Return to Transcripts main page


Iraq Retakes Key City from ISIS; European Cities Warned of Possible Terror Attacks; Trump: Bill Clinton 'Fair Game' in Hillary 'Sexism' Feud; No Indictment in Police Shooting of 12-Year-Old; Garland, Texas Hit by Tornado. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 28, 2015 - 17:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Breaking news. ISIS ousted. Iraqi troops raising their flag and proclaiming victory after retaking a key city from terrorist forces. Will Iraq's second largest city be the next to be liberated from ISIS?

[17:00:31] New terror threat. Multiple major cities warned of possible attacks involving explosives or guns between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Is another Paris-style massacre imminent?

Trump's targets. The Republican presidential frontrunner accuses Hillary Clinton of playing what he calls "the woman's card" and declares Bill Clinton fair game as he campaigns for his wife. Is Trump playing with fire as he accuses the former president of sexism?

No charges. A grand jury decides not to indict two police officers who shot and killed a 12-year-old boy carrying a toy gun. Will outrage boil over onto the streets?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We are following breaking news. U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers liberating the city of Ramadi from a brutal seven-month occupation by ISIS forces. The Iraqi flag is now flying over the city center while street fighting continues in an effort to clear the city of remaining pockets of terrorist fighters.

We're also following breaking news out of Cleveland, where a grand jury has just decided against charging two police officers who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was carrying a toy gun. Tonight, those officers are speaking out publicly about the case for the very first time.

We're covering all of that and more this hour with our guests, including a key member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence committees, Congressman Peter King of New York.

Our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by. And we begin in Iraq.

CNN senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir is in Baghdad with more on the battle for Ramadi.

Nima, what's the latest on the ground? Do you know if the Iraqis are still holding the city?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are, Brianna, although we understand, though, they are claiming that it is entirely liberated. There are still pockets of fighting, and Iraqi officials are telling us that's coming as no surprise to them.

They expect that it's going to be at least another two, three weeks before the city is entirely purged of any ISIS presence, but that's not stopping them from celebrating taking that central district. This really has been months in the making, Brianna.

Take a look at this.


ELBAGIR (voice-over): Declaring victory in Ramadi. Video broadcast by Iraqi state TV shows soldiers raising their national flag over the city's government compound, celebrating the Iraqi military's first major victory over the so-called Islamic State.

BRIG. GEN. YAHYA RASOUL, IRAQI MILITARY SPOKESMAN (through translator): Ramadi has been freed. And the armed forces and the anti-terrorist group -- on all the governments building in al Anbar.

ELBAGIR: In May, ISIS fighters seized Ramadi, capital of the mainly Sunni Anbar province west of Baghdad after government troops fled in defeat.

But U.S.-trained Iraqi forces returned, launching an assault on the city last week and making their final push to seize the centrally- located government complex on Sunday. Footage showed Iraqi troops advancing through Ramadi street by street, amid piles of rubble and collapsed houses.

Even amid the celebrations, Iraqi officials say government troops still need to clear some remaining pockets of insurgents in the city. Once secured, Ramadi will be handed over to local police and a Sunni tribal force, a measure aimed at winning support from the local community.

After that Iraq's government has said their next target will be the northern city of Mosul. With an estimated prewar population of 2 million, Mosul is by far the largest population center controlled by ISIS in either Iraq or Syria and a crucial source of tax revenue. If it's retaken, it will take down much of the infrastructure underpinning ISIS's claim to statehood.


ELBAGIR: So far we've been hearing cautious congratulations from U.S. officials who don't seem quite ready yet to call Ramadi liberated. But they have been keen to play up the key role that the U.S. advise and assist, U.S. training and, crucially, some pretty intense, some 600 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have had in getting this far. This is as much a relief -- this almost-victory is as much of a relief for the U.S., Brianna, as it is for the Iraqis.

[17:05:10] KEILAR: All right. Nima Elbagir in Baghdad, thank you so much for that report.

I want to get more now on this breaking news with CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. What does this mean overall? Or is it really too soon to tell the ramifications for the overall war against ISIS?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly it's a very symbolic and strategic victory. I mean, you remember when Ramadi fell to ISIS in May. Defense Secretary Carter was questioning the resolve and the will of Iraqi forces.

So clearly, this shows that they've been trained up. A lot of these Iraqi forces are the ones that called in some of these ISIS targets. So it's a success.

But whether they're going to be able to hold the city, clearly, they need to have a more inclusive process with the Sunnis in Iraq. They're going to need to have inclusive in the government. They're going to make sure that Shia militias are not going to reignite those sectarian tensions.

And then, as you heard the spokesman of the coalition, Steve Warren, say today there's still a lot of work to do in Ramadi -- in Anbar province before they even think about moving north towards Mosul, where they really need to go after ISIS. That seeing Mosul as the big prize. They're far a ways away from that.

KEILAR: Yes. He made that clear sort of in an understated way.

You have European cities right now that are under a bit of a threat. They've been warned of possible terror attacks. Is there an incentive for there to be some ISIS-inspired attacks in the face of what is at least -- at least a momentary defeat for ISIS?

LABOTT: Well, and this is not the first defeat. They've had a string of defeats. You remember there was that -- the Iraqi forces retook Baiji, that strategic oil town, and Sinjar Mountain, where the -- where the fighting began.

So you're going to talk more about this audio recording from Baghdadi, trying to rally the troops. There's definitely this impression now that ISIS is on the back foot.

So if he can get his followers to rally them, you've seen that some of these attacks in Paris or San Bernardino, not necessarily carried out by ISIS but certainly inspired by and maybe with knowledge of ISIS, are even more threatening to the international community than this attack. And it also fuels the narrative that ISIS is a growing global terror organization that's on the offensive, not some group that's losing on the battlefield.

KEILAR: Yes. Elise Labott, great report. Thank you so much.

There are some mounting defeats that may be the reason for a new message from the leader of ISIS. CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has been analyzing this for us.

Jim, it's a rather lengthy recording by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is, 24 minutes. We don't know when it was recorded. There were no obvious time stamps or time references, but the time of the release this weekend, particularly with the losses in Ramadi, interesting at least. And he seems to be throwing it forward, kind of a warning but also a public call of support to the troops in the field to say this is going to be a difficult year ahead and trying to rally their support as that storm of opposition from the coalition and other nations comes through against ISIS.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): From the ISIS chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a new video recording seemingly attempting to boost fighters' morale with, quote, "the world united against them." In the 24-minute tape, al Baghdadi says the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS does not dare send ground troops to fight ISIS. He threatens Israel and praises ISIS fighters engaged in combat.

BRIAN MICHAEL JENKINS, RAND CORPORATION: This message is intended to reassure them that he is still there, he is still the leader, that ISIS is still in business.

SCIUTTO: Baghdadi makes no mention of recent terror attacks claimed by ISIS, including armed assaults in Paris and San Bernardino and the downing of a Russian passenger jet over the Sinai.

JENKINS: He doesn't really make any references to the current condition of the so-called Islamic State, either in Syria or in Iraq. He is simply responding to those things he regards as threats.

SCIUTTO: The message comes amid a rough week for ISIS on the battlefield, as Iraqi ground forces backed by coalition airstrikes reclaimed much of the western Iraqi city of Ramadi from ISIS fighters who have held it since May. The Iraqi security forces claiming victory on Sunday after taking full control of a key central government compound. U.S. military officials, however, are more cautious.

COL. STEVE WARREN, SPOKESMAN, ANTI-ISIS COALITION IN IRAQ: Inside the city center there remain some neighborhoods that have not yet been cleared. There is a real threat for unexploded ordinance, minefields, booby-trapped houses. So there's a lot of, still, danger inside of Ramadi.


SCIUTTO: Following the victory in Ramadi, we heard today from the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, saying that Mosul is next, that they will wrest Mosul back from ISIS control, as well. But I'll tell you, Brianna, Mosul, it's much farther north. There's a lot of ISIS- controlled territory between Baghdad and Mosul. It's also five times as big, many times more difficult to retake that city.

[17:10:13] When you speak to U.S. officials, there is no timeline for liberating Mosul.

KEILAR: Very interesting. All right. Jim Sciutto, thanks so much for that report.

I do want to dig deeper into all of this now with Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He's a member of the Homeland Security and the Intelligence Committees.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And when you see this message from al-Baghdadi, do you think that this is authentic?

KING: You know, we can't tell. I'm assuming that it is. And I think it's Baghdadi. If it is legit, it's Baghdadi trying to rally the troops. This is the first time that ISIS has had any real setbacks.

I think he wants to, you know, try a way to -- find a way to keep morale up. And, you know, that's assuming that it is real. I have no reason to think it's not, but again -- again, I have not been told officially yet whether it is or not.

KEILAR: There's something that I think is sort of noticeable about the message, and that's that there isn't reference to recent events.

KING: Right.

KEILAR: And that sort of makes one wonder if this is something that could have been prerecorded. Do you -- you know, do you have any sense of whether this is something that could just be sort of evergreen and sort of put away until, maybe, a time when ISIS fighters need to be rallied?

KING: Yes. You know, this could have been put on the shelf several months ago in the event that things did start to turn bad for them. And it can be used then.

You're right. There's no reference at all to any recent events including attacks on the United States, Europe, whatever. So it's -- there's nothing in there that really, you know, connotes any time at all. So yes, this could have been just a standard tape that was put on the shelf to be used when appropriate. And they may feel that this is the appropriate time, an appropriate time.

KEILAR: I have many more questions for you, Congressman, especially as we have some new terror threats coming in ahead of New Year's. I want to get in a quick break.

KING: Yes.

KEILAR: And we'll talk in just a moment.


KEILAR: European cities on alert tonight after an intelligence warning of possible attacks involving guns or explosives between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Police in Vienna, Austria, say the warning included names of possible attackers, but so far an investigation hasn't turned up any concrete results.

[17:15:14] We're back now with Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He is a member of the Homeland Security as well as the Intelligence Committee.

So, Congressman, can you give us a sense as we head into another holiday, are there any known threats to the homeland right now?

KING: Well, always reports, but I can assure you that everything that is coming in is being looked at. So far nothing has been found. But any hint or any trace at all is being, you know, run down fully.

Certainly, in New York, we're always in a high state of alert. Commissioner Bratton said last week that extra police are being deployed. But as of now, there's no evidence of any of these plots being -- being real or credible. But they are all being looked at.

KEILAR: I want to talk to you about something that you've been calling for and that's the increased surveillance of Muslim communities. Within Muslim communities.

The NYPD had a program that really did this in Muslim communities, but they ended up getting rid of it in April of 2014. When you talk about having increased surveillance, are you talking about something like this program? Is there any evidence that this actually stopped any potential terror attacks?

KING: Well, the fact is that there were any -- there were no real terror attacks in New York during the time that that was in effect. And, as Commissioner Kelly's pointed out, there were 15 or 16 attacks that were stopped.

Actually, the program you're talking about, that's the demographics unit. That was really not there to find terror plots. It was to find out which -- which Muslim groups were living in which community. Like, if you wanted to find out where the Moroccans were living or the Egyptians or the Yemenis, so that if we were told that a threat was coming from a particular country, we would know what part of New York those people were living in.

So it wasn't really initially -- it was mainly just to locate where different groups were. There were still surveillance that does go on. There was very extensive surveillance. New York has over 1,000 police working on counterterrorism.

So while the demographics unit is no longer operational, there are other units that are out there that, again, I'm not speaking for Commissioner Bratton. He can speak for himself. NYPD is still doing an awful lot of good work. I wish that they were able to do more. They are doing a lot of good work. I'll just leave it at that.

But I would say that it is important to have surveillance in the Muslim communities at the local level and at the federal level. If we'd had it in Boston, we may well not have had the Boston Marathon bombing.

KEILAR: How do you see this working, and how do you do this in a way that wouldn't have people in the Muslim community or supporters saying, "Look, this is just profiling"?

KING: I really think people in the Muslim community should want this type of surveillance. Listen, when they were going after the mafia, Brianna, they sent -- the FBI and the police went into the Italian- American neighborhoods, the social clubs.

When they were going after the Westies -- that was an Irish-American gang on the west side of Manhattan -- they went in every Irish bar and gin mill. They were hanging around the Irish clubs. This is all the FBI, NYPD. That's how it was done. If you're looking for the Klan, you're not going to Harlem. You go where the threat is coming from.

And in this case if you're talking about Islamist terrorism, it's going to come from the Muslim community. And 98, 99 percent of the Muslims, I'm sure, are good patriotic Americans, but the threat is coming from their community, and I would think they would want to have this. They would want to have the assistance of the police and the FBI.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the mosques, for instance, have not told the police when there's been radical activities in those mosques. On Long Island where I'm from we've had a number of ISIS and certainly al Qaeda people arrested in this country. Actually one arrested in Afghanistan fighting for al Qaeda. And it turned out they were from mosques on Long Island.

And the mosque would say, "Oh, yes, they came here. They said they wanted to engage in that -- this activity. We told them we don't do that." But they never went and told the police. And even though they meet with the police on a regular basis, as part of a community relations program, never told the police any of these activities.

KEILAR: Can I ask you, though, you talk about the mafia as an example. And even with that program, I mean, I don't believe that there were any sort of independent mafia-inspired terrorist attacks. I wonder if you would be concerned that there could be some terror attacks outside of the community that would be looked at that could be inspired by something like this.

KING: Well, again, I think that's sort of backing away. I think we should use the surveillance to the extent it's important. And also we should be monitoring other locations.

I guess when you say, you know, does this inspire attacks, I think that, you know, then you're playing defense. If you're in that situation where you're afraid to go after the enemy because, you know, that may inspire them to carry out attacks, you know, then we'd be basically doing nothing.

So no, I'm not concerned about that anymore -- to me there's more of a concern if we do nothing or if you don't do the surveillance. I would rather be on offense, do the surveillance, and that could lead you to other attacks.

[17:20:08] KEILAR: Congressman Pete King, we certainly appreciate you being with us, especially with this news of new terror threats.

KING: Thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you so much.

And coming up, Donald Trump he is...

KING: Thank you, Brianna. Happy New Year.

KEILAR: Happy New Year to you, as well.

Let's talk about Donald Trump next. He is heading back to the campaign trail. Now he's taking on both Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Also, we have some breaking news in the fatal police shooting of a 12- year-old. We're going to get jury -- reaction to a grand jury's decision not to indict two police officers who were involved.


KEILAR: Back now to our breaking news. It's a rare victory by Iraq's U.S.-backed military. For the first time it's taken back a major Iraq city that had been captured by ISIS.

And joining me now in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about this, we have CNN contributor Michael Weiss. He is a senior editor at "The Daily Beast." He's also the co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror." We have CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant journal [SIC] -- General, pardon me, Mark Hertling. And we have CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer. He is a former CIA operative.

To you first, General Hertling. You have Iraqi forces who, no doubt, have a success on their hands, certainly, for today. The question is, can this hold? Will they be able to hold Ramadi?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It has been a tactical success, I would suggest, Brianna. It's part of an overall campaign.

There's a bunch of things I'm going to be looking for. You know, is the police going to take over in Ramadi? Is the government activity going to get started again? Are they going to get infrastructure back up to rebuild houses?

[17:25:06] But I'll tell you the three things I will personally be looking for. No. 1, will the government in Baghdad continue to support the Iraqi military? No. 2, will the people continue to support the Iraqi security forces? And No. 3, will both the government and the army not get too cocky and say they're immediately going to go to Mosul?

There's a whole lot of things left to do in Anbar province. Habbaniyah, Hit, al-Qa'im, a bunch of other cities that have to be cleared of ISIS.

KEILAR: And that was the question I was going to ask you, especially with your experience having been in Iraq. People are looking at Mosul, and they're saying Mosul would be huge, if Iraqi forces were able to take Mosul back. But how far off do you think that is when you're talking about a number of other cities in Anbar that obviously require focus at this time?

HERTLING: Yes. That's the part about getting too cocky. And I've experienced this with the Iraqi army and the Iraqi government before. They've got to clear a bunch of other cities in Mosul of ISIS -- I'm sorry, in Anbar, before they even think about going to Mosul.

And then when they do think about going to Mosul, you're talking about more generation of forces. Over the last nine months the Iraqi security forces have generated about 15,000 under the guidance of Army -- U.S. military trainers. They need a lot more of that when they start heading toward Mosul. And they also have to establish some bases on the way at places like Sherkat and Hoisa (ph).

KEILAR: Bob, how important do you think this victory is?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Brianna, I think it's very important. I agree with General Hertling. You know, this is a big breakthrough for the Iraqi army. They've taken back a town apparently without militias.

And we have to look what Ramadi stands for. That's the tribal capital of Iraq or the Sunni tribal capital. And -- but really, what's important is the follow-up. If they take Ramadi and turn it over to the tribal chiefs and tribal militias and move on up the Euphrates and take those other towns and do the same, sort of clear and then put a good governance in there of Sunni Muslims, this will be a great victory.

On the other hand, they invite Shia militias in from the south, it will just prolong the conflict indefinitely.

KEILAR: Yes, it really is just sort of one step in all of that -- this. That's what we've been hearing today, as well as from you, Bob.

Michael, I want to talk to you about this message that came out over the weekend. It's reportedly from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. And in this message he warns Western forces not to fight on what he calls his turf. He says, quote, "Crusaders and Jews don't dare come on the ground, because they were defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. "

This was a very long message. It said a lot more than that. What do you think he's trying to accomplish with it?

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he's trying to bait the United States into deploying a massive ground army in both Syria and Iraq.

Now, the irony of this, to be frank, is actually, if you go back to the original ideology of al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of ISIS, that's what they wanted.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, you know, he's referred to Davek (ph), which is a town in Aleppo province, Syria, as sort of the platform or the staging ground for the end times. Armageddon will be ushered in here when the armies of Rome, which is to say the West, of course backed by the Jews and everyone else, face off with the armies of Islam, which really is represented only by ISIS.

So I think he is saying, "Look, put your -- put your soldiers in here with the hopes of course that ISIS would then kill or capture or maim American troops and turn the U.S. electorate against this coalition strategy or this coalition campaign.

WEISS: What do you see the likelihood of that happening, Michael?

KEILAR: I don't think it's going to happen in the near future. And I mean, I'll be very honest with you. I don't know. It depends on the amount of territory that can be retaken. Just to put the battle of Ramadi in perspective, I agree with everything General Hertling and Bob have said. But this is still, you know, we might be seeing the tipping point in this war, but it's still too soon to say we've had a strategic success.

According to IHS JANES, in the last 18 months we've only retaken about 14 percent of all ISIS territory spanning both Syria and Iraq. And I don't think that even encompasses the sort of provinces they've now set up in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, the Sinai peninsula and in the north Caucasus in Russian federation territory.

KEILAR: General Hertling, when you look at this message and you hear what Michael's saying, he's trying to goad western forces into a fight. What do you think the chances of that are?

HERTLING: Well, I'm hoping that they're not big chances. I'm hoping that percentages remain small. This is not something that we, the western forces, should get involved in on the ground. This is a -- an Arab fight to regain the heart and soul of Islam. It's going to be a generational fight.

And if we send forces in there, as many have suggested we do, it's going to contribute to the narrative and continue to cause more challenges with is.

So I think this is -- as Bob said, this is a good tactical victory.

[17:30:11] Let's keep moving. Let's take care of it In Iraq and then -- and then turn our attention KEILAR: And coming up, Donald Trump declares that Bill Clinton is fair game since Hillary Clinton is talking about sexism. We're setting the scene for Trump's rally this evening in New Hampshire. And we're also keeping our eyes on the dangerous storms that are forming even as millions of Texans are coping with damage caused by tornadoes, floods and blizzards.

General Hertling, Michael, Bob, thank you so much. Happy new year to you as well.


[17:33:47] KEILAR: The presidential candidates are back on the campaign trail and, in Donald Trump's case, slinging mud. If his latest tweets and interviews are any indication, Trump's upcoming rally tonight will include sexism taunts aimed at Hillary and now Bill Clinton.

I want to bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash with this story. They are getting into it.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They sure are. And we learned today, Brianna, that one week from today will be Bill Clinton's 2016 debut on the campaign trail for his wife. That is, of course, the state that made him the comeback kid back in 1992.

But Donald Trump isn't waiting until next week to pull the former president and all of his baggage into Hillary Clinton's campaign.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via phone): She's playing the woman's card, and it's like give me a break.

BASH (voice-over): The way Donald Trump sees it, to be a winner you have to act like one. So he's ending 2015 as if he's already won the 2016 GOP nomination, attacking Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: I've had so many women come up to me, say, "You've got to keep her out. She is just terrible."

BASH: Trump's anti-Hillary rants have been nonstop since before Christmas when she returned fire.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not the first time he's demonstrated a, you know, penchant for sexism.

BASH: Now Trump is bringing Bill Clinton into it, the latest on Iowa radio this morning.

TRUMP: With all of her past and her past dealings -- and frankly, she's been involved in it with her husband as much as anybody -- for her to be discussing that, I think is out of bounds. And I've let them know that.

[17:35:15] BASH: Trump is doing well with Republican women. In the last CNN/ORC poll, a whopping 69 percent of female GOP voters said they have a favorable view of Trump.

But it's almost the opposite when all female voters are included: 61 percent view Trump unfavorably.

The only Republican woman running for president is trying to capitalize on the Trump-Clinton war of words.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, how about an honest woman? How about a competent woman? How about a qualified woman? But I'm never going to ask for people's support because I'm a woman. I'm going to ask for their support because I'm the most qualified candidate to beat Hillary Clinton.

BASH: As for Trump, his campaign insists he'll win by bringing new voters into the GOP fold, which is why he's lashing out at Virginia Republicans for a new requirement. To participate in its GOP primary voters must sign a party loyalty pledge.

One of Trump's many tweets said, "Straighten out the Republican Party of Virginia before it's too late. Stupid. RNC."

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire the conservative "Union-Leader," which endorsed Chris Christie, unloaded on Trump today for, quote, "bathroom humor and verbal bullying."

THOMAS F. WILSON, ACTOR: You got my homework finished?

BASH: Comparing Trump to the bully Biff in the movie "Back to the Future."

WILSON: Hello? Hello, anybody home?

BASH: The editorial saying, "We trust New Hampshire Republicans will send Biff Trump back to somewhere, anywhere but on the road to the most important elective office in the United States."


BASH: Despite having his harsh critics, Donald Trump has admirers, too. In fact, Gallup came out today with its most admired men of the year list. Trump tied with the pope as the second most admired man in America. Both were behind President Obama.

And what about the most admired women -- woman, by the way? That is Hillary Clinton. In fact, this is the 14th straight year she's topped Gallup's list, 20th overall.

And, Brianna, Gallup says that is more than any other man or woman since Gallup has been doing this since 1948.

KEILAR: Wow. That's pretty amazing. And Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, that's fascinating.

All right, Dana, you're going to stay with us as I bring in CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju; and "Washington Post" assistant editor, David Swerdlick. You hear Donald Trump saying, David, that Bill Clinton is fair game.

He's different than the average candidate spouse, for sure. I mean, what do you think of that?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT POST, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I think Bill Clinton is fair game. And I think that when Secretary Clinton went and made her comments, she actually kind of made a messaging mistake by making this broad statement that Donald Trump has a penchant for sexism.

Donald Trump is a sexist, but if she had instead sort of attacked him specifically for what he said, saying that she had gotten schlonged in 2008 or saying that, you know, Carly Fiorina, saying things about her face, she would have gotten more traction. Instead the way she said it kind of opened her up to Trump's rebuttal, and now they're in this back and forth.

KEILAR: So you see it as this mistake. And it sort of begs the question, if Hillary Clinton is going to engage on this, I'm hearing from a lot of people, you know, maybe she's not going to. Maybe that's not smart. But if -- you know, we're going to see Bill Clinton, Manu, here out on the trail. We've seen him be a liability. We've seen him be an asset. So what is it going to be this presidential cycle?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We've always seen bad Bill come with good Bill. And that's one thing the Clintons are concerned about. Remember in 2008 he certainly said things that took the Clinton campaign off message. He criticized the Obama campaign for this fairy tale campaign.

KEILAR: People thought that interjected race into the debate.

RAJU: Absolutely. And that's the concern whenever Bill Clinton is speaking.

But at the same time, look, there's nobody that can galvanize Democratic voters the way Bill Clinton can. He can really rally the base in a way Hillary Clinton cannot. So he does fill that gap.

And despite all the baggage that comes with Bill Clinton, he did leave office with very high approval ratings. At a similar time in his presidency he had 57 percent approval rating. Barack Obama right now at 47 percent. It shows that he can still do a lot of good for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

BASH: But for all of the decades now that we have been kind of witness to some Clinton drama -- we're talking about Bill Clinton now -- it's mostly been with traditional politicians as his political foes. Donald Trump has no filter. We know that. He will say things.

KEILAR: It's like guerilla politics.

BASH: Exactly. He will say things about Bill Clinton, if pushed, that nobody else has been able to say, which will take this into a very, very different dimension that we dealt with in the '90s or even in 2008. And that clearly is, I think, what Donald Trump has been warning about on Twitter and in these radio ads.

RAJU: I don't think the Clinton people want to have to respond to him...

[17:40:06] KEILAR: What does that look like, though? If he sort of says over -- look, you look at Jeb Bush; you look at what Donald Trump did with Jeb Bush. He just hammers over and over on a certain narrative. It's not a bad thing for him with the folks he's trying to appeal with. Then you see it sort of playing out like that.

BASH: It could. It just depends if he wants to go there. I mean, look, they do have a history. A good history. I mean, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, remember, like way back in the day, like, I don't know, six months ago when they were really good friends.

RAJU: When Trump used to be a Democrat.

BASH: Remember that? That was, like, so maybe seven months ago. But you know, it just sort of depends. But he has the -- he, Trump, has the capacity to be incredibly unfiltered, politically incorrect, as his supporters like to say. And who knows where that's going to take us when it comes to Bill Clinton and his past?

KEILAR: Let's talk money now. Because there are reports that Donald Trump's campaign is going to put some money out there, that they're preparing to launch an ad blitz. And we haven't seen him do this yet. Why would he do this now, do you think?

RAU: Well, at a minimum I think he would do that, because now we're not just talking at polls. In a few weeks we're talking about actual voters, and so it's not just enough for Trump to get out on the campaign stump and say, "Hey, I'm leading in the polls, so that means I'm great." He has to actually come out, get voters out, get caucus- goers out in Iowa and get primary voters out in New Hampshire.

And so someone like him, who now is sort of in this thing, it's not a fluke anymore. He's got to sort of backstop himself because he wants to back up the talk that he's going to run the table.

KEILAR: And it does seem that he's -- I mean, obviously, he's getting a lot of enthusiasm at these rallies. He is getting names, information about people so that they can be contacted.

But it also seems like maybe the folks that he's attracting don't tend to be the people who are really fluent in the caucus program, which takes a lot of investment of time and, you know, being well-versed on issues and on your candidate, right?

SWERDLICK: Yes. I mean, again, I think Trump has to sort of demonstrate now that he's serious and not just appealing to the cameras. Whether or not he wins Iowa I don't think is a make or break for his campaign. But he certainly can't come in second or third in Iowa, second or third in New Hampshire, second or third in South Carolina and expect people to take him as seriously as we're taking him now. And I think that's a hitch. BASH: And one thing just to add on the money front, I was talking to

a Trump source today who said that they had $25 million set aside for ads that they never had to run. They didn't spend one penny of it, because he's gotten all of this free media, what they call earned media in the biz. And he's been able to get his message out in how much is Twitter, 140 characters?

RAJU: Yes, yes.

BASH: It's kind of amazing. Without spending a dime when you have all of these other, you know, candidates who have had to spend.

RAJU: It will be interesting to see how much money he spends on the air attacking his foes in addition to his own positive messaging. Will he go after his best friend Ted Cruz? Or Ted Cruz wants him to be his best friend.

KEILAR: Will the bromance be over? We'll see. Manu, David, thanks so much for being with us.

Dana, thank you.

And we are following some breaking news. Coming up, officials will explain why a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who shot and killed a 12-year-old boy outside of a Cleveland recreation center.

We're also keeping an eye on some dangerous storms that are forming after a deadly weekend of tornadoes, flooding and blizzard conditions.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We are following some breaking news in a police deadly force case that made nationwide headlines. This afternoon in Cleveland officials announced a grand jury returned no indictments after investigating last year's police shooting of a 12- year-old boy.

Tamir Rice had a pellet gun outside of a recreation center, but a dispatcher sent police to the scene without telling them that Rice was a juvenile or that his gun may not be real. He was shot and killed seconds after officers arrived.


TIM MCGINTY, CUYAHOGA COUNTY PROSECUTOR: By close examination, especially of what is perhaps the most credible piece of evidence, a very recent enhancement of the surveillance video by an expert laboratory often relied upon by the FBI, it is now indisputable that Tamir was drawing his gun from his waist as the police slid toward him and Officer Loman exited the car.


KEILAR: I want to bring in CNN correspondent Jean Casarez now.

This obviously was key, this newly enhanced video, when it comes to this decision. Tell us a little more about it.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting. They start out by showing a lot of children in the area of the recreation center when the cruiser begins to pull up there. And they also then focus in on that Tamir Rice, the call was that he was at a gazebo, but he wasn't. He was at a table under an umbrella type of thing.

And so what happens was that they show this enhanced video of 12-year- old Tamir Rice standing up, putting his hand into his waistband, as if to put a gun in there. Turning around seemingly walking away but then coming in the direction of the cruiser. And then his hand goes back up to the waistband. His jacket goes up. And that's when the officers saw what they said was a gun.

So the state of mind of the police officers is what is so important in all of this. And it was 10 seconds by the time that the cruiser pulled up, the officer got out and shot. It was two seconds after the officer got out and shot. And something else that we had heard but confirmed today by authorities that the original call from someone at that recreational center said, it's he's probably a juvenile and it's probably a fake gun, but the 911 dispatcher, in talking to the officers, saying we have an active shooter situation, did not tell them that. So that was not part of their state of mind as they then got out of the car. And Officer Loman fired the two shots, one of which entered Tamir Rice's body killing him the next day.

KEILAR: And his family at this point, Jean, is pushing back against the prosecutor. They say that he made an indictment impossible. How controversial is this decision?

CASAREZ: It's a very, very harsh statement from the family. We want to show everybody. It says, "Tamir's family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome but not surprised. It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment."

And we have reached out to the prosecutor for a response to this and so far he has not returned our calls.

KEILAR: All right, Jean Casarez on this, thanks so much.

I do want to get now some insights from one of our CNN legal analysts. Sunny Hostin is a former federal prosecutor. She's joining me now.

[17:50:05] And Sunny, you know this family well. You've interviewed Tamir Rice's family many times. You've heard that statement from the family. They're disappointed but not surprised by this outcome.

You're a former prosecutor so give us your perspective here on how the prosecutor may or may not have impacted this outcome.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I will say that when the prosecutor had his press conference, Brianna, he indicated that while the grand jury did not come down with an indictment, that non- indictment was in line with what his recommendation was. So he told the world that he did not want to prosecute this case, that he did not want to indict this case and that is what happened.

I think people need to understand that prosecutors are in control when it comes to the grand jury. Prosecutors decide who goes in front of the grand jury, which evidence is presented in front of the grand jury, and which charges are brought in front of the grand jury.

In my experience, I have never presented in front of the grand jury and not resulted in an indictment. And so it's quite shocking, quite frankly, that he would say that he didn't think that it was an appropriate case to indict because if you look at the facts of this case and by the way, this happened November 22nd, 2014. I can tell you it doesn't take over a year, over a year, to indict a case like this or to present this kind of case to the grand jury.

So I think that you must understand that while this family isn't surprised by the outcome, I am surprised by the outcome.

KEILAR: And you're saying that he sort of inappropriately put his finger on the scale of justice here. Do you feel -- would you go as far to say that you think it's a miscarriage of his, I guess, authority and responsibility?

HOSTIN: Well, I am prepared to say that I think this case screamed out for a special prosecutor. I think people will be very uncomfortable with the process here. I think that, again, it doesn't take a year to investigate and present a case in front of the grand jury and interestingly enough, when you think about the facts of this case, neither officer testified in front of the grand jury, yet many of their statements were presented to the grand jury and in one statement, Brianna, they -- one of the officers indicated that he asked Tamir Rice several times, three times, to show his hands and to drop the gun.

But we now know that once he exited the vehicle he shot Tamir Rice in two seconds. How is it possible that it is reasonable for an officer to demand that someone compile with his or her officer -- orders, rather, but not give that person time to comply. There is no way that two seconds is enough time to assess what was happening here.

KEILAR: Yes, that's part of the reason why this is certainly so controversial, and Sunny, we do really appreciate your insight especially on this case that I know that you've been paying so much attention to. Thank you so much.

HOSTIN: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: We are following some severe weather that has killed at least two dozen people in three states now. Flooding, tornadoes, blizzard conditions have impacted millions of Americans and it's not over yet.

CNN's Nick Valencia is in Garland, Texas, this is a town devastated by a strong tornado. Tell us what the area is facing now as they look unfortunately towards

snow and frigid temperatures.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is, of course, the concern, Brianna, especially after what they've gone through over the course of the last 48 hours. We've been here all day long at this site and within the last couple of hours, we begin -- we've just begun to see more residents start to trickle back in to sift through some of their belongings. Some residents tell me they had little if any time at all to prepare for shelter.


JOSH WHITE, HOME DESTROYED BY TORNADO: I thought it was dead, you know. I was waiting for the tornado to suck me out. But it didn't. Life gave me a second chance.

VALENCIA (voice-over): For Josh White, the chance to walk away from a deadly E-4 tornado in Garland, Texas, almost didn't come.

WHITE: I was running toward my closet. And the doors and everything start caving in. And stuff started flying through the windows. Things were just hitting us, everything.

VALENCIA: He hid with his wife and 5-year-old son with just a mattress to protect them from winds up to 200 miles per hour.

WHITE: This has made me realize how fragile life is but try to do better.

VALENCIA: Eleven people were killed in Texas alone this weekend when tornadoes ripped through the state, tearing apart buildings, leaving skeleton structures and shattered wood behind. The destructive winds are a part of a massive storm system wreaking havoc across the nation with a deadly mix of tornadoes, ice, blizzards, and flooding stretching from New Mexico to Maine. At least two dozen people have died and more than 100 million more could be affected by severe storms, flooding and snow from this same system.

[17:55:03] White gathers his belongings in just a sweatshirt, while others in the lone star state are digging out of frigid blizzard conditions, just part of the bizarre and brutal weather here.

Texas is among the hardest hit states along with Illinois and Missouri, each reporting multiple deaths. At least four international soldiers stationed at Fort Leatherwood perished in Missouri this weekend when their car was overtaken by rising water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did find two individuals in the car. We found two other men that were actually outside of the vehicle that were in a creek.

VALENCIA: Now as hundreds of Americans are beginning to see the destruction left in the storm's path, millions more are bracing for what's next. Josh White says he'll be there to help anyone who needs it. WHITE: Everybody never expects this. I mean, once you go through it,

it changes your life forever. You want to help people now, you know?


VALENCIA: Of course, we must remember the victims. Of the 11 people that died in the Dallas area, eight of them perished here in Garland. The youngest victim had just turned a year old two weeks ago -- Brianna?

KEILAR: That's a horrible loss. Nick Valencia in Garland, Texas. Thank you so much.

We do have some breaking news next. Iraqi forces retaking a city, a key city from ISIS vowing to oust terrorist forces from the country completely.


KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news, ousting ISIS. Iraqi forces are celebrating claiming they freed the city of Ramadi from the grip of terror. Is this a turning point in the war or is ISIS going to regroup and retaliate?

New terror alert. Several major cities have been warned of possible attacks this week. I'll be asking a member of the House Intelligence Committee what he's learning about this threat and whether it's credible.

No indictment. A grand jury decides not to charge police officers in the shooting death of a 12-year-old boy who's carrying a toy gun. We'll talk about the fallout from the Tamir Rice case and the outrage against police shootings nationwide.

And Trump's new target. He's not only lashing out at Hillary Clinton, he's dragging her husband into the war of words. We're standing by to hear from Trump on the Clintons' sexism and whether the former president is fair game.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar.