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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Interview With Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Trump DOJ Official Cooperating With Justice Department's Criminal January 6 Probe; Compromise Bill Targets Energy, Climate And Healthcare; At Least Eight Dead In Kentucky, After Heavy Rain And Flash Floods Devastate Parts Of The US; Russian Arms Dealer At The Center Of A Proposed Prisoner Exchange; Families Of 9/11 Victims Feel 'Infuriated, Hurt' and 'Let Down' By Pro Golfers Involvement In Liv Golf Series. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 28, 2022 - 20:00   ET


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So Jim, as this war continues to drag on, the question becomes what happens to those displaced people who don't have friends or family to rely on?

I mean, at one point when we were out there today, we saw some folks who were forced to live on a train simply because they had no place else to go.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: So many families suffering.

Jason Carroll in Kyiv, thanks so much.

And thanks so much for all of you for joining us.

AC 360 starts right now.



There are major new January 6 developments tonight in both the House Select Committee's investigation and the Justice Department's criminal probe.

First, the Select Committee and the key members of the former administration, who are now cooperating with it or could be about to. We're talking about former Cabinet level officials with firsthand knowledge of what the former President was saying.

Last night in the program, we talked about pieces of a puzzle, then these could be significant ones, because these are men who could speak if they choose about what the former President was asking their departments to do, or even what some of them were reportedly discussing among themselves about using their own constitutional power to stop the President.

What those who talked already have said to the Committee and what others might say, we just don't know. But what they could say, given the positions they held and what they were privy to is potentially formidable. They include former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who we first

reported last night is expected to sit down with the House Select Committee perhaps as soon as this week.

Also former Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin who we learned just today has already been interviewed by the Committee. Sources also telling us that negotiations are underway with the former Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, for a sit down with him; and finally, there's former acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who we spoke with earlier this week on the program. He was spotted on his way out after speaking with the Committee today.

Mulvaney as you know, was serving as Envoy in Northern Ireland when the Capitol was attacked and quit in the aftermath of it. Stephen Mnuchin at the time was reported to have been involved in discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the former President from office.

There is reporting from Jonathan Karl, who you will hear from shortly, is that one of the people Mnuchin talked to was then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

CNN's own reporting is that the Select Committee is especially interested now in learning more about such Cabinet level conversations. This is coming in the wake of course of testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, the former top aide to the former Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: From what I understood at the time, and from what the reports were coming in, there was a large concern of 25th Amendment potentially being invoked, and there were concerns about what would happen in the Senate, if it was, if the 25th was invoked.


COOPER: Cassidy Hutchinson, as you know, is now cooperating with the Justice Department criminal probe as well. And late today, the lawyer for a former Department of Justice staffer, Ken Klukowski, said his client is also cooperating.

So it's potentially significant because he worked with Jeffrey Clark, this guy, who the former President wanted to make acting Attorney General to help carry out his election scheme and Clark, according to the reporting seemed willing. CNN's Katelyn Polantz who joins us shortly has also learned along with CNN's Evan Perez that prosecutors are preparing for a Court battle to force former White House officials to testify about what the former President said and did on and around January 6th.

First, Select Committee member and California Democratic Congresswoman, Zoe Lofgren joins us.

Congresswoman, I know you can't get into specifics. In terms though of these latest witnesses, can you say if the focus on conversations among Trump administration officials about possibly invoking the 25th Amendment? Was that the focus?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, as we've said publicly in our hearings, the 25th Amendment was a focus of the Committee, it is not the only focus. It's pretty clear from the evidence that the speech given by the President on the on the 7th of January, was motivated largely because of his concern that the 25th Amendment would be invoked and he'd be removed as President.

Certainly, we want to find out more from his Cabinet members. And as I think the Vice Chair said, it's really like a dam is broken, and people are coming in to speak to the Committee, which is important. It is very much an active investigation.

COOPER: It really -- it does feel like that to you, that a dam has broken and people are coming in, who previously would not have.

LOFGREN: Well, yes, there's a lot of people and then there's a ton of documents that have come in as well. Obviously, it's an intensive task to go through documents, some may not be relevant, and some may be highly relevant. So we're busily working on that as well.


COOPER: How cooperative have these latest witnesses been and obviously, we can't say what they said, but have they provided anything the Committee was unaware of up to this point?

LOFGREN: Let me just say that, you know, it's a mixed bag. But some have been very, very open, and have provided useful information to the Committee and we appreciate that.

Our mission has been to find out everything there is to find out about the 6th in the events leading up to the 6th and these witnesses are helping us put the pieces together and in some cases, confirming information we already had.

COOPER: Sources tell CNN your Committee is negotiating terms for a potential interview with former Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe. I don't know if you can confirm that, it would be great if you could, but is the Committee in the process of speaking with more former Trump administration officials as well?

LOFGREN: As you know, the rules don't allow me to identify the people that we are negotiating with, but I will say broadly, yes, we are reaching out to Trump officials, and broadly speaking, and we have every expectation that many of them will, if not all of them will respond.

COOPER: I'm wondering what your reaction was to Attorney General. Garland's comments this week about the DOJ's investigation. Do you think it's likely the former President may be charged criminally?

LOFGREN: Well, I have no idea that Department of Justice isn't telling the Committee nor should they. So I'm relying on the same public statements that you are, but it does look like they have broadened their investigation to look at not just the individual rioters in the Capitol that day, although they do need to do that. But also what was the plot behind it? Who was involved in it?

This wasn't just some rioters showing up and assaulting police officers randomly on the 6th of January, there was a plot leading up to it. And I think that's what the Committee has been trying to uncover and it looks like the Department of Justice is trying to do the same thing.

COOPER: Congresswoman Lofgren, I appreciate your time. As always, thank you.

LOFGREN: Thank you.

COOPER: Perspective now from ABC News' Chief Washington correspondent, Jonathan Karl, who wrote about much of this in a fascinating book "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show."

So there are a lot of details in your book about conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment. How serious were they? Where did they start? Who talked to whom?

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I mean, to me, the most amazing revelation was the conversations included the two most senior people in Trump's Cabinet at the time, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and these were now only the two most senior people left in the Cabinet, he had so many acting Secretaries. They were also two total Trump loyalists.

And they, I learned how the conversation sometime late in the evening on January 6th, where they talked about the 25th Amendment. Obviously, it was a path that was not taken. But the mere fact that they were even raising this as a possibility and think about what it means, you're removing a President, because you weren't declaring him mentally unfit to be in office.

And now we've learned subsequently, from the January 6th hearings, the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson and others that there was real fear that that option could be pursued and they were using that as a way to pressure Trump to finally come out and give a statement to condemn the riots.

COOPER: And Sean Hannity in a text, I think, it was to Mark Meadows who also said, like 25th Amendment or made to Kayleigh McEnany, or I can't remember whom, was saying like 25th Amendment talk is real, but obviously it fizzled out. Do you know how serious anybody was about it?

KARL: Well, the most serious it got is, as I was told that Pompeo actually asked a lawyer to kind of explain how it all worked, and so, they got to the point of at least looking into what the process would be.

I think they pretty quickly realized it was not going to work. First of all, you had Cabinet Secretaries resign. You had DeVos, Elaine Chao resigned. So obviously, those would have been two votes for invoking the 25th Amendment and they were now gone.

And there was also a problem, because the law is not entirely clear about whether or not acting secretaries would be included, would they be included, first of all, in the total majority of, would they have the right to vote, and Trump had so many acting secretaries. They knew that what whatever route you chose, it would be subject to legal challenge.

So if you included the acting, Trump could challenge that legally. The process of arguing out in Court, he only had, you know, two weeks left in office, so that that's why it fizzled out. It was going to take too much time.

COOPER: It would be fascinating just to know the details of it, because I mean, it is the kind of thing of, you know, it's like planning a coup against somebody you're trying to figure out who is the thinking the same thing.

KARL: Who is going to rat you out?

COOPER: And who is going to rat you out?


COOPER: It is also unclear now, if Pompeo talks the January 6 Committee, how forthcoming he might, given I mean, he has his own presidential ambitions?

KARL: Which is complicated because first of all, he has got his own presidential ambitions, and he wants to run as the candidate of the Trump movement. But, he also wants to run for President and one person that would stand in the way is Donald Trump. So it's complicated.

But I'm fascinated to see what Pompeo will say, assuming they actually get him to come in, he takes the oath. How does he answer the question? Because as I was reporting on this, I tried desperately to get to him, to ask him about this and I kept on getting pushed off.

I kept on getting pushed off. His spokesperson, at first said, "Oh, no, no, I can't -- nothing ever happened." They kept telling me that on the record, I'll put it in, give me a denial, I'll put it in and no, then suddenly, the my calls weren't returned for literally months.

My last conversation for the book with Donald Trump over the phone. And I asked him about this. He said, "Oh, that's ridiculous, it never happened." And I said, "Well, why has Mike Pompeo not denied it?" And --

COOPER: How did he respond to that?

KARL: He didn't really -- "Totally nonsense." And then I got a call within an hour of Trump hanging up -- and he did hang up on me in that conversation at the end of the call -- from a spokesperson for Mike Pompeo, who had been avoiding me for months, say, "Okay, I've got something for you," from a spokesperson. He wouldn't allow me to use his name with the statement, "From a spokesperson, it never happened. There were no conversations about the 25th Amendment."

There were, so it'll be interesting to see what he says when he put his hands on the Bible and --

COOPER: Do you think he could offer valuable testimony?

KARL: I mean, I think first of all on that hearing directly from him. I know they've also spoken to Mnuchin. Again, they didn't pursue it, so there is that, but the mere fact that his two top guys talked about it as a possibility is an amazing insight into how worried they were that Trump had completely lost control. So that'll be interesting.

But he is a total Trump loyalist. But I think one other thing he can talk about is the concern that The Pentagon had gone off the rails. Remember, Trump had fired the civilian leadership at The Pentagon, put in a group of people that were like, we believe are total loyalists. And I know that Pompeo, the one thing that I reported in the book is that Pompeo at one point called Bill Barr saying, "I'm really worried about what's going on at The Pentagon."

I mean, there were concerns about strikes against Iran. What would Trump try to do during this lame duck period? How would he create a national -- international crisis as a way to stay in power? There were real concerns. And Pompeo at one point called Barr and asked him about that. And I learned that directly from the other side of that conversation, so it'll be interesting to see if Pompeo will acknowledge that.

COOPER: Fascinating. Jonathan Karl, thanks so much.

KARL: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: More now on the new Justice Department reporting and what it might signal about how far prosecutors are willing to go and how hard they're preparing to fight to get there.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has been talking to her sources, joins us now. Walk us through this potential Justice Department Court battle over executive privilege.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. So Anderson, today we are learning that the Justice Department is gearing up to get ready to go to Court as they are investigating for criminal -- possible criminality of January 6th and the presidency.

And so one of the things that Evan Perez, another reporter here, and I we're learning today from several sources is that what the Justice Department prosecutors and investigators want to get access to now is conversations that Donald Trump was having in the White House in the days before January 6th, and January 6th itself.

And so what's happening here, the reason this is arising is that there are two people who went to the grand jury in recent weeks -- Marc Short, Greg Jacob -- both worked under Mike Pence in the Office of the Vice President and they had certain things that they couldn't talk about, either they negotiated before going into the grand jury. They think that those things might be off limits, because Donald Trump

might want to claim privilege, or they went to the grand jury, and they declined to answer the questions.

And so now, we are seeing the Justice Department leading up to a moment where they're going to want to challenge these executive privilege claims that Donald Trump might try to wait to get them wiped away so that they aren't standing in the way from gaining those facts from witnesses like Short and Jacob.

And so this would take it into a new aggressive phase, because we just haven't seen a Court battle like this related to January 6th and the powers of the presidency, the separation of powers.

COOPER: The question, of course, is how long that Court battle might take? That's always been one of the things when the question was would the January 6 committee bring people to Court on executive privilege claim?

POLANTZ: That's right. And so right now, it could take a long time. The Courts move slowly, in some instances; fast in others. In a criminal investigation like this, there are lots of Judges out there that would say yes we would want to move very fast on something like this.


POLANTZ: But what this does tell us, as where things stand right now, is that with Marc Short and Greg Jacob going into the grand jury already not answering all the questions. Clearly, prosecutors don't have all the answers here and don't have everything they want out of this piece of the investigation.

So there would be a ways to go to figure this out, and then potentially get more information. And then we also are learning about a lot of other investigative work that the Justice Department is doing, that they're obtaining the cell phone of John Eastman now as of July 12th. They're getting to look into the contents of that.

We just also reported tonight that someone working with Jeffrey Clark, who was helping Trump at the Justice Department that he was searched, his name is Ken Klukowski. He has become a cooperator. And then also that the Justice Department is nailing down what Cassidy Hutchinson that key witness in the House Select Committee investigation, what she had to say that she's now also in touch with Justice Department investigators.

So it's all coming together, but we don't really know where it's going or how long it will take.

COOPER: Just finally on the executive privilege things, and I'm not sure anybody knows this, but if it is Marc Short's claims of executive privilege that goes to Court, and a Judge rules one way or the other, does that ruling extend to all other people in the former President's orbit and their claims of executive privilege? Or would the Justice Department have to bring each individual's claims to Court? POLANTZ: Well, we would have to see how this case itself would play

out. There's lots of different postures. But in this sort of circumstance, it actually would be Donald Trump's claim of executive privilege and we've been through court cases like this in the past, in the Nixon administration, in the Clinton administration. There really hasn't been one litigated about a former President trying to make a claim that's different than the sitting President where Joe Biden is saying they're not going to assert privilege.

But in this particular situation in the Nixon administration, they tried to keep the tapes of Watergate, the Watergate tapes private from the grand jury. The Court said no, there wasn't going to be an executive privilege protecting that and then it came up again, twice in the Clinton administration. There was a White House lawyer who wanted to claim some privileges, the Courts ultimately didn't side with the White House in those circumstances, either.

COOPER: Interesting.

POLANTZ: And so our reporting, Anderson, is that there are officials overseeing this investigation who believe that when the Justice Department brings this and litigates it, they will ultimately win.

COOPER: That would be huge.

Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

On a very beautiful evening in DC, there is new economic data released from there this morning, which had everyone asking if we are in a recession already and how bad things might get.

Coming up next, I'll talk to the man among the first to sound the alarm about the current state of economic affairs, former Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers on what he thinks comes next and when.

Also, a live report from Kentucky where the death toll is rising due to historic flooding.



COOPER: It is the Washington equivalent of the dead rising from the grave. Two weeks ago the headline read, "Manchin crushes Biden's hopes for a revival of economic agenda." Manchin, as in West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, obviously who has now revived the hopes he had once crushed.

After talks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the West Virginia Democrat signed off on legislation delivering much of what the President was looking for. Now Senate Democrats are scrambling to get their members on board for what would be a victory if they can at a key moment for the economy and their chances in the fall.

CNN's Jessica Dean joins us now with more.

Now that you've had a chance to dig into the bill, what is in it?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Oh, there are several buckets, Anderson, three buckets to be precise. You can kind of group it out into tax provisions, healthcare, and climate provisions.

We can start first with that healthcare, what that would do is extend these Affordable Care Act subsidies for another three years. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. That was always what we thought Manchin would go for, especially when these talks broke down not two weeks ago, as you were just outlining.

What was a real surprise to a lot of Senate Democrats here, quite frankly and they were pleased to see, especially these climate provisions, it would be the largest climate investment that they had that we have seen come out of Capitol Hill ever with a very ambitious goal of lowering carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, hundreds of billions of dollars in climate provisions.

And then also, there are some tax provisions there. Two key components of that would be a corporate minimum tax of 15 percent, and then closing the tax loophole on something called carried interest.

So that's kind of what Senate Democrats are looking at right now, and again, those last two buckets, certainly, not really anybody here thought that they would be getting those with Manchin.

COOPER: Senator Manchin, it seems to be on board. What do we know about Senator Kyrsten Sinema?

DEAN: Right. So she's another, of course, we need all 50 Senate Democrats, but she's a very key vote that we're watching quite closely here in the Senate. She did not want to talk publicly about this today. Her spokesperson did say that she is going to review this, that she will have, you know, she wants to get a look at everything.

We know that she has expressed concern over closing that tax loophole on carried interest, that that is an issue that she has been concerned about in the past. We also know that back in October, she released a statement on the corporate minimum tax, essentially saying that she was supportive of that.

So again, we're still waiting to read the tea leaves. I think it's important to note as well, that earlier today, Senator Manchin said that he had not spoken with her. And we know that she was not involved in these negotiations. So we're going to wait and see what she thinks, but she's going to be a key person to watch in all of this.

COOPER: Yes. Jessica Dean, appreciate it.

More now on where the economy actually is, where it is heading and what the legislation does from the economist whose early warnings about inflation were spot on and who has been getting some of the credit for bringing Joe Manchin on board with this bill, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.

[20:25:04] COOPER: Secretary Summers, I appreciate you joining us. It's been

reported by "The Washington Post" that you spoke to Senator Manchin to answer his concerns that elements of this proposed legislation could be inflationary. I know you won't say what you spoke to him about, because that's private. But can you explain why this bill does not add or would not add to inflation?

LAWRENCE SUMMERS, FORMER US TREASURY SECRETARY: Sure, Anderson. I actually think this bill will, if anything, reduce inflation in three ways.

First, it will reduce deficits and reduce demand, because we're raising taxes by more than any increases in spending and so that takes money and demand out of the economy, which pulls prices down. Second, it increases supply. It supports big increases in the availability of energy and fuels.

That is going to reduce their price, which is an input to almost everything else in the economy. And third, it uses the purchasing power of the government to buy pharmaceuticals at lower costs, which means lower health insurance means lower prices that people are paying for pharmaceuticals.

So in all three ways: Pricing power, supply, demand, this is anti- inflationary legislation.

COOPER: We learned this morning that the US gross domestic product fell at an annual rate of 0.9 percent, which makes it the second quarter in a row that the US economy has shrunk. Now the White House is in the economy is in a transition. They've indicated the weak economic numbers will get better.

I know you've recently said you believe a recession will happen perhaps in the next 18 months. How bad do you think it will be? How long do you think it could last?

SUMMERS: My guess is we'll see unemployment in the six percent range, or a little higher, it's not going to be anything like the great financial crisis, it's not going to be like the economy falling off a cliff at the beginning of COVID. But it's also not going to be a walk in the park. It is kind of the inevitable thing, given how substantially we overheated the economy and got us to -- got our ourselves to the kind of nine percent inflation rate we have.

And so I can't say just how long or how deep it's going to be, but I don't think it's right, to pretend that there isn't going to be any pain or any dislocation.

I think in some ways, Anderson, the biggest danger is that we don't do the job. When doctors prescribe antibiotics, they always stress that it's important to take the whole course of the antibiotic because if you just stop the moment you feel better, your illness is likely to recur, and the bacteria are more likely to be resistant. Inflation is something like that.

COOPER: Which by the way, most people do. I mean, I've done that many times, just stop when I feel better.

SUMMERS: Exactly. And that's going to be the temptation. I've done it, too, Anderson, that's going to be the temptation, when we start to see the economy soften and we see some declines and slowdowns in the inflation rate, people are going to say, "Oh my God, we've just got to stop this. And we've got to address the potential recession."

And that's what they did four or five times in the 1970s and that's what made the huge mess that caused the country to feel completely out of control with 21 percent prime interest rate at the end of the 1970s and, you know, caused President Carter to be thrown out of office.

And if we don't carry through, if we make the kind of mistakes that, frankly, the Fed made last year of just ignoring the inflation threat, we set the stage for more dislocation and more unemployment.

COOPER: Well, let me ask you about the Fed because they've raised interest rates by 75 basis points for the second month in a row on Wednesday, in an effort to tame inflation. Are they doing enough?

SUMMERS: They haven't done enough so far, they're going to have to keep raising interest rates as they've recognized. My guess is that they're probably going to have to raise interest rates more than they think that they're going to have to raise interest rates and it worries me that they do not have a realistic economic forecast.

They keep telling us that we're going to get inflation all the way down from nine to two, and we're going to do that without ever having unemployment rise above 4.1 percent.

COOPER: Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary, I really appreciate you being with us this evening. It's really -- it's great to hear from you. Thank you

SUMMERS: Good to be with you

COOPER: Well, coming up, at least eight people have died as floods and heavy rainfall destroyed parts of Eastern Kentucky. Next, we will hear from CNN's Joe Johns who is in the state as rescue efforts are underway.



COOPER: Just hours ago Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear confirmed at least eight people have died so far in the floods in Eastern Kentucky expects the death toll to climb even higher. He also said half of some of the state's counties are underwater in what he called the worst flooding disaster of his lifetime. Comes this record breaking rainfall and extreme flooding causes devastation across the nation in West Virginia, the governor declared a state of emergency for six counties in Missouri and Arizona flash flooding prompted road closures and rescues.

CNN's Joe Johns is in Eastern Kentucky where rescue efforts are underway.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WAHSHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A race to rescue those still stranded in Eastern Kentucky and what the governor says will end up being one of the most significant deadly floods in years.

ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY) GOVERNOR: Unfortunately, I expect double digit deaths in this flooding that's something that we rarely see.

JOHNS (voice-over): The water so high you can only see the roof of this home. Many others submerged up to the windows.

A relentless stalled storm front gone for more than eight inches of rain in the area overnight raging waters swept away homes and cars.


JUDY BUTLER, FRANKFORT RESIDENT: I didn't think it would get, you know, that high.

JOHNS (voice-over): This couple barely got out of their home in time.

BUTLER: He said you better be getting some clothes on getting your backpack because we got to get out here. And by the time we got out to the neighbors to (INAUDIBLE) it was, it went from the back of the trailer to the carport.

JOHNS (voice-over): The creek side town of Hindman appears to be submerged in water. Governor Andy Beshear declared a statewide state of emergency and announced the first confirmed deaths, a woman in her 80s in Perry County, and at least two others. Later in the day, the Governor said the death toll had reached at least eight.

BESHEAR: We expect the loss of life. Hundreds will lose their homes. And this is going to be yet another event that it's going to take not months but likely years for many families to rebuild and recover.

JOHNS (voice-over): Flooded down to phone lines kept residents from getting help immediately overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't get home, nobody can't get home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever experienced anything like this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. This has never been this bad.

JOHNS (voice-over): Floodwaters rising over the bridge in downtown Whitesburg. Many roads in the area are impassable. While the National Guard has been mobilized to rescue people and provide aid, hundreds are expected to lose their homes.

BUTLER: It happens I mean, it's bad enough the first time we had insurance, this time we don't, but we'll make it, we always do with God's help. So, just had to pick yourself back up. And that's all we can do, you know.


COOPER: Joe Johns joins me now from Eastern Kentucky. I know you've been driving through the state. Can you just talk more about what you have been seeing?

JOHNS: Yes, you know what Anderson, I got to say I really wasn't prepared for what I've been seeing as you get closer and closer to hazard Kentucky, you see just miles and miles of roads that have been partially encroached by water. There are houses partially submerged, there are some fully submerged. But I think the thing that is most concerning is seeing people driving into the flood zone, trying to locate family members who lived in some of the houses that are cut off from everybody else.

So, it's a very concerning situation for this part of Kentucky. Frankly, Anderson, I worked here years ago, right out of college in Appalachia and not too far from Eastern Kentucky. And you've heard stories, I've heard many, many stories about flash floods and the kind of devastation they cause. But there's nothing like actually seeing what is happening here. The upside, the only upside is that people are, you know, putting their arms around each other and trying to help they're blocking off roads to tell others don't go down there. They're trying to give advice about how to get around. That's the one upside. The rest of this, it's going to be a long process for Eastern Kentucky, this part of Eastern Kentucky around hazard to come back. Anderson.

COOPER: These images that we're looking at as you're speaking its just extraordinary, just communities just completely underwater up to the rooftops. Joe, appreciate you being there. Thank you.

Coming up, we're going to have an update on a CNN exclusive we brought you last night. The latest and a proposal by the U.S. to free Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Also we'll take a look at the Russian arms dealer that the U.S. is offering in exchange and how he came to be wanted by authorities here.



COOPER: An update now on a CNN exclusive we brought you last night. The Biden administration is expressing frustration over Russia's lack of response for potential prisoner exchange. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says he plans to speak with his Russian counterpart by phone about the proposal to exchange Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Earlier today the Kremlin said quote, so far there is no agreement on this issue, end quote.

A talks of the potential prisoner exchange are also prompting people to ask who is Viktor Bout? Why was he imprisoned at the U.S. and who did he work for? CNN international security editor, Nick Paton Walsh spoke with Bout from jail years ago and has this story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): He's the Lord of War according to this fictional movie starring Nicolas Cage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See where you like about warlords and dictators. They always pay their bills on time.

WALSH (voice-over): Called the merchant of death per a book about his alleged life. But despite much evidence, Viktor Bout has always denied being one of the biggest arms dealers of the '90s, fueling civil wars and bolstering Moscow's interests. If he's still never really wanted to be a nobody.

(on-camera): Why did the Americans want you so badly?

VIKTOR BOUT, RUSSIAN ARMS DEALER: (INAUDIBLE) Mrs. Clinton why they need me. I don't know, I have no clue.

WALSH (on-camera): Mr. Bout. Mr. Bout, good morning.

(voice-over): He gave me his last interview in a Thai jail 13 years ago, when he denied the worst charges against him.

BOUT: This is a lie and just a bullshit. And I never supply time is such a toll, and especially never had any deal with Al-Qaeda.

WALSH (voice-over): In a noisy packed visiting area as he sat behind the glass, the bit I remember most was his mother interrupting.


WALSH (voice-over): And that he admitted he had worked for the Russian government.

BOUT: I don't want to say now this or that.

WALSH (on-camera): Have you work for the Russian government?

BOUT: Sometimes, yes. We did the flights.

WALSH (voice-over): In the end, he was not superhuman, and arrested in Thailand after a U.S. sting operation. And while his decades of life in the shadows had left him full of faced, he was always just a pilot courier he insisted even as he was led into this Bangkok courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today in Manhattan Federal Court accused arms dealer Viktor Bout begins to face American justice.

WALSH (voice-over): The U.S. sting was complex over many months and countries catching him offering weapons to U.S. agents pretending to be Colombian terrorists. He was eventually extradited to face a New York trial for conspiring to kill Americans. It saw him sentenced to 25 years in prison in a medium security facility in Illinois. There, he told me in e-mails, he was in good spirits, brushing up on his many languages, and in 2019, very glad when his wife and daughter visited.


But he was slowly edging towards the end of his sentence. Perhaps a reason his role in a swap was more appealing. But the biggest mystery about Bout was why the U.S. wanted him so fiercely. Yes, he had allegedly dealt arms to a lot of bad people across Africa and the '90s. But that was known and exposed. Observers searched for another weightier reason and wondered if he had served alongside any criminal insiders in his long past overseas. That remains a huge question mark, both over him and any swap. Is he a pilot in the wrong place at the very worst times? Or as so many have said, a profiteer and policy tool for Moscow in the world's nastiest wars.


COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh joins me now in London. It is so fascinating to hear about his history. Why do you think Russia hasn't already taken this deal?

WALSH: It's kind of extraordinary, isn't it? Because if you believe the kind of big fish this man has been portrayed, and even the efforts I saw them put into trying to prevent him from being extradited from Thailand to the United States. You'd think they would have snapped up the offer made a number of weeks ago privately. Instead, it is now public, and certainly even Antony Blinken's counterpart Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister said today that he simply didn't have time to take the phone call between them about this particular issue.

Now is this because Viktor Bout simply isn't as influential isn't as important to the Kremlin now as he was then has the U.S. overestimated his value to Vladimir Putin? That's entirely possible, or is it also to the Moscow who have possibly smelled blood in the water here seeing desperate how the Biden administration are to get Griner and Whelan home, maybe they think they can get some more concessions from the Biden administration during these negotiations.

Either way now, though the Biden administration are essentially in the open doing hostage diplomacy offering up people in their custody in exchange for Americans they believe are being held hostage by the Russians. That's a significant departure. And one it seems for now that the Kremlin still trying to exploit. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Nick Paton Walsh, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, President Trump tries to defend the Saudi backed golf tournament he's hosting this weekend by appearing to absolve them of any connection to 9/11. I've talked to the mother of this man who was killed on 9/11 while trying to save others. Alison Crowther, the mother of Welles Crowther, joins us next.



COOPER: Today, the former president the United States Donald Trump made it a stunning defense of his decision to host a golf tournament funded by Saudi Arabia. The event begins tomorrow at his club and Bedminster, New Jersey emits attracted criticism and anger, particularly from families of those killed on 9/11 who blame the Saudi government. Speaking with ESPN today, this is what the former president said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're so closely associated with the city of New York, you have all people understand the passion surrounding 9/11. What do you say to those family members who protested earlier this week, and we'll be doing so again on Friday.

DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Well, nobody's gotten to the bottom of 9/11 unfortunately, and they should have.


COOPER: He then tried to put some sort of positive spin on the event by touting the quote, great people who were there, and the quote, fun they all would have.

Now in 2016, before he went office, a long classified report about the hijackings of the aircraft was released and a recent part quote, while in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with and receive support or assistance from individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government. What's more months before that report was released, the former president gave a completely different answer during two separate events on the same day about Saudi involvement.


TRUMP: Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn't the Iraqis, it was Saudi. I mean to take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents.

It wasn't the Iraqis that knocked down the World Trade Center, you will find out who really knocked down on the World Trade Center because they have papers out there that are very secret you may find it's the Saudis. OK.


COOPER: Well, I'm joined now by a mother whose son was killed on 9/11 Alison Crowther, who has protested the Saudi funded event at the former president's golf course her, her son Welles Crowther, gave his life to save others that day. He later became known as the man in the red bandana, for the bandana he wore while guiding people to safety.

Ms. Crowther, thank you for being with us. You hear the former president defending his decision to hold this event saying nobody's gotten to the bottom of 9/11. What goes through your mind when you hear that?

ALISON CROWTHER, MOTHER OF 9/11 VICTIM, WELLES CROWTHER: Well, the first thing and thank you, Anderson for inviting me onto your show tonight to speak to this. The first thing that goes through my mind is that well, he equivocates regularly. So there's that. But what really goes through my mind is that he should simply look at the documents that have just been released recently, thanks to President Biden that actually reports from FBI and U.S. intelligence investigations that have actually identified numerous officials and individuals working within the Saudi government contacting being in direct contact with the planners and terrorists who perpetrated 9/11.

This information is out now, it's heavily redacted. Our Attorney is Motley Rice have seen less of the redaction information, redacted information. They've seen more than we have been able to see but it is finally coming out. And one of the things that in rages us as 9/11 family members is that our government for years has been keeping under wraps information that has been gathered over the years pointing directly to Saudi involving.


COOPER: The fact that a former president of the United States though who clearly knows of the Saudi involvement, who spoke about it years ago, would make do this would host this clearly just to make money. It's got to be particularly galling. I mean, if there was some deep belief he had, that would be one thing, but this is just about him making money for his golf course.

CROWTHER: Well, that's right. And that doesn't surprise me. Also, I've heard, I've heard people say that it's his way of getting back at the PGA Tour for canceling their event there after the events of January 6. So, you know, I, you know, you hear all kinds of things. But nothing surprises me about this man now. And, what does surprise me is that that professional golfers have been morally compromised, in my view, through greed.


CROWTHER: That's, that's what really surprises me.

COOPER: I don't want to just talk about the former president, I want to talk about your son because he just sounds like such an extraordinary person. What was he like?

CROWTHER: Oh, Welles was a wonderful person. He was loving and devoted to his family and his friends. He was hard working. He had his huge work ethic, even from the time he was very little boy.

COOPER: Is that right?

CROWTHER: Wanted to get out and earn money. Yes. And he was very honest, could never, never hide the truth, would always stand up to bullies who would trouble his friends. He just was a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor, and we miss him deeply to this day.

COOPER: Alison Crowther, I appreciate you, you speaking tonight. And I really appreciate and I wish you the best.

CROWTHER: Thank you very much, Anderson. Thank you for inviting me on. COOPER: We'll be right back.


COOPER: Before we go tonight, just want to take one more look at the devastating flooding in Kentucky tonight. At least eight people are known to be dead with a governor saying that he has never seen anything like this in the state and he fears the death toll will rise. There is more rain in the forecast.


Obviously continue to follow the story and the people that stayed are in our thoughts and our prayers tonight, and in the days ahead.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Laura.