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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Theft from Secret Service Agent; Critical Moment in Iraqi Fight for Ramadi against ISIS; Muslim Family Blames Donald Trump for No Disney Trip; Look Back at 2015 Politics. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 23, 2015 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:25] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: First on CNN, another embarrassment for the troubled agency in charge of protecting the president. This week, the Secret Service agent's gun and badge were stolen from his car near the agency headquarters. It happened in broad daylight. So what kind of a threat does this pose, and how is the White House responding to this?

Let's get over to White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, traveling with the president in Hawaii.

Michelle, what's the White House saying about all this?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's virtually no response from officials on it. In fact, even the Secret Service isn't giving any detail on this. They're not putting out a statement. They're not saying anything about how exactly this happened or why. It seems like from the sources that we've spoken to, they're not seeing this as part of systemic problems. For example, the House Oversight Committee has been on the Secret Service over. But they see this as an individual's problem who obviously didn't secure his gun and other materiel quite enough, and that's what could lead to disciplinary action. But again, the Secret Service isn't commenting on that. So we're not really sure what the follow-up is.

But what makes this remarkable is to hear that this agent, and he's part of the Presidential Protective Division, so he protects the president. You would expect him to be protecting things like his gun, but he doesn't wear a uniform, doesn't drive around in a marked car. He parked his personal vehicle outside of Secret Service headquarters in downtown Washington, which is crawling with security and other Secret Service officers. But somehow somebody was able to get into his car. In the police report, it said that his window was unzipped. So that indicates it's a jeep or something similar to that. They were able to take a bag out of his car and get away with it.

So in that bag was this agent's gun, his Secret Service radio, his badge, some handcuffs and a USB flash drive. And we don't know exactly what was on that. From what we're hearing from sources, the real concern danger-wise is that the gun is now out there. And the suspect, remember, has not been caught. But the USB, I mean, that sounds pretty -- like there could be some really sensitive information on there, especially since this person's job is to protect President Obama. But we're told that that is encrypted. And so somebody's not going to have easy access to the information on there.

You know, pretty surprising that this was able to happen. I mean, all of these details adding up to middle of the day, outside of headquarters, unzipped from a car window. Obviously, this shouldn't have happened -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And at the very least, not what the Secret Service needs right now when the Secret Service already has other trouble on their hands.

Michelle, thank you very much.

KOSINSKI: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let me bring in Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent who served under President Obama.

Jonathan, it's great to see you.

JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Again, we're talking about another black eye for the Secret Service.

WACKROW: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: When you hear these details, what do you think?

WACKROW: To Michelle's point, this is an individual's issue. This is not an issue that's indicative of the agency as a whole. So, you know, for the agent, I mean, this is really short of negligence. Leaving your weapon unattended --

BOLDUAN: Is this basic policy, I'm assuming?

WACKROW: Yes. Let me go back. The Secret Service does a great job from day one in training about firearm safety, firearms responsibility. They hammer it into you in the academy. Throughout my entire time at the Secret Service, they do an excellent job at teaching this. So why this agent left a weapon in a bag outside of headquarters really needs to be investigated and, you know, disciplinary action is absolutely a must for this. I mean, you have a gun on the street right now.

BOLDUAN: Obviously the huge first concern that comes to my mind is what if that gun shows up at a crime scene? I mean, what does that say?

WACKROW: Absolutely. Well, that agent will have to live with that for the rest of his life, knowing that his complacency, his firearms complacency led to that crime. I mean, it's -- this is a major issue that service has to look at, and they have to now respond to it. Now we're talking about this on the news again. This isn't an agency issue. This is an individual, you know, made a bad decision that the agency now has to respond to. BOLDUAN: Does this fit, though, into what -- you know, folks are

going to say a pattern of self-inflicted wounds, that maybe it doesn't fit into the systemic problems that are an issue with Secret Service, but complacency, not sticking to the rules. Then you've got this guy -- I mean, wouldn't you think that everyone should be on high alert following policy to a tee after everything that's gone on?

[11:35:00] WACKROW: Absolutely. Absolutely. But you have to look at these guys, especially on the president's detail. This is no excuse but they are beat down. They are beat down by the media every day. It's deflating. I can see how complacency --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You're still close with guys in there.

WACKROW: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: How is morale?

WACKROW: It's pretty low. It's really low. It's trying to get better. They're promoting my friends. Some of my really good friends just got promoted, which is going to bring fresh breath into this agency. I mean, there's some positive signs, but morale is really low.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Totally unrelated, but I would say equally as important, as I was looking at Michelle Kosinski's live shot on Waikiki Beach, the Hawaii assignment, when you were there, is that the assignment that everyone fights for?

WACKROW: It's the one assignment that everyone fights to get out of.

BOLDUAN: What!

WACKROW: Listen to this. Yes, Hawaii is a beautiful location, but you're away from your family.

BOLDUAN: And it's the holidays.

WACKROW: I mean, this is what you have to think about. These agents go out there every single day, put their lives on the line away from their friends and family, to protect the life of the president. As beautiful as that location is, it may be a great assignment for Michelle, but not for an agent.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: It still works. And note the time change can also be a very tough assignment for Michelle. I think it was midnight, 2:00 in the morning, who knows?

Thanks so much.

WACKROW: Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Happy holidays.

WACKROW: Happy holidays.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the fight to retake a key Iraqi city from ISIS. U.S. officials say it would be a huge victory in the battle against the terror group, but they warn it won't be easy. We'll be right back.

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[11:39:48] BOLDUAN: It has been a brutal holiday week for the U.S. military. Just a few hours from now, the body of Staff Sergeant Chester McBride will arrive at Dover Air Base. He and five others, Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen, Staff Sergeant Peter Towe (ph), and Louis Bonacasa, Michael Synco (ph) and Technical Sergeant Joseph Lemm, they were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan on Monday. Today, and all these days, we remember their families and their service and their sacrifice all together.

Let's keep our focus overseas but turning to Iraq. A critical moment in the fight against ISIS as Iraqi forces advance toward the city center of Ramadi. Right now they are just half a mile from the government compound in central Ramadi. U.S. officials call the fall of Ramadi inevitable, which could be a huge strategic and symbolic victory, but they do caution it won't happen fast. However, an Iraqi military official today predicted that the city would be cleared within 72 hours. That's according to "The New York Times."

Let me bring in CNN military analyst, Major General James "Spider" Marks. He was a senior intelligence officer during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

General, thank you very much for coming in. I appreciate your time.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

What do you make of what that Iraqi -- what the Iraqi military is predicting that Ramadi will be cleared within 72 hours?

MARKS: I think it's a great estimate, and clearly, it's a victory that the Iraqi military needs to achieve. Look, Ramadi, they gave up Ramadi without much of a fight. And that was about six months ago. They have now determined that they can get it back, and they got it back through a very deliberate plan of isolating Ramadi and then taking a very strong effort to get into it during daylight hours and to then work through this very, very dense terrain. So the short answer is this would be great, but taking Ramadi is simply the first step.

The additional step that has a very long tail is how long can you hold it? How do you resist the efforts of ISIS and others that might try to take it back? BOLDUAN: Right now we're also looking right here, General, of some

few video coming in of Iraqi troops moving into Ramadi. I just want to flag that they are now saying that it's really slow going now that they're in the city because of the large number of IEDs that they say have been planted almost everywhere. From what you know, of course, of that area, what are they up against?

MARKS: Well, you just described it. It appears that ISIS has determined that they weren't going to be able to hold Ramadi. They obviously achieved a political victory, clearly one that they could use for recruiting purposes. They were able to take Ramadi, crush the Iraqi military. I mean, this is all great for them in terms of this very broad, cynical appeal that they have. They've now determined they're going to trade space for time, give up Ramadi, we're going to continue to live to fight another day. So what they've been able to do over the course of the last six months is just create this nest of IEDs and barriers for the follow-on forces of the Iraqi military to come in there, retake it. It will happen, and it will happen over time. But the real message is to the citizens of Ramadi. Can they have confidence in the Iraqi military that it will be held, that the military won't go anywhere, and that they can then begin to achieve some degree of normalcy which they clearly have not with an occupation force of is over the course of the last six months.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely not. And I think there is a very huge lingering question of OK, say they take it. What's next? I mean, you say that ISIS made the decision to give up space for time. Say the Iraqi forces, they do, yes, retake the city. But what then?

MARKS: Well, the Iraqi forces have to be able to reassert -- two things, Kate. Number one, they have to reassert their ability to achieve governance. I mean, right now Iraq is an occupied nation that has vulcanized itself even without ISIS creating this caliphate in the northern regions of Iraq in the vicinity of Mosul. Understand they still hold Mosul. So these are great little victories for ISIS that they can paint to their great advantage. Baghdad, on the other hand, has to be able to say, look, we're in charge. We are a protectorate for our citizens. We are one nation. That's the largest challenge they have right now. It's called legitimacy. They haven't been able to do that very well. Look at what's happening up north. There's a very strong argument that we, the United States, should be supporting the Kurds and their efforts up north. Well, if we do that, now we're striking individual deals with each one of the elements within Iraq. That doesn't fit with the narrative, and it doesn't fit with the national security objective which is to try to maintain the sovereignty of Baghdad and the nation of Iraq.

BOLDUAN: General, thank you as always. Appreciate your time.

MARKS: Thank you, Kate.

[11:44:53] BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Still ahead for us, a British family blocked from boarding their flight from London to Los Angeles. What's behind that move? They say it's because of their religion. Why the family is blaming Donald Trump for ruining their Disney vacation plans.

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BOLDUAN: New this morning, two British families are claiming that they were not allowed to board a plane from London to Los Angeles because, they believe, because they were Muslim. They say they were at the gate with the boarding passes on hand when the British Border Control told them they could not continue their trip to the states with no clear explanation they say.

So let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez, with more on this.

What are you being told, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we are told that not all members of the family were barred from travel to the United States, but some of them clearly were, and that is what one of the issues that now they are working to make clear to this family. We also are told that the fact that they are Muslims or the fact that they have Pakistani backgrounds had nothing to do with why they were barred from travel to the United States. There's a list of 60 or so reasons why somebody can be denied travel, and there is a list that we can show, and that is not satisfying the paperwork required or documents that don't match what the U.S. has in their records and failure to disclose all previous travel, for instance, if they have traveled to Pakistan and didn't disclose or criminal charges pending in the United Kingdom, and health reasons that the may cause one, maybe one reason why the U.S. will say that you can't travel to the United States.

What is clear though is that it is a lot of misunderstanding in light of the climate that we are in, simply because, again, the election raised the presidential campaign in which at least some candidates have made it clear that they would like more scrutiny in banning all Muslims coming into the United States, and that is feeding some of this concern that you are hearing not only in the U.K., in Europe, about whether or not people are getting extra scrutiny to travel to the United States -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Evan Perez. So much more we need to learn about in circumstance.

Appreciate it.

PEREZ: Thanks, Kate.

[11:50:13] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, 2015 was filled with political firestorm moments, so how did we narrow it down to 10? I don't know, but we did. The top-10 political moments of 2015 coming up.

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BOLDUAN: Oh, it is time to look back, my friends. What a year it has been. It's not over yet. There's still time for more. 2015 has been one of rising stars, and rising threats and some truly monumental changes.

In the top-10 series of 2015, Jake Tapper is taking a look back at some of this year's memorable moments in politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, THE LEAD: This was the year that our next president officially entered the race, barring any surprises in 2016, that is. Washington outsiders dominated the polls as America's political landscape saw historic change. Our laws on marriage, and the views on terror, and even our tolerance for Trump are much different than they were in January.

These are the top-10 political stories of 2015.

(voice-over): Number 10, after a quarter century in Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner declared he was done, pushed out many say by the Tea Partiers in the deeply divided Republican caucus.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I leave with no regrets, no burdens.

TAPPER: After initially balking, Wisconsin's congressman, Paul Ryan, finally accepted the gavel.

(APPLAUSE)

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business.

TAPPER: Number nine, same-sex marriage was deemed legal nationwide --

(CHANTING)

TAPPER: -- through in some county clerks such as Kim Davis refused to give their approval citing religious issues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under whose authority?

KIM DAVIS, COUNTY CLERK: Under God's authority.

TAPPER: Davis spent five days in jail over the divisive issue.

(SINGING)

[11:55:] TAPPER: Number eight, an anti-abortion group released videos they say showed Planned Parenthood staffers proposing selling fetal tissue for profit. The heavily edited videos were hotly contested and the funding debate was on.

CARLY FIORINA, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER CEO, HEWLETT- PACKARD: Planned Parenthood must be defunded.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I will defend Planned Parenthood.

TAPPER: In November, three people were killed at a Colorado clinic after this man opened fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- babies.

TAPPER: Planned Parenthood blamed heated political rhetoric for the attack.

Number seven, the Obama administration negotiated with Iran, ending sanctions in exchange for promises of an Iran free of nuclear weapons. Israel's Prime Minister was vehemently opposed.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: It doesn't block Iran's capacity to the bomb. It paves Iran's path to the bomb.

TAPPER: President Obama vowed to veto any congressional attempt to block the deal.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The majority of members of this Congress do not support this deal.

TAPPER: But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was adamant.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: There is no alternative.

Number six, Hillary Clinton repeatedly defended her use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state.

CLINTON: Everything I did was permitted.

TAPPER: An FBI investigation into the matter not withstanding, even her chief Democratic opponent said he had heard enough about the controversy.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damned e- mails.

CLINTON: Clinton was confronted for hours during a hearing about the 2012 Benghazi attacks and about those e-mails.

REP. TREY GOWDY, (R-SC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON BENGHAZI: It was you and your attorneys who decided what to return and what to delete.

TAPPER: Number five, nine Africa-Americans, including a state Senator, were gunned down at this South Carolina church by a 21-year- old white supremacist.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group.

TAPPER: The killed had posed with photographs with the Confederate flag, prompting the question, was it time for the flag to be removed from the state capitol.

(SHOUTING)

TAPPER: Debate was passionate, and in the end, the flag was history. Number four, millions fled war-torn parts of the Middle East into Europe. President Obama vowed to take in up to 10,000 Syrian refugees.

OBAMA: Those countries who can, should do more to accommodate refugees.

TAPPER: But when at least one of the Paris terrorists was linked to the masses entering Europe, 31 U.S. governors vowed to shut the doors.

JEB BUSH, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Embedded in that group are people out to destroy us.

TAPPER: Then after terrorists struck California, Donald Trump said that the all Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S., prompting a fierce backlash.

Number three, the Black Lives Matter movement became present in politics. Thousands rallied in Baltimore and Chicago after young black men in each city died during police confrontations. After shocking video emerged of Freddie Gray's arrest in Baltimore --

(SHOUTING)

TAPPER: -- and Laquan McDonald's shooting in Chicago, police officers were charged with the murder in both cities. Chicago's mayor came under pressure to step down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to fight back.

TAPPER: Number two, according to President Obama, ISIS rose from a so-called J.V. squad last year to become a, quote, "contained threat." But after two massacres in Paris drew world leaders into the flight and an attack in California killed 14 Americans, President Obama was forced to revise his message.

OBAMA: The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.

TAPPER: And number one political story of 2015, the Donald.

TRUMP: And I'm at number one by a lot.

TAPPER: Donald Trump, disrupting politics and redefining what it means to be a Republican presidential candidate.

TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they are not sending their best.

TAPPER: And his blunt, and some say bigoted, behavior was met with outrage in a seemingly unstoppable rise in the Republican primary poll numbers.

TRUMP: And frankly, I am the most solid person up here.

TAPPER: Will he win the White House next year or will America say, "You're fired."

(on camera): Those were our top-10 political stories of this year. The question is, what and who will top the list next year.

Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Jake, thank you so much.

And there is no way of predicting that, if this year is any example.

If you heading out for the holidays today, safe travels.

Thank you for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

"Legal View" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[11:59:41] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Alison Kosik, in for Ashleigh Banfield. Welcome to "Legal View."

We begin with breaking news. The woman who is accused of plowing her car into a crowd on a sidewalk along the Las Vegas Strip, well, she just appeared before a judge for the first time this morning. You will see her there walking into the courtroom. That is Lakeisha Holloway, and she is charged with a list of charges, murder with a deadly weapon; child abuse, neglect or endangerment; and leaving the scene of an accident.