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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Early Voting On Pace With Record 2018 Turnout; Interview With Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); US Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Sen. Graham From Testifying In Georgia Probe Of Elections; CNN On Scene On Missile Strike In Southern Ukraine; Western Leaders Dismiss Russia's Claim That Ukraine Plans To Use A "Dirty Bomb"; Police Give Update On Gunman And Victims In St. Louis School Shooting; Comic Actor, Social Media Star Leslie Jordan Dead At The Age Of 67; Florida Gov. DeSantis Won't Say He'll Seve Full 2nd Ter. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 24, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLIE JORDAN, ACTOR: Well hello, fellow, hunkered downers.
Just having to make up things to do to pass the time. I came up with a good one today though, I painted my toenails.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Jordan died after a car accident this morning in Los Angeles. He was 67 years old.
Thanks so much for being with us. Anderson starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Just 15 days until Midterm Elections and new developments to bring you across the board tonight.
There is new CNN polling of likely voters in two key Senate races in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin showing no clear leader in the showdown between incumbent Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Mandela Barnes. Pennsylvania with Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman very narrowly ahead of Dr. Mehmet Oz just outside the margin of error.
To underscore the importance of this day, we learned late today that former President Obama will be campaigning there along with President Biden on the final weekend before Election Day. A party official familiar with the planning, telling CNN they've got appearances scheduled for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with the possibility of adding more.
Early voting is underway there and in 38 others States. So far, turnout has been heavy, on pace for the record 2018 Midterms, with nearly 7.3 million ballots already cast. With it, we've already seen multiple reports of voter intimidation, including two armed men dressed in tactical gear spotted at a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona Friday night.
Attorney General Merrick Garland was asked about at this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, US ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Justice Department has an obligation to prevent -- to guarantee a free and fair vote by everyone who is qualified to vote and will not permit voters to be intimidated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, a bit later in the program, you'll meet one Arizona grandmother who was not intimidated by this two armed men you saw. She confronted them and as she put it, "I take care of business."
As to the bigger threat picture, we learned today that the FBI and Sheriffs representing some of America's biggest counties have already discussed the possibility of misinformation fueling violence at polling stations during the Midterms.
Late today Samantha Vinograd, the former CNN contributor who is currently the Department of Homeland Security's top counterterrorism official, described the threat environment ahead of Election Day as "incredibly heightened."
That's where we begin tonight. We'll begin with the Pennsylvania Senate race and tomorrow's debate, which we will have real-time closed captioning on the debate stage, that's to accommodate Democrat John Fetterman's difficulty right now filtering and interpreting sound since a stroke back in May.
It's a condition according doctors that doesn't affect the Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor's intelligence or thinking and this weekend, his Republican opponent sought to downplay the health angle.
He has however made an issue at other points during what has already been a bruising campaign from both candidates.
Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has been helping Lieutenant Governor Fetterman get ready for tomorrow's debate. She joins us now.
Senator Klobuchar, it's good to see you. I want to ask you about your experience with Lieutenant Governor Fetterman in a moment. But first, I just want to start with new CNN polls that show Democrats more or less holding their ground in three key States obviously still very close.
There has been recent polling that suggests momentum and is moving toward Republicans. Does your party need to make any course corrections over the next two weeks?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): I think actually the CNN polls are positive here, and I've seen a number of other ones like this. Tammy Baldwin told me in Wisconsin exactly what that poll shows. It's tied there and this is about voter turnout. I've lost my voice because I've gone to so many voter turnout events.
This is about getting people to realize what's on the line here. Democracy is on the line. The future is on the line. We've got candidate who will take on Pharma. We've got candidates that are willing to take on price gouging, and actually stand up for people.
And I love our candidates and one of those candidates, of course, is John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, who has the, first of all, the one attribute, he actually lives in the State. We like that, unlike his opponent, who appears to have spent a lot of time in New Jersey. And Pennsylvanians love John Fetterman.
They know him as Lieutenant Governor. They know him as Mayor of Braddock, and they know he is someone that has their backs.
COOPER: You participated in this event with the Lieutenant Governor over the weekend and the event used the closed caption like technology that he is using in his stroke recovery. Can you just explain what that was like, how you expect him to do in a debate tomorrow night with Dr. Mehmet Oz?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I mean, it's pretty straightforward, Anderson.
First of all, he spoke with no notes, just like he will be at the debate and he just answered questions. We went back and forth and had a conversation.
And the only difference is the words that the moderator says or that his opponent will say, are up on the screen so he can read them at the same time, he hears them. That's all it is.
All of his own words will be spoken from the heart. Now, you know, he was never a polished debater to begin with. Dr. Oz was at his show for 20-some years, but I think what the people of Pennsylvania know, what I've seen being out there is they know that John Fetterman is not your typical politician.
He is super tall. He's got tattoos. He came into politics, starting a GED Program for kids that hadn't gotten their high school degree, something that helped my own sister, by the way, in another State. So I just think that they get who he is. So we know part of his thing is that he sometimes mixes up words here and there, he'll probably say a few words wrong, like we all do. That's going to happen.
But the point of it is, when they look at the two candidates, it's about who has got my best interest in heart. For women, who's going to stand up for my reproductive healthcare, a guy that says he's not for abortion, or someone that's going to have the backs of the women of this country.
COOPER: But when you were looking in his eyes, and you're talking to him, I mean, do you -- does he -- I mean, what's it like having a conversation with him?
KLOBUCHAR: It was great.
COOPER: His cognition is -- would you say it's totally normal?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. And it's actually backed up by what the doctor said. There was a doctor's letter that came out saying he was strong, no coordination issues, no cognitive issues. He teased me about the Vikings-Eagles game, okay.
We talked about a lot of things. We talked about the dress code in the Senate, and you know, what I consider having -- you know, so it was my idea.
COOPER: Well, he may have trouble with that.
KLOBUCHAR: Jean shorts Friday. But it was a normal conversation, except that, yes, he looks at the words, because he needs to do that. He has five months out of his stroke.
KLOBUCHAR: And he's shown us what resilience is all about. I think that's really important about him.
COOPER: I want to ask you, Republican Senator Ted Cruz said earlier today, on "The View." He was asked multiple times whether he believes President Biden was legitimately elected, he ignored the question the first time. The second time, he said. Let's replay it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, "THE VIEW": Was Biden legitimately elected? Because half the party thinks that he wasn't and it'd be very powerful for you to tell the truth.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): So listen, Biden is the President today. There's a lot of folks in the media that anytime --
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, "THE VIEW": Legitimately.
CRUZ: Hold on, I'm answering exactly that question.
There are a lot of folks in the media that try to anytime a Republican is in front of a TV camera, try to say the election was fair and square and legitimate. You know who y'all don't do that to, you don't do it to Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It is remarkable the lengths that Senator Cruz is willing to go to, to avoid stating his simple fact. Is that just because he, like so many Republicans are scared of Trump and Trump voters in his State.
KLOBUCHAR: That's part of it, but Anderson, let's not forget, Ted Cruz was one of the few senators that actually voted against certifying those Electoral College results.
In those key votes for Arizona and Pennsylvania that we had on January 6th, late in the evening, after the insurrectionists had basically assaulted the Capitol and our police officers.
So that was his position then. I'm not surprised it hasn't changed. But I think what the voters out there have to understand is what those guys didn't accomplish with bear spray, and batons, and bayonets back on January 6th, they're now trying to do with voter suppression laws, and what you just pointed out at the beginning of your program, if people show up in gear at voting places to scare people, that's what's happening.
So if anything, as we saw in Georgia in that last election in the run up, it makes voters mad. They want to turn out and say, You know what, this is our democracy and you're not going to take it away from us, whether you're Independents, Democrats, moderate Republicans, and I think that is a factor for a lot of voters.
Donald Trump's shadow, as you could see from Ted Cruz's answers, is still looming above this election. So, that's why I'm all in with Fetterman and Catherine Cortez Masto, Mandela Barnes, all of our candidates, Judge Beasley and Val Demings and Tim Ryan, who I was just with a few days ago in Ohio, against all odds is in a tie in Ohio, and I think can win that race.
COOPER: He is the incumbent.
KLOBUCHAR: So I don't want to hear anyone counting out our candidate, because it all comes down to who shows up to vote and if you want to have Ted Cruz and you want to have Donald Trump in your face every day, or you want to move forward and help people in this economy and get things done for them, that's what this election is about.
COOPER: Senator, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Good to have you.
Well, another compelling potentially decisive race is missing the traditional partisan dimension, it is in Utah between Republicans Senator Mike Lee and Evan McMullin, both describe themselves as conservatives.
McMullin is running as an Independent, same as he did in 2016 when he ran against the former President. He is saying that he won't caucus with either party if elected. We invited both him and Senator Lee on the program tonight. Senator Lee's office didn't get back to us.
Evan McMullin joins us tonight.
Thanks so much for being with us.
You've made the January 6 insurrection central to your campaign. Do you believe that if elected you'll find more common ground on protecting democracy with Republicans or Democrats?
EVAN MCMULLIN (I), UTAH US SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, I think there is a pro-democracy coalition to be had in the Senate, Anderson, and you've got Democrats, of course, and I think there are some Republicans who would join us.
But the bottom line is, if we're going to protect our democracy in America, we have to build a cross partisan coalition to do it, because Democrats don't have the votes on their own, principled Republicans don't have them either, neither do Independents.
We have to come together and that is what we're doing here in Utah. Senator Lee tried to overturn our last election and our Democratic Republic with fake electors, and Utahns aren't having it. And so that's why we're building a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to replace him, but I think the nation, we need to do the same across the nation.
COOPER: The other Republican Senator from Utah, Mitt Romney has not endorsed you or Senator Lee citing his friendship with both of you. It's extraordinary for a sitting senator of the same party to not support his home state colleague for reelection.
Senator Lee, I think has even sort of pleaded on TV for Senator Romney's endorsement. Do you think Senator Lee's efforts to help the Trump White House overturn the election is at least part of the reason that Senator Romney is not endorsing him?
MCMULLIN: Well, look, I'd have to defer to Senator Romney. He can only speak to that. But I will say that Senator Romney and Senator Lee are two very different kinds of Senators, Anderson.
One, on the part of Senator Romney, he works across party lines to get things done. He has remained committed to his Oath to the Constitution, to defend it. Senator Lee has done the opposite. He is one of the least productive members of the Senate in 12 years of service. He has only passed 10 bills, a good number of them were naming Federal buildings.
He refuses to work with members of his own party, let alone Democrats to get things done, and he has betrayed his Oath to the Constitution. And when he tried to help President Trump remain in office, despite the will of the people, it is something that had they been successful, I think would have ended or led to the end of the American Republic.
And for all of those reasons, I think it isn't a surprise that Senator Romney, who knows Senator Lee best is refusing to endorse him, and that is why again, we're able to build a large coalition to replace Senator Lee.
COOPER: Outgoing GOP congressman Liz Cheney said yesterday that if Republicans nominate the former President again in 2024, the party will splinter. There will be a new conservative party that rises up. Would you be A., do you think that's true? B., do you -- would you be inclined to support her if she would run for President in 2024?
MCMULLIN: Well, I certainly believe that she would make a compelling candidate. I'm hopeful that there will be candidates like her, perhaps her precisely running either as Republican or otherwise, we certainly need principled conservatives representing those of us who consider ourselves still conservatives, meaning in my view, or as it pertains to me, I'm committed to our core values that we are created free and equal, and to the institutions that protect those values like our elections and our Constitution.
I think, Senator, I think rather, Liz Cheney, fits that description as well. There are others I hope to see more of them running for office and hopefully pulling the party away from its current direction, but we'll just have to see if that's the case or not.
COOPER: Evan McMullin, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
MCMULLIN: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, a closer look at the appearance of armed men at a polling place in Arizona over the weekend and some late word as well by Arizona's top election official referring that incident and several more to Federal authorities.
And later, Ukraine, we will have a live report from the city under heavy attack from the air and the latest and some very troubling talk from the Russian side raising the specter of what Russia claims would be Ukraine using a radioactive dirty bomb in the region allegedly as a pretext for using one themselves.
COOPER: At the top of the program, we told you about a new assessment from a top Homeland Security official describing the threat environment ahead of the Midterm Elections as "incredibly heightened."
Also just in, Arizona Secretary of State tonight says she has sent additional reports of what they call multiple -- excuse me, potential voter intimidation to the State's Attorney General's office and in the Federal Justice Department. Now, we should point out, the Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs is the Democrat running for Governor in the State.
In any event, the new alleged incidents come in addition to the one that got so much attention over the weekend.
CNN's Kyung Lah law has more.
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Outside an early ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona, two men armed wearing tactical gear watching voters, a vigil taking place over multiple nights.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, guys. LAH (voice over): One woman, a Phoenix area grandmother decided to confront them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, don't touch me.
LAH (on camera): Why did you decide to go out there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm standing up and pushing back against those people and standing up for everybody's right to vote.
You don't want to get my set up right here, do you?
Without fear of retaliation or any kind of intimidation.
Hi, how are you?
LAH (voice over): She asked we not show her face because she did, light right up in the armed man's face.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I don't talk. I take care of business. I go out there and I do what I have to do.
Nice to meet you.
I push back against these kinds of people, people who are intimidating voters.
He's spitting out in my face. I'm sitting down. He's with a gun standing over on top of me.
And I'm standing up and pushing back against those people and standing up for everybody's right to vote without fear of retaliation or any kind of intimidation.
I'm just sitting here, I'm not even communicating with them. I'm sitting right here.
You know, seeing that you would think you were in, you know, some autocratic nation and not the United States of America.
LAH (voice over): Two outdoor ballot drop boxes in Maricopa County have become an election flashpoint. Around the clock so-called "Ballot Watchers" are camped out.
Late Sunday night, we saw this group of women at the same drop box.
You're not supposed to talk to anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not going to. Thank you.
LAH (voice over): They didn't want to talk.
At another drop box in downtown Phoenix, they are photographing voters and already, these actions are impacting how voters feel. According to complaints filed and referred to the Department of Justice last week, one voter complained he was called a "mule." That's a reference to a conspiracy movie that spread lies about the 2020 election.
BILL GATES, CHAIRMAN, MARICOPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: I'm talking about people who have spread lies --
LAH (voice over): To Maricopa County Board Supervisor, Bill Gates, a Republican who has defended the election process, two years of lies have come to this.
GATES: Why are you in camouflage? From what -- how is that going to keep people from seeing you? You're in a parking lot. We're really losing rationality and logic here.
LAH (voice over): Arizona has lived through the discredited partisan review of Maricopa County's 2020 ballots, and now Republicans on the Midterm ballot, like gubernatorial nominee, Kari Lake, are raising doubts about this November's election, before a single vote has even been counted.
KARI LAKE (R), ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm afraid that it probably is not going to be completely fair. I wish I could sit here and say I have complete faith in the system, I don't have faith in the system.
MARK FINCHEM (R), SECRETARY OF STATE OF ARIZONA CANDIDATE: We're beginning to look at defining "fence."
LAH (voice over): Republican Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem urge followers on social media to watch all drop boxes and made a conspiracy reference to Democratic donor, George Soros.
GATES: This is why we have elections, to avoid these sorts of confrontations. It's been normalized in some way over the past few years, but we're not going to normalize it here in Maricopa County. I encourage people, let's take the temperature down.
COOPER: Kyung Lah joins us now from Mesa, Arizona.
So, I understand the Sheriff from Maricopa County has now weighed in on these incidents as well.
LAH: He says that basically this doesn't meet a threshold for a crime. He was specifically asked, "What can you do about this?" And he says he's going to expend resources. I can see two Sheriff's patrol vehicles sitting nearby, they are keeping watch on this. There are undercover deputies here as well.
But that there is a right to bear arms here in Arizona and the tactical gear, while he considers it very unfortunate, it is clothing of their choosing and what is still happening out here, Anderson, is this is the box over my right shoulder, very innocuous, we are seeing people vote, but this is still continuing. You can see these folks on these lawn chairs, it doesn't appear any of this particular group is armed.
That's usually when the sun comes down that people here and Deputies here have told us that they show up. The Sheriff did say that he is working with the Department of Justice to see if any of this might be impeding the vote and if this is a violation of a Federal crime.
One thing I should add, Anderson, is that a lawsuit has been filed by a couple of activist groups and organizations seeing if they do actually believe that this is a violation of Civil Rights of a voter and hoping to stop this -- Anderson.
COOPER: Kyung Lah, appreciate it. Thanks.
Now, a new development in Georgia's criminal probe into the 2020 election. Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been trying to avoid testifying before the Atlanta area special grand jury got some help today from the Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, who is responsible for emergency appeals for the jurisdiction, temporarily freezing a Lower Court order for the Senator's testimony.
CNN's Paula Reid joins us now with more.
So, what does it mean for Senator Graham and the Georgia investigation? How long does this freeze last?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a temporary win for the Senator, Anderson.
So far, he has been unsuccessful in convincing Lower Courts to block the subpoena from the Atlanta area grand jury where investigators want to question him about calls that he made following the 2020 presidential race, where he allegedly asked about absentee voting procedures in the State as well as voter fraud.
Now, again, this is not the final word in this case. The Senator has argued though, that he should not be able to be questioned about things that he said were constitutionally protected, legislative activities that he was carrying out in the course of his job as a Senator, yet, he wasn't able to convince two Lower Courts of that argument.
The Supreme Court has temporarily put a hold on the subpoena that was dated for November 17th, and they have given Georgia investigators until Thursday to respond. It is expected that these questions will go to the full Court.
COOPER: And can you just explain for our viewers who may be wondering why this was Justice Thomas' decision to make?
REID: It's a great question, Anderson.
He is responsible for handling emergency appeals from the 11th Circuit where this case generated. But of course, as we know, he's been under a lot of scrutiny after it was revealed that his wife, Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist, was pressuring Trump White House officials to try to overturn the 2020 election.
There have been calls for him to recuse himself from any cases related to election interference. Clearly, he did not do that here, but again this is more of an administrative move. This case overall, these questions about whether the Senator will have to potentially testify before this grand jury, those have not been answered on the merits just yet by the High Court.
COOPER: Paula Reid, thanks so much.
Just ahead, a conversation with National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby about Russia and the threat of dirty bombs in Ukraine.
Also tonight, we'll go live to the warzone. CNN's Clarissa Ward is in the southern part of the country in Mykolaiv near the frontlines after major Russian missile strike. We will have a firsthand look at how civilians in that area are surviving the onslaught.
COOPER: Today, the United States warned Russia it would face "severe consequences" if it were to use a radioactive dirty bomb in Ukraine. The threat came after Western allies rejected claims by a top Russian military official that Ukraine was planning to use a dirty bomb.
We'll have more on that story in a moment, but we first want to give a few minutes on the state of the war in the south of Ukraine around the strategically important City of Kherson.
Ukrainian officials say that Russia brought more military units there today and Russian missiles struck the nearby City of Mykolaiv this weekend.
That's where CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward is tonight. She is focusing on the plight of civilians in both cities.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): By now, it has become a familiar routine in Mykolaiv. In the relative calm of daylight hours, residents comb through the wreckage of the night before.
On this day, it's an apartment building on the outskirts of town. Two Russian S-300 missiles hit at one in the morning.
(on-camera): So, this here is where the first strike hit. And then you can see the second one just smashed in to the top of that building. (voice-over): Five people were injured but miraculously no one was killed. In one apartment, Andrei (ph) is busy cleaning up. He tells us this is what the Russians do. They shoot not at military objects but where people live, he says.
WARD (voice-over): The fact is the anger towards them is rising and it won't go away. Not in a month, not a year, not even 10 years.
In this southern port city, people have become used to hardship. Since April there has been no fresh water here. The main pumping station was hit in a Russian strike. Now they gather every day and patiently wait to stock up. A few blocks down another line, this one for humanitarian aid. Will I be able to get something today? This old woman asks. We already have 100 people on the list. The organizer replies.
Mykolaiv is less than 20 miles from the nearest front lines and just 35 miles from the Russian held city of Kherson. Last week, Russia announced that civilians must leave Kherson, warning of an imminent Ukrainian attack. Ukraine called it propaganda to distract from recent Ukrainian military gains. It is difficult to get a picture of what's really going on in Kherson. But we managed to connect with one resident who we will call Vitaly (ph) who took these videos. The streets he says are empty. But there are people in the markets. Most vendors no longer want to take Russian rubles as they prepare for a potential Russian withdrawal.
(on-camera): Do you have a sense of whether Russian forces have left the city or not?
UNDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): There were fewer Russian soldiers here, but you find them around the city. Several days ago, there was a rotation and they brought in new soldiers. Part of the soldiers who were here for a while they left and the new ones came. Probably they are mobilize, conscripts. They don't even know what city they're in.
WARD (on-camera): And why did you decide to stay? Are you not frightened?
UNDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): It's our city. We believe that we have to wait until our army comes. I can't say we are not afraid, we are afraid. But this is our decision.
WARD (voice-over): The people who remain in Mykolaiv have made a similar decision. Back at the strike side, the cleanup has already begun as the city braces itself for the next attack.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And Clarissa joins us now from Mykolaiv. I'm just to see that little boy cleaning up. It's just so sad. The physical hardships, the threats of more attacks are clearly taking a toll. How are residents -- I mean, how do they how are people stealing themselves for what remains to come? WARD: Well, I mean, we just heard tonight from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Anderson saying that Ukrainians should prepare themselves for the toughest winter yet. And based on what we've been seeing on the ground, it is going to be a very grim winter indeed. There's complete blackout, as you can see behind me in a curfew. That's not because of the hits on the infrastructure. It's because of security reasons, because Mykolaiv is getting hit so often. But that has been compounded by the fact that you do now have rolling blackouts, very limited use of electricity, no fresh water since April. People here really have to be there take showers in salted water.
So, it's clearly not a sustainable situation. But at the same time, people just don't want to leave their homes. They don't want to leave their property. We've met a lot of people like Anderi (ph), the man who was cleaning up his apartment who say that they've sent their families away for their own security. But they're determined to wait here until the bitter end. And based on everything we've seen and everything we're hearing and the direction things are moving in as we get into winter, and Russia continues to pound civilian infrastructure. It is going to be bitter indeed, Anderson.
COOPER: Clarissa Ward, be careful. Thank you.
Next, the threat we mentioned about the possible use of a dirty bomb. Russia has claimed without evidence that Ukraine was preparing to use what essentially -- what is essentially device contains conventional explosives along with radioactive material. They're concerned that Russia is making the claim as a justification to escalate the war, perhaps the use such a bomb themselves.
Perspective now from the National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.
Admiral Kirby, appreciate you joining us. How concerned is the United States and NATO about these dirty bomb allegations that Russia is making against Ukraine?
JOHN KIRBY, NSC STRATEGIC COORDINATOR FOR COMMUNICATIONS: No, it's deeply concerning. And I think he can pick up the tone and tenor from that -- from the readout that the Pentagon gave after Secretary Austin's call with his Russian counterpart. Certainly, we know that these are false allegations. There is no such dirty bomb plan by the Ukrainians. That's just false, but that the Russians would raise it at their request. They initiated that phone call certainly gives us pause for concern.
I will tell you, though Anderson that, we watch this as closely as we can, including today. And we've just not seen any kind of preparations moving in that regard right now.
COOPER: What sort of preparations, I don't know if you can say, but what sort of preparations would one see? I mean, or could one see a preparation for dirty bomb attack? KIRBY: Yes, look, I mean, you would examine all kinds of different sources of intelligence, both from the Ukrainians on the ground, as well as other ways that you can, you know, kind of divine some information about what the Russians may be planning to do and how they're preparing for it. It could range from the way they're talking to one another to sort of the range of, of actual physical movement. And again, we're watching this very, very closely. And we're just, we're just not seeing anything that would give us pause right now, to think that this kind of an attack or this kind of false flag would be imminent.
COOPER: This does seem something out of the Russian playbook. I mean, I feel like we have seen this before from Russia,
KIRBY: it is not uncommon that for the Russians to blame others for what they are doing, or what they are planning to do, which is again, why, you know, we took the call seriously, and made that public for what the, you know, what the Russians were alleging, and it wasn't just us, the Brits, the French, and other countries as well made that public.
So, it is of a piece of the kind of a false flag pretext operations that the Russians are known for. Again, that's what gives us the concern.
COOPER: Does the U.S. currently have the diplomatic channels to be able to communicate with Russia in the event of some sort of nuclear crisis?
KIRBY: Yes, indeed, we do. I mean, we still have an embassy in Moscow. And we certainly have communications with our Russian counterparts both at the Defense Department and at the State Department. And there's also a deconfliction channel, which is used more for tactical stuff around the Eastern Flank of NATO that that set up in Europe, at European Command to speak to the Russians at that level. So, there are multiple ways of communicating. And it's important right now, as we've said throughout the last eight months, that while we don't want business as usual with Russia, we believe it's important for our bilateral communications to stay open.
COOPER: Today, there was a group of 30 House Democrats who sent a letter to President Biden urging what they called a proactive diplomatic push to seek a ceasefire. Last week in an interview, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has suggested a Republican House would be less willing to provide aid to Ukraine saying, quote, I think people are going to be sitting in a recession and they're not going to be -- and they're not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.
Is the White House concerned about being able to continue to provide support Ukraine needs or wants?
KIRBY: We've been getting terrific, bipartisan support both sides of the aisle for the last eight months even beyond that. And certainly, there's strong public support for supporting Ukraine. And we're grateful for that. And the President is going to continue to work with Congress going forward. I'm not going to get ahead of the midterms and how things might or might not shake out. But we believe that there's strong bipartisan support -- for supporting Ukraine and we don't believe that that's going to change appreciably going forward. I think everybody understands, not just on Capitol Hill, but throughout the country. What's at stake here with Ukrainian sovereignty and their ability to defend themselves.
COOPER: Admiral John Kirby, appreciate it. Thanks.
KIRBY: Yes, sir.
COOPER: Up next tonight, we are getting new details on today's deadly shooting in a school in St. Louis. What police are saying tonight, next.
COOPER: A gunman shot and killed two people in high school in St. Louis today, seven more people were wounded. There are many unanswered questions about the incident, which as we know is not uncommon with this type of attack. St. Louis Police did just hold a press conference.
CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is at the scene with the latest. So, what more have we learned about those who were killed and the condition of those wounded?
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson Good evening to you we've learned that 19-year-old is accused of killing at least two people inside of this school, a 16-year-old female student and another 61-year-old female. Alumni who were here a short moment ago told me that 61-year-old was a teacher here. The other injured are all teenagers 15 or 16 years old, with a variety of wounds, including a fractured ankle, and others at least three of them had gunshot wounds, Anderson.
COOPER: Did the commissioner say how the suspect was able to enter the school with a gun?
BROADDUS: He did not. And he was clear when reporters asked repeatedly. He said he didn't want to give that information because he does not want what happened at this school to happen here again, or at any other school across the country. But he did say the weapon that shooter used was not concealed.
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MICHAEL SACK, ST. LOUIS METRO POLICE COMMISSIONER: When he entered, he was out it was there was no mystery about what was going to happen. He had it out and entered in an aggressive, violent manner. This could have been much worse. The individual had almost a dozen 30 round, you know, high-capacity magazines on him. So that's a whole lot of victims there. But because of the quick response, that suspect didn't have the opportunity to turn this into. It's certainly tragic for the families and it's tragic for our community. But it could have been a whole lot worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROADDUS: And the commissioner says it could have been a whole lot worse, but he credits the quick response by members of law enforcement. That call for an active shooter came in around 911. About four minutes later, members of law enforcement showed up on scene at 9:23 they engaged with that shooter and at 9:25. That 19-year-old was down according to the commissioner, Anderson.
COOPER: Adrienne Broaddus, appreciate it. Thank you.
Just ahead, we remember the life of someone that we got to speak and laugh with a great deal over the last couple of years, actor, Instagram star, Leslie Jordan, who died today.
COOPER: After you heard the sad development today after an all-around wonderful human being Leslie Jordan died today at the age of 67. Cause death right now is uncertain. What we know at the moment is a Jordan was involved in a car crash in Hollywood. But we just want to take a few moments tonight and remember his life and his light.
Leslie was funny, he was kind and I was fortunate enough to talk with him a bunch of times over the last couple of years. He was the same person on camera as he was off. He was the person that millions of us fell in love with on Instagram during the early days the COVID pandemic or in Will and Grace where he won an Emmy for his recurring character.
Leslie Jordan was hilarious. He was unpredictable. He would tell his stories about Betty White bopping him over the head with a fake frying pan during a scene on a TV show that he claims sent him flying through the air. But apart from the too good to fact check stories, he would sometimes tell which is part of that Southern charm of his, he was also bravely open and refreshingly honest, whether it was about growing up gay in the south or about the death of his father in a plane crash at the age of 11 are about his battles with substance abuse that he was able to kick.
The first time I interviewed him was in 2020. And I want to play part of that conversation now, because I can talk all a lot about him and tell you who he was, but you can't really know Leslie Jordan until you actually hunker down with them. The clip starts as a video from his Instagram account.
LESLIE JORDAN, ACTOR: Are you all watching Netflix? Honey, I conquered Netflix. I've watched a mile, I watched one about the Tigers. I watched the one about the boy who tortured kittens. I watched the one about the nun that got killed in 1969. I watched the one about Ivan the Terrible. There is nothing left for me to watch. But I'm not about to turn on the news. I want to make you think it's like the end of the world. They don't know. I will turn on Anderson Cooper. Because people have said that we resemble. We both have flat tire.
COOPER (on-camera): Leslie Jordan joins us now. God bless you. I am I'm so thrilled that you're here. You give me such joy. I'm so honored that people say we resemble. I can't tell you how many people come up to me and say, Leslie is that you?
COOPER (on-camera): Well, I --OK, I made that up. But, you know, you're making up stories all the time and you confess them on Instagram. You made up a story that you've been telling, apparently for years. You told Linda Bloodworth-Thomason some story about some poor lady in your church who had a baby and you said the baby looks like what was it a pig?
JORDAN: A little bitty tiny baby pig. And she'd hold it out for everybody to look at and, and it had bugs in it pay or little fairly stocked in the story got bigger and bigger. And Linda Bloodworth- Thomason wrote it into heart to fire. And they hired Deborah Joe Ross, to play the woman. And I had to tell that story. And I thought to myself, I'm (INAUDIBLE). But that's kind of a lot of ideas. You know, you just kind of make little stories up. That's a very southern thing. And (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER (on-camera): Oh my god, well, my dad's from was from Mississippi. And one time my mom called them up and was like, I've been trying to get through to you on the phone for hours, lines been busy just like who you're talking to and goes, it's a wrong number. He would just talk to anybody. He was, this is before Instagram.
But so, like I every time I hear you, I just think I love so many of my missing relatives. What do you think of your, like your Instagram fame? It's got to be, you know, it's to know that you're giving such joy to so many people.
JORDAN: It started, you know, I've had a long career in Hollywood. And I thought, you know, well, I've gotten a lot of attention, but never like this. It's like 3.8 million followers. It's got --
COOPER (on-camera): Wow.
JORDAN: -- out of control. And so now, you know, I just make stuff up off the cuff, you know, when so I've never felt and thought and planned it out at all. But I'll get up. That will happen. And I'll film it. But I think what's happening, which is fun is that people have known me for years for all these characters, but I thought I knew, they knew me. And I'm just the funny guy that comes in with the zinger. But all of a sudden, 65 years of age, people are like, meeting me.
COOPER (on-camera): Yes. And what's so great about it is it's so intimate, like you started out and you're like in your bed just like looking and I love the way you start out so many of your videos. You're like, what you doing? What you all doing? It's like somebody just calls you up and be like, hey, hunkered down, here's what you do, and what do you want -- it's so great.
JORDAN: And I decided, you know, early on, I'm not going to try to make money at this. I'm just going to have a lot of fun. And then you know, people start tiptoeing around offering things and I thought, well, I've got to stick to what I say it so, you know --
JORDAN: -- no longer have to hunker down.
COOPER (on-camera): Oh, come on.
COOPER (on-camera): You can hunker down with like, you know, a some product and be like, hey, hunker down. Oh, look, it's my new, you know, sit and spin. I love sit and spin.
JORAN: (INAUDIBLE). I've got made the biggest horror and Hollywood witness. So, I'm in $100 (INAUDIBLE) sell out.
COOPER: And as you heard at that point in time, Leslie had about 3.8 million followers in Instagram, as of today is 5.9 million. In fact, what I'll leave you now with his last post before he died, he posted it just yesterday. And it's a coincidence that kind of takes your breath away. It's a duet. He performed with a musician named Danny Myrick of an old church hymn, When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And he is there. We remember Leslie Jordan, dead at the age of 67. Impossible to forget because he made this better world by his presence.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: This just in, and tonight's debate between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist. Governor DeSantis refused to say he would serve a full second term if reelected. Republicans skated around weather around the question when pressed by Crist on his national political ambitions. Instead, he said quote, I know that Charlie's interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden but I just want to make things very, very clear the only worn- out old donkey I'm looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist. This comes as multiple reports indicates DeSantis is eyed as the rising star of the Republican Party and a contender of course for the 2024 presidential race.
The news continues. "CNN TONIGHT," with Jake Tapper starts now. Jake.