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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Obama Halts Plan To Strike Syria; Can The U.S. Trust Putin?; Missouri Versus Feds Over Gun Control; Newlywed Accused of Pushing Husband Off Cliff; Drunk Driver: "I Killed a Man"; Apple Unveils Two New iPhones; Interview with Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia
Aired September 10, 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 most important speech of President Obama's second term, convincing an extremely skeptical nation that action on Syria is necessary now. We count down to that speech.
Plus, they were married for a week and then the husband found dead in the bottom of a cliff. What police say happened to his wife.
And Apple launches two new iPhones today. We're going to give you a first look at that. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the president puts a halt on his own plan. President Obama addresses the nation tonight. He was going to make the case for striking Syria, but his plan has changed rather dramatically in the past 24 hours. From striking to not striking, just like that.
Jim Acosta is at the White House where, of course, the president is getting ready for this crucial address to the United States. Jim, you have new reporting on what we're going to hear tonight.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. You just talked about some of the dramatic changes that have taken place over the last 24 hours. You are going to hear that reflected in the president's speech. I just finished talking with a White House official who talked about the four themes that you're going to be hearing in the president's address to the nation at 9:00 Eastern.
In just a couple hours from now, he is going to first explain why Syria is in the national interests. The official goes on to say, second, you're going to hear the president talk about why it is in the national interests for Assad to be held accountable for that chemical weapons attack on August 21st.
Then the military response that's the third theme of the speech, it is going to be basically about how the president is going to say this is limited in duration and scope. This is not going to be another Iraq or Syria. And then finally and perhaps most importantly, Erin, the fourth theme is what they're calling a diplomatic opportunity.
This is obviously about the Russian proposal for Syria to give up its chemical weapons. The president wants to talk about that. The president wants to talk about that to explain to the American people that he is putting the option for military force to the side for just a moment to pursue the diplomatic option.
ACOSTA (voice-over): After a fast paced 24 hours on Syria, administration officials say President Obama's big speech to the nation tonight will put diplomacy back on the table. So today, he was up on Capitol Hill, telling lawmaker what administration officials told CNN, that there is now less pressure for Congress to authorize military force against Syria.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: It is important we do this well, not quickly.
ACOSTA: That's because the world has changed, since Secretary of State John Kerry's seemingly impromptu comments calling on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to give up his chemical weapons. A remark Russia found too tempting to pass up.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Turn it over, all of it, without delay.
ACOSTA: According to a senior administration official, after Kerry opened the door to a diplomatic solution, he hopped on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who came back with a proposal for Syria to allow its chemical weapons to be destroyed. The Russian plan was then batted back and forth between the White House and State Department before the president decided to give it a chance.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It is a potentially positive development.
ACOSTA: Then official said the U.S. and Russia had been quietly discussing Syria stockpiles for nearly a year, adding that it even came up between Presidents Obama and Putin at the G20 Summit last week.
KERRY: We challenge the regime to turn them over to the secure control of the international community so that they can be destroyed.
ACOSTA: After Kerry's comments were initially described yesterday as off the cuff, he is now owning his remarks and warning members of Congress, the plan to disarm Syria only works if the threat of military action is real.
KERRY: A lot of people say nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging.
ACOSTA: According to the Russian news agency, Interfax, Syria is now willing to disclose the location of its stockpiles and join international agreements barring chemical weapons use. But at a hearing, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cautioned what could happen if Assad blows this opportunity.
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We will be back here, revisiting this issue at some point. The next time we revisit this, it may well be about direct American casualties and the potential security of this country.
ACOSTA: One final thing the president will be talking about in his speech tonight, while he is calling for a delay when it comes to military action, it is not in the words of one White House official, an indefinite delay. That was the message he was spreading up on Capitol Hill with lawmakers informing them that he does not see this as something that can last forever for the Syrians that they have to act next and act soon -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much. We're going to be talking about the time line of this because obviously that is crucial and we have developments on that front tonight.
I want to get to our second story OUTFRONT, though, and that is trusting Putin because is this bet on Vladimir Putin giving who has given the U.S. the bird on issues like Edward Snowed, the administration's best bet?
CNN's Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT tonight. Now Jim, the White House has embraced the idea of Syria giving up chemical weapons, at least publicly. The idea obviously initially came from Russia. Now John Kerry, as you know, scoffed at it yesterday dismissing it as a joke saying it can't be done obviously. Is the president putting himself in a position where he is left with, you're trusting one guy that guy is Vladimir Putin?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Vladimir Putin and Bashar Al-Assad as it turned out the two men who arguably started the civil war in Syria and have stood in the way of every peaceful attempt to end it. That's why I think you're hearing deep skepticism from even inside the administration.
I spoke to one U.S. official today and he said, quote, "There is grudging recognition. You can't ignore this plan, but it doesn't mean we'll accept the terms." So the Obama administration in a position now, forced again by Putin and Russia where they at left have to look at this or they're accused of dismissing diplomacy.
But at the same time, as you heard the president and the White House saying today, they're going to keep this authorization of force alive and they say that will only strengthen diplomacy.
BURNETT: Right. And of course, the Russians and the Syrians, you have to take the military option off the table for to us negotiate so obviously you can see how this could go nowhere possibly. But you say, there's skepticism within the White House, obviously it could mean a whole different. When I say different, I guess I'm saying bigger engagement.
The Pentagon has estimated it take 75,000 troops just to secure the chemical weapons in Syria. So is it possible that this plan, instead of removing a strike and removing a military option, actually makes one and a much more involved one a lot more likely for the United States? SCIUTTO: Well, it is possible. I did a lot of looking into this today as to exactly how big a job this would be to get these weapons out of Syria. They have a thousand tons of chemical weapons at six known sites, many more unknown sites. We know that over the last couple of weeks and probably longer they've been distributed around the country. Not only because of the civil war but the looming threat of American attacks.
Those are a lot, a lot of whackamo coming forward if this plan does go through. You know, why this plan? I'll tell you, I spent some time in government. One thing I learned is that making policy is probably like making legislation, right. It is not pretty. The administration likes to say that this is where they wanted to be when Secretary Kerry made those comments yesterday. That was part of a broader plan. I heard a lot of surprise when that comment came through. I think there's some scrambling going on here.
BURNETT: All right, thank very much to Jim Sciutto. We're going to talk about that later in the hour. He talked about so many unknown sites. Where are these weapons? We have an OUTFRONT investigation on that.
But now our third story, OUTFRONT, another developing story tonight, which is the national showdown over guns. Across the United States there is a growing movement against gun control laws. In the state of Colorado, a recall vote is underway to oust two prominent Democratic state senators who had backed some of the toughest gun control laws in the country.
Missouri tonight on the verge, get this, of becoming the first state to make it a crime for federal agents to enforce federal gun laws. You may scratch your head at that one but let me explain. That means it would be a crime to enforce things like background checks. George Howell is OUTFRONT.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The way this gun owner sees it, the ongoing debate over the second amendment and states' rights all come down to Missouri.
KEVIN JAMISON, NRA STATE AFFILIATE PRESIDENT: There are people saying that this is the same as seceding from the union. And Missouri did not secede from the union in 1868 and it does not do so bypassing this law.
HOWELL: It is called House Bill 436, a proposal that would essentially nullify federal gun control laws. Technically, that could allow a citizen to own a machine gun in Missouri. The controversial bill would put federal agents in jeopardy of legal action if they try to enforce the laws, and make it illegal to publish the name and addresses of firearm owners.
The legislation already passed once due to Republican-led House and Senate. Only to be vetoed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon who says it violates the U.S. constitution. Lawmakers vote again this week, this time, on whether or not to override the governor's veto. The author of the bill is hopeful.
DOUG FUNDERBURK (R), MISSOURI STATE HOUSE: This bill doesn't put one new gun on the street. It doesn't broaden anyone's scope or ability to purchase a firearm. It doesn't even advocate the ownership of firearm. It strictly says that Missouri will protect the second amendment rights of Missourians.
HOWELL: But opponents worry such a law could all but end any joint operations between local and federal law enforcement agencies when it come to taking guns off the streets. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has been one of the most vocal opponents.
SAM DOTSON, ST. LOUIS POLICE CHIEF: This bill, if the legislature overrides the governor's veto would preclude us from enforcing those laws. Basically putting a sign on Missouri that says, OK, criminals, it is OK to come to Missouri. We won't prosecute to the fullest extent of the law like Illinois, Kansas, like every other state in the union.
HOWELL (on camera): What do you say to people who believe this bill goes too far?
JAMISON: I don't think it goes too far. I don't think it go that far at all. I don't think it will have that much impact on life as we know it, on law enforcement as we know it.
HOWELL (voice-over): Jamison believes the proposed law sends a message.
JAMISON: A warning to the federal government not to overstep its bounds and not to interfere with the second amendment rights of Missourians. For Erin Burnett OUTFRONT, George Howell, Carney, Missouri.
BURNETT: A pretty incredible story. We look forward to your feedback on it.
Still to come, complete coverage of the president's speech tonight on Syria. Plus, a week after his wedding a man dies falling to his death off a cliff. The wife's story doesn't add up, according to police.
Then the person who confessed on video who killed a man while driving drunk appears in court, but things didn't go as planned.
And today Apple unveiled two new iPhones and there was something very, very strange about one of them. All the details ahead.
BURNETT: Our fourth story, OUTFRONT, a newlywed accused of murdering her husband. Tonight prosecutor say a 22-year-old woman who was having second thoughts about getting married pushed her husband off a cliff at a national park in Montana and he died. Now Jordan Lynn Graham is facing second-degree murder charges after the incident. That incident occurred just a week after they were married.
Now Casey Wian is OUTFRONT covering the story. Casey, I mean, it is a strange story, a bizarre story. What did she tell police about what happened in that cliff in Montana? I know this happened in July and her story has shifted.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It certainly has, Erin. Actually she spoke with the FBI which investigated this case because it happened in Glacier National Park. What she told them is that she was on a walk with her husband of eight days, Cody Johnson in Glacier National Park. The two had been arguing. The argument continued. It escalated.
At one point, Cody Johnson grabbed Graham's arm. She pulled her arm away, and then let me read you this passage from that FBI affidavit. Graham stated she could have just walked away, but due to her anger, she pushed Johnson with both hands in the back and as a result, he fell face first off of that cliff."
Now, his body was not found for another three days. And Jordan Graham was actually the person who told park rangers where to find that body. We reached out to her federal public defender to see if they would comment on how they may defend this case. They would not tell us anything, Erin.
BURNETT: And Casey, what have you learned about the relationship between these two? I know we know they had been married a week. But my understanding is that there had been maybe some of problems right before that wedding.
WIAN: Right. What we have is information again from that FBI special agent's affidavit. She was doing an e-mail conversation with a friend of hers who was only identified by the initials K.N.
Here's part of what she said. "Oh, well, I'm about to talk to him."
K.N. responded, "I'll pray for you guys."
Graham then responded, "But dead serious, if you don't hear from me at all again tonight, something happened."
Clearly, as we know now, Erin, something did happen and it resulted in the death of a young man who had only been married for eight days.
BURNETT: So many more questions on this story. Casey Wian, thank you for reporting on that story for us.
Now our fifth story OUTFRONT, drunk driver's plea. You may remember this. We told you about this story, about the man who confessed in a video online that he killed a man while driving drunk.
His name is Matthew Cordle. He is 22 years old and he appeared in court today. But things didn't go as planned. The hearing came to a sudden halt over accusations that Cordle was trying to get special treatment, perhaps because of this rather poignant video in which he said I did this and I intend on taking full responsibility for it. OUTFRONT tonight, Pamela Brown out front in Ohio.
MATTHEW CORDLE, DRUNK DRIVER: I killed a man.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matthew Cordle's YouTube video confession where he admits to killing 61-year-old Vincent Canzotti (ph) in a drunk driving accident has gone viral, viewed more than a million time. But his first court appearance didn't go exactly as planned.
JUDGE JULIE LYNCH, FRANKLIN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS: Sir, I'm sorry you all came. I'm sorry you all came to this whole big thing, but there is nothing unusual. There's no reason to be arraigned here today.
BROWN (voice-over): Had Cordle pleaded guilty, everything might have gone differently. But Judge Julie Lynch says she was thrown for a loop when he changed his plea from guilty to not guilty.
LYNCH: We are not going to take an arraignment. Have somebody run downstairs, pick a new judge so that he can go get his sentence from another judge.
BROWN (voice-over): She says Cordle doesn't deserve special treatment. He should come back tomorrow on a regularly scheduled day for arraignments. Cordle was officially charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and driving under the influence just before he turned himself in Monday.
BROWN: Had Matt not gone at all (inaudible) that video, would you still have requested for the arraignment today?
MARTIN MIDIAN, MATTHEW CORDLE'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: (Inaudible), George (ph).
Had that not happened, we probably would have been, circumstances would have been far different.
BROWN: But you said you didn't want to give him special treatment. So why would you want to expedite the process today?
MIDIAN: For the victim's family. They want closure.
BROWN: Cordle's attorney says his client has not spoken to Canzotti's (ph) family but wants to apologize to them in person. Cordle is expected to enter a not guilty plea on Wednesday and then he is expected to turn right back around and enter a guilty plea once a sentencing judge is assigned to his case. For OUTFRONT, Pamela Brown, Columbus.
BURNETT: Thanks to Pamela.
And still to come, our complete coverage of the president's speech tonight in Syria as he is getting ready to address the nation. He might have a deal (inaudible) to give up chemical weapons.
And also we'll talk about the very latest on Apple. They've come out with some new phones today. Two new phones. Richard Quest on deck to show them to you. And you know what, he's a pretty skeptical guy.
BURNETT: Our sixth story OUTFRONT, money and power: the iPhone. So Apple unveiled not one but two new iPhones today. They knew they needed to come out with something special. So first it was the 5s that you see there, a high-end device. Look at those colors, see, not the traditional white and black. This gold thing, silver and some kind of a gray chromy, something like that, I don't know.
Second, the 5c, a $99 device. More on that crucial number in a second, which is intended for emerging markets where the growth is. Apple is betting huge on these moves because the iPhone is under pressure. The iPhone's share of the smartphone market was 24 percent in 2011. OK? That was pretty recent, right? Last quarter it was only 14 percent. Talk about a plunge.
Android dominates the market with 79 percent. Richard Quest is out front.
All right. Now here's the question. The bottom line (inaudible), they say we know we have to do something. We're not going to do one iPhone, we're going to do two iPhones.
Is this enough to turn that market share around?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This is a difference in strategy. There are two types of people they are going for very deliberately. You have the 5s, which is for the mature markets where people will upgrade from earlier models.
And then you have the 5c. And the C really, we can break it down into three things. It's the C for cheaper, it's the C for color, and it is the C for China. And that's why it is so important, because this is --
BURNETT: I like those colors. I don't like this gold chromy thing.
QUEST: You can have one of those as well. But it gives them the access to these emerging markets where there is not the disposable income to buy the more expensive model.
BURNETT: So look at your phone. It is all cracked and broken like every iPhone I've seen.
Are you going to upgrade?
QUEST: Well, that's the problem. You see, mine is a casualty of war. And the question is whether or not as a result of this, does the fact that I can now use this -- look at the finger.
BURNETT: (Inaudible) the finger touch --
QUEST: The finger is what it is all about. Look at the finger, the ability to do this and open it up by using your fingerprint.
Will that be enough for people to spend the extra money?
And don't be fooled by this idea of a cheaper one with the 5c.
BURNETT: It is supposed to be cheaper. It says $99. But you tell me --
QUEST: $99 -- not a lie, an obfuscation.
BURNETT: An obfuscation, OK.
QUEST: $99 --
BURNETT: What is it obfuscating?
QUEST: See if you can spell it. At $99, if you go with a contract. But if you want to buy it straight out, it is over $500. So the discrepancy between 5c and the 5s gets closer. The two get closer and closer.
Will this be enough? This is incremental. It is not quantum.
BURNETT: And they need quantum. All right. Thank you very much. Richard Quest.
Will you replace your broken, scarred iPhone with a new one? Let us know. Are you going to get a 5s?
OUTFRONT next, a preview of tonight's speech from the White House. It is the most important of the president's second term. And the president has to make a case even though he's changed his mind about Syria.
And Syria says it will turn its chemical weapons over as part of a deal brokered by Russia. That means trusting Putin and Assad.
And we have news just coming in on Diana Nyad. The 64-year-old who became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark tank. Some people are saying she didn't actually do it fair and square. She is responding right now. That is next.
BURNETT: Just in, long distance swimmer Diana Nyad, the woman who swam from Florida to Cuba in 53 hours, is defending herself at this moment against allegations of cheating.
The 64-year-old answering questions from members of the Marathon Swimmers Forum and International Swimming Hall of Fame who questioned how she did it. What she did was swim 100 miles in about 53 hours. At one point during the swim, some of the critics are saying, look, her speed suddenly doubled, and they're saying that she could have had help.
John Zarrella has been listening in on this conference call Nyad is holding, where she is addressing her critics directly.
And, obviously, John, you just jumped off to give us this update. What did she say?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Erin, there are at least 20 people on this conference call, most of them marathon swimmers themselves, and ultimately, the people who are going to have to decide the legitimacy of her swim.
She did have an opportunity to make opening remarks. During those opening remarks, she said, "I never, ever grabbed on to the boat. I never, ever got into the boat. I would never, we would never sully our reputations. We never had any aid from flotation or for forward motion."
And she said, "We had, we did this in a squeaky clean, ethical fashion." And then she said, "I swam and made it from the rocks of Cuba to the shores of Key West."
She also welcomed this forum and said, she wanted this to be complete transparency. The question and answer period is just now beginning, and that could last up to two or three hours.
BURNETT: Wow. And I know, John, you want to get back on that -- on that call. Let me ask you quickly, because some people were surprised, you know, I mean, even the president of the United States. There was a tweet about her and listening to your dreams and pursuing them.
Who are the people questioning her? Are they perceived as sort of sour works? Or are they, you know, the real deal?
ZARRELLA: No, you know, we've talked to some of them already. And I asked them flat out. Listen, what is the story here? Are you going to be able to accept Diana Nyad if all of this come out tonight during this conference call?
And they said, listen. Nothing but the best for Diana Nyad. We just want to know how she did it. We want a little more clarity to how she did it -- the things that you raised, Erin. The thing about the doubling of the speed. There was a period also where she took no fluids and no food for seven and a half hours.
And some of these marathon swimmers are saying, that doesn't add up. That never happens.
So, those are the things they want clarified. And they said, then, no problem. We'll go ahead and ratify this, as long as we're satisfied with the answers.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, John Zarrella. And John, of course, is going to get right back on that call. Just so many crucial questions raise there.
I want to get back to our special coverage of the president's address on Syria. In just an hour and a half from now, he will make his case to the American people, a case that has changed dramatically in the past 24 hours. The president now says diplomacy, not strikes, could be the way to go.
And in another stunning about face, Syria, of course, is now saying it is actually on board with the plan, willing to turn over its chemical weapons to the international communicate.
But the devil is in the details. And there are some very serious devils here.
Jessica Yellin and John King join me.
John, let me start with you.
The president said he was going to strike. Then, he asked Congress to vote. Now he seems to be tentatively embracing a deal that doesn't involve striking actually brings in the U.N. Weapons inspectors could be involved. Time could be involved.
So, how much time?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's the big question. Erin, I just finished a conversation with a senior administration official. And the president will not give a time tonight. And he met with senators today and he told them, he wants them to keep working drafting new resolutions that would incorporate this diplomatic proposal, but he is not even in a rush for them to vote right now. He'd rather have them just work on the drafts and work with the White House on that.
Why no time just yet? Because they're waiting for Secretary Kerry to go to Geneva, to sit down with the Russian foreign minister. That will be the first face-to-face meeting. And from there, Secretary Kerry will report back to the president whether he thinks the Russians and through Russians, the Syrians are serious about this.
Then if they are serious, you're drafting a U.N. resolution and we would be talking weeks, possibly months if you come up with the weapons inspections protocol.
If Secretary Kerry is convinced they're not serious, then we could be back to a scenario the president asking Congress to vote within days.
BURNETT: Wow. So, obviously, two very different scenarios today.
And, Jessica, it does seem like the administration has been falling all over itself. There has been so much confusion, conflicting messages, backtracking.
Did the president expect the level of backlash he got on Syria that seems to have forced him into this readjustment?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he, by all accounts, up on the Hill and even some acknowledgement by those closest to him, he made a mistake by letting it to go Congress, saying he's going to go to Congress, and then leaving town and going away to Russia and letting this simmer for so long.
At this point, he just has to push ahead and, boy, do you feel bad for his speechwriters today, because they have a lot of whiplash to deal with.
At this point, what they're dealing is making a dual case. One, on the one hand for diplomacy, as John points out, which could stretch out for months. On the other hand, they will make the case that the president wants them to continue to push forward with the military threat because they argue, none of this diplomacy would be working if it weren't for a credible threat on the table.
So, tonight, you will still hear the president argue that the chemical weapons remain a real threat to the United States and our national interests and that we still have a reason to potentially engage with, to intervene in Syria and we have to take that seriously.
BURNETT: And, John, just quickly before we go. You know, what do you is going to happen here? Will there ever be a vote in Congress?
KING: That's a great question. And I think it really depends on the meeting Secretary Kerry has with Foreign Minister Lavrov.
If you have a diplomatic proposal going forward, will there be a vote in Congress? Yes. The question is, what will they vote on?
KING: If they believe they have a process in the United Nations, you'll get a vote on the resolution that embraces that. If it all collapses with the Russians and the Syrians, then you get to, will they authorize military strikes, period?
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to John and Jessica.
And I want to bring in a person whose vote is going to matter a lot, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. He sits on the Armed Services Committee, met with the president today.
And, Senator, did he say anything to you that moved the needle with regard to Syria?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well, not to move the needle for me with an imminent strike, or I could support an imminent strike. I just don't believe that's a direction we should be going right now, Erin.
But what he did say -- first of all, I applaud the president for coming to Congress and getting our input. I really do. I think it's the right move. I think he is listening. I don't think he or anybody else wants war or a strike if we can avoid it. With that being said, there was a better way. Myself and Heidi Heitkamp last week, we just couldn't buy that there was an imminent threat to the United States of America. And it didn't get to that level for us to vote for an imminent strike.
But yet, we wanted to have an answer. There had to be better way.
So, we said that should not, if chemical weapons is what's got us to the brink, Erin, should we find a way to secure those weapons and take them off the shelf, if you will? So they'll never be used on anybody again. And that's what we came one, with asking Assad, not asking but basically saying, you have 45 days to sign up with this resolution, that you will join the chemical weapon commission. Then if you don't, the president has the ability and basically, the law behind him to do what he has to do to protect the country.
BURNETT: You know, and it's interesting plan. It seems like, honestly, you know, Senator, of course, he is going along with a lot of your plan now that he's saying he would go along with getting rid of the chemical weapons. But the logistics of that, as you know, are so difficult.
BURNETT: Not only did John Kerry dismiss it as a joke yesterday. Now, obviously, he is more serious about it. But Bashar al Assad, when he spoke to Charlie Rose in an interview wouldn't even confirm whether Syria has chemical weapons. And now, of course, he says he'll hand them over.
So, I mean, you know, there's all these sites, six sites, so many unknown sites. I mean, this really -- doesn't this mean you have to trust Bashar al Assad and Vladimir Putin, and isn't that a bad position to be in?
MANCHIN: The position is to allow the experts, the Chemical Weapons Commission has experts. They have people. There is a sequence and chronological order that they'll have to go through.
We have done this, 191 countries have signed this Chemical Weapons Commission. That's all we're saying. It is already in place.
So, this puts them in, international really, light, if you will. Everyone is starting to pick hole and say this won't happen and that won't happen. What we know that wouldn't happen if there was a direct strike from the United States, I truly believe the reaction was much greater for us to take a risk than what the inaction would be right now. And I always have believed that we should be moving down a diplomatic course.
BURNETT: Are you worried, though, that this is going to fail because of Vladimir Putin? I mean, you know, obviously, right, he's talked about this. Look, we want to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons. We have Syria onboard.
BURNETT: But he's put this caveat in there that's crucial. We will only do this if the United States takes the military option 100 percent off the table.
Here is Vladimir Putin today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): You can't really ask Syria or any other country to disarm unilaterally while military action against it is being contemplated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, obviously, the United States will not agree to that, right?
MANCHIN: Well, we should not agree to that. That doesn't make sense. We're not asking to disarm unilaterally. Just get rid of the chemical weapons which 191 countries have said this they won't produce, they won't use and are destroying.
That's not unilateral disarmament. And I think that's -- first of all, Russia, Syria, or none of these players should be negotiating. It should be the Chemical Weapons Commission which is what we've identified, and we're hoping that's diplomacy that our country goes down. I think it will work.
BURNETT: One final question for you, Senator. Here's what Secretary of State John Kerry said today about the repercussions of actions in Syria. This goes to the heart of what the American people care about. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're not going into Syria. I don't see any route by which we slide into Syria. I don't see the slippery slope. People say you're going to get dragged in. I do not see that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He doesn't see it but a lot of people. Of course, boots on the ground, Senator Manchin. The Pentagon has said it would take 75,000 troops to secure Syria's chemical weapons stockpile if it went that way. Obviously, there's a civil war, 100,000 people have been killed.
MANCHIN: Erin, let me --
BURNETT: Can you guarantee there's not going to be boots on the ground?
MANCHIN: There is no guarantee.
And the bottom line is this, what we do know, what my constituents in West Virginia, common sense Americans can say, if money or military might would have changed the direction of that part of the world, we would have changed it by now. $1.6 trillion, we've spent, been there 12 years, lost thousands of lives. We don't want to go down this road again or even the appearance of going down the road again.
The other thing is, Erin, a super power is more than just super military might that you can use whenever you want to, to show the rest of the world how strong. It takes super resistance, super restraint, it takes super negotiating, super diplomacy, most importantly, super humanitarian aid when needed. That's what we're best at.
And I think, and I really truly think in the last 24 hours, we're moving in that direction. I'm very pleased. I wasn't comfortable last week and I know we had to have an option. Heidi Heitkamp wasn't comfortable. We worked together. We put something forward. We hope they improve on it and make it better then.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Manchin, thank you very much.
Of course, interesting, he said, the bottom line -- nobody can guarantee there won't be boots on the ground, an important thought for Americans.
Still to come, 1,000 metric tons of poison, sarin gas and nerve agents. So, where exactly is Syria's poison trove hidden? If the whole deal is going to be, that those weapons get handed over, knowing where they are is crucial. A special OUTFRONT report.
And a countdown to the most important speech of the president's second term. The change of tune has been dramatic. Is there a precedent in American history for this?
BURNETT: All right. I want to check with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "AC360".
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Erin.
Yes, obviously, as you've been covering, in a little more than an hour, the president will address the American people and make his case. What exactly he will make the case for, possibly against remain to be seen. Some details are emerging. Our panel joins us to preview the presidential address.
We'll also talk about the politics of Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, one of the architects of alternative legislation tonight, and the pragmatic realities of trying to do a deal in the middle of a war zone to eliminate Syria's chemical stockpiles. Is that even possible? We'll talk to David Kay, former chief weapons inspector in Iraq. He joins me.
A lot more at the top of the hour, Erin.
BURNETT: That's just the crucial question.
All right. Well, we'll see Anderson in just a few minutes.
But, obviously, it is a crucial moment for the president tonight. He is going to be making his case to the American public on Syria in what could be the biggest challenge of his presidency.
OUTFRONT tonight, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and "New York Times" op-ed columnist Nick Kristof, who spent a lot of time in Syria.
All right. Great to have both of you.
So, Doug, let me start with you. The president said essentially, I know that there is all this rhetoric around these words. But he threatened war. I'm going to strike. And then the United States is not striking at all.
Is he in uncharted waters in terms of how he's handled this as president?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, Theodore Roosevelt, speak loudly and carry a big stick. Our big stick is the military and he spoke very loudly. But he is in uncharted waters now.
We're moving around. I think the president tonight has to bring some clarity to what's happening. People are very confused. One day, it seems like we're about to go to war. Then we're not. We're having a vote in the Senate and we're not. This might be a day, it might be a week, it might be a month.
Hopefully, he can realign his administration's posture tonight.
BURNETT: I know, Nick, you have spent a lot of time there. You've covered this a lot.
You know, you're someone who talked well about the president when you think he deserved it. You said this has not been his finest hour.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: No. I think there have been a lot of zigs and zags here. I think I would compare him not so much to Teddy Roosevelt as to hamlet. And hamlet to foreign policy is not ideal.
In general, I think he has been pretty good in foreign policy. But in Syria, you know, for two and a half years, he largely dropped the ball and then accidentally drew this red line. Didn't seem to plan what would happen when it was crossed, then went to Congress, apparently miscalculated the politics of it.
I mean, this has not been a proud era, a proud moment for the president.
BURNETT: Now, Doug, what does this mean for his credibility? Because, you know, there are critics out there. And not all of them are coming from the right. But people are saying, look, this is an important moment and when you miss a moment like this, this taints your credibility. This hurts your ability to get things done.
Is that too dramatic of a statement?
BRINKLEY: It's a little bit dramatic. We don't know everything that's occurred and we don't know what Obama and Putin said together.
You remember John F. Kennedy in '61 went and saw Khrushchev. Khrushchev threatened him about Berlin. Kennedy looked embarrassed. The wall started going up.
Kennedy looked weak and then he went to Berlin and gave that speech and in turn the wall around to make the rest of the world think the Soviets were about totalitarianism.
The president has had a moral outrage about these chemical weapons and he was right to blow the whistle. The world is starting to look. So, we're in the middle of this right now. And I think we have to be careful not to prejudge whether the president can pull a diplomatic rabbit out of the hat or not here.
BURNETT: And, Nick, how does he make the case? I understand there is a moral case, right? How do you make the case for national security when John Kerry himself in testimony said that the Syrian regime was used for chemical weapons 14 times? That means the red line crossed 14 times. This time worse than others but still 14 times.
And then you hear about atrocities happening in other places all the time in Africa with children.
Why should the American people say, OK, now, we should act and take this risk now?
KRISTOF: I think there are a couple points one can make. One, there are real risks of intervening, real risks of not intervening. One is that neighboring countries including Jordan might simply collapse. That would be calamity for the region. And I think that also, there is something of real value in reinforcing an international norm against the use of chemical weapons. Terrible things are happening by conventional wars. The WMD in Syria is AK-47, but at the end of day there is something special about chemical weapons.
BURNETT: Killing is killing is actually I believe Bashar al-Assad said to Charlie Rose.
KRISTOF: Yes, but when you do move toward chemical weapons, they are so indiscriminate, they can change the ball game, and I think that reinforcing that is something that he can argue really is something that is worth doing.
BURNETT: Now, Doug, when you talk about a presidential address in primetime at 9:00 p.m. When he announced he was going to do this, it was when he was going to justify a strike. Now, he stuck with this primetime address when he actually isn't trying to justify strike.
BRINKLEY: True. BURNETT: When you look in the history of presidential addresses, is this an address that makes sense or is this an address that he actually regrets having to make because he doesn't have a clear cut, tough case to make tonight?
BRINKLEY: I don't think he regrets it but doesn't have the tough case to make. I think it just has to be a realignment to maybe try to educate the American people. We're a very nosey culture. He was all over yesterday on the television shows. I don't think we're getting big news --
BURNETT: Miley Cyrus yesterday was 12 times more popular than Syria.
BRINKLEY: Well, that's what I'm saying. Can I make one point? Ronald Reagan in 1983, we lost, you know, 260 Marines in Lebanon and everybody said how awful, Reagan didn't go in and strike. He didn't do something quickly.
But Regan he looks good in history. He just said, look, we can always have a war in the Middle East and he got out yet.
So, I think we've got to be careful to play judge how the president is going to look in history just by the day by day clock of this thing. It could turn out in the end that he is seen as somebody who blew a whistle on chemical weapons, got a deal with Russia that was sustainable. I don't trust Putin, I don't trust Assad, but it's possible.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much. We appreciate you both taking the time tonight on this important speech.
Now, you know, Syria has said, right, it's willing to turn chemical weapons over with a lot of conditions. But what will it take? Where are those weapons? And when you walk into a weapons stockpile room in Syria, what do you find?
We have a special report, next.
BURNETT: So, the big question of the hour is this one: what will it take to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons stockpile? You know, John Kerry dismissed it as a joke, something you couldn't do. But now, they are taking it seriously.
Experts believe the Assad regime has more than 1,000 tons of chemical warfare agents. That is a lot, and it includes sulfur, mustard and the deadly sarin nerve gas. Finding the chemical weapons sites and accounting for them is a major challenge because the international community only knows where some of them are.
OUTFRONT tonight, Tom Foreman in Washington with Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, who live in Syria for three years as a military attache.
So, Tom, I guess, to start off to you two. How difficult is this? TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Erin, this is like a flying car. Great idea but in execution it gets complicated and here is why -- intelligence sources, some in Congress, some in the White House, obviously, say, look, we know where it's all made. We know where it's all stored, but if they really want to get at this stuff, they're going to have to have cooperation from the Syrians.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Because much of the stuff has been moved. We think we know where it was, but they had 10 days to put it into secure locations, destroy some of it, or get it to units that need it.
FOREMAN: So if we go to a location, for example where we expect to find barrels and barrels and barrels of chemical weapons and in that location, we find a fraction of it, U.S. forces or U.N. forces find a fraction of it, what happens?
FRANCONA: Well, this is where we get to the inspection regime. You have to take the Syrians words. We're going to say we think there should be this much here. You tell us there is this much here. How do we reconcile that? And they're going to say they destroyed it, they moved it, something.
But now, we're having to get into business of accepting the Syrians word on where chemicals are.
FOREMAN: And, Erin, as you might guess, that very quickly could turn into months and months of new negotiations.
BURNETT: Right, because, of course, you can see why they would, well, not want to tell us where they are for obvious reasons.
But then, Tom and Colonel, I'm curious, what about the basic things? You go in that room, you're missing a lot of them, but you find some of them. And then you have to transport them through a civil war, which includes elements friendly to al Qaeda who would want to take them and use them for nefarious purposes. How the heck do you do that?
FOREMAN: That's exactly right, Erin. You brought up the second big issue here, transportation.
You might want to consolidate all of these in something like a port or an airfield, which you can defend, but these roads are treacherous.
FRANCONA: This is a problem. This stuff is heavy. It has to go by road. You can't fly it.
You've got artillery shells, missile warheads, things that need to go by heavy truck. They're going to be moving over roads through war zones, areas the rebels might control and if the Islamist portion of the rebels know that there are chemical weapons in those trucks, they may just want to take them.
FOREMAN: So, Erin, again, another detail that makes it complicated.
BURNETT: I mean, really complicated, I mean, to use a nice word, right? Impossible might be a word someone else might use.
But you're talking about a country embroiled in a civil war, Colonel. You're talking about, you know, if these Islamist friendly elements were to know that there were chemical weapons going through,
Tom, is there any way to do it in a low-risk way, especially given the Pentagon's estimate right, to actually secure the chemical weapons in Syria would require at first blush 75,000 troops?
FOREMAN: Yes, this is -- a low-risk way.
You know what you're about, Erin, in here -- in a nutshell, we've been talking about all day, security, security, security in a country in a civil war.
What about this colonel? What if you were to come in here and say, we'll send in the U.S. force. They simply surround all these things where they are, keep them away from the army and keep them away from the rebels?
FRANCONA: This sounds good but the United Nations is not going to send U.N. inspection teams or peacekeepers into a non-permissive environment and that's certainly what we have here.
And then you've got the question of how long will they will be there? We have -- there are U.N. teams that have been in Syria for 30 years. Are we looking at that kind of commitment?
FOREMAN: You see the devil in the details here, Erin. Simply put, there is a lot of fate that would have to be put in Syria and in the Russians for any of this to work, at least as we understand it now, because at the moment, they're the architects of this plan such as it is -- Erin.
BURNETT: Pretty incredible especially when you think about the risks and what's at stake for the United States and the world.
Thank you so much, Colonel Francona and, of course, our Tom Foreman.
Thank you so much for watching as we get ready for the president's speech. Of course, tomorrow September 11th we'll be joined by the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee here OUTFRONT.
Right now, it's time for Anderson.
COOPER: Erin, thanks.