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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Slavery Reparations; Tax Cut Showdown; Ethics Battles; Anatomy of a Sex Trafficking Raid
Aired December 1, 2010 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight Congress says African- American farmers discriminated for decades by the U.S. government deserve payment. But one Republican congressman says the program is riddled with fraud and is really just a way to make reparations for slavery. His remarks have set off a firestorm.
Tonight you'll hear from him. Is the congressman playing fast and loose with the facts or are his opponents? We're "Keeping Them Honest."
Also tonight, a big name Democratic congresswoman accused of ethics violations, Maxine Waters. Her hearing was supposed to begin, but now the ethics panel is in disarray; the lead investigator mysteriously taken off the case. Can congress really police itself? Details tonight.
And later: hiding in plain sight, the child slavery business right here in America -- hard to believe. We have the evidence, though, for you to see for yourself.
We begin as always "Keeping Them Honest." Tonight, the congressman who says a billion dollar federal program for settling African-American discrimination claims is full of fraud, was pushed by what he calls a, quote, "very, very urban Barack Obama" and amounts he says to slavery reparations.
We're talking about Steve King, Republican of Iowa. You're going to hear from him in a moment.
At issue is a program just passed in Congress to extend payments to African-American farmers, who have been discriminated against by the U.S. government. Now, the government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in this case, admits they discriminated against black farmers. Unfairly denying them federal loans, for instance, loans they needed as all farmers do from time to time to stay afloat.
The USDA also admits that for years they ignored or even threw away discrimination claims made by black farmers.
A farmer named Pigford sued; it became a class action suit. The government came up with a settlement and now a new settlement for farmers who missed the filing deadline of the first one.
Congressman King objects to this latest round of payments saying there is widespread fraud. He's alleging three quarters of a billion dollars were wasted in the first round of payments and this week Congressman King spoke on the House floor for an hour attacking the process and President Obama for sponsoring a bill supporting it when he was a senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Figure this out, Madam Speaker, we have a very, very urban Senator Barack Obama, who has decided he's going to run for president and what does he do? He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: But Congressman King did not point out that then-senator Obama was representing the state of Illinois, some 80 percent of which is made up of farmland. The congressman went to equate these payments with slave reparations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KING: We've got to stand up at some point and say, we're not going to pay slavery reparations in the United States congress. That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees especially. And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just for the record, President Obama is on the record as opposing reparations for slavery; said it several times. I asked him about it during a CNN/YouTube presidential debate three years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Senator Obama, your position on reparations?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the reparations we need right here in South Carolina is investment, for example, in our schools. That's the kind of reparations that are really going to make a difference in America right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So point one, President Obama's not for reparations. But the President's motivations aside, what about Congressman King's claim that the first phase of the Pigford settlement was full of fraud? He says 94,000 people have submitted claims but only 18,000 African-American farmers could have qualified and that the vast majority of those claims were fraudulent.
Here's what he said Monday night about a federal claims processor he talked to. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KING: One of those individuals and I've had anecdotes from several, but one of those individuals felt the burden of the corruption and the fraudulent claims that were coming forward in front of him, that he copied a box of applications. A literal box of applications, which I'm really sure that would not have been very constructive to him maintaining his job with the USDA.
But it bothered his conscience so much and when he came back to Iowa he wanted to make it a point to make sure that I knew that these applications that he was dealing with, were he believed, a minimum of 75 percent fraudulent. 75 percent fraudulent. If you just apply that to the $1.05 billion in claims that were paid out, if he's right in that number, $750 million were wasted paying people that didn't have it coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: $750 million out of $1 billion wasted according to the congressman. Now true, obviously it's a shocking amount of fraud. But he gets that figure by extrapolating from at most several people.
We asked the USDA, they gave us this statement. "All allegations," they say, "were forwarded to OIG." That's the Office of the Inspector General who in turn referred them to the FBI.
It goes on to say, "The FBI prosecuted a total of three individuals. With approximately 20,000 claimants, three prosecutions means that 0.015 percent of the claimants were determined by the FBI to be serious enough to merit prosecution."
Congressman King also says there have been more claims than possible farmers. The USDA says in a nut shell that in the 15 years covered by the current bill, farms changed hands. According to the department, the 44,000 African-American farmers in 1996 were not all the same farmers in 1981, hence the additional claims, and that many farmers were driven out of business by discrimination.
I spoke with Congressman King a moment ago; along with John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association.
COOPER: Representative King, you liken these payments to slave reparations but just factually speaking, how can you say that? These payments are not for anyone descended from slaves, they're not even for black farmers who were discriminated against all throughout the 1900s. They're payments specifically for black farmers who the USDA admits were being discriminated against between 1983 and 1997. So how were these slave reparations?
REP. KING: Well, I've sat on the judiciary committee for eight years. I sat through slavery reparation hearings that were held by Chairman John Conyers and, of course, through the hearings here on the Pigford farms claims. And the motivation that comes from this looks to me like there's no resistance on the part of the proponents to hold back or look for fraud in this, they simply seem to be content for every black farmer that would apply would get what was defined as Judge Friedman in his opinion as virtually an automatic payment.
COOPER: Dr. Boyd, let me just ask you specifically, though, staying on this topic. I mean Representative King has talked about a hypothetical Johnny who was born on a farm but, quote, went off to the city, became a drug addict and now wants the $50,000 from the USDA under this claim. How strict is the vetting of these claims?
DR. JOHN BOYD, FOUNDER, NATIONAL BLACK FARMERS ASSOCIATION: First of all, I think that that statement has a terrible, terrible racial undertone and very, very offensive to our black farmers. And we need to forget here, we helped feed the country. We helped feed the world.
And we paid our price to be in this country and to own land. And what the government done to black farmers is wrong.
COOPER: How strict is the vetting? I mean Representative King is saying just about anybody who is African-American can claim to have been --
BOYD: That's not true.
COOPER: -- a farmer. How strict is it?
BOYD: The (INAUDIBLE) says African-Americans who farmed or attempted to farm between 1981 and 1997. And the reason we use that definition is because the Civil Rights Office at USDA was closed under the Reagan administration and we went in and found -- investigated and found thousands of black farmer civil rights cases that had never been processed. And that's what this case is about.
This case is not about fraud, this case is about bringing justice and equality and fairness to a group of people who deserve it. And it's long, long overdue justice.
COOPER: Congressman King, it is pretty shocking when you start to look into what happened in the USDA. I mean they were literally throwing out discrimination claims, just dumping them in the garbage in some cases. You've said -- you claim 75 percent of the claims now being made in this program by African-American farmers have been fraudulent. You say an unnamed person working for the USDA gave you that estimate. USDA says that percentage is complete nonsense. The FBI investigated. They say they found only three cases of fraud. Where's the proof of this 75 percent claim you make?
REP. KING: Well, and John Boyd says that there's no fraud. The FBI or the USDA has reported that the FBI came up with three cases that they prosecuted. Now, what is a level of fraud here? I've said that I had a district director who was deployed to Washington, D.C., to help administer the distribution of the first $1.05 billion under Pigford. He came back. He among others with stacks of copies of documents, sick at heart. He said at least 75 percent are fraudulent. And so we can't say that there's no fraud here.
Here's what we know.
BOYD: But let me -- Anderson, let me jump in here.
REP. KING: Judge Friedman put in his decision, he wrote 40 acres and a mule in his decision. I'm not making this part up about reparations; that is the word -- that's the code word for reparations. And he also said --
COOPER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute sir.
I've read that decision, and he just -- sir, I've read that decision and he just used that in a recitation about the history of the interaction between African-Americans and the U.S. government and the USDA. He wasn't equating 40 acres and a mule to this program.
BOYD: And also let me --
REP. KING: Let me say, though Anderson, he laments that --
BOYD: Anderson, let me jump in here -- I've been listening to this stuff that Mr. King is talking about here.
REP. KING: All the wrongs in slavery and segregation one civil rights case. Now he's got a second one coming.
COOPER: I want Dr. Boyd to be able to respond. Dr. Boyd.
BOYD: Let me talk here. The farmers deserve this restitution. It's long, long, long, long overdue for the black farmers. This is not a rush to judgment.
Mr. King has known about this issue. I have testified before him many, many, many times before. And this case is about African-American farmers who farmed or attempted to farm who was discriminated against by the United States Department of Agriculture.
And I can tell you about discrimination because I had a county official to spit on me and to tear my application up and throw it in the trash can. And I begged and pleaded with the committee to have that person fired. That person was never fired. He was transferred to another county office to continue to work out his service for the United States Department of Agriculture and they gave him a big party -- a big retirement party.
So I can tell you that this discrimination is real and I invite Mr. King to walk in my shoes, and other black farmers' shoes in this country before he passed judgment and refer to them as Johnny or someone that has a drug problem.
And I'll tell you that, Anderson, these farmers have proven their case and they deserve to have their cases heard based on its merit. And Mr. King needs to stop with that kind of rhetoric and making racial undertones.
REP. KING: I'm not going to sit here and allow you to call me a racist or misrepresent the language, I voted for a bill that put $100 million cap on this thing. And that's what the chairman of the AG committee says. Either he misrepresented it or you did, John. Now which one is it?
COOPER: Sorry, Representative King, just finally -- I just want to give you a chance to respond. A lot of liberals have been attacking you because you described President Obama this week as quote, "very, very urban." They've said that's a euphemism referring to the President's race.
REP. KING: You know, we had to go look this up and try to figure out how anybody could hyperventilate over calling the President very urban -- actually very, very urban senator at the time. He comes from a very urban area.
It's not something that would occur to anybody in my background that that would be something that would be some kind of a racial pejorative. It's just simply he comes from a city that's urban. You come from the country, you're rural.
I'd say John Boyd is a rural. I'll say also in spite of the way that he has insulted me, I still support your claim, John. I just don't support the fraudulent ones.
COOPER: Congressman King, I appreciate your time. Dr. John Boyd as well. Thank you very much, both of you.
BOYD: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
REP. KING: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, let us know what you think. Live chat up and running right now at AC360.com.
Up next, did the Slurpee summit just turn to slush? Yesterday Democrats and Republicans agreed to work out a deal on taxes, work better with each other. Remember, kumbaya, all that sort of stuff?
Now the Senate Republican leader is threatening to hold up all business until he gets his way. Democrats are crying foul. Some say lawmakers are playing fast and loose with the facts to justify their positions. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And later, amazing video: see how a boy held captive for a year escaped and picked up on a surveillance video. You see him there with a shackle still on his ankle, ran into a gym begging for help. We'll show you more of the video ahead.
COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, promises made by politicians only yesterday to try and get along better and get things done in Washington. Well, today, senate minority leader Mitch McConnell sent a letter to majority leader, Harry Reid, signed by all 42 GOP Senators saying Republicans would block all Democratic initiatives unless they got their way on extending all the bush tax cuts. No action they said on "don't ask, don't tell," extending jobless benefits, none of it.
So this was just a day after that summit at the White House with Senator McConnell in the room at which all sides talked about working together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: I was encouraged by the president's remarks regarding his perhaps not having reached out enough to us in the last session. And that this meeting was the beginning of a series in which he hoped that we could work together in a different fashion for the benefit of the American people, given the problems that we face.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER - DESIGNATED: And I agree that the President did make an important point that Eric mentioned that he hasn't spent as much time with us reaching out and talking to us and committed to do so.
And as I told the President, I think that spending more time will help us find some common ground.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that there was a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together, to try to deal with these problems. And they understand that these aren't times for us to be playing games.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, a day after both sides agreed to work out a compromise on taxes, Senator McConnell sends his letter and Boehner says this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I don't know what my colleagues across the aisle didn't hear during the election. American people spoke pretty loudly. They said stop all the looming tax hikes and to cut spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Stopping the tax hikes even for the wealthy. That's what they're saying. Democrats are calling statements like that and Senator McConnell's letter today a slap in the face or an opening position in a tough negotiation. Republicans are saying they're listening to the American people and the priority should be on the economy. You can decide for yourself which side you believe or support.
But "Keeping Them Honest," some of the claims being made about popular support for extending the Bush tax cuts even for the wealthy aren't necessarily supported by the polling data.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: No tax increases for nobody.
BOEHNER: The American people spoke loudly.
REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: The American people spoke in deafening terms.
HENSARLING: The American people spoke loudly and clearly.
BOEHNER: The American people spoke on election night.
REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: The message I heard this last election cycle was we don't want anybody's taxes going up.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Americans don't think we should be raising taxes on anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The message was clear from the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should prevent a huge tax increase.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep tax rates where they are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No tax increases for any American.
BOEHNER: The message they sent was stop the tax hikes.
HENSARLING: And we heard them.
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: According to a Gallup poll last week, about 80 -- well, 80 percent of the American people do not want to see taxes raised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona saying that 80 percent of the American people do not want to see taxes rise. In fact, it's not exactly true. According to that very poll he cited, the Gallup poll, just 40 percent of Americans want to keep all tax cuts for all incomes; 44 percent want to keep tax cuts but set limits for wealthy Americans; and 13 percent want the tax cuts to expire for all Americans.
Joining me now is editor of bigjournalism.com and radio talk show host Dana Loesch and Democratic strategist and pollster Cornell Belcher.
Dana, all this talk from yesterday of working together, I mean is that all just complete hooey?
DANA LOESCH, EDITOR, BIGJOURNALISM.COM: Well, I don't think that it is. I think that they -- I think both sides do need to work together and they immediately need to start with figuring out what they're going to do with this tax rate.
It's not really so much a tax cut as it's talking about extending the current tax rate which when you look at our economy, you look at our unemployment, you look at where everything is. We cannot afford to pay more. We cannot afford right now to have the government take more discretionary income from people, especially the people who create jobs, and attempt to redistribute. That just doesn't work that way.
COOPER: And you support them sending a message nothing else gets done until decision is made on these Bush tax cuts?
LOESCH: Honestly, Anderson, I don't know how we can really act on anything else at this point until we figure out what's going to be happening with people's bank accounts after the first of the year. That is supremely important. And that's going to affect -- it's going to affect everything -- everything, every aspect of American life.
COOPER: Ok. Cornell --
LOESCH: And I think once we figure that out we can move forward.
COOPER: What about that? The fundamental argument that conservatives like Dana are making, that the only way to figure the economy is to give Americans more control over their money. A lot of voters like that.
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean a couple things before I try to go after the score just usual cheap political points let's try to be informative. I think what's happening actually right now is you have five different parties and they all five need to get to different place.
COOPER: What are the five different parties?
BELCHER: It's very -- I mean -- Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans, House Democrats, House Republicans, and the White House. Look, arguably from a political purely political tactical standpoint, House Dems right now have more in common with the Senate Republicans. And look -- quite frankly you can see Mitch McConnell picking back up the playbook of no, no, no, a day after saying we're going to be bipartisan; a very successful playbook.
At the same time you have speaker Pelosi saying the other day that, you know, I'm going to -- I'm not afraid to be the sole voice standing out there for the middle class because now all of a sudden, Boehner has to come in and he has to govern. Now can Speaker Pelosi now pick up the Boehner playbook and dust it off because now she doesn't have to govern, and from a purely political standpoint be more in line with what you see Mitch McConnell doing now which isn't about governing, it's about politics.
COOPER: Dana, can't, though, members of Congress do multiple things at once? Can't you have a vote on "don't ask don't tell" or other issues at the same time you're working on whether or not to continue these tax cuts?
LOESCH: Oh, sure. Absolutely. And I might say, I'm just going to lay it out. I'm not BFFs with Mitch McConnell by any stretch of the word but at the same time I'm a little impressed to see him get a little bit brassy, finally, and start getting tough with some of this stuff.
I agree we've played politics for too long with American people's money, individual money. I don't understand this incessant push to have the state control the output of that -- the fruits of the labor from people. If you look back from -- can you go back as far back as 1916 with Woodrow Wilson and look what happened when you raise taxes on folks.
Look at the discretionary income taken out of people's hands and then look at what happens to the revenue that comes into the government. You get more net revenue, the government does, by letting people have their own money and decide how to spend it. That's ultimately what this argument's about.
BELCHER: Look, Anderson. The truth of the matter is if these -- if these tax cuts were creating jobs we'd have jobs out of our ear holes. What this is fundamentally about is -- is we're in an economic crisis. And do the rich have an obligation to carry their fair share. I mean the other day --
LOESCH: They are carrying their fair share. They're paying the majority of the taxes.
COOPER: Let him finish. Let him finish.
BELCHER: No. Actually, they're not paying the majority of taxes.
LOESCH: Yes, actually they are, and that's according to IRS data. Yes. Yes. Absolutely.
BELCHER: If you look at Warren Buffett said he went to his office the other day and he saw his employees were paying a higher proportion of taxes than he was. And the fact of the matter is --
LOESCH: You know what, Cornell?
COOPER: Let him finish his thought. And then your turn. BELCHER: Can I finish my point. The fact of the matter is look, we're in an economic downturn. We're in great debt. Why on earth would we take $1 trillion away from the middle class children and give it to -- and give it to the wealthy under this idea it's going to create jobs. It hasn't created one job yet.
LOESCH: Well, yes. Why don't we do that with the stimulus? I'll tell you what, if the stimulus, that was supposed to create jobs and it didn't do anything.
If you want to pay higher taxes, you know that the Treasury Department accepts donations. Are you donating more Cornell to the Treasury Department right now? You think that people should be paying higher taxes? So I assume that you are freely and voluntarily donating to the U.S. Department of Treasury. Because if you're not, then I believe you like the government to come in and force people to divide up their money as they choose.
And quite frankly, I trust my own acumen when it concerns my finances over that of the government they're not doing so hot right now.
BELCHER: You know the heightened political rhetoric has just gotten so dumb in this country that it hasn't moved --
LOESCH: That's not rhetoric, that's fact.
BELCHER: It doesn't move the argument forward. The truth of the matter is these millionaires came out saying that -- you know what -- we don't need more tax cuts, we want to pay our fair share. Quite frankly what you're talking about doing is Robin Hood in reverse. It's taking $1 trillion from middle class families and giving that to the wealthy and it's not creating jobs. And by the way, the stimulus, if you do check your statistics, it did create jobs.
And quite frankly --
LOESCH: No, it doesn't. No it didn't. You're moving the goalpost. You're moving the goalpost with that. That's pseudoscience.
COOPER: We've got to go with that. Guys, I'm sorry. Guys, appreciate it, Dana Loesch, Cornell Belcher, thank you very much.
LOESCH: Thanks Anderson.
BELCHER: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, "Raw Politics." What is going on in the ethics cases on Capitol? Have you checked up on this? Two of the attorneys who are building an ethics case against Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, they've been mysteriously removed. No explanation at all, including the lead investigator on the case. Waters' hearing was canceled.
Tomorrow Charlie Rangel faces his punishment but you might be surprised to learn just how light that punishment is going to be. That's coming up.
Also tonight, extraordinary video released just now of a teenage boy who escaped after being held captive, tortured for a year, ran into a gym where the surveillance camera recorded him begging for help. Basically just wearing shorts, you can see the shackle still around his leg. Details ahead.
COOPER: A lot going on tonight, that's what we're following. Sandra Endo joins us with the "360 Bulletin" -- Sandra.
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Obama is banning new drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least seven years. The ban is a result of the April 20th BP drilling rig explosion that killed 11 people and dumped an estimated 206 million gallons of oil into the Gulf before the well was capped.
Stunning video has just been released of a teenage torture victim who escaped after being held captive for more than a year. The surveillance video was shot two years ago and shows the then-16-year- old with a shackle on his ankle going into a gym to ask for help. 31- year-old Anthony Waders was convicted last week of torturing the teen. He will be sentenced next month.
Now for a 360 follow on a story we've been telling you about. After getting delayed and mired in politics, Congress finally passed a bill today to help more than 1,000 Haitian orphans get adopted by American families. The orphans were brought to the United States after Haiti's devastating earthquake and the bill ensures that they will get permanent resident status.
And Yahoo! is out with its list of the most-searched terms of 2010. Anderson, any guesses on what made the cut?
COOPER: Lady Gaga I see there. I just saw the graphics.
ENDO: Oh, you're cheating. Come on.
COOPER: I would have guessed Lady Gaga anyway. What else?
ENDO: Yes. Well, shellacking and those kinds of terms didn't make. Lady Gaga was number five on the list. Number four, Kim Kardashian.
COOPER: Are you serious? Wow.
ENDO: Number three -- yes -- Miley Cyrus. They're not all celebrities. The World Cup was the runner up for most searched and at number one, BP oil spill.
COOPER: Oh, really? That's interesting.
ENDO: So pretty wide, yes.
COOPER: Interesting stuff. All right. Thanks very much, Sandra.
Up next, "Raw Politics": two big ethics cases in the House tomorrow, Charlie Rangel facing the music. But probably going to be so light the punishment will probably be more like muzak (ph). We'll talk about what the House may decide his punishment should be.
And Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, two lawyers building the case against her are suddenly and mysteriously dismissed. We're trying to figure out what's going on in that case.
And an extraordinary inside look at the fight to stop child prostitution rings in northern California; the battle to rescue young girls and bust the pimps who abuse them. That's ahead in our series "American Slaves: Hiding in plain sight."
COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight, when Republicans take control of the house in January, they've announced they're going to plan to eliminate a time-honored tradition that is also a giant waste of time. We're talking about all those votes on resolutions congratulating a sports team or recognizing birthdays or anniversaries or other milestones. In case you didn't realize that folks in Congress actually do this, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Resolution expressing the sense of the congress that there should be established a national pet week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Resolution supporting the goals and ideals of American Heart Month and National Wear Red day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Resolution honoring the contributions of Catholic schools.
REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: I have introduced a resolution today declaring that (INAUDIBLE) pitched a perfect game and urging the MLB to overturn a mistaken safe call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Both Republicans and Democrats have been pushing resolutions like this for years. Some call it good politics, but others like incoming House Speaker John Boehner see them as a waste of time when there are certainly more pressing issues facing the country.
That's why starting next month, under a new rule proposed in the House, they would be scaled back. We'll be keeping watch and make sure they're actually sticking to that promise.
More "Raw Politics" tonight. The plot is thickening for two high profile Democratic members of Congress accused of ethics violations.
Let's start first with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat who is accused of trying to get a federal bailout for a bank in which her husband held a financial interest. She says she did nothing wrong, that she's actually being denied due process because of this.
Her hearing before the House Ethics Committee supposed to start on Monday got canceled because some e-mail communications were found that could affect the case. We don't know how. Waters won't say. She says the committee is just making excuses.
But today in a press release, Waters says the real reason for the delay is that on the same day her hearing was canceled, two attorneys who were building the case against her were put on administrative leave and she wants to know exactly why they did. No explanation has been given.
Meanwhile, the case against Waters' colleague, Charlie Rangel is nearing its final act; full House is expected to vote tomorrow on whether to censure him. The House Ethics Committee found guilty on 11 counts violating House rules, including not paying taxes on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic and using his office to raise money for an educational center that bears his name.
The ethics committee voted 9-1 to recommend the House censure him.
Dana Milbank is a writer for "The Washington Post," he joins us live from Washington, along with Joe Johns. So Dana, what is -- most people think, ok, that sounds really serious against Charlie Rangel that they're going to kick him out or he's going to get arrested. It's -- nothing happens.
DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No. I mean it's sort of a literally a slap on the wrist and if he does get the censure he'll have to stand there in the well and the Speaker of the House will say, "Congressman Rangel you've been a very naughty boy," and then he'll apologize and go on about his business. He's not going to go to prison.
He did lose the big prize and that was the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. So, if they're not going to expel the guy and they're clearly not going to do that, the rest is just about levels of embarrassment.
COOPER: Joe, what about this -- this thing where these two lead investigators or one of the lead investigators who's been investigating Maxine Waters suddenly has been let go and a lawyer too. What's going on?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, the other thing that's out there is that when they did all this other stuff last week, they also sent all this information about Maxine Waters back to be investigated more. And now we find out that, oh, they were getting rid of the top person who was investigating. So it's a real problem.
It's chaos and they're running out of time here in this Congress to try to handle this thing. It's looking like Maxine Waters could either find herself over in the next Congress, which would be sort of almost unprecedented handling this, or they're going to have to think about reducing the charges or getting rid of her. Basically a real mess.
COOPER: Dana, does that mean the case against her maybe isn't that strong?
MILBANK: Well, it seems that way. Nobody has really come up with evidence so far to say it's involving her husband having shares in a bank that was helped by her, but nobody's been able to demonstrate so far that she was in particular helping that bank as opposed to all of these minority-owned banks.
So we don't know exactly the reasons of what's going on here, but it can't possibly be a coincidence that these two lawyers were suspended on the exact same day they punted on the trial day. So clearly this looks like Maxine Waters is going to get off here.
COOPER: And you would think there would be a certain level of transparency on the ethics committee, but Joe this is a committee which is notoriously secretive. And Congresswoman Waters wrote in her statement tonight, she said, quote, "We don't know the specifics but we know the integrity of the committee and its investigative process have been compromised. The longer the committee withholds the details of its actions, the more the public's confidence in the House Ethics process is eroded."
I mean she's got a point here that, you know, this very committee was supposed to be, you know, helping transparency is kind of firing people and not saying anything about it.
JOHNS: No question. I mean, and a lot of people don't realize that this isn't a legal process, it's a political process. You know, up on Capitol Hill it's a committee with evenly divided numbers of Democrats and Republicans.
But can you imagine in a court of law if the prosecutor basically got completely taken off of the case and suddenly the defense lawyer walked in and there was somebody new? You know, it's like bells and whistles would go off. But in this process it's completely secret and they don't have to say anything to Maxine Waters, they don't have to say anything to us.
COOPER: Dana, you've said that the thing that's actually most, kind of the greatest scandal of the ethics committee is just how much they tolerate.
MILBANK: Exactly. The whole notion of congressional ethics has become an oxymoron. So few cases are brought. I mean we had a case of seven people on the appropriations committee, defense contractors said they thought they were giving these guys campaign contributions in exchange for earmarks but the ethics committee said, oh, nothing to see here, just move along. Finally they do bring a case like this one against Waters, it blows up on them.
Rangel's has managed to turn his case into something of a circus so, and now the incoming Republican majority is talking about getting rid of an independent ethics body. So I think we've pretty much got to give up on the whole thing.
COOPER: Joe, you've been revisiting some of the more ridiculous moments in the history of censures.
JOHNS: Yes. I mean the one I found really hilarious is there's one guy who got censured way back when for telling the Speaker of the House he was thinking too much about running for president. There are a couple members of Congress who got censured for caning other members of Congress apparently out on the House floor.
Sure, there are serious ones, too, but it goes from the sublime to the ridiculous, quite frankly.
COOPER: Yes. All right. Joe Johns, Dana Milbank, appreciate it. Thanks.
Up next, our series, "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight." Tonight, Dan Simon takes us inside the battle to break up child prostitution rings. Young girls preyed upon by pimps. It's a high stakes world of crime, exploitation. And it's thriving under the radar, maybe in your own town.
Plus a prisoner who posts pictures of a prison party, him smoking what appears to be a bong. He posted this on his Facebook page and yes, I didn't know it either that prisoners have Facebook pages and that's why he winds up on our "RidicuList" tonight.
COOPER: Over the next couple nights we're going to take you inside a crime epidemic you may not be aware of. A lot of Americans certainly aren't, mostly because it's not something that many of us think can actually happen here in the United States. We're calling the series "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight."
We begin tonight in northern California where child prostitution is actually a very big business. In Oakland authorities are teaming up to rescue kids -- that's what they are, kids -- and prosecute the pimps who abuse them.
Dan Simon tonight shows us how.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have undercover personnel in vehicles that go out, spot certain activities.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're at Oakland Police headquarters as these officers prepare for a long night in front of them. We've been given rare access to see how police here are cracking down on child prostitution. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says she's 19 but she definitely doesn't appear to be an adult.
SIMON: We hit the streets in a van just before sundown. The mood is tense as minute by minute reports come over the radio.
Our focus is International Boulevard, known here as The Track, a place where prostitutes are known to linger, underage prostitutes.
OFC. HOLLY JOSHI, OAKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: The younger girls are probably being paid $100 for sex and $60 to $80 for oral sex.
SIMON: Officer Holly Joshi is our driver. Block after block we see them. Girls -- some obviously very young girls -- selling themselves. Also along for the ride, is Sharmin Bock, a local prosecutor who runs the human exploitation and trafficking unit.
SHARMIN BOCK, ALAMEDA DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: To look at them as prostitutes is a complete misnomer because they're sexually exploited children; they're victims of child abuse. And it's slavery.
JOSHI: They're getting pulled over right now.
SIMON: The goal tonight: to get as many girls off the streets as possible. Officers posing as Johns are to look for the youngest girls and detain them, or more to the point, free them from their pimps, the human traffickers driving this whole enterprise.
(on camera): What surprises people the most when you talk about this issue?
BOCK: That it happens in America. What surprises people the most is that it is something that occurs in America with American men exploiting American children and other Americans facilitating what in essence is modern-day slavery.
SIMON: This is the back of a strip mall, this is where police bring the young girls and interview them and process them. Right now investigators are talking to them, trying to get some information that will hopefully lead them to their pimps.
(voice-over): Police question this 16-year-old, trying to get information about her pimp.
(on camera): How rare is it to actually get the pimp and the girl at the same time?
JOSHI: It's fairly rare to get the girl and then within the next hour or so get the pimp. Normally these turn into long-term investigations. You rescue the juvenile victim and then it turns into a long-term investigation identifying who the pimp is, and figuring out where he is and getting him actually in custody.
SIMON (voice-over): But on this day, nothing the girl tells them leads to her pimp. Investigators say child prostitution is on the rise in Oakland for one reason -- money; so much money that police here are seeing drug dealers turning to pimping.
BOCK: Why? Because drugs, you can only sell once, children you can sell over and over again.
SIMON: The financial gain can be enormous. A pimp with four girls who each bring in $500-a-day are taking in more than $600,000 a year; all cash, tax-free. The demand is there, and so is the supply. Prosecutors say it's no secret where these girls come from.
NANCY O'MALLEY, ALAMEDA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: About 70 percent of these kids have been in foster care or some kind of social service situation. A lot of these kids have been victims of child sexual abuse. And they live in environments where they have no self-worth. That makes them easier prey for psychopaths, which human traffickers are.
SIMON: Oakland has gained national recognition for its efforts to curb human trafficking.
The Alameda district attorney's office says it has taken more than 100 pimps off the streets in the last couple of years. It also fought for a law that allows California DAs to charge pimps with human trafficking, a felony.
Still, despite their success, authorities say child prostitution here shows no signs of slowing. As any drive down The Track will show you.
Dan Simon, CNN, Oakland.
COOPER: "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight"; we're going to continue tomorrow. Amber Lyon has uncovered amazing, pretty disturbing story, two dozen teenage girls lured to America from West Africa on false promises. They ended up as slaves working in hair braiding salons in New Jersey, held captive literally under the eyes of their neighbors and clients.
Here's a quick preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you tell us about what it was like having someone else control all of your movements? Everything you did?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it was like being trapped, you know, being in a cage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's horrible. You know, like sometimes there's not enough food for us to eat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No freedom at all.
LYON: Nicole and Zena and another 20 girls like them were brought to the U.S. from their homes in the west African nations of Ghana and Togo nearly a decade ago. Barely teens, promised an American education. They were instead enslaved in Newark, New Jersey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's an incredible story. You can watch it tomorrow on 360.
Coming up, while some may find it a hassle to fly now with all the new security guidelines, one airline is trying to bring some -- well, some cheer to your flight especially between 5:00 and 6:00. We'll explain that ahead.
And it's never the brightest idea to post pictures of yourself, you know, drinking, getting high on Facebook; an even worse, doing it from behind bars. It's enough to land you on the "RidicuList."
COOPER: A lot more happening tonight, Sandra Endo is back with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Sandra.
ENDO: Well, Anderson, Amazon has booted WikiLeaks from its servers. The online retail giant had been hosting the controversial whistle-blower web site since Sunday after hackers targeted WikiLeaks' own servers. But Amazon came under growing pressure to drop WikiLeaks after it released thousands of classified diplomatic cables on Monday.
On this, the 22nd World AIDS Day, a red ribbon was displayed outside the White House. The U.N. says the number of new HIV infections has dropped 20 percent worldwide in the past decade. But the number of children with HIV or AIDS is up 46 percent in Asia.
On Wall Street, stocks rallied, blue chips rising nearly 250 points on word of better than expected auto sales and stronger private sector hiring. It's the Dow's biggest one-day gain since September.
And American Airlines may have come up with the world's worst happy hour deal. Until the end of December, American is offering discounted booze on domestic flights that take off between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., and that's for the duration of the flight. So that little cup of wine will cost you $5 instead of $7 and, of course, there are still free drinks in first class. And Anderson I have to say with all those TSA pat-downs maybe more people will be ordering up those drinks.
COOPER: Yes. That's the big savings? $5 as opposed to $7?
ENDO: Yes. A couple of bucks.
COOPER: I don't know. I think they could maybe lower the price a little more. Anyway, Sandra thanks.
Time for the "RidicuList"; our nightly foray into the stuff that's just ridiculous. Tonight's addition, Justin Walker, or as he's known on Facebook, Jus N Walk. Frankly the online name is enough to get him on the "RidicuList" in my opinion, but wait, there's more. He posted pictures on his Facebook page of his partying, drinking booze and taking bong hits, which is never the greatest idea to post this kind of stuff.
But get this -- Justin is heavily into an altogether different kind bar scene, behind bars. That's right. Justin managed to post all this stuff from his prison cell. He's serving a 30-year sentence for killing an Oklahoma sheriff.
A report aired on the local news about Justin's hard partying ways, hard posting hi-jinks and he got transferred from medium to maximum security. These are the pictures that he posted. He's also got his Blackberry taken away when prison officials found it. Oh, yes. Didn't I mention that? He had a Blackberry; apparently a felony to have a cell phone in the state prison in Oklahoma.
Oh, and they also took away his weed. One of the Facebook pictures actually showed a big plastic bag of weed. It may even be longer until Jus N Walk walks out of prison. He'll probably face more charges for the contraband.
Let's just set aside for a moment how less than brilliant it was for Justin to post these prison party pictures and look at the bigger picture here. Facebook has enough annoyances already. Farmville postings, weird status updates from people you barely remember from high school. And now we have to worry about friend requests from convicted murderers?
Used to be the biggest thing you have to worry about on Facebook was when you're mom finally joined. Remember the SNL skit?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who's your new friend? She looks ill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you have to watch everything you say. Unless you get the damnit my mom is on Facebook filter. It's the only app that scans your Facebook page for stuff about drugs, alcohol, sex, references to your atheism and opinions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Justin walker could have used that filter. Facebook reportedly said it has no policy against prison inmates having Facebook pages. Our policy is clear. If you party in prison and post it on Facebook, you get a life sentence on the "RidicuList."
Hey that's it for 360. Thank for watching. See you tomorrow.