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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Sparring Between Trump and Bush Over 9/11 Attacks; Clinton's Big Boost in New Hampshire; Lamar Odom Has Regained Consciousness; Witness: Bloody Attack Lasted 14 Hours; Hundreds of Vehicles Trapped on Interstate. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 16, 2015 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight outside Boston where Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump is on the campaign trail. Trump is holding a rally tonight at an elementary school near the Massachusetts town near the New Hampshire state lines out of poll numbers, proud numbers saying he prefers Merry Christmas to happy holidays.

But the big story today is some sparring between Trump and Jeb Bush over the 9/11 attacks. Bush took to twitter today to defend his brother after Trump lashed out at him. In an interview that aired earlier today, Bloomberg Stephanie Rule asked Trump if he could reassure the American people in times of crisis like President Bush in 9/11 or President Obama after the Sandy Hook shooting. Trump said he has a bigger heart than all of them, as much more competent and then said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the world trade center came down during his time --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold on. You can't blame George Bush for that.

TRUMP: He was president, OK? Don't blame him or don't blame him but he was president. The world trade center came down during his reign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: George Bush Jeb Bush responded said on twitter saying quote "how pathetic for Donald Trump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked and my brother kept us safe."

Let's talk about it now with CNN political commentator and former Reagan White House political director Jeffrey Lord who supports Donald Trump and CNN political analyst and "New York Times" presidential campaign correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, you know, I mean, some might say this is a political third rail for Donald Trump invoking 9/11 and President Bush during a Republican primary. But then, of course, Jeb Bush himself brought it up at the Republican debate last month arguing that his brother kept the country safe and Donald Trump has touched plenty of what in past years might have been considered political third rails. I mean, it hasn't harm at all.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's exactly right. I mean, I think there - look. There are voters within the Republican primary in states like Iowa and states like South Carolina who remember George W. Bush very fondly. For them I think this will be considered an insult. And I think that as you say, Jeb Bush brought this up in the last Republican debate and used exactly that language, he kept us safe.

I think Donald Trump is very aware of what may or may not get under Jeb Bush's skin and I think that is part of the intention in saying this. I think that he knows that it will aggravate Jeb Bush. He has already sort of gotten to him and gotten in his head by saying he's low energy. You saw Jeb Bush repeat that repeatedly. I think Jeb Bush has started becoming more comfortable talking about his brother and father, but certainly his brother. He seemed unsure of how he wanted to relate to both of them earlier in this primary. And so, he may be more comfortable of it now. But I don't think this is a surprise this is coming from Donald Trump.

COOPER: But Jeffrey, I mean, I guess there is two different ways to look at it. One could say, well, this is him talking off the top of his head, you know, not something that was pre-thought out. It just happens to be his opinion and he's expressing it because it came up in the interview and it came into his head or that there's more calculations here that he feels by linking Jeb Bush to George W. Bush. There is some benefit in that. How do you see it?

JEFFREY LORD, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, there is some benefit. There is what I call the Reagan Bush divide, which divides in essence the Reagan conservatives from the Bush sort of moderates and the Republican Party.

When you talk in this fashion and let's -- I'm not talking specifically about 9/11, but there is considerable disagreement within the Republican party, the base of the Republican party over the Bush presidency and they certainly are familiar with the fact President Bush 43 left office with a 22 percent approval rating and was unable to get his successor elected as president Reagan was able to do.

There are considerable differences along that line, so when Donald Trump sort of touches this nerve, there is a positive response to it. The kind of folks that call in to talk radio shows, those would be sort of the Reagan base as it were. So there is a method here, a method to his madness if you consider it madness, which I don't.

COOPER: Maggie, was it a mistake for Jeb Bush to respond to Trump? I mean, now you have this back and forth and, you know, it's getting a lot of pickup, obviously.

HABERMAN: I think that to my point earlier that Jeb Bush I think is feeling more comfortable talking about his brother, part of it is he accepted he may need his brother to the point Jeffrey is talking about the divide, that is real. The voters within the party, within the Republican Party base that don't like Jeb Bush, were never going to like Jeb Bush for many, many reasons. Jeb Bush came into the race with very high unfavorables as did Donald Trump but Donald Trump is able to change his in certain cases, Jeb Bush had a much harder time.

Being a Bush is a very mixed bag in the Republican primary. There are voters that rise in the tea party came sort of in response to a sense of congressional excesses and White House excesses during the Bush era. And so, you have not heard somebody talk explicitly about the issue of 9/11 being used in this way and that remains to be seen how this will play out.

But I think Jeb Bush has accepted his last name is Bush. Everybody knows that. And his brother does remain popular with the voters he needs particularly evangelicals who are not going to be with Donald Trump. We have seen this in poll after poll. The rise of Ben Carson in part is because of evangelicals support. Jeb Bush would like to capture that support at some point. And his brother is a way to do it.

[20:05:26] COOPER: Jeffrey, I'm wondering if Donald Trump is going to start to try to link secretary Clinton to former president Clinton. I mean, President Clinton himself has said he could have killed bid Laden in missile back in 1998 --

LORD: That's exactly right.

COOPER: Yes, whether he does it on this issue, bin Laden or 9/11 or whether he does it in other ways trying to link Hillary Clinton to the presidency of President Bill Clinton.

LORD: That is exactly right, Anderson. I mean, we have just by circumstance the brother of a president running on the Republican side and the wife of a president running on the democratic side. So I would think very much he will treat Secretary Clinton and President Clinton just as he treated Jeb Bush and President Bush 43 in precisely the same fashion and go after them for whatever mistakes he sees in the Clinton era, Osama bin Laden being one of them. So you're absolutely right.

COOPER: We'll see. Jeffrey Lord, thank you. Maggie Haberman, stay with us.

Up next, Bernie Sanders was leading the polls in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton got a boost since the debate and now essentially tied in the state, plus what Clinton said about Donald Trump today. That's next.

Also, we have new details tonight about a tragic case in upstate New York. A teenager beaten to death at a church. His own parents and four others charged with the crime. A witness alleges the beating lasted more than 14 hours. I will speak with the former member of the church coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:10:40] COOPER: We told you last night how Bernie Sanders raised a lot of money since the debate. Hillary Clinton has gotten a big boost in New Hampshire since this week's debate as well. A new "Boston Globe" Suffolk University poll just out today shows her in a statistical dead heat with Sanders in New Hampshire, 37-35 percent. Just last month, Sanders had a 16 percent point lead over Clinton according to a CNN poll.

Clinton sat down today with our Jake Tapper for an interview that included a lot of topics including her latest thoughts on Donald Trump. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Speaking of politics, let's talk about the front runner on the other side of the isle, Donald Trump. His daughter, Ivanka, just gave an interview to CNN. She said her dad quote "is not a politician but he is really changing the dialogue and he is really disrupting the process in a very positive way." Do you agree?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, I have a really high regard for her. She's a wonderful young woman.

TAPPER: And friend of Chelsea, I think.

CLINTON: Yes, she is. And I think what she said is borne out by what's been happening. He has brought his oversized personality and his reality television experience to the highest level of American politics. And seems to be getting a very positive response among a large part of the Republican electret. So that's up to the Republicans. They there to decide if that will be their nominee or not. I have called him out in things he said which I thought were uncalled for, insults and attacks on immigrants, on women and just unacceptable be said about the president. So I'm going to continue to criticize him for going beyond the bounds of what I think is appropriate for anybody running for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joining me now is CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Paul Begala. He is co-chair of a pro-Hillary Clinton super Pac and also a longtime advisor to President Bill Clinton. And also with me again, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" presidential campaign correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Paul, what do you make of this new poll? I mean, Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders although it within the margin of error in New Hampshire. She had been struggling there trailing Sanders in some polls.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right. That same poll Suffolk University poll a month ago had her at ten. Now she's up two. Now look. It is like the old hem said, many danger toils and snares between now and the New Hampshire primary. So I couldn't as a Hillary guy wouldn't get too excited. But I like seeing her move 12 points in a month in the right

direction. You know, it has been a terrible complements for here. And now, looks like, you know, she's turned the corner. Now, Keep in mind, New Hampshire in the Democratic Party has a rich tradition of neighboring favorite sons, favoring (INAUDIBLE), Ed Muski (ph) from Maine won but you got Mike Dukakis from Massachusetts won. Paul from Massachusetts won. John Kerry from Massachusetts won.

So they usually go for a neighboring senator. Bernie is from a neighboring state and he is running a great campaign. I give him a lot of credit. So I'm really happy to see Hillary come back like that but this will come back and forth 50 times.

COOPER: You have no doubt about that, polls will go up and down in those states.

BEGALA: Absolutely. Because you know, first at New Hampshire, Independent are smart and it is hard to poll there because the electret is fluid. You wake in the day of the primary and choose. You want to vote Republican or Democratic primary. In fact, both parties have pretty interesting primaries. So it's really going to be tough to get the polling right there.

COOPER: Maggie, I mean, you heard Clinton in that interview kind of navigating the interesting relationship between her family and Donald Trump's, their daughters are friends at this point. Do Trump and Clinton benefit from having each other to go after of having the other to portray as beyond the pale or, you know, Trump portrays her as the worst secretary of state ever. You know, she portrays him and calls him out as she said on various things that he in her opinion goes too far on?

HABERMAN: I think that he has been more useful for her, frankly, than the other way around. You know, remember, he did his whole very long kick off campaign speech back in June and he didn't talk about her. It took him until actually until she wanted him until he said anything about her. He would probably argue that's him being consistent because he always says I don't hit people until they hit me.

He is, however, very useful for her because the comments he is making primarily about immigration, the comments that he said about Mexican and his announcement speech where he talked about rapist and criminals, those have been very useful as a foil. She can use that to tar the entire Republican field. And frankly, a lot of what Trump said, much of the rest of the field had to respond to. You have seen this time and time again. You saw it impact Scott Walker. You have seen it impact Jeb Bush. So he is extremely helpful to her.

[20:15:15] COOPER: Paul, there are reporting from "New York" magazine tonight saying that it's really a matter of when vice president Biden gets in, not if. I know you're going to try and bob and weave on this perhaps and quote some biblical passage but you have an instinct on everything because you have a biblical passage for pretty much everything. I'm impressed by this.

BEGALA: I'm a person of faith. COOPER: I know you are. I know you are. Do you have a gut feeling

on whether or not he's going to run?

BEGALA: No. Here is the thing, honestly because I don't know. And I know as a general matter, I speak more loudly and certainly when I'm pristinely ignorant. This time, understood. (INAUDIBLE).

Here is why. I don't doubt that he has what it takes to be president. I mean that. I think Joe Biden would be a great president. Who no one knows, even Joe, I think, is does he have what it takes right now to run for president?

COOPER: But here is my question. Why wouldn't he run for president, OK? I mean, obviously, look, there is the personal loss that he and his family experienced, the worst kind of loss there possibly is. But this is what politics do. They run for things. And if he doesn't run for this, this is his last really opportunity to run for something. I mean, you know, everybody says he's not a guy that cares about money. You know, I guess he could be on boards and stuff or, you know, do some kind of work, but why wouldn't he run?

BEGALA: Because he knows really better than anybody because he's run twice before. He does it. He has said this in interviews. This takes all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your time, all of you attention. And you know, his heart is broken. Now, maybe he finds healing in running. I saw him on TV at the Labor Day in Pittsburgh. Man he looked rejuvenated. So maybe that does it for him. But at other times, his interviews with Stephen Colbert, he looks like heartbroken guy who is not quite ready yet to put that kind of heart and soul (INAUDIBLE). You just have no idea. But it is true. Mo you would always to say this. The only cure for presidential fever is embalming fluid or as mild that is carver, carver is a better line, carver is like running for president is like having sex, you just don't do it once and decide you're done.

COOPER: Not quite the biblical passage I was anticipating.

BEGALA: Not biblical, a little profane this time.

COOPER: You'll have to read the bible more tonight just to make up for that.

Maggie, I mean, relatively good week for the Clinton campaign, though. How much of a halt is that cone if Joe Biden jumps in the next couple days?

HABERMAN: I think there is anxiety around Hillary Clinton supporters about what will happen with him because the question is not put to bed. I know that a lot of people thought that, you know, the window closed after her debate performance the other night. She had a very, very strong night. There is no question about that. But the question is not, a lot of people says there is not a window him prior to that. So the question is not did the window suddenly shut? The question is whether there before is there now?

Her debate performance according to a lot of people I have spoken who are around him is not really a factor in how he's considering this and people have said that publicly. I tend to believe it. I think Joe Biden as Paul said wakes up feeling one way one day, another way the next day, he has said different things depending on who he's talking to and at different moments. It's so hard to try to free this decision. I don't think he knows what he's going to do. The reasons not to do it would be he might not win. And if you read his book, which is a couple years old now and he talks about the various times that he was encouraged to run for president and didn't, you know, there's a lot that went into this, and a lot of angst back and forth. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't.

COOPER: Maggie, thank you. Paul Begala, as well. Thanks very much.

If you miss this week's Democratic presidential debate or just want to see it again? Stay tune to CNN. The debate is going to re-air again tonight at 10:00 eastern time.

Coming up in this hour, we are getting word tonight that former NBA and reality TV star Lamar Odom was conscious enough to say hi to his estranged wife Khloe Kardashian who been at his bedside since he was found unresponsive in a Brothel and taken to the hospital in Las Vegas. We will have a live update next

Also, I'll speak to a woman trapped in a car. Take a look at these images when a mudslide hit and just swept the vehicle away, as well as a lot of other vehicles. Incredible video and we'll hear from her ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:23:30] COOPER: Basketball star and reality TV star Lamar Odom remains hospitalized. But tonight there is word he regained consciousness, at least for some amount of time. This could be a sign of hope. Odom has been in the hospital since Tuesday when he was found unresponsive after spending several days at a brothel outside Las Vegas.

Randi Kaye joins me now from outside the hospital. What have you learned about his condition?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, late today we got some good news, actually, from a source with knowledge of the situation telling CNN that Lamar Odom is conscious. That he actually said hi to Khloe Kardashian, who has been at his bedside. But he's still in guarded condition.

And just to add to that, Anderson, his mother-in-law Kris Jenner talking to "Access Hollywood" late today, also with good news, saying that Odom gave a thumbs up to those at his bedside, that he is not in a coma. He is still critical however but he is now off the ventilator she told "Access Hollywood." He is using a breathing mask to try to win him off that ventilator. But there is some serious damage to his vital organs.

So Anderson, it really is a wait and see situation. And you can bet his fans are watching. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE (voice-over): On the basketball court, and later on reality TV, Lamar Odom's highs and lows played out for all to see. Often on the defensive about NBA drug suspensions and his commitment to the game.

LAMAR ODOM, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I never knew I was going to have a hit TV show. I didn't plan it. But my focus to basketball is there.

KAYE: So many distractions, so much sadness. In 2060, Odom lost his infant son to sudden infant death syndrome. He later talked openly about it with ESPN.

[20:25:05] ODOM: When he passed, I couldn't really like just leave the hospital. I stayed with him for about three hours and just sat there with him.

KAYE: Odom had suffered lose before. His mother died of cancer when he was 12. In 2011 on his birthday, he shared this with his twitter followers, November 6th, my born day, I'm 32 years old, God is good, 20 full years without you mommy, I love you. Mama, I made it. I hate cancer.

On the basketball court, a public display of that loss. His mother's name Kathy on one sneaker and on the other, grandma for his grandmother who raised him. Lamar's father Joe Odom was a heroin addict who left his family when Lamar was very young. Lamar Odom's wife Khloe Kardashian encouraged them to reconcile. They came together on the couple's reality TV show "Khloe and Lamar".

On the show, Joe Odom came asking for money.

ODOM: I'm not asking him to be a father. I'm just asking hill to act like you are my father.

KAYE: In 2013 after years of rumors about Lamar Odom's drug use, Joe Odom told "Radar Online" that his son would be better off out the Kardashians. Lamar Odom took to Twitter writing about his dad, his own demons may be the only thing he gave to me. He disrespecting the only family that has loved me without expecting anything in return.

There were lighter times, too, on "Keeping up with the Kardashians," Odom went public with his fear of the dentist.

ODOM: I'm just scared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He'll literally put you to sleep, you won't have to hear a tool.

ODOM: I'll do it.

KAYE: And tried learning how to swim.

ODOM: Hold on, hold on, Rob.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The water pushes you. ODOM: It's not pushing me because I always wind upright --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your legs up though, don't put them down.

KAYE: When Odom and Khloe Kardashian first fell in love, reality TV fans couldn't get enough of it.

ODOM: I want to get married now.

KAYE: But the marriage sow soured amid rumors that Odom had been cheating on his wife. Their separation and pending divorce all played out on television.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lied to everyone because I had to lie and say I was with my husband when in fact, my husband was missing with another girl.

KAYE: But ever since Lamar Odom collapsed at the Nevada, Khloe has been by his side at the hospital.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I mean, what else did Odom say on the show? I mean, how personal did it get?

KAYE: It got really personal, Anderson. I mean, things that most people probably would never share with the public. He and Khloe talked about fertility issues that they were having. They talked about job issues when he was signed with the Dallas mavericks, whether or not they wanted to move to Dallas or not. You know, big decisions, family decisions that were just shared openly with the public. And some say that, you know, maybe that put a lot of pressure on him. Maybe he couldn't take it. We don't know what happened, but really, all that matters tonight that he is showing small signs of improvement, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Randi, thanks.

There are certainly a lot of people pulling for Lamar Odom.

Joining me is his former college basketball coach, Jim Harrick. They remain close over the years. And he's been in touch with Khloe Kardashian since he's been in the hospital.

Jim, first of all, I understand you got some very encouraging news from Khloe Kardashian today. What did you learn?

JIM HARRICK, FRIEND OF LAMAR ODOM: Well, she reached down and said Lamar, I love you and he blinked. That was early in the morning. And then this afternoon as they had planned, they were taking some of the things out of him, some of the intensive care that he was under and his kidneys were all right. He was off dialysis and he is awake now. So that's probably the most encouraging news we've had since it all started.

COOPER: There's been a lot of different reporting about Khloe Kardashian's role in the recovery. What can you tell us? Is she the one making medical decisions for him?

HARRICK: I don't think -- I'm not sure about that, Anderson, but I know she's at his bedside and she promised me that she would stay at that hospital until they walked out together, that was her words.

COOPER: I think you spoke to him some two weeks ago. Did you see anything like this coming?

HARRICK: No, not at all. He had just finished working out. He called me and told me he moved to Vegas and he was happy and upbeat. And he sounded really, really good and I was encouraged because we have talked about everything. And, you know, he's kind of sly on some of the things. But boy, he's a wonderful, wonderful young man. We just hope and pray we can get through this.

COOPER: Yes. I know hopefully he pulls through this. I know you said you want to hug him and kiss him but also smack him upside the head.

HARRICK: Well, I did say that because, you know, it's kind of like what you do with your children, you know. We want him to understand just how serious this is because I know it's not something he really wanted.

[20:30:03] That's not the way he wants to live his life. He's a great, great young man. He's kind and has great humility and he's just a genuine person.

COOPER: How much of what happened do you think has to do with the Lamar Odom story? I mean, the history that he has lived through, the family history?

HARRICK: Well, you know, Anderson, I'm not quite sure any of us would ever know when you lose your mother at 12 years old and your father is not around and a series of things of tragedies and death and you just don't know how people will react to things like that. I don't know - I react - don't react to it very well, but you don't know how people react to things like that.

COOPER: Do you think after having had this experience that there are people around who can help him move forward?

HARRICK: Well, there are. I know Khloe will help him. I'll help him. We have got a lot of friends and family and everybody. We just love the guy, would do anything, where he can live with me if he wants to. However, he must want to help himself. I've always said if it is to be it's up to me and it's up to Lamar. If he wants to be helped, if he wants to take the right path, then he'll have all the support in the world.

COOPER: If it is to be, it's up to me. I like that. Jim, thank you so much for talking with us.

HARRICK: OK. You know, Lamar might be the most popular guy - one of the most popular guys that ever played in the NBA. The outpouring of love for him was unbelievable. COOPER: Yeah, well, there's certainly a lot of people pulling for him

tonight and have been for days now. Jim, again, thank you so much.

HARRICK: OK, Anderson, thank you.

COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight, a witness describes the fatal beating of a teenager inside a church just days ago, a beating that he says lasted 14 hours and didn't end until Lucas Leonard was dead. Former member of the church is speaking out tonight when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:35:55]

COOPER: Welcome back tonight. There is new details in the fatal beating of 19-year old Lucas Leonard inside the church were his family worships. That's Lucas there. His younger brother was also beaten, but survived, though apparently with serious injuries. This case has rocked the community of New Hartford in Upstate New York. Authorities say the beatings were part of a so called - counseling session and the boy's parents, their mom and dad are now charged with manslaughter. Four other church members are charged with assault. Today the judge ruled the case will go to a grand jury. At the hearing the witness gave a stomach turning account of what took place inside the church on Sunday night and how long it lasted. Jason Carroll has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bruce and Debra Leonard did not testify during the preliminary hearing today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charge is manslaughter in the first-degree.

CARROLL: Instead, they sat and listened to damaging testimony about what allegedly happened in that church counseling session. In the end, their 19-year-old son Lucas was dead. Their 17-year-old son Christopher left in serious condition. Daniel Irwin, a deacon at the Word of Life Christian Church told the court he saw Bruce Leonard strike both of the boys inside the church's sanctuary. He said Leonard hit his son Lucas several times. I heard the sound of a strike, stop, then it started again. Irwin also told the court he saw Lucas was bleeding from his leg, moaning and rolling back and forth on the floor. Irwin then said he also saw Leonard strike his younger son Christopher five or six times with something that looked like a belt. He recalled the beating went on for 14 hours starting around 8:00 Sunday night and lasting until 10:00 a.m. the next morning. When asked why the beating finally stopped, Irwin said because Luke was dead at that point. He said several church members including Leonard's own brother Christopher and his father tried performing CPR, but it was too late.

(on camera: Would you like to elaborate a little bit more about what happened inside and tell us about your experience?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, I have no comment. CARROLL (voice over): Outside court Irwin would not comment about his

testimony, nothing about the motive for the beating, nor about allegations that counseling session was ordered because Leonard wanted to leave the church. The Leonards are facing manslaughter charges in the death of their son, four others including the boy's stepsister Sarah are facing assault charges. All have pled not guilty. Police say they have not concluded why the session turned violent. Bruce Leonard allegedly told investigators his sons may have molested children who belong to the church, but police say there is no indication of that whatsoever. They say seven children here from the church were taken into protective custody. They were interviewed, they were examined and police say there is no indication any of them were sexually assaulted.

MICHAEL INSERRA, NEW HARTFORD POLIE CHIEF: The deceased and his brother are victims in this horrible crime, and I want to put out there, again, there is no evidence that these brothers did anything. They are at this point true victims.

CARROLL: Debra Leonard's attorney believes his client is also a victim saying Debra did not have the physical strength to beat her sons. Debra Leonard claims she only took part in the beginning, but that other church members held the brothers down while the beatings took place.

SCOTT MCNAMARA, ONEIDA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I have indicated before and I will continue to indicate that we are looking at other charges and if other people should be charged, we will present that evidence to a grand jury.

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, New Hartford, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: This case with all of its disturbing details just put a spotlight on the Word of Life Christian church. It's a small congregation made up of five families, about 35 members. Chadwick Handville who is a former member joins us tonight.

(on camera): Based on your own experience, what was this church like?

CHADWICK HANDVILLE, FORMER MEMBER, WORD OF LIFE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: My own experience, it was at times confrontational. But it also had another side. I learned a lot of music. I learned a lot about the word of God.

[20:40:00]

HANDVILLE: I just didn't learn how to live the word of God and that's the key difference.

COOPER: But when you talk about confrontational, just in your own experience, I know you didn't see any physical violence back when you were there, but just in terms of what was confrontational?

HANDVILLE: Attitudes. If, for example, if you did something that wasn't necessarily liked by the leadership, you were sometimes embarrassed publicly or shunned in some way. Other times you weren't.

COOPER: Shunned in the sense that people weren't allowed to sit with you, people weren't allowed to see you socially?

HANDVILLE: At times, yes, yes. There was one particular family that was, I thought, was always targeted was Bruce and Debbie Leonard. I know -- again, I know they did a heinous act and a despicable horrible crime and they need to be accountable for that, but they also, too, were victims over - many years ...

COOPER: You say over the years, they were targeted by the leadership of the church?

HANDVILLE: Yes, they were.

COOPER: There was - a witness call what happened to Lucas and his brother, called it a counseling session and I know you said, again, you never witnessed any physical abuse and it's important to state, that but did you ever see one of these - these counseling session?

HANDVILLE: I found myself on the receiving end of a counseling session. It was, again, never abusive physically. It always focused around the spiritual, the psychological, and emotional abuse of it all. There were times that I was being accused of things that I didn't do. And that was one of the reasons why I left.

COOPER: Do you think the church should get shut down?

HANDVILLE: Yes, yes, I do.

COOPER: Because ...

HANDVILLE: Sadly, yes, I do. And it's sad because the community needs a church. Every community needs a loving church. And again, we have to be accountable and responsible for our own words and actions.

COOPER: Based on what you know, were you surprised that this happened, that this death happened?

HANDVILLE: I was appalled.

COOPER: Appalled is one thing, but surprised is another. Were you surprised?

HANDVILLE: I was more than surprised. I was horrified. I don't know how anybody could beat somebody to death like the way they did just for wanting to leave a church. I don't understand. And I'm very sorry for how negatively this has affected their lives. You think you're over something and it comes back, and you want to overcome, you want to forget. But when situations and circumstances and atrocities happen like this, it makes it very difficult.

COOPER: Chadwick, I appreciate you speaking with us tonight. Thank you so much.

HANDVILLE: You are welcome. Thank you. COOPER: Just ahead, rivers of mud turned highways treacherous in

southern California. Take a look at this video trapping hundreds of vehicles and I'm going to talk to a woman that shot this video. She was trapped in her friend's car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think - I think if we get out of the car we would get killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. No, we're not getting out of the car.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:43:41]

COOPER: Tonight areas of southern California already ravaged by mudslides are under new flood alert. Possible thunderstorms could produce more flash. Flooding is the last thing this region needs. Torrential rains yesterday triggered major mudslides trapping hundreds of vehicles and their drivers on highways including Interstate 5. The mud was as high as 20 feet in some places. For those who are caught in an obviously a terrifying experience, Sara Sidner shows us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARAH SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A neighborhood street turned into a raging river, a part of one of California's busiest freeways, Interstate 5 turned into a muddy lake. In the drought stricken fire ravaged southern California hills, short, but heavy downpours can create mayhem. Tony Hemming and his brother were on their way home after picking up their 10-year old brother from school when they were broadsided by a wall of mud.

TONY HEMMING, ESCAPED MUDSLIDE: All of a sudden, I look to the left and this entire embankment just gave out under way and it was a frightening feeling of there is several feet of mud coming right at me.

SIDNER: Hemming carried his younger brother, and they all ran leaving their truck behind, happy they are still around to dig it out the next day.

JEFFREY HEMMING, ESCAPED MUDSLIDE: If we were 15 feet farther, we're completely covered. You know, there is no chance of getting out of that.

SIDNER: The flash floods came so fast and so furious that this little car was nearly swallowed whole, but we're told by troopers that the driver of the car did manage to get out uninjured.

It wasn't just flash floods and sliding mud, but hail like folks who have lived here all their lives have never seen before. Golf-ball- sized hail slammed down damaging cars and homes. PHILL CAUDILL, LAKE ELIZABETH RESIDENT: I'm from Kentucky so I'm no

stranger to bad weather. This is the worst storm I have ever seen in my entire life. I was in a hurricane, a typhoon in Okinawa one time. Nothing compared to this.

SIDNER: This meteorologists say is just the beginning of what the climate cycle known as El Nino will bring to California. Even though the state needs the rain, too much, too soon could be disastrous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to have what geologist come out to inspect the hillsides and make sure they are stable and safe because obviously, with a lot of rain, you get a lot of saturation, so sometimes slides don't happen on that first day, they happen later.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sarah joins us. Now, what's the latest on the ground?

SIDNER: Look, it sprinkled just a little bit, but we can see dark clouds rolling in and there is a lot of worry because this is really, Anderson, the beginning of El Nino and the effects of El Nino on California could be great in some ways, if the rain is slow and doesn't come down really quickly and heavily, or it could be as we mentioned a real hassle and make a huge mess and create a lot of damage if its fast-moving and a lot of folks worried about that here tonight.

[20:50:20]

COOPER: Yeah, Sarah, thanks very much for the reporting. To understand how truly terrifying these mudslides were, take a look at this video shot by Rae Ecklund, who was in a car on route of 58 in Currin (ph) County when she got trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This car is going to hit us. Oh my god!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're floating. We're floating!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are floating!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Can you imagine? We're happy to report Rae is safe tonight. She joins me by phone.

Rae, your video is terrifying. Take us through what happened. When did you first realize you were in trouble?

RAE ECKLUND, MUDSLIDE SURVIVOR: Well, I think we first realized it, you know, shortly after - shortly before the video started, and it just got worse and worse and worse, and it, you know, it took about six, seven minutes for the whole thing to, you know, come to a stop. It was incredibly fast and furious.

COOPER: And your car, it actually started floating at some point, didn't it? ECKLUND: Right, not my car. I was the passenger in the car, and my

friend was driving, and yeah, it started floating. We floated around. We bumped into several other vehicles. And when everything stopped, we were on the bed of a semi-truck.

COOPER: That's incredible.

ECKLUND: There was another one right by our door, and then this -- after the rain stopped and everything stopped, it was all real quick, you know, everything stopped, and then a gentleman came up and he helped us climb out of the window to get out of the vehicle, and he stayed with us the whole way through all the mud and muck until we got to high ground, so we got to, you know, rescue vehicles and things, to where we got to where the sheriff was.

COOPER: Did -- I mean, did the mud come out of nowhere? It came that fast?

ECKLUND: It just came that fast.

COOPER: And how high was it getting on the vehicle you were in?

ECKLUND: It was getting high on our vehicle, but we were more floating than some of the vehicles, you know, we floated more. But we didn't float over the wall. We were afraid people were going to float over the wall, and that would have been really bad.

COOPER: And I mean, obviously, there was no control over the car. You were at the mercy of wherever it took you.

ECKLUND: Yeah, we were just floating around like a ball.

COOPER: How were you finally able to get out?

ECKLUND: Well, everything stopped. You know, after, you know, seven, eight minutes, everything stopped, and, you know, we waited a while and stuff, and figured what are we going to do, what do we need to do and stuff, and the gentleman Tim came up, and he helped us out of the vehicle, and they certainly weren't going nowhere, and he stayed with us until we got to high ground. I don't know, I think it was probably about four miles, I'm not sure, three or four miles until we got to the sand canyon where there were emergency vehicles and things.

COOPER: How are you doing now?

ECKLUND: Doing pretty good. Every time I tell the story, I get a little nervous, you know, and it all sort of comes back, but doing okay. Legs are a little sore. Didn't get much rest last night. It was pretty, you know, pretty intense.

COOPER: I can imagine. Rae Ecklund, thank you so much for talking with us. I wish you the best.

ECKLUND: You have a great day.

COOPER: You too, you deserve it. ECKLUND: Thank you.

COOPER: She certainly does.

Just ahead, a huge scaffolding collapse leaving rescue works to search through a pile of twisted metal. Incredibly, what they discovered when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:58:30]

COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins us for a 360 bulletin.

TUCHMAN: Anderson, at least six construction workers have been rescued after a scaffolding collapse in downtown Houston. Their injuries are not life threatening.

In the Middle East, Palestinian groups call this a day of rage, and it lived up to its name. With bloody clashes in Bethlehem, an arson attack at a holy site, and tight security in Jerusalem.

Two U.S. officials tell CNN that the U.S. government knew about the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan before it was targeted in a U.S. air strike earlier this month. It's unclear why the information was not passed on to U.S. forces on the front lines. 12 medical staff members were killed in the attack and at least ten patients. And due to an Illinois state budget impasse, lottery officials say all winners of jackpots topping $600 will get IOUs. That's right. The state budget expired back in June, whenever a new one is finally passed, lotto winners will get their winnings. And Anderson, let's get this very straight here. Illinois is still allowing you to go to stores, purchase as many tickets as you want, spend as much money as you want, but if you win the big jackpot, you're not going to get any money for right now.

COOPER: Wow, how long are those IOUs are going to sit around for, I wonder?

TUCHMAN: I don't know, but a lot of people don't trust the state government, and a lot of people are going to Indiana, to Wisconsin and to Michigan to get their lottery tickets right now.

COOPER: Gary, thanks very much. That does it for us. "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts now.