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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Music Legend, David Crosby Dead At 81 After Long Illness; Investigators Looking Into Whether Pena Campaign Was Funded In Part By Laundered Fentanyl Sales; Actor, Alec Baldwin, "Rust" Armorer Face Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Over Fatal Movie Set Shooting; Alec Baldwin, Armorer To Be Charged In Fatal Movie Set Shooting; Sources: CIA Director Briefed Zelensky On U.S. Expectations For Russia's Battlefield Planning; Immigration Records Contradict Santos' Claim His Mother Was At World Trade Center On 9/11; DeSantis Administration Rejects Proposed AP African American Studies Class In Florida High Schools. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 19, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: I think I'm starting yet another band. I am going back out to play live. "And so many here would have loved to hear Crosby one more time, but maybe his words are even more precious than we know. Maybe he's doing just like he said.
Thanks for joining us. AC 360 starts now
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, but a sad one, David Crosby has died.
He was a founding member of The Byrds; Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and Crosby, Stills Nash, & Young -- a legendary songwriter with the voice that somehow managed all at once to be of his era and for the ages.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
COOPER: That is David Crosby with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash at Woodstock, only their second concert as a trio, still famously telling the crowd there, how scared they were.
Now, for most of his 81 years though, his musical partner, Crosby, seemed fearless and tireless in a life that was at times as turbulent as his music was soothing, and quietly brilliant.
Our Randi Kaye has more.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He helped shape the sound of 1960s folk rock as a founding member of The Byrds, but David Crosby will always be best known as a founding member of Crosby, Stills, & Nash, the wildly popular group was made up of Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. Their sound distinctive for its melody and harmonies.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS] KAYE (voice over): In the midst of the late 60s, Laurel Canyon scene in California, their debut album went multiplatinum.
DAVID CROSBY, SINGER: It's an absolute joy, it is what I was born to do. I love it. When anything is with my family, it is the most fun you can have. And yes, I'm including sex.
It is really, really a joy. You're communicating to people. You're making them feel something.
KAYE (voice over): In 1969, Neil Young joined the group and together they emerged as a powerful cultural influence.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
KAYE (voice over): A clash of egos between Young and Crosby got in the way though.
CROSBY: That was not easy, big ego, no brains.
KAYE (voice over): The original trio disbanded during the 1970s, but some members would regroup over the years, including coming back together to release the classic, "Southern Cross."
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
KAYE (voice over): In 1989, they played the Berlin Wall.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
CROSBY: We had this song called "Chipping Away," they just said it. We said, hey, we're going to go there and sing that song, and it wasn't really a logical thing. It was just something we wanted to do, and we did it.
KAYE (voice over): Over the years, Crosby struggled with addiction. In 1982, after his arrest in Texas on drug and weapons charges, he would spend five months in prison.
CROSBY: I had to, you know, finish up being a completely wasted addict and then spent a year in prison to get straight. And then once I did that, I jumped back in wholeheartedly.
KAYE (voice over): Cocaine and alcohol abuse took its toll, causing Crosby to have liver transplant surgery in 1994. He wrote about his addictions in an autobiography called "Long Time Gone."
Still, Crosby continued to tour after that. In June 2021, Crosby spoke with Howard Stern and offered his philosophy on life.
CROSBY: I am at the end of my life, Howard, and it's a very strange thing. And here's what I've come to about it. It's not how much time you've got, because we really don't know. I could have two weeks, I could have 10 years. It's what you do with the time that you do have.
And so I'm trying to really spend it well, whatever each day that I get, I'm very grateful for and I try to do it making music because I think the world needs music.
KAYE (voice over): David Crosby was 81.
COOPER: Which, a short time ago, Graham Nash posted a statement on his Facebook page. I want to read some of it to you, he writes: "It is with a deep and profound sadness that I learned that my friend, David Crosby has passed. I know people tend to focus on how volatile our relationship has been at times, but what has always mattered to David and me more than anything, was the pure joy the music we created together, the sound we discovered with one another and the deep friendship we shared over all these many long years."
He added: "David was fearless in life and in music. He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most. My heart is truly with his wife, Jan, his son, Django, and all the people he has touched in this world."
Joining us now is Ron Brownstein, who happens to be a CNN political analyst, but is more notably tonight, the author of "Rocking Me On the Water: 1974 The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics." It is a fascinating book. He is in Los Angeles along with CNN's Stephanie Elam.
Stephanie, what is the Crosby family saying and how are others in the music industry reacting tonight?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't really matter how long someone has lived, how long their career has been, it is still always devastating when someone people have listened to their music and have grown up with passes away.
And so you can see this with the outpouring of emotion coming out, and the family putting out a statement as well, Anderson, and let me just read to you what they said in their statement here. It says: "It is with great sadness after a long illness that our beloved David (Croz) Crosby has passed away. He was lovingly surrounded by his wife and soulmate, Jan and son, Django."
"Although he is no longer with us, his humanity and kind soul will continue to guide and inspire us. His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music. Peace, love and harmony to all who knew David, and those he touched. We will miss him dearly."
And then they go on to say, at this time they are asking for privacy while they're dealing with this profound loss, which you can only imagine. And it's not just the immediate family, it is also massive, iconic musicians like Melissa Etheridge.
You may remember that David Crosby was the biological father to her two children, one of whom has pre-deceased Crosby, but still I want to read her tweet, as well that she put out today. It says: "I am grieving the loss of my friend and Bailey's biological father, David. He gave me the gift of family. I will forever be grateful to him, Django and Jan. His music and legacy will inspire many generations to come. A true treasure." -- Anderson.
COOPER: Ron, you know, can you just talk about David Crosby's legacy and his career? I mean, there's a lot I didn't know and just you know, reading from your book, it is extraordinary, his contributions to music, to folk rock in LA, which really kind of kicked off, you know, rock and roll in that time period.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, yes. Look, he was a founding father of folk rock in general and of the LA sound in particular. I mean, one of the original members of The Byrds, which were in many ways, the fountainhead from which so much developed over the next decade.
I mean, their recording of "Mr. Tambourine Man," Bob Dylan's, "Mr. Tambourine Man," really set the template for so much of what came later with those jangling guitars, the ethereal harmonies and then when you move forward a few years to Crosby, Stills, & Nash and then Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, they were, Anderson very conscious of being a voice of their generation and very determined to be relevant.
I mean, in his memoir many years later, David Crosby, wrote about writing songs that reacted when the world slapped us in the face, and the most famous example is "Ohio." Their song about Penn State.
I mean, Neil Young and David Crosby are together in Northern California. Neil Young sees the famous photo of the girl kneeling in the road and crying. He goes off into the woods, half an hour later emerges with the song "Ohio." David Crosby arranges for the whole band to get together that night in LA and record it and it is out on the street in a few days, and the kind of the code of the postscript to the story is, after the band broke up, when they finally got back together for this giant, kind of chaotic reunion tour in 1974, that Crosby labeled "The Doom Tour" because of all the drugs and craziness, "Ohio" was there last encore many nights as Richard Nixon kind of was marched toward resignation in the Watergate scandal engulfed him, so in many ways, they got the last word.
COOPER: And Ron, you've said that Crosby was the figure who really introduced Joni Mitchell to the world bringing her to LA, showcasing her in people's living rooms in Laurel Canyon.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, can you imagine that? I mean, you know, Joni Mitchell was getting started as a folk singer. They met, I believe, as I recall, in Florida. He brought her out to LA and would kind of showcase her in people's living rooms and you know, 1968 or so Los Angeles, he would introduce Joni Mitchell and she would sit on the floor and play the guitar and sing her songs. He actually produced her first album.
I mean, she was so beautiful, so talented, so incredible. Someone said to me, after seeing one of these, you know, mini concerts in somebody's living room, the next day I woke up and I was like, did I hallucinate that?
Crosby really was -- I mean, look he was an incredibly smooth voice and an incredibly rough personality. He was ultimately driven out of The Byrds. You know, the Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young were like four unstable elements that constantly combusted into flames, but the music had a real impact over time, and particularly in being relevant to that moment.
I mean, CSN really is the sound of the time and shaped what followed in LA when it really blossomed as the dominant force in AM radio in the early 1970s.
COOPER: Stephanie, I want to play a clip from the CNN Special a few years ago, on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, where Crosby actually talked about death with our colleague, Bill Weir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And this burst of creativity that you've had, you sing about death. Do you think about how you want to be remembered?
CROSBY: That's a match. The songs will do that. They're the best I can do. Just a weird thing, everybody is scared to talk about it. The question is, what are you going to do with it? How do you spend that two weeks or that 10 years? And I got that figured out? Family, music.
Because it is the only thing I can do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, you know, after this extraordinary arc of a life, that is what in the end it boiled down to for him -- family and music.
ELAM: You know, there are people in the world who search their entire lives trying to figure out what they're supposed to do. David Crosby was not one of those people. He was doing what he was born to do, and he felt like this was the best thing that he could be doing, it was making music. He was all about his relationships.
And when you listen to the words of the songs that he is known for, from The Byrds or from Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, you can listen to those words and see it is about the connections that we make, all of that matters while you're here on Earth is basically what it seemed like David Crosby was saying.
And that is something that he is very true about. People do not want to talk about death, but he was much more practical about the way he saw it.
COOPER: You know, Ron, I want to -- you mentioned, "Ohio," I want to play some of that. We got it queued up because I think what you said about it is so interesting. Let's just listen.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
COOPER: It is so interesting. I mean, it's so interesting the story you told that after that, the incident after they saw the photograph that -- who was it who actually wrote it? You said he went on to --
BROWNSTEIN: Neil Young.
COOPER: Neil Young went off.
BROWNSTEIN: Neil Young went off into the woods for half an hour, wrote the song, came back. And then Crosby arranged for the whole band to get together later that same day in LA and record it. You know, to me, like kind of like I said, the postscript on the story is that the band blew up, you know, about '70 or '71, and then in 1974, David Geffen, the great music entrepreneur who really, he was the one who liberated all of them from their various contracts and allowed them to come together in the first place as CSN, kind of arranging this complex deal with Clive Davis at CBS to allow the band to form in the first place. He convinced them to get back together for a reunion tour.
So in 1974, they're all the antagonists, Nixon, who had won this 49- State reelection in '72, utterly dispiriting the entire band. He was heading down in flames in disgrace over Watergate, and they are back on tour together, playing Ohio every night.
And they were stage in New Jersey in on the night in August 1974 when Nixon resigned, and I believe it was Graham Nash who went to the microphone and said, "Guess what? He's gone." And like I said, kind of the -- kind of got the last word and then somewhere along that night, they played "Ohio" again, as kind of their last word on Richard Nixon.
COOPER: Ron, you said he was cantankerous, I mean, that, you know, there was him on stage and his voice and then the personal relationships. What was so volatile? I mean, was it related to drugs and alcohol? Or was it just personality?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, these were years of big personality, and you know, fans are hard as everybody explains to me. I mean, there are people who -- Cameron Crowe and others can tell you more than I could about that, but bands are hard. Crosby was kind of a -- I wouldn't say a solitary soul, but someone who really knew what he wanted and didn't always, you know work well with others. I mean --
COOPER: He himself said he was all ego back then.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, right. And so you know, The Byrds literally fired him. You know, Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, the other founding members pushed him out of the band and he had already taken one step out of the band because in 1967, at the Monterey Pop Festival, he had performed with Buffalo Springfield, which was going through his own kind of break up spasm.
COOPER: Right. BROWNSTEIN: And that's where he and Stephen Stills got together, and the two of them got together and then Graham Nash was dating Joni Mitchell and he shows up at their house one day and Stills and Crosby are there. They start singing together and he said he realized at that moment, he had to leave everything, his whole life in England and move to LA, both to be with Joni Mitchell, but also to hold on to that sound that he heard that day in their house in Laurel Canyon, when the three of them sang together for the first time.
COOPER: Wow, amazing. Ron Brownstein, thank you. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, breaking news on the losing New Mexico Republican candidate accused of the shootings at the homes of four prominent state Democrats. Investigators now looking into whether his campaign was funded in part by drug sales.
Also, the charges Alec Baldwin is now facing in the shooting death on the set of his movie, "Rust."
And later, what the CIA Director is telling Ukraine about what Russia could be planning on the battlefield.
COOPER: There is more breaking news tonight. Investigators who say failed New Mexico Republican State House candidate Solomon Pena hired a team of alleged accomplices to shoot up the homes of Democratic political rivals are now investigating whether his campaign was funded in part by cash from fentanyl sales that may have been laundered into campaign contributions.
CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller, former Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence in Counterterrorism at the NYPD joins us now. He shares the byline on this story.
So what have you learned about this investigation and how Pena's campaign may have been funded partially?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, yesterday CNN's Paul Murphy was digging into the campaign finance records of the Pena campaign and found, you know, found one of the suspect's names -- name of a suspect's family member, so we started digging a little more today.
COOPER: One of the suspects in the shootings.
MILLER: So what you have is at 1:38 AM, a car stop is done in Albuquerque. Inside they find Jose Trujillo, he is an individual who is known to police who has claimed to be homeless. He's got $3,000.00 in cash, almost 900 fentanyl pills worth an estimated $15,000.00 on the street, a smoking gun in the trunk of the car that is ballistically matched to the last shooting of a Democratic official, and it turns out based on our research that he is also the single largest campaign contributor to Solomon Pena's campaign for his job to attempt to be a State lawmaker.
COOPER: And was he driving Pena's car at the time?
MILLER: Yes. He is driving the would-be Representative's Nissan Maxima, which is interesting, because in one of the other shootings, the vehicle that was described as a getaway car was a black Audi, which happens to be the same color and make and model of car that is Pena's other car.
COOPER: And so do police, I mean the drugs, the fentanyl connection is because fentanyl was found with Trujillo in Pena's car, and that might explain how he is able to make these large contributions to this guy's campaign.
MILLER: So it appears that Trujillo and possibly others because he is working with this team of four people, one of them is his father, who we believe knew Pena from prison when Pena was serving time for being part of a smash and grab robbery team before he was a candidate.
COOPER: Wait a minute, sorry. Pena was part of the smash and grab robbery team, meaning they would steal cars, smash them into what like electronic --
MILLER: They would drive the car through the window of a big box store and steal flat screen TVs, high-end electronics and he ends up going to prison for that, where we believe he makes the initial contacts that allows him to put together this crew during and after the campaign to intimidate these political rivals.
But the key here is, as you were zeroing in on is none of these people seem to have any source of income, and you have Trujillo and another family member who donates $5,000.00, comes right up to the legal limit for contributions, then his relative who is also apparently without any resources, donates $4,000.00 not politically active, no sign that they've ever donated to a campaign before, and the main source of income for Trujillo and that car seems to be cash and fentanyl.
COOPER: And just to be clear, this guy is running as a Republican for the Congress, a big supporter of the former President, allegedly a law and order candidate.
MILLER: Right, he is a law and order candidate. He is a very ardent Trump supporter. He's an election denier. And of course, he carries that through in his own election. Anderson, it wasn't close. He lost by 47 points and he is saying they stole the election.
COOPER: In an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
John Miller, thank you.
Fifteen months after a tragedy struck the set of the Alec Baldwin movie, "Rust," prosecutors in New Mexico say they will charge Baldwin and the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
CNN's Josh Campbell has details.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Set in the Old West, "Rust" was filming outside of Santa Fe. Baldwin and crew members were rehearsing a scene inside a church when a prop gun in the actor's hand discharged.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:: We have two injuries from a movie gun shot.
CAMPBELL (voice over): Killing cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins and wounding director, Joel Souza.
MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This was a really fast and loose set that nobody was doing their job. There were three people that if they had done their job that day, this tragedy wouldn't have happened. And that's David Halls, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and Alec Baldwin.
CAMPBELL (voice over): Assistant Director Dave Halls who handed Baldwin the gun has already pleaded guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed served as the armorer and props assistant. Baldwin has repeatedly claimed that he pulled back the gun's hammer as far as he could without cocking the gun and released the hammer, telling CNN and others --
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Well, the trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: So you never pulled the trigger?
BALDWIN: No, no, no, no, no. I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them, never. No. That was the training that I had. You don't point a gun at somebody and pull the trigger.
CAMPBELL (voice over): District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies disagrees.
CARMACK-ALTWIES: Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they are going to handle that gun, point it at someone, and pull the trigger, that it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone. An actor doesn't get a free pass just because they're an actor.
BALDWIN: I was the one holding the gun, yes.
CAMPBELL (voice over): Safety expert, Steve Wolf has a theory as to why Baldwin says he didn't pull the trigger.
STEVE WOLF, MOVIE GUN SAFETY EXPERT: If your finger is on the trigger, and you're not aware that you're pressing it and you pull the hammer back and release it, the gun will also fire and I believe that that's why he is saying he didn't press the trigger.
CAMPBELL (voice over): Baldwin's attorney says he will find the charges calling the decision a miscarriage of justice and Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.
An attorney for Gutierrez-Reed calls the charges wrong and believes the armorer will be found not guilty by a jury and she did not commit manslaughter. She has been emotional about the tragedy, but has committed no crime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not clear to me that there's criminal liability here. I've given all the circumstances I'm not seeing that. I'm really looking forward to what they are going to prove because this is an aggressive charge and I'm not sure they have it.
COOPER: And Josh Campbell joins us now.
Josh, has the family of Halyna Hutchins responded to the announcement?
CAMPBELL: You know, her surviving family members issued quite a strong statement after these charging decisions were announced today. I'll read you that statement. They say that: "We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and the District Attorney for concluding their thorough investigation in determining that charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life."
"Our independent investigation also supports the charges are warranted. It is a comfort to the family that in New Mexico, no one is above the law. We support the charges. We will fully cooperate with the prosecution and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law."
As far as what happens next, I spoke with the District Attorney today. She said that those charges will be filed by the end of the month. Alec Baldwin will then receive a summons to come here, either in person or to appear by video conference, and then the wheels of justice will start. We'll see what additional evidence prosecutors lay out in those charging documents.
Of course, Anderson, we expect Baldwin's legal team to put up an aggressive defense.
COOPER: Josh Campbell, appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining us now CNN entertainment reporter, Chloe Melas outside Alec Baldwin's apartment here in New York; also criminal defense attorney, Mark O'Mara and veteran Hollywood prop master and Neal Zoromski who turned down a job on the set of "Rust."
Chloe, was Mr. Baldwin aware that these charges were going to be announced today.
CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: According to his attorney, Anderson, no. They felt blindsided. They learned about it in the press today, specifically, just about 15 minutes before they were contacted by the District Attorney.
They are planning to see this through trial. He is not going to take a plea deal, not that one was even offered on the table. You know, and when I sat down with Alec Baldwin back in August, he has said that this is a tragic accident and he has said, Anderson, that there was a breakdown in the chain of command on the set.
Hanna Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on the set should have known that there was a live bullet, and his big question is, how did live bullets get to the set? But what was interesting today is that the DA is basically saying that it doesn't really matter, and that we may never know how live bullets got to the set in the first place.
But he believes that that is where this all should start, and also Dave Halls, the assistant director who took the plea deal, telling him that this was a cold gun. So Alec Baldwin's attitude being you know, well, if the gun goes off, there never should have been a live round in the first place. Also Anderson, maintaining with me in August and still maintaining that he never pulled the trigger, although the DA does not believe that.
COOPER: Mark, just from a legal standpoint, can you explain -- I mean, Alec Bowen was a producer on the film, as well as an actor in it. If he wasn't a producer, I don't know -- I mean, does being the producer, does that add a level of legal responsibility potentially here?
MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I think actually, it might.
Remember that involuntary manslaughter, which is what they're charged with is not an intent crime. It is a crime of negligence. A couple of ways that you can do it in New Mexico law, one, is to commit an unlawful act like a misdemeanor, not a felony, fireworks that caused the death, that can be involuntary manslaughter.
The other way is to do a lawful act. Let's just say that using that gun in that scene was, "lawful," but doing without proper contemplation and caution, and that is where the strength of the State's case is going to go. Even though they are aggressive charges, they are going to say, look, a gun is a dangerous instrumentality. We know that and you have to presume that it is loaded and if you didn't do everything you should have done, that's not enough caution and he could find himself with a conviction of involuntary manslaughter.
COOPER: But Mark, even if you have people who are supposedly experts, the armorer on the set hand you the gun and the assistant director saying it is safe to you.
O'MARA: And that's his defense. The defense is, look, movies are artificial to begin with it. We make believe that there were, we make believe that there's gunfights, we make believe that hitting you with a knife and we are supposed to do this and I rely on professionals. That's going to be the cornerstone of their defense. But under the law, like she said, even an actor, you have to have that caution, that circumspection to make sure that you're going to have a gun in your hand, an undeniable weapon that could cause injury. You have the personal responsibility to be cautious with it, not to rely on somebody else.
COOPER: Neil, I mean, you've worked in the industry for a long time. Does it make sense to you that Gutierrez-Reed was acting as both the productions armor and prop assistant? I mean is that -- I know guess it was a kind of a lower budget film. Was she spread too thin?
NEIL W. ZOROMSKI, VETERAN PROP MASTER: She should have never accepted the responsibility and the production should have provided the salaries for appropriate number of personnel in the department. That's what I would respond to that.
COOPER: Ultimately, where do you think the blame in this tragedy lies?
ZOROMSKI: I would say anyone who participated in the management of the weapon. So, a lot of that has to do with the culture that was established by the producers. And their failure, they had the option and opportunity to hire well-seasoned trained professionals to do this work and they opted to make other situations. And that was really the beginning of the end for things on Rust.
COOPER: Neil Zoromski, Mark O'Mara, Chloe Melas, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Just ahead, we're going to discuss why the White House sent one of the nation's top intelligence officials to Ukraine as fears of a major Russian spring offensive mount.
COOPER: There's breaking news in the war in Ukraine, with Ukraine and western allies bracing for possible brutal spring offensive from Russia. CNN has learned that CIA director Bill Burns traveled to Kyiv last week, he met with Ukraine's president to discuss U.S. expectations for Russia's battlefield planning in the spring. That is, according to U.S. official and two Ukrainian sources. According to the Washington Post, which first broke the story, both sides discuss strategy and concerns for how long the U.S. electorate would support the war.
The meeting comes at a critical moment obviously for the alliance in addition to a possible spring offensive, Ukraine's Western allies or a standoff over whether to send Ukraine German tanks. Germany has demanded that the U.S. send its Abrams M1 tanks as well. The Pentagon today says it doesn't make sense to send U.S. tanks quote, at this moment. Officials say the Abrams tanks cost more to maintain, specifically, they cite the Abrams use of jet fuel versus diesel in the German tanks. Plus, they say the German tanks can cover more ground before needing to refuel. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Germany today for face-to-face negotiations.
I'm joined now by CNN national security analyst, Steve Hall, former CIA chief of Russia operations, and John Hudson, national security reporter for the Washington Post, which first broke the story about the CIA director's visit.
John, what have you learned, first of all, about the CIA director's trip?
JOHN HUDSON, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, well, Ukrainian officials came away very pleased after hearing from the -- through the Director, I'm told by people familiar with the meeting. They had concerns of their own, one of the things that they mentioned in this discussion was how long can we rely on U.S. support? There's been billions and billions of dollars we're coming up on a year. How strong is it? And obviously, first and foremost on their mind was the GOP takeover of the House. The Director reiterated the Biden administration's ironclad support for Ukraine in this discussion. However, it's not all up to the Biden administration. Congress has an important role. The GOP has some far-right members who are very much opposed to aid to Ukraine, and so that's going to be a big thing to deal with.
Also in this briefing, the Director shared the latest U.S. intelligence on Russian military planning. Obviously, it's a critical juncture right now. There's a huge war of attrition between the Russians and the Ukrainians forced to make very difficult decisions right now, are they going to expend a lot of resources on the war of attrition in the east, or are they going to save up a lot of those resources for the coming offensive in early spring?
COOPER: And, Steve, how big of a deal is it for a CIA director to go himself to Ukraine? What does that say to you?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, in this particular case, there's no doubt that Burns is the guy to send. He's got the gravitas. He's a Russia hand. He served multiple times in Russia as a State Department officer to include once as the ambassador. So, he's seen the diplomacy side of it. Now that he's on the intel side, he sees some of the real politics stuff. Remember, as the article points out correctly, Burns was the guy who was trying to convince Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians at the very beginning based on intelligence that, look, the Russians are indeed going to attack. But what you were alluding to there for a second agonis is the important part. The Ukrainians are in a really difficult position. They need to know how best to use their limited resources, and that's when strategic intelligence is at its strongest. And I'm sure that played a key role in getting him over there to talk to the President.
COOPER: Steve, I mean it's such an important point given the limited resources that Ukraine has, despite all the money, obviously, and weaponry that's been given from the U.S. and from the west. I mean it is, these are life or death decisions they have to make about, do you focus on what's going on in the east? Do you pull back and allow other, you know, take a hit and allow towns to be taken back into Russian control and marshall (ph) your resources for perhaps becoming offensive? It's critical that they know what Russia's plans are.
HALL: The best example of that Anderson, I think, is, you know, what's going on in Belarus, because we've seen some saber rattling, we've seen some training. The Russian troops, they've been on bail Russian territory, you know, multiple times now. So, the question is, are the Russians going to open up a front from there? That's something that strategic intelligence can really help with, because if there is good intelligence that says, no, that's all just a faint to tie down resources, then of course those Ukrainian resources don't have to be tied down and be used in other locations. That's really the value of strategic intelligence, which is why not just the United States, but other NATO intelligence services can help the Ukrainians leverage whatever power, whatever forces, whatever assistance they're being given by the west to maximum effect against the Russians.
COOPER: And John, I assume you don't know specifically what Burns, what message he delivered about Russia's plans are, but do you have any indication of how what the track record of the U.S. explanation of Russia's plans have been to Ukraine and how accurate they have been? I mean is there a reason to believe that the U.S. would know what Russia's plans are coming up?
HUDSON: Well, from people that know about this meeting, I was told this is one of the reasons why they take very seriously what the Director has to say. In terms of your question on track record, Burns himself traveled personally to Ukraine a month before the war started, and he told them where specifically the Russians wanted to stage their capture of the capital of Kyiv. It was at an airport outside of the country. That information has been credited by some people as helping the Ukrainians get a heads up of where they needed to put troops and how they needed to defend themselves. And that's why Kyiv remains a free city right now, according to some.
So, you know, they do have a strong track record. Obviously, there has been some frustration over the last year. U.S. officials want to know more about Ukraine's planning. Sometimes they feel like it's a black box, sometimes they feel like they don't know that much about what's going on. These trips help to really lubricate that relationship, keeping both all sides closer together, building trust. That's what I've told was an extra benefit of this trip.
COOPER: Yes, that's really interesting. John Hudson, I really appreciate it. Steve Hall as well, thank you.
Just ahead, immigration records that undermine a claim central to the myth of George Santos and the death of his mom, ahead.
COOPER: It's difficult to imagine how any politician not named George Santos would have survived the last 24 hours with his job. In that time, we've learned the following that like so many of the Congressman's claims, his story that his mom was at the World Trade Center and survived 9/11 and that the incident played a role in her death from cancer was false. He made it up. This is what he said more than a year ago.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): My mom was a 9/11 survivor. She was in the South Tower and she made it out. She got caught up in the ash cloud.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: That did not happen. We know that because immigration records for Santos's mother, newly obtained by CNN, indicate she was in Brazil between 1999 and 2003, during 9/11, meaning she was not at the World Trade Center, nor could she have inhaled the ash cloud produced that day. What's more, on those records, she lists both of her parents as being born in Brazil, which would undercut another Santos claim that his maternal grandparents fled the Holocaust. Now, OK, that is awful enough. It gets worse. There's also a new allegation that he took off with money raised to save the dog of a veteran who was homeless at the time.
And Santos isn't exactly denying the charge either. In a tweet today, he said the reports of this allegation are, quote, shocking and insane, but he doesn't specifically deny them. The veteran Rich Osthoff and his mentor say that they knew Santos by the name Anthony Devolder and that Santos has set up a GoFundMe site for his Pitbull Sapphire, who had developed a tumor. He says $3,000 was raised. They never saw it. Osthoff said that after a series of back-and-forth text messages which were provided to CNN, Santos, quote, blew up and refused to give me the money and then just wouldn't answer the calls anymore. The dog died months later. Santos told CNN in a statement, quote, I have no clue what he's talking about.
So, we want to spend some time on Santos 9/11 claims with John Feal, 9/11 first responder at the World Trade Center, whose FealGood Foundation assist emergency personnel who have faced injury and illness. Also, Nykiah Morgan, whose mom died on 9/11, whose remains were not identified until 20 years later.
John, let me start with you, what is your reaction to Santos lying about 9/11?
JOHN FEAL, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: Well, I mean, we got a lot to unpack here, right? I mean, he's the forest gump of common. I mean, the Holocaust, Pulse nightclub, veterans dogs, 9/11, there's nothing sacred to this man. And for every organization, every group, every background that he's hurt, he did it maliciously, for self-gain, and it's repugnant. It's repulsive. It's vile. And this doesn't end well for him.
COOPER: It wasn't just lying to just be a fabulous, it was lying to develop help your political career or lying to make money allegedly from a GoFundMe page. FEAL: Yes. To capitalize on other people's pain, whether it's for
political gain or financial gain, to continue this throughout his adult life. Listen, I know this is a cable show, but I can get colorful, but I do not want to start using four letter words about this man. And I'm disgusted. And, you know, I probably had about three or 400 text message and e-mails today. Most of them were from widows. And one thing I learned about 18 years ago in the 9/11 community, you don't tick off a 9/11 widow. And these women who are generally peaceful, they want blood, and then we want to be left alone. We're a finite number in the 9/11 community. We're getting smaller. We lose somebody on average every day, and we're disrespected.
And I pray that leadership, that Kevin McCarthy finds that last ounce of dignity and does the right thing. And I don't think that will happen. I just been going to D.C. for the last 18, 19 years, and this is the Republican Party. And I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat. This is about an evil man who maliciously lied, cheated, conned, and didn't care the trail that he left behind. And to me, that's it's unamerican, it's unpatriotic. And for him to be so smug and so arrogant and say he has not once exonerated himself, all he says is that this isn't true, this isn't -- let me tell you something, he's not built for prison, and that's where he's going. And his nickname will be put in.
COOPER: Nykiah, the last time you and I spoke, your mom's had just been found.
NYKIAH MORGAN, DAUGHTER OF 9/11 VICTIM, MOM IDENTIFIED 20 YEARS LATER: Yes.
COOPER: That after 20 years, which is extraordinary. And first of all, how are you doing?
MORGAN: I'm doing OK. A lot better as days go by until something like this takes place and it just brings the outrage out all over again in a different way. Because you're saddened by the fact, but then you're disgusted that someone takes this as losing my mother to say that your mother was there, it's hurtful. And to use that, it's just disgusting.
COOPER: Does it surprise you that he's still in Congress?
MORGAN: Oh, yes, definitely, definitely. He should be gone. There's no reason why he is there on everything, all the lies it's just absolutely ridiculous. And then to use something like that impacted the world. And to say, what your mom that just --
COOPER: And am I right in that he's actually your congressman?
COOPER: You live in his district?
MORGAN: Third district, yes, third district.
COOPER: Did you know, like, when he was running? I mean, did anything about it stand out to me?
MORGAN: It did not, unfortunately. Unfortunately, really didn't. And I have to hold myself responsible for that. But not looking into it myself as you know, just to.
COOPER: Look, we're all -- I mean, I didn't know about it.
COOPER: But we all --
MORGAN: Right. But just to use that as just repulsive. It's --
FEAL: You guys vetted me harder today to come on your show with a pre interview to do the interview than George Santos was vetted. Come on.
COOPER: Yes. No, it's a failure on so many levels. I mean, it's unbelievable.
FEAL: And she's one of over 3,000 who lost her loved one that day that wound is opened over and over again. And every time you think that scab is going to heal, this man, his face, his words, his actions caused this woman more pain. That's unacceptable.
MORGAN: And this is our congressman. It's just ridiculous. There's no other way to describe that just being disgusting.
COOPER: John, did you ever think that we would be at a place where in this day and age that a sitting member of Congress can lie about a personal connection to 9/11? And it not be an instant, just (INAUDIBLE) of people saying, OK, enough.
FEAL: Let me age myself here because when I first started going to D.C. there were blue dog Democrats, moderate Republicans, connotations. Now they're just bat blank crazy. And --
FEAL: And we are at bat blank crazy right now. And he is an example of what's wrong with Congress. And he's an example which working its way out to mainstream America. We got to stop it, stop the bleeding now. Kevin McCarthy can easily fix this. He can fix this. And Kevin, if you're watching and if you're listening, be a man. Man up. Show the leadership that you were voted in for and do the right thing. This man is leaving a trail of pain behind him and nobody's doing anything about it.
COOPER: John Feal, Nykiah Morgan, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Yes, so good to see you.
FEAL: Thank you (INAUDIBLE) --
COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) John.
A new front in the governor of Florida's culture war, but a familiar subject Ron DeSantis, targeting studies against again that deal with race. Now his administration is failing to adequately explain why. We'll talk about this when we return.
COOPER: Republican governor of Florida making news today, Ron DeSantis' administration is blocking a new Advanced Placement, or AP course on African-American studies in high schools. With the State Department of Education wrote in a letter to the College Board which administers AP exams, quote, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law, and significantly lacks educational value. No mention in the letter of what law would be violated by the course or what in the curriculum was objectionable. But a DeSantis spokesman tells CNN the course, quote excuse me, leaves large, ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material which we will not allow.
Joining me now our two CNN political commentators, Bakari Sellers, former state representative in South Carolina, hosts of the Bakari Sellers podcast, also former Trump campaign advisor and now supporter of Ron DeSantis. David Urban.
Bakari, what does it say to you that the administration is specifically, excuse me, I'm coughing doesn't identify what part of the course they objected? We're talking about an AP African-American studies course.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Anderson, I actually think they said all they needed to say, and they said this African- American Studies course doesn't have any value. You know, I've been speaking to my friends about this via text, et cetera, and one of them just recently texted me that they're trying to erase our history, and that's exactly what they're trying to do. I mean, this is anti- intellectualism. This is anti-black racism. This is systemic -- when we talk about systemic racism, this is exactly what we're talking about. It's the way by which we go about ensuring that people cannot learn about the plight and burdens that African-Americans in this country went through and go through today.
I don't know what voids Ron DeSantis is talking about. I haven't seen the curriculum, but I'm actually an African-American Studies major. I'm actually the son of someone who was a director of an African- American Studies program at the University of South Carolina, who, oh, by the way, was a member of Snick and happened to be shot in the civil rights movement.
And so, I just think it's a damn shame what Ron DeSantis is doing, but nobody's going to stop him because they are afraid of what may be next for Mr. DeSantis.
COOPER: David obviously, there was a lot of talk about critical race theory, and that was a focus of a target among in a lot of states by Republicans. This is African-American studies, which is different.