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Obama's Morning in America?; Doping Case against Lance Armstrong Dropped; Two American Tourists Freed by Kidnappers

Aired February 3, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, is it morning in America for President Barack Obama? Does a blockbuster jobs number foreshadow his re-election?

Plus breaking news. A decision on the doping charges against Lance Armstrong tonight.

And Iran issuing a warning to Israel.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, party like it's 1984. The Obama administration is celebrating because today's job news might really start to seal the deal for re-election. That's his hope. Unemployment in America fell to 8.3 percent today as the country added 243,000 jobs.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The recovery is speeding up. And we've got to do everything in our power to keep it going.


BURNETT: Which reminds us of another president who found himself in a similar situation during his re-election year.


RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am pleased to report that America is much improved. And there's good reason to believe that improvement will continue through the days to come.


BURNETT: Reagan won on this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's morning again in America. Today, more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country's history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980.


BURNETT: Well, tonight, we ask a question we've asked before, actually last month, when the jobs picture improved in this country. Is this morning in America for Barack Obama?

In January of 1984 months before Reagan was reelected, the unemployment rate was 8 percent. Compare that to today's 8.3 percent. Now by the time Election Day 1984 rolled around the unemployment rate under Ronald Reagan was 7.4 percent even though it was the highest unemployment rate for a reelected president since World War II. Voters simply felt a recovery was in full swing.

But this president in 2012 still has a tough road ahead. Take a look at the pie of how many people have lost their jobs since this financial crisis began, 8.7 million people since the recession began in 2008.

Now under President Obama we have regained 3.2 million of those jobs. That's about 37 percent of the pie. It's significant, it's a trend that if it continues could be morning in America for the president. But it is not easy. There's a long way go and GOP presidential hopefuls are seizing the opportunity to remind him of that.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been a tough time. And -- and I know the president didn't cause this downturn, this recession. But he didn't make it better either. He made it worse.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth is that if it gets better and better between now and the re-election, he will get some credit. On the other hand, if this is a lull before it starts getting worse, his re-election will be in enormous trouble.


BURNETT: Well, we checked that claim by Newt Gingrich. And it's actually pretty interesting. I didn't know what we'd find but we even found a little bit more wiggle room for President Obama because, even though the unemployment rate under Ronald Reagan fell dramatically in 1984, it actually bottomed out in the spring and then it rose again during the summer.

October of '84, which was the last data that voters had, just a few days before they went in to pull the lever, it was higher than it was in spring.

Let's bring in Jim Bianco of Bianco Research, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, and Reihan Salam of "The Daily."

OK. Great to have all of you with us.

Jim Bianco, pretty interesting, the more you comb through this data, the trend certainly now five months in a row of job creation and a drop in unemployment rate, pretty good for this president in terms of re-election, isn't it?

JIM BIANCO, PRESIDENT, BIANCO RESEARCH: Well, lower is always better. And that's going in the right direction. So that is a positive. If there is a flip side to that coin is that Reagan won with a low 7.4 -- unemployment rate. But Bush 41 lost in '92, Carter lost and Ford lost with similar types of numbers of unemployment rate, around 7.5 percent.

So we've had four elections in the World War II era with a 7 handle on unemployment and only one of the four resulted in a re- election.

BURNETT: So you can look at it that way and say you've got a 25 percent chance.


BURNETT: Even if things still -- are improving.

Jamal, I have to imagine, though, that the president, even though he doesn't want to come out and sound excited because we only have recovered 40 percent of the jobs lost, has got to be feeling really good.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he certainly has to be feeling better. He should feel better.


SIMMONS: Everybody in the country should feel better because things are going in the right direction. You know whenever I see these numbers in the morning, the first thing that comes to my mind is, what must they be thinking over at the Mitt Romney headquarters? You know, are they -- are they celebrating the fact that things are looking better or are they feeling a little bit down? I'm sure they're having mixed emotions about this because it does make it tougher for Republicans to fight back.

And I think not only for the president, but also for the Democrats who are running for Congress, they really have -- they really have a case now to press with the American people to say, the Republicans either help make this recovery stronger or they can stand in the way of it. And I think if the Republicans are caught standing in the way of it, they'll pay the price in November.

BURNETT: Reihan, what do you think the Romney camp is thinking? I mean, because it is possible. This is the sick thing about these unemployment numbers, is that people who haven't looked for jobs in a while don't count and when they start looking either the job market gets better, the unemployment rate ticks up which presumably is what happened when that bounce happened to Ronald Reagan.

REIHAN SALAM, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY: That is absolutely right. So you -- that pie chart was a really useful way of thinking about it. We had a huge hit, huge hit to the amount of labor force participation in the country, and the thing is that labor force participation, meaning the number of folks who are actively looking for jobs working, that's still at a really, really low level in historical terms.

And it's not ticking up. It ticks up when people are more optimistic about their prospects for finding work.


SALAM: Another thing we have to look to is that in 2011 we had three great months of plus 200,000 job creation. February, March and April. Then we have four months of sub-100,000 jobs a month job creation.

BURNETT: That's right.

SALAM: So that's another thing that could happen. A lot of people are predicting that this summer, we're going to see gas prices hit $5 a gallon. That's going to be a big wallop to the economy.

Another thing is the seasonal adjustment of unemployment numbers. So there's a lot -- we still -- that story remains to be seen. This is a good sign. The economy is doing better. There's been a robust extension of exports and manufacturing. But the thing is that it's still a very uneven economy wherein there are some groups that have much higher levels of unemployment than others.

BURNETT: Jim Bianco, how much are people moved by headlines like five months in a row, the dropping unemployment rate, 8.3 percent going in the right direction as opposed to focusing on the fact that we could look deeper in those numbers and people who feel they're underemployed, want a better job or only working part time that want to work full time, and that number swell into the double digits.

BIANCO: I think there's no doubt that it's emotionally driven rather than, you know, fact based driven. The unemployment rate going down. The perception of jobs are going up. The stock market being up 150 Dow points today.


BIANCO: All leads people to believe that things are getting better. And that emotion will drive it. Now it's right to say that the participation rate is very low. 1.2 million people have left the workforce all together. If they decide to come back into the workforce and look for a job, the unemployment rate could spike back over 9 percent.

Economists would tell you that's a good thing. They're looking for work but it would be a bad thing because emotionally all of a sudden the unemployment rate starts heading back up. So it's all about emotions, I think, and the emotions are working right now because everything is moving in the right direction.

BURNETT: Right. It's ironic, Jamal, that an improving economy could lead into a higher number and hurt the president. I would imagine that would cause great frustration for his re-election camp.

SIMMONS: I'm sure it would. It won't feel -- it won't feel very good but you know at the end of the day I've always said this from the very beginning and I will say it again today. This election is not just going to be a referendum on the president. It's also going to be a choice between Barack Obama and whoever the Republican nominee is, looking like, you know, at Mitt Romney perhaps.

And ultimately, if you look at 1992 or you look at 1980, who is the more optimistic, forward-looking, sunny-faced candidate, Ronald Reagan was in 1980, Bill Clinton was in 1992. I think the president probably will be that person this year because Mitt Romney frankly has not really done himself any favors with his reputation over the last few months in the campaign.

MITCHELL: Well, bruising battle. I mean some people make the argument, then you're really ready for the final battle, some make the argument you're even more -- you're so bruised you can't fight there.

Jim Bianco, it's going to be interesting, though. This is kind of a bizarre thing, and if you're into omens and stuff, and I sort of don't like to admit I am but sometimes I am. You know, we're on this Gregorian calendar, weird thing, going on. And you know 28 years ago in 1984 was the identical calendar. Friday before election day, on the 2nd, we got a jobs number, Election Day on the 6th, you know. It's going to be the exact same way this time, which is sort of weird. But the bottom line is just that people are going to get a jobs number literally in just three days before they go to the polls.

BIANCO: Yes. And that will make a big difference as far as how everybody is going to react because that's going to be the big number as we move in there and I'm glad you were talking about the Gregorian calendar and not the Mayan calendar that make everything kind of meaningless after December.

BURNETT: Yes, right.


BURNETT: That puts a whole new, a whole new slant on this election.

SIMMONS: And also all the things about, you know, which team wins the World Series and how that plays out. There are kinds of ways you can say that.

BURNETT: OK, those ones, fine, those are just like omens. But this one, I don't know, maybe there's a little bit more to it.

All right. Well, gentlemen, thanks very much to all three of you. We appreciate it.

SIMMONS: Thanks, Erin.

BIANCO: Thank you.

SALAM: Thank you.

BURNETT: Thank god I'm not a believer in the Mayan calendar. I try to be more optimistic than that this time around.

OK, still OUTFRONT, breaking news in the doping case against Lance Armstrong, just crossing, and pretty staggering what we've just discovered.

And violence erupting in Egypt today spreading across the country after that deadly soccer game. There were also Americans kidnapped. We have the story and the Ron Paul revolution.


REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Once you become a Ron Paul supporter, you remain a Ron Paul supporter.



BURNETT: We have breaking news tonight on Lance Armstrong and performance enhancing drugs. And just a short time ago, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles said the federal probe into the biking champion has been closed. Just closed after all this.

The seven-time Tour de France winner and other members of his team were under investigation for years of suspected doping, charges that Armstrong has strongly and repeatedly denied time and time again and many investigative pieces of journalism.

Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is OUTFRONT tonight with more on the breaking story.

OK, so let me just ask you, what does that mean? Case -- is this done?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is what it means. Remember Raymond Donovan, he was the secretary of labor under Ronald Reagan. He was investigated for years.

BURNETT: Going back to the Gregorian calendar here.

TOOBIN: That's right. That's right. And he was cleared. And he asked a famous question. He said, "Where do I go to get my reputation back? Who do I see about that?"

You know, it's kind of a haunting question for those of us who cover and report all these accusations. You know, Lance Armstrong has been investigated for years. Nothing has come of it. This investigation is over. I mean you know --

BURNETT: And there are people who will always believe he did it.

TOOBIN: Of course. Yes.

BURNETT: And it affects his reputation.

TOOBIN: It will. And you know what, it's just not fair. I mean this guy is cleared, it's done, its over.

BURNETT: So this is not them deciding he's innocent, not deciding they didn't have enough facts.

TOOBIN: Well, the Justice Department --

BURNETT: What can you read into the decision?

TOOBIN: The Justice Department never says anyone is innocent. They are not in the business of providing clean bills of health. What they do is they say we cannot proof beyond a reasonable doubt that person x did thing Y. So they -- but you know I think as journalist, as citizens, I think the only thing we can conclude is that there's just nothing there.

BURNETT: Are they going to apologize to him? And if so, does that help your reputation --

TOOBIN: They don't do apologies. I mean -- well, they don't. I mean, and y, I'm a former federal prosecutor myself. I mean, you know, cases fall apart for various reasons.


TOOBIN: But I mean think about how bad this steroid cases have gone for the government.

BURNETT: They paid legal fees which have been, I'm sure --


TOOBIN: They investigate -- absolutely, absolutely not. They -- Barry Bonds, they investigated him for years.


TOOBIN: Tried him. He got 30 days house arrest. The case against Roger Clemens fell apart. Maybe it will be retried, maybe it won't.

BURNETT: They should just give up on charging anyone --


TOOBIN: Well, I mean, you know, I mean, maybe this was not appropriate for criminal penalties. I mean these cases have been disastrous for the government. And they need to rethink how they do them.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I guess he should be celebrating. But I'm sure you're right --

TOOBIN: Yes, I mean, but you know, you --

BURNETT: What happened in his life.

TOOBIN: You can never get your reputation fully back. And that's too bad.

BURNETT: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.


BURNETT: Violence erupting for a second day in Egypt. At least seven people killed. More than 2,000 injured as protesters have been clashing with police. The uprising follows a deadly riot after that soccer game on Wednesday. Seventy-nine people were killed. Police have been blamed for failing to provide any kind of security, stepping back, and essentially letting people kill -- or kill each other with rocks and knives.

Also tonight, two American tourists are freed. They were kidnapped in Sinai Peninsula by Bedouins, an ethnic tribal group in Egypt.

Ben Wedeman is following these stories in a very busy Cairo for us tonight.

Ben, good to see you. I wanted just to start with those American tourists, if you don't mind, and the women. What do you know about what happened to them? Who they were?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they were two women tourists who had gone to St. Catherine's, which is right next to Mount Sinai. And there, they were on a bus that was stopped. And apparently the kidnappers were looking specifically for Americans. They took these two women off the bus and took them away. Now negotiations quickly began between the Bedouin and authorities, the Egyptian authorities in the area.

Apparently the Bedouin wanted to have some of their co-tribesmen who were in prison released or retried. Now we were told that the Egyptian authorities promised to do that and therefore the women were released just before sundown here in Egypt. And they're fine, they're unharmed and they're free now -- Erin.

BURNETT: That at least, I suppose, is a little bit of good news. Ben, when -- obviously in you're in Cairo tonight, 1400 people injured, but 2,000 people now around Egypt as clashes are more widespread. What is your sense of whether this is under control or spiraling even more out of control right now?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly here in Cairo, it's been going around the clock since yesterday. And those clashes continue until now. In fact, just a while ago, the Egyptian tax authority building was lit on fire. It's not quite sure how that happened. So the clashes continue here, they continue in Suez, where we have at least four people killed. And now they've spread to the port city of Alexandria as well. Now it's not clear whether they'll dissipate or simply continue and get worse -- Erin.

BURNETT: I mean, do you have any sense, Ben, as to whether this is -- I mean for a lack of a better word, but to simplify it, I mean another revolution that you can see the government fall? Right? We've started to see parliamentary electoral process begin in Egypt. I mean is it possible all this could be derailed?

WEDEMAN: Well, you know, it reminds me the morning after Hosni Mubarak resigned that one of the big newspapers here had banner headlines that the people had toppled the regime. I think what people are realizing that getting rid of Hosni Mubarak was not toppling the regime, it was removing the facade. But the things that make people angry like the Interior Ministry and the -- its history of police brutality and petty corruption, they feel that hasn't changed.

People want to see fundamental change. And until that happens, this kind of unrest, whether it's sparked by football or something else is inevitable, it's going to continue.

BURNETT: All right, Ben Wedeman, thanks very much, reporting for us from Cairo, late on a Friday night.

All right, still to come OUTFRONT, escalation between Israel and Iran, one calling the other a cancer today. And now specific looks at the scenarios. How many planes does Israel have? What routes could they fly? How big are their bombs? What could they really do? We looked. We have the maps. We have the numbers. We're going to tell you about it.

And next, the weather does a number on air travel, plus drones watching New York City?


BURNETT: So it's been an unusually warm winter so far for pretty much everyone across the country. But just when ski bums around the country finally had their prayers answered because there was fresh powder and snow out west, there's a problem. Their trips are getting canceled. Because if you're heading to the Rockies, you have a very big problem. You actually got the storm you're looking for. Well, there were nine inches and counting, over 600 flights in and out of Denver were cancelled Thursday and today during the snow. As our boss Ken Jautz said, I mean, wow, it's a lot of flights going in and out of Denver. And people didn't necessarily expect there were that many flights going in and out of Denver. There are. And there's a lot of problems in that airport, which brings us to tonight's "Number."

Nineteen. That's the number in thousands of airplanes that can be in the air at the same time at any given time around the world.

Take a look at this animation. This is pretty cool. This shows time elapsed flight patterns over the United States from 8:00 a.m. to around 1:00 p.m. so you could see it kind of heat up on the east and then move west. It's a neat but actually kind of terrifying because you know when you're in one of those planes, and you look out your window mid-flight, what makes you more scared, the fact that you know that there's thousands and thousands of planes out there and you never see one, and you just wonder, what is it, like one little, you know, level below you so you just don't see it? Or is it more scary that, you know, you should see more?

I don't know. But with 19,000 planes in the air at the same time, maybe you'd be able to feel more comfortable to see some of them flying around. Hmm. That's tonight's "Number."

Still OUTFRONT, the "Outfront Five." Israel strike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Dealing with a nuclear Iran would be far more complex and far dangerous and far more expensive in blood and money than stopping it today.

BURNETT: No charges so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be shocked if charges aren't coming against Joe today.

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 Five."

Number one, the U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate down to 8.3 percent, fifth month running of a drop. And that was much better than expected. Stocks surged as a result. All three majors averages in the U.S. up by more than a percent. Dow, highest level since May 2008, Nasdaq, levels not seen since December in the year 2000.

Number two, the FBI has launched a criminal investigation after confirming a hacking group recorded a call between the FBI and Scotland Yard. A law enforcement official tells us the conversation was recorded after an e-mail about the conference call was intercepted. The call was placed two weeks ago and involved an investigation into a hacking group called LulzSec. The official added that no FBI computers were hacked. LulzSec is accused of attacking three Web sites run by the British government.

Number three, following public outrage, the Susan G. Komen Foundation backtracked today and reinstated funding for Planned Parenthood. The cancer foundation said, in part, quote, "We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives."

Earlier this week Komen had pulled grants that would fund breast health exam programs at Planned Parenthood. Now Komen said at the time the decision came from a policy change not because Planned Parenthood performs abortions as some suggested. The organization says it has used the grant to provide 170,000 breast exams for women who couldn't provide them otherwise.

Number four, the services industry, which is the largest part of the American economy is growing and growing more quickly than other people thought. Another good sign I think are those jobs numbers.

One analyst told OUTFRON today that the uptick in hiring could be because of the unseasonably warm winter. Hey, there's a plus side to global warming. The survey also found the prices are going up, which is good for businesses, bad for consumers, although, right now, having no inflation means no wage growth either. Inflation means little wage growth.

All right. It's been 182 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

OUTFRONT tonight, rising tensions between Israel and Iran. And if you believe the dangerous rhetoric, which has been flying around, a military confrontation appears all but certain and soon. It's a showdown that Washington and the entire world are watching.

Today, Israel's defense minister said the standoff is entering a, quote, "fateful period", comparing it to the time before the 1967 war where Israel bombed several Arab nations in just days.

And back home, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, of course, predicting there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran's nuclear program facilities this spring.

CNN's David McKenzie is OUTFRONT tonight from Jerusalem.

David, good to see you.

Iran's supreme leader today lashing out at Israel, calling Israel a, quote, "cancer". What has been the reaction there today?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is just a cycle of rhetoric going on between Israel and Iran, and between Iran, Israel and the U.S. So, effectively, what we've seen in the last few weeks, Erin, is that everyday, it seems, in the paper, on the street, from the words of the mouths of the leaders here is not taking this strike off the table against Iran.

Now, whether this is rhetoric used to push forward diplomatic sanctions against Iran or whether Israeli leaders really believe they are under threat, it remains to be seen. But certainly, it's dangerous talk and people worry that Israel might be painting itself into a corner -- Erin.

BURNETT: And do Israelis, David, believe that war is imminent or is the common perception still that this, as you said, is a cycle, although an escalating cycle of rhetoric?

MCKENZIE: Well, that's a great way to put it -- an escalating cycle, because some weeks ago, Ehud Barak, the defense minister, actually said that any strike was way into the distant future. Now, he's talking about it as if it's an imminent thing.

I think Israelis themselves are, you know, a little bit more cynical about this process. Yes, people have spoken to me about, but they're really worried about Iran, about the threat that Iran might pose, but they do know that this is a game on some level that's being played, and it could become a very deadly game. But they are used to threats in Israel. This threat is being spoken about much more seriously than a previous threat. But there is a sense of real politic going on. And again, you know, one thing that a lot of Israelis tell me is if there is a strike, you're not going to know about it. No one is going to speak about it, and it will just happen and will take everyone by surprise.

And that's really I think what the U.S., the strongest ally of Israel, is most worried about -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. David, thank you very much.

All right. Well, you hear David talking about it -- the rhetoric, warnings, the threats. But what would actually happen if the war of words does in fact lead to an Israeli strike?

Tonight, we actually are going to play out a few scenarios on how an attack might unfold and these are coming from the leader of intelligence, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, did a very detailed study on a possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. And Cordesman and his team said that Israeli fighter jets would choose from three likely routes.

And as you can see here, there's a northern route, there's a central route, and there's a southern route. And the study says that the northern route, which is along the Syrian and Turkish border build be the most ideal. But considering refueling and the distance to targets, it would still be a high risk proposition if you didn't have a guaranteed assurance of success.

So, there's the route. And now, we want to show you the targets from this study, three key targets are cited -- uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, in Arak -- it's how that's spelled -- a heavy water plant, and in Esfahan, a nuclear research center. You can see all those three places right there.

Now, keep those up, because the study says it would likely require warheads of at least 2,000 pounds, along with a bunker buster bomb of at least 5,000 pounds. You may recall that the United States now for this purpose has been developing a bunker buster bomb of up to 30,000 pounds because a lot of this stuff could be buried very, very deep underground. It's unclear whether the Israeli bombs will be able to do the job.

The study does say Iran could have secret locations that are in other places but most significantly well, well below the ground.

OUTFRONT tonight, Retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Good to have you with us, Colonel. Appreciate you taking the time.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), USAF: Sure, Erin. My pleasure.

BURNETT: Looking at the map here put together and a possible three of the key locations that the Israelis could bomb -- I mean, obviously, the first question I guess, I know it's obvious question is, will they -- are those really the three right places and are those the three routes?

LEIGHTON: Well, those seem to be the basic three routes. As far as places, you really have to look at different areas Iranians have used. You know, when you look at Natanz and the other places, Arak and Esfahan, those are major centers that we believe the Iranians are using for their uranium efforts. However, there are other sites, like near Tehran. There are other sites that are near the southern part of Iran, some even close to near Bushehr, that may be eventually, you know, be once on a target list for this type of activity.

Going back to the routes, as far as northern, central or southern routes, I do agree that the northern route is probably one of the best routes that could be used for this. But a lot depends where radar coverage is. And that's what they're going to be looking at when they do this type of operational planning.

BURNETT: And what about payload? I mean, because we've talked about these, these MOPs, as they're called, these massive ordinance bombs. A 5,000 pound bomb is what has been reported that Israel would have and would use, which I guess would be intended to, you know, just slow down to do destruction.

Obviously, we've been talking about how the United States, for the purpose of trying to take away Iran's nuclear capability might need a bomb of 30,000 pounds payload.

So, does Israel have what it needs?

LEIGHTON: Maybe not. A 5,000 pound bomb is a pretty destructive bomb and it really depends on the type of target that you're going after. But for a very hardened and deeply buried target, usually, you need something of at least 5,000 pounds -- and the higher the better at these particular cases.

At a certain point, you get to a point of diminishing returns.


LEIGHTON: The 30,000 pound bomb is absolutely designed to go after targets that are very deep underground, that have a lot of concrete between themselves and the important parts of that installation. And they're also, quite frankly, designed, those 30,000 pound bombs are designed to go after North Korean targets.


LEIGHTON: And both Iran and North Korea have had a lot of practice, you know, keeping their target areas safe, where we considered target areas.

BURNETT: Right. So, what's the bottom line, Colonel? Do you think Israel will attack? And if so, is it possible that they will do so in secret, do some damage to Iran? Iran wouldn't want to talk about it because they don't want to actually go to war and it wouldn't be enough to end their anywhere program, just set it back a little bit. I mean, is that a possible scenario or is there no scenario that doesn't lead to a full war?

LEIGHTON: Well, it is a possible scenario. And that, you know, if you are going to have an attack, there are certain historic precedents, for example. The Israeli attack against Iraq, the Osirak facility back in 1981, and the Israeli attack against a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007. Those -- the Syrian one especially was kept very secret.

The Iranians may, however, in this particular case, because the whole environment that we're dealing with --


LEIGHTON: -- is a very heated environment, I think it will be much more out in the open and the Iranians will feel a national pride that will require them to respond to an Israeli attack and that's where the danger comes in.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Colonel. We appreciate this.

And we're going to have a lot more on this on Monday, from some Israeli specialists.

LEIGHTON: You bet. Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. We have some breaking news right now I want to get to you right away. Just coming in here on my BlackBerry here to CNN.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong has released a statement in response to the Justice Department closing its doping investigation against him late this afternoon. Armstrong said, and I quote, "I'm gratified to learn that the U.S. attorney's office is closing its investigation. It is the right decision and I commend them for reaching it. I look forward to continuing my life as a father, a competitor and advocate in this fight against cancer without this distraction."

Of course, as Jeff Toobin had said earlier, the question is, of course, reputational damage, and how he can fully recover from that. But certainly, something he is happy about tonight.

OUTFRONT next, Ron Paul responding to accusations that could hurt the eventual GOP nominee by staying in the race right now.

And finger-pointing in the murder of the Michigan woman who was strangled to death. Who is the husband accusing?


BURNETT: On the eve of the Nevada caucuses, Mitt Romney is holding a double digit lead over Newt Gingrich, 45 to 25 in the latest poll that we have here. Now, Ron Paul skipped the Florida primary to focus on Nevada. He's a distant fourth with 9 percent. And it's raising some questions about his strategy. Paul is pinning his hopes on states like Nevada, these caucus states, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine and Washington. And delegates are awarded proportionately in those states, the ones that are primary states.

There are 28 delegates up for grabs tomorrow. And while Paul's approach may not be enough to help him win the nomination, he told Piers Morgan he is not giving up.


REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lot of the candidates are coming and going -- you know, they come in and they peak up -- and all of a sudden, they're gone. We did have nine. We're down to four right now.

The one thing -- characteristic of our campaign is it is steady growth.


BURNETT: All right. But is that growth large enough to stay in the race? And if it isn't, who will his supporters back? Because they are really, really passionate.

Leslie Sanchez is a Republican strategist. Brian Doherty is the author of the upcoming book, "Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired". And he truly has inspired a movement.

Let's start by looking at the delegate count, though, Leslie.

Mitt Romney right now, 85 delegates, Newt Gingrich, 27, Paul in third with 10 delegates. And I know he's making this bet on caucus states where he does well and places where he gets proportional awarding of the delegates.

But, you know, even if he wins all of those states he wants to win, it's about 160 delegates out of the 1,144 he needs.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No doubt about that. But let's not discount exactly what you talked about -- the passion, momentum. It's a transformational election, especially for the people involved. But if you really look at the Ron Paul voters, these are disaffected voters. And that's a really important thing. They didn't like the system to begin with anyway.

So, in many ways, it's more theoretical than it is political. You did not see these individuals as state party chairmen, precinct captains that were moving up the ranks within the political system. And I honestly believe they're following the momentum of Ron Paul. When he moves on, assuming, you know, he decided to fall behind who the eventual GOP nominee is, there's no guarantee that those voters are going to go with him. BURNETT: Let me ask you that question, Brian, because there is passion. At the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, the Ron Paul supporters, they're so passionate. Up in Manchester, New Hampshire, on the street, they're young and they really care.

When you put the question to them, if not your guy, then who? They go: I'm out or I'm going to write him in, you know? They don't say, OK, I'll go behind the eventual nominee like a traditional or older voter might do.

So, where do these voters go if not Ron Paul?

BRIAN DOHERTY, SENIOR EDITOR, REASON.COM: What your point -- sure -- what you're pointing out, I think, is very the reason that the Republican Party needs to basically be nicer to Ron Paul than they were last time if Ron Paul doesn't end up being the nominee, because what you pointed out is exactly true. Ron Paul people are not from some, you know, other part of the Republican Party.


DOHERTY: They are people largely drawn from that unsung near majority of Americans, the 40 percent to 50 percent who don't vote at all even in most presidential elections and probably where most will go again. But if the Republican Party shows respect for them, for Ron Paul's ideas and for Ron Paul's people, I think they will start to have the role in the Republican, that the Goldwater kids in 1960 did -- the people who seemed like weirdo outsiders, radically anti-state, but they're shape the future of the party if the party doesn't drive them away.


You know what's interesting, you know, talking to Newt Gingrich about -- in South Carolina, he told me I'm trying to find a very special role for Ron Paul. I don't know if he wasn't really implying V.P., but something to bring Ron Paul in.

And, obviously, Mitt Romney, now, there's reports that Mitt Romney's wife and Ron Paul's wife have become friendly and "The Washington Post" is reporting that the two campaigns are coordinating things like when they appear in the press.

So, what if anything, Brian, would get Ron Paul on board if Mitt Romney ends up being the nominee with a Mitt Romney? Is there anything or is that sort of anti-ethical to who he is, to being a movement, to saying things line "end the Fed"?

DOHERTY: If Ron Paul is not the candidate, I'd be very surprised to see him actually endorse Mitt Romney. But there's a level at which he might not go after him as much as others because Mitt Romney is not going to come around on Ron Paul's foreign policy issues. He may come around a bit on the Federal Reserve stuff. He may become stronger on statements of how much he'll cut spending.

But I think Ron Paul would be seen as a bit of a sellout if he endorsed Mitt Romney without Mitt Romney actually becoming a lot more like Ron Paul, which is unlikely.

BURNETT: I think that's fair to say.

All right. Thanks so much to both of you. Have a great weekend. We'll see what happened in Nevada.

All right. We'll now check in with Anderson Cooper.

Anderson, what do you have tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Erin, we begin with breaking news tonight. We just got off a satellite with a man who's desperate that the world to pay attention to what's happening in Homs, Syria, right now. He says more than 200 people have been killed in the last three hours. He says there is an intense bombardment going on right now by Syrian forces against civilian areas inside the city of Homs. You're going to hear his desperate plea in about 12 minutes from now. I urge you to watch that at the top of the hour.

Also, we're seeing tonight, a story that frankly gets more troubling by the day. More than 200 people pardoned in Mississippi, and the lack of answers, the lack of transparency about the whole thing. Former Governor Barbour is still not talking. We're still trying to find him.

The story is troubling. We think it's very important. We're going to talk to a mom of a woman killed in a car crash. The man also involved in the crash driving drunk. It was his fourth DUI. The governor pardoned him without even knowing about the fourth DUI.

Also, tonight, a second keeping them honest, 61-year-old Mark Berndt (ph) spent half his life as a teacher. Take a look at that man. Tonight, he's in jail. We're going to tell you why and how the system failed hundreds of kids in Los Angeles.

The reason that man is in jail is so incredibly disturbing. All parents should know what he has done and is accused of doing.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: Anderson, we're looking forward to that.

Well, financial troubles -- another woman and hit man for hire. These are allegations concerning the death of a Michigan woman. We've been covering this.

And for those of you who don't know the story -- 56-year-old Jane Bashara was found strangled almost two weeks ago in the backseat of her Mercedes. And tonight, there are still no charges. But questions are actually increasing about her husband's side of the story and now about a handyman who worked for him.

That handyname is named Joseph Gentz. He was held for 72 hours in connection with the case, and was just released this evening.

Paul Callan is a criminal defense attorney. Sunny Hostin is a legal analyst. Both of them have been following the case for us.

Sunny talking about whether the husband could have done it and Paul not thinking that he was involved.

What did you find out today? There was something bizarre that added a whole another layer to the story.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Every day something crazy develops in the case. Now, a dominatrix, an S&M mistress has entered into the fray and said he's a regular at S&M clubs in the Detroit area. And then, there's a mistress who's now been added to the mix, which, of course, adds to the "he's got a motive to kill his wife" thing.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND LEGAL ANALYST: And I think it goes further than that. Apparently, he's the owner of the S&M club and holds the parties.

And so, when this story first broke, Paul, you and I were discussing it. And everyone was saying, this man is just an upstanding citizen. He loved his wife of 26 years. He could never do something like this.


CALLAN: You don't know what people in rotary are doing at all times.

HOSTIN: He has an alternative lifestyle. Did his wife know about this alternative lifestyle? I say motive for murder? Sure thing.

CALLAN: Well, and I -- you know, I hate to throw this on the table. But, you know, the murder is so bizarre, the wife being strangled. Could it be an accident in terms of S&M activity?

BURNETT: The S&M thing?

CALLAN: I mean, I don't -- I'm not saying because we don't know what the police are investigating. But all I know is that Sunny's homeless hitman she thought was the murderer last time was released by the police this time.

HOSTIN: I never thought that was the murderer. I actually think that the police are taking their time to investigate this case. It's only been under two weeks. And so, we don't want to rush to judgment.

But let's face it.


HOSTIN: He's the person of interest. He's the only person of interest.

And even though they have this handyman that has come forward, the police aren't changing their tune. That tells me something. BURNETT: All right. I want to talk about this handyman -- a handyman who supposedly came in and said, look, Bob Bashara gave me a couple thousand to go kill his wife.

Bob Bashara's attorney was trying to slam this guy's credibility. Obviously, he's the one who was released tonight. So, look, he told six, seven stories to police, he keeps changing his story. Listen to what the lawyer said.


DAVID GRIEM, LAWYER FOR BOB BASHARA: The more times you question him, the more ammunition you're giving to me to cross examine him and tear him apart on the witness stand. So, if you've got a good witness, you interview them one time.


BURNETT: Is he right, Paul?

CALLAN: No. He's absolutely wrong.

And I got to say, this guy is an experienced prosecutor, but he's a federal prosecutor formerly. And you would think he would do the right thing and say the right thing.

And here's the right thing: you seek the truth, if you're a prosecutor. If you have to interview somebody 20 times to get the truth, you interview 'em 20 times. So, I totally disagree with that. I don't know how Sunny would feel about it.

HOSTIN: We agree on something for a change. I mean, the bottom line is you should interview your witnesses once, twice, as many times as you need to, to get to the truth. And that's clearly what they are doing. Perhaps they have bigger fish to fry, because they've released him. So, that tells me in my experience they are still looking at someone else.

BURNETT: All right. And if that someone else is Bob Bashara or someone else. But his lawyer did speak for about an hour to media today. Is that unusual -- that seems to be unusual, right?

CALLAN: It's unusual.

HOSTIN: He's trying his case in the media. It's mere posturing and it tells me that he's afraid for his client.

CALLAN: I think it's dangerous also, because frankly, when you are defending in a case like this early in the investigation, your lawyer's talking for an hour. He may be revealing things that are going to help the prosecutor make the case. He's treating it like it's a public relations exercise. I think it's a big mistake in a murder case. I think he should keep quite.

HOSTIN: You see more lawyers doing it now.

CALLAN: More and more.

HOSTIN: Sandusky's lawyer.

CALLAN: Yes, he's following the Sandusky path here.

BURNETT: That's right.

CALLAN: And I don't think it's going to go well for his client. But I'm still trying to defend big Bob here. So, we'll see.

HOSTIN: You got a tough one there.

BURNETT: The story got more scintillating.

CALLAN: We'll see what the S&M angle takes it. So --

BURNETT: Yes, we will, I'm sure, hear more about that.

Thanks to both of you.

CALLAN: All right. Take care.

All right. OUTFRONT next, the art of surveillance and drones watching us tonight.


BURNETT: And now something that made us go hmmm, because our digital producer, Mark Joyella was walking through the streets of Brooklyn this week when he saw this. It's a sign, not saying "no stopping any time." Look at the one below it. Notifying the public that "drone activity is in effect."

Drone activity in New York City? We were e-mailing each other about this into the wee hours of Thursday morning because we were obviously pretty disturbed about it and we called the NYPD.

It turns out that that sign was not real. It was actually the work of a local artist who wanted to remain unnamed. Here's what we know about him. A 28-year-old Army veteran who worked with drones during two tours in Iraq.

He says, quote, "When I joined up, I was a run-of-the-mill Republican from Maine." That's what he told "The New Yorker Magazine."

After he was discharged, though, he said he became a radical art school student. And as for his artwork, quote, "A parking sign is so monotonous, but if you're paying attention, holy crap!"

Well, the strange thing is how easily we believed that sign about drone activity. Maybe we're conspiracy theorists.

But it seemed to say something about the world we live in. We were disturbed but not frankly surprised at all that our government would be watching us. Maybe we were only surprised that they would actually tell us they were watching.

Drones are used by the American government in other countries. And we don't see them given much thought, even though when I was in Pakistan last summer, American drones were the single biggest reason given for the nation's deep anti-American sentiment.

But the sign in Brooklyn made us confront how we would feel if drones were watching us at home. But if the drones were watching and they helped catch a terrorist or a murderer, would we be OK with the drones then?

Ten years after 9/11 -- 10 years after the Patriot Act, we are still debating how much of our freedom are we actually willing to give up to maintain American freedom?

Let us know what you think. You can always tweet me at @ErinBurnett, #OutFront.

Have a great weekend.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.