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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

House Approves Bill to Speed Up VA Firings; No Tea Party Candidates Elected in Senate Midterm Primaries; Update On Boston Marathon Bombings; Teen Faces Life In Prison for Hash Brownies

Aired May 21, 2014 - 19:00   ET

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


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Next, President Obama breaks his silence about the VA scandal but it's not the first time that he's been caught off guard by his own administration. What does it say about his leadership?

Plus, life in prison for selling hash brownies? That's what a Texas teen is facing. Does the punishment fit the crime?

And "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak setting off a firestorm. Who is he calling unpatriotic racists?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, the fallout continuing to grow over the scandal in America's veteran hospitals. The House just passed a bill that cuts through the red tape and it makes it easier to fire senior officials at the VA for misconduct. This crime comes as President Obama finally broke his silence today after meeting with embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The president went before the American public to express his outrage and frustration over the alleged misconduct revealed by CNN that may have resulted in the deaths of at least 40 veterans in Arizona. Yet the president also made it clear that as of now he is standing by Shinseki. But as the crisis continues to snowball, Democrats now are breaking with the president.

I just spoke to Democratic Congressman John Barrow from Georgia about why he is now calling for Shinseki's resignation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BARROW (D), GEORGIA: It's a whole lot easier for someone new to investigate the lack of oversight of someone else than what happened on their watch than it is for the person who was actually responsible for what happened for what happened to investigate essentially their own conduct or their own oversight responsibilities. And you also get to the point where someone has got to be held accountable and it ought to start at the top. And so the model that you hold out is one that I don't think is necessarily correct and it's certainly not relevant now. And people died as a result of this. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: That was the congressman talking about this as it relates to Obamacare. Now in a moment, we'll speak to former White House chief of staff for President George W. Bush, Andy Card, and Obama insider Bill Burton. But first Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT with more on the growing crisis facing President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Obama, it's another buck stops here moment. This time over allegations of hiding veteran wait times at VA facilities.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period.

ACOSTA: After meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, the president praised the general he called Rick. But he suggested the secretary's days may be numbered pending an internal investigation.

OBAMA: I have said to Rick, and I said it to him today, I want to see what the results of these reports are. And there is going to be accountability.

ACOSTA: Veterans groups were quick to slam the president's comments with the American Legion saying his decision to keep Secretary Shinseki at his post is an unfortunate one. Even Democrats are pouncing.

REP. DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: There was no urgency. Mr. President, we need urgency. We need you to roll up our sleeves and get into these hospitals.

ACOSTA: This is not the first time the president's been caught off- guard by his administration's failures. The president touted healthcare.gov before it launched.

OBAMA: The same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak --

ACOSTA: Then found it didn't work.

OBAMA: Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the Web site isn't working as well as it should.

ACOSTA: Republicans charge there is a pattern, pointing to his response to the IRS scandal.

OBAMA: I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday.

ACOSTA: And the president's crisis management is also familiar, standing by Shinseki as he did with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

(On camera): Is he too detached from some of the nuts and bolts of running the government, running an administration?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think if you look at how the president handles a challenge like a Web site and handles this challenge, he responds by demanding action.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: But so far the only action the president took today is demanding that his secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, present some of the findings from his internal investigation by next week. And that is top aide Rob Nabors wrap up his broader view of the Department of Veterans Affairs by next month. Only after those actions there will be consequences, according to this White House -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Jim Acosta for us at the White House.

And OUTFRONT tonight Andy Card. He's the former White House chief of staff for President George W. Bush. And also Bill Burton, a former deputy White House press secretary for President Obama.

Bill, I want to start with you. This backlog at the VA and the wait times, this is an issue that President Obama has been talking about since 2007. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: No veteran should have to fill out a 23-page claim to get care, or wait months, even years to get an appointment at the VA.

I pledge to build a 21st century VA as president. It means no more red tape. It means no more delays. It's about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they have earned when they come home. It's why we're working to eliminate the backlog at the VA. No one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their heads or the care that they need when they come home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: So, Bill, President Obama there very clearly aware that this was a general problem. He has been aware of that for years, but that he said, and we've heard from the White House he didn't know about this specific problem. How does that happen that the White House doesn't know about this?

BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look. And, you know, I'm sure Andy Card can speak to this as well. When you're the president of the United States, there are a lot of big problems that you're managing at any given time. And no matter what the politics are, this is obviously disgusting what happened to these veterans. And what you see the response from the president has been, to act swiftly, to find out the facts, and to act accordingly.

He is not just waiting for a report to get in there and address the wait times. He's instructed his team to go in and do that right away, even as they collect the facts. But this response on the right that the only answer must be firing Shinseki, firing some other person, firing all these other people, that's not the answer right now. The answer right now is get answers to all the facts and address this problem as quickly as you possibly can.

The president has known that this has been a big problem for a long time. And that's why as soon as he got into office, he did start to act to try to relieve some of the backlogs, to make sure that veterans were getting better care. You know, obviously there has been problems along the way in getting all the resources to do that. There has been, you know, Republican attempts to block funding in Congress for a lot of the reforms that were needed.

But the president has continued to work hard and he is going to continue to find answers to the tough questions here and act accordingly.

KEILAR: Well, let's talk -- Andy, you can shed some light on sort of the management perspective of managing a White House. You know that. Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California, he released a statement saying that if the president truly did not know about these scandals and mistakes, we should doubt his ability to properly manage the leviathan government that he helped create.

But, you know, President Bush said that he first learned about the poor conditions at Walter Reid from news reports. Is this just something that happens at times, that presidents are blindsided by things, even if you don't think that's apples to apples? I mean, does this just happen?

ANDY CARD, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: It does happen, but it shouldn't be happening as much as it appears to be happening under President Obama. And I think the White House staff should have a heads-up on what is happening, especially at the Cabinet agencies.

I cannot believe that the Cabinet Affairs Office doesn't get a heads- up phone call saying that somebody is looking at the Veterans Affairs Administration and seeing what's happening, and there is going to be a big story about that. They would know that well in advance. I hope the chief of staff would know about it. And the chief of staff is the one that should have to decide whether or not the president needs to know or people just want him to know.

I think this falls into the category he needs to know. And it's happened far too many times for it to be credible that the president only learns about it through the media. I think that he would learn that many of these problems through the normal process of the White House doing its job. So I think this is a problem inside the White House, not just inside the oval office.

KEILAR: Well, Bill, and to that point, when you look at -- for instance we saw the president has dealt with the abysmal roll-out of healthcare.gov just here in the last several months. And now this. I mean, do you see how things like this might shake the faith of some Americans in government in the role of government? BURTON: Well, I think that people should take a broad look at all the different issues that the president takes on at any given time. And should Americans look at this issue and say something is fundamentally wrong? Yes, they absolutely should. Because there is a massive problem which is harmed.

The people who went out and took real bullets for our country out in the most dangerous places in the world. And so the president is acting swiftly to act on this. But I mean -- I mean, that was an opportunity for you, Andy, to say that yes, there are a lot of big problems that happen and they don't always rise up to the White House and get to the president in time. And when that happens, you act quickly and you take them on.

But this obviously isn't as big a problem as some of the things that happened over the course of the Bush administration. And yes, there have been other things that happened over the course of this administration. But when the American people look at how the president takes these things on, like take healthcare.gov, for example, when there was a problem there, the president put a team in place. They fixed it. And exceeded expectations by a million different -- by a million new enrollees into the program.

So I think the president has a track record of when he sees a problem, he takes it on, and he is effective in dealing with it.

KEILAR: On this issue of this, of this, of the Veterans Affairs hospitals, and just real quick both -- from both of you gentlemen, do you think that Secretary Shinseki should step down, Bill?

BURTON: Well, look. You know, having worked at the White House, having been an aide to President Obama, I know that there are a million variables that you don't know at any given time as it relates to staff. And you always get a lot of outcries, particularly from partisan Republicans, or partisans on either side that say, you know, this person should get fired or that person should get fired. The president takes a very sober approach to all of them.

KEILAR: But you agree with -- you stand behind his decision on that, I imagine?

BURTON: I think far -- far be it for me to say -- to second guess the White House on personal (INAUDIBLE).

KEILAR: And Andy, what do you think? Should he step down?

CARD: I don't know whether Secretary Shinseki offered his resignation and President Obama didn't accept it. But I would think now he personifies the problem. And when you personify the problem, it's very hard to be part of the solution to the problem. So I don't think that members of Congress, Republicans or Democrats, are paying as much attention to Secretary Shinseki as he needs to have in order to be able to solve the problem.

So I think he may be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. So I don't know whether he offered his resignation or not. But I hope that he did. And if President Obama didn't accept the resignation, then hold President Obama accountable for what is happening at that department.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: And quick final question --

BURTON: And that's what the president said. To be clear, that's what the president said, that the accountability lies with him.

KEILAR: Quick final question to you, Andy. This -- politics play into this. This is a midterm year. That's what it's about, politics. Do you think as Republicans who are very vociferous compared to Democrats, although there are some, as they really take issue with the president on this, I mean this is obviously a serious problem. But do Republicans risk overreaching and appearing too political on an issue like this if they are too loud on it?

CARD: Well, first of all, the constituencies that matter most are the veterans of this country. And the veterans organizations are very, very upset. And that's not a partisan response. Republicans are -- yes, many of them are partisan. Lots of Democrats are very partisan. But this is not a partisan problem. This is a management problem that belongs -- to be addressed by the White House quickly.

Not a long study. We understand a lot about this problem. The president is rightfully upset. But I don't think that he has called attention to the need to put a solution in place very quickly. And that's a management problem. This administration does not have a good track record on providing good management.

KEILAR: Well, either way it is a real issue. It needs to be corrected. I'm sure that's something that we all can agree on.

Thank you so much, Andy Card, Bill Burton.

And stay with us. OUTFRONT next, Republican voters sent a clear message during yesterday's primaries. Is this the end of the Tea Party?

Plus, game show host Pat Sajak in hot water over a tweet. Ann Coulter comes to his defense and is OUTFRONT tonight.

And how do you do battle with tens of thousands of bees? A man who took them on and won. We'll share his story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Tonight party over for the tea party? Well, it looked that way last night after making a lot of noise throughout the campaign, not a single tea party candidate survived yesterday's Senate and house primary races.

Republican voters overwhelmingly chose candidates endorsed by the GOP establishment. Kentucky, the most notable race, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell crushing tea party favorite Matt Bevin. It was a similar story in Idaho, where eight-term congressman Mike Simpson beat out a challenger from the far right and same with Oregon. The support of the GOP establishment pushed Dr. Monica Wehby to defeat a more conservative candidate.

And in Georgia, the main stream top two senate candidates emerged from a crowded field, beating out tea party candidates to qualify for a July runoff.

OUTFRONT tonight, CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson as well as Bill Burton back with us, former Obama deputy press secretary.

You know, I want to ask both of you this. Look at this -- at what "Politico" has written. In 2014, the tea party insurrection is starting to look more like the Boston massacre. So let me ask you this, Ben. Is the tea party, is this party over?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think so at all. And the reason is I think a lot of the GOP establishment candidates started realizing wow, I have to start talking a little more like a real conservative and start pushing for real conservative issues in Washington. That seems to help a lot of them. There is also another issue. And that is you had some very legitimate candidates come out early on and challenge establishment people.

One of those would be a great example would be Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and others like that. They are true tea party candidates that have had a phenomenal career so far. You may not like them, but they've had a great career. And then there is a bunch of want to-be's. And they see these guys win and they're all like well, if they can do it, I can.

And so, you had a lower caliber candidate that has come out, people who just wanted to be a congressman. And so, I think that's why you're seeing more losses.

KEILAR: Well, to Ben's point, Bill, is that what you think? Do you think that Republicans who are considered establishment Republicans are just channeling some of the tea party I guess energy and appealing more, or do you see something different going on here?

BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I actually agree with Ben. I think the tea party is thriving, and I think that Democrats ought to be worried about it. If you look in the races, I think Ben is exactly right. They were terrible candidates. Bevin is going up against the Republican leader in the Senate was never going to work. The man could never put together any real money. The other candidates were all -- like different shades of crazy around the country, particularly Georgia.

So no, I think that the tea party is doing just fine. And you can see it on Capitol Hill every single day with cuts to nutrition programs and all the other things that they're trying to do to appease the tea party wing.

KEILAR: Well, so Ben, I mean, if you look at -- FERGUSON: And I give you well-played on the last one. But look at Mitch McConnell for example. This is a guy that had a lot of disdain for the tea party, and he realized as he saw some of his good buddies get in trouble, I can't just dismiss them.

BURTON: Yes.

FERGUSON: I can't dismiss them on Capitol Hill. I can't dismiss them at home. He started meeting with them, talking to them and he started bringing up a lot of the same issue tea party people were two and four years ago. And I think that played to his advantage.

KEILAR: And he brought in the support of Senator Rand Paul, a tea party favorite.

FERGUSON: Absolutely.

KEILAR: But let me ask you this, final question to you, Bill. You heard Senator McConnell, the minority leader last night say to Matt Bevin's supporters. He said your fight is my fight. Basically, I want you to come over and support me. I mean, do you think that to that point do you think the Bevin supporters are going to vote for Mitch McConnell?

BURTON: Well, the polling suggests they are far from enthusiastic about him. And McConnell has a real problem in the general, because he does have to appeal to the Bevin supporters who don't like him. And Grimes is going to give him the fight of his life. I think she going to win in the end.

KEILAR: Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us. Ben and Bill, really appreciate it.

And still to come, breaking news in the Boston bombing investigation. We now know what the bombs were made of. We have a live report coming up.

And remember this cat, Tara, the one who saved a boy from a dog attack? Well, apparently not everyone is a fan. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Breaking news. We are learning new details about is the bombs used in the Boston marathon bombing.

Deb Feyerick has the details. What are you learning?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well basically, how they were made. More details on how they were made. And just to put this in context, the government right now is defending its actions to have questioned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before reading him his Miranda rights. One of the reasons is authorities simply dent know how many bombs were actually out there. And when they found a note that was scrawled inside the boat where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding, it said we were promised victory. We shall surely get it. So, there was a fear that in fact there were others that were out there. What we have learned now is that the device that was used was constructed using Christmas lights to build the fuse. And it was also detonated by remote control parts used for a car. That is information that we had back when this was all going on more than a year ago with this manhunt for these two men.

But it's interesting that they were built that way. The government says, look, this took some knowledge. This took some skill. This wasn't just doing this, building this in your mother's kitchen because there was this component of activating the devices by remote control.

We know that Tamerlan did go to Dagestan. There is a belief that he was there to get training from Jihadist that were there. He talked about going into the woods, which is code for going to the common jihadist to learn terrorist tactics.

So, learning sort of the details of how this was done sort of confirms how it was carried out. And again, there has always been this question. Did Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually meet with anybody in Dagestan who trained him. The question doesn't mean that Dzhokhar received that training, but he may have been indoctrinated by his brother who was telling him what show do. It is all for the government's case.

KEILAR: Everyday items but some expertise that we have learned.

All right, thank you so much, Deb.

FEYERICK: Absolutely.

KEILAR: Now, still OUTFRONT, a teen faces life in prison because of his hash brownies. Does the punishment fit the crime, or are America's drug laws out of control.

And game show host Pat Sajak under fire for a tweet. Tonight Ann Coulter joins us to defend him.

And remember this hero cat who saved a boy from a dog attack? Well, she is now make some big bucks. We'll tell you how.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Tonight, a Texas teen is facing serious prison time for hash brownies. Marijuana may be legal in some parts of the country, but in others, laced baked goods could land you in jail for the rest of your life. The issue is the brownies were made with hash oil, which is considered much more serious than marijuana in Texas.

But does the punishment fit the crime?

Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nineteen-year- old Jacob Lavoro is facing the same prison sentence as some rapists and murderers in the state of Texas, up to 99 years behind bars. His alleged offense? Baking brownies with hash oil.

JACOB LAVORO, DEFENDANT: Honestly, when I heard that I was going to get life in jail, my face turned completely white. And I had to throw up.

BROWN: But local Texas police say Lavoro made a business out of pot brownies, selling them for 25 bucks a pop. Court documents indicate police found several bags of marijuana and hash oil in separate containers in his house, enough to bring another felony charge against Lavoro.

But because of a controversial law, it's those hash brownies that could lead to big jail time.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It really was meant to cover a situation where you were mixing a small amount of cocaine or heroin with white flour. And it was difficult to weigh it because it's all mixed up together.

BROWN: In this case, police weighed all the ingredients in the pot brownies, not just the hash oil. They included the sugar and butter and milk and eggs and flour and chocolate too, 661 grams total. But Lavoro's attorney says the actual drugs only made up a small fraction of that.

JACK HOLMES, JACOB LAVORO'S ATTORNEY: Probably about five grams of actual controlled substance, which in this case would be THC. And the rest is going to be baked goods.

BROWN: But police did exactly what Texas state law allows them to do, because there is no way to weigh the two separately.

CMDR. ALAIN BABIN, ROUND ROCK POLICE DEPT.: They're absolutely following our policies and procedures, and followed the statute, and filed the appropriate charge, yes.

BROWN: Legal analyst Paul Callan says the law makes no sense.

CALLAN: I don't think the law was ever intended to cover a situation like this where you're making a marijuana brownie. You know, if it did, the Texas legislatures must have been eating these brownies when they wrote the law.

BROWN: The district attorney's office tells CNN it will offer a plea bargain to Lavoro that wouldn't have any jail time. Even if Lavoro agrees to it, he has already spent a month in jail before being released on $30,000 bond.

LAVORO: It was pretty scary. I was in there with real criminals that laughed at me.

BROWN: Lavoro says he is definitely out of the pot brownie baking business.

LAVORO: That's a no. BROWN (on camera): Lavoro's attorney says they want the wait until they get the lab results back on substances taken from the home before enter anything plea deal.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And OUTFRONT tonight, editor and chief of Reason.com, Nick Gillespie and former prosecutor Wendy Murphy. Thanks to you guys for being with me so much. Appreciate it so much.

Wendy, this guy is facing the same prison sentence as a rapist. In this case, does the punishment really fit the crime?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, first, let me reject that premise, because there is a recent study that says only 2 percent of rapists spend even one day behind bars.

KEILAR: Then, it's even worse. Let's say it might be worse. Is that fitting?

MURPHY: I mean -- well, here is the thing. You know, to just talk about it as if it's nothing more serious than a kid making pot brownies is wrong.

You have a felony crime in Texas with only five grams of hash oil because the stuff is really dangerous. And he had 145 grams. So that's a lot less than 600 and whatever the fat brownie weighed. But it's a lot, because one or two drops of hash oil is equal to an entire marijuana joint.

So, let's not say oh, this is nothing more than just a little pot brownie. It's a much more serious offense. And in states where you can make hash oil through marijuana, you know, you extract it with butane.

It's an extremely dangerous habit. A lot of folks are blowing up their homes and catching fire. Colorado has had tremendous number of these fires recently.

KEILAR: But, Nick, you --

MURPHY: It's not mild.

KEILAR: But, Nick, you disagree with this.

NICK GILLESPIE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REASON.COM: Wait, wait, wait. You can even hear Wendy saying okay, you know what? Rapists actually have it easier.

This is the type of case where the drug war goes to die. It is absolutely insane. It is unjust and immoral to be putting people away for this type of crime.

Under Texas state law, you can sell up to five pounds of pot. And at most, you're going to serve two years there is no way that the hash contained in those brownies plus the pound of pot that the cops allegedly found in his house should put him into any kind of category where he is going to spend up to 99 years or life in prison.

It is insane, and increasingly people are recognizing that the punishment here is nuts beyond belief. It is nuttier than a walnut brownie, whether it has coke or pot or anything else in it.

KEILAR: Let's look at this. Nearby, Colorado, you have marijuana, it's legal. Stores can sell hash. They can sell hash oils.

Do you think --

GILLESPIE: Absolutely.

KEILAR: Do you think the rest of the country should follow, I imagine?

GILLESPIE: Here. Let me put it this way. A majority of Americans, according to all of the recent polls that have been taken think that marijuana -- and I'm assuming that would include hash derivatives as well, all hashes is a condensed form of pot, essentially put into a resin or an oil form. Majority of people in America think that the war on pot is a failure and that pot should be legal and available. Half of the states basically half of the states allow for medical marijuana.

What I'm put in mind of when I hear this type of case is what John Kerry said about the Vietnam War. Who is going to be the last man to die for this mistake? Is Jacob Lavoro, a 19-year-old going to spend the rest of his life in jail because of a policy that we already know is ridiculous?

KEILAR: You think this may precipitate some changes.

Wendy, to you. You're making a legal argument. To the letter of the law, sure, maybe there is a case that can be made. But do you think that, you know, the law should change, or that these -- that marijuana should be legal or there should be more leniency in Texas?

MURPHY: We have decriminalized and made certain amount of marijuana possession in Massachusetts legal. The voters supported it. I respect it. I don't use pot.

But this is not about pot. And what I worry about when we legalize marijuana is that then the line gets pushed. Now, marijuana is like, you know, Coca-Cola. OK, so now let's talk about hash. As if it's no more serious. Hash oil is much more serious.

GILLESPIE: No, no, no. We all know --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: And I think we're going to --

GILLESPIE: Come on, Wendy. KEILAR: And, Wendy, I hear you on this. And I think we're going to have to leave it there, right there. I appreciate --

GILLESPIE: You know that.

KEILAR: Nick and Wendy, thank you so much.

Well, another day, another G.M. recall. The automaker announced today that it's recalling 218,000 Chevy Aveos due to the risk of overheating and fires. It is G.M.'s 29th this year.

So, what's going on with G.M.?

Poppy Harlow is OUTFRONT with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eleven recall announcements in the past week as General Motors racks up 13.8 million U.S. recalls this year alone.

PETER VALDES-DAPENA, CNN MONEY: So this has been a banner year for G.M. in a bad way. They've had 29 separate recalls so far this year, which is a record. This is big.

HARLOW: G.M. has recalled more cars this year than it has sold since exiting bankruptcy in 2009, leaving just about everyone wondering what's going on with G.M.

MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: We have moved from a cost culture after the bankruptcy to a customer culture.

HARLOW: The automaker says this surge in recalls is because it's holding itself to higher safety standards, tackling problems more quickly. They also follow newly minted CEO Mary Barra's congressional testimony about why it took G.M. a decade to report an ignition switch defect that has been tied to at least 13 deaths.

DAVID FRIEDMAN, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, NHTSA: Employees of General Motors from engineers, investigators, all the way up through executives were briefed on information associated with this recall.

HARLOW: That violation alone cost G.M. the maximum $35 million civil fine, and will likely cost the company significantly more in victim compensation and potential other fines. This is all on top of a criminal probe by the Department of Justice surrounding the ignition switch defect.

BARRA: My sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall, especially the families and friends who lost their lives or were injured.

HARLOW: But Barra is not new to General Motors. She has been with the company for 33 years, formally vice president of global product development, leaving lingering questions about what she knew when about product flaws in G.M. vehicles. BARRA: I was not aware that there was this issue until the recall was introduced on January 31st.

ANTHONY FOXX, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Had G.M. acted differently, perhaps some of this tragedy might not -- might have been averted.

HARLOW: G.M. says that's exactly what it's doing now, hence the mountain of recalls. The last thing they want is to be accused of delaying another one.

VALDES-DAPENA: They're cleaning out their closets, going through, finding every issue they've had in the past that maybe should have been a recall and making it a recall.

HARLOW (on camera): So far, fixing all the recalled cars will cost G.M. $1.7 billion this year. And the stock is down 18 percent year to date. But what might be surprising is all the recalls haven't made a dent in G.M. sales, which were 7 percent higher in April than a year ago.

CLARENCE DITLOW, CENTER FOR AUTO SAFETY: What G.M. is doing is talking, saying that we're going to be a good corporate citizen. But they've said the same thing in the past. The proof is really in the pudding.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: And, Brianna, the question is, are there more G.M. recalls ahead? I asked the company that today. They said, quote, "We are aggressively addressing issues as they come up," meaning we don't know yet. We're also waiting, anticipating the internal G.M. investigation report into whether or not there was a cover-up in that ignition switch delay that lasted a decade. Why didn't we know sooner? And we're waiting to find out what the Department of Justice has to say. They're in the middle of a criminal probe -- Brianna.

KEILAR: A lot still to come. Thank you so much, Poppy Harlow.

And ahead, "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak says global warming alarmists are unpatriotic. Tonight, Ann Coulter tells us why she agrees.

And what do you do when tens of thousands of bees invade? A young man with firsthand experience comes OUTFRONT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: It was just a joke, right? Well, "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak said he was kidding when he tweeted, "I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists, knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night."

The remark set off a firestorm, with one fan responding apparently when he is not entertaining the trailer park crowd, Pat Sajak is a climatologist. Buy a vowel for this, Pat. Beep off." Now, OUTFRONT tonight, Ann Coulter who also has very strong feelings about this. She is going to join us in just a minute.

But, first, Nischelle Turner with the controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One hundred forty characters, an infinite amount of controversy.

JOSEPH KAPSCH, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THEWRAP: A hundred forty characters -- very dangerous characters.

PAT SAJAK, "WHEEL OF FORTUNE" HOST: Hi. How do you do?

TURNER: Pat Sajak, the latest celebrity to join the ranks of Twitter thoughts gone awry. Here is the tweet that started the backlash. "I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists, knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night." Not quite. Sajak pressed send again the next day following with, "Sometimes it's fun to poke a stick in a hornet's nest, just to hear the buzzing."

KAPSCH: Can I buy an I, Pat, I for insane? I mean, you really don't know if he is doing it for a reaction or if he actually believes this.

TURNER: Of course the tweet sent the science community into a tizzy. Climate scientist Michael Mann tweeting back, "Hey, @PatSajak, this ain't the 'Wheel of Fortune'. If we lose this game, it isn't just one person's misfortune. All humanity pays the price."

Sajak has never been diplomatic on the issue of climate change, frequently tweeting and mocking those who believe it's real. May 10th, "Very hot weather. We're all going to die. Very cold weather. There is a difference between climate and weather, moron."

Just four days later, "Help, climate changing. Must send money to lots of places. A lot of money. Hurry. Time is short. Not kidding."

But when asked about the unpatriotic racist remark, Sajak said it was in jest, saying, "Of course I was joking. Just mocking the name- calling that is directed at global warming skeptics within and without the scientific community."

SAJAK: Consonants will add a thousand --

TURNER: While his wording is what caused the controversy, Sajak's skepticism is echoed by others, most notably Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who himself recently came under fire after telling CNN --

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I understand that there is a vast consensus of scientists that are saying that human activity is what contributing to changes in our climate. I think it's an enormous stretch to say that every weather incident we now read about or the majority of them are attributable to human activity. TURNER: Like Sajak, scientists pounced. And like Sajak, Rubio clarified. It seems the issue of climate change is still a puzzle worth solving. Just not in 140 characters or less.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TURNER: Now, after all this drama, you'd think maybe Pat Sajak would take a break from twitter. No, no, no. Earlier today he is still at it. He tweeted, "Later today, I'll be tweeting my ideas on the subject of nuclear proliferation and free range chicken."

And, Brianna, he kept going.

KEILAR: He's talked about free range things before. I went to his Twitter feed. So, he is on a tear, I'll tell you.

TURNER: He is -- he says flat-out I'm a conservative. I do things differently. He likes to make fun, poke fun and stir the pot. When he said make the hornet's nest buzz.

KEILAR: Stick the hornet's nest. See what happens.

All right. Nischelle Turner, thank you so much.

And OUTFRONT tonight, Ann Coulter is the author of "Never Trust a Liberal Over 3, Especially of A Republican."

So, Ann, Pat Sajak, this tweet, he said, "I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic alarmists, knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night."

OK. So, you retweeted this. So, we'll put that out there. But what was your reaction when you read this?

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR: I thought it was hilarious. I'm so glad I found him on Twitter.

KEILAR: OK. Why -- do you -- are you taking him literally? Do you think he is being literal? Is he joking? Is it satire? What is it?

COULTER: No, it's very funny. Because there are so many subjects today that you're simply not supposed to have.

Or as my friend Evan says, thinking is a hate crime. Well all have to believe in global warming. We all have to believe in immigration. The only question is lots of immigration or even more immigration?

We all have to believe that Trayvon Martin was killed by a brutal racist. And if you don't, you get called all these crazy names that Pat Sajak is referring to in a very the worse and I think most offensive one is the global deniers. That comes from people who were Holocaust deniers. You were calling half of the American people who weirdly enough don't believe the apocalyptic predictions that keep not coming true, equivalent to a Holocaust denier? That's not a debate proceeds in America. KEILAR: To follow up on your point where you said that he may feel sensitive. So, he follows up with his tweet, he's saying he is just poking a hornet's nest. His publicist says he is just kidding.

His other tweets suggest, you know, yes, he is very conservative. This also does reflect some of his views. Do you think he is backpedaling, feeling some pressure here?

COULTER: Oh, no, no, I also already re-tweeted the tweet at the end of that package, the one about he'll be giving up his thoughts on nuclear proliferation and free range chicken.

No, I mean, I'm sure he doesn't believe in global warming as I don't, as the majority of the Americans don't. The funny part was him coming up with the arguments that are usually used against us. If you don't support Obamacare, you must be a racist. I mean, it's that level of argument that drives I think normal people crazy.

KEILAR: So, look -- you know, one of the questions I want to ask you, because you say environmentalism is a rich white person's concern. So, the White House did recently release the third U.S. national climate assessment, where 300 scientists say evidence shows human activists are leaving the climate change.

I know you say there's not consensus among Americans. And I think only about a quarter of Republicans, for instance, believe in manmade climate change.

But why do you say that environmentalism is a rich, white person's concern?

COULTER: Well, because you're talking about you know, entire genocide if we don't have fossil fuel. We can't go back to selling food at fruit stands on the corner. We need energy to live.

You have the scientists based in Hollywood, you know, like Leo DiCaprio building these eco-friendly homes with solar panels. How does he think those solar panels got up to the side of the mountain he was living on? Hundreds of trucks using fossil fuel.

It's all just a pantomime for people like Dr. Scarlet Johansson to feel better about themselves. But we need energy to live and the people who need it the most are the poorest people throughout the globe, not just in the United States, and certainly the United States.

KEILAR: So -- I mean, it's a serious topic. But one of the things I like -- I mean, there was a lot of angry responses to this. But there were also some pretty humorous ones, one of which I want to share with you. This comes from Greg Laden (ph), he says suggestion for "Wheel of Fortune" puzzle and then he put up this picture.

I want to see what you think about it? Oh, do we have it? Oh, can we put that up? Oh, we don't have it.

We don't have it. But it basically showed the "Wheel of Fortune" picture where it was clear that if you filled it in, it says climate change is real. Do you think that is how people should responding, with a sense of humor here?

COULTER: Yes, yes. I mean, it's funny, the reaction to his tweet is bearing out his point that this is the sort of reaction you get. You're called a racist, a denier, compared to the holocaust denier whenever you disagree with liberals on things that a lot of people disagree with liberals on.

KEILAR: And he feels very strongly about it. We know you do, too.

Ann Coulter, thanks for joining us. Really appreciate it.

COULTER: Thanks.

KEILAR: Well, still to come 50,000 bees in your house, 20,000 bees in car, what do you do besides freak out? Well, someone with firsthand experience will tell us next.

And the hero cat, Tara, famous for fighting off this dog, cashing in.

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KEILAR: According to reports released by the Department of Agriculture last week, bee populations have been dying at a rate that is economically unsustainable, yet you wouldn't know it from the stories crossing the wires today.

Last night, a tractor-trailer carrying live bees overturned in Delaware. And then in Canada, a massive beehive was found inside a home. Tens of thousands of bees needed to be removed by a beekeeper. And finally in England, 20,000 bees swarmed a car, covering the tires, the doors, the windows.

Earlier, we had an opportunity to speak with the young man that it had happened to, Rory Edwards.

Rory, welcome to the show. And I'm just wondering, what do you think when you saw all of those bees on your house mate's car, which I know that you use.

RORY EDWARDS, ROOMMATE'S CAR SWARMED BY 20,000 BEES: Well, we were just a bit confused. We had never seen anything like that here down in Portsmouth. So, probably confused was the first thing we thought.

KEILAR: Probably pretty perplexed, I would imagine.

I mean, is this something -- I mean, have you seen a lot of bees in the neighborhood before, even if not quite in this concentration?

EDWARDS: No, I mean, we see a bee or two floating around in the summer, but nothing in that sort of numbers.

KEILAR: OK, so you're sitting there, standing there, of course you take video of it, all important. But in the end you need to get the bees off the car. So who do you call about something like that?

EDWARDS: Well, we tried calling the council, and the best option they could offer for us was to call the beekeeper. So we got a number off them and found out later, they came around late in the day and sort of got rid of them for us.

KEILAR: So, we see a picture of this. Explain when you were watching, what did he do in order to get rid of the bees and how long did it take?

EDWARDS: Well, probably took a couple of hours, because first he had to take a bunch of bees and pop them into a basket. And he hoped he had gotten the queen bee in there and popped it up on top of the roof. The rest of the bees followed the queen, so they took their time to get back up there. But eventually, I think we got all of them out.

KEILAR: So, he put the queen in the basket and the rest just sort of followed suit.

EDWARDS: Yes, I think it was a bit of a luck thing, because with the number of bees, sort of grab a handful and pop them in and hope for the best.

KEILAR: Hope for the best, it looks like he did get the best.

Rory Edwards, thank you so much.

EDWARDS: Thanks for having me on.

KEILAR: Well, after our show last night, Tara the hero cat threw out the first pitch for a minor league baseball team. Yes, it might have been easier if she had a thumb, that's true. But Tara is the cat who body slammed that dog to save a 4-year-old boy. That video now has more than 21 million views.

And Tara (AUDIO GAP) more than just 15 minutes of fame. Of course, she is on Facebook, Twitter, she's got a Web site, where you can buy Tara T-shirts, mugs and totes.

And she's becoming so famous she is even gaining critics. A Boston.com producer even calling her quote, "stupid cat that's probably a jerk in disguise." Tough crowd.

"AC360" starts right now.