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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
House Still Working on DHS Funding; Boris Nemtsov Shot to Death in Moscow; Avijit Roy Killed in Bangladesh
Aired February 27, 2015 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. John Berman sitting in for Anderson.
And as we all sit here right now, there is chaos in Congress. Pure disarray. The breaking news, no one knows in whether less than four hours the huge and vital department of homeland security will run out of money. And with the growing threat of is, this could not come at a worse time.
A short time ago on the house floor, a watered down stopgap compromise most common denominator piece of legislation that would fund the department for just three weeks, three weeks, if failed to pass.
Our Dana Bash has been following the late developments, joins us live now from Capitol Hill.
Dana, just after 8:00 p.m. on the east coast. What's going on?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's going on is we're waiting for white smoke out of the house speaker's office, which is right down the hall, to see if they actually have a plan. Our understanding in talking to sources in the Republican party and even some Democrats is that they're working on trying to shorten that stopgap measure instead of three weeks, which failed, to just seven days for one week. The hope is that will appeal to enough conservatives who voted no.
More than 50 Republicans voted against this and that was part of the problem. But it's still up in the air whether and how they can do that. But of course, the clock is ticking and they're still meeting trying to figure out a plan b. They simply didn't have one.
BERMAN: They did not have one. They didn't expect this to happen, Dana. So how did it, why did it?
BASH: Good question. I mentioned the Republicans who voted no. And then the other factor, a big factor, is Democrats. Almost all Democrats voted no. Now, they did so not because they want the department to shut down but trying to protest the concept of just doing a three-week funding bill when what they want to do is fund the department for the entire year.
That's actually a bill that the Senate, the Republican-led Senate, passed earlier today. But house speaker felt that he couldn't bring it up for various reasons because mostly because the conservatives in his caucus and you're seeing that right now don't want him to bring anything to the house floor for a vote that doesn't also have at its core something to block the president's immigration plan.
They fundamentally believe that you've got to use the power of the purse, which is what this funding bill is, to stop the president's executive action, which they insist is unconstitutional. They're getting pressure from their conservative base back home and that is what's going on here.
BERMAN: And of course, Dana, we don't know what's going to happen in the next four hours let alone the next four days. But there's a lot happening in Congress over the next four days. Extremely controversial.
The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak. How does that factor in this? Will he still speak if Congress is in this disarray?
BASH: He's certainly still expected to speak. But what's fascinating is the fact he's speaking is playing into the pressure that Republicans feel to get something done. Meaning it's very hard for them to have these Israeli prime minister come and speak before a joint meeting of Congress to talk about security when the U.S. Congress, the main government function, to keep Americans safe, isn't being funded because of conflict here, so they realize that that will not work very well. It will be terrible optics.
So that's one of the reasons why they're working hard to try to figure this out, at least through next week and then again try to find a plan c or d or whatever we're going to be at that point.
BERMAN: All right, Dana Bash, thank you so much.
We sit in unchartered territory here. Let us know when the white smoke comes out of the speaker's office. There will be developments no doubt over the next hour. We will bring them to you live.
Meanwhile, President Obama has largely stayed out of the GOP in fighting, however, it looks like they did a little contingency planning out and apparently some outreach to the democratic leadership.
More now from the White House, Michelle Kosinski is working her sources.
Michelle, what are you hearing?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we've been wanting to know, what is the White House doing on this? What is their take on things as they stand now? Because they seem to almost delight in the mess that was becoming of this over the last couple of days, at least in terms of how Republicans have faced the problem.
I mean, the White House hasn't held back in saying that this is a failure of leadership, that Congress seems to be falling down on its jaw. But we just got a statement from the White House now saying that the president convened a meeting just now in the oval office with the secretary of homeland security with the director of the office of management and budget to look at the plan moving forward. Because, remember, we don't know exactly what the outcome of this is going to be over the next couple of days. So they want to plan ahead on that. That's been a top priority.
And also, now, we know that the president did make some phone calls to democratic leadership in both the House and Senate just to get an update on how things are going and where things stand. It's a complicated issue. But the White House has ramped up its language over the last couple of days.
I mean, we haven't seen the president come out, face the briefing room and talk directly to this, but in appearances that he's made over the past week, we've heard him look at this directly. And even though the White House press office for days and days didn't want to get into the detail of how this is going to affect national security, it was the president himself on Monday who, during an appearance, said this is going to have a direct impact on security. And from there, the White House has gotten tougher and tougher in its language on house Republicans, in particular, John.
BERMAN: Michelle, the White House may clear the president would have signed the three-week measure, but you also get the sense the president did not ask for a single vote here.
KOSINSKI: Right. Yes. Exactly. I mean, the rambling behind the scenes is something that everybody has wanted to know about. But it seems like the White House has wanted to let this play out. It almost seems like, let's see how bad this can get, how much of the blame will fall on the Republicans, particularly in the house. And we've heard the White House, you know, in no uncertain terms over the last couple of days put the blame squarely on the shoulders of house speaker John Boehner.
And that was a good question. I mean, the president wanted to sign a full year of funding for DHS. He made that very clear, when the clean bill came up in the Senate, that was a good sign that there could be some compromise. But, you know, when pressed on and the White House kind of didn't want to go there, didn't want to talk about if there was some short interim bill but finally saying that, OK, if this is what's going to happen and the president will not allow the government to shut down -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Michelle Kosinski at the White House. The contingency planning going on there. We will check back with you in just a little bit.
Now, shortly after the votes hit the fan, Republican Senate Lindsay Graham went in "the SITUATION ROOM" calling on both sides to get serious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want the Democrats tonight to help Speaker Boehner not shut down DHS in about five hours, then I hope my colleagues in the House will abandon this desire to shut down DHS as a way to repeal the executive order. I don't think it's going to work. We don't have the votes in the Senate. Let the court act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Now over in the House side, New York Republican congressman Peter King was just a bit blunter tweeting this morning about some of his fellow Republicans. He wrote, I've had it with this self- righteous delusional wing of the party that leads us over the cliff.
Again, that's a Republican talking about Republicans. But let's talk about Democrats now.
Joining us now is New York democratic congressman Steve Israel.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Thanks for having me on, John.
BERMAN: Congressman, why did you vote against funding homeland security for the next three weeks?
ISRAEL: Well, for two reasons. Number one, you know, terrorists don't fund their attacks and their plans to attack American citizens based on three-week budgets. And we should not be defending our plans based on three-week budgets.
Number two, we finally have a situation where Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, where Ted Cruz, a Republican, very conservative senator and where every House democrat agree that we should vote on a bill that funds the department of homeland security for one year with no strings attached, without anti-immigration riders and then a group of crazy Republicans on the house side that refuse to pass that bill.
We can pass this bill within five minutes, a full year funding of homeland security. We don't need to fund it for three weeks. We don't need to fund it for one week. We can do it for a full year and now we are working with senator Reid and others to see if we can help John Boehner extricate himself from this unnecessary political mess and (INAUDIBLE) the department of homeland security.
BERMAN: Congressman, if Democrats wanted homeland security to be funded tomorrow, let's talk about tomorrow. If Democrats in the House wanted it to be funded tomorrow, you could get it funded for tomorrow, had you voted yes on the three-week plan, is that fair?
ISRAEL: We have said from the very beginning that a three week budget for the department of homeland security is preposterous, it's ludicrous and it's actually making us less secure. You have terrorists who will do anything they want to at any cost to do us harm.
BERMAN: Given that though, given these terrorists will do anything at any cost, is it irresponsible to let the funding lapse tonight even if it only means for three more weeks and three weeks, you could pass it for another three weeks?
ISRAEL: John, what's irresponsible is Republicans rejected what Mitch McConnell thinks we should do, what house Democrats we should do, what Ted Cruz thinks we should do and not pass the funding until the president nullifies an executive order on immigration.
You want to oppose immigration? Do it, vote on it, debate it. Don't sink the department of homeland security because of your views on an executive order and that's what's irresponsible.
BERMAN: With so much uncertainty in the world right now, with so much risk in the world now, doesn't someone need to stand up on Capitol Hill and be a grown-up and say --
ISRAEL: Well, absolutely. And that's what we're doing. It's time for the adults to manage. And so, we have indicated to both sides of the Senate and the House and we have indicated to the White House that Democrats are prepared to find a path that funds the department of homeland security. If it has to be for a few days in order to work something out, we're willing to do it.
ISRAEL: But what we want when we get there, we'll give them the time, we'll give them the space, the path. Give us a vote for one year of funding for homeland security and this issue goes away.
BERMAN: SO one of the possibilities, Congressman, we understand right now is house leadership, the Republican leadership is thinking about is putting a plan on the floor in the next hour or so that might fund homeland security for a few days, up to a week. Are you saying to me right now you would support that?
ISRAEL: If I knew that we were going to, in that week, get a vote on full funding for the department of homeland security to protect my constituents for a full year, yes, I would support that.
BERMAN: All right. Well, there may be a window there. You're saying one week is different than three weeks. Actually, explain that to me. Why is funding it for five days or one week different than funding it for three weeks?
ISRAEL: Because we get a vote on funding it for a year and that's what the American people want and deserve and that's what we need to plan against terrorist attacks.
BERMAN: Congressman, I appreciate you being with us tonight. I have a sense you're going to have a late night, so I do appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.
ISRAEL: Thank you, John.
BERMAN: Let's try to make some sense of this, if there is any sense to be made. Wolf Blitzer joins us right now. Our political analysts Gloria Borger
and David Gergen.
Wolf, what is interesting to me, one of the many things that is interesting to me about this is when we woke up this morning, you got the sense that neither side thought this would happen. A majority on neither side wanted this to happen yet it happened. Is Congress just out of control now?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Well, there's a big split among the Republicans. As you know, this is a huge embarrassment for the speaker, John Boehner, the fact he couldn't get this three-week temporary extension of the funding for the department of homeland security through I assume when he allowed roll call to take place, he thought, he would get it passed. He had 218 votes necessary, didn't have 218 votes, but 224 members voted against what he was proposing.
Now there's only a few hours left. You hear there are some options. You just heard congressman Steve Israel say if, in fact, they could have a longer term extension, he'd be willing to go with seven days. Earlier. The White House said would sign the three-week extension into law if it was necessary just to keep the department of homeland security funded past midnight tonight.
I wasn't exactly sure if Steve Israel said for a year, if he meant the end of this fiscal year, which isn't exactly a year. It is the end of September. The new fiscal year starts October 1st or something longer in mind. But it sounds to me, if there's little goodwill on both sides over the next few hours, they can still work out a deal to at least keep it funded temporarily and then deal with the longer term funding in the days ahead.
BERMAN: I think he meant the fiscal year which is October 1st, Wolf, which shows how meager the expectations are right now.
Gloria, let me ask you. There are 50 Republicans, 50 Republicans who voted against the speaker. That is a large number.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Huge. Huge.
BERMAN: Is that an indictment of his leadership?
BORGER: I think as Wolf was saying, it's an embarrassment. It's kind of stunning. I don't think they expected it. They also had 172 Democrats voting against this. Because look, each side is acting as if this is some sort of debating plug, OK? And you heard Steve Israel talked about the point that he was making about Republicans and how dare they not fun DHS. And the Republicans are saying how dare the president try and pull this fast one with his executive order on immigration. We're not going to pay for it. When in reality the public is standing back and looking at this and saying the dysfunction in Congress has not changed.
The Republicans are now in control of the Congress and by the way, the house Republicans and the Senate Republicans don't agree with each other. That's another kind of dysfunction we're having right now. And everybody's trying to score debating points.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking on the funding of the department of homeland security and I think they end up getting some kind of a shorter term deal, but because all of them don't want to be embarrassed when BB Netanyahu arrives in the United States next week.
I was talking to a senior Democrat who said that is very much a part of the conversations in Republican circles and that's why Democrats thought this was going to pass today, but obviously it didn't.
BERMAN: No, all eyes on Congress for the next few days. And they don't want to look like this when everyone is watching.
David Gergen, let me ask you about the Democrats, though. I just talk to Congressman Steve Israel. How much of a risk are they taking by pushing this as much as they are, by not voting for the three week funding measure?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Very little. This is a real embarrassment for Republicans, John. The issue here is frankly not security because 85 percent of the DHS employees are expected to go back to work. America will still be as safe tomorrow as it was today if DHS temporarily shuts down.
But what it has been is a major test of whether Republicans once they take the House and the Senate can govern. And you know, they are not expected -- the Democrats shouldn't be expected to come to the rescue of Republicans when this is a big test whether they can govern. They'll work this out.
But you know, so far, this has been the best day Hillary Clinton has had in six months. It really goes -- it is. Because it goes to the question, this is a ramp-up period to the 2016 election. Her argument, or the argument of Democrats is that if you turn the government over to the Republicans, they can't govern. This is now become exhibit one in that argument. And Republicans need to get their act together and they frankly will have to cave on this. So they are going to have to vote for a fiscal year extension of the kind Steve Israel was talking about. I think that's the inevitable outcome of this. But right now, this is not just an embarrassment for the speaker, it is an embarrassment for Republicans.
BERMAN: Wolf, just a short time ago, we spoke to Michelle Kosinski at the White House and said President Obama has been on the phone over the course of the day with Democratic leaders checking in but certainly not twisting any arms here. What responsibility do you think he has? Do you think he will do anything over the next day or two to move this along?
BLITZER: I think he is working now, just my gut tells me he's working behind the scenes now with the democratic leadership in the House of Representatives to get something passed, so there isn't a stoppage of the funding at midnight tonight. I think he doesn't wants to see that happen. He certainly doesn't want to see attachment to his own executive orders on immigration reform. And both sides basically agreed that the language that was rejected,
the three week extension that was rejected in the House of Representatives, that didn't include anything on immigration reform. Any lack of funding for immigration reform. It's one of the reasons why 50 Republicans, hardcore conservatives didn't vote for it. Because it didn't specifically ban his executive action on immigration reform.
All of it is pretty moot right now because the action he took on immigration reform is on hold. In any case, because of Texas federal judge ruled it unconstitutional. And they're going through appeals. That's going to take a long time. So for all practical purposes, what the president tried to do on immigration, give some sort of what Republicans call amnesty, what he called a pathway to legal residency in the United States for four or five million undocumented immigrants in the United States. That's on hold now in any case but it is a matter of principle for a lot of these Republicans.
BERMAN: Buys, stick with me here. Because I have to remind everyone, once again, we don't know what's going to happen so we are going to be covering this over the next several hours, I believe, as Congress tries to figure out a way to keep homeland security funded until tomorrow.
So we'll check back in with you in just a moment.
Next, we are going to talk more about what's really at stake here with ISIS on the move around the world with people trying to join is from Brooklyn and homeland security running out of money within hours. Stay with us.
BERMAN: All right, some breaking news.
Our Jim Acosta just reporting that President Obama has not called house speaker John Boehner tonight. Again, to remind you, less than four hours, about three hours and 40 minutes until homeland security runs out of money. The House of Representatives failed to pass a measure that would fund homeland security for just three more weeks. They voted no.
And now we are learning just now from the White House that with all this going on, the president and the speaker of the house have not yet spoken.
All right. Three and a half hours to go about what happens when the money runs out. Remember, we're talking about the department of homeland security here.
Pamela Brown joins us now to talk about that.
Pamela, after midnight, what happens?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, DHS said it will be significant what happens and the employees of DHS, of the department of homeland security, will feel it the most. In fact, 30,000 employees would be furloughed including the 5500 TSA agents if this funding doesn't go through.
So even though vital functions will still be performed, the non- essential employees will be furloughed and federal law enforcement academy that trains customs and border patrol and ATF would send trainees home this week. So that would probably be the most immediate impact starting this weekend and then, of course, on Monday when most go back to work, that will be felt as well. And many of the agencies including TSA and the U.S. coast guard won't get their biweekly paychecks.
So essentially, John, 200,000 essential employees will have to work without pay until this funding goes through.
BERMAN: The distinction between essential and non-essential is demoralizing to begin with so let's talk about the so-called essential employees, those 200,000, who will be forced to work without pay. Do they get paid retroactively if and when this gets worked out?
BROWN: Well, that is all going to be up to Congress, John. It's really up to Congress on whether they will get paid retroactively as is often the case in these types of situations. So it's not a guarantee. It is most likely that Congress will allow them to get paid for the time that they're going to be furloughed if the funding doesn't go through in the time that it needs to.
I can tell you, Jeh Johnson, the head of homeland security has been on the hill all day today making calls, reaching out to members of Congress. We know he met with President Obama as well. There has been a big sort of last minute scramble to have something pass soon -- John.
BERMAN: The history here is retroactively, they do tend to get paid. It doesn't make it easier over the weeks and months they don't get paid.
Pamela Brown, thanks so much. I appreciate you being with us.
I want to go back to Dana Bash right now who's been sitting outside of the speaker's office where leadership has been meeting try to hammer out some kind of deal.
Dana, do we have any news?
BASH: Well, earlier in the hour, I told you the leading option was to try to pass a shorter term bill to keep the department running, about seven days. And we've been told by some Republican sources that that is the plan, that they are going to, tonight, before the clock strikes midnight, they are going to try to put or, or they are going to put it on the house floor to pass it.
Technically though, it actually could be harder to do because the mechanism that they're going to use will require two-thirds majority to do so. So this means that they're going to need not only the Republicans who bolted last time but some Democrats to do that. But it sounds like this is something that they are going to at least try to do tonight. I've given up the prediction business because we thought the last one was going to pass, so we will see what happens. But they're going to make a go at it.
BERMAN: You and John Boehner both probably given up the effort making business there.
So listen, they need to get some of their own votes back, some of the 52 votes they lost for this measure and need some democratic votes. Do you get the sense they've been whipping the Republicans who they have some control over and reached out to Nancy Pelosi to see how many Democrats go along?
BASH: Yes and yes. I do know from my sources that they have been talking all amongst themselves, the leadership, which is nice to hear. It shouldn't be a surprise but actually, it is. In the house and the Senate trying to figure out how to work this out so that they can keep it going.
What's interesting is that part of the sell to the conservatives who voted no before is, and part of the complaints that the leadership was hearing, is that they wanted a shorter term because they wanted to get what's known as a conference. They wanted to get to compromise talks with the Senate sooner.
But here's what's going on. It's sort of a parallel universe aspiration because Senate Democrats have already said they're not going to go to conference because they're not interested in compromising. They say pass the bill that we sent you which fully funds the department for a year and that's it.
So, we are going to probably be right back here next week if they're successful tonight, trying to figure out how to get this department funded once again through the end of the year.
BERMAN: All right. Dana Bash, thank you so much for the news.
The news being that house Republican leadership has put together a plan to vote on a measure that would extend funding for homeland security for seven days. They need two-thirds of a vote in the House of Representatives to get this passed and that vote, they hope, will happen within the next several hours. So we're going to have a lot to talk about and a lot to watch right here.
Joining us again, Wolf Blitzer, Gloria Borger, David Gergen.
I'm going to step back on the politics for this for one moment, David, because I want to talk to you. You have worked in government before. You have been a government employee. There are about 200,000 employees at DHS that deemed essential employees who have to work without pay if there is no deal here.
Earlier today, I spoke to Republican senator Bob Corker and he said what the department needs is full funding and full morale. The morale has got to be suffering of the dedicated workers whose jobs are being jerked around on them right now. GERGEN: Well, I hate to say this, John, but this is not a calamitous
moment for the country. The government regularly has shutdowns when bad weather winters heavy snow to determine who's essential and who's not. And, you know, if that happens frequently, that kind of distinction is made. It's not a morale buster.
I think the real issue is two things. Is there any danger that our guard will go down on terrorism? I don't think that's the case. The second issue is going to be, what about the airports and TSA? You just reported that there would be some TSA employees laid off. If that really affects the airport, then, there will be held to pay about it.
If there are a lot of flights get cancelled because you can't be out their Long lines, TSA and all the rest, that's going to be a problem. I would assume those people are mostly office employees, are not people on the front lines.
I think that the real issue right now is politics, not -- the president, the White House, national security would be much more engaged in this if they really thought there was a threat to the homeland from a 24 hour, 48 hour. My sense is what the Democrats will do is let this go over midnight, have a partial shutdown and that people will start put it back together. But to get the headline on CNN, chaos in Congress, that hurts the Republicans.
BERMAN: They got that headline because it happens to be true. But David Gergen, important perspective there. Perhaps not calamitous for the government per se.
But Gloria Borger, fair to say, calamitous to say politically for the house Republican leadership. You have some news, Gloria, about what's going on.
BORGER: Yes, I do. You know, we should all know that the Senate just now passed by a voice vote this one-week extension of the funding for homeland security, which leaves it smack in the lap of the house as Dana was talking about. And they'll probably bring that up as soon as they possibly can.
I think it's calamitous because the public takes a look at this and says, this is just more business as usual. It's very hurtful for the Republican party. And one thing we also want to know, in looking at all of this, is that this leaders, particularly John Boehner, as we look at him on the House, has no control anymore over his caucus.
You know, in the old days, when Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neil used to get together and cut a deal, well, Tip O'Neil could speak for the Democratic Party in the House and he could deliver. John Boehner has discovered time and time again that even when he tries to deliver, as he did today, as he's done before, on the government shutdown that he loses. He's thwarted by his own party, and because he doesn't have the followership that the old speakers used to have. Everybody has their own agenda, everybody going in their own direction, nobody beholden or feeling beholden to John Boehner. People don't make careers of being in Congress anymore. Who would want to do that, right? And so it's a whole different political environment we're living in right now, particularly in the House.
BERMAN: Don't even live in Washington anymore, most of Congress ...
BORGER: No, they don't.
BERMAN: So, it's awfully hard to get them down in one place to get them to do anything. Wolf Blitzer, you know Washington. You know government as well if not better than anyone. The Senate just passed this seven-day extension to fund Homeland Security over the next several hours. The house will try to do the same. Explain to me what's going on behind the scenes right now to secure those votes and what's going to happen over the next seven days if it does pass, to pass a more permanent measure?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it will pass if the Democrats decide to go along with the seven-day compromise. The Democrats didn't want to do that three-week proposal that came up earlier. That failed because you couldn't get enough support there. So they didn't want three week. We have to see now if the president of the United States, the White House now says, he has been on the phone with Nancy Pelosi, he has been on the phone with Harry Reid, Senate leader and the Democratic leader, the minority leaders in the Senate and the House. If the Democrats get on board for a seven-day sort of stopgap measure, give everybody a little time to breathe, make sure that after midnight tonight the money is still there, this could pass the House of Representatives. But he's got to be sure he's got the votes right now. The speaker of the House and that's what I presumably they're waiting in his office, they are counting votes to make sure that get the 218 magic number.
BERMAN: Yeah, and counting votes has been anything but easy for them lately. Wolf Blitzer, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, thank you so much. Appreciate your help here, because there's a lot going on, still going on.
Just ahead for us, there is another big breaking story we're following tonight. Boris Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin's most outspoken critics, shot dead in Moscow, not far from the Kremlin. His associates are calling it political murder. President Obama is calling for a prompt and transparent investigation. Stay with us.
BERMAN: Tonight, other breaking news. Russian opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, one of President Putin's most vocal critics has been shot dead in central Moscow, gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin. His associates are calling it a political murder. Russian television said President Putin has condemned the killing. In a statement a short time ago, President Obama called it a brutal murder and urged Russia's government to conduct a prompt and transparent investigation. President Obama praised Nemtsov as a tireless and courageous advocate for his country. Now, in an interview last year, CNN's Anthony Bourdain spoke frankly with Nemtsov about the dangers that Putin's critics faced. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You were supposed to be dining at another restaurant this evening and when they heard that you would be joining me, we were uninvited. Should I be concerned about having dinner with you?
BORIS NEMTSOV: This is a country of corruption. And if you have business, you are in a very unsafe situation. Everybody can press you and destroy your business. That's it - this is the system.
BOURDAIN (voice over): Meet Boris Nemtsov. He was deputy prime minister under Yeltsin.
(on camera): Critics of the government, critics of Putin, bad things seem to happen to them.
NEMTSOV: Yes, unfortunately, existing power represent what I say Russia of 19th century. Not of 21st.
BERMAN: Boris Nemtsov was 55 years old. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins me now from Moscow. Fred, what are authorities there saying about this incident?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, John, because we've just gotten some new information, literally, just a couple of minutes ago. The authorities, of course, are saying that all this happened in the very late evening hours. And the interesting thing was that Boris Nemtsov was walking directly in the vicinity of the Kremlin and there was a second person who was with him. A woman from Ukraine. And she then later spoke to another opposition figure who just spoke to us and he said that she told him that they had been walking along a bridge near the Kremlin that all of a sudden, a car stopped next to the two. A man jumped out, opened fire at Nemtsov. Very targeted, very direct. Then jumped back into his car and sped away. The Russian authorities are saying that they've started a manhunt for this person. They say they're searching for someone who apparently fled in a white car. And I can tell you from Moscow tonight that there are checkpoints here by the police where the white cars are actually being stopped quite a bit here in the city. So the Russians are saying that they've got this manhunt under way and Vladimir Putin came out and said that even he believes that this bears all the hallmarks of a targeted contract killing which he believes is meant to so provocation job.
BERMAN: Targeted contract killing certainly does not sound random. And Fred, Nemtsov, not just an opposition leader. This man is a former deputy prime minister. A high level official in the Russian government, well known across the country and he was just assassinated essentially.
PLEITGEN: Absolutely. He wasn't only a high-level Russian politician, but he was also someone who after he left active politics, became an opposition figure and was very much a critic of Vladimir Putin. He's been jailed several times since 2007. The latest was in 2011. He was a very big critic of Vladimir Putin, also around the Olympics in Sochi where he said that money was wasted where he said that there was corruption, but most importantly, he was also very much an outspoken critic of what's going on in eastern Ukraine. He is someone who criticized the Russian government for that. He is someone who said in an interview just recently that he fears for his life and he fears that Vladimir Putin was after him. Now, of course, at this point in time, there's absolutely no clue as to who might be behind this, as to what might have happened but there are certainly opposition figures out there who've already said they have no faith in any sort of investigation going forward, John.
BERMAN: Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much for being with us from Moscow. I appreciate it. For more perspective, I want to bring in Julia Ioffe, the contributing writer for "The New York Times" magazine. She's written extensively about Russia. And Julie, you know, as we keep on saying, we do not know yet what happened. There is an investigation led by the Russian government now under way. So we don't know for sure, but it is true to say this. That opposition, people who oppose Russian president Vladimir Putin, some have ended up dead or in prison. It is not a safe position to be in, correct?
JULIA IOFFE, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: That's right. Boris Nemtsov, though, even though he said that he was afraid for his life, he did walk around without bodyguards. It was a very overt message of bravery. And what we've seen in return is a very overt message of fear. And as Fred pointed out very correctly, the people in the opposition will not believe really anything that comes out of the Kremlin in terms of who did this. They perceive this as a message sent directly to them. And when you see the image of Boris Nemtsov's body lying with the Kremlin as a backdrop, they understand that that is a message directed to them. That if you speak out against Putin, this could happen to you.
And what's really critical here is this has never happened before. You know, about a year and a half ago, one of the other opposition leaders, Alexei Navalny, was sentenced to five years in jail. That sentence was quickly overturned, but that was a huge watershed moment. That was a landmark moment. The state had never done that before, had never really given such long sentences to the opposition. And that was seen to be like, OK, now the stakes are raised. This is something totally different.
BERMAN: Jail and now murder.
BERMAN: But again, we don't know who did it for sure. The timing. Let's talk about the timing here. Do you think it's suspicious?
IOFFE: Extremely suspicious and again, this is I think why the members of the opposition that I've spoken to tonight see it as a message to them. This happened about 36 hours before a planned opposition march, planned long ago for Sunday that was to take place in Moscow to protest against the economic crisis unfolding in Russia, against the government's policy in Ukraine, and Boris Nemtsov had just come from a radio interview where he was putting out the call to Muscovites to come out on Sunday. And then he was gunned down just a couple of hours later.
BERMAN: Where are the Russian people here in this? If the opposition leaders are being gunned down, in a country like the U.S. or others, you would think there would be mass outrage at such an action. Do you expect people to take to the streets over the next few days?
IOFFE: You know, if this happened randomly without the previous 15 years of Putin's rule leading up to this, the control of television, of sweeping clear the political field of any possible competition or any opposing voices, then maybe there would be mass outrage, but this is coming on the heels of 15 years of very studied neutralizing and marginalizing the opposition. Now, this is a message that says not only will you be marginalized and silenced, something far worse could happen to you and I don't think that - I mean maybe the march on Sunday will be more populous than it would have otherwise been, but don't expect a huge uprising with pitch forks and, you know, and flames.
BERMAN: Julia Ioffe, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Just ahead for us, an American blogger is brutally murdered in Bangladesh. An Islamic extremist group claims responsibility. Echoes of Paris, when "360" continues.
BERMAN: It is being called "Charlie Hebdo" all over again. This time, the victim is a Bangladeshi-American author, Avijit Roy. Shortly after writing a book, criticizing religious fanaticism, he started getting death threats. Return to Bangladesh, and you'll be murdered. Today, in a truly savage attack on him and his wife on the streets of the Bangladeshi capital, he was murdered. The latest now from CNN's Ravi Agrawal.
RAVI AGRAWAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Blood on the streets of the Bangladeshi capital Friday, following a brutal and deadly attack on an American author and blogger. Avijit Roy, U.S. citizen and his wife were returning from a book fair when witnesses say they were attacked by at least two men wielding machetes. The 42-year-old Roy was hacked to death. His wife was seriously injured.
KAZI SHAWKAT ARA, WITNESS: I saw an unknown person bring out a big knife and first hit him from behind on his head and then on his shoulders. I shouted for help from the people, but nobody came to save him. No one came. A lady was with him. She was his wife. She was also hit on the shoulder.
AGRAWAL: Police say they've recovered the machetes used in the attack, but haven't yet identified any suspects. According to several reports, an Islamist extremist group in Dhaka has claimed responsibility. Friends and family say Roy had received numerous death threats from Islamist militants unhappy with his blog. Roy founded this site, Mukto-mona, or free mind, which champions secular thinking and condemns religious extremism. On Friday, this site posted a simple message in Bengali, which translates and reads, we mourn, but we're not out. Roy also wrote for the center for inquiry, a U.S. -based non-profit group, which said it was shocked and heartbroken by the attack.
MICHAEL DE DORA, CENTER FOR INQUIRY: What's so sad is that the way, in which he was murdered, it was so brutal and so callous for someone who is just so kind and so open-minded. It's horrible.
AGRAWAL: News of the shocking attack was splashed across front pages of Bangladeshi dailies on Friday and hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of the capital to denounce Roy's murder. He's the second blogger to have been killed and the fourth writer attacked in the Muslim majority nation over the past ten years.
BERMAN: Ravi Agrawal joins us now, and Ravi, there were plenty of witnesses to this attack. What do police say about possible suspects?
AGRAWAL: Hi, John. Yes, there were witnesses and, of course, I mean these guys probably left fingerprints on the machetes that the police recovered. But when we spoke with the Bangladeshi police, the man who was - who is leading the investigation, the deputy commissioner police in Dhaka, he said that one of the places that they are looking for suspects is online. Roy, as we've been reporting received a number of threats, deaths threats on his blog and on Facebook. In fact, in Roy's own telling of this, we've obtained a copy of one of his final pieces of writing in the magazine, "Free Inquiry" and in that, he describes how about a year ago he wrote a book called "The Virus of Faith," a book that was about religious extremism. It launched at the Bangladeshi book fair and once it launched there, hit the bestseller list and then began a campaign of intimidation and threats.
In Roy's own telling of it, on his own Facebook page, someone else, a well-known extremist posted saying that we'll kill you when you come back. One year on, he comes back to Bangladesh, the same book fair and he's assassinated.
BERMAN: Horrible for him and his family. Ravi Agrawal, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Up next, he lived long and prospered. We're going to remember star trek legend, Leonard Nimoy.
BERMAN: Leonard Nimoy died this morning at the age of 83, and what is a lovely tribute, President Obama remembers him tonight. "Long before being nerdy was cool," he writes, "there was Leonard Nimoy." He goes, "In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for live long and prosper." After 83 years on this planet and his visits to many others, it is clear that Leonard Nimoy did just that. President Obama clearly a fan. More now from lifelong trekker, Jason Carroll.
LEONARD NIMOY, ACTOR: It's quite logical, captain.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leonard Nimoy was and will always be remembered as Spock, the half human, half Vulcan he portrayed for more than four decades on the big screen and the small screen where his character debuted in the original "Star Trek" series September 8TH, 1966.
NIMOY: That may be correct, captain.
CARROLL: Spock's life onboard the starship Enterprise took him to many worlds. In reality, Nimoy's love for acting began right here on Earth in his hometown.
NIMOY: I've started acting when I was a little boy, about eight years old in neighborhood, in settlement houses in Boston and kind of grew up into it.
Live long and prosper.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
CARROLL: As beloved as Spock with is audience is, in his early career, Nimoy played a lot of characters audiences love to hate.
NIMOY: I have done a lot. Yeah, I pushed a lot of people around and got my come-uppings in the end of the show.
Thanks for building radar for box- as they can smell a winner.
CARROLL: Nimoy's big break came when a producer took notice of the young actor in an episode of the '60s Marine Corps drama, "The Lieutenant." Got producer, Gene Roddenberry, who liked the cast, saw something special in Nimoy's Spock.
WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: He invented that character. They had made an earlier pilot, in which nobody had grasped the edges of the character.
GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR: With his imagination and his innovation, his creativity, made that character one interestingly humanized and so rivetingly intriguing.
NIMOY: You know this, doctor.
CARROLL: Despite all the "Star Trek" spinoffs, dozen movies, five series, countless conventions, the first "Star Trek" series lasted only three seasons, 79 episodes.
NIMOY: My favorite episode was called a mock time. In that episode, we heard the words live long and prosper for the first time and we saw Spock do this for the first time.
One of our classic arts ...
CARROLL: Nimoy went on to star in a number of TV shows following the series, he also pursued other passions. Photography and poetry, publishing a book in 1977. NIMOY: The answer has been here before.
CARROLL: In the '90s, Spock appeared in "Star Trek, the Next Generation." And when J.J. Abrams rebooted the movies in 2009, again, in 2013, the original Spock was there too.
NIMOY: 35 years ago, I'm at the Enterprise for the first time.
CARROLL: NASA's Shuttle Enterprise named after the starship and when it retired in 2012, Nimoy was there to talk about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us what you are feeling today?
NIMOY: It feels like a reunion.
CARROLL: In Nimoy's later years, he spoke about the dangers of smoking after being diagnosed with a lung disease.
NIMOY: I quit a long time ago. Why is this happening to me? But it's a lesson that I had to learn.
CARROLL: His character Spock may have prided himself on being emotionless, but in the end, that could not be further from who the man was to his family and friends.
NIMOY: Shall be your friend.
SHATNER: First and foremost is a long and deep friendship, love that I have for Leonard. He is, in essence, the brother I never had.
SHATNER: Live long and prosper.
BERMAN: Indeed, a great Boston boy. A great actor. Ahead, in the next hour of "360," we want to update our breaking news. Will Homeland Security run out of money? Funding stops in just three hours unless Congress passes some kind of measure. We have new information just ahead.