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Corzine: Don't Know Where The Money Is; Holder At "Fast And Furious" Hearing; Polls: Gingrich Leading In Key States; Police Raid Occupy San Francisco Encampment;Wall Street Watches Europe; Over-The- Counter "Plan B" Overruled; TV Show Sorry for Cannonball Accident; Snow Storm Hits South, Heads North; Christie Takes Heat for Romney
Aired December 8, 2011 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now on Capitol Hill: two powerful men involved in two separate showdowns in Congress. Former New Jersey Governor and Senator Jon Corzine will face big questions over his failed Wall Street firm, $1.2 billion worth of investors' money missing now. Corzine plans to say he doesn't know where it is.
Attorney General Eric Holder is getting grilled over the "Fast and Furious" gun sting. He allowed illegal guns to be smuggled into Arizona.
CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin joins me now by phone. So Jeff, let's talk about Corzine. It doesn't appear as though he is going to take responsibility for his company, MF Global's implosion.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): He has released a draft of his opening statement, and it's really an extraordinary comedown for a guy who was the head of Goldman Sachs, who was the senator, who was a governor, and now has presided over this mega financial disaster.
Most people in his circumstances would take the Fifth. There's a criminal investigation going on, but I guess he didn't want to take that much humiliation. So he is simply in a very general way denying any wrongdoing, explaining the investigation is continuing, but he's not saying much about the specifics of what happened.
LEMON: OK. Let's turn now, and we'll watch and see what happens when he does testify. Let's turn now to Eric Holder, "Fast and Furious." There are those who are calling for Eric Holder to resign over this, Jeffrey. Is he fighting for his job here? Is that likely to happen? Might he have to resign?
TOOBIN: At this point, I don't see any possibility that Eric Holder is going to resign. This was an investigation in Arizona that appeared to have gone wrong. There were guns that apparently made it into Mexico into the hands of the drug cartel.
It was supposed to be a sting operation. It didn't work out properly, but the idea that this is something that Eric Holder has to resign about certainly doesn't seem to have taken hold outside of a really fairly small core of Republican politicians.
I don't really see this, at least based on the facts that are publicly available at this point, leading to his resignation.
LEMON: Jeff Toobin, thank you.
Politics now. Newt Gingrich building on his lead in big states. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, Time/ORC polls, Gingrich leads in three of the first four nominating states, Iowa, Florida and South Carolina.
He is closing the gap in New Hampshire as well, Mitt Romney's backyard. But we've seen other candidates surge and then fall away. So our Wolf Blitzer asked him this, if that possibility makes him nervous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Your critics say, you, Newt Gingrich, are fully capable of imploding, if you will, making a mistake, blunder that could turn things around. Are you worried about that?
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure. That would be a bad thing to do. Is it possible? I guess. On the other hand, I've had a very long career and I have a very public record.
And I think people are coming to decide that they like substance and they like somebody who actually has balanced the budget, reformed welfare, cut taxes, and gotten it done for real.
So I think there's probably a little more resilience in my support than in some of the other folks who made a run at this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: More politics now, specifically Capitol Hill. Let's go to Capitol Hill where Eric Holder is testifying about his involvement in the "Fast and Furious" gun program.
(BEGIN LIVE SPEECH)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Officers around the world, the department's 117,000 employees have made historic progress in protecting the American people from a range of unprecedented threats, from global terrorism, violent crime, to financial fraud, human trafficking and more.
We have disrupted numerous potentially devastating terrorist plots and successfully prosecuted scores of dangerous terrorists. The department's efforts on behalf of the most vulnerable among us, including victims of civil rights abuses and hate crimes have never been more effective.
The partnerships that we have built with state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials have never been stronger. Today, it's a privilege to be joined by several key public safety partners.
These five police executives, Chief Fred Bilfield of Baltimore, Commissioner Ed Davis of Boston, Chief Rodney Monroe of Charlotte, Chief Ralph Godby of Detroit, and Commissioner Charles Ramsay of Philadelphia have been leaders in developing and implementing effective crime prevention strategies.
We have also worked closely with the department in advancing critical efforts to reverse the alarming rise in law enforcement fatalities in recent years.
The work that we do along the southwest border is influenced by the efforts that they have undertaken in their own cities. In the cities that they serve and in communities across the country this work is a priority.
In our ongoing efforts to protect the American people, a critical area of focus will continue to be our battle against gun violence on the southwest border.
In recent years, the department has devoted significant resources to this fight and specifically to addressing the unacceptable rate of illegal firearms trafficking from the United States to Mexico.
Unfortunately in the pursuit of that laudable goal unacceptable tactics were adopted as part of operation "Fast and Furious." Now as I have repeatedly stated, allowing guns to walk, whether in this administration or the prior one, is wholly unacceptable.
The use of this misguided tactic is inexcusable and it must never happen again. Soon after learning about the allegations raised by ATF agents involved with "Fast and Furious" I took action to ensure accountability.
In February, I asked the department's acting inspector general to investigate the matter and in early March, I ordered that a directive be sent to law enforcement agents and prosecutors prohibiting such tactics.
More recently, the new acting director of ATF, Todd Jones, implemented reforms to prevent these tactics from being used in the future including training and stricter oversight procedures for all significant investigations.
Now although the department has taken steps to ensure that such tactics are never used again, it is an unfortunate reality that we will continue to feel the effects of this flawed operation for years to come.
Guns lost during this operation will continue to show up at crime scenes on both sides of the border. As we work to identify where errors occurred and to ensure that these mistakes never happen again, we must not lose sight of the critical challenge that this flawed operation has highlighted.
And that is the battle to stop the flow of guns to Mexico. Of the nearly 94,000 guns that have been recovered and traced in Mexico in the last five years, more than 64,000 were sourced to the United States. During this time the trafficking of firearms across our southwest border has contributed to approximately 40,000 deaths in Mexico. The reforms that we have undertaken do not make any of the losses of life more bearable for grieving families.
These tragedies do portray in very stark terms the exceptionally difficult challenges that law enforcement agencies confront every day in working to disrupt illegal firearms transfers.
Operation "Fast and Furious" appears to be a deeply flawed effort to respond to these very challenges. As we work to avoid future losses and further mistakes, it is unfortunate that some have used inflammatory and inappropriate rhetoric about one particular tragedy that occurred near the southwest border in an effort to score political points.
Nearly one year ago while working to protect his fellow citizens, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent Brian Terry was violently murdered in Arizona. We all should feel outrage about his death and as I have communicated directly to Agent Terry's family, we are dedicated to pursuing justice on his behalf.
The department is also working to answer questions that the Terry family has raised, including whether and how firearms connected to "Fast and Furious" end up with Mexican drug cartels.
In her independent review, I expect the department's acting inspector general to answer these questions. I understand that Congress also wants answers. Justice Department employees have been working tirelessly to identify, to locate, and to provide relevant information to this committee.
And to the two other committees that are investigating "Fast and Furious" all while preserving the integrity of our ongoing investigations and prosecutions. The department has been fully cooperative and responsive in its dealings with Congress.
I have answered questions in the House and the Senate on four occasions concerning this matter. To date we have provided almost 5,000 pages of documents for congressional investigators to review.
We have scheduled numerous witness interviews and testified at public hearings and just last week, we provided an unprecedented access to internal deliberative documents to explain how inaccurate information was initially conveyed to Congress.
These documents demonstrate that Justice Department personnel relied on information provided by supervisors from the components in the best position to know the relevant facts. We now know that some information provided by those supervisors was inaccurate.
I understand that in subsequent interviews with congressional investigators these supervisors have stated that they did not know at the time that information provided in a letters to congressional leaders earlier this year was inaccurate. The documents produced to date also belie the remarkable notion that this operation was conceived by department leaders as some have claimed. It is my understanding that department leaders were not informed with the inappropriate tactics employed in this operation until those tactics were made public.
And as is customary, turned to those with supervisory responsibility over the operation in an effort to learn facts, but what is clear is that disrupting the dangerous flow of firearms along the southwest border and putting an end to the violence that has claimed far too many lives is and will continue to be a top priority for this Department of Justice.
This year alone we have led successful investigation into the murders of United States citizens in Mexico, created new cartel targeting prosecutorial units and secured the extradition of more than 100 defendants wanted by United States law enforcement including the former head of the Tijuana cartel.
We also built crime fighting capacity on both sides of the border by developing new procedures for using evidence gathered in Mexico to prosecute gun traffickers in U.S. courts, by training thousands of Mexican prosecutors and investigators, by successfully fighting to enhancing sentencing guidelines for convicted traffickers and straw purchasers and by pursuing coordinated multi-district investigations of gun trafficking rings.
Now despite this progress, we have more to do. Each of us has a duty to act and to rise above partisan divisions and politically motivated gains. The American people deserve better. It is time for a new dialogue about these important issues, one that is respectful, responsible, and factual.
This will require us to apply the lessons that we've learned from law enforcement officers, like the ones who sit behind me today, who protect public safety and our national security every day.
In that regard, not only did ATF agents bring the inappropriate and misguided tactics of operation "Fast and Furious" to light, they also sounded the alarm for more effective laws to combat gun trafficking and improve public safety.
ATF agents who testified before the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform this summer explained that the agency's ability to stem the flow of guns from the United States into Mexico suffers from a lack of effective enforcement tools. One critical first step should be for Congress to provide ATF with the tools and the authorities that it needs.
Unfortunately, earlier this year, the majority of House members voted to keep law enforcement in the dark when individuals purchase multiple semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and long guns like AK-47 in gun shops in four southwest border states.
Going forward, the hope that we can work together to provide law enforcement agents with the tools that they desperately need to protect the country and to ensure their own safety.
For their sake, we cannot afford to allow the tragic mistakes of operation "Fast and Furious" to become a political sideshow or a series of media opportunities.
Instead, we must move forward and recommit ourselves to our shared public safety obligations. I am willing to work with you in this effort. I look forward to your questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Attorney general. Other members are going to ask you about "Fast and Furious" so I'm going to pick a different subject and ask you about the extent of Justice Cagan's involvement with the health care legislation.
My first question is this, to your knowledge did then Solicitor General Kagan ever give advice or express an opinion on legal or constitutional issues involving the health care legislation?
HOLDER: I do not believe so. In fact, as I testified in the Senate last month, I guess, we took steps to physically exclude or remove the conversation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What month did that take place? When did you start excluding her from those types of -
(END LIVE SPEECH)
LEMON: Attorney General Eric Holder taking questions now about health care and Elena Kagan. When they started to talk about "Fast and Furious," we'll bring it to you. We're going to take a quick break. We're back in a moment.
LEMON: We have live pictures now in Washington where Attorney General Eric Holder is testifying in front of a committee. They're investigating the "Fast and Furious" gun program.
He's taking questions about health care. When they start questioning about that gun program, we'll bring that testimony to you in just moments.
In the meantime, want to check stories across country now. More confrontations and arrest as police in San Francisco took down the encampment belonging to "Occupy" protesters. Dozens were arrested in the Wednesday morning raid.
And from Greenwood, Indiana yesterday, a smash and grab robbery of a local gun store is caught on tape after driving an SUV into the building. The suspects found much of the shop's merchandise safely locked up. But burglars allegedly stole a few guns, but did an estimated $35,000 worth of damage to that store.
And check out this is from Hawaii's big island. Hot lava spews from a volcano sending nearby residents scrambling. The photographer said one homeowner had to be rescued by helicopter after the molten lava surrounded his house.
Europe has been the main focus on Wall Street all week and the action heats up again today. The European Central Bank makes a move on interest rates. Euro zone leaders are convening in Brussels.
Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange for us. So let's start with the markets. So first, how are investors reacting to all of this, Alison?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Just look at the numbers, Don. The numbers tell you the story. You know, investors clearly, they're nervous. They're nervous about whether or not this summit will produce any concrete results at this point.
You look at this situation. This is, what, the umpteenth major summit that's happening in Europe in a debt crisis. It's still raging on. So sure, you see investors are being very cautious. You won't see them buy into the markets in a big way.
The market's lower despite some positive news that came out. The European Central Bank, that's the equivalent of our fed, that cut interest rates. But the thing is, it didn't commit to aggressively buying government bonds.
This rate cut, it was expected because of the threat of Europe going into recession and these lower rates are meant to boost growth in Europe. Also some good news on the U.S. front here on jobs.
Jobless claims fell to 381,000. That's the lowest level since the end of February. But investors are not focusing on that, they're focusing more on the big picture. They're focusing on Europe -- Don.
LEMON: All right, so listen, Standard & Poor's has put the entire European Union basically on review for possible downgrade. This is going to give European leaders more incentive to get a deal done at today's summit?
KOSIK: You know, it may. That's a good question. It may give them sort of a little fire under their you know what, but I think at the very least it's just a reminder of how serious, how severe the situation is.
Europe is well aware that it needs to get something done. You see politicians coming out and speaking before the microphones. There's Nicolas Sarkozy. He says failing to reach an agreement is a luxury we can't afford.
A French minister coming out and saying failure will be a disaster for Europe and the whole world. Now what Germany and France are trying to do. They are trying to push for more influence over the national budgets of Eurozone countries.
Basically it means that instead of everyone going at it alone, there would be more of a coordinated effort, more oversight, but the problem here, the big sticking point, Don, is that all 27 countries, they have to sign off on it. At this point not everyone is on board. So that's kind of the fly in the ointment at this moment in the game -- Don.
LEMON: Alison Kosik, appreciate it.
Coming up, a surprise ruling on the morning after pill and a lot of folks think it was based more on politics than on actual science. We'll take a look at the controversy.
LEMON: Let's talk about a very controversial story now. The government just made a decision on the morning after pill. Most teenagers will still need a prescription.
Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen is here with more. Elizabeth, explain the ruling for us because some people don't understand it.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, first, let's explain what the drug is. So Plan B is what a woman takes the morning after she's had unprotected intercourse. Whoops, I might be pregnant. You go to the store and you get this.
If you are under the age of 17, have you to have a prescription. Over 17, you can just walk in and get it. So the company that makes it asked the FDA if they could make it over the counter for everybody, and the FDA said, sure.
It's safe and effective for let's say a 15-year-old just like it is a 17-year-old. We think a 15-year-old could understand the directions just like a 17-year-old.
Then what happened was secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, she overrode her own people. She said, no, I disagree with you. I don't think this shouldn't be over the counter for the young teens.
LEMON: Let's be honest just to play devil's advocate here. This isn't like taking an aspirin or Tylenol or something like that. This is a much more serious drug.
COHEN: Well, I mean, it depends how you look at it. It's actually relatively simple. You have unprotected intercourse and within 72 hours you take a pill. It doesn't cause any kind of heavy, heavy bleeding or anything like that.
It's so early on that it's not, as it has been explained and described to me, it is not a huge medical ordeal. At 17, the argument they're giving is if a 17-year-old can get it over the counter, why not a 16- year-old.
LEMON: What about the politics here? Did politics play into this?
COHEN: I mean, you definitely have to wonder because I will tell you, Don, it is extremely unusual. I can't even think of another time where the secretary of Health and Human Services has disagreed with her own scientists.
So you have the scientists saying, yes, we think this is fine for, say, a 15-year-old to take over the counter. We don't see a problem with it scientifically. She says, no. I know you're the scientist, but I'm going to disagree with you on the science. That's unusual.
LEMON: Because of her position, this is it? It's over? It's a done deal now?
COHEN: You know, it's interesting. I suppose the company could go back and try it apply again, but it would be certainly very difficult. Yes, this is going to be a tough one to overcome.
LEMON: This is what it is for now. Thank you, Elizabeth Cohen. We really appreciate it.
Rick Perry says if he's elected he'll end what he calls President Obama's war on religion. We're going to ask our "Political Buzz" panel if this is something voters care about.
LEMON: Back now to Capitol Hill and Eric Holder taking questions from Congress.
(BEGIN LIVE SPEECH)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are basically saying, well, geez, somebody else did it. There is really no responsibility within the Justice Department. The thing is, is that if we don't get to the bottom of this, and that requires your assistance on that.
There is only one alternative that Congress has, and it's called impeachment where our subpoena powers are plenary and there can't be any type of illegal immunity or privilege that can be asserted on that.
Now, you know, I've done more impeachments than anybody else in the history of the country. It is an expensive and messy affair, and I don't want to go this far, but if we keep on getting pushed down the road.
And the can keeps on getting kicked and we don't get closure to this, what is congress to do so that we don't spend all of our time in court arguing privilege, which is not a way to get at the truth?
HOLDER: Well, the Justice Department has released facts, and I think that's what we need to focus on, fact. The February 4th letter, I made the determination that we would release things that the Justice Department has never, ever released before.
Deliberative -- core deliberative material about how that letter was put together, information that clearly could have been withheld and has always been withheld by my predecessors and I expect by my successors as well. HOLDER: Well, the Justice Department has released facts and I think that's what we need to focus on facts, as part of litigation of the February fourth letter I made the determination that we would release things that the Justice Department has never, ever released before, deliberative -- core deliberative material about how that letter was put together, information that clearly could have been withheld and has always been withheld by my predecessors. And I expect by my successors as well.
Getting to the bottom of this is something that we all want to do. The Inspector General, pursuant to my request, is conducting an investigation of this matter and I suspect will have a great many more answers than we presently do.
I don't have the ability to do a top to bottom investigation at this point out of deference to the investigation that is being done by the Inspector General. That does not, however, preclude me from taking action that I think appropriate based on information that comes to my attention in spite of the fact that the Inspector General has an ongoing investigation.
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: Well, you won't have an independent counsel and we end up having the Justice Department investigating itself in the absence of an independent counsel. And you know, having gone through interminable hearings on (INAUDIBLE) with all due respect, Mr. Attorney General, you've got to get this done much more quickly than plugging the holes that (INAUDIBLE) ended up showing existed in the department that time --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Chairman I have a parliamentary inquiry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you Mr. Sensenbrenner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A parliamentary inquiry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what reason does the gentleman from Texas?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I seek clarification. The gentleman in his questioning indicated impeachment. I was not sure which official or which person he was speaking of in terms of --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Wisconsin was referring to the fact that while he was chairman of this committee he oversaw the impeachment process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. To continue my inquiry.
(END LIVE SPEECH)
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We will get back to the hearings in just moments here on CNN. We are monitoring them for you. Let's talk now about the "Political Buzz" happening beyond what's going on, on Capitol Hill. It's your rapid fire look at the best political topics of the day. Three questions, 30 seconds on the clock. Playing today: founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics, Patricia Murphy. She's also a contributor for "The Daily Beast". Robert Zimmerman, the Democratic National Committee -- of the Democratic National Committee. And CNN contributor, Will Cain.
How do you like that?
All right, first question, our Alina Cho sat down with Bill Clinton and he is singing Gingrich's praises again. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is first resilient and secondly, he's always thinking and he's got a million ideas. Some of them are good and some of them I think are horrible.
I thought in that last debate he had the most responsible position on immigration. He's the only guy that didn't just totally jump in the tank with this -- with the Tea Party send them all home yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Politicians just don't say kind things about people on the other side of the aisle. So what's Mr. Clinton's motivation for all of these kind words? You first Patricia?
PATRICIA MURPHY, FOUNDE/EDITOR, CITIZEN JANE POLITICS: Well, I think, I actually do believe that Bill Clinton has a lot of respect, even for Republicans who he considers to be worthy adversaries. But I think in this case Bill Clinton is reminding us that Newt Gingrich is not always who we think he is even though he now calls Democrats a bunch of socialists, he has worked with Hillary Clinton, Al Sharpton, Tom Daschle.
He's worked with a bunch of Democrats in the last ten years since has been Speaker on a lot of issues that conservatives don't like at all, climate change, health care reform.
So I think Bill Clinton does actually respect Newt Gingrich for his tactics but I think he's also saying who is this guy?
LEMON: What's his motivation, Robert?
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: You know, Don, how did you get so cynical? I can't imagine. But let's start -- let's start from the following premise. What Bill Clinton said was absolutely accurate. And no matter who you speak to, even his Republican detractors acknowledge that's true about Newt Gingrich.
But the point here simply is politically those who are -- you can interpret Bill Clinton's comments about Newt Gingrich to hurt him with the Republican base. You could also interpret it to give him stature. The bottom line is it does give a different perspective on Newt Gingrich. And it's a -- ultimately it's Bill Clinton being accurate and having a lot of fun.
LEMON: Will Cain, the truth, come on. What's his motivation?
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. That's right.
It's not about whether or not that's accurate, Robert. It's about why would he say those things. And I would suggest to you maybe Bill Clinton is an awful, terrible poker player. He wants Newt Gingrich to be the nominee.
Why would Tom Coburn and several respected Republicans, actually I'm going to amend that statement, many respected Republicans speak out against Newt Gingrich while Bill Clinton speaks for him? Because they want him to be the nominee. Democrats want him to be the nominee. They have a stack of papers this high of opposition research waiting should he be the nominee to crush him.
LEMON: End scene.
ZIMMERMAN: If I can just say to Will, Will don't ever play poker with Bill Clinton.
LEMON: Thank you. No thank you that's it. That's it, that's actually, what's my motivation? So I'll say end scene. And thank you, Will. Very good answer.
Up next, Rick Perry says in a new ad that he'll end Obama's war on religion. It's an idea he echoed on CNN. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we're seeing from the left, of which I would suggest to you President Obama is a member of the left and substantial left of center beliefs, that you can't even have a Christmas party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Ok. So the thing should be is there a war on Christmas but is this something that voters actually care about? Robert, you go first.
ZIMMERMAN: You know, of course. Every person with any sense of decency should care about what Rick Perry said. Let me point out, Don, I've taken on elected officials in my party for engaging in divisive and hateful rhetoric. And I hope fair minded conservatives and Republican will also stand up to Rick Perry. First of all there is no war on Christmas out being led by --
LEMON: War on religion.
ZIMMERMAN: Or against religion. Let's be clear. Secondly, when he tries to use Christmas to divide America, to attack the gay and lesbian community, as he did in his ads that he's running in Iowa it's an assault on everyone's sense of decency, everyone sense of morality.
And the ultimate irony is, the ultimate irony is he did exactly as the Governor of Texas in his last year's Christmas message what he's accusing Democrats of doing.
LEMON: Ok, that's it, I cut you off a little bit there. So I gave you just a couple more seconds. So thank you, is -- is there a war on religion and is this something people -- voters care about? Will?
CAIN: Well, I think it's quite clear that one party represents the party of apple pie and good ole American southern dirt and just good true American values. And the other one is quite clearly socialist. No, no, no. I've got time. I've got time.
ZIMMERMAN: Use your time well.
CAIN: It's clearly -- it's clearly pandering. It's clearly reprehensible. It clearly needs to be called out, you're draping political votes in the flag of Christianity in the flag of religion as though God favors one vote over the another it's no bueno.
LEMON: You're going to kicked out of the Republican Party. All right Patricia, go ahead.
MURPHY: Yes, I'm going to agree with both of the guys. There is no war on Christmas or religion within this White House. There is a gigantic Christmas tree in front of the White House. There's a huge Christmas tree inside of the White House. There is a gigantic Christmas party every year at the White House all under President Obama.
And I think for Rick Perry this is very clearly an act of desperation. He has got to do well in the Iowa caucuses, the Evangelical vote there; 37 percent. They are a huge piece of the caucus pie, if you will. There's no way he's going to get out of the Iowa caucuses if he doesn't do really, really well. He's got to have the Evangelical votes but lying to Evangelicals isn't the way to get their votes.
LEMON: So when I go home today as a Christian and I start and I pray and get on my knees or whatever, no one is going to come to my house and try to get me.
MURPHY: Not today.
ZIMMERMAN: You're safe.
LEMON: I'm safe. Ok I just checking. Now your "buzzer beater"; 20 seconds each. Jimmy Fallon jokes about Donald Trump's debate. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY FALLON, TALK SHOW HOST: Trump is hosting a debate in Iowa but so far Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are the only presidential candidates to RSVP. Rick Santorum actually requested a plus one so he could bring all of his supporters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. So if you're advising a candidate, would you tell them to show up at the -- at Trump's debate. You first Will?
CAIN: No. And I'll tell you what you just said a moment ago, Don. I would defend what Republican -- what the Republican Party and conservatism is really about and that's free markets and limited government and self-responsibility, all of the things that has made America and for that matter human beings exceptional over the last 200 plus years. That's what I would stand for and I wouldn't allow that to be attached to a clown like Donald Trump or political pandering.
LEMON: Wow you got three seconds left you're good though. Patricia go ahead.
MURPHY: I've got two sets of advice. If you have no chance of winning the Iowa caucuses, if you're in single digits, go to this event. Take the free press. Act responsibly. Make a good name for yourself. And just do it for what it's worth, which is a lot of free press. If you have any chance of winning, including Newt Gingrich, stay as far away as possible. But this is classic Newt Gingrich doing something that is very, very risky. But the risk have paid off for him so far.
ZIMMERMAN: Look, Donald Trump is turning the entire Republican field, all the candidates, into an Atlantic City lounge act for the right wing. I mean, the opening question's going to be Trump saying I don't want to talk about myself, what do you think of me?
So the reality is anyone who is a credible presidential candidate should not be there.
LEMON: Well, Robert Zimmerman will be playing here all week long folks.
ZIMMERMAN: Tip your waiters on the way out.
LEMON: Tip your waiters and the bartenders and your waitresses on the way out. Thank you, Robert, thank you Patricia. Thanks, Will.
MURPHY: Thank you Don.
CAIN: All right, you bet.
LEMON: All right, Donald Trump, a guy with a lot of buzz as you can tell. He's about to enter "THE SITUATION ROOM". He sits down with Wolf Blitzer to talk about his planned GOP debate and who will participate. "THE SITUATION ROOM" at CNN today starting at 4:00 p.m. Eastern with our very own Wolf Blitzer.
Remember Alec Baldwin's "Words with Friends" tweet made after being kicked off a plane? Well "Words" is getting quite a boost from the incident. That story next in "Showbiz".
LEMON: This is developing news, folks. Pay attention. Update on a sports story we told you about last hour. The los Angeles Angels have apparently won the Albert Pujols sweepstakes.
ESPN is now reporting that the Angels and the superstar slugger have agreed to a 10-year -- ready -- $250 million deal. Must be nice. The deal includes a full no-trade clause. That's something Pujols had been looking for in talks with the Miami Marlins but apparently didn't get it. Pujols has played his entire Major League career with the St. Louis Cardinals. They were in the bidding as of late yesterday -- not anymore.
When "Today" show host Matt Lauer hinted he might be ready to step down, NBC began a search for a possible replacement this morning. We hear that his successor just might be "American Idol's" Ryan Seacrest. We'll tell about that after the break. Kidding. Ryan always says that.
Details from our entertainment correspondent, Kareen Wynter.
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: You've got me. I'm thinking, what's going on.
LEMON: Got you.
So listen, there have been talks?
WYNTER: Yes. Yes. Not a done deal yet, just talks. According to multiple reports, Don, NBC has been talking to Ryan Seacrest about his joining the "Today" show, although neither side is commenting publicly. The merger between NBC Universal and Comcast means that Seacrest and the entire E! network are already part of the NBC family. And Seacrest, he has a relationship with the "Today" show so according to the "Hollywood Reporter" Seacrest's contract with E! is up early next year 2012 and they certainly want to keep him around Don. So there's a lot of talk that this would be a perfect fit. But again, not a done deal.
But in public, Lauer, he's only dropped hints about leaving. And there's also speculation that this story, it could be a play by NBC for leverage in negotiating with the "Today" show anchorman. But again, neither Seacrest nor NBC, they're saying "nada" right now.
LEMON: Well, there you go. You know how I feel about it so we'll move on.
All right. Let's talk about Alec Baldwin's plane adventure. Turns out to be a plus for the game "Words with Friends". Right? I said to you, was this some sort of undercover advertisement for "Words with Friends" yesterday?
WYNTER: You called it yesterday. I was going to remind you about that, but there you go. You reminded me and all the viewers. But yes, this is huge in a big way for the company.
But let's get to Alec first. Alec, he's apologized to his fellow passengers for any delays caused when he was kicked off a plane for playing "Words with Friends" on his iPhone. But he isn't apologizing, don, to American Airlines.
In the wake of this story, Baldwin he deactivated his twitter account and posted a blog on the Huffington Post where he's basically blaming the flight attendants for the entire situation.
The happiest people out there today though is the game company Zynga. They're the company behind "Words with Friends" and they've seen a huge spike in interest for the game since the story broke. The company is also trying to capitalize on the publicity with some creative ads by saying, "Let Alec Play". So it's been great business for them.
But you called it. They're happy. They want Alec to, you know, keep this whole thing going so we can talk about it tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, next week.
LEMON: I know. And it's too bad because -- Kareen -- because Alec Baldwin's Twitter feed is hilarious. So we're going to miss that.
WYNTER: I know. That's a loss for everyone out there. Get it back up and going, Alec. Don't deactivate it.
LEMON: Thank you. We appreciate it. If you want more information on everything breaking in the entertainment world, catch it this evening on "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" 11:00 Eastern only on HLN.
A Vermont woman cashes in on the ugly Christmas sweater craze. Look at that thing. It's next in cross-country.
LEMON: We're going to take you across country now for some stories. A teenager is being called a hero after he woke his school bus driver who fell asleep behind the wheel. Do you see, there's video of it. Emmanuel Williams says he saw the driver nodding off and the bus was heading off the interstate. The 65-year-old driver could be fired.
In Dublin, California, producers for the hit TV show "Mythbusters", they're apologizing for an experiment gone very wrong. The show's crew damaged two homes and a vehicle after misfiring a cannonball from a nearby shooting range on Tuesday. Luckily though, nobody was hurt.
In Killington, Vermont, business is booming at My Ugly Christmas Sweater. Crafter Ann Marie Blackman says she had to expand operations this year and that she sells thousands of sweaters worldwide, some for as much as $80. Hey good for you in this economy. Those sweaters are really ugly. That's her business.
Take a look at this. It's what some folks in the south woke up to this morning. That same ice and snowstorm, then -- well, it headed north. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras up next to tell you all about it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Let's talk some weather. A snowstorm that hit much of the south and then headed toward the northeast. We'll take a look at what the system left in Memphis, Tennessee last night. At least two inches of snow on bridges and overpasses there. Same situation in North Carolina last night.
We want to check in now with our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. She's been tracking the storm for us. Jacqui, it's moving. It's moving. Where did it move?
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: So fast it's out of here, but the snow and rain, anyway. Let's be specific, ok? That's out of here. But the winds are still really sticking around. Look at this thing.
We were still raining in Providence this morning. And now that's all the way up into the Canadian Maritimes. That's the good news out of all this. But the bad news is that the wind sticks around. And that's causing some delays at the airport. Over an hour for you at LaGuardia; Newark about an hour and 30 minutes as well.
Now, behind it, in addition to the wind, we're dealing with some very cold temperatures. Did you notice that? It's been brutal. And a reinforcing shot of cold air coming in across the upper Midwest behind this. So temperatures are going to be very chilly. This is going to last through the weekend. So do expect that to stick around.
And as that cold air blows over the warmer lake waters we're going to see a moderate lake effect snow event over the next couple of days, Don. We can be talking about as much as ten inches of snow off Lakes Eerie and Ontario.
LEMON: Oh, man. That does happen though because it's --
JERAS: It does.
LEMON: It's winter.
JERAS: It's December.
LEMON: If it happened in July that would not be good.
JERAS: Yes. A little bit.
LEMON: Thank you very much Jacqui.
In the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM with Suzanne Malveaux, we'll go live to Pittsburgh where attorneys are about to announce a civil lawsuit against Bernie Fine, the fired Syracuse assistant basketball fending off claims of sexual harassment.
LEMON: A little politics now. New Jersey governor, Chris Christie may not be running for president, but he's still catching heat on the campaign trail. Christie campaigning for Mitt Romney when hecklers interrupted. That's where CNN's deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser picks up the story. Paul what happened?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You got it. Christie of course endorsed Romney about two months ago. He was out there on the campaign trail. As we said, Iowa, the first state to vote. Occupy Wall Street movement protesters, take a listen to what they said and how Christie reacted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: While there are things that are depressing right now about our situation in America, there is one thing that is extraordinarily uplifting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's that? Chris Christie and Mitt Romney. For the corporate one percent.
CHRISTIE: Oh, yes. We know that our country's really at a crossroads, and, you know, let's talk about those folks for a second, ok? Well, listen, here's the way I feel about it, they represent an anger in our country that Barack Obama has caused.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEINHAUSER: Chris Christie never at a loss for words. He also pointed out the differences, what he said between -- well, he pointed out Mitt Romney's attributes as a family man. Maybe that's a subtle hint or a dig at Newt Gingrich
Stay tuned. We'll see a lot more Chris Christie on the campaign trail for Mitt Romney. No doubt about it.
One other thing I want to share with you. New poll numbers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, three crucial battleground states. The Quinnipiac numbers indicate the President's approval rating in all three of those states hover just above 40 percent and his re-elect numbers below 50 percent. Troubling for the President in three states he won three years ago; three states he'd like to carry next year.
Remember, Don, of course the general election's still 11 months to go. Things change.
LEMON: Hey, the Chris Christie is the first time I've ever seen Chris Christie startled when the guy goes, "mic check". Whoa, what is that.
All right. Thank you, Paul Steinhauser. Appreciate it. We'll have your next political update in an hour. And a reminder for you, for all the latest political news, go to our Web site, cnnpolitics.com.
You know what; I think we should head off to Washington right now and join the very talented anchor Suzanne Malveaux. Was it me? Did you leave Atlanta because you didn't want to like stand next to me for five seconds of your life. SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Don, I'm sorry. It was the President. You got trumped by the President. Sorry about that. White House Christmas party. You've got to go.
LEMON: Oh, have a great time and have a great show.
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Don