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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Hurricane Ian Heading Toward Florida; New Advisory Issued On Hurricane Ian; Russia Claiming Victory In Sham Ukraine Annexation Votes; American Veteran Alexander John-Robert Drueke On Fighting In Ukraine, Capture By Russian-Backed Forces; Jan. 6 Rioter Assaulted Michael Fanone Sentenced To 7+ Years; Meet Ava, The Brain Cancer Warrior. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 27, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Here is what it looked like from satellite. You can actually see the asteroid and see the collision. There it is. That's massive collision. More images. You see the blast in the background. The larger asteroid, Didymos is in the foreground; Dimorphos is the one in the back that it hit. It was a $300 million project, and the whole goal was to see if NASA can hit something really tiny and knock it off course so that we wouldn't have a catastrophe for human civilization.

Thanks for joining us. And now let's hand it off to Anderson.



We begin tonight with a new update. Just in from the National Hurricane Center on Hurricane Ian as this satellite video shows, it is a massive and highly active system the flashes you see are lightning. Here is what it is like right now in Key West, which we just started seeing tropical storm level winds.

The greatest concern right now is in the Gulf Coast, where a combination of heavy lingering rainfall and massive storm surge and rivers already at flood stage could send up to 12 feet of water into low lying areas.

So, Federal agencies have been coordinating with State officials on emergency needs. The House January 6 Committee has canceled tomorrow's hearing because of the storm.

As only CNN can, we have a team of correspondents and forecasters on this tonight. Jennifer Gray is in the Weather Center; Randy Kaye is in Punta Gorda, Florida; Patrick Oppmann is in Havana, Cuba, which has already been hit and I want to start with the new bulletin and Jennifer Gray.

So, what did we learn now?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it is maintaining its strength. We have 120-mile-per-hour winds with gusts of 150. It is still moving to the north northeast at about 10 miles per hour, basically paralleling Key West right now. The Lower Keys have already received tropical storm force winds and conditions are only going to deteriorate across the southern peninsula of Florida throughout the overnight tonight.

Tropical storm force winds will be arriving across South Florida within the next couple of hours. And throughout the day, tomorrow and into the early afternoon, we should -- or early to mid-afternoon, we should be seeing a landfall.

So eight o'clock tonight by eight o'clock Wednesday morning, this is when the earliest arrival of tropical storm force winds will arrive and we could see these winds maintain across this area all the way through Friday morning.

So, as this storm slowly marches across the State, we are going to be inundated with not only the very high storm surge, but potentially 20 to 30 inches of rain, as well as the winds that are going to be relentless for hours on end.

This could be a Category 4 storm by tomorrow. It could make landfall, Anderson, as a Category 4 as well. That's going to push a lot of storm surge into this area, so anywhere between Tampa and Fort Myers, that's the area that we're most concerned about for the potential for eight to 12 feet of storm surge.

So, depending on exactly where the storm makes landfall, the area right around the center and just to the right of the center, that is where we are going to see the highest surge. So, potential for 12 feet of storm surge there with these very low-lying areas that is going to push some water very far inland. We could see nine feet of storm surge around Port Charlotte, Boca Grande, down to Fort Myers if the track is steady for tomorrow, like we think it's going to be today.

Here is the radar. You can see the eye very defined pulling in there. We have tornado warnings, in fact, a very densely populated portion of Broward County right now. There is a tornado in progress around Cooper City.

So people need to be aware that tornadoes are going to be spinning up throughout the storm, as well as the rain, the storm surge, the wind, a whole combination of very dangerous elements for the next 24 to 36 hours -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, and we're looking at an image just below me, you can see from that's around Key West, Florida, you just get a sense of where they are just starting to experience out in Key West.

What is it -- just again, Jennifer, the key hours for -- I mean, what is the kind of do -- we know what time it's going to make landfall?

GRAY: We think it's going to make landfall sometime between, I would expect between four and seven, maybe eight tomorrow. It depends on how much this would slow --

COOPER: Tomorrow afternoon? GRAY: Yes, tomorrow afternoon. The National Hurricane Center is not

expecting it to slow as much as previously thought. So, it's all going to depend on the speed it goes into shore. But I believe it's going to be some time tomorrow, mid-afternoon into the early evening hours.

COOPER: Well, Jennifer Gray, appreciate it. Thank you.

Western Cuba has already taken a bad hit from the storm. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Havana for us tonight. So, there are a lot of folks I know without power. Explain where you are and what you've been hearing and seeing.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so you wouldn't think I'm in a city of two million people. But right now, Anderson, the entire City of Havana is without any power. This is as the Cuban capital and we weren't even really hit that hard today.

The official explanation is that the government took down the power ahead of the storm as they often do, and that they're waiting to turn the power back on to make sure there aren't any fires, aren't any people who get electrocuted by downed power lines. But of course, the electrical system has had problems for months here. That has led to rare protests people taking to the streets because they are so angry over these frequent blackouts.


So, from Havana West, this island is without power tonight and we're hearing more and more reports across the island of cities and towns without power. So, this may be the story moving forward.

Why is the power down so many hours after the storm passed through here and how long is going to take the government to put it on -- to put it back on? Certainly, Western Cuba, very are hard hit. Hundreds of people, if not thousands have lost their roofs, have had trees down in front of their houses, people who are just beginning to return to their towns to see the destruction there and it will be a process of days, if not weeks to begin to recover.

COOPER: Obviously Havana has a lot of older buildings, historic buildings. Do we know how the infrastructure besides the grid is holding up?

OPPMANN: You know, just before we came on air tonight with you, there was a port of a large building in Central Havana, a little poor neighborhood that completely collapsed. And this is really the danger, Anderson, is when these buildings get soaked in a rainstorm like we did today, it is not until they begin to dry out when the sun comes out that's when these buildings as they dry, there is a sort of a process where on some -- they will give way.

And sometimes it can be a balcony, it can be a piece of a building, sometimes it can be an entire building that comes down with the people inside. They might only have seconds to run out.

So even though Hurricane Ian is now done, has left Cuba, it is not done inflicting pain on Cuba. And certainly people when they're walking the streets in Havana for the days to come, they will be looking up scared that a building could collapse at any moment. There is just so much of the aging infrastructure here that has not been maintained properly over the years, and it has been put to the test, and in the days ahead could very well fail.

So, the pain will be felt from this hurricane for some time to come. It really is one that Cubans will remember for a long time,

COOPER: Yes. Patrick Oppmann, I appreciate it.

I want to go next to Randi Kaye who is in Punta Gorda, Florida, which is under mandatory evacuation order. What are things like there, Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we are now seeing steady rains here. A hundred and twenty thousand people under mandatory evacuation order in Charlotte County where we are, that's about two-thirds of the entire county.

We are just outside on the edge of downtown. We came over to this boat launch area just to sort of see what the situation is with the water levels before the storm, and you know they look okay for now, but this is the Peace River here at this (AUDIO GAP) that feeds into Charlotte Harbor and what they're expecting, if they do come, this ten to twelve-foot storm surge.

What's going to happen is the Peace River and the Charlotte Harbor are both going to flood. That is the real concern. When the storm comes, the ocean water is going to push into Charlotte Harbor (AUDIO GAP) much space to go. It's going to overflow. The same thing is going to happen to the Peace River.

And then where is all that water going to go? It's going to go right up through here and in other parts of the harbor and then push its way all the way into downtown Punta Gorda, which is right there.

We can walk over here from Punta Gorda downtown. So that's how close all of this storm surge could be. Lots of people in downtown, Anderson, had been boarding up their stores putting sandbags all over because the real concern here is the storm surge and flooding.

So, we did speak to one couple though on a boat nearby and they decided to ride out the storm on their boat -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. How does this compare to Hurricane Charley in 2004, so far?

KAYE: Right. Hurricane Charley, 2004. That was a Cat 4 storm, it came racing, right into the harbor. It was moving much faster than Hurricane Ian. It was going 25 miles per hour. Ian is going about 10 miles an hour. It was also a much smaller storm and it was really a wind event.

So when it came through, it plowed right through downtown Punta Gorda, it flattened it. But there wasn't much of a storm surge. There was only about maybe three or four feet of a storm surge in the areas nearby here, this we're talking about ten to twelve feet.

So, where I'm standing right now, I'm okay now, but at this time tomorrow night, Anderson, you could bet that this area is very likely going to be underwater. So, a very different story than Charley.

COOPER: Yes. Randi, I appreciate it. Thank you.

With us now is John Bartus, the Mayor of Marathon in the Florida Keys.

Mayor Bartus, first of all, thanks for being with us. I hope you are prepared as best you can be. What does it look like where you are right now? And what have preparations been like?

MAYOR JOHN BARTUS, MARATHON, FLORIDA: Right now, the wind over the last couple hours has really picked up, but the sun has set. We just got gust well over 50 miles per hour. We're looking at tropical storm conditions most of the night throughout probably most of the Florida Keys.

But the Keys are really prepared for these kind of things. Governments from Key West all the way throughout Monroe County, including our City of Marathon, got the preparations pretty much put together and we're ready for this. And we know how this goes. We're really worried about possibility of some storm surge coming to the bay side as the storm goes north, but we're prepared and we're going to hunker down and weather this out.


COOPER: Do you know how many people have evacuated in your area?

BARTUS: There were no mandatory evacuations called for. The City of Key West did open a shelter for people that were going to be displaced. And we have certainly encouraged people in boats and in trailers to go find some alternate places to stay throughout the course of this, but no mandatory evacuations were ordered in the Keys.

COOPER: What is your greatest concern at this hour? I mean, is it that storm surge you were talking about?

BARTUS: I think the storm surge coming in on the bay side tomorrow, especially as the water will pond up in Florida Bay, especially close to the Upper Keys like it did after Hurricane Wilma. John who is from our weather station down in Key West said that the water in some of those neighborhoods could last there through Friday or Saturday and so we're really worried about the bay side storm surge in the Keys, probably more than anything else.

COOPER: Obviously, folks, as you said, folks in the Keys know, I mean, they've been through this before, they know it well. Do you think residents were able to get enough provisions ahead of the storm?

BARTUS: I really do. If you go through the local grocery stores, the shelves were pretty much picked there. People were definitely in lines in gas stations, but I think most of that cool down as the forecast track showed that the storm was probably going to stay fairly well west of us.

I took a jog eastward today, and right now, I think the eyewall is going to come close to Fort Jefferson out of the Dry Tortugas. But for the most part, we've been doing well. I mean, we've already had a lot of rainfall, and we've had some flooding and we are always worried -- but we'll do this. We'll get through this just fine.

COOPER: Yes. Mayor Bartus, a pleasure. Thank you so much. Be careful. Be safe.

BARTUS: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, as we continue to keep a close watch on the storm, we're going to take you live to one of the border crossings where Russians about to be drafted into the war in Ukraine are trying to flee the country instead.

And later, a CNN exclusive. Alexander John Robert Drueke's first interview since his release from Russian backed forces in Ukraine. His mom, Bunny, joins us as well.



COOPER: As we continue to monitor Hurricane Ian through the hour in the night, there are significant developments elsewhere. Parts of occupied Ukraine for one where local authorities were declaring outlandish majorities in staged voting, some of that at gunpoint for joining Russia. That said, when it comes to Russians facing a military call up to fight in Ukraine, take a look at the lines.

They continue to run for the borders. This is the Lars Crossing Point between Russia, North Ossetia -- the North Ossetia region and Georgia. CNN's Melissa Bell is on the Georgian side of the border, joins us now.

So, we're seeing these huge lines. It's really extraordinary. It's very early in the morning where you are right now. Are the people and the cars still lined up still passing through?


Let me just show you a little bit behind me. It is as you say very early in the morning. All night, what we've seen is a very steady trickle of the cars. Now that line of traffic that you say we can see on those pictures goes back for dozens of miles.

This is such a standstill that people are getting out of their cars and coming over, some have come on bicycles, some are coming over on foot. We've seen fighting age men, but we've also seen women children accompanying them, elderly women, children being pushed in their strollers as they try and get away as quickly as they can across this border, really taking what little they can with them, sometimes a suitcase, sometimes a pet, really reminiscent, Anderson, of the kind of scenes we've been seeing along Ukraine's borders these last few months and in this time, we're talking about Russia's.

COOPER: So, do people -- I mean, is the Russian border -- Russians are still allowing them out? Is this a place where the Russia has the ability to stop them? What are you hearing from people about why they're leaving?

BELL: Basically, this is all about the draft that was announced last week by Vladimir Putin. People are scared about how it's being applied. The chaotic nature, they say of the way it's being applied inside Russia, not just the 300,000 people with previous military experience that were meant to be called up, but they say that they're scared of finding themselves in prison or the Ukrainian frontlines because what they say is happening is that people are simply being taken from the streets, not just those who should be being pulled up.

So there is the problem of what's happening now, the fears there are this is going to become a full mobilization, but more than that, Anderson, you mentioned this crossing, this is one that Russians could come through easily. They don't need visas to get into Georgia. Until now, it's been relatively easy.

Now, you've got the logistics of the sheer number of people trying to get in that is making it harder. But the real fear of the ones we've been speaking to, trying to get through tonight, who've managed to get through tonight is that this is one of those border crossings that could be closed altogether.

A partial mobilization, a full mobilization they fear and eventually, the introduction of Martial Law. Essentially, what they tell us is they are getting out while they can.

COOPER: According to the Russian state news agency, draft papers will be given to all eligible Russian men seeking to leave Russia through that border crossing. Have you seen that actually taking place? Do you think that will, if it does, that would deter anyone from leaving?

BELL: I think it will probably add to the sense of urgency with which they flee and what we've been hearing, Anderson from the police on this side, the Georgian side of the border, is that what they expect to see is a change in the nature of the people crossing.

So fewer fighting age men able to get through because essentially what they expect is a sort of filtration system to be put in place so that those men are more carefully checked and the ones that are not allowed to pass through essentially kept on the other side of the border -- Anderson.

COOPER: Melissa Bell, I appreciate it, at the Georgian border.

For perspective, we are joined by CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, who is here with me in New York.

I mean, it's amazing to see those images, you know, and those are not people fleeing Ukraine, as we're so used to seeing into Poland or elsewhere. It's fleeing Russians going into Georgia. CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you really

understand, Anderson, why President Vladimir Putin waited so long before going ahead and ordering a partial mobilization because there is such a huge difference between watching this special operation playing out on your television sets and then actually having it destroy your life, having to send your son, your brother off to a frontline, where ultimately I think many people understand that they may basically end up being used as cannon fodder.


And I also think there is a real understanding for people who, you know, the whole thing that Putin offered was this idea of stability. And now, they are seeing all the gains that had been made over the last three decades, suddenly, potentially disappearing into thin air and being lost for what could be a whole generation.

COOPER: Also, the idea that they are arresting protesters and getting some of them to actually go and fight that they're clearing out or offering to people in prisons, you get a reduced sentence or you can get out, but you've got to go to Ukraine and fight.

WARD: And I think it's really important that everyone keeps some perspective about all of this in terms of like, what's the impact going to be on the battlefield? Well, look at some of the guys that we're seeing who are heading to the frontlines. We're seeing a lot of drunks, we're seeing a lot of people with no military experience, we're seeing a lot of people who don't want to be there. We're seeing people, as you said, who have been recruited from prisons, who are just hoping to get a lower sentence.

And we're seeing a real lack of morale. We're not seeing the proper equipment. They're fighting with rusty Kalashnikovs. A lot of them are being told, you're basically responsible for getting yourself out other than your flak jacket, an extraordinary video online, where one woman is telling people, you've got to pack your own med kit, and so stock up on sanitary napkins and tampons because if you get shot, you can use that to try to staunch the bleeding.

This is not positive in terms of how that affects morale.

COOPER: Yes, we've also got news of what is going to happen to them once they're on the battlefield, either, you know, entering this meat grinder, or you know, marauding to do whatever to the civilian population. These advanced numbers that Russia is putting out from these sham referendums in these areas that they control.

I mean, why go through the facade? I mean, it's just such a joke is not the right word, but I mean, it's, it is a sham. Why go through this game?

WARD: It is a smokescreen for annexation, basically. So now what President Putin can do is when Ukrainian forces hit areas in Donbas or in Zaporizhzhia or Kherson. They can say, you've just hit Russia, and we can now respond in our self-defense with the full force that is available at our disposal, and that's where you're seeing the nuclear threat that he has dangled now, in a way that you know, even if the hope is that it is a bluff, the reality is that you need to prepare for every possible eventuality, because believe me, President Putin is facing a lot of pressure, especially from hardliners to get this done.

And I think he understands that his political survival depends on that.

COOPER: You think he is actually potentially vulnerable?

WARD: I would say that this is the most weakened, certainly that we have seen President Putin during his tenure. I would also say it's very easy to get caught up in the exuberance of these counteroffensives that the Ukrainians have been so successful with, and that I would not discount him yet. He is a fighter will continue to fight.

COOPER: I think it is an important point, because just even if you are throwing drunks and people who have no military experience onto a battlefield, if you're throwing 300,000 of them onto a battlefield, it is a sheer mass of people. I mean, if you don't care about who they kill or civilian populations are killed, you don't care what cities are leveled, or you want the cities leveled and you can continue a war without end.

WARD: And I think that is exactly the point here. If I'm trying to understand what President Putin's objective is here, it's not so much that it's going to shift the reality on the battlefield now. I think what the hope is, keep it grinding, keep it going. If we can keep it going the whole way through 2023, people are going to get tired. The Ukrainian economy is going to be obliterated. The Ukrainian people will start to lose heart. The Europeans who forms such a huge part of this support network will start to feel the pain, and so he is banking on the fact that Russia has a higher pain threshold.

COOPER: And that as you said, it's not just the calculation about Ukraine, not being able to sustain, is Europe starting to fracture?

WARD: And we haven't seen that yet and there was a lot of speculation coming into the winter. It's going to be terrible. Inflation is soaring, Europeans are going to be cold.

So far, we're seeing a pretty robust and united Europe and at the end of the day, winter is only a few months. And so that's why I think the calculation becomes okay, we might not be able to just inflict maximum pain this winter, we may be need to continue it through another winter as well. But that's a flawed philosophy to go into this with anyway.

COOPER: Clarissa Ward, great to have you here.

WARD: Thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it.


Not a big deal: That is the assessment from Iran's Foreign Minister on protests sweeping his country in the wake of a woman's death in custody for violating Iran's dress code for women.

He tells National Public Radio: "Similar incidents happen all around the world, in the United States or the UK." And he added, 'This will not lead to regime change in Iran."

Coming up, we'll have more on the situation in Iran. Also a CNN exclusive interview with one of the Americans recently released after his capture by Russian-backed forces, for the first time you hear about going to fight in Ukraine, his capture, and his release Alexander John-Robert Drueke and his mom, Bunny, join us next.


COOPER: CNN exclusive interview now.

You'll remember the two American veterans who had gone to Ukraine to fight against Russia and then in June were captured by Russian-backed forces and held for more than three months. They returned home to Alabama Saturday, one day after a prisoner exchange brokered by Saudi Arabia landed them back in the US.

We are pleased that one of them, Alexander John Robert-Drueke could join us for his first interview since his release. Also with him is his mom, one of my favorite people, Bunny Drueke is back with us again.

Alex, congratulations on getting home safe. It's so great to see you together with your mom. How are you feeling tonight?

ALEXANDER JOHN-ROBERT DRUEKE, CAPTURED BY RUSSIANS AND FREED: Thank you. I mean, I feel -- I feel good. I feel really good. Obviously Everything's a little bit surreal still, really coming to terms not just what was what happened more so how much support we had back home, and I am just forever indebted to so many people for so many things.


COOPER: Bunny, you know, you and I have talked a couple of times when you talked about the phone call you got when you found out just out of the blue that he was safe. What was it like when you first got to see him standing in front of you?

BUNNY DRUEKE, MOTHER OF ALEXANDER DRUEKE: Well actually Anderson, he wasn't standing in front of me. I was watching for him and went to check in at the hotel thinking that they would, the boys would come down and they'd get off the elevator and we'd see them. And --

A. DRUEKE: We set an ambush.

B. DRUEKE: He stand behind me. Well, I don't remember licking his face, but I turned around and went right into his arms.

COOPER: And Alex, look, I know there's some things you can't or may not be ready to share about your captivity. But can you just walk us through what you can about what happened back in June, when you and Andy were taken prisoner? A. DRUEKE: We're, we'll start working through a lot of those details. I mean, you know, Andy and I, we probably have the best perspective. But we don't have the entire perspective. We started talking to some of the guys that we started with and trying to really mesh up all the details that we can. So, until I've got a full idea. And Andy and I haven't had a chance to talk to, you know, all the government agencies that would like to do a debrief, we're kind of just --


A. DRUEKE: -- keeping that quiet for now.

COOPER: So were you -- can you say if you and Andy were kept together throughout your captivity or what your captivity was like?

A. DRUEKE: Right. Not initially, we were, we were held at the soldiers that ended up capturing this, we were held there for overnight, and then taken into Russia for about a week. I mean we were immediately separated. Ever since, well, I could catch a glimpse of Andy and he said he can do the same with me. But we were separated. And then we were took to a another location where we were kept separate unless they were using us for their propaganda purposes. And it wasn't until we were moved to the prison where we ended up being released from. There, we were in the same cell, and we were together 24/7. And it was amazing to see him. You know, I've been very, very worried about him many times, up to that point. And so, it was good to have a brother back.

COOPER: How were you treated in captivity?

A. DRUEKE: Not great.

COOPER: Yes. Did it improve? You know, oftentimes, when someone is initially taken, that's when often the worst treatment is and then as a sort of filter through whatever the system is they it didn't get any better?

A. DRUEKE: I'd say definitely did. Yes. As we progressed, it got less and less. All things considered where we were there at the prison besides some issues. It wasn't that bad. I know that sounds weird, but I don't know. Yes, I did get better as we progress through. Yes.

COOPER: But when you were initially taken, was it physical?


COOPER: Yes. When did you learn Alex, that you'd be released?

A. DRUEKE: We kind of didn't. I mean, even when they finally pulled up on the little tram system and pulled up to a big old Saudi Air airplane we looked at and we said, well, this, this isn't real. That's not really happening. You know, as our first inclination is that that we were going to be released, but they had not told us where we were going during the very long trip to get to that plane.

COOPER: Alex, can you just explain again, what made you want to go to Ukraine and do this in the first place?

A. DRUEKE: I mean, I think it's pretty well out there. I've got military experience from the U.S. Army. And I'm a little I'm a little old for fighting. But I knew I had some knowledge and some experience that I hoped would be of value of help to the Ukrainian people. Because what was happening to them was absolutely terrible, and shouldn't happen. And I think most of us realized if Ukraine did fall, Putin was going to stop there. So, you know, I want her to do my part to stop Putin.

COOPER: Do you have any regrets?

A. DRUEKE: Not a one, not a one. You know, I love the Ukrainian people. On top of them being just brave and fierce. They are generous, they are warm, they are kind. I mean, they were just -- they were amazing. And, you know, I'm glad that I could help them. I'm glad that as terrible as this event was for us. I think maybe it was a little extra kick in the pants to maybe some people on our government to do a little bit more as America. But I do want to stress it's not over yet. You know, the work still going on in Ukraine still needs support. So, just because we're home doesn't mean it's time to stop.

COOPER: Bunny, now after our last conversation. I don't know if I should raise this but you showed me something that you got an (INAUDIBLE) and you mentioned that Alex was a big tattoo lover. And I'm wondering --



COOPER: -- what his reaction was to seeing your tattoo.

A. DRUEKE: I love it. I think it's amazing. It's beautiful and meaningful. You know? Yes. I love it.

COOPER: Were you surprised your mom got a tattoo in your honor?

A. DRUEKE: My mom got sassy in her 60s. So, all that surprises. It's not her first tattoo. So, it wasn't just blow my mind. I mean, it was really --

COOPER: I got to tell you, I think your mom has been sassy longer than in her 60s. That's just my guess. Is that possible?

A. DRUEKE: You might be right, but yes.

B. DRUEKE: I was very prim and proper when I was growing up, Anderson.

COOPER: Oh, OK. All right.

B. DRUEKE: And then when I turned 60, I thought, well, what the heck? I don't have to influence my children. I can just, you know, be fun.

COOPER: Yes, well, you are incredibly fun and Bunny, thank you so much, Alex. I'm so glad you're back. And I'm so happy you guys are together. And I wish you both the best. Thank you.

A. DRUEKE: Thank you.

B. DRUEKE: Thank you, Anderson.

A. DRUEKE: Really appreciated.

COOPER: All right, coming up next an insurrection is brought to justice as election lies are still dominating politics and key races. Look at the threat to democracy with former CIA Director, John Brennan.



COOPER: Just as the January 6 Committee announced it was postponing tomorrow's hearing because of Hurricane Ian, we were given a reminder of the importance of their work one of the writers who attacked police officer Michael Fanone that day was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. Kyle Young had pleaded guilty to assaulting Fanone, now a CNN contributor. Fanone spoke during the hearing and as he went back to his seat, a man in the audience called for unknown a, quote, piece of shit. Those were his words again. That man was removed from the courtroom. It comes the same day a bipartisan group of senators say they believe they have enough votes to pass a bill to make it harder to overturn a presidential election. Something literally on the ballot with Republican nominees for Secretary of State and at least 11 states disputing the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

And it comes the day after, CNN exclusive text messages showing the former president's chief of staff Mark Meadows, communicating with a key figure in the attempts to seize Arizona voting machines.

I'm joined now by former CIA Director John Brennan, author of Undaunted My Fight Against America's Enemies At Home And Abroad, which is now out in paperback.

Director Brennan, I'm wondering what goes through your mind as you see this insurrection is being brought to justice. And yet at the same time, the election lies that propelled them still a dominating force within so many in the Republican Party.

JOHN BRENNAN, FMR CIA DIRECTOR: Yes, Anderson, it's very disheartening to see so many public officials, Republican members of Congress in particular, but also in state legislatures, state government, who continue to push forward the great lie about the 2020 election. But also, I think they are fueling the fires of hate and animus in this country, and by providing this information to the American public, and that's why I can understand how it is so difficult for the average American citizen to really understand what the truth is, because you have people like Donald Trump and others who just lobby and in lies and falsehoods. And that's why I think our democracy really is facing one of the most serious challenges that it has in many, many years.

COOPER: Well, and so many of those people when you who are pushing the election lies still loudest are they're profiting from it. They're making money from it in their podcasts, which is good advertising, their conspiracy theories are selling products, they're holding seminars, they're we're trying to work as consultants, I mean, most of them are who are driving it are actually making money off this.

You wrote in your book, I fear that the greatest and most insidious threat to our democracy comes from the many American politicians, TV and radio personalities and social media influencers, who intentionally and constantly spread disinformation on American airwaves.

Do you think that could that threat continues to grow?

BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. I spent my career in national security trying to thwart the efforts of first the Soviet Union and then Russia and China and others to try to undermine our democracy by pushing forward propaganda and falsehoods into our information environment here. And now I find that the greatest threat, as I said in my paperback edition, is are the public officials with in whom we entrust our security and ensure the rule of law, but they seem to have forgotten what democracy is all about. And as you point out, I think they're pursuing these personal, political, partisan and financial agendas, to the detriment of our democracy.

And this is where I really think that there needs to be a clamor and an outcry against those individuals who do take advantage of the freedoms and liberties and the freedom of speech that we enjoy and want to protect in this country, but use it as a way to again advanced their own craven agendas.

COOPER: I mean, as a former director of CIA, I'm wondering what your reaction was when he learned that the former president, the same man who, by the way, revoked your security clearance because you were critical of him was allegedly hoarding some of the U.S.'s most sensitive classified materials in the basement of his Mar-a-Lago Beach Club.

BRENNAN: Oh, was shocking, but not surprising, because I think Donald Trump demonstrated throughout his presidency, that he just flagrantly violated the norms and procedures that again, keep this country safe. So, the fact that he very intentionally took those documents, the most highly restricted, highly sensitive national security documents that this government has in brought them into an unsecured area at Mar-a- Lago, I think just demonstrates his recklessness and his irresponsibility. And that's why I give tremendous credit to people like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who have bucked the Republican Party's tendency to try to make excuses for Donald Trump.

But there needs to be accountability here because all of those professionals who have made such great sacrifices over the years to keep this country safe when they see an individual like Donald Trump, again, flagrantly abusing his authorities and the rights that he has as a as president United States. I think this is something that they want to see brought to justice.

COOPER: Yes. John Brennan, really appreciate talking to you. Thank you so much.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, someone I'm excited for you to meet Ava Thomas, a self-described brain cancer warrior and her mom Kassi, and what they want you to know about so -- what so many kids are going through right now.



COOPER: A few weeks ago, I got a direct message on Instagram from a woman named Kassi Thomas. I didn't know her. But she DM me to tell me about her five-year-old daughter Ava. Ava has been fighting brain cancer, medulla blastoma, to be specific, and it's been really tough for her and obviously on her family as well. In a lot of -- for a lot of different reasons. But one of the main one is that there just aren't enough new cancer treatments for rare forms of kids -- rare forms of cancer in children, particularly brain tumors.

Kassi also wanted people to know the struggles, the real struggles that children and their families are having in hospital wards across this country and around the world because of the lack of new treatments. A lot of the drugs that are being used have been in existence for decades and they were designed for adults. And so even dosing is hard to figure out on some kids.


So, this is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and I'm very happy to introduce you Ava and Kassi I spoke to them earlier.


COOPER (on-camera): Kassi and Ava thank you so much for joining us. Ava, I want to show a video of you, after you getting a sendoff at the hospital in June after your last round of inpatient chemotherapy. Let's just want to watch this video.

Everybody's applauding, they're cheering you and they're dancing with you. You're dancing, you're danced out of the hospital.

KASSI THOMAS, AVA'S MOTHER: How did you feel about that?


COOPER (on-camera): I bet. What was the first thing you wanted to do when you got out of the hospital? Was there some food you wanted? Or something, something to do?

A. THOMAS: I didn't want to go home.

COOPER: Yes, I can certainly understand that. Can you just talk a little bit about what you want people to know about cancer in children? Because a lot of times in commercials or online, you see kids with smiling faces and, you know, beautiful beaming eyes. You want people to know, the reality of what is happening in cancer wards across the country.

K. THOMAS: Yes. You know, I've said it in my Instagram, I know you watched it. St. Jude does great for childhood cancer, I really appreciate everything they do. However, a lot of their commercials are just showing like the kids, you know, talking with the doctors or doing art or smiling and they're just these happy little ball kids and, and you -- it tugs at your heart heartstrings a little bit, but you kind of leave feeling OK, well, they're a great hospital, they're being taken care of, they're going to, you know, do the best they can.

What it doesn't show is like the nitty gritty, harsh reality of childhood cancer, and that, that is maybe 1% of what actually goes on, when these kids are being treated by these like insanely outdated drugs. It wreaks havoc on their system, they're there, their immune system gets completely wiped out. And, you know, seeing your child go through the things that they go through with the stuff it kind of, like, irks me a little bit that, you know, when they show animal commercials of animal abuse, they show the nitty gritty of it, and it prompts people to want to get involved in and make a change. But it's not like that for childhood cancer. And I feel like we need to kind of be more open about the realities of it.

COOPER: And I think the other piece of this, which you alluded to, and I want to talk about more is, you know, I think we all imagined I was ignorant on this, I imagine I kind of thought well, my God, childhood cancer, they must get -- kids must get the most cutting-edge treatments, there must be huge research being done in in, you know how to save the most innocent among us. And the complete opposite is true, because many of these childhood cancers are rare forms of cancer, rare brain tumors. And there's just not the economic incentive for pharmaceutical companies others to do the billions of dollars worth of research that it takes to develop new drugs. And a lot of the drugs that kids are getting, as you said, are 50-year-old drugs and treatments that just are just do havoc on their little bodies.

K. THOMAS: That's created for adults, not even children. Yes, they weren't even created for children. They just tailor the dose to children. I think there was maybe about six drugs that have been approved in the last 20 years for childhood cancer. And there's been over 20 I think for adults. It's the most under underfunded, we need more. I mean, 260 million is not going to cut it to get these kids care. There's children dying of this every single day. There's children diagnosed with this every single day and there's just nothing for them. Especially for relapse. There's nothing for her if she relapses and that's a scary thought.


K. THOMAS: And the fact that, you know, Neptune's cool and all but I'd rather see kids be cured of cancer than NASA's big budget.


K. THOMAS: It just shaved off some of that and gave it to childhood cancer. That'd be fantastic.

COOPER: Yes. Ava, your mom told us that you're going to go to Disney World next month with Make A Wish Foundation. Is there anything particular looking forward to seeing or excited about?

A. THOMAS: I'm excited to go in Thunder Mountain.

COOPER: Thunder Mountain? Wow, that sounds -- that's probably scary, isn't it?.

A. THOMAS: No, I went to Disney World --

K. THOMAS: That's when you put your hands up in the air?



K. THOMAS: Yes. She just (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Well, you didn't even hold on to the things, you just put your hands in the air. That's cool.

K. THOMAS: She just throw them up.

COOPER: Wow. I can't wait to see the pictures from Disney World. Well, I wish you continued strength. And Kassi and Ava, thank you so much.

K. THOMAS: Thank you so much, Anderson.

COOPER: Bye, Ava.

K. THOMAS: You say bye.





COOPER: Making faces at the end. Kassi told me if you'd like to donate to an organization, the Kellen Ford Foundation is raising -- its fundraising for a clinical trial for Ava's specific type of brain cancer. The website is If you want to follow Ava's journey as I do on Instagram, you can go to @AvaStrong17, Ava, A-V- AStrong17.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: A grieving and living with loss something we'll all face and I'm exploring in a very personal way in a new podcast. It's called All There Is. Two episodes have posted tomorrow there's a new one. To listen, you can just put your cell phone in the QR code on your TV screen for a link to it. You can also find it on Apple podcast wherever you get your podcast. The third episode tomorrow posts and I'll take you back to my mom's apartment where I've been going through her things. And I'll look at the ripple effects of suicide and the people that leaves behind. My brother Carter died by suicide in 1988. And I talked to a wonderful doctor named BJ Miller whose sister Lisa died by suicide as well. He's palliative care specialist and he's helped caregivers and people facing a terminal illnesses. And it's a powerful conversation. I hope you will listen it is available tomorrow on All There Is.


News continues right no. Let's hand it over Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Laura.