there now saying it is closed until further notice. The reason, reports an airplane made an emergency landing at Newark Airport this evening because of a nose gear problem. Now passengers were forced to exit the plane on emergency chutes, according to authorities and NBC News. So combined tomorrow's primaries in Michigan and Arizona have more delegates at stake than any other race to this point. It's a really crucial day. And polls from both states show a neck-and-neck race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

John Avlon is here with three things to look for tomorrow. You've always got magic three. Let's start with Michigan.


BURNETT: Mitt might lose even if he wins. What do you mean?

AVLON: So, this is it. As you said, polls are neck and neck. Most proportional states go simply by popular vote, right? The guy who wins the popular vote gets the most delegates. Not in Michigan. Instead they do it a totally different way. The delegates are given out by congressional district. There are 14 congressional districts in Michigan, so keep an eye on this tomorrow night. You could see a situation where say Mitt Romney wins the popular, but Rick Santorum wins the delegates.

BURNETT: Oh, because he could win in Detroit.

AVLON: Right --

BURNETT: That's only one district whereas --

AVLON: Exactly. You've got the highly popular Detroit in the suburbs, really a Mitt Romney stronghold, but if Rick Santorum, for example, is able to rack up support in the other congressional delegates, he could run away with the delegates. At the end of the day this is not a popularity contest. It's a delegate race, so that's the real dynamic to face, and of course could flip -- could be flipped the other way around --

BURNETT: That's really interesting. We thought that was just a national issue, but no --


BURNETT: -- on the state level at least for Michigan, all right next up, something that has been getting a lot of conversation.


BURNETT: Some might argue way too much conversation --

AVLON: Some might argue --

BURNETT: That is faith.

AVLON: Faith, the faith X factor. I mean look folks understand I think in Arizona, there's actually the seventh largest LDS population. Mormons last time around in 2008 made up 11 percent of the total GOP turnout. Now obviously, the overwhelming majority of that goes to Mitt Romney, so that creates a pretty significant cushion for him in Arizona in particular. In Michigan, you see Rick Santorum really throwing the social conservative card, sort of reigniting the culture wars, talking about maybe that we've taken separation of church and state too far in the wake of John F. Kennedy.

That kind of language is designed to appeal to Catholics in the state and the evangelical Protestants, so that's one of the dynamics at play there. One other weird interesting factor really significant, Arab- American and Muslim-American population in Michigan, 40 percent of the city of Dearborn, for example, Arab-American.

BURNETT: Dearborn, yes.

AVLON: Big deal. And it's funny. There are some actually Arab- American activists who are trying to rally around Ron Paul's candidacy. Now I don't think it's going to be enough to make a runaway with the election, but it's a very interesting wrinkled (ph) reminder of the fundamental diversity of that state.

BURNETT: That's pretty incredible. All right, last but not least, the open primary factor. We're going to talk much more about this in a second --

AVLON: That's right.

BURNETT: -- but Democrats can vote and apparently some will be.

AVLON: That's right, in Michigan. So in Michigan Democrats can vote, Independents can vote, Republican, they're holding a primary because there's no voter registration. In Arizona, Independents can vote. It's an open primary, so even though you know Democrats are you know, not going to be able to play in the primary tomorrow in Arizona, but Independents can. And here's about Independents in Arizona. You know this is one of the issues I care so much about.


AVLON: Independents outnumber Democrats in Arizona. So they could be a really significant force if they chose to turn out and vote for one of the Republican candidates. The problem of course is of all the Republican candidates playing to the far right there's not an obvious candidate, but Mitt Romney's center right status could draw some Independents and Ron Paul's done pretty well with Independents in the past, too.

BURNETT: John Avlon, thank you.

AVLON: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right well speaking of Democrats voting in Michigan, Rick Santorum's campaign confirms to CNN it's asking Michigan Democrats to vote for him in tomorrow's primary to send a message to Mitt Romney. Ironically, Michigan Democratic strategist Joe Disano is doing the same thing.

He's asked 50,000 Democrats to go to the polls to vote for Rick Santorum, saying he's trying to quote, "cause havoc for Romney". Joe Disano bold enough to come OUTFRONT tonight. Good to see you, Joe, appreciate it.


BURNETT: All right, cause havoc, I mean I know it's got a cool ring to it and all of that, but is this really the right thing to do for the U.S. political system?

DISANO: Oh, absolutely. We've got two Republican candidates for president who I feel are both damaged goods. I think Santorum's radioactive in a general election and I think Romney's not too far behind him. So hopefully my efforts and the efforts tomorrow in the state to turn this election over to the Romney -- or excuse me -- over to Santorum, will throw an anvil in Romney's lap and cause havoc all the way to the Republican Convention in Orlando.

BURNETT: OK, but again, just sort of on the patriotism of this, I mean shouldn't each party be allowed to nominate who they want and then they run against each other and that's the fair way?

DISANO: Well you know what -- then Michigan Republicans could run their own election instead of having taxpayers foot the bill. I mean there's no reason that President Obama should be on the primary election ballot tomorrow other than the Republicans in the state wanting taxpayers to pay the bill for their private party. They invited us in, so we're taking the offer. There's nothing unpatriotic about it.

BURNETT: Wouldn't -- would you be upset though if the tables were turned you know for Rush Limbaugh --

DISANO: Oh it's happening here --

BURNETT: But were you angry when that happened?

DISANO: No, that's just the rules of the game. You play a game --

BURNETT: You're cool with it.

DISANO: I'm cool with it. I mean I didn't like the outcome, but it was fair and it was within the law and within the rules. And this is nothing new in Michigan politics.

BURNETT: How many people do you think you're going to get? I know you said you had 12,000 ready, some people say that that is inflated and inaccurate -- your response?

DISANO: The Republicans are saying that that's inflated.

BURNETT: That's right.

DISANO: No, we've had a program over the past seven days to identify, as of earlier today, 12,000. I was thinking it might be a couple thousand higher once I start going through the data tonight. But we're going to do everything we can to turn those folks out. This is a razor thin election. No one knows how this is going to turn out tomorrow. So if even 2,000 Democrats show up tomorrow and the margin is 2,000, well then we've made a difference. And it's all predicated on the fact that Mitt Romney is incredibly weak as a candidate. This is his home state. Rick Santorum is a religious fanatic who has absolutely zero reason being in this race other than the fact that Mitt can't close the deal.

BURNETT: It does sound like you think Mitt is stronger than Rick. That's why you are doing this, but however you and Rush Limbaugh, I get it. That works on both sides. Thanks to both, Joe.

DISANO: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. Joining us now is David Frum and James Carville Republican and Democrat respectively. All right, let me start with you, David Frum. What do you think about this? The Santorum campaign saying hey look, we're going to admit it. We're doing robo calls to the whole state of Michigan saying hey Democrats come over and vote for Rick Santorum. Is this insanity?

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I think it's nostalgia that Rick Santorum remembers a time when there were a lot of socially conservative Democrats who were not averse to the Republican economic message. The famous Reagan Democrats of 30 years ago. I think this is a case where you see a kind of, the weakness of the Santorum campaign staffing operation is those people are not there in the strength they used to be and the place where the Independents today are, they are disaffiliated Republicans. There are on the Independent side, to be more on the far right than they are on this Reagan Democrat middle. And the action of course is to among the best educated, the most affluent and those people will be pulled to Mitt Romney not to Rick Santorum.

BURNETT: James Carville, what do you think? That they actually think these people could vote for them or this is just a pure spoil play?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well first of all, it's hard enough to get Democrats to vote in a Democratic primary. I doubt he's going to have very much luck getting them to vote in the Republic primary. This kind of thing has been done before. I think Rush Limbaugh had an operation chaos --

BURNETT: Yes he did.

CARVILLE: -- in Pennsylvania in '08, you know so my experience with (INAUDIBLE) always not very successful. He's trying to scrap every vote here and you know some of the Democratic organizations in Michigan had sort of talked about this, but my guess is its effect is going to be fairly negligible. I hope maybe I'll be proven wrong but we'll see.

BURNETT: Well one group that has been very pro-Rick Santorum of course, a lot of blue collar voters, he's been strong with that group, people without college degrees as well and there's been a little bit of a back and forth now between Rick Santorum and the president, maybe indicating the president takes him more seriously as a competitor, but here's Rick Santorum criticizing the president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob. I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.


BURNETT: And here is the president fighting back.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to make a point here. When I speak about higher education, we're not just talking about a four-year degree. We're talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door, handling a million dollar piece of equipment.


BURNETT: There are so many pejorative words out there lately, James. Call someone a snob, call them --


BURNETT: You know.

CARVILLE: You know I guess it kind of, to the extent that there's civility on cable TV, I guess to some extent I'm governed by -- I am stunned -- not (INAUDIBLE) of what he said, but the idiocy of what he said. That the president is telling people you've got to be trained beyond high school, be like a trade school or community college. That he's bee very supportive of, even a four-year college, I mean I just cannot believe how -- I'm floored by somebody who was brought up by a mother who believed in education above anything else. I'm sure most people in the United States were. I'm just floored at that remark. I really am and it takes a lot to floor me in politics.

BURNETT: David Frum, I wanted to play something else that Rick Santorum said. It's pretty interesting. Here he's talking about gas prices.


SANTORUM: We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices. The bubble burst in housing because people couldn't pay their mortgages because we're looking at $4 a gallon gasoline.


BURNETT: Now David Frum I talked to an economist today, Dan Greenhaus (ph) from BTIG (ph). He says of course that is false.

FRUM: Yes. BURNETT: Gas prices did not help the economy, but obviously did not cause people not to be able to pay their mortgages. But where is Rick Santorum getting all of this?

FRUM: Well I think a lot of it he's probably getting it from the Internet late at night. It really matters. It really matters --

BURNETT: At least that's what he's doing late at night.

FRUM: But I want to go back to this point about the staffing. You saw it in that last debate, where Rick Santorum was surprised by an audacious attack that Romney launched at him. Rick Santorum has been coming (ph) to this with a game that is -- it's like a very good high school athlete suddenly arriving in a college or professional league, that he is up against people who really prepare, who have really done the research. Romney has behind him America's leading conservative economists, people like Glenn Hubbard (ph) and Greg Manque (ph).

I don't know who's giving Rick Santorum his economic advice and so you wing it on the fly. What you also see with Santorum is he's a person who has very powerful nostalgic ideas. He's got a vision of how America was and he's often just wrong on the facts. He's wrong on the fact, for example, that going to college makes you less religious.

Actually, not going to college is the thing that makes you fastest become less religious. We've seen more church attendance on people who do go to college than we do -- and we've seen a sharper decline among people who don't. But he has -- he has a set of very powerful convictions that are informed by his perception about the way the world ought to be more than the way the world is.

BURNETT: All right, well on that eloquent note, we will leave it there. Gentlemen thanks.

FRUM: Thank you.

BURNETT: Well Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum neck and neck in Michigan, but there are a number of reasons why President Obama could slam them both and a deadly bombing in Afghanistan today. Was this the Taliban's response to the Koran burning?


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

First, one student dead in the Ohio high school shooting today. Daniel Parmetor is his named. Four others are injured, two in critical condition tonight. One in serious and one stable.

The alleged gunman is in custody. Students identified the shooter as T.J. Lane. The shooting happened this morning inside the cafeteria at Chardon High School in Ohio.

Number two, the death of a California fifth grader has been ruled a homicide. Joanna Ramos dies of blunt force trauma to the head according to a coroner's report obtained by CNN. Long Beach police said the 10-year-old got into a fight Friday after school with another girl. Her family says she threw up and complained of a headache. Just hours later, she died. The family said Joanna and the other girl fought over a boy.

Number three: WikiLeaks has started to release e-mails taken from Stratfor, which is a private intelligence firm.

Stratfor tells OUTFRONT that, quote, "This is another attempt to silence and intimidate the company and one we reject. Stratfor will continue to publish the geopolitical analysis our friends subscribers have come to rely on."

WikiLeaks claims to have more than 500 million e-mails, which the group says shows that Stratfor provided confidential intelligence services to companies.

Number four: pending home sales were up 2 percent in January, to a nearly two-year high. The National Association of Realtors which tracks signed contracts for homes rose to a reading of 97.

Now, just take that with a grain of salt. Two-year high, but still, below 200. You have to be above 100 to be considered to be positive. Economists say that this is a modest improvement and the housing market is still has a long way to go.

Well, if housing needs fixed, so might our debt problem be. It has been 207 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing do get it back tonight?

Well, if we don't do something, we might go in the direction of Greece. Standard & Poor's cut the country credit to a selective default. Whatever that is, it's not good.

We told you about the plane, the emergency landing in Newark tonight. Newark Airport is shut down as of 6:45 p.m. Eastern completely. Everyone on this plane was OK. But the plane had a nose gear landing issue, had to land. Everyone had to evacuate on emergency chutes and then be taken on buses to the terminal.

I believe it was a Shuttle America that was going from Atlanta to Newark. Again, everyone on the plane safe, but it did have to do a full emergency landing and Newark airport, one of the busiest in the country, is fully shut down right now.

Tonight, a revolt in Afghanistan over the burning of Korans at a NATO base last week. At least nine killed, 12 wounded in an explosion near Jalalabad airport. The Taliban took responsibility, saying it was retaliation for the Koran burning.

Now, the Taliban also claimed responsibility for contaminated food that showed up at a U.S. base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

After a week of violence, 35 people have been killed including four American soldiers in retaliation for the Koran incident. President Obama has apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, saying the burning was an inadvertent error.

Today, the U.S. government went out of its way to reassure Americans and the Afghan government about the security situation of the country, and for good reason. Consider the cost of this war to the United States. It is the longest war in American history, 1,895 Americans have died, 15,000 have been wounded.

Total spending on this war: about $555 billion. Reconstruction: $86 billion. And training Afghan security forces: $51 billion just through the end of last year.

The poor state of Afghan security forces, some of whom are suspected of having militant ties are the big part of why the United States says it's still sticking around. In fact, our troops will be in Afghanistan to police until the end of 2014.

And when you think of the human costs and financial costs to this war. You have a goal question out there -- is it worth it? And, well, what defines mission accomplished from here?

Seth Jones is senior political scientist with Rand Corporation and author of "Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qaeda After 9/11".

Alex Berenson has been embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan is the author of "Shadow Patrol."

All right. Great to have you with us. Appreciate it.

What have we learned, Alex, from this? I know, when we were talking Friday, you said this is a sign of occupation reaches an end. Here we are -- a terrifying end for the United States --

ALEX BERENSON, AUTHOR, "SHADOW PATROL": I think we've learned just how fragile the gains we've made in the last few years are, and how easy -- how likely it is that they'll be reversed once we pull out. Which doesn't mean that we shouldn't pull out, it just means that we may have done as much we can do.

BURNETT: Seth, it seems also to highlight something that just shocks Americans. Maybe it doesn't surprise them, but shocks them. I mean, with this amount of money and life and lives destroyed of all those wounded soldiers and this is where we are?

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: Yes. No, I would also say in fairness that there have been riots in Afghanistan, including serious riots in the past. What's interesting in this case is how long this persists for. If this fizzles out within the next two to three days, I think this may be a footnote in the war over the past 10 years!

BURNETT: All right. But even so, it does highlight the fact -- you know, some were saying, well, look, even after the troops leave Afghanistan, if they stay until 2014, someone said today, we need 25,000 or so advisers to help Afghanistan? Those advisers are people who have to go in without security, without wearing bulletproof vests and risk their lives. They're the people shot this weekend by an Afghani.

So, are we going to want to do that?

JONES: Well, I think the issue is what kind of model to we have going forward? There is a field model of large American forces in Afghanistan. But I think there's a more useful model. Look at the way the U.S. operated in El Salvador, in Colombia, in the Philippines, in Indonesia. Much smaller numbers and Special Operations and intelligence forces to train and work against units.

BERENSON: I think -- I mean, I think that's what we're talking about and these will not necessarily be the people who are not -- who are not armed and who can't defend themselves. And, by the way, they'll also be people who can maybe able to go into Pakistan if the need arises and that something that doesn't really get talked about that much.

You know, as a novelist, I love talking about the possibility that troops who are supposedly in Afghanistan really wind up in Pakistan for one reason.

BURNETT: In the longest war in the region.

BERENSON: Exactly.

BURNETT: But what defines their mission accomplished? I mean, that seems to be the problem. No one can define what it is to have -- I mean, first, it was toppling the Taliban. If so, we won 10 years ago. If it was getting rid of Osama bin Laden, you won last summer.

I don't know what winning is now.

JONES: Well, I think winning now, what it should be from an American interest is preventing an al Qaeda supported Taliban and Haqqani Network from taking over the government. That's a pretty modest goal and I think that's actually achievable in the long run, but it's not a strong, central government. It's not a democratic state per se.

BERENSON: I would -- I'd agree with that and I'd say it's quite possible that the Haqqanis, that the Pashtuns really as a whole will wind up in control of southern Afghanistan and some of those -- some possibly will be under Taliban control. But we will have forces in the north to prevent the Taliban from sweeping up and taking Kabul and taking all of Afghanistan.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it.

And viewers, please, at social media, go on our Twitter and let us know what you think. Do you know what winning is in Afghanistan? And do you think it's worth staying in for American troops?

Well, Russia says an attempt on Vladimir Putin's life was foiled. But how real was the assassination threat? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: So, we do this at the same time every night -- our "Outer Circle," where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And tonight to Russia. A plot to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been foiled according to Russia state-run media, which says that security agents in Ukraine recently arrested a group of suspects who have confessed to planning a hit on the Russian leader. Now, the alleged plot was uncovered after an explosion at an apartment building killed one of the plotters and injured another. These revelations come at a crucial time in Russian politics. Voters are going to the polls this weekend to vote for a new president, an election that Putin is expected to win easily, but not without descent.

CNN's Phil Black is in Moscow and I spoke with him earlier and asked him what we know about this assassination plot.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, according to the state controlled network, the men confessed their plan which was to travel to Moscow to attack what they described as economic targets, but with the ultimate goal of attempting to assassinate the current prime minister, current presidential candidate, Vladimir Putin, and apparently confessed that they were going to do this using a military mine to attack his motorcade. The report doesn't mention just where they hope to get that sort of hardware from.

BURNETT: And it did seem it was potentially a suicide attack, at least according to the state television, right?

BLACK: Well, they -- the people asked about both. Would they be prepared to do so? And were they planning to do so?

The one suspect that was interviewed in this particular network show says, no, he didn't want to do it and they weren't planning to do it, but his two other comrades in arms were certainly prepared to die if it achieved the death of Vladimir Putin.

BURNETT: Of course, looking at the pictures of the man as they caught him, it's pretty incredible video.

But I know there's a lot of skepticism, Phil -- with the election coming up. Putin wanting to ensure that he will win easily.

Is it possible that this, quote-unquote, "attack", assassination is, well -- made up?

BLACK: Well, no one's saying this simply couldn't happen because it certainly could. Putin has enemies particularly within his own country, particularly among Islamists, who he has waged two brutal wars against.

But the timing of these revelations I think is what people and particularly his critics and opponents consider to be suspiciously convenient. This plot has been known about by authorities for close to two months now and it has only being now being made public by a state owned network, just days before this country's presidential vote where Putin hopes to be elected to return to the position again.


BURNETT: Now, we got to Syria where opposition activists report 144 were killed across the country today, including 64 who activists say died in a horrifying massacre at a Homs checkpoint.

Now, in the midst of the violence, some aid and rescue efforts are underway.

Nic Robertson reports on evacuations made by the Syrian Red Crescent today.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The ICRC, the International Committee for the Red Cross, spent all day in Homs, working with the Syrian Red Cross, trying to get into the Baba Amr neighborhood. The Syrian Red Crescent got in late in the evening. They came out of Baba Amr with an elderly woman, a pregnant woman and her husband, but none of the wounded international journalists. Edith Bouvier, the French journalist, Phil Conroy, the "Sunday Times" photographer, they didn't come out with the Syrian Red Crescent.

Activists in Baba Amr say that there was a one-hour lull in shelling while the Syrian Red Crescent came into the area. As soon as they left, they said that the shelling began again with an intensity and the reason that they say that international journalists didn't leave with the Syrian Crescent is that they don't trust these Syrian workers, that they want the help of the International Committee for the Red Cross, not the Syrian Red Crescent.


BURNETT: All right. Thanks to Nic Robertson reporting from Beirut tonight.

Now, let's check in with Soledad O'Brien. She's in for Anderson with a look at "A.C. 360."

Hey, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Erin. Thank you very much. Likewise.

We're going to have much more on the breaking news this evening ahead on "360". A chilling firsthand account of what happened in that school cafeteria this morning, at that high school in Ohio. There were five bullets that were fired. One struck our guest. His name is Nate Mueller. We're going to hear what it was like to watch the alleged shooter pull the trigger and how Nate was able to survive it.

Also, keeping them honest on "360". On the very same day that the Assad regime announced support for a new constitution, at least 188 people were killed in Syria. That's according to the opposition.

This morning -- this evening, rather, we're going to speak to the family of Marie Colvin. She, of course, is the American war correspondent who died covering that story. Her mother and her brother and sister will talk to us on what their hopes are for her memory.

Erin, back to you.

BURNETT: All right, Soledad. Looking forward to all that. See you in just a few moments.

O'BRIEN: Thanks.

BURNETT: Well now, a plot line straight out of a Hollywood script. Tails of another woman, an S&M dungeon and murder for hire. But is any of this true?

Nearly, five weeks after 56-years-old Jane Bashara was found strangled to death in the backseat of her Mercedes, this was in Detroit, police still haven't charged anyone with her murder. But that could change later this week. Investigators tonight awaiting the results of lab tests on materials found in the garage of the home she shared with her husband, Bob.

Now, Bob Bashara has denied any involvement in his wife's death. A handyman has told police that Bashara paid him several thousand dollars and a used Cadillac to kill her.

This story, though, has changed a few times, which has called it into question.

Sunny Hostin is a CNN contributor and legal analyst. He's been following the case for us.

I mean, this is a bizarre case needless to say. I mean, I remember when it first happened, it seemed that it could perhaps have been an act of random violence.


BURNETT: We did not know anything about multiple mistresses, pay for hire and sex dungeons.

HOSTIN: And sex dungeons -- that's right. And it has evolved because the investigation is still evolving. What I find so peculiar, though, Erin, about this case, as you mentioned, there is someone who had confessed to the crime. He said he did it and he was paid by Bob Bashara to do it.

BURNETT: The handyman.

HOSTIN: The handyman.

Yes, the police let him go. And so, that tells me as a former prosecutor, they don't believe his story. They don't believe that he is the guy. They're looking at someone else. Now, we know that the Grosse Point Police Department, they've indicated that Bob Bashara is the only person of interest. They're not saying that he's a suspect, but they have identified him as a person of interest.

So, you know, investigative school 101 is that you keep on investigating, you keep on investigating, you're trying to sort of smoke out your target.

BURNETT: Let me ask you a question, though, because the handyman, in addition to telling multiple stories, but then this is the one that he stuck with, right? That he was paid cash and a Cadillac. So, he did have a Cadillac confiscated. That was registered to Joe Bashara.

HOSTIN: But the police had let it go now. They don't have a Cadillac anymore.

BURNETT: OK. So that's confusing to me.

But also, if Joe Bashara really paid the handyman to do this, why would he pay him in car that's registered in his name? That is dumb.

HOSTIN: That's right. It doesn't make sense.

And I think that's why investigators really seem to have called into question that handyman's account, it just doesn't make investigative sense. And again, I think we're going to learn a little bit more about this case because lab results are coming back. They've taken a lot of tests.

But what I do also like about this case, Erin, is that there is no rush to judgment. They are taking their time and that's what we need in a case like this where there are just so many open questions.

BURNETT: Someone -- I mean, you know, as bizarre as it tells me, someone was horribly murdered.

HOSTIN: That's right.

BURNETT: You want to take your time and get it right. Thanks, Sunny.

HOSTIN: Thanks.

BURNETT: Well, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spending millions upon millions upon millions to win the GOP nomination. Oh, it just may be completely dwarfed by many millions more. Their money may not matter. That's true.

And Meryl Streep picked up her third Oscar last night. We're going to tell you something about Meryl Streep that you probably don't know.


BURNETT: Mitt Romney tied with Rick Santorum heading into Michigan tomorrow and Mitt has a money problem. Wow. Yes. Despite raising and spending almost 10 times what Rick Santorum has, the Romney campaign now has less than $8 million in cash on hand. Well, that's not good news for a candidate like Mitt Romney who has out-spent his opponents by a factor of five-to-one in the states that he has won.

And that brings us to tonight's number, $75 million. That's the amount of cash on hand President Obama's campaign has heading into the fall's election. As an incumbent, he doesn't actively campaign during the primary season but he still raised a lot of money. So far, $130 million, to be exact. He spent $60 million.

Now, none of these numbers include super PACs. Mitt Romney better hope his super PAC grows like a house on fire because in 2008, President Obama spent $730 million during his campaign. Ands that means that Mitt's current five-to-one spending to win ratio to beat Obama, he'd have to spend $3.6 billion.

All right. Meryl Streep won the Oscar last night. In tonight's essay, we'll tell you why we like Meryl Streep so much and why there might be a bigger deal about this.


BURNETT: It seems that a lot of media talk about celebrities focuses on who's dating whom, who's cheating on whom, who's doing drugs, who's on rehab, salacious and, frankly, often bad stuff.

But even if we're not celebrating their bad behavior, we often tend to glamorize it. That's why I was so happy to see Meryl Streep win the Oscar last night for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."

Meryl Streep took home her third Academy Award at yesterday's ceremony. Now, the thing about it was she seemed genuinely surprised that she won and she used her acceptance speech to tearfully thank her husband of 33 years and then her makeup artist of 37 years.

That's the kind of loyalty you don't see a lot these days, especially in Hollywood. It's one of the reasons why Meryl Streep was so popular.

The other reason, of course, is because she's really so good at what she does, the most honored actor in Oscar history. Her reputation of hard work and the ability to do any accent has helped her become a part of film history. And that is only fitting because history is so important to her.

So, the usually really private actress recently signed on as the face of the National Women's Museum. It currently exists only on the Internet. But Meryl and others are trying to find it a brick and mortar home near the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Financing for the $400 million museum is being raised privately. And Merrill has quite literally putting her money where her mouth is. She's donated $1 million to this cause. Now, I'm sure Meryl will be the first to say, hey, I'm not perfect. Here's all the problems in my life.

We all have problems and no one is perfect. But in the world that sometimes seems to be lacking real role models, it was so comforting to see someone who is celebrated just because she worked so hard and live a great life.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.