Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Senate Vote on Syria on Hold; President Obama: Russian Plan Might Avert Attack; George Zimmerman Detained By Police; Zimmerman's Estranged Wife Calls 911; Diana Nyad's Swim From Cuba To Florida Questioned; Ohio Man Charged After Drunk Driving Confession Goes Viral; Rodman Plans To Train North Korea's Olympic Basketball Team; Long Lost Van Gogh Painting Discovered

Aired September 09, 2013 - 20:00   ET



Good evening, everyone.

Breaking news tonight: a new sign that a vote on using force against Syria would be the vote that the president would lose on this day when a seemingly unhand remark by Secretary of State John Kerry suddenly changed the convention about military action against Syria.

Also tonight, George Zimmerman's new brush with the law. His estranged wife calls 911 saying he was threatening her with a gun. Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, joins us later.

And also later tonight, why some marathon swimmers are raising questions about Diana Nyad's epic swim from Cuba to Florida. We're going to tell you what those doubts are and if they have any validity, what we know so far.

We begin tonight with the breaking news. Senate majority leader Harry Reid postponing what would have been the first key vote on authorizing the use of force against Syria. The latest in a string of surprises that began with a seemingly offhand remarks, they said, from Secretary of State John Kerry earlier today when asked what Bashar al-Assad, the dictator of Syria, could do to prevent an air strike.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community, in the next week. Turn it over, all of it. Without delay. And allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done, obviously.


COOPER: With that last sentence, Secretary Kerry apparently dismissed the entire notion. But then Russia's foreign minister picked up on it, and Syria's foreign minister welcomed Russia's move. The question is, is it for real or delaying tactic? So did the European allies and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. They also ran with it.

Then making her first comments on the Syrian crisis, former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, threw her weight behind the idea, as well.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control, as was suggested by Secretary Kerry, and the Russians, that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction. And Russia has to support the international community's efforts sincerely or be held to account.


COOPER: What is interesting about that, in particular, is that she just met with President Obama, and then she said that. So there was that momentum apparently building. Then this evening, talking to Wolf Blitzer, President Obama said an alternative to military action is possible.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's possible if it's real. And you know, I think it's certainly a positive development when the Russians and the Syrians both make gestures towards dealing with these chemical weapons.

This is what we've been asking for, not just over the last week or the last month, but for the last couple of years. So it is a potentially positive development. I have to say that it's unlikely that we would have arrived at that point where there were even public statements like that without a credible military threat to deal with the chemical weapons use inside of Syria, but we're going to run this to ground.

And John Kerry and the rest of my National Security team will engage with the Russians and the international community to see, can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious? We may be able to arrive at a consensus in which it doesn't solve the underlying problems of a civil war in Syria but it does solve the problem that I'm trying to focus on right now which is making sure that you don't have over 400 children gassed indiscriminately by these chemical weapons.


COOPER: All right, so the president sounding like he's giving some serious thoughts to what could be a way out of an unpopular and politically difficult course of action. And just like that, what sounded and felt a lot like a march to war, suddenly found the pause button. So in addition to the Senate delay, there's new public opinion polling tonight and more.

A lot to talk about. We'll start with the breaking news and chief -- congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

So a surprise in the Senate tonight. The delay on this vote. Is this because of Russia's talk and what Secretary Kerry said? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. A senior Democratic leadership source said that is exactly the reason why Senator Reid decided to delay this. They insist that they do have the votes for this initial procedural measure to pass by mid-week. But they said that they don't want to lock the Senate in. And in fact, those were messages that they got from senators. Don't lock us in to taking this vote if perhaps we don't need to.

But even as they're doing this, we were getting new words of caution. Our Jim Sciutto heard from a U.S. official that it is -- this is far from solid and still needs to be as assessed on its merit -- merits and this very well could be a delaying tactic by both the Russians and the Syrians.

And, Anderson, that is very much what I'm also hearing from members of Congress here. Remember, so many members of Congress have been in briefings, either at the White House or here on Capitol Hill, with members of the administration and meetings, pretty much all day long. So they have been asking questions of Russia, as well. And there is a lot of concern that this is not real. And that this is just a delaying tactic.

In fact, Susan Rice told some lawmakers that they -- she's been at the table with Russians for a couple of years and talked about issues like this. And that at the end of the day, the Russians just kind of pull it back off the table. So cautious optimism, but emphasize cautious.

COOPER: Yes. Sounds kind of raucous and loud behind you, by the way, right now on Capitol Hill.


I don't know -- like a party or something? Anyway, the -- how -- I mean, you talk about how it looks in the Senate. How does it look in Congress in terms of action on Syria? In terms of the vote. The president acknowledged tonight it's uphill for him to get the votes he needs.

BASH: Well, the reason it's raucous is because what they're doing now is breaking down from a very long classified briefing that went on behind me with -- with Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel, and the entire House of Representatives. They were all invited to this briefing.

And to answer your question, in talking to so many members coming out, it didn't seem to change very many minds.


BASH: And again the minds going in weren't very positive towards voting for this. If the vote were held today, I've not found anybody who said that they think that it would actually pass. And in fact just from talking to lawmakers, and looking at my inbox, we've seen more people coming out against voting for military authorization than saying that they would vote yes in the past -- even several hours.

COOPER: Right.

BASH: It was already an uphill climb.

COOPER: All right, Dana. Appreciate the update. Thanks very much.

More now on what a hard sell a military action is, not just on Capitol Hill but with the American people.

Joining us, chief national correspondent John King, senior political analyst, David Gergen, also CNN political commentators Ari Fleischer, obviously -- former George W. Bush White House press secretary, and "New York Times" op-ed columnist, Charles Blow.

John, let's start with you. You've been following this kind of debates for years. What do you make of this delay? I mean, are the members taking this Russian initiative or -- you know, the Russians jumping on -- what Secretary Kerry said in kind of an offhand way? Are they taking it seriously or does it feel like they were just anxious not to vote and they're kind of putting their faith in Putin and Assad?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a bit of all of the above. Are they taking it seriously? There's a huge dose of skepticism. But the Syrians publicly said they would explore this with Syria. The Syrian foreign minister came out and said, we're open to this idea. So people from John McCain to the most liberal Democrats say you have to test it, you have to give it diplomacy a chance. You can't then go pushing for a vote on military authorization or launching military strikes if there is a narrow possibility that diplomacy will work.

But there is a great, great deal of skepticism. But to your point about, do they not want to take this vote? Absolutely. A great number of people in both parties, but especially a lot of Democrats who would feel pressure to be loyal to the president in the end if they had to take the vote who would -- many of them would give the president a yes vote.

They don't want to take this vote, Anderson, because in their hearts they'd rather vote no.

COOPER: So, John, do we know the back story on -- on what Secretary Kerry said earlier today? Because at first it was kind of described as an offhand remark, a goof, kind of -- you know, he was just answering a hypothetical and kind of got ahead of himself. But now the president is saying well, he actually discussed this with Putin at the G-20 last week.

KING: That's what makes this so bizarre. This is the day, and Secretary Kerry knows this, that the president is giving six interviews with television anchors. Tomorrow night he addresses the American, why is he doing that? To address the profound skepticism. The profound doubts that we see in our own CNN polling and you see in any other polling about, could you have a limited attack? Can you do this in a way that hurts Assad but then doesn't lead to boots on the ground or a long quagmire? And on this day, Secretary Kerry says this almost in an offhanded way, people at his own State Department, Anderson, well, they're mocking him, saying it was a mistake, it was a goof, it was a gaffe, it was a mess-up. Then hours later, you have the Russians saying, let's explore this deal, and the administration suddenly doing a pivot saying, we have to give it time.

You're right. I have covered a lot of this. I've never seen anything like this.

COOPER: And David Gergen, I mean, you've worked in a lot of different administrations in the White House. What do you make of the selling of this? I mean, of all this kibitzing that's been going on by the administration?


COOPER: Awful.

GERGEN: It -- pretty awful. I -- you know, he may still --


COOPER: Awful meaning mismanaged? Mishandled?

GERGEN: Yes, I don't think that they -- I talked to a young military officer tonight who was a former student. And he said, you know, one of the things we look for in the military leadership is clarity and consistency. And that's been -- that's been lacking throughout this. We don't know what the administration is trying to do. It's been zigzagging. And I think it's -- I think its chances of winning in the Senate and in the House, especially in the House, have been badly damaged by the lack of consistency and a clear message.

And even now I think there's surprise in many quarters at how willing the administration is to delay things over this offer from Russia and Syria. Here we have an offer from two of the most unsavory leaders in the world. From two countries who have no love for the United States. Putting an offer on the table. When we saw after the Persian Gulf in 1991, we sent in an -- you know, an invasive inspection team from the U.N. to look for chemical weapons from Saddam.

Everybody was going to, you know, get those, identify them and destroy them. It took years to try to trace those things down. Even then we didn't know. George W. Bush, one of the reasons he went to war was we -- we didn't know where they were. So, you know, I'm surprised there hasn't been sort of a clearer, let's be very, very skeptical before we embrace a plan that come from Assad and Putin.

COOPER: Now, and, Ari, you think that the administration has just pulled the vote right now from Congress. I mean, they're not even going to vote for this while this thing is in the air, right?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's both. It's going to be pulled. It already has been pulled. No member of Congress are going to vote on this while there's a chance that something like this could happen. I don't know why the president is going to address the nation tomorrow. There's no urgency. There's no time sensitivity.

You know, this is like somebody who's pushing a boulder up a hill, which is what the president was doing. Now he stopped pushing the boulder. The only thing that's going to happen is his original position is going to get crushed.

This is what happens, Anderson, when a president of the United States says something he doesn't believe in in the first place. I don't think the president meant it when he drew that red line and called for enormous consequences. He was bluffing. He got his bluff called. And ever since then, this has been a zigzag, ad hoc, make it up as you go along, Saturday, Labor Day, we'll go to Congress. We're now going to put our faith in Putin and Assad to do the right thing with chemical weapons?

Look, President Assad denies he even used chemical weapons. So now we're going to trust President Assad to give over to Russia that chemical weapons that he says he never used? This has reached the point of absurdity.

COOPER: Charles, what --

FLEISCHER: I supported the president in this but now it's impossible to support him. I don't know what his policy is.

COOPER: Charles, what do you make of this? Should there -- should there be a vote on this while this thing is on the table?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think they can have a vote on this. And I think the president recognizes it. If you watched his interview with Wolf Blitzer this afternoon, the tone was completely different. It was completely dialed back.

COOPER: And the fact that Secretary -- that former Secretary Clinton came out and said this right after meeting with Obama.

BLOW: Absolutely.

COOPER: That sort of indicates it.

BLOW: Absolutely. And when asked about this particular situation he actually tried to say that he had brought it up before at the G-20. So I think that he is trying to pull back, he sees the poll numbers moving in the opposite direction of where they need them to move, even after a full frontal assault on the public and on Congress.

He sees the numbers, they're whipping by -- news organizations and by probably their internal people and those numbers are not moving in the right direction. I think that you do have to try to find it out here.

I do not believe, however, that you can trust Putin and Assad. I don't trust those guys as far as I can throw them. And I think, you know, we've seen Putin try to poke at the president before, even with Snowden, and I don't think there's any affinity there. You have to take a healthy dose of skepticism about whether or not he is serious about this, and then just the practical matter of how do you flood Syria with, you know, weapons inspectors.

They have something like 70 different sites where they have these. In the middle of a civil war. How do you -- how does this happen in the middle of a civil war? It's really hard to see how -- as a practical matter it can be done. However, I think the president is recognizing some political realities here. He may be about to lose a vote that he does not want to lose. And they're pulling back a little bit at least to give some time to see if they can make a case better that they've made it already.

COOPER: John, I know you want to get in.

KING: Well, Anderson, the challenge for the president now, we thought today and tomorrow would be about addressing that profound skepticism. And one of the criticisms of the president is it's hard to get the country, through its ambivalence and its reservations, when he keeps showing through his words and his own body language, his own ambivalence, and his own reservations about doing this.

We thought that's what yesterday and tomorrow -- I mean, today and tomorrow were about. Now, to Charles's point, the president has a challenge, now how long do you leave this out there? How long do the Russians and the Syrians get to come up with a, quote-unquote, credible plan? Because not only does it affect your credibility on the world stage and the whole questions Ari aired about whether you trust these people, but I talked to a House leadership aide today, who said look, the president was probably going to lose in the House anyway. If he lets this thing drag on two weeks or a month, forget about it.

COOPER: It's also interesting, David -- to Ari and John's point, I mean, if today if the president doing all these interviews with all these different networks and speaking to the American public tomorrow night, if he's still going to do that, was all about making the case for an attack about why you have to draw a red -- you know, a line over chemical weapons.

That message seems to have gone, as John said, in a lot of these interviews. It was all about this Russian plans.

GERGEN: I agree, and it's muffled, his message, and I think it puts an extra burden on the president tomorrow night. You know, if you want to bring people to engage in conflict, you have to issue a clarion call. You have to rally people with a very clear sense of what it is you're trying to do, why it's so important. And here you've got this huge complicating factor that's now -- into it so that the president is going to seem ambivalent about what he really wants to do.

I think it's a very hard speech to make, very hard to convince people, very hard to get -- but what I do also believe is we talk a lot about judging the president. I think the real question at the end is, what's best for the country? You know, what serves the United States best over -- over the long haul. And I think that's a hard one to answer. If we pull back now maybe it's the right thing.

But are we not getting hurt strategically? A lot of countries will look at us and say, you know, those guys don't quite know what they're doing there.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. We're going to have more right after the break.

John King, David Gergen, Ari Fleischer and Charles Blow, thanks very much.

Let us know what you think. Let's talk about it on Twitter during the commercial break, @Andersoncooper.

Up next, we're going to talk about the evidence that there is and the evidence there isn't. Evidence some believe that's lacking, that seems like these were caused by the Assad regime using chemical weapons. How much do we really know?

Later, how George Zimmerman ended up being -- well, talked to by police today again and what his lawyer has to say about his wife dialing 911 saying he was there with a gun. She felt threatened. We'll have details from our reporter and also we'll talk to Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, ahead.


COOPER: Breaking news tonight, yet another sign of how difficult it may be to gain approval for military action against Syria. Wednesday vote in the Senate now on hold. A possible diplomat breakthrough or at least a diplomatic effort or perhaps just a diversion now under consideration. Prior to that development Syrian dictator Bashar al- Assad spoke with "CBS This Morning's" Charlie Rose about the consequence for American military action.


CHARLIE ROSE, "CBS THIS MORNING": Will there be attacks against American bases in the Middle East if there is an air strike?

PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIA: Should expect everything, should expect everything. Not look only through the government -- the governments are not only -- not the only player in this region. You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology. You have everything in this region now. So you have to expect that.

ROSE: Expect -- tell me what you mean by expect everything.

ASSAD: Expect every action.

ROSE: Including chemical warfare?

ASSAD: That depends, if the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it. It could happen. I don't know. You know, I am not a fortune teller to tell you what is going to happen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A quick reminder, Charlie Rose is going to be my special guest tonight on the first edition of our new show, "AC 360" later which is at 10:00 Eastern Time tonight. It's a whole new program. Blogger Andrew Sullivan is going to join us as well, as well as Christiane Amanpour.

Before Secretary Kerry got the diplomatic ball rolling, accidentally or otherwise, the White House had planned to launch an all-out political and PR blitz in support of its case against the Assad regime. You heard the president today. He has little doubts. Others, though, aren't sure.

Now more from Jim Sciutto, but first a warning some of the images in his report, well, they are hard to stomach.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three days before this horrific attack on a Damascus suburb, Syrian regime forces were observed preparing chemical weapons. Later, as the moment of attack approached, troops received warnings to have their gas masks at the ready. Then after the gas took its deadly toll, a senior regime official is heard confirming chemical weapons were used. Even expressing fear that U.N. inspectors would come looking for evidence.

All of this according to U.S. intelligence, the core of the evidence, the Obama administration says it has to prove Bashar al-Assad ordered the attack.

KERRY: The American intelligence community has high confidence. High confidence. This is common sense. This is evidence. These are facts.

SCIUTTO: But so far the public has seen none of the supporting evidence. The White House released this map showing areas around Damascus affected by the chemical attack but offered none of the satellite images they say they have showing the attacks were launched from regime-controlled areas.

And U.S. intelligence agencies also have yet to release transcripts of the senior regime official talking about the attack after the fact. In all, nothing yet to directly link Assad to ordering the use of chemical weapons. The evidence shared with the public is largely circumstantial.

TONY BLINKEN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Assad, we believe, and we have the intelligence and evidence to back this up, is in control of the chemical weapons program. And would have -- let me put it this way. Any standing orders to use these weapons would have been issued by Assad.

SCIUTTO: Americans may need to hear and see more. A new CNN/ORC poll shows 59 percent of Americans oppose military action, 63 percent disapprove of how President Obama has handled the Syrian crisis.

And as they wait, new questions have been raised over whether Assad personally ordered the attack. A report in a German newspaper cited phone intercepts by German intelligence, suggesting Assad may not have authorized the use of chemical weapons.

Some question why with the upper hand in this conflict he'd risk provoking international military intervention. However, with rebels closing in on the capital he may have believed it was worth the risk.

As the administration tries to sway the country, it released 13 new videos to members of Congress who were being given full access to classified information and to the public.

BLINKEN: My sense is that when members of Congress have a chance to see the intelligence, to read it, to get the briefings to ask questions they come away convinced of two things. Chemical weapons were used on August 21st against civilians in Syria, and the Assad regime is the one that used them.

SCIUTTO: For some, however, they still haven't heard enough.

REP. BUCK MCKEON (R), CALIFORNIA: They have not linked it directly to Assad, in my estimation.

SCIUTTO: Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, as you saw at the top, there's enough skepticism about the case for war. The scope of action and the repercussions to at least deter action in Congress if not out and out derail it.

More about that now with Michael Doran of the Brookings Institution, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, also Christopher Dickey, Middle East editor for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast," and former White House Homeland Security adviser, Fran Townsend, who currently sits on the Homeland Security and CIA External Advisory Boards.

Fran, I mean, the majority of American believe chemical weapons were used and most likely by the Assad regime, and yet still do not support this attack. Do you think if more intelligence was actually released it would make a difference?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not sure that that's -- look, there is a good reason that sort of technical intelligence like satellite imagery and signals intelligence has kept classified and shown to members of Congress. I'm not sure this is about releasing more intelligence.

What it's about is the president making the case. What does he want to do? Why does he want to do it? How is this in the national interest? And what he does, will that advance the cause? How will we know when we're successful? I don't think sort of the case has been made that pulls all this together. You know, we hear there is a red line. And then the president backs away. That it's Congress' red line or the international community's. We hear he authorizes military action but he wants to get permission from Congress.

You know, there is this sort of back and forth and I think the case hasn't really been advocated forcefully put forth together by the commander-in-chief about why he wants to do this and what it's going to accomplish.

COOPER: You know, Mike, it's interesting, I mean, we heard not only from Assad but you hear it from people, I hear it on Twitter all the time, from people that look what happened in Iraq, the failure of intelligence there. And we got Colin Powell publicly making a case citing we have satellite intelligence information, satellite photographs, and that turned out to be wrong.

So there is a lot of just distrust out there in the population about, even if they release more information.

MICHAEL DORAN, SABAN CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY: Well, I tend to agree with Fran that this is really more a question of messaging than it is the problem with intelligence. I think the vast majority of Americans, or at least a majority, do believe that Assad gassed his own people.

I personally find the circumstantial case quite apart from the -- from the classified intelligence to be overwhelming. The Assad forces have been trying to take that neighborhood for a year. They found it impossible. The regular forces, there are large boulevards with high rises from which the FSA is able to pick off the tanks from the regime.

And so it just makes perfect strategic sense that they would do it. It's a gateway into Damascus, it's very close to the air field from which the Iranians supply. It's the battle for Damascus centers on that neighborhood and Assad hasn't been able to win it.

COOPER: Chris, do you think this debate over the intelligence is a real issue?

No, I think it's a distraction, as a matter of fact. First of all --

COOPER: A sideshow.

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, MIDDLE EAST EDITOR, NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST: All of this talk about did Bashar al-Assad order it directly or not? Come on, he is the president of the country. And you can tell from the Charlie Rose interview, this is a guy who doesn't want to take responsibility for anything. Are you going to respond? Well, who knows, I can't predict the future.

This is a guy who's incredibly dup duplicitous. He's steep in that kind of Middle Eastern ambiguity, reasoning by implication. All of that is just bull.

COOPER: It's also interesting how he labels everybody who's opposed to his regime a terrorist. I mean, it's --

DICKEY: Sure. He labels everyone who's --


DICKEY: Everyone who's opposed to him is a terrorist. But what he was telling Charlie Rose right there in the clip we saw is terrorists --

COOPER: Right.

DICKEY: -- will strike back at you on my behalf.

TOWNSEND: Yes. That's right, and let's remember that Hezbollah is really a client of not only Iran's, but of Syria's. And so there is a real fairly explicit threat on Assad's part, that, you know, if -- a group like Hezbollah winds up with these chemical weapons, you could expect sort of asymmetric attacks against Western targets.

COOPER: And Mike, I want to play that part of the interview where Charlie asks Assad about the evidence pointing toward his regime. Let's play it.


ASSAD: The Russians have completely opposite evidence that the missiles were thrown from area where the rebels control. That reminds me about what Kerry said about the big lie that Colin Powell said in front of the world on such (INAUDIBLE) about the WMD in Iraq, before going to war, when he said this is our evidence.

Actually, he gave a false evidence. In this case, Kerry didn't even present any evidence. He talked, we have evidence, and he didn't present anything.


COOPER: I see you're shaking your head during that.

DICKEY: Well, you know, look, it's like any criminal who -- or you know, what it's like? It's like talking about cigarettes and lung cancer. Where is the direct linkage between cigarettes and lung cancer you see here for years and years? Well, obviously it happened. Obviously cigarettes were linked to lung cancer, but people said well, the specific links couldn't be established.

He is playing the same kind of game here, obviously, his troops used chemical weapons, obviously he's the one with an arsenal of chemical weapons, all that is very well known. And somebody, you know, his people used chemical weapons to kill 1400 people.

TOWNSEND: And he doesn't address, look, that where -- the area these came from came with rockets that we know that the rebels don't have access to this sort of delivery systems that were used to launch the chemical weapons, because if they had, Anderson, they would have toppled the Assad regime by now. So it's sort of ridiculous. He also doesn't address the evidence the administration released, that the rate of fire after the chemical attacks was four times greater than any other period into the rebel areas. Clearly an attempt to destroy evidence.

Otherwise, why would there have been this increase in attacks into the rebel-held areas, post the chemical weapons use.

COOPER: Mike, what do you make of, you know, not only what Secretary Kerry said about giving up the chemical weapons, even though the Assad regime doesn't admit that they have any and this Russian effort? I mean, do you think it is just a delaying tactic?

DORAN: I think it's a ruse, unfortunately, President Obama is in a box. And Putin has offered him a way out and he's grabbed ahold of it. And it's very bad news. Because Assad is now back in his comfort zone, which is playing arsonist and fireman. He causes a problem and then he says listen, I'm the guy that can help you solve it. We've played this game with him for years and years and years.

And the terrible thing is now he's a partner with President Obama. If President Obama goes back and says that Assad is cheating with respect to giving up his chemical weapons, well then it raises the question, what's the United States going to do? And we know that President Obama couldn't do anything because he came up against this no vote. So President Obama is going to have to go along with this game because his own reputation is now -- is now invested in this, I think, sham process.

COOPER: All right.

TOWNSEND: Anderson, it really is a sham. I mean, let's remember the Russians offered to take the enriched uranium out of Iran, and that turned out not to be a real offer. That turned to be a sham and a delay tactic, as well, and we have no reason to think this is anything but that.

COOPER: All right, Fran Townsend, Christopher Dickey, Mike -- thank you to have you on. For more on the story, go to

Coming up next tonight, police respond to a call from George Zimmerman's estranged wife, she says he attacked her father today and threatened them both with a gun. We'll play you part of the 911 call from Shellie Zimmerman and get a live update next from Florida.

Also ahead, at 64 years old last week, Diana Nyad, made a headlines, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida, inspiring countless numbers of people, without a protective cage, she made the swim. Tonight, there are some questions about whether every hour of that journey was on the up and up, some questions being raised by marathon swimmers. Why some are skeptical when we continue.


COOPER: "Crime and Punishment" tonight, less than two months after he was acquitted for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, there has been another incident involving George Zimmerman. This afternoon, Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, who filed for divorce last week, called 911 and said her estranged husband attacked her father and threatened them both with a gun. Here is part of that 911 call.


UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Is he inside now?

SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN: No, he is in his car and continuously has his hand on his gun and he keeps saying step closer. He is just threatening all of us --

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Step closer and what?

SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN: With his firearm and he is going to shoot us.


SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN: He punched my dad in the nose. My dad has a mark on his face. I saw his glasses were on the floor. He had accosted my father and took my iPad out of my hands and smashed it and cut is with a pocket knife.


COOPER: Victor Blackwell joins me now live from Lake Mary, Florida, with the latest. So what exactly happened today?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, police tell us that this alleged altercation ended with officers' guns drawn, and George Zimmerman's arms raised, face down behind in front of this home here behind me. He once lived there with his estranged wife, Shellie Zimmerman. How and why this all started, it really depends upon who you asked.

We spoke with Mark O'Mara, George Zimmerman's attorney today and he said that Shellie recently moved out and returned today with her father to pick up a few belongings. In that 911, Shellie Zimmerman says George Zimmerman just showed up. Now we also know from O'Mara that he says that he saw surveillance video. There are cameras inside and outside of this home.

He says that George Zimmerman smashed an iPad, but he says that George never hit anyone. Now, police tell us there was an altercation here between George Zimmerman and Shellie's father, David Dean. Dean spoke with paramedics but was not treated at the scene.

Now, let's talk about this gun because it is an interesting element here. The police say that they did not find a gun on the scene. They say that George Zimmerman told them he did not have a gun and also there was no gun on his person. But if you listen to the 911 call, Shellie Zimmerman says he is in the car with his hand on the gun.

Police did not check that car. They tell us because they did not have a warrant. They say it was not part of the crime scene and they admit that there possibly was a gun inside the car -- Anderson.

COOPER: So neither George Zimmerman's wife nor her father, though, are actually pressing charges, correct?

BLACKWELL: Well, in part, the two men, Dean and Zimmerman, George Zimmerman have decided mutually that they will not press charges against one another. But police say that they're reviewing the surveillance video from inside and outside the home. And if they see any striking between George Zimmerman and Shellie Zimmerman, there could be a domestic battery charge against George or Shellie. It depends again on what they see in that video. So it is not up to her, Shellie Zimmerman or George Zimmerman to file a domestic battery charge, it is up to the police.

COOPER: OK, and do we know where George Zimmerman is now? He is not in police custody. He was not actually arrested, correct?

BLACKWELL: He was not arrested. He was held in what is called investigative custody just while they questioned him. And police say presumably, he is inside that home right now. They saw him go in. They questioned him. No one has seen him come out of the home so they believe he is still inside this home -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Victor Blackwell, appreciate the update. Thanks. Joining me now live is George Zimmerman's attorney and CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara. Mark, good to have you on the show. So to your knowledge, what happened today? I mean, I know you say this incident was a disagreement with heightened emotions, but was there an assault of the father?

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what happened is what happens in a lot of divorce cases. I do a number of divorce cases and in those type of cases, there are much more heightened emotions than most criminal cases. In a case like this, there was a plan in place that Shellie would go back to the house, moved out several weeks before. She was going to go back to the house on Saturday to get all of whatever belongings she wanted and that was accomplished.

But as it turned out, she didn't get everything that she wanted and wanted to get some more. Showed up at the house, George was not aware of it. So when George showed up to see a trailer and truck outside the house, it was concerning to him. There were some conversations between George and her dad. You can see on the video that he was outside. George was just sitting on the bed of the truck waiting for them to finish.

When they finished, he then went in the house, this is on video, and lock the front door and going around to lock the back door, and Shellie tried to get in the front door, not knowing why it was locked. And I think that is why it sort of started. I will tell you that whatever yelling or touching may have happened between Shellie's dad and George is not on videotape. Unfortunately, we wish it was.

But we do know that a friend of George's, Wes, was there and was able to keep it at a minimum, there may have been touching between Wes and the father. But the reality is what happened here, it is a divorce case. These people have been living for 16 months under the spotlight and they're suffering from it. I think the divorce itself is a fallout from the whole case and it is now showing up with people acting inappropriately on all sides.

COOPER: Did Zimmerman have a gun in the car?

O'MARA: He had a gun with him, yes, and he was allowed to absolutely. I know there were reports that said he did not have a gun with him but he did.

COOPER: So when she says in the 911 call that he is sitting in the car with his gun, she was right?

O'MARA: Well, only because she knows he always carries his gun. She never said it was shown, nobody ever said it was shown. Again, remember now that things have calmed down everyone says they want to do nothing more than just go and get divorced?

COOPER: Are you concerned about George Zimmerman, your client. Because I don't know a lot of people who get pulled over by police as often as he seems to. I mean, prior to the trial he had run-ins with the police. There is obviously the Trayvon Martin shooting. He has been pulled over twice for speeding. I have seen videos of, and now this incident. I don't know a lot of people who have so much interaction with the police.

O'MARA: Well, I will tell you in the days before February 26, 2012, I know we talked about George having an arrest in the past. That was thrown out pretty quickly. I think George showed himself as the person he always was, very peaceful, very helpful. He truly was. From the 26 of February forward, for the past 16 months, I'm certain that George is under an enormous amount of stress. I think most people in his situation would be suffering some of that stress. And yes, I think it may show up. I think George does need to understand he is in the media or public scrutiny, and he needs to be very careful. Speeding tickets are not a good thing.

COOPER: Given that he is under stress like that, does it concern you that he is armed?

O'MARA: Well, he acted appropriately. He never took the weapon out. And the only thing he really did was tell the police was on the outside of his shirt. He made sure the gun was not moving anywhere and didn't do anything because Mr. Dean was sort of coming at him. That can be seen in the video.

COOPER: So he had the gun actually on his person, not in the glove box of his car.

O'MARA: That is correct.

COOPER: OK, and that doesn't concern you?

O'MARA: It doesn't that he acted appropriately. Certainly in a divorce situation everybody needs to be careful how they act, particularly in a high stress situation. But even with the unfortunate circumstances of this case, he acted appropriately, and I think the tape will show that. COOPER: All right, well, I guess, the police are still investigating, are going to be looking more at those tapes. Mark O'Mara, appreciate you being on. Thank you.

O'MARA: Sure thing.

COOPER: Up next, Diana Nyad's amazing 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida inspired so many. The question is, being raised now by some marathon swimmers. Did she get help along the way? There are a lot of questions on social media? We'll investigate.

Also had a major development in the case of the Ohio man who posted a confessional video online admitting he killed a man while driving drunk. We'll tell you what's happening now.


COOPER: Well, a controversial question is being asked in some social media sites, particularly being used by marathon swimmers. The question is, did Diana Nyad cheat? It is a very strong question, but is being asked in the world of marathon swimmers. As I said last week, Nyad as you know successfully completed a grueling 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida. She is 64 years old.

She crossed the treacherous Straits of Florida in 53 hours inspiring people around the world. Nyad and her team said the currents could not have been more favorable for her swim. But on social media as I said some are wondering if she got some other help along the way. John Zarrella reports.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Diana Nyad walked out of the water in Key West, it was over. She thought. Her fifth attempt, she finally made it. Swimming from Cuba to Key West, 110 miles, no shark cage, no flippers, 53 hours, it had never been done before.

DIANA NYAD, SWIMMER: I'll get some awards. I'll be gracious about it. But people's individual reactions mean everything. So I am sure the swim will be ratified in due time and that is fine, but just don't care about it.

ZARRELLA: Well, not so fast. Apparently, many others in the marathon swimming community do. There has been a sudden rising tide of questions. Did she hold onto the boat at any time? Did she get out of the water? How could her speed, at one point, nearly doubled? The online marathon swimmers' forum is filled post, many like this one, quote, "Is this attempt, effort swim going to be a Guinness World Record? I thought records had to be verified and unequivocable, which this is most certainly not," end quote.

The co-founder of the forum, a marathon swimmer himself, is one of those who want answers. He is questioning whether independent observers on the boat were truly independent or friends of Nyads. And there was another red flag, he says. EVAN MORRISON, MARATHON SWIMMER: What her crew reported to be a seven and a half hour stretch on the second night of her swim, where she neither consumed any calories or any liquids, went without eating and drinking. And I think most experience marathon swimmers look at that and think it is impossible.

ZARRELLA: That stretch was at least 36 hours into her swim. The time an endurance swimmer needs to refuel the most. The biggest issue seems to be just how fast she was moving. At one point, her speed nearly doubled to more than 3 miles an hour, leading to questions about whether she got an assist from a boat. Marlin Scott, who captained the Shark Boat told CNN, he has no doubts Nyad's swim was legitimate.

MARLIN SCOTT, SHARK BOAT CAPTAIN (via telephone): I never saw Diana Nyad come out of the water. I saw her swim every time I woke up she was swimming. Every time I went back and laid down for a little while she was swimming. She was in the water the whole time, I believe it 100 percent.

ZARRELLA: Oceanographer Mitch Roffer analyzes and forecasts currents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had been over here.

ZARRELLA: Roffer says the conditions where as if all the stars aligned.

MITCH ROFFER, ROFFER'S OCEAN FISHING FORECASTING SERVICE: The current was perfectly favorable. It couldn't have been a more ideal situation, where the current was going from Havana to Key West, almost directly that she could have ridden the currents and gained anywhere from three to five miles an hour in the currents. So yes, I think she did it.

ZARRELLA: Members of Nyad's team say it was learning from the past, preparation and of course, luck.


COOPER: John Zarrella joins me now. So what about that seven and a half hour gap where Nyad supposedly went without any food or drink? Is Nyad or anyone in her camp explaining that?

ZARRELLA: Yes, her team said and has said right along, that, look, that was a period where she was feeling really, really cold. All she wanted to do was swim to stay warm to get rid of those chills. Now all of this, Anderson, would be a moot point, if there was a continuous 53-hour recording of her swim. But her team tells me most of it was documented in stills and video. But those were people, part of the Nyad team, there were not any independent people who documented the entire 53 hours.

COOPER: All right, John, appreciate the update. John Zarrella, thanks.

Up next, a 22-year-old Ohio man turns himself in just days after making a stunning online confession.


COOPER: Welcome back. There is a lot more happening tonight. Let's check in with Isha in the 360 Bulletin -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a 360 follow, 22-year-old Matthew Cordle turned himself in today after a higher grand jury indicted him in a deadly wrong way collision. The charges include aggravated vehicle homicide. Now in a video posted online last week, Cordle confessed to killing 61-year-old Vincent Canzani while driving drunk in June.

Dennis Rodman, the former basketball star turns pseudo diplomat, says he inked a deal with Kim Jong-Un to train North Korea's basketball players for the Olympics. He said during his recent visit they also talked about writing a book together.

And unveiling a lost long painting a landscape from the Sunflower period, it is believed he painted it in 1888, two years before his suicide. It sat in an attic for decades after it was mistakenly ruled a fake.

COOPER: Wow, that's amazing. Nice discovery. All right, Isha, thanks. We'll be right back.


COOPER: I hope you join us an hour from now at 10 p.m. Eastern for the debut of our new live show, "AC 360 LATER." It's going to be live with some of the smartest people around to talk about the day's news, a round table discussion. Tonight we have Andrew Sullivan, Christiane Amanpour, Charlie Rose talking about his big interview with the dictator Assad in Syria, Crystal Wright. I hope you join us, "AC 360 LATER," one hour from now at 10 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

"PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.