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Interview with Peter King; Interview with Roberta Flack

Aired February 16, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST, OUTFRONT: How real is the Iran threat? Can Iran kill Americans in America? The bottom line.

And Chris Christie finds himself in a New Jersey flag flap, criticized for honoring Whitney Houston. And days after her death, details about Whitney's final hours continuing to emerge, what was found in her hotel room. Let's go OUT FRONT.


BURNETT: Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. And OUT FRONT tonight, Iran's threat to the United States in the United States, right here at home. Now, as we said last night, no one buys Iran's claim that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Today on Capitol Hill, national intelligence director James Clapper drove that message home.


JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Iran's technical advances, particularly in uranium enrichment, strengthen our assessment that Iran is more than capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon, if its political leaders -- specifically, the Supreme Leader himself, chooses to do so.


BURNETT: Now Clapper also said that Iran has the largest supply of ballistic missiles in the Middle East and that they could one day be capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction.

Now this is footage of Iran's test missiles, which they do like on show to the world, to show the power of their program. And the country is working in intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well. They want them -- developing them to fire 2,000 miles.

And consider this, a high-ranking Israeli official said earlier this month that Iran is working on missiles with a range of some 6,000 miles. That is far enough to hit the United States of America.

Now, an expert that we spoke with said that fitting an intercontinental ballistic missile with a warhead could take months, perhaps years. But once you get the missile technology, you can get that warhead technology not far behind. But it is important to note that experts also tell us that Israel may be exaggerating Iran's long-range missile capability. But on a smaller, but perhaps a much more real and frightening scale, Iran could attack the United States in a much more fearsome way.

The top intelligence officer for the New York Police Department, the NYPD, Mitchell Silber, said this week in an op-ed that Iran's next target could be here in the nation's largest city. Right. Given Iran's increasingly bellicose rhetoric and its long history of sponsoring terror attacks abroad, the NYPD must remain vigilant in attempting to detect and disrupt any attack by Iran or its proxies.

Now intelligence officer calls this no idle threat. And remember this fall, the U.S. government says Iran was planning to bomb a crowded restaurant in Washington, D.C. The target was this man, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.

But perhaps 100 or more Americans would have died, too. The defendant is an American of Iranian descent, and he stands trial. And in 2004, two guards at Iran's United Nations mission were sent back to Tehran after videotaping city landmarks, including bridges and the Statue of Liberty.

Now this week the Iranian government is suspected of carrying out bombing attacks against Israeli diplomats in Thailand, India and the Republic of Georgia. The question is, will Iran strike inside the United States? OUT FRONT tonight, Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Good to talk to you, sir. Appreciate this.


BURNETT: And I know that you have been briefed -- and obviously Mr. Clapper has briefed you on many of the details -- and you've been told there is no specific plot at this time. Are you satisfied with the intelligence that you've been getting?

KING: Erin, I am, because even though there is no specific plot, the intelligence community does believe that an attack could very well happen. Right now a threat from Iran, a possible attack from Iran, is the greatest threat we face, and every threat is being tracked down.

So while there is no specific threat, we're assuming -- we have to assume that one could occur. That's why the NYPD -- and, by the way, I agree totally with Mr. Silber, that we have to assume that Hezbollah would be the proxy for Iran and could well carry out the attack. So, no, I'm convinced CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, all of them, plus local police like the NYPD, are working 24/7 on this.

BURNETT: And has this changed? I mean, now you're saying that Iran is the greatest threat for a terror attack in the United States. Whether they do it through Hezbollah proxy or otherwise, has that changed, has the recent rhetoric and conversation raised that threat level or not? KING: It really hasn't. There's been several things. One is the -- obviously the tremendous tension in the Middle East with Israel and Iran and the fact that Iran is getting so close to having a weapon, a nuclear weapon.

Secondly is the fact that back in December, we stopped the plot of the attack upon the -- or the assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador, the attempt to blow up Cafe Milano, which would have killed hundreds of Americans. That was really crossing a red line.

And all the chatter that's out there, just the general consensus among everyone in the intelligence community is that, right now, Iran and Hezbollah would be the number one threat to the United States.

Also unlike Al Qaeda, which is still a very serious threat or at least the offshoots of al Qaeda are, Hezbollah is a state-trained terrorist organization. That is really the major leagues of terrorism.

And Iran launches Hezbollah, then there's a real concern.

BURNETT: And if the United States were to -- when you have these conversations with security officials, if the United States were to intervene or arm the opposition in Syria, Syria being a place that Iran -- Iran's ally, or Iran has been -- has been very involved, does that put America and Americans at home at greater risk of these sorts of attacks, in your view?

KING: Yes, it does. That can't be enough to stop us from doing whatever we feel we have on do, but obviously the tightening of the sanctions increases the risk. I think obviously if we get engaged with Syria or with Iran, ultimately, and the confrontation with Israel, then, yes, that definitely increases the likelihood that Iran and/or Hezbollah would strike within the United States.

We're assuming that. We're assuming, which is why we're trying to monitor everyone in this country who has had contact with Hezbollah in the past, who is associated with Hezbollah. Some are just into fundraising. Others are facilitators. We're monitoring very, very carefully.

BURNETT: Do you think there could already be an Iranian or a Hezbollah sleeper cell in the United States, given there will have been reports -- and, again, suspected unconfirmed -- that Iran could have been involved in those bombing targets in the past few days for Israeli officials overseas?

KING: Erin, we have to assume that they are. And that's certainly what Mr. Silber was making clear in his op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal." This is what Iran has done in Argentina years ago. It's certainly what they're now doing overseas in Thailand and India, in Georgia.

So, no, we have to assume that. And again, we hope not, but we assume they do, and that's why I can tell you there is a tremendous amount of counterterror activity by all the elements of the U.S. intelligence community, right across the board, and also state and local.

BURNETT: Just about the rhetoric, I'm just wondering, some people say, well, look, the rhetoric's overblown, you all keep talking about this, this really -- that's part of the problem. What do you say to those criticisms, that this is about -- this more about rhetoric than reality?

KING: No, you take -- and, again, I'm a Republican saying this. I have no reason to be defending a Democratic administration for political reasons.

When you have people like General Clapper and General Petraeus, when you have, really, across the board in the intelligence community in this administration, all the leaders saying how concerned they are about an attack from a Iran, a possible attack from Iran or Hezbollah, when you have the NYPD, which has the best local counterterrorism unit in the entire country, which works -- also works 24/7, and you see what Iran is doing overseas, we would be negligent in not talking about it, because it's important to alert local governments, local communities, especially if anyone in their community sees any activity or sees anything unusual to call the police, call the FBI.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. Representative King, we appreciate it.

All right. Well, with the GOP split between Romney and Santorum, the dream for some, the nightmare for others, isn't that the way things are in life? A brokered convention. And is this the moment Chris Christie has been waiting for?

And two years after he tried to blow up a plane, the underwear bomber -- when we talk about terrorists -- is finally sentenced today.

And should a man, who murdered his two children and himself, be allowed to be buried next to them?


BURNETT: Late word this afternoon: CNN canceling its March 1st Republican debate in Atlanta, Georgia, after Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum both dropped out. So this came on the same day that a Michigan poll came out saying the Santorum threat in Romney's home state is rising.

Romney has some real weakness with the Republican rank and file. And adding to the uncertainty in the race is the likelihood of Texas, with a massive 155 delegates, delaying its primary from April 3rd -- it could be late May, some saying even later. The date is contested still.

Now, it's still a little bit early to talk about a possible brokered convention, but that hasn't stopped us from doing it, frankly, for the past several months. All right. Now here's what a brokered conversation is. No candidate wins majority of the delegates needed. There's a magic number, right? Nobody gets to it, and the contest goes all the way to the convention in August. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We would be looking at a brokered convention. I mean, nobody is quite there yet. So I think that months from now, if that's the case, then, you know, all bets are off as to who it will be willing to offer themselves up in the name of service to their country. I would -- I would do whatever I could to help.


BURNETT: Hmm. Think -- I think I know what she was saying, right? Am I missing something? OK. I think James Carville, there, too.

All right. For history, guys, last time we had a brokered conversation, 1952 for Democrats, '48 for Republicans. So will it happen in 2012? You saw John Avlon, Reihan Salam and James Carville there, but, John, let's go through the scenarios first -- you looked at all three of them -- of how the contest plays out.

First, if Romney gets the necessary delegates, when do we -- when do we know?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So what we played with -- we were playing with the CNN delegate calendar just to create a sense of the dimensions we're talking about, right? We're really OUT FRONT on this.

But just to give us a sense of how far this is from being done, if Mitt Romney won all the contests, all the delegates, starting with the 28th, it would take until April 3rd to get the necessary number of delegates. Magic number: 1,144.

BURNETT: Of course, and that scenario involves him winning Georgia and a whole lot of other places.

AVLON: Everything. 100 percent (inaudible), ain't going to happen. It's the North Korea scenario.


AVLON: Same number -- same number it would take Rick Santorum, if he won everything -- again, just establishing the premise -- till April 24th.

BURNETT: April 24th.

AVLON: Right.



BURNETT: And neither one of those scenarios are likely.

AVLON: Ain't going to happen.

BURNETT: So get me a brokered conversation, John.

AVLON: Here's what's interesting. If you took Romney and Santorum, and split the delegates today, split all the proportional states 50/50 roughly, and split up the winner-take-all states, half and half, you actually get a situation where nobody wins the 1,144 necessary. Mitt Romney would come up just short at 1,136. That is a step to a brokered convention.

Add in Ron Paul, going to stay in the race, keep siphoning off delegates, the point is, it has gone from simply being an overheated political fantasy to a dim possibility. Mathematically, you work with the numbers, this could actually happen.

BURNETT: It was a fantasy. And a fantasy for some is a, you know, a nightmare for others. Right, Reihan?

REIHAN SALAM, "THE DAILY": As we well know.

BURNETT: Right. So which is it for you?

SALAM: Well, I think the dream scenario for a lot of people is that you suddenly get in some other candidate -- some fantasize about Chris Christie, some say Mitch Daniels from Indiana -- and that person is going to swoop in and save the Republican Party from itself at the very last minute.

The problem is, you know, these are all guys who knocked around the idea, thought about it and decided not to do it. These are all people with their own skeletons in the closet, their own vulnerabilities.

I think that you're just going to have a battered and bruised nominee. If you get to a brokered convention, you've going to have to hammer out some kind of deal that's going to make any candidate look very compromised. So I think it's more bad news.

BURNETT: James Carville, Republicans not accepting the really of the fact that they've got what they've got, they kind of know what they've got. I mean, is that -- is that a brokered convention where they can't face that reality in time, is that good for you, are you salivating at that idea?

JAMES CARVILLE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, you know, first of all, I think a lot of Republicans have faced with the reality as we just heard. I mean, this thing has gone from bad to just down right awful (inaudible).


CARVILLE: I mean, if I was -- if there was a way, if I was a Republican, I would just say let's just stop right now. Just take a time-out, let's think about this thing for a week and come back and try plan B, because plan A is not going well here, guys. I'm not sure that some kind of a -- what I thought about is maybe somebody does get in late and wins the last five or six primaries and looks strong when they come into Tampa with a -- you know, obviously nowhere close to the number of delegates they need.

But that assumes that Santorum or Romney or Ron Paul, or Gingrich, for that matter, give up delegates, it -- look, this is -- at this point, there are more bad things that could happen than good things. And that, if you're a Democrat, that is a good thing.

BURNETT: OK. But coming in at the last minute, say you miss the Southern primaries. Let's play the Chris Christie scenario out for a second, because I know some of you out there, you just can't give up on that one.

OK. You get -- you don't have him going in the South because he's too pro-gun control. He's got other issues. You come in and you get a lot of the Northern states. What happens if someone gets in after Super Tuesday?

AVLON: It's actually too late to get on the ballot in the vast majority of states.

BURNETT: So you can't even get on the ballot.

AVLON: Yes. It can't happen. So any fantasy, you know, scenario involves a long ball attempt, and it would involve a brokered convention. Remember, all delegates are released after the first ballot. We just haven't seen those kind of politics in a long, long time.

So, I mean, you know, keep hope alive if you want, folks, but it's going to be --

BURNETT: Keep hope alive --


AVLON: (Inaudible) Tampa, it's not going to be --

CARVILLE: (Inaudible) we like -- we like to speculate. I mean, what's wrong with that? I mean, you know, maybe the guy gets on -- but one -- Christie's big problem is, remember, he repeatedly said the reason he didn't run is that he was not ready to be president.


CARVILLE: That's a time -- it's one thing if you say I'm not running for president, then you get in. That happens all the time. Of course, I don't know how voters would react to that or somebody, you know, with (inaudible) here. But it's not loony to think that they could get to Tampa without somebody at 11.4 (ph).

BURNETT: It's not loony -- it's not loony to say that, yes, that would be a bad sound bite and in the inevitable -- in the inevitable ad. James Carville, what about Sarah Palin, who, I mean, you know, we know. She's on TV a lot, so I don't know what she was saying, but it sure sounded to me like she was saying she would step up to the plate if needed.

CARVILLE: Yes, if we're talking about fantasizing, if she would be the nominee, that would be something.


CARVILLE: President Obama is the luckiest man that I know of. I've always said that. My -- he can't be -- even he's not that lucky.


CARVILLE: (Inaudible), they'd go, oh, please, let that happen. That's a two-stage scenario. Now you have Utah and South Carolina -- maybe.

BURNETT: Reihan?

SALAM: So here's the thing. I mean, if Romney is wounded, if delegates are released, then it's going to matter who Romney supports, right? So who has been his most effective surrogate?

Chris Christie has been an effective surrogate, but who has Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia, who's the guy who ran a very formidable campaign, won over a lot of suburban voters. It's someone who's been very effective on Romney's behalf. So is there a --

BURNETT: It's hard because no one nationally knows who he is.


SALAM: That's fair, but I think the thing is that Romney -- again, you know, what's going to happen is who do they want to release their delegates to?

AVLON: Let's just remember -- I mean, we're getting way OUT FRONT here. But the point is, what's significant --

CARVILLE: That's the name of the show.



BURNETT: It's a verb. Get OUT FRONT, John. (Inaudible).

AVLON: -- credit. I was referencing the name of the show, but the point here is, is that the math is a real problem for Republicans right how. It's not a joke anymore. With Texas moving back, it becomes harder and harder for any candidate to clinch this realistically until late May or June.

And there are scenarios in place where nobody gets to 1,144. That nightmare scenario -- or fantasy scenario, depending on your perspective -- is not impossible.

BURNETT: Some fantasies are nightmares.

AVLON: That's exactly right.

BURNETT: OK. We talked about Chris Christie and he is in the midst of another controversy. The guy loves controversies. He said he's going to fly New Jersey's flags at half-staff for Whitney Houston this weekend.

Critics on Twitter say he is, quote, "celebrating a junkie, disrespecting those for who the honor -- whom it should be, but I guess it was probably said who -- is reserved." Christie responded on Twitter, quote, "I'm not saying that Whitney Houston is a role model. What she is is a cultural icon in the history of this state."

Reihan, smart politics?

SALAM: Absolutely. Chris Christie is running in a very diverse, very urban state and he's got -- who, as a Republican's, already at a big disadvantage. He has to demonstrate that he's in tune with the times and that a lot of people from Whitney Houston was a role model.

People of my generation for whom she was just the role model of female dignity. And I think that it would be crazy of him not to. So I think this was a very good move and it also demonstrates that he's a more broad-minded political figure.

BURNETT: What do you think, James? Smart move?

CARVILLE: I agree completely with what he said, that is a very, very good point, I think. And I think the governor is willing to -- I didn't realize it till 170 million albums, I mean, my God, you know, tragic the way that she -- her life went toward the end, obviously, but he's not celebrating that. I think I agree with the governor. I think that -- made a good point.

BURNETT: It is interesting what -- I mean, politically, the point it makes, but also just, I mean, it is a state that's very proud of its musicians.


BURNETT: I mean, Bruce Springsteen --

CARVILLE: Bruce is coming to Jazzfest. Bruce is coming to Jazzfest.


AVLON: Yes, he is. He's closing out Sunday. That's absolutely true.

CARVILLE: My man Quinton, he gets everybody down there.

AVLON: But it's the governor's job to give love to a Jersey girl, and build the state, show some Jersey pride. So that's what he's doing with this.

BURNETT: And it shows one thing we know about Chris Christie, he loves his state.

AVLON: Yes, he does.

BURNETT: Got to be some -- a thing you could do on governors, who are governors of states in which they were not born and don't really care about. I'll bet you there's a real difference in records. A separate question to raise.

All right. Thanks to all of you.

CARVILLE: All right.

BURNETT: Good to see you.

All right. Life in prison. That is the sentence for the so- called underwear bomber. Now, you remember this. It was Christmas Day in 2009 when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab hid a bomb in his underwear and boarded a Northwest Airlines flight in Amsterdam.

As the plane neared Detroit, he tried but failed to detonate the bomb. Instead, flames shot to the roof of the plane and it set off widespread panic. Now, you remember that passengers on that plane, especially after 9/11, they stepped up, they restrained him, they fought back. Flight attendants scrambled to put out the blaze with fire extinguishers, and the plane landed safely.

For the sentencing today, prosecutors showed for the first time video of what could have happened if the plot worked. And you're seeing some of that now. Frightening images. And I actually remember that Christmas Day because I got the call to go to Nigeria to report on Abdulmutallab, spent time at his family's house.

And people close to him at the time said they were, well, incredibly embarrassed. (Inaudible) the whole country of Nigeria was humiliated and embarrassed by this.

Joining me now is CNN's Deb Feyerick, who's in Detroit. She was inside the courtroom today.

Deb, what was his demeanor, how did he react to the sentence?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN REPORTER: He was emotionless. He was virtually emotionless. He stared straight ahead, making eye contact only with his lawyer. And you have to understand, this was a packed courtroom.

But as that bomb video was played, he said "Allah akbar," after each explosion. There were three demonstrations. He said, "Allah akbar," God is great, God is great. And he did have an opportunity, Erin, to give a statement. And in that statement he said, "Mujahedeen are proud to kill, that's what I did."

Now, his parents, that you mentioned, they were in Detroit and they actually planned to come here to the court to be in that room. They decided at the last minute not to. But his lawyer says that they do want to see him because they understand it could very well be the last time they do, certainly before he's sent away to a supermax prison, Erin.

BURNETT: I mean, just you recounting how he reacted and what he said, I think that makes everyone's stomach turn. It was awful and disgusting. Now I know that Abdulmutallab chose to act as his own attorney, but the court had assigned him an attorney and I know you had a chance to speak with Anthony Chambers right after the sentencing. What did he have to say about his client?

FEYERICK: Well, you know, Erin, he wasn't surprised. First of all, he wasn't surprised by the sentencing. As a matter of fact, he said that he and Abdulmutallab spoke about appealing a couple of days ago, because they sort of realized it was a foregone conclusion that he would be serving life. But he says his client stands by his convictions.


ANTHONY CHAMBERS, ATTORNEY FOR ABDULMUTALLAB: He has not apologized or given any indication of being remorseful, I would agree with that. He seems to be committed to what he did and to a cause.


FEYERICK: And, Erin, also, you know, just hearing his own lawyer say, look, me and Abdulmutallab, we didn't talk about politics and we didn't talk about religion. He knows that what Abdulmutallab did, he still continues to believe it was the right thing, that it was a blessed thing that he did by trying to bring that plane down with all 289 people aboard, Erin.

BURNETT: There were 289 people aboard and I know that -- I remember talking to some of them at the time, and sort of the fear that they couldn't believe how close they had come. I know that six of them spoke before the sentencing. Let's just listen quickly to one of them.


SHAMA CHOPRA, WITNESS TO ATTEMPTED BOMBING: Everybody was scared we was about to die. We thought that the plane is going on blow up in a few seconds. But somehow by the grace of God we were saved on that day. So for one moment, we thought that we were going all die and we were in tears, but, thank Lord, we safe -- we landed safely. And you know, so today is a day to serve the justice.


BURNETT: How emotional were some of the victims in court as they heard him say that "Allah akbar," when he was watching what would have happened, had he succeeded?

FEYERICK: You know, they were very emotional because they understand just how close they came to dying. Now, the woman you heard there, it was interesting. She says she still remembers the smell of his flesh burning. Remember this was a device sewn into his undergarments. When it ignited, it sent flames climbing up the wall of the plane.

But at one point, that woman, addressed him directly, she said, "Umar, look at me." She said, "I have sons." She said, "I forgive you," which was fascinating.

There was another Delta flight attendant, the one who actually put out the flames, he was so emotional, he said he still has nightmares and his dream job he had traveling the world, he said there's no joy in it for him anymore.

And still a third said, "My family and I, we pray for you. We pray for you, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab."


BURNETT: Wow, that's amazing she said she forgave him. Our Deb Feyerick, reporting in with, as you could hear it, in that emotional courtroom today.

Well, we have new details about Whitney Houston's final hours and what investigators have found in her hotel room today. That's next.

And then Amanda Knox. She's home. And she sold her memoir. (Inaudible) the number.

And should Josh Powell be allowed to be buried next to his children, the ones he murdered?


BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting, do the work, and find the OUT FRONT five. And first tonight, Iran's threat to the United States.

National intelligence director James Clapper said today that Iran is on its way to producing a nuclear weapon, and this comes as there are fears and a report from the intelligence community that says Iran could carry out an attack on American soil. A top intelligence official for the NYPD says New York City is a possible target.

I asked Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, about how serious the threat is.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Even though there is no specific plot, the intelligence community does believe that an attack could very well happen right now, threats from Iran, a possible attack from Iran is the greatest threat we face. And every threat stream is being tracked down. So while there is no specific threat, we're assuming -- we have to assume that one could occur. That's why the NYPD and, by the way, I agree totally with Mitch Silva (ph) that we have to assume that Hezbollah would be the proxy for Iran, that could well carry out the attack.

So, no, I am convinced CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, all of them, plus local police like the NYPD are working 24/7 on this.


BURNETT: Number two, an extension of the payroll tax cut through the end of the year ready for a vote. We have learned congressional negotiators have signed off on an agreement. Republicans dropped their request to have spending cuts pay for $100 billion extension of the payroll tax cut. The Congressional Budget Office says the deal will add $89 billion to America's debt. A vote in the House and the Senate could come tomorrow.

Number three, publisher Harper Collins has acquired the rights to publish Amanda Knox's memoir. The book will likely be published next year. Harper Collins wouldn't comment on how much Knox would be paid. But that wouldn't stop and multiple reports put that number at $4 million.

Knox who said she kept diaries while in prison is convicted of murdering her roommate but later cleared and released.

Number four: jobless claims dropped to a four-year low or close to it -- much lower than anyone was looking for. Initial jobless claims coming in at 348,000.

Strategist Dan Greenhouse (ph) told OUTFRONT that if this trend continues, we could see monthly jobs reports show 200,000 or more new jobs added every month.

Well, it has been 195 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, lower than expected inflation data, better than expected housing numbers could help -- sent the Dow higher by 123 points today, just over 12,900. And that, everyone is the highest we have seen since May of 2008.

Well, Whitney Houston's funeral will be in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday. It's going to be a star-studded affair with a guest list, which includes Kevin Costner, Chaka Khan, and Houston's ex-husband Bobby Brown. There will be performances by Stevie Wonder and Whitney's godmother Aretha Franklin. And it will be broadcast live here on CNN.

Five days after the 48-year-old pop star died at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, details continue to emerge about her final days. In addition to being seen drinking by the hotel pool before 10:00 in the morning, sources say investigators found Xanax and Amoxicillin in her room. Now, whether she was taking those when she died is still unknown. But for those who knew Houston, these developments are disturbing but frankly not surprising.

Singing legend Roberta Flack has known Whitney Houston and her family for decades and she will be at the funeral this weekend and she spoke out for the first time since Houston's death.

I spoke to her earlier and asked her why she chose to come OUTFRONT now.


ROBERTA FLACK, SINGER: I wanted a chance to talk about her artistry, you know? I think that's what we need to be stressing at this time. There's so much been written, not only since her unfortunate passing, but even before, so many negative things about Whitney and all the bad news. And the real point is that she was a great talent, had a very unique singing voice and style, and could just, you know, wipe you out.

BURNETT: Her voice, such a beautiful thing, an incredible thing. And there's a feeling that because of drug use maybe, she could have hurt her voice.

I just wanted to play for you her performing with Grammy nominated singer Kelly Price just a couple of days ago. Here she is.


FLACK: It's hard to listen to. And I've heard it. They've been playing that. And, OK, if that's the way we want to remember her. I don't. I don't.

What I want to remember Whitney -- I play all of those songs that were big hits for her. The songs that she did that Michael Masser wrote for her, "The Greatest Love of All," "Saving All My Love for You," "Run to You" from "The Bodyguard" -- where she talks about the need to run to somebody who can save her, you know?

And I'm thinking -- could there ever have been a time or point in her performance of that song when she really felt that she needed to -- and I'm sure the answer is yes even before I ask the question. That she really felt she needed to run somewhere, so she could be safe.

And, of course, I know her mother, so I know she was safe there.

BURNETT: Are you angry, though, that people didn't intervene, and angry -- I mean, angry that such a beautiful voice could end up like we heard? Just --

FLACK: I'm not angry. I'm confused, because I think that there was enough written about her to warn all of us in the sense that something needed to be done. We needed to, you know, step up. BURNETT: Did you ever think yourself about stepping in some were you aware of the problems, did you ever feel you wanted to but were afraid to?

FLACK: Yes. Absolutely.

BURNETT: Because a lot of people --


BURNETT: -- who don't have famous people in their lives like Whitney Houston are afraid to step in.

FLACK: Even with someone like myself, I'm sure that there were a number of people -- even people, relatives --

BURNETT: When did you last think about I should say something or I want to say something?

FLACK: Well -- to Whitney.

BURNETT: To Whitney?

FLACK: I wouldn't say anything to Whitney. I probably would have gone around the band, maybe to Clive Davis who I know fairly well, or even to her mom to say is there anything.

But, you know, there's certain things that we understand between each other in the black community anyway and in the American community. And a lot of it has to do with stay out of their business, you know? That kind of attitude.

BURNETT: That's why you didn't.

FLACK: I wouldn't say it's not why -- I wouldn't say that it's why I didn't. I would say it certainly had a lot to do with me being hesitant.

BURNETT: Did Cissy know, do you think?


BURNETT: She knew?

FLACK: She knew. And I spoke to Cissy today -- which is why I'm going to the funeral.

BURNETT: And she's heart broken about it?

FLACK: She's strong. Cissy sang with me in the '70s. Did back up for me as well as many other artists. And she's a strong person. I think if she had not been strong, Whitney would not perhaps have lasted and had the kind of enormous success that she knew. It wouldn't --

BURNETT: She might not have gotten as far as she did? FLACK: No, got her singing chops from her mom. No doubt about it.

BURNETT: Roberta Flack, of course, sang "Killing Me Softly." She said her addiction was to food, that she just eat and eat and eat. She said she ate fried chicken. She said it seems the drugs are the new fried chicken.

All right. Let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360." Hey, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Erin. We're going to have more of our special coverage of the death of Whitney Houston, her life touched some of the biggest names in entertainment, that you just heard, when you interviewed Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Kevin Costner. And we now know they're all going to be part of the funeral ceremony that Saturday, in addition to Robert Flack you just talked to today. Tonight, a live report from outside the church.

Also, before the awards and the accolades, what was Whitney Houston like? We're going to take you back to where she grew up, talk with those who have known her the longest. Those memories and recent ones as well. We'll sit down with Whitney's voice coach who said the singer values her voice above all else.

We'll also ask Dr. Drew Pinsky about why she might have abused her voice through her lifestyle choices.

Those stories and two keeping them honest reports tonight -- Mitt Romney's shifting position on bailing out the auto industry. Why it might cause him Michigan. And a story I know you're doing more on, as well, after merely a year of slaughter, Syria's ambassador says there is no killing, no violence, that there is no armed conflict. This man has lied repeatedly for a long time now. The lies it seemed tonight continue.

All that and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: Unbelievable that he could say such things that defies not just everything we see. That's incredible.

All right. Thanks, Anderson.

And we do go inside Syria next. Seventy people killed during the bloody siege. We talk to Arwa Damon, our reporter who is in Homs, ands the center of it.

And Josh Powell murdered himself and his own children and now, he wants to be buried next to them.


BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night, our "Outer Circle," we reach out to our sources around the world. And tonight, Syria. The country's security forces shelling opposition groups in Homs and more country -- across the country, more blood shed. Opposition activists reports 70 people were killed today.

Our Arwa Damon managed to get inside the besieged city of Homs. I spoke to her earlier and asked her about what she did today. She took a tour of the Baba Amr neighborhood that has been completely destroyed at the center of the violence.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, we were touring through the neighborhood. And Baba Amr is one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in this most recent military crackdown by Syrian forces. And the devastation is incredibly widespread. There is rubbles across many streets.

Moving around, of course, is incredibly challenging. The activists we are with have memorized and mapped out mentally where all the known government positions are on various routes so they can shoot into various streets.

Government forces are however on the outskirts of the neighborhood and bombarding it from out there. You see hardly any civilians around. Many of them are staying indoors. (INAUDIBLE)

BURNETT: And, Arwa, yesterday you talked about children that you had seen obviously you were talking to a lot of people with horrific injuries unable to get medical care.

Did you see more of that today?

DAMON: We did not see anyone who was injured today, but we did actually go into one of these makeshift bunkers that has been set up in various parts of Baba Amr. And there's families that are piled on top of one another, women and children.

And the most chilling thing about it is you walk in and even swarms around you. People are pulling at you because everyone has the story of a loved one who died. Everyone has a desperate plea for help.

There are such shortages when it comes to food and medicine. Children are getting sick. They can't even get basics like cough medicine, pain killers, and that sort of stuff. And it's a humanitarian tragedy. It's just reached an unimaginable proportion.

BURNETT: Can you tell us what it's been like every day to get food, to sleep, to have heat? What's it been like for you?

DAMON: You know, we've been living ever since we got here pretty much (INAUDIBLE) -- you eat whatever is available, whether it's, you know, slice of bread or a bit of rice. And be reminded, they actually have to even smuggle bread in because flour and other supplies have been cut off to many of the areas known to be focal points for the opposition. You sleep on the floor with a blanket if you sleep at all. And we've only been doing this for a few days. These activists -- they have been doing this for months and months on end and that's not to mention the ongoing shelling, the gun fire, the daily risk that they take to their lives. You know, we come out of these locations and (INAUDIBLE) whenever get back to our homes.

And the power has actually cut on out and that is yet another thing that they have to deal with here. So, (INAUDIBLE) these guy, what they're going through, is really, really phenomenal. Their day to day bravery is really hard to put into words.


BURNETT: And so is Arwa's bravery there in Homs tonight.

Well, what many thought that adds insult to injury, burying Josh Powell next to his two young sons after he brutally killed them and committed suicide in this home almost two weeks ago.

Powell's family tried on buy a burial plot for Josh in the same cemetery as his sons, Charlie and Braden. The maternal grandparents threatened to sue a group of local police officers bought plots on either side of the boys' graves to prevent Josh Powell from being buried near to his children.

Miguel Marquez is following the story. He's OUTFRONT tonight.

And, Miguel, I know that you have some news from the family.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Terri Powell, the mother of Josh Powell, released a statement a short time ago saying finally relenting on this, perhaps there is some decency in this case, saying, "We love our little Charlie and Braden, and we want their resting place to be a place of peace and comfort. We have made the determination that Josh will not be buried at Woodbine Cemetery, but are in the process of making other arrangements."

In addition to all the things you talked about, the outrage out there, what may have turned the tide on this is a shred of decency in case that otherwise has very little decency, a call from Charles Cox, the father of Susan Powell, to Terri Powell, and he asked her, don't do this. The kids don't want it. Our family doesn't want it. The town doesn't want it.

She relented. And now, Josh Powell will be buried somewhere else -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Miguel, thank you very much. And you're right, at least nice to hear one part of decency in that horrific story.

All right. General Motors posted its highest profit ever. Really? We're going to get to the bottom of that.

And the man with the golden touch. Groupon, Flickr, Facebook, Zynga, LinkedIn, he got in all of help early. Yes. Reid Hoffman comes OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: General Motors earned its largest profit ever last year, just two years after we all know it almost collapsed into utter ruin. Strong sales in the United States and China helped GM earn $7.6 billion last year, which beat its old record set all the way back in the SUV boom days of the late 1990s.

Now, as part of the GM's bankruptcy bailout and IPO, taxpayers still own 30 percent of GM stock and we, the taxpayers, are still in the red. In order to break even, those shares need to trade around $59 each, which brings us to tonight's number, $27.17. That's where GM stock closed today.

Yes, we can get there. We've got a long way to go, baby.

All right. Reid Hoffman, he got into Facebook, Zynga, LinkedIn and Groupon early. Yes, like really early. And that means many, many billions. Jealous? How you can be him, next.


BURNETT: So, just six years ago, tonight's "IDEA" guest was living in Silicon Valley watching almost everyone he knew make millions. But his company was struggling. But he kept at it and in his spare time, he invested in more than 80 other start ups like Groupon, Flickr, Friendster, Zynga, and he was one of the first investors in Facebook.

His own company, LinkedIn, well, it went public this year, made him personally $1.7 billion. He also just wrote a book called "The Start-up of You."

Tonight, Reid Hoffman came OUTFRONT.


REID HOFFMAN, COFOUNDER, LINKEDIN: How did I get to be like me?

BURNETT: Yes, right?

HOFFMAN: Yes. Well, I think the key thing is for everyone to think seriously about how they invest in themselves, how do they essentially takes their career and life seriously, whatever their aspirations are. If their aspirations to be a product inventor or their aspirations to be an investor or their aspirations to be, you know, a runner of a bookstore, anything else, it's invest in yourself. Take the notion that you are a business. You are the CEO of your own life; you're the entrepreneur of your own life, very seriously.

BURNETT: And in your book, you talk about this.


BURNETT: Do I have to be like you? Who -- I mean, someone who -- honestly, you are a genius. I mean, can I ask you just a question? You managed -- you have a college degree in symbolic systems. See, I don't know what that is.

HOFFMAN: Cognitive science.

BURNETT: Cognitive science. OK. And your first job is in a company called Chaosium? Chaosium?

HOFFMAN: Chaosium. Yes. It was a kind of a job. Yes. That's a game company.

BURNETT: OK. My point is, you are really, really, really smart. Can people who aren't as smart as you --

HOFFMAN: I think for sure. Because I think that the notion is everyone can invest in themselves, everyone can make themselves somewhat better. It's one of the things I love about the Silicon Valley, it's one of the things I love about the American Dream.

It's not -- look, can everyone aspire to be an inventor of major companies? No.

BURNETT: And you're saying, so be pragmatic. Don't just say, well, I have this dream and assume that it's going to happen to you?


BURNETT: Because it's not going to happen.

HOFFMAN: No, you have to invest in it.

And by the way, in a globalized world, there's competition, transformation.

One of the things -- a billboard that we saw that we put in the book was, you know, a million people could do your job, what makes you special? It's a very good question to ask and then say, how do you develop that competitive differentiation such that I'm the right person for this and this job.

BURNETT: So, here's a question to you. You were worth $1.7 billion, they say, after LinkedIn went public and that doesn't count the Zynga thing and all the other 80 companies, and the Facebook thing that's about to come your way.

How did it feel? I mean, you grew up as -- I mean, you know, your father was a lawyer. It's not like you came from nothing. But it's different now.

Does it feel different?

HOFFMAN: No. I mean, for me, this is all about how do you lead a good life? How do you have a meaningful life? And for me, part of that is how do I play a good role in society.

BURNETT: Yes. HOFFMAN: And so, I don't really actually use any of that. Like it's tools for things I do in the world. It's nothing about who I am. Like I'm no better than anyone else and no worse, hopefully.

And so, I think the only thing that changes is your palette of tools in terms of how do you -- what kind of impacts. And matter of fact, what kinds of responsibilities do you have to make changes in your world?

BURNETT: And how do you feel about that, the responsibility part? That you now actually have the means to fulfill the responsibility in a way that others don't?

HOFFMAN: Well, it makes me feel responsibility, it makes me feel a little bewildered. I'm always thinking about that question and it's one of the reasons why I've done things like join the board of Start Up America, and Kiva. It's like how do I help participate in these things?

BURNETT: Kiva is where you can donate, right?


BURNETT: Individual people to try to help.

HOFFMAN: Yes. It's microfinance for the lab and it's like, you know, donate to the Ugandan taxi driver to help him start a business like be able to provide for his family and these sorts of things.

And I think that -- what I want to do is I want to apply all the knowledge and techniques of entrepreneurship and technology and innovation that we have in the valley to how do we change the world. So, I've been gone doing that with kind of, you know, small stuffs.


BURNETT: "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.