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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Obama Sways Key Republicans On Syria; "The President Is Not Asking You To Go To War"; Dennis Rodman Returns To North Korea; Was IRS Scandal Politically Motivated?

Aired September 3, 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, the president scores a big political win today. Does that put America closer to launching a strike on Syria?

Then the drug nicknamed "Molly" being glamorized in songs and pop culture. Also being blamed for deaths. Tonight we speak to an addict who tells us why that high is unlike any he's ever had.

And a judge is ruling on a taboo subject. Is there ever a time it would be OK to say the "N" word at work? The judge ruled on this.

Let's go "OUTFRONT."

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, a big win for President Obama. Two key Republican leaders, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor tonight say they support the president's plan to strike Syria. Both were on hand today when President Obama gathered key congressional leaders at the White House to try and make his case.

Clearly that meeting got the job done for some and the president's hoping his secretaries of state and defense had the same effect on Capitol Hill this afternoon. We're going to be joined by Senator Rand Paul in just a moment who was in that contentious hearing, but now Jim Sciutto, our chief national security correspondent is with us from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Today you're beginning the formal request of asking each of us to make the most important decision many of us will make during our tenure in the United States Senate.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For senators, a rare chance to debate a president's decision to launch military attacks abroad. The administration's three spokesmen all with very personal experience of war delivered the same message the world is awaiting America's response.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Hezbollah is hoping that isolationism will prevail. North Korea is hoping that ambivalence carries the day. They are all listening for our silence.

SCIUTTO: Left to make the military case for attacks the chairman of the Joint Chiefs who had been a skeptic of broad military actions.

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I have never been told to change the momentum. I have been told to degrade capability.

SCIUTTO: Senators and the administration came face to face with an American public deeply skeptical of another conflict in the Middle East.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. The committee will be in order.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't go to war.

KERRY: The first time I testified before this committee when I was 27 years old I had feelings very similar to that protester. And I would just say that is exactly why it is so important that we are all here.

SCIUTTO: With that reluctance in mind the administration took extra care to clarify what military action would be.

KERRY: Limited, targeted effort that will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war.

SCIUTTO: And would not even when Secretary Kerry for a moment seemed to open the door to U.S. boots on the ground.

KERRY: I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States to secure our country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Obviously that gets to the heart of it, you know, leaving that door open. Jim, was the administration able to change any minds today? I know we were talking about John Boehner and Eric Cantor obviously significant development there, but there are still so many who are undecided who are leaning voting no.

SCIUTTO: Well, you got a window on the administration strategy here, clearly they had something for the skeptics and that is the constant return to the sense that this would be a very limited action, in scope and in time frame, and then for those other side, Senator McCain among them, who were questioning whether a limited action really has any effect, really will make any difference.

Secretary Kerry went to a broader strategy saying that it is indeed the administration's goal still to remove Assad by supporting the opposition. So, they are trying to gain both the hawks and the doves on this and at least in the committee it does appear they have the votes just based on the kinds of questions that were coming to Secretaries Kerry and Hagel.

BURNETT: All right, obviously, a big development. Jim, thank you very much, and by the way, welcome. We're thrilled to have you here at CNN. Welcome. SCIUTTO: Great to be on.

BURNETT: All right, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky sits on both the Foreign Relations and Homeland Security Committees. Obviously he was in that room today with John Kerry.

And thanks very much for being with us, Senator Paul. We really appreciate you taking the time. You and Secretary Kerry got into it today during the hearing and I waited all day for it and then, of course, you delivered. Over the question of whether Assad would use chemical weapons and I just wanted to play that little exchange briefly for those that didn't get a chance to see it. Here you are --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: If the United States of America doesn't do this, Senator, is it more or less likely that Assad does it again? You want to answer that question?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I don't think it's no.

KERRY: Is it more or less likely that he does it again?

PAUL: I think it's unknown whether you have the attack.

KERRY: Senator, it's not unknown. If the United States of America doesn't hold him accountable on this with our allies and friends, it is a guarantee Assad will do it again, a guarantee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: You looked a little skeptical there. How do you feel now? Did Secretary Kerry win you over at all?

PAUL: Well, he sounds like he must be a clairvoyant because he can predict the future now and we should ask him for stock picks, who name it, who will win the Kentucky derby next year if he can guarantee the future. No one can guarantee the future. We don't know how Assad will react and I think there's an equal argument to be made if the U.S. bombs him that it will be more likely that he launches another gas attack, more likely that he might attack his real, more likely that there will be more instability in the region.

More likely that the Russians might get involved or Iran might get involved. So, I think there are arguments to be made on both sides of this, but it's not some kind of slam dunk guarantee that Secretary Kerry makes it out to be. He's overstating his ability to predict the future.

BURNETT: Now, you said the president's request to strike probably will pass the Senate today. But you don't agree that the president has the constitutional authority to order a strike on Syria without congressional approval. You were also very clear on that. And I wanted just to play, Secretary Kerry, as you snow got very passionate when you said that to him, and here is what he said to you --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: We don't want to go to war. We don't believe we are going to war in the classic sense of taking American troops and America to war. The president is asking for the authority to do a limited action. That will degrade the capacity of a tyrant who has been using chemical weapons to kill his own people. The president is not asking you to go to war. He's not asking you to declare war. He's not asking you to send one American troop to war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: But obviously he did leave boots on the ground as an option on the table. Do you --

PAUL: And here's the thing is, soldiers, you know, or sailors, they are air force pilots, there are technicians, CIA. There are all kinds of people who will be involved in this effort. To say this is not war is just plain not accurate. To say it's a small war, well, he's starting out with a small war, but can a small war like Vietnam that he served in become a big war?

No, I think he's not accounting for the fact that the constitution does not differentiate between small war and big war. The constitution says the legislature gets to decide and what I pressed him on I am proud of the president for coming to Congress, but the president says he has to say he will adhere to our verdict. He can't come to us in theatre and say, you guys get to vote but it may not count if I don't like your vote. He can't do that.

BURNETT: Now, Senator, before we go, I have to ask you one more thing, though, because obviously high-ranking Republicans as you know have come around saying they're going to support the president. On that list you've got John McCain who wanted the president to go further, you have John Boehner, you have Eric Cantor. They say voting against him would undermine the office of the president of the United States and here is John McCain and John Boehner --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: A vote against that resolution by Congress I think would be catastrophic because it would undermine the credibility of the United States of America and the president.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: This is something that the United States as a country needs to do. I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this call for action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Do you have any concern that your vote, which I know is a firm no, would hurt the office of presidency of the United States?

PAUL: You know, I take my responsibility very seriously and I'm not too concerned about the president's public relations. I am concerned, though, about young men and young women who serve in our military. And I vote as if it's my son or your son going to war. I can't send them to war to fight for stalemate. I can't send them to war with no clear military objective and I can't send anybody to war when our goal is not victory. Our goal is stalemate. They've already said they don't even want to topple Assad. They just want a negotiated settlement after they blast him with a few bombs. I can't see anyone's son or daughter fighting for that.

BURNETT: All right, Senator Rand Paul, thank you very much. Always good to talk to you.

PAUL: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And still OUTFRONT, Microsoft making a $7 billion bet that you will want a different phone. Not the iPhone, not the Galaxy. Let's see Richard Quest has to say about it.

And Japanese officials still admit there's a major problem with radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant and apparently they have a resolution that seems to come out of the fictional world of "Game of Thrones."

And tonight, a ruling on whether the "n" word can be used in the work place by a judge, we're going to hear a recording for the first time of a rant that started the controversy and only gets stranger in the tale of Dennis and the dictator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep the communication gap going as far as I could. I just want to go over there to meet my friend Kim.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, Ambassador Dennis Rodman. You think that I jest but I do not. The former basketball star returned to North Korea today for the second time in 2013. It's hard enough for most people to ever get there once in their life. He raised speculation about he's trying to guarantee the release of Kenneth Bay who had been put into maximum security, working labor camps, suffered major health problems. Walking through the Beijing airport Rodman insisted, though, this trip is actually about basketball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA BASKETBALL PLAYER: Keep the communication gap going as far as I can, I just want to go over there to meet with my friend, Kim, the marshal, and try to start a new basketball league over there and stuff like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Meet my friend Kim and start a new basketball league in North Korea. OUTFRONT tonight, Gordon Chang, expert on North Korea, author of "nuclear Showdown North Korea Takes On The World." Obviously, Gordon, it's hard to cover this without smiling, but it is a deadly serious subject. Second time this year that Dennis Rodman has gone to North Korea to visit his, quote/unquote, "friend Kim Jong- Un," how does this guy keep getting access to one of the most brutal dictators in the world?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Because the North Korean regime is using Rodman for its purposes. We got to remember the first time he went there was the end of February and people thought that because of the visit that North Korea would turn a new leaf. But as soon as he left, the North Koreans embarked on this series of provocations and they had planned that.

And now, you know, we've had a couple of months of charm offensive, you know, until last Friday when north -- when our North Korean envoy was denied permission to go there, now Rodman shows up. This is part of a plan. We don't know what the plan is, but we know it's part of a plan.

BURNETT: Now, Rodman told Reuters that he's not going to discuss the American Kenneth Bay, who the man I just mentioned, who has been now -- he is a hostage in North Korea, had served time in a maximum security labor camp, horrific conditions. He said he's not going to negotiate for his release, but last week, Dennis Rodman told "The Huffington Post" that he might do just that. I wanted to play that for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: If the marshal (ph) said, Dennis, you know, you want me to let him loose? And if I actually got him loose -- I'm just saying this out of the blue, I would be the most powerful guy in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: You said, Gordon, he's being used by the North Koreans -- Dennis Rodman that is, right? That they have a plan. Would you be surprised, though, if he were able to get Bae released?

CHANG: I would be a little bit surprised. Because what the North Koreans want is a senior U.S. political figure or an official to go to Pyonyang so they can have the pictures of him standing next to Kim Jong-un, the ruler. Now, Dennis Rodman has no official position with the U.S. government. And so I don't think he really serves its purposes.

Now, this is North Korea, so anything could happen, but I don't think Rodman will come back with Kenneth Bae.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Gordon Chang. Obviously this is a fascinating story. When he said he would go back, right, who thought he actually meant it and would go back and visit him this summer? Dennis Rodman was not lying. All right. Thanks, Gordon.

CHANG: Thank you. BURNETT: And now our third story OUTFRONT, Microsoft $7 billion bet. The software company announcing it's forking over $7.2 billion to buy Nokia smartphone business. Which you may say, oh, Nokia, whatever. But you know, Nokia used to be the hottest, sexiest, most amazing phone on the planet.

Anyway, it's a move to attempt to revive two companies that aren't exactly thriving in the mobile phone market these days. Will the gamble pay off for Microsoft, or is it too little too late? Richard Quest is OUTFRONT.

All right, Richard. Is this be enough to resuscitate --

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CORRESPONDET: Well, I have the evidence! I've got the evidence in front of me because that's what this is all about.

Let's start with this. This is the phone that was put together by Microsoft and Nokia. It's one of the Lumia (ph) range. People love it! Those who have used it absolutely adore it. But unfortunately, it's got no market share because, fIRSt of all, Nokia was knocked out of the park by dear old Apple with the iPhone. And then they were knocked out of the park, switch it on, so you can get a good idea of who it is, by an Android phone from Samsung.

And it's left these two absolutely wondering what on earth is happening --

BURNETT: Oh, no!

QUEST: -- to them. BlackBerry

BURNETT: My BlackBerry!

QUEST: Well, BlackBerry and, of course, Nokia. So, you put the two together, and you end up with the fact that Nokia and Microsoft had to do something.

BURNETT: All right. So, then, so paying $7.2 billion and now having Nokia as your problem, how does that solve it for Microsoft? Which is, by the way, such a cash cow, right? Rich, successful, amazing company that is perceived as the sloth of American companies.

QUEST: But they have not managed to get into Windows phones in any numbers. Look at their numbers, and it will show you. If you look at Nokia, every number, vroom. If you look at the share price, look at the worldwide market share for Nokia, it's on a downward trend.

BURNETT: That's terrible.

QUEST: Look at the United States! I mean, it's flatlining at the moment. So, in that scenario, Microsoft, one percent or something, Microsoft now has got hold of it. But this was a deal that was really done two or three years ago when they partnered in 2011. What Microsoft is now doing is doubling down -- more than doubling down. Ten-timing down on what it's already invested in it. It's put $300 million in. It's going for $7 billion. This is a big play to say they can do it.

BURNETT: Well, we will see if they can.

QUEST: And the core question for viewers is if I give you a choice -- very simple, there you are. Take your pick. You can have any one of them. If I was going to give you any one, the iPhone, the Samsung, the BlackBerry, the Lumina (ph), the Nokia phone, which would you take?

BURNETT: I don't know! I'm torn. Because I mean, I love the BlackBerry, but that's because I like the keyboard. So, I'm an old fogey. But -

QUEST: Shamelessly I'm going to promote myself. @Richardquest, the Twitter name.

BURNETT: Let Richard know! Haha!

QUEST: All right. I'm not going to give you anything. But which would you have if you could have one of them?

BURNETT: All right, please tweet Richard and let him know. And we'll let you know what you vote. All right, thanks.

Still to come, did the IRS target certain groups for political reasons? a lot of people have been asking this question. Tonight a special ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT investigation, the truth about IRS. That's later on in this program.

And then, a just-released audiotape of an employer using the n-word at the workplace. You've never heard this before. It went all the way to court. Some claim it can be used by some people, but not by others. A judge rules.

And next, how bad is the new drug molly? Some are calling it ecstasy on steroids.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOUIE SABBATASSO, RECOVERING ADDICT: I know people who have been - who are, were, you know, cocaine -- experimented with cocaine and heroin and have been drinking for years and years and years. And took half a hit of ecstasy and died.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our fourth story OUTFRONT: the dangers of molly. Its popularity is surging with deadly consequences. Molly is the street name for a pure form of the drug ecstasy. It's believed to have caused at least two deaths in just the past week.

Now, it's a hot party drug, and it's actually been glamorized by celebrities like Kanye West or Miley Cyrus. But what is driving this new trend now? Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT tonight. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At Electronica Music Festival's recovering addict Louie Sabbatasso says what he's seen, it's not just the deejay's name that's known, but another one, molly.

LOUIE SABBATASSO, RECOVERING ADDICT: It's insane, like, the amount of ecstasy and molly that are going around, it's insane. It's like everybody's doing it.

LAH: Ecstasy, or MDMA a stimulant and a psychedelic. A rave drug from the '90s once cut with everything from caffeine to speed. Today's version, molly, a powder form that pledges purity. And now seeing a resurgence of popularity among a new generation.

Molly is also casually mentioned in pop music by singers like Kanye West and rapper Trinidad James. Miley Cyrus sings about dancing with molly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILEY CYRUS, SINGER (singing): We like to party, dancing with molly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: But the drug with the approachable name took a deadly turn at this weekend's Electric Zoo Music festival in New York. Two concertgoers died, and at least others were hospitalized for MDMA- related causes, say police.

DR. HOWARD SAMUELS, CEO, THE HILLS TREATMENT CENTER: Molly goes to another level as far as potency is concerned. It makes it extremely dangerous to the body. Because with MDMA, the body creates heat. This drug creates the body to overheat, and the more the body overheats, especially in these environments that are so hot to begin with, it can create death, heart attack. The body just fries.

LAH: Sabbatasso knows that all too well. He estimates he's taken ecstasy and molly hundreds of times and has seen friends die from molly. He says he's been clean for one year. He was once addicted to cocaine, heroin and alcohol. But it's molly that scares him the most.

SABBATASSO: People don't know how they're going to react to molly. It's the kind of drug that you don't know -- I mean, if you've never taken it, how you are going to react to it. And you could be one of those people it's going to kill immediately. Absolutely totally. So in that respect, it's far more dangerous than other drugs.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LAH: But it does remain the drug of choice among the young. And that's according to counselors we spoke to here in Los Angeles, specifically in Hollywood. As far as the rest of the country, it is very difficult to track, Erin. It does behoove you, though, to have at least a conversation with your kids about molly. Erin?

BURNETT: Unbelievable with all that kind of glamorizing in those songs. Thanks to Kyung Lah.

And next, we have an update on the story of a man sentenced to 30 days in jail for the rape of a 14-year-old who later committed suicide.

And then the day after, that amazing first accomplished by the 64- year-old athlete Diana Nyad. Today, what that feat truly means for history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

A Montana judge has ordered a new hearing for a man sentenced to 30 days in jail for the rape of a 14-year-old student who later committed suicide. In court documents obtained by OUTFRONT, Judge Todd Baugh ordered a new hearing for Stacey Rambold because the minimum sentence might be two years, not 30 days. The filing states, in the court's opinion, imposing a sentence which suspends more than the mandatory minimum would be an illegal sentence. Rambold's victim committed suicide in 2010 as the case worked through the courts.

Her mother Auliea Hanlon appeared on OUTFRONT last week and she told us how much jail time she would like to see Rambold serve.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AULIEA HANLON, VICTIM'S MOTHER: Any time behind bars. He's very lucky. He seems to slide by, by the very skin of his teeth. Any jail time would have been better than 30 days. Not jail time, prison time. Anything would have been better than 30 days. The judge was mocking us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Hanlon's lawyer declined to comment on the new hearing, but did say Auliea is grateful for the support and prayers that came in from all over the world.

Well, the Japanese government it is building essentially an ice wall to protect Fukushima's ongoing, shockingly toxic nuclear radiation leaks. Most of the money will be spend on freezing the ground around the reactors to prevent ground water from coming into contact with the contaminated water.

Arnie Gundersen, who's a chief engineer at Fairewinds, tells us that money isn't even in the ballpark though of what's needed to avoid catastrophe. He expects the cleanup costs to be closer to $100 billion and says this ice wall is just a political show.

Well, the Rim wildfire near Yosemite National Park is still burning tonight, it's about 75 percent contained. Though, that's the good news. But here's the bad news, 236,000 acres have burned since the fire started more than two weeks ago. It's now the fourth biggest wildfire in California history.

There has been speculation about the cause of the wildfire after one local fire official speculated it could have been caused by illegal pot growers. But officials tell us the investigation in to what started fire is still ongoing. They are not yet willing to say anything like that formally at this point.

It has been 759 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Well, there was some good news from one of the America's oldest company, Kodak is back, they emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, going to focus more on business imaging.

And now our fifth story OUTFRONT, rolling the dice on Syria. So, the White House is making a full-court press trying to get congressional support, trying to get enough votes to authorize a military strike on the Syrian government.

If Congress votes no, though, which is a very real possibility, will the president strike anyway? He says he has the authority to do so. So far, the Obama administration is completely ducking that question, though.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I do not believe the Congress of the United States will turn its back on this moment.

BURNETT: If he doesn't get the votes, I know that's not the scenario you want, but if he doesn't get it, is he still going to strike?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will be a little bit of a hypothetical right now to discuss what happens if congress should vote no.

KERRY: He intends to win the passage of the resolution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And on the case that he does not, is the plan that he --

KERRY: Well, we're not contemplating not because it's too dire.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BURNETT: We're not contemplating that. It's a hypothetical. The problem is, it could happen.

OUTFRONT tonight, Dan Senor, former Pentagon and White House advisers during the George W. Bush administration, and Matt Bennett who worked in the Clinton White House.

Good to have both of you. Matt, let me start with you because I talked to Congressman Peter King last night and I asked him about the possibility of a no vote from Congress -- a Republican, a man who is often very critical of the president on these sorts of things.

Here's what he said --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Constitutionally would have the right to still go in after he didn't get the vote. President Clinton in Kosovo, the first one or two votes that came up, they were defeated in the House and he still attacked it. I think he should do it. I think he should go ahead and strike.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. So, he's saying, Congress votes no. So what? Go strike anyway. You're shaking your head.

MATT BENNETT, CO-FOUNDER, THIRD WAY: Yes, I just think it's wrong as a practical matter. Look, he's right that he could strike anyway. There's no question, Erin, that President Obama retains authority to strike whether or not he gets it from Congress. The question is, should he?

Unlike President Clinton, when I was in that White House, President Clinton didn't come to congress seeking authorization the way President Obama has here. If he comes to Congress, asks for the authorization as he has and has denied the authorization, I think it's very tough for him to go ahead with a strike at this point, and disregard Congress altogether.

BURNETT: Dan, what do you think?

DAN SENOR, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: I slightly disagree. Look, if I recall correctly when President Clinton launched fighter jets into the Balkans, he sought the vote once the planes were already airborne. So, the votes were being cast once the operation already launched.

In this particular case, I think the president has drawn a clear red line on chemical weapons. Republicans and Democrats in Congress didn't oppose the red line when he articulated it.

BURNETT: Right.

SENOR: It's important -- if he feels he needs to go to Congress, he's going to Congress. But I think the national security implications of the United States declaring that we are going to take action, there was a red line, the red line was crossed, the commander in chief saying he intends to take action and then not doing so because a congressional vote goes the wrong way I just think would be very damaging.

I don't think it's going to happen, by the way. I think he's going to get the authorization and it will pass in the Senate and the House, and it's going to be a complicated next few days but I think he's going to get the votes.

BENNETT: I agree with that.

BURNETT: All right. So, you think -- all right. But you're saying even if he doesn't, that he should go ahead because of the credibility of this country. SENOR: I think we have a major national security issue at stake as it relates to Syria. I think we have a major American credibility issue in the world at stake. And I think that the commander in chief declares as he has that he intends to take military action and then doesn't. I think it will be a huge shot in the arm --

BURNETT: Right.

SENOR: -- in Tehran, and Damascus, for the Assad regime and the Iranian regime, and I think the consequences for the United States. I actually agree with Secretary Kerry, the consequences for the United States are so grave that it's impossible to even fathom the president pulling back once he's declared his intention to take action.

BURNETT: Matt, you know, to Dan's point, I guess what I'm curious about is Secretary Kerry said I'm not going to contemplate, it's too dire to imagine, that they would vote no. Well, then, why say you are going to strike and then say you're going to Congress to tell them you want to vote about it. Something doesn't add up with the way it's being handled, it seems like.

BENNETT: Well, look, he's being differential and the speaker wanted to proceed this way and to his credit, the speaker came out today and said that he was going to support the authorization and I agree with Dan on that point. I do think he's going to get it. I think that there's no question when you have the bipartisan leadership of Congress coming together behind this authorization, he's going to win the vote.

But I do think that there is something important -- there's another important principle here at stake, which is that if Congress is asked for its opinion, you can't just ignore it. You know, it's likely that Assad will go ahead and provoke and continue to do barbaric things. So, it's possible the president will have to use force in the future even if the vote goes the wrong way, but I don't think he will.

BURNETT: Very quickly before we go, Dan, those 60 percent of the American public opposes this?

SENOR: Yes, I think the president has to go make the case.

BURNETT: He has to step up.

SENOR: This president has made very few public addresses on public policy and this one where he's putting his name on the line with regard to military action, he's got to make the case. I think Hoyer and Pelosi can whip enough Democratic votes. I think there were probably 80 or 90 Republican votes in the House that's reliable.

I know Speaker Boehner would like to get the majority of the Republican conference that's going to take work. I think the president is probably fine. But the president at some point is going to have to get out there. They want those numbers up.

I think this thing will pass. I think it would be best if it passed with big numbers. If the president wants those numbers up, he's got to go out and educate the American public on the stakes for the United States.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Dan, Matt, appreciate it.

Well, Diana Nyad continues to receive a lot of accolades for the amazing swim record that she set. She's a 64-year-old woman. You saw her yesterday. Thirty-three hours she spent swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, the longest distant swim in history and she did it without a shark cage and she got stung all over her face by jellyfish and during the trek she had to deal with current shipping lanes, reefs, swarms of jellyfish and her own body.

Here's what Sanjay Gupta told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Somebody described it to me, Sara, he's literally racing against her own body. Because as much as she would try to keep up with nutrition and hydration when you're swimming for that length of time, it's impossible to do so. So, you essentially start digesting your own body if you will just in order to get to -- to in this case Florida, Key West.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That brings me to tonight's number, five. That was Diana's fifth attempt at the record, for the past three years, she has tried and failed to accomplish this feat over and over again but she did not give up. In the past, she was forced to stop. And I'm not stopping a few miles in here, I'm talking 84-plus miles in, thunderstorms, asthma attacks, jellyfish, each attempt takes hundreds of thousands of dollars and so many people and incredible will. It's more of an expedition than a swim but fortunately Diana is an incredible woman.

In fact, this sport is largely dominated by incredible women. The person who held the record before Diana is a woman Penny Palfrey. And unlike other sports in long distance, open water swimming, many of the all-time records are held by women and this one, of course, is 64 years old.

Still to come, one of the most despised words in the English language but are there times it is acceptable to use it? We look at the N-word next.

Plus, a very special OUTFRONT investigation, we looked in to the key question, was the IRS truly targeting political groups? The truth about the IRS, a special investigation later on this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT, the cost of calling someone the N- word.

Tonight, a New York federal jury has ordered the owner of an organization to pay a former employee $280,000 in damages after he called her the n-word multiple times. Now, for the first time you're going to hear exactly what happened because the rant is captured on tape. Here it is.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROB CARMONA: Seriously you guys are alike. Smarter as (EXPLETIVE DELETED) but dumb as (EXPLETIVE DELETED) really. Both of you, do you know what it is, both of you, are (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And I'm not using the term (EXPLETIVE DELETED) derogatory, because sometimes it's good to know when to act like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) but you all act like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) all the time.

BRANDI JOHNSON: I am really offended by that. I don't think that I do.

CARMONA: You can be offended but it's true.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BURNETT: The jury also rejected the defense's argument that using the N-word was culturally acceptable in this case because both the woman who was call it and the man who called it her it are both black. Now, the N-word and when if ever it's appropriate to use is a topic, of course, we've talked extensively about on this program.

OUTFRONT tonight, legal analyst Sunny Hostin, and Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill.

OK. Great to have you both with us. Mark, Brandi Johnson was the plaintiff, the woman you hear there saying I find this offensive. She explained to CNN earlier today why she brought this case against her former boss. Here's Brandi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: He called me the N-word eight times. And I protested, you know, I said I don't appreciate it, you know, I'm offended that you're calling me such. It was a hurtful experience for me. It was extremely hurtful. I was extremely offended.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Jury obviously sided with her it was inappropriate $280,000 she's going to get. Is this the right outcome?

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: You know, it's tough. And hearing it I have a slightly different opinion than when I just read it, right? There's a different texture and context. Language is about context.

Clearly, the boss was inappropriate and clearly the language was offensive and abusive but I don't think it doesn't rise to the level of discriminatory. I don't think that's what the boss was doing.

And on the tape, when she said I'm offended, she didn't say I'm offended that you called me the N-word, she said she was offended because I am not that. He was saying using the N-word --

BURNETT: She was actually disputing that she was acting that way as opposed to it itself.

HILL: I don't think she read it as a racial epithet. I think she was reading it as a descriptor of something that is bad and lazy and inappropriate. Again, there's racism underneath that. But I'm saying I don't think that that's exactly what he intended.

BURNETT: Right. And let me ask you, Sunny, because the --

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN ANALYST: I'm floored.

BURNETT: Go ahead.

HOSTIN: I'm floored and Mark and I are friends and we know each other quite well and I always value your opinion, Mark. But the bottom line is this word can't be retooled. It can't be reshaped. It shouldn't be used by anyone.

And the court I think and the jury spoke rather firmly that when you find a hostile work environment as this jury did, that this conduct, these terms are offensive, objectively. That means across the board. That means they can't be used by black people. They can't be used by white people. They can't be used by purple people. They can't be used by anyone.

And that really is, I think, sort of reflective of where our society is right now. The law's a pendulum, right? And it swings and it's telling us what's appropriate. The N-word needs to be retired. It's not appropriate anywhere in any context.

BURNETT: Can the courts, Mark, decide whether a word is usable or not? I mean, Sonny may be right, it's a totally wrong word to use. But the court saying you can or can't use a given word?

HILL: Well, to the extent it constitutes a hostile work environment. And clearly the boss is being abusive, right? There are a million of other things he could have called her that is equally as abusive.

All I'm saying is that his use of it is not what they had in mind when they came up to this. In other words, if a white boss had said this to her, I think it would have been an entirely different discussion.

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIN: But why is it different?

HILL: Well, because I think context does matter. The N-word is used in different ways in different places.

HOSTIN: And it shouldn't be, though. It's a racial epithet. It's hate speech. It's hateful language.

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIN: It always is. Yes, it always is. There's a bright line there.

HILL: You actually think it's always hate speech always?

HOSTIN: Absolutely.

HILL: When people in everyday speech say, you are my "N," and they use the N-word, you actually think they are engaging in hate speech?

HOSTIN: Absolutely.

HILL: See, I guess, that's -- I find that -- that floors me. We're both on the floor because to me context always matters.

BURNETT: You think there are times it's OK?

HILL: Yes, I mean --

BURNETT: If both people using the word or receiving the word are black to use the word?

HILL: Absolutely. And it's not just because they are black, I'm saying context matters, the meaning underneath the word does matter. I think we need to set objective standards in places like work. I think we should at work never use the N-word, I'm fine with that.

BURNETT: Right.

HILL: But I don't think it rises to the level of discrimination. That's what I'm saying.

And I don't think she's thought so either. I think she got that on tape and realized that she could make some money because there's a bunch of people in the world who would like to believe that black and white are opposite of the same coin and they would love to see the black people can't use the N-word, and she seized on it and got a nice --

HOSTIN: You can't have one set of rules for one racial group and you can't have another set of rules for another racial group when it comes to using a racial epithet. It's objectively offensive and I'm very, very happy that the jury spoke loudly and clearly.

HILL: Oh, that jury.

(LAUGHTER)]

BURNETT: She got $280,000. I want to just make sure we read here, of course, what the defense in terms of what they'll do about it. Diane Krebs, the attorney, released this statement, we're disappointed by the verdict as we don't believe it comports with the full facts applicable to the case. Nevertheless, we respect the jury's decision and the judicial process. We are exploring all our options moving forward, including appeal and look forward to the judicial process taking its entire course. Obviously --

HILL: It's not going to change.

BURNETT: It looks like there will be an appeal, but we'll see. HOSTIN: I think it will be precedent actually.

HILL: I think so, too. And I think it's --

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: I literally think they are ruling away social context in an entire history in America that matters.

HOSTIN: And a hateful history at that.

HILL: Absolutely, it's a hateful history and I don't think it will be erased if we hadn't lived (ph) like this.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I like. I like it when they can so ardently disagree but yet so politely.

HILL: Right. No N-words or anything.

BURNETT: No N-words to use.

All right. Thanks, guys.

Still to come, the IRS continuing to face questions about the possible targeting of political groups. New evidence tonight, a very special OUTFRONT investigation, the truth about the IRS is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our seventh story OUTFRONT: new evidence that both sides had it wrong on the IRS scandal. After nearly four months, the IRS is still facing questions over the targeting of specific political groups and considering tax exempt status.

Tonight, as part of special week-long OUTFRONT investigation, our Dana Bash found that some claims still being made by both Republicans and Democrats are far from the real story.

Dana Bash is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to imagine now, but when the IRS targeting controversy broke in May, Democrats were as eager as Republicans to show their anger.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I've got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: There is no place for this type of activity by the IRS.

BASH: But Republicans went beyond outrage, calling it a politically motivated witch hunt.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: This was the targeting of the president's enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year.

BASH: "Echoes of Watergate," wrote a prominent conservative columnist.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: God bless the Tea Party.

BASH: Many wasted no time blaming the president.

CRUZ: When Richard Nixon tried to use the IRS to target political enemies, it was wrong, and when the Obama administration does it, it's still wrong.

BASH: But was it really politically motivated?

Well, after more than a dozen public hearings, 20 plus transcribed interviews with IRS employees, the answer is no.

(on camera): Was there targeting? Yes. Was there incompetence? Yes. But was this an effort by the president to silence his opponents?

So far, congressional investigators in both parties have found no evidence of that.

ISSA: Do you know of anyone that you would say in your opinion had political motives in the role of treating Tea Party groups?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I do not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir.

BASH: By Republicans weren't the only ones to jump to conclusions. The White House did, too, saying from the start, Tea Partying happened far from Washington, at the IRS tax-exempt headquarters in Cincinnati.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There were line employees who improperly targeted conservative groups.

BASH (voice-over): Was it just line employees in Cincinnati? Again, the answer is no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you and other people in the Cincinnati office feel that they were being unfairly blamed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt like a nuclear strike. I felt they were blaming us.

BASH: But is this a phony scandal as the president now calls it?

OBAMA: With this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals --

BASH: That answer is also no. IRS employees did make a lot of mistakes.

(on camera): To qualify for tax exempt status, a group must engage in social welfare, not politics. To find that out, though, IRS employees used inappropriate tactics like screening based on political affiliation, unnecessarily delays and unfair questions like the names of their donors.

(voice-over): It turns out, the IRS didn't just screen for conservatives but liberal groups, too, using terms progressive, medical marijuana, even blue as in blue states. Democrats lashed out at the IRS inspector general for leaving that out of the report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a serious mistake, and I think the Republicans took advantage of that by claiming there was some kind of enemies list of the White House.

BASH: In fact, from the start, top IRS officials made things worse in a clumsy way they handled the problem. Misleading Congress is never a good move.

DOUGLAS SHULMAN, FORMER IRS CHIEF: There's absolutely no targeting.

BASH: When IRS chief Douglas Shulman said that in 2012, he knew IRS targeting happened.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Come on, Mr. Shulman, I mean, help us help the taxpayers. I say two words, just two, two, two -- truth and trust.

BASH: IRS tax-exempt division had Lois Lerner also neglected to tell congressional investors she knew about IRS targeting back in 2011 and knew it was a problem.

In these e-mails from March of 2012 obtained by CNN, Lerner was scrambling for information internally about the targeting, saying, quote, "we're going to get cream." Yet, Lerner is still invoking her Fifth Amendment right to explain why she kept it from Congress.

LOIS LERNER, IRS: I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws.

ISSA: The witness and counsel are dismissed.

BASH: That was three-plus months ago. Now, the congressional investigation itself seems more political than the allegations of IRS wrongdoing, the top Democrat trying to prematurely end the investigation.

CUMMINGS: Based upon everything I've seen, the case is solved.

BASH: And despite no evidence, the top Republican refusing to let go of suggestions IRS targeting was politically motivated, right after telling us this.

ISSA: I never said it came out of the office of the president or his campaign. What I said is it comes out of Washington.

BASH: Darrell Issa still wouldn't let the president off the hook.

(on camera): Do you think based on what you know now, that the White House simply was not involved?

ISSA: For years, the president bashed the Tea Party groups. He was very public against these groups.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Now, Dana, here's I guess the question. People have a lot of -- they wonder is this over, right? Is this still an on going investigation?

BASH: It is. It is very much ongoing. I'm told they had one interview a week during the congressional recess so they have been going. Even though Congress hasn't been in town, the staff has been hard at work. I've been told they have not works a plan to interview some of the most senior IRS officials dealing with the tax exempt issue.

So, this is definitely going on, even though we don't exactly think it will end up where some thought it would be, in terms of it being political, but we expect a report out of the committee as to what happened sometime this year.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Dana, thank you very much.

We're going to have much more as our series continues as the truth about the IRS. Tomorrow night, our OUTFRONT investigation continues.

Tonight, though, "AC360" starts now.