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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
New Report: Uvalde Sheriff's Office Revealed The Department Had No Active Shooter Policy At The Time Of Massacre; Special Counsel Subpoenas Top Georgia Election Official In Trump Probe; Interview With Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); U.S. Officials Met With Paul Whelan's Sister To Discuss "Next Steps"; COVID, Flu & RSV Hit America Hard At Once; Prosecutors Reveal Alleged Motive In SC Double-Murder Case. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired December 12, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His computer, his train pass, his phone charger, precisely the kinds of things that you take with you, even if you are planning a short trip and they say, it's totally out of character.
They spoke, say his dad every other day, and that painful week, the news gets worse every day. He was due home, Erin, Thursday.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Melissa, thank you very much. Melissa Bell live from Paris tonight.
And thanks so much to all of you for being with us. AC 360 begins right now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
For more than six months, CNN has continuously pursued the question of what went wrong in the police response at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Twenty-one people were brutally murdered, including 19 children. And yet, parents tell our reporters that much of what they have learned about why it took authorities 77 minutes to stop the gunman once he entered the school and why the overlapping law enforcement agencies that arrived didn't follow accepted active shooter protocol, most of it has come from our own reporting.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has been breaking new details about the response for months now, confronting law enforcement officials trying to get answers since the tragedy unfolded.
Tonight, Shimon has more new reporting about what did and did not happen in those 77 minutes that it took police to confront the killer.
He joins us now from Texas with some new information we learned just moments ago about Uvalde's Sheriff. What have you learned?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's Ruben Nolasco who is the Sheriff of Uvalde County. What we're learning now is that according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and also an expert that was hired by the Uvalde County to review the policies of the Sheriff's Office on that day, we've discovered that the Sheriff according to these records has not actually had any kind of active shooter training.
We also learned today that on that day, on May 24th, and really for several months after that, Anderson, that the Uvalde County Sheriff, there was no active shooter policy in place at that time. That has since changed. They instituted a policy in September.
Hard to believe all this information is just now coming forward.
We also tried to get information from officials, from a law enforcement official who was present on that day of the shooting and the Uvalde County District Attorney who was running this entire investigation, she has refused to allow investigators to answer any of these questions and of course, all of this families today expecting to get some kind of answers, and they didn't -- Anderson.
JAVIER CAZARES, FATHER OF UVALDE SHOOTING VICTIM, JACKIE CAZARES: That's the admission now.
PROKUPECZ: The Sheriff?
CAZARES: Yes. We all wonder if they're going to follow.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): Just over six months since the Robb Elementary shooting, families of the victims gathering in force at the Uvalde Courthouse.
CAZARES: I don't trust anybody at this point. I don't -- you know what I mean. We haven't gotten information from any of them. Our information has been coming from you guys.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): They are still demanding to know what failures allowed the 19 children and two teachers who died to go without help for more than an hour, while they were trapped alone with the gunman.
At a County Commissioners meeting, a highly anticipated independent review of the local Sheriff's Office revealed the department had no active shooter policy at the time of the massacre.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no active shooter policy. There were only definitions.
It did define what active shooters were and there were forces that dealt with critical incidences and how officers would respond to that, but there was no active shooter policy.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): The report did not examine the actions of the officers and their failures that day, only the policies that were in place.
Last week, a CNN investigation into the department's leader Uvalde Sheriff Ruben Nolasco revealed the highest ranking law enforcement official in the county failed to organize a response even after he was informed of 9-1-1 calls from inside the room asking for help.
Nolasco says he didn't hear that call, even though body camera footage showed he was within earshot of multiple radios, and was told by another officer on scene.
The Sheriff gave incorrect information about what time he arrived at the school and what he communicated to other law enforcement leaders.
Nolasco did not appear at this meeting and has not responded to CNN's requests for comment.
Speaking in November, he said he thought his response was adequate.
Someone who did make a rare appearance speaking only behind closed doors, the Uvalde County District Attorney. Christina Mitchell is blocking any records or videos from being released while her investigation into the failure is ongoing.
PROKUPECZ (on camera): What are you waiting for ma'am?
PROKUPECZ (voice over): Her reasoning is wearing thin on the victim's families and the Uvalde Mayor who sued the DA last month asking a Judge to compel the release of information to the city.
Mitchell has said her investigation could take years. She continues to refuse to answer CNN's questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, coward. That's right. You know you are a coward.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): Also appearing publicly for the first time since the CNN investigation into his actions, Mariano Pargas.
Pargas was acting Uvalde City Police Chief on the day of the shooting. A CNN investigation revealed he had direct knowledge of the phone call, and even confirmed the details with the Uvalde dispatcher, and still failed to organize help.
MARIANO PARGAS, FORMER ACTING UVALDE POLICE CHIEF: All I can say is that a lot of stuff being put out there is not the way it happened. That's all I can tell you.
PROKUPECZ (on camera): I'm Shimon Prokupecz from CNN. Tell me --
PARGAS: I have to get back in there.
PROKUPECZ: No, I understand that, but we've been trying to talk to you. We spoke on the phone.
PROKUPECZ: So you're saying some of the stuff that --
PARGAS: I've got a Commission meeting to go to. PROKUPECZ: I understand, but you're saying that some of the stuff that was put out there is not --
PARGAS: Andy --
PROKUPECZ: It is not accurate, so I am asking you what that is.
PROKUPECZ (voice over) Pargas resigned from the Police Department before the city could fire him. But he is still a Uvalde County Commissioner, a post he was reelected to in November.
After the meeting, angry parents waited outside.
PROKUPECZ (on camera): You're an elected official. We have a right to ask you questions. Do you think the job you did that day was adequate, sir?
PARGAS: Excuse me. Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aren't you going to say anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have anything to say to the families?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anything you have to say?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shut up, I hope you also take care of your -- his grandkids. I hope so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll force you out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to force you out. One way or another, you're being forced out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am talking about my son por favor.
COOPER: I mean, Shimon, how is it possible that a law enforcement agency in this day and age -- so I mean, so many years after Columbine, that they would not have an active shooter policy? I don't understand that. I mean, they didn't go through active shooter training.
PROKUPECZ: So some of them did go through training. The Sheriff did not go through the training.
But interestingly enough, Anderson, what we have found is that it's not required. It's not something that is required.
Certainly legislators here, community members, people really hope that that changes come January as soon as legislators get back into session.
It is mandatory for school police officers and chiefs for schools, but not for police officers in general. And you're right, how is it possible that after so many years post Columbine, that these schools, that some of these police departments don't have this policy in place? Many of the police departments do the training, but it's a question of policy and what exactly is being taught to some of these officers in these smaller departments.
And quite honestly, Anderson, in talking to someone tonight, this person really just feels that the Sheriff's Office, other officials there just never thought something like this what happened in their town.
COOPER: Shimon, stay with us. I want to bring in CNN senior law enforcement analyst, Andrew McCabe, former FBI Deputy Director.
Andrew, so you heard Shimon's report. There is no active shooter policy in place at the time of the shooting, that even today the Uvalde County Sheriff himself still has not completed active shooter training.
Just from a law enforcement perspective, what do you make of it? I mean, how important is having a policy in place?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Anderson, for any law enforcement agency in this country of any size to not have an active shooter law enforcement -- active shooter response policy in place or plan in place is just simply law enforcement malpractice -- law enforcement leadership malpractice.
There are so many resources at the Federal level and at multiple State levels, to provide that sort of guidance and training to law enforcement officers around the country. The result of massive legislative efforts, the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act in 2012, poured resources into it.
The FBI has been out doing alert training, advanced law enforcement rapid response training for a decade now. If you go on to the DHS CISA website, you can see the massive resources that are available for any law enforcement executive to be able to access the latest information, the latest research and to be able to actually line up training for their folks.
So it is not there is no -- it is inexcusable.
COOPER: And Andrew, I mean, you and I have talked about this for years. After the Columbine shooting, law enforcement completely changed. The FBI did a major survey and major investigations and law enforcement policy was changed to go in immediately whoever responds fast, team up, go in, neutralize the shooter.
I mean, that's just universally accepted. It's not as if things have changed every single year in what the recommendation for law enforcement is. I mean, that's been in place now for quite some time.
MCCABE: It's been in place for over a decade. The only thing that changes from year to year is the number of mass shootings we have and that number keeps going up dramatically. [20:10:00]
The FBI publishes, as you know detailed research and reporting on that, and in fact the Texas Legislature did pass a law requiring as Shimon indicated, a rapid response, an active shooter response training for not just school police officers, but school resource officers.
So any law enforcement officer who is assigned and providing services to a school and that could certainly include officers in County Sheriff's Departments or City Police Departments and the training they provide, and I have it right here, it is available online for anybody who wants to read it. It's a fascinating document.
It perfectly tracks that state of the art that we've just been talking about, that standardized response, the priorities of what you're supposed to do when you show up at a scene, even if you're the only person. The fact that you have to put yourself at life's risk in order to try to stop that shooter from killing innocent civilians. You know, all that stuff is right there in the policy.
COOPER: Shimon, when it comes to the Uvalde Sheriff's Department training, what's changing? Is something changing?
PROKUPECZ: So this policy certainly is now in place. There is a policy. You know, this report today, this all comes because there was a report. The County hired someone, they did this report, they did not focus on anything, any of the failures that day. Instead, they said we're just going to take a look at the policy.
But there are still so many questions, as our really long investigation proved last week about the actions of the Sheriff. I mean, the community members want him out of office. He is elected, so it's going to be a little difficult.
But also the actions why the Deputies and what they exactly were doing. We don't have the answers to those questions, because as you can see, officials keep refusing to answer any questions.
The Sheriff has refused to answer any questions. We've gone back to him today to find out if he has any response to this report. Nothing. And that's what keeps happening.
So we don't know. There is no transparency, and quite frankly, for the community members and for the kids who go to these schools in Uvalde, the parents are afraid because they don't know. They don't know what's going on and they don't know if these officers can handle another situation like what happened on May 24th -- Anderson.
COOPER: Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate the reporting; Andrew McCabe as well, thank you.
I'm joined now by Berlinda Irene Arreola who was in Shimon's report moments ago. She is the grandmother of Amery Jo Garza, who was 10 years old when she was murdered at Robb Elementary School.
Berlinda, I appreciate you joining us. I'm so sorry for your loss and that we are talking under these circumstances.
The fact that you don't have answers so long after this -- this horrific, horrific event is stunning to me that you were at the Commissioners meeting today. I'm wondering what your reaction when you learned that the Sheriff's Department had no active shooter policy in place at the time of the shooting.
BERLINDA IRENE ARREOLA, GRANDMOTHER OF AMERY JO GARZA: I was in total shock. I could not believe that with all the mass shootings that have taken place, just in Texas alone that there was no policy in place. It was a total shock.
COOPER: The acting Uvalde City Police Chief on the day of the shootings, Mariano Pargas was there today as well. I understand it was the first time you've seen him since it was revealed by CNN that he knew about the phone call coming from inside the school as the shooting was unfolding, and yet, still didn't organize a team to go in and neutralize the shooter.
To be there to see him, what was that like?
ARREOLA: It -- was it was very hard, and it was very sad because he had plenty to bring or to take control, and instead he ran the other direction. So seeing him for the first time was very, very hurtful.
COOPER: Did he say anything to you or to any of the families there today?
ARREOLA: No, he did not. We slightly made eye contact because I sat right in front of him. I wanted him to see my face. I wanted him to see Amery's face, I had a picture of angry with me and of course, my button, and I wanted him to see me and I wanted him to look at me.
But when we made the eye contact, he kind of just tried to smile, but turned very quickly.
COOPER: How are you? How are your family doing? I mean with the Holidays, it's an incredibly difficult time.
ARREOLA: Of course, it's very, very difficult. My son and my daughter- in-law just can't keep it together to be able to enjoy the Holidays. So it's going to be different. They're definitely different this year, and very sad. It is very sad.
COOPER: Is it important for you to understand everything that happened that day? I mean to finally get one day answers to exactly who made the mistakes why things weren't done and figure out a way to make sure it doesn't happen again?
ARREOLA: It is, and we all understand who pulled the trigger, we understand that. It is the after effect that we are concerned about, because there were several individuals that could have been saved, had they breached immediately. And we all know that now because yes, we have received the autopsy report. So we do know the results now, but we want to know who had needed to do that, and they had a lack of communication with radio communication, but there's also a way to walk around and find out who actually had control that day.
You know, every leader had that opportunity, whether it be Nolasco or whether it be Pargas, or whoever, you know, McCraw whoever had -- the leaders who were there had every opportunity to walk around to find out who was in control. That 77 minutes is 77 minutes too long.
COOPER: Yes, it just -- it stuns me that so many months later, that you and the other family members are still having to be advocates for your granddaughter, for people's daughters, for their sons, for their family members, that law enforcement -- that there's not already all the information given to the families.
I mean, it is incomprehensible to me that you are all just out there, desperate for answers and not getting it really from any level of authority.
And I appreciate you talking to us tonight and I'm so sorry we have to talk and continue to cover this in this way, because it just seems so terribly, terribly unfair.
Berlinda, I really appreciate talking to you tonight.
ARREOLA: Yes, it is very sad that we're stuck on May 24th and we're getting -- we're getting more information from the media than we are from our leaders here.
ARREOLA: But we really appreciate everything that you're doing for us as well.
COOPER: Yes. I appreciate what Shimon is doing and his team and all the folks who are covering this.
Berlinda, again, I'm so sorry for your loss and I appreciate talking to you. Thank you.
ARREOLA: Thank you.
COOPER: Still to come tonight, the White House calling what Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said about the January 6th attacks over the weekend, "violent rhetoric." She said she was being sarcastic. We'll talk to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of the January 6 Committee about her thoughts on what Greene says in the latest on the investigation.
Also, we will speak with the President Biden's top hostage negotiator who was on the plane with Brittney Griner when she returned to the US.
[20:21:51] COOPER: A big move today by the Special Counsel overseeing the investigation of two criminal investigations related to the former President.
Jack Smith has issued his latest subpoena, this time for Brad Raffensperger, a key witness in the Federal probe examining the attempt to overturn the election.
Raffensperger is the Secretary of State for Georgia, as you know. In January before the attack on the Capitol, he taped a phone conversation in which the former President asked him as the State's top election officials to "find more votes."
The riot also at the center of a new controversy involving Marjorie Taylor Greene. This weekend, she spoke before a group of Republicans in New York and said this about those she says blame her and Steve Bannon for helping to instigate the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Then January 6th happens and next thing you know, I organized the whole thing along with Steve Bannon here. And I have to tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won.
Not to mention, it would have been armed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER Congresswoman Greene tells CNN, she was being sarcastic. The White House called it "violent rhetoric" and a "slap in the face" to law enforcement and families who lost loved ones on January 6th.
I am joined now by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. She's a member of the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection.
On Sunday, the Committee reviewed recommendations for possible criminal referrals, which could potentially include the former President.
Congresswoman, appreciate your time tonight.
You heard the comments from the Congresswoman there. In a statement today, she is she's saying essentially, she was being sarcastic, was kidding. What's your response?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, I don't find it very funny to talk about the assault on the officers in the Capitol. I don't see how that's a good joke, and what does she mean, "We would have won?" Overthrown the government? Is that what she means? I don't know.
I'm rarely impressed by her rhetoric, and this is no exception, I'm afraid.
COOPER: We also mentioned the subpoena going out from the Special Counsel Jack Smith to the Georgia Secretary of State. Some members of the January 6 Committee have been critical to the speed of the DOJ investigation in the past.
I'm wondering, what do you think of their progress since the appointment of a Special Counsel?
LOFGREN: Well, you know, it's hard for us to know what they're doing. They don't report to us, nor should they. That's not their job. But it does appear that the pace is picking up.
Whether that was because of the Special Counsel or whether that was always ready in the works, I don't know. But as we know, January 6th is coming up and we will have been almost two years.
And so far, it's just the rioters themselves who have been prosecuted along with the Oath Keepers for their plotting, but the higher ups have not been called to account and I think that's important.
I think people tell me all the time that it's not just the followers who should be held to account, but those who devised this account, I think, public opinion.
COOPER: The subcommittee tasked for investigating the criminal referrals, they presented recommendations to the full January 6 Committee yesterday. I know you can't tell us what was decided.
Can you talk about your personal thought process when it comes to criminal referrals and when they should be applied?
LOFGREN: Well, criminal referrals don't have legal stature. I mean, essentially, it's just a letter or a report given to the Department of Justice. Usually, that's done when it is something you know, the DOJ might not know about. In this case, I'm pretty confident that they have a lot of the evidence that we have, and whatever they don't have now, they soon will have. So there's that.
But I also think having gone through all of this information to speak for myself, it would be a good idea to wrap it up in some way that makes sense in terms of the behavior, the evidence that we had and compare it and contrast with what the obligations are legally.
So I'm very open to that and we will have this done you know, in a week, so I'm not going to be making any announcements in advance of the Committee's, I hope you understand.
COOPER: Yes. Congresswoman Lofgren, I do appreciate your time. Thank you.
LOFGREN: You bet.
COOPER: Now to remarkable video from over the weekend, and embattled Los Angeles City Council member engaged in a physical altercation with an activist who confronted him. CNN's Nick Watt tonight has the story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Resign Kevin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Resign Kevin.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Kevin De Leon is wearing the Santa hat, a wounded lion of LA politics. Green jacket, that's Jason Reedy, community activist.
The Santa hat falls. This was a Holiday party.
Okay, there is backstory here.
In October, some year-old audio leaked. City Council President Nury Martinez talking about a fellow councilmember and his kid.
NURY MARTINEZ, FORMER LA CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: There is nothing you can do to control him. Parece chanquito.
WATT (voice over): Translation "little monkey."
She apologized and later resigned.
On that tape, she also said Councilman Mike Bonin uses his son like an accessory. De Leon appeared to agree, made a joke.
KEVIN DE LEON, LA CITY COUNCILMEMBER: Like when Nury brings her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag, el trae su. Accessory.
WATT (voice over): De Leon has been laying very low, clinging hard to power, expressing regrets, but refusing to resign.
He claims Jason Reedy was the aggressor. "Reedy launched a pelvic thrust followed by a headbutt to my forehead." De Leon said in a statement Saturday, "My response in defense of myself was to push him off."
"Reedy did not initiate physical contact with anyone," his lawyer told CNN, claiming De Leon has lost political legitimacy and lost touch with reality.
WATT (on camera): So the LAPD, Anderson, now has that video, they are investigating. Councilman De Leon has filed a complaint against Jason Reedy. Jason Reedy has filed a complaint against Councilman De Leon.
Now, this was Kevin De Leon's first foray really back into public life since that controversy erupted with that racist audio recording leaking. He went to a Council meeting Friday afternoon. Another Councilman Mike Bonin left, he says, in protest and later called de Leon a "vile racist."
De Leon then went on to that tree lighting ceremony where he got involved in a wrestling match with a local activist.
Not a great day for his first day back in public life.
COOPER: Yes. Nick Watt, appreciate it. thanks.
Coming up: New focus in new efforts reportedly underway to free the American held in Russia, Paul Whelan from captivity. I'll talk about it with the American Special Envoy to Hostage Affairs who was on the tarmac in the video you see right there when Brittney Griner was freed last week.
COOPER: Tonight, new developments on efforts to secure the release of American Paul Whelan who remains detained in Russia. The White House confirmed that Biden administration officials met virtually with a member of Whelan's family. White House also laid out the next step in their efforts to negotiate with Russia.
Joining me now from the State Department, CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood. So, what do we know about this virtual meeting with Whelan's sister?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, what she said was that she felt encouraged by the energy of Biden administration officials after this meeting, it was about 45 minutes. It was with working level officials from State Department and National Security Council. State Department spokesperson said it was to discuss the next steps in the strategy to bring home her brother Paul Whelan. And we heard this afternoon from National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan. He described it as a substantive conversation and said that Elizabeth Whelan was able to give some ideas, ask some questions.
And I also want to note that we learned today that Brittney Griner in Texas played basketball for the first time in about 10 months over the weekend. First thing that she did was go up and actually go up to the hoop and put it right in. And her agent said to Abby Phillip, our colleague that she wants to use her power now for good and to influence others. Rest assured she'll try and use that voice to get Paul Whelan home.
COOPER: And the White House they reiterated, they're determined to get Whelan released. What are the next steps?
ATWOOD: Yes, so the National Security Adviser also said that there is going to be a meeting and engagement between U.S. and Russian officials in the coming days. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: With respect to the question of whether we've had engagement with the Russian Federation on the Whelan case, we will have an engagement with them this week. I won't say more about it because we're trying to keep that insensitive channels. But that's the timetable and we have had regular engagement of course along the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ATWOOD: If U.S. officials are going to put a firm offer on the table in that meeting later this week with Russian officials or they're going to start floating ideas to get Paul Whelan out. But we did hear from the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, who said that the United States still has cards to play. We're just watching to see which cards they put forward and which cards the Russian agree to. Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Kylie Atwood, appreciate it. Thanks.
More perspective now from Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affair, Roger Carstens. Roger, I appreciate you being with us. I want to ask you about this amazing moment on the tarmac that you took part in when the when the actual exchange took place. I mean, this is something we've seen in you know, Cold War spy movies, and John le Carre novels. What was it like, actually in that moment?
ROGER CARSTENS, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: Anderson, thanks for having me here tonight. It was, I would almost say surreal, except we've actually done this a few times in the last few months. But every time it's unique, every time it's special, we work very hard to bring these moments about the most important part of the I guess the moment is jumping onto the plane of the other country and in this case, the Russians going up to Brittney, telling her that I'm here to take her home on behalf of the President of the United States and the Secretary of State, and then bring her off that plane and putting on arms (ph).
COOPER: Can I ask was, is there anything said between like Griner and Bout? I mean, was there any like recognition? It's just such a weird passing moment.
CARSTENS: You know, it is. I wasn't able to really, I guess get a picture of that I was kind of out of position.
CARSTENS: I think we're they were crossing both and crossing each other. And that was on the other side of them. So, I really can't recall what they said or if they said anything.
COOPER: Obviously, you're aware there's been a fair amount of criticism, not just on the right about exchanging an American who was being held for possession of a small amount of cannabis oil for Victor Bout, an international weapons trafficker. What's your perspective?
CARSTENS: I understand and hear what the other side saying. But I think where I come out on this is that what's unacceptable to me and unacceptable to this government, is that when American citizen is being held wrongfully in a foreign jail, undergoing very harsh conditions, conditions not being treated well. And the bottom line, there's a sense of injustice, and our country is committed. And that's enshrined in law to pursue these cases and to bring these Americans who are held wrong for home. COOPER: Does it make it harder now with the on Paul Whelan? I mean, obviously, in the ideal world, all of this would be in secret. But the fact that now Russia is aware that there is pressure on the Biden administration to get Whelan out, that's going to impact any negotiation.
CARSTENS: We don't want to get into too much detail, but I can say that we have a good team. It's -- I think we're very experienced at this now. You probably no, we've brought well over a dozen people home in just the last few months. So, no matter what's happening in the external environment, or what's happening in internal environment, we're going to adapt and find a way to overcome and we will bring Paul Whelan home.
COOPER: CNN has reported that to get Whelan, the Russians have focused on securing the release of a former colonel in the Russian intelligence service, Vadim Kazakov, who's currently in prison in Germany for the murder of a Georgian citizen in Berlin and targeted assassination. I'm not going to ask you to comment on specifics, obviously, but I mean, is it even possible for the U.S. government to secure the release of somebody else held in a third country,
CARSTENS: I would imagine that where there's a will there's a way, but as you just said, right now, that's not on our agenda. It's not on our to do list, we are going to keep pushing forward. Just as reported by Kylie, we have a meeting today, which Elizabeth Whelan was included, we spent about 45 minutes brainstorming on different eyes, ideas, listening to Elizabeth. And I might just take a pause and say, Elizabeth is a great partner. In fact, we try to partner with all the families, we don't have monopoly and all the good ideas in government. In fact, I would say that we operate our best when we're partnering with the families, sharing ideas, sharing information. And at times, some of the ideas that the families give us actually turned out to, I guess, become a part of the release mechanism that usually wins a release. So, we were grateful to talk to Elizabeth.
As Jake said, we're going to keep progressing within our engagement and dialogue with the Russians. So, there is a way forward, we have an open dialogue. We're planning out next steps, and we have a great team involved. And maybe most importantly, we're partnered with the family.
COOPER: I mean, I find your job fascinating. And so again, I'm not asking specifics about Russia. But when you're dealing with the government, do you find the other side moves the goalposts? I mean, again, not any specific government. But what are the most complex parts of this? It seems so fraught?
CARSTENS: That has happened, in fact, it's, it's really not unusual that that probably happens in any negotiation about anything. In this case, we've had cases where the other sides moved the goalposts. I think the most important thing is to just sit down with the other side, perhaps even establish a relationship and really just asked the question, what's it going to take to get this done? And then there's always going to be a gulf in between what we want to give or can give and what they want, and part of my job is to narrow that gap and try to bring us close enough together towards we think we can finally get an agreement.
COOPER: Again, I just think it's fascinating what you do and appreciate it. Roger Carstens, thanks so much.
CARSTENS: Anderson, thanks for having me.
Coming up, it's been called a tripledemic, three viruses sickening millions of Americans at once causing medicine shortages, pretty major strains and hospitals again. We'll talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta says the steps you can take to stay healthy this winter, next.
COOPER: This holiday season, the best gift is truly good health. The Trifecta viruses are spreading through the population ones causing medicine shortages and sending of hospitals overflowing again. U.S. COVID cases really nearing 100 million about 14% of the population lives in an area that's considered to have a high Coronavirus level. Then there's the flu the first full week of data since Thanksgiving. The CDC estimates there have been at least 13 million flu cases this season, 120,000 hospitalizations and 7,300 deaths. Another respiratory virus called RSV has been hitting the country hard, but cases thankfully appear to have peaked as positivity rates and new hospitalization rates have slowed the past couple of weeks.
For more on the impact of all this, all this triple threat, we turned to Dr. Sanjay Gupta. So, Sanjay can you just put the rise in COVID, RSV and flu cases here in the U.S. in perspective?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. You know, Anderson, one of the things that I think we've always looked at are the hospitalizations because I think they're the truest number. We may not always know how many cases there are out there. But hospitalizations are a pretty good indicator. What is interesting is that if you look really since the beginning of the pandemic, the hospitalization rates now are as high or even higher than they've been, at any point over the last, you know, two and a half years, which is kind of remarkable. You remember all the conversation, I'll flatten the curve, what was to avoid the sort of situation that we have now, where hospitals are really overwhelmed.
The closest to this was by January of this year, when Omicron was really hitting and COVID was really driving that at that point, we know that. Now COVID cases are about 6% of those hospitalizations, that's a little bit of context. RSV, you mentioned, can be quite severe, especially for young children. But it does seem to have peaked, numbers are coming down, they're keeping a close eye on this. What we're seeing now in the country is really predominantly flu, you know, you're having tens of thousands of people who are getting hospitalized with flu every day. And that's what's driving most of the hospitals, particularly children's hospitals, to that level of being really full. Two things I just want to quickly point out. Part of the reason the numbers are high with flu, I think and RSV earlier, was because of something that is known as an immunity gap. We didn't have as much exposure to flu, and RSV over the last couple of years because of all the COVID precautions. But the second thing is the numbers I'm going to show you quickly on the screen, just vaccination rates overall. And we talk a lot about COVID. And try to figure out where people are right now. Up to date, when it comes to being up to date only less than 14% of the country is up to date on their COVID vaccines. But take a look at flu Anderson, and we've talked about this even before the pandemic.
GUPTA: Less than half the country is vaccinated between the ages of six months and seven years and a quarter of the country 18 and older. Even before the pandemic, Anderson, only about half the country would get a flu shot every year. And you're seeing part of the problem.
COOPER: Do you think people should be wearing masks again, especially as they gather for you know, I mean, if they're traveling through airports and for the holidays?
GUPTA: I do. I do think so. And I do wear a mask if I'm going to be in crowded indoor settings now. And honestly, sometimes I get a lot of funny looks for it. I mean, I think if you're going to wear a mask, I mean, first of all, I think it's clear that you should wear an N95 or a KN95 mask. These are the types of masks that are going to be the best protection against this very transmissible, these very transmissible respiratory viruses. But you know, it's interesting Anderson, I mean, part of the reason we have this immunity gap I would just talking about is because these precautionary measures were working to not let people get as sick from things like flu even.
So, again, COVID, one thing we can look at the map of COVID I think you said 14% of the country right now lives in an area where there's high community transmission, by the way that does include New York City. So, by their recommendation, people should be wearing masks indoors and credit settings in New York City. But flu is not something we talk about as much. But masks can be helpful there. We saw evidence of that over the last couple of years. This is what the map looks like, by the way with COVID if you look at Community transmission, it's much redder than if you just look at community levels overall. Winners always going to get a little worse, I think masks again, I get a lot of funny looks. But look, they can do the job. I don't know if we showed up at 82% effectiveness towards testing positive for COVID if you're wearing one of these masks. That's a pretty good deal especially going into the winter months.
COOPER: Yes, Sanjay, appreciate it. Thank you.
Disbarred, South Carolina Attorney Alex Murdaugh will stand trial soon for the murders of his wife and son. For the first time prosecutors are now sharing an alleged motive in the case that's captured national attention. Details next.
COOPER: It's a case that draw national attention with a slew of bizarre twist is barred South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh's wife and son were murdered in June 20, 2021. More than a year later, Murdaugh was charged with their killings. Now for the first-time prosecutors sharing a possible motive in the case.
Our Randi Kaye has been following the story closely has the latest.
ALEX MURDAUGH, FMR SOUTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY: I need the police and ambulance immediately. My wife and child have been shot badly.
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alex Murdaugh says he called 911 After finding his wife and son bleeding at their hunting property in Islandton in South Carolina.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are they breathing?
MURDAUGH: No, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what is your name?
MURDAUGH: My name is Alex Murdaugh.
KAYE (voice-over): That was June 7, 2021, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh was shot and killed with a rifle and their son 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh was killed with a shotgun. Alex Murdaugh has denied harming them. But prosecutors now say he had a motive for allegedly killing them to hide his alleged financial crimes and shift the attention away from his finances. Prosecutors claim Alex Murdaugh defrauded clients' co-workers and family members of nearly $9 million.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A day of reckoning was upon him and he was out of cards to play.
KAYE (voice-over): That alleged motive dates back to a February 2019 boat crash during which Paul Murdaugh was allegedly driving drunk. Nineteen-year-old Mallory Beach was killed in that crash. And because Alex Murdaugh owned the boat, her family filed a civil suit against him. On June 10, 2021, a hearing in that case was scheduled at which Alex Murdaugh was likely going to be told to reveal his financial records.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plaintiffs wanted a specific personal recovery from Alex Murdaugh because they believed like everyone that he had a lot of money.
KAYE (voice-over): But that hearing never happened. Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were killed just a few days before it was supposed to take place, so it was cancelled. In a recent court filing, prosecutors allege that if the release of Murdaugh's financial records was granted at that hearing, it would have led to his misdeeds becoming exposed and would have resulted in personal, legal and financial ruin for Murdaugh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's still trying to prevent who he really is from being out.
What he does do is kill his wife and son, who were liabilities in the boat case, and immediately it stops everything.
KAYE (voice-over): Murdaugh's defense team pushed back on the alleged motive in court.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Murdaugh and hand written out a financial statements for purposes of that hearing. There's no doomsday reckoning in that regard.
KAYE (voice-over): Still, motive or not, a source with knowledge of the investigation told me blood spatter was found on Alex Murdaugh's clothing, which could prove he was in close proximity to at least one of the victims when they were shot. That same source also told me a video found on Paul Murdaugh's cell phone contains audio of Alex Murdaugh talking with his family at the scene around the time the slayings occurred well before his call to 911 at 10:07 p.m. Prosecutors say Maggie and Paul were killed between 8:30 and 10:06 p.m. that night, and the audio on Paul's cell phone puts Alex Murdaugh at the scene at 8:44 p.m.
According to the state, Murdaugh left the property at 9:06 p.m. to drive to his father's house, and upon returning called 911 at 10:07 p.m.
KAYE: And Anderson, Alex Murdaugh's attorneys don't dispute the fact that it was his voice on that recording on Paul Murdaugh's phone. They don't dispute the fact that he was at the family home earlier in the night speaking with his wife and son, but they do note, at least they say that it was a normal conversation, certainly nothing threatening, nothing out of the ordinary. But Anderson, this double murder case is just the beginning of what Alex Murdaugh is facing. As you know, there have been these mysterious deaths that have been in his orbit now for years. You have the case of Gloria Satterfield, who was his former housekeeper who apparently fell down the steps at his home and now they're going to exhume her body. The state wants to figure out exactly how she died. And then you also have the case of Stephen Smith back in 2015. He was 19 years old, found dead in the middle of a road in South Carolina. That case had gone cold Anderson until investigators say they found something in the course of the investigation of the killings of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. And now they've reopened that case, and are looking into that.
So, as he's facing these other two murders, that he is now also caught up in these mysterious deaths while those investigations are ongoing.
COOPER: It's just -- I mean, it's such -- it's so incredible and so deeply disturbing. And if prosecutors are right, and they prove their case, I mean, the fact that he would have killed his wife and child in order to hide financial crimes on his part and which -- his financial crimes are unbelievable what he did to so many people who were his clients, but it's stunning.
Randi, appreciate the update. Thank you.
Since Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced her decision to leave the Democratic Party to become an independent, there's been talk about a prominent Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego running against her in 2024. We'll talk to the Congressman, next.