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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
US Kills Al-Qaeda Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri In Drone Strike; Kentucky Resident Rescues 9 People, Including 5 Children And His Two Former Teachers From Their Flood Homes; Republicans Worry About Possible Missouri Senate Primary Win By Controversial Former Governor. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 01, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They live in valleys. They're used to flooding. But nobody here in this area has seen anything like this, people who thought their houses were well outside of ever having to worry about being flooded, picked up, and washed away. Everything gone.
It's just an unbelievable scene -- Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Evan, thank you very much, reporting on the ground there in Eastern Kentucky.
And thanks so much to all of you for joining us. AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with breaking news.
A little more than 11 years since President Obama told Americans about the raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and 21 year since the 9/11 attacks on this country, President Biden tonight announced the killing in a drone strike in Afghanistan of Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's second in command and his successor.
For more than two decades, he's been one of the FBI's most wanted with a $25 million bounty for his apprehension or conviction. Tonight, that is no longer a concern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A lot went into the drone strike and a lot may follow from it. We begin tonight with new details and how it all came together with CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. What more have you learned about this mission? JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT:
Anderson, remarkable details coming out from a senior administration official tonight that speaks to a months' long Intelligence operation preceding this strike from a drone on Saturday. We're told that the President was first alerted to Zawahiri's presence in Kabul in April, the start of April this year, but that had followed months where US Intelligence Agencies had been tracking him that he had moved to Kabul, ostensibly, it seems to stay with family there, a downtown villa.
And then over the course of those months, the CIA and other Intel Agencies developed patterns of his and his family's behavior with the intention of finding an opportunity to kill Zawahiri in that home without injuring or threatening the lives of his family members or any civilians.
And that took a tremendous amount of work and time. They say that the women who were living with him there, followed their own tradecraft, that they would take routes home to this house, that they thought would prevent them from being followed. In other words, they knew that there was a possibility that they might be followed there.
There was a model -- a scale model of the house built so that the President could examine where Zawahiri spent his time and therefore, make a judgment as to what munition was used that it would only threaten his life and not the life of other people in that building.
Ultimately, as it came down to it, they knew over time that he liked to spend time on his balcony outside, and on Saturday, it is on his balcony that a senior administration official says that a drone firing two hellfire missiles struck him, killed the al-Qaeda leader, but did not hurt or threaten the lives of anybody else in that building, which the administration is saying was a key concern to the President.
But a months' long operation -- one point I would make is this, Anderson, that following the US withdrawal a little less than a year ago, August 30th of 2021, there had been a very open question as to whether the US would be able to carry out counter-terror operations to the degree it had while it had boots on the ground in Afghanistan.
In fact, the CIA Director had had said publicly, they would not have the same capability to do so. Over the horizon operations, they're more difficult. You have to rely on eyes in the sky, not eyes on the ground, but this is an operation that was successful doing just that and that's a remarkable Intelligence feat. It's a remarkable operational feat for this man who helped lead the greatest terror threat that this country has ever faced.
COOPER: It's not clear. I mean, whether this was just eyes in the air, I mean, it seems like if they're -- I am not speaking out of the school, this is something the Taliban and everybody who is there with know, anybody who is following people through the streets of Kabul, that's hard to do from the air, I would imagine.
SCIUTTO: Well, you can follow people from the air certainly. Is it possible that the US had contacts -- the US Intelligence Agencies had contacts on the ground? Certainly it is.
It is also probable, frankly, that they were intercepting communications that would help them establish who was there and when and how. There is also this, and the President did not speak to this nor did the senior administration official, but we do know that there was a $25 million bounty on Zawahiri's head. Is it possible that that led to information that helped here? It's certainly possible.
No one has said so, but I will say in the past, those bounties have worked. It was bounties that led to Intelligence that led to Uday and Qusay Hussein, Saddam Hussein's sons when they were captured -- when they were killed, I should say in Mosul in 2005.
So we'll see as more details come out, but already we know of a tremendously intricate Intelligence operation.
COOPER: Yes, Jim Sciutto, appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining us now CNN military analyst, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling; also retired Air Force Lieutenant General James Clapper, CNN national security analyst and former Director of National Intelligence; and CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward.
Clarissa, can you describe the regional global significance of the US taking out not just the current head of al-Qaeda, but someone who was so deeply involved with the September 11th attacks, even if some of it is just is not necessarily operationally all that significant?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is no question that this is a hugely symbolic, significant moment. This is a man as President Biden said in his eight-minute address, who had literally spent decades targeting, killing Americans, calling on other people to kill Americans, praising those who attacked Americans.
He was Osama bin Laden's trusted deputy, his right hand. He had been able to continue, even while living in the sort of Pakistani hinterlands to release audio tapes or the occasional videotape to try to keep coalescing support for al-Qaeda, keep calling for those attacks.
And so when you think of this now, what are we -- almost 21 years after the 9/11 attacks, it shows how far the reach is of US justice. It is clearly an extraordinary feat of Intelligence, as Jim was just elucidating that they were able to kill him without any collateral damage, without any members of his family being killed.
In terms of the sort of day-to-day significance of how this will change al-Qaeda operations, I think that it is a little too early to say, but unlikely to have a major impact on that. But it certainly minimizes their sort of global centralized authority, and raises questions about who the next leader might be. There's all sorts of speculation already taking place about that, we don't know. I mean, one other thing I would add here, Anderson that I think is
deeply concerning and is going to be a big question for the US going forward in terms of how it sort of grapples with the Taliban and with Afghanistan in this new leadership is the fact that he wasn't killed in the tribal areas of Pakistan. He wasn't killed in the border areas of Afghanistan, he was killed in Sherpur --
COOPER: They were allowing him to live in Kabul.
WARD: In downtown Kabul. You know, this is like a few minutes away from the guest house that I was staying in last summer.
So this is hugely significant, that he was basically there at the larges of the Taliban after they had made the Doha Agreements, which explicitly forbid them using Afghanistan or allowing Afghanistan to be used as any kind of safe haven.
COOPER: Yes. General Clapper, you were head of National Intelligence when the US killed Osama bin Laden. Can you just talk about the kind of Intelligence that a President would have likely needed or wanted to give an operation like this the greenlight?
LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, that's a great question, Anderson, and something I've been wondering about, since we had to do this from called over the horizon.
And in the case of Osama bin Laden, obviously, we had his body and DNA analysis to prove that was actually him. So, this was a -- not to cheat beat as an Intel guy -- but this was a tremendous Intelligence feat. If as briefed, and if this was, in fact, as all we're hearing, and for example, not a double.
But from the certitude of the President's statement, it appears that they're quite sure what a President would look for, to answer your question specifically, is proof of life and proof, as much as could be brought to bear that this person, whoever it is, Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, is actually him and he is present.
I have to believe that Zawahiri let his guard down after the US left Afghanistan because he was meticulous about his operational security, certainly during the Obama years, my time as DNI and we had great difficulty trying to find him because he isolated himself quite successfully, both physically and electronically.
COOPER: General Hertling, I mean, if what we are being told is what occurred, the mission was conducted with a drone strike. The idea that they were able to precisely target somebody at the time of day that they were choosing, in part to their routine to stand or sit out on a balcony is really extraordinary with limited -- as Clarissa was pointing out -- limited damage to other people who may have been in the house or in the neighborhood.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It would seem so, Anderson. What I'm going to suggest, I'll add to what Director Clapper said, if you understand how these individuals do this kind of targeting, the requirement for Intelligence, the requirement for rehearsals, which the President talked a little bit about tonight, and some of his team talked about, how he was so interested in the intricate details of sunrise on the houses and what rooms were being revealed as this whole thing went on, you have to understand that these targeteers, these Intelligence officials, the operators who conduct the operations have extensive -- and I'm talking about they wake up every single day looking, "How can we kill this guy" because he is such a threat and this has been going on for months.
The average American doesn't understand the detail, the level of effectiveness and efficiencies that go into this kind of targeting of individuals that you know, the President can stand up on the balcony and talk about the operation, but there have been months, and maybe even years going into the targeting of Zawahiri.
I first heard about this guy in 1998 when I was at the War College. We have been wanting to get him for a very long time. He is a leader within this organization and the strike that was conducted was effective and efficient.
Getting to your question about how do we know it's him? Well, what I'd suggest is, is it was conducted over the weekend and Director Clapper knows this more than I do, they were looking for evidence of strikes. This is very different than that strike that occurred in August in Afghanistan, that was a rushed strike to get someone who is threatening the organization.
This was a long-term analysis and a long-term approach to targeting an individual that's been a thorn in the side of America for the last 30 years.
COOPER: And Clarissa, we should point out that, obviously there's a history with the Taliban and al-Qaeda that we all know about. The Taliban is fighting against an ISIS offshoot group in Afghanistan currently, but al-Qaeda was not -- would have been aligned with the Taliban still.
WARD: Ideologically, absolutely. But what I think is still somewhat shocking about this, Anderson, is that, you know, when we were on the streets and talking to Taliban officials and talking to regular fighters, as they took over the country, they were adamant that there was no way al-Qaeda or any international terrorist organization was going to be able to get a foothold again, inside of Afghanistan and they understood how high the stakes were for them, because the whole notion of the Doha Agreements is predicated on this idea that Afghanistan couldn't become a safe haven again.
And yet here we are having this conversation in the wake of this momentous event, you know, one official telling CNN that they know that senior Haqqani Taliban figures were not only aware of his presence in this area, because this Sherpur area would be absolutely impossible for him to be living there without them being aware of it. But they also even took steps in the aftermath of the strike, to try to conceal the fact that he was there, to try to restrict access to the house where the strike took place, and also to relocate his family.
And so you're talking about the senior leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, of Taliban-held Afghanistan, literally collaborating with al-Qaeda after promising that they would not do that, and what that does to an already very damaged and dysfunctional relationship between the Taliban and the US, and how much more difficult that makes it going forward for the US?
I mean, this Zawahiri you're talking about, a guy with a $25 million bounty on his head. What happens when other individuals emerge, potentially, who are not perhaps as well-known to Intelligence officials or who are not necessarily on the radar internationally in the same way, how can you trust again in the Taliban's word, when they talk about a serious commitment to fighting not only ISIS-K, which they are focused on, but other groups like al-Qaeda in the region?
COOPER: The Khorasan Group is the K.
Director Clapper, bounty, it seems -- I mean, Jim Sciutto was talking about this earlier. In the past bounties have worked. Director Clapper, I'm not sure if you can still hear me. In the past, bounties have worked in terms of getting people to give information.
CLAPPER: Well, that's a possibility here and again, I'm sure all of these details unfortunately are going to come out in the next week or so, I'm sure whether there was someone on the ground that tipped off US Intelligence by some circuitous means, you know, to look for Zawahiri's presence in Kabul.
So I don't know, the details on that, but yes, they have worked in the past and could have been a factor here. I don't know.
COOPER: Yes. General Clapper, appreciate it. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.
There is a lot more ahead to report on this. More to come on the breaking news including discussion with retired General, former CIA Director, David Petraeus about the significance of the strikes, as well as the Intelligence requirements to succeed in a country firmly controlled by the Taliban.
Later, dozens now dead from the flooding in Kentucky. Unbelievable images there. We'll have the latest on the rescue efforts including an interview with a man who along with his wife and his neighbors helped rescue nine neighbors including five children.
COOPER: As we're getting more information from sources about the Intelligence work that went in the missile strike on Ayman al- Zawahiri, this is what President Biden said during his speech about the Intelligence involved in the operation, as well as conversations with allies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: One week ago, after being advised the conditions were optimal, I gave the final approval to go get him and the mission was a success. None of his family members were hurt, and there were no civilian casualties.
I'm sharing this news with the American people now after confirming the mission's total success through the painstaking work of our counterterrorism community, and key allies, and partners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just before the President spoke, I spoke with retired General David Petraeus. He not only served as Commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, he is also a former CIA Director.
COOPER: General Petraeus, appreciate you being with us. What is your reaction to this news?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET), FORMER C.I.A. DIRECTOR: Well, it's very significant. It is a triumph for our Intelligence Community. It is significant that one of the original leaders of al-Qaeda, a longtime international extremist and terrorist has been brought to justice.
It is perhaps a more symbolic, if you will, than it is of operational significance, noting that, of course, the real threat in Afghanistan, if there is one of international extremism, is really the Islamic State affiliate, there, the Khorasan Group. That is the organization that is fighting the Taliban as well, that is causing the instability in Afghanistan. And that's the one that we really have to keep an eye on even as again, this is a very significant takedown of a very, very long time and very significant extremist leader.
COOPER: The other thing it shows is the capability at least of the US to strike in Afghanistan, which was a question raised a lot in the wake of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, then President Biden had talked about, you know, fighting kind of over the horizon.
I'm wondering what -- you know, we don't know -- there's not a lot of details about how this was conducted, but what would it take by way of Intelligence and military coordination to accomplish something like this?
PETRAEUS: Well, obviously, you've got to get, if it is, presumably a drone, you have to get it within reach of that drone's dwell time. We know that you can fly a drone from our bases in various locations in the greater Middle East, and reach that location. Presumably, there were more sources put together than this than just the drone footage, and so forth.
It does show therefore, that it is possible to do over the horizon. I don't think anyone ever questioned though the ability to conduct over the horizon operations, it is more the ability to really have a dense capability to do this, to really get sources that would be on the ground and could actually develop the kind of partners and so forth that are needed, and are still needed at this point in time, of course, to root out the extremists in the Islamic State Khorasan Group, which, as I mentioned, are the ones that really pose the international threat.
Again, noting that this is a very big operation. Again, this is the other real leader of al-Qaeda, since the very early days, way pre 9/11 who stayed with it ever since.
COOPER: How had the Taliban -- I mean, first of all, I guess the Taliban knew Zawahiri was living there and I guess approved that. What are their capabilities about the ISIS affiliate -- against the ISIS affiliate?
PETRAEUS: Well, they're battling the ISIS affiliate. They're also battling some of the resistance forces as they're termed.
Let me highlight something you just mentioned, Anderson, and that is, of course, that, again, the leader of al-Qaeda was located in Kabul indicating clearly that in a way Taliban didn't learn the lesson from allowing, again, bin Laden to have a sanctuary on their soil when the 9/11 attacks were planned in Afghanistan, after which of course, they refused to expel him from their territory, and of course, that's why we had to go in.
So it does reflect the continuing close relationship that clearly still exists between al-Qaeda's senior leadership, that small group of Zawahiri and the others that are still left and obviously the Taliban senior leadership, the fact that he was in Kabul I don't think is something that could have been possible without the Taliban knowing that he was there.
COOPER: Is it clear to you why Zawahiri has been able to avoid being captured or killed so much longer than Osama bin Laden was?
PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, Osama bin Laden stayed essentially off the net for a very long time as well. And Zawahiri has essentially done what bin Laden did, which means that therefore, he can't very capably lead the affiliates of al-Qaeda around the world.
Essentially, they have been operating autonomously, independently. They may be part of the brand of al-Qaeda, but they certainly weren't under any kind of operational control. And again, noting that this is a very, very symbolic success, to bring one of the last of the original al-Qaeda leaders who did so much damage around the world, again, East Africa bombings, a number of other bombings in North Africa, other exhortations of bombings elsewhere, not to mention, of course, being a core part of al-Qaeda when the 9/11 attacks were planned.
COOPER: And he was increasingly -- I mean, he is one of the group who was sort of increasingly radicalized in Egyptian prisons, wasn't he? PETRAEUS: That's true. In fact, he actually led the Egyptian Islamic
Jihad prior to the CIJ in the 1990s and it was in the late 1990s, that he actually merged with Osama bin Laden, again, having met him earlier on the battlefields in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets with the Mujahideen.
COOPER: General Petraeus, appreciate your time. Thank you.
PETRAEUS: Pleasure to be with you.
COOPER: Coming up, more on our breaking news, the US targeting and killing of al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone attack in Afghanistan. We'll take a look at his life of terror, next.
COOPER: Again, our breaking news Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead after U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan. In his remarks tonight, President Biden reminded Americans of the major attacks and he was involved in 9/11, the bombing of the USS Cole, bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa as well.
CNN's Michael Holmes tonight has more on the man who until this weekend was one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.
AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL-QAEDA LEADER: (INAUDIBLE) who are we? Who are we?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the time Ayman al- Zawahiri burst onto the world scene after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, he was already a terrorist committed to turning Egypt into a fundamentalist Islamic State. The young doctor came from one of Egypt's leading families. There is even an al- Zawahiri Street in Cairo, named after his grandfather. His uncle described him as pious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was known as he is a good Muslim, who is keen to pray at time in the mosque, and so and to read, and to think, and to have his own decisions.
HOLMES (voice-over): al-Zawahiri spent three years in prison after Sadat's assassination. After he got out, he made his way to Pakistan, where he used his medical skills to treat those fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. That's where he met Osama bin Laden, and they found a common cause. He talked about it a decade later.
AL-ZAWAHIRI: We're working with President bin Laden, we know him since (INAUDIBLE) in many other places.
HOLMES (voice-over): al-Zawahiri was many places in the early 1990s. Even it's believed visiting California on a false passport. His group attacked Egyptian embassies and tried to kill Egyptian politicians. Eventually, al-Zawahiri folded his group into al-Qaeda.
Zawahiri pretty much led the group he did the strategic policy of what Al-Qaeda's agenda was, certainly bin Laden gave his authority and blessings to him, but al-Zawahiri called the shots.
HOLMES (voice-over): Al-Zawahiri was at bin Laden side when he declared war on America in May 1998. Weeks later, they launched an attack on U.S. embassies in Africa, and then gloated after they escaped the U.S. cruise missile attack launched in retaliation. After the 9/11 attacks al-Zawahiri began to become the voice of al-Qaeda, taunting the U.S.
AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translation): American people, you must ask yourselves why all this hate against America.
HOLMES (voice-over): After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were on the run, sometimes together more often apart. His wife and daughters were killed in a U.S. airstrike aimed at him. But he continued to issue messages on subjects ranging from the war in Iraq, to the London subway attacks in 2005. And while he was always the likely choice to succeed Osama bin Laden, it took the organization several weeks to announce his promotion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zawahiri it's not charismatic. He has not been, was not involved in the fighter earlier on in Afghanistan. So and I think he has a lot of detractors within the organization. And I think you're going to see them start eating themselves from within more and more.
HOLMES (voice-over): Without bin Laden, al-Qaeda can never be the same.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: That idea personified by Osama bin Laden. He was this charismatic figure to join al-Qaeda you say -- you pledged a personal oath to him. People went and died not (INAUDIBLE) al-Zawahiri or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed but for Osama bin Laden.
HOLMES (voice-over): Terror experts say that to jihadist worldwide, al-Qaeda still has great appeal as an inspiration. And while al- Zawahiri was an obvious successor to bin Laden, it's not at all clear who would succeed al-Zawahiri.
COOPER: That was Michael Holmes reporting. There's much more ahead tonight including the possibility of yet more flooding in Kentucky. Even as the death toll climbs and hundreds remain missing. My conversation with one man who helped save nine of his neighbors. That's next.
COOPER: Flood watches are in effect tonight across parts of central and eastern Kentucky even as the death toll climbs now at least 37. Destruction and flooding and preventing crews from reaching while Kentucky's governor said today are hundreds of people still unaccounted for. There's new video tonight from Kentucky National Guard Chopper crews shot during the worst of it on Thursday and Friday which shows how isolated local valleys are from one another and how big a difference these well-trained members of the of the Coast Guard can make.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See the basket wait for thumbs up. That came up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is hold. I don't want to fly off with (INAUDIBLE) at the basket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am coming up sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cool.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the (INAUDIBLE). At the door bringing her in and at (INAUDIBLE) we're doing a hoist over here we counsel people on a roof we're probably about just 200 yards behind the valley.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's the Kentucky National Guard.
One of many rescues these crews have carried out Nathan Day however the man you're about to meet didn't have any equipment at his disposal to do what he did and his wife did in the darkness of early Thursday morning. Tonight, nine neighbors five of them kids are safe because of it and what some of his other neighbors did as well and I spoke to him just before airtime
COOPER (on-camera): Nathan, thanks so much for joining us. When did he know that something might be wrong?
NATHAN DAY, RESCUED NEIGHBORS: I got up around to 2:15 because I had to get my son off to work to make sure he got up to go to work. And I looked at my phone and I got it from my alarm went off. And I had a text from a lady that told me to save her daughter and her babies or grandchildren. I didn't know what she was talking about that I figured it was to do with the floo. But so actually, I'm not on my (INAUDIBLE) at my house, which is here. And all I heard scream.
COOPER (on-camera): So you -- it's dark out and you're hearing screaming all around you.
COOPER (on-camera): Wow.
DAY: And when I hollered for this lady named Tab (ph), (INAUDIBLE) it says her name, her mother called her Tab are going to hurt the babies screaming on the roofs. And.
COOPER (on-camera): How far were they from you?
DAY: They are actually (INAUDIBLE). They were down there in the bottom (INAUDIBLE) and other houses around here where the other family lives.
COOPER (on-camera): Wow.
COOPER (on-camera): Did you have a boat with you or any supplies?
DAY: (INAUDIBLE). No, I went through the water.
COOPER (on-camera): You just went down by yourself through the water.
DAY: Me and my wife. And then when I got to (INAUDIBLE), I might bring one at a time to me and hit me because there was a double wide trailer that are off the hill. And they had a back porch was about six inches underwater. And I knew that I could get them kids on that porch. Because nobody lived there. So kids on that porch once I got them all across, I'll pass it on the porch and then I put, I put one under each arm one on my neck and just so happens a little girl that was on my back had her little dog with her. I didn't know it.
COOPER (on-camera): And I understand at one point your head actually went underwater as you were trying to get them out.
DAY: Yes, yes (INAUDIBLE) when I went behind the double wide the water -- there's a ditch through there. And when I went to step across trying to find that ditch I went under the water was over my head. (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER (on-camera): And this is all happening -- this is all happening in the dark. I mean you're in the water with these kids in the dark.
COOPER (on-camera): Wow.
DAY: Almost straight off the mountain. And you just got to do what you got to, you know. COOPER (on-camera): I understand. You got to help your neighbors and rescued two former school teachers.
DAY: Yes, my second grade teacher Ms. Gayheart (ph) and Ms. Prager (ph), my English teacher in high school.
COOPER (on-camera): That's incredible.
DAY: Well, what I'd done is I knew, I knew them ladies in that house. And them ladies means so much this community. They've probably taught everyone here, you know. The lady, just the godly saint women.
COOPER (on-camera): And I understand what the second teacher has actually been watching the water rise in her home. I mean, that's -- she's must has been terrified.
DAY: Yes, Ms. Prager (ph) was up, she went to the second floor of her house. But Ms. Gayheart (ph), didn't have a two story home. She was on her kitchen countertop, is where she was at.
COOPER (on-camera): Wow. It's just incredible. And I mean, what a community that there are so many good people like you who are willing in the middle of the night.
DAY: We have a lot.
COOPER (on-camera): Putting them together.
DAY: That's one thing (INAUDIBLE). That's one thing that I'm going to say about everybody in this area. I had seen so many people save (INAUDIBLE). I've seen so many people out feeding people. And when I say this, I mean guys, these guys have lost their homes. They've lost a car, they've lost their whole life in a matter of just a few hours. I mean, they lost her whole life. I mean, it's site.
COOPER (on-camera): Nathan Day. I just -- it's an honor to talk to you and I appreciate you taking the time and I wish you, your family, your neighbors safety in these days ahead. Thank you so much.
DAY: Thank you.
COOPER: What a neighbor.
Up next, an unusual endorsement by the former president in a key Senate race. Plus, a look at Missouri's most controversial candidate why some Republicans worry about their party's ability to take back the Senate if he wins the nomination.
COOPER: Just a short time ago, the former President offered his endorsement in a key Senate race in Missouri. He endorsed Eric leaving it open for voters to choose between the two Eric's who are actually in the race, one of whom the former governor Eric Greitens resigned from office four years ago after a sex scandal and is now facing allegations of abuse from his ex-wife which he denies.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more.
ERIC GREITENS (R-MO) SENATE CANDIDATE: Guys, we are on our way to victory.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eric Greitens is seeking a comeback in Missouri.
GREITENS: And they run a campaign based on fear we run a campaign based on faith and hope. And the fact is that the country is in crisis.
ZELENY (voice-over): He's not talking about rival Democrats, but fellow Republicans trying to block his second act, saying he's unfit for office and could endanger the GOPs chances of winning the Senate. On the eve of voting, the Missouri Senate primary feels like a hot summer mud fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scandals, child abuse allegations. That's not conservative. But that's the real Eric Greitens.
ZELENY (voice-over): With Republican groups spending millions in TV ads and rivals banding together against Greitens.
ERIC SCHMITT (R-MO) SENATE CANDIDATE: He will lose the seat. He's abused his wife and his kid and he's quit on the people this thing.
ZELENY (voice-over): Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has been a leading beneficiary of the controversy. He told us the Senate seat is too important for Republicans to risk.
SCHMITT: It's a 50-50 Senate, right. So the path the majority for Republicans runs right through the show me state we can't lose Missouri. You know, the former governor is a quitter and would certainly jeopardize this race.
ZELENY (voice-over): Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler said Greitens has brought disgrace and shame to the state and said she won't support him if he wins the primary.
REP. VICKY HARTZLER (R-MO): No, I can't vote for him. Yes, Missouri deserves better than that and they can do better. I have that track record of conservative, courageous leadership that is needed right now. We're in a very bad situation in our nation.
ZELENY (voice-over): The scandal dates back to 2018.
GREITENS: Good afternoon. ZELENY (voice-over): When Greitens stepped down as governor after acknowledging an affair with his hairdresser. She accused him of trying to blackmail her with partially nude photos he took, allegations he denied.
At the time his wife stood by him. Now they're embroiled in a messy custody battle. She's accused him of abusing her and their children. The former Navy SEAL has denied the allegation and sought to change the subject by literally taking aim at the Republican establishment.
GREITENS: Today, we're going Rhino hunting. Join the MAGA crew, get a rhino hunting permit. There's no bagging limit, no tagging limited it doesn't expire until we save our country.
ZELENY (voice-over): He calls his critics rhinos or Republicans in name only in hopes of galvanizing conservatives. In all 21, GOP candidates are running, including Mark McCloskey, who seeks to capitalize on the moment he and his wife pointed guns at protesters outside their St. Louis home two years ago.
Tonight, Donald Trump's day long promise of an endorsement brought little clarity. He punted on choosing between Greitens and Schmitt, saying, I trust the great people of Missouri on this one, to make up their own minds.
If Greitens wins, Democrats believe they have a shot at picking up the seat. Despite not winning a Senate seat here in nearly a decade.
LUCAS KUNCE (D-MO) SENATE CANDIDATE: We got to run different, we got to run against the system that's not working for everybody. And you got to be a warrior for working people.
COOPER: I'm joined now Jeff Zeleny. I also want to bring in CNN political director David Chalian into the conversation.
Jeff, what more are you learning about this move by the foreign president endorsing essentially two candidates? How are Missouri voters expected to react to this?
ZELENY: Well, Anderson, I think they are likely to be left to their own devices, which is what the former president said in a statement, he said the good people of Missouri should make up their own minds. But what he didn't say is that he's clearly trying to save face here, not knowing which exact candidate to pick. He clearly is mindful of his own scorecard as he has been throughout this primary season as it's gone from May to June to July now to August, he wants to pick winners. Quite simply, he doesn't know who is going to win in this contest. His family members are supporting the former governor Eric Greitens. A lot of other Republicans are supporting the Attorney General Eric Schmitt. So he came down to say he is endorsing the Eric's, but basically leaving it to voters and it's such the 11th hour, it is too late really to get, you know, a new TV ad up, et cetera. So both Eric's were claiming victory tonight on the endorsement. But Anderson, the voters I talked to here are already going to make up their own minds. They know these candidates all too well.
COOPER: David, what do you make of the -- this 11th hour moved by the former president?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean, I think because he waited too long, it's a diminishing effect of what his endorsement could accomplish. And though he was clearly being lobbied and swayed from both sides here, I think he realized that he may not be the difference maker in this one, Anderson. So why take on the potential baggage of backing the wrong guy at the end of the day.
COOPER: Jeff, looking into the Arizona primary tomorrow. There's this proxy battle between former President Trump and former Vice President Pence, both had been on the campaign trail for different candidates. How much of the state for both?
ZELENY: Look, I think a lot is at stake for the former president. Of course, the former vice president is clearly not as popular among the base. But I think the biggest thing at stake is the direction of the Republican Party in Arizona, one of the top big battlegrounds in this cycle, and the former president was out there just a week or so ago. He is endorsing Kari Lake in the governor's race, and he is, you know, given his full throated endorsement. The former vice president has endorsed another candidate as well as the current governor is also backing her Karrin Taylor Robson.
And so, the end of the day, which direction is the party going to go? Make no mistake, it is still Trump policy, but it is a different type of rhetoric, if you will. And Kari Lake is as big of an election denier as it comes. So she wins tomorrow in Arizona and some other candidates as well. That will certainly foreshadow a tough race and interesting race come November.
COOPER: And David, there's another key primary challenge in Michigan for one of the 10 House Republicans voted to impeach the former president after the Capitol attack. What are you going to watch from that race?
CHALIAN: Yes. Congressman Meijer is one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach the President. He's one of three on the ballot tomorrow in primaries Anderson, two in Washington State and Meijer in Michigan. His Trump back challenger John Gibbs, is a total election denier as well as promoted Donald Trump's lies about the results of the 2020 election served in the Housing and Urban Development Cabinet agency in the Trump administration. And he is the conservative choice here, Miejer's in the fight of his life and Democrats, Anderson are actually meddling in this Republican primary, they're spending money trying to pump up Gibbs because they think he'll be easier to defeat in November, but that's playing with fire of course because they're promoting a known election denier who could potentially win the seat in November. COOPER: Yes. David Chalian, Jeff Zeleny, appreciate it. Thanks.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Randi Kaye joins us now for an update on a story we heard last week. Randi?
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. Last Friday, we hear the story about the Wyoming Republican congressional primary and Liz Cheney's constituents. We asked the state Republican Party for a statement which we shared on this program. They told us quote, the Wyoming GOP doesn't take sides in the primary. And that they are quote, neutral in this election. But that is not a true statement. As we have reported the state party has in fact taken some clear anti-Cheney positions. We wanted to clarify that the party may not have formally endorsed a candidate but it has not been neutral in this race. Anderson.
COOPER: Randi, appreciate it. Thanks.
The news continues. Want to hand it over Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Laura.