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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
January 6 Committee Votes To Hold Mark Meadows In Contempt; Interview With Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Tornadoes Leave Path Of Destruction Across Eight States; Mayor: 75% Of Dawson Springs, KY Destroyed By Tornado; KY Gov.: At Least 74 Dead, 109 Unaccounted For In Tornado Disaster; Kentucky Pastor Devastating Tornado: You Could Hear People Screaming, Cries For Help. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired December 13, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thank you so much for joining us. Now, let's hand it over to AC 360.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Mayfield, Kentucky, one of the hardest hit towns in the hardest hit State after one of the deadliest and most destructive tornado outbreaks this country has ever seen.
We've got extensive reporting from here tonight. We begin though first with breaking news from Washington where the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 riot has just approved a criminal contempt of Congress referral against former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Now, that comes as the committee releases some extraordinary evidence -- and we don't use that word "extraordinary" lightly -- detailing what Meadows and others in the White House did and most importantly, did not do in the hours leading up to the deadly attack, and laid out in painstaking detail the case to hold Mr. Meadows in contempt.
CNN's Paula Reid starts us off from the Capitol. So Paula, it was a very revealing hearing what new information did the committee layout?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, extraordinary is exactly the right word here. The House Select Committee laying out new evidence they have obtained, including messages that the former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows received from several FOX News personalities during the insurrection.
This includes messages from Sean Hannity, Brian Kilmeade, and Laura Ingraham urging Meadows to get the President to do something. They also described messages from the President's son, Donald Trump, Jr. also pushing Meadows to have the President say something and do something.
Here, the Vice Chairwoman of the Committee, Liz Cheney lays out some of the evidence that they've collected, truly extraordinary. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): According to the records, multiple FOX News hosts knew the President needed to act immediately. They texted Mr. Meadows, and he has turned over those texts. Quote, "Mark, the President needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy." Laura Ingraham wrote. "Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished," Brian Kilmeade texted. Quote, "Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol." Sean Hannity urged.
As the violence continued, one of the President's sons texted Mr. Meadows quote, "He's got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough." Donald Trump, Jr. texted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Cheney emphasized that these text messages prove that the White House knew exactly what was going on, including receiving messages from at least one lawmaker saying "We are under siege."
Now, Anderson, I'll reiterate that these are materials that Meadows has handed over voluntarily, makes you wonder what he could potentially be withholding.
Now right now, he is refusing to come in and answer questions about these documents that he has voluntarily handed over. He and his attorney are arguing that he doesn't want to do that citing executive privilege questioning the authority of the Committee, two arguments that so far had been rejected by Federal Judges, but continue to be litigated.
Now Representative Adam Schiff had a dire warning for Meadows if he continues to stonewall the committee. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): If you are listening at home, Mr. Meadows, Mr. Bannon. Mr. Clark, I want you to know this, history will be written about these times, about the work this Committee has undertaken and history will not look upon any of you as martyrs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Yes, of course, that was the Committee Chairman, Bennie Thompson, not Adam Schiff. That's my mistake, but the Committee is clear, they are going to pursue criminal contempt. They could refer this to the Justice Department for possible prosecution, because Meadows has suddenly decided to stonewall the committee.
COOPER: So there is pretty damning evidence about why Meadows should be complying with the subpoena. Certainly, the Committee laid out a lot of points of inquiry that would not be subjected to executive privilege. How likely is it that the Justice Department would actually prosecute Meadows for contempt?
REID: This is a great question, Anderson, because of course, we know they are moving forward with a criminal case against another Trump ally, Steve Bannon. But this case is different for several reasons.
First of all, Mark Meadows was a top White House official on January 6th, and unlike Steve Bannon, he has not completely ignored the Committee. For a time, he did engage. He has handed over thousands of pages of documents.
We know this question of executive privilege, well, Trump has lost twice now in Federal Court. He has the option to take this larger question about executive privilege protections to the Supreme Court, so it is unlikely that the Justice Department will move on this anytime soon and it is a really open question about whether they would actually prosecute Mark Meadows based on what we've seen so far, but the Committee made a very strong argument in the court of public opinion about why Meadows is such a critical witness in their investigation.
COOPER: All right, Paula Reid, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Joining us now is a member of the Select Committee, California Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.
Congresswoman, appreciate you being with us. Do you think the full House will support your Committee's vote to hold Mr. Meadows in criminal contempt?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, Anderson, before I answer that, let me just say that all of us are with you thinking about the people who suffered so much in Kentucky from these terrible tornadoes, and let me answer also that we intend to go to the Rules Committee promptly and have the full House take this up.
But I think the case that has been made is overwhelming. Mr. Meadows, sent all of these documents, he didn't claim any kind of privilege about them. You can't retroactively claim privilege.
I mean, some of these really extraordinary pieces of evidence require additional explanation. He owes us an explanation, and we need to get it and his unlawful refusal to answer the questions about the material that he has acknowledged is not subject to executive privilege is just simply unacceptable and illegal.
COOPER: We know that the Committee revealed text from lawmakers to Meadows discussing that the effort to get Mike Pence to throw out electoral votes. I know you're not publicly identifying those lawmakers in this point. But does the Committee intend to subpoena those lawmakers and compel them to testify publicly? Do you think Americans deserve to know eventually who those individuals are?
LOFGREN: Let me just say that we are going to follow the facts wherever they lead and ultimately, the American people will learn everything that we find out.
COOPER: Do you believe the evidence uncovered by your Committee could be used by the Department of Justice to obtain a probable cause warrant for the records that you know Mark Meadows has, but has not yet handed over? Is that one way this could play out?
LOFGREN: Well, you know, I don't want to speak for the Department of Justice, they would need a criminal case against Mr. Meadows to in order to advance that. We are now pursuing the criminal contempt and I think we've laid out the case, whether or not the Department of Justice is pursuing other matters, they're very tight lipped.
It is not appropriate for prosecutors to discuss who they are prosecuting or who they are investigating. You do that either by an indictment or deciding you don't have a case. And all of that is done to protect the reputation of individuals. So I don't know what they're up to.
But this is a separate matter. The Committee needs to find these facts, not only to report to the American people, but also to inform us as to what further legislative steps we need to take to help prevent this, something like this from ever happening again. We came very close to overturning our democracy on January 6th. That's not acceptable to me or to the American people.
COOPER: Does this contempt charge feel any different for you personally? I mean, you mentioned in your remarks, Mark Meadows was a Member of Congress. He was a member of the House. You said you got along well. You wished him well when he went to the White House.
I mean, it's remarkable that a former Member of the House who was pretty mainstream Republican is now obstructing a House Committee in this way, because he is still so slavishly beholden to the former President.
LOFGREN: Well, it's really pretty shocking to me. I mean, obviously, he is a very conservative Republican, and I'm not, but on a personal level, we got along fine when he was here. And certainly he was very animated about when the Republicans were in the majority about how congressional subpoenas had to be answered, and especially to the executive branch.
So this is a complete departure from everything he said he believed, and I'm really very disappointed in what he appears to have been involved in, not to mention his unwillingness to follow the law and to come in and talk to the Committee. It is a great disappointment, but we have to do this, you know. The fact that he was a former colleague can't stand in the way of finding the facts.
COOPER: It just seems like he doesn't really have any real core beliefs. I mean, the person he was is complete -- I mean, from his prior, you know, positions; his priors stature and the way he held himself and carried himself is completely different than the person he has turned into in order to remain in the former President's orbit.
LOFGREN: Well, I don't want to comment on Mark Meadows's character, I just want him to obey the law, come in, and answer our questions.
COOPER: Right. Well, if you can find his character, let me know. What is the number one thing you would like Mark Meadows to testify about if he decided to cooperate?
LOFGREN: Well, there are very many text messages that we want to follow up with on him that clearly, him being related in a part of the plot to overturn the results of the election. You know, what was in his mind, one that expresses his skepticism about the fraud allegations being made by Sidney Powell, and others.
I mean, there's a lot there, and we need to follow up with him on all of these texts and other documents, and I think we should soon be getting a very large amount of material from the National Archives and there may be additional things there that will stimulate the questions.
So, he is not the only person with information, but he has a lot of information that the Committee needs.
COOPER: Yes, Congresswoman Lofgren, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
LOFGREN: You bet. Thank you.
COOPER: Joining us now is former Federal prosecutor and CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; also, former Nixon White House Counsel and CNN contributor, John Dean; and CNN chief political correspondent and co-anchor of "State of the Union," Dana Bash.
So Jeffrey, Committee Vice Chair Cheney said the Meadows's text messages leaves no doubt that the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol on January 6th. Given what was laid out just now by the Committee, do you think she's right?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. And you know, what really jumped out at me about these text messages, particularly with the ones from the anchors at FOX News, and Donald Trump, Jr. First of all, that they're a bunch of lying hypocrites, because they've been downplaying this riot ever since.
But putting that aside, what is incredible to me is that Donald Trump did nothing for hour after hour, despite all of his close allies begging him to do something. Finally, he makes this statement, and what does he say about the rioters? We love you.
This -- all of which, all of this evidence, you know, adds to the impression that Donald Trump was on the rioters' side there on January 6th, and that is an incredibly chilling message, but that's what I got out of the evidence that came out today.
COOPER: Yes. Dana, I mean it was revealed Donald, Jr. was texting Meadows as the violence was unfolding, almost begging him to get his father to do something to stop the violence, quote, "He's got to condemn this s--." You know what he said, "ASAP." "The Capitol Police tweet is not enough."
And then he went on to say, "We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand." You contrast that with reporting that the former President was you know, borderline enthusiastic, as it was all unfolding. And I guess, you know, his own son can't get in touch with him.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: His own son can't get in touch with him and it is also a reminder that in many ways, the former President knows his core supporters still better than anybody, even in the face of Republicans texting in dire ways in chilling ways, as read by Congresswoman Liz Cheney; his own son, who by the way, was part of the egging on the conspiracy theories, putting out into the ether that encouraged these people to come to the Capitol.
For that moment, they were going, "Oh, my goodness," look at what -- basically, look at what we caused. We didn't mean for this to get out of hand. And yet, the guy who was in the White House, who was trying to benefit from these conspiracies, was, as you said, reportedly enthusiastic about it.
And here we are, not that long later, with all those same people trying to whitewash what happened, and that is probably among the most chilling realities, as we listen to the text messages, some of them being read by this Committee, and the fact that as you said, this is their former colleague, who will not comply after he had so many statements about how the Obama White House wouldn't comply it is -- it is dripping with hypocrisy.
It's almost laughable how hypocritical it is.
COOPER: John, how likely is it that the Department of Justice would try to prosecute Meadows for contempt? I mean, that's if and when the full House approves the Committee's recommendation.
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: At first, I think the full House will hold him in contempt and they will refer to the Department of Justice. I think the Justice Department will prosecute.
We're all aware of the Bannon case, which has played out very publicly. The report that the House filed or the Committee filed with the House shows a much more subtle, but actually a much more contemptuous behavior by Mark Meadows, who led them on, who then changed his mind and didn't give good reasons, and who gave an evidence trail that shows he is central to the whole thing.
He can't -- you can't put that kind of evidence forward, and then sort of back off. I don't think he could have pled the Fifth at this point, because he's waived it and I think he realized that so the only route he sees, apparently, is to just take misdemeanor contempt and people all may think that Donald Trump was going to take care of him at some point.
TOOBIN: And speaking of waiver, Meadows wrote a book about all of this. He wrote a book describing what went on, on January 6th, and now he turns around and says, well, I can't tell Congress. I can try to make money off my knowledge of January 6th, but I'm not going to tell -- respond to a valid subpoena. That to me is just a legal and factual argument that he will have a great deal of trouble responding to and I think, may well lead to his prosecution from the Department of Justice.
COOPER: But Dana, I mean, doesn't this boil down to Mark Meadows -- I mean, he's been waffling because, yes, he wanted to make money, he needed to make money. That's what he was hoping his book would do. But then he realizes that the former President is offended and angry, and so he cravenly now changes his mind in order to try to win back the affections of daddy in Mar-a-Lago?
BASH: That's pretty much what I have been told has happened. You're exactly right. He was playing ball, which is why you heard his former colleague after former colleague, I should say, say in this remarkable hearing that just went on that they got these 9,000 pages of documents that were not considered privileged by Mark Meadows.
And his change of heart was the fact that his former boss was very, very angry about the book. And in the book, it wasn't necessarily the January 6th part of it that made the former President angry, it was the fact that he revealed all the lies that they told about the former President's case of COVID.
And, you know, as one person in Trump's orbit said to me recently, he is just the latest person to realize, despite their own independent reputation and career pre-Trump, that their fate is directly tied to Trump. And if he angers the former President, then he is done in this world, and he clearly doesn't want to be, that's why he has twisted himself into such a pretzel, and gotten himself into what appears to be legal jeopardy.
COOPER: Jeff just raised -- or John, I mean, you just raised the question, how far will any of these people go in order to stay in the good graces of somebody who, you know, is an unreliable narrator at best. I mean, you know, to stay in the good graces of somebody whose opinion changes, depending on the weather.
DEAN: Because of my service in the Nixon White House, where I first saw people who I thought were intelligent, who just follow orders without question, I began studying these types of personalities. I've done a couple of books on the subject.
These people are pretty helpless. They want the approval, and they want what their authoritarian figure tells them to do, and if they are also authoritarians, they think, well, this will redound someday to their benefit that they indeed are authoritarians, and so they want to behave like the authoritarian that they are following and think is the strong leader.
So when they have their turn, they can expect likewise from their followers, it's not complex, but it's very pathetic, actually.
COOPER: Jeffrey, I want to play a clip, something Congressman Adam Schiff said during the hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I want to display just a few of the message he received from people in Congress. The Committee is not naming these lawmakers at this time as our investigation is ongoing, if we could cue the first graphic.
SCHIFF: This one reads: "On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all."
You can see why this is so critical to ask Mr. Meadows about, about a lawmaker suggesting that the former Vice President simply throw out votes that he unilaterally deems unconstitutional.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, Jeff, how significant is that? A sitting lawmaker texting that to the White House Chief of Staff?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, one useful way of thinking about this whole coup attempt was, there was this sort of legal side of it. This attempt to get Mike Pence and Members of the House of Representatives to undo the results of the election, to for the first time in American history overcome the will of the voters. That's one side of it. The other side of it is the violence, is the riot.
Meadows is a key witness on both parts of that as we learned today and have been learning for several weeks, and this is what this Committee should be investigating. But shouldn't that lawmaker have to answer, you know, for his or her attempt to tell the Vice President to overcome the will of the voters?
I mean, it's just -- it is something that I never thought I would see and I think most people never thought they would see that the idea that Congress on its own, could overcome the will of the voters, but obviously, many, many members of the Republicans -- many of the Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate wanted Vice President Pence to do that and we're willing to do it themselves.
COOPER: Yes, Jeff Toobin, Dana Bash, John Dean, appreciate it.
Coming up next, the very latest on the tornadoes here in Kentucky, including breaking news on the search effort at a local candle factory where eight people lost their lives.
Also, our Gary Tuchman was among the first outsiders into the small town of Bremen, Kentucky. What he saw and what he heard from some of the survivors.
COOPER: Well, just before air time, the owners of the candle factory here in Mayfield Kentucky said that everyone inside when Friday's tornado hit have now been accounted for, which is good news. That's according to Louisville's Emergency Management Director.
Eight people lost their lives there. At least 74 people died statewide in Kentucky and at least 14 more in four other states. According to Kentucky's Governor Andy Beshear, 109 Kentuckians remain unaccounted for, which certainly speaks to the magnitude of the destruction and loss and heartache all around us and the confusion that still exists.
But as always, it only says so much.
To really get a sense of what happened here, you just need to drive down any street, get out and just walk in any neighborhood and you can see block after block after block, scenes like this.
It's hard at first to kind of make out what you're actually looking at. It turns out this is actually the roof of a garage that used to be over there about 30 feet behind there -- behind the camera, I should say.
This house is owned by a man named Terry Richards, who also owns this one and lives in it with his mom. They hid out the storm in the basement. I want to show you where Terry's mom usually spent her time and where they were watching television earlier in the day.
The room of their -- that's a sitting room and Terry's mom likes to sit on that couch, if you can tell that's part of the couch kind of wrapped up with trees sticking out of the house. So had they not heeded the warnings to get down into the basement, they could have been watching this on TV when the storm struck.
This is the closet, his mom's closet, some of her clothes are still hanging up on hangers. It's one of the kind of surreal things I'm sure you've seen this before in tornadoes that a whole house can be ripped apart, but items on a table or in this case, clothes on a hanger in a closet can still be hanging.
This is a house that Terry and another person have been working on turning into an Airbnb. For the last four years, they have been working on this. They said it was very close to being completed and they were going to open it up to be an Airbnb. Now, they say it's probably not salvageable. They don't think they're going to try to make it work again.
But you can see I mean, there's still chandelier in that room, still a fan in that room. They're going to try to see what they can salvage from this property, but it doesn't -- right now, they are concerned about actually entering it and going in because there's still so much things just kind of hanging loosely.
And if you can see, there is an enormous tree that has also fallen onto the house, and you know, when you start to see this on television, it seems like you know, you probably -- if you're sitting at home and you're watching this, you may be thinking you know that you've seen devastation like this before, and obviously, tornadoes have hit for a long time and we've seen them on television.
But once you're here, it's not what you've seen before. Every structure is different, and every house has its own story and all the people who live here have their own story about what this means in their life and what the ripple effects of this are in their lives, in this case, in this house, the economic ripple effect for Terry and his friend and his mom living here.
And there are, as we said, eight people who died in that candle factory.
There had been more deaths in Dawson Springs. And that's where Ed Lavandera is right now. I want to go to him to just find out what the latest on the situation. There he is, Ed.
Here's Ed's piece.
BREEANA GLISSON, DAWSON SPRINS TORNADO SURVIVOR: Can you believe this?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRRESPONDENT (voice-over): Breeana Glisten still hasn't figured out how she and her two children are alive?
GLISSON: When I opened my eyes and looked around, I had no idea where I was. None. All I could do was stand up and scream for help and try to find someone to help me and my kids.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): She's piecing together the memories of the tornado striking her home in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, the only place to hide was in a bed with her four and two-year-old children clutched under her arms. She says that saved her kids lives. That's when the windows exploded and the roof collapsed on her crushing her arms.
GLISSON: And then after that in a millisecond, we were no longer in the bed or in our house. We were on the ground all the way over there somewhere.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): Like on the other side of those cars?
GLISSON: Like over this rubble on the ground in mud with absolutely nothing near us.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): So you, you flew from this spot right here.
GLISSON: All the way over --
LAVANDERA (on-camera): Over that rubble over there?
So this is the area.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): I mean, you're probably close to 200 feet away.
GLISSON: I think being on the mattress saved us, because for the most part of flying through the air. We weren't just flying through the air. We were on the bed.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): That's one of the most unbelievable things I've ever heard anybody surviving.
GLISSON: It's insane. I can't believe that me and my kids are OK. I can't believe that there's no broken bones on my children.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): They were all cut and bleeding. But she remembers neighbors helping her into a basement.
GLISSON: Thank you so much for helping us. Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not just (INAUDIBLE).
GLISSON: I'm all right. I'm all right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
GLISSON: I have a head injury though. I have a head injury.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see.
GLISSON: And my face. My arm is broken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad you all right.
GLISSON: Thank you. Thank you for helping us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we do.
GLISSON: Hi, what you doing?
LAVANDERA (voice-over): With nowhere to live, Breeana Glisson and her family are in a motel room. Glisson says her children both have special needs that require her full time attention. So she isn't working outside of the home. Her mother lives with them and her job pays the bills.
GLISSON: We've been given clothes. We've been given blankets and food. But we have no worry though.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): They told us they don't have home insurance and the little savings they have is paying for a few nights in this motel.
GLISSON: I'm not OK. Like, one minute, I'm sitting here and I'm smiling and one minute I'm bawling my eyes out. We are extremely lucky to be alive because we were flown through the air and that our neighbors passed away right next to us.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Glissons are one of the hundreds of families in Dawson Springs that will struggle to recover. The mayor here says about a third of the city's population of 2,500 lives below the poverty line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's going to be a lot on that don't have any insurance. They live from month to month on a Social Security check or whatever they can get.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): Getting through this is going to be tough for them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be very tough. Very tough.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): You can see the bruises and scars from the storm all over Breeana Glisson, but the wounds to her life from this tornado cutting much deeper.
(on-camera): How are you emotionally?
GLISSON: I'm torn up. I've lost absolutely everything.
COOPER: Gosh. And I mean, just so often there's so many people who are still just, you know, trying to figure out what happens now. I've heard two or three people to me said that said that to me today, what do I do now?
I spoke with Governor Beshear earlier today, he told me that the Dawson Springs is his father's hometown. I know President Biden is scheduled to visit there on Wednesday. What are people telling you about what happens now?
LAVANDERA: Well, I think they're kind of facing us on a couple of different fronts. There's the short term need which, you know, Breeana Glisson story kind of highlights is exactly what do people do here just to get through this week, and there's a great deal of concern about that. So, temporary housing, to get them through the next several months of rebuilding is really going to be crucial. The mayor told us today that there is simply nowhere for people to live right now. Seventy five percent of the city of Dawson Springs was decimated aided by this tornado. How do you bring all of those people back and get this community back up on its feet when for the next for the foreseeable future there is no housing? So that is really the biggest crisis facing this community for the next several months.
COOPER: Ed Lavandera, remarkable reporting. I appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you.
Just before air time, I spoke with one of the first responders from neighboring states who are aiding in search and rescue, Indiana has activated his Task Force One Search and Rescue Team. Indianapolis Fire Department Division Chief Tom Neal is leading.
COOPER (on-camera): Chief Neal, can you just walk me through what you and your team are doing right now in the search of the candle factory?
TOM NEAL, CHIEF, INDIANAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT DIVISION: Sure, we're up doing daytime operations and our operational period will end at 7:00 p.m. Central Standard Time. And throughout today, our main focus has been to remove the roof structure, which is of heavy steel, skeletal structure with heavy crane and excavation equipment to create open void spaces so that we can have K-9 and human search to search that portions of the building that we have not been able to obtain good voice faces because of the heavy structure laying over the open space of the open production area of the candle factory.
COOPER (on-camera): So, I mean, this is a delicate question. But is this still a rescue mission? Is it a recovery mission at this point?
NEAL: Well, as of this afternoon, the owner of the company has painstakingly contacted family members, loved ones of his employees. And he has tripled check that list against the list of those that have been what were considered unaccounted for. And at this time, we're pretty confident with our searches on the building both through live K-9 and human remains detection K-9 as well as detection equipment, and the owners efforts. And looking at the unaccounted for members of his company, we are confident that there is no other people that remain in this structure.
COOPER (on-camera): So how much longer will you your team work on this site?
NEAL: We're going to finish up our operational period this evening at 7:00, we're going to have a brief at 7 o'clock to look and see where we're at. We may maintain 24-hour operations continued partially into the night with Lexington Fire and Louisville Fire personnel that will assist the contractor that's on site to help clear additional debris. And again with pretty confident with the search efforts through K-9 detection as well as secondary searches through human contact, that we're pretty confident there is no other employees of the candle factory that's remaining in this building.
COOPER (on-camera): Well, that's certainly good news. Because there had been previously a number on accounted for, but it sounds like they have now been all been accounted for one way or another.
In terms of just the wreckage of the scene had -- I mean is it -- how does it compare to things you've seen in the past? What was the -- I mean, the extent of the collapse here.
NEAL: Looking at the area where this particular structure is it's in a smaller industrial complex with other industrial buildings around it. There is a John Deere dealership that's directly across the street that had a big impact from the tornado and some other accessory buildings that are in this complex that clearly the candle factory took the direct hit from the tornado. And from our advantage point from here in the industrial complex, we can clearly see the tornado path that went through Mayfield, Kentucky, and you can see the damage that it left behind.
COOPER (on-camera): Yes, it's extraordinary to see it up close. Chief Thomas Neal, I really appreciate your time and all your team's efforts. Thank you so much.
NEAL: Thank you.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: The chief reminded me by the way I first met him 16 years ago in the early days Hurricane Katrina the day or second day after the storm hit. He was involved in rescue operations there. They do extraordinary work. So many teams on the ground here.
Although much of the focus has been on Mayfield and the candle factory, this is not the only place of course where people are suffering. Our Gary Tuchman was one of the first reporters to reach the town of Bremen, Kentucky, when he found has that close knit community in shock. Will take you there next.
COOPER: As the search for survivors continues here in Mayfield, some remarkable stories have been emerging about those who made it. Kyanna Parsons-Perez was trapped with coworkers inside the candle factory. After calling 911, she says she began live streaming from beneath what she says a rescuer told her was about five feet of rubble, trying to bring more help.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KYANNA PARSONS-PEREZ, CANDLE FACTORY SURVIVOR: We are trapped. Please you all get us in help. We're at the candle factory in Mayfield. Please. Please.
You all. Please send us some help. Somebody please send us some help. We are trapped. The wall is stuck on me. Nobody can get to us. You all. Please. We can't move. (INAUDIBLE) calm down. You all, please you all pray for us. Just get somebody to come and help us.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Well she made it out. And Saturday was her birthday, which she and her co-worker in this town has endured has become the focus of national attention. And as I mentioned earlier the tramp -- the town of Bremen less so despite at least 11 fatalities in the area, our Gary Tuchman is on the scene there. Here's what he found.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tornado tore white through the small town of Bremen, Kentucky were only a few 100 people live. The twister left dead and injured within the town limits and nearby parts of Muhlenberg County.
(on-camera): And you know all these people
ALEX PIPER, DEPUTY SHERIFF, MUHLENBERG COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: I do.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Alex Piper is a deputy sheriff with the Muhlenberg County Sheriff's Department, and a lifelong resident here.
PIPER: I think at this point right here that most of us are all still in shock.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Much of Bremen has been destroyed or damaged. This was a neighborhood of many homes, but now it's almost as if the houses evaporated. No evidence a home was ever here. In other areas you see rubble, and some of what was inside the house, like kitchen appliances, but no sign of the kitchen. And schoolbooks, art project, stuffed animals, reminders of the horror that so many children in their families experienced late Friday night.
And other parts of Bremen houses still stand, but are demolished inside. Joe Gish is a farmer who lives in town. He says his house is OK. But --
(on-camera): Do your brother and his wife live in this house?
JOE GISH, BREMEN, KY RESIDENT Yes, they did.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): You knew they weren't here because they have a premature baby and they were at the hospital.
GISH: Yes, sir. Yes.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): When you came here and saw this house, she must have been so eternally grateful that they were not here.
GISH: I was eternally grateful. But after about an hour of just being through this, I hit the ground, I passed out. I just, you know, it was just too much.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Profound emotional turmoil is something everyone we talked to is going through here. Because of how tight knit this community is.
PIPER: Age range is from the loss of life here has been from, you know, five months old to folks in their 70s.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): How quickly all this damage occurred it's absolutely stunning. When people suffer this kind of damage during a hurricane, it typically takes hours of winds and rain. But the people who experienced this, say it all happened within one or two minutes.
(voice-over): The shock that this happened to Bremen and Muhlenberg County will eventually go away. But the sadness and grief will be part of the fabric of this community for generations.
PIPER: I actually saw a Facebook post earlier someone was talking about an hour or something they a conversation had an hour before one of their friends had passed, you know, and I was just said is it still hadn't -- still not sinking in.
COOPER: And Gary joins us now from Bremen. I mean, that's what, you know, what you point out it's so true about the speed of this tornado. I mean, it's, you know, in some cases its 20 seconds or less than a minute or so and so much devastation.
TUCHMAN: That's right, Anderson. I mean, it was stunning to the people live here. You know, the searching here for missing people is now over because everyone is accounted for there is nobody missing. That is the positive news. That being said, Anderson, the death toll of 11 could still climb because there are at least two residents here who are in the hospital in critical condition. And also in the hospital are the mother and father of that little baby who died. The little baby the deputy mentioned (INAUDIBLE) --
COOPER: Oh my god.
COOPER: Our thoughts, our prayers are with them tonight. Gary, thank you.
Coming up, we'll talk to the pastor who took shelter with his family in his church basement as his is church in this town were devastated by the tornado. What he experienced, next.
COOPER: Well as we reported earlier, the death toll from the tornadoes here in Kentucky has risen to 74 with 109 still unaccounted for. As the storm battered this small town Mayfield where we are tonight, one pastor to cover with his family in his church basement. It was obviously a terrifying ordeal. Here's what he told The Washington Post.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WES FOWLER, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, MAYFIELD, KY: You could hear people screaming, cries for help, couldn't tell where they were where it was coming from. Power lines down buildings down, debris in the street, resembled what I think a warzone would look.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: But take a look at this. The cross that stands above the church entrance survived the storm, even as the glass shattered around it. The pastor of that church is with us now Reverend Wes Fowler of First Baptist Church in Mayfield. Pastor, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate you're here.
FOWLER: Thank you so much. Thank you for being here.
COOPER: Thank you. First of all, how's your family doing?
FOWLER: Family's doing OK.
COOPER: Yes. FOWLER: You know, we had a few scary moments on Friday night, but --
COOPER: Your kids are 12, eight and --
FOWLER: Twelve, eight and six.
COOPER: -- and six. So, I mean how -- you're down in the basement, it's pitch black, I imagined.
FOWLER: That's right, Powers off.
COOPER: How -- I mean, how did the kids -- its got to be terrified?
FOWLER: Yes, well, we actually were, we were home first. And we got the news that the weather was getting bad. And so, then we came to the church to get to the basement because we thought that would be safer.
COOPER: It's a strong building.
FOWLER: Yes. And we actually have a tunnel, there's only tunnel in Gravess County and, and we saw it connects our facilities underground. And we went in that tunnel under the road and thinking that would be the safest place to be. And, and we heard the weather getting worse. And then we could hear something that was very not normal. And power was out. And we took cover. And then the ceiling tiles started shaking and shifting and dust started filling the room and debris started filling and we got against the wall.
And basically I laid on my family to hopefully protect them and my youth pastor laid on top of his family.
COOPER: You were literally laying on them, covering them with your body.
FOWLER: My wife was covering my daughter and I was covering my two sons.
COOPER: Gosh. And I understand there's a time when your wife thought maybe you weren't going to make it.
FOWLER: Absolutely. Yes. If she were here now she would tell you that there was definitely moments. We were telling our kids everything was going to be OK. Everything's going to be fine. In our minds, we're thinking we're not sure that we're going to make it out.
COOPER: You weren't even sure?
FOWLER: Yes, it was. It was a very difficult moment. There's no doubt.
COOPER: Wow. And when -- how long did that last? I mean that the worst part, how long did it?
FOWLER: You know, I think it lasted probably 30 seconds to a minute.
COOPER: That's (INAUDIBLE).
FOWLER: But it felt like a lot longer.
COOPER: Isn't it incredible that you come out and you see what can be done in 30 seconds to a minute?
FOWLER: It's hard to believe. We walk outside and I had my flashlight and I was actually I was confused, you know, I'm born and raised here I know this town well. And it just -- it wasn't the same like the landscape wasn't the same. It was very, very odd and confusing.
COOPER: Yes. What do you -- how is the church?
FOWLER: Church is OK, we've been making phone calls last couple days. Now, I'm guessing when you say church, you're talking about the people because we have a building. And that's the facility where the church meets.
FOWLER: You know, the facilities in pretty, pretty rough shape. The church is resilient. The believers, those who placed their faith in Christ, they, they're doing OK, we've been checking on them all day today, and all day yesterday. And they've got damage, some they've lost their homes. We had one that passed away in the storm. And so that's difficult. But I think they're doing OK.
COOPER: I like the distinction you make between the building and the church itself.
FOWLER: And the building can be replaced.
COOPER: What is your -- I mean there's so many people in pain tonight. You know, people have lost loved ones, what is your message to them?
FOWLER: I hope it's a message of hope. I've been telling our church members this when times are good, it's really easy to be a follower of Christ. And it's easy to do what the Scriptures tell us to do to love one another, to be patient with one another to forgive one another. Because we've been forgiven in Christ of our sins. It's easy when times are good. But when times are bad, and when it's difficult, and we're suffering, I think this is when the world's watching. And I think this is where we have to live out our faith and be the people in Christ that we're called to be. And we're supposed to be.
COOPER: I have to tell you, I've met so many just kind decent people today, who are helping out strangers who are doing whatever needs to be done around here. I mean, it's kind of -- it's remarkable.
FOWLER: Welcome to Mayfield.
FOWLER: That's --
COOPER: That's what its like. FOWLER: That's our town.
FOWLER: It really is.
COOPER: Wow. And do -- and you're going to rebuild the structure, you're going to.
FOWLER: Yes. So fortunately, our structure is possibly going to be saved it looks like and we might be the only large building downtown that doesn't have to be been torn down. Interestingly, our building is the largest cross and forms the largest cross in Graves County, (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: And it's there.
FOWLER: It's right there.
COOPER: Still standing.
FOWLER: Yes, everything else may crumble, but the cross is going to stand.
COOPER: Pastor, it's a pleasure.
FOWLER: Thank you.
COOPER: I think I wish you and your congregation (INAUDIBLE) your family.
FOWLER: Thank you so much.
COOPER: Thank you. Pastor Wes Fowler.
Up next, people here and what happens next.
COOPER: We want to thank the people may feel Kentucky for having us in there community. And as I said to the pastor have met so many extraordinary people today and they are really binding together reaching out to each other. As for telling and thank them for telling us their stories here in Dawson Springs, as well in Bremen, there are other places around the state and the entire region where people are suffering tonight. And our thoughts are with them.
If you want to help them go to cnn.com/impact to find out. Again that cnn.com/impact.
The news continues. Let's hand it over to Michael Smerconish in "CNN TONIGHT." Michael.