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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Romney Wins Illinois

Aired March 20, 2012 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here in the East, 9:00 Central time in Illinois. And tonight, Illinois is Romney country, CNN projecting that Mitt Romney tonight has won a convincing primary victory over Rick Santorum.

Barely mentioning him in his victory speech just moments ago, but directing his words mainly at President Obama and the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And three years of Barack Obama have brought us fewer jobs and shrinking paychecks, but many of us believed we were in danger of losing something even more than the value of our homes and our 401(k)s. After years of too many apologies and not enough jobs, historic drops in income and historic highs in gas prices, a president who doesn't hesitate to use all the means necessary to force through Obamacare on the American public, but leads from behind in the world.

It's time to say these words, this word: enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Rick Santorum also spoke from Gettysburg in his home state, Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have said throughout the course of this campaign that while other issues are certainly important -- the economy, joblessness, national security concerns, the family, the issue of life -- all of these issues are important, but the foundational issue in this race, the one that is, in fact, the cause of the other maladies that we are feeling, whether it's in the economy or whether it's in the budget crisis that we're dealing with, all boils down to one word, and that's what's at stake in this election, and it's right behind me on that banner, and that's the word "freedom."

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Rick Santorum in Gettysburg. The Pennsylvania primary a little more than a month away. A lot to talk about tonight. And let's check in first with Wolf Blitzer and John King with the latest numbers -- guys.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson, thanks very much.

Here are the latest numbers -- 55 percent of the vote is now in, in the state of Illinois. You can see a very impressive lead for Mitt Romney, 47 percent to 35 percent for Santorum, Ron Paul 9 percent, Newt Gingrich so far coming in fourth with only 8 percent.

John, a very impressive win. We have projected obviously a long time ago that Mitt Romney wins Illinois.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: We will see fluctuation in the numbers as we get the remaining 40-plus percent of the vote.

But if you look at the map right now Mitt Romney did exactly what he had to do. You see Rick Santorum purple in much of the state. Just looking at the map, you would say, wait, Santorum is winning. Why do you have that big country? Let's just pick a random county, Marion County, it's tiny, 0.3 percent of the population.

So he's winning with 49 percent of the vote. But it's only 658 votes to 439. Remember that, because now you move up here into the Chicago area, the Cook County suburbs, right around Chicago, Governor Romney getting nearly 75,000 votes with 86 percent of the vote in. So a thumping and a thumping that is built on Governor Romney having success right up here where you need to have it. More than half of the state's population lives inside that circle, actually, more than half of lives really inside that circle.

So Governor Romney winning in urban areas and winning in the suburban areas big, over 50 percent in the suburbs. And carrying his victory out into the exurbs as well. Santorum again winning among evangelicals down here in the rural areas, but simply politics in the end is about math. The people live here, Governor Romney winning huge. That's his margin. He dropped under 50 percent, but that's roughly where we will end up at the end of the night.

BLITZER: Surprised that Newt Gingrich is doing as poorly in Illinois as he is.

Anderson, lots to dissect. We will be here for you.

COOPER: Wolf, John, appreciate it. Stay with us.

I want to bring in the panel now, Democratic strategists Donna Brazile and Paul Begala, conservatives Erick Erickson of RedState.com and former George W. Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. Also political analysts Gloria Borger and David Gergen.

It was interesting, David. Mitt Romney barely acknowledged Rick Santorum except to give basically a brief congratulations. Is that a smart strategy? Is that all based on right now part of trying to kind of push along this inevitability argument?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

You know, he had the cloak of inevitability early on. Took it off. It got ripped off, put it back on, it got ripped off and now it's back on again. One has a sense, Anderson, that perhaps this is the final time, that we will look back and say this was the big turning point after a lot of twists and turns.

I do think that it was more presidential, Wolf said this earlier on the air, to give the kind of speech he did tonight. He actually used some humor. He was sort of mocking President Obama. That is a much more effective way frankly to win over a lot of independent voters who are who aren't looking for this or hard right. I think that the end of the debates has also really helped Mitt Romney.

COOPER: And hurt Gingrich.

GERGEN: And hurt Gingrich. And he's no longer seen as pandering to the hard right all the time. He can stick with his economic message and that message was better tonight. He had a more promising speech tonight.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, electability has always been one of his key arguments, and if you look at the exit polls tonight of the people who thought electability was important and lots of Republicans do, Mitt Romney won three-quarters of them.

COOPER: Right, 75 percent.

BORGER: That's the highest number I have seen and so I think what we see -- what we may be seeing now is the beginning of the end. Not the end.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: But maybe the beginning of it, because he's really solidifying that support.

He also won with Tea Party voters and with married women, married women, suburban women key to winning any election.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Ari, how much of this is personal? The numbers don't lie. Santorum and Gingrich know how slim their chances are, but how much of battling this out is because they don't like Mitt Romney or they just don't want to get out?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it is personal. It's always a factor when somebody has the gumption to get up and run for office.

But I don't know if it's personal that they're opposed to Romney as much as it is they believe so much in themselves and they probably think that Romney is flawed, can't win. That's Newt's case. But the problem with Newt's case is Newt's the only one really listening to it.

I don't think he has much of a followership and people saying that they should go to a convention because that's the way to stop Romney. You know, I just think after Louisiana on Saturday, let's see how Newt does. It's the last of the Southern states to vote. And if Newt can't make his case there, I just think his crowds diminish and the reporters stop following him in the same numbers. That starts to hurt your feelings as a candidate when you start to say, why am I here? Nobody else is showing up.

That is what starts to make people look twice and say should I be in? I think Rick Santorum has earned the right to go several more rounds with Mitt Romney. His problem is that Mitt Romney starting to expand his lead over Rick Santorum every way, shape and measure. If Rick Santorum can't address that, his day will come and it's not here yet. But he's going to have to face that too.

COOPER: Although, Paul, next for Rick Santorum, for everybody, Louisiana. That can be very good news for Rick Santorum.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It could be. Of course, my sister Donna knows that state better than everybody. I will let her speak about the interesting North/South divide there and why I think you will probably see the very Catholic Senate Santorum running hardest and strongest in the very Protestant North Louisiana area.

But the most striking thing to me was today -- if I were Santorum I would cling to this, because there's not much left to cling to -- 40 percent of Republican primary voters today said they had reservations about the candidate they voted for. Not about another candidate. But when four out of 10 still say they are not happy about the candidate they voted for, of course many of them may have said that about Santorum himself, that's the sort of thing politicians sometimes use to fuel a dying candidacy, at least in their own minds.

COOPER: Donna, what about Louisiana?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is good fertile territory for former Senator Rick Santorum for two reasons.

One, north Louisiana -- it is really home of the self-described Christian evangelical movement. And also Rick Santorum has a hard problem really solidifying the Catholic vote. And that's most of the southern tier of the state, so I think Rick Santorum can do very well this weekend in Louisiana, but Ari said something very important and that's the last Southern state.

Well, that's the last Deep South state, but you still have Texas. You still have Arkansas. I don't think he can pull together the math. We know he has problems filling delegate slates in many of the states, but you know what? This race is still going to continue. I still believe at the end of the day some time in mid-April, Mitt Romney will be able to get these two gentlemen out of the race and he can finally earn the right to start talking about President Obama, I guess.

COOPER: Erick, you said earlier the handwriting is on the wall for Newt Gingrich. What about Santorum?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Santorum is going to stay in for a while. Look, he's got Louisiana and he's probably Texas and he's got a number of other states.

But, mathematically, considering his lack of delegates in some of the states even where he's winning, and some of the districts where he's winning, I don't see how Rick Santorum can get to 1,144. If his strategy is to try to get to a convention and Romney from getting to 1,144 that becomes a fool's errand in a sense because you will have a lot of funders saying wait a second, no one has ever gotten into the brokered convention like this and come out well, so you need to stand down.

I just see mathematically that Rick Santorum -- he can stay in for a while longer. He's earned the right. But I don't see him getting to 1,144, let alone stopping Romney from getting there.

COOPER: Everyone, stick around.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting throughout the hour.

Coming up next, John King will break down the numbers, just how Mitt Romney won tonight. Also, later on, the latest in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: And now, by the way, the president is trying to erase his record with some new rhetoric. The other day he said this. He said, "We are inventors. We are builders. We are makers of things. We are Thomas Edison. We're the Wright brothers. We're Bill Gates. We're still jobs." Wait, I missed that."We are Steve Jobs."

(LAUGHTER)

That's true. But the problem is: He's still Barack Obama.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Romney already looking ahead to November on his way to a decisive victory tonight in Illinois in the primary. The question is how did he do it? Exit polling tells the story.

Let's turn back to John King and Wolf Blitzer for that.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much.

The exit polls do show a very impressive win today from Mitt Romney. He won not only because he won in some of the bigger populated areas, but he also convinced a lot of women that he was better for this potential job as the Republican presidential nominee.

Let's dig deeper with John right now.

KING: Illinois is not Mississippi or Alabama or Louisiana, which is up next. That's what you will hear from his rivals.

But look at this. Vote by ideology in Illinois, 65 percent of the electorate said they were conservatives. Mitt Romney has had trouble with that constituency in some other states. Look at this. He won 43 percent of the vote to Senator Santorum's 39 among those who said they were conservatives. The Romney campaign will cite this as evidence the party is coalescing around him. Santorum will say Louisiana is a lot different.

This is another good night for Mitt Romney in a constituency with which he has struggled in the past. And nearly six in 10 of the voters today said yes, we support the Tea Party. And among this constituency, another 43 to 37 percent and Speaker Gingrich at 12 percent and Ron Paul at 7 percent. But Governor Romney again winning among Tea Party supporters.

You haven't seen that especially if you head toward the South. The biggest issue was the economy, nearly six in 10 voters, this is a lopsided Romney win here, 49 percent to 32 percent on issue number one, the economy. So he holds his strength there. We have seen that in other states.

And if you look at this one again, the Romney campaign will cite this as a sign of progress in connecting. His problem has been can he connect with blue-collar voters?

I'm sure what I did to make that happen. Let's come over, vote by income, 50,000 to 100,000, this a group with which Governor Romney has struggled in some other states, and you see him here tying Santorum 39 percent to 39 percent in the middle of the income ranges in our exit polls.

Otherwise, you see among those who make $100,000 or more, Governor Romney winning quite and winning quite convincingly. He won in the places where he had won in the past, the constituencies with which he had won in the past, suburban voters, more affluent voters, but he did show some progress among Tea Party voters and among those who say he understands their concerns. Again, Illinois different from the South, but it's a good night for Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: And, Anderson, with 62 percent of the vote now in, 47 percent for Romney, 35 percent for Santorum, only 9 percent for Ron Paul, 8 percent for Newt Gingrich, a very good night indeed for Mitt Romney.

COOPER: Yes.

Let's get reaction from the panel, Donna Brazile, Paul Begala, Erick Erickson, Ari Fleischer, Gloria Borger, David Gergen. Paul, a good night for Mitt Romney, I mean, from a Democratic perspective, is that a bad night for Democrats? I mean, aren't Democrats -- aren't you guys much happier with Santorum victories?

BEGALA: Well, sure.

First off, you want the race to be sort of -- to rewrite Thomas Hobbes -- nasty, British and long. And it has been.

The speech tonight, I thought Romney did a good job for Mitt Romney. But he still doesn't make the emotional connection. Frankly, I think a lot of people thought that Al Gore lacked that and I think a lot of people thought Hillary Clinton lacked that. Mitt Romney makes those two look warm and fuzzy.

He needs to find a way to open his heart a little bit. I think having Ann Romney speak is a great advantage. I think she's terrific, but she's not on the ballot. At some point, he will have to close the deal. He did it in Illinois frankly by outspending Santorum 21-1 and just crushing him. He won't be able to outspend Barack Obama 21-1.

COOPER: Is all this for naught, David? Santorum, Gingrich, they all make these arguments about the delegate count. It's inevitable that Mitt Romney will be the nominee, isn't it?

GERGEN: I think so, unless he unexpectedly collapses or has a heart attack.

COOPER: Even if he can't get the delegates he needs before the convention, if he's won more of the popular vote, they're not going to take it away from him, are they?

GERGEN: Exactly. I think the momentum argument really does make a difference at this point.

One of the differences that Newt Gingrich is simply now down below 10 percent in Illinois is that there's a sense that his candidacy is fading. The delegate numbers don't matter so much as rather the sort of -- there's an up and down in these things and Romney is now on the ascendance.

But I have to tell you, you go to Paul's point about there are a lot of people in Illinois who are not totally comfortable with their candidate, 40 percent, there are a lot of people in Barack Obama's camp who are not totally comfortable with their candidate either.

I still think Barack Obama is favored in the fall. I think he's moved from underdog to favorite over the course of these primaries and with a better economy. But it's still winnable for the Republicans.

BORGER: But that point, the four out of 10 being uncomfortable, speaks to the question of enthusiasm. And Barack Obama may do more to bring out Republican voters than Mitt Romney does if he is indeed the Republican nominee.

But we don't really know yet tonight, but it looks like turnout is actually low in Illinois and we have seen that time and time again in Republican primaries. And the big question is -- and we have argued about throughout this throughout the primary season -- is whether that's going to mean much come the general election.

But when you have Republicans who are unsure or not thrilled about their candidate, but they sort of think that he's inevitable and may be electable, will they turn out?

COOPER: Ari, you saw John King's exit poll information. Do you the argument that Republicans, the conservatives are starting to coalescing around Romney?

FLEISCHER: I think they're starting to coalesce. We have actually seen that pattern on a kind of skipping status throughout the primary race.

He had it in Nevada, he had it in Florida. He didn't have it in South Carolina. He didn't have it in some of the states that Senator Santorum won. The big issue is, as Gloria was just talking about, what's going to happen in a general election if it's Romney.

I think Gloria nailed it frankly. I think whatever shortcomings conservatives feel about Romney, and they feel many, they are going to unite so strongly against Barack Obama. That's going to be the glue that holds Republicans together and that's going to be the enthusiasm gap that the Democrats have.

And it's going to be matched by the enthusiasm drop that the Democrats suffer from because they just can't match the magic of 2008. So they're going to have less turnout, less constituencies, young people and minorities turning out in the record numbers they turned out in 2008 to support President Obama.

BORGER: You don't know that, though.

FLEISCHER: And really do have this unity that's going to come together against Barack Obama, not so much in love with Mitt Romney, against Barack Obama.

BORGER: But I don't know if you can predict Democratic turnout.

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: It won't be 2008 levels, though. I don't think anybody is saying that.

BORGER: Neither side.

COOPER: Let's look at turnout numbers.

John King at the wall, John, I think you have some of the figures.

KING: I will just match them up for you real quick. We're at 71 percent of the vote. If you add this up, 300,000, 218,000, 58,000, and 49,000, you get above 600,000 votes right here with 71 percent in. This just updated. You're a little above 600 with 71 percent in. Let's just go back in time and look at the Republican primary in 2008. If you add this up, you get a little above 800,000. More than 800,000 voters four years ago. Will we get there as the final results come in tonight?

Remember, this is the percentage of precincts reporting, not necessarily the percentage of the raw vote that comes in. We will wait for the rest of the vote to come in. But in the bigger places, you still have some vote to come in, but looks like it's a little down. We will know the final number in a bit.

COOPER: All right, John, thanks.

Late word tonight from Newt Gingrich, he's not giving up. We will have more from our panel and we will have more on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: And you think about the great elections of our past.

And I have gone around this country over the past year now and said this is the most important election in our lifetimes. And, in fact, I think it's the most important election since the election of 1860.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A few things happened between 1860 and now, including the Civil War, Great Depression, two world wars. It's up to you to decide if this is the most important election since then.

As for tonight, 54 delegates at stake in Illinois. CNN is projecting a win for Mitt Romney. Still, Rick Santorum not giving up, not by a long host. Neither is Newt Gingrich, who spoke just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Phase one has to be stopping Romney because the fact is, if he gets 1,144 votes, he's the nominee, fair and square. It's over.

If on the other hand, if as voters look at this, as happened last week, for example, in Mississippi and in Alabama, as happened the previous week in Kansas, if people say, no, they don't want Romney, then I think you get to a situation after June 26 where there's a 60- day conversation, Santorum won't have a majority, I won't have a majority, Romney won't, Ron Paul won't.

If that is what happens, then we will have a real conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: For now, still a four-way race. If you ask the four candidates, they will tell you it's a four-way race.

What do the numbers really say?

John King has that with the magic wall -- John.

KING: The numbers say it's a two-way race, with big advantage to Mitt Romney. You see the numbers right here, 560 for Mitt Romney. That's our guesstimate where he will end up at the end of the night, Santorum at 244.

Where do we go from here? Let's fast forward, and Louisiana is on Saturday. Let's assume Santorum wins. He narrows the gap, but just slightly. And then we come out a little bit further, Maryland, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia.

If Romney can sweep those, he starts to pull away. Even if you're generous and give Santorum that, he starts to pull away. Speaker Gingrich talked about a conversation down the road. Let's fast forward a bit here all the way to the very end. It's hard to stop Romney unless Santorum or someone has to take away Indiana, has to take away West Virginia, has to take away North Carolina.

We already have them winning here. Even here, Romney clinches. So you're looking at a map that's overwhelmingly tilted in his favor. They need to start to slow him down, then New Jersey and California as we have the conversation tonight, Anderson. It's a steep hill for anybody but Romney.

COOPER: Yes.

Let's bring back our panel, Donna Brazile, Paul Begala, Erick Erickson, Ari Fleischer, Gloria Borger, David Gergen.

Donna Brazile, will this be a different conversation if Rick Santorum wins and wins big in Louisiana this weekend?

BRAZILE: I don't think so.

This is a war of attrition. And while he may be able to pick up some of the Louisiana delegates, like Illinois, again, many of our delegates will be selected by congressional districts. And you have to look and see if Rick Santorum is on the ballot, or he filed enough delegates in order to pick up delegates.

Right now, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum I don't believe they have any incentive to leave the race. So it's really up to Mitt Romney. I was grading papers just a while ago, Anderson, because I teach on Wednesdays. And if I had to grade Mitt Romney, he'd get an A in math. But in terms of chemistry, I think he gets a C-plus.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Erick Erickson, you haven't been a fan of Romney now all along. What do you make of Donna's argument?

ERICKSON: You know, you can see by the exit polling tonight there's still a core group of conservatives that Romney will have to connect to. If you look along the border of Illinois, the southern border, he's not doing very well down there. He's not doing well in the rural areas and he's not doing well with evangelicals.

But he's doing well in the population centers. He's doing well among suburban voters. I do think he's going to be the nominee know. This is the first big race he's won where there wasn't a caveat to it. He did quite well tonight. At the same time, we do have to keep in mind there's a large number of evangelicals who they're not necessarily wedded to a party and they don't particularly like Mitt Romney.

You can say it's because of his faith. You can say it's because of his positions on life issues over time. Whatever. The fact is they're not wedded to him. And they're not necessarily wedded to the Republican Party and he's going to need those people to turn out for him in November along with independents who tend to lean Republican, which I think Ari is right. He will get a lot of those.

But the base of the base, so to speak, if they're not enthused by him, they can only run for so long on antipathy toward the president.

COOPER: But, Ari, to your point earlier, the base of the base ultimately want to beat President Obama and will go with whomever is the candidate who's not Obama.

FLEISCHER: Yes. I think that's right.

I think if the base of the base hated Mitt Romney so much, he wouldn't be winning in these primaries. They would have found an acceptable alternative. It's that they're not enthusiastic about him. I don't think it's that they really mistrust him so fundamentally, with the exception of Romneycare, that that -- that's the one issue that is really in their craw.

But on the economic issues, Mitt Romney is acceptable enough. Donna gave some interesting grades, and I just have to add that I think Barack Obama when it comes to economics and accounting would probably get an F.

But let's also look ahead to what's next and why I think Mitt Romney is in a relatively strong position. You have got Louisiana Saturday. Probably a good state for Santorum, potentially Newt, but I doubt it. Then where do you go from here? You go to April 3, and then you have D.C., where Rick Santorum is not even on the ballot, Wisconsin, then Maryland.

And then the race goes into a long lull. And when you're in second place, the last thing you need is a lull. Then you go to April 24, the end of April, and everything basically shifts to Pennsylvania and the Northeast. Give Santorum Pennsylvania. The Northeast goes for Romney. Rick Santorum is still not gaining ground. And that's the problem he's got.

BORGER: And if he doesn't win Pennsylvania, if Santorum doesn't win Pennsylvania, his home state, by the way, that's a real problem for him. At that point, on the 24th, I think then it would certainly be a real issue for him if he couldn't carry Pennsylvania.

GERGEN: If he were to lose Pennsylvania, that's curtains. I think he would withdraw at that point. But I think Ari's analysis is fundamentally right if you look at the states.

COOPER: Right.

Thank you, everyone, Donna, Paul, Erick, Ari, Gloria, David. Thank you.

Coming up, the latest in the case of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer in a Florida gated community -- a live report from Sanford, Florida. I'm also speaking with two neighbors, eyewitnesses who have some startling things to say about how police responded to the shooting. They will also talk about what they saw with their own eyes.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: New angles tonight in the case of the 17-year-old young man who was killed as he was walking to his father's fiancee's house in a gated community in Florida, Trayvon Martin. Just before he was shot by a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, who told 911 that the boy looked suspicious, Trayvon had been talking on the phone with his girlfriend.

Now, an attorney for his family says that conversation with the girlfriend can help prove that Trayvon was killed, quote, "in cold blood" by George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman admits that he shot Trayvon but says it was in self- defense. The Martin family lawyer says what the girlfriend heard on the phone that day blows that claim out of the water, that Trayvon told the girl that someone was following him, and he was trying to get away.

Zimmerman has not been charged in the case. In a few moments we're going to hear from one of the neighbors who called 911 that day and has some pretty chilling allegations about how the police responded to the situation.

But first, tonight, the NAACP is holding a rally for Trayvon Martin. David Mattingly joins us live from Sanford, Florida, with more -- David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the church behind me tonight was filled to capacity. Several hundred people outside, several hundred people holding their own rally outside when they couldn't hear what was going on in there.

And everyone walking away here tonight, feeling like their outrage has been heard, that they have had a sense of purpose in these last couple of weeks, now that the U.S. Justice Department has gotten involved and is going to be looking at this investigation, looking at how it's been conducted and how the conclusions have been reached by the Sanford Police Department.

So people here feeling like that their voice has been heard. And their agenda is pretty simple right now. They want to see justice for Trayvon Martin. They want to see George Zimmerman arrested. And they want to see the police chief of Sanford, Florida, fired for his handling of this investigation.

COOPER: You spoke to Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, a while ago. What did he have to say about the Justice Department's involvement with this case?

MATTINGLY: Well, I talked to him right after this rally, and as I was saying how everyone here feels like that their outrage has been heard and now that they have some purpose in moving forward here, Ben Jealous says that he has a lot of confidence in the Justice Department and this administration to look into this and to take their concerns into account as they go through how this case has been investigated. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN JEALOUS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: They have our faith, because we've seen in case after case them do (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MATTINGLY: So if the Justice Department looks into this, and they find out that the Sanford P.D. acted appropriately, will you stand by their decision?

JEALOUS: We -- you know, that's a bridge that we're going to need to cross, and we're going to have to see what it comes to. Right now, we have faith in our justice system. We have faith that Mr. Zimmerman will be brought to justice, that charges will be filed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And Ben Jealous tonight telling everyone that was gathered here tonight that the Justice Department is involved because of the work that they've been doing. And he's asking everyone to get ready to work on this for the long haul, to make sure that the energy that we're seeing tonight doesn't diminish over time. Because the grand jury is going to be coming up in April. That could take weeks by itself before we find out if there's going to be any charges filed in this case -- Anderson.

COOPER: David, appreciate that.

Mary Cutcher and Selma Mora Lamilla live in the gated community where Trayvon Martin was killed. Mary was one of the people who called 911. They both say the police were siding with George Zimmerman from the start. I spoke to Mary and Selma about what they saw and they heard on that day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So you heard some sort of whining, some sort of commotion outside? MARY CUTCHER, NEIGHBOR: I was in the kitchen with the window open and the blinds pulled. So we had complete view from outside.

COOPER: What was the first thing you saw?

SELMA LAMILLA, NEIGHBOR: By that time, like shot -- like some other noise.

COOPER: You heard the gunshot?

Lamilla: Yes. And I run away from my backyard, and when I just get into the point of my -- like my screen, it stopped me, I look at that person on his knees on top of a body.

COOPER: So you saw Mr. Zimmerman on top of Trayvon Martin?

LAMILLA: Exactly.

COOPER: When you say on top of, how so?

LAMILLA: He was...

CUTCHER: Straddling him.

LAMILLA: Exactly.

COOPER: His legs were straddling him?

CUTCHER: One on each side, on his knees, with his hands on his back. I immediately thought, OK, maybe -- obviously, if it's the shooter, he would have ran. I thought maybe he's holding the wound, helping the guy, taking a pulse, making sure he's OK. And when she called to him three times, "Everything OK? What's going on?" Each time he looked back, didn't say anything.

And then the third time he finally said, "Call the police."

LAMILLA: But at that time it was so dark. I just saw this person. When she started calling the police, I saw Zimmerman walking with -- touching like his hair, like kind of like confused back and forth to the body. And -- and...

COOPER: So he was sort of pacing back and forth?

LAMILLA: Yes. Like, like -- oh, my God.

CUTCHER: He's pace and go back to the body and just like -- I don't know if he was kind of "Oh, my God, what did I do? What happened?"

LAMILLA: Something like that.

COOPER: So you didn't hear or see any altercation, any struggle?

LAMILLA: No.

COOPER: You only heard the cry, or the whimpering as you describe it, and then the shot?

CUTCHER: Yes.

COOPER: So you believe whatever altercation or tussle or whatever there was, you believe that happened elsewhere, but you didn't witness it?

CUTCHER: I believe that it had -- it had to have started from where the first person that called 911 and said, "There's a fight right outside my porch."

COOPER: How far away is that person?

CUTCHER: It's a couple doors down. And from that point to where his body was, you know, two or three doors down, it's hard for me to believe that -- and at the time that we heard the whining and then the gunshot, we did not hear any wrestling, no punching, fighting, nothing to give -- make it sound like there was a fight.

COOPER: When police now have said -- you gave an interview to a local station. Police have said what you said in that interview, what you're saying now is -- is contradicting what you told them early on. That your initial statement to police actually backs up George Zimmerman's version of events.

CUTCHER: Actually, when that was released I called the PR guy for the chief of police, and I demanded that they retract it and print the truth.

COOPER: They say that when they initially contacted you, that you didn't want to make any kind of a statement.

CUTCHER: They never...

LAMILLA: Can I say something about it? It's because that why I just decided to speak in public. I was the one that I never wanted to...

KUTCHER: She was the one...

COOPER: You didn't want to make a statement?

LAMILLA: Exactly. Well, I did, because she wanted (ph), but I didn't want to be in cameras.

COOPER: Right.

LAMILLA: When she said, we need to help the family, I said no, I don't want to go in the cameras.

COOPER: So when police say that your initial statement backs up Zimmerman's...

CUTCHER: I don't know how it's any different from what I said in the original interview, when I did...

COOPER: So what you're saying now tonight is the same as what you told the police initially?

CUTCHER: Absolutely. I said nothing different. The only thing I can think of that would have any difference whatsoever is they asked me how would you know that it was Trayvon that was whining? And I said, "I don't know. I guess because it stopped when the gun went off." And if it were Zimmerman crying, because he was hurt or something, I think he would have continued. I don't know.

What I heard was a very young voice and it stopped immediately when the gun went off.

COOPER: Based on what you saw -- and again, you didn't see a struggle -- do you believe it was self-defense? On Zimmerman's part?

CUTCHER: I did not.

COOPER: Why?

CUTCHER: Originally, I didn't believe it was self-defense because of what we saw when we walked out on the porch. If it was self-defense, why was he on his -- on Trayvon's back?

COOPER: What was your -- your impression of the police's attitude towards this? Did you form an impression?

CUTCHER: They were siding with him.

COOPER: With Zimmerman?

CUTCHER: Yes.

COOPER: What makes you say that?

CUTCHER: I guess just their nonchalant attitude. Because he's in, you know, classes to be a police officer and, you know, he had a squeaky clean background, which he does not. It has come out what his background is. And let him go.

COOPER: Well, thank you very much for talking. I appreciate it.

CUTCHER: Thank you.

LAMILLA: No problem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: George Zimmerman says he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense. That claim has renewed the debate over Florida's so- called "stand your ground" law, which lets people use deadly force away from their homes if they think someone can seriously harm them.

A lot to talk about on the legal front. Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is here, and legal analyst Sunny Hostin join me, as well.

The -- the attorney for -- attorney Crump, the attorney for Trayvon Martin's father and family, says that Trayvon Martin was now -- was actually speaking to his girlfriend on his cell phone when this began. Ultimately the call. How does that change the -- what we've heard?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the police say that they didn't arrest George Zimmerman, because they had nothing to dispute his self-defense claim. Well, now we know that Trayvon Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend, and she does dispute it. She says that Trayvon was nervous. He was scared and concerned because someone was following him. That she advised him to run. He then ran. George Zimmerman runs after him.

And she says that Trayvon said, "Why are you following me?"

George Zimmerman then says something like, "Who are you? Why are you here?" And she believes she hears George Zimmerman pushing Trayvon Martin.

Well, that means that, if that's taken as true, George Zimmerman is the first aggressor. And he cannot avail himself of the self- defense theory.

I think what's so remarkable here, Anderson, is that this is information, according to the family attorney -- and I've spoken to one of the attorneys -- that police didn't interview this young girl.

COOPER: Well, why has this information just come to light now, that there was this phone call, that he was on the phone?

HOSTIN: Because I believe that Trayvon Martin's family is sort of doing their own detective work. They've had to take that -- those steps. And really, it's just remarkable, because when you're talking about the investigation of a shooting death, these are things that are always done. You always look at the phone records.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I agree that this should have been done. Again, I think we need to pause and say that there is not a full picture of the evidence here.

COOPER: We don't know -- we're just factually speaking. We do not know exactly what occurred from the time Zimmerman stopped talking to 911, got out of his car. We don't know.

TOOBIN: Correct. And there will be a way of constructing a time line. There will be a cell phone record of this phone call. We need to need to know what time it ended, what time the gunshot was.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... 911 call.

TOOBIN: It was in between. All of that is very relevant to knowing exactly as much as we can about how it unfolded.

And I'm just prepared to say that, you know, this is not dispositive proof that he was not acting in self-defense. There are too many negatives there, but it is still possible, based on the evidence I've seen, that he could make a claim of self-defense under the law of Florida.

COOPER: To me, what -- a lot of questions I have about this, obviously. But why did he -- why did George Zimmerman describe Trayvon Martin as suspicious, based on having nothing other than just a physical -- you know, just by looking at him? Why did he say, "they" -- "these a-holes, they always get away"? What did he actually mean by that?

Do any of those comments that you've heard in the 911 call argue against a self-defense or the idea that he felt threatened by -- by Trayvon Martin?

TOOBIN: I think he feels threatened by Trayvon Martin. I think he feels threatened because Trayvon Martin is black. I mean, I don't think that's any doubt that this is a classic case of profiling.

HOSTIN: Well, I think, though, what's remarkable that someone claims to feel threatened but then chases the person that he claims to be threatened by.

TOOBIN: Well, again, we don't know how -- how that unfolded.

HOSTIN: But we do, though, Jeff, because there are 911 calls. And in the 911 calls...

TOOBIN: We don't know about a chase.

HOSTIN: ... Zimmerman says -- the dispatcher says, "Are you running after him," and he said yes.

COOPER: No, no, no, that's not what the dispatcher -- the dispatcher says, "Are you following him?"

HOSTIN: Are you following him?

COOPER: He's in a -- for all we know he's in a vehicle.

HOSTIN: But Anderson, George Zimmerman does say on the 911 call, "He's running. He's running." And you hear someone then get out of a car, presumably George Zimmerman, and the dispatcher said, "Are you following him?" And he says yes.

COOPER: Well, now, the attorney for -- Crump says also that the girlfriend told Trayvon Martin to run, and that Trayvon Martin said, "No, I'm not going to run. I'm just going to walk fast" to get away.

Bottom line, though, there is now a Justice Department investigation. The FBI, also a grand jury. Jeff, how does that all play?

TOOBIN: Well, the feds are in charge. I mean, they will come in, and I have -- like the NAACP, Mr. Jealous, I have a lot of confidence in these people. I think they will interview everybody. They will get all the evidence, and they'll figure out whether there's a case to be made here.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Jeff Toobin, thank you; Sunny Hostin.

Coming up, the soldier accused of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan, including nine kids. He says apparently, according to his attorney, he doesn't remember what happened. We're going to hear more about that claim from Sergeant Robert Bales, his attorney, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're following a number of other stories. Let's check in with Isha, in with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake rattled Mexico's southern resort towns and the nation's capital. So far, no reports of serious injuries or deaths.

A French prosecutor says the suspect in a fatal shooting spree at a Jewish school knows he's being tracked and may strike again. Monday's rampage was the third fatal attack on minorities in southwest France in eight days.

And Anderson, a possible clue that investigators say could help them solve the 75-year-old mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart. They say new analysis of a photograph taken just months after the legendary aviator disappeared may show the landing gear of her plane protruding from a reef in the Pacific. Explorers are planning a new search in July. One of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th Century.

COOPER: That would be amazing. Isha, thanks.

The American soldier accused of killing 16 citizens in Afghanistan, according to his lawyer, doesn't remember what happened. That's the word from attorney for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. In an interview with CBS News, the attorney said that Bales was not intoxicated at the time of the shootings. But that he's in shock and has a gap in his memory from that night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Robert Bales tell you that he went out the night of March 11 and he shot these people?

JOHN HENRY BROWNE, ATTORNEY FOR ROBERT BALES: No. Absolutely not. He has no memory of it. He has an early memory of that evening, and he has a later memory of that evening, but he doesn't have memory of in between.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to people who have been interviewed, eyewitnesses, Sergeant Bales went from room to room. He shot 16 people dead, including nine children. Five are wounded. You're telling me he remembers none of that?

BROWNE: That's correct. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the attorney's also suggesting that post-traumatic stress disorder may be a factor, but says he's not going to go for an insanity defense.

Earlier, I spoke with chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jeff, Bales' attorney told CBS that he's -- he's not going to pursue an insanity defense but a diminished capacity defense. What is that?

TOOBIN: In the real world, it means one thing: he's trying to save him from execution. This is all about the penalty phase. And you can start putting on evidence that's useful in the penalty phase during the guilt phase. But it is a -- it's a mental defense that says to the jury, he's guilty, but don't execute him.

COOPER: Bales -- Sanjay, Bales' attorney also told CBS that Bales has no memory of the incident that left 16 Afghan civilians dead if, in fact, he was involved in that. He said Bales has an early memory of the evening and a later memory of the evening, but nothing in between.

I suppose you can look at that as, well, that's a convenient legal argument, that he has no memory of it, or that there's a medical reason for that. Is that possible? Is that typical of someone to completely block something out like that?

GUPTA: Well, it is possible. Ad what he's sort of describing is not completely blocking it out. But sort of having these lapses of memory that you describe. This is not that unusual and is more common in someone who's undergone a high-stress event. We find people are more likely to describe the events as being confused. "I remember I was there at the scene, but I didn't remember the specifics of what happened there. Or I thought somebody else was actually also there at the scene." They weren't.

So they can forget memories. They can add in details that aren't accurate. So that is not that uncommon in someone who's -- but this is very different than an amnesia, where someone has completely blocked out an event or blocked it out because of drugs or alcohol. That can happen, as well. In this sort of situation, it's more like chunks are missing.

COOPER: Jeff, he's -- the attorney has also suggested that Bales was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Do you think that is part of a viable defense, or is that also just getting to that diminished capacity?

TOOBIN: It's really getting to the jury saying, "Look, we know he's guilty, but we are not going to execute him for this." Jurors are very reluctant to give someone a break for insanity in terms of guilt. That defense almost never works. But surprisingly, even in really horrific crimes, you see jurors -- even in places like Texas, military juries like this one, where the jury says there is a physical reason why this action took place, whether it's an injury, a disease, PTSD. And they wind up giving life in prison rather than the death penalty.

COOPER: Sanjay, I mean, you've studied PTSD now for years and its effects on troops. Could PTSD lead someone to do something like this? I mean, is that part of a viable defense, from a medical standpoint?

TOOBIN: It's really tough to stay. And I think, you know, what Jeff said, it's a tough one to prove, as well. I mean, this is a profound response to a traumatic event of some sort. People can feel very keyed up. They can feel very anxious. No question that can be very debilitating.

The one thing that's very unusual here and doesn't seem to fit in with PTSD is this idea of predatory violence. While someone may react out of proportion in response to some sort of event, seemingly harmless event, predatory violence is not something that, in our investigations, we have seen associated with PTSD.

COOPER: Sanjay, though, he did suffer from a traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb during a previous tour in Iraq. What kind of an impact could that have had on his behavior?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think it's interesting. When you think about traumatic brain injury, there's all sorts of -- it depends on what part of the brain was traumatized, what exactly happened around that.

The way I would describe it is if someone had, for example, both frontal lobes, the front part of your brain traumatized, this is a part of your brain that's responsible for judgment.

So, you know, this idea that, you know, something bad is happening, and I know how to control that or use my judgment to make the situation better may be impaired.

But again the idea that someone would go out and be predatory in some way seems unlikely in response. It's more like the brakes aren't working in someone who's had bifrontal brain injury. And again, no one is saying that he had that, as opposed to, you know, actually executing a plan like this.

Also, you know, Anderson, it's worth pointing out, 230,000 troops or so over the last ten years have had traumatic brain injuries. This is the signature injury of this war. And obviously, thankfully, we don't hear stories like this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, thanks. Sanjay Gupta, thank you. I think Sanjay made an important point, a distinction between predatory behavior and reactive behavior as a result of some sort of brain trauma. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.