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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Sweat Lodge Guru Arrested; Americans Accused of Trafficking; Where is Haiti's Government?; Democrats Tug-of-War

Aired February 3, 2010 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

Tonight, we begin with breaking news: manslaughter charges against self-help guru James Arthur Ray. He has been arrested -- that's him this evening on his way to being booked, that's what they called the perp walk. Three people died in one of his sweat lodges.

Tonight, we're going to talk to a woman who was inside the sweat lodge where people died and we'll talk to Jeff Toobin on the case against him.

Also tonight, serious new questions about that group of American missionaries under arrest in Haiti for trafficking kids and some explosive allegations tonight that we're hearing for the first time that they may have known what they were doing was illegal and some new questions about whether they may have paid a bribe to take the kids.

And later, "Raw Politics," President Obama's Q & A session, this time with Democrats. Were they any easier on him than Republicans? Well, the answer may surprise you.

But "First Up", the breaking news: let's get started. One of the country's leading self-help gurus is in jail, charged with manslaughter, this guy, James Arthur Ray. Here is the video that we just got of him being taken into custody by authorities.

Certainly not the image of the multimillionaire self-help guru we've been seeing over the last couple of months. He's a guy you've probably seen on TV, made a fortune selling self-empowerment for thousands of dollars a pop, per person. The sheriff's deputy is arresting him this afternoon at his attorney's office in Prescott, Arizona.

Now the charges -- you're going to remember -- go back to what happened in October right here at the so-called spiritual warrior sweat lodge ceremony outside Sedona. More than 20 people became ill inside there; three eventually died.

Gary Tuchman joins us with the breaking news. He has been covering this for a long time now. Gary, what do we know?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, James Ray is in serious trouble. Three counts of manslaughter against him in Arizona. That's recklessly causing the death of another. Each count carries the possibility of four to ten years in prison.

Now, his attorneys say this is unjust, that it was just a terrible accident. But here are 700 pages of testimony and evidence that say otherwise. These are people who were in the sweat lodge, dozens of people who've talked to detectives. And most of them say the exact same thing, that James Ray wasn't interested in people who were fainting, people who were passing out, people who were throwing up, people who were going delirious.

There are also interviews with people who were in the sweat lodge last year, no one died last year, but people also got sick. And they said James Ray also showed no interest in people getting sick last year.

But an example of some of the testimony, a detective talked to a man named Daniel who said, quote, "He didn't remember anything because he had passed out and was hallucinating and dreaming." Daniel was actually hitting and kicking people.

And then there's a man named Lou. The detective says, "I contacted Lou by phone, asked how he was injured. He stated, "He had gotten so hot and he was delirious and was trying to get out of the lodge and put his hand into the hot rocks in the middle of the lodge."

Lots of participants interviewed by the detectives, also employees, including one employee who is likely to be a star witness in the trial against James Ray. And I talked to her a few weeks ago. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELINDA MARTIN, FORMER EMPLOYEE OF JAMES RAY INTL.: It was like an absolute MASH Unit, helicopters coming down. You know -- well when he came out, the helicopters weren't there, but at that time, it is still bodies everywhere, passed out. I mean and then they -- he walked out of there looking like a million bucks.

TUCHMAN: What was James Ray doing during this time?

MARTIN: Watching. Standing above and watching. They hosed him down and he said, "Oh, thank you," and you know and then he walked past the guy who was screaming, saying -- he was earlier saying he didn't want to die and please don't let me die.

And then James walked by him this guy went to -- said to James from his sitting down position he said, "I died, I literally died and I came back to life." And James is like, "Hey, all right, man" gave him a high-five. It was like fantastic.

And James, I think was completely oblivious to the pandemonium that was taking place around that sweat lodge.

TUCHMAN: What happened during the worst point of all this, the most horrifying point? MARTIN: My worst point or my most horrifying point was when the ambulances arrived and helicopters arrived and the paramedics came and they surveyed Kirby Brown and they put her in an ambulance instead of a helicopter. And that was the worst moment for me.

TUCHMAN: Because you knew that it was too late for her?

MARTIN: Yes.

And after me giving her mouth-to-mouth, I would breathe into her mouth, her stomach would go up. And when it would go back down again, she would vomit into my mouth. And this happened four times. And I really thought I was going to bring her back. I really thought that she was going to survive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: James Ray is being processed in the jail right now. He'll have his initial appearance in court tomorrow morning. He's in jail in lieu of $5 million bond.

Anderson, a short time ago, I talked with Andrea Puckett. She is the daughter of one of the sweat lodge victims, Liz Newman. She told me she feels utter relief tonight.

COOPER: You know, Gary I mean, this probably won't be part of the legal case because it's not about actually what happened inside the sweat lodge but I do think what we've seen subsequent to this in his behavior kind of points to what kind of guy we're dealing with.

You have been on his trail for a long time. I would have thought after three people died in a sweat lodge that his business was associated with and he was directly involved with that he would have at least stopped, you know, having seminars right away.

But he didn't do that. He went on to continue to have seminars. And if fact, you tried and a producer tried to confront him at one of them and you guys got kicked out, right?

TUCHMAN: Right. He was trying to drum up business in the days after three people died in his sweat lodge. And he was holding a seminar here in the State of Colorado where I am right now. And there were hundreds of people there, they were very enthusiastic. And I wasn't able to get in, because they recognized me and they wouldn't let me get in.

My producer got in. And he started taking some questions and my producer Ray Docenen (ph) said how are you holding this seminar with all these people just days after three people died? And he said this is not a press conference and my producer got booed and they ushered him out of the room.

It so happens that James Ray about a week later, stopped holding the free seminars.

COOPER: Right. TUCHMAN: He says that it was a decision he made. But other people, Anderson, who are witnesses who are on the 700 pages say the reason he stopped is because the hotels where he was holding them wouldn't have him anymore.

COOPER: And also, wasn't one of the people who died, weren't they sent to the hospital as a Jane Doe? And didn't they lay in the hospital as a Jane Doe for quite some time before they could figure out who their family was? And people from James Ray's organization didn't even -- or James Ray didn't even follow up on that?

TUCHMAN: That's exactly right. That one of the three victims was in the hospital and they didn't know who she was. She had no identification with her and she was labeled as Jane Doe.

COOPER: Unbelievable.

TUCHMAN: And that's one of the things -- that's one of the things the families are so upset about...

COOPER: Yes.

TUCHMAN: ...they feel it was so unfeeling.

COOPER: Yes, understandable, ironic for a guy who talks about your feelings all the time.

We're going to actually hear from him. He gave an interview right before he was arrested. We're going to read you some of what he had to say.

Let's go and talk to somebody who was inside that sweat lodge for some more details. And we'll talk to Jeff Toobin about the legal case. Let us know what you think about this. Join us right now the live chat under way, AC360.com.

Also later tonight, those American missionaries arrested for trafficking orphans in Haiti -- this is a fascinating case and it's hard to kind of figure out what exactly is going on with it. They say they did nothing wrong. They seemed like, you know, nice people, good intentions.

But there's some new allegations that we've learned tonight from Karl Penhaul in the ground in Port-au-Prince that they may have known precisely that what they were doing was illegal. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL CARLOS CASTILLO, DOMINICAN CONSUL: I warned her, I say as soon as you get there without the proper documents, you going to get in trouble because they're going to accuse you because you have the intent to pass the border without the proper papers. And they're going to accuse you of kids trafficking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, people put their lives in his hands, trusting him to help improve themselves. They paid a lot for the opportunity, three paid with their lives. Our breaking news tonight: self-help guru James Arthur Ray, in custody, charged with three counts of manslaughter in the deaths at one of his sweat lodge ceremonies.

Now, last month Ray and his attorney spoke with "New York" Magazine. We're going to be showing you some of what he had to say about the sweat lodge incident and it really contradicts what we're hearing from people who were actually inside, including Beverly Bunn, who survived the ordeal. She's on the phone with us tonight. Also with us here senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Beverly, first of all, when you heard this guy was arrested what went through you mind?

BEVERLY BUNN, SWEAT LODGE PARTICIPANT (via telephone): Well, I actually heard it from Gary and I started crying. It was an overwhelming feeling with mixed emotions.

COOPER: Mixed emotions how?

BUNN: So much satisfaction and gratification and verification...

COOPER: Right.

BUNN: ...of what I have been saying for -- since the beginning. And I just -- you know, the truth is the truth and now the truth is being told and the truth is coming out.

COOPER: Jeff, in terms of what's going to happen in court, I mean, his lawyers are saying that there was no way he could have predicted the tragic events that happened. Obviously, police don't agree.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right. The defense here is very clear. It's a tragic accident, not foreseeable, just a tragedy.

A lot of facts that we don't know at this point will be very important in this case. You know, what had happened previously? Did he have warnings that this could have happened or had it gone off without a hitch in the past?

What kind of precautions were taken? How were people warned? Were there medical personnel on the premises? It does appear like there was at least one doctor there. All these questions will go to his good faith...

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: ...or lack thereof. And I think that's really the critical legal question.

COOPER: Beverly, did they take, like, a medical evaluation of you before you were put in the sweat lodge?

BUNN: Nothing. No medical history was taken at all.

COOPER: Wow.

I want to read you something, Beverly, that -- that this guy, James Ray gave in an interview to "New York" magazine recently. When asked, "What did you do after making sure 911 was called" because that what he said he did. Ray replied "I did everything I could to help. There was a medical doctor there and I was having her make sure that everything was being run appropriately. I held people's hands, I stroke their hair, I've talked to them, I held the IV for the paramedics. I was there the entire time doing whatever I could do to help until I was detained by the detectives."

Beverly, you were there, do you think, is he telling the truth?

BUNN: No, that's completely false. The medical doctor was there as a participant and she actually was laying next to me. And when I actually was coherent and I started actually reviving one of the people that was in critical condition, I said we need medical assistance here and I knew she is a medical doctor.

So I asked her to come and help. When we saw that they were doing CPR over in another area, that's actually when I told -- they required some medical assistance. I told the lady that you needed to go over -- she needs to go over there.

COOPER: So you were the one actually directing this doctor around? What was Ray doing at this time?

BUNN: Right. James Ray was about five or ten feet away from Kirby and James Shore while they were actually conducting CPR on them. He just actually stood there. He was nowhere on our side of the tent. There's no way he was helping anybody. Those are very false, very false statements.

COOPER: Jeff I was...

BUNN: He was nowhere, anywhere near any of us.

COOPER: Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, these are huge issues for the criminal case, because was the doctor there because she just happened to be a guest or was -- was she an employee who was someone there to...

COOPER: Beverly, do you know the answer to that? Was she an employee or she was actually taking part in the sweat lodge?

BUNN: No, she was just a participant.

COOPER: Interesting.

TOOBIN: Yes, so that's a big issue. And also, the whole issue of his possible false statements, because there is nothing prosecutors like better to show consciousness of guilt...

COOPER: I want to read you...

TOOBIN: ...people lie about what went on.

COOPER: I want to read you a statement, Jeff, that he gave to "New York" magazine. He was asked, "Were you aware that some participants were vomiting or passing out or screaming for help during the sweat lodge?" His lawyer referred them to what they call the white paper, which was this defense document that they already have prepared.

And in the white paper it says, "Had Mr. Ray, JRI personnel or volunteers heard or understood there to be an urgent call for help, they immediately would have stopped the ceremony." It's a very carefully calibrated statement.

TOOBIN: Yes.

COOPER: Basically, had they -- had they heard or understood there to be an urgent call for help -- I'm not sure what an urgent call for help would be. I mean, it's easy to interpret that in many ways.

TOOBIN: That's right. And certainly, prosecutors will be looking very carefully at his behavior to show that he knew what he had done was wrong. And lying is the classic way that people show that they know that they did something wrong.

COOPER: Beverly, I was stunned by something he also said in "New York" magazine in this interview. And I don't know frankly why he gave this interview, if you thought he was helping himself. But he said, he was asked, "Do you think in some -- in some divinely or cosmically ordained way, this was the victims' time to die?" To which he replied, "I don't think I'm qualified to answer that. I think that's something that everyone would have to come to their own conclusions about."

He also -- I mean, he surely seems to show no real understanding of how that might be interpreted. And earlier, he was asked about one of his volunteers saying on a conference call that -- referencing some channeler who said that these people maybe wanted to die that they were having so much fun, it was their time to move on and transition.

Are you surprised to hear this from this guy who, I mean, you had turned to for spiritual enlightenment?

BUNN: I think it was a very bizarre statement on his part. And I was on the conference call and I did hear that. And I didn't understand it at all. There was none of that throughout the whole seminar as far as channeling or anything.

So for him to actually say that -- state that, I don't exactly know where he's coming from when he says that.

COOPER: He was asked in this New York magazine thing about the channeler, where this channeler said that - -I mean, I don't know really what a channeler is, but this person said there is a channeler who said that this person was having so much fun, maybe that they just moved on to the next life.

And he was asked to -- do you agree with this? And he basically said, "We'll, I'm not qualified to talk about channeling. I leave that for other people to decide." The obvious answer would be like, no, that's an inappropriate statement.

TOOBIN: Right. And this new-age gobbledygook that he's speaking is not likely to go over very well with the jury. And this whole "New York" magazine thing is just another example of why defense attorneys, in general, say to their clients, don't say anything. Because this clearly only makes the situation worse.

COOPER: Beverly, the fact that a person who had believed in this man was left in a hospital as a Jane Doe, when clearly the organization would have known who this person was and could have at least notified the family immediately, does that -- I mean, that's got to rub you the wrong way.

BUNN: Yes. I mean, it completely rubs me the wrong way, but there's a lot of things that -- I mean, James Ray preached about living an impeccable life, taking responsibility for your life, taking responsibility for your actions. That was preached a lot during the whole course of the events.

And then James Ray showed up, the real James Ray showed up in the end. And the thing is that the man who has actually never showed any kind of accountability or responsibility in any shape or form, this whole event has totally changed my life. I've never received a phone call. I've been very public and the thing is that they've never actually contacted me to see, you know, how I'm doing.

I have spoken with many, many survivors and they've never received any phone calls to see how they're doing.

COOPER: Yes.

BUNN: You know, he left the event. He basically, like I said before, he abandoned us at the event. And he did not come to the dinner hall that night. We were notified by the investigative team. He didn't show up at the dinner hall the next morning. He never went to the hospital and he has never contacted any of the families, not him, his staff...

COOPER: Yes.

Bunn: ...in any way, shape or form to see exactly how everybody is doing.

COOPER: And he moved on to other seminars until -- I guess, Gary Tuchman said some ... (CROSSTALK)

BUNN: Correct. He conducted his business.

COOPER: Beverly, I appreciate you being on with us. I know it's a difficult thing to talk about. Beverly Bunn thank you and Jeff Toobin, as well thanks very much.

We'll continue to follow it.

Just ahead, what is Haiti's government doing to help the Haitian people? Are they simply AWOL, we're going to look at that?

Also we have some new damning allegations frankly against those American missionaries accused of kidnapping Haitian kids. See who said they were warned that they were about -- what they were about to do was illegal. They went ahead and did it anyway.

Well, tell you who allegedly helped them and who is now being questioned about maybe taking a bribe to do it. This thing is just getting stranger and stranger.

And later, is the home crowd any easier than the opposition? See how President Obama did today fielding questions, not all of them soft balls from his own party. We'll have the "Raw Politics" on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So, the question tonight, are the American missionaries suspected of trying to kidnap kids out of Haiti telling the truth? A lot of people want to know, of course, including right here at home and in Haiti.

As we have been reporting, the group is behind bars, that's where they still are insisting they did nothing wrong, and they were only trying to help the kids and not sneak them across the border.

As we've also been telling you they've met with a Haitian policeman who they say offered to assist them take the kids out of the country. But did they actually try to bribe this guy or did they bribe this guy? It's unusual to get a Haitian policeman to volunteer to help you for a certain amount of time without some sort of money being passed.

We've got new information to bring you tonight. Karl Penhaul has been working the story for days. Here is his "360 Follow" report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN VIDEO CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They said they were coming to save Haitian orphans in Jesus' name. First, they seemed naive but well-intentioned.

But Haitian and Dominican authorities now paint a different picture. They say the Baptist missionaries had no proper paperwork and were in fact, warned last Friday their so-called mercy mission was illegal.

CASTILLO: And I warned her, I say as soon as you get there without the proper documents, you are going to get in trouble because they're going to accuse you, because you have the intent to pass the border without the proper papers and they're going to accuse you of kids trafficking.

PENHAUL: But that's very different from what the group's leader, Laura Silsby, told CNN in a jailhouse interview.

LAURA SILSBY, GROUP LEADER: We went to the Dominican consulate and was told there by the Consulate General to go ahead and head towards the border, that we should be fine to, you know, to pass.

PENHAUL: Less than four hours after they met the consul, Silsby and the other Americans were arrested at the border with 33 Haitian babies and children, accused of child trafficking.

Haitian Steve Adrien, who translated for the group, says he believes any paperwork the Americans had may have been facilitated by Haitian policemen who worked at the Dominican consulate.

STEVE ADRIEN, HAITIAN TRANSLATOR: They met a police guy and tell them that he could help and he was -- he was helping them with some paper.

PENHAUL: A senior Haiti police chief confirms this police officer was taken for questioning about whether he provided illegal travel documents for a bribe.

In jailhouse interviews Saturday and Sunday with CNN, Silsby and the other Americans appear to portray themselves as well-intentioned but naive.

SILSBY: I can tell you our heart and our intent was to help only those children that needed us most that -- that they had lost either both mother and father.

PENHAUL: But another interpreter working for the missionaries says criteria for selecting the children was not whether they were truly orphans but if they were under age 10.

(on camera): Was Laura well aware that these children were not orphans? Did she know -- did she know they were not orphans but had a parent or two parents or...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did she know that she -- that they were orphan?

PENHAUL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PENHAUL (voice-over): An Austrian charity now caring for the children says it is already confirmed two-thirds of them are not orphans. Some of the children came from this mountain village of Kalabas. Lelly Laurentus, like other parents we met here said he was too poor to care for his daughters after the quake. He hoped the Americans would give his girls a better future.

"I put them both on the bus with the Americans with my own hands. I kissed them both goodbye and told them don't forget daddy," he said.

Police gave CNN permission to talk to the missionaries again in jail Tuesday night to discuss allegations they knowingly flouted the laws here and of taking young children that weren't orphans.

But they are in no mood to talk. They drowned out questions with hymns.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Karl Penhaul joins us now.

Karl, what do you make of this? I mean, are these people naive? They have good intentions? Did something went wrong? I mean, if they are paying a bribe to a police officer, if that is in fact true and as you have shown in your report, a police officer is being investigated or at least talked to about that. If they were told what they were doing was illegal and they went ahead and did it anyway. I mean, what do you make of this?

PENHAUL: Well, initially, you know, I thought like a lot of other people that these were well-intentioned people that would race down here to do something immediately to try and cut through the red tape and do something good. And you know, the way they talk, they are very softly spoken, they talk about how they believe that this was a mission from God, that they are very righteous people, come across as that and I kind of bought in to that.

But then the more I dug into this, it just seems that they knew from the get-go that what they were going was going to be illegal, both from the Haitian side and from the Dominican side. Authorities were telling them you don't do it this way, you can't do it this way, you must do things right. And they simply flouted that and looked for other ways to circumvent it.

And when it all comes down, I really wonder, you know, we know that these kids, many of them, had parents, most of them have parents and I just wonder whether really them going and living on their own in an orphanage is better than living with their parents here in Haiti.

And I know their parents have got a poor existence here but development focus has got to be on giving those kids a better future here in Haiti, not a better future abroad.

COOPER: Well, that's what I mean, all the groups, UNICEF, Save the Children are saying as look. Yes, for kids who are already in the adoption process that's one thing, but for the kids who are still in Haiti right now, you know, focus should be on trying to make their lives better, because not everybody can be taken abroad.

And some of them do have -- I mean, that -- that poor father who gave up his child, you know, because he felt like he couldn't give his child the life.

It's also not clear to me that they even had an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. I mean, I talked to you about this last night. You said, they were going to be building it, but it's not as if the need in Haiti was so dire to get these kids out. You know, they could have come up with a facility in Port-au-Prince to fund and give money to them.

I mean, people want to do good things for kids in Haiti there is plenty of ways to do it besides taking them out of the country.

PENHAUL: I think you've hit the nail on the head. There is no need to take them out of Haiti to do this even if they -- you know, they could support them here in Haiti.

In fact, where the kids are now, at SOS Children's Village, those are beautiful installations. There are a number of different houses. The kids live in 14 or 15-strong groups. They've got a big communal table that they all meet around and have three square meals a day.

Why don't these American Baptists pump some money into that instead of doing their own thing, when they clearly have no experience in that? I know from Dan Simon's report that they were saying that they were trying to do this over the last two years. And what Laura Silsby told us is that she only founded her charity a year ago.

COOPER: Wow, it's a fascinating story. And Karl, I appreciate your dogged reporting on it. Thank you very much.

It's not easy trying to figure out what is true on the ground in Port-au-Prince. Karl is doing a great job.

More from Haiti ahead. Where is the Haitian government? I mean, what are Haiti's leaders actually doing to help their own people more than three weeks into this disaster? We're "Keeping them Honest" tonight.

Also tonight, are Democrats any easier on President Obama than Republicans when they have got him on the spot? Well, you can see for yourself, they grilled him today -- at least some of them did -- just like Republicans did last week. Some of their questions may surprise you.

We will play them for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, new details about the decision to try the accused Christmas day bomber in civilian court. We'll tell you what Attorney General Eric Holder revealed in a letter to Senate Republicans who have been hammering the decision.

First, let's get to the other important headlines tonight. Kiran Chetry has the "360 Bulletin" -- Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Anderson. We start in northwest Pakistan where three American soldiers were among seven people killed today when a powerful roadside bomb struck a convoy. It happened near a girls' school. The Americans were there training the country's security forces to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda.

There is more confusion tonight for owners of Toyotas recalled because their accelerator pedals could stick. During a hearing on Capitol Hill today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the eight recalled models should not be driven.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY LAHOOD, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: My advice is if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it, take it to the Toyota dealer because they believe they have the fix for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Later, LaHood said that he misspoke and only meant to urge Toyota owners to take the recalled cars into the dealerships to have them fixed as soon as possible.

Former secretary of state, Colin Powell today publicly shifting his stance on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy: a ban that he actually proposed when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Powell says he now supports efforts to lift the ban on gays openly serving in the military saying, quote, "attitudes and circumstances have changed in the 17 years since Congress mandated the policy."

And if you think you're hip because you tweet, think again. According to a new report, those who really know what's cool, you know, teenagers, they think tweeting is pretty lame. Researchers found that's only 8 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds online are active on Twitter. They mostly follow celebrity tweets. And the takeaway, Anderson, is if you prefer tweeting to texting, you are actually just showing your age.

COOPER: Ouch. Oh, my God. Oh, my gawd.

CHETRY: OMG is the right way to say it.

COOPER: I hate being mocked by 8-year-olds. I hate being told by 8-year-olds what's cool.

CHETRY: Do you also notice, I'm very uncomfortable around teenagers, I feel like they are just sitting there thinking what is this old bag trying to say to me right now? But anyway.

COOPER: I feel that way around our interns.

CHETRY: Me, too.

COOPER: Kiran thanks very much. The Democrats take on the president with the cameras rolling. Senators asking their boss why should Americans trust the Democratic Party? Is this open forum backfiring or is this really a good thing for President Obama? We have that coming up. Talk to David Gergen and others.

Later, Haiti's government, weeks after the earthquake, the people are waiting for answers and asking where are their leaders? So are we, "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Bill Clinton will be in Haiti on Friday; he has a big new role. The U.N. today asked the former president to lead the coordinated global aid efforts for Haiti. Fund raising is going to be obviously a major part of that role. Clinton already serves as the United Nations special envoy to the country.

But tonight, the question that we are asking -- frankly a lot of Haitian people are asking on the ground in Port-au-Prince is -- where is the Haitian government? Where have the leaders been?

I don't mean their physical location. We know they are located by the airport. I mean, what are they actually doing to help people?

"Keeping Them Honest", tonight Joe Johns joins us from Port-au- Prince and in Chicago, Professor Ludovic Comeau, economics professor at DePaul University and former chief economist of the Haitian Central Bank.

Professor, first of all, how do you think the Haitian government has been dealing with this crisis? I mean a lot of folks in Haiti are just saying where have they been?

LUDOVIC COMEAU, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY: Well, the Haitian government has also been hit by the earthquake and ministers have lost their parents and families. One minister lost their son.

But there has been a communication problem, then a public relations problem for the Haitian government. Because when you are dealing with such a tragedy, one would hope that the president, the prime minister, would have come out in the first few hours and asked the foreigners that had come first to provide some relief -- to provide them with communications in order to speak to the people.

But unfortunately, that didn't seem to have happened. And in the diaspora, an altering Haiti, people are wondering -- Haitians are wondering what happened? Why didn't we see the president to provide us some leadership and live up to the moment?

COOPER: Joe, it's interesting, President Preval had said in print, "Well, look, I'm not there for photo ops." But in a country where -- they make the argument well, the government is broken and we don't have money so there is not much we can do, the least you can do is lead by example. And if your countrymen are suffering then you should be out there helping people pick through the rubble in those first few days or doing something visible. I know you talked to the Haitian government, the people today. What is their excuse? What are they saying?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I mean, what we know is that this is a country that is the poorest country in the hemisphere, made poor, kept poor by the west. Its leadership has been undermined essentially for centuries and that comes right to this day.

The leadership in this country is not respected by a lot of the people. A lot of the people say they are not doing anything.

So we did go to the information minister here in Haiti today, asked a couple of questions about that. And she said, look, we are working quietly behind the scenes.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIE LAURENCE LASSEGUE, INFORMATION MINISTER, HAITI: I say that all the countries who came to help us, they are there because we need them. And Canada, United States, Venezuela, Africa, they help us because we have a lot of priorities.

So even when the population can see people from any kind of country, but we ask them to help us; so, the government is working in coordination, in articulation (ph) with all that country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joe, she is essentially saying, well, what we did, we asked for help and we should get praised because we asked for help.

I mean, in terms of specifics, you know, a state-run company did collect the bodies that were on the streets of Port-au-Prince. In fairness, that is something they did though as we know a number of those bodies were just dumped on the side of the road and not actually buried.

There are now people picking up rubble, but that is funded by the U.N., right?

JOHNS: Yes, a lot of that is funded by the U.N. But there are also people from the government here picking up rubble as well.

There are things the government's is doing. I mean, I don't want to overstate it, but they are working on inoculations. That could be very important. They are working a lot on the new orphans, trying to figure out who they are and helping all the NGOs in Port-au-Prince place them and that's a massive effort.

In fact, NGOs is one of the biggest problems for this government because for decades, so many people who were giving money to this country gave all the money to the private, charitable organizations and not to the government.

So the government didn't have money to stand up its public safety sector, for example, or to put in new infrastructure. And that's where we are today. This government is broke and that's why it can't do anything, Anderson.

COOPER: That is of course because of the history of corruption.

Professor, moving forward, I mean President Clinton has this new role. What -- how can he help Haiti rebuild? What does he need to do?

There is this huge Haitian diaspora, there's millions of Haitians around the world, many in the United States -- you are saying that they should be part of this rebuilding, yes?

COMEAU: Well, absolutely. And since the earthquake, many Haitian groups in the diaspora, particularly in the United States and Canada, we have gotten together. We have formed think tanks and groups of professionals to try to come up with ideas and plans for the long term of Haiti.

And we are happy that we have someone like President Clinton with all the contacts that he has. But we think that he has to be more a facilitator and try to put the different sides together.

And one of the main partners in the rebuilding of Haiti must the huge diaspora. For example, there is a -- there is a group in Canada who is going to organize a symposium early in March; I'm going to be part of that. And the goal is to gather Haitian scholars teaching in universities and all type of Haitian experts abroad. And organize a huge international conference in May in order to come up with some blue books, some blueprint for a new vision for Haiti.

COOPER: Right.

COMEAU: So Haitians are there. We have the capacity for leadership. We just need to be part of the -- of the dialogue and President Clinton can be instrumental in being a facilitator, a bridge in between the Haitian diaspora, qualified Haitians in Haiti, because there are qualified Haitians in Haiti, international organizations, other partners, other friends of Haiti around the world.

COOPER: It also seems like over the years there's been a lot of foreign groups who've come in and kind put their ideas of, well, it should work this way, as opposed to kind of a Haitian solution bubbling up or coming from the diaspora.

You know, Haitians have a remarkable strength and resilience and ability to solve problems in their own way. And maybe it is not the way we would like or we think is the most efficient, but it can only work if there is buy-in from Haitian people, both here and around the world.

So, professor, I appreciate your comments tonight, Professor Ludovic Comeau. Joe Johns, as always, thank you Joe. Coming up, President Obama, serving himself up as a political punching bag. First, there was the Q & A with Republicans and now the Democrats get their turn. Is it actually a good thing for the president? We have the raw politics on that.

And NASA's deep space mystery, what is that? Scientists have some theories. What do you think? The story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Obama took part in a question and answer session today at a strategy conference for Senate Democrats. He may have faced a bigger helping of raw politic than he expected, sort of the same televised meeting he had w. Republicans last week the one where he went on the offensive.

Today, Mr. Obama had a strong message for the Democrats, too, but some are facing tough re-election battles this fall and there were definitely some sparks. Dana Bash has the report now -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as you said last week when the president opened up the Q & A with Republicans, it was to show independent voters that he will reach out to the GOP and also to show his base he is willing, I should say, to take on Republicans.

Well, today, what was so interesting is that Democrats used the same kind of forum for their vulnerable senators to take on the president.

I want to put up on the screen six senators, six Democratic Senators, they are all up for re-election and they were all, Anderson, hand-picked by the senate Democratic leader to ask a question of the president. And none of them missed an opportunity in this live forum -- this was live, the cameras were rolling. It was broadcast on CNN and elsewhere, to show their frustrated voters back home that they hear them.

We will play some of the clips from some of those questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: I visited with a constituent yesterday, good Democrat, small business owner, who is extremely frustrated; extremely frustrated because there was a lack of certainty and predictability from his government for him to be able to run his businesses.

He is -- he and his father have worked hard. They have built three or four different small businesses. And he fears that there is no one in your administration that understands what it means to go to work on Monday and have to make a payroll on Friday.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D) COLORADO: This place looks broken to the American people. The ability -- our ability to make these decisions is open to enormous question in the wake of the health care discussion in particular. I had a woman the other day in Glenwood Springs, Colorado ask me where she could get her lobbyist in Washington, D.C. What are we going to do differently? What are you going to do differently? What do we need to do differently?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Why should the Democratic Party be trusted and how do we make the tougher decisions to actually head this country in a better direction?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll tell you why the Democratic Party should be trusted because the last time this budget was balanced, it was under a Democratic president who made some very tough decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Dana as you know, the president is correct when he says that but we also point out that Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress back then.

Are we going to see more of these meetings? Does the White House think this is a good thing?

BASH: It is likely. Let's keep them honest here, the president was a willing participant in the political choreography today. In fact, I was told tonight by a senior Democratic source that the White House actually knew, the Democrats here on the Hill gave them a heads up of who would be asking the questions at today's forums.

He didn't necessarily know the content but he knows what is going on. He knows that all of the people standing up are in very tough re- election bids and so he knows the politics of the moment.

And I was in that room today, Anderson. I can tell you everybody there knew that the optics of this were probably beneficial to them back home.

And just to give you an example of the raw politics of this, one of the Democrats you heard there, Blanche Lincoln, who has a really, really brutal race this year in Arkansas, probably an hour or two after this forum, she sent out a campaign press release -- this is a Democrat -- back home in Arkansas, telling the voters that she stood up and she challenged the president today.

COOPER: Interesting. Dana, appreciate it. Let's dig deeper with senior political analyst, David Gergen; also John Avlon, columnist for thedailybeast.com and author of "Wingnuts: How the lunatic fringe is hijacking America".

David, you know, President Bush used to get kind of knocked for having pre-scripted questions or kind of softball questions at press conferences. I mean, just fair play here, why not have just actual impromptu questions from -- not from hand-picked senators and folks? Why not just have an actual meeting where things may get ugly, but it's real?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Or maybe even a formal press conference, Anderson.

COOPER: How about that?

GERGEN: A formal press conference -- wouldn't that be a change of pace? We haven't had one for about six months, I think.

Look, I think these have been constructive, especially the one with the Republicans. There was a certain electricity in that. This one was more -- was much tamer and it was sort of more predictable and had more of a pep rally feel to it, frankly, and very much a pre- campaign kind of effort.

But what I don't think -- I did visit the White House today, and -- after this session -- and I came away with the impression that these will not become routine. That if anything, they're going to look for fresh ways to communicate.

They do have very much a strong feeling in White House that the president needs to get out more. I have some questions about that strategy. But nonetheless, they want to put him in different settings.

I think what he ought to be doing, frankly, is some more listening, too. You know, a listening tour in which he listened to a lot of citizens. You know, these TEA party folks who are meeting this week, you know, their argument is "Nobody is listening to us." I think the more the government listens to citizens and then responds after a number of comments, I think that would be healthy.

COOPER: John, the argument is that President Obama has been plenty out there in terms of giving interviews, and you see him on a lot of different shows. What do you think independents think of -- how do they read this?

JOHN AVLON, COLUMNIST, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: I think this has been the substance behind the talk of a new reaching out, today's event. But also even more substantively, the Republican event, which really showed the president back in the mode that independents voted for him in '08.

Clearly, a president who's intelligent, who can think on his feet, who's not ideological and a real break with the Bush administration in that way. And I think actually these are not incidental events. I think these are very important. These have been real bright moments for the Obama administration.

COOPER: Would you like to see more of them?

AVLON: Absolutely, and there's actually a grassroots movement going on the Web right now. Liberal and conservative bloggers and journalists say make more of these. Make it like British prime minister's questions because in an era of constant spin, the only way to break through the spin is to stop spinning.

COOPER: Those British prime minister questions, though, I mean, there's nothing like that in American politics or hasn't been for a long time. I mean, it gets -- it gets downright mean, and I mean, people are yelling and booing. It's really fascinating.

AVLON: It's brutal, but it's honest. And I think that's what people are sick of, is the cynicism of Washington politics. Just having an honest exchange, and the fact that these are substantive, that's what's really revolutionary. There's been so much sense.

COOPER: It would be interesting, David, to see that kind of British-style thing. We should get a video of it and maybe play it tomorrow or something, because it is fascinating to watch. You know, the whole crowd goes, "Harumph, harumph, harumph," and you know, challenges what the British prime minister says.

GERGEN: Yes, Anderson, in Britain and in the parliament, they keep -- you know, you have to stand behind the line when you're speaking and the other party is directly across behind another line, and the two lines are just far enough apart that two swords can't hit each other. You can't hit the other guy with a sword.

But I want to go back to this, Anderson, about this. I think -- look, I think the president does need to be regularly accountable through questions, through the press and other forums.

But I don't think people sent him to Washington to be a talker. I think they sent him to Washington to be a doer and to get results. And this notion that he needs to get out on the countryside more, I think he needs to govern more and take charge in Washington and get some results. And yes, stay in touch. But most important thing is get some results for people.

COOPER: But now, Scott Brown is being sworn in, I mean, Democrats lose their filibuster-proof majority. So in truth, what can the president really get done?

AVLON: Well, look, they don't have a filibuster-proof majority, but they still have a strong majority. Many presidents have governed very effectively with far less. So I think there's a sense that you lose the 60 seats, all of a sudden the mandate to govern is over. And that's just not the case.

I think the president campaigned early on, on changing the culture in Washington. No doubt that's tough to do. It's addicted to division. But you begin by reaching out, by beginning, engaging in the conversation. And ultimately, what leaders do is change the culture. And I think this is a step in that direction.

COOPER: David, do you thank that's possible?

GERGEN: Anderson there are some things. Yes, I think on this year -- I was up on the Hill today, too, and talked to some of the Republican leadership. And I will tell you, there is a -- there was -- a gratitude expressed by Republicans that in the State of the Union, he said, "Look, I want to go on nuclear power. I want to go forward with that. I want to go forward with offshore drilling."

And if there is a possibility of putting together an energy bill this year that would have bipartisan support, there will be energy production. Cap and trade is gone. There would be a possibility of doing something on trade.

On education they are closer together.

On Afghanistan, there's a lot of Republican support.

So there are areas where you could build some trust, and people could begin to see, you know, maybe those guys can work together. That would help the country's morale a lot.

COOPER: David Gergen, John Avlon, appreciate it. Thanks very much. Good discussion.

Coming up next, battle over the handling of the alleged Christmas-Day bomber: the attorney general fired back at critics today. We'll tell you what he said and let you decide for yourself whether he's right.

Also, the unidentified flying object: take a look at this image from space. It had scientists baffled. We'll tell you what it seems to be ahead. I think it's from "Battlestar Galactica" frankly. But -- that's a Cylon raider, but that's just me.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Following a number of other important stories right now. Kiran Chetry has a "360 Bulletin" -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Hey, Anderson.

Well, Attorney General Eric Holder today defended his decision to try the accused Christmas-Day bomber in federal court and to read him his Miranda rights. In a letter to 11 Senate Republicans who have hammered the handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Holder said that he acted with the knowledge and consent of other relevant government departments and agencies. And he also noted similar decisions by previous administrations of both parties were not criticized.

Iran today saying it successfully launched a research rocket carrying two turtles, a mouse and worms into space. It also unveiled models of a new rocket and three new satellites. Iran's space program has worried western powers. They fear the technology will one day be used to deliver nuclear warheads.

And this is your favorite. Look at what NASA spotted for the first time with a little bit of help from the Hubble telescope. Not a UFO.

COOPER: Cylons.

CHETRY: Doesn't really look like a UFO, does it? It's a cosmic collision of two asteroids, according to scientist. They say that it was actually traveling five times faster than a rifle bullet.

COOPER: That's what they want you to think. Cylons. CHETRY: I think it's some 3-D special effects for the new "Avatar".

COOPER: Yes. Yes. All right.

"The Shot"; have you seen "The Shot", Kiran?

CHETRY: Yes.

COOPER: It's Snooki. Now I must admit, I have not seen this TV show yet. I've seen it on "The Soup," so I feel like I've seen it. And I know who Snooki is solely because she is the object of derision and mockery on "The Soup" just about every week.

CHETRY: You love "The Real Housewives," right? You're going to love this.

COOPER: Yes. No, I think this crosses my line. And it's not a -- and it's a very thin line, I will say. But that's Snooki, as she traditionally lookies.

The hair, she calls it the poof. She's got the makeup, the tan, the spray-on tan or peel-off tan; I'm not sure what sort of a tan. I'm sure it's natural, though.

That's the way we know her, and I guess some people sort of love her/are repulsed by her.

But the folks at "Inside Edition" ...

CHETRY: Look at the hair. Look at the hair.

CHETRY: ... have given Snooki a makeover. Here's the new Snooki.

CHETRY: Wow.

COOPER: Classy, sexy. It's very -- I don't know what it is. It's very Kim Kardashian.

CHETRY: It is actually. Good call.

COOPER: Yes. It's a little Kim Kardashian-esque. So I don't know. I kind of like the old Snooki, though I frankly don't know her. I kind of like the old...

CHETRY: She's very down-to-earth.

COOPER: Very down-to-earth?

CHETRY: Yes.

COOPER: You're being polite.

CHETRY: Well, no. When you ask her, she says, yes, we were drunk all the time, but it was the "Jersey Shore". What were we supposed to do?

COOPER: She's like a-laying in the gutter. That's how down-to- earth she is, I think.

CHETRY: Not that bad. But you know the hairstyle really sets her apart.

COOPER: Have you seen her in the hot tub? I've seen that on "The Soup". Not pretty.

CHETRY: Not personally.

COOPER: Yes. Yes. It's like a petri dish.

Hey, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts now.