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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Intelligence Questions Over Russian Invasion; Clinton Under Fire For Putin, Hitler Comparison

Aired March 5, 2014 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next, U.S. intelligence caught off guard by the crisis in Ukraine. Serious new questions tonight about when the United States knew about a Russian invasion.

Plus, a mother drives a van with three children inside into the Atlantic Ocean. Was it an accident? We're going to hear tonight from witnesses and we have new exclusive video of exactly what happened that night OUTFRONT.

And a surprising admission today at the Oscar Pistorius trial. A witness says the "Blade Runner" asked a friend to take the fall for another shooting that was weeks before he shot and killed his girlfriend. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, America caught off guard. Serious questions about whether U.S. intelligence failed to predict what was happening on the ground in Ukraine. In a tense hearing on Capitol Hill today, Senator John McCain, hammered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel questioning him on whether U.S. intelligence was even aware of Russia's plans to invade Crimea.

The defense secretary said the U.S. was aware of the threat early last week, but that did not satisfy John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Despite all the media reports, our intelligence sources predicted that Labrov would invade Crimea?

CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don't get into specifics at an open hearing, but if you would like a briefing, your staff on the specifics of your question --

MCCAIN: How about commenting on news reports that say that?

HAGEL: News reports are news reports, but that is not the same as real intelligence.

MCCAIN: OK. In other words, the fact is, Mr. Secretary, it was not predicted by our intelligence and that's already been well known, which is another massive failure because of our misreading, total misreading, of the intentions of Vladimir Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Another massive failure. Well, the CIA responded, and we're going to ask Congressman Peter King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, whether those were fair questions. He joins me momentarily.

But first, the pressure is rising tonight on Vladimir Putin. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met face to face with Russian's Foreign Minister Labrov for the first time since Ukrainian crisis began, telling him it's time for Russia to, quote, "de-escalate the situation."

Meanwhile, the situation on the ground in Crimea remains extremely tense. A U.N. envoy was forced to abandon his mission, leave the country. He was confronted by armed men. According to the U.N. Robert Sarry was ordered into a car by gunmen. He refused. He managed to find safety at a local cafe.

And an iTV reporter tweeted this photo of him shortly before police escorted Sarry to the airport. This is just a snapshot of how tense on the verge things are in Crimea tonight.

Our Anna Coren is there with the latest on the situation. Anna, what can you tell us about these armed militias on the ground?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are certainly everywhere here in Crimea, Erin. Obviously, we saw what happened to Robert Sarry a little bit earlier this evening. It really caught everybody off guard. But it demonstrates how volatile and dangerous the situation is.

We spent much of the day outside a government building in the center of the city and these thugs, if you like, are everywhere. They're dressed in black or in military fatigues, and they are very suspicious of westerners. Every time we went out and interviewed somebody they would approach us and listen in to what we were saying.

To see if there was anything against this new government that's taken over here in Crimea, which is obviously very pro-Russian. Then, you know, that was something that they would address. But these people are very visible. They're obviously government buildings. They're at the airport as you fly in.

And then on top of the militias, you then have these Russian troops, some 16,000 that have surrounded or occupied military bases here in Crimea. Erin, there are reports that perhaps more will be coming in in the coming days.

BURNETT: All right, Anna Coren, thank you very much, reporting there live. Obviously, it's that kind of reporting that makes a difference here because it's very hard for anyone to know what's going on. The number of troops, is it 6,000, 16,000? That shows you the difficulty U.S. intelligence faces as well.

New York Congressman Peter King is on the House Intelligence Committee and he is OUTFRONT. Great to talk to you as always, sir.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Let me ask you, Congressman, this issue about intelligence, you know, John McCain obviously aggressively questioning Secretary Hagel today about what the U.S. knew and what he calls another massive intelligence failure. The CIA got really, I think it's fair to say, you know PO'ed about this.

Their response, quote, "Since the beginning of the political unrest in Ukraine, the CIA has regularly updated policymakers to ensure they have an accurate and timely picture of the unfolding crisis. These updates have included warnings of possible scenarios for Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Any suggestion otherwise is flat wrong." Do you think John McCain went too far?

KING: I'm on the intelligence committee and what I would say is that the invasion or the incursion was not predicted, however, it was among a list of possibilities. I think -- I've spoken to Chairman Mike Rogers. I'm on the intelligence committee. Mike is the chairman and he is going to do -- we are going to hold hearings, do an investigation as if more intelligence could have been gathered or was the problem with the analysis.

Now the CIA is right in that they did give that as a possibility, but they certainly didn't say it was going to happen. I really can't go too much further other than to say that we certainly were never told definitely or even probably that there is going to be any type of incursion by the Russians and the question I would have is whether or not there was not enough intelligence or whether or not the analysis was not done properly or are we -- the fact that we can't get inside Putin's head.

But clearly we were not anticipating this level of attack, this level of incursion by the Russians and that is something that as we're going to have I believe an ongoing series of crises with the Russians we have to do better in the future.

BURNETT: All right, look, I understand the point of what you're saying. Obviously the CIA, correct, but it was one of many things that were listed. It's not as if you knew point blank this was going to happen. I know that intelligence reports were generally done. You know, that there were various options and you know, it's choose your own adventure is a light hearted way of saying it.

But I do understand that. What about John McCain though in general. I mean, he has been incredibly critical here and it's not just John McCain. Lindsey Graham also. But John McCain has called the president's foreign policy feckless in the past few days.

Lindsey Graham went even further in an interview with our Dana Bash linking the Ukraine crisis to Benghazi. You may have heard that, but I just want to play it for our viewers.

KING: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I've never seen an administration so incapable of following through what they say they will do and we're all paying a price. Don't tell the world you're going to go to the ends of the earth to get the people killed or folks in Libya, if at the end of the day you do nothing about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Do you agree with this criticism of the president at this time?

KING: Well, I am critical of the president's policies. I am reluctant to say very much in time of crisis. I think it's important for us to stand together. Having said that, as long as the issue is out there, I have in conversations with foreign leaders and diplomats, most of whom are allies of ours, say they are very troubled by the feeling out there, the belief among too many foreign leaders that they can't count on the president to follow through.

Syria is an example of that where basically you have countries in the Middle East to agree to stand with them if the red line was crossed and suddenly the president stepped back. And also I think going back to 2009, the whole idea they had of blaming President Bush for the breakdown of the relations with the Russians was wrong.

Having said that, listen, it was Putin who did it, not President Obama, let's be clear about that. As Americans, we have to stand with the president now.

BURNETT: Right. Here's the question I have though, I mean, it's pretty difficult for the president, both big picture and little picture. Big picture, the American people are tired of war. They elected him to get out of wars. They do not want the president to go into Syria. So he's in a tough spot, right?

I mean, it's easy to be someone else, you know, and sit there and say you should be doing this, you should be doing that, he's feckless. But yet, if you're in that spot, it's a pretty darn hard spot to be in. Now I wonder if you fear that the criticism of him is going to perhaps force him into doing something now that he shouldn't do.

Because there it doesn't seem to be any good option right now. This is a great time to throw stones because you can say the guy is doing a terrible job and thank God it's a not me sitting there because no one else would come up with what to do.

KING: Let's make it clear that I'm not throwing stones, but since the issue has come up, I think the president's policy towards Russia is one we have to change over a period of time. I think the fact that the president going back to 2009 was basically giving Putin the clean bill of health and blaming George Bush for the breakdown in relations with the Russians set the wrong tone.

We should have been showing more leadership over the last several years with the Europeans to alert them to that fact and make it clear that Russia cannot be trusted and that Putin is capable of erratic behavior, if not erratic behavior, but certainly aggressive behavior.

I agree. The American people did not want to go into Syria. I thought we should have launched an attack. But having said that, that being the case, the president should not have said there was a red line that cannot be crossed. He should not have said that he was concerned about carrying out bombing raids.

If he is going to have this policy, which I think to some extent is too -- is not strong enough. If he's going to have that policy, then he shouldn't be laying out scenarios and you know, laying it red lines. He has to be consistent.

BURNETT: Congressman King, thank you very much. I always appreciate your time.

KING: Erin, thank you.

Still to come, a hearing on Capitol Hill turns ugly. This is a different hearing today than the one you just saw, which was ugly. Two congressman got into an incredibly heated exchange. In fact something happened that has never happened before when you look at a whole new low in America.

Then a pregnant mother drives a mini-van with her kids inside the ocean. Why did she do it? Was she trying to do the most horrific and unimaginable thing? Well, we are going to talk to a witness and we have exclusive video of exactly what happened.

Plus shocking testimony from the Oscar Pistorius trial. A friend revealed details of another gun-related incident involving the "Blade Runner."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- he said please take the blame for me. There is too much media hop around me. Just take the blame for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Hillary Clinton is under fire tonight after comparing Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. Late today she tried to clarify, but she didn't back down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: What I said yesterday is that the claims by President Putin and other Russians that they had to go into Crimea and maybe further into Eastern Ukraine because they had to protect the Russian minorities, and that is reminiscent of claims that were made back in the 1930s when Germany under the Nazis kept talking about how they had to protect German minorities in Poland and Czechoslovakia and elsewhere throughout Europe.

So I just want everybody to have a little historic perspective. I'm not making a comparison certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And obviously, the day before she did make a direct comparison. So she was trying there to back down but not really back down. And Republican Senator John McCain was very quick to agree with Clinton's initial direct comparison tweeting she's right tweeting, she is right on this comparison. And referenced the headline reading, Hillary Clinton compares Putin's action in Ukraine to Adolph Hitler in Germany.

Joining me now is CNN political commentator, Michael Smerconish, also host of CNN's "SMERCONISH' which debuts this Saturday morning. I can't wait. And David Ignatius, columnist for "the Washington Post."

All right, two perfect people here. Let me start with you, Michael. You know, finally, I always look at these opportunities, Democrats and Republicans agreeing on something, Putin equals Hitler.

But here is the thing. The smile that leaves our face because Hitler directly killed 11 million people during World War II, six million Jews, five million other persecuted people, including homosexuals, handicap people, gypsies and others, and 60 million people died in World War II. All of these people say Putin equal Hitler. For real?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, for the reason you just articulated, it's why I never make that analogy because I am a strong believer that Hitler and Nazis deserve a special place in history. And while I have no fan of Vladimir Putin and what he has done relative to Ukraine and Crimea, I wouldn't put him in that category. I wouldn't put anybody in that category because I feel that it diminishes what really transpired relative to the holocaust in World War II.

BURNETT: And David, you know it is amazing to me, I mean, first of all, people are using the Hitler/Nazi analogy in the vernacular now in a very disturbing way. But even in this particular case, two weeks ago Viktor Yanukovych, the guy who's been kicked out of the Ukraine himself said we're seeing repetition of the Nazi overthrow in 1930s in Germany. So both sides are now using the Hitler thing.

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don't like -- like Michael, I don't like use of Hitler analogies or holocaust analogies. This is a unique level of evil that shouldn't be diminished by frequent comparisons. "The Washington Post" had a summary today of all of the people who have invoked Hitler analogies in recent years. It was a very long list and it was embarrassing to read.

And frankly, I thought Secretary Clinton's comment was really unfortunate. The fact that John McCain jumped on it shouldn't really give Secretary Clinton a lot of comfort. Yes, it's true obviously that Putin has used the same defense, that he's trying to protect Russian-speaking minorities that Hitler used in trying to protect German speakers, but, you know, beyond that seems to really inappropriate.

BURNETT: And let me ask you, David. You spoke yesterday with the former defense secretary, Robert Gates. And I just wanted to bring this up. First, I want to play something Peter King just said to us a moment ago about red lines and criticizing the president because it goes directly to the conversation you had with Robert Gates. Here is Peter King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: If he is going to have this policy, which I think to some extent is too -- is not strong enough, but if he is going to have that policy then he shouldn't be laying out scenarios and laying out red linings. He has got to be consistent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All so that was, I mean, obviously criticizing the president. But I mean, who John McCain using the words feckless being incredibly aggressive about it, Lindsey Graham even more aggressive than John McCain if that is possible. Robert Gates, a Republican, told you and you write, urged GOP senators to tone down their criticism and try to be supportive of the president rather than madder at the president, that this is a time when you need to do that. What do you -- what do you think is going to happen here?

IGNATIUS: Well, I called Bob Gates yesterday because I was troubled by the level of intense criticism of the president from Senator McCain and Senator Graham in the middle of what probably is the biggest foreign policy crisis of Obama's presidency. And I wanted to reach out to somebody who's sort of both Republican and Democratic administrations. Bob Gates has been secretary of defense in both, and ask him what he thought.

And not to my surprise because Gates really is at the end of the day a pretty balanced, level-headed person. He said this is a time with which criticism of the sort that we are hearing from McCain and Graham just troubles him. And as he said, it shouldn't be speaking with one American voice in a time of crisis these days seems like a quaint idea.

BURNETT: Yes.

IGNATIUS: He said, I find that truly discouraging, and I share that feeling. I thought Gates expressed it well and, you know, he's a pretty good person to say that.

BURNETT: Michael, you know, as David is saying, you know, obviously you've got McCain and Lindsey Graham. But it wasn't just them. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner also jumped in. I mean, it is kind of an overwhelming throwing stones. I mean, we just played those. And then give you a chance to say, look, is anyone going to listen to Robert Gates?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: When it comes to the president's foreign policy, can you think of any place in the world, any place, where we're better off now than we were when he came to the office?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: With regard to Ukraine, steps that have not been taken over the last three or four years frankly allowed Putin to believe that he could do what he is doing without any reaction from us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: What do you think, Michael? Why they don't listen to what Robert Gates said to David Ignatius.

SMERCONISH: I wish they would listen to Secretary Gates and what David wrote this morning in the post rather than listen to charges like feckless, weak or passive coming from senate leaders. And here is what is ironic to me or a contradiction maybe is a better way to describe it. The charge here is that the president is having sand kicked in his face by Vladimir Putin. He's a weakling. It is really what they are saying and has brought on these world events. Do they really believe that by criticizing our president on the world stage at a time when he is playing the role of commander in-chief is going to make us more safe? I'm almost wishing that someone from the White House would confront those charges and make that observation.

BURNETT: Right. Yes. It seems like they want him to seem weak even though they say that's the opposite what have they want.

SMERCONISH: Exactly.

BURNETT: Thanks so much to both of you. We appreciate it. Please take a look at David Ignatius' great column in "the Washington Post" this morning.

Still to come, Dr. Sanjay Gupta sparked a national movement when it came out and support of legalizing medical pot. He is back tonight with a big new message on marijuana.

And fireworks on Capitol Hill. What set off this incredibly ugly dispute between two congressmen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: If you will sit down and allow me to ask questions, I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America. I am tired of this!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Florida is inching closer to legalizing medical marijuana, a bill to legalize and drug passed the house this week. It was an idea sparked by our Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He made news last year. He changed his stance on the drug and he's not backing down. In fact, in a new op-ed out tonight on CNN.com, he is doubling down.

All right, Sanjay, you are really doubling down. First of all, you used to be on the other side of it. You came out and said my a cull pa, I changed my mind. I looked at the science. I think we need to legalize this. And now, you're really upping the ante.

DOCTOR SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm doubling down. I think that I have concluded that it's irresponsible, frankly, for the medical community not to be looking at this as a viable option. Look, we prescribe so many different medications for different things out there. I gave the example of a child who had epilepsy that was not treatable by modern medicine. She is on seven different medications at one time or another, any of which could have been so toxic as to have caused the cardiac arrest. It didn't work and then they tried this non-psychoactive CBD oil, Cannabis oil. It is not something that gets her high. It is something that she smoked, it's an oil and relieved her of her seizures. So yes, I think that's irresponsible. That's part of the doubling down that I'm talking about.

BURNETT: And what's amazing, and I know, you know, you have to make this point but I can't get it at this point to people again and again. You know in the hospital, and something is wrong with you. And there, according to the federal regulations, you can be prescribed meth, you can be prescribed cocaine. You know, they could use that to help you, but they can't use marijuana.

GUPTA: Cocaine and meth amphetamines are both less restricted than marijuana. And, look, you know, I tried hard, Erin, to not inject a moral equivalency into this whole thing. People say, yes, marijuana and alcohol or marijuana and narcotics, and marijuana and cocaine, drawing those comparisons. Those are fair comparisons. I'm happy to have the conversation.

But here's the truth, on its own merits marijuana as a medication stands alone. And again, you look at the U.S. research, it may not be that compelling? Why, because it's illegal here.

BURNETT: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: In Israel and many other countries around the world, you see some compelling research. Big hospitals in Jerusalem where people are actually taking this as a medicine in the hospital. So, you know, we have to look around the world, we got to look in smaller labs, we have to make sure we paint not a distorted picture.

BURNETT: All right, Sanjay, thank you very much. It's pretty amazing. And Sanjay continues his groundbreaking reporting on this issue that has got so many people talking. As we said, influence a change of public policy when you look at that law in Georgia, "Weed 2, Cannabis Madness."

GUPTA: Cannabis madness. BURNETT: Cannabis madness because I think cannabis. I was rhyming it. It premiers Tuesday night at 10:00 eastern right here on CNN.

Still to come, chaos erupts on Capitol Hill, a Republican shut down a hearing on the IRS. A Democrat, though, will not go quietly.

Plus, a woman drives a van full of children into the ocean, her children. Did she do it on purpose to try to kill them? Several witnesses did see the sieve video tonight of what happened.

I'm going to take you inside the Oscar Pistorius trial today. A witness today describes how the blade runner once asked a friend to take the blame for another shooting form.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Capitol Hill hit a new low today.

You may say, come on, Erin, you're crazy. How is that possible?

I assure you it happened about a hearing of whether the IRS targeted conservative groups seeking tax exempt status. Former IRS official Lois Lerner pled the Fifth again.

Now, it is very annoying to plead the Fifth on everything. Like did you need to go to the bathroom today? I plead the Fifth.

But all jokes aside. This is a serious issue that got very ugly when the chairman of the committee, Republican Darrell Issa tried to shut down the hearing, setting off the ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I can see no point in going further. I have no expectation that Ms. Learner will cooperate with this committee and therefore we stand adjourned.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Mr. Chairman, I have a statement. I have a procedural question, Mr. Chairman. You cannot run a committee like this. You just cannot do this.

This is -- we're better than that as a country and we're better than that as a committee. I have asked for a few minutes to --

(INAUDIBLE)

CUMMINGS: And I wanted to ask a question. What are we hiding? What's the big deal? May I ask my question? May I make my statement?

ISSA: You're all free to leave. We've adjourned but the gentleman may ask his question.

CUMMINGS: A single document --

ISSA: Thank you.

CUMMINGS: If you will sit down and allow me to ask the question. I am a member of the congress of the United States of America. I am tired of this!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. As you saw Congressman Issa cut off Congressman Cummings microphone. Issa said Cummings was, quote, "slandering him at that moment."

Joining me now is the editor of "The Weekly Standard", Bill Kristol, and CNN contributor, Paul Begala.

All right. Great to have both of you with us.

Paul, you heard that exchange. Is this a new low for Washington? I mean, mics being cut off, at least our research, that's never happened before.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, goodness. That's not a new low. I would say it's unbelievably unwise. You know, Chairman Issa ought to know better.

You know, Congressman Cummings is a formidable intellect. And he's a courageous man. Let him speak his piece.

The truth is, none of us would be covering this if Darrell Issa had the good sense and a calm demeanor and a temperament to simply allow the opposition to state their case the way he had stated his. It was a huge mistake.

Is it a new low? Please. Come on. You must not have been a history major.

I mean, Preston Brooks was a congressman. He crossed over -- this is 1856, OK? But he crossed over the Senate floor and beat Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts nearly to death, gave him traumatic brain injury.

A year later, a congressman, another South Carolina Democrat, I'm sorry to say, tried to strangle a congressman from Pennsylvania. I mean, this is nothing compared to what we've been through.

BURNETT: Plus, there's the whole hermaphrodite thing that you always bring that up, Paul.

BEGALA: I do love that.

BURNETT: Who did that?

BEGALA: We should tell our viewers, this was Thomas Jefferson supporters in the election of 1800 said this about John Adams, our second president. They said he was a hermaphrodite because he had neither the manly, virtuous way -- I have to get the exact quote here -- but the manly firmness and force of a man nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.

So, again, big mistake by Issa, but this is nothing in our history, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Bill, here's the thing. There is --

(CROSSTALK)

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I have to give it to Paul so much credit for keeping -- you know, he spent all day reading up on history. It's rough day for Paul. His ideal, is the right (ph) way to say it, Hillary Clinton having defended the reset with Russians promoting it with Putin, and had called -- compared Putin to Hitler today, as you reported earlier.

BURNETT: Yes.

KRISTOL: So I give Paul a lot of credit. I admire Paul. Stiff upper lip, he's put that out of his mind. The Hillary Clinton campaign is collapsing around him and he's reading --

BURNETT: Oh, wow.

KRISTOL: -- he's reading highlights of American history. It's good.

BURNETT: Let me ask you on this issue because obviously there is humor here. But this is also deadly serious. Americans hate Congress, all time low. I mean, this is an organization that's supposed to be providing leadership and seriousness in this country.

And it turns out, you know, Cummings was criticizing Issa for releasing evidence to FOX News but not the committee. So, choosing to go to the media first. And, in fact, that Issa saying that Lerner was specifically targeting these tax-exempt groups, conservative groups.

Media Matters has obtained the email that Issa used to make that point, and in fact says they show Lerner specifically instructed colleagues not to target groups because of their political leanings. So is he being blatantly dishonest?

KRISTOL: Lois Lerner took the Fifth.

If everything was wonderful, if she was just doing her job, why did she take the Fifth? I mean, let's not lose sight of the big picture. I agree with Paul, Darrell Issa, as chairman, from his point of view, from the point of view of advancing the story, keeping the focus on Lois Lerner and the IRS, which I think is a genuinely big scandal, should have just calmed down and let Representative Cummings have his say.

But, no, this is not -- he gave the e-mails to FOX because he wanted a fair and balanced treatment of them, Erin, obviously.

How can I resist saying that? I just want to see Paul now getting that -- smoke coming out of his ears. BEGALA: I'm glad that you're indoors, Bill, because you would be struck down by lightning if you were outside telling a whopper like that.

BURNETT: Your nose might hit the wall in my studio.

All right. Here's the thing, when Paul brought up the interactions in the history of America that, you know, show it's been horrible before. But in recent years, it does seem that the level of discourse and dialogue has plunged to a new law. Cummings should have had the ability to say what he wanted to say. That's what we need out of Congress.

Here's just one of the showdowns in many years. We pulled a few of them, Bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: My friend from Texas, like the schoolyard bully.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: It only reinforces the narrative of a party that's willing to do and say just about anything to get its way.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm not a sixth grader. Senator, I've been on this committee for 20 years.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Members, if you could yield your time, I would ask that y8ou -- I will have you physically removed from this meeting if you don't stop.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those here illegally.

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie!

OBAMA: That's not true.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BURNETT: Is disrespect in Washington getting worse? Distant history notwithstanding, Paul?

BEGALA: Well, yes, it is. That is a pretty disgraceful.

For Mr. Issa today, the inspector general of the IRS who first blew the whistle on this, saying that conservatives had been targeted. If so, that is absolutely reprehensible. He's now come out apparently with another investigation and said liberals were, too, progressive groups were, as well.

So, this is now a scandal in search of a scandal. In other words, there's no political angle to this that at least I've seen in the reporting. And Mr. Issa has made an enormous mistake. This is a democracy. In all of those other examples, at least people were allowed to speak their minds. I thought congressman, another South Carolinian, I'm sorry to say, Congressman Wilson, who yelled at the president, called him a liar during a State of the Union Address, that's awful.

But, you know, I'd much rather have more free speech than less. And there is something chilling about somebody in power pushing a button and silencing the Democratic voice in that room and I think that's wrong.

BURNETT: Final word to you -- would you agree with that, he shouldn't have cut the mikes?

KRISTOL: Yes, he shouldn't have cut the mics. And Harry Reid has abused his power, the Senate majority leader, more than all of these small scale Republican congressmen have put together.

BURNETT: Well, I wish I had time to follow up. We will, though, because the issue of discourse is a very serious one.

Thanks very much to both of you. The great pairing.

And now, a terrifying scene caught on tape. Rescuers and bystanders rushed to save three children. Take a look at this. This is on a beach here. A mini van driving into the ocean. The mother was behind the wheel. And officials are saying it does not appear that was an accident.

The mother and her children were all rescued from the vehicles with no serious injuries. This was a true miracle. This could have become a horrific story. The mother is now undergoing a mental health evaluation. Children are aged 10, 9, and 3 and they are currently in the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

According to the police report, right before the incident, the mother's sister called police for a well-being check. She advised that her sister was talking about demons prior to leaving the resident with her children. Donna Pratt and her daughters and friend Taylor Quintin were staying at the hotel right at the beach and saw this entire thing unfold.

Taylor, you were there on the beach. This mini van drives out onto the beach. What exactly did you see?

TAYLOR QUINTIN, WITNESSED WOMAN DRIVE CHILDREN INTO OCEAN: Well, at first I saw the van actually driving really close to the ocean and my friend pointed out, that is a little weird how deep in the water they were getting. And then we noticed that they were in about a foot of water at that point when two bystanders from the beach ran over to talk to them and the woman just sped up and went straight into the water and the van was submerged under the water at that point.

When two bystanders ran in to get -- one bystander got two kids out of the vehicle and then they were screaming there's a baby in the car, there's a baby in the car. They went back into the car to get the small child out of the car. And at first I thought it was a joke because they were like hanging out the window. Then I went down to the ocean. You could hear them screaming for help and trying to get attention from anybody on the beach.

BURNETT: And, Taylor, when you talk about them hanging out of the window, the windows were down, right? What was the temperature like?

QUINTIN: The windows were down. It was actually a cool day out. Not many people at the beach because it was so cold that day. It wasn't a great day. So their hands and arms were out the window like waving and screaming.

BURNETT: So did you get the impression that they knew something was wrong, were crying for help, that as you said they were screaming?

QUINTIN: Yes. Yes. We got the impression that they were in trouble.

BURNETT: I mean, that's just a horrifying thing to imagine when you think of the age of these children, 10, 9 and 3.

Donna, you were staying at the hotel. You saw this from the balcony. I want to play the video, the exclusive video that you have that you gave to us which you appreciate what you saw. Everybody could see. The spotlight there is the actual mini van.

Donna, from the perspective of your view from the balcony, when you saw this, what do you think? Did you think this was an accident or what?

DONNA PRATT, WITNESSED WOMAN DRIVE CHILDREN INTO OCEAN: Originally I just thought the vehicle was driving parallel to the beach the way all the other cars go but just in the water more so I just thought that -- initially that it was a kid or something had decided, you know, what's it like to be down in the water.

But when I saw the bystanders go up to the vehicle and when they approached the vehicle and looked in the window, the woman clearly just sped up more and headed directly into the ocean, I knew it was no joke, there was something serious going on. And at that point it got pretty deep pretty fast.

The bystanders, they were heroes, you know? They -- the van started rocking against the waves and one of them actually went down and they got the kids out pretty quickly. They took two out and realized there was another child strapped a child seat and a life guard at that point helped and got the third child out.

BURNETT: It's a miracle that that happened. Think about how close to horror this came and that those children were aware of what was happening.

Thank you both for coming on the program. We'll continue to follow that story and find out exactly what that mother was thinking, why she was doing that.

Still to come, a surprising admission at the Oscar Pistorius trial. One of the friends says this is not the first time that the Blade Runner has been in trouble because of guns.

BURNETT: And Pope Francis responds to being called, quote/unquote, "a super hero".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right. I want to check in with Anderson with a look at what's coming up on "AC360" in Kiev.

Hi, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Erin.

We are live from independent square tonight, an extraordinary day and developments here on the ground. High tensions on the ground in Crimea. The U.N. envoy threatened to the region threatened by pro- Russian thugs, forced to end his mission there. Found himself trapped and surrounded in a coffee shop. He got safe passage and flew out of Crimea.

We'll talk about what happened on the ground there. Also, a day as you've been reporting of dramatic diplomatic developments. The question is what, if anything, has actually been accomplished today on the diplomatic front? Has there been movement or not? We'll talk about all of that with our correspondents all throughout Europe in Crimea here on the ground in Kiev as well.

All of that and more at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, looking forward to seeing that. Anderson in Kiev in just a few moments.

Well, a surprise witness today in the murder trial involving Oscar Pistorius.

So, a friend of the former Olympian took the stand and testified that he was actually with Pistorius when Pistorius fired a gun inside the restaurant. And then after that, Pistorius asked the friend to take the blame.

This incident took place a couple of weeks before the death of Pistorius' girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Robyn Curnow has been following the story and the trial. She begins our coverage tonight in Pretoria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Day three here at the Oscar Pistorius trial. We heard a series of witnesses who tried to paint a picture of Oscar Pistorius as perhaps trigger happy and irresponsible, all relating to one incident. At a Johannesburg restaurant where Pistorius was allegedly handed a loaded gun, it then went off.

And according to the state, Pistorius then tried to get a friend to take the wrap for him. KEVIN LERENA, WITNESS: He said, please take the gun from me. There's too much media around me. Just take the blame from me. And Darren Fresco, and when the restaurant owners, when the manager came up, Darren took the blame.

CURNOW: Now, also today, the defense continued to raise doubts about the credibility of the testimony of a married couple, neighbors of Oscar Pistorius, witness one and witness three. Now, over and over again, we heard Pistorius' defense try and build a picture of the fact that this married couple had perhaps colluded over their testimonies and that they didn't really know what they had heard that night. And our legal experts say that the defense is quite expert at that.

In terms of Oscar Pistorius today, well, he seemed like business- like, often sharing notes with his team, he didn't seem emotional, he didn't cry, he didn't break down, he certainly didn't put his hands over his ears like he did yesterday over some of the trickier part of the testimony, how Reeva died.

So, you know, people here are looking to day four to bring some more revelations, to more detail, more depth to the state's case.

Back to you, Erin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to Robyn who's in the courtroom every day.

Our legal analyst Danny Cevallos is OUTFRONT.

Danny, and you and I have been talking about this trial together. So the prosecution is trying to paint the story as someone who's careless with guns -- I mean just, obviously South Africa, the crime situation is different, but this guy brings a gun into the restaurant and then he shoots it and then according to the testimony we just saw, tries to get his friend to take the blame.

How much this hurt Oscar Pistorius?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, I think it's very bad. In the United States at least, prior bad acts like this are generally not admissible. So, in other words, you can't introduce evidence that somebody used a gun a few weeks before to show that they used the gun on the date in question. But in South Africa, they will allow, the courts will allow this evidence if it is highly probative.

The problem here is this prior act was an accidental discharge. The case at bar is a case of an intentional shooting. Even if he was mistaken about who he was shooting.

BURNETT: Right.

CEVALLOS: So I think even the probative value here is really outweighed by the prejudicial effect and the judge here may conclude improperly that he's the kind of guy that shoots guns around, when really the prior act here doesn't have that much to bear on the intentional act of shooting into a bathroom, however mistaken he was.

BURNETT: All right. It may be true, but I guess, you know, the push back would be that this is someone who carries a gun around and is pretty cavalier with it. Would perhaps show that this is someone much more likely to shoot a gun in anger?

CEVALLOS: It is exactly why we have rule in the United States 403 evidence. It certainly is probative, it's interesting to a fact- finder that this is a guy who uses guns.

BURNETT: Yes.

CEVALLOS: But the potential prejudice of that act, of that evidence, is so great since it does not involve the instant case, this case at bar, that in United States courts, for the most part, that evidence would be excluded because the prejudicial value far outweighs any probative effect.

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

Obviously crucial and as we said, as we continue to cover this, there is no judge, right? I mean, there's no jury, this is going to be a judge that makes a decision on the guilt or innocence of Oscar Pistorius.

On this Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis followers are marking a time of penance and reflection. The pope is also contemplating life.

And in an interview published in an Italian newspaper today, Pope Francis downplayed his popularity, he said, quote, "To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly, and has friends like everyone else, a normal person."

I guess a lot of people would say he's a far thing from a normal person.

The pope may not want to be the rock and roll pope who graces the cover of "Rolling Stone" as he did recently, but he is the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics and a topic of fascination for everyone else, most certainly far from a normal person.

Up next, Katy Perry tries for a new career.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So, Katy Perry took over for the weatherman today, the singer. It didn't go so well.

Here's Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Katy Perry was mostly sunny as she did the weather on Australia's "Sunrise Show" --

KATY PERRY, MUSICIAN: Because I have this nifty wand that all weather reporters use.

MOOS: -- which she proceeded to point.

PERRY: Carns?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cairns.

MOOS: Seventeen hundred miles in the wrong direction, and then mispronounced the capital of Australia.

PERRY: Possible storm for Coona-berra.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: The koala making a cameo didn't seem to take offense.

The pretend weather girl is even confronted by a pretend version of herself in wax.

PERRY: Well, her boobs are much bigger.

MOOS: Katy played the boob, making a Harry Potter joke at the expense of the city named Hobart.

PERRY: Twenty degrees with morning shower or two for Hogwarts.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS (on camera): It doesn't seem to matter that weather really isn't on their radar.

(voice-over): That hasn't stopped a slew of celebrities from being cast as forecasters.

Scarlet Johannsen also suffered from GPD, geographical pointing deficit, as she gestured to the West Coast while predicting snow in --

SCARLET JOHANNSEN, ACTRESS: Western Pennsylvania.

MOOS: And Snooki had to adjust her own areas of low cut pressure.

The pressure was anything but low on the anchor who had to toss to Prince Charles, calling him your highness.

PRINCE CHARLES, ENGLAND: Well, it's an unsettled picture.

MOOS: The prince found the script on the teleprompter to be a royal pain.

PRINCE CHARLES: The potential for a few flurries over Balmoral -- who the hell wrote this script?

MOOS (on camera): But who needs to dabble in Doppler when you can dance across the weather map? (voice-over): Which is what Tom Hanks did on Univision, since he couldn't speak Spanish -- might as well go up and down like barometric pressure, it felt like a rehearsal for dancing with the stars meteorological edition.

When the late, great comedian Paul Lynde did the weather for an Ohio station --

PAUL LYNDE, COMEDIAN: The "H" are a hot or humid? It's both.

MOOS: -- he played it dumb.

LYNDE: Forty-one percent chance of twisters.

MOOS: And when confronted by radar --

LYNDE: It looks like I'm going to be a fortune teller.

MOOS: That was in the late '70s. Now in 2014 --

PERRY: And if you didn't understand all this, I'm sure you have an app on your phone.

MOOS: Not bad, Katy, you made the weather bearable.

(CROSSTALK)

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: That's my favorite part, that's koala bear looks like going hmph.

Anderson Cooper starts now.