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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Ex-White House Counsel Don McGahn Rebuffed Request to Say President Trump Didn't Obstruct Justice; Rudy Giuliani Says He's Heading to Ukraine: Is It An Attempt to Discredit Former VP Biden?; Victim Died Trying To Stop Gunman, Saving Lives; Parents of 2012 Aurora, Colorado, Shooting Victim Travel The Country To Help Others Impacted By Mass Shootings; Remembering the Colorado School Shooting Victim. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired May 10, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:13] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with breaking news. An administration official revealing that the White House asked former White House counsel Don McGahn to say publicly that President Trump did not obstruct justice and McGahn refused. A source familiar with the president tells CNN he was upset with McGahn's refusal. The story was first reported in "The Wall Street Journal."
"The New York Times" also has some reporting that the White House made the request to McGahn at least twice in the last month. McGahn was a key witness for Robert Mueller. He was mentioned in the report more than 500 times. And according to the Mueller report, President Trump sought to have McGahn fire Mueller. McGahn refused to do that as well, but the president denied that ever happened.
Joining us tonight is "The Wall Street Journal" reporter who first broke the story, Rebecca Ballhaus.
Rebecca, what are you learning about this outreach from the White House to Don McGahn?
REBECCA BALLHAUS, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: So, what we understand is within a day of the release of the Mueller report, Emmet Flood, who's a top White House lawyer, he's technically the White House special counsel, received a request from the president that he ask Don McGahn to publicly declare in a statement that he didn't believe his interactions with the president, which included Trump asking him to seek Mueller's dismissal and subsequently to deny that that conversation ever happened. That McGahn thought that that amounted to obstruction of justice and they wanted the statement to come out right in the middle of sort of this public furor that was emerging over the report which had a lot of these explosive details about the president's efforts to get rid of Robert Mueller in the early stages of his investigation.
COOPER: So, president Trump wanted McGahn to say that he didn't believe the president had tried to obstruct justice?
BALLHAUS: That's right. And we know that Emmet Flood, when he reached out to McGahn's lawyer, pointed to some previous conversations that McGahn's lawyer had had with other attorneys for the president in which he had said that if McGahn felt that he had -- that the president had ordered him to commit a crime or that the president had committed a crime, then he would have resigned. Since he didn't resign, there was an inference to be drawn there.
So, Flood pointed to those conversations and essentially asked them to say that again and more publicly.
COOPER: So what was their response?
BALLHAUS: Their response was that McGahn declined to put out any kind of statement. This was for a couple of reasons, according to what we're hearing, which is that number one, that McGahn didn't want to be perceived as commenting on anything in the report beyond his own testimony. But in addition to that, he didn't really want to comment on his own testimony because he felt that you can't really say whether the president obstructed justice based off of one part of what was testimony from hundreds of witnesses.
And he also felt that his own statement saying what he believed or didn't believe about whether the president obstructed justice wasn't really relevant when the attorney general had already determined that he didn't believe there was a prosecutable crime.
COOPER: And do we know, does McGahn actually believe the president did not obstruct justice?
BALLHAUS: Well, I think that's a hard question to answer and it's one that I think that lawmakers will want McGahn to answer. I mean, I think the fact that he threatened -- that he felt -- they would have resigned if he felt like he was witnessing a crime and didn't resign is interesting. But it is, as you noted, important to point out that he was prepared to resign if Trump pressed again about having him seek Mueller's dismissal.
So, he clearly felt that there was the potential for obstruction of justice there if it had been carried out.
COOPER: Is it known when McGahn left the White House -- I mean, he and the president, do we know what their relationship was by then? Did they leave on OK terms?
BALLHAUS: We know that the president was really incensed by reporting that McGahn had spent 30 hours with Mueller's investigators. I think that shows itself in the fact that the president's lawyers reached out to McGahn's lawyer to figure out what exactly McGahn had said. So, I think relations were pretty tense by the time that McGahn left last fall. And I believe at the time the president announced that McGahn would be leaving in a tweet, which surprised McGahn himself.
COOPER: Rebecca Ballhaus, appreciate it. Thank you very much.
BALLHAUS: Thank you.
COOPER: As I mentioned, "The New York Times" also has this reporting. Michael Schmidt has the byline.
Joining me now is one of his colleagues, Maggie Haberman, who's a White House correspondent and CNN political analyst.
Maggie, what does it say that the president wanted McGahn to make a statement like this?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think this fits, Anderson, with a pattern of what we have seen the president try to do over the last several years, which is he tries to get aides to tamp down information he thinks may be problematic. He tried to get Don McGahn, as we know from the Mueller report and from our reporting in real time to issue a statement saying that the president had never told Don McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn refused to do that. That is one of the acts Mueller considered as possible obstruction of justice.
So I think this fits in line with what we've seen the president do repeatedly, try to get people to issue statements on his behalf. It's notable that McGahn declined to do so.
COOPER: If the president wasn't concerned about obstruction of justice and fully believed he had been exonerated as he keeps saying he is, why would he need to go to McGahn to go out and say this?
HABERMAN: I think that's right. Look, Mueller -- to your point, Mueller was pretty clear, he and his team, in the report that they were not exonerating the president on obstruction of justice. That if they felt they could say that a crime was not committed, that they would have made that very clear. They didn't feel they could say that and so they didn't.
It was Bill Barr, the attorney general, and Rod Rosenstein, then the deputy attorney general, who said in their summary that they do not believe that obstruction was committed because there was no underlying crime. That's not the view of the Mueller team.
COOPER: You know, you point out that this is a pattern. It's not only a pattern with Don McGahn. He did the same thing with Jim Comey, asking Comey to publicly say that the president wasn't under investigation. He did it with Rod Rosenstein, while trying to get Rosenstein to have a press conference, according to the Mueller report, and say that it was his idea essentially to fire Comey.
HABERMAN: Correct. We also know from the Mueller report that the president asked Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, to ask Jeff Sessions to say something favorable to the president about the Russia investigation and the possible conspiracy between the campaign and Russian officials. That also didn't happen.
We know that the president wanted Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer and fixer, to stay, you know, sort of within his world and not say anything critical and not cooperate with authorities. When Michael Cohen pleaded guilty, that was when the president branded him a, quote/unquote, rat. So, we have seen this over and over again.
COOPER: McGahn refused to do this. Do you think it's at all connected to the attempts by the White House to prevent McGahn's testimony in front of Congress?
HABERMAN: I don't think that you can look at it as unrelated. I can't speak to their mindset, but it's certainly worth noting the context that the White House has asserted executive privilege over the report. That they invoked privilege, did not assert it in terms of the documents that McGahn has and the testimony that Congress wanted from him, both documents and testimony. They have told him not to comply with the subpoena that he was issued.
McGahn's view as I understand it from people close to him was that the White House was the client. He's not in a position to violate that. Either, you know, the president has to waive privilege or a court has to order McGahn to comply.
But I don't think you can take away the fact that the White House was asking McGahn to issue this statement saying he didn't obstruct justice at a time when Congress is eagerly looking for McGahn's testimony. McGahn is a key witness in the Mueller case and this will now add another question if he ever does appear before Congress that he'll be asked.
COOPER: Yes, and just lastly, it was interesting, during the president's talks to reporters today, he said something that kind of -- I think, or actually it was yesterday, I'm sorry. He used a word he normally doesn't use in reference to obstruction. I just want to play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I didn't have to give them a document. I gave them 1.5 million documents. I gave them White House counsel. I gave them other -- anybody you want, you can talk to. At the end of the testimony, no collusion, and essentially no obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I think it's the first time I've heard him say essentially no obstruction. I don't know if it's a big deal at all, but it's just interesting whether, you know, he meant or not, he usually says no obstruction.
HABERMAN: He's definitely now putting an asterisk on it. Let's see if he continues to do that.
COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, thanks very much.
Up next, we get more reaction to the breaking news from the president's former White House strategist, Steve Bannon. We'll also get his take on the administration's tactics on request from House Democrats.
Also tonight with another town grieving after a deadly school shooting with a couple who travel the country on a mission to help survivors of mass shootings. Unfortunately, they know this grief firsthand and try to help survivors prepare for a future that few can imagine.
[20:13:23] COOPER: Welcome back.
Again, our breaking news, an administration official saying the White House asked former White House counsel Don McGahn to state publicly that President Trump did not obstruct justice. McGahn refused and a source says the president was upset at that refusal.
Our other breaking news story, the escalating fight for the president's financial records. One of the most powerful Democrats in Congress has issued subpoenas now for President Trump's tax returns. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal is demanding six years of the president's returns after the Treasury Department refused to turn them over. Neal has sent subpoenas to both the IRS commissioner and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, setting up a likely lengthy court fight. This as Democrats faced what they call unprecedented stonewalling by the Trump administration.
Joining me now to discuss it all, Steve Bannon, President Trump's former White House chief strategist.
Steve, thanks for being with us.
I want to get your reaction, first of all, to the reporting about McGahn. Do you think McGahn is an honorable guy? Do you believe what he told the Mueller team about what he says the president asked him to do is accurate?
STEVE BANNON, CITIZENS OF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC: Well, I think, you know, the president at the time waived executive privilege, sent his White House counsel up, I think, and had over 30 hours of questioning. I was sent up, Reince Priebus was sent up, everybody in the White House. The president was -- said, go up and spend as much time as possible. I think it was over a million and a half documents.
COOPER: Do you think McGahn was honest to what he said to Mueller?
BANNON: Well, look, I think you've got to read the report. Don McGahn is I think a pretty straightforward guy. This was a very serious investigation. I think it's unprecedented in what the president did. And, remember, I was the one that advocated not to fire people like Comey. I said he had the right to do it.
[20:15:02] I thought just for the politics of it and get it out of the way.
But -- and I also didn't agree --
COOPER: Right. But the president says McGahn lied.
BANNON: I didn't agree -- look, I think he got -- it's in the document. I think you've got to read the document.
COOPER: No, I've read it.
BANNON: I think the document is pretty straightforward. COOPER: OK, straightforward, OK.
A "New York Times" report --
BANNON: I think it's pretty straightforward.
COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.
BANNON: I think it's pretty straightforward. You've got to read the document. That's what -- you know, Mueller and these guys had months and months and months to put it together. Read the document. I think the document is what it is.
COOPER: A "New York Times" report from earlier this week showed that the president hadn't paid federal income taxes for eight out of ten years, called it sport when he was describing, claiming enormous losses to the IRS.
Does that play well in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, among blue collar workers where the president did very well and turned, you know, Democrats to his side, folks who are paying their taxes? I mean, when you talk about elites, that sure makes the president sound like an elite.
BANNON: Look, if you look at the Midwest states the president won, I think he won because of what's happened with China this week, is that he promised that he was going to reverse the pattern of the elites in the United States and really focus on bringing jobs back to working class people, middle class people throughout the country and particularly in the Rust Belt.
I really don't think, Anderson, somebody's taxes from 30 years ago and we don't even know if they're a summary of the taxes, what he did on depreciation. He's a real estate developer. You know, you'd have to go through the whole thing.
I don't think it's going to make a big deal. I don't think it's going to make any real difference. I think the issues are the issues of today and voters are going to say, hey, we thought about that in 2016. We either voted for the guy or didn't vote for the guy on other reasons. I think this -- I think this is just something that's on the margin.
COOPER: I want to ask you about China in a second, but I understand why the president doesn't wanting to release his tax returns. Isn't the law pretty clear? It reads upon written request from the chairman of the committee on Ways and Means, at the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance in the Senate or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the secretary will furnish such committee with any returning or return information specified in such request.
It doesn't seem like there's a lot of wiggle room there. I mean, I know it can be challenged in courts for a long time, but isn't the law clear? BANNON: Well, I think -- look, I'm not a lawyer, right? You've got
to -- that's why you have teams of great lawyers around this. The secretary of the treasury I think came out and said he's not going to do it.
Steve Mnuchin is also -- I don't agree with Steve all the time on his negotiating tactics, but Steve is a pretty straight guy. Secretary Mnuchin, I think he came out and said he's not going to do it. That once again will go to the courts and they'll fight it.
I think, Anderson, this is what I was saying back in the summer and the fall, elections have consequences. When you lose the House of Representatives and the House and the Democrats take over their oversight, this is what you're going to get. I said that the first six or eight months of this year is going to be the most vitriolic in I think American political history.
I think you're seeing that every day. I think the vitriol that's building up on Capitol Hill and at the White House every day, it's a slugfest, and I don't think it's going to stop. I think it's going to continue.
COOPER: Let's talk China. You support obviously the tariffs on China. You praised the president for the stance he's taken. I was reading stuff you've said.
You said that, quote: The goal into China is quite simply to break the back of this totalitarian mercantilist economic society. You've also written if the Chinese communist party agrees to the U.S. demands and they're enforceable, it would, I'm quoting, amount to a legal and regulatory dismantling of Chinese state capitalism.
If that's the goal, why would China compromise and make that deal if it's essentially to destroy their system?
BANNON: Well, you know, look, I'm not in the White House and I'm not an advisor to the president now. I think the president has a great relationship with President Xi. I think the president is trying to get to a deal.
I think this week was one of the most important weeks in modern American at least economic history in that the Chinese tried to do what they have often done before and fundamentally retrade the United States.
And this is the first time I think you've seen a president really drop the hammer and say, not only I'm not going to take the retrade. We've been at this for, you know, six, eight, nine months. I've also delayed these other tariffs I think for six months. But these enforcement provisions and these monitoring provisions of the deal are absolutely essential and you have to do it.
Remember, I take real pride in being from day one a real hawk on this. I think Chinese state capitalism is the system -- we have two systems right now. You know, the world is a house divided, kind of half slave and half free. I think Chinese state capitalism, I believe, has to be dismantled. I
think a lot of things in this transaction start to do that. I think the Chinese and particularly the hawks around President Xi have really after the Belt and Road initiative forum in Beijing saying, hey, why do we need the Americans? We've got a system that works for us. Let's just start our system for a while.
BANNON: So I think it's a pretty big gap. I think the pretty big gap from where we are, but like I said, I'm pretty hard core on this.
And I'll also tell you, this is why I think Trump is president of the United States. I think it was this managed decline of America by our elites that he promised voters, particularly in the Rust Belt on the manufacturing side he was going to reverse.
[20:20:06] COOPER: Right, but it sounds --
BANNON: To me, this gets to the central heart of his presidency.
COOPER: But it sounds like, though, what you're advocating for is more than just about bringing back manufacturing jobs to the heartland. It sounds like you want a larger confrontation with China, an overthrow of their system. I understand the abhorrence of their regime, what they do to their own citizens, but they are a superpower. I mean, isn't a larger confrontation potentially catastrophic?
BANNON: I think the larger confrontation is really economic, and I think you've got to bring it into the industrial democracy, free market capitalism. We can't go on with two systems.
Like I said, I'm more -- I've been known to be much more extreme in this area. But I think what the president is trying to do and I think it's pretty logical is bring the supply chain, bring the supply chain back to the industrial democracies, particularly the United States, Japan and Western Europe. And I think this deal will call for a lot of that.
"The New York Times" reported I think three or four weeks ago that shocking to many that the supply chain is actually starting to come back. People should remember this 3.2 percent growth we had last week, that one point over the 2.2 which people thought it was going to be, that surprising 33 percent increase, that virtually came from President Trump's tariffs. That was us decreasing the deficit.
So, you're seeing the real economic juice in this for Americans. So, I think we're in for a long, protracted fight on this.
COOPER: Most economists will say the effects aren't known yet. It's not really fair to say to register it, and there's obviously others who you argued with in the White House who were arguing that tariffs are hurting American consumers. But I just want to ask you --
BANNON: But, Anderson, Anderson, Anderson, hang on one second. I think import prices are actually falling. I think if you look at the fights that the globalists and nationalists had back in those days in the administration, I actually think Trump's tariff policy is working. You're seeing import prices drop. You're seeing a dramatic rise in GDP.
I think President Trump is on to something. It's one of the reasons that he said, hey, I'm not going to crater on doing the retrade here. We're going to stick to our guns.
I think the Chinese look at themselves and say, hey --
BANNON: -- this is -- they're really trying to fundamentally change our system and we've got to stick to it.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, others argue trade deficit hasn't really -- you know, it hasn't improved as of now. Others would say that it's too early.
BANNON: It's started -- it's started -- it is, it's very early, but it's started to improve in April. And I think you -- a lot of people are saying, hey, the president and these tariffs may be on to something.
COOPER: All right.
BANNON: I think one of the biggest parts of this week, there was no definition today of what the process is going forward. In addition, I think the president has notified or the trade representative notified the federal register that there could be the increase of the other $325 billion of tariffs.
I also think the Chinese, if my sources are correct, the Chinese did not participate in one of the treasury auctions today. So this could get very contentious and get very contentious very quickly.
COOPER: Yes. It certainly seems like it.
Steve Bannon, we're out of time. I appreciate it, though. Thanks very much.
Coming up, why is Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, traveling to the Ukraine? Is it in part to collect information that might damage former Vice President Joe Biden in his campaign for the presidential nomination? Details on that ahead.
[20:27:03] COOPER: President Trump's television lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says he'll travel to Ukraine shortly to meet that nation's newly elected president. Now, that's about the only thing that's straightforward in a tangled story of 2020 politics and former Vice President Biden.
360's Randi Kaye now with a strange road map.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: All I want the Ukrainian government to do is investigate and don't let these people buffalo you.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani has questions, and he's hoping to find the answers in Ukraine, drawing yet another foreign nation into a U.S. election. The president's lawyer wants to know whether or not Joe Biden used his political power as vice president to shut down an investigation into a Ukrainian company his son, Hunter Biden, was working with.
GIULIANI: It's a big story, it's a dramatic story, and I guarantee you, Joe Biden will not get to election day without this being investigated. It will be a massive scandal.
KAYE: Giuliani says he stumbled upon the Biden story while investigating Democrats' alleged efforts to spread misinformation about Trump. He claimed to CNN that in 2016 as part of a broad anti- corruption push by the U.S., then Vice President Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to oust its top prosecutor.
He claims that prosecutor was investigating the Ukrainian company called Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company which Biden's son, Hunter, was on the board of.
(on camera): After that prosecutor's removal, Ukraine's new prosecutor dismissed the case against the company. There is no evidence that Joe Biden acted improperly. In fact Bloomberg reports the Ukrainian government's case against Burisma, the company, had been dormant since 2014. That would have been two years before Biden pushed to remove the prosecutor.
Giuliani told "The New York Times," which first reported this story, he's not meddling in an election, but he's meddling in an investigation, which he said he has the right to do. He claimed there's nothing illegal about it and this isn't foreign policy.
Giuliani says he's planning to visit Kiev to dig deeper. His efforts to entangle yet another foreign nation in our elections isn't lost on those in Washington investigating the president.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): We've come to a very sorry state when it's considered okay for an American politician, never mind an attorney for the president, to go and seek foreign intervention in American politics.
KAYE: Giuliani is also calling for the Department of Justice to investigate Biden and says the president agrees. But if the goal in all of this is to damage Biden's campaign, the candidate hardly seems bothered. The Biden campaign referred CNN to a statement it had given to "The
New York Times," claiming Biden acted on Ukraine without any regard for how it would or would not impact his son's business interests.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Well, still ahead, another community grieving after another mass shooting. A brave young man killed, eight others wounded. They aren't the only victims -- their families are friends are now living with a grief that few can imagine.
We want to introduce you to a couple coming up who know their pain and now make it their mission to help survivors find the purpose and strength to live what they call their new normal. It's a story you don't want to miss, next.
COOPER: The two suspects in the deadly shooting in a Colorado Charter School will appear in court next week to hear the charges against them. The 18-year-old and 16-year-old, both students at the school, will face murder, attempted murdered and perhaps other charges.
Kendrick Castillo was killed. He died when he lunged at the shooter giving his classmates time to hide. The tragedy was the latest blow to a community that has already endured a rash of mass shootings including Columbine High School and the Aurora Movie Theater shooting.
In a piece, I did for "60 Minutes" I met a remarkable couple whose daughter was killed in the Aurora shooting and now travel around the country trying to make the unthinkable somehow bearable for survivors and their families. Here's that story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDY PHILLIPS, SHOOTING VICTIM'S MOTHER: Your identity has been stripped from you, you know, whether it's mother or daddy or father or sister or brother. I no longer have that title. I no longer have that relationship. And when it's violence, like ours was, that takes a long time to recover from.
[20:35:04] COOPER: I think some people think that there's a timetable for grief.
S. PHILLIPS: Oh, yes.
COOPER: Do you get that?
S. PHILLIPS: Oh, yes. The five stages of grief, right? And you go through all five of them and think, "OK, now I'm done." And they don't tell you, "Oh, no, you get to start it all again." And they're out of sequence. A lot of survivors just don't know that, especially going into it. You might find that what you have done for the last 20 years of your life or 30 years of your life has absolutely no meaning to you anymore. And that was certainly the case for us.
COOPER (voice-over): It wasn't long after their daughter's murder that Sandy and Lonnie Phillips quit their jobs. They've gotten rid of most of their belongings and rented out their house so they can travel around the country to mass shootings hoping to meet survivors and offer help.
The scene of a mass shooting is not an easy place to come to. It can be like walking into a stranger's funeral
S. PHILLIPS: We don't know each other yet, but we do now.
COOPER: But in grief, strangers can quickly become family.
S. PHILLIPS: You've got a second mom here. It's going to be --
COOPER: We saw the Phillips' in Thousand Oaks, California, where 12 people were gunned down at a country music bar last November. It is one of the latest stops on their heart-breaking journey.
LONNIE PHILLIPS, SHOOTING VICTIM'S FATHER: You if you haven't lost somebody close to you, you can't comprehend it.
COOPER: Just days before they arrived here, they were in Pittsburgh where 11 people were murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
It's so interesting, though, what you're doing. You're not trained therapists. You're not counselors. And yet, you're -- have upended your lives and reaching out in a very individual way to people.
S. Phillips: Yes. It's compassion.
COOPER: That's what it is?
S. PHILLIPS: Bottom line, it's about compassion.
L. PHILLIPS: The compassion we get from those people too. It's not like it's a one way deal.
COOPER (voice-over): It was in 2012 that their daughter Jessica Ghawi was murdered along with 11 others in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. She was 24, and an aspiring sports reporter.
Can you take me back to that day?
S. PHILLIPS: Yes. The young man that was with her, Brent, was like a son to us. And she decided that she wanted to take him to see the Batman movie. And when the shooting happened they stood up, and never made it out.
COOPER: Both of them? S. PHILLIPS: Brent survived. He was shot trying to save her. He went into paramedic mode immediately because that's what he does for a living. And the phone rang --
COOPER: He called you from inside the theater?
S. PHILLIPS: Yes. And I could hear the screaming going on in the background. And he said, "There's been a shooting." And I said, "Are you OK?" And he said, "I think I've been shot twice." And I knew then that, OK, something's bad.
And I said, "Where's Jessi?" And he said, "I tried." And I said, "Is she OK?" And he said, "I did my best. I tried." And I said, "Oh God, Brent, don't tell me she's dead." And he said, "I'm really sorry." And I started screaming.
L. PHILLIPS: And she was sliding down the wall screaming, and I grabbed her and picked her up, took her to the couch, and she kept yelling, "Jessie's dead!"
S. PHILLIPS: It's been six years now almost seven, and there's not a day that goes by that we don't still get upset and still cry.
COOPER: I lost a brother to suicide, and I-- a lot of people say, you know, this is -- you're now part of a group which you never wish you would be part of.
S. PHILLIPS: And it's a lifetime membership and the cost of the dues was way, way, way too high.
COOPER (voice-over): Sandy is 68, Lonnie , 75.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Toward US 101, Los Angeles.
COOPER (voice-over): They've been living mostly on savings, social security, and goodwill.
L. PHILLIPS: I know that you're on the dead line.
COOPER (voice-over): Occasionally crashing with friends.
S. PHILLIPS: Hey, how are you guys doing?
COOPER: They started a non-profit organization called Survivors Empowered to offer advice and kinship in the wake of mass shootings, but also to give families practical information, like how to deal with media attention or how to get a body home for a funeral.
L. PHILLIPS: It's Loonie, just checking in on you.
COOPER: There's things that happen to the families of people who have been shot in a mass killing that do not happen to families of somebody who has died under different circumstances.
S. PHILLIPS: Exactly. The worst part is finding out that the day your child has been killed, that there are already websites that have popped up, and Facebook pages that have popped up saying this is a false flag, and this didn't happen.
COOPER: Did you have people saying Jessica wasn't real? Or--
[20:40:00] S. PHILLIPS: Oh, yes.
COOPER: She was a crisis actor.
S. PHILLIPS: Yes.
COOPER: She wasn't real.
S. PHILLIPS: Yes.
COOPER: She wasn't there.
S. PHILLIPS: Yes.
COOPER: You didn't lose a daughter?
S. PHILLIPS: All the time.
JORDAN PHILLIPS, SHOOTING VICTIM'S BROTHER: You never saw your sister's dead body.
COOPER (voice-over): Since Jessica's murder, Sandy's son Jordan has been harassed and threatened by a man who like many conspiracy theorists claims there was no massacre in Aurora.
J. PHILLIPS: Your days are numbered, (inaudible).
COOPER: It's hard to imagine, but similar harassment now happens to families almost every time there's a mass shooting.
L. PHILLIPS: That's the worst kind of harm you can do to someone. You're a devastated parent becoming more devastated.
COOPER (voice-over): After the massacre in Aurora, Sandy and Lonnie, who are gun owners themselves, filed a lawsuit against companies that sold gear and ammunition to their daughter's killer over the internet. The judge threw out the case and ordered them to pay more than $200,000 to cover defendant's legal fees.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That contract with them consulting --
COOPER (voice-over): They had to declare bankruptcy and now consult for a gun control group to make ends meet. But they say they keep that work separate from their outreach to survivors.
L. PHILLIPS: We don't ever bring up guns when we go.
S. PHILLIPS: We never bring up politics or guns.
L. PHILLIPS: We don't advocate, we don't recruit, we don't do any of that stuff, until somebody shows an interest, and we tell them, you know, you're not ready yet. COOPER (voice-over): The course of their new lives has followed a
roadmap of American tragedies. They started in Newtown, then went to Isla Vista, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, Santa Fe, Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks. Each massacre is different, but the look Sandy and Lonnie see on the faces of those left behind is the same.
MITCH DWORET, SHOOTING VICTIM'S FATHER: You just can't believe it. It can't be real.
ANNIKA DWORET, SHOOTING VICTIM'S MOTHER: No. You don't want to believe it.
COOPER (voice-over): Annika and Mitch Dworet's 17-year-old son Nicholas, who had just earned a swimming scholarship to college, was murdered with 16 others, in Parkland, Florida last year.
M. DWORET: I expect Nick to come home any day or-- walk through the house. He was such a great kid.
COOPER (voice-over): Nick's younger brother Alex, who was grazed by a bullet, doesn't talk much about what happened. He was in a classroom across the hall from Nick's when the shooting began. Their parents were nearby waiting for school to let out.
A. DWORET: Alex called us and said, "Mom, I'm in a back of an ambulance. I was hit in the back of the head." And in my mind, I didn't really worry about Nicholas 'cause there's 3,500 at that school, one child was shot, what's the odds of two of my kids being shot? And I took off to the hospital. And I said, "Mitch, you can wait for Nicholas."
M. DWORET: And I waited for Nicholas.
COOPER (voice-over): They waited for 12 hours before finally being told Nicholas was dead. Within days, a mutual friend connected them with Sandy and Lonnie Phillips.
COOPER: Do you remember that first meeting?
S. PHILLIPS: Yes. Oh, of course. Of course. They had a house full of people. We felt a little bit like we were intruding on a very private moment, which we were, but for a good reason.
A. DWORET: I was a little skeptical-- in the beginning, and I'm thinking to myself, "What do they want from us?"
M. DWORET: What do they want?
A. DWORET: "Why are they here?" After speaking to them, which too-- we lasted for three hours--
COOPER: Three hours? That was the first experience?
A. DWORET: Three hours. Yes. M. DWORET: And they took the time just, to be here and just, "We're not here for any other reason but for you guys," because you're in a place that's just not of this normal life.
M. DWORET: You can't imagine.
A. DWORET: When you open your eyes in the morning, you're just like, "Why should I get up today? Why should I do that?" And it's just so painful to feel this pain the whole day. And then-- to meet somebody who has been through this and six years later and they are getting out of bed.
COOPER: You could look at Sandy and actually see a way through potentially.
A. DWORET: Right. Right.
COOPER: What are some of the things you -- kind of the list of things you warn a grieving parent who--
S. PHILLIPS: The list is, I know you don't wanna get out of bed right now, but you're gonna live through this in spite of it. Just know that it's gonna take you a long time that's number one. Number two, people are ripping you off right now as we're speaking. There's probably a GoFundMe page somewhere raising funds for the families, and that money goes into their bank account. You know, you'll never see it. So be careful who you trust.
So it's an introduction. You know, mass shooting grief 101.
COOPER (voice-over): To help them keep up, the Phillipses are trying to create a network of survivors who can quickly respond to mass shootings anywhere in the country, volunteers like Shanna Caputo. She met Sandy and Lonnie in 2017 after surviving the massacre at a music festival in Las Vegas.
SHANNA CAPUTO, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: When I first met them, I asked 'em if I could go to Parkland with them because that was after Vegas. And she was like, "No honey, you're not ready for this yet."
[20:45:03] S. PHILLIPS: She's telling her story, and I'm listening to her and I'm going, "oh my God."
COOPER (voice-over): Shanna showed Sandy the cell phone video she unintentionally recorded of the shooting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody get down, get down.
S. PHILLIPS: And I'm watching the video and I'm going, this is triggering me. I can't imagine what she has really gone through.
COOPER: What was happening around you?
CAPUTO: People were going down right away. I could hear the bullets whizzing right past my head. You would just see them like jerk. And I don't know if I can say this, but you would see them just explode.
COOPER (voice-over): The gunfire lasted more than 10 minutes. Fifty- eight people were killed.
For weeks afterward, Shanna said she was hardly able to leave her house. Sandy advised her to see a therapist who specializes in severe trauma.
CAPUTO: So after about four or five months of therapy, I was like a walnut that cracked open and I finally cried about it. And I called Sandy and I'm like, "I cried.' I was all excited.
S. PHILLIPS: And I said, I'm actually very happy. Now you can begin to put things together and create the new you. And now she's doing incredible work.
COOPER: So this has been growing really ever since the shooting?
COOPER (voice-over): The work Shanna Caputo is doing started last fall, after the bar shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, which is just miles from her house. She is now trying to help some of those survivors the way Sandy and Lonnie Phillips helped her.
Wouldn't it be easier for you to not be immersed in the world of mass shootings? You are immersed in a very dark world.
S. PHILLIPS: We are. We live it, but we don't see it as dark. We see it as shedding a little light. We care about these people. We want to help them find their purpose and find their strength so that they can live their new normal.
COOPER: Living their new normal. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips.
Up next, I'll talk with Chris Cuomo who just spoke with the parents of Kendrick Castillo, the student killed this week in the Colorado School shooting.
[20:51:26] COOPER: Before the break we told you the story of the Phillips's, a mother and father whose daughter Jessica was killed in a shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
Chris Cuomo just talks to the parents of the young man who this week was killed in another shooting in Colorado. This is going to air in "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour.
Chris joins me now. You know, we have covered these things so often and it's just -- every now and then when you actually hear from the parents it's -- I think it's just so important to keep the focus on the victims and the people whose lives are forever changed.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: True. And first, if I may -- you're not going to like this. But few cover them the way you do. When I was still at ABC when we first met, your focus on not saying the names of killers, not saying the names of terrorists, focusing on victims and their families and the stories that show what they are was unique for a long time. Now the rest of us have been catching up. And there's a virtue in that. Because what we saw these last two weeks with Riley Howell and with Kendrick Castillo, unmitigated horror
CUOMO: However, those Castillo's tonight for all their pain, their only son, today should have been his last day of high school. They know they did their job as parents in a way that people like me can only wonder. They put something in that kid that in the moment that mattered most in his entire life he did the right thing for other people, not himself. And that's all what we're trying to do in this world is raise good people.
His father says tonight, "You can't defend yourself from everything, from bad. You have to make more good. You have to have more kids like these." And it's a beautiful sentiment especially from a man who's in such pain.
CUOMO: And those are the stories we have to tell and you tell them as well as anyone.
COOPER: Well, I look forward to the interview tonight. Chris, thank you very much. Important. See you in just couple of minutes, Chris is coming on about seven minutes from now.
Coming up, something to hopefully make you smile. The end of the week, "The Ridiculist" and the quick programming notes, CNN's annual champions for change series returns next week. Here's a quick preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Some people.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Some stories.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Are so powerful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They leave their mark.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody has ever affected me the way your son did.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Their work creates real impact. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On their communities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On their country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On us all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meet the change-makers we have never forgotten.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: what a difference seven years makes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the place where we jump (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. This is the place where I lived.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is bill from CNN
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's my first time today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are the champions for change.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just get to tell you a story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Champions for change, a week-long CNN special event. All next week.
[20:58:00] COOPER: Time for "The Ridiculist." And tonight's entry comes from what I assume was a Trump university lesson on self- affirmation. And by lesson, I mean, a brochure stuff under a windshield wiper.
The President whose tweets kind of times sound like they're coming from an autocrat in a bunker with a ham radio today reminded us that even when he is playing ski ball with the economy, there's always time to pat himself on his humble back. "Your all time favorite President got tired of waiting for China to help out and start buying from our farmers, the greatest anywhere in the world."
That's right. Not just anyone's all time favorite president, but your all time favorite. I know. He knows it. Judge Janine knows it. And now, apparently, you know it as well.
I'm not quite sure how these all makes sense to me. When Julie Andrews was singing about her favorite things in "The Sound of Music," she wasn't informing the Von Trapp children that they also love raindrops on roses or commanding them to like whiskers on kittens. She was just like, look, kids, you got options.
Believe it or not today's tweet actually wasn't the first time President Trump has declared himself field marshall for life. I mean, your favorite president. I refer you to this tweet back at the time of the Michael Cohen raid hush money raid, "The good news is that your favorite president did nothing wrong."
OK, individual one, whatever you say. Let's just let that one simmer in the Southern District crock pot for awhile. There were a bunch of other examples. Have fun Googling them.
Tonight on a Friday night they're all part and parcel of the President's kind of flunked 5th grade civics approach to his job. For instance, "You can't impeach a president for creating the best economy in our country's history."
First of all that's not why people are talking about impeachment. Second of all, just because something is doing well doesn't give you immunity. I mean, look, a lot of people love Martha Stewart's carrot cake, but she still went to the can.
As far as this whole favorite president thing goes, if a public figure is telling you he is your favorite, he's at the very least insecure. Not a few votes shy of a quorum, if you know what I mean on "The Ridiculist."
That does it for us tonight. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for "Cuomo Prime Time".
CUOMO: Anderson, thank you and the best weekend to you and the best to your mom on mother's day.
COOPER: Thanks, you, too.
CUOMO: All right, I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Primetime."
Subpoena Friday. The next phase in the fight for tax returns has cometh. Do Democrats actually expect compliance from the President's --