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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Kentucky Senator Rand Paul; Interview With Indiana Congressman Andre Carson; No Charges in Tamir Rice Case. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired December 28, 2015 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:02]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We're standing by to hear from Trump on the Clintons, sexism and whether the former president is fair game.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We have breaking news tonight, a bombshell decision in the deadly police shooting of a 12-year-old boy. A grand jury in Ohio has decided not to indict officers involved in the killing of Tamir Rice. The prosecutor says it's reasonable to believe that the pellet gun Rice was carrying could be mistaken by officers for a real weapon.

And the case has added fuel to this nationwide outcry about police violence against African-Americans.

Also breaking, Iraq is claiming its first major victory against ISIS. It's raising the flag over Ramadi. Iraqi forces say they have liberated the city about six months or so after their humiliating defeat there. The United States is a little more cautious, though, warning the battle for Ramadi is not over yet.

Might ISIS retaliate with a stunning new act of terror? Tonight, several European cities have been warned of possible attacks between Christmas and New year's Eve.

I will be asking Congressman Andre Carson what he's learning about that as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents, our and analysts, they are also standing by as we cover all of the news that is breaking right now.

First, let's go to CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. She has more on the situation in Ramadi.

Elise, the Iraqis acknowledge, there are some still pockets of ISIS fighters there in the city.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brian. A lot of praise today for Iraqi forces by the U.S.-led coalition,

calling the retaking of the center of Ramadi a significant accomplishment, but the U.S. is cautioning the Iraqi government its next steps are equally important to hold Ramadi and build upon those gains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT (voice-over): Claiming a -- quote -- "epic victory," the Iraqi army announced the liberation of Ramadi just 60 miles west of Baghdad. Drone surveillance footage shows the moment Iraqi troops raised the national flag over the government complex.

BRIG. GEN. YAHYA RASOOL, IRAQI ARMY (through translator): The city of Ramadi has been liberated.

LABOTT: U.S.-led coalition airstrikes aided newly trained Iraqi forces who called in ISIS targets. Today, the coalition, though not ready to declare the city liberated, called the success a "proud moment for Iraq."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Iraqi forces have made great progress over the last week or so.

LABOTT: The celebrations could be short-lived. Pockets of resistance remain, along with hundreds of explosives planted by the terror group. Also still unclear, whether Iraqi forces can hold the city and stop Shia militias who are not included in the operation from reigniting sectarian tensions.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: This needs to be an inclusive governmental approach.

LABOTT: Retaking the capital and largest population center of the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, a strategic and symbolic victory for the Iraqi army, the city's fall to ISIS in May an embarrassing defeat that had Defense Secretary Carter questioning their resolve.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: They failed to fight. They withdrew from the site.

LABOTT: But just weeks ago, Carter urged Iraq's prime minister to move north toward Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate more than a year ago.

After a recent string of defeats in Baiji, north of Baghdad, and Sinjar Mountain, where their fight against ISIS began, Baghdadi warned in a new audio recording that, despite the setbacks, ISIS remains strong, promising an epic final battle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT: And, today, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi tweeted what he called complete confidence that Iraqis are now going to liberate Mosul.

But spokesmen for the coalition say first the Iraqis have a lot of work to retake and secure all of Anbar Province, but Mosul is considered the big prize in freeing Iraq, Brianna, and from ISIS and the coalition says it's determined to help the Iraqis do that.

KEILAR: We will see. It obviously is going to take some time. We will see what pans out. Elise Labott, thank you so much.

The White House says that President Obama has been briefed on the Iraqi military's progress against ISIS in Ramadi.

Let's go now to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He is with the president in Hawaii.

And the president is on vacation, Jim, but certainly terror concerns are very front and center for him. He's being briefed. He's very much being kept in the loop of what is going on.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Brianna. The president may be on vacation here in Hawaii, but White House officials say he is receiving updates on the war on ISIS, especially on what is happening in the key Iraqi city of Ramadi, where the terrorists are on the run.

[18:05:08]

It's the kind of news the president will welcome as Americans appear to be losing faith in his ISIS plan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With the U.S.-led coalition at war with ISIS half-a-world away, President Obama just got a fresh reminder during his vacation in Hawaii Americans are worried that terrorists are winning the fight.

A new CNN/ORC poll shows Americans have lost confidence in the Obama administration's ability to defeat ISIS and prevent another terrorist attack; 64 percent disapprove of the president's handling of ISIS and just 51 of Americans believe the government can prevent against a terrorist attack, down sharply from 65 percent in 2010. That deep pessimism has frustrated the president.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm confident that we're going to prevail.

ACOSTA: But Mr. Obama wants Americans to feel that confidence. CNN has learned the White House has asked top officials across the government to do a better job of selling the ISIS plan.

OBAMA: I think that there is a legitimate criticism of what I have been doing and our administration has been doing in the sense that we haven't, you know, on a regular basis, I think, described all the work that we have been doing for more than a year now to defeat ISIL. ACOSTA: And now the president may be able to point to some

progress after Iraqi security forces combined with the support of coalition airstrikes apparently succeeded in driving ISIS out of the crucial city of Ramadi. Even Republicans in Congress are optimistic.

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: It seemed like a victory. We should proceed with caution. If we hold Ramadi, this is a good thing for our strategy in that region and against ISIS. And these are the types of things that we should be doing more.

ACOSTA: It could be a vindication of the president's cautious approach of relying on Iraqi and Syrian forces instead of U.S. troops on the ground. The latest CNN/ORC poll finds Americans are split right down the middle on whether to send ground troops to fight ISIS, which explains in part why the president is resistant to such a move, as he said last month defending his ISIS strategy.

(on camera): Why can't we take out these bastards?

OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question. We can retake territory, and as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremists groups.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, a senior administration official tells CNN the retaking of Ramadi would be "a significant step forward." But that official cautioned the battle is not over yet, adding, more work needs to be done to clear that crucial city -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Jim Acosta traveling with the president in Hawaii, thank you.

And joining me now, we have a leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: Thank you.

KEILAR: And I want to hear what you think about -- certainly, you see those poll numbers. And I wonder if you think that the president has had the right messaging, the right tone, the right strategy when it comes to the threat from ISIS.

CARSON: I think so.

I think the president has been very introspective with regards to this and looking at tightening internal controls within the administration and the intelligence apparatus. I will say that the work that we have done in the region has been proven to be successful, as we have seen. There is still much more work to do, as we have heard from Iraqi officials, in terms of clearing the certain areas within the city, as it were, looking for land mines and looking for bombs that are placed in houses and even apartments.

And our next stop, of course, is Mosul, which seems to be ISIL's strongest stronghold. And once we clear out Mosul, which has a high population, I think we can get to the real work of disseminating (sic) and eliminating ISIL across the board.

KEILAR: What's the issue, though when we're looking at these poll numbers? And they are really startling, because you have 51 percent of Americans who say they don't think the government or they believe the government can't prevent a terrorist attack. And, obviously, you know, that's a significant change. Or they think the government can.

So, you see how that's dipped. And, furthermore, there are a number of Americans or there is a bigger percentage of people who were trusting George W. Bush when it came to terrorism over President Obama. I know that's not a number that the White House would welcome. What do you think is behind that?

CARSON: I think it's difficult.

On one end, you have leaders of many nations who demonize America in public and behind closed doors they are asking for our help. I think, in many ways, our motives have been impugned or questioned as it relates to our presence there and our motivation behind their natural resources.

[18:10:02]

But it is clear that our military and intelligence efforts have clearly helped. They have helped with training purposes and they have helped to neutralize many extremist threats.

The larger question becomes, as the U.S., Russia and Europe, as we debate over what must happen to bring forth a democratic Syria, it's very clear that our combined efforts have helped to decimate the ISIL threat.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Carson, stay with us.

We're getting more information about some threats in European cities. We're obviously curious if they are credible. We are going to ask you about that after a quick break.

CARSON: Sure.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: We are back now with House Intelligence Committee member Andre Carson.

And we do have some breaking news. Iraq is claiming that it has freed the city, key city of Ramadi from the grip of ISIS. This is happening as several European cities have been warned about possible terror attacks this week. Congressman Carson, you have heard about the threat to European

cities, possible terror attacks between Christmas and New Year's Day. Do you know if there's any known threats to the homeland as we head into this holiday?

CARSON: Clearly, I'm not at liberty to talk about these matters.

What I will say is that American citizens should be ever cautious during the holiday season and especially at large gatherings, being aware of surroundings and listening to alerts from the Department of Homeland Security and even local law enforcement.

[18:15:11]

KEILAR: Would you say that people should avoid large gatherings, or, I mean, is this sort of the specific venue that something could happen?

CARSON: No.

I mean, I think this is -- this would be playing into the hands of those who wish to do us harm. I think we should go on about our lives and leave -- and leave the work up to the intelligence community and law enforcement community. However, we have a duty as citizens. If we see something, we should say something.

KEILAR: OK. So, what should -- is there anything specific they should be looking for or any sort of advice you might give?

CARSON: Well, I think you should look for suspicious activity.

I think you should look -- go to the DHS, Department of Homeland Security dot-gov's Web site and look for the indicators of suspicious activity. Go to local law enforcement Web sites and look for those indicators as well.

KEILAR: OK. Let's talk about this message, purportedly from the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It's a very long message obviously meant to kind of pump up ISIS fighters, maybe goad the U.S. into further conflict. Do you have reason to believe this is the real deal, that this is authentic?

CARSON: Well, one thing that al-Baghdadi said that is true is that he said the world is against Da'esh, or ISIL. And he's right. The world is against ISIS.

We're seeing the global community unite. We're seeing our friends in the Arab League and Arab nations unite against this growing threat. I think it's clear that we are going to lean more and more on our friends in the Arab League and even the Organization of Islamic Conferences, the OIC, to really ultimately eliminate this threat.

We're fighting not only an extremist battle, but we're fighting an ideological and a philosophical battle that has to be dismantled and disrupted. We're seeing successes, as we have seen today in Ramadi, and our next stop is Mosul. KEILAR: Last hour, I did ask Congressman Pete King about his

call to increase surveillance of Muslims, of mosques, really to look in Muslim communities in this fight against terror.

He staunchly defended this idea. He says that it would not hurt relationships between Muslims and law enforcement. What do you think?

CARSON: Well, Pete King is my friend, but I absolutely, I emphatically disagree with it.

We have seen the disaster that J. Edgar Hoover's counterintelligence program was. And this is not correct. I support administration the CVE, or countering violent extremism, strategy, where there is an attempt to work with faith leaders across the spectrum, to work with mental health professionals, to work with educators, and to work with congregants in terms of gaining a greater understanding, not only of their surroundings, but of pushing back on extremist influences and to eliminate those who are becoming self- radicalized.

KEILAR: Congressman Carson, thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today, and happy new year to you, if we don't get to see you before 2016.

CARSON: You too as well.

KEILAR: Thank you very much.

CARSON: Thank you very much. Thank you.

KEILAR: Just ahead, Donald Trump's one-two punch against the Clintons. He says Hillary is playing the woman card, and he's accusing Bill of sexism. I will ask Trump's 2016 rival Senator Rand Paul for his reaction.

And what is next in the Tamir Rice case now that the grand jury has decided not to charge the officers involved in the 12-year-old's death?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:22:33]

KEILAR: We are standing by to hear from Donald Trump. He has a campaign event in New Hampshire tonight, as he's deep into a new war of words with Hillary Clinton, and now he's dragged Bill Clinton into the fray, saying that the former president's past is fair game.

CNN political reporter Sara Murray is awaiting this Trump event in Nashua.

And, Sara, tell us, there is some new response from the Clinton camp to these Trump attacks.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. As we're seeing Trump escalate these attacks not just against

Hillary Clinton, like you said, but also against Bill Clinton, the Clinton campaign put out a statement essentially saying Hillary Clinton is not going to be intimidated, she's not going to be bullied or distracted by the attacks against her or her husband.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Just weeks before the Iowa caucuses, it seems nothing is off-limits.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She was favored to win and she got schlonged. She lost. I mean, she lost.

MURRAY: Now Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are trading charges of sexism.

TRUMP: She's playing the woman's card and it's like give me a break.

MURRAY: And Trump is upping the ante, taking aim at Bill Clinton over his past infidelities and allegations of sexual harassment.

TRUMP: I think he is fair game, because his presidency was really considered to be very troubled, to put it mildly, because of all of the things that she's talking to me about. She's mentioning sexism.

MURRAY: Today, Trump tweeting, "If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband with his terrible record of women abuse while playing the women's card on me, she's wrong" -- all of this after Clinton accused Trump of having a penchant for sexism.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know that he has any boundaries at all. And his bigotry, his bluster, his bullying have become his campaign.

MURRAY: Targeting Bill's behavior may fire up Trump's backers. But attacking Hillary over her husband's indiscretions could fuel her own supporters.

Meanwhile, Trump is waging war on other fronts, today facing sharp criticism from Jeb Bush.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is not serious about being a candidate. He's a great politician. He fills the space. He's the chaos candidate. And he'd be the chaos president of the United States.

[18:25:04]

MURRAY: And launching a flurry of tweets slamming the Virginia GOP for requiring voters to declare they're Republicans, saying, "Straighten out the Republican Party of Virginia before it is too late." Trump's getting a frosty welcome in New Hampshire today, too, as

"The Union Leader"'s publisher releases an editorial slamming Trump as a crude blowhard, today, Trump firing back, calling publisher Joe McQuaid a lowlife.

TRUMP: He's a real lowlife. There's no question about it.

MURRAY: And taking a shot at Chris Christie over Bridgegate right as his fortunes are improving in the Granite State.

TRUMP: Chris can't win because of his past. And I don't believe you have heard the last of the George Washington Bridge, because there's no way that he didn't know about the closure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: These are the sharpest words we have heard from Trump so far against Chris Christie. It gives you a sense of the idea that Trump is not willing to pull any punches as we get closer to these first voting states in Iowa and New Hampshire. We will see if he brings any of those attacks to the stump here tonight in Nashua -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Sara Murray with Donald Trump in New Hampshire, thank you so much, Sara.

I want to get reaction now to Trump's latest attacks and counterattacks from one of his Republican rivals.

Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul is joining us live from his home state of Kentucky.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us during this holiday break.

And, you know, listening to Donald Trump go after Bill Clinton, of course, it reminds us that you went after him as well. What is your reaction to Donald Trump's criticism of Bill Clinton, saying that he's fair game?

And I just have to say this. Do you think that Trump is just jumping on the Rand wagon, so to speak?

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't think it's Hillary's fault that her husband was -- had serial infidelities.

I do think, though, that there is some question that has to do with the law. The law is pretty specific on how you treat women in the workplace. And I think, if you have an intern and you have a much older man who is their superior, and they're having a liaison at the workplace, I think most people in any corporation in America would be fired. So, I think what Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky, even

though it was consensual, it would cause him to be fired from any major corporation in the country. And so I think that is a legitimate discussion. But I don't think it's Hillary's fault that she's married to a man that does this.

But it's a question about what kind of laws we should have and how you should treat women in the workplace.

KEILAR: Do you see, politically, any downside to criticizing or slamming Bill Clinton in this way?

PAUL: No.

Like I say, I don't think it's Hillary's fault. But Bill Clinton is who he is. And there are laws that we have and there are social norms. And I think we have actually improved the social norms, where men are not allowed to pray on women at the workplace. And I do think that the way Bill Clinton treated Monica Lewinsky, that kind of behavior wouldn't be tolerated in any corporation in America. And he kind of got a free pass from most of the media on it as it went through the first time.

But, like I say, this isn't Hillary Clinton's fault. But the thing is, is that if she's for workplace equality and if she's for changing the laws to make it better for women, then she needs to -- there is going to be this distinction brought up or this problem or irony brought up that her husband seemed to be a great abuser of women in the workplace.

The other problem she's going to have is, she's taken donations from some countries that have some of the worst rights, records with regard to women, Saudi Arabia, Brunei. They stone women to death in these countries. They whip women who have been raped for being raped.

I mean, she has got to explain why she takes money from these groups and why she hasn't returned it. So, yes, she does have a women's problem and I think it's not apparent yet because she gets kind of a pass from some in the media. But, boy, she's going to have some explaining to do if she's the nominee and if we have a nominee that will challenge her on these issues.

KEILAR: I do want to get your opinion of this Virginia Republican Party loyalty pledge that they have instituted. Donald Trump has attacked this. Do you think this pledge is a good idea?

PAUL: I haven't seen the pledge, but I do think that, in some ways, we all run as Republicans. We do some have loyalty to the party. But I haven't seen the pledge.

I do think, though, that we benefit. When I ran in a primary, I took a pledge to support the eventual nominee, because you know what? If I won the primary, which I did win my primary, I needed the support of all those who didn't support me. But whether or not it needs to be some kind of written oath or pledge, you know, I don't have a strong opinion because I haven't looked at the oath. KEILAR: OK. I want to turn now and talk about some really

interesting polling that we have gotten.

I do want to note that this polling happened before this news on Ramadi. But this is about the war on terror and really where Americans feel that the country is in keeping them safe from it.

Our new CNN/ORC poll released today shows only 51 percent of Americans believe the government can prevent a terrorist attack.

Do you think Americans should be that concerned?

PAUL: Well, you know, I think that terrorist attacks are very difficult to prevent, and there are some that may well be nearly impossible to prevent. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't do more. I actually think we should do more.

I think we should have more scrutiny of those who travel to our country. All of the hijackers on 9/11 came here legally. They came here with visas, but I don't think we adequately police our visa system. I don't think we have adequate background checks on people before they come here.

I also think we should do more, but it makes a difference whether you do the right thing or not. I think toppling Assad in Syria will make ISIS stronger. However, I think that Russia already has a big presence. And then I think we should have a conversation with Russia and see where our interests coincide. If there was a peace or a ceasefire in Syria, I think that would go a long way towards stabilizing the region so ISIS can be wiped out.

But it's going to take a coalition of all the surrounding countries and I believe ultimately, Muslim boots on the ground. So while I'm for doing more, it's not with American troops on the ground. It's more with Arab boots on the ground.

KEILAR: I want to talk to you, finally, about your campaign and where you see it going at this point in time. You've been struggling to get some of that enthusiasm that I know that you would like to see that would boost your poll numbers, especially as you look toward another debate, the possibility of being on an undercard debate if that continues. Where are you on that?

PAUL: Well, you know, the good news is the last two national polls, one by CNN and one by another organization today, CNN's poll showed me in sixth place. The national poll today showed me in fourth place or fifth place, one point out of fourth place. So by the criteria we have now, I would make it, and I think that's only fair.

I do think, though, that it would be a mistake to exclude Jeb Bush or to exclude people who have nationwide campaigns, have raised significant amount of money and have a ground game in the early primary states.

So I will continue to argue that people who have legitimate nationwide campaigns shouldn't be excluded and that it is a big deal. It's a huge deal for, you know, to exclude Christie or to exclude Bush from the stage. I think, really, in the end makes it almost impossible to rebound from that. So I will make the argument that the debates need to include everybody that has a legitimate national campaign.

Look, the pollings have been -- polling has been notoriously wrong recently. In Kentucky, they were off 13 points one week before. So I think we ought to base it on the elections, letting voters have a chance and not pre-deciding the outcome by covering only those who have higher numbers in polls that still include a lot of undecideds and still include a lot of people going back and forth and up and down. I don't think there's rhyme or reason to the polls. So I think we ought to be really, really careful about pre-deciding any elections.

KEILAR: All right. Senator Rand Paul, thank you so much and a happy new year to you if we don't see you before 2016 begins.

PAUL: Thank you. Happy new year to you guys, too.

KEILAR: I do want to bring in now chief political correspondent Dana Bash and Republican strategist and CNN political commentator, Kevin Madden. We also have Peter -- Peter Beinart. He is a contributing editor for Atlantic Media, and he's a CNN political commentator.

OK, so Dana, that was pretty interesting, I thought, what Rand Paul said. He said, you know, Hillary Clinton does have an issue as it pertains not just to her husband but some of the donations she's taken from countries with poor human rights records when it comes to women.

Donald Trump attacking Bill Clinton. Do you think other Republicans are going to follow his lead?

BASH: Well, they could -- well, first of all, let's just take a step back, and we know, because we've been watching it for the past, what, six or eight months, Republicans have been going after Hillary Clinton like gang busters, because it is kind of easy red meat fodder for the conservative base.

The difference now is that Donald Trump is doing it in a much more personal way. Much more personal way. A much more aggressive way.

But I think that what Rand Paul just said was fascinating when it comes to kind of trying to redirect the argument and making it about her and not about him. Making it about the fact that, you know, he is right. She does have some things to answer for about -- about the foundation taking money from countries that don't have really good records when it comes to women.

And he's also not wrong about the fact that 20, 25 years ago, when Bill Clinton had these problems with Monica Lewinsky and other women, there was -- there were people in the political world, whether it was at his behest or not, who went after these women, and they became victims. And that is something, I think, that maybe not other Republican candidates but maybe Donald Trump is going to be very eager to bring up if this war of words continues.

KEILAR: If a candidate, Donald Trump or another candidate, brings up some of Bill Clinton's past indiscretions, makes an issue of it, isn't there a risk of personalizing Hillary Clinton and making her sympathetic? Or do you think most people would...

[18:35:12] KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it largely depends on the candidate. I think Donald Trump is uniquely situated to do this, to prosecute this line of attack in a much better way because people already know who Donald Trump is, and they sort of equate this line of attack with something that they like about him, in the sense that he's not timid the way some other candidates may have been. And he is willing to bring it up, and he is willing to call Hillary Clinton out and the Democrats out and mainstream media -- let's not forget them -- for -- for -- on this particular issue and their support of Bill Clinton.

I think other candidates, they have so much more that they still need to do in telling the story about themselves and why they should be president that it would actually -- it could potentially hurt them.

But let there be no doubt, though: this is something that really does scratch an itch among some of the most vocal base Republican supporters, because they believe that either Mitt Romney or John McCain, in prosecuting the case against Barack Obama, were too timid.

KEILAR: And so -- and so they like that quality.

Peter, what do you think about this? This sort of back and forth that Donald Trump is doing and what he's saying about Bill Clinton is really eyebrow raising.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, it's good for Donald Trump, because the Republican base voters hate Hillary Clinton. It's good for Hillary Clinton, because Democratic base voters hate Donald Trump.

But I think it's worth remembering how this all started. Right? This started, because Donald Trump made a reference to the fact that Hillary Clinton going to the bathroom during the Democratic debate was, quote unquote, "disgusting." That was -- that was an absurd and appalling comment.

What Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky and even worse, frankly, with other women was deeply, deeply problematic, but there are some differences. First of all, it happened almost 20 years ago. Secondly, Bill Clinton is not running for president. Hillary Clinton is not responsible for what Bill Clinton did.

So I just don't see the logic whatsoever in trying to suggest that -- that she is in an equal position as Donald Trump here.

KEILAR: And I want to get a final thought from you, Kevin, my Republican friend, on Bernie Sanders going after Donald Trump supporters. You see -- do you see that happening?

MADDEN: I just don't see how, you know, the average Donald Trump supporter right now will get a phone call or some sort of knock on the door from Donald Trump [SIC] and actually that working. I just -- it seems like they're from two different political universes.

KEILAR: Yes, I mean, what do you think, Dana?

BASH: You know, I think that, you know, at first blush, that that's probably right. But this could be one of those moments that the far right and the far left kind of meet in the middle in terms of who they're looking for. I think they are going to be very few voters that really can turn to one and turn to the other and say, "Maybe I'm choosing between the two of them," but it is possible.

KEILAR: Peter, quick, quick final thought to you. What do you think about that?

BEINART: Well, Bernie -- THE Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters are -- have some of the same problems in terms of declining raises, but they have totally different people they blame for it, right?

Bernie Sanders people are focusing on Wall Street. And the Trump people are focusing on, basically, Mexicans and Muslims. And you're not going to convince them that those scapegoats are the wrong scapegoats to have, unfortunately.

KEILAR: Where is the overlap? We shall see.

Peter, Kevin, Dana, you guys are great. Thank you so much for being with me.

We have some breaking news next, the first protests after a grand jury decides against indicting two police officers who shot and killed a 12-year-old boy carrying a toy gun. We're watching this unfolding reaction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:42:30] KEILAR: More breaking news tonight. The Justice Department says it will continue its civil rights investigation into the fatal police shooting of a 12-year-old Ohio boy. This just hours after a grand jury decided not to indict officers involved in the death of Tamir Rice.

Rice was playing with a toy pellet gun outside of a recreation center near his home when he was shot last year. The prosecutor says it was reasonable for the police to believe the fake weapon was a real gun.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM MCGARITY, CUYAHOGA COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: I want to talk about this now with CNN anchor Don Lemon; as well as CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson; and CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes.

Don, first you to you, just react to this news. The family has said, you know, they're disappointed but maybe not surprised. What do you think?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I have similar feeling. Listen, I can't feel the way the family feels. I've just been saddened by this since it happened, and not just, you know, for the decision not to indict. You know, it's awful all the way around. I mean, no one wins when you have a boy, a young boy who was killed accidently by police.

I think probably there will be some protests when it comes to this, but I also think that, in trying to show people how they came to their decision, I think that the prosecutor and the officials did a fairly good job of explaining why they came to the conclusion that they came to, and also, you know, calling on gun manufacturers not to make toy guns look so real.

So again, it's sad, you know. There is nothing you can say to the family or to anyone, really, you know, to make any difference in this situation.

KEILAR: Joey, do you think the prosecutor did what he should have done here?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Brianna, I think the problem -- good evening, by the way -- is that the process is certainly being called into question. And why do I say that?

Whenever you're dealing with something as significant as this, you want the community to be rest assured that everything that needed to be explored would have been explored.

And the problem with any local prosecutor prosecuting a case is that they're so close to it. And if you can just -- just imagine this, the fact is, is that in any grand jury proceeding, the prosecutor is the judge, jury and executioner. I can tell you, as a former prosecutor, that generally, grand juries do what you ask them to do. And so the manner in which you present the case, the manner in which you present the information, the flow of the information, what they see and don't see is largely controlled by you.

[18:45:03] And so, I think if you want transparency, if you want a process that involves community trust, that involves community respect, it has to go to someone who's independent and if that's the case, then if there is a conclusion, everyone can say, you know what, they heard everything. I buy into it. I respect it.

But as it's currently constituted that is a process, it's hard to know and it's hard to give the community trust that the right thing happened here and that's the issue, I think.

KEILAR: The federal investigation, Joey, the Cleveland Police Department still facing that. Where does that go from here?

JACKSON: Well, I think there are two things, Brianna. We have to be mindful of the fact there was a recommendation by the Justice Department with respect to a pattern and practice of evaluation that came out in December of last year that demonstrated that there were gross deficiencies with the way that policing was done in the community. And so, the pattern and practice is established that there are things that are amiss with that particular department, and that's another reason why you don't want the local prosecutor presiding over the case and issuing a recommendation not to indict.

Now, in terms of specifically how the grand jury -- you know, how things went in this case, now it goes to the Justice Department. Now, we know that the Justice Department is evaluating this but it's such a high standard when you're looking at a federal investigation, they are looking at, was there an intentional and willful deprivation of the civil rights of Tamir Rice. That is a very high standard.

KEILAR: Yes.

JACKSON: And so, the tools that the locals have in terms of the state in charging reckless murder, negligent, criminally negligent homicide, there are so much tools that can be used by the locals that the federal government doesn't have and I think that's another reason for independent and a special prosecutor to ensure community trust and respect for the final outcome.

KEILAR: Tom, you were a police officer for many years. So, maybe you can provide that perspective in this. You have a lot of people who are looking at this and they say this was a kid. These police officers rolled up very close to this child. How did they not give him a little more latitude as they approached him? What do you say to --

(CROSSTALK)

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, some of the things are not really fair to the officer. I'm not saying this, even discussing the shooting itself yet.

But, you know, you have the situation, the officers don't know how old he is. Even the family and everyone says he was big for a 12- year-old -- well, we have gang members on the street shooting each other that are 14, 15 years old every day on every -- big city in this country. They have no trouble pulling the trigger, either getting a gun and then using it to kill other young people. That's number one.

Number two, I was a fire instructor for most of my 36 years in law enforcement and I can tell you from me to you right here, if I was holding this gun, you could not tell me --

KEILAR: But you said that the other officer shouldn't have rolled up so close, right? FUENTES: Well, that's a separate issue. But starting at the

gun, there is no way for that officer to know if that's a real gun or not. They look identical. You can't tell them apart until you pick them up and see that one is plastic and one's got bullets in it. It's heavier.

As far as rolling up, people reported that there were a lot of children in the park. Now, it might have been the officer that's driving judgment to use that car as a shield to prevent if Tamir Rice is really a bad guy, to get between him and all the other kids that were playing and use that police car as a shield.

So, there are things that have automatically been, you know, used against the officers when there is a good reason.

KEILAR: All right. Tom Fuentes, thank you so much. Joey Jackson, Don Lemon, thank you guys.

And Don is going to be back here at 10:00 p.m. Eastern for his program "CNN TONIGHT".

We're going to have much more news ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:52:31] KEILAR: As we near the end of 2015, CNN is exploring the epidemic of heroin addiction. It's getting more national attention as this crisis grows deadlier.

And tonight, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to an athlete-turned-addict who got hooked, as many heroin users do, by taking prescription pain killers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When he was 8 years old, Joe Putignano became obsessed with gymnastics. He was so good that his dreams of going to the Olympics seemed within reach.

He couldn't have imagined that a dental procedure when he was 19 would derail the dreams and start a whole new obsession with prescription pain pills.

JOE PUTIGNANO, RECOVERING HEROIN USER: It just worked. You know, it clicked. It is like the stars were aligned, and I have never felt anything like it.

GUPTA: This time it was Percocet, but the high Joe felt from all sorts of opiates eventually led him to another opiate delivery system, heroin -- one of the most dangerously addictive substances on the planet, nearly impossible to escape.

As hard as he tried, Joe was amongst 78 percent of the heroin addicts who relapse over and over again, a relapse he would encounter when he worked at "The New York Times". (on camera): Many times you were clean?

PUTIGNANO: Yes, I was 27 years old, and "The New York Times" had sent me to rehab, I was so grateful, still am, and it was there that a therapist suggested that I go back to something that I was passionate about which was gymnastics.

In my eyes, I was a failure, because my only goal was to go back to the Olympics, and I didn't. So, to go back to the sport was to walk through humiliation. I went back to it in rehab, as I was doing handstands and the push-ups just to kind of gain a sense of what that would feel like, and this fire inside of me, I should say a spark kind of ignited.

GUPTA (voice-over): No surprise, it felt pretty good. After rehab, Joe caught a break, and started performing on Broadway.

But the thing about heroin, is that the possibility of a relapse was always waiting there for him in the wings.

PUTIGNANO: I managed to stay clean for a year and a half. Amazing my life changed, I was performing on Broadway, I couldn't believe it. As a heroin addict and here I am performing on Broadway.

GUPTA: But it was another visit to the dentist, another prescription, and this time for Vicodin, and then --

[18:55:03] PUTIGNANO: I took it as prescribed and within four hours, I was shooting heroin.

GUPTA (on camera): Four hours?

PUTIGNANO: Yes. And on Broadway, yes.

GUPTA: You were clean for a year and a half performing on Broadway, you get an FDA-approved medication from a doctor, and within four hours --

PUTIGNANO: Yes, it woke up something ancient in me.

GUPTA: You took that Vicodin to a year and a half clean, and describe again, what did you feel?

PUTIGNANO: Like I came home. Like, oh, I have missed you.

GUPTA (voice-over): Stories about recovery are almost always messy. People move forward a little, and then may slip back even more, but for Joe, each time, it did become easier.

PUTIGNANO: These are all of my emergency room overdoses and everything like that. I need to see a reminder, you know, of who I was.

GUPTA: The same obsessions that fuelled the addiction also fueled his dazzling performances like this one as the crystal man in Cirque du Soleil's totem, tethered at the waist, spinning, shoulders pinned back, the twisting, the turning, stunning to watch, but also putting so much pressure to be upper body.

For two years, his injuries mounted. Joe would eventually need surgery, painful surgery. He knew one thing, though, pain pills could not be allowed, because the risk of relapse was so great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know your goal. The goal is to avoid anything that you had a problem with in the past.

PUTIGNANO: Of course.

GUPTA (on camera): You decided to let us follow you along through the shoulder operation. Why did you allow that?

PUTIGNANO: Well, at first, I didn't want to, because it felt like a private thing and then I remembered what I had gone through. And I was like, this could actually help people.

GUPTA (voice-over): Joe came through those operations with flying colors. Instead of opioids, he was given a nerve block, and anti-inflammatories, even acupuncture, it worked for him. He got back the school, was exercising again, and then he needed another operation, and this time, his ankle.

PUTIGNANO: I was getting my ankle operated on, it was not nearly as severe as my shoulders, I had done everything that we had in place for my shoulders, I told them what medications I can have and what I can't have, and the day of surgery, there's a -- like a five-page document that you sign.

And on every single one where it says allergy, it said no opiates, in big letters. OK. Awesome. We have talked about it.

And waking up out of surgery, and it feels like someone sawed my ankle in half, because it is kind of what happened. And then the nurse said, are you in pain, and I said, yes, I was not even awake.

And then all of the sudden I felt something, that thing, that ancient feeling like, oh, my God, and I said, "What did you give me?" And she said fentanyl. And I was like, oh, my God. So, I freaked out because it felt good, you know? It was like I was eight years clean, and I was like, I was drugged.

GUPTA: Whether or not the nurse simply forgot or there is still a fundamental misunderstanding about the severity of addiction, Joe was in trouble again. But this time, the brutal years that he had endured through recovery paid off. This time, there were no more pills, no more heroin, no more relapse.

PUTIGNANO: So, this is the old apartment that I used to live in.

GUPTA (on camera): Literally across the hall.

PUTIGNANO: Yes, 17 years ago when I was a heroin addict. It was actually during 9/11 and my apartment was full of syringes. And it's interesting now living the way that I do, because it's like you make that one decision that changes your life. When I walked down the hall I take a right and not a left.

GUPTA: And that was the old Joe and this is the new Joe?

PUTIGNANO: Yes.

GUPTA (voice-over): And his first obsession, his first love really, is still very much a part of the life.

(on camera): This a sanctuary for you now? A gym?

PUTIGNANO: Yes, this is pretty much where I have done my recovery not just from surgery, but also where I come to when I have a lot of emotion in sobriety.

GUPTA (voice-over): The gym is now a refuge, a sort of place of safety, and far, far away from his addiction to heroin.

PUTIGNANO: Addiction is the only cell where the key is on the inside, and I don't live in that cell anymore.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Thank you so much for watching. I'm Brianna Keilar.

And "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.