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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Virginia Tech Shooting; Political Play; Payroll Tax Cut
Aired December 8, 2011 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Thanks, John.
We begin with a developing story at Virginia Tech. Two people dead after a campus shooting, this just four years after the shooting that claimed 33 lives at that school. A mother, father and their children, students at the university come OUTFRONT.
Iran says the United States sent its most sophisticated drone about 160 miles into Iranian territory. We've got that letter and pictures of the drone intact. It's got American technology for the taking. Exclusively tonight the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. comes OUTFRONT.
And tax increase countdown. Republican and Democratic proposals to extend the payroll tax cut voted down today. Let's go OUTFRONT.
I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight two people dead after a shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech. It was a scene that was hauntingly familiar to the tragedy that riveted the nation 33 lives lost on the campus four years ago with a shooter. It began today shortly after noon when a gunman walked up to a campus police car and opened fire, killing the officer. One emotional student witnessed the policeman being gunned down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIE FLEMING, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: The police pulled up and they opened his car door. And when they opened it, he just fell out towards the ground. And then they immediately started reviving him. And I guess the officer didn't make it because they just covered him with a sheet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The campus was placed under lockdown as the shooter fled to a nearby parking lot where police later found the body of what appeared to be a second victim. For more than four hours, students, faculty and parents were left in the dark as police tried to find the shooter. The gunman described as a white male wearing gray sweat pants, a great hat with neon green brim and a maroon hoody (ph), as well as a backpack has yet to be formally identified. The lockdown was lifted at about 4:30 this afternoon after police said there was no longer an active threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. GENE DEISINGER, DEPUTY CHIEF OF VIRGINIA POLICE: Since the time of the second incident there have been no other founded reports of any threat to the campus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Investigators say they found a weapon near the body of the victim in the garage and have identified that man as the shooter. Now, today's response from police and campus police was a stark contrast to the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007 when a shooter went on a rampage that left 33 dead including himself and then committed suicide. Let's go to Athena Jones who is in Blacksburg tonight -- Athena, what is the latest that you can tell us?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly as you mentioned the lockdown was lifted a little bit after 4:30 in the afternoon and we all know the reason that there was so much attention given to this story not just the simple fact that so many lives were potentially at stake and they already had two people dead but of course that horrible incident back on April 16 of 2007 when you had a 23-year-old troubled student who went on a shooting rampage.
It's interesting because this event came on the same day that you had the head of campus police and the head of Emergency Management in Washington, D.C., appealing a Department of Education fine, a $55,000 fine they levied against the school for failing to inform students quickly enough during that rampage back in 2007. So that's certainly interesting that this should occur on that day. But we're still waiting to hear more details regarding motive.
During the press conference that ended just about an hour and a half ago, one of the authorities said that investigators feel confident that they've located the person responsible for the shooting. They said we can't give you specifics, but you can read between the lines. Motive is still unclear though. We know that about 8:00 there's supposed to be a campus vigil -- a candle light vigil here on campus not far from here.
We're in fact not very far from the scene, maybe about 100 or 150 yards from the scene of that first shooting. But, again, we're still awaiting more details regarding motive on the identity of the suspect and of course on the identity of this police officer who was killed. All we know now is that he was a four-year veteran of the Virginia Police Department -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Athena, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Live from Blacksburg tonight. Let's bring in Jim and Melody Kosowski. Their children were in the lockdown on the campus today. You'll meet them in a moment, but thank you so much Mr. and Mrs. Kosowski for being with us tonight.
And I know, Mrs. Kosowski, that your -- you had a child who was a student at Virginia Tech back in 2007 when that horrible incident happened where 33 people lost their lives. When did you find out that there was a similar situation today? MELODY KOSOWSKI, MOTHER OF VIRGINIA TECH TWINS: This afternoon when I was at work my daughter texted me and then she called me and said, mom, did you get my text? And I said no and she said well read it and call me right back. And I read it and I called her right back and I couldn't believe that there was a shooter on campus and that they were in lockdown. She was in the dining hall when she sent me the text.
BURNETT: And Mr. Kosowski, what was your reaction when you heard about this today given that you were a parent of a child four years ago?
JIM KOSOWSKI, FATHER OF VIRGINIA TECH TWINS: Well, I was out in southern West Virginia and I didn't have a cell connection immediately at that point, but I did get an e-mail on my phone. And as soon as I did, I was able to get in touch with my son and confirm that he was in his apartment and he was safe. And I got a little bit of the information about what he knew what was going on at the time.
BURNETT: Well, let's bring him in now. Russell Kosowski also comes into the conversation -- Russell, you heard your dad talking about how he reacted when he heard from you. What happened today?
RUSSELL KOSOWSKI, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Well, Virginia Tech sent out their alerts around 12:40. That's the first time I heard about it. And they seemed to keep us informed with how much information they knew at the time. And they kept us updated throughout the day. Like my dad said, I was at my house, my apartment that I live in. So I was a little bit out of the danger --
BURNETT: Were you scared for your sister?
R. KOSOWSKI: Oh, yes. Well, my sister let me know that she was in West End (ph) and that everything had been locked down and there was a big police presence, as you've probably seen in some of the news footage from around the day. You know some of the surrounding counties came in (INAUDIBLE) police force and they seemed to have the situation under control as much as they could.
BURNETT: Mr. and Mrs. Kosowski, does this make you feel differently about your children, your twins, finishing at Virginia Tech now that this happened while they were there and also when your son was there back in 2007, or no? Are you still confident that this is a good place for your kids to go to school?
J. KOSOWSKI: My oldest son, Keith, graduated in '07. He was a senior when that incident happened where 33 people were killed. The Virginia Tech campus and the college and the university, we've been very pleased with it. It has a great mix of rigorous educational atmosphere with opportunities for the kids to have a great college experience. And I think he experienced that. And my -- our twins, Elizabeth and Russell, have had great opportunities at that university.
And as you can see this time especially they've been very proactive in getting the messages out. Similarly for us, I was able to find out back in '07 from my son about what was unfolding before I ever knew about it on the news. It was early morning on that day. And he called me and let me know. So we're very pleased with the university. And this most recent incident doesn't change our opinion.
BURNETT: Melody, as a mother, do you feel the same way? Or do you think that there is something, a myth about the fact that this could happen twice in the same place?
M. KOSOWSKI: I feel that it's a safe place for them to be or we wouldn't have sent our twins there after our son having been there. I have to admit I was pretty shaken this afternoon with the news when my daughter contacted me. But I knew the kids were safe at all times. They were in lockdown and they were being contacted by the university about what to do. And in fact, after they found the second person this afternoon, they still kept the kids under lockdown and they were still safe.
M. KOSOWSKI: So I feel like -- I feel comfortable with them graduating from there. And I still think it's a wonderful university. And I think they're very safe there. I think something like this could happen just about anywhere really today. And I'm pleased with their reaction and how they handled it today.
BURNETT: All right. Well as we could see from you, Russell, I'm assuming very much calm and in control. Well Jim, Melody, Russell Kosowski, thanks to all three of you. We appreciate it.
M. KOSOWSKI: Thank you.
BURNETT: And still OUTFRONT, former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine answering -- I'm also said John Christie -- what a strange combination that would have been -- all right, well Jon Corzine answering questions from members of the House Agricultural Committee about MF Global and the missing money, biggest failure for a bank since Lehman Brothers in this country.
And new developments in Washington's attempt to extend the payroll tax cuts. I say attempt because Democratic and Republican proposals failed today. Will we get a tax increase at the end of the month?
And Iran calling the lost drone an act of hostility in their letter to the U.N. today; we have the letter. We have the images and we have an exclusive interview with the ambassador next.
BURNETT: Former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine answering questions from members of the House Agricultural Committee today. Representatives were trying to find out what happened at the roughly $1.2 billion that is missing from customer accounts. Now Corzine was apologetic and at no time invoked Fifth Amendment rights. He answered every question. But he didn't say very much. To sum it up he said he didn't intend to break any rules. He doesn't know where the money is and that he didn't get much time to prepare for the hearing, which brings us to our number tonight, 151, that's the number of minutes our producer, Stephanie Nicholas (ph), will never get back in her life after we forced her to watch every single one of those minutes.
And now to hyper partisan politics in Washington; Republicans and Democrats don't seem to compromise on anything. And today Senate Republicans blocked President Obama's pick to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And they admit it's not because they don't even like the guy. It's because they don't like the agency he would be leading, which brings us to the "Political Play of the Day", and that means it brings us to John Avlon.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, Erin. Today's "Political Play of the Day" is blocked. The filibusters are flying in Washington, D.C. You might remember earlier this year President Obama wanted to nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Now Republicans said that nomination would be DOA. So she went home to Massachusetts to run for Senate against Scott Brown and President Obama put forward Richard Cordray.
Now by all accounts respected, former attorney general of Ohio, for what it's worth, a five-time Jeopardy winner and (INAUDIBLE) working in the agency right now. Well today as you said his nomination went up to the Capitol and he was blocked. He got 53 votes, but not enough to clear the 60-vote hurdle needed to break a filibuster the Republicans put forward. And here's the thing.
It's not that he's considered too extreme, incompetent or doesn't understand the agency. It's that Republicans said they don't want the position to exist unless serious reforms are made to the agency. Senator Orrin Hatch said just that. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: None us have a problem with Richard Cordray, at least to my knowledge. The reason we voted against him is we suggested to the president that this CFPB, this so-called consumer agency, has abject power over credit in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: Now President Obama digging in his heels and fighting -- vowing to fight forward with this nomination. Let's take a listen to the press conference today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I just want to send a message to the Senate we are not giving up on this. We are going to keep on going at it.
(END VIDEO CLIP) AVLON: This is far from the only case of blocking and tackling in Washington. Just yesterday Caitlin Halligan was nominated by President Obama to join the D.C. Circuit Court. Yesterday she had a vote. She got 54 votes in favor, but not enough to clear the Republican filibuster, the first filibuster of a senior judicial nomination in over five years. Now, look, we've seen this sort of thing before.
Democrats and Republicans both do it. Remember this name? Miguel Estrada, he was nominated by President Bush to serve on the same D.C. Circuit Court and he was blocked by Senate Democrats at the time. Not because he wasn't a respected conservative jurist, also a Honduran immigrant, but because ironically like Caitlin Halligan opponents feared that they might be future Supreme Court nominees.
Here's the big picture problem. This use of the filibuster stops government from working. It combines hyper partisanship gridlock, leads to broken government. Remember the movie "Mr. Smith goes to Washington"? It's one of my favorites and in it Jimmy Stewart stands on the floor of the Senate, filibustering, fighting for what he believed for and it used to be that way. You had to personally stand there and risk your kidney to fight for what you believed in, in a filibuster.
But now it's a parliamentary maneuver. It's become routine. Staffers file paperwork and the numbers grown in filibusters from one to over 70 a year. So here's the problem with the all the blocking and tackling in Washington. It's going to continue unless we see filibuster reform. More good people are going to get caught in that crossfire and guess what, we're going to have more broken government until at least the next election and probably going forward.
BURNETT: Maybe just (INAUDIBLE), maybe a parliamentary system.
BURNETT: Let's just throw the whole thing out.
AVLON: How about just one man, one vote, 51 majority makes it.
AVLON: It's crazy.
AVLON: And women --
AVLON: Sorry, my bad.
BURNETT: Yes, yes, all right.
AVLON: All right. BURNETT: OK, this big stalemate on Capitol Hill in addition to what John is talking about which is really amazing is also whether to extend the payroll tax cut. As you know that is expiring at the end of this month. Today the Senate voted down both Republican and Democratic quote, unquote, "compromised proposals".
Apparently what appears a compromise to the side proposing it isn't to the side receiving it. I want to bring in Democratic strategist Tim Punke and Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus now, along with John Avlon. OK, so let me ask you exactly what's going on here, Cheri. President says he won't go on vacation until this gets done. This is brinksmanship. We know something's going to happen by the end of the month, right?
CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. Something's going to have to happen. I think both sides lose if they let this go, obviously, but there is a way and I think Republicans are giving, providing the president a path to be able to claim partial victory and show that he can work with Congress. The problem is the president wants to run against Congress even at the risk of hurting some of his own Democratic members.
What Republicans want to do is add the Keystone pipeline issue on to the payroll tax holiday and have that combined. The payroll tax holiday is not a sustainable economic growth item by itself. The Keystone pipeline project is. I mean one is a one-hit wonder. The other is the gift that keeps on giving, but the president wants to delay the Keystone issue. He's saying I do not want this attached to it.
He's threatening to veto the bill. But there -- but you know we have Democrats that support both of those proposals as well. So I think the president could find himself between a rock and a hard place because it looks like he's pandering to the far left environmental base of the party.
BURNETT: Keystone pipeline, I mean he did acknowledge there would be jobs, but in terms of the plans put forth today, there was much more negativity in terms of the voting towards the Republican proposal than the Democratic one which included the surtax on millionaires, Tim.
TIM PUNKE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's right and you know it's funny. I think Jay Carney had the best line of the day when he said you know whatever happened to Republicans being for tax cuts? I think the issue is exactly what you say, which is it's -- the Republicans have had an incredibly confusing message on the payroll tax cut. Initially you had Republicans including even Mitt Romney saying they were opposed to the extension, now that position has changed, but now the issue is what are we going to get in return for it, sort of holding it hostage to other demands. And so you're seeing a lot of unrelated proposals like the Keystone pipeline and even other things like the repeal of parts of Obama's health care. I think it's sending a confusing message to Americans and it's going exactly what John was talking about, this view that America has a broken government. JACOBUS: Actually, I have to disagree. I think that what this is, is a path to victory for both sides because you have House members, Senate members, but you know Democrats too that want to go home for the holidays and talk about something positive how they're working together. So I think ultimately while there are some Republicans cheering and saying well this is a way to you know maybe hold Obama's feet to the fire, this actually can look like a very good compromise for both sides if the president wants to do that rather than run against Congress.
AVLON: Let's be honest. The pipeline has nothing to do with the payroll tax cut. It's artificial they're trying to merge them together. The problem is political brinksmanship, what S&P warned us about when they did their downgrade it continues, these folks -- these sides can't even get together when they agree on the goal. Everybody agrees you need to keep the payroll tax cut, but they're playing the brinksmanship and they seem more concerned about blaming the other guy and then they're watching (ph) vacation than actually getting something done for the American people.
BURNETT: Well we know they're going to get a vacation.
AVLON: Well maybe they shouldn't.
JACOBUS: Keystone provides a lot of jobs. And as I said, that is a sustainable economic growth item. So it is related. And it is what some Republicans need to feel better about the payroll tax holiday. They're looking to compromise.
PUNKE: Well you know by that token you could attach the Obama jobs bill to the proposal as well. Look, I mean I think if you -- everybody agrees, I think that's right. Everybody agrees that the payroll tax cut has to be extended. It's a question of how does it get done. But I think what you're seeing is Americans very confused right now about the Republican message on this.
BURNETT: I think they're just confused in general about why nobody down there can get anything done. All right, thanks very much to all three of you. We appreciate it.
JACOBUS: Thank you.
PUNKE: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: OUTFRONT next Mitt Romney continues to battle with Newt Gingrich. They're both heading to Iowa. Will his new campaign ad be enough to turn the tide?
And our exclusive interview with the ambassador from Iran to the United Nations about the drone.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: So we do a lot of serious shows -- serious stories on this show. But this one is a little more seriously? Alec Baldwin deactivated his Twitter account yesterday, which means his online feud with American Airlines has, you know, gone to another format. But there's another dust stop (ph) that has gone largely unnoticed even though it is so much bigger than the usual feuds. This one's a real war, seriously. ISAF is a NATO-run component of the mission in Afghanistan.
They tweet updates under the handle @ISAFmedia. On July 20th they tweeted this. "Four hundred-plus Afghan forces patrol with no assistance from coalition forces to eliminate insurgents." But then another user named Abdulqahar Balkhi replied with this. "Four thousand-plus coalition forces couldn't stop Mujahideen in -- I'm sorry -- I can't say the name of the place. Four hundred puppets won't last for long." That's a pretty specific response, probably because Abdulqahar Balkhi claims to be a spokesperson for the Taliban.
That's right. NATO and the Taliban started a Twitter feud, better than the regular kind of feud that they have over there. The online dialogue continued with ISAF posting, Balkhi responding and vice versa, and the tone was surprisingly cordial and occasionally actually even slightly humorous until November 17th when this exchange led to this. "Your officials admitted to it dumb, dumb. And how can you talk about Taliban when you cut fingers, et cetera." Then dumb, dumb, "how the dialogue elevates everything you type is wrong. Just stop." Dumb, dumb, seriously. But he didn't stop and the feud has continued right up to this week, almost five months since their war of words began. It's still informative. You should check it out. Oh, and let me know what you think about this story by tweeting me @ErinBurnett, seriously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Still OUTFRONT, the "OutFront 5".
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's scary.
BURNETT: A chilling clue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why was that phone where it was?
BURNETT: Branson's I-D-E-A.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By next Christmas we'll be up -- up, up and away with Virgin Galactic.
BURNETT: All this OUTFRONT in our second half.
BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the OUTFRONT 5.
First up: it was a down day for stocks. The Dow down by 198 points. Selling accelerated into the close when investors learned Germany might reject some proposed measures coming out of the E.U. summit -- the summit crucial for the market and the American economy. Market wants signs that leaders are going to solve the debt crisis. It's weighing on the global economy.
Number two: former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky posted bail this afternoon, less than 24 hours after being arrested again on sexual abuse charges. We told you this might happen and it did. Sandusky posted $250,000 and was placed on house arrest. He'll be monitored by an electronic bracelet.
His wife Dottie issued a statement that said in part "I continue to believe in Jerry's innocence and all the good things he has done."
Ten victims have now accused Sandusky of sexually abusing them.
Number three: we have new surveillance video that shows Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaving a New York City hotel after allegedly assaulting a maid. The video which you see him there walking out was first obtained by French channel BFMTV. It appears to show a casual exit from the lobby into a cab.
This contradicts description by investigators that he fled the scene in a rush. The video also shows the alleged victim in a hotel hallway. Prosecutors later dropped the charges against Strauss Kahn.
Fourth: Filings for initial jobless claims fell by 23,000 to 381,000, nine-month low. The picture was even brighter for continuing claims -- those are people filing benefits for two weeks or more. Those fell by 171,000 to 3,583,000.
They sound like a lot, but we checked and it is the lowest level since September of 2008. That is when all of this began.
All right. It has been 125 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?
A new report from the Federal Reserve shows that the amount of household debt Americans held -- hold fell by 1.2 percent in the third quarter. The big reason was a drop in mortgage debt. That's important -- working on the biggest problem we've got, which is housing.
Well, we see Mitt Romney smiling on the campaign trail, but behind the grin, you know he's feeling the heat. All he has to do is look to see who's in front of him.
That's right. Newt Gingrich -- he is the man in front of the GOP pack gathering steam. And with Iowa just around the corner, Romney knows he has to recharge his campaign. And he's doing that in part with a new ad that offers him up as a family man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been married to the same woman for 25 years -- excuse me, I get in trouble -- for 42 years. I've been in the same church my entire life. I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What did you think? It's the devout husband and father that's being pitched in the spotlight -- a nice image. But is he taking a shot at Newt? Who obviously as we all know has been married several times. If he's not, others definitely are and they're going after Newt Gingrich's record in Washington.
Sharpest attacks coming from former governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu, who joins us now.
Governor Sununu, pleasure to have you with us.
All right. You are the man who does not --
JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: Erin, I hope you're enjoying -- hope you're enjoying your new show.
BURNETT: I am. I'm having fun. And I'm thrilled you're here tonight because I know you don't mince words. How frustrated are you at the rise of Newt Gingrich?
SUNUNU: Not frustrated. It's just his turn to be scrutinized. And the other candidates have gone through it and people have to understand that there's more to qualifying someone to be a nominee or a president than a few 30-second sound bites in a debate. So people are looking at what Newt Gingrich is, what positions he's taken and what he has done.
And I think, for example, the last thing he did or a couple weeks ago, he undermined Paul Ryan and the House Republicans who have put forth a very smart and a very good conservative package to deal with the deficit and entitlement problems, entitlement reform. And for him to go out and cut their legs off by saying that it was conservative social engineering is a perfect example of Newt Gingrich preferring to do things that boost himself rather than recognizing that this was a good conservative plan, good for the country, good for America and good to be passed.
BURNETT: Well, some might say it's the mark of a real leader that can stand up to his own party and say, "This is my idea, I think this should be different." And maybe that's why he's rising in the polls.
SUNUNU: Well, then, the conservatives he's turned his back on should recognize the fact that he's not a conservative. And people that care about that point to other things, his endorsement and co- sponsoring of legislation in 1989 with Nancy Pelosi, supporting climate warming and federal funding for abortions is the same kind of thing turning his back on conservatives that he did to Paul Ryan.
And that's a pattern -- that's a pattern that has to be talked about as we move into the primaries.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Governor Sununu, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
And the governor held a conference call today trying to highlight some of what they call position switching, others call flip-flopping by Newt Gingrich.
John Avlon is here.
Obviously, that is something that is very effectively been pointed at Mitt Romney.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That is. And there's no small irony in that.
You know, we now see Romney's Plan B. A big part of it is release the hounds. His surrogates are on the attack against --
BURNETT: Release the hounds.
AVLON: Release the hounds. They're on the attack against Newt Gingrich. And it's very ironic. They're saying Newt is not conservative enough and that he's a flip-flopper -- precisely what Mitt Romney's opponents accuse him of.
AVLON: They're trying to neutralize it in effect.
So, on the one hand, part of plan B is humanize the candidate, show him with his family, make a mistake about how long he's been aging, and implicit diss at Newt Gingrich.
But the surrogates are on the attack and their lines of attack are fascinating. They're exactly the things Romney's being accused of.
BURNETT: Will it work?
AVLON: They better hope because right now, Romney realizes he's got to run from behind because guess what? He is behind. This inability plan has imploded. And so, he's going to compete all out because if he doesn't, January could be a real rough month for Mitt Romney.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much to John Avlon.
Let us know what you think everyone.
In the meantime, the story we were OUTFRONT from the United Arab Emirates. And I'm talking about that top secret CIA drone that was downed in Iran. Well, tonight, we've obtained a letter from the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.
The Iranians say the drone flew about 150, 160 miles into their air space and was shot down near the city of Tabas. The letter says that Iran, quote, "emphasizes that this blatant and unprovoked air violation by the United States government is tantamount to an act of hostility against the Islamic Republic of Iran."
And today, Iran was showing off the drone on its state TV. Here it is, certainly self-like and gleaming white and somewhat futuristic- looking unmanned aircraft. It is intact though, which has led some to question whether it is indeed the highly sophisticated RQ-170 Sentinel drone.
Pentagon officials have been leading the media in a direction that they think it is likely real. Some insiders say they have no reason to believe it's not authentic. Others, though, wonder about how it is intact.
Well, just a short time ago, I spoke on the phone with the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, for an exclusive interview about the drone. Here he is.
BURNETT: Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: Let me ask you what happened. We saw the pictures of the drone on Iranian state television today. Did Iranian authorities shoot the drone down?
KHAZAEE: They did not shoot the drone down. Actually, they brought it down by their own ways and means that they know. And I'm not in the position to discuss technicality of the act, but it was brought down in about 150 miles or 250 kilometers deep into Iranian territory in province of Khorasan, which I'm coming from that area as well in the military region, in the city of Tabas, that you may be familiar with.
BURNETT: Yes. And so, you're saying you didn't shoot it down but your technology was able to bring it down.
Are the electronics intact on the drone?
KHAZAEE: I do not know the details. And if I know, I'm not in the position to discuss those details.
BURNETT: If the drone is intact, as it appears from the pictures on Iranian television, with the electronics, would you return it to the United States? Or what would be your plans to do with it?
KHAZAEE: This is a decision that should be made by the Iranian officials to do -- what to do with the plane.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Ambassador Khazaee. Appreciate you're taking the time tonight.
KHAZAEE: Thanks, Erin. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BURNETT: All right. I also asked the ambassador about whether if the electronics were intact, Iran might share them with, let's say, China. He laughed and said, well, why might you ask that? Well, America would be very concerned if you did that. He said he didn't think they would but wouldn't give a more detailed comment.
All right. Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's ahead on "A.C. 360" -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" HOST: Erin, keeping them honest tonight on "360." Smallpox was eradicated from the entire world back decades ago. Even if it ever came back, the federal government still stores enough vaccine for every single person in the U.S.
So why is the federal government is spending hundreds of millions to develop a new smallpox drug, not a vaccine, a drug that incidentally one of the world leading smallpox experts says is proven to not work. Could it be because the company just awarded the contract has deep ties with the White House?
We're going to talk with a member of the company's board of directors, a familiar face on CNN. Don't miss this "360" investigation. Keeping them honest.
And in the fight for the GOP presidential nomination is certainly heating up. Mitt Romney launching a new ad campaign that seems to take a direct jab at Newt Gingrich and his personal life. But will attacking Newt and his past infidelities give Romney an advantage? That's our raw politics tonight.
Those stories and the "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Anderson Cooper, thank you. See you in a couple minutes.
Well, 22 days after she vanished, police made a discovery in the case of Florida missing mother. The family's attorney is OUTFRONT with the new developments today.
And billionaire Richard Branson joins us to announce a big idea. You're not going to want to miss this one.
BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night, our "Outer Circle" -- where we reach out to our sources around the world.
And tonight, we begin again in Russia where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is blaming America for encouraging anti-government protests. These came after Sunday's parliamentary elections.
Phil Black is in Moscow tonight.
And, Phil, what are his specific accusations? PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of meddling in Russian affairs in a number of ways, firstly criticizing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for raising concerns about the fairness of recent parliamentary elections. He said she did so before having the evidence to back those concerns up.
And he says her comments have been used to fuel political unrest here. He went further and said that the U.S. is directly ordering and funding individuals in this country to create political dissent.
Hillary Clinton responded to those claims in part saying that she believes the concerns expressed are well-founded -- Erin.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Phil.
And now we go to China where police busted two major child trafficking rings.
Stan Grant is in Beijing.
Stan, how did the police find the traffickers?
STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, a routine investigation of a traffic accident in Sichuan Province actually led to one of the ring leaders of these child trafficking gangs. As a result of that, 5,000 police spanned out across 10 different provinces in China. They netted more than 600 child traffickers, rescued about 180 kids who are now being held in orphanages.
You know, in the past, China has been criticized by the U.S. State Department for not doing enough to crackdown on trafficking. Not having tough enough laws. Now, they're saying they're going all- out to try to break the back of these gangs once and for all -- Erin.
BURNETT: Stan, thank you.
Well, today, investigators announced they found the iPhone of 33- year-old Michelle Parker. She's the Florida mother who was last seen 22 days ago. That was around the same time she dropped her 3-year-old twins off with their father Dale Smith. At one point, Smith and Parker were engaged.
Their relationship ended as we've been telling you in an argument that played out on the television show "The People's Court." The episode they taped aired the same day the woman went missing.
Police say Dale Smith is a suspect but he has not been charged. He's also not responded to our invitations to come OUTFRONT.
But Matt Morgan, the lawyer for Parker's family is OUTFRONT tonight.
And I know, Matt, we've been talking to you over the past week or so. Police keeping quiet about where the phone was found. Have they given you any indication about what they've learned from it?
MATT MORGAN, MICHELLE PARKER FAMILY'S LAWYER Not yet, Erin. And they have found the location which was here in Orlando, in a marshy area by Lake Eleanor. But as far as any leads that came from information contained within the phone they haven't come forward yet.
BURNETT: So you don't know last calls or unexpected numbers or texts or anything like that?
MORGAN: Not at this time. They're doing a thorough investigation and I'm sure those details will be coming forward soon.
BURNETT: Matt, what was the reaction to the family when the phone was found? Are they hopeful this means she'll be found alive? Are they feeling more that this may not mean that?
MORGAN: You know, Erin, it's incredibly tough on them, because on the one hand, you know, they're excited that there's some kind of development to potentially bringing them closure. But on the other hand, you know, you have -- you have to start realizing that a tragic day might be imminent. So, that's been the most difficult, especially on Yvonne and Lauren and the family. It's been tough on them.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Matt, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
MORGAN: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: We have breaking news tonight about the manner in which a young Georgia girl was killed. This as Ryan Brunn, the man accused of sexually abusing and murdering this child was charged in court today.
The child is 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera and she was last seen alive on Friday. Her body found in a trash compacter at the apartment complex on Monday. Police say Brunn lived and worked there as a maintenance man.
Holly Firfer has been covering the story for us. She reported last night he'd only been at the complex about a month.
And what are you learning tonight, Holly?
HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we were just told by a source close to the investigation that Jorelys Rivera's body was found, her arms, hands and her feet were bound together with plastic ties and her mouth was duct taped. She was stabbed several times. She was sexually assaulted, raped and then murdered.
And as you can imagine, this community is up in arms. And law enforcement are concerned for the safety of Ryan Brunn. In the courtroom today, he was brought in wearing a bullet proof vest. When we asked a law enforcement official why, he said this has been a hot issue for the community and their job now is to keep him safe. He is in solitary confinement in a jail cell tonight, Erin.
BURNETT: You spoke to his attorney today. What did he have to tell you?
FIRFER: Yes. I spoke to David Cannon (ph) Sr., one of his court- appointed attorneys. He told us that when the time is right, he will plead not guilty. They have not seen any evidence, they haven't seen any of the discovery yet.
He said it's still ongoing. They are still gathering evidence, according to law enforcement. It's going to take a lot of time.
There's no set date. It could be January before an actual arraignment happens.
But right now, they're still gathering evidence and still checking into his background. There's a couple of states where he lived in New York, Virginia. They're still doing thorough checks about unsolved crimes there. They're checking the DNA base to see if there might be any matches.
And they're not ruling out completely that there's not any criminal activity, Erin, in his past.
BURNETT: All right. Holly, thank you very much. Just a story that makes every hair on your body stand on end. It's so horrific.
Billionaire adventurer Sir Richard Branson is our idea interview of the night. He joins us. He's got a big I.D.E.A. about something we all might get to do sooner than you might think.
That's OUTFRONT, next.
BURNETT: And now our I.D.E.A. interview of the week, IDEA. This is where we will interview inventors, disrupters, executives and authors who embody being OUTFRONT.
And tonight, a man who screams innovation and exploration and all sorts of crazy ways, Sir Richard Branson.
I asked Sir Richard why he's so eager to put regular people into space and to explore the depths of the ocean, like the Marianas Trench. He said it's all about his way of doing business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIR RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP: I wouldn't recommend trying to think how can I make a lot of money? What I would recommend people do is think can I -- am I frustrated by the way something is being done, and can I do it better than it's being done?
I mean, I was frustrated flying other people's airlines and felt, OK, maybe if we could get one secondhand 747, I can show people how it's done. If people like it, I'll get a second or a third and now we got whatever it is, 250 planes flying around the world.
So I think a lot of the best businesses are born out of frustration where you think, you know, screw it, I can do it better than other people.
BURNETT: And you do believe that you can do good -- or actually you believe that you have to do good or do some sort of contribution to society to build a successful business. That's not just rhetoric and somebody who's very successful who has the luxury of saying that?
BRANSON: No, the most important thing for a businessperson is survival when they're starting up. But once you feel that you survived, you should then, obviously create new jobs, obviously get your business going really well, but at the same time, you know, try to sort of take on some of the problems in the world and help get on top of them.
And I believe it actually is good for the business. I mean, for instance, you know, Virgin, we pledge to put all the profits we made from our dirty businesses, our airline businesses, into clean fuels. We now -- I've got companies we've invested in that have developed clean fuels for planes. And I think by 2020, most of our planes are going to be flying on clean fuels.
BURNETT: What is the most creative thing that you're working on right now?
BRANSON: Well, if we put this not-for-profits which a lot of my time is spent on that, on one side.
BRANSON: And trying to explore the bottom of the ocean, going down 38,000 feet. Trying to find the 80 percent of species that we don't even know exist today. It's tremendously exciting. There's only two people who have been below 18,000 feet ever in the history of mankind.
And so, we've nearly finished completing a little submarine. I'm hoping to go down to the Puerto Rican trench which is 28,000 foot down.
So, that's going to be, you know, a technological challenge. We've got to withstand 1,500 times the pressure on an airplane. But if we can pull it off, scientists are frothing at the mouth about what they can discover down there.
BURNETT: What's harder technologically, to get Virgin Galactic up to space or?
BRANSON: I think it's harder to go to the bottom of the ocean than it is to go to space.
BURNETT: That's amazing.
BRANSON: You know, we've just finished a very important rocket test yesterday for Virgin Galactic. You know, the mother ship is finished, the spaceship is finished. The space port in New Mexico is finished.
So, we hope by next Christmas we'll be up, up and away with Virgin Galactic.
BURNETT: So, how does that work with the Virgin Galactic spaceship? Six passengers, at least what I saw, six passengers, three times a day, two hours, for a price of $200,000. Which I would imagine given all you put into it, that's still a relative bargain from your perspective.
BRANSON: Well, I mean, to go up into a Russian spaceship will cost you $60 million. So, we've managed to get the price down somewhat from that. The initial 500 people going up will be the pioneers. And they will enable us over the years to come, to be able to bring the price down.
And so, I think your children and grandchildren I suspect will be able to realistically think I can become an astronaut in my lifetime. And you know, the initial flights are only three-hour round-trip flights. In time, you know, we'll do orbital flights as well, which will maybe be two weeks in space.
BURNETT: You have been -- the "Financial Times" did a story on you where they said if you succeed with Virgin Galactic and you succeed with these dreams and ambitions in space, it would be the greatest of any British person or company in history.
BRANSON: I'll accept that, that's very nice. No, look, it's been a dream that I had back in 1990 and I headed off around the world to see if I could find a brilliant scientist who could create the spaceship and came across Burt Rutan, who's the actual genius behind all this, and had the most incredible 10 years on this. And the dream is about to become a reality. So, it is enormously exciting.
BURNETT: All right. That was Sir Richard Branson.
All right. Thanks so much, as always, for watching our show.
And Richard Branson, by the way, today is the day that his book came out. It's called -- I think we've got the animation so you don't think I'm just saying this because I feel like it, "Screw Business As Usual" by Richard Branson, available today.
All right. Thanks so much for watching. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.