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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

AZ Dem. Congressmen Considering Run To Oppose Now Independent Sen. Sinema; Kari Lake Files Lawsuit Trying To Overturn Her Election Defeat; U.S. College Student Studying Abroad In France Reported Missing. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 12, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: New reporting, tonight, on two races that have dominated political headlines of late.

In a moment, supporters of Republican House Leader, Kevin McCarthy's bid, to be the next House Speaker, deeply critical of the House Conservatives, who want to see new blood leading the party.

But we start with the Senate race that isn't for another two years, but will be heavily influenced, by decisions, being made right now. Arizona senator, Kyrsten Sinema, as you likely know, left the Democratic Party, last week, to become an Independent. At least, officially, Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, says she will keep her committee assignments, signaling the balance of power probably won't change, and that she may remain a, if sometimes, frustrating vote, for the Democrats.

But now, at least two Democratic members of Congress, in Arizona, are maybe kicking the tires, for a possible run, for her seat; Congressman Greg Stanton, as well as my next guest, Ruben Gallego. The consideration for both is the same, whether a three-way race could split the vote enough, to throw the seat to the Republicans.

Congressman Ruben Gallego joins us now.

Thanks so much for being with us.

You've said your decision, on whether to run for the Senate seat, would be based on what's best for Arizona. What are you hearing from your constituents and your family?

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): Well, from my constituents, I've heard nothing but encouragement on every channel you could ever imagine, whether it's text, whether it's Twitter versus Facebook.

Over the weekend, even though unprompted, I was in Ukraine, for the weekend, at www.gallegoforarizona, we had a huge, a huge, amazing show of support that really has encouraged me. And my family, they're always behind me, a 110 percent. We're going to talk over the holidays, and then we'll go from there. COOPER: So, to those -- I mean, you know the pushback, to those who say, if you run for Senate, in Arizona, as the Democratic nominee, against Senator Sinema, who's now an Independent, it would split the vote, and hand Republicans that seat. What would you say to that?

GALLEGO: That's not how the math works. The Republicans have not been able to keep their coalition, for the last three years.

Senator Sinema is deeply unpopular with Democrats. That's why she's not running. She's lost all Arizona values. She's aligned herself with Wall Street hedge funds, and pharma, which I think is not popular with Democrats, definitely not with Independents. And I don't think she's going to have much of a home with Republicans.

So, if anything, I think, it actually helps out Democrats. It'll put one of us, in first place, and likely her, in third place.

COOPER: But if she stays in a race, and siphons off enough votes, it still could swing the race, for a Republican, no?

GALLEGO: No. Again, I think she -- I actually think the best thing that could ever happen is if Senator Sinema stays all the way, to the end, it will guarantee a Democratic Senate seat. I look forward to hopefully being in that situation.

COOPER: If you do decide to run, I have to imagine, there'll be some Senate Democrats that will be unhappy, with that because of the risk. Will you be consulting with the Senate Majority Leader, Schumer, on the decision? Will you seek his blessing to run?


GALLEGO: No. I'm going to seek the blessings of the constituents of Arizona, some of these people that have been ignored, for the last three years, by Senator Sinema. She hasn't actually held a town hall, or spoken freely, to anybody, in Arizona, for the last three years. That's who we answer to, when it comes to being elected officials.

Of course, like, I will talk to anybody, and I will obviously be respectful of my colleagues. But, at the end of the day, the people that are going to make this decision, for me, and help me make a decision, are Arizonans, because they're the ones that have been ignored, by Senator Sinema, for the last three years.

COOPER: I mean, it sounds like you are eager to make this run. What is your timeline for making a decision?

GALLEGO: Well, look?

COOPER: Or announcing a decision?

GALLEGO: Well, look, I've been very clear that I'm going to make a decision in 2023. We may have to move that up a little because of some of the actions on the field here. I've been putting a great team together. I want to make sure that team gels. And I want to have more conversations with my family. And then, we'll be talking early 2023. COOPER: Congressman Ruben Gallego, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

GALLEGO: Thank you.

COOPER: Now, to Republican Leader, Kevin McCarthy, in the race, to be House Speaker, sharp language now, coming from his supporters, against the House Conservatives, who hope to stop him.

I'm joined now by our Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju.

So, at this point, does McCarthy have the votes?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He doesn't, Anderson. And that's what's really causing a lot of tension, in the Republican ranks. There are expected to be 222 seats, in the new House Republican majority. He needs 218 votes, to become the elected Speaker.

And already, there are five Republicans, who are indicating that they will vote, no, although at least one of those members, Ralph Norman, is suggesting that perhaps he can negotiate a compromise.

But some of those members say there're far more than five, who are no- votes. Andy Biggs is one of the members, who is vowing to challenge McCarthy, on January 3, got 31 votes, when his party voted to nominate McCarthy, for the Speakership, last month. Of course, that would mean that McCarthy has some room to make up.

But in talking to Republicans today, there are ample questions, about what would come next, if they don't get 218 votes, a situation that has not occurred, since 1923, when the Speaker's race went to multiple ballots, and a lot of the Republicans are concerned that the conservative law hardliners, are making -- could make a mess, of their new Republican majority, they're saying.


RAJU: What do you say to those members, who just say that he's not going to get 218 votes?

REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): They're supporting Democrats.

RAJU: Yes?

CRENSHAW: They're supporting Democrats. These are the types of people to often call others out as RINOs. Well, figure the definition of a RINO.

RAJU: And do you have a candidate, who could be the one, who could get 218 that could get actually Democratic support?

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): Obviously, we were on first base of that discussion. That's where we should -- we don't (ph) want to be farther than that until we know, we can't get 218 votes, for Kevin.

RAJU: How long would you be willing to keep the Speaker's race going for, if you don't get 218 votes?

REP. ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): Well let's see how it plays out.


RAJU: So, that last congressman was Andy Biggs. When I tried to ask him, how long he would stay in the race, if he does not get 218 votes, on that first ballot (ph), which seems a highly unlikely? He is not saying how long he would stay.

But Anderson, these conservative hardliners are pushing for some changes. One of the big ones is to give them more power, to call for a vote, to depose a sitting speaker. Kevin McCarthy opposes the push to allow a single member, to call for such a vote. But I'm told by Republican sources, that is an issue, still being negotiated, and something that McCarthy may have to give on, to get the votes, Anderson.

COOPER: There's also been talk of a so-called Unity candidate, for Speaker. Is that realistic?

RAJU: It seems unrealistic, at the moment. But it's something that members simply are not ruling out. You heard just--

COOPER: Explain what that means.

RAJU: Sure. They're talking about the idea of getting Democrats, to vote for a Speaker, along with some Republicans, getting 218 votes, no matter how that comes down, maybe getting most Democrats, in support for -- support a Speaker, or maybe some Democrats, and getting most of the Republicans that support a Speaker candidate, just getting 218 votes, for somebody.

That's something that Congressman Don Bacon, who you heard, just earlier, suggesting that's an idea that is only on first base, at the moment, he said, maybe they'll get all the way to home plate, if and when Kevin McCarthy, is unable to get the 218 votes, to become Speaker.

But Anderson, in talking to members, they acknowledged that is a very difficult scenario, to see play out because it would require the two sides, to get behind one person, who they believe could essentially push forward, an agenda that they believe in.

And, in a partisan institution, like the House, it's hard to see that playing out, a lot of Democrats said there's no way they can vote for a Republican Speaker candidate. And a lot of Republicans simply don't believe this is a possibility as well. But it's something that no one is quite ruling out here, because we could be in a truly unprecedented situation.

And McCarthy is on the floor, unable to get the 218 votes, in his narrow House majority. And there are still questions about who could become Speaker. So perhaps, they could look for an alternative that's one thing that members or both sides, are looking at, as we head into January 3. COOPER: Yes. Manu Raju, appreciate it. Thank you.

RAJU: Yes.

COOPER: More now, on McCarthy's chances, with CNN's Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten.

So, what does the new CNN polling reveal?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes. I'm a fan of U.K. politics. I don't know--

COOPER: Everybody says that about you.

ENTEN: That's exactly right.


ENTEN: I think it's one of the things I'm well-known for, as well as the love of the Buffalo Bills.

And I'm reminded of something that Tony Blair said about John Major, during the mid-1990s. When I look at these numbers, they are "Weak, weak, weak."

Look at the net favorable ratings, for Kevin McCarthy.

COOPER: Is that a quote?

ENTEN: That is a quote.

COOPER: That actually what he said?


ENTEN: "Weak, weak, weak," I love that quote.

The net favorable ratings, for incoming first-time speakers, Kevin McCarthy, at this point that's favorable minus unfavorable, minus 19 points, minus 19 points, that is the weakest, the weakest for any incoming first-time House Speaker ever, at least in the last 20 years, 25 years, 30 years.

And if you look, they usually have positive net favorable ratings, that is, more people like them than dislike them. Kevin McCarthy, the lowest net favorable--


ENTEN: --even lower than Newt Gingrich.

COOPER: What about Independents?

ENTEN: Yes, I think a lot of times, Republicans like to point to Nancy Pelosi, as almost this boogeyman or boogeywoman, right? But look at Kevin McCarthy's net favorable ratings, among Independents. Again, compare him to this--


ENTEN: --to the first-time House Speakers, over the last 25 years, 30 years? Weakest, weakest, minus 21 points, even weaker than Newt Gingrich, who, of course, Democrats love to pile on, in the mid-1990s. The fact is you look at Independents? You look, overall? Those numbers are weak, weak, weak.

COOPER: Well how about polling within McCarthy's own group?

ENTEN: OK. So, here's some good news, perhaps, for Kevin McCarthy.

Look among Republicans. Look at first-time House Speakers, their net favorable rating, just before they became Speaker, amongst their own party. What you see is that Kevin McCarthy's net favorable rating is at about 30 -- plus 30. That is more Republicans have a favorable than unfavorable view of him, by about 30 points.

But again, that's very weak, amongst the groups. You look at someone like John Boehner, you look at someone, like Nancy Pelosi, you're talking about net faves that are much closer to plus 60 points. So, even among Republicans, as we see, Kevin McCarthy, struggling to get that coalition for 218 points, on the Hill?


ENTEN: You see the same thing, amongst the voters, where more Republicans like him than not. But again, the numbers, at least historically speaking, are quite weak.

COOPER: How about for the incoming House Minority Leader?

ENTEN: Yes. So, another way to try and get at this, is compare Kevin McCarthy's net favorable rating, to Hakeem Jeffries' net favorable rating, and Joe Biden's net approval rating, right?

It's not surprising that at this particular point, politicians, it's very hard to get a high popularity rating. But if you compare him to someone like Joe Biden, his net approval rating is minus eight points. Look at someone like Hakeem Jeffries. His net favorable rating is minus two points.

Kevin McCarthy is in considerably worse condition with the people, in the electorate than either Hakeem Jeffries or Joe Biden. The fact is Kevin McCarthy, at least in today's day and age, for someone who's not really that well-known, is quite unpopular.

COOPER: Wow. What else -- what else you've been doing lately?

ENTEN: What else have I been doing lately? I've been crunching the numbers. I went into my Roper Center archive, earlier. That's where I found this. I just think I was so surprised at how weak the numbers were.

COOPER: Yes. ENTEN: Right? And remember, Kevin McCarthy tried to become Speaker, in the mid-2010s, right? And he couldn't get the votes.

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: And this is another example of it. Paul Ryan came in and kind of saved the day back then. But, at this particular point, pretty much all the Republicans, who are in leadership, who could replace him, have gone "Adios Amigos! Goodbye," John Boehner--

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: --with smoking cigars out, on the golf courses. Paul Ryan's like, "Thank God, I'm no longer there." Kevin McCarthy is kind of "The Last of the Mohicans." And, at this particular point, we see a good reason for that. It's just really hard to get 218 votes, among Republicans.


ENTEN: It's a party that is very much divided, at this point.

COOPER: Harry Enten, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Still more to come tonight, Kari Lake lost her bid, to be Arizona's Republican governor. Now, she's taking a page, from the former President's playbook, about never conceding defeat.

I'll talk about it, with top Republican lawmaker, from Arizona, who testified, before the January 6 committee, and then lost his bid, for a state Senate seat.

Also, the latest, in the disappearance, of an American college student, studying abroad, in France.



COOPER: Days after Republican Kari Lake, filed a lawsuit, challenging her loss, in the Arizona governor's race, the "Washington Post" has filed an in-depth look at why she actually lost, quoting aides, Republican officials, and others, who say she didn't court Independents and Centrists, and her opposition to mail-in ballots cost her dearly as well.

The lawsuit, she has filed, blames her loss, on fraud, repeating false allegations that ballot printing errors, lead to disenfranchised voters. She also blames long lines, and criticizes mail-in balloting, which the "Post" article points out, was critical to the political machine, of former Arizona senator, John McCain.

Our next guest is Arizona House Speaker, Rusty Bowers. He lost his primary race, for a state Senate seat, after opposing the former President's attempt to overturn the 2020 election results, in Arizona, and testifying before the January 6 committee.

Speaker Bowers, what do you make of this lawsuit, from Kari Lake? I mean, she's asking for the certified results, of an election, to be set aside, saying she should be declared the winner. Is there any precedent or mechanism even for something like that?

RUSTY BOWERS, (R) ARIZONA HOUSE SPEAKER: Oh, Anderson! We're not dealing with a, what would I say, more regular folks.

COOPER: Uh-huh?

BOWERS: And no, there is no precedent. And it's totally, in my view, a manipulation of a group of people, who have responded, to this "Steal" thing, so strongly. And they know it. And I think, in a way, there's a little bit of grift going on. And I just find it's sad, and it's divisive, and it just continues. But it continues with fewer people supporting it. That's for sure.

COOPER: I mean that is what it seems to -- I mean, anybody can file a lawsuit, claiming anything. Ultimately, this is -- whether it's ultimately or very quickly, it will be thrown out, or dismissed. But she's raising money, on this. I mean, people are still giving her donations, people who believe in her. It's like, I mean, as you said, a grift.

BOWERS: And I truly think that. There is no precedent. You don't lose and then just invent something, anything, to have a lawsuit. And then, there will be, associated with her declaration, of a lawsuit, a solicitation.

COOPER: Right.


BOWERS: "And please send what you can to help us finally get the steal stopped, and to return integrity to elections." And I am amazed that that many people can put up with it this long. But they certainly seem to have a capacity that she's going to manipulate.

COOPER: You made reference to this. I mean, how do you think the lawsuit is going to be received by Republican voters, in Arizona? I mean, obviously, there're enough people, willing to give her money. But by and large, are people ready to move on?

BOWERS: There are many people willing to move on. And you could see that, in the final election results.

A treasurer candidate, Miss Yee, gets 100,000 -- 106,000 more votes than the gubernatorial candidate, 187,000 more votes than Mister -- than the nominee, from the Republican Party, for the Secretary of State.

There are a -- there's a sizable amount of people that are a little tired of this, and they want to move on. And, obviously, I'm one of them, although I didn't vote for any of them. But it's, except Miss Yee, I did vote for her. But they do want to move on. COOPER: After you lost your bid, back in August, for a state Senate seat, to an election denier, you said our Constitution is, quote, "Hanging by a thread." Do you still feel that way today with how these midterms have turned out?

BOWERS: I am gratified that there has been a rebuttal, against, and it's a voting rebuttal, against the extreme divisiveness, of some of the candidates. But it also has shown that the Constitution depends on a word that says, "We," and it's not "Me." And that if it were to ever to hang by a thread of "Me," and a more authoritarian sense? That thought, that concept has been rebutted.

And I'm grateful to say that it looks like there's some people, who are willing to -- they will put up with a little bit more, because a lot more Republicans voted that could have made the difference, in the gubernatorial race, had they had a better candidate.

But they didn't have a better candidate. And these people are making that statement. They want to return to regularity, some civility, and some normalcy, to give them peace, and participating, in the process.

COOPER: Yes. Speaker Rusty Bowers, appreciate your time, as always, thank you.

BOWERS: Oh, you're welcome. Thank you so much.

COOPER: Well, we'll stay on the stark political divide, in America, with a look at how the red wave that has swept through Florida, is also sweeping away school board members, who promoted masks, to combat COVID, in public schools.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has details.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And all of this just reeks of a politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An A, in dirty politics, and an F, in integrity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The action against Dr. Asplen is blatantly political and wrong.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're talking about Dr. Brennan Asplen, Sarasota County School Superintendent, for now. He's being pushed out of the job, after a successful effort, by conservative groups, to elect school board members, who champion their views, on COVID measures, race and sex.

DR. BRENNAN ASPLEN, SUPERINTENDENT, SARASOTA COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: You have to get the politics out of this school district.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Sarasota School Board is one of the school boards, flipped by conservatives, on Election Day, and already making big moves, including starting the process, of parting ways, with the Superintendent, who received a highly effective evaluation, from the majority of the previous board. Bridget Ziegler is the new Chairman of the Sarasota County School Board.

BRIDGET ZIEGLER, CHAIRMAN, SARASOTA COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: My commitment, to the people, who voted for me, and has always been, is to make sure that we're focused on what matters. And if that means with the new Superintendent, my commitment prevail -- remains in the same spot.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Three of the school board members sworn in last month had big endorsements and financial backing from conservatives, including Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, and the Moms for Liberty, who champion many of the same culture wars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much did Governor Ron DeSantis play a role in this outcome?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How big of an impact? Unbelievable! I couldn't thank him enough.

ZIEGLER: I think it's a huge correction, a necessary correction that's bringing the power back to the individual people, predominantly the parents, who are sending their children, to public schools.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): And it's not just Sarasota schools. In Brevard County, where conservatives also flipped the board, the school board recently got rid of its superintendent.

ZIEGLER: I've spent a lot of times reflecting, since the election.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Ziegler was one of the founders of the Moms for Liberty, the now nationwide organization, most recently endorsed 270 candidates, across the country, for the November election, according to their website, where they also tout school boards flipped by the candidates they endorsed.

Sarasota School Board member, Tom Edwards, is a registered Democrat, but calls himself a moderate. He says public education is under political attack.

SANTIAGO (on camera): So, where do you see this movement going?

TOM EDWARDS, SARASOTA COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: I have had a front- row seat. It started here. Frankly, it's not just public education. It's democracy. Because, public education is a cornerstone of democracy, and they're going after it, every which way, they can.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I view the wokeness as a form of Cultural Marxism.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): 25 of the 30 candidates, endorsed by Governor Ron DeSantis, in Florida won, running against what they call the left's woke ideology, and pushing parental rights. And though many welcomed that agenda? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We voted in this school board for real change.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Others questioned the motives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are actually working on the behalf of the Governor, and trying to push Governor DeSantis' agenda forward.


EDWARDS: I had no idea that it would become this political firestorm that has forced me to become more political, to protect my students, and to protect their families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have your rights that are meant--

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Politics, some parents say, are adding chaos, to already tumultuous times, between COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not want to wear this mask because it's against my constitutional right. I choose that.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Curriculum controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Parents, beware of terms like social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Haven't we had enough?

ZIEGLER: I understand this is rocky. It's a moment that causes uncertainty, and change is worrisome to everyone. And particularly, in institution like K-12, change is very difficult.


SANTIAGO (voice-over): Leaders of the conservative movement, pushing for change, at school boards, say they've only just begun.


COOPER: And Leyla joins us now, from Miami.

Is there any concern about the impact these parent groups could have, on public education, in the long run?

SANTIAGO: Well, look, if you talk to conservatives, or parents, who sort of buy into or support the Moms for Liberty, they will say "Yes, this is a good thing, and we're hoping this is going to be a long-term change."

But one of the things that came up, in the last school board meeting, in Sarasota, were parents, who were worried about retention of educators, especially superintendents.

And if you talk to the Superintendent Association, they will tell you, there is a growing trend of superintendents, already leaving their posts, who just can't manage some of the politics that they're dealing with, in the school districts.

Add to that, hostile environments, or hostile relationships that superintendents may have, with school board members? And that could really leave a shortage of superintendents, a very small pool, to pick from, for those, who are looking for the next leader, of their school district.

I should mention that as for Dr. Brennan Asplen, in Sarasota, his fate will be decided, tomorrow, when the school board takes up, what could be a separation deal, and how they'll move forward, whether they will keep him, or part ways, Anderson.

COOPER: Leyla Santiago, thanks. Appreciate it.

An American college student has gone missing, while studying abroad. His parents, talking with CNN, about the search for their son, and asking the public for help. Next.



COOPER: Ken DeLand Jr., is a senior, at St. John Fisher University, in Rochester, New York. He has been studying abroad, in eastern France, as an exchange student. Was supposed to leave the country, this Thursday, but no one seems to know where he is.

His parents say, they haven't heard from him, since November 27, and are searching for their son, desperately.

CNN's Melissa Bell has more.


CAROL LAWS, SON WENT MISSING IN FRANCE: He was looking forward to coming home, for Christmas

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): College senior, Kenny DeLand Jr., hasn't been heard from, in more than two weeks, since November.

KENNETH DELAND, SON WENT MISSING IN FRANCE: We're waiting. We're worried. We don't know what, you know, where he is.

BELL (voice-over): This is DeLand, caught on a store security camera, December 3, in the last-known footage of him. A missing persons report was filed, getting local police involved, when he didn't return to his host family, or show up for classes.

That store DeLand was seen at is about an hour's train ride south, of the University of Grenoble Alpes, where he was studying.

A Grenoble prosecutor confirmed to CNN that he'd appeared to leave school, of his own accord, adding, "The young man reportedly told several people that he had arrived in France underprepared and was having difficulty making friends. He also mentioned that he wanted to go to Marseille before leaving for the United States."

LAWS: I feel like I'm not really receiving any information. It's been very difficult. We've been -- really, someone else has been stuck in the middle to do the speaking for us.

BELL (voice-over): DeLand's school, St. John Fisher University, released a statement, saying the college "Will continue to do all it can to assist in the investigation to find Kenneth DeLand."

But now, the 22-year-old's family is asking for the community's help. They set up, asking the public, if they've seen him, stating "We fear the worst and want him to be located."

DELAND: We just shake our heads. We don't understand why he's not reaching out to us.

LAWS: When you don't know, you just don't know. We haven't heard from him.

BELL (voice-over): The State Department told CNN it is "Aware of reports of a U.S. citizen missing in France. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance to U.S. citizens in need and to their families."

But DeLand's parents' message for their son is?

DELAND: We love you. And we hope you can--

LAWS: We're waiting to hear from you. And we're waiting for you to come home. Yes.

DELAND: Exactly.


COOPER: Melissa Bell joins us now.

Melissa, how are French and U.S. authorities working together, in finding this student?

BELL: Well, we know, Anderson, that, they are in touch with one another. But, for the time being, French authorities are being pretty tight-lipped, about where their investigation is.

Now, we've reached out, to the American Embassy, here in Paris, to try and find out more. And all they could tell us was that they couldn't tell us very much, because of the privacy laws, here in France.


And that's something we've been hearing from Kenny DeLand's family as well, frustration, not just with that language barrier that's making it difficult, for them to get any information. But those European and French privacy laws that do make it harder, to share information, about adults. Essentially here, in Europe, Anderson, you're allowed to disappear,

even from the sight, of your loved ones. Now clearly, an exception should be made, in cases of criminal investigations.

And I think that's what's behind Kenny DeLand's father's request or hope that this should now head towards Interpol that that will make that sharing of information that much easier. Of course, this, as the clock continues to tick towards the holiday season, Anderson, and the family's desperation continues to grow. Kenny was due to fly home to the United States, on Thursday.

COOPER: Melissa Bell, appreciate it. Thank you.

Lot of developments, tonight, in the Biden administration's efforts, to free American, Paul Whelan, from Russia. And they come, as we're learning more about the assassin, Russia was demanding, in exchange for him.

Plus, another chilling warning, from the Iranian regime, to protesters, as it seeks to crush, a national uprising, another public execution and growing fears, and more, coming up.


COOPER: We spoke last hour, with the top U.S. hostage negotiator, in the prisoner swap, to bring U.S. basketball star, Brittney Griner, home, from Russia.


Griner's release, as you know, has put renewed focus, on the efforts, to free another American, Paul Whelan, detained there, since 2018. National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, said today, there'll be a high level conversation, with the Russian Federation, on the Whelan case, this week.

We know Moscow repeatedly demanded a convicted assassin, in German custody, be released, in exchange for Whelan, as part of the Griner swap deal. That didn't happen.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin, with more on the story behind this former Russian spy.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A brutal assassination, in the heart of Berlin. The killer, Russian national Vadim Krasikov, who, a German court ruled, gunned his victim down, on orders, from Moscow.

LISA JANI, COURT SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): The court called this state terrorism, because the judges concluded that Russian government agencies were responsible for this murder.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The victim, a Georgian national, who fought against the Russian army, in the Chechen war, in the 1990s. The court found Krasikov, first shot him from behind, then, fired

several more rounds, at close range. German authorities say Krasikov had a real Russian passport, but with a fake identity, and was sent to Berlin, from Russia, specifically, for the assassination plot.

Last year, the court sentenced him to life in prison, without the chance for parole, and wrote, quote, "The judges root their conviction that this was a state ordered killing in the fact that a fake persona was created for Vadim K. shortly before the crime, but also because there was a motive, and the statements and behavior of Russian government agencies after the crime."

Moscow called the verdict, absurd and politically-motivated. But an angry German Foreign Minister quickly moved to expel two Russian diplomats.

ANNALENA BAERBOCK, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): This government-ordered murder, as the Court has ruled, is a severe breach of German law, and the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): With Paul Whelan languishing, in a Russian penal colony, serving a 16-year sentence, for what the U.S. says are trumped-up espionage charges, and the Russians allegedly demanding Krasikov, in exchange for the former Marine, a German government source, confirmed to CNN, in August that the U.S. did inquire about Krasikov, but that it was never viewed as a serious request, and never discussed, at the highest levels, of German government.

A muted response, when I asked the government spokesman, today.

STEFFEN HEBESTREIT, GERMAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON (through translator): That does not mean that we are confirming or denying it, but just that we generally do not talk about such matters in public.


COOPER: Fred Pleitgen joins us now.

Have the Russian said anything about a possible Krasikov swap, for Whelan?

PLEITGEN: Yes. I was actually texting, Anderson, earlier today, with Vladimir Putin's spokesman. And he told me that he was absolutely not going to comment on the matter.

I asked him straightforward, "Are you guys still that interested in Vadim Krasikov, or are you willing to move in other directions?" He said that he believes all of these types of negotiations need to happen, in absolute silence, to give them a chance, to actually succeed.

However, of course, Anderson, we have heard from Vladimir Putin that he does believe that exchanges are possible, between the U.S. and Russia, in the future. Just not clear whether or not Vadim Krasikov is still part of Russia's equation.

COOPER: Is it clear why there was interest, by Russia, at least at one point, on this particular prisoner?

PLEITGEN: Yes. And the Germans believe that it's possibly two reasons.

On the one hand, the Germans say this man is an absolutely cold- blooded and quite effective assassin, as well, who works for Russia's Special Services. And from that vantage point, they believe that he's a big asset, for the Russians that the Russians simply want back.

But some here, in Germany, also believe that the Russians might be trying to sow discord, between Germany, and the United States, because of course, if Russia could get the U.S., to really pressure Germany, to release Krasikov, it is something that could drive a wedge, between these very strong allies.

So far, there's no indication that that's actually happening. The Germans, for their part, are saying that anything that has to do with Krasikov is a non-starter, and the U.S., of course, says that they simply can't fulfill the demands that Russia had put out there, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it. Thank you.

A second execution, in less than a week, has been carried out, in Iran, in connection with the nationwide uprising that's been going on for months, part of an intimidation campaign, being waged by the hardline Regime.

Last week, a 23-year-old protester was executed, after a Revolutionary Court found him guilty, of waging war, against "God," their term. Now, another 23-year-old demonstrator was put to death, also accused of the same.

Majidreza Rahnavard was convicted of stabbing Security Forces. Activists say he was the victim of a sham trial. There are still more Iranians, who had been sentenced to death, awaiting execution.

Joining us now from London, CNN's Salma Abdelaziz.

What more can you tell us about this second execution?


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Today, Rahnavard's name being repeated, by demonstrators, by protesters, his pictures, circulating on social media, reminder yet again, to protesters, of just the lengths that Iran will go to, to silence this very popular uprising, against the government.

What we know, about this individual, this young 23-year-old man, is that he was accused of waging war against "God," the same accusation as the first protester that was executed. Of course, the allegation is that he killed two members, of Iran's Security Forces, stabbing them to death, and wounding several others.

But the devil is in the details here, Anderson. Iran's authorities allege this incident, these killings, took place on November 17. This means, this man went from being accused, to executed, in under a month, a death penalty, proceeding in an execution, in less than a month.

That's why activists say that he is the victim of a sham trial, of kangaroo courts, in Iran, where there is no judicial process, nothing fair or right about these trials. In fact, activists, and those who support these demonstrations, and rights groups, say there is only one reason behind these executions, and it is to intimidate, to scare protesters, and to give Iran yet another tool of repression.

COOPER: Is it effective, in that sense? I mean, it's been nearly three months, since protests began in Iran. Has this silenced them? Has this quelled them?

ABDELAZIZ: Well, what's very concerning, Anderson is there are more executions to come, according to rights groups. Amnesty International has identified 17 other individuals, who could face the same fate, very soon, in the coming days. But this is not scaring protesters. Instead, it's fueling them.

Because, as we've seen, throughout this movement, which has now been almost three months, of near constant demonstrations that have rocked every single province, in Iran, every single instance, of repression, every victim, to the crackdown? Their name becomes a rallying cry, their story adds fuel, adds passion, to this movement, against the government.


COOPER: Salma, appreciate it, thank you.

Still ahead, we covered Hurricane Ian, extensively, when it ravaged Central Florida, taking lives, destroying property. What did not get much attention, at the time, however, is the massive damage the storm did to the bee population, a vital yet often forgotten part of our food chain. That's next.



COOPER: It's been more than two months, since Hurricane Ian struck Central Florida, killing at least 125 people, and causing massive destruction.

But there was another devastating impact of the storm that we haven't heard much about, until now. The hundreds of thousands, of bee colonies that were wiped out, in the hurricane, posing a threat, to one of the most important parts, of our food chain.

CNN's Bill Weir has the story.




WEIR (on camera): OK.

WEIR (voice-over): I'm not usually in the habit of accepting a handful of stinging insects. But Keith Councell has a 40-year professional relationship, with honeybees.

WEIR (on camera): And you never -- rarely wear a veil, or gloves, or anything?

COUNCELL: Don't really need to.

WEIR (voice-over): And these days, they need all the love they can get.

Hurricane Ian arrived at the worst possible time, for this business. Just as beekeepers, from around the country, were set up, to catch the autumn bloom, of the Brazilian peppertree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whole yard went under.

WEIR (voice-over): The storm drowned and crushed hundreds of thousands of hives, killing countless millions of bees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's gone and have to come back. All right, nothing left.

JEREMY HAM, OWNER & BEEKEEPER, OLD FLORIDA BEES: You could actually see a water line, where it came up to here.

WEIR (voice-over): And because Ian blew away so much vegetation, those that survived are starving.

HAM: Some of these bees have gotten three shots of feed, and that's a gallon. So, you're talking about 36 pounds of feed already. And you can still go back, after they suck the feed down, and it looks like they never were fed at all.

WEIR (on camera): They're just starving.

HAM: They're just starving. Yes, it's non-stop. So, it's just an added cost. And you're just trying to do the best. You have to make that tough decision of really is it worth the money, the financial cost, to try to save it, or do you just have to walk away, and take your medicine.

WEIR (on camera): This is all bee food?

ANDREW WAGNER, MANN LAKE BEE AND AG SUPPLY: This will be used for liquid bee food, yes.

WEIR (voice-over): At Mann Lake Bee & Ag Supply, they're mixing sugar water, as fast as they can. And while some bee farmers filed for federal relief, the Greater Good Charity is giving away a quarter ton of pollen substitute.

CASEY PAHOLSKI, SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, GREATER GOOD CHARITIES: Where we have donated meals to food pantries, for humans, we've donated animal supplies, to animal shelters. And now, we're donating this bee pollen substitute, to these farmers, here.

WEIR (on camera): Can't forget the bottom of the food chain, right?

PAHOLSKI: Yes. You can't forget what helps get all the other food to the table as well.

WEIR (voice-over): But even if their bees recover, the whole business depends on the health of the almond crop, in California, now shrinking under mega drought.

WEIR (on camera): If the drought takes out the almond crop, in California that?

WAGNER: The whole beekeeping industry is going to be in trouble. And there's no feral bees, there's no -- wild bees can't survive on their own.

WEIR (voice-over): He explains that pesticides, development, and invasive pests, have made it impossible, for bees to survive, without deliberate human care.

WAGNER: And if all the beekeepers released all of their bees, every beekeeper, in the country, if they just released all their bees, into the wild? We estimate it be about two years to three years, before bees would just collapse.

Bees are the most important farmer. They're the most forgotten as well. And that's why we just need the entire public, to really continue to get involved, in bees, and a little, two beehives makes a big impact.

COUNCELL: They went totally underwater, somehow made it.

WEIR (voice-over): In the meantime, all Keith can do is pick up the pieces, and focus on the survivors, like the hive, he found drowned, inside a water meter box, near Fort Myers Beach.

COUNCELL: It's a different feeling, when you have bees, walking all over you.

WEIR (on camera): It really is. It really is.

COUNCELL: Yes. And nobody's getting stung.

WEIR (on camera): No.

COUNCELL: They're doing their thing.

WEIR (on camera): Maybe they can sense we're rooting for them, you know?

COUNCELL: Well and that's--

WEIR (on camera): We appreciate them.


COUNCELL: That's part of the thing. You have to -- you have to treat them with respect. When you get down to it, the bees are the pillars to all ag cultures, and they're the pillars to our whole civilization.


COOPER: Bill Weir joins me now.

So, what's being done now? What can be done?

WEIR: Well you've got the Florida Beekeepers Association, all the volunteer groups that can get together some big sort of ag groups, like Cargill, making these donations. And they're -- it's so ironic that these insects that are supposed to feed us?


WEIR: We're feeding them, in sort of a triage fashion, to try to strengthen them enough, to get to the almond season, in February, and then there's 130 other fruits, and vegetables, and trees, around the country, they follow.

But the ecosystem's going to take time to heal. We measure comebacks by "Hey, the lights are back on at Walmart, or life is sort of back to normal."

COOPER: Right.

WEIR: But these trees were sandblasted. And they're putting out these stress blooms, which is doubly cruel, because the bees think it's food, and they get there's no nutrition.

COOPER: Oh, no.

WEIR: So, but this is one, where they say for amateur beekeepers, even a couple hives, in your backyard, can make a huge difference.


WEIR: For getting pollinators, back out into the landscape.

COOPER: Yes. Bill Weir, thanks.

WEIR: You bet.

COOPER: Great report, appreciate it.

The news continues. "CNN TONIGHT," with Laura Coates, and Alisyn Camerota, is next, right after a short break.