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Hospital Prepares for New Ebola Patient; UVA Suspect Pleads Not Guilty in 2005 Case; Arctic Blast Brings Snow to South and Northeast; 35 New Airstrikes Against ISIS; 3 Nuclear Missile Bases Shared a Single Wrench; Interview with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Aired November 14, 2014 - 17:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, pounding ISIS. The U.S. and its allies launch dozens of new strikes in Syria and Iraq. Has the U.S.-led campaign finally broken the terror group's momentum?

Bloody fighting. As Ukrainian forces battle pro-Russian rebels, Russia is accused of sending more heavy weapons across the border, and Vladimir Putin heads for a showdown with world leaders.

Nuclear weapons scandal. Investigators find that three bases in three states were forced to share one wrench to arm their missiles. What is the Pentagon doing about it?




SCIUTTO: And facing a judge. UVA suspect Jesse Matthew appears in court and enters his plea in a decade-old sexual assault case. We'll learn what's next.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are tracking major developments this hour. Thirty-five new airstrikes hammer ISIS targets across a vast front. And on the ground, Iraqi troops drive ISIS out of a key city. Is the tide finally turning in the war against this terror group?

And stunning new images as pro-Russian rebels battle government troops in eastern Ukraine. Is Russia ready to bring more heavy weapons into the fighting?

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, is standing by, along with our correspondents, analysts and newspapers.

We begin, however, with ISIS. Despite growing concerns that it may join forces with al Qaeda factions, growing doubts about the U.S. strategy, the terror group is coming under heavy battlefield pressure from the U.S.-led coalition.

CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is here. Elise, what's the latest today?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, today the coalition announced three dozen airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The militants also suffered a major defeat of a strategic stronghold in Iraq. Their leader warns, this has only strengthened ISIS's resolve as the group is forming a worrisome alliance with another U.S. enemy.


LABOTT (voice-over): On the ground in Kobani near the Turkish border, ISIS fighters trade fire with Syrian Kurds, as the U.S. and other countries unleashed 35 airstrikes against the terror group in the last three days between Syria and Iraq.

CNN is told intelligence estimates suggest ISIS, also known as ISIL, is showing signs of stress from the onslaught. Maybe one reason the terror network is cooperating with al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: ISIL has to continue to advance to succeed. It has to maintain momentum, and we've begun to break that momentum.

LABOTT: An ISIS leader taunting the coalition as a failure. In a purported audio message, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called the coalition, quote, "terrified, weak and powerless," threatening volcanos of jihad everywhere.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: It should come as no surprise that an organization like ISIL would be putting out these type of threatening rhetoric that's conveying and calling for more brutality.

LABOTT: The campaign got a boost today as Iraqi forces drove ISIS from the strategic town of Baiji, ending their month-long siege on the country's largest oil refinery. Government control of Baiji could be a turning point, choking off ISIS supply lines to its stronghold in Tikrit.

To capture all the territory lost to ISIS, the president's top military adviser said Iraq will need 80,000 troops. And the joint chiefs chairman said additionally, U.S. advisers will be needed for complex missions expected in Mosul and to secure the Syrian border.

DEMPSEY: I'm not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by U.S. forces, but we're certainly considering it.

LABOTT: For just the third time, the U.S. went after the al Qaeda- linked Khorasan group, believed to be the biggest threat to the U.S., hitting them near Aleppo.


LABOTT: And today, the U.S. released its first report on ISIS crimes, presenting a horrifying picture of life in ISIS-controlled areas, including beheadings, torture and rape, concluding ISIS is deliberately committing war crimes against civilians in their controlled areas.

SCIUTTO: It is incredible, so much evidence of that. Thanks very much, Elise Labott in Washington.

I want to turn now to CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon. She's on the ground near the Turkish/Syrian border.

Arwa, what are you hearing, what are you hearing? What are you seeing on the ground? Any evidence that the U.S.-led campaign is starting to dampen, at least, ISIS momentum?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this is what we have been hearing and seeing for quite some time now, and that is that ISIS has been forced to change its tactics. They can no longer move around in larger groups, and they are oftentimes seeking shelter, deeply embedded within the civilian population where those airstrikes could not necessarily target them.

They also, as we have seen video emerging from Fallujah, begun digging themselves underground, setting up elaborate bunker-tunnel structures well underground away from where airstrikes could potentially hit them.

At the same time, though, there has been something of a side effect to all of these strikes, especially those targeting the al Qaeda-linked Khorasan group and other non-ISIS groups, as well, and that is to drive even more fighters to the terrorist organization.

We saw this when ISIS first moved into Syria. They managed to actually lure quite a number of fighters away from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, either because those fighters believed that ISIS provided them a better chance on the battlefield, because they were simply more powerful, or because when ISIS took over the areas that al-Nusra used to control, well, the fighters simply defected.

And this we have seen accelerated as the U.S. airstrikes continue to intensify. So, on the one hand, perhaps ISIS has been forced to change its tactics. Perhaps it is losing some momentum in the sense that it's not advancing with the same speed we have been seeing it advance, but that it is still managing to recruit fighters, both locally and internationally, Jim.

SCIUTTO: The big question, of course, is how good is U.S. intelligence on the ground there to measure the effects of these things? And that's still a developing part of the story. Thanks very much to Arwa Damon on the Turkish/Syrian border.

Back here at home, after a series of problems, blunders and outright scandals in the U.S. nuclear force, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today outlined a costly overhaul of the system.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here. Tom, this is an embarrassing situation for some of the most sensitive forces. What did you learn today? TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, this new assessment from

the Pentagon would be alarming to almost anyone and dismaying even to the most optimistic military folks out there.


FOREMAN (voice-over): In the dangerous world of nuclear missiles and strategic bombers, it's hard to imagine a simple hand tool could be a problem, but the Pentagon review found supplies were so neglected, workers at three nuke sites were sharing a single specialized wrench for more than 400 missiles.

HAGEL: Now how did they do it? They did it by Federal Expressing the one wrench around to each base. They were creative and innovative, and they made it work, but that's not the way to do it.

FOREMAN: The Pentagon is now acknowledging many such troubles, including an inspection regimen that nitpicked insignificant details while ignoring potentially serious issues, like leaky hydraulic seals on aging missile blast doors, making it impossible to close them properly.

A culture of inefficiencies, micromanagement and daily shortages in equipment, qualified personnel, facilities and funding, even badly outdated helicopters being used to service nuclear operations. Choppers that came into service under President Nixon during the Vietnam War.

HAGEL: We just have kind of taken our eye off the ball here, and if we don't fix this, eventually, it will get to a point where there will be some questions about our -- about our security.

FOREMAN: Officials say these problems grew in part from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which forced the Pentagon to choose between sending resources to battle or to the nuke program.

HAGEL: When you have to make a hard choice like that, you're going to support the war fighter, and you make as best as you can.

FOREMAN: Still, embarrassing lapses have resulted, such as an incident last year in which a missile bay door was left open and unattended while one crew member slept and another went for food.

Recently, reports of missile officers cheating on proficiency tests.


FOEMAN: Making up for the shortfalls will cost a fortune. The Pentagon already spends about $15 billion a year on its nukes, and officials say that will have to be increased by 10 as much as percent. And even then, it will take years to undo the damage -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Big morale problems there, too. We want to go more in-depth on this and other topics. Joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She served two combat tours herself in Iraq and serves now on the armed services and the foreign affairs committees.

Thanks very much for joining us.


SCIUTTO: It's great to have you on. You listen to this, this is not just an isolated incident. It seems to be a culture of failure, inattention, morale, et cetera. How concerned are you about the danger, and is this a national security threat?

GABBARD: I'm deeply concerned, and this is a very dangerous situation that has to be a very high priority for us to fix. I think we can look back at administrations since the Cold War from both parties that should take responsibility for us being in this position, but especially looking at the last decade.

When we look at the trillions of dollars and spending money, unfortunately, sacrificing precious American lives in nation-building in Iraq and the Middle East and spending all of these resources there while neglecting very serious situations, such as this here at home.

So, we've got to make it a priority to fix it for the safety of the American people, but also as we look at Russia, Putin flexing his muscles. We've got to make sure that we have this nuclear deterrent in place.

SCIUTTO: Now they're talking about spending another $15 billion to solve the problems.

Please stay with us. We want to get into ISIS and Ukraine. Representative Tulsi Gabbard. We have a lot more to come after this short break.


SCIUTTO: We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She serves on the armed services and foreign affairs committees, and she also served two combat tours herself in Iraq. Fewer people can speak more knowledgeably on the issue of ISIS and the strategy.

General Dempsey in the hearings yesterday said that he is, in his words, certainly considering that U.S. forces accompany Iraqi forces on a particular mission he had in mind. You know, eventually, if Iraqi forces go to take back Mosul, a key city and a key stronghold for them.

You know, this is the sixth or seventh time where he has refused to take that option off the table, whereas the president has said repeatedly there will be no ground forces. Is the president being honest when he says he will not send ground troops to Iraq?

GABBARD: Well, I think, first of all, we've got to recognize, we have troops on the ground in Iraq right now.

SCIUTTO: How about combat? Be more specific, because that sounds like combat to me.

GABBARD: Look, they're armed, and I'm sure they're carrying ammunition. If fired upon, I'm sure they will return fire.

SCIUTTO: But it's more than that, because yes, they can defend themselves, but he was talking about sending them with Iraqi forces on what would be an offensive mission, going to take back ground and would put them, if they're -- you know, this is not being back in a command post in Baghdad. It would be on the front lines. That's combat, isn't it?

GABBARD: Yes, it is, absolutely. And I think that the American people can sense the dishonesty and the lack of clarity in exactly what our mission is there, which has been the problem from day one. You and I have talked about this before. Without a clear sense of mission, then we can't come up with a clear, effective, tactical strategy to defeat our enemy, the Islamic extremists that are ISIS.

I would not support and I do not support our troops, more American lives, going back into Iraq, going back into the Middle East, simply to prop up this still-dysfunctional central government of Iraq and to still prop up this nation-building mission that really has been a failure for so long.

SCIUTTO: Now, you said not just unclear, but dishonest. You're saying that the policy is dishonest?

GABBARD: We have troops on the ground there right now. And what's being proposed is putting American lives at risk in combat in the face of the enemy.

I think we've got to take a look at what we should be doing. We've got troops right now in Iraq in the Kurds, in the Peshmerga, who still, I questioned General Dempsey and the secretary yesterday -- will the arms and the funds that they're requesting from Congress go directly towards the Kurds who have been the trusted boots on the ground in this fight from the get-go? And I didn't really get an answer, but basically, they said no. They said, no.

These funds will continue to be funneled through the central Iraqi government, which is still being led by a Shia-led government when we have the sectarian divide and fighting still going on between the Shias, the Sunnis, and the Kurds. We can't go forward like that.

SCIUTTO: So much distrust there. The other issue you pressed on was this idea of, again, we're in a situation -- we, the U.S. and the military -- in training local forces, and basically, placing the success of the mission on the backs of local forces, whether Kurdish or Iraqi. Your comments yesterday, you said how can the U.S. be walking down the same path as a decade ago and hoping for a different outcome? Is the U.S., in your view, repeating a mistake with Iraqi forces?

GABBARD: That is what I -- that is what I am so afraid of. And it was -- as I sat in that hearing listening to those words, I did feel like I was in a time warp. And that's one of my greatest concerns, is that we do -- the United States does the same thing again, continuing down this failed mission of nation-building and propping up this Shia- led government and not focusing on what's in the best interests of the United States.

We have an enemy in these Islamic extremists who are a threat to the United States and the American people, and the strategy that's being conducted right now is not one that directly addresses that threat. Rather, it pulls more of our resources away from what we just talked about, from nuclear arms infrastructure concerns that have to be addressed here at home and elsewhere.

SCIUTTO: Because that's a fair question, because you -- the U.S. military had tens of thousands of troops in Iraq, hundreds of trainers, became a central part of the policy then, trained up before. So a quarter of a million...

GABBARD: Security forces, exactly. Now they're calling them the national guard.


GABBARD: And these are the troops that we're talking about who dropped the arms that we left behind...

SCIUTTO: And ran away.

GABBARD: ... and ran away. Why we would commit more U.S. dollars and potentially put more U.S. troops, putting their lives on the line to conduct this same mission makes no sense to me.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting now. So that's Iraq. At least in Iraq you have a couple hundred thousand Iraqis, 100,000 or so, depending on how you count them, Kurdish Peshmerga.

Now, when you look to Syria, you know, in the best-case scenario, you're training up 5,000 to 15,000 rebels who are clearly, often out- matched on the battlefield by both ISIS, al-Nusra Front, Assad forces. I assume when you look at the Syria option, that looks even worse to you in terms of how that's going to work, training the local forces, as your ground troops.

GABBARD: It does. It does, because in the so-called Syrian moderate opposition forces, we don't have the trusted allies that we have in the Kurds in northern Iraq. What we see there is a group that we don't know who they will be fighting with or against.

If we had armed these moderate Sunni forces in the last year or the trusted allies that we have in the Kurds in northern Iraq. What we see there is a group that we don't know who they will be fighting with or against.

If we had armed these moderate Sunni forces in the last year or two years, as Secretary Clinton and others had advocated for...

SCIUTTO: They wouldn't be so far behind, is that your feeling? GABBARD: We would have been arming what we see now today as ISIS. We

saw just in the last week or ten days ago al-Nusra has switched sides and now are fighting with ISIS and overran one of these Sunni -- one of these Syrian moderate opposition elements, and they left behind the heavy weapons that the U.S. had been providing to them.

SCIUTTO: This is a concern that the shoulder-fired missiles...

GABBARD: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: ... that ISIS has now, known as MANPADs, that they might have come from what gulf states gave to some of these fighters, our allies, frankly.

I want to get to -- there's a big debate on the new authorization for this war. Even the president himself has said he wants to seek it, which presumes that he believes he needs it, that the war needs it. Does that mean that the war, as it's being run now, off this 2001 authorization dating back to 9/11, is illegal?

GABBARD: I think we do need a new authorization. I think it is a stretch to justify, especially using the 2002 Iraq AUMF to authorize the action, even that's taking place today, right now in Iraq. We can identify who our enemy is in al Qaeda, in ISIS.

SCIUTTO: But to be clear, we need a new authorization. What the president said, as well. But does that -- if we need it, does that presume that the war is illegal today without it?

GABBARD: It depends on what the mission is. If the mission is to fight against these Islamic extremists who are responsible for 9/11 -- al Qaeda, ISIS, whatever name they've morphed themselves into, whatever name they call themselves by -- there are actions that can be covered, in my view, by the 2001 AUMF.

But to also use what the president is using, the Iraq authorization, I think that the situation we're seeing today doesn't have any bearing to what was intended in 2002.

SCIUTTO: Can we get enough Democrats, can you get enough Democrats and Republicans to vote for a new authorization?

GABBARD: This depends on what it's going to say.

SCIUTTO: And major open questions including whether that authorization includes the provision of ground troops. A lot of open questions in that debate.

Thanks very much, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Iraq veteran. Great to have you on.

GABBARD: Good to see you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, a doctor with Ebola being brought to the U.S. for treatment once again. We're learning new details, including when he might arrive here. Plus, the suspect in the disappearance of Hannah Graham makes his

first courtroom appearance in a separate assault case from 2005. How Jesse Matthew pleaded. That's just ahead.


SCIUTTO: Preparations are under way right now for a new Ebola patient being brought here to the U.S. for treatment. And sources tell CNN the victim, who's a surgeon, could arrive here as early as tomorrow.

CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is working the story for us. Elizabeth, what's the latest on yet another Ebola victim coming to the U.S.?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim, this will be patient No. 10 in the United States. And what we know about this man, as you said, he's a surgeon. He is a Sierra Leone national, but he has legal permanent residency in the U.S. His wife is a U.S. citizen. They have children here.

And he's being sent to Nebraska Medical Center. Now, this will be Nebraska Medical Center's third Ebola patient. Nebraska is one of four bio-containment facilities in the United States. They have specially trained to handle Ebola patients. We don't know what kind of treatment he's going to get, but the other two patients in Nebraska, they received an experimental antiviral drug, plus a blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: So Elizabeth, I know you just sat down for an exclusive interview with the CDC director Tom Frieden. He spoke about these recent cases, particularly in the U.S. What did he tell you about how the U.S. is handling them?

COHEN: You know, Dr. Frieden reflected back on the Ebola crisis this fall and he said that a lot went the way that it should have and some of it could have been done better. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.


COHEN: Were there any surprises?

TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: I think we didn't recognize how hard it would be to care for someone with Ebola who is desperately ill in the U.S. and how much hands-on nursing care there would be, and we didn't expect two healthcare workers to get infected.

COHEN: When you got the news that nurse Nina Pham had become infected, how did that feel?

FRIEDEN: It was just so, so concerning. We were concerned about her health. We were concerned that there could be additional cases. And we were concerned about every one of the other healthcare workers there, because we recognized then that they were all at significant risk.


COHEN: Now, certainly, time has shown us something that the CDC got right, and that's that Dr. Frieden and others said all along, it's hard to get Ebola. Your chances of getting it on an airplane or on a subway or sitting in a restaurant next to someone who's infected, if they're not ill, are very teeny tiny.

Now, people freaked out anyhow. People got very worried when they were on a plane with the nurse who was infected or if they were on the subway in New York, but it turned out none of those people got sick. I think there's a lesson in there, Jim, that people shouldn't freak out.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and that's a good message. Thanks very much. And please stand by, because we want to bring in CNN medical analyst Dr. Zandt van Tulleken. He's a tropical medicine specialist; as well as Dr. Seema Yasmin. She's a former CDC disease detective who now writes for "The Dallas Morning News."

Doctor Yasmin, if I could begin with you. The new Ebola patient to be treated in the Nebraska, not a U.S. citizen, but married to a U.S. citizen, so a legal, permanent resident.

I guess the confusion here is what is the criteria for who of the people who catch this disease in West Africa are allowed to come to the U.S. for treatment? Is there a standard or is this decided case by case?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, FORMER CDC DISEASE DETECTIVE: At the moment, Jim, what we can say is that the people who have been airlifted from West Africa to the U.S. for treatment in these special biocontainment units have been U.S. citizens, or in this instance, a legal permanent resident of the U.S.

There's something else that's really important to bear in mind, Jim, is, is the patient stable enough to be put on an airplane and transported to the U.S.? Of course, you want to offer everybody the best medical care that's available, but you also want to make sure that it's not detrimental to their health and of course the 10-hour flight, that kind of transportation time can take its toll.

And so the spokesperson at the Nebraska unit said today that this patient is still being assessed in Sierra Leone to see if they're stable enough for a 10-hour flight.

SCIUTTO: And fair question.

Elizabeth Cohen, you said it well just a couple of minutes ago, don't freak out. But there are dangers here. There are risks. What are the risks if at all substantial to let these people with Ebola come to the U.S.?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, people come into the U.S. with Ebola in two ways so far. One of them is how this surgeon is scheduled to come in tomorrow, and that's in a biocontainment unit that's inside an airplane. He then goes to a facility that has an excellent isolation unit.

You know, he's not going to get anyone sick. All of the people working with him are well protected. This facility is their third person, nobody got sick. So we should all remember, 10 patients, nobody else got sick except those 10 patients. And unfortunately, two nurses who were caring for Thomas Eric Duncan.

So the chances, for example, that this surgeon is going -- is going to get anyone sick are very small. And as I said before, even when people come in and they don't realize they're sick, you know, Craig Spencer in New York. He didn't get anyone else sick. It just hasn't happened.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Van Tulleken, because Elizabeth gets at a very particular kind of case. We know that this latest victim, who we're not identifying, is sick before they come here and is directed then to one of the places in the country that is especially prepared for this, that is, the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. They have all they need. They have all the training.

The weakness is, I imagine, when someone who returns, don't know they have it, they walk into a regular ER. Has the U.S. gotten better? Has the CDC properly gotten all the information out and have the hospitals gotten all the equipment they need to treat walk-in cases like that?

DR. XAND VAN TULLEKEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think we've massively changed what we're doing. I mean, the CDC have really finessed their risk stratification for people arriving at airports. For a start, they've just said there are only five airports that you can actually come to.

Now it's possible that someone could leave West Africa, go to a different -- maybe change their passport, change a ticket, but basically, we've limited the number of places they can arrive. They're screened on arrival. And the screening questionnaire is pretty supple to figure out who is putting us most at risk and who needs to be isolated and who just needs to be monitored and who doesn't pose any threat at all.

So I think we have gotten much, much better at it. I wouldn't be concerned about any patient arriving in this way posing any threat to anyone else at all. But as Seema said, it's not even clear at the moment whether or not he's fit to be transported.

SCIUTTO: Learning as we go.

Dr. Yasmin, the Obama administration's new Ebola czar, Ron Klain, said that the U.S. should expect to see other Ebola cases, in his words, occasionally and sporadically going forward. How often do you think U.S. health care facilities will have to be dealing with cases like this?

YASMIN: Jim, we're told that as long as the outbreak continues in West Africa, and it is still spreading there, let's be clear about that, we are at risk of seeing imported cases in other countries in the world. Some of the scientists tell me that we could see upwards of three people every month leave the hot zone in West Africa with Ebola. And they could potentially arrive in Dallas, Texas, or anywhere else in the U.S., as we've already seen. And that's why it's crucial that hospitals gear up and get ready to treat patients.

SCIUTTO: Final question, if I can, perhaps for you, Dr. Van Tulleken, this is your expertise in diseases like this. There is a lot of upset in West Africa that Americans get this special treatment, while people are still dying on the ground by the hundreds, you know, in many cases in these countries.

Has the international community gotten that balance right, how they react to victims over there and victims here?

VAN TULLEKEN: I mean, it's not a problem that's limited to Ebola. I mean, you see health care inequality, you see it between the rich and the poor in America, and you see it hugely between the global north and the global south. I would say we absolutely have not got the balance right. I mean, if you look at the survival rates in America, we've had, out of the -- well, out of the nine people so far, we have had eight survive.

Nothing like those kind of numbers in West Africa. And we hear scenes in hospitals where people haven't been able to get IV fluids, they're not getting monitoring. Basically, they're isolated, they're given some pain relief, and whether or not they survive may be almost a kind of pot luck situation.

So we're building better facilities, but we've still got a very small number of high quality Ebola treatment facilities in West Africa. So I -- I mean, I think if you're in West Africa, absolutely, the inequality of the situation hugely upsetting, and we do need to do much, much, much more to control this epidemic.

It's worth saying at the moment, Mali has had another case -- we've had several cases now, facing another outbreak. They're contact tracing a couple of hundred people so this is potentially spreading to more countries in the region as well.

SCIUTTO: An alarming prospect.

Thanks very much to Dr. Van Tulleken, Dr. Yasmin, and Elizabeth Cohen, our medical correspondent.

And just ahead, UVA suspect Jesse Matthew appears in court and pleads not guilty in a decade-old sexual assault case. We're going to learn what's next.

And an arctic blast is bringing early winter weather to more than half of the country. What it means for your weekend.


SCIUTTO: The suspect in the abduction of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham today pleaded not guilty in a separate 2005 sexual assault case in northern Virginia. CNN's Brian Todd was inside the courtroom and he's live outside the

courthouse with the details.

Amazing scene inside there, Brian. What was it like?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this was the first time the judge in the Fairfax case has seen Jesse Matthew in person.

Now Matthew seemed shy and hesitant in front of the judge, but he wasted no time addressing the charges against him.


TODD (voice-over): He walked out in a dark green jumpsuit. His dreadlocks in a ponytail. During his first in-person appearance in a Fairfax, Virginia, courtroom, Jesse Matthew was so subdued, he was at first inaudible.


JUDGE DENNIS SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE, FAIRFAX COUNTY: What was that? Sorry, I couldn't hear that.

MATTHEW: I'm not guilty.

TODD: Judge Dennis Smith wanted to get Matthew's formal plea to the charges.

SMITH: Did Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. did feloniously, willfully, deliberately, intentionally and with premeditation, attempt to kill RG in the commission or subsequent to an abduction with intent to defile? How do you plead to that charge?

MATTHEW: Not guilty.

TODD: Matthew also pleads not guilty to charges of sexual assault and abduction in the 2005 Fairfax case. Law enforcement officials say the then 26-year-old victim was grabbed as she returned home from a grocery store, dragged to an area behind a pool in a townhouse complex, raped and beaten almost to death. She was spared, officials say, only because the assailant was scared off by a passerby.

Prosecutor Ray Morrogh says the victim, identified only as RG, now lives in India, has small children, including a 6-month-old, and is disrupting all of that to come to Fairfax and testify against Jesse Matthew.

RAYMOND MORROGH, FAIRFAX, VA. COMMONWEALTH'S ATTORNEY: For us to step back into her life so many years later. I know that she's grateful, but again, I can't imagine what she's going through. But I'm just so pleased that she is cooperating, and she's been really a saint with me.

TODD: Matthew is a suspect in the disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, whose body was found outside Charlottesville after a month-long search. He's charged with abduction in that case.

Officials say the Fairfax case is linked by DNA to the 2009 disappearance of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, whose body was found near UVA. In the Fairfax case, authorities say DNA under the victim's fingernails matches Jesse Matthew's DNA. One defense attorney says the jury will rely heavily on the DNA evidence, but it's not iron-clad.

MICHAEL CHICK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY It may be a degraded sample, it may be a mixture. It's always hard to tell just by hearing that it exists. That doesn't tell us everything.

TODD: Another challenge for the prosecution in Fairfax, the ability of the victim to remember specific details of that night nine years ago.


TODD: Now, today, Jesse Matthew's lawyers did not ask for a mental health evaluation of him, despite saying at a hearing two weeks ago that they would request that. His defense attorney Jim Camblos told me he is still discussing that possibility with his co-counsel. The judge has set a trial date of March 9th and he has appointed Judge David Schell, who previously served in the Fairfax Juvenile Court System to oversee the trial -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: All right, Brian Todd outside the courtroom.

I want to go in depth now with investigative journalist Coy Barefoot, CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, he's a former FBI assistant director.

Coy, if I could begin with you, this not guilty plea, was that at all a surprise to you?

COY BAREFOOT, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Not really. It was a dramatic morning with a lot of developments, Jim. And of course, to hear Jesse Matthew address the court for the first time and say not guilty in all three charges, in the abduction, in the rape and in the attempted capital murder.

At this point, one way to read that -- a couple of ways. Know first that he can change that plea to guilty right up until the moment before a jury would come back. So that can always be changed. And at this point, from a defense perspective, in terms of strategy, it's just a smart thing to do. It gives you leverage in any future negotiations, should you approach the prosecution and say, OK, we might change our plea, what will you give us?

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey Toobin, do you agree with that? Because if he had pled guilty, he could have negotiated the sentencing, right?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, perhaps. This is a first appearance. Almost nobody pleads guilty right away. If his DNA is -- her DNA is, I'm sorry. If his DNA is under her fingernails, he's not negotiating anything. He doesn't have any leverage. SCIUTTO: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, you know, plea negotiations are all about, you know, managing risk. There's no risk to the prosecution, so this guy -- if that DNA pans out that way. So, you know, why should the DA negotiate with him?

SCIUTTO: Right. Right. He's keeping his options open.

Tom Fuentes, in the 2005 case, does the prosecution need much evidence, if they have the DNA as well as a living witness who said she would come back from India to testify in this case? Do they have enough there?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, we don't know yet. And I think another reason for pleading not guilty is, as they go forward, preparing for the defense, the prosecution has to give them everything they've got. Then they'll know what kind of DNA, how much of it, what the circumstances, was it really under the fingernails as it was said?

They'll know everything the prosecution is going to present will have to be told to the defense. And then they can make their assessment of whether to try to bargain.


TOOBIN: And the criminal defense attorneys always want a delay. That is sort of -- criminal defense 101, slow the process down, let passions cool a little bit. The cases never get better with time. They often get worse. So that's one thing the defense can do.

SCIUTTO: Sounds like it makes sense.

Coy, I wonder if I could ask you, because the judge, of course, will play a key role in this, what have you learned about the judge in this case?

BAREFOOT: I think that was the most significant thing that happened this morning, Jim, was that moment when we learned that Judge David Schell will be the judge to oversee this case, because that's what everyone was waiting to hear. For this reason.

Judges in Virginia in these criminal cases, they follow sentencing guidelines. Now those are suggestive, but everyone knows that certain judges tend to go along with the guidelines or above or below when it comes to sentencing.

I checked with the Sentencing Commission in Richmond, a terrific team there, that helped me out with some research today, which I'm reporting here for the first time. Judge Schell has seen 475 criminal cases since he was appointed to the Circuit Court in January of 2008 by Democratic governor Tim Kaine. In those cases, he has sentenced at or below the guidelines in 94 percent of his cases.

So if you're a defense attorney representing Jesse Matthew, that's good news because you could plead guilty, throw Jesse Matthew on the mercy of the court. What if those sentencing guidelines come back with a suggestion of 15 to 20 years? He gets 20. He's out, a free man in 17 years, according to the historical trends of this particular judge.

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey Toobin, you've been in front of a lot of judges. Does this sound like a soft judge to you?

TOOBIN: Well, I think he's probably not the worst judge he could have gotten, but consider the magnitude of this crime. These judges deal with a wide variety of crimes.


TOOBIN: If it's proven that he dragged this woman into the -- into the bushes and raped her, I don't care --


SCIUTTO: And only stopped because someone stopped him.

TOOBIN: Yes. I don't care what his prior record is.


TOOBIN: No judge is going to look with any sort of sympathy.

SCIUTTO: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, Tom Fuentes, Coy Barefoot in Charlottesville, thanks very much for joining us.

Just ahead, as Michael Brown's parents return to testify to a United Nations panel on the shooting death of their son, they will find Ferguson on edge, waiting for a grand jury report.


SCIUTTO: After dumping heavy snow to the west, an arctic blast is bringing early winter weather to the eastern half of the country now.

Let's go to meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's at the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

Jennifer, do I have to take my winter clothes out of the closet finally?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It's about time. This weekend you'll definitely need it. We have shattered records across the country this week and temperatures are still holding on below freezing across much of the country. This is the current temperatures, 30 in Kansas city. 29 in Chicago.

Once we lose that daylight, temperatures are going to plummet. Minneapolis dipped below freezing on Monday. We have been below freezing ever since and for the next five days, we will stay that way, barely getting above 20 degrees through Wednesday, and it could possibly be the following week when temperatures finally get above freezing.

Just when you're hoping all of this will start to melt and will warm up, forget about it. Another cold blast on the way. By the end of the weekend, into the beginning part of next week, by Tuesday morning, temperatures in Atlanta, 21 degrees, will be 20 Chicago Tuesday morning, 11 in Minneapolis.

So temperatures are going to stay very, very cold as we go through the next seven days, at least. Look at these high temperatures. In the 20s for Minneapolis. Chicago, 30 on Saturday. 33 on Sunday. Even Atlanta, your high temperature on Tuesday at 37. And low temperatures are even worse.

Of course, seeing temperatures in the single digits in Denver and Rapid City, as we go through the next couple of days in the teens across Minneapolis, Chicago. 18 degrees waking up on Tuesday morning.

Jim, it is going to be very cold. Good news is, it looks like we may be warming up a little bit the week of Thanksgiving.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You know you're in trouble when you see all that purple and light blue on the weather map.

GRAY: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much, Jennifer Gray.

Well, coming up at the top of the hour, tension grows in Ferguson, Missouri, ahead of the grand jury decision on whether to charge a police officer in the death of an unarmed black teenager.

And my colleague Jake Tapper will be here next in THE SITUATION ROOM. He has a new interview with the former Navy SEAL who says he fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden.