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THE SITUATION ROOM
Reinforcements to Reach Besieged Town Soon; Interview with Ed Royce; Enhanced Security Ordered on Government Buildings; U.S. Troops Ordered into Ebola Quarantine; U.S. Troops Ordered into Ebola Quarantine; Obama Slams State's Quarantines; Behind North Korean Leader's Charm Offensive; Graham Suspect to Face Judge in 2005 Case
Aired October 28, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, help on the way. Reinforcements are due to reach the Syrian town of Kobani, bringing heavy weapons to the battle against ISIS. But ISIS may now have a frightening new weapon of its own.
Ebola patient release -- the second Dallas nurse is now disease-free, as President Obama scolds six state leaders for quarantining health care workers.
Missing leader mystery -- North Korea's dictator makes a series of appearances since his month-long disappearance. We're learning why he vanished and why he's now playing Mr. Nice Guy.
And the key to cold cases -- the suspect in the Hannah Graham abduction will soon face a judge in a decade-old sex assault, as police look for links to other unsolved crimes.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news -- U.S. airstrikes are slowly slowing down the brutal ISIS onslaught in Kobani. But now, guess what?
A major new development on the ground. Reinforcements are finally on the way to the besieged Syrian border town. Kurdish troops from Iraq are bringing heavy weapons to their fellow Kurds, who have battled for weeks to hold on against the terrorists.
But there are signs that ISIS may have a deadly new weapon of its own -- poison gas.
Our correspondents, our analysts, our guests, they're standing by.
Let's begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
He's got the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there have now been at least four alleged uses of chlorine gas by ISIS militants in the last several weeks, twice in Iraq and twice in Syria. The U.S. has not yet confirmed those reports, but U.S. officials, including secretary of State, John Kerry, say this is an issue they take extremely seriously.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): These are victims of what may be another frightening weapon in ISIS' arsenal. Iraqi troops rushed to the hospital after suffering what their commanders claim was a chlorine gas attack.
Chlorine itself is not a chemical weapon, but when mixed and weaponized, it is banned from use on the battlefield.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: These allegations are extremely serious and we are seeking additional information in order to be able to determine whether or not we can confirm it.
SCIUTTO: Chlorine gas has a long, brutal history in Iraq. ISIS' precursor, al Qaeda in Iraq, used chlorine dozens of times, including in attacks on U.S. forces, sometimes packing car bombs with chlorine tanks to cause mass casualties.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's gets more of a defensive and more of a psychological weapon than anything else. It's just another approach to terrorizing a population.
SCIUTTO: Today in Kuwait, General John Allen, who leads the anti-ISIS coalition, called for Arab nations to fight back against ISIS terrorizing online. The group has an formidable arsenal, striking fear with videotaped beheadings of Western hostages, bragging with accounts of battlefield victories and now challenging the coalition's facts on the ground. After the coalition claimed success in pushing back ISIS from the town of Kobani, ISIS responded with this slickly produced video fronted by British hostage and journalist John Cantlie.
JOHN CANTLIE, ISIS HOSTAGE: There are no NPG, PKK or Peshmerga in sight, just a large number of Islamic State Mujahedeen.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: You know, that they've taken a hostage, a man they've taken captive and obviously forcing this individual to do this video. I mean it's just another example of their depravity.
SCIUTTO: Now, the State Department is striking back itself online, releasing its own videos, sometimes mocking ISIS. Travel is inexpensive, this video says, because you won't need a return ticket.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SCIUTTO: There are stockpiles of chlorine gas in weapons form on the Syrian side of the border and Saddam-era facilities on the Iraqi side. And with ISIS now controlling territory in both countries, there have been ongoing fears that they captured such weapons and might use them in battle, Wolf. And we know now that the U.N. is being asked to look into the use of these weapons by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
BLITZER: And a lot of us remember back in the '80s, the late '80s, when Saddam Hussein's forces in Iraq used poison gas against the Kurds in Northern Iraq, in a place called Halabja, so there is history. And the Kurds vividly remember when they were gassed by Saddam Hussein's forces.
SCIUTTO: No question. And more recent history in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, al Qaeda in Iraq, used chlorine gas in dozens of attacks, including attacks that targeted and wounded U.S. soldiers.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Very disturbing information.
Kurdish forces from Iraq are about to join the fight for the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani. The reinforcements with heavy weapons are passing through Turkey after lengthy, oftentimes very, very bitter negotiations.
Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is risking his life right now.
He's on the Turkish/Syrian border -- Nick, give us the latest.
What are you hearing and what are you seeing?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we think that probably down this road that convoy, a substantial convoy, something that could never have been got into Kobani behind me discretely, we think in the coming hours, it will travel down this road toward the official crossing down there that heads into Kobani.
Dark now entirely, Kobani. Absolutely enveloped in darkness. But we don't know the precise timing. Those inside the city think that convoy may arrive at about 7:00 a.m., potentially. They're going to be pushed to get there before daylight. They have a long way to go. They haven't yet crossed into Turkey, as far as we can tell. And it is a substantial convoy, yes.
There's great symbolism attached to this Iraqi Kurdish Peshmergas coming here, with the permission of Turkey, to assist people who the Turkish consider to be terrorists, the Syrian Kurds, allies fighting there inside Kobani.
Great on symbolism, but at the end of the day, too, there is a practical use for this force. A large convoy impossible, as I say, to have gone in discretely. About 150 plus Peshmerga fighters, too. It could tip balance inside there, though. And the fighting has been going on for a long time.
But it isn't just Kobani, Wolf. It is also Iraq where ISIS are advancing. And there was some powerful video released by U.S. forces today of the moments in which they tried to bring relief to one Iraqi tribe near a besieged base known as al-Assad. C-130 aircraft used to drop 7,000 halal meals, which were then dispersed by Iraqi security forces to a tribe there.
A lot of humanitarian issues all around Iraq and Syria here, too, often simply lost in the continued coalition fight to try and degrade ISIS wherever they can -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What are they saying where you are, Nick, about that ISIS video, including the drone video flying over Kobani, and that poor British hostage, who was forced to say ISIS is in control, there's no sign of any of the Kurdish fighters there?
What are they saying where you are about that video?
PATON WALSH: Well, he would have been doing his reporting probably under a mile away from where I'm standing. I call it reporting.
Obviously, he was under duress, it's clear, because he's a hostage, although he did appear relaxed as he spoke and didn't repeat like he had in previous broadcasts that he felt under pressure to make those statements.
But people, I think, are seeing that video, noting the level of aptitude that ISIS clearly have with social media -- d high definition cameras, two cameras in one shoot, the use of a drone to show aerial shots of the town, the landmarks they picked out with graphics. And it's quite clear he was in Kobani. It's quite clear ISIS wanted to respond in the Western court of public opinion to what they consider to be Western propaganda suggesting they're not winning behind me.
It's pretty clear they're having a very tough fight, certainly to the east and the south. And it's not as simple as John Cantlie suggested, where they're simply mopping up Kurdish resistance. The Kurdish have got a lot of territory in that town behind me -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They certainly do.
All right, Nick Paton Walsh, thanks very much for that report.
Be careful where you are right on the border.
Joining us now is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
What do you make of these latest developments, the Iraqi Peshmerga -- those are the Kurdish fighters -- moving through Turkey into Kobani, supposedly very soon?
How much of a difference could this make?
REP. ED ROYCE (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Well, I think, psychologically, it's essential that we get relief in to the Kurdish forces there in Syria. And the fact that it's the Peshmerga, it's their brethren, the fact that the Turks allowed them to traverse their area. And, hopefully, they're better armed than we have had them in the past.
You know, one of the arguments we have been making in Congress is that the Peshmerga need to be much better armed with weaponry, because they're only going to be as good as the heavy equipment that they bring in with them.
But if bringing that into play, these 200 or so fighters can psychologically make the difference, it's hugely important to the region, because the whole sales pitch of recruitment on the part of ISIS is that we're unstoppable, we can't be pushed out of Kobani, we will take the town.
And so right now, this is a game of psychological warfare for the hearts and minds of those fighters, would-be fighters, young men who follow this and might be allured into it.
They need to see ISIS defeated in Kobani.
BLITZER: Is it true, based on all the information you have, Mr. Chairman, that ISIS is using these chlorine gas attacks against the Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraqi troops in Iraq?
ROYCE: Yes. We've seen evidence of four cases of it. And given the brutality, of course, of ISIS, there is no question that as they get their hands on any of the inventory that was either in Saddam's or certainly we know recently that Assad has used chlorine gas attacks on his own people, they wouldn't hesitate. And they're not hesitating.
BLITZER: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told NBC News they can't act right now, they can't even investigate because the government in Baghdad hasn't formally complained about this.
What's going on?
ROYCE: We don't know what's going on. And, of course, one of the big problems with the government in Baghdad is it is so lopsided in terms of its allegiance or its ties with the government in Iran. This is why Sunnis have been ostracized and why the Kurds can't get the heavy weapons that they need or their troops can't get paid.
One of our great hopes, of course, is that what will ultimately happen is that before this is over, they will have a national government, a national government in Iraq, which represents all three, you know, Kurd, Sunni and Shia. And if that happens, you would have competent governance. But at this point, we do not.
BLITZER: ISIS apparently now has these shoulder-fired missiles. They shot down two Iraqi helicopters.
How concerned are you -- how concerned is the U.S. that they could go after U.S. helicopters, U.S. C-130s, could effectively reach the Baghdad International Airport, shut down flights over there?
ROYCE: Well, they're 15 miles away. And, of course, this is why we want to see the government in Baghdad get its act together and be able to pull Sunnis in in support of governmental policy. And it's also why we have to do a better job of being aggressive in reaching out to the Sunni tribes. We have many personnel who, senior level military in the United States who were involved in training, frankly, having them in the process in Baghdad of reaching out to the Sunni tribes and doing the mending in governance, giving responsible positions to Kurds and Sunnis, as well, will do so much to basically put the military back into a position where it can conduct operations.
But right now, it's perceived as Shia-led. And, of course, that's the -- that's the problem, Wolf. That's the perception.
BLITZER: We've got some more breaking news I want to share with you, Mr. Chairman.
We've just received a statement from the secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, announcing dramatic new security procedures underway about to begin at U.S. government buildings here in Washington, DC, as well as in other major cities. He says that, "We want to enhance its presence and security," the U.S. government, "at various U.S. government buildings in Washington, DC and other major cities and locations around the country."
He says, "We are taking this action as a precautionary step to safeguard U.S. government personnel and facilities and the visitors to those facilities. The reasons for this action are self-evident," Jeh Johnson says, "the continued public calls by terrorist organizations by attacks on the homeland and elsewhere.
And he refers to what happened in Canada over the past few days.
This sounds like a pretty ominous new development.
ROYCE: Well, remember, this is a precaution. And I talked to, the other day -- the other day, I spoke with head of diplomatic security in the United States. There is a series of steps that we are taking, knowing that ISIS, their main objection, of course, is that these are governments, democratically elected governments, so the law is not coming from God, it's coming, in their mind, from man. And so any type of democratic system they view as inherently the enemy, inherently evil.
So an attack on the parliament, that's why the Canadian parliament would be the target. The same situation in Europe or in the United States.
And so these are why -- this is why these steps are being taken now.
BLITZER: Have you heard of any intelligence that suggests this is based -- this new precautionary measures -- the greater security that this department of Homeland Security is now going to install at major federal buildings in Washington and elsewhere around the country, is it based on a specific threat?
ROYCE: There was a specific request made about a month ago by ISIS for their foreign -- for their fighters. They're looking now at lone wolves to attack instruments of -- that represent Western governments, basically. And I believe that that's what we're looking to, especially in light of what had happened, what had transpired with the attack in Ottawa.
And so that's why -- that's why these precautions are put in place.
BLITZER: Yes. And what was also alarming to me, last week when I interviewed Lisa Monaco, the president's adviser on counterterrorism, she referred to that Khorasan terror group in Iraq and Syria, the Khorasan group, she said, posed "an imminent threat" -- her words -- "imminent threat" to the United States. That's pretty specific right there.
What do you know about this Khorasan "imminent threat?"
ROYCE: Well, we know they're senior al Qaeda. We know that they have expertise in bomb making and in trying to develop bombs which cannot be detected on a plane or coming into the country.
And in the past, we've identified those targets. The United States has struck on those targets to try to take out their bomb making facility and to try to take out their senior personnel.
I think that this is an ongoing effort on our part to neutralize that threat.
BLITZER: And Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, urges state and local government law enforcement to be equally vigilant, particularly in guarding against potential small scale attacks by a lone offender or a small group of individuals.
We're going to have much more on this breaking news coming up.
In the meantime, though, Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.
ROYCE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Royce is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Up next, civil defense units go door-to-door on Hawaii's Big Island and warning of 2,000 degree -- a river temperature of lava that's nearing the homes.
Stay with us.
Lots of news coming up.
BLITZER: Out of Hawaii, civil defense units now on the big island are going door to door, warning residents about the 2,000-degree river of red-hot lava that's heading toward their homes.
CNN's Martin Savidge is on the scene.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're just a couple hundred feet above the outskirts of the ends of Pahoa. Let me show you the breakup here as they call it. It's clearly the lava where it's coming to the surface. You can see that flame of vegetation down there.
What most people don't realize, perhaps, is the lava is actually doing most of its moving underground. In other words, it's not this red-hot sea that's sort of oozing across the surface. It is more something that is insidious almost, running underneath the ground.
But take a look at this. This is just an incredible view. It almost looks like water the way it undulates, the way it - it's just the surface of it here. But that is or was at one point liquid stone. And you can see how it's transforming the landscape.
We're heading right now, Wolf, up to the northeast. In other words, we're heading directly towards Pahoa, following the lava trail here. It has a kind of a look of a wildfire, kind of like an area that may have been burned through. But it's vastly different than that. You can see on the edges how the vegetation, it is still smoldering.
What we want to do is Jeremy is going to fly us down to the end to show us just how close this has come to the town here of about 950 people.
The weird thing about this natural disaster is the fact that it's so slowly happening. It's still devastating. The impact is still going to perhaps destroy the town, but it's a disaster that comes in inches rather than something that strikes in the blink of an eye.
We're coming up over here, and what we're approaching is the leading edge of the lava as it starts to move into town.
Let me show you something down here. We're going to come up, and we're going to show it to you on the other side of the helicopter. It's a cemetery. And you can actually see how the lava has burned into the tombstones. It's an old cemetery here. But the lava has actually already pushed through, and it's now gone beyond.
This is probably the most critical day, the day the lava is likely to get into town -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Wow. Martin Savidge on the scene for us in Hawaii. Much more coming up in our next hour on this dramatic story.
Up next, we're hearing from the commander of U.S. troops who have been ordered into the Ebola quarantine, and more troops will soon be joining them. What's going on? We'll explain.
And later, we have new details about why the North Korean leader disappeared for more than a month and why he's acting right now, at least for a little while, as a nice guy.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're watching a couple of important developments in the fight against Ebola, especially the growing confusions about the quarantines ordered for the U.S. military coming home from the front lines in the crisis in Africa.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, spoke with the U.S. general who's quarantined right now. Barbara, what is the latest?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, right now at this hour, we are awaiting a final decision from both the White House and the Pentagon about whether there will be a mandatory 21-day quarantine for all U.S. troops serving in the Ebola stricken areas when they come home.
As you say earlier today, I spoke to the only Army general currently undergoing quarantine.
STARR (voice-over): In a military quarantine, even breakfast can get complicated.
MAJ. GEN. DARRYL WILLIAMS, U.S. ARMY: My support personnel will bring food in early in the morning for breakfast. They'll leave it there. They'll leave. We go in, and we eat that breakfast.
STARR: Army Major General Darryl Williams spoke to CNN from Italy, where he and his team are in 21-day isolation after returning from Liberia. More troops will soon join them.
WILLIAMS: There will be another 30 who will come back in about two days and then another 35.
STARR: The Army has ordered all troops returning from Ebola-stricken areas in West Africa into quarantine.
WILLIAMS: It's very important that we send a clear message that we are protecting not only our soldiers and our families but the local communities.
STARR: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel facing a dilemma. The joint chiefs of staff recommend that all services put their personnel serving in the Ebola area into 21 days quarantine, just the way the Army is doing, even if they are not exposed to Ebola.
That contradicts the Pentagon statement that most troops have no risk. Even President Obama acknowledged the military is different.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians.
STARR: The Pentagon struggling to explain whether Hagel supports broadening the Army-wide quarantine to the entire military.
(on camera): I'm asking you, does Secretary Hagel support General Odierno in terms of all Army personnel going into 21 days of monitoring?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The secretary supports the decision that was made for General Williams and his team. He's not going to oppose at this time the decision made by Army leadership for all soldiers.
STARR (voice-over): Hagel knows quarantining the more than 1,000 troops already on the ground when they return could send the wrong message.
KIRBY: A spillover effect on other agencies and the American people certainly are on his mind.
STARR: General Williams says his team went to some of the toughest areas, including the labs testing samples for Ebola.
WILLIAMS: As you watch the healthcare workers coming out of the red zone, you would see someone who was totally drenched in sweat after only 45 minutes.
STARR: That work, Williams says, is so vital the inconvenience of a quarantine is more than tolerable.
WILLIAMS: The plastic gear and food items that we ate off of are then discarded and burned later.
STARR: So they're living in a situation where everything that they touch, essentially, that other people may touch has to be burned.
General Williams says it's worth it. Look, one option in front of the Pentagon right now is to sign the paperwork for a mandatory quarantine to begin with and then ratchet it back if, hopefully, no troops become sick.
But make no mistake. The joint chiefs want a mandatory quarantine, and they have the authority. Even if Hagel says no, they can impose restrictions on their own troops. They can make those restrictions as tough as they wish -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Extremely tough quarantine rules for the military, in contrast to civilians who are coming back to the United States. We're going to have much more on this. Barbara, stand by.
This afternoon, President Obama warned against discouraging or putting barriers on U.S. civilian doctors and nurses who are treating Ebola patients overseas. His remarks appear aimed at states like New York and especially New Jersey, where a nurse returning from Africa was quarantined in a tent for several days, even though she had no signs of illness.
Just now, "The New York Times" posted this picture of the nurse, Kaci Hickox, after she was allowed to go home to Maine. A tweet from the "Times" reporter quotes Hickox's boyfriend as saying, and I'm quoting now, "Finally, a bit of well-deserved rest after such a long ordeal." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We've got to make sure that those workers who are willing and able and dedicated to go over there in really tough job, that they're applauded, thanked and supported.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Miguel Marquez is outside the New York hospital where the man who's now the country's only Ebola patient is being treated. What's the latest there, Miguel?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's Dr. Craig Spencer, Wolf, and he remains in serious but stable condition here at Bellevue Hospital. His case, though, sparked a national firestorm, putting healthcare workers caring for Ebola patients on the front lines.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Amber Vinson heading home today after being declared free of the deadly virus by doctors at Emory Hospital.
AMBER VINSON, NURSE: As a nurse and now as someone who has experienced what it's like to be cared for through a life-threatening illness, I am so appreciative and grateful for your exceptional skill, warmth and care.
MARQUEZ: Vinson is one of two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who contracted the disease after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died from Ebola earlier this month.
Vinson's colleague, Nina Pham, was released from the hospital last week.
Tonight, one Ebola patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, remains hospitalized with the disease in the United States. Six cases have been treated at hospitals across the country in the last five weeks.
Spencer, a 33-year-old doctor who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea, remains in serious but stable condition in New York's Bellevue Hospital.
President Obama applauded Vinson, Pham and Spencer today for their work and emphasized the importance of continuing to send medical professionals to help combat the disease in West Africa.
OBAMA: We don't want to discourage our healthcare workers from going to the front lines and dealing with this in an effective way.
MARQUEZ: Meanwhile, Kaci Hickox, the nurse who had been confined to this isolation tent at a New Jersey hospital after allegedly registering a fever at Newark Airport, is back home in Maine today, where she has agreed to self-quarantine. But the debate surrounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's decision to quarantine Hickox continues, and Christie is not backing down. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We're trying to be careful here.
This is common sense. The members of the American public believe it is common sense, and we're not moving an inch. Our policy hasn't changed. And our policy will not change.
MARQUEZ: Now, the 5-year-old boy who had gotten back from Guinea who they thought might have Ebola, he has been completely cleared of it, say officials here. He had a respiratory infection. He's going to be taken out of isolation and be put in the hospital so he can get over that respiratory infection -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.
Joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Dr. Gavin MacGregor- Skinner, assistant professor at Penn State University's Department of Public Health Sciences. He's an expert on public health preparedness; has been to the Ebola hot zone earlier this year, as well.
What do you make of this one strict standard for U.S. military personnel leaving that Ebola hot zone in West Africa, as opposed to civilians, who will have much freer reign, if you will?
DR. GAVIN MACGREGOR-SKINNER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, PENN STATE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH SCIENCES: As someone who has worked for years with highly infectious diseases like Ebola, everyone on my team -- again, we follow the CDC guidelines. They state we undergo controlled movement. That means no commercial transport. No public transport. And we report to the public health authority. Again, no symptoms means we have no Ebola.
We communicate about this all the time. We have to be really careful about the needs for communicating on what Ebola is and the threats...
BLITZER: Those military personnel who are now in Italy who just got out of Liberia, they have no symptoms.
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: Exactly. So how they are defining quarantine? And I'm not really sure. It hasn't really been -- it hasn't been explained to me what they...
BLITZER: They're throwing away the utensils, their plastic knives and forks, if you will, they're so worried about it.
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: A lack of communication, Wolf, and it's an area we need to strengthen right now. They are no risk if there's no symptoms, and that's clear; and that's what we tell everyone. Again, more and more people are going back to West Africa to help, and that's the message that we need to get out to the American public.
BLITZER: The U.S. military wants to err on the side of total caution, if you will, as opposed to the civilian branch of the U.S. government. There seems to be a very different standard.
Stand by, Dr. Skinner. We're going to continue our reporting on this here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Turning to politics, though. Right now, we're exactly one week from the midterm elections. Right now President Obama is making a quick trip to campaign with one of the few high-profile Democrats willing to be seen with him in this final week. He's in Wisconsin where Democrat Mary Burke is challenging Republican Governor Scott Walker.
The race has potentially huge nationwide implications, because if Walker wins, he could be a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Much more on the midterm elections coming up in the next hour.
Just ahead, we're learning why North Korea's leader may have vanished for several weeks. Plus, the suspect in the Hannah Graham case will soon face a judge in another Virginia case as prosecutors race to put together evidence.
BLITZER: After disappearing from public view for more than a month, North Korean's dictator has been doing a whirlwind series of photo- ops, seemingly aimed at showing the leader's lovable side. So where was he? What's behind the recent so-called charm offensive? Elise Labott reports.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South Koreans believe they've cracked the mystery of what ails North Korea's reclusive leader.
Speculation was rampant after Kim Jong-un vanished from sight after being seen here in September, walking with a limp. Then six weeks later, he reemerged, clutching a cane while inspecting military drills.
Today South Korea's intelligence agency says they have the answer. According to the country's state news agency, the intelligence agency believes Kim had surgery to remove a cyst on his ankle and brought in a foreign doctor to do the procedure.
South Korean spies and U.S. officials suggest Kim's weight and extravagant lifestyle could have been factors in his poor health.
VICTOR CHA, AUTHOR, "THE IMPOSSIBLE STATE": He lives in a world in which nobody says no to him and there are no restrictions on him. And that, I would assume, leads to a bit of self-indulgence, and it also could potentially lead to the sort of health problems that we're seeing coming at a fairly early age.
LABOTT: Now, Kim's back in the spotlight, new photos of the leader touring an orphanage, inspecting the sleeping conditions for the children, visiting the dental office for the facility. Kim even stopped to arrange some Hello Kitty dishes on a table, all part of the charm offensive to soften North Korea's image ahead of a scathing human rights report set to be released by the United Nations tonight.
The report is expected to call for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court over its human rights record. A move that will be seen as a major blow to the regime.
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We have raised concerns and supported the efforts of the commission of inquiry.
LABOTT: The regime is so worried it held a rare meeting with U.N. officials, even opening the door to an historic visit by U.N. investigators, which could give critical insight into how the regime treats its people.
JANG Il HUN, NORTH KOREAN DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We totally and categorically reject the contents of the report. None of such violations exist in my country and in no way can they exist.
LABOTT: Now, that North Korean official was the deputy ambassador to the United Nations who spoke recently to the Council on Foreign Relations on a meeting unthinkable just recently.
Now I've been talking to U.S. officials about whether the Obama administration believes that the North Koreans are ready to talk on the nuclear issue and could they seize upon this opportunity and they tell me, no, that's the one thing that the North Koreans don't want to talk about, Wolf. They say this is all about avoiding action at the United Nations this week.
BLITZER: Elise Labott, staying on top of the North Korea story for us. Thank you very, very much.
Up next, as the suspect in the kidnapping of the University of Virginia student Hannah Graham awaits his next appearance before a judge, investigators in several states are now taking another closer look at some unsolved cold cases.
BLITZER: The suspect charged with abducting University of Virginia student Hannah Graham goes to court this week in a decade-old sexual assault case.
Let's go live to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us from Fairfax in Northern Virginia.
What's the latest, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this grassy area here is where the FBI says the victim in the Fairfax case was dragged by her attacker that night from that direction. Law enforcement officials say she was sexually assaulted just behind that fence right around that corner.
Tonight we're getting new details on how prosecutors may be assembling their case against Jesse Matthew as they work toward a court date on Friday.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, as Jesse Matthew prepares to face a judge in Fairfax, Virginia, prosecutors race to build evidence against him. Matthew faces charges of abduction, sexual assault and attempted capital murder. Experts say the case here is likely the strongest one against Matthew largely because of evidence from the 2005 assault and potential witness testimony, including that of a victim who is still alive.
RAY MORROGH, FAIRFAX COUNTY COMMONWEALTH'S ATTORNEY: Id' rather not say where she is but she is cooperative.
TODD: Experts say the victim likely agreed to a rape kit test where she might have submitted DNA samples like hair and blood. She was probably swabbed and photographed. Forensic examiners would look at every thread of any clothing she might have submitted.
JEFFREY BAN, VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF FORENSIC SCIENCE: You look at the evidence and try to determine where there might be stains, you collect hairs and fibers off it. There might be other debris that might be -- on the clothing that might be significant.
TODD: Jesse Mathew had to give his own DNA sample when he was arrested in the Hannah Graham case.
SCOTT GOODMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That was the link that Fairfax needed to close that case.
TODD: Other components of the case prosecutors are piecing together, accounts from neighbors who heard the victim's screams. One described them as blood curdling. Other potential evidence lies in the footsteps of both victim and attacker. As the victim was being dragged down this street, authorities say, her purse was left near a corner. The FBI said the attacker carried her to this grassy area and sexually assaulted her here.
The FBI says the victim got a good look at him and helped forensic artists create this sketch. Law enforcement analysts say composite sketches are a roll of the dice in cases like this. Prosecutors will likely try to gather harder evidence to place Matthew in Fairfax that night, even though he's from a town two hours away.
JOEY JACKSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Are there any gas receipts for which he would have gone there? Is there any toll booth that he might have went through? Is there any surveillance video that's still viable now that could be had there? Was there a cell phone that he had? Was there any text messaging?
TODD: We've made repeated attempts to get comment from Jesse Matthew's lawyer on the Fairfax case. He has not commented. Now while the victim may be ready to testify against Matthew in this Fairfax case, experts say that doesn't make it airtight against Jesse Matthew here. They stay the trauma of that evening may affect her reliability -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much.
Brian Todd at Fairfax, Virginia.
Let's go in-depth with our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director.
This appearance before a judge in Fairfax via video, could that provide us some more information about what's going on in the Hannah Graham case as well?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No. I don't think so. I think it will be very specific to the Fairfax rape case and it will really be irrelevant in terms of the Hannah Graham case.
BLITZER: The fact that that took place, what, almost a decade ago, that sounds like a pretty difficult case to prove given the time that has elapsed.
FUENTES: The time won't matter other than, you know, the attorneys will try to make a big deal out of her memory but the forensic science won't change in nine years' time. It got his DNA from that day and that will last -- you know, in terms of evidence that will last forever.
BLITZER: The fact that they found the remains now of Hannah Graham, will they upgrade? You expect the prosecutors to upgrade the charges against Jesse Matthew. Right now he is being held in connection with the Hannah Graham case on abduction charges. But you suspect the charges will become more severe?
FUENTES: I think possibly. But it's going to depend on being able to link him on actually murdering her. We know he was with her. But did he murder her? That's a different level. Now did he take a souvenir from her and bring it back to his apartment and they found it there? That would help. But the actual evidence of the murder itself, a weapon or whether he strangled her or however the method was, that's going to be very difficult because of the degree of -- of decomposition of her body.
BLITZER: And they're looking for all these other unsolved cases, these other cold cases as well. What do you think about that?
FUENTES: Well, I think they may be able to link him to, you know, one or more other cases including the Morgan Harrington case, Virginia Tech, 2009, a young lady, but this case in Fairfax is pretty much ready to go.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, thanks very much for that.
Tom Fuentes, the former FBI assistant director.
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