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President Obama Speaks With Putin For One Hour; GOP Preaches To The Base At CPAC; Drunk Gambler Sues Casino After Losing $500,000; Interview with Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas; Interview with Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland

Aired March 6, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Breaking news from the White House tonight. We're just learning about an hour-long phone call between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Was there a breakthrough? We have details of what happened on that call in just a moment.

Plus a showdown for the ages at an IRS hearing. Now calls for the chairman of that committee to step down. The man at the center of the controversy is OUTFRONT tonight.

An emotional breakdown at the Oscar Pistorius trial today. The "Blade Runner" sobs as witnesses describe detail his girlfriend's death. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. We begin OUTFRONT tonight with some breaking news. The White House just announcing that President Obama and Vladimir Putin spoke for an hour this afternoon. We're going to go our senior White House correspondent for the details in just a moment and also going to be speaking to the spokeswoman for the State Department.

But, first, I want to go through the latest developments in the crisis in Ukraine itself. The United States stepping up the pressure on Russia because today the Pentagon sent six fighter jets to the Baltic region to help boost the U.S. presence there.

President Obama signed an order allowing the U.S. government to impose economic sanctions against groups and individuals responsible for the crisis in Ukraine although that did not apply to Mr. Putin.

There was another significant development today. The Crimean parliament voted today to separate from Ukraine and become an autonomous part of the Russian federation. That is ahead of a March 16th referendum in Crimea where the voters will vote whether to split from Ukraine. President Obama denounced the referendum strongly today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law. Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine.


BURNETT: Russia continues to solidify its position with the military moving a partially sunk Russian ship to block seven Ukrainian vessels in Crimea and the region remains on edge as Russia conducts large- scale air defense drills about 280 miles from the Ukrainian border tonight.

I want to go to the White House first. Jim Acosta is there. So Jim, what can you tell us? I mean, this is just coming really right before the show that the president and Vladimir Putin had spoken for an hour. What did they talk about?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they talked about the steps that the president took today that executive action that he signed basically authorizing sanctions that may be coming against a Russian and Ukrainian targets. Those visa bans that are aimed and also a Russian-Ukrainian targets.

But the president also said, once again, that he believes that this invasion of Crimea is a violation of Ukraine sovereignty and he made that clear in the phone call, according to a readout from the White House.

But one other thing that was interesting to note in this readout that we got in just the last several minutes and that is that the president sort of laid out that off ramp, once again, to President Putin.

Saying that what he is recommending at this point is that Russia and Ukraine hold direct talks over what is happening in Crimea right now and that international observers could come in to make sure everything is on the up and up.

And something that is also interesting, Erin, if you look at the Kremlins version of this readout and we sort of have a rough translation of it, it mentions that the Russian's president stressed the paramount importance of Russian/American relations to ensure stability and security in the world.

That is an indication and this is just a rough read of it that Putin is perhaps responding to some of the pressure that is being brought to bear by the White House and by the international community.

BURNETT: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Now let's get more on this call, Jen is the spokesperson for the State Department. She's OUTFRONT tonight. Jen, what more can you tell us? You heard the readout from the White House, but Jim Acosta's interpretation. Vladimir Putin talk about the central nature of the U.S./Russian relationship on the world stage in terms of trade.

Do you have a feeling and what is your view of this call? Was this positive? Is Vladimir Putin going to go with a diplomatic solution?

JEN PSAKI, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Well, Erin, engagement has been an incredibly important part of this process over the last couple of days whether it's President Obama speaking with President Putin. They've had a couple of calls this week. Secretary Kerry has been on the ground in Paris and Rome.

He's been engaging with E.U. foreign ministers talking about our unified path forward. He gave a good summary there. The important there is, look, if Russia continues down this path, there are going to be consequences. There are going to be costs.

You saw us announce some of those costs today. But there is always an off ramp. There are steps they can take and, that's of course, what the president conveyed today.

BURNETT: The one thing that I wanted to ask you about, Jen, of course, is this whole issue of legitimacy. You know, you just heard the president talk about a legitimate government and the one thing when I talked to people outside the United States that they questioned the handling of this.

The whole question of the legitimate government in Ukraine. No one denies the toppled government was a bad government, "bad guy." Why is the United States supporting a government that is not democratically elected and calling it legitimate when it replaced a government that was democratically elected?

PSAKI: Well, Erin, there are a lot of context there. I mean, Yanukovych fled the country. He left his people with a void of leadership. The parliament represents a more expansive population than the president ever did. This is a temporary solution here.

The key piece here is they're all working towards elections in May and what we've seen from this new government, from the legitimate government is they're taking steps to benefit the future of Ukraine and the future of the people of Ukraine and so we are supporting them in those efforts.

BURNETT: And again, this issue of legitimacy. You mentioned Yanukovych. All right, no one is saying that he was a good guy. But there are a lot of really bad guys that the United States does business with every day. According to which as you know rates countries on democracy, freedom and corruption.

The United States has relations with a lot of countries along the Soviet -- former Soviet border that are a heck of a lot worse than Ukraine on their votes. Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, all rate the lowest in the world, the worst possible score.

Ukraine is better than all of them. So, why is this situation suddenly so significant when the United States finds it possible to ignore these other terrible governments every day of the week?

PSAKI: Well, I think I don't think that's true. I mean, we do all sorts of reports and calling out of issues and things we're concerned about every single day. This is a case where Russia violated international law by invading Ukraine. Our relationship with Ukraine is incredibly important. Stability in the region is incredibly important and it's in our interest and Russia's interest to have a stable and prosperous Ukraine. So, of course, we're invested in it. Just like our European partners are as well.

BURNETT: So then if you talk about this invasion and then it would seem, again, people say to me, if Crimea is asking for self- determination, the right to vote and choose what it is a part of, whether it's a part of Ukraine or a part of Russia. How is it that the United States, the president says today that that is not legitimate, that they can't do that? How can the U.S. be on the side of not supporting people's right to democratically choose their own destiny?

PSAKI: Well, it's not the United States determining that. Ukraine's constitution doesn't allow that. It's not legitimate as it relates to Ukraine's constitution. Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Not a separate entity. So the point here as the president said today that the government needs to be a part of any discussion and, obviously, any decision needs to be abided by and abide by the constitution.

BURNETT: But isn't that the same constitution that got thrown out by, I don't know what word. I understand you don't want to use the word coup, but again when the people kick the elected guy out?

PSAKI: No, it's not. Kind of agreement that was put together or agreed to in practice, but Yanukovych never signed it. It was never implemented and he fled and left the country. So we are talking about implementing the constitution that has been around for quite some time. And I'm not aware of any constitution in Ukraine's history that would allow for one region to vote on a referendum to be a part of another country.

BURNETT: All right, Jen Psaki, thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time.

OUTFRONT next, the most influential members of the Republican Party gathered today. Why they believe GOP infighting is actually going to help them win the White House.

Plus a gambler loses $500,000 in one night and now he wants the casino to give him his money back. Yes. You're going to hear him explain why.

And the "Blade Runner's" breakdown. Oscar Pistorius tears up in court.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw there was blood and hair and what looked like brain tissue intermingled with that.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: So where did the Republican Party go wrong? A lot of different theories from a lot of big name Republicans today at CPAC, which is the largest annual gathering of conservative leaders and activists.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We have to stop letting the media define who we are and what we stand for.

SENATOR MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Conservatives can't afford or expect to win elections by default. We need to win elections with a mandate.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We put our head down, we stood for nothing and we got walloped.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: The way the left tells it, the Republican Party is in this big massive civil war. It's Tea Party versus establishment libertarians versus social conservatives. There is infighting, conflict, back fighting and discord. Look, I'm Irish. That's my idea of a family reunion. I don't see this great divide in our party. What I see is a vibrant debate.


BURNETT: A vibrant debate. Joining me now CNN political commentators, Cornell Belcher on the left and Ana Navarro on the right. All right, Ana, let me start with you because you were in the room today for those speeches. Vibrant debate or divided party?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a little bit of both, but I think what Paul Ryan was trying to say and I agree with this is that we need to make it a big tent party, not only when it comes to women, minorities, but also when it comes to ideas and that we need to lead as a party of ideas and we need to embrace diversity of thought. You know, that was the big message that I took out of Paul Ryan that I took out of most of those CPAC speeches.

BURNETT: Where is the diversity of thought, though, Cornell?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's hard to do. I mean, I've gone through tough primaries before. But primaries is hard to do because strategically you don't actually want to let a lot of issue contrast between you and the PAC because then they can attack you. I think you saw that with Romney last time around.

You won't see a lot of issue contrast between Republicans and what they do is they double down on the red meat issues that really play to the base that hurt them and they hurt them in general elections.

BURNETT: Right, which can hurt them. Speaking of being hurt in general elections, Ana, you know, Governor Christie hasn't been invited to CPAC in part because he was seen as liberal northeast governor. Now he is being -- you know, people are looking into this whole issue with the George Washington Bridge and in a sense that some people say have really galvanized the conservative base. They are going to love Chris Christie now because he is being in their view picked on by the media. But, yet, a poll today from ABC News/"Washington Post" would you vote for Chris Christie in 2016? Among Republicans, definitely not, 30 percent. What is the deal with Chris Christie? Is he the second coming any more or not?

NAVARRO: I think, look, I think Chris Christie is a governor, is a Republican governor who has a strong record of some actions that he's taken at the state level. He was there today wearing several hats including his hat as chair of the Republicans Governor Association and highlighting some of the actions taken by governors across the country.

And also that they are not part of the Washington dysfunction. That unlike Washington, that engages in so much partisan gridlock and partisan fighting, they actually have to get things done. He also talked about having to stand for something, not just being the party of no, but being the party of something, of ideas and offering alternatives.

Yes, he did talk about the first and that, of course, gets a lot of applause and that crowd and, you know, he's been feeling the heat from the press, as you well know.

BURNETT: Yes, he certainly has. Cornell, what about the scene, though, talking about going to the base. The minority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell goes on stage and he brings on a gun like he just walked out there. The crowd starts cheering.

He gives it to retiring Senator Tom Coburn and my understanding is there was there was no explanation and just a gun gets handled over and turns out a lifetime achievement award from the NRA.

BELCHER: It is really an odd thing because I think having a gun open like that is illegal but that aside.

NAVARRO: It was Maryland. It was Maryland, OK.

BELCHER: OK, good. So, he won't be arrested. But that aside, again, it really does sort of play to the base although the problem is Mitch McConnell is in a tough sort of situation with a primary, too. So, he has to right even further to the right and try to reach that base. The problem with Mitch McConnell, it seemed awkward and doesn't seem natural and clearly that room doesn't love him.

BURNETT: What about, Ana, let's be honest, the fact that the Republican Party has some people that they cannot distance themselves from. I'm going to be diplomatic about it. One of them was there today, Donald Trump. I know he gives a lot of money to these guys so he's important, but I wanted to play part of his speech where he talked about the president.


DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION CHAIRMAN AND PRESIDENT: His disapproval rating is 54 percent. When you think of that, it's sort of inconceivable. I mean, we're getting into Jimmy Carter territory. And I never thought I'd see anything like that, again. I lived through that time. And it was not a good time. And we're pretty close. I think maybe by next month we will have surpassed the late, great Jimmy Carter.


BURNETT: Just to clarify Jimmy Carter's grandson did weigh in that he is not the late Jimmy Carter. But jokes aside, Ana, just go ahead and respond. This is your party.

NAVARRO: Listen, Erin, first of all, it's CPAC, right. So this is not an official Republican event. It's not the RNC and let's just also put it in context. Donald Trump is not an elected Republican. He is not going to run for election despite the fact that he keeps wanting to trump that up. He's not going to run for election in New York. He's not going to run for president.

This is part, we all get the joke, right? This is part of it and let's just be real about something. If he didn't have money and if he didn't donate money to some of these, you know, organizations that that makes him a supporter or a sponsor and gives him the ability to speak.

He probably wouldn't be there because he's not crafting policy and not deciding agenda and not affecting votes in Congress. He's there to promote his brand, to feed his ego, to give his lecture and reading of the world and he can do it because he's got money and everybody gets the joke.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. Ana, Cornell, we appreciate your time.

Still to come, a man blows $500,000 at a casino in one night. So now he is suing them to get it back. This is America.

Plus, the man at the center of one of the ugliest exchanges ever on Capitol Hill. Congressman Elijah Cummings is going to be our guest OUTFRONT next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America. I am tired of this.



BURNETT: Whatever happens in Vegas can cost you big time if you're intoxicated. That is the lesson one businessman learned after becoming so drunk he did not realize that he gambled away $500,000. But this being the United States, he wants his money back so he's suing for it hoping that in the eyes of the law, the odds are in his favor. Kyung Lah is out front.


MARK JOHNSTON, BUSINESSMAN: They served me all the drinks, they should have cut me off.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a wild weekend in sin city, but what happened to retired real investor, Mark Johnston, didn't stay in Vegas. He lost $500,000 gambling and he says it wasn't his fault.

JOHNSTON: Just picture a drunk walking down the street and he's drunk and somebody goes up and just pick pockets him and takes his wallet out of him. That's how I characterize it.

LAH (on camera): You feel like they're stealing from you?

JOHNSTON: Absolutely.

LAH (voice-over): They is the Downtown Grand Casino. On Super Bowl weekend, Johnston claims in a civil lawsuit he claims that the casino took advantage of him. According to Johnston's lawsuit he was so visibly intoxicated he was dropping chips on the floor, confusing chip colors and slurring his speech badly and he was unable to read his cards.

He said he had a 44-hour gap in memory that he calls "The Blackout Period." How much does he claim he drank? Twenty alcoholic beverages in 17 hours. That's on top of the approximately ten drinks he said he consumed before he even stepped into the casino. How is that the casino's fault?

Johnston says that the Downtown Grand continued to serve his free drinks violating Nevada State law that prohibits capping drinks to patrons who are visibly drunk and then letting them gamble.

(on camera): How do you view that weekend now?

JOHNSTON: I view that weekend that you know, my responsibility is, look, I had some drinks at the airport. I had a drink on the plane. You know, at some point, that's my responsibility. OK, but, the unfortunate part about it for them is that they have a more bigger responsibility than I do.

LAH (voice-over): The State Gaming Commission tells CNN it is investigating Johnston's case and if the casino is in violation of state laws, it could be subject to fines or revocation of his gambling license. The casino had no comment saying it is in the middle of a lawsuit with Johnston.

As far as Johnston? We chatted next to his $250,000 Mercedes. He says his lawsuit is not about the money.

(on camera): Come on, this is Vegas. You gambled with the money. Is this a sore loser?

JOHNSTON: I am not a sore loser. I have lost $500,000. I've lost $800,000. I've lost a lot of money. I've won a lot of money. This has nothing to do with that. Obviously, I can afford what I lost. This is about you almost killing me.


LAH: Now, this lawsuit could potentially have a ripple effect, certainly if this is found to have some sort of merit if the gaming commission decides that the casino and other casinos will take notice and so, too, could other gamblers -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Kyung, thank you very much. Pretty fascinating argument. The casino almost killing someone. Let us know what you think about that.

Still to come, back to our breaking news. President Obama talking to Vladimir Putin for an hour this afternoon and he had his mic cut off during a heated dispute with another congressman. Did he get an apology? Elijah Cummings, the Congressman, is OUTFRONT tonight.


BURNETT: More of our breaking news out of Washington tonight, President Obama spent an hour on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin today talking about the crisis in Ukraine. Now, obviously, there is translation. So, it's not a full hour of talk time.

But from the understanding we have of what happened, they talked about Russia's actions, the president reiterating his case that he believe is a violation of international law, but there's a way to resolve the situation diplomatically. The Russian readout of the call, in a translation, our Jim Acosta loosely translated and basically said the relationship between U.S. and Russia so important to the world stage -- that acknowledgment seems to imply that there could be some movement here on a deal. But no news of that as of yet.

Congressman Michael McCaul is in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He's also the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and he's OUTFRONT tonight.

Great to see you, Congressman.


BURNETT: A lot of criticism of the president from Republicans. I mean, we all know Ted Cruz, bullies and tyrants don't respect weakness, and is that weakness which invites Putin is all but openly laughing at the president. That was Ted Cruz today. There's been a lot of other comments like that. Marco Rubio and others jumping onboard.

Do you share that view?

MCCAUL: I don't think some of that dialogue is constructive. I think we're Americans. We need to unite in this effort.

The fact of the matter is I do think that Putin having gone to Russia understands one thing and it's strength. And I think he probably does view this president as weak and it invites aggression as we've seen in the Ukraine and certainly in Crimea.

So, I'm very concerned about the words we use, as well. At the hearing today, you know, I asked the administration if this was an act of war.


MCCAUL: And they kind of danced around that issue when one government invades another country and sovereign nation with troops, I think that is an act of war that must be dealt with.

I think Russia -- to get into the policy side -- is looking at the Georgian playbook that they used to so well, when they invaded and then occupied, and their allegiance now is to Russia. I think Russia and Putin is trying to do the same thing now and trying to recast the empire that he once had.

BURNETT: All right. Let me just note that, of course, that invasion of Georgia was under George W. Bush. So, you know, you can't blame Obama for that, obviously.


BURNETT: But also the point that you're making about the president seeming weak. I mean, this is exactly what I'm curious about -- if you want to declare it as something, an act of war. That's a strong word to use, right? So, if he called it an act of war, wouldn't he then be forced to interview militarily or else have people like you saying, he's being weak?

MCCAUL: No, it's an act of war against the Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. I think that we need to give our NATO allies every assurance that we are going to provide them with the necessary military assistance, but it's not our war. It's a war -- an act of war of Russia against the Ukrainian people and I think it's important to call it that because that's Putin's language and he understands that.

So, when you're negotiating with him and I do give credit to the president to try to negotiate with Putin over this. I don't know if I'm entirely optimistic, but I do think the sanctions we voted on a measure today to give long guarantees to Ukraine. I think the sanctions the administration is looking at in fairness to the president. They deployed a destroyer to the Black Sea and they've given fighter jets now to Poland.

That's all very important messaging, if you will. That's the only message that Putin really understands.

BURNETT: And -- to your point, what would the president do differently? You know, Lindsey Graham was just on "CROSSFIRE" and I know you may not have heard exactly what he said, but he basically applauded him directly and said, look, the past 24 hours, he's been great -- specifically referencing the fighting jets that the president has now deployed over the Baltics.

But what would you do differently? I mean, this seems to be something which really easy to criticize whoever is president in a time like this, but it's really hard to come up with something better than sanctions or something that a lot of critics easily call weak. But what's the better idea? You have one?

MCCAUL: Well, you know, I agree with that. It's very complex situation. I think we should have seen this thing coming and try to do everything we could diplomatically and through sanctions to stop it.

But, again, I think he's doing exactly what he did in Georgia, which I think, you know, I hope the sanctions and the pressure amounts to something. I'm very concerned that Crimea now is going to go back to the Russian federation. In fact, the parliament just voted today to do just that in Crimea.

So, yes, I agree with you. I'll tell you one thing I would do and that is open energy exports to the Ukraine. They have been denied by this administration since the Russians don't have that leverage that they have over Ukraine right now. This natural gas has been chunked by the Russians as leverage in this conflict.

BURNETT: Right. You know what? This country should be exporting natural gas left, right and center. But that's a totally different conversation.

All right. Good to talk to you. Appreciate it, Congressman.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: Calls tonight for the removal of powerful congressman from his leadership post. So, Democrats are demanding House Speaker John Boehner remove Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. He's the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. It's a very powerful position. And in the letter to the speaker, the Congressional Black Caucus said, Issa, quote, "abused his authority" at a hearing yesterday on the IRS.

In that hearing, he clashed with the Democratic ranking member of the committee, Elijah Cummings. And let me play for you exactly what happened.


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

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

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

I want to ask a question. What are we hiding? What is the big deal? May I ask my question? May I state my statement? ISSA: You're all free to leave. We've adjourned.

But the gentleman may ask his question. Thank you.

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


BURNETT: Joining me now, the man at the center of the exchange. You see him there, Congressman Elijah Cummings.

And, Congressman, good to have you with us.

CUMMINGS: Good to be with you, Erin.

BURNETT: Should Congressman Issa lose his chairmanship because of that?

CUMMINGS: That's going to be up to the Republican Caucus. I would hope that they would look at the tape that you just showed and see that that is no way to run a committee. But I leave that up to them, that they'll make that decision.

But I would hope that -- Speaker Boehner said today that he thought that Chairman Issa was acting appropriately and I was shocked to hear that because, clearly, you cannot have a situation where the minority is silenced so that and prevent it from speaking one syllable. That's what Issa was trying to do, preventing the minority from speaking one syllable at a hearing. It doesn't work that way. It's not the American (AUDIO GAP) and that's not the democratic way.

BURNETT: Let me just play for our viewers what Speaker Boehner said today to defend Congressman Issa. Here he is.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: From what I understand, I think Mr. Issa was within his rights to adjourn the hearing when he did.

REPORTER: Do you approve the way he acted and are you prepared to say you're not going to replace him as chairman?

BOEHNER: Darrell Issa is the chairman. He's done an effective job as chairman. And I support him.


BURNETT: That's pretty -- pretty declarative.

CUMMINGS: Yes. I mean, again, that's up to them. But I got to tell you, I'm hoping that Speaker Boehner will, again, look at what happened and I cannot imagine a Democrat chairman cutting off the mike of a Republican. I cannot imagine it. And I would never do it. I think that I respect my colleagues, all of us representing over 700,000 people. I respect their voices and I want to hear their voices. I will fight to hear their voices.

BURNETT: Now, what do you think caused Congressman Issa to do this? Obviously, he was frustrated, he says, because Lois Lerner, who was formerly with the IRS, was testifying and she kept just taking the Fifth, right? Keep taking the Fifth, and wasn't saying anything. That's why he says -- he'll say he did what he did.

But why is the Congressional Black Caucus calling for him to step down? I mean, it sounds like you're supporting that, you're being careful with your words, I understand that.


BURNETT: But, go ahead --

CUMMINGS: Erin, let's be clear. It's questionable. Nobody seems to know what Chairman Issa wants. It seems as if there's an effort to draw this thing out to the 2014 elections in November.

And, so, come on. He could have gotten information yesterday and he refused to get it. And shut me off. Shut completely. And then he said, the reason why he shut me off is basically that he didn't like what I was saying and he didn't like what he thought I would be saying. Come on, please.

BURNETT: Now, have you -- obviously, it sounds like you haven't spoken to Chairman Issa.

CUMMINGS: I spoke to him briefly today.

BURNETT: And how was that? Was it civil? It doesn't sound like he apologized, or you wouldn't --

CUMMINGS: No, he has not -- he has not apologized. I didn't expect him to apologize. I didn't.

This is not the first time that this has happened. Congressman Tierney of our committee was shut down -- was his mic was turned off a few weeks ago, the same kind of activity.

BURNETT: Now, you mentioned this isn't the first time this happened. You're talking about an incident with the chairman cutting off a mic a couple weeks ago.

It's also not the first time that you and Chairman Issa had had run- ins with each other. Over the summer, he faced some heat for what many called was an inappropriate comment. He used the quote (AUDIO GAP) referred to you as a little boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar. Some people questioned his use of the word "boy". They said that there was some sort of racial motivation in that.

Now, obviously, the Congressional Black Caucus is coming out and asking for his -- for him to step down as chairman of this committee. Do you think there is a pattern of disrespect to you, specifically, from Darrell Issa?

CUMMINGS: Erin, I just told you that he disrespected my colleague, Mr. Tierney, and Mr. Tierney is white. I'm not going to get caught up in the racial piece because that simply ends up being a distraction and it becomes the headline.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Congressman.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

BURNETT: Still to come, an emotional breakdown at the so-called Blade Runner trial. Oscar Pistorius cries and convulses today.

And Jeanne Moos with the nicest prank you'll probably ever see.


BURNETT: Gripping eyewitness testimony today in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. The athlete's neighbor revealing grisly details of what he saw just moments after the Blade Runner's girlfriend was shot four times, and the testimony was so powerful and frankly graphic that it left the one-time Olympian in tears.

Robyn Curnow is OUTFRONT and begins our coverage in Pretoria.


DR. JOHAN STIPP, WITNESS: She had no pulse in her neck. She had no breathing movements that she made.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oscar Pistorius unable to bear the graphic eyewitness testimony from his neighbor, Dr. Johan Stipp. The athlete's head in his hands, wiping away tears as the doctor described the gruesome scene last Valentine's Day.

Stipp was among the first to see the Blade Runner's model girlfriend after she was shot three times.

STIPP: As I approached the lady, there was a man on his knees. I remember the first thing he said when I got there was that, he said, "I shot her. I thought she was a burglar. And I shot her."

CURNOW: Stipp then told the court an emotional Pistorius was praying to bring his girlfriend back.

STIPP: While I was trying to ascertain if she is survivable, Oscar was crying all the time. He prayed to God to please let her live. She must not die.

CURNOW: At times, Pistorius looked as if he was going to vomit during the testimony.

STIPP: I saw there was blood and hair and what looked like brain tissue intermingled with that.

CURNOW: Someone in the court even bringing him what appeared to be a sick bag. Stipp is the fourth witness to remember hearing screams the night Pistorius shot through a bathroom door killing his girlfriend of three months.

STIPP: Those were the type of screams you'd hear if someone was in fear of his or her life.

CURNOW: But under intense cross-examination by the defense team, the doctor admitted that if Steenkamp was killed by the gunshots that woke him up, then it's possible the screams he heard actually came from Pistorius.

BARRY ROUX, DEFENSE LAWYER: The medical specialist that I consulted with all said the same thing. That person after the shots would not have been able to scream. That person would be nonresponsive, despite the wounding, would that make sense to you as a medical doctor?

STIPP: It does, yes.

CURNOW (on camera): I've been inside the courtroom for the past four days and this witness, this doctor and neighbor has such powerful testimony. He's centered. He's composed and we're going to hear more of that on Friday.

Back to you, Erin.


BURNETT: Thanks to you, Robyn, in Pretoria.

And now, let's bring in our legal analyst, Danny Cevallos.

We've been talking about this together all week, Danny. But today was really powerful testimony and, obviously, you saw the physical reaction of Oscar Pistorius. I guess the big question for you -- first of all, is this whole issue of how he responds. Yesterday, there wasn't the graphic detail of Reeva Steenkamp's death and the grisly detail about the bodily fluids and brain.

So, he didn't react as emotionally, but today, he was pretty emotional. So, does that play in his favor or does it look like an act? What do you think?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The bottom line, Erin, is that as a defendant, you just can't win. If you show too much emotion, people will say that you're putting on an act. If you are calm and collected, they say, look at that stone-faced killer.

So, the best advice you can give a client is just sit there and look innocent, whatever that means.

BURNETT: So, now, what about the testimony today. For the fourth time now, we heard a witness say that he had heard a woman screaming for her life. Now, obviously, you know, the whole Pistorius case, I thought she was an intruder and I shot her before I knew it was her. Obviously, if she was screaming, that would be false. So, how big of a problem is this for Pistorius?

CEVALLOS: Increasingly, a bigger and bigger problem because witness after witness is sticking to their story under cross-examination that they are convinced they heard a female voice. But look out, the defense has said they're going to bring in an expert in decibels to say that the screams could have come from Oscar Pistorius, which shows one similarity between the U.S. and South African systems. You can find an expert to testify to just about anything.

BURNETT: That's right. They are trying to say he was just so distressed, right, that the pitch of his scream went up and it was him screaming.

All right. Thanks very much to Danny as we continue to analyze this trial with him.

Tonight on CNN, Robert Redford presents "Chicagoland". It's a series that exploits the highly toxic fight over slashing the bloated budget of America's third biggest city. The man in charge is someone who relishes a fight, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who last year closed 50 schools in Chicago that affected 27,000 students. It was the single biggest school closure in American history.

Now, most of those closures came in low-income, black neighborhoods. And that decision led to the mayor being called -- this is what you'll hear in the series -- "a liar, a classist, a racist, the murder mayor."

Liz Dozier appears on "Chicagoland", is the principal of Fenger High School located in Rosedale, which is one of the Chicago neighborhood hit by the closures, one of the hardest neighborhoods in the city.

So, what do you think about Rahm Emanuel, did he do the right thing closing all these schools?

LIZ DOZIER, PRINCIPAL, CHICAGO'S FENGER HIGH SCHOOL: I think it's a tough call. You've got 100,000 empty seats in the city of Chicago in terms of students not being in schools any more. You also have a huge, hundreds of millions of dollars, $700 million deficit.

You also have the very real issue of safety for kids and parents wanting to get kids to and from school safely. So, it's a really, really tough call.

BURNETT: And when you talk about, I mean, people may not realize, to and from school, I mean, to get from where you live to a new school district you might have to walk through a gang area. I mean, it literally -- children's lives are put at risk. I mean, what about the savings, half a million dollars to $800,000 save per school, $43 million a year in operating costs. It's a lot of savings.

But is it worth it when you look at the other side?

DOZIER: So, here's what I focus on, Erin. I focus on Fenger High School and my school. So I think that ultimately I think CPS and I think Rahm Emanuel and I think the teachers union, everybody wants kids to be safe. I think, luckily, I don't have to make that call. That's on them. I just focus on my school.

BURNETT: And what about your school, all right? So, 12 year trend of Fenger Academy's ACT scores which students tend to take in the Midwest, right, for college. Three points below your district, six points below your state. Obviously, there's been other areas where you've done well. But standardized tests are a major factor in this country. That's just the way it is.

So, what are you doing to make sure that your school which is in one of these very, very hard-hit neighborhoods is never on that list?

DOZIER: Yes. No, I think that's a fair point. You have to look at where kids are coming at. This is why we think about kids being in low-performing elementary schools. People across this district, across Chicago will tell you when you're coming from a low-performing elementary school and into a high school they're coming in lower.

So, yes, the scores might not be what they should be, but where our kids coming in at. That's why it's so important that kids get this high quality education in the elementary school, so they can be prepared for college and beyond.

BURNETT: And so, overall, how would you rate what's happening in Chicago? Is this going to be a success, this headline, biggest school closure ever in American history? Will this end of history proving it to be smart?

DOZIER: I mean, I hope so. I think that's what we're all hoping for. Again, I'm focusing on Fenger High School, where you can really clearly see from 20 percent dropout to a below 3 percent dropout rate.


DOZIER: But huge, huge areas of success, increase in attendance, so on and so forth. And so --

BURNETT: How have you had that plunge in the dropout rate?

DOZIER: I see -- I think three main things. I think, one, we had a $1.6 million grant for four years that was amazing and provided us additional support, is what Michelle Obama said, you've got to have resources. I think, two, the phenomenal teachers and staff that we have at Fenger High School that go above and beyond every day for our kids and then partnerships that we make with community organizations like SGA. Great Chicagoans like Begley Deck, who have gone out and provided us with resources and supports.

So, all those things matter and it makes a difference for kids.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we are rooting for you and really fascinating to see this show. So, thank you so much.

DOZIER: Thank you. BURNETT: Liz Dozier, as we said, the principal of Fenger High School.

And don't miss "Chicagoland", the series premiers tonight at 10:00 Eastern, as we said, Robert Redford Presents.

Still to come, the nicest prank in history. We like to end on something like that, and there's only one person who can tell this story so well. And that, of course, Jeanne Moos. She's next.


BURNETT: You don't usually hear the word "heart-warming" to describe a prank but it is the only word that can describe the one trick that a Virginia man pulled. Mischievous.

Jeanne Moos has the story behind one of the most watched videos on YouTube today.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a story of a homeless man who got pranked with a losing lottery ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, today, I'm going to make him think he just won the lottery.

MOOS: But don't worry, he's still a winner. It is a good deed prank and this is the prankster.

Normally, Rahat (ph) is doing things like dressing up in a car seat costume so he can scare fast food workers as the invisible driver.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, really?

MOOS: But instead of a laugh, expect a tear when Rahat pranks a homeless man with a good reputation who had been hanging around a Virginia shopping center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't really have any money to give you. But I do have this winning lottery ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's cool, my friend.

MOOS: They head for a nearby deli to cash in the ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The store clerk is in on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guess what? You got $1,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're kidding me, right?

MOOS: As the clerk counts out 10, 100s, the man stares at the cash, stunned into silence and then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to share it, my friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, come on. That's all yours, man.

I was really then off. I did not expect somebody to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to share with you, big guy.

MOOS: When Rahat insists he keep all of the money, the camera mounted on Rahat's sunglasses catches the eyes of the homeless guy welling up.


MOOS: And when they were done hugging, it wasn't just the homeless man who had to wipe his eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And never never had a friend, has somebody do what just did back there.

MOOS: He was not aware that Rahat was recording everything.

(on camera): Eric the homeless guy now knows that there's a video. But what he still doesn't know is that the lottery ticket wasn't a winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't want to really ruin the moment of him winning the lottery ticket. I wanted him to just like capture that moment, that memory.

MOOS (voice-over): Rahat says he's going to break it to him soon. Though most think the video is touching, some have qualms.

(on camera): Good deeds on camera or exploiting people as props was the headline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not just going to give him the $1,000 and just walk away and say hey, have a great day.

MOOS (voice-over): Rahat set up a fundraising site for Eric. In less than a day, it totaled over $6,000 and counting. Eric didn't win the lotto but he did hit the jackpot.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Probably brought tears to your eyes. I know it did to mine. Obviously understand people say that maybe the video was that right or not.

But think about how much more money and the change into this guy's life. Jeanne tells me 8 million people have looked at that video and obviously, a lot of them been contributing to that fund to help Eric, as you could see, a pretty incredible individual with his life touched.

Thanks so much as always for watching. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.