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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
U.S. Official: Possible Explosion Detected Before Jet Crash; Trump Fights Back After Losing Frontrunner Status. Aired 7-8:00p ET
Aired November 3, 2015 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:08] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, mid-air mystery. A U.S. satellite detects a heat flash just before a passenger plane disappears from radar? Could there have been a bomb onboard?
Plus, aviation investigators seen eerie similarities between this disaster and other deadly crashes.
And Ben Carson now the front-runner. Donald Trump on the attack tonight. Our special report on the people battling to keep Carson number one. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett OUTFRONT tonight, mid-air explosion. A U.S. official telling CNN that a military satellite detected a mid-air heat flash just before Metrojet Flight 9268 won't down. Suggesting a possible explosion onboard the airbus jumbo jet. Russian officials releasing this drone footage of the crash site. Two hundred twenty four people killed in this crash. This as ISIS tonight is claiming responsibility for, quote, "bringing down the jet."
In this five-minute video, the terror group says, quote, "We are not only going to shoot down your planes, but we will invade your country and slaughter your people." U.S. intelligence officials say, ISIS has given no proof it was responsible, but investigators are desperately trying to determine if terror is to blame. Today, Egyptian authorities on the ground looking at the largest remaining piece of Flight 9268, that is the tail that you see here. We have all angles covered on this story tonight.
We begin in Cairo with Ian Lee. And Ian, what is the status of the investigation where you are tonight?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, Egypt says they are wrapping up the field investigation and those black boxes, they are at a lab being deciphered. But tonight, there are still more questions than answers.
LEE (voice-over): A catastrophic inflight event, possibly an onboard bomb is one of the leading theories into what caused Metrojet Flight 9268 to break apart over Egypt's Sinai Desert. Investigators are studying a heat flash detected by a U.S. military satellite suggesting there was a mid-air explosion at about 30,000 feet, just 23 minutes into the flight. And while Egyptian authorities confirm there were no distress calls from the cockpit, a Russian News Agency reports that there were unexpected and uncharacteristic sounds on the cockpit voice recorder the moment before the plane disappeared from radar.
LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: If we are going to the bomb theory, it could have been the airplane starting to separate in pieces. We are just talking about a sound as opposed to a voice.
LEE: In addition to examining the debris, authorities are also focusing on the victims' remains. And late today, a source close to the investigation told Russian media, no signs of explosive impacts on the body of the victims have been found. Today, ISIS released this new video showing its fighters and supporters celebrating the terror group claim they brought down the plane. Something Egypt's President dismissed outright.
ABDEL FATTAH EL-SISI, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT: There is a propaganda it was crashed because of ISIS. This is one way to nail the stability and security of Egypt and the image of Egypt.
LEE: But tonight, the United States Embassy in Cairo issuing a warning to its employees not to travel in the Sinai Peninsula until investigators solve the misery behind the crash of Metrojet 9268.
LEE: And Erin, Egyptian officials are urging patience. They say it could be a week or up to a month before we learn exactly what's on those black boxes. And then possibly learning what brought down that jet -- Erin.
BURNETT: Thank you very much. Ian Lee live in Cairo tonight. And I want to go now to Washington. And our Rene Marsh who is breaking details there. Rene, what are you learning about this heat flash that Ian referred to picked up by U.S. military satellites?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Erin, U.S. military sources are telling CNN's Barbara Starr that this U.S. satellite detected this heat flash while the plane was still in flight. This new information suggests possibly an explosion caused by a bomb, but that flash could also be tied to something else like a failed engine exploding or some other structural or mechanical problem with the plane. Now, the airline is saying there was no mechanical failure and Russian state media is saying so far, no signs of explosive impact on the bodies of the victims. No blast-related trauma. That doesn't necessarily rule anything out just yet. In 1994, Philippine Airlines Flight 434 had 273 passengers onboard and a bomb was onboard. That bomb killed one passenger and injured ten others. However, the pilot was able to land the plane and everyone else survived. So, the point here is no one truly knows just yet what caused this crash -- Erin.
[19:05:24] BURNETT: All right. Rene Marsh. Thank you very much. And I want to go now to the former CIA Operative Bob Baer. Also the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo. And former FAA Safety Inspector David Soucie. Bob, what do you think brought down the plane? BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: It's looking more and more like
a bomb. You know, the flash is a considerable piece of evidence that you just wouldn't see that. Could it be a gasoline tank exploding like TWA 800, went down at around up New York off the coast. It's looking more and more like that. This is a war zone. It would have been easy for somebody to get a bomb on that plane. But now it's a matter of finding the residue from the wreckage. You wouldn't necessarily find it on the bodies, but would find it on pieces of the airplane.
BURNETT: All right. And Mary, if this were a bomb, how could it have been smuggled on to the plane? You know, Egypt is standing by its security at this luxury tourist location. They are saying they are not even upping it because they are so confident that it's good.
MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Well, that's very foolish of Egypt because there are as many ways to put a bomb on the plane as there are people at the airport that touch that plane. I mean, saying that they have beefed- up security for passengers to go through security is ludicrous because there are so many ways that you could, you know, the fuelers, the rompers, the bagging handlers, paying off somebody that works at the airport and this seemed have to be a sophisticated bomb. A rudimentary one place at the right at the weak points on the plane near the wings, near the pock kit, bulkhead, near the tail, that could bring down the plane with a very small amount of plastic explosives. They should beef up security.
BURNETT: And David, I want to ask you about these reports. Bob and Mary referenced this. That there are reports from the Russian state news agencies the recovered bodies that they have and they do not have them all, they have some of them don't have blast-related trauma signs. You know, when some people first see that, they say, oh, well, that must means there wasn't an explosion. But it doesn't mean anything of the sort, does it?
DAVID SOUCIE, FORMER FAA ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: No, it really doesn't. I mean, a blast would not have to be very large to go out and rupture the hull of that aircraft. So -- and the flash that they are referring to actually could be a resultant of the smaller bomb. The infrared wouldn't be created from a smaller bomb inside the capsule, but if it exploded a fuel tank as Bob is referring to earlier like flight 800, then certainly would have created that flash. So, I'm onboard with everything that Mary and Bob said so far.
BURNETT: So, Bob, how hard would it have been in your opinion to get a bomb on to this plane? I mean, you know, people also hear, I mean, what's the sort of scale that we are talking about? I know that you believe it doesn't have to be that big or heavy.
BAER: Well, if you look at some of the advanced bombs like the ones being made, Ibrahim al-Asiri, the al-Qaeda member, it's pretty easy. You can hide the explosives inside the wall of a suitcase and put a detonator there. If you get a pound of explosives, it doesn't really matter where you put it in the hull once you get it in. Were they sophisticated enough to feed the search for barometric switches? I don't know. But a baggage handlers Mary said and David certainly agrees with could easily get that on. And it wouldn't take much doing to put a bomb on that airplane. You could, in fact, could be very easy.
BURNETT: And when you refer to barometric switches, this airport, you know, says they scan luggage for a device that would be programmed to set off an explosive at a certain altitude. That's what you're referring to there.
BAER: But those are defeatable. I mean --
BAER: If you understand the capacitors in various ways, you understand the way the airport security works, those are defeatable. So that you can actually make one of these bombs go after it hits for instance, 31,000 feet. Or simply a timer is more sure and if you know the airplane is taking off and you hit the safety switch on that, you could also set it off.
BURNETT: Mary, I understand why authorities are hesitant to say this ISIS video is real. ISIS has given no proof that they had anything to do with this. But at the same time, you can see why authorities would be hesitant for a lot of reasons. If ISIS were responsible for this, that would be a game-changer. It would change a lot of people's perception of flight and safety. But if not ISIS, if this is a bomb scenario, and we're going to talk about mechanical in a moment, but if it's a bomb scenario, who else?
SCHIAVO: Well, it could be any number of people. I mean, terrorism isn't just of course to terrorize people into claim supremacy through terror tactics to get people not to fly and disrupt economy, et cetera. Remember, a lot of the terror incidents in the history of aviation attacks have been payback terror. Gadhafi with PAN AM 103, North Korean attacking South Korean carriers. And in many of those cases, they never took credit. And for PAN AM 103 by the way, the plane went down December 1988. Britain did not declare a bomb until the summer of 1990.
[19:10:13] BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to all of you.
And next, mid-air disasters. The terrifying track record of mechanical malfunctions in the sky. It is terrifying. Our special report plus Donald Trump on defense, slamming Ben Carson and Jeb Bush today. And our special OUTFRONT report on Carson's inner circle. Does the new front-runner have the team to keep his surge alive?
[19:13:50] BURNETT: And now new details in how a jet broke into pieces in mid-air. All 224 onboard dead. A U.S. official telling CNN a possible explosion was detected by an American satellite moments before this jet went down. Now, this is not the first time a passenger jet disintegrated in midflight. And I want to warn you that some of the video that we are about to show you is graphic.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The (audio gap) in Egypt killing all 224 onboard feels eerily familiar to another major disaster. The 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island. Peter Goelz was one of the chief NTSB investigators of that disaster. Like the Metrojet crash, satellite imagery captured a heat signature.
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: We had that same occurrence of TWA Flight 800. Satellite picked up the signature and it indicated and confirmed for us what eyewitnesses had seen that there was a fire ball.
LAH: But it didn't explain why. It was simply a clue. Also share between the (audio gap) unexplained split second sounds on the flight data recorders before (audio gap) the similarities lead Goelz to believe a possible (audio gap) fuel tank -- which caused the TWA crash may also be the blame in plane disaster. Investigators found much of the main debris field close together. The three miles away was the tail section. That holds another clue. Possible structural failure. In November 2001, the airbus tail hit the tarmac on landing. The plane was repaired. But a clear break from the rest of the debris raises this possibility.
GOELZ: It could have been a structural failure of the plane that raptured the fuel tanks so the explosion could have been coming after whatever event initiated the break-up.
LAH: Flight tracking data shows the plane did slow down significantly before the crash. But many outside experts discount a stall. A stall proves disastrous. (audio gap)
BURNETT: I want to apologize for that. We wanted to run that as much as we could. Obvious, having some technical difficulties there. Mary Schiavo and David Soucie are back. And Mary and David, we've had to be able to see a few of those examples there, what it happened to TWA Flight 800, one of them. If it were not a bomb and we are looking at scenarios like Kyung was just showing us, what could have happen to this plane that would have cause it to disintegrate in midair, to show that heat flash and likely explosion?
SOUCIE: For me --
BURNETT: Go ahead, Mary.
SCHIAVO: Well, you know, I worked on TWA 100 as one of them. And it certainly has eerie similarities. And Erin, of course it was faulty wiring on an old plane. The same kind of thing here. And I also worked on the chalk sea plane crash that was down in Florida about a decade ago. And in that case, the wing tore away on a 53- year-old plane. It was a beautiful paint job, you could not see the wing problems, but the wing tore away and when the wing tore away it ignited the fuel tank. So, that could have happened here, too. Parts were lost and then this fire ignited. The fire ball.
BURNETT: And David, what do you think in terms of a sudden mechanical mid-air disaster? You know, one in which there was no time for a distress call. All you heard was some sort of a bang or explosion-like sound on the cockpit voice recorder like we heard here. What could be responsible for that if not a bomb?
SOUCIE: Well, I think Mary is going along the right line and also what Peter has said also before about the fuselage coming apart and tearing open that fuel cell which is just after that main wing. So, and it looks like, too, from what we see on the ground, that there is nothing on the ground behind the primary wing. So, everything ahead of it was still attached. So, it would have made sense to me that should it have a structural failure in the back half of the airplane, the tail would be intact as it is on the ground now, and you would see that rupture of the fuel tank which would ignite.
BURNETT: So, let's take a look at the plane's tail. That was the last piece they were focusing on today on the ground, Mary. It was found separated from other pieces of the plane. It was the largest single piece of wreckage that was found. Taking that into account, taking its location to separate from the rest of the wreckage, what do you conclude?
[19:18:16] SCHIAVO: Well, and I also saw very key piece which was a tail cone in which the APU, the Auxiliary Power Unit fresh out of the factory looks a little different. And I stared and stared at those photos trying to see if there were burn marks. In some photos, it looks like there were burn marks. So whatever happened on the plane would have happened before it separated. But in others, I don't see it. And so, if in fact there are no burn marks on those pieces of the plane and they are in a brief field, then that would have come off before the fire ball and explosion.
BURNETT: And what does that mean in terms of likely cause if it came off before the explosion and the fireball?
SCHIAVO: That would be the likely cause. If it separated from the plane before the plane exploded, that would cause the plane to come down if you lost the tail.
BURNETT: So, that would be something structural in the tail. Now, David what about the imagine of the engine? We've also seen the engines on the ground here? We'll show you that. This is the footage that investigators took on the ground in Egypt. This is one of the engines obviously completely destroyed. But you do see the center part. Are there any clues in here?
SOUCIE: Well, what you are looking at there, the fan part of the engine which is the large blade that you see in-front of the engine are gone. They are not there right now. At first glance you look at, you think maybe there was a rupture in flight that the engine exploded in flight. But as you look a little bit further, you see that the shell around that outside turbine is still intact, meaning that those blades were burned after it hit the ground. After it had settled and burn. So, it's a little bit confusing to look at. Because you think that might have caused this flash. But there is a shroud that goes around those things. So, if it was an engine explosion, it probably wouldn't have created that IR signature that was able to be seen by the satellite.
BURNETT: But it sounds like you're saying, you don't think that it's likely it started in the engine?
SOUCIE: No. I think the engine is subsequent to the aircraft hitting the ground. I don't think this is something that happened mid-air. You'd see it a little bit differently. All those pieces wouldn't be that closely next to each other on the ground like you see now.
BURNETT: And Mary, the Egyptians -- Ian Lee was reporting the breaking news, they are saying the field investigation was finishing today. That they went out there and they are done. Now, obviously this is an area with a lot of ISIS-affiliated and sympathetic groups. So, it's a dangerous area. But still, with no answers at all about what happened to this, are you surprised that they are done on the ground already?
SCHIAVO: I'm surprised and I'm really horrified because it's so, so very important to scoop up every piece of evidence, whether it's terrorism or mechanical. And especially if it's mechanical. Remember PAN AM 103, police officers walked shoulder to shoulder across miles of terrain to find the thumbnail size piece of a fragment of a plastic explosive bomb. So, this is ridiculous. And also the victims that so many have been returned, and God rest their souls, but it's very important to do autopsies on everyone to see if there is sooting in the lungs or other tell-tale evidence. And apparently that was not done either. It's just shocking because aviation safety is at stake, especially if it's a mechanical.
BURNETT: And it's possible sounds like from what both of you are saying and the way the Egyptians and Russians are handling this, that we may never know. And if they're not doing autopsies, if they're finishing the ground investigation, they are pretty quick to jump to conclusions that they don't need to change security at the airport. I mean, are we going to get a decent investigation, David?
SOUCIE: Well, I don't know, to be honest with you. There is a thing that happens sometimes in the investigation. Which is an overreliance on what you know. And you start thinking and channeling everything that you know towards that. For example, the black box. They had the cockpit voice recorder, they had that data. But as far as the other information as Mary said, there could be other details that are being left out.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you.
And next, Donald Trump coming out swinging today just against just about everybody. A second poll showing he is no longer leading the pack. Can he take back his once-commanding lead?
And Ben Carson, those polls crowning him as the front-runner. Who are the people behind his unlikely campaign? That's our OUTFRONT special report tonight.
[19:26:16] BURNETT: Tonight, Donald Trump fighting mad after another poll shows him in second place behind Ben Carson. Trump today going on the attack. Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ben Carson tightening his grip on his front-runner status. Twenty nine percent of GOP voters nationwide support Carson in the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. A six-point lead over Donald Trump.
DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our strength is in our unity. And we need to stop listening to the surveyors of division for trying to make us think --
MURRAY: Taken together, the two outsiders dominate the field, drawing 52 percent support.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you add Ben and myself, we are beating everybody by a lot. That seems to be the big story.
CARSON: I continue to do what I've been doing.
MURRAY: Carson's gains coming as he travels the country promoting his book. Not to be outdone, Trump celebrated his own book release today. And took a swipe at the man on top of the polls.
TRUMP: He's a different kind of a person. My book is very hard- hitting. You look at Ben, he's very weak on immigration. And he wants to get rid of Medicare.
MURRAY: -- on another rival, Trump predicted Jeb Bush doesn't have what it takes to win the White House.
TRUMP: Can Jeb make a comeback? I think it's going to be very hard.
MURRAY: And said it's time for some of his GOP opponents to give up the fight.
(on camera): Do you think it's time for some of the Republicans in the field to drop out?
TRUMP: If a person's been campaigning four or five months and they're at zero or one or two percent, they should get out.
MURRAY: With the candidates now at odds with each other over how to move forward with their debates, President Obama is mocking the entire field.
CARSON: If you can't handle those guy guys? You know then I don't think the Chinese and Russians are going to be too worried about you.
MURRAY: Trump complains it's the Democrats that have it easy.
TRUMP: Hillary Clinton, no tough questions. I mean, why didn't they ask about Bill? Why didn't they ask about all of the different things? Hillary had only softballs all night long. It was like this. Yes, Hillary, hit this one over the park.
BURNETT: Now Sara, you know, you hear Donald Trump there. That is trademark Donald Trump. Right? You've been covering him every day. He cares about the polls. Now that he has this number two in a few major polls, do you think he will change his tone?
MURRAY: I think the question is, do we see a more demoralized Donald Trump or a fired-up one? We get a better sense of them. Tomorrow he's in a more traditional campaign setting filing for the ballot in New Hampshire. Later this week on "Saturday Night Live," he'll be in rehearsals the whole rest of the week. He says he is not nervous though. So, we will the --
BURNETT: Right. We will see. Well, it's a big moment for him. All right. Thank you very much, Sara Murray, it's great to see you on set.
And OUTFRONT now, Katrina Pierson, she's a Donald Trump supporter and our political commentator. Ana Navarro, she's a Jeb Bush supporter and friend of Marco Rubio. Katrina, let me just start with you. I want to play again what Sara just talked in her piece. President Obama and what he just said about the GOP field?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: It turns out they can't handle a bunch of CNBC moderators. If you can't handle those guys, you know then I don't think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Katrina, Donald Trump is negotiating with the networks to change the rules on the debates. Should he stop and prove Obama wrong? I mean, yes, there's humor in that, but there is something to it.
KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, not necessarily. I mean, everybody saw that debate. And pretty much agreed that it was silly. They don't want to change the debate rules to make them easier. They want to talk about more substance. Not more back and forth about who said what and comic book stuff. I mean, this is also coming from the guy that's had his lunch handed to him by world leaders for the last couple of years. But the question is, Erin, what about the Democrats? Is Obama now going to tell the DNC they need to have a FOX News debate? Probably not. BURNETT: Well, OK, now, there's some things you said there that
I can't say I agree with, but that's an interesting point. Trump is now number two in the polls, all right? He is --
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Actually, to your great surprise, I have to tell you I agree with some of the things she said. When you -- practically every single Republican that saw that debate found it objectionable. If the Republican Party right now, we cannot agree on the color of an orange. So, when we are all saying, that was an awful moderated debate, I think you know, it carries a lot of weight.
And the issue is not being asked tough questions, the issue is that you bill a debate as a discussion on financial and economic policy, and then ask questions about every other thing, that's upsetting to Republicans.
BURNETT: Well, you know, I mean, Jeb Bush, Kasich, Christie, Fiorina, all have said they don't want a change in the debate rules. So, maybe not everybody sees it like an orange, but Donald Trump is swinging hard at Jeb Bush, Ana. Obviously, you're well aware of this.
Here is your candidate. Here's Trump today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jeb is a nice guy. He's a stiff, OK? He's a nice guy. He doesn't have a chance, all right? He ought to do what Walker did.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: You think he should drop out?
TRUMP: Absolutely. He's got no chance. He's got money but the money is not going to do it.
And he's been branded as a low-energy person. I don't know who branded him --
STEPHANOPOULOS: By who?
TRUMP: I don't know, I can't imagine. But, look, Jeb is not a man that's going to make it, OK? He's wasting his time. He's wasting a lot of money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: On the seriousness of this, Ana, this latest poll, Jeb Bush is not only in single digits, but this is crucial, less than half Republican voters say that they would vote for him. That number is 60 percent Trump, 77 percent for Ben Carson.
So, should Jeb consider dropping out so the party can coalesce and deal with a more manageable field?
NAVARRO: No. I mean, you are going to ask the guy who's got $100 million and super PAC who's got double-digit cash on hand who has teams on the ground in the early states to drop out, when there are so many others on that debate stage who are nothing, no one in the polls who have no money? I think not.
Look, it's Jeb's choice. I don't think anything Donald Trump says has much influence on Jeb. I do think Donald Trump is right. He's got a branding problem, Jeb. And in part, it was Donald Trump who branded him low energy.
And Jeb has got to fight hard to rebrand himself and prove he is energetic and is forceful and have got the idea.
BURNETT: So, he is trying to do that, Katrina. Today, here is Jeb Bush responding to Donald Trump right here on CNN. Here's Jeb.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's run for president twice and quit. And I've run for governor in the biggest swing state and won twice. I know how to win. I've done it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He has won a major swing state, Katrina. He knows how to persevere in politics. Isn't that a good thing? That is something Donald Trump does not have.
PIERSON: Well, it is a good thing, but he's not even winning in that state, as we speak. There are two people ahead of him right now, actually three at this point. So, it's -- maybe he was a winner, but he's not any more. And he should consider what to do next. He's already said he's got things to do better than this. But maybe he should consider that.
But this isn't new for Donald Trump. He's always been after Jeb Bush. He is the reason why Jeb is low in the polls. And here's the thing, Erin, if Donald Trump had these numbers, Jeb bush would be demanding he jump out of the race, too.
NAVARRO: That's not true. You have to respect everybody else on that stage. It's up to the person decide if and when they drop out.
You know, I think that as long as a candidate has fight, has possibilities, has got a path, has the back bone to keep doing it, keep grinding away, Jeb Bush is a guy who shows up to four, five different events a day, retail events. Donald Trump parachutes in every now and then and does a bunch of media he must do from the sofa of his living room as he phones into the media.
So, you know, each of them should be concerned about running their own campaign. They've got their own problems to deal with. They're running their own race. And let everybody else do what they want.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks to both. PIERSON: But respect should go both ways. It hasn't gone that
way with Donald Trump.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you. And, by the way, I'm going to note, Donald Trump will be a guest on "NEW DAY." No word whether he is dealing in from his boxers on the phone, 7:00 a.m., right here on CNN.
And up next, Ben Carson, he is, of course, now the formal front- runner, number one. It is therefore time to see what's going on inside his campaign, and we have an OUTFRONT special report on that.
[19:35:03] And we are moments away from a big decision tonight in Ohio. Will recreational pot become legal?
BURNETT: Tonight, the spotlight on Ben Carson. He's on top of the polls, but still an enigma. So, what do we really know about his team?
Suzanne Malveaux is OUTFRONT.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Ben Carson, the political newcomer, now front-runner, relies on just a few people to keep him grounded emotionally and plugged in politically. The man who has his ear and his back, Armstrong Williams is on the phone with Carson several times a day.
Carson's controversial comments --
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not advocate we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.
MALVEAUX: Getting fierce defense from the bombastic conservative media personality.
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, DR. BEN CARSON'S BUSINESS MANAGER AND ADVISOR: Everything is not about winning the White House for him.
MALVEAUX: Armstrong gets Carson in a way others don't.
WILLIAMS: He is trying to mix a scientific world with a political world and a medical world and a spiritual world.
[19:40:02] And sometimes, the end results can be kind of -- can be kind of shocking and stunning to people.
MALVEAUX: The unlikely pair met more than 20 years ago when Carson appeared on Williams' TV show. Williams, a Washington fixture who once work for former segregationist Strom Thurman and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, now owns TV stations, a PR firm and real estate.
He says Carson was always curious about politics.
WILLIAMS: Whatever was the particular headlines of the day, he would delve into it. He wanted. He was hungry for it.
MALVEAUX: Carson inspires loyalty in his inner circle. Longtime GOP operative Deana Bass jumps at the chance to work for him.
DEANA BASS, DR. BEN CARSON'S NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: I was sitting in my kitchen table in my jammis, which is my favorite place to work, and I got a call from Dr. Carson's business manager. He said that Dr. Carson needed a press secretary.
MALVEAUX: It's her job to make Carson look good.
BASS: He carries his own bags. In the beltway, you know, likes the candidate who carries his own bag and was like unheard off.
MALVEAUX: But it's Candy Carson, Dr. Carson's wife of 40 years, who keeps him ground.
She is a major presence on the campaign trail and major reason Carson is running for president at all.
CANDY CARSON, DR. BEN CARSON'S WIFE: What got me onboard with this because it's not something I wanted to do, because I don't see my grandchildren because we are on the road so much. I haven't seen him for six months. It's killing me. But whenever I see these children, I think I can't do this to them. I've got to do whatever I can to try to wake people up so they understand what's going on.
MALVEAUX: She met her husband while a student at Yale, where she triple majored in music, psychology and pre-med. She had an MBA, but music is her passion.
Mrs. Carson is an accomplished violinist, playing the violin to help kick off her husband's 2016 bid. The two have three sons and co- authored several books together, a team in virtually every sense of the word.
CARSON: I let him shine, too. I mean, they make up, they need more than me. Hey.
MALVEAUX: And, of course, you saw for yourself how comfortable they are together. The two share a similar background having grown up poor inner in city Detroit. They share the same faith as Seventh Day Adventist. I saw them together on the campaign trail. While she says she doesn't follow politics like Armstrong Williams, she does make those solo appearances to support her husband -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Suzanne.
And, you know, having met him, they do seem very comfortable together. It is a yin and yang sort of thing.
I want to bring in our senior political analyst and former advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen.
And, David, Ben Carson, you know, he's gone from being a total political outsider. He is now the Republican front-runner. Can he actually make it all the way?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think you hesitate to call about anything because this has been so bizarre in so many ways. I'll tell you this, if this election is going to turn on likability and just general smarts, yes, Ben Carson can win it.
But we all know that having gotten this far, especially now as he is forged ahead and he's closed in on the national poll with Hillary, he's going to come under more scrutiny for more than likability. And that's going to policies, and especially his economic policies. And there, I think he's going to find great controversies ahead about the idea of a flat tax in general do, are windfalls for the rich and they actually raise taxes for people in lower categories.
So, that's going to be very controversial. His notion about using voucher for Medicaid is gong to be controversial. His top economic advisor is talking about cutting American support for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, institutions created with American leadership after World War II.
He does have in Candy Carson, I've known Candy Carson and Ben Carson for a long time, not well, but I've known them going back over a dozen of years or so. And she is impressive and she's the source of enormous strength for him.
BURNETT: She really is. She has an energy that he lacks.
GERGEN: I agree with that. I think she keeps him grounded. He's had, because of his very compelling life story, he was embraced by one university after another, especially historically black colleges and universities. Some look at him as a role model. It's not surprising he got catapulted out of that, into thinking about larger office and having a higher profile. But going for the presidency, extraordinarily complicated position and the most powerful position in the world, it's not often you want people in there who are making decisions about something they started thinking about five minutes ago.
You know, the experience does matter. That will be a big issue for him, what his ideas are.
[19:45:00] BURNETT: Right. New poll dead heat in a hypothetical match between Carson and Hillary Clinton, I guess a lot of that could come down to things like the black vote. Can he win the black vote?
GERGEN: He could. I think he can do well within the black vote. Whether he can win it, I think that's a much tougher proposition. Black conservatives tend to be controversial in that community for a whole lot of reasons.
BURNETT: Yes. GERGEN: But I do think coming out of this, when you look at that
new poll was showing him in the dead heat, Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson, you begin to realize this is also shaping up as a very partisan election in which people on one side are going to line up under their candidate, boom. End of story. Exactly.
It could be very close.
BURNETT: David Gergen, thank you.
And next, smoking pot for my reason you want to be legal in Ohio. We're moments away from a major decision in that key swing state.
And one man learns the hard way permanent tattoos are painful.
[19:50:04] BURNETT: Tonight, a major decision on pot. Voters choosing whether to legalize recreational marijuana in the state of Ohio and if voters vote yes, there could be some new marijuana moguls.
Stephanie Elam is OUTFRONT.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's all about the green in Ohio today, the growing, smoking and spending kind. And it's the cash that's causing controversy.
For the first time in America, voters can say yes to legalizing medical and recreational marijuana at the same time. In Ohio, it's called Issue 3. But if they do, commercial growing rights would go to just ten predetermined farms owned by, you guessed it, investors in the campaign to legalize the cash crop.
NICK LACHEY, SUPPORTER OF ISSUE 3: I'm Nick Lachey. Ohio is my home and I care very deeply about the people here.
ELAM: TV and music star Nick Lachey, NFL player Frostee Rucker, fashion designer Nanette Lepore, and even President William Taft's great, great grandnephews have financial stakes in the game.
DUDLEY TAFT, SUPPORTER OF ISSUE 3: By no means does that mean we share in all the profits. Like I said before, there will be competition and there will be winners and will be losers.
ELAM: There are also those in the middle. Ohioans who want to legalize marijuana, but don't want the green to line the pockets of so few.
The man behind the campaign to bring legal pot smoking to the swing state said it could never pass without big budget backers.
IAN JAMES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RESPONSIBLE OHIO: Groups of investors had the ability to fund the campaign, spend about $23 million to $25 million. You can't pass it with nickels and dimes, and you can't pass it by wishful thinking.
ELAM: If it does pass, other growers will be allowed to join in after four years. Nevertheless, this vote could set the precedent for pay-to-play politics in the front world, a frontier that's wide open and up for votes in at least six other states next year.
Ohio would join four other states and the District of Columbia to legalize recreational use, including an allowance for personal plants.
However, governor and current presidential candidate John Kasich is not onboard.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sending mixed signals to kids about drugs is a disaster.
ELAM: It turned out, mixed signals may be exactly what keeps legal marijuana and its investors out of Ohio. Opponents of Issue 3 can vote for Issue 2 and anti-monopoly counter=-measure designed to defeat Issue 3.
If both passed, the courts may have to decide whether the state goes to pot or not.
ELAM: And the reason many believe this will end up in a court of law can be found in Ohio's constitution. It says when two conflicting amendments pass, the one with the most votes will become law. But a legislature sponsored amendment like Issue 2 goes into effect immediately. Issue 3 is citizen sponsored, so the law wouldn't take effect until 30 daze after the election. So, even though the polls are now close in Ohio, we may not know the final outcome right away.
And also, Erin, now in the state that the polls are closed no county can release statewide election results until 9:00 p.m. Eastern. So, it will be a little longer before we find out what the voters decided.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Stephanie.
And OUTFRONT next, getting a tattoo is rather painful. Getting the wrong thing tattooed even more painful. Jeanne Moos is next.
[19:57:42] BURNETT: In the world of tattooing, it's important to make sure that your ink stained sentiment can stand the test of time. It also helps if it's at least true.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When college student Josh Davis got his world champs New York Mets 2015 tattoo -- JOSH DAVIS, TATOOED "WORLD CHAMPS NY METS 2015" ON BODY: It was
hurting a lot. That was really bad, the worst tattoo pain I've ever experienced.
MOOS: But not as bad as the pain he experienced when his beloved Mets lost the World Series that his tattoo proclaimed they won.
Josh actually got the tattoo during game one.
You weren't inking while drinking, were you?
DAVIS: No. Not at all, I was completely sober, sober and faithful.
MOOS: Don't feel bad, Josh, you're not the first to suffer from PST, premature sport tattooing.
Neither the Cowboys, nor the Detroit Lions lived up to premature tattoos and when the Seattle Seahawks failed to become back-to-back champions, this guy joked about sanding off his tattoo.
But our Met fan had no regrets.
DAVIS: No, not at all. Always remind me of this year and they really did have a great year.
MOOS: Josh now joins those adorned with erroneous ink. Belive for believe. Strenth without the G, and this stab in the back, why not? Everyone elese does, but else has an extra E.
And how about all the bad grammar? Never, don't give up. It's get better.
Talk about rejects. There are entire websites devoted to tattoo failure. Johnny Depp updated his tattoo while dating Wynona Ryder, he got one saying, Wynona forever. When they broke up, he changed it to, wino forever.
Josh may eventually turn his into a generic Mets tribute, but for now, he's enjoying the attention.
DAVIS: I leave it for a bit, I pull up my shirt and people's eyes widen up, like, oh my God, that's you.
MOOS: Think before you ink or you may have to eat your words. Ouch.
Can we take one more look at it?
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Makes me grateful the one time I got a tattoo, it was temporary.
Thank you so much for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to record OUTFRONT. So you can watch us at any time.
"AC360" starts right now.