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Interview with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; President Obama's Reelection Campaign

Aired August 20, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next, a Republican Senate candidate in hot water after comments about legitimate rape. Will the chairman of the party call for him to drop out?

And an autopsy just released in the case of a handcuffed man who was shot and killed while in the back of back of a police car in handcuffs. Do findings add up?

And Maria Sharapova, one of the most recognizable faces in tennis, the highest paid female athlete in the world, and she has a big plan off the court? She tells us about it. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, a migraine for Republicans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was calling you and letting you know that I'm announcing today that we are going to stay in.


BURNETT: Not what a lot of Republicans wanted to hear today. That's a little known congressman from Missouri. And he's thrown his entire party for a loop because instead of talking about jobs or Medicare tonight, the Republican Party is talking about abortion. Republican Congressman Todd Akin who's running for Senate against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill says he will not step aside despite widespread outrage over this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about in the case of rape, should it be legal or not?

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be in the rapist and not attacking the child.


BURNETT: Today, Akin tried to backtrack. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AKIN: I used the wrong words in the wrong way. What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong.


BURNETT: It's hard to think how you could come up with a statement that specific and tortured if you didn't actually believe in it. And even if it was a mistake, it's hard to know which word he was talking about when he apologized. Rare, legitimate, when it comes to rape? Rape, of course, is never legitimate. And the FBI says one forcible rape actually occurs every 6.2 minutes in the United States of America.

And as for pregnancy, a study published in the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" estimates that 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. Now both parties have jumped on Akin's comments. Mitt Romney said this late this afternoon.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His comments about rape were deeply offensive and I can't defend what he said. I can't defend him.


BURNETT: That was an -- CNN affiliate WMUR. The president also agreed.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape.


BURNETT: Now Democrats were then quick to make this about the coveted women's vote. The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, quote, "The real issue is a Republican Party led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong. I'm outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the dark ages."

So seizing one comment and turning into something about the entire party, but the thing is, is this isn't a small problem for Mitt Romney because he currently trails President Obama by eight points among women voters. So if this gets traction among them, it could matter. So take a look at this. In 2008, women made up 53 percent of the electorate and they voted for President Obama 56 to 43 percent over John McCain. You move that by a few points and you can win the entire election. I'm going to show you those numbers in a moment.

But now Democrats are trying to link Akin's position on abortion to that of Paul Ryan and this is where it gets dangerously close to home for Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan, along with Akin, co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act. It's a so-called personhood amendment and he did so as recently as 2011. Now that bill made no exceptions for rape or incest or anything else. Now Paul Ryan himself in terms of his personal views on abortion has long said he is opposed to abortion in all cases, except for when the life of the mother is at risk, meaning he's opposed to it in the cases of rape and incest. This is not something that Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney want to have become a major issue.

Never mind that Ryan and Akin are now linked by the fact that they were co-sponsors of the bill on this topic. So what will the Republican Party do? OUTFRONT tonight, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Good to see you, sir. I know not what you want to be talking about right now. But let me just say, so Senator Scott Brown, Senator McConnell they've all come out, called it outrageous or saying that Mr. Akin should step out of this race within the next 24 hours.

Tea Party Express has urged him to step aside. Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is saying get out. We're not going to give you more money. He could get out by the -- by Tuesday before the general election. That's tomorrow. Should he get out?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, certainly, you know first of all, if it was me and -- I wouldn't say anything that dumb as he has. But if it was me and I had an opportunity to let someone else run to actually give ourselves a better chance of winning, I would step aside. And so, listen, what he said, Erin, was biologically stupid. It's something that nobody on either side of the aisle agrees with. It's a bizarre statement and it's something that I think he needs to seriously think about. And like I said, if it was me, I would step aside and let someone else run for that office.

BURNETT: All right, so I mean you're making that pretty clear. The answer is, yes.

PRIEBUS: That's pretty clear, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes, I think all right --

PRIEBUS: Pretty clear.

BURNETT: I just want to make it loud and clear. It's my job, make it painfully obvious. But let me ask you this then -- so what can you do? I mean you've heard him say -- you know he's saying now he doesn't plan to get out. Obviously he's got 24 hours. He can still do it. But what are you going to do to get him to make the right choice? Who's going to make those calls to him?

PRIEBUS: Well I mean ultimately he has to make these calls, I mean right? I mean we all understand that. I mean and so we're hopeful that he hears these things that people are saying on both sides of the aisle and that this is not mainstream talk that he's referring to in his descriptions of whatever an illegitimate rape is -- you know that's not even something that we could conceive of. BURNETT: Yes.

PRIEBUS: So we're hoping he hears these things and you know so we're here down for our convention. Obviously we're getting ready for a big election and this is not what the election is going to turn on, Erin. This is going to turn on the president's promises, what he delivered, where this economy's at and these are the things that people care about. But in the meantime, we've got to deal with this situation and we are.

BURNETT: All right, so let me ask you this because I want to make the point first of all, something you know painfully well. But I want to put it up here. The latest Gallup poll registered voters' choice for president, and this is broken down by gender. So right now, the president leads among women 50 percent and trails among men. So women, 50 percent plan to vote for President Obama, 42 percent for Governor Romney. Now, when you just do the math on this, it comes out to statistical edge between women and men that this election would go for Barack Obama. If you move the women vote by one percent, statistical edge goes to Romney. If you move it by two, he wins the whole thing. So women really matter, right? I mean this issue of abortion -- I mean this --

PRIEBUS: Oh of course --

BURNETT: I know you don't want the whole thing to revolve around this. But if it did, it could mean the whole election.

PRIEBUS: Right, but, Erin, I think you're making a false assumption here. And that is that you're making the assumption that women are pro-abortion. And I don't believe that. I actually think that most women are pro life. And so I happen to believe you can be pro women and pro life. And so I think you're making sort of a logical leap that isn't really based on fact. Maybe there are other reasons for the outcomes of these polls. But you're assuming that it's because of abortion and I just don't believe that.

BURNETT: OK, well let me -- let me -- hold on.

PRIEBUS: So I think you can be pro life, pro women and at the end, what women really care about is the economy and where we're going in this country.

BURNETT: All right. I agree with you, you can be pro life and pro women. But let me give you this --


BURNETT: -- because I do have more numbers for you. Paul Ryan co-sponsoring with Akin the amendment that said abortion should not be allowed in any case. And Paul Ryan has made it clear, right that he thinks only in the case of the life of the mother. So not in the cases of rape or incest that's what we know about Paul Ryan. Gallup poll taken in June of last year, abortion in cases of rape or incest, 75 percent of Americans think that should be OK, so that means --

PRIEBUS: Listen --

BURNETT: -- in this dramatic case, most people, 75 percent of Americans of whom I'm sure a lot are women, do not agree with Paul Ryan.

PRIEBUS: Well first of all, that's not true. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney's position is that they're pro life with the exceptions of rape, incest and the life of the mother, but --

BURNETT: Well that's Mitt Romney and I know --

PRIEBUS: -- the bill that you all keep --

BURNETT: -- Ryan's on the ticket --

PRIEBUS: No, no, no that's not true --

BURNETT: But Paul Ryan's position historically has been, according to CNN's reporting --

PRIEBUS: No, that's not true --

BURNETT: -- that he does not support it in the cases of rape or incest.

PRIEBUS: Well first of all that's not true. But the point that I'm making is that what you're referring to and what these reporters are referring to in this bill is the question of whether or not you should be able to use taxpayer money to fund abortions. That's a totally separate issue. And on that issue, that's an 80 percent winner for us. And so you know you can pick and choose all these numbers all day long.

The fact of the matter is most women are pro life. This election is not coming down to this particular Todd Akin issue. We're very proud to be a pro life party and we are and I'm pro life. And I think it's a winning issue. But the problem with Todd Akin is that he's taken it to a level that no one in the mainstream is in agreement with. And you're seeing both parties say that.

BURNETT: And so the bottom line is you say that -- I understand your point on Todd Akin, that you think that he is not -- is not something that anyone would support in the mainstream and I would imagine he's not welcome at the Republican Convention where you are right now either.

PRIEBUS: Well listen, if it was up to me, Erin, I will tell you, I would prefer that Todd Akin do the right thing for our party and our candidates and I would prefer him not come.

BURNETT: All right. Well thank you very much, Chairman Priebus. I appreciate taking the time. Hopefully next time we'll be able to talk about the economy which I know is what you wanted to talk about.

OUTFRONT now is John Avlon. So this is interesting and especially given the tension that we had there over the position. They don't want to talk about the specifics of when someone supports abortion or doesn't support abortion. That is not something the Republican Party wants to talk about.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No and you could feel the force of the pivot with Reince Priebus' word right there, dumb, biologically stupid, bizarre, that ain't subtle language from the RNC chairman. He wants to get off this topic as fast as possible and just saying --


AVLON: -- look, he wants this to be in yesterday's papers because he knows at the end of the day that the longer this is in the headlines, the more of a loser it is. But the real question is, as you said, the real implication of the position of oppositional abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Now today, the Romney/Ryan ticket came forward with a statement making it crystal clear that that ticket opposes -- is pro life with exceptions for rape and incest. That is not --

BURNETT: Right, which is what Chairman Priebus was trying to say, that's the ticket.

AVLON: As of today, but historically what he was saying hadn't been accurate. Paul Ryan throughout his career --


AVLON: -- had opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest and that's what difficult for them today is this bill he co-sponsored with Todd Akin that introduced the phrase forcible rape and that is what's raising a lot of question marks. It's not the conversation Reince Priebus wants to have. It's not the conversation that the Romney ticket wants to have.


AVLON: But until and if this guy gets out of the race tomorrow -- and that was a less-than-subtle nudge by the chairman of his party -- this is going to be in the conversation. They don't want to have this conversation because of those pivotal women voters. They want to have a conversation all about the economy.

BURNETT: Well if legitimate and illegitimate rape are words that they think are biologically stupid, forcible rape would go in the same category -- all right thanks very much to John Avlon -- just to be you know using your words and inconsistent.

Ahead, why the president is afraid he could lose to Mitt Romney. Just one of the surprising details to emerge from a new book on the Obama reelection campaign which sort of reads like the "Us Weekly" of the campaign, which is why we really enjoyed it and a new record tonight for Apple. But the achievement may not be as good as it sounds. And a man who was shot and killed while handcuffed in the back of a police car, the autopsy report out late today. Does it add up?


BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT Paul Ryan the attack dog.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Too many politicians like President Obama have been more worried about their next election than they've been worrying about the next generation. That's not leadership. That's politics.


BURNETT: Harsh words but a new book about the president's reelection campaign reveals just how worried the president is about his prospects even though he says that Mitt Romney is, in his words, weak and a man who, in his words, stands for nothing.

OUTFRONT tonight, Glenn Thrush, a reporter for Politico and author of the new book "Obama's Last Stand" and CNN political contributor James Carville. I have to say, Glenn, you know if you had him in that beach shot in Hawaii you know where the president has no shirt on it would be like an "Us Weekly" cover which it deserves and I mean that as a compliment. It's great reading and it's got all the inside gossip you'd want to know, so what are some of the things --

GLENN THRUSH, POLITICO: I was going for Robert Caro (ph) and you're giving me "Us Weekly". This is devastating --

BURNETT: You know what the best can be good at both. All right, so tell me a little bit about what you found. I mean there's infighting at the highest levels of the campaign. There was infighting between the president and between Joe Biden. What are some of the kind of biggest takeaways about the dysfunction in the campaign?

THRUSH: Well, I think the first thing to note, I covered the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008. If you want to talk about real dysfunction, I think you've got to refer to that. That's the granddaddy of them all. This I think is just a by-product of the fact that general -- I mean in general reelection campaigns are lousy, ask James. And this one in particular is lousy because the difference between 2008 in terms of what President Obama can run on and 2012 are so great. So I think a lot of this dissonance, a lot of this friction has a lot to do with the nature of this campaign. But that said, a lot of these folks have not been singing according to the same hymnal.

BURNETT: And so I mean some of these -- you're talking about I mean that there's fights between David Axelrod and Stephanie Cutter, two of the senior -- the two most senior members of the reelection campaign, I mean at least your reporting there was one instance where Ax, as he's called in the campaign, thought that Stephanie Cutter was trying to undercut him in terms of publicity and TV appearances.

THRUSH: Right and that was the cause -- my reporting bore (ph) out of a fight that took place in the early spring. You know that was patched up fairly quickly, but the larger issue between those two are they have very complementary personalities, very complementary skill sets. Axelrod is a very creative guy, very good with words, very good with messaging, not the most organized guy.

Not somebody who likes confrontation. Cutter as you know is the opposite. She's a very powerful implementer and a lot of people on previous campaigns have said she has a little trouble staying in her lane, so I think what we're dealing with there is sort of these large complementary personalities. And I think things have improved recently. But during the spring when things were not going very well that was putting a real drag on Chicago.

BURNETT: So James Carville, what's your takeaway seeing this? I mean that there's infighting in the campaign and in particular some of Glenn's reporting that there was some real tension between the president and the vice president.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well I guess first of all, I know Glenn and I think he is a first-rate reporter and I'm sure that that's true. If you're saying there's infighting in a campaign is like saying there's humidity in Louisiana in August.


CARVILLE: Of course there's infighting in a campaign. Be a hell of a (INAUDIBLE) that said no infighting in this campaign and some of the stuff is interesting and I think Glenn makes a good point is when you're a challenger you have more things to do and people have been together less time and it's kind of more fun. When you've been sitting in the White House for four years and particularly when you know these are really sort of tough times for anybody, people get frayed, nerves get frayed. There are more times for people to irritate other people and that's what happened. All of this -- I haven't read the book, but like everybody else around politics I was discussing (INAUDIBLE) with any number of people and a lot of the stuff frankly to me sounds true. You know and it's kind of interesting to political junkies and I'm sure that Glenn worked hard on his book and congratulations to him.

BURNETT: All right, well, we'll leave it there. I want to tell everyone, though, please go out and get the book. I mean it talks about what happened when Joe Biden came out ahead of the president on gay marriage and well, it's a pretty interesting story on what happened then. Anyway it's worth -- it's worth giving it a read. Thanks to both.

And still OUTFRONT Apple has reached a new record, but is it as good as it sounds? We compare apples to apples. And the highest paid female athlete on earth is trying to conquer something off the court -- Maria Sharapova OUTFRONT tonight.


BURNETT: Today Apple set another record for America. It is officially the most valuable company ever, ever in human history. So as of today's close, Apple's market value is -- and this is a pretty hard-to-imagine number -- $623.5 billion. That is higher than the previous record which was $618.9 billion set by Microsoft back in December 1999. So people were you know all celebrating this today. Apple has had a pretty great run because it only took 19 months to have its value go from $300 billion to over $600 billion.

So forget for a second if you're an Apple lover who thinks it can surge forever or if you're waiting for the next bubble to pop and you think it's going to crash. It is quite frankly quite the achievement when you consider that while Apple's stock price doubled the American and global economy were in crisis. It's pretty impressive for a company that sells gadgets that cost you know $199 and up when you are looking at those iPhones. Microsoft, though, hit its peak near the height of what we now know was an unsustainable tech bubble.

But before you celebrate for Apple, there is one thing about this milestone that bugged us. Because on this show, we like to compare apples to apples and that means taking a look at the real numbers. The number tonight is $908. That's the price that Apple's stock would actually have to hit in order to reach Microsoft's inflation adjusted record value. That was $851 billion. Apple isn't anywhere close. Its stock only closed at $665 today.

So it has to rise another 37 percent because it can -- before it can, in our opinion, claim to be the most valuable company ever. So will it get there? Well, analyst Peter Mizzek (ph) of Jeffries (ph) just raised his price target on the stock to $900, but just (INAUDIBLE) almost there saying the release of Apple's iPhone 5 could be the biggest handset launch in history. Well we'll see. Maybe if Apple beats Samsung in that big court case they have going on.

Well still OUTFRONT in our second half, a man who was handcuffed in the back of a police car when he was shot and killed. The question is, was it suicide or did someone else pull the trigger? The video in that moment has unaccountably gone missing. But the autopsy report was out late today. We have it, and as Russia searches for more members of a punk band convicted of hooliganism for speaking out against Vladimir Putin a husband and his 4-year-old daughter fighting to get his wife out of jail.


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

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, came OUTFRONT to say Representative Todd Akin should drop out of the race for the Missouri Senate seat after making controversial remarks about rape.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: If it was me, I would step aside and let someone else run for that office.

BURNETT: All right. So you're making that pretty clear. The answer is yes.

PRIEBUS: That's pretty clear, Erin.


BURNETT: He also said this about Akin attending the convention in Tampa next week.


PRIEBUS: I would prefer that Todd Akin do the right thing for our party and our candidates and I would prefer him not come.


BURNETT: First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Wisconsin on Thursday to meet with the survivors and families of the six people killed at the Sikh temple shooting.

OUTFRONT spoke with Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka whose uncle the temple president was killed in the shooting. He told us the community has mixed reactions to the first lady's visit, telling us that he and others are frustrated that President Obama and the federal government haven't done more to support them. Two victims of the shooting remain hospitalized tonight.

Well, Iraq is denying a "New York Times" report that says it's helping Iran avoid American sanctions. The newspaper report that had Iraq is helping Iran secretly move to cash and smuggle oil to avoid sanctions, targeting Tehran's nuclear program.

International law expert David Tafuri (ph) told OUTFRONT the U.S. has helped Iraq modernize its banking systems but Iran remains one of Iraq's biggest trading partners. Tafuri adds that Iraq wants to keep both relationships, which forces the country to walk the fine line. It'd be interesting to see if they can keep doing it.

Well, anti-Japan protesters took to the streets of China over the week. The protest was launched after a group of Japanese activists landed on a cluster of islands controlled by Japan. But it's an area that both countries claim as theirs. The islands are uninhabited but they are important for fishing and they could hold some valuable oil and natural gas deposits.

As for the United States, (INAUDIBLE) of Brookings tells us the United States doesn't want to get involved, adding right now there's little evidence either side wants this to escalate. But this is a crucial reason why the one place we're adding money in our defense budget is in Asia.

Well, it's been 382 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Well, Europe continues to be a problem. European leaders, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, are meeting this week, again, to try to hammer out the problems that Europe is having again.

Well, our third story OUTFRONT, an autopsy report just released shedding light on the mysterious death of 21-year-old Chavis Carter. A medical examiner says that Carter committed suicide on July 29th after he was arrested for marijuana possession. He died from a gunshot wound to his head as he sat in the back of a police cruiser with his hands cuffed. Something his family says is not possible.

Benjamin Irwin is the attorney for Chavis' mother and grandmother. And he came OUTFRONT earlier today. I started by asking him his reaction to the autopsy report.


BENJAMIN IRWIN, ATTORNEY FOR CHAVIS CARTER'S MOTHER, GRANDMOTHER: Well, I think it's important to note what's in the medical examiner's report. What's in there is an evaluation of what actually occurred medically to Chavis on that night, with a gunshot wound, the gun was very close to his head. What we don't know from the medical examiner's report is who fired that gun. Was -- there was no gun residue test that was done that was made available to us. Was he tested for gun residue? Were the officers on the scene tested for gun residue? If so, when?

Also if you notice in the results in the opinion part of his exam, he also talks about this is based upon the conclusions of the investigation by the Jonesboro Police Department. So what information was he provided by the Jonesboro Police Department that he then determined that this was a suicide?

I think we're still all up against the difficulties that we see with handcuffed and now we know that this gun was either touching or was very, very close to his right temple. That's -- listen, we've tried to duplicate it. That's a difficult feat at best.

And we've all seen the video. That was a great stunt. But who was that? Is that person double-jointed?

And as you and I both know, what really matters is what could have happened to Chavis that night. Could he have done that? It's just so many questions left to be answered.

BURNETT: Fair point. And let me ask you a couple of things from our conversations with the medical examiner. He's saying, look, in terms of being able to do this with handcuffs -- they're saying it is possible that he did it. In fact, they're choosing to use the word suicide when they could have labeled this a homicide, an accident or a natural death. And they're saying there is no such thing as an accidental suicide. Yet they chose that word.

IRWIN: Seems to me that ever since this has begun, Jonesboro Police Department has aid, listen, this is a suicide, this is a suicide. What happened to an investigation? Since when did we start with a conclusion and then find facts to support that conclusion?

I mean, the video is very important because there's three, three and a half minutes of video missing --

BURNETT: So you're saying it's possible they turned off the cameras or they deleted it or something -- I'm just saying hypothetically, you're saying it's possible that they did that because they had killed him, right?

IRWIN: No, no, not saying they killed him. What I'm saying is if I'm with the Jonesboro Police Department and what I want is to show that I have done an accurate and fair depiction of an investigation, what I'm going to do is I'm going to lay it out all on the table.

BURNETT: You're saying their incompetence could be the reason that he died, but you're not saying that they actually -- one of the police officers held the gun and killed him?

IRWIN: Absolutely. Incompetence is clear. I think that's evident. The question is, where does it go from there?

But we're not ready to draw conclusions. I think that's the problem that we have here is too many conclusions are already being made when all the facts haven't even been released.

BURNETT: One other thing I wanted to ask you about in terms of the facts that are coming out, something else from the autopsy report today. Again, talking to the medical examiner, was telling us that at the time of Chavis' death he was under the active influence, and I want to quote him here, "of an intoxicating dose of methamphetamines".

Obviously methamphetamines can be obtained -- usually obtained illegally and can allow people to do or have at the moment superhuman strength. Something like that, do you think, could possibly explain not why he had that gun and they failed to find it but how he was able to maneuver himself in such a way that he could shoot it at himself?

IRWIN: That would be beyond my scope to be able to say how that occurred. What I'm concerned with is -- let's say, where did those come from? Were those missed in a search again, as well, along with the weapon? I mean, when did those get introduced into his body? I can't say with certainty what happened there.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Benjamin, thanks very much. Appreciate your taking the time, sir.


BURNETT: And now our fourth story OUTFRONT: Russia tonight warning Western countries against, quote-unquote, "hysterics" over the Pussy Riot sentencing. This as Russian police are on the lookout for two more members of the band. Three band members have been found guilty of hooliganism, this was Friday, for an anti-Putin performance in a Moscow cathedral. They have been sentenced to jail for two years, drawing worldwide condemnation and criticism of Vladimir Putin's strong thunderstorm-arm tactics.

Nadya Tolokonnikova, the most outspoken member of the band, reportedly yelled, "We are happy because we brought the revolution closer," as she was led away by police officers to serve her sentence. She won't see her husband or her 4-year-old daughter.

And OUTFRONT tonight, her husband, Pyotr. I spoke to him earlier. I started by asking him if he was surprised by that statement from his wife.


PYOTR VERZILOV, HUSBAND OF JAILED RUSSIAN PUNK BAND MEMBER: No, it doesn't surprise me because during these five months the girls were locked up in a brutal Russian prison, they've been role models for millions of Russians and millions of people around the world because they've been acting so heroically brave and in these brutal circumstances they're put in, they're just showing amazing courage and the amazing ability to make these political speeches and show their amazing behavior while behind bars and in court. So it does label them as true revolutionaries.

BURNETT: When was the last time you were able to speak to Nadya and to see her?

VERZILOV: I saw her two weeks ago. But before that, we didn't have a meeting for five months.

BURNETT: What was it like when you saw her? I mean, it's not just you, of course, that she hasn't seen but her 4-year-old child.

VERZILOV: It has been incredibly emotional. By law, we have just one hour to talk to each other through this phone and through a glass cage during the meeting. And, well, this one hour lasted like three minutes.

BURNETT: And what about -- what about your daughter? Does she understand at all what's happening? I'm sure after all this time, she can't understand where her mother is.

VERZILOV: Well, our 4-year-old daughter completely understands what's happening because I've been telling her a lot, that Russian politics are very much like a fairy tale. It's very black and white and she tells people that Putin has locked up Nadya in a cage and we have to find a way to free her out of there.

BURNETT: Well, tell me a bit about what -- you're here tonight talking to us. You're in Moscow. So, is -- I mean, I'm trying to think about how we should understand this. I mean, your wife has been put in jail for two years for singing a protest song against Vladimir Putin. You, though, are here speaking out against him and free in Moscow.

Is that something that is hopeful, that contradicts what your wife is going through? How do you make sense of those two things?

VERZILOV: Well, you know, the Russian government obviously loves to oppress, harass and basically imprison anyone who makes very bright and critical and loud statements of Putin's and the government's activities. But there are limit that is this government can and cannot do right now. And basically this amazing international outcry which we've seen over the past several months, directed at the Pussy Riot case happened because the whole world didn't expect Putin to cross this line and start to arrest people for singing protest songs inside a church. BURNETT: And, Pyotr, I know there's an appeal. How hopeful are you that that appeal might go the other way, that Nadya might be free? Is there any hope?

VERZILOV: We think that Putin has made his word. He's voiced the girls' sentence. And it's very unlikely that that's going to change in any way.

BURNETT: Will you stay if Nadya wins this appeal or even when she is released in two years, will you stay in Russia? I know you have dual citizenship in Canada. So, you would have a choice.

VERZILOV: I do have a choice. But my choice is to stay in Russia and to fight for Russia's future and to fight Putin and hopefully in two, three years, Putin won't be the head of this country and trials like that will no longer be possible. That's our goal and we're willing to fight for it.

BURNETT: Well, Pyotr, thank you so much for taking the time to tell us your story.

VERZILOV: Thank you.


BURNETT: Well, OUTFRONT next, one of the biggest stars in tennis, highest paid female athlete on earth and, hey, she's 25 years old. But Maria Sharapova isn't done yet. She is OUTFRONT next.

And an 11-year-old girl reportedly with Down syndrome charged with blasphemy after burning the Koran.


BURNETT: We're back with tonight's "Outer Circle," where we reach out to our sources around the world and we begin in Pakistan where an 11-year-old Christian girl has been arrested. She's accused of blasphemy for burning pages of the Koran.

Now, local media reports say the girl has Down syndrome. CNN has been unable to independently confirm the reports. But Reza Sayah is OUTFRONT in Islamabad tonight and I asked what's going to happen to the little girl.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the girl's name is Ramsha (ph) and she could be in jail for up to 14 days while police try to figure out exactly happened. Her family says she was burning paper for cooking fuel, not unusual for poorer families here in Pakistan.

But neighbors claim she was burning pages of the Koran, which is a violation of the blasphemy law. They were outraged, surrounded her, allegedly threatened her. Police came, took her away. The family fled and that's where things stand. Police say they're confident they can resolve this, that this was a misunderstanding.

But in the past, these blasphemy cases haven't been very easy for authorities to solve here. So things could get tricky. Many rights activists point out that this is an example of bigger problems, like government corruption and an ineffective justice system that leads to the persecution of many women, not just Christians -- Erin.


BURNETT: Thanks to you, Reza.

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT, Sharapova's sweetness. Now, we all know 25-year-old Russian Olympic silver medallist Maria Sharapova. She's currently ranked number three in the world. She's a fierce competitor on the tennis court.

But Maria Sharapova is now no longer just a grand slam champion. She's a brand. People around the world know her face. She's the highest paid female athlete in the world.

And today, fans mobbed her as she launched her own business. For the first time, it's a candy line called Sugarpova. It's going to be sold at stores, including IT'SUGAR, and a store called Henry Vandel's (ph) where I met Sharapova today.

She said she plans to play tennis for many more years but being successful in business is crucial to her.


MARIA SHARAPOVA, 2012 RUSSIAN OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALIST: When I'm on the tennis court and I'm in that cubical in a way, that's my own little work space, I commit so much physical energy and mental preparation. Then I go out on the court and I compete.

But when I leave the court, I feel like I need something that gets your mind off of what you do there that is so intense, that is so competitive. Therefore, I have a lot of fun with the businesses -- the collections and the collaborations that I work with. It keeps my mind on other things.

BURNETT: I see your face everywhere. I saw your face everywhere in Europe last week. I see your face here, whether it's Cole Haan or Tag. Now you have this candy line that you're starting.

What made you decide to do candy? By the way, I think the name is very cute.

SHARAPOVA: Thank you.

BURNETT: Sugarpova, right?

SHARAPOVA: Thank you.

BURNETT: What made you choose -- a lot of people would say, OK, this young woman could have done anything and she picked candy. Why? SHARAPOVA: I'm such a big foodie. And I have the biggest sweet tooth. I see candy as a treat.

I remember as a young girl, I would have a good week of practice and I would ask my parents to get me this lollipop that was tough to find in Russia back then. But I saw it as a reward, I saw it as a treat. That's how I see candy, in a way that my sport is physical and of course I want to take care of my body. But it's like that indulgence that everybody wants to have.

And from when I heard of the name "Sugarpova" and then I put the two together, with the candy and Sugarpova, and then I always wanted to own my own business. I mean, I've been part of the big collaborations, collections, but I wanted to own something. I want to be financial involved. I want to make all the final decisions. And it's a lot of responsibility --

BURNETT: So this is your baby?

SHARAPOVA: This is my baby. I feel like I've had two pregnancies and the candy's my baby, that's my kid.

BURNETT: You worked so hard, you rose so quickly. You had the adversity of injury. Sort of wondering what would happen next.


BURNETT: Now you're back.


BURNETT: So is tennis, are you going to be going for grand slams, playing in the Olympics the next time around?

SHARAPOVA: You know, it's interesting, through this whole process of doing the candy, the last couple of years, coming back from my injury and really coming back on top and winning the French open this year. So I felt like it's almost been my good luck charm because I had the great balance of working on something I was passionate about and yet being on the court to regain my number one ranking, to win more grand slams, to win the French Open, the one that I had won before.

So it's been a really fulfilled year.

BURNETT: How much time do you spend working? People look at you and say a lot of it comes naturally, you're so long and lean --

SHARAPOVA: Well, I do -- I'm so fortunate that I do play tennis for a living and I play a sport and that I'm active because I don't like the gym, you know. I try to stay outside and I try to exercise outside. I love my food and I love my -- all the indulgences and candy and cakes and all of that.

So I must work out. I mean this doesn't -- it's not like everyone gets a good body by sitting on the couch and eating candy all day. I mean, you have to put in the physical effort. Everyone knows that.

So I'm very fortunate that I do play sports for a living, yes.

BURNETT: And your personal story is an amazing one. Obviously, growing up in Russia, family a victim of the Chernobyl crisis. You came here, you were a young child.

SHARAPOVA: Yes, I was 7 years old.

BURNETT: Spoke no English.

SHARAPOVA: No, not at all.

BURNETT: But you've been in the Olympics for a long time, obviously in the Olympics, you play for Russia.


BURNETT: So, how do you think of yourself now? Are you Russian? Are you American?

SHARAPOVA: No, no. It's so interesting because I grew up in Russia for the first seven years in my life, that's where I started playing tennis. And I moved to the United States because of tennis, because tennis wasn't popular at all back then when I was that young. And there weren't many facilities.

So the sport kind of took my family to the United States to develop a dream that we had. And it's amazing how comfortable I got in the States. How accustomed I got to the culture, to the lifestyle. I mean, I love traveling the world but when I come here, I feel like it's home.

When I go back home and I visit my grandparents and I'm sitting in an informal dining room eating my grandma's home cooked meal, I'm like, gosh, I'm so Russian inside of me. This is the real me. I'm so happy. When I'm home, I'm only speaking Russian in my house with my parents.

BURNETT: So you speak both equally.


BURNETT: No accent?

SHARAPOVA: I get out of my house and most of my friends are English or French or whichever and they're speaking another language. So it's an interesting balance, yes.

BURNETT: And you have citizenship of both countries?

SHARAPOVA: Just Russia.

BURNETT: Just Russia?

SHARAPOVA: Just Russia. BURNETT: You're going to keep it that way?

SHARAPOVA: Yes. I mean, right now, that's the way I feel. I'm so happy to represent my country, especially seeing the way that the sport has grown in my country. I grew up watching the Olympics on TV in Russia, because it's such a huge part of our culture. I thought, oh, one day, it would be amazing to be there and maybe hold the flag. This year, I had this incredible opportunity of carrying the flag in the Olympic ceremony.

It's just so many things you think of as a child. There's no reason right now to change citizenship.


BURNETT: Up next, a trivia question for you so take a guess, I have the answer. Why Bubba is going down in the history books.


BURNETT: So golfer Bubba Watson, that's the Bubba I was talking it, has something to celebrate tonight, because he is now the answer to a trivia question. The question is -- who was the last golfer to win the Masters before women were accepted as members at Augusta National? Yes, that's what happened.

Here's what we said on OUTFRONT about this four months ago.


BURNETT: This week, the Masters golf tournament kicks off in Augusta, Georgia. There's nothing like winning a Masters and donning that fabled green jacket. Members get jackets too but there are only 300 of them and they're there by invitation only. As a result, the club has been slow to admit members that don't look like other members. The first black member wasn't invited till 1990 and women still can't join.

But this year that could change.


BURNETT: Well, change it has. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and investor Darla Moore were accepted as members of Augusta National. They both put out statements that were very eloquent. And in a statement, the tournament chairman said, Bill Payne, said, quote, "These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership. It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall."

It's a new frontier in Augusta. But why now? I mean, remember Chairman Payne's predecessor Hootie Johnson when he said in 2003, quote, "There may be a day when women are invited to join our membership, but that timetable will be ours and not at that point of a bayonet." So did Augusta just happen to decide that now is the right time to accept women into the boy's club, on their own? The answer to that is no. In January of this year, Ginni Rometty became the first women president and CEO of IBM. IBM is one of the top three sponsors of the Masters.

And all four of her male predecessors got membership to Augusta and were presented with a green jacket just because they were CEO of IBM. Ginni was denied that. And she remained silent during the whole controversy about that this spring. I'd like to think that while she was publicly silent, she made her point behind closed doors, making a difference, setting an example, something she's always done. And I guess pointing the proverbial bayonet.

Either way, congratulations to Darla and Condi. It's a really neat achievement. Hey, and to you too, Bubba.

Thanks so much as always for watching. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.