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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Money and Mayhem; Vice President Joe Biden Gaffe; Sidestepping Sanctions in Syria

Aired August 14, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: OUTFRONT next. Paul Ryan hits the casino looking for cash in a meeting with billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Romney's pick for VP wastes no time in walking the slippery slope of Super PAC politics. And current VP Joe Biden makes a campaign stop and accuses Romney of planning to chain the audience. Did his comment go too far? And a marble of technology, why it may be crucial to the defense of the United States in the future -- let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm John Avlon in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Paul Ryan hits the casino. That's right. The clean-cut VP presidential candidate is in "sin city" tonight for what the campaign is calling a finance event where he'll come face to face with the highest of high rollers, gambling mogul and Super PAC super funder Sheldon Adelson, the man who has put the most chips on the table during this campaign by far.

And this is not a campaign on the cheap. An unprecedented amount of cash is expected to be spent on this presidential election, about $2.5 billion according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Now much of that is from Super PACs and a small powerful group of donors. Only 100 individuals account for 50 percent of the $319 million donated to the Super PAC so far this cycle.

And when it comes to the king of donations, you guessed it, Mr. Sheldon Adelson, he is top of the pile. He's put $36 million into the pot so far. That's more than 10 percent of all Super PAC donations. Adelson has also donated more than any other contributor. In fact he's donated more than the next four Super PAC contributors from both parties combined. All of them except for one is a Republican, but don't feel bad about his bank account.

Adelson is a very wealthy man, worth about $24.9 billion, according to Forbes, so $36 million to him is the equivalent of $112 donation made by the average American family. Now Adelson is not just a shark in Las Vegas. This is a man whose bank roll is largely built on a bet that his Macau casinos would pay off and pay off they have.

Check out this split. In the second quarter of this year his company Sands generated $91 million from its casinos in Las Vegas and Pennsylvania. His properties in Macau brought in more than four times that amount, $429 million. So Adelson is certainly a friend of China, it's been good to him, unlike the man he's supporting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's good to trade with other nations. It's good for us to be able to trade. It creates jobs for us, but we have to make sure that when nations like China cheat, we hold them responsible and make them accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now it's not just Adelson who is bringing some baggage to his millions to the Republican Party. Take Foster Friess. Remember the guy who bankrolled much of Rick Santorum's primary campaign. You might remember he got the candidate into a little bit of trouble when he weighed in on contraception back in February of this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER FRIESS, SANTORUM SUPPORTER: And this contraceptive thing my gosh, it's so -- it's such inexpensive. You know back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Ah, yes, the question, is all this mayhem worth all this money? OUTFRONT tonight Margaret Hoover, CNN contributor and treasurer of the super PAC American Unity PAC and Dave Levinthal, reporter for Politico who's been tracking money in U.S. politics.

Now Margaret, in an interview with "Forbes" magazine, Sheldon Adelson said this, said "I'm against very wealthy people attempting to influence elections, but as long as it's doable, I'm going to do it." So When you hear that only a hundred people are accountable for 50 percent of all the donations to Super PACs and that this one man has given $36 million, 10 percent alone, the equivalent of hundred and change to the average American family, how do you not come to the conclusion that the super rich are distorting American politics through Super PACs?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: OK. There's one thing to say, do the super rich have a disproportional access to candidates in this race and are they putting more money into these races than ever before? Yes, that's absolutely true. But are they getting -- what are they getting for their money? Are they getting policy prescriptions that they want out of this? Are they getting the win of the election? Are they going to win because of their disproportionate money in this election?

Those things have yet to be seen. But what we've seen in the past is that more money doesn't buy you an election. What we've also seen in the past is just because you're putting more in, doesn't mean you necessarily get the policy prescriptions that you're after. And I'll just say one more thing. You have always said sunlight is the best disinfectant. And what we know now is because we have sunlight on these issues because there's full transparency under Super PACs. You know exactly how much money the hundred wealthiest Americans are who are donating to these have donated. Do we not have a more open and transparent system? AVLON: Well we'll get to the question of how people are hiding money in a second. But first Dave, I want to get to one specific point Margaret made because she's got a point. Given the fact that Adelson doesn't share Romney's views on China, doesn't that mean there really are limits to how much influence he can buy?

DAVE LEVINTHAL, POLITICAL REPORTER FOR POLITICO: Certainly and a lot of people would argue that he's really not as influential as a lot of people would make him out to be. At the same time, he's really been in all aspects of this campaign, for better or for worse. He's been traveling with Mitt Romney overseas. He's been of course in Las Vegas today.

He's been donating more to a greater degree than any single individual to a Super PAC in this campaign. So at the very least, he's made himself out to be a major player in this campaign. And with that type of access, of course he can bend the ear of the person who may very well be the next president of the United States. That certainly does count for something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean Margaret --

HOOVER: You got a point. I mean absolutely I give it to you. He certainly does have access and an ability to make his case to him. But does that mean much? I mean he's for telling the Palestinians -- telling the Israeli -- saying that there should be no peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians because he doesn't think the Palestinians actually want peace.

Do you think Mitt Romney is going to listen to that? That would be crazy. He's also said forget Tel Aviv. Move the embassy to Jerusalem. Mitt Romney said something similar, but with a caveat. He said he'll do anything in consultation with the Israeli government. So, yes, they have the ability to get in the ear of candidates, but does that mean candidates are absolutely going to listen? Of course not, candidates have to justify their re-election to a larger electorate.

AVLON: And that larger electorate can't just phone up the candidate and say, hey I want time to talk.

HOOVER: That's a fair point.

AVLON: Sheldon Adelson can.

HOOVER: That's a fair point. He absolutely has access and that is absolutely fair and that is something that we should discuss.

AVLON: David, you know one other point that's come up is this point of transparency. The grand bargain, if you will, with Citizens United was supposed to unleash this golden age. This was the deal that Justice Kennedy wrote about. That it was going to be unlimited donations in exchange for unprecedented disclosure. But already we've seen the growth of these 501C organizations that effectively hide the number of donors. We don't know how much money is going in there, but the indications are I is probably at least as much are being put in Super PACs transparently. Is that where the real potential for corruption may be when this is all over?

LEVINTHAL: Many people think that Super PACs don't have to donate. They do have -- or don't have to disclose their donors. They do have to disclose their donors. But it is these non-profit organizations that are set up as social welfare organizations under the way that the IRS works and right now if they're advocating for or against a presidential candidate or a congressional candidate they don't have to say who's actually giving them the money to go and tear apart candidates or lovingly promote candidates.

So it's been a major issue that a lot of campaign finance reform advocates certainly have taken up that banner, saying, what is wrong with our system? This is all screwed up, but at least at this juncture, there's been nothing in a material way that has really caused all of this money to be unearthed.

AVLON: Well I think we'll see when it's all over, the real impact one way or the other.

Still OUTFRONT Republicans say Joe Biden dropped a race related bomb in front of an ethnically diverse audience today and a play titled "The Book of Mormon" goes national today as well. We'll look at three myths about Mormonism which of course happens to be the faith of the GOP nominee.

And cops release a video showing how a handcuffed man might have shot and killed himself in the back of a police car. Does this new theory add up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AVLON: Our second story OUTFRONT tonight, the Biden gaffe machine rears its ugly head. In Danville, Virginia, a city where nearly 49 percent of the population is African-American Vice President Joe Biden said something today that set off a storm of controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Romney want to let -- he said in the first 100 days he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street. They're going to put you all back in chains.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now, the Romney campaign immediately issued a statement that read, quote, "After weeks of slanderous and baseless accusations leveled against Governor Romney, the Obama campaign has reached a new low."

So here's the question. Is this a manufactured controversy or sincere outrage? Marc Lamont Hill associate professor at (INAUDIBLE) and Dylan Glenn -- welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Good to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be here.

AVLON: All right. Now Dylan, the Obama campaign, they issued a response just on the heels of the Romney campaign and here's what they said. "For months, Speaker Boehner, Congressman Ryan and other Republicans have called for the unshackling of the private sector from regulations that protect Americans from risky financial deals. We find the Romney campaign's outrage over the vice president's comments today hypocritical" and the campaign is right on that point. Here's what they're referring to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: What we needed was to liberate the economy from the shackles of Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: So, fair point?

DYLAN GLENN, SR. VICE PRESIDENT, GUGGENHEIM PARTNERS: Listen, I'm a big boy. I understand politics, and I understand rhetoric in politics. I think it's a little disingenuous to say this is full outrage. I think the real question would be you know if this comment had been made by someone other than a Democrat, particularly the vice president of the United States, would they be afforded the same degree of restraint that people are affording Vice President Biden.

AVLON: That's a reasonable point, a double standard, but do you think, do you believe that the vice president was intentionally making a racially loaded metaphor?

GLENN: Well the vice president has been prone to gaffes so often that it's tough to suggest that this is by design. However I think the fact of the matter is it's offensive. And you know I'm not one that looks for race or race-baiting underneath thinly-veiled comments but I think it does deserve commentary.

AVLON: Mark, to Dylan's point, I mean certainly Republicans have gotten beaten up when they've used racially loaded language --

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: -- Democrats, but let's just use a couple of examples the Republicans might refresh your memory about some of the outrage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, 2008 GOP VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days when we were in different classes, based on income, based on color of skin.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: If there's a problem, then President Obama is the problem for failing to utilize these tools that he has. This is just about waving a tar baby in the air and saying that something else is a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now, that's not nearly as subtle I'd say. But here's the question. Is there a double standard? To Dylan's point, is there a double standard?

MARC LAMONT HILL, HOST OF "OUR WORLD WITH BLACK ENTERPRISE": No, there's not a double standard. One, Harry Reid caught hell in the last election cycle when we read the game changer, his comments about President Obama came out and people were just as outraged and I critiqued Harry Reid in the same way that I will critique Michele Bachmann there. But the term double standard implies that two people who are the same are being treated differently.

And it's not the same thing. Part of it we have to consider are people's backgrounds. We have to consider the context. We have to consider their track record. And often times Republicans don't have the track record or the moral authority to make comments about race where some Democrats do. I'm not letting them off the hook but -- Democrats off the hook, but we do have to take these things into consideration.

GLENN: Well I would then suggest strongly that there's never been any accusation with respect to race, with respect to Mitt Romney, his father George Romney was very active in the civil rights movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's absolutely true.

GLENN: You know Paul Ryan has been active. I mean I don't -- so --

HILL: No one has considered them racist.

GLENN: Right. However --

HILL: (INAUDIBLE)

GLENN: However, the vice president did -- if you were to take it out to the extreme, the vice president did suggest, perhaps that -- want to shackle African-Americans --

HILL: Unshackling Wall Street will lead to the shackling of Americans and particularly black people, that's a different claim. What he's trying to say is that instead of economic policies will lead to that.

AVLON: All right and use chains as the metaphor, obviously not the ideal metaphor probably in retrospect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

AVLON: But now the Romney campaign Dylan said this was a new low. Right, they lost no time to send that out. We asked our political "Strike Team", which is made up of independent analysts and journalists whether or not this is the most negative campaign in history. Here's what they came up with, 75 percent now, 25 percent yes. So I mean you know -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

AVLON: People aren't you know saying that this is -- and just in terms of (INAUDIBLE) rhetoric, we've seen this before.

GLENN: Listen. I -- you know we've been around politics a long time and every year they say this campaign is more negative than the next. And so I guess I would -- I think that I would suggest that the public is probably a little numb to this type of activity. Look the Romney campaign wants to talk about the economy. They want to talk about reducing tax rates. They want to talk about getting our hands around the debt. I think that's where this campaign will turn, but I think it's worth noting that the vice president made an impolitic remark today.

AVLON: Sure. I think people have noted that. I think that has been noted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure if he could have a do-over, he would.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: He doesn't want to be talking about this. He'd rather be talking about the actual issue.

AVLON: Exactly, but let's talk about something we can quantify because the idea of the most negative campaign ever that's pretty amorphous. We've got plenty of ugly examples through history. But here's something you can quantify negative ads in this cycle. It's extraordinary, 79 percent of the ads in this political season have been negative.

Seventy-nine percent, now that -- backed by unprecedented dollars. So that's something that is different, just the relentlessly negative tone on the airwaves. So you understand why people are cynical and feel like they're being divided to conquer?

HILL: Yes, but I don't necessarily think that these are -- if you're marking them as positive or negative, you say there are more negative ads. But the intensity of the negativity I think has been seen in greater proportions say in 2008 when President Obama had to defense his citizenship, when he had to defend his very humanity.

GLENN: In 2008 the president ran being a transformational candidate and one who was going to change the tone in Washington. And I think that he's been an active participant in making this one of the more negative campaigns and I think that's -- it's not healthy for this democracy --

HILL: Oh, I think they've both been negative. There's no doubt that there's been negativity on both sides.

GLENN: Yes. HILL: But I do think the president has been doing it from a defensive posture much over the last four years.

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: And at great risk too because you know nothing says hope and change like an avalanche of negative ads. That's a tough thing to do. Let me ask you both this question though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

AVLON: Is there a finite line in politics about when people go too far and did Joe Biden cross it today?

HILL: I don't think he went too far at all. I mean I think part of what you can see is the crowd's response. They were cheering. And the groans you heard weren't in response to Joe Biden. They were in response to the proposed policy. So I think the crowd understood what it was. I think Mitt Romney is willfully misinterpreting this for his own benefit.

AVLON: Manufactured outrage to you.

HILL: Of course.

AVLON: OK. Dylan.

GLENN: Well listen, I think that the voters will determine whether or not the vice president went too far or not. I do think --

HILL: How?

GLENN: Well, they'll factor this as one of the --

HILL: You're think if President Obama wins this election, and it didn't matter and if he loses the election it's because of this?

GLENN: Well I think it'll be a part of the panoply of --

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: -- much less November.

GLENN: Well the media won't, but I'm sure the people in Danville will, absolutely.

HILL: Well those 130 people I don't think are going to decide the presidency --

GLENN: Well so you dismiss the fact that those voters count as much as any --

HILL: No, I'm saying --

(CROSSTALK)

GLENN: My only point is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is in Virginia.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is in Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every vote counts --

HILL: I'm saying that the election doesn't hinge on this comment. It won't be an index of anything.

GLENN: I'm not suggesting it hinges on this comment. I do suggest that there is a -- there is a -- will be a billet of evidence of information that people take in to make decisions. That's why we have campaigns are all about.

HILL: That would be very foolish.

AVLON: To make this decision --

GLENN: To make this decision based on the fact that the vice president --

HILL: President Romney -- excuse me -- God forbid -- President Obama and Mitt Romney are so vastly different that if you make a different decision on who you're going to vote for based on that comment, then that's probably unwise because both camps have made gaffes. Both camps have said something untoward. I think you should base it on policy not a gaffe.

GLENN: I think that this gaffe heeds into the policy argument --

HILL: How so --

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: Really, how does this gaffe speak to policy --

GLENN: I think this gaffe speaks very much to policy --

HILL: How?

GLENN: Listen the vice president was trying to -- the Obama campaign is implying class warfare. They've been making the commentary over and over again that it's Wall Street versus Main Street, this gaffe was in the context of that and I think it speaks to policy very much so.

HILL: (INAUDIBLE) police Wall Street. Don't police success. Just police excess. I don't think (INAUDIBLE) about class warfare --

AVLON: There's no question there's a little bit of class in there. There are two things we know for sure, one this is Virginia and every vote counts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

AVLON: And two there's a reason they call it silly season and we're deep in it. Thanks for joining us guys, appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having me.

AVLON: Now up next sure you'd be able to go from L.A. to New York in less than an hour with the military's new technology. But that's not what today's test was about after all. And an OUTFRONT update a bank was slapped with a fine of hundreds of millions of dollars today but did it go far enough?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AVLON: Now it used to be that stealth technology was the most advanced technology in the U.S. military arsenal. We'd see pictures like this one of the B2 Spirit (ph) stealth bomber, this bomber made its first flight in 1989 and it's still in use today. And despite its age, it is still an amazing piece of engineering innovation. These planes aren't unique to the U.S. anymore.

China, Russia, and India all working on some form of stealth aircraft and this is just one example. When it comes to military technology no one manages to have an exclusive weapon for very long. Everyone is constantly trying to one-up each other. That's the story of military history from medieval times to today. The number tonight, 3,600. That's how many miles per hour the new hypersonic flight vehicle known as the X51-A Waverider (ph) will travel.

Today a modified B52 bomber was set to drop the Waverider off the coast of California. And if all goes as planned it has a four-second freefall before its engine kicks into action. The Waverider is supposed to climb to a height of 70,000 feet reaching Mach 6 before falling into the Pacific Ocean. But the Waverider is breaking a different barrier as well.

With those speeds you could fly from New York to California in under an hour. But before you start envisioning commutes between the coast the X51-A (ph) isn't being tested for commercial use at least not yet. This one is for military purposes. At these speeds you could bomb a target on the other side of the world before they could even start scrambling their jets. Now when it's ready the Waverider could keep the U.S. one step ahead of threats by other nations, if of course, those other nations don't get it first.

OUTFRONT next, how long can the Syrian government hold out against sanctions and rebel activity? Tonight accusations that another government is keeping them running. And the family says it doesn't add up, but police say they have a new video that shows how a man could have shot himself despite being handcuffed in the back of a police car.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AVLON: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. I'm John Avlon, in for Erin Burnett. Our third story OUTFRONT, Iran teaming up with Syria. That's the warning coming from Leon Panetta tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Iran is playing a larger role in Syria in many ways, not only in terms of the IRGC, but in terms of assistance, training. There's now an indication that they're trying to develop or trying to train a militia within Syria.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now, this comes as "The Wall Street Journal" uncovers evidence that the Syrian government is planning to use Russian banks and offshore accounts to bypass sanctions by the United States and the European Union. As we've been reporting, Russia is the key ally to the Syrian government. It's been the country's principal arm supplier with $4.7 billion in arm sales from 2007 to 2010.

OUTFRONT tonight, David Tafuri, former State Department official and an expert on sanctions, and Bob Baer, former CIA operative.

Now, Bob, first with you, Secretary Panetta says Iran is trying to develop and train a militia in Syria. Now, is there a precedent for this kind of involvement and what are the ramifications?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, never in Syria. The Iranians have always kept their hands off Syrian politics, you know, going way back to the revolution in 1979. So, this is unprecedented. I think what we have to understand is, Iran intends to fight for this regime right until the end. It does not intend to lose that supply route to Hezbollah, which is a creation of Iran. This is a key policy objective to hold on to this part of the Arab world and they'll do anything from training, to sending money, to sending ammunition. We can expect a long, very hard fight through this.

AVLON: Well, David, it's the sending money that's an issue. Now, it comes no surprise Syria is trying to side step U.S. sanctions using Russian banks. But how important is this loophole to Syria right now?

DAVID TAFURI, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, what we see from this article "The Wall Street Journal" is two trends. First of all, sanctions are having an impact on Syria. And it's become a little more difficult for Syria to get funds and revenue and a little more difficult to sell oil. So what Syria is then doing is exploiting the big gap that exists in sanctions. Both Russia and China have vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have created a stronger sanctions regime.

So, no surprise there. Syria is going to Russia to help find tactics to evade sanctions. This includes setting up offshore companies in Russia and using Russian banks to move money through, in order to get funding from the oil that they really need to sell. The oil revenues are the life line for the Syrian regime which is embattled right now. AVLON: So, Bob, following up from that point, the new coalition we're starting seeing in the U.N. and other places, Russia and China, trying to bolster a in addition like Syria that's embattled. Are we starting to see the outlines of new coordination on the world stage that has serious implications for the west in the 21st century?

BAER: Well, I think it's serious. This is a new Cold War. I mean, Russia and China do not intend to let the Middle East slip under the U.S. umbrella. That's the way they look at it. They look at it from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, even to a degree, Iraq. They can't let it happen.

You know, China needs the oil. Russia wants the political influence. They will support our enemies in that part of the world, whatever they have to do.

And as you said, it's the oil. It's selling at $15 discount. The Russians are arranging, a Russian businessman is buying this stuff. You mix it with oil in the sea. It's coming to refineries all around the world. It's a life line for the Syrian regime and it's got state backing.

AVLON: David, to that point as well, how long on the ground can Syria continue to survive with the sanctions imposed right now from the U.S. and E.U.? And what will it take in terms of broader sanctions to them to start really feeling the pain and changing their actions?

TAFURI: That's the million-dollar question. How long can they survive? Certainly, they're struggling a little bit. Their military is spread thin. They're running out of resources. So they're on the run.

But part of the question of how long they'll survive will depend on how many allies do they have that will help them evade sanctions. How can they continue to get funding and, and how can they continue to get refined products which they really need to keep the country running and to keep the army running.

Those things were some of the things that really put a stranglehold on Gadhafi in Libya. But, of course, with Libya, we had a stronger sanctions regime, passed by the U.N. Security Council and all member countries were required to follow it.

AVLON: Bob, final question to you. Does the United States, in your estimation, have a strategy to deal with the new alliance between Russia and China that bolsters rogue states like Syria?

BAER: Well, I think there's not much we can do. We're doing better now. We can impose sanctions on Iran. We can impose them on Syria. And we have to put more pressure on Russia and China.

The question is, at what point will they give up, how bad do things have to get in Syria? And they will get a lot worse before the Russians finally throw it in -- the towel in.

AVLON: Thank you both for coming OUTFRONT tonight.

Our fourth story OUTFRONT, suicide or police cover-up? A 21- year-old Chavis Carter mysteriously died while handcuffed in the back of a police car on July 29th in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Authorities say he shot himself after being arrested for marijuana possession. His family say the police killed him. They're trying to cover it up.

Now, Arkansas police have released a reenactment video, showing how they believe Carter killed himself. In the video, you can see the officer pull out a fake gun and demonstrate how this could happen. But does the video tell the whole story?

Criminal defense attorney and CNN legal contributor Paul Callan is OUTFRONT tonight.

Paul, the question, as always, does this add up? Have you ever seen anything like this, someone committing suicide with a handgun, handcuffed in the back of a police car?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: This is the most bizarre alleged police shooting I've ever seen. I've never seen a fact pattern even close to this.

Carter was handcuffed behind his back. The police would have had to have missed a hidden weapon when they put him in the back of the car. And they say he committed suicide. Now, would a 21-year-old kid on a marijuana charge kill himself in the back of a police cruiser? A bizarre fact pattern and one that's going to be very, very hard for the police to defend against, and that is the charges that they are responsible. >

AVLON: And how common are suicides in police custody?

CALLAN: Well, surprisingly, over 2,000 people died in police custody in a three-year study done by the Department of Justice. Of that number, 12 percent were suicide. So, over 200 people actually did commit suicide while in police custody, according to federal statistics. That's a three-year study that they did.

So it does happen. But I've never seen one case involving a handcuffed man using his own weapon.

AVLON: Well, the flipside obviously is questions of police brutality. It's hard to imagine a young man arrested for marijuana possession is so overcome with grief that he decides to commit suicide in the back of a police car. We've gone a long way since days when police brutality may have been more common.

But how -- what's the likelihood that something like this would occur?

CALLAN: Well, the flip side of this, John, is -- why would the police kill somebody in this way? If you they were going -- you hear about cases that cops stage a killing. Maybe look like they were being assaulted when he was not. But here, would the police shoot somebody in the head and then handcuff him behind his back and put him in a locked police car? It doesn't really create a great scenario of defense for the police officers involved, which makes this one of the most utterly bizarre shootings I've ever seen.

And now, they've staged this thing with the police officer demonstrated how it could be done. You could get a Cirque du Soleil contortionist to cook an omelet probably wearing handcuffs, but that doesn't prove that's the way things went down with real live people.

So could this young man have shot himself? I think if anything, it's going to turn out to be an accidental discharge of the weapon, as Mr. Carter was trying to get the weapon out of his back. That would be something maybe that the police could live with in terms of an explanation.

But to say he was trying to commit suicide, I think they're going to have a hard time with that as an explanation. But we'll see.

Forensic evidence is going to be key and it's not all in yet.

AVLON: I mean, it's hard to imagine how that could happen, organically, accidentally shooting yourself in the back of the head.

CALLAN: Well, maybe it's a Saturday night special, he's trying to wrestle it loose, it hits the bottom of the floor and accidentally discharges upward. I'm purely speculating because we don't know the forensic evidence.

AVLON: And everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and police officers are above all deserve the benefit of the doubt. But there's a lot about this case that doesn't ad up.

CALLAN: And they don't deserve any more doubt than anybody else, John, in a murder case. So, the law holds them to the same standard.

AVLON: Absolutely. Paul Callan, thanks for coming OUTFRONT.

CALLAN: Nice being with you.

AVLON: OUTFRONT next, the hit Broadway show "Book of Mormon" kicks off its national tour tonight in the swing state of Colorado. What does that comedy highlight about Mormonism and could it hurt the GOP nominee?

Tonight's moment of sanity. A guy who thinks America should be taken back from the politics of polarization.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AVLON: An OUTFRONT update on Standard Chartered. That's the British bank we've been telling you about since last week. It's accused of hiding $250 billion worth of transactions with Iran over the past 10 years.

Today, the bank and New York state regulators announced a settlement. The bank will pay $340 million to settle the case. It's also agreed to allow regulators to install a monitor at the bank to evaluate money laundering. Standard Chartered will put its own auditors in place.

Now, this isn't new. Erin discussed this types of financial settlements with Peter Brookes just last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT: You look at banks that have been censored or censured, sorry, for doing business with rogue states including Iran. The U.S. has gotten a lot of money from violators. Credit Suisse paid more than half a billion dollars in fines to the U.S. Treasury. More than $600 million from the Netherlands Bank, ING, Barclays nearly $300 million. ABN AMRO half a billion. That's a lot of money.

Is this sort of does the U.S. says, well, it's easier to look the other way and just get the money? I mean, I know that sounds incredibly ugly, but is it?

PETER BROOKES, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I see your point. Obviously, it's punishment to these banks, but more so it's deterrent to others for breaking the law, or breaking these regulations and to prevent them from aiding Iran which is -- the thing big here is that Iran is probably the greatest international threat to -- or the greatest threat international security today and others shouldn't be working with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now, this isn't the end of the road for Standard Chartered, the U.S. Treasury Department and the FBI are still investigating the bank for violations of U.S. sanctions.

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

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John, good evening.

We're keeping them honest ahead on "360". Campaign rhetoric or is it racially loaded language? Vice President Joe Biden was speaking to a crowd of supporters today in Virginia, about 50 percent of them African American. And he said this, quote, "he," he's referring to Mitt Romney there, "is going to put you all back in chains."

You'll hear tonight what the Romney campaign said about that and the vice president's subsequent clarification. We're going to talk it over with political analyst Roland Martin and also, Republican strategist Ana Navarro.

A second keeping them honest ahead as well -- more fall-out from a veteran charity accused of misusing donations. The Help Hospitalized Veterans Foundation had a civil lawsuit filed against it by the state of California last week. And now, a TV star, former president and another well-known politician all demanding that the charity removed their images from the charity's Web site.

Those stories, plus our viewer voted "Ridiculist" countdown at the top of the hour.

John, back to you.

AVLON: Thanks, Soledad. We'll be watching.

Now, our fifth story OUTFRONT tonight, "The Book of Mormon," the hit Broadway shows kicks off its national tour tonight in Colorado, the swing state. Could its popularity end up impacting the presidential race?

The musical by the creators of "South Park" is one of the hottest tickets in Broadway history, already it's grossed $102 million since opening in February of last year. But when the Republican nominee is a Mormon, there's danger fiction might drown out fact and perpetuate myths about a very American faith.

It's time to have an honest and thoughtful discussion. That's why we brought OUTFRONT tonight, "BuzzFeed" reporter McKay Coppins, who's covering the Romney campaign and is a practicing Mormon himself.

I started by asking him whether the show's tour could help or hurt Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCKAY COPPINS, BUZZFEED REPORTER: You know, that's an interesting question. So far this musical which has been part of the Mormon moment has been contained to Manhattan. Now, I've got to tell you, having traveled out with Mitt Romney in these various swing states, I think it could really bring his religion to the forefront. Whether that hurts or helps him will depend on whether he addresses it. He's been reluctant too so far, but I think it will make it a bigger issue.

AVLON: Let's address misconceptions about the Mormon faith. First of all, one act number in the play is about Mormon hell. Help folks understand what the Mormon conception of the afterlife really is.

COPPINS: Sure. Yes. Well, for one thing, there's -- Mormons don't believe in hell in any traditional sense. There's no fire and brimstone. Mormons believe that the afterlife for almost everybody will be a time to learn and progress.

You hear a lot of people say Mormons believe they will get their own planet. That's something that's actually in the musical. In reality, that's not part of official Mormon doctrine. What we believe is that Mormons will continue to grow and become more like God. And that's where it comes from.

But Mormons believe that basically everybody will come to some level of heaven after their life. And so, it's a common misconception that's advanced in the musical.

AVLON: Let's take on another misconception that's advanced in the musical -- the idea of Mormon undergarments. Separate fact from fiction on that.

COPPINS: Sure. Yes.

So, one of the things that a lot of people say and you'll see this on the internet is that Mormons believe they have magic underwear. In reality, the most devout Mormons do wear an undergarment, it basically looks like a white t-shirt and white boxer briefs. But what it is it's a symbol of our faith.

It's not necessarily magical. There are no special powers assigned to it, but it's something that Mormons wear and you'll see it in the musical to remind them of their covenants, of their faith and to obey the commandments. It's really not as mysterious or crazy as it's made out to be a lot of Mormonism's detractors and critics.

AVLON: Sure, and we certainly have seen too many detractors and critics and people speaking from ignorance on this subject. That's why we wanted to have you on to clear it up.

COPPINS: Absolutely.

AVLON: The issue of missionary work versus military service. This is the first time that no one on either presidential ticket has served in the military, active duty, in part because we no longer have a draft. But specific question about the Romneys.

Mitt Romney famously protested in favor of the Vietnam War but did not serve in the Vietnam War. He was on missionary work in France. None of his five sons served in the military either.

Help us understand if that's related to their Mormon faith or missionary work in particular.

COPPINS: Sure, well, for one thing, a lot of Mormons do serve in the military. So, the Romneys aren't necessarily representative of everyone in their church. And there's no pacifist element to Mormonism.

But one thing I think might hold back a lot of Mormons from serving, including Romney and his sons, is that they're taught from the time they're young boys to serve Mormon missions at the age of 19, which is really a time when a lot of people join the military. And so, it can sort of stand in the way of a natural time to join the army or another branch of the military.

But like I said, a lot of Mormons do serve, serve abroad and serve in wars. I think Romney and his sons would of course appreciate that. But they all served Mormon missions and that might have been one of the things that stood in their way.

AVLON: Sure. McKay, one big question out right now is the question of how Mitt Romney might deal with his faith. In the traditional campaign biography played at the convention, there was a fascinating column in "The New York Times" about this, this weekend. For someone who buys all accounts of exemplary personal character, whose character has been shaped by his faith, how do you think he might deal with his faith in that reintroduction to the American people?

COPPINS: Yes, well, that's an interesting question. I think somewhere in some dark room in Boston or -- there are videographers who are trying to decide how to tackle this issue.

It has been part of his story. From the time he served a mission in France to being a bishop, an ecclesiastical leader in the church, I think now is the time, if there is ever going to be a time, for him to introduce his faith on his own terms.

Like we said with this musical and with other factors, there's a good chance other people will be talking about this. This is a chance for Mitt Romney to really introduce his faith in a way that he would like to discuss it, the experiences he's had, the people he's helped in his faith and how it's shaped his character.

Will that happen? It remains to be seen. I guess we'll find out at the convention.

AVLON: McKay Coppins, thank you for coming OUTFRONT and helping us clear up some misconceptions about the Mormon faith.

COPPINS: Thanks for having me on.

AVLON: Now, Mitt Romney has just started delivering a campaign speech in Ohio. Let's listen in.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- uniting to preserve liberty, uniting to build the greatest economy in the history of the Earth, uniting to save the world from unspeakable darkness.

Everywhere I go in America, there are monuments that list those who have given their lives for liberty. There's no mention of their race, their party affiliation or what they did for a living. They lived and died under a single flag fighting for a single purpose. They pledged allegiance to the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: So, Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.

(APPLAUSE)

AVLON: Up next, a former lawmaker asks, can we turn Democrats and Republicans into Americans again?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AVLON: Now, for tonight's moment of sanity. This just in, a new Gallup poll showing that American's approval rating of Congress has tied the all-time low at 10 percent, 10 percent.

As John McCain once joked, that's pretty much down to paid staffers and blood relatives. Now, what caused this new era of dysfunction and division and what can we do to improve it?

I sat down with Mickey Edwards, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma and author of the new book "The Parties Versus the People: Can We Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans?"

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AVLON: Mickey, one of the things you write in this book is that the Founding Father's nightmare of our political system has come to pass. Explain.

MICKEY EDWARDS, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Absolutely. Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, all the things they disagreed about, they all agreed on one thing -- don't create political parties. Don't create permanent factions that our parties should become. Always one party against another.

AVLON: How's it gotten worse since you've served in Congress?

EDWARDS: It's gotten worse because it used to be members of Congress were able to sit down. You and I might have different ideas but we knew we had compromisers. There's 300 million Americans. You had to compromise to get anything done.

That doesn't happen anymore.

AVLON: What can folks at home who are frustrated about the status quo do about it? What do you lay out in the book?

EDWARDS: Look, there's only a couple of ways to do it. You have to get rid of closed party's primaries. You have to take away, in Congress, this automatic division into rival clubs. You've got to be able to take away the ability of party leaders to say, John, you can serve on this committee, you know all the facts. You can't certain on the committee unless you promise you're going to start with the party line.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AVLON: You cab see the full interview at CNN.com/OUTFRONT. Now, changing of culture in Washington won't happen overnight but if we truly want to see Congress start to work for the national interest and not the special interest, we're all going to have to start straight being our civic backbones and demanding something different and better.

"A.C. 60" starts right now.