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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Michigan Assistant Attorney General Fired for Conduct Unbecoming; Rand Paul Flip-Flopping on Earmarks?; Former President George W. Bush Speaks Out
Aired November 8, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for watching, everyone.
Tonight: "Keeping Them Honest." An assistant attorney general who targeted a college student for months in his spare time has been fired for conduct unbecoming a state employee. Andrew Shirvell singled out a student named Chris Armstrong for a campaign of vitriol and online attacks. Now his attorney seems to be painting Andrew Shirvell as the real victim and blame politics and the liberal media for his client's troubles.
We checked the facts. You can decide for himself. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
Also tonight, a promise that Rand Paul made repeatedly on the campaign trail. He called earmarks wasteful and a symbol of what's wrong with Washington. But tonight he's being accused of flip- flopping on earmarks. Is he? We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And later tonight: crime and the ultimate punishment. A jury that convicted a man in a brutal Connecticut home invasion, convicted him of murdering a mother and her two daughters, recommends the death sentence for him. What swayed the jury the convinced them that Steven Hayes should die? Find out tonight.
We begin, as always, "Keeping Them Honest" with a stunning development in one of the strangest stories we have ever covered. Today, this man, Andrew Shirvell, was fired from his job. He was an assistant attorney general in Michigan who was fired after months of leading a one-man crusade online and in person against a college student.
Andrew Shirvell was fired for conduct unbecoming a state employee. His attorney, Philip Thomas, however, now appears to be claiming that Andrew Shirvell is himself a victim, a victim of politics and the liberal media.
This attorney general told "The Detroit Free Press" -- quote -- "This smells political to me." He also said that Shirvell's employer, the attorney general's office, knew of his off-work activities against the college student and said -- quote -- "There's been a tremendous piling-on against Andrew. The liberal media started this tempest in a teapot."
"Keeping Them Honest," though, let me take you over to the wall for a check of the facts.
First of all, Mr. Thomas' claim that the liberal media started this, well, the truth is that Andrew Shirvell started this when, for reasons that are still hard to understand, he became fixated on an openly gay college student named Chris Armstrong. This is Chris Armstrong, college senior at the University of Michigan. He was elected president of the student assembly. He's the first openly gay student to hold that position and ran on a platform of lower student tuition, longer cafeteria hours and gender-neutral housing.
Mr. Shirvell created a blog. Let me show you the -- the opening page of this blog devoted entirely to tracking and attacking Chris Armstrong, his family, and his friends, making all sorts of completely unproven allegations. He posted a picture of Mr. Armstrong on the blog right over here. Take a look at this, the word "Resign" written on his face. He also has a rainbow flag with a Nazi swastika over it.
He's also called Chris Armstrong a privileged pervert. He says that right there. He also called him a racist, a liar, a Nazi-like recruiter for the cult that is homosexuality and also -- quote -- "Satan's representative on the student assembly."
Now, Shirvell also appeared on campus shouting down Chris Armstrong in public. He appeared at a bar where he believed Mr. Armstrong was and even loitered outside this college student's home late at night with a video camera. And this went on for months.
Now, remember, Andrew Shirvell is a law enforcement official, an assistant attorney general in the state of Michigan. At least he was. Back in September, Mr. Shirvell came on the program and defended his actions. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 28, 2010)
COOPER: I have got to ask you, you're a state official. This is a college student. What are you doing?
ANDREW SHIRVELL, FORMER MICHIGAN ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, Anderson, basically, if you have been involved in political campaigns before, you know all sorts of stuff happens, and this is just another tactic bringing awareness to what Chris really stands for.
COOPER: This is not some national figure. This is a guy who's running a student council.
SHIRVELL: Well -- well, Anderson, as a private citizen, and as a University of Michigan alum, I care, because this is my university.
So, I'm not the only person that has criticized Chris, and I'm not the first person to criticize Chris.
COOPER: But you are the only person -- you are the only person running this blog, which is putting Nazi swastikas on this guy. You're -- you're a grown adult. Does that seem appropriate to you?
SHIRVELL: Well, like I said, this is a political campaign. This is nothing personal against Chris. I don't know Chris.
COOPER: What do you mean it's nothing personal? You're outside his house. You're videotaping his house. You're shouting him down at public events. You're calling him Satan's representative on the student council. You're attacking his -- his parents, his friends' parents. I mean, you can't say it's not personal.
SHIRVELL: Well, Chris -- in any political campaign, you have to raise awareness and issues, and that's one way of doing it, is by protesting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We should point out that Mr. Shirvell is not currently part of a political campaign, nor was he when we did the interview. The same thing is true for Chris Armstrong, who had already been elected student assembly president.
Mr. Shirvell's lawyer says his client was exercising his free speech rights. Well, back in September, Mr. Shirvell's boss, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, agreed, when he came on 360.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 29, 2010)
COOPER: Why is he still employed?
MIKE COX, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, for a number of reasons.
Here in America, we have this thing called the First Amendment, which allows people to express what they think and -- and -- and engage in political and social speech.
And Mr. Shirvell is sort of a front-line grunt assistant prosecutor in my office. He -- he does satisfactory work. And off- hours, he's free to engage, under both our civil service rules, Michigan Supreme Court rulings, and the United States Supreme Court rule -- interestingly enough, by -- Justice Stevens wrote the opinion -- to engage in free speech.
COOPER: But -- but aren't you empowered by the state civil service rules to discipline him for -- for conduct unbecoming a state employee? I mean, do you think his actions are unbecoming of a state employee?
COX: Well, his actions are offensive. But, you know, conduct unbecoming is one of those empty-vessel statements. What it means has never really been fleshed out.
COOPER: Do you think this is unbecoming?
(CROSSTALK) COX: Certainly, it's unbecoming of civil discourse. It's unbecoming of common courtesy. And, you know, I -- quite frankly, I -- I -- I feel embarrassed for Mr. Armstrong, you know, that he has this unwanted attention.
But, again, Anderson, this is speech put on a blog. Now, if there's conduct that's verified, for instance, if a personal protection order was sought by Mr. Armstrong and granted in the Michigan civil service or a disciplinary code, we could start looking at things in terms of perhaps sending to an employee assistance program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. So, pay attention to what he just said.
Now, remember, today, Mr. Shirvell's attorney claimed that the attorney general's office knew all about Mr. Shirvell's activities. But that's not true. When Mr. Cox did that interview, he was apparently unaware that Mr. Armstrong had sought a personal protection order against Mr. Shirvell a couple weeks earlier.
He was also apparently unaware that the university had already banned Mr. Shirvell from setting foot on campus in mid-September. Apparently, Mr. Shirvell never told his employer about any of that.
As for the attorney's claims that -- quote -- "This smells political," Mr. Shirvell had been a paid consultant on Mike Cox's campaign in 2002 and also worked for the campaign in 2006. They are both conservative Republicans. And Mike Cox is leaving office, being replaced by another Republican attorney general.
So, two days after I interviewed Mr. Cox, his spokesman announced that Mr. Shirvell had taken a personal leave and would face a disciplinary hearing when he returned.
Today, they very hearing ended, and Andrew Shirvell was fired. His boss, Attorney General Mike Cox, issued this statement -- quote -- "Today, Andrew Shirvell was fired for conduct unbecoming a state employee, especially that of an assistant attorney general. To be clear, I refuse to fire anyone for exercising their First Amendment rights, regardless of how popular or unpopular their positions might be. However, Mr. Shirvell repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior, and inappropriately used state resources, our investigation showed."
According to the statement, Shirvell's inappropriate use of state resources, including posting online attacks against Chris Armstrong during working hours and using his office phone for his attack campaign as well.
The statement went on to say that Mr. Shirvell showed up at Chris Armstrong's house three times, including once as 1:30 in the morning, an incident it called -- quote -- "especially telling because it clearly was about harassing Mr. Armstrong, not engaging in free speech." It also said that Shirvell lied to investigators on several occasions during his disciplinary hearing.
Mr. Shirvell's attorney, Philip Thomas, declined our invitation to talk tonight. So did Mr. Shirvell. That is their right.
But for the attorney to now painting his client as the victim of politics and a liberal media witch-hunt, well, "Keeping Them Honest," he seems to be ignoring the facts allegedly discovered during an official investigation by a very conservative attorney general.
I'm joined now by Deborah Gordon, the attorney for the University of Michigan student body president, Chris Armstrong, also by our own senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
Deborah, what is your reaction to the ruling today?
DEBORAH GORDON, ATTORNEY FOR CHRIS ARMSTRONG: We're very gratified that justice was done, that the truth came out, and that, for the first time, Mr. Shirvell is going to be held responsible for his incredibly reckless and malicious actions.
COOPER: Shirvell's lawyer...
GORDON: It's time to step up and take responsibility.
COOPER: Shirvell's lawyer is now saying that there's been a -- quote -- "tremendous piling-on against Andrew by the liberal media," that they started this tempest in a teapot. He's also saying that this was basically -- that he smells politics.
Do you smell politics, or was there a liberal piling-on?
GORDON: It's the exact opposite. There's zero politics here. You can tell from your lead-in piece that the attorney general was very hesitant at first to do anything.
This guy has worked for him for quite some time. And I think the attorney general finally, though, realized: I have got to look into this.
He put two solid investigators on to this. They uncovered a wealth of information. As I understand it, there's over 500 pages of documentation about Shirvell's actions. It's, to me, pathetic and lame for him to now be whining, essentially, about being bullied.
COOPER: Jeffrey, the lawyer is saying this is a free-speech issue, that Andrew Shirvell -- and this is what Andrew Shirvell said -- that he was just exercising his right to free speech.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Nonsense. I mean, that -- that -- this is the very definition of conduct unbecoming -- unbecoming a state law enforcement employee. This is an easy case.
I think Mike Cox made the exact right decision. I think he did it later than he should have, but...
COOPER: Because you initially were saying politics were involved in Mike Cox's not doing anything about this.
TOOBIN: Absolutely, because if -- if any other employee had engaged in such outrageous, borderline criminal, behavior he would have been out much sooner.
But Shirvell and Cox were political allies, and -- and it was clear from your interview that he was bending over backwards, Cox was, not to fire the guy, when he clearly deserved to be fired.
And -- and the notion that, if you simply use words, you are protected by the First Amendment, is -- is just a myth. Lots of crimes, lots of things can get you fired that are just words. So, the fact that you have political views, but you also engage in harassment and stalking of someone, that doesn't make it political. It makes it stalking and harassment. And he deserved to be fired. And that's what happened.
COOPER: Deborah, Chris Armstrong had filed an order of personal protection. He then rescinded the request. Why?
GORDON: Well, it's complicated and it's sort of behind us. I don't know how much time we want to spend on that. But there were a couple of reasons.
First of all, the university had its own no-trespass order. Secondly, personal protection orders that don't involve domestic violence involve certain other types of showings. And, at the end of the day, it seemed like there was a better path to follow.
COOPER: Are you seeking...
GORDON: We decided to go...
COOPER: Are you seeking only some other action against -- against Mr. Shirvell?
GORDON: Oh, absolutely. We're trying to have him disbarred in the state of Michigan.
This man is a loose cannon with a law license. He should not be practicing law in the state of Michigan. He's shown himself to be incapable of being a responsible officer of the court, of acting in a trustworthy, honest manner.
The blog itself, if you -- if you read the entire thing, is just unbelievable. And it's hard to imagine that somebody like this should be licensed to practice law.
So, we're going after his law license. We -- both Chris Armstrong and I have filed our own individual complaints. Other people are filing complaints. I have a couple of other clients who may be filing as well.
COOPER: You have other...
GORDON: And we are...
COOPER: ... other clients who have had interactions with Mr. Shirvell?
I think the investigation done by the attorney general's office shows that this is not something new. Now, the blog is new. The -- the blog that is so over-the-top and so reckless and so malicious and such a fabrication, and so many lies, is, I think, a new low.
But, if you go back to the history of some of the things that he's done in the past, it's clear there is a longstanding pattern of Mr. Shirvell attempting to intimidate people, to harass people, to talk to people in a lewd and incredibly inappropriate way.
COOPER: If -- do you know why he became so fixated on Chris Armstrong? I mean, do you -- I...
GORDON: You know...
COOPER: I mean, after talking to him, I still don't quite understand...
COOPER: ... why he picked this kid.
Anderson, I think we all scratch our heads at that. It's -- it's inexplicable. He never knew Chris Armstrong. He knows literally nothing about him, although, to read the blog, he sounds like he does. He knows nothing about Chris.
COOPER: Because, I mean, he tracks -- what I found fascinating about the blog is, he spent a lot of time tracking Chris Armstrong's Facebook pages, the Facebook pages of his friends and family, and kind of making suppositions based on comments on Facebook pages.
GORDON: Right, bizarre.
COOPER: It seems the amount of time he dedicated to this was extraordinarily -- I mean, I would say he seemed fixated on him.
GORDON: Well, there's no question about it. Obsessed or fixated is the right word.
I mean, if you track the times that he's been on the blog, which I have done, you picture him in his home or apartment, you know, for hours in the evening just trying to scrape up any information he can. And then, of course, he ends up having to fabricate things because he has no real information. He has no real facts.
Chris Armstrong is a phenomenal student at the University of Michigan. He's an honorable guy that everybody likes and respects. This guy comes out of nowhere to try to ruin him. And for what reason? As I say, it's inexplicable. That's not been explained. He suggests he has a radical homosexual agenda. He can't come forward with a single fact to show that.
Mr. Armstrong has nothing of the sort. It's literally inexplicable.
COOPER: How -- how long does this process take? I mean, you're -- you're now getting trying to get him basically disbarred. What's the next step on that?
GORDON: Well, I provided more information to the Attorney Grievance Commission last Friday. I think what happened today is going to be very interesting.
I think one of the most interesting things that happened today is that the attorney general took the position that one of the reasons he fired Andrew Shirvell is because he lied. He lied to the attorney general's office during the hearing and investigation. I think that's extremely important.
And I think the Attorney Grievance Commission is going to be very interesting in the fact -- interested in the fact that an attorney is now lying to the attorney general, a law enforcement arm of the state, about his lies. He's lying about his lies.
GORDON: And he's lying about his intimidation of other people, most of whom have been young students. And there have been some others as well.
COOPER: All right.
GORDON: So that, I think, should be very important in him having his license revoked.
COOPER: Deborah Gordon, I appreciate your time, Jeff Toobin as well.
COOPER: I just want to point out again we offered Mr. Shirvell and his attorney and/or either one of them the opportunity to come on the program. Again, they declined.
Let us know what you think. You can join the live chat right now at AC360.com.
Ahead on the program: Rand Paul, who talked a lot about earmarks on the campaign the trail, about trying to abolish them, calling them a symbol of everything wrong with Washington, he's now being accused of flip-flopping. Has he developed a taste for federal pork? Well, there's an interesting "Wall Street Journal" interview about it. We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- ahead.
Later: a jury recommending the death sentence for the man who destroyed a Connecticut family. It's what Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of the attack, wanted. But it won't bring them back, his wife and his daughters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. WILLIAM PETIT, SURVIVED DEADLY HOME INVASION: Michaela was an 11-year-old little girl, you know, tortured and killed in her own bedroom, you know, surrounded by stuffed animals. And Hayley had a great future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, one of the things we plan to watch country carefully over the next several months is how well newly elected politicians live up to the promises they made on the campaign trail, in other words, "Keeping Them Honest."
I mean, we all know that politicians, Democrats and Republicans, make a lot of promises when they're running for office and then have a way of not exactly following through on those promises. And this election year, we have certainly heard a lot of politicians saying they're not going to compromise when they get to Congress.
But can they live up to that promise? We will soon see. We have already been tracking how a lot of Republican candidates who have gotten elected promising to cut taxes, cut spending and cut the deficit haven't given many specifics and still aren't giving many specifics.
Rand Paul is really one of the few new members of Congress who said that he'd be opened to cuts in the defense budget. But, tonight, he's being accused of flip-flopping on one of the key promises of his campaign. The senator-elect from Kentucky, who had the full backing of the Tea Party, has been very, very vocal on his desire to end earmarks, the type of spending that basically lets lawmakers direct funds to their pet projects in their state, classic pork barrel waste.
They're very controversial, though they're not always waste, frankly. They're very controversial, though, and a pretty easy target for someone running on fiscal discipline.
Take a look at the headline on Mr. Paul's campaign Web site: "Earmark Ban Coming," it says. It says: "Rand Paul made a ban on wasteful earmark spending in Washington, D.C., one of the key points of his campaign."
And that is certainly true. He's certainly talked about it a lot on the campaign trail. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATOR-ELECT: I would not engage in earmarks.
I think we need to end earmarks.
So, I'm philosophically opposed to earmarks.
Earmarks is part of the problem, and we must stop it.
I'm very frugal. I'm very conservative. I don't believe in earmarks.
I think the whole system of earmarks represents and is in some ways symbolic of what's gone wrong with Washington.
Earmarks, absolutely, are a problem and we must end earmarks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right, it seems pretty clear, which is why an article about Paul in "The Wall Street Journal" this weekend stunned a lot of people.
In the article, the reporter, Matthew Kaminski, wrote: "In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me they are a bad symbol of spending, but that he will fight for Kentucky's share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it's doled out transparently, at the committee level, and not parachuted in, in the dead of night. 'I will advocate for Kentucky's interests,' he says."
So, that was from the article.
"Keeping Them Honest," it certainly sounds like a pretty clear change from what Paul had been promising.
I talked about it with James Carville, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, as well as with Erick Erickson, CNN contributor and editor in chief of RedState.com.
COOPER: So, James, what do you make of senator-elect Rand Paul now saying that, basically, he will fight for Kentucky's share of earmarks, as long as they're transparent. Is that a flip-flop?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, of course it is.
I mean, look, there's going to be a lot more. It's -- it's -- it's -- this is what happens. You have an election, and everybody is going to come in as an outsider and they are going to change Washington, and they don't even get to the other side of the Potomac before they change.
And he was the most anti-earmark, anti-spending guy to ever run for office maybe anywhere. And it's pretty typical of what happens in every cycle.
COOPER: Eric, is that the way you see it?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first, I'm not sure that the quote is 100 percent accurate. I have traded e-mails with the Rand Paul campaign, and they are suggesting to me that maybe that's not quite right.
But -- if it -- assuming that it is right...
COOPER: Or is that them trying to walk it back?
ERICKSON: You know, it may very well be, but he did run his entire campaign against earmarks, in fact, had -- Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority -- minority leader and also from Kentucky, backed his opponent in the primary.
But, you know, at the end of the day, it's almost academic, because Mitch McConnell has made it very clear that the Senate Republicans will not in any way, shape or form go along with an earmarks ban.
COOPER: But -- but you -- I remember you, on election night, saying...
COOPER: ... specifically that earmarks would be the big issue for Tea Party activists.
COOPER: Before January, they were going to go for this, and that it was a gateway drug to bigger government.
ERICKSON: It is. It is very much is a gateway drug to bigger government.
And if Rand Paul is backing away from it, he's in big trouble, I think, with the Tea Party movement, and he's going to have a lot of demonstrations, I would expect, on the ground. It's disappointing, if he has backed -- backed away from it. And he will feel the ire of the Tea Party movement.
COOPER: Do -- do you think this is the first -- I mean, you know, they came in saying no compromise.
COOPER: It seems like now, already, we're looking at compromises.
ERICKSON: Yes, everybody gets in and starts talking compromise.
We will see if they actually do it. Tom Coburn, John McCain, Jim DeMint, and others, they're going to make a stand on earmarks. We will see if Rand Paul joins him. I suspect he and Ron Johnson and some of the others that are incoming probably will wind up supporting them.
COOPER: Because, James, there's a big difference between saying I'm against earmarks altogether and, well, as long as they're transparent, then that's OK.
CARVILLE: Well, I think that -- I think the House Democrats made them transparent. I think they changed the rules, if -- if -- to -- my memory serves me correctly.
And, you know, they -- they come in, and spending is the big thing. Well, we're going to see what's going to happen on -- on -- on spending. My guess is, is, at the end of -- at the end of two years, not very much.
So, we will see. You know, Washington tends to absorb people who come in. They're going to radical -- bring radical change and a different way of doing things, and it -- it seems like it's going to be more of the same. So, but, you know, I don't know. I think it's going to be interesting and, in some ways, kind of fun to watch.
COOPER: Before I let you guys go, I want to get, Eric, your -- your thoughts on Republican Governor Spencer Bachus of Alabama.
In a speech, he seemed to -- to take a dig at Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. He said -- quote -- "The Senate would be Republican today except for states in which Palin endorsed candidates, like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware."
According to "The Shelby County Reporter," he went on to say: "Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate."
Now, the congressman's office has kind of walked that back, tried to clarified, saying...
COOPER: ... that he also had good things to say about the Tea Party and Sarah Palin in his speech.
ERICKSON: They always try to walk it back.
ERICKSON: When they say something critical of Sarah Palin, they...
ERICKSON: ... always try to walk it back.
Here's the problem.
ERICKSON: I don't believe that the Republicans would have taken the Senate this year, looking at the way the map and the races.
And, frankly, if you look at the races, the Republicans didn't have a good ground game. The -- the RNC totally botched their 72-hour program. Republicans did very well in -- in seats where the Republican Governors Association was contesting a governor's race.
COOPER: So, you're saying Sarah Palin is not to blame?
ERICKSON: Yes, I don't think necessarily she is.
I think, frankly, some of the decisions the Senate Republicans made have a lot to do with the blame. But God forbid they ever blame themselves for their own fault.
COOPER: James, is she to blame?
CARVILLE: Well -- well, I don't know, but there's a lot of walking back going on.
COOPER: That's my new favorite term, by the way, walking...
CARVILLE: Maybe, some time, somebody will run forward, but -- I know, yes.
COOPER: That's my favorite term, walking it back.
CARVILLE: I know.
CARVILLE: We're going to -- right. Rand Paul was walking it back. And Bachus was walking it back.
ERICKSON: That's what senators do.
CARVILLE: And, yes, there's a lot of things that, you know, it came out the wrong way.
COOPER: Well, that's what all politicians do. I'm not going to say it's just Republicans who walk back.
CARVILLE: Yes, no. It's nothing new. No, the Republicans did not invent that. I will stipulate that. There's a lot of walking back going on, on a lot of sides now.
But now that they have -- they have promised a lot and have a lot of power, I think we're going to see a lot of walking back.
ERICKSON: They will use, Anderson, your favorite phrase: "I was taken out of context."
COOPER: Yes, exactly.
CARVILLE: That's right.
I remember when I said something, I said, I was -- I was quoted accurately and in context. They got it just right.
COOPER: Yes, we rarely hear that, do we?
Erick Erickson, James Carville, guys, thanks.
ERICKSON: Thank you.
CARVILLE: Thank you. Appreciate it.
COOPER: Well, after we taped that discussion this evening, we got an explanation from Rand Paul's office.
A spokesman told us "The Wall Street Journal" reporter is a good guy and a -- quote -- "thoughtful writer," but he -- quote -- "misunderstood" the part of the discussion he had about earmarks.
The spokesman for Rand Paul also told us that senator-elect Paul was saying that he will advocate for Kentucky's interests and -- quote -- "submit request for funding through the appropriations process, but he will not request earmarks."
We put in a call to "The Wall Street Journal" to see if they stand by their reporting. We haven't heard back from them. We will continue to watch what happens when Rand Paul gets to Washington.
Up next: President George Bush in his own words. Nearly two years after leaving the White House, he speaks out for the first time, revealing part of a shocking story. He says his mother, the future first lady, had a miscarriage when he was a teenager, and she showed him the fetus. What impact did that have on the teenage George Bush? Find out tonight.
And a Connecticut jury recommending the death sentence for the convicted killer who brutally murder that Connecticut mom and her two daughters three years ago.
What happened today inside the courtroom is ahead in "Crime & Punishment."
COOPER: Nearly two years after leaving office, America's 43rd president, George W. Bush, has written a memoir which comes out tomorrow called "Decision Points." Ahead of its release he sat down with NBC's Matt Lauer to talk about everything from waterboarding and the war on terror to Kanye West and the president's anti-abortion stance.
Mr. Bush retold a story when he was a teenager and his mom, Barbara Bush, suffered a miscarriage. She actually showed him a jar which held the remains of the human fetus she miscarried. Here are the excerpts from the president's conversation with Matt.
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, NBC'S "THE TODAY SHOW": It's also, though, impossible to draw parallels between that moment where you said this was a little brother or sister, and your views on life and when it begins.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No question that affected me, a philosophy, that we should respect life.
LAUER: Here's something else from the book. "I could never forget what happened to America that day. I would pour my heart and soul into protecting this country, whatever it took."
It took two wars.
LAUER: It took thousands of lives, American lives, billions of dollars. You could say it took Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
LAUER: And government eavesdropping and waterboarding. Did it take too much?
BUSH: We didn't have an attack. Three thousand people died on September 11, and I vowed that I would do my duty to protect the American people.
LAUER: Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?
BUSH: Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I'm not a lawyer, and -- but you've got to trust the judgment of the people around you, and I do.
LAUER: One part of the evening I introduced Kanye West. Were you watching? BUSH: Nope.
LAUER: You remember what he said?
BUSH: Yes, I do.
KANYE WEST, SINGER: George Bush doesn't care about black people.
BUSH: He called me a racist.
LAUER: What he said was "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
BUSH: That's to say "He's a racist." I didn't appreciate it then and I don't appreciate it now. It's one thing to say, you know, "I don't appreciate the way he's handled his business." It's another thing to say, "This man is a racist."
I resent it. It's not true. And it's one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency.
COOPER: Former President Bush in his own words. A lot more we're covering. Joe Johns has a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Obama arrives in Indonesia Tuesday after leaving India, where he spoke to that country's parliament and backed India's bid for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council.
And an interesting turn of events. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs got into a confrontation with Indian officials after they tried to allow only five U.S. journalists into the meeting between President Obama and Indian's Prime Minister Singh instead of the previously-agreed-to eight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The whole group is going in with me. That whole group is going in with me. Those guys, if there's a pool stray (ph), all of them go in. All of my guys go in. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No problem.
GIBBS: That's the new agreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Back in the U.S., a presidential panel investigating the BP oil spill supported many of BP's own conclusions about what led to the disaster. The panel, which released it's initial findings today challenged claims in Congress that BP sacrificed safety to cut costs.
And in an experiment, a nutrition professor at Kansas State University loaded up on sugar and junk food so that it made up two- thirds of what he ate in a day, but he limited himself to less than 1,800 calories. After two months, he lost 27 pounds, and his body fat went down more than 8 percent.
He apparently proved his theory that it doesn't matter what you eat, but how many calories you consume and how many you burn off.
I'd love to hear what Dr. Sanjay Gupta has to say about that.
COOPER: I wonder how he felt, eating all that sugar. That can't have been good.
JOHNS: Yes. Sugar spikes, sugar highs and sugar lows. That's like no fun.
COOPER: All right. Maybe we'll learn more. Joe, thanks.
Up next, a jury weighing in on the horrific murders of a Connecticut mom and her two young daughters. Their decision, ahead. Plus, a look at the gruesome case against the killer, Steven Hayes. What in particular did the jury look at to decide their -- their verdict? "Crime & Punishment" tonight.
Also, Elizabeth Smart kidnapped and tortured when she was just 14 years old, speaking out about her indescribable fear. She testified today in the trial of the man accused of kidnapping her. Details from inside the courtroom coming up.
COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, a Connecticut jury has recommended death for Steven Hayes. He was convicted of raping and murdering a mom, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and her two daughters, Haley and Michaela, and setting fire to their house.
Outside court today, the sole survivor of the attack, Dr. William Petit, talked about the horror that he's lived through.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. WILLIAM PETIT, SURVIVOR OF HOME INVASION: What was going through my heart, I was really crying -- crying for loss. You know? Probably many of you have kids. Michaela was an 11-year-old little girl, you know? Tortured and killed in her own bedroom, you know? Surrounded by stuffed animals. Haley had a great future. It was a strong and courageous person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Hard to imagine. Randi Kaye has a look at the case in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the trial of Steven Hayes, it was never a question of guilt or innocence. It was simply a question of whether or not Hayes should die for his crimes.
A prominent Connecticut family held hostage and terrorized in their home. Dr. William Petit nearly beaten to death with a baseball bat. His wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, sexually assaulted and strangled by Steven Hayes. Their children, Haley and Michaela, left to die in a fire.
(on camera) From day one, Hayes' defense lawyer told the jury his client had killed Mrs. Hawke-Petit, but then he spent the last eight weeks trying to convince jurors to spare his life. The jury sentenced Hayes to death anyway. Here may be a few reasons why.
(voice-over) The duration of the crime, seven hours, during which Mrs. Hawke-Petit was forced to withdraw $15,000 from the family's bank accounts. This bank security camera video was played for the jury. It shows her desperate attempt to save her family, which was tied up just three miles away. The video was recorded just 40 minutes before her murder.
It wasn't just how long this family was held, but the sheer brutality of the attack.
SUNNY HOSTIN, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": The beating of Dr. Petit, the fact that an 11-year-old girl was tortured, was sexually assaulted, was killed, that evidence was just so, so heinous that I believe that is what really tipped the balance in favor of the death penalty here.
KAYE: There were also crime scene photographs: a mother's body burned beyond recognition. Haley, 17, found at the top of the stairs. Michaela, 11, found still tied to her bed. Both girls died from the smoke.
Jurors also viewed text messages sent from Hayes to the other suspect, Joshua Komisarjevsky, just before the home invasion. Those also weighed heavily on the jury. Hayes wrote, "I'm champing at the bit to get started. Need a margarita soon."
Komisarjevsky responded, "I'm putting kid to bed. Hold your horses."
Hayes, "Dude, the horses want to get loose. LOL."
HOSTIN: That was significant. And I recall looking over at the jury, and they were glaring at Steven Hayes when that evidence was on the projector.
KAYE: And there was this surveillance video of Hayes at a gas station, buying the gasoline that was later poured throughout the house and on the victims. The jury was also convinced that Steven Hayes had every opportunity to walk away.
HOSTIN: He left the house to buy gasoline. He left the house with Mrs. Petit. They left the house to park their cars somewhere else. Time and time again, he had the opportunity to not be involved in these murders, and he never walked away. KAYE (on camera): As the death sentence was read in court, Steven Hayes stared straight ahead and smiled. His lawyer says Hayes is happy with the sentencing. So full of remorse, Steven Hayes wants to die.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Unbelievable case. Sunny Hostin, legal contributor of "In Session" on our sister network, TruTV, was in the courtroom today. She's also a former federal prosecutor.
A lot of outlets reporting that Steven Hayes smiled when the verdict was read. You didn't see that, though?
HOSTIN: I did not see that. Michael Christian, our producer that was in the courtroom did not see that, but I will say that we spoke with his defense attorney afterwards, Anderson, and he did say that Steven Hayes was pleased with this verdict, because he wanted to be put to death. He's suicidal, and he is happy with the verdict. So it's quite possible that he did smile. I didn't see it.
COOPER: At least one witness testified, though, that he didn't really want to die. He said that he did want to die but that that was just some sort of ruse to kind of either get sympathy or have the jury decide not to have...
HOSTIN: Well, she certainly testified that she thought he was sort of feigning his remorse. And he explained to her that everything that happened while he was incarcerated he wanted documented, because he wanted to use that in the death-penalty phase.
And so it is quite possible, at least from that witness, that he did not want to die and that he was going to sort of try to manipulate the process. He has been known to be a very manipulative criminal.
COOPER: It's going to be years, though, I mean, given the way these sort of appeal processes work, automatic appeals. It's going to be years. Connecticut hasn't executed somebody, what, one person in the last 50 years?
HOSTIN: That's right. And it's interesting, because there is an automatic appeal process. But his attorney said that he didn't want to appeal. Steven Hayes doesn't want to appeal, but they are committed to trying to save his life, so I do believe at this point that it may be years before there's an execution.
COOPER: And the other guy, Steven (ph) Komisarjevsky. When does he go on trial?
HOSTIN: Apparently, he is going on trial sometime in 2011. Jury selection starts in January. The jury selection in this case took weeks. And so it's quite possible that Joshua Komisarjevsky won't go to trial until February or March.
COOPER: He offered to plead guilty, also, in return for life in prison, but that's unlikely?
HOSTIN: That's right. They both offered. I mean, in this -- in this trial, a lot of evidence came in. The lawyers' letters to the government came in, offering to plead guilty in return for taking the death penalty off the table. And the government declined their offer. And they declined their offer for Joshua Komisarjevsky, so I believe this is going to trial.
COOPER: One of the things that Dr. Petit said today in his public statement, and I kind of wish we'd played it, he said, you know, the people use that word "closure" and would this bring some sort of closure and what a kind of a stupid word. It's like a made-up TV psychology word that there is never closure on anything like this. It's this open wound. It's this open hole as he described it, for the rest of your life.
HOSTIN: Absolutely. And it was really -- he's been such an elegant person, for lack of a better term, in the courtroom. This is the first time that I think we've seen him with this sort of emotion. And he said there is no closure, and it was really just so introspective. Because he has been suffering through not only the penalty phase but the guilt phase and now again for this upcoming trial.
COOPER: And as he said today, I mean, it takes years and years for these things to come to trial, and it was one of the things he was sort of complaining about, was in the state of Connecticut why it takes so long just to get a trial.
HOSTIN: That's right. And he's become such an advocate for victims.
COOPER: Yes. Appreciate it. Thanks for the reporting.
Still ahead, Elizabeth Smart testifies in the trial of the man accused of kidnapping her from her bedroom and holding her captive for nine months. She described in detail the nightmare that she lived through. Find out what happened in court today.
Also, tonight's "Shot." Hear the story of the woman who solved the seven-word "Wheel of Fortune" puzzle with just one letter. Just one letter, and she solved a seven-word puzzle. How did she do it? We're going to hear herself. We'll talk to her live, coming up next.
COOPER: All right. A number of other stories we're following. Joe Johns is back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOHNS: Anderson, Elizabeth Smart testified today at the trial of Brian David Mitchell, who was accused of kidnapping and raping her in 2002. Smart, who's now 23, said she thought she was having a nightmare and faced, quote, "indescribable fear" when she was abducted from her Utah home at the age of 14. Smart was found nine months later. American student Amanda Knox, who was convicted last year of murdering her British roommate in Italy, will face a new trial on slander charges. Knox and her parents were accused of defaming Italian police after her arrest. They said police mistreated her in custody.
Back here at home, if you're wondering what the federal government is doing to improve the job market, go to Monster.com's Facebook page. The job-hunting Web site is teaming up with the White House to gather questions about the economy. The top five questions will be selected on Sunday, and the White House will respond by videotape.
Meanwhile, in India, it's not all serious stuff by President Obama and the first lady. Over the weekend, they showed off a few dance moves at a Diwali (ph) celebration.
COOPER: Online, there's already a remix of this where they put in 50 Cent -- 50 Cent's "It's Your Birthday" song. Yes. That actually times out pretty well.
All right, Joe, tonight's "Shot," Pat Sajak himself called it the most amazing solve in the history of "Wheel of Fortune." I guess that's the lingo, the solve. The longtime game show host wasn't the only one surprised. Friday night a contestant solved a seven-word puzzle with very little to go on, one word -- one letter. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAITLIN BURKE, "WHEEL OF FORTUNE" WINNER: "L."
PAT SAJAK, HOST, "WHEEL OF FORTUNE": One "L."
BURKE: Can I solve?
SAJAK: What's that?
BURKE: Can I solve?
BURKE: It is a prize puzzle.
BURKE: I've got a good feeling about this.
SAJAK: That's right!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Crazy. That was Caitlin Burke. Not only did she win our respect; she won a luxury vacation to the Caribbean. Caitlin joins me now live. How did you do that? BURKE: I guess that's the question today? I -- I solved the, you know, first word, and it had an apostrophe. That could only be "I'll" or "I've." So then I just sounded it out from there. I said it had to be I or I've so I was like I have or I've got a. And then I thought maybe it was a funny feeling about this. That came to me and then a couple seconds, I realized, oh, my gosh, it's I've got a good feeling about this --
COOPER: Did you think at all about holding out for more money?
BURKE: Well, no. Because I decided after the last round before that I knew the puzzle, and I had spun and I went bankrupt. And I was really mad, and so the next one I was like, "You know what? I'm going to go home with something." So I'm taking this trip. It was a prize puzzle, and I just decided to go for it.
COOPER: And do you watch -- I mean, do you watch Wheel of Fortune a lot? Do you...
BURKE: Yes. All the time.
COOPER: So at home you've been playing this a long time?
BURKE: Yes, yes.
COOPER: Because you know I'm a "Jeopardy" champion.
COOPER: Once but then I lost to Cheech Marin the second time. Yes.
BURKE: One time, that's all I got so we're tied now.
COOPER: I was the dumbed-down celebrity version. You had the real version of the game show.
And do you want to, like, be on again? Or do you want to be on other game shows?
BURKE: I would love to. Like, I would love to be that what's his name from "Jeopardy"...
COOPER: The guy who won...
BURKE: To do that on "Wheel of Fortune." That would be great. But they don't do that, unfortunately.
COOPER: They've got to be scared of you now?
BURKE: Yes, I know. I don't think they want to dish out all the money. They better watch out.
COOPER: I love how Pat Sajak was, like, totally dumb struck at the idea that you would want to solve the puzzle.
BURKE: I know. That was, like, the highlight of my year. Well, besides being here with you.
COOPER: I doubt that.
BURKE: Making Pat Sajak, like, silent, that he had no words, that was crazy.
COOPER: And have you always been good at puzzles?
BURKE: Yes. And that's kind of like I like word puzzles, like "Taboo" or anything. My friends would never want to be on the same team with me because I would be so competitive. So...
COOPER: Can you explain to me Sudoko?
BURKE: That's with numbers, I think, actually. Right? That's the number one?
COOPER: I see people on the subway play it, and I'm mystified by it.
BURKE: Yes, people are crazy about it. That's OK. I like that, but I'm more into the word thing.
COOPER: So what would be the -- if you can't do "Wheel of Fortune" again what would you go for?
BURKE: I don't know. Maybe -- I guess I like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." We need something with words. I'm not sure.
COOPER: You applied for this for a long time?
BURKE: Yes. Because I had applied online. And then -- but it's just your name, kind of and address and phone number, so it took a little while to hear back. And then I found out that there was an audition.
COOPER: And you were almost going to go for "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"
BURKE: Yes. In my frustration of not hearing back, but my heart really -- My favorite show is "Wheel of Fortune." That's what I wanted to be.
COOPER: What was Pat Sajak really like?
BURKE: He was so cool. Like did not disappoint. Like, he was so smooth and just, like, really friendly. And he comes up -- like, he just comes up with stuff right there and he's just -- he's a cool guy. I thought he was -- I was impressed. And Vanna, too. They're both really cool.
COOPER: So when are you going to go to the Caribbean.
BURKE: I think I'm going to go in February or March, when New York is just miserably cold. Yes. Just take off, see you later.
COOPER: Well, it was a great moment. Congratulations.
BURKE: It was. Thank you. Thank you so much.
COOPER: Thanks for coming. Great to have you on. Caitlin Burke. Moving moment.
Next on 360, an assistant attorney general who targeted a college student for months online and in person, trashing his reputation, making up -- making up lies, basically, has been fired. Now his attorney is calling the attacker a victim of politics and the liberal media. We're "Keeping Them Honest."