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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Shell Casings Link Parolee to Colorado Murder; Extreme Makeover: Guantanamo; Three Marines Dead At Quantico Base
Aired March 22, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, new developments tonight in the case of the prison chief gunned down at his front door. Police say a white supremacist that served time in one of his prisons is involved and there are new pieces of evidence tonight.
Plus, Vice President Joe Biden spent more than half a million dollars on a night in Paris, a night in Paris. Does it add up?
And the U.S. government spent more than a million dollars on aviation towers just a few years ago and now they're being closed. We're going to tell you why. That does not add up. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. We have breaking news. The Denver police say Evan Ebel, a former Colorado inmate and member of a white supremacist gang is linked to the murder of Colorado State Prison Chief Tom Clements.
Now we are just getting new information in tonight from court documents filed in Texas. Investigators say that the shell casings found in Evan Ebel's car matched the caliber of weapon used to kill Clements and matched the brand of the casings as well.
Now here's what we know about Ebel. He is 28 years old. He was member of a white supremacist gang called "211 Crew." One expert says once you join, the only way out of that gang is death. We are going to have a lot more on "211" in a moment.
But first, the details, Ebel was killed after a high speed chase in Northern Texas last night, which ended with a shootout. Casey Wian is in Colorado tonight with a special report on Evan Ebel is and he is going to join us in a moment.
But first, I want to get to Lieutenant Jeff Kramer from the El Paso County Sheriff's Department. He joins me on the phone.
Lieutenant, thanks for taking the time. Let's get straight to this breaking news that we have. In the affidavit that just came in, I'm reading here the Hornady 9-millimeter shell casings were recovered at the scene, which are the same brand and caliber used by the suspect in the Wise County incident. What more can you tell us about that?
LT. JEFF KRAMER, EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE (via telephone): Well, actually from our perspective, the sheriff's office, as far as the shooting investigation of Tom Clements, we're not releasing our ballistics information realized the affidavit there speaks to what they've located at their Texas crime scene.
Of course, our investigators have been there since yesterday and we're waiting to hear a word back from them as far as the items of interest in that case that we might be looking further into.
BURNETT: All right, so how confident are you then given what you have that Ebel was the one who shot Tom Clements in cold blood?
KRAMER: Well, certainly even when we became aware of the information coming out of Texas yesterday, obviously, we certainly raised an eyebrow to it and had a lot of hope at that point that this might be a very significant lead and perhaps a break in the case although, we can't speak with that level of confidence quite yet.
There is no confirmation at this point. But again, we're hopeful that when our investigators return and we have a chance to speak with them as far as their findings that we'll have something a little bit more conclusive.
BURNETT: Lieutenant Kramer, we know Ebel was part of this "211" gang that is in prisons. How likely was it that he was ordered to place a hit job on Clements, a lot of speculation around that central issue today?
KRAMER: Well, that's certainly yet to be known. Obviously, we're aware of the potential background for that gentleman and if it turns out that we have confirmation that he is linked to our crime, that is something we'll be looking into.
Some of the efforts have already begun. Because we certainly are working a lot of things simultaneously and trying to educate ourselves, if you will, truly it's a fact-finding mission for us right now to determine what that background consisted of and where that leads us is yet to be known.
BURNETT: All right, and then now finally all Colorado corrections facilities are under lockdown through the weekend. So is that just a precaution or are you concerned there could be more violence?
KRAMER: Well, I can't speak to the increased security that the Department of Corrections is exercising at this point. Obviously, they have to make sure that they do their own ass assessment and what they feel might be remaining risks or not and make decisions accordingly.
And then we recognize that amongst various executives across the state that's something that we're actively engaged in terms of providing additional security from our perspective. But we realize that because there is no conclusive, you know, ending to this case yet, it's unknown on whether or not there is a remaining threat or not.
BURNETT: All right, well, Lieutenant Kramer, thank you very much for taking the time tonight. And again, the latest information that we have from Texas officials is that the Hornady .9-millimeter shell casings they found in that car last night match by brand and caliber the one used to kill Mr. Clements.
Our Casey Wian has been in Colorado since the story broke. He has more details tonight on the alleged shooter, Evan Ebel. Here's Casey.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Evan Ebel grew up on this quiet street in Lakewood, Colorado except neighbors say when he was around, it was anything but quiet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just seemed angry. He was an angry kid.
WIAN: Vicky Banky lives across the street from the home where Ebel lived with his father and sister.
VICKY BANKY, FORMER NEIGHBOR: Well, I could see him. He'd be running out on his -- on the front lawn to come out with a car with friends. He would have screaming obscenity, laced arguments with them sometimes. One time I saw him, you know, take something to the back of the friend's car he was so mad. You know, he just struck me as angry and troubled.
WIAN (on camera): Neighbors vividly recall Ebel's wild streak in addition to the violent encounters with his friends, one time he was seen jumping off the roof of the house here. Another time he was overheard loudly talking about his cocaine use.
(voice-over): Ebel's criminal record dates back to his teenage years. There was a misdemeanor conviction for obstruction of a police officer then at least five felony convictions for robbery, menacing and assault.
In 2006, he was convicted of assaulting a Latino prison guard, but nothing like what he is suspected of now, killing of Tom Clements, Colorado's corrections director, the killing of Nate Leon, a Dominos pizza delivery man and a high speed chase and shootout with police in Texas.
PAULA PRESLEY, UNDERSHERIFF, EL PASO COUNTY: Certainly, he is the focus of our investigation at this point. We do have investigators in Texas. The moment that we heard about the high speed pursuit and the shooting, we did have investigators pretty much on a plane en route to Texas.
WIAN: Ebel also had ties to the white supremacist "211" prison gang according to Colorado's Anti-Defamation League. But neighbors say they saw no signs of racist leanings during his rants.
WIAN: Neighbors also expressed sympathy for Ebel's father, a respected Colorado attorney who was raising his two children alone. The 16-year-old daughter was killed in an auto accident in 2006, now his son has perished in a barrage of bullets and under suspicion -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Casey. I want to bring Mark Potok into this conversation now. He is from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. Casey Wian, of course, is staying with us.
Mark, let me start with you. The "Denver Post" reports, I want to read this quote again, the "once a gang member joins 211, death is the only way out." The symbols are 211, Nazi symbols, white power symbols. What can you tell us about this gang?
MARK POTOK, SENIOR FELLOW, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, it's a pretty vicious white supremacist prison gang started in 1995 in the Colorado prisons. The estimates I've seen run anywhere from a couple hundred members to as many as 1,000 and they've been associated with a great deal of criminal violence, murders, attempted murders, extortion, extortion to fellow inmates, running drugs and weapons as well.
What may be their most infamous crime was the 1997 murder of a black man, a immigrant in Denver would was standing at a bus stop. This was in 1997. He was murdered. The murderer was a member of the 211 crew. Phil infamously told authorities after his arrest that he had murdered Omar, the victim, because he was, quote, "wearing the enemy's uniform," in other words, because he had black skin.
BURNETT: Wow. Casey, this -- as Mark is saying, this gang operates from inside prison. Is that your understanding also from your reporting on the ground there that the operations of 211 really come from inside the prison wall?
WIAN: Inside the prison wall and also Evan Ebel had lots of experience inside prison walls dating back to 2003 as we reported. His first crime that we could find, his earliest crime, he was with acquaintances at somebody's house watching a Denver Broncos football game.
According to witnesses there, he pulled a fire arm and robbed them of their wallets and of some cash and then took off. There is someone who is definitely the definition of a hardened criminal. I do want to mention though that the neighborhood he grew up in, you probably saw those pictures from our report, very well to do neighborhood.
Neighbors say that this was not a place that would be a breeding ground for racists or white supremacists and they never heard among his rants and outbursts any sort of racial tinge or racial animus -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Mark, how would a hit job have worked then given what Casey is explaining about the gang? How does a group like this where someone inside the prison is saying we're going to take a hit out on this man, Tom Clements. They communicate with Ebel on the outside of prison walls. How does that happen?
POTOK: Well, the 211 crew, like other white supremacist prison gangs, is increasingly spilling out on to the streets so all of its members are no longer in prison although most of its leaders certainly are.
Typically the way the 211 crews operate and in these things as other gangs have operated from inside prisons is by using both verbal and written codes. In fact, a major racketeering case was brought against some 32 members of the group back in 2005 that began with the police officer breaking one of the codes.
So, you know, who is to say if they -- if some kind of order was received from on high. But it is known that the leader of this gang as well as others are able to get messages to the outside and are able to direct criminal activity even often when they're in solitary confinement.
BURNETT: Wow. Thank you very much, Mark and Casey.
Still to come, three people dead tonight at a military base in Virginia, all three, Marines.
Plus, Amanda Knox, her freedom apparently could be in jeopardy, Italy's court about to decide if her murder conviction should be reinstated.
And President Obama, you remember when he promised to shut down Guantanamo? So why is the administration considering spending another $50 million to build a new prison there?
BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, extreme makeover, Guantanamo. Yes, U.S. commanders say they need $49 million to build a new prison building at Guantanamo Bay for quote/unquote, "high value detainees," that would include people like 9/11 master mind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Now this is according to "The New York Times" and the money, I want to emphasize, $49 million, is in addition to the $150 million to $170 million that the top U.S. commander in the region says he needs for improvements to the existing Guantanamo facilities.
Well, the problem is, well, this. Investing in Guantanamo would seem to be breaking a rather big original campaign promise from this president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're going to close go Guantanamo. I will close Guantanamo. Promptly to close the detention facility at Guantanamo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He said it again and again. It is a promise, of course, that he hasn't kept to this point. And now he might put another $200 million into Guantanamo.
OUTFRONT tonight, Retired Colonel Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for terrorism trials at Guantanamo Bay, and Rosa Brooks, former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration. I appreciate both of you taking the time.
Let me start with you, Colonel, $200 million also equals half the amount that was just cut from head start programs before spending cuts. So that's 35,000 low-income kids that could good back into early education programs. I'm just using that to give an example for this. Can the Obama administration give Gitmo $200 million without seeming utterly hypocritical?
COL. MORRIS DAVIS (RETIRED), FORMER CHIEF PROSECUTOR FOR TERRORISM TRIALS, GUANTANAMO BAY: I don't know how you do it. We had a plan back years ago to spend $120 million to build a complex at Guantanamo. We were told it was a temporary facility and it was nuts to spend that kind of money so they built a $12 million temporary facility instead.
As you say, when we're in a time of sequester and cutting money to spend that kind of, you know, almost a quarter billion dollars to detain in essence 80 men is just outrageous.
BURNETT: I mean, it seems shocking. Rosa, when you look at the -- you said the $49 million they want for quote/unquote, "high value detainees." There are 16 detainees that's fall in that category.
So $49 million for the new facility is about $3 million per detainee. Just to think about it that way. So we're already spending $60 million a year just to operate Guantanamo. Should we really be spending $3 million a detainee for something like this?
ROSA BROOKS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You know, Erin, when you're at the Pentagon, you pretty quickly discover that when you breathe, you spent about $1 million. Every time you open your mouth you spend another $1 million.
Things are expensive at the Pentagon. Yes, this is a shocking amount of money to spend on a place we said we were going to close a long time ago. On the other hand, I think we're focusing on the wrong scandal.
The reality is we've got these people there. We have detainees and guards there. We have to make sure that conditions are humane and we have to make sure that they're safe.
I think the real scandal is that we've got people there who have been cleared for release who our government believes are innocent and harmless, but we can't figure out what to do with them. So they're still basically stuck in jail.
And we've got people who are detaining indefinitely. We don't plan to try them. We don't know what to do with them. I think that is the real scandal. It's not about Guantanamo. It's about our detention policies more broadly.
BURNETT: All right, you raise an interesting point. But, you know, there was a report last year from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that found 28 percent of the 599 detainees that have been released from Guantanamo were either confirmed or suspected of going back and engaging in militant terrorist activity.
When you see that recidivism rate that is kind of a shocking number, I mean, as bad as the situation is, was the president naive to say he's going to close Guantanamo in the first place?
BROOKS: I think he underestimated the degree of congressional opposition. I also think though that we would be facing the exact same issues right now, frankly, if these guys were held in Des Moines, Iowa. It doesn't matter where we hold them at this point. U.S. courts have jurisdiction over Guantanamo. It doesn't matter where they are, the problem is that we're holding on to them and we don't know what to do with them.
BURNETT: Colonel Davis, is there any other alternative here? I mean, is the president put in a spot where in order for people to perhaps literally not escape, I don't know, I'm trying to figure out the right frame of reference here that, he has to spend the additional $200 million?
DAVIS: Well, it doesn't have to be spent. We have federal prisons that cost $32,000 a year to keep someone incarcerated in the maximum security prisons. So this, is you know, back in the old days Senator Fax Meyer had a Golden Fleece Award for wasting government money.
So this is nothing more than a huge waste of government money and in a time when we are wanting to cut budgets. It's the people that complain the most about wasteful government spending that are the same ones that want to keep Guantanamo open when we are really talking about 80 people that we're going to spend a quarter of a billion dollars to confine.
BURNETT: All right, well, thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate your point of view. We talk about spending government money. We are going to talk about the single night hotel tab of Joe Biden coming up.
But still to come, three Marines dead at base in Virginia tonight. We are learning more about the shooter and the victims. We have that for you.
Plus, it's only been a few years since the government spent millions of dollars and stimulus money on new FAA towers. So why are we already closing 149 of them?
And look at this, a series of tornadoes strikes down under.
BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, this Friday, murder on a Marine base. Three Marines dead tonight at a base in Quantico, Virginia, after one of their own shot and killed two fellow marines and then shot himself.
Authorities have not disclosed a motive or the identity of the suspected shooter, but they are trying to figure it out. This comes on the heels of seven Marines killed earlier this week in a training accident in Nevada. Ten dead Marines in this country in just five days.
Brian Todd is in Quantico tonight with the latest. Brian, are authorities any closer to figuring out what the motivation was today?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They could be a little bit closer, Erin. Military officials telling us investigators are pursuing every possible lead including the possibility that some kind of a relationship dispute might have led to these killings.
They're also giving us a sequence of how this played out overnight last night and into this morning. Military officials telling us they got a 911 call between 10:30 and 11:00 last night. They responded to a common area in the marine officer candidate school at the Quantico Marine Base.
In that common area they found the first victim dead, a male Marine dead. They pursued the shooter into a barracks. He went into a barracks. They surrounded the barracks and tried to establish communication with the shooter. But then they didn't go into the barracks for about another two hours.
And they have not explained, Erin, that interval between the time that they surrounded it and tried to make communication with him. And the time they went in, but when they went in, they found the shooter dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and his secretary victim, a female Marine -- Erin.
BURNETT: Brian, when you say they're looking into whether this was -- this crime and murder was motivated by a relationship dispute, what do you know about the two Marines that were murdered other than their gender?
TODD: Yes, we know that one of the victims was a male and one was a female. The shooter was a male. They are all three staff members at the officer candidate school. They're not officer candidate themselves. They're not going throughout training. They are staff members, a little unclear whether they're actual trainers or not.
One report in the "Army Times" says that all three of them are enlisted Marines. The Marines are not releasing the names of any of the three just yet. That will happen about 24 hours after they notify the last of the next of kin. And we're getting a sense that may happen sometime tomorrow or tomorrow night -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Brian Todd.
Still to come, Vice President Joe Biden reportedly spent more than half a million dollars of taxpayer money on one night in Paris. We followed the money.
Plus, some wait for a special version of Coca-Cola all year long. You know what? It won't be available in California. Yes, there are a lot of regulations in California. We're going to tell you why in this case.
And what is going on -- yes, what is going on here? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start with stories we care about where we focus on reporting from the front lines.
We begin tonight in Mali. The State Department has officially designated Ansar Dine, Mali's main radical Islamic group, as a terrorist organization. And I was on the ground in the Mali border last July, we told you about Ansar Dine, and how it was linked to al Qaeda.
The State Department tells OUTFRONT that Ansar Dine has, in fact, received backing from al Qaeda and the Islamic Maghreb to fight Malian and French forces. Now it has taken a while but the group will be finally subject to sanctions, cutting Ansar Dine off from the U.S. financial system.
There's some dramatic video out of Australia today. There were a series of tornadoes that was devastating to states of Victoria and New South Wales. Look at this.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
BURNETT: Obviously, there was some talking going on in that car while they were filming this and you might need bleeps, too, if you were this close to a tornado.
And we found this incredible footage of YouTube of two men trying to get away from the path of that giant twister. Debris is hammering them. You can see it coming down and hammering them in the car as the tornado. It almost catches up to them. They're driving, as you watch this in reverse, as fast as they can go, because they didn't have the time, they were terrified to take the time to turn around. That shows you how scary it was. It looks sort of like out of the movie "Twister". But this is better because it's real life.
Well, California has a Coca-Cola problem. It involves Passover. Every year, Coca-Cola makes a special kosher for Passover version of its soda that doesn't include corn syrup. You know what? Coke, it might be great if you could just do that all year round for everybody.
But, anyway, for the second year in a row, this will not be available in California because California which loves its rules and regulations says a substance called 4MEI found in the kosher product causes cancer.
Now, Coca-Cola and every other state in the Union disagrees with that. But nonetheless, you know, as it goes in California, so Coke is working on a new kosher version for California that won't be ready until next year. Until then, kosher Jews in the Golden State will have to make a choice, smuggle in kosher Coke from other states, drink non-kosher Coke or just give up Coke altogether for the month of Passover.
All right. You know, it's a fun day in Trenton when Shaq stops by for a visit. That was a tweet from the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. And, wow, what a fun photo op it was. You know, we couldn't help but notice how small Governor Christie looks next to Shaq. Shaq at 7'1," Governor Christie at 5'11." A difference of more than a foot.
And speaking of a foot, Shaq's shoe size, try that one, is 23. Christie's office tells us he has an 11 1/2 foot. So it's a five inch difference.
Now, Shaq is a Newark native. He was not there to show off his famous or infamous feet. He was actually there in serious business to talk about the state's gun buy back program. The governor said they'll work together. I love that picture.
It has been 596 days since the United States of America lost its top credit rating. The number is getting higher and higher and higher. So, what are we doing to get it back?
Well, stocks did end higher today but ended the week lower -- thanks to Cyprus. One little place can cause a whole heck of a lot of damage. There is optimism the country will reach a new bailout deal this weekend. We'll see.
And now our fourth story OUTFRONT: Joe Biden's one night in Paris. Well, it was $585,000.50, and that's just the hotel tab. Just the hotel tab, OK?
Sure, Paris is a ridiculously expensive city. But Biden and his entourage stayed at a pretty awesome hotel, the Hotel Intercontinental Paris Le Grand, where right now room rates start at $440 and go all the way to $5,200 for the presidential suite where, yes, I'm speculating here, it is possible that Joe Biden did stay in the presidential suite.
The vice president's bill also shows a $449,000 charge for one night in London. Seriously?
For an administration crying Armageddon over forced spending cuts?
OUTFRONT tonight, Brianna Keilar, our White House correspondent.
Now, Brianna, you've been following the money on this. Obviously, vice presidential travel is a big undertaking, a lot of people, a lot of preparation. But can you break down these incredibly high numbers for us?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, the thing is when you look at this, it's pretty eye popping when you think one night. But what we found kind of looking through this, Erin, is that while Vice President Biden was in Paris for one night, he was in London for one night, he comes along with a whole massive entourage that requires as it turns out more than 100 rooms for multiple days.
So if you are breaking down, for instance, the bill in London, that $449,000 for the hotel bill there, that actually included 136 rooms for multiple nights. That's according to some documents that were put out on a government Web site. That's an average, yes, of $568 per room per night by our math because we do know that there are more than 800 room nights as one document spells out.
But I think what's really interesting here, Erin, is that while we talked with a lot of people who said, hey, this is just what this kind of thing costs. We had no idea what the costs were. This kind of thing is not very transparent. You don't find out what these costs are and we just found out because these documents from his February trip to Europe were put on a government Web site.
I went through the search myself to try to find other ones from the president's trips, from the vice president's foreign trips. Nothing. It kind of makes you wonder if, perhaps, these weren't put on accidentally revealing just how much it costs for the president and vice president to travel.
BURNETT: Well, yes. And a lot of questions raised by that.
But when you looked at this -- obviously, interesting that you said the president and Joe Biden, you can't find any other trips. But were you able to find any sort of comparability to see what they usually pay or past administrations may have paid?
KEILAR: You really can't. You're kind of going on the word of past administrations. Because this kind of thing -- let me tell you, we spoke with a government watchdog organization, a council for one of these organizations. And he said to us, I have never seen documents like this online before.
So we don't really have any sort of apples to apples comparison here. But we did talk with folks who did travel for past administrations.
I will tell through was one for Bush 43 who said that he felt that this was kind of high. This amount of money for, you know, more than $500,000 in Paris and about that in London. But also conceded that there are a ton of factors that drive up the cost here, you got empty rooms for security. The hotel may require a compensation for displacing guests.
And we were -- I do have to tell you, the vice president's office referred us to the State Department here and they say these costs are nothing out of the ordinary. And they sort of spelled out all of these folks that need to go along with the vice president. They said the contract costs cover the entire range of support, including accommodations for military, communications, Secret Service staff, et cetera -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Brianna, thank you very much.
I -- this astounds me. I'm sorry.
Reihan Salam joins me now from "The National Review", and Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist. So, Hilary, let me start with you, because it seems to me -- sure, you need to have security. You need to have these things done right. No one is going to deny.
But 136 people, 800 room nights. A lot of those people probably, I would bet, this is kind of a -- you have a really tough job and don't get paid a lot of money and so you're going to get the Paris trip. This seems obscene given the environment we're in now.
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. Well, first, the most important thing to know, Erin, is that the vice president has no control over these costs. The Secret Service tells him where to travel. The military decides how many of their people travel with him. Secret Service decides how many of their people will travel with him.
And on this particular trip, he was a couple of days in Munich at a security conference. He was met with Chancellor Merkel, then he went to London. So, the State Department decides the size of the diplomatic corps that travels with him. He absolutely has no control over that.
And that in and of itself says that, you know, even people sort of talking about this in this way becomes too political because this isn't something that he can control.
BURNETT: All right. I hear your point.
But, Reihan, it would seem to me that an administration that was yelling to the world, all right, that these four spending cuts are a problem that we're dealing with now, would it the least say, we want to show some restraint. We want -- when we're on the -- guys, look at the travel budget. Don't take extra people. Stay at the least -- set an example.
I understand Joe Biden isn't picking the hotel. She's right.
But wouldn't you think they'd say that?
REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, your correspondent made a very, very interesting point which is that this is normally not very transparent. We don't have numbers on this. And so, when you're thinking about, you know, who we're contracting with, you would think that, hey, if there were more transparency around this, perhaps someone would say we can offer a bid that's coming in under that amount.
But, on the other hand --
BURNETT: These were not -- by the way, from what it looked like on the sheet, non-competitive bids.
SALAM: Well, exactly. Presumably, you know, perhaps the hotels that you have relationships with and what have you. But surely there is some way to shave those numbers down if those numbers were actually public. But the other more important thing is this, now, half a million dollars for one night sounds like an obscene amount of money. But if Joe Biden were somehow able to, for example, convince the president to agree to chained CPI, having the federal government use a more sensible inflation index, that, would save the government $200 billion in a year.
So, the thing is, the half a million dollars sounds like a lot of money. But they can do a heck of a lot more to make up for this. So, I will forgive Joe Biden every luxurious trip to Paris, Kuala Lumpur, everywhere else, if he agrees to do something like chained CPI and reel in entitlement reform, because that's going to deliver the big bucks.
BURNETT: All right. I see your point.
But, again, Hilary, what about this issue of setting an example and restrained? Because to Reihan's point and Brianna's point, A, these numbers sound to you, even if you try to justify them, it just seems inappropriate. But, B, it looks like they posted it by accident. We can't find any other times.
And if it's not transparent, it kind of adds to that -- well, we didn't think anybody would ever see, so we didn't really care.
ROSEN: Well, I don't think it's that they are hoping nobody ever sees it, I think that's the process. And, in fact, this afternoon, I went back and looked at how it worked in the Bush administration. And while you can't see also travel records for the Bush administration the same way you can't for this administration, what we do know is when they ask Congress for money. So, for instance, Vice President Cheney in 2002 ran out of his travel budget and he made a request to Congress to increase his travel budget.
So, once Congress gets involved, then there is some transparency and we know that Vice President Cheney overspent his travel budget.
The other thing is, you know, the sequester has belt tightening all over the place. I think you could argue for appearance sake let's do this. Let's do that. There are 100 things. I don't know that the Republican members of Congress have canceled all of their spring break, cowdas (ph) as they all them, the boondoggle trips as they take. That would also be an appearance thing.
You know, but really the big core is how is the government itself going to come together? How are they going to make a deal? How are they going to fix this budget? Because as Reihan said, this is really just kind of small, particularly when the purpose of the trip really was national security.
BURNETT: Reihan, let me ask you this, Hillary raises a points about the Congress does this, too. This seems to be a bipartisan problem. You know, they go on the overseas trips played by lobbyists. They go on private planes. They live the life of luxury.
Forget that you might think it's at least inappropriate, at the most corrupt, it just seems like a lot of these foreign trips are boondoggles for a lot of people. At least there is that impression.
SALAM: Well, my thing is sunlight is the best disinfectant. Why not put all the numbers out there?
SALAM: So, you know, and perhaps there is a legitimate case and the United States is an important country and you need our leaders to meet foreign leaders.
SALAM: I totally accept that.
But why not put all of the numbers out there for the public to scrutinize and also for other vendors to see if maybe they can give us a better deal.
BURNETT: Right. There is somebody in Paris with a really mice hotel saying, hey guys, you know what? You give my hotel publicity, I'll do it for $300,000.
SALAM: Why not?
BURNETT: That's a -- you know, $200,000 savings. All right.
SALAM: Pay for a pizza party.
BURNETT: Thanks to both of you. Have a great weekend.
Still to come, Italy's highest court holds Amanda Knox's fate in its hands. Will the judges vote to reinstate her murder conviction?
And just a few years ago, we spent millions of dollars of stimulus money on aviation towers. So why are we closing 149 of them now?
And it's Friday. So there is this --
BURNETT: We're back with tonight's "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world.
Tonight, we go to Italy where the country's high court will rule on whether or not Amanda Knox's murder conviction should be reinstated.
Barbie Nadeau is in Rome and I asked her how significant Monday's ruling is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, on Monday, the high court of Italy will make a very crucial ruling in this murder trial of Meredith Kercher. Of course, Seattle native Amanda Knox was initially convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, and then in October of 2011 sensationally acquitted of that murder.
On Monday, the high court of Italy will re-examine and make a ruling based on whether or not that appellate court followed the rule of law when they acquitted Amanda Knox. They're not going to be looking at any evidence. They're not going to be hearing any witnesses. They're just taking a look at the case and how it was tried in the appellate process.
They've got two options. They can either uphold acquittal and Amanda Knox never has to worry about this case again, or they can send it back to retrial.
And I think at this point, it's hard to say what's exactly going to happen -- Erin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Thanks, Barbie.
In our fifth story OUTFRONT: today, the FAA announced it will close 149 regional airport control towers. It's blaming the spending cuts. But there's an irony here. All of those towers were built with stimulus money just a few years ago.
Tom Foreman is out front on the story.
Tom, I guess the government giveth and the government taketh away. I mean, this is a tough question. Is this a situation where we built towers we never needed to begin with, or we built towers we need that now we're compromising safety?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have the feeling that Congress is going to get into that soon.
But I can tell you this, Erin, you know, for all the planes out there in the sky, on any given day, all those planes out there, in just a few days, there will be fewer eyes watching them because all these towers are being shut down, largely at small air fields.
Look at where they are all over the country. It's not even. Some states lost more than others. Florida, for example, lost the most, 14 are being closed there. There will be 13 closed in Texas, 11 closed in California.
The basic reasons for this, Erin, is the FAA has a lot of employees, 47,000, many of them are air traffic controllers. So, if you have to cut the budget, you close towers, you get rid of the controllers and that's how you save money. The green dots, by the way, are towers they were thinking about closing but have not at least at this point, Erin.
BURNETT: So, Tom, what about this question about safety? Obviously, people saying already, hey, FAA, prove to us that you have not just made flying in America a lot more dangerous.
FOREMAN: Yes. This is their argument about it. Look, we have these little towers all over the country at various airports. And these towers every day are dealing with thousands and thousands of flights that come and go. They help them land. They help them takeoff. They watch the area all around here not only in the sky but also on the ground for animals or vehicles, anything that might get in the way of this plane.
So if this center goes away, does that mean that this plane is now flying blind? No. It does not. Because the truth is there are many other towers that have overlapping radars and radio signals and all sorts of things. So there is a way to watch this airplane. Yes, it does put a bigger burden on these other towers and the people who work there to keep track of this plane.
But in truth, there are commercial flights that take off every day and land every day at airports that do not have towers and they do it successfully and some of those commercial airlines have told us they're ready to take on more of that burden, but certainly some of the safeguards have been taken away -- Erin.
BURNETT: Tom, very quickly, there are some reports there are brand new towers being shut down in this process. They were just opened using the special money and now being shut down. True?
FOREMAN: Yes, absolutely. This is what drives people crazy. Up in Frederick, Maryland, look at this tower, open less than a year ago, $5.3 million. The feds opened it with stimulus money. Now, the feds are shutting it down.
And we know of two more like this down in Florida. It was the kind of thing that drives voters crazy, Erin.
BURNETT: Yes, it does. Thank you, Tom Foreman.
And now, milking camels for all they're worth.
So, the president was in Jordan today. It was his final stop on his visit to the Middle East. He was welcomed by Jordan's King Abdullah with fanfare, bagpipes, sword-carrying guardsmen and camels.
Today, it was not the first time the president has been greeted by camels. We wanted to show you during a tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza, there he was. And at an animal market in Kenya, back when he was still a senator.
I like that the president likes camels. He spends so much time with camels that I wonder if he's ever tried camel milk. It's something we've been passionate about on this program for a long, long time. It could be amazing for you. And we first told you about it over a year ago.
President Obama, if you haven't tried camel milk, here's why we think you should consider it.
BURNETT (voice-over): Loud, dusty and very hot. The world's biggest camel ranch is busy at milking time. Twenty-five hundred camels pile in groups of 12 for automatic milking twice a day. Camels produce about half as much milk as cows, but less might be more.
(on camera): Some people say camel milk is like a miracle drug. They say it could help cure autism, diabetes, cancer and even AIDS. That's because camel stomachs are similar to human ones. That makes a big difference, according to veterinarians Abu Bakr (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe there's a magic treatment (ph) in camel milk.
BURNETT (voice-over) The milk is called Camelicious and the United Arab Emirates is one of the world's biggest producers. But it isn't easy. Setting up the first ever automated milking for camels was hard because every camel is a slightly different height.
Martin Van Onsek (ph) manages the ranch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see all the humps one after the other. It's not like one kind or row, same model. No, different models, all different.
BURNETT: That's the female. The male's not nearly as pleasant or attractive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ratio of the male to female, one to 100.
BURNETT (on camera): One to 100?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, one to 100.
(voice-over): All that mating happens in just three months a year. Baby camel girls will end up having about seven offspring. That's 14 years of milk.
Where there's milk, there's chocolate. Chocolate that comes at a serious price, up to $7 a bar. A price the camels at least think is well worth paying.
BURNETT: Now, you can't buy Dubai camel chocolate or milk yet in this country. The FDA has to approve it. We certainly hope that happens.
But we found a way to import camel products on this show. One of our producers, Robert Hand (ph), you've seen him on the show before, he's lactose intolerant so he's a big fan of camel chocolate. Any time we're in the region, Hand stocks up on chocolate. He's actually on vacation now.
And in honor of camels and their milk, he posted this picture today. Ah.
All right. In tonight's essay, space, truly the final frontier? The most exciting adventure still left is OUTFRONT next.
BURNETT: George Lowe has died at the age of 89. Now, you may not recognize his name, but he had an incredible life. The New Zealander was part of the team that helped Sir Edmund Hillary scale Everest nearly 60 years ago. In fact, at the end of the expedition when Hilary uttered the famous line, "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off," he was speaking to Lowe.
And while he participated in a number of other amazing expeditions, Lowe is best remembered for Everest. His death made me think about how we judge our goals and accomplishments. You know, about 4,000 people have now reached the summit of Mt. Everest. When you hear that number, you might think well, gosh, it's not as difficult as it used to be.
The truth is, it is. It's still the tallest point in the world, thousands of others have failed in their attempt and 200 people have died trying. With many of them still up there, preserved by the elements, because it's that cold, no skeletons, full body. People can't reach the summit.
It has been climbed but not conquered and it's not just Everest. You know, we were thinking there's other places on Earth left to be explored, so why not go to the lowest point, the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the world's ocean. And so far there has only been four successful descents, only two by humans.
Then, for the planet overall, can you believe this? We talk about extinct species all the time and that maybe a problem, but we've only identified 15 percent not even of the species on this planet. It's pretty incredible. And, you know, sometimes I think about following Richard Branson and Dennis Tito into the final frontier into space. When I think about Mt. Everest, Marianas Trench and the species, I think there are so many frontiers here at home.
I've got a dream of getting 100 passport stamps and my passport. I have been lucky to get 85. And as excited as I am about blasting off into the cosmos, there's still a lot more to do here first.
Have a great weekend.
"A.C. 360" starts now.