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Interview with Rep. Chris Van Hollen; President Clinton Apologizes; Verdict Outrage

Aired June 7, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next, secret talks to save America from economic disaster going on tonight.

And Bill Clinton says I'm very sorry. But does his apology add up?

And reports of a growing problem with American soldiers using a drug linked to the zombie-like attack in Miami. Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight secret talks -- secret talks in Congress to save America from fiscal implosion. Now secret talks happen all the time, and 99 percent of them fail. But we are rooting for the one percent chance that these finally succeed because America needs a grand bargain to prevent our debt rising to twice the size of our economy and to prevent a recession really, really soon. Today Fed Chief Ben Bernanke, the man who has twisted and turned to get interest rates to zero to try to help this country said now Congress must act.


BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I urge Congress to come to agreement on that well in advance so as not to push us to the 12th hour. If no action were taken and the fiscal cliff were to kick in, in its full size I think it would be very likely that the economy would begin to contract.


BURNETT: Contract means get smaller. It means recession. And people talk a whole lot about this fiscal cliff, but sometimes, you know, it kind of blurs together. So what are we exactly talking about? To be honest, this cliff is like we're on the top of Mt. Everest staring down a 29,000-foot crevasse. At the end of this year the Bush tax cuts will expire and obviously that means tax rates will go up, so if you pay 10 percent now, you'll pay 15.

If you pay 35, you'll pay nearly 40 percent. At the same time payroll taxes will go up on everybody. Six million Americans will lose unemployment insurance. And the so-called sequestration cuts, the $1.2 trillion in cuts to services and defense, they start too. If Congress doesn't make a deal, the economy will go back into recession. And as our economic "Strike Team" member Jim Bianco reminded us, the debt ceiling has to pass Congress on that date too. So the secret talks include some of the patriots that want to do a deal to come OUTFRONT like Republican Tom Coburn and Democrat Mark Warner who have been telling me for a while that they're working on a deal. But there need to be a lot more elected leaders who understand the urgency of this moment and are willing to compromise.

Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee and he joins me tonight and good to see you, sir.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Good to see you, Erin.

BURNETT: The Fed chairman was pleading with you guys today. I mean he really was pleading. Are you all still counting on some level though that the Fed could sort of bail Congress out, do something else, some more quantitative easing so that Congress doesn't have to act this summer?

VAN HOLLEN: No, we're not counting on that, Erin and Ben Bernanke is exactly right, Congress should get its act together. It needs to get its act together to both prevent the fiscal cliff, which would hurt the economy, and also come up with a long-term plan to reduce the deficit. So we also deal with that long-term issue. There are bipartisan models for how to do this that have been put forward by groups like the Simpson-Bowles group. I think that's a good framework. So the path toward getting there is clear. The political will, unfortunately, has not been there.

BURNETT: And it has seemed to come down very explicitly to this issue in the near term, and obviously this is a piece of the grand bargain, but to this issue of the Bush tax cuts and whether they go away for everyone or stay for everyone or only stay for some people and go away for the wealthier, who would receive a tax increase. Now, this is a crucial issue. And some of the people on the other side of the debate from you, on the Tea Party, the ones who don't want to raise taxes at all and have made this a religion have started to compromise. Two of the most ardent Tea Party members, Mike Lee and Rand Paul on this show just in the past few days have both said this, and here they are.


BURNETT: Intellectually, though, and this is an important intellectual point, you're all right with some people, all in, they may end up paying more than they're paying now but you get a simpler tax code and a simpler rate but they could pay more, some people.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BURNETT: Are you also open to a system where by eliminating loopholes, which I know in your own budget you say you're for some people in this country would ending up paying more in taxes after the reform than they do before?

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Yes and what we need is a flatter, simpler, fairer tax system.


BURNETT: Why isn't that enough? Why can't you guys do a deal if they're saying that on one side? Why can't you do a deal?

VAN HOLLEN: Well Erin, if what they're talking about is really a change in the tax code in a way recommended like bipartisan groups and Simpson-Bowles which not just simplifies it by reducing the rate and expanding the base but would also generate real new revenue that would be matched by cuts, then certainly we could do something. I would welcome other --

BURNETT: But hold on, because obviously what you're saying there --


BURNETT: -- you just obviously got right to the heart of it, OK. What do you mean when you say so if I cut the rate but I eliminate loopholes, a lot of people in this country, and I'm talking about the wealthy, will pay more. You're saying that's not enough. You want additional new revenue?

VAN HOLLEN: No, I'm saying if you cut the rate and broaden the base in a way that generates additional revenue and maintains the progressivity (ph), which is what Simpson-Bowles and other groups have proposed, that would be an important way forward. I do not believe that our Republican colleagues have put that on the table. I can certainly tell you, Erin that in the House that is not the case because that is a strict violation of the so-called Grover Norquist pledge which has been signed by 98 percent of the House Republicans. So I have not seen --

BURNETT: But he said -- OK, but he has said you know to me and to others that if you simplified the tax system, an overhaul, he would get rid of loopholes and that the wealthier would pay more. Now, he obviously thinks all in we shouldn't get more revenue which is different than some of these other guys, but he's still for the wealthier paying more.

VAN HOLLEN: The issue is taking a balanced approach to deficit reduction, which means combining cuts with additional revenue. That's what Simpson-Bowles did. That was their framework. If that's what the Republicans in the Senate are proposing, it would be great to see their plan. I have never seen a proposal put forward by Republicans in either the House or the Senate that does that at all. So I would welcome that. If they said that to you on the show and they mean it and want to follow through, I'm happy to call them tomorrow to find out if that's what they meant.

BURNETT: Well, let me talk about something that -- I mean they're obviously talking specifically about closing loopholes. I mean I think it's clear what they're saying, which I think is different than you're saying additional -- additional revenues. But there's something just, you know, existentially important here and I think NPR planet (ph) money did a great job when they did this analysis. If you tax people in this country who make over a million dollars at 100 percent, you get $700 billion to one shot, then you can't tax them again. The debt burden in this country is $15.6 trillion. If you increase taxes on the middle class by eight percent, you'd get more than taxing the wealthy at 100 percent. If we can't be honest about the math here, how can we have an honest conversation about raising taxes on any specific group?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, the math you just pointed to is why we need to do a combination. A combination of revenue increases by eliminating a lot of these tax loopholes, and maintaining progressivity (ph), but also cuts. Remember, that as part of the Budget Control Act, we've already cut a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. What we need to do is find additional cuts and the revenue piece. But Erin, again, I welcome the statements that were made on your show. I really hope that what they are agreeing to do is violate the so-called Grover Norquist pledge, which would be absolutely necessary to putting together a balanced approach and that's what we need to do.

BURNETT: But just to make sure that I understand where you're coming from to try to see if there really is common ground between where you are and where they are, when you say additional revenue, would you be saying, look, we keep a tax rate where we have two levels or three levels or whatever it might be, progressive, but if I close loopholes so the wealthier end up paying more. I'm not looking for additional new taxes that I'm going to introduce on anybody. Is that a place you would compromise?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, there could be additional taxes with respect to folks who are at the higher end under that proposal. I mean if you look at Simpson-Bowles, depending on where your deductions are, you would see additional revenue. For example, under the "Buffett Rule", which the president has proposed, you would generate additional revenue from people over a million dollars. If you also look at some of the international corporate tax loopholes, you can also generate additional revenue. That's part of the president's budget proposal --


VAN HOLLEN: -- that he submitted to Congress. It's also part of the House Democratic alternative budget.

BURNETT: OK. One quick thing though, the "Buffett Rule" --


BURNETT: I mean isn't it a little bit ridiculous to talk about adding in new rules when you just -- it kind of looks like you're avoiding the whole problem. I'm not saying you, but in general Congress, instead of reforming the system, go throw this tax at this person, at that person, at this person and that person, instead of just you know fix it and then see how much money you need?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think the "Buffett Rule" can be incorporated into a larger tax reform piece. I mean at its root, the "Buffett Rule" of course simply says that folks making over a million dollars should be paying the same effective rate as other Americans who are usually working -- BURNETT: But you could get that --

VAN HOLLEN: -- for those folks.

BURNETT: -- if you simplify the rate and got rid of loopholes --



BURNETT: I mean --

VAN HOLLEN: You can do it in part but the "Buffett Rule" is a back stop. The "Buffett Rule" is a back stop that says even after all those deductions, it's just simply fair, to make sure that folks at the very high end are paying a similar effective rate. But look, to get to your overall point, I think it's very important that we work together to avoid the fiscal cliff. One way to do that would be to extend the middle class tax cuts immediately, in fact for 99 percent of the American people and replace the sequester with a balanced approach to deficit reduction. What's not helpful are the kind of comments that you heard when you were here in Washington from Speaker Boehner who was threatening that the United States will not meet its financial obligations unless we adopt the kind of austerity measures that we've seen in Europe that have been a failure. That is the wrong approach. It undermines confidence and then will slow down the economy when you generate that kind of uncertainty.

BURNETT: All right. Well sir, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Representative Chris Van Hollen and here by the way is a show that is rooting that we don't have any more back stops. Solve the real problem. No more "Buffett Rule", this, that, come on.

All right still OUTFRONT, 2,000 players join a lawsuit against the NFL. Is America's true pastime about to be sacked?

And tensions in Greece spilling out physically on a morning talk show -- this is really some video and the former president, Bill Clinton, spoke to Wolf Blitzer and he was on defense.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did 40 events -- 40 in the election.



BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT President Clinton is sorry. He said it many times. He's very sorry after going off message from President Barack Obama and most of his party by saying that Congress should extend the Bush era tax cuts for everyone temporarily. Now he says, hold on, hold on, hold on, I didn't have my facts straight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) B. CLINTON: I'm very sorry about what happened yesterday. It was what -- I thought something had to be done on the fiscal cliff before the election. Apparently nothing has to be done until the first of the year. So I think he should just stick with his position and then negotiate with the Republicans.


BURNETT: It was very artful. By the way, he didn't say I didn't mean what I said. He just said I didn't mean what I said in November. OK, John Avlon is with me, Michael Waldman is here. He was the head speechwriter for Bill Clinton for many years, and Margaret Hoover, CNN contributor. OK, great to have all of you with us.

Michael, let me start with you. What's he doing? I mean I just have to say this. Bill Clinton knows that the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year not on Election Day so I don't buy this I didn't know the date.

MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE, NYU: Here's the thing. With him, whenever he says something you get all these people saying aha, he's so Machiavellian, he sees 16 chess moves down the board, this is all to elect Hillary in 2042. I can tell you having worked for him sometimes he just says what's on the top of his mind and then afterwards everybody has to kind of explain what he meant.

I think he feels that there can't be a precipitous counter pro- cyclical withdrawal of funds from the economy, that there needs to be a deal. And he's used to -- as he said, he's a little rusty. He's used to saying what he thinks. But as a matter of negotiation, he held firm in his negotiations with the Republicans --


WALDMAN: -- on the very same issues that President Obama is now saying he's going to hold firm on. So I think that there's a difference between sort of saying what you think as ultimate policy and sticking to your guns on negotiation. I'm sure he knows that and I'm sure he's been reminded of it in the last 24 hours probably too.

BURNETT: Maybe true. But still, John Avlon, what he said was I think they should be extended for everyone. By the way, for anyone who wasn't aware, President Obama said he would veto that, absolutely not.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I think he was -- he was playing a little bit off the (INAUDIBLE) politic.


AVLON: He said, look, you know they're going to kick the can to the next guy, everybody knows, let's get real. And obviously what we're pushing for to avoid the fiscal cliff is that grand bargain. Look, Bill Clinton, he luxuriates being an ex-president but the problem is it's an election season and he is one of the most effective advocates for the Democratic ticket and for President Obama. So when he gets a little bit out over his skis, you know he gets a call from Chicago and says you've got to fix this man because this is a problem for us.

BURNETT: All right, Margaret, from a Republican voice, I mean is this -- how much of a victory was his initial statement? Because kind of the cover-up is always confusing, but everyone is going to remember what he said, he supports extending them.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He does support extending them and that's not the only thing he said. He also talked about private equity quite favorably. He also talked about Mitt Romney meeting the threshold of qualification for president. And all of those things create, frankly, a bit of weakness on President Obama's part because what he needs to do if he can't -- to the extent that he can't run on his economic record is at least create doubt in the populous that President Romney isn't qualified to be president and so all of these things put together actually have undercut, I think, President Clinton's -- I'm sorry, President Obama's major argument for weakening Mitt Romney.

WALDMAN: But I do think that it's rather risky for the Republicans to rely on Bill Clinton at theirs validater (ph) on economic policy. He makes very powerful arguments repeatedly as to why a more progressive tax code makes sense, why you know fiscal discipline makes sense, long-term entitlement reform. There's very little daylight ultimately between his position and President Obama and you know throw him in that briar patch. I don't think --

HOOVER: As long as he doesn't get in his own way. As long as he doesn't get in his own way and as long as he doesn't get in the principal's way, which is what he's done here, which is why we're talking about him in the first place --


HOOVER: -- so you know it better than anyone, you were his speechwriter for seven years.


BURNETT: Yes, right, when you start adlibbing, you're like oh, gosh --


WALDMAN: People (INAUDIBLE) why did you put that in the speech?

AVLON: But you just -- you've got to love the irony of history when Republicans are using Bill Clinton as a character witness. That's good stuff.

BURNETT: And you know what, if he's Machiavellian 16 chess pieces away, he'll let him do it and then (INAUDIBLE) go wait, you tried to impeach me and he'll get them. That's what we've been saying, right? All right OUTFRONT a family outraged over a verdict in their daughter's death, does it add up and later soldiers using bath salts. Dr. Drew is on the show.


BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, a community just outside Buffalo, New York reeling from a stunning verdict. A prominent doctor was driving drunk and texting late one night. He killed an 18-year- old girl while on his way home and he never stopped. He was charged with five felony counts, including second-degree manslaughter, but he's walking away with what amounts to a slap on the wrist and could serve less than a year in prison. Now the girl's family is seeking justice in a civil trial. Deb Feyerick is OUTFRONT with the story.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It happened here, 18-year-old Alex Rice (ph) on her way home from work at a local pizza place. In the dark crouched on her skateboard, she was rounding the corner when a BMW came up behind striking the teen, throwing her some 50 feet. Her neck breaking on impact, leaving her parents shattered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's because she was an awesome human being. She was kindness personified. She --

FEYERICK: The driver, Dr. James Corasanti (ph) kept on driving. The prominent physician had just left his country club where he had been drinking during a martini golf night. His lawyer says the doctor admitted hitting something but thought it was likely a deer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was very little damage other than cosmetic damage to an aluminum hood. It was reasonable that the doctor did not know that he had hit a person.

FEYERICK: At trial, prosecutors produced the crumpled hood of the BMW telling the jury the doctor had been texting and knowingly left the scene after hitting Alex Rice. A blood test showed the doctor was legally drunk five hours after the fatal accident. The doctor's lawyers argued drinking or not, no one could have seen Alex in the dark. The verdict --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It honestly feels like she's been hit-and-run all over again.

FEYERICK: Not guilty on all counts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was blindsided beyond blindsided.

FEYERICK: An outraged community accused the doctor of buying his freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if money bought a verdict. Money bought doubt on the police version of what happened.

FEYERICK: Jurors have received death threats, as have the doctor's lawyers who stand by their case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're glad there wasn't a second tragedy by having this doctor get convicted for something that now we know the people could not prove.

FEYERICK: The verdict has left a bitter taste in a community that stands firmly behind Alex's parents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That warms my heart to know that people care, but it doesn't make it any easier to get through the day.


BURNETT: It's an unbelievable story. And I know Deb that the family is going back to court to try to do a civil case.

FEYERICK: That's exactly right.

BURNETT: Do they expect a different outcome? What could happen there?

FEYERICK: It's a different burden of proof. In the criminal trial they had to show criminal recklessness. That the doctor knew that he hit somebody and that he knowingly drove away. The doctor did testify in his own defense over a two-day period. He basically said he didn't know. He simply did not understand while he was driving home that he hit this child. So now the only recourse the parents really have is to take this case into civil court where they can potentially be awarded a sum of money. But is money justice and accountability and that's really what the family wants.

BURNETT: Certainly from what they said it isn't, but obviously this couldn't have been easy for jurors to come out. You know you spent time talking to some of them. How did they --

FEYERICK: They were shaken. They were really, really shaken but again they had to follow the letter of the law. And the letter of the law essentially says that you have to prove criminal recklessness. And because the doctor testified that he didn't know, they simply could not take the evidence and justify the charge. There was reasonable doubt and they did what they had to do. But I don't think that they were happy about it certainly.

BURNETT: All right Deb Feyerick, thank you very much and let us know please on Twitter what you think about that and the verdict.

OUTFRONT next, the lawsuit that keeps growing against the NFL and some just-discovered video that we found of a rally. Why hundreds of people were chanting "banish the sleep from the eyes of all the Jews".


BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our own reporting from the front lines.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke took on Congress today, warning lawmakers if they don't act, we're going over the fiscal cliff and U.S. will go back into recession. One of the big issues is the Bush tax cuts which are set to expire at the end of the year. We've had Republican congressmen come on the show and say they're all right, with some paying more in taxes if we get rid of loopholes.

So, I asked Democratic Representative Chris Van Hollen what he thought about it.


REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: I welcome the statements that were made on your show. I really hope that what they are agreeing to do is violate the so-called Grover Norquist pledge, which would be absolutely necessary to putting together a balanced approach. And that's what we need to do.


BURNETT: The fight against government-leaked secrets growing. After meeting with the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, congressional leaders from both parties pledged to come up with legislation to halt the leaks. A source told CNN's Suzanne Kelly that Clapper wants more government employees to be subject to an enhanced lie detector test.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that the U.S. is, quote, "reaching the limits of our patience" with Pakistan. Now, he's referring to an al Qaeda-linked group of militants that are attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

So, we asked Ambassador Karl Inderfurth of CSIS if that comment from Panetta could really hurt the U.S. He told us, "Pakistan says the same thing about U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. So, who's going to run out of patience first? And what will they do? Unless Washington and Islamabad can figure out an answer to that question, this will be a lose-lose for both."

Well, the South Carolina mother battling flesh-eating bacteria has been upgraded to fair condition today. Greenville Memorial Hospital tells us that Lana Kuykendall has been tentatively scheduled for skin grafting surgery. Now, she's actually already gone through 20 surgical procedures, but no amputations.

Lana was admitted to the hospital on May 11th. She noticed a bruise on her leg was expanding rapidly. It was only four days after she had given birth to twins. According to the statement, yesterday was the first time since she came in the hospital that she's actually been able to see those newborn children.

Well, it's been 308 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

What about what China is doing. If they don't get their economic house in order, we could be in big trouble because they're the number one foreign buyers of all that debt we have. Today, China was really worried. It did something it hasn't done in four years -- cut interest rates to spark its economy.

Our fourth story OUTFRONT: Countdown to a crucial election. Next weekend's Egyptian election pits a Mubarak loyalist against a popular member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

And a video that just surfaced on YouTube shows a cleric energizing a Muslim Brotherhood rally with anti-Israeli chants. He's introducing the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who could win the presidency next week, Mohamed Morsi. Mohamed Morsi sitting right there on the stage.

OUTFRONT tonight, Silvan Shalom, the vice prime minister of Israel.

And, Mr. Shalom, good to see you.

I want to play this right away for you and get your reaction. Here it is.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca or Medina., It shall be Jerusalem, Allah willing. Our cry shall be: "Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem." Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem.

Banish the sleep from the eyes of all Jews. Come o, lovers of martyrdom, you are all Hamas.


SHALOM: You know, we are so happy to have a peace treaty with Egypt, when the late president of Egypt, Sadat, have to Israel and signed the peace treaty (INAUDIBLE) in Washington, we were so proud to find out that finally the biggest Arab country has recognized the existence of the state of Israel. The agreement was followed by Jordan a short time after.

And what we are getting now is that this treaty can last for 30 years only.

BURNETT: What do you think, though, when you hear that and see all those people chanting and dancing when they say, banish the sleep from the eyes of the Jews because we're going to be marching on Jerusalem?

SHALOM: It's terrible. It's horrible. It sounds very, very bad. And when he says it that he might become the president of Egypt, it's even more worrying us.

But still it's election time. We would like to believe that it doesn't matter, we'll take the leader and they will understand in a short time that in order to run the country, they would have to keep the peace treaty with Israel, good relations with the United States and with the whole international community. But we have to get prepared, unfortunately, these days. After 32, 33 years of peace with Egypt, we have to get prepared for the worst case scenario.

BURNETT: Do you look back on the days of Hosni Mubarak and say, God, we didn't appreciate it when we had it?

SHALOM: I personally met him many, many times and I found him always as a very, very closed to the idea that in order to help Egypt and to help the Egyptians, you should have good relations with Israel and good relations with the United States and with the whole West. That was his idea. That was his ideology. And that helped him to run a country that is a very complicated one.

Unfortunately, those are coming that never ran any country or I don't know, any town and they would like to change it dramatically. I hope that it's only for the election time, but what we heard now, what we saw now is so bad that I don't want to think what would be the next step if they will get elected.

BURNETT: In the meantime, obviously, Israel has been saying they're going ahead with 851 new homes in the West Bank. There's been a real criticism out of the United States over the past two days on that. Here's the U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner on that.


MARK TONER, U.S. STATE DEPARMENT SPOKESMAN: We're very clear that continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank undermines peace efforts and contradicts Israeli commitments and obligations.


BURNETT: So Israel doesn't -- I mean I'll just be blunt here. Israel doesn't care what the U.S. says, right?

SHALOM: I don't think so. I think that during the era since 1967, we can find two different tracks. There is bipartisan supporting Israel but there is bipartisan opposition to the idea of settlements.


SHALOM: It doesn't matter who was in power here in the United States. We think differently. We believe that Jude and Samaria is no sovereignty, never belonged to anyone and we have the right to be there.

BURNETT: Prime Minister Netanyahu told me he supported a contiguous state, no Swiss cheese. It seems politically significant. Is that still the goal? It would seem like putting more homes and settlements is exactly the opposite.

SHALOM: I will tell you something that I really don't like when I give those examples. But we had settlements in Sinai. It didn't stop Menachem Begin when he signed a peace treaty with Egypt to evacuate them. And we had a settlement in Gaza and it didn't stop Sharon when he decided to disengage from Gaza to evacuate the settlements.

So if we are really having partner toward peace, we can take any decision we want.

BURNET: All right. The NFL tonight under attack by its own former players. More than 80 cases involving some 2,000 NFL players were combined today in a single federal lawsuit. So, the players claim that the league knew that the head injuries they suffered are linked to the onset of dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other neurological conditions.

In a statement, the league said, "The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so. Any allegation that the NFL sought to mislead players has no merit."

But still, there's a crucial question: Could this be the end of the NFL?

Paul Callan joins me now.

Paul, this is a serious question. Could this bring down the NFL?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Certainly, if these players won this lawsuit, it could bring down the NFL. I mean, you're talking about 2,000 players. A garden variety brain damage case can lead to a million dollar verdict -- 2,000 players, that would be $2 billion. But these guys, their cases would be worth more than a million dollars. So huge, huge potential damages in this case if they win.

BURNETT: Lee Roy Jordan, a former linebacker of the Dallas Cowboys who has gone through some serious complications with memory, came OUTFRONT last month to talk about what he's going through. Let me just play a quick clip of that.


LEE ROY JORDAN, FMR. LINEBACKER DALLAS COWBOYS: Well, you know, for the last two years, I've been having memory problems of, you know, forgetting things and not knowing what I came in a room to do. And I have become very irritable with my family, my wife and my kids and friends, and that is really disturbing to me because that's not my personality.


BURNETT: How key are those individual stories and testimony going to be? Just the stories, forget the science for a second.

CALLAN: They're going to be very, very important. That's where the emotion will come from and that's where they'll try to really get a huge damage award from sympathetic jurors. I mean, there are families across the United States with players who have dementia, who have -- I mean there have been reports of suicides.


BURNETT: Yes. We've talked to some of those situations.

CALLAN: One tragic story after another.

Now, if you can link that to the injuries and the negligence on the part of the NFL, then maybe you have a case. But only maybe.

BURNETT: But I guess this is the fundamental question. I mean, you know, I enjoy watching football. People are slamming their heads against each other. I mean it seems pretty obvious that there's damage that's going to be done. But that is what the sport is. So people choose to get into the sport.

Given that there's a choice, how much -- how much room is there for this suit?

CALLAN: You've hit the problem area right on the head with this, because it's -- lawyers call it assumption of the risk. There are inherently dangerous sporting activities, skiing, motorcycle riding, car racing.


CALLAN: We know when we get into those activities we're in a dangerous activity.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, if you fall off your skis and paralyze yourself in the ski, you can't sue the ski company, can you?

CALLAN: No, you can't. Absolutely not. You cannot.

And you have to prove that the equipment was defective, that the league knew the equipment was defective and didn't tell you, and you have to prove something else. And this is where they'll never win the case.


CALLAN: You've got to prove that if you knew that the helmet wasn't going to give you adequate protection, you would not have played the sport of football. These guys spend their whole life wanting to be professional football players.


CALLAN: And they probably started to sustain damage even when they were in high school, maybe in middle school when they were getting head hits at that point in time. So how do you prove it happened in professional football as opposed to high school or college? There are a lot of problems with proving this case in court.

BURNETT: All right. Well, everyone, let us know what you think. I know a lot of people who watch the show have a strong opinion on this one, so hit the Twitter.

And still ahead OUTFRONT, a fight between political leaders got physical on a morning talk show. I mean really physical. And up next, Dr. Drew on an alarming drug that is being used in the American military.


BURNETT: We're back with our "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And we begin in Syria. Deaths from the fighting are still rising and Secretary Clinton said today that peace would not be possible until Bashar al-Assad steps aside. The problem is Russia and China signed a statement today opposing any interference in Syrian affairs.

With members of the U.N. Security Council so far apart, I asked our Arwa Damon if there's any chance of a united front.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, that's the big issue. As long as there is no unified stance, when it comes to significant global players, the situation in Syria is likely not going to change. As we heard Kofi Annan state himself and perhaps stating the obvious, if the situation does not change, the country is on a collision course towards more sectarian violence, more massacres similar to the ones we saw taking place and potentially going towards an all-out civil war. And that is not to mention the fact that the type of vacuum that is created there is one that is so easily capitalized on by extremist groups -- Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Thanks to Arwa.

Now, to Greece where a televised political debate took a very ugly turn when a member of the Golden Dawn party, that's right wing party that's been associated with Nazis, attacked one of his rivals on the air. He now faces potential legal action.

Matthew Chance watched the debate. I asked him what the heck happened.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, an arrest warrant has now been issued for the spokesman of that neo-Nazi party in Greece, after this astonishing assault on two female deputies live on Greek television. Elias Kasidiaris from the Golden Dawn party, you can see him there on the bottom left, first hurling a glass of water over the desk, apparently offended the mention of his alleged involvement in an armed robbery in 2007. He then turned on a politician from the Greek communist party, hitting her repeatedly around the face before the show cutaway.

Incredible, they're all taking part in a live television debate ahead of elections next week. It will be interesting to see how this shocking incident will have an impact on the vote -- Erin. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That's very, very -- wow.

Let's check in with Anderson with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360."

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Bizarre stuff, Erin.

Yes, we're keep them honest tonight on the program. Serious allegations of just how far the White House will go to win re-election this November. Republican Senator John McCain and other top members of the congressional intelligence communities, including Democrats, are claiming the White House is leaking secret documents, leaking secrets to boost the president's image on national security. I'll talk to Senator McCain about those charges and why he wants a special counsel to investigate.

Also, a second keeping them honest report tonight -- a showdown with, the leading Web site for adult services, prostitution online, escorts. Officials in various states say some of the women on that site are actually girls, underage girls sold for sex. They want the service shut down.

Washington state has gone a step further, now passing a law to verify the ages of young women on the site. Backpage has taken them to court. A judge issued an injunction. I'll talk to the Washington state attorney general about that.

Those stories, also tonight's "Ridiculist" and a whole lot more, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Anderson. Looking forward to that in just a few moments.

And now our fifth story OUTFRONT: we're hearing about two more gruesome cases of can cannibalistic behavior linked to dangerous drugs known as bath salts. Now, Florida police say this man 21-year-old man, Brandon de Leon, tried to bite an officer in a drug-fueled rage. Here's what he told the judge.


BRANDON DE LEON: Say something, your honor. I have no recollection of anything that happened that night.


BURNETT: Police say de Leon was on a cocktail of drugs that included something similar to bath salts. In Louisiana, police say that this man bit a chunk out of another man's face. His friend told police she thought he was on bath salts.

It's a string of eerily similar attacks following the one that captured everyone's attention, the horrific assault in Florida last month when the man chewed off the face of a homeless man. Police say he was high, possibly on bath salts.

And now, the "Marine Corps Times" is reporting the use of bath salts as growing problem among members of the American military.

OUTFRONT tonight to talk about it all is HLN's Dr. Drew Pinsky.

And, Dr. Drew, good to see you. I mean, this is just truly -- truly bizarre. I mean, we're hearing about a few cases here that we're pulling together. I mean, what kind of word would we use for this? Is this an epidemic? How common is this?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN: It's becoming increasingly common. I think what's motivating it more than anything else, the people that use these substances, use them to get around urine toxicology screenings is what's motivating it. So, environments such as the military, where people can get big trouble for using substances, someone is likely to go to the smoke shops and buy spice or bath salts.

It's easy to get in this state, in California, Erin. I walked up the street and bought bath salts. They are a couple of yards from here, I get bath salts and spice. My staff did it, and I thought, wow, I want to se how easy that is.

And it was -- you walk in, you show your ID, make sure you're over 18 and they hand you the bath salts. But I want to emphasize to people that there's nothing about baths or salts involved in these substances. This isn't Calgon. This is a drug designed to get people high and not be detected in the urine toxicology screening.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you about, first of all, there's -- what's the active ingredient is. I think you said it's MDPV. I mean, what it's that, and why does that cause -- or in your view, would that cause things like cannibalistic behavior that we have seen examples of?

PINSKY: Right. The MDPV is methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also Mephedrone. And make no mistake, the reason we think they are difficult to regulate is that people who manufacture these things add as metal group or change the molecule slightly so it becomes impossible to regulate and outlaw.

Exactly how this affects the brain, we don't even know yet, but we certainly know the consequences. It's basically -- to help people understand the affects, it's like adding LSD to PCP to methamphetamine. Those are sort of the effects we're seeing. They are rapidly addictive. They caused an excited delirium where people have no incite to what they're doing. They are disconnected from reality and they become violent.

There's more recent rash of cannibalistic behaviors, the sort of oral aggression we're seeing may be something related to this increasing epidemic or perhaps the reason we are hearing about this more now, perhaps they changed the molecule slightly that it has caused this characteristic behavior.

Whatever it is, it's dangerous. People don't know they're doing it. They have no insight and it is bizarre and violent.

BURNETT: And why isn't there a drug test available for this at this point?

PINSKY: Primarily it's that we can't keep up with it, the same reason they can't be regulated. They are changing the molecule ever so slightly all the time to be sure that it can't be detected and to be sure that we can't get on top of it and regulate it. So, it is something that people that produce these things and use it know is the goal, the end game here is to prevent from detection.

BURNETT: So, we hear about this in the military and I know obviously that you're indicating -- look, if you can't detect it, that would be why the military would be a group that could be susceptible.

PINSKY: Right.

BURNETT: But how common do you think this is in the military? I mean, I'm just thinking, and there is zero link to this. I'm just throwing it out there. I'm just saying, it just makes me think of the case of the sergeant in Afghanistan who went and killed 16 people. I mean, what sort of risks are we running?

PINSKY: Right. I mean, any time you hear somebody -- again, I know of no such link either, I'm going to state that clearly.

But whenever you see stories of bizarre behavior that are bloody and violent, think about these substances. And if now we are hearing almost always when someone is involved in biting and chewing and bizarre sort of oral aggression, it seems like it figures in to almost every one of the stories.

So, yes, it's appropriate to be thinking of these things. I don't know it to be a significant problem in the military. I just know whenever people are trying to get away with substance use, you find spice, you find bath salts.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Dr. Drew, thank you very much. Drew Pinsky is joining us.

PINSKY: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: Pretty bizarre and we are seeing more and more of this.

OUTFRONT next: urinary infections and John Kerry's berries.


PINSKY: So Senator John Kerry held a press conference yesterday. He talked about a lot of things. But one thing that he said that really caught my attention, quote, "Studies show that cranberries can help prevent urinary tract infections."

Seriously. You might be wondering why is John Kerry discussing UTIs. Well, let me tell you. John Kerry, along with Senator Scott Brown, and Massachusetts congressmen, they are all men, and bipartisan, have formed something called "The Cranberry Caucus".

Now, this is not a joke. The caucus plans to educate members of Congress and their staffs, federal agencies about the importance of cranberries.

At the press conference, Kerry's berries talked up the health benefits associated with the super fruit. Research indicates it prevents everything from gum disease to, of course, those UTIs.

But the thing is, this isn't really all about health. It's really about money. The cranberry industry is Massachusetts's biggest food crop. It employs more than 5,000 people and brings in $50 million a year. Massachusetts produces 2 million barrels of cranberries a year, which is about 25 percent of the total in this country. Only Wisconsin ranks ahead of Massachusetts in cranberry production. Hey, maybe you can get a bipartisan Congress caucus there on cranberry solve all their problems.

But, you know, none of this is that new. Why have a Cranberry Caucus now? One word: sugar.

In the past few months, governments at the local and federal levels have been cracking down on sugary drinks. You know, Mayor Bloomberg and the Big Gulp. The cranberry industry is upset. They are worried they might get caught up in it, because unsweetened cranberry juice is very tart. You need a lot of sugar. Anyone who has made cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving knows that.

Cranberry juice is being lumped in with soda, which is bad news for the industry. Which is one of the reasons that John Kerry now considers cranberries a pressing issue. But you know the take away from all this might be? You know, whatever side you want to take on this cranberry issue, we really don't need to hear men in Washington talking about urinary tract infections.

Thanks so much for joining us. We always appreciate it. We will be back tomorrow, same time, same place.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.