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Erin Burnett Outfront

Mitt Romney Won the Illinois Primary; Congressman Paul Ryan's Budget Plan Released; Trayvon Martin's Girlfriend Speaks Out; New Amelia Earhart Search Launched

Aired March 20, 2012 - 23:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks Anderson. Well, Mitt Romney wins in Illinois. It was big. But was it big enough? And what do tonight's results mean for Rick Santorum?

And the U.S. military conducts a simulation, what would an Israeli attack on Iran mean for America?

Let's go OUT FRONT.

Good evening, I'm Erin Burr Nut. And OUT FRONT we have breaking news.

A big win for Mitt Romney in Illinois. He needed to win it after a few bruising weeks on the trail and two major loses to Rick Santorum in Alabama and Mississippi a week ago. Let the Romney campaign headquarter. Lots of celebration and some new jabs at President Obama.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We once built an interstate highway system and the Hoover dam. Now we can't even build a pipeline. I mean, we once lit the world in manufacturing and exports, investment. Today, we lead the world in lawsuits. You know, when we replace a law professor with the conservative businessman as the president, that's going to end.


BURNETT: Rick Santorum, meantime, back in his home state of Pennsylvania tonight looking less cheerful, but trying to stay on message.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must go out and fight this fight. That's why we must go out in and nominate someone, who understands not because some pollster tells them. Because they know in their gut just like you do, all across this country, you know when you got big things are adrift and at stake in this election. So I ask each and every one of you to join us.


BURNETT: So where did Mitt Romney get his support tonight? John King has been analyzing the voting data throughout the day and the night that have some interesting trend.

And John, let's start with the county by county map. I always love when you do that. What stood out about who voted for whom and what part of Illinois?

JOHN KING, CNN CHEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Math, math is what politics is in the end, Erin. If you pull out the state, you see a lot of purple So, at first glance, you might say, wow, Senator Rick Santorum is winning, right? He's the purple candidate, but he's not winning.

And why is he not winning? Because Governor Romney is winning, winning big in the Chicago suburbs by 30 points, around 57 percent right here in the cook county suburbs just outside Chicago.

In Chicago itself, again, governor Romney above 50 percent. If you move around up here, go up to lake county, Governor Romney up above 50 percent. And you move down, come back top here to DuPage county, Governor Romney above 50 percent. This is where most of the people in the state live right up in here. And in state wide elections, you have to run up your margin here and hope your opponent doesn't beat you down here.

Senator Santorum winning huge in most of these rural counties, getting near 50 percent here. In the high 40s here. Come over here, 47. However, what you have is less populated tea party voters, evangelical voter, Christian conservatives. As we seen, in another states, those voters tend to go for Senator Santorum. His margin is not as big in some of those counties tonight as we saw either in the south or just even in neighboring Iowa.

But governor Romney doing what he needed to do especially up here. This has been the consistent Romney model in the urban areas and the close in suburbs, not only win, but win big. As you know, that's where the TV advertising is aimed, right in the markets. I think they can show you that where the market, the TV ads come up. TV ad counts here.

Look at this. In the Chicago mark, that's all Romney spending right there. It's a whole Romney spending at the Chicago market. If you take that away and you see what he did, look at that.

So, his rivals complain we're being outspent, Governor Romney would say, looking at that map, money well spent.

BURNETT: And pretty amazing, when you have 21-1 margin or something in Chicago itself. I know, in terms of Romney versus Santorum spending. But, what about the exit poll? Did anything surprise you or stand out in Illinois specifically?

KING: Just a couple of nuggets here. Governor Romney won among voters who say they're a conservative. That's been a problem particularly in the south. Among voters who identifies as conservatives, they tend to go either for Santorum of late or Gingrich in places like South Carolina or Georgia. Governor Romney did very well among self-identified conservatives tonight. He also won among those who identified themselves as supporters of the tea party. That will be something going forward. He also did well among working women. We have had a lot of conversation about the gender gap in this campaign and among he, interestingly, he won among those who think the economy is getting worse and those who think the economy is getting better.

So at both ends of the economic spectrum, he did very well. And he fared better. Senator Santorum still carried it. The down scale voters, Erin. That we have talked about from the very beginning but not by as big as margin in Illinois as he did elsewhere.

Of course, now, the question is, is this just one state? Is it more moderate than other state or can governor Romney carry this momentum over as we move Saturday, to Louisiana. Less friendly territory or the governor Romney. But then Wisconsin and Maryland and district of Columbia. Romney campaign continuing big on those states.

BURNETT: All right. John King, thank you very much.

And earlier tonight before we knew the results and the news of those some exit poll numbers and information that John had, we had four burning questions about the race.

John Avlon, Wolf Blitzer and Reihan Salam are here with some answers.

Let me start with you, Wolf. Number one, we wanted to know whether Mitt Romney would win convincingly.

Now, do you think tonight is convincingly especially when you take into account what John King said which is that, Mitt Romney was actually able to win among a group he had trouble with before, that's conservatives.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: He went very convincingly I Illinois. A lot more convincingly in Illinois than in Michigan, a state where he was born or Ohio for that matter. So, it's a divisive and impressive win in Illinois for all practical purposes. This was a two-man race in Illinois. Ron Paul gave up on Illinois a long time ago. Newt Gingrich was never in the race in Illinois. It was between Santorum and Romney. They both campaigned there. Romney spent a lot more money and in a much better organization. He won decisively in Illinois.

BURNETT: John Avlon, as the independent, of course they focus on that, 40 percent of the electorate that is independent. Would you say, this was a convincingly win that is going to help Mitt Romney?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This was a stomping win for Mitt Romney tonight. It was the most-broad based he had since in Nevada and the mainland U.S. He actually won independent voters tonight. He won women voters. So, you really made some really significant in this.

Now, some of the fault lines that have been underneath the GOP race still exist, very conservative voters, strong supporters of the tea party, evangelicals going for Rick Santorum. You see in the map how Rick Santorum is doing very well in the rural counties supposed the suburban and urban, strong holds for Romney. But a big win for Romney tonight and team Romney has to feel good.

BURNETT: And Reihan, And number two is will Santorum surprise us? Obviously, Romney did extremely well. Now, the question is, did Rick Santorum surprise to the downside or come in about where you thought he would?

REIHAN SALAM, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY: I think he surprise with the downside. He demonstrated that he had strength in rural areas. But the truth is if he's going to grow the brand and he's going to demonstrate he can win a general election he has to do very well in the color counties, because areas like, you know, DuPage county, those suburban counties are a lot like ties in northern Virginia and suburban Philadelphia. That are the places that a candidate has to win to win a presidency.

BURNETT: Wolf, it's interesting. You know, when you talk about the -- Reihan is talking about the brand of Rick Santorum, he does still seem to be riding on that. You wonder whether he has the organization to keep going and going. I mean, the tweet out of his campaign tonight was, Santorum has made $320,000 off sweater vests.

A few months ago, that was endearing and funny. But now, you know, it needs to be more than that.

WOLF: $300,000 is not going to go very far in the expensive media market like Chicago, for example. He made a major tactical blunder in wasting two days in Puerto Rico. He got clobbered in Puerto Rico over the weekend. He could have spent two days in Illinois. He still wouldn't have won, but it probably would have been a little bit closer if he would spent 48 hours really working hard in Illinois during this past week.

But, you know what? Those are the decisions you make at the time. You've got organizational problems. He has got financial problems. It's a tough, tough challenge. I'm impressed that Santorum has done as well as he has over all of these months because he came from virtually nothing and he was in a severe disadvantage. It's now for all practical purposes a two-man race. Romney and Santorum.

BURNETT: Well, it's amazing. He's done on it the power of his personal charisma as has sweater vest point makes. I mean, it is amazing without any organization and with probably no expectations of himself. He surged and he -- people meet him face to face. He gets that connection.

AVLON: This is the ultimate brood strap campaign. But you can't base the presidential campaign on apparel sales, right? I mean, you have a real problem there. So, he has to build a real organization.

Look. He has Louisiana coming up and Wisconsin. These are states that he could win. But he can't make the kind of unforced errors he did leading into Illinois.

BURNETT: Now, let's talk about Louisiana just made me think about a person actually that has not come up in this conversation and that's a really important -- I'm talking about Newt Gingrich.

Question, John Avlon, I asked earlier, is how low can Newt Gingrich go? He lost 29 of the past 31 contest, Reihan. We hear today that he's hemorrhaging cash, people haven't been paid say reports. So, how much longer does he have?

SALAM: I don't - well, I think he'll stay in for the duration, but I think the thing is that Sheldon Adelson has already said he'd be willing to support Romney.


SALAM: Exactly. Exactly. As big super PAC donor. So, if your core supporter, the guy who's sustaining in this race has already acknowledged he'd be just as happy to support Mitt Romney that has got to be pretty dispiriting. And one thing to your point earlier about Santorum. I got to say, what does Mike Huckabee think? If a guy who is a genuinely charismatic southerner who are in this race, how he would have done against Mitt Romney?

AVLON: It might now could be would be cleaning it up right now. And you know, I hope - I hope he feels god about his radio show because he could leading a nomination for president right now.

But you asked the question, how low can Newt go? Look. You know, two interesting tails. Even when he gives up a state, doesn't essentially compete, he still seems to get around the 10 percent margin mark. See where the numbers end up. But he seems to do pretty well for a guy who essentially decamps and says I'm not competing.


AVLON: Second thing, he's reading a book on contested primaries throughout history and given Newt his self-style historian he's schooling up. So, when he says I'm taking it to Tampa no matter what, you got to believe that that he's the intention.

BURNETT: He likes Sis Cicero.

All right. I admire and it's really funny about Sis Cicero and it's just sounded a little bit like that.

Wolf, you know Newt so well. I mean, you have known him for a long time. He may want to stay in this until the end, but financial matters is ultimately will determine it. I mean, you have to pay your campaign staff and you can't pay them with super PAC money.

WOLF: And I don't think Newt Gingrich where all said and done is going to want to emerge from the race for the Republican presidential nomination in deep personal bankruptcy, if you will, with a lot of outstanding debt. He's already couple of hundred thousand dollars in debt right now. Presumably he will be able to make that up with some fund-raisers if he does drop out.

But I don't think he's necessary going to want us to emerge with a few million dollars in personal debt, that couldn't pay some of his contributors, some of the staffer, some of the media experts. That would be, you know, something that I don't think is a Newt Gingrich -- in Newt Gingrich's character. But we'll see.

He's angry at Mitt Romney, very angry. You saw that, Erin, tonight, in his statement that he made after Romney's very impressive win in Illinois. He basically said this guy is spending 7-1 and why should the Republicans go ahead and nominate someone who spends all that kind of money to win a race like Illinois? So, he's bitter. He's angry at Mitt Romney. Doesn't like Santorum very much either.

We will see how much longer he goes on. Ron Paul is staying in this for the time being because he's got, you know, he's got his own agenda.

BURNETT: And John Avlon, what about women? I mean, John King has talked a lot about that. This whole war on women conversation has been important. Mitt Romney has always, but tonight very much so.


BURNETT: Female vote.

AVLON: Mitt Romney won women voters tonight decisively. You saw Ann Romney at the beginning of the evening speak to that directly saying, women keep coming up to me and they say, talk about the economy, implicitly saying stop focusing on social issues.

So, you do see Romney tonight scoring women - voters among women decisively.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Reihan Salam, John Avlon and of course, our own Wolf Blitzer, very much sir, for being here. What a big win for Mitt Romney tonight.

And next, Paul Ryan. His budget, calls for the path to prosperity. He's OUT FRONT with the details.

And the war games, Israel attacks Iran, what happens to the U.S., we have that.


BURNETT: So representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the house budget committee unveiled the budget plan today. He calls the path it to prosperity. Now, the plan includes budget cuts, Medicare reforms and a simpler tax code that has just two tax brackets, 10 percent and 25 percent.

Now, I had the chance to have a long conversation with the chairman today and I asked what he is going to do about this crucial issue of loopholes and tax deduction?


BURNETT: What about though, deduction? The Simpson-Bowles plan. And I know you voted against that. But, suggested that in a mortgage interest deduction as one thing that it might do. Would you now be on board with that? I talked so some home builders, they say that it would actually -- they're prepared for that. They think the country even though t would hurt a little bit, could handle it.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I have heard the same thing from the home builders as well and realtors. What Simpson-Bowles did on the 23 percent top rate, as low as that. What we're saying is we need to have hearings. We want to from the country. We want to do this out in the open. And with this kind of a rate structure you can still afford, if you want to afford some of these kinds of deductions which I think should be circumscribed as to help middle income earners and not higher income earnings.

So, there's still accommodation and room in the code to still raise the revenues by having these kinds of policies. We need to have that kind of conversation. I'm on the ways and means committee. We have had some hearings on this. We plan on having more hearings to trying to get the right combination of things. What we're saying is dramatically curtail the loopholes that are in the tax code today.

BURNETT: Do you have any regrets about not voting for Simpson-Bowles?


BURNETT: When I look at the one-page summary and your 98-page report, I mean, you're 80 percent overlap. Venn diagram would be pretty favorable.

RYAN: Yes. Alan and Erskine, I really like the guys a lot. I'm friends with them. What I didn't want to do was to go to the country and suggest that I'm fixing the problem like with Simpson-Bowles when I know it's not. Because it ignored healthcare.

Erin, the driver of our debt are these health care programs, these health care entitlements. And Simpson-Bowles is basically silent on those things. Alice Rivlin and I, Democrat and I, had an amendment to Simpson-Bowles to complete the package to have fundamental healthcare entitlement will reform. That was rejected by the Democrats, the elected Democrats not the appointed Democrats and Simpson-Bowles, as a result it wasn't passed. And I didn't think this fixes the problem.

Simpson-Bowles has a lot of good things to it and I put a lot of their proposals in our budget, but it literally doesn't fix the problem. And I want to fix the problem. I want to stop this debt crisis. I want to stop Medicare from going bankrupt and compromising the health security of millions of seniors who depend on it.

BURNETT: Well, a lot of the talk today though, people are saying that your plan would hurt the seniors. Most recent, Kaiser Permanente, obviously, independent surveyor, 70 percent of Americans in February are satisfied with Medicare and satisfied with what they get out of Medicare. And what do you say to them? Because it sounds like what you're trying to do is not what America wants.

RYAN: Actually if they look at the details I would argue it is. Because they would prefer our plan versus the president's plan. BURNETT: Why is that?

RYAN: Because the president's plan which is in law takes half a trillion dollars from Medicare to spend on his healthcare law. And then it puts a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of putting price controls on Medicare which will lead to denied care for current seniors.

We get rid of that. We get rid of the rationing board, we stop the rate of the Medicare and we leave the benefit exactly intact as it is today for people in and near retirement. But in order to cash flow this commitment to the current seniors we which we think we should do, you need to reform it for the next generation. For your generation, my generations. You and I are about the same age, same generation.


RYAN: It is not going to be there for us when we retire. And so, that's what we are saying, there's a bipartisan idea out there, called premium support, just like the plan that members of Congress have that says let's give Medicare beneficiaries a choice of guaranteed covered options traditional Medicare people service included and let them pick among those competing plans like they do in many other areas of life and then subsidize their premiums based on need. More for the poor, more for the sake of the middle income earner and a lot less for the wealthy person.

Doing it that way which has idea that has bipartisan support saves Medicare and helps us keep the commitment to today's seniors. I would think -- it took me five sentences to explain that though, that's the challenge. When you're running against the 30-second ad, that shows us pushing, you know, although we win all clips and Medicare campaign, it becomes a challenge.


RYAN: But I really think the country is ready for us. I think the country wants to be talked to like adults and not pandered to like children with all these Medicare ads.

BURNETT: I have to say thought, as someone who is comfortable with numbers, picking a healthcare plan is the most horrific thing that -- I never know whether I'm doing the right thing. And I never know how to do it. And I think there's a real fear among people of doing that. And you pick the wrong one and then you're stuck with it.

I mean, how do you get around that problem that most people don't really want to have to pick it? They just know they'll get what they need.

RYAN: Millions of seniors already picked Medicare advantaged plans today. And they can change it every year if they want to. Even more pick a private part "d" plan and they can change it every year. Seniors picked Medicare supplemental plans, they can change it every year. Federal employers and members of Congress like myself, have a list of plans to choose from every year. We pick our plan, it's subsidized we pay the difference. And if we want to change the plan next year, we can do that.


RYAN: People in life already do this so it's not a big stretch to say we can do it in a better way to save Medicare. The guarantee not only for this generation but for the next generation.

BURNETT: So, on April 3rd, my state, Maryland, and your state Wisconsin vote. Your state carries a heck a lot more weight. It's the next big battle ground state. Who are you going to vote for?

RYAN: I'm not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole. I'm right now the chair of the general election presidential trust of the RNC. So, I'm Switzerland. I am neutral on this because I'm in charge of the general election fund which we still haven't completed financing. We're winner take all. So, I don't know what you are in Maryland. But we are winner take all state in Wisconsin. So, it's a fairly high stakes outcome.

BURNETT: So, will you vote and just keep it secret or is that you don't vote at all?

RYAN: Of course I'm going to vote in the primary.

BURNETT: And gas anyone directly approached you, any of the three leaders right now, about a VP?

RYAN: No. No. It's -- they're not -- they have to win this primary first before they can start thinking about that stuff.

BURNETT: No, they don't. But that's OK.

RYAN: All right.

BURNETT: They can still think about it. All right. Chairman Ryan, thank you. Appreciate you're taking the time.

RYAN: Thank you Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Let's bring in John Avlon.

Obviously, some interesting things on the horse race and the presidential politics. But let's start with the budget.

What do you make of his defense of his Medicare proposal? Because that is where he's getting a lot of heat from the Democrats.

AVLON: No. And that's where he took a lot of heat before. I mean, in fairness, I think he's actually moves his Medicare proposal to some extent, even worked with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden on creating more options. So he was less susceptible to tax.

The problem is, I mean, we are in this political synopsis. And a Democrat is going to run that same Medicare attack on him anyway, because that the position they want going into the election. They know that they can get a lot of people who are just frightened of their benefits being taken away. And use it to sort of attack the plan. Even though he's trying to make some moves there.

Look. Credit Paul Ryan. In all seriousness for creating a clear contrast and a plan that tries to deal with the generational theft of deficits and debts. The problem is, that this is such a political document. And he goes to the base for taxes and actually the long- term debt reduction is set out, you know, two or three decades out right now because he's so focused on lowering the rates.

So you know, when I hear him, I get so frustrated about the Bowles- Simpson vote, because he acknowledges, as you said, that he said that 80 percent of the staff that's in there. But he wanted to take on the healthcare reform directly. Largely for political reasons. And so, he and his two Republican congressional cohorts walked away from the best opportunity for it to be the bipartisan deal.

BURNETT: And now, in retrospect, I mean, of course, he he's not going to say, yes, I regret it. I mean, obviously, there's only one way he could have answered that question, unless he wanted to cause a firestorm.

But it does seem that you look back and say, if you could have gotten all that and you really thought you had a chance this election season which they say they do, even obviously, the president looks very strong right now, they would have been able to deal with healthcare anyway. Or they could have made that that they would.

AVLON: It's one of the great lost opportunities of our political cycle. And people who say they're thinking of the country and the real fiscal challenges we face, to walk away from that deal, when their votes, those three votes would have binding and forced Congress to vote on a proposal, proposal that would have cut tax rates and look to raised revenue from close loopholes exactly like he's proposing today while being serious and have a broad base of support that's a historic lost opportunity, that he walked away from. And that's still, for those of us who really care about the deficit and the debt, you know, this document makes the base very happy on the Republican side of the aisle, but not that it has a better shot bipartisan support than Bowles-Simpson.

BURNETT: And I want to ask you about something that I noticed in reading his plan which was about equity of fairness which clearly has not just crapped in but stormed into the Republican dialogue, given the popularity f tax increase on the wealthy.

But first, Democratic Chris Van Hollen who was on the super committee from Maryland sort on hit on that issue when he rebutted Paul Ryan's plan today. Here he is.


REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: The reality is that seniors are going to face the increasing healthcare costs. They're going to go up and they're also going to see their taxes go up. Because what this budget is proposing is to give over $100,000 in tax cuts if you're a millionaire and squeeze more on middle income taxpayers.

So, the argument here is not whether or not we should reduce the deficit. We have to do that. The question is whether you do it in a lopsided way that puts all the burden on middle income taxpayers.


BURNETT: Now, what's interesting is of course that's the democratic line of thinking.

AVLON: Right.

BURNETT: But you know when I read the Ryan plan, he opens the door -- he made -- and we talked about and the rest of the interview is online. He said a lot of wealthier Americans will end up paying more under his plan than they did before.

AVLON: With the effective tax rate.

BURNETT: With the effective tax rate. He's getting rid of their loopholes. He's lowering the overall rates for most people and he's getting rid of loopholes. Now, that isn't something that was really part of the Republican rhetoric six months ago.

AVLON: Actually, explicitly the opposite, right?


AVLON: This was one of the arguments that helped derail the grand bargain. Now, you know, over and above Bowles-Simpson. This was the - they hope derail the super committee.


AVLON: This is the argument - can we actually lower rates and close loopholes to raise revenue? Well, some folks on the conservative side of the aisle said, absolutely not. That violates the pledge.

And so, Here, you know, one of the interesting things about the plan is he's saying we're going to raise an enormous amount of revenue as much of a trillion dollar --.

BURNETT: Which he said it could double the current revenue in tax. Now, he's going to cut the tax rate, so that would change. But he says he can bring in $2 trillion total, if he kept the race the same just by closing the loopholes and he wants to close them. Well, I mean, I thought that was a big headline.

AVLON: That is a big headline. But it' not the head line who wants out of the plan.

BURNETT: Well, no. Of course not. He wants to cut cuts.


AVLON: It goes to the heart of how this something like this can work. And it goes to the heart of how we all know a bipartisan deal can work. You know, that was part of the Bowles-Simpson idea. You can lower rates, close loopholes and raise revenue. That should be a win- win. Only in Washington is that not a win-win.

The good news is, we're back to the broad argument. The bad news is all the lost opportunities up to this point from the Bowles-Simpson commission, to the grand bargain of the super committee.

BURNETT: The super committee.

AVLON: Super fail.

BURNETT: Super fail. All right. Thanks so much, John Avalon.

Well, we talked to Congressman Ryan about the two tax rate that he has proposed, 10 and 25 percent, social issues, the entire conversation available on our blog, Please let us know what you think about those different aspects. We want your feedback.

All right. Ahead on OUT FRONT, what would happen if Israel attacked Iran? Well, the United States military staged a war game simulation of that exact thing. We'll tell you what ended up happening.

And a 7.4 magnitude earthquake rocked southern Mexico today. CNN has reaction from people that were there.

And legendary pilot Amelia Earhart has been missing for 75 years, but now, we may have found her plane.


BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about. Where we focus on the own reporting, do the work and find the OUT FRONT five.

First, the big news tonight. Republican front-runner Mitt Romney won the Illinois primary. CNN projects based on results and exit polls. Romney will pick up the largest share of the state's 54 delegates up for grabs tonight. Rick Santorum will finish second. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul far behind. The latest election results are running on the bottom of your screen.

Number two, 7.4 magnitude irk rocked southern Mexico today. A government official says at least 800 homes collapsed in a town near the quake's epicenter in Igualapa. However, it's unclear how many people are hurt. The videos shown shows on 4OTV shows a bus crushed by a collapsed bridge.

CNN have a chance to spoke with some tourists in the resort town of Acapulco, who say they felt the quake, but not a lot of damage there.

Number three, the attorney for Robert Bales, the soldier whom accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, said he'll travel to Afghanistan to conduct his own investigation. John Henry Browne talked to our own Ted Rowlands after meeting Bales for a second day at Ft. Leavenworth. Browne also said his client has not confessed to the shootings. He also spoke about what his client has been asking.


JOHN HENRY BROWNE, ROBERT BALES' ATTORNEY: His first questions were about safety and security of his. And then the second series of questions were about his family. He never once mentioned his own plight.


BURNETT: Browne is expected to be charged on Thursday.

Number four, CNN has learned that President Obama will fast track the permit for the southern half of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The president will make this on Thursday in Oklahoma. The source familiar with the situation told CNN. Now in January, you may recall the Obama administration denied a permit for the 1,700 mile Keystone Pipeline, which structures from Texas to Canada. But this fast track permit is just for a segment of the pipeline, again, which one is for Oklahoma down to gulf of Mexico.

Well, it's been 229 days since the United States lost the top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Well, decided is to help the treasury department now. The Fed reserved sent $75.4 billion of its $77 billion dollar profit to the U.S. treasury. The profits mostly actually came from assets, mortgage related assets that the fed required during the financial crisis.

Well, this talk of action against Iran continues, the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tells the world today that Iran will attack if it has to defend itself.


AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER (through translator): We do not have nuclear weapons and we shall not build nuclear weapons, but should the enemy be aggressive towards us, whether the United States or the Zionist regime, we will respond and reciprocate proportionally.


BURNETT: And big news today, a war games simulated by the U.S. military found that an Israeli strike against Iran could result in a wider regional conflict or a war and the death of hundreds of Americans.

Now, that story was first reported in "The New York Times." Mark Mazzetti broke the story. He is the national security reporter for the "New York Times." He's here tonight, along with Colonel Cedric Leighton, a former joint staff at the Pentagon.

Good to see both of you.

And Mark, let me just start with you. I know obviously you broke this story. Tell me what happened in the simulation first. Israel was the first to strike, correct?

MARK MAZZETTI, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's right. The war planners at central command in Tampa started the war game by having an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites. And they wanted to see what was possible to happen afterwards.

And the way the scenario played out was Iran responded not only with strikes against Israel, but seeing -- thinking that the U.S. was complicit in the strike, they also launched strikes against U.S. forces in the gulf and specifically launched a missile strike that hit a U.S. frigate killing about 200 sailors.

The people we talked to said this was one scenario, but it was interesting how it played out and it had sort of indelible mark on the commanders at sent com because they sort of - or trying to figure out how to keep the United States out, and they think it might be difficult.

BURNETT: Right. And you would also talked about an addition to perhaps 200 armed forces members dying, that there could be so-called say symmetric responses right, where Iranian sponsored terror groups could engage in terror attacks on -- in other countries, perhaps the United States.

MAZZETTI: That's certainly a big concern in the military. They didn't include that in this simulation. But one of the big fears instead of doing the sort of standard missile strike in retaliation, they would use Hezbollah or others militant groups to launch strikes against U.S. embassies in the region or other U.S. interests. And it would be harder to sort of control even for those kind of strikes.

BURNETT: Colonel, how accurate would you say this sort of war simulation was?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S.A.F. (RETIRED), FORMER JOINT STAFF, PENTAGON: Erin, it's pretty accurate. Internal look is an exercise that I participated in back in 2002 and as Mark mentioned this is one of those exercises that sent com has done for quite a while. It's a very thorough exercise and it is one that is based on as much realistic intelligence as you can possibly use to craft the scenario and also to see what the responses would be. And they did a pretty good job from what I can tell.

BURNETT: And what would you say, colonel, this means in terms of what the U.S. military is assuming the likelihood of such a situation is?

LEIGHTON: Well, Erin, I would say they think it's at least above 60 percent likelihood. It is one of the areas where you try to plan for the worst case and hope for the best case, but the military philosophy is to obviously prepare as much as they possibly can in order to avoid a surprise or to avoid a worst case scenario such as the loss of over 200 sailors.

BURNETT: Mark, interesting question, interesting there about the odds that that doesn't mean that they're not sure it's going to happen, but a 60 percent chance. But, I think Mark, one of the most interesting things about your reporting was it even with this situation, there wouldn't be a big setback for the Iranian nuclear program, correct?

MAZZETTI: Well, yes, I mean, people would debate on the big setback. The way that the game played out, the original Israeli strike would set back the program an estimated year. And that there was a subsequent American strike after there had been U.S. forces that were hit. That estimated a setback of another two years.

Some people would argue that's quite significant and worth it. Others would say is, you know, is it worth risking a regional war for nearly setting it back for a couple of years. That's the type of thing not only debated in Washington, but also in Israel. And that's the crux of the issue right now.

BURNETT: And colonel Leighton, of course, I know some of the simulation, the main simulation that Mark is talking about didn't assume that the United States actually came out with some of those massive 30,000 -- those 30,000 ton M.O.P.s as you call them - the MOPs.

LEIGHTON: The MOPs, that's right. And the key thing about that, Erin, is that those 30,000 pound bombs cannot be delivered technically by Israel. They don't have the aircraft to do that. They would need a b-52 or b-2 to make that happen. And the only country that has those is of course the United States.

So, what you're seeing here is a scenario that they believe might happen. But they're also using it to prepare for other scenarios. And what you see is a way in which the military is looking at this situation and trying to work its way through different possibilities. It's kind of like a tree with many branches.

BURNETT: Final world to you, Mark. Any word of other type of scenarios they may have run? Was this sort of the most dramatic and dire, or whether perhaps other ones that went further?

MAZZETTI: There are certainly -- they are certainly gaining further other scenarios. The reason why they ran this game was to, as the colonel said, test whether they're ready for the type of scenarios.

So, if Israel were to strike, would central command forces be prepared, could they communicate, would that be command and control? Certainly this was not, as I said, the most dire scenario because they could have used possibility of Hezbollah strikes and that type of thing.


MAZZETTI: It gets increasingly complicated and this as we say in the story, General Mattus thought this turned out scary enough. So, -- but certainly, they're thinking of the possibilities that could be scarier.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, both of you. We appreciate it.

And next on OUT FRONT, the search expanding for the gunman in France who is responsible for the shooting spree at a Jewish school. Absolutely horrific, grabbing a little girl by the hair. When his gun didn't work, grabbing another gun and then killing her. Could he be planning another attack?

And new details about the shooting death of a Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin. Who he was on the phone with before he was killed and what she heard.


BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night, our outer circle where we reach out to our sources around the world and we begin in France where police are ramping up their search for the gunman who shot and killed four people including three children outside a Jewish school yesterday in Toulouse. Officials say, the killer is quote "very determined" and could be planning another attack.

CNN Diana Magnay is in Toulouse tonight and I asked her how authorities are trying to track down the shooter.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin there's massive manhunt underway here. Two hundred special investigators combing every lead, looking at more than 7,000 hours worth of CCTV footage talking to eye witnesses, one of whom suggested that the gunman might have been wearing a camera strapped to his chest when he gunned down the four victims in this Jewish school.

Another possibility that investigators are looking at is whether he might have been affiliated with a group dismissed from the paratroop regiment based in this region, some neo-Nazi tendencies. What they do know for sure is that there's a pattern, a gun used to kill three soldiers and these four Jewish victims was the same gun, the gunman coming on a motor bike and shooting at point blank range. A huge hunt underway for a plan that police believe could hit again -- Erin.


BURNETT: All right. That was Diana Magnay as we spoke earlier today.

Well, was it self-defense or murder in cold blood? A family of 17- year-old, Trayvon Martin, says it was murder and there is new evidence that may help prove their case. Martin's girlfriend told ABC's "GOOD MORNING AMERICA" she was on the phone with Trayvon when he encountered with 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a volunteer night watchman on February 26th. Here she is describing that final call.


TRAYVON MARTIN'S GIRLFRIEND: He said this man was watching him. So he put the hoody on. Trayvon said why are you following me for ? Then the man said, what you doing around here? Then somebody pushed Trayvon cause the headset just fell.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: The phone line went dead seconds later, but a Martin family attorney said that the girlfriend blows away claims of self-defense. Zimmerman has not been charged in the case which has sparked claims of racial profiling. He is now being investigated by the department of Justice and the FBI as a possible hate crime.

Obviously, as you all maybe aware, part of the reason he had not been taken into custody was Florida state law. The justice department investigation opens up the potential for that to happen.

Midwin Charles is a criminal defense attorney and a civil rights attorney. And Midwin, it's good to see you tonight, .

Somewhere it could show that this girl, Trayvon's girlfriend, was on the phone with him when he encountered George Zimmerman. Once police interview her, does this affect whether they'll take him into custody or not?

MIDWIN CHARLES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I sure hope it does. I mean, the problem here is what they failed to do. As a police department, if you have a dead person, it's a homicide case. You do your investigation and you reach out to people. There were so many things and lapses in judgment here that occurred that it's mind boggling.

For example, he wasn't tested for alcohol. He wasn't tested for drugs. There's so many questions here. It almost begs an arrest. And a self-defense argument, let's not forget it's an affirmative defense. In other words, you do the investigation, you arrest the person. The person shows up for the grand jury hearing or their arraignment. And they say, it was self-defense. You don't just dismiss things and not go forward with the investigation.

BURNETT: And George Zimmerman didn't say much to police. He didn't say very much to them. I want to quote to you something he did said. He said "I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me." He what did have a bloody nose and a cut on the back of the head. So, does that make it more difficult to say that self-defense is not a fair claim?

CHARLES: Not necessarily. Florida stand your ground law says you have to meet force with force. This guys a can of Arizona iced tea and a bag of skittles.

BURNETT: He didn't have a gun.

CHARLES: He didn't have a gun. So, how is it that you can be the aggressor? How is it that you can confront someone and then all of a sudden claim that you feared for your life? It's a contradiction.

BURNETT: How hard is this going to be to prove, take out the racial profiling part for a moment. Just the fact that it was done not in self-defense. That bottom line question, because we have just these couple of phone calls, the 911 call. What is the burden of proof?

CHARLES: If he's charged with murder, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. And that's the problem here. There's been no charge. So it almost begs the question where is the investigation? Where is the justice? That is what happened in all cases that happened like this.

BURNETT: And let's talk now about the civil rights aspect of this because you have the department of justice involved, the FBI.


BURNETT: How difficult is it to prove this is a civil rights case?

CHARLES: Well, what the FBI typically does in the case like this is they sometimes will have a two-pronged approach. So, they will look to see whether there was any bias in George Zimmerman's acts and that's how they go ahead and prosecute under federal civil rights statutes. In other words, he violated the civil rights because of his actions and bias.

The second is, they look to see whether there was any color of abuse. Color of law abuse, rather. In other words, did law enforcement fail to act because of bias? And therein lies another violation of civil rights.

BURNETT: So, could have been the police department themselves who had a racial problem?

CHARLES: By failing to act. Usually you see it in cases where the police will overact. Right, they're arresting a defendant and they may have excessive use of force. It's called, you know, color of law abuse. And so, you have a two-pronged approach.

But also, what could occur also is that the FBI can monitor what the state is doing. And also avail themselves for additional resources such as forensic evidence, assistance in, you know, closing out the case.

BURNETT: So, what's -- I mean, I know it's hard, you're an attorney, you're trying to deal with facts and laws, but what's your sense of how this will play out? Do you expect him to be charged an arrested?

CHARLES: I do expect him to be charged an arrested, only because there's so little evidence to the contrary. If you were claiming self-defense, there has to be more evidence. I'm give you an example, in other words, someone walks in to someone's home, a burglar breaks in. You have situations where a potential thief walking into the store and is shot dead. That makes sense. You don't have that here. And that is the problem. You need an investigation. You need a proper investigation. And that's what's lacking.

BURNETT: Midwin, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

All right. Well, Mitt Romney wins in Illinois tonight. But at what cost? There was a cost. A steep one. We have the number.

And possible new developments in the Amelia Earhart case. That's right. We're serious. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So Mitt Romney won Illinois. And he paid dearly for that win. Romney outspent Rick Santorum by a margin of about 5-1 in Illinois. Shelling out about $1.1 million compared to Santorum's $200,000 and that's just the spending from the actual campaigns which as all know is kind of nothing compared to the big daddy super PACs.

So, if you include the super PAC spending, the spending margin widens 7-1 to Mitt's favor and in the Chicago market alone, a lot of money in the windy city, 21-1 in favor of Mitt Romney.

Now, even before his win, Romney was ahead in the polls. So, you may ask why all the spending? Well, because he needed this win. It was insurance money. He needed the delegates and the psychological knockout which brings us to tonight's number, $2.7 million. That's the dollar amount Mitt Romney's super PAC spent on March 6th. The was super Tuesday, the last time Romney was looking for a big night, a knockout. Mitt Romney's super PAC friends dropped nearly $3 million in one day.

Now, why is that number so frightening beyond besides the obvious? Well, it's about $200,000 more than what the other candidates' super PACs spent combined so far in the month of March.

Well, it's been almost 75 years since Amelia Earhart disappeared on July 2nd 1937. But now, she may be found. That's next.


BURNETT: We all know the story of Amelia Earhart, the legendary pilot that vanished on July 2, 1937 while trying to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. Now, our captivated America and world, President Roosevelt sent 66 planes and nine Navy ships looking for her, but she was never seen again. What happened to her is still one of the greatest mysteries of all time and it captivated me as a girl. In her aviator hat, the hair blown, she looks so alive and free. I admired her fearlessness, her glamorousness and of course, her sense of adventure. And anytime, I was asked, on woman I most admire, the answer was always Amelia Earhart.

Her plane went down in on my birthday in the year my mother was born. And I believed in omens. So, I felt a personal connection to her. I even wanted to name my future kid, Amelia.

So, today when I saw that now they might finally have found her plane, I was fascinated. In July, on her birthday, the international group for historic aircraft recovery will launch a new search for Amelia's Lucky Electra to coincide with the 75th anniversary of her departure.

Now, enhanced analysis of a photograph that was actually taken just a couple of months after her plane vanished, shows what experts now think could be the landing gear of the plane. Now, the search is going to last ten days in July. It's is going to use state of the art under water robotic submarines and mapping equipment. It's received the interest and support of Hillary Clinton. I'm betting Hillary admired her too.

Now, the only thing is part of me still feels the same way I felt as a girl when I hoped that Earhart had defied the odds as the hero she was, that her plane had landed, you know, just in the surf off the coast near deserted island, she swum in, survived, escaped in the thighs of her previous life and living happily ever after.

But now, knowing what happened to her would still be a great birthday present this year.

Our continuing coverage of the Illinois primary continues right now.