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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Blinken Postpones China Trip Over "Irresponsible" Chinese Actions; Rep. Schakowsky: "We Have Seen The Anti-Semitism From The Other Side Of The Aisle"; Mafia Boss Undercover As Pizza Maker Captured After 16 Years On The Lam. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 03, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Our Breaking News, tonight, two suspected Chinese spy balloons, over the Americas, late tonight. The Pentagon said a second one is crossing Latin America, right now, in addition to the one being tracked over the United States.

Also, late tonight, Defense official told us that U.S. Northern Command is now coordinating with NASA to determine what the debris field would look like, what it would be, if the balloon were actually to be shot down.

In a moment, we'll talk to a former top China analyst, at the CIA, on just what he thinks this may add up to.

But first, CNN's Oren Liebermann.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea what this thing is.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Chinese spy balloon, drifting across the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the heck is that?

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Pentagon calls it an unacceptable violation of U.S. airspace, and international law.

BRIG. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We know this is a Chinese balloon, and that it has the ability, to maneuver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's definitely moving.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The balloon is headed east, at 60,000 feet, and will be over the U.S., for several more days, the Pentagon says, though officials not confirming its location.

RYDER: Public certainly has the ability to look up in the sky, and see where the balloon is. LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The balloon has made its way, from where it was first spotted, in Montana, on Wednesday, down through the middle of the country, and to sightings, in Missouri, a slow almost scenic route, across the heart of America. With current jet stream conditions, the balloon could continue eastward, along roughly this trajectory, in the coming days.


In a rare Friday night statement, China apologized, saying it was an off course weather balloon.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, "It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course."

It's an explanation that former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, finds compelling.

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think the Chinese would expend the political capital, here, for an Intelligence purpose, in the face of and, in contrast to their very capable overhead reconnaissance satellite program, which gives them all the Intelligence that they need.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): But we've heard the science excuse before, from Beijing. When China tested a hypersonic missile that went around the world, in 2021, they claimed it was a routine spacecraft experiment.

JAMES ANDREW LEWIS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: They have a massive espionage campaign. This is like TikTok. Does anybody trust China? Of course not, and for good reason. No one trusts China.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): China has spy satellites. But one thing they can't do is loiter, over one area, like a balloon, key difference here.

Pentagon says it'll continuously track the balloon, as it makes its way, across America.

The U.S. response, so far, on the diplomatic front, with Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, delaying his high-stakes visit, to Beijing.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We concluded that conditions were not conducive, for a constructive visit, at this time.

PRC's decision to take this action, on the eve of my planned visit, is detrimental, to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have.


LIEBERMANN: For now, the Pentagon says they don't have the plan to shoot this down, partially because of the risk to people and property below. If you shoot this, at 60,000 feet, something the size of three school buses could create quite a large debris field. So, there is that risk.

But they are continuously tracking its movement. And if they decide that the surveillance risk, of this continuing to pass over the U.S., increases, they do retain the military option.


COOPER: Oren Liebermann, thanks very much.

More now, on the diplomatic show that deepened today with China, and what the Pentagon plans do next, CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us with that.

So, Blinken delayed the trip. What else did he say about this?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, the Secretary of State, I mean, in Oren's piece, you heard it right there, he was very clear, in saying that he believes that this was deliberate, on behalf of China. He said this was action that they chose to take, ahead of his visit.

And what that means is that the United States doesn't at all, buy the argument that -- by China that this was accidental, that this came into the United States, it went off course, and came over U.S. territorial airspace. They believe that China was doing this sort of provocatively. And so, he took down the trip, calling what they were doing, unacceptable.

Just listen to what he said.


BLINKEN: China's decision, to fly a surveillance balloon, over the continental United States, is both unacceptable and irresponsible. That's what this is about. It's a violation of our sovereignty. It's a violation of international law.


ATWOOD: And what he also said is that he wants to make this trip, to Beijing. They plan to reschedule it. But what he didn't say is what conditions have to be met, in order for that to happen. And State Department officials said they want to go ahead with it.

But, right now, what the U.S. government is really focused on, and the Secretary said that today, is making sure that this balloon, gets out of U.S. airspace, and then, of course, we can turn back to what the diplomatic conversations look like. But this is not a good time for this to be happening.

COOPER: Is it clear to you that the U.S. wants to let it leave U.S. airspace and just disappear? Or do they -- I mean, we talked to some people, in the last hour, who said the U.S. should not let this get away. It should be studied, at the very least.

ATWOOD: A lot of different opinions, on this, right now, and some very ardent ones. But what U.S. officials are looking at is the reward and risk assessment, right? Because if they shoot it down, it could be rewarding, in some senses, to make sure that China doesn't get this Intelligence--

COOPER: Right.

ATWOOD: --that this spy balloon was collecting, you know, traveling from Montana, to the eastern coast of the United States.

But there's also a risk there. I mean, you heard Oren talking about it earlier. You shoot something down, that's as big as three buses?


ATWOOD: And that could harm hundreds of Americans, the Pentagon said, today.


ATWOOD: So, we know that these discussions are still ongoing. They haven't decided if they're going to shoot it down. They've decided against it, thus far. But it is still an option, on the table.

COOPER: Kylie Atwood, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Joining us now, Dennis Wilder, formerly the CIA's top China analyst, currently a professor, at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; also CNN Military Analyst, retired Army four-star general, and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Wesley Clark.

Professor Wilder, just first of all, what do you make of this new reporting, of a second spy balloon, floating over Latin America? Does it undercut China's claim that the first aircraft was just a weather balloon that regretfully entered U.S. airspace?



The first balloon was unprecedented. We've never seen anything, like this, before, China sailing something, over the United States, a spy mission, like this, over the continental United States. But to have two of them, at the same time, when we've never seen anything like this, in our hemisphere, really leads me to believe that this was very much a planned operation.

Now, the question is who planned it in China? And I am of the opinion that there's a case to be made that this is a Chinese military operation that may not have been very well coordinated with civilian leadership. COOPER: Is that possible? I mean, I know there have been cases in the past, of the PLA, the People's Liberation Army, doing something that wasn't necessarily sanctioned, higher. Is that -- you think that's what's happened?

WILDER: I think there is. I've been watching the PLA, for 36 years. And I've seen this happen before, where they want to do something. They're a very stovepipe system in China.

The Chinese military is as hardline as anybody, in China, on the United States. They have very much disliked our reconnaissance missions, near their coastline. They've been irritated by those. I think this may be a sense of PLA payback--

COOPER: General?

WILDER: --for what we've been doing.

COOPER: It's interesting.

General Clark, I mean, the balloon was first seen floating, over Montana. Obviously, the State was home to part of the Nuclear Triad. It was also purportedly seen near Whiteman Air Force Base, in Missouri, home of the Air Force, Stealth Bomber fleet.

What do you think the value of the Military Intelligence, China could be gaining, from this balloon is, compared especially to what it could be gaining from spy satellites?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, SENIOR FELLOW, UCLA BURKLE CENTER: Sure. They can gain photographic imagery. But they can also gain electronic emissions. And this could be more important.

The spy satellites that are orbiting, even in elliptical orbits are they're there, and they're gone. This balloon is loitering. So, we don't know exactly what emissions they're collecting.

But presumably, they're collecting all kinds of microwave, other electronic emissions. They're looking for radiation signatures, on the ground. There's a variety of things, they could pick up, Anderson.

COOPER: Professor Wilder, I mean, how serious do you think this is?

WILDER: I think it's very serious, if we have a situation, where the Chinese military, is doing things, on their own, and people, like the Chinese Foreign Ministry, have no idea what's happening. China needs to get ahold of its own system.

I also think that before the Secretary reschedules his visit, to Beijing, we need to lay down some markers, and have some assurances, from the Chinese that this kind of thing isn't going to happen again.

COOPER: So, Professor, you don't buy that this is a provocative act, by the Chinese government, in order to, I don't know, what, embarrass the U.S.? WILDER: Right.

COOPER: Or something like that?

WILDER: No, Anderson, I don't. And I'll tell you why. The fact that the, Chinese government came out very quickly, and apologized for this? That doesn't make sense in the context of if they were trying to send a big signal, to the United States.

It's clear that Xi Jinping really wanted the visit of Secretary Blinken. He is on a charm offensive, right now, with the world, trying to say that China has reopened for business. He wants American businessmen, back in China, not diverting their supply chains away, from China, while China's economy tries to get back on its feet. So, there were all kinds of reasons why Xi Jinping wanted this visit.

COOPER: Interesting.

WILDER: And the fact that China moved very quickly to apologize, which is extraordinary? China doesn't apologize. That's just not in their DNA.

COOPER: General Clark, what do you think about that?

CLARK: I think it's possible, what the Professor says.

But I will tell you, from my personal experience, Anderson, when we were undergoing the crisis, in Kosovo, and I was a NATO commander, and the Russians were trying to infiltrate forces, and take the airbase? The Russian Foreign Ministry apologized. They had no idea what was going on. But it was a planned operation.

So, it's very possible that the Chinese Foreign Ministry is sincerely apologizing. It's also very possible that they're simply not in the loop, on what's actually going on, and why.

COOPER: General Clark, do you think it should be shot down? Or somehow collected?

CLARK: I do. I think we -- I think we need to take it down.

Now, how we do it, and where we do it? That's a military decision. People are looking at it. If it were up to me, I'd be taking it down, over the -- when it clears there the coastline. And I'd use Navy assets, though I think they could do it better and more safely.

But Anderson, you've got something up here that if it's as big as we think it is? This thing weighs several tons. It's got a heck of a payload. And there's no telling what's inside of it. So, we'd like to see what's there.


COOPER: Professional Wilder, I mean, is -- do you think -- Professor, do you think there's a lot of value in whatever is in that payload, of getting access to it? WILDER: I think it'd be very interesting. I also think that if we see the payload, we, of course, will know, immediately, whether or not it is a spy satellite, and we'll be able to take that evidence, back to the Chinese government. And, again, extract some conditions, and promises on them. So, I actually think it's important to get that payload.

COOPER: Interesting. Professor Wilder, really fascinating, thank you.

And General Clark, always, thank you very much.

WILDER: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, what Republicans may do next, now that they control the House.

We'll hear from a Jewish Democratic congresswoman, who spoke out against removing Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, from the Foreign Relations Committee, for anti-Semitic comments.

Also, conservative lawyer, George Conway, joins us.

And later, the new effort, to, address the enormous problem, of homelessness, in the City of Los Angeles, where the size and scope of it, has been growing, for years.


COOPER: Last night, on the program, Democratic congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, spoke out against the Republican-led vote, to remove Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The stated reason, past anti-Semitic comments.

Now, in a moment, Illinois congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky, one of the Jewish members of Congress, who spoke out, for Congresswoman Omar, yesterday.

But first, some of what she said on the floor.



REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL): I don't need any of you to defend me against anti-Semitism.

My friend, Ilhan Omar, we have worked together, to the values that I treasure, as an American Jew, and that she treasures, as an American member of the -- Islamic woman, the only one, on the Foreign Affairs Committee. That is the third largest religion in the world, and we -- in the United States of America.

I am just furious. We have seen all kinds of anti-Semitism, from the other side of the aisle.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: That's Congresswoman Schakowsky, yesterday.

I spoke to her, earlier tonight.


COOPER: Congresswoman, appreciate you joining us.

Speaker McCarthy said that the removal, of Representative Omar, from the Foreign Affairs Committee was not a tit for tat, because Republicans had removed her from only one committee, while Democrats removed Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, from all committees.

Is that a fair comparison?

SCHAKOWSKY: First of all, thank you so much for having me.

It's just ridiculous. Marjorie Taylor Greene was so -- the hypocrisy is just overwhelming. I mean, this is a person, who had advocated violence, was talking about Jewish space lasers that were causing fires in California. And the vote to take her off her committees was bipartisan as well.

So, I don't know what the Speaker now is talking about. The hypocrisy is just overwhelming.

COOPER: Have you received any feedback, from constituents, about your support, for Representative Omar?

SCHAKOWSKY: Oh, lots of -- lots of feedback. About a million people, now, have seen what I've said, on the floor, of the House. And I would say the vast majority has been popular.

People have agreed with me. They think it is wrong, for this woman, Ilhan Omar, to be removed from her committee, especially after we have seen the anti-Semitism from the other side of the aisle.

And now, they're saying that she is not worthy of serving on the Foreign Affairs committee, the only Muslim person, on that committee, the only Muslim woman, of course, on that committee, for the last two years, without any problems.

COOPER: So, a couple of House Republicans have said that the move was made not because of her race or religion, but because of solely her past anti-Semitic comments. They point to Congressman Schiff and Swalwell, were also removed, from committees.

Do you believe them that race and religion did not play a role here?

SCHAKOWSKY: Oh, I don't think there's any question that a woman of color, a Muslim woman, that they don't want her on the committee.

And the accusation of being anti-Semitic? After we have seen, certainly, former President Trump, talking about how fine people, on both sides, were in the anti-Semitic rally, where a woman was killed? When we have seen several members, including the current whip, the new current whip of the House, Congressman Emmer, saying that Jews have paid for elections? And even Kevin McCarthy himself, who said that he thought that rich Jews were really buying the Congress?

COOPER: I mean is this a sign of what is to come, over these next two years? Is this what -- I mean, is this just the beginning for you?

SCHAKOWSKY: Oh, I don't think there's any question that this Republican majority wants to find the games that they can play that are going to try, and put Democrats, in a bad position.

But I think most people see that this is really fake and phony, and that what we have seen over and over, from the Republicans, advocating, for violence, advocating for insurrection.

And now they're going to blame this woman, who apologized, unlike any of them ever apologizing, for anti-Semitic remarks, to take her off her committee, where she has served well, for two terms in Congress.

COOPER: Congresswoman Schakowsky, thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you so much.


COOPER: Perspective now, on what Republicans have done, with their House majority, so far, and what that suggests, the next two years, might look like.

We're joined now by conservative lawyer, and Washington Post contributing columnist, George Conway.

So, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, last night, on our air that Omar was being removed, out of revenge, by Kevin McCarthy. A lot of Republicans pushed back on that today.

Do you think that's the case?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER, WASHINGTON POST CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST: Well, it certainly seems that way. I mean, because it's, they're certainly not applying a neutral standard, here.


I mean, as the Congresswoman pointed out, we have Marjorie Taylor Greene, who talked about Jewish space lasers, starting wildfires, in the west, and she once analogized COVID measures to the Holocaust, I mean? I mean, that -- and she's -- this woman, Greene, is on the Homeland Security Committee, and she believes that -- she once asserted that 9/11 was a setup!

COOPER: Right, the Pentagon didn't have it.

CONWAY: Yes, Pentagon, right, exactly. I mean, the notion that, I mean, that she should be sitting on committees, and indeed, one of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives, today, and that Omar should be removed is it's just absurd.

And now, I'm not defending Omar, and some of the things that she said in the past.


CONWAY: I mean, they're not -- they were not great things. And she did apologize, for them. But still, they weren't great things.

But you just, the -- the last people to be throwing people off committees, for saying things, are the Republicans, at this point.

COOPER: And yet, McCarthy was able to get even pretty moderate members, of his party, to go along on this. What does that tell you about what the next two years?

CONWAY: Well, I think, because I think the problem is they can't really legislate. They don't really have a legislative program. I don't think -- I think they're just -- this is all performative, and--

COOPER: And that's what it's going to be?

CONWAY: And that's what we're going to see for the next two years.

COOPER: Right.

CONWAY: Because they really don't have anything constructive to do. They're talking about, you know, they like to talk about they had some vote today about whether you support socialism. Well, it's like, "OK, nobody supports socialism." I mean, what's the point to that?

And they're talking about the budget, and, spending, a little. Well, a quarter of the federal debt was run up, during the Trump administration. They didn't say much then.

COOPER: They didn't talk about it then, yes.

CONWAY: So, it's just it's all just performative. And it's sad.

COOPER: The George Santos thing?

CONWAY: Obviously (ph).

COOPER: I mean it's kind of a sideshow and craziness. But it also speaks to McCarthy's need to, you know?


COOPER: Keep as much support as he can?

CONWAY: Yes. I mean, they got him somehow to quit some of these committees.

COOPER: Right.

CONWAY: But the fact of the matter is, I mean, this is a man, who got his office, and gained his office, through basically fraud. He pretended to be someone, who he wasn't. And the notion that he was seated at all, and that he was cultivated, so that McCarthy could get the Speakership, is just an embarrassment!


The kicking of Swalwell off, the kicking of Schiff off, I mean, the argument that Kevin McCarthy was making was that integrity matters. And yet, I mean, it's again, goes to your point about Marjorie Taylor Greene.

CONWAY: Integrity, I mean, and Swalwell, there's never been an accusation that he -- of wrongdoing, in connection with what they're talking about.

And Schiff, I mean, the real, the beef against Schiff was that he ran the impeachment, the first impeachment.


CONWAY: And he was a patriot, in doing that.

And here we have McCarthy, talking about honesty, when he's lied about what he said, to his own caucus, about January 6th, and has been, I mean, completely deceptive about what happened that day, it's just--

COOPER: So, nothing gets done -- so nothing gets done--

CONWAY: Right.

COOPER: --over the next two years? I mean, it's going to be this performative theater?

CONWAY: It certainly seems that way!

COOPER: George Conway, appreciate it, thank you.


COOPER: Coming up, while Americans watch the sky tonight, with the Chinese spy balloon, still over U.S. soil, there's security concern much closer to our homes.

Former FBI insider, John Miller, investigates the surge in attacks, on the nation's power grids, a former federal official sharing how white supremacist groups are among those, trying to spread the life- threatening violence, next.



COOPER: We reported, early on, the millions of Americans coping with extreme cold, tonight. But that is not the only extreme risk that the nation's electricity providers have to worry about. Our Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst, John Miller, investigates the growing number of attacks, on America's power grid. They're disturbingly easy to carry out. And stopping them is difficult.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, about 8:45, about 20 shots fired off, right across the street.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, FORMER NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTELLIGENCE & COUNTERTERRORISM (voice-over): December 3rd, someone shot at two power substations, in Moore County, North Carolina. Tens of thousands of homes, and businesses, were left in the dark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got no way to heat because we don't have a fireplace.

MILLER (voice-over): It took days, to get the lights back on.

And so far, no arrests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The power system is inherently very vulnerable. And it may not take all that high tech an approach to cause physical disruption that could have very large consequences.

MILLER (voice-over): 163 reports of suspicious activity, vandalism, sabotage, and physical attacks, on power facilities, reported, across the country, last year.

BRIAN HARRELL, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INFRASTRUCTURE PROTECTION: This is not the boogeyman. A number of individuals, and extremist groups, online, right now, have already signaled that this is a part of their playbook.

MILLER (voice-over): This is one of those playbooks, with a swastika on the cover.

"The main thing that keeps the anti-White system going is the powergrid," the document reads. "This is something that is easier than you think. Peppered all over the country are power distribution substations... Sitting ducks, worthy prey."

It's part of a white power philosophy called "Accelerationism," which wants to destroy society, and replace it as they see fit.

"With the power off, when the lights don't come back on... all hell will break lose, [sic] making conditions desirable for our race to once again take back what is ours," they write.

DVEs, which, stands for Domestic Violent Extremists, dream of striking the right spots, which government reports say, could cause a domino effect, and blackout huge parts of the country.

HARRELL: If you were to target, you know, eight or nine very key nodes, throughout the United States, you potentially could have a collapsing effect.

MILLER (voice-over): Cross-country power lines and substations are usually in out-of-the-way places that are hard to protect.


And experts say, to keep the lights on, the grid needs to be more resilient, to attacks. Key equipment needs to be better-protected, and utilities need to be better-prepared to fix damaged equipment.

But that's not easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's inherently very difficult to harden or protect at all. No one, at the moment, has authority to deal, with the entire system. And we need to get that situation fixed.

MILLER (voice-over): The responsibility is spread, between federal authorities, who regulate interstate lines, states and power companies.

AMANDA CLARK (ph), LEFT WITHOUT POWER AFTER SUBSTATIONS WERE ATTACKED: We woke up at 5:30, and the power was out.

MILLER (voice-over): Amanda Clark (ph) found out how real the threat was Christmas morning.

CLARK (ph): We had prime rib, and ham and baked potatoes. You know, we had 12 people come in for dinner.

MILLER (voice-over): Police say these two men broke into four substations, near her home, outside Seattle, cutting fences, and leaving this fire burning, to cause a blackout that would not just kill the lights, but also a burglar alarm, so they could empty the cash register, at a local business.

But so many other attacks on power stations remain unsolved. And power infrastructure remains in the crosshairs of domestic extremists.

HARRELL: There's no doubt in my mind that 2023, this year that we're in, right now, is probably going to be the most catastrophic, when it comes to the uptick, of DVE attacks, on electricity infrastructure.


COOPER: And John Miller joins us again.

Any idea how many of these groups exist, I mean, in targeting these things?

MILLER: Well, a growing number. I mean, there are the core groups. There's the Firecreek (ph) Division, the Atomwaffen Division, these things that have these German adaptations that are molded, in the Nazi theory. There's groups with more generic names like "The Base." But they all adhere to the same idea, which is white supremacy, neo-Nazi theory, collapse society through chaos--

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: --form a new government, restore white power. And the grid has become their obsession.

COOPER: And yet -- so, what's the benefit of having some blackouts? I mean, that's the beginning of the--

MILLER: So, the--

COOPER: --the white power revolution or something?

MILLER: This is, I mean, this really goes back to Charlie Manson, right? There's going to be chaos.

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: And the race war will start.

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: And they have kind of adopted that, to, if we can cause circumstances that will bring mayhem?


MILLER: People will fight in the streets, they'll lose confidence, in there.


MILLER: And they're survivalists. So, they've got their weapons. They've got their rations. They've got their water.


MILLER: So, they are looking at the grid as kind of the soft underbelly of causing chaos.

COOPER: Yes. John Miller, appreciate it. Thank you.

Just ahead, an in-depth look at, Los Angeles Mayor, Karen Bass' efforts, to get homeless people, and families, off the streets, and into housing, ahead.



COOPER: Want to spend some time, now, revisiting a story, we've been focusing on, recently.

Cities' attempts to curb rising homeless populations, or, in the case of one San Francisco shop owner, we reported on, who was arrested last month, after video showed him spraying water, on a homeless person, what happens when residents feel the problem has been literally dropped on their doorstep. In Los Angeles, the newly-elected mayor, Karen Bass, made a campaign promise, to solve homelessness, in her words.

She's recently led an effort, to clear away tent encampments, on city streets, part of her program called "Inside Safe." The homeless are then housed in motels. The City just recently received a $60 million federal grant, to help those, who are homeless.

But the cost of dealing with the problem is huge. And there are questions about how many motel beds, and suitable housing, is actually available, in a city, where thousands of people live on the streets.

CNN's Nick Watt has more.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly 30,000 people live, on the streets of Los Angeles, more than any other city, in America.

Among them, Halima Fielding.

HALIMA FIELDING, UNHOUSED ANGELENO: I've been raped a couple times, out here. I've had a gun pointed to me. I've had a knife pointed to me. I've been vandalized.

WATT (voice-over): This is bad for the unhoused, and for the housed, who live amongst it.

CHRISTINA T., VENICE RESIDENT: I'm a caretaker for my mom, and we -- we were locked inside.

WATT (voice-over): L.A.'s new mayor, Karen Bass, day one, on the job, declared this, a state of emergency. She has a plan.

Tear down the tents.

Move the people into motels, for an indefinite stay, provide them services, and eventually permanent housing.

Within two weeks, of Bass taking office, these notorious Venice streets were cleared.

WATT (voice-over): Before.


WATT (voice-over): After.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Much safer today, much safer. I was thrilled.

WATT (on camera): The fact that these encampments, we've started, so soon, after you took office, makes me concerned that perhaps the back- end, and the actual permanent housing, hasn't quite been thought through. So, you're getting people off the street, because it looks good.

MAYOR KAREN BASS, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: But you know what, though? I'm going to tell you something. I'm not going to leave people on the street, while we're building.

WATT (on camera): OK.

BASS: We have got to get -- people die on these streets.

NOAH, UNHOUSED ANGELENO: It psychologically damages you.

WATT (on camera): How long were you on the streets?

NOAH: I've never really had my own place.

WATT (voice-over): Now, Noah has a motel room, after decades, in prisons, and on the streets.

WATT (on camera): Do you have any kind of timeframe, as to when you might move in some place permanent?

NOAH: It should be soon. I'm waiting on documentation. A guy was supposed to bring back my actual ID.

WATT (voice-over): It's a complicated process.

Robert and Iyana (ph) Lyons were also moved, from a Venice sidewalk, into a motel.

ROBERT LYONS, UNHOUSED ANGELENO: You talk to people in the streets and they would walk over us.


R. LYONS: And look at us like you're nothing. Dehumanizing, you know?

WATT (on camera): Yes.

R. LYONS: You are less than.

The way they treat her, I could handle if they treat me. You know, I mean, I could brush it off real easy. But to watch them treat her bad would make me, it was horrible. And then, I started adapting to my environment with that resentment in my heart.

WATT (on camera): Yes.

R. LYONS: It turns me into somebody I don't want to be.

WATT (voice-over): There is a quid pro quo. To get a motel room, you must let the City destroy your tent.

WATT (on camera): When do you think you might actually get somewhere permanent to live? R. LYONS: I don't know. That's to me it's a scary thing to think about.

I. LYONS (ph): Hopefully soon.


WATT (on camera): Why's it scary?

R. LYONS: No tent.

WATT (on camera): Sorry?

R. LYONS: No tent.

BASS: The point is you're not going to need a tent!

WATT (on camera): But I think that some people feel scared giving up what is their only safety net?

BASS: I absolute -- absolutely understand that. We'll have to examine that.

WATT (voice-over): There's another condition. You can only take a couple of bags of possessions with you, to the motel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I can't bring my socks.

WATT (voice-over): Everything else is trashed.

WATT (on camera): Some are getting moved 12 miles, across town. Some are getting moved, into motels that don't have blankets, don't have towels. I mean?

BASS: Oh, I'm glad you mentioned that.

Again, all of this, you're watching something being born, OK? So, I want to now say to Angelenos, let's help these people. Instead of giving them blankets, so that they're warm on the street, give them blankets, and towels, and hygiene things, while they move into the motels.

WATT (voice-over): Halima Fielding didn't live in a tent.

FIELDING: The first night, I was in a tent, a gang members sliced it, with a knife. And I said, "OK, I can't live like this," and so, I created this over here.

WATT (on camera): It's warm in here.

FIELDING: It's warm because of the tarp.

WATT (voice-over): And now, she's very happy to give it up.

WATT (on camera): You will be glad to get into that motel?

FIELDING: Yes, heat, walls, a door, shower.

WATT (voice-over): Fielding is as optimistic and determined, as the Mayor, to make this work.

WATT (on camera): Good luck.

FIELDING: Thank you.

WATT (voice-over): She gets a motel room.

And the locals get their bikepath back.


COOPER: The problems though, are so chronic, for -- I mean many of the chronic -- people, who have been on the streets, for so long, I mean, they're dealing also with, substance issues, alcohol issues, mental health issues.

Are those services provided to them, at the hotels, or the motels, regardless of whether they're still using or not?

WATT: Anderson, that is the plan. But, as Karen Bass said, this is a plan in motion. They are figuring it out, parts of it, as they go.

And listen, plenty people have tried and failed to do this, in the past. Karen Bass says that she's going to succeed, because she knows people. So, she can stop all the bickering, and buck-passing, between government agencies, get a unified approach.

And also, she says that in some ways, L.A. has become its own worst enemy. There's so many hoops, there's so much red tape, to build affordable housing. But she says with that emergency declaration, she can cut through all of that.

She is determined. She said that she didn't run for Congress, because she wanted to come back here, and get this done. She told me, on her priority list, homelessness is one, two and three. If she succeeds, she will win an exalted place, in the history, of this city. And pretty much everyone wants her to succeed. But people are questioning whether she really can.

And, when I was peppering her with my kind of pessimistic question, she said, "Don't be so negative. We can do this."

Her plan, Anderson, in the first year, she says get 17,000 people off the streets. And she told me that she's going to get the first batch of people, actually into permanent housing, within a couple of weeks. So, we'll be watching, and seeing, if she really can make this work.


COOPER: Nick Watt, appreciate it, thanks.

Quick programming note, a new CNN film, on the opioid epidemic, premieres this Sunday. It's a unique look, at the opioid crisis, in America, and it tracks

the rise and fall of two brothers, who are identical twins, who ran one of the largest opioid mill empires, in the country.

It's called "AMERICAN PAIN." It premieres Sunday, 9 PM, Eastern, right here on CNN.

Coming up, another longtime Italian mafia boss, on the lam, has been captured. He was in France, where locals saw him as an authentic Italian pizza maker. Details on that ahead.



COOPER: Another wanted Italian mafia boss has been arrested.

Last month, Italy's most wanted man was arrested, after almost three decades, as a fugitive.

And now, a mafia boss, on the run, since 2006, was captured in France, where some knew him as an authentic Italian pizza maker.

CNN Contributor, Barbie Latza Nadeau, has more.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, here we have another arrest, of a Mafioso, who has been on the run, for a number of years, this time, a member of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, who had taken on a rather peculiar role.


LATZA NADEAU (voice-over): His name is Edgardo Greco, a hitman, from the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta mafia, caught after 16 years, evading Italian justice.

Despite being on Italy and Interpol Wanted lists, for allegedly killing two brothers, with iron bars, and dissolving their bodies in acid, he was living under an alias, and working as a pizza maker, in France.

MARLENE CARROT, NEIGHBOR OF EDGARDO GRECO (through translator): I passed him every morning because I parked above him. I passed his restaurant every morning, every lunchtime, every evening. He always had a little smile.

LATZA NADEAU (voice-over): He was even featured, in a local newspaper, and posted selfies, on social media, his ego, leading to his downfall.

Greco's arrest follows that of Mafia super boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, last month, after 30 years in hiding. Authorities have uncovered hideouts, decorated with mafia movie posters, and luxury items.

Journalist and author, Roberto Saviano, has been living, under police protection, since his book, "Gomorrah," about the Mafia, was published in 2006. He tells us that it's normal, for these bosses, undercover, to still want attention.

ROBERTO SAVIANO, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST (through translator): Look at El Chapo, when he was working. He wanted to meet Sean Penn, who he wanted to make a movie about him. Al Capone wanted to go to the movie set of "Scarface."

LATZA NADEAU (voice-over): But despite these high-profile arrests, there are still dangerous Mafiosi, in hiding.

This man, Giovanni Motisi, has been convicted of murder and mafia association, in Sicily. He's been on the run, since 1998.

Renato Cinquegranella, of the Neapolitan Camorra, has been on the run, since 2002, after being convicted of murder, weapons charges, and extortion.

Italy's anti-Mafia squad say they are working around the clock to find those still in hiding, and to make sure those recently-convicted, of Mafia crimes, don't get a chance to get away.



LATZA NADEAU: And here, in Italy, anti-Mafia police say they will not stop until everyone, who's on the run, is behind bars.


COOPER: Yes. Fascinating!

Barbie Latza Nadeau, thank you.

Now, the best news of the week! Our friend, and former Associate Producer, Vlad Duthiers and, his wife, Marian Wang, are parents.


COOPER: Meet Celine Mari Wei Zhen Wang-Duthiers. She is beautiful!

According to Celine's mom and dad, her favorite pastime, so far, is eating around the clock, which that makes sense. Both she and her mom are doing great.

And like her dad, she likes a good song. And Papa Vlad is happy to sing to her at any hour, day or night.



I guess you'd say What can make me feel this way My girl, my girl, my girl Talkin' 'bout my girl My girl (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Little hand!

Congratulations to Vlad and Marian! I'm looking forward to having a play date!

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