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THE SITUATION ROOM
Cosby Charged with Sex Assault, Free on $1 Million Bail; Obama Briefed on Threats to Three U.S. Cities; Trump Declares Clintons, Bush His Enemies; At Least 14 Dead in Missouri Flooding; Death of Another North Korean Official. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 30, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Holiday terror threat. President Obama briefed on an overseas threat against three major U.S. cities warning of possible attacks between Christmas and New Year's Day. Can increased security keep some of the country's largest celebrations safe?
[17:00:12] And flood warning. More than 12 million Americans in 17 states in the path of rising waters. States of emergency in effect with some rivers forecast to reach historic highs. Will this unfolding disaster claim more lives?
Trump declares war. The Republican presidential frontrunner labels his rivals, including Hillary Clinton, enemies. And he vows to wage an all-out battle for the White House, including his first major ad campaign. How much of his own money does he plan to spend?
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: We're following this breaking news. Bill Cosby now charged with three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault stemming from a 2004 allegation. The comedian engulfed by news media as he entered a Pennsylvania court for arraignment. Cosby did not enter a plea, but he was forced to surrender his passport before going to a police station for booking. And tonight he is free on $1 million bail.
We're also following terror fears surrounding the New Year's holiday. Senior U.S. officials tell CNN that President Obama was briefed about an overseas threat of possible attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. The sources say the threat doesn't mention specific locations in those cities. We're covering that and more this hour with our guests, including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She is a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee. And our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.
Let's begin, though, with the sex assault charges against Bill Cosby. CNN's Jean Casarez has been working this story for us tirelessly today.
Jean, tell us. Bill Cosby's attorney just released a statement. What did she say? JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did -- and she did. And we want
to tell everyone what that statement is. This is from the defense council for Bill Cosby. And they say, quote, "The charge by the Montgomery County district attorney's office came as no surprise. Filed 12 years after the alleged incident and coming on the heels of a hotly contested election for this county's D.A., during which this case was made the focal point. Make no mistake: We intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge. And we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law."
And Monique Presley is the lead council for Mr. Cosby. And she accompanied him into the courtroom today arm in arm as he walked in. And this is a very small, very quaint courthouse. I've actually never seen anything like it in my life before. You walk in off the street through the door, and you're in the one courtroom right there.
And so as I was sitting in the courtroom, that's what I witnessed. And I saw him come in. I saw Monique Presley lead him in. He seemed to not be able to see as he walked through the courtroom being led by her. A short distance, of course, because it was such a small room. But she put him in his seat, and then she sat to one side. His other attorney sat on the other side, and the judge then began the very short proceeding, which is really constitutional in nature.
It is to apprise him of the charges, which they did, aggravated indecent assault. And she went through the three different counts, which are the various theories on that. And then also told him about the bail that she had set, $1 million in bail. And she talked about the conditions and that he could have no contact with the alleged victim, that he could in no way travel outside of the country. And she asked for the passport. And his attorney had the passport and stood up and immediately gave it to the prosecutor. They were just so willing to cooperate in every form and fashion.
Mr. Cosby spoke two different times in that courtroom. One was when she reiterated, "You have no contact with the alleged victim." He said, "No contact with?" -- she said, "The complainant." "Oh, OK."
And then a second time she said, "Good luck, Mr. Cosby," and he said, "Thank you." And it was over.
KEILAR: Some really curious moments there that you describe. And also in this video that we see of him going to this courthouse. He actually trips over the curb, and his attorney and the other man with him kind of steady him. So that's sort of an interesting point.
When you said it seemed like he was struggling to see, and we've heard him talk about problems with his eyesight in the past.
This alleged incident, Jean, it happened, or it allegedly occurred in 2004. Why is this happening now?
CASAREZ: For one reason and one reason only: the statute of limitations went 12 years. And that's virtually unheard of when you're talking about an adult and sexual assault. But here in Pennsylvania it's a 12-year statute of limitations. Secondly, the civil deposition from that civil case of Andrea
Constand, in 2005 it was sealed, sealed to the point that Bruce Castor, the original district attorney, had told CNN on air that he had never seen it. So as the sitting district attorney, he never availed himself or was given that deposition.
Well, that deposition is where Mr. Cosby is asked many questions about Andrea Constand. And he admits in the deposition that he did meet with her, that they did have dinner several times, and that there was sexual contact but that it was consensual. And so obviously -- and he also gave a statement to police. And that is in the affidavit of probable cause today. A statement he gave back in 2005, which says basically the very same thing.
So now they are placing their credence in Andrea Constand. And I spoke with her attorney today, and Andrea Constand is now in Canada. She is from Canada, and that she is so grateful that the district attorney's office, the newly-elected district attorney, is placing his confidence in her.
KEILAR: Twelve-year statute of limitations and 12 years from the alleged incident either next month or in February. Maybe not a coincidence.
All right. Jean Casarez there in Montgomery County. Thanks so much.
Cosby made two sexual advances towards the victim that were rejected. This is according to the district attorney, who revealed new details of the alleged assault.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN STEELE, FIRST ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: What we know is that pills were provided. There's inconsistencies on what type of pills they were. There was also wine that was provided. We then go to the reaction of the victim, you know, frozen, paralyzed, unable to -- unable to move. A person in that state cannot give consent; therefore, the aggravated indecent charge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I want to bring in now CNN national correspondent Deborah Feyerick.
Deb, you've been digging on this story. You've been looking at this criminal complaint, many, many pages. Tell us what it alleges.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially it's based on Bill Cosby's own words, these statements that Jean referred to that he gave during a deposition in which he admits giving women Quaaludes, intending to have sex with them.
Now, he says it was always consensual, that the women knew what they were taking. But this criminal complaint gives a very different story. And this is the defendant here, William Henry Cosby. It gives a very different story. And it essentially says that when Andrea Constand, who is 37 years
Bill Cosby's junior, went to his home because he had invited her to discuss her career, she said that she felt drained. And so he gave her these three blue pills. She took them along with some wine, and that's when she said she became paralyzed, couldn't move and the alleged sexual assault took place.
According to the criminal complaint it says, quote, "Cosby substantially impaired the complainant's power to appraise or control her conduct by administering drugs, intoxicants or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance."
Now, she held this secret very closely for several months. She did return to Canada, as Jean said. That's when she told her mother. And her mother, according to the complaint, called Bill Cosby up and confronted him. And according to the complaint, Cosby allegedly acknowledged that this had happened.
What kind of evidence they're going to provide in terms of -- he says, she -- two sides of a different coin, it's going to be very interesting. But this is a decade old -- more than a decade old this case, Brianna.
KEILAR: It's striking, Deb, that what Andrea Constand says happened, it really matches up with what Bill Cosby says happened in this incident, except he seems to describe it as a consensual act, even though he admits to giving her what he calls at one point, right, "three little friends" to help her relax, as he's referring to these pills.
FEYERICK: Yes. And that's exactly right. And that's at the heart of all of this. You know, Bill Cosby always sort of said that this was consensual, but there are statements that he makes, not only in the deposition but in the criminal complaint, that seem to sort of out of character, you know, just seem a little bit confusing the way he words those comments.
And remember, his lawyer was sitting right next to him during the deposition and kept interrupting him, cutting him off. But on the complaint he does say, quote, "Cosby said the victim never told him to stop, never pushed him away, never told him her vision was blurred, and never said she felt paralyzed or affected by the Benadryl."
She is alleging, however, that she wasn't even in a position to tell him that this was the way she was feeling. She felt dizzy and nauseous, and she says she could not use her legs. So she knew what was going on. She just couldn't stop it. So for Bill Cosby to say that she never told him to stop, that you can be sure is going to be raised at trial, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Deborah Feyerick, thanks so much.
Let's get more now on the breaking news with CNN anchors Michael Smerconish and Don Lemon, as well as defense attorney and CNN legal analyst Mark Geragos and former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin, who's joining us on the phone. To you first, Sunny. You read the deposition that is cited in this
criminal complaint, and it really seems damning. I mean, these are Bill Cosby's own words, admitting that he gave Constand these pills. How strong do you think the prosecutor's case is here?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (VIA PHONE): I think it's very strong. I mean, generally I would say this is the kind of case that you would want to see a plea. You would see a plea deal. You're not going to see a plea deal in this case, because no one wants to look not only soft on crime but soft on sexual assault, given that there are now over 60 people that have alleged that Bill Cosby has raped them or fondled them or sexually assaulted them. And so really, in this...
KEILAR: All right. I think we lost Sunny's connection there, unfortunately. We'll try to get her back on.
Mark, I want to talk to you about this, because you represented a lot of people who've been accused of some pretty some pretty serious crimes, facing a mountain of evidence: Chris Brown, Gary Condit, Scott Peterson. If you were representing Bill Cosby, how would you prepare to defend him?
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think they've already started. They've framed this as a political prosecution. They've said the only reason -- in that statement that just came out, the only reason is because this was as a result of a hotly-contested election for the prosecutor. And so the prosecutor then files it right before the statute of limitations was going to run.
You're absolutely correct. Twelve years is a very long statute for an adult sexual crime. And that's one of the longest in the country.
And I think the biggest problem they're going to have, meaning the defense, is that the prosecution, under Pennsylvania law, will be able to bring in -- and they'll make an application to the judge, to bring in other people who claim they were assaulted in the same way. This is called common scheme or plan or modus operandi evidence. And normally, you'd say as a defense lawyer, well, that's character assassination, has nothing to do with this. The prosecution will argue, no, this is his similar plan and the way he operates. And they'll do a parade of people.
You might remember years ago when Phil Spector was prosecuted here in Los Angeles for murder. They did the same thing. And they brought in four or five women who testified about him threatening with guns. So they're going to do the exact same thing here. And that's going to be the most arguably damning evidence and the most challenging from the defense standpoint.
KEILAR: Trying to argue that he has an M.O. here.
So, Michael, you hear this argument coming from his defense lawyer saying this is just purely political. But that doesn't change the facts here that these are Bill Cosby's words. You've written about sort of why this deposition was released after
all of these years. Tell us a little bit about the reasoning that the judge makes and also whether that will hold water when it comes to a challenge that Cosby's lawyer could make.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna, I think that the headline today is hypocrisy did him in. And I have some questions, some reservations about the logic that was used by the federal judge, who puts this case in the posture in which we find it today.
And it's very interesting that Don Lemon is a part of our conversation right now, because Don is actually cited in a footnote of the very key legal brief.
KEILAR: That's right.
SMERCONISH: Here's the explanation. There was an underlying civil case, and you've made reference to that. That civil case was settled a year or so after Andrea Constand made these charges. And it was settled pursuant to a confidentiality order. Ten years then elapses.
And when Bill Cosby then becomes a focal point of some complaints that have been raised by women, the federal judge in this case takes issue with his moralistic grandstanding. He cites an interview -- among three different incidents he cites an interview that he did with Don, which don can better speak to than can I, and the judge said, "You know what? This guy's a hypocrite. And I am going to allow this deposition, which otherwise would never have seen the light of day, to be out on the street."
And when that became part of the public document, the public reference point, now the current D.A. said, "I have what my predecessor didn't have. I have enough of a basis to bring this case."
I have to believe that a Mark Geragos, an A-list criminal defense attorney, is going to look at this record, reconstruct it and say, "Wait a minute. This information should never have come into the public domain. And therefore wasn't appropriately the basis for bringing these charges."
[17:15:05] KEILAR: What do you think, Don? Do you think that Bill Cosby does not -- that he's not entitled to a more broad zone of privacy, as this judge said that he isn't, because he made himself out to be a moral authority?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. That's a big question. I'm not a legal expert, but I thought it was very interesting that I became part of the conversation or at least an interview. And that interview I think interviewed Mr. Cosby twice regarding some -- how he was helping young people at colleges and money that he was donating.
And then we went into talking about what, you know, what he thought people should do, especially in the black community how he thought that they should conduct themselves.
One thing that was mentioned was also the pound cake speech, that infamous pound cake speech from 2004, where he talked about people going and stealing Coca-Colas and getting shot in the head for pound cakes and he just thought it was ridiculous that people in the community were doing that.
But during our interview he mentions a similar thing saying, you know, black men should take care of their kids and several other statements that I can't recall right now. I'd have to go back and look at the interview.
But the judge basically said that, if he holds himself up as a moral authority in the community on a platform as big as CNN, worldwide in an interview with Don Lemon, then he found that hypocritical if he was, in fact, doing the things that these women accuse him of doing.
I do have to say, Brianna, that I did speak to one of the survivors -- I like to call them survivors and not victims -- and won't give that person's name away, but that person said that they felt vindicated by today. Finally that someone believes them. That it is a good thing that Bill Cosby is getting his mugshot taken and having his fingerprints done.
And the other interesting thing is that -- that everyone seems to be surprised about Bill Cosby tripping over the curb and his eyesight. It was mentioned in the deposition, I believe it was...
KEILAR: Yes. He said that he had bad eyesight and couldn't read a bottle or something, right?
LEMON: ... the one where he's suing -- from glaucoma. Yes. And if you look at the Mark Whitaker -- yes, Mark Whitaker who worked here at CNN and wrote a biography of Cosby before all of this started to unfold recently, talked about his eyesight and that basically he's legally blind.
KEILAR: OK, real quick. I want to play something that Bill Cosby said in 1991 to Larry King. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: There's a thing about Spanish Fly. You know anything about Spanish Fly?
LARRY KING, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: When we were kids, we used to...
COSBY: There you go. That's all. I just wanted a recognition.
KING: We knew what it was.
COSBY: A Spanish Fly was the thing that all boys from age 11 on up to death, we will still be searching for Spanish Fly.
KING: That's right.
COSBY: And what was the old story? The old story was if you took a little drop -- no, it was on the head of a...
COSBY: Pin. And you put it in the drink...
KING: Coca-Cola, don't matter.
COSBY: Doesn't make a difference. And the girl would drink it and...
KING: She's yours.
COSBY: Hello America. And that -- there's a story in there about Spanish Fly. So I think that everybody, any guy picking it up will just have a ball reading it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: OK. Mark, respond to that. Because at times Spanish Fly was sort of referred to as an aphrodisiac, but really, this is a disarming drug. And it's -- if I am as a prosecutor, I'd put that in front of the jury. Isn't that damning?
GERAGOS: Yes, you do. But I'm going to tell you what's more damning. And I'll hearken back to what Michael Smerconish was saying. The -- that deposition transcript, the fact that that was released after he had paid to have it sealed, after he had thought it was confidential; and the lawyers knowing that the statute of limitations is running six months after it was revealed or was out in the public marketplace is going to be the most damning thing of all, because that's all the prosecutor needs to tie this up completely and give him what most jurors are going to want.
You're going to have a woman testifying, and then you're going to have the words out of his own mouth. That is the -- from a defense lawyer's standpoint, that is the nightmare that you face in this case.
And that's going to also be the biggest problem when they do a challenge to the pre-filing delay. Because they're going to say, "Hey, wait a second here. Even though statute of limitations is 12 years, you can't wait until the eleventh hour to file this case."
And the prosecutor's going to come back and say, "Oh, yes, I can, because we didn't have available to us until July 2015 this transcript of his own words. It was under seal. That's where they're going to fight. And that's going to be one of the pretrial skirmishes in this case.
KEILAR: OK, Mark, stand by for me. Sunny, Don, Michael, I want to talk much more about this after a break. We'll be right back.
[17:22:50] KEILAR: I want to get more now on this breaking news with CNN anchors Michael Smerconish and Don Lemon, along with defense attorney and CNN legal analyst Mark Geragos. We also have former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin joining us on the phone. To you first, Michael. I know the timing here is something that has
really surprised you. It was a few months ago that we learned of this deposition that had previously been sealed. And we end up seeing this very, very forthcoming pretty much Bill Cosby, and the statute of limitations set to expire 12 years, which would be January or February.
SMERCONISH: Well, actually, Brianna, I'm not surprised by this timeline. I actually predicted it. Once that deposition came out in the summer, I thought it was a foregone conclusion that this prosecution would be brought.
I know the local players, and that's why I'm not surprised. The current district attorney is tough on crime. Her name is Risa Ferman. She's just been elected judge, so she's in her final -- I don't know -- 48 or so hours of office.
The incoming D.A. -- and this is interesting and I'll try and keep it straight -- the incoming D.A. made this a campaign issue. He criticized the old D.A. against whom he was running, Bruce Castor. And he said, "Bruce Castor, you should have done something about Cosby." But then in the same breath, he acknowledges that he could only bring this current case because of the deposition. Well, Castor never had the deposition ten years ago.
So it became a real flashpoint in the recent election. Steele was victorious; Castor lost. He's bitter about it, because he thinks he's been besmirched in the process. He had a strong record against crime and was known as a tough guy and said to me personally, "Hell, if I could have locked up Bill Cosby, believe me, I'd have done it."
KEILAR: Yes. Fascinating point that you make there.
Sunny, something that was really noteworthy in this deposition was Bill Cosby saying that, you know, he saw this incident, this alleged rape from what Andrea Constand says, or sexual assault, to be a consensual experience between them. What does that tell -- tell people about his mindset?
HOSTIN: Well, to be clear the only issue here is the issue of consent. And that is actually very difficult to prove when you're prosecuting these kinds of cases. We typically call them he said/she said cases.
[17:25:15] But in this case he says that it is consensual, Brianna, but then he also says during the deposition that he gave her wine and these three little blue pills. And so it's very clear, once you look at the law and practice practical experience, that someone that's drugged can't give consent.
So that sort of proves the prosecution's case for the prosecution. And that makes this case -- I never want to say a case is a slam dunk, but that makes this case much more prosecutable, much more winnable.
And let's face it, other women are going to be allowed to testify, in my view. Now dealing with a he said versus she said, versus she said, versus she said versus she said.
KEILAR: Times a few dozen. And he also admits in this deposition that he had seven prescriptions for Quaaludes that he did not intend on taking himself. Something else there.
Mark, tell us what's changed over the last ten years. Because you had 14 women back then who were saying, "Look, we've been assaulted by Bill Cosby." And their allegations were swept aside. Some of them were just demonized, dismissed and released. What's changed in ten years?
GERAGOS: Well, the statute of limitations here is one of the biggest things. Like I said, you've got one of the longest statutes for adult sexual offenses anywhere in the country. It's longer than you have in California, which is the most recent prosecutorial agency that's investigated him.
You also have, I think, a sea change in people's thinking about consent in the last ten years. Because, as Sunny just mentioned, you now have a situation where, not only is he admitting to the sex and saying it's consensual, but he's admitting to the wine and pills.
Now, you know, in a different generation that might have seemed OK. And you play that Spanish Fly thing and people joke, but you almost cringe at just since '91 how we've kind of educated ourselves on that. And now we have a situation where in this transcript he's admitting to supplying her with alcohol and pills. That becomes a real problem because then it's going to be --was it Benadryl or was it one of these Quaaludes that he had a prescription for but he didn't take?
And I think, depending on who your jurors are, that's where you're going to have some real problems, especially when you bring in a parade of other witnesses who are going to say, "Yes, he gave me something. I felt weak. I didn't know what happened."
And if they start -- and trust me, they're going to be coached by the prosecution. And they will know exactly what the high points and the flash points are for them to say in order to make it sound like it's, oh, my goodness, there is a common motive and or a common scheme.
KEILAR: Yes. He -- they will set up that he has a standard operating procedure, will be the goal of the prosecution.
Mark Geragos, Sunny Hostin, Michael Smerconish, Don Lemon, thanks so much. And we'll be seeing Don tonight at 10 p.m., so tune in. He'll have much more on this.
Next, terror threats against three major U.S. cities as they prepare to celebrate the new year. We are learning new details about that.
Plus, breaking news: more than 12 million Americans under flood warnings. Some rivers are forecast to reach historic highs. We'll be live in one of the hardest hit areas.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: We're learning about a threat of possible terror attacks in America's two largest cities as they prepare to hold New Year's celebrations expected to draw millions of people. Senior U.S. Officials are telling CNN that President Obama was briefed about an overseas threat against New York and Los Angeles as well as Washington, D.C., during this holiday week.
CNN justice reporter Evan Perez is in New York's Times Square on this story. Evan, tell us what you're hearing about these sources and these threats and how credible they are and how concerned people should be.
[17:32:34] EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, Brianna, they're treating it very, very seriously, simply because of the time of year, in light of what happened in Paris this year and San Bernardino just recently.
Here in Times Square you're already seeing police with long rifles. You're seeing a lot more officers on the street. I think 6,000 officers are going to be here on the scene in Los Angeles. Officials say they're going to be boosting security for the Rose Bowl, which draws tourists and visitors from around the country. And in Washington, it's the same story.
KEILAR: It's about what law enforcement is doing. Obviously, we know that they've beefed things up in New York, but it's pretty fascinating to see how they're approaching this.
PEREZ: Say again?
KEILAR: All right. Evan, can you tell me what law enforcement is doing? If you can hear me, I know you have an ambulance going by.
PEREZ: That's right. We do. We have a lot of ambulances going by. Well, one of the things law enforcement is doing is they're boosting the presence of the FBI here in New York and some of the command centers around the country.
And, you know, the Homeland Security Department put out a bulletin just recently saying, look, there's no specific credible threat that they know of of terrorism in this country.
However, they want to make sure that they know that the terrorist groups want to strike here in the United States, especially at what we've seen recently, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Evan Perez for us there in a very noisy Times Square. I do now want to get more on this with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's a member of the Armed Services as well as the Foreign Affairs Committee. And she is also an Iraq War veteran.
Congressman Gabbard, thanks so -- Congresswoman, pardon me, Gabbard, thanks for joining us. And I know you've probably been briefed. I know you've been informed on some of these threats. What can you tell us about, really, how concerned people should be going into New Year's Eve?
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: Well, Brianna, this is something that I think has to be taken seriously. And it's something that, as we look at these types of large events, as we look at these potential targets, we've got to recognize that this is a problem that's only going to get worse unless we really take this enemy, this Islamic extremist enemy and the ideology that's driving them, seriously.
I think one of the biggest problems that we're seeing right now in the Middle East is that we're only looking at ISIS as the enemy when, in fact, you've got al Qaeda, you've got al Nusra, you've got al Shabaab, you've got all these other Islamic extremist groups that not only exist there but, in fact, we are working with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and some of these other countries to actually help them by providing arms and money in the efforts to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad.
[17:35:12] So it's important for us to actually identify who this enemy is, this Islamic extremist enemy. And the ideology that's driving them, in order to effectively defeat and destroy them.
KEILAR: What is your message to people who are going to be celebrating? They're going to be heading into Times Square. They'll be going to the Rose Bowl. What should they be keeping in mind?
GABBARD: Be aware of your surroundings. Be safe. Have fun with your family and friends. But recognize that this is a possible threat that exists. So be aware of your surroundings. Maintain that situational awareness. And if you see something, then make sure you report it.
KEILAR: I do want to ask you about what appears to be a victory, certainly, for Iraqi forces and for coalition forces aiding Iraqis in Ramadi this week. They've driven ISIS fighters out of most of the city, 25 percent of it at this point still has some is fighters in it. But do you think it's going to hold? Will this victory be something that the Iraqi forces can maintain?
GABBARD: And that is the question, Brianna. Will this be able to be sustained? And if you look at it, the battle was actually, I think, the easier question. The tougher question is, unless there is a plan in place for the Sunni territory to be governed and secured by the Sunni tribes, then I think the likelihood is very high that you will see an opening for ISIS to make their way back in.
That's been the key all along is that these territories have to be governed and secured by the people who have held them, literally, for generations. This is something that I've long called for in each of these different offensives that has been launched in Iraq. And we've seen failures in the past, because that plan was not in place. And why I think it's so important for us to implement and help facilitate a three-state solution where you empower the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shia to govern and secure their own territories.
KEILAR: You say what you think, really, what is key to taking on not just ISIS but other terrorists is really to identify Islamic extremism. Do you feel that that's not being done at this point in time enough?
GABBARD: No, Brianna, it's not. And again, I just mentioned, you know, if you look at Syria as one example, so much of the focus is we've got to defeat ISIS, we've got to defeat ISIS. But in fact you have al Qaeda, the people who perpetrated the attack on 9/11 here in the United States. You've got al Nusra. You've got all of these other Islamic extremist groups that...
KEILAR: But just to clarify, Congresswoman, is it -- is it that you think that -- you want the administration to be clearer about this?
GABBARD: Yes. The administration, in order to have an effective strategy, must first clearly identify the enemy. If ISIS were destroyed today, in Syria alone there are at least 65,000 other violent radical Islamist fighters who are just as bad as ISIS and who will continue to pose this threat not only to the region but to the American people.
This is why it's so important not to just go after one organization called ISIS, but to recognize this radical Islamist ideology that's driving ISIS, that's driving al Qaeda, al Nusra and these groups that go by other names. That's the only way that we're actually going to be able to defeat this threat.
KEILAR: All right. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, thanks so much for joining us, and a happy new year to you, since I doubt we'll see you before 2016.
GABBARD: Happy new year, Brianna.
KEILAR: Thank you.
And coming up, Donald Trump will declare it's war. He's going to name his enemies. We'll tell you who's on the list.
We're also awaiting a live update on this hour's breaking news. Historic floods inundating homes, closing down major interstates and claiming lives.
[18:40:08] KEILAR: Donald Trump says when it comes to the Clintons and Jeb Bush, it's war. Trump singled out Bush and Hillary Clinton as enemies during a rally in South Carolina this afternoon, adding that Bill Clinton is, quote, "one of the great abusers of the world."
CNN correspondent Chris Frates with us now in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Those are some strong words.
CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Those are some strong words, Brianna. And Donald Trump continued his two-front fight today. On his right, he's battling rival Republicans gunning for his frontrunner crown by promising an air war.
And on his left, Trump is answering Hillary Clinton's charges of sexism by dredging up her husband's past sex scandals.
FRATES (voice-over): For Donald Trump, it's not just the campaign.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We view this as war. Don't we view this as war? It's war.
FRATES: And Trump's about to take the fight to the air.
TRUMP: We're going to start spending a lot of money, because I don't want to take any chances.
FRATES: Next month he says he'll drop $2 million a week advertising in early voting states.
TRUMP: I'm going to be doing big ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. And they're going to be very substantial, and I think they're very well done.
FRATES: It will be the first ad blitz of Trump's campaign, a boast he likes to make on the campaign trail.
TRUMP: I spent less money than anybody else and have the best result. I'm No. 1 by a lot, and I spent no money.
FRATES: On Tuesday Trump laid into Ted Cruz, suggesting his closest rival's Cuban heritage left him out of touch with religious Iowans.
TRUMP: In all fairness, to the best of my knowledge not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba. OK. Just remember that. OK. Just remember. In all fairness here we are. Just remember that, folks. When you're casting your ballot, remember.
FRATES: And in South Carolina Wednesday...
TRUMP: You know, it's a movement, folks. This is a movement.
FRATES: Trump saved the sharpest shots for Hillary Clinton. He's been hammering Bill Clinton's past sexual scandals ever since the Democratic frontrunner said Trump had a penchant for sexism.
TRUMP: She wants to accuse me of things, and her husband is one of the greatest abusers of the world? Give me a break.
FRATES: Trump also took aim at Jeb Bush today mocking him and his supporters for spending millions on advertising that is yet to boost Bush's poll numbers. And this afternoon, Bush's campaign announced they are canceling their TV advertising in Iowa and instead adding more staff on the ground. A senior adviser there said, Brianna, that the TV ads just aren't breaking through.
KEILAR: Not good news for the Bush campaign. Chris Frates, thank you so much. Coming up, breaking news. Twelve million people in the U.S. are under
flood warnings. There's a state of emergency in Missouri. And the water is still rising. Stand by for a live update on that.
Plus, new details about the sudden death of another top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Was it really an accident?
[17:48:19] KEILAR: We have breaking news. Along with 12 million people in 17 states who are under flood warnings, we're keeping an eye on a dangerous situation. Rising waters especially along the rivers near St. Louis that empty into the Mississippi River.
CNN's Martin Savidge is in Pacific, Missouri, where the state's governor is touring the damage. What are the top concerns in this really affected region, Martin?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Biggest concern right now, Brianna, has to be public safety and loss of life. The death toll now has risen in this state by one. It's at 14. Most of the people who have died have died as a result of driving in the fast- moving flash flood type waters. That's really what this is, one big flash flood situation. Not the typical one we see in the spring where you get this thaw, this is something that occurred quite rapidly.
Pacific is like many communities here in the St. Louis region that's besieged by water. And the water levels here are of record proportions. It remains to be seen if we're shattering all-time records, but it's already very, very bad. This water came up quickly. And it looks like in some areas it's beginning to go down. But evacuations have still been under way. Water rescues in many, many areas, hundreds of roads and bridges have been inundated.
The infrastructure here is what's being devastated as well as homes. And that could take a long a long time to fix even after the water has develop down, Brianna.
KEILAR: And the cost is going to be exorbitant. Martin Savidge for us in Pacific, Missouri. Thank you.
You heard Martin talk about this late-December floods caught many Missouri residents by surprise and that has kept rescuers very busy. Missouri's governor said at least 14 people in his state are dead because of this flooding.
[17:50:00] CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray is down river from Martin. She's in Valley Park, Missouri. And tell us as these water levels are rising because it's not done yet. Are people safe there?
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, they have evacuated a lot of people and so they told people to get to higher ground. And they've done exactly that. But you're right, the waters are still rising. We're expected to crest around 43 feet. That's where we are now. But new predictions say we should rise another foot overnight and then crest before morning then waters will start to recede by Thursday.
So we are going to see better news by the end of the week but before then, unfortunately, those waters are going to continue to rise. This is going to be four feet above the record. The record is 40 feet. This is going to be four feet above that and flood stage is in 16 feet, if that's sort of some perspective at all.
Let me back up, by the way. And you can see behind me, this is a location we've been since about 5:00 this morning. We steadily watched the water rise. I'm going to start over there at that bridge. We're going to pan over to the left. That's Interstate 44. There's a 24-mile stretch of this interstate that's completely shut down, could be shut down until Friday, and then the road that runs perpendicular underneath that overpass is Highway 141. That could be closed until Monday or Tuesday because that is what looks like the river behind me.
That's actually the highway. Look at these signs right here. North and south, those have been steadily sinking as we've gone throughout the day. So it looks like it's going to be a little worse, Brianna, until it gets better.
KEILAR: All right. Jennifer Gray in Valley Park, Missouri, thank you.
Lots of questions tonight about the death of a top aide to North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. The man described as a long-time and trusted official in the regime as well as a veteran of negotiations with South Korea since the era of Kim Jung-Il. North Korean state media -- was reporting that he died in a car accident as did his predecessor. And he's the latest in a series of top officials to die in recent years.
So let's dig deeper with this, with two of our North Korea experts. We have Gordon Chang, he is the author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World," and he's also a columnist for Forbes.com. And we have Christian Whiton, he is a former State Department senior advisor, he's the author of the book, "Smart Power Between Diplomacy and War."
Christian, the predecessor of Kim Yang-gon, the person who was in this role, also died in a car crash back in 2003. I think that's why some people are saying, oh again? They think it might be a coincidence. What do you think?
CHRISTIAN WHITON, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR ADVISER: Yes, I don't think it's a coincidence. I think it may have been intentional. We're of course speculating as usual because there's so little information from North Korea. But these are high officials of government. There's not that much traffic in North Korea. Owning a car is a rare luxury and officials like this often have big protective details, big motorcades and things like that.
So it looks like, in fact, he may have been off by the Kim regime. Again, that's just speculation. And it's a little bit different. Some of the recent departures, if you will, of senior officials have been gruesome executions, very exotic deaths by machine gunfire. So this may be a reversion to an older form of dispensing with someone, but especially given Kim Yang-gon's ties with the South, his linkages with South Korean officials, the chance that he actually has funds and resources in South Korea because of an espionage network there, these all points to signs that the regime may have a -- at least had a suspicious eye pointed in his direction.
KEILAR: Gordon, whenever something like this happens, we sort of look to see what the bigger implication is here. What does this tell us about Kim Jong-Un right now?
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": The most important thing is that the regime is not stable, and we care about that because when the regime is not stable, it's good politics for Kim Jong-Un to lash out at South Korea, Japan or the United States. So we got a lot at stake with this. And you know, there is about zero chance this was really an accident because one of the most important elements of regime politics for Kim Jong-Un is to replace the people were put in power by his father and to have his own people surround him. So he clearly wanted to get rid of Kim and that's what we saw on Tuesday.
KEILAR: But, Christian, why revert to this? You know, when -- you mentioned these dramatic executions of officials, why revert to this, this was an accident, wink, wink, not really an accident kind of thing?
WHITON: Well, that's the big question. Part of what Kim Yang-gon may have done wrong is not get -- Gordon alluded to this, not get enough money out of South Korea. Usually the regime in North Korea is used to getting handouts in the form of foreign aid or energy assistance especially as part of restarting negotiations, whether it's over the nuclear issue or just over relations with South Korea. That didn't happen so they may have put him on the bad list.
But he may have had networks and relations either in South Korea or possibly linkages to officials in China where it would be useful to maintain those relations or at least the veneer of normalcy but still dispense with someone who may have had the means to challenge the dictator Kim Jong-Un.
[17:55:02] KEILAR: What does this do, Gordon, to negotiations with South Korea and North Korea considering that was this guy's job?
CHANG: Yes, well, those negotiations didn't go very well in the last series, which was about two weeks ago and now you're going to have a lot of reshuffling in Pyongyang of those who were supported to deal with the rest of the world, especially South Korea. So I think that we are going to see this hiatus actually be quite long in duration because essentially right now the regime is in turmoil at least with regard to their united front department.
KEILAR: All right. Gordon, Christian, thank you guys so much and a very happy new year to you as we're getting closer to ringing in 2016.
CHANG: Happy New Year, Brianna.
WHITON: Happy New Year.
KEILAR: And we have some breaking news next. New details of the case against Bill Cosby. He's now charged with sexual assault. What was his demeanor inside of the courtroom as he was arraigned? CNN was there and we're going to tell you.
Plus, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, all facing a terror threat over the New Year's holiday. We're learning some new information from our sources.
KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news, Bill Cosby charged. The TV icon appears in court and is formally accused of criminal sexual assault after years of allegations by dozens of women. Tonight, new details on why he's being prosecuted now and the prospects for a sordid and sensational trial.
Terror threats. Police uncover suicide bomb gear that is ready to use and an attack plot is thwarted. This as the U.S. gears up for New Year's Eve celebrations and President Obama is warned that three major U.S. cities could be at risk.
Rising danger as we track an epic flooding disaster in America's heartland. Millions of Americans are at risk of going under water and we will tell you where the severe weather may strike next.
And Trump's enemies. He's declaring war against his rivals and blaming Hillary Clinton for his decision to attack her husband. Will Trump's opponents bring up indiscretions from his past? I'll ask a top spokesman for the Ted Cruz campaign.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.