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Boehner Re-Elected As Speaker; U.S. Troops In Afghanistan; Confiscating Guns?

Aired January 3, 2013 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, kept his job. Not everyone, though, is happy. We'll talk to a member of his own party who voted against him.

Plus, a prominent newspaper columnist suggests President Obama is a disappointment.

And sweeping changes to America's gun laws, proposed, when police would be able to confiscate your guns, a possibly huge move. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, drama, intrigue, tears, it was almost Byzantine. Under fire, John Boehner narrowly won a first round vote to keep his job as House speaker. It's pretty amazing because the last time the first round of voting was too close to call was 1923.

So after all the votes were meticulously counted, Boehner's tally topped out at 220. That is only six more than the bare minimum he needed to keep his job. Now, as for the tears, of course, they did come from none other than John Boehner, in an emotional victory speech to his House members after the narrow victory.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: If you come here humbled by the opportunity to serve, if you've come here to be the determined voice of the people, if you've come here to carry the standard of leadership, demanded not by our constituents, but by the times, then you've come to the right place.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, one Republican who did not support John Boehner today was not moved by those tears, Freshman Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida. Congressman, welcome, good to see you. I know you're a face we'll all be seeing a lot of more out there.

There are so many of you we're going to get to know. But today was your first day in Congress and you came out with a strong statement. Let me just play for you how your vote for speaker went down. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, if you sign a pledge like that, you've got handcuffs on.


BURNETT: That is the -- sorry, wrong sound bite there. Do we have it? OK, here it is. Sorry, let me play it for you again, sir.




BURNETT: All right, you voted for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, not John Boehner. That took some guts on your first day. How come?

REPRESENTATIVE TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: Erin, what I did is -- what we did is, we were challenging leadership, to let them know that we're going to hold them accountable, just lake I get held accountable in my district by my constituents.

And I want to let them know that we're watching. And we're willing to work with leadership, and I wanted to let him know we're doing that. That's why I stuck with the Republican Party with Mr. Cantor.

BURNETT: Well, let me ask you a little bit more about that because you were quoted in the "National Journal" as saying, I'll quote you, "career politicians created this mess, or at least they didn't do anything to prevent it."

YOHO: Right.

BURNETT: So you term limited yourself, you said, to eight years. So should everyone face that limit, even those already in office?

YOHO: Well, I think people ought to limit themselves. You know, I set that limit of eight years because I figured that was good enough for George Washington. It's good enough for me. You know, the founders didn't intend for us to make a living out of this or that long of a career.

That's for each person to decide. Me, personally, I decided for eight years. It goes back to what you said there. You know, our message that got us here was that the career politicians did get us here. And they either led us to where we were at or they failed to prevent it.

Neither is acceptable. This is a time that we need to put America first, not so much a political party, the parties are important, but it's more important to put our country first.

And I look forward to doing that and I let leadership know that I'm willing to work for them, work with them, but yet, I'm also willing to stand up against them. BURNETT: And, let me ask you, though, in terms of John Boehner. You know, now he's one, you didn't vote for him, but he's going to be leading your party. He's the speaker of the House.

So the bill that he allowed to come to the floor, the fiscal cliff bill that is now law, that the president has signed, would you have supported the speaker and voted for that, or would you, like Eric Cantor have gone against the speaker?

YOHO: I would have gone against that. You know, with what I've read.

BURNETT: And then how can you then vote for John Boehner -- I know you voted for Eric Cantor, but how can you say you're going to work with John Boehner and go along with him when you totally disagreed with what he did?

YOHO: Well, what we have to do is to stand up and be willing to challenge them on the tough decisions and hopefully be a part of that decision making, to where you can say, I don't think that's the right direction or maybe the right messaging that we need to get out.

And being willing to stand up and do that, I think, is more important that they know where you come from, from the very beginning, but yet, let them know that you're going to work with leadership, because he is our leader. And I'm 100 percent behind him, just like Mr. Obama, President Obama is our president.

And, you know, they are the people in charge right now and so we've got to do the best we can. And again, this goes back to do the best we can for the country. And that's what I'm up here for.

BURNETT: All right, so let me ask you, some people might listen to you right now and say, all right, you're going to be one of those people who's never going to vote for taxes to go up. You're going to be on the more right wing of your party.

You know, a lot of others like you have been causing problems for John Boehner. But yet, those people might be surprised that you said you will not sign Grover Norquist's pledge on taxes. So, it sounds like you're saying, look, I'm willing for taxes to go up in the right situation.

YOHO: Well, again, you know, if you look over the course of the past 30 to 40 years, the Republicans have been in charge and the Democrats have been in charge. And our country is falling -- it's going in the wrong direction. And this is a time, again, not to put a party first, but put the country first.

And if we put the country first, we take the focus off of ourselves in a party, and we put the focus on what's best for this country. And that's what we have to do. And it's going to take a give and take from both sides.

BURNETT: Do you think that Republican lawmakers, who supported the fiscal cliff deal, the bill you said you would have voted against, should face primary challenges in 2014? And obviously, that doesn't just include people like John Boehner, it includes Paul Ryan.

YOHO: Well, I think that most of them are going to face challenges, just the way that our electoral process works, but should they because they voted that way? That's for their constituents to decide, not me. And their constituents will let them know.

BURNETT: All right, well, Congressman Yoho, nice to meet you, although virtually, thanks.

YOHO: Erin, appreciate it. Same here.

BURNETT: We'll see you again soon. Now let's bring in John Avlon, CNN contributor and senior political columnist of "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast." All right, what do you make of that? So you come in on day one and make a stand against Boehner, but you're not signing the Grover Norquist tax pledge so it's hard to read that?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's fascinating. I mean, you know, a bold move on day one to go against Speaker Boehner. I mean, some folks would say you're burning bridges, but he clearly did it from a position of principle. One of the themes of his campaign, you know, he took on an incumbent Republican congressman, won a primary.

No one thought he'd win. He ran a great ad, depicting the politicians as pigs at the trough. So he's got a very anti- establishment message. And to his credit, he says, look, we need to find a way to work across party lines and he's not signing any pledges.

That's a hopeful sign, but I was really struck, by not just by his vote, but the dozen or so folks that voted against Boehner and how close this came because all week --

BURNETT: Just six votes?


BURNETT: I mean, that's pretty incredible.

AVLON: Erin, you know, we discussed, sources on the Hill have been saying for weeks, Boehner's safe, Boehner's safe, don't worry about this. This turned out to be a real nail biter. So it does show that Boehner's got a real problem holding together his conference.

The lessons he takes from it will be fascinating, but the vote revealed the fault lines beneath the Republican Party. I mean, when you see, you know, Paul Broun and Louie Gohmert voting for Allan West, that's one segment of the Republican Party and it really does show that John Boehner --

BURNETT: There were some interesting write-ins there.

AVLON: I personally kind of dug the Colin Powell write-in, but it is a significant thing, because Boehner's a deal maker. And to some extent, he's being punished for it by the far right of his own party and whether that moves the governing coalition to the center that's one possible outcome. Around 50 votes, he can't count on if he does anything with Democrats. That's the reality of divided government.

BURNETT: Right, and of course, when he put forth the so-called plan "B," it got shot down because there were some Republicans that wouldn't allow taxes to go up on anybody even when that limit was at $1 million.

AVLON: And the irony, of course, is they ended up getting a worse deal. If those 50 or so folks saying we're fiscal conservative absolutists had backed Boehner in his negotiations, they probably would have got not only a better deal on taxes, but maybe even a grand bargain that dealt with entitlement reform as well. Of course, the bill that passed didn't have any of it. So it's fascinating to know extremes are often on their side's worst enemy.

BURNETT: That's for sure. People like Congressman Yoho are going to be some very interesting ones to watch, by the way, fascinating man, right, large animal veterinarian.

AVLON: Large animal vet. We need more of those in Congress.

BURNETT: I mean -- and there's a reindeer farmer also.

AVLON: Yes, there is.

BURNETT: In Congress so this is going to be fun.

All right, OUTFRONT next, a prominent newspaper columnist slams President Obama. It caught our eye. That's next.

And an update on Hillary Clinton and her condition, and what she says she's going to do about that Benghazi testimony we've all been waiting for.

And a new report from the Pentagon reveals some, well, totally new details about Iran's spies.


BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, slamming the president. "Washington Post" reporter and columnist, David Ignatius, who has covered six American presidents, suggests President Obama is a disappointment.

Here's Ignatius, "Rather than come to the table with a grand vision of his own, a real strategy for cutting the deficit and the entitlement programs that drive it, Obama played a poker game of incremental bargaining with House Speaker John Boehner. Unfortunately, Obama has been playing a waiting game on fiscal issues ever since he became president."

OUTFRONT tonight, former White House Deputy Press Secretary, Bill Burton, and CNN contributor Reihan Salam who also writes for the "National Review." Great to see both of you. Bill, there were some pretty harsh words here, tough words. Obviously, David Ignatius saying, here's how the president could turn it around, but pretty frustrated with his leadership on fiscal issues.

And of course, we just had a deal that ended up boosting spending and slashing revenue, which is not sort of the whole goal, right? So what do you think about David Ignatius' point? The president needs to be bigger and come up with a plan?

BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, it's hard for me to see how somebody on the left, anybody who supports the president, could be disappointed with the deal that the president just got. Think of what just happened.

He got Republicans to vote for a tax increase for the first time since 1990. He saved unemployment insurance, extended it, without having pay-fors in it. Extended the earned income tax credit, extended the wind energy tax credit. And even got the rates back to where he wanted to get the rates.

Now, we're in a divided government. You're not going to get every single thing that you want, but the president got some really big things, made some real progress. And if you look at the base line that everybody compares, you know, where the budget is to everything else, actually, this does cut the deficit by $737 billion.

So I think the president made big progress here and we're going to have to see going forward how we're going to be able to deal with the looming crisis that we face in the next couple of months.

BURNETT: Bill Burton has just shown, Reihan, why he was the deputy press secretary. And I mean that, Bill, as a compliment, but, in all seriousness, he's giving the spin on that. So what do you say?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that when you look at President Obama's priorities, it's important to keep in mind that deficit reduction isn't necessarily his biggest priority right now, for the simple reason that there's a lot of anxiety among folks in the White House that if you have too fast of fiscal contraction, it can be really bad for the economy.

So I think from his perspective, he's not necessarily prioritizing reforming Medicare and what have you over the long-term. He wants to be sure to have a successful presidency and to protect his legacy. And the core of his legacy is actually his health care reform. So if he has that in place, I think he believes --

BURNETT: So he doesn't care about this stuff, is what you're saying?

SALAM: I'm not going to say he doesn't care, but I think that what he would like is a deal in which he gets some credit for a very modest tweak to Social Security and get Republican buy-in in on that. That way he feels like a bipartisan leader. But fundamentally, I don't think he really cares about near-term deficits all that much. BURNETT: Bill, is that fair, or should the president be stepping up and saying, look, here is my vision on reforming entitlements. We can't afford the promises that we've made. I am now done after this term, so I'll give you the tough love and put that plan forward and give you a major legacy?

BURTON: No, I don't think that necessarily stands up to where you've seen the president. The president, first of all, in health care reform, there is some Medicare reform.

Secondly, what he was attacked for, relentlessly for Republicans all through this last cycle. Second of all, the president has said repeatedly in his public remarks that he is very committed to Medicare reform.

The problem is you've got Mitch McConnell out there saying that he doesn't have a dance partner on the dance floor, but the president doesn't have somebody he can work within the House.

When John Boehner comes to the table and he can't even bring his deputy or his third in command to vote for the deal that he is agreeing to, I think you've got a real crisis of leadership in the House.

And so the president showed that even in that case, he can get a deal that moves the ball forward for the country, but going forward, you just wonder, how much control does Boehner have over the folks in the House and what kind of deals are we going to be able to get?

BURNETT: Reihan, just the bottom line though, David Ignatius' point is the president could rise above it and say, fine, Boehner. You know, you're ineffectual or you're not doing your job, but I am going to set a vision for what America must be. That's what David Ignatius is saying he's not doing. Is that charge fair?

SALAM: I think that's absolutely fair, but the mistake is this. President Obama doesn't really care about this kind of grand bargain approach. He wants to be sure that his expansion of the welfare state and health reform is there. It is durable, that it lasts beyond his presidency. And I think that's why it's really a waiting game, rather than about getting a big deficit bargain.

BURNETT: Well, he got a few taxes. A lot of little sneaky Medicare taxes.

SALAM: A lot more tax on the health reform.

BURNETT: Bill, David Ignatius goes on, though, to talk about the president's strategy in terms of filling his cabinet. He is also critical on that. He says, he floated the names of Susan Rice and Chuck Hagel out there for secretary of state and secretary of defense.

David Ignatius then says, "Obama has been backing into the second term in his cabinet choices, too. These are unnecessary, self- inflicted wounds for the administration." Also criticizing how he has been handling that and again, going with this kind of thing of being, you know, for lack of a better word, David doesn't -- small minded, making small decisions, not big ones.

BURTON: Well, I'm sort of surprised to see that from David Ignatius, frankly. Because this isn't the first time he's seen a nomination process where names leak out, people rise to the top, fall to the bottom.


BURTON: For starters, Susan Rice is one of the most talented people in this administration and would have been an awesome secretary of state. But she pulled out because it was her decision to stop all the distractions that she was causing.

So like to criticize the president for the noise that Republicans make or the noise that anybody else is making from the outside on people who haven't even been chosen for cabinet posts is silly on its face. It's Washington and that's the Washington game that people play.

BURNETT: Bill has a fair point. It leaks out, it gets tested then the president doesn't have to waste his political capital on putting Susan Rice's name out if he doesn't want to.

SALAM: Well, there are folks who are defenders of Susan Rice and Chuck Hagel would put it somewhat differently. Their view is that, look, they don't have the White House's opposition team. They don't have formidable folks like Bill Burton who are arguing on their behalf against these attacks.

Rather their names were floated, put out there pretty much on their own and then allow the swings and arrows to come their way. If you have the formal backing of the White House, then you can make it more of a fight.

Now my own view is that both of those names that were floated were not necessarily the best choices for the country. But regardless, if you actually are going to back them, you ought to back them 100 percent.

BURNETT: All right, well, thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it, both very formidable.

Still to come, we've got new information about American troops in Afghanistan. When they're going to come home and who is going to be staying.

And some shocking allegations of rape in Ohio with evidence, video posted on the web.


BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, Americans forced to stay in Afghanistan. We have new details tonight about just how many American troops are going to remain in the country and risk their lives after the bulk of U.S. forces leave next year. CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is OUTFRONT on the story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The options are on the table. At the low end, a little more than 6,000 troops, mostly special operations forces hunting terrorists, with a small amount of training for Afghan forces.

The 10,000 option would still focus on al Qaeda, but would ad conventional troops to expand Afghan training. A 15,000 option would include even more conventional troops to go on limited patrols and give the Afghans even more support. Some experts say forget that last option, 15,000.

STEPHANIE SANOK, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It's not politically tenable within Congress. It's not doable from a budget execution perspective.

LAWRENCE: Analyst Stephanie Sanok worked in Baghdad and developed options for the Iraq drawdown. She says between war fatigue and spending cuts, even the middle option may be a reach.

SANOK: My guess is you will end up closer to the 6,000 person option than the 10,000 person option.

LAWRENCE: Analyst Jeff Dressler argues the U.S. will still have to keep helicopter crews, medical teams, and other backup for whatever troops are left.

JEFFREY DRESSLER, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: Just keeping 6,000 probably isn't that much cheaper than just keeping 15,000 because there's basic things that you need to have there just for the six.

LAWRENCE: Dressler says lowball options are minimizing the danger any remaining troops could face.

DRESSLER: I would argue that even with 20,000 troops, you're still assuming quite a bit of risk. It's by no means a low-risk option.

LAWRENCE: General John Alan presented these options in one of his last acts as commander. But General Joseph Dunford, the man taking Alan's place next month, admits he wasn't included in the talks over options. That could signal some tense fights with members of Congress, who are skeptical of the drawdown plan.

GENERAL JOSEPH DUNFORD, INCOMING ISAF COMMANDER: Senator, I have not been included in those conversations.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Boy, that's interesting to me. A guy that's going to take over the command has not even been included in those conversations.

LAWRENCE: So what's the big-picture goal? In an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett in Afghanistan, the defense secretary said terrorists just have to be defeated, not decimated. LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think that you can reach a point where you so significantly weaken al Qaeda that, you know, although there may still be a few people around, they won't be able to conduct the operations that they've conducted in the past.


BURNETT: All right, Chris Lawrence is with me now. Chris, what I'm curious about is, you know, Leon Panetta in November said to reporters, we'll have a troop count number in a couple weeks from the president.

A couple weeks went by, he said, I'll have a troop count number in a couple of weeks. And when I saw him mid-December, he said, sometime soon. Then we get this range of 6,000 to 15,000. Why is it taking so long and why don't we have a real number?

LAWRENCE: Well, Erin, bottom line is the military, the magic number is three. They love to give options. Basically, what you do is say, if you want to do this, here is how many troops you'll need. If you only want to do this, you'll only need this many troops

Remember back when they were deciding the Afghanistan surge, the options came to President Obama's 80,000, 40,000, and 10,000, he opted for about 30. As to why it's taking so long, it's because this isn't the first time the White House is going to be hearing these numbers.

There have been back and forth conversations all along because you don't want to put out a range of options in which to say the lowest number would be 30,000 troops, and the president only has plans to authorize, say, 5 to 10. That's going to put him in somewhat of a box and open him up to criticism that he's abandoning the commanders on the ground.

BURNETT: All right, Chris Lawrence, thank you very much, as everyone in this country waits to see what that number will be.

OUTFRONT next, sweeping changes to America's gun laws proposed. Police could be allowed to confiscate all of your firearms.

And a very rare look at Iran's spy network. It is a whole lot bigger than anyone in the Pentagon thought.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

We start with stories we care about, where we'll focus on reporting from the front lines.

The students of Sandy Hook Elementary went back to school today for the first time since the December 14th shooting in which 20 students were killed and six teachers. Students have been relocated to a former middle school. It's been outfitted with rugs and furniture to replicate exactly the classrooms at Sandy Hook. And tonight, we have learned the former Arizona Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, will be going to Newtown tomorrow and meeting with families.

And a big money move in Iraq. We hear so many bad things about what's happening in Iraq. Here's a piece of progress. A cell phone company called Asiacell is launching the first major stock IPO since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. According to Bloomberg, the company is trying to raise $1.3 billion on the Baghdad stock market. That's a very, very big number.

I met the CEO of Asiacell at the company's headquarters in Suleimaniah, Iraq, three years ago. At the time, he said the company would be Iraq's first big IPO. It seemed a little bit like a dream then, but that bet could be paying off. Asiacell is now one of the three biggest mobile phone operators in Iraq.

Well, offshore drilling company Transocean will pay $1.4 billion in fines and penalties for its part in the worst offshore oil spill in American history. The company's also going to plead guilty to violating the Clean Water Act. Transocean, you may recall, owned the actual Deepwater Horizon rig that sank after the explosion in which 11 were killed in 2010.

The company most associated with the disaster, though, isn't Transocean. It's BP. And BP tells us that the settlement, I'll quote them, "underscores what every official investigation has found, that the Deepwater Horizon accident resulted from multiple causes involving multiple parties."

And in India, five men have been formally charged with the brutal gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman. A senior police official tells CNN the men were charged with murder, rape, and kidnapping in a New Delhi court. The men allegedly attacked the woman and her male companion on a bus, robbed them, before dumping them on the side of the road.

The woman's injuries were horrific. She died on Saturday from them. And an official says that the trial is being fast tracked, that it will begin this week once all the evidence is gathered and authorities will seek the death penalty.

Well, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be back at work next week. In a State Department briefing, a spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Clinton sounds terrific and upbeat and that she's looking forward to getting back to work. Nuland also said Clinton is committed to testifying on the Benghazi attack, but did not specify when that will happen.

Well, it's been 518 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Well, today, there was some good news on jobs. Apparently, we had 215,000 jobs added in December, more than economists were looking for. Of course, the formal jobs number comes out tomorrow.

And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: a potentially major change to gun laws in the United States.

A Maryland task force on guns and the mentally ill, here it is, it's a pretty interesting report, recommends that police should have the right to confiscate firearms from anyone who is deemed to be, quote, "a threat to self or others."

OUTFRONT tonight, psychiatric Charles Sophy and CNN legal contributor Paul Callan, who also represents psychiatrists in medical malpractice cases.

So reading through this task force series of recommendations, they say, look, the biggest indicator that someone could be a problem to public safety or a threat would be if they make a threat. Some sort of a threat to themselves or a threat that I'm going to -- I'm going to hurt you, I'm going to kill you. And that if any threats are made, you've got to report them to police, and police should then go to the person and take away any guns that this person might have, just based upon the person having made a threat.

Paul, is this significant if it becomes law?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's significant in that it will destroy any movement toward gun control or gun regulation in this country. This is the worst nightmare of everybody who favors the Second Amendment. Now, I'll tell you why. What this law would do is, it would put in law enforcement's hands the idea of deciding whether you're mentally ill or not. And then making a determination as to whether your weapons would be seized.

Under current law, if you are a threat to me, I can have you arrested now. You don't need a new law to do that. As a matter of fact, the law requires a psychiatrist to turn you in. As I'm sure Dr. Sophy will agree with me.

BURNETT: All right. So Dr. Sophy, let me ask you, Maryland does already have a law saying that people with mental illness who have been hospitalized for more than 30 days for mental illness or a history of mental illness, they're already not allowed to own firearms. So this extra step that Paul's talking about, where you would take guns away from people who make threats against other people, is that necessary?

CHARLES SOPHY, MEDICAL DIR., L.A. COUNTY DCFS: Yes, I definitely think that at some point, in certain people, they should have that extra step. Because let me tell you, there are people out there who don't verbalize a lot of the things that they're thinking and will act. So we're really talking about a competency issue, not necessarily somebody with just a mental illness.

And though it may seem discriminatory, it really is about the safety of that person as well as society.

CALLAN: Well, unless psychiatrists have developed some sort of a brain scan that could determine what people who are mentally disturbed are thinking, there's no way to enforce this law. Millions of people in this country are on psychotropic medications right now, probably half the population of Manhattan.

Are we going to look in all of their homes to see if they have guns because they're suffering from mental illness? It's just an unenforceable law.

BURNETT: Dr. Sophy, what's your response to that? You think about depression, people are hospitalized for that, that's a mental illness. A lot of people have dealt with that.

Should people who have had depression be allowed to have guns?

SOPHY: Absolutely not. I know that there has to be a discussion, which is hopefully what this is all going to be about. We're going to start a discussion about the ability to keep people safer in all areas.

But at that table has to be the law people, the medical people, children's and patients' rights people, all of the kinds of HIPAA stuff that has to go into it, because anybody on a psychotropic medication should not be deemed incompetent and not able to have a gun, it is a process. And hopefully, this is just the start of a discussion with many of the disciplines around the table, to see if it is even something we should enforce.

But definitely, there are people who should not have access to firearms.

CALLAN: Well, you know, doctor, these discussions wind up in courtrooms, eventually. So what are you -- are we going to have hundreds, thousands of trials about whether somebody constitutes a threat and whether they can have a firearm or not?

Right now, if you're mentally ill and you constitute a threat to somebody else, the law permits you to be locked up in a mental institution. That's what the law says.

SOPHY: Right.

CALLAN: Why do we need a new law? Nobody's taking guns into mental institutions, so what's it solving? And statistically, there's very little correlation between violence and the mentally ill, as I think even the task force conceded.

BURNETT: Dr. Sophy?

CALLAN: Yes. I mean, I hear what you're saying, but the bottom line is if someone isn't verbalizing it on, or someone as a physician, or taking care of somebody that you know has the potential and is thinking about certain things, you do have the duty to warn

But if you're not able to be privy to that information and you need deeper information, you should have the ability by this law to do a competency evaluation, which is a little bit of deeper, further psychological testing to see how these people are thinking, how they're making their decisions, are they able to make a good judgment decision? Those are the things that really all that you're ever going to be able to do, to be able to make a prediction if somebody could have a gun.

BURNETT: Let me ask you this, Paul, when you think about James Holmes, the alleged Aurora shooter, would -- this potentially could have stopped him, right? He had made threats. There were psychiatrists at the university who were aware of that, who had raised the issue.

If there were a statute like this on the books in Colorado, might it have prevented that massacre?

CALLAN: That's a great question, and the answer is, no, it wouldn't have stopped it. He's very -- that guy, that kid had a psychiatrist who was seeing him on a regular basis. He had verbalized to the psychiatrist, she had an obligation, legally, to seek his involuntary commitment to a mental institution, if he was a threat to somebody else, and she didn't find that to be the case.


CALLAN: So, existing law, if she was doing or had enough information to incarcerate him, he would have been incarcerated. So this law wouldn't help at all.

BURNETT: That's kind of shocking, Dr. Sophy, right, that even with this law, she had the opportunity -- or chose not to do it. And maybe, you know, there's always a hesitance, right, that you don't want to, you know, cause harm to someone if they really don't deserve it. Nobody wants to put someone in an institution, unless they really have to be.

But that would mean, you know, in this case, the opportunity was missed.

SOPHY: No. But, see, I'm not so sure that either she didn't have enough information to commit him in against his will, then do a competency evaluation to give you that further, deeper information to feel more confident one way or the other to make a decision. Because if he's weighing there on that gray zone, you've got to do other stuff to get yourself clinically stable on one side of that --


CALLAN: And, Doctor, are you prepared to pay increased medical malpractice premiums? Because you're going to get sued by the people that you do these competency hearings for. I'm defending two psychiatrists now who put someone into a mental institution, and those two individuals are now saying they were illegally jailed and they're suing their psychiatrists.

So, are you ready for more lawsuits if this thing goes into effect?

SOPHY: I guess. I mean, I'm not going to live in fear, because I think my job as a doctor or any doctor or anybody clinical has to be able to make the best decision that they can and gather the most information to make that an informed decision. And, certainly, no one should be hospitalized against their will or inappropriately, but you try to make the best decision, but gather the most information.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, both of you. A tough one.

CALLAN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And obviously to make some real changes in gun policy law. Let us know what you think about that, please.

And now, a new U.S. government report says that Iran has built a dangerous spy network with tens of thousands of people working for it. These are numbers that shocked many at the Pentagon. And, tonight, we have new details on how the Iranian spy agency operates, who they're killing, and how much more powerful it might get.

CNN's Brian Todd is OUTFRONT.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Assassination plots, terrorist bombings, cyberwarfare -- tactics used around the world by Iran's intelligence service, one of the largest and most aggressive spy operations in the world. That's according to a new report by government researchers commissioned by the Pentagon.

The report says Iran's ministry of intelligence and security has 30,000 people working for it. That's compared to just over 100,000 in the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies and offices.

(on camera): From the standpoint of U.S. national security, Western national security, what's the most dangerous operation that Iranian intelligence has its hand in, do you think?

REUEL MAC GERECHT, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, I think the most dangerous thing they do, is terrorism. They have for decades now developed networks with other terrorist groups, so they themselves don't necessarily have to do something. They can contract it out, they can encourage others to engage in terrorism against the United States and our allies.

TODD (voice-over): Reuel Gerecht, a former CIA officer who tracked Iranian intelligence through the Middle East says the Iranian agency of intelligence and security used to conduct most Iranian- sponsored assassinations overseas. He says that unit killed Shapour Bakhtiar, the former Iranian prime minister, assassinated in Paris in 1991.

But Gerecht says now, those operations have shifted to the feared Quds force, the shadowy Iranian military unit that's part of the revolutionary guard. What's the military of intelligence's biggest job now?

GERECHT: They're primarily used as an instrument of internal repression. They know how to hurt people.

TODD: The report also says the Quds force is inside Syria, backing President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

(on camera): Separate from the report, Congressman Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, has said that Iran runs spies out of its mission to the U.N. and here at the Iranian intra- section in Washington.

(voice-over): King made those comments after a plot was revealed to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. The Iranian- American who pleaded guilty in that case said he'd worked with Iranian military people to formulate the plot. In the wake of that, King called for strong retaliation against Iranian diplomats in the U.S.

REP. PETER KING (R), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: We, to me, should get rid of either all of them or most of them and send a clear signal.

TODD: Iranian officials denied any role in trying to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. We called and e-mailed Iran's mission to the U.N. for comment on the latest report on the country's intelligence operations. We got no response.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BURNETT: And still to come, shocking allegations of rape in Ohio. A video posted to the web of someone joking about the alleged attack has led to two arrests.

And Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his quest for power. You won't believe what we saw today.


BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT: shocking allegations of rape.

Two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, have been arrested and charged with raping a 16-year-old girl, after images and stories of the alleged assault began circulating on the web. The story actually started to unravel back in August, on the 11th of August, when a couple of teenagers started tweeting about the alleged crime after a night of drinking and partying. One of the tweets, "Song of the night is definitely 'Rape Me' by Nirvana."

An image of the girl being carried by two boys soon appeared on the Internet, and then a second video was posted on YouTube, which was apparently recorded on the night of the attack. In it, a teenager from Steuben High jokes about the rape. We're going to show it to you, but we want to warn you, it is disturbing to watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's like rape. It is rape, they raped her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bro, did you do it? Bro. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They raped her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the economy --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They raped her harder than that cop raped Marcellus Wallace in "Pulp Fiction." You ever seen that?

He comes up with them so quick.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson raped that one girl.


BURNETT: CNN's national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is OUTFRONT tonight. I mean, that is -- that is horrific to hear. What is the defense saying? Is there any evidence that others might be involved? Do they know all the players?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of the defense, we -- I had an opportunity to speak at great length on the phone with one of the defense attorneys for the defendant, Trent Mays, and he maintains that no rape occurred and he raised the question that if prosecutors tried to say that a rape did occur, that he said, if there is possible evidence of that, that he plans to counter-argue, that if there was any evidence of possible sexual activity, he will challenge whether it was, in fact, consensual.

He says that his client is the boyfriend of the alleged victim of this case. But he denies anything happened.

BURNETT: He denies anything happened. Despite what you hear there. I mean, they're going to say that's horsing around?

CANDIOTTI: He denies there was rape.

BURNETT: OK. So, obviously, a big reason that anybody knows about this, the reason is because of what they posted on the web and social media. The hacker group Anonymous has become involved in this, a very high-profile group. How come?

CANDIOTTI: Well, you know, this exploded, as you talked about, after it happened, on social media. And authorities had to sift through all of this.

Anonymous saw what was happening and decided to post a lot of these things online, hack into some people's e-mails that may only peripherally be involved in this case, and put it all out there to make sure that the public was aware of it -- perhaps legally, perhaps illegally, all of that unclear. But authorities have to now sift through all of this.

And perhaps, in part, they even prompted a couple of protests. In fact, there will be another protest on the courthouse steps about this, this weekend.

BURNETT: Interesting. Is it vigilante justice? And, of course, also raising the questions whether the alleged victim or alleged victim doesn't come forward, is it someone else's right or job to do so?

All right. Well, Susan Candiotti, thank you very much.

Some very tough issues here. I want to bring in Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor and professor of sexual violence at New England Law School.

Wendy, thanks for coming on.

If it were not for social media, as Susan is talking about, how this became exploded in the nation's consciousness, would this case have ever gone anywhere, made it to a prosecutor?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: Well, in a just world, the answer is, of course, it would have. It's an outrage and a horrific crime of such proportions. How could prosecutor not proceed?

But the fact is, rape is not only underreported, it is grossly under-prosecuted by elected officials. We vote for prosecutors and they disproportionately do not bring charges in these kinds of cases, frankly, because rape is not a respected crime in this country and that's primarily because women, as equal citizens in this country, are not respected.

BURNETT: Well, let me ask you this -- Susan Candiotti, as you heard, spent extensive time talking to the defense attorney. And the defense attorney says that the boy involved was boyfriend and the girl involved was girlfriend at the time and there was consent. Is it possible that that could be a viable defense?

MURPHY: Well, if she was 16 at the time, then it's a viable defense as a matter of law. Would it prevail? Not if she was in the condition that the photographs suggest and that everyone is saying she was in, which is completely unconscious. I mean, I dare the defense attorney to argue to a jury that a woman who is completely passed out was consenting to anything.

Any more than you could argue to a jury that a guy who's passed out was consenting when he signed away the deed to his house or gave you his wallet. It will be a laughable defense.

And can I say one more thing, Erin, about --


MURPHY: -- about social media? Because I want to celebrate, even though Anonymous is a controversial group, I want to celebrate social media, including Anonymous for what they did here because this is a new era where democracy and action and people going to the Internet are now able to share information in a way that will hold prosecutors and law enforcement officials accountable every time when they don't proceed with a case and people think it's unjust, this is, as you said, a form of vigilantism, only it's a good kind.

You know, instead of going out with gun and shooting the people when we can't get justice, we're going to use the Internet to hold government officials accountable when they don't dot right thing in the name of justice and particularly in terms of rape, only 2 percent of rapist spent one day behind bars in this country. I think we're going to see a lot of copycat social media affect in the aftermath of this case and I'm very happy to hear -- very happy to say that.

BURNETT: Wendy, let me ask you, because, obviously, we just played that clip and I hope our viewers saw it because I don't want to replay it again because it was awful to see. But you hear the teenage boys joking about what the alleged rapist did, right? They raped her better than Mike Tyson did -- I mean, going through things like that.

Now, what could happen here for -- will there ever been any sort of repercussions for people who do that, who laugh, go along with, support, do that on social media, not actually doing the rape but doing all that other stuff?

CLARK: Right. Well, it's a good question. I think the law has not yet caught up with the kind of harm that can be caused in that manner. I can't think of a crime that they can be charged with. I think it's possible that they could be sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress as to the victim or, look, they should be shamed.

Shame is grossly underutilized in this country. We she had all know who they are and shame them. But I don't see them being charged with a crime per se.

BURNETT: Wendy Murphy, thank you very much.

CLARK: You bet.

BURNETT: And we'll be right back.


BURNETT: Taxes -- we all despise paying them. But no matter what happens here, we're not going to have it as bad as they might in France. Despite the fact that France's constitutional court ruled that Francois Hollande's proposed tax plan is illegal and unfair, the French president is still trying to find a way to raise the tax rate on the wealthiest in his country from 41 percent to 75 percent. And you're complaining, America?

As you can imagine, many in France are not very happy about this and some like actor Gerard Depardieu have said they will abandon France rather than pay, give up their citizenship. Oh la la!

But where will Depardieu go? Originally, it seems like Depardieu, I just love saying it, even if I'm saying it wrong, would end up in Belgium, where he owns a house. But now, there is another contender him -- Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced he will grant Depardieu Russian citizenship because, and I'll quote him, "Artists are easily offended and therefore I understand the feelings of Depardieu."

This is, of course, the same Vladimir Putin who had a group of musical artists locked up for protesting him at a church. I'm talking about Pussy Riot.

So, why is Putin really helping Depardieu? Is he a big fan of his movies or just trying to get attention for himself? Because, you know, everything Putin does, usually shirtless, by the way, seems to -- well, you know, promote Vladimir Putin. And one industry that's really bought in to the Putin all powerful phenomenon -- the toy industry.

Take a look at this new ultra realistic Vladimir Putin doll. It comes dressed in a suit and tie. It includes a wrist watch, a podium, a bound copy for the Russian constitution, and even a second set of hands.

Of course, the big question is, who would you buy this Vladimir Putin doll for? What kind of weirdo would want to play with Putin all day? The answer it turns out was me. I was lucky enough to receive my very own Putin doll this Christmas from our director Kelly Persal (ph) who right now is looking at this shot. We're going to be sure to update you on all our adventures because he'll be making appearances on our show. Obviously, we can guarantee you he'll be taking his shirt off very often and maybe he'll just wear a tie.

Thanks so much, as always, for watching.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.