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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Russia Rips Romney; JetBlue Pilot; Health Care Mandate

Aired March 27, 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: The Russian president rips Mitt Romney today. Jeffrey Toobin called the Supreme Court hearing a train wreck for the Obama administration and Harry Reid tries to rip him, but doesn't get away with it and a JetBlue pilot has to be restrained by six passengers. It's a big day. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight sandbox politics. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney set off some alarms from Washington to Moscow when he said this about Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world's worst actors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: This is the same man who warns that quote "a China that is a prosperous tyranny will increasingly pose problems for us" and that quote "The Iranian leadership is the greatest immediate threat to the world." Lame duck Russian leader Medvedev fired back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): It is very reminiscent of Hollywood in a certain period of history. My first advice is to listen to reason when they formulate their positions. Reason never harmed a presidential candidate. My other advice is to check their clocks from time to time. It is 2012 not the mid 1970's.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Hold on. Dmitry Medvedev calling Romney Hollywood? Sort of interesting considering his boss, Vladimir Putin enjoys a little Hollywood glamour and staging himself. You know like the tiger he was seen shooting with a tranquilizer in 2008 that ended up being a tamed cat from the zoo. And there in 2009 vacationing in the rugged Siberian region of Tuva riding a horse shirtless as you know we all do and those ancient jugs Putin proudly retrieved off the coast of Greece late last year that were planted for him ahead of time. Well (INAUDIBLE) Hollywood antics aside, the Russians weren't the only ones tough on Romney today. The speaker of the House, John Boehner had something to say to his party's likely nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: Clearly the president is overseas. He's at a conference. And you know while the president is overseas I think it is appropriate that people not be critical of him or of our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Finally.

(SOUNDS)

BURNETT: He is the winner in today's game of sandbox politics because it sounds like the speaker was trying to rise above the rhetoric which all started with a little moment caught on camera on a live mic yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. And after my election I have more flexibility.

MEDVEDEV: I understand. I transmit this information to Vladimir and I stand with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well that comment to the Russian president was about the missile defense shield that President Obama has championed and Russia vehemently opposes. It overshadowed a lot of the president's trip this week to Seoul for an important nuclear summit and in midst the uproar including on this show where we pointed out that compromising on something Russia desperately wants while Russia arms Syria's leaders is problematic, so today the president tried to explain himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: First of all are the mics on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

OBAMA: Look, what I said yesterday (INAUDIBLE) is I think something that everybody in this room understands. Arms control is extraordinarily complex and very technical and the only way it gets done is if you can consult and build a strong basis of understanding both between countries as well as within countries. I don't think it is any surprise that you can't start that a few months before a presidential and congressional election in the United States and at a time when they just completed elections in Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK, when the explanation is a lot longer and more obtuse than the offense you might have been better off letting a live mic lie. The only winner today looks like Speaker Boehner with his statesmanlike support of the president.

Michael Waldman joins us now, Reihan Salam and John Avlon, all right great to have all of you with us. We had to have a little fun there with that. I mean you know it's hard for anybody linked to Vladimir Putin to make fun of the Hollywood thing. But let me just ask you this, Reihan, did Mitt Romney make a mistake here coming out on this particular issue?

REIHAN SALAM, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY: It might have been a bit of an overstatement, but I think he is absolutely right to be skeptical of Russia's stringent (ph) motivations. The Russians have behaved as a very bad actor in a number of regions. They certainly have talked about aiding Iran in terms of providing them with sophisticated air defenses. They have stymied our ability to engage in diplomatic settlements around the world. And also they are very threatening to a lot of states in Central and Eastern Europe who really are our core allies, so I think there is good reason to be skeptical of Russia.

BURNETT: Michael, what about the president trying to give a very, very long explainer to I think what is clear to say was a mistake --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: -- to say, to be overheard at least. I mean --

MICHAEL WALDMAN, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF SPEECHWRITER: Yes, it's interesting. He doesn't usually make these kinds of open mic booboos the way a lot of people do so it was unusual for him. What is interesting to me is that given that this should be a bit of a net loss for the president, Romney has made it much worse for himself. This kind of bluster about Russia is our number one strategic enemy. Last week it was Iran. Everybody knows that the relationship with China in a lot of ways is the most important we have going forward. It just looked like between the president of Russia and the president of the United States and Romney he was the one who was not presidential.

BURNETT: Well he was -- I mean there was something -- you know we polled those to be saying every week that someone is the biggest threat. They are all crucial geopolitical issues, threats, whatever word you want to use, Reihan, but it did seem that he was the most simplistic.

SALAM: Let's not forget the key thing. Last week the Russian president was engaging a tremendous bluster about the missile defense shield. He was saying we are going to take some kind of action without specifying what that action would be. Why, because the United States and its allies in Southern Europe and in Eastern Europe want to build a missile defense shield to protect those states presumably against the threat from Iran. And then Russia (INAUDIBLE) tremendous bluster, what happens when they engage in that kind of bluster? The president then says well you know --

BURNETT: Well you may not want to --

SALAM: I have more flexibility after my reelection --

BURNETT: Right, which I think is what Michael is saying, right? That's a potential issue.

WALDMAN: Look, you don't want to negotiate in public especially not with an overheard mic. But in the context of a presidential campaign like this it just -- it wasn't great for President Obama but it made it less of a winning issue --

SALAM: It is also not great for Poland (ph). That's what I'm worried about. If you are Poland (ph) how do you feel when the president is caught saying this kind of thing when he thinks no one is listening. That's what I'm concerned about and yes maybe it's good for him, not good for him politically --

BURNETT: Well most Americans --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Most Americans are not that worried about Poland (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: I mean some are. Some are, but I mean they are more worried about themselves --

WALDMAN: What President Obama said he's open to lots of interpretations and it could be that he's waiting to consult with Congress and consult with the military? Just like he said nobody wants to negotiate in this crazy political --

BURNETT: OK, let's go to the one winner though because what John Boehner said, John Avlon was pretty incredible. He did not take the opportunity to jump on the president. He said actually back off. This isn't the time to pick on him.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was a rare and welcome moment of old school statesmanship; you know that old Washington wisdom that partisanship ends at the water's edge. You don't criticize the president when he's abroad and it was welcome. Look, I think President Obama's mic slip raises real legitimate questions about the fact he hasn't really laid out a vision for a second term yet but Romney's gap really just compounds a problem we have seen throughout this campaign, which is talk of foreign policy has really been limited to saber-rattling and that is insufficient to the responsibilities of being president, so the only one that comes out looking good here is John Boehner and congratulations for him for kind of raising the bar.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean I have to say I thought that was very -- it wasn't necessary. He didn't have to comment at all but he chose to, to make -- to throw the olive branch out.

SALAM: I think that's a legitimate point and I think that who knows? Perhaps it's -- you know because John Boehner is looking forward to working with the president in the future, it's hard to say, but I think that it certainly was a sensible thing of him to do. WALDMAN: You know Speaker Boehner often looks like he's a sensible person trapped in the craziness of his own Congress and sometimes the intense ideological view of his own caucus -- we saw that in his efforts to get a big deal --

BURNETT: Last summer we certainly did see that --

WALDMAN: -- last summer and you know this may be a glimpse of the real Speaker Boehner who might want to be one of these statesmen who can reach across the aisle.

BURNETT: Reihan, why do you look so (INAUDIBLE) by that --

SALAM: It is deeply sensible to be concerned about Russian behavior, about erratic Russian behavior. President Medvedev is a guy who in the past was reaching out to the West and was you know extending olive branches and then now he's engaging this very bellicose rhetoric before -- you know before Putin comes back into the center of the show --

BURNETT: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BURNETT: Boehner wasn't defending that. He was just saying this isn't the time --

(CROSSTALK)

SALAM: But again it is deeply sensible to be concerned about Russian behavior and it's also deeply sensible for an American president to send clear signals about who our friends are and about how we are going to respond to a bellicose Russian --

BURNETT: Final word, does he need to really clarify what he meant there, because he didn't do it today?

WALDMAN: The president has a year to clarify, but Romney can't just use the etch-a-sketch on this one. This is the kind of not ready for prime time attitude on foreign policy --

SALAM: (INAUDIBLE) is right. It was Barack Obama who is the etch-a-sketch this time --

BURNETT: Well if flexible means what it appeared to mean I guess there's a lot of etch-a-sketch, but you know what, etch-a-sketch is kind of a lot of politicians. Maybe I'm just really cynical. OK. We are going to take a break. The latest from the hearing for the Supreme Court, will it derail the president's health care mandate? There was some real fire on this one involving our own Jeff Toobin and he's up next.

Plus a JetBlue pilot was restrained by passengers during a flight today to Las Vegas and some new information in the Trayvon Martin case tonight. Are protesters getting away from what's important?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right breaking news -- a JetBlue pilot forced an emergency landing today when he ran through the aisles of his plane reportedly screaming about bombs and telling passengers the plane could go down. Take a look at this video from inside the plane shot by a passenger. The captain reportedly went on the rant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) aircraft. This will take another minute so please bear with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: After emerging from the bathroom he was subdued by a group of passengers. He even put a chokehold -- one of them put a chokehold on him as he was trying to break back into the cockpit. The plane was bound to Las Vegas from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. And the emergency landing was in Amarillo, Texas. It actually now after the diversion took all day has just landed in Las Vegas literally a moment ago. It is on the tarmac. Jason Levin (ph) is on that plane, he was on the plane this morning and he joins us on the phone. Jason, so obviously you have landed safely. Was it still -- the same people who were on your flight this morning. It must have been a little scary.

JASON LEVIN, PASSENGER ON DIVERTED JETBLUE FLIGHT (via phone): Yes. To say the least it was.

BURNETT: So tell me exactly what happened, what he said and when you realize something went wrong?

LEVIN: Well he came out of the cockpit pretty unannounced and just started speaking irately, not really understanding what was going on. And he decided to walk to the back of the plane in a nutshell that's what it is and then he decided to then bang on the cockpit door and the bathroom door demanding it to be open and hitting -- yelling give me the code, give me the code to get in, telling the pilot to put it in idle, put it in idle and then that's when everyone jumped up. The front six rows of men subdued him and just took him down to the ground.

BURNETT: Where were you sitting, Jason?

LEVIN: First row, front row two feet away, first row --

BURNETT: So you were part -- you were one of the people restraining him?

LEVIN: I was one of the -- (INAUDIBLE) say I was the seventh person of the six people holding him down. I was behind them, just helping them and getting the seat belts restraints to them, giving them direction on how they should be able to do it and just trying to ask for handcuffs, restraints, seat belts, whatever it took.

BURNETT: And tell me what he was saying. I mean we've heard that he was talking about bombs. He may have used the words "Israel" or "Afghanistan". Can you remember some of the words or phrases he used specifically?

LEVIN: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Jason, can you hear me?

LEVIN: I thought I lost you.

BURNETT: That's all right. I know you're literally --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Just (INAUDIBLE) to our viewers Jason is literally just sitting on the plane as it landed.

LEVIN: Yes.

BURNETT: Jason, I was asking you, could you remember any of the specific words he used? Did he use the word bomb?

LEVIN: He -- no, I did not hear that. I was first and foremost the closest to him. I never heard that word. I don't know why people are saying that. He did yell Israel. He did yell Iran. He did yell we got him, we got him, yes, yes, that type of thing. More like not a terrorist type of thing to say, but more America, we got them you know that type of thing. So I don't feel it was any terrorist type of situation at all.

BURNETT: And when you were restraining him, how hard did he fight back? Did you get to look in his eyes and get any sense of whether he was completely there or was just not with it?

LEVIN: He was not yelling like that. He was just -- he was irate, but we were able to subdue him. Once they got him down to the ground everyone just stood on top of him, knees to his back, restraints around his ankles, and just held him down, everyone, these six big guys just -- and just held him down so he wouldn't move.

BURNETT: And how did the professionals on board -- the flight attendants, how did they handle the situation --

LEVIN: The flight attendants, the crew was unbelievable. Unbelievable crew, if I ever fly again it would be with them. They were unbelievable. Unbelievable crew, they were calm. They kept everyone together. We all worked together.

BURNETT: And Jason, what's your background? You sound like you know a lot about restraining -- I mean you know what you were doing. You were the right guy to be sitting there?

LEVIN: Well it was -- as a matter of fact the whole plane basically is filled with security professionals. There is a security conference (INAUDIBLE) this week and basically we are all security professionals in the alarm field, surveillance field, things of that nature.

BURNETT: That's a pretty incredible coincidence. I have to say that is amazing and I hadn't realized that.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Jason, before you go, you are actually alive --

LEVIN: Yes, I am actually alive --

BURNETT: Yes, you are.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: You are --

LEVIN: Was that you guys here? I don't even know.

BURNETT: You are alive. I want to play a clip, Jason, if you can hear this of what we have --

(CROSSTALK)

LEVIN: I'm on live with CNN right now. Go ahead, I hear you.

BURNETT: Sorry to our viewers. This is what happens. You know it is like when you land and I can't -- none of us can imagine what it is like when you land in this situation. Everyone wants to talk to you. Jason, here is a quick clip of what the captain said. I wanted to play it for you and get you to react and tell us you know how this played out. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God. I'm so distraught. We got Israel. We got Iraq.

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got Israel. We got Iraq. (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So it sounds like, Jason, it sounds like he said we've got Israel. We've got Iraq. We are going to get bombed, but he used the word distraught. LEVIN: Yes, he used the word, what, I didn't hear the word --

BURNETT: He used the word distraught. He said -- it sounded like he said I'm so distraught. Does that sound like what you heard?

LEVIN: That sounds -- yes, that sounds familiar. He was just -- he was banging to get in. He was -- yes, he was yelling things like that, nothing of terrorist nature or anything like that. It just seemed like something triggered him to go off the wall and he would be calm one minute and then all of a sudden turn --

BURNETT: How long was the whole incident, Jason?

LEVIN: Oh boy, well it took about 10 or so minutes of him just outside the cockpit door talking calmly to the flight crew. But it was kind of odd the way he was talking. I was trying to eavesdrop on the conversation because I thought something was odd the way that he came out of the cockpit unannounced and you know I know normally they put a barricade up. The flight crew comes off and stands guard. But he just opened up the door and there he was. So then the crew came up from the back and put the barricade up and started talking to him. He was speaking weirdly, oddly, he was talking to the female flight attendant in an odd way, also and then was showing his badge and saying what does this mean, what does this mean, asking questions and every time the flight attendant answered a question his response was why, why, why, why, why, like at least 20 whys of everything she said.

BURNETT: Oh.

LEVIN: And then the next thing you know he pushed the cart out of the way and he ran to the back of the plane. And then that's when he went to the back to get two bottles of water which he was already drinking two up front and he stopped half way up to speak to a random passenger and then that's when he ran to the cockpit door and the bathroom door and banged on it like he wanted to break in like it is nobody's business, yelling to open up, give me the code, put the throttle on idle, put the throttle on idle and that's when -- that's when everyone just moved --

BURNETT: So Jason, I just want you to know what we are looking at right now is actually your plane from an aerial shot, so we have the helicopter shot looking down, so we're looking at you somewhere in that plane.

LEVIN: OK.

BURNETT: One final question. Were you worried you were going to die?

LEVIN: There was a thought of that right when it all happened. Your family goes through your mind. All I can think of was my wife and my twin children and that's the only thing I could think of and that's (INAUDIBLE) this can't happen. (INAUDIBLE) and we got out of it thank goodness. If it was going to happen it happened at the right time and the right place.

BURNETT: Well and certainly thanks to you and those sitting next to you --

LEVIN: Yes.

BURNETT: -- and your heroism, so thank you so much Jason for being with us.

LEVIN: Yes. You're welcome.

BURNETT: I hope your wife -- I hope your wife got to hear you here tonight.

Well Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the man famous for landing a plane on New York's Hudson River is with us now and Captain Sullenberger I don't know if you had a chance to hear the passenger there and obviously emotional there at the end. What do you think listening to that and his rendition, what do you think happened?

CAPTAIN CHESLEY SULLENBERGER, PILOT WHO LANDED PLANE ON HUDSON RIVER: Well Erin good to be with you. I don't know. It's obvious that there was some incapacity on the part of this individual. And I'm very heartened to know that it was recognized quickly and both crew and passengers acted effectively and quickly to subdue him. And obviously the first officer made good choices and was able to get the airplane safely to a diversion airport very quickly and that would have been a high work level with just one pilot in the cockpit.

BURNETT: So do you think -- I mean some people are saying, I mean obviously there was the recent experience with the flight attendant, and it is unclear what happened with her. She had a seizure or she was bipolar and obviously just because these things happen in a small window of time doesn't mean that there is a whole trend of these things happening. But people will ask the question, the flying public with full planes and exhausted flight crews who work very long hours. Is there something that we should be concerned about?

SULLENBERGER: This is a very rare incident. In fact I have been flying for over 40 years, 30 as an airline pilot, I've never heard of something like this happening before. But we are trained to deal with incapacity on the part of other crew members, and we have a protocol for recognizing it and acting on it. This was a very unusual circumstance and I'm very happy that it had a good outcome. We shouldn't be concerned about this. But there are underlying fundamental issues that we should be aware of in the airline industry.

You mentioned fatigue. And it will be another two years until the new fatigue rules are in place, will improve over our situation now getting pilots enough rest. Equally important and this rule is about to be published in the next several months by the FAA, is an increase in the minimum level of pilot flying experience necessary to be an airline pilot. Right now unbelievably to me a first officer, a copilot on an airplane, typically a regional airliner can have as little as 250 hours and we're trying desperately to get it up to 1,500 hours but industry lobbyists are fighting us.

And April 30th is the end of the public comment period and after that the final rule will be published by the FAA. So it is important that we not water down the pilot experience rule because had the pilot had less experience it would have been that much more difficult to handle this situation by him or her self and get the airplane safely on the ground.

BURNETT: Wow, certainly -- I hope that a lot of people heard that. Thank you very much Captain Sullenberger. It certainly seems very clear if anyone is watching that that should be something that should get changed immediately on the experience legislation.

Well the biggest day at the Supreme Court since Bush versus Gore. That's what our resident (ph) Supreme Court analyst Jeffrey Toobin called this crucial day as the justices considered the most central question to the president's health care law. Is the health care mandate, individual mandate provision which requires Americans to buy health insurance or else get a penalty, constitutional? Well the answer may lie in just one justice. One justice may be all that matters. Justice Kennedy and here are some pointed questioning he had today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, SUPREME COURT: "And here the government is saying that the federal government has a duty to tell the individual citizen that it must act, and that is different from what we have in previous cases."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well --

KENNEDY: "That changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in the very fundamental way."

BURNETT: All right, John Avlon is with us along with Jeffrey Toobin and Jeffrey Toobin you have become a player in this yourself. You called the proceedings today a train wreck for the White House. And then Harry Reid got very angry at you and here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I wouldn't bet on this, but I bet I have been in court a lot more than Jeffrey Toobin. And I have had arguments, federal circuit, Supreme Court and hundreds of times before trial courts and the questions you get from the judges doesn't mean that is what is going to wind up with the opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Go ahead.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He's my fellow legal analyst as well as a United States senator. Look I certainly defer to Harry Reid in terms of trial experience, but this Supreme Court, these justices, they don't play devil's advocate. When they talk, when they ask questions it is usually, not always, but usually easy to tell which way they are leaning. And it was quite clear today that there were four justices very strongly inclined to support the law, the four Democratic appointees and it looked to me like the four who spoke on the other side, Clarence Thomas didn't say anything, but his views on the subject are well known. It looked like the other four were looking to strike this law down. Five to four, this mandate looks like it is doomed to me.

BURNETT: What would you say, John Avlon? Would you agree with that? And also how about to some of the Americans who go are you kidding me, the Supreme Court, they are appointed for life. Why is this political?

AVLON: Right.

BURNETT: They should be the non political guys. That's the point.

AVLON: That is I think part of what Jeffrey is getting to --

BURNETT: Yes.

AVLON: -- is that we are not seeing justices play that impartial devil's advocate role anymore. The shock of course was that Justice Kennedy came out with some very tough lines of questioning. Of course that doesn't mean he as a predetermined outcome.

BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: But the fact that so many justices now reflect -- seem to reflect these partisan biases of the presidents that appoint them I think does take a lot of that -- the impartiality out of what we want to hear a Supreme Court justice say which is to hear all the facts and make a determination. So the fact that that one swing voter, Justice Kennedy, is the only swing voter who matters in this momentous election year issue is a big deal. And he did have a tough line of questioning against the government today.

BURNETT: A quick final word, Jeff Toobin, in five seconds, is the mandate going to fail?

TOOBIN: It looks that way. Interestingly the conservative justice who seemed most sympathetic to the Obama administration was John Roberts, the chief justice. He looks like their best choice for a favorable vote, but I wouldn't bet on it.

BURNETT: All right, we'll see what happens. Thanks to both and we've got Trayvon Martin up next and a Chinese murder mystery. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We 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 five.

First, the pope has just arrived in Havana, Cuba, for a meeting with President Raul Castro. It's Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to Cuba. The highlight of his visit will come tomorrow, that's when he will deliver a mass in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion, to what is expected to be hundreds of thousands of people.

Cuba and the Catholic Church have had strained relations for years, especially under the rule of Fidel Castro.

Number two, at least two people have been killed by a fast moving wildfire in Colorado. Officials say an elderly man and his wife were found dead in their homes. Another person is missing at this hour. Still, uncontrolled fire has consumed more than 4,500 acres in Jefferson County, which is just west of Denver.

The CNN severe weather team told OUTFRONT winds have been dying down and should remain calm tomorrow, which should help firefighters.

Number three: an attorney for Dominique Strauss-Kahn said today his client hasn't broken the law. The former IMF chief is under investigation for a charge of, quote, "aggravated pimping." It's a charge defined as taking profit from prostitution.

In France, using the service with prostitute is legal. Profiting from prostitution is against the law, and apparently somehow aggravated. The married 62 year old has admitted he attended sex parties but denies knowing women he slept with were being paid.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyer stressed today his client has done nothing wrong legally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HENRI LECLERC, LAWYER FOR DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN (via translator): We can criticize in terms of virtue, in terms of how a man should conduct himself. Everyone can say what they want in terms of morality. But here, we are stretching the law. It is being manipulated. It is as if the law punishes behavior, but in reality, this is just unruly conduct.

You can hate it. You may not find it virtuous. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but it is not a crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Number four, consumer confidence dropped slightly by 1.4 points in March. That was off the one year high, though. According to the index, the dip comes from people feeling upset about rising gas prices and having a lack of faith in the job market.

An analyst told OUTFRONT there is some strong news in the report, though, because more Americans say they plan to make a large purchase like a car or home in the next six months.

Well, it has been 236 days since the U.S. lost its credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Well, today, the House passed the bipartisan JOBS Act aimed at helping small businesses. The bill now heads to the president. He is expected to sign it into law, despite some protest from his party.

Well, more details today about 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. According to reports, the Florida teen who was shot and killed by 28- year-old neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman last month had been suspended from school three times over the past year. Now, in addition to finding traces of marijuana in his backpack, school officials suspended him for skipping class and defacing lockers with graffiti.

Martin's parents call the suspensions irrelevant as they attended a forum on racial profiling in Washington, D.C. And they continue to insist that their son was killed because he is black.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SYBRINA FULTON, SLAIN TEEN'S MOTHER: I would just like to say that, of course, my heart is broken. But it breaks even more to know that we have not gotten justice yet and that this man has not been arrested for shooting and killing my son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Athena Jones is covering the story for us in Washington tonight and she's here with the latest.

Athena, I know you were there at the hearing -- obviously very emotional.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, especially after that hearing. It took her several seconds to be even able to speak. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother.

And during the hearing itself, there were also of very strong words in particular from the two congresswomen from Florida who represents the communities that we're talking about here. Corrine Brown represents Sanford, which is where Trayvon was killed on February 26th. And Frederica Wilson is from Miami. She said she knew Trayvon's family.

Both of them talked about this botched investigation. Corrine Brown said that the family of Sanford feels like the system isn't working for them and that this has to be a teachable moment. And Representative Wilson said that she's going to be counting down the days until there is an arrest.

And that seems to be the overall focus of today's forum and that is seeking justice, giving these members of Congress a chance to show their support for the Martin -- Trayvon Martin's parents and also keep the pressure on to show that they want to see this case, see Zimmerman arrested and see this case tried in a court of law, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Athena.

Well, the case obviously is a lightning rod of controversy across the country. Allegations of racial profiling have motivated thousands to rally demanding the arrest of the neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. The question some have, though, is: is the country jumping the gun when we don't have all the information?

Reverend CL Bryant and CNN analyst Roland Martin are both OUTFRONT tonight.

And, Reverend, let me start with you. You have made the comment that Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Jesse Jackson, both of whom now are involved in this situation, are, quote, "exploiting the tragedy." What do you mean?

REV. CL BRYANT, FMR. NAACP PRESIDENT: Whenever there is something like this that occurs like Tawana Bradley or the Duke lacrosse team you can guarantee that two faces will show up in order to heighten the tension in this type of situation and they are usually Reverend Sharpton and Reverend Jackson.

Our hearts do go out to this mother because she's lost a son who is 17 years old. That, though, is an issue that I do believe justice will find its way to remedy.

BURNETT: Roland, how do you respond to that? I mean, is there anything to that concern about Reverend Sharpton?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANALYST: Here's the deal -- 2 million people have signed the change.org petition. And so, Reverend Bryant is taking issue with two folks. Were they the only people who were there?

I was in Sanford yesterday. There were thousands of people there. Reverend Jamal Bryant of Baltimore was there. There were AEM pastors. There were Catholic priests there. There were Baptist preachers there.

And so, if he has a personal problem with Reverend Sharpton and Jackson, that's his problem.

When you have 2 million people, when you literally vigils and rallies in 50 cities across the country, these people aren't out there because of Reverend Jackson and Sharpton. They're out there because of the issue at hand.

So, I say, if you got a problem with them, that's your problem, Reverend Bryant. We are focused on this case.

BURNETT: Reverend Bryant?

BRYANT: Let's have the same type of energy towards the young lady, the little girl who was killed on her door steps in Chicago who was 6 years old. Let's gather 2 million people and talk about the black on black crime that is going on, the most dangerous person in the life of a young black man is another young black man. And the type of ideas that are spawned when we gather together over a white on black murder.

And in fact, there is not an epidemic of white men killing black boys. There is an epidemic of black boys, black men killing black men, and all of them know that. And so, let's focus the energy on solving the problem that happens every day, not something that happens once in a while.

MARTIN: Now, here's what I find to be interesting, Erin, because, Reverend, I went to your Twitter page. You have made no comment on anything since February 24th. Not even the Chicago killings. You have made no comment on your Facebook page. I checked new stories.

The only comment you made about shootings in Chicago was when you were criticizing Reverend Sharpton and Jackson. So, I'd say, as a pastor, where are you? I see, I get pastors who differed. I know the Apostle Paul differed with the disciple Peter.

But where have you been? Are you in Chicago? Are you leading marches? Are you leading the rallies? Are you stepping up?

How weak is it to say what somebody else is not doing when you should be a leading voice? So, have you been to Chicago?

BRYANT: I have paid my dues. And yes I've been to Chicago --

MARTIN: No, no, no. There is no record where you have said a word --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Let him respond.

BRYANT: Your question is, what dues have I paid. I have had the clan and the skin heads after me over school bussing 20-some years ago.

MARTIN: That's not what I was asked.

BRYANT: Just this past month here where I live in Shreveport, in Louisiana, the skin heads and the Aryan Nation was trying to move into our area.

MARTIN: That's not what I'm asking.

BRYANT: I along with other pastors have done that. What we are doing, what we are doing is, in fact, trying to deal with a powder keg here that we need to keep this, the top on. That is what we are trying to do.

Roland, you haven't been looking at the right pages. You Google CL Bryant and you'll see where I have been.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Hold on one moment. I understand you both differ on this issue of Chicago. And Roland has a fair point.

But, Roland, I want to ask you about something he raised.

MARTIN: Sure.

BURNETT: Department of Justice 2005 -- half of all male homicide victims in this country are black, 52 percent.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

BURNETT: Ninety-three percent of the killers on those homicides were black.

Shouldn't we be doing something about that, too?

MARTIN: First of all, there are people who are doing that. And, look, I've run three black newspapers. I run national black Web site. I have a Sunday morning show on a black cable network.

And so, there are people who are doing that.

But here's a point I'm making.

BURNETT: Right.

MARTIN: That's a different argument to say what we are doing about that when Reverend Bryant wants to specifically criticize Sharpton and Jackson. All I'm saying is, he hasn't said a word about the shootings in Chicago until he criticized Sharpton and Jackson.

And All I'm saying, Reverend Bryant, I can guarantee you that James Meeks, Charles Jenkins, I guarantee you that Reverend Clay, a number of those pastors in Chicago would love to hear from you. So, don't just sit here and waste time criticizing Reverend Sharpton and Jackson.

I say not what you did four years ago. Hold on one second, sir. You specifically called him about the shootings in Chicago and Newark, yet you are not on the record even on your own Web site of saying or doing anything. So, here's what I say -- you let me know --

BRYANT: Let me go on record tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: -- when you go to Chicago and I will see you there when you want to discuss black on black violence in Chicago. Just let me know.

BRYANT: Let me do this. Let me go on record tonight and say let's put your ideology on the table and put mine on the table. I call you out tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

BRYANT: We can meet in Chicago. We can meet in Newark. Ad let's see whose ideology best suits the traditional core values of a black American people.

MARTIN: OK. BRYANT: Let's see whose ideas stand to mustard.

And I do accept whatever challenge you have, but I throw down the gauntlet tonight. Let us have a test of the different ideologies, liberal and black conservatives. Let's do that.

BURNETT: Well, you know what? Can I ask you both?

MARTIN: That's pretty funny considering I'm not a liberal Christian. But go right ahead.

BURNETT: When you both go, when you go to Chicago, you go to Newark, come back here and let's continue this conversation, OK?

MARTIN: We'll let's see if he shows up.

BURNETT: I'm going to trust you both.

BRYANT: I will show up wherever you need me to show up this conversation.

MARTIN: You are going to call Jackson and Sharpton out, you show up.

BURNETT: All right.

BRYANT: I will show up. I have been calling Reverend Jackson and Sharpton out for a long time.

MARTIN: That's why you are here. It's all about them. It's not --

BRYANT: I grew in the segregated South. I remember Negro Day in the South. I have paid my dues in the South.

My grandfather said he didn't go through what he went through so I could be black. He went through what he went through so I could be free. Say what I want to say and talk to who I want to talk to, and go where I want to go.

BURNETT: And I will see you both in Chicago or Newark. You're going to come on this show.

All right. Thank you very much both of you.

And please everyone let us know what you think about that conversation on Twitter.

Well, there's a violent video said to show the murder of seven people in France leaked to the media. Are they going to show it?

And a business man with connections to British spies dead in a hotel room. It sounds like the plot of a Tom Clancy novel but it is true. That's next.

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

And tonight, we go to France. Al Jazeera has said it will not air a video it has showing the killings of seven people, including the three Jewish children in Toulouse. The network says it's against their code of ethics and has handed the video over to police.

The edited footage which apparently was shot by the shooter and it shows the killings of the victims that's set to music, religious singing and readings from the Koran. It was reported last week that the gunman Mohammed Merah did wear that camera around his neck and made sure that he had the full shot as he killed his victims.

Jim Bittermann is on the story from Paris. And I asked him the video could end up being leaked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it's pretty difficult to imagine these videos won't eventually end up in the public domain. They were sent to Al Jazeera as computer files on a USB key, something that would be pretty easy to duplicate anywhere along the line. As well, we know whether these were the only copy of the video that was sent to Al Jazeera. Perhaps there are other copies out there.

We do know that there is editing done in the sense that there was music put to some of the horrific scenes as well as versus from the Koran. So, with the editing could have come from copy-making as well -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Thanks, Jim Bittermann.

And now, a coup in China. That is the buzz going around on Chinese blogs after a political scandal at the communist party's highest levels went public. This man, Bo Xilai, was at one point talked about as the next president of China. He was the party secretary of Chongqing, which is one of the largest cities in the country.

Without explanation, earlier this month, the communist party purged him from their ranks, something they rarely did. And no one really knows where he is right now.

This is where it begins to sound like a Tom Clancy novel. A British businessman, Aston Martin consultant Neil Heywood was found dead in his hotel room in Chongqing late last year. "The Wall Street Journal" reports he was a consultant for an intelligence company founded by former officers from Britain's spy agency.

Chinese officials said he died from drinking too much. They cremated him immediately. Now, there's new details. He could have been poisoned, and suspicion is growing about his friendship with Bo Xilai. Now, the British government has formally asked China to investigate the death.

But this story is very bazaar. Talk about a coup in China is -- well, frankly, something that is crucial for the whole world to be paying attention to what's really going on.

Stan Grant is covering the story from Beijing for us.

And, Stan, it was pretty amazing just to see it on social media sites in China, things like, oh, where were there gun shots inside the Forbidden City. Obviously, this is all speculation.

But truly unusual that it's even happening, isn't it?

STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, Erin, you are so right. This does read like a spy novel. It's absolutely captivated people here in China because what we are seeing is we are peering into the corridors here of power, the inner sanctum of communist party politburo, the very secretive inner sanctum of the politburo, and it involves a man who they call a princeling, Bo Xilai.

Now, you can go right back to 1949 with the communist revolution here. Bo Xilai's father was a right-hand man, an ally of Mao Zedong. He was seen as a revolutionary hero.

Bo himself moved through the political ranks. He was appointed as the top communist party chief secretary of Chongqing. That's a massive city in southwest China, more than 30 million people.

Now, at that time he launched an anticrime crusade. He drove out the criminal gangs, he shot down a lot of the corrupt businessmen. His right hand man, though, and former top cop turned on him. In February, he went spectacularly to the American consulate seeking asylum, apparently in fear for his life and allegedly holding incriminating information against Bo Xilai himself. As the result of that, Bo Xilai, this princeling, a man once talked about as a talked about as a future president, has been sacked from his post.

And now, we've got the information about Neil Heywood, a British business found dead in a Chongqing hotel room. People are going to ground. They don't want to talk, that all of this apparently leading right back to the heart of power in China -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Stan Grant, thank you very much. It is a twisted tale but one that is crucial possibly for who's in power in China and maybe even the stability there.

We'll check with Anderson Cooper.

What do you have on "A.C. 360" tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Erin. We're keeping them honest tonight in the program. The newest developments in the Trayvon Martin shooting, including two very difference emerging versions of what happened the night Trayvon Martin was shot to death. My interview with his parents tonight who say their son is being smeared by police and others.

Also, part one of an investigation, "Ungodly Discipline". Disturbing allegations at a religious boarding school in Montana, allegations of physical violence, including multiple victims claiming they were choked. "360's" Gary Tuchman sat down with the 82-year-old preacher who's ran the school for years. He denies the charges.

We'll have a full report on that and a lot of other stories, the latest on politics and the "Ridiculist" -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks, Anderson. Looking forward to that.

Next, Newt Gingrich and a love affair in my hometown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So, Newt Gingrich made my day today. Now, why, you ask. No, not because he's charging 50 bucks for pictures, because he went to my hometown zoo. Newt loves zoos more than any grown man in America, I think it's safe to say.

During the campaign, he visited zoos in New Orleans, San Diego, Des Moines. He even did that interview with Piers Morgan from a snake exhibit out of South Carolina zoo. That was weird.

As a kid in Salisbury, I visited the zoo a lot. I remember it had great swings. You know, the ones that went really, really high. It had a bobcat, a sloth and some of the largest rodents in the world. Yes, they're called maras.

The Mara is my sister's name and it was absolute favorite part of the whole zoo because I loved it that her name was shared with a rodent.

Now, ho matter how old you get, there's something special when somebody running for president visits your hometown, even if it's Newt's somewhat bizarre but still endearing zoo obsession on display. I don't know if it's ever in Salisbury before.

But, by the way, according to the zoo's Web site, that Mara exhibit is still there, only now they're politically correct. And renamed them Patagonia cavies. Maybe she's been doing some lobbying I don't know about.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right. Tomorrow on OUTFRONT, we've got John Henry Browne, the attorney for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales who's charged with 17 counts of murder in Afghanistan. We're going to ask him all the questions out there right now about his client, about his defense, what kinds of conversations he's had. All of that tomorrow.

He will be with me here on set OUTFRONT. We're looking forward to seeing him.

Thanks so much for watching. Please continue to give us your Twitter feedback.

And "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.