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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan Announces Investigation Into DOJ's Handling Of Biden Documents; NY Times On Online Post By Idaho Killings Suspect In 2011: "As I Hug My Family, I Look Into Their Faces, I See Nothing"; Germany Demands Russia Provide "Urgent Medical Attention" To Imprisoned Dissident Alexey Navalny. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 13, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Congressman Jim Jordan, now Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said today, the Committee is launching an investigation, into the Justice Department's actions, related to President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents.
He's demanding the Justice Department turn over a variety of documents, including all communications, related to yesterday's appointment of a Special Counsel. The letter sets a deadline of January 27th.
This comes, as the Biden administration deals with other questions, about transparency and omissions, so far, from its public account, of what happened.
CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now, with the latest on that.
Is there any indication, Phil that the White House is going to publicly fill in some of the gaps here?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if anything, Anderson, according to senior White House officials, I have been speaking to, the opposite is more likely the case.
They will maintain this posture of not saying, really anything at all, about this investigation, as it plays out. The way it was described to me, in terms of their current approach, is they need to be by the book, in their view.
And "By the book" means, given the fact an investigation is underway, it is an ongoing matter, they do not want to engage for risk of one, potentially upsetting those, who are doing the investigation, and two, ensuring that there's no sense that somebody is trying to shift how things may go.
Now, that doesn't mean there's that significant work underway, inside the White House, right now, to prepare for this moment. Just keep in mind, over the course of the last couple of days, a Special Counsel was not even on the radar. Now, it is a reality. They are working with both a small team of advisers, for President Biden, but also inside and outside lawyers, to set up for an investigation that could take months, if not longer, Anderson.
COOPER: And prior to these classified document revelations, the Biden administration was feeling good about their political prospects.
What's the mood like now, in the White House?
MATTINGLY: Yes, and "Feeling good" may be an understatement, to some degree.
When you look at the economic numbers, economic numbers that continued throughout the course, of what had been almost a head-spinning week, because of this investigation, and how it has played out? They had a very clear strategy and almost scheduled to some degree, for the President, in the months ahead, as they implemented their legislative agenda, as they moved towards a potential reelection campaign.
What's been interesting is just how stunned many advisers have been, throughout the course of the week, with each successive drip of new information, the Special Counsel being among them. They were not informed in advance. The President wasn't. The senior team wasn't.
But there's also a sense, particularly as you got to the end of this week, you talk to senior White House officials, at the end of this day that they are recognizing, right now, for those not involved, in the legal team, not involved in the process of dealing with the Special Counsel, business as usual, is really the only option, trying to maintain the strategy that they were trying to put into place, for this year, trying to maintain the schedule, they wanted, for the President, going into this year.
They're going to try and do everything as close to what they had initially planned, as possible, in the hopes that somehow they can kind of push through on their agenda.
The reality is this is obviously swamped, the overarching message of things, the overarching coverage, of this White House, over the course of the last five days. Whether or not they can kind of plow through that in the weeks ahead, is an open question, but one they very much believe they can do.
Obviously, Anderson, this is a very different moment, this Friday night, than they were facing, Monday morning. They believe they can work within that reality. Obviously, we'll see as the weeks play out.
COOPER: Yes. Phil Mattingly, appreciate it. Thank you.
Perspective now, from CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, and former FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe.
Andrew, given everything you know, so far, about President Biden's recovery of classified documents, if you were leading the investigation, where would you start? What questions need to be answered immediately?
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: The most fundamental piece of any investigation, into the spill of classified, is what we refer to, whenever classified information ends up someplace, it's not supposed to be, is first, to conduct an assessment, as to have we created a national security threat here.
So, they want to look at exactly what was outside of that authorized space, and determine if sources and methods have been placed in jeopardy.
After that, you get to the, "How did this happen?" part of the investigation. And that starts with day one. Who packed this stuff up? Who transported it? How was it transported? How was it stored, when it got to its ultimate location? Who had access to that space? Just walk through the very logical kind of progression of who could possibly have been exposed, to this stuff and when.
COOPER: The Biden administration says they're cooperating with the Department of Justice, so far. How does that impact the approach, by the DOJ? And if the level of cooperation changes, I assume, the DOJ tactics shift, in some way.
MCCABE: Certainly, certainly. So, there's a lot of concern about how long this inquiry is going to take. Well, if it remains on this very cooperative footing, it could go very quickly.
One of the reasons why the Trump review has taken so long is because the Trump team has bitterly fought DOJ, at every turn. They've gone into court, and filed motions, filed an extra court case, about having a Special Master appointed.
So, I don't anticipate any of that sort of resistance, from the Biden team. They have been - they've leaned very far forward, in alerting the Archives, and DOJ, bringing everyone's attention, to the issue. So, if that continues, they could actually cut through this investigation, in just a few months.
COOPER: Chairman Jim Jordan announced this House Judiciary Committee investigation, into the DOJ actions, related to the President's handling of the classified documents, today. How much does that impact the DOJ ongoing investigation?
MCCABE: Well, I think that DOJ will likely - I certainly would advise them, if they were willing to listen to my advice, I would advise them to take a very hard line against that.
There is a clear precedent here of not sharing information, from an ongoing criminal investigation, with Congress. And I think the DOJ is in a very strong position, to resist, on those grounds.
Who knows what comes of that resistance? Maybe DOJ leadership starts getting subpoenaed. And ultimately, that fight will end up in the courts. And that could drag things out. That's going to be an additional distraction to DOJ. But it shouldn't disrupt the actual conduct of the investigation. So, that's a - it'll be a separate but related set of stressors that DOJ has to deal with.
COOPER: And, right now, I mean, you have a sitting President, you have a former President, who has already declared a candidacy, both under investigation, by separate Special Counsels, appointed by the Attorney General. This seems pretty unprecedented, no?
MCCABE: It's absolutely unprecedented. I can't think of another situation, even remotely like it.
I think it was a very astute move, by the Attorney General, to appoint a Special Counsel, in the Biden inquiry. I think it's essential that these inquiries are treated exactly the same, at their inception, given the same sort of resources, and attention, and priority and, of course, special counsels.
But, at this point, Anderson, they become entirely different, and totally independent. The facts are very different. The way their respective teams are treating their interactions, with DOJ, will be very different. And they could come to very different results.
COOPER: Andrew McCabe, appreciate it.
Want to talk about the political fallout, which could be considerable, and unwelcome, to the Administration, certainly, coming, as Phil Mattingly mentioned, with inflation cooling, and gas prices dropping, and the President's approval numbers growing, in the polls, at least before this.
Joining us is CNN Senior Political Analyst, David Gergen, White House insider, for Democrats and Republicans alike, dating back to the Nixon years; also CNN Political Commentator, and former Pennsylvania Republican congressman, Charlie Dent; and CNN Political Analyst, Jackie Kucinich. She's Washington Bureau Chief for The Boston Globe.
David Gergen, let's start with you. How big a mess is this, for the Biden administration?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "HEARTS TOUCHED WITH FIRE: HOW GREAT LEADERS ARE MADE": It's very, very big. Not legally, but politically, it's a very, very big deal.
This is a President, who was marching upward. For the first time, in his presidency, he's got his numbers up, people are feeling better about the economy, for all sorts of reasons, to believe that he can now present himself - the fears that people like me have, about how old is he and can he govern? Well, those fears will be dissipated, if he were able to stay on that track.
But now, along comes this, this gigantic story, which was totally unexpected, and it's knocked that - the knock for six--
COOPER: Yes. GERGEN: --the original plan, now.
But I do think that they, that the Biden people, they may be making a big mistake, Anderson. I may be wrong about this. I think they've done a wonderful job, being cooperative, with the government, and they've done it, quote, by the book, as they were saying.
But I don't think sitting there, hunkering down, now, you're just acting like it's not out there, is it goes (ph) they're doing just going to have - they're going to get creamed doing that.
COOPER: There's also been the drip, drip, drip of information.
COOPER: Some of that unpreventable because, they didn't know a Special Counsel was coming.
COOPER: But they did know when they had the President talk about the first batch of documents that were found--
COOPER: --they had already known that there were other documents found.
COOPER: You would think they might have just jumped, announced that all at once?
GERGEN: Exactly. That's why they could have put that out there.
GERGEN: And as matters now stand, that long delay, in putting it out there, is going to encourage people, to believe, well what are they hiding?
GERGEN: And that's where they - there's a temptation, in every one of these kinds of crises, to hunker down. And it's the wrong temptation. It's the wrong temptation to listen to - look to - you going all the way back to Iran--Contra, and other kind of crises, like that. You've just got to get the facts out.
GERGEN: "These are the facts we know. There's some facts we don't know. And we'll keep you posted." COOPER: Jackie, do you think this largely takes away the White House's ability to criticize former President Trump's handling of classified documents? Obviously, yes, big differences between the two.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes.
COOPER: But how often does nuance breakthrough in political discourse, these days? I mean, rarely.
KUCINICH: Well, yes. And that's the thing, right? This definitely muddies the waters in a way that, I think, Republicans are elated about.
I mean, going into, particularly on the House Republican majority, there was a perception, particularly among Democrats that a lot of these investigations were going to be essentially fishing expeditions. Well, because of this, they were thrown a fish, and they're actually able to grab onto something. And this, it does mute the ability, to criticize President Trump in the - former President Trump in the same way.
And let's be clear, this isn't happening in a vacuum. We all kind of expect Biden to announce his plans, for the coming presidential election, in short order. We think it's the beginning of this year. So, does this affect - I think there's a real question about that. Does this affect on that timing, should this continue, in the weeks and months to come?
COOPER: Congressman Dent, as we reported, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan is launching this investigation, into the DOJ. Should the Biden administration be concerned, about Republican oversight, on this?
CHARLIE DENT, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE - PENNSYLVANIA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, they should, because Jim Jordan must be absolutely giddy and salivating over this. I mean, politically, as just discussed, the waters have been muddied, even though there are real differences between the two cases.
But, Joe Biden, he ran for president, on being competent. This looks like he was careless, and reckless, or his people were. I mean, for him to go out there and say that - well, first, bad news does not get better with time. The fact that they're releasing this out in bits and pieces, "Oh, yes, we found some, by the Corvette, locked in the garage," I mean, this is really not helping his case.
And plus, now that there is a Special Counsel appointed, again, that's just more reasons, for the Republicans, to picket them. What they'll find out? I have no idea. But, as a political matter, I think, Republicans are thrilled, because this really diverts attention away, from many of their own problems. And so, they should be - they're in a much better position than they were one week ago.
COOPER: I mean, David, I guess, Republicans, is there a Catch 22, for them? I mean, if they cry foul, about this, about the mishandling, by the Biden administration, wouldn't that also put attention, on President Trump's handling?
GERGEN: Yes, I think they've gotten a little overheated here, in the last few days, in their criticism. And I do think they are the ones, who want to step back, and let the story be told by others.
But among other things, right now, Anderson, when you're in one of these situations, in the White House, you got your team, your party is out, in the Congress and elsewhere, and you need to feed them things that they can use, to defend you with. And the Biden people are not providing them, the handles, the arguments, the counterarguments.
One of the things, for example, that has taken some of the sting off this, to me, is what we've experienced, in recent years, is we've had an explosion, in the number of documents that are classified now.
COOPER: Right, there's over-classification.
GERGEN: Over-classification. Pat Moynihan, 15 years ago, headed up a bipartisan commission to look at secrecy. And what he found was there were 2 million people, in the federal government, who could slap classifications, on documents. And there were 1 million people, in private industry, who had the capacity to put--
COOPER: It's a lot.
GERGEN: --classifications on documents. And so, naturally, things just took off. And it made people, inside the government, increasingly complacent. And what you're seeing, I think, and have - finding these, some of these documents, on a garage, for God's sakes, is a sloppiness, a massive sloppiness--
GERGEN: --on people, who don't understand these. And actually, this is quite sensitive.
GERGEN: We should take this seriously. But they've been engulfed by a lot of this other stuff where, as Jim Sciutto, was saying, earlier today, on your - on this channel, he said, basically, you used to have a sandwich down, for lunch, and then you put a stamp out, again, begin putting the classification on it.
Jackie, I mean, you'd mentioned this before. But, I mean, do you really think it potentially impacts Biden's expected announcement for running?
KUCINICH: I don't know. I don't know, Anderson. I think it really depends. I mean, I don't think it's going to impact his decision, whether or not to run certainly.
But we were going into this year, as Phil Mattingly mentioned, you had tagging on to the Senate. Republicans were in complete disarray, fighting amongst themselves.
You had the economy getting better. You had Biden touting the achievements, from last year. And this really has kind of hit a wall, as a result, of these revelations, about these documents. So certainly, it dampens the momentum that this White House had, potentially going into a future announcement.
COOPER: And Congressman Dent, I mean, Senator Chris Coons, the Democrat from Delaware, obviously a big Biden ally? He was arguing that voters don't care about the President's handling of classified documents that they're more concerned about gas prices, grocery prices.
That's essentially the same arguments Republicans were always making, in the lead up to the midterm elections, and about stuff on Russia.
Do you think Coons is right?
DENT: Yes, Chris Coons is a good friend. And I think he is generally right on this question. But again, but if you're Joe Biden, you really don't want this issue around. The Special Counsel, sniffing around, nothing good will come of it.
And it's true. Biden's had good news. And Chris Coons is probably right, that this is not the primary focus of voters.
But still, not a great issue, because it really speaks to a carelessness, and a recklessness, where Joe Biden has done his best to contrast himself, with Donald Trump, who was always very careless, and reckless, on many matters. And it just kind of undermines his whole argument.
But, at the end of the day, you're right, or Chris Coons is right, that most voters are concerned about the prices of groceries, and gasoline, and everything else they're dealing with.
DENT: Housing and whatnot.
COOPER: Yes. Charlie Dent, David Gergen, Jackie Kucinich, appreciate it. Thank you.
GERGEN: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, reporting from "The New York Times," on disturbing newly-uncovered online teen postings, from the alleged University of Idaho killer, from back when he was a teenager. What CNN's John Miller, and a former top FBI profiler, make of what he said, about what he described as the emptiness inside him.
And later, the very real problem of homelessness, in San Francisco, the logjam on implementing solutions, and the extreme action, one man was, caught on camera, taking. [21:20:00]
COOPER: New developments, tonight. "The New York Times," has obtained disturbing online postings, from Bryan Kohberger, the alleged University of Idaho killer, from when he was a teenager.
He writes in one, quote, "I am blank, I have no opinion, I have no emotion, I have nothing."
Another reads, quote, "As I hug my family, I look into their faces, I see nothing, it is like I'm looking at a video game, but less."
He went on to write that he could do, quote, "Whatever I want with little remorse."
Now, we should point out that Kohberger, now 28, maintains his innocence.
Want to get perspective now, from CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst, John Miller, former Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counterterrorism, for the New York Police Department; also, Mary Ellen O'Toole, former FBI Special Agent and Profiler.
Mary Ellen, let's talk about these postings. I mean, it seems kind of a textbook of - well, how do you interpret it?
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, RETIRED FBI SPECIAL AGENT - PROFILER, DIRECTOR, FORENSIC SCIENCE PROGRAM AT GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: Well, as I went through the article, and I saw how he's describing himself, and how he feels, the depersonalization, the anxiety, the depression, feelings of wanting to commit suicide? That's all very serious.
And then, he talks about this phenomenon, known as visual-snow. Then, all of a sudden, there seems to have been just a stop, in what's happening to him. And he's able to go on, get a college degree, a master's degree, and apply for a PhD program.
All of those things he's described, can be life-altering, they can really affect the long-term quality of his life. And to think that he was able to get over those, that depression, and that anxiety, the suicide-thinking, suicide ideation, without any kind of mental health assistance, is really stunning to me.
So, I would think that if that was in fact, how he was feeling, at the time, there should be a much more formal record of it. Again, if it's not treated, if there's no help, that would have impacted seriously, the quality of life, and affected his accomplishments, as well.
COOPER: John, when you see those postings, what do you think?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, FORMER NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTELLIGENCE & COUNTERTERRORISM: I flashed back to sitting in a Brooklyn courtroom, in 1977, listening to the psychiatrist, at the competency hearing, for David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer. And he explained Berkowitz's mental state. And the judge said, "Could you put that in layman's term?" And he said, "In layman's terms, he's emotionally dead."
What's interesting is he was describing a serial killer, from many years ago, the very same way Kohberger is describing himself, in his development, on this pathway. If you follow the pathway, you see, he finds his way into studying criminal behavior. He finds his way into a particular study that he was the point person on, where he ask criminals, "How did you feel when you did this? Why did you do it that way? What did you leave behind?"
And in talking to Mary Ellen, about this, she said, it's not structured as a real study. This is voyeurism. This is him trying to get into the feeling, which then leads to fantasies about acts, and then realization of those acts.
And what's the first thing he does, allegedly, after these crimes that he's charged with, is he returns to the scene, the next morning, before Police have even been called, to re-immerse himself in it.
COOPER: Mary Ellen, that, to you, that study, the quote-unquote, "Study," he was doing was very telling?
ELLEN O'TOOLE: The study that he had - that Bryan had designed was really very telling to me, because, from a research perspective, it was a very poorly put together protocol.
But, as he's writing it, and you follow through, he says, "At any point in the criminal behavior, how were you feeling? What were you thinking? And then, when you saw the victim, how were you feeling? What were you thinking?" And as John said, I found that to be very voyeuristic, just in terms of the kind of information that he was attempting to elicit. That's not the basis for a good research.
Now, you have someone, at the same time, who's been to the crime scene house, on approximately 12 occasions, the victims obviously weren't aware of it. There's a kind of a sense of voyeuristic behavior, there.
And then, as John just mentioned, the morning of the murders, he comes back to the scene, presumably to see what is going on, again, evidence of voyeuristic behavior, evidence that he is thinking clearly inconsistent with the mental health issues that he raised, when he was a teenager.
COOPER: I mean, John, it is kind of amazing, when he went back home, it's an isolated area. The fact that law enforcement was able to monitor him, and see him go out, in the middle of the night, and bring his garbage, across the street, tried to throw it out on neighbor's, I mean, they did a really good job.
MILLER: So, they did an extraordinary job, in putting together many pieces, to this puzzle, so that it came together as one clear picture, a really interesting effort. But when you look at his behavior there, what's he doing? He's taking out the garbage. He's putting it in the neighbor's garbage. He's wearing surgical gloves.
One could project from that, "I'm not going to give them the benefit of DNA or a fingerprint," hiding it. As Mary Ellen just said, he is still very much, on point, thinking, thinking about covering up, or you could flip that, and say, "I know I'm under surveillance, and I'm playing cat and mouse with them."
COOPER: John Miller, it's fascinating stuff.
Mary Ellen O'Toole, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up, the outcry, over video, of a San Francisco shop owner, spraying the homeless woman, and telling her to move, Nick Watt joins us now with more, ahead, right after break time.
COOPER: A confrontation, in a San Francisco neighborhood, between a homeless woman, and an antiques dealer, caught on tape, shows the store owner, spraying her, with a garden hose, and telling her to move.
It's become a flashpoint, in the City's debate, about how to manage the homeless crisis. The video has upset many people. Others see it a symbol of a frustrating situation, they believe, has been literally left on their doorstep, by City officials.
CNN's Nick Watt has more.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The person on the sidewalk is homeless, goes by the name Q (ph).
The guy with the garden hose is Collier Gwin, owner of an upscale art and antiques gallery.
COLLIER GWIN, FOSTER-GWIN GALLERY: I find it hard to apologize, when we've had no help, on this situation.
We called the Police. There must be 25 calls on record.
TRENA HAMIDI, CO-OWNER, BARBAROSSA LOUNGE: I was outraged, when I saw the video.
WATT (voice-over): Trena Hamidi co-owns the lounge bar, next door, says this, of Q (ph).
HAMIDI: She has caused some trouble. She is mentally ill. And she screams obscenities. The City needs to take action, and do something, to give these people support and help, that they need, not move them a few blocks away. That's not the solution.
WATT (voice-over): More than 4,000 people live, on San Francisco streets, by latest count, in part, because renting an average one bedroom, in this fashionable city, now costs $3,000 a month, second only to New York City.
KRISTIE FAIRCHILD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTH BEACH CITIZENS: The reality is San Francisco is only seven-by-seven, seven miles by seven miles. So, there's a need for more housing, and more affordable housing.
WATT (voice-over): And nearly half of unhoused women, in San Francisco, experience violence, according to a 2020 study.
FAIRCHILD: I don't think that this is a San Francisco problem. We're seeing this, nationally. I think that the passerby that was filming it was bringing to light what's happening, every day.
WATT (voice-over): In this City, businesses have used planters, on the sidewalk, to keep homeless away.
Neighbors on this street, cobbled together over $2,000, through a Facebook group, to buy boulders, to deter drug dealers and the homeless. The City did take them away.
Even Saint Mary's Cathedral, a house of God, installed sprinklers, back in 2015, to prevent the needy, from sleeping, in her shadow.
Gwin, who right now has this Baroque Italian cabinet, on sale, for $55,000, in his gallery, also resorting to soaking, the inconvenient unhoused.
MAYOR LONDON BREED, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: As far as I'm concerned, it's assault. And there should be consequences.
We know that people are very frustrated. But this is not the solution.
GWIN: I totally understand what an awful thing that is to do. But I also understand what an awful thing it is to leave her on the streets.
WATT (voice-over): Housing, not hosing, the homeless, just might be a better solution.
COOPER: And Nick Watt joins us now, from San Francisco. Where is that person now?
WATT: Well, Anderson, Q (ph), the homeless person is, according to officials, in a hospital, getting some help.
And, as for Collier Gwin, the guy with the hose, well, his gallery is now closed. Somebody has smashed the glass, in the door. And his case is now with the SFPD Investigations Bureau.
COOPER: A judge there just recently ruled about what can and can't be done about the homeless population.
COOPER: What was the ruling?
WATT: Yes, so this judge said, back in December, that officials, in this city, can no longer do what they call encampment sweeps, getting tents off the street, confiscating people's possessions. And the reason the judge said that they can't do that is because the City was not offering people, viable alternatives, to living on the street.
This video, Anderson, really typifies a couple of the major issues, with homelessness, in this country. One is managing that coexistence between the unhoused and the housed. And the other is really getting people, on the street, the services, and the help they need, connecting them, with what they need, and to help them, and to help everybody.
COOPER: Right. Nick Watt, appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up next, exclusive audio, from an Iranian soccer player, behind bars, in the country's crackdown on dissent.
And the daughter of one of the biggest thorns, in Vladimir Putin's side, Alexey Navalny, what she says about her father's condition, his spirit, as the battles illness, in one of Russia's harshest prisons.
COOPER: Right now, a CNN Exclusive, an appeal for help, from an imprisoned Iranian soccer player, first, sentenced to death, and spared, and now serving a 26-year sentence.
Amir Nasr-Azadani is his name. He was accused, back in November, in connection with the killing, of three security officers. Supporters say, he was forced into a confession, put through a sham trial, and is now being tortured, behind bars.
CNN's Don Riddell has more.
DON RIDDELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT, WORLD SPORT (voice-over): Amir Nasr-Azadani has been living the dream, as a professional football player, in Iran. But within the last few weeks, his situation has turned into a nightmare. After protests, swept through the country, in September, Iranian state media accused Nasr-Azadani, of being a member of an armed group that was charged, in the killing of three security officers, in November. The government says that he confessed to participating, in the crimes, and now faces 26 years, in prison.
Nasr-Azadani denies that he's guilty, and his supporters claim that he made a false confession, and was tortured in jail.
In an exclusive voice message, obtained by CNN, with the help of the activist group, Mamlakat (ph), he can be heard appealing for help, from within the prison walls.
AMIR NASR-AZADANI, IRANIAN SOCCER PLAYER (through translator): Whoever you are in contact with, my friends, footballer friends, send this message to them, so they know what conditions I am under. Hopefully, one day we can be together again. My hope is first of all with God and then the people outside.
RIDDELL (voice-over): He's been in jail, since December, where his family is worried, for his safety, as the government has already begun executing protesters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
RIDDELL (voice-over): Last Saturday, the Islamic Republic executed two more young men, including the karate champion, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, bringing the total number of executed protesters, to four. That's according to the U.N.'s Human Rights Office.
Karami took up karate, at the age of 11, and went on to win medals at Iran's National Championships. But during anti-government protests, he was accused of killing a security officer. And following a rush trial, supposedly based on a false confession, he was found guilty, and executed just a month later. The Human Rights Organization, Amnesty International, says that his trial was a sham.
His fate echoes that of the Iranian wrestler, Navid Afkari, who was jailed, for participating in protests, and then executed in 2020. His defiance inspired other athletes, to speak out, as well, including the former karate champion, Mahdi Jafargholizadeh, who fled the country, in 2008.
MAHDI JAFARGHOLIZADEH, FORMER KARATE CHAMPION: I've got plenty of messages from a young 17-years-old, 18-years-old kids that they just - when they just see all these killing and torturing, on the streets, and all that kind of stuff, they're just - they're just telling me "OK, you know," because they know me, because of my background, et cetera, and they just say, "Yes, like, this life, it's done for me," like "I'm going to kill myself."
RIDDELL (voice-over): Athletes in Iran seem to be battling a new fight, against what activists are calling an unjust judicial system. And they're making a plea, hoping the international community will pay attention.
NASR-AZADANI (ph), (through translator): I hope that they continue to support me, because all these really harsh sentences that were issued to me, I really do not deserve. Me? 26 years? Is it possible?
RIDDELL (voice-over): At this point, the recording cuts out.
Amir Nasr-Azadani says he'll have much more to say, when he gets out of prison. But for now, he needs others to be his voice. Otherwise, he could be silenced forever.
RIDDELL: I asked Mahdi Jafargholizadeh, who we featured just then, what athletes, in other countries, who are watching, can do. And he said simply that they should share what's going on to make sure as many people as possible, know what's happening, right now, inside Iran.
CNN has reached out to the Iranian government, for comment, about both Amir Nasr-Azadani's case, and also the fate of Mohammad Mehdi Karami. Anderson, we have not received a response.
COOPER: Don Riddell, thanks.
To another oppressive regime, now, Russia, Germany today, demanded Russian authorities, provide "Urgent medical attention," in their words, to dissident, Alexey Navalny.
He's said to be in declining health, being held in one of Russia's harshest prisons, being cycled in and out of solitary confinement, and denied medical treatment, according to his wife and attorney.
More now on what, he is going through, and his refusal, to be silenced, from his daughter, Dasha.
Dasha, thank you so much for being with us, tonight.
First of all, do you know, right now, what your father's condition is?
DASHA NAVALNAYA, DAUGHTER OF IMPRISONED RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ALEXEY NAVALNY: First of all, I want to say thank you so much, Anderson, for having me. It's a huge honor. Thank you so much, for letting the light on the situation, that's happening.
My - I know what's happening. And my biggest concern with my dad's situation is his physical health, right now. We all know that Russian prisons aren't well-equipped for the cold winters.
And, of course, my father got the flu. His condition is not good. I'll be honest, he has a cough and a fever, and he's expectedly very exhausted. They purposefully placed a mentally unstable person, in a cell next to him, who screams, at night. So, my father isn't even able to get any sleep.
At night, the prison officials are refusing to treat him. When my father requested to be placed in prison hospital, they said it was those (ph) people, who might get him infected, however, agreed to take his cell roommate, into the prison hospital, essentially spreading the virus to my dad.
Even before the flu, he had some severe back problems. And he requested to have a doctor visit, many, many times, for a long time. And eventually, the doctor visited him, once, prescribed him injections, of an unknown name, and didn't give a diagnosis.
We're trying to get him all the help that we can get. And we actually have got a lot of Russian doctors, to sign, in my mother's plea, and supported the plea, for medical care, for my dad. But yes, his health is my primary concern, at the moment.
COOPER: Obviously, I know in the past, your father has been able to communicate limitedly, I mean, via letters or through his attorneys. Has that become more difficult? When were you last - When were you actually last able to communicate with him?
NAVALNAYA: So, the last time, I saw him, in-person, was a year and a half ago, for my birthday, September 2021.
We talked over the small phone that's in prisons, and did the whole movie scene, where we leaned our palms, against the mirror, against the glass that separated us. And it looked like we're holding hands. It was very sweet, but of course, not the, same as being really in- person.
In December, I sent him a letter, just talking about my fall quarter, and what courses, I'm taking, in this quarter, winter. And I actually just got a reply, a couple of days ago. Yes, it's nothing - it's nothing super interesting.
COOPER: What do you think about - I mean, your father went back to Russia, knowing after they - after he was poisoned, and recovered, he went back to Russia, flying in, knowing what he was going back to. As his daughter - I mean, it's incredibly heroic. It's extraordinary.
As his daughter, what is that like to know that your father put his life - has repeatedly, putting his life, on the line, for something larger than him, or the family, for so many other people?
NAVALNAYA: Right, well, I'm not going to say that it hasn't been difficult. I really miss him. I've always been a father's daughter.
Before this, he would get arrested, but no longer for a couple of days or a week. And this is definitely - especially when he was first arrested, for the first year it was definitely hard for me, to understand that I can't just text or call my dad, whenever I wanted to.
But, it's hard. But someone has to do the work that he does. And I am proud of him, for doing it. And it makes supporting him that much easier. COOPER: Yes. Dasha, thank you so much. I wish you the best.
NAVALNAYA: Thank you.
COOPER: A reminder, her father's story has been made, into a Sundance award-winning documentary. "Navalny" is the title. You can watch it, tomorrow night, 9 Eastern Time, right here.
Coming up, UFOs, what the federal government just revealed, and why some of it only adds to the scientific mystery, of what's really out there, right back.
COOPER: There are new questions, about what precisely, is going on, in the sky. A Pentagon office, this week, revealed more than 350 reports of, unidentified aerial phenomenon, most of them since March of 2021. You know them better as UFOs, of course.
The sightings come mostly from Navy and Air Force pilots, and operators, working in restricted Military airspace. Many cases turned out to be balloons, drones, birds, plastic bags, or just weather. But the U.S. government still can't explain about half of those other reports.
Hakeem Oluseyi is an astrophysicist, and a Visiting Professor, at George Mason University. He joins us now.
This is so fascinating to me. Can you just walk us through what's in this new report? Because I think that the question most viewers have is does this make it more likely that there could be some sort of alien life out there?
HAKEEM OLUSEYI, ASTROPHYSICIST, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL SOCIETY OF BLACK PHYSICISTS, VISITING ROBINSON PROFESSOR, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: Well, this report does not even mention aliens, right? It mentions concerns, but aliens are not one of them. So, I think there's really three major results, in the report.
The first is the new data of what has been seen, right. And there's an increase in a number of reports for several reasons, right? One is reducing the stigma with reporting observations of unknown phenomena.
Another is they talk about how they now have a new government structure that is now dedicated to understanding these phenomena, just in case they are hazardous, we really need to get a grip. And not only is there a new structure, but there's also working within government agencies.
And then the last part that doesn't get a lot of attention is the part about the data gathering, right? What they're hinting at is we need greater awareness, of what's in our air, what's in our space, and what is in our maritime environments. So, most of these observations have been near Military bases. There are more aviators there. There are more sensors there. So, I think, what's coming next is to get greater coverage of our skies.
COOPER: So, that's the reason that a lot of the unexplained sightings are over Military bases is because those are the pilots, who are kind of - there's a system for them to report it more easily?
OLUSEYI: Absolutely. And there are non-human sensors present.
OLUSEYI: So, we already do this, in astrophysics. We said, I'm an astrophysicist, right? We scan the galaxy, and we discover as many stars, millions and billions of stars at a time. Then, we classify them. And there are always some that are left unknown. We do the same thing in a solar system. We look for hazardous asteroids. We classify them. And on occasion, we find something that is unknown.
So, in this case, although most of the observations are mundane, there are still those unknowns. So, they could be our adversaries. At the minimum, they could be aerial hazards, right? Or, they could be aliens. But that's highly unlikely, the latter case.
COOPER: Right. I mean, some of the UAPs, were seen, making these really unusual flight characteristics.
OLUSEYI: That's right.
COOPER: I mean, they're - I think I've interviewed at least - I know, I've interviewed at least one pilot, a Military pilot, who was tracking one of these, and was just stunned by the speed with which they were moving.
If it's not some kind of foreign aircraft, though, does this report give any indication, or any explanation, of how these things are moving in such weird ways?
OLUSEYI: No, it does not go into the details of these at all. Because if it's left as an unknown, then that means it is an unknown.
OLUSEYI: Everything that moves as understood is a known.
COOPER: So, this declassified report, released to the public, what additional information might be contained in the version that lawmakers have access to?
OLUSEYI: Well, I would imagine that there is some of this additional data, right? There may have flagged some particular events, as particularly interesting. Because remember, there's always a threat of adversaries, in our skies.
[21:55:00] And also, if there is some source of aerial hazards coming, you want to understand what the source of these are? Many are balloons, at least, some of those been balloon-like, right? So, there's real reasons to, you know, they're doing it in a very sober way, understand what's happening in America's skies, better than we ever have before.
COOPER: It's interesting though, that they've sort of destigmatized the reporting of this.
OLUSEYI: That's right.
COOPER: Because there's nothing worse than, if you're a Navy pilot and you report something, that turned out to be a paper bag? That's certainly not going to be--
COOPER: --probably great for your career.
COOPER: But it's interesting that they are at least kind of making it easier, for people to do that.
OLUSEYI: They are. And I think by not sensationalizing it, right, being very sober about it, that they also, turn it from something that is always thought of, as something that's extra-terrestrial, to "Oh, here's something in our sky we don't quite understand. We need to report this, so that we can do due diligence, and get an understanding of what we're dealing with."
COOPER: Yes. Hakeem Oluseyi, thanks so much, for joining us.
COOPER: I really appreciate it.
OLUSEYI: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
COOPER: "CNN TONIGHT" with Laura Coates, is next, right after a short break.