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New Details Emerge on Libya Killings; Romney Releases 2011 Tax Returns

Aired September 21, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight with breaking news tonight, exclusive new details that you will only see on 360 about the attack in Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

They died heroes, we have known that, but until tonight we had no idea of just how far beyond the call of duty these two men went. And, again, you will be learning this right now for this very first time only on 360.

We have got new reporting as well on why the assault on the night of September 11 was so deadly to Ambassador Stevens and computer technician Sean Smith even though they were holed up inside of what was supposed to be a fortified part of the consulate compound.

The attackers, we have now learned, doused the building's exterior with diesel fuel, killing Smith and Stevens with dense toxic smoke. And there's yet more we're learning about the attack tonight, as well as other late developments out of Benghazi, a large pro- democracy march on the headquarters of an extremist Islamic group in Benghazi.

First, though, the breaking news about how the two former SEALs perished and how far they went to save other American lives.

Joining us now to flesh out her exclusive reporting, CNN contributor and former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend. Fran currently serves on the CIA External Advisory Committee and recently visited Libya with her employer, MacAndrews & Forbes. Also with us, CNN's Arwa Damon, who has been breaking news all week for us from Benghazi.

So, Fran, what have we learned about these two Navy SEALs? Initially -- or former SEALs -- it was thought they were there to protect the ambassador. That turns out not to be the case.


They are part of this protective security contractor force. These two contractors -- the contractors generally are recruited from elite special forces because of their training and experience. In the case of Glen Doherty, he had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. These were both men who understood very well the dangers, the trouble and how to respond to it appropriately.

But they were not -- they were there but not with the ambassador's security detail. They coordinated and de-conflicted with the ambassador's detail. They also coordinated with Libyans. Their presence was not a secret, but they were there, frankly, at the annex with others as part of a much larger team to provide security.

COOPER: And there were two structures, this annex that we're learning about. It seems like there was an ambush there. The second attack on the annex seemed to have been an ambush.

TOWNSEND: It's not really clear what the parameters of that were.

So what happens is you have to appreciate -- you talked about Glen and Tyrone being heroes. They're at the annex, the annex is secure, the perimeter's secure, they're not taking any fire. That's the area of their primary responsibility.

They get a phone call that their colleagues over at the consulate are taking fire, that it's chaotic and they need help. They leave the security of their -- the annex compound and they run in the direction of the firefight.

What they do there is they round up all of the consulate staff. That includes Americans, Foreign Service nationals, and it includes everybody working at the consulate. It also included regrettably at that time the body of Sean Smith.

They can't find the ambassador, but they must he evacuate because they can no longer help defend the consulate and they take all these people to the much smaller annex, where they secure them and they're there trying, figuring they're not taking fire there.

It's not clear how the assault begins, what causes it, whether or not they were set up and ambushed or followed there. The sources I have been talking to, it not -- hopefully, that comes out in the investigation.

COOPER: Arwa, you say that particular attack, the one on the second site, involved even heavy artillery.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's what we're hearing on the ground here, Anderson.

The attack that took place, the second attack was a much more intense attack than what was initially seen at the consulate, although much shorter in duration. Some of the military officials we're talking to here were saying that they were using rocket-propelled grenades.

One was even saying that they were using mortar fire and that the rounds impacted pretty much immediately. And for anyone who knows how mortar calibration works, it's pretty rare that you would be able to hit your target the first time you do try to attempt to hit it with a mortar, but we are hearing here that the second attack most certainly was more intense and involved more firepower than the first time around and that is why Libyan government officials are saying that they believe that this was a pre-planned strike, perhaps not necessarily to be timed with September 11, but that most certainly the extremists that carried out this assault had planned it, perhaps they had shelved the plans and then had seen a target of opportunity to strike.

And strike they did, as we now know, Anderson.

COOPER: Arwa, you were talking about the annex. Back to the main compound where the first fighting or gunfire took place, U.S. officials have insisted that the attackers hijacked a protest that was going on over the anti-Muslim movie, but Libyan witnesses are telling you a very different story.

"The New York Times" reported today that the area in front of the compound was completely quiet before the initial attack, no protests. What are you hearing?

DAMON: That's what we heard days ago, Anderson, from a number of witnesses, including one of the guards who was at the main gate to the compound at one of those main gates.

He said that the situation was calm, it was quiet, and suddenly he heard voices growing increasingly louder, chanting God is great and then he says the attack began simultaneously from three different directions. Another eyewitness on the scene that we spoke to as well, the gardener, also confirming that report.

And a number of other individuals we have been talking to, too, saying that at around 9:30, heavily armed men appeared around the compound and that shortly thereafter at around 10:00, the assault itself began, Anderson.

COOPER: Fran, we have been reporting about the differing reports on security at the main compound. Last night we reported that security was actually beefed up there. You're hearing some new information as well.

TOWNSEND: That's right. Consistent with the "New York Times" story, Anderson, there were five armed Americans and four armed Libyans. That was the beefed-up presence.

You can question whether or not given what the history in that area had been, was that enough? And remember, that does not include the armed personnel, security -- professional security personnel at the annex so you would also have had them to fall back on, which, of course, they did have to do.

COOPER: You also have some new reporting on diesel fuel, which was apparently poured around the compound where the ambassador was and Mr. Smith was.

TOWNSEND: That's right. Look, any sort of fuel would have caused -- you know, accelerated the fire. Diesel was particularly unfortunate -- an unfortunate accelerant because, of course, what happens there is, there's this acrid, very thick, black smoke and we understand that's how they lost sight of the ambassador, they couldn't find him, and probably contributed to the fact that he and Sean Smith died of asphyxiation.

COOPER: Right. I said poured around the compound. That's probably an overstatement. We don't know the -- around the consulate, around the structure that the ambassador was in.


TOWNSEND: Correct.

COOPER: Arwa, dueling protests in Benghazi today. Tens of thousands in particular went out on the streets protesting against the extremist militia some say was involved in the attacks on the compound. Protesters actually stormed the group's headquarters later in the day. What can you tell us about this and what's happened?

DAMON: Well, earlier in the day we had this massive pro- democracy demonstration that did in fact take place. And following that at around 10:00 at night, hundreds of these individuals went to the headquarters of a Ansar al-Sharia, a known militant extremist group here.

And, remember, the Libyan government says that it has detained some individuals from that organization in association with this attack. It was in fact the attack on the consulate that really was the catalyst for these demonstrations, but then the catalyst for these individuals to go out and try to retake the compound, and they were saying retake the city from the hands of the extremists.

And at the compound itself, it was really quite the sense of euphoria, people saying that they were the ones that began this revolution in Benghazi, that they were going to be the ones who were going to take their city back. They were actually apologizing to America, saying that this is the real Libya, the Libyans who are going out trying to regain control of their own cities, trying to implement the democracy that they fought so hard for.

But then things took a very sinister turn because the second location that they struck, in fact, ended up being the headquarters of a battalion that has been legitimized by the government. The government then quickly took to the airwaves trying to convince these individuals to back off that and other various other compounds, saying it was Gadhafi loyalists trying to capitalize on the euphoria of the crowd to try to move them towards these other units that were in fact under the control of the government, that were in fact loyal to the government in and of itself.

We were at one of these locations, some pretty intense gunfire. We're hearing that over a dozen people were wounded. And it just goes to underscore how chaotic and how volatile the situation here really is and of course how easily manipulated. COOPER: Arwa Damon in Benghazi, be careful. Fran, thank you very much.

On Wednesday of this week, we reported that a source familiar with Ambassador Stevens' thinking said in the months before his death, Ambassador Stevens talked about being worried about what he called the never-ending security threats in Benghazi.

We also reported that the ambassador specifically mentioned the rise in Islamic extremism, the growing al Qaeda presence in Libya and said he was on an al Qaeda hit list.

The information for that report like all of CNN's reporting was carefully vetted. Some of that information was found in a personal journal of Ambassador Stevens in his handwriting. We came upon the journal through our reporting and notified the family.

At their request, we returned that journal to them. We reported what we found newsworthy in the ambassador's writings. Our reporting followed up on what we found newsworthy, as I said, in the ambassador's writings.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I'm tweeting tonight.

Up next: the attack's political fallout here at home. Has President Obama's handling of it given Mitt Romney an opening? Have Governor Romney's statements hurt his cause.

Fareed Zakaria, Jessica Yellin and Jim Acosta joins us.


COOPER: Welcome back. More on Libya now.

As our breaking news was unfolding today, new details about the killings in Benghazi and the rioting and chaos that followed a pro- democracy march today in Benghazi, a number of the protesters burning cars, taking over the headquarters of an extremist militia group that the Libyan government suspects of involvement in last week's assault.

It began peacefully, we should point out, with marchers vastly outnumbering a much smaller crowd of religious radicals. Many carried pro-America signs, including some demanding justice for Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Back home, pursuing that notion has neither been simple, nor easy, nor untouched by election-year politics. It began early on with Mitt Romney's late-night claim that the administration's first response was to sympathize with the attackers. That was not the case.

But the White House's subsequent line downplaying terrorism as a factor, well, to many that strained credibility. Late this week, the administration backed down from that position while dismissing the notion that they're backing down.


VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: As everybody who has spoken to any of these details has said starting with what we said here, what everybody along the way has said, the information we have given to date is based on initial assessments.

We have given you all kinds of caveats, including from here, that the investigation was going to have to tell us the complete and final story.


COOPER: That investigation is ongoing. Yesterday behind closed doors, senior defense intelligence and law enforcement officials briefed members of Congress. Today, though, and for the next month- and-a-half, this tragedy is being and will be hashed out as well in the public eye, especially out on the campaign trail.

Joining me now is Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." He's got Bill Clinton on the program this weekend. Also, Jim Acosta traveling with the Romney campaign and Jessica Yellin at the White House.

Jessica Yellin, let's start with you at the White House. They have been very cautious in dealing with this, really only one brief statement from the president. It took about a week-and-a-half for them to call the incident in Benghazi a terrorist act.

Is there any indication we are going to be hearing more directly from the president about this any time soon?


I would expect that we will hear from the president on this when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly next week, both about the specifics of the attack in Libya and the unrest in the Middle East more broadly. They don't have a lot to gain, to be just crassly political about it, from talking to talking too much about it until they have more facts.

Because he is going to the U.N. next week, he will have the big world stage, so it's a natural opportunity for him to address it. Look for it there.

COOPER: Jessica, is there a caution on talking about it out of not wanting to, you know -- is an understandable desire to gather intelligence, figure out exactly what happened, or is it politics?

YELLIN: Look, it's both.

They have had problems in the past when they have jumped too quickly. Remember after Osama bin Laden's raid and they came out with a series of facts, and that was a positive scenario for them, and the facts in that case weren't exactly right. So they have learned get the facts straight before you come out publicly. On the politics of it, Anderson, they don't really have anything to gain. Mitt Romney has handed them so many openings on this one, he's botched his response on Libya. There's no political upside for the president to weigh in. He just needs to be presidential on this.

COOPER: Fareed, we did see some dip in poll numbers on foreign policy in the wake of this. Do you think -- do these attacks hurt the president in terms of foreign policy?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: I don't think so, but I think the president is making a mistake if he's entirely silent. As Jessica says, the obvious place would be the U.N. General Assembly.

Look, most Americans, much of the world is trying to figure out what does all this mean, and what does it mean for our presence in Afghanistan, what does it mean for outreach to the Muslim world? The president has an extraordinary opportunity to be, as Bill Clinton was during the Democratic National Convention, an explainer, kind of explainer in chief.

I think it helps him politically because most crises -- Jimmy Carter is the exception -- most crises make a president look presidential. He gets the stage, he gets to speak in serious terms, he has all the gravitas. The other guy is out there taking pot shots, but he's on the campaign trail, and the president is the president.

COOPER: Jim, we all saw how Romney seemed to actually lose ground on the foreign policy issue in the wake of the incident. Is there any sense in the campaign that this is ground the governor has to try to make up in the foreign policy sphere, even though his focus has been on the economy?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I had a chance to talk to a senior Romney adviser about this.

He said about the Benghazi attack and the administration's response to it that they would like to see what he called more clarity from the administration when it comes to what exactly happened, what led up to the deaths of those American diplomats in Libya.

But I think the campaign also acknowledges, Anderson, that they have had a rough couple of weeks, starting with that initial statement on what happened in Libya and Egypt. Mitt Romney clearly spoke before all of the facts came in, and then as you saw what happened this week with this hidden camera video leaked to "Mother Jones." They were put on the defensive over economic issues.

COOPER: Jessica, we did see Ambassador Susan Rice at the U.N. saying that -- I mean, indicating, not really talking about this in terms of being a terrorist attack. It was days later the terrorist attack part of this was really discussed.

Is there concern in the Obama campaign this controversy might be providing Republicans some fodder to put a chink in the president's foreign policy armor?

YELLIN: Well, not yet, not given Romney's response so far, which was not handled well, Anderson.

But the larger potential here is that if there is another attack on Americans in another country or in Libya, if this grows in some way, that's the real danger for the president, because his strength in foreign policy is really about the perception that he is a decisive and clear leader, and that's what voters, it's perceived that voters are responding to.

If world events seem to be spinning out of his control, then that leadership quality could erode for him. But we're not at that stage yet and so the campaign is not reflecting any kind of anxiety on that front at this moment.

COOPER: It is interesting, Fareed, that a loss for the president in the foreign policy sphere does not necessarily translate to a victory for the Romney campaign in the foreign policy realm because of the way they have handled all this stuff.

ZAKARIA: But the crucial part is what you said last, because of the way they have handled it.

Generally speaking, a loss for the president does translate into a gain. Think of again Jimmy Carter. Ronald Reagan was seen as wildly inexperienced and kind of somewhat crazy on foreign policy, somewhat radical.

Once Carter started having trouble, the Iran hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, all Reagan had to show was that he was stable, that he was, you know, that he wasn't going to blow up the world, and he benefited.

COOPER: And I should also point out, Reagan did not politicize that event. He basically put out a statement as I recall, you know, saying, that basically we stand behind the -- we're all one.

ZAKARIA: Exactly.

He could see that bad news was hurting the president. He didn't need to do very much to pile on. I think that in this case, because Romney has been inept, it hasn't really translated much. I agree with Jessica, if something else were to happen, it might change that. But Obama, again, if he gets out ahead of it, because, really, these have not been events where people feel as though the United States is under attack, under siege.

There's a feeling that something is spinning out of control in the Middle East, and we need to understand it.

COOPER: Fareed, thank you, Jim Acosta, Jessica Yellin.

Be sure to tune in Sunday night, 8:00 and 11:00. Fareed has a really fascinating special, "Global Lessons: Putting America to Work," right here on CNN. As I said, thanks, everyone.

The idea of terrorism continues to haunt Americans. It's the keystone of our continuing focus throughout the campaign on issues in 2012. We polled registered voters to identify their top foreign policy concerns and we ask, what keeps you up at night? Syria was the number-five concern, Afghanistan four, China three.

People told us their number-two foreign policy concern is immigration and the number one concern was terrorism. Tonight, the man whose long service as mayor of New York and much of his public persona ever since has been defined by a single horrific act of terror, Rudy Giuliani.


RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: The thing that keeps me up at night, probably more than most, is the fear of a terrorist attack, maybe because I lived through one and had to be responsible for a city during our worst attack in our history.

Put your mask on. Put your mask on.

And it's very hard to tell people in America not to be worried about terrorism. I wish I could say that to them. I wish I could say, well, you shouldn't worry about it, because the reality is that we are at risk of having a terrorist attack in the United States.

Saw it firsthand for not just the day of September 11. I watched people -- before the buildings came down, I watched people dying from the debris that fell from the building and hit and crushed them.

I was trapped in a building myself for 20 minutes, 25 minutes. So, sure, I can relate to the fear. And it's a real fear. The thing that keeps me up at night the most is the whole idea of the use of nuclear material and the use of what I would call extraordinary biological weapons, chemical and biological weapons where we don't have the capacity yet to deal quite with that -- with that form of attack.

I remember exactly the date. It was the night of September 14, 2001. President Bush had come to New York that day.


GIULIANI: At 9:00 at night, I set up a secret meeting at Gracie Mansion with my medical task force.

I brought in all the law enforcement people and I brought in all of the experts that I could find on biological weapons. They started telling me about the danger of smallpox and the choices I would have to make if there was a smallpox attack on New York City.

And the choice basically came down to putting people on Randall's Island and letting them die and then surrounding Randall's Island with troops so they couldn't get off Randall's Island and spread smallpox to other people. God forbid we had to face these choices.

Well, these things are here. And if Americans do stay up at night worried about them, I would say let the government worry more, rely on the fact that the chance of it happening to you are very small, but if you're worried about it, you're not worried about it for irrational reasons. You are worried about it for actual, real reasons that exist in our world.


COOPER: It has been a brutal week for Mitt Romney in the wake of his 47 percent comments. Will the release of his 2011 tax returns help change the conversation? Will it put any questions about his finances to rest? Mary Matalin and James Carville square off next.


COOPER: Welcome back, "Raw Politics" now.

Mitt Romney's campaign released his 2011 tax returns today. You probably heard that, showing he made $13.7 million last year in mostly investment income, and paid an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent. The campaign also released a letter from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers saying the Romneys paid taxes every year from 1990 to 2009 at an effective tax rate of at least 13.6 percent in each year.

That information obviously contradicts what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been claiming about Romney for more than a month now.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The word's out that he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn't.


COOPER: Oh, when Harry Reid said the word is out, the thing is that Reid himself was the one who put the word out. He's the one who made the accusation in the first place. Turned out he didn't have any proof of his own. At least he hasn't offered any.

He said his source was investor at Bain Capital, Romney's investment firm, an unnamed source. Now, you might think that tonight in the face of the letter from Romney's accounting firm, Senator Reid might retract his earlier claim.

Instead, he released this statement -- quote -- "The information released today reveals that Mitt Romney manipulated one of the only two years of tax returns he has seen fit to show the American people and then only to conform with his public statements. That raises the question, what else in those returns has Romney manipulated?"

Reid is talking about the fact that the Romneys actually paid more taxes than required in 2011. The Romneys didn't claim all their charitable deductions in 2011 because they wanted to make sure their tax rate didn't fall below 13 percent, the minimum rate that Romney has said he paid over the last decade. You can decide for yourself if that amounts to manipulation.

Joining me now is CNN political contributors Mary Matalin and James Carville.

So James, is that manipulation?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTORS: Look, this is the best day Romney's had all month. Of course it's manipulation, and of course, he can file after the election and get the refund, which is totally legal.

And he's always said that he believed in paying the minimal amount of taxes so all of a sudden, the milk of human kindness comes from Mitt Romney, and he's going to give the federal government money that he doesn't -- that he doesn't owe. I don't know of any other explanation. Maybe somebody can come up with one.


COOPER: I think Mary might be able to. Mary?

MATALIN: I just want to get this straight. So now what the complaint from my liberal friends is that Romney gave 30 percent of his income last year to charity, and over the course of the many, many years that he's paid 100 percent of his taxes in direct contradiction of Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, calling him a felon and a scofflaw and a tax cheat, he's paid 100 percent of his rate, he's been 20 percent of his income over those 20 years to charity, and there's something wrong with that. If they said -- if he could prove that he could walk on water, they'd complain because he couldn't swim.

CARVILLE: Again, I think the -- I think the point you were making was, is that he didn't take charitable deductions because he said that his tax rate was 13 percent and that would have driven it below it and then he can do it after.

But like I say, this guy has done 13 events in 20 days. He doesn't, you know -- he thinks he's above releasing his tax returns like everybody else. So this stops the story about the 47 percent of all of those things he's done.

So all in all for him, even though this story is bad, it's probably the best story he's gotten all month.

COOPER: So you think they released it today in order to try to change the narrative?

MATALIN: No, they released it today because it was filed today. It was completed today. Anderson...

COOPER: It is a Friday afternoon, though, which is sort of when you do the document dump. CARVILLE: Yes.

MATALIN: But it was done today. They asked for the extension. Price Waterhouse Cooper, whatever they are, unless you want -- if Harry Reid wants to call them liars, scofflaws, felons and tax cheats, I mean, why doesn't he just malign and libel everybody in the country?

I think this is a good story. I don't think it's a data dump. I think it's a get -- it's done, it's exactly what he said, it's more generous than anyone -- than anybody we know and anyone could have expected.

And the real story where people are really concerned about is the Middle East and beyond, is completely melting down. And after a week of denying it, this president finally fessed up that it was a terrorist attack. We've been -- we've had a serious terrorist attack, and we're less secure than we were. That's what presidential campaigns in this country are going to be about, not Mitt Romney's 20 years of generous charitable giving and complete 100 percent tax completions.

CARVILLE: OK. The fact remains that he did that. He said it was 13. The fact when he ran for governor of Massachusetts said he filed a Massachusetts return and then later had to fess up that he really didn't. I don't believe anything Mitt Romney says on his taxes, to be honest with you.

MATALIN: Are you calling him a liar?

CARVILLE: I don't believe he -- he did before when he was filing in Massachusetts, told people he filed in Massachusetts and then he didn't. He said he paid 13 percent in taxes. He had to manipulate his tax return to not take charitable deduction to do that. But that's his history. I don't think on his taxes he's been very forthcoming. He will only give us two years of them.

COOPER: Mary, critics of Romney will say, "Well, look, we know, you know, they've released the information that he's given years of money to charities but not what he's actually paid in taxes over the years." Why is it OK to give, you know, that information on charities and yet not -- why wouldn't he just give out his taxes?

MATALIN: He's released decades of financial disclosure, everything that the law requires. He's paid all his taxes, 100 percent and more than the law requires, which actually I do think is kind of weird. He's given millions and millions, scores of millions of dollars to charity. We're going to try to make this into a negative?

I just don't see how this turns into a negative story unless we're completely detached from reality and the reality that is the everyday life of voters who are not voting on Romney's tax returns which are now complete and for them to judge for themselves how charitable and legal he is, or do they want to care about their own taxes which will be going up if this president's re-elected? COOPER: James, Mary raises a good point. I mean, you've seen Harry Reid's response. He says these returns raise more questions about Mitt Romney's finances. But the fact is, I mean, the evidence out there suggests the senator was wrong, that Reid was wrong when he claimed that Romney had paid no taxes for ten years. There's no evidence of that.

CARVILLE: Well, look, he said that somebody was in the same deal. And I'm sure we're going to get this guy's name before it's over. And these same offshore Cayman Islands Swiss bank account deal that Romney was in, and that he didn't pay any taxes. That's what he was basing it on.

We only see two years of tax returns, by the way. That's all we see. And he's paying 12 percent of the federal tax. Well, a hotel (ph) pays 15 percent in federal taxes. You know, but -- so he won't be -- he won't tell us what his tax returns are prior to this.

He has a history of putting out false information about tax returns when he ran for governor of Massachusetts. So I think that there agree a lot of doubts that are raised here but, you know, it's not only startling that much. After you call 47 percent of the people in the United States slackers, there's not much more you can do to sort of hurt yourself, to be honest with you.

MATALIN: It's not what he said.

And now they want to libel an iconic American accounting firm, Price Waterhouse Cooper, been around forever. They're just going to libel everybody in their way. So let's take down all of our big institutions, everything that's iconic in this country, in pursuit of Obama's re-election. You sound insane.

CARVILLE: I don't think Price Waterhouse Cooper's running for president. I think Mitt Romney is, and Mitt Romney won't -- is not forthcoming on his tax returns. He only releases two. He manipulated his last tax return. He was less than honest about his returns in Massachusetts. That's the fact. I'm not -- if Price Waterhouse Cooper wants to run for president, that's their business.

COOPER: What is it like living with you two?

MATALIN: Friday night, if we weren't with you, we'd probably be having a good stiff drink, which we're about to go do right now.

COOPER: All right. I'll let you go do that. Mary, thank you. James Carville, thank you.

CARVILLE: You bet.

COOPER: I'd kind of like to join them.

As we said, it's been a pretty rough week for the Romney campaign, and the shots are not just coming from Democrats. In a blog post Tuesday, "Wall Street Journal" columnist Peggy Noonan wrote, "It's time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It's not big. It's not brave. It's not thoughtfully tackling great issues. An intervention is in order. Mitt, this isn't working."

Today, she doubled down, writing, quote, "The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week I called it incompetent but only because I was being polite. I really meant rolling calamity."

And Noonan is not alone. Other high-profile Republicans are also calling for a campaign reboot. In the face of all this not-so- friendly fire, Ann Romney is now returning fire.

Here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ann Romney has a message for what she calls the chattering class Republicans criticizing her husband.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it, get in the ring. This is hard. And you know, it's an important thing that we're doing right now and it's an important election, and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is. And how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt's qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country.

KAYE: And in another interview, she defended her husband over the now famous 47 percent tape.

A. ROMNEY: You know, I know the guy. I know him really well. I know he cares, and that's why we're running. So it's unfortunate when something gets misinterpreted like this or it's taken out of context.

It's nonsense. I don't let it sink in. You hear it and then you just let it go right by. And you're used to it. Honestly, at this point, I'm not surprised by anything.

KAYE (on camera): To those who know her, Mrs. Romney's attitude is nothing new. It has always been Ann to the rescue. In the Romney household, she is often called the trusted advisor and the Mitt stabilizer, but first and foremost, she is the great protector of all things Romney.

(voice-over) Ron Scott, who has known Mitt Romney since 1985 and wrote a book about him, says Ann is no pushover.

RON SCOTT, FRIEND OF ROMNEYS: The last person on earth you'd want to cross would be Ann Romney. If you go after one of her kids or after her husband, she's going to be there.

KAYE: On the campaign trail, long before Mitt Romney was officially nominated, his wife tried to humanize him, calling him her most disobedient child. She often shared secrets about his love of chocolate milk and his obsession with peanut butter. More recently at the Republican National Convention...

A. ROMNEY: What a welcome! KAYE: She hoped to help America embrace her husband.

A. ROMNEY: I know this good and decent man for what he is. He's warm and loving and patient. He has tried to live his life with a set of values centered on family, faith and love of one's fellow man. From the time we were first married, I've seen him spend countless hours helping others.

KAYE: Yet no matter how much she builds him up, team Romney can't seem to catch a break. Listen to what she told Neil Cavuto on FOX.

A. ROMNEY: As you know we always feel like we're getting picked on more than anyone else. It's just what happens. And...

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: You think the media's fair to you?

A. ROMNEY: That is going to get me in trouble, if I answer that honestly.

KAYE: With the campaign calendar ticking down, the race may very well come down to the three presidential debates.

Ann Romney says she knows the stakes and, as she always has, trusts her husband will get the job done. Once again, Ann Romney will be in her husband's corner.

A. ROMNEY: I feel like my best advice is just to -- is just to bring peace and calm to him and just trust in him and just say, "I know you can do it."

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: As we mentioned earlier, Ann Romney had a bit of an airborne scare today. We just got an air traffic control audio of some of the incident. That's ahead.

Also, police in Colorado find an arrest -- they arrest an alleged bank robber but end up stopping 19 cars in the process, holding teenagers at gunpoint, putting a lot of innocent people in handcuffs. Did they go too far? That's the question tonight in "Crime & Punishment."


COOPER: Guns pointed at mothers, young children and teenagers as police search for a bank robbery suspect. They say they got their man but could he get away with it because police went too far on the manhunt? "Crime & Punishment" next.


COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight. A bank robbery case in Colorado is raising serious questions about how far police can go to catch the bad guy.

Now, in the process of stopping traffic to find and arrest an alleged bank robber, police also held innocent civilians at gunpoint, handcuffing teenagers and pointing rifles at moms.

Now the whole case against the alleged robber could be in jeopardy because of it. Ted Rowlands reports.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marci Strandberg (ph) stopped at a light on her way home from shopping near Denver, Colorado. The next thing she knew, police had her at gun point.

MARCI STRANDBERG, WAS HELD AT GUNPOINT: I said, "I have kids in my car, and that rifle's pointed right at me."

ROWLANDS: Nineteen cars were held at this intersection that Saturday afternoon. Everyone was ordered out of their cars at gunpoint, including children. The boy in the green shirt is 16-year- old Michael Hance.

MICHAEL HANCE, HELD AT GUNPOINT: They had rifles, guns and everything pointed at me with shields and a K-9 dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; A robbery just occurred with a gun at Wells Fargo.

ROWLANDS: Police were looking for this bank robber, seen here wearing a beekeeper's mask and armed with an air horn and loaded gun. He had just made off with $25,000 from a Wells Fargo a few miles away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last seen wearing a beehive mask.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Police thought the bank robber was at this intersection because there was a GPS tracking device hidden in with the money. The problem is, they had no idea what car he could be in and, because of that bee mask, they didn't even know what he looks like.

(voice-over) So everyone was treated as an armed and dangerous suspect.

STRANDBERG: We all had to have our hands showing and our arms out the window and we had to keep our arms like this.

ROWLANDS: One by one, police approached each car with guns and shields. Nearly everyone was handcuffed. Marci's 4-year-old daughter, who you can see she's carrying, was asleep for most of the ordeal. Her 8-year-old son, however, was awake.

STRANDBERG: My son was crying, and I kept telling him to keep his head down between his legs, because I didn't know if open fire was going to happen.

ROWLANDS: That's Crystal Deguzman in handcuffs moments after she watched police take her son, 16-year-old Michael, away at gunpoint.

CRYSTAL DEGUZMAN, CAUGHT IN POLICE BLOCKADE: I think any mom would be upset. Not knowing what's going to happen to your kid.

ROWLANDS: Police eventually searched this white Expedition. Inside, they found two loaded guns, the money and the beekeeper's mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have a suspect in custody.

ROWLANDS: Forty-five-year-old Christian Paetsch, a schoolteacher with no criminal record, was arrested and charged with armed robbery. He's pled not guilty.

Was this a case of good police work, or did they go too far? Federal law gives police some leeway to detain citizens for a reasonable period of time as part of a criminal investigation.

DAVID LANE, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: A little bit of inconvenience, getting cuffed for a minute to see if you're armed, getting detained very briefly to see if there's some probable cause to believe you've done something, you do have to put up with that. But two hours at rifle point, I think that's a little excessive.

CHIEF DAN OATES, AURORA POLICE DEPARTMENT: No question we inconvenienced citizens. We feel badly about that. We apologize to them. But we've made a tough choice here, and we arrested a very dangerous armed bank robber.

ROWLANDS: But what police did may have put the entire case in jeopardy. The accused robber's attorney says there was no probable cause to search the vehicle, and that police violated his client's rights by pressuring him to agree to a search after he initially refused.

If a judge agrees, all of the evidence -- the guns, the money, the bee keeper's mask -- could be thrown out because of the way it was collected, and as crazy as that sounds, some legal experts say they have an argument.

Tim Olson, who was among those handcuffed at the intersection, says that would send a message to police.

TIM OLSON, CAUGHT IN POLICE BLOCKADE: If the bank robber gets away with it, that says you didn't do your job properly.

ROWLANDS: The judges ruling in the case should indicate whether police were doing their job or if they crossed the line.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Aurora, Colorado.


COOPER: Scary stuff.

Some tense moments also in Pittsburgh today. A former U.S. soldier allegedly took a man hostage for several hours. Details on that ahead.


ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: I'm Isha Sesay, back with a 360 moment. A scary moment on the campaign trail. An electrical fire aboard Ann Romney's plane, filling the cabin with smoke. The flight was heading to L.A. but made an emergency landing in Denver instead. No one was hurt.

Police say an armed man who took a hostage inside a downtown Pittsburgh office building today surrendered peacefully. The suspect talked to family members as well as negotiators during the standoff. The hostage was not harmed.

And Space Shuttle Endeavour made its final flight today over Southern California atop a modified Boeing 747 jet. The retired spacecraft will go on display at the California Science Center in L.A.

Well, time now for "The Shot," a close encounter with a cheetah at Kenya's Masai Mara (ph) National Reserve. The big cat apparently wanted a closer look at a Jeep, and the tourists inside.

OK, then. Once up on that hood, she took her time checking it all out. Hanging out for several minutes, even lying down at one point. She was just inches from the tourists sitting in the jeep. Eventually, the driver started up the jeep. Only then did the big cat decide, I'll jump off.

Anderson is back with "The RidicuList" right after this.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, we are issuing a nationwide plea for a return to sanity, an end to the madness once and for all.

Now, we all know that people like to put stuff in their yards: your garden gnomes, your flags emblazoned with professional sports logos, your inflatable Homer Simpsons dressed like Santa Clause, what have you.

But there has to be limit, and when someone puts something undeniably offensive in their backyard, there has to be repercussions.

So that is why I'm proud to report that in Georgia one very brave and heroic homeowners association has finally, finally here has been a lawsuit filed over this pink playhouse.

I mean, would you just take a look at that? Hideous eyesore, party of one, your table is ready.

Now forget the fact that you can't even see it from the front of the house. You have to peak around the house and into the backyard. The homeowner's association knows it is there, and they know it's pink. Now, the first rule of homeowners' association, don't talk about the homeowners' association. The second rule, no unapproved colors on free-standing backyard structures. And that has not even taken into account the nefarious activity that occurs within said structure. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put a little water in it. I put it in the oven.


COOPER: Yes. That would be 4-year-old Aubrey. She's probably having a tea party, probably without even a permit.

Of course, Aubrey isn't pulling this off all on her own. Oh, no. There's her accomplice/grandmother who built the playhouse as a "Christmas present."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought this is ridiculous. There's too much crime and everything else. These lawyers need to be worrying about other things that are way more important than whether or not my granddaughter has a pink playhouse or not.


COOPER: I want to apologize for using this. I've never done that before.

There has been some public outcry about this, but the president of the homeowners' association is standing firm. Take it away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Part of the problem is color. We didn't disapprove the playhouse. We disapproved the color.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think the color pink is worth this whole legal mess?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously it is. Obviously, I have neighbors who complained about it.


COOPER: OK. You really need to get other things going on in your life.

Totally reasonable, though. Sounds like the lawsuit would go away if they just painted the playhouse, and why not? And what could possibly be more thrilling than for a little girl than to suddenly find the pink playhouse she loves transformed into a really fun shade of, oh, I don't know, dirt brown. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you like it pink?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's my favorite color.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you want your playhouse brown?



COOPER: I rest my case.

The grandmother has two weeks to respond to the lawsuit, and it sounds like she is in it for the long haul.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to fight it to the bitter end. I will not paint that doll house. I'll move first.


COOPER: I think it was John Mellencamp who said it best, "Ain't that America. Home of the free, little pink houses for you and me." Oh, except for you, little Aubrey. Sorry. Yours has to look like a shed.

So, thank you, John Mellencamp and thank you, homeowners' association, for reminding us what really matters on "The RidicuList."

That's it for us. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now. Have a great weekend.