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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Edwards Acquittal on One Count, Mistrial on Others; Obama and Romney Broken Records?; Massacre in Syria

Aired May 31, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much.

Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with breaking news and a story that really has seen it all. John Edwards, one-time presidential contender, one-time attorney general possibility, at least in his own mind, adulterer, out-of-wedlock father and accused campaign crook. He's a free man tonight. A federal jury in Greensburg, North Carolina finding the former senator not guilty of one count of breaking campaign finance law and failing to reach a verdict on five related charges.

That's after nine days of deliberations, headlines about jurors wearing coordinated wardrobes, even reports of a flirtation between -- from one of the alternate jurors towards Edwards. The trial itself was no less tabloid featuring a former aide's testimony about funneling cash from a 92-year-old heiress to Edwards' pregnant mistress Rielle Hunter during the 2008 presidential primary.

Now jurors did not believe that violated campaign finance law and could not decide on the rest of it. The judge declared a mistrial.


JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wanted to say, first, thank you for the jurors, and their incredibly hard work and their diligence. They took their job very, very seriously. All I can say is thank goodness we live in a country that has the kind of system that we have.


COOPER: Well, that system in all likelihood won't try him again. We'll talk to former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin about the reasons buy. First, though, I want to play you more of John Edwards' news conference which quickly turned into some pretty incredible television. Watch.


EDWARDS: While I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong. And there is no one else responsible for my sins. None of the people who came to court and testified are responsible, nobody working for the government is responsible. I am responsible. And if I wanted to find the person who should be held accountable for my sins, honestly I don't have to go any further than the mirror. It's me. It is me, and me alone.

I also want to say a word about my own children. Kate, who most all of you have seen has been here every single day. She has been here no matter what. No matter how awful and painful a lot of the evidence was for her. Evidence about her dad, evidence about her mom, who she loves so, so dearly.

But she never once flinched. She said, dad, I love you, I'll be there for you no matter what. And I'm so proud to have had her with me through all this process.

And then finally, Emma, who turned 14 recently. Emma Claire and Jack, who just turned 12, who I take care of every day. And I have not been able to see them quite as much, but I see them in the morning, I get their breakfast ready, get them off to school and then we get home at night and we all eat supper together, and I love them both so dearly and they're such an important part of every day of my life.

And then finally, my precious Quinn, who I love more than any of you could ever imagine. And I am so close to and so, so grateful for.


COOPER: That's John Edwards outside the courthouse this afternoon.

Joining us now, two people who have been covering the trial from the beginning, Joe Johns and Diane Dimond. She's an investigative reporter for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast." Her latest piece reporting is headlined, "Why Johnny Walked on a Mistrial."

Also criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos joins us and senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin.

Is it possible, Jeff, that the Justice Department could re-file the charges against John Edwards?


COOPER: You think it's likely?

TOOBIN: No -- well, it's possible. They have the legal right to say tomorrow we're --

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: We're going to retry him on the last -- on those five counts. I think it's unlikely. I think cooler heads will prevail, this was a very marginal case to start with. Very unusual use of the campaign finance laws. They had their shot.

COOPER: You say marginal because? TOOBIN: Because it was not a conventional crime. There has never been a Justice Department prosecution for similar activity. You know, the deterrent effect of this case is negligible because the facts are just so odd, and especially in the post Citizens United world where the Supreme Court is essentially deregulating American campaigns, the idea that they would try to put John Edwards in prison again after failing so dramatically and spending so much time and so much money, I just think it's time to close this shop down.

COOPER: Mark, the fact that the jury couldn't reach a verdict on five of the six counts, does that tell you anything about the case itself? I mean how often does this happen?

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It happens quite frequently, but I will tell you that the interesting thing that Jeff just hinted at or actually said it was when they brought this case, it was a pre-Citizens United world. Now you've got a situation and I don't know what the split was, but I'm sure somebody on this panel will.

But I can't imagine if they found him not guilty on the one count, and frankly that count was ridiculous to begin with, that the split wasn't in favor of not guilty. And I can't imagine that in a post-Citizens United world, where, you know, basically money equals speech, corporations are persons, that you're going to now try to put a person in speech for taking money.

It makes absolutely no sense. Remember, this thing was started also, not so much by the Department of Justice, but by a politically motivated U.S. attorney who went on -- who brought these charges and thought he was going to climb on to John Edwards' back and make some fame and make a name for himself.

So this thing was politically motivated to begin with. It's legally suspect to begin with. The charges themselves are ridiculous. The fact that the jury could not convict him I think speaks volumes about it. This is federal court where they brag that they get 98 percent or 99 percent guilty either pleas or convictions. So I think this tells you all you need to know about the strength of this case.

COOPER: Joe, there are -- been some people who wonder whether the jury could separate, you know, the obvious facts in which John Edwards has done some lousy things, you know, to his family, to his supporters, to -- that the lies he's told and whether or not he broke the law in the way that the state was alleging, clearly the jury, you know, at least some on the jury, were able to separate maybe his personal behavior from whether or not it was criminal behavior?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That absolutely seems to be the case. And it also seemed the case that this jury really realized just how tough this thing was on the facts and the law. And, you know, this is a very polarized state for a lot of reasons, and just looking at that jury, when they were first put up there, it was hard to see how they were going to reach any other decision but a mistrial.

They come from such far and wide diverse socioeconomic places here in the state. That was the first thing, the body language as it went on only got worse. You saw certain people just exhausted and drooping. And then there was a question of teams, whether they had formed two different teams, let's say a yay team and a nay team. And the judge actually twice instructed them not to do that, not to form groups, and fight with each other. So it looks like this was quite a high hurdle for this jury to climb. And we saw what the result was today.

COOPER: And Diane, there was a moment when the defense -- when the prosecution first rested their case, that John Edwards turned to his lawyer basically, and said something along the lines of, is that all they got? Clearly he seemed confident at the point when the prosecution rested their case.

DIANE DIMOND, INVESTIGATING REPORTER, NEWSWEEK & THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, I remember that very well, I wrote about it in "The Daily Beast," he turned to his attorney and said, that's their case?

COOPER: Right.

DIMOND: I thought it seemed a little cocky at the time. But I think what -- what's not being said here tonight, Anderson, is that at the time. But what's not being said, John Edwards did not walk away not guilty. He walked away not guilty on one count and, as Mr. Geragos says, it was the least of the counts, but he was not found innocent, he wasn't even found not guilty of those other charges, but he does get to go home, he does get to go on with his life.

And It was an unprecedented case and I think the Justice Department will think long and hard about bringing a case like this again especially with the recent Supreme Court decisions. It's not going to happen ever again.

TOOBIN: Another point about what a weird case this was. Almost none of the protagonists testified.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: The two people who gave the money, Bunny Mellon is 101 years old, unable to testify. Fred Baron, the Dallas trial lawyer, he was -- he died unexpectedly. Rielle Hunter did not testify. Elizabeth Edwards, alas, is dead.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: John Edwards didn't testify. The only person who was really intimately involved in this was Andrew Young who's kind of the bagman.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: And I just think it's weird to expect the jury to convict --

GERAGOS: Right. And --

TOOBIN: -- when they're not hearing the full story.

COOPER: Mark, how tough is it when you have a client who's done some, you know, shady behavior and trying to get the jury to separate, OK, what you may think of him personally from the charges?

GERAGOS: Well, I think it makes a difference if you've got -- and I have argued this for years I depends on if your client is infamous or famous. John Edwards was famous before he became infamous. You get some -- to some degree a presumption of innocence when you are somebody -- remember, this was at one time a golden boy out of that state. So I think there was, you know, as Joe said, there -- it was a polarized jury. It's a polarized state.

I expect this case was lost in jury selection for the prosecution. As most cases, high profile cases are. I don't see how they can ever get over that in a case like this, where, you know, at the end of the day the prosecution's chief witness is somebody who took most of the money and built a house. And that's their case --


GERAGOS: -- and you got to say why are we here for six to eight weeks on this kind of nonsense?

COOPER: One of the things that I found, Jeff, most remarkable about John Edwards, about his -- just the chutzpah he showed, with his lies, is even when he was confessing, when he was giving that confessional interview to Bob Woodruff at ABC, he was still lying. I mean he was still lying about -- about the child he had had.

TOOBIN: And that interview is why he couldn't testify in this trial. Because as sincere and earnest as he would have sounded on the witness stand, they would have played that piece of tape of him lying.

COOPER: Let me play that --



COOPER: Because it is a remarkable moment knowing what we know now. Let's take a look.


BOB WOODRUFF, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You see this, though, in the reports, you see this now breaks out.


WOODRUFF: Why did you continue to deny it and not tell the truth?

EDWARDS: Because I did not want the public to know what I had done, very simple.


COOPER: That actually wasn't the one I was talking about. It's where he sort of attacks Bob Woodruff for even mentioning it, and saying it was in a tabloid, suggesting how dare you even bring it up.

TOOBIN: Right.

COOPER: When this was about the paternity of the child.

TOOBIN: Of the child. And he, you know, is -- I mean, look, he was a great trial lawyer, he's very convincing. But you know he lied about this in public.


TOOBIN: Repeatedly. And to -- he couldn't expose himself to cross-examination on that.

COOPER: Diane, if you had to pick one moment from the trial that basically kind of summed up the whole thing for you, what was the moment?

DIMOND: It was when John Edwards today got up from the defense table, having heard the jury's verdict, having heard the judge say, mistrial on all the other counts, and he turned to his family and he grasped both of his parents in his arms in a double hug, and he said into his mother's ear -- I was standing right there -- he said, see, I told you everything would be OK.

I think from the very beginning, he went in there very confident. He did begin to look haggard at the end of the trial. But every defendant does. I think that he had exuded a certain confidence that bled into that jury, so to speak, and they just said, we believe him more than we believe Andrew Young. Period, end of story.

TOOBIN: This is a guy who made millions and millions of dollars reading juries and he sure read this one.


Diane Dimond, Mark Geragos, Joe Johns, Jeff Toobin, thank you very much.

Let us know what you think, we're on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, @Andersoncooper. I'll be try to be tweeting over the hour ahead.

A lot more happening today including both presidential campaigns trading economic attacks on the other side. Milt Romney outside a bankrupt company the Obama campaign backed. The Obama campaign in Boston, in the state Mitt Romney obviously run.

So who made the case? What was the case they were making? We'll talk to a current Massachusetts governor and an Obama backer, Deval Patrick, and Mitt Romney supporter, Newt Gingrich. "Raw Politics" ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In "Raw Politics" tonight both presidential campaigns in opposite ends of the country today looking for the perfect backdrop to attack each other's economic record. Senior Obama advisor David Axelrod was in Boston slamming Mitt Romney's record as governor.


DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: A recent poll showed Governor Romney trailing badly here in his home state. A harsh --


AXELROD: These may be the only voters right here for Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. It's a harsh judgment from the people who have come to know him best.


COOPER: Axelrod slighted -- cited slow job growth, declining wages and growing debt while Mr. Romney was governor and the campaign launched a new four-minute video hitting many of those same points.

As to the truth behind those claims, well, the Massachusetts economy did do poorly during the Romney administration, though unemployment went from 5.6 percent to -- down to 4.7 percent, and Romney had a Democratic legislature to contend with. It's open to debate, we'll talk to his successor, Deval Patrick, in a moment.

We'll also speak to Newt Gingrich who of course is now supporting Mr. Romney who is in Freemont, California, outside Solyndra, the solar energy company that got federally backed loans and then of course went belly up.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two years ago, President Obama was here to tout this building and this business as a symbol of the success of his stimulus. Well, you could see that it's a symbol of something very different today. It's a simply not of success but of failure.


COOPER: Again, just as with Governor Romney's economic record in office, how much a single economy typifies the Obama economic record is open to date, we'll open that debate tonight with Massachusetts governor and Obama surrogate, Deval Patrick.

Thank you very much for being with us, Governor.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Anderson, thank you for having me. COOPER: So there were more jobs in Massachusetts at the end of Mitt Romney's term than there were when he got there. Down to 4.7 percent. Why isn't that a record to run on?

PATRICK: That is a record to run on. But it's not a record to win on. We were 47th in job creation out of 50 states when Governor Romney was in office. We were at a time of strong economic growth in the -- in the country and we were trailing the country at the same time he left a structural deficit, although he told me and told the public that he was leaving a surplus and the size of the state workforce grew.

He cut education, the largest single per pupil cut in education in America when he was -- when he was here. And I think all of those are relevant when you compare them in particular to a governor who -- excuse me a president who has not followed the trend as Romney did but bucked the trend and turned around job loss and added some four million private sector jobs in the last two years.

COOPER: But as Governor Mitt Romney basically had the same job pattern as the president, the economy, as you said, was in bad shape when he began, the state was bleeding jobs early in the term. He made up ground as the economy recovered and nationally the economy was recovering as well. And he ended up in positive territory. State unemployment, as I said, about 4.7 percent. He also had --


COOPER: He also had a Democratic legislature to deal with and he had to balance the budget every year.

PATRICK: Well, that's right. And every one of us has to balance the budget every year. I have to balance the budget as well. But we've been investing in education, in innovation, in infrastructure, the very strategy that the president has been pursuing nationally and that he has supported our doing here in Massachusetts and around the country. And our unemployment rate is well below the national average and going down and we're growing jobs faster than most other states.

At the time that Governor Romney was in office, and he's a -- he's always been a gentleman to me. I want to add -- I want to say that, this is not about a personal attack, it is, though, about a record of job creation and fixing things, which is actually just not born out by our experience here in Massachusetts.

COOPER: You've also said that some of the attacks on Bain Capital have been distorted, some of the way that Bain Capital has been portrayed has been distorted. How so?

PATRICK: Well, I don't think Bain is a bad company. I don't think that private equity has an inappropriate role in the private economy. The question is, what was Governor Romney's record when he was at -- when he was at Bain?


PATRICK: He created a lot of wealth --

COOPER: But the Obama campaign has had people coming forward, saying, you know, this is vulture capitalism, that -- in some of these commercials they're running --

PATRICK: Well, you hadn't heard that -- you hadn't heard -- Anderson, you hadn't heard that from me. I've spent most of my life in the private sector. I respect Bain and I respect Bain's role. But I do think it is a perfectly appropriate question to ask, what has Mitt Romney's record been in job creation, in the private and the public sector, because that's something that he's touting as a part of his -- as a part of his case.

He's created a lot of wealth and I respect him for that. But his job creation record is just not as strong as he is holding it out to be. And you compare that to a president who has bent the curve, who has been against the trend, and turned around national job growth and job loss into job growth.

That is about governing for the long term, not reaping benefits for the short term and that's exactly the kind of leadership that we need in this country in my view.

COOPER: The Romney says that he created more jobs in Massachusetts than President Obama has created.

PATRICK: Well, I -- I just don't think that's factually true, but it is factually true that at a time when the nation was growing jobs, we were, in Massachusetts under Governor Romney, trailing the rest of the nation. That is a fact.

It's also a fact that in this president's time in office, he's taken historic losses in jobs and turned that to a four million -- four million jobs gained. And we need to keep that going. That's the point. Are we going to govern for the long-term? Are we going to continue to dig our way out of this, and stabilize and improve and expand opportunity for people? Or are we going to go back to policies that got us into this mess in the first place?

COOPER: In this new Obama campaign, in this Web ad, we see Massachusetts residents complaining about new fees under Governor Romney, calling them an effective tax increase and unfair. You've been governor for a few years now, many of those fees are still in placed. Some of them have actually --

PATRICK: That's right.

COOPER: Been raised by you.

PATRICK: That's right. That's right. And --

COOPER: I mean, have you been making an effort to get rid of them?

PATRICK: No. In some cases we have not and the point is not that the fees are necessarily bad. The point is, we actually believe in investing in our future here in Massachusetts in this administration and being candid with the public about that as opposed to what Governor Romney did when he was here and what he talks about on the campaign trail. He says he didn't raise taxes. In fact, he did raised the sales -- excuse me, the gas tax and he raised everything else that wasn't a tax.

And it was about the kind of financial engineering to make the books look good without being candid with people about what our challenges were and what the -- what kinds of services they wanted from government. It's an integrity question, it's not just a policy question.

COOPER: Governor Deval Patrick, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

PATRICK: Thank you. Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Want to turn next to a former Romney opponent and current Romney surrogate, former speaker of House, Newt Gingrich.

Speaker Gingrich, thanks for being with us. You just heard Governor Deval Patrick talk about Mitt Romney's record, 47th in the nation overall, but when Mitt Romney left office, that's obviously not a great number. How -- why, if Mitt Romney knows how to create jobs was he not able to create more jobs as governor of Massachusetts?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, start with the point you made. There were 4.7 percent unemployment. If we were at 4.7 percent unemployment right now, 5.5 million Americans would be at work, who, under Obama's policies, are currently unemployed.

So I think it's pretty hard for the Obama team to make the case that Romney did a worse job in Massachusetts. He clearly had a lower unemployment level. And I think that that's a fair part of this debate. But I think it also goes deeper, you just saw Governor Romney out of Solyndra. I mean if Obama wants to get into a debate about investments and the choices between private sector investment and bureaucratic investment, Solyndra is almost a case study in why you don't want bureaucrats investing your tax money because they don't do a good job of it.

And I think it's very important to recognize how many of Obama's so-called investments in the last three years are now either going broke, on the edge of going broke, losing money, all across this whole zone, for example, where he was going to get us a million electric cars a year and there are like 5 percent of that amount despite having invested billions and billions of the what is the taxpayers' money.

In the private sector, if you invest money and you lose it, it's your money. In the bureaucracy, if you invest it, and you lose it, it was the taxpayers' money. That's a very big difference.

COOPER: But in the past, Mitt Romney had supported government investment in alternative energies in private companies. GINGRICH: I think there's a difference between the government, for example, having a tax credit for wind or for solar or even for that matter a tax credit for buying a breakthrough kind of car like the Volt. There's a difference between having a tax credit and having bureaucrats hand out hundreds of -- millions of dollars.

In one case a solar company went broke under Obama that had a $3.1 billion guarantee. That's just one company. And so I think it's very important to recognize you had an effort on the part of this administration to rush into doing a lot of things to get them done through the bureaucracy, and the bureaucracy didn't have the skills, it didn't have the knowledge and it wasn't able to pull it off.

And I think you're going to see a wreckage both in terms of people who lose their jobs, you look at Solyndra where everybody ended up being unemployed.

COOPER: But there was support --

GINGRICH: And you're going to see a wreckage economically.

COOPER: There was support for the Solyndra -- Solyndra deal under the Bush administration. That's where actually it does began. The Obama administration made it faster but this is not something that the Obama administration created.

GINGRICH: No, but I -- but it is something which Obama went out and focused on and claimed credit for and pointed to when he was physically at the plant, pointed to as a shining example of his model. That shining example now is broke. And I think that tells people a lot.

Look, I'm not -- I'm not going to say that throwing away taxpayer money is peculiarly a Democratic behavior or that it didn't happen in the Bush administration. I am going to say that there've been some very painful lessons learned and that having somebody who's good at managing capital, and who understands the private sector, maybe a lot better than having somebody who's largely good teaching classes, try to preside over the economy.

COOPER: I want to ask you about a charge in the latest Romney ad in talking about the stimulus. The ad says, and I'm quoting, the inspector general said contracts were steered to friends and family. Talking about is the Solyndra deal. That's not factually correct, though. He actually said his office was investigating whether stimulus contracts had been steered to friends and family, and so far there haven't been any confirmed cases at all.

And independent investigators have only found evidence that .0001 of a percentage point of stimulus money has been lost to fraud. Darrell Issa himself has pointed out -- I just want to make I have the quote right. He said, is there criminal activity? Perhaps not, is there political influence and connections, perhaps not.

So how can the Romney campaign make this charge about friends and family? GINGRICH: Well, if it's -- if they're technically wrong, they should change the ad. I mean it's -- you know, I think -- I think it's to our advantage. We can win this election so handily by sticking to the facts and again the case against Obama is so decisive, particularly on the economy, on the price of gasoline, on the size of the deficits, that I think we don't have to exaggerate and candidly, my advice to them would be, if it's not -- if it's technically inaccurate, they ought to just fix it and calmly go about their business.

COOPER: You ran, obviously, a tough campaign against Governor Romney. A lot of people said there was a lot of personal animosity. You know you've gotten this question before. You are now on his side. Were you wrong back then?

Because you were basically saying he was -- I mean I think you came choice to saying he was unfit to be president. Were you wrong then? Are you right now? Are you wrong --

GINGRICH: Well, I don't think -- I don't think I went quite that far. Look, I threw a kitchen sink on Romney, and he threw a somewhat larger kitchen sink at me.


GINGRICH: It was a very tough set of primaries. But candidly, with Barack Obama as the alternative, it is very easy for me to be excited and enthusiastic for Mitt Romney. I look at my two grandchildren. Maggie is 12, Robert is 10. I look out 10 or 20 years when they're -- say, 32 and 30. The difference between the America that Obama will create and the America that Romney will create is so dramatic, I have no problem at all getting over -- it was a very tough, bruising campaign on both sides.

I think Romney would tell you that I hit him about as hard as I knew how to and he came back and did the same to me. But when you look at the nation, and you look at what's at stake, there's an enormous difference between where Governor Romney would take us and where the president is taking us.

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich, I appreciate your time as well. Thank you, sir.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

COOPER: Syria is at it again, another lie, possibly it's the most brazen lie yet, if that's even possible, about the full-scale massacre in Houla and who's responsible for the slaughter of more than 100 civilians. Plus a new attack today. We have an American photographer on the ground risking his life to tell you about it today. I urge you to hear what he has to say next.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, more shameless lies spilling out of Syria. But before I go on, I want to say that because we have been covering this story night after night, we realize that it can be numbing, it can be tempting to turn away, to decide you have heard enough.

And I know it sounds the same every single day, but that is the horror of what is happening. It is the same every single day. It is the same slaughter, the same broken bodies of children, the same screaming of mothers and fathers.

The same lies by a regime, which has shown itself more than willing to kill its own people day after day. It is the same day after day, and that is the true horror of it.

So while others may not be reporting this as much because they don't want to bore you or they think you won't watch. We continue to focus on it because we think it's the only thing worse frankly than these people being slaughtered and the rest of the world turning away from it.

Tonight, new lies coming from the Syrian government on the massacre in Hula. I want to warn you some of the images you're going to see are very difficult. We blurred out the most graphic parts.

The Syrian investigative panel so-called says the Assad regime isn't to blame for this wholesale slaughter of more than a hundred civilians, dozens of children. There are the bodies of children you're seeing that we blurred out there.

Children shot in the chest, children with their skulls blown away. Children executed at close range, some with their throats reportedly slit.

The report by the Syrian government says that armed terrorist groups, armed terrorist groups, carried out the massacre, the same vague entities. The same terms they have been using for 15 months now, it's a lie that's been exposed over and over again.


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Our reaction to the Syrian characterization of what transpired in Hula. I mean, I think quite simply it's another blatant lie.


COOPER: Based on survivor accounts and reporting on the ground. It was the Syrian military who started the massacre. The regime used tanks and heavy artillery that killed dozens, which was then followed up by civilian militias or local gangs acting on behalf of the regime.

Syria continues to insist that it has never violated the U.N. brokered peace plan. That's what they say. The one that they called for cease-fire weeks ago, that claim takes brazen to a new level.


MARK TONER, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: They failed to comply with any of the six components of the Annan plan. They have continued to besiege population centers including the horrible events that happened in Hula over the weekend. It puts responsible for this bloodletting squarely upon Assad.


COOPER: Thousands have been killed. Of course, we don't know the exact number. Today there was more shelling in Hula and at least 50 people were reported killed across the country.

We have seen so many reporters die in Syria over the last 15 months, activists pointing cell phone cameras, citizen journalists pointing their cell phone cameras at people firing at them.

And reporter, Marie Colvin, was one of them from the "Sunday Times." Joining me now is a war photographer, Robert King, who despite all the risks is there on the ground.

He witnessed an intense attack by the Syrian regime on civilians and Free Syrian Army Forces and others, and also medical staff in a place called Alkaser in Syria.

Robert, you're in Alkaser right now. What did you see with your own eyes?

ROBERT KING, WAR PHOTOGRAPHER: What I saw with my own eyes today were as many wounded and many dead both civilian and FSA fighters inside a local field hospital in the city. The city was constantly being shelled early in the morning until even tonight, there's still shells falling.

Not as much as there were earlier today. And a couple of those shells were hit the hospital, the field clinic, not a direct hit, and wounded some of the medical staff.

And so during that time, I saw children, two children that were wounded slightly, and many wounded people in the hallways and the recovery rooms, in the kitchen, whenever there was open space, there was a body.

COOPER: Do you get the sense that there are targets that they're aiming at or is this indiscriminate?

KING: If they were targeting this location of the field hospital that would mean that there would be informants in the city because the fields are constantly relocating due to the fact that they are the target. But what I saw today was that it appeared that the Syrian Army's weapons are pretty accurate within 50 yards of each other.

COOPER: The Syrian government has continued to claim that they have never, not once violated the cease fire. The U.N. says that's not true, U.S. diplomats say that's not true. The videos that we continue to show that is not true. Clearly what you saw today is more evidence of that?

KING: Yes, it's obvious that the U.N. peace plan is constantly being violated. Today, yesterday, there were helicopters in the air, firing. Today, there were tanks fires.

And a part of that six-point peace plan was that all heavy equipment was supposed to pull out of the city. Right now, there are rumors that there are 70 to 100 tanks that are surrounding the city. All roads are blocked, there are no safe zones. There are no humanitarian corridors that are open at this time.

COOPER: We have been told that other Arab governments, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia is going to be sending in money so that they can buy better weapons. U.S. has talked about communications equipment. But in terms of what you're seeing on the ground, you're still seeing poorly armed opposition forces.

KING: Yes, they're still waiting for the communications equipment. They're still waiting for this so-called money that the Arab world has claimed to be donating to the Free Syrian Army. It's not here.

COOPER: When you hear today, the Syrian regime say that they have done their own investigation of the Hula massacre and that they announced today that they had no involvement whatsoever in that slaughter.

And say yet again it was the work of armed terrorists, which is the same phrase they have used to describe just about everybody who has protested against them for the last 15 months. What's the reaction of people on the ground there?

KING: The people on the ground are very skeptical of anything that the Syrian regime puts out.

COOPER: It seems like in many conflicts in the past. People have said well, we didn't know what was happening there. We didn't have pictures. Nobody can say that about what has happened in Syria over the last 15 months, not just because of people like yourself.

But also because of activists who have pointed their cell phone cameras to the people who are shooting demonstrators in the streets. Why do you want to be there? What are you trying to show?

KING: Good question. I'm here to help tell the people's story and inform the world that this is taking place and this generation chooses to continue to ignore this, then the next generation, I will have informed how complacent the present condition of the world has been.

COOPER: Well, thank you for being there and thank you for showing the world yet again what is happening and please be as careful as you can, Robert. Thank you.

KING: Thanks.

COOPER: Very brave man, I have said this time and time again, but we cannot say we don't know what is happening. We have seen the pictures for 15 months now. We can't pretend we don't know. Coming up, a new ruling from the judge on whether Sea World willfully violated safety procedures on the killer whale incident that left the trainer Dawn Brancheau dead. We have new details ahead.


COOPER: A drive through disaster proves the customer isn't always right. "The Ridiculist" is coming up in about 15 minutes. More news next.


COOPER: A new ruling about danger in the water at Sea World and whether the company is doing enough to protect its employees. Sea World had appealed citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, over the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

You remember she was dragged into the water by a 22-foot whale. Now in a new decision, a judge upheld safety violations against the park and said that OSHA's recommendation to use physical barriers to protect trainers is feasible.

But the ruling also says Sea World didn't intentionally act with the disregard that it's violation wasn't, quote, "willful" and they reduced the fine against Sea World.

A statement from the park says in part, "We have maintained all along that the allegations of willful were meritless and are vindicated that the judge agreed.

Joining me now live is Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and David Kirby, author of the book, "Death At Sea World." So Jack, what do you make of this ruling? Do you think it's going to hurt Sea World and how they do business?

JACK HANNA, DIRECTOR EMERITUS, COLUMBUS ZOO: Well, they had a record year last year. But in regards of the record year, just read the press release just now.

Forget the record year, I do know that the trainers are no longer -- Dawn was a friend of mine and I had to do her funeral. So that obviously was very difficult.

When we talk to her parents and talk to the trainers, she wasn't told to go be a -- number one. Number two, real quickly, Anderson, the judge says here -- for exposing employees to serious injury or death.

Anderson you and I both know, how many businesses does that apply to? How many jobs in this country, thousands of them, I can't believe that statement. We're all exposed -- I didn't take this job 40 something years ago to work with animals to expose anybody to death or injury.

And I know from my heart that Sea World did not do that as well. No one is forced to go in with those whales. By the way, this is an honor. This is like an astronaut to bring education to billions of people in the last 40 years that have seen these whales.

COOPER: David, the judge ruled that the OSHA recommendations that Sea World basically use these barriers to try to protect trainers were feasible. What is that exactly mean?

DAVID KIRBY, AUTHOR, "DEATH AT SEAWORLD": That mean it's possible for Sea World to continue its performances with the waters out of the trainers out of the water.

What the judge said, was he agrees with OSHA that being in close proximity to these top predators is too dangerous and therefore there needs to be some type of protection for these workers.

COOPER: So they won't then be getting in the water and riding on the whales, things like that.

KIRBY: Well, they will be. Sea World is going to put trainers back in the water very soon. They're already putting preparations to do that.

But OSHA has said it's not really feasible to have trainers in the water with these top predators unless you have certain measures in place. And Sea World says the measures they're going to use is like a fast rising bottom of the pool, to beach a whale that's got one of these trainers in its mouth.

But OSHA is not going to agree that that's equal protection to keeping trainers out of the water completely.

COOPER: Jack, Dawn Brancheau as you said she was a friend of yours and she died while doing her work. You say that this was her legacy and should continue. Why because there are some folks who see these whales in these small enclosures and say this isn't right.

HANNA: But Anderson, I've been out there in the while with killer whales all over the world. No matter what anybody says, you can do all the research you want to, but what Sea World has found out through their research, what they have learned over the last 40 years is invaluable to the survival of the killer whale in the wild.

It's amazing that 41 years ago that you were killing killer whales and Sea World got a permit to see six of them. And today about 95 percent of whales, or maybe 99 percent of whales, only one or two are left from all those years ago.

Trust me, I have been going to Sea World since they opened in Orlando since 1973 or 1974 when they opened down there. It's one of the most highlighted things in my life.

If you look at the billions of people who went to Sea World, they'll tell you what they want to see. It's not a matter that they want to go to see a trainer get killed or injured.

I've been out there for 30-something years, I know how sea world treats their whales. And his book on the -- I think it was called the animal factory and I wanted to make sure that the chickens had bigger enclosures.

I'm going to say to David, I do everything I can to make sure animals don't suffer and there's animals that no animals in Sea World that suffers.

COOPER: David?

KIRBY: There's a lot to respond to, Jack, I'm glad you support restrictions on factory farming and you support animal welfare. I think that's why people criticize keeping killer whales in captivity. I think it's important to note that the research that goes on in Sea World I haven't really seen very many published reports.

COOPER: Bottom line, Jack and David, do you think trainers can be in the water safely with killer whales?

KIRBY: I leave that to the U.S. government, they say no. My question is whether killer whales should be in captivity period. And my conclusion after doing all my research is no.

COOPER: We got to leave it there. David Kirby, I appreciate it. Jack Hanna as well. More ahead, we'll be right back.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And tonight we're adding the do-it-yourself drive through, which is the recent invention of one supremely disgruntled Taco Bell customer.

A guy in Southwest Ohio apparently had some very hard feelings after he didn't get one of his soft tacos and in the wake of the grave injustice of being deprived of a 99-cent taco. He rammed his pick-up truck into the Taco Bell.

Thankfully no one was hurt, but it made a mess of both the Taco Bell and the guy's truck apparently because according to local news reports police followed a trail of motor fluid from the Taco Bell right to the guy's house where they arrested him for vandalism.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they just thought it was another angry customer and that he would get his taco and maybe, you know, vent and pull out, but they weren't expecting this. Usually people don't run into Taco Bell intentionally just for a missing taco.


COOPER: That's very true, Taco Bell employees say when orders are wrong they're used to customers getting kind of sarcastic, nasty even, but the make your own drive through, that is a new one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call you an idiot or tell you it's not rocket science. It's never running through a window.


COOPER: This actually is not the first time that someone has had a beef with Taco Bell that got way out of hand. Last year in Missouri, remember a guy really got his -- when somebody forgot his hot sauce.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To punctuate his anger, police say surveillance video shows him pointing what appears to be a 12-gauge shotgun at the employee who ran for cover.


COOPER: Make a run for the border, run for cover, tomato, tomato, but unless we give the impression that wildly, inappropriate customer bug out or somehow you need Taco Bell. Let us never forget the lady in Ohio who resorted to fisticuffs when she couldn't get any chicken McNuggets. There she is right there.

The heart want what is the heart wants and sometimes that heart wants McNuggets even when they're only serving breakfast. She's trying to punch her way to better customer service.

That doesn't work rarely, never really. That's the point here. I'm sure the good people of Taco Bell will happily give you your hot sauce or your soft taco. Let's unclench the fist how about that. Let's throw the neutral. Think outside the gun and leave the renovations to professionals. We'll be right back.


COOPER: We'll be back one hour from now. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.