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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
DeSantis' First Trip To Iowa Previews Potential Presidential Campaign; Silicon Valley Bank Shut Down By Regulators; George Santos Says He Is Innocent Of Allegation He Orchestrated Credit Card Skimming Scheme; Interview With Rep. Brandon William (D-NY); George Santos Says He's "Innocent" Of Allegation He Orchestrated Credit Card Skimming Scheme; Mexican Authorities Arrest 5 People Linked To Kidnapping Of Americans; New Video Obtained By CNN Shows Americans Who Were Kidnapped In Mexico Just Hours Before The Attack; Zelenskyy, Ukraine Mourn Death Of One Of Country's Best-Known Fighters; Millions Under Flood Watch In California; At Least Two Dead. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 10, 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: New video of the four Americans taken in Mexico just hours before they were kidnapped. The video shows the four shortly after crossing the border. We believe this video was taken around 9:18 AM.
At 11:45 AM, on that disturbing video that you've seen. The cartel confronts the Americans and begin shooting. Two Americans died during the kidnapping. And tonight Mexican authorities announced they've arrested five more people in conjunction with the deadly kidnapping.
Thanks for joining us. AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
This was a good week for people who lie being revealed as people who lie, who then go on lying or distorting the truth. It began with Court documents revealing FOX's Tucker Carlson was privately skeptical of election lies, contemptuous of the former President, texting someone even saying, "I hate him passionately" talking about the former President, even as he indicated to viewers the opposite.
And as that news was hitting, a Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit alleging FOX broadcast election lies, Carlson was on the air lying about January 6th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT": The crowd was enormous. A small percentage of them were hooligans, they committed vandalism. You've seen their pictures again and again.
But the overwhelming majority weren't, they were peaceful, they were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists, they were sightseers. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That spectacle using cherry picked footage House Speaker McCarthy released only to him was just the beginning. The former President went on his social network without any evidence at all, claimed that city, State and Federal prosecutors are practicing "GOOD OL' ELECTION INTERFERENCE," and then there was something else that happened that didn't get as much attention, but is important and it involved lies told by Jenna Ellis, one of the former President's 2020 election lawyers. She is the one next to Sidney Powell in this video behind Rudy Giuliani at the press conference, you may remember where his head seemed to be leaking motor oil.
What follows is a sampling of the lies she told about the 2020 election that she is now admitting where lies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNA ELLIS, FORMER DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY: Hillary Clinton still has not been conceded the 2016 elections.
We have affidavits from witnesses. We have voter intimidation. We have the ballots that were manipulated. We have all kinds of statistics that show that this was a coordinated effort in all of these States to transfer votes either from Trump to Biden, to manipulate the ballots, to count them in secret.
The election was stolen and President Trump won by a landslide.
President Trump is right that there was widespread fraud in this election. We have at least six States that were corrupted, if not more through the voting systems.
We know that President Trump won in a landslide.
The outcome of this election is actually fraudulent. It's wrong. And we understand that when we subtract all of the illegal ballots, you can see that President Trump actually won in a landslide.
We have over 500,000 ballots that were cast illegally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So we knew those were lies then, but now under pressure, she has admitted it. Take a look, this is a Court document that she herself signed Jenna Lynn Ellis in a Colorado disciplinary action against her, a sworn statement.
In it, she admits that she knowingly misrepresented the facts and those specific clips that we just played. They were part of a stipulation she made as part of an agreement to accept censure and pay a small fine in a disciplinary proceeding brought against her in Colorado.
And what did she do afterwards after she admitted that she -- quoting from the document now: "Made the following misrepresentations while serving as counsel for the Trump campaign and personal counsel to President Trump."
She went on Twitter right after signing that and misrepresented what she just warned to tweeting: "I would never lie. Lying requires intentionally making a false statement. I never did that nor did I stipulate to or admit that."
We're just splitting hairs at best. In that same document, the one she signed, she agreed that the sanction she got is merited when lawyers "knowingly engage" in "conduct that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation," unless knowingly lying is in any way meaningful way different than intentionally lying in any meaningful way, then for all intents and purposes, she is now intentionally lying about being disciplined for knowingly lying.
You get that?
The man she used to work for us campaigning in Iowa on Monday. Today, his potential rival Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is in the State.
CNN's Steve Contorno joins us now from Des Moines.
So DeSantis sort of gave Iowans a look at what his presidential stump speech might look like or when he's practicing. What did he have to say?
STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Anderson, Governor DeSantis made the case that he is willing to go further and harder than any other Republican leader to push a conservative agenda. It is an agenda that is focused on finding and fighting wokeness in all aspects of society, from business to the workplace, to higher education, and especially K through 12 schools.
Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We're not teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other with your tax dollars, no way. But you know what we are doing? We're putting out a positive vision. We are emphasizing and reintroducing American Civics into the schools in a very big way.
People need to be taught what it means to be an American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CONTORNO: Now, this was Ron DeSantis' first ever visit to Iowa and he spoke at two events today introducing himself to these Iowa Caucus voters that in the coming months will make a decision about who they believe should be the nominee for the Republican Party in 2024.
COOPER: How have the appearances been going? Have they been received by Iowa Republicans?
CONTORNO: Well, he had two events today and they were both standing room only crowds. As you can see behind me now, they are breaking down his second events where Governor DeSantis stayed for about 30 minutes afterwards, signing autographs, and taking pictures with people in line.
So this was obviously a very friendly crowd. A lot of people were very open to Governor DeSantis and the message he has, but there are still a lot of people in this State that are loyal to Trump.
I talked to one woman today who said that she remains loyal to Trump. She says she was willing to listen to Governor DeSantis, but she also was concerned that he was "bought and sold" by the Big Money people who are already funding his campaign.
So clearly, he still has some work to do, going into the caucuses to win over some of those people who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020.
COOPER: Has he given any indication when he may announce?
CONTORNO: He has been pretty coy over the course of the past six months about what he intends to do. But more recently, he has said he will wait until after the legislative session meets in his State at Tallahassee. They just began last week. They will continue for the next 60 days. And at the end of those 60 days, he is likely to make a decision.
Although, I am told by my sources that it could be as late as June before he officially jumps into the race.
COOPER: Steve Contorno, I appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Governor DeSantis certainly got a rise from the former President who posted on his social network "very small crowds for Ron DeSanctimonious in Iowa."
Perspective now from CNN senior political commentator, "USA Today" columnist and former Clinton administration official Kirsten Powers, also CNN senior political commentator, Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.
Kirsten, we heard Governor DeSantis take a thinly veiled shot at the former President today when he talked about how there is no drama in his administration. It is something he said before. How long do you think it is before the tension between the two of them actually becomes more direct?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, obviously, Donald Trump has been openly attacking him, and the question is how much Ron DeSantis wants to really seriously engage with that? I don't think it is really in his interest to do that, because I think we've seen in the past what happens to people who get in the mud with Donald Trump. You know, they ended up -- they end up usually not coming out looking that great.
And he is smarter, I think, to stay focused on whatever issues it is that he thinks are going to help him win the nomination, which is if he decides to run, which let's face it, he's an Iowa and early March. He lives in Florida. He is probably pretty seriously thinking about running for President.
If that is what his goal is, then he should just focus more on the issues that he has that excite the base.
COOPER: Scott, there was reporting today by POLITICO about how many of the other Republican presidential candidates both declared and undeclared are focused on attacking Trump and DeSantis. Their thinking, is reportedly that there's only one viable lane for the anti-Trump vote, and therefore they need to take the fight to DeSantis. Do you agree with that?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. I think in this primary, you've got Trump and then there's going to be one other person that emerges. And right now, if you look at DeSantis' favorability ratings, and really look at the fact that he has virtually no detractors inside the Republican Party. Every other Republican candidate who wants this thing is going to have to find a way to drag him down.
I don't know how they're going to be able to do it, to be honest. I'm sure they're going to try, but he is in a different universe, really, than every other person that's not Trump, that is seeking this nomination. DeSantis has the right emotional sort of attachment to the Republican base and what you see in his favorability numbers is not only good numbers among people who voted for Trump, but also those college educated Republican voters that drifted away from the Republican Party and drifted away from Trump, they love DeSantis.
And so of everybody in this thing right now, he looks like the one that has the capability of putting together the coalition that could possibly, possibly I say, topple the former President.
COOPER: He has obviously never run a national campaign, Kirsten. DeSantis' allies, some of them are arguing his success is not necessarily because of how he campaigns, but how he governs. I don't know if that is sort of laying groundwork for saying he is not maybe a great national campaigner, but that obviously remains to be seen.
Is that going to be enough in a State like Iowa where retail politics are so important?
POWERS: Well, we don't really know, whether he is going to be good at national politics or not. Obviously, there are plenty of people who haven't done it before and had been successful. So I mean, Donald Trump had never had ever held office at all.
So I think we have to wait and see, you know, how he does on a national stage. And the fact is, I think if the vote was taken and most of the party is with Donald Trump, but his numbers are on the downswing.
I mean, they're definitely not what they used to be, and so there is an opening for a Trump plus, not a -- you know, I think there's this idea of also there are the people who are a little bit of less of the Trumpiness, I don't think there's much appetite for that in the Republican Party. They're looking for either a Trump or a Trump-plus and DeSantis is a Trump-plus.
COOPER: Scott, you know, I think Democrats are kind of betting that Governor DeSantis' focus on culture wars will turn off women, working class voters. Do you think moderate swing state voters care very much when he boasts that Florida is where woke goes to die? Do you think that plays well?
JENNINGS: Well, I mean, the only evidence I have to look at on this is what happened in his reelection campaign in Florida that he won by 20 points. Urban, suburban, rural, exurban, people with college degrees, people without college degrees, Independents, I mean, women, men, I mean, any way you slice and dice humanity, Ron DeSantis did a pretty darn good job of racking up votes in Florida.
So I think the message he has been running on, you know, we've had one test case for it and it seemed to work.
I'll tell you, Anderson, the average Republican feels surrounded right now. They feel like every large information distribution information hub in our society is really at odds with their worldview, whether it's corporations, universities, media, you name it, -- politicians, government institutions -- and they feel like DeSantis is the person who does more than just complain about it, he actually finishes the fights.
I think that's the line of demarcation for him. Everybody in this field can complain, I can finish it.
COOPER: You know, I asked this to Kirsten. I just want to -- I wanted to ask you, Scott, do you think these candidates know? I mean, do you think the world knows how to campaign against Donald Trump from a Republican standpoint?
Because I mean, here we are, all these years later, and we're still talking about should Ron DeSantis directly attack him or not? We have a whole field of defeated candidates -- you know, Jeb Bush, among them, Marco Rubio -- who tried all different ways and none of it worked.
JENNINGS: No, I think all the Republicans from 2016 forward are like the Will Smith character in "I Am Legend." They're in the lab, and they're like testing all of the serums out and the rats keep dying, like they can't figure out how to solve it.
Maybe, maybe Ron DeSantis is the one to solve it, but we don't know yet because the theory he is going to test out is to put results up against rhetoric and to put a younger generation up against an older generation. We just haven't seen this particular concoction yet. Maybe we'll put it in the lab in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other places, and it will work.
But no, no one has successfully campaigned against him yet except one person and that was Joe Biden who defeated Donald Trump and we know what will happen. I think as a Republican. I know what will happen if we nominate Donald Trump again.
COOPER: Kirsten, if my memory of the ending of "I Am Legend," I don't want to give away for anybody who might want to watch it on television, but it doesn't end well for Will Smith at the end of the movie. Is there a right way for DeSantis to respond to Trump when he decides to?
POWERS: I don't think it's a good idea to get into it with Donald Trump. I think that, you know, let Donald Trump say what he's going to say, but trying to get -- like I said, trying to get into the mud with him is not ever going to work well for anybody. I think it's better for him to, you know, to respond based on the issues that concern him, but not get into these petty little name games and all of these other things, which even the people who like Donald Trump say they don't really like that much, right?
A lot of times they're like this -- we don't really need this. It is not really adding a lot all the little nicknames that you give everybody. So you know, but he's going to -- you know, he is already going after him. He needs a better nickname, let's be honest, I don't think DeSanctimonious is probably going to do it. But he is going to continue to go after him.
But I do think that Ron DeSantis is qualitatively different than the other people, but I don't know what Scott thinks about this, but then from the other people that ran the last time. I think he's a different kind of politician, and is a little more connected with the base.
COOPER: Scott Jennings --
JENNINGS: Yes, I totally agree with you. Yes. What she what she just said, Anderson, hundred percent correct. People are trying to compare him to the candidates in 2016. His numbers and his connection with Republicans is vastly different than anybody Trump faced before. That's why Trump I think is already in sort of mini freakout mode of that.
COOPER: It's going to be fascinating.
Scott Jennings, Kirsten Powers, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, the biggest bank failure since the 2008 financial crisis. And the question is, will this shock to the system be followed by more aftershocks, with more banks?
Later, new video in the kidnapping of four Americans in Mexico taken not long before the ambush that killed two of them.
COOPER: A lot of questions tonight following the news that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would take over Silicon Valley Bank. The bank's failure is the second largest in American history and the largest since the 2008 financial crisis. Let me say that again: It is the second largest bank failure in American history. So the big question tonight is, is this going to affect other banks as we saw in 2008?
Joining us now is CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi.
COOPER: So put this in context, how large is Silicon Valley Bank? And why did it collapse?
ROMANS: Look, this happened so fast, too. I mean, the doors are locked tonight, Anderson. There is, you know, an FDIC notice on the front door and there are a lot of really unhappy people who are trying to figure out how they're going to make their payroll next week.
It was a 48-hour collapse, essentially. And so the context here, the biggest failure since the financial crisis, the second biggest in history, and this is a big part of the Silicon Valley economy.
I mean, this is the bank for, you know, like life science companies and fintech startups and all kinds of tech startups. So they really relied on this bank as their bank of record here and it is closed. They cannot get access to their money.
So you ask the question why. A couple of things here. They took on a lot of deposits in the pandemic, you know, billions of dollars of deposits in the pandemic, and then they invested those in safe securities -- Treasury securities, government-backed debt -- and that was all safe and fine until there was a little bit of a slowdown in tech and these startups were burning cash.
And so they started withdrawing those deposits and not putting new deposits in. At the very same time, interest rates were going up, making all of those Treasury securities less valuable, and if they want to sell them to get cash, they would take a loss.
All of that happening just in the past few days.
COOPER: So, how concerned should people be that their bank might fail for similar reasons?
ROMANS: You know, this is a pretty specific profile of a bank. They lend to startups and venture capitalists and the tech world. So, it was very hyper focused.
Earlier this week, we saw another bank that lends mostly crypto kind of lending and it is unwinding on its own because it was facing some problems. So they had a very specific profile.
We saw a lot of other banks lose stock market value yesterday, but bounced back today and what we are hearing mostly from analysts and from bank regulators is this was a specific -- a specific event, a specific kind of profile of this bank that doesn't match most other banks out there, probably your bank.
COOPER: After the collapse in 2008, I mean, there were a lot of Federal regulations put on banks to avoid that happening again. Would any of those regulations help stop this from spreading? Or is this so unique that it doesn't apply?
ROMANS: And that's one of the things -- you know, the banking system is a lot different today than it was in 2008. And you and I both covered those awful days when, in the very beginning of that financial crisis, we kept hearing, oh, this is contained. This is a subprime mortgage problem. This won't feed into the rest of the financial system. And certainly it did.
Now, we know that banks have much more stringent capital requirements. There are much bigger regulations to make sure that they can't just fail, hundreds of them like we saw during the financial crisis. But you know, a lot of people today are saying contagion, it's hard to measure contagion. And when you see the loss of confidence, this run on deposits, essentially this bank over the past just 48 hours, you know it happened so quickly and caught so many people off guard.
A lot of folks are looking around the financial system now trying to see where are the cracks? Where are the cracks and trying to make sure those get shored up.
COOPER: Yes. Christine Romans, I appreciate it. Thank you. Scary.
COOPER: Just ahead, Congressman George Santos' first comments since allegations of a new financial crime surfaced, this time involving credit card and debit card skimming operation back in 2017.
Our Randi Kaye has the details and a Republican Congressman, we will talk to him from New York, who has previously said Santos must resign, he'll join us.
COOPER: Congressman George Santos says he is innocent of the latest reported allegation against him. The finances of the Long Island Congressman are under Federal and local investigation. He is also the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation as you know.
Now, he is accused of orchestrating a credit and debit card skimming operation in Seattle involving ATMs back in 2017.
Randi Kaye has details.
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I was an asset in helping take down a ring of criminals. RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New York Congressman George Santos denying allegations from a man from Brazil painting him as the mastermind of a credit card scheme.
SANTOS: I am innocent. I never did anything of criminal activity and I'm no mastermind of anything.
KAYE (voice over): Santos' claims of innocence are in response to this sworn statement by the man, Gustavo Ribeiro Trella.
In his declaration, first published by POLITICO, Trella alleges that Santos taught him how to clone ATM and credit cards, and that the two had agreed to a 50/50 split of proceeds.
Trella wrote in the declaration, "Santos gave me at his warehouse some of the parts to illegally skim credit card information. Right after he gave me the card skimming and cloning machines, he taught me how to use them."
Trella has reportedly submitted his declaration to the FBI and other Federal law enforcement officials. Santos meanwhile, told reporters today he wasn't the organizer, but the guy who helped crack the case.
SANTOS: Then I cooperated with the Secret Service, FBI, everybody that asked for my help, got information for them, got everybody arrested and deported. I'm not the mastermind of the story.
KAYE (voice over): This all goes back to 2017 when Trella pleaded guilty to access device fraud in Seattle, Federal records show.
Trella had been arrested after using a credit card skimming device and electronic camera on ATMs to steal credit and debit card numbers, as well as ATM pin numbers according to Court documents.
POLITICO reports that in 2016, a year earlier, Trella had rented a room in Santos' Winter Park Florida apartment. When asked about this, Santos quickly distanced himself from Trella.
SANTOS: He was never my roommate, he never lived with me. I saw him maybe a couple of times in my life.
KAYE (voice over): Yet back in 2017, according to audio obtained by CNN, Santos appeared in court on Trella's behalf. At that Court hearing, Santos described Trella as a family friend. In Court, Santos also lied to the Judge about where he worked.
JUDGE: What do you do for work?
SANTOS: I'm an aspiring politician, and I work for Goldman Sachs.
JUDGE: You work for Goldman Sachs in New York?
KAYE (voice over): The Congressman has since acknowledged he never worked directly for Goldman Sachs, the investment giant. CNN has not verified the authenticity of Trella's declaration and Trella's attorney has not responded to CNN's repeated phone calls and e-mails. CNN has also reached out to the FBI and the Department of Justice for comment.
The allegation against Santos comes as the freshman Congressman is already facing intense scrutiny over fabrications about his biography and resume. Local and federal prosecutors are also investigating his finances.
The House Ethics Committee is also looking into whether Santos may have engaged in unlawful activity during his successful 2022 campaign.
SANTOS: I'm very confident I can fight this one. It's very easy.
KAYE (voice over): Randi Kaye, CNN.
COOPER: A group of New York Republican congressmen recently introduced a bill that would ban House members like Santos from profiting off book, movie, or TV deals if indicted or convicted of certain crimes like financial and campaign finance fraud.
Just before airtime, I spoke to one of those members, Congressman Brandon Williams, who has also called for Mr. Santos to step down.
COOPER: Congressman Williams, I appreciate you joining us. I'm wondering what your reaction was to these allegations that Congressman Santos was involved in this credit card scheme?
REP. BRANDON WILLIAMS (R-NY): Well, I'll tell you, you know, I guess it was an ATM scheme. It looks like he has -- yes, he has been using the -- it looks like he's been using Nassau County donors as ATMs and he just upped his game.
So I think it's a continuation of, frankly, of a confidence scheme, very much like Bernie Madoff and it is all being exposed. So the fact that his deception goes much farther back doesn't surprise me at all.
COOPER: I mean, if the allegations are true, they were made in a sworn statement by the person who was actually prosecuted for involvement in this ATM scheme. It's a pretty complex operation.
I mean, it involved, according again to this person who was convicted, you know, a warehouse in Florida, being taught by Santos how to use the equipment, sending him to Seattle where they would split the proceeds 50/50.
WILLIAMS: Can you imagine how excited, you know, Mr. Santos must be or must have been to realize that he could, you know, do something on a larger scale, even running for Congress, not once, but twice. You know, remember that Bernie Madoff cheated a lot of very sophisticated people out of their money. And I think that George Santos has cheated a whole lot of sophisticated voters out of their vote.
COOPER: Do you have much confidence in the ethics process in the House? Obviously, this has been forwarded to the Ethics Committee. I don't know if they'll look at these additional allegations as well, or if they'll have to just wait for -- to see if law enforcement does anything?
WILLIAMS: Well, I'm confident of a couple of things, Anderson. I'm confident that leadership has taken the steps to initiate this ethics investigation that it will be thorough. I'm actually confident that the FEC similarly will do its investigation and appears like there's a lot to look at there.
I know that Nassau County prosecutors are also looking and I guarantee you the table will do a very exceptional job. And I'm confident that we're going to see George Santos in handcuffs in front of a judge, hopefully not in the just too distant future.
COOPER: Well, you really believe that?
WILLIAMS: I do. I do. Absolutely.
COOPER: Do you think he's getting any work done? I mean, you know how difficult it is being a congressperson, all the different things going on, all the responsibilities you have, if you care about the people in your district which -- I mean, can he actually get anything done?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think I know that his neighbors like Anthony D'Esposito, Nick LaLota, Nicole Malliotakis, they've all opened up their offices for constituents, you know, on Long Island and in the vicinity to use their offices for whatever services are needed. So I think there's been a lot of help offered.
And in terms of his role, he's not on any committees, he's not very popular. I can tell you that. And I'm not sure what, you know, what work that he might be getting done. What concerns me, Anderson is that he still has a security clearance. And, therefore, as a member of Congress is actually entitled to briefings that involve top secret information. That concerns me a lot, and I think that needs to be looked at.
COOPER: It's also the last thing Republicans need distracting people from what, you know, everybody in Congress is supposed to be doing?
WILLIAMS: Well, I would say, the issue that I'm most concerned with is that the people of Nassau County are the victims here. And they're victims because they were defrauded out of the right to be represented. I think the House is also the victim. And so those are the things that are sort of top of mind when I think about what's happening with George Santos.
COOPER: Do you run into him at all? I mean, have you said anything to him ever? WILLIAMS: I bumped into him on the floor. And I have to tell you, it's awkward. Because he was part of the New York delegation. I'd never met him in person until we were in orientation. My wife and I extended the hand of friendship as we did to, you know, all the new members.
And, you know, it was within probably a week or two that the wheels started coming off. And I found that pretty disappointing.
COOPER: Yes. Well, Congressman Williams, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Yes, sir. Thank you.
COOPER: Well still ahead, new video obtained by CNN providing some more insight into the hours leading up to that deadly kidnappings and for Americans in Mexico. Also new arrest in connection to the kidnappings. We'll have details on both that next.
COOPER: Tonight, new developments in the investigation to the deadly kidnapping of four Americans in Mexico. Mexican authorities said they arrested five more people linked to those kidnappings. It's unclear whether these were the same five people that Mexican cartel handed over to local authorities on Thursday.
This also comes after the cartel issued a handwritten letter apologizing to the community, the Americans and their families and to a Mexican woman who was also killed by a stray bullet during the attack.
We're going to talk about all that in just a moment with two experts familiar with the cartel and these investigations. But first, new video showing the Americans just hours before they were kidnapped. CNN's Josh Campbell has more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all ain't never been to Mexico. You all don't know what it's like in Mexi.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New video obtained by CNN from inside the vehicle of four Americans just prior to their kidnapping in Mexico. The Americans shown and heard on Facebook Live just after they crossed into Mexico from the United States.
A government source told CNN the purpose of the visit was for Latavia Washington McGee to obtain a medical procedure, but they never made it. A timeline for Mexican officials indicated that about two hours after entering the country, a gray Volkswagen Jetta starts to tail the Americans van, followed by several more vehicles.
At 11:45 a.m., their vehicle is attacked by suspected members of the Gulf Cartel. Bystander video of the aftermath shows the victims being loaded into a truck. The bodies of the two deceased Americans are now in the United States awaiting an autopsy.
As the FBI continues to work with Mexican authorities to investigate, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico is calling for authorities to aggressively combat the cartels.
KEN SALAZAR, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO (through translation): They have to be dismantled. We have to do this work together with the Mexican government.
COOPER: The CNN's Senior Security Correspondent, and former FBI Special Agent Josh Campbell joins me now. Do investigators know what the Americans were doing in the two hours between entering the country and when they were kidnapped?
CAMPBELL: They don't, that remains under investigation, Anderson. I know and talking with the U.S. official familiar with this investigation, the medical appointment for Latavia Washington McGee was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. on Friday. They apparently called the clinic and said that they were running late.
But as they entered Mexico around 9:20, it appears they drove around for about two hours before they were finally tailed and then engaged by members of this cartel. So again, investigators are trying to determine what were they doing during that time. It is worth pointing out that a source tells me that there's no indication that they were doing anything wrong, that they were there for criminal purposes. The authorities still want to piece together this timeline.
COOPER: Josh, stay with us, I want to bring in the Executive Director of the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence and author of the book "Ghosts: Confessions of
a Counterterrorism Agent", Fred Burton. Fred, in your experience, is it unusual for the cartel to not only apologize for an attack like this, but also turn over five people?
FRED BURTON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ONTIC CENTER FOR PROTECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Yes, it's very odd, Anderson. I know you and
I have followed these incidents for quite some time. And if you look back, this is one of these interesting inflection points, you know, going back to 1985, with the kidnapping of the DEA agent. And then look at 2010 at the Falcon Lake incident involving David and Tiffany Hartley. And now here we are in 2023.
And I think what the cartel, at least specifically the Gulf Cartel was trying to do now is a little bit of PR spin. They recognize the power of the media, and they understand how this has resonated inside the United States. And like I said earlier, the scrutiny on this I have not seen since the 2010 incident in Falcon Lake.
COOPER: Josh, what do you think was the motivation behind releasing this apology letter?
CAMPBELL: Well, I think it's just that, you know, and talking with officials that were on the American side, they liaise, obviously with their Mexican counterparts. They said exactly what Fred just said. And it's worth pointing out that Fred is one of the foremost security experts in the world who has done a lot of work and trying to combat some of these very dangerous groups.
And in this case, you have a cartel that is obviously very violent, they routinely engaged in brutality. And yet here they are saying we apologize to the people of Mexico, to the Americans, to the Mexican citizen that was killed. It's worth pointing out that sources that I talked to say that they do not believe that this is sincere, that this is exactly what Fred was mentioning, perhaps a way to try to defuse a lot of the scrutiny that has come upon this group.
We know that there have been a number of U.S. officials saying that the American government should be, for example, sending troops over into Mexico to combat these cartels. That is obviously cause widespread condemnation from Mexican officials, including the Mexican president. But again, this is all because of what the cartel did here.
CAMPBELL: They're causing all of this widespread attention. I think they're trying to make that go away.
COOPER: Yes, Fred, I mean, there have been calls Lindsey Graham and others for getting tufted with Mexico, having U.S. troops involved in one way or another. Is any that realistic at all? I mean, that's just something that the Mexicans --
COOPER: -- are not going to allow us.
BURTON: No, not at all, Anderson. I think that's a lot of posturing on the U.S. side. I mean, look, this is a big deal. This is one of these inflection points. And obviously, we're going to try to put pressure on the government of Mexico, but this is a sovereign nation.
At the end of the day, this is a Mexican problem to resolve. It's also incumbent upon all of us and especially in the business community, too, Anderson with travels and so forth of the executive going down into Mexico and the manufacturing environment there. We really need to pay attention to the State Department travel alerts.
Look, there's 32 states in Mexico, and six are no go. Areas that the State Department says to stay out of and this was one of them.
COOPER: Yes. Josh Campbell, Fred Burton, I really appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you.
We -- coming up now, an intense fighting continuing in eastern Ukraine. We're going to get you an update on that. And we also want to tell you about one Ukrainian soldier who has been killed in that fighting and why President Zelenskyy and the whole country today mourn this 27 year old who went by the callsign Da Vinci.
Plus, the latest on the heavy winter weather that is millions under flood watch tonight in California.
COOPER: It hurts to lose our heroes, those were the words that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy today at the funeral for 27 year old soldier who went by the callsign Da Vinci. He once dreamed of becoming an artist but The Vinci joined the fight to defend Ukraine when he was only 18 years old and he rose to become a battalion commander, the youngest in Ukraine's army. One of the best-known Ukrainian fighters.
Thousands were in Kyiv's Independence Square to pay tribute today. CNN's Ivan Watson has more.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Funeral for a fallen warrior and honor guard and thousands of mourners gathered to remember Junior Lieutenant Dmytro Kotsiubailo, better known by his codename The Vinci.
He was the youngest battalion commander in the Ukrainian army, killed this week in the battle for Bakhmut. A monthslong deadly test of wills between the Russian and Ukrainian militaries over a small city of questionable strategic value.
(on-camera): This is how Ukraine is honoring one of its fallen heroes and also proof of the terrible cost that the Ukrainian military is paying in the battle for Bakhmut.
(voice-over): In 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy officially declared Da Vinci, a hero of Ukraine. On Friday, the President paid his respects to Da Vinci's surviving family members, accompanied by the prime minister of Finland.
Mourners gathered on their knees around Da Vinci's coffin in the Maidan, the Square in central Kyiv, where in 2014, Da Vinci then just a teenager, joined thousands of demonstrators in a bloody battle against Ukrainian security forces.
They ultimately sent the country's pro-Russian President fleeing to Russia. Soon after, The Vinci joined a nationalist militia and fought for years against pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region, before formally joining the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Many of the people attending Da Vinci's memorial never met the young commander face to face.
SERGIY IVANNIKOV, KYIV RESIDENT: He lost his life for us, for me, for my children, for my family, and who want to live good life and I am here to celebrate his life and to say final respects to him.
WATSON (on-camera): What did Da Vinci fight for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Ukraine, for freedom, for us.
WATSON (voice-over): This woman knows the stakes all too well.
(on-camera): Your husband is fighting in Bakhmut right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes.
WATSON (voice-over): There is a price for freedom, she says. One life dies so that other lives may be born.
Though only 27, Da Vinci knew the risks he was taking.
I'm ready to go to victory with you, he told his troops. And if need be, to give up my life for you. Nearly everyone in Ukraine has lost something since Russia's invasion one year ago. A war in which far too many have made the ultimate sacrifice.
COOPER: And Ivan joins us now. I mean, it's heartbreaking. It's also extraordinary to see how unified the country is in this fight. And so many people who knew of this person but have never met him but wanted to be there to pay their respects. Talk a little bit about Bakhmut, as you said it's a questionable strategic significance, but it's become a key battlefield.
WATSON: Well, it's a huge symbol now because both militaries have lost so many lives, fighting over it. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he has argued that if Bakhmut falls, that it could give Russia an open road to drive deeper into Ukrainian territory. Ukrainian commanders have made the case that they can tie down Russian troops and bleed them out in the battle there.
But there's another potential scenario. Almost all of the roads around Bakhmut and out of there for the Ukrainians had been cut except for one dirt road. And there are still thousands of Ukrainian troops believed to be inside defending parts of the city. So there is the potential scenario and reality that they could be surrounded and stuck in there. And that is another reason to fight for those soldiers.
COOPER: I understand there was another memorial elsewhere in Kyiv today.
WATSON: There was. And this is another grim reminder of the enormous cost of this war and of this specific battle. It's a father and son Ollie and Makita Cornuke (ph), they were both fighting side by side around Bakhmut, both killed and given a final goodbye here in Kyiv in the Maidan.
COOPER: Yes. Father and son dying together.
Ivan Watson from Kyiv, thanks so much. Now, the severe winter storms hitting California. Millions under flood watch tonight. Thousands under orders and evacuation as heavy rain and melting snow combined in just the latest round of intense winter weather. At least two people died from the storms.
Nick Watt joins us now with the latest. So what are conditions like where you are?
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson it started raining very heavily, biblical rain at about 2:00 a.m. this morning. We were out on the road windshield wipers basically useless. Since then, it's been kind of historic. I asked one resident if he ever remembered it being this bad. He thought for a second and he said 1982 was pretty bad. But it wasn't as bad as this.
WATT (voice-over): Water everywhere causing chaos across central California. Some 25 million are under flood warnings. The Kern River usually runs at about 6 feet. It's up over 17. Snow is the issue up at altitude.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a quick sec, where I lost control but I caught that back.
WATT (voice-over): In SoCal, they're rushing to rebuild some sort of road for 450 households. This is their only way out. Springville's Pleasant Valley Road now, anything bad. In my 40 years, never seen it like that. So the man who shot these images.
A major artery in Oakland closed at rush hour nearby a peach coffee warehouse roof collapsed, killing one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A longtime employee beloved by everyone.
WATT (voice-over): Around 25 times the volume of water that flows in the Mississippi is flowing through the air and this is the 10th so called atmospheric river to hit California this winter. Low pressure from the north meets moist air near Hawaii, they call it a Pineapple Express. Sounds fun? It's not. Essentially a fire hose aimed at the state usually famed for its sunshine.
Throw in a couple of other winter storms that dumped a couple of years' worth of snow on some upland areas and this is the result. Today's storm is a warm one. So along with all this rain, some of that snow is melting. The residents of Felton flooded in January once more told to evacuate. Here and elsewhere, yet more upheaval.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, we have to go home, pack our stuff and leave once again when we were just able to come back a couple of weeks ago.
WATT (voice-over): Good news, all the water this winter is significantly rolling back the years long drought suffered in the West. Bad news, yet another atmospheric river is for Acosta hit this state early next week.
COOPER: These pictures are unbelievable. In the neighborhood you're at, are people in the homes still, or do they have to leave?
WATT: Yes, I mean, there are evacuation orders all over the place. But here some people have decided to stay. A couple of hours ago, a kid paddled past me in a kayak and I chatted to her she was pretty upbeat said there was some water in the home, but, you know, it wasn't too bad.
But an hour after that, I saw her and her mom leaving carrying their dog. Also for about an hour, there was a man out here with, you know, a household broom, basically trying to just get this water, get the flow moving out of the neighborhood. About 20 minutes ago, he just gave up.
You know, this is a small farming town. Watsonville southeast of Santa Cruz, working class town. So far, it's had about 6 inches of snow. here somewhat rain, I'm sorry, some other parts of the state have had double that. But here, Anderson, is just not over. Not by a longshot. It's going to rain here on and off until the middle of next week.
WATT: And that eleventh atmospheric river of the winter is going to bowl through here again, Monday, Tuesday. I mean, it's just so sad to see people's lives just washed away. I mean, there are cars on the road, people are still -- I mean this roads supposed to be closed but people are trying to go about their business.
WATT: It's tragic. Anderson?
COOPER: Wow, unbelievable. Nick Watt, appreciate it. Thank you.
Jake Tapper sits down with comedian political commentator Bill Maher for a special CNN primetime one on one conversation, that starts right after short break.