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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Gingrich Tells GOP: "Quit Underestimating President Biden"; Ukrainian Foreign Minister: Letters Aimed At "Sowing Fear And Terrorizing" Diplomats; Idaho Police Confirm They've Begun Receiving Forensic Testing Results In Idaho Quadruple Murder Case. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 02, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they point out you cannot forecast these lava flows. They will go whichever direction they want, and they can turn overnight.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes. David Culver, in Hawaii. Amazing! Thank you.
Coming up, perspective on this year's final battle, for the U.S. Senate, between Raphael Warnock, and Herschel Walker. LZ Granderson joins us with why he thinks one of those two campaigns, is more interesting now, even with Senate control, already decided. That's next.
COOPER: With another record set, in the final day, of early voting, in Georgia Senate runoff, interest in the race clearly is high.
That said, with the outcome of the race, still to be determined, by voters, on Tuesday, it remains to be seen which man, Pastor and Senator, Raphael Warnock, or Trump-supported sports hero, Herschel Walker, Georgians want to represent them.
LA Times opinion writer, LZ Granderson, published an Op-Ed, on the question. The title is provocative, in the questions it invites about Walker. It reads "Herschel Walker's candidacy is more interesting now that the Senate control is decided."
LZ Granderson joins us now.
So, why do you think the runoff is more interesting now?
LZ GRANDERSON, COLUMNIST, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: First of all, thank you very much for having me, Anderson.
I find it more interesting, because it isn't just about the legislative process of Congress. This is also looking at the cultural aspect of Congress, and the cultural aspect of who represents us and, why certain elected officials are holding office.
So, I wrote the piece because you have two Black men, running for Senate, in Georgia, a State that has a very deep and well-known history with racism. And I was very interested in the question of exactly what kind of Black person, what kind of Black leadership, are Georgians comfortable with, in 2022?
COOPER: Can you explain why a fundraising email, by Save America PAC, connected to the former President, helped you, or interested you, in this article?
GRANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Anderson, it gave me something tangible, before it's all anecdotal. Are they controlling Herschel Walker? Is he really that involved in his campaign? Is he really a serious candidate, in terms of how the National Party viewed him? And the email that you're speaking of, essentially answered the question.
What was happening was, say, for instance, Save America was sending out emails saying, "Please donate to help save Herschel Walker's campaign in Georgia."
But you had to click actual second link, within that email, in order to designate money going to Herschel Walker. If you didn't do that 90 percent of that money went to Save America, and only 10 percent went to Herschel Walker. And we know they didn't know this Anderson, because his campaign manager had to come out publicly, and ask the Republicans to stop doing that.
COOPER: So, they were raising money, on Herschel Walker, with the idea of Herschel Walker, without actually giving money to Herschel Walker?
GRANDERSON: Right. Yes, it was very much like when Herschel Walker played in college, and they would make money with his face being on T- shirts, sell jerseys, but Herschel Walker never saw the money. Obviously, it wasn't what we have today, for college athletes. That's pretty much what Herschel Walker was dealing with, as a candidate, for Senate.
COOPER: You wrote, in the LA Times, Walker's own party is openly treating him like a prop with no agency of his own. I mean, do you think Walker realizes that or took time for Walker's, at least, team to realize that?
GRANDERSON: Well, again, when you have the campaign manager, feeling the need to speak out in public, about what was happening, in terms of the fundraising email, it does suggest that the party that their campaign, as a whole, including Walker did not know the extent of what was happening.
But in terms of the overall theme that I wrote about, in which he was sort of being used as a prop, just so that Republicans could have a voice, and they wanted to use a Black person to get that voice in there, I think he is aware that he's been utilized in that way. But I don't know if he's processing the larger ramifications of being used, like that, beyond just his personal gain.
COOPER: You also say that Reverend Warnock is a perfect litmus test for Georgia.
GRANDERSON: Yes, yes, he is, particularly with the Evangelical Christians, because this is a man who what, is the pastor of a church, but not just a random church. No. This is Dr. King's church, right? This is someone, who represents a very, very tense and obviously racial part of Georgia.
And so, when you look at what Pastor Warnock represents, it isn't just about being an elected official. It's also about the history of Black people, and racism, in this country. And that is being rejected, in my opinion, as well, not just the fact that he's a Democrat, but what kind of Black leader he is.
COOPER: LZ Granderson, it's fascinating piece. I really appreciate talking about it. Thank you.
GRANDERSON: Thank you very much for having me.
COOPER: These midterms, in the absence of a so-called red wave, are prompting a number of Republicans, call for a reassessment, within the party.
One former Georgia congressman, and House Speaker, Newt Gingrich says Republicans should also change the way they think about the Democrat, in the White House.
In a piece, on his website, under the headline "Quit Underestimating President Biden," Gingrich writes, quote, "Like virtually all conservatives and Republicans, I deeply oppose his policies... However," he goes on to say, "Conservatives' hostility to the Biden administration on our terms tends to blind us to just how effective Biden has been on his terms."
Want to talk about it, with CNN Political Analyst and "New York Times" National Political Reporter, Astead Herndon.
Also, Stuart Stevens. He's a former Republican consultant, who worked on five presidential campaigns. He's with The Lincoln Project, and a partner in Resolute Square new pro-democracy media platform. He's also the Author of "It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump."
Astead, before we turned to Gingrich, how likely do you think it is that Herschel Walker is actually able to pull out a victory? And what would it say if he does?
ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I don't think we should underestimate the reality that Herschel Walker could become a senator. And I think that's just true, because of the realities of Georgia.
I mean, to LZ's point, this is not a candidate that is running on this specific message that has really an individual appeal. He's kind of running as a cookie, cut out, of a Trump Republican. But, for a lot of Republicans, that's exactly the point.
They don't -- they want -- we talked to some Georgia voters, for my podcast, "The Run-Up," from "The New York Times." And what they were saying was that they were intentionally backing Walker, because it would thumb their nose, at Democrats, because it would show that a candidate, like Raphael Warnock, may be too far to the left.
So, for a lot of base Republicans, who are going to drive this election, because it really comes out to turnout, when we come down to a runoff, they are backing Walker, simply because of his kind of generic status. And I don't think the numbers tell us that that's a bad strategy. They're just hoping Republicans outnumber Democrats, who might be weary, from a couple weeks ago.
COOPER: Stuart, President Biden said, tonight, that Walker doesn't deserve to be in the race, something that Georgia Lieutenant Governor, Geoff Duncan, a Republican said, on this program, this week, saying he couldn't bring himself to vote for Walker.
What do you think the Republican Party should learn from how all of this is playing out?
STUART STEVENS, POLITICAL CONSULTANT AND WRITER, AUTHOR, "IT WAS ALL A LIE": Well, this really goes back to this lack of understanding, on the Republican Party, of why African Americans, since 1964, and 90 plus percent, have not voted for Republicans.
So, I mean, clearly what happened here was some people were sitting in a room. They said, "OK. Georgia elected an African American, Warnock. We can get an African American. And so, let's get this football player. He scored -- he's Black, like Warnock, but he's scored more touchdowns than Warnock. We'll bring him, from Texas to Georgia. And then the only reason Black voters are voting for Warnock is because he's Black, so we're going to split the vote," which is just a complete misunderstanding of why it is Republicans have continued to fail, to appeal to African Americans. It's condescending, and just basically a continued failure of the party.
COOPER: Astead, I mean, if Georgia is Exhibit A, of Republicans in turmoil, then Kevin McCarthy's struggle, to get the Speaker's gavel, I guess, would be Exhibit B. I mean, do you think after years of abiding fringe members, in the House GOP caucus, McCarthy is now paying the price?
HERNDON: I mean there is no question that the appeasement of the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world has made Kevin McCarthy's life a little harder. But I would also say, we should not overdo that either.
There is not really an alternative to Kevin McCarthy that has emerged, to lead that Republican Party. He very well might be that next Speaker, even while embracing the so-called fringe. I mean, I don't think we can really call them, "The fringe," anymore. These people reflect Donald Trump's policies who, to this point remains the most popular figure, among the Republican Party. Can I just add one thing to what Stuart said though? I would say that certainly it is a condescending viewpoint of how Black voters think. But I would not say that we should assume that the selection of someone, like Herschel Walker, is even aimed at Black voters.
Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock are two people, who have really gotten there, most appeal to moderate Republicans, to swing voters, to that suburban Atlanta voter, who is a cross-racial but it includes a lot of white college-educated folks.
So, just because you're running a Black candidate does not inherently mean you are running that for Black voters. And I think that Georgia actually is a big example of that.
COOPER: Stuart, I mean, this kind of open dissension, within House Republicans, even if Kevin McCarthy is able to capture the Speakership, what then? I mean, how much control would he have even over his own caucus?
STEVENS: Well, Kevin McCarthy is one of the saddest figures, in modern American political history. And that's saying something!
I mean, a guy that started out to be a reformer, is now ended up having to negotiate, for his life, with Marjorie Taylor Greene, and a bunch of kooks in the Republican Party. That's who the Republican Party, that's the power center, of the Republican Party. We can't call it a fringe, because it's not a fringe. They are going to control what happens.
And watch what's -- they're going to go off, on all this crazy stuff that the American people aren't going to care about, investigating Hunter Biden's laptop, and god knows what else. And this is not good for the country. But in the hard political sense, this is good for President Biden's reelection, because this is not what people care about.
COOPER: Astead, I'm wondering what you thought about Newt Gingrich, writing this Op-Ed, declaring Republicans have to quit underestimating President Biden. Do you think he's right?
HERNDON: I do think Republicans are kind of in an open question about what their strategy is. And there has been a real underestimation of President Biden, and his political message.
I would say that extends, from Republicans that, extends, to some in the media, who did not see that his democracy pitch was really working, for swing voters, who underestimated that the President made a really effective call, to cast a certain amount of Republicans, as extreme. And we saw independents and swing voters really respond to that.
What we haven't seen is Democrats really make an affirmative message that really drives out each corner of their base.
And so yes, I think Stuart's point is correct, that if Republicans continue to tie themselves, to where the base of their party is, it creates an opening, for Democrats, like President Biden, to continue to run, on the extremism, on the other side.
What -- it's harder for Democrats to do, is run on an affirmative case that motivates all of their sectors, to come out. But Republicans are providing them an escape hatch, to really allow them not to have to do that.
COOPER: Yes. Astead Herndon, Stuart Stevens, appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up next, a CNN Exclusive conversation with Ukraine's Foreign Minister, what he says by the relentless Russian attacks, on civilian targets, in his country, whether he still thinks negotiating with Moscow is even possible, to end the fighting.
And later, new developments, including late word on forensic results, in the still unsolved mystery, surrounding the murders of four University of Idaho students.
COOPER: We have some new reporting, just in tonight, from CNN's Manu Raju, a Senate aide, telling him that members will get a classified briefing, next week, on Ukraine. This comes with the administration advocating for another $37 billion, in military aid, which will be attached to a much larger general government spending bill.
Now, this comes as Russia continues pounding civilian targets, in Ukraine, and allegedly a campaign is underway, to terrorize Ukrainian diplomats, around the world, with a series of letters, containing explosives or animal parts.
CNN's Matthew Chance joins us now, after an exclusive interview, with Ukraine's Foreign Minister.
So Matthew, what does the Foreign Minister make of these letters that have been showing up at Ukrainian embassies?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, he's obviously quite stunned by it. I mean, the Foreign Ministry called us up, earlier tonight, and said, "Look, we want you to come over and speak with the Foreign Minister, because he is so disturbed, about what has been taking place, in various diplomatic missions, for Ukraine, around the world."
These extraordinary letters, some of them, obviously, very dangerous, but all of them very, sort of, upsetting.
Dmytro Kuleba is the Foreign Minister of Ukraine. Take a listen to how he explains it.
DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, it started with an explosion, at the Embassy of Ukraine and Spain. But what followed was, this explosion was more, weird, and I would even say sick, because we started receiving letters, with eyes, animal eyes, cut off.
CHANCE: Animal eyes?
KULEBA: Animal eyes, yes. In some cases, in one case, it's most probably an eye of a cow, and an eye of a pig, in another case.
CHANCE: Let me ask you, who do you suspect, who does Ukraine suspect of being behind this?
KULEBA: Well, of course, I feel tempted to say, to name Russia, straightaway, because first of all, you have to answer the question, "Who benefits from that?" And it's definitely this campaign is aimed at sowing fear and terrorizing Ukrainian diplomats.
I think it's either Russia itself, or someone who sympathizes the Russian cause.
CHANCE: Well, Anderson, for what it's worth, I reached out to the Kremlin, as well, and the Russian Foreign Ministry, to see if they've got a response to it. They haven't got back to me.
The Ukrainians say there are investigations underway, in all of those cities, where the letters were sent. And they're determined to get to the bottom of this.
COOPER: Ukraine's President has said that there could be waves, more waves, of Russian missile attacks, coming in the near future. Would the Foreign Ministry, saying anything about the types of weapons, they hope to acquire, to defend themselves?
CHANCE: Yes, I mean, of course. I mean, every opportunity, Ukrainian officials get, they sort of restate this idea. They want more weapons from the United States, in particular, also from other countries as well.
The emphasis, at the moment, is anti-missile systems, particularly Patriot missile systems, to defend against the massive onslaught of missiles that are coming from Russia, attacking infrastructure targets, across the country.
Dmytro Kuleba, again, said that they've been asking -- he told me, the Foreign Minister said, they'd been asking for this, from the outset, actually, from before the war, before the latest invasion began, back in February. Now is the time, Dmytro Kuleba said, for decisions on this issue to be made.
COOPER: There's certainly been a lot of discussion, ongoing, about opening lines of negotiation, with Russia, to potentially, end this war. Did he have anything to say about that?
CHANCE: Yes. I mean, I put it to him, this idea that President Biden had come out in that press conference, yesterday, I think it was, with the French leader, saying that he will be prepared, to speak with President Putin of Russia, to end this war.
And Dmytro Kuleba, the Foreign Minister saying that look, as long as that is conditional on Russia, withdrawing from Ukrainian territory, then the Ukrainians were all in favor of that.
But he made it clear he didn't see any suggestion, at this moment, no green shoots at all, of any kind of peace process, taking place, particularly with this continuing threat of more missile strikes hanging over Ukraine.
COOPER: Matthew Chance, appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining us, now, CNN Military Analyst, and, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.
General, what's your reaction about these? First of all, these packages sounds -- I mean, what do you make of that, sending cow -- animal eyes to embassies?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), FORMER ARMY COMMANDING GENERAL, EUROPE AND SEVENTH ARMY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the Foreign Minister said it was weird. Anderson, I'd give it a different word than that, which I probably can't repeat on air. But it's just strange. It's almost mafia-like. It's like putting a horse's head, in someone's bed.
But it's a threat to other countries. They have done it now, by my count, to at least four different embassies. And it's just it's beyond weird. It's you can't say it's Russia, who is doing it. But all indications are it matches some of the mode of operations, they've been using, to try and intimidate people, to not support Ukraine.
COOPER: So, let's talk about the military stuff. I mean, Ukrainian authorities, they've been asking for Patriot missile systems, other air defense systems, for months now. What other factors do you think the United States has taken to account before sending systems like this?
HERTLING: Well, Anderson, everyone wants to give Ukraine, what they're asking for. Secretary Austin has been talking to the Minister of Defense, Reznikov, and they have attempted to try and fill all of their needs.
Patriots though, I got to tell you, I keep hearing this, as well as ATACMS, it's a special kind of system. And what I mean by that, it's something that the U.S. Military calls a high-demand, low-density piece of equipment, which means a lot of people want them, in different theaters, but there's not a whole lot of them.
There's barely enough of them to cover all of the requirements that the U.S. Military has. They're extremely expensive. They have not just the missile, but the launcher, the radar and the command and control center, which are all part of the package.
It takes a year-plus to train missile crewmen with even more time to spend training those who repair them. This isn't a rifle or even a HIMARS, where you just teach someone how to point and shoot. This is a very complicated system. And, by the way, each one of the missiles that are fired cost between $3 million and $5 million apiece!
HERTLING: The missile, not the launcher, the missile. So that's -- these are all things that add up.
And I think Secretary Austin has been replacing that demand for Patriots with some of our older systems, which still work very well, like the HAWK missiles, and others. So, I think we're trying our best to give Ukraine what they need, but it's not always what they're demanding.
And remember, these are part of aid packages. They're not paying for these systems. So, that $37 billion package that Matthew just talked about?
HERTLING: That's a huge package, that's a significant amount of money for weapon systems.
COOPER: How do you see the war, right now, I mean, as you see it, kind of the big picture of it?
HERTLING: Yes. I think we're going to see, because of a variety of factors, Ukraine, having to cross over the Dnipro River, Russia trying to force -- mobilize forces to the front, some very good victories, recently by Ukraine, in both the Northeast and the Southeast, I think we're going to see a little bit of slowing down. But Ukraine continues to defend well, and fight and gain more ground.
What we're seeing, and what's been reported by both CNN and "The Washington Post," is this potential opportunity, to train large numbers of Ukrainian forces, at some of the U.S. training areas, a place where I used to command Grafenwoehr, in Germany, and some other places in Europe, which will create the capability, for Russia -- for Ukrainian forces, to counter what we've seen, so far, as very poor Russian tactics and capabilities.
If Ukraine can train, these large amounts of forces, these large forces, in combined arms operations, I think, we'll continue to see Ukraine, getting more and more victories, as the days go on.
COOPER: Wow, interesting!
HERTLING: But it's going to take a little bit more time.
COOPER: General Hertling, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Still ahead, what police are saying about a sixth person, on the lease, at a house, where four University of Idaho students were found stabbed to death. More on that ahead.
COOPER: Tonight, new information, on the investigation, to the unsolved murders, of four University of Idaho students. Police are now saying a sixth person, listed on the lease of the house, when students were killed, was not involved in the attack. It's been nearly three weeks since the students were found dead. There's still no suspect in custody.
CNN's Veronica Miracle joins us now, from Moscow, Idaho.
Did the police give details about why they're ruling this person out, or how they did?
VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they say they have now spoken to that sixth roommate. And they say that individual says that they moved down at the earlier -- early this year, excuse me, before the start of the school year -- and earlier at the start of the school year, and that individual was not home, at the time of the attacks. They also say this person was not involved in the murders.
So, at this point now, we understand that two roommates have been cleared, those surviving roommates, in addition to this sixth roommate, who moved out at the start of the school year.
COOPER: Police say they have evidence from inside the house that leads them to believe this was targeted. Do we know anything more about what that evidence might be?
MIRACLE: Well, Anderson, we know that lab results have started coming back. And they're processing that information. But what kind of data that they're gleaning from those results? They're not revealing. So, we don't know if it bolsters their case that this was a targeted attack.
We did see five cars being towed away, from the driveway, of the home, earlier this week, for further processing. But again, they're not letting us know exactly what all of this means. They haven't released any kind of suspect information. No murder weapon is found. And they have not revealed any kind of motive.
Here, in Downtown Moscow, it's a Friday night. It's lively. People are out and about. But there is certainly a sense, underlying, here in this community, of anxiety. Several businesses, closing early, one business owner sending her employees home, before it gets too dark, so that they feel just a little bit safer.
And at the University of Idaho, students actually get out for the semester, next week. They're going to be going home and they won't be returning here, until mid-January. So, I asked University officials what they're planning on doing in terms of security next year. They say they're just going to wait to see how this investigation unfolds.
COOPER: All right. Veronica Miracle, appreciate it. Thanks
More perspective now, from retired FBI Special Agent and Profiler, Mary Ellen O'Toole. She's now Director of the Forensic Science Program at George Mason University.
Thanks for being with us.
I mean, this is such an odd -- I mean, this is just a bizarre mystery. Investigators now having DNA and other lab results, what exactly are they going to be looking at, to try to narrow down a suspect? And is a police force like this, I mean, are they able to investigate it (inaudible) help can they get it?
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, RETIRED FBI SPECIAL AGENT - PROFILER, DIRECTOR, FORENSIC SCIENCE PROGRAM AT GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: It's a great question. So, let me address the forensics. What they're doing is the focus is really going to be on the gold standard, which is DNA.
And hopefully, when they process that crime scene, and there's no reason to think that that's not the case that they would have recovered samples of blood, they would have taken clothing and bedding and so forth, and they would have sent that to the lab, in order to obtain DNA, and to eliminate people that they know are not responsible for these crimes.
So, the forensic evidence is really going to be very helpful, in a case like this. But it's not just one lab report. They have to look at everything. So, there's fingerprints and there's hairs, and fibers, and footprints. And so, once that all starts to roll in, they'll be able to put it all together, and do some kind of an assessment.
And your second question is regarding the Police Department. They have brought in the FBI, and they have brought in Idaho State Police. So, our FBI, CSI people are actually on the scene there, as well as the Behavioral Analysis Unit, my old unit, the profiling unit. So, they're working as a task force.
And my sense is, if you were there at the scene, and you saw all these people, you would not know, necessarily, who is with Moscow Police Department, the FBI, or the Idaho State Police.
COOPER: I mean, a crime scene like this, there's got to be a lot of physical evidence. I mean, this number of people being killed?
ELLEN O'TOOLE: Yes.
COOPER: If that's a difficult thing to do, it's got to be a violent struggle?
ELLEN O'TOOLE: Well, yes, but depending on how quickly this offender was able to get into those rooms, and stab the people? And this person, from what's been reported, and the result, they were practiced with that knife.
So, what is important to look at, and I don't want to be, too graphic here, but the offender likely could have cut himself, on his own knife. And that happens, because blood is slippery. And as he's stabbing somebody, his hand could have gone down over the blade--
ELLEN O'TOOLE: --leaving his, own blood behind. So, what the analysts are looking for is what are the areas around where the victims died, where there seems to be a lot of really excessive and harsh stabbing, because, that's the area where the offender may have cut himself. Because, there is a lot of blood, so, you have to have a way to focus in on where is it likely that he cut himself.
COOPER: There's also the idea of whether this was targeted or not?
ELLEN O'TOOLE: Yes.
ELLEN O'TOOLE: Yes. And when a crime scene--
COOPER: How do you figure that out?
ELLEN O'TOOLE: Well, it's, sometimes it's not easy. But when you go into a scene, like this, you have multiple victims? You have to look at who were the victims that were treated specially. Was there a victim that was stabbed multiple times? Was there dismemberment? Was there -- was the victim laid out, in a certain way?
ELLEN O'TOOLE: Compare it and contrast to how the other victims were treated.
ELLEN O'TOOLE: So, you look for one victim or two, who were treated differently, by the offender, in terms of their injury patterns, or in terms of their -- of the postmortem behavior.
ELLEN O'TOOLE: So, that's how you do it.
COOPER: Mary Ellen O'Toole, I appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you.
ELLEN O'TOOLE: You're welcome.
COOPER: Coming up next, the cruise ship passenger rescued, after spending hours, stranded, all alone in the ocean, just his own body, treading water, in the Gulf of Mexico. What he's saying now only deepens the mystery of exactly how he got there.
COOPER: So, this story of incredible rescue at sea, which you probably heard about, is getting even more amazing.
You've probably seen the Coast Guard video. The man, in the circle, waving his arms, stranded for hours, in the Gulf of Mexico, after he fell off a cruise ship. He was spotted 20 miles off the Louisiana coast. He's now safe, and sharing his survival story, but it's only adding to the questions, about what actually happened.
Randi Kaye, tonight, has more.
JAMES MICHAEL GRIMES, WENT OVERBOARD ON CRUISE: I wanted to see my family and I was dead set on making it out of there, you know? I was never accepting that "This is it. This is going to be the end of my life."
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Michael Grimes has a story to tell. And it's nothing short of a miracle that he survived to tell it.
As he told ABC's "Good Morning America," he was on a cruise, with 18 members of his family, last month, when suddenly he ended up overboard.
MICHAEL GRIMES: My worst fear is drowning, and that was something I did not want to have to face.
KAYE (voice-over): It was Thanksgiving Eve. The 28-year-old says he spent the day, having fun, with family, which included him taking part in this air guitar contest.
(VIDEO - AIR GUITAR CONTEST)
KAYE (voice-over): He won a free drink, at the contest, but says he was not drunk. Later, around 11 PM, his sister said he excused himself to go to the restroom. But he told ABC he doesn't recall going to the bathroom, or falling overboard.
MICHAEL GRIMES: When I came to regain consciousness, I was in the water with no boat in sight.
KAYE (voice-over): How he managed to stay afloat, when he was passed out in the water, is a mystery.
MICHAEL GRIMES: I can't float myself even when I'm trying to. So, there had to be, you know, the Lord was with me, when I was out there, because something was holding me up, the whole time, while I was passed out.
KAYE (voice-over): His family had no idea James had fallen off the Carnival Valor ship, and didn't tell anyone on board the ship, he was missing, until the next day.
More than 12 hours had passed, since James was last seen, by the time the ship alerted the Coast Guard. Their search area included more than 7,000 nautical square miles, about the size of Massachusetts, all the while James was treading water, in the Gulf of Mexico, an area frequented by sharks.
MICHAEL GRIMES: I thought it was a shark. I mean, I was swimming in one direction. It had more like a flat mouth, and it came up, and bumped one of my legs, and I kicked it with the other leg. It scared me, not knowing what it was, or, at the time, how big it was.
KAYE (voice-over): As it started to get dark again, James feared he wouldn't survive another cold night at sea, when suddenly he saw a tanker ship. As he swam toward it, the Coast Guard spotted James, flapping his arms, in the water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible).
KAYE (voice-over): The Coast Guard believes James had been in the water, more than 15 hours. His daring rescue, caught on camera, and just in the nick of time.
RICHARD CLARK HOEFLE, RESCUER: I swam to him as fast as I could. As I got to him, I shoved the rescue sling, under his arms, and he collapsed into it. He had nothing left.
KAYE (voice-over): Not even his clothing.
MICHAEL GRIMES: First thing I actually told him was "I don't have any clothes on," because I didn't. I done stripped out of everything. He said, "That's fine, all right." I was just like, "OK." And he told me to hold on to this life vest, when I was just thinking, "Thank you. You know, you're like a guardian angel, coming down for me."
KAYE (voice-over): That guardian angel and the others hoisted him up to the helicopter. He was suffering from hypothermia, but remarkably not a single cut or broken bone.
MICHAEL GRIMES: The fall didn't kill me, you know, sea creatures didn't eat me. I felt like I was meant to get out of there.
COOPER: Randi Kaye is with us now. I mean, he must have been so weak from all that time treading water. Did he have any food?
KAYE: Yes, Anderson. Can you imagine? He said he saw a stick floating by. He thought it was bamboo. So he snacked on that for a bit. But that's all he had.
And it really is incredible that he survived this. The water temperature was about 70 degrees. But there was wind. There were waves. There were obviously big fish in that water. And a Coast Guard lieutenant, who spoke to CNN, said that he, in his 17 years, on the job, has never seen a rescue, quite like this one.
And if you're wondering just how likely it is that you would survive if you did end up overboard, like James? He's quite lucky, because most of these end in tragedy. According to this group, who tracks this stuff, in 2019, 25 people went overboard, and only nine of them survived. So, he is certainly a lucky guy.
And Anderson, he did say that he is open to going cruising, again. He feels like he missed out on this one, because he ended up overboard, on the first day. So, he is looking forward to another cruise, believe it or not, Anderson.
Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up, a subject that is not something, you tend to see me cover a lot, sports, specifically, tomorrow's World Cup match, which is exciting! The United States facing off against the Netherlands, we'll have a live report from Doha, Qatar. Plus, analysis of whether America's top player, will be healthy enough to play.
COOPER: If you're a regular viewer of this program, or even a regular one, you may know, I'm not well-versed in sports. But I'm trying. And I do recognize that tomorrow's morning's match pitch or kickoff between the U.S. Men's National Team and the Netherlands in the World Cup is a big deal. Even I know that!
And there's a lot of intrigue over whether America's best player Christian Pulisic will be playing because my colleague, John Berman, who kindly filled in for me, this week, when I was out, is such a super-fan!
You're wearing a scarf even!
I want to bring him in, along with CNN's Don Riddell, who is at the World Cup, in Doha, Qatar.
Don, thank you so much for doing this. I don't even know what time it is there. I appreciate you being up with us.
Christian Pulisic is cleared to play. Do we know if he's going to start the match, against the Netherlands tomorrow?
DON RIDDELL, CNN HOST, WORLD SPORT: Hey, Anderson.
I can't imagine that he won't play. I mean, they call him "Captain America" for a reason. He's not even captain of the team!
They're playing so well at this tournament. But they're not scoring that many goals. They've only scored two. He's been involved in both. Of course, he put himself, literally on the line, to get that win in over Iran.
So yes, I think he's going to play. It's going to be the biggest match of his international career. If he's fit enough, why would he miss it?
COOPER: John, can you tell me about the decoration you have around your neck?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is my Team USA scarf from the 2014 World Cup, in Brazil, which was the last World Cup, the U.S. actually played at. So that's why, this is such a big deal! It's been eight years! I've had to wait eight years!
Every American soccer fan has had to wait eight years for the U.S. to even get there. And now, we're in the group stage, and we were so nervous about Christian Pulisic's pelvis, which is fine. It turns out that the pelvic contusion that he suffered is OK. This was a serious injury. I would not laugh at it.
COOPER: No, I'm not laughing at all. But I know -- I'm laughing, because you called it, I believe, the pelvic contusion, heard around the world. Do you--
BERMAN: Felt around the world!
COOPER: Felt? Oh, felt around the world? I was going to say can you hear a pelvic contusion? That makes more sense.
BERMAN: Well you could almost you're--
COOPER: I'd say you -- you felt the contusion, as well, yourself, as a super-fan?
BERMAN: Oh, look at it. I mean, that just looks painful.
COOPER: So this is a pelvic miracle, really?
BERMAN: Yes, it's a pelvic miracle. I think there's really no other way to say it.
And Don, I don't know if you've seen the video. Does it look like -- I mean, I don't know what a healed pelvis, the movement looks like there. Does it look like he's moving well?
COOPER: He's taken a turn.
RIDDELL: Yes. Yes.
RIDDELL: Yes, this could get really, really messy, could they? Yes.
I saw him train tonight. He looked good enough. He came out at the start of the training session. I wasn't allowed to watch all of it, because the media were shepherded out.
But it looked as though he was going at about 80 percent. It looked as though he was taking it easy. But yes, I mean, they put him into the training session. They were going to assess him, during that session, and then give him the all-clear, if he was good to go. And he is. So, yes, I think it'll be fun.
COOPER: So, because I'm new to this, I mean, who's the favorite here? What are the odds of America winning?
RIDDELL: Well, look, I mean, the Dutch team are clearly the favorites. They're one of the best countries never to win the World Cup. They've played in three finals. They're ranked world number eight. They've got a load of European superstars.
But the Americans have got a great chance. Once you get to this stage of the tournament? It's knockout football. Literally anything can happen. If you can hang in a game, not concede any goals, and the Americans have been strong, very defensively, in this tournament, then you've got a shot. And I think the later this game goes, with it being tied, I think the greater the shot the U.S. team have.
And they are making the most of the fact that they're in their first World Cup. For eight years, John has been talking about, the agony of missing out.
RIDDELL: In that time, they've got better, as a team. Their players have got better and better. Many of these U.S. team now, I mean, they're stars all over Europe. And that wasn't the case eight years ago, 10 years ago, 12 years ago. So, this team is very much on an upward trend.
BERMAN: Yes, Don's absolutely right. I mean, these guys are real, international soccer players. It's not a bunch of guys, who played high school soccer, and now find themselves in the World Cup. These are international superstars.
It's also, they're the youngest team at the World Cup, the youngest starting team, and you wonder if maybe they don't know enough, to be nervous, because they're so young, and I think they have a real shot.
COOPER: You think they have a shot? Do you think the U.S. can pull off an upside, John?
BERMAN: Yes, I really do. I mean, I'm not -- I'm not a betting man. But I think they have a real chance.
I think the Netherlands is favored. But the United States is a very skilled team. They're super-enthusiastic. They've been playing very well. And their defense, they haven't let in a single goal, in the field of play. The only goal they let in was in a penalty kick.
BERMAN: So, they've got this rock-solid defense. And so, yes, they have a chance.
And the Netherlands, Don was saying they're the best team never to win a World Cup. For American fans, they're sort of like the Minnesota Vikings or the Buffalo Bills of soccer, in that they've been to the finals but never won. They've never won.
So, maybe the Netherlands will feel like it's all going to go wrong. They have that complex, where it's something's going to go wrong before the end, for them, and hopefully it happens, tomorrow.
COOPER: I'm now having to Google Minnesota Vikings and the other one that you mentioned. I'm going to have to look it out the transcript, even!
John, Christian Pulisic put his body on the line, against Iran, to get the win. John, are you willing to sacrifice anything, for victory, tomorrow?
BERMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BERMAN: Anything that Christian Pulisic's willing to put on the line, I'm willing to put on the line. I mean, I say that because my kids are already, you know, I've got kids (inaudible).
Don Riddell, thank you so much.
RIDDELL: All right.
COOPER: John Berman, I wish you the best. Thank you. Appreciate it.
The news continues. "CNN TONIGHT" with Laura Coates, is next, right after a short break.