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Flood Concerns Along The Mississippi; Obama Prepares To Pull A Presidential Power Play On Gun Control; Internal Struggles In The Carson Campaign; Alleged Bill Cosby Victim Speaks Out On Charges. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 31, 2015 - 16:30   ET


JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Even as sunny weather moves in, officials continue to plead with residents to be safe and heed their warnings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we could say anything over and over and over it would be don't drive in the water. Of the fatalities we've had, everyone except one has been somebody that drove in the water.

GRAY: Now the Merrimack River, where we are, has already crested. It did that early this morning. Has gone down more than a foot. Of course it has a long way to go before this town is back to normal. But keep in mind, just because the water is going down here, doesn't mean the same for other cities. All areas downstream from here, along the Mississippi River, has the risk of flooding. This water has a long way to go, Jim, before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST HOST: A lot of big cities downstream as well. Jennifer Gray, thanks very much. Great to have you there.

The politics lead, a major shake-up for a GOP campaign that once gave Donald Trump a run for its money. Three top aides for Dr. Ben Carson now say they're done. They're calling it quits from his campaign. What this could mean as candidates try to position themselves ahead of Iowa with just about a month to go. That's right after this.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back to "The Lead," and in our politics lead President Obama about to pull a power play on gun control. CNN has learned that the President will ring in the new year with new executive action aimed at curbing gun violence in America by pushing for tighter rules for gun sales. Let's go now to CNN Senior White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, tell us what you know about the plan.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, during his vacation here in Hawaii, President Obama has been working with his top aides on his upcoming State of the Union address. The speech is expected to set an ambitious tone for what will be a very busy year for the President, his eighth in eight years in office. And right at the top of the agenda is gun control.


For President Obama the final round is about to begin.

BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: In 2016 I'm going to leave it out all on the field.

ACOSTA: Up first in the President's eighth and last year is office, Mr. Obama's long-promised response to mass shootings in the U.S. Sources familiar with the plan say it will be a package of executive actions on gun control. Expected before the January 12th State of the Union and aimed at the gun show loophole which allows some firearm sellers to avoid conducting backgrounds checks on their customers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so the beginning of this year?



ACOSTA: The White House argues the President's actions will be within his executive authority and in line with polls that show broad support for tightening background checks.

SCHULTZ: Unfortunately, Congress hasn't shown the courage to do so. So that's why the President asked his team to look at what we can do administratively.

ACOSTA: Vowing the fight the move, the nation's biggest gun lobby, the NRA, says the President is doing what he always does when he doesn't get his way, defying the will of the people and using executive action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a watershed in the gun control debate and essentially daring the Republican Congress and the Republican- controlled Supreme Court to stop him.

ACOSTA: Another controversial proposal coming in the new year, the President will ask Congress to shut down the terror detention center at Guantanamo, a facility Mr. Obama may close on his own if lawmakers balk at the White House plan.

OBAMA: It will be an uphill battle.

ACOSTA: The President also hopes to travel to Cuba and perhaps more than a dozen other countries, in what's shaping up to be a global farewell tour. But the President's agenda could be upended by setbacks in the war on ISIS, a foreign policy crisis that could complicate White House plans to have the President campaign heavily with the 2016 Democratic nominee, a prospect that may well put both he and Hillary Clinton out on the trail together again.

OBAMA: I think we will have a strong Democratic nominee. I think that Democratic nominee will win. I think I will have a Democratic successor.


ACOSTA: And White House officials say don't expect a long laundry list of proposals at the upcoming State of the Union address, which is just a couple of weeks away, in part because the President is almost out of time. A laundry list just wouldn't get done in time before President Obama wraps up his time in office. Jim.


SCUITTO: All right. Hard to believe just a year to go. Jim Acosta, thanks very much. It is just over a month until voters start to winnow down the 2016 presidential field. And for the Republican hopefuls, their New Year's resolutions are getting more and more urgent to make a strong showing in Iowa or New Hampshire. Dr. Ben Carson may find that more difficult today after his campaign manager, communications director, and deputy campaign manager all quit, clearly a sign of internal struggles in a campaign that has lost steam since the fall. CNN political reporter Sara Murray now on the state of the race.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: As 2015 comes to a close, several campaigns are ending it in disarray.

DR. BEN CARSON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everything's on the table. We're constantly looking at everything, looking to see if there are ways to improve things. You know, if there are personnel changes that need to be made. Everything is on the table. Every single thing is on the table.

MURRAY: Today Ben Carson losing two of his two aides, his campaign manager and communications director resigning, wishing him the best of luck, and saying we have enjoyed helping him go from far back in the field to top tier status. That top tier status now in jeopardy as Carson's poll numbers slide. Jeb Bush is muddling through his own campaign shake-up, cancelling pricey ad buys, moving staff to early states, and insisting voters' flirtation with Donald Trump will soon come to an end.

FRM. GOV. JEB BUSH, (R) FLORIDA: We're living in this reality TV kind of political environment where he fills the space by saying outrageous things. I think the, the motion of the here and now will subside.

MURRAY: Trump, the candidate known for his biting insults, firing his parting shots of the year at Bush, launching a Twitter assault, saying people ask why do you tweet and retweet to millions about Jeb Bush, when he is so low in the polls? Because of his big-dollar hit ads on me. Those ads starting to irritate Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It bothers me when I see a guy spending, you know, $60 million on ads against me, a lot of it, right?

MURRAY: For his part, the GOP frontrunner is looking ahead to 2016 with a little expectations management.

TRUMP: I'm setting myself up because they'll show these words, if I come in second by two points, they'll say, aaah, this was a terrible defeat, terrible. It's not terrible.

MURRAY: A sharp shift from just a month ago.

TRUMP: I don't like being second, second is terrible to me.

MURRAY: Trump vowing to start spending millions a week to ensure victory.

TRUMP: I'm going to start spending a lot of money, because I don't want to take any chances.

MURRAY: And reminding voters he doesn't take kindly to losing.

TRUMP: If I don't win, I will consider this -- and I mean this -- a total and complete waste of time.


MURRAY: Now in some ways this shake-up that we're seeing in Ben Carson's campaign, it's not a huge surprise. He sort of forecasted that it was coming. But then he kind of walked it back, making it all the more confusing. One thing is certain, Jim, this is the kind of thing you don't really want to be dealing with just a couple weeks out of Iowa.

SCUITTO: Yep, month to go. Thanks very much to Sara Murray. Joining me now to talk about the state of Dr. Carson's campaign after the resignations of three of its members, Dr. Carson's business manager and close confidant, Armstrong Williams. Thank you for taking time today, particularly on this holiday. So Barry Bennett, you take their story, and Doug Watts, who resigned today, they say it's management differences. They were criticizing you in particular for not making sufficient attempts to organize the energy that has been behind some of this campaign into, into hard campaign planning. In effect, turning that into votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. What's your response to that criticism?

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, I think most reasonable people understand that presidential campaigns in and of themselves is chaotic. There's a lot of turbulence.

When you're doing well, no one notice the issues that you have. But when you somewhat tumble in the polls, everybody take note and they want to know reasons why things are not working the way the once were.

SCUITTO: Well, something must happened if, if three top staffers resign in one day.

WILLIAMS: Yes, of course something happened. Dr. Carson announced a week ago today that there would be major shake-ups in his operation and every position is on the table. So Dr. Carson remains in charge. He's honoring what he said he was going to do. He took time to examine carefully where changes needed to be made, but Mr. Bennett and Mr. Watts, whom we have tremendous for and appreciation for their contributions, decided to resign. SCUITTO: Now you yourself have said that, that Carson's drop in the polls is due in part to a conflict in management in the campaign. What is that conflict? What was the difference?

WILLIAMS: You know, we don't see it as conflict. Dr. Carson's office said among a multitude of counselors, you find the best direction, the best leadership, the best advice. Dr. Carson is an outsider. All of his advisers are not going to be within the campaign structure.

They are people on the outside, including me and others. We all come together and advise him. But in the end, he's in charge and he makes the decisions.

SCUITTO: So we're a month away from the Iowa caucuses. How is Dr. Carson going to turn around this marked decline in the polls in time for those first primaries.

WILLIAMS: You know, if history bears out, Dr. Carson will not be the first person who may have dropped in the polls and come back in time for Iowa, he wins it. You know, listen, Dr. Carson in my opinion is the only true, authentic, evangelical Christian in the race. He's very sincere. He's very real. There are a lot of people who talk a good game about their faith, including Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz. Dr. Carson lives it. The more people know Dr. Carson, the more they believe in him, his favorability. What Dr. Carson has to do, which he's doing now, is getting on message. He's had a major burden lifted from him today. He's made the changes that he spoke about. He's put in place a new team. And Dr. Carson is marching forward. He's on message, he's confident, I've never seen him more relaxed, more authoritarian, and more in control. And that is good news as we go into 2016.

SCIUTTO: I mean you described part of his appeal there, which lead to his initial bump in the polls, was that he is an outsider. And that he -- his life story, et cetera. But something changed, right, in terms of how that is energizing voters because far fewer people say today they're going to vote for him than said a month ago. So how do you address that problem?

WILLIAMS: Well, of course, something's changing. You know exactly what that change was. Paris, terrorism, San Bernardino, California, terrorism. Dr. Carson is not the one that stands like Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz and say all these things, sometimes incendiary, and people think because you speak loud and you say fiery things, you're a leader and you're in control. He's soft spoken. And sometimes people confuse soft spokeness (sic) with not being strong enough. But Dr. Carson has learned that sometimes soft spokeness (sic) is not enough. He will be more authoritarian in the way that he speaks, there will be more fire in his belly, and he will talk about the issues. But not in an offensive way. Not in a way where you'll offend people in the process. And you will see that change.

SCIUTTO: Armstrong Williams, I appreciate you taking the time today. We wish you a Happy New Year.

WILLIAMS: And Happy New Year, brother. SCIUTTO: Happy New Year to you.

WILLIAMS: Take care of your family.

SCIUTTO: All right. With his walking cane in hand, the man once called America's Dad went inside a courthouse to face a sexual assault charge. One of his accusers tells us it's all just an act for the disgraced comedian. We're going to speak with her right after this.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back to "The Lead." In our national lead, the fall of America's Dad. For the first time yesterday, Bill Cosby faced a criminal charge for sexually assaulting a woman. While he remains free on $1 million bail until his hearing next month, more than 50 accusers are celebrating his arrest. Let's now speak to one of those 58 women.


She is Beth Ferrier, who says that Bill Cosby gave her drugged cappuccino and then raped her. Beth, I want to thank you for coming on.


SCUITTO: So I understand that you learned that Bill Cosby was, was being charged, that he was arraigned, via a phone call. Describe to us your reaction to the news.

FERRIER: It was immediately tears, shaking, some excitement to that. But then again, then immediate fear again.



FERRIER: That's just because...

SCUITTO: Fear of the memory?

FERRIER: It feels like it... A fear of what he'll -- what, what Mr. Cosby will do to us.


FERRIER: The fear.

SCUITTO: You mean fear that he'll attack your stories?

FERRIER: Absolutely. He has.

SCUITTO: Yeh, he's countersued, I know.

FERRIER: Yeh, the whole time. SCUITTO: When you saw him looking so frail there, coming out of that SUV, stumbling as he walked into the courthouse, what went through your mind then?

FERRIER: No. An absolute act. He is -- remember his show? We all believed him then. Why should we believe him now? Absolutely not.

SCUITTO: Hmm. I wonder if he's...

FERRIER: I can't believe it. He did...

SCUITTO: Go ahead, go ahead, please.

FERRIER: No, it's -- he didn't, he didn't have a cane a week ago. He didn't... I just... I mean, seriously, I understand disabilities. I'm disabled myself, I had a broken neck. OK, I understand. But to use this now is just appalling. OK.

SCUITTO: Have you spoken to any of the other women, any of the other accusers since his arraignment yesterday?


FERRIER: Yes, I have. I think I can speak on behalf of the majority of us. The 58 that are on record at this point, besides Andrea Constand, I believe that I can speak on their behalf that we need justice. We need to continue to do whatever we need to do to ensure that Andrea Constand gets her day in court, we get our day in court, and that this is about the statutes of limitations as well.

SCUITTO: Hmm. Now I know you're expecting this, his defense team is vowing to fight quote the unjustified charge against him. I want you just for a moment to talk a listen to what Bill Cosby's lawyer, Monique Pressley, said just today.


MONIQUE PRESSLEY, ATTORNEY FOR BILL COSBY: There is nothing in that deposition where Mr. Cosby admits to committing any crime. In fact, he even denies it vehemently and speaks specifically with respect to this incident. And he's a 78-year-old blind man who they've chosen to charge. That's not a defense to a crime, that's just a fact.


SCUITTO: What's your response to that?

FERRIER: He wasn't blind when I met him, he wasn't blind when I've known him. He's not been blind. A disability doesn't get to trump what he's done over five decades.




SCUITTO: Now your alleged assault took place some three decades ago, in 1986.


SCUITTO: And the statute of limitations has run in the case, both for criminal and for civil suits. But you, you're trying to get that changed in the State of Colorado, is that correct?

FERRIER: Yes, I am. The bill, which we hate to call it, unfortunately, because of the situation, will be brought to the House in Colorado in January, and that is to take -- because of every state, some states, or six states, that do not have a statute of limitations. Our state of Colorado is six years. And we're not asking for retroactive. This is, this is something that will be from this point forward. But it has to go to the House. It's being read in January. And then it has to go to the Senate, but it's to abolish the statute of limitations.

SCUITTO: Beth Ferrier, thank you for...


SCUITTO: Thank you for taking the time today to tell us your story.

FERRIER: Welcome.

SCUITTO: Moving now to our pop lead, the man, the myth, the legend. Apple founder Steve Jobs' legacy is still being debated, even as his impact is not. You've seen Hollywood's take on Jobs. Now a new documentary airing here on CNN delves into the real story of the visionary who made Apple products a household necessity, and didn't worry much about what it took to make that happen. I sat down with Alex Gibney. He's the Oscar-winning director who turned his lens on the Apple founder for the film "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine." Here's part of our conversation.


SCUITTO: After such a deep dive on Steve Jobs, as you finished the project, do you believe he was a great man?

ALEX GIBNEY, AMERICAN FILM DOCUMENTARY PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR: I think he is a great man in the classic sense of the word, which means powerful and important. But he was not necessarily a good man.

STEVE JOBS, AMERICAN IT ENTREPRENEUR AND INVENTOR: We've got some, some great stuff for you. There's clearly something in the air today.

GIBNEY: But he still imagined that he was at the helm of a small start-up, a plucky young kid, when in fact he was the executive, the CEO, of a globe-girdling corporation that was in fact the most valuable in the world. He could have done a lot of good, and he didn't. JOBS: We have some really fun stuff to share with you today.

SCUITTO: He aroused tremendous emotions among the people he worked with closely, and he had that phrase, expensive. That the way he lived his life was expensive.

GIBNEY: For those who knew him.


BOB BELLEVILLE, HEAD OF ENGINEERING, MACINTOSH: I lost my wife in that process, I lost my children in that process, I lost the whole, the whole structure of my life was just changed forever by going and working on the Mac.

JOBS: They will tell you it's the hardest they've ever worked in their life. But I think all of them will tell you that is certainly one of the most intense and cherished experiences they will ever have in their lives.

GIBNEY: Steve had a vision of where he wanted to go, and he would push people harder than they would have thought necessary. But it did take them someplace new. So you have to admire that.

JOBS: The people that worked on it consider themselves, and I certainly consider them, artists.

SCUITTO: How do you think he managed that constant, you know, generation of new and innovative ideas? Disruptive technologies.

GIBNEY: The fact was he didn't do it by himself. I mean I think that's one of the big lessons to learn. He knew he had to surround himself with these talented people. So the first thing to say is it wasn't just Steve Jobs. But Steve Jobs did have a sense of how to present these products in ways that connected with us.

JOBS: This is one device.

GIBNEY: I think the really amazing thing about Steve Jobs is his role as a storyteller.

JOBS: How many calculators do you own?


JOBS: Right. And you use the automatic bank telling machines.


JOBS: So life is already seducing you into learning this stuff.

GIBNEY: He was able to evaporate the distance between man and machine, so that we saw these machines as extensions of us. And in that way his role was quite palpable and powerful. His legacy really does define a lot of our everyday lives. He connected us all, but he had difficulty connecting with people. And I think that is reflected in the products.

SCUITTO: So he created technologies to get around that difficulty of human to human contact.

GIBNEY: Both to get around it and to create that barrier, ironically.


SCUITTO: That's all for "The Lead." I'm Jim Scuitto. Coming up next is Brianna Keilar. She is in "The Situation Room."