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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Florida Free-For-All; Obama Announces New Mortgage Crimes Unit; Bill Maher Unleashed

Aired January 25, 2012 - 20:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much.

Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with the fight for Florida. With the roundhouse punches that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are throwing in English and in Spanish to win this crucial state. And new polling that shows how close the battle is right now.

They're going to face off in another debate tomorrow night right here on CNN along with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, who's not really contesting Florida, but it's the race between Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich that is dominating coverage. New CNN/ORC polling tonight shows a statistical dead heat, 36 to 34 Romney -- to Gingrich. Well within the five-point margin of error.

Now that's from sampling done Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. In other words, after the Gingrich victory on Saturday in South Carolina. But if you isolate just one of those days, Tuesday, after Governor Romney's sharp attacks in Monday night's debate, that data shows a nine-point advantage for him over the former speaker.

Now as always you can expect those numbers to change. This race is changing fast. Expect tomorrow night's debate to move the needle, as well. Also, expect more of what we saw today. Each candidate hammering the other.

The Gingrich campaign today stopped running this Spanish language radio spot accusing Mitt Romney of being, quote, "the most anti- immigration candidate in the race." They took the ad down after Florida senator, Mark Rubio, who's Cuban-America and is yet to endorse a candidate, took strong exceptions to it calling it inaccurate and inflammatory.

The Romney campaign meantime also angling for the Latino vote with a Spanish language ad slamming Speaker Gingrich for being the ultimate Washington insider, specifically his relationship with the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. And Romney has consistently described him as a former lobbyist for the mortgage giant and today at a town hall even the speaker heard from a heckler about it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt, you work for the people or Freddie Mac, Newt? NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm glad you asked that. I work for the people. Of course, I work for the people. Now -- and by the way --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) our tax money --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of here.

GINGRICH: Wait.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you, Newt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of here.

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: Now, now. This is a free country and people are allowed to come and be noisy. It's part of the American tradition. I just want to say for the record, I don't know that this lady wants to listen but I will say to the rest of you for the record, if you go to the July 2008 "New York Times," you will see the only reference to my talking to Congress about Freddie Mac. I told the House Republicans to vote no on giving them anymore money. I was opposed to them getting anymore money. And that is a fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, though, was Speaker Gingrich a lobbyist? Two members of Congress, Republicans, say he was. They say Gingrich in fact lobbied them. Tonight we've got new details from his contract with Freddie Mac. First, though, listen to how he described his role back in November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I have never done any lobbying. Every contract, it was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offer advice. And my advice as a historian when they walked in and said to me, we are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that's what the government wants us to do. I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's consulting firm was paid $25,000 a month for years by Freddie Mac. Now Governor Romney at Monday's debate ridiculed the notion that Freddie Mac would pay someone that kind of money for a historian's advice.

Just prior to that debate, the Gingrich campaign released the 2006 portion of the contract with Freddie which was notably vague about Gingrich's services. Last night we got the 1999 contract which goes into much more detail. On page 14, it describes in four bullet points a wide range of services Gingrich would provide. The two that stand out are, quote, "to serve as adviser to Freddie Mac in the areas of strategic planning and public policy for Freddie Mac priority issues." Also to, "Engage in discussions with Mitchell Delk and other senior officers of Freddie Mac relative to strategize on approaches to Freddie Mac business opportunities and challenges."

Mitchell Delk, by the way, was Freddie Mac's senior vice president of government relations. In other words, their chief lobbyist. So according to Open Secrets' database, he was indeed a registered lobbyist for Freddie Mac. So Speaker Gingrich's contract specifies activities that are right at the intersection of Freddie Mac issues and public policy, and he's being specifically hired to work with Freddie's head lobbyist.

Whoever drew up the contract seems to recognize that people could get the impression that it's lobbying in everything but name. So on that very same page, page 14, there's this. Quote, "Nothing herein is or shall be construed as an agreement to provide lobbying services of any kind or engage in lobbying activities."

Kevin Madden joins us now. He's a former Mitt Romney spokesman, and still a Romney supporter. Also Kellyanne Conway, a pollster and senior adviser to the Gingrich campaign.

Kevin, could it be a mistake for the Romney campaign to push this Freddie Mac attack when their own campaign might get caught in the crossfire?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's an important part of the contrast that you're going to try and place before voters in Florida. Right now, I think voters are going to have to decide whether or not they want a nominee for the party and whether or not they want a president of the country who's been somebody who's been a Washington insider, somebody who's made their career in Washington, D.C., or whether or not they want someone like Governor Romney who's built his career in the private sector outside of Washington, D.C., and as a very successful governor and as somebody who headed the -- who headed the Olympics in 2002.

So those kind of contrasts at a time where voters are making that critical choice in a place like Florida and through the course of considerations that voters are going to go through the rest of this primary calendar, you know, it's an important distinction for the candidates to make and let the voters make that decision.

COOPER: Kellyanne, the fact is, Newt Gingrich did work for Freddie Mac. Romney did not. Why keep this storyline going?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE GINGRICH CAMPAIGN: I -- you're going to have to ask the Romney people that because they picked this fight. After the wheels came off the inevitability train, Anderson, they needed to go back to the playbook. There was nothing else in there. They were supposed to win three of three contests. It turns out he won one of three. He was the only electable one. He was the inevitable one. With -- having broken the back of electability and showed that we can beat Obama the way Romney can beat Obama, we then wanted to have a level playing field on which to compete about the issues but now we're just absorbing all this incoming about Freddie Mac.

And you know the reports today, Anderson. It turns out that in Governor Romney's tax returns, he and his wife have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in mutual funds in government securities. That included Fannie and Freddie. That was done after the government bailed them out.

COOPER: So is the -- by tarring him with Freddie Mac as well --

CONWAY: No.

COOPER: -- that it sort of nullifies whatever Gingrich --

CONWAY: I think the whole thing is pathetic, to be frank with you, because I don't think one job was created, one house was saved from foreclosure, and one voter out there learned much about anything.

I do have to laugh, I mean, Kevin's an old friend, I respect him greatly. But if I see one more person with images of the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument behind their heads talking about what a Washington insider Newt Gingrich is. The job for president of the United States is in Washington, D.C. You have to have some type of relevant experience for that job. You can't just parachute in.

And I noticed something, you know, by omission that Governor Romney and smart people around him like Kevin do all the time. They never talk about his record of governor. The fact is he doesn't just have a background in the private sector and the winter games. He was governor for four years. And he's running away from that record.

COOPER: Kevin, we thought this race would tighten a bit in Florida. The race is 23 points closer than it was two weeks ago. What happened to your candidate in your opinion?

MADDEN: Well, look. I think this always happens. Kelly and I -- Kellyanne and I have been around enough of these campaigns to know that at the beginning we always know that no matter what you have of 22-point lead, 15-point lead, it's going to turn into a two, three- point lead. These things always tighten as voters go through their considerations.

So we were not kidding as a campaign when we said very early on in this -- in this -- the earlier part of this year that this was going to be a very close race. Kellyanne mentioned the idea of inevitability. Nobody up in Boston, nobody working for Governor Romney across the country believed that this was an inevitable nomination.

COOPER: Well, actually on your --

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: On your guy's Web site, I believe, it said about South Carolina, it said on Tuesday, the presidential candidate will be selected. I was -- I remember seeing that on your Web page.

MADDEN: There's not --

CONWAY: Good.

MADDEN: I tell you, there's another thing, too, Anderson, is there's never anything wrong with having a lot of confidence. You have to have to confidence, you have to send those type of messages to your supporters. But this is going to be a hard-fought race. The polls that we're seeing right now from CNN and others, they're reflecting that very close race and that's why, you know, the -- everybody's down in Florida working very hard to reach as many voters as possible, to talk to them about Governor Romney's experience and also what -- what he would do to fix the economy.

COOPER: So Kellyanne --

MADDEN: Because that's what they care about.

COOPER: Let's talk about these polls, too. Because your -- Gingrich has -- if you look at the data closely, he has fallen off post Monday night's debate. Why do you think that is?

CONWAY: Well, we -- I think in -- on previous program, Anderson, you probably showed the charts that showed how much negative advertising is being spent by which campaigns and which super PACs. And it's not even close. That is not a close race. And it's not a tight race within the margin of error.

Governor Romney's campaign and super PACs are spending incredible amounts of money. Again, not with positive ads about Governor Romney's record in Massachusetts. And if you look at it you'll understand why he doesn't want to talk about that.

COOPER: But given the -- that a lot of absentee votes are already in.

CONWAY: Yes.

COOPER: And they probably favor Romney given the --

CONWAY: They definitely favor Romney.

COOPER: The tide that it was when those votes were made. Don't you guy have to do better than simply what you might otherwise be able to do on Tuesday night?

CONWAY: Absolutely correct. Absolutely correct. That is the mathematical calculation we've made internally and ironically part of why Governor Romney benefited so greatly from those early absentee voters was because everybody was pushing this narrative that he was the inevitable nominee, that it was going to be over before South Carolina so people just leaned in to what they were told. He can win. He can win.

You know, Anderson, the average voter doesn't ask himself who can win. He asks himself who can lead. And you're seeing a very different and expanded definition of leadership that's (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Kevin, can your candidate, can Mitt Romney afford to lose Florida? If he does not win Florida, what does that mean for his campaign?

MADDEN: Well, look, I think we're going to do very well in Florida and we're going to compete very strongly there. And I think that's going to be evident come Tuesday, but I think that this is a campaign that has been built to endure the long haul.

Ultimately, this is a delegate fight and what we're going to need is over 1500 delegates when we get to Tampa. And the campaign is built around that. So if we don't win Florida, though I think -- I feel very confident about our chances there, this is still a campaign that goes on to Arizona, Michigan, the Nevada caucuses.

COOPER: But --

MADDEN: And all the way through the summer.

COOPER: If he doesn't win Florida, there would be shockwaves through that campaign, no?

MADDEN: Look. I think that the focus will remain on winning delegates all the way to Tampa. That remains the case. This is still a campaign that is -- has the organization, has the right message and has the resources to continue on.

COOPER: Kellyanne Conway, I appreciate your time --

MADDEN: And I can't emphasize enough, though, that we do feel good about Florida.

COOPER: Kevin Madden --

CONWAY: We feel even better.

COOPER: You feel even better.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Do you say if Romney doesn't win Florida, that -- this is huge?

CONWAY: There's a huge shockwave because they keep on making excuses for each state that they don't win. That that's not -- you know. It's Florida is more diverse, et cetera, and it's more like the rest of the country. The fact is that what will happen is an extension of 2010, Anderson, which is when the voters themselves say, you know what? I'm not going to be told who can win and who can finally make up my own mind.

COOPER: Kellyanne Conway, I appreciate it. Kevin Madden, thanks.

MADDEN: Great to be with you always.

COOPER: Another quick reminder. CNN is hosting the next GOP Florida debate. It's going to be fascinating. Tomorrow night, 8:00 Eastern Time followed by 10:00 Eastern by a special edition of 360. Even though applause is allowed at this debate, I understand.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google Plus, add us to your circles. Follow me on Twitter @Andersoncooper. I'll be tweeting tonight.

Up next, "Keeping Them Honest" on promises the president made last night. Just one catch. They sounded an awful lot like promises he made three years ago in lowering your mortgage payments and making sure lenders don't rip you off.

Also tonight, Bill Maher, he's both a supporter and critic of President Obama from the left. We'll get his take on the State of the Union and the state of the Republican opposition.

First, let's check in with Isha -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, it's perhaps the ultimate family tragedy. Three sisters dead. Their brother and parents charged with murder. The killings allegedly in the name of god and honor and a twisted interpretation of Islam.

"Crime & Punishment" when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Obama made fresh promises in his State of the Union speech to go after mortgage related financial fraud and provide relief for homeowners facing foreclosures. He outlined a new mortgage fraud investigation united and named a tough new sheriff, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman to help run it as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And tonight I'm asking my attorney general to create a special unit, a federal prosecutors, and leading state attorney general, to expand our investigations into the abuse of lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the president also pushed for a way to give homeowners a break from big mortgage payments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I'm sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing it at historically low rates. No more red tape. No more run around from the banks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: But "Keeping Them Honest," both those proposals on mortgages and financial fraud don't just sound familiar, they're nearly identical to promises he's already made and programs he's already launched. Take a lock.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The plan I'm announcing focuses on rescuing families who played by the rules and acted responsibly. By refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it by modifying loans for families stuck in subprime mortgages they can't afford as a result of skyrocketing interest rates or personal misfortune. And by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low so that families can secure loans with affordable monthly payments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So that's President Obama back in 2009 talking about mortgage refinancing and here's his Attorney General Eric Holder the same year unveiling the Justice Department's new financial investigation unit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm pleased today to announce the launch of an interagency financial fraud enforcement task force to combat financial crime. The task force is designed to strengthen our collective efforts in conjunction with our federal, state and local partners to investigate and to prosecute significant financial crimes relating to the current financial crisis.

To recover ill-gotten gains and to ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sounds pretty familiar, right? The mortgage refinancing program called HAMP promised to lower monthly payments for three to four million borrowers. Instead as of this passed summer, about 1.9 million homeowners have been offered lower payments on a trial basis but only 675,000 offers have been permanent. And as for the financial fraud unit, critics say that, too, has been a disappointment raising questions tonight about President Obama's ability to deliver on his promises.

Jessica Yellin has been reporting on that side of the story, joins us now from Chandler, Arizona, where she's traveling with the president. So the administration, Jessica, already created this task force in 2009 specifically to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. So is the creation of this new unit an acknowledgment that that task force wasn't very effective?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's an attempt to appease critics of the administration, liberal critics who have been outraged from the beginning of the administration that not a single high level executive has been jailed for blowing up the housing market and for abusive mortgage practices, and it's an attempt to show his base some fight.

So today I spoke to one source who's in the know on all this who said because of this new task force you will now see charges brought by the end of this year. I spoke to another source who said, really? Well, what the heck has taken so long? Only he didn't use the word heck, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. And of course it is an election year. Probably no coincidence with that.

YELLIN: Right.

COOPER: Eric Schneiderman has been very critical of the administration dealing with big mortgage servicers. Was his appointment intended, I mean, to silence critics who say the administration hasn't done enough to go after abusive lending and mortgage practices?

YELLIN: So here's what you need to know about Eric Schneiderman. He has been one of a handful of states attorneys general who has been reluctant holdout on a deal that the Department of Justice is trying to cut with some of the big banks over bad mortgages. And these attorneys general have not liked the way -- this handful does not like the way that this deal is going and Schneiderman has been one of the folks saying, I'm not willing to sign on if you're going in that direction.

So either he has cut a political deal with the administration and he will soon sign on to this thing in exchange for this high-profile political appointment, or he and the administration are about to be in a very awkward political position if he abstains and we just won't know until this deal is announced, Anderson.

But what Schneiderman fans say is that he's actually using the government so that he can get access to the tools, the investigative tools at the IRS and the SEC to go after more banks in his state in New York which he gets access to through this new posting.

COOPER: Right.

YELLIN: So we just have to wait a little bit longer to see how it plays out.

COOPER: All right. Jessica, Jessica Yellin, appreciate the reporting tonight, traveling with the president. Jessica, thanks. Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher isn't one to mince words. Usually his new special is called "Crazy, Stupid Politics: Bill Maher Live from Silicone Valley." It's going to be shown live on Yahoo! on February 23rd. He's been -- he's got plenty to say obviously about the Republican field but he's a self described liberal. Doesn't shy away from criticizing President Obama either. I talked to the host of HBO's "Real Time" earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, Bill, when you heard the president announce in the State of the Union last night that his administration is now going after the banks who are neck-deep in the mortgage crisis, is that, do you think, a decisive move or just too little too late, election year appeasing? What do you think?

BILL MAHER, HOST, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I think it was a breath of fresh air to find some reality on my television. I mean, I've been doing nothing as most people have for the last many months but watching Republicans debate each other. Inside this bubble of irreality they live in.

So to finally see somebody talking facts, yes, I mean, maybe it is a little too late, but at least we're living in a world unlike the one where Mitch Daniels was portraying where it's not haves and havenots, it's haves and soon to be haves. You know? This fantasyland, the carrot that they're always holding in front of people. At least Obama is living in the world of reality would be my answer.

COOPER: You said, though, in the past, in recent past, that you've been terribly disappointed with him and I think he at one point said the magic is gone with Obama. Do you still feel that?

MAHER: Well, you know. I mean --

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: This is what us liberals do. We carp and complain and we lose a little perspective sometimes. Yes, there are ways in which Obama has been disappointing. But he always seems to come up on the bottom of the ninth and hit it out of the park, like I thought he did last night in the debate and of course nothing focuses the mind so much as seeing Republicans.

I'm sorry but when you see Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum --

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And Mitt Romney, standing together, it makes Obama look pretty good. It really makes me run back in to his arms screaming.

COOPER: So you're optimistic for this election, you think no matter who -- who the Republican candidates are, you think he could -- Obama is going to win? MAHER: Definitely. I think it's -- you know, my money is still on Mitt Romney and I think he's going to get the nomination and then I think Obama is going to beat him like a runaway sister wife. Yes, I do.

COOPER: Gees. Your runaway sister wife? What -- I haven't heard an FLDS punchline in quite a while. What --

MAHER: Oh, you should come to my stand-up show.

COOPER: OK, all right. Why? Why do you think Romney can't win?

MAHER: Well, first of all, he's a rich guy in an environment now that is very poisonous for the wealthy. He's got a lot of baggage. You know? I mean, even his own base doesn't really like him. You know? Some people in this country will not vote for a Mormon. He's got that going against him.

But basically, he just -- he's a flip flopper. You know? It's interesting, the Republicans ran against John Kerry in 2004. Remember, he was a flip-flopper. They hated him for flip-flopping. Well now they've got the biggest flip flopper of all. They're going to have to flip flop on flip flopping.

And I think, you know, again, we've only heard the Republican side for so long. These endless debates. Too many, Anderson, really.

COOPER: You think?

MAHER: I know you have one coming up but too much.

COOPER: They've been really -- I think they've been really interesting.

MAHER: Look, I just --

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: I do, too. I made the point on our show Friday night that the debates have been a good thing even though people complain about them. I said, for example, we would have never found out that Rick Perry was an idiot. You know, he was the guy that everybody was banking on for a while because he was just this mystical figure from Texas. They didn't know much about him. He looked like a president. Standing tall in the saddle. A little sound bite.

And then he got a chance to open his mouth. Well, you know, it's like the cute guy in the bar. The girl's all excited to mitt him and then talks to her for two minutes and she's like get me away from this guy. I can't even do it. That was from the debates. But look. There's a point where it's just too much. Why do we need two debates in Florida? Three days apart?

You know it's like any television series. You love it. You love it. You love it. But at a certain point, you know, it hits a peak, it jumps the shark. (LAUGHTER)

MAHER: And then we're looking for something else. And I feel like that's where we are with this debate. I mean Monday was a bad episode. It was a bad episode of the series.

COOPER: Yes, but we're going to have applause and cheering, I believe, in the upcoming CNN debate.

MAHER: That's right. Newt Gingrich needs the mob. He needs the crowd. I think he said he was going to participate unless there was cheering and the crowd was allowed to make sounds in the upcoming debate.

You know, he was throwing out the red meat and the lion was just laying there. Well, that's no good for him. That's what he depends on. That's sort of demagoguery. So -- and it's also better for the viewer, for the fan. For the fan of this reality series. I like to see the crowd cheer and I like to see -- I would love to see Newt be the candidate. Because I think he's even more beatable. Obama is beating him in Texas in the polls. Texas. So if they want to nominate Newt Gingrich, this is a great day for liberals.

COOPER: We got a Text 360 question, it comes from Sean. Is there a position on which you agree with the Republican candidates? You said pretty much at least in terms of foreign policy I think you said you're the same page as Ron Paul.

MAHER: Absolutely. But Ron Paul certainly doesn't express the opinions of most Republican voters, I don't think. You know?

COOPER: Yes, that's for sure.

MAHER: They look at -- or at least the audience when Ron Paul -- And I got to say, you know, Ron Paul has some crazy ideas. Like getting rid of the Fed. Yes, let's go back to the whims of the mining industry and the gold standard.

You know, that I just don't agree on, what he said about health care. We should just go back to neighbors helping out. Just looming. But when it comes to things like the drug war and foreign policy, this guy is so great. And also, when I don't agree with him, at least he's honest. At least you get the feeling this is an authentic person saying what he really believes.

And as far as what he says about foreign policy, the guts to stand up there, debate after debate, while they boo him or look at him like he's got three heads, the others just stare at him like, what are you talking about? The golden rule? Please, Ron Paul. This is the party that loves Jesus. What are you doing quoting the golden rule?

COOPER: Bill Maher, good to have you on, Bill. Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: OK, Anderson. COOPER: Bill Maher.

Ahead on 360, the dramatic rescue of two aid workers. One of them an American held hostage in Somalia. U.S. Navy SEALs and other special ops carried out the mission. Details on the mission ahead.

Plus, an emotional day in Washington. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords cast her final vote and said good-bye to her colleagues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The two kidnapped aid workers are free and out of Somalia tonight after daring rescue by U.S. Special Forces.

The hostages, one American and a Dane had been held captive for three months. The American is a woman named Jessica Buchanan. Just after the "State of the Union" address last night, President Obama personally called Jessica's father to say his daughter has been rescued by U.S. military.

The father says he was quote, "flabbergasted" to get the call and even though the official news did not break until later. We all got an indication that something was up when the president greeted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the "State of the Union."

Here's CNN Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence digging deep.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just seconds in to the president's arrival at the "State of the Union" speech, the first hint something had happened.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Good job tonight. Good job tonight.

LAWRENCE: At the moment he congratulated his defense secretary, U.S. Special Operations Forces were winding down a traumatic rescue operation half way around the world.

The U.S. military and FBI had been searching for the humanitarian aid workers since October when Somali kidnappers abducted American Jessica Buchanan and Paul Fested.

Now they had found them more than 100 kilometers away. Officials obtained specific intel, where the hostages were and who was holding them. But a sense of urgency was building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jessica's health was beginning to decline. She is a young woman in the 30s. We wanted to act and they did.

LAWRENCE: President Obama green lighted the mission Monday night and the weather was perfect for a Tuesday night assault. As Secretary Leon Panetta monitored the situation from the White House, Special Operations Forces parachuted into the area, among them SEAL Team 6, the same elite unit that killed Osama Bin Laden, if not the same men from the mission.

They confronted nine kidnappers with guns and explosives nearby and killed all nine. They found the hostages in an outdoor encampment and then hustled them on to helicopters and out of Somalia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Just incredible, this operation. Chris joins me now live from the Pentagon. You mentioned in your piece that Jessica Buchanan's health was beginning to decline. Do we know how she's doing now?

LAWRENCE: Well, Anderson, that's what White House and Pentagon officials say was one of the main reasons they went on this mission, exactly when they did, on the same day as the president's "State of the Union" address.

But they won't comment specifically on her medical condition because of privacy laws. Now, an official with the aid group with whom she works says she wasn't that sick.

She may have needed some medicine at some point, but Anderson, in any event, they're both doing OK and their families are traveling to meet them now.

COOPER: You said these SEALs are part of the same team that killed Bin Laden, SEAL Team 6. Do we know anything else about them?

LAWRENCE: The thing you're going to know most about them is that we'll never know their names. There are only about 300 of them operating now in the world. This was the same team, the snipers, that took down those pirates on a rocking boat out at sea when they had the captain captured on board his ship.

There were about 17 SEALs who were killed in a Chinook helicopter crash last year in Afghanistan. But Anderson, ironically, the man who sort of founded SEAL Team 6 says he made up the name in order to trick some other countries into thinking that the United States had more Special Operations Forces than they really did at the time.

COOPER: There are a lot of hostages from other countries still being held in Somalia. Any other hostages from the U.S. still being held there as far as we know?

LAWRENCE: Yes, you are exactly right. Hostages from India, the Philippines, South Korea, we believe there is one American who is being held by another pirate group.

The thing is, you know, there's been so much emphasis of cracking down on pirates at sea. They have gone to land to try to target some of the aid workers but, Anderson, you have worked with some of these aid groups in so many countries.

The ironic thing is they're on shoe string budgets many times. They can't even begin to afford the millions of dollars in ransom that these pirates want. COOPER: I think there's a French national too who I know who is being held hostage in Mogadishu that was being look for a while back. I'm not sure if he's found yet.

The White House released a picture of the president calling Jessica's dad right after he delivered the "State of the Union." Do we know when she comes home?

LAWRENCE: Well, we don't believe she is going to come home to the United States. She was married. She had been working as a teacher in Nairobi. So she lives overseas with her husband and we believe that her family is now on their way to Europe to meet up with her.

COOPER: Well, we wish her the best and just remarkable the precision of the teams. So glad they're able to come home safely. Chris Lawrence, thank you very much.

Ahead on the program, accusations of a so-called honor killing in Canada. Three sisters allegedly killed by their own family. We'll explain that ahead,

But first, Isha is back with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thousands of Egyptians packed Tahrir Square on this, the one-year anniversary of the start of the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. At times, the mood was joyous. Other times, tense with fear that protesters would clash with the military.

Legendary Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno was laid to rest today in a private service and thousands of fans and students lined the funeral procession to say goodbye. A public memorial honoring Paterno will be held tomorrow on campus. Joe Paterno died Sunday at the age of 85.

Anderson, talk about a fashion statement. A golden cape made of silk extracted from spiders goes on display at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

To make the cape, dozens of specially trained handlers spent seven years collecting more than 1.2 million golden orb spiders like this one. What do you think? You like your clothes.

COOPER: I'm completely mystified. It's a golden cape made by spiders?

SESAY: It is a golden cape. There you see the cape there.

COOPER: Yes. A golden color, I suppose. Not made out of gold.

SESAY: A golden hue.

COOPER: Thank you, OK.

SESAY: And the spiders spun the silk. COOPER: How do you train those spiders to do that?

SESAY: This is what they do. Faster, faster and then they would pluck -- now I'm all geeky again with you. Pay attention.

Then they would pluck the spiders from their web. They would take the silk, return the spiders to the wild and spin their web again.

COOPER: Itsy-bitsy spider. All right, Isha, thank you.

SESAY: You didn't really appreciate that.

COOPER: I'm completely baffled but I think it's amazing, I guess. Do spiders get paid?

SESAY: Move on.

COOPER: Still ahead tonight, "Crime and Punishment," this is a remarkable story, a family tragedy in the hands of a court, three sisters dead. Their parents called it a horrific accident. But investigators say, no, no. It was an honor killing, so-called, linked to their faith.

Plus, a "360" follow. Mississippi authorities now offering a reward for information on where a freed inmate is hiding, an inmate pardoned by the former governor that didn't show up in court this week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Crime and punishment now. In a Canadian courtroom, a headline grabbing murder trial is nearing its end after days of disturbing testimony.

The prosecution says three young sisters were murdered by their parents and brother. Honor killing carried out because the girls have become too westernized.

The defense says the girls and another family member died in an accident during a joy ride in the family car. There was compelling evidence came from wiretaps of the family's minivan. Here's Paula Newton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In so many ways, the sisters were typical teens, smart, beautiful, they enjoyed going out with friends and flirting with boys. But that's what might have gotten them killed.

It was during a family vacation in June 2009 when the car carrying a 19-year-old, a 17-year-old, 13-year-old and the woman they knew as Auntie Rona Amir Mohammed mysteriously plunged into this open canal drowning all four. The girls' parents tearful interviews explained it was a horrific accident during a pit stop on their trip back from Niagara Falls. The parents said the girls took the car out for a spin while the rest of the family remained at the hotel in Kingston, Ontario.

(on camera): But even as their bodies were taken out of the water, as the vehicle was being dragged up, police said they learned something very different of what went on here that night and more importantly what was going on in the household.

(voice-over): Suspicious police bugged the minivan. What they heard they say evidence of first-degree murder. Investigators claim hours of wiretapped conversations reveal how and why parents along with their son planned the murders.

They also learned the so-called auntie was in fact Mohammed's other wife, co-wife in a secret polygamist marriage. Mother, father and son were charged with murder in the summer of 2009. Now, they're on trial. They've all pled not guilty.

Prosecutors are relying heavily on the bugged conversations. In one, Mohammed says in the Afghan language -- I say to myself, you did well. Would they come back to life a hundred times, you should do the same again.

In another, may the devil defecate on their graves. This is what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that the wiretaps are extremely damaging to all three of them.

NEWTON: Columnist Christie Blanchford has sat through all the evidence, every wiretap, every witness. She's become an advocate to the victims.

CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD, EDITORIAL WRITER: We've been treated to the amusing side of defense lawyers saying may you said may the devil -- on their graves, what did you mean by that? What other possible explanation but that is there for any of these things?

NEWTON: But interrogations of the family never uncovered a motive. Why would a mother, father and brother kill four members of their own family? The prosecution contends these were honor killings carried out by parents from a very conservative Afghan background to punish rebellious, increasingly westernized daughters.

Sabra married a Pakistani man her parents hated. Sahar wore revealing clothes and had secret boyfriends and little Geti was failing in school and calling social workers to get her out of a violent home.

Auntie Rona was their advocate. Exactly how these girls died is also a mystery, but the prosecutors say they have clues. The shattered headlight on the family Lexus matches the damage on the rear bumper on the girls' car suggesting it was rammed in to the canal. Police also believe the victims may have been killed or beaten unconscious before the car hit the water. That would explain why they didn't escape, even though their seat belts were unbuckled and the canal was only seven feet deep.

In one of the most chilling conversations recorded, Mohammed labels his daughters dirty whores, steadfast, he says, my conscience is clear. Prosecutors are now trying to prove to that to the family, honor was more important than life, even if it meant killing their three daughters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Completely warped idea of honor. We have seen this in the Islamic world and Turkey and Pakistan and Afghanistan. To see it in Canada, the defense team finished up its closing arguments today, what did the lawyers put forward to try to dispute the wiretap evidence and prove reasonable doubt?

NEWTON: You know, this case, Anderson, is still circumstantial. What the prosecution doesn't have is an exact time of death even though they know they drowned. The defense tried to say, look. They didn't have any time to kill their family.

These were not women who were being led like lambs to slaughter. They would have fought back. This could not have possibly happened. But, you know, to your point earlier, Anderson, about the fact these are honor killings, the defense is trying to hone in on motive.

They claim there was no motive. This family would have never wiped out these women in such a cruel, malicious way. You know, the mother even getting on the stand and saying I have never heard of honor killings.

They're really trying to say that, look, if they have to call those dead women liars and the defense did it point blank today, they were very blunt, they lied to social workers, they lied to people saying they were abused in this family. Why, so that they could get their way and do what they wanted with the family. Nothing going on.

COOPER: The mom actually got on the stand and said she'd never heard of honor killings?

NEWTON: Absolutely, she said it twice.

COOPER: I mean, that's -- I mean, hard to believe. I think anybody who's traveled at all in any part of the world has heard of them. Paula, appreciate the reporting. We'll continue to follow this.

Up next, an emotional day on the House floor as Congresswoman Gabby Giffords steps down. And as world leaders try to end the violence in Syria, two dozen people are killed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: On the House floor today, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords cast a final vote before stepping down to focus on her recovery from a shooting that nearly killed her a year ago.

The drug smuggling bill she co-sponsored passed unanimously. After the vote, an emotional scene as Giffords' colleagues paid tribute to her and she said goodbye in a letter read by her friend, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Here's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gabby Giffords emotional final morning as a member of Congress began with a labored last walk to the House chamber.

And ended with a behind the scenes moment captured by CNN, a hug from one of the many workers she encountered during her five years here. On the floor, moving tributes.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: She has brought the word dignity to new heights by her courage.

BASH: As each person spoke, Giffords turned in her seat to face them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gabby, we love you. We have missed you.

BASH: Occasional wave and a smile to husband, Mark and mother, Gloria and barely a dry eye in the House.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DNC CHAIRWOMAN: No matter what we argue about here on this floor or in this country, that there is nothing more important than family and friendship. And that should be held on high above all else.

BASH: Debbie Wasserman Schultz lent her friend, Gabby, her voice reading her resignation letter aloud.

SCHULTZ: Always I fought for what I thought was right, but never did I question the character of those with whom I disagreed. Never did I let pass an opportunity to join hands with someone just because he or she held different ideals.

I have given all of myself to being able to walk back on to the House floor this year to represent Arizona's 8th Congressional District. However, today I know that now is not the time. I have more work to do on my recovery before I can again serve in elected office.

BASH: With that, a dramatic climb to the speaker's chair to personally hand a teary John Boehner the letter formally ending her service in Congress. Dana bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: An emotional day. Let's get the latest now on some of the other stories we're following. Isha is back in a "360 News and Business Bulletin."

SESAY: Anderson, a bloody day in Syria. Activists said 24 people were killed nationwide including at least four in homes where shelling was heavy. There were also attacks on Hama. Activists said the Red Crescent official and a priest were among those killed today.

A "360" follow. Mississippi authorities need help tracking down a convicted murder and are offering reward for tips. Osmond, one of four convicted murders pardoned by former Governor Haley Barbour this month failed to appear to court hearing Monday in a case challenging the pardons.

Apple became the most valuable publicly traded company in the world. One day after reporting the best quarterly results in history for a tech company. Its stock rose 6.3 percent to more than $447 a share. Apple on top, Anderson.

COOPER: Certainly is. Isha, thanks.

Coming up, a new way to read a classic of American literature in the bathroom. "The Ridiculist" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist." Tonight, we're adding a little story about some light bathroom reading. Here's the short version, someone is selling six rolls of toilet paper on eBay. But these aren't just any old rolls of toilet paper, no, no. This particular toilet paper just so happens to contain the entire typewritten text of "Moby Dick," the entire novel.

One of the greatest American novels ever written painstakingly reproduced on four and a half rolls of toilet paper plus about a fifth of a roll for the epilogue. Now, the seller who goes by the moniker the hep cat writes in the description on eBay that a friend made a bet that he wouldn't or couldn't type a novel on a toilet paper.

One economy size pack of two-ply -- an entirely flushable "Moby Dick." What more could you possibly ask for other than a video of the toilet paper dramatically unfurling as a passage from the novel is read?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For as it eventually turned out he cared not to consort for five minutes with a stranger captain except he could contribute some of that information he so absorbingly sought.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes. We chose that passage because it contained the phrase "absorbingly." Look, I don't know if this is real or not. I find it hard to believe, but these literary scrolls can be all yours for $999.95.

I know that sounds like a lot money for six rolls of toilet paper, but just imagine if this is real, the time and effort involved here. Not since the captain is there pinpoint focus on such a grand task.

Think about it. "Moby Dick" contains about 211,000 words, assuming an average typing speed of 40 words per minute, someone spent about 88 hours typing this thing, probably more because I can only imagine how carefully one must spool toilet paper in to typewriter.

Are there even typewriters left in the world? Sadly, the last time we check, there were 0 bids on this eBay auction, but I don't think the seller should be discouraged. I think this person has true entrepreneurial vision.

There's so many great works of literature that led themselves to this kind of bathroom-based repurposing. Take "Lord of the Flies" for instance. "The call of the Wild." "Gone with the Wind," just to name a few.

All would be tremendous on toilet paper. "Howard's End." "Something Wicked This Way Comes." You get the point. "Moby Dick" is only the beginning because after all when nature calls and says, call me Ishmael it's a whole new way to get really absorbed in a novel on "The Ridiculist."

That does it for us. Thanks for watching. I'll see you again tonight at 10:00 one hour from now. "PIERS MORGAN" starts now.