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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Interview with Representative Michele Bachmann; Poll Shows Cain Attaining Frontrunner Status

Aired October 12, 2011 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: And we are on the "Front Line" in Chicago tonight where three teens are charged with first degree murder. Authorities allege the three conspired with another teen to kill his parents.

And then who was the man arrested in a foiled terror plot in Washington, D.C.? We found a man who knew him for 15 years. He comes OUTFRONT exclusively.

And the "Bottom Line" on Michele Bachmann, she's a Minnesota congresswoman who wants to be our next president. She comes OUTFRONT tonight. Let's go.

I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight presidential-candidate Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota is running for president and there is a lot to talk about tonight. I want to start though with the latest headlines we have on terror.

Congresswoman Bachmann, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Erin, it's wonderful to be with you. Thank you.

BURNETT: Well let me start with Vice President Biden this morning on ABC. He was talking about the terror plot; he said it was an outrageous act and that the Iranians will have to be held accountable. That's the quote. If you were president, would military action be on the table?

BACHMANN: Well if I was president, I wouldn't have taken my eye off the number one issue in the Middle East which is Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. The problem with the Obama administration is that they have put significant daylight between Israel and the United States from day one of the Obama presidency. So the president unfortunately sent signals of weakness and focused on Israel building apartments on their own land as opposed to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. That's been the problem. And when you have a nation that's a hostile nation, seeing the United States from a lens point of weakness then that can lead to actions that are absolutely heinous like we're seeing today.

BURNETT: Do you think -- it seem there's a lot of confusion though or at least uncertainty about how high this goes in the Iranian government, if it really goes to the top and it was a terror attack that sure a Saudi ambassador was targeted, but at least 100 American casualties were considered perfectly acceptable. If that's really what happened and it goes to the highest echelon of the Iranian government how would we avoid having this be something that led to military conflict?

BACHMANN: Obviously, this is not acceptable. And I'm privileged to sit on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We deal with the nation's classified secrets and we deal with the problems and the hostilities that are being faced from around the world. I mean consider what this is. This is an international assassination plot on U.S. soil in the nation's capital, and potentially we were looking at targets being various embassies.

This is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed seriously. And obviously, historically this needed to be addressed by the White House earlier on so that signals were sent to Iran that you would never consider attempting something like this on U.S. soil. Obviously they felt that they could be successful.

BURNETT: All right. But not -- no direct answer for us tonight in terms of what you would do on military action or considering it?

BACHMANN: Well, again, I sit on the House Intelligence Committee. It's important for me to be a certain amount of circumspect about the comments that I make about this --

BURNETT: OK.

BACHMANN: But clearly I think the president took his eye off the most important thing and that's a nuclear Iran, a hostile Iran.

BURNETT: Congresswoman Bachmann, I wanted to ask you about the debt ceiling. You've talked about your reasons for steadfastly resisting raising it. Here you are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN: We must not increase the debt ceiling. I continue to stand strong on voting against increasing the debt ceiling. President Obama is holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so that he can continue his spending spree. This Republican will not vote to raise the debt ceiling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Now ultimately Congresswoman Bachmann that fight in Washington could have had some positives forcing our country to address the debt problem, but I spoke to every economic expert I could, and they said that the cost to America, that fight, a credit downgrade that's going to cost every American money in the form of higher interest rates down the road hurt our country and the debt ceiling debate made the world see America as a government which is failing. Was it worth it?

BACHMANN: But you see we didn't have to have the credit downgrade. The credit downgrade came because the ratings agencies saw that Washington was not serious about addressing the debt. That showed that I was right, not that I was wrong.

Because we had sufficient revenues coming into the Treasury so that we could pay off the interest on the debt. There was no need for the United States to default. What we needed to do was prioritize our spending. You see, your viewers need to understand that the United States government is foolishly overspending by 40 percent every year.

Imagine for your viewers if you were spending 40 percent more than what you took in, or if your business spent 40 percent more than what you took in. Most Americans couldn't last two months spending 40 percent more than what they're taking in. That's what countries like Greece are doing.

BURNETT: Right.

BACHMANN: And we see the kind of trouble that they're in. I was proven right in this debt ceiling debate and that's what we have to do as a nation. We need to not spend more money than what we take in. Otherwise, all of our taxes will have to be raised to a level that would be prohibitive for us to lead our own lives.

BURNETT: And it's a fair point when you talk about spending. But I wanted to ask you something especially about the whole focus on cutting spending at all costs. Pew did a study that I thought was very interesting that said starting in 2015 so we get a little bit of time to recover now without doing anything.

But at that time, if we raise taxes by 7.5 percent and we cut spending by 7.5 percent, we'd get back to our historical norm of a debt ratio. But if we did it by cutting only we'd have to cut it by 43 percent, which is basically the equivalent of eliminating the Department of Defense, so doesn't that mean that some sort of tax increases are part of a rational independent strategy here?

BACHMANN: Well you know it seems to many people that that would be reasonable to raise taxes. But it absolutely would be the most foolish thing that we could do. And Barack Obama agreed with that several years ago when he said the worst thing that we could do is increase taxes in the midst of a recession. I talk to people all across the United States, Erin.

They tell me they feel like we're still in a recession, no matter what the economists say. I'm a former federal tax litigation attorney. I am a small business woman. I run a business at a profit and I'm proud of it. One thing I understand from my business background is that raising taxes won't create jobs. That's the number one thing we need right now is a positive business climate. That's why raising taxes would hurt the economy.

It would hurt job creation and the government needs to pull its belt in line and trust me, as a member of Congress five years fighting on the front line, there is so much waste in this town, there is so much waste of people's tax money. We have got to cut back and let's begin with programs like the outrageous fast and furious program where we're giving huge guns to outlaws in Mexico or the Solyndra loans, $535 million to pay off political donors of President Obama. There is so much waste. Let's begin there.

BURNETT: You were -- I read your economic plan, which you released just in the past day that talked about a couple of things that you would do on day one. You would want to repeal President Obama's health care plan. You also want to repeal Dodd-Frank, which is the financial reform bill. We have a group here of 20 CEOs, investors, entrepreneurs we call our "Strike Team", Congresswoman Bachmann.

They vote on the plans that you all put forth in our economy. They -- seven of them agree with you that it should be repealed. Five of them though do not. And even a banker said that he would not repeal it. Why are you so adamant on that?

BACHMANN: Are you talking about repealing Obamacare or repealing --

BURNETT: Repealing Dodd-Frank.

BACHMANN: Dodd-Frank and that's the bill that I call the jobs and housing destruction act because that's what is happening right now. The problem with Dodd-Frank is that it drives costs up for the consumer, costs up to get loans for purchasing a house, loans from a bank. It drives up the cost of loans for a business person, for their business. We just saw recently that Bank of America was increasing their debit card fee by $5 every month.

That's infuriating Americans. Well see the same with ATM fees because when the federal government intervenes and has the banking, the insurance and the bank holding companies now become beholden to the Federal Reserve and the SEC (ph) rather than being able to compete against each other, that means the cost will go up for the consumer, not go down. I want life to be better for the average American, and it would be better if we would repeal Dodd-Frank.

BURNETT: And we have some news on Bank of America later on in the program on that ATM fee. I wanted to ask you about something, though, Congresswoman. You've been consistent on social issues and talked about yourself as a social conservative. You've said you support a constitutional amendment making a marriage between a man and a woman. Some Republicans feel social issues are too dominant on the Republican Party platform. And I'm wondering even aside from your personal beliefs do you worry that you're alienating potential Republican voters by making issues like abortion or gay marriage such a key part of your candidacy?

BACHMANN: Well you know this year unquestionably the top issues are jobs and the economy and that's something that I've said all along, but for many Americans, the key issue for them is how a candidate feels about the life issue. I am pro life or how someone feels about the marriage issue. I believe in marriage between a man and a woman and so as a candidate I don't dance around about my opinions and my views. I think that it's only fair that the voter knows where we stand and so I'm only too happy to let people know where I stand on these issues.

I believe in religious liberty, for instance, that all people have the right to be able to express their faith freely in the marketplace of ideas. So I'm unashamed to be able to say that. But I've also said during the course of the campaign, there is no question that the economy and jobs are number one and I believe that I'm the best qualified to deal with that as a tax lawyer, as a job creator who created a business from scratch and who runs it profitably and also I sit on the Financial Services Committee. I've been here on the front lines for five years fighting for the American consumer and the average American household. That's what we need, someone who has fought so that the cost of living could be cheaper and we can have job creation again in this country.

BURNETT: Congresswoman Bachmann, thank you so much for being with us and coming OUTFRONT today. We appreciate it.

BACHMANN: Erin, we'll do it again. Thank you.

BURNETT: All right and tomorrow, we go OUTFRONT with GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain. We're not going to hold back and neither will he. We'll ask him about his 9-9-9 economic plan, his presidential run. A poll just came out by the way that puts him number one. All right, the 9-9-9 plan not a hit with everyone, even someone that works for Cain though.

And we can't resist doing this story. Millions of people are still without BlackBerry service, the poor torch (ph) and we're OUTFRONT on a story in Chicago where a couple was found brutally murdered in their bed and four teens including their own son has been arrested for the crime.

OUTFRONT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: The number tonight, four. That's how many words it took for General Motors to upset bicyclists across the country. The automaker placed this ad in college newspapers, touting its college program by saying "stop pedaling, start driving." GM says it's pulled the ad and posted numerous apologies on its Twitter account. Look, if you're a car company, you're, you know you're in a certain fight (ph) of the whole health debate. I mean come on; you are a car company -- OK.

New poll out, just out an hour ago, this is actually really significant. This is Herman Cain now leading the GOP pact. This is the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, and this is the first poll, at least that we have seen -- I think John Avlon is nodding -- but I've seen that has Herman Cain number one. Twenty-seen percent national poll, Romney at 23 percent, as you can see, Michele Bachmann you just saw on this show, down to five.

With us to talk about this really fascinating poll, former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts, former Democratic governor from Ohio, Ted Strickland, and John Avlon. Really -- we appreciate all of you taking the time. John, what do you think?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is a big deal. Herman Cain in first position place, nobody would have guessed that a little while ago and the other news is Perry dropping 20 points in this poll since late August. I mean that is like a rock. So you know the "Herminator" is doing pretty well in the polls with the primary base right now.

BURNETT: J.C., I mean you know and that's even after taking the heat last night on the 9-9-9 plan and frankly he didn't really answer the specific questions.

J.C. WATTS (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN FROM OKLAHOMA: Well Erin, I don't think that the pollsters and the people out there, the establishment, the status quo bunch, I don't think they understand the depth and the type of support that Herman has. I still believe that Mitt Romney is -- you know Republicans like to let next in line, and now that Mike Huckabee is not in the race, the governor is next in line, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. He's got quite a way to go and I think even there's a couple of other candidates we might keep our eye on, but right now Herman has some momentum, and I think it's real momentum.

BURNETT: Well I want to ask you like who we should keep an eye on, but first I want to go to Governor Strickland. Governor Strickland, what is your take on this? Herman Cain number one, why do you think?

TED STRICKLAND (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF OHIO: Well I think most Republicans aren't satisfied with any of their candidates, and so none of them are really scoring highly in the polls. There's a new candidate that's in first place nearly every week. And I think that indicates great dissatisfaction among the Republican voters as to who should lead their party going forward.

BURNETT: J.C., answer the like who, other candidates already on that scoreboard or not yet in?

WATTS: Well, I think the field has been set. However, over the last year, 14 months that I've traveled around the country, I have always found that there's been two camps. There's been a Romney camp. There's been an anybody but Romney camp. But nevertheless, Republicans don't believe in affirmative action unless it's for their candidates, their political candidates and I do think that Romney will benefit from that next in line position that he has.

I think Rick Santorum -- I would not count him out. I think Newt Gingrich, believe it or not, I think Newt still has the intellectual juice I think that stimulates and I think challenges people to think through the serious issues of the day. But, again, I think right now the race is Romney-Cain since you know the governor from New Jersey, Christie, didn't get in to be the new flavor of the day. Sarah Palin says she's not going to run. I do think Romney at the end of the day is going to be the person to beat, but it wouldn't surprise me if he's not the nominee.

BURNETT: John Avlon, would it surprise you?

AVLON: If Herman Cain was the nominee?

BURNETT: Yes.

AVLON: I think it would surprise everybody if Herman Cain was the nominee. But this is -- this is really high drama right now and it does show I think as Governor Strickland was saying, a certain dissatisfaction with Mitt Romney where people are looking for someone else, someone who can inspire and Herman Cain is a great communicator. And that's driving a lot of this.

I think the real question for me is for someone like J.C. Watts, are you so inspired by Herman Cain that you all of a sudden can see this kind of an upset? Do you find yourself rooting for Herman Cain in your heart or do you think at the end of the day the Republican Party just falls back to type?

WATTS: Well I'm cheering for Herman in my heart because I think he's a good guy. I've known him for 10, 12 years and I think he's the real deal. I think he has a good understanding of the economic issues. He understands that we don't need more taxes. We need more taxpayers.

I think he's got -- I think he's got a good message. Obviously I think his 9-9-9 plan is going to come under more and more scrutiny and people will pick that apart, including the Romney folks. But again, John, I just think it's a different demeanor out there with all the social media, what's going on in Republican primaries, Republicans around the country are dissatisfied with the establishment, I think with Washington. And I think Herman kind of fits the mold of what they would like their candidate to profile as.

BURNETT: Governor Strickland, what do you think in terms of what President Obama is thinking tonight or his strategist, seeing Herman Cain vault to the top? I know as you pointed out everything, it changes and it's very volatile, but which -- who would President Obama rather run against, Herman Cain or Mitt Romney?

STRICKLAND: You know, I don't know. But I think the problem is that none of these Republican candidates really understand the middle class. When Herman Cain can say if you're not rich, it's your fault and when Mitt Romney can say he's against the auto bailout that has created thousands and thousands and retained thousands of jobs in Ohio, when Mitt Romney says, you know, he's opposed to the tax cuts that are in the president's jobs plan, I just don't think these folks get it.

People out here in Ohio and throughout the Midwest and across the country are really hurting. And what they want is a candidate who understands them deeply and cares about their problems. And I don't think we're hearing that from any of these candidates. And I think that's the problem.

BURNETT: That's tough.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Of course the frustration of the bailout, you have GM still in the red, frustration about all these things. Well thanks to all three of you.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: We appreciate, look forward to having you all back on regularly.

And still OUTFRONT tonight, my beloved, yes, this. My BlackBerry Torch let me and millions of others down big time today. It was very heartbreaking and we cannot resist telling you what happened.

And then who is Manssor Arbabsiar, the man who allegedly plotted an assassination with civilian casualties in the United States. We have an exclusive conversation with a man who has known him for 15 years.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: And now a story that we simply cannot resist, because it affected our show. Millions of BlackBerry users including many of us at OUTFRONT remained without service today as a three-day outage that had already reached the Middle East, Europe and South America, spread to North America. Now the outage appears primarily to affect e-mails and the Internet. You could make calls. But why did this happen we wanted to know?

So this afternoon we joined an informational conference call with Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry. During the call they asked us to press star one if we had any questions. We had a lot of questions and we were pushing star one, star one, star one, star one, but they never took our calls. We were not very happy about that. We got a little nervous.

It's very worrisome because our staff uses their BlackBerries a lot. Now just this morning while walking to work through Central Park, one of our staffers was approached by two Australian tourists. And they were trying to locate a museum called the Frick and since we pride ourselves in being a very friendly news team, our staffer offered to locate the Frick on his BlackBerry (INAUDIBLE).

But because of the service problems, he had to instead call 411, be connected to the museum and ask the museum for directions. Well, the person who answered at the museum was utterly shocked and said quote, "no one has asked for directions in about two years." Well, we had work related problems, too, because to hear him tell it, no one was affected as much by the BlackBerry problem as our very own Robert Hand (ph). He enthusiastically, as he always does, discussed BlackBerry's outages at our morning meeting today and we can't resist sharing the highlights with you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two hours of my day, I was talking to no one! You know people got -- three hours later people are getting (INAUDIBLE) and I said (INAUDIBLE) I'm like, where is my BlackBerry. It was like no one was responding. People, I've got to call, I had to use a phone. I never use a phone. I have all these guests I'm trying to get on the show (INAUDIBLE) sent e-mail at 8:45 and people get (INAUDIBLE) 10:30. That was it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there anything that we missed by not getting them earlier?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Sorry, Hand (ph), we just couldn't resist and I have to say Hand's (ph) solution to the BlackBerry problem was to continually send e-mails all morning just to see if any would go through, which of course probably created a bigger problem for BlackBerry. Incidentally, BlackBerry, you just sent an e-mail saying everything is up, fine and running, and I got your e-mail, but I cannot send a single e-mail. None of them are working. Not quite true, yet.

All right, coming up, who is the Manssor Arbabsiar, the man allegedly behind the attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador? One of his friends OUTFRONT with details, next.

And there's another satellite hurdling towards earth. What are the chances of it hitting you? What are the chances there being all these satellites falling towards earth? We're going to go to tonight's "Outer Circle" to find out.

And four Chicago teens arrested for what is a foul murder, the victims, the parents of one of the boys. That's OUTFRONT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about. We focus on our own reporting, make the calls and find the OUTFRONT five.

First up tonight, presidential candidate Michele Bachmann came OUTFRONT earlier. I asked her what she thought about the foiled terror plot. She blamed the Obama administration for, quote, "sending signals of weakness."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN: When you have a nation, that's a hostile nation, being the United States from a viewpoint of weakness, that can lead to actions that are absolutely heinous like we're seeing today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Bachmann did not directly answer my question about whether military action would be off the table.

Number two: a new U.S. sanction against Iran. This time around Iranian airplane Mahan Air. The U.S. accuses the Iranian airline of helping the Quds force, which is the special forces arm of the Iranian revolutionary guard corps.

One of its member is wanted for the plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. And we spoke with an expert on Iran who told OUTFRONT the revolutionary guard controls at least 20 percent of the country's domestic economy.

Number three: investigators trying to close the case against serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Cook County Sheriff's office sent OUTFRONT these pictures today of their process to exhume the bodies of eight of Gacy's victims. They have tried to identify all of the victims, but the sheriff's office tells OUTFRONT they think they're only going to be identifying some of them.

Number four: Bank of America -- this is the news we promised we would give you in the Michele Bachmann interview -- they finally responded to that growing online petition calling for the cancellation of a $5 monthly debit card charge. Molly Katchpole, the young woman you remember who came on OUTFRONT last week, tells us the B of A spokeswoman saw her petition and called, saying he realized people are frustrated about the fee. The B of A says it's, quote, "too premature to call it off before it takes full effect. Molly's petition has more than 220,000 supporters nationwide now.

And it has been 68 days since America lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

The international murder for hire terror plot that was foiled by the U.S. government continues to raise a lot of questions. For starters, just who is Manssor Arbabsiar?

Tonight, OUTFRONT has a better idea.

David Tomscha has known Arbabsiar as Jack for the past 15 years. And he joins us now on the phone.

David, thanks so much for taking the time to be with us.

And tell me how you knew Manssor Arbabsiar, whom I guess you referred to as Jack because his name is sort of hard to pronounce.

DAVID TOMSCHA, ARBABSIAR BUSINES PARTNER (via telephone): Yes, I just found out today that they used to call him Jack because he drank a lot. He used to drink Jack.

BURNETT: Wow. That's OK.

TOMSCHA: Yes, I'm sorry. Anyway, I met three Iranian people. I had a drycleaners here in Corpus Christi and I met him. He had a car lot. I was looking for a car for my son. And Jack and Tom and Bruce had a car lot over (INAUDIBLE). And I bought a car from them.

After a number of years, Jack had found a property over here on Staples, and I went into partnership with him on buying property.

BURNETT: And you were in business for what, how long with him?

TOMSCHA: Not too long, probably six months.

BURNETT: What was your impression of what he was like? Was he a hard worker, the kind of person who could have pulled off the plot we're hearing about?

TOMSCHA: No, I don't think so. He was very disorganized and that was part of our problem because I needed somebody that was more reliable. And he would show up -- sometimes, he was very disorganized. I had trouble with titles and everything else.

Yes, I would not say that he was the kind of person that could pull off something like this.

BURNETT: And your view was -- I know you had spoken earlier with our producer and you were telling her his wife was really what held him together.

TOMSCHA: I think so, yes. Everybody always said if it wasn't for his wife, he would be homeless on the streets because he was very -- you know, he wouldn't pay his bills, not because he didn't have the money necessarily, but because he just would forget to pay them.

BURNETT: Did he ever, in conversation to you, David, say anything, I don't know, strange or negative about America or pro-Iran? It's interesting you mentioned he was called Jack for drinking a lot. Obviously, that's not something that would be -- you know, consistent with being a devout Muslim.

TOMSCHA: Well, I don't think he was a devout Muslim. I would think I know more about Islam than he probably did. Yes, he always seemed very religious to me and he always seemed to like this country because he made a lot of money here. You know, we didn't talk all that much politics because I figure he didn't probably know too much about American politics. But we talked about business and cars and yes, he never gave me that indication at all.

He has a son here that goes to college. I'm sure he liked this country. I don't know what could have possessed him to do what he's accused of doing, you know, money or something like that, you know?

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you so much, David. Appreciate again your taking the time. So many people are very curious, in this country and around the world, to learn more about him. So thanks for sharing it with us.

TOMSCHA: You're welcome. Thank you.

BURNETT: Not exactly a portrait of a terrorist that is going to make American authorities happy.

What will America do? Vice President Joe Biden had this to say on ABC this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an outrage that violates one of the fundamental premises upon which nations deal with one another, and that is the sanctity and safety of their diplomats. And so, this is really over the top. They have to be held accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, what does that mean, have to be held accountable? It's a big question for the whole world. Is the U.S. government being forceful enough in its reaction so far?

We want to bring in former assistant secretary of state, Jamie Rubin. He's with us last night, immediately reacting to this.

Great to have you with us again.

Senior political scientist at Rand Corporation is also back tonight, Seth Jones.

Thanks to both of you.

Jamie, what's your take? The rhetoric still is very strong coming out of the White House.

JAMIE RUBIN, FMR. ASST. SECY. OF STATE, CLINTON ADMIN.: I think so far it is appropriate. Holding accountable gives a broad range of possibilities, from legal sanction to an economic sanction or worse. I think the key thing they're doing right now is building the case around the world, because whatever happened with this individual case, they want to be sure that in responding to Iran's broader challenge, the nuclear challenge, that the world will help us, the Chinese will help us. The Russians will help us.

The Europeans have done a lot. They've put on their own sanctions beyond the Security Council.

So, getting the world's support starts with the evidence. And if it's as compelling as it appears to be and secret as it is the public version, I think some countries like China, like Russia, are going to have a hard time defending Iran.

BURNETT: Seth, let me ask you, though, because it's interesting, the portrait we just heard from someone who's done business with -- he knew Manssor as Jack, was far from compelling. I mean, in fact, it was down right -- I mean, I don't know, that was not a portrait of somebody you would thought could get together and go ahead with this complicated terror plot.

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: Well, I think if you look at some of the most recent terror plots in the United States, Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, was not exactly a first rate competent terrorist, nor was Najibullah Zazi, the 2009 attempted al Qaeda bomber, also in New York City.

So, again, there have been a range of recent bombers that have been fairly uneducated, fairly benign and certainly disorganized individuals. So that and itself doesn't strike me as being a complete outlier.

BURNETT: I guess perhaps it would strengthen their case from their view that this guy wasn't competent, which would prove that there was somebody somewhere else who was, the person that they are saying was from Iran who was wiring the money and the mastermind.

JONES: Right. In this case would need a handler from the RGC Quds force to provide most of the money, probably provide technical advice and other assistance.

BURNETT: So, Jamie last night was talking about China. You just mentioned it again. So, we went OUTFRONT today and did the math on whether the U.S. could force China to do something, really to isolate Iran completely.

So, here's the fact. China is the biggest buyer of Iranian crude oil. At today's prices, OUTFRONT calculates China sends $14 billion a year to Tehran. But the Saudis could change that. They could say, hey, China, Iran tried to assassinate our ambassador, so it's either us or Iran.

We'll then see China might really get stuck, because the single biggest supplier of oil to China is Saudi Arabia.

And when OUTFRONT talked to oil expert John Kilduff of Again Capital, he said China could replace its Iranian oil, about 400,000 barrels a day.

Jamie, that -- I wasn't sure how that math would work, but it would if China was potentially forced to make that choice.

RUBIN: Well, I think the key point, as you show, is how forceful will Saudi Arabia be? I think this plot, and I think it's important to bear in mind that Iran has done this kind of thing before. There are serious charges right now going on in the tribunal in Lebanon where the Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister was assassinated by Hezbollah with support, it's alleged, from Iran.

So, they subcontracted before these kind of assassinations. Mr. Hariri was very close to the Saudis. So, these are the same enemies of Iran that they are potentially attacking.

So, if the Saudis are angry enough, and you have shown they have the leverage to put the Chinese on the spot if the Chinese are the only country in the Security Council, for example, holding out against tougher sanctions, they can put them on the spot. In fact, the United States in the first round of sanctions that were put on under Obama went to the Saudis and asked them to convince other countries that they would replenish oil if Iran retaliated.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Jamie and Seth. Appreciate both of you taking the time. We'll continue to try to get more facts on this.

Now, let's check in with John King who is filling in for Anderson tonight.

Hey, John.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hey, Erin.

We're keeping them honest. Ahead on "360," an about face from several Republican presidential hopefuls regarding "Occupy Wall Street." Many who were once openly critical, even disparaging, are now shifting their positions as the protesters gain momentum and support across the country. We're keeping them honest.

And in raw politics, new polling out tonight shows some impressive gains for Herman Cain in his bid for the White House. But it's Mitt Romney who has the attention of President Obama's team. We'll explain and show you those latest poll numbers.

Plus, a potentially devastating day in court for the defense in the Conrad Murray trial. An expert testifies the actions of Murray directly caused Michael Jackson's death. Details at the top of the hour -- Erin.

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

And still OUTFRONT, a German satellite hurdling towards earth. We ask again: are we in any danger? There are a lot of satellites seem to be falling out of the sky. We go to an expert.

And then it's been eight case since Lisa Irwin disappeared from her Kansas City home. We have the latest there.

And a Chicago couple murdered at night in their bed, their son arrested.

All that OUTFRONT, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First to Libya, where the new government officials claimed they have captured 90 percent of Sirte, the Gadhafi stronghold.

Our Dan River is on the frontline in Sirte tonight with new developments.

And, Dan, what can you tell us about reports of a high level capture?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, there are reports that Mutassim Gadhafi, the fifth son of Colonel Gadhafi, was captured here in Sirte. He was a lieutenant colonel in the Libyan army, supposedly directly the battle for the pro-Gadhafi forces, the dwindling pro-Gadhafi forces here.

However, we've got to be very skeptical about this, I think. We've only had this confirmed from one source in Tripoli. No one on the ground knows much about it.

We were right in the middle of a firefight today and no one told us they had caught such a high level figure. I think, you know, they said this source that he was captured around midday. That's more 12 hours ago. We still haven't got anyone here on the ground telling us.

So, you know, it's the fog of war I guess. But we're getting increasingly skeptical about whether Mutassim Gadhafi has indeed been captured.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Dan Rivers, thank you very much -- in the middle of the fire and stay safe there in Libya.

Next, we go to Abu Dhabi, where the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia spoke with our own Mohammed Jamjoom.

So, Mohammed, what did the ambassador tell you about why Adel Al- Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, may have been targeted in this terror plot?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Ambassador Jordan described how Adel Al-Jubeir is extremely close to the Saudi King Abdullah, that he's almost like a son to the king. Jordan also talked about how even though Al-Jubeir is based in Washington, D.C., he spends a tremendous amount of time in Riyadh. That he's involved in almost every high level that the king has there. It's clear that Al- Jubeir is no run-of-the-mill diplomat. He's still seen as a right hand man and key foreign policy adviser to Saudi King Abdullah, and that, according to Jordan, makes him a target to some degree -- Erin.

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

And now we go to Atlanta to learn more about a large German satellite which is plunging back to earth. This is the second satellite to fall and hit within the past month, which is why I'm wondering what's going on.

CNN's Chad Myers is in Atlanta tonight.

Chad, here we go again. What are the chances this hits somebody?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Erin, it's a big satellite and many piece will hit the ground. That's what it looks like right now. It will look like that is it burns up and comes down to the ground.

The risk of it hitting anyone in the world, 1 in 2,000. Now, multiply that by the population of the world and the population and the chance of you getting hit is 1 in 13 trillion.

Now, this one still is a big satellite. In fact, one of the pieces is ceramic and it will not burn up on reentry. It will weigh 1,700 pounds. That will still leave a mark -- Erin.

BURNETT: One in 2,000, one in 13 trillion -- well, all right. Thank you very much. Now to the OUTFRONT crime docket.

First up, 10 days into the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. His defense is abandoning the theory that Michael Jackson may have swallowed a deadly dose of Propofol. Instead, they say he could have injected himself the syringe.

Prosecutors attempted to shoot down that theory with testimony from a medical expert who said Dr. Murray showed gross negligence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because if these deviations would not have happened, Mr. Jackson could have been alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And now to Missouri. New video released of Deborah Bradley, the mother of a missing 10-month-old baby girl. She was shopping the day her daughter disappeared. Police told us it doesn't tell them anything new. Baby Lisa Irwin vanished from her crib in the middle of the night, eight days ago.

Just 10 months old. Her parents have been repeatedly questioned by police. Despite an exhaustive search, there is no sign of the baby. The family has hired a private investigator now to help them with the case.

And now to a surprising twist in a foul and grisly Chicago area murder investigation. The Cook County sheriff's office is charging three teens with first-degree murder. They alleged that the teens conspired with another teen, John Granat, to kill Granat's parents. Police say John and Maria Granat were found stabbed and bludgeoned to death in their bed on the morning of September 11th. Police charged their son with murder two days later. And now, all four men are being held without bail.

Richard Beuke represents John Granat.

Thank you so much for being with us, sir.

It is a hideous crime. You maintain your client's innocence, but his friends and videotape confession has said he planned the murder of his parents for several months. Are they lying?

RICHARD BEUKE, ATTORNEY FOR JOHN GRANAT: I think they're lying, Erin. I've had an opportunity to speak with a number of young men and young ladies that have gone to school with John, know him for a number of years, and I haven't heard anything that indicates to me that this is something that has been going on for several months, in the planning stages. John has been a student at Stag High School. He's had an opportunity to meet and mingle with a number of people. He maintained a full-time job in addition to working with his -- for his mom and dad's company.

I don't see any of that in any of that and any of the people that I've spoken with.

BURNETT: Let me ask you, the teenagers that have spoken say that the motive was money and that the parents were beaten to death for $35,000 in cash, which was kept in a house. What kind of relationship did your client have with his parents? Was he close with them?

BEUKE: From everyone that I've talked to, John has had a very close relationship with mom and dad. He was a 17-year-old kid, of course, and everybody has their problems with their parents at that age, but not to the degree that I saw in the photographs that were shown to me by the prosecutors in this case as to the horrendous beating that was inflicted on these two human beings. It's beyond the possibility, at least, in my mind, as we stand here tonight, to think that a son could do that to his mother or father.

BURNETT: Yes, the details are absolutely horrible. But if not him, then who?

BEUKE: Well, I believe that the three young men that were interviewed and confessed to the sheriff's offices over the weekend are the people responsible for the killings. I don't think there's any question that those were the people who had a motive.

Money was the motive. They had all, I think been in the Granat house previously. They were associates of John. One was a good friend of John. He knew the house intricately.

And with respect to the murder weapons, that's where the murder weapons were found. These three kids had spent the last month lying to prosecutors, lying to police officers, lying to their friends at school.

BURNETT: All right.

BEUKE: So I think they've got the right guys.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Richard Beuke, thank you very much for joining us. We're going to keep following this story. Thanks again.

And I hope that all of you will tune in tomorrow, because we have GOP presidential candidate, Herman Cain, who just within the past hour in the latest poll rocketed to number one, for the first time, in the national GOP race.

The first female executive of "The New York Times" in its 160 year history, Jill Abramson, is OUTFRONT. She's next.

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BURNETT: It's safe to say, she is on every power list that matters. Just last month, Jill Abramson became the first women executive editor for "The New York Times" in its 160-year history.

She's in charge of guiding the world's most well-known paper in the move from paper to -- well, mobile devices or even iPads now. I would have said the Internet a year ago and now things have changed.

Jill Abramson joins me now.

And really wonderful to have you come in. Thank you so much.

JILL ABRAMSON, NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you for having me, Erin, and congratulations on the show.

BURNETT: Well, thank you. Let me -- executive editor since September 6th. You've been on every single possible list -- number nine on "Vanity Fair," "Forbes" list of most powerful women, "vanity fair." How do you feel about all of the attention?

ABRAMSON: Well, it's taken a bit of getting used to. You know, it's nice to be on all of these lists. I always say, you can't take them too seriously and the only thing that is really bad is when you're on a list one year and you fall off the next, when you're not on the list.

BURNETT: I saw some feedback in "The New York Times," viewers had written in, or readers, had written in, I'm sorry. I'm thinking TV here.

But some comments you made about being a woman, and that you said that being a woman doesn't necessarily mean that you select stories differently or that you cover stories differently from men. And as a female journalist, I was wondering what exactly you meant when you said that.

ABRAMSON: Well, what I was taking issue with was the assumption that sometimes female editors would somehow take the news in a soft direction, and my background is as an investigative reporter. So, that was definitely not going to be the case at "The Times" with me. So I was kind of responding to a question --

BURNETT: Something very specific.

ABRAMSON: -- that suggestion.

But certainly, different kinds of people bring different perspectives to stories, which is why you want a diverse newsroom.

BURNETT: And speaking of how things have changed, I mean, you were a big part of pushing "The New York Times" online to have a pay wall, where people pay for stories, which has been extremely successful. This year, we've seen the rise of citizen journalism, and things like Skype giving us a view into places where it's traditional journalists have struggled to get access whether it'd be Syria or Libya at times.

How does that change what you can do? Is that something that hurts you or do you think empowers your reporters to do more in-depth work?

ABRAMSON: I think it empowers our reporters and it also puts a real premium on the kind of authoritative reporting around the world. We have more foreign and national correspondents than we've ever had. And with the din of all the news that's out there, I think "The Times" is placed to give it to you true, to present the news in an intelligent way, to provide beautifully written stories that people want that more than ever.

But they want it all. And we're giving it to them.

BURNETT: Trying to do it.

We're in the last five seconds. Your book, "The Puppy Diaries," your new book.

ABRAMSON: Right.

BURNETT: The name of your dog before we go?

ABRAMSON: It's Scout.

BURNETT: It's Scout. And I know he is one of the loves of your life.

ABRAMSON: She's a she.

BURNETT: A she?

ABRAMSON: Yes. A fun dog (ph).

BURNETT: All right. You can buy that book, of course, "The Puppy Diaries" right now.

Thanks so much.

John King, in for Anderson Cooper, and "360" starts now.