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Colorado Shooter Investigation; Copycat Shooter?; Historic Donation; Severance Outrage

Aired July 27, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news on the suspect in the Colorado movie theater massacre and his mental state. Plus, a possible mass shooting plot foiled. A Maryland man in custody tonight who police say had an arsenal of weapons who also called himself a "joker". And is the next Fukushima disaster waiting to happen along the California coast?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight we have breaking news on Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes. CNN has learned that Holmes was seeing a University of Colorado psychiatrist before the attack last Friday, which left 12 dead and 58 wounded. The new information is coming to light now because lawyers for Holmes are asking authorities to hand over a package that Holmes had sent to his psychiatrist.

Now this package was discovered in the university's medical campus mailroom on Monday. And it included a letter that contained references to shooting people and drawings of a gunman and his victims, according to "CBS News". We now know the package was addressed to Dr. Lynne Fenton (ph), the director of student mental health at the University of Colorado. A resume posted on the university's website says that Fenton sees between 15 to 20 graduate students each week for medication and psychotherapy.

She also serves as a psychiatrist, seeing between five and 10 patients according, again, to that resume. In a court filing today, Holmes public defender said, quote, "the materials contained in that package include communications from Mr. Holmes to Dr. Fenton that Mr. Holmes asserts are privileged. Mr. Holmes was a psychiatric patient of Dr. Fenton and his communications with her are protected."

OUTFRONT tonight, Drew Griffin, who has been investigating this story. Drew good to see you and let me just ask you what you think the significance is of this package, the letter and of the court filing, where they're saying this is privileged.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the significance is we now know that Holmes, this person who's accused in this horrendous crime, was seeing a campus psychiatrist before the shooting took place, Erin. And what does that entail? We don't know. There will be a lot of questions not only from prosecutors but from so many families as to what that communication, what that treatment was for. What was Holmes telling his doctor about what was going on in his head? And the logical question is, what, if anything, should or could that doctor have said or done to try to intervene in what was this horrendous event.

BURNETT: Yes (INAUDIBLE) with her there, right, that there could have been you know images of someone shooting people. Are there any indications, Drew, from your understanding that the university was trying to obfuscate, hide, anything about this communication or this relationship with the psychiatrist?

GRIFFIN: You know Erin we have been chasing this very lead for several, several days now. And getting fairly stonewalled by authorities who believe -- at the university, I should say -- who are believed to be trapped under a gag order is in place by the court here. But I do want to tell you that on Monday we directly asked the police chief of the campus in a news conference they had directly about any contact whatsoever the school had with James Holmes, about James Holmes. In fact, listen to this exchange from that news conference.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Chief (INAUDIBLE) did your department or any of your officers have any interaction with this student whatsoever (INAUDIBLE)?

DOUG ABRAHAM, CHIEF OF POLICE, UNIV. OF COLORADO: I don't have any information on him at all.


ABRAHAM: Yes. And as you already know, I think there was a traffic ticket from Aurora. That's it for us, them and everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Nobody ever brought him to your attention in any way (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAHAM: We've had no contact with him on a criminal matter whatsoever as a police department.


GRIFFIN: Erin, yesterday, a spokesman for the university said, you know what, the chief wasn't being forthright with you. In fact, here's what they told us "out of concern with violating the court order, the chief didn't answer the questions directly." So the question is what did the school know? If they didn't answer that question directly, does that mean they did know he was seeing this psychiatrist, that there was any kind of warnings? All of that is going to come out as this court case moves forward, but obviously, a big development today that this guy was seeking mental health at the school before the shooting.

BURNETT: Certainly raises a lot of questions about who knew what, when and liability. Thanks so much to Drew Griffin who's been investigating this. And in Maryland today, there were echoes of last week's Colorado attack. Police say that Neil Edwin Prescott is in custody after he allegedly called himself a "joker" and threatened to quote, "load my guns and blow everyone up." Prescott allegedly made the threats in a phone call as he was being fired from his job at a software company.

When people -- when police searched his home this morning, they found a cache of 25 guns, mostly automatic rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition. OUTFRONT tonight Prince George's County Police Chief Mark Magaw. I spoke to him earlier and I started by asking him how serious he thinks these threats were.


MARK MAGAW, PRINCE GEORGE'S CO. MD POLICE CHIEF: Well I think it was very serious. And we went and -- 36-hour investigation. And on the statements that were made, our interview with him (INAUDIBLE) county are another agency close to us, he was very serious in my opinion, something that we could not walk away from.

BURNETT: And what types of guns did he have? We were talking about -- you had some he had 25 guns, lots of ammunition. What sort of an arsenal did you find?

MAGAW: He had 25 weapons in his home, most of them automatic weapons, several automatic rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition. ATF has that -- or those weapons now and are categorizing them and checking for ownership on those weapons as we speak.

BURNETT: How would -- how easy is it to obtain thousands of rounds of ammunition? And is there any situation that you can think of where anybody would have that in some sort of a normal existence?

MAGAW: Well, you can -- you can get ammunition online. There's several different ways to get that type of ammunition. I would say that very few people have that much automatic weapons ammunition.

BURNETT: But obviously were you surprised as a law enforcement official that someone could have amassed all of this and 25 automatic weapons without being noticed? I mean I know you said the ATF is checking in sort of the registration of those weapons, but were you shocked?

MAGAW: I was surprised by the number of weapons that were in the house and just how lethal these weapons are. The amount he had was enormous.

BURNETT: Now, sir, I know you said people are talking about how he referred to himself as "The Joker", which could have been a reference to the -- people are saying is a reference obviously to the shooting in Colorado. Do you think this was a -- obviously, some sort of a copycat attack, even though it would seem that he obviously would have amassed these weapons prior to the Colorado event?

MAGAW: Well, when he said that he had made reference to "The Joker", we took this very, very seriously and moved quickly to have him evaluated mentally. But that's the way we took it that he was making reference to Colorado.

BURNETT: Now, I'm just curious, because I know you've been very careful with the words you've used, that he is in custody. As opposed to using the words arrested and obviously he had not gone ahead with the attack, so I guess a lot of people are going to ask tonight, are you going to be able to charge him? Is it possible that someone could have had this arsenal, he didn't actually go out and shoot anybody and he could walk free?

MAGAW: Well, that's being looked at right now at the state's attorney's office as far as local charges, but also on a federal level in reference to should he have had those weapons, so we're looking at every angle and every criminal aspect to charge this individual if it's appropriate. But our first and immediate response was to get him mental help if that's what he needed.

BURNETT: If it's appropriate, but you do intend -- you intend to do everything you can to press charges, is that fair to say?

MAGAW: Absolutely. Absolutely. There are charges pending right now, yes, ma'am.

BURNETT: There are charges pending right now. All right, so you do anticipate you're going to be making charges when, tomorrow, tonight?

MAGAW: Those charges are now being reviewed and they're pending the state's attorney at the local level's review.

BURNETT: And I want to ask you --

MAGAW: So sometime over the weekend.

BURNETT: Sometime over the weekend he'll be charged. All right, well something else I want to ask you about. There was --

MAGAW: Hopefully.

BURNETT: Yes. When police first encountered Prescott he had a t-shirt on that said, "Guns don't kill people, I do." Is that -- is that true?

MAGAW: Yes, ma'am. When (INAUDIBLE) county went initially yesterday to interview this individual, he did have that t-shirt on.


BURNETT: Frightening story.

Well still OUTFRONT, the power of money. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (INAUDIBLE) donation that could be a game-changer in the gay marriage fight. The question is should one man have that much power?

And one county official is forced to resign over botched sexual assault investigations and yet he's going to take home nearly $300,000. Does that add up? And the biggest conventional bomb in the American arsenal is finally ready for use. Why it's being talked about as a possible weapon in a war with Iraq.


BURNETT: Now our second story OUTFRONT the CEO of Amazon today made the biggest ever publicly reported donation to a same-sex marriage campaign. Jeff Bezos and his wife announced that they are giving $2.5 million to an organization that defends same-sex marriage in Washington State. Now the organization says that donation, no shock, is a game-changer. But is it right for one person to have such outsized influence over a hot button issue? Maybe it just depends on whether you like his point of view or not.

Reihan Salam joins me along with Jamal Simmons. Jamal, this is a -- this is a tough one. I mean a lot of people who, you know they may like what Jeff Bezos is doing, so they may want to say great. Hey, the more money we can get to our cause the better. Maybe if they don't like the point of view, they would feel differently.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that's right, but for others, I think this is -- this shows that it's probably too much money swishing around in politics in general. It would be great if we lived in a society where we could have limits on how much (INAUDIBLE) give to a political campaign, a political effort where there's a candidate involved or an issue so that real people, average Americans can have their say without maybe being overwhelmed by the power of one outside person. That said, since we live in the position that we're in, you know the good guys depending on which side you're on, the good guys have a right to say what it is that they want to say with their money. And we as consumers don't want to use their site or go to their restaurants, then we don't have to go there. We can vote with our feet.

BURNETT: Interesting, but Jamal, you make a fair point. Most people can't give $2.5 million or any fraction of that to anything that they believe in, so --


BURNETT: -- Jeff Bezos and all these people giving individual donations, they are -- they are influencing the political system.

SIMMONS: Yes that's right and I think it would be great -- I would love for us to have a system and I have supported people who believe in this where people cannot give more than whatever -- let's pick an amount, someone smarter than me can pick the amount, but they don't give more than that and then average citizens can have their own say.

BURNETT: Reihan, the president of Chick-fil-A obviously was blasted this week for his point of view on gay marriage. There have been donations as well on his stand -- against gay marriage and that caused a big brouhaha. I didn't hear any brouhaha today about Jeff Bezos. REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well that's a great point and also when you see a lot of the conservatives who are outraged about what happened with Chick-fil-A's CEO a lot of them were objecting when there was talk about ground zero mosque or a so-called ground zero mosque, but it was the same exact thing. There were folks who were saying that hey, let's use the zoning process to say that this group of people shouldn't be able to build this facility that represents values that we don't share. And then there -- I think the issue is, should you be allowed to use zoning laws. Should you be allowed to use those powers of the state in order to regulate what different organizations can and can't say.

BURNETT: Right, but it bothers me --

SALAM: So I think that that's a legitimate question.

BURNETT: -- it's a double standard issue, right?


BURNETT: People raise hell when they don't like something. But when they support it, it's suddenly OK --


BURNETT: And especially you've got Jeff Bezos supporting gay marriage and Chick-fil-A against it. One caused the storm and the other didn't.

SALAM: You had a ton of Republicans donors including some who backed the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who also gave massive amounts of money to the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State and then suddenly these guys, who used to be demonized, they used to be terrible bad guys, they suddenly became heroes. So again, I think it all is about where you sit on this particular issue.

And I think that's ultimately silly. Partly because when we talk about political spending, Erin, what counts as political spending? So you could say that well you make a political donation that's political spending, but what about when you, let's say, make a movie that expresses a particular political point of view.

BURNETT: Right, interesting point, yes --

SALAM: Or let's say churches and synagogues across the country now that's not considered political spending, but when you turn certain things that weren't political issues into political issues, then almost any kind of spending becomes quote/unquote "political spending", so that's why I'm very concerned about efforts to regulate quote/unquote "political speech" because it can really be anything.


SIMMONS: Erin, we can't have a society where we're protected from all of the possible ills that come -- that could come into play. Bu what we can do -- BURNETT: Right.

SIMMONS: -- is we can have a society, a system where in politics, and a campaign is taking place and issues on the ballot, people can only give a certain amount of money and then the rest of that can be done by every amount of effort and speak out publicly as an individual but maybe not just with your cash.

BURNETT: Reihan, he has a fair point because this way, whether you have a point of view of I love gay marriage or I hate it, if you're rich, you get hurt and if you're not, you don't and if you take that across the spectrum of political issues how is that a society you want to live --

SALAM: I actually think that's not quite the right way to think about it. Think about this way. There are a lot of people who aren't necessarily super duper rich, but are super duper influential. Let's say you're a celebrity. You don't necessarily have billions of dollars --



BURNETT: But they're still in that elite circle.

SALAM: No, no, that's fair enough, Erin, but here's the thing. If you're a celebrity, you can leverage your influence and fame in order to advance particular causes. There are other people who aren't as good at singing --


SALAM: -- so they use their money in order to have the same influence --


SALAM: -- as someone who is really charismatic does or if you're really charismatic and broke, you can get other rich people to get you elected to office and then you suddenly have (INAUDIBLE) so the question is --

BURNETT: Most people still can't get anybody to do anything for them --

SALAM: Oh look that is absolutely true, but what I see with all these efforts to regulate political speech is more people who are charismatic who have political power trying to silence people who have money. Now, it's true that there are all these other folks who neither have political power nor economic power, who get shut out and that's a shame, but that's not really what's going on here.

BURNETT: All right. That is a big issue but appreciate it. Thank you very much to Reihan and to Jamal. And still OUTFRONT one county official forced to resign over how he handled sexual assault accusations made against someone who worked for him. So why are taxpayers sending him home with $300,000 of golden parachute?

And this man legally blind and he just set a world record doing what you see him doing there.


BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, a top official in Orange County, California, resigns amid criticism about how he handled allegations that an employee sexually assaulted other employees. So what does he get? Well, in return for exiting his job as chief executive of the county, Tom Mott (ph), you see him there, he's getting a golden parachute, severance package of $270,000. Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT tonight and Miguel obviously he was the ultimate manager in charge of this county, the man accused of sexual assault was beneath him, but tell me about the controversy and about the assault.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the controversy is that this guy is getting a payout. The county does say that had they just dismissed him, he probably would have gotten a lot more, so they felt they had to do it and they were in no good position in this situation. This is a guy who was at the -- headed Orange County since 2004.

There was an investigation into Carlos Bustamante. He was a city councilman in Santa Ana. Several other officials in county government there have gone since charges were brought against Mr. Bustamante. He was charged with sexually assaulting and battery against seven women who had previously worked for him. But people in Orange County, now that they've heard about this payout to Mr. Mott (ph) are outraged. The local union boss there is saying that people that work for him would not get nearly what this guy got.


NICK BERARDINO, ORANGE COUNTY EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION GEN. MGR.: Employees, like every other employee in America, when they lose their job, rank and file people, the only thing they get is the door. In this case getting $270,000 has the employees completely so upset that, you know, they're calling for resignations. They're trying to get the federal government involved. They don't trust anybody in government now. It's turned into a complete disaster.


MARQUEZ: So the officials down there do say that the details of why exactly Mr. Mott (ph) was dismissed are still not entirely clear. But it is a very open secret that it was over this investigation into Mr. Bustamante, to Carlos Bustamante and everything -- what happened with that. And as I said, several employees in Orange County have either been dismissed or left in recent weeks since those charges were brought against Bustamante -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Miguel, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Ahead OUTFRONT why does America need a 30,000-pound bomb? It is -- we can confirm now tested and ready to go. And our reporter Kyung Lah covered the Fukushima disaster in Japan and she has been looking at a particular nuclear plant in the United States that could be in the same position. That's next.


BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting from the front lines. And a big day for stocks, the Dow closed above 13,000. I guess it's a lucky 13 in this case because it's the first time that that's happened since May. It was up 188 points, two percent for the S&P. Now stocks rose on speculation that the European Central Bank might get involved to try to ease the seemingly never-ending European debt crisis.

It was interesting the stocks were up so much, given it was a horrific day for Facebook, an all-time low it t. The stock closed down another 11 percent today, $23.71. It has been in total free fall.

Next week, they're going to be crucial to see if the markets can hold it together. We've got a fed meeting and the employment numbers for the month of July.

Well, in its earnings report today, British bank Barclays apologized again for the interest rate manipulation scandal that now has cost its CEO his job and resulted in a $450 million settlement with regulators. The company reported pretax profits of $6.6 billion for the first half of the year.

We reviewed the report closely. A couple things stuck out to us. The company says four current and senior employees are still under investigation by U.K. regulators. And that the bank is now facing class action lawsuits in the United States.

Well, the U.N. has now called for immediate action to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Mali. The organization says the crisis is being driven by a lack of food, malnutrition and population displacement. According to the U.N., only 42 percent of the $214 million it says it needs now to fight the crisis has been received. Echoing what we heard from the World Food Programme and other organizations trying to abate the crisis.

The interim president of Mali just returned to the country after being assaulted in his office, says he's going to address the nation on Sunday. Of course, his government has lost control of the country's north which is controlled by al Qaeda-linked militias.

If you want to help the people of Mali, we've partnered with the nonprofit organization Save the Children to send food and medicine to the refugees. You can visit our blog at to find out more and there's even a link to send the kids soccer balls if you want. The economy grew at a slower pace in the second quarter. The Commerce department reported the economy grew at 1.5 percent. That was the second quarter number. Tad bit better than expected, below the 2 percent in the first quarter, and not a high enough number to create jobs.

Economists we spoke to said the reason for the short fall was consumer spending. They also pointed to uncertainty about the so- called fiscal cliff.

Dan Greenhouse of BTIG said it pretty well, we thought. He said, quote, "The U.S. economy which is already being depressed by the lingering effects of the recession is being held hostage by politics."

Well, it's been 358 days since this country lost its top credit rating. Our future is being held hostage to politics. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, Standard & Poor's got in the Olympic spirit today, reaffirming Britain's AAA credit rating.

Now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: The bunker buster is ready. We're going to show it to you right now. This is what it can do.

This is the biggest weapon in the American military's arsenal. It's known as a massive ordnance penetrator or a MOP, for short. When the Air Force secretary was asked this week whether the bomb is ready, he said, quote, "If it needed to go today, we'd be ready to do than that."

Now, there are 20 of these bombs that have been made. Boeing is the maker. And just to give you a sense of the size, each of the bombs is more than 20 feet long. Each of the bombs weighs about 30,000 pounds. And one of the weapon's primary missions is to pulverize bunkers that could be up to 200 feet below the surface.

Now, it so happens that there is a particular country the U.S. is worried about that has such just facilities. That's Iran. There's a problem. Those military -- those bunker busters may not even be powerful enough to destroy whatever may be deep underneath the surface in Iran. So, they actually have an upgrade already in the works.

This is important to note this comes as "The Washington Post" reports that Iran is building up its military arsenal with missiles that could potentially hit American ships stationed in the Persian Gulf.

OUTFRONT tonight, our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

And, Colonel Leighton, let me start with you. Just -- we've talked about these huge bombs before. How significant are these bombs? And do you think there should be concern they may not even be, despite their enormous size, big enough to deal with potential issues out there? COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (USAF RET.), FORMER MEMBER JOINT STAFF: Well, they are huge, as you mentioned, Erin. The big thing here is the Iranians have developed several techniques for hardening concrete. And the fact that the concrete has been hardened through special techniques means that any type of conventional weapon is going to have a really tough time getting after that hardened target as they call them. In this case the technical term is hardened and deeply buried targets.

And the Iranians are masters not only at hardening the concrete and they actually study that at their universities, but the other part of it is, is that they have buried their bunkers where they're creating a lot of their nuclear weapons deeply underground, places like Parchin, Fordo and all of those. Many of the installations we're interested in are very much underground.

BURNETT: So, it's interesting to see whether -- when you talk about an upgrade, do you have a sense of what that upgrade might be in that weapon? Thirty thousand pounds becomes what?

LEIGHTON: Well, the weight probably stays the same in most cases. But what happens is the targeting is improved and the type of ordinance that is attached to the bomb, explosive charge related to the bomb, actually becomes a more powerful charge.

And so, it's a matter of creating a more powerful charge to do the job that we think it needs to do.

BURNETT: Barbara, let me ask you, we saw this reporting about what Iran is doing and the U.S. having these massive ordnance penetrators. What else has United States been doing to build up in the Persian Gulf and has there been a marked build-up?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there has been, Erin. You know, the thinking is that if Israel or the U.S. were to attack Iran's nuclear program, pardon me, Iran, Iran retaliates by shutting down the oil lanes in the Strait of Hormuz, economic disaster.

So, the U.S. Navy now has two aircraft carrier battle groups there. And when you talk about whether the Iranians could challenge those battle groups, sure, you know, they could punch through some defenses.

But let's look at the defenses: two aircraft carrier battle groups. Aircraft carriers these days are equipped with all of these things you see here: anti-aircraft, anti-missile systems, radar guided guns -- systems that can attack anti-ship cruise missiles that the Iranians could launch at them.

And besides, the aircraft carriers, which by the way have about 100 or more combat aircraft. Amongst them, there are cruisers and destroyers equipped with advance radars. It can see 360-degree submarine patrol aircraft. Perhaps most importantly, though, minesweepers, because the theory is that the Iranians could have a temporary advantage. They put a mine in the water. A ship, a cargo ship, an oil tanker hits it, that's going to send insurance rates sky high and really provoke a crisis in the oil markets. So, the Navy can get those waters cleared.

BURNETT: And, Colonel Leighton, let me ask you: as Barbara goes through the U.S. defenses, it does sound sort of impregnable in many ways. Could Iran really mount a challenge against those sort of -- well, everything that she lists out that those ships carry?

LEIGHTON: Well, any type of surface combatant, as the Navy ships are called, is vulnerable to some degree. Now, of course, these are massive ships. As Barbara was enumerating all the different parts of the Navy fleet that's in the Persian Gulf, those are very, very hard targets for the Iranians to get at.

But what they'll try to do is they'll try to go at them asymmetrically, which means that they'll use various devices, various methods, various techniques, to go after these ships in a way that is hard to detect. They will try to do it. They will try to swarm these ships through smaller vessels that they have, very small vessels they can use. And they can create a lot of havoc. They can create USS Cole-type incidents and that's what we want to avoid.

BURNETT: And, Colonel, just one final quick question, I'm just purely curious from a technical perspective. Where do they test those 30,000-pound MOPs? I mean, how do we know that they work? Where do you test them?

LEIGHTON: Well, they're tested in several locations, but generally, they'll be tested out west, in facilities in states like New Mexico, and Nevada.


LEIGHTON: And they will be used in very, very precise areas, where they can actually measure their effectiveness against concrete and other things they're interested in.

BURNETT: All right. Interesting -- interesting to learn that the defenses we have from Barbara, but also that they study concrete hardening in Iranian universities.

Well, is a nuclear power plant in southern California about to be the next Fukushima? On a day when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission actually met to talk about design flaws in the American plants and tried to learn lessons from the meltdown in Japan, the San Onofre nuclear plant, which is located about an hour outside of L.A., is raising major red flags tonight.

CNN's Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT on the story.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fire crews scramble to the nuclear plant in southern California in January, responding to a small radioactive release of steam. The reactor was immediately shut down and remains offline seven months later. The plant operator says there was no radiation released to the community.

But this safety scare renewed calls to shut down the aging nuclear plant in earthquake-prone California.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are we living with these risks, these crazy risks?

LAH: And an expensive one. Approximately $700 million was authorized for replacement of steam generators just (AUDIO GAP). The cost was passed on to customers.

The big question now: throw more money to fix it or replace it to keep the reactors going in a place prone to quakes?

Southern California Edison says the plant can withstand a 7.0 tremor five miles from the plant. But San Onofre sits next to a fault capable of a 7.5 or higher. Quakes, plus aging reactors -- activists call that a danger to the 8.5 million people within the 50-mile radius of the plant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we were to let things go as they've gone in the past, it's very likely we would experience a Fukushima right here in southern California.


BURNETT: All right. And Kyung is with me now.

As he just ended, it's very likely we could experience another Fukushima in southern California. Is that a fair characterization?

LAH: Well, there are certainly parallels. You have earthquake country, you have aging reactors, questions about nuclear oversight at least from the citizens there. So, there are parallels.

But to say that it's immediately going to become Fukushima, some might say it's a flight of fancy. But I can tell you from having been inside Fukushima, to see the power of what happens when nuclear energy goes wrong, I can tell you that before Fukushima, people were saying this would never happen in Japan. Nuclear energy could never do this.

But a triple meltdown happened in Japan. It is absolutely possible. We have to make sure the safety buffer is there.

BURNETT: Right. And one thing people are saying, well, the reactors in San Onofre, they are offline. And they'll say, well, they're offline. So, then we must not have a problem.

LAH: No, not so fast. Spent fuel is radioactive for tens of thousands of years. One of the big problems at Fukushima was reactor number four. That was a hydrogen explosion there. It was offline. So, it's something --

BURNETT: Which is one of the worst things that happened at Fukushima, right?

LAH: Right. Absolutely. So spent fuel is a big issue.

BURNETT: So what can be done in southern California?

LAH: What they need to do is to figure out what are they going to do for this immediate problem? Are we going to pass this on to the ratepayers? And it's something that gets to the heart the problem.

People don't want to pay more in their electricity. You don't want to pay more in your electricity bill.

But nuclear energy is part of the equation. If you want to make sure nuclear energy is safe, unfortunately, people have to pay more or look at other alternatives.

BURNETT: Kyung, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Pretty frightening report there, and a lot of people obviously when you think about the number of people that live near that, really frightening to think about.

Well, still ahead, it's been a big mystery. The Olympic torch was just lit in Britain. We're going to show you who did the honor right after the break.

And then, my exclusive interview with the president of Rwanda. He responds to charges he is aiding in the killing of thousands in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a terrible humanitarian crisis.

And then an Olympic first, which is long overdue.


BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT: violence in Congo. Today, rebel forces and army troops fought another battle. Two hundred thousand people have been forced from their homes due to violence in the country. Reported rapes are up 75 percent in Congo this year. This is a country obviously where most rapes are not reported and a country already known as the rape capital of the world.

The U.S. government has accused neighboring Rwanda of arming and supporting the rebels after a 75-page U.N. report laid out the evidence.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame was the man who ended the genocide in Rwanda which killed nearly 1 million people, something which makes these allegations more significant. In an exclusive interview with Paul Kagame in Kigali, Rwanda, I asked him if the accusations were true.


PRESIDENT PAUL KAGAME, REPUBLIC OF RWANDA: It's not only not true, it's actually ridiculous. I give you a feel what it is that and why I'm saying that. The addendum that was -- that is actually being referred to is part of the new report that the U.N. does, has collected -- people have collected information from just one side. They have collected information from the government officials, military officials, intelligence people, people they choose on the ground there.

BUNETT: But they're on the ground, they say they have pictures.

KAGAME: Yes, wait a minute. You see, I hope people can just be fair. It's not even very complicated. I'm really surprised people called experts can make a report this way. For example, next to it, these experts are coming here to Rwanda. What is bringing them is actually to hear from our side and from our story, which they should have done in the first place.

How do you compare a report by so many things happening by so many people? You listen to one side and compare the report. That's all I'm saying.

It's ridiculous. It doesn't make sense.

BURNETT: When they talk to your side, it's going to show?

KAGAME: Proof that there's no involvement, both from the logical point of view and from facts. You see, because there is no reason even if you look at the recent history for years, why Rwanda would go with this (INAUDIBLE) at all. There is no sense in it.

If you cut (ph) the report, it's just hearsay. It's told by so- and-so who was told by so-and-so. There was -- there's nothing.

BURNETT: One thing though that struck me when I arrived in this country, I always noticed this when you check into a hotel, right, there's sometimes a picture of a leader on the wall. And there's a picture of you on the wall in the hotels I've been here. Big pictures of you.

And, you know, the other place I always see that of course is the Middle East. I remember seeing it in Tunisia and across the Middle East, and none of those leaders are democratic.

KAGAME: In this whole of Africa, you will find it, the whole of this Africa.

BURNETT: A lot of the criticisms of Congo that it's not -- that comes in more autocratic societies. More, you know, less democratic societies. You don't see it in Europe. You don't see it in the United States.

KAGAME: Well, I don't know --

BURNETT: I mean, you do get elected with 95 percent of the vote.

KAGAME: Yes. That is -- recently, I was seeing approval ratings, in Europe where they're supposed to be democratic. And the approval ratings were over 90 percent. I'm sure if we went into details. You would want to give me the context or tried to justify it.

But I wish you reason the same way when you're dealing with Rwanda or Africa. You have to give me the context. And to -- BURNETT: I mean, the context is that democracy is different here? I mean, Barack Obama gets elected with 51 percent of the vote and he calls that a mandate. You get 95.

KAGAME: That's right. But so there is a particular percentage that is democratic and the other not? So, if tomorrow Obama was elected by 90 percent, I'm sure would shift the meaning to that.

BURNETT: People say you rigged the vote.

KAGAME: I'm not sure there is a particular percentage people need to have in times of how they're elected in order to be democratic. So I don't know, you know, in our particular case. For example, the turnout. The turnout.

People going out to vote was 97 percent. Forget about the vote by which I won. But does the 97 percent tell you the story? It tells you a story that for us in Rwanda, we're at a different stage than the United States or any other place, because for example, in the United States, the turnout might be 30 percent or 40 percent.


KAGAME: But it has been a different percentage at a different time. I'm sure 20 years ago, even at the beginning of democracy of the United States --

BURNETT: So when --

KAGAME: Just a moment. At the beginning of the democracy of the United States after one of your presidents was elected by consensus, not by a vote.

BURNETT: So you're saying your country's still young.

KAGAME: Absolutely. So the context is entirely different.

BURNETT: So when your term is up, you're going to leave?


BURNETT: For sure?

KAGAME: I don't see why anybody would doubt that.


BURNETT: And now to tonight's "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And we go to Syria tonight, the city of Aleppo has become a battle ground for what the regime is calling the mother of all battles between government forces and rebels.

Ivan Watson is on the ground in Syria and I asked him how the rebels are faring in the fight. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, rebel commanders tell us they've sent thousands of fighters into Aleppo and they've captured a number of neighborhoods there. They also say the government is starting to ring the city with security forces, with the military. And they're preparing for what they anticipate will be a major offensive to try to flush the armed opposition out of these opposition-held neighborhoods.

Some commanders have told us they have set up field clinics in Homs in the city, to treat the wounded when the fighting intensifies. They've assigned drivers and cars on every street to ferry the wounded to these informal medical centers.

When I asked one commander, do you have enough ammunition to withstand a government offensive, he very quickly said no. Then he went on to say that Aleppo will eventually look like the city of Homs. That's a famous Syrian city that endured weeks if not months of artillery bombardment from government security forces that saw entire neighborhoods destroyed.

I was stunned to see this rebel commander, a very stern man from Aleppo who hardly ever smiles, he got up and grabbed a tissue and sat down and quietly wept as if the realization that his city was likely to be destroyed had finally set in -- Erin.


BURNETT: Thanks very much to Ivan.

The he best athletes from around the world have gathered in London and something historic happened at the opening ceremony. We know what it is and we're going to show you, next.


BURNETT: All right. We just want to let you know we know who lit the Olympic torch. We're going to tell you about it, Sir Steve Redgrave, five time Olympic gold medal rower. He approached and then handed off the torch to seven up and coming British athletes who did the actual honor.

The Olympics are under way formally and some games have already begun.

Archery first became an Olympic sport more than 100 years ago. It's been held in every Olympics since 1972.

Today history was made. A new world record set by Im Dong-Hyun of North Korea. He scored 699, out of a possible 720 points in the event. The old record was 696, which he set.

Here's what makes this really amazing. Im Dong Hyun is legally blind. He suffers from strong myopia and says all he can se is a blob of yellow color on the target. Which brings me to the number tonight: 76. That's how many yards he had to shoot. Think about it, a man legally blind setting a world record in archery from a distance equivalent to the three-quarters of a length of a football field. Wow.

And something else historic happened at the opening ceremony today. For the first time ever, the countries of Qatar and Brunei had women carry their flags. Maziah Mahusin from Brunei and Bahiya al- Hamad from Qatar were both honored with their country's highest Olympic honor.

And it doesn't end with the opening ceremony. Qatar and Brunei, as well as Saudi Arabia, are also letting women compete in the Olympics for the first time ever. Now, at this year's Olympics in London, Arab women will be competing in everything from running to tae kwon do and weight lifting, even sharp shooting. It seems everybody's supportive of it.

In addition to allowing a female athlete to carry its flag, Qatar is also hosting a major celebration of the world's female athletes. They commissioned the Qatar Museums Authority. Sotheby's in London currently is hosting an exhibition which features images of 50 Arab women sports athletes, from beginners to Olympians hail from 20 different countries. That is something to celebrate.

But it is very important to remember that this is just a step not a destination. And since Qatar had a woman carry its flag today and is also a sponsor of that exhibit, it's fair to single out Qatar when we talk about the Arab world having a long way to go when it comes to women.

There is only one female judge in Qatar. It has no law specifically criminalizing domestic violence. That is amazing. A woman's testimony is worth less than a man during trials if a woman is allowed to testify at all. In many family law cases, like divorce and women and child custody, women are excluded from testifying altogether.

There's still a long way to go. But hopefully one day soon, the women in Qatar and other Arab countries will enjoy their equality, what they're trying to give their female athletes. So, let's celebrate.

Thanks as always for joining us. Have a wonderful weekend.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.