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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Florida Race Tightens; Interview With Bill Maher

Aired January 25, 2012 - 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: It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with the fight for Florida, with roundhouse punches that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are throwing in English and Spanish to win the crucial state, and new polling that shows how close the battle is right now.

They are going to face off in another debate tomorrow night right here on CNN, along with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, who is not really contesting Florida.

But it's the race between Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich that is dominating coverage. New CNN/ORC polling tonight shows a statistical dead heat -- look at that -- 36 percent to 34 percent, well within the five-point margin of error, Romney there at the 36.

That's from sampling done Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Now, as always, expect those numbers to change. Expect tomorrow night's debate to move that needle as well. Also expect more of what we saw today, each candidate hammering the other.

The Gingrich campaign today stopped running the Spanish-language radio spot accusing Mitt Romney of being -- quote -- "the most anti- immigration candidate in the race." They took the ad down after Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who's Cuban American and has yet to endorse a candidate, took strong exceptions to it calling it inaccurate and inflammatory.

The Romney campaign meantime also angling for the Latino vote with a Spanish-language ad slamming Speaker Gingrich for being the ultimate Washington insider, specifically his relationship with the mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Romney has consistently described him as a former lobbyist for the mortgage giant and today at a town hall event, the speaker heard from a heckler about it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt, you worked for the people of Freddie Mac.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm glad you asked that. I worked for the people. Of course, I work for the people.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) GINGRICH: Now -- and by the way...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here!

GINGRICH: Wait.

(SHOUTING)

GINGRICH: Now now, this is a free country and people are allowed to come and be noisy. It's part of the American tradition.

I just want to say, for the record -- I don't know that this lady wants to listen, but I will say to the rest of you for the record, if you go to the July 2008 "New York Times," you will see the only reference to my talking to Congress about Freddie Mac. I told the House Republicans to vote no on giving them any more money. I was opposed to them getting any more money. And that is a fact.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, though, was Speaker Gingrich a lobbyist? Two members of Congress, Republicans, say he was and they say Gingrich in fact lobbied them.

Tonight we have new details from his contract with Freddie Mac.

First, though, listen to how he described his role back in November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice.

And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, "We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that's what the government wants us to do," as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: His consulting firm was paid $25,000 a month for years by Freddie Mac.

Now, Governor Romney at Monday's debate ridiculed the notion that Freddie Mac would pay someone that kind of money for a historian's advice. Just prior to that debate, the Gingrich campaign released the 2006 portion of the contract with Freddie which was notably vague about Gingrich's services. Last night we got the 1999 contract, which goes into much more detail. On page 14, it describes in four bullet points a wide range of services Gingrich would provide. The two that stand out are -- quote -- "to serve as adviser to Freddie Mac in the areas of strategic planning and public policy for Freddie Mac priority issues, also to engage in discussions with Mitchell Delk and other senior officers of Freddie Mac relative to strategize on approaches to Freddie Mac business opportunities and challenges."

Mitchell Delk, by the way, was Freddie Mac's senior vice president for government relations, in other words, their chief lobbyist.

According to Open Secrets' database, he was indeed a registered lobbyist for Freddie Mac. So, Speaker Gingrich's contract specifies activities that are right at the intersection of Freddie Mac issues and public policy. And he's being specifically hired to work with Freddie's head lobbyist.

Whoever drew up the contract seems to recognize that people could get the impression that it's lobbying in everything but name. So, on that very same page, page 14, there's this -- quote -- "Nothing herein is or shall be construed as an agreement to provide lobbying services of any kind or engage in lobbying activities."

Kevin Madden joins us now. He's a former Mitt Romney so much and still a Romney supporter. Also, Kellyanne Conway, a pollster and senior adviser to the Gingrich campaign.

Kevin, could it be a mistake for the Romney campaign to push the Freddie Mac attack when their own campaign might get caught in the crossfire?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's an important part of the contrast that you're going to try and place before voters in Florida.

Right now, I think voters will have to decide whether or not they want a nominee for the party and whether or not they want a president of the country who's been somebody who's been a Washington insider, somebody who has made their career in Washington, D.C., or whether or not they want someone like Governor Romney, who has built his career in the private sector outside of Washington, D.C., and as a very successful governor and as somebody who headed the Olympics in 2002.

So, those kind of contrasts at a time where voters are making that critical choice in a place like Florida and through the course of considerations that voters will go through the rest of this primary calendar, it's an important distinction for the candidates to make and let the voters make that decision.

COOPER: Kellyanne, the fact is Newt Gingrich did work for Freddie Mac. Romney did not. Why keep this storyline going?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, GINGRICH CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: You will have to ask the Romney people that, because they picked this fight. After the wheels came off the inevitability train, Anderson, they needed to go back to the playbook. There was nothing else in there. They were supposed to win three of three contests. It turns out he won one of three. He was the only electable one. He was the inevitable one.

Having broken the back of electability and showed that we can beat Obama the way Romney can beat Obama, we then wanted to have a level playing field on which to compete about the issues. But now we're just absorbing all this incoming about Freddie Mac. And you know the reports today, an Anderson.

It turns out that in Governor Romney's own tax returns, he and his wife have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars through mutual funds in government securities that include Fannie and Freddie. That was done after the government bailed them out.

COOPER: Is the hope that by tarring him with Freddie Mac as well that it sort of nullifies whatever...

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: I think the whole thing is pathetic, to be frank with you, because I don't think one job was created, one house was saved from foreclosure and one voter out there learned much about anything.

I do have to laugh. Kevin's an old friend and I respect him greatly. But if I see one more person with images of the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument behind their heads talking about what a Washington insider Newt Gingrich is -- the job for president of the United States is in Washington, D.C.

You have to have some type of relevant experience for that job. You can't just parachute in. And I noticed something by omission that Governor Romney and smart people around him like Kevin do all the time. They never talk about his record of governor. The fact is he doesn't just have a background in the private sector and the Winter Games. He was governor for four years. And he's running away from that record.

COOPER: Kevin, we thought this race would tighten a bit in Florida. The race is 23 points closer than it was two weeks ago. What happened to your candidate, in your opinion?

MADDEN: Well, look, I think this always happens.

Kellyanne and I have been around enough of these campaigns to know that at the beginning we always know that no matter what you have, a 22-point lead, 15-point lead, it will turn in to a two-, three-point lead. These things always tighten as voters go through their considerations.

We were not kidding as a campaign when we said very early on in this -- in this -- the earlier part of this year that this was going to be a very close race. Kellyanne mentioned the idea of inevitability. Nobody up in Boston, nobody working for Governor Romney across the country believed that this was an inevitable nomination.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: On your guys' Web site, I believe it said about South Carolina, it said, on Tuesday, the presidential candidate will be selected. I remember seeing that on your Web page.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: I'll tell you, There's another thing, too, Anderson, is there's never anything wrong with having a lot of confidence. You have to have confidence. You have to send those type of messages to your supporters.

But this is going to be a hard-fought race. The polls that we're seeing right now from CNN and others, they're reflecting that very close race. And that's why everybody's down in Florida working very hard to reach as many voters as possible to talk to them about Governor Romney's experience and also what he would do to fix the economy, because that's what they care about.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Kellyanne, let's talk about these polls, too, because your candidate, Gingrich, has if you look at the data closely -- he has fallen off post-Monday night's debate. Why do you think that is?

CONWAY: Well, I think in a previous program, Anderson, you probably saw the charts that showed how much negative advertising is being spent by which campaigns and which super PACs.

And it's not even close. That is not a close race. That is not a tight race, within the margin of error. Governor Romney's campaign and super PAC are spending incredible amounts of money, again not with positive ads about Governor Romney's record in Massachusetts. And if you look at it, you will understand why he doesn't want to talk about that.

COOPER: But given that a lot of absentee votes are already in and they probably favor Romney...

CONWAY: They definitely favor Romney.

COOPER: ... given the tide that it was when those votes were made, don't you guy haves to do better than simply what you might otherwise be able to do on Tuesday night?

CONWAY: Absolutely correct. Absolutely correct. That's the mathematical calculation we have made internally.

And, ironically, part of why Governor Romney benefited so greatly from those early and absentee voters was because everybody was pushing this narrative that he was the inevitable nominee, that it was going to be over before South Carolina. So people just leaned in to what they were told. He can win. He can win.

Anderson, the average voter doesn't ask himself who can win. He asks himself who can lead. And you're seeing a very different and expanded definition of leadership this cycle.

COOPER: Kevin, can your candidate, can Mitt Romney afford to lose Florida?

If he does not win Florida, what does that mean for his campaign?

MADDEN: Well, look, I think we will do very well in Florida and we will compete very strongly there.

I think that's going to be evident come Tuesday. But I think this is a campaign that's been built to endure the long haul. Ultimately, this is a delicate fight. And what we will need is over 1,500 delegates when we get to Tampa. The campaign is built around that.

If we don't win Florida, though I feel very confident about our chances there, this is still a campaign that goes on to Arizona, Michigan, the Nevada caucuses, and all the way through the summer.

COOPER: But if he doesn't win Florida, there would be shockwaves through that campaign, no?

MADDEN: Look, I think that the focus will remain on winning delegates all the way to Tampa. That remains the case.

This is still a campaign that has the organization, has the right message and has the resources to continue on.

COOPER: Kellyanne Conway, appreciate your time.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: And I can't emphasize enough though that we do feel good about Florida.

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: We feel even better.

COOPER: You feel even better.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Do you say if Romney doesn't win Florida, that the shock just huge?

CONWAY: There's a huge shockwave, because they keep on making excuses for each state that they don't win. Florida more diverse, et cetera, and it's more like the rest of the country.

The fact is that what will happen will be an extension of 2010, Anderson, which is when the voters themselves say, you know what, I'm not going to be told who can win, who I can vote for. I'm going to make up my own mind.

COOPER: Kellyanne Conway, appreciate it. Kevin Madden, thanks.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Another quick reminder. CNN is hosting the next GOP Florida debate. It's going to be fascinating, tomorrow night, 8:00 Eastern time, followed at 10:00 p.m. by a special edition of 360. Even applause is allowed at this debate, I understand.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+. Add us to your circles. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight.

Up next, "Keeping Them Honest" on promises the president made last night, just one catch. They sound an awful lot like promises he made three years ago on lowering your mortgage payments and making sure lenders don't rip you off.

Also tonight, Bill Maher, he's both a supporter and critic of President Obama from the left. We will get his take on the State of the Union and the state of the Republican opposition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Obama made fresh promises in his State of the Union speech to go after mortgage-related financial fraud and provide relief for homeowners facing foreclosure. He outlined a new mortgage fraud investigation unit, named a tough new sheriff, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, to help run it as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And tonight, I'm asking my attorney general to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the president also pushed for a way to give homeowners a break from big mortgage payments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I'm sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing at historically low rates. No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: But "Keeping Them Honest," both those proposals on mortgages and financial fraud don't just sound familiar. They're nearly identical to promises he's already made and programs he's already launched. Take a lock.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The plan I'm announcing focuses on rescuing families who played by the rules and acted responsibly by refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it by modifying loans for families stuck in subprime mortgages they can't afford as a result of skyrocketing interest rates or personal misfortune, and by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low, so that families can secure loans with affordable monthly payments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, that's President Obama back in 2009 talking about mortgage refinancing.

And here's his attorney general, Eric Holder, the same year unveiling the Justice Department's new financial investigation unit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm pleased today to announce the launch of an interagency financial fraud enforcement task force to combat financial crime.

The task force is designed to strengthen our collective efforts in conjunction with our federal, state and local partners to investigate and to prosecute significant financial crimes relating to the current financial crisis, to recover ill-gotten gains and to ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sounds pretty familiar, right?

The mortgage refinancing program called HAMP promised to lower monthly payments for three million to four million borrowers. Instead, as of this past summer, about 1.9 homeowners have been offered lower payments on a trial basis, but only 675,000 offers have been made permanent.

And as for the financial fraud unit, critics say that too has been a disappointment, raising questions tonight about President Obama's ability to deliver on his promises.

Jessica Yellin has been reporting on that side of the story and joins us now from Chandler, Arizona, where she is traveling with the president.

So, the administration, Jessica, already created this task force in 2009 specifically to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. So, is the creation of this new unit an acknowledgment that that task force wasn't very effective?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's an attempt to appease critics of the administration, liberal critics, who have been outraged from the beginning of the administration that not a single high-level executive has been jailed for blowing up the housing market and for abusive mortgage practices.

And it's an attempt to show his base some fight. So today I spoke to one source who's in the know on all of this who said because of this new task force, you will now see charges brought by the end of this year.

I spoke to another source who said, really? Well, what the heck has taken so long? Only he didn't use the word heck -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. And of course it is an election year, probably no coincidence with that.

Eric Schneiderman has been very critical of the administration's dealing with big mortgage servicers. Was his appointment intended to silence critics who say the administration hasn't done enough to go after abusive lending and mortgage practices?

YELLIN: So here's what you need to know about Eric Schneiderman.

He has been one of a handful of state attorneys general who has been a reluctant holdout on a deal that the Department of Justice is trying to cut with some of the big banks over bad mortgages. And these attorneys general have not liked the way -- this handful has not liked the way this deal is going.

And Schneiderman has been one of the folks saying, I'm not willing to sign on if you're going in that direction. So either he's cut a political deal with the administration and he will soon sign on to this thing in exchange for this high-profile political appointment, or he and the administration are about to be in a very awkward political position if he abstains.

And we just won't know until this deal is announced, Anderson. But what Schneiderman's fans say is that he's actually using the government so that he can get access to the tools, investigative tools at the IRS and the SEC to go after more banks in his state in New York, which he gets access to through this new posting. So we just have to wait a little bit longer to see how it plays out.

COOPER: All right, Jessica, Jessica Yellin, I appreciate the reporting tonight, traveling with the president.

Jessica, thanks.

Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher isn't one to mince words usually. His new special is called Crazy Stupid Politics," Bill Maher live from Silicon Valley. It's going to be shown live on Yahoo! on February 23. He's got plenty to say obviously about the Republican field, but he's a self-described liberal, doesn't shy away from criticizing President Obama either. I talked to the host of HBO's "Real Time" earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, Bill, when you heard the president announce in the State of the Union last night that his administration is now going after the banks who were neck-deep in the mortgage crisis, is that, do you think, a decisive move, or just too little, too late, election- year appeasing? What do you think?

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I think it was a breath of fresh air to find some reality on my television.

I mean, I have been doing nothing as most people have for the last many months but watching Republicans debate each other inside this bubble of irreality they live in.

So, to finally see somebody talking facts, yes, I mean, maybe it is a little too late, but at least we're living in a world, unlike the one where Mitch Daniels was portraying, where it's not haves and have- nots. It's haves and soon-to-be-haves, you know, this fantasyland, the carrot they're always holding in front of people.

At least Obama is living in the world of reality would be my answer.

COOPER: You have said, though, in the past, in the recent past, that you have been terribly disappointed with him. And I think you at one point said the magic is gone with Obama. Do you still feel that?

MAHER: Well, you know, this is what us liberals do. We carp and complain and we lose a little perspective sometimes.

Yes, there are ways in which Obama has been disappointing. But he always seems to come up in the bottom of the ninth and hit it out of the park, like I thought he did last night, and the debate. And, of course, nothing focuses the mind so much as seeing Republicans.

I'm sorry, but when you see Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney standing together, it makes Obama look pretty good. It really makes me run back in to his arms screaming.

COOPER: So you are optimistic for this election? You think, no matter who the Republican candidates are, you think Obama is going to win?

MAHER: Oh, definitely. My money is still on Mitt Romney. And I think he's going to get the nomination. And then I think Obama is going to beat him like a runaway sister wife. Yes, I do.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Like a runaway sister wife? What -- I haven't heard an FLDS punchline in quite a while. What...

MAHER: Oh, you should come to my stand-up show.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: OK. All right.

Why? Why do you think Romney can't win?

MAHER: Well, first of all, he's a rich guy in an environment now that is very poisonous for the wealthy. He's got a lot of baggage, you know? I mean, even his own base doesn't really like him, you know?

Some people in this country will not vote for a Mormon. He's got that going against him. But, basically, he just -- he's a flip- flopper. You know, it's interesting. The Republicans ran against John Kerry in 2004. Remember, he was a flip-flopper. They hated him for flip-flopping. Well, now they have the biggest flip-flopper of all.

They will have to flip-flop on flip-flopping.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And I think, you know, again, we have only heard the Republican side for so long, these endless debates, too many, Anderson, really.

COOPER: You think?

MAHER: I know you have one coming up, but too much.

COOPER: They have been really -- I think they have been really interesting.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: I do, too. I made the point on our show Friday night that the debates have been a good thing, even though people complain about them.

I said, for example, we would have never found out that Rick Perry was an idiot. You know, he was the guy that everybody was banking on for a while because he was just this mystical figure from Texas. They didn't know much about him. He looked like a president, standing tall in the saddle, little sound bites.

And then he got a chance to open his mouth. Well, you know, it is like the cute guy in the bar. The girl's all excited to meet him, and then he talks to her for two minutes and she's like, get me away from this guy. I can't even do it.

That was from the debates. But, look, there's a point where it's just too much. Why do we need two debates in Florida three days apart? It is like any television series. You love it. You love it. You love it. But at a certain point, it hits a peak, it jumps the shark. And then we're looking for something else.

And I feel like that's where we are with this debate. Monday was a bad episode. It was a bad episode of the series.

COOPER: Yes, but we're going to have applause and cheering, I believe, in the upcoming CNN debate.

MAHER: That's right. Newt Gingrich needs the mob.

He needs the crowd. I think he said he wasn't going to participate unless there was cheering and the crowd was allowed to make sounds in the upcoming debate. You know, he was throwing out the red meat, and the lion was just laying there. Well, that's no good for him. That's what he depends on, that sort of demagoguery.

And it's also better for the viewer, for the fan, for the fan of this reality series. I like to see the crowd cheer. And I like to see -- I would love to see Newt be the candidate, because I think he is even more beatable. Obama's beating him in Texas in the polls, Texas.

So if they want to nominate Newt Gingrich, this is a great day for liberals.

COOPER: We have a Text 360 question. It comes from Sean.

"Is there a position on which you agree with the Republican candidates?"

You have said pretty much -- at least in terms of foreign policy, I think you said you are on the same page as Ron Paul.

MAHER: Absolutely. But Ron Paul certainly doesn't express the opinions of most Republican voters, I don't think.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: Most Republican voters, they look at -- or at least the audience -- when Ron Paul -- and I got to say, you know, Ron Paul has some crazy ideas, like getting rid of the Fed. Yes, let's go back to the whims of the mining industry and the gold standard, stuff that I just don't agree on.

What he said about health care, we should just go back to neighbors helping out, just loony. But when it comes to things like the drug war and foreign policy, this guy is so great. And, also, even when I don't agree with him, at least he's honest. At least you get the feeling this is an authentic person saying what he really believes.

And as far as what he says about foreign policy, the guts to stand up there, debate after debate, while they boo him or look at him like he's got three heads. The others just stare at him, like, what are you talking about? The golden rule? Please, Ron Paul. This is the party that loves Jesus. What are you doing quoting the golden rule?

COOPER: Bill Maher.

Good to have you on, Bill. Thank you.

MAHER: OK, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Bill Maher.

Ahead on 360: the dramatic rescue of two aid workers, one of them an American held hostage in Somalia. U.S. Navy SEALs and other special ops carried out the mission -- details on the mission ahead.

Plus, an emotional day in Washington, as Congresswoman Gabby Giffords casts her final vote and says goodbye to her colleagues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Two kidnapped aid workers are free and out of Somalia tonight after a daring rescue by U.S. special forces.

The hostages, one American and a Dane, had been held captive for three months. The American is a woman named Jessica Buchanan.

Just after the State of the Union address last night, President Obama personally called Jessica's father to say his daughter has been rescued by U.S. military.

The father says he was, quote, "flabbergasted" to get the call. And even though the official news did not break until later, we all got an indication that something was up when the president greeted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the State of the Union.

Here's CNN Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence digging deep.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just seconds in to the president's arrival at the State of the Union speech, the first hint something had happened.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Good job tonight. Good job tonight.

LAWRENCE: At the moment he congratulated his defense secretary, U.S. Special Operations Forces were winding down a traumatic rescue operation half way around the world.

The U.S. military and FBI had been searching for the humanitarian aid workers since October when Somali kidnappers abducted American Jessica Buchanan and Poul Tisted. Now, they had found them more than 100 kilometers away. Officials obtained specific intel, where the hostages were and who was holding them. But a sense of urgency was building.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jessica's health was beginning to decline. She is a young woman in the 30s. We wanted to act and they did.

LAWRENCE: President Obama green lighted the mission Monday night and the weather was perfect for a Tuesday night assault. As Secretary Leon Panetta monitored the situation from the White House, Special Operations Forces parachuted into the area, among them SEAL Team 6, the same elite unit that killed Osama Bin Laden, if not the same men from the mission.

They confronted nine kidnappers with guns and explosives nearby and killed all nine. They found the hostages in an outdoor encampment and then hustled them on to helicopters and out of Somalia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Just incredible, this operation. Chris joins me now live from the Pentagon.

You mentioned in your piece that Jessica Buchanan's health was beginning to decline. Do we know how she's doing now?

LAWRENCE: Well, Anderson, that's what White House and Pentagon officials say was one of the main reasons they went on this mission, exactly when they did, on the same day as the president's State of the Union address.

But they won't comment specifically on her medical condition because of privacy laws. Now, an official with the aid group with whom she works says she wasn't that sick.

She may have needed some medicine at some point, but, Anderson, in any event, they're both doing OK and their families are traveling to meet them now.

COOPER: You said these SEALs are part of the same team that killed Bin Laden, SEAL Team 6. Do we know anything else about them?

LAWRENCE: The thing you're going to know most about them is that we'll never know their names. There are only about 300 of them operating now in the world. This was the same team, the snipers, that took down those pirates on a rocking boat out at sea when they had the captain of the Maersk Alabama captured on board his ship.

There were about 17 SEALs who were killed in a Chinook helicopter crash last year in Afghanistan.

But, Anderson, ironically, the man who sort of founded SEAL Team 6 says he just made up the name in order to trick some other countries into thinking that the United States had more Special Operations Forces than they really did at the time. COOPER: There are a lot of hostages from other countries still being held in Somalia. Any other hostages from the U.S. still being held there as far as we know?

LAWRENCE: Yes, you are exactly right. Hostages from India, the Philippines, South Korea, we believe there is one American who is being held by another pirate group.

The thing is, you know, there's been so much emphasis of cracking down on pirates at sea. They have gone to land to try to target some of the aid workers.

But, Anderson, you have worked with some of these aid groups in so many countries. The ironic thing is they're on shoe string budgets many times. They can't even begin to afford the millions of dollars in ransom that these pirates want.

COOPER: Right. I think there's a French national too who I know who is being held hostage in Mogadishu that was being look for a while back. I'm not sure if he's found yet.

The White House released a picture of the president calling Jessica's dad right after he delivered the State of the Union.

Do we know when she comes home?

LAWRENCE: Well, we don't believe she is going to come home to the United States. She was married. She had been working as a teacher in Nairobi.

So she lives overseas with her husband and we believe that her family is now on their way to Europe to meet up with her.

COOPER: Well, we wish her the best and just remarkable the precision of these teams. So glad they're able to come home safely.

Chris Lawrence, thank you very much.

Ahead on the program, accusations of a so-called honor killing in Canada. Three sisters allegedly killed by their own family. We'll explain that ahead.

But, first, Isha is back with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thousands of Egyptians packed Tahrir Square on this, the one-year anniversary of the start of the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. At times, the mood was joyous. Other times, tense with fear that protesters would clash with the military.

Legendary Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno was laid to rest today in a private service and thousands of fans and students lined the funeral procession to say goodbye. A public memorial honoring Paterno will be held tomorrow on campus. Joe Paterno died Sunday at the age of 85. And, Anderson, talk about a fashion statement. A golden cape made of silk extracted from spiders goes on display at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

To make the cape, dozens of specially trained handlers spent seven years collecting more than 1.2 million golden orb spiders like this one. What do you think? You like your clothes.

COOPER: I'm completely mystified. It's a golden cape made by spiders?

SESAY: It's a golden cape. There you see the cape there.

COOPER: Yes. A golden color, I suppose. OK. Not made out of gold.

SESAY: A golden hue.

COOPER: A hue. Thank you, OK.

SESAY: And the spiders spun the silk.

COOPER: How do you train those spiders to do that?

SESAY: This is what they do. Faster, faster and then they would pluck -- now I'm all geeky again with you. Pay attention.

Then they would pluck the spiders from their web. They would take the silk, return the spiders to the wild and spin their web again.

COOPER: Itsy-bitsy spider.

All right, Isha, thank you.

SESAY: You didn't really appreciate that.

COOPER: I'm completely baffled but I think it's amazing, I guess. I don know. Do spiders get paid? Anyway.

SESAY: Move on.

COOPER: Still ahead tonight, "Crime and Punishment," this is a remarkable story -- a family tragedy in the hands of a court, three sisters dead. Their parents called it a horrific accident. But investigators say, no, no. It was an honor killing -- so-called, linked to their faith.

Plus, a 360 follow. Mississippi authorities now offering a reward for information on where a freed inmate is hiding -- an inmate pardoned by the former governor that didn't show up in court this week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Crime and Punishment" now. In a Canadian courtroom, a headline-grabbing murder trial is nearing its end after days of disturbing testimony.

The prosecution says three young sisters were murdered by their parents and brother. Honor killing carried out because the girls have become too westernized.

The defense says the girls and another family member died in an accident during a joy ride in the family car. There was compelling evidence came from wiretaps of the family's minivan.

Here's Paula Newton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In so many ways, the Shafia sisters were typical teens, smart, beautiful. They enjoyed going out with friends and flirting with boys. But that's what might have gotten them killed.

It was during a family vacation in June 2009 when the car carrying a 19-year-old Zainab, a 17-year-old Sahar, 13-year-old Geeti and the woman they knew as Auntie Rona Amir Mohammed mysteriously plunged into this open canal drowning all four.

The girls' parents tearful interviews explained it was a horrific accident during a pit stop on their trip back from Niagara Falls. The parents said the girls took the car out for a spin while the rest of the family remained at the hotel in Kingston, Ontario.

(on camera): But even as their bodies were being taken out of the water, as the vehicle was being dragged up from out of the locks, police said they were learning something very different of what went on here that night and more importantly, what was going on in the Shafia household.

(voice-over): Suspicious police bugged the Shafia minivan. What they heard they say evidence of first-degree murder. Investigators claim hours of wiretapped conversations reveal how and why parents Tooba Mohamed Yahya and Mohammad Shafia, along with their son Ahmed planned the murders.

They also learned the so-called Auntie Rona was, in fact, Mohammed's other wife, co-wife to Tooba in a secret polygamist marriage.

Mother, father and son were charged with murder in the summer of 2009. Now, they're on trial. They've all pled not guilty.

Prosecutors are relying heavily on the bugged conversations. In one, Mohammed Shafia says in the Afghan language Dari: "I say to myself, you did well. Would they come back to life a hundred times, you should do the same again."

In another, "May the devil defecate on their graves. This is what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?" CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD, EDITORIAL WRITER: I think that the wiretaps are extremely damaging to all three of them.

NEWTON: Columnist Christie Blanchford has sat through all the evidence, every wiretap, every witness. She's become an advocate to the victims.

BLATCHFORD: We've been treated to the amusing side of defense lawyers saying, well, when you said, may the devil (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on their graves, what did you mean by that? What other possible explanation but that is there for any of these things?

NEWTON: But interrogations of the family never uncovered a motive. Why would a mother, father and brother kill four members of their own family? The prosecution contends these were honor killings carried out by parents from a very conservative Afghan background to punish rebellious, increasingly westernized daughters.

Zainab ran off to marry a Pakistani man her parents hated. Sahar wore revealing clothes and had secret boyfriends. And little Geeti was failing in school and calling social workers to get her out of a violent home. Auntie Rona was their advocate.

Exactly how these girls died is also a mystery, but the prosecutors say they have clues. The shattered headlight on the family Lexus matches the damage on the rear bumper on the girls' car, suggesting it was rammed in to the canal.

Police also believe the victims may have been killed or beaten unconscious before the car hit the water. That would explain why they didn't escape, even though their seat belts were unbuckled and the canal was only seven feet deep.

In one of the most chilling conversations recorded, Mohammed Shafia labels his daughters dirty whores, steadfast, he says, my conscience is clear.

Prosecutors are now trying to prove to that to the Shafias, honor was more important than life, even if it meant killing their three daughters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Completely warped idea of honor. We have seen this in the Islamic world and Turkey and we've seen it in Pakistan and Afghanistan. To see it in Canada, the defense team finished up its closing arguments today, what did the lawyers put forward to try to dispute the wiretap evidence and prove reasonable doubt?

NEWTON: You know, this case, Anderson, is still circumstantial. What the prosecution doesn't have is an exact time of death even though they know they drowned. The defense tried to say, look, they didn't have any time to kill their family.

These were not women who were being led like lambs to slaughter. They would have fought back. This could not have possibly happened. But, you know, to your point earlier, Anderson, about the fact these are honor killings, the defense is trying to hone in on motive. They claim there was no motive. This family would have never wiped out these women in such a cruel, malicious way. You know, the mother even getting on the stand and saying, I have never heard of honor killings.

They're really trying to say that, look, if they have to call those dead women liars and the defense did it point blank today, they were very blunt, they lied to social workers, they lied to people saying they were abused in this family. Why? So that they could get their way and do what they wanted with the family, there was nothing going on.

COOPER: The mom actually got on the stand and said she'd never heard of honor killings?

NEWTON: Absolutely, she said it twice.

COOPER: I mean, that's -- I mean, hard to believe. I think anybody who's traveled at all in any part of the world has heard of them.

Paula, appreciate the reporting. We'll continue to follow this.

Up next, an emotional day on the House floor as Congresswoman Gabby Giffords steps down.

And as world leaders try to end the violence in Syria, two dozen people are killed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: On the House floor today, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords casts a final vote before stepping down to focus on her recovery from a shooting that nearly killed her a year ago.

The drug smuggling bill she co-sponsored passed unanimously. After the vote, an emotional scene as Giffords' colleagues paid tribute to her and she said goodbye in a letter read by her friend, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Here's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gabby Giffords emotional final morning as a member of Congress began with a labored last walk to the House chamber.

And ended with a behind the scenes moment captured by CNN, a hug from one of the many workers she encountered during her five years here.

On the floor, moving tributes:

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: She has brought the word dignity to new heights by her courage.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: As each person spoke, Giffords turned in her seat to face them.

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: Gabby, we love you. We have missed you.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Occasional wave and a smile to husband, Mark and mother, Gloria, and barely a dry eye in the House.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIRWOMAN: No matter what we argue about here on this floor or in this country, there is nothing more important than family and friendship. And that should be held on high above all else.

BASH: Debbie Wasserman Schultz lent her friend, Gabby, her voice reading her resignation letter aloud.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Always I fought for what I thought was right, but never did I question the character of those with whom I disagreed. Never did I let pass an opportunity to join hands with someone just because he or she held different ideals.

I have given all of myself to being able to walk back on to the House floor this year to represent Arizona's 8th Congressional District. However, today, I know that now is not the time. I have more work to do on my recovery before I can again serve in elected office.

BASH: With that, a dramatic climb to the speaker's chair to personally hand a teary John Boehner the letter formally ending her service in Congress.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: An emotional day. Let's get the latest now on some of the other stories we're following.

Isha is back in a "360 News and Business Bulletin."

SESAY: Anderson, a bloody day in Syria. Activists said 24 people were killed nationwide including at least four in homes where shelling was heavy. There were also attacks on Hama. Activists said the Red Crescent official and a priest were among those killed today.

A "360" follow. Mississippi authorities offering an award to help tracking Joseph Ozment, one of four convicted murderers pardoned by former Governor Haley Barbour.

Ozment failed to appear to court hearing Monday in a case challenging the pardons.

And Apple became the most valuable publicly traded company in the world, one day after reporting the best quarterly results in history for a tech company. Its stock rose 6.3 percent to more than $447 a share.

That's the latest -- Anderson.

COOPER: A Connecticut mayor is under fire for insensitive comments about Latinos. Is his apology enough? Soledad is going to talk to one of the alleged victims in the town's controversial profiling case. That's morning, "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien, at 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up, a whole new way to read a classic of American literature in the bathroom.

"The Ridiculist" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist."

Tonight, we're adding a little story about some light bathroom reading. Here's the short version, someone is selling six rolls of toilet paper on eBay. But these aren't just any old rolls of toilet paper -- no, no. This particular toilet paper just so happens to contain the entire typewritten text of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," the entire novel.

One of the greatest American novels ever written painstakingly reproduced on four and a half rolls of toilet paper plus about a fifth of a roll for the epilogue.

Now, the seller who goes by the moniker the Hep Cat (ph) writes in the description on eBay that a friend made a bet that he wouldn't or couldn't type a novel on a toilet paper.

One economy-sized pack of two-ply later, an entirely flushable "Moby Dick." What more could you possibly ask for other than a video of the toilet paper dramatically unfurling as a passage from the novel is read?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For as it eventually turned out he cared not to consort for five minutes with a stranger captain except he could contribute some of that information he so absorbingly sought.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And, yes. We chose that passage because it contained the phrase "absorbingly." Look, I don't know if this is real or not. I find it hard to believe, but these literary scrolls can be all yours for $999.95. I know that sounds like a lot money for six rolls of toilet paper, but just imagine if this is real, the time and effort involved here. Not since the Captain Ahab himself has there been pinpoint focus on such a grand task.

Think about it. "Moby Dick" contains about 211,000 words, assuming an average typing speed of, I don't know, 40 words per minute, someone spent about 88 hours typing this thing, probably more because I can only imagine how carefully one must spool toilet paper into a typewriter. Are there even typewriters left in the world?

Sadly, the last time we check, there were zero bids on this eBay auction, but I don't think the seller should be discouraged. I think this person has true entrepreneurial vision.

There's so many great works of literature that lend themselves to this kind of bathroom-based repurposing. Take "Lord of the Flies" for instance, "The Call of the Wild," "Gone with the Wind," just to name a few.

All would be tremendous on toilet paper. "The Sound and the Fury," "Howard's End," "Something Wicked This Way Comes." You get the point.

"Moby Dick" is only the beginning because after all when nature calls and says, call me Ishmael it's a whole new way to get really absorbed in a novel on "The Ridiculist."

Hey, that's it for us. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.