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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Top Leader Dead In U.S. Raid On Syria; U.S. Alleges Russia Planning False Flag Operation Against Ukraine Using Graphic Propaganda. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 03, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And the forecast calls for more possibly deadly conditions. It's not going to get above freezing in Indiana and surrounding states until Sunday afternoon.

Thanks so much for watching. Anderson starts now.



Tonight, the very latest in what President Biden calls a testament to the country's reach and capability for eliminating terrorist threats around the globe. A risky pre-dawn raid conducted by elite U.S. forces on a home in Northwest Syria near the Turkish border. When it was over, the leader of ISIS was dead.

In a moment, my conversation with Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby on what went into the planning of it.

First, CNN's Oren Liebermann on how the operation unfolded.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A U.S. raid shattering the overnight hours in Northwest Syria, Special Forces going after the leader of ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi aka Haji Abdullah.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night's operation took a major terrorist leader off the battlefield and has sent a strong message to terrorists around the world, we will come after you and find you.

LIEBERMANN (voice over): President Joe Biden watched from the White House as Special Forces closed in on their target. The helicopters approach the three-storey compound in the middle of the night according to senior administration officials.

Once on the ground, Special Forces warned civilians to clear out evacuating 10 civilians including eight children. Official say al- Qurayshi then blew himself up, killing his wife and children and tearing the top of the building apart.

His lieutenant, one floor below was killed in an exchange of fire with U.S. forces. The Pentagon said a child was also killed on this floor, but wouldn't say how or by whom.

Toward the end of the two-hour operation, officials say two members of an al-Qaeda affiliate were killed in an exchange of fire with U.S. forces. U.S. forces also having to destroy one of the helicopters on the ground after mechanical failures.

Four civilians were killed in all, according to The Pentagon and five combatants that wasn't the plan.

GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, JR., COMMANDER, CENTCOM: And I said capture the leader of ISIS. That was the intent of the mission.

LIEBERMANN (voice over): This raid was the biggest U.S. operation in Syria since the operation to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019, the original leader of ISIS.

Al-Qurayshi's background is a bit of a mystery. His exact birthplace and birth date unclear. He was in US detention in 2008 before he was turned over to the Iraqis, and at some point, released. In March 2020, the State Department labeled him a specially designated global terrorist with a $10 million reward.

BIDEN: He was responsible for the recent brutal attack on a prison in Northeast Syria holding ISIS fighters. He was the driving force behind the genocide of the Yasidi people in northwestern Iraq in 2014.

LIEBERMANN (voice over): Al-Qurayshi never left the third floor of the building in Northwest Syria except to bathe on the roof officials said. By early December, Intelligence officials believe they had pinpointed his location and Biden authorized the operation.

The White House called his death a blow to ISIS, but the terror organization is still suffering from the defeat of its self-declared Caliphate in 2019 has plans to rebuild.


LIEBERMANN (on camera): At this point, we are 24 hours after the operation, but there remain a number of unanswered questions including this discrepancy. The Pentagon says there were a total of nine killed as part of this operation, while the white helmets on the ground in Syria say there were 13. So that discrepancy needs to at some point be resolved. We certainly expect more information about this.

Anderson, U.S. officials say the next leader of ISIS will face the same fate.

COOPER: Oren Liebermann, appreciate it.

I want to get perspective now from Pentagon spokesman and retired Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby. I spoke to him shortly before airtime.

Admiral, thanks for joining us how long was this strike against ISIS in the planning stages? And what led to the decision to carry it out last night, can you say? REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.) PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY Yes, this was

several months in planning. I mean, going back into the fall, well into the fall here, Anderson and it was really built up over a while looking at the Intelligence from a different variety of sources to help us make sure that we had the right person and we have the right compound. And of course, to your question, the right time.

And timing is always a factor with respect to things you can't necessarily control like the weather, and the moonlight, and that kind of thing. You want to do these kinds of things at nighttime. So there were a couple of times where we thought we might be able to go a little earlier and just the conditions weren't right.

Last night, the conditions were perfect. The opportunity was there and we took it.

COOPER: ISIS may have lost this leader, but as we've seen in the past, you know, other leaders pop up. What kind of capabilities do they still have as an organization either in the region or their ability to pursue attacks outside of Syria?

KIRBY: Make no mistakes that ISIS is a much more degraded organization than they were in 2014. They have definitely lost a lot of their resourcing, a lot of their authorities and certainly a lot of their capabilities.


That said and we have seen this over the last year or so, they have been trying to reconstitute, trying to grow, trying to get stronger, trying to metastasize outside the region. And certainly, we have seen indications that they have designs on attacking the West and even our homeland.

And Haji Abdullah was a very hands on leader unlike his predecessor, al-Baghdadi, who was more of a policy guy. Abdullah was involved actually in helping direct operations. So he was very animated, to reconstitute and to sort of lead a resurgence of ISIS. So this is a big blow for them.

But you're right, look, we're not doing a victory dance here. No victory laps. We know that we've got to stay focused on ISIS. We know that they still have designs to kill and to maim and to terrorize, and there will likely be another leader appointed by them and so we're going to stay focused on the threat.

COOPER: We've seen also groups pledging allegiance to ISIS pop up and there is a whole conflict in the Sahel in West Africa; also, there's been fighting in Mozambique, now the Rwandan military is involved trying to combat. How centralized is ISIS and some of these options that we're seeing in Africa and elsewhere? Are they just pledging allegiance? Or do they actually have contact and support from ISIS Central?

KIRBY: Yes, they do have splinter groups that sort of proclaim loyalty and allegiance to ISIS, but kind of go their own way, both geographically, and sometimes in the method of their attacks and what the goals they are trying to achieve and wherever the area is. That's what we mean by metastasization, so they're sort of under the umbrella of ISIS, they sort of espouse the same extreme ideology and violence.

But they often pursue their goals in different ways based on where they are. I mean, we see that in Afghanistan, for instance, you have ISIS Khorasan, ISIS-K, which was responsible for that terrible attack on the abbey gate there at the Kabul Airport.

And so again, what we saw with Abdullah was a chance to sort of provide not only an overarching structure for the large organization, but to be more directly involved in operations.

COOPER: Are you concerned about a retaliatory strike from ISIS?

KIRBY: We are always watching for threats by ISIS. I don't really have any -- we don't have any indication right now that there's some sort of retaliation in the offing, but we'll be watching this very, very closely. Obviously, we're going to do what we need to do to protect ourselves and protect our allies and partners.

COOPER: We also have learned today that the United States has intelligence that the Russian government has been planning to produce a propaganda video that would show a fake attack against Russia, a video that they could then use as a pretext to invade Ukraine. Can you tell us anything about the nature of this intelligence and what's behind the decision reveal it today?

KIRBY: Like all kinds of things with intelligence, first of all, we want to be careful with how much detail we put out there. But it's usually a collection of sources, a collection of material that lead us to a conclusion, and we've been watching this for a while and this is right out of the Russian playbook. They've done this before.

They did it in 2014, where they try to create a false pretext for some sort of action. We believe that the information was credible enough to share at least parts of it with the public in the hopes that we can call out Russia for what we know they're going to try to do.

They've already in the information space, just in the public information space, Anderson, they are already making claims against the Ukrainian government is being aggressive or violating the human rights of Russian speaking Ukrainian citizens. I mean, they're already trying to create this narrative that Ukraine and the Western support to Ukraine is a threat to their National Security.

COOPER: I don't know what term the Pentagon would use, but where do you see the likelihood of an actual invasion by military forces? I know the word imminent has been bandied about and not used by the White House lately, for obvious reasons.

KIRBY: We've been saying it and we still believe in, Anderson that, number one, he continues to increase his capabilities militarily along the border with Ukraine and in Belarus. And that means he increases to -- he continues to increase his options, his options for military use.

So what we've said here at The Pentagon is, he could move any day, and that's the way we're looking at it.

COOPER: To that point, there is Russian true buildup along the border of Ukraine, including a large deployment in Belarus. NATO estimates, it will ultimately number some 30,000 soldiers.

So while Ukraine is not a NATO member, Poland which borders Belarus is a NATO member, how concerned is the Pentagon about the Russian presence in Belarus?

KIRBY: We are watching that with deep concern, because it does again give Mr. Putin more options, certainly against Ukraine. But it is very close to a NATO ally on the Eastern Flank of NATO and that is why we announced that we're going to be sending some extra troops from Germany to Romania.

We've also announced that we're going to be sending some troops to Poland. We're in constant touch with our Polish counterparts. The Secretary spoke to the Minister of Defense there just a few days ago.

All the Eastern flank nations have expressed these concerns. We're seeing the same things that they are and we're continuing to talk to them about perhaps additional capabilities they might need from the United States to help bolster their defenses.


COOPER: Admiral John Kirby, appreciate your time. Thank you.

KIRBY: Yes, sir.

COOPER: We're going to have a live report from Moscow coming up and talk to the C.I.A.'s former head of Russia operations. Returning though to ISIS, we're joined by someone who has written perhaps the definitive book on it. He is "Washington Post" national security reporter Joby Warrick, author of Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS," which is a great read.

His latest report in "The Post" is headlined "Islamic States ghostlike leader was plotting comeback when U.S. commandos cornered him."

So Joby, so what kind of a comeback was this leader planning?

JOBY WARRICK, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, ISIS has been flailing for a couple of years ever since the defeat of the Caliphate back in 2019. It has been struggling to get its footing in Syria and Iraq. It was having successes, but some of its regional affiliates, especially in Africa, they were able to have military victories and take over territory, but not so much in Iraq and Syria, where it all got started.

They were making small raids against police stations and that sort of thing, but then just in the last few months, you see ISIS becoming much more ambitious, much more aggressive, so they're really trying to get something together.

And just as this happens, just as things are starting to coalesce a bit, you have this really dramatic symbolic blow, at least with the death of the leader and that is definitely going to set them back a bit.

COOPER: I mean, you said a symbolic blow -- is it tactically -- I mean, just in terms of the operational capabilities of ISIS, is it a blow?

WARRICK: Well, it's pretty clear that he was involved in the planning, he was sort of the spiritual leader in some ways. At the same time, he was kind of the Invisible Man. He was almost never seen, in fact, never seen since he was appointed as Caliph. That was something that members of ISIS complained about.

He didn't even release the perfunctory audio and video messages that Baghdadi would release from time to time, just to assure people that he was alive and to reassure the troops. Qurayshi did none of that, in fact, he seems to barely ever left his house kind of like Bin Laden in his final days in Abbottabad. But we did find out later that bin Laden was indeed active, involved in planning, involved in sort of the strategic vision for the group.

So there is no question he was involved in that kind of activity, at least from his hideout in Syria.

COOPER: What is ISIS able to carry out outside of Syria in Iraq on Western targets?

WARRICK: Well, one thing they continue to do, in addition to these regional affiliates, some of which are quite impressive, is this messaging operation, which was always core to the Islamic State's mission. They want to project themselves as not just powerful and important, but also appeal to potential followers to do something for them, whether they're members or not, whether they've had official training or pledged allegiance to ISIS, they can motivate people to do bad things, wherever they are, whether it's a young kid who is going to shoot up a shopping center, or somebody who's going to try to blow himself up with the homemade explosives.

That potential has always existed. We see it from time to time. And I think there's a real question of whether right now in retaliation for Qurayshi's death correction is definitely might see some of those kinds of attacks anywhere in the world.

COOPER: Joby Warrick, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

WARRICK: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, a live report from Moscow as a top American security official says the invasion of Ukraine could come at any time and Moscow reacts to allegations it was preparing a video pretext for it, complete with phony Russian casualties, fake mourners, and real corpses.

Later sports and civil rights great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joins us to talk about why the NFL is now down to just one black head coach in the entire league and a former coach's lawsuit alleging discrimination. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COOPER: Some late developments in the Ukraine crisis, a White House National Security official telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer a Russian invasion, in his words, could begin at any time. Also tonight, European diplomats tell CNN that Russian deployments in Belarus are a big worry and that this allows them fast access to the Ukrainian capital less than two hours away.

Also, as we discussed before the break the revelation today and what the Biden administration is saying, the Russians were cooking up a pretext to invade, a video falsely depicting an attack against Russian territory complete according to the report with doctrine military equipment, actors playing the role of mourners and real corpses.

When pressed on it, today's State Department spokesman Ned Price refused to provide evidence to back up the claim. Britain's Foreign Secretary though called the disclosure quote "clear and shocking" evidence of Russia's unprovoked aggression, and underhanded activity to destabilize Ukraine.

As for Moscow, CNN's Nic Robertson is there for us tonight. So, what is the Kremlin's response to this U.S. claim?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Anderson, this is just one more in what is a growing list of accusations that the Kremlin is planning. There were reports of a less specified false flag operation, the British government saying that Putin had a puppet -- a political puppet in mind to put in place to run Ukraine once Russian forces invaded.

On this particular accusation, the Russian Ambassador to the European Union said no, this is not us. We're not doing this. He said there is no logical reason for Russia to try to invent or fabricate something like this.

If you listen to the media here, certainly the way that the media is playing the story here, it is playing high the possibility that Ukraine would attack Russian-backed separatists in the East. There's the scope there for a false flag operation to be used. The scope and space is there. The public is told that this is where a clash could come, but an absolute categorical denial from Russian officials this evening -- Anderson.


COOPER: What world leaders is Putin actually talking to right now? And what kind of engagement is there with him by with other nations?

ROBERTSON: I have to say, absolutely fascinating today. He met in person with the Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez. And remember, just the day -- two days before, he had met with his big European buddy, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister. When he met with Orban, they sat at opposite ends of a long table. When they gave a joint press conference, they were many meters, many feet apart giving the briefing.

When he met the Argentinian President today, there was first a handshake, and then they were hugging. I think perhaps the most important diplomatic call he had today, though, was with the French President, the third that he's had in in less than a week now and with Emmanuel Macron. According to the Kremlin, the Kremlin pushed for long term legally binding guarantees that will address their security concerns and Macron from the Elysee Palace, his office in Paris, they said that he was searching for a diplomatic way to address the security situation and deescalate tensions.

It doesn't appear that there is a meeting of minds, but this is a third call in less than a week, and that is quite significant. Macron call today, the Polish President, the Ukrainian President. He called President Biden last night that he says he is talking to a lot of other European leaders. Macron seems to be Putin's preferred engagement person on this security issue in Ukraine.

COOPER: And Putin and President Xi of China are meeting tomorrow.

ROBERTSON: They are, in fact, Putin is on his way there now. And if anything, this offers Putin a couple of things here, one that he gets to kind of grandstand on the world stage and show him as an important leader, and everyone is sort of still waiting for him to give his response to the U.S. letter and the NATO letter last week.

He also gets to strike some business deals with the Chinese leader. We heard from the Kremlin today saying there were as many as 14 or 15 different deals on the table that they could sign and of course, you know, Putin is facing huge international sanctions, deals with China could help him get around that. There could be conversations even of longer term financial mechanisms to get both nations out from fiscal pressures coming from the United States.

But you know, he's got to watch his step, I suppose with President Xi and China because remember, when he invaded Ukraine back in 2014, annexed Crimea, sanctions were put on Putin. Putin went to make a gas deal with Xi in China, he got a $400 billion gas deal, but it was terms that were favorable to the Chinese and not to President Putin.

One of the things they're talking about now is the second gas pipeline coming from Siberia. But you know, the trades here, there is something in it for Xi, but for Putin, it is that world stage and it is a possibility to find some economic solace facing what could be big sanctions if he invades Ukraine.

COOPER: Nic Robertson in Moscow. Appreciate it, Nic. Thanks.

I want to turn next to Steve Hall who served as Chief of Russia Operations at the CIA. So Steve, how typical is it for Russia to lay a groundwork like this, as according to this reporting is pretext for an invasion?

STEVE HALL, FORMER CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS AT THE C.I.A.: Yes, Anderson, the Russians approach warfare in sort of a different way than we do. They see as a much more holistic type of thing, so it is not just how many boots on the ground, how many rifles in arms. They look at things they refer to as active measures. To us, that means things like cyber, preparing for the battlespace attacking cyber infrastructure.

Propaganda efforts are -- they have always excelled since the times of Lenin and even before. Propaganda, whether it's a written word or whether in this most recent case, it's actually you know, video types of things. But the thing that concerns me most is the line that the Russians put out there with regard to Russians in Ukraine.

Putin has in the past said things like, well, wherever there are Russians, there is Russia. And so what he has a tendency to do is to try to justify to the West, which if you're a Westerner, you kind of think well, maybe he's got a point here. And he's going to say things like, you know, the Russians that live in the eastern part of Ukraine, it is genocide by this Nazi regime in Kyiv and so we need to go in there. We need to attack to protect our Russian brothers and sisters.

And that is an escalation, that is a reason that he wants the West to believe why he can go in -- it gives him the right essentially, the obligation some would say to go in and do this. That's what they're really good at.

COOPER: And already Russian politicians, or some are accusing Kyiv of systematically denying local residents their basic rights.

HALL: Yes, and that's going to be part of that whole -- you know that whole story, if you will, that he is going to sell, not only domestically to Russians that, you know, it makes a lot of sense to Russians on the streets in Moscow and other places: Oh, there's Russians there who were being treated poorly by local government and by others, or even by NATO forces. And so you know, we need to go in and do something about that.


The other thing that's very clever about this is, Putin and the Kremlin have not forgotten when the West, in their view, or in their propaganda view, have done the same thing. You've already heard it when they talk about Kosovo, and I guarantee you, you're going to hear it in the future.

Isn't that exactly what NATO did with Kosovo when they went in and took it away from Serbia because there was some supposed genocide, so they're going to throw that back in the West's face as to say, you see if you guys do this, we can do it, too. It's very clever.

COOPER: Are there any off ramps to deescalate this, in your view? I mean, Vladimir Putin is, you know, we've heard now he's had several conversations with France's President.

HALL: You know, it is interesting to watch this whole thing sort of unfold in slow motion. You know, you'll recall, you know, not too many weeks ago, we were all saying: Well, it's just a matter of days or it's going to happen soon. There is going to be a full force invasion of Ukraine. And then, you know, people like myself and others were saying, well,

there's just not a whole lot of room for dialogue here. And yet, the dialogue continues. He keeps taking the phone calls. You know, Macron calls, he picks up the phone. President Biden calls, you know, and of course, it's easy to have a conversation between he and Orban, Putin and Orban because they have a lot in common.

But I would say that those are positive signs. You've got him talking. And if there were absolutely no reason to talk, and if he were absolutely convinced, then perhaps there's another way out of this.

So I think we'll have to watch it continue to unfold, even though it's frustrating that it does so slowly.

COOPER: Steve Hall, appreciate it. Thank you.

HALL: Sure.

COOPER: Up next, we'll speak with New York City Mayor Eric Adams following his discussions with President Biden today and the violence that has been plaguing the city and the nation.



COOPER: York City was gripped by a heartbreaking scene yesterday. His NYPD officer Wilbert Mora was laid to rest after being shot and killed along with his colleague Jason Rivera while responding to a domestic violence call last month. According to the NYPD, there's been a sharp rise in shooting incidents in the city up more than 32% last month compared to the previous year. Now the rise in crime is one of the reasons that President Biden came to the city today visited police headquarters to discuss efforts to combat gun violence.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Every day in this country, 316 people are shot 106 are killed, and six NYPD officers have been victims of gun violence, so far, just this year. Sixty four children injured by gun violence so far this year, 26 killed. It's enough. Enough is enough, because we know we can do things about this.


COOPER: Well the President also spoke with New York City Mayor and retired NYPD Captain Eric Adams, who was elected in part on a promise to reduce violent crime that's over on the city of the past couple of years there. Mayor Adams is here with us now.

Mr. Mayor, thanks for being with us. I'm wondering how you're meeting with the President went today and how effective you think his proposals for stopping gun violence could actually be?

ERIC ADAMS (D-NY) MAYOR: It went well, and I really want to thank the President, Ambassador Rice, as well as the attorney general, because this was a promise that was made immediately after I got elected to a new primary. And I asked them to come to the city and see what the crisis management teams are doing on the ground and assist us in getting proper funding something he's calling Congress to do. But I also asked at that time, to have a 911 type response to the terror of violence in our city similar to what we did during international terrorism that took down now two towers, and he responded.

And in August, there was an initiative put in place by the New York City Police Department that collaborated with ATF, FBI, parole, probation NYPD, and he witnessed today how well that has been taking place. But we need the federal government to stop the flow of guns into our cities across America.

COOPER: Do you think -- I mean, there's been criticism, the president for not talking enough and focusing enough on whether it's gun violence or just crime in the United States, because it's not just New York City, obviously, we've seen rises in crime over the last couple of years across the country. And the President has talked about it from time to time, but really not with a huge amount of focus. It was obviously a big focus of your campaign. What do you want to see happen in this city, as an example, in the next six to eight months?

ADAMS: You know, Anderson, this has been really an embarrassment throughout the years, unfolding on our streets every day, places like Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, we were witnessing this violence that was isolated to black and brown communities. And it was as though no one saw this crisis. We talked about assault rifles. But we never talked about the handguns, that was really carving highways of death in the communities of color across America. This President has taken a different direction. He took his spotlight, and he stated that we're going to look at this gun violence, and we're not going to allow it to continue.

What we need in the next couple of months, both locally and on the federal level is to reexamine some of the laws that we've passed. I continue to say there are many rivers that feed the sea of violence in our country. And the federal government plays a role. If we can get the federal government to find ATF to the level that they can identify the source of these guns. We will go a long way because NYPD is doing their job. We took 6,000 guns off the street last year close to 400 this year, but we need to stop the flow as I Institute my plans of putting in place a plainclothes, anti-gun unit or a modified police uniform anti-gun unit in playing vehicles as well as procedure policing.


COOPER: How much of that you know call by protesters to defund the police, which is obviously not something you have supported, nor is President Biden ever supported. But that call, which did gain a lot of popularity among hundreds of thousands of people protesting the streets, obviously was a politically one thing, but it certainly, you know, was not popular among police officers, it, there's been a really drop in morale.

And even all those calls about, you know, police shouldn't respond when somebody is in a mental health crisis. It should be a mental health counselor, I -- from what I've read of the killing the two officers just recently they were responding to a domestic call from a mom who was having trouble with her son, no mention of firearms involved, and they got there, and he came out of the bedroom with guns blazing.

ADAMS: Anderson, this is what happened, you know, I spent my life work dealing with performing policing, you've interviewed me over the years when I talked about police reform.


ADAMS: I testified in federal court, the abuse of stop and frisk. So you know, I believe wholeheartedly in reform. But when you do reform, you can't ignore public safety. We witness individuals who only push reform and ignored public safety, both parties must be in a room, we need to have the justice we deserve. But the safety we need, and we need to tweak some of the legislation that we have witnessed to take into account the public safety aspect of it.

And then we can't have cities Anderson when people are walking into stores, taken off the shelves, whatever they want, without paying and then selling it on the internet because of organized crime methods. You can't have people on your subway systems on your streets that have mental health illnesses and unable to take care of themselves. You are watching the erosion of American cities, because there's a mindset in our cities that any and everything is goes there is no form of order. This is unacceptable. And too many young people believe it is permissible in OK, all right to carry a firearm, because that's the tone we have set. And we have to stop that tone.

COOPER: Mayor Eric Adams, appreciate talking to you. Thank you.

ADAMS: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, I'll talk to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he joins me live. We'll look at the former NFL head coach during the league claiming racial discrimination. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's question is what took so long? More on that ahead.



COOPER: Tonight, the NFL faces more disturbing allegations from former head coaches Hugh Jackson coach of Cleveland Browns until 2018. He now says the team's owner paid him quote, substantial money to lose games in order to get a better draft pick. The Browns call that categorically false.

Meanwhile, that Miami Dolphins owners refuting a similar claim by their former head coach Brian Flores who claims he was offered bribes of up to $100,000 a game. Flores is now suing the league.

But as we reported here last night, his accusations go much further. He says a pattern of racism against black coaches exists. Well 58% of NFL players last season were black there were only three black head coaches. With the recent firings of floors and another black head coach the league is down to just one.

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has spent more than half a century calling out what he seizes injustice and his latest column for Substack, he writes what took so long, I'm not referring specifically to Flores' lawsuit but to making public the racism inherent in the NFL.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joins me now. Thank you so much for being with us.

Let's talk about the Flores lawsuit. First the allegations of racism, what do you think is behind the lack of black people in management and head coaching positions in the NFL.

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, NBA HALL OF FAMER: I think that it has a lot to do with familiarity and just having a go on, go ahead, it's been going along because the NFL makes a lot of money and they don't see the need to open the doors to minorities. They think things have gone very well as they have.

COOPER: I mean, there are problems in throughout industry throughout companies of a lack of diversity at the very top of the corporate pyramid. What's particularly noticeable then what you point out in your article in Substack is that it's not as if there's a dearth of black employees in the NFL, there are people who have most of the players I mean, are black and have experienced what working on a football team and know what it's like. And you would think in that industry, it would be easier to have people moving up from after their playing yours move up through management.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Almost 60% of the players in the NFL are black or some other person of color. And the fact that there are so many of them that have stood on the sidelines, Eric Bieniemy and Tony Dungy for two examples were very successful guiding teams to the Super Bowl and winning. So, I mean, where is the culprit? Where does the guilt lie in not being able to hire more people of minority status?

The NBA has tried it and it's been very successful for them. Coaching, assistant coaching, people working in the financial aspects of the team, women reps, all these are considered controversial. And the NBA continues to thrive and attract a bigger and bigger audience. So I don't think the NFL has a foot to stand on in answering these questions, it's been way too long. And they should do something about it.


COOPER: It's interesting also that this is also against the backdrop of criticism of President Biden over saying he is looking for a black woman to fill a seat on the Supreme Court. And there's a lot of folks on Republicans, mostly saying, well, you shouldn't specify like that it should be whoever is the most qualified. But certainly in the NFL, there are lots of people who are qualified, who are black, and it doesn't seem like they are being considered at the same rate by the predominantly white owners. I mean, the floor is alleges he was interviewed for the Giants for their head coach position after they'd already offered the position to someone else. And he alleges they did to fulfill the -- their Rooney rule requirements, which the Rooney rule is, is to make sure that women and minorities have a fair shot at coaching in front office positions, the Giants deny this claim.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I think the Giants just checked the box, you know, they did you are interview any minority candidates. And they checked the box, they interview one or two minority candidates, and they move on and do what they've always been doing. And somebody had to call him out on it. And, you know, coach floors, risks, everything, you know, his own career, but it's bigger than it's bigger than coaching. You know, this is about how we live in America, and something should be done about it.

COOPER: And just lastly, Flores and as I mentioned, Hugh Jackson, who coached the Cleveland Browns until 2018 allege they were offering money to lose games on purpose. What are your reaction to those claims is?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, you know, when you we hear reports like that, you immediately start to think of the integrity of the game, and the people who make decisions that affect how the game is perceived, and how the game is given so much, so much of the spotlight, you know, this past weekend with the games, for the division titles, it was just totally dominant on the airwaves. It's very successful business.


ABDUL-JABBAR: But it has to really show that it cares about all of the people that are involved in it, not just a select few who have a lot of power.

COOPER: Yes. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It's always a pleasure. Thank you so much.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Great talking to you.

COOPER: Yes, great talking to you.

Coming up next, we're going to continue this conversation former New York Giants great Tiki Barber is going to join us to talk about race in the NFL and the allegations Brian Flores has made against Barber's former team.

Plus, just ahead plexiglass barriers may represent part of the new normal when it comes to fighting COVID. They're in restaurants you see them businesses elsewhere. But do they actually work? Randi Kaye joins us with some answers.



COOPER: The White House is cautiously promoting the idea that we may soon enter a new normal where we coexist with the coronavirus even as we return to something like our pre COVID lives. The Surgeon General told CNN he's more optimistic than ever may happen. For many that would mean fewer mask and mask mandates, but it also means something that we didn't see much of before the pandemic, those plexiglass barriers at restaurants and schools and businesses.

Are they actually effective though? How well do they work without masking?

Our Randi Kaye tonight has some answers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside this lab at Florida Atlantic University, two engineering professors are simulating a cough to see how coronavirus droplets may spread in the workplace and other real world situations. This mannequins mouth is filled with water and glycerin. A pump forces it to expel the mixture similar to a cough. A green laser captures the droplets in the air. The professor's aren't so concerned about the big droplets that fall to the ground. It's the smaller aerosolized droplets that linger in the air that pose the greatest risk.

To simulate the real world the professor's use a plexiglass screen similar to those found inside many offices, retail stores, nail salons and airports nationwide. When the mannequin coughs, the screen traps most of the larger particles, so the person on the other side may avoid a direct hit. But those smaller aerosolized particles still escape around the sides and over the top.

MANHAR DHANAK, PROFESSOR OF OCEAN ENGINEERING, FLORIDA ATLANTIN UNIV.: This does not go up 100% the (INAUDIBLE) of these droplets to the other side, but it reduces the number that go through.

KAYE (voice-over): Professor Manhar Dhanak, says the screens reduce the droplet concentration by about 80%. So the viral load is much lower, and the cost stream may not go as far with the screen.

When we visited this lab earlier in the pandemic to test the power of a cough without a plexiglass screen, droplets traveled as far as 12 feet with nothing to stop them. But even with this screen, lighter aerosolized droplets can accumulate in the air.

DHANAK: It can linger for seven, eight minutes.

KAYE (voice-over): The professor's found masking can help stop the spread when used along with the plexiglass screen, but it has to be a high quality mask. When we tried a simple cloth mask, this happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.

KAYE (voice-over): Most of the droplets got through. And while the screens can help protect you, Professor Dhanak says too many of them in one room can block airflow and put people at risk. (on-camera): Now this type of setup simulates in office environment, it's a plexiglass desk with three sides you might also find this in the classroom. The question is if somebody coughs will it stop the spread. So let's turn up the lights and find out.


(voice-over): The three sided screen helps contain a significant portion of the droplets most swirl within.

(on-camera): So the screen also slows down the force of the cough check.

DHANAK: Yes, exactly that.

KAYE (voice-over): Still, he warns if the air in the room is flowing toward the source of the cough, there could be a back draft effect. In that case, the virus trapped behind the desk would be pushed further backward toward those seated behind the person who coughed.

With the workplace desk setup, we try to high quality N95 masks to see if it helped. The droplets went straight up in the air through the small gap at the bridge of the nose proof a well-fitted mask is key.

(on-camera): Droplets going up is better than them being propelled forward, though, right?


KAYE (on-camera): So that shows that that N95 made a difference.

DHANAK: It -- yes, it does make a difference.


COOPER: And Randi joins us now. So, with all that said to the professor's recommend these lexiglass screens?

KAYE: Well, Anderson, they think they have potential, but they certainly think that more testing needs to be done, because in that lab that they work in, it's a very controlled environment, nobody moves during those tests. But in the real world, people would be moving around in a workplace, they would be moving around in a retail store, so the airflow would change. The course of the airflow would change in that environment. Also, the droplets would behave differently in that environment. So that's why they want to do more testing in the real world.

But overall, they think the screens are a good idea as long as they are built properly. Professor Dhanak thinks they need to be at least three feet high. And for all of this to come together and work well in the real world he says, we really need four things. We need good ventilation, masking, even though those screens are being used. He also says those desks need to be spread out and staggered in the room. And of course, some very well designed plexiglass screens, Anderson.

COOPER: Randi, appreciate it. Thanks.

We have so much more ahead tonight, including an update from Capitol Hill, and which age (ph) the former Vice President are talking to the January 6 committee and what we know about their testimony.