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Republicans Debate; President Obama to Unveil Jobs Plan

Aired September 7, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It is 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

And breaking news from out west at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. That's where the Republican presidential hopefuls have just wrapped up a debate, the first since Texas Governor Rick Perry joined the race, his first national debate and probably the first chance that millions of voters have had to get to know him.

Almost from the get-go, he jumped to the top of the polls. And almost from the beginning tonight, his opponents jumped on him.

Here's a portion of the debate starting with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Governor Perry squaring off.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created in four years in Massachusetts.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Texas is a great state. Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right to work state, a Republican legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground.

Those are wonderful things, but Governor Perry doesn't believe that he created those things. If he tried to say that, well, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.


PERRY: Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.


ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Throw out the current tax code, a 9 percent tax on corporate income, a 9 percent tax on personal income and a 9 percent national sales tax. If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent ought to be good enough for the federal government.


JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hate to rain on the parade of the Lone Star governor, but as governor of Utah, we were the number-one job creator in this country during my years of service. That was 5.9 percent when you were creating jobs at 4.9 percent.

And to my good friend Mitt, 47th just ain't going to cut it, my friend, not when you can be first.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One thing I know is that kids need jobs. And Obamacare is clearly leading to job-killing regulations, not job-creating regulations.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, HOST, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Congresswoman, thank you.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact that President Obama doesn't come to the Reagan Library to try to figure out how to create jobs, doesn't talk to any of these three governors to learn how to create jobs, doesn't talk to Herman Cain to learn how to create jobs tells you that this is a president so committed to class warfare and so committed to bureaucratic socialism that he can't possibly be effective in jobs.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's eight of us up here. I'm a physician, but you sure weren't going to ask me any medical question. But I would like to address that just a little bit.

First off, you know, the governor of Texas criticized the governor of Massachusetts for Romneycare, but he wrote a really fancy letter supporting Hillarycare. So we probably ought to ask him about that.

PERRY: I kind of feel like the pinata here at the party, so...



COOPER: Well, joining us now, senior political analyst David Gergen, Democratic strategist and Obama 2008 pollster Cornell Belcher and Erick Erickson, editor in chief of

So, Erick, who do you think came out on top in all this?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: I think Romney and Perry both. It's very clear that this is a two-man race now. Perry stumbled. It's very clear he wasn't that comfortable with the format. Mitt Romney has been in the dog and pony show like this since 2007. Perry is just getting in.

But there wasn't a major stumble I think to throw Perry off. And I for the longest time hesitated saying he actually is the front- runner just because the polls say so. But clearly the pile-on tonight by everyone else shows that they all perceive him as the front-runner.

And I don't think they knocked him off tonight, but he definitely needs to get on his game a little better than he did than tonight.

COOPER: Cornell, as Governor Perry himself said, he felt like the pinata there. Were his opponents effective at stemming his momentum?

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: I think there are a couple of things about this.

I think the lead will be Ponzi scheme. I think the Romney camp is already sort of jumping on it.


COOPER: Explain that, what Romney said.


BELCHER: Well, Perry referred to Social Security as a giant Ponzi scheme and basically -- and when given the opportunity to say, well, Dick Cheney doesn't even think it's a Ponzi scheme, he thinks it's an important program, he didn't back away from it. He went all in on the idea that Social Security has been bad from the beginning and is a giant Ponzi scheme, which quite frankly, you know, it is just that Middle America doesn't think that it's a Ponzi scheme.

And I think when you talk about his electability I think the Romney camp has got a real opening here to say to the Republican voters, look, this guy is not electable with this sort of thinking that is outside American mainstream.

I think that was a major stumbling block here. The other part I want to say about Michele Bachmann, because I have been bullish about Michele Bachmann, she's had a really rough week with Ed Rollins and some others pulling back. She didn't do anything. She did nothing tonight to sort of put herself back into the conversation with Mitt Romney and Perry. I thought she would try to do that tonight. She failed at that this evening.

COOPER: I want to play what you heard about the -- from Romney that Cornell was just referencing. Let's play that sound bite.


ROMNEY: I will make sure that we keep the program and we make it financially secure. We save Social Security.

And under no circumstances would I ever say by any measure it's a failure. It is working for millions of Americans, and I will keep it working for millions of Americans. And we've got to do that as a party.


HARRIS: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Perry, a 30-second rebuttal. Governor Romney said Vice President Cheney is right and you're wrong about Ponzi schemes.

PERRY: Well, here's -- again, we're not trying to pick fights here.

HARRIS: Understood.

PERRY: We're about fixing things. You can either have reasons or you can have results. And the American people expect us to put results in place.

You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme. It is. That is what it is. Americans know that, and regardless of what anyone says, oh, it's not -- and that's provocative language -- maybe it's time to have some provocative language in this country and say things like, let's get America working again and do whatever it takes to make that happen.


COOPER: David, what did you think of Rick Perry in this debate?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he certainly livened things up, didn't he, Anderson?

I thought that intellectually Mitt Romney got the better of him. He was more articulate on many occasions. But Governor Perry brings a muscularity to the debate that I think will appear to an awful lot of voters. There's sort of a decisive quality about him that I don't think you see so much. And he doesn't back down easily.

I can certainly understand why he appeals to a lot of voters and why this is going to be a very, very interesting race. I thought he was calm and confident for a candidate who hasn't debated in five years. But I thought the two of them they appeal to different kind of voters. Romney much more middle of the road tonight in that sense, but Perry has that appeal. I also thought Jon Huntsman had his best debate tonight. He finally got some traction.

COOPER: I know, Erick, you want to talk about the Ponzi scheme.

ERICKSON: Yes. I understand what Cornell is saying. And I think that works well in a general elections, but for a Republican primary,. for Mitt Romney to say that having millions of Americans, several generation, dependent on the government for their retirement is definitionally a success, maybe that will work in a general election, but for a Republican primary, I think that hurts him.

Ultimately, what this is about for me, when I heard Mitt Romney say that, it was much more of an articulate answer than what Rick Perry gave, and probably a stronger point by point answer than what Perry gave, but it also was an answer that plays it too safe in a Republican primary this year.

Mitt Romney strikes me as a candidate for another season, not for this season.

COOPER: That's interesting. Cornell, do you think Romney is playing too safe?

BELCHER: No, I don't think he's playing too say. I think it's an interesting strategy that I think he's going to try to make with the Ponzi scheme is the strategy that, look, this guy is not electable.

And I agree with David. He uses real strong rhetoric but not a lot of specifics. When there's a big six or seven people on the stage, I think he can get away with a lot of that rhetoric and no specifics. But as it shrinks down, he's clearly going to have to get better at some of the specifics, which he didn't do this evening.

COOPER: Well, David, it was interesting because Romney clearly tried to define himself tonight as the job creator of the candidates. We have heard him say this a lot on the trail. Let's just listen to what he said tonight.


ROMNEY: The policies that will get us working again as a nation are policies I understand having worked in the private sector.

Look, if I had spent my whole life in government, I wouldn't be running for president right now. My experience, having started enterprises, having helped other enterprises grow and thrive, is what gives me the experience to put together a plan to help restructure the basis of America's economic foundation so we can create jobs again, good jobs, and compete with anyone in the world.

This country has a bright future. Our president doesn't understand how the economy works. I do, because I have lived in it.


COOPER: I mean, do you think he made that case tonight well? Do you think that holds up under scrutiny? Because there are those who say, well, look, for years in campaigns back in Massachusetts when he ran against Kennedy, he was hammered for some of the work he did for Bain in private equity which actually ended up in people losing their jobs.

GERGEN: I think for the purposes of the next few months, Anderson, he's now put out his plan. And I thought he was stronger tonight as a result of it.

He put out an economic plan yesterday. It's quite lengthy. He's composed a very good group of counselors, economic counselors, that I think he's going to be well served by. I think -- I have to give him credit for that. I think he's in better shape than he was a few months ago. But it's still true that Perry can come after him and say, look, I'm the governor. I'm running for an office where you have to help create jobs or create provide an environment where jobs flourish. I have done that in Texas. And Perry's got -- that's what makes the sort of head on head. I think this thing's probably going to narrow down some. They're going to be going head on head. It's going to make a much more interesting race.

COOPER: Erick, Cornell mentioned Michele Bachmann, saying he didn't think she did anything tonight. I just want to play some of what she said.


BACHMANN: Obamacare is killing jobs. We know that from the non- partisan Congressional Budget Office. But I know it first-hand from speaking to people.

We see it this summer. There are 47 percent of African-American youth that are currently without jobs, 36 percent of Hispanic youth. I'm a mom. I have raised five biological kids and 23 foster kids in my home. One thing I know is that kids need jobs. And Obamacare is clearly leading to job-killing regulations, not job-creating regulations.


COOPER: Erick, the problems that she's had lately in dropping in the polls, is that a Michele Bachmann problem or is that a Rick Perry problem?


Michele Bachmann has dropped in the polls some because of this perception game of the gaffe-prone Michele Bachmann or the not doing what she needed to do on the campaign trail Michele Bachmann, prima donna images some in the press have put out there.

But largely it is a product of Rick Perry entering the race. She didn't really start following with a lot of momentum going down until Rick Perry got into the race because Republicans are mindful of their history. The last time someone went from the House of Representatives to the White House was in the 1800s. It's very, very hard for someone who's just run in a congressional district to run a national campaign.

COOPER: Right.

ERICKSON: And Perry for all intents and purposes has run in what could be a nation-state.

COOPER: I want to come back and talk more after the break.

Before we do, one quick note. We and the Tea Party Express are going to be hosting a Republican Party debate Monday night in Tampa, Florida, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, hosted by Wolf Blitzer.

In the meantime, Erick, Cornell, David, stick around.

President Obama says Americans are tired of political game- playing as he gets ready to lay out his job creation plan, but is Congress listening? Wait until you see about how much bickering lawmakers in both parties are doing and how little it is getting done. Will it stand in the way of a jobs package with 14 million Americans right now out of work?

We will talk about that and have breaking news on the plan itself, "Keeping Them Honest" next.


COOPER: Breaking news tonight: We are learning more about President Obama's job creation plan, our sources say it is growing, now about $400 billion, a mix of payroll tax cuts and incentives for hiring and spending on infrastructure, all of it reportedly to be paid for with offsetting budget cuts.

President Obama is going to lay the plan out tomorrow night to a joint session of Congress. It's safe to say he chose the location for more than just a good photo-op, trying to send a signal, he is, 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. 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 seems skeptical.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People are sick and tired of the nonsense and the political games.

We can't afford to play games.

Put the partisan games aside.

We're tired of the 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.


COOPER: Well, 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 a government shutdown. Then, with that 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.


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 have outlined, being our view of the political settings in the United States have been altered. We have taken them down a notch, taken the rating down a notch. The political brinkmanship we saw over raising the debt ceiling was something that was really beyond our expectation.


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?


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.


COOPER: Well, Congressman Joe Walsh there, he can't even bring himself to be in the same room with President Obama tomorrow night, nor can Congressman Paul Broun. He will 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, however you want to look at, what 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."

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 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 with the House under both Democratic and Republican control, doesn't matter, all averaged at three times that number. Nothing's 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 vital job to do.

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

Is there any way, David, the president can get 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: I don't know. You wonder, Anderson, whether those 13 percent, what in the world are they seeing that they like?


GERGEN: It's hard to know, isn't it? 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 have 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 have 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 have got to leave it there just for time.

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

Coming up on "Crime and Punishment." Will a man being 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.


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 2.

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 have 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 have 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 M.O. 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.


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.


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.

Up next 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 on 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. Going to talk with him coming up

Also tonight, "Terror in the Dust." With the tenth 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 and its effect on all those brave rescue workers and first responders who worked there for so many months.


COOPER: More "Crime & Punishment" tonight. In Italy, the murder case against American 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, as she is fighting her conviction for killing her British roommate, Meredith Kercher.

Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Rafael Sollecito, were found guilty in 2009, two years after Kercher's partially clad body was discovered 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 to 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 Mignini. Earlier this year, Drew Griffin of CNN's special investigations unit traveled to Perugia for a rare interview with Mignini, one that quickly revealed the weakness of his case and the mistaken arrest of Amanda Knox's boss, a guy named Patrick Lumumba, even though he was working at his own bar the night of the murder.

Here's Drew's report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police apparently didn't bother to check the facts about Lumumba. They immediately arrested Amanda Knox, Rafael Sollecito and Patrick Lumumba for the murder of Meredith Kercher, police announcing to the public, case solved.

Giuliani Mignini admitted to us, even without any evidence, he knew almost the moment he arrived and laid eyes on Amanda Knox and Rafael Sollecito, they were involved in the murder.

(on camera) Prior to the forensic investigation, prior to everything, really, your intuition or your detective knowledge led you to Amanda Knox and Rafael Sollecito?

GIULIANI 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 (voice-over): But almost immediately after the arrests, Mignini had a problem. The third suspect, Patrick Lumumba, 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.

GREG HAMPIKIAN, FORENSIC BIOLOGIST: 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, says Hampikian: a prosecutor who trusted his gut feeling instead of the science that at that time was pointing to another suspect.

HAMPIKIAN: 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 Lumumba was being released from jail, investigators analyzing the bloody evidence left at the crime scene found an entirely new suspect. His name? Rudy Guede, a known petty criminal from the Ivory Coast who fled to Germany shortly after the murder.

It turns out Guede's handprint, made in Meredith Kercher's own blood, was found in the victim's room. Guede'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.

CURT KNOX, AMANDA'S FATHER: Knowing all of that, and when you 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 (through translator): I did what I did because I was convinced, given the evidence that had been gathered, that they were responsible. I am absolutely convinced.


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

Opposing arguments for the appeals case are being held at the end of this month. 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 today her father, Curt Knox said he's confident she will be home soon. I spoke to Mr. Knox, who's in Italy.


COOPER: So 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?

KNOX: 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 the 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, is if the DNA evidence isn't credible how did things get to this point? 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 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 -- I mean, how do you get through something like this as a family? You know, I mean, this is -- you're many miles away. Obviously, you're in Italy now. But I mean, your daughter was overseas. You were back in America. And how do you -- 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's been able to accomplish and not, you know, drowning in despair in prison but trying to stay as 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 incredibly young lady.

COOPER: How is she doing now? 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 where -- 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, you know, the fact that there's nothing in the room of Amanda or Rafael, 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 Rafael 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, we're kind of still holding our breath.

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

KNOX: Thank you very much.


COOPER: Coming up tonight ten 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 people trapped in one devastating blaze as hundreds joined the search for survivors. I'll have the latest from the front lines when we continue.


COOPER: Well, 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 light bulbs, noxious fumes from burning jets. Exposure to poisons like these has led to several health problems for many on the front lines.

Now, on the tenth 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 CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been research going on for some time. So a lot of this dust was collected at the time, because there was some thought that, you know, what is in this dust? Is this potentially toxic? And, you know, let's analyze it in some way. So this is it.

I mean, and it is something that is 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. Benzine mixed with titanium mixed with jet fuel, asbestos, all these things put together as they described it to me wholly unique. They'd never seen it quite like this all forced together.

And even this dust, which I found striking, is not the complete picture. Because at the time of these attacks there was these volatile compounds, as well, that people were breathing in the air. It was that acrid smell people talked about.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: But a lot of those things evaporated. They dissipated in 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 I think it was last week or two weeks ago 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 their 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 sort of controversies entering into the world of medicine and health before.

But what's so striking is that, you know, a lot of the doctors who were caring for these patients who have cancer are telling the patients, "Look, we believe that this is due to the inhaling of toxic substances at Ground Zero."

COOPER: This would enter through someone's lungs, through someone's mouth, and then 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.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: But they also believe that when that gets into the body it causes this inflammation in the body almost like an autoimmune process. And that inflammation ultimately is the genesis of many different cancers.

So you know, it gets into lungs. People described it causing an incredible irritation in the airways, as you see there. And that's -- that's what they believe sets off potential autoimmune 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 Zadroga bill.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: No compensation is provided. This study that you're talking about could potentially change that.

COOPER: You would think ten 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. But what they also say is that it has been such a short time that at the 15-year mark, the 20-year mark and so on that you may see a much higher increased risk of cancer than we even believed at the time.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: And what I think is important here, and 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 -- did cause an increase in cancer, they should be getting screened. They should potentially try and find these problems early.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: Because there's a lot of lives that can be saved and prolonged if the science becomes more clear.

COOPER: Right. We should point out you're going to be returning, obviously, that jar of -- canister of dust back to the researchers.

GUPTA: Yes. This is considered, you know, sacred to some extent ,as well as scientific. And so absolutely, it's going to be returned. This was something they wanted us to share because it is one -- thankfully, one of the few reminders of what happened on that day.

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

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

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we're in Texas today. An elite task force joined the search for people who may be trapped in that Batstrop County wildfires. Hundreds of homes literally wiped out in seconds. Dozens of wildfires have raged 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.

And 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."

COOPER: Cool. Susan, thanks very much Coming up, a college freshman who says his new shoes gave him blisters, and he winds up on "The RidicuList." You've got to see this.


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 kind of sounds like a porn name.

But anyway, this freshman is already upset at these shoe companies, because they made the flip-flops and the slip-on shoes that he's claiming completely ruined his first week at college. He explains the whole saga in a long rant he posted on YouTube.


LANCE DIAMOND, COMPLAINING OF PROBLEMS WITH SHOES: There's no warning labels on the Sperrys. But apparently you have to break them in. So unbeknownst to me, I wore them for the whole first day of class, like eight hours. And I got some serious damage to the bottom of my left and right foot in the upper right quartile. Here comes exhibit A, my right foot. As you see, there is a large blister.


COOPER: Hmm. 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 suffering. You see, he says his foot blisters have prevented him from becoming the, quote unquote, "frat star" he wants to be. And yes, if there are two words I think of when I see this young man, it's frat star.


DIAMOND: 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.


COOPER: Fear not. He ended up giving blood. Oh, 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.


DIAMOND: There's blood on my Polo socks. Now, I don't know if you have Polo but they feel like they make those (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of magical cotton.


COOPER: Magical cotton. Ralph Lauren must be thrilled with this young man's endorsement. The shoe companies not so much. He's thinking about suing unless his demands are met.

His demands: well, he wants his money back. He wants 15 free pair of shoes. And like all people suing someone else for exorbitant sums of money, he says he's doing it because he doesn't want anyone else to have to go through the hell that he has gone through.


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


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


DIAMOND: You may be asking, "Well, why is he eating his ramen noodle dry?" Well, point in case being, I can't even make it to the damn microwave down the hall, because I'll get blood all over the floor. If I walk 10 feet, my blisters pop.


COOPER: First of all, finish chewing. Second of all, point in case? It's case in point. I hope this kid is an English major so maybe he can learn to speak correctly.

You may wonder why doesn't his roommate take his ramen noodles to the microwave for him? The roommate is long gone.


DIAMOND: My roommate left. You know why he left? Because he doesn't like feet. And all he had to look at all day was the gross blisters on the bottom of my feet. He's a great guy. He's from Kuwait.


COOPER: OK. A little too much information. But I feel your pain, foot blister guy. I really do. But look on the bright side: your feet will heal. And even without leaving your dorm you're already learning a lot in college. I think you're going to excel in economics, for instance. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: I paid $120 for these things. I could have gotten 120 McChickens from McDonald's. OK? Let's be real. A hundred chickens. A hundred and twenty McChickens, stupid pair of flip-flops and Sperrys.


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. He will never get those first few days of college back. I'm guessing he won't get his roommate back. I think he's gone back to Kuwait. Because who would want to look at 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's it for 360. Thanks for watching. Sanjay Gupta's documentary, "Terror in the Dust," is next.