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Terror Fears; Record Floods; Bill Cosby Charged; Trump Blames Hillary for His Attacks on Bill Clinton; Deadly Floodwaters Nearing Historic Levels. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 30, 2015 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:02] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST HOST: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: Breaking news tonight: One of the entertainment world's most familiar faces now has a mug shot. Bill Cosby is free on $1 million bond after being charged for the first time in the sexual assault investigation that has stained his once beloved image.

Cosby was arraigned in Pennsylvania on three felony charges of aggravated indecent assault. He did not enter a plea in the case. This all stems from a 2004 accusation made by a former Temple University employee.

This hour, security -- another story we're following, security ramped up in Times Square for New Year's Eve. Senior officials say President Obama has been briefed on potential terror threats in three big cities, New York, L.A. and Washington. And, overseas, Brussels has canceled its New Year's Events as new arrests are made and potential plots uncovered with links to ISIS.

Also breaking, deadly floodwaters in Missouri are nearing record levels. There are more than 12 million Americans who are under flood warnings across the U.S. right now.

We have correspondents, analysts and newsmakers standing by with more of all of the stories that are breaking right now.

First to CNN national correspondent Deborah Feyerick with more on these charges against Bill Cosby.

Deb, the statute of limitations was about to run out really in a matter of weeks in this particular case.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really was, Brianna, but the real game changer is a judge this summer who unsealed legal documents saying that there was a public interest to do so. And by unsealing those documents, he made public a deposition, thousands of pages in which Bill Cosby uses his own words against him and that gave prosecutors enough to say it's time to take another look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FEYERICK (voice-over): Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby stumbled walking with a cane and noticeable limp as he arrived at his arraignment amid a crush of reporters.

Cosby was released on $1 million bail, charged with aggravated indecency assault for the alleged 2004 assault of a woman 37 years younger than the comedian. After denials and claims that the encounter was consensual, Bill Cosby is now facing criminal charges for the first time.

Andrea Constand, who worked with Temple University women's basketball team, accused Cosby of drugging, then assaulting her when she visited the comedian who she considered a friend and mentor at his Pennsylvania home.

KEVIN STEELE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Mr. Cosby made two sexual advances at her that were rejected. On the evening in question, Mr. Cosby urged her to take pills that he provided to her and to drink wine, the effect of which rendered her unable to move or respond to his advances.

FEYERICK: Though Constand came forward in 2005, the district attorney at the time did not file charges. That same year, Constand sued Cosby, the comedian then settling for an undisclosed amount.

Legal documents in that case were unsealed for the first time this past July, and the deposition made public. In it, Cosby admits giving women quaaludes, but never without their knowledge. Constand's lawyer asks Cosby, "When you got the quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?"

Cosby replies, "Yes."

That deposition and other evidence unsealed in the civil case paved the way for a new district attorney to reinvestigate the allegations. In the criminal complaint, Constand says Cosby told her the pills were herbal. And after taking them, she lost her strength, but was aware of Cosby -- quote -- "fondling her breasts" and of his hands into her pants.

STEELE: What we know is that pills were provided. There's inconsistencies on what type of pills they were. There was also wine that was provided. We then go to the reaction of the victim, you know, frozen, paralyzed, unable to move. A person in that state cannot give consent.

FEYERICK: Constand was the first woman to publicly come forward accusing Cosby. Since then, some 50 women have alleged similar sexual assaults over a period of four decades, most involving the use of drugs. Cosby has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and even filed a countersuit against seven women earlier this month.

Cosby says their accusations hurt his reputation and derailed his plans for a new comedy show. Prosecutors are right up against the expiration of the 12-year statute of limitations for sexual assault cases in Pennsylvania, which will close early next year.

Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison if convicted.


FEYERICK: Now, Cosby did not enter any sort of a plea at his arraignment, but his lawyers did release a statement that basically called the charge politically motivated. They said it was unjustified and they fully believe that Bill Cosby will be exonerated -- Brianna.


KEILAR: All right, Deb Feyerick, thank you so much.

This was really a surreal scene today, as Bill Cosby walked into the courthouse in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, surrounded by just a throng of cameras and journalists, but what was it like inside? CNN was there.

Jean Casarez was there for us. She was in the court for the arraignment.

Jean, tell us what you saw. It was a really, really interesting number of details that you can paint.


The courtroom is just so small. And when Bill Cosby walked in, I mean, you just looked at him and his demeanor was serious. It was focused. It was down to earth. There was nothing joking about Bill Cosby in that courtroom, but yet there was a lightheartedness about him as if something like this happened every day.

And when the judge walked in and sat down and immediately started the arraignment and she apprised him of the charges, and then she started talking about bail, and she said, I am setting bail at $1 million, Mr. Cosby. You must put up 10 percent of that. And the conditions are, number one, you need to turn over your passport.

And his attorney just immediately stood up, and he had his passport in his own pocket, took it out, and he gave it to the prosecutor right there in court. And then the judge, continuing to talk to Mr. Cosby, said, you may not have any contact with the complainant, the alleged victim. And then she repeated that at one point. And he said, no contact with who? He said that. And she said with the complainant. Do you understand all of the conditions?

He said yes, and big smile on his face and very loud yes, but it was still professional, down-to-earth, but yet was sort of like it happened every day. And then at the end, she said, Mr. Cosby, good luck. And he said, thank you, no smile on the face, but just sort of down-to-earth, thank you.

Stood up, and he was let out of the courtroom, and it really appeared as though he couldn't see well, because Monique Pressley, his counsel, was just guiding him every step of the way. KEILAR: All right. Now, Jean Casarez, there at the courthouse, thank

you so much.

It really did appear to be that way, as Jean said.

I want to bring in now CNN anchor Don Lemon, CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. He's a criminal defense attorney. And we also have CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. He's a former FBI assistant director.

Joey, Cosby admits giving Constand the pills. In this deposition, he actually calls them, what, three little friends to help her relax or three friends to help her relax. How strong is the prosecutor's case?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Brianna, good evening to you.

It depends upon who you ask. If you ask the prosecution, very strong. Why? Because they are going to say a number of things. Number one, this is all preserved. What is preserved? She went to Canada -- that is Andrea Constand -- shortly after it happened. Her mom noticed changes in her behavior. She was having nightmares. She was not the same person that she was.

It was then reported to the Canada police department. It was then transferred to the Pennsylvania police department. They investigated. They have statements from Cosby where he makes a number of admissions at that time. And predicated upon that, they are saying, look, we have the goods. You essentially admitted what you did. You look at the depositions, there are more admissions there.

And so they, the prosecution, says, we got you. However, Brianna, it always hinges upon veracity and credibility. And that's what the defense is going to attack. It wasn't reported immediately. It was reported months later. There is a civil component here, in as much as there was a monetary settlement. Are there any witnesses who were really there who could establish that this occurred?

It happened a long time ago. So, I think both sides certainly have staked out what their positions are going to be, but, clearly, Brianna, as we know, the prosecution believes from their possible cause affidavit that they have the goods not only to go forward, but to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

KEILAR: Don, it's pretty interesting looking at the justification for the judge who released this deposition months ago that really turned all of this around. He actually cited your interview with Bill Cosby as part of his decision for saying, look, he's entitled to a more narrow zone of privacy because he has argued essentially as a moral authority for people.

What was your reaction to what you heard today?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, essentially, speaking to my colleague Michael Smerconish about that, what he is saying, when he -- when they -- I guess he settled this lawsuit originally with Andrea Constand, that he was under the impression that this would be sealed forever, that there was some privacy, and this would never be revealed.

But I guess a judge ruled, by looking at the interview and looking at an impromptu graduation speech he gave to Temple just a couple of years ago, saying, well, you're not entitled to that anymore because you are holding yourself as a moral -- holding yourself up as a moral authority and you're putting yourself out there. It's not that you're just a comedian now, you're just an actor now. You're actually putting yourself above that by telling people what they should do.


Therefore, releasing or unsealing this deposition, which put it into the public realm, which people now -- where he talked about the quaaludes and all of that. And I think that's what led to the arrest today.

But I find it very interesting. Who would have known? I would not have known doing that interview two years ago where he talked about, you know, people -- I think he used a phrase that he coined called no- grows, instead of Negros, talking about what people should be doing and how they should be taking care of their kids and on and on and on -- well, that was cited in the deposition.

KEILAR: Joey, I want you to listen to something. This is a clip from 1991 and now it really sticks out in light of these charges. This is Bill Cosby joking about Spanish Fly. Let's listen.


BILL COSBY, DEFENDANT: There's a thing about Spanish Fly. Do you know anything about Spanish Fly?

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: When we were kids we used to--

COSBY: There you go. There you go. That's all. I just wanted the recognition.

KING: Yes.

COSBY: Spanish Fly.

KING: We knew what it was.

COSBY: Spanish Fly was the thing that all boys from age 11 on up to death -- we will still be searching for Spanish Fly.

KING: That's right.

COSBY: And what was the old -- the old story was, if you took a little drop -- it was on the head of a--

KING: Pin.

COSBY: -- pin. And you put it in a drink.

KING: That's right. Drop it in her Coca-Cola. It doesn't matter. COSBY: It doesn't make any difference. And the girl would drink it


KING: And she's yours.

COSBY: Hello, America. And that -- there's a story in there about Spanish Fly. So I think that everybody -- any guy picking it up will just have a ball reading it.


KEILAR: OK. So he's talking about his book, but he's talking there and joking about what at the time, Joey, was maybe sort of laughed about or known as an aphrodisiac, but is actually a very powerful, dangerous, disarming drug. And he's treating it with humor. Is that evidence in this case, do you think?

JACKSON: Well, you know what happens, Brianna.

Any case turns on the facts and circumstances that occurred in this particular case in 2004 at that particular time. So in as much as that's the case, that's what the case will be about.

However -- and it's a big however -- should Cosby take the stand and testify, everything then would be fair game, because he would have to answer questions, not only about the things he said in his depositions and any inconsistencies if he testifies, but I could see that clip coming up and the attorney asking him, sir, you joked about this. You knew about pills. You knew the effect they would have upon women. You knew that they would debilitate women, make them unconscious, and you can have your way with them. Is that right? And that's what you did here.

If he testifies, this clip may very well come down to damn him. If he does not testify, it cannot be used in the prosecutor's case in chief against him.

KEILAR: One of the things, Tom, we have been talking about today here with the SIT ROOM team is just this idea that things have really changed over the last 10 years, where the way people approach rape or sexual assault, and they're so much more informed about it.

And they're also -- I think they're more confrontational about the issue and they even get more upset about it. They just have a better understanding. In light of that, and there are so many people accusing Bill Cosby here, are there any security issues perhaps for him? Do you see at all there being a threat of retribution?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think there could be, Brianna, just for the fact he's such a celebrity and he's back in the news as such a celebrity. We have seen all these cases, the murder of John Lennon, the murder or attempted murder of presidents based on somebody that's mentally ill wanting to become a celebrity themselves for killing a celebrity.

I think, even without the fact that there is all of these charges and all of the women who have been victimized, allegedly, yes, I think there is a strong possibility that somebody may want to make a name for themselves.

KEILAR: You think he will be getting security or that someone will be advising him to get security?

FUENTES: I think they will advise him that he better consider it.

KEILAR: Don, what do you think, just the difference of 10 years here? You had 14 women. I think a lot of people don't even realize this -- 10 years ago, 14 women allege that they had been assaulted by Bill Cosby and they said this in a legal venue.

And then a lot of them actually came out and they were very public about it, but their allegations were swept aside. Some of them were demonized or dismissed at the very least. What's changed in 10 years?

LEMON: A lot has changed.

I'm glad you asked me that, because you spoke about that earlier. And you were talking to Tom Mesereau. And I tend to agree with you, you guys somewhat, that it has been the way our society or the culture has evolved when it comes to rape.

But I actually think it is -- quite honestly, it's Hannibal Buress. It's the Internet. It is, quite frankly, CNN, the way that this has been covered. Hannibal Buress talked about it. It went viral on the Internet. People on the Internet started to discuss it. It started to bubble up.


KEILAR: And he just joked about this--


KEILAR: -- at like one comedy show. And he said he had been saying this all the time at comedy shows, but someone posted it--


KEILAR: -- called him a rapist.

LEMON: Right.

If you go back and you look at "30 Rock," right -- I was just talking about this with my producer Molly -- you look at "30 Rock," there are references in it from Tina Fey about Bill Cosby.

And that was, what, five years ago, maybe a little longer, and nobody really paid that much attention to it. It was sort of a joke. Hannibal Buress joked about this in a comedy routine again. It went viral. People started to pick it up. CNN started to do the story.

As we started to do the story, more women started to come forward. They came forward and they started to talk to me. They came forward and they started to my colleague Alisyn Camerota.

And we put at least 20 of those women on CNN, if not more. Then it was on the cover of "New York Magazine" with all of the accusers. I think that, yes, we have changed when it comes to -- the society has, but it really has been about Hannibal Buress, the Internet, CNN really following up on this story and digging in and that has made all of the difference.

KEILAR: And these are the faces that you see of the women who have publicly come forward, taking a stand, saying that they want justice.

Don Lemon, you will be back at 10:00 tonight, so we will be checking you out then. Joey Jackson, Tom Fuentes, thank you guys so much.

JACKSON: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And just ahead, there is more reason to ramp up security in Times Square. We're learning about a federal investigation into terror threats in three cities. This includes New York City.

And this, suicide vests and explosives discovered overseas in an attack plot linked to ISIS. We're going to have the latest on this terror threat this New Year's Eve.



KEILAR: Tonight, we're getting new information about terror threats tried to New Year's Eve celebrations with three U.S. cities cited as potential targets.

CNN justice reporter Evan Perez has been working his sources. he joins us now from Times Square.

Tell us what you're learning, Evan.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we're told that just before President Obama left for his vacation in Hawaii, he asked for a briefing from some of his top national security officials.

And one of the threats that he was told about was a threat that generated overseas that mentioned possible terror threats in three cities in the United States. That includes here in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

Obviously, here in New York, the big concern is the ball drop celebration to ring in the new year. This is going to take place right over my shoulder here. Already on the scene here, you're seeing a lot more police, 6,000 officers the police department says they will deploy to help protect this area.

And really, you know, in Los Angeles, you know, they are worried about the Rose Bowl, which is played on New Year's Day. Really, what we're seeing is a reflection of the year, where we saw the Paris attacks. You saw attacks in San Bernardino and really general threats from ISIS all over the country, more than 60 prosecutions all over the country, Brianna.

KEILAR: And, Evan, tell us what law enforcement is doing to prevent an attack.

PEREZ: Well, one of the things they want to do is they are boosting security. The FBI says they are going to increase the number of agents and staff at their command center, the 24-hour command centers around the country.

They want people to go out and celebrate. They want to make sure people feel safe. The fact remains that the Homeland Security Department says that they don't know of any credible threats of terror attacks here in the United States, and that said, that's the same thing you hear all the time and then you hear things like San Bernardino just happen days after those statements are made.

That's the reason why you see a lot more vigilance from authorities at this time, Brianna.

KEILAR: Evan Perez in Times Square for us, thank you so much.

Overseas, an imminent terror plot appears to have been foiled when two suspects were arrested in Turkey with suicide bombing gear. This is the second time this week the police have made arrests in an alleged plot targeting a major city on New Year's Eve.

CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has been digging on this story. This is really drastic action that the city of Brussels is taking because of this terror threat, right?


This move comes on the heels of the arrest of two people plotting attacks in Brussels to coincide with the New Year's Eve's celebrations. And, today, Belgian authorities arrested a man connected with those Paris attacks, but while these plots in Brussels and Turkey were thwarted, around the world, fears of a terror attack planned or inspired by ISIS are proving a jittery backdrop to the new year.


LABOTT (voice-over): Today, Turkish officials arrested two alleged ISIS operatives found with these backpacks and suicide vests ready to use, as authorities say the pair being identified only by their initials scouted locations for a New Year's Eve terror attack.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: As this year is ending, it appears that ISIS is ratcheting up its campaign of international terrorism, pivoting much more in that direction.

LABOTT: Brussels canceled its New Year's festivities and fireworks a day after raising the threat level to indicate an attack is likely. On Tuesday, police arrested two men suspected of plotting to attack popular tourist sites in Brussels on New Year's. Authorities seized military uniforms and ISIS propaganda, which they

say suggests the pair was inspired by ISIS. In London, a British couple just convicted of plotting a massive suicide attack they planned for March, a raid of their home found stockpiles of chemicals and bomb-making materials and this video of them testing an explosive device.

Those are the ones they have caught. Hours before New Year's Eve celebrations, authorities worldwide worried about what they don't know in the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, fears of a possible ISIS-inspired attack.

CRUICKSHANK: ISIS, both in the plots that it's directing, but also in the plots that it's inspiring, has moved towards soft targets, because their ambition is just to kill as many people as possible to get into the headlines.

LABOTT: In Dhaka, Bangladesh, authorities banned outdoor New Year's parties after dark, as the U.S. Embassy warned American citizens of a possible attack.



LABOTT: And as it faces losses on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, officials are worried that ISIS will increase its efforts to plan or inspire these global attacks in order to keep recruiting.

They need to continue to project the idea they are winning and expanding, which is why anxiety in capitals around the world is unprecedented. And as they receive more threat information, more and more governments are raising those threat levels, Brianna, fearing an attack is an almost certainty.

KEILAR: All right, Elise Labott, thank you so much for that report.

I want to bring in now CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen and Michael Weiss. He's a CNN contributor and he's a senior editor at The Daily Beast.

Do you think it is fair, Peter, to say -- certainly, I wonder if it feels this way to a lot of Americans, it certainly does to that me -- there is a higher threat level than we have seen in past years, or is it just being prepared in the wake of attacks that we have seen?


Go back to July 4 of this year and you will recall the U.S. government released a sort of series of alerts and there was a great deal of concern there might be an attack around July 4. Nothing happened. Some people were arrested. Maybe they were planning something.

If you go back in time, typically, New York City takes a lot of care and attention to the New Year's Eve festivities for this reason. We have seen the largest number of cases in the United States since 2001, which a fact that speaks for itself. And it is a fact that typically around the holidays there is more concern about a potential attack.

KEILAR: Do you think, Michael, that this ISIS model encourages attacks around the holidays or do you think it's based more on a sort of opportunist thing, like, if you can do it now, wherever, whenever, go ahead and do this?


I think, look, they would love nothing better than to wage some kind of spectacular attack on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, but they will take whatever they can get. This is a saturation campaign. They are looking to inspire people such as the San Bernardino attackers, but also they are plotting.

There are networks that are being interrupted all the time. One of the bigger ones in Europe that has just occurred actually was Sarajevo in Bosnia. Over 100 special operations police officers raided a complex and aborted what might have been a very catastrophic ISIS- inspired attack there.

So, yes, I think we are at a state of heightened alert. And, obviously, if you look at the last several months, three NATO countries have been attacked either directly by ISIS or by somebody who has been radicalized or inspired by them. And these things are occurring at a much greater clip.

And you're absolutely right that this is a direct result of their losing territory in Syria and Iraq. A former ISIS spy that I interviewed two months ago told me exactly that, that as the caliphate seizes to expand, it may remain, but it may not expand, they are going to amplify this other phase or this other strategy, which goes back to the origins of ISIS. When it was al Qaeda in Iraq, they were doing exactly the same thing.

Abu Musab al Zarqawi had networks all throughout Europe. Some of them had been implicated in the Madrid bombings and so on. It's kind of an old new strategy, I would call it.

KEILAR: All right, Michael Weiss, Peter Bergen, thank you, guys, so much.

Just ahead, Donald Trump says he's at war against his political opponents and he claims he had no choice when he decided to bring up Bill Clinton's history of scandal. We will hear Trump ending the year on attack.

And then we will go live to the flood zone in Missouri, where the governor got a call from President Obama today. How long will this danger last?


KEILAR: Tonight, Donald Trump says he's waging an all-out war against anyone and everyone who would stop him from becoming president, and he's making it clear that Hillary and Bill Clinton are still high on his list of political enemies.

[18:32:57] CNN political reporter Sara Murray is on the trail today with Donald Trump.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, it was clear today Donald Trump wanted to end his campaign here with a bang, going hard against the Clintons and warning voters they better actually show up when it comes election day.

(voice-over): Donald Trump rounding out the year with a warning to his political rivals: 2016 is going to be a battle.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I consider them enemies. We view this as war.

MURRAY: On his last day of campaigning before the new year, Trump is coming out swinging.

TRUMP: Hillary is a disaster.

MURRAY: Doubling down on his jabs against the Clintons and dredging up Bill's past indiscretions.

TRUMP: We had to respond to Hillary. She came out with that...




TRUMP: No, she came out. Remember, she wrote. She said he's got a -- he's demonstrated a penchant. I demonstrated a penchant for sexism. Can you believe it? Me. I did have to mention her husband's situation. OK? And that is now the biggest story on television.

MURRAY: When asked Tuesday about his own personal life, Trump told reporters it would be fair for the media or rivals to investigate his background, as well.

Trump is also boasting about the first ad blitz of his campaign, saying he'll spend $2 million a week in advertising in early voting states beginning next month.

TRUMP: I'm going to be doing big ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and they're going to be very substantial. And I think they're very well done.

MURRAY: With the rest of field tearing into each other, Trump is using his iconic hairdo to tear into President Obama's environmental agenda.

TRUMP: You can't use hair spray because hair spray is going to affect the ozone. I'm trying to figure out. Let's see, I'm in my room in New York City and I want to put a little spray so that I can -- right? Right?

But I hear where they don't want me to use hair spray. They want me to use the pump, because the other one, which I really like better than going bing, bing, bing and then it comes out in big globs, right and it's stuck in your hair. And say, "Oh, my God, I've got to take a shower again. My hair is all screwed up."

[18:35:13] MURRAY: And ending 2015 with a parting plea, voters better not let him down.

TRUMP: Don't sit back and say, "Oh, Trump's going to do well." The more we can win by, you know, the more power we have, in a sense, because it's like a mandate, but you've got to go out and vote."

MURRAY (on camera): Now, between those comments to voters here in South Carolina and Trump's pledge that he's going to start spending millions of dollars a week, you can see that the campaign is serious about wanting to win in these first couple of states. That said, when he does return to the campaign trail after the new year, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina won't even be first on his list. The first place he's heading, Mississippi -- Brianna.


KEILAR: Sara Murray for us. Thank you so much.

Let's hear now from the campaign of Trump's strongest opponent. Rick Tyler is the national spokesman for Ted Cruz's campaign. Thank you so much for joining us. And actually...


KEILAR: Thank you so much for joining us. So tell me about Senator Cruz. He said he's not going to go after Bill Clinton, but do you think he's fair game?

TYLER: Well, you're asking me if a former president of the United States, who's been elected twice, who was one of the most partisan and political presidents we've had...

KEILAR: His indiscretions, I guess. His indiscretions are the bigger -- the bigger issue. Do you think those are fair game and really, even, a smart thing to approach?

TYLER: Well, I'll leave that up to Donald Trump to answer, but for our campaign, if Bill Clinton becomes involved in talking about issues or besmirching our record, et cetera, and insurgents of the political campaign, of course, he's fair game and will continue to be, because he's obviously has a -- he's got a candidate in this race, and that's Hillary Clinton and so, of course he's going to be fair game.

KEILAR: All right. So I do want to ask you about something that Donald Trump said. This was at an event in Iowa last night and seemed to suggest Ted Cruz's Cuban heritage meant that he wasn't really in step with Iowa evangelicals. I mean, it was pretty poignant what he said. And he actually held up a Bible and just sort of said, you know, take note of this. He said that, to the best of his knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba. What's your response to that?

TYLER: Well, I'm a little confused. But I'm not sure what it means. Does it mean if you're a Cuban you can't be an evangelical or if you're an evangelical, you can't be Cuban? I can't make any sense of it.

KEILAR: OK. So no reaction to that.

TYLER: Well, I had a reaction. It just doesn't make sense. He's Cuban, and he is an evangelical. They put it out. It is -- his mother is from an Irish family which is typically Catholic, and Cubans are typically Catholic. But he's an evangelical. His father was saved by a Baptist minister, and he became a Baptist and grew up in a Baptist church. So that's how he became evangelical.

Do you worry, though, that he can -- maybe Donald Trump can carve away at some of Ted Cruz' support there? What is he going to do or continue to do to try to prove his creds in this sort of area?

TYLER: Well, look, in Iowa we've had Steve Days (ph), Bob Vanderkloot (ph), Steve King endorse us. That's sort of a trifecta in Iowa for evangelical support.

We just met with 300 faith leaders, who I know, many of them, personally, and they've been meeting for three cycles now, and they've never really all came together to get behind one candidate this early. And they've done that this time, and they've chosen Ted Cruz.

And the polling shows that we're very strong with evangelical voters. And the map is just so favorable because Iowa is an evangelical state. South Carolina is an evangelical state. And then you have March 1, the SEC primary from Georgia all the way over to Oklahoma. These states are all 50, 60, evangelical. There is 111 that are more than 50 percent. We're fortunate and looking forward to the map.

KEILAR: Your candidate has said not even close to a bad word, certainly at least publicly when it comes to criticizing Donald Trump. Is he committed? Are his surrogates and his supporters who go out there on TV drumming up support for him? Are they committed to stick to that all the way to Iowa and beyond?

TYLER: Well, probably, we'll run our campaign. We stay a positive message on the issues about Ted Cruz. The only time we've ever responded is when we've been attacked on a policy issue. And so we're not going to allow people to downgrade the senator's record, and so we'll continue to do that. As far as I know, Donald Trump has never attacked our record. So we haven't attacked him personally. Others have attacked, and we've responded appropriately.

KEILAR: Can you tell us because one of Ted Cruz' advantages in all of this is that he's been a fundraising juggernaut and that a lot of that is in his campaign, not just in super PACs that support him. Can you give us a sense of what -- what's been raised here in the fourth quarter? TYLER: I can tell you. We just announced in the past few minutes

that we've raised $45 million in our campaign total. And that's about 20 million for the last quarter, which is a 66 percent increase over the years, over the quarter before.

And the reason that's important is because there's been very few campaigns that have raised that money historically, but we have evangelical support. We have Tea Party support. We've consolidated the broad-spectrum conservative base in what we said we were going to do, and now we've proven we've got the fundraising to go the distance.

So this campaign is organized. We've got a message. We've got a terrific candidate. And we're funded to go the distance, and so I'd ask your viewers to take a look at Ted Cruz. You can go to and take a look at our campaign and all the things we're doing. We're very excited about it.

KEILAR: All right. Real quick, is it enough to combat Donald Trump, who has unlimited funds and as he said yesterday, he says he's $35 million under budget?

TYLER: Well, I'll tell you, if you've got an organization that people go door to door, and we've got 6,000 volunteers doing that in Iowa now, you know, when someone rings your doorbell that's a lot more powerful than advertising. But it does make your advertising more effective. Because when you're actually touched by the campaign and your neighbor says, you know, "Check out Ted Cruz, and I hope you vote for him." And then you see his ad on television that night, that's a quantitatively different -- qualitatively different experience than just seeing an advertisement and you never get to meet the candidate or anybody with the campaign and it ends up just sounding like noise.

KEILAR: All right. Rick Tyler with the Cruz campaign, thank you so much.

I do want to bring in our political experts now. Great to have you with us. We have Mo Elleithee. He's a former communications director for the DNC, former spokesman for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, and he now heads up Georgetown University's Institute for Politics and Public Service. And we have James Richardson. He's a former online communications manager for the RNC. And Dan Pfeiffer, CNN political commentator and former senior advisor to President Obama.

All right, gentlemen. Stay put. We have so much to talk about in politics. We'll be right back with that.


[18:45:57] KEILAR: We're back now with our political experts for the latest on Donald Trump's latest war of the words with Hillary Clinton.

So, Mo, how do you think the Clintons and those supporting them should respond to this or are they bank on an intra-party fire against Donald Trump?

MO ELLEITHEE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, DNC: Well, I think you've seen the Clinton campaign handle this I think relatively smartly in the past week or so as Trump has ratcheted up his comments and trying to, which I think are smart in a Republican primary. They have kind of held back just enough but made it very clear that this is a guy who has his own problem with sexism.

He's -- his record is one of divisiveness and offending everybody and they are going to keep pointing that out, but really letting kind of the Republican, his Republican opponents take the lead in going after him.

KEILAR: Do you think, James, that that works, that -- or is that just like conventional warfare in sort of an unconventional war?

JAMES RICHARDSON, FORMER RNC ONLINE COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER: You know, the fact that Donald Trump believes he's at war with Secretary Clinton and Governor Bush, two fine Americans running for the presidency, decent people who love their country, is disconcerting but I think really demonstrates how unprepared he is to execute an actual war as commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces.

You know, this is a guy whose temperament does not lend itself to actually dealing and managing with the ascendancy of the Islamic State in Syria or the Taliban in Afghanistan. He wants America to surrender unto him its nuclear arsenal. But I couldn't trust him with a potato gun.

And so, when he's talking about war, you know, it really concerns me that America is in an actual war and he believes he's in a war right now with Secretary Clinton and that's just laughable.

KEILAR: What do you think?

DAN PFEIFFER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: I agree with everything James just said about Donald Trump. But look, I think --

KEILAR: The potato gun part?

PFEIFFER: Sure, potato gun, whatever.

But, look, I think Donald Trump is executing a very smart strategy to continue to dominate the Republican primary. He is branded himself as someone that will say the thing other Republicans won't say and so, he's doing that, and his entire strategy is about dominating the news cycle, keeping candidates like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio out of the news.

Rick Tyler is on. He's running Ted Cruz' campaign and just announced a huge sum of money raised this quarter, ands he got to answer like nine questions about Donald Trump, because he's owning the stage. Hillary Clinton and her campaign have a different strategy right now. They have to make sure they are blocking and tackling and setting up for the general and make sure they win against Bernie Sanders in the right order in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But like her -- the Clinton campaign, everything they can do to ensure Donald Trump is the nominee and I think they are playing that the right way. KEILAR: OK, let's talk, James, about Ted Cruz. Dan just mentioned

him. We heard the Cruz spokesperson Rick Tyler talking about him a moment ago.

Before Donald Trump declared candidacy, I would have thought Republicans -- Ted Cruz would be their least favorite candidate and now it makes you wonder are they sort of pinching themselves saying, wow, do we really want Ted Cruz who has wrangled the establishment over Donald Trump? We never thought this day would dawn.

RICHARDSON: Well, I think Ted Cruz is absolutely not going to be the establishment flavor. There is a very fierce intra-contest contest happening right now in New Hampshire between Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, sort of duking it out for the main stream moderate lane, and Ted Cruz isn't really the vehicle that is going to appeal to those voters.

And so, you know, folks aren't going to turn to Ted Cruz as the accomplishment answer to Donald Trump. They are going to turn to someone, you know, like Chris Christie or Marco Rubio.

[18:50:00] And this is why Ted Cruz doesn't actually want to be perceived as the mainstream candidate. It benefits him to set the contours of this debate, this war right now as a proxy battle between conservatives which he says he is and mainstream candidates, moderate candidates of which he said Marco Rubio is.

And this is really how he wants to frame this. Ted Cruz doesn't want to be the mainstream moderate establishment candidate. And he's going to work very hard to make sure that he's not regarded that way.

KEILAR: Mo, a better opponent for Hillary Clinton, if she's thinking of her chances, assuming she's the nominee for Democrats, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump? What is in her favor?

ELLEITHEE: Look, first of all, I think it's got to be said. It's going to be a close election no matter who the Republican nominee is because that's just what the state of play today, that's just what the battlefield looks like. It's a very polarized, very partisan country right now. It's going to be a close election.

Having said that, if I was still at the DNC, I would be happy with either of those guys on the other side, knowing I still have to run a tough campaign against whoever is the nominee. Look, we spent two years trying to make Ted Cruz the face of the Republican Party. And it seems like a growing number of Republicans now are trying to help us out in that front. I think they both are the type of candidates that Democrats can run effectively against as being part of the problem in Washington even though they are trying to run as outsiders.

I think what people don't like about Washington, the hyper partisanship, the bomb throwing, they both represented that. Ted Cruz was responsible for the shutdown. Donald Trump is dividing people left and right.

I think Democrats can run effectively against either one of them. KEILAR: Real quick, Dan, I have like minus seconds here. But who do you think works better in Hillary Clinton's favor?

PFEIFFER: My guess is Donald Trump. But I think Mo is right. Democrats would be happy with either one.

KEILAR: All right. Dan, thank you so much. James, Mo, thank you guys so much for being here. Happy New Year to you.

And just ahead, a new state of emergency declared, deadly floodwaters reaching historic levels. We'll have live team coverage from Missouri.


[18:56:10] KEILAR: Breaking news tonight, the governor of Mississippi just declared a state of emergency because of the threat of historic flooding. Right now, dangerous floodwaters also arising in Missouri nearing record levels. More than 12 million Americans right now under flooding warnings.

First, I want to go to Martin Savidge. He's in Pacific, Missouri.

So, Martin, President Obama called Missouri's governor for an update on this disaster. Tell us about it.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the conversation, clearly, is going to be what can the federal government provide and how can they continue to try to help support the state.

It looks like here, anecdotally, the water may be starting to recede. That's good news. The bad, the death toll is rising still, now up to 14. And you can tell that state officials are struggling to find the words.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): In some of the worst flooding in state history, parts of the St. Louis region are under water. This shopping area half submerged, a sign for Jimmy John's Sandwich Shop still visible above the water. Hundreds of roads and bridges are closed, including more than 20 miles of I-44.

This lone vehicle was trapped by the water, a boat crew rescuing the stranded woman inside. Rescue crews also coming to the aid of this man stuck on top of a pickup truck. The flood waters spilling out of its door after it was pulled to safety. Emergency crews also had to save this man and his dog.

In Missouri and Illinois, the Mississippi, Missouri and m Merrimac Rivers are all experiencing major flooding. In Illinois, this woman helplessly watching as flood waters flow around and then into her home.

This cabin caught floating away on the Merrimac River. And where it hasn't yet flooded, residents are preparing, laying sandbags and evacuating from nearby levees, while engineers work to try to ensure that they hold.

KELLY NORTHCUTT, LIVES IN VALLEY PARK, MISSOURI: My son's already gone, kids are gone, pets are gone, trying to get the rest of the stuff out of here that's important to us.

SAVIDGE: In some places, rivers and streams have already crested, but not the Mighty Mississippi, which isn't expected to peak until later tonight or Thursday.


SAVIDGE: The concern is, f course, that once the water starts to recede here, it only means that downstream, down river, it is rising in someone else's community causing the danger to rise as well -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Martin Savidge for us in Pacific, Missouri -- thank you so much.

Let's talk about the forecast now and what's ahead. Meteorologist Tom Sater has that for us.

What are we looking at, Tom?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The good news, Brianna, is that we're looking at dry conditions the next seven to ten days and we've seen an improvement when it comes to the flood warnings for south central Illinois and eastern Missouri. But it's all about the rivers right now. The record from 1993 in St. Louis will hold true. Records to the north will be fine. They are not going to be broken, even along the Missouri River.

This is all about the Merrimac that didn't have the spring snowmelt, so they didn't have the records from '93. But again, Union starting to see water go down, Pacific seeing a Crest, then it will be Eureka, which is completely already cut off in society, Valley Park, Fenton and Arnold.

Once the waters from the Merrimac reaches the Mississippi, all-time records will be set. That will surpass that of 1993.

So, again, when you look at the north and the spring, it's usually the spring melt. But here's the problem now -- long-term forecast models put a crest in New Orleans on the 20th of January, Brianna, at 17 feet. That is three feet below the tops of the levees.

So, already, I'm sure, that Army Corps of Engineers are discussing how to deal with the water in the Lake Pontchartrain. But then you toss in the water coming in of the Arkansas River, once that meets the Mississippi River, all bets are off and the forecast, I'm sure, will change many times from St. Louis southward as all-time levels will be reached.

KEILAR: All right. Tom, thank you so much.

That's it for me. I'm Brianna Keilar. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.