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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
GOP Changing Their Tune on Occupy Wall Street?; New Info Emerges in Alleged Domestic Terror Plot
Aired October 12, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It is 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.
We begin "Keeping Them Honest." Remember the politicians who were condemning the Occupy Wall Street movement, even though they praised the Tea Party movement for pretty much the same tactics? We talked about it last week on 360.
Well, it turns out some of those same politicians are dropping their criticism and changing their message.
We're talking about the Occupy Wall Street movement, now in its fifth week in cities across the country. Large crowds have taken to the streets in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere. They're protesting income inequality and the lack of jobs.
Just last week, rising GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain said those fired up over America's economic troubles had no one to blame but themselves. Here's what he told "The Wall Street Journal."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Then this past weekend, Cain fired another shot at the protesters on CBS' "Face the Nation." Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: My parents never said that we hope that the rich people lose something so we can get something. No. My dad's idea was, I want to work hard enough so I can buy a Cadillac, not take somebody else's.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But, listen. Now Cain is tweaking his message and saying the protesters should be blaming someone. The White House. Here's what he said last night during the Bloomberg/"Washington Post" GOP debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CAIN: That response was directed at the people that are protesting on Wall Street, not that 14 million people who are out of work for no reason of their own, other than the economy is not growing. Not the millions of people that are underemployed. They have basically targeted the wrong target. It should be against the failed policies of this administration, not Wall Street, is where they should be protesting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Herman Cain is not the only presidential hopeful changing his message. So is the former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. Last week on the campaign trail in Florida, Romney said this about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Quote, "I think it's dangerous, this class warfare." But Monday, Romney sounded much different when meeting with voters in New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't worry about the top 1 percent. I don't -- nice worrying about, gee, we need to help them. I don't think it's not that. I'm not worried about that. They're doing just fine by themselves.
I worry about the 99 percent in America. I want America once again to be the best place in the world to be middle class. I want to have a strong and vibrant and prosperous middle class. And so, I look at what's happening on Wall Street, and my own view is, boy, I understand how those people feel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You got that? Romney saying he now understands how the protesters feel. No more talk of class warfare. He even used a key phrase at the Occupy Wall Street movement. They refer to themselves as the 99 percent.
Now to a key Republican on Capitol Hill, the House majority leader Eric Cantor. Here's what he said about the Wall Street protesters last week at the Values Voters Summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Then yesterday in his weekly briefing with the media, Cantor changed his message dramatically. Gone was his reference to so-called mobs. Instead he told reporters -- quote -- "People are upset and they're justifiably frustrated. They're out of work. The economy is not moving. Their sense of security for the future is not clear at all. People are afraid and I get it."
Then he added -- quote -- "When we have elected leaders stirring the pot, if you will, that's not good."
"Elected officials stirring the pot. That's not good." Well, does that apply to himself and others? I talked about it just a short time ago with CNN contributor Erick Erickson, who's editor and chief of RedState.com, plus Jeffrey Sachs, an economist and director of Columbia University's Earth Institute. He's also the author of "The Price of Civilization."
KING: So, Erick, we're beginning to see a bit of a softening from conservatives when it comes to their rhetoric about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. To that point, let me see if you want to re-do here.
I'm going to read back some of the things you've written on Red State. com. You've called them -- quote -- "whiners, hippies, hipsters, dirty urban hipsters, senior citizens who never grow up, and college trust funders."
Stand by all that?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely.
KING: Absolutely. In a word. So then why, then, if you stand by it absolutely, why are some leading Republicans -- you see it in the presidential candidates, you see it in the congressional leadership -- softening in rhetoric, getting a bit more moderate, in some cases, even a bit more supportive?
ERICKSON: Because, you know, part of it has to do with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney is the Wall Street guy. And there are some -- there are some guys, the Ron Paul supporters and others, who are out there with the -- with the guys on Wall Street, and so they're trying to pit themselves against Mitt Romney and say Mitt Romney can't tap into this populous movement that's going out there right now.
If Mitt Romney weren't in the race, you probably wouldn't see them backing off of it.
KING: And why do you say absolutely? Why a one-word answer when I asked you if you stand by it all? You have no second thoughts? I mean they're citizens demonstrating their rights, no?
ERICKSON: Well, yes, they're citizens demonstrating their rights, but what are they demonstrating? I mean there's not a whole lot of coherence, but what is coherent out there is that somehow greed and they're envious of the 1 percent and those people are bad and we should take from them and give to others.
I mean this is 1960s communism in this generation's college kids.
KING: Jeffrey Sachs, let me bring you into the conversation on that point. You staunchly support these demonstrators. The rhetoric from the conservative side has been cooling a bit. You still hear criticism, though. What are they up to? This is divisive. It's hurting the economy. Maybe it's misguided. How do you respond?
JEFFREY SACHS, DIRECTOR, THE EARTH INSTITUTE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I think when they say that we are the 99 percent, they're speaking for a great many Americans who feel that the system is unfair and that the system has been rigged. And when they look at what's happening on Wall Street, they see companies that have paid bonuses of tens of billions of dollars to senior management, and then drove the economy, both the U.S. and the world economy, absolutely into the ditch.
And then they saw those bonuses that paid afterwards with U.S. taxpayer bailout money. And then they saw these firms pay huge fines for their financial misdeeds. Our marquee firms, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Merrill Lynch. And they're saying, what kind of system is this, where these firms break the rules, require massive taxpayer bailouts, and yet they pay themselves gargantuan, virtually unbelievable, unimaginable sums for compensation.
That's not America. And I think that they are finding a resonance all through this country.
KING: And one of the questions, Erick, is might there be a double standard being applied from the right since most of these demonstrators are liberals? You wrote on RedState.com about these protesters. "Maybe instead of playing class warfare, you people should grow up and get a job."
I was having conversations with you not all that long ago, you were one of the loudest voices telling people, stop criticizing, don't dismiss the Tea Party members and don't paint them with a broad brush. You're guilty of the same thing here?
ERICKSON: Maybe so, but you know they did that to the Tea Party Movement, a fair game, I would say. At the same time, you know, the Tea Party Movement was largely about getting government out of their lives. What these people seem to be about is getting government more invested in our lives and in getting government to punish people they think are unjust.
There's a lot of talk, John, about greed out there in this Occupy Wall Street movement. But the people who are occupying, they just want to trade one form of greed, that of money and the acquisition of wealth for another form of greed, power for themselves to decide who should be the winners and losers instead of letting the free market do it.
KING: Jeffrey --
SACHS: Erick, how can you -- Erick, how can you still even use these terms after trillions of dollars of cash going from the Fed to these Wall Street firms at zero interest rates to TARP, the bailouts, and you call this the free market? What are you talking about actually?
ERICKSON: Yes, well, you know, Jeffrey, I will tell you. I think largely it is because the policies that folks are out there occupying Wall Street right now have advocated in the past more government intervention has caused these things. The government should never have gone in as far as they did.
The government should have never gone in with things like Sarbanes-Oxley, which puts a lot of jobs overseas. The government should not have gone in --
SACHS: Erick, Erick --
ERICKSON: The government should not gone with a lot of regulations.
SACHS: Listen to what they're saying. They're saying that the system is rigged, that this has been gamed, that these banks were bailed out by actually both political parties.
ERICKSON: Yes, I opposed the bailouts as well. We should have let the banks fail, actually, and let new banks spring up from them.
SACHS: Well, you know, what they're saying is that this is a rigged system that has helped the people at the very top, not helped the rest of society.
KING: All right, gentleman, we'll end this here tonight.
ERICKSON: No, you know, it's not a rigged system --
KING: I assume this debate is going to continue. Erick -- Erick, Jeffrey, I'm going to call it a truce right here.
Gentleman, thanks both for coming in tonight. As we can see, some of the rhetoric's cooling. Not all of it. Thank you.
KING: And so let us know what you think. We're on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @JohnKingCNN.
Up next, Mitt Romney's on a roll, but he's not the front-runner in a new poll. The surprising winner coming up.
Plus, this man is accused of plotting to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Iran is rejecting any ties to the suspected scheme. But Iran is accused of another bizarre plot right here on U.S. soil, targeting a U.S. citizen. Details ahead.
First, though, let's check in with Isha Sesay.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: John, day 11 in the Michael Jackson death trial. Damaging testimony against Dr. Conrad Murray, and medical experts for California's Medical Board lays out what he says are six examples of gross negligence by Murray -- that and more when 360 continues.
KING: "Raw Politics" tonight. There's a possible new front- runner in the Republican battle for the White House. A new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll gives the edge now to Herman Cain, with 27 percent backing him. Mitt Romney follows close behind with 23 percent. Texas Governor Rick Perry third now with support from 16 percent of Republican voters surveyed.
The poll isn't all bad news for Romney, though. NBC and "The Wall Street Journal" also find Romney remains the strongest candidate in a head-to-head matchup with President Obama, trailing him by just two percentage points.
Well, tonight, President Obama's reelection campaign is taking notice, trying to slow Romney's momentum. The days of team Obama repeatedly praising the former Massachusetts governor for his health care reform are likely over. The tone is changing.
Today the Obama campaign fired back at Romney for this comment he made during last night's Bloomberg/"Washington Post" debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: The right course for America is not to keep spending money on stimulus bills, but instead to make permanent changes to the tax code. Look, when you give -- as the president's bill does, if you give a temporary change to the payroll tax and you say we're going to extend this for a year or two, employers don't hire people for a year or two.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The Obama campaign claims Romney keeps changing his message on taxes. They're labeling him a political flip-flopper. In a conference call with reporters today, senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod went on the attack.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: It is a pattern time and time and time again. And you heard it again last night. And it's consistent with a guy who ran for the -- who ran for the governorship of Massachusetts and ran for the Senate in Massachusetts, as a pro-choice moderate who supported civil unions and who supported environmental protections and so on, to the guy you see today, who is hard after that Tea Party vote and has thrown all of his positions -- all of his positions over."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KING: David Axelrod didn't stop there. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
AXELROD: The question of trust is important, and particularly for the middle class, at a time when people are struggling and have been for some time. They want to know that where the president was yesterday is where he'll be today is where he'll be tomorrow, and that the commitments that he makes are ones that they can count on, and it's hardly the case when you're all over the lot, as Governor Romney was last night, has been through this campaign, has, in fact, been throughout his career.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KING: Safe to say team Obama on the offensive.
Joining me now, Ari Fleischer, CNN contributor and the former press secretary for President George W. Bush, also Bill Burton, a Democratic strategist who also has plenty of time working in the White House press room. He's President Obama's former deputy press secretary.
Gentlemen, good to see you.
Ari, let's start with these new "Wall Street" poll numbers. How much -- "Wall Street Journal" poll numbers. How much does this surprise you? Do you view this as Herman Cain really taking off to the top of the pack? Should Romney be concerned?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it continues to show how fluid and open the Republican race is. I have been saying for months that nobody has a firm foundation underneath them and I think that's what this poll is showing.
My advice to Republicans and any other political observers is read political polls the way you should look at the stock market. Don't look at it every day, look at it about once a month, because it's way too volatile and open on the Republican side still. But good for Herman Cain, he's really caught on.
KING: Good for Herman Cain, he has caught on.
And Bill Burton, Ari makes an important point, number one, it's early, number two these are national polls. We'll get to Iowa and New Hampshire about 80 days from now. But when the Obama campaign looks at this, when you look at this from the Democratic perspective, do you like the volatility in the Republican race? Do you think it helps you?
BILL BURTON, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Well, what's interesting to me is actually the lack of volatility that there's been for Mitt Romney. As you've seen other candidates promoted like Chris Christie, even Mitch Daniels, have you seen other candidates come in and rise up and go down like Rick Perry, one thing that has been constant is the Republican concern for Mitt Romney and him being the nominee.
Even though Perry's rise and fall has been sharp, the result has been Herman Cain's rise going up. None of that support went to Mitt Romney. You have to think there must be something about Mitt Romney that Republican voters are clearly concerned about. He's been running for president for five years. His support has flat-lined, his money is actually behind where he was last time around. And in key states like Iowa and Nevada, he's actually behind where he was, where at this point in the campaign, four years ago.
KING: And then, Ari Fleischer, Bill Burton says there must be something for the Romney people to worry about, there must also be something for the Obama people to worry about because the president, his senior campaign adviser going negative on Romney today.
You can debate the substance of what the Obama camp is saying but what do you make about that strategy? A conference call solely dedicated to trying to rip apart Mitt Romney.
FLEISCHER: You know, I was a part of a White House heading into a reelection and traditionally presidents don't go after all the different opponents in an upcoming primary, because they want to save their fire from when there isn't no nominee, and also they're busy leading and governing.
And so I find it an interesting new development in politics that President Obama's authorized his staff to -- they went after Huntsman, they have gone after Perry, they have gone after Romney. It seems they really want to play a hand in this primary. And I suspect the reason is he doesn't have a strong enough record to run, given unemployment, given the deficit, given the economic troubles of our country.
So when you're a president and you can't run on what you've done, you attack anybody you can find. And I think they're trying to undermine whoever the eventual Republican nominee is going to be.
KING: And, Bill, could you be contradicting your own point? You say Romney seems to have this ceiling and Republicans are looking around, he can't get up higher, but by attacking him, attacking the -- looking people at anybody but Romney, aren't you possibly helping Romney? Might conservatives say, the Obama people are after me, therefore they must view Romney as the strongest guy?
BURTON: Well, I -- two things here. For starters, I think it's very hard for Democrats to have too big of an impact on the Republican primary. Republican voters aren't looking to President Obama and to David Axelrod and Democrats to get a sense of who they ought to support. And Mitt Romney very well may end up the Republican nominee, but it's not because he's like their greatest choice, it's because they have exhausted all of their options.
And just the second point here is the phenomenal thing that Ari Fleischer just had to say about how presidents who don't have a very good record to run on start to attack their opponents, because I actually recall not -- right about this time in 2003 when President Bush was running for reelection, they telegraphed a strategy in which they would go after the Democratic nominee.
And I remember Karen Hughes and other Bush surrogates going after the Democratic candidates whenever they opened their mouths on things that had to do with Iraq or the war against terrorists, all over the world. So, you know, let's consider history here before we start saying that we're breaking new ground at the --
KING: You're --
BURTON: On the Democratic side.
KING: You're making the point, what goes around comes around. Some of this is cyclical.
Ari, let me ask you this point. The polls do show consistently, Romney -- it's early, but Romney has the best head-to-head numbers against President Obama. Will that help him with Republicans who are thinking, we want to beat this guy or does that not matter?
FLEISCHER: Yes, there are going to be two major factors. One, do Republicans like the -- the person who's going to be the nominee? Do they ideologically agree with that person? But also electability is also a slice of the decision-making pie. And if a candidate cannot -- look like they're going to beat Barack Obama, I think that's going to be filtered into the judgment that a voter makes.
But let me go back to Bill's earlier point. Bill is right about the timing of that. And everybody does make an issue of who their opponent is. That's the way politics works in this country, and there's nothing wrong that. But it's just the timing. I don't remember the Bush people doing that in 2003. They waited later into 2004 when there was a known nominee.
Barack Obama is entitled to this strategy. Everybody can change how politics works. It's just a surprise to me, it looks like they're going to go after as many as they can.
One final point on it, John. If I were President Obama, I would be very careful about going after Mitt Romney on his flip-flops, where indeed he did change his position on gay rights and on abortion. But Barack Obama has so many more of those on his own which is when he was a senator, he voted against raising the debt limit and then of course he wanted to raise the debt limit.
He ran against extending the Bush tax cuts, he extended the Bush tax cuts. He indicated George Bush violated the Constitution and now Barack Obama, of course, is keeping up with indefinite detention, warrantless wiretaps, secret renditions, keeping Guantanamo open.
So it's not a fruitful area I would go after if I were Barack Obama. It only opens himself up to similar attacks.
KING: I think Ari is auditioning for the number two spot on the Republican ticket there, Bill. We'll have both of you guys --
BURTON: He's got my vote.
KING: We'll have both of you guys back to fight this out as we go forward. Ari Fleischer, Bill Burton, thanks tonight.
And you can see all of the GOP candidates Tuesday night when Anderson hosts the Western Republican presidential debate live from Las Vegas. That's Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
Still ahead: Iran fights back. Its leaders deny any involvement in the bizarre plot to kill a Saudi ambassador. But it's not the first time Iran's been accused of masterminding a murder on U.S. soil. Our special investigation coming up.
And a stunning twist in that triple murder trial in Connecticut. The accused killer now blaming the victims for his crimes -- the family's reaction when 360 continues.
KING: Deliberations began today in the triple murder trial that began with a home invasion four years ago. Joshua Komisarjevsky is facing 17 counts, including three counts of murder in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11- year-old Michaela.
Husband and father Dr. William Petit was badly beaten but escaped through a neighbor's house to call for help. Komisarjevsky is the second defendant to be tried. Stephen Hayes was convicted and sentenced to death last year.
Komisarjevsky's lawyer adopted a blame-the-victim defense, suggesting that if Dr. Petit hadn't fled or if his wife hadn't screamed, no one would have died. Here's how Petit and his sister responded outside the courtroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. WILLIAM PETIT, SURVIVED DEADLY HOME INVASION: I guess we were honestly a little perturbed at the closing with their defense's use of Dr. Petit getting out of the basement precipitated things, as if there had been no plan in place for two or three hours or longer prior to that, or that perhaps if Hayley Petit had done something different, things would have turned out -- the what-if scenarios were a little nauseating to listen to.
JOHANNA CHAPMAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: I thought -- at first, I thought my ears were deceiving me when they said that my brother's actions had precipitated the events of July 23.
And then later on Donovan repeated it in his closing argument and said they not only precipitated it, but they caused it. And then he went on to say that Hayley, had she gotten out of her room and climbed out of her window, the events wouldn't have taken place and if she had gone out of her room and gotten into Michaela's room and gotten out that window, the events wouldn't have taken place. I think that's really stretching, really grasping, and somewhat delusional, actually.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: CNN's Deborah Feyerick has been covering this trial and joins us now.
Deb, that is a bizarre defense strategy. Blame Dr. Petit and his family?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it actually is. And I think a lot of people in the courtroom were stunned. Here you have Joshua Komisarjevsky and his accomplice, both of these men, two convicted felons out on parole. They hold this family hostage for more than seven hours, torturing them, sexually molesting an 11-year- old, and then all of a sudden they turn it around and they say, gee, if only Dr. Petit, who we'd tied up and put in the basement and beat in his head, if only he had not broken free to try to get help, then we wouldn't have had to light the house on fire.
Or, gee, if the 17-year-old daughter Hayley had actually gotten loose from, you know, being tied to the bed and had she escaped out the window, then, gee, you know, maybe she could have helped the family.
So, really, the defense wants it both ways. Their one goal right now, John, is simply to save this man's life. But doing it this way, by being so cruel to the family that was picked at random. You know, one of these guys actually spotting the wife and daughter in the parking lot buying groceries, coming from buying groceries, and then followed her home. It's really a little bit, I think the word that you hear a lot is perverse, John.
KING: Perverse, cruel, bizarre. Was it expected at all or did this come out of the blue?
FEYERICK: You know, it's -- the defense has one goal and one goal only. And that is to try to save Joshua Komisarjevsky's life. The accomplice is already on death row, and what they are trying to do now is they're trying to really convince the jury that this was simply a home invasion and it went terribly wrong. That as the hours began ticking down, as they were waiting to go to the bank to have this mom withdraw $15,000, that somehow there was tension, they started getting on each other's nerves.
But, look, you've got a 90-minute taped confession in which Komisarjevsky really lays out the plan, how it happened, how he describes, really, this sexual fixation of an 11-year-old girl, what he was doing. And he blames his accomplice, Steven Hayes. He says, he's the one who went to the buy the gasoline to light the house on fire. He's the one who said that we had to kill this family to get rid of evidence.
And, so, it's -- the defense has to try to save his life, and they have got not a lot to work -- John.
KING: Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre. Deborah Feyerick, thank you. Fascinating case. We'll stay on top of that.
Let's get the latest now on some other stories we're covering. Isha Sesay joins us with a "360 News and Business Bulletin."
SESAY: John, a Southern California salon became the scene of a deadly shooting spree today. Eight people are dead, one is in critical condition after a gunman opened fire in a salon in Seal Beach near Los Angeles. Police there say they have a suspect in custody.
A surprise guilty plea today from the so-called underwear bomber. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab admitted to trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day in 2009 with an explosive device hidden in his underwear.
A man suspected of hacking into the computers and electronic devices of Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera, and Mila Kunis is under arrest. Federal authorities say 35-year-old Christopher Chaney accessed the accounts of more than 50 people, most of them in the entertainment industry. And billionaire, Warren Buffett is baring all and has battled to get Congress to raise taxes on the very rich. He revealed today that his gross income last year was nearly $63 million, while his taxable income was just under $40 million.
What's more, he was taxed at a rate of only 17.4 percent. That's because much of his income is from investments and he earns massive deductions for his charitable donations.
No matter how you slice it and dice it, John, that's a lot of cash.
JOHN KING, GUEST HOST: You scared me a little bit with the "bared it all" at the beginning of that. I'm glad it was about the money.
SESAY: You're OK. No need to shield your eyes.
KING: Isha, thank you.
Still ahead on 360: new details emerging tonight about that foiled terror plot reportedly backed by the Iranian government. We'll tell you about the suspect in another botched assassination plot that seems to point back to Iran.
And a difficult day in court for Dr. Conrad Murray. We'll tell you what one expert said about the quality of his care for Michael Jackson. That's when we come back.
KING: Iran lashed out today, claiming allegations of an Iranian scheme to kill a Saudi ambassador are nothing, but, quote, "a stupid mischief." An attempt by the United States to shift attentions from its economic problems by making up a plot Iran called amateurish, complicated.
This as the United States imposes tough new sanctions on an Iranian airline believed to have supplied money and technical support to terrorist elements within the Iranian military. It's true the twists and turns of this case, involving this man, Manssor Arbabsiar, and his accomplice, Iranian revolutionary guard member, Gholam Shakuri, and a Mexican drug cartel -- well, it reads like a Hollywood script.
That's exactly how the FBI Director Robert Muller described it last night.
But this isn't the first time Iran has been accused in a bizarre assassination plot. Just last year, the American embassy in London warned officials to be on the lookout for a paid assassin. According to a diplomatic cable disclosed by WikiLeaks, the man claimed to be an agent of the Iranian government.
The Iranian agent, if that's who he was, was soon arrested -- not in England, but right here in the United States, trying to kill an American citizen.
Here's Drew Griffin with a CNN Special Investigation.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT (voice-over): It's the type of California town you'd dream of. Sunny skies, green mountains, palm tree-lined streets. Glendora, California, is not the type of town you'd expect paid assassins plotting international killings ordered by a totalitarian regime.
But according to this diplomatic cable, published by WikiLeaks, that is exactly what happened here, a conclusion supported by Glendora's Police Department. Would-be killers, a mastermind and a hired hit man, holed up for four days in a low-budget motel, plotting, stalking, and on the verge of carrying out their elaborate plot.
(on camera): It was July 28th, 2009, the morning the murder was to take place. But the hit man got cold feet, and instead pulled into this gas station, picked up his cell phone, and dialed 911. And an international assassination plot unraveled.
LT. TIM STAAB, GLENDORA, CALIFORNIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: This person went on to tell us that for the past four days, they, together, had been scheming how to assassinate, how to kill a Glendora resident.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): To say it was a shock to Glendora Police Lieutenant Tim Staab is an understatement.
The man hired to be the hit man offered proof, too.
Details of a plot involving a cheap van purchased at a local car dealer, to be used accidentally to run down and kill the target. A payoff to his mother overseas and a wad of $100 bills, suspiciously wrapped.
STAAB: They were crisp, new $100 bills, and there was a stack of them. They're all sequentially numbered and around it, they had a bank wrapping around it, and the writing was in Farsi.
GRIFFIN: The money had come directly from an Iranian bank, and soon, Lieutenant Staab was arresting the mastermind. His name, Reza Sedegnia (ph), an unemployed house painter from Michigan, and the plot was rapidly thickening.
STAAB: Our informant was Iranian. The person, the suspect, the mastermind of this assassination attempt, if you will, was also Iranian, and those two wanted to kill the Glendora resident who not only was Iranian, but he hosted an Internet talk show in Glendale, and just happened to live in Glendora.
GRIFFIN: And that led police to the next shock, the victim and what the WikiLeaks cable suggests was the motive.
(on camera): This was an Iranian government plot on American soil to assassinate you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
GRIFFIN: Scary? I mean, you're laughing? That seems pretty serious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is serious. This is clear.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Jamzid Sharmad (ph) is an Iranian-American who opposes the current Iranian government.
(on camera): And let's be clear, your mission, your purpose is to overthrow the regime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's clear, yes.
GRIFFIN: Sharmad is the radio voice of an Iranian dissident group called Tandar (ph). The group says it is behind a grassroots movement in Iran that has led to massive anti-government protests. The Iranian government says Tandar is a terrorist organization.
(on camera): Any doubt in your mind that the Iranian regime was behind this assassination plot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): And that is supported in this, this leaked diplomatic cable, written from the U.S. embassy in London to the State Department in Washington.
The cable says the alleged mastermind, Reza Sedegnia, admitted his surveillance of Sharmad and more. He also plotted to kill a "Voice of America" commentator in London.
(on camera): The overall plot was to kill you, get you out of the way, and hijack your radio, your radio, your television, your movement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is correct.
STAAB: After looking at all the information, it sure adds up that the person that we arrested back on July 28th of 2009 was a true bad guy.
KING: Drew Griffin joins me now from Atlanta.
Wow, Drew, the details maybe different, but the overall arc of this murder for hire plot you described sounds a little familiar to what we heard just yesterday in the government allegations about this Saudi incident.
GRIFFIN: Exactly, John, you hire a hit man, you pay in cash -- in this case, with money that may have came straight from an Iranian bank. Make sure there are enough layers between the source and the killer -- so that Iran could deny any involvement. It seems very similar.
KING: And this Iranian who masterminded this plot pleaded guilty, still in prison?
GRIFFIN: That's where it gets really interesting? Curious, Reza Sedegnia served eight months in a California prison, was placed on five years probation, and almost immediately after he got out for some inexplicable reason, he was allowed to visit his ailing father in Iran on the promise he'd come back.
John, you know he never came back, no one's seen him since, there's a bench warrant out for his arrest.
But shortly after he was freed, Iran released a U.S. businessman they were holding. We've tried to talk to the State Department, the FBI, even the district attorney in Los Angeles. Nobody's commenting on that. Security experts say this looks like a straight-up swap that took place last year.
KING: Huh? Does make you suspicious, doesn't it?
Fascinating reporting, Drew. Thanks.
Still ahead here, "Crime and Punishment." Damning new testimony today against Michael Jackson's doctor. An expert spells out six ways Conrad Murray failed the pop star and how he could have saved Jackson's life.
KING: "Crime and Punishment." Not an easy day in court for Dr. Conrad Murray. Michael Jackson's personal physician sat silent at the defense table as an expert witness, a cardiologist, just like Dr. Murray, blasted the quality of care Murray gave Jackson in the final hours and minutes of his life.
The prosecution witness listed six examples of gross negligence, deviations from standard medical care, that he believes had tragic results.
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DR. ALON STEINBERG, PROSECUTION WITNESS: Because if these deviations would not have happened, Mr. Jackson would have been alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The prosecution now down to its final witnesses and today they came out swinging.
Here's Ted Rowlands.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a damaging day of testimony against Dr. Conrad Murray, an expert for the California Medical Board concluded that Murray's actions directly caused the death of Michael Jackson.
Dr. Alon Steinberg, a cardiologist hired by the prosecution, called Murray's behavior, quote, "bizarre" and listed multiple examples of his extreme deviations from standard medical care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In your opinion, is the use of Propofol as a doctor's medical practice to treat insomnia gross negligence?
STEINBERG: Yes. It's indicated for procedures and patient comfort, not for sleep.
ROWLANDS: According to Steinberg, not only did Murray administer a dangerous drug to Jackson, he did it without the proper equipment.
STEINBERG: First, you need a pulse oximeter with an alarm. Dr. Murray's machine did not have an alarm.
The next thing you need is an EKG monitor. He did not have an EKG monitor.
The other things you need is a bag mask or an ambu bag, and you need to know how to use it. Dr. Murray had an ambu bag, but he did not use it.
ROWLANDS: Another deviation, according to Steinberg, Murray's failure to call for help immediately.
STEINBERG: It's basic knowledge, in America -- you don't have to be a health care professional, that when someone is down, you need to call 911 for help. Dr. Murray should have known that. So instead of that huge 20-minute delay, I mean, 20-something-minute delay, he could have gotten help that he needed within four minutes.
ROWLANDS: Murray had told police he was busy trying to resuscitate Jackson, which is why he didn't call 911 right away. But Steinberg says Murray didn't even follow proper procedures in trying to revive the singer.
STEINBERG: His CPR was poor quality. So he should have put Mr. Jackson on the floor and done CPR on the floor with two hands.
ROWLANDS: Previously, the jury heard a two-hour recording of a police interview with Murray. On the tape, Murray described monitoring Jackson after giving him Propofol, until he felt comfortable enough to leave the room. Murray said he was only gone for two minutes.
STEINBERG: When you monitor a patient, you never leave their side especially after giving Propofol. It's like leaving a baby that's sleeping on your kitchen countertop.
ROWLANDS: The defense now says they'll drop their theory that Jackson had swallowed extra Propofol without Murray's knowledge. Instead, they will argue that Jackson administered the fatal dose himself through a syringe.
(on camera): A sleep expert also testified and said that Murray's use of Propofol to treat insomnia was, quote, "unusual and dangerous." The prosecution is wrapping up their case. They're expected to get to their final witness at some point tomorrow.
Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.
KING: Joining me now, criminal defense attorney, Mark Geragos. He once represented Michael Jackson.
Mark, pretty damaging testimony there. Not one, but six examples of deviations, gross negligence, the doctor said. How does the defense counter that?
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, this is, I think -- I said early on, before the trial even started, this is the elephant in the room. This is, how do you get over the question of -- is it such a gross deviation from the standard of care to give Propofol in a house setting, so to speak?
That's what they had to get through. That's what they're going to have to fight with. The defense is going to argue that even if he deviated from the standard of care, that did not cause Michael Jackson's death.
And they're going to rely on a jury instruction that says, if something else intervened, if there was some other cause that was unforeseen, then, therefore, he is not guilty. They're going to argue that the other drugs that he had been shopping, that Michael was shopping around for, that Michael was ingesting, are what caused that lethal combination and caused the death.
That's one of the reasons that you saw the defense today fine- tune, some would say, others would say, scrap their theory on whether he ingested it or not.
KING: Well, in scrapping that or fine-tuning it, you choose your words, they're saying now. They're not going to say that he orally ingested it. They're going to go with the syringe.
How damaging it to so late in the trial say, never mind, we're going to go with this approach?
GERAGOS: Well, I think it's all going to depend on the closing argument. If you focus the jury, and I assume that what the defense is going to do here is they're going to say, look, this isn't a licensing hearing. This is an administrative procedure to revoke his license. That's a different standard.
Here, it's beyond a reasonable doubt. Here you have to focus on the jury instruction, the jury instruction said, did it cause, was a natural improbable consequence? That's the language.
You're going to see the jury focus like a laser on whether this was the natural and probable consequence of what Dr. Murray did, and did that reasonably cause Michael Jackson's death.
If the answer to that is yes, he's going to be found guilty. If the answer is that something else intervened, something else broke that chain of causation, as they like to say in the law, then the answer is not guilty.
KING: And the cardiologist we heard from, that expert, he also said that the jury should find Dr. Murray guilty, even if they accept the idea that Jackson himself self-administered the fatal dose, saying that the doctor never was reckless in leaving drugs anywhere that close to his patient.
Does he have a point?
GERAGOS: Well, the doctor makes a very compelling point, and some of the examples he was giving, and you showed it in your package that started out, that Ted did, that it's akin to leaving a baby on the table, so to speak, and then walking away, you never know what's going to happen.
In the sense that not that Michael was a baby, but that once you put somebody under, you're in a very risky situation. The doctor assumes all responsibility for that. He's not only, so to speak, the surgeon, but also the anesthesiologist and the cardiologist, all rolled up into one, and it's like everybody had left you in the operating room.
That clearly, to me, is going to be the prosecution's argument at the end, is: we don't care if you say that he just deviated from the standard of care once, twice, three times. Six separate times he deviated from the standard of care. That's what caused the death.
This was a very subtle, at the same time, in-your-face attack on Dr. Murray today by this expert. Not only did he outline all the various ways, but he also painted a portrait of why the failure to abide by the standard of care could have caused the death.
You've noticed that the prosecution has really started to focus in on the causation, because a lot of the other evidence didn't really address that.
KING: Mark Geragos, thanks for your insights. Up next here, a frantic 911 call from inside a corn maize. It wasn't a Halloween prank. The family trapped inside with their 3- week-old baby say it was a nightmare.
And Anderson's conversations with the brave students about the bullying they say they face at school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMIAN, STUDENT IN ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: It makes me feel lonely, like there's no one out there like me that's getting bullied. They call me faggot, fag boy, Gay-mian, gay boy, gay. It's frustrating and sad at the same time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Back now with an in-depth look at an epidemic we've reporting on for more than a year now, bullying in schools. In Anoka- Hennepin, in Minnesota's largest school district, seven students have taken their own lives in less than two years.
The school district is now facing a federal investigation and a lawsuit from two advocacy groups and several students, the allegation, pervasive anti-gay harassment.
The students suing say the district's policy of barring teachers from talking about homosexuality jeopardizes their safety at school.
They want that policy changed. The school district in a heavily conservative area declined to speak to 360 citing the ongoing legislation, but did defend the policy to CNN back in April.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUPT. DENNIS CARLSON, ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT, MINNESOTA: All the students come with parents in this community, and parents have a wide range of beliefs. We serve them all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's the superintendent of the school district. Now our view from the front line, Kyle, Damien, Brittany, and Dilan are four students who are fighting back. Anderson spoke with them recently.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you all get called names when you walk through the halls?
COOPER: What sort of names?
KYLE, STUDENT IN ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: Faggot, dyke, dumbass, ugly ass bitch.
COOPER: People actually say that to your face?
BRITTANY, STUDENT IN ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: Sometimes. They say it to your face or just when you're walking by under their breath.
COOPER: What is that -- what is that like?
DAMIAN, STUDENT IN ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: It makes me feel lonely, like there's no one out there like me that's getting bullied. They call me faggot, fag boy, Gay-mian, gay boy, gay.
COOPER: At one point, you could name 40 kids that were bullying you. That's incredible, 40 kids?
KYLE, IN ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: Forty. You feel like they just think you're a piece of garbage that they can just throw away. And it makes you feel powerless, weak, and defenseless, and then when you tell a teacher, they won't stop it.
KING: It's just stunning. To see more of Anderson's interview, go to ac360.com. It's all a part of our special study, a joint effort with Facebook and our corporate cousins, the Cartoon Network and Time Incorporated to help stop the bullying epidemic.
Be sure to join Anderson for an encore presentation of his town hall, "Bullying: It Stops Here." That's this Friday, October 14th at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. right here on CNN.
Let's take one final look at some other stories making news tonight.
Isha Sesay joins us again with the 360 Bulletin.
SESAY: John, reports out of Libya tonight say that one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons have been captured. The head of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council is telling CNN that Mutassim Gadhafi was taken after a firefight last night in Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte.
Three-day BlackBerry service outage spread to North America today inconveniencing and frustrating millions of users. Research in Motion, which makes the smartphones, says it's working around the clock to fix the problem which affects people on nearly every continent.
And airport in New Orleans says I received approval to host direct flights to Cuba. Officials at Louis Armstrong, New Orleans International Airport say plans are still in the works and the new flights to Cuba will still be highly restricted.
And a fall adventure turned a little scary for a family in Massachusetts. A couple and their two children, one a 3-week-old baby were exploring a cornfield maze when they became disoriented. It was getting dark, so they called 911.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: We thought this would be fun. Instead, it's a nightmare. I'm really scared. It's really dark and we've got a 3-week-old baby.
UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Just relax, calm down, your husband's with you, right?
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Yes, but my baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: The police sent out a K-9 unit and the family was rescued.
That does it for this edition of 360. Thank you for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.