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Massacre in Syria; Donald Trump's Birther Claims

Aired May 29, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with the diplomatic slap on the wrist that Syria got today for the massacre of dozens of children and some steps that may actually end the slaughter.

Award-winning author and "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman joins us shortly with some ideas. They involve diplomacy, but not the seemingly cosmetic kind that we saw today, Western nations led by the U.S. expelling Syrian diplomats or U.N. envoy Kofi Annan, who has been meeting with Syria's dictator, condemning the killings, but then noting -- and these are his words -- that he, meaning the dictator Bashar al-Assad -- quote -- "condemned the killings too."

In addition, Assad today promised to investigate the massacre. After 15 months, by some reports 12,000 dead, that promise from a brutal dictator doesn't cut much ice, after Friday's atrocity, doubly so.

With body after young body now in the ground, nightmarish stories are emerging from the town of Houla, where the massacre happened. One of our freelance producers spoke with an 11-year-old survivor. At his request, we're not identifying him, with very good reason. This little boy said they will kill him, they being the same militiamen who he says killed the rest of his family.

Quote: "They were talking to my mom," he says. "I'm not sure what happened, but they shot her five times. They shot her in the head. Then he turned and shot my sister Rasha (ph) in the head. Then he shot my brother Nader (ph) in the neck and the back."

He is talking about the Shabiha, Arabic for ghosts, armed militiamen loyal to the regime who witnesses said carried out the massacre.

Now, a warning. We're going to show you some of the resulting carnage. The video has been partially blurred. But the obscenity is clear enough. They, the Shabiha, apparently went in after Syrian the forces pounded Houla with heavy artillery. Those are small bodies of children you're seeing there.

They entered the neighborhood, went door to door, pulled women, children out of homes, sometimes cornered them in the street and murdered them at close range, slitting throats, pressing guns so close to heads of kids, there were powder burns on some of the dead children.

Again, the regime denies any responsibility, but, today, it went even further, denying it's ever -- that's right -- ever broken the cease-fire negotiated by Kofi Annan.


FAISAL MIQDAD, SYRIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): During this time, Syria has not done a single violation of Annan's plan or the initial understanding between Syria and the United Nations.


COOPER: Now, that is an absolute lie. It's plain and simple a lie. And even a diplomat today had no problem saying so.


RUPERT COLVILLE, SPOKESPERSON, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE: What is clear is government forces were involved. They were shelling using tanks and artillery. And appears to be Shabiha militia entering the houses and slaughtering people in what is really an abominable crime that took place throughout the day on Friday.


COOPER: A crime. Again, the answer so far has been a Security Council condemnation which didn't directly blame the regime for it because Russia objected. Russia is Syria's ally and in the words of Tom Friedman from "The New York Times," who you will hear from momentarily, acting like Syria's lawyer in all this.

So there was that and today's expulsion of diplomats. America's U.N. ambassador today said the U.S. holds the Syrian regime fully responsible for the massacre. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that the atrocities make military action against Syria more likely.

The White House, however, cautioned reporters not to read too much into those remarks.

A lot of talk from all sides while the reality on the ground plays out mainly images and in tears. Take a look at this photo posted on Twitter over the weekend by an activist. It claims to have been taken in Houla apparently on Saturday, two bodies on the hood of a U.N. SUV. We don't know if they're a father and daughter. We simply don't know who they are.

We do know that in the four days since they were killed, dozens more have died.

Alex Thomson of Britain's Channel 4 has been on the ground in Homs, Houla, and the areas nearby. He joins us now from Damascus.

The government of course continues to blame armed terrorists, as they blame armed terrorists for just about everything over the last 15 months of this conflict, even the killing of peaceful protesters in the streets. All reports seem to indicate it's these Shabiha, these paramilitary groups, civilians who are dressed in military outfits who work in tandem with government forces.

Can you explain how it is that the Shabiha work with the regime, how they work with the military?

ALEX THOMSON, ITN REPORTER: I think we have got to be very careful about this, Anderson. I haven't seen a single shred of proof, I mean, hard evidence, to prove that they do work in concert.

Of course, it is suggested that's what happened. What happened in the villages of Houla after Friday prayers, around lunchtime early afternoon, was there was a concerted battery of shelling that killed around 20 people. That can only have come from the government. They're the only people with heavy weapons. That was indeed then followed up by groups of men moving house to house who were not in fact shelled.

So, clearly that suggests some kind of working in tandem. But, frankly until we have radio intercepts or hard evidence, that's not going to be a very easy thing to prove.

COOPER: It's impossible, as you said, unless there are intercepts, intelligence intercepts, to know exactly who it was who slit the throats of children, who put guns up to the foreheads of children and pulled the trigger.

Does it make any -- I mean, is there any evidence to support Syrian regime claims, however, that it was anybody associated with the opposition forces?

THOMSON: No, equally. And I suspect we will never get firm proof either way, it has to be said, because this is simply not a permissive environment in which to do forensic investigations.

And the key fact about any forensic investigation is the more time goes by, the more the whole area of the investigation degrades. And this is a chaotic area. People are coming, people are going, people are moving in and out all the time for very obvious reasons, so no evidence either way.

COOPER: And for the Syrian regime forces to say that they're shocked by this, I mean, we have seen videos of Syrian military forces firing upon protesters. We have seen snipers on rooftops firing into crowds.

THOMSON: You have seen snipers on rooftops firing in crowds. I have to say, there are plenty of snipers on the -- from the rebel side as well. One of them was clearly firing at our position with the army the other day.

I'm not making light of this in any sense, but this is a war. You are going to get civilians killed, for the very simple reason that, in this war, the Free Syrian Army rebels are routinely fighting in built-up areas where there are civilians. You could argue that's a fairly cynical form of warfare, but it's probably the only one open to them.

They're not exactly using the civilian population as human shields. But they know fine well that if fighting (AUDIO GAP) Homs, or Houla or wherever it may be, you are going to invite incoming heavy weapons from the other side, because that is what they have got and that is what they will use.

And you, if you are armed and in a rebel army, are a legitimate target in a time of war. There's no question about that. But, clearly, the civilian casualties are going to be extraordinarily high in that form of warfare. And that, I'm afraid to say, is precisely what we're seeing in this country day in, day out, week in, week out.

COOPER: Alex Thomson, I appreciate your reporting. Thank you.

Want to turn next to Thomas Friedman, who has decades of experience reporting on, writing about the Middle East and foreign policy, including notably the bestseller "From Beirut to Jerusalem." He's been awarded two Pulitzer Prizes for his Mideast work at "The New York Times" and more recently one for commentary. He's currently foreign affairs columnist at the paper. We're pleased to have him with us again tonight.

We have been seeing children being killed now for 15 months. And this uprising in Syria began with the arrest of children in Daraa who had spray-painted anti-government graffiti. And yet people now talk about what happened in Houla as a turning point.

Do you think it's a turning point, and if so, how so?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It feels like it is, Anderson, mostly because it feels like both the Russians and Chinese, who have been in some ways serving as President Assad's lawyer in Syria, defending the regime, it feels like they no longer want to be playing quite that role. And that could be an opening, I think, for some kind of move to a transition government, I hope.

COOPER: Although we heard I think from Russia yesterday describing it as a disco party, what was happening in Syria, a kind of bizarre turn of phrase.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. I don't expect much, you know, sympathy from Putin, but it feels like they do understand this is going to I think stain them if this continues much longer.

COOPER: All these diplomats now the international community expelled today certainly I guess sends a message. Do you think it changes anything beyond that?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think we have to start, Anderson, by saying what is it we want? And, first of all, perfect isn't on the menu there.

It isn't on the menu because you really have two kind of Arab states. You have what were the kind of homogeneous societies, like Egypt and Tunisia, where all the people could get together against dad, against the dictator. And you have these other societies, much more fragmented, and yet often called tribes with flags.

So that is the fundamental problem. Let's start there. So what is it we want? What would be the ideal outcome here? What we want to prevent basically are two things. One is a civil war. And the other is state collapse, because civil war and state collapse in Syria would really spill over to all the surrounding states. It would be a terrible human disaster for that country as well.

If you want to avoid state collapse and civil war, what do you need then? You need some kind of transition regime where Assad leaves, but remnants of his regime representing those other communities, Alawites, Christians, et cetera, stay and at the same time you bring in the opposition groups. That would be the ideal scenario.

How do you get that? One of two ways. Either the Russians broker it because they have had leverage with Assad, or you get some kind of internal revolt within the Assad camp, ideally from the army, where they basically push him out.

COOPER: What do you think about those like Senator McCain, for instance, or Mitt Romney now who have called for arming the opposition?

FRIEDMAN: Well, again, I think arming the opposition in the context of a broader strategy is something I would look at.

I would like to know who we're arming and what their objectives are and whether we share their values, beyond getting rid of the Assad regime. What I would prefer at this stage, it seems to me, would be again either working on the Russians, trying to cut a deal with them to push Assad out, or I would be ready to consider a kind of no-fly zone or a humanitarian corridor that I think would have this impact, Anderson.

I think there's a lot of people in the Syrian regime right now, in the Assad camp, particularly in the military, who are sitting on the fence. They're seeing what's going on. They're watching what's happening both inside Syria and on the world stage. And they're trying to see, will Assad stay? Should I lean with him? Will he go? Should I lean away?

I think if we announced a no-fly zone, a humanitarian corridor maybe on the Turkish border, it could be enough to tip them inside to throw him out of power.

COOPER: What about the cease-fire, so-called, that Kofi Annan negotiated, that the U.N. has been pressing? Has that been a complete failure?

FRIEDMAN: It sure looks to be. And you see what happened with this massacre over the weekend. Look, ideally, it would have been ideal to go back to that cease- fire, because the cease-fire would have allowed the opposition movement to return to its nonviolent roots. That's how it began. It was Assad who opened fire on these young boys first in Daraa and later throughout the country, who wanted basically to turn this thing into a ethnic conflict.

He wanted to strip the opposition movement from their nonviolent roots, Pan-Syrian roots, as a movement of all against him, as you had in Egypt and Tunisia, and he wanted to turn it into a sectarian war. Unfortunately, he's been successful.

COOPER: Is there a U.S. role for Syria then? Is this something that -- I mean, people said in Egypt the U.S. basically just had to witness it happening. Is there a U.S. role?

FRIEDMAN: Well, there's two roles I think that we could play I think very importantly.

One is to be the interface with Putin, to in a sense say to Putin, all right, it's going to take a deal. What is it you want? This guy is a very transactional guy. You want something on missile defense in Europe? You want something on W.T.? What is it? Because this clearly -- this can't be working for you, Vladimir, that you are basically the lawyer for a mass murderer. In the long run, this is not going to work for you. So what is it you need?

There's going to be a kind of transaction there. And I think that's really Obama's role. They're about to have a meeting, Putin and Obama. And I think we also should be part of an Arab League, U.N., Turkish/NATO, whatever framework you want to use. We should consider some kind of humanitarian corridor, some kind of safe area that hopefully could tip that balance inside Syria, so they oust Assad, and you can get ideally some kind of transition government.

But it's going to be messy. Anderson, this is not going to be easy. Perfect is nowhere near on the menu there.

COOPER: Perfect not on the menu. Tom Friedman, thanks.

FRIEDMAN: Pleasure.

COOPER: Well, let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. I'm tweeting about this already @AndersonCooper. Let me know what you think on Twitter.

Donald Trump doubling down today on his birther claims about President Obama. Mitt Romney campaigns with Donald Trump tonight. Will the fact that these two are together actually hurt Mitt Romney's chances. We will talk to a Romney supporter in a moment.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" now: Mitt Romney and the birthers.

Governor Romney has said he doesn't doubt that President Obama was born in Hawaii, but tonight he seemed to indirectly bring the issue up in remarks About amending the Constitution. We will play the tape and let you decide for yourself what you think he said.

What is clear, though, is he made those remarks at a Las Vegas fund-raiser with America's best known birther right now. We're talking about Donald Trump, who doubled down today on his beliefs.


DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: Nothing's changed my mind. And, by the way, you know, you have a huge group of people. I walk down the street and people are screaming, please don't give that up.

Look, a publisher came out last week and had a statement about Obama given to them by Obama when he was doing a book as a young man a number of years ago in the '90s, born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia. This was a statement. This was from Obama.


COOPER: That's not true. The publisher says it was only a typo. And for the record, President Obama has produced both a short- and long-form birth certificate showing he was born in Hawaii. He made the long-form version public in part to quiet Mr. Trump, who claimed to have investigators in Hawaii on the case.

Yet, when we sent Gary Tuchman to Hawaii around the same time, he found plenty evidence that the president was born there, but no sign of Mr. Trump's investigators.

I asked him, Donald Trump, about it months ago.


COOPER: We've had a team in Hawaii, talking to everyone from the state health department to the school where Obama's mother went, to other families who were in the hospital at the same time as when he was born. None of them say they've been contacted by anyone working for you.

TRUMP: Well, maybe they're not saying and maybe they haven't contacted the same people, Anderson.

COOPER: We've interviewed the former director of the Hawaii Department of Health, a Republican, one of two state officials who has actually seen the original birth certificate that you're talking about in the Department of Health vault. She says she hasn't been contacted by your people.

Isn't that somebody they should talk to if they're there?

TRUMP: Well, I've been told very recently, Anderson, that the birth certificate is missing. I've been told that's it not there and it doesn't exist. And if that's the case, that's a big problem.

COOPER: Who told you that?

TRUMP: I just heard that two days ago from somebody.

COOPER: Can you name even one person who your investigators have talked to, just one name?

TRUMP: I don't want to do that. It's not appropriate right now.

COOPER: You can't say anybody who they have talked to?

TRUMP: Well, it's just not appropriate, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, he never named any names or revealed any investigators or anything they found out.

As for the missing birth certificate, it was released shortly there after, "missing" -- in quotes.

As for Mitt Romney, he said -- quote -- "I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in."

Donald Trump, though, is not just any Romney supporter. He has been aiming to raise $2 million tonight for the Romney campaign and hinted today to Wolf Blitzer that he might personally donate millions more.

He's also made robo-calls for the campaign. And up on the Romney Web site right now, this picture of Donald Trump as Uncle Sam on one of those old-fashioned recruiting posters next to amounts you can donate for a contest.

The winner gets flown to New York for a dinner with Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. So he's clearly more than a run-of-the-mill supporter. The question is, though, could his support actually cost the Romney campaigns with votes?

Polling earlier this year shows what a Trump endorsement would make more -- one in four voters less likely to vote for Governor Romney. In any case, the governor has also said he needs to get 50.1 percent to win and he's happy to have the help of -- quote -- "a lot of good people."

Now, back to those remarks we mentioned at the top. He was talking tonight about President Obama's lack of business experience. Listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sometimes, I just don't think he understands what it takes to help people. I know he wants to help, but he doesn't know what he's got to do.

I was speaking with one of these business owners who owns a couple of restaurants in town. And he said, you know, I would like to change the Constitution. I'm not sure I can do it, he said, but I would like to have a provision in the Constitution that, in addition to the age of the president and the citizenship of the president and the birthplace of the president being set by the Constitution, I would like it also to say that the president has to have spent at least three years working in business before he can become president of the United States.



BLITZER: Joining me now is Republican strategist and Romney adviser Kevin Madden.

Kevin, some people are looking at those comments that the candidate made tonight and saying that it was sort of a dog whistle. The fact that he would bring up the birth requirements in the Constitution on a day where Donald Trump has talked a lot about birtherism was sort of a dog whistle on this issue. Fair?


No. Well, I just don't agree with that. I think it was -- the governor was actually relaying a conversation that he had had with a voter. And the voter's emphasis was on the business experience. And I think that's what Governor Romney is finding as he engages voters all across the country is that they're focused on the economy. They're focused on somebody who can turn the economy around.

And, quite frankly, that's been the entire focus of the governor's message today. When he was out there in Colorado, Craig, Colorado, he was talking about energy. He was talking about how important energy is to helping sustain the economy in that region of the country and how important the economy is and turning the economy around...


MADDEN: ... to voters right now.

co But he is holding this big event with Donald Trump tonight and Donald Trump is on his Web site and Donald Trump is out there talking about birther stuff. When a supporter in a crowd said something false about then candidate Obama to John McCain, John McCain set that supporter straight.

Donald Trump is just not an ordinary supporter. He is clearly a surrogate. Democrats are saying the fact that Mitt Romney hasn't said Donald Trump is wrong and asked Donald Trump to stop promoting something which is factually proven false shows Romney doesn't have backbone.

Does he have -- that's what Democrats are saying.

MADDEN: Right. COOPER: Does he have an obligation in any way to set his surrogates straight on these birther claims?

MADDEN: Oh, he has. I think...


COOPER: You think he's spoken to Donald Trump?

MADDEN: Every time this issue has come up, Governor Romney has made it very clear that he disagrees with Donald Trump and he disagrees with the emphasis on the issue.

He believes that the reason that we need to beat President Obama in November is because he hasn't done enough to fix the American economy. Every time he's had an event, he's talked about what it is that he would do to fix the economy.


COOPER: Does he have an obligation to say something to Donald Trump?

MADDEN: Well, I think he has said it. I think he's said it clearly publicly. He's sent the message time and time again that the focus of this campaign has to be the economy.

COOPER: But, I mean, there's -- but then why is Donald -- if Donald Trump is a surrogate, why is Donald Trump continuing to talk about this stuff?

MADDEN: Well, look, the media tends to ask Donald Trump about this issue a lot.

I think every time that he's talked about Governor Romney in the context of this campaign, he's never mentioned that issue. He's focused on issues like China and making sure that we have a level playing field there on international trade and monetary policy. He's focused on Governor Romney's -- his plan to turn around the economy and get more people back to work.

That's the frame -- the framework of our message to the American people on what they should they make their name -- on what they should be -- the issue they should be using to make up their mind.

And, look, on Election Day in November, there's only going to be two names on that -- on the ballot when people go in to choose who they want to be president. It's going to be Barack Obama and it's going to be Governor Romney. Those are -- their ideas, their issues, the messages that they're delivering to voters, that's what matters most.

And I think that's what's going to matter to the voters who have yet to be persuaded.

COOPER: Do you believe the poll earlier that we cited from awhile back that Donald Trump's endorsement is a net negative, as far as actual votes are concerned, that his message may play well with a segment of the conservative base, but it alienates the middle? Do you buy that?

MADDEN: I don't know. I think a lot of these polls they ask questions, it's basically a favorability test on these different surrogates. But I don't think there are many surrogates that are really going to matter.

Again, just to reiterate the point I just made, what's really going to matter is who has a better vision for this country going forward, who has a better plan to put the American economy back on work?

And I think what you have is a contest between President Obama's -- his failed policies, Governor Romney's promise of a better America, a better economy, and that's really what's going to make people change their mind in those last weeks up until the election.


COOPER: You were saying it doesn't really matter what surrogates say.

When Hilary Rosen, supporter of President Obama, I guess it was -- visited the White House, according to some stories I saw, said something about Ann Romney, the Obama White House was very quick to distance themselves from her and a lot of conservatives jumped on her as speaking for the candidate.

So isn't it fair then for Democrats to do the same thing about what Mitt Romney -- what Donald Trump is saying?

MADDEN: You know, having worked on so many of these campaigns, I think all the scrutiny is fair.

I think the difference there was that was a -- that crystallized a debate that we were having about the economy, about women's role in the workplace, and the different visions that each party has for the economy. And that was what really crystallized that debate.

I don't think that there are a whole lot of people right now sitting at home with 23 million people out of work, with unemployment over 8 percent, consumer confidence down, I don't think there are a whole lot of people talking about the issue that the media's talking about and that Donald Trump keeps bringing up.


MADDEN: I think they're much more focused on the economy.

COOPER: Right, but it's not just the media talking about this birther stuff. In Arizona, they just were demanding a birth certificate from President Obama, proof of citizenship in order to have him on the ballot there. There are initiatives in a number of states across the country and have been since he's been in office. MADDEN: I think that's right. I think that's right, Anderson, but do you think that right now that voters, that that's going to drive what their main decision is on this campaign?

I really don't think so. I think over kitchen tables right now across the country, there's so much economic anxiety about the state of employment, the lack of jobs, people that have one are worried about losing theirs, people who don't have one can't find them.

COOPER: Right.

MADDEN: I think that's really what the American people want to see debated. That's the focus that they want to see in this campaign. And a lot of this are distractions.

COOPER: OK. Kevin Madden, I appreciate you being on. Thank you.

MADDEN: Always great to be with you. Thanks.

COOPER: California's much-touted high-speed rail line, you have heard of that. We have all heard about it for a long time. That's an animation of it -- is in danger tonight of becoming the rail line to nowhere. Billions of your tax dollars have been promised to help pay for this thing. How did the project veer so far off track?

We're "Keeping Them Honest" next.


COOPER: Seven days of deliberations and still no verdict in the John Edwards trial, but there's plenty of drama, including reports one of the jurors has been flirting with Mr. Edwards.

"Crime & Punishment" ahead tonight on 360.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest," Drew Griffin is on the money trail again tonight, and he's found California's dream of a high-speed rail line is in real trouble. So much trouble that it could end up being a high-speed rail line to nowhere despite billions of federal stimulus dollars already pledged.

We've been down this road before. Remember Solyndra, the solar power company that got federal loan guarantees and then went belly up? Well, the Romney campaign is trying to make sure you do not forget. This is from a new Web ad that it's running.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've heard of Solyndra. They took $535 million in federal loan guarantees and went bankrupt. But that's not even half the story.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, the ad's message that President Obama hasn't done a good job to invest your tax dollars in. We'll let you decide that for yourself.

As for California's high-speed rail line, another project backed by President Obama, it turns out the original cost estimates were way off, and now there's a real chance the rail line may never be completed. Here's Drew's report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It sure looks like the future. An animated version of California's high-speed rail. And it sounded really cool too. L.A. to San Francisco at more than 200 miles an hour. No planes, no cars, no fuss. That's why Californians voted for it back in 2008, passing a $10 billion bond measure for a train that was projected to eventually cost $34 billion.

"Keeping Them Honest," it's now four years later. Not a single track has been laid, and a bombshell report was dropped on California's taxpayers last fall. Their $34 billion train would actually cost closer to three times the estimated amount.

LISA SCHWEITZER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, PRICE SCHOOL OF PACIFIC POLICY, USC: The new business plan puts a cost estimate at $98 billion to $118 billion.

GRIFFIN: It was a shocker. Three times the estimated cost, and guess what? You, the federal taxpayer, might be on the hook for a big chunk of it. We'll get to how that's possible in just a moment.

But in California, the sticker shock caused yet another change in accounting, a big turnover with California's High-Speed Rail Authority board, and yet another rethinking of just where the train will go and how fast and how much it would cost.


GRIFFIN: In a press conference, a new route, a new slower speed, and a new cost estimate, now in the neighborhood of $68 billion. Still twice as much as originally sold.

RICHARD: There's no question that the cost has gone up.

GRIFFIN: Dan Richard is the new chairman of California's High- Speed Rail Authority and co-author of that report that sent the high- speed rail plan, well, slightly off track.

RICHARD: That report was a draft. It was intended to engender comment. It did that rather successfully. And we're looking now at how revise the plan and strengthen the plan and go forward.

GRIFFIN: But that is also very troubling. It turns out the latest plan could be for a much slower train, not actually the high- speed futuristic cartoon California voters approved four years ago. More of a hybrid that goes slower, makes a few more stops, and doesn't quite deliver the L.A. to San Francisco promise of just a few hours.

And that's not the half of it. This is about to become really political.

California's high-speed rail has one huge backer: President Barack Obama, and that is where you come in. The administration has pledged $3.5 billion in stimulus money, also known as federal tax dollars, and that's just so far. Now California admits it will need even more. Tens of billions of dollars more from federal taxpayers to finish it.

But first you have to start, and that's where it really gets dicey. The foundational segment, the first stretch of track, will cost at least $6 billion alone and, under the new plan, will connect Fresno to Burbank. It won't go anywhere near San Francisco. And in the process, will dissect generation's old dairy farms, nut orchards and towns that don't want it.

JOHN TOS, ALMOND FARMER: We want them to stay off the land. It is not our intention to allow this to happen through our property. We farm here for a reason: the tranquility of it all. This is farming country. And we want to keep it like that.

GRIFFIN: USC's Lisa Schweitzer, a skeptic, says the High-Speed Rail Authority Board is doing everything it can to rework numbers and routes to justify spending tens of billions of dollars on a train that may be a huge economic blunder that few want to ride.

SCHWEITZER: Every infrastructure project has the potential to be another Solyndra, whether it's high-speed rail or whether it's a bridge to nowhere. The construction costs can overrun like that. And that's especially true in California, where our permitting and approvals process is tough.

GRIFFIN: Does all this have California rethinking its plans? Absolutely not, says rail board chairman Dan Richard. And for one reason: they've already got the promised $3 billion of your tax dollars in federal stimulus.

California may not get another dime from President Obama, but it has no intention of giving back the $3 billion already promised or the billions more from California voters.

RICHARD: So let's be very clear on this point. We have $6 billion to build the foundational segment.

GRIFFIN: Even if that foundational segment turns out to be a high-speed rail, well, to nowhere.


COOPER: And Drew joins us live. Drew, could this really end up being a train to nowhere?

GRIFFIN: You know, this foundational segment really is basically going to run, Anderson, from Fresno to Bakersfield. That's 130 miles long. It's going to take five to six years to do it, just to finish that portion, which is not going to be a high-demand route.

The fear is if the cost overruns, which critics say are inevitable, will be so high on just that one portion, support is going to fade away. And that's what's going to be left. A train to nowhere.

COOPER: But if all goes right, this could be a very fast train connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco, and voters approved it.

GRIFFIN: Yes, that's right. Voters did pass it back in 2008, but support has been fading as more and more people get details of the project.

You know, Orange County was pretty much eliminated from the rail line altogether in this latest attempt to save money. It appears the new version of the high-speed rail is actually going to be a little slower.

And completion for all of this, Anderson, is 2028. It's going to be all about the billions and billions California's going to need to finish this project by 2028, whether they get it from us, the federal taxpayers, or possibly private investors. So far those private investors haven't been exactly jumping at this.

COOPER: Yes. Drew, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.

A lot more happening tonight. Isha's here with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, breaking news. CNN projects that Mitt Romney won the Texas primary tonight, and that's put him over the 1,144 delegates needed for the GOP nomination. But he won't officially earn that title until the Republican National Convention takes place in late August in Tampa, Florida.

Grammy winning musician Doc Watson has died. He was 89. Blind from infancy, Watson was a flat picker, known for playing his acoustic guitar at lightning speeds. For many years he toured with his son, Mel Watson, who died in 1985.

At least 16 people are dead after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit northern Italy. More than 14,000 people have been displaced since the first quake hit the area nine days ago.

A "360" follow. Canada's transportation safety board confirms the burning hot debris that fell from the sky yesterday near Toronto was from a malfunctioning jet engine. The incident involved an Air Canada flight bound for Tokyo. The falling debris damaged cars on the ground, and the pilot made an emergency landing minutes later back at Toronto's airport.

And Facebook stock hit a new low. The stock closed at $28.84.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

SESAY: That's more than 24 percent below its IPO price -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

A week and counting, still no verdict in the John Edwards trial. There are some bizarre developments from the courtroom, including reports that one of the alternate jurors has been flirting with John Edwards. The latest on that ahead.


COOPER: Police believe they know what fueled a bizarre attack in Miami involving cannibalism. The developments ahead on that.


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, after seven days of deliberation, still no verdict in the John Edwards corruption trial in North Carolina.

As deliberations drag on, there's still news coming out of the courtroom. Some of it, well, it's kind of bizarre. Like the fact that four alternate jurors are showing up in matching outfits, for instance. Or that one of the alternates is reportedly flirting with Edwards. There's been some kind of giggling and smiling and blushing going on.

Of course the real news we're waiting for is what the jury will decide. So now the question is what's taking so long? Want to talk now live in North Carolina with ABC's Bob Woodruff. And in L.A. former deputy district attorney Marcia Clark, author of "Guilt by Degrees."

Bob, still no verdict. All these reports about jury behavior or misbehavior. What is going on down there?

BOB WOODRUFF, ABC NEWS: It's a good point. We don't really know to what's happening behind the doors in that room.

It's hard to see exactly what they're thinking like. Yes, you've got the regular jury. You've got the jurors, which is 12 of them on one side of the building, of the roof, and then the other side, these other four, sitting together. And they have all recently worn the same clothes. They all wore pink one day. The wore red, white, and blue one day, yellow one day. And then today it was -- it was black and gray. So they're putting this plan together to wear the same clothes.

So maybe the ones, the alternates are pretty happy. They seem to be having some fun together. What we don't know, Anderson, is whether the regular jurors are actually agreeing with each other, not agreeing with each other. But for some reason they're taking a lot longer than we expected.

COOPER: Yes, Marcia, I mean, the lengthy deliberations are not heard of, obviously. And this could be seen as a complicated case. Does it seem unusual to you, though? MARCIA CLARK, FORMER DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: In this case, maybe not. I have to say, Anderson, the defense did give a really good back -- back poll on a lot of this evidence. And they pointed the finger at Andrew Young.

And how Andrew Young came across in the courtroom is extremely critical here. He is the linchpin of the prosecution case. The prosecution had to admit Young did divert some of the funds to his own use, to build his own $1.6 million house. That already undermines his credibility. And that how he actually comes across to the jurors in the course of this is also important.

Then you have of all the documents, which can be extremely complicated.

So you have kind of a viable defense, in that the defense is pointing at Andrew Young, saying he took the money; he didn't tell Edwards. He did this on his own. And now for his own profit and his own benefit, he's going to point the finger at Edwards and say anything he needs to for the prosecution.

So I can see where the jurors would be struggling to get through it. Now, whether or not the wife, Andrew Young's wife, also testified. She may have given some really good corroboration for him or not.

But they have a lot to struggle with. I'm not that surprised it's taking a long time. What I am surprised at, Anderson, are the junior hijinx with the clothing and, you know, matching clothes for a number of days.

CLARK: Have you ever seen that with a jury?

CLARK: Really -- no. No. And yes, as you know, I've seen my share of juries, and some are goofy. And I've never seen jurors actually coordinate their clothing. It's like what is this, freaky Friday? You know, I don't know. It's not good.

COOPER: Bob, I think what a lot -- a lot of people who haven't followed this closely might be confused that, you know, the jury has to separate the -- kind of the sleazy activities of John Edwards, which are now admitted and obvious, from whether or not what he did actually broke -- broke a campaign finance law.

WOODWARD: Yes. What is admitted, as you know, is that he sinned in terms of his life with Rielle Hunter and what he did to his wife. The lies that he made. All of those now he admits. He lied about those before, and he knows he's been caught, so he's lying about those.

But the one he claims is, "Yes, I did sin, but I did not really break any law," which is the campaign finance law. Did he know about that money when it was coming from the wealthy supporters through -- really, through Andrew Young and then on to help Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, actually, and Cheri Young, as well, to try to escape away from the media. Did he know about that? And if he did, did he believe that that was a violation of the campaign finance law, which has to be limited to $2,300 per person to donate. This is more than a million dollars. So he clearly -- if he knew about it, this is a huge violation of the law. But that's what the prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt. And that is a big question right now.

COOPER: Marcia, under what circumstances would jury problems lead a judge to declare a mistrial or be used, you know, for grounds for an appeal later on? I mean, wearing clothes is not one of them I assume. Wearing identical clothing.

CLARK: No. Although it might be an indication of something, but no. It'd have to do with poor taste rather than a violation that's grounds for an appeal.

But what I worry about more, alternates are supposed to be kept separate, Anderson, from the rest of the jury. They're not allowed to deliberate, not allowed to discuss the case. The jurors can only discuss the case while amongst themselves and only when they're all together in the jury room.

However, these jurors are being allowed to have lunch with the alternates. If I'm the defense in this case, I'm certainly going to point to the fact that, look, they're sitting in there in the lunchroom with them. They're talking together. What do you think they're going to talk about? What do these people have in common except for the trial? That's a big worry.

And then we know the judge has admonished the jurors twice now to only discuss the case when they're alone together in the jury room, which may indicate there have been reports that they've been discussing the case in separate little factions outside the courtroom.

COOPER: Right.

CLARK: And that's bad news.

COOPER: Marcia Clark, appreciate it. Bob Woodruff, thank you for the reporting.

Coming up, he cried when he was sentenced, but the former Rutgers University student convicted of using a Web cam to spy on his gay roommate never apologized for his actions until today. We'll tell you what he said next.


COOPER: Let's get the latest on some of the other stories we're following. Isha's back with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, Madeleine Albright, the nation's first female secretary of state, was one of 13 people awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom today at the White House. It's the nation's highest civilian honor. Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student convicted of bias intimidation, said today he'll report to jail on Thursday to begin serving his 30-day sentence. He also apologized for the first time for spying on his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, with a Web cam. Clementi killed himself days later.

New details on that horrific attack along a Miami causeway. CNN affiliate reports that the naked man who chewed off another man's face may have been under the influence of a street drug known as bath salts. It's also called the new LSD and contains amphetamine-like chemicals.

Anderson, a small dog with enormous stamina has a new home after logging more than 1,000 miles in a bike race across China.


SESAY: The stray followed a team of cyclists after they fed her. She stuck with them over 12 mountains all the way to Tibet. One of the cyclists plans to adopt her. That's what you call a dogged doggy.

COOPER: Aww. That's very sweet.

SESAY: Isn't that cute?

COOPER: Sweet.

Time now for "The Shot." Isha, siren calls by definition, well, they're hard to resist. You don't have to read "The Odyssey" or be an ancient Greek sailor to know that. Just ask this dog. The video and the howls go on for about a minute.





COOPER: There we go. Yes.

SESAY: That's a racket.

COOPER: That is a racket. I love dogs. Isha, thanks very much.

Coming up a guy hides an engagement ring in the sand and on a beach. Can you guess where this is going? "The RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we have a tale about a modest proposal, about a guy from Colorado who wanted to ask his girlfriend to marry him. He wanted to propose on the beach while they were on vacation in Naples, Florida. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had gotten the parents' permission just a few days before. And I wanted it to happen on this trip.


COOPER: So he did what any romantic person would do on a beach proposal. He hid the engagement ring by burying it in the sand. His plan was for her to dig around and find it. But as the old saying goes, a diamond is forever. Forever or until your boyfriend buries it in the beach, and no one can find it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It dawned on me that we may have to be more aggressive. But it's one of those things in the back of your head, you're thinking, "Oh, yes, that stuff only happens in the movies."


COOPER: Yes, I actually haven't seen that movie, but it sounds really good.

So they can't find the ring. He's panicking. He recruits, like, a dozen people on the beach to help. And they all look for hours. For hours this goes on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't very smart. I wouldn't recommend doing anything so risky.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I know what you're thinking. This guy is no rocket scientist. And he's not. He's a brain surgeon. Really. I'm not kidding. He's a brain surgeon, an honest-to-God brain surgeon like Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So of course, we asked Sanjay what part of the brain makes someone think that hiding a diamond ring in the sand is a good idea and whether that part of the brain can perhaps be removed.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): As much as it pains me to admit this, I think that being smart and having common sense are often inversely proportional. And that may be nowhere more true than with brain surgeons in particular.

When it comes to, you know, very emotional things like getting engaged, that can be more frightening than -- than even doing brain surgery.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: I love that we interviewed Sanjay about this.

I'm happy to report that the story does have a happy ending. Sometimes, when a brain surgeon can't get the job done, you've got to call in a guy with a metal detector. That's right. Larry Spiering (Ph), ring finder, saved the day. And boy, was the brain surgeon relieved.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't really care about the expense of it all, you know the ring itself. I just really wanted to be engaged to her at that point. You know?


COOPER: So yes, the ring was recovered, the brain surgeon proposed. The girlfriend said yes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to feel sorry for a guy who's been digging around in the rain for a couple hours. How can you say no to that?


COOPER: And you know what? This little mishap probably won't even get the guy laughed out of brain surgeon-only poker night. Because as it turns out, this kind of thing happens to the best of them.


GUPTA (via phone): I, in fact, lost my own wedding ring once. I was actually on the West Coast and actually threw it away in the waste basket. It was the most embarrassing thing. And I had to go hunt it down. The wedding ring that I have now actually is a different one.


COOPER: Yikes. That should explain that.

Now we know. Brain surgeons, awesome at doing surgeries on brains; not so awesome at hanging onto rings. Nobody, it seems, is perfect.

And that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.