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Newtown School Shooting 911 Calls Released; Arctic Blast Closing In; Obama: Raise The Minimum Wage; Raise the Minimum Wage; Cheney: Keep It in the Family; Criminal Charges against Engineer?; Santa Threatens Christmas

Aired December 4, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jake, thank you. Happening now, police withheld 911 recordings from the Newtown school massacre. They are released sparking for the devastated families and controversy about whether or not the audio should ever be heard. What impact will the audio have on the community and why release them now?

Arctic blast, tens of millions of Americans are about to see temperatures plummet by 60 degrees or more in a matter of hours. Sub- zero temperatures, snow, and ice hitting cities not necessarily used to the cold. Where is this severe weather now and could it be heading toward you.

Will there be criminal charges in that deadly New York train derailment? Do prosecutors go after the engineer even after he broke down, reportedly filled with remorse? I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the public release of those chilling and heart-wrenching 911 calls from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting which left 20 students -- young kids, first graders -- dead; six adults dead, as well, nearly a year ago.

Police in Newtown, Connecticut distributed nearly 30 minutes of the 911 calls to the news media organizations today after a court ordered them to do so against the wishes of so many of the victims' families.

The recordings have generated a great deal of controversy here at CNN and across the country. At this hour, CNN is carefully reviewing those calls.

Our national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, is joining us now with the latest details about what we're learning from the emotional calls and about the portions CNN decided to air.

What's going on -- Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we can tell you is one of the reasons that the tapes were released is because there wanted to be no questions as to what happened in terms of who acted properly and who did what. And so the theory was that by not releasing them, it created more conspiracies. And so the thinking was that the tapes should be released.

Now, what you don't hear on these tapes is you don't hear screaming. You don't hear chaos. You don't hear pandemonium.

What you hear is a quiet fear, as people called 911 to tell dispatchers that a gunman was in the building. One woman called and pleaded with dispatchers to send police as quickly as possible. She saw the gunman and then she heard what appeared to sound like shooting.

Another woman, who was shot in the foot, she crawled into a classroom. And she's talking to the dispatcher, saying that she can't get even get to the door to close it because there are children who were hiding in the room. Everybody was quiet. Everybody was trying to hide and hope that the gunman didn't come back to where they were.

So it's very powerful to listen to. But the control of the dispatchers, the control even of the people who were in that building making these calls is actually remarkable -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Deb, what new details do we hear from people inside the school, the atmosphere, for example, as the events -- the tragic events -- were unfolding?

FEYERICK: Well, what's fascinating is that you realize how this sort of unfolds in stages.

When the calls began coming into dispatchers at 911, the dispatcher immediately notified his sergeant. He knew that this was something very big. Immediately, he called Connecticut State Police.

And then there was a call from a custodian who was in the building who really became the eyes and ears for the police, for law enforcement. He was the one who was able to basically say where the sounds of the shooting were coming from. He was able to say when there was gunfire and when there was silence, as well.

And at one point, he's even confronted by responding officers and he iden -- and the dispatcher says, "Tell them who you are." And, he says, "The custodian, custodian."

And when they realize, they say tell the dispatcher to get Connecticut police here. And the dispatcher says tell them they're on their way.

So there was so much that was going on and so much that was happening so quickly, as police tried to determine exactly what was happening in the school, that you hear the urgency and you realize the horror of what is going on unfolding not almost immediately, but in stages, as you hear them calling for the Connecticut State Police, as you hear them trying to remain quiet, remain hidden while all this was going on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And tell our viewers why we're not playing those audiotapes right now.

FEYERICK: Well, a team -- a very smart team of people are going over the tapes, listening to them, determining the value, determining, really, what is newsworthy, what is of value. Clearly, everyone, not just here at CNN, but elsewhere, wants to maintain the dignity of the families and what they have lost. Nobody wants to re-traumatize anybody. They're already so traumatized as it is to sort of gratuitously show the tapes or play the tapes, really isn't any one object -- anyone's objective. And that's why everyone is being so careful -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, thank you.

We're obviously very aware of this very sensitive nature of all of this, the potential for the calls to strike a fresh blow to the families who lost loved ones that day.

I was in Newtown, Connecticut in the hours and days after the shooting. Among the people I spoke to at that time was the Reverend Matthew Crebbin. He's -- he was with the Newtown families as they learned that their children had been killed.

I spoke to him today about what was going on and about the possible impact of these just released 911 recordings.


REV. MATTHEW CREBBIN, NEWTOWN CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH: As a pastor, I know the release of these tapes, the release of information in general that has been happening over the course of the last few weeks is very traumatizing to many in our community and very difficult. And I also know that information is an important thing to have. But because of the nature of the circumstances of what's happened to us and because of all of the attention, that that -- that creates a real challenge for us, especially as we near the anniversary. It's just so close. And I know for many folks, especially those closest and most affected by the events, this is just a gut-wrenching, awful time to have to receive and hear about and try and shelter themselves from the information that's coming out in the midst of continued grief and continued -- a continued desire by many of them to try and find their way, that this is just another challenge and another difficulty.

And we're doing our best to try and to provide comfort and support for people.


BLITZER: We've put together a panel to look at every angle of all of this.

Our senior media correspondent, the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, is here with us, as is John King and Jeffrey Toobin. They are both here, as well.

Dr. Drew Pinsky, the host of HLN's "Dr. Drew On Call" is joining us -- Brian, these are difficult decisions not only for us at CNN, but for all news organizations, when to play it, if to play it.

What are you hearing?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: STELTER: And these conversations happened early this morning, honestly, days ago, but early this morning and all throughout the day at places like CNN about what to do with these tapes.

Now, all of the networks and major news organizations took a wait and listen approach, which is probably the right thing to do. They didn't decide ahead of time what to do about it. They listened to the audio and made different decisions.

For example, Fox News, within an hour, played a couple of audio clips, but not what they said was the most heart-wrenching audio. CNN is taking longer to listen to the audio and put together a taped package. ABC is not going to air the audio at all. And I just got an e-mail from NBC. NBC is not going to air the audio at all, but CBS will.

So as you can see, many different decisions from organizations today.

BLITZER: Dr. Drew, for the families, how painful could this be, hearing those audiotapes?

DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S "DR. DREW ON CALL": Well, obviously, horrific. They need to not listen to this, absolutely. But the fact that the families need to avoid all of this, I could see how just a few moments ago, you showed the pictures of the victims. That -- for a -- you know, a bystander, that was difficult to look at.

The fact that these conversations go on is re-traumatizing the families. So they should absolutely avoid this.

That doesn't mean the rest of us shouldn't take a good, hard look at this.

Wolf, I remember so vividly a year ago, feeling, when this happened, we had crossed into a new zone as a country and we have got to keep that top of mind. We must solve these problems. We must unflinchingly look at these things. If it means also listening to these tapes, we should.

And by the way, it sounds like we'll hear some heroism as well as some horror.

BLITZER: Yes, there certainly was -- you know, Jeffrey, Newtown officials, they didn't want the judge to release these tapes, but the judge made the decision to go ahead.

Legally speaking, was there any choice?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Not really. The Freedom of Information law in Connecticut is very clear here. And the judge made, I thought, the only decision he could. And, you know, I think it's just worth pointing out that these tapes, while they are poignant, they are not as disturbing as they might have been. They are -- they do not have the voices of children on them.

What's horrible about these tapes is what we know was going on. The tapes themselves actually show the professionalism of the 911 operators, the cool, by and large, of the people who were calling in.

The tapes are not disturbing, it's the underlying facts that are just so awful here. And it's the reminder, not the tapes themselves, I think, that is -- is so significant here.

STELTER: Agreed.

BLITZER: You know, John, and as all of us remember, immediately -- within a few days after the killings, the president came to Newtown. And he said, among other things, he said, "These tragedies must end and to end them, we must change."

But now, almost a year later, have we really changed?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the national level, not in any significant policy way. There was an attempt at some new gun controls. There was a conversation in the Congress about new efforts to try to put more money into mental health programs, to see, you know, it's yet another case where people say, did we miss a sign, did the system miss a sign, did the family miss a sign, did the school miss a sign, did somebody in a government responsibility place miss a signal?

At the federal level, there was an attempt to expand background checks. It failed in the Senate heading in this political climate. Don't expect anything to change any time soon on that front.

If you look around the country, in different communities, again, the mental health conversation went on and some steps were taken in some communities. School security conversations went on. And as you would expect in a country so both politically and geographically diverse, culturally diverse, some communities took new steps, whether it's putting up, you know, securities. And some communities have actually said, you know, teachers maybe should carry guns or allow those things to happen.

So different responses at the state and local level. A lot of talk and not, you know, people have different perspectives on these issues, but not a lot of action at the federal level.

STELTER: Well, today certainly does reopen those conversations, for better or for worse.

BLITZER: Reopen the conversations. The news media is being asked by so many of the families, Brian, to stay away...


BLITZER: -- from Newtown, Connecticut next week.

Should we, the news organizations, stay away from Newtown?

STELTER: I think they should abide by that request. It's been made by so many different parts of the community. CNN has said that they will stay out of the town that day. And I think other news organizations will, as well, because after all...

PINSKY: It doesn't mean...

STELTER: -- at an anniversary... PINSKY: -- it doesn't mean, though, that we shouldn't keep this conversation going.

Let's be careful. Let's absolutely honor what these families are requesting.

But this conversation must go on. And I'll tell you what, the mental health piece of this has somewhat continued. Again and again, we have had murders in the last couple of years where physicians and mental health professionals were involved with these folks and were not able do their job. That needs to be remembered and that conversation needs to be top of mind.


TOOBIN: Well, I'd like to disagree a little bit about how much veto power the parents should have, the families should have, about how we cover this story.

The anniversary, I agree. That's not really a news story.

But the tapes are a news story. And I think we are obliged to cover it. This was an enormous...

PINSKY: I agree with that.

TOOBIN: -- major national event and a...

PINSKY: I agree. But they've asked us to stay away on the anniversary, which for them...

TOOBIN: And that...

PINSKY: -- is a sacred and difficult, difficult time.

STELTER: And I'm not sure...

PINSKY: That's going to be...

STELTER: -- how important it is to be in Newtown that day.


STELTER: We can have the conversation...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- a backdrop.



PINSKY: -- have the conversation without...

(CROSSTALK) PINSKY: -- without intruding on these poor people.


PINSKY: The same thing with these tapes. They don't have to be intrusive, but we must keep the conversation going. We have to.

BLITZER: Well, here's some more of the conversation, my conversation with the Reverend Matthew Crebbin, who spent the last year trying to comfort some of those families in Newtown.

And I asked him how the community is doing.


CREBBIN: I would be reluctant to speak for and declare anyone exactly what their -- what exactly is happening for any individual families.

But I think what I say about Newtown is, in fact, I've been recently quoting some lyrics from Leonard Cohen that's a -- that there's a crack in everything, but that's how the light gets in.

And I think in Newtown, we're cracked. You know, this has affected all of us very deeply, and especially our families that lost loved ones.

And so we're cracked. But also, out of that -- those cracks, we see light that is both coming into people's lives and also being shared by people's lives. We think that the story for many of our families, as well as many of the citizens of Newtown, is that -- that we are finding ways to be kind to each other. We're finding ways to encourage each other. We're finding ways to make a difference out of the circumstances which just were beyond imagination for most of us.

And I think there's a real power there. But day by day, you know, it's one step at a time. There are going to be continued struggles. And certainly as information and attention comes out, like today, that's just another event that does cause trauma to people in our community.


BLITZER: All right, Dr. Drew, I want you to weigh in on what we just heard from Reverend Crebbin.

PINSKY: I just -- I think he brilliantly and beautifully put a fine point on this, which is that they're cracked, but the light is coming in and we must continue to illuminate. We must continue to illuminate this conversation without hurting these people. There's a way to do that. And there are some very significant points that need to be addressed and we've said, as you -- we -- all this panel said, is a lot of conversation, but still nothing resolved.

So we must -- we must continue to illuminate this.

BLITZER: And, John, he himself, Reverend Crebbin, told me that he has cracked, himself, inside, this has been so painful not only for the families. And he was there on that day at that school when the parents were notified that their little kids were killed.

KING: But you see -- and Jeffrey listened to the calls, I haven't. But this janitor is clearly a hero. The reverend is a hero. You see it in Boston, where as, again, as the months passed, some of the victims began to step forward. And some of them are young, some of them are a little older. Some of them had positions of some community responsibility, like a clergy member beforehand.

But they get magnified in their -- so you get next generation, a new generation of leaders in communities like this that, when they tell us to stay away on that day, we should listen to them and stay away that day.

But we should talk to them the day before and the week after and the year after that, because they have the insights that we don't have about the personal nature of the tragedy and the political leaders. I'm not going to give a speech, you know, should there be gun control, should there be more money in mental health. That's up to the democratic process to decide. But everybody, regardless of their position, should talk to that reverend, as you did, to get his perspective to help them make their decisions.

BLITZER: Yes. They've been struggling for a year now.

All right. A good conversation, an important conversation.

Thanks to all of you, once again, for joining us.

Up next, there's bone-chilling cold sweeping from the Arctic. Millions of Americans are about to get a dangerous taste of winter- like weather.

And President Obama calls for a hike in the federal minimum wage.

Can he really do anything or is he just appealing to his base?

Stand by.


BLITZER: Thanks to all of you once again for joining us.

Up next, there's bone chilling cold sweeping from the arctic. Millions of Americans are about to get a dangerous taste of winter- like weather.

And President Obama calls for a hike in the federal minimum wage. Can he really do anything or is he just appealing to his base. Standby.


BLITZER: Subzero temperatures, snow and ice, all in store for millions of Americans as an arctic blast spreads across a huge swath of the country. Take a look at the bone-chilling cold it brought to west Yellowstone, Montana, -28 degrees. Compare that to Dallas at 80 degrees. A 108-degree temperature difference, but this is all on the move and much of the southern U.S. is about to see temperatures plummet as well.

Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, has the forecast, but let's go to CNNs Ana Cabrera. She's in Boulder, Colorado right now which has seen as a very cold temperature. How bad is it over there? I think the temperatures in the single digits, Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The temperatures are plummeting, Wolf. We're settling in for a deep freeze here in Colorado. As you see, all of this snow is still piling up. It is frigid cold. We're talking negative nine degrees for the overnight low and single digits for the high temperature tomorrow. So, of course, the homeless shelters are filling up. The roads are icing up again after they were cleared today.

But again, at some point, the temperature is so low even the deicing agent that's put on the roads stops working. On top of that, we've got the avalanche conditions and the dangers of the avalanches up in the high country continuing to build. It was so concerning, in fact, that at Beaver Creek Ski Resort where they were having world cup ski training happening, they had to cancel some of the downhill ski training sessions today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How long do we expect this arctic chill to continue there?

CABRERA: Well, that's the big reason that this is such an unusual weather event here in Colorado where we do see snow, we do see cold temperatures, but it's usually not this cold for such a long duration. And we aren't expecting to see anything above teens until sometime next week, let alone when we're going to get above freezing where things can start to thaw out.

And so, the National Weather Service telling us this kind of stretch of cold weather really hasn't been seen here in years.

BLITZER: Ana, thanks very much. Let's get the forecast now. Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is joining us from the CNN Weather Center. So, where is the front right now? Where is it heading.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Moving through Oklahoma on its way to Texas, Wolf. Eight in Denver, 26 in Guymon, Oklahoma, 73 in Idabel, Oklahoma, and 78 in Dallas -- so the cold air is just rolling through Oklahoma right now and that's the problem. There's not really a storm right now, it's just cold air moving south. And then later on this week, Thursday night and Friday, warm air is going to try to go on top of that cold air.

It's already going to be 32. It's actually going to be 28 in Dallas and it's going to start to rain. You'll get rain in 28. There's no place in the world that can handle that. There will be millions of people without power from this ice storm, Wolf, from North Texas, right through parts of Oklahoma, into Arkansas and Missouri.

This pink area right through here, that's all frozen and freezing precip, not snow, but it tries to rain into cold air and that's the problem. It's cold at the surface. It's 45 degrees at 5,000 feet. It rains through and that's a problem. The rain freezes on contact that's freezing rain. If it hits you and you can feel it or you can hear it, that's sleet. By the time it gets to the east coast, it's completely gone.

But there will be inches of this stuff across parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and into Paducah. This is all ice, at least a half an inch, building up on trees, building up on power lines. Those power lines are going to come down. And then, a foot of snow from parts of Arkansas right through Paducah, Kentucky.

It all sets up like this, you get a city, we'll just take Dallas Fort Worth. The warm air is here. It's 78 degrees. The cold air is on its way. It barrels under the warm air because it's heavier. And then it begins to rain and that rain comes through. If it's warm enough, let's wako (ph), it will all be liquid. If it goes right in through Dallas, it will be freezing rain.

A little bit farther to the north, it's thick enough that this rain freezes before it hits. That's the pellets (ph), that's the sleet, and then farther back to the north of Oklahoma, it's just all snow.

BLITZER: How unusual and extraordinary is this whether pattern that we're seeing yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

MYERS: This is at least once every two to three years, but not more than that, Wolf. This is a big arctic front. When you consider that it's eight degrees in Denver and it's 28 in anchorage, Alaska, I mean, that's all of the cold air that was up in the arctic has just now come down into the U.S. and we're feeling it right here.

BLITZER: Certainly are. All right. Chad, thanks very much. Chad on top of the story as he always is.

Just ahead, Dick Cheney speaks out about his daughter's feud over gay rights. Did he put the issue to rest or did he re-ignite it?

And time is running out for dozens of whales that are trapped in shallow water up the coast to Florida. We'll have latest on the rescue effort. That's coming up.


BLITZER: The American dream is eroding, so says President Obama who revved up a Democratic crowd today by calling for new policies to lift up the poor, including raising the minimum wage. Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, watched the president's speech today. All right. Jim, so tell our viewers who missed it. What happened?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just as the president is trying to fix the Obamacare brand, he is also spending some time to work on the obama brand, reminding his core supporters what he wants to rush (ph) of his presidency to be all about and it's not just Obamacare.


ACOSTA: Where the second term stuck in a rut, President Obama spent the day on a mission, to fire up his base.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe this is the defining challenge of our time.

ACOSTA: At a speech sponsored by liberal think-tank, he laid out a decidedly progressive second-term agenda, focused on fixing the nation's income and equality, calling for a raise in the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to more than $10 and an extension of unemployment benefits, echoing the pope's call to careful the poor, and then later in the speech, casting Republicans as a scrooge if they stand in the way.

OBAMA: Christmas time is no time for Congress to tell more than one million of these Americans that they have lost their unemployment insurance which it will happen if Congress does not act before they leave on their holiday vacation.

ACOSTA: The president defended his health care law as sources leaked out new enrollment numbers, some $29,000 signing up in the first two days of December, a huge jump from the roughly 27,000 in all of October. Republicans argue that's not fast enough to enroll the millions of Americans who have seen their policies cancel.

REP. KEVIN BRADY, (R) TEXAS: What will these patients and families do when they show up at the hospital or need to reorder a lifesaving prescription on New Year's Day and the Obamacare plan isn't yet available. This coverage gap is real.

OBAMA: This is a big deal, to quote Joe Biden. And, you know, so...


ACOSTA: The president also appealed to another key part of his base, telling a youth summit gathered at the White House to look past the Web site's technical problems and get enrolled.

Mr. Obama answered critics who say he's been avoiding a certain Affordable Care Act nickname.

OBAMA: I know people call this law ObamaCare. And that's OK, because I do care. And...


OBAMA: -- I do. I care about you. I care about...


ACOSTA: The president made this policy pitch today knowing full well Republicans in Congress are not going to go for it. But that fits the president's political goals for the upcoming year, not only taking the fight in his upcoming State of the Union speech, but all throughout the mid-term election cycle in the coming months -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Jim.

Thank you.

Let's continue the conversation with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political commentators, Republican Kevin Madden and Democrat Cornell Belcher -- Cornell, what is the president attempting to accomplish today?

Because on a lot of these legislative issues, they're not going to go anywhere.

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wolf, a couple of things. One is this issue of poverty and inequality is something that's near and dear to him. I mean, Wolf, you will remember that he actually started, you know, his career organizing poor people in Chicago. So this is an issue that I thought he would come back to in this term. And he has.

The other part of this is, look, this isn't very much different from the conversation that we had successfully in 2012 about broadening...

GLORIA BORGER, HOST: It's not different at all.

BELCHER: No, it's about -- it's equality, stupid.

BORGER: Right.

BELCHER: I mean so he's taking it back to issues about expanding the opportunity for the middle class that Republicans, quite frankly, didn't have a very good answer for in 2012.

BORGER: You know...

BLITZER: You're saying, Gloria, we've heard this speech before.

BORGER: I think -- I think you've heard it, having...


BORGER: -- worked in the Romney campaign.


BORGER: We've all heard it. I also think this is kind of a way of laying the groundwork for the budget fights that are coming up, to raise the sort of income inequality issue. The question of taxes, I'm sure, will come up. The question of what you do with Medicare, what you do with Medicaid. All of that will come up.

And I think so he's sort of dipping his toe into that now a little bit early.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and I do think that this -- that Cornell is right, that this is an effort to sort of fire up a Democratic base that has been very demoralized over the last few weeks and months because of the way -- of the debacle that has been the ObamaCare rollout.

But, you know, it's also important to remember that to that to listen to that speech today, you'd have to believe and in order to believe President Obama, you'd have to think that he hasn't been president for the last five years. So there is a lot of leadership that's still lacking there.

And his inability to really get things done in Congress has been a result of him not really working with many members up there.

And he doesn't have...

BORGER: Yes. But they're not going to vote...

MADDEN: -- he doesn't even have...


MADDEN: -- he doesn't even have good relationships with Democrats up on Capitol Hill to build on this time.

BORGER: Yes. And what Republicans now are going to vote for the increase in the minimum wage, on this particular issue?


BORGER: -- is talking about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not going to vote...

BORGER: That's not realistic.

BELCHER: But, look, they -- they've said, politically, we're going to try to block everything he does so that he's not successful. They have been true to -- true to form there. When he -- when he did have a Democratic majority that worked with him, guess what, they passed legislation -- legislation that pulled us out of a recession.

If he had Republicans who would reach across the aisle and work with him -- once upon a time, minimum wage Republicans would vote for a minimum wage every now and then. It's broad support for it.


MADDEN: I think there's a -- the difference is not so much on the minimum wage as -- there are differences on the minimum wage, no doubt. But where Republicans want to see greater economic opportunity is in the larger reform that are going to help the economy. And the president hasn't been very successful there.

BORGER: Such as, you mean tax reform?

MADDEN: Such as tax reform...

BORGER: Or do you mean...

MADDEN: -- you know, there are -- there are...

BLITZER: All right...

MADDEN: -- of course, there are many programs...

BORGER: Corporate tax reform.

BELCHER: But the problem is...

MADDEN: Not just corporate tax reform.

BELCHER: -- but the problem is, yes, but when you say tax reform, you mean cutting taxes for the wealthy (INAUDIBLE)...


BELCHER: -- wealthy (INAUDIBLE). OK, what...

MADDEN: No, reforming the tax code so that you can incentivize people to hire more workers. That's the real...


MADDEN: -- that's the real step...


BORGER: But again, I would say...

MADDEN: -- that are right now at the bottom of the economic ladder.

BORGER: -- but again, I would say, you've got a lot of blockades in your own party on that.

BLITZER: All right, let me...


BLITZER: Look, we're not going to resolve this right now. But I do want to get your take...


BLITZER: -- on the vice president -- the former vice president...


BLITZER: -- the former vice president, Dick Cheney, speaking out about the feud between his two daughters.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We, uh, you know, our -- were surprised when there was an attack launched against Liz on Facebook. And we wished it hadn't happened. It's always been dealt with within the context of the family and, frankly, that's our preferences.


BLITZER: The attack was launched by Liz's sister...

BORGER: And then...

BLITZER: -- and -- and her wife...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- because they -- because Liz Cheney was saying that she didn't believe in same-sex marriage.

BORGER: You know, I was saying this earlier, this is a little Godfatherish, you know, we want to keep this in the family, this fight.

But the irony here for Dick Cheney is that he is to the left of his own daughter, who is running for the Senate in the State of Wyoming on the issue of gay marriage.


BORGER: He has said that he believes in personal freedom and that he believes it's an issue that should be left up to the states. And she has said, I'm opposed to gay marriage. So he is actually much more libertarian than she is on this issue.

BELCHER: And but really -- and really quickly, I mean what you see literally this family feud within the Cheney family is a family feud in the larger Republican Party. They're having a debate about sort of opportunity and inequality. By the way, that's blocking them from expanding their base and expanding the electorate. Most Americans have already moved on from this issue. Republicans are still struggling with it.

BLITZER: Are you still struggling with it?

MADDEN: This -- look, this is a very tough issue. Yes, I think families deal with this every single day. Parties -- and political parties deal with it every single day.

What I find pretty -- quite interesting about how this has become a news item is that...

BLITZER: The Cheney family issue?

MADDEN: The Cheney family issue becoming a news item is that -- and this -- I think it's tougher -- it's tougher for former Vice President Cheney to navigate, is that, you know, this is a new digital world that we're dealing in with politics. I think the American Idolization of politics, where things that are very personal become very public, that's changed.

It wasn't like that in 2008 or 2004, when he was running.

BLITZER: Well, but she...

BORGER: Well...

BLITZER: -- she made those statements...

BORGER: Facebook was around.

BLITZER: -- on television.

MADDEN: I'm sorry, 2004 and 2000.

BORGER: Right. Yes.

BLITZER: You know, Liz Cheney, who's running for the Republican nomination...


BLITZER: -- for the Senate from Wyoming, she made those.

MADDEN: But this has been a Facebook post fight back and forth. That's how it sort of blew up...

BORGER: But it's a family...

MADDEN: -- and I think became a much bigger issue politically.

BORGER: And I think he was truly surprised...


BORGER: -- by the Facebook post, see. And, by the way, within -- in the State of Wyoming, this is not issue number one. This is a sideshow to issues like taxes and fishing licenses, OK?

This is...


BORGER: I'm not...

BELCHER: But this is not issues...


BELCHER: -- this is not issue number one anywhere in the country.

BORGER: And so -- and so -- but what this is, within the state of Wyoming, is a fight to see if the Republican establishment wins, because what Liz Cheney is talking about is that she's a new generation. She's portraying herself as more conservative than the incumbent, Mike Enzi.

BLITZER: Who is very conservative.

BORGER: Who, by the way, is very conservative.

MADDEN: And full disclosure, I have actually worked with the NRSC, which is supporting Mike Enzi. But that is something that -- it's actually not so much of a policy issue right now in this debate. It's become a character issue. It's become a question about why is it that Liz Cheney is now having a fight that's very public within her family.


BLITZER: All right, very quickly...


BELCHER: But it is -- but it is a policy issue, because -- because you are putting people in the Senate who will try to block a person's right for marriage equality.


BELCHER: That is a policy issue...


MADDEN: -- is that...

BELCHER: That is a policy issue.

MADDEN: -- is that you have essentially two candidates that agree on that particular issue.

BORGER: They -- they all agree, right.

MADDEN: Mike Enzi and Liz Cheney agree on this issue. But it's not become a problem for Mike Enzi, it's become a problem for Liz Cheney...


MADDEN: -- because she's fighting about it with her sister.

BLITZER: Kevin, Cornell, Gloria, guys, thanks very much.

Up next, new details about the fiery crash that killed Paul Walker and the future of the Fast and Furious movie franchise.

And a lottery ticket worth $50 million goes unclaimed for almost a year. You're going to find out how they tracked down the winner even though the ticket is long gone.


BLITZER: Now to some other stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Results of the autopsy results for Paul Walker are in. They confirm the actor died from injuries sustained by the impact and fire of Saturday's violent car crash near Los Angeles. The LA County Coroner's office says Walker's friend, Roger Rodas, was driving. Walker was the passenger.

Universal Pictures says production of Walker's latest movie, the seventh installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise, will be shut down for a period of time to assess all available options.

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson has admitted to using cocaine twice, though she says she didn't have a drug problem. She revealed it during a trial of two former assistants accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of pounds from Lawson and her husband. Lawson has been known in Britain for years, but also appeared on the ABC show, "The Taste," here in the United States.

Wildlife officials are trying to rescue about 40 whales that are trapped in shallow water off Florida's Everglades National Park. They're believed to have gotten stuck there when high tide ended. Workers were able to get some of the whales back into the water, but 10 of them have died so far.

Dennis Rodman will head back to North Korea soon for the third time. This according to the online betting company, Paddy Power, which is sponsoring the trip. The retired NBA star will bring other former players to play in an exhibition game in North Korea. The names of those players, by the way, have not yet been released. It's unclear if rodman will meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, whom Rodman called -- and I'm quoting him now -- "his friend for life."

And some things are better late than never. Let's talk about $50 million. A woman in Canada has been informed she is the winner of the lottery, even though she lost her ticket and the money went unclaimed for nearly a year. Officials tracked her down by using surveillance video from the store where she bought the ticket. She called the experience -- and I'm quoting her now -- "a very weird and wonderful journey."

So what if you were convicted of a crime you didn't commit?

What if one -- if no one believed you were innocent, not even your own son?

This is the incredible story of an innocent man sent to jail for killing his wife and his fight to clear his name.

Can the truth set him free?

Watch the CNN films, "An Unreal Dream." That's Thursday night, tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

And just ahead, CNN's Nic Robertson recalls surviving a train crash himself as he reports on new developments in that deadly New York City derailment. Plus, fear of a dirty bomb. Who is behind the theft of a truck carrying radioactive material?


BLITZER: Regular service along New York's Metro-North line has mostly resumed after the derailment that killed four people. And there are several significant developments in the investigation, including questions about whether the engineer will actually face criminal charges.

CNN's Nic Robertson is joining us now from New York.

Nic, the engineer's lawyer is calling this an accident, but here's the question. Will prosecutors see it the same way?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Bronx D.A. hasn't said what he's going to do. Certainly he's looking at the way the investigation is going. But other lawyers are looking at this and they're saying that there is a case here of negligent homicide or even criminally negligent homicide.

They say the very act of speeding along the track is reckless or grossly negligent conduct, which would result in one of those charges. The criminally negligent homicide, if you will, would come into play if the driver -- if the engineer of the train was known to be doing something distracting or had taken drugs or alcohol. He's certainly been cleared of taking alcohol so far, but these are the factors that lawyers are looking at right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm going to -- show our viewers a picture of a train -- a train crash nearly 30 years ago, Nic. It's a train crash that you were -- you unfortunately had to experience yourself. Tell our viewers what happened.

ROBERTSON: Wolf, the train engineer on that journey tried to go around a 50-mile-an-hour bend at 90 miles an hour. The train was -- I was in a sleeping compartment, so I didn't have far to fall, but the train came off the rails going around the bend.

I remember sort of slow motion the grinding noise, the falling, the tumbling sensation. And when I stopped, that tiny compartment that was in that had a small -- that had had a small window in the wall, that window was now a skylight. And when I looked out of it, I could see I was very close to a house.

When I eventually got out of there, I realized that the carriage I was in was on its side and smashed into the house.

A very traumatic experience, and not too many ways dissimilar to this curve, the train coming off at speed around a curve. I broke my wrist, the driver, the engineer came off much worse in that accident -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, well, I'm glad you're OK, Nic. Thanks very much, thanks for your excellent reporting as well. Coming up, an exclusive look inside the very messy home shared by some of Washington's power players. It's an inspiration for a new TV series at the same time. And I'll speak with one of the stars of that new TV series, Mark Consuelos. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: All right. Take a look at what the first dogs were up to today during a White House holiday tour by Michelle Obama. A small girl fell over when she was startled by the Obama puppy Sunny. Michelle Obama quickly hugged the little girl who bravely held it together and didn't cry.

And a model of Sunny will join her brother Bo this year as part of the White House holiday display. They're one step closer to the real thing. The dog has now moved since this year they're mechanical this year.

High the kids' eyes, cover their ears, Santa is coming to town, but his eyes aren't exactly twinkling and dimpling or anything. But merry this Santa is warning of trouble at the North Pole.

CNN's Jeanne Moos reports.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looks like a hostage video. But instead of al Qaeda, it's Santa.

JIM CARTER, ACTOR, "DOWNTON ABBEY": I bring bad tidings.

MOOS: This disheveled and depressing Santa is none other than the perfectionist butler Carson on "Downton Abbey." But instead of serving he's dishing out threats.

If the ice doesn't stop melting at the North Pole due to global warming --

CARTER: There may be no alternative but to cancel Christmas.


MOOS: Oh, yes. In this spot for the environmental group Greenpeace, Santa says he's written to Presidents Obama and Putin, but all he's ever gotten is indifference.

CARTER: These individuals are now at the top of my naughty list.

I do not agree. I've never been called a liberal in my life, and I don't intend to start now.

MOOS: Actually actor Jim Carter has been a member of Greenpeace for 30 years.

CARTER: Please help me.

MOOS (on camera): But, Santa, critics say the Arctic ice actually increased this past year.

(Voice-over): An organization of climate change skeptics told CNN Santa should be celebrating the return of the ice, but those who believe in global warming say the long-term trend is toward a steep decline in Arctic ice.

And what about the decline in Santa's jolly appearance?

CARTER: I have to warn you of the possibility of an empty stocking. Forever more.

MOOS: Sad sack Santa provoked comments like, "Hope that you are proud of yourselves, Greenpeace, for scaring innocent children with your bully boy tactics as usual."

After all, kids freak out even over rosy-cheeked Santas. Not since a real-life bandit robbed a Nashville bank dressed as St. Nick have we seen such a sorry excuse for a Santa, though I have interviewed a few.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't drink and drive.

MOOS (on camera): OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You might spill it.

MOOS (voice-over): This guy sure doesn't inspire. He conjures up the end of the world. And who would you trust to save the ice caps? This guy or this one?

CARTER: Don't worry about that, milady. I have an idea.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

CARTER: Cancel Christmas.

MOOS: New York.