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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Obama's Job Plan Could Top $400 Billion; Congress Back to Bickering; Giordano to Remain in Aruba Jail

Aired September 7, 2011 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now thanks very much. Good evening. Breaking news tonight. New details of President Obama's plan to put Americans back to work. He unveils the plan tomorrow night. It's still being crafted as we speak. But some of the pieces are coming into focus tonight. And so is the bottom line, which is growing from earlier estimates.

That's certainly welcome news for Democrats who say the president's been too timid and the economy needed a big dose of medicine. At the same time, though, the larger the price tag the tougher it may be to get through Congress. Even though the White House says it will offset the cost of a jobs plan with savings elsewhere in the budget.

Chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin has been working her sources. She joins us now with the late-breaking details.

So what is the latest? What's going to be in this plan?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

My understanding from Democrats who are familiar with the president's working figures right now tell me that the plan could end up upwards of $400 billion. The biggest ticket item would be an extension of the payroll tax cut for employees which is now set to expire at the end of the year at $120 billion.

He would propose in this draft roads and infrastructure above current plans for the Highway Bill to invest $100 billion in that. Unemployment insurance, extending that at $50 billion. But not just extending it, also finding new ways to try to get the unemployed into workplaces, to find them -- to almost get them internships in a sense, new kinds of jobs training.

We've talked about this before. Renovating schools, finding ways to get laborers into dilapidated schools quickly, to help them renovate them, $30 billion for that. And even giving tens of billions of dollars to teachers and First Responders in the states, getting them to work if they've been laid off or keeping them on the job.

These are just some of the working figures. Of course, it could all change between now and tomorrow night. COOPER: Yes, it's interesting, because last night we were -- you know when we talked to you about this, we were talking about a figure of some $300 billion.

YELLIN: Yes.

COOPER: You're now hearing $400 billion. So it's interesting just to see how that --

YELLIN: Well --

COOPER: -- has gone up. Also we heard yesterday that the plan was supposed to be revenue-neutral. How are they proposing to pay for it?

YELLIN: So a couple of ideas. One piece of idea is to close tax loopholes over time, corporate tax loopholes over time, an idea that should be familiar from those debt talks we were discussing so much over the summer. Also raising taxes on the wealthy over time.

But another piece of this, we understand, would be possibly changing formulas or altering the way entitlements are structured. So Medicare, Medicaid, those kinds of ideas are worrisome, of course, to Democrats because they're key Democratic priorities.

But I should point out to you, Anderson, all of that, well, he'll touch on it tomorrow night. The details of that will be laid out in a separate package, a separate proposal, that the president will spell out in a different speech next week or in the coming weeks.

COOPER: Well, obviously, you know, for a lot of Republicans, when they hear the word -- or when they hear President Obama talking about investing, they're going to hear the word spending.

YELLIN: Right.

COOPER: And aren't necessarily going to buy that these offsets are for real, that a lot of people will say this is just accounting tricks.

YELLIN: And the White House is expecting that and has been clear that they know that they're going to come up against some resistance. But the White House has made it emphatically clear that the president's message will be everybody needs to act, that it is incumbent on everyone in Washington to take this job situation seriously.

And this is where we get into politics. The message will be, if Congress doesn't act, and by Congress he means in part House Republicans, then he will take his case to the American people and accuse Congress of being a do-nothing Congress, and blame them, the House Republicans, in essence, for not doing enough to get jobs growing.

And it will be a political message through the campaign year -- Anderson. COOPER: Do they have numbers of how many jobs they say they can create with this?

YELLIN: We have asked and we have asked. What their answer to that is, just give it time tomorrow night, as soon as he comes out with the specifics. Independent economists will give us plenty of numbers that we can then parse ourselves.

COOPER: All right, Jessica. Appreciate the reporting for that. See you tomorrow night.

YELLIN: Yes.

COOPER: Joining us, our senior political analyst, David Gergen, Democratic strategist and Obama 2008 pollster, Cornell Belcher, and Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of redstate.com.

David, you've been calling for bold action from the president. Given everything that we now know so far, $400 billion, what do you think of what you've heard of the plan?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's bigger than we thought, Anderson. A few days ago we were actually talking about 200, then it got to 300 as you say last night. Now we're at 400. If he gave a speech next week, who knows what it would be.

I think one thing to be observant of here is it's a big price tag. But about half of it is a continuation of what we're already doing. It's not new stimulus. It is -- you know the payroll taxes have already been on a holiday. It will be an extension of that.

So the amount of actual stimulus to be injected into the economy is still fairly modest. I do think the Republicans are going to call this stimulus II and they're going to say, wait a minute, we just spent weeks and weeks trying to get the deficits down by $900 billion, you told us you're going to try to hold discretionary spending, freeze that, and now you're coming along with a $400 billion program?

COOPER: Cornell, let me ask you about this. Is this stimulus II? Because when you hear about the word investment and you hear about, you know, road building and infrastructure, it does sound kind of like 2009.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It sounds awful like common sense. I mean if you look at where the American public is, and you look at where the vast majority are in the polling, this is not something that's unpopular with the vast majority of middle America.

It is unpopular to the base and core of the Republican Party. But when you're talking about making investments in infrastructure, you talk about building roads and schools, and making investments in those type of things that are going to help build the middle class. The vast majority of Americans are for that.

COOPER: Erick, what about that? I mean it looks to be the centerpiece of the plan, extending the payroll tax cuts. That's something the Republicans could ostensibly get behind, right?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Here's the problem for the president in this. He's got an extension of the payroll tax holiday, an extension of unemployment benefits, that's status quo, things we already have that aren't contributing to creating jobs right now.

What we're dealing with the president, who by summer of 2010 if we all remember and go back to that press conference again, he would not say the word stimulus. You had reporters asking him about it, and he would shift the subject. This is the summer of 2010. He wouldn't use the word stimulus anymore.

And now we're going to come back to the stimulus. And then -- yes, let's talk about the polling --

COOPER: So you're saying this is just another stimulus?

ERICKSON: Yes, I think so. And a majority of Americans didn't think the first stimulus worked. We're talking about a economic team that showed a chart of what unemployment would be if the stimulus passed, and the high would be 8 percent. We went over 10 percent, now they're saying, well, natural disaster, Europe, Arab Spring, they're to blame.

BELCHER: Well, look, here's the problem. Look, it took us, what, eight years to tear down the piece of prosperity that Bill Clinton built. And what most Americans do understand that we're not -- we didn't get into this overnight, we're not going out of it overnight.

Are Americans unhappy with the pace? Yes, but reasonable Americans understand that we're not going to get out of this overnight. And if you look at what the stimulus has done, you know, up until recently, you know, we've had strict job growth each and every -- each and every month.

Has it been as much job growth as most of us would like to see? No. But we went from nose-dive and losing jobs to job growth, and that was a part of the stimulus package. But we didn't get into this overnight and we're certainly not going to get out of it in a year or two years of his first half of his presidency.

COOPER: David, do you think that's a message that registers, though, and resonates with Americans? The idea that, well, this problem has been long -- been built up under the past administration? I mean that's an argument we heard obviously in the beginning when President Obama was running a lot. Is that an argument he can still make?

GERGEN: Well, I do think that President Bush still gets more blame than President Obama does for getting us into this mess. But increasingly, President Obama is seen -- is looked to as the person who has to get us out. And he's now seen as ineffectual in doing that. You know his negative ratings on the economy are the highest they've been in his presidency. His approval ratings overall, the lowest they've been in his presidency. So he goes into this in a hole.

I do think, Anderson, that some of this is going to be generally greeted by a lot of people as very sensible. The infrastructure job bank, for example, that's a long-term project that the country needs in the view of most economists. And frankly on both sides of the aisle.

This notion that Jessica Yellin mentioned of having the unemployed have a chance to go work in a company for eight weeks and have the government help to do that, that's been tried in Georgia and it's an arresting idea that some Republicans like.

There's the makings here of a package that he could get a deal with the Republicans. I think a lot's going to depend on the tone he uses tomorrow night. If he lectures the Republicans, if he's partisan in tone, it's going to be much, much harder to ultimately get a package.

COOPER: Erick, do you -- do you agree with David's, I guess, optimistic assessment that there could be the beginnings of some sort of things to bridge the political aisle here?

ERICKSON: I think there will be some things to bridge the political aisle. I also think it's a problem for the president because I think the things that will bridge the political aisle and build the consensus job-creation package won't actually create jobs.

David mentions the program in Georgia. I'm intimately familiar with it having served on a city council in. We couldn't find employers using this program. We couldn't find employers to do this in the past couple of years because they're so still afraid of the economic uncertainty.

They don't want to bring people in for eight weeks and then have to pick them up. We've seen this in police forces across the country where part of the stimulus package was to have the federal government pay for police officers for three years then the local government pay for their salaries after that or pays back the first three years in salary to the federal government.

And we've had local police forces around the country not willing to do that because there's still so much uncertainty out there. And these problems are compounded and it's a pie partisan problem. It really isn't just the president's fault. Everyone is dealing with this issue on both sides of the aisle.

COOPER: Erick, Cornell, David, just stick around.

President Obama says Americans are tired of political game- playing. Is Congress listening, though? Wait until you see what we uncovered about how much bickering lawmakers in both parties are doing. How much bickering and how little is getting done. Will it stand in the way of passing the job package or any plan to help the economy? We'll talk about that, "Keeping Them Honest."

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @Andersoncooper.

Also tonight, "Crime and Punishment," what could be a big break for American Amanda Knox, who's currently doing time in Italy for a murder she says she never committed. Today's developments on DNA evidence might open the door for her to come home. What her dad told me about how she's handling the ordeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CURT KNOX, AMANDA KNOX'S FATHER: Having your freedom taken away for four years for something that you haven't done is an incredible situation. And she's an incredible young lady.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Our breaking news tonight. We're learning more about President Obama's job creation plan. Our sources saying it is growing. Now there are $400 billion amidst payroll tax cuts, incentives for hiring and spending on infrastructure. Now all of it reportedly to be paid for with offsetting budget cuts.

Again President Obama is going to lay it out tomorrow night in a Joint Session of Congress. Safe to say he chose the location for more than just a good photo-op. He's sending a signal that if something has to be done about the economy Congress will have to be part of the solution or get tagged as part of the problem.

Now in other words he wants people to know that Congress will have to pass his plan, or pass some plan, or else pay a political price.

"Keeping Them Honest," though, can Congress even agree on any plan at all?

Mr. Obama is skeptical.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people are sick and tired of the nonsense and the political games. We can't afford to play games. Put the partisan games aside. And we're tired of games. No more games. We don't have time to play games. It's time for the games to stop. The time for Washington games is over.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Most Americans go even further. In a recent CNN/ORC poll done during the debt ceiling disaster, just 17 percent said lawmakers acted like responsible adults, 77 percent compared them to spoiled kids. We're talking about lawmakers who just months earlier couldn't agree on a budget, pushing the country close to government shutdown. Then we've had debacle, fresh in memory, they did it again. One side created a debt limit showdown. Both sides bickered over it until the grownups took action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Why did S&P downgrade the United States credit rating today?

JOHN CHAMBERS, HEAD OF SOVEREIGN RATINGS, STANDARD & POOR'S: Well, I think there were two reasons. The first reason is the one that you've outlined, being our view of the political setting in the United States have been altered. We've taken them down a notch, the rating down a notch.

The political brinksmanship we saw over raising the debt ceiling was something that was really beyond our expectation.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And within days the stock market tanked, consumer sentiment fell, and hiring dried up. Very real consequences for Americans. And these lawmakers, who after all represent Americans who got hurt, they learned their lesson, right? No more game-playing, no more political posturing, no sniping over trivial things when the fate of the country is at stake? Right?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Frankly, I'm so tired of his speeches it's going to be hard for me to watch.

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: I'm going to be watching from my family room in Metairie, Louisiana, because I have a Saints game party there, and I'm absolutely going to be there for the big game.

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: He wants Congress, each and every member of Congress, to be a prop in that 30-minute theater. And I just don't want to be used like that.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Congressman Walsh there, he can't even bring himself to be in the same room with President Obama tomorrow night, nor can Congressman Paul Brown who'll be watching from his office.

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, as you saw there on FOX News, will be AWOL, watching the Saints game. And Senator DeMint, who you saw at the beginning of the clip, he says he's probably not going.

The GOP won't even be giving a televised response. But in case you think Republicans have a lock on partisan or childish or however you want to look at it, well, House Minority Leader Pelosi -- listen to what House Minority Leader Pelosi said in a statement yesterday. Quote, "The Republicans' refusal to respond to the president's proposal on jobs is not only disrespectful to him but to the American people."

And maybe it is, maybe it isn't. That's not for us to say. And it's hardly the point. The point is nothing now is not -- nothing now is too trivial not to pick up and sling at the other side. The end result, nothing gets done.

We did some checking. The current Congress is on track to be the least-productive on record. Lawmakers only managing to pass 28 bills so far, 28 bills. The last three Congresses where the House under both Democratic and Republican control, doesn't matter, all averaged three times that number.

Nothing is getting done. Nobody seems to like it. A new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll puts the job approval rating for Congress at 13 percent, 13 percent, not 30, 13, 1-3 percent. Record-low job approval. But a vital job to do.

Back now with our panel, David Gergen, Cornell Belcher and Erick Erickson.

Is there any way, David, the president can any kind of jobs bill through Congress or is the atmosphere so poisoned right now that any plan he offers is basically dead on arrival?

GERGEN: You wonder, Anderson, whether those 13 percent, you know, what in the world that they're seeing that they like? It's hard to know, isn't it? You know, they just didn't get the word, I guess.

Look, Anderson, I do think there is some prospect of getting a jobs bill through. I think that should be the name of the game tomorrow night with Republicans. The Republicans are paying a price in Congress. For all the shenanigans that went on before. Their popularity of course is lower than the president's. So it's in their interests to do something.

But I think it's up to the president to, in effect, invite them, challenge them if you'd like, say, look, here are my ideas. Come up in 10 days with your ideas. Let's sit down, let's see if we can't work this out. I think there is that possibility. I think that should be easier than getting a super committee on the deficits to pass something.

I think that's going to be a very, very tough set of negotiations. But on jobs, I think there's a prospect of getting that done.

COOPER: And, Cornell, it does seem like -- I mean everybody plays games. I mean is it enough for the president to just put a plan out there knowing it probably won't go anywhere? Is that all about having something to beat Republicans up with next year?

BELCHER: No, that's about the president showing leadership and trying to move the country forward. I mean the opposite of that would be for him, what, not to put a job bill out there, not try to move the country forward?

Look, the other thing here I've got to push back on is this -- and the press would try to play this equal sides. It's the Democrats and the Republicans. It is not the Democrats, not as equally to blame, is this no one watching Congress over the last several months could possibly say that the Democrats have been holding up progress.

There's a reason why they're the least-productive Congress right now. You know 200 -- over 240 days and this Republican Congress has not put forth one jobs plan. They are unproductive.

COOPER: Erick, I mean Eric Cantor just made comments calling for more civility in Washington. But is that just talk or are Republicans willing to compromise? It does seem like compromise is still that dirty word.

ERICKSON: Look, I love it when Democrats start saying the Republicans are to blame. That they're not all equal. All politicians behave the same way regardless of party. Independent voters know it and the Republicans and the Democrats don't.

The Republicans came out with their Resurgent Republic poll today which shockingly shows the Democrats blame the Republicans and Republicans blame the Democrats, and the independents, guess what, they blame everybody on both sides of the aisle, equal time for both of them.

The stakes are so high right now for both sides, though, and both sides feel that this election is going to be very high. It's very hard to get something done. They will get a compromise plan put through.

My concern is that it's a plan that will look good for both sides but ultimately do nothing to create jobs.

COOPER: David, do you think both sides are equally to blame or do you blame Republicans more?

GERGEN: I think the debt ceiling fight was something Republicans brought on more than anybody else. They wanted the fight. You know, and they paid a price for it. But I think the Democrats have played plenty of games. The president played a game last week when he wanted to put this speech on Wednesday night. Threw it in the face of the Republicans who are having this big debate tonight.

So I do think Republicans are more responsible for the debt fight. But I want to come back to something that Erick said. I think this is a big, big question. Will this jobs plan and will whatever they come up with as an agreement, actually create jobs or is it more about politics?

And I think that's a hard question. Too much of what's being proposed now, Anderson, is really about short-term things. Little, modest things on the edges. What's really needed, of course, is something much more fundamental to pave the way for a much better environment for growth in the future. And neither party, frankly, has yet tackling that.

COOPER: But Cornell, you would say well, the -- you know, President Obama wanted to do something big but wasn't able to?

BELCHER: Well, I would say, and look, I'm trying to be fair here, but you've got to point it out. Here's my prediction. Is that the president will make his speech and the Tea Party cohort will be -- entrench themselves against it. In fact they've already entrenched themselves against it.

And the level of disrespect they're showing to the office of the presidency by not even showing up, and going to football parties, while the country is dealing with unemployment, is -- boggles the mind.

But here's what I -- my prediction is, is that the Tea Party cohort of the Republican Party will, in fact, short of saying, no, no, no to what whatever the president does and will slow this process down once again.

COOPER: I've got to leave it there just for time.

David Gergen, Cornell Belcher, Erick Erickson, guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, "Crime and Punishment." Will a man be held in Aruba in connection with this missing woman be let out of jail? A ruling today on his appeal. We'll go to Aruba with the latest.

Also, it could be a major victory for American student Amanda Knox who's fighting a murder conviction in Italy. We'll tell you what happened in court today that could help her case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Crime and Punishment" tonight. The man being held in connection with the disappearance of American Robyn Gardner in Aruba is staying behind bars. Gary Giordano was appealing a ruling that he could be held for another 60 days.

Today the appeal was denied. He hasn't been charged with anything. His attorney says he's being detained improperly. Giordano was questioned for an eighth time yesterday about his traveling partner Robyn Gardner who was last seen August 2nd.

And Martin Savidge joins us now live from Aruba with the latest.

So the court rejected his appeal. But does the prosecution actually have any evidence linking him to Robyn Gardner's disappearance after all this time?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what, that's a great question. And I'm afraid I don't really have a great answer. I think the feeling is right now by a lot of people who've been following this story is that they do not have a shred of real proof that will somehow link Gary Giordano to the death or the crime of what happened to Robyn Gardner.

That's what they're saying. And many people are saying, look, look how many times they keep asking the public for help, asking the people if they've seen something, if they have, to report it, to tell them.

We're a month into this investigation and they keep appealing to the public. That sends a signal that this case is really thin when it comes to the prosecution.

COOPER: ABC News has some new details regarding that insurance policy that Giordano took out on Gardner. What are they saying now?

SAVIDGE: Well, what they've been pointing out is the fact that this insurance policy they claim was one that he originally took out on Robyn Gardner back earlier in the year. We know from talking to other traveling companions, other women who've gone on trips with Gary Giordano, that this was a common practice. That he would take out insurance policies for both him and his traveling companion.

So the fact that he took out a policy earlier for Robyn Gardner is not out of keeping with what have been his MO. The only thing was she backed out of that trip at the last minute and that apparently really ticked him off. And as a result, he sent some pretty nasty texts and made some very threatening statements.

That according to her roommate. In fact that's why the roommate was so surprised that Robyn Gardner, a couple of months later, is heading off to Aruba with Gary.

COOPER: You spoke to his attorney today. I just want to play some of what he had to say to you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Do you think the Natalee Holloway case influences the opinions?

MICHAEL LOPEZ, GARY GIORDANO'S ATTORNEY: I think it has something to do with it.

SAVIDGE: In what way?

LOPEZ: They haven't found Natalee as yet. So I think this is an ongoing investigation and they want to try to keep him also for a long time here.

SAVIDGE: Do you think your client suffers as a result of the cloud of suspicion from that case previous?

LOPEZ: My personal feeling, yes.

SAVIDGE: Do you think his rights are violated?

LOPEZ: Definitely.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Obviously Aruban law is very different than the U.S. law. He wouldn't be able to be held this long without some sort of charges being brought. But do you think he has a point there in terms of the Natalee Holloway case influencing this one?

SAVIDGE: Oh, yes, a lot of people think that he has a point with that. They think that may really be the real driving force here that's going on. And not to demean the legal system for Aruba but as we know that case with Natalee Holloway was never resolved.

A lot of suspicion placed on the Aruban authorities for not prosecuting it properly, maybe even bungling the case. Six years later, another American goes missing? This is a very popular destination for American tourists. You don't want to turn them away.

So they do not want to look soft when it comes to figuring out what happened to Robyn Gardner. Does Gary Giordano pay the price? His attorney says yes.

COOPER: Martin Savidge, appreciate the reporting. Thanks, Martin.

"Crime and Punishment," ahead tonight, a big day in court for American Amanda Knox who's been fighting her murder conviction. An Italian judge denying a request by the prosecution and that could help her appeal in a big, big way. In fact her dad is hopeful she'll be coming home soon.

My interview with him coming up. First let's check up with Susan Hendricks in the "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a deadly day in Hamm, Syria. Human rights activists say at least two dozen people were killed there today. They report tanks and heavy gunfire in the city.

Now CNN cannot independently confirm these reports because the Syrian government has repeatedly denied our requests to report from inside the country.

A charter plane crashes on takeoff from a Russian airport, killing at least 43 people. Most onboard were members of a Russian hockey team. Several had played in the NHL. They were heading to Belarus for a match.

Polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs has filed a handwritten motion asking for a new trial in Texas. That is where he was convicted last month of sexually assaulting two underage girls who he claimed were his, quote, "spiritual wives." Jeffs claimed his rights to practice his religious beliefs were violated.

And finally, San Diego Police, they're searching for a Gumby bandit. There he is. A man dressed as the '60s TV character attempted to rob a 7-Eleven store.

Not really inconspicuous, right?

He claimed to have a gun but got tangled up at his costume. Never showed it.

He only got away, Anderson, with some loose change.

COOPER: How would you even hold a gun with Gumby hands? I don't even know. I don't understand.

HENDRICKS: Where's Pokey? That's what I'm wondering.

COOPER: It doesn't get stranger than that. Susan, thanks. We'll check in with you shortly. Time for tonight's shot. Let's head to Indonesia. Check this video out we found on Youtube.

Wow. It's called flare surfing. Those are flames coming off the guy's surfboard, never seen this before. It looks even cooler at night, take a look at this. American daredevil surfer Bruce Irons pulled off this stunt in the Indian Ocean.

Please kids do not try this at home. He had to keep the back of his board above the water so he didn't extinguish the flare. Again, please do not try this at home. It looks amazing, but doesn't look like a wise idea unless you're a professional.

Anyway, let's check in with Piers Morgan, a look at what's coming up in "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." Piers --

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Thanks, Anderson. Coming down to what could be the most crucial speech of the Obama presidency. Tonight, I'm talking to two men who have strong opinions about the future of this country.

Tom Friedman says the president like Tiger Woods he's off his game and he says China is America's frenemy. I'll ask him what it will take to solve the jobs crisis.

Plus Rudy Giuliani, why he says President Obama should be more like Bill Clinton. Whether he thinks America is safer now since 9/11. That more at the top of the hour. Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: Piers, thanks a lot. Up next tonight, a major development in Amanda Knox's appeal. She's serving time in prison in Italy for a murder she says she didn't commit. This case has been going up for four years now. Today, a judge sided with her defense team on a key issue and her dad says prosecutors have no case left. I'll talk with him coming up.

Also tonight, terror in the dust with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks just days away. We're going to talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta tonight on his investigation into the dangerous dust at the World Trade Center site on its effect on all those brave rescue workers and first responders who worked there for so many months.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: More "Crime and Punishment" in Italy. The murder case against Amanda Knox may be unraveling. A judge today rejected the prosecution's request for new DNA testing. A welcome victory for the former college student, she is fighting her conviction for killing her British roommate Meredith Kercher.

Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were found guilty in 2009. Two years after Kercher's partially clad body was discovered in the house. They shared in Perugia, the DNA evidence used in the original trial has since been called into question.

And without the ability to retest, prosecutors are left with little tying Knox in the crime. So how was she convicted in the first place? That's really a good question to ask. Critics say it was a badly handled investigation by a prosecutor who rushed to judgment.

His name is Giuliano Menini. Earlier this year, Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit traveled to Perugia for a rare interview with Menini, one that quickly revealed the weakness of his case and the mistaken arrest of Amanda Knox's boss even though he was working at his own bar on the night of the murder. Here's Drew's report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN'S SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT (voice-over): Police apparently didn't bother to check the facts about Lamumba. They immediately arrested Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, and Patrick Lamumba for the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Menini and police announcing to the public, case solved. Giuliano Mignini admitted to us, even without any evidence, he knew almost the moment he arrived and laid eyes on Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, they were involved in the murder.

Prior to the forensic investigation, prior to everything, really, your intuition or your detective knowledge led you to Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito?

GIULIANO MIGNINI, PROSECUTOR (through translator): After the first few weeks, we were convinced because of the behavior of the two people and especially Amanda, that they were both involved in the crime.

GRIFFIN: But almost immediately after the arrests, Mignini had a problem. The third suspect, Patrick Lamumba, had an air tight alibi. He was in his bar that night. He could not have been involved. Then the actual forensic tests came back.

DR. GREG HAMPIKIAN, IDAHO INNOCENCE PROJECT: When I looked at it, I was horrified.

GRIFFIN: Greg Hampikian is a forensic biologist at Boise State University and director of Idaho's Innocence Project. He also is working with the Knox defense team. He says Italian investigators did a good job processing the crime scene, collected excellent evidence, but clung to shakier evidence that proved their theory, a classic error say Hampikian.

A prosecutor who trusted his gut feeling instead of the science that at that time was pointing to another suspect.

HIMPIKIAN: When the DNA's finally processed, it's not any of their suspects. So what do you do? What would you do? You let them go.

GRIFFIN: As Patrick Lamumba was being released from jail, investigators analyzing the bloody evidence left at the crime scene found an entirely new suspect, his name, Rudy Gaday, a known petty criminal from the Ivory Coast who fled to Germany shortly after the murder.

It turns out Gaday's hand print, made in Meredith Kercher's own blood, was found in the victim's room. Gaday's DNA found inside the victim's body, in her vagina. His DNA on her clothing, on her purse, his feces even found on used toilet paper left near an unflushed toilet down the hall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Knowing all of that, when he finally got extradited from Germany back down to Italy, we thought, thank God this is over.

GRIFFIN: It wasn't. Giuliano Mignini would stick to his instincts, despite the forensic evidence.

MIGNINI: I did what I did because I was convinced, given the evidence that had been gathered, that they were responsible. I am absolutely convinced.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Rudy Gaday, the African drifter was convicted in the murder of Meredith Kercher and Gaday also fingered Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox as his accomplices even though he never met Sollecito and barely knew Knox.

Closing arguments are going to be held at the end of this month and Amanda Knox's family is very, very hopeful. Meanwhile, Knox is serving a 26-year sentence in that Italian prison. After the judge's ruling her father, Curt Knox said he's confident she will be home soon. I spoke to Mr. Knox, who's in Italy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Mr. Knox, today's ruling that the prosecution cannot introduce new DNA evidence against your daughter Amanda, that's very good news for her, isn't it?

CURT KNOX, AMANDA KNOX'S FATHER: Well, actually, the circumstances are such that they cannot ask for another independent review of the DNA evidence. The court already appointed its own independent experts and they came back with a result that was not favorable to the prosecution.

So I think what they were trying somewhat of a desperate move today to say, we want another DNA review so that it can hopefully come back to our benefit.

COOPER: The thing I can't wrap my mind around, though, if the DNA evidence isn't credible, how did things get to this point? How -- why has this gone on so long?

KNOX: Well, that's a question that I think a lot of people are going to be asking for some time to come. But when you take a look at the very first trial and the negative character assassination that Amanda experienced and the media exposure and then from what we have heard associated to first trials here in Italy, a lot of it is related to emotion.

And when you look at the actual forensic evidence, when you take a look at what the police were saying, which is literally 180 degrees different than what the defense was saying about the forensic evidence, and not have an independent review during the first trial, you can see how the result came out as-is.

COOPER: How do you get through something like this as a family? This is -- you're many miles away. Obviously, you're in Italy now but your daughter was overseas, you were back in America. How do you get through something like this?

KNOX: Well, you know, it's really been a team effort. It's one where Amanda has been extraordinarily strong. And it's one that, you know, we as her family try to live up to what she has been able to accomplish.

And not, you know, drowning in despair in prison, but trying to stay upbeat as possible. But, you know, having your freedom taken away for four years for something that you haven't done is an incredible situation. And she's an incredible young lady.

COOPER: How is she doing now? I mean, is she optimistic that she's going to be exonerated?

KNOX: You know, today was definitely a very positive step in that direction. It's a circumstance where each day is a challenge in prison for her, but being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel I think is something that is going to continue to give her strength and hopefully carry her through the end of this month and hopefully on her way home.

COOPER: And do you see a light at the end of the tunnel here?

KNOX: I do from a pure case standpoint. When you take a look at the forensic evidence and you use just pure common sense of how horrific that scene must have been, in the room where Meredith lost her life, and to have nothing of your person, no spit, no saliva, no blood, no skin cells, no hair.

When you take a look at the fact that there's nothing in the room of Amanda or Raffaele with the exception of what the police are saying are the two pieces of evidence, which was the knife and the bra clasp. Those are the only things that per se put Amanda and Raffaele in the room.

And to have those kind of be, quote, "shot down" by the independent experts and saying that they were potentially contaminated or you can't even read the DNA reading there, and it should have never even been used.

It leads you down a path of saying, what other answer can they come up with except acquitting the two of them? But until they actually say those words, you know, we're kind of still holding our breath.

COOPER: Curt Knox, I appreciate your time and my best to you and your family.

KNOX: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Coming up, 10 years ago first responders jumped into the rubble of the World Trade Center searching for survivors, trying to recover those who didn't survive. Tonight, Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates the health effects of their heroics in his new documentary "Terror in the Dust." A preview just ahead.

And dozens of wildfires continue to rage tonight across Texas. New fears of people trapped in one devastating blaze as hundreds join the search for survivors. We'll have the latest from the frontlines when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The anniversary of 9/11, of course, is coming up. Ten years, as New York's ground zero lay smoldering that morning, first responders from across the city, across the whole area, rushed to the scene.

Diving into a cloud of toxic dust, they raked the rubble for survivors. Never realizing the true danger perhaps they faced or maybe they did know it but they were determined to continue to work anyway.

There was asbestos, mercury from fluorescent lightbulbs, noxious fumes from burning jets. Exposure to poisons like these has led to several health problems for many on the front lines.

Now in the 10th anniversary of the attacks, our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is investigating the consequences of that toxic dust. His documentary "Terror in the Dust" premiers tonight on CNN.

He joins us now with a preview. You actually have brought with you dust from ground zero. Where did you get it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been research going on for some time. A lot of this dust was collected at the time because there was some thought that, what is in this dust? Is this potentially toxic? Let's analyze it in some way.

So this is it and it is something that's kept in a cold room at a university and they have analyzed it. Just to your point, Anderson, it has all kinds of things in it in strange mixtures. Benzene mixed with titanium mixed with jet fuel, asbestos, all these things put together in a way that was wholly unique.

They've never seen it quite like this, all forced together. Even this dust, which I found striking, is not the complete picture. At the time of these attacks, there were these volatile compounds as well that people were breathing in the air.

There was that acrid smell people talked about. A lot of these things evaporated. They dissipated into the atmosphere, and they could not be collected like this dust. So this is as complete a picture as we can probably get about what was getting into people's bodies at that time.

COOPER: And last -- I think it was last week we reported on this "Lancet" study that shows that there is evidence of increased cancer amongst first responders, amongst firefighters who responded in the wake of ground zero. It's remarkable to me that treatment is still not going to be paid for at this point.

GUPTA: It's striking to me and it's so controversial. We've seen examples of these sorts of controversies entering into the world of medicine and health before. But what's so striking is a lot of the doctors caring for these patients who have cancer are telling the patients, we believe that this is due to the inhaling of toxic substances of ground zero.

COOPER: This would enter through someone's lungs, through someone's mouth and go down into --

GUPTA: That's what they believe. They believe the mechanism is it enters into the lungs. You can understand why respiratory disease is something that could happen. But they also believe that when that gets into the body, it causes this inflammation in the body almost like an auto immune process.

And that inflammation ultimately is the genesis of many different cancers. So it gets into the lungs and people have described it causing an incredible irritation in the airway as you see there.

And that's what they believe sets off potential auto immune problems and cancers down the line. But again, it is striking that even in July of this year, they said cancers are not covered under the bill no, compensation is provided. This study that you're talking about could potentially change that.

COOPER: You would think 10 years on that that would be enough time to be able to gather enough evidence of the medical effects.

GUPTA: What's interesting here is they did see an increase in cancer rates as you mentioned. What they also say is that it has been such a short time that as the 15-year mark, 20-mark and so on, that you may see a much higher increased risk of cancer than we even believed at the time.

What I think is important here, this comes up all the time is that there are people right now who need care. But there are also people out there who probably should know that if this does cause an increase in cancer, they should be getting screened.

They should potentially try to find these problems early because there's a lot of lives that can be saved and prolonged if the science becomes more clear.

COOPER: We should point out. You're going to be returning obviously that jar of ground zero dust back to the researchers?

GUPTA: Yes, this is considered -- it's sacred to some extent, as well as scientific. Absolutely, it's going to be returned. This is something they wanted us to show. It's thankfully one of the few reminders of what happened on that day.

COOPER: Sanjay, appreciate it. Sanjay's special, the full investigation on the fallout from 9/11, with never before seen footage of the aftermath of the disaster. This is in Sanjay's documentary "Terror in the Dust" tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Let's check in with Susan Hendricks again for some of the other stories we're following in the "360 News and Business Bulletin." Susan --

HENDRICKS: Anderson, we're in Texas today. An elite task force joined the search for people who may be trapped in that Bastrop County wildfire. Hundreds of homes literally wiped out in seconds. Dozens of wildfires have rained across Texas for nearly 300 days, charring some 120,000 acres in the last week alone.

Authorities in Nevada say they don't know why a gunman opened fire at an IHOP yesterday killing himself and four other people. His name, Eduardo Sencion. He's 32 years old. He shot 11 people in all. Of those killed three were members of the Army National Guard.

On Wall Street stocks rallied today breaking a three-day losing streak. The Dow added 276 points. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also showed some gains as well.

Check this out. It may be her most outrageous look yet. Yes, that is Lady Gaga. She will appear in the October issue of "Harper's Bazaar" almost completely without any makeup. Still, she says she wouldn't call it natural, saying this, quote, "Artifice is the new reality anyway." She looks great.

COOPER: Cool. Susan, thanks very much.

Coming up, a college freshman says his new shoes gave him blisters and we winds up in the "Ridiculist," You've got to see this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist." And tonight we're adding two shoe companies, Rainbow and Sperry. Now personally I have nothing against them, but a freshman at Virginia Tech certainly does. He calls himself Lance Diamond though I don't think that's really his name.

That actually sounds like a porn name, but anyway. This freshman is upset at these shoe companies because they made flip-flops and slip-on shoes he's claiming completely ruined his first week of college. He explains the whole saga in a long rant he posted on Youtube.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no warning label. Apparently you have to break them in. So unbeknownst to me I wore them for the whole first day of class for eight hours. I got some serious damage to the bottom of my left and right foot. Here comes exhibit "A," my right foot. As you can see, there's a large blister.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The video goes on for a full 6-1/2 minutes of that sort of stuff in which the freshman recounts in painstaking detail how not breaking in his shoes has ruined the college experience for him and he wants compensation. He used the word millions, which might sound like a lot of money for getting blisters from brand-new shoes.

But before you judge, wait until you hear about his pain and sufferings. He says his foot blisters have prevented him from becoming the quote-unquote "frat star" he wants to be. Yes, if there are two words I think of when I see this young man, it's frat star.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't even leave my dorm room. For the first two days, I was confined to my room. I missed class. I was going to give blood, but I couldn't make it to give blood because of my damn feet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Fear not, he ended up giving blood. Yes, he did. Mr. Shoe company executives, the blood he gave was pooled in his shoes thereby ruining a pair of socks, which he seems to be more than just a little bit fond of.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's blood on my Polo socks. They feel like they make those -- out of magical cotton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Magical cotton. Ralph Lauren must be thrilled with this young man's endorsements. The shoe companies not so much. He's thinking about suing unless his demands are met. His demands, he wants his money back. He wants 15 free pairs of shoes, and like all people suing someone else he says he's doing it because he doesn't want anyone else to have to go through the hell he has gone through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want a warning label on both pairs of shoes from now, on signed with my signature on the bottom of it so that they know I'm responsible for saving lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes, saving lives. You may have noticed by now our life-saving hero is looking kind of pale like maybe his blood sugar is low. He says the blisters make it hurt too much to go to the dining hall so he has to sit alone in his dorm room and eat dry ramen noodles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may be asking why is he eating ramen noodles dry? Well, I can't even make it to the damn microwave down the hall because I'm get blood all over the floor because if I walk 10 feet the blisters pop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: First of all, finish chewing. Second of all, point in case? I think it's case in point. I hope this kid isn't an English major so maybe he can learn to speak correctly. Take his ramen noodles to the microwave for him? The roommate is long gone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My roommate left. You know why he left? Because he doesn't like feet and all he needed to look at all day was the gross blisters on my feet. He's a great guy, he's from Kuwait.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: OK, a little too much information, but I feel your pain, I really do. Look on the bright side. Your feet will heal. Even without leaving your dorm room you're already learning a lot in college. I think you're going to excel in economics for instance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I paid $120 for these things. I could have gotten 120 McChickens from McDonald's. I love McChickens, 120 McChickens, a stupid pair the flip-flops and spares.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes, let's be real. Rainbow and Sperry, just give the guy the millions already because I cannot stand to listen to this video any longer. You will never get those first few days of college back. I'm guessing, he won't get his roommate back. I think he's going back to Kuwait because who would want to look his foot blisters all day. And if you don't pay up, you might be subjected to another blistering attack on the Ridiculist, or at least on this guy's Youtube channel.

That does it for this edition of "360." We'll see you again at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN" starts now.