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Interview With Nancy Reagan; Gun Check Compromise?; Margaret Thatcher Dies

Aired April 8, 2013 - 22:00   ET


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

We have breaking news tonight, new signs of a deal on some form, some form of tighter gun legislation, but not the kind of universal background checks that a large majority of Americans say they want. Late word as well that the top Senate Republican just signed on to block even debate on the Democrats' bill.

Also tonight, a surprising moment from our exclusive interview with Gabby Giffords, gun control advocate, gun violence victim and gun owner.

We will talk about the death also of Margaret Thatcher, of course, with former first lady Nancy Reagan. I am going to talk with Mrs. Reagan in just a few minutes.

And later this hour, Beyonce and Jay-Z in Cuba for a wedding anniversary vacation. The question is, are they actually breaking U.S. law by being there?

Again, there is breaking news tonight that could drastically affect President Obama's big push on gun control legislation, bipartisan talks tonight on background checks. If you look at the polls, extending background checks to cover all gun buyers is very popular, among Democrats, Republicans, gun owners, even some members of the National Rifle Association.

Yet our Dana Bash reporting tonight -- we're going to talk to her in just a moment -- that Congress, which came back today from a two- week recess, shows little sign of doing what as many as 90 percent of Americans say they want in that regard.

So tonight, after speaking in Hartford, Connecticut, Mr. Obama brought a number of Newtown families back to Washington on Air Force One to spend the next few days speaking with lawmakers, telling their stories, trying to make it personal.

Nicole Hockley lost her son Dylan at Sandy Hook Elementary. She introduced the president this afternoon, called on people to make this the moment when real change begins.

Now, whether you agree or disagree with the legislation that President Obama is pushing for, today, he made a fiery speech in defense of it. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some in the Washington press suggest that what happens to gun violence legislation in Congress this week will either be a political victory or defeat for me.

Connecticut, this is not about me. This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun violence. It's about them and all the families going forward, so we can prevent this from happening again. That's what it's about.


COOPER: But getting anything from Congress will be a heavy lift. In a moment, as I mentioned, Dana Bash has some breaking news on the outlines, the outlines of a potential bipartisan deal and background checks.

But, first, let's check in with our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, the president seems more emotional talking about guns at this point than any other issue really that we have seen him address.


The president has repeatedly said that the Sandy Hook shooting was the hardest day of his presidency, but I have talked to aides who have known him dating back even before his White House days, and they tell me they have never seen him as raw as he was on that day.

And so it's not a big leap to deduce that part of his sense of deep emotional connection to this issue is his sense of responsibility. Gun safety, a gun safety agenda was missing from his first term, despite repeated mass shootings, and so now you see him working for it pretty aggressively.

COOPER: I mean, we know the president was pushing for a so- called assault weapons ban, a limit on the size of gun magazines. Neither is expected to actually get through Congress. One does have to look at the politics of this. What does the White House expect to get from pushing from Congress, if anything?

YELLIN: Well, look, he's calling for assault weapons and magazine clip limits because he would be called out if he didn't press for the full package of measures he supported them right after the shooting.

You over -- you shoot for more and get a little less, but you're right, the votes absolutely are not there for either of those two measures. What they are working toward is a deal that expands background checks beyond what exists today, but will fall short of universal background checks for all gun purchases. And privately, the White House is making it very clear that that compromise is perfectly acceptable to them. They're in fact urging Democrats not to be too rigid in cutting a deal, not to in essence let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

COOPER: And their strategy for getting that deal done is what?

YELLIN: Well, you mentioned that they are getting as many gun violence victims to speak out as possible, for example, bringing those 12 Newtown families -- not just encouraging them to come here to D.C., but bringing them here on Air Force One. That's enormously unusual.

You will also see Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder speaking out here at an event at the White House tomorrow, and then Mrs. Obama will be holding an event in Chicago on Wednesday, an emotional event, her hometown, city ravaged by gun violence and I think you will see more from the president. A steady drumbeat of pressure from the White House officials.

COOPER: All right, Jessica, I appreciate that.

Let's go over to Capitol Hill now to breaking news, the "Raw Politics."

We're joined by chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, who has more details on what a possible background check compromise might look like. Also joining us, two op-ed columnists for "The New York Times," conservative Ross Douthat and liberal Charles Blow.

Dana, you have the breaking news. A possible bipartisan compromise coming together on background checks. As Jessica said, it stops short of being universal. What more do you know?


What I'm told is that these talks are considering expanding background checks which, of course, now just happen AT licensed firearm dealers, into two areas, gun shows and also Internet sales. So what that would mean is it would leave out sales of guns person to person.

So, for example, if you were in your house and you wanted to sell a gun to me, that would not require a background check. But what I'm told is going to be included, at least is in these working discussions, is requiring that this background checks and these sales, records are kept. That really is critical to supporters of new gun restrictions, because they say without that, the background check isn't enforceable and it is not possible to really trace these guns if they're used in a crime.

So that is the crux of what is being discussed, but it is really just at this point between two critical senators, Anderson, Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. These are the two who are going back and forth and why is it critical that it is these two people? Because they both, Democrat and Republican, have really good ratings with the NRA. They have credibility when it comes to their support of gun rights.

COOPER: Ross, let me bring you in. The participation of Senator Toomey, a conservative, is that cover enough for a large enough number of Republicans to come forward and maybe support this legislation?

ROSS DOUTHAT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think the compromise that's being discussed sounds like something that might be closer to something that might get Republican votes, because part of the sticking point with the outline that Chuck Schumer released and that other people have been talking about is the question of how you deal with exchanges within families.

There was talk that a version of the bill, you know, if you loaned your gun to a relative for a week, you could face jail time and so on. And there's a whole sort of intimate sphere that's very hard to regulate to begin with and hard to write laws where you actually have sort of cost effectiveness.

So if you just focus on Internet sales and gun shows, you're taking that part off the table and, yes, maybe you get more Republican votes and get closer to what you need.

COOPER: Charles, what do you think about this potential compromise?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, I think, you know, we're now scraping the bottom of the barrel. I think we have to step back and remember that we have now taken -- essentially taken off the table all of the major provisions of any real comprehensive gun control legislation, and now we're down to just the bare basics of what would be a deal.

And it is being stripped down even further and further, and you still have 12, 13 Republicans in the Senate who are threatening to filibuster any legislation. So I think that when you step back, you look at how kind of ludicrous this whole debate is and that it may still fail, even if you have a compromise, because this is just the Senate, if it makes it through the Senate, if it gets a vote in the Senate, and it still has to go to the House.

DOUTHAT: And I should say that I completely agree with Charles. I think that this is, though, the nature of the politics of gun control, that people were sort of aware of from the beginning.

Frankly, it makes the White House's decision to sort of posture so much on this seem a little bit ridiculous. The reality is twofold. One, yes, you get huge majorities of Americans saying that they support background checks and so on, but the percentage of Americans who actually vote on this -- these issues is very small. Congressmen are well aware of that. That's why those polls don't mean that much.

Then the second thing is we have a lot of experience with broad- based gun control legislation that can actually pass over the last 20 to 25 years, the assault weapons ban, the Brady Bill and so on, and its impact on homicide rates has been negligible. We have had a lot more success with other crime fighting strategies. It's unclear why -- you know, it's understandable that this was the focus after Newtown, but we were always destined to end up here, and from a policy perspective, there are better things we could be doing about crime anyway.

BLOW: But I actually disagree with you. I think that the White House is being very clever here, because they are playing on two fronts.

The first front is to see if you can actually get something through, which they actually do in fact want. I do believe -- I take the president at his word he actually wants something done. But on the other side is, they're playing 2014 politics. If you can push the Republican Party so that they are so far out on the extreme, that they will oppose something that is backed by 90 percent of the public, and you can engage the most convincing, the most, you know, animated kind of advocate for gun control which is the Newtown families, and keep them engaged because their pain will still be there in 2014, they will still be showing up in commercials, they will still be advocating.

And if they go on television and say this senator refused to even let this come up for a vote, that bodes extremely well for the Democrats in 2014. So I think the White House has been...


COOPER: Charles, aren't you essentially then saying the president is using these families?

BLOW: Absolutely not.

I think that what's happening is he actually does want a deal. But if the Republicans are going to play hardball, then they need to come -- they're kind of flushing them out and saying if you are going to play this kind of hardball, if you're not even going down to the bare basics -- we're not even talking at this point about, you know, clips or magazines. We're not talking at this point about assault weapons.

We're just talking about background checks, just keeping the guns out of the hands of criminals and people who have been violent in the past. We are just talking about basic stuff, and if you cannot even let a basic bill come up for a vote in the Senate, then you are pushing your own self out. I think that if the president and Democrats expose that, I don't think that is using anybody. I think that's just saying...


COOPER: Ross, it's interesting, though, because the background checks that they're talking about for Internet sales and for gun show sales, is actually I believe pretty small compared to the private sales between family members and the like.

DOUTHAT: Right. No, no, I mean, again, this is why Charles is right. We are talking about a very minimal bill that, you know, affects a relatively minimal number of gun sales. I don't even disagree with Charles' point about the politics. I think it is possible that, you know, in some swing states, this could be an effective issue for the Democrats in 2014, although I'm doubtful that it will sort of overshadow the economy and health care and issues like that.

I think it's more likely to sort of help the Democrats if they're doing well already, you might say. But, again, I think -- but I would just say to Charles from a policy point of view, you had this moment after Newtown where the president had an opportunity to focus on policy related to gun violence in general.

And I agree, maybe the narrow focus on gun control legislation that can't actually pass is going to help him politically, but the NRA came out with what was frankly a stupid proposal saying let's put a cop in every school. But a smart proposal would be to just hire more cops, period, in hot spots in Chicago and other places where gun violence is terrible.

I think if the White House had put this kind of muscle behind that kind of proposal, you might have actually passed something and it might have had more of an impact on actual gun violence.

COOPER: Although it's amazing to me that 90 percent of people in polls can say they want universal background checks and still that message not be heard on Capitol Hill.

Dana, you have got an exclusive interview with former Congressman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, at their home in Tucson. They have of course become big advocates for universal background checks. Are they optimistic that something real is going to get done in Congress?

BASH: They are optimistic, and that's primarily because they are taking the posture that Jessica was reporting that we're hearing that the White House is taking, which is they will basically take anything, even if it's a baby step.

But what was one of the many remarkable things that I witnessed with Gabby Giffords and her husband is that despite the fact she lost a lot, one thing she did not lose is her love of guns.


BASH (voice-over): Target practice is still a form of entertainment at Giffords' mother's house deep in the Arizona desert.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch this. He's aiming for my pot. Whoa.

BASH: Husband Mark Kelly using planting pots and water bottles as targets, while Giffords watches from the patio with her mother, cheering him on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excellent. Excellent. Excellent.

BASH: And Kelly isn't shooting with just any kind of gun. MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: This is the same kind of gun Gabby was shot with, a Glock, a .9 millimeter Glock, but in that case, it had a magazine that held 33 rounds. This, when it's full, holds 17. He shot 33 rounds. Every round hit somebody, we think.

BASH (on camera): How long have you had this gun?

KELLY: Well, I gave this to Gabby as a gift.

BASH: When?

KELLY: A number of years ago. She's a gun owner. She's from the West.

BASH (voice-over): Still, we asked the question a lot of incredulous people seeing this scene would ask.

(on camera): Really? This guy Sort of still gets his kicks or recreation for him is shooting a gun after his wife was shot through the head?

KELLY: Well, Gabby used to like shooting a gun, too, occasionally.



BASH: Anderson, Giffords and Kelly both say they think they do have more credibility in arguing for more gun restrictions because they understand the gun culture, they still love the gun culture.

I got to tell you, just overall, her recovery is remarkable. We are going to show that tomorrow night and also, a bone-chilling experience that she had coming face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball, with the man who shot her.

COOPER: We will show the full interview tomorrow.

Hey, Dana, just very briefly, is there talk in this breaking news, this compromise, about strengthening current background check laws? I mean, you know, that a number of people who are caught lying on background checks, they don't get prosecuted. Is there any talk about actually going after some of those people?

BASH: You know, I haven't heard that in this particular compromise discussion that's going on. However, I will tell you that broadly, that is the kind of thing that has a lot of support, bipartisan support.

And that's even what you hear from the NRA, let's make sure that the laws on the books really do work.

COOPER: Yes. All right. Dana, appreciate the reporting on that. Ross Douthat and Charles Blow as well. Let us know what you think. Follow us on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. I'm tweeting tonight.

Coming up next, how the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, became the Iron Lady, and her relationship with her political soul mate, President Ronald Reagan. We are going to be joined by Nancy Reagan. We're going to talk about that relationship and their personal friendship as well, as we remember Britain's most influential prime minister since Churchill.

Later, what were Jay-Z and Beyonce doing in Cuba? How did they get there? Why are some big political names outraged by their visit? Details ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back.

Tonight, Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister, possibly its most influential modern prime minister, period, she died of a stroke today at the age 87 after a slow decline into dementia. To those who knew her at her peak, it's hard to imagine anything striking her down, because back then, nothing could even slow her up.

Margaret Thatcher was called the Iron Lady, and the journey between those two phrases show how that iron was forged, the first in 1974 -- quote -- "It will be years and not in my time before a woman will lead the party or become prime minister." And in 1982, she said, "In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman."

Both of course from Margaret Thatcher who, through political savvy and plain force of will, left the political chasm those words describe between the totally unthinkable and the completely indispensable.

More on how she did it from chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You never had to wonder where Margaret Thatcher stood on the issues.

MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will not change just to court popularity.

AMANPOUR: She was known to be uncompromising, especially when it came to her principles of economic and individual freedom, soon to be known as Thatcherism.

THATCHER: Why are you so interested in compromise and consensus? Why are you not interested in having clear objectives? AMANPOUR: Margaret Thatcher came from a modest background. She was the daughter of a grocer and she was born and raised in a small town in the eastern part of England. She studied chemistry at Oxford, but soon she turned to politics. And in 1975, she was elected leader of the Conservative Party, the first woman to hold that title.

Four years later, she would lead that party to three consecutive victories. She made history as Britain's first female prime minister, and the first elected leader of a major Western democracy. She also knew how to poke fun at herself, as on her election night.

THATCHER: My face softly made up and my fair hair gently waved, the Iron Lady of the Western world.


AMANPOUR: The Iron Lady went on for an 11-year rule as prime minister, the longest in modern British history.

THATCHER: The lady's not for turning.

AMANPOUR: Thatcher became a close ally and friend of U.S. President Ronald Reagan. They were often called political soul mates.

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prime Minister, the entire world salutes you and your gallant people and gallant nation.

AMANPOUR: Thatcher once referred to Reagan as the second most important man in her life. She had to persuade the United States to take her side in the Falklands War but she went to war to retake those islands from Argentina and that solidified her as a global leader.

It also helped Thatcher influence the end of the Cold War, when she convinced Reagan that he could trust the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. In her first term, Thatcher faced problems at home, three million people out of work, riots in inner cities, labor unrest, the long and bitter miners strike. And she defeated the miners' union. But she was blessed with a weak opposition and in the mid-1980s a briskly growing economy.

The end came in 1990, when the economy was doing badly. She was forced to resign after she introduced the unpopular local tax known as the poll tax.

THATCHER: We're very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here 11-and-a-half years ago.

AMANPOUR: She was tearful when she left Downing Street for the very last time. But she wasn't finished with public life. In 1992, she formally became a baroness.

THATCHER: So help me God.

AMANPOUR: And she stayed active in politics until she suffered a stroke in 2002. She made few public appearances after that. The once Iron Lady was physically frail. But that is not how she will be remembered. This is.

THATCHER: Perhaps the honorable gentleman couldn't hear because of the noise.

AMANPOUR: As a steely spine, uncompromising on her core values.

THATCHER: I have given away far more than the right honorable gentleman ever dare give away.

AMANPOUR: As indomitable and, yes, as controversial.



COOPER: The Iron Lady.

Let's dig deeper now with Christiane Amanpour, James Baker, former Reagan chief of staff and treasury secretary, who shared many of the prime minister's history-making moments, and joining us on the phone, former first lady Nancy Reagan, who was not only a friend to the Thatchers, but also had a front-row seat to the deep political and personal kinship between President Reagan and Mrs. Thatcher.

Mrs. Reagan, first of all, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.

When you heard the news about Mrs. Thatcher's passing, what went through your mind?


What went through my mind? Well, it wasn't unexpected, because she hadn't been well for a long time. But, nevertheless, when the day finally comes, it's hard to accept it. She was a wonderful, wonderful woman, strong, wonderful.

COOPER: Mrs. Reagan, I know -- we're joined by someone you know very well, former Secretary of State James Baker.

Mr. Secretary, you served as chief of staff to President Reagan, also later as secretary of state to President Bush Sr. What kind of an ally was Prime Minister Thatcher to the White House?

JAMES BAKER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, she was the best possible ally, Anderson.

Of course, as you have pointed out, she and President Reagan had a seamless relationship, but she also had an extraordinarily good relationship with President George H.W. Bush, but only for 18 months. Of course, with President Reagan, it was for eight years. And she had that relationship with him across geopolitical, geostrategic lines and into the realm of economics as well, when I was -- I remember when I was President Reagan's treasury secretary, dealing with Prime Minister Thatcher, and she was the best possible friend America could have had at that time.

COOPER: She was known as the Iron Lady, Mr. Secretary. Was that the way she was? Was she tough?

BAKER: She was plenty tough. That's exactly the way she was. She could persuade her enemies, but if necessary, she could cower them as well.

You look at the way she waged the war in the Falkland Islands, you can see how tough she was. She was determined. She was strong. And I think that working with President Reagan for eight years, then with President Bush for a year-and-a-half, she changed the arc of history. I know she changed the arc of history in the United Kingdom and I think she changed the arc of history in the world.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, she was elected to Parliament first in 1959, which in that day and age for a woman to be elected to Parliament in England was a remarkable thing, reelected three times -- elected three times as prime minister. Her impact in Great Britain was -- it was a lot more contentious than on the international scene.

AMANPOUR: Well, look, it's true, she has been quite a divisive figure, although it might be worth saying at this point that even the last polls taken back in 2011 said that she was viewed by the British public, a majority of the British public, as the most capable prime minister, and -- in a long time, certainly more capable than her four successors, according to this poll.

But she was a larger-than-life character. You have heard from Mrs. Reagan and Secretary Baker. She was not just at the front row of history, but she made history. She was the first female democratically elected leader of a major Western democracy, and it was really intense.

I mean, I might say something personal, that I cast my very first democratic vote for Maggie Thatcher because she was a woman, and it's something that I know many, many women felt very strongly about, even though some of her politics afterwards are -- as some people have said, might be left to the arguments of history.

But she was such a towering figure. She was called the Iron Lady, but that was hurled at her as an insult by the Soviet press. And yet, because of her steely resolve and her conviction as a politician, she was perhaps the last after Ronald Reagan of the conviction politicians.

And I think that really was something that she carried throughout her entire career. And she was the longest serving British prime minister of modern times, elected three times, and really made her mark on the world.

COOPER: Mr. Secretary, you know, there is this special relationship between Great Britain and the United States, but really some up never more than the relationship between President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher. BAKER: Very close, as I said, Anderson, I think really seamless. President Reagan, of course, was so comfortable in his own skin that even though the United States is considered to lead the alliance, oftentimes, he would let the prime minister speak for the United States and for the United Kingdom.

And I think we ought not to forget that Margaret Thatcher led a -- really led a conservative revolution, when you consider that she won in 1979, President Reagan won in 1980 -- Helmut Kohl and Brian Mulroney, two other conservative leaders of very close allies of the United States, were also elected in very short order, I think, thereafter.

So it was Margaret Thatcher who began that and who worked tirelessly to carry it forward and move it forward.

COOPER: Mrs. Reagan, she was an extraordinary example for women, not only in Great Britain, but really around the world, the fact that she got elected at the time she did to Parliament and then elected prime minister. She really was a very strong woman on the international front.

REAGAN: Oh, yes, she was. Yes, she was.

She let everybody know that, reminded them of it.


Was she -- was she as kind of strong -- I mean, what we saw in public, was that the way she was in private, Mrs. Reagan?

REAGAN: Yes, she was -- she was strong, but also, she had a nice soft side, sentimental side to her. For instance, she wanted very much to deliver a eulogy for Ronnie when he died, but she wasn't sure that her health would hold up. So months before, before Ronnie passed, she taped her beautiful eulogy for him, and she --it was shown -- it was shown at his funeral. It was beautiful. And what a thoughtful thing to do. My word. And you know, she -- she not only flew over here for the funeral, but she stayed on the plane and flew out to California with us.

COOPER: I remember that well.

Mrs. Reagan, it's so great to hear your voice, so great to have you on the program. Thank you so much for calling in.

REAGAN: Thank you. It's good to hear yours, too.

COOPER: We wish you the best. We'll see you soon.

Secretary Baker, as well, great to have you on.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much.


BAKER: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight, Beyonce and Jay-Z got a warm welcome in Havana, Cuba, where they spent their fifth wedding anniversary, but did their trip to Cuba actually violate U.S. travel restrictions? Two U.S. lawmakers are calling for answers.

Also coming up, a rare look inside North Korea. An extraordinary documentary used undercover cameras to show you what life is really like and the risk that many North Koreans are taking to try to escape. I'll talk with one of the filmmakers ahead.


COOPER: Well, you may have seen that Beyonce and Jay-Z celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in Havana. The music power couple drew big crowds in the Cuban capital. Wasn't exactly a quiet get-away for them.

Back home, though, their visit has also stirred up a ruckus. Two members of Congress are asking U.S. Treasury officials to look into whether the couple had the proper paperwork to travel to Cuba. As you know, a long-standing trade embargo prevents most Americans from visiting the communist island without a license granted by the government. So did Jay-Z and Beyonce violate those restrictions?

Jim Acosta has more.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary in Cuba, Beyonce and Jay-Z blew through the island nation like a tropical storm. Everywhere they went, whether it was the streets of old Havana...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I really wanted to see her, because I like many of her songs.

ACOSTA: ... their meetings with local artists or dinner at one of the capital's best-known restaurants, the pop power couple's fans were waiting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They were very nice. They said hello to everyone.

ACOSTA: But the trip also made waves all the way back in Miami, where conservative Cuban-American politicians are calling out Beyonce.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: I'm calling them out. I'm saying that there are many places that are pleasant, that you don't feel like you're being a pawn in the game of this communist tyranny.

ACOSTA: Florida Republican Congressman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says she feels betrayed. She fired off a letter to the Treasury Department, questioning whether Beyonce and Jay-Z violated U.S. travel restrictions on Cuba. ROS-LEHTINEN: How nice it would have been if they had said something about freedom and human rights. I'm not saying that they should be politicians, but be sensitive to the cruelty of this regime, what they've done to the people of Cuba. It's just a shame to make it look like an exotic vacation. Shameful.

ACOSTA: Cuban-American Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican and rap connoisseur, tweeted that Jay-Z should heed his one-time hit, "99 Problems," with the hash tag "99ProblemsAndDictatorsAreOne."

But the Reuters news service reports Beyonce's vacation was licensed as a cultural exchange. Just the kind of trip the president had in mind when he opened up travel to Cuba two years ago.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly, the case that under this administration, we have eased the ability to travel to Cuba for those purposes.

ACOSTA: Beyonce is hardly the first celebrity to travel to Cuba. The Pretenders' lead singer, Chrissie Hynde, told CNN about her visit to the island with a boyfriend four years ago.

CHRISSIE HYNDE, LEADER SINGER, THE PRETENDERS: I just got to go to Cuba, and I was sitting with him having a coffee and I said, "Do you fancy going to Cuba?"

And he's like, "Yes, let's go."

ACOSTA: But because of the half century old embargo on Cuba and the Castro brothers, Americans are required by law to ask the U.S. government for permission first. Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who just returned from a trip to Cuba, wants to change that.

REP. KATHY CASTOR (D), FLORIDA: I think it's time to try something different and -- and end the embargo and lift these travel restrictions.

ACOSTA (voice-over): It's estimated that thousands of Americans travel to Cuba every year, but an exact number is hard to come by. The Treasury Department, which grants the licenses for travel to Cuba, still won't reveal exactly how many Americans are going to the island.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight, more threats, more bluster from North Korea's Kim Jong-un. South Korea says it is bracing for Pyongyang to launch another missile test. How soon might that be? We're going to look at it, coming up with the latest from our reporter in Seoul.

Also, a rare and very disturbing look at the lengths that many North Koreans have to go to, to try to escape their homeland. We'll talk to one of the filmmakers behind an extraordinary documentary called "Seoul Train." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: More tough talk from North Korea today. Pyongyang said it would pull out all its workers from the industrial complex it jointly operates with South Korea and temporarily suspend operations. It's now Tuesday, of course, in North Korea, and CNN's confirmed that no workers have shown up at that complex. Pyongyang appears to have made good on its latest threat.

South Korean western leaders have been trying to weigh the flood of threats Pyongyang had been making for weeks against the U.S. And Seoul. And over the weekend, South Korea said it believes that Pyongyang could conduct a missile test sometime this week.

Reports emerged last week that North Korea had loaded as many as two medium range missiles onto mobile launchers on its east coast.

The nonstop bluster has a lot of people, of course, very rattled. In a new CNN/ORC poll, 41 percent of Americans surveyed say they consider North Korea an immediate threat to the U.S. An all-time high, and up 28 percent from march.

More than 6 in 10 said they would support a U.S. military response to an attack on South Korea.

CNN's Kyung Lah joins me now live from Seoul.

So Kyung, this threatened closing at the industrial complex, it's a line even Kim Jong-Il did not cross, correct?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right about that. This really gives us a window into the mind of the new young leader.

This is the very first time that the Kaesong industrial complex has been completely cleared out of North Korean workers. The very first time, according to the South Korean government. Kim Jong-Il wouldn't touch it. Economically it's important. North Koreans make money there. The government makes money there. His son now willing to toss it into the trash, trying to make a point.

So this really tells us Kim Jong-un is willing to go further than his father, and in that, Anderson, he's more unpredictable and more dangerous.

COOPER: Well, the South Korean government, they seem to think the next 24 hours are going to be crucial, correct?

LAH: Absolutely. The South Korean government basically telling the international community to set your clocks, because in 24 hours, they believe it is the greatest possibility that North Korea is going to launch some sort of missile from that coast.

Now, the assumption is, is that it is going to be a test, but the United States military in this region not taking any chances. When we went to the U.S. Osan Air Base, what we saw Patriot missile batteries pointed to the sky, to the north, and that's just in case, Anderson, something comes towards a U.S. military installation. U.S. bases, Anderson, have been threatened by North Korea.

COOPER: Kyung, appreciate the live report from Seoul. Thanks.

It's impossible, of course, to know what Kim Jong-un is thinking, what his next move might be. We do know that many North Koreans are desperate to escape their homeland, willing to risk their lives to get out. Many are helped by activists who operate an underground railroad of sorts. Now, if they're caught, they face possible torture, even execution.

There's an amazing documentary called "Seoul Train" that shows just how dangerous the journey out can be. The film follows four adults and a toddler -- this little girl in pigtails, who's just 2 years old -- as they try to make their escape.

Now, in the part we're going to show you, they have left the safe house and have made it across the border into China, all the way to the gates of the Japanese consulate. And once inside those gates, they're told they'll be safe, but watch what happens to the woman and the little girl.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in a foreign language)

GRAPHIC: As a result, the child and mother were left outside.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in a foreign language)

GRAPHIC: We told them that once they got inside, they would be safe. They often told us that they would commit suicide if things got tough. I told them not to commit suicide, no matter what happened. They seemed to think (ph) suicide would be easier.


COOPER: Safety and freedom, so close. Those were Chinese guards who pulled the woman and the child away from the gates.

Now, China's government doesn't consider North Korean refugees worthy of asylum.

"Seoul Train" has given the world a rare look inside the lives of North Koreans. Jim Butterworth, one of the filmmakers, joins me now.

Jim, it's good to have you back on the program. The fact that North Koreans would resort to such drastic measures for their freedom, I mean, it speaks volumes about the desperate situation that they're facing back home.

JIM BUTTERWORTH, FILMMAKER: Definitely. I mean, in this situation, if they're caught and sent back to North Korea, they'll face almost certain execution. I mean, at worst, they're going to be sent to a labor camp from where they'll never emerge. They have a very, very bleak existence. And this is why they go to that extreme to try to leave.

COOPER: One of the things that just stuns me about North Korea, is I did a piece recently about Camp 14 for "60 Minutes," that in some camps they have what are called three generations of punishment, where they don't just punish a political prisoner; they also punish that person's parents, that person's children. They want to wipe out three generations.

I want to play another clip from your film, "Seoul Train." A defector returns to North Korea with a hidden camera to just show how bad the humanitarian crisis is there. Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many children suffer the most that really influence their growth. At the age of 7, North Korean children and South Korean children has about 12-centimeter height difference, so in inches, probably it's about five, six inches difference at the age of 7. We're supposed to be the same genetic population.


COOPER: All this military posturing by Kim Jong-un, it makes an already bad food crisis in North Korea worse for civilians, correct?

BUTTERWORTH: Absolutely. I mean, what you have is a situation where first, the government is a military-first government.

Secondly, any time food aid comes into North Korea, it's going to be siphoned off and fed to the military first. Anything that's left over then may go into the food distribution system that then reaches the people.

COOPER: Your sources told you that North Korean agents had actually infiltrated China to go after not only defectors but also the activists who were helping them. That true?

BUTTERWORTH: Right. Yes. Absolutely. I mean, in fact -- in fact, at one time there was a bounty not only to capture refugees, but the bounty to capture activists that help refugees was ten times greater than that. So if you crack down on the people that help the refugees, then you've cracked down on the refugees.

COOPER: Why is China taking -- why are they taking such a hard stand against North Koreans who try to defect?

BUTTERWORTH: Well, overall, I mean, if you look at the big picture, China does not want the North Korean regime to collapse. That would mean unification, but before that occurred, you'd have millions of desperate hungry refugees streaming across the North Korean border into China, upsetting a region that's already politically unstable to some extent inside China. But then, once you had unification, you'd have this democratic government right on the Chinese border, perhaps U.S. troops located right on the Chinese border. That's not something that they want.

COOPER: Also, I mean, part of this rhetoric from Kim Jong-un that we're now seeing, how much do you think it is for -- to shore up his own support within his own government? I mean, he's a new leader, he doesn't have the same kind of track record that his father had.

BUTTERWORTH: Yes, I think what you're seeing here is a domestic agenda play out on a public stage. And it's -- unfortunately, it's fraught with the potential for grave miscalculation. If cooler heads don't prevail here, if there is a miscalculation, it could have very bad consequences.

COOPER: All right. It's so disturbing to see some of the images you were able to capture in this film, "Seoul Train." Jim, appreciate you being on the program. Jim Butterworth.

Up next, Mike Rice is out as Rutgers basketball coach. So is his boss. Wait until you hear about the golden parachute that the former athletic director, Tim Pernetti, that he's walking away with.

Also an amazing moment on the field. The Nebraska Cornhuskers get some help from a 7-year-old who ran 69 yards for a touchdown.


ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 Bulletin."

Annette Funicello, one of Disney's original Mouseketeers, has died at the age of 70 from complications due to multiple sclerosis. Funicello was chosen by Walt Disney himself to be a member of "The Mickey Mouse Club" television show in the 1950s. She went on to have a movie and singing career.

Roger Ebert's life was celebrated at a funeral in Chicago today. Hundreds turned out to remember the long-time film critic for the "Chicago Sun-Times." His wife said he would have loved the service. He died last week after a long battle with cancer.

Rutgers former athletic director, Tim Pernetti, who resigned in the wake of a coaching abuse scandal, isn't going away empty-handed. The university will pay Pernetti more than $1.1 million. He'll also receive health and pension benefits through October 2015. Pernetti has said he regrets not firing basketball coach Mike Rice last year when he saw a video showing Rice verbally and physically abusing players.

And a 69-yard touchdown in Nebraska's spring game. That is 7- year-old Jack Hoffman carrying the ball. He took the handoff from quarterback Taylor Martinez. Jack is battling brain cancer. He's on a break from chemotherapy. The Huskers thought he might like to join them on the field. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: We ran out of time for "The RidicuList" tonight. I'm sorry about that. We're going to be in Washington, D.C., tomorrow night for AC 360 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern and will be focusing on the latest on gun control, the debate over it, and a possible bipartisan compromise on further background checks.

That does it for us. We'll see you again. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.