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President Obama Attacks Mitt Romney; Al Qaeda's Plan to Attack U.S. Revealed

Aired April 30, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey. Good evening everyone.

We begin tonight Keeping Them Honest with a political war that's broken out over the killing of Osama bin Laden and charges that President Obama is exploiting it to win votes. Charges he's now doing what he himself to cried in the past on a number of occasions in fact.

Now, this is happening, obviously, on the eve of the raid's anniversary of the kill bin Laden and the day to tell the World Trade Center, once again, became the Mew York's tallest skyscraper. Both occasions say critics should be proud nonpartisan moment for the country.

Instead tonight, there's open partisan warfare that began with this ad narrated by Bill Clinton.


TEXT: Mitt Romney criticized barrack Obama for vowing to strike as Qaeda targets inside Pakistan if necessary.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL HOST: It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person. He was referring to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. What did he mean by that? Because it's generated a little controversy given Osama bin Laden's role in killing 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He had to decide. And that's what you hire a president to do. You hire the president to make the calls when no one else can do it.


COOPER: Obviously that Wolf Blitzer tape was part of the ad. Now, the ad provoke a sharp response from Senator John McCain who says it diminishes the memory of 9/11 turning it into a, in his words, into a cheap political attack.

He went on to say quote, "this is the same president who once criticized Hillary Clinton for invoking bin Laden to score political points." He is the same president who said after bin Laden was dead that we shouldn't spike the ball after the touchdown.

And "Keeping Them Honest," senator McCain is factually correct on both those counts. You can decide for yourself whether pointing to a key presidential accomplishment, the killing of bin Laden a year after the event constitutes spiking the ball. But you can't deny President Obama said those words, nor can he denied that four years ago, he did criticize Hilary Clinton for running a primary ad featuring bin Laden. And "Keeping Them Honest," the Obama campaign seems to be doing to Mitt Romney what was unacceptable when the Clinton campaign was doing it to them. Unacceptable to their opinion.

Here's how they justified along with the GOP response both to "Meet the Press" this weekend.


ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Look. There's a difference in the roles they would play at commander in chief. I think that's fair game.

ED GILLESPIE, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: He's managed to turn it into a divisive partisan political attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think most Americans will see it as sign of a desperate campaign.


COOPER: Now. Whatever you think of the politics surrounding the killing of bin Laden, President Obama's action as president have been consistent with candidate Obama's position to make finding bin Laden a priority.

Governor Romney's position though have changed. When ask in 2007 why we hadn't yet caught in London, Governor Romney answered, and I quote, "it's not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person. It is worth fashioning and executing an effective strategy to defeat global violent Jihad and I have a plan for doing that."

Now, with your - Mitt Romney today in New Hampshire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Governor, would you have gone after bin Laden?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: You would have given the order, Governor?

ROMNEY: Of course. Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.


COOPER: All right. It took President Obama less than two hours to hit back this afternoon.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. That's been at least my practice. I said that I'd go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they'd do something else, then I'd go ahead and let them explain it.


COOPER: Well. At which point the Romney campaign fired off a statement reading in part "it's unfortunate President Obama would prefer to use what was a good day for all Americans as a cheap political ploy and an opportunity to distort Governor Romney's strong policies on the war on terror."

They went on to say "Governor Romney has always understood we need a comprehensive plan to deal with the threats America faces."

On a short time later, the Obama campaign responded and tweet to CNN's Jim Acosta. Spokesman Ben Labolt tweeting our Jim Acosta when did Romney outline that counterterrorism policy? al Qaeda wasn't mentioned in a single time in his one policy speeches.

We have us invited both campaigns to come on the program tonight, they declined. Instead tonight, Republican strategist Ari Fleischer, he is with us by phone. Also, Democratic strategist Paul Begala is now advising the leading pro Obama super PAC.

So, Paul. Four years ago, the president say invoking bin Laden on the trail was a political move. Now his critics say he's using it in his own campaign ads. Isn't that a flip-flop?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. But there's a difference, too. There is an actual honest accomplishment. Back then it was simply a hypothetical debate. And he didn't like Hillary Clinton saying he might not be tough enough.

He did say, on. I got the clip here. Friday, August 3rd of 2007. He said - these are his words. He said "if we have actual intelligence about a high value terrorist target and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

When he said that he was attacked by senator Clinton and by senator McCain, and by Governor Romney. Romney called those remarks ill timed, ill considered. He said I do not concur. They attacked Obama for saying he would go into Pakistan if there's actual intelligence to kill bin Laden.

The president kept his word. This is a legitimate accomplishment and impressive accomplishment.

And I just think senator McCain is a very honorable guy. I have no criticism with him. But I think for some of my friends from the Bush administration who have a problem with this, my Lord, their -- one of their first ads showed a flag draped body being carried out of the world trade center. And if they say - if they knew that, that was I think really beyond the line.

This is a legitimate triumph that the president led and I think he has a right to claim credit for.

COOPER: Ari is that what this is? A legitimate triumph? That the president has the right to claim credit for?

AIR FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): If that's all it is, I would be praising President Obama and saying this is absolutely part of the president's run on and should do. I thought it was faults, some people criticize President Bush for not being his accomplishment, keeping them safe after 2011 --- after September 11th.

And I think President Obama has every right to make his case about how he's keeping us safe. And he should brag about the killing of Osama bin Laden up to a point. Where he crossed the line is by taking the one-year anniversary and turning it partisan by attacking Mitt Romney on something where everybody knows. That any president who gets intelligence like that, you're sending in the stars. You're sending in the S.E.A.L.s. Totally different from what Mitt Romney said.

The president shouldn't have attacked Mitt Romney. Think about how much better it would have been if he marked the anniversary by inviting George W. Bush, former president Clinton, along with Navy S.E.A.L.s, CIA operatives to actually use beyond interrogation technique and in definite attention to get the information that lead for the carrier. And thanked all of them in a private moment.

That would have kept this a bipartisan moment. President Obama missed that opportunity. I think he blew it. He had the chance to really elevate the nation, keep us together about the killing of bin Laden and he blew it by turning it into an attack on Mitt Romney.

COOPER: Paul, has he politicized this or Romney has never actually said he wouldn't have gone after bin Laden?

BEGALA: Romney attacked senator Obama when senator Obama said he would go into Pakistan. Then Romney, as you quoted him, said he would not move heaven and earth. This is how we got bin Laden.

President Obama came into office and he reorganized the bin Laden unit in Langley at the CIA headquarters. He made them work more closely with Tampa, the central command in Tampa with the ISAF forces in Kabul. He moved heaven and earth. He reorganized. President Bush said, just six months after 9/11, that bin Laden was just one person, he said, and I really don't spend much time with him to be honest with you.

Five years he was saying to Fred Barnes and I quote, "not a top priority use of American resources". So, President Obama had a different view. He made getting bin Laden a top priority and he made a call that Bob Gates who served President Bush and President Obama and six other presidents I believe called the gutsiest call he has ever seen the president make. The notion that Romney now already saying anybody would have done it is simply not burned out by the stated positions of governor Romney and frankly, the lack of actions by President Bush.


FLEISCHER: You know, it's amazing that Paul still can't be gracious about it. The fact of the matter is, if President Obama had not flip-flopped on the very thing he criticized President Bush for, enhanced interrogation techniques and definite detention. Those were the techniques the CIA used under President Bush that led to the information about the carrier which eleven years later to the ability to track the courier that President Obama took advantage of President Obama's credit.

I praised the president for that. But this action where people -- both parties especially the CIA deserves the credit and especially the Navy S.E.A.L.s. But attacking Mitt Romney over it when it's not what Mitt Romney said.

It was so unnecessary, Anderson. My point is it's revealing about President Obama's character. When he ran in 2008 as the post- partisan as someone who would bring us together. What did he sell us to be look good? There is nothing post-partisan about him. If there's ever an occasion to be post-partisan, it is the one anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. He had everything in his hand to bring us together and he chose instead to split us apart once more.

COOPER: Paul, do you buy that the enhanced interrogation technique so-called, what critics called torture is what led to the killing of bin Laden?

BEGALA: Well, I'm no expert and nor is Fleischer. But, I did look up what one expert says at least. Many, Mark Fallon who is a former interrogator special agent in charge of criminal investigation task force at Guantanamo Bay. He was on television the other day. And he said to try to chip in this by saying that some event in water boarding years ago led to this is a disservice to our service members. A whole lot of experts. Again, this is for the experts to argue. But a whole lot of experts saying, no, that's not the case.

And, By the way they were water boarding under Bush and they did not get bin Laden. Those are two facts we know. They stopped the water boarding first under Bush and --


FLEISCHER: The technique was not water boarding in this instance. It was combination of indefinite detention and another technique. And the person who said this was just interviewed on "60 minutes" Sunday night ahead of the counterterrorism division of the CIA who just wrote a book about all this.

COOPER: And that's the guy who also destroyed the videotape. That's the guy who also destroyed the tapes of the interrogation. FLEISCHER: That's correct.

COOPER: Right.

FLEISCHER: But that doesn't change the facts of what information was derived that helped get bin Laden. But the point again is the CIA professionals did this, the Navy S.E.A.L.s did this, and several presidents as President Clinton did his best unsuccessfully, President Bush did his best unsuccessfully. President Obama was able to get the actionable intelligence that none of his predecessors had. He get the credit for it. It happened under his watch. He made that decision and I'm proud of President Obama for that.

BEGALA: The president should get the credit because he -- I'm sorry.

FLEISCHER: And he could have taken credit for it without attacking Mitt Romney. That's where he messed up. If he wants to attack Mitt Romney in October, I think he would have been in higher ground. Using the anniversary of killing bin Laden was a terrible mistake. President Obama has showed there's nothing post-partisan about him.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. You guys, both make your positions clear.

Paul Begala, Ari Fleischer. Thanks.

Tell us what you think. We're on facebook, Google plus. Follow me on twitter. Tweet me right now. Let me know what you think about this @andersoncooper.

Two exclusives tonight both on al Qaeda. Tell you about al Qaeda plans to target cruise ships and how those plans came to light. It's really fascinating. Secret al Qaeda basically found documents on a memory stick inside of somebody inside the porn tape. It's fascinating stuff. We have that exclusive report.

Also Peter Bergen is here to talk about the exclusive access he got to Osama bin Laden's compound. Two stories you'll see only here on "360."


COOPER: Welcome back to the program. "360" exclusive now. On a haunting question with Osama bin Laden dead. What is al Qaeda planning now? What can they plan?

It is exactly one year ago today that Navy S.E.A.L.s started their mission to kill bin Laden. With him gone, al Qaeda hasn't stopped their plans to kill. We know that.

And as you will see, only here right tonight, some of the answers about what they are up to can be found in what German authorities dug up in coded files taken from a would be killer who allegedly just embark on mission, a mass murder. Now, exclusive details tonight from Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As U.S. Navy S.E.A.L.s were preparing to storm bin Laden's now infamous compound in Pakistan a year ago, two of his recently trained European recruits were sneaking out of the country on a missions to cause coinage. They were headed at Berlin.

But not long after they return to Europe, one of them was being questioned at this police station. He was arrested and searched. And hidden in his underwear, police found memory recording devices like this. Very deepen the device is, was a pony graphic video and hidden in files inside that for what police believe will more than 100 secret al Qaeda documents.

Inside the file mark sexy Tanya protected by an almost invisible password. A treasure throat including al Qaeda's roadmap for future operations, a document called future works.

Investigative journalist, Yassin Musharbash was the first to report on the documents. One plan -

YASSIN MUSHARBASH, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: It contains an idea that we haven't heard so much about and that is to tight your heart to the seeds. It is easier. And then, I guess what they mean is then, you know, to attack aviation.

ROBERTSON: A plot to cease cruise ships sent out in chilling detail.

MUSHARBASH: he said that we could hijack a passenger ship on the sea and then use it to pressure and to pressurize the public. And what he must likely means is that, you know, then would - that they would then start executing passengers.

ROBERTSON: They would press passengers in Orange jumpsuits mimicking al Qaeda prisoners and get move, the executions will be quickly uploaded to an al Qaeda Web site. Hijacking a cruise ship wouldn't be new territory for Islamic radicals parson and terrorists famously attack the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985, murdering wheelchair bound Jewish American, Leon Klinghoffer, then, throwing his body overboard.

Whether al Qaeda used that incident as a model is unclear. The new al Qaeda documents called future works and appears to have written in 2009 by al Qaeda's senior leadership.

U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN, this information is pure gold and it contains details of some of al Qaeda's most dangerous attacks including the attack on the London subway seven years ago.

One source says that this is the most important hole of al Qaeda documents this year outside of what was found in bin Laden's compound. Another plan revealed in these documents, more attacks like the operation by Pakistani militants in Mumbai, India. Ten gunman on a shooting rampage, 164 innocents killed.

German intelligence sources say these two men who came back to Europe last year, may have been tossed with planning a similar attack. (INAUDIBLE) are now in trial at this bail in court. Prosecutors alleged that (INAUDIBLE) is the recruiter network of suicide attackers.

MUSHARBASH: We do not know what these two young men were actually up to. And - But, there are certain information in those pals that would make a plausible to assume that they probably were thinking of Mumbai star attack.

ROBERTSON: The pair have denied being member of a terrorist organization and their trial continues. And that would make sense. The documents reveal how al Qaeda isn't just focused on the big catastrophic attack.

MUSHARBASH: They also seem to be convinced that al Qaeda should be pursuing a two checks strategy of low cost, low damage attacks and large scale attacks.

ROBERTSON: Like the 9/11 attacks.

MUSHARBASH: Yes. And the reason being that if al Qaeda were to pursue only large scale attacks and those are foiled, then they have nothing.

ROBERTSON: Indeed, a year after these documents were written, European intelligence agencies were scrambling to investigate a Mumbai style squad rounding up a base in Germany and sparking an unprecedented state department travel warning for Americans in Europe.

MUSHARBASH: Would I say Europe was of the table? No. But I believe that the general idea is still alive. And I believe as soon as al Qaeda believes that they have the capacities to realistically to go after that sort of scenario, they will immediately do it.

ROBERTSON: Loaded an (INAUDIBLE) trial is expected to last several more weeks. The case appears to be living proof that the blue print laid out in the documents it's still active. The carnage in Europe, al Qaeda has not changed its position.

Nic Robertson, CNN. Berlin, Germany.


COOPER: Well, ambitions are one thing. Capabilities are another one. What German authorities found though, doesn't begin to cover it all. Remember when Navy S.E.A.L.s raided bin Laden's compound, they came away with thousands of documents and gigabytes of data.

In 1997, Peter Bergen produced the first TV interview with bin Laden. And in that interview, bin Laden declared war on the United States. More recently, Piers obtained exclusive access to the compound before it was demolished. He is our national security analyst. He's out with a fascinating new book "Man Hunt." It really takes you right inside the ten-year search form and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The wish list of attacks, I mean, what are their capabilities? How capable are they of pulling off small and big attacks?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think they're capabilities are pretty limited, Anderson. I mean, one of the -- I was given to access to bin Laden's own writings. There were 6,000 documents. Some of them are being declassified. They haven't been published yet. And the picture that emerges from these documents is bin Laden's calling for big attacks and kill President Obama, kill General Petraeus. And his guys are pushing back and saying, hey, wait a minute we're, you know, we are under really pressure from the drones. Attacking United States is that easy.

COOPER: They say the drones in particular?

BERGEN: Well, the drones - it is a very interesting. Bin laden writes a 48 page memo. A lot of it is about how worried he is about the drones. How's many of his people have been killed. He's actually urging his group to move to a cast on for a very remote parts of Afghanistan.

And this is an interesting one showing his hypocrisy. His 20- year-old son living in Pakistan's tribal regions. He's urging him to move to Gutter. Where Gutter is, the richest country in the world. It's not, you know, the frontlines of the war.

COOPER: So, he wants him to move there for his safety.

BERGEN: Yes. The drones are having a huge impact. So they were very conscious eternally. But the drones were causing them problems. Bin laden was keenly aware that the al Qaeda brand was tarnished. He was urging some groups not to use the al Qaeda name because it would be bad for funding. And basically attract a lot of negative attention.

So, I mean, they take together what the picture from these documents are I was able to look at from aftermath compound, it's an organization in great disarray which I think we knew already. But, it's interesting, they understood it themselves.

COOPER: And you - I mean, you actually got access to this compound. There was still blood on the ceiling, right?

BERGEN: Yes. I looked up in the third floor bedroom and I thought this would be like being, you know, where bin Laden is killed. When I thought this be like going to hit this bunker. But, instead it turned out to be like visiting somebody's really kind of not very nice suburban compound.

And you can see where the Navy S.E.A.L.s shot bin Laden in the face. And there was patterns of blood on the ceiling. It was while below. You know, bin Laden is 6'4," the ceiling was about seven foot. But, you can still see where the bullets were impacted.

You know, I looked at his toilet. It was a very sort of tiny little room. Tiny little kitchen. The whole picture of the house, Anderson, was one of confining, not uncomfortable, but certainly not a million dollar mansion as it was --.

COOPER: You also noticed some just for men hair dye.

BERGEN: Yes. You know, this guy, we know he was dyeing his hair and his beard. But on the shelf in the bedroom and the whole thing, by the way, had been left as a crime scene. I was the only real outsider to get in. It was a Pakistani version of just for men in his bedroom along with some medicines and some other vitamins and these kinds of things.

COOPER: I want to ask you about briefly about the conversation we had with before Paul Begala and Ari Fleischer where they kind of squaring off over enhanced interrogation techniques or whether in fact that led to the raid on the compound.

BERGEN: You know, Wiki leaks has a very good source on this. We have the actual summaries of the interrogations of the some of the key people who gave up information.

And two al Qaeda sort of senior people gave information that indicated the courier was important. And the courier of course led to bin Laden. Two senior al Qaeda leaders said that the courier wasn't important after they'd been correlatively interrogated.

And both - and so, in four cases where cohesive interrogations and they produced very conflicting information. So I mean, I think it's a very kind of gray picture. And in fact, a lot of the other -- the ways that the courier was found getting his real name from another country was absolutely vital because he had a variety of aliases.

Getting his cell phone and able to GEO locate it, that was an Afghan security agency. Getting a human spy on the ground in the city where he was to follow him through back to the compound. All those things were vital. So, you know, coercive interrogations are a small part of this as are un-coerced interrogations. I mean, there were a lot of other things that came up along the way.

COOPER: So, both side can kind of re-use it as they want?

BERGEN: Yes. I mean, there is a little bit of ammo for both sides. But the idea that either was this positive --

COOPER: Right.

BERGEN: I guess it's not the case.

COOPER: And -- I mean, you spent a lot of time in Pakistan researching the book. And the book is - I mean, it's really - it's really fascinating. It's kind a - it really takes you inside both the compound and the planning of it over the years.

But what about the idea that somebody attacked -- somebody in Pakistan, a military, somebody in Pakistan government must have known?

BERGEN: You know, it's hard to prove negatives. But, you know, there are 6,000 documents recovered from this compound. Our relations with the Pakistani government were not so great. that if we had a smoking gun, we wouldn't simply announced it. There is no smoking gun.

I talked to multiple people familiar with the intelligence. And I also talked to people who talked to the Pakistanis that night. And the main reaction from the Pakistani was surprise. It was said a lot of different calls are made from the U.S. to Pakistan.

So, you know, and the other thing, Anderson, is that bin Laden was a very paranoid disciplined guy. I found out there were people living in the compound who didn't know bin Laden was there, friends since --.

COOPER: On the compound?

BERGEN: Yes. And adult -- one of the wives of one of the couriers. You know, she had been instructed, you know, he is an Arab and ask any question, she had no idea who he was. And she lived there for years with him.

So, the idea that other people should have known or could have known, you know, it doesn't hold water.

COOPER: Well, the book is "Man Hunt." Again, it's fascinating.

Peter, I appreciate it. Thanks very much and congratulations on the book.

BERGEN: Thank you.

COOPER: A lot more to cover. The book is out, by the way, tomorrow in bookstores as you can get it. I really do recommend it.

A dramatic day in the John Edwards trial to tell you about tonight. There's been so much speculation over what of any part of that sex tape Edwards may with his mistress, Rielle Hunter, will surface in the courtroom. Well, today, the judge finally ruled on that issue. Details ahead.


COOPER: "Crime and Punishment" now. The judge in John Edwards' trial today cleared the way for testimony about the steamy sex tape that Edwards made with his mistress, Rielle Hunter.

That ruling came during a day of emotional testimony from the wife of the prosecution star witness, Andrew Young. Sherri Young told the court she was disgusted by Edwards' scheme to hide his mistress' pregnancy and didn't want to go along with it.

Her role in the cover up, endorsing and depositing checks intended to pay for Hunter's expenses. Mrs. Young said she only agreed to help Edwards after Edwards personally assured her that the scheme was legal.

She testified about Edwards tone during that call saying quote, "He was very short and very angry." She said he told her to quote, "get the money in." She also described the stress of being involved in the scheme.

She described how she, quote, "sat in the car shaking," end quote, on the way to get cash for Hunter's expenses. It wasn't just the money though. Hunter moved in with the Young and later, they all hit the road together to stay out of sight.

At one point, Ms. Young sobbed so much the judge temporarily dismissed the jury. Joe Johns was in the courtroom. He joins me now. I understand that sex tape was the subject of discussion in court today. What happened on it?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. It's pretty clear that tape is not going to be shown to the jury. But it's also clear that the defense really wants the opportunity, the availability, if you will to bring the tape up as a topic of conversation if necessary.

Also that they want to ask questions of Andrew Young, the prosecution's star witness about where he got to tape, whether he stole that tape, if he was planning on selling that tape. All of these are questions that would be used to impeach a witness if they need to towards the end of the trial -- Anderson.

COOPER: What was it that Mrs. Young broke down over on the stand?

JOHNS: Yes, this was sort of the turning point where she was being asked and had to give an answer about how she decided it would be OK to say that her husband, the father of her three children had actually fathered an illegitimate child with John Edwards' mistress.

She was describing a conference call with herself, her husband, Rielle Hunter, as well as John Edwards. They're all talking about this and she's being encouraged to say it'd be OK for her husband. She broke down.

Briefly let the jury go out of the courtroom then when they came back, she said the big answer. The big answer, of course, was that she did not want to explode the campaign, the John Edwards presidential campaign so she said she would go along with the cover up, a very emotional moment.

COOPER: The whole thing is so bizarre. The idea that, you know, the Youngs and Rielle Hunter go off on this cross country trip to try to kind of stay below the radar. She talked about some of those bizarre moments today.

JOHNS: That's absolutely right. And they went from city to city all the way across the country and twice to Aspen, Colorado. There's this one occasion in Aspen, Colorado where they were all sitting in a restaurant as she ordered a Ruben sandwich. It came back with the wrong sauce on the sandwich and so her reaction, Rielle Hunter's reaction was to picked up her cell phone and call her spiritual adviser according to the wife of Andrew Young.

Call her spiritual adviser on the west coast, speak to him, and try to get him to fix it even though he wasn't there. She left a message. So a very sort of bizarre behavior, if you will, described of Rielle Hunter. Of course, it'd be nice to hear what she has to say about that.

COOPER: Is she going to testify?

JOHNS: We're told there's a very good chance she's going to testify. It's hard to see how she won't testify. She's sort of the big story in the room that's untold.

COOPER: All right, Joe. Appreciate it. Thanks.

We're following a number of other stories. Obviously, Isha is here with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a delicate diplomatic situation has developed between the U.S. and Chino over the whereabouts of Chinese activist, Chen Guangchang who escaped house arrest. The reports he's at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, the Obama administration won't comment.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Clinton is flying to China tonight for diplomatic and strategic talks.

Twin car bombs exploded in the Syrian city of Idlip today. Government opponents say at least 20 people were killed. The Al-Assad regime says eight died, dozens of people were injured.

Anderson, in New York City today, the installation of a beam on the 100th floor officially made One World Trade Center the tallest building in the city. It passes the Empire State Building by 21 feet. When construction is completed in 2014, One World Trade is expected to be more than 1,700 feet tall. A momentous day in the construction of the building.

COOPER: Yes, it's great to see it rising so quickly finally. Isha, thanks.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel had the kind of gig this past weekend that could make a comedian break out in sweat. Not easy gig, he was the host of the annual White House Correspondent Dinner. President Obama himself got some big laughs. Just ahead, I talked to Jimmy about what it was like to work that room.


JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: I did cut an advance of jokes that I felt were offensive. Did you want to hear?

COOPER: Sure, yes, absolutely. KIMMEL: Maybe not offensive. To me they're not offensive, but others told me they might be offensive.



COOPER: On the eve of the raid last year that killed Bin Laden, President Obama was at the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner. No one was the wiser about the mission that was going to go down.

This past weekend, he was at the same dinner. Late night comedian, Jimmy Kimmel was the host. Kimmel was as usual very funny and Mr. Obama got a lot of laughs as well. He got an assist from his Press Secretary Jay Carney in his opening bid about getting caught last month on an open mic with Russia's president mixing with grain.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Can someone back there please turn off the president's mic? I think the president's mic is hot. Please turn it off. Thank you. Thank you.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Great. I got to get warmed up. I'm so in love -- I totally had that. Seriously guys, what am I doing here? I'm the president of the United States and I'm opening for Jimmy Kimmel? I have the nuclear codes, why am I telling knock knock jokes to Kim Kardashian?

Anyway, it's great to be here this evening in the vast magnificent Hilton ballroom or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer upper.

KIMMEL: He told me this would be a very high profile event with some of the most powerful people in the world. They did not tell me I'd be looking directly into Sophia Vergara's cleavage. Sophia is from Colombia.

This is what women look like in Colombia. What do you expect the Secret Service to do? Mr. President, I know you won't be able to laugh at any of my jokes about the Secret Service, so cover your ears if that's physically possible.

Mr. President, you remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious. You know, there's a term for guys like President Obama. Probably not two terms, but -- kind of hard to be funny with the president of the United States sitting next to you looking at you.

Yet somehow day in and day out Joe Biden manages to do it. I want to thank Mr. Mills my 10th grade teacher who said I'd never amount to anything if I kept screwing around in class. Mr. Mills, I'm about to high five the president of the United States. Eat it, Mills.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, FYI, Kim Kardashian was sitting at the front of the ballroom when President Obama made the joke about her. She was just one of the many famous names in the crowd.

Not an easy crowd for any comic. I spoke earlier with Jimmy Kimmel.


COOPER: First of all, every time I talk to somebody who's done this event, they say it's a very, very difficult crowd. How different was it than what you expected?

KIMMEL: Well, it was pretty much exactly what I expected, but that doesn't change the fact it is a difficult crowd. Because about half the crowd feels like they can't laugh at your jokes. And the other half feels like they can't laugh at the other jokes.

Then the journalists depending upon where they're sitting are nervous about laughing in front of the people about whom the jokes are being made. So it's not exactly the ideal comedy environment.

COOPER: Yes. I went once and I refuse to go ever again. I basically will watch it on TV or online. It's also like 3,000 people. It just seems like a nightmare.

I imagine for you it's hard enough following the president, but I mean, following a president who was actually very funny has got to be hard.

KIMMEL: Yes. Well, you know, actually I think it's better if the president bombs, people are going to be in a weird mood. So I think it helps that the president was funny.

COOPER: I want to play a clip of something President Obama said kind of teasing you.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Our chaperon for the evening is Jimmy Kimmel who's perfect for the job since most of tonight's audience is in his key demographic, people who fall asleep during "Nightline."


COOPER: I'm sure you been insulted a lot over the years. But being insulted by the president has got to feel pretty special.

KIMMEL: I felt like that was a pretty accurate account of the people watching my show. So I don't know if that was an insult or just a fact.

COOPER: Were there any jokes you killed in the last minute because they were to edgy or you got cold feet on them?

KIMMEL: Yes. You know, some things played better than others. Some people like the simpler jokes. I had a lot of kind of inside jokes that maybe I skipped by a little bit because people seemed to be squarely focused on Kim Kardashian. I did cut in advance some jokes that I thought was offensive. Did you want to hear?

COOPER: Sure, yes, absolutely.

KIMMEL: OK, all right, maybe not offensive. To me they're not offensive, but others told me they might be offensive.

Rick Santorum is like the college roommate who wouldn't leave you when your girlfriend came over, but secretly wanted you to do it in front of him.

COOPER: That's one of those things that I cannot acknowledge in any way. I'm just from now going to have to watch you.

KIMMEL: See, that's essentially the problem. Let me try another one. I happen to know why the president's ears are so big. It's to create the illusion that he's listening.

COOPER: The joke that got a lot of laughs also from Mrs. Obama was when he talked about the president covering his ears if it's physically possible I think you said.

KIMMEL: I know it's funny like the third grade jokes seemed to get the best reaction. Here's one. Chris Christie is a popular choice for the VP slot. Originally they wanted him to run for president. But he said his heart wasn't in it. Well, Chris, maybe your next heart would be in it.

COOPER: You had a lot of Christie material.

KIMMEL: You must be a lot of fun at parties, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I am.

KIMMEL: I did have a lot of Chris Christie material. You know, he was literally the elephant in the room. What are you going to do? Not even wearing pants.

COOPER: That's true. I'm wearing jeans. What's it like sitting next to the first lady? You have to sit throughout the dinner knowing you're not doing this until the end of the night? That's got to be a nightmare. What do you chat about?

KIMMEL: In a way it relaxed me because I was very nervous and she's very nice. And after about 5 minutes of talking to her, you realize you're just talking to another person.

So believe it or not, that calmed me down and helped me not think about the fact that I had to get up in front of all these people including the president and do a bunch of jokes to an audience that reacts like you.

COOPER: I'm sorry about that. I want to -- when I go back to my office, I will be breaking out laughing.

KIMMEL: Yes. If I was there to tickle you, you'd be hysterical.

COOPER: Yes, exactly. You don't want me laughing because as you know, I giggle like a 12-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber for the first time.

KIMMEL: That's right. Once you start it never, ever stops.

COOPER: It never ever stops. That is sadly true. I want to play something you said about CNN too.

KIMMEL: Where's the CNN tables? Are the CNN tables real tables or virtual tables? There you are. Every election year, CNN comes up with new and increasingly amazing technology.

They have the magic wall this year, the hologram four years ago. Yet with all their technical wizardry, they haven't found out to make James Carville look like a hair less boiled cat.

COOPER: Now that I can laugh at. He's on contract.

KIMMEL: But let me say this. The HD, you look great always. You are the silver fox. But the HD is not helping the folks at CNN. Just go back to D.

COOPER: Yes, we may go back to D. There's also some fallout every year always with Donald Trump who didn't seem to enjoy it. This year seems like the strongest reaction was from Keith Olbermann. I want to play what you said first.

KIMMEL: It's time for the fun part of the evening. I'd like everyone to look under your seats. Under each one you will find a copy of Keith Olbermann's resume. Is Keith here tonight? Limo wouldn't pick him up? The thing about Keith Olbermann is he's so likable.

COOPER: Now, he responded on Twitter, which I think is the only media form he still has access to that basically the reason you made fun of him was to get revenge for him not doing your show. Do you have any response to that? Is that true?

KIMMEL: Honestly, I swear I'm being honest. I had no idea they asked him to do the show. I know they were looking for a guest and they called a bunch of people. I don't know.

I didn't really mean anything particular against Keith. He was one of the people in the news this year. And so he was -- I don't think I made any more fun of him than I did anyone else.

COOPER: I didn't think you were picking on him. It just seemed like -- given the venue, it seemed the appropriate thing to do.

KIMMEL: Yes, but he proved how likable he is with that tweet.

COOPER: Yes, exactly. Nothing like the ability to laugh at one's self. Listen, Jimmy, I thought you did a great job. Thank you so much for being on. I appreciate it.

KIMMEL: Thanks, Anderson. Good talking to you. I'm glad I could get you laughing hard.


COOPER: Jimmy Kimmel will be right back. He's going to pop up "The Ridiculist." But next some serious stuff, an update on what's become the animals that suicidal owner set loose from farm, remember that last fall. Details ahead.


COOPER: Let's check in with Isha. See what other stories we're following -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, a follow-up on the story of the man who set loose 56 exotic animals from his farm in Ohio before he committed suicide. The animals have been kept at the Columbus Zoo since October.

And now five of those animals will be returned to the man's widow. The State Review Board concluded today that the animals, two leopards, two monkeys, and a bear are free of contagious diseases.

Three siblings were sentence in Colorado today to 18 to 32 years in prison in connection with a multi-state crime spree last year. The three were captured after a shootout with police in August. They still face charges of shooting at a police officer in Florida and robbing a bank in Georgia.

Delta Airlines today announced plans to buy an oil refinery in Pennsylvania. The company is buying the refinery outside Philadelphia for $150 million and plans to spend $100 million more to convert its infrastructure for jet fuel production.

Anderson, a billionaire in Australia plans to build an exact replica of the "Titanic" except with modern technology. He's commissioned a Chinese shipyard to build it starting next year. It's expected to be ready to sail in 2016. Not for me.

COOPER: I'm not sure that would be a big draw. Would you want to go?

SESAY: No. I get seasick anyway.

COOPER: OK. Coming up, more with Jimmy Kimmel and his theory about my laugh on "The Ridiculist."


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." I don't know if you're aware of this, but there have been a few occasions during this part of the show where I've had some trouble and haven't been able to stop laughing particularly when certain kinds of words come up. Words just as an example, like asphalt, you know, highbrow stuff. I can only hope that we never do a "Ridiculist" by the French novelist, Honore de Balzac. I'm not proud of it, but I can't help it. I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old. Jimmy Kimmel has a theory. Watch this from "Jimmy Kimmel Live."


KIMMEL: This is from "AC 360"'s Anderson Cooper show on CNN. At the end of the show, Anderson does a thing called "The Ridiculist." I guess to end things on a light hearted note. It tickled Mr. Cooper to say the least.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the girls strike back with the tap from the pussy willow branch.

COOPER: I'm not going to do this. Got to let it out.

KIMMEL: I think Anderson Cooper is high. How else can you explain that? The word pussy willow is not that funny. No word is that funny. Nothing has ever been that funny.

I'd like to see drug tests all around. Get a sample from Wolf Blitzer while you're at it. He's starting to look like the guy on the zigzag pact.


COOPER: All right, first, let's see this exact pact of which Mr. Kimmel speaks. All right, there might be a slight resemblance. The zigzag guy might look younger. It's hard to tell.

I was talking to Jimmy earlier about the speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. A speech, by the way, that indeed include a sexual of hot jokes and I asked him about his theory of my "Ridiculist" outbursts. Take a look.


COOPER: Let me get this straight. The man who started badgering the president of the United States about legalizing marijuana, you're accusing me of being high.

KIMMEL: I'm not accusing I'm just trying to explain that. Maybe you're secretly Anderson Coop Dogg we got going there. I'd love to believe that you're high right now. Are you?

COOPER: Did you smoke before you went on stage?

KIMMEL: Not before.


COOPER: Well, they say the White House Correspondents' Dinner is nerd prom. Is there a stoner prom? Jimmy Kimmel would probably get high fives galore if anyone hoped to show up until then we will always have "The Ridiculist."

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. We'll see you one hour from now another edition of "360" at 10 p.m. Eastern. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.