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Letter To Bloomberg Tests Positive For Ricin; Tornado Threat Increasing For Parts Of U.S.; Waiting To Implode; Bachmann Calls It Quits

Aired May 29, 2013 - 19:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, a letter sent to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tests positive for the poison ricin. A second letter sent to an organization Bloomberg helps to run also tests positive.

Plus, the mysterious death of a former star quarterback and the call he made to his family before he vanished.

Plus, an American woman remains in a Mexican jail tonight. Authorities say she was smuggling drugs. Her family says she was framed. Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Jake Tapper in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, initial tests suggest ricin was sent to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. CNN has learned that a letter addressed to the New York City mayor contained material that tested positive in preliminary tests for the deadly poison.

A second letter also tested positive for the substance, that one was sent to an office in Washington, D.C. that, houses "Mayors Against Illegal Guns," an organization Bloomberg helps to run. Deb Feyerick is OUTFRONT with the breaking news. And Deb, what are you learning?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, one of the things that we're learning is that it appears that those two letters, the one sent to New York, the other to Washington, were both sent by the same person, the same individual and they did contain threats to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It's not clear what the nature of those threats were though it did reference the debate on guns, something the mayor is very out front and very vocal against, perhaps one of the reasons that one of the letters was sent to the organization "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" in Washington, D.C.

We are told that investigators from the JTTF also from the mayor's protection detail are looking at the postmark of that letter, which was sent outside of the two cities from which they were sent. They're investigating now not clear whether there is any sort of return address.

But clearly this is a serious threat to New York City's mayor and investigators are looking very closely at it right now. The initial tests showing that there was the presence of ricin and three of those, Jake, who were in New York from the emergency services unit that responded apparently did have some symptoms of ricin exposure when they opened the letter over the weekend. It appears that the symptoms, though, have gone away -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Deb Feyerick, thank you so much.

OUTFRONT, CNN's national security analyst Fran Townsend and Dr. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist and the medical mind behind the movie "Contagion." Fran, let's start with you. Whoever sent these letters has said to have mentioned the current debate over gun control. Would that mean that this would be qualified as a political threat over a terror threat? How are those designations made?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, it's really hard and frankly, whether it is a sort of terror threat or a political threat it is going to be treated the same for the moment, right. They're going to get the confirmation of the preliminary tests that it is in fact ricin. They'll look for the strength.

They'll also look at the forensics. They'll try to determine whether or not on the envelope or on the letter, is there hair? Is there saliva samples? Are there fingerprints? Are there things that they can use that give them leads as to who sent this? And once they're able to identify who sent it, then they'll determine whether or not this is a traditional sort of terrorism case or if it's a political threat.

One of the reasons I think you see the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating this is because that's where the federal government coordinates with state and locals and pulls all the federal resources together including CIA intelligence and other resources to help them really understand what is this threat against the mayor.

TAPPER: Ian, how hard is it to get hold of ricin and how difficult is it to weaponize it, to turn it into a weapon?

DR. IAN LIPKIN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: It's really not that difficult to get hold of ricin. There are people who can purify it. It comes from what is known as caster beans. So it's a naturally occurring poison, but it does have to be purified. And it can be concentrated. It can be delivered in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, letters is an effective way of delivering this poison. It's not an infection so it's not as though it can spread from one person to another, but the toxin itself can be quite harmful and can be deadly.

TAPPER: And, Fran, just last week authorities arrested a man in Washington State as part of an investigation into a threatening letter sent to a judge. The letter was said to have contained ricin. How difficult is it to track down a person who sent the poison? What's the process?

TOWNSEND: Well, as I mentioned, Jake, they're going to go through a very deliberate -- you start with the postmark. It is the simplest thing. Deb Feyerick earlier reported that the postmark on the letters that were sent is the same. We don't know where that is, but they're obviously following leads related to the geographic area from where these letters were sent.

They then look at the specific letters. That takes a little longer to see if whether or not there are DNA samples that will lead you to a specific person. You know, you have to eliminate the sort of fingerprints that will naturally be on it because of people who handled or opened the mail. And eliminate those.

So that is a more time consuming process, but they'll walk through pretty deliberately the steps. They'll also look at how competently was the compound itself made? Are they the same in both letters? All those sorts of forensics take some time and real investigative work.

TAPPER: Ian, how effective is ricin as a weapon. You say it can be lethal. Explain how it works on the body.

LIPKIN: What it does is it prevents cells from sympathizing new proteins and proteins are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the cell. So it's going to hit those cells that have to turn over rapidly like the ones that lay in your gastrointestinal tract particularly if you ingest it or the cells of your respiratory tract. And depending on how it's ingested, it may have very different effects. So you may have diarrhea. You may have seizures. You may have shock. You may have respiratory failure. It is a lethal poison.

TAPPER: And Ian, are there different types of ricin and different parts of the country? Is there a way to trace the actual poison itself?

LIPKIN: I don't think there is a way to trace the actual poison itself. But as was pointed out just a moment ago, there are so many other leads can you track as well. DNA traces that are left on letters and even such simple things as mentioned like zip codes can be instructive in trying to narrow it down.

TAPPER: And, Fran, before I let you go, are we just hearing a lot more about ricin cases? Has this been going on for a long time and we just haven't been covering it or does this seem to be an outbreak of these kinds of incidents?

TOWNSEND: You know, Jake, the interesting thing is the context in which I think most people have heard of ricin is in a terrorism context. It's a recipe that is easily available on the internet. It's associated with the al Qaeda training manual. We've seen al Qaeda cells deploy it. And so the little bit we talked about and heard about it has typically been in a terrorism context.

I think you're right to point out suddenly we seem to be hearing more about it in a domestic context and that's concerning. Some of that may be, frankly, that it's an easily put together compound. It doesn't -- this is not high science and because the materials are readily available, once you understand the formula, it's not that complicated to pull together the precursor elements of it.

TAPPER: All right, thank you so much, Fran and Ian. Appreciate it.

LIPKIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Still to come, a former quarterback who won three national championships is found dead. He told his family he was feeling leery of some things.

Plus, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann's surprise announcement, what the future holds for the Tea Party darling.

And tornadoes and severe thunderstorms hammer the American heartland. We'll tell which you states are most at risk.


TAPPER: We're back with dangerous and potentially deadly storms at risk, tornadoes and golf ball sized hail, parts of the nation already being hammered as you can see from this map areas from Texas to Wisconsin and parts of the northeast are now under tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings.

Just a short while ago there were reports of at least one tornado touching down in southern Nebraska. This system is threatening to get even worse as we enter the hours of peak danger. Tonight, we're chasing that severe weather live. Our Chad Myers is on the ground with a group of storm chasers. We'll get to him in just a moment.

But first, meteorologist, Indra Petersons, is OUTFRONT and tracking these storm systems now. Indra, what are we looking at tonight?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, just like you mentioned. We're talking 60 million of you under the severe weather threat today. Also moderate risk is out there. Keep in mind. We've already had a dozen reports of tornadoes today. The bulk of them in Nebraska about 11 and one of them reported in the Texas panhandle.

But you can see a large swath here of people under this severe weather threat even as we go through these overnight hours. The moderate risk area is in Oklahoma, Kansas and all the way down through Texas. That involves over two million of you this evening. The problem, some of these tornadoes are rain wrapped. They're very difficult to see.

It's really not the only concern. Here's the typical setup that we continue to watch. It's that warm, moist air. It is really dry air. It kind of merges so right along the dry line, we are seeing some of these storms start to fuel up out there.

You add the jet stream with the low and all of this, it's like that perfect storm coming together, bringing together these elements for this very severe weather. It will continue with us throughout evening hours all the way even in through tomorrow.

Currently, we're looking at these watch boxes here. Look at this huge swath. We're talking big section of the country dealing with these tornado watches until late evening tonight. And also even in towards New England.

Now I want to show you where some of these warnings are really in the last few hours things have been really active out there, really kind of picking up. Even in the New York area, we're talking about two current tornado warnings on the ground those expiring about 7:30 Eastern Time.

I'm going to take you all the way back over to the west of Nebraska where currently in the last few minutes, we've been seeing some of these warning boxes continue there as well. These warning boxes expiring about 7:30 and you can see, look at all this instability popping up in the last several hours.

We talk about rain wrapped, that's what we're talking about. Not every tornado is very visible. We're talking about strong winds, large hail, very dangerous hail in the midst of the storms as well. Through Kansas once again, we're also looking at even more tornado warning boxes where you think pink, those are the tornado warning boxes at this hour so a lot of activity such a huge swath of an area that everyone really needs to remain vigilant.

Now taking out towards Oklahoma City, notice we're starting to see some tornado vortexing really popping up. With that, likely to see some tornado warning boxes coming up towards the Oklahoma City area and notice very heavy rain just about to push into the Moore area. Keep in mind, we look at this we're talking about strong winds as well so a lot of debris on the ground. We start adding 57 mile- per-hour winds out there. All that could kick up as well -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Indra, it looks like it's going to be a horrible night for some people.

PETERSONS: Yes, unfortunately.

TAPPER: Chasing the severe weather live, our Chad Myers is imbedded with a team of storm chasers. He's out near Oklahoma City. Chad, where are you exactly? What are you seeing right now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): Just south of Oklahoma. I'll tell you a very few things surprise me about Oklahoma weather. The only thing that is surprising me is all the windows are up in this vehicle. There is no way that all the windshield and all the side windows should be in this car considering how hard the hail was. It hit right on the money when she said rain wrapped, lots of moisture, lots of rain, hard to see and very large hail hitting a large swath of northwestern Oklahoma.

TAPPER: Chad, when are we expecting these potential tornadoes? Is this something that will continue overnight?

MYERS: Well, yes, there is something called a low level jet. This low level jet is moisture, the surge of wind that will come up from the south and it will push and start to turn the atmosphere just enough. Give it a little bit more of what we call shear. And shear is never a good thing whether you're in an airplane or talking about tornadoes because that's the rotation. That's the change in wind direction. Changing wind speeds as well. It can cause tornadoes to develop and even last throughout the night. This could go until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. And those are very dangerous because you don't expect them. You're probably asleep. Your NOAA weather radio will wake you up. If you have one, make sure it is working tonight if you live in the Plains, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much, Chad.

Still to come, residents in New Mexico on high alert tonight. An underground cavern threatens to swallow a large part of their town.

Plus, an explosion at Disneyland. The alleged perpetrator was an employee.

And new details about the newborn baby found in a sewage pipe. That is all coming up.


TAPPER: Our second story OUTFRONT, waiting to implode. We're talking about underground cavities. Ticking time bombs that could suddenly turn into deadly sink holes. In March as you probably remember, a Florida man died after his bed was swallowed by a sink hole that had opened up under his house. Now, that was a naturally occurring disaster. But in New Mexico, a manmade danger is threatening to swallow up a big chunk of one town and its residents. Ed Lavandera has an OUTFRONT investigation.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Part of this dusty New Mexico landscape disappeared back in 2008 into two massive sink holes, triggering shock waives of confusion and anxiety that more would follow.

LEWIS LAND, NEW MEXICO TECH: I think it's quite likely that a sink hole will form here.

LAVANDERA: So it's not a matter of if, it's when?

LAND: Yes, I would say that is probably the case. It's not a matter of if but when. But when could be a century from now. Or it could be next week.

LAVANDERA: But here's the problem. If a sink hole craters on this spot, it wouldn't just be happening in the middle of nowhere, wide open oil field in southeast New Mexico. It would actually be happening at one of the busiest intersections here in the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Lewis Land is a geologist and sink hole expert at New Mexico Tech. He spent years studying what might happen if a third sink hole swallows up part of Carlsbad.

LAND: The best we can tell, it is lateral extent is from the roughly where that traffic light is, and then that way beneath the canal and underneath the northern edge of that mobile home park.

LAVANDERA: So that welcome to Carlsbad sign --

LAND: That's exactly right.

LAVANDERA: -- disappear in a second.

LAND: Yes, I always have my camera with me so whenever I come this way, just in case something happens as I'm driving by.

LAVANDERA: Whether the first two sink holes emerged, experts figured out they weren't a natural occurrence. It was man made. They opened above two salt mines. State officials quickly shut down mining operations at this third site inside Carlsbad city limits. But Lewis Land place is still a time bomb waiting to implode.

LAND: It's not a stable configuration. I think that we know there is a cavity down beneath us because they were mining it out.

LAVANDERA: Look at this graphic cross section of the ground under this corner of Carlsbad. All of the blue you see is an unstable salt well cavern. Land says it's so close to the ground surface it could collapse at any time.

JOEL ARNWINE, EDDY COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGER: These are indicators that we use to monitor if we get an alarm.

LAVANDERA: Joel Arnwine is the county's top emergency manager. He had to develop a response plan in case the sink hole starts cratering.

ARNWINE: This is a tilt meter.

LAVANDERA: Including ground sensors that monitor ground movement 24 hours a day. Where we're standing could very well collapse?

ARNWINE: It could.


ARNWINE: It could.

LAVANDERA: And whether that happens, I mean, how large of a hole are we talking about?

ARNWINE: You know, it's relatively unclear.

LAVANDERA: Because of the sink hole, the company operating here, INW, was fined $2.6 million and declared bankruptcy. A former company official told us INW was wrongly targeted and had followed state approved mining regulations. The experts say the next sink hole could easily be several hundred yards if diameter. It threatens a feed store, a church, a water canal for downstream farmers, a railroad line, a mobile home park, and two major highways coming into town.

LAVANDERA: A huge headache, isn't it?

ARNWINE: It really is. It definitely is a planning challenge.

LAVANDERA: The threat of another sink hole still looms over this far- flung Western outpost.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Carlsbad, New Mexico.


TAPPER: Still to come, an Arizona woman behind bars in Mexico tonight. Authorities say she was trying to smuggle drugs, but do those claims add up?

Plus, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's surprise announcement, and what it could mean heading into the next election.

And how presidential is Rob Lowe? The answer might surprise you.

Tonight's Shout-out, the destructive power of water. This surveillance video comes from the Carl Sanburg College campus in Illinois. Heavy rain led to flash flooding, which led to this, water gushing through a building's doors. Fortunately, no one was injured. The college was closed today for cleanup. The damages are so bad, classes at the college's main campus are canceled for the rest of the week.


TAPPER: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We'll start the second half of our show with stories we care about where we focus on our own reporting from the front lines.

Anaheim police have arrested a Disneyland employee in connection with what appeared to be a dry ice explosion that came from a trash can. He is 22-year-old Christian Barns of Long Beach. The charge, possessing a destructive device. Police say he has indicated this was, quote, "an isolated incident with unanticipated impacts," and is cooperating with investigators. He is being held on $1 million bail. According to California penal code, possessing a destructive device carries as many as seven years in prison.

And an OUTFRONT update. An attorney for Robert Bales has confirmed the Army staff sergeant agreed to plead guilty to charges of premeditated murder in the killing of 16 Afghan villagers in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. The decision to seek a plea deal, which was first reported by the Associated Press, must be approved by the judge and the commanding general of the division. The U.S. military alleges Bales left his outpost in the middle of the night and single-handedly attacked two villages. A hearing is scheduled for June 5th.

The judge in the Major Nidal Hasan case has ordered a medical evaluation to determine if he is physical fit to act as his own attorney. Hasan was shot on the day he was accused of killing 13 people in a shooting spree at Fort Hood. He is now paralyzed from the chest down. In a prior inquiry, the judge indicated Hasan had the mental capacity to conduct his own defense. Due to the nature of the charges, former Army JAG attorney Greg Rinkly tell us it is possible that judge will require that a defense counsel remain present. The trial begins on July 1st.

A U.N. official is expected to call for a moratorium on lethal autonomous robotics, or what some call killer robots during an address to the U.N. Human Rights counsel this week. These are robots that once launched -- can engage targets without future further human input. And the official warns they could, quote, "exercise the power of life and death over human beings." Renowned robotics professor Noel Sharkey, too, has called for a ban, writing recently for CNN that robots don't have the moral agency to make crucial judgment calls, much less conform to international law.

Our third story OUTFRONT: the mysterious death of a former football star. Investigators in Lake County, Michigan, are searching for answers tonight as they try to figure out what happened to the 30- year-old Cullen Finnerty.

The former standout quarterback at Grand Valley State University won three national championships and even played briefly in the NFL. But he mysteriously died over the weekend during a fishing trip by himself.

His family says they received a disturbing call from Finnerty on Sunday saying he, quote, "was leery of something," unquote. And that was the last they heard from him.

His body was found Tuesday about a half mile from his boat. Authorities say there were no signs of trauma or foul play.

Lake County Sheriff Robert Hilts is OUTFRONT tonight with the latest.

Sheriff, thanks for joining us.

I know you received preliminary autopsy results. Have you learned anything new about how Cullen Finnerty died?

ROBERT HILTS, LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF, MICHIGAN: No, not at this time. The pathologist just issued a report to us stating there is no determined cause of death at this time. Which means he has to complete his investigation as far as the rust of the toxicology and the other test that's have to be performed.

TAPPER: Can you tell us in any greater detail what Finnerty is said to have said to his family when he called them on Sunday?

HILTS: We really weren't sure what was said other than he was uncomfortable on the river. The part of the river that he was fishing on is very -- is not part of our Scenic Rivers Act. So, they don't clean the banks and it was a very, very grown over part. The sticks were hitting him in the face, that kind of thing. And he expressed that he was uncomfortable with some other things. And he wanted to come off the river. It was a very short distance to where the stairs were and he came up where we found the boat.

TAPPER: Now, I understand you don't believe there were any witnesses. There are no signs of foul play. What can you tell us about how the body was found? How certain are you that this was not manslaughter or murder?

HILTS: Because of the analysis made by the pathologist. Dr. Post (ph) is probably one of the best in the country, and he's pretty much ruled out any type of trauma, you know, other than, you know, trauma leading that would be obvious to us that there was any homicide or anything like that.

TAPPER: His family has expressed concerns about possible concussions that he suffered, Finnerty suffered during his football career. Is there any reason to think that this was suicide?

HILTS: Not at this time. We -- there is nothing that led us to believe as far as right now that it is any type of suicide at all. There's nothing that -- nothing that points to. That it looks as if he was wandering kind of through the woods and just went down.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you, Sheriff Hilts. Good luck with your investigation.

HILTS: All right. Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Our fourth story OUTFRONT: drug smuggler or falsely accused?

An Arizona wife and mother is behind bars in Mexico tonight, accused of smuggling 12 pounds of marijuana into the United States under her bus seat. A judge in Mexico again today listened to testimony in the case against Yanira Maldonado. The mother of seven says she was framed.

A short time ago her daughter made a tearful plea for her return while talking to our own Wolf Blitzer.


BRENDA PEDRAZA, MOTHER IS JAILED IN MEXICO: We heard that this, you know, the minimum is 10 years. Ten years is a whole lifespan. And it's just, you know, we don't have that time, 10 years to be separated from your own mother. I just can't imagine that. I wouldn't want to be separated from my own daughter.

So, please, to the officials in Mexico, please do your part and really investigate. Because I know my mom has nothing to do with those illegal drugs.


TAPPER: Rafael Romo is OUTFRONT in Nogales, Arizona, with the latest.

Rafael, there was another day of testimony. What happened in court today?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it was supposed to be a very important day for the prosecution. And that's because the soldiers who allegedly found the drugs under the seats of Yanira Maldonado and her husband Gary were going to testify. Essentially, tell the court what had happened, how they found the drugs, how the bundles were under those seats.

But the last information we have is that those soldiers have not shown up yet. They're not at the court yet. It can still happen tomorrow, because we will have another day of hearings, another day of testimony. But that in a way is a victory of sorts for the defense because those soldiers, that military personnel was a very important part of the prosecution's case.

Now, Yanira Maldonado is still in a jail for women in the city of Nogales, Mexico, just across the border here. She is being kept in a temporary cell by herself, isolated from the rest of the general population. And it is a prison that houses approximately 100 inmates. She's been there since Friday. She was in federal custody for about two days before she was transferred there. That's state prison in Nogales, Mexico -- Jake.

TAPPER: Maldonado is not attending the hearings. Why not?

ROMO: It is part of the judicial system in Mexico. Rarely ever in cases like this the defendant actually goes to court. They are represented by a defense attorney.

We know the family has been there. Gary Maldonado, her husband. We also know that her father-in-law, Larry, has also been there.

But essentially, the testimony is taken orally but has to be typed up. They still use typewriters to do that. So, it takes a very, very long time.

But again, it may sound weird in America that she's not there given it is her own hearing. But it is just the way the system operates here in Mexico, Jake.

TAPPER: How long is this expected to last? What happens next in the legal system?

ROMO: Well, she was arrested, authorities in Mexico had 72 hours to make a determination on whether she would be formally charged or not. The defense requested an additional 72 hours and then a third additional period of 72 hours was requested by the defense so that they had more time to get more evidence, to call more witnesses, to try to build a better defense case to help Yanira get out of the Mexican jail, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Rafael, thank you so much.

Still to come, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann makes a surprise announcement. What led to her drastic change, of course?

Plus, an update on a story we brought you yesterday. New details about the newborn baby found alive in a sewage pipe.


TAPPER: Just in: President Obama intends to nominate former Justice official James Comey to replace Robert Muller as FBI director, according to officials familiar with the nomination process. Comey was deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush.

Now to tonight's "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world. We start tonight in China where we're learning more about the newborn baby that was rescued alive from a sewer pipe. Police have finally found and spoken to the baby's mother.

David McKenzie is in Beijing. I asked if police plan on pressing charges.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it's an extraordinary story that gripped the world's attention. This young boy now recovering in the hospital in eastern China, amazing when you consider this -- look, at these disturbing images. The boy was pulled out of a sewage pipe earlier this week, hacking at that pipe that had to be taken to a hospital and carefully pried open.

Amazing that he survived. But doctors say that he will be OK and make a full recovery. Now, questions about the mother. It's unclear exactly what happened.

But police say that she's deeply regretful and they say they won't press charges at this stage, saying that it might be just an awful accident. But the main story here is the survival of this young child who's managed to survive against all odds -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Thank you, David McKenzie in Beijing.

Now we go to Saudi Arabia where five more people have been sickened by a SARS-like virus, bringing the total number of people infected by the disease to 49. I asked Leone Lakhani how the virus is spreading.


LEONE LAKHANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the new strain of the SARS-like virus is spreading. And the World Health Organization is calling it, quote, a threat to the entire world. On Wednesday, there were at least 49 cases worldwide, 27 deaths. The majority in Saudi Arabia was 18 confirmed deaths there.

Now, this comes after France announced its first victim, the 65-year- old man was diagnosed after a holiday in Dubai. They've also been cases in the U.K. and Germany among travelers coming back from the Middle East. Now, health officials still don't know exactly how it spread. But earlier this month, the WHO did verify the first cases of human to human transmission in Saudi Arabia among health care workers who had been in close contact with patients, Jake.


TAPPER: Leone Lakhani in Abu Dhabi tonight.

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

Mr. Cooper, how are you, sir?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm good, Jake. Thanks.

We're going to have more on the breaking news about the ricin letter delivered to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the new tornado striking tonight in Nebraska and Texas. We'll give you an update on that.

Also, my exclusive interview with Senator John McCain, telling me about his visit inside Syria. It's only strengthened his resolve, he says, that the U.S. do more to aid the rebel in that country's civil war. It's his first interview since coming out of Syria.

And this parent's fight to save their daughter's life. A 10 yield- year-old girl Sarah Murnaghan needs a lung transplant or she's going to die. Her age is working against her though, raising questions about the fairness of the organ transplant system.

We'll talk with medical ethicist Arthur Kaplan (ph) about that.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" and a whole lot more, Jake, at the top of the hour.

TAPPER: All right. Anderson, sounds great. It's a heartbreaking story about that little girl.


TAPPER: Our fifth story OUTFRONT: Michele Bachmann calls it quits. The one-time Tea Party presidential candidate announced early this morning that she will not run for a fifth term in Congress. Bachmann also dismissed speculation that investigations into her campaign finances or the possibility of a tough re-election were the reasons behind her exit.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I've always in the past defeated candidates who are capable, qualified, and well-funded. And I have every confidence that if I ran, I would again defeat the individual who I defeated last year, who recently announced that he is once again running.


TAPPER: And while Bachmann was a darling of the Tea Party, she also created a number of headaches for the Republican Party because she was often -- how do I say this? -- fast and loose with the facts.


BACHMANN: Within a day or so, the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him.

The executive director of Planned Parenthood in Illinois said they want to become the lens crafter of big abortion in Illinois.

Speaker Pelosi, who has been busy sticking the taxpayer with her $100,000 bar tab for alcohol on the military jets that she's flying.

Back in the 1970s, the swine flu broke out under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter.

I had a mother come up to me her in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine and, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation.


TAPPER: OUTFRONT tonight, Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, and "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow.

Ari, we have you on the phone because we're having technical difficulties. But I want to start with you.

The Republican Party is breathing a sigh of relief a bit that she is calling it quits. She brought huge headaches to the Republican Party.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (via telephone): No, Jake, I think that's exactly right. Republicans feel a lot better about being able to keep the seat and also the caricature that the media has really turned her into, that she (INAUDIBLE), drawing in that direction, won't be around to tar, define other Republicans.

I do think it's fair to say that the press was excessively tough on her. She made it easy for the press to be tough on her. But the press did have it in for her.

TAPPER: I think it's fair -- I think you're right. The press -- the press was tough on her. But you have to say as you admit -- I mean, she may have been caricatured but she handed the press the magic markers.

FLEISCHER: That's right. And she was not my cup of tea. What I like the least was her statements. I remember clashing with her on "LARRY KING LIVE" about this years ago that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. She couldn't bring herself to accept the fact that he wasn't. I never like the strain in politics where you differ with your opposition by trying to delegitimize them. It's one thing to clash an ideology and idea, it's another to say they're not legitimate. That's not something I thought is constructive in politics.

TAPPER: Charles, you wrote an op-ed back in March about what you call the GOP's Bachmann problem. Especially you wrote, quote, "People like Bachmann represent everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. She and her colleagues are hyperbolic, reactionary and ill-informed and they have become synonymous with the Republican brand."

How much does Bachmann's exit hurt the Democratic Party?

CHARLES BLOW, NEW YORK TIMES: I don't know if it hurts the Democratic Party. I do think that it takes away a glaring example of what Democrats think Republicans are. And it remains to be seen whether or not she is truly exiting the stage, the political stage, whether or not she will be campaigning for other candidates.

She is an incredible money raiser. I mean, she raised $15 million in the last race. She raises quite a bit of money.

People like her. They donate to her campaign. She could become, you know, somebody who stumps for other candidates. She could run for president again in 2016.

You know, she is not necessarily leaving. I think that anyone who ever runs for president has, you know, a monumental ego. They have an ego the size of a mountain.

You have to have it. You have to believe in yourself to that degree to run for president. So, those types of people don't generally exit and go into the good night.

TAPPER: And, Ari, earlier this year, "The Huffington Post" asked Senator John McCain for his opinion of some other Tea Party darlings like Republican Senator Rand Paul, Ted Cruz. He said, quote, "It's always the whacko birds on right and left that get the media mega phone. I think it can be harmful if there is a belief among the American people that those people are reflective of the views of the majority of Republicans. They're not."

I'm sure you agree with. Who are the whacko birds on the left that the media is not paying enough attention to?

FLEISCHER: Well, some of the big birds on the left. You remember, you have Harry Reid called the former president of the United States a liar. You had Harry Reid said about Mitt Romney that he paid no taxes on the Senate floor, a fabrication out of an entire whole cloth, made whatever Michelle Bachmann's mistakes were look small, considering the impact of the majority leader of the Senate taking to the Senate floor to accuse the presidential nominee of paying no taxes.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and the congresswoman from Florida, she got the Pinocchio of the year award, or false statement of the year award for saying Republicans wanted to end Medicare as we know it.

So, you know, the Democrats have them. But I do think that when the Republicans have them, they get more press attention, the press enjoys vilifying them. And the Democrats, it's noted by the media, but comes and goes. They don't seem to treat the Democrats with the same pleasure that they treat Republicans.

BLOW: But you also have to agree, Ari, that the scale of Michele Bachmann's kind of fibbing is beyond anything that we have seen before. "PolitiFact" did a roundup today after her video came out she wasn't going to seek re-election. And all of all the comments they have ever fact-checked for Michele Bachmann, 75 percent of them were rated mostly false or worse. And only 8 percent of the statements that they had fact-checked for Michelle Bachmann were unambiguously true. That is a very different kind of track record than what you have just pointed out on the other side.

FLEISCHER: Well, and as I said, she's not my cup of tea.

BLOW: I don't know whose cup can of tea that is.

FLEISCHER: I also have pointed out "PolitiFact" that the lie of the year in 2007 was the statement from Debbie Wassermann Schultz.

So, both parties do have this element. I don't like the term "wacko bird." Frankly, I think the Tea Party has been very good for Republicans when it comes to putting the fiscal spine in the Republican Party. I don't like in the case of those individuals who engage in de-legitimatization of the opposition as I said.

But the Tea Party, by and large, has been a shot of economic adrenaline to get the government spending and get taxes under control. And I think that's supportive. They'll do better if they have a smarter, more intellectual candidates who combine that passion for small government.

TAPPER: All right. We have to leave it there. Thank you so much, Ari Fleischer, Charles Blow, appreciate it.

Every night, we take a look outside the day's top stories for something we call the OUTFRONT "Outtake." This is a story about your boss, that person who makes you stay late and work on weekends. The one who takes you for granted, the guy who just won't get off your back about those darn TPS reports.

But what if the employee is a terrorist? It turns out, the exact same thing happens. Mokhtar Belmokhtar is an Algerian terrorist, kidnapper, smuggler and weapons dealer who was until this year considered a rising star in al Qaeda, but then something happened. He got bad review.

According to a letter recently discovered inside a former al Qaeda stronghold, in October, Belmokhtar was terminated. To be expected in a terrorist organization? Well, not exactly. Because in this case, terminated means fired. Not killed. In the ten-page memo signed by the group's 14-member Shira counsel, Belmokhtar is described as, quote, "a bleeding wound who failed to carry out a single successful operation, failed to bring in top dollar for his hostages, failed to answer the telephone when they called, and worse of all, failed to submit his expense reports."

Yes. Bureaucracy and red tape are everywhere. Even in al Qaeda. The next time you get hassled by your boss, remember this, it really does happen to everyone.

OUTFRONT next: when you think of Rob Lowe, do you think presidential? You might very soon. We'll tell you why, next.


TAPPER: Finally tonight, JFK, Rob Lowe and putting your art before your own policies.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: He's smart. He's capable. He's witty.

TAPPER (voice-over): For every president there is an actor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish you would have given me this written question before hand.

TAPPER: For every film that portrays the commander-in-chief --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shall we stop this bleeding?

TAPPER: There is someone who must choose the face of history. The next visage for our viewing pleasure? Rob Lowe.

It was announced Tuesday that the man who recently played Liberace's plastic surgeon on HBO will now play John F. Kennedy for National Geographic and their version of Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Kennedy."

ELLEN LEWIS, CASTING DIRECTOR: What I have found in my casting experience that it is about the essence of the person.

TAPPER: Of course, JFK is the chameleon of Camelot, having been portrayed by dozens of different actors with an equal number of Jackie Os beside him.

Casting Director Ellen Lewis has been responsible for portraying historical figures in movies like "Hyde Park on Hudson" about FDR.

"The Aviator."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a movie star nothing more.

TAPPER: And Forrest Gump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to pee. TAPPER: So we asked her, what makes a good president?

LEWIS: I don't try to get an exact look alike. If you are able to hook into something within the actor, that connects them to who they're playing, whether the match is perfect or not, the audience will accept that person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to sound like I haven't made no mistakes.

TAPPER: One thing is for certain. Aligning with the politician's views does not seem to matter especially when it comes to unflattering portrayals of Republicans.

Left leaning Josh Brolin played Republican George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's 2008 biopic "W."

JULIANNE MOORE, ACTRESS: The difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

TAPPER: "Game Changer" Julianne Moore was outspoken against the woman she portrayed, Sarah Palin.

MOORE: I think she was never a fan of the book "Game Change" and so I think in general, she was --

TAPPER: And now Hollywood is abuzz with rumors that Scarlet Johansson may play Hillary Clinton in the forthcoming feature "Rodham." Does it matter she backed Obama against Clinton in those bruising 2008 primaries?


LEWIS: It actually could be a bigger challenge for the actor if they have a different point of view than the person that they're portraying.

TAPPER: And for the actors the pressure is great. Just ask Daniel Day Lewis who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.

DANIEL DAY LEWIS, ACTOR: The last thing I wanted to do was go down in flames having desecrated the memory of the greatest president in the history of this country.

TAPPER: And just as in real politics, there will be critics and naysayers no matter who wins the role.


TAPPER: That's it for me. "A.C. 360" starts right now.