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Review of the White House Fence Jumping Incident Released; New Piece of Evidence Surfaced in the Michael Brown Case; New Patient With Ebola to Arrive in Nebraska; War on ISIS May Require Boots on the Ground; Investigation of Student Protesters in Mexican town of Iguala

Aired November 13, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, OUTFRONT: That was great. Anderson starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

There is a lot of breaking news on several different fronts.

A damning review of the White House fence jumping incident back in September found one agent was on his personal cell phone at the time and had no clue what was happening.

Also, a new piece of evidence surfaced in the Michael Brown case.

And White House officials say President Obama could sign an executive order on immigration as early as next week. All of that in the hour ahead.

We begin, though, with breaking medical news. One of four hospitals designated to treat Ebola patients in the U.S. is right now preparing to admit a new patient from Sierra Leone.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

So what do we know about this patient, this man?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, what we know about this man is that he's a surgeon. He is a Sierra Leone national, but he is a permanent U.S. legal resident. And so he's being brought back and he's due to arrive this weekend in Nebraska. Probably Saturday, possibly Sunday.

COOPER: Do we know how he contracted Ebola?

COHEN: You know, we don't. It sounds like he contracted it as part of his work. He's a surgeon who is working over there. We don't know if he was working in Ebola treatment unit or perhaps doing surgery on someone who had Ebola, but nobody knew it at the time.

COOPER: And this -- as far as I know, this is the first non-U.S. citizen to actually be brought to the United States for treatment, correct?

COHEN: Right. As far as I know, that's true, yes. But he is a permanent resident of the U.S. And he has a wife and children.

COOPER: Right. And do they live here? Do you know? Or do they in Sierra Leone?

COHEN: It certainly sounds like his family lives here, but I don't know that for sure.

COOPER: All right. Elizabeth, stay with us.

I also want to bring in our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also Dr. Seema Yasmin, former disease detective for the CDC and a professor of public health in the University of Texas at Dallas, also a staff writer for "Dallas Morning News."

Sanjay, so we don't know how long this man has had Ebola. That's, obviously going to be a big factor in terms of how easily he can be treated.


And, you know, just the simple act of transporting somebody from West Africa to the United States, the person has got to be, you know, medically stable enough as well. So, you know, if they're actually going to do that transport, that probably gives some idea of how he's doing overall in terms of stability. But we don't know how sick he is. We don't know what stage of the disease he is. We don't know many of those details as of yet.

COOPER: Seema, in terms of treating Ebola patients here in the United States, it does appear -- I mean, it just look at the track record, the limited track record, that the medical community has sort of figured it out over the last couple of months since the fiasco early on in the Dallas hospital.

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, FORMER CDC DISEASE DETECTIVE (via phone): That's right, Anderson.

And the situation in Nebraska is so different from the Dallas situation because that's a specially built unit, really highly trained and they had a great track record of taking care of Ebola patients, using experimental treatments that we have been learning about. They have also just used really good supportive care, measuring patients electrolytes making sure they're well hydrated. And that also has been a part of --

COOPER: And Sanjay, is it known -- I mean, to Seema's point, is it known what is most effective, whether the supportive care, whether it is the blood transfusions, when possible, when it is -- or something else?

GUPTA: You know, they don't know for sure. I mean, clearly, you know, we know the stations with Ebola become very dehydrated. So as Seema said, you know, simply replacing the fluids, being able to see how that fluid replacement is going, by measuring certain things in the blood is very important. But what is interesting, Anderson, just today, you may know the

doctors without border and partnership with a couple of other organizations are starting clinical trials in West Africa on two experimental drugs. And a trial just involving blood transfusions.

Again, as you mentioned, we have seen it seemingly work in the United States in several times now. But those are still small numbers. They want to show it works in larger numbers and that process will be under way shortly in West Africa.

COOPER: And Elizabeth, the facility in Nebraska where this new patient is going, they had a lot of success treating Ebola patients. That's where the NBC cameraman went, right?

COHEN: And Dr. Rick Sacra before him. So this new doctor will the third person, all of them positioned who were treated at the university of Nebraska.

And as Sanjay and Seema were just saying, you know, we have a good track record. You saw that graphic up there before. Eight patients have lived, one has passed away, but the one that passed away, Thomas Eric Duncan on the upper right-hand corner there, he got treatment very late in the game. And that is not the case with the others. So we're certainly hoping this newest patient that he is early on in his disease.

COOPER: All right. We'll continue to follow it. Appreciate everybody joining us on this one. Thank you.

Now to breaking news about the big security breach at the White House in September. The department of homeland security, they just completed the review of the White House fence jumping incident and I got to tell you, it is very damning.

Now, you'll remember the man, Omar Gonzalez, spotlighted in the video was able to not only clear the fence, run across the north lawn on the north portico but he actually got inside the White House itself. He made past an officer stationed inside the doors, run past the staircase that leads to the first family's resident, made it into the east room where he was finally tackled.

Now, according to this internal review, there were a string of blunders by the secret service that allowed this to happen, including the fact that one secret service agent was talking on his personal cell phone when all of this was going down.

Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns joins me now with the latest.

So, I mean, there is a lot of damning evidence in this report. Kindly take us through it, if you can.


September 19th, right out here, White House lawn, Gonzalez comes over the fence, Anderson, and after that it is just a bad day for the secret service. There were series of things happen, starting with the canine officer who is out here, parked on the driveway in his van. The report said the canine technician with the dog stationed inside the van, actually when Gonzalez jumped the north fence, the canine officer was on a call on his personal cell phone, on speaker, without his radio ear piece in his ear and left his second tactical radio in his locker. So big problem for him right there.

Meanwhile, when Gonzalez actually gets to the north portico, he had to apparently climb through the Bushes. Now, the agents and officers did not think that was possible. But somehow he was able to do it. He goes up on the portico, and an agent on the outside thinks, the door is locked. But it wasn't locked and Gonzalez pushes his way in, Anderson.

COOPER: And once he got through the front door, what happened next?

JOHNS: Well, there is a female officer on the other side. And she's pushed backwards. She sees him and she reaches for her baton, but she grabs her flashlight, she tries to tackle him, but he's too big, and he keeps going toward the east room. He's finally taken down with the help of a couple of agents, who happen to just be off duty at that time, around the east room.

Meanwhile, the ERT team, the SWAT team, as it were, was still staging outside the White House. So a problem there too, Anderson.

COOPER: And it is not like the guy jumped the fence out of the blue. I mean, he was on the radar of law enforcement.

JOHNS: That's absolutely true. There were encounters between law enforcement and this guy on July 19th, July 21st, and August 25th. He had at least 11 firearms, he had ammunition, and he had among other things a number of hatchets. So that clearly put him on radar for law enforcement, but apparently they weren't watching him close enough to be able to keep him from coming over the fence on September 19th.

COOPER: All right, Joe, appreciate it. Joe Johns, now.

I want to bring in Dan Bongino, former secret service agent. His brother, currently, is a secret service agent. He joins me by phone.

So Dan, I mean, which of the failures in the report stands out to you the most?

DAN BONGINO, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT (via phone): Some of the basic human errors. You know, rule number one is you don't take your ear piece out of your ear. You know, Anderson. I mean, you're not connected to the matrix, you what I am saying, at that point. And if you do take your ear piece out of your ear, you have to do it disconnected from the radio in of itself because then you can at least hear the radio rather than having it transmit through the ear piece. That's pretty basic stuff. And that seems like a human error that is really hard to predict those kind of anxious, just a failure.

COOPER: Right. I mean, it seems like early on, you know, a lot of people are say, well, the dog wasn't released because there were a lot of people on the lawn, maybe the dog would have done after somebody else. But it really just seems like the person who was in control of the dog had no idea what was going on, because they were on their own phone and off radio.

BONGINO: Yes, ironic. I was on your show when this story first broke. And I'm pretty sure I had said that you're going to find out when this all comes out in the wash that he was somehow distracted, the dog handler that is, because the story, Anderson, you asked me about it, why didn't they release the dogs, it just didn't make sense and still doesn't.

COOPER: Right.

BONGINO: Now, they had a 50-year success record of mitigating fence jumpers and that all of these things failed at the exact same time. I can't explain to you from an insider's perspective the exponentially low probability that all of these things could break down at the exact same time and now it seems to make sense.

COOPER: The number of agents on duty that night, and the experience level of those agents, you think also played a role?

BONGINO: I do. And I just want to be clear about this distinction that everybody does this. The uniformed division officers, not the police, but that were on duty that night, they guard the White House, the agents guard the president, the actual body. The agents had left. The president had left. He had gone to Camp David on the south grounds departure.

The personnel involved in this were uniformed division officers. And from what I'm hearing, even the individuals who were off duty who wound up meeting with Gonzalez and taking him down in the -- on the ground floor there, I heard that those were officers as well. They weren't in fact agents.

COOPER: Beyond the security breaches that night, just heard from Joe Johns, the guy was clearly on the radar multiple authorities. Did law enforcement somehow drop the ball, do you think?

BONGINO: Yes. And this is the most perplexing to me. A little inside baseball on this. The protective intelligence cases, what the public would know as the presidential threat, these are taken obviously very seriously by the secret service, so seriously, they all run out of headquarters. They are not run out of field office. Agents in the field office closest to the person making the threat will do all the interviews. But to ensure not any, you know, not a hair is missed here, headquarters runs the case. The fact that so many of these things lined up before it, to indicate that this guy was a potential threat, and there seems to be some miss there, that's very strange to me. I'm going to try to get to the bottom of that myself. It doesn't -- I was at a protective intelligence squad. It is highly unusual that would happen.

COOPER: Are there clear changes you think need to take place?

BONGINO: Absolutely. I mean, structural changes, and Joe Clancy, the new director, the best man for the job. We called him father Joe. There was a rumor he was going to be a priest before he was a secret service agent. But I can tell you, whether he was going to be or not, he's all business, he's a good man, well respected man, and he's the kind of guy that is going to look through this report and not let a sentence go by without scrutiny. And if it comes down to something as small as you guys don't take your ear piece out, if you're caught, you're going to be suspended. They need sound like silly things but they are the kind of things that I could see him doing that. You can see structural changes that you are already seeing.

COOPER: Yes, it is all about the details. Dan Bongino, appreciate you being on again. Thanks very much.

A lot in the hour ahead. A quick reminder, make sure you set your DVR. You can watch "360" whenever you want.

We do have more breaking news ahead tonight. A new piece of evidence in the Michael Brown shooting case. The family's forensic expert say that they believe that he was shot now seven times, not six. Today the doctor who did that private autopsy testified before the grand jury. We're going to talk to one of the pathologists involved.

Plus, breaking news on the war on terror. New airstrikes in Syria targeting the Khorasan group, also new reports that ISIS may be joining forces with an Al-Qaeda affiliate.


COOPER: There is breaking news in the Michael Brown case. A piece of evidence surfaced. According to a forensic consultant who assist on the private autopsy of the slain teenager, according to him Brown was shot at least seven times, not six as originally reported. Originally, they had said at least six times. They now believe it was seven times.

I spoke to the forensic consultant, Shawn Parcells, a short time ago. And you are going to hear from him in just a moment. It is likely the grand jury heard about this new evidence today from Dr. Michael Baden who testified behind closed doors. That's Dr. Baden arriving at the courthouse.

Dr. Baden was hired, of course, by the Brown family to conduct an independent autopsy after the official autopsy was completed. As I said, Shawn Parcells assisted Dr. Baden in that autopsy. Here is what he told me a short time ago.


COOPER: So, is it your understanding that the request for Dr. Baden actually came from someone in the grand jury?

SHAWN PARCELLS, ASSIST WITH PRIVATE AUTOPSY OF MICHAEL BROWN: It is my understanding that the grand jury had made a request that they wanted to hear, our results are from an independent autopsy. I don't know what happened or when that happened in the process of things, but I also know that then also Ben Crump had to push for Dr. Baden to be able to come testify today and it was finally allowed.

COOPER: Today Michael Brown's family attorneys, they said that Dr. Baden had found one new piece of evidence since this initial autopsy that a chest wound the he originally thought was a re-entry wound is now determined to be an entry wound. Can you confirm that. And if so, what is the particular significance of that?

PARCELLS: Well, he's probably -- in fact, he's talking about the wound to the right upper clavicle right here in this region. And we had originally thought that the bullet continuation from the head wound above the right eye came out and re-entered. And now, it is actually turns out to be a separate entry wound, which means, we have gone from when we initially said at press conference, shot at least six times. Now, we know seven bullets hit Michael Brown.

And that can also give a different story because this particular wound, although, it could have been a continuation, now it is a separate wound, this wound is an in a downward introjections. So, it entered and actually went straight down and towards the back and watch behind the right lung. And that tells us that Michael Brown would have been pretty much falling over, almost at or on the ground when that particular bullet went into his body.

A lot of people made assumptions that the wounds to the head indicated he was charging. And we can't make those assumptions. It doesn't necessarily prove or disprove that theory, but what those head wounds prove with the angle going straight down and kind of to the front of the head, the one at the apex of the head, and now this particular gunshot wound going down and towards the back indicates that he was falling like a tree face over as those bullets went in.

COOPER: So -- but the -- my understanding was that the forehead wound, which was, I think, crump describes as the kill shot, it can be interpreted multiple ways. It can either be his head was down, he was running forward, it could be that he was falling over, having been shot and collapsing, or that he was somehow lowering himself, correct?

PARCELLS: What it tells us is the kill shot that actually hit the very top of the head, right here at the apex actually went in and traveled to the right and towards the front of the head when it went in. So in other words, as he's falling forward, the barrel of the gun and the bullet trajectory is actually in a downward angle being aimed toward the ground as it goes into the head.

Now, he could have been running towards the officer, like this, and then hit, and then fallen. And the officer continues to fire and follow that target. And that particular bullet hits his head, or he could have been standing still and then fallen forward in that bullet goes in the head.

COOPER: In the initial autopsy that you guys did, there was the shot in the forearm, and I always found that most confusing. There was some witnesses who said they believe Michael Brown was running away, was shot and spun around. Do you have any evidence that points to an actual shot from -- that was taken when Michael Brown was running away or is that shot in the arm consistent with being shot from front on? PARCELLS: We're particularly talking about the wound that happened

here. So this part of the arm, it entered here, and it actually exited right here on this part of the arm. So if you take this part of the arm and I put it down as if I'm walking away, that back part of my arm is exposed. And it is consistent with a witness statement that said he was running away from the officer, he jerks his arm, and then turns around and grabs his arm like he's been hit.

We feel that that could be the shot that that person is talking about. Now, did he jump because he was scared from the gunshots going off? That's also a possibility. It is also possible that that part of the arm, if he was charging the officer and he's running at him like this, could also have been exposed or he's just standing facing officer Wilson and the shots are coming at him and he puts his arm up and gets hit and he's trying to block the bullet.

COOPER: And to those who have believed Michael Brown had his hands up, palms facing the officer in and I surrender position, that particular wound on the forearm, that does not indicate -- I mean, you were doing your arms like this, that does not indicate palms up to the officer, correct?

PARCELLS: No. That particular shot doesn't because as you can see, that part of my arm is now facing the side. However, there was a graze wound right here, right in the front part of the right elbow. And if I have my arms up, that graze wound could have been produced with my arms up like this. However, it could have been produced in many other ways that the arm is being held depending on what movements Michael Brown is making at the time that that injury occurs.

COOPER: Shawn Parcells, I appreciate your level of detail on this. Thank you very much.

PARCELLS: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: Up next, we'll talk about this with our legal panel. They weigh in.

And on this breaking news, the family's forensic expert saying Michael Brown was shot at least seven times, not six. The question is could it impact the jury's decision on whether or not to indict officer Wilson and move this to a trial?

Also, more breaking news from the White House. President Obama could sign an executive order on immigration as early as next week. Obviously, that is huge implications. Details ahead.


COOPER: More on the breaking news on the death of Michael Brown.

As mentioned moments ago, according to the forensic consultant who assisted in the private autopsy of the unarmed teenager, Brown was shot seven times, not six. Here again is what Shawn Parcells told me tonight.


PARCELLS: We originally thought the bullet continuation from the head wound above the right eye came out and re-entered. And now it is actually -- it turns out to be a separate entry wound, which means we have gone from when we initially said at press conference, shot at least six times, and now we know seven bullets hit Michael Brown.


COOPER: Look, Parcells has worked with Dr. Michael Baden who is the former medical examiner from New York City. And Dr. Baden testified today before the grand jury that is going to decide whether to indict the officer who shot Brown or not.

Joining me now, former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, defense attorney Mark O'Mara and Jeffrey Toobin who is also a former federal prosecutor.

Sunny, obviously, one wants, you know, the evidence from the pathologist to be crystal clear, to give a particular narrative. And this is open to interpretation. What did you take away from what Shawn Parcells?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, autopsy reports can never be viewed in a vacuum. They always have to be viewed in the context of the other evidence in the case, including ballistics, including forensic evidence, including witness -- eyewitness testimony. And so, I'm not surprised that there is that discrepancy between the two autopsy reports.

But I think what is fascinating is it confirms at least that before this grand jury there are two reports, there are different scenarios before them, and when you look at the standard in front of a grand jury, which is really -- was a crime more likely than not to have been committed, I would be surprised that given this new autopsy report, before them, that they wouldn't come back with an indictment.

COOPER: Jeff, you know, last night Sunny and I had a discussion with Mark about this prosecutor and the amount of evidence that he's presenting to the grand jury. Sunny believes it is very unusual for a prosecutor not only unusual for a prosecutor to provide this much information, which I think Mark also agrees with, but Sunny believes it is actually an attempt to overwhelm the grand jury. Do you believe there is any evidence of that and how unusual is it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is unusual. And prosecutors usually pair down their evidence just to get probable cause. And not preview all of their evidence before the grand jury. Certainly, one possible interpretation is he's just burying them in evidence, leaving them with ambiguous evidence so they don't vote for an indictment.

I would be willing to reserve judgment until we actually see what the grand jury does. But certainly it is unusual and certainly it least gives the grand jury the opportunity to throw up in their hands and say, well, just too ambiguous, I don't know. We can't vote for -- COOPER: Mark, you believe, though, that for those who believe that

the grand jury is trying to be overwhelmed, that you can make the counterargument that the grand jury might just easily say well, we're overwhelmed by all the information. We are going it should just go to trial and let a jury decide.

MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They can. They can look at it and say there is so much evidence here. We have confusion. Let's not be the last one to make a decision. Indict him. Let a jury has to take a shot at it after everything has done. So they can all be that way. So this is a very unique ways this case is being handled. I think the Brown and Ferguson situation is so unique that it screams out for this type of attention. I do think that McCulloch is doing everything he can to make sure that the grand jury sees everything so that when they come back with a decision, one way or the other, it is justified and galvanized from further review.

COOPER: Sunny, do you believe the fact that Shawn Parcells is now saying seven shots. I mean before they were saying at least six, is that a significant?

SUNNY HOSTIN: Well, I think it is certainly significant because when you look at the law, if this were to go to trial, this officer has to - remember, that Michael Brown was unarmed. So, this officer has to make sense of each and every shot. He has to be able to say that each and every shot wasn't a use of excessive force, and was appropriate. And I think the more shots that are fired towards an unarmed person, it is a pretty high burden. I want to mention, though, and I want to get back to Mark's point, where he's saying well, this prosecutor may be bringing in all of this evidence so that the grand jury has a full picture. We just heard that the grand jurors asked for this information and I think then, you know, it is not too far of a stretch to suggest that this prosecutor is not necessarily giving the grand jury all of the information. He's cherry picking a lot of the information because he wasn't the person that called Dr. Baden to the stand.

COOPER: Sunny, why would a prosecutor, I mean I know the critic of McCulloch say, well, look, he's, you know, he's got this history, his father was killed by an African-American. He has got a history of involvement with law enforcement. But, I mean, the eyes of the world are on this guy. The transcripts are going to be made public by his own -- I mean, he's going to go to the judge and ask that everybody get to see what evidence was presented. Doesn't it seem counterintuitive to say that he is then trying to throw the results because it is all going to be made public? It is not going to remain secret.

HOSTIN: No, I think, Anderson that prosecutors make decisions every single day based on the evidence as they know it to bring cases without going in front of the grand jury. Quite frankly, I think that he is sort of kicking the can down the road. I think he's throwing this in front of the grand jury. Because he is not making -- doesn't want to make this decision himself.

TOOBIN: And well, the other thing is, you know, the -- this policy of giving all of the evidence to the grand jury gives McCulloch an out if the jury says, no indictment. He can say, look, they saw all of the evidence. They made up their minds. That is fundamentally not -- if he says that, that's really a dodge, because it is prosecutors who run grand juries, not grand jurors.

HOSTIN: Exactly.

O'MARA: But Jeff, agreed, it is a unique situation. But, Jeff, tell me, if, in fact, this prosecutor decided to give them every shred of information, everything from across the board and they made a decision, are you going to argue -- is anyone going to argue that that was not a better decision than a decision by a prosecutor who cherry picked his information? That's my argument. This is the ...


O'MARA: good way to do it.

TOOBIN: Well, potentially, yes. Actually, that is not -- I may well argue that. If -- remember, trials have very strict rules of admissibility. What is admissible, what is not? Grand jurors have essentially no rules of admissibility. You can put anything you want as a prosecutor in front of a grand jury. If he throws in all sorts of irrelevant evidence ...

HOSTIN: False evidence.

TOOBIN: That is - bad evidence, that is helpful to Officer Wilson, that's not an honest process. Again, we don't know that he's doing.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, thanks very much. Sunny Hostin, Mark O'Mara, thanks.

More, there is more breaking news from the White House. President Obama could sign an executive order on immigration as early as next week. Reaction from those on Capitol Hill, particularly Republicans has been quick, coming up, we'll explain that.

And is the leader of ISIS actually alive? Is he wounded? An audio recording surfaces with him spewing hate, of course, claiming the U.S. and its allies are "terrified, weak and paralyzed." The more important thing is, does it show in fact that he's alive and functioning?


COOPER: Welcome back. We have more breaking news tonight, President Obama could sign an executive order is early as next week to protect undocumented immigrants which children who were born in the United States from deportation and the children themselves. Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins me now from Washington. So the executive order, what have you heard about it? I mean how likely is this?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is very likely the president has made a promise he's going to do it. The question is how quickly. As you mentioned, I'm told by administration officials that it could come as early as late next week. But Jim Acosta is hearing at the White House that there is no decision on timing or content until the president returns from Asia. But the working plan as I'm told by the administration official is the following. Directs immigration agents to allow illegal immigrants whose children are American citizens to obtain documents allowing them to stay in the U.S. legally, but also protect illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, so-called Dreamers, and also makes clear deportation should still be the policy for convicted criminals. So, again, those are the outlines of what I'm told will likely be in, but, again, this official says nothing is a done deal until the president actually finalizes it.

COOPER: And what kind of reaction, obviously, today, from Republicans? I mean days ago, they were already warning - Boehner was already warning about playing with fire and stuff.

BASH: Exactly.

COOPER: What is the reaction we hear today?

BASH: That the Republicans are going to fight this tooth and nail. That the president needs to realize that he can't choose the Congress he has, sort of -- it is what it is kind of statement. Look, Republicans were behind closed doors all day today, Anderson, trying to figure out a plan of how to counter, and how to negate the president's executive action. The leading idea seems to be to use the power of the purse, which, of course. is Congress's main power, to try to defund implementing these new policies, but, of course, that could lead down a road to potentially a government shutdown because funding for the government runs out on December 11th.

So, if Republicans want to use that bill to defund immigration, it could go down the path to, again, to a government shutdown. That is why the Democratic Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, told our Ted Barrett today that he really wants the president to wait until Congress is done with funding the government before he even deals with this. But the president made no promises to read.

COOPER: Dana, thanks very much. I appreciate that.

We have more breaking news tonight, new U.S. airstrikes in Syria, the targets included one top operative at the al Qaeda cell known as the Khorasan group. According to two U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the just completed mission. Now, this comes with the reports that ISIS and another al Qaeda affiliate are cooperating and could join forces in Syria. And then there's the chilling recordings that have emerged allegedly of the ISIS leader, thought to have been either killed or injured in the U.S.-led airstrike, (INAUDIBLE) top by the Iraqis, now threatening "volcanic jihad." Chief national security correspondent Joe Sciutto joins us now with the latest.

So, Jim, word that ISIS and al Qaeda may be joining forces, what have you heard from the intelligence community?

JIMI SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The best assessment now is that they haven't made a formal merger, but that it's more an ad hoc accommodation on the battlefield. So, that they are fighting a common enemy, they are not fighting each other. This is something that other jihadist groups have been encouraging them to do to sort of make up on the battlefield where they have come at odds with each other. But, you know, even that kind of accommodation on the field, if it's not a formal announced merger is still of great concern. The intelligence community, to the military community, because it makes it already a formidable enemy in ISIS and the al Qaeda tide al Nusra even more of a threat. Not only to U.S. interests, but also to the U.S. ally on the ground, which are the moderate rebels, which the U.S. is just beginning to train and on.

COOPER: And what more about this audio message?

SCIUTTO: So, this is from al-Baghdadi. It hasn't been confirmed as necessarily authentic. It's interesting that it was just an audio message, not a video message. Because there was a strike that the Iraqis themselves carried out on Saturday. Which they said they had good intelligence and they believed that they injured him. U.S. officials have never been able to confirm that. And a few days later, you have this audio message coming out, it, in fact, saying, hey, I'm still here. It is not confirmed, it did come out on websites where these kinds of things are normally posted, which gives it some credibility, but U.S. officials aren't saying that they know definitively that it is him and it is a proof of life for al-Baghdadi.

COOPER: And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, again, on Capitol Hill today again, making headlines.

SCIUTTO: He was, no question. And this is something he's done a number of times before. Frankly, you know, appearing to contradict the president who has said there will be no combat forces on the ground. General Martin Dempsey, who is the man who would make such recommendations, said again today, that, listen, there is a very specific circumstance he described today where he might recommend U.S. Forces in combat. And that is when Iraqi forces eventually it is hoped attempt to take back Mosul, which is ISIS' stronghold in northern Iraq. He said that's a very complicated operation, it's kind of operation where they may very well need not combat forces, not shooters, but advisers who would be with Iraqi combat forces to do things like call on airstrikes.

And the truth is, as you know, Anderson, you know, if you're on those frontlines regardless of what your job is, you're facing frontline kind of danger there. So, it would be hard for the administration, for him to recommend that, assuming the president accepts it, and not call those combat forces.

COOPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, just ahead, we have disturbing allegations in Mexico about the role that a mayor and his wife may have had in the disappearance of dozens of college students.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: The mystery of what happened to dozens of missing college students in Mexico has led to protests and outrage after Mexican authorities said they believed these 43 missing students were kidnapped, killed and dumped in the river. Protesters are angry at how the government has handled the case as well as disturbing allegations about the role that the police and a local mayor and his wife may have played in the students' disappearance. Rosa Flores has more.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Iguala City, they're dubbed the imperial couple, for their exercise of power and influence in cartel territory. The mayor, a business man who took office in 2012, his wife, wasn't the mayor, but authorities say she held the seat of elicit power at Iguala city hall.

Juan Angulo (ph) has been covering the cartels in this part of Mexico for more than 20 years.

(on camera): How is the mayor and his wife connected to the cartels?

UNIDENTIFIFED MALE: She was very connected because her brothers were at the very top of the cartel. With a lot of power. (speaking Spanish)

FLORES (voice over): The power couple's throne came tumbling down when they became suspects in the disappearance of 43 students from a teacher's college who arrived in Iguala on September 26th. Iconers (ph) are informants who very nonchalantly observe their surroundings, and tip off their bosses about what's going on.

The mayor reportedly had cartel members on his payroll who after being arrested told authorities that the mayor paid them tens of thousands of dollars to be at his disposal.

On September 26, police iconers (ph) and police officers reported to local authorities the students' arrival in four buses according to officials.

There are rival raised eyebrows. The mayor's wife was scheduled to deliver a speech outdoors. The concern, this would be the backdrop. The aftermath of last year's destructive protest held in part by the students from the teachers college. The word spread quickly. And internal radio message ordering police to stop or confront the students. The official word, it was coming from A-5, the mayor's assigned radio code. The mayor's posse, part of the more than 70 arrested suspects, including police officers and cartel members told investigators they assumed the students would sabotage the event the mayor's wife was hosting.

Officials say the students were ambushed in the evening by police. Shots were fired, and six people were killed. Three of them students. Whether the mayor ordered the shooting remains unclear and what happened next has only added to the mystery. The remaining 43 students were turned over by the cops to a cartel and never seen since.

(on camera): I'm asking him about the alleged killing of these students. It is very gruesome. Is this normal for the cartels? Or is this an escalated violence?

UNIDENTIFIFED MALE: Escalated. Escalated. There's only - that's an extreme (INAUDIBLE).

FLORES (voice over): Here's where a possible misunderstanding took a sinister turn. What started as an idea, by the mayor, to possibly protect his wife's event, officials say, turned into a false battle between two rival gangs. Authorities say the leader of the cartel confessed, that on that ill-fated day, one of his cronies told them that the confrontation here was in Iguala was with another cartel. The leader thought he was defending his territory from an enemy, but instead, it was students in the crosshairs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (speaking Spanish)

FLORES (on camera): They defend their territory to death.

(voice over): The mayor and his wife were on the run for more than a month. They were later found hiding out at this abandoned house. No one but the mayor knows if he wanted the cartel involved, or wanted the students disappeared. He and his wife aren't talking. They remain in federal custody without being charged. Waiting to learn their fate.


COOPER: Rosa joins me now live. So, the parents of the missing students, they're still holding on to hope. You got information tonight about a new search effort, I understand.

FLORES: Yes. You know, I talked to the spokesperson for the parents and he tells me that they just signed an agreement with the attorney general. So hear this, allow expert searchers from other countries to come into Mexico looking for those students. He says that it is very simple. He says until they find DNA evidence to prove otherwise, Anderson, they're going to continue looking for those students.

COOPER: But didn't they find some evidence in bags or in trash bags, at the bottom of a river?

FLORES: You know, they did, and authorities have come forward and said, look, we have confessions from police officers, from cartel members, saying that they initially -- that they allegedly killed these students. But the parents are really holding on to hope, and until that DNA evidence is sent off and the results come back, right now they really don't have conclusive results.

COOPER: All right, Rosa Flores, I appreciate the reporting. Thank you very much.

Coming up, I stopped burning my candle due to popular demand, but the staff here is ungrateful people that I work with, they're still fanning the flames. The RidicuList is next.


COOPER: Time now for the RidicuList. And tonight we're -- okay. We're revisiting Monday's show. Monday's RidicuList, during which my lousy ungrateful "360" colleagues decided to let me know they don't like my basil scented office candle by making me read about it on the teleprompter. In the RidicuList. For the first time, just like they are tonight. In case you missed it, here is part of what happened.


COOPER: All right, I get it. It is the candle. I have a candle burning in my office. Oh, really, this is what the RidicuList is about tonight? I didn't -- I should have read it ahead of time. Here now is an abbreviated list of what my co-workers say my basil candle smells like.


COOPER: Some people say it smells like grandma's house. Some people say it smells like old mall. Italian salad. Here now are some more descriptions -- some more staff descriptions of my candle. Dumpster ravioli, Mario Batali's crocs. OK that I draw the line at. I mean those crocs must wreak. And because he needs to change his look. But there is no way my candle smells like Mario Batali's crocs.

Now, I've had several days to reflect on this. I've actually been talking about it quite a bit in the newsroom and on set during commercials and, of course, around here the cameras are always rolling.

Seriously, people don't like my candle? I love that no one -- no one can just say to me, you know what, we don't like the candle? No, this was not the best way to let me know.


COOPER: Just now telling me that you all were asking me to put it out every day. Why didn't you tell me?


COOPER: Get about Christmas Party, because I'm going to mention on ...


COOPER: Yeah. Then I mentioned on Monday the day these fools blindsided me, earlier that same day I had invited them all to a Christmas party at my house.


No more candle. Candle's gone. I love that nobody says anything to me. All right, so none of these candles, I guess. That candle smells

freaking awesome. I bought like four of those candles. It smells awesome. Mario Batali's crocs.

Today, apparently Mario Batali responded on his show, "The Chew".


MARIO BATALI, "THE CHEW" ANCHOR: I'm just excited that Anderson Cooper knows who I am.


BATALI: But second of all, and I would challenge him, come on --

UNIDENTIFIFED FEMALE: Oh, it is delicious. I could smell that all day.


BATALI: So, I had an idea.


BATALI: That maybe we should just send him one of these.


BATALI: For Anderson Cooper, I got my croc in a box.



COOPER: First of all, he gets huge points that he's a good sport about this. And you know what, I hope he really does send that, because I will set that croc on fire in the middle of the newsroom and you people will rue the day you ever spoke ill of my candle. That will be the sweet smell of revenge. Maybe I'll just frame the croc. Well, I don't know. It will show up again on the RidicuList. No doubt. That does it for us. See you again at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. I stand by that candle. That's a beautiful candle. It smells great. "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" starts now.