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Paul Ryan Releases Tax Returns; Paul Ryan's Impact on Presidential Race?

Aired August 17, 2012 - 22:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

Paul Ryan is out with his tax returns, disclosing two years' worth, which is more for the moment than Mitt Romney has. He's put a year out and an estimate. We will run those numbers shortly.

We begin, though, "Keeping Them Honest" with how Paul Ryan opposed President Obama's stimulus act, then sought out and accepted millions of dollars from it, then denied taking the money, and finally acknowledged it happened, but suggested that the letters asking for the money were crafted by his staff.

Today, he took heat for it all on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the American idea's all about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you lie about...

RYAN: ... who have epitomized...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's a heckler in Springfield, Virginia, tearing up a Romney-Ryan sign, obviously not a fan. Here's what he is talking about. Take a look at Congressman Ryan during the debate over the stimulus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: We can do better than this. This bill, this economic stimulus package is unworthy of our new president's signature.

This is just a long spending wish list from every spending interest group that's out there. We have all proposed alternatives, not this one. This one won't work. And my fear is that we're going to make matters worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: People are still arguing about that. But once the bill passed, plenty of big-name Republicans began asking for a piece of it. They were talking jobs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We can create a lot of jobs. Again, the estimates of job creations are 85,000 to 160- some-thousand jobs for the commonwealth, most of that in this area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Cantor, who is now the House majority leader, he lobbied for stimulus money. And so did a lot of his colleagues. But what about Paul Ryan? Here's what he said on a Boston call-in show back in 2010.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

QUESTION: I assume you voted against the stimulus. I'm just curious if you accepted any moneys in your district.

RYAN: No, I'm not one who votes for something, then writes to the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any stimulus money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: "Keeping Them Honest," well, that's simply not true.

In 2009, Congressman Ryan wrote to the Departments of Energy and Labor seeking stimulus money for a pair of local green energy companies. One ended up with more than $20 million. And Congressman Ryan, who you will remember sounded so skeptical that stimulus would create any jobs, he writes that the company in question believes it will -- quote -- "create or retain approximately 7,600 new jobs over the three-year grant period" and -- quote -- "I was pleased that the primary objectives of the project will stimulate the local and area economy by creating new jobs," and at the bottom of each letter, "Sincerely, Paul Ryan."

The existence of these letters has been known since 2010. The story resurfaced on Tuesday in Boston when someone rediscovered that radio clip with Joe from Stoughton. Mr. Ryan was asked about it yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Of course you were also very outspoken against the stimulus, the Obama stimulus plan. A report came out again today in the AP. It was a repeat of that "Wall Street Journal" article from a couple of years ago where you had asked for stimulus money for your district. Is that accurate? Is that report accurate?

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: I never asked for stimulus. I don't recall. I haven't seen this report so I really can't comment on it. I oppose the stimulus because it doesn't work, it didn't work. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: A short time after that, Congressman Ryan's office put out a statement suggesting that the letters signed "Sincerely, Paul" were just routine staff work.

Quote: "After having these letters called to my attention, I checked into them and they were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or veteran affairs are handled. This is why I didn't recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently and I take responsibility for that."

A lot to talk about with Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and RedState.com editor in chief Erick Erickson.

Nice to see you both.

Erick, I'm going to start with you. Paul Ryan first said he didn't ask for any stimulus funding and the program didn't create any jobs. It turned out of course he did ask for stimulus money in 2010 for at least four letters that we know about.

And his program, some of those programs were actually funded. When he said stimulus doesn't work, in one of those letters that he wrote to Steven Chu, the energy secretary, he talked about the jobs that would be created stimulating the local economy. How much of a problem is this in terms of seeming hypocritical to voters?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think it's a little bit of a problem for Paul Ryan.

But I remember writing about this at Red State back in 2010. I'm surprised it's coming up now. It was so out there then with a number of the Republicans who voted against the stimulus plan wanting it. Look, Paul Ryan is not as conservative as the Democrats would like him to be, so that they could paint him as conservative.

He voted for TARP, the General Motors bailout, capping CEO pay. He voted against the stimulus in 2009. But he voted for the 2008 stimulus, Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind. Conservatives may not like it but it's a little bit surprising the Democrats are pushing these attacks out I guess on the hypocrisy angle.

They seem to not really have a cogent argument on Paul Ryan yet. And I think painting him as more of a moderate really doesn't help them with the other rhetoric they're pushing towards him.

O'BRIEN: Maria, what do you think of that? Do you think this is a symbol of the Democrats not having a cogent argument and just trying to see what sticks against him?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I actually think completely the opposite, Soledad.

What I have seen this week and the risk that the Paul Ryan pick is actually demonstrating for Republicans is it's not just that they handed the Democrats and the Obama campaign exactly what they have been asking for, which is to have this be a choice selection between two very different visions, but I think what you have also seen this week with the flip-flop on the stimulus, the flip-flop on Medicare in terms of Paul Ryan bashing the president, erroneously, I might add, for cutting $716 billion from Medicare, when his own budget does that.

And then we also see that he voted against a piece of legislation in 2010 that would actually give small businesses more freedom and more money and now he's bashing the Obama campaign for restrictions on small businesses.

So, instead of what the Romney campaign wanted of a whole lot of Paul Ryan rubbing off on Mitt Romney, we're seeing the opposite, a whole lot of Mitt Romney rubbing off on Paul Ryan, in terms of the flip-flop, and perhaps this is not somebody that we can trust, the same way a lot of voters believe about Mitt Romney.

O'BRIEN: Erick, when we were speaking a couple months ago, you and I specifically said the conversation was going to be jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Now we're talking about anything other than jobs.

And in fact we have heard from the GOP, great, bring it on, we want to talk about Medicare. Do you think that that strategy is a winning strategy, or is it symbolic of just a rough week?

ERICKSON: I have been concerned with it, but it's interesting you would characterize it as a rough week, because when you consider the Obama administration has done anything but want to talk about Medicare this week, we had Monday Joe Biden open his mouth. Tuesday, he opened his mouth. Wednesday, he opened his mouth.

Then you had some folks who over on a different network drop the N-word trying to say Mitt Romney was a racist, which threw them off- message. The Democrats, thus far, they have gone after income taxes this week, they have gone after Seamus the dog this week. And now they're going after Paul Ryan possibly being a flip-flopper.

They haven't actually engaged on the Medicare issue that -- they have tried to avoid the issues of jobs and Medicare. I really do think -- and I appreciate what Maria is saying, but I think they're having a hard time going after Paul Ryan. They haven't figured out a narrative yet.

O'BRIEN: I would say, Erick, I wasn't characterizing it as a rough week. I was asking you if it was a rough week.

ERICKSON: For Obama, yes.

O'BRIEN: Maria, let's talk about...

CARDONA: I don't think so.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's see if you think about -- much of the conversation on the Democratic side was about Joe Biden, replaying his remarks in front of an audience that was roughly 50 percent African- American.

Talk about being off-message and having a lot of the conversation about something you wouldn't want to be having a conversation about, right?

CARDONA: Yes, I agree.

Joe Biden's remarks were definitely off-message. And I wish he hadn't used those words, because it frankly gives Republicans exactly what they want, which is a distraction to not talk about Medicare, because I really do think they believe -- and a lot of Republican strategists have said this on the record -- that that is not a winning argument for them.

When Joe Biden talked about what he should have said in terms of unshackling, but he used the unchain word, that was unfortunate.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Wait, wait, but you're not telling me the difference between unshackling and unchained is really what would have made all the difference there, right?

CARDONA: No, no. What I'm saying is it distracted. The words he used actually distracted from the message he was trying to deliver, which is that what Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney want to do and the Republicans is to put American voters back in the mercy or at the mercy of Wall Street. And that message was a little bit diluted, given his choice of words, which was unfortunate and it was a distraction.

O'BRIEN: A lot diluted.

Well, there's always next week. That's for sure.

Erick Erickson and Maria Cardona...

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: Maybe the president will take questions.

CARDONA: Maybe Mitt Romney will too.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You know what I would like? I would like for both of them to do that. That would be great.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Appreciate it.

CARDONA: Bye-bye.

ERICKSON: Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @AC360.

Coming next, is today's Ryan story a sign that Democrats got what they wished for with Paul Ryan on the ticket, which is what Maria Cardona was just suggesting there, or will he develop into a powerful vote getter for Mitt Romney? Joe Johns, John King and David Gergen will weigh in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: As we mentioned, Paul Ryan released two years' worth of income tax returns, less than he provided to the Romney campaign for vetting, but more than Governor Romney's made public so far. We will tell you what's inside them shortly.

We're also going to talk about Ryan as a rising force. Not every congressman can stand up and spar with the president of the United States, as Paul Ryan has over the years. We're going to talk about his pros and his cons with our political panel.

First, though, here's Joe Johns on the Ryan-Obama rivalry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In politics, it's a formula, generous words of praise for an adversary followed by rhetorical daggers and spears. President Obama and Congressman Paul Ryan can start out nice, but don't end up that way.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congressman Ryan is a decent man. He is a family man. He is an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney's vision, but it's a vision I fundamentally disagree with.

JOHNS: That respectful tone has been a constant between the two men over the years. January 2010, the budget battle's in full swing, the president in rare form taking it to House Republicans at their annual retreat. But he softened his tone when it came to Paul Ryan and his big idea to slash the federal budget.

OBAMA: I think Paul, for example, head of the Budget Committee, has looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal.

JOHNS: A serious proposal. Remember those words.

OBAMA: I have read it. I can tell you what's in it. And there are some ideas in there that I would agree with. But there are some ideas that we should have a healthy debate about, because I don't agree with them.

JOHNS: At least half-joking, the president makes a little reference to the next election, all in good fun.

OBAMA: In case he's going to get a Republican challenge, I didn't mean it.

(LAUGHTER) OBAMA: Don't want to hurt you, man.

JOHNS: But everything changes and, frankly, it was a classic Washington grudge match waiting to happen, two intelligent politicians, polar opposites, still with a lot in common. Both are family men. They're young, the president 51, Ryan 42. And each represents the ideological future of their parties.

Later in the year, sure enough, they were taking turns lecturing each other at the president's summit on health care, on the big idea of his administration, though Ryan also started out nice enough.

RYAN: Mr. President, you said health care reform is budget reform. You're right.

JOHNS: But it was all downhill from there.

RYAN: This bill does not control costs. This bill does not reduce deficits. Instead, this bill adds a new health care entitlement at a time when we have no idea how to pay for the entitlements we already have.

JOHNS: Note the president's facial expression. The president would later lecture Congressman Ryan on his signature achievement in a speech at George Washington University last year, with Ryan seated in the front row. The president was now ripping up Ryan's big House budget idea.

OBAMA: I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic. It's a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them. That's not right. And it's not going to happen as long as I'm president.

JOHNS: And by now, it was not even a serious idea any longer.

OBAMA: There's nothing serious or courageous about this plan. There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don't think there's anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill.

JOHNS: Ryan emerged firing back with intensity.

RYAN: Exploiting people's emotions of fear, envy, and anxiety, is not hope, it's not change. It's partisanship.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Joe Johns with us, along with John King and senior political analyst David Gergen.

Gentlemen, nice to see all of you.

John, I'm going to start with you. Congressman Ryan, and I want to talk about the taxes. He's just released his tax return. That's how we started this evening, taking a look at them. Governor Romney said yesterday he never paid less than 13 percent effective rate, still not going to release more than two years. What can you tell us about Paul Ryan's tax returns?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In terms of the rate, he's paid more than his new boss, Governor Romney. In 2010, he paid a rate of about 16 percent. In 2011, last year, he paid a rate of 20 percent.

Over those two years, Soledad, Paul Ryan made a combined about $540,000 total. That's a pretty healthy salary. Some of that is from his congressional salary. His wife has some investments. Some of it she inherited from her mother. But imagine that, $538,000, Paul Ryan makes over 2010 and 2011. Governor Romney made $42 million, $42 million in that period. So safe to say Governor Romney's taxes are probably a bit more interesting.

O'BRIEN: I bet they are.

President Obama's campaign manager actually said we'd like to see some of those interesting years. In fact, we will leave it at three additional years. We will pull off on our attacks. And the response was like nice try, but that's certainly not going to happen.

We have been talking about it now for another day. Do you think that the Obama campaign is winning on this? Do you think that voters even care about this issue?

KING: I talked to a senior Romney adviser tonight who said, no, it doesn't hurt anymore. He said "It stopped hurting." He made that point, he said, because it's not new information. This debate's been going on for weeks, if not months. He said any voter who was going to leave Mitt Romney because he won't release more taxes is already gone.

However, Soledad, just tonight, Peter Hart, a very respected Democratic pollster, he conducts these nonpartisan focus groups for Annenberg Center. He sent out a memo tonight saying that he had 12 suburban women in Wisconsin, Paul Ryan's home state. Trust me, if you read this report, these women did not have nice things to say about President Obama either. They said he's been weak. He hasn't been willing to make tough decisions.

But on the tax issue, many of them said, what is he hiding? Why is he not more forthcoming? Leaders should be more transparent. Peter's conclusion on this, and Peter does these focus groups like nobody else, was that because voters don't know a lot about Mitt Romney, this raises questions of trust.

O'BRIEN: Joe, you have covered Ryan on Capitol Hill for a dozen years or so. Democrats really sought to make him the Republican budget bad guy I guess is how I would put it.

And I'm wondering, is the sense that they actually got what they wanted? I mean, he seems fine and comfortable playing the attack position. He seems that he makes Romney better on the campaign trail. Is this a case of, you know, be careful what you wish for because they could benefit from that?

JOHNS: I think what you see is what you get. Ryan's looking for this fight. He said as much today.

And we also know he can be a very persuasive guy. He got a lot of support on Capitol Hill for his budget plan. Of course, the question I think at the end of the day is whether the American people are going to be buying what he's selling, because back a few years ago Ryan was a big supporter, for example, of President George W. Bush's Social Security plan, which we know went nowhere.

That just sort of tells you that sometimes, no matter how persuasive you are, Soledad, it's not always easy to get the support you're looking for.

O'BRIEN: David Gergen, why do you think we're hearing so much from Ryan and Romney attacking President Obama on Medicare so intently? Is it a good strategy, especially when you were thinking that jobs, jobs, jobs is going to be the strategy?

GERGEN: I think it's a case of the best defense is a good offense. And they have really gone on offense this week, because they know these attacks are coming. They know that there is an opportunity here for the Obama administration to paint them as hard-hearted, cruel towards seniors, while they're giving away tax breaks to the upper income.

So they're going on offense. And so far, I think it's working reasonably well from a Republican point of view. The Ryan campaign has energized the overall Romney effort. And we now have on television Paul Ryan, the vice presidential candidate, is playing on the same level as President Obama, almost as if they're equals.

Of course, in normal politics, that's anything but. So in the short term, I think they feel they picked up some points on this. It's the long term that really matters. As Joe Johns said, the real question is how this plays over the long haul.

O'BRIEN: Of course, that's kind of the $64,000 question, isn't it?

President Obama's campaign has just responded to all those attacks about Medicare with a new ad. I want you to listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: The nonpartisan AARP says Obamacare cracks down on Medicare fraud, waste and abuse and strengthens guaranteed benefits. And the Ryan plan? AARP says it would undermine Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So, is this a sign, then, that the Ryan attacks are working, and it's forcing the Obama campaign to make ads like that? Is it a sign that the president's campaign has, as you were talking about, a great offense in order to defend themselves? Which is it?

GERGEN: I think the Obama team is on the counteroffense with that.

It's a strong ad. They're going to see a lot more of them. Conservatives will tell you they don't accept the premise of the ad, that AARP is totally nonpartisan. The AARP, of course, did support Obamacare. And there are a number of seniors -- like Al Simpson of the Simpson-Bowles commission, has had a lot of fights with the AARP over his positions on support for seniors over the years.

But I do think what you're going to see from the Obama campaign, they're going to push back. The Obama campaign thinks there's pay dirt here. The Obama campaign thinks they can put this Romney/Ryan ticket away on this issue. And the Romney people are going to fight really hard, go into the convention, see if they can convince the public.

We will just have to see how this plays out. I think it's one of the most interesting questions in a long time. And here's what's good for the country. Let me just add this briefly. In 1992, we had Ross Perot came into the campaign and put deficits right on the table. Remember, he brought those charts to Larry King?

And we went and the country made progress on deficits in the next few years, even though Ross lost that campaign. This is good for the country to have a conversation about Medicare now, to see if we can't get to the bottom of this. And let's have a vote. Let's see which way we're going to go.

O'BRIEN: When you think about it, lots of people thumbing through copies of the Congressional Budget Office reports, which cannot be a bad thing, a little boring, but it can't a bad thing.

Thank you, gentlemen, Joe Johns and John King and David Gergen. Nice to see all of you. Appreciate your time this evening.

GERGEN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Coming up next, a major development in a story we reported exclusively last night on 360 -- the fatal shooting of a Michigan man in a hail of gunfire by police.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: An update now to a story we reported exclusively last night on 360.

We learned today that the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting death of a Saginaw, Michigan, man by the police. The shooting was caught on amateur video. CNN purchased it. And we're going to play it again tonight. And I have to warn you it's very graphic.

But we're showing the video because it reveals how police handled what's become a controversial case, a major issue in Saginaw, and now the subject of a federal investigation.

What you're about to see happened in a parking lot on July 1. Police said that 49-year-old Milton Hall had some kind of a run-in with a convenience store clerk before he got into a standoff with police, who say he was holding some kind of knife.

Here's how it ended. And I have to warn you again, the video is graphic. CNN counted the sounds of at least 30 shots on that videotape. Hall's family says he suffered from serious mental health issues.

Lots more happening tonight.

Gary Tuchman joins us now with a 360 bulletin.

Hey, Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Soledad.

The United Nations has a new point man in Syria. Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, to replace Kofi Annan as special envoy. And he resigned two weeks ago after failing to reach a ceasefire. According to the opposition, at least 168 people were killed in Syria today, including 40 in and around Damascus, where this YouTube video is claimed to have been shot.

India next. Big city train stations packed with as many as 7,000 people fleeing cities. That's after students and workers from the northeastern state of Assam said they received text messages threatening retaliatory attacks for ethnic violence in their state.

Back home, five people are behind bars in Louisiana. In connection with a pair of related shootings that left two sheriff deputies dead and two others wounded. Two other suspects have been arrested but are still hospitalized recovering from gunshot wounds.

And talk about determination. On Sunday, Diana Nyad will begin her fourth try at swimming the 103 miles from Cuba to Florida. The 62-year-old says this will be her last attempt.

She is an amazing role model, Soledad. And we just hope the sharks and the jellyfish stay away.

O'BRIEN: Yes. We are rooting for her.

All right. Gary, thanks.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: -- suffered from serious mental health issues.

Lots more happening tonight. Gary Tuchman joins us now with a 360 bulletin.

Hey, Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Soledad. The United Nations has a new point man in Syria. Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, to replace Kofi Annan as special envoy. And he resigned two weeks ago after failing to reach a ceasefire. According to the opposition, at least 168 people were killed in Syria today, including 40 in and around Damascus, where this YouTube video is claimed to have been shot.

India next. Big city train stations packed with as many as 7,000 people fleeing cities. That's after students and workers from the northeastern state of Assam said they received text messages threatening retaliatory attacks for ethnic violence in their state.

Back home, five people are behind bars in Louisiana. In connection with a pair of related shootings that left two sheriff deputies dead and two others wounded. Two other suspects have been arrested but are still hospitalized recovering from gunshot wounds.

And talk about determination. On Sunday, Diana Nyad will begin her fourth try at swimming the 103 miles from Cuba to Florida. The 62-year-old says this will be her last attempt.

She is an amazing role model, Soledad. And we just hope the sharks and the jellyfish stay away.

O'BRIEN: Yes. We are rooting for her.

All right. Gary, thanks.

There is new video tonight that adds to what we know about the fatal shooting of a young man in police custody. But will it answer the question: was it suicide or homicide? Details are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Unrest in South Africa, after police opened fire on striking miners, killing dozens of people. We'll take you there next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Police in Jonesboro, Arkansas, have released new information in the case of Chavis Carter, the young man who died while in their custody a few weeks ago.

They've released dash cam video from a police cruiser, which offers a glimpse of the scene the night officers pulled Carter over. They also put out a number of videotaped eyewitness interviews.

Does this new information answer the key question? Was Carter's death suicide or was it homicide?

Randi Kaye tonight with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No one is disputing that Chavis Carter died from a gunshot to the head while in the backseat of a police car in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The question is, who pulled the trigger? Police say he committed suicide.

CHIEF MICHAEL YATES, JONESBORO, ARKANSAS POLICE: Quite frankly, I've seen some of our people in custody do some amazing things.

KAYE: But Carter's mother doesn't buy it. She believes Jonesboro police killed her son.

THERESA CARTER, VICTIM'S MOTHER: I think they killed him. I mean, my son wasn't suicidal.

KAYE (on-camera): At this point, it's still debatable and still under investigation. Here's why. Twenty-one-year-old Chavis Carter was handcuffed at the time the fatal shot was fired, double-locked behind his back.

Is it even possible physically to be handcuffed behind your back and somehow pull the trigger on a gun that you weren't holding when you were handcuffed?

YATES: To the average person that's never been in handcuffs, that's never been around inmates and people in custody would react exactly the same way that you just did about how can that be possible. Well, the fact of it is, it's very possible and it's quite easy.

KAYE: Chavis Carter and two others were pulled over July 29th just before 10:00 p. m. for driving suspiciously. The first officer called for backup. Then, the two of them questioned and searched the three men in the truck.

(on-camera): When officers first searched Carter, they say they found a small amount of marijuana and some small plastic bags. They did not find a gun. According to the officers, Carter was then placed in the backseat of one of the police vehicles. At that point, they say, he was not handcuffed.

It wasn't until later when the officer searched the suspect's vehicle and found drug paraphernalia like electronic scales and a large bag of white powder that they patted down Carter again.

They placed him once again, they say, in the same police vehicle's backseat, only this time, he was handcuffed.

(voice-over): How Carter managed to shoot himself while handcuffed using a concealed weapon police missed during not one but two searches is a mystery to many, including the FBI who is looking into it.

(on camera): In their searching, they find a small bag, $10 worth of marijuana, but they miss a gun?

YATES: Apparently.

KAYE: Is that disappointing to you?

YATES: Yes.

KAYE (voice-over): The chief says the two men with Carter who were White were released. But Carter was held back after the officers who are also White discovered he'd given them a fake name. And there was a warrant for his arrest in Mississippi where he'd skipped out on a drug diversion program.

The chief says his officers don't know exactly when the fatal shot was fired, even though they were just feet away. According to this incident report, one of the officers heard, quote, "a loud thump with a metallic sound" but thought it came from a vehicle that ran over a piece of metal on the roadway.

Don't your officers know the sound of a gun being fired?

YATES: One would think. But, when those guns were in a confined space like the rear of a police car, it could be very different.

KAYE: It wasn't until the officers were about to leave when police say one of them smelled something burning in his vehicle. The chief says it was likely gun smoke. That's when police say the officer found Chavis Carter bloodied and slumped over in the backseat. The officers say they called an ambulance and tried to revive Carter. He died at the hospital.

CARTER: I can't see how.

KAYE: Carter's mother says it just doesn't add up. She told reporters her son was shot in the right side of the head, but she points out he was left-handed. Police would only say he was shot in the head.

CARTER: They searched him twice. I mean, I just want to know what really happened.

KAYE: Theresa Carter says her son called his girlfriend from the scene to tell her he'd phone her from jail, which to her, raises the question: does that sound like someone planning to commit suicide? In Jonesboro, supporters have held vigils.

Like many, they wonder what motive Carter had to kill himself. A $10 bag of marijuana? White powder that hasn't tested positive for drugs and is likely sugar? An outstanding warrant? We asked the chief about Theresa Carter's allegations, that one of his officers pulled the trigger.

(on camera): Can you safely say you've ruled that out in your investigation?

YATES: Not at this stage in the investigation. It's certainly a remote possibility. Like I say, we haven't excluded everything. But I feel confident that that's not what it is. But I certainly understand how she might feel that way.

(END VIDEOTAPE) O'BRIEN: Randi, police in Arkansas have now released that dash cam video from the officer's car that night. I know you've had a chance to go through it. What in particular sticks out to you?

KAYE: Soledad, I should point out first that the two squad cars were parked trunk to trunk so they don't actually capture any video of Chavis Carter in the back seat of the police car.

But on this video that was released, you see two officers standing around questioning the two white suspects, who they later let go. You see them about 8 minutes into the traffic stop leading Chavis Carter to the squad car un-handcuffed at the time and then he goes out of frame.

But you hear one officer questioning him, asking him his name, where he's from. He's extremely polite. That really stood out to me. He answers yes, sir, no, sir. You don't get any sense of tension at all. The officers are polite and calm. And Carter is as well.

O'BRIEN: So I guess the key question is do you hear the bullet being fired in the audio portion of the tape.

KAYE: Well, I watched and listened to that dash cam audio and video several times. It's about 40 minutes long and nowhere on that video or in that audio do you hear the sound of a gunshot or a pop or anything really that remotely sounds like a bullet being fired.

Now, remember, the officers had said, Soledad, that they didn't recall hearing the gunshot. One thought he heard a pop, but thought it was a car going over a piece of metal in the road and we didn't hear either.

O'BRIEN: So are there any witnesses who, you know, ultimately might be able to help get at the truth?

KAYE: There are several witnesses. Police released several witness interviews. We're not sure -- we should point out -- how many witnesses in all were interviewed. Police redacted their information so we don't know who they are.

These released interviews today include two African-American and one white witness and not a single witness puts the officers in the car or in the back seat with Chavis Carter at the time of the shooting.

Two of the witnesses remember hearing a gunshot or something that sounded like it. But when asked about where the officers were at that moment, listen to what one witness said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then about 10, 15 minutes after that, we hear a loud pop. I'm like, what is going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You heard a pop?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounded like a gun going off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So where were the police officers when you heard this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were standing on the outside of the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you heard the pop, the doors were open of the police car?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The one he had in the back seat wasn't open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were closed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Another witness says that he remembers one of the officers opening the door to his squad car and yelling to his partner for help.

Another thing, Soledad, I should point out is that you do hear on the tape one of the officers talking about taking Chavis Carter to the county jail, which may speak to their intentions. But, still, no clear answer on what happened and, really, there may never be.

O'BRIEN: Wow, so complicated and confusing. Randi Kaye for us tonight -- Randi, thanks.

Coming up next, people helping the four legged survivors of the wildfires out west.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Firefighters still have their hands full all across the west. But there's another battle going on as well. The fight to save the pets and the livestock left behind. Dan Simon has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From sheep to alpacas to turkeys to pigs. The Kittitas County, Washington, fairground has turned into a giant animal refuge center.

It all began when people were forced to flee their homes. While they went to shelters or to stay with friends or family, the animals too needed a place to go. So the county said they could come here. And since the fire broke out, it's been a temporary home to as many as 400 animals.

(on camera): How big of an event has this fire been for this community?

MARK KINSEL, VETERINARIAN: I can't put it in words. I've never seen anything like it in my nearly 15 years. People have asked me, have you ever done this before. I've gone through training and simulated exercises but doing the real thing is a whole different learning process.

SIMON (voice-over): Mark Kinsel is the lead veterinarian whose skills became vital in saving some of the injured animals.

KINSEL: We had reports of a large number of burn victims coming to our triage. We had set up a triage center. I had to go take a walk and kind of regroup. And, you know, starting to tear up and -- I said, OK, you got to deal with this and put your emotions aside and, you know, get ready to go.

SIMON: These are the lucky ones. Authorities believe many, possibly hundreds, of animals died in the fire. Some owners racing to cut their fences to give their livestock or pets a fighting chance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Hanna.

SIMON: At the local animal hospital, veterinarians are tending to these cats and dogs with burn wounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're watching for signs of stress, especially in the larger animals because they tend to get stressed a little bit easier at times.

SIMON: Facebook has helped reunite some of the animals here with their owners. Elsewhere, authorities believe some are still roaming.

KINSEL: There are probably still a large number of animals, horses and cattle, running around the county. There are a lot of Good Samaritans that are finding the animals just out in the field or out in the corner -- the road. We send crews out to get them.

SIMON: Kim Collucci just moved to town two weeks ago and was frantic to get her horses to safety. Also at stake, her livelihood, raising goats.

KIM COLLUCCI, EVACUEE: We're with them from the time they're born. We attend their birth. We are there, you know, through the whole pregnancy and then we milk morning and night.

SIMON: The county says the animals can stay here indefinitely. The community has stepped up with tons of donations. Volunteers are also donating their time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely getting my feet wet.

SIMON: Nisa Pashosta (ph) recently graduated from veterinary school and accepted a job in Alaska.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Normal gut sounds, all four quadrants.

SIMON: She was supposed to leave this weekend, but has pushed back her start date to help.

(on camera): Tell me why you're doing this. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't imagine not doing this. I don't know -- I took an oath in May.

SIMON (voice-over): An oath to look after these four legged creatures whose lives were also up-ended by this sprawling fire.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Dan Simon joins us live now. Dan, obviously some of those animals are pets, but others are crucial for livelihoods. I mean, you know, this is just devastating for the community on all kinds of levels.

SIMON: Well, that's exactly right. You know, agriculture and livestock are extremely important to this community. That's why you see so many animals. They're vital to the local economy.

Now some of them have been able to go home. As some of the evacuation orders get lifted. Others will remain at that shelter as it were until, you know, their owners are able to get the green light and go home as well.

Soledad, before we leave you, I want to give you a quick update on the fire. You can see some of the smoke behind me. Crews are continuing to dump water on it.

They're getting -- they seem to be getting an upper hand on it. They haven't lost any homes in the last couple of days. But lightning strikes could happen this weekend, so crews are going to watch it very, very closely -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Dan Simon for us this evening. Dan, thank you.

Gary Tuchman now with a "360 News and Business Bulletin." Hi, Gary.

TUCHMAN: Hi, Soledad.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma says he's launching an inquiry into the shooting deaths of 34 striking miners. The violence broke out at a plant and a mine about two hours from Johannesburg. Tensions over a union dispute have been mounting and police claimed they were acting in self defense.

Progressive Insurance offering a settlement in a legal battle that played out over social media this week. It started with a post saying, quote, "My sister paid progressive insurance to defend her killer in court." Progressive admitted participating in the defense of the under insured driver who ran a red light killing Katie Fisher.

And tonight, Whitney Houston's final film hits the big screen. The remake of the 1970s cult classic "Sparkle" follows the ups and downs of an all girl R&B group in 1960's Detroit -- Soledad. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Gary.

Up next, why is a penguin in someone's apartment? There's a good chance booze is involved. The "Ridiculist" is just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Tonight, the number one pick of "Ridiculist" videos featuring people who do dumb, illegal or wacky things. It's all thanks to viewers who cast their votes this weekend, AC360.com. The video you've chosen shows the antics of a few tanked up guys in Australia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, we're adding the case of the purloined penguin. Yes, in a true intersection of the feckless and the flightless, three drunk guys stole a penguin from Sea World in Australia.

Whereas most drunk guys just try to pick up chicks, these brainiacs got a whole penguin, marched it back to their apartment, and being in their late teens, early 20s, as well as bombed out their minds, they captured the moment on video for posterity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A penguin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe how I have a penguin in my apartment. Man, you stole a penguin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's when they woke up hung over, and realized yes, they had a penguin. By the way, there's more. While they were at Sea World, they also videotaped themselves engaging in a little DWI. That would be "|diving while intoxicated."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that's not all they did that night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm diving in there, man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Still undetected by Sea World security, they swam with the dolphins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at them. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes. That's right, they swam with the dolphins. Might as well. I mean, you're there, right? It's nighttime, you're wasted, why not?

The thing is, now that the police have that video, it's undeniable proof that they did it on porpoise.

We had to pretape this, because do you know how many times I had to say "porpoise" correctly? Take a look.

COOPER: They did it on poipose. They did it on purpose. Porpoise. I can't say it. On porpoise. On purpose. They did it on purpose. Porpoise. On porpoise. They did it on porpoise. Porpoise. I was there. I did have it. Porpoise. Porpoise. Put it back. Porpoise. On porpoise. Porpoise. Poor -- not pour, porpoise. On porpoise.

Sometimes it's not even doing this job.

Look, I don't want to encourage this kind of behavior, but you have to admit, just from a standpoint of epic drunken adventures, it kind of rivals the movie "The Hangover."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not kidding, there's a tiger in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, there isn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does a tiger get in the bathroom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, bro, you mind putting on some pants. I feel a little weird asking twice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have any.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So getting back to the drunk guys who turned Sea World into their own private Studio 54, well, they panicked the next morning and let the penguin go in a nearby waterway. He was eventually rescued and returned to the water park, which is good, because this also happens to be a love story. Not for the drunk guys; for Dirk the penguin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dirk had another reason not to stray too far -- his partner, Peaches. While she's been somewhat coy this morning, no doubt she, too, is relieved to see him again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Dirk and Peaches, reunited and it feels so good. Dirk and Peaches, like a porn name, isn't it?

Anyway, meanwhile, the guys, well, they feel pretty bad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We aren't -- all three of us are sorry to Sea World and all the time they lost searching for Dirk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The three face -- the three face charges next month, including trespassing, stealing and unlawfully keeping a protected animal. And they've already been unofficially convicted of being the hardest partying dudes ever on "The RidicuList."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: And that does it for this edition of 360. Thank you for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.