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Health Care Fight; NRA Closely Watching Holder Contempt Vote; First African-American Police Chief Fired; Interview with Congressman McKeon

Aired June 27, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the individual mandate. Will it stay or will it go? It doesn't matter because the bill doesn't address the real problem with health care in this country.

Then, love your iPad? Google offers up a rival today. They say it's cheaper with more features. Does it add up?

And he said Congress wasn't mature enough to handle the budget issue. So what's he going to do about it? We ask him. Buck McKeon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, OUTFRONT.

Well, good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, the health care fight that doesn't add up. Love it or loathe it. The individual mandate, the heart of President Obama's signature domestic achievement, is in jeopardy tonight. And Republicans are already circling the wagons.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We made it pretty clear and I'll make it clear one more time. If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what's left of it.


BURNETT: There are three things to know about the bill tonight. As we count down to the Supreme Court's biggest decision of the year. First this, only one in 10 Americans would even be required to get health insurance under the president's mandate. Yes, you heard me right. The mandate is wildly unpopular but it doesn't require anything from a lot of us.

Most Americans already have insurance and another 22 to 24 million Americans will be exempt from the mandate because they don't earn enough money to file income taxes or they're in prison or they're members of certain religious groups.

And second, if the mandate is struck down, but the rest of the bill is upheld by the court including those popular items like not discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions and helping keep kids on their parents' insurance, premiums won't necessarily surge the way some have predicted. A Rand study says they'd only go up by 2.4 percent more with an individual mandate than without one. And that brings me to the third and by far the most important thing that Americans need to know about this bill. It's a big problem. If the whole bill goes into effect, average premiums will still go up for Americans by an estimated 7 percent according to Rand.

And with no bill at all, premiums went up by 9 percent last year. You may be shocked. You're like, these are about the same number. Well, they are. And either case, here's what matters. They're going up by more than inflation, by -- I mean, many multiples of inflation. They're going up by more than your salary increase if you even get one.

And the reason is that neither Republicans or Democrats ever have dealt with the biggest problem in the country which is that surging medical costs don't come with surging life spans or healthier Americans. The average American, we spend about $8,000 per person in this country on health care. That is the most of any country in the world.

And for that, you would think that if it were all so great, we would live the longest. But we don't. We live to an average of 78.2 years, that is 27th in the world. And it comes after countries like Greece and Spain.

OUTFRONT tonight Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, which is one of the best medical institutions in this nation, and Ron Williams, the former CEO of Aetna who was once a vocal supporter of the Affordable Care Act and is now against the mandate.

Dr. Cosgrove, let me start with you in this issue of cost. I know there are pluses and minuses to this bill. You've gone through it carefully, though, but when it came to dealing with the surging cost issue you gave it an F.

DR. TONY COSGROVE, CEO, CLEVELAND CLINIC: Well, I am very concerned about the law because we're adding 32 million more people to be covered and it's going to drive up cost of care. What we really need to do is do two things to reduce the cost of care. We need to have a more efficient health care delivery system with hospitals collaborating and doctors collaborating with hospitals.

And we need to reduce the burden of disease. We can't allow the epidemic of obesity to go on in this country. It's now accounting for 10 percent of the health care costs and expected to go to 20 percent. So we need to begin to deal with those two things and in fact those things are underway right now.

BURNETT: And they're under way separate from this bill, though. I mean this bill isn't something that comes in and deals with the fact that obesity drives so much of the health care costs in this country.

COSGROVE: No. And in fact, you know, we're beginning to deal with all these issues about having a more efficient health care delivery system. You're seeing hospitals begin to come together in systems. You're seeing doctors become employed and all of these give us a more coordinated system. We've taken a tremendous amount of cost out of the health care delivery system already and it's more coordinated. We need to do even more.

BURNETT: And Ron Williams, what's your biggest disappointment with this bill. I mean this big signature moment and yet it doesn't deal with the biggest problem in the country, the surging costs.

RON WILLIAMS, FORMER AETNA CEO: I think the biggest thing that I'm really disappointed in is that we weren't able to achieve a bipartisan coalition to really do something that's extremely important to all Americans which is making certain we get everyone covered.

I think we started out trying to focus on how we increase access, how we improve quality and how we reduce the rate of increase in cost. Now what we really created principally focused mostly on the access problem which is a very important problem if you don't have health insurance.

BURNETT: Right. Right. But obviously they didn't deal with the cost. But let me ask you, Ron, you were -- you were the guy that a lot of people hated. OK, I'm going to be honest. You're an insurance guy. So you're well aware of that, right? Not the most loved in America. Neither are we in the news industry. But -- but you were the person who's supposed to benefit, right, that if you've got to cover all these people, you need an individual mandate. So then -- and you were for it. But now you're not. Why?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think I want to be very clear that I've always been a supporter of the mandate as part of a companion type of approach where you offer insurance to all comers, anyone who needs insurance can get it from their health plan. But the only way that works is if everyone is in fact required to have insurance.

I think that my objection to the particular legislation as passed really is simply an opinion that I believe the Supreme Court will not uphold this particular approach. I think the approach in Massachusetts worked well there. It's something that the citizens in that state were comfortable with.

And I'm not against the mandate in general. I don't think the particular legislation that really did not present the mandate as a tax but presented it under the Commerce Clause, in my opinion, is what will not be upheld.

BURNETT: And Dr. Cosgrove, let me just ask you a question about this issue of the mandate. One thing that stood out is, only one in 10 people would be affected by it, 24 million, 22 to 24 million Americans will be exempt from it. I mean it was hardly a -- I mean it's hardly a mandate.

COSGROVE: Well, what we're going to see, I think, a couple things. First of all, I think we will see more charity care if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional. The second thing, I think, we'll see is I think states will step in and begin to have their own mandates. And I know -- like Massachusetts does currently and I know they're already talking about that in California and several other states around the nation.

BURNETT: One thing, Dr. Cosgrove, if you could address costs, people say, well, look, if people are overweight, they should pay more in insurance premiums. Of course that becomes a regressive tax. There's all kinds of issues with the ideas out there.


BURNETT: If you were to say there was one thing you would do right now and over-simplify it, but one thing you would do to deal with the fact that we pay more per person than any country in the world and our life expectancy is 27th in the world, what would it be?

COSGROVE: I think the one thing we can probably do is begin to address the national collaboration amongst facilities and the second thing is to begin to have a major push and discussion across the country about keeping yourself well. and I think that's been left out of the discussion altogether.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you, Ron Williams, Toby Cosgrove, appreciate your time.

And of course that ruling, everyone, will come tomorrow on the individual mandate and the rest of the health care bill from the Supreme Court.

Well, still OUTFRONT, what does the NRA have to do with the contempt hearings for Eric Holder? Everything. Everything. This is a theory of conspiracy of epic proportions and Democrats are involved.

And later a black police chief is fired in a Texas town. Does it add up?

And she might be days away from going home. After winning her seemingly insurmountable battle with a flesh eating virus. Her father and sister come OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, a theory of conspiracy from the NRA. As opposed to a conspiracy theory. This is truly a theory of conspiracy because the pro gun lobby says it's going to be closely watching the House vote on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

This drama, as you're aware, has been unfolding for months. After Holder failed to turn over documents related to the government's botched "Fast and Furious" gun trafficking operation. So you may say, why is the NRA so passionately and intimately involved in this?

Well, the organization claims that "Fast and Furious" began as part of an anti-gun agenda. You know there have been theories out there that, well, you know, that the Obama administration set this up and sold these guns to drug runners because they thought something bad would happen. And then it would look bad and it would look bad for guns and you could get gun control. Yes, theories like that. And they're going to consider tomorrow's vote when dolling out their annual letter grades for members of Congress. And those letter grades are important. So far at least four Democrats have signaled they will vote with Republicans.

Kyle Leighton is editor at Talking Points Memo, CNN contributor Roland Martin is with me, and Republican strategist Hogan Gidley.

Roland, let me start with you. Thirty-one Democrats last year signed a letter to President Obama expressing concern about the administration's response to "Fast and Furious." Of those 31, 29 have received donations from the NRA.


BURNETT: I mean I don't want to draw conclusions where it would be unwarranted or anything.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, but you can. I mean the bottom line is the NRA is an extremely powerful organization and they basically have threatened members of Congress here. I mean you can call it that when they say look, we're going to score this and we're going to use this when it comes to our evaluations of who we support and who we give money to.

And trust me, those Democrats -- and look, you have many people, you have a lot of blue dog Democrats, conservative Democrats, they do not want to have to feel the wrath of the NRA when it comes to television ads over the next four or five months. We might as well go ahead and just say it.

BURNETT: Hogan, why is the NRA getting involved? I mean this conspiracy of theories, this theory of conspiracies, is a little bizarre.

HOGAN GIDLEY, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR RICK SANTORUM: Right. Well, Roland, first of all, I mean, let's be honest. Maybe these Democrats are actually voting the way their constituency would have them vote.

MARTIN: Yes right.

GIDLEY: And the NRA is very popular among that constituency. So that's - that's the first thing. But the NRA does need to tread lightly here. I mean this is a serious issue. It's about Eric Holder, in my opinion, and it's about whether he was truthful to Congress or not. And someone lost his life. A border agent for the United States lost their live over this, hundreds of Mexicans did as well.

I will say this about the NRA. This might be the only way this is relevant come November for middle America. For people like us this Eric Holder trial or contempt hearing is going to be very important. We all watch it. We all care what's going on. But for middle America who's really not paying attention the week before the 4th of July, the NRA stepping into this thing might be the only way it's relevant come November. BURNETT: Kyle, what do you think about that? Is the NRA going to -- be what makes this Eric Holder story matter for more people?

KYLE LEIGHTON, EDITOR, TPM POLLTRACKER: I don't know about that too much. I mean certainly moving the -- the NRA moving this into the political category by scoring it, it's certainly something that, as polarized as this environment is and even as interest groups are polarized, there's actually some opportunity for Democrats to sustain the NRA endorsement. And it's a very, very important endorsement for a lot of rural Democrats.


LEIGHTON: And conservative to moderate. So when they actually get it, I think it's really important to them to really hold on to it.


LEIGHTON: And so why this is really important is when it gets scored, it's something that they're going to have to deal with really politically like pretty much right away.

BURNETT: Right. So --

MARTIN: And Erin?

BLITZER: Yes, so, yes, Roland.

MARTIN: Let's just be honest. The NRA can't stand this president, they don't like this attorney general and also they despise the ATF. We can go all the way back to Waco and the whole issue with the Branch Davidian compound. And so the NRA -- look at how they have effectively blocked a real leader to lead the ATF. Look how they -- they attacked him at every moment.

So the NRA does not want there to be a federal agency when it comes to the dealing with the issue of guns in this country. That's who they are. So it's no shock they are involved in this case because they want to bring this AG down. And like you said, these crazy conspiracy theories, put them with the 9/11 truthers and the birthers, everyone else, as total crackpots with these theories.

BURNETT: Hogan, what's your response to that? I mean some of these theories I've heard are truly absurd.

GIDLEY: Right. I mean, look, there are so many things Roland touched on me there for me to -- for me to respond to but --

BURNETT: Yes, but what about the theories --


BURNETT: What about the specific issue of some of these theories, that the Obama administration actually did this whole operation hoping that one day it would cause a problem for guns and they could use that to get to gun control. I could think of a heck of a lot better ways to get to gun control.

GIDLEY: Right. Right. And look, like I said. The NRA needs to tread very lightly here. But the -- the bottom line is right, the NRA doesn't like this president. If you're -- if you're a liberal, you don't like the NRA. If you're conservative you do like the NRA. And that's just part of politics. It was a shrewd political move to try to make this -- to try to connect these dots if they are indeed connected like I said before. I don't think middle America is paying attention to this trial absent a smoking gun.

BURNETT: Pun intended?

GIDLEY: But in November, they sure will be if the NRA has something to say about it.


BURNETT: Kyle --

MARTIN: Hogan. Hogan, don't --

BURNETT: Kyle, what about the --

MARTIN: Say it, Hogan. Say it. This theory is crazy. Just go ahead and admit it.

GIDLEY: I don't know if the theory is crazy or not. I'm just waiting for --


MARTIN: OK. All right. Come on, Hogan.

GIDLEY: But they're putting it out there and they're making this thing relevant for November. And that's what they're trying to do.


GIDLEY: And no, they don't like this president. That's pretty obvious.

BURNETT: So, Kyle, what do you think about the three Democrats on who got donations from the NRA this cycle but did not sign that letter to the president about "Fast and Furious." Are they going to -- how important will losing the NRA support be? Do you think they'll lose it?

LEIGHTON: Well, I mean I don't -- I couldn't tell you that. I couldn't tell you if they're going to lose or not. But that's the definition of walking a fine line when you're talking about conservative to moderate Democrats and how they sort of deal with this NRA endorsement.


LEIGHTON: It's something that, you know, they want desperately, but it's also a really big problem if their opponent, who -- if they're running in a moderate to conservative district, their opponent is probably primed and really ready to take that NRA endorsement.


LEIGHTON: And tout it really well. So if -- you know, they want to keep it but they also want to make sure that they're maintaining their ties certainly with -- with the President Obama and the Democrats in general.

BURNETT: Yes. It's going to be a tough choice for them.

Thanks to all three. We appreciate it.

And next, Google's quest to rule the world, making inroads into the iPad. And also inventing a device that looks a little bit like a death star. But it's going to change the way you watch OUTFRONT.

And fired from his job as police chief in Jasper, Texas, an African-American police chief asks does it add up.?


BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT tonight, Jasper, Texas. It's a city that's no stranger to racial tension. It made headlines in the 1998 death of James Bird, Jr., who was dragged behind a pickup truck by three white men. That was 14 years ago.

And now racial tensions are again at an all-time high. The first black police chief of Jasper, Rodney Pearson, was elected in early 2011 by a majority black city council. Then last week he was fired by a newly elected city council with a white majority. Deborah Feyerick is OUTFRONT.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jasper, Texas, is a sleepy town with temperatures well over 100 degrees in summer. But it's not the heat that defines Jasper so much as a crime that happened 14 years ago.

RODNEY PEARSON, FORMER POLICE CHIEF: When they tied him to the truck, as they came along here, he was going from side to side --

FEYERICK: As Texas's first black trooper, Rodney Pearson, found the body of James Bird Junior, a black man dragged to his death by three white men.

PEARSON: His head and shoulder caught this culvert right here and --

FEYERICK (on camera): And it snapped --

PEARSON: And it severed it completely off his body.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Not long ago Pearson became the city's first black police chief, but his term ended after a little more than a year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I make a motion that Mr. Pearson be terminated as city police chief.

FEYERICK: Pearson was fired in April 2011 by the Jasper city council in a 4-1 vote. The four black council members voted for him. The one white member didn't. Sixteen months later he was fired by a different city council, majority white. The vote also 4-1.

PEARSON: I was fired over race. And now I feel that me and my family are marked.

FEYERICK: What seemed like a simple hire, has turned Jasper upside down, reopening past wounds, pitting blacks against whites.

PEARSON: Our local radio station, KJAS, they've made me a huge target.

FEYERICK (on camera): And who owns that station?

PEARSON: The mayor.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Mayor Michael Lout backed someone else for the job.

(On camera): When you looked at the nine finalists where did Rodney Pearson fall in terms of that scoring system?

MAYOR MICHAEL LOUT, JASPER, TEXAS: Well, I think he was way down below, pretty close to the bottom -- pretty close to the bottom of the list. They just wanted their person in there.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Pearson says his credentials were identical if not better than past Jasper police chiefs. Comments on the radio station's Facebook page contain racial slurs.

CADE BERNSEN, PEARSON'S ATTORNEY: From day one to the day he was fired, he' been, he's had a target on his back.

FEYERICK: For those against Pearson, the only way to get rid of him was to get rid of those four black city council members who voted to hire him. A group of all white residents calling itself concerned citizens launched a petition drive to recall the black council members. Accusing them of incompetence and misconduct in hiring Pearson.

(On camera): Were all of you incompetent?

TERRYA NORSWORTHY, FORMER COUNCILMAN, JASPER, TEXAS: We make a positive decision, something positive, for the city of Jasper and we find ourselves recalled.

FEYERICK: How far apart are people?

PEARSON: I think that we're probably back at that same stage that we were at during the James bird time. FEYERICK: So that rift is back?

PEARSON: Absolutely. The town is divided.


BURNETT: All right. And Deb is with me tonight.

And, Deb, I know since you literally filed that story moments ago, you've learned something new. What is it?

FEYERICK: Yes, Erin, as we were on this story for OUTFRONT, we learned that the city's insurance carrier actually canceled coverage for its public officials, that's liability coverage for things like discrimination issues, civil rights matters. So there's expected to be a meeting. But right now all those public officials come September 1 they have no personal coverage, Erin.

BURNETT: Wow, that is -- that's incredible. And what is the mood in the town? I mean in just in general people's reaction to this?

FEYERICK: You know, it is so interesting, because so many people that we speak to, black and white, said they were such good friends with the mayor, that they went for coffee with him, went on his airplane, he's a flyer. They had a drink with him all the time. The black council members said that they were very close to him.

So there's a really deep sense of betrayal, why this happened, why the move seems to be coming out of his radio station. A there's a real fear of retaliation. Some people actually changing their minds saying, you know, forget it, we don't want to be in this piece, we've got too much at stake, we've got kids, we've got grandkids. So there's a real sense.

And for example, even the police chief's wife, she was fired just three weeks ago without cause, and when she asked her employer, the only reason they would give her is because of low morale in the office. But nothing pertain to her record -- Erin.

BURNETT: Thanks very much to Deb Feyerick in Jasper, Texas.

And OUTFRONT next, Chairman Buck McKeon of the Armed Services Committee, tells me why huge lay-offs planned by a defense contractor aren't part of politics and what he's doing to break the stalemate in Washington.

Plus seven wildfires torching the western part of the United States in the past few moments and the FBI involved tonight.


BURNETT: All right. We start the second half of our show. It's stories we care about where we focus in own reporting from the frontlines. A surprising toxicology report in the gruesome case of cannibalism in Florida. The report shows that marijuana was the only drug found in Rudy Eugene's body. He is the man who was shot and killed by police as he chewed off the face of another man. The attack was caught on a security camera, had raised speculation that Eugene may have been high on a drug called bath salts. But today's report ruled that out and also ruled out alcohol and prescription drugs.

The victim Ronald Poppo is recovering. And the reason that he did that gruesome act now it's still very much unknown.

Well, Stockton, California, is going to have the dubious distinction of being the largest city in this country to declare bankruptcy. City officials say that Stockton's $26 million budget deficit stems largely from the real estate market, which was devastated and expensive medical benefits given to retired city workers.

Retirees had 100 percent of their medical bills paid-for for life. That was too good to be true.

Because of the bankruptcy filing, in four days, the city will not pay a single cent for their medical care.

Joe Rose, an attorney who represents two of the city unions told OUTFRONT that that promise breaks -- the city breaks -- that breaks a promise that the city made with workers to pay those benefits in return for reduced wage increases. The problem is when there's no money, it doesn't matter who made a mistake.

Well, President Obama had a private lunch today at the White House with Abu Dhabi's crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It's the world's third largest oil exporter and that man right there sits on top of 10 percent of the world's oil. I'm told the president and crowned prince talked about Syria, Egypt and Iran.

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the eve of hitting 100, countries that is. Oh, she is ahead of me. She will be the first secretary of state to hit triple digits when she lands in Latvia tomorrow, making her the most traveled secretary in U.S. history. She's traveled 833,194 miles, not enough, though, to pass Condoleezza Rice who logged more than 1,059,000 miles, but Secretary Clinton has six months to go to get 200,000-mile difference.

I have to say, I'd be waiting with great excitement if I can ever get to 100. I'm still at 76. But I'll remember what my 100 is and I'm sure she will forever. Latvia.

It's been 328 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, there's some good news today, and in fact, it was the third positive housing report we've gotten this week. Pending home sales rose to their highest level in two years. Now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: kicking the can. Congressman Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is mad. He's mad about the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that are barreling at our economy like an 18-wheeler at full tilt on the turnpike.

Half of the cuts will come from the defense budget, which, of course, is important to McKeon. And we've been eagerly awaiting talking to the chairman ever since last week he said this -- "Why don't we just sit down now and say, look, we're not mature enough, we're not adult enough to solve this, so we're going to just kick the can down the road."

Earlier today, I spoke with Congressman McKeon, whose first television interview since that comment. And I asked him exactly what he meant by that statement.


REP. BUCK MCKEON (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: My position is the same as in my speeches and in my votes. I think we should address the issue right now. That was the point that I was trying to make.

BURNETT: You're saying -- you were saying that in frustration, not that you wanted to kick the can down the road, but you're so darn sick of everything and everybody not working together, that that's how it's going to be, so -- gosh darn it, do it?

MCKEON: That's -- my position is it should have been done earlier and it should be done today, not "let's wait" because I met with these industry leaders. It met with one today. And their attorneys are explaining the law to them. The Warren Act says they're going to have to notify their employees 60 to 90 days before a potential lay-off.


MCKEON: And the chairman of Lockheed told me they're going to have to probably in January layoff 10 percent of their employees. They have 126,000 employees. We're looking at, if this full sequestration kicks in, we're looking at, on top of the $487 billion that we've already cut, another $500 billion, $600 billion, which brings it up to $1 trillion over the next 10 years. We're going to be losing about a million and a half jobs.

BURNETT: And let me ask you about that, because, you know, it sounds like a lot of money. But devil's advocate for a moment, it's over ten years. So, it's about $100 billion a year. Lockheed really needs to lay off 12,600 people on January 1st? Do you get the feeling that some of these cuts don't make sense, but some headlines like that would require pink slips to go out right before the election might be more political than anything else?

MCKEON: Well, the reason he even brought this up is they went to the director of OMB to get some guidance from the government. The director of OMB says don't pay any attention to this, it's not going to happen, don't worry about it.

Well, that's some direction to our government -- don't pay attention to our law. The law says on January 1st, sequestration kicks in.

They were looking for some guidance. They said, what should we do? Stick your head in the sand, forget about it, don't pay any attention to it.

Well, their attorneys say you can't do that.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about how we're in that position. We're in this position because there was a deal struck after the debt ceiling last summer by Speaker Boehner. That deal was, look, we're going to find cuts. If we don't find cuts, we'll do these $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts, which are designed to be awful for both Democrats and Republicans and cause a lot of lay-offs. By putting that scary bogeyman out there, the super committee will surely find cuts.

Well, we all know that they abysmally failed in doing that. Here is what you had to say about John Boehner and that vote recently.

"Speaker John Boehner came and met with our committee and assured us last summer that sequestration was so bad, it was planned to be so bad that it couldn't possibly ever happen. And with that, most of the members of the Armed Services Committee did vote for it," including you.


BURNETT: Are you angry about that? Do you regret it? Do you feel misled?

MCKEON: I'm frustrated because we were under the belief that it would not happen, and I think that there's still a lot of people like the director of OMB tells these industry leaders don't pay any attention to it. It's not going to happen.

What I'm saying is it is happening now. They are already making business decisions based on this. They can't wait until January 1st to decide what to do and then let their people know. They have to plan ahead. And they can't take the position that the government is telling them to take.

The law is the law. It kicks in January 1st, and it's going to be very destructive.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Chairman McKeon, thank you very much for taking the time. We appreciate it. See you soon.

MCKEON: Thanks for having me. Thank you very much, Erin.


BURNETT: And we have breaking news right now. The FBI telling CNN that the agency is investigating whether criminal activity is to blame for any of the seven wildfires burning across Colorado.

The most closely watched is just outside Colorado Springs. Thirty-six thousand people have now been evacuated. A thousand firefighters are on the front lines trying to hold it back from the more populated areas of that city.

President Obama plans to tour the devastation on Friday.

And tonight, CNN's Jim Spellman is OUTFRONT in Colorado Springs.

Jim, obviously, the breaking news is the FBI is looking into whether there was arson or something else involved in this. But this is, as the fires -- I know you've been out looking at, the weather is making it worse tonight, right?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. This is really crunch time during the day, Erin, when the winds can pick up and really start to drive this fire. This time last night is when everything changed in this fire. The winds changed direction, 65-mile-per-hour gusts, sending it over two fire lines and into populated areas where it began burning homes.

Now, right now, it's not too bad. You can see a smoky haze across the whole city here. An hour and a half ago, you could barely make out these trees just on the other side of the road. It's so dynamic at this time of day, fueled additionally now by summer storms that have came in last night and again this evening, they have the potential to come in to start doing the same thing to the winds.

So, what that does is, the winds are blowing one way and that's the way the firefighters are working, and then suddenly they're blowing in another direction. Embers blowing from the fire can start new fires and everything can get out of hand quickly. They're hoping that doesn't happen again tonight. But now we've entered the period of time when that's a distinct possibility.

BURNETT: Tell me what you know about this FBI investigation. I mean, is this something they would do in any case or is it your understanding they have something specific that would lead them to think that perhaps arson was involved?

SPELLMAN: It's pretty unusual. I was in contact with the FBI in Denver when they told me they're down here to work and bring their resources to bear on it. Obviously, they have a lot more capabilities to do criminal investigations when all the local agencies here are so wrapped up with the ongoing emergency here.

They still haven't been able to pinpoint the cause of this. They know there wasn't lightning. They fear maybe there was potential for some sort of arson. They've had a tip line going. We know they've gotten a lot of tips and been able to look at it.

But the sheriffs here haven't been able to fully focus on that because of all the roadblocks they're doing, helping with evacuations, et cetera. That's why they called in the FBI.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much, Jim Spellman. Appreciate your reporting, from Colorado Springs.

And OUTFRONT next, an update on Aimee Copeland. Her father and sister join us. And I'm going to ask them what the first thing that Aimee plans to do after winning her battle with flesh-eating bacteria, ahead.

And later, it is hump day. It's only hump day. The camels are here to save the world. This is not a joke tonight.


BURNETT: So, Google is taking on Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle Fire. So, today, it unveiled the Nexus 7. It's a table, seven inches. It's got the latest version of Android which they call Jelly Bean. It costs $199, the same as the Kindle Fire.

But one of the other big announcements today was this one, you look at the thing and go what the heck is that thing. It's called the Nexus Q. Is it a robot? Anyway, it's a device that lets you stream music and video from the cloud to your television. Google calls it a social streaming device because you can create playlists, share music, things like that.

It's expensive, $299. That is $200 more than the apple TV and it's only for Google Play and YouTube. So, you may say, well, why would I ever do such a thing? Well, here may be why -- it has a few more features than an Apple TV, but it's also made in the United States of America, meaning it costs a little bit more to build it and manufacture it.

So, for example, an outer shell you were looking at, according to "Wired" magazine, it's actually made by a company in Wisconsin, made in the USA.

And the one big message out of Google today is that people don't want to be tied to their television or computer, they want to watch TV on the go. That's our number tonight: 70 -- 70 percent. That's the percentage of consumers who watch television on a non-television device -- so, a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet.

That's incredible. That's according to the NPD display search study. They found a number of people using tablets to watch television and video more than doubled, the more they survey.

That's why companies like CNN now have apps that let you live stream our content. Let us know where you watch OUTFRONT. Go tweet us @OutFrontCNN or tweet me directly @ErinBurnett and let us know. Do you watch on television or somewhere else? We're actually really curious to know the answer.

And now to our "Outer Circle," where we reach out to sources around the world.

Let me go to Mexico where presidential candidates hit the road today for their last day of campaigning before the election. It's Sunday. Our Miguel Marquez was with the front-runner. And I asked him how the outcome will affect Mexico's relationship with the U.S.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, no matter who wins the election, the one thing is for sure, there will be continued close relationship with the United States. Mexico has a very strong economy at the moment compared to the U.S. And they hope they can continue that relationship and it gets stronger. It grew 4.6 percent in the first quarter of this year alone.

The other thing going on here is certainly the drug war. They're going to keep up the fight against the cartels they say. The other thing that Mexicans want is less guns and more cooperation from the U.S. with regard to guns coming across the border from the U.S. into Mexico. We're at a rally now for Enrique Pena Nieto, the front- runner.

And he has been right behind us here. You can actually see him up in the crowd. They certainly love him in Toluca.

This election will take place on Sunday. He seems to be the front -- he is the front-runner. It is very likely he will be the next president of Mexico -- Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Thanks to Miguel Marquez from Mexico City.

And now to Syria where rebel forces launched an attack on a government-run television station today. Seven were killed in the chaos. Ivan Watson is in Istanbul and I asked him how it happened.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the Syrian government says rebels attacked at dawn at the headquarters outside Damascus of the pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV channel and they killed three journalists working there as well as four security guards before blowing the place up.

The information minister for the Syrian government is calling this an act of terrorism, an attack on media and journalists in Syria. And he's blaming this in part on western governments and Arab and international institutions that he claims are part of a conspiracy against the Syrian regime.

This shows the increased audacity of the armed Syrian operation which according to a U.N. report is starting to use assassinations more often and improvised explosive devices against military targets that do not only hit Syrian security forces, but also Syrian civilians -- Erin.


BURNETT: Thanks to Ivan Watson in Istanbul.

And now, let's check in with Soledad, who's in for Anderson, with a look at what's on "360".

Hi, Soledad.


We're keeping them honest. Ahead on "360" tonight, some late developments on the "Fast and Furious" gun-runnings operation on the eve of a House vote that may cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress. A six-month investigation details a very different version of how many on Capitol Hill and in the media have been describing what happened on the ground with those weapons in Arizona, the fascinating details come to us from "Fortune" magazine's Katherine Eban.

Tonight in "Crime and Punishment", a $50,000 reward is being offered for one of Los Angeles' most notorious sexual predators, the so-called teardrop rapist. He's been gone for seven years now. But now, he's back.

Those stories and the countdown of "Ridiculist" top five at the top of the hour.

Erin, we'll see you then.

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

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT, the miraculous recovery of 24- year-old Aimee Copeland. Doctors upgraded her condition from serious to good.

And those of you who have been following this story will be amazed. She's scheduled to leave the hospital on Monday. After spending more than seven weeks fighting a flesh-eating bacteria called necrotizing fasciitis.

Doctors gave Aimee a 1 percent chance of survival. But after amputating her hands, one of her legs and her foot, she has beaten the odds in the most incredible fashion.

Aimee's father Andy and her sister Paige are OUTFRONT tonight with the latest.

And it's great to see both of you. And, Paige, especially you -- but, Andy, let me start with you. I know she's leaving the hospital on Monday and going to a rehab facility. What was her reaction when she found out?

ANDY COPELAND, AIMEE COPELAND'S FATHER: Well, I think, you know, she's real excited. She's been seeing those four walls inside that hospital for a long time. And just being able to get out and go for a stroll outside the hospital was one thing.

But, you know what? Being able to get out of the hospital and take the next step in her recovery process, I would say is about like you going to college for the first time. If you can think about how exciting that step was, when you get up and you go to college, you kind of leave in your old life behind, starting something new, packing those bags, getting ready to go to school and learn something. And that's what she's doing.

This next step is her opportunity to go the next phase and learn something, be able to rehabilitate and basically relearn her life skills.

BURENTT: So, she's going to be learning, Andy, what exactly? To learn how to move and operate -- this is before she would get a prosthetic limb or anything like that, right? This is -- she's going to be learning how to move?

A. COPELAND: That's correct. I think the first initial phase is for her to be able to learn without prosthetics. She needs to be able to develop the autonomy to be able to transfer from a bed to the wheelchair from the shower to the bathroom or anywhere else in the house. She can do it.

Actually, there's a young man named Kyle Maynard who has no limbs and he actually drives a car without limbs. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with no limbs. We know the ability to transfer without prosthetics limbs is possible.

BURNETT: So, Page, what has your sister been telling you about how she feels?

PAIGE COPELAND, AIMEE COPELAND'S OLDER SISTER: Well, she's just amazing because she just knows that she's blessed and she is just so happy to be alive. Whenever I go over there, we take care of -- do simple things that you and I probably take for granted like brushing your teeth, washing your hair.

I was like, girl, I've got to wash her hair last time I saw her. So, we wash her hair and give her a facial, give her a little side pony, just all those things. And afterwards she's always so thankful, and she's always saying thank you a million times.

And she looked at me last time and said, Paige, don't ever take this for granted. I was like, don't worry, I won't.

BURNETT: Paige, isn't that amazing? I know you're close, only about a year apart. I mean, was she your best friend before this, too? I mean --

P. COPELAND: She -- we've always been super close. Especially in high school and in college, we graduated together. So we've -- I mean, she is -- I couldn't imagine life without Aimee. She's -- we're very close. I've always looked up to her a lot.

BURNETT: What has amazed you the most? I can't imagine thinking of my sisters and -- I mean, you -- just that she responds this way. I mean, the way you all see this, that seems the biggest miracle of all, that she is so overjoyed to be alive and she's saying thank you to you so many times. I mean, did it surprise you when she first was able to speak that she reacted this way? P. COPELAND: It was kind of surprising. Aimee cherishes life and relishes life every day as a gift. She's always had that outlook even before her accident. And what really amazed me is being kids together, she was always falling up and down the stairs, off of her bike. She's not very graceful.

But then with all this happening, she's just had such tremendous grace and just has handled it like a champ. So that's one thing that's really surprised me. She's not clumsy ole Aimee, she's, you know, like a swan.

BURNETT: What a beautiful image.

Andy, are you going to be able to -- I know you're trying to get your home ready. You've got 68 weeks while she's in this first step of rehab and then hopefully coming home.

Are you going to be able to get the home ready? I know you're trying to change everything so she can come home and be able to move around.

A. COPELAND: That's a real good question. We've actually -- in fact, I'm holding in my hand here, some drawings that were drawn by an architect to help get our house ready. We actually -- if you could imagine a home builder and built a house and said I want to make this house completely inaccessible for somebody disabled. That's what our house is like. We don't have a master bath on the main or a master bedroom.

We've got to get a place for her to be able to go where she can access. So, we're building a special wing for her, but we've got to find a home builder who can fast-track this thing and mike it a priority and make it happen. I was trying to reach out to Beazer Homes, which is a really big homebuilder to see if maybe they could make this priority project to see if somebody could knock this out in six to eight weeks. We've got John Whellan (ph) home.

If there's any home builders out there listening to this, please give me a call. Let's see what we can do to make this happen for Aimee so that she doesn't have to come home and have a bed in the living room.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I'm sure they will step up to the plate. Thank you. Great to see you both.

And, Paige, thank you for the image of the swan, that was beautiful. Thank you.

P. COPELAND: Thanks, Erin.

A. COPELAND: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right, next, the best weapon in the war on terror. We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Every once in a while, our hump day must have a camel report.

Well, since September 11th, America has had to consider the possibility of bioterrorism threats. The Centers for Disease Control warned that terrorists could release viruses, bacteria and other germs into the air, water, even our food to kill Americans.

Botulism is considered particularly dangerous. And so, in 2003, Tuffs University was awarded a grant for a botulism research unit. And after years of study, we found out today we are closer to an antitoxin. The reason is camels.

When a body is hit with a toxin like botulism, it creates antibodies. But in order for those antibodies to work, they have to attach themselves to the toxin using a binding agent.

Dr. Charles Schumacher (ph) tells "The Telegram and Gazette" that his team has found a way to use a unique binding agent that's part of the genetic material of camelids, like llamas, alpacas and yes, the one and only camel.

To increase the number of anti-bodies that can bond to a toxin and flush out of your system. And the most amazing thing about this, everybody, is the antitoxins developed this way last longer, they are less expensive and they work faster than any of the antitoxins currently on the market.

This is incredible, but it's just the latest camel-related health discovery. When I was at a camel dairy, I learned about some of the health benefits of drinking camel milk. Now, OK, they went a little far, but they said it was like a miracle drug that could treat autism, cancer, even AIDS.

The Center for Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai has even started a genetic registry of more than 6,000 camels. They hope that will lead to antidotes for snake venom and a treatment for diabetes.

If you think it's still long way off, but they all come because camels have stomachs like ours, unlike cows. But you know what the truth of it is? At least we're starting to get over the first hump.

Have a great night. "A.C 360" starts now.