Return to Transcripts main page


Police Investigating Umpqua Community College Shooter's Mother; Trump Trades Jabs with Former Romney Aide; Families Hold Out Hope for Loved Ones; Gen. Campbell: Doctors Without Borders Hospital 'Accidentally Struck.' Aired 20:00-21:00 ET.

Aired October 6, 2015 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:13] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We have breaking news tonight from one end of the country to another. Water still rising and more dams failing in the Carolinas and new development in Roseburg, Oregon. We begin with that.

Late word from police there, they are paying close attention to whether the gunman's mother, an avid gun collector herself, bears any responsibility for the shooting rampage that took nine lives at Umpqua Community College. They tell us they are aware of the mother's media postings and electronic window perhaps into her thinking about firearms, crime, her son and possibly his state of mind.

Additionally, we'll get the thoughts on all of this from, frankly, a remarkable woman who survived the shooting outside of Roanoke, Virginia, just a few weeks ago. That shooting, of course, caught on live television.

First, our Sara Sidner joins us from Roseburg tonight.

Sara as we mentioned, the police are now looking at the shooter's mom to see if she's in some way responsible for any part of this. What do you know about it?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know that they have been looking at those social media posts. We know that they are looking at her as part of the investigation as they would anyone who is close to the shooter. So they are looking at multiple different things, including the mother and her social media postings and his as well. Anderson, they also know about 34,000 posts that are linked to his mother - Anderson.

COOPER: So talk about these postings, I mean, what did the mom say about her son's mental health?

SIDNER: She talk as lot on different various websites. She's a Yahoo! user with the name Tweety Bird, according to the email linked with that. And let me just read you one of them. She's asked about guns, she talks about guns a lot and she talks about health a lot. In one of the exchanges back in 2009 she says quote "I keep two full mags in my block case and the ARs and AKs all have loaded mags. No one will be dropping by my house uninvited without acknowledgement." She also, Anderson, post a lot of information on health website. And

that's how we found out some information about her son and his health condition. She says quote "my son has Asperger's. He's no bubbling idiot nor is his life worthless. He's very intelligent and is working on a career in filmmaking. My 18 years worth of experience with and knowledge about Asperger's syndrome is paying off. I am a nurse."

And we have confirmed, Anderson, that she is indeed a licensed nurse. She also reveals that she too have Asperger's. And we do want to make a point here that scientists have never linked violent behavior with Asperger's but they are noting, if you look at some of what has happened, the shooter in Sandy Hook shooting, the shooter here at Umpqua Community College both had the syndrome. And the police are looking into all of this, looking into the mother and anyone who was close to the shooter to try to get to the bottom of how this happened and if it could have been prevented -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Sara Sidner, appreciate it. Thank you.

In just a moment, as I mentioned, a woman who knows all too well the waking nightmare coming face-to-face with a killer like this one and having to heal physically and otherwise have come to terms with it all with your story all over the headlines.

Less than a month and a half ago, just outside Roanoke, Virginia, a bullet came within an inch of claiming Vicki Gardner's life. It is the latest shooting to shock the country, that is, until this one. Tonight, she joins us talking for the first time about the shooting in Oregon and what her own experience taught her about preventing the next tragedy. As you remember, she was being interviewed by a reporter and videotaped by a cameraman when a gunman approached. We'll talk about that and why she thinks she survived.

First, some background by Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vicki Gardner never got to finish her live interview. It happened in an instant. WDBJ reporter Alison Parker was suddenly shot, along with photographer Adam Ward. Neither survived.

JERRY MARKS, PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER, WDBJ TV: It is my very, very sad duty to report Alison and Adam died this morning shortly after 6:45 when the shots rang out. We do not know the motive.

KAYE: Soon it would become clear the shooter was a former WDBJ reporter who, on twitter, wrongly accused Alison Parker of making racist statements and also claimed Adam Ward reported him to HR, though that's still unclear. The shooter filed a discrimination lawsuit against the station which was dismissed last summer.

Meanwhile, Vicki Gardner had taken a bullet to the back but survived.

TIM GARDNER, VICKI GARDNER'S HUSBAND: She got up and walked to the ambulance after being shot. The surgeon told me that a couple centimeters and she wouldn't be walking and she wouldn't be alive.

KAYE: Before the shooting and before taking his own life in a standoff with police, the shooter sent a fax to ABC saying his plan to kill was set in motion after the Charleston, South Carolina, shootings. He also wrote about admiring the shooters from Virginia Tech in Columbine. One of his final act, posting the video of this shooting on his social media account for the world to see.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


[20:05:19] COOPER: Again, Vicki Gardner has rarely spoke about what happened to her and has never until tonight talks about this latest evidence in Oregon. I spoke to her just before we went on air.


COOPER: Vicki, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. First of all, most importantly, how are you doing?

VICKI GARDNER, VIRGINIA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I am doing well. It's been over a month now and every day there's improvement. It's one of those unforeseen things that you just don't know what to anticipate every day. But I'm very thankful to be here and just doing everything in my power to get up and going again.

COOPER: I mean, you look great. You know, obviously, physical recovery is one thing. Emotional recovery is another. Do you think about what happened on that day a lot?

V. GARDNER: You know, I really don't. I have so many things -- yes, I think about it and, you know, of course it was -- it was tragic. It was something that will be in my mind forever but every single day? No. I don't. I'm trying to focus in on the things that I can use my energy for and it may not be those tragic events, of course, thinking about Adam and Alison, I -- my heart just goes out to the families. I think that if there's a thought that goes through my mind, it really goes out to them and their families and everyone that loved them.

COOPER: I want to ask you about what you remember and I don't want you to answer anything that you're not comfortable. So I'm going to really just leave it up to you to say what you want and I'll just move on.


COOPER: How much do you remember of what went on? When this person walked up while you were being interviewed, did you see them? Did you realize immediately what was happening?

V. GARDNER: No. I most certainly didn't. This is something that your brain just doesn't process as to -- I saw someone approach. It was early in the morning. It was at a time that there really is no activity at our visitor's center and chamber. And I assumed that this was maybe a maintenance person that was coming to ask questions. The person looked a little on the -- almost boxy. I can't describe that. But obviously in hindsight, when you find out that he was in full body armor, that makes sense.

But just basically came up behind Adam and then immediately -- I mean, that is where it became very confusing because he immediately, while having the camera on himself and while we are on air live, that the bullets started firing. And, again, it was very difficult to say, what is that? It was just very, very fast.

COOPER: You know, I've read studies of shooting situations where oftentimes people don't know at first -- I mean, they hear a shot, even if it's close, but they don't understand what it is because it's so incongruous to the scene, the situation that you are in. When the shot started to ring out, did you know instantly what was going on?

V. GARDNER: Yes and no. Obviously it was something -- it was, again, very fast. When the bullets started coming, when I saw the horrific results of these bullets, Adam was next to me. He was right in front of me. And when he was hit, I immediately, without necessarily thinking, I don't know what caused me to react in this way but I dropped to the ground exactly when he did. We were down on the ground side by side. I was not hit. He was. And I basically just was in a fetal position, so to speak, and I played dead. I just did everything in my power to contain myself, just to lay there in hopes that it was over and that he would think that he had accomplished his mission. He did come back.

There was other things, of course, Alison -- I did not see what happened to Alison but he did come back. He stood over me. He shot me in the back, which I had really thought was much worse. I had anticipated that he was going to shoot me in the head. I don't know, I think he may have run out of bullets.

COOPER: I understand during the recuperation, you actually made the decision to watch the video. Why was that important to you?

V. GARDNER: Yes. Well, it's important because I certainly didn't want to suppress my thoughts. I wanted them to match reality. It was certainly hard to watch. But, you know, I don't want to be guessing at it. I want to know what happened. I certainly, as in our conversation right now, it's difficult to talk about but it's something that needs to happen as part of the mental healing process.

[20:10:15] COOPER: Have you always been this strong? I mean, you are impressive.

V. GARDNER: Well, thank you.

COOPER: I'm not trying to butter you up. I mean, I just think your strength and your determination is really extraordinary. And I know - I want to ask you about the Oregon shooting because obviously, when you've been through something like this, then you hear about another shooting. What goes through your mind?

V. GARDNER: That is sick. I will say, again, I was so saddened by that. My daughter, who had just flown in here from Oregon, she is a teacher and certainly not at that school, but she's a teacher in Oregon. And to think that it happened in Oregon in a school, you know, something just -- even more tragic, my goodness, where does it end? Where does it end?

COOPER: You wrote an op-ed about how this whole incident has affected you, how it's changed from the ways that you look at the world today. I'm wondering, how has it changed your outlook?

V. GARDNER: I keep seeing all of the banter back and forth and everybody wants to do the right thing. You know, the gun control laws, how can we make them better, mental health issues, how can we improve them? How can we make things better? And I just feel as though while we're waiting for these things to improve in society, maybe we can all look within ourselves and look at our community and say, you know, what can we do ourselves within our family? Our Kids are exposed to, maybe, a lot of violence that is not necessary. Maybe a little desensitized as to what we view on a daily basis.

We are working on something that I additionally feel strong about and that is what we're calling -- I'm almost embarrassed to say this but it was named Vicki's vision. But I would say that it's something that is much needed in our community. It is a community center that we can all use and, again, make it stronger.

COOPER: We will put the link on our Facebook page and our web page. Vicki's vision, that's on Facebook. Vicki Gardner, thank you so much.

Amazing lady.

As we said at the top of the broadcast, there is breaking news out of South Carolina. Another dam giving way. And some incredible acts of bravery including this. A man does one single thing, they say, no one should do, wading right into the waters without much help, a pastor putting his own body in danger in the service of souls, trying to bring back coffins that had floated away.

Later, Donald Trump gets his banter up when asked about his earlier statements about dropping out of the race. And he takes a swipe at another political target. We'll talk to the latest focus of his twitter sworn when we continue.


[20:16:47] COOPER: There's breaking news out of the Carolinas tonight where the rain has ended but a record volume of floodwaters is still making it is way down streams and rivers and tonight another dam has just failed. The latest one is in Lake Elizabeth which is just north of Columbia. Now, that makes 11 so far in South Carolina. The death toll also rising in South and North Carolina, now stands at 17. At the same time, though, as we're learning just how powerful and deadly these waters have been, we're hearing story after story of strength and courage in the face of it all.

Our Gary Tuchman has one such story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 86-year-old George Osterhues has been a widower for many years. He and his dog Tila (ph) were driving 1500 miles from his home in Ottawa, Ontario, to his condo on the Florida west coast. He happened to be in Columbia, South Carolina, during the worst of the torrential rain and flooding. He pulled off the highway because the driving was so dangerous, but floodwaters overtook his car. He was trapped.

But he was about to meet an extraordinary family. Tom and Julie Hall were out in the floodwaters trying to make sure neighbors were safe. They saw a car stuck against the fence and Tom slowly made his way closer to see if anyone was inside. His son Brice shot this video as his father made his way to the car. But minutes later --

TOM HALL, RESCUED MAN DURING FLOODING: I got to a point where I could see a little better and I'm waving like this and I see this little hand come out of the window and I'm like, oh, my God. That's not what you want to see. So he's waving. And that means, you know, you've got to go get him.

GEORGE OSTERHUES, FLOOD SURVIVOR: I couldn't stand up. The current was too strong. It would have swept me away.

TUCHMAN: Tom called a very busy 911 but couldn't wait for help to arrive. He started to walk and paddle his arms to the car, battling the current and deep water. We went to the exact site, now dry.

HALL: The only thing I had for safety is these tree branches. And I basically would grab a tree branch and I walk it over and grab another tree branch and walk it over and I was just using these tree branches to make sure my feet didn't get swept out from under me.

TUCHMAN: And the car was right over by that fence, correct? That's the distance you have to go and water up to five feet deep, right?

Hall: Yes.

OSTERHUES: He said, leave the dog away. And I said, no way.

HALL: He's hypothermic and he is leashing a wood. I'm getting more tired. I have no idea when think 911 is going to come and I just didn't think they would get there in time.

OSTERHUES: Tom hardly could stand on his own feet and now he had to drag me, too.

TUCHMAN: You didn't think you were going to survive?

HALL: I mean, I didn't think I was going to survive but you don't have any options. You've made a commitment and we're in it together and, you know, he said to me in the car, I'm not afraid to die. And I told him that I was and we weren't going to die.

TUCHMAN: Tom hugged George from the back. George hugged his Yorkie, Tila (ph). They had 150 yards to go to navigate to safety. At one point, George started to float away and Tom grabbed him, but couldn't make the last 50 yards. It was then his wife Julie and son Brice came into the water and to the rescue bringing George, Tom and, yes, Tila (ph), to safety.

Basically, you ensured your husband endured the survival by coming in?

[20:20:13] JULIE HALL, RESCUED MAN DURING FLOODING: I hadn't thought about it like that but maybe so.

T. HALL: We were out of energy. We couldn't go any further.

TUCHMAN: Tom and Julie Hall and their three sons are taking care of George for now and have quickly grown very close to him. George feels the same way. And says he will be forever grateful to Tom.

OSTERHUES: Somebody saved your life. You know, really, not only mine, my dog's, too. This man is unbelievable.


COOPER: Gary, that certainly makes me want to cry. I mean, this age of negativity where so many people are cruel to each other, to see that is just -- I don't know. It's the best thing I've seen in a long time. What's next for George?

TUCHMAN: It is amazing. George still wants to go to Florida. He doesn't have a car anymore. He's planning to rent a car and drive with his dog to Florida and this will be the last time he believes he does this drive because as I told you, George has been a widower for many years. He met a woman last year, became his girlfriend, they got engaged, they were planning to get married but she passed away last year. He is now all alone. He doesn't have any family here.

He was born in Germany. He left 60 years ago to go. He come to Canada. So he is going back to Germany where he still has family. He's planning to move there, but he pledges and so does this wonderful family that they plan to stay close, both of the rescuer and the rescued.

COOPER: Wow. Gary, thank you very much. Just incredible, incredible story. We've seen these last couple of days, life-saving acts of bravery like that. I mean, it is just incredible.

That say, we really haven't seen any of the comparison on this next story, an act of bravery aimed at comforting living by rescuing the dead. It happened yesterday near a cemetery. And ask yourself when you watch this, what would do you? Floodwaters have begun washing caskets and loved ones away. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: There are caskets that have come up out of the ground. These guys are going in to get them. Why are you going in to get them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody's family out there. This is respect. We've got to respect the dead. I mean, that family's suffering. They are their family out there popped out of the ground. I think it's the human thing to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: So you're headed out there right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right this thing.



COOPER: That's Wayne Reeves, a pastor at New Life Ministries in Somerville, South Carolina wading into the flood, quite a wave we should point out, and there he is bringing back one of the caskets. Pastor Wayne is not a rescue professional. He was, however, a man with a job to do and he joins us tonight to tell the story.

Pastor Wayne, these coffins, when you saw that they started to float in the water, what went through your mind?

WAYNE REEVES, PASTOR, NEW LIFE MINISTRIES: Well, I just knew that something had to be done. Here somebody's mom and dad is out here and the river was rising and they had already -- when I saw them, they had already drifted 150 yards away from the burial site. And so I was concerned that they may get damaged and the family members would suffer even more.

COOPER: So how did you go about doing something?

REEVES: Well, I drove up and I saw what was going on. I stopped and the first thing I did was inquire with the family members there. There was no immediate family that is present. And so I asked them to notify the funeral home that had buried them to, you know, follow the procedure to get these bodies, the coffins. And so then I proceed to go into the water, solicited help and couldn't get any. So I went in and walked out. I knew the area very well. I knew what was there because I lived up there. And I walked out about 300 yards and floated the mother back and at that time a deputy came up and asked me not to go back into the water for safety reasons and that they would send out a rescue team to get the other coffin and so that's what we did.

COOPER: Were you concerned at all about your own safety? Because, I mean, as you said, you solicited help and it sounds like other people weren't really willing to do it.

REEVES: No, I don't know what their concerns were. It really didn't bother me. I'm a get it done type guy but at the time, you know, we're Americans. We watch out for people. We do the right thing and here is somebody's mom out there and dad floating around in the water. And, you know, I was afraid that more damage would come to the corpses and the vaults if they were to open and they were going to wait for the water to come down. That would be three or four days or even weeks. And at that time, who would know where the bodies would be.

And out of respect for the family and the deceased, I just felt that the right moral thing to do was to go get them and bring them and secure them until the proper authorities could remove them and keep them in a safe place until such time we could rebury them.

[20:25:04] COOPER: Well, I think it's incredibly honorable what you did. How was the community there doing overall? I mean, the last few days, it's just impossible to imagine.

REEVES: Most of the main arteries are closed, flooded. Hundreds of homes are flooded. We're right now still in devastation.

COOPER: Well, Pastor Wayne Reeves, again, I just think what you did is extraordinary. And I appreciate you take this some time to talk with us tonight. Thank you.

REEVES: Thank you for allowing me to be here.

COOPER: Man, somebody just did what have to be done. It seem as shame to turn the world to politics now. We are going to take a short break. I'm going to turn to the target of Donald Trump's latest Twitter wars. Stewart Stevens who wrote on Mitt Romney's campaign and he is predicting Trump will drop out of the race by February 1st. We will talk to him about why he thinks that.

Also, the alleged leak about his dying son's wish, the Joe Biden's camp is calling it categorically false and offensive.


[20:29:53] COOPER: The Republican front-runner, it bears repeating, he is the Republican front-runner still Donald Trump, took aimed today claims he's looking for an exit strategy. Speculations started after he described a scenario in which he might throw out of the race. On "Meet the Press," he said that if his poll numbers sank into the single digit, he saw he wasn't going to win, he is quote "I'm not masochist." Mr. Trump's poll numbers have slip big causing some to see those remarks a signal he's looking for a way out. This morning on CNN's "New Day," he said no way.


DONALD TRUMP, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was asked a simple question by Chuck Todd at "Meet the Press," and I gave a very honorable and honest answer and I said, sure, if I was doing terribly, like some of these people, I wouldn't stay in. Who would stay in? But I'm not. I'm leading every single poll. One poll came out yesterday, 30 or the other day. I'm at 35 percent nationally. I'm not getting out. I'm going to win, OK? I gave a very honest answer, but the press takes an answer like that and they make it like oh, there's a big story. They make headlines out of it. It's ridiculous.


COOPER: On CNN yesterday, Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney's former campaign chief strategist, predicted that Donald Trump would drop out of the race before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. He doesn't think Trump is willing to risk losing. Trump responded, perhaps not surprisingly, by attacking Stevens on Twitter saying, quote, "Political strategist Stuart Stevens, who led Romney down the tubes in what should have been an easy victory, has terrible political instincts." Starting Twitter wars is certainly a specialty of Donald trump. His talent for free publicity unmatched by his rivals on the campaign trail. The Washington Post is reporting that Trump has spent just $2 million roughly on his campaign so far, which is really a very modest amount, when you consider what some of these others have spent. CNN asked the Trump campaign about that report. They do not dispute it.

Stuart Stevens joins me now. In addition to being the most recent target of Trump's Twitter rage, he's the author of "The Last Season: A Father, a Son and a Lifetime of College Football." Stuart, good to have you on.

STUART STEVENS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Hey, Anderson, good to see you, buddy.

COOPER: First of all, I want to give you just the opportunity to respond to Donald Trump, if you want. This is a familiar refrain for him that everyone associated with the Romney campaign, a campaign that he himself endorsed, is a loser, and somehow unfit to criticize him.

STEVENS: Well, in sports, it's generally felt that you need to win something before you criticize those that have done that. Mitt Romney won a nomination, which is something that most people don't do. A lot of people try to do. You and I and Donald Trump have all received the same number of votes for president, Anderson. So I think let's wait and see. If he does stay in and if people vote for him, and if he wins, then I think he can go out and if he wants to talk a little trash, then that's fine. But before anybody has voted for him, it seems a little silly.

COOPER: Talk to me about your belief that he's going to get out before any votes are cast so he doesn't risk losing, which would certainly go against his own brand, but I mean, the polls still show him leading, though there have been some changes here. Why would he get out if he is still leading?

STEVENS: Well, because he's going to lose. I mean, do you think Donald Trump is going to be the next president of the United States? He's not. Most people that run for president lose. It's like the Super Bowl. It's hard to get there, and there's some belief that 50 percent of the teams that get there, lose.

COOPER: Why do you think he's going to lose? Nobody thought he would get this far, and he often repeats that, all of the pundits have been wrong about whether he would enter the race in the beginning, whether he would show -- you know, he would not file papers, nobody really thought he would get this far.

STEVENS: I think we have to step back and use what we know about politics and common sense. If you look at the Iowa electorate, would they nominate Donald Trump let's say for governor? I think that's a good question to ask, because that's the same body of voters that you have to go to. Would he be able to get nominated in New Hampshire for governor? It's hard to imagine. He's unlike anybody else that's been elected there. I just don't think it's going to happen. I don't think voters know a lot about Donald Trump, and I think it's the easiest thing in the world I'm for Donald Trump if someone calls you up on the phone, but I think it's a very different thing when you start to think about who you want to represent the party, who won't embarrass you, and who you think can actually win in November.

COOPER: So that's interesting. So you think, are you saying in fact, you think not that people are going to change their mind, those people are already saying in the same polls that they support him, but the polls themselves are inherently flawed, that people who are called up on the phone, just sort of because he's so well known, say Trump, as opposed to who they really in the end are going to vote for?

STEVENS: I don't think they are flawed. I think people are saying what they believe now, but I don't think that's what they will believe on election day.

Look, life imitates high school. It's fun to hang out with people who are having fun.

COOPER: In so many ways, by the way, life imitates high school.

STEVENS: And it's fun to hang out with people who are having fun. Donald Trump has been having fun. It's fun to hang out with him. What do we know about running for president? It's the least fun experience an adult can enter into voluntarily. So this will not continue. It won't be fun for him, and I think it will be less fun to hang out with him. And I think voters will drift away to more serious candidates.

COOPER: How do you think it becomes unfun for him? If poll numbers drop or --


COOPER: -- Just the grind or staying in small hotels in a different place every night, shaking so many hands? What do you think becomes unfun?


Because right now he hasn't really campaigned in the traditional sense. He has held huge events. He tweets, which gets media coverage, he calls in to television shows, he gives interviews from New York, but he's not campaigning like anybody else.

STEVENS: I think it was very telling that we learned today that he's only spent $2 million. I think if he was out there spending say $5, $10 million a week of his own money, I think you'd have to look at him as a more serious candidate.

My experience with self-funding candidates is, they talk about spending their own money more readily than they spend it.

COOPER: That's interesting.

STEVENS: And I think that he said he's not going to raise money from other people, and if we wake up and Donald Trump has placed a $25, $30, $40 million buy, I think we'd have to re-evaluate that and think that he's a more serious candidate. But you're not going to be able to win this race by tweeting your way to the Oval Office. It's not going to happen. And he's, look, in 2011, in April, he was getting 26 percent of the vote in a poll that CNN put him on. I remember, we were laughing about it with Mitt Romney. Mitt was saying, look, I'm losing to a guy that's not even in the race. So I don't think -- it's just a certain percentage of the people are drawn to a guy named Donald Trump. I don't think they will stay.

COOPER: Let me ask you, if Trump were to get out, whose race is this, do you think, to lose? Do you think it comes down to a standoff between Bush and Rubio, or do you think this whole outsider thing we've seen with Dr. Carson and Trump and Fiorina is going to continue?

STEVENS: I think two things on this. I don't think the party will nominate someone who has not been elected to office before. I don't think we're going to see a presidential nominee in their first elected office. I think that Dr. Carson and Carly Fiorina are terrific for the party. I think they are very compelling people. I don't think they are going to be the nominees.

The second thing to look at is, who is going to win the first four states? Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. To win in this business of getting nominated, you have to win. So coming in close really doesn't matter anymore. So who is going to win Iowa? Who is going to win New Hampshire? And I think that in overwhelming probability that the nominee will be someone who has won one at least one of those four states.

COOPER: Interesting. Stuart, I can hear right now Donald Trump's fingers on a text machine right now. Tweeting something about you, possibly even me. I eagerly await.

STEVENS: I think you can tough it out, Anderson.

COOPER: I think I'll be all right. It's all right. It wouldn't be the first time.

Stuart, thank you very much. Really great to have you on. Interesting stuff.

Just ahead, the latest on this bombshell. Joe Biden's team denying a report that the vice president actually leaked his son's dying wish to newspaper columnist Maureen Dowd to test the waters for a presidential run. Hear what they are saying about it.



COOPER: One week from tonight, CNN will host the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas. I'll be moderating. The wild card of course is still Joe Biden, will he run or won't he? Several sources close to Biden say he is very close to announcing his decision. The vice president obviously is grieving deeply over the recent death of his son, Beau, and has said that he doesn't know if he's up for a presidential run. Back in August, "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that Beau Biden's dying wish was for his father to enter the race. Tonight, a spokesperson for Biden is denying a report by Politico that Mr. Biden leaked that emotional detail to Dowd to lay the groundwork for a race. Joining me now is CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and CNN political commentator, Dan Pfeiffer, who was a senior adviser to President Obama. So Gloria, you've been calling sources again tonight. How does this Politico article and the push-back from the vice president's office all factor into Joe Biden's timetable?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, everybody I've talked to who considers themselves an ally of Joe Biden says to me, look, there's a lot more pressure now for Joe Biden to make a decision sooner rather than later. I'm told there's going to be a family conversation this weekend, which could be conclusive, and even his friends are saying, look, he's lost control of his own story. You know, people don't vote for someone for president because they have sympathy for you. They vote for someone for president because they have a message and they believe you are going to be a strong leader, and they think he needs to get to that part of his message really quickly if he's going to get in.

COOPER: Dan, regardless of who told Maureen Dowd what and for what reason, is there a risk for the vice president as being seen as indecisive? I mean, he still is obviously grieving, yet there are realities, particularly time and money.

DAN PFEIFFER, FORMER SR. ADVISER TO BARACK OBAMA: I think people are going to give him a very wide birth to make this decision. I don't think that the public perception is an issue. What is an issue is that eventually, he's going to run out of time just because of the logistical nuts and bolts.

COOPER: When does he have to get in or not?

PFEIFFER: I think he's probably within a few weeks of that. He's probably the only person left in America who could get in the race at this late stage and still have a shot, but every single day Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have more people on the ground in Iowa, more people on the ground in New Hampshire, are building their organizations and raising money, and he's coming from a complete standing start, because he has no current existing political organization to build off of. So he has a lot of work to do. So I think everyone wants to give him as much time as he needs to make the decision he should, but the pressures of putting together a national campaign are going to -- are coming to bear here pretty quickly.

COOPER: Gloria, it's interesting, they are trying to figure out, who would have leaked this to Politico if, in fact, it was true? Was it one of the other campaigns, one of the Democratic campaigns to sort of try to kind of subtly push back on him and kind of show him how tough the race can be? There's a "New York" magazine report that the Clinton allies are arming themselves with opposition research on the vice president in case he does decide to run. BORGER: Look, if you're the Clinton campaign, you'd be foolish not to

have opposition research on every candidate, who might run, including Joe Biden or O'Malley. They've got opposition research on. I think it would be very divisive in the Democratic Party, for example, if Hillary Clinton started pointing out, okay, you were on the wrong side of the decision to go after Osama bin Laden, for example. You were on the wrong side on Syria. All kinds of issues. Because you were -- your role in the Anita Hill hearings is sort of questionable.


That would not be good for the president. I know that Biden had lunch with the president today. We don't know what was discussed. But if I were sitting in the White House right now, I kind of wouldn't want to see this war going on between these two top lieutenants of mine.

COOPER: Dan, it would be tough, I mean, it would be interesting, I guess, for Hillary Clinton to hit Joe Biden over his record as vice president. She is obviously as closely tied to the administration as anyone else.

PFEIFFER: I think that probably would be a fool's errand, because Hillary Clinton's ultimate -- what will decide whether Hillary Clinton becomes president or not, if she's the nominee, is can she get the Obama coalition, the people who turned out for President Obama, in 2008 and 2012, to come out for her? So if she's seen as positioning herself against the president, I think that would be very bad for her long-term political future.

COOPER: Interesting. Gloria, thank you. Dan Pfeiffer as well. Good to have you.

Coming up, as the search for survivors goes on, family members are asking why a missing cargo ship sailed into what would become Hurricane Joaquin.


COOPER: Tonight, the Coast Guard has found only debris from the cargo ship that vanished in the Caribbean as Hurricane Joaquin passed through. The El Faro had a crew of 28 Americans and 5 Polish nationals on board.


The NTSB is investigating and family members are searching for answers tonight. Martin Savidge has more.


ANDREW DEHLINGER, FATHER OF MISSING CREW MEMBER: I can't go there. And I've cried so much that I have no more tears. So he's got to come -- they all have to come back.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But for many of the families, why did they go in the first place? PHIL GREENE, PRES./CEO, TOTE SERVICES: The captain laid out his plan,

and given his plan and given what he had in the way of information about the weather system, his plan was a sound plan that would have enabled him to clearly pass around the storm with a margin of comfort that was adequate in his professional opinion.

SAVIDGE: But even if the ship hadn't run into mechanical trouble, as it did with its propulsion system, weather reports last Tuesday show Joaquin already brewing as a tropical storm. The 5:00 p.m. forecast predicting it would become hurricane strength. That, just hours before El Faro even set sail at 8:00 p.m. that night, its path leading directly into the eye of the storm. Family members of those aboard visible angry over that decision.

DESTINY SPARROW, DAUGHTER OF MISSING CREW MEMBER: That's what I do not like. If they knew the hurricane was coming, they should have kept them there and waited, and to ship them back out like that, that makes no sense at all.

SAVIDGE: At daybreak today, the search for survivors continued. The Coast Guard dispatching planes; three naval cutters working round the clock, along with commercial tugboats. So far, only one of two lifeboats has been found, badly damaged, along with one victim in a neoprene survival suit.

CAPT. MARK FEDOR, USCG: We are still looking for survivors or any signs of life, any signs of that vessel.

SAVIDGE: The NTSB launching its own team to Jacksonville, apart from the Coast Guard, to investigate, but the outlook is grim. And after four days of searching, family members, like the mother of Mariette Wright, fear they may never see their loved ones again.

MARY SHEVORY, MOTHER OF MISSING CREW MEMBER: She loved the sea. She couldn't have lived without being on the sea somehow or somewhere. And that is her life, and now I'm so afraid she's lost it to the sea.


COOPER: Martin joins me now. I understand the NTSB are expected to hold a news conference tonight. Any sense of what kind of updates they may have for these families?

SAVIDGE: Well, right now I think they are just going to be at the very beginning of this investigation. Of course, what the family wants to know is that their loved ones have been found alive and well. That information would most likely come from the Coast Guard and not the NTSB. But short of that, then families are going to want to know why? Why did this happen? How did this happen? And also to make sure it doesn't happen again to someone else's family. But we're in the very early days. Anderson?

COOPER: Martin, thank you very much.

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan says the United States would, quote, never intentionally target a protected medical facility. General John Campbell testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee today, three days after a Doctors Without Borders hospital was struck, killing 12 staff members and at least 10 patients, including at least three children. There are big questions remaining about how this could have happened. Our senior international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me.

So Nic, Today was the first time that the U.S. actually admitted it made a mistake here, right?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Yesterday, General Campbell was saying it was an accident. Now he says it's a mistake. Doctors Without Borders had criticized them for trying to blame the day before, blame it on the Afghans who he said had called in, or asked the U.S. to call in the air strike. But now I think he was trying to be very, very clear that it was a mistake, but the strike was called in by U.S. forces, and, therefore, U.S. forces have a responsibility and will through the investigation answer the questions here.

COOPER: Nic, is there any more clarity about the chain of events that actually led up to this?

ROBERTSON: Doctors Without Borders have given some information which we didn't have before, which gives some vital clues into the sequence of events. They say that the aircraft flew around over the hospital, a large compound, single building, was the only -- there was only one building in that compound that was hit. A lot of others were spared, but the plane came over several times, targeted that one building, went around several other times, came back, targeted that one building; went around several more times, came back, targeted that one building. And that is why Doctors Without Borders are saying it's a war crime, you can't call it a mistake, because each time air controllers, forward air controllers, would have had to make all their normal checks, as we know that they do, before a strike is bored in on each of those separate occasions, and Doctors Without Borders say for them, this information, what they have on the ground and what they are hearing, it doesn't add up.

COOPER: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you.


Just ahead tonight, what NSA leaker Edward Snowden says he would do and what he would give up to return to the United States.


COOPER: A lot more going on tonight. Here is a quick "360" bulletin. About 6,000 prisoners who got harsh sentences in drug cases will get an early release later this month. It's the biggest mass release in the Federal Bureau of Prisons history.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden says in an interview with the BBC that he's offered many times to go to prison in the United States as part of a deal to come back, but is still waiting for an answer from the government. Snowden, as you know, has been exiled in Russia after leaking documents about the U.S. government's mass surveillance programs.

And in Australia, a man trying to escape from police chose a pretty strange escape route. He drove straight into the ocean. Officers watched from the beach and then went and pulled the guy out. That does it for us. The CNN special report "The O.J. Verdict: Shock of the Century," starts now.