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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. Embassy In Baghdad Attacked By Protesters, Put On Lockdown; GOP Senator Collins "Open To Witnesses" In Impeachment Trial, Criticizes McConnell; Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) Is Interviewed About The U.S. Embassy Attack In Baghdad; Schumer: NYT Reporting On Ukraine Aid Freeze Is A "Game-Changer"; Trump Threatens Iran After Protesters Chanting "Death To America" Attack U.S. Embassy In Baghdad; New York Stabbing Attack Suspect Briefly Served In Marine Corps, Left Boot Camp After A Month; Kim Announces "New Strategic Weapon" In New Future Ahead Of Major Speech. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 31, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN.
Happy New Year and I hope 2020 is a great one for you. Thanks for being with us.
Our coverage on CNN continues right now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now:
Embassy attacked. Protesters besiege the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, scaling walls and storming gates, forcing officials to put the compound on lockdown. And tonight, a powerful response as U.S. helicopters and forces move in and there's a new threat from President Trump.
Open to witnesses. Key Republican Senator Susan Collins speaks out about the looming impeachment trial and criticizes not only House Democrats but also Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Game-changer. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says new revelations about the hold on aid to Ukraine are a major shift in the impeachment case against President Trump. We'll talk this hour to one of the reporters who broke the story, Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times."
And, Kim's next move. A major speech by North Korea's Kim Jong-un is just hours away. And the dictator has just announced he'll reveal a new strategic weapon in the near future.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. This is THE SITUATION ROOM special report.
(MUSIC) KEILAR: A powerful show of American force in the Iraqi capital where Apache helicopters are flying over the U.S. embassy following a violent attack by demonstrators protesting recent U.S. airstrikes. The embassy was placed on lockdown as the crowd of hundreds tried to storm the compound, smashing windows, throwing rocks and starting fires. President Trump is holding Iran responsible and says the country will pay what he calls a very big price for any deaths or damage.
And tonight, a senior administration official tells CNN that the White House is very concerned about the situation escalating.
We'll talk about that and more with Congressman John Garamendi of the Armed Services Committee and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to CNN White House Correspondent, Boris Sanchez.
The president, Boris, has been following all of this from his Mar-a- Lago resort there in Florida.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Brianna.
And as you mentioned, we got new reporting that indicates that White House officials are very concerned about the situation at the embassy in Baghdad. It is something that they're following very closely. Their fears that we could see an escalation tomorrow, an escalation of hostility worse than we saw today on New Year's Day.
President Trump scrambling a response today but at least part of his focus remains on impeachment as he launched a fresh new attack against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump weighing a large response, blaming Iran for the attempted siege of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad writing, quote: Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost or damage incurred at any of our facilities. They will pay a very big price. This is not a warning. It is a threat.
The president leaving his golf club after less than an hour this morning to address the erupting situation. Protesters scaling walls, forcing the gates and setting fires inside of the heavily guarded compound while diplomats were trapped inside. A backlash against American airstrikes that killed dozens of members of an Iran-backed militia group in Iraq.
Both Iraq Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and President Barham Salih, according to a State Department spokesperson, guaranteeing the safety of U.S. personnel inside the embassy. Republicans Senator Lindsey Graham who golfed with the president on Monday tweeted that he met with Trump and other officials about the raid today writing that Trump is determined to protect Americans adding, quote: No more Benghazis -- a reference to the 2012 attack in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. nationals.
But critics argue Trump's foreign policy has left the U.S. in danger. Senator Chris Murphy scathing on Twitter: The attack on our embassy in Baghdad is horrifying but predictable. Trump has rendered America impotent in the Middle East. No one fears us. No one listens to us. America has been reduced to huddling in safe rooms hoping the bad guys will go away. What a disgrace.
All of this as President Trump continues to hammer House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on his impeachment, tweeting: They produced no case. So now she doesn't want to go to the senate. She's all lies. Most overrated person I know.
Trump also claiming that Democrats will do anything to avoid a trial in the Senate in order to protect sleepy Joe Biden.
SANCHEZ: Brianna, back to the embassy in Iraq, the president actually made the Benghazi comparison himself on Twitter just a short time ago, writing: The anti-Benghazi.
White House officials tell us that they are encouraged by conversations that they've had with the Iraqi leadership. They hope the situation improves, but they say they are ready for anything -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Boris, thank you so much, in West Palm Beach, Florida, for us.
I want to bring in CNN Senior International Correspondent, Arwa Damon. She is working the story for us from Istanbul.
And, Arwa, the U.S. is sending in additional forces, this includes Apache helicopters to help protect the embassy.
Can you give us the latest?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and they're also going to be sending in another unit of marines to try to bolster security at the embassy itself.
This is what we understand is happening on the ground right now. The Iraqi counter-terrorism units have finally moved in and secured a perimeter around the embassy itself, but at the same time, those protesters are still there, currently smaller in number but they've set up tents and based on what they are saying, they plan to stay.
Kataib Hezbollah, that Shia militia group that the U.S. targeted on Sunday, put out a statement saying this protest was as a result of anger, but also to send a message to the United States that they can quite literally march through all of the checkpoints, not get stopped and end up at America's doorstep. Now, this group is saying that these protests as they are putting it are open-ended. That they don't plan on going anywhere until the U.S. actually leaves.
So concerns that the situation could possibly escalate are very valid at this stage, especially given that the Iraqi government doesn't necessarily seem like it could do much to control the situation, Brianna.
KEILAR: Arwa, thank you so much for that report.
And another Republican senator is voicing concern about Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's vow to work with the White House on President Trump's impeachment trial defense.
CNN Congressional Reporter, Lauren Fox is here with more.
And, Lauren, this standoff is continuing between Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. We're now hearing from Susan Collins who has not always stood with the president.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right. And Susan Collins certainly sounds open to getting witnesses on Capitol Hill, although she is sounding a lot like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to me. She's basically arguing what she needs to hear is the case from both sides, then she'll make a determination. That, of course, is what the majority leader has been saying for the last two weeks.
Now, Susan Collins did express some frustration with both Republicans and Democrats that some folks aren't sounding all that impartial as they prepare to become jurors in this impeachment trial.
Here's what she said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): It is inappropriate in my judgment for senators on either side of the aisle to prejudge the evidence. I have heard Democrats like Elizabeth Warren saying that the president should be impeached, found guilty and removed from office. I've heard the Senate majority leader saying that he's taking his cues from the White House. There are senators on both sides of the aisle who to me are not giving the appearance of and the reality of judging this in an impartial way.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
FOX: And, of course, this, Brianna, sounds a lot like what we heard from Lisa Murkowski, someone who is a Republican from Alaska, but another person who has an independent streak when it comes to these votes. Sometimes she doesn't always vote with the party. But Lisa Murkowski also saying she had concerns about the way that McConnell was going about this.
KEILAR: So what is the time line now? How is this all going to play out, do you think? It's really hard to pin down lawmakers when we ask about this.
FOX: That's right. And I've been talking with leadership aides every single day asking, is anyone talking, is anyone communicating, and the answer we're getting really is that this will all pick back up once lawmakers return to Washington next week. We know that the House of Representatives will be back next Tuesday. That's the earliest that we could see them voting on those House managers an the earlier we expect Nancy Pelosi could dispatch those articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Whether or not that happens right away I think is still a huge open question and might take some time for lawmakers to return, have some conversations, ask about the holidays and recoup in what happens next with the Senate trial, Brianna.
KEILAR: They are fully on vacation.
FOX: They really are.
KEILAR: It's like they know 2020 is going to be nuts and they are just timeout, we'll do it when we come back.
Lauren Fox, thank you so much and happy New Year to you.
FOX: Happy New Year.
KEILAR: So let's get more on this with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee. Sir, thanks for joining us.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Good to be with you, Brianna, and happy New Year to you and everybody out there.
KEILAR: Happy New Year to you.
The president at this point is blaming Iran for the storming of the American embassy compound in Baghdad today, at least getting through one of those walls.
He says, quote: Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost or damage incurred at any of our facilities. They will pay a very big price. This is not a warning. It is a threat.
That is -- I mean, that's essentially like a red line there. What do you make of what he has tweeted there?
GARAMENDI: Well, the president does have the responsibility of protecting American lives at that embassy and really other places in the region. No doubt about that. The question is how best to do that.
Certainly, the military, the marines and others need to be prepared. They need to be reinforced and apparently that is happening. Simultaneously, the Iraqi government needs to get its act together and provide the protection that is required not only to the American embassy but every other embassy in the area. So, there's two different tracks that need to be pursued here.
But, Brianna, all of this was totally predictable. We knew when the president ended the Iran nuclear deal and began his maximum pressure campaign that it would result in pushback by Iran, not necessarily by the Iranian government, but by its proxy forces and that's precisely what is happening today. One of its proxy forces attacked the Kirkuk air force -- air base where Americans were, and then the United States went after the Hezbollah militia backed by Iran and now we're seeing the tit-for-tat. Now, they're going after the American embassy.
All of this was predicted over and over -- over the last three to four -- two to three years. So here we are.
The president must protect the embassy. No doubt about it.
KEILAR: The Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says the president is committed to making sure there are, as he puts it, no more Benghazis, and President Trump is calling this the anti-Benghazi.
KEILAR: How worried are you this could escalate to something in that category? Do you think that people will have to evacuate?
GARAMENDI: Well, I'm certainly not anywhere near there. The reports that I have received and that have been available indicate that the embassy is presently secure, that there are additional military marines and as you've already said Apache helicopters in the area providing protection services.
I don't think we're going to see another Benghazi. We certainly would pray and hope that does not happen. Beyond that, let's understand that this is a movement by a very specific militia organization that first attacked the Americans at a Iraqi facility and then they were attacked and now they're responding once again by going after the U.S. embassy. It appears to be a small thing.
KEILAR: Well, sir, can I ask you about that?
KEILAR: Because our reporter Arwa Damon said there are several Shia militias, including that one that the U.S. targeted. Is that your understanding?
GARAMENDI: Well, there are many.
KEILAR: That there are several -- there are several -- members of several militia participating in this.
GARAMENDI: I don't know that. I do know that the principal militia that we attacked is perhaps -- is apparently the leader, there may be others. Keep in mind that there are many militias operating in Iraq, most of them backed by Iran and operating with instructions from Iran -- a major problem for the Iraqi government that has been trying to incorporate those militias into its armed forces, with very limited success.
Once again, this is not something that was unanticipated. The protest going on at the embassy, of course, is a result of the attack that we did on the Hezbollah militia.
Now, we need to also understand that Iran is in trouble in Iraq. That there were street protests over the last almost two months now, very violent street protests in Baghdad against the influence of Iran. So, it's a very unstable situation.
One in which is now being played out at the American compound. I think it will settle down. I believe that the Iraqi government has already dispatched troops into the area to bring it under control.
I don't know what is going to happen with the ongoing protests, street protests by the anti-Iran forces and the anti-corruption forces in Baghdad itself. So, it is a very unstable situation.
One in which the government of Iraq is destabilized and, in fact, there has been a -- a retirement of the leadership and a new leadership will have to be put in place in the Iraqi government.
So, yes, it is intense, it is troublesome and it is dangerous.
KEILAR: Congressman John Garamendi, thank you so much for joining us.
GARAMENDI: Thank you.
KEILAR: Up next, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer calls the latest "New York Times" revelations about the freeze on Ukraine aid a game-changer. And next, I'll speak with one of the correspondents who wrote the story, Maggie Haberman of "The Times."
KEILAR: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer calls "The New York Times" latest revelations about the Ukraine aid freeze a game-changer. "The Times" in depth article details events that took place during the Trump administration 84-day freeze in military aid while the president demanded Ukraine announced investigations that would help him politically, investigations into Joe Biden and his son.
Joining us now is one of the correspondents who wrote this article and broke this news, Maggie Haberman. She's also a CNN political analyst.
Great story, Maggie.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you. KEILAR: And in particular, you describe this very dramatic scene in the Oval Office where the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the then national security adviser John Bolton, they're basically teaming up to urge President Trump to release aid to Ukraine. And they're making the case that this is good for America.
It almost sounds like an intervention, Maggie.
HABERMAN: To an extent. I mean, Brianna, this meeting which we had not been -- had not been reported before, that we learned of, you know, showed that the national security apparatus both was putting on more of a united front than I think we had understood before and what we were -- we were trying to do with the piece is understand what happened during this roughly three-month period.
They were putting on this united front and they were appealing to the president in terms that they thought he could understand or would be receptive to. So, for instance, Esper, the secretary of defense, said to the president that, basically, this is really money that comes back to the U.S. anyway. And he was talking about it in sort of strictly transactional terms. They did describe it as the right thing to do for the country repeatedly and I think that they felt very strongly about it.
I think on the one hand, you had budget officials and some advisers to the president and the White House who saw their role as political appointees, as carrying out what the president wanted and trying to find a way to accommodate. And then you had others like Bolton, like Esper, like Pompeo were concerned that this was going to create broader problems.
KEILAR: How significant is it that President Trump just chose to disregard what they were telling him and hold this aid up to Ukraine even as he was having this fierce opposition from these top aides and advisers?
HABERMAN: Well, one of the things that we learned as we were reporting is the degree to which people who are saying, who learned of both the aid hold and the phone call that the president had in his efforts to try to force the investigations or an announcement about investigations was some of them were saying they either didn't know the fact there were parallel tracks happening or when they learned of it, they didn't connect the two and didn't think they were related.
So I think that it sort of depends on exactly how much the president knew, exactly how much Rudy Giuliani knew and a couple of other key advisers at that point. And we're not going to know that unless people testify before Congress which they've all been prevented from doing and I don't expect that to change at this time. Maybe at some point it will. But I don't see it.
I think that we have seen the president repeatedly overrule his advisers and that is not uncommon with presidents. They get advice from people who work for them but ultimately they are the president. But the fact this set off alarm bells from career officials who worked in previous administrations or dealt with aide issues before, that, I think, is part of the larger question of why this went down the way it did.
KEILAR: The president started this day, Maggie, tweeting about impeachment. He was accusing the Democrats of trying to avoid a Senate trial to protect Joe Biden. Is he on the same page with the Senate majority leader in terms of a strategy going forward here?
HABERMAN: It's a great question. I mean, I think if you go purely by, you know, what the Senate majority leader like the president tweeting this much. I think the answer would be no. I think when it comes to how the Senate trial will go ahead, they have not been on the same page throughout. Although a number of the president's advisers tell me that the president does understand Mitch McConnell's logic which is that he doesn't want witnesses. The president has at various points made clear he does want witnesses and I think you're seeing that now.
We don't know how much of this is actually the president digging in on witnesses or him just trying to push a bargaining position for Republicans in general as you have Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer for the Democrats trying to figure out the parameters of a Senate trial and whether there would be witnesses or not. But we do know that the president has seen this as a chance to be exonerated and he wants to bring out a bunch of information that he thinks could be damaging to Democrats.
And so, I expect him to continue pushing for that, even if that's not where this goes in the Senate.
KEILAR: Maggie, thank you so much for joining us --
HABERMAN: Thank you.
KEILAR: -- to talk about your story.
HABERMAN: Happy New Year.
KEILAR: Happy New Year. Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times".
And coming up, protesters attack the U.S. embassy in Iraq and President Trump threatens Iran. What will it take to diffuse the tensions?
And from just moments ago, a look at New Year's festivities in Athens, Greece, where it turned January 1st, 2020, at the top of this hour.
You're watching THE SITUATION ROOM special report.
KEILAR: We are keeping a very close eye on the situation in Baghdad where protesters attacked the U.S. embassy today. And President Trump has just now threatened Iran, tweeting that it will pay a very big price for any lives lost or damage incurred, saying that's not a warning, that is a threat.
Let's bring in our experts to discuss this. And I want to read this entire tweet because it's -- pretty much lays out a red line for what that's worth with President Trump on red lines.
He says -- Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost or damage incurred at any of our facilities. They will pay a very big price. This is not a warning, it is a threat. Happy New Year!
SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND COMMUNICATION ANALYST: Yes.
KEILAR: Shawn, obviously, you're one of our resident national security experts here. You also served in Iraq as a Marine twice. You were deployed there twice, right?
KEILAR: Tell us what your response is to what's going on and also to the President's tweet.
TURNER: Well, you know, when I read this tweet, it's -- you know, it kind of makes me think that, you know, oftentimes when the President is making a decision that's arguably the right decision to make with regards to foreign policy and national security issues, oftentimes he makes the situation worse with a tweet.
Look, you know, I think that when it comes to the process by which we got to the point where the President made the decision to carry out these airstrikes, sure, there are going to be people who may argue that was the wrong thing to do., but we had a history here with this particular militia group. And we have -- we recognize, in the last several months, that they had been attacking U.S. military and coalition forces, and so one could argue that they -- that it was the right decision to make.
Now, the tweet, the tweet is, in this case, is one in which the President is seeking to, in a very kind of juvenile way, escalate and exacerbate tensions that are already -- they're ongoing with Iran. I think that what this does on the ground is it actually puts our U.S. military forces and our coalition forces in more danger. Simply because it's often the case that Iran will react to these sorts of things.
These militia groups will react to these sorts of things, so I think that what the President did here is, you know, he had an opportunity to make a decision that, I think, the national security community could certainly get behind. But the tweet certainly doesn't help with regard to the safety and security of our troops on the ground.
KEILAR: And I'm sure the White House is hoping that this doesn't escalate although it seems clear, between U.S. strikes responding to injuries of U.S. service members, this is sort of a back and forth at this point. How concerned are they and how does the President's tweet, maybe, divide between some of his top advisers?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, officials I've been speaking with and my colleagues have been speaking with, who cover the White House, say that the White House is very concerned about the situation there on the ground with the embassy.
Things may have calmed down a little bit, but the concern is that, you know, when it's daylight again tomorrow, it -- that the situation will be tense. And so, this situation is far from over.
And what's interesting about the President's tweet is, you know, he does not want to -- he does not want the U.S. to look weak. It is very clear that he doesn't want to look like he's just standing on the sidelines letting this happen. But at the same time, this is a president who certainly does not want an escalation with Iran. He doesn't want a proxy war with Iran inside of Iraq. If he had it his way, the U.S. wouldn't be in Iraq.
And so, he's sort of seeming to be walking this fine line. And officials I've been speaking with, well, they won't say exactly what they're looking at. They say, look, we want things to be -- go back to normal. We want the situation to calm down. We're looking at contingencies, but we do not want an escalation here.
KEILAR: And, Sam, you served at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. You've been on lockdown there. What is it like for Americans who are there?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, from firsthand experience, I can tell you that it's terrifying. But I can also tell you that the diplomats that have been locked down today probably want to get back to work. Remember, these diplomats have been doing functions like monitoring the protests, some of which were anti-Iran, in Iraq over the past several months.
But coming back to the President's tweet, you know, intelligence matters every day. It really, really matters when there are ongoing threats to diplomats not just in Baghdad but elsewhere in Iraq and elsewhere in the region where we have American stations. You look at a country like Lebanon, for example, where there are also Iranian proxies.
Typically, in these kinds of situations, there are several kinds of concurrent lines of effort. In the first instance, the intelligence community is working hand-in-hand with the State Department and with the Department of Defense to identify ongoing threats to American personnel. The Pentagon and the State Department are working to identify any additional resources that are needed to protect our diplomats, both U.S. resources and host nation resources.
And the State Department is asking, on an ongoing basis, whether it needs to draw down personnel anywhere in Iraq or elsewhere in the region. So when the President makes any kind of comment right now, it is typically vetted by intelligence professionals to ensure that it does not escalate the situation because, again, this is a live high- threat environment. KEILAR: The President, Michael, is obviously consumed on Twitter
today by impeachment as well. He's been talking about this. And Republican Senator Susan Collins has said that she is open to having witnesses, but she said it's premature to decide on witnesses before evidence is presented, which certainly hews to what we're hearing from the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. How do you interpret her comment?
MICHAEL GERHARDT, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: I think there are two things going on here, and they're somewhat related. The first is that Susan Collins is in a very tough re-election campaign, and so she wants to be able to show some independence, particularly from the Majority Leader that she is going to -- going to question to some extent what he's done.
It remains to be seen whether she actually will be independent and do anything different than the Majority Leader. As you had just pointed out, it may well be that she'll end up following him. And so, this expression of concern may turn out to be illusory.
The second thing going on, I think, is we're discovering yet again that the President doesn't really have a defense against the House's case of impeachment against him. He is basically pointing at Joe Biden and saying, Joe Biden should be on trial.
But the real trial here is about the President. It's about Donald Trump and whether he abused power and obstructed Congress. And you can't keep pointing the finger at other people. Sooner or later, and I think it's going to be sooner, the trial is going to be about Trump and whether or not he abused power and obstructed Congress.
KEILAR: All right, everyone, stand by for me if you will. We have much more ahead. Coming up, new details about the suspect jailed on hate crime charges after the attack on a Hanukkah celebration. It turns out he once served in the Marine Corps but only briefly.
KEILAR: Tonight, we're learning more about the suspect in the weekend machete attack at a rabbi's home outside New York City. I want to bring in CNN national correspondent Sara Sidner on this story.
And, Sara, the suspect, we've learned, actually served briefly in the Marine Corps?
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Very briefly, we want to show you the mugshot of Grafton Thomas that we have just received. We also can confirm that he did, indeed, serve in the Marine Corps, but it was for a very, very short time. He enlisted in 2002, but then his service record says he left less than two months later.
But he did manage to list it in this handwritten resume that his attorney showed to reporters. In that resume, which was undated, he describes himself as highly motivated. He says that he has mental discipline and survival skills and that he's good with teamwork. Those are some of the attributes that he put in his handwritten resume.
His attorney says he has long suffered from mental illness and is not a hate-filled person but a disturbed person. Federal prosecutors don't see it that way. He is now charged with 11 counts including attempted murder, burglary, and five counts, federal counts, of hate crimes.
We should also mention that there were some things that federal prosecutors and investigators found that they mentioned in the paperwork they sent to court, saying that they saw references to Adolf Hitler in some of his journal writings. Also, so-called Nazi culture, the star of David, and a swastika as well, leading them to believe that this was an anti-Semitic attack.
There is also an apparent reference to the Black Hebrew Israelites. And you'll remember that just a couple of weeks ago in New Jersey, in Jersey City, the attack on the kosher market, there was a link to someone who may have been involved with that movement as well.
Now, authorities are saying also that this is the 13th anti-Semitic attack in the last few weeks. There is a move now from the A.G. to go forward with a task force to try and deal with what they see as a real and present problem.
We also were able to speak with Rabbi Shmuel Gancz, one of the rabbis here of the Chabad. He has told us that he has spoken to the victims, two of the victims, one of whom was the son of the rabbi, Rabbi Rottenberg, here whose home was attacked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RABBI SHMUEL GANCZ, DIRECTOR, CHABAD JEWISH CENTER OF SUFFERN: As he was coming up from the basement, he heard commotion in the house, and he opened up the door from the basement into where he was. And he, the assailant, went and slashed the knife and hit him on his -- on his forehead -- I mean (ph), on his forehead and into the side of his skull.
Miracles! I mean, think about it. A 15-inch weapon that's meant to inflict tremendous harm and got a couple of stitches and was sent home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Rabbi Gancz says he is surprised. He really called it a Hanukkah miracle that more damage was not done. Almost everyone has left the hospital with the exception of one person who was very severely injured.
And we should also mention this community is resilient, and they are going forward with their daily lives. But they are in fear -- Brianna. KEILAR: Of course, they are. We've heard that over and over, Sara.
Sara Sidner, in Monsey, thank you for your report.
Coming up, will North Korea unveil a new weapon in the New Year. We have details of a major announcement by dictator Kim Jong-un.
KEILAR: Ahead of his traditional new year's speech, Kim Jong-un has just told top-level party officials that North Korea will reveal a new strategic weapon in the near future.
CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us. And, Brian, a big announcement from Kim Jong-un with possibly more to come.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna, we're really just minutes away from Kim Jong-un giving his New Year's Day address around which there have been some ominous warnings.
The dictator, as Brianna just mentioned, just had his news agency float out that warning of a new weapon. And officials here in Washington are watching closely to see what Kim has to say about his denuclearization talks with President Trump.
TODD (voice-over): A dramatic countdown to the new year in Pyongyang followed by fireworks over Kim Il-sung Square. And a breathless narration from North Korea's iconic news anchor.
(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
TODD (voice-over): That comes with a more threatening countdown to the new year from Kim Jong-un as the dictator dons a white tunic, warns of imminent action. And according to state media, he says, ominously, that the world will witness a new strategic weapon that will be possessed by North Korea in the near future.
The Supreme Leader has been foreshadowing drastic measures if his self-imposed deadline for more progress on nuclear talks with the U.S. wasn't met.
PATRICK CRONIN, ASIA-PACIFIC SECURITY CHAIR, HUDSON INSTITUTE: It is a crucial moment. Kim has said the end of the year is his deadline for an agreement. And he's not getting an agreement, so he's promised us a surprise.
TODD (voice-over): A senior Trump administration official tells CNN, they're closely watching the Korean Peninsula for that surprise, which analysts say could include some dark possibilities.
DR. TARA O, FELLOW, INSTITUTE FOR COREAN-AMERICAN STUDIES: That could be a long-range missile test, another ICBM test which has been on hold for at least a year. So that could be one, and the other could be that he declares that he will walk away from negotiations.
TODD (voice-over): And we could find out within hours when Kim makes his customary New Year's Day speech, often an occasion for him to make a grand entrance and a major announcement.
How would America respond to a provocation like a long-range missile test by North Korea? President Trump's national security adviser didn't give details, only saying the U.S. is prepared to take action.
ROBERT O'BRIEN, UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We have a lot of tools in our tool kit, and additional pressure can be brought to bear on the North Koreans.
TODD (voice-over): Kim has been seemingly been building to this moment for months with a steady stream of provocations. His diplomats cutting short a working-level meeting with U.S. officials in October. The regime launching a series of short-range projectiles. Two apparent rocket engine tests.
Kim recently made a show of riding a white stallion on North Korean's storied Mount Paektu, often a signal of a big decision looming. And Trump and the North Koreans have exchanged insults recently as they did in 2017. Trump, again, calling Kim, Rocket Man; Kim's side calling Trump a dotard.
Why so much agitation?
O: Kim Jong-un, he is frustrated. Because what he has been demanding is he wants the sanctions lifted. There are various indications that show they are suffering under the sanctions, especially the elites.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, analysts are worried about the dangers ahead when Trump and Kim may try to salvage a nuclear deal and their personal relationship.
CRONIN: I do worry about miscalculation from Kim Jong-un that could lead to escalation. And I worry also about just a bad deal from the United States perspective, that we essentially buy into a very weak denuclearization process and give Kim more than he deserves.
TODD: In the meantime, if North Korea does test a long-range missile or engages in another provocation in the coming days, a U.S. official has told CNN, the Trump administration has a series of military show of force options it's approved, including flights of bomber aircraft over the Korean Peninsula or military drills of ground weapons.
Brianna, let's hope it doesn't come to that, but it might.
KEILAR: And in amidst all of these ominous warnings, has there been any communication, actual communication, between the U.S. and North Korea recently?
TODD: Brianna, Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, was asked about that in recent days. Officially, the two sides have really not talked face-to-face since October, but O'Brien says there are channels of communication open.
Let's hope they're using some of them tonight. This speech coming up in the next hour or so is going to be crucial.
KEILAR: All right, Brian, we know you will be watching. Thank you for that report.
Coming up, new details of new U.S. deployments to the Middle East as the U.S. embassy in Baghdad comes under attack.