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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Appeals Court Allows DOJ To Resume Review Of Mar-A-Lago Documents; NY Attorney General Staggering Business Fraud In New Lawsuit. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 21, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: They wanted to spend their lives there, and now, here they are desperately trying to build a life. He wants to get a job. He's a crane operator and he wants to work. They've waited those five months for work papers, it is all they want to do is work. And we heard that from many of the other Ukrainians; one woman and accountant in Ukraine, sitting here as a nail technician waiting for those papers.

That is the biggest challenge they all face right now, is getting those working papers so that they can work and try to have a part of now the American Dream.

Thanks so much for watching. You can be sure to tune in Saturday at 8:00 PM for the "Champions for Change" one-hour special.

It's time now for Anderson.



Three big stories tonight, nuclear saber rattling and a military escalation from Vladimir Putin; a quarter billion dollar civil lawsuit against the former President, three of his grown children and his company, and just before airtime a major Court victory in the Justice Department's criminal probe of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago.

So, that is where we begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider.

So, this just happened. What more can you tell us about this ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is exactly what the Justice Department has been fighting for, for weeks. They tried to get this result in the district court from Judge Aileen Cannon, they didn't get it.

Now, they've had a victory at the 11th Circuit. Notably, this is from a unanimous panel of three Judges, two of them, Trump appointees, one Obama appointee. And what the 11th Circuit is saying tonight is that the Justice Department can go back to using the classified documents that they had been restricted from using in their ongoing criminal probe into these classified documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago last month, and the Appeals Court is saying here, they are really agreeing with the Justice Department saying that yes, in fact, national security could be harmed if the Justice Department can't continue its probe here.

They said that, you know, the DOJ has argued that its criminal investigation and the national security assessment is inextricably linked. The Appeals Court saying, yes, in fact, they're saying if we don't let the DOJ continue to use these classified documents, there would be real and significant harm on the United States and the public.

And notably, in this opinion, as well, Anderson, the 11th Circuit is really faulting Trump's lawyers for not better explaining what seems to be their argument that Trump maybe declassified some of these documents, because remember, Trump has repeatedly said this in public, as have his lawyers, his allies, but they have not offered any proof in Court filings or in person.

So, the 11th Circuit tonight, criticizing Trump's team for really not being forthcoming here.

COOPER: So, what does this mean for the Special Master?

SCHNEIDER: Well, interestingly, this 11th Circuit opinion also touches on that because remember, the second thing that DOJ was asking for here was to not allow the special master to look at these 100 classified documents. They want it kept out of view from the Special Master and Trump's legal team and they got that tonight with the 11th Circuit opinion.

So, what this means is that the Special Master can continue his review because remember, there are 11,000 documents in whole that he has to review before November 30th. However, he is now restricted from looking at that those 100 classified documents in the review. So, that is a like a second win for DOJ at this point in the night -- Anderson.

COOPER: And can the ruling be appealed?

SCHNEIDER: It could be. You know, we heard from the Justice Department in that hearing before the Special Master yesterday that they would appeal it if they lost. Presumably, the same goes now that Trump's team has lost this. They could potentially appeal and that means it could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

But for now DOJ has a win here. They can resume using those classified documents. They'll be kept out of the view of the Special Master and Trump's legal team. Trump's team can move to appeal this, but DOJ is free to go about their investigation and continue it as they had been before the brakes had been put on it previously -- Anderson.

COOPER: There had been some concern among some, the DOJ, I guess, and elsewhere about the Judges on the 11th Circuit. It was considered more conservative or a conservative Court. What is the makeup of that Court?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. So that was the gamble here because when DOJ was deciding whether or not to go to the 11th Circuit, you know, six of the 11 judges on the 11th Circuit are Trump appointees, but it turns out in this case, it didn't matter because the three-Judge panel who ruled in favor of DOJ tonight, two of them appointed by Trump, one of them appointed by President Obama.

So, they took a gamble here by going to the 11th Circuit. You know, remember they tried it first at the District Court, trying to get that initial Judge to overturn part of her original opinion, she wouldn't do it. So, they had to go to the 11th Circuit and they appealed in a very limited way only asking for two things. And tonight, that gamble paid off because they have a victory at the 11th Circuit tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jessica Schneider, appreciate it.

Joining us now, CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan; CNN political analysts and "New York Times" senior political correspondent, Maggie Haberman. She is also the author of the new book out October 4th titled "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America."

With us as well tonight CNN political commentator, David Urban, who served as a campaign strategist of the former President.


COOPER: So Paul, obviously this is a big win for the Department of Justice. Does it surprise you what happens next, now that they can continue using these classified documents?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It really doesn't surprise me because this ruling by Judge Cannon that the DOJ couldn't investigate what was going on with these classified documents was really kind of shocking.

I mean, sources and methods of spies that we have in other countries, who knows what are affected by these records. And to say that the Department of Justice couldn't look at them was really a surprising ruling.

So, I think the Appellate Court decided that this was the right way to go with it and they left the rest pretty much alone.

COOPER: The three-Judge panel of the 11th Circuit, also really lambasted the prior Judge, Judge Cannon. I just want to read what they said. They said: "The District Court abused its discretion in exercising equitable jurisdiction here." Explain what that means and how unusual it is to have a rebuke like that.

CALLAN: It's very unusual to get a rebuke like that, and equitably, the reference to equity has to do with -- Florida calls that injunctive relief when a Judge's ruling not that one side as one damages, or that somebody has to go to jail, but that you have to do something affirmatively. And in this case, the affirmative thing was not look at classified documents when the US government has every right to look at its own classified documents.

Trump derived no right to do that just because he took them to Mar-a- Lago, and of course, his attorneys never even posited the argument with evidence that he had declassified those documents.

So I think the Appellate Court was really disturbed by an egregious overreach by the District Judge here and sort of slapped back that decision and said, "No, Department of Justice can have the records."

COOPER: Maggie, the former President received a string of favorable decisions related to the search at Mar-a-Lago from that District Judge. Do you expect that he is going to try to appeal this to the Supreme Court? Or I mean, there are also questions I guess, about his legal representation, because it has been criticized widely even by other Justices.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We don't know yet, Anderson, what their response is going to be, but certainly the former President's strategy in most of these litigations has been to try to drag it out. So, I anticipate there is a strong possibility that they will try to appeal to a Higher Court and see how far this goes.

You know, this hasn't been a great legal week for them. I know that some people around the former President yesterday were insisting that the Special Master hearing yesterday was not that bad, and that the Special Master, Judge Ray Dearie did not sound that skeptical. He did sound very skeptical.

What it means in terms of what he is going to do remains to be seen, but this decision by this Circuit, which is filled with a lot of Trump appointees on it, I think is just another setback.

However, I will just stress, Trump's desire is always to drag these things out and dragging it out isn't necessarily something he is going to be upset about.

COOPER: David, the 11th Circuit also wrote that the former President suggested he declassify these documents, but directly stated, "Plaintiff resisted providing any evidence that he had declassified any of these documents." What do you make of the fact that the former President's legal team continues to refuse to provide any evidence of that claim?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Anderson, I make it, this is what it makes it look like prima facie, right? Given the opportunity if your lawyers can't produce it, then it didn't happen most likely, right?

So, I believe the Judge said, you know, you can't have your cake and eat it, too in this situation. You can't claim that it has been declassified that not produce evidence of declassification. You can't just wave a magic wand in this instance, you need to produce documents, you need to produce the receipts showing that it was actually putting it in motion, and the declassifying authority would declassify it and there would be actual documents evidencing that.

COOPER: Paul, do you think the Supreme Court would take the case if the former President appealed it to them?

CALLAN: I don't think that they will, but you have a former President of the United States here. It is not an ordinary case. They could -- there is also another option that we haven't discussed tonight. They could ask for what they call an en banc hearing. Remember, only three Judges made this decision. You normally have the right to ask the entire 11th Circuit to hear the issue and then you can go to the Supreme Court or you can go directly to the Supreme Court.

And I think Maggie is right that Trump delays, delays, delays and he tries to over litigate everything. So, he might ask for the full en banc hearing because that would delay things even more.

COOPER: Maggie, obviously, this is not the only bad legal news the former President got today. What impact, if any, do you think this would have or do you think it would have any decision on whether or not he would run again?

HABERMAN: You mean, the decision in New York?

COOPER: You're right, in New York. Yes.

HABERMAN: Yes. I mean, look, Anderson, I think that you can look at this in two different ways. Number one, a lot of people have talked to the former President say that they don't think that his heart seems to be in politics and running and campaigning the way it once was that having been said. The second that he says that he is not running, he loses a lot of attention.


HABERMAN: He loses the same ability to fundraise politically, and he loses potentially, if he were to run the protections that the office affords a sitting President in terms of investigations, and all of that is something that he is aware of.

I think that, you know, the people I have spoken to close to him were very relieved, still, as they have been over and over that there was no criminal charge related here. There was a criminal referral that was discussed, but this is a civil action and I think that you're going to see them fight it on the same grounds that you have seen them quite a lot.

I will say, there were a couple of very new details related to Trump's financial habits in this filing and there were -- you know, there were certainly a lot of descriptions that the Attorney General used of his practices.

She put together a comprehensive filing, a lot of it, and that this is what the Trump folks are pointing to repeatedly. It is stuff that has largely been known. The question is going to be whether it gets heard differently in a Court this time.

COOPER: David, do you think the former President would be more or less likely to run again, given all of the news today? And just I mean, just the sheer volume of the legal drama surrounding it?

URBAN: Right. Right. So, if you stack them up. There are potentially five cases going on right now, right? So you have the criminal suit by New York State against the Trump Organization, which is ongoing. You have this civil suit now. You have the District Attorney in Fulton County looking at the 2020 election, and you have the January 6 Committee and the Department of Justice looking at January 6th, then you have the Mar-a-Lago incident with this classified -- so there are five potential lawsuits going on.

But Anderson, if the President doesn't run, then he can't claim that it is politically motivated. So, you know, if he is the candidate -- the Republican candidate for the presidency, he can look at the New York Attorney General and say, look, this is -- as Maggie said, this has all been well known and out in public for a long time. All of these claims against me inflating my value of my properties, and you know, none of the -- if you look, you know, we look at the suit, you know, none of the financials were certified, the organization didn't sign off, and none of the accountants signed off on it.

So, if the if the bank relied on them, I would be very surprised, but if the President is not a candidate, then he doesn't have that card to play. So, I would say it makes him a little bit more likely to run.

COOPER: We'll also David, I mean, if he is not a candidate, you know, he is a former President, but he is also just the guy in Mar-a-Lago and a lot of the energy around him and the sense of being in the center of the storm dissipates and you're just the guy in Mar-a-Lago who is still at the center of a legal storm, but without any of the kind of future potential out there.

URBAN: Well, you know, I agree with that, but don't underestimate the Trump fan base, right? There is a great deal of people who are not going to stop following Donald Trump just because he is not a candidate. They'll wait and see who he is going to support, right?

The notion that the President is -- the former President is the kingmaker still remains very strong, but if he's not a candidate, and he can't claim he is being politically victimized, and that is what I think would be important,

COOPER: David Urban, Maggie Haberman, Paul Callan -- Paul is going to stay with us. Thanks, everybody else.

Coming next, more on that card to play as David Urban just called it, the former President's new legal troubles in New York, a quarter billion dollar lawsuit and a serious blow, it could be to the family business.

And later how Ukraine, the world, and how people in Russia are reacting to Vladimir Putin's new military mobilization and his veiled nuclear threat over Ukraine.



COOPER: We touched on this before the break, even before the Appeals Court ruled tonight, the former President's legal trouble had already grown considerably today, specifically a threat to his business, his trust fund, and his ability to acquire New York real estate, and his bottom line to the tune of $250 million. That's just some of what New York State Attorney General Letitia James is seeking in a lawsuit naming the former President, Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric Trump, and others including a former and current company executive in an alleged decade- long pattern of overvaluing his assets by billions of dollars, assets including his Trump Tower apartment, which the lawsuit alleges he inflated the square footage of by a factor of three, he said it was three times bigger than it really was in order to misrepresent the value of it according to the suit and more than $300 million.

And if the notion sounds familiar, that's because his former attorney, Michael Cohen laid out the exact scheme during a congressional testimony back in early 2019.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY: It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in "Forbes" and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.


COOPER: Well, flash forward to today, CNN's Kara Scannell joins us now. So, talk more if you can about this lawsuit and the penalties the Attorney General is seeking.


Letitia James, the New York Attorney General called this alleged fraud staggering. She said that the former President Donald Trump and his three eldest children committed this fraud over a decade and that it touched nearly every aspect of its business from his golf courses to some of his highest profile properties.

If you look at some of these examples, that's Mar-a-Lago. There, the New York Attorney General's office says that Trump had valued that property at $739 million, when in fact she said the value was closer to $75 million. There's also a number of properties in New York and Washington, DC, as well as the hotel in Las Vegas. There, Letitia James in her lawsuit alleges that they undervalued that property in order to obtain a tax benefit.

Now, she also says that she believes she found some examples of Federal crimes being violated including specifically bank fraud. She said she was making a referral to the Internal Revenue Service and the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York for them to potentially pick up that investigation.


SCANNELL: We reached out to both of those agencies, neither of them had any comment on whether they will look into these allegations, but she herself is seeking some pretty steep penalties, $250 million fine, a permanent ban on the former President and his three eldest children from doing any business or serving on a Board of Directors in New York, and a five-year ban on them operating their business essentially, or not paying rent, not making any loans, it could really potentially cripple the business if the Judge approves that.

And at this point, now, you know, we will go into the next steps here. Will this end up in Court and before a Judge -- Anderson.

COOPER: What's the response been from the former President?

SCANNELL: Well, former President Trump was out on his social media platform today saying that this was politically motivated and a witch hunt. One of his attorneys, Alina Habba issued a statement saying that these allegations were all meritless and that they would fight each and every one of them in Court -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kara Scannell, appreciate it. Thanks.

Joining us now, someone who has seen it all when it comes to the former President, investigative reporter in Syracuse University Law Professor, David Cay Johnston, author of "The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and his Family," and back with us, CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan.

So Paul, how strong a case do you think this is?

CALLAN: Well, it's a case that can be contested, no doubt, because remember, the District Attorney of Manhattan was investigating the same thing on the criminal side, and decided not to proceed with the case.

But in reading over the allegations, there is a staggering number of allegations. It's a 200-page story of what the Attorney General describes as persistent fraud perpetuated by the Trump Organization, and she is seeking what corporate lawyers call the corporate death penalty, which would be decertification of the Trump Organization, so they couldn't even do business in New York anymore. It's the death penalty for a corporation. It's a very, very serious penalty if the AG wins the suit,

COOPER: David, I mean, does the size, the scope of this lawsuit, the breadth of the alleged fraud, does it surprise you at all? Or does it line up with what you've learned over the many years about the former President's business practices?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, LAW PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: This lines up perfectly, Anderson. This is how Donald has behaved his entire life. The AG could have gone back a lot further, but there is a statute of limitations on these matters and what AG James does that's very important is she puts this right as Donald doing it. Donald often will say, well, I was just doing with the lawyers and the accountants said and she shows where they said X, and he did Y. A good example, a building was valued by appraisers at $200 million, Trump said it was worth $527 million and he said that's what the appraiser said. That's pretty hard evidence against Trump.

COOPER: Because, as you know, that is one of the arguments that has been made in the past. It is like, look, New York real estate, there is a history here of, you know, inflating values and being fast and loose. I mean, isn't that -- you know, is that an argument that would hold up in a Court that this was just sort of how business was done in the go-go 80s? And, you know, I guess even now?

JOHNSTON: You're asking me?

COOPER: Yes, yes, I am sorry.

JOHNSTON: I'm sorry, Anderson, it may or may not hold up in Court. To me, it raises a different question. Our banking systems and our insurance companies are clearly operating way outside of the legal strictures. I mean, they, after all, hold money, essentially in trust for depositors and premium payers and we are not enforcing the law regarding this.

And so the whole scope of Big Banking in America, especially international level Big Banking, is just riven with criminal behavior and we just have a tiny law enforcement effort, and we don't really try to go after it.

COOPER: Paul, how does the burden of proof in a civil case like this differ from the burden of proof in a criminal case?

CALLAN: Well, it is much lower, Anderson. It is by a preponderance of the credible evidence, which means just that one side has a little bit more evidence than the other as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt, which is what we have when somebody faces jail time.

I think in this case, though, you'll have a very lengthy litigation, and the defense attorneys are going to come in and say, hey, well, we are the victims. None of the banks complained about this to Trump, and of course, he's been under investigation for a long time.

So who are the victims here? And that is really what they're going to say, and they are going to harken back to what you opened questioning about, isn't this what all of these big real estate developers are doing in New York and other places? So, that's going to be the defense, whether it plays with a Judge or a jury in the future will remain to be seen.

COOPER: The district attorney, Paul, did say that she is referring this to Federal investigators in the Southern District of New York and to the IRS. Is that a real possibility of a criminal case for the district attorney?


CALLAN: I don't know. My hesitation on that is remember, the Southern District investigated Michael Cohen and he was trying to trade his own freedom for this case that he could prove and produce evidence that Trump did these things, and the Southern District never indicted Trump on this.

So, has the Attorney General come up with new material that Michael Cohen didn't know about? That's a possibility. But it would have to be very, very strong material, I think for the Southern District to go with a criminal case.

COOPER: Paul Callan, appreciate it. Great to see you. David Cay Johnston as well, thank you.

Coming up, Russian President Vladimir Putin has again issued a not so veiled nuclear threat over the war in Ukraine. He is calling up hundreds of thousands of more Russian troops to join the fight. It's the big biggest escalation of the war since the invasion.

I will talk to "The New York Times" Tom Friedman, next.


COOPER: Well, there are warning signs tonight after the threat of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin made today over Ukraine while announcing the draft of as many as 300,000 reservists.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is not a bluff. The citizens of Russia can be sure that the territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence, and freedom will be ensured, and those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction.


COOPER: This is not Vladimir Putin's first time saber rattling or fuel rattling. Three days into the war, you'll recall he put Russia's nuclear forces on high alert. That said, these new comments ring differently certainly because he has now got his troops in parts of Ukraine in retreat and a united NATO that's stronger than ever.


The troop call up in Russia, send protesters into the streets in a number of cities. More than 1,000 people have been detained according to one independent monitoring group, which also reports that some of the demonstrators are being conscripted directly into the military. Putin's announcement also set off a rush for flights out of the country and a sharp spike in Google searches for the term leaving Russia.

Addressing the UN General Assembly today, President Biden was blunt.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Let us speak plainly, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded his neighbor, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map.

Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe, and a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime. Now, Russia is calling, calling up more soldiers to join the fight. And the Kremlin is organizing a sham referenda to try to annex parts of Ukraine, an extremely significant violation of the UN Charter. This wall should see these outrageous acts for what they are.


COOPER: Well, joining us now is New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, who's written a new op-ed laying out three ways the war might end. He's also the author of numerous bestsellers, including From Beirut To Jerusalem, personal favorite of mine.

First of all, what is your reaction to this latest message from Putin and calling up all these reservists?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you know, Anderson, it really shows the three alternatives way this work at end. One is that his military actually cracks. That's now on the table. That's a real possibility.

COOPER: When you say cracks, what do -- how do you see?

FRIEDMAN: Well, we already saw that the Ukrainians were able to chase them out of now with 3,700 square miles, you know, of territory they had occupied, they have extremely long line of defense, we know people threw down their arms, we know people were at home that were terrible conditions they were living in, winter is coming. And you know, when an army loses its morale like that. That can be contagious. And it can happen slowly, and then quickly.

COOPER: Right.

FRIEDMAN: So, I think that that option is on the table.

COOPER: But also, the idea that they are forcing protesters who've been arrested and put it -- they're putting them into the military, if that is true, I mean that's extraordinary.

FRIEDMAN: And going to jails and offering people get out of jail free card, if she'll go to the front, you know, for six months. And by the way, if you desert, well shoot us. So, that doesn't speak a war of great moral clarity, you know. So, the first, I think the first option is, is that the army could somehow break, in which case, his threat to use a nuclear weapon, we should take very seriously. That if the thought of anyone using a nuclear weapon, you know, since Nagasaki was a half a percent, it's gone up now. Because we could deliver a blow a friend of mine was saying to me, you know, you could knock him out of the ring today. But as he falls over the ropes, he could plunge, you know, the plunger on a bomb, I think that's the first outcome possible.

The second is what I would call a dirty deal. And I think that's what he's trying to organize here. So, he's organizing this referendum in the areas where he's occupied, you know, Ukraine, then I think that's a prelude to annexing them. Putting more soldiers there may be driving a truck of missiles that carry nuclear weapons there, and then saying to Ukraine, the West in the world, let's have a ceasefire. Let's have a ceasefire. And you know, if you all agree you Europeans to lift some sanctions, I'll turn the gas on in the middle of winter. I think a lot of people would, would resist that. But it could be very tempting that option could fracture the Alliance, especially after you get an Italian election where a pro-Russian government comes in.

Third option is a dirty deal without Putin. And I think that's what you saw a little bit the potential here today. That is, you actually offer the Russian people, if you will get out of Ukraine, give up all the territory you've occupied since 2014. We the West will lift the sanctions. Putin could never agree to that. Because it would mean that he lost 70,000 men, 1,500 pieces of artillery, billions and sanctions for nothing, but the Russian people, they might be interested in that. And that then becomes a threat to him, where people simply say, wait a minute, this is in our interest, even if it's not in his.

So, I think you know, (INAUDIBLE) I mean that the what is new today, Anderson is that the threat of a nuclear event in in Europe has increased. The threat of instability in Russia has increased. And that's why today we should --

COOPER: Were (INAUDIBLE) has been in fear of Vladimir Putin for a long time.


COOPER: And I remember being in Tatarstan I don't know sometime in the mid late '90s and there was concerned then about Russia itself possibly breaking up.


FRIEDMAN: Well, you and I grew up really in a world of this really solid thing called the Soviet Union. It was gray and dull and dangerous, but there was a solidity to it. And then we had the sort of hopeful period of democratization, Yeltsin, et cetera. And then we've had the period of what I would call Bad Boy Putin, he was a bad boy, but he'd helped us after 9/11. Or he'd help us with the Iran deal. And he tried to hack our elections, but he was sort of a bad boy, but we could deal with him. The thought of a pariah Russian or an unstable Russia, with 5,000 nuclear weapons, spanning 11 time zones. We've never lived in that world.

COOPER: The second option we gave, which is that, you know, dirty deal. You know, Zelenskyy is in the middle of that dirty deal. And he obviously does not want to give up any land. Have you seen signs that Zelenskyy would be willing? I mean, he gave a proposal to the UN today, but I mean, doesn't seem like there's any indications. You know, they're on the advanced right now.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. Just the opposite. Just in Europe, just came back from Germany, yesterday, before yesterday. But I think support for this war is very broad, but it's also shallow that when winter comes if energy prices have spiked to factories are closing, if people are choosing between heating and eating, there will be pressure on Zelenskyy. How much? I don't know. I think within Ukraine, there's real solidarity. I think, you know, President Biden's, you know, behind him, been behind him 100% But it depends if there's a deal on the table. You never know there will be pressure on him at some point.

COOPER: As you said winter's coming. Tom Friedman, thank you. FRIEDMAN: It's a please. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, some good news to American veterans captured fighting alongside Ukrainian forces are safe tonight after months as prisoners of war. I'll talk to the mom of one of them about how her son was finally freed from Russian backed forces, next.



COOPER: They were held captive for more than 100 days. Tonight, two American veterans, Alexander John-Robert Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh are free, both traveled to Ukraine to help fight the Russian invasion both went missing on June 9th, and were reportedly captured by Russian backed forces.

I spoke to Drueke's mom and Hyunh's fiance a week after the two men went missing.


BUNNY DRUEKE, MOTHER OF ALEXANDER JOHN-ROBERT DRUEKE: I'm trying to remain strong and calm because getting upset won't help Alex at all. But hearing joy for the first time this is difficult. Because I feel for her. The most of the time I'm really strong. Because that's what Alex would want.


COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) tonight both men are safe, hopefully coming home soon. For more on how these events played out and how they ended up at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia. I'm very pleased once again to welcome Bunny Drueke, the mother of Alexander John-Robert Drueke. And I'm so glad we're talking under these circumstances. How are you doing tonight? How are you? I can't imagine how you feel.

DRUEKE: I need to be weighted down and so like -- feel like I'm just floating. I'm so happy.

COOPER: Yes. When did you -- how did you get the news? When do you think you'll see him?

DRUEKE: Well, we hope to see him in a few days, they're being checked out by the medical staff to make sure that they're healthy enough to fly. But everything is looking good so far. So, we're hoping it'll just be a few days. And this morning, I was reading a book to my little three-year-old grandson. And I got a phone call that said Saudi Arabia. And I thought I don't know anyone in Saudi Arabia. But these days, I'm just taking it anyway. So, I accept the call. And it was a woman that's at the embassy, the U.S. Embassy there in Saudi Arabia. And she verified who I was. And then she said, I have your son standing right next to me, and he wants to speak to you.

COOPER: Oh my gosh. DRUEKE: And I went Alex? And I heard him say, hi, Mama. It's me your favorite child. When he's running joke because he has other siblings and I said, well, you just do anything to make that (INAUDIBLE) Anthony said, I'm free. And I said, what? And he said, I'm free. And I said, free? And he said, yes, I'm free. And my mind just couldn't comprehend it. Because there had been no warning. We -- it just came out of the blue, and even surprised the State Department how quickly this happened. You know, nobody's complaining. We're all really happy about it. But it was it was quite a surprise.

COOPER: Wow. Well, when I'm not going to ask if he really is your favorite son or not. But when we spoke in June, you talked about staying strong for Alex and feeling sorry for Andy's fiance, Joy. I understand that Alex and Andy were buddies. How important is it to you that both of them are getting to come home together?

DRUEKE: Oh, very, very important. We have never talked about one without mentioning the other. And in fact, my next question when I realized they were actually free that Alex was, I said, what about Andy? And he said, yes, he's here with me. And he said, he can't call Joy because he can't remember her phone number. And I said, I have her number. So, I gave him the numbers and that Andy was able to call Joy. It had been since early June that she had talked to him. And so, she just -- I didn't even have time to warn her that he was calling and it just blew her mind.


DRUEKE: I've never seen her smile this much.

COOPER: And I mean, you met through this horrible circumstance. You are connected for life. So, you think maybe it -- may be a couple of days before you see you him?


DRUEKE: Yes, I think so. You know I want them to check them out, make sure that they're healthy enough to fly, it's a long flight, it's 14 hours. And so they want to make sure that they're hydrated well and, you know, that we don't think that there's anything majorly wrong. They haven't indicated that just, they just wanted to make sure that they were in tip top condition.

COOPER: Well, I bet you are going to hug your son tight and Bunny, it is such a pleasure to talk to you. And I'm so glad this has resolved the way it has. Thank you.

DRUEKE: Thank you, Anderson, and thank everybody for their prayers and support.

COOPER: Yes. A lot of people praying for you. Thank you. Wishing you the best.

Up next --

DRUEKE: Thank you. COOPER: All right, and take care. How of the former president -- I love her. How the former president appears to be ramping up his public support for QAnon.



COOPER: As the former president faces more legal fights and considers another run for the White House in 2024, he appears to be publicly embracing the cult of Q, the QAnon movement which is based on anti- Semitic, anti-Catholic tropes that have been around for centuries but with some very modern, very, very crazy twists.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has a closer look tonight at the potential implications.


DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Trump has long flirted with QAnon but this illustrated meme he reshared last week with QAnon slogans and a Q on his lapel is one of his most brazen endorsements of the conspiracy theory.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: Even President Donald J. Trump put that on there a guy wearing a Q pin storm is upon us. Patriots are in control.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Post on this QAnon radio show celebrating.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: That is the reason that you are all here because you know the truth. You all know who Donald Trump really is. You all know who the fight is really about and who the players are that actually want to destroy our country.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): On Trump's social media platform, QAnon followers so the President's posts as a clear sign he is with them and with QAnon.

One post read at this point, anyone denying that Q is a legit operation affiliated with the Trump administration is in major denial. Another read, @realDonaldTrump has over 4 million followers, yet he seeks out Q people to recruit.

JOAN DONOVAN, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: What we've seen recently from Trump is different from what we've seen in the past. Prior to this, he would say he's heard of these QAnon people he believes them to be great patriots. Now the message is directly one to one it's no longer ambiguous.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, certainly we are concerned about the QAnon phenomenon.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): The FBI has warned of the dangers of QAnon and its potential to inspire violence.

GREG EHRIE, ADL VICE PRESIDENT: What we have is a former president, potential candidate for the presidency of United States legitimizing what's in essence, a cult.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): QAnon has been associated with bizarre claims about cabals and child sacrifice, but the slogans and symbols of QAnon have now become intertwined with Trump's lies about a stolen election.

(on-camera): Yes, I go to a lot of Trump rallies, I see a lot of people wearing QAnon T-shirts, doesn't mean they're all necessarily violent or dangerous does it?

EHRIE: Does not. And that's the most difficult law enforcement scenario to deal with. Because you wanted to identify threats amongst these hundreds, sometimes thousands of people.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Trump delivered some of his speech Saturday in Youngstown, Ohio to a backing track.

TRUMP: We are a nation that is no longer respected or listened to around the world. We are a nation that in many ways has become a joke.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): That music you hear sounds identical to a song associated with QAnon. While it played, the crowd all pointed their fingers in unison toward the sky.

DONOVAN: The imagery of everybody their heads bowed, with their finger pointed in the air showing the number one, this is where meme wars are most potent because for some people they were seeing that reflected in the QAnon meme where we go one we go all. Others we're seeing America First be reflected.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): The Trump team denied the music was a QAnon song.

EHRIE: It was played, and to the people who are listening, that's a siren song, even if it was an accident, it becomes the perception. And it's easy to counter that. Whereas the no, that's not what I meant. No, I do not support this group statement that you would expect from a Bible candidate.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): But Trump has never outright disavowed QAnon quite the opposite. He's instead endorsing candidates who have echoed the conspiracy theory, like Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State and Arizona.

STATE REP. MARK FINCHEM (R-AZ): There's a lot of people involved in in a pedophile network and the distribution of children. And unfortunately, there's a whole lot of elected officials that are involved in that.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): At a fundraiser for Finchem this weekend, a performance of another QAnon song, named after the QAnon slogan Where We Go, One We Go All.


COOPER: And Donie O'Sullivan joins us now. I mean, if the former president doesn't believe in this stuff, or doesn't want to raise money from the people who do believe in it, he could just come out and say this, this is ridiculous. There are not lizard people. You know, the politicians are not drinking the blood of children for some, you know, chromosome, or whatever it is. I mean, you can just say no, I don't believe it. He's been playing around footsie with this for a long time. And this is just the most blatant he's ever gotten.

O'SULLIVAN: Exactly. I mean, that post is so blatant there. There's two QAnon slogans on it. There's a Q on his lapel. He's been asked about this for at least two years now. And he's never disavowed it he's never outright come out and say that Q stuff is all crazy. It always seems to go the other way. People in his circle, his aides and his team tried to argue that, you know, he doesn't care about QAnon, he doesn't know about it. Those repos he just likes them because he looks good and those kinds of memes.


COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) people cannot believe Joe Biden is a sock puppet. The Vatican has fallen to American troops is actually controlled by American troops. The Pope has been arrested. I mean --

O'SULLIVAN: Everything.

COOPER: They tell you this completely seriously.

O'SULLIVAN: Everything. Yes, I mean, it goes from that very crazy, the earth is flat to maybe somewhat less crazy fears about the election and democracy and whatnot, but all ultimately conspiracy theories and there's a factor there all the way up.

COOPER: And they're just based on anti-Semitic things which have been around forever. Donie O'Sullivan, thank you.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Before we go, the second episode, my new podcast about grief and loss is now available. To listen you can just point your cell phone at a QR code on your TV screen for a link to it. It's a very personal and emotional look at loss and the ripple effects of it that can last a lifetime. Loss and grief are not something I think that we talked about enough and for those struggling with it as I have, it's very isolating and lonely. But it is a bond that we all share. It's one of the most universal human experiences grief, we all lose people we love and it can be made easier by hearing others experiences.

The podcast is called All There Is, QR code is there. The new episode is it's a profound and moving and funny conversation with Stephen Colbert whose dad and two brothers were killed in a plane crash when he was just 10 years old. This is probably the most profound and moving conversation actually I've ever had with somebody in public life about their personal grief. Stephen talks about it in just extraordinary ways that I found really helpful and I think you will as well.


You can find all there is on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. I hope you give it a listen. I hope you let me know what you think.

That's it for us tonight. The news continues. Sara Sidner joins us right now. Sara?