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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

NYPD: "Extraordinary" Security Amid Threats; Obama to Announce New Executive Action on Guns; Missouri Braces for Historic Flooding; "Affluenza" Teen's Mother Returned to U.S.; Bill Cosby Posts Bail. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 31, 2015 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining me. I'm Deborah Feyerick, wishing all of you a very happy New Year and a great 2016.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Happy New Year.

Some breaking news, at least if you're in Manila, Hong Kong, Taiwan. Look at this. It is, in fact, 2016 there already. Unless you're in Manila, where there appears to be a little bit of a delay. The fireworks taking place on the other side of the world. Ringing in the New Year. Which is your favorite? Tweet me. That's Taipei right there. Beautiful fireworks taking place.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BERMAN: Really is a stunning sight to see, 2016 around the world. This is Hong Kong, quite a display there in the bay.

(SINGING)

BERMAN: Check out Manila right now. A nice display of Manila.

I like Taipei and Hong Kong a little more, that's just if I'm being honest. I'm sure they have big plans in the coming minutes in Manila. You can see the stage is set. Again, 2016 on the other side of the world.

Here in the United States, in about 13 hours to do something you'll regret in 2015, but everyone here planning for the New Year.

AT THIS HOUR, we're also watching Pope Francis at the Vatican. He is holding a New Year's Eve vesper service. Live pictures from St. Peter's Square. Tomorrow morning, the pope will hold a special mass to ring in the New Year. Beautiful sights to see all around the world.

Some public celebrations, though, have been canceled on this holiday. The mayor of Brussels in Belgium called off fireworks there. Two men were arrested for allegedly plotting a New Year's Eve attack. Belgium also arrested a tenth person suspected in the Paris terrorist attacks back in November.

We have news. Security very much on the minds right now of officials all around the world. Here in New York City, they're making final preparations for tonight's festivities in Times Square. At least one million people are expected there. National security agencies are investigating what they are calling an unsubstantiated threat from overseas.

Miguel Marquez is live in Times Square.

Is it starting to fill up, Miguel, with people anticipating the events of tonight?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is starting to fill up. Who figured in New York City it would start to fill up so quickly. There were already people waiting out here very, very early. Police will lock down this area soon. I can give you an idea of what's happening here. You can see pens in front of me. People will pile in front of pens. You can see some of the 6,000 police officers who will be protecting Times Square already here at the moment if you want to come into here, it will be the crossroads of the world, the most secure streets in the world. The two avenues alongside will be blocked off. You'll have to go through magnetometers there. And then again, once you're in there, no leaving. If you leave, you're gone. Have you to go back through all the security apparatus. The thing about this, no toilets, no rest rooms in any of this. You're there for the six, eight, 10 hours. Bring a very strong bladder if you come down to Times Square. Police say they'll have this area locked down from the air, the water, from the land, from the underground, from the subways as well. 6,000 police officers here. Tens of thousands of police officers across the city to protect venues, celebrations, parties of all sorts because of what happened in Paris, the attacks there, the attacks in San Bernardino, those soft targets, what used to be just a celebration is now a potential soft target. A new world order of security for officials planning for this event, which is always tight security. This year, tighter than ever. They say they are ready for it. Lots of bomb-sniffing dogs, radiation detectors, chemical detectors, and lots and lots of cameras to protect New York City.

BERMAN: Miguel Marquez for us in Times Square.

Happy New Year to you, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Thank you.

[11:05:00] BERMAN: A reminder that CNN's live New Year's Eve coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. Follow us on Twitter using #CNNnye.

We have breaking news for you this morning. Word that President Obama is on the verge of announcing executive action on gun control. He's expected to enact measures that would, in effect, expand background checks on gun sales.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, traveling with the president in Hawaii. Good morning or late evening or whatever it is there in Hawaii. But,

Jim, some news from the White House.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. President Obama is expected to announce in the coming days a new executive action aimed at expanding background checks on gun sales. That's according to people who are familiar with White House planning. Now, this is described as imminent. These executive actions would fulfill a promise by the president to take unilateral steps the White House says could curb gun deaths in the wake of these mass shootings we've seen across the country over the last year. The president has said over the last several months he wanted to political size those mass shootings. He said that with some controversy. And the culmination of that is this executive action or package of executive actions we're expecting to see next week.

Planning for this action is not yet complete and the people we're talking to or familiar with this process warn this could get delayed. But they are expecting in terms of gun control advocates, people who are familiar with this process, that all of this will be unveiled next week, ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address, scheduled on January 12th.

The White House would not comment on the exact timing or the content of these executive orders. White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, here in Honolulu with the president, said the president is expected to really target in on a recommendation of unilateral actions that would come at the beginning of this coming year. So really that's within the next week. He said that the president was expressing "an urgency," in his words, for a list of steps that would be taken after these high-profile mass shootings across the United States. Gun advocates have been saying for the last weeks the focus in all of this, the big-ticket item in all of this is the so-called gun show loophole which allows certain sellers at gun shows and other places to avoid conducting background checks before making sales.

In the past, the White House has asked Congress to tighten those background checks in that area. And so for the president to come forward and do this unilaterally is going to cause a lot of controversy. People on the side of gun rights supporters, people like the NRA are going after the House White House saying the president is doing unilaterally with something he should do through the Congress -- John?

BERMAN: It will be controversial to be sure. A fight the White House is willing to have as soon as next week.

Jim Acosta in Honolulu. Thank you.

Happening right now, historic flooding in Missouri. Rivers have overflowed their banks. They're at levels never seen before. The governor of that state has declared a state of emergency, activating the National Guard. Thousands of people being activated.

Martin Savidge is live for us from Arnold, Missouri, where the Merrimack and Mississippi Rivers meet. Good morning, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Arnold is not under a mandatory evacuation. It's still voluntary but many people have moved on because the Merrimack River is flowing through the streets of Arnold. This is just one section near the Merrimack. It's done a lot more than creep into somebody's yard. It's devastated homes and basements. It's continuing to rise and move in here.

One of the things about this particular flood was that it was sudden. Usually, spring floods, you get days of warning, sometimes weeks of warning. Residents say this happened in a matter of hours. They've never seen anything like it. They've been through floods. The Great Flood of 1993 is usually the barometer people tell you about. They never had water like this. Never came here. As I say, it is still coming.

The other problem is creating, if not directly by getting into people's homes and neighborhoods, it is causing havoc on the roadways. You have major arteries that are being shut down either because of the threat of water or the water is simply overrun, the roadways, that includes I-55, I-44. Many of the side roads people would have used have suffered the same kind of fate. So, just getting around is extremely difficult. GPS is almost pointless because it runs you smack dab into water again.

14 people have lost their lives, many due to driving into standing water at night. It is hard to see and often the power has been shut off in those areas.

You can imagine just the havoc this is creating. On top of that, the cold, they're expecting snow flurries tonight. It's not going to be a joyful New Year's Eve for people who live in neighborhoods like this.

[11:10:] BERMAN: No. Dangerous, historic and not over yet.

Martin Savidge in the middle of the flooding in Missouri. Thank you, Martin.

Developing this morning, Tonya Couch, the mother of the so-called affluenza teen, is back in the United States to face charges that could send her to prison for up to 10 years. She arrived in Los Angeles overnight, in handcuffs. But her son, Ethan, he is still in Mexico fighting deportation. There you can see Tonya Couch right there. You just missed her. She walked in with those people. They escorted her in. She was in handcuffs. Tonya Couch, the mother, arrived in Los Angeles overnight. Her son, Ethan Couch, is in Mexico. Officials say it could be weeks or even months before he is returned.

CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara, joins us, a criminal defense attorney.

Thank you for being with us.

I think the question a lot of people have -- I know I have -- is why bother? If you're this kid, why fight extradition? It's not going to end well for him, is it? MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Again, the lawyers don't make

moralistic judgment about what should happen. They look at the possibilities and decide how to handle it. I think what happened is his defense team said, let's put a hold on this. We can file a Writ of Habeas Corpus there and basically that just puts everything on hold. Tactically, if they intend to delay this as long as possible, what they could be thinking is we'll keep him in Mexico for the 120 days or so. That is the most he can get here. He gets credit for the time he's in Mexico when he gets here. We could walk him in here on the 121st day to no more jail. Tactically, that could be a decision.

Now, they need to be careful because he's going to walk back into the states getting placed on, most likely, adult probation, with a probation officer who is going to watch him like a hawk with a country who is frustrated with him. Maybe the decision of delaying 120 days to sort of skirt the authority of the states to have some control of him is not the best way to handle this.

BERMAN: No, I wasn't talking about it being a moral decision. I couldn't understand tactically why stay in Mexico. You're in jail in Mexico for 120 days or in jail in the United States for 120 days. It seems they chose Mexico with the only effect of ticking off authorities in the United States even more.

O'MARA: They may think they'd rather have him there if he's in a decent facility or there's a chance -- this will really frustrate people -- there's a chance he's entitled to a bond in Mexico while the decision of extradition is being considered. Technically, they can get bond for him in Mexico, he could be free in Mexico while the extradition is happening, then come back here. Again, there's a lot under the surface that we don't know yet in the minds of the defense team but there's a lot at play.

BERMAN: Mark, you are a defense attorney, and a famous one at that. You defended a lot of people that folks know about here. Nevertheless, this case infuriates you. Why?

O'MARA: The problem with it that -- what really frustrates me is there are legitimate, but innovative or unique defenses out there. There is what we called mitigation. When I go to a judge and say, judge, please consider this about my client, please consider that, mental health, bad childhood, abusive childhood. Not all of those are just pure excuses. Sometimes they make a good mitigation defense. But something like this, this affluenza idiocy, is presented and somehow convinces a judge that four people's deaths and two people's severe injuries are not enough to have any type of punishment, then judges in the future will look back and say, I'm not going anywhere near this. Mr. O'Mara, I'm not going to believe your otherwise potential legitimate mitigation defense because I remember that affluenza idiot -- I'm sorry, that affluenza defendant who then violated his probation and I'm not going to be that judge again. So, my frustration as a criminal defense attorney is there are legitimate bases for treating someone more fairly than the guidelines suggest. This type of an extreme, you know, sometimes washes away what is legitimate.

BERMAN: Mark O'Mara, I think, speaking your true feelings, perhaps.

Mark, thanks for being with us, and happy New Year.

O'MARA: The same to you.

[11:14:49] BERMAN: Bill Cosby, his lawyer speaks up for the first time since Cosby was charged with sexual assault. Hear what she now says Cosby did admit to and why she had to hold his arm while walking him into court.

Plus, within hours, the race for 2016 actually takes place in 2016. New information about what Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and their rivals are doing before the first actual votes will be cast.

And Jerry Seinfeld takes his new show about nothing to the White House. See what happens.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: New this morning, Bill Cosby free after posting 10 percent of his $1 million bail but he will be back in court on January 14th. He's been charged with aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand back in 2004. This morning, for the first time since those charges were filed, we heard from Cosby's attorney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONIQUE PRESSLEY, ATTORNEY FOR BILL COSBY: That's an admission that he makes about offering Quaaludes to two specific individuals in the 1970s. 10 years go, Quaaludes weren't even being made any more. They were literally off the market. It's not something that could even be obtained. And I'm certain even this hungry D.A. trying to keep a campaign promise isn't going to assert that Mr. Cosby has hiding somewhere in his medicine cabinet Quaaludes that are 30, 40, almost 50 years old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Want to bring in former New York prosecutor and trial attorney, Charles Coleman Jr; and CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan.

Gentlemen, we heard a specific part of the case. The suggestion that Bill Cosby drugged Andrea Constand. He spoke about Quaaludes in a deposition before. Bill Cosby says it was Benadryl he gave this woman. In the lead-in to that sound byte, we showed video of all the women that have made accusations against Bill Cosby for sexual misconduct.

A lot of this case, so much of this case, perhaps the outcome will be determined before this ever goes to trial. Explain that.

[11:20:02] CHARLES COLEMAN JR, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & FORMER NEW YORK PROSECUTOR: John, I think you're absolutely right. We'll know about how this case is going by evidentiary rulings before there is even a trial, day one. Part of the reason for that is a lot of that will be determining what evidence comes in from other accusers. How much of that deposition testimony, which has been relied on by the new district attorney in Pennsylvania, how much of that comes in. And all of these things will dictate strategy for the prosecution and defense. And so I think a large part of how this entire trial, if there is a trial, shapes out will be determined with all of those evidentiary hearings and motions and rulings before anyone steps in court.

BERMAN: It's only from that deposition, Paul, that we know Bill Cosby says he gave her some pills to take. It is only because of that deposition from a civil trial 10 years ago that we know that Bill Cosby does say that there was some sexual contact. Without that deposition being admissible, the case would be a whole lot more difficult.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It would still be a case, but you're absolutely right. That's why the first D.A. who investigated it didn't go forward with it. I think it functions on two levels. One, it's sort of the broad, global view. You say, 50 women say he did this to them, all right, in a very similar way. Then you look at this individual case and you say, god, she must be telling the truth. Now let's fast forward and try this case individually. Ms. Constand didn't report this for one year after she said it happened. Monique Pressley, his new very aggressive defense lawyer says, you know something, Quaaludes were taken off the market by the FDA in 1985. This is 2004. So it would seem to corroborate his story that maybe it was Benadryl or something minor.

If you start tearing this case apart on its individual facts, a good defense lawyer might be able to create reasonable doubt with a jury in this particular case. I think that's how it functions. If all those other cases come in, if a judge says it's a pattern of conduct, I'm going to admit it, he's cooked. But other judges might say that's heavily prejudicial to this man. We have to judge it just on this case.

COLEMAN: I think that's why those pre-trial evidentiary hearings are going to be quick, when you start talking about motions and what evidence comes in and what doesn't because, as of right now, with respect to Bill Cosby and this case, it's essentially he said versus she said. There's not any physical evidence, any toxicology reports to show what was in her system and what wasn't. It's his word against hers. If you start having those other outside accusers come in, then it becomes a matter of he said versus she said versus she said, so forth.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: There's a high bar to let that type of testimony in. Again, remind us why that high bar in this case is possible it could be met.

CALLAN: The rule in criminal cases generally is that prior bad acts -- prior convictions, even, of a criminal defendant are inadmissible unless the defendant takes the stand. Then you can impeach him with this. There's one exception to the rule, and that is if there's a pattern of misconduct, a signature pattern. Like, if you had a serial killer who always puts an "X" on the body of his victim and you were trying to prove that he killed a particular victim. Well, the fact that he had done it in other cases would be relevant. Here's they'll say, the prosecutors, he always drugs them. He uses these blue pills and then gives them alcohol and then sexually abuses them. That's how they'll try to get it in. It's a close question whether it gets in on this fact pattern.

I wanted to add one other thing, because I was thinking about it last night having spent so much time talking about Cosby yesterday. How is he going to survive financially given what he's facing? He's got seven lawsuits he's paying for against his victims, right, that were filed in the recent past? He's got 50 women, many of which have filed civil suits against him. Gloria Allred has eight or nine potential cases. Lawsuits are extremely expensive. The Huxtables aren't running on TV.

BERMAN: No.

CALLAN: He's not getting royalties. He's not on the tour any more. I'm betting this is going to crush him.

BERMAN: He's not your average criminal. There are resources there. We shall see.

Charles, Paul, thanks for being here. Happy New Year to both of you.

24 minutes after the hour. Donald Trump says this campaign is a war against his enemies. What he's promising to do starting tomorrow before the first votes of the year, we will tell you.

Plus, more on our breaking news. President Obama getting ready to take executive action on guns. We'll have the details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:28:35] BERMAN: America's choice, 2016, will almost be taking place in 2016, just a few hours from now. Donald Trump is calling his campaign a war against his enemies. Getting pretty personal with Bill and Hillary Clinton and he says getting ready to unleash a lot of money for a barrage of television ads.

Want to bring in CNN political commentator, Bob Beckel, also a political strategist. Also with us, Charmaine Yoest, CEO of the anti abortion legal group, American's United for Life, and also senior adviser for Mike Huckabees 2008 presidential campaign.

Welcome. Happy New Year to both of you.

I figure since so many of us were so wrong about 2015 that this would be a great time to make predictions about 2016.

Bob, let me start with you.

Starting with Donald Trump right now, talking about the Clintons, you know, every 10 minutes that he can, how long will he take this? How far will he push this into the New Year? All the way to Iowa? BOB BECKEL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My guess is, first of all, my

guess is landscape is dead with bodies. It's a typical thing to take on your front-runner who you think your opponent will be in the other party. That's clearly Hillary Clinton, in his mind anyway. He'll carry it out for a while. He's getting traction with his base. The problem he's got -- I was just in Iowa, and I could find lots of Cruz supporters but I couldn't find Donald Trump organizers. A lot of people for him but not the kind that go to caucuses.

[11:30:06] BERMAN: Charmaine, one interesting note in politics, we learned yesterday that Jeb Bush is canceling ads in Iowa and South Carolina and applying --