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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Gingrich Releases 2006 Freddie Mac Contract; The Battle for Florida; The Power of the Super PACs; Deadly Tornado Hits Alabama
Aired January 23, 2012 - 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: Erin, we begin tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," with breaking news on several fronts in the battle for Florida.
Newt Gingrich, a short time ago, trying to take a campaign trail weapon out of Mitt Romney's hands -- the allegation Speaker Gingrich is a big Beltway influence peddler. Now, that's the allegation. And the Romney campaign spent all day making it, calling on Speaker Gingrich to reveal his consulting contract with mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Tonight, Speaker Gingrich's lobbying firm did just that -- but only partially, releasing one year of a multiyear deal. What they released is raising questions, namely, just what is it Gingrich was paid an estimated $1.7 million to do.
That's not the only breaking news tonight. Reports as well tonight out of Las Vegas that billionaire Gingrich friend, Sheldon Adelson, is writing a second $5 million check to finance the anti- Romney effort by the super PAC supporting Speaker Gingrich. All this as new polling shows Mitt Romney's lead evaporating in Florida and basically gone nationwide.
Take a look at Gallup's latest tracking poll, shows a virtual Romney-Gingrich dead heat. Now that's a sharp change from just last week before this weekend's South Carolina Gingrich blowout victory.
Those numbers could and -- could and almost certainly will change. But for now, the trend is so worrying to the Romney forces, they're doing what frontrunners rarely do, attacking the challenger, not through surrogates as they have in the past or through super PACs but directly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While Florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in. Gingrich was paid over $1.6 million by the scandal-ridden agency that helped create the crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that new ad was straight from the Romney campaign, and this earlier today was straight from the stump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm calling on Speaker Gingrich again to do two things, one, release all of the work product associated with his work at Freddie Mac and also return the funds that he made from Freddie Mac.
I wouldn't have normally suggested that other than he was the one that said if you made money on this failed model that you ought to return that money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Within hours of that, the Gingrich people released the 2006 contract. Now you'll recall he's struggled in the past to explain the work he did for Freddie Mac and to reconcile what appears to be beltway insider buck raking with his anti-beltway establishment campaign.
This is what he said back in November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do know lobbying and I offered advice. And my advice as a historian when they walked in and said to me, we are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that's what the government wants us to do.
I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So tonight, one year of the contract is out. Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger has the late details on it.
So the contract doesn't really tell us much -- much of anything really. It's got a one line description of Gingrich's job to provide, quote, "consulting and related services."
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
COOPER: Seems to be kind of -- that's not really much of any kind of a description.
BORGER: Well, it's a little vague. And the contract, by the way, is with the Gingrich group, it's not with Newt Gingrich himself. But that exhibit 2, as it's called, about what he was supposed to do for Freddie Mac is vague. And it seems to me that when you have a one-sentence agreement for $300,000 a year contract seems to me that he was probably hired to be some kind of senior counselor, to be available when they needed him, to offer advice, perhaps.
But it's very unclear, and you know, in Washington, lots of agencies, lots of firms, businesses hire people who were once very powerful in Congress to kind of be available to them, if you will, for strategic advice. Now the question that I have in reading this is, what kind of strategic advice was he giving. We've heard Newt Gingrich what he -- what he said in that debate him in the clip you played.
But there's also a quote from him on Freddie Mac's Web site from 2007, in which he says, that I'd be very careful about changing the model for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. So he's been a little inconsistent, Anderson. And I think that this still leaves the opening for the Romney campaign to go after him and say, exactly what did you do for Freddie Mac?
COOPER: Well, also, earlier this month, the Gingrich campaign said that Freddie Mac basically wouldn't let them release the contract, then Freddie Mac said, no, no, go right ahead, no problem with that. We're not blocking the release of the -- of the contract.
COOPER: Now the Gingrich campaign is once again saying that they can't release any more information of this because of Freddie Mac.
BORGER: Right. Well, I spoke with a spokeswoman for the Gingrich group. And I sort of pressed her on whether they had pressed Freddie Mac to release more information, and she wouldn't characterize it one way or another. She did say to me that the reason we only have one year, by the way, of a consulting relationship that went on for about six years, is that they can't find some of the other contracts because they changed management at the Gingrich group, but she did say these are self-renewing contracts and they're pretty standard.
But how hard Gingrich pushed to release, for example, what the Romney campaign wants, which is, you know, internal communication and more than this, we don't know.
BORGER: She did point out, however, that they're governed by non-disclosure agreements that they did sign with attorneys.
COOPER: All right. Gloria, appreciate the reporting. Thanks a lot.
COOPER: A lot of talk about the contract, the money, new polling, especially the implications of another Gingrich primary victory next Tuesday. Let's talk about it to Democratic strategist James Carville joins us. Republican strategist, Bay Buchanan, who, we should mention, is advising the Romney campaign. Also David Webb, he's the founder of TeaParty365 and host of the "David Webb Show" on Sirius XM radio.
So, James, what do you make of this contract?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it's a very -- I have a very simple solution. All Gingrich to do is write a letter to Freddie Mac saying release everything, contracts, memos, all the work I did. The taxpayers have bailed this company out for some -- hundred gazillion dollars. He's running for president of the United States. It's a simple thing. Full transparency and disclosure. That's all Gingrich has to do and if Romney had any kind of campaign, he'd be on that, like we say in Louisiana, gravy on rice.
COOPER: Does the ambiguity of --
CARVILLE: They're clueless.
COOPER: Does the ambiguity of what his services are, does that raise any questions for you or is that standard, do you think?
CARVILLE: You know that this company paid him over $1.5 million, you know there's contracts, you know there's memos, you know there's meetings. This company was also bailed out by the U.S. taxpayer. How simple can it be for him to write them a letter saying, I released myself from any non-disclosure agreement and I want you to make all this public. And do that and you see everything.
I mean -- you just got to do that one simple thing. This is a -- this is a taxpayer propped up entity here. And anything about a non- disclosure agreement, you can get away -- you can rid of just as easy as you signed it.
COOPER: Bay, your --
CARVILLE: And Romney's --
COOPER: Sorry, go ahead --
CARVILLE: Go ahead. I'm sorry. Go ahead.
COOPER: Well, Bay, your candidate has some Freddie Mac issues of his own. He earned money from investment he made with them in the second half of 2007.
BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Made with whom? Freddie and --
COOPER: Freddie Mac.
BUCHANAN: Well, he -- he's the one. Mitt Romney has had no difficult explaining how he made his money. So I'm sure if somebody were to ask him what was the contract with Bain in that year. Now in fairness, I do believe he was gone from Bain in 2007. But fair enough, ask him what he did and he'll tell you what he did. He's been talking all along about what he did in the firm in Bain, and he talks about different companies and how some of them succeeded and some of them didn't.
He's been completely forthright. But James is absolutely correct. This is an important issue. We need to know what Newt did. He's been evading that question continually. Changes it. First he was hired as an historian, for goodness sakes. When nobody bought that line, he's been moving it a little bit. But if I was paid $25,000 a month, I know one thing, I'd be able to tell you why I was being paid.
COOPER: David, is this a big deal for you?
DAVID WEBB, FOUNDER, TEAPARTY365: Yes, it is, as far as the transparency, Anderson. I mean we've been asking for that from the Tea Party movement. And what Speaker Gingrich should do is what James suggested, write that letter releasing them from the NDA.
And as to the Romney issue, the difference is private capital versus public money. This institution has been bailed out with, what, over $160 billion. There has been no accountability. There has been too much failure. The housing crisis is what it is. One of the big problems that we have now.
I think it's fair that if we're going to elect a president, I -- on this one, I pick transparency over party, over candidate, that it all needs to be out there.
COOPER: James, I want to read to you something that Steve Schmidt said. Steve Schmidt, one of McCain's top adviser back in 2008. He said, and I quote, "If Newt Gingrich is able to win the Florida primary, you will see a panic and a meltdown of the Republican establishment that is beyond my ability to articulate in the English language."
CARVILLE: You know, I know Steve well. He came from my class in Tulane and he's a pretty blunt guy. You will -- I'll tell you what, if Romney doesn't win Florida, there's going to be enormous pressure on him to get out. These guys are not going to let this thing go to Newt Gingrich, I can tell you. And it's already -- I can assure you that conference calls are being arranged, memos are being exchanged and somebody has got a plan B going here.
And Romney is better -- he's got to show these people something here tonight on our network Thursday night, or he's going to be in real trouble.
COOPER: Bay, I know you think Mitt Romney's resources and infrastructure are going to give him the advantage in Florida. He's had the same advantages in South Carolina along with a lead in the polls and he still lost.
BUCHANAN: Yes. You know South Carolina was extraordinarily unusual. I was down there the week before, things were going crazy. I saw polls where people made their -- I think a majority of people made up their mind within the last two days, enormous sympathy, a lot of emotions going, people are teed off at the media, they bought what Mitt had to say, the accusation that was the media was outrageous and despicable.
So all this emotions comes into play. And he -- and it was always going to be a tough state for Mitt. We always knew Iowa and South Carolina were two tough ones. And so I can -- I can understand what happened in South Carolina. It's very unusual. In Florida, we've got a little more time, we're going to be very aggressive. I think you put Newt on the spot day in and day out, let's get him on the defense.
We took the spotlight off Newt, Anderson. We beat him so badly in Iowa and New Hampshire, we took the spotlight off of him. We got to go back on, we got to push and pressure him. And in the past, he's not done well when the light of day is showing. So we'll see what he does now.
COOPER: But, David, his big backer, Adelson, is now going to pony up another $5 million for his super PAC. That money was used to great effect in South Carolina buying an awful lot of ads that hammered Mitt Romney. Do you think it will have the same impact here in Florida? Do you think he can win in Florida?
WEBB: He's going to need to compete in three major markets. There are 10 markets in Florida. He needs this money. You know the infrastructure argument is going up against the message argument. The danger for Mitt Romney is although he's been in this state for months and he's done a very good job of organizing is that Newt can capture those votes from the message.
He's -- you know, he's tied himself now to Marco Rubio. He's got an extensive outreach to a lot of conservatives in the state. And Romney has to step up his game. Romney has to now capture the first thing that any politician has to do, Anderson, they have to get you to want to listen to them and pay attention.
And Romney has been running what I call more of a national strategy. Now he's got to think about a primary strategy, come out of Florida strong. That $5 million can make a difference. But Romney has got to step up his game to make up the real difference and expand his lead.
COOPER: James, do you think he can? I mean does he have the fire that Newt Gingrich has? And also, I mean, I guess working in his benefit is 30 percent of the early vote -- almost 30 percent of the early vote is already in.
CARVILLE: Romney's problem is he's terrible on his feet. He can't carry off an attack. He answers the wrong kind of question. He talks about $372 being pocket change. And when he -- you got to know that you can't do this kind of thing.
Unless this guy -- he's got to be a much better candidate. I never thought I'd say this in my life. But I agree with everything the Tea Party gentleman just said.
BUCHANAN: Yes, I do.
CARVILLE: I thought his analysis was on point and cogent. And that Romney people should be listening to it. But the -- the problem they have is they have everything but a candidate that's good on his feet. Now, you know, maybe he can -- maybe he can game up and maybe he can play tonight, maybe he can play Thursday night. But just got to -- he's got to be a lot better than he's been because he has not been very good and he's not been very good at attacking and he's not been very good at warding off attacks.
COOPER: To David Webb --
CARVILLE: He got Newt got him.
BUCHANAN: You know, Anderson, in fairness to Mitt Romney, he won most of every one of these debates. He has been extremely good, he's extraordinarily knowledgeable. He doesn't make mistakes --
COOPER: You're saying Mitt Romney won these debates?
BUCHANAN: In most of them. He didn't win the last one. But in fairness, the last one was all about five minutes.
COOPER: Well, I said the last two most people felt he didn't do badly on.
BUCHANAN: Well, the rest. But --
WEBB: But you know --
BUCHANAN: But neither that debate he did extraordinarily well and so did Santorum, but everybody focused on the first five minutes. That was all that it took. And Newt had that thing why -- but in fairness I agree that he needs to be a little tougher.
COOPER: But I think his n answer to the tax -- to releasing the tax question, I think that came way after the first five minutes.
COOPER: And I think that was one of the things that a lot of people are pointing to.
BUCHANAN: You are right. You're absolutely right.
BUCHANAN: That was a --
WEBB: Yes, and that didn't help him, Anderson. But here's the thing. Winning the debate is a subjective assessment. And that really doesn't carry, yes, is Mitt Romney clearly performed well in the debates, Gingrich had his moment, John King frankly should be getting Christmas gifts from Newt Gingrich for the rest of his life for that.
However, what matters in the long run is the debate at the polls. In South Carolina, where I talked to a lot of voters, I was down there also, they made their decision going into the polls, but they made it on that visceral gut reaction.
COOPER: Right. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
WEBB: Who they felt could bloody President Obama's nose, when in the long run, we've got to look at the general election, find a candidate that can actually step out there.
WEBB: Challenge and get conservatives and independents who will decide this election.
COOPER: We got to leave it there. David Webb, I don't know if you want to record the point where James Carville actually said he agreed with everything said.
WEBB: I think we should keep a copy of that, James.
COOPER: If you want to play it on your radio show or not, I'm not sure that's going to work for your or against you. But it's out there for you.
And David Webb, thank you.
CARVILLE: I got to. Yes, we got to call them like you see them.
COOPER: And James Carville, thanks. Bay Buchanan as well.
Let us know what you thin. We're on Facebook, Google Plus. Add us to your circles. Follow me on Twitter at Anderson Cooper. I'll be tweeting tonight. Just reached 2 million followers on Twitter so thank you for that.
Up next, the keys to winning Florida. John King walks us through it. Also the not-so-secret weapon in this race. Millions and millions of dollars being pumped into shadowy super PACS. People writing big checks, apparently getting some big results.
The question is, who if any one is regulating them?
We're "Keeping Them Honest".
And later Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' emotional day. Just over a year since she was shot nearly killed, we've watched her make incredible progress. Now she is stepping down from Congress. We'll talk about why. We'll talk to Sanjay Gupta.
Let's also check in with Isha. Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, here in the southeast, people are trying to salvage what they can after a powerful storm system did enormous damage. We'll tell you what happened and how people they are coping when "360" continues.
COOPER: Well, one week and one day from now, Newt Gingrich could do to Romney what he did in South Carolina. Now the poll seems to be trending in that direction but as we've seen before this race changes so quickly that a week and a day might just as well be a decade.
My question tonight, how do you win Florida and does a victory in South Carolina help?
John King breaks it down right now.
JOHN KING, ANCHOR, JOHN KING, USA: Anderson, we know Newt Gingrich won big in South Carolina. The map tells the story despite being out-spent by the Romney campaign. The dark red is the Romney campaign spending. The lighter red, Romney super PAC spending. More than $3.3 million combined in South Carolina, Gingrich wins big. That isn't stopping the Romney effort in Florida, though, from going up heavy with TV ads.
Let's start with the Romney campaign. You look at the ads here. You see Romney campaign. Now this is just campaign spending now you're seeing right now here. Now let's bring in that pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future. Notice a lot more ads up in this part of the state. Why does that matter? Restore Our Future doing mostly negative attacks on Newt Gingrich.
What do you have up here in this part of the state? This is a heavily conservative part of the state. The way people describe Florida is the further south you go, the further north you get. Meaning here bordering Georgia and Alabama, a lot of conservative voters, evangelical voters, Tea Party voters, the pro-Romney PAC going after them there.
A lot of spending here as well in Jacksonville. Why? That's a military community, a big important base for the Republican Party. You know this area here from St. Pete, Tampa, all the way over to Orlando. That's the I-4 corridor, heavy population center there. Republican voters more moderate voters critical to the Romney campaign.
You'll notice down here, this is the Naples Market down here. Again, retirees and military community very important.
Interesting, no spending as yet down in here. Miami, that's where you have a Cuban-American population, a lot of radio going on targeting them. A more expensive media market. Look for that over the next few days. Also a lot of retirees from the north in this area. Look for spending here as well.
Again, you see some circles. They might be a bit confusing. I just want to go back to the map of 2008 to show you what I mean. The orange is Mike Huckabee, social conservatives up there. This was a McCain-Romney battle in this part of the state down here. A lot of spending, the Romney campaign getting a head start. We do know, though, that the Gingrich campaign is about to buy ads. We'll see how that one plays out. Senator Santorum telling me today he might not spend TV money in Florida, he might wait, Anderson, for down the road a bit.
COOPER: Interesting. John, thanks.
Clearly Florida is a state of big media market, that means, as John just pointed out, spending big money. And for the first time in a presidential campaign, that means super PACs writing huge checks paying for attack ads. "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, though, who really controls these super PACs? Who can regulate them? Who can make them tell the truth?
Drew Griffin reports.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who has more baggage than the airlines? Rick Santorum, Washington insider, big spender.
GRIFFIN: They've been called the cancer on American politics, the embodiment of a broken and corrupt system. Super PACs. And if there is one man largely to blame for their rise in electoral power, it is James Bopp.
JOHN BOPP, ATTORNEY: I think that we have made significant progress on restoring the central meaning of -- and effect of the First Amendment.
GRIFFIN: To Bopp, free speech equals free spending in politics, no limits. And since there are limits on what individuals and corporations can give directly to a candidate, Bopp joined a group called Citizens United that took the fight for unlimited spending for a candidate all the way to the Supreme Court.
Advocacy groups that make up their own ads, make their own media purchases, and are free to take as much money from anyone as they want. The Supreme Court agreed, no limits. Bopp calls it free speech.
BOPP: This is a government of, by and for the people. It's not of, by and for the candidates or the news media, or the government.
GRIFFIN: In fact, the government can't do anything about it. How can that be? We went to the Federal Elections Commission, the place where candidates' finances are closely scrutinized. Commissioner Donald McGahn admits super PACs can do just about anything they want.
DONALD MCGAHN, FEC COMMISSIONER: Control is impossible because courts have already said that they're legal. So there's not much that the government can do to reign them in, so to speak.
GRIFFIN (on camera): If you were running for president, the most money I could give you would be $2500 for the primaries and another $2500 for the general election. A total of $5,000. But if you had a super PAC supporting you, why, I could give your super PAC literally millions and millions of dollars.
(Voice-over): I don't, but Foster Friess comes close. The retired investment fund president may not have a billion but he has lots and lots of millions and he's been giving freely to the super PAC behind the man he wants to be president. Rick Santorum.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Game on.
GRIFFIN (on camera): How much?
FOSTER FRIES, SANTORUM BACKER: Well, I -- it's like, I got to keep that from my wife. She could kill me if she really found out. I think I want to keep that kind of under the radar. It will be reported eventually. But I just believe in Santorum. I believe in what he can do for the country.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Under the super PAC rules, the Santorum supporting Red, White and Blue funds will eventually tell us how much Friess and others have donated. But on the very morning we met him, he was offering another half million dollars if Sportsman Across America would just match his donation.
FRIESS: Well, sure. One guy, they'll send $1 million check. Didn't know who he was, didn't call him, didn't contact them, bang, $1 million hits.
GRIFFIN: It's the kind of anonymous rich guy influence that makes Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center cringe.
PAUL RYAN, CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER: If you do agree with these decades-long principles and understandings that big contributions directly at candidates are a bad thing and potentially corrupting that these super PACs put us right back to the pre-Watergate era with that potential for corruption.
GRIFFIN: Friess thinks the rules and even the super PACs are not needed. He's like to give all his money right to Santorum him and let everyone know it. Even James Bopp admits we'd all be better off without super PACs. And of course without limits.
BOPP: You can't vote against for or against a super PAC but you can vote for or against the candidate. And it would be much better if this money went to candidates and -- from an accountability standpoint. And then, you know, the voter could decide.
GRIFFIN: The complaints or fears really so far revolve around what ifs, not what has actually happened. Paul Ryan is convinced what's about to happen is a wave of political corruption.
(On camera): Have you direct knowledge of corruption or you're anticipating that?
RYAN: No. I'm anticipating it.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Super PACs can be penalized if they failed to report in time or coordinate with a candidate but investigations are rare and finds are, well, minuscule.
Don McGahn says if you don't like the rules, it's easy to find the people who wrote them.
MCGAHN: As an FEC commissioner, I would say, go see the folks in the white dome, your elected representatives, and complain to them about whether or not the penalties are high enough, not the FEC.
GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: Drew's report is just one of the series that CNN is releasing this week. The network take an in depth look at money and politics, as I said, all week long.
A reminder, tomorrow is the State of the Union address. We've our coverage, special coverage right here on this program starting at 8:00 Eastern Time. Then the president's speech is at 9:00, the Republican response followed by 360 wrap-up and analysis live until midnight.
Coming up close, Congressman Gabrielle Giffords completes the "Congress on Your Corner" meeting in Tucson that she started just over a year ago. The event that changed her life. A last brave act as a member of Congress. She said she wanted to finish the event before she steps down.
We're going to take a close look at her long fight to recover from being shot in the head. We'll speak to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about how she's doing.
Also ahead, at least two people killed in a tornado near Birmingham, Alabama, more than 100 injured and tens of thousands without power. We'll go live to Alabama for the latest tonight.
COOPER: Deadly storms hit the southeast killing at least two people, injuring more than 100 and damaging homes and knocking out power to thousands. The National Weather Service confirms a tornado touched down in south central Arkansas with winds up to 135 miles an hour.
There were reports of possible tornadoes in Mississippi and Tennessee. One emergency management official in Arkansas said it looks like they dodged a bullet compared to the tornado damage in Alabama.
Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf joins us from Clay, Alabama with the latest.
So you're in clay. A tornado touched down there today. What's the latest, Wolf?
REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The latest that we have unfortunately, the worst news of all is the two fatalities that we had. A 16-year-old girl in this community that passed away, not in this precise subdivision, but in the community of Clay, Alabama and also in the area, there was a man who lost his life, 82 years old.
Those are the two that we know of at this time. I have to tell you that communication is still very poor around here. We've had some damage to some cell towers. Obviously, some telephone poles have been flattened.
But as we zoom out a bit, we've got photo journalist, Mike Callaway there. He's on the other side of the camera, if we can zoom out, let's show the Anderson and the rest of our viewers across America, the type of damage we're seeing in this community.
What's amazing with this, Anderson, if you look around this house, less than 24 hours ago, you had families here that were going to bed, maybe watching the football games last night, but they never in their wildest dreams knew that this kind of destruction was coming.
If you can, Mike, let's pan over towards that doorway. I want Anderson to see this. You'll see a sign that says mountaineer. Anderson, that's actually part of an RV. There was about, I'd say, about two or three blocks away that was picked up and thrown by winds topping 150 miles an hour that thrashed this subdivision.
A subdivision about 100 homes, but I can tell you about 25 to 30 of those completely demolished. These homes, many of them unlivable. It is a miracle you only had two people that lost their lives in this area because I'm telling you the winds that came through were just unbelievable.
Very few injuries and only one person had go to the hospital and other people thankfully were able to get to the lower rooms, away from the outside walls and were able to make their way through the storm -- Anderson.
COOPER: Reynolds, Clay is in Jefferson County, which has I think a history of really bad tornadoes going back to the '30s. This storm is unusual though for this time of year, right?
WOLF: It is kind of unusual. But I have to tell you, from a guy who grew up in Alabama. We've had tornadoes every single month, every single season of the year. But to have one this violent, this strong, move this quickly through parts of Alabama, yes, that is a little bit out of the norm, to say the least.
COOPER: And it's under a curfew now, Clay is. Are more tornadoes expected?
WOLF: Thankfully, it looks like the worst is going to be over for now. There will be rain, maybe a few thunderstorms that will come back into the area. I'd say by Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, back here in this part of Alabama.
But in terms of having this severity, what we had over the last 12 to 24 to 48 hours, no, we are not going to see that again for quite some time.
COOPER: There's so much devastation. Reynolds, appreciate it. Thanks for the reporting. Stay safe. We're following a lot more tonight. Isha is back with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, two more bodies have been recovered from the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship bringing the confirmed death toll to 15 with about 17 others still missing.
Meanwhile, the cruise line is offering passengers who are booked on Concordia sailing through late March a 30 percent discount or they can cancel without penalty.
The governor of Pennsylvania has ordered all state flags to fly at half-staff in honor of legendary Penn State Football Coach, Joe Paterno who died on Sunday. Paterno will be buried Wednesday in a private family service.
A public memorial will follow on Thursday. Public viewing also scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday on campus. Paterno died less than three months after he was fired after accusations he failed to respond to alleged child sexual abuse by an assistant coach. Joe Paterno was 85.
Chaos in Egypt today as the country's first democratically elected parliament got to work. The Islamist leading the chamber struggled to keep control as a protesters gather.
Anderson, at the White House, Senator John Kerry took part of the celebration honoring the Boston Bruins for their Stanley Cup victory.
According to reports, as you may baseball to look out. Kerry is sporting black eyes, because he broke his nose in a hockey game. Yes, he's some kind of hockey warrior.
COOPER: All right, time for the shot for tonight's video. We found it in YouTube. It probably shows a U.S. Marine back from Afghanistan, he and a friend took time out for fun in Orlando, Florida, this is the greatest video ever. Let's just say it gives new meaning to well, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give me like a countdown?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He's never going to live that down.
SESAY: Talk about losing any kind of credibility you may have with the guys.
COOPER: He's expecting a countdown.
SESAY: The other guy --
COOPER: I can laugh because I giggle like a little girl. He screams like a girl.
SESAY: He does. You two should maybe catch up, feel giggles.
COOPER: I feel his pain right now.
Still ahead up close, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, her decision to resign from Congress a year after the bullet nearly killed her. We're going to show the new video and what it reveals about her progress and the hurdles that remain. We'll talk to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Also, at a showdown between Senator Ron Paul and airport security officials in Nashville, why the lawmaker wasn't able to board a flight today?
COOPER: Up close tonight, a new chapter for Gabby Giffords. The Arizona congresswoman broke the news that she is resigning on a video message on her web site.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (R), ARIZONA: I don't remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me, to be your voice. Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery. So to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The horrible day was, of course, January 8th, 2011 when Giffords and 18 others were gunned down in a supermarket parking lot. Six people died including a 9-year-old girl.
Today in Tucson, Giffords finished what she was really stopped from doing a year ago, meeting with constituents at a corner event. She visited with other survivors of the shooting including a staffer who is credited with saving her life.
Today's meeting, one of her last acts in office. Tomorrow, she'll be at the "State of the Union" address. She missed last year. She was in the hospital fighting for her life.
COOPER (voice-over): Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords says she can't remember much that happened the day she was shot in the head. Considering the violence inflicted allegedly by Jared Loughner that was just as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was anybody injured? Did you say Gabrielle Giffords was hit?
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: She's hit. She's breathing. She still has a pulse and we have two people and we got one dead. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, there were other people injured?
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: There's multiple people shot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, my God.
COOPER: A bullet passed through her brain. She was airlifted to a hospital. The odds of survival were razor thin. But she did survive and there was hope and even optimism voiced by her husband and staff about a full recovery.
PIA CARUSONE, REPRESENTATIVE GIFFORDS' CHIEF OF STAFF: She's a young healthy person who is not only physically strong, but mentally resilient. And, you know, they're rising to the occasion.
COOPER: The then 40-year-old Giffords would basically have to relearn nearly every aspect of her life. The challenge is visible in this "ABC News" special where she could barely walk or even remember simple words.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch me, Gabby. Gabby. Watch me. Watch me.
COOPER: We saw her frustration when words failed her. But she fought through it all although she was no longer able to fulfill most of the duties of her office, she did make a surprise visit to her office in Washington in August to cast a vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling.
Her presence is helping a divided Congress to put aside partisan politics if just for a moment. During her recovery the people of Arizona didn't seem to mind she wasn't in Washington every day. Just knowing she was still fighting was enough.
GOVERNOR JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: Knowing Gabby and what she has accomplished in this last year of her recovery, who knows what will happen in the next two years. I don't believe we've seen the last of Gabby Giffords.
COOPER: So what's next for the congresswoman? Listen to what her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly told ABC's Diane Sawyer.
MARK KELLY, GABRIELLE GIFFORD'S HUSBAND: We're thinking of going on a trip next summer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Other things you love right now?
GIFFORDS: No. No.
KELLY: Gabby loves --
GIFFORDS: Awful, awful.
KELLY: I'll get her to come around, eventually. COOPER: Coming around eventually and finishing what she started.
COOPER: A strong lady. Let's dig deeper. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a neurosurgeon. He's treated many gunshot victims. He's followed Gabby Giffords' story very closely. He joins me now.
Sanjay, listening to the Giffords in that video that she released yesterday, I mean, it is amazing how far she's come. You can hear, though, she still struggles stringing together multiple sentences. Is that typical?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, it's hard to believe it's been just over a year now, Anderson. You know, what I would say as a starting point, her recovery was pretty atypical and that, you know, so many people who have gunshot wounds at close range to the head don't survive let alone have any meaningful neurological recovery.
So in that sense, she was in the top few percent in terms of recovery. But you're right on, Anderson, in terms of the way her speech, you heard that sort of halting speech, at times searching for words. That is pretty typical. Take a look, Anderson, at this animation. You alluded to this in your piece here.
But a gunshot wound to the head like this, the left side of the brain. You can see the bullet went in and out. That's important for a couple of reasons. First of all, a lot of the energy from the bullet did not release inside her skull, but released into air after passing through.
So that was probably beneficial to her, but part of the reason that she's having such difficulty with her speech is those speech areas were in the path of that bullet.
Your ability to understand -- in her case seems to be preserved, but expressing herself fluently, both in written as well as spoken communication would be affected and still seems to be -- Anderson.
COOPER: So is there a point progress typically plateaus or slows with this type of injury?
GUPTA: Well, you know, if you break it down, you look at the left side of the brain. You say, OK, all the things that this controls, speech being one of them as I mentioned. People will say, look, for a few years, people condition can still have recovery from this.
It may be slow coming, but you may gradually become more fluent, more extemporaneous and your ability to speak spontaneously improves. One thing you may have noticed is that the right side of her body is very weak.
So the physical recovery, people say around 18 months, you get close to a plateau. People can have improvements after that. She's 12-13 months now so a few more months of recovery as far as strength goes, but still a while longer for the speech.
COOPER: From the video, from the event today, you can see she has difficulty moving the right side of her body. What kind of therapy does someone have for that type of injury to regain mobility?
GUPTA: It's pretty aggressive. Everything from the very practical, so for example, if you're a right-handed person, have right-handed weakness, teaching yourself in the interim how to function with your left hand.
From writing to feeding yourself to taking care of yourself, all of that, but then sort of that, you know, it's pretty aggressive therapy, a couple hours a day, a few times a week, really focusing on making sure those muscles stay active.
They do not become weak and almost sending signals back to the brain that these muscles need to move, let's reroute things. You think about the Swiss cheese model. There are holes in it. Let's reroute around those various holes to see if you can get some recovery. That's what happens.
COOPER: What is the likelihood of a full recovery based on what you know of brain injuries similar to hers?
GUPTA: I think that it's unlikely Gabby Giffords, Congresswoman Giffords will ever do the same that she was the day before she got shot. I think most of her doctors and neurologists had been caring for her would agree with that.
But I think in terms of a meaningful functional recovery, whether you call it a 100 percent or not, that may be open to interpretation.
But I think she has a good chance of having a meaningful recovery, where she can speak spontaneously, get around on her own and give speeches and things required of someone who's a member of Congress.
COOPER: Sanjay, appreciate it. Let me just quickly ask you, does she know -- if she's struggling for words -- I don't know if we know this -- does she know what she wants to say and just can't find the word?
GUPTA: Yes. That is often exactly the case. So her ability to understand language, her ability to process language, her cognitive skills, probably all still very intact, but it's that expressive part.
You saw it, again, in your piece, Anderson, how frustrating that is. You saw her nearly break down in tears over that. It's because of that ability -- you know what's going on. That expressive part of it is so difficult.
COOPER: Sanjay, appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Still ahead tonight, Senator Rand Paul's airport security standoff, what happened when he refused a pat-down.
Also, how one news station is covering a political corruption trial without cameras. The puppet's court in session on tonight's "Ridiculist."
COOPER: All right, let's check the latest on some other stories. Isha is back with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.
SESAY: Anderson, opposition groups said at least three dozen people were killed across Syria today. This, as the head of the Arab League observers in Syria rejected criticism of their mission.
Meantime, the European Commission imposed more sanctions on Syrian officials and groups that support Bashar Al-Assad's regime.
A showdown between Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and TSA officials at a national airport. Rand refused a full body pat down after setting off an alarm in a scanner. He was later rebooked on another flight and rescreened without incident.
The American Bus Association is asking Priceline to pull an ad that shows a long-time spokesman William Shatner dying in a bus explosion. They say the ad is in bad taste. No response yet from Priceline or the actor.
Today is the official start of the Chinese New Year, in fact, 2012 is the year of the dragon. In Chinese culture, the dragon is seen as a mystical creature, which means this year is expected to be a lucky one.
Anderson, Starbucks says it will begin offering beer and wine at more locations by the end of this year. Stores here in Atlanta, Chicago and Southern California are on the list. Some Starbucks cafes in the Pacific Northwest already serve alcohol. It's about to get interesting.
COOPER: I did not know that. Isha, thanks very much. Here's Piers Morgan now with a look at what's coming up on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT."
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Thanks, Anderson. Tonight, my exclusive interview with Joe Biden on the eve of the "State of the Union." The vice president's wife speaks out on the state of the military.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're the number one priority for this administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: She also tells me how she fell in love with Joe Biden. It's a very romantic tale. And Sean Penn on the race for the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN PENN, ACTOR: I don't want to see Rick Santorum be president because I would like to see people in trouble in this country getting out of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: A typically pugnacious interview with Sean Penn. That and more coming up at 9. Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Piers, thanks. Coming, a corruption trial that would make Miss Piggy herself blush. The puppet's court is in session on "The Ridiculist" next.
COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist." Tonight, we're adding the puppet's court. In Ohio, a former county commissioner is on trial for corruption and it's big news in the Cleveland area.
There's just one tiny problem, there are no cameras allowed in the courtroom. Usually when that happens, news stations rely in courtroom sketch artists to provide visuals for the story. But one enterprising news station has found a more creative way to cover the trial.
COOPER: That's right. Cleveland's 19 action news team now includes a puppet squirrel reporting from the puppet's court, if you can believe it. I said it before and I'll say it again.
Puppets and journalism do not mix, not ever, not under any circumstances whatsoever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Is the Anderson Cooper in for Oscar the Grouch who's on assignment at the dump. I'm here with two legendary Grouch newscasters, Dan rather not and Walter Cranky to discuss today's letter in the news, the letter G. Say hello, Dan Rather Not. Walter? I can see this will be a tough assignment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK, I take it back. But look, that was "Sesame Street" for crying out loud. This trial is going in Ohio. It's serious news. How will you take a complicated corruption trial and turn it into a puppet show? How can that be compelling?
A trip to Vegas? I'm wondering what happened in Vegas? I'm getting into this. Let's roll more.
Say what? Your eyes and ears did not deceive you. That was indeed a puppet prostitute. If you would allow me to employ a little bit of parlance, that was what we call the hook. We have to hear what happened next.
With all apologies to the legacy of Edward R. Murrow, I have to say, I would probably watch this trial coverage. The director of the news station said he brought in the puppet coverage to show the more absurd aspects of the trial to be satirical and plays at the end of a broadcast.
We all know the end of a news broadcast is a time for seasoned journalists to ask the hard questions, like can a cat really play a keyboard? Is there perhaps a squirrel somewhere that can water ski with the best of them?
Is there room for lady of the evening in a puppet courtroom? I would respectfully say the answer is a resounding yes. That does it for this edition of 360. We'll see you again at 10:00 Eastern, one hour from now another edition of 360. "PIERS MORGAN" starts now.