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U.S. Warships to Korean Waters; Tom DeLay Found Guilty

Aired November 24, 2010 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, GUEST HOST: Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now, with North Korea saying it's on the brink of war and South Korea on high alert, the U.S. flexes its own military muscle, sending a carrier strike group to waters off of the Korean Peninsula.

An actor who appeared in a hit TV show is found in his apartment holding a bloody sword, his mother lying dead nearby. In an exclusive interview, CNN uncovers the shocking details of a horrific killing in New York.

And they were trapped nearly half a mile below the Earth's surface. You remember them for 69 days. Well, you're going to hear those Chilean miners tell what really happened underground.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, breaking news, political headlines are straight ahead. Wolf Blitzer is off, I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you are in "The Situation Room."

A powerful navy strike group led by the aircraft USS George Washington is steaming to the waters off the Korean Peninsula. Now the show of force was launched just hours after the smoke cleared from that deadly North Korean bombardment of a South Korean island.

With both Koreas on high alert now and the U.S. forces in harm's way, I want to go live to our CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence to give us the very latest.

Chris, what's going on, what do we know?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, these training exercises are going to start Sunday and they're going to run for four days, but the president didn't scramble this together in response to North Korea. This was already in the works. So, he benefited from fortunate timing. Beyond these exercises, the president's options range from bad to worse.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): It is powered by two nuclear reactors, armed with 75 fighter planes and surrounded by a small fleet of ships. The USS George Washington is steaming toward Korea. On Sunday, more than 7,000 American sailors start defensive training with the South Korean navy, a show of force meant to deter the north.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: No, I don't think it will be the last exercise. LAWRENCE: In an interview airing Sunday on CNN's" Fareed Zakaria: GPS," the chairman of the joint chiefs calls North Korea's Kim Jong-il dangerous and belligerent.

MULLEN: Certainly, he galvanizes everybody around obviously the potential that they could go to war with South Korea.

LAWRENCE: North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire for more than an hour Tuesday. The North shelled the populated island, killing two soldiers and two civilians.

VICTOR CHA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTL STUDIES: These are basically acts of war by the north.

LAWRENCE: South Korea lawmakers grilled their defense minister saying the military should have retaliated faster and harder.

CHA: The next provocation, there is no guarantee that the South will remain simply calm and not respond.

LAWRENCE: On Wednesday, U.S. officials sent a clear message to China. Use your power to restrain North Korea.

MULLEN: I believe for some time that probably the country that can influence North Korea the most is clearly China.

LAWRENCE: Victor Cha is a former White House adviser with the National Security Council. He says China is in a box when it comes to its ally.

CHA: They are both powerful and hostage to North Korea's belligerent actions.

LAWRENCE: Omnipotent, because they are the only ones feeding North Korea, giving them food and supplies. Impotent because China can't actually play its trump card. Cut off all aid, North Korea could collapse, sending millions of starving refugees over the Chinese border, but peace between North and South is not appealing either.

CHA: The idea of having a united democratic pro-American Korean Peninsula directly on China's border is just not seen as, is just not seen as a positive thing for Chinese influence and interests.


LAWRENCE: So what are the options? Well, President Obama could order a naval blockade of North Korea, but that risks all-war and would take tens of thousands of troops, fighter jets, ships. If he agrees to talks to the North Koreans, it could be seen as if he is caving to pressure. And if he doesn't, there is no reason to believe North Korea will stop these provocative attacks any time soon. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Chris, also, we've seen the developments in the last 12 hours or so. We know there was very high tension when this first happened. Do we get a sense now that the tension has started to ease somewhat or is it still just as strong as it was when this first happened?

LAWRENCE: Well, I talked with a senior official here at the Pentagon earlier today and he said you know, if you go by North Korea's track record, it's take a provocative action and then sit back and watch the world's reaction. He feels like that's where they are right now. The key is going to be what happens Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, when these exercises start. How is North Korea going to react to that?

MALVEAUX: OK, Chris, thank you very much.

North Korea's bloody bombardment has been followed by chilling threats from both sides. And as tensions rise, residents of the battered island, they're not waiting around to find out what could happen next.

Our CNN's Stan Grant is in South Korea.


STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They've survived a deadly attack on the island, now plunged into the middle of a media frenzy, hundreds of evacuees pouring onto the ports. The young, the old, the frail, some carried on stretchers to waiting ambulances, all share a similar tale of terror.

"It is a mess," this woman says. "There is nothing left. All the stores are all blown up, glass shattered, all of it just disappeared in no time." Some have seen their homes destroyed, lost their possessions as North Korea reigned down shells onto Yeonpyeong Island. South Korea returned fire for over an hour, an armistice of more than 50 years was shattered. Buildings ablaze, smoke billowing into the sky.

For some, the island can never truly be home again.

(on camera): Do you feel that you want to go back to your island? Will you feel safe on your island again?

(voice-over): A large number of villagers are thinking of leaving Yeonpyeong Island. This experience was just too shocking, too threatening.

(on camera): Do you think that this has taken the tension between the two countries to a new level? That relations now are the worst that you can remember?

(voice-over): "I think that the situation is at its extreme. In reality, what we experienced was much graver than what you see on TV."

The South Korean military is on full alert. President Lee Myung- bak threatening a quote "enormous retaliation." Next week it will hold joint military exercises with the United States, a show of military might designed to send a warning to Pyongyang.

KIM TAE-YOUNG, SOUTH KOREAN DEFENSE MINISTER: The fact that they have indiscriminately fired upon a defenseless civilian zone was a brutally inhumane action, an illegal and intentional action against the U.N. Constitution and armistice between the North and South Korea.

GRANT: North Korea also ratcheting up the rhetoric, warning of a merciless military confrontation. South Korea leaving no doubt how serious this situation is talking of wartime aid being shipped to those left stranded and without electricity on the island.

(on camera): This is different to past provocations, this is different to past flash points on the Korean Peninsula. Now we are seeing an attack on South Korean soil, and these people, civilians caught in the crossfire. Stan Grant, CNN, South Korea.


MALVEAUX: We are going to have more on the conflict between North and South Korea, but I want to go back to Jack Cafferty here with "The Cafferty File."

And Jack, I understand is it shopping season yet or is it not?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey and the stuffing and the pumpkin pie are polished off, millions of Americans turn their attention immediately to Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

What is yet to be seen is how the shaky economy and troubling forecasts are going to affect holiday spending this year. The Federal Reserve now says to expect weak economic recovery for several years. Some policy makers say it could take six years or longer before unemployment, growth and inflation return to more normal levels.

Meanwhile, taxes are set to go up for 90% of Americans if the Making Work Pay Tax Credit expires at the end of the year. But never mind all that, the American consumer is apparently ready to spend.

A survey by the National Retail Federation shows people plan to spend about $689 on holiday related shopping this year. That's up about $7 from last year. They said most of the money will be spent on gifts for friends and family. The rest of it will go to co-workers, decorations, food, candy and flowers. The survey shows $393 that consumers plan to spend on family and friends is the highest that it's been since before the recession hit.

But partly because of the recession, consumers are still looking for bargains, which is why many stores began promoting their Black Friday sales right after Halloween this year. Those discounts usually drop prices by 20 percent to 30 percent, so it is worth seeking them out. Here is the question, do you plan to spend more or less on holiday gifts than in years past? Go to, post your comment on my blog. Are you spending more on my gift this year or less on my gift, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: I am just going to go all out, Jack, wait until you see it.

CAFFERTY: Probably about the same as last year, right?

MALVEAUX: Zero. I am going to wish you a happy holiday, Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's all that's necessary.

MALVEAUX: That's going to be my gift to you. Thank you, Jack. Well, there is a fascinating battle that is taking shape on Capitol Hill and it could have a major impact on U.S. climate change policy. We are going to show you who is jockeying to lead a powerful committee.

Also, the birth of a new political movement that is neither left nor right, but can it succeed where others have failed?

Plus, some of the Chilean miners speak candidly and emotionally about their ordeal, including what is was like when they were rescued. It's a CNN exclusive.


MALVEAUX: We have breaking news out of Texas where a jury has convicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. I want to go live to CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar who has some more details about this news that is just coming into us.

Brianna, what do you know?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, just in now to "The Situation Room," this Texas jury has found Tom DeLay guilty of both money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

He had been on trial for what the prosecution alleged was laundering, sort of taking $190,000 in corporate donations and funneling it illegally to help Texas candidates in the Texas legislature through their elections.

So this jury has just after deliberating now for days, has just said that he is guilty of two counts, both money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, both very serious charges, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Brianna, thank you. I want to bring in our CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. He's joining us by phone. Jeff, what do we make of this verdict? What do we know will happen likely next for Tom DeLay?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is the next step in an epic step between the district attorney in Austin, the capital of Texas, and Tom DeLay. These charges relate to events that took place in 2002. He was indicted several years ago. It has already been appealed several times pre-trial. And what's next for Tom DeLay is sentencing. There will certainly be more appeals. But today, Tom DeLay is a convicted felon, and he may go to prison. MALVEAUX: Jeff, with these kinds of charges, do we know what kind of sentencing he may face? What the range is? Is it possible that he may see some jail time?

TOOBIN: It is possible that he will see some prison time. I say it would be unlikely that it would be more than a year. And I think that the appeals will certainly go on for some time, but Tom DeLay is in a lot worse legal shape today than he was this morning, even though this is a legally controversial case. It is not a crime that has been prosecuted often in Texas or anywhere else. But it is a felony and he stands convicted and now he is looking at sentencing.

MALVEAUX: Jeff, I want to thank you. I want to get more information from our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash who joins us now. Dana, you know very much about Tom DeLay. I mean, he was a very powerful figure known as the hammer and then we saw him later with "Dancing with the Stars."

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He didn't last as long as Bristol.

MALVEAUX: But quite an incredible journey that he's had, his legacy. Speak a little bit about who he is.

BASH: That is right, I mean, you said it, the hammer. He was known as the hammer for lots of reasons, but when it comes to raising money, he was very known as being very, very aggressive at raising money from anybody who he possibly could. Now this as Jeff and Brianna just pointed out, this particular -- these charges that he was found guilty on was about state legislature in Texas.

There also were of course allegations that he was caught up with regard to federal investigation in Jack Abramoff. We haven't heard anything about that with regard to him there. The fact of the matter is, in terms of Tom DeLay's reputation and more broadly the Republicans reputation at the time, I mean if you think about this, this is the kind of thing that helped lead Republicans out of office the first time. It was anger about this kind of thing from the Republican base, itself, that really helped to prompt the Democrats coming in to take control back in 2006 which obviously changed very quickly.

MALVEAUX: What was his background like? He was a very unique individual.

BASH: Pest control.

MALVEAUX: Yes, that's what I thought.

BASH: Pest control was his business before he came into Congress. That was his job. And it was really amazing to watch the way when he was the House majority leader, the way that he ran things. People really lived in fear of him. There was no reason, again, he was called the hammer. He handled things with an iron fist. And that was true for the people who were serving with him, the rank and file Republicans but also the people from whom he felt that he needed things from in terms of interest, corporate interest and elsewhere to keep things going.

MALVEAUX: The Republicans that you speak with, how do they see him now, how do they view him in light of all the things that have happened?

BASH: It's interesting, he is not somebody who we have seen kind of pop up in the new crop of Republicans, and you have seen Dick Armey obviously who was in his class, so to speak, really out there, and has become a leader in the Tea Party movement. And others as well who have left, he has really stayed quiet, big time. And I am guessing, probably an informed guess is part of it because he was facing these allegations.

MALVEAUX: All right. Dana Bash, thank you so much for bringing us more context. Appreciate it.

We are going to continue to follow the developments of that story. Also, they shared an incredible 69-day ordeal, but many of their worst days came individually. Some of the Chilean miners are recasting those low points, telling us about them in an exclusive interview.

Plus an actor accused of brutally killing his mother, and now his father talks exclusively to CNN about the alleged murder weapon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I practiced martial arts. The sword, that was my sword that was in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was your sword?




MALVEAUX: I want to go back to Brianna Keilar for some breaking news here. We are talking about the conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Brianna, what do we know? I understand that he just spoke?

KEILAR: He just spoke. And this is from our affiliate KVUE in Austin. They caught up with him right outside of the courtroom where a jury handed down this guilty verdict on money laundering charges. Here is what Tom DeLay said.


TOM DELAY, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: And I praise the Lord for what is going on here, number one. And number two, I'm not going to blame anybody. This is an abuse of power, and it is a miscarriage of justice, and I still maintain that I am innocent, that the criminalization of politics undermines our very system, and I'm very disappointed in the outcome. But, you know, it is what it is, and we will carry on, and maybe we can get it before people that understand the law.


KEILAR: So former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay making it clear that he is going to be appealing this ruling. A jury of six men, six women handing down this verdict just moments ago that he is guilty on two counts, Suzanne, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

MALVEAUX: And your understanding is that he is fighting this?

KEILAR: Yes, well that is what he sounded like he was saying. Hopefully we can get this before a jury that will understand the law, I think he said something like that, calling this the criminalization of politics. So it's sounding like he is going to appeal this.

KEILAR: OK, Brianna, thank you very much. And obviously we will be following very closely all of the moving developments out of this breaking news story. We'll get back to it.

Many Republican lawmakers are sharing serious doubts about global warming, a hands off attitude on energy and some resistance to environmental regulation. Well that adds up to a very interesting contest for a key post in the next Congress. I want to bring back our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash who has been tracking that. It is really fascinating to see all the jockeying of power that's taking place in a very key, very important committee when it comes to climate control.

BASH: That's right, there are four Republicans vying to be chairman of this powerful energy and commerce committee, and the race is really one of the most fascinating dynamics to look forward in the next Congress because who is picked not only says a lot about the new direction of the House majority, the Republicans when they take over, it also will have a big impact on the president's climate change agenda.

So let me go through and give you a sense of where they stand, where these contenders stand particularly on the issue of global warming. First, Joe Barton. He is somebody who is currently the ranking Republican. He has apologized famously to BP for a White House shakedown and said that he's not sure if global warming is mostly man made.

Next is John Shimkus. He has called the global temperature a carbon star plan and in a hearing last year, he said this.


REP. JOHN SHIMKUS (R), ILLINOIS: The Earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth, this Earth will not be destroyed by a flood.


BASH: Now to be fair, at that hearing, he was talking to a group of clergymen.

Now next is Republican Cliff Stearns on Florida. His spokesman told us that he is concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, but he is dubious of scientific experts who claim global warming is a problem.

And last, the person who is considered perhaps the front runner for this and also the most moderate, Fred Upton. He does believe in reducing emissions, but also he has supported phasing out incandescent light bulbs. Now some conservatives who are really gunning for him say that Upton is favoring a nanny state by taking that position, phasing out energy light bulbs.

Now regardless of who gets it, Suzanne, it is safe to say that the president's cap and trade legislation, that whole idea is virtually dead, because it was hard enough to get it through the House only when they had a big majority.

MALVEAUX: And this is the kind of committee that doesn't just deal with energy. There are a whole lot of other big issues including health care reform. How do we think that's going to impact?

BASH: That's right. And that's why this is another fascinating thing to watch because when Republicans take over, one of the first orders of business is going at least to try to repeal the president's health care bill, and this is the committee that helped to write it, so this is going to be the committee. And the chairman of the committee is going to one of the key players to dismantle it.

MALVEAUX: It's going to be a lot of fighting, I can tell coming up in January. Thank you so much, Dana.

BASH: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Appreciate it. Well, they spent 69 days trapped underground. Find out why for one miner it was the 16th day that was the most horrible. He's going to tell us what happened half a mile below the earth's surface.

And critics of airport security ask travelers to opt out of body scans. We're going to tell you what is happening at the checkpoints.

And exclusive details of a horrific killing. A TV actor is found with a bloody sword, his mother lying dead nearby.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the scream for help, call 911.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A scream like ah, but it is more in fear, a curling.



MALVEAUX: Tomorrow night we invite you to join us in one of our Thanksgiving traditions, "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Salute." Now this year in addition to our top 10 heroes, there are 33 very special guests, the Chilean miners whose ordeal captivated the world. Well, some of them sat down with "Heroes" host Anderson Cooper to talk candidly and sometimes emotionally about the 69 days they will never forget.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What was the most difficult moment in all 69 days?

JUAN ILLANES, RESCUED MINER (through translator): I think it was the first days. Those were the hardest for me. It was the unknown. It wasn't clear whether the rescue was going to happen effectively in 20, 30 or 40 days.

COOPER: Jimmy, how about for you? What was the worst moment?

JIMMY SANCHEZ, RESCUED MINER (through translator): It was the first few days. Those first 17 days were the hardest for me.

MARIO GOMEZ, RESCUED MINER (through translator): For me, the worst day was the first day. I thought it was the end.

COOPER: You've worked in the mines a long time. You're the most experienced here. You really thought that was it, that you were going the die?

GOMEZ (through translator): Yes. At that moment, when we were all there and there was all the noise and the dust, I really thought we were going to die.

MARIO SEPULVEDA (through translator): The worst day was the 16th day for me. We could hear the drilling probe. It was very close. It was desperate and fun at the same time. But when the probe did not find our shelter, that was the most critical time and desperate time for me.

COOPER: Were there moments of panic? Of just moments of, I mean, you know that -- maybe you hear that people are searching for you, but were there moments of -- I think if I was there, there would be times I would just panic.

JUAN ILLANES, RESCUED MINER (through translator): When we realized the situation we were in, there was great concern and worry. We knew we were trapped, but there wasn't a massive panic. Never. The situation was there where we all could have panicked, but we all worked together, and Mario had great ideas. We kept communicating, and it kept us all calm.

COOPER: I've been in situations where I thought my life was in danger, and I made many promises to myself about how I would change or what I would do differently. Did you all, in your mind, think about things you would do differently in your life if you were able to get out? I haven't followed through on some of the promises that I made, so -- but I still have time. So... JOSE OJEDA, RESCUED MINER (through translator): We found ourselves inside that mine. All the mistakes we've made. I've made big mistakes in life, but when we left that mine, we left with a new mentality that things we didn't do in life properly, we can now redo.

SEPULVEDA (through translator): For 39 years, my life has not treated me very well. And inside that mine, that was the moment when I found a lot of answers in my life.

COOPER: That moment when the first drill came through, what was that like?

SEPULVEDA (through translator): It was exciting. Very exciting. Hope, life, the desire to continue living. It was beautiful. Like a party. It was outrageous; it was like a carnival. It was as if Chile played Argentina in a soccer match, and Chile won.

We had a note prepared, a letter ready to send up. Otherwise, we would have forgotten everything, because it was such an exciting situation. So that is why we wrote the note.

COOPER: Did you write it out before the drill came? Did you know the drill was coming?

OJEDA: Yes. The minute we heard them drilling, the minute it started, I wrote, "We are OK in the shelter, the 33 of us."


MALVEAUX: You can see that special tribute to all 33 miners tomorrow night. "CNN Heroes: All-Star Tribute" starts at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 Pacific. Watch to see who will be named the next CNN Hero of the Year.

Washington is increasingly paralyzed by bitter partisan politics. Is the time right now for a middle (ph) way forward? We're going to show you the birth of a new political movement.

Plus, an actor accused of the gruesome murder of his own mother. We are hearing bizarre new details.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was his son saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jerusalem and Moses. Jesus said, "Pick up your bed and walk."



MALVEAUX: The midterm election and the nasty campaign period which preceded it shows American politics to be more and more polarized. What happened to the vast middle ground where lawmakers could compromise and find ways to get things done? We really don't know.

Moderates from both parties are forming a new centrist movement. Our Brian Todd has been looking into that.

You know, I guess the cynics ask, can this work? Can it happen?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of cynics are asking that right now, Suzanne, and their answer is an unequivocal yes. They believe the time is right for it right now.

This movement, called No Labels, is playing right to that vast middle ground that Suzanne mentioned, that huge part of the voting public that's fed up with the extremes of the Tea Party on the right and on the left. They say the partisanship that the president once thought we could get past has unfortunately come roaring back.


TODD (voice-over): Remember that first week after he was elected?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship.

TODD: That spirit wouldn't take hold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to take back our country.

TODD: There were soon angry partisan rallies from activist groups on the right, like the Tea Party, and on the left, like

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot back down!

TODD: In the government partisan vitriol from Republicans...


TODD: ... and Democrats alike.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It's Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans, rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes. It is a shame. A shame!

TODD (on camera): Entertaining political theater, but there are many observers, analysts, columnists, former and current politicians who are openly worried that, with the new moment from the Tea Party and other Republicans in Congress and with left-leaning Democrats hunkering down on that side and putting more pressure on President Obama, some crucial problems like reducing the deficit, maybe even in time to avoid a government shutdown in 2011, won't get solved.

(voice-over) Now a new movement, targeting the middle of American politics, is mobilizing. It's called No Labels. Made up of centrist Democrats and Republicans, many of them political strategists, who say they want to pressure the parties to work together to tackle crises like the deficit, unemployment, immigration.

Jon Cowan, who served in the Clinton administration, is one of the founding members.

(on camera) What demographic of voters are you targeting? Who has been left out of the latest political struggle in America?

JONATHAN COWAN, NO LABELS: In American politics right now, mostly the far left and the far right dominate the debate on the airwaves, on television, in town halls. That's who you see yelling the loudest, demanding change. We're organizing the other 70 percent of the electorate.

TODD (voice-over): But Cowan and others in No Labels tell us this is not a third party. Either way, centrist movements in American politics don't have the best track record.

(on camera) What is the movement up against at this point?

DARRELL WEST, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: What the movement is up against is a very polarized situation. The media basically covers liberals and conservatives. Much of the campaign finance comes from the two extremes, and so that will be their biggest challenge.

TODD (voice-over): New York's independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been linked to the group and is invited to speak at their launch in New York on December 13. A Bloomberg aide introduced the two founders of No Labels.


TODD: But No Labels' leaders tell us this is not the stalking horse for a Michael Bloomberg presidential run. They say they're getting no money or other resources from Bloomberg. But one No Labels founder told me if Bloomberg runs, there's a good chance the group would support him. We got no response from Mayor Bloomberg's office -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Brian, I understand that this kind of movement has been tried before in Congress but hasn't worked out so well.

TODD: That's right. There was a movement in Congress. I talked to two former Congressmen who were part of this. It was called the Bipartisan Congressional Retreat. They would get Democrats and Republicans together every couple of years for a retreat with their families. They say it starred out well. Then attendance dropped, and it kind of fizzled out in 2003.

Just a series of partisan attacks and people just figured they couldn't work with each other anymore. That tends to be what happens in this town when that thing -- when that kind of thing happens. We're going to see how No Labels does. If Bloomberg gets behind it, it may get some power, but they're saying he's not a part of it right now.

MALVEAUX: OK. We'll see how that shakes out. Thank you, Brian. Very interesting.

A CNN exclusive. Details of a shocking killing in New York where an actor who appeared in a hit TV show is accused of killing his mother with a sword.


MALVEAUX: CNN has uncovered shocking details of a horrific murder that took place in New York early yesterday morning. Police believe that an actor who has appeared on the hit program "Ugly Betty" killed his mother with a sword.

Our CNN senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, has been digging on the story. He joins us from New York with this exclusive.

Allan, what are you finding out?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, police Tuesday morning found actor Michael Brea holding a bloody sword in his apartment, his mother dead in the bathroom with lacerations to the head. The actor's father, who spoke reluctantly, told me it was his sword that his son, Michael, allegedly used to commit the murder, the murder of his own mother.


MARCEL BREA, FATHER: The sword, I am a martial artist. I practice martial arts. The sword, that was my sword that was in the house.

CHERNOFF: That was your sword?

BREA: Yes, but it is not -- we never used, try or take about -- my son is not a violent person at all. He's a very lovely, peaceful young man.

CHERNOFF: So you're telling me that the sword was yours, and according to the police, your son used your sword to kill your wife?

BREA: I don't know. I don't know. I wasn't there. I don't know. I wasn't there. I don't know.

CHERNOFF: When you say you don't know, do you doubt what happened?

BREA: I wasn't there. I was not there in the house. I wasn't there.

CHERNOFF: Well, you know your son has been arrested and charged with killing your wife.

(voice-over) Monday night, Marcel Brea says his son Michael, an actor who had appeared on the show "Ugly Betty," attended a Freemasons meeting at this Masonic lodge in Harlem. Michael called his father just before 11 p.m., complaining of a headache. Marcel, who is also a Mason and lived apart from his ex-wife and children, told his son to relax.

BREA: And I said go, do your prayer, and lay down in your bed, relax, that the headache will go away.

CHERNOFF: Two hours later, neighbors in the four-story Brooklyn building say they heard a shriek.

CLINTON CLARE, NEIGHBOR: I heard a scream for help: "Call 911."

VERNAL BENT, NEIGHBOR: It was a scream like "Aaa!" But it's more very much in fear, like a curling.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Neighbors called 911, and they say the police responded within about five minutes, but there was no answer at the door, so the police waited to get a crowbar to force open this door and another entrance to the apartment down the hall.

(voice-over) Neighbors say they could hear Michael chanting.

(on camera) What was his son saying?

BENT: Jerusalem, Aaron, Moses. Jesus said, "Pick up your bed and walk."

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Police waited for emergency backup, suspecting a hostage situation. Eventually, they broke down the bathroom door, discovering Yannick Brea dead, with lacerations across her head that police say were inflicted with the sword.

Yannick's son, Michael, police say, was sitting on a bed, holding the sword. Marcel refuses to believe it, saying his ex-wife and his son loved each other deeply.

BREA: I don't believe that my son killed his mother. That wasn't my son. It's not the son that I know.


CHERNOFF: Michael Brea is charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon. His father, Marcel, says he did not raise a killer. He's in the process of hiring a lawyer to defend his son, and meanwhile, he says, he still needs to identify the body of his ex-wife and prepare the funeral that he says she deserves. Suzanne, he calls her a saint.

MALVEAUX: That's a terrible story. Thank you, Allan. Appreciate it.

Well, the economy, the election and more. Donald Trump gives his take on all of it on "JOHN KING USA" at the top of the hour.

And, well, do you plan to spend more or less on holiday gifts than previous years? Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.


MALVEAUX: Time now to check back in with Jack Cafferty.

Hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour is: "Do you plan to spend more or less on holiday gifts than in years past?"

Martha writes, "Much less. I lost my job last year, and finding another job in this market is very difficult for an older woman. My family understands and knows that I'll not be able to give like I used to. It's heartbreaking for me, but life is difficult, and we all must do what we must do."

Valmiki writes, "I will probably spend more than last year, but that isn't saying much. Last year was the pits, and any movement could only be up. The outlook is better now than it was 12 months ago. The job situation is slowly improving. The markets are doing better. And one more thing: we're in a new normal, and people are getting used to that. Last year, people were still in shock."

Gordon writes, "Kids are definitely expecting more. A poll of 2,500 kids taken last week by a kids' blogging site called shows that kids who said they're expecting more or a lot more outpaced ones who said less or a lot less by a 2 to 1 margin. The big items driving the spending for their families were electronics, things like games, cell phones and laptops. Really interesting comments from the kids. A lot of them seem to equate what their parents will spend with how much their parents love them."

Laura in Washington writes, "This year my whole family, seven adults ranging from 19 to 62, decided to draw names and buy one person one gift with a limit of $100. We're doing this in an effort to save some money and keep a little extra in our savings. Typically, I spend between $600 and $750 each year on just my family."

Chris in California, "I only spend as much as my wallet allows. I usually put $500 cash in, go off on my shopping spree. When the cash is gone, then I've reached my limit."

Gordon in New Mexico: "About the same. I'm getting too old to become a Scrooge."

And Pat in Michigan: "One big present for the wife, one each for kids. Toys for Tots gets the rest. Happy holidays, Jack, to you and your family. Let's all remember the least of our brothers."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog,

Suzanne, have a nice Thanksgiving tomorrow.

MALVEAUX: Hey, you, too. Happy Thanksgiving, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: The question is, will Donald Trump run for president in 2012? John King asked the billionaire. That and much, much more on "JOHN KING USA" at the top of the hour.

Plus, the president and Mrs. Obama reflect on Thanksgiving and the year.


MALVEAUX: A reflective President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama talked with Barbara Walters of ABC News about Thanksgiving and the year that is quickly drawing to a close.


BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: You know, when we've been together, I have asked you about something you do at dinner most nights and that is you describe the rose, a good thing that happened, and the thorn.


WALTERS: So this Thanksgiving, look back, what's been the rose and what's been the thorn?

OBAMA: Well, I've got a lot of roses. My family's happy and healthy, and they're doing wonderfully. You know, we have been able to make progress on a lot of issues are helping a lot of people. Now, on the thorn side...

WALTERS: The Republicans? No.

OBAMA: No, the -- you know, the fact we haven't been able to make a bigger dent in unemployment during the course of this year, and that's something that, you know, will keep poking me until -- until we solve it.

WALTERS: Mrs. Obama, the rose, the thorn?


MALVEAUX: This week marks time of quiet reflection for dozens of defeated incumbents who had to return to Washington for the lame-duck session and begin to pack up their offices. They include some of the most senior House Democrats.

Now, two of them spoke with CNN senior producer Kevin Bonn about the election, their careers, and how hard it is to say good-bye.


REP. JAMES OBERSTAR (D), MINNESOTA: There are an enormous flood of memories, of work accomplished, of friends, associates. Everywhere there are echoes of the past and thoughts of work yet to be done.

REP. PAUL KANJORSKI (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Actually, you know, it's not really shocking in any way. I guess I accepted the reality of the situation. And it's difficult, however, to put together 26 years of what you've done. And we have a very limited time to do so we can prepare these offices for the next members that are coming in. But other than that, it's actually been an interesting experience.


KANJORSKI: Well, the -- seeing the new members come, seeing the generational change that's occurring. And this is, I think, historically one of the largest turnovers in the House.

GRAPHIC: Was the health-care reform bill the right decision even if it cost Democrats control of the House of Representatives?

OBERSTAR: Yes, it was. And shame on us for not having messaged that legislation better and more effectively. That -- that was a shortcoming of this election, that the Democratic Party did not carry that message nationally to the people of this country, to show the cost savings, the changes that will result.

KANJORSKI: Oh, I think that's going to end up being some of the most important legislation the country has ever had and ever passed. The problem is we didn't do it successfully.

You know, when you go back and see photos and things that happened, it reminds you of that 26 years and, of course, there's an awful lot of history in there, and the legislation I've participated in over the years, problems I've tried to solve or have successfully solved over the years.

OBERSTAR: This was one of the monumental bills that I authored and moved through committee as chair. It's the Aviation Revitalization Act. It choked me up to go through the room and this and my office, to see these memories. But they're good memories. It's a good choking up.


MALVEAUX: Both congressmen say it's still too early to say what they're going to be doing in the future but both say one possibility is teaching, and both rule out retiring, saying they still have something that they want to offer.

Well, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM and over at the White House. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at Also visit our blog. That's right, "The 1600 Report," at

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.