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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Drone Warfare; Interview with former Secretary of Defense William Cohen; Missing Ex-FBI Agent; Interview With Sen. Bill Nelson; Interview with Representative Kevin Yoder; Payroll Tax Showdown

Aired December 9, 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.

Newt Gingrich leading in the polls, picking up support, courting the Tea Party, court, court, court, will they ever marry you? He got two key Tea Party endorsements but the movement is not yet behind him. He has got to win them over. Three major Tea Party leaders OUTFRONT tonight.

And then disturbing videotape of FBI agent turned security consultant Robert Levinson; he disappeared in Iran. Senator Bill Nelson OUTFRONT to tell us what America is doing to get him back.

And the "Bottom Line" on that top secret classified drone seized by Iran earlier this week. Despite the way Iran's ambassador to the U.N. reacted to our question last night, they might be sharing America's top technology with China.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight top secret American technology in the hands of a sworn adversary. At this hour Iran has the CIA's RQ-170 Sentinel drone. Last night the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. told me Iran captured the drone intact and judging by the images on Iranian state TV, of which we have more today -- this is where the drone is now -- that seems to be true. Sources at the Pentagon say that this does look like America's top stealth drone, the RQ-170.

Our question tonight, what is Iran doing with this drone? The big fear is that they might be sharing its most important technology, the ability to fly undetected by radar, with China. Experts today saying the flights between Beijing and Tehran likely were booked up this week to see the drone. And it might be a case of he who doth protest too much, because here's how Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, reacted when I asked him if Iran was showing the drone to China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: This is a question that I think is already answered by itself. Of course no nation is going to share information with any other nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Really? When I first asked the question he laughed and said why would you ask it? Well recently I interviewed a former Navy SEAL who told OUTFRONT that Pakistan allowed China to photograph the technology in the U.S. helicopter that crashed during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Former defense -- Secretary of Defense William Cohen is OUTFRONT tonight. And Secretary, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Thank you.

BURNETT: It is interesting that you now have a couple of examples of very sophisticated and important classified American military technology in the hands of countries that do seem willing to share it.

COHEN: I don't think there's any question that Iran would be willing to share it NOT ONLY with the Chinese but I suspect with the Russians as well. If you look at the United States has tried to intensify sanctions against Iran because of their pursuit of a nuclear weapons program who are the two countries who have been less eager to join in that effort to prevent them from moving forward has been both China and Russia.

So I don't think that the Iranians, to the extent that they have, in fact, the drone, we assume that they do. But if they have it, I don't think that they have the capability of reverse engineering it. So they would want to share that information with those countries who have the sophistication and the desire to be able to gather that information so they can encounter the technology that the United States does have. That's what gives us the edge in any kind of a conflict. The ability to control the air space and the technology is what gives us that ability.

BURNETT: And obviously, being able to fly undetected by radar is a crucial technology. Where does China stand on this? And my understanding is their J-20 strike fighter (ph) that they've developed don't have that technology. They desperately want it and that access to this drone is something they would desperately want to help them leap to U.S. levels.

COHEN: Well there's a report that has been given or reported out of the National Defense University that is called -- it's the buy, build or steal. Every nation tries to gather whatever technology it can through whatever means it can, and I think China and Russia and others are no different than that. Even allies try to get information about technology. So it's not beyond their desire to do this.

They're building a stealth capability. Others are pursuing the same. A report just came out that one of our allies, South Korea, is now pursuing the design of a manned stealth drone. It won't be available for some time to come, but other countries are trying to do what we have.

BURNETT: Right. But isn't this proof that a country like China in trying to and accepting countries like Pakistan and Iran offering them access to this technology is not acting the way a friendly country would act?

COHEN: China is a competitor to the United States. They certainly want to pursue their own interests, and to the extent they can gain technology by another country sharing it with them, that's something that you can expect that they're going to do, notwithstanding any public statements to the contrary. And I haven't heard any public statements coming from Chinese officials. So I think it's fair to say they will have access to it, and I think that they will utilize it to try to build their own capability.

BURNETT: All right, well Secretary Cohen, thank you very much.

COHEN: Great to be with you.

BURNETT: A sobering assessment there of what really could be at risk with this technology and this drone.

We also have developments today regarding an American missing in Iran. We have videotape of former FBI agent turned security consultant Robert Levinson. He disappeared in Iran five years ago. We visited Kish, the island where Levinson was last seen. And this is what it looks like. It's a tourist spot for Iranians, nice hotels, water parks, beaches and while Americans are allowed, me and my producer were the only Americans we saw there.

We were frankly tourist items ourselves, and we only saw one group of Germans there for business in the airport. So it's not some place that you would go just to hang out. In the video an emotional Levinson looking pale and gaunt pleads for help from the U.S. government to heed the requests of his captors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB LEVINSON, FORMER FBI AGENT: I've been held here for three and a half years. I'm not in very good health. I am running very quickly out of diabetes medicine. I have been treated well. I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Levinson's wife Christine said she received this video a year ago, but she's been so frustrated with the effort from the U.S. government to free her husband that she chose to release it to the public today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE LEVINSON, WIFE OF MISSING AGENT: They are investigating. It's a difficult area of the world to get any kind of information from. I continue to hope that the group holding Bob will get back in touch with us so that we can find out what we need to do to get Bob home.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: One person who has been working hard to win Robert Levinson's freedom is Democratic Senator Bill Nelson from Florida. I spoke with him today and asked him why the family chose to release the tape now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: I think if you read the accounts today, you see that the family is just at its wit's end and so Christine Levinson is trying the only thing she has left in her arsenal, which is let's get this out there. Let's hope that somewhere someone sees this tape and that gives some kind of piece of information that the family can bring their loved one home.

BURNETT: But you're confident the Iranian government is involved here. Because I know that theoretically he was on the island of Kish, which is a place Americans can go without a visa to Iran. He was there investigating apparently cigarette smuggling. He was a private investigator in Dubai and obviously formerly in his career had worked for the FBI, so given all of that, are you sure the Iranian government is involved?

NELSON: The Iranian government has certainly been put on notice over the years by the family's conversations, my conversations with the ambassador, and yet they're not forthcoming. And we're just hoping that something is going to break.

BURNETT: Now I know that Mr. Levinson has diabetes, also high blood pressure, and in the tape he referred to his diabetes medication running very low. Again, the tape that we're seeing today was released a year ago to the family. Are you confident he's still alive?

NELSON: We are hopeful. There's a published report today that there was other evidence of proof of life, which were some photographs, but we don't have a date on those. And you can't be confident of anything, but as long as there is hope in the family and as long as the -- all the resources of the United States government are going to keep looking for Bob until we find him.

BURNETT: All right. Well thank you very much, Senator Nelson. We appreciate it and we hope that this will be resolved with him coming home soon.

NELSON: Amen to that. Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you, sir.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right and again from sources that we have here at CNN, it appears from where some of this communication has come from with Mr. Levinson that he could be in Pakistan perhaps or even Afghanistan, not necessarily in Iran right now.

Well OUTFRONT next the clock ticking. If Congress doesn't reach a deal in just 22 days, Americans lose money from their paychecks. The Republicans have a new plan. They come OUTFRONT next.

And we're just hours away from what could be mass protests in Moscow, an unbelievable demonstration due to elections. America should be very concerned about the fate of Vladimir Putin. He has 18,000 nuclear warheads at his disposal at this moment.

And the latest developments in the case of Florida's missing mom. Michelle Parker vanished on November 17th. Are we closer to finding her?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Have you heard of TLC? It's the learning channel and last month on this show we spoke to Nawal Adal (ph), one of the cast members of the new TLC show "All American Muslim". She lives in Dearborn, Michigan and she told us that she wanted to use the show as a way to inform people about Islam. But today we learned that the show, which even features an Irish Catholic who converts to Islam when he gets married, isn't sitting well with some people.

The Florida Family Association has this to say, and I quote. "All American Muslim is a propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values." I'm not making this up. And we aren't making this up either. When the Florida Family Association encouraged their supporters to e-mail the show's advertisers, they got some traction and that brings us to our number tonight, one.

That's how many fewer advertisers "All American Muslim" has tonight. Lowe's, one of the biggest retailers in the nation, pulled its ads from the show saying in a statement to OUTFRONT quote, "On a case-by-case basis we will pull our advertising on shows if we learn there are issues raised from a broad spectrum of customers and viewers who represent multiple perspectives, which Lowe's understand was the case in this situation with this particular show."

You can read the full statement on our Web site, but where to begin? Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States. The show is on the Learning Channel to show that Muslims are Americans with American dreams. Oh, and by the way, the man you saw at the top, the producer of the show, he's Jewish.

All right, it's getting down to the wire now. The clock is literally ticking. If Congress doesn't reach a deal on the payroll tax cuts in 22 days, millions of Americans are going to lose money from their paychecks, an average of $1,000 to be exact. It really depends on how much you make, but it starts at 700 and goes up to 2,300. And today it seems like Democrats and Republicans are not close to a compromise.

Democrats now say they will not pass the new plan put out by House Republicans, a plan that links the payroll tax cuts to the construction of the controversial Keystone Pipeline, which would transport oil and gas from Canada all the way down through the continental United States. Joining me now is Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder. He's also a member of the House Appropriations Committee. Good to have you with us, sir. Appreciate it.

REP. KEVIN YODER (R), KANSAS: Thanks Erin.

BURNETT: OK, so are we going to get this passed by the end of the year?

Well I think we are. I think Americans can be rest assured their taxes aren't going up at the beginning of the next year. The House has put together a package of ideas that focuses on job creation, tax relief, protecting the Social Security Trust Fund, the types of things that most Americans want us to do. And I think it's the kind of legislation that if the folks in the Senate take the time to look at, listen to the American people, I think it is something that will go through the Senate.

BURNETT: OK, so why link it to the Keystone Pipeline?

YODER: Well, what I've heard from Americans throughout the entire year and folks back home in Kansas is they want job creation. They want to get Washington out of the way, and this is a policy that's coming out of this administration that's blocking the construction of a pipeline in the United States that would create by some estimates 20,000 jobs. and I just think given the current economic climate, Washington getting in the way of creating that many jobs is just inappropriate, so that's why it's something that we've got to get done.

BURNETT: OK, I hear you on that job. The president also says it will create jobs. He has some environmental concerns, which some conservatives share, and basically what I'm saying is forget the pipeline, right? Why do you have to attach that to the payroll tax? Have the pipeline fight. Why does it have to be attached to the payroll tax?

YODER: Well there's a series of ideas that we have in this legislation, including protecting the Social Security Trust Fund. There's an issue with the Medicare doctor reimbursement rates where at the end of the year every doctor that folks in this country use that provide Medicare services is going to get a 30 percent salary cut. And so there are all sorts of things that are going to come together in one big package, so unfortunately we'd like to probably do one thing here and one thing there, but as time narrows down --

BURNETT: So you're saying it's not just the pipeline? There's all kinds of other stuff --

YODER: There are all sorts of things and --

BURNETT: OK.

YODER: This is an entire jobs creation package. It's not just the tax relief. It's not just the pipeline. It's regulatory reform. It's getting all these barriers out of the way that are affecting job creation in the private sector.

BURNETT: In exchange for those things, just to try to make it simple, are you willing to put a surtax on millionaires to pay for it?

YODER: Well I don't think Americans want a tax increase on anybody right now, and frankly the economy doesn't need to send more money to Washington, D.C. What we need is more money back in the hands of Americans of any economic standing and so raising taxes right now doesn't make sense. This is a jobs creation package. Raising taxes doesn't create jobs, and this is a common sense thing. Washington doesn't get it. They believe if they take more money and send it to Washington, D.C. somehow they create wealth. It doesn't work.

BURNETT: CBO says that the bill that you all have put forth in the GOP would add about $25 billion to the deficit, though, so it's not revenue neutral.

YODER: Well and I'm certainly very concerned about the deficit. The plans that are out there include either raising taxes, raiding the Social Security Trust Fund because this payroll tax, that two percent goes into Social Security. In the current law we're seeing Social Security dwindle. And so what we're saying is if we're going to reduce taxes we just want to make sure that there are things within the law that pay for it.

BURNETT: The payroll tax, obviously you cut that, that's less money going to Social Security. All right, well thank you very much, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Appreciate it.

YODER: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right, well I want to bring in Manu Raju, a congressional reporter for "Politico" now. And Manu, I want to get your take on how you think this is going to play out, and in particular what we were just talking about, which is this move to have this be a broader package. Not just the payroll tax, but other things including that pipeline from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico.

MANU RAJU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO.COM: Yes. I mean that was needed in order to get Republican support. Remember, Erin, a lot of Republicans, a lot of conservatives don't like the payroll tax break. This is something that the president has been hammering them on over the last couple of weeks. And John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, the speaker and the Republican leader in the Senate, they know that they need to get back on the right side or at least (INAUDIBLE) politically winning message. They know that they need to get this through.

BURNETT: Yes.

RAJU: In order to do that, they added the Keystone Pipeline in order to get more Republican support. I think what you're going to see is that this bill is going to pass the House next week, and it's going to put a lot of pressure on Democrats in the Senate to produce their own plan, produce -- show that they can get the votes to pass a broad plan to extend a host of expiring programs by year's end.

BURNETT: Representative Yoder said he's confident we're going to get this done by the end of the year. Are you -- and I want to add to you a little bit more specific -- are we going to get it done by the time everybody in Washington wants to get it done, which is before December 23rd, when they all want to go away on vacation, including the president to Hawaii?

RAJU: I think that they will get this done. I think it's unclear who is going to budge in this fight. At the end of the day, both sides know that this looks really bad if they cannot reach a deal on this. I think that on this Keystone issue there may be some sort of compromise, but there are other things in the House Republican bill that are non starters with Democrats including things dealing with Medicare changes to how Medicare premiums would increase for some of the higher earning -- some of the more affluent Americans. And those are things that they're going to have to fight over. At the end of the day, this though -- this probably will get resolved.

BURNETT: All right, Manu, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

RAJU: Thank you.

BURNETT: Well Newt Gingrich continues to court the Tea Party. Can he finally win them over? Well we've got three of the biggest Tea Party leaders coming OUTFRONT in just a couple of moments. And Europe's economic crisis reaches the North Pole. This is disturbing about Santa Claus "Seriously?!"

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We do a lot of serious stories on this show, but this one is a little more "Seriously?!" When discussing the economic crisis in Europe, we usually talk about Greece and Italy, maybe Spain. But Britain has also been facing some really tough times. Unemployment in the UK is the highest it's been in 15 years, and it just got worse because someone else has just lost his job, Santa Claus -- "Seriously?!".

Now "Radio Times" is a weekly television radio listings guide. It's been published in Britain since 1923. In 1969 they started printing a special double-issue for Christmas that features a festive cover most always a smiling Santa Claus, but not this year. Santa has been let go and it is because of the economy. According to Ben Preston, the editor of "Radio Times," he says quote "For many years Santa has been a cheery fixture of our Christmas double-issue, but somehow that didn't feel right this year. Would Father Christmas be seen as a bloated red faced symbol of over-indulgence? At a time when so many people are hunkering down with friends and family, we wanted something different."

Bloated, Santa Claus, not wanting to see him at Christmas -- "Seriously?!" How bad is the economy that a guy who gives toys to children for free is considered out of touch with everyone else, and it's not even the first time Santa has been given the boot for the economic reasons. In 1992, after Black Wednesday, Santa was replaced by a snowman, and now in 2011 it's a Christmas tree. But before you get upset, you should know all is not lost because we noticed something when we took a closer look at the new cover.

There behind the tree hanging on for dear life was a tiny, tiny not bloated Santa Claus just like the rest of us hanging on for his dear life hoping the economy recovers so he can make his triumphant return -- "Seriously?!"

All right I know what Newt Gingrich wants for Christmas. He could put on a Santa hat and he'd look pretty good, but he wants the Tea Party endorsements. We've got three of the top Tea Partiers on our show tonight to talk about where they're going to place their cards and the latest developments in the case of Florida's missing mom. Her brother was part of the search party today. He comes OUTFRONT. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.

Up first, top secret American technology in the hands of Iran tonight. The country has the CIA's RQ-170 drone. We asked what Iran will do with that drone and technology. A serious concern Iran will share the technology on how to avoid radar detection with China.

Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen came OUTFRONT tonight. He told us Iran can't use that technology to reverse engineer but China can. He said he is certain Iran will share that technology with China.

Number two: a Connecticut jury recommended that Joshua Komisarjevsky get the death penalty for a brutal home invasion in 2007. Our producer in court told us Komisarjevsky just stared straight ahead as the sentenced was read. Komisarjevsky and his accomplice Steve Hayes were convicted of beating William Petit, raping and killing his wife and their two daughters. They died when the house was set on fire. William Petit managed to escape.

Number three, we just have learned the name of the gunman who police say killed a Virginia Tech police officer before committing suicide. Virginia state police identified the gunman as 22-year-old Ross Truett Ashley. We've been told by authorities that he had no previous contact with Virginia Tech Police Officer Derrick Crouse who died.

Number four: Stocks ended the week up, Dow up 170 points after European leaders agreed on a plan that will hopefully help solve the region's debt crisis. We'll believe that when we see it. But, hey, a one-day wonder is better than nothing.

We also got some good news on the American economy. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment data rose to 67.7 in December, the fourth rise in a row. Economist Mike Feroli of JPMorgan says the 15 cent drop in gasoline prices over the past month is what's giving a lift to consumer sense a sense of well-being just in time for the holidays.

Well, it's been 126 days since America lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, new data showing the U.S. trade deficit narrowed to $45.3 billion in October. That's the lowest level in a year. Good news of the month.

Well, Newt Gingrich is ending the week on a couple of high notes. Like all the GOPers, he's courting the Tea Party. And this week, he received two key endorsements from that front, including one today from Jack Kimball, a Tea Party leader and former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman.

Right now, Gingrich is leading the pack when it comes to regular voters, too. He's got the numbers.

But not all Tea Party players are happy, especially Senator Rand Paul. His dad, of course, hoping for an upset in Iowa and Rand is lashing out at Newt, calling him a big government status quo Republican. That's just for starters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We thought Republicans sold out our limited government views when they voted to send taxpayer money to big banks. Unfortunately, Newt Gingrich was right there with them being paid by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and supporting bailouts, which go against everything that the Tea Party stands for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, the Tea Party is divided over Newt and they're not crazy about Mitt. So, who will they rally behind?

Joining us now, Mark Meckler, cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots, and Michael Patrick Leahy from the nationwide Tea Party Coalition.

Good to have both of you with us. We appreciate it.

Michael, let me start with you. You grade all of the GOP candidates in terms of whether they're likely to get your endorsement, and I have to say -- I mean, if I brought those grades home, I would have been removed from college.

MICHAEL PATRICK LEAHY, NATIONAL TEA PARTY COALITION: Yes. Well, the problem with Newt Gingrich, Erin -- and by the way, thank you for having me on here this evening.

The problem with Newt Gingrich is, as he says himself, he's a Hamiltonian when it comes to viewing the Constitution. And what that means, he is a big government Republican and he was for TARP and he was for ethanol subsidies. So, those really aren't Tea Party values.

The Tea Party, the three core values of fiscal responsibility, free markets and constitutionally limited government, you know, that's Jeffersonian, and he's really not a Jeffersonian.

BURNETT: It would be interesting just to consider what might have happened if we didn't have that TARP bailout. Since we did make some money on it, but I know that's a totally separate issue and you got a view intellectually about government support. So, I understand that.

But is there -- are you going to go for Mitt Romney then? Because I know you don't really like his policies either, Michael.

LEAHY: No. I mean, if he were to grade Mitt and Newt, they'd both get Cs or Ds. Now, Barack Obama gets an F, so let's be clear.

The Tea Party movement in my opinion will support whoever the Republican nominee, because we do not want an F student in the White House. But if you just look at the Tea Party core values, probably Michele Bachmann gets the best grade.

BURNETT: Michele Bachmann, right, which I know you gave her an A-minus. But, obviously, she's not going to --

LEAHY: Yes.

BURNETT: And I think it's safe to say at this point, it would require a miracle for her to actually get the nomination. Mark, let me ask you -- do you share the same sentiments as Michael?

MARK MECKLER, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: Well, I mean, first, I want to disagree with your premise about Michele Bachmann or anybody else. I think it's important we review our history. If you look back to December 2007, the front-runner by over 10 points was Rudy Giuliani. He was considered by most people in the media as the presumptive nominee.

Obviously, we know that things changed pretty radically. I expect to see things pretty radically changed from here through the primary process, through the primary process. So I wouldn't presume that Michele or anybody else is out of the race at this point.

BURNETT: All right. I hear your point there. And fair to say on Rudy Giuliani. But who then -- why are you hesitant endorse? Or are you ready to endorse someone?

MECKLER: Well, first of all, to be clear, Tea Party Patriots, which is the largest grassroots Tea Party organization in the nation, does not endorse candidates. We don't think it's good for citizen-run groups to endorse candidates. We believe that the citizens, individual citizens, will make the decisions themselves. And that is self-governance at its finest, and that is small government, local governance at its finest. So we're not going to endorse anybody.

And I think that Michael is correct, though, on these two candidates, on Mitt and Newt. These are guys that have a history that is not Tea Party value consistent.

BURNETT: All right. A final question for you then, Mark. What's your biggest beef with Mitt Romney?

MECKLER: I mean, the biggest beef is his history, first of all, of flip-flopping. And second of all would be Romneycare. I think that's the number one thing. Somebody who stands against President Obama has to got to be able to stand up there, to look people like you in the eye, the media, and their supporters and explain why Obamacare is so bad for the country.

Having modeled Romneycare and created the model for Obamacare, I think it's impossible for him to do that.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Mark and Michael. We appreciate you taking the time.

MECKLER: Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: And you set us up perfectly for this next conversation. Look, we all know the Tea Party isn't crazy about Romney. You can call it citizens group. So, whatever you want.

But look at the state of Florida for just one example. Tea Party supporters, 62 percent of them support Newt Gingrich right now. That should say it all for Mitt Romney when it comes to Florida.

So, what does he have to do to win the Tea Party over? You heard some of the beefs there.

And joining us now to respond to it, Kevin Madden. In 2008, he's a campaign adviser who Romney. He's a Republican strategist now.

Kevin, I know you've heard these complaints before from the Tea Party. Whatever you want to call it, grassroots or not, it's a crucial part of the Republican Party right now. And Mitt Romney hasn't been able to win them over. Can he?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I believe he can. Look, I think the Tea Party is not a monolithic, it's not a monolithic group. I think there are a lot of elements within the Tea Party movement, and many of them are very anxious and are animated around the issues of spending and deficits. They are a reform element within a center- right electorate.

And I think if you look at Governor Romney's positions and if you look at the proposals he's made for changing Washington, a lot of it has been focused on fiscal reform, what we can do to reform entitlements, what we can do to rein in spending, what we can do to make government more efficient, to rein the size and growth of government.

And if he continues to focus on those issues like a laser, I think that while these Tea Party activists go through the consideration of candidates, in the end, they will see that this is somebody who has the right vision, the right plans, the right proposals, to lead the Republican Party against Barack Obama in the general election.

BURNETT: What about this issue of, quote-unquote, "Romneycare"? Obviously, that was his proposal and plan that went through in Massachusetts for universal health care. That just continues to be an issue and a problem that he hasn't been able to turn around, Kevin, when it comes to those conservative voters.

MADDEN: And Mr. Meckler did reference that earlier.

BURNETT: Yes.

MADDEN: I think the important distinction is that Governor Romney looks at the health care issue as a state's rights issue in many cases. The most important thing to remember about what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts was he designed a program, a plan, that was designed for that particular state, with a very unique health care population.

What he didn't do is what President Obama did wrong, which was set a one-size-fits-all program for the rest of the United States. And it was -- you know, so I think that's the big distinction, and Governor Romney has also said, as president, what he would do to remedy the ills of President Obama's health care plan is offer a waiver for all 50 states to opt out of Obamacare, and then they could go about the process of again tailoring individual plans for individual states.

And that's the best way to get health care costs down and to also maintain quality and increase -- maintain quality and increase access.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Kevin Madden, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

MADDEN: Great to be with you.

BURNETT: We're just hours away from a dramatic and defiant showdown in Russia. Mass protests expected to take place across the country with the largest in Moscow.

The demonstrators are just the latest wave of outrage following controversial parliamentary elections. Elections that many voters say were rigged to keep Prime Minister Putin's party in power. Ballot stuffing is part of the problem here that the protesters are upset with.

Putin has led Russia as president or Prime minister of Russia for 16 years, making him a modern day czar. Putin has a larger than life personality. It's made him fodder for fun and gossip columns. For example, he's been photographed shirtless time and time again with horses, with horses, more horses, holding guns, even doing judo.

But what happens to him right now is a deadly, serious matter for all of us. Russia's the world's largest oil exporter, topping even Saudi Arabia. And instability means rising gas prices at the pump in the United States.

It's also important because of this: Russia still has 18,000 nuclear warheads.

We asked Matthew Rojansky, an expert on Russian national security about what may be at stake for Putin and Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW ROJANSKY, RUSSIAN NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERT: If Russia fell, I think we could see potentially a return to the slippery slope to the 1990s. That is, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the disintegration of the Soviet republics, that would continue within the Russian Federation itself. Radical Islam in Central Asia which Vladimir Putin's strong hand has kept in check. You could see that expanding.

I think the Russian people would be very badly hurt economically. And then, lastly, this relationship that the United States and Russia have been able to reboot or reset since 2009, I think that suffers very badly as well. The new START nonproliferation nuclear treaty, that potentially goes away.

I think these are very serious consequences for the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Putin may be softening his stance with the protesters and says he may be ready for a dialogue with what he called the opposition-minded. We'll see what happens this weekend.

Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360".

Hey, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Hey, Erin. We're keeping them honest tonight on "360".

New video, disturbing horrific video that shows just how terrifying and murderous life is inside Syria. This video today shows a funeral procession that's just been shot at apparently by security forces just outside the mosque. This is as dictator Bashar al-Assad claims his government wouldn't fire on his own people. We're keeping them honest tonight.

And driving while distracted. A new study shows just how dangerous our roadways are. You're going to be shocked to hear how many people are still texting while driving, and we're going to literally show you how just deadly that combination can be. Our Tom Foreman gets behind the wheel to demonstrate.

Also, the war at the border goes beyond illegal immigration and drug smuggling. There's a real issue with some border police apparently being corrupted by the very drug cartels they're supposed to be fighting. Details on that and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: Anderson, thank you. And charges laid tonight of the 2008 murder of two young girls in Oklahoma. The uncle of one of the victims OUTFRONT to tell us the new information that led to an arrest.

And the latest in the case of Florida's missing mom, Michelle Parker's brother, part of the search today, comes OUTFRONT, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night, our "Outer Circle." We reach out to sources around the world.

And we begin tonight in Belgium where a majority of European leaders agreed on a new deal to try to save the euro, but not everybody is on board.

Richard Quest is in Brussels.

And, Richard, what happened?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Erin, they made good progress, putting out the immediate financial fire by increasing the bailout stability fund.

But no sooner are they done that than a brand-new problem was created, all about reorganizing the euro zone. Most of the countries want to go in a particular direction. The United Kingdom said no.

What this means? Many more months of uncertainty, and a whole new euro crisis potentially on the cards -- Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you, Richard.

And charges tonight in the brutal shooting death of two young girls in Oklahoma. It happened back in 2008. Now 25-year-old Kevin Sweat is under arrest and charged with their murder.

Police say Sweat told investigators he was driving when he saw what he called two monsters coming at him. That's what he allegedly shot 13-year-old Taylor Placker and 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker.

Police say Sweat was originally questioned, but he wasn't a suspect until this year when he was charged in the killing -- with killing his girlfriend.

Joining me now is Taylor Placker's uncle, Joe Mosher.

And, sir, we appreciate you coming on the show tonight. Were you surprised to hear that Kevin Sweat was arrested in this case?

JOE MOSHER, UNCLE OF VICTIM, TAYLOR PLACKER: Well, he was arrested a few months ago, and we heard that he was involved in it. But then they never said anything else to us, and yes, it was a surprise today.

BURNETT: Had you ever seen him before personally? MOSHER: Well, I think I saw him one time at the funerals.

BURNETT: So you think he actually came to the girls' funerals?

MOSHER: Yes, ma'am. I think so.

BURNETT: So how do you feel that he's now in custody? Is it a feeling of relief? Do you think this is the right person to the best of your intuition?

MOSHER: I do. I think he's the person that did it. I'm relieved. My whole family's relieved. The people of Weleetka is relieved, you know, because they've had a hard time with it.

BURNETT: And you were saying, sir, that you believe the police really did right by your family?

MOSHER: Oh, yes. The Weleetka Police Department, the Henryetta Police Department and Muskogee Police departments, the OSBI, and the FBI, they did a lot, and they never gave up. And they -- they just pursued it constantly, and I'm really proud of them. They brung a little closure for us.

BURNETT: And how did Taylor's -- the rest of Taylor's family feel, her parents and what was their reaction today?

MOSHER: Well, they're excited. It's hard for them still yet, you know, they don't like to talk about it.

My sister has a real hard time with it still yet. And, you know, it's -- it's a relief that they do have somebody for all my family.

BURNETT: I can imagine it is, sir. Thank you so much for coming on the show tonight, Joe.

MOSHER: Thank you.

BURNETT: Well, today in Florida, police combed through a wooded area and lake where they found the cell phone of 33-year-old mother Michelle Parker. She was last seen in November 17th, around the time she dropped her 3-year-old twins off with their father, Dale Smith.

Now, Smith and Parker, as we've been telling you, were engaged. They had a public falling out on the TV show "The People's Court," where they fought over her engagement ring.

Police say Smith is a primary suspect. He has not been charged. He does have custody of the children -- in fact, full custody of the twins.

Joining us now to talk more about the search and the developments in this case: Parker's brother Dustin Erickson and the family attorney, Matt Morgan, who is back with us tonight.

Dustin, thank you for coming on. Let me just start with you. I know you were out today during the search for your sister. What did you see? How were the police?

DUSTIN ERICKSON, MICHELLE PARKER'S BROTHER: Today, it was mostly an exhibition of the police invited us out there to see on a full scale what they do every day as far as running dive teams, running dogs, running out on ATVs and just giving us a general concept of how hard they are working to help in the search for my sister.

BURNETT: And the area police searched, it is close to your sister's home? Dale Smith's home? How would you describe it for us?

ERICKSON: It's not close to my sister's home. It would be closer to Dale Smith's home. But what they told me is that they had information that led them to look for more information and in that particular area.

BURNETT: And, Matt, do you have any idea, either you or Dustin, what that information was at this time?

MATT MORGAN, ATTORNEY FOR MICHELLE PARKER'S FAMILY: I don't believe that police have shared that information with us to this point. They're trying to keep their investigation concealed to an extent that way, you know, they don't have any kind of interruptions.

BURNETT: Dustin, what is your view of Dale Smith, your sister's -- the father of the twins and your sister's former fiance?

ERICKSON: Erin, I never really got to know the guy that well. As far as I'm concerned right now, I believe he's getting a little bit too much media attention. I think the focus needs to be mostly on my sister at the moment.

BURNETT: And what happens next? Is there going to be more searching tomorrow, Dustin, that you will be a part of? What can you tell us?

ERICKSON: Tomorrow, I have a bit of fund-raiser for the children as far as Christmas and it's a trust that Mr. Morgan here actually set up for me. And it's kind of a thing to kind of insure their safety and their well-being in the future. But there will be organized searches tomorrow with cooperation from the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Police Department.

I do not believe I will be sending out any search parties based on my information out tomorrow.

BURNETT: Before we go, Matt, the cell phone yesterday from Michelle Parker that was found missing. You didn't at that point have any knowledge of anything on it. Do you now?

MORGAN: They haven't revealed the contents of it yet, Erin. I'm sure those will be coming forward soon, though.

BURNETT: All right. Dustin and Matt, thanks very much to both of you.

MORGAN: Thank you, Erin.

ERICKSON: Thank you.

BURNETT: And coming up, there is something a bit strange about our next guest. We're dying to talk to CEO Richard Glover -- OUTFRONT next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Richard Glover is the president and CEO of funnyordie.com, the Web site founded in 2007 by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell's production company, that is now a fully functional and he says profitable television and film studio for the 21st century. He came OUTFRONT earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: So, let's talk about this, funnyordie.com -- what is it? I've seen Mike Tyson pretending to be Herman Cain. You make this great little vignette.

DICK GLOVER, PRESIDENT & CEO, FUNNY OR DIE: It is a comedy production, distribution, sales and marketing studio that we will produce the content for whatever medium. We're best known for the Web site. And that is a destination Web site. And we do get now over 12 million people every month to come to us to watch the videos there.

But that's just one part of the company that we've also got a third of our company is based up in Silicon Valley. And that's where we do all the social media, all of the talking directly with people tweeting during, you know, commercial breaks and things like that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recently, a little snot nose punk has been trying to steel my thunder. Harry Potter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: What is the most popular?

GLOVER: The single most popular video?

BURNETT: Yes.

GLOVER: Well, the most popular of all is the one which launched the site, which was the landlord that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay did. And now, it's up to almost 80 million views.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL FERRELL: I knew it. You're already drunk. You're in no condition to deal with this right now.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I'm taking my beer.

FERRELL: Just take your beer and get out of here, OK? Yes, we'll talk tomorrow. This isn't over.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Come, mommy.

FERRELL: Jesus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. So I'm looking at the things you've done. You have done, obviously political in the case of Herman Cain one. You have done other political ones as well. Barack Obama compared to Paris Hilton, and do you a lot of entertainment.

So where do you get the ideas? Who comes up with the ideas?

GLOVER: We have a staff. And like most television shows, we have a writer's room and ideas are batted around and are, you know, vetted. And then somebody says, OK, let's put pencil to paper and there you go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE TYSON: I used to be the CEO of Godfather, a restaurant so gross it made my children hate pizza.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So what do you think about the election?

GLOVER: Well, I don't think that I'm the least bit qualified. All I care about is that people that are funny clearly be part of the process for a long time on whatever party that for us just give us some character, and we'll have some fun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: We couldn't agree more with that. Thanks so much for watching. Have a wonderful weekend.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.