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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Ricin Found on Letter to NYC Mayor Bloomberg; Tornadoes and Severe Weather Threaten; Yanira Maldonado Maintains Her Innocence; Rep. Michele Bachmann Won't Seek Reelection
Aired May 29, 2013 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks.
Good evening, everyone. A lot happening tonight. Two major breaking stories. A new string of tornadoes hammering the Central Plains and two potentially lethal letters. One of them sent to New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Early testing pointing toward both containing one of the deadliest toxins known to man, ricin.
Deb Feyerick is on that breaking story. She joins us now.
So what are investigators know about the letters, Deb?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, right now what they know is that they believe both of the letters were sent by the same person. The postmark was the same, they contain the same kind of substance, and they also both threatened Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his positions on the gun -- on guns, specifically those illegal guns. The mayor reacted just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Let me tell you, we are -- I know it's happened to the NYPD and the FBI, and their procedures. We take a lot of security measures, as you know. The men and women that open the mail, for example, even they are well-trained and we have procedures for something like this. It's not the first letter that was ever sent to anybody.
In terms of why they have done it, I don't know. The letter was obviously referred to our anti-gun efforts. But there's 12,000 people who are going to get killed this year with guns, and 19,000 are going to commit suicide with guns, and we're not going to walk away from those efforts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: And Anderson, a police spokesman tells us that in fact the two letters contain sort of pink-orange, oily substance. And initial tests on that substance initially were negative. But then a second test found -- was found to be positive. And so now that substance is being analyzed by the National Bioforensic Analysis Center in Maryland, and the results of those tests should be definitive in the next day or two -- Anderson. COOPER: Was anyone actually exposed that we know about?
FEYERICK: There were a couple of people that were exposed. The mayor was not one of them. This went -- the ones in New York went to a mail facility. The one in Washington went to his organization, Mayors against Illegal Guns. New York Emergency Services Unit, the police who respond to that, they did initially test -- develop some symptoms, some intestinal symptoms, but after about a day or so, those went away. And clearly, they're being monitored just protectively -- Anderson.
COOPER: And obviously they're going to be looking in the letters for any DNA evidence or trace evidence that may be there.
FEYERICK: Yes. Absolutely. And right now investigators from both the FBI JTTF, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, as well as the NYPD, they are looking in a very specific location. The postmark that was on those letters clearly giving them some indication as to where the person who sent them might live -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Deb Feyerick, appreciate it.
Joining us now is national security analyst and former George W. Bush Homeland Security adviser, Fran Townsend. She -- currently sits on the CIA and DHS external advisory panels. Also on the phone, chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
So, Fran, we have reports the letters mentioned the gun control debate the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating. It could be more of a political threat than a terror threat really.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, Anderson. But as you mentioned, that's not really at the moment the most relevant piece to the investigators. They don't much care about motive at the moment. They want to know who. And so to determine the who they will look for the forensics, they'll look for things like saliva, hair, fingerprints on the letter or on the envelope.
They'll analyze ultimately the handwriting. But all these things take time, which is why the first thing they're going to focus on is, one, the lab analysis. You heard Deb Feyerick, the first field test was negative. The second was positive. Oftentimes, these field tests are wrong, which is why they're getting a real thorough lab result. That will take a little bit of time. But that will tell them something.
They'll understand the strength of the compound, how competently it was mixed. They'll analyze whether the two letters, whether it was from the same batch of mixture of the compound of ricin. All those things will help investigators lead down the path to who, and once you determine the who you'll be able to understand the why.
COOPER: Right. Sanjay, how dangerous is this stuff, ricin?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it can be can very dangerous. I mean, it's a very potentially toxic substance. One -- a couple of things that are important to note is that in and of itself, this is a poison that comes from caster beans, as a lot of people know. And you can get that ricin, that poisonous substance out of the caster beans without a lot of difficulty. The challenge is to actually turn that into something that can actually get into the lungs and actually make someone sick or even kill them.
That's a much more difficult thing to do, which I think what Fran is alluding to, you know, this weaponizing, so to speak, of ricin is a very difficult thing to do. You just heard Deb Feyerick's description of the substance. She said it was an oily sort of more (INAUDIBLE) substance. That doesn't sound like a highly weaponized thing. Usually when it's weaponized, they're very small particles that can penetrate deeply into the lungs. Very different than what Deb described.
COOPER: What happens when a particle goes into the lungs?
GUPTA: Well, this particular poison works sort of at what we call the cellular level, so the most basic level. The cells -- all over the body are constantly doing things, performing metabolic functions. Ricin sort of interferes with that. It breaks down some of that machinery at its most basic level.
And what happens if someone inhales it is that they will have difficulty breathing. Some of the earlier symptoms. Ultimately, their lungs will just start to fill with fluid, and in response, that poisonous insult, as the lungs will try and respond, that ultimately is what can cause death.
COOPER: If you know what you've inhaled, though, is it treatable?
GUPTA: There is no particular antidote for ricin. So usually we say that people are treated symptomatically. So, for example, if you knew someone inhaled it and they were developing symptoms, you might go ahead and put them on a breathing machine. Try and support their breathing for them. Give them plenty of fluids because you lose a lot of fluids in a situation like this.
If it was inhaled or injected, both of which can also be deadly, you would also treat them symptomatically, but there has been various talk of an antidote being worked on but there is no, you know, available one now.
COOPER: And Sanjay, if these letters do indeed have ricin, could the ricin have spread to other pieces of mail that they just came in contact with through the regular sorting process?
GUPTA: It could. And remember we talked about this with regard to anthrax so many years ago. But this is a little different, again, because in order for it to spread, the same sort of thing would apply here. It would really probably have to be pretty sophisticated in terms of how it was weaponized. To actually go from envelope to envelope and possibly be poisoning other people. It can happen. But, again, based on what Deb is describing, this sort of oilier substance as opposed to these very small, almost granular spore type things, it sounds unlikely.
COOPER: Fran, in the world of -- you know, terror and people who follow and track this stuff, how high is ricin on the list of things people are concerned about? Is it -- is it difficult to obtain? Is it difficult to break down and weaponize, as you said?
TOWNSEND: Well, the component pieces to ricin compound are actually readily available. Sanjay mentioned caster beans, that's the basic component. And you crush it down and you grind it. It's -- in the terrorism context, the way we saw it was as a contact poison, as opposed to aerosolized that -- which is the highly -- highly weaponized would be aerosolized, which is what Sanjay has described.
Terrorists tended to use it as a contact poison, something that might get on your hands that you would ingest, would get into your bloodstream and cause you digestive problems, but can also be lethal. And so that's why I say, when they analyze, they'll look at this compound and try to understand what was the intent. How was it intended to be weaponized and ingested and what kind of effect was it intended to have.
It does sound by the description of -- Sanjay is quite right. By Deb's description, this sounds like a crude compound that wasn't even terribly well executed as a -- as a contact poison.
COOPER: All right. We'll learn more, obviously, in the days ahead. Fran, appreciate it. Sanjay, as well.
A quick piece of late-breaking news on that murder connected to the dead Boston marathon bombing suspect. This is the man, you'll recall, Ibragim Todashev, who reportedly confessed to involvement in a triple murder near Boston back in 2011 implicating allegedly Tamerlan Tsarnaev in those triple murders, in that killing.
Now law enforcement officials are telling "The Washington Post" that this man was not armed with a knife when an FBI agent shot him dead last week. The incident is currently under investigation by an FBI review team.
Now to other breaking news, the dangerous weather. The forecast this morning calling conditions ideal for tornadoes. The reality tonight, a tornado outbreak.
Here to tell us where they're being reported, who needs to be especially careful, CNN's Indra Petersons in the weather center.
So what it's like out there right now?
INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Now, Anderson, we've already had a dozen reports of tornadoes this evening, 11 of those in Nebraska and one in the Texas Panhandle. And unfortunately, in my opinion, we're going to the most dangerous time of the tornado outbreak. Simply because it's going into the evening hours. It's dark. People go to bed, they stop paying attention.
I want to show you the map here behind me where 60 million of you are still under the threat for severe weather this evening. The bull's eye again very similar to last week, unfortunately right around Oklahoma, Kansas and that Texas Panhandle. About two million of you in this area.
Now we're not just talking about tornadoes, but also large hail, strong winds are out there. I want to show you how many watches are currently up. Now one of the things we're watching again, where are these tornadoes forming. It's that warm, moist air right up against the dry air. Right where they're converging along the dry line, we're seeing storms picking up.
We also have a stalled stationary front in the area and just in the warm sector alone, there's so much humid air out there that we're seeing a lot of these storms really kicking up in the last several hours. And look at them. These are all these tornado watches that are in effect. Really stretching from the Dakotas all the way down through Texas, and even in New England we're seeing a lot of severe weather reports damage up in the New England area, as well.
Now taking you into some of the warnings, notice, starting to see very severe weather developing, especially in through Oklahoma City, unfortunately, very heavy rain kicking through the area. Now something I want to point out. Yes, the threat for tornadoes are still there. But when you start talking about heavy cells developing, we're talking about straight line winds.
That means we're talking about winds 50, even 60 miles per hour that could pick up the debris that is already on the ground. Also a lot of the cells that have been rain-wrapped, so a lot of these tornadoes have been rain-wrapped up, that means you're not going to be able to see them, add that to the darkness, and, of course, a very dangerous situation there.
In addition, we're getting reports of golf ball-sized hail, even hail as large as 2 1/2 inches in the Oklahoma City area. So a tough evening definitely in store for us this evening -- Anderson.
COOPER: Wow. Golf ball-sized hail. Yes, that's amazing. And this goes into tomorrow, as well, right?
PETERSONS: Yes, absolutely, I mean, the threat tomorrow still for another 30, 35 million of us. So all of us need to pay attention not only to the overnight hours but again continuing even all the way through tomorrow evening. A long road ahead.
COOPER: Yes, Indra, appreciate it, thanks.
You can follow me on Twitter tonight, @Andersoncooper. Let me know what you think. I'm tweeting the hour ahead.
Coming up next, the Arizona mother in Mexico for a funeral, arrested, thrown in jail on drug charges. Her family calls it a shakedown. She is now speaking out from behind bars. Hear what she has got to say next.
And later one of the best known congresswomen and Tea Party members in Congress, she's got a multimillion dollar war chest as well. She has already running campaign ads. So why has Michele Bachmann suddenly decided not to run again? Trying to solve the mystery ahead on 360.
COOPER: Welcome back. It's a nightmare, we all remember from the Amanda Knox saga, an American woman in the grips of a foreign justice system for a crime she says she did not commit. Now the Arizona mother of seven imprisoned in Mexico accused of drug smuggling is speaking to CNN from behind bars.
Our senior Latin American affairs editor, Rafael Romo, speak with -- spoke with Yanira Maldonado, joins us now.
So you were able to speak to this woman. How did she look? How is she doing?
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, considering that she's been in jail for more than a week for a crime that she says she did commit, she's not doing very, very good, Anderson. And let me tell you, when she first saw us at the prison, we were essentially the first outsiders other than her family that she had seen in a week. And she started crying.
She was very emotional. And just very sad about her situation. And telling us repeatedly that she is innocent, that she had nothing to do with those bundles of marijuana that were found under her seat.
And so we wanted to ask her the question, how are you holding up? How are you doing after being a week in jail? And this is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMO: How are you holding up?
YANIRA MALDONADO, DETAINED IN MEXICO, ACCUSED OF DRUG SMUGGLING: Reading the scriptures. Reading the Book of Mormon, praying, fasting. All of the support I've been getting from my family, my husband. My children. And everybody out there. Reaching out to help.
I'm innocent. That I'm innocent. That I'm a good mom. I'm very -- I love the Gospel. I'm LDS. And we work hard to have what we have. You know, we're not rich, but we're very honest. And we always do our best to help other people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMO: Now Yanira Maldonado is an American citizen who lives near Phoenix, Arizona. She was in Mexico because an aunt of hers died in a state just south of the state of Sonara where Nogales is. On her way back, they decided to take a bus and at a military checkpoint where they're routinely checked, buses and just any kind of vehicle, that's where they got stopped. So I wanted to know, I asked Yanira, how exactly happened -- how exactly that happened, and this is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALDONADO: At the checkpoint, they asked us to get off the bus, and they were checking for drugs, or I don't know what else. And they said they found something under my seat. But I never saw anything. They didn't show me anything. It was -- just amazing, all of what they did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So let me understand this. We're --
COOPER: Sorry. Were drugs found in her bags or was it just in another package underneath her seat?
ROMO: It was in packages underneath her seat. And what -- a local official was telling me on condition of anonymity was that is very unlikely that anybody can get on a bus, carrying six kilos of marijuana and go unnoticed by the bus company or authorities. So they were the only two foreigners on that bus, and so the suspicion is that somebody who was on the same bus might have framed them and because they knew that they were the only foreigners, and they would not be as vigilant as maybe a national would be.
The bags were placed under there so they would be blamed if the authorities stopped them.
COOPER: Got it.
ROMO: And that was indeed what happened.
COOPER: OK, Rafael Romo, thanks very much.
Coming up, Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann announces that she will not seek re-election in 2014. We're going to take a look at what is behind her decision and what will her congressional legacy be. That's next.
Also, what Senator John McCain saw in his trip inside Syria and the action he thinks America should take right now. It's his first entire view since leaving Syria. He joins us in a 360 exclusive.
COOPER: Well, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has announced she's not going to seek re-election in 2014. In a nearly nine-minute video on her Web site, Bachmann said her decision was not impacted by inquiries into her 2012 presidential campaign and she doesn't plan to fade from public view. Last November, Bachmann beat Democrat Jim Grace by under 5,000 votes. He's running again in 2014. But Bachmann said in her video that she's sure she would win again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being re- elected to Congress. And rest assured, this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us now. So she's saying it had nothing to do with the inquiries into the campaign finances, has nothing to do with her showing at the last election. So why is she leaving?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start just with the whole question of the legal issues. I don't actually sense a real alarm for people close to Bachmann who I talk to today that she is in imminent legal trouble. But there are problems bubbling in several areas on a legal front, Anderson, including an accusation from her own former staffer that she illegally used campaign funds.
And there is a preliminary congressional probe going on right now which may be wrapping up really soon which will determine whether the House Ethics Committee should investigate her campaign finance activity, and I talked to a senior Republican source just before coming on with you who knows Bachmann pretty well, who told me privately she's really been complaining about that, about the potential congressional investigation.
And Anderson, the way it worked is if she's gone from Congress, that ethics investigation would stop.
COOPER: It all stops. And I mean, you're on Capitol Hill every day, you've covered Bachmann extensively including the time she tried to outrun you in the Capitol hallway when you were asking her a factual question based on something she had said. How much of this decision do you think was a political reality that she might not win.
BASH: Well, you played that video where she explicitly said no, but I talked to some Republicans today who think that the lady may be protesting just a little bit too much because she mentioned, she won her last race by just two percentage points. It's a very Republican district she's in in Minnesota. She was already airing campaign ads and it's pretty early to do that. And I spoke to a senior Democrat tonight who has access to internal polls, he told me that Democrats already had her opponent up by two percentage points.
COOPER: So she was already running ads and then now she's decided not to go for it. What -- what is -- I mean, what's the reaction on Capitol Hill? Her Republican colleagues? I saw a bunch of statements that were sort of muted saying, you know, she made an impression. Or, you know, her legacy is, you know, related to the Tea Party. But in terms of legislation, are people going to be sad to see her go, Republican colleagues?
BASH: Well, let me put it this way. I don't think Michele Bachmann would win any popularity contests among her Republican colleagues in Congress. Many say that her repeated comments like ones that you referred to that turned out to be flat wrong, like the president saying -- the president has a dog-walker, which is not true, that that was a distraction from the GOP message.
But I can tell you, Anderson, despite that, talking to her colleagues, if they're really being honest, they do admire her political savvy because especially when it came to the Tea Party. She got it. She got the power of the Tea Party before any of them did. They latched on to the movement, she made had her own. She started Tea Party caucus, which didn't really mean anything and didn't do anything but it propelled her to prominence in a way that many of her rank-and-file colleagues can only dream of.
COOPER: Interesting. Dana, appreciate it.
In her video announcement, Bachmann says she will not abandon the causes that she fought for in Congress, says it's what she calls traditional marriage and family values. Now in her four terms in the House, Bachmann has certainly been a lightning rod for controversy. She's made -- as Dana referenced -- several memorable and frankly -- factually incorrect statements about everything from President Obama to the HPV vaccine.
On this program, she made a claim about the price tag for a trip the president was taking that was pure fiction. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: The president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day.
COOPER: No one really knows the cost because for security reasons they don't disclose the cost so this idea that it's, you know, $200 million or whatever is simply made up.
BACHMANN: Well, these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Turns out the only press in which this story was coming out was an Indian press report. And that $200 million a day figure, where did that come from? Well, that was in a quote by an alleged Indian provincial official reported by India's "Press Trust."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: And a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate, she told me that her little daughter took that -- took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. BASH: What you're doing -- going after HUMA --
BACHMANN: I can't do it right now.
There are five chefs on Air Force One. We are also the ones who are paying for someone to walk the president's dog.
BASH: You talked about the excesses that he's engaged in, the fact that he has a dog-walker, which is not true.
BACHMANN: The big point of my speech was about Benghazi.
That's it, Dana. That's what's important. You want to talk about dog handlers and there's four Americans killed?
BASH: But Congresswoman, you're -- but you're the one who brought it up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was an amazing interview. She was the one who brought up this whole dog-walker thing and then she turned on Dana Bash saying like, you're bringing up a dog-walker when four Americans died in Benghazi.
Joining me now live are chief national correspondent John King and senior political analyst David Gergen.
When Congresswoman Bachmann, John, says her decision has nothing to do with the questions about her presidential campaign or what would likely be a tough re-election campaign, how believable is that?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To borrow a phrase from Bill Clinton, that dog won't hunt. Now on the one part, you know, she can say it's about something else, and she can say, Anderson, truthfully, that this is exhausting, when you run for president and come back into congress, that she's tired. She could can say and she even have convinced herself, doesn't have anything directly to do with those things.
But here's a key fact. Number one, she won by fewer than 5,000 votes last time, a lot of people, including a lot of her Republican friends, thought she was going to lose this time. The Democrats have a very long shot chance of taking back the House. Guess what. The Republicans win today by having Michele Bachmann step aside. That is probably the most Republican district in the state of Minnesota. She was perhaps many Republicans believe likely to lose it. So the Republicans gain today and make no mistake about it, the national Republican Party quietly told people, this is not a place you want to put a lot of money in. You want her to get the message, that she probably should not run. Because they would prefer, despite any public statements you saw today, the leadership would prefer a different candidate. COOPER: David, as a political celebrity, she certainly commanded attention, she generated headlines, she drove fundraising within certain quarters of the Republican Party. As a legislator, was she successful at all?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. She had a very thin legislative record. She wasn't taken as seriously as many others were, as Dana Bash reported. But she did make an impact politically.
On the country, it wasn't that she was just a shooting star going across the sky, and she -- you know, she was a front runner, briefly, for the presidential nomination or Republican Party and then everything collapsed on her.
But Anderson, she had enormous impact on the -- on the Tea Party movement. And bringing help -- and to bringing it to life, articulate anger a lot of it being a champion of it. And her efforts had a lot to do with building up public opposition to Obamacare. And that opposition, as you know, is very, very strong today. Told that she'd left a lasting impact.
I want to go back to what John was saying about what I think she -- her calculations here, I would assume, were this. She's got these ethics clouds that are continuing to hold -- hang over her head and very likely to go all the way through the election. If she loses the election, she is no longer a political celebrity. And she loses her speech fees. She loses a lot of time on division.
A lot of the kind of things that make her life now work might well disappear if she lost. It wasn't just a question of going out of Congress. It was a question of actually, you know, battle-damaging her career. This way, I think, she has -- she can keep things alive. She is very smart about that.
COOPER: Yes. And no doubt, she's incredibly smart. But John, in a way, it's kind of Sarah Palin-esque in terms of keeping her celebrity alive without having to kind of get mired in all of the details of ethical questions or governance.
KING: And she's often compared to Sarah Palin and she doesn't like it. Governor Palin doesn't like it either. I will tell you this. I know sometimes Congressman Bachmann does not come across as the sharpest tool in the shed and has said things that appear crazy.
But if you asked her what she reads every day, a question Sarah Palin didn't do too well at, she would tell you she reads the "Financial Times, "The Investor's Business Daily" and the bible. That would be her answer to you if you asked her to that question. So she would have an answer.
David is right. She can still be part of the movement. She is very visible. She was the leading -- once Governor Palin stepped aside, leading female Republican conservative voice in the country. Now the Tea Party Movement itself is at a very interesting point right now. You can make the case that it's lost a lot of influence in Washington. Joe Walsh, Allen West, now Michele Bachmann fading from the scene, vocal and controversial faces of the early phase of the Tea Party in Washington have moved on. The Republican leadership is quite happy about that.
The Democrats won't like it because they raise money off that nationally. The question, Anderson, is a lot of movements go through these transitions. Let's watch 2014, Obamacare will be implemented. We will see the Tea Party try again in some Republican primaries.
If you look at the states of Florida and Ohio, in the Medicare spending battles, you have Tea Party standing up and fighting Republican governors. So the Tea Party Movement is not gone. But you could make a strong case that its most vocal voices in Washington at the moment are missing.
COOPER: Also, David, if she continues obviously on the lecture circuit, as you said, she is very intelligent. She is a former attorney. She can be a strong presence without, you know -- once she is no longer in a legislative position, journalists aren't going to be calling her as we did on her factually incorrect statements.
GERGEN: Absolutely right. And she can be out on the circuit, the political circuit, the lecture circuit, the punditry circuit. And put together a good life and make a good income, more money than she would make in Congress, I can guarantee you. And she can have a continuing influence on the Tea Party.
I want to go back to this point John was making about 2014. What we don't know yet is how much the IRS scandal or controversy is igniting and bringing the Tea Party back together, and whether, in fact, will make it more of a force in 2014. She may well be out on the circuit with a lot of tea party folks in the next few months.
COOPER: Yes, David Gergen, John King, thanks for being on. Appreciate it.
New outrage tonight over what's happening in Syria. What you need to know about a brutal assault that's been raging for a week and what Senator John McCain saw in Syria on his visit. It's his first interview since leaving Syria.
Also ahead, an update on the newborn baby rescued alive from a sewage pipe in China. How the baby is doing and now what his mother is telling police.
COOPER: Welcome back. Senator John McCain joins us shortly. It's his first interview since a brief, but symbolically powerful visit inside Syria, the first U.S. senator to set foot in the country since the civil war there began. He came back more convinced than ever that America should play a greater military role in support of the Syrian opposition. Others worry the wrong opposition forces might come out on top, and deeper American involvement could backfire. They are, of course, legitimate concerns. Before you decide for yourself, you ought to know what's at stake on a human scale, because Syria is not just a geopolitical puzzle for the world to solve, it's a place, home for 22 million people, many of whom who have been living and dying in terror for more than two years.
That's an air strike on the city of Huser, Syrian fighter jet bombing Syrians in Syria. They have been at it for more than a week with support from Hezbollah gunners who were siding with the Assad regime pouring in artillery fire from all directions.
As always, the youngest pay heavily. These are the faces of the city, wounded child after wounded child. Even kids who escaped physical injury are being punished to the breaking point. A psychological stage of children is terrible, this doctor says, fear, terror, wetting themselves, loss of balance, hyperactivity.
They'll either be wounded, he says, die, or go crazy. And people there, young and old, are trapped, same as the people of Holmes were when the regime levelled it, same as the people who may have come under chemical attack or the people in the suburbs of Damascus. It's the same terror and helplessness in cities and towns all across Syria.
More than 80,000 people killed so far, according to the U.N. Today in Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Commission condemned the siege of Huser. Monday, the European Union lifted the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition with Russia objecting to both moves, threatening to send sophisticated anti aircraft missiles to the Assad regime, upping the ante in case the Obama administration decides to order air strikes or set up a no fly zone.
Senator McCain believes President Obama should be doing more. He notified the administration in advance that his trip he says he was provided security for the visit by the State Department, as well as some opposition forces. Senator McCain, former presidential candidate and can senior senator from Arizona joins us tonight.
COOPER: You are the first U.S. senator to travel to Syria since this conflict began more than two years ago. What was it like, first of all, to be there?
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It was a very moving experience to meet these fighters who have been struggling now for over two years, and they're very aware of the battlefield situation, and it's very disturb -- they're very disturbed about the traumatic influx of Hezbollah fighters, more Iranians and, of course, stepped up activities of Bashar Assad.
COOPER: Which rebel group or groups did you meet with and what was their message to you?
MCCAIN: Generally, the overall commander of the Syrian resistance was my escort and I had a long meeting. They selected the people that we met with, which was a group of battalion commanders, who were fighting as far away as Aleppo and around Syria. Their message was, to be frank with you, they do not understand. They do not understand why we won't help them.
COOPER: In terms of arming the rebels, though, as you know, one of the concerns, certainly the administration has, is that weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists or extremists who are there now, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday that he said every flavor of terrorist is operating in Syria right now. You know there is one of the most well-known, probably well-equipped groups is actually aligned with al Qaeda in Iraq. How do you prevent weapons from falling into their hands?
MCCAIN: Well, by identifying those people who are on our side. General address has a very sizeable force. He has battalion commanders he is in communications with. Is it a perfect organization, of course not, because they're fighting as an insurgency, no insurgencies are perfect. There is a point that Congressman Rogers has, and that is every single day, more and more extremists flow in.
Whether it be from Iraq, whether it be from Yemen, whether it be from Libya, they're flowing in all of the time, these extremists, but they still to not make up a sizeable portion. For example, there's about 7,000 al Nusria. There's about l00,000 who are fighting as we speak in Syria.
So we can identify who these people are. We can help the right people. Is there some risk involved, absolutely, but is the status quo acceptable? Bashar Assad with the Russians' equipment and the Hezbollah leader announcing that they are all in and, of course, the Iranian revolutionary guard on the ground, supplying them, not only supplying them, but training Syrians in Iran and sending them back. This is a terrible, unfair fight.
COOPER: There are a lot of people who watch this, as you know, and who say, look, this seems like another Iraq. This seems like it could be a quagmire, another Afghanistan. To that you say what.
MCCAIN: No one that I know including General Adras and his battalion commanders are asking for American boots on the ground. In fact, they believe it would be counterproductive to do so. Second of all, I think that you can look at a national security aspect of this.
General Mattis, head of our central command, once stated that the fall of Bashar Assad would be the greatest blow to the Iranians in 25 years. And believe me, I just came from Yemen. The Iranians are meddling everywhere in the Middle East. They are doing a lot of mischief, and are trying to destabilize other nations.
And finally, we went to -- everybody talks about Iraq and Afghanistan and that's a legitimate concern. I would also like them to consider, we went into Bosnia and we went to Kosovo, and we were able to, without too much difficulty, to be able to stop genocide in those places. COOPER: Has being there -- you know, shaking these people's hands, looking them in the eye, being on Syrian soil, has it changed or intensified your feelings in any way?
MCCAIN: It's intensified because when you look at the faces of these people and hear their stories, so many of them have lost family members, so many of them have lost friends. This is a pretty bloody, bloody business that they have been in. And, of course, it's been, as you might imagine, identified -- intensified because these are human beings that are trying to achieve the same thing that we have shed American blood and treasure for well over 200 years.
COOPER: Finally, just on a lighter note, I know your trip was a surprise to a lot of people, your daughter included. On Twitter, she said nothing quite like finding out on twitter that my father secretly snuck into Syria and met with rebel leaders. I think she even called you a bad ass, which for a child to call your parent that is a high compliment indeed. You didn't even tell your own daughter?
MCCAIN: I think one of the prerequisites of a trip like this is not to tell anyone, as you know, because it just is -- being -- having it compromised -- look, I've seen a lot and done a lot, and I'm not so important. But, you know, there was a lot of men and women that worked for our country that helped out and as well as Syrians that we would have put their safety in jeopardy if it had leaked out.
And so I'm grateful for all of them. And again, I would like to thank you for your coverage of this massacre and tragedy, and I believe that the United States can still intercede with our allies, and I think we can get rid of Bashar Assad and give these people a chance.
COOPER: Senator John McCain, I appreciate your time, and I'm glad you made it back OK.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, we have to end that interview for time, but if you want to see the full version, go to our web site, ac360.com.
As Senator McCain himself addressed not everyone agrees with him on this. His colleague, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky for one, in a cnn.com opinion piece Senator Paul calls helping the opposition a dangerous risk, part of a history he says of America picking sides of the Middle East, quote, "to its own detriment." That piece he just posted and you can read that as well at cnn.com.
Just ahead tonight, he doesn't have a name yet, but he's known around the world already. A newborn Chinese baby flushed down a toilet. He somehow survived. We'll tell you how he's doing tonight and what his mother has now been telling police.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight, new details about that newborn baby rescued from a sewage pipe in China. It's an incredible story. The image is hard to forget. His little body lodged inside that narrow, filthy pipe. Firefighters and surgeons had to pry the pipe apart, piece by piece, to finally free him.
The good news is, the baby appears to be doing well, doesn't have a name yet. At the hospital he is simply known as baby 59. His condition is said to be stable. Today a local police released information about the baby's mother and her explanation of how her newborn son ended inside that pipe.
David McKenzie joins us now. So what are -- first of all, what are doctors saying about the baby's condition, David?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it's pretty extraordinary, this child that spent more than two hours in this tiny sewage pipe, as you described, had to be clawed out of there in Eastern China. The doctors are saying miraculously that the baby is going to be fine, recovering in hospital.
And the latest information I have for you is that the state media is saying that a person claiming to be the father actually picked up the child and took it home. So that's a positive development, but does leave a lot of unanswered questions for this incredible tale -- Anderson.
COOPER: So they allowed the person who said they're the baby's father to take the baby home. What about the mother? I mean, what is her story? How did she say the baby ended up there?
MCKENZIE: Well, it might be difficult to believe, but police are telling us that they are not going to charge this woman as of yet. They are still investigating, but here's what they say they believe happened. That the mother was heavily pregnant, went to the bathroom, was in a panic, and basically they say that the baby slid out into the toilet.
The mother tried to save the baby, according to police, even used the stick to try and fish it out, bring it up. She went and called the landlord, they called the firefighters and this set in this chain of events that really gripped the world's attention. Still more details coming up, but at this stage, it's believed that the mother will not be charged.
COOPER: That doesn't make any sense, though. She had to have flushed the toilet, didn't she?
MCKENZIE: Well, the kind of toilet it is, it's pretty basic stuff. She didn't flush the toilet. If you look at the footage, there is that incredible moment where you see the toilet, and you actually see in the state media footage, two tiny feet wedged down, upside down.
What seemed like happened is that the baby kind of -- she gave birth, it slipped in, she panicked, she said there was a lot of blood around, according to police. But still, many unanswered questions in the story. Not entirely unprecedented that this sort of thing will happen in China and elsewhere in the world, though it might be hard to believe.
Right now police say they are continuing investigations. The latest is that the child's father appears to have taken him away. This hasn't gotten a huge amount of press here in China, partly because, I believe, the Chinese government doesn't want to get this out too widely in the media here, but certainly an extraordinary story.
COOPER: All right, David, appreciate the reporting. David McKenzie, obviously more we need to know. There's a lot more happening tonight. Susan Hendricks is here with the "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Obama plans to tap James Comey to replace Robert Muller as FBI director. That's according to officials familiar with the nomination process. Comey is a former federal prosecutor who worked in New York and Virginia, served as Deputy Attorney General in George W. Bush's administration.
The World Health Organization today called a new SARS-like virus recently found in humans a threat to the entire world. The new corona virus first surfaced in Saudi Arabia last year, 49 infections have been confirmed worldwide. Of those, 27 have been fatal.
A deadly attack today in a Red Cross building in Afghanistan, government officials say militants stormed the building in the city of Jalalabad and then engaged in a gun battle with police. Two attackers and one security guard were killed.
It looks like Nasdaq will pay a $10 million fine for its handling of Facebook's initial public offering happened last year. The IPO was beset by technical problems and the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Nasdaq of violating securities laws.
And armed with a big smile, got to see this, one of the victims of the Boston marathon bombing threw out the ceremonial first pitch last night at Fenway Park before the Red Sox took on the Phillies. Jeff Bauman lost both of his legs in the attack -- Anderson.
COOPER: And the guy with him in the hat, Carlos, is the guy who helped saved his life. We interviewed him in the program, amazing. Amazing guys, both of them. Susan, thanks.
Coming up, a woman arrested for allegedly selling a lot more than refreshments from her hotdog truck. The "Ridiculist" is next.
COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist." And tonight, the continuing saga of the woman known as the hotdog hooker of Long Island. That's right, a hotdog truck entrepreneur, Kathryn Skullia has been arrested again for driving her hotdog truck to a hotel and allegedly giving an undercover police officer a massage without a license, as well as allegedly offering another service for an undetermined amount of money. She says she is framed and only offers stripping and lap dances and hotdogs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get a little legal with your weiner.
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COOPER: Catchy slogan there. Look, she is a people person, just trying to make an honest living selling hotdogs and topless dances. What could possibly be more American than that?
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like doing hotdogs. I like conversation with people.
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COOPER: She likes doing the hotdogs. The last time she was arrested, about a year ago, the hot dog hooker spelled it out. There is a big difference between prostitutes and strippers. She made that point very, very clear and very, very graphic.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have the cops up my -- charging me with prostitution. I'm not even a prostitute. I plead guilty to stripping, a stripper. Not prostitution. Prostitution is sex. Sexual acts -- up the -- that's prostitution. Showing your -- is indecent exposure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Wow. Now you know the difference between stripping and prostitution. You're welcome. You've got to give it to her. She does have a certain general say when it comes to speaking with the media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, who wants to get a lap dance, I'll show what you it looks like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It sounds like she has quite a rapport with law enforcement, as well.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was laughing, I thought it was so funny because I'm telling them on the phone, it's just a topless lap dance and then he's asking for more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The alleged hotdog hooker was arraigned over the weekend, disputed all the charges, similar to the last time she was arrested.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't listen to the judge in the courts and everything. You've got it, show it off. You only live once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's a pretty inspirational message from a very unlikely place. That does it for us. We'll see you again one hour from now 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.