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Roy Moore Campaign Is Getting Another Boost From The President; The Challenges Keep Growing Across Southern California; Russia Tried To Contact Yet Another Member Of President Trump's Inner Circle; Tensions Are Now At An All-Time High On The Korean Peninsula; Bizarre Accusation Leveled Against Arizona Republican Trent Franks. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 9, 2017 - 19:00   ET



[19:00:22] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. I hope your weekend is going well.

All eyes are on Alabama right now in the hotly contested Senate race there. Just three days to go until the election. And tonight, some big national names had descended on the state.

Democratic candidate Doug Jones is focusing this weekend on turning out the African-American vote. And he just held a rally at a historically black Alabama State University. Stumping with Jones, Senator Corey Booker and Alabama congresswoman Terri Sewell.


SEN. COREY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I'm trying to get the last -- I know you made already a million phone calls, but I'm here to try to help to get some folk woke. Those people that don't understand the opposite of justice is not injustice, it is indifference, it is inaction and it is silence. Got to get some folk woke.

REP. TERRI SEWELL (D), ALABAMA: We deserve to have a senator whose character and Integrity and veracity is not questioned on day one. And there is only one candidate in this race that we can count on. And that's Doug Jones.


CABRERA: I want to bring in senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt joining us from Montgomery.

Alex, we just laid out some of the latest at least from the Doug Jones campaign. Meantime, the Roy Moore campaign is getting another boost from the President.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. And the Moore campaign in contrast to the Jones campaign has actually remained relatively silent over the course of this weekend. That is in part due to the fact that Moore may feel like he is more comfortable because he knows that he has this passionate base behind him. But at the same time, he is also letting the President's words speaks for themselves.

The President was at a rally in Pensacola just across the state line in Florida last night. And during that rally, he voiced his support for Roy Moore. That is not the last time that voters here in Alabama are going to be hearing from the President on that subject. We have just learned that the President has recorded a robo call for Roy Moore in these final few days before the special election on Tuesday. It's unclear when that robo call will be going on. But you can certainly imagine that it will reflect somewhat what the President said about the race last night.

He was very vocal in reiterating that endorsement for Roy Moore. Remember, there was all sorts of speculation as to what extent the President would actually get involved in this race. And then last Monday, the President issued this full throated endorsement for Roy Moore, which he then reiterated last night, casting doubt on some of the accusers of Roy Moore's and saying that he needs someone like Roy Moore in the Senate to advance his agenda, to advance a conservative agenda, so when it comes to this robo call that at some point next few days or some point soon will be rolled out, we can imagine that it will reflect something similar to what he said last night. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't afford to have a liberal Democrat who is completely controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We can't do it. Can't do it. His name is Jones. And he's their total puppet and everybody knows it. He will never, ever vote for us. So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it.


MARQUARDT: So what will the President's endorsement and this robo call mean for the race? Well, it could have a certain amount of impact, as I mentioned that there is a passionate base that will turn out for Moore.

There might be a number of people, conservatives, Republicans, who are on the fence who were scared away by these allegations or at least were undecided who might be assuaged their fears, might be assuaged by the President. But by injecting himself so much into this race, he could also turn it into something of a referendum. And people in Democrats and people in the Doug Jones camp could also come out not only to vote against Roy Moore, but also to vote against the President -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK. Quickly, Alex, we also understand Steve Bannon is going to be holding another rally for the candidate, Roy Moore, on Monday?

MARQUARDT: He is. As I noted, Moore is not having any rallies as far as we know this weekend, but he is having a drain the swamp rally on Monday night in midland city. That is in the southern part of the state. It will be featuring Steve Bannon. That is going to be the third time that the President's former chief strategist turns out for Roy Moore before this election -- Ana.

[19:05:06] CABRERA: Bannon and Trump. Really trying to rally the base.

Alex Marquardt, thank you.

I want to bring in our panel to discuss further. Ben Ferguson is joining us, host of the Ben Ferguson show and Tara Setmayer, a conservative commentator and the board director for Stand Up, Republican. This is an organization running as against Moore in Alabama right now.

Ben, I'll start with you. The President has now gone all in on Roy Moore, right? And everything that comes with him, that means. Beyond the child molestation accusations, we know Moore has said he believes former President Obama isn't an American citizen. That a lack of faith played a role in 9/11. That homosexuality is the same at bestiality and that the last time America was great was at the time when there was slavery. As a Republican yourself, are you comfortable with this man representing your party?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not. And I don't think he represents the party. I think you have got a fraud candidate here who unfortunately many people in Alabama say look, he doesn't necessarily represent my moral code, my moral fiber, but he represents my interests better than the Democratic candidate on basic issues that matter to me in Washington. And that's the reason why I think he is probably going to win this.

I personally don't think Roy Moore should be in the U.S. Senate. But I understand there's a lot of people in Alabama that say they do not trust the Democratic candidate either. They don't trust him on issues like abortion and there's a being big x-factor. We know that one of the big accusers of Roy Moore, unfortunately, she told a lie and inscribed some of the commentary around Roy Moore's signature, which was clearly falsifying what she was trying to say happened to her. And for a lot of voters in Alabama, they said that's enough for them, enough doubt put out there by her admitting that she has, you know, put commentary around his signature, to say I don't believe her or I don't believe maybe some of these other people either, so I'm going to vote for Roy Moore.

CABRERA: Dou you believe the women, Ben?

FERGUSON: I think there's enough smoke here and enough problems around Roy Moore by enough women. I do think that there's a real problem with this one woman who wrote commentary around the signature. I mean, that just flat up corruption that you shouldn't do especially when you are accusing someone of something like this.

CABRERA: And based on what we know about the commentary, it sounds like she put the date and the place.


CABRERA: But again, she stands behind the fact it was his signature and it was his message that was in there.

But Tara, to Ben Ferguson's earlier point about why perhaps some people would choose to vote for Roy Moore even if they don't agree with the things he has said or perhaps done. I remember during the Presidential campaign, a number of Republicans were willing to say while they weren't the biggest fans of then candidate Trump, they wanted a Republican picking the next Supreme Court jus justice. So is it far for Republicans to say I want that Republican vote in the Senate?

SETMAYER: We are not talking about someone who was perhaps late on a tax payment or parking ticket or two. We are talking about someone who is credibly accused of sexually molesting a teenage girl and being a predator for other young teenage girls when he was in his 30s. How low is the bar going to go now at this point?

I understand when people can you know hold their nose. Some people didn't like John McCain. Some people didn't like Mitt Romney, because they thought he was too stiff or he was too rich. We are not talking about those kinds of character flaws. We are talking about something that was potentially criminal.

So I think that that excuse, just because you can explain it doesn't mean you should excuse it. And at some point, we have to make a decision. What the character of our nation is going to be. And by casting aside these flaws just being, you know, something that shouldn't matter because he may cast a vote that you like. I think that's a very, very dangerous path to go down in this country.

And just really quickly to clarify the mischaracterization that ben is putting out, this false talking point, that woman did not falsify anything. She did not do that. She added a date and location so she could have a contemporaneous understanding of where Roy Moore signed this and what the reference was. That's very different than falsifying or forging, which is what a lot of conservative media has done unfairly and another network had to correct a headline because they claimed she falsified that inscription.

FERGUSON: Let me respond.


FERGUSON: I'm not excusing it away, but if you are a voter in Alabama and you listen to this woman come out and you watched her press conference (INAUDIBLE), and she never brought any of this up and then there's questions -- let me finish. There's also questions about the D.A. that he would have not signed at the time because he wasn't the D.A. and then they found out that that's a signature that was put on there by assistants and court documents. She didn't disclose that he was also over her divorce decree papers. You add all that up and the voters in Alabama who have called into my radio show, that is scared in Alabama have clearly said they have a lot of problems with her story because it keeps forgetting these --

[19:10:18] CABRERA: And yet - and yet Ben, I can hear and understand what they may be coming from on that one accuser's story. And they may be choosing and finding it relatively convenient to be able to have a hole in that credibility.

But let's look at Roy Moore the candidate. He, too, has been questioned for his honesty. Remember, he has been kicked off the Supreme Court in the state of Alabama twice. And the second time, the judges unanimously came out and said that he had not been credible. That they found his use of case law as an incomplete -- excuse me, misleading and manipulative. I just wanted to get those facts out there because these voters were supporting Moore are choosing to believe him whose credibility and honesty has been questioned in the past --.

FERGUSON: As a conservative, look, as a conservative, I have never wanted someone to legislate from the bench. That's the reason why in the primary I did not support Roy Moore when people ask me if I thought he would make a good candidate. I said clearly, the guy should have been ruining for elected office and not been on the Supreme Court because he clearly did not follow the law of the land. That was a huge red flag for me for him in general.

Then you add all this on this on there, I agree with you. I said it earlier. I don't think he should be in the U.S. senate. I don't think Al Franken should be in the U.S. Senate. But at the end of the day, the voters of Alabama clearly understand the allegations against Roy Moore. And the majority of them that I have talked to have said to me, again, he does not represent my morals, but he does represent my interests.

And many of them said this. Look, abortion is still a very big issue in Alabama. And the Democratic candidate is in favor of abortion. They have said look --


FERGUSON: We are not going to support that guy either.

CABRERA: Tara, last word.

SETMAYER: One senator is not going to overturn Rowe v. Wade. You know, voters really need to take a look at a single issue voters like this. When you start -- they talk about abortion, but they don't have a problem with a guy who sexually molested young girls?

There is a certain cognitive distant here that needs to be called out. And Roy Moore lied about not knowing these women. He clearly did. He lied about that. He was called out as a liar by the ethics committee with Supreme Court in Alabama. And he also lie d about taking a million dollars from a charity that he set up when he claimed he owed it a small salary. And it turned out it was over a million dollars.

He is a liar and he is a lunatic on top of all these allegations. He has other positions on things are not in step with the Republican Party. And you know what else? If he wins, the Republican Party is going to have to answer for this. Big donors are not happy about it. Mass mutual today had to come and say that they do not support Roy Moore's candidacy because they gave money to the Republican national committee. They are one of several corporations that have given money to the national committee that now are going to have to answer for that their money is going to support a candidate like this.

This is a terrible, long-term prospect for the Republican Party who is destroying itself because they want to get a winner and political expediency is dangerous.

CABRERA: Got to leave it there, guys.

Tara Setmayer, Ben Ferguson, thanks for the debate. Appreciate it.


SETMAYER: Thank you.

CABRERA: Still ahead. California in flames. Six separate fires burning up the state. And now, the first fire related fatality. We will take you to Ventura, California, next live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:17:43] CABRERA: Let's take a look at what's happening now with the wildfires burning across southern California. The challenges keep growing. High heat, dry air, strengthening winds are making things so hard for firefighters right now. Flames have already burned 175,000 acres so far. That's an area only slightly smaller than New York City.

Thousands of homes are threatened. Hundreds have already been destroyed. The largest fire, the Thomas fire, that has burned 148,000 fires in Ventura County.

And Kyung Lah is there in Ventura for us tonight.

Kyung, this is already one of the most devastating fires in California history and with Santa Ana winds expected to only pick up tomorrow, are people there worried things could still get worse?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everywhere you go in this part of this community and this section of Ventura, if you go to the grocery store or just to get ice cream, everyone is talking about the weather forecast because this is a wind driven event. And this house and what you see through this neighborhood is one example of it. Fire is pushed in this community. It was pushed in this community with the wind. It whipped through this community and then it burned all of these houses down. You can see there's little left. Some of the people who live here got their first look at what was left.


DAVID KARIAN, PARENTS LOST HOUSE IN FIRE: My lifetime. Couple of lifetimes. Like I said, 84, 83 with my mom and dad. They have been living here for 30 years. They built it themselves. There's not much, but if there's a few things that will help them you know, have some connection with the past, then that's what I'll try to do. That's what it is. Material stuff, but like you said, memories of a lot of years. And we will see where it goes from here. I don't know what they're going to do. It's a process. It's shock, still shock. Still trying to understand.

Little blocks. A little lizard. Don't ask me. You know what, if it helps, it helps. Despite the loss, we are fortunate. We have family close by. We have other options and you know, it is material stuff. Other people are doing so much more. Have so much more tragedy in their life that we had nothing to complain about. And you have got to just focus on that. Makes the rest of it easier to deal with.


[19:15:27] LAH: Firefighters trying to prevent more people from experiencing what that man has and his family has by fighting very hard in what you are looking at right now. This is a live picture of the north flank of the fire. It's a giant plume that you can see across this county. The fire growing expanding into Santa Barbara County. Even though this is contained, 15 percent say firefighters this is a very dangerous fire, 15,000 structures, Ana, are threatened.

And here in Ventura, they have experienced 500 structures that have been burned down in this fire alone. The weather forecast for tomorrow, the winds expected to become even more dangerous. Those dry conditions you were referencing will also continue -- Ana.

CABRERA: The damage there just incredible and so disheartening to see.

Thank you, Kyung Lah, for that report.

Now as California battles the dry heat, the increasing winds, the dangerous flames, meantime, the southeast shoveling out from a surprisingly strong winter storm that is now headed north.

Meteorologist Gene Norman is joining us from the weather center. He is tracking both of these system.

Gene, I want to start with the fires because of the danger where with these fires. When is the weather finally going to be helping the situation there?

GENE NORMAN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Ana, the good news is that we probably will see a break in those high winds by the time we get to early next week. So we are anticipating that and hoping that that will be the case.

As we take a look at what's going on with those winds, we're seeing that as we zoom into this area here in the Thomas fire location, we are noticing that well, it's a large area. And when you see a report like, Kyung, you got to remember that it is all of this area in red is what is impacted by the fire. The potential for the winds to increase, overnight tonight and into tomorrow morning. And that's a big problem, of course, because a lot of people might be sleeping. Not realizing that this is going to occur.

The area impacted by the fire is actually about the size of Chicago, believe it or not. Winds right now in the 20 to 30 mile an hour range, but watch the forecast. Very important to note that the peak of the highest winds will occur around 4:00 in the morning tomorrow California time. So as people are sleeping, they may not realize that this is happening and they need to maybe be aware that those embers that are still out there could quickly ignite and quickly park.

Meanwhile, switch to the southern snow situation. Take a look at these totals from overnight. Nearly two feet in northeast Georgia. About a foot in the Atlanta suburb maybe seven inches that in Corpus Christi. The snow continues, the system moving up the east coast but it is moving very quickly. A lot of the moisture is out in the Atlantic Ocean. And so, it will all be done by dawn tomorrow. Anywhere from two to four inches in the big cities, maybe four to six up in sections of New England. So 12 days from the official start of winter, but Ana, it already feels like it for a lot of people.

CABRERA: I mean, no kidding. A foot of snow near Atlanta. Wild thing.

Thank you, Gene Norman. Good to see you.

Coming up, 400,000 documents, we are just now learning how much evidence Robert Mueller collected in the case against Paul Manafort and regain (ph) details next.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:28:10] CABRERA: There are new details this weekend about how Russia tried to contact yet another member of President Trump's inner circle. "The New York Times" is reporting that Russian operatives repeatedly tried to correspond with Hope Hicks during the transition period. Now, Hicks was an adviser at the time. She of course is now the White House communications director. Well, the paper says the FBI was so alarmed by the attempts that agents met with Hicks at least twice to warn her that these Russian officials tried to contact her were quote "not who they claimed to be." "The New York Times" notes that there is no evidence Hicks did anything wrong here. But the report coming after we were learning she was interviewed by special counsel investigators just the past couple of days on Thursday and Friday this week. So this makes her the latest person in the President's inner circle to be questioned by Robert Mueller's team.

Let's discuss where this fits in with the Russia investigation. CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd, former CIA operative, Mike Baker and CNN legal analyst Paul Callan are joining us now.

So Samantha, you have worked for the White House. You advised President Obama in national security matters. Is it normal for foreign operatives to contact top Presidential advisers like this?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks, Ana. There are two related issues here. The first is that historically, foreign governments including Russia, who is a very sophisticated intelligence service, have tried to contact U.S. government officials. This is why when you enter the administration, you get a counterintelligence briefing. Now it may be time for a refresher course for the administration on how to stay vigilant against contacts from foreign governments.

The second point is that it's now clear that the Russian intelligence operation which began during the campaign continued through the transition, didn't end when the administration took office. Despite the fact that the Obama administration had publicly ousted the Russians for interfering in the election, it's now clear that Russian officials tried to contact Hope Hicks.

So my question is whether the Russian government tried to contact any other administration officials and if so, when.

[19:30:15] CABRERA: And the question I have is why, Mike? Because Russia already had communication we know lines with other Trump transition members during the same time period we are learning. Mike Flynn was in touch with the Russian ambassador about actions. And Jared Kushner was reportedly trying to set up some kind of a secret channel with the Kremlin. So why would Russian operatives even try to or need to reach out to Hope Hicks?

MIKE BAKER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Because this is what they have been doing for generations. It was just pointed out, this is nothing new. You go back to the beginning of the 1940s when Russia was still alive with Germany before Hitler decided to invade Russia. And they spent a great deal of time and effort here in the U.S. trying to influence public opinion. Trying to keep the U.S. isolationists out of the war.

So what did they do? Well, they paid off journalists. They set up trade groups that were independent. They paid off union leaders. They contacted and tried to engage and influence government personnel. They have been doing this all this time. This is what the Russian intel service does. They are so in discontent and they are constantly. They are 30,000-foot level. Their game's never changed. It's trying to chip away at the credibility of democracy, at the credibility of government here in the U.S.

So that is why they -- anybody who has been involved in a counterintelligence operations and not spent some time working against the Russians in my time. This is not a surprise to anybody. I'm not saying the investigation isn't important. Carry on the investigation. Do what you need to do. But understand it and put it into context from an operational perspective.

CABRERA: Again, this is happening during the transition, Mike, does it undercut the idea of collusion and that Russia had some deep rooted ties to the Trump campaign during the campaign itself?

BAKER: Well, I mean, it does in a sense. I suppose you could look at it this way. I mean, the speculation on my part.

But I will say this. They played both sides. Look, The Russian Intel service, the people involved in this effort, they have been promoted and they are, you know, they have done a very good job from their perspective. And they played both the Democrats and Republicans. And so you know, again, carry out the investigation. Make the interviewed, do what you need to do. We knew that Hope Hicks was going to be interviewed several weeks ago. They have already put around the list. They said they were going to do this. And that's the right thing.

I will also say, the FBI did what they are supposed to do from a counterintelligence perspective. As Samantha pointed out at the beginning, this is what they are supposed to do. They become aware of something and they are supposed to sit down with whomever is in the administration and say we've got a concern and this is why and ensure that people are aware of how aggressive it is out there in the world.

CABRERA: So Paul, Hicks may now know, interviewed with Mueller's team, Thursday and Friday, two days of worth of questioning apparently with her. How integral do you think she has become in this investigation?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm not surprised that it would take so long. Because remember, she acted as a personal assistant or administrative assistant to the President for a very long period of time while he was in office during the campaign going back into the days of his business. So she obviously knows all about the Trump financial empire, the Trump campaign and what went on and key moments.

One of the big key moments for instance being after the famous Trump tower meeting at a press release was issued, she was involved in the process of working on the press release presumably and has been a big debate about whether the President was involved.

CABRERA: After the revelation that there had been this meeting.

CALLAN: That's right. And this profit the President helped to draft it and he has denied that now when Don Jr. So Hope Hicks would have a lot of answers to very important questions.

CABRERA: Do you think she could be in legal trouble if she was just a conduit or a fly on the wall during some of these conversations?

CALLAN: I think it's unlikely that she would be in legal trouble unless she lies to the investigators. And then she could wind up like a lot of other people do in these investigations, being charged with lying to the FBI because you are trying to help a friend or help somebody else like the President on one of his sons and you get in trouble yourself. So it remains to be seen.

CABRERA: Samantha, President Trump held that campaign rally last night. And at one point, we heard the crowd start chanting lock her up in reference obviously to Hillary Clinton. I want everyone to hear again what the President said in response to those chants.


TRUMP: This is a rigged system. This is a sick system from the inside. And you know, there's no country like our country, but we have a lot of sickness in some of our institutions. And we are working very hard. We have got a lot of them straightened out, but we do have, we really do. We have a rigged system in this country. We have to change.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [19:35:10] CABRERA: So this is the President of the United States calling U.S. institutions rigged and sick.

Samantha, what impact does that have?

VINOGRAD: These statements are disturbing on a rot of levels, but they have real national security implications for two reasons. Think about what kind of message those statements send to our enemies. We have the commander in-chief of the United States broadcasting publicly that our institutions in his mind at least, are sick. This could send a message to our enemies that your institutions are in a weakened state and we are vulnerable to attack.

At the same time, he is yet again undermining the confidence and moral of the dedicated public servants that go to work every day and serve our country. We have seen him do this with the intelligence community. And we have seen him do this with the FBI. This is not a way that ta President should be protecting our country.

CABRERA: Mike, how do you see it? Did do the President's attacks against the FBI, the department of justice specifically, make the U.S. less safe?

BAKER: I don't think they make them less safe. I think they are completely unnecessary. And again, it all comes back around to this issue of what I would like to see.

Look. Again, I didn't vote for either of the candidates this this last election. I just thought in country this large, we might have been able to do better perhaps. I suppose we could ask Bernie Sanders if we thought if the system was rigged after we found out, you know, the kind of the actions there. But I don't think that any of these tweets or any of the messaging that goes out is helpful in any way. I don't think it necessarily makes us less safe.

Look. From the bureau's perspective, and I can certainly speak from the agency's perspective, the people out there in the field on the pointy edge of the spear, they just get on with their job. They don't care who is in the White House in a sense. They just give us priorities, give us the tasks, we are going to march on.

At the same time, you know, sort of at the top level, they are human, right? And they would like to always feel as in because they operate off the radar. That's their job. You don't go into the CIA, the bureau, because you want a pat on the back every day. So you would like to think that you have got top cover from above and that's where sort of that human sense comes in and the frustration.

CABRERA: Paul, I want to ask you about what we are learning, a new detail in Mueller's investigation. Court documents revealing what kind of evidence he is now collecting for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates' cases and includes 400,000 document, 36 laptops, phones, hard drives, thumb drives. I mean, that sounds like a lot, 400,000 documents in just a matter of months. Is it a lot without a perspective? CALLAN: Well, it's not really a lot consider considering what he is

investigating. And remember, he is investigating $75 million, $25 million of which he says might have been laundered by Manafort. That's what's charged in the indictment in connection with the indictment. So and in these white collar crimes when you are dealing with that kind of money, there's a lot of evidence involved. A lot of documents involved.

What's most surprising to me having looked at the indictment now carefully is that, it doesn't touch on Trump at all. This is -- all the Manafort stuff is before the election campaign. It's, he had a complicated life and obviously, a lot of money, 75 million passed through his hands and they say 25 million of it was laundered, but all before the election.

So I think what Trump supporters will say is well, this is nonsense. It has really nothing to do with the President. We have yet to see the connection from President Trump from the Manafort investigation.

CABRERA: And we know though that just because he has been charged with these crimes, it doesn't certainly exclude other charges.

CALLAN: This indictment could be superseded if these charges and this investigation leads to something that connects him to the President or connects the campaign to the Russians. So we will have to see what happens in the end.

CABRERA: All right, everybody. Paul, Samantha, Mike, thank you all.

Coming up, tensions are now at an all-time high on the Korean peninsula. And there are new fears about athletes competing at the Olympic games of 50 miles south of the DMZ. We will tell you what precautions are already being taken, next.


[19:43:34] CABRERA: We have some breaking news right now here on CNN. Happening overseas right now, police in Sweden are on scene of a possible attack on a synagogue. This is in Gothenburg, the second largest city there in Sweden. Police are checking reports that several men through Molotov cocktails at the synagogue. So far no reports of anyone hurt or any major damage to the building, but stay with CNN because we are in touch with officials there in Sweden. We will bring you more information just as soon as we get it.

Meantime, tensions running high over the missile threat from North Korea and concerns that this rogue country may attempt some sort of attack during the 2018 winter Olympics in South Korea are growing.

CNN's Brian Todd has this report on how North Korea could possibly interfere in the upcoming games -- Brian.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As tensions with Kim Jong-un's regime intensify, U.S. law enforcement and security agencies are ramping up coordination with their South Korean counterparts. Just eight weeks before the winter Olympic, concerns are mounting that North Korea might engage in a violent provocation to disrupt the games which are being held just 50 miles south of the DMZ.

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: My concern are softer targets. And obviously, things that North Korea might do to provoke the South Korea to attempt, to cause either the games being shut down or events being moved or potentially war.

TODD: Security experts say soft targets like transportation hubs, schools and shopping areas could be targeted by the North Koreans during the Olympics. Could athletes from America and elsewhere be in danger?

U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley hinted at it on FOX when asked if America would sent its team to the games.

[19:45:14] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel comfortable sending family members if they were athletes on our team?

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I think it depends on what's going on at the time in the country. We have this watch this closely and it's changing by the day.

TODD: But now, the White House and U.S. Olympic committee say America is planning to send its athletes to the winter Olympics. Still, there is a unique security threat at these games. The location and razor sharp tensions over Kim's missile tests have the region on edge.

North Korea has used tunnels to try to insert commandos and frog men into South Korea for spying and assassinations. And the regime has a history of violence surrounding sporting events.

A South Korean airliner was blown up by two North Korean agents in 1987 with all 115 people on board killed. One of the agents was captured and said the bombing was ordered by the North's leaders to disrupt the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul. And during the 2002 world cup in South Korea, North Korean patrol boats engaged in a skirmish with the south, leaving several servicemen on both sides dead. Analysts say Kim has strong motives for disrupting these winter Olympics.

PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: He is facing the prospect of two years of maximum economic strangulation through sanctions and other law enforcement measures to really cripple his economy. He is going to look for ways to fight back. One way to fight back is to hurt the South Korean economy. The South Korean economy right now is 100 percent focused on a successful international Olympic event.

So imagine cyber sabotage. So you don't kill anybody, but you just disrupt the economic flow, the transportation flow. You create a headache for the South Korean government. You make the South Koreans look bad. They lose face.

TODD: Analysts say if the North Koreans don't engage in a violent provocation during the winter Olympic, they are at least likely to send spies into South Korea during the games. They say the Olympics will offer the North Korea an opportunity to gain economic intelligence on South Korea, to place sleeper agents there and to make contact with the North Koreans agents they already have in South Korea.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Coming up, Congressman Trent Frank allegedly offering to pay an aide $5 million to have his child. Details on this rather bizarre resignation and the story behind it, next live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:52:01] CABRERA: A U.S. congressman offering a woman in his office millions of dollars to have his baby. That is a bizarre accusation leveled against Arizona Republican Trent Franks. And apparently the reason he abruptly resigned from Congress this week. Now, Franks was the third lawmaker in the span of three days to resign in the face of inappropriate sexual conduct or harassment.

Here is Sunlen Serfaty with more from Capitol Hill - Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are new allegations in details to those allegations coming out against Congressman Trent Franks. I spoke to a confidant of one of the accusers who detailed her side of the story to this confidant. She says she was a former aide with the congressman and was asked by the congressman to be a surrogate in exchange for money. The woman says she was asked to look over a contract to potentially carry his child and if she conceived his child, she would be giving $5 million.

Now this account comes from Andrea Laverty. She is president of the Traditional Values coalition. And she was in the room last week when, along with the accuser, presented this side of the story to speaker of the House Paul Ryan's office. And this of course was first detailed and reported to the "Associated Press."

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan quickly called for his resignation after a very swift condemnation. He called the charges very credible and very serious. Now the congressman pushed up his deadline for his official resignation. He did that on Friday. Instead of resigning officially on effective January 30th, 31st, he resigned on Friday.

So he is out. And Franks publicly punting a bit to his family. He said that his wife was admitted to the hospital with an ongoing ailment. It's the best thing right now for his family to have him go and resign. But it very clear up here in the halls of Capitol Hill that there was just no appetite for him to stay a day longer.

Sunlen Serfaty, CNN on Capitol Hill.

CABRERA: Thank you, Sunlen.

Coming up, a simple tweet goes viral and helps raise nearly hundred thousands of dollars for St. Jude's children hospital.

Stay with us. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:58:40] CABRERA: It is the tweet making a big difference tonight in lives of kids with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Danni Messina, student at Washington State University, my alma mater, wanted to raise money for St. Jude's children's hospital. And so she tweeted out this message, pledging to give 25 cents for every favorite and 50 cents for every retweet she received. Well, she never expected this tweet to go viral.


DANNI MESSINA, COLLEGE STUDENT: I drew a blank. I really had no idea what to expect. And at the time I had 600 followers so I was like, OK, so that's basically impossible. And then I'm like OK, this is the time. This is the time to make a change.


CABRERA: So that tweet ended up getting hundreds of thousands of retweets and favorites. And so now it has raised more than $95,000. And there's an additional gofundme page that has raised the total to $100,000. The goal is $220,000. Good job. Go Cougs. So proud. And happy to bring that story as we end our show tonight.

I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being here with me. I'm Ana Cabrera back with you tomorrow night at 5:00 eastern right here on CNN.

Our Randi Kaye host a CNN special report up next, "Justice for Jessica."

Stay warm and good night.