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Unrest in Syria; Interview With Iowa Congressman Steve King

Aired December 26, 2011 - 22:00   ET


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a race against time, a race between a government that says it's abiding by an agreement to end months of bloody conflict, and opposition forces which say that is a flat-out lie.

Caught in the middle, hundreds of civilians pleading for the international community, including the United States, to step in and stop a massacre. Although no journalists are being allowed in, these are the videos coming out of Syria tonight, reportedly showing tanks, snipers and artillery units pounding away at neighborhoods surrounded by thousands of troops, all this while simultaneously observers from the Arab League are arriving in Damascus to verify that President Bashar al-Assad is keeping his promise to dial back the violence, start talks with the opposition, and let aid workers lend a hand.

Before showing this next video, I really do want to warn you, it is very hard to watch. You may want to turn away, but it underscores the sharp contrast between the two different versions of what is going on here. This is video claiming to show the aftermath of an artillery strike today on the city of Homs. There are more than just the one body you see here, but it's simply too gory to show.

As always, we cannot independently confirm the facts of this video because the Syrian regime will not let us see for ourselves, but take a look.

These are the streets of a neighborhood. The gunfire in Homs is reportedly nonstop now. Some witnesses say it seems as if government troops are basically racing to wipe out the opposition before outside observers can arrive.

The worst of all of this appears to be happening in the neighborhood called Baba Amr, just southwest of the central part of Homs. You can see as we fly in here. It's not clear whether Arab League observers will see this tomorrow, but "Keeping Them Honest," just a couple of weeks ago, President Assad denied that there was anything to see.


BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: We don't kill our people. Nobody kill -- no government in the world kill its people, unless it's led by a crazy person. For me, as president, I became president because of the public support. It's impossible for anyone in this state to give order to kill.


FOREMAN: That was President Assad December 9 talking to ABC's Barbara Walters. His own people -- as Anderson found out from a rare Western reporter who managed to sneak into the country, his own people knew better even as he said that.


RAMITA NAVAI, PBS "FRONTLINE": People are terrified. In a lot of the towns outside Syria, the economy has ground to a standstill. There are daily violent house-to-house raids. Activists and protesters too scared to leave their houses during the day, so they live life on the run, living in safe house, moving from safe house to safe house. Life is not as normal -- in fact, it feels like a wartime era there.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Ramita, when you hear the Syrian leader, the dictator of Syria saying we're not ordering the deaths of people, there are no house-to-house searches, people aren't being arrested and killed in their homes, what do you think? You have seen it for yourself.

NAVAI: Yes. On some level, it's quite laughable. I was watching an Assad interview, and I was laughing at the same time, screaming at the television, because, of course, what's happening there is absolutely undeniable. It's all around you. You can't escape it.


FOREMAN: Since then, it appears that it's only gotten worse for the people living in Homs. That Arab League delegation we mentioned at the top arrived in Syria this evening.

The members are at least expected to go to Homs tomorrow. We don't know if they will, but the opposition puts little stock in the Arab League and is calling for action from the U.N. including military protection, if they can get it.

We spoke earlier tonight with opposition member Abu Rami.


ABU RAMI, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: Well, the situation here in Homs is so bad in Homs. Baba Amr area in particular is under shelling. And the security forces and militia of Syrian army, they are using the armored vehicles and tanks and anti-aircraft armor, storming this area, storming this neighborhood.

There are more than 10 houses completely destroyed, and there were many bodies under the rubble there. There is now a genocide taking place in this city of Homs. FOREMAN: Do you have enough medical care for the people who are injured or any medical care for the people who are hurt?

RAMI: Five days ago up to now we don't have any medical supplies, any medical tools or equipment. Also, there is a shortage of medical assistance, no doctors. There is no doctors enough. Many of the hospitals changed into prisons. Most of the injured people are staying on the streets until they die. That's what is going on here in Homs.

FOREMAN: What do you want the world to know about what is happening in Syria right now?

RAMI: This regime is not honest. This regime just want to kill everyone who oppose him, everyone who say for Assad to step down.

We are calling to direct intervene from the whole organization, and the international community to intervene here in Syria and stop this bloodshed that's going on in Syria, in Homs in particular. There are massacres that are happening every day.

We are appealing these world organizations to see what's going on here. We don't have the media here to make you, the outside watching what's going on, so I would like to thank you so much to make the Syrian people's voice going outside through your free media, and explaining to you what's going on here. We want you to intervene. We want you to help us. We are suffering day by day, and people, they're dying, children, women. Every single person here is targeted and maybe will be killed tomorrow.


FOREMAN: Let's dig deeper now. intelligence columnist and former CIA officer Robert Baer joins us, also Robin Wright, a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and author of "Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World."

Robin, let me start with you with a very basic question here. People are using big words right now like massacre and genocide to suggest that whole sections of the population there are being wiped out even as the inspectors are arriving. Are they overstating it or does that seem to be true?

ROBIN WRIGHT, SENIOR FELLOW, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: This has gone on for nine months now. This is something that's not been a short experience and the scope of it gets worse and worse despite the fact the president of the country denies he's ordering any kind of brutality against his own people.

We're getting close to the point that we can use words like that, when the United Nations claims there are at least 5,000 people who have been killed. There are some estimates that 70,000 Syrians have been arrested. Some of those who have been released have talked about really brutal torture. The scope of this is now getting really horrendous.

FOREMAN: Bob, let me ask you this. If you have a president of a country like this who wants to say against a backdrop of pictures like this that nothing's going on, that nothing is wrong, how much faith would you have that these inspectors from the Arab League will even get to see the right areas?

ROBERT BAER, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, TIME.COM: They're not going to see anything. He's just buying time with the inspectors. This regime feels it's under threat, existential threat.

It's a minority regime, Alawites, 10 percent to 15 percent of the population and I have been talking to them today. They said we're never going to give up Bashar al-Assad. We're never going to give up fighting, we will die to the last person. I think we are seeing a sectarian war here like we have seen in the Middle East, at least in my time.

FOREMAN: Explain to me what you mean, Bob.

BAER: Well, you have got the Sunnis are dug in. They're preparing for a civil war against the Alawites, who control the military and the security services.

The Alawites are a branch of Shia Islam, but they're looked at by many Sunni as apostates. They have fallen away. So it makes this a much more difficult conflict than even Libya, Yemen or Egypt. Because these are sectarian divisions and as the fighting goes on, it gets worse and worse. The fact is, and we have to acknowledge it, the opposition and the rebels are killing regime figures, they are singling out Alawites and murdering them and vice versa. So this is really very much a two-sided war which we can't forget.

FOREMAN: Robin, the opposition here wants the other governments of the world to step in and do something about this. Why can't they? What's keeping the U.N. and other countries from stepping in and saying, enough already?

WRIGHT: With Libya, you had first a consensus among the Arabs themselves and then it went to the United Nations and then it went to NATO.

We haven't even gotten through that first step. The Arab League is still trying to negotiate with the Assad regime. They're very nervous, the Arabs in general, about setting a precedent again as in Libya, and that the West will get involved militarily, something they don't want, given the U.S. intervention particularly in Iraq.

They don't want to set this pattern and so there's reluctance to open the way for that to happen. I think the international community frankly doesn't want to replicate what happens in Libya. I think there's frankly a nervousness nine months in or a year now into the beginning of the Arab uprisings about what will happen next, who will take over.

One of the big questions is, if Assad does fall as many of us believe that he eventually will, what replaces him? That's not clear. You have a real problem today between the various opposition forces. They do not speak with one voice. They're not using one set of tactics. You have the local coordination committees that are trying to engage in peaceful civil disobedience, get people out on the streets that are challenging.

And then you have the army defectors who have launched over the last month, particularly, an increasingly effective or visible campaign against the regime and they're using weapons. And the two sides are not coordinating and they do not have a common strategy and a common vision and that's a real source of concern. We don't know what happens next.

FOREMAN: Bob, let me jump in on that point that Robin just raised there about the military defectors, many of whom as we understand it are actually in this neighborhood that's being hammered so hard. They're trained fighters. They want to fight back. As somebody who has been involved in intelligence work, does that open any cracks for trying to say, look, there's a way to take advantage of the fact there are military people on both sides of this, to somehow get around the regime, to somehow co-opt this thing and quiet it down, or is the world going to stand by and just wait until a lot of people get killed?

FOREMAN: Well, what the State Department would like is for Bashar al-Assad to step down, have some sort of committee replace him as much as happened in Egypt.

But with the army, what we're seeing is the beginning of cracks in it. Many of the rank and file, the officers from less important issues are Sunni Muslims. Undoubtedly, no one can tell for sure, these are the people defecting, taking their arms. Last night I talked to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood who are based outside the country and they said they're desperately trying to get arms in to these defective units.

They bring them in through Lebanon or the coast, but so far they haven't been successful. So I think we're looking at this conflict as getting worse before we find a solution.

FOREMAN: All right, Robin Wright, Bob Baer, thanks so much for joining us.

I'm telling you, folks, this is happening on the other side of the world. It may seem like it has nothing to do with you but these are big events this holiday week.

Thanks for joining us, you all.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Up next, the "Raw Politics" of courting a reluctant kingmaker in Iowa. That's candidate Rick Santorum in hunting orange there. And you may not recognize the other guy, but that's Congressman Steve King. He's a big deal in Iowa. And everyone wants to know what he's thinking with just days to go until the caucuses.

I will ask the congressman why he has not made a pick among the Republicans.

Later on, also, the mystery of a little girl's disappearance, and the new reward being offered to anyone who can help find her in "Crime & Punishment."



FOREMAN: Many of us are taking it easy this week between the holidays, but the Republican contenders are storming into Iowa for support in next week's caucuses. The most recent polls still show Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich pretty much tied for the lead there, but with only days to go, many in the Hawkeye State have their eyes on a known kingmaker, especially when it comes to the strong conservative vote.

U.S. Congressman Steve King went pheasant hunting with Rick Santorum today. Look at him there, just as he has with other candidates and once again, he ended the outing with kind words, but no endorsement.

With time running short, I spoke to the influential congressman.


FOREMAN: Congressman, you're the kind of guy that people listen to in Iowa, and they're listening really hard right now, but you're not picking anyone. What does that mean? Do you not like any of these candidates?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: It means more that I actually like all of these candidates, and it is a very difficult decision.

A large percentage of Iowans haven't decided. I'm among them. I thought I would come to a conclusion in September or October. It's nearly the end of the December, and we're within a week of the caucus. And I have not gotten to that point where my head and my heart come together. And I said when that happens, I will jump in with both feet.

FOREMAN: Why have you not decided?

KING: There are a number of reasons. One of them is how the field is spread out and another part of this is that as the months have unfolded and I have watched the lack of will in this Congress to tighten down on this spending, we're burning up our political capital discussing whether we're going to be at $28 trillion in national debt in 10 years or $26 trillion.

Europe is melting down incrementally, and Greece is ready to default. And I have not heard yet from a presidential candidate that deep conviction on how to get us out of this impending economic disaster that we're in. I want to know when that budget will first be balanced, when we will pay off the first net dollar on our national debt and I would like to hear about a transformative tax policy.

I'm hoping that yet happens. I thought I might get that all for Christmas and it didn't quite happen.

FOREMAN: Now, you have raised a really interesting point here, though, because in our polls what people are most concerned about is jobs. The idea of worrying about the deficit and spending is way, way down on the list compared to that. So if you can get the candidate who says what you want for your nod, is that a candidate who can win the election?

KING: That is one of those questions, but, you know, from my standpoint I don't want to appear that I'm bargaining for some piece of policy that I want and using that as a chit or a leveraging point.

I really instead want to see that a candidate has that conviction and understands this. And, you know, we're electing a leader and that leader should be looking over the horizon and taking us where we need to go. It's not enough to react to the public. The public wants jobs, yes, and businesses have to be able to make a profit before they can pay wages.

That's all part of it, but, meanwhile, if neither Democrats nor Republicans show the will to tighten down on our spending and get to us a balanced budget, we could march off into a financial debacle. But we need a leader to lead us away from that, to lead us away from the abyss. And I'm not yet convinced that any of them have that vision and are able to inspire the American people to take us where we need to go.

FOREMAN: Your alternative, though, if you don't pick someone, if people like you don't decide who you want, is probably to allow President Barack Obama to be reelected. I have heard an awful lot of conservatives say they're willing to compromise to stop that. What about you?

KING: Well, I'm willing to compromise to stop that. I look at what he's done with our finances and an extra $1 trillion a year in red ink each year that he's been in office at a minimum. And I look at him delivering us Obamacare.

That's got to go. We have the go to repeal Obamacare. I think all of the presidential candidates on the Republican side have taken the oath to do that. I'm worried about the appointments to the Supreme Court. Another four years of Barack Obama and I don't think we will recognize the Constitution in my lifetime again.

Those are all big things, but it's not an easy decision. You don't just get to look at one side of the card and say I will play this one or that one. Most of it takes a subjective judgment. And who actually can see in that crystal ball? I wish I could.

FOREMAN: In the end, do you think you're going to speak up on this? Because you have said before that one thing that's very important to you is that Iowa remain important in this process, and I imagine one of the ways it remains important is by people like you speaking up and saying, I'm picking someone I think should win. Now back him.

KING: Well, Iowans do need to do that, and I would not have said months ago that was my intention if I didn't think that that was also a responsibility that I have.

But I have also said that I have to come to a conviction before I could take such a position. I just challenge all Iowans, come out to the caucus, make your decision. Even if you make it late, it's better than not making it. And I think this will be a caucus where there are thousands of Iowans that make up their mind right there in the precinct caucus, listening to the speeches that are given on behalf of each of the candidates.

The undecided caucus-goers might hear something in that speech. Whoever is the best organized, whoever has the best and the most respected speakers at the many, many locations that we have might just be the surprise of the night on the caucus. And perhaps I will get around to that conviction yet. It doesn't -- I just want to make this confession that no one has accused me of being an equivocator over all these years, but tonight I feel like one.


FOREMAN: All right. Well, we will see if you reach that decision, and I'm sure you will come tell us first it if you do.

Representative Steve King, thanks so much for being here.

KING: Thanks for having me.


FOREMAN: More on the "Raw Politics" with former GOP strategist and former Newt Gingrich secretary Rich Galen, also Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, who was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

Maria, let me start with you. You must be delighted to hear Republicans talking this way.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I have had so much fun during this process, Tom, it's unbelievable, but you know the representative, Steve King, brings up an interesting point. It's funny, because at first he dodged your question by saying he wasn't endorsing anybody because he liked all of the candidates so much and then in the next breath he basically says that none of them are good enough for him and that's why he hasn't endorsed.

I think it underscores the lack of enthusiasm among all GOP voters for any one candidate both in terms of substance, in terms of their own history, in terms of whether they're going to be able to beat President Obama or not.

FOREMAN: OK, you raise an interesting point there about lack of enthusiasm about the candidates.

But, Rich, I got to tell you, traveling the country, there is no lack of enthusiasm for beating Barack Obama. It seems to me that what they're really doing right now, particularly conservative Republicans is playing a bit of a game of chicken. They're trying to say how far can we get to the right with the candidate we ultimately choose and still win? Is that a fair assessment?

RICH GALEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's right, Tom. I have traveled with Steve King four years ago. He endorsed Fred Thompson to whom I was the senior adviser. And I think that may have something to do with his lack of enthusiasm.


FOREMAN: That worked out really well for you, Rich.


GALEN: But the point I think is that Republicans, conservatives and moderates may not have their first choice as the nominee but their last choice to be president is still Barack Obama, and as we move through this process, I think it will become clearer and clearer.

And the polling shows both in the battleground states and elsewhere, that enthusiasm among Republicans and Republican leaning voters is much higher than it is amongst Democrats. And that's what happens at the end of a first term when you have the kinds of problems some of this were of the president's making, many of which were not.

But we have become the 11:00 society. We expect all crimes to be solved by 11:00, and all problems to be solved in an hour.

FOREMAN: You know, Maria, that's one thing Rich raises here that I think is a very valid point. I think if I were a Democratic leader right now, the biggest thing I would be saying to Democrats is do not chill the champagne yet, because we're very early in this process. And some chaos on the Republican side, some confusion doesn't really mean anything next November, does it?

CARDONA: There's no question about that.

And I think that President Obama and this White House will be the first ones to tell you that they're running as the underdogs, because regardless of who the GOP candidates are right now, and, you know, regardless of how flawed most Democrats think that they are, the problem is that this president is running against the economy.

And right now, the economy is not where we would all want it to be and the president will be the first one to say that. But I think what's important here, going into this election cycle, the debate on the payroll tax cut I think was incredibly valuable for one reason.

It started to define the debate about what this election is going to be about between a president and a party who is squarely in the court of the middle class, fighting for the middle class and working- class families, and a party who all they have done all year is fight for millionaires and billionaires. And frankly, the House Republicans did such a good job of defining that debate for us as we move into 2012. And I think that's going to help the enthusiasm on the Democratic side and we have already seen it.


FOREMAN: Maria, we have all read the talking points. We will move on from that but I get your point here.

Hey, Rich, let me ask you something about Virginia right now and Newt Gingrich. Is he toast now? To not even make it on the ballot in Virginia, the issue isn't that you don't make it on the ballot as much as it what it says about your organization, isn't it? If you're not organized to get on the ballot, you can't win.

GALEN: It's hard to get on the ballot in Virginia, but it's clearly not impossible. It does take a significant amount of organization. It has to do with the age-old commonwealth battle between northern Virginia and southern Virginia.

But the fact is that we may see another indication of this lack of organization on the 3rd, because the prevailing theory is that you have got to be organized to be able to get your people out to a caucus in Iowa. You got to have the lists. You got to have people as Steve King was saying, who is really a decent guy. He was saying you have to have someone who is prepared to stand up and talk for you. You got to know who is going to show up.

And I'm not sure that Newt's kind of, you know, telephone call campaign having a conference call every day is going to substitute for being able to have built an on the ground operation, and it showed in Virginia. I mean, that's 50 delegates that he cannot compete for because he's not going to be on the ballot.

FOREMAN: Maria, quick question here. Would you rather have the Republicans pick a candidate sooner so you know who your man is running against or would you rather have them keep mulling it over longer?

CARDONA: I think it doesn't really matter in terms of what the final outcome is going to be for the Democrats. Because they're going to be ready. This president is going to be ready to run against whoever comes out of the process, but a drawn-out process I do think is helpful, because the more infighting there is amongst the Republicans, the more I think it shows where this president is going to be at the end.

GALEN: Before you get too far down that track let me just remind you that the fight between Clinton and Obama went all the way to June and guess who got sworn in the next January?

FOREMAN: Rich, you took the words out of my mouth. There were an awful lot of Republicans gloating over that right up until Election Day, when it didn't work out.

CARDONA: But we were all unified.

FOREMAN: Rich Galen, Maria Cardona, thanks for being here. Good luck as we head into the new year.

CARDONA: Thank you so much.

FOREMAN: Still ahead, new controversy surrounding Newt Gingrich's marriages. Gingrich claims his first marriage ended because his wife wanted a divorce, but court documents obtained by CNN tell a different story. We have the exclusive details.

Also ahead, "Crime & Punishment": a new reward for information about a toddler who vanished just days before Christmas. It's an amazing and heartbreaking story. What we have learned is coming up.


FOREMAN: Let's catch up on some of the other stories we're following tonight. Isha joins us again with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Tom, a bloody day in Iraq. A suicide car bomber got through six security checkpoints and set off an explosion, killing at least five people at the Interior Ministry in Baghdad. At least 39 others were wounded.

In San Bernardino, California, police have arrested a man suspected of shooting and paralyzing a U.S. soldier at his homecoming party. The victim, Christopher Sullivan, earned a Purple Heart after surviving a suicide bombing in Afghanistan a year ago.

Georgia court documents obtained by CNN cast doubt on Newt Gingrich's claims that his first wife wanted the divorce in 1980. The files show Jackie Gingrich asked the judge to deny the divorce. Still, the Gingrich campaign says he was simply following her wishes.

And it was a very merry Christmas for actor Matthew McConaughey and his girlfriend, Brazilian model Camilla Alves. They are engaged. The couple has two children. Tom, he tweeted that he'd asked her to marry him. I guess she said yes, because he tweeted it.

FOREMAN: Do you think he proposed to her over Twitter? Do you suppose?

SESAY: I think she was, like, sitting across from him, and he was like, "Hey, want to tie the knot?"

FOREMAN: Oh, that's good. I like that; that was a dramatic re- enactment. That was very well done. Thanks, Isha.

SESAY: You get it all. Your news, add a little drama around here.

FOREMAN: You know, as the end of 2011 approaches, it's a chance for us to look back at the big moments in the news, from pop culture to politics and so much more. We do it every year. We put it together in a big special. And this Saturday, New Year's Eve at 8 and 10 p.m. Eastern -- write it down, stick it to the refrigerator -- we bring you that special. It's all the best, all the worst of 2011. Here's a preview.


L.Z. GRANDERSON, SENIOR WRITER, ESPN: The word "crazy" keeps coming to mind, a crazy year.

CARSON KRESSLEY, CELEBRITY STYLIST: I think it was one of those roller-coaster years.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Talk about unexpected, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This year's been all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final liftoff of Atlantis.

DUFF GOLDMAN, BAKER/REALITY TV STAR: This year was weird, wasn't it?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I think it's been a tough year for the country.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iraq war is coming to an end.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Let's start with the biggest, best story of 2011.

The wholesale return of American troops from Iraq after more than eight years of combat, more than 4,000 lives lost, tens of thousands wounded, whether you supported the war or not, this end was a long time coming, and even with Afghanistan still in play, it was welcome relief for many military families.

But some of the happy reunions may have been stifled by the biggest, baddest story confronting everyone once again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the No. 1 concern that everybody had was jobs. Everybody knew someone who had lost their job.

GRANDERSON: We'd been hovering between 9.2 and 9.1 for the past couple of years. You know, that says to me -- that has defined 2011.

FOREMAN: A late-year dip into the 8 percent range helped a bit, but despite a lot of ambitious talk from politicians about plans for recovering the millions of jobs lost in the recession, unemployment lines remain long and frustration levels high.

KRESSLEY: The retail slump continued. Wah, wah.

LEACHMAN: It's horrible not to be able to pay for yourself, to have a job, to work at what you're good at. COOPER: It feels like, I think, to a lot of people, that the game is rigged or they're -- they just can't get ahead. And there are some very, you know, very severe imbalances in this country.

FOREMAN: At least there is this: if misery loves company, more Americans seem to be warming to the notion that the whole world is in this economic mess together.

LEACHMAN: We need each other. We need each other to buy each other's products and make it all work.

FOREMAN: Biggest blow-up goes to the Middle East, where the Arab Spring movement ignited passions across the region.

GRANDERSON: I don't think the Middle East went crazy. We're just starting to pay attention.

COOPER: I think what we're seeing happen in the Middle East is extraordinary.

LEACHMAN: It's quite thrilling, and where is it all going to end?


FOREMAN: Where, indeed? That's just a little taste of all the best, all the worst of 2011. It's airing Saturday, New Year's Eve at 8 and 10 p.m. Eastern. And after, make sure you ring in 2012 with Anderson and Kathy Griffin, live from Times Square. The party starts at 11 p.m. Eastern. New Year's Eve right here on the only place to be that night, on CNN.

Just ahead, her father says she vanished from her own bed. It's a chance for you to help locate a missing little girl. Stick with us. Tonight police are offering a big reward, trying to find the missing toddler, Ayla Reynolds.

And an apparent murder/suicide on Christmas. New information tonight about the man who police say killed six members of his own family. Stick around.


FOREMAN: Tonight in "Crime & Punishment," police in Maine are offering $30,000 to anyone who can help them find Ayla Reynolds, a toddler who disappeared from her own bedroom days before Christmas. Her story starts our new series, "Vanished."

Her father, Justin DiPietro, reported her missing on December 17, saying he put her to bed the night before and found her room empty in the morning. Investigators conducted dozens of searches, including the family's home and a nearby pond and hiking trails, but police still do not know what happened to her. And at a news conference today, they offered that big reward in hopes that it will produce someone with concrete information.


CHIEF JOSEPH MASSEY, WATERVILLE, MAINE, POLICE DEPARTMENT: Initially we had a lot of leads come in, as you might expect, but as the days and the investigation continued on, they dropped off somewhat. They were still coming in, they're still coming in, and again, we're in hopes that offering the reward, that those folks who might not have contacted us with information will do so now.


FOREMAN: That's the police chief on this case, who also says he believes this is the biggest reward ever offered in Maine in a missing person case. Let's get more on this mystery from Deb Feyerick.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's Friday night, December 16. Twenty-month-old Ayla Reynolds is ready for bed, wearing her green polka dot pajamas with the words "Daddy's Princess" on the front. Her father, Justin DiPietro, puts her to sleep. He says it's the last time he saw his daughter. The next morning, Ayla was gone, vanished sometime during the night.

DiPietro had been carrying for baby Ayla for weeks, after her mother, Trista Reynolds, checked herself into a ten-day rehab program. After completing rehab, Reynolds filed court papers to regain custody of her daughter. The papers were filed the day before Ayla was last seen.

Police say both parents are fully cooperating in the case, and say they have no suspects yet, but they are certain Ayla was taken from her home on that Friday night.

MASSEY: We believe that someone was involved in taking her out of the house, and that's where the focus of this investigation has turned.

REYNOLDS: Two days after Ayla's disappearance, Trista Reynolds tells various media outlets, including HLN's Nancy Grace, that she worried her daughter was not safe with her father. The day after Ayla's mother gives these interviews, Justin DiPietro writes a letter to law enforcement. He says he has no idea what happened to his daughter, nor does he know who's responsible for her disappearance, adding, "I will not make accusations or insinuations toward anyone until police have been able to prove who's responsible for this."

Meanwhile, the search for Ayla widens. Police received nearly 200 tips. Civilian volunteers joined state, local and federal authorities in over 80 searches of the area, including a nearby river, a pond, and several hiking trails. Cadaver dogs are brought in. Still, no sign of the missing girl.

TRISTA REYNOLDS, AYLA'S MOTHER: Is she OK? Is she laying somewheres dead? Is she safe? Is she cold? Is she being fed? Is someone watching her?

RONALD REYNOLDS, AYLA'S GRANDFATHER: Bring her home. Just bring her home to us. I want my baby home. I want her home.

FEYERICK: And on Christmas day, prayers instead of presents for Ayla. It's been over a week since the blond-haired, blue-eyed toddler was last seen. In these cases, time is the enemy. But police continue their search, hoping a new $30,000 reward will bring them closer to finding little Ayla.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


FOREMAN: "Digging Deeper" into this case, let's bring in forensic psychiatrist Helen Morrison.

Helen, thanks for being here tonight.


FOREMAN: You did just say time is the enemy. I'm going to say in my experience, whenever a child this young goes missing this long, bad news seems to be just around the corner.

MORRISON: You're absolutely right about that. Most people understand that the first 48 hours are critical in any investigation, and it's been so long now, and the question is, was she taken? Who might have taken her? What would the motive have been, and where is she now?

Bringing in cadaver dogs is not unusual. That's pretty normal as far as protocol is concerned, but the question is, with all of those leads, why hasn't there been someone named a person of interest?

FOREMAN: You raise an interesting point there, but the fact that there hasn't been a person of interest named against this backdrop of hundreds of leads...


FOREMAN: ... does that mean police don't have one or they're just not talking about it?

MORRISON: They may not be talking about it. I think one of the things that police have learned over the years is that not talking tends to keep their investigation tight, and it doesn't allow a lot of information to leak. If a person of interest thought that they were going to be named, the question is what would they do in that type of a situation?

But there have been so many statements about did this little girl walk out on her own. Highly unlikely. Was it someone in the house at the time? Because there was another infant in that same bedroom. So why was she taken, if she was taken? Why not the other child? The speculation ranges from it was somebody on a revenge kick? Did somebody need to have money owed to them? The speculation has gotten pretty wild. FOREMAN: Almost always in cases like this, unless I'm mistaken, Helen, it's somebody who is either in the family or close to the family, at least police look at them very, very carefully. Is it in the police interest right now to keep family members talking to each other about this, to see if something comes up? Or is it in their interest to try to keep family members away from each other to kind of play people against each other, to either find a suspect or to rule them out?

MORRISON: I think you're on the right track about that, but in this family, it certainly appears that they have no need to be kept apart. They are apart. They've not been communicating on the basis of their own wishes. There's a tremendous amount of anger on the part of the maternal side of the family, and we've heard nothing from the paternal side of the family.

So again, is it something that the police are doing? Police always look at the intimate family. They are the people who have opportunity. They have exposure. And no one knows what motives might be, but family and intimate partners are always the first to be looked at.

FOREMAN: All right, Helen Morrison, thank you very much for joining us on this difficult, difficult case. I so hope we get some kind of decent news to come out of it. Thanks for being here tonight.

MORRISON: Thank you for having me.

FOREMAN: Ahead, another deadly tragedy for a Connecticut family this Christmas. Fire rips through their home, killing five people, including three young girls. Why firefighters say they weren't able to go in and rescue them.

Also police catch up with a group of teens accused of stealing thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise, and you will not believe what they did to get the cops' attention. You must stay around.

And who is copying whom? Anderson takes on Stephen Colbert as part of our countdown of the top ten "RidicuLists" of 2011.


SESAY: Anderson's got the best of the "RidicuList" coming up. First, serious stuff, a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

New information tonight on an apparent Christmas day murder/suicide near Dallas. Police believe the gunman, dressed as Santa Claus, opened fire at a holiday gathering right after gifts were unwrapped. Authorities say he killed six members of his family before taking his own life. Police expect to release autopsy results and the victims' identities tomorrow.

Another Christmas day tragedy, this one in Connecticut. A massive fire at the Stamford home of an ad executive. Her parents and three young daughters were killed. The executive and the friend escaped, but the flames were so intense, firefighters were unable to go inside to rescue the others.

And here's a business tip. If you want a future in crime, don't brag about it online. Pittsburgh police arrested four teens. They're charged with robbing a local market. Authorities say they found one of them after one alleged miscreant posted pictures on Facebook posing with the loot.

Up next, No. 5 on Anderson's "RidicuList" countdown of 2011. His beef with Stephen Colbert.


FOREMAN: We have been counting down the top ten "RidicuLists" of the year, and this week, we're down to the top five, based on your votes. And tonight, a journey back to May when Stephen Colbert first made the list. Take a look at No. 5 on our countdown.


COOPER: Time for the "RidicuList." And I've got to admit I struggled tonight whether or not to add this person to the list, but I decided in the end that enough is enough. So tonight we're adding a man by the name of Stephen Cull-bert to the list.

Now, at first, I must admit, I'd forgotten who Stephen Cull-bert -- what? Colbert? Really, are you sure? The "T" is silent?

Stephen Colbert apparently, my team of PR professionals actually tell me I have been on Mr. Colbert's show, but I have no memory of that. Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I put Sean Hannity on the "RidicuList" because of a clip he used in a show on liberal bias, a clip of me on air, which his show edited to completely change the meaning of what I said.

Anyway, Mr. Colbert took issue and accused me of copying him. He went so far as to create something called the "Absurd-u Chart" just to put me on it. Look.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE COLBERT REPORT": You, sir, are nothing but a thief! Because your segment, "The RidicuList," is a clear rip-off of my "On Notice Board." And for stealing my idea, I'm putting you and your "RidicuList" on my "Absurd- u Chart."


COOPER: "Absurd-u Chart," I'm sorry. Words hurt, Mr. Colbert, words hurt.

Now, the very idea that I'm copying you is simply ridonculous, which by the way, was the original name we came up with for "The RidicuList." I cannot believe that you of all people say I am copying you when, in fact, sir -- oh, that's right, sir, I'm going there -- it has been you who has been copying me for years. That's right, I said it. I give you exhibit A.

Here you are on the cover of the current issue of "Outside" magazine. Like you ever go outside. But oh wow, where can you come up with the idea of being on the cover of "Outside" magazine? Could it be from me? Oh, yes. One year ago, April 2010, there I am. Look, I'm on the cover of "Outside" magazine. Not since I woke up disoriented, smelling of toner in a Kinko's on 56th and Broadway have I seen such blatant copying. Now, admittedly, my cover shot was a far more heroic pose. Far be it for me to say, though I did just say it.

Exhibit B, here's your Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor, "Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream." A big seller, I'm told. Sounds pretty good: vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and a caramel swirl. Wow.

Wonder where you could have gotten that idea. Could it have been from my Ben and Jerry's ice cream, which came out years ago? Perhaps you've heard of it: "Anderson Cooper's White Bread Ripple." Little chunks of dry, white toast and vanilla ice cream with vanilla covered vanilla pieces. A swirl of gin and -- mmm -- just a hint of tonic. May not be as well known as yours, sir, but it does have a brisk business in Kennebunkport and Locust Valley late July to early August.

Now, look, I admit your "Absurd-u Chart" was very funny, particularly the part where you used peanut butter to affix my picture to an actual chart. I thought that was actually pretty inspired.


COLBERT: All right, there you go. Boom! Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm. How does that taste, Anderson? I assume you like peanut butter. I didn't even check to see if you had a peanut allergy. The ratings feud is on. I await your next move.


COOPER: Now, I know if I was one of these other cable anchors, I would try to keep a ratings feud going with you. It would get attention. It would get ratings. It would be mutually beneficial. But look, I'm not going to do that. I'm willing to just let bygones be bygones. We're both adults. We're both TV professionals. There's no need for a feud.

It's certainly not worth it for me, because as we all know, at the end of the day, everyone goes to sleep after "The Daily Show" anyway. So here's to you, Stephen Colbert. Love your "Absurd-u Chart" and I'm proud to have you on tonight's "RidicuList."


FOREMAN: Anderson will have No. 4 on our countdown tomorrow night.

That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.