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Arizona's Immigration Battle Escalates; Shirley Sherrod to File Lawsuit

Aired July 29, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: Shirley Sherrod says she will sue Andrew Breitbart, the man who first put the edited videotape of her online, but new questions are being raised online about her background. We will have more on that later.

We begin tonight with the battle over illegal immigration, "Keeping Them Honest," the battle on the border, protests still going on in Arizona this evening. Throughout the day, we have seen these images, protesters blocking streets near Phoenix City Hall, tying up traffic and light-rail service, several dozen people arrested there.

The state's new immigration law went into effect today, a tough law, minus its toughest provisions, which were blocked by a federal judge. Hundreds of other protesters converged on the offices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, delaying a planned crime sweep by his deputies.

The sheriff ultimately carried out those sweeps. Our cameras went along, and we're going to show you that in just a few moments. The sheriff who helped deport more than 26,000 illegal immigrants over the last few years vows to keep doing what he is doing, checking the immigration status of anyone they stop for a crime and have reasonable suspicion of -- Arizona's governor today filing an expedited appeal of the judge's ruling.

Now, much of our focus tonight is on what is happening along the border in Arizona. The folks there, they are the ones dealing with illegal immigration every single day.

But, "Keeping Them Honest," the real failure to address the immigration problem isn't in Arizona. It's in Washington, D.C. Arizona's governor slammed President Obama today for not doing his job. She's Republican, so there's no surprise there. But no one, it seems, in Washington, on Capitol Hill or at the White House really has the political will to make this a top priority. And they haven't for years.

For decades, Washington has acknowledged problems on the border, campaigned on them, made promises about them, but, year after year, solutions fail to materialize. As I said, this has been going on for decades. Take a look.


RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The simple truth is that we have lost control of our own borders, and no nation can do that and survive.



BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must continue to discourage illegal immigration, for it undermines the control of or borders.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I believe we can put politics aside and finally have an immigration system that's accountable. I believe we can appeal, not to people's fears, but to their hopes.


COOPER: A quarter-century of talking about how to fix illegal immigration. President Reagan ended up signing a bill tightening up immigration enforcement and granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

Three years ago, President Bush, Arizona Senator John McCain, then-Arizona Governor Napolitano, and then-Senator Barack Obama all supported something tougher on citizenship and border enforcement, but a fairly similar mix. That went down in flames.

Many Republicans in Arizona want enforcement first. Now that federal court says that states can't start creating their own immigration laws.

And that brings us to today.

We're going to hear from both sides in just a moment, a fiery conversation with the Reverend Al Sharpton and Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, who authored the Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona, the law in question.

First, though, let's go to the front lines, in Arizona, Gary Tuchman, who spent his day on one of those raids the protesters ended up delaying, but not stopping.

Gary, what did you see?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the protesters here are not only angry at the new law; they're angry at the old sheriff, Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, who has made it his intense focus to get illegal immigrants out of his county, to get them out of the United States.

So, as part of an intense focus, he organized a crime sweep today. His deputies went out in the streets looking for people who may have committed crimes, were arrested, and then, after they were brought to jail, some of them were asked if they were illegal immigrants.

Now, you may be wondering, how are they able to do that if the most controversial portions of this law did not take effect? Well, this is a little-known thing that most of our viewers probably don't know, but there are several dozen counties in the United States that have federal-county relationships, where the sheriffs have literally been deputized and are allowed, after they arrest people, if they have probable cause, to find out if they are, indeed, illegal immigrants.

And Joe Arpaio is allowed to do that. And he has been doing it for years. So, we went along with two deputies. We followed them in our car as they went on their crime sweep. And we talked to one of the men who was arrested.


TUCHMAN: They arrested you for not having the registration?


TUCHMAN: Did they ask if you were legal...



TUCHMAN: Did they ask you if you were legally in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't ask me that. They just -- nothing. They just got me out of the car right here on 35th Avenue, I mean, in the middle of the street. I was nothing, right here.

TUCHMAN: Are you legally in this country?


TUCHMAN: Do you think they pulled you over because they think you are an illegal immigrant?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because of the color, like everybody, yes.

TUCHMAN: Like the color of your skin?


TUCHMAN: Well, do you think it's racism?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so. I think so. I really do.


TUCHMAN: Now, it sounds like a cliche, but Joe Arpaio is literally the kind of guy you either love or you hate.

And I can tell you that the protesters -- and there are some still behind us, although the rain has dampened the protests a little bit -- the protesters detest the man. But Joe Arpaio doesn't really care. He wants to do what he wants to do.

Today, while we were interviewing him in his office, we heard the protests below, I mean, hundreds of people out there yelling, screaming. At one point, he mused about going down there, and then he said: Well, it may not be safe for me or my deputies, the police officers.

And he's probably right about that. But the fact is that Joe Arpaio says, no matter what, he's still going to be looking for illegal immigrants.


TUCHMAN: You sound like a cowboy.


Yes, you know, I do act like a cowboy, but, instead of going after horse thieves, I go after car thieves. Things have changed.

So, we have my deputies, and we go in certain areas where crime is prevalent. And during the course of our maybe only 15 hours, we arrest many violators of the law. And, just by chance, about 60 percent that we arrest happen to be here illegally.

We don't target them, but they happen to be here illegally. And some of them, we catch doing the operation coming from Mexico smuggling illegal immigrants.


COOPER: Yes, Gary, I think what a lot of people don't realize is, under this Arizona law, and the part that was struck down, it would require Arizona police officers all across Arizona, once they had stopped somebody for some other thing, like a broken taillight or a speeding ticket or whatever the -- the -- the, you know, possible crime was, it -- the law would require them to -- to ask about their -- their immigration status if they had a reasonable suspicion that they were here illegally, correct?


TUCHMAN: That's correct.


TUCHMAN: Sorry about that. There's a large horn -- a loud horn going off.


TUCHMAN: It's just a little hard to hear you, Anderson.

But, yes, that is what the new law says. But under the way it is now, there's a federal-county agreement. Joe Arpaio is allowed...


COOPER: Gary -- you know, Gary, I'm going to interrupt you. Can't hear you. So, never mind. I appreciate it, Gary.

Arizona State -- we're going to move on because of the -- the horn -- Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce co-sponsored the bill at the center of this national fight. Reverend Al Sharpton has been at the center of a lot of battles over his long career, telling "The New York Daily News" yesterday he was prepared to spend this weekend in jail, if necessary. The court ruling, of course, made that a moot point.

I spoke with Reverend Sharpton and Senator Pearce just minutes ago before the program.


COOPER: Senator Pearce, this is your law. It's now been struck down. At least the key portions, or maybe the most controversial portions have been blocked, I should say, not struck down, just blocked, by a federal judge, who said that enacting some of those provisions would cause what she said was irreparable harm to the United States.

What do you make of that?

RUSSELL PEARCE (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATOR: Well, she goes farther than that. She's actually tried to support the Obama administration policy of nonenforcement.

She -- she realizes the problem is bad and says, I don't want that to go into place, the policy, not law. She doesn't want it to go into place because she's afraid it will overwhelm the ICE. That's really outrageous.

The nice thing is, you need to understand, the important part of this bill did go into effect. As of today, it is illegal in the state of Arizona to have a sanctuary policy. The handcuffs come off from law enforcement and they go on the bad guys.

COOPER: Reverend Sharpton, the piece of this which has attracted a lot of attention around the country is the idea of police officers stopping people, being required to ask them for their papers if -- if they have -- are suspected of committing some form of crime.

So, to play devil's advocate here, if police officers are only allowed to question someone's immigration status after they have stopped them for another offense, what's so wrong with that, in your mind?

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Because the -- what is wrong with it is that you have to have a set of laws that go for everyone.

When I was in Arizona at the request of a lot of the people in our organization that lived there, the real fear is that, when you are stopped and you may look Hispanic, you will be subjected to a different line of questioning and procedure than if you didn't. And that is profiling.

And I think that just we have that possibility, which was addressed by this judge, is a violation of people's civil rights that are legal citizens that may appear a certain way.

COOPER: Senator Pearce, to that point, if a white person with blond hair is pulled over, do you think they will be as -- come under as much suspicion as a person of color would?


PEARCE: You know, immigration -- you know, illegal is not a race. It's a crime. Those statements are absolutely outrageous by Congressman Sharpton.

I mean, it prohibits racial profiling in this bill, which, by the way, the federal law doesn't. The law makes it a secondary offense, so you have to have lawful contact, which, the Supreme Court, in a 9-0 landmark decision called Muehler vs. Mena five years ago, said you don't have to.

We went beyond what we were required to do. And it's demeaning to law enforcement to assume they're looking out there to violate people's rights. We have internal affairs. We investigate bad policing.

But don't start to demean a law that is enforcement of law. It has been the law for 50 years. Arizona is going to enforce it. You know, let's talk about the real damage, $2.7 billion dollars in Arizona to educate, medicate and incarcerate illegal aliens, Rob Krentz, a rancher on the border, during the debate of 1070, 12 police officers just in the city of Phoenix murdered and maimed by illegal aliens.

Apparently, that's collateral damage to the open-border anarchists that don't want our laws enforced.

SHARPTON: No, I think all of that is horrific. No one wants to see law enforcement killed or, for that matter, young people killed...


PEARCE: Well, apparently, they do.


PEARCE: Apparently, they do. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Mr. Pearce, let him respond. Let him respond.

SHARPTON: No one wants to see law enforcement killed, or, for that matter, young teenagers killed at the Mexican border that happen to be Mexican. We don't want to see anyone killed.

And when we're talking about law, that is what the judge talked about. The state of Arizona or no other state has the right to supersede federal law. We live in a nation of law. We can have different opinions, but we can't have different facts.

The fact is, immigration is under the domain of the federal government. You can't have Arizona say, well, we can look at -- for certain things here if there's some illegal contact. Then, in Florida, they will say, oh, if you look like you might be from Cuba. Or, in Brooklyn, New York, they will say, you may look Haitian.


SHARPTON: We cannot have this kind of thing.

And, by the way, I'm a minister and head of the National Action Network. I'm not a member of Congress. Again, we can't have different facts, Senator.

PEARCE: Well, Mr. Sharpton, let me clarify a couple of things very clear with you, because you have really misstated some issues here.

First of all, apparently -- have you read Senate Bill 1070?

SHARPTON: Yes, I have.

PEARCE: I know -- I know nobody takes the time to read it.

SHARPTON: No, I read it. I read it...


PEARCE: Well, I would like for you to..


PEARCE: ... know what is in it, because none of you -- hang on -- none of what you have said is in that bill.

So, apparently, you haven't read it, just like Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano. Let me tell you what the bill does. It is the rule of law. It mirrors federal law.

And, secondly, do you understand, if Congress wanted to preempt the states, what they have to do is pass plenary -- they have a plenary provision. They have never done that, never been preempted. And, also, you're contradicting the Fifth, the Sixth, the Eighth, the Ninth, the 10th Circuit Courts, which said states have inherent rights, inherent authority, inherent authority, to enforce these laws. The United States Supreme Court, in Muehler vs. Mena, just five years ago, 9-0. Even the liberals agreed the states have...

SHARPTON: Senator, it is very strange that you're...


PEARCE: No, hang on.


PEARCE: Hang on. You're misstating something. I can't let you do that.


SHARPTON: It is very strange, though, that you're assuming that the attorney general...


COOPER: We're almost out of time.

So, Senator Pearce, just finish your thought. And then I want Reverend Sharpton to respond.


PEARCE: It is not a federal issue. Once they cross -- yes.

Once they cross that border, it's never been a federal issue. It's always been a partnership, just like DEA working -- DEA -- working with ATF or other federal agencies. It's absolutely a mischaracterization. States have inherent authority and responsibility.


PEARCE: Once they cross that border, it's our citizens, our neighborhoods, our health care, our education, our criminal justice system. It's our citizens, and we're obligated to defend them.

COOPER: Reverend Sharpton, I want you to have time to respond. Then we have got to go.

SHARPTON: But we are also obligated to protect American citizens that have not come across any border..

PEARCE: Yes, and this law does.

SHARPTON: May I finish? -- that have not come across any border that are citizens here that should not be profiled because they look or appear or have some reasonable suspicion by Arizona State Police. There are more boots at the border now under this administration than there ever have been. This is not about the border. This is about American citizens that could be profiled.

I think it's also very presumptuous to assume the attorney general of the United States, the Justice Department and this judge didn't read a law that they brought to court.


PEARCE: They didn't.

SHARPTON: At least give us credit for being able to read and say that is not the law. The federal government should not be superseded.

COOPER: Well, both of you explained your points very well.


PEARCE: Actually, he -- actually, Eric Holder admitted he didn't read it. Janet Napolitano admitted she didn't read it as they criticized this law.

SHARPTON: Well, I read it. And I believe the judge read it, Senator. And I think that you should read the judge's order.


COOPER: Senator Pearce, Reverend Sharpton, it was a fascinating discussion.

PEARCE: Well, I have.


COOPER: I appreciate both of your time. Thank you very much.

PEARCE: You betcha.

SHARPTON: Thank you.


COOPER: Let us know what you think, the live chat up and running, You can talk to viewers watching right now around the world.

Up next: why Americans and Arizonans support tough action against illegal immigrants, an "Up Close" view through the eyes of a Phoenix resident named Jesse Hernandez, a Mexican-American. What he says, well, it might surprise you; it might not.

And remember -- and remember this photo, Congressman Charlie Rangel enjoying a moment in the sun, sleeping outside his villa in the Dominican Republic? Well, it's getting a lot hotter for him -- a guy who used to run the committee that writes tax law in trouble, accused of not paying taxes on that vacation spot and a whole lot more. His colleagues took action today.

The question tonight, will it cost him his 20-term congressional career, and how come so many Democrats are kind of running for cover on this one?

We have got the "Raw Politics" ahead.


COOPER: Well, we have seen the people out on the streets protesting Arizona's immigration law today. We have read about groups boycotting Arizona since the law was signed. But polling show that they are in the minority.

The majority, some silent, others just as vocal as the marchers today, support the law with all the original tough provisions in it. Recent polling from CNN and Opinion Research shows 55 percent of Americans favor the law. Forty percent oppose it.

In Arizona, the margin is even wider, the support for it even stronger, as Dan Simon found out.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To know why so many here in Arizona are so fed up with illegal immigrants, you need to see it as they do. Jesse Hernandez offered to be our tour guide through the neighborhoods of Phoenix.


SIMON: First stop, he drives us a short way to one of those huge retailing mega-stores.

HERNANDEZ: It's just kind of a nuisance when you are going in shopping and they approach you in the parking lot, asking, you know, if they can work for you, or if they can, you know, solicit you for money.

SIMON: Twenty to 30 Latino men looking for work. It's hot, more than 100 degrees. He says they're paid cash, no taxes taken out. It hurts the local economy.

HERNANDEZ: All he's looking for is work.

SIMON: First-generation Mexican-American Jesse Hernandez might seem an unlikely guide on why the new law is exactly what Arizona needs.

(on camera): I think a lot of people would be surprised to hear that a Hispanic male is for 1070. Can you give people a sense as to how you arrived at that position?

HERNANDEZ: Well, you know, yes, they are surprised. They're even more surprised when they find out that my parents are from Mexico. I was born in Nogales, Arizona, and we came up here legally.

That really kind of started the process for me. So, right there then, still, if you're going to do something, do it right.

SIMON (voice-over): But Hernandez says it was his job at a bank, processing loans, that made him see things clearly.

HERNANDEZ: I saw a lot of the abuses by illegals, you know, of fraudulent Social Security numbers, fraudulent I.D.s, buying houses, stealing people's identities.

SIMON: These men admit they're here illegally, but they tell us; Look around. There are no Americans out here looking for work.

(on camera): What kind of jobs are you trying to do?

HERNANDEZ: He does any kind of labor that is to help out, I mean, maybe cleaning floors, laying tile.

SIMON (voice-over): They also tell us:

HERNANDEZ: They're not here to cause any problems. They're just here to work hard and get food to their families.

SIMON: Hernandez isn't swayed.

HERNANDEZ: This guy is paying no taxes. There's no paper trail of what he's making. So, he can go apply for food stamps, that he's not even paying into the system.

SIMON: For Hernandez and many others, the issue is largely economic, how their tax dollars go to a system that is burdened by illegal immigrants, who receive free medical care in hospitals and whose kids attend schools here.

But Hernandez and others worry about crime, even though it is actually down here.

(on camera): According to the U.S. Border Patrol, between 40 percent and 50 percent of all immigrant arrests occur in Arizona. If an illegal immigrant commits a crime in Phoenix, they will wind up here at the Maricopa County jail, otherwise known as tent city.

(voice-over): Hernandez says everyone has a crime story involving illegal immigrants. It happened to them or a friend or it happened just down the block, here at a suburban neighborhood.

(on camera): Why did you bring us here?

HERNANDEZ: Well, I just want to kind of show you, you know, when we were talking about the outrage that the Arizonans have.

SIMON (voice-over): This was once a drop house, a kind of transfer station used by smugglers. When cops raid these houses, they often find dozens of illegal immigrants crammed into small rooms. Some are beaten and held for ransom. HERNANDEZ: When they did a raid here, they found -- I mean, one of the awful things that happened is, they found a young woman who was three months pregnant. They beat her so bad, her baby, she miscarried. She ended up -- they just punched her, and they beat her, and she lost her baby. See, this is the type of thing that outrages us.

SIMON: Kimberly Slarb bought the house after foreclosure. She, too, is angry about the cost of illegal immigrants.

KIMBERLY SLARB, RESIDENT OF PHOENIX, ARIZONA: There's a lot of stuff that they get away with and a lot of advantages that they get from being illegal.

SIMON (on camera): Like what?

SLARB: Welfare, free medical, food stamps, that kind of stuff.

SIMON (voice-over): Hernandez's strong feelings about illegal immigrants has not only made him unpopular with many in the Latino community, but also within his own family.

SLARB: Some of my relatives that came over here illegally have taken advantage of the system, getting free medical, saving up their money, so they can send the money back to Mexico.

SIMON: He says he's not turning his back on his heritage. He just thinks of himself as an American first.

Dan Simon, CNN, Phoenix.


COOPER: Dan, what do polls show in Arizona? I mean, do most Latinos there feel the same as Mr. Hernandez does? Or where does -- how does it poll? Do we know?

HERNANDEZ: Well, when you look at the polls, the polls I have seen show that anywhere between 80 percent and more Hispanics are against 1070, overwhelmingly against 1070.

But, when you talk to Jesse Hernandez, he says he's seeing what he calls more closet conservative Latinos coming around to his position. There's no real data to back that up, but the way he sees it, if you're a third- or maybe fourth-generation Mexican-American, you're more likely to support 1070. That's the way he sees it, people who identify themselves more as Americans than Mexicans.

COOPER: Dan Simon, appreciate the reporting.

Coming up tonight, "Raw Politics": why Congressman Charlie Rangel has gone from fun in the sun to a fight in his political life -- the answer, part of it, in this picture. Did he or didn't he pay taxes on the income he made off the house he's sleeping outside of in the Dominican -- in the Dominican Republic? Did he use his congressional clout to raise money for his private foundation? And how come so many Democrats are basically silent on the whole subject? Jeffrey Toobin and Gloria Borger weigh in.

And later: Shirley Sherrod has promised to sue Andrew Breitbart. New questions being raised by some conservatives online about her background -- we will investigate.


COOPER: Tonight on Capitol Hill, a meeting to begin to determine the fate of Charlie Rangel, and it is a very humiliating -- humiliating moment for the Democratic congressman.

Despite efforts to forge some sort of deal with the Ethics Committee, Rangel, the powerful 20-term Democrat from New York, may soon face a very public and embarrassing trial in the House of Representatives.

In a stinging indictment, the House Ethics Committee accuses the 80-year-old of violating 13, 13 charges that allege he jeopardizing the credibility of Congress by accepting gifts and other financial wrongdoings.

The Ethics Committee says the investigation into Rangel spanned 21 months, involved 41 witnesses and more than 28,000 pages of documents. Here are some of them.

But let's go over to the wall, because I want to show you in detail what is in some of these papers and the accusations against Rangel.

First of all, the money. The committee says that Rangel didn't report more than $600,000 on financial disclosure forms, this from the guy overseeing the committee that's supposed to be dealing with taxes.

Then, there's this. Take a look. This building, this is the future home of the Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. They named it after Charlie Rangel. The committee says that Rangel violated House rules by pressuring lobbyists and companies to donate money to build the Rangel Center.

One company hit up was AIG, which was lobbying the House at the time. The committee says donors contributed more than $8 million to the building where allegedly Rangel was supposed to have a very nice, well-furnished office.

Also, other allegations, allegations that he used an apartment here in New York City as an office. It's a rent subsidized apartment, which means it's supposed to be for people on low income, and only for people who actually live in it. Rangel didn't live there. It was allegedly an office.

Then there's this, this...


COOPER: ... photo. This is Charlie Rangel sleeping outside his villa in the Dominican Republic. That's right. He has a villa in the Dominican Republic. It's apparently in a yacht club.

The committee says that Rangel allegedly reported an incorrect value on the property and also failed to report for several years rental income that he made off it. He actually made money off this and he didn't report it, according to these reports.

Now, there's talk tonight that Rangel and the committee are working out a deal that would avoid the humiliation of a public trial against him. Backroom negotiations and public denial, that's the "Raw Politics."

Here is Rangel responding to the allegations against him.


REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: If I struggle hard to find some good news in the statement of alleged violation, I do get small comfort in knowing that there's no allegation, that there's a scintilla bit of evidence that I have been guilty of corruption, wrongdoing, self-dealing, or any of the things that some of the reporters have been saying.


COOPER: Well, he says there's no evidence against him. Is that really the case? And what does it mean for his party?

With me now with the "Raw Politics" senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin and senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

First of all, Jeffrey, on the legal case, this hearing that began today, there's going to be a basically trial of him in Congress.


This is the equivalent of an arraignment today. And there will be a trial, unless a deal is struck, although I have to believe a deal will be struck.

The thing that's just so maddening about this situation is that here is a guy who wasn't dealing with billions of dollars. He was dealing with trillions of dollars, because all of American tax policy went through the Ways and Means Committee.

And these stupid charges of -- I mean, not stupid.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: It's not stupid that they were brought, but just they're -- he was right in what he said. There was no allegation that he actually enriched himself. He didn't report income that he had.

COOPER: Well, that's enriching, I mean, if you're not paying taxes on money you're making from a villa in the Dominican Republic.

TOOBIN: Well, I think the tax issue is -- is not entirely clear. What's clear is that he didn't report it. As a congressman, he has to report all of his assets and his income. And -- and he didn't do it. And the one that's the most disturbing part is this institute he had at City College.

COOPER: Basically, allegedly hitting up lobbyists and corporations, people who he will be ruling on things that affect them, hitting them up, strong arming them for money.

TOOBIN: Shakedown. Yes.

COOPER: Shaking them down for money.

TOOBIN: And that's really, I mean, it's appalling. It's not that different from what other congressmen and senators have done, but it is certainly inappropriate if it's what's happened. Here's a guy who had so much power, who was so popular, and you know, to throw it away on what is basically penny ante stuff is just --

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, if this had been a Republican, Democrats would be, you know, going ballistic.

BORGER: Oh, yes.

COOPER: They basically, you know, there's like radio silence from Democrats on this. You know, maybe a few grudging statements here and there like the process is going on. But it's like running -- they're all running for cover.

BORGER: Well, you know, here's what's happened. First of all, Anderson, he is no longer chairman of the committee. So, it's clear that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi privately along with other Democrats months ago said to him, all right, you cannot remain chairman. So, he had to give up his gavel which was, of course, a very big thing, but now, they're quite nervous, because they don't want this public trial any more than he does because it allows the Republicans to do exactly what they did to the Republicans in 2006, when they took over the House and said that it was a corrupt, arrogant, out of control institution.

COOPER: Right. It's hard to say you drained the swamp if, you know, this is going on.

BORGER: Right, but today, you know, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi distanced herself. She said let the chips fall where they may. And so, it's very clear that the Democrats are not going to stand around and defend Charlie Rangel. A bunch of them have already said he should resign from Congress.

COOPER: It is a double standard, though. I mean, again, if this is Republican, Nancy Pelosi would not say let the chips fall where they may.

BORGER: No. You know, absolutely, and they're the guys in power. And you know, the irony here is, Anderson, that they have done a lot of stuff on banning gifts and trying to get rid of the so-called Congressional earmarks and trying to get rid of Congressional junkets, but he is now the poster child for this next election for the Republicans.

COOPER: So, I mean, is there any way that he can stay in office or do you think he will -- I mean, if he just resigned, would this whole thing go away in terms of --

TOOBIN: That's being negotiated right now, and that probably is what's at stake. At the moment, he is still running for re-election. He is a candidate in a primary coming up, you know, in about a month. You know, part of this also has to do with Harlem politics because he's the last of the old-style Harlem politicians, and he really wants to turn over his seat to a guy named Keith Wright who is sort of the next generation, but there are new generation of leaders.

They want to push the old people aside, and Rangel doesn't want to give up the seat unless he can hand it off to his favorite candidate, buy, you know, he's really running out of options. He doesn't have a very good defense here.

COOPER: Gloria --

BORGER: And Anderson, you know what this has to do with in watching these folks on Capitol Hill? There is a sense of entitlement, particularly among this committee chairman, you know --

COOPER: Of course. He's been there 20 years. He thinks he can do anything.

TOOBIN: For 20 terms.

COOPER: I'm sorry, 40 years.

BORGER: And you know what, there was a former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski, who wound up in jail because he took cash for postage stamps. So -- you know, and there's another chairman before him, Wilbur Mills, who, you know, had trouble.

COOPER: It's unbelievable, yes.

BORGER: So, the higher they are, the more entitled they get.

COOPER: Gloria Borger, appreciate it and Jeffrey Toobin as well. Thanks very much.

Up next, Shirley Sherrod, the former agriculture department official today saying she will sue the conservative blogger who first put that edited video of her online. What are the new questions being raised about her online? We're going to try to separate fact from fiction.

And has the BP oil spill been overblown by politicians and scientists and media, including me? New questions raise about this spill. We'll talk to a scientist to find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Today, the story of Shirley Sherrod took a new turn. She announced she will sue Andrew Breitbart, the man who first posted the edited video of her now famous speech. Breitbart hasn't said -- he said he wasn't targeting Sherrod personally but rather was taking aim at the NAACP and what he says is that group's racism. Speaking today at the National Association of Black Journalists, Sherrod says she doesn't buy it.


SHIRLEY SHERROD, FMR. USDA OFFICIAL: He had to know that he was targeting me. Now, whether he was also trying to target the NAACP, he had to know that he was targeting me. And at this point, you know, he hasn't apologized. I don't want it at this point. And he will definitely hear from me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just to follow up on that, there've been reports that you are considering a lawsuit. Have you decided whether you're going to pursue that action?

SHERROD: I will definitely do it.


COOPER: President Obama speaking to the National Urban League today in Washington said Sherrod deserves better than what happened last week.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, many are to blame for the reaction and overreaction that followed these comments, including my own administration. What I said to Shirley was that the full story she was trying to tell, a story about overcoming our own biases and recognizing ourselves in folks who, on the surface, seem different is exactly the kind of story we need to hear in America.


COOPER: I interviewed Shirley Sherrod last Thursday. And in the course of that interview, I failed to do something that I should have. I believe in admitting my mistakes. I looked at the interview again today, and Ms. Sherrod said during that interview that she thought Mr. Breitbart was a racist. She said, quote, "I think he would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery." She went on to say she believed his opposition to President Obama was based on racism. Now, (INAUDIBLE) free to believe whatever she wants, but I didn't challenge her that night and I should have.

I don't want anyone on my show to get away with saying things which cannot be supported by facts. I should have challenged her on what facts she believes supports that accusation. That's my job, and I didn't do it very well in that interview, and I'm sorry about it. If I get a chance to talk to her again, I will. There's also a new aspect to the Shirley Sherrod story that's bubbling up online, questions about her and her husband, Charles, a civil rights activist, keep bubbling up in some conservative blogs.

The question center on why and how Shirley Sherrod got appointed to her old job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the first place and whether her appointment was somehow connected to a settlement she received from the government in a race discrimination lawsuit. Joe Johns joins me now live from Washington. He's been following the controversy online. Joe, what about it? What is it?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the facts are that in the 1960s and 1970s, the Sherrods and a number of other African- Americans operated a farming cooperative, times were tough. Many white farmers got loans to survive, but the cooperative didn't. It was foreclosed. The Sherrods joined other African-American farmers in a class action discrimination lawsuit against the government, and just last year, the Sherrods each got about $150,000 a piece.


CHARLES SHERROD, HUSBAND OF SHIRLEY SHERROD: We farmed for 17 years. We held on to it for that number of years. And then we had five straight years of drought. Then we had a three-year fight with USDA just to get the right to get loans for drought. When all around us, plantations, all kinds of plantations that we proved (ph) were getting loans.


JOHNS: Now, here's what the blogs are raising suspicions about. Shortly after that payment, Shirley Sherrod got the job as USDA's director of Rural Development in Georgia. Republican congressman, Steve King talks about why he thinks there ought to be an investigation.


REP. STEVE KING, (R) IOWA: Why would you hire the person who had sued you and received the highest settlement to then go to work for you? That seems odd to me, more than odd, and I think we should take a look at it.


JOHNS: So, CNN's Don Lemon asked Shirley Sherrod about that today, and here's part of his interview.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Because of the timing of your appointment and that, people wonder if the two are connected.


LEMON: And it's because of that that you were appointed.

SHERROD: No. One didn't know about the other. At the time, they were considering me for the position long before we got the news about the lawsuit. And I actually said to my congressman, you know, this is out there. I didn't want it to reflect badly on anyone. He said, well, I think you should disassociate yourself from the organization. OK. I'm willing to do that.


JOHNS: Now, Anderson, we've done some checking and many members of the Democratic Congressional delegation apparently did know her and did recommend her for this job.

COOPER: So, when she says the organization, she's talking about that farming cooperative? There's another layer to all this. A speech that her husband, Charles Sherrod, made earlier this year at the University of Virginia Law School conference on the issue of race in the law. That's been put online, and it's made a lot of people annoyed. What's the story about that?

JOHNS: You're right. The speech, it was rambling, I think you can say. He sums up sort of the history of blacks in America from slavery to the present, even talks about the future and here is what the blogs are picking up on.


CHARLES SHERROD: When will we trust our own? When will we feel responsible to save ourselves? Finally, we must stop the white man and his Uncle Toms for stealing our elections. We must not be afraid to vote black. We must not be afraid to turn a black out who votes against our interest.


COOPER: So, is this taken out of context the way Shirley Sherrod's comments were taken out of context?

JOHNS: It doesn't appear to be. Apparently, he said he said what he meant, meant what he said. We did ask Charles Sherrod for a statement about this today. He refused to comment. People we've talked to who know him point out Charles Sherrod is a well-known, even famous civil rights activist, contemporary of Martin Luther King and John Lewis. He has been using that kind of language since the early days of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC where he was one of the early leaders, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Joe Johns, appreciate it. Thanks for the follow-up. There are a lot more news we're covering tonight. Tom Foreman joins me now with a "360 bulletin" -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, an army private suspected of leaking classified material about the Afghan war has been transferred from Kuwait to a marine corps bring in Quantico, Virginia. Bradley Manning who served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq is charged with eight violations of U.S. criminal code. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is helping the FBI investigate the leak of those roughly 90,000 classified reports, the top military officer in the U.S. sounded off against WikiLeaks which posted the documents. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think we always need to be mindful of the unknown potential for damage in any particular document that we handle. Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is, they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.


FOREMAN: More details coming out about a major foul-up in one of the nation's most revered burial places for its war dead. Missouri senator, Claire McCaskill now says as many as 6,600 graves at Arlington National Cemetery may be unmarked or mislabeled on cemetery maps.

And Chelsea Clinton and her fiance will exchange wedding vows this weekend without any paparazzi flying overhead or anyone else for that matter. At the request of the secret service, the FAA is restricting air traffic Saturday night within 15 miles of Rhinebeck, New York where the wedding is taking place -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. There you go. Tom, thanks very much.

Next on "360," the BP spill, was the catastrophe overblown? A new "Time" magazine article says it's not as bad as many people, myself included, thought, but is that the truth? Controversy (ph) ahead.


COOPER: Making progress in the Gulf, that is what retired coast guard Admiral Thad Allen said today. He is hopeful the operation to kill off the BP well could begin before Monday. Allen also said surveillance taken this week shows that it's becoming harder and harder to find oil. He says the oil is more dispersed, and his team is finding less and less of it. That leads us to the question, was this disaster overblown by the president, the public -- by public officials, by scientists and the media, including myself? A new "Time" magazine article quotes a number of scientists who say the spill is not the environmental catastrophe many thought it would be.

The number of those, according to new article, are on BP's payroll, but they raise a number of valid points. The oil has not penetrated into the wetlands as deeply as many feared. And the actual number of dead animals has been much smaller that we've seen in the Valdez oil spill which was -- and is more confined in a more confined space in a different temperature of water and involved heavier oil. So, was this never as bad as we were led to believe or did the skimming efforts and the dispersants and Mother Nature work better than some had feared? Ed Overton is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Environmental Sciences at LSU. He joins me now. Professor, was this overblown?

ED OVERTON, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, LSU: Well, I don't know. I didn't certainly overblow it. People that have been around an oil spill for a long time I don't think overblow it. There was plenty of damage, is plenty of damage. We won't know the total carnage for several years. This is part of the natural resources damage assessment effort. Also, there'll be independent scientifically based programs that will try to understand and completely catalog the damage.

So, there was plenty of damage done. I don't think we should underestimate that. It's just that some people over speculated, let me put it like that, that the Gulf would die, things like this. And that's just not in line with what normally occurs in an oil spill.

COOPER: I think the president who called it, you know, the worst environmental or potentially the worst environmental disaster to hit United States. Was that true or do we not know or did it look like that at the time?

OVERTON: We don't know still, but the early evidence certainly doesn't indicate that it's going to have traumatic, draconian, long- term damaging effects. So, I think that's probably a stronger statement than I personally would have used. But I don't want to underestimate the severity of the damage. I mean, most of the damage, remember, is not what we can see. We saw the dead pelicans and the dolphin and the other sea life and the birds, but there was a lot of damage that nobody ever saw, and we won't know how severe that was for several years to come.

COOPER: A lot of credit for the cleanup, you say, goes to Mother Nature, a lot of it evaporated by the sun, broken up by waves, eaten up by bacteria. Did the huge amount of dispersants actually work?

OVERTON: Oh, absolutely. I think if anything, the early evidence is that use of those dispersants saved the shoreline, then that was clearly a good decision. I and a lot of other people were fairly skeptical at the time. There was so much dispersants used. But, boy, the use of all that dispersant sure does look like a good idea right now.

COOPER: So, do we know if, in fact, this hasn't had the impact that was feared early on? Will there be a way to judge whether it would have had that impact if it wasn't for the dispersants and if it wasn't for the, you know, all the response efforts or will we never know?

OVERTON: Well, we'll truly never know, but clearly, you know, right now out of 7,000 miles, 7,000 plus miles in Louisiana, only 200 to 300 miles of coastal marshlands have really been hit. I just can't imagine that that would have been a thousand or more miles had that oil not been removed from the surface and left to come ashore. So, clearly, in hindsight, use of dispersants, offshore skimming, in-situ burning offshore, that helped to save the coastline. Now, there's trade-off, remember. There's damage to the oil shore marine species both at the surface and at subsurface.

COOPER: And obviously, the trains are still running, which is certainly a good thing, because we can hear the train behind you. I do want to point out, we got a picture today from Plaquemines Parish officials which show oil still on the surface in Barataria Bay. They're point being that there is still oil on the surface, and I think they're annoyed. They're worried that the coast guard is going to be pulling out too quickly. Do we know under water what's happening? I mean, there was all that talk of those plumes and oil being under the water. Is that still there? Is that going to just dissipate harmlessly or is that going to affect the food chain?

OVERTON: Well, we certainly hope it will dissipate. And my projection is that it will dissipate. I mean, the oil -- the plumes -- underwater plumes are dilute concentrations that in the part for million levels (ph) of dispersed oil. Now, the more dilute it is, the less damage it will occur, and it's starting to being degraded by the bacteria as well as being disperse by the ocean current. So, I don't anticipate that there's going to be massive damage, you know.

The damage is both toxilogical and the reduction in the oxygen content of the water column. And there's not a lot of evidence so far that that's happening. I think there's a lot of research vessels out there looking for damage. I haven't seen any evidence, so far, to indicate that we got a big problem.

COOPER: Professor Overton, appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much.

Up next, another oil spill causing health concerns, forcing people from their homes. I'll tell you where.

Plus, President Obama and Snooki? How well does the commander in chief know the "Jersey Shore" star? We're keeping him honest in tonight shot ahead.


COOPER: All right. We're following several other stories tonight. Tom Foreman joins us again with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Hey, Anderson. Memphis police have confirmed that the body found Wednesday is that of a former NBA player, Lorenzen Wright. He was missing a week ago. The cause of death, homicide by gunshot wound. The search is on for the killer.

An oil spill far from the Gulf raising concerns tonight. Residents of as many as 50 homes are being urged to evacuate near Battle Creek, Michigan, after oil leaked from a 30-inch pipeline into a creek and then the Kalamazoo River. The pipeline is owned by Enbridge Energy Partners.

On Wall Street, stocks slide after a mix of quarterly profit reports. The Dow shed 30 points, the Nasdaq fell 13, the S&P dipped 4.

And a shake-up for "American Idol." Ellen Degeneres is leaving her judge's chair after a single season. She says the show was not the right fit for her, but she will always be a huge fan. COOPER: Wow, that's interesting.

FOREMAN: Yes, how about that?

COOPER: I was caught on camera. I was working on the computer. I was actually rewriting this next piece right now, Tom. I know you heard this, the president's comments today. It shocked the world. The president commented about Snooki today, the reality star from MTV's "Jersey Shore." The ladies of "The View" asked the president about Snooki. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should Snooki run as mayor of Wasilla?

OBAMA: I got to admit, I don't know who Snooki is.



OBAMA: I'm sorry.


COOPER: He doesn't know who Snooki is? Oh, really? Well, check out what the president said at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner back in May.


OBAMA: This next provision is called the "jersey shore up." It reads the following individuals shall be excluded from the indoor tanning tax within this bill. Snooki, Jay Wow, the situation and House Minority Leader, John Boehner.


COOPER: Well, in case you haven't watched "The Jersey Shore," Tom, have you watched the "The Jersey Shore"?

FOREMAN: I have no idea who Snooki is.

COOPER: Oh, I don't believe you. Snooki, that's Snooki, is actually from Marlborough, New York, not Jersey. She's 22. She's 4'9". She's into tanning and big hair and like -- and she likes guys who, in her words, are juice heads. Yes. We asked Snooki's people, Snooki has people. We asked, actually, her people today for a statement and they -- yes, we did. We tried to see if she would come on, but apparently, she's still shooting "Jersey Shore."

FOREMAN: She has people?

COOPER: Yes. She's still shooting the "Jersey Shore," and given that this late at night, she's probably passed out in the hot tub already. FOREMAN: You never know.

COOPER: Yes. But anyway, her people gave us this statement that Snooki says, according to her people, quote, "just as long as he doesn't forget his promise not to tax my tanning." Whether Snooki actually came up with that one on her own, we cannot independently confirm.

FOREMAN: I hope he doesn't tax my tanning either. Because as you can see, I'm deep into it.

COOPER: Clearly, you and I are, yes, big tanners. Tom, thanks for being with us. Lot more news coming up at the top of the hour, including the protest over Arizona's immigration law. We'll be right back.