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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Government Shutdown; Conservatives Gather in D.C.
Aired October 11, 2013 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Tonight, two words, keep talking. That's what the president is saying, that's what House Speaker John Boehner is saying as they search for a way out of the shutdown mess.
Also tonight, we will show you what Ted Cruz and other GOP hard- liners are saying. And, boy, are they talking. We will take you inside the conservative convention where the Affordable Care Act is compared to slavery and death panels live again.
And, later, there could be new evidence in the death of 17-year- old Kendrick Johnson, that young man right there, found dead upside- down in a rolled-up gym mat. The question is, was it a freak accident or murder and a cover-up? Kendrick Johnson's parents join me.
We begin though tonight with the very latest on talks to end the government shutdown and head off a debt ceiling breach. President Obama met with Senate Republicans this morning at the White House. He also spoke by phone with House Speaker Boehner, who put the House Republican offer on the table. White House spokesman Jay Carney saying both men agreed to keep talking.
He also restated the president's position to broader budget and deficit reduction talks during a shutdown and default threat, prompting this from CNN's Jim Acosta.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You said the position hasn't changed on the shutdown. The position hasn't changed on the debt ceiling. How is that negotiating?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jim, look, the president has had constructive conversations with House and Senate Republicans. He's also had very good conversations with House and Senate Democrats. His position that it's unacceptable to demand a ransom from the American people in return for not defaulting, it's not going to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The question now, what's going to give or maybe who's going to give, who is going to cave? Polling keeps getting worse for the GOP and every day the shutdown affects more and more people.
Dana Bash, Jim Acosta covering it all for us tonight. Let's start with Dana on Capitol Hill.
So, another day of talks between the president and Republicans, still no deal. Are the sides any closer, do we know?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly don't appear that way. I can tell you the House speaker has now left the Capitol, but he did have some dinner on the first floor of the Capitol with some of his -- maybe call it his kitchen cabinet, some of his closest confidantes in the Republican caucus. I think we know for several reasons you can see all the smoke coming out and you could also smell the takeout food, according to our congressional producer Deirdre Walsh, who is down there.
But just because they were here semi-late doesn't mean that there are any real fruitful discussions going on. I can tell you just kind of the vibe that we had last night, which was much more positive than we'd heard in weeks and weeks, has subsided a lot as the day has worn on here. And there has been no real movement between House Republicans and the White House, Anderson.
COOPER: Is it fair to say Senate Republicans are getting impatient with their House colleagues?
BASH: It is fair to say that. I have spoken to several senators on the Republican side who have said, look, we understand the need for John Boehner to continue to press on and try to find some kind of sweet spot with the White House on a debt ceiling increase, and, of course, on a deal to reopen the government.
But they're running out of patience. They feel that maybe they will give him 24 to 48 hours max, and then the Senate which, of course, is a much different place, is much more bipartisan, at least has the potential to be much more bipartisan, it's run by Democrats, they are going to try to work on some other ways out of the mess, and ways that many conservatives on the House side simply won't like.
But they might have no choice, because the deadline is looming. And, as we talked about last night, more and more Republicans are feeling the heat, saying that they have got to reopen this government.
COOPER: And, Jim, the White House says they're making progress, still refuse to negotiate on reopening the government. As you asked, how can they call that progress?
ACOSTA: Well, it's progress because they're talk and they're not using talking points. That's progress in Washington, Anderson. But House Speaker John Boehner and the president did talk on the phone. But the president according to White House officials essentially rejected the House Republican offer to tie a short-term increase in the nation's debt ceiling to future negotiations.
Jay Carney said that would be giving into more ransom. And something interesting that Jay Carney said during that briefing, Anderson, and that is that the White House does not want a six-week- like increase in the nation's debt ceiling because they feel like that will bring this process essentially to the point where the nation might be on the edge of default right around the holiday shopping season. They don't want that. It's a critical time for the economy.
What you heard from the White House today is the president's position is basically the same. He wants clean bills to open up the government, clean bill to raise the nation's debt ceiling. They're not even using the word negotiate at this point, Anderson. They're saying they're talking and they're listening.
But that's an indication I think at this point this White House feels it has the upper hand. They're not looking for white putt of smoke coming out of the Capitol anymore. They're looking for the white flag of surrender.
COOPER: Yes, I noticed Jay Carney using the word conversation as opposed to negotiation when you asked him about that.
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: All right, Jim, thank you. Dana Bash as well, thanks for the updates.
These talks and moderate efforts to rehabilitate the GOP brand are taking place at the same time as an especially influential gathering of hard-liners at the Values Voter Summit today in Washington. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BEN CARSON, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: And I have to tell you, Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way -- it is slavery in a way, because...
CARSON: ... because it is making all of us subservient to the government. And it was never about health care. It was about control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The worse thing since slavery, he said. That's conservative activist Ben Carson, a doctor. Senator Rand Paul also spoke. So did Michele Bachmann, who called Obamacare death care. The real headliner was the leader of the hard-liners, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I'm going to suggest a model for how we turn this country around in the next couple of years. And it is the model that we have been following together for the last couple of months, to stop that train wreck, that disaster, that nightmare that is Obamacare.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Both the line and the position very popular in the room. That said, there were hecklers as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: Government will always continue to grow and freedom in America will always recede. And yet what we saw across this country...
CRUZ: Ma'am, thank you for being here. I wish you would participate in the democratic process through speaking respectfully. It seems that President Obama's paid political operatives are out in force today.
And you know why? And you know why? Because the men and women in this room scare the living daylights out of them.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Some hecklers aside, though, this is friendly territory for the hard right and historically it has been a tremendously important place for future Republican stars to shine.
Peter Hamby joins us now.
This group of people fully supports the government shutdown. Any word on how they're reacting to a possible deal to reopen the government that wouldn't include defunding the president's health care law?
PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not well, Anderson.
The tone could not be more different between what we heard on Capitol Hill today, notes of pragmatism, vs. here, where the hard- liners as you mentioned are totally against removing defunding Obamacare as a bargaining chip from the government shutdown negotiations. And if you need any proof of that, just look at who came here and who didn't come.
We saw Ted Cruz, also Utah Senator Mike Lee, two of the driving forces behind the defund Obamacare movement that led to the shutdown here today and plenty of conservative thought leaders, radio hosts, members of Congress who said that defunding Obamacare must happen. And then look who didn't. You didn't see a lot of pragmatists from the Capitol Hill come over here, the John McCains, the Pete Kings of New York.
And Paul Ryan, who sort of straddles the divide between the Tea Party and the establishment, was supposed to speak here, Anderson, but as you know, he's sort of the architect of this new deal that's unfolding on Capitol Hill. He addressed the group by video message. It was very brief.
He made no mention of Obamacare and received only tepid applause. That's compared to the sort of raucous receptions that we saw earlier today for Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz, et cetera, Anderson.
COOPER: When you hear Ben Carson saying that Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act is the worst thing to happen in this country since slavery, how did that play in this crowd? I heard some people applaud. I couldn't tell how widespread it was.
I mean, worse than 9/11, worse than the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, worse than the Civil War? How did it play?
HAMBY: All of that went over really well here, as it does for a number of conservative events. You could go to a county Republican Party convention, a Tea Party convention, CPAC, Values Voter Summit. The red meat plays well in these rooms.
And it represents a bit of a problem for the Republican Party, frankly. Think about this. Just seven months ago, the Republican National Committee released an autopsy report looking back on the election, looking at how they can win in the future. And they said the Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. They need to use rhetoric that's more appealing to moderates, Hispanics, women, young voters.
You don't hear that in this room. And the Republican professional class consultants are very worried about that, and not just that, but also the fact that you do hear the sort of party divide come up over and over again. You hear the insurgents, the grassroots conservatives attacking over and over again the Republican leadership, the establishment, the -- quote, unquote -- "old bulls" on Capitol Hill.
And that just previews the sort of problem that the party is going to have moving forward in the midterms, in these primaries and in the presidential campaign, frankly, in 2016 on these debate stages. You're going to see this rift in the Republican Party. It's existed for a long time, but it's really come to the fore in the middle of this government shutdown fight, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, it certainly has. Peter Hamby, appreciate the update. Thanks.
The tension between the two wings of the Republican Party set against the pressure of new polling and a lot of public pain really raises the stakes for all concerned.
Let's talk about it with Alice Stewart, Republican consultant and former spokeswoman for the Santorum and Bachmann 2012 presidential campaigns, also Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Ralph Reed, fonder and chairman of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition.
Appreciate all of you being with us. Paul, House Republicans are ready to temporarily extend the debt ceiling for six weeks, but they don't want to give the president a clean funding bill that reopens the government. To that, you say what?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think where the story is going is spelunking.
The Republicans are caving, and they're figuring out a way to cave. Right now, it's six weeks. That's not acceptable. It's not going to be acceptable. Jim Acosta's reporting is exactly right. My friends at the White House say the same thing. We don't want to push a potential default up against the holiday shopping season. So that's I think unlikely to happen.
You keep hearing reports off too the Hill, I heard Dana earlier, that Senate Republicans are becoming restive and want a one-year resolution of this. That resolution I think is going to come, and I can guarantee you it's not going to defund or delay Obamacare. This will be a complete capitulation by the Republicans.
COOPER: Ralph, do you agree with that? Will it be a complete capitulation? Because a number of Republicans in leadership have told CNN that the Affordable Care Act is off the table. Is a plan that ends the shutdown that doesn't include some concession on the Affordable Care Act by the president, is that something you can support?
RALPH REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. No, I can't support it.
Look, we all understand that it's unlikely that President Obama is going to sign legislation that repeals or completely defunds the central and frankly arguably the sole domestic legislative achievement of his presidency.
But in terms of the markers that have been laid down, things like the conscience clause that ensures that Roman Catholic hospitals and evangelical colleges and inner city ministries are not going to be forced to violate their faith and offend their consciences by subsidizing health care services that they consider to be the taking of innocent human life, delaying the individual mandate, which is just saying, hey, look, for that waitress who is working two jobs and is being told by the federal government she's got to get this health insurance, but you exempted Congress, you exempted big business, you exempted other political associates to the White House, they ought to be given a delay, too.
The fact is, Anderson, that as a result of this fight, red state Democrats in the House and the Senate have had to vote for taxpayer- funded abortion, they have had to vote against the delay of the individual mandate, they have had to vote against requiring Congress and its staff to be covered under these laws as well.
And I think that when you look at these red states that are going to decide the outcome of the Senate, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, everybody's looking at the national polling. I assure you, Obamacare is not popular in those states.
COOPER: But, Ralph, Senator John McCain says he tried to build support in the election for repealing the health care law. His efforts came up short. He says it's time to move on. The Supreme Court affirmed the law's constitutionality. Isn't this the democratic process working, even though clearly you don't agree with it?
REED: Well, look, I remember when Bill Clinton said he wouldn't agree to balance the budget in five years when the government was shut down in '95 and '96. Guess what? He signed legislation to balance the budget in five years.
I remember when he said he wouldn't sign our welfare reform bill and everybody said we were radicals because we insisted that we shouldn't pay people not to work and to bear children repeatedly out of wedlock, that it was consigning them to multigenerational poverty. Now, look, there were some fixes, and there was some compromise. But he signed our budget, and he signed our tax cuts, and he signed our welfare reform bill.
And the difference, I think, this time -- and I have to say this is inexplicable to me, Anderson -- is the president's position as I understand it is he will not negotiate with Congress. I don't know how you get a resolution to this. It's possible to take where the Republicans are and where the president is and sit down and work out a deal, but if he literally is going to maintain the fiction that this is a conversation and not a negotiation, that really concerns me.
COOPER: But his position -- and I will go to Paul for that later or as soon as we come back. But his position is, this already went through Congress. Congress already voted on this. The Supreme Court already passed the constitutionality of this.
COOPER: This is a law. And now you can't kind of have a redo just because new folks are in the House who don't like it.
We got to take a quick break. And, Alice, I want to get you in here as well.
Stick around. Let us know what you think at home. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.
Coming up, we will speak more with the panel.
We will also speak with the parents of Kendrick Johnson, who were told their son's death was an accident. They don't believe it. They point to a number of bloodstains, for instance, possible clues that weren't tested by investigators. Potential new evidence to tell you about tonight as well when we continue.
COOPER: So, President Obama and House Speaker Boehner have spoken today. And the president has met with Senate Republicans. It remains unclear though when anybody will do anything to end this, although unclear precisely what Republicans are now asking for and what ultimately the two sides will settle for.
On top of all that, Republican hard-liners who are being blamed for putting the party and the country in such a tight spot, certainly blamed by Democrats, they show no sign of backing down.
Here's Michele Bachmann today at the Values Voters Summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: This egregious system that will be ultimately known as death care must be defeated.
And you see, this is our line in the sand of police state vs. constitutional republic. This is it. When the federal government controls your health care, they literally control life and death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Back with Alice Stewart, Paul Begala, Ralph Reed.
Alice, I understand you have said that Obamacare is clearly off the table, but you say there has to be a negotiation of the budget before the government is reopened, is that correct?
ALICE STEWART, FORMER BACHMANN CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Absolutely.
And that's the key thing here is that the president and the Democrats say that they want to move forward with the spending plan and also with raising the debt limit with no strings attached. That's not the way we go about doing things. And they say that they're having conversations and they're talking, but talk is cheap without negotiation.
And the fact of the matter is, polls show 75 percent of the people in this country will agree to a short-term raising of the debt ceiling, provided there are spending cuts and budgetary measures attached to that, because the reason we're in this debt crisis is because of out-of-control spending. And we need to have spending talks associated with raising the debt limit.
And in terms of opening up the federal government, the Democrats -- the Republicans want to do that. They have put proposals forward to open up the government and fund the government. But they also want to make sure that they listen -- Congress listens to the American people and that 75 percent of the American people have concerns with the implementation of Obamacare.
That's why that is attached to opening up the government. And historical precedent shows that all of these big measures have some type of compromise, some type of agreement in order to have consensus. And that's exactly what the point of having the separation of Congress and the president and both houses of the House and Senate. That's the point of having that. (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: Paul, what about that? Why hasn't the president negotiated? I mean, just now meeting for the last two days or so. Shouldn't have this happened long ago?
BEGALA: Well, it's been well-reported that the bill that now Speaker Boehner won't put on the floor was itself the product of negotiations that Speaker Boehner agreed to.
And this is the real tragedy here, is the speaker is now SINO, speaker in name only. He agreed with Senator Reid, sat down with the Democratic leader of the United States Senate, and told Harry Reid you have got to agree to these really deep Republican spending cuts. Reid says, I don't know if it can sell it, but he did it. He bit the bullet and he's a leader.
And he united his caucus, which, by the way, is a lot more diverse than John Boehner's. John Boehner's runs from Cro-Magnon to Neanderthal. Harry Reid has got a socialist in Bernie Sanders and he's got Joe Manchin, who shot a bullet through an environmental law in one of his TV ads. So, that's a pretty diverse caucus.
Reid held them together. Reid delivered. And now Boehner has flaked. And that's the problem. And the only way out of this is for Boehner to unflake, for him to capitulate, put the bill that he agreed to on the floor, and let the House work its will.
Our own count at CNN shows that there are the votes to pass it. This thing ought to be the law. And we should not be making people suffer through this shutdown.
COOPER: Ralph, do you agree that there are enough votes to pass a so-called clean C.R.?
REED: There may or may not be. But even if there are, you would be asking John Boehner to circumvent his own conference and put his own speakership at risk.
COOPER: But, for the country, isn't -- who cares about -- shouldn't he not care about his own speakership, if it gets the government going?
REED: Well, I'm going to stipulate that the president is an intelligent man. Can we stipulate that?
So you're sitting across the table from somebody, and your condition is, destroy your speakership. I don't think that's a very successful negotiating tactic. I also don't think it's a very successful negotiating tactic to ask 230 Republicans in the House who are in districts that he carried only 17 of compared to when Bill Clinton was president, he had carried as many as 70 of those districts, all right, and to ask them to give him a credit card with another trillion dollars on it with the bank of China on that credit card and to ask for nothing in return? No entitlement reform?
No changes of Obamacare, when Obama himself has unilaterally made 17 different changes in Obamacare?
COOPER: So, Paul, what...
REED: Including suspending the employer mandate, which Senator Tom Harken has publicly said in "The New York Times" is illegal? It's OK for Obama to do that, but he won't sit down and discuss their requests?
COOPER: OK. Paul, to Ralph's point, what could be on the table from the president in terms of some sort of give?
BEGALA: This is like the scene in "The Godfather" where the corrupt guy tries to extort Michael Corleone. And Michael says, here's my offer, nothing, nothing.
And that's where the Democrats are, because they have made the deal already.
Ralph, I'm not in your party. And I really don't feel bad for John Boehner that he can't lead his party. That's his problem. He's a leader. But, in my party, what Harry Reid did was doggone difficult. He got Democrats and a socialist to agree to Republican levels of spending on programs that Democrats really, really care about. They essentially signed onto the Paul Ryan levels of spending on all the things that they care about, helping children, helping women, helping the disabled, helping education.
That was really, really hard to do. So now Boehner has to do something hard. And he has to deliver. He has to reopen the government and he has to pay our bills. And then we can go back to legislating, which is the give and take that you're talking about. There's lots of things, I'm sure, that you could propose to change in Obamacare. Democrats want to have a gun safety bill. We don't have the votes for it. We didn't shut down the government over that, even though 70 percent of the Americans want the president's gun safety bill.
We said, well, guys we got to work harder and bring more...
COOPER: I want to give Alice the final thought, and then we have got to go.
STEWART: Here's one thing.
Paul, with all due respect, you act like Harry Reid has bent over backwards to compromise...
STEWART: ... when basically what he's agreeing to is commonsense spending levels.
REED: Is what is current law.
STEWART: We have racked up $6.1 trillion in debt under President Obama. And the sad thing is the president...
COOPER: But you say it's common sense, but it's not what the Democrats wanted, correct?
BEGALA: It's hard for the Democrats to do. You think it's common sense.
By the way, I helped President Clinton balance the budget, and the Republicans wanted our surplus. We have this debt because of Republicans.
REED: The sequester levels of spending were already current law, Paul. He simply agreed to current law. He didn't agree to cuts that weren't already in the law. It's just simply not true.
STEWART: That day when they're willing to put the full faith and credit of the U.S. at risk to save Obamacare, that is a sad day.
COOPER: Alice Stewart, Paul Begala, Ralph Reed, appreciate all you being here.
For more on the story, you can go to CNN.com.
Just ahead, a lady who's 92 years old, she's itching to get back to work. That's right. She's working. She's the nation's oldest national park ranger. She's been furloughed because of the government shutdown. She herself says, you know what? I don't have a lot of time left. What they're doing in Washington is affecting me badly. I will talk to her, what she wants to say to Congress.
Also, Kendrick Johnson's parents are trying to absorb the shocking new revelations about what happened to his body after he died. And there could be potential new evidence -- my interview with them and their attorneys ahead.
COOPER: Well, California officials today declined to foot the bill for reopening national parks in the state. The Interior Department made the offer so that visitors wouldn't miss out on Yosemite, Sequoia National Park, or maybe the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. It's certainly a mouthful, that one.
It's also home to Betty Reid Soskin, who, at 92, is the nation's oldest park ranger.
COOPER: Betty, you said that, because of your age, this is your last decade, and you can't afford to have anyone wasting your time. When you heard about this government shutdown, what does it mean to you?
BETTY REID SOSKIN, OLDEST FULL-TIME PARK RANGER: It means that when I have gotten to be 92 years old, that there comes along with that a sense of urgency, a sense that, if I don't get it right this time, I don't have time to do it over, that that gets applied to work that I enjoy. And having the shutdown interrupts all of that.
COOPER: So, do you feel like they're wasting your time?
REID SOSKIN: Yes, I do.
COOPER: Does it make you feel like kind of the only adult in the room when you watch some of these politicians talking about this stuff on TV?
REID SOSKIN: Yes. Yes. That's true. I feel like -- and I think that Washington needs a lot more adults.
COOPER: What -- what would you say to them? If some of them are watching tonight, what do you want them to know?
SOSKIN: I'm not sure that I'm wise enough in what they're dealing with to be able to give anyone any advice. I only know how it's affecting my life. And it -- and I'm not sure where the power lies anymore. And that uncertainty is disheartening.
COOPER: Do you think politicians understand the impact on someone like you?
SOSKIN: No. I really don't. I really don't. I think that they've lost touch with those of us who are working.
COOPER: What is it about your job that you love?
SOSKIN: Uniquely, my job allows me to help to shape an emerging national park. Because I was a primary source, because I was here during that period that the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park celebrates. I was here working in Richland, California.
COOPER: You were working during World War II?
SOSKIN: I've become a primary source of stories. I was working in the segregated union hall.
COOPER: So what do you tell people about that time? That's -- you're able to communicate with people who come to the park about what it was like to work there during World War II.
SOSKIN: What I tell them is that Ken Burns and Tom Botta (ph) told the story of the battles of the fighting war, but that no one over these 70 years has told the story of the rest of America, of Roosevelt's great arsenal of democracy, of extraordinary, ordinary people who became the most lethal force for mass production that, I guess, the greatest mobilization since the building of the pyramids or the Great Wall of China, that that story has never really been told.
And what we get to do is to go back and revisit that history and catch those lost conversations and untold stories that were left lingering.
COOPER: And I know you've become -- you're not just popular in the park. You've become popular across the nation. I hear you're doing "The Arsenio Hall Show" in Hollywood. How's that?
SOSKIN: Yes. That's today. That developed today. And I'm just learning -- I just had my first rehearsal.
COOPER: Are you nervous?
SOSKIN: Oddly enough, I was much more nervous before I got onto the stage. And in that walk through, the initial rehearsal, he is so comfortable that I lost all the nervousness. Until I had -- until I had to come and face you.
COOPER: Oh, no. That's terrible. I hope you don't feel nervous anymore. Do you think you'll get back to work at the park soon?
SOSKIN: I hope so. I hope that this doesn't last many more days.
COOPER: Well, Betty, I hope you get back there soon, too. And I'd love to see you in your job someday. I hope I can one day come and visit. Betty, thank you so much.
SOSKIN: I hope you get out -- I hope you get out to our park. Thank you very much.
COOPER: All right. You take care.
COOPER: Ninety-two years old.
Coming up the tragic and mysterious death of a teenager found dead in a high school gym in Georgia rolled up into a mat. I'll speak with his parents next.
Later new indictments in the New York biker attack. We'll tell you what.
COOPER: Welcome back. There may be a new piece of evidence in the question of whether the death of a 17-year-old young man at a high school in Georgia was an accident or murder.
Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a rolled up mat at the school's gym in January. Authorities said it was an accident, that he suffocated in the gym mat while reaching for a sneaker.
From the beginning, Johnson's parents were skeptical. They got a second autopsy that concluded he died of non-accidental blunt-force trauma. Many heart-breaking and baffling elements to this story. When Kendrick Johnson's body was exhumed, his internal organs were missing. His body cavity was stuffed with newspaper.
A lot of questions about the investigation as well. Blood found on the wall of the gym, for instance, was never tested. Now attorneys are hoping surveillance evidence could show what really happened. Our Victor Blackwell has been doing extensive reporting on the story. He joins me.
Victor, you discovered there's footage from security cameras in the gym when Kendrick Johnson died. Does it shed any light on his death?
VICTOR BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not much yet. We know that there are at least four cameras in this gym. We requested all of the stills. They actually take stills and not streaming video. But they sent us these stills, seven pictures of Kendrick running into a gym.
Now, we asked what about the pictures after this and the pictures taken before it? Well, we were told that those are considered educational records. And only because we have clearance from the Johnsons can we have pictures of Kendrick. But any other pictures could be exempt, because it would show a student's educational record.
COOPER: So does that mean there are other students in the pictures taken prior or after what they've released?
JOHNSON: Well, that's the implication. But when that was our follow-up question, are there students, then, in the other pictures? They just repeated, those pictures are protected by the exemption for educational records.
COOPER: Has it ever been explained how allegedly his shoe -- they say he was reaching for his shoe in the rolled-up mat and that's when he got stuck. Have they ever explained why his shoe would have been at the bottom of a rolled up mat?
JOHNSON: Well, according to students who spoke with police in the file we received from the deputies, there are some students who hide their shoes in places around the gym, because apparently there aren't enough lockers in Lowndes High School. The question we then asked, there are 21 mats in that corner. If a student is hiding those shoes, why would that student choose the mat farthest in the corner to hide those shoes with no plan of getting them out?
COOPER: And the Johnsons' attorney, they're now planning to file a lawsuit early next week. Do we know the details?
BLACKWELL: Yes, as early as Tuesday. And the plan is to implore the district attorney to force the coroner to launch what's called a coroner's inquest. It's like a grand jury. Five people from the community with one alternate would listen to testimony, look at evidence and determine how Kendrick died, if it was an accident or if it was a homicide.
Now it's not just semantics. Because if they determine that his death was a homicide, it changes the cause of death on the death certificate to homicide. That then goes to the district attorney in Lowndes County, who could then start the ball rolling for another formal investigation to look for the person responsible for that homicide.
COOPER: All right. Victor, appreciate the update. Thanks.
COOPER: Yesterday would have been Kendrick Johnson's 18th birthday. His parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, continue honoring their son's memory by trying to get to the truth. They joined me along with their attorney, Mr. King (ph).
COOPER: Mrs. Johnson, Thursday would have been your son Kendrick's 18th birthday. And I know you're planning a party for him tomorrow. Tell me a little bit about what he was like.
JACQUELYN JOHNSON, KENDRICK'S MOTHER: He was fun. He was an athlete. He was a jokester. He was the life of our house.
COOPER: I can't imagine how difficult that must be to not only to lose a son but to try and get justice for him. Why do you continue to -- the idea of having a party, is that to keep -- to keep his spirit alive?
J. JOHNSON: Yes, it is.
COOPER: Mr. Johnson, originally investigators told you that Kendrick climbed into a gym mat reaching for a shoe and got stuck upside down. And that's how he died. When you first heard that, did it sound believable to you?
KEITH JOHNSON, KENDRICK'S FATHER: No. It didn't sound believable at all.
COOPER: And you hired your own pathologist to autopsy Kendrick. And that pathologist concluded he died from non-accidental blunt force trauma, non-accidental asphyxia what the investigators first said. When you heard what he was saying what went through your mind?
K. JOHNSON: It went through my mind that, you know, we was right from the beginning, and that we always suspected something happened; we just didn't know what happened. And it just confirmed our belief that we was right.
COOPER: Did authorities -- I mean, did they -- were they in contact with you throughout the investigation? Did they -- did you have confidence in them at the time?
K. JOHNSON: We didn't have any confidence from the first time that we talked to the sheriff. And he came up with this cockamamie story of how they found Kendrick. Right there from the beginning we had no reason to trust them at all. Because they didn't show us no justice.
COOPER: Mrs. Johnson, how have you been getting through this? How do you get through each day?
J. JOHNSON: Just to know that we're fighting for Kendrick is what gets me up in the morning, that we got to fight a little harder every day.
COOPER: Do you still talk to him?
J. JOHNSON: I do. I tell him I love him and I miss him.
COOPER: Does that help you get through the day?
J. JOHNSON: It gives me motivation to keep fighting for him until we get justice.
COOPER: Mr. Johnson, I know when you exhumed Kendrick's body, what I was just stunned to hear -- and I'm sure you were, as well -- that as you know, I mean, his internal organs, including his heart, his brain, it had all been removed and there was newspaper inside his body in place of those organs. Was there any indication by the funeral home director that they had done that? That his organs had been destroyed or were missing?
K. JOHNSON: No. Not at all. We talked to him four or five times or even more. He never indicated that that had took place. Not even once.
COOPER: Mr. Johnson, I want to ask you the question I asked your wife. What do you want people to know about your son?
K. JOHNSON: Well, that Kendrick was a loving son. I mean, he was a good brother. You know, he was just someone that, you know, every parent all over the world would want to have a son like Kendrick.
Kendrick was a great boy. And, you know, he had good manners. You know, he never got in trouble, not even once with the law. And he just was a nice child, you know. Everyone would have liked to have had a son like Kendrick.
COOPER: Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, again I'm so sorry for your loss. And I wish you -- I wish the best in the days ahead. And Mr. King, I appreciate you being on, as well. Thank you.
K. JOHNSON: Thank you. Thank you.
COOPER: You're welcome.
COOPER: Coming up, new indictments in the attack on an SUV driver by a group of bikers. The driver appears in public for the first time since the incident on the streets of Manhattan.
And later, five tons of terror as an elephant charges a zookeeper. Details when we continue.
COOPER: New developments in the assault of the driver of an SUV in New York. CNN has confirmed a third New York police officer who was at the motorcycle rally linked to the attack waited for days to report that he was actually there. He apparently works in internal affairs.
Also today CNN affiliate WABC shot this video of the man who was beaten. It's the first time he's been seen in public since the incident two weeks ago. He was treated at a hospital after the attack.
The case, of course, is getting national attention in large part because of the video that's gone viral. It was shot by a biker with a helmet cam, go pro, and shows some, not all, of what happened.
One biker was seriously injured. So far, seven bikers have been charged, six of them on the actual assault of the SUV driver. One of the bikers charged is an undercover police officer, and tonight we know more about him. Turns out he'd infiltrated the Occupy Wall Street movement. That's him highlighted in this photograph.
A grand jury is investigating all of this. And tonight there are new indictments to report. Susan Candiotti joins me now live.
So what happened in court today, Susan?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, two more bikers have now been indicted, and that makes a total of three between yesterday and today.
Now, they'll be formally arraigned on October 30, and that's when they get a chance to enter a plea.
But also we have learned that some important information about that, as well, that the undercover off-duty officer that you were just talking about and another officer and another biker, I should say, are expected to testify before the grand jury to tell their side of the story as early as next week. And, I'm told, more arrests are expected, Anderson.
COOPER: And that testimony obviously is not public. Do we have any idea what their possible defense might be?
CANDIOTTI: Yes, we do. And this is kind of interesting. And it was flagged by the attorney for that undercover off-duty officer.
It appears as though he might try to argue that he and other bikers were following this SUV because they believed he was involved in a hit-and-run accident. Well, it still doesn't explain why, in the case of the undercover officer, he would have waited at least three days to report this to his superiors and why he allegedly participated in the assault.
COOPER: That's exactly what Mark Geragos was pointing out could be a possible defense for him. Now there's a third New York police officer who waited to tell supervisors he was there that day. And he's from internal affairs? Is that right?
CANDIOTTI: It makes it even more strange. But yes, we are told that a third one took his time to report this.
Now, the lawyer who represents this officer, who is still on the job, said that he did not witness any of the assault that we've seen time and again on this viral video. And however, the attorney did not explain why he waited in this case according to my law enforcement sources at least a week to report this to his superiors. But the lawyer feels that he will be vindicated, that he didn't do anything wrong. My sources tell me he is being investigated.
COOPER: Susan, appreciate the update. Thanks.
Let's get some updates on some other stories we're following. Randi Kaye is here with a "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, another military officer in charge of the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been fired. In a statement, the Air Force says Major General Michael Kerry has been relieved of his command because of a loss of trust in his leadership and judgment without being specific. A military official tells CNN Kerry was fired over allegations of alcohol use on duty.
Another ship carrying hundreds of migrants capsized today off the coast of an Italian island near Sicily. More than 200 survivors have been rescued. At least four people died. Just last week you might recall more than 300 African migrants were killed in a shipwreck off the very same island.
A zookeeper in Missouri has been killed by an elephant. John Philip Bradford worked at the zoo for 30 years. Bradford was in the elephant enclosure with two other workers when a 41-year-old elephant charged him. Officials don't know what set the elephant off. Apparently, there were no problems with this animal before. A jury in California has decided Toyota was not responsible for the 2009 death of a woman whose Camry hit a telephone pole. The woman's family says the car suddenly accelerated to more than 100 miles per hour, even though she was pressing the brakes. Toyota recalled more than 8 million vehicles in 2009 and 2010 because of issues with the gas pedals.
And the international watchdog group that's helping to get rid of the Syrian army's poison gas stockpiles was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has just begun its work in Syria. Today's award honors the group's long- standing efforts to eliminate chemical weapons -- Anderson.
COOPER: I know a lot of people were wondering if maybe Malala Yousafzai was going to win.
KAYE: Yes. Lots were rooting for her.
COOPER: Yes. Christiane has a fascinating interview with her. It's going to air on the special on Sunday night. I hope people tune in for that, because it's -- I saw a bit of Christiane's interview. It's really -- it's fascinating looking at the same girl who just a year ago was nearly killed by the Taliban.
Randi, thanks very much.
Up next, an actor who found his true calling rescuing abandoned animals. It's an "American Journey" you didn't expect.
COOPER: In tonight's "American Journey," an actor who discovered his true calling in the California desert. What he stumbled on more than three decades ago has nothing to do with acting but everything to do with caring. The lives he's saved are very real. Here's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, ACTOR (voice-over): In the hills up above Los Angeles...
LEO GRILLO, ACTOR/ANIMAL ACTIVIST: Hey, kids.
FOREMAN: ... a down-to-earth journey goes on.
GRILLO: Yes, that's a good girl.
FOREMAN: Every day Leo Grillo takes one more step down an unexpected trail.
GRILLO: These dogs are all abandoned in the wilderness. I bring them here with the promise that it's never going to happen again. My promise to them is, I'm keeping you safe.
FOREMAN: It started in 1979 when Grillo, an actor, found an abandoned dog and took him in, naming him Delta. Then he found another dog and another and another. And 35 years later, Delta Rescue now covers more than 100 acres, land filled with animals, every one of them found after being abandoned.
GRILLO: We'll have anywhere 850 to 900 dogs. Cats are 650. Horses are about 40. And I have a handful of goats and a pig. And you never know.
FOREMAN: An $8 million budget fuelled by donations provides food, water, housing and a full-time veterinary hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This cat here had some bad teeth. And I'm pulling some bad molars.
FOREMAN: No animal is ever put up for adoption. And in many ways, Grillo helped pioneer the idea of a no-kill rescue center. And every animal you see?
GRILLO: They're here for life.
Bentley, come here. Come here. It's OK.
FOREMAN: It is much bigger, more time-consuming, more exhausting than Leo Grillo ever imagined. But when he looks out over this mountaintop home he has given to thousands of unwanted animals, he knows they've given to him, too.
GRILLO: I know I saved all their lives. They definitely changed mine.
FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN.
COOPER: And that's tonight's "American Journey." That does it for us. We'll see you again in one hour, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. PIERS MORGAN LIVE starts right now.