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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Feds Charge Friend of Dayton Mass Shooter; One-on-One with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); NY Times: How El Paso Shooter Echoed Words of Conservative Media Stars; Debate on Whether the President is Racist; Jeffrey Epstein Suicide in Federal Jail; U.S. Official: Russia Explosion Likely Caused by Missile Test; Move to Weaken Endangered Species Act. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: I mean, the hypocrisy is really astounding. Even reports of Polish workers who were undocumented - building - doing demolition to do the foundation for Trump Tower, his - allegedly his crown jewel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then - and also what's important is just to see the alternative. We've been discussing for 20 years now the possibility of legalizing 10-11 million undocumented immigrants.

There is nothing wrong with that idea. But he is just giving you the only option for them, which is just to deport someone who came here to work for the American people.

COOPER: Jorge Ramos (ph). Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks so much.

COOPER: Up next, the latest on the arrest made following the shooting massacre in Dayton, Ohio, a new arrest. Plus I will speak with Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy on efforts to pass gun control legislation. President Trump has talked about "Meaningful Background Checks", the question is what does really mean? Is it all talk, no action.

I will be right back.

[21:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Good evening, we start with news of an arrest made in the investigation of the massacre in Dayton, Ohio. Charges unsealed at a federal court in Ohio, nine dead after that attack, investigators piecing together why the gunman did it and how. Our Gary Tuchman is in Dayton with the story. So Gary what's the latest?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the gunman who murdered nine people here this past weekend here in Dayton Ohio is dead. But a friend of his is in a lot of trouble in jail tonight facing federal firearms charges in connection with the murders.

His name is Ethan Kollie. He's 24 years old and he was a buddy of the killer. He is accused of providing a 100 round magazine that was used in the killing. He's accused of providing body armor that was used in the killing. He's accused of setting up the AR-15 that was used in the killing.

Now his attorney is saying that Kollie knew nothing about the murders that were about to happen. He was totally in the dark about that. And interestingly prosecutors here, at the U.S. Attorney's Office say the same thing, that they have no evidence whatsoever ever that he knew what was going to happen.

[21:05:00] That being said, it's totally unclear why he provided these firearms to his friend. One thing we're being told for him to purchase these firearms, he had to declare under oath that he was not a drug user.

Prosecutors are saying that he, Kollie and the killer together used many drugs over a period of years. Hard drugs like LSD, marijuana regularly. And that they used those drugs so therefore he violated the oath when he bought these weapons for the killer.

The U.S. Attorney's Office talked to us about the case today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Agents executed the search warrant of Kollie's apartment. They recovered the Draco pistol, Taurus semi-automatic pistol, ammunition, drug paraphernalia, a clear glass pipe and what is commonly referred to as a bong as well as what appeared to be mushrooms. That's was - I'm sorry, Kollie was then taken into custody on Friday evening--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: So this 24 year old friend faces the possibility of found guilty of these charges against 15 years in prison. He has a detention hearing Wednesday to determine if he will get bail and he will allowed to be out, at least temporarily. Anderson?

COOPER: And just briefly, Gary, there were reports that the sister was killed in the attack of the shooter and that a friend was also with them. Is that this person?

TUCHMAN: Yes. It's not clear if it's the same friend. It's not clear - that's what's terrible about this case and puzzling about this case. There's so much not known. I mean, the basic thing is why would this friend provide all these items for this killer. But we don't know if this friend, that's described Anderson, is this guy. It's just not clear at this point.

COOPER: OK.

TUCHMAN: But I can tell you, right now here in Dayton, Anderson, this is still a nightmare to so many people. But with all the funerals and memorials taking place right now, everyone remembers it's very real.

COOPER: Yes, Gary. Thanks very much, appreciate it. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut joins me now. He's made gun control a public priority of his since the Sandy Hook school massacre in his state in 2012.

Senator Murphy are you any more or less optimistic tonight that Congress will actually act on other new gun control measures or background checks. As you know, all Senator Mitch McConnell has said is that he'd consider some form of red flag law, so-called or background check, but no details.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, I wake up every day optimistic. Optimistic, because I know eventually democracy catches up to the Senators who oppose 90 percent of their constituents who want things like universal background checks.

But there does seem to be some interesting new momentum around this issue of extending background checks to make sure that it covers all gun sales. There has been discussions happening between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, including the White House. Discussions continue this week.

As you mentioned, it still all rests on the decision of one Senator, Mitch McConnell, as to whether he wants to bring compromise legislation before the Senate. He may be unlikely to want to divide his caucus right down the middle and put a very controversial vote in front of his members.

But there is a chance that we could get a deal that would extend background checks to the tens - hundreds of thousands of sales all across the country today were criminals and people who are seriously mentally ill can get guns without having to go through one of these checks.

COOPER: Is McConnell's strategy, in your opinion, an attempt to kind of slow walk this so that whatever gets debated, doesn't get debated when the public is paying as much attention as they maybe now or emotions or as raw as they are now.

MURPHY: Well, we don't reconvene until after Labor Day. And of course, the worry is that you and many others won't be covering this subject as often as you are today, and Mitch McConnell will be asked to deal with whatever the crisis du jour of early September is, which is why we'd like to lock in an agreement on a piece of legislation that Republicans and Democrats can support.

And we'd like to get the President, who has made a bunch of noise about supporting a background checks deal, we'd like to get his imprimatur on a specific proposal. Because if we lock that in now, it makes it much harder for Mitch McConnell to deny us a vote, especially given the fact that the House has already passed in a bipartisan way a universal background checks bill. So it is only the Senate that's standing in the way of that kind of progress.

COOPER: It does seem with the President that he will pay lip service to the idea of what he's now calling meaningful background checks. In the past, after Parkland, he talked about rising the age of anybody being able to buy a long-gun, and also more on background checks.

But it seems like often that's just something to affect the day's news cycle and get a headline that he's - you know, wants meaningful background checks and then he doesn't really follow through, because he talks to the NRA or others.

[21:10:00] MURPHY: Yes. Right. I mean, I was at the meeting at the White House right after the Parkland shooting in which the President seemed to endorse not only universal background checks, but bans on assault weapons. And then within 24 hours, the NRA had been in his office and he has changed mine.

I spoke to the President this weekend I can't tell whether he is more sincere, but he certainly believes that there is a deal to be had on what he calls a meaningful background check bill. The devil is in the details as to what he means about that.

But he is certainly you know talking to a lot of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle about trying to get something done and I intend to stay in touch with him and try to keep his speech to the fire. Because I know in the end, Republicans aren't going to support background checks legislation unless the President supports it. The only way that we get enough Republicans to get 60 votes in the Senate is if the President is pushing them to get there. I remain pessimistic that that's how this is going to play out. But I'm glad that he is still interested in this.

COOPER: Senator John Barrasso, one of our Republican colleagues is #3 person in Senate leadership. He said the other day that he doesn't think universal background checks have much of a chance and is skeptical even of red flag laws which are supposed to be kind of the easiest measure to pass.

Do you think the NRA and others could leverage Republicans in the Senate to vote against even that?

MURPHY: Well, my Republican colleagues are really nervous, because the NRA, just isn't as powerful as they used to be. They're having a crisis at their board level because they are hemorrhaging members. People just aren't signing up to be part of the NRA like they used to. In part, because NRA is so out of step with their own membership, 80 percent of NRA members want universal background checks and yet the NRA is lobbying against the bill.

So I think Republicans right now are in a tough spot, because the NRA is not going to ride to the rescue of their members who vote against a background checks bill on the floor of the Senate.

COOPER: Do you really think the NRA is in that much trouble, because I've talked to some people who say, look, don't think just because they have internal issues and concerns over budgets and stuff that they're not a powerful organization that wields power.

MURPHY: Well, yes, I mean, listen. The NRA's power has always been about perception. I mean, I made the argument to you that they are a paper tiger. That over the years they have lost a lot more elections that they have won.

That the retrospective on the 1994 congressional midterms is not really about an assault weapons ban that beat Democrats - the assault weapons ban was really popular in 1994. It was about the health care law and an unpopular President.

I don't think the NRA is as powerful as they make it out to be. But that perception of their power is really what's at issue right now. And a lot of Republicans that knew that they were taking a risk by voting against the majority of their constituents on gun issues, now are just asking questions as to whether the NRA is going to have their back.

And those are the kind of questions that ultimately may lead us to get over the finish line. Again, I think this is tough to do with a President who was backed by the NRA and Mitch McConnell who has been so close to the gun lobby.

But I've got to stay at this, because every day that we allow for all these guns to be sold without background checks, lives are being lost.

COOPER: Yes. Senator Chris Murphy, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MURPHY: Thanks.

COOPER: The guns are one issue. Hateful rhetoric, of course, is another. We're going to take a look at some of the language being put out there by some with those microphones. It could be inflaming these mass shooters. There's a concerning compilation ahead.

And there's breaking news in the Jeffrey Epstein death investigation, new information on the guards who were assigned to watch him.

[21:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: There's a remarkable story in today's cover of the "New York Times," It's a review of some of the fear mongering language on immigration used on popular right-winged media platforms, especially the President's favorite news channel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Will anyone in power do anything to protect America this time or will leaders sit passively back as the invasion continues.

BRIAN KILMEADE, CO-HOSTS FOX & FRIENDS: If you use the term as invasion, that's not anti-Hispanic, it's a fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're carrying Honduras flag. This is an invasion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The language we've heard over and over again by the President himself as well. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an invasion, when you see these caravans starting out with 20,000 people, that's an invasion.

We're on track for a million illegal aliens trying to rush our borders. It is an invasion, you know that.

You look at what's marching up, that's an invasion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, "The Times" notes that the overlap words used by the El Paso gunman in his so-called manifesto, which is basically just kind of a racist screed. In one portion he wrote he was simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.

Michael Grynbaum was among the five "Times" reporters who work on that extensive piece, he joins us now. Talk about the overlap you saw between the rhetoric among some of these right-wing media outlets and the shooter.

MICHAEL GRYNBAUM, NEW YORK TIMES MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was really striking to us. It's tough to read the writings of this killer. But the word invasion and invader are used six times throughout the document.

He discusses replacing Americans with migrants, that's a stark parallel to the language and the rhetoric that we hear from some of the most prominent platforms in the right-wing media world - Fox News, Rush Limbaugh's radio show. These are platforms that reach millions of Americans on a daily basis.

And we decided to go back and look how did these terms really disseminate it into our mainstream discourse. It's really surprising how common it is.

COOPER: But, I mean, is it fair to draw a direct line, though, between - I mean, is there evidence that the gunman was aware of this language being used in these outlets?

GRYNBAUM: We don't know what media outlets this gunman consumed and we don't know who or what ultimately inspired him to commit this atrocious act. What we've - what we wanted to set out to demonstrate is how rhetoric that demonizes and dehumanizes migrants, the kind of language that once was relegated to fringe websites to more extreme nationalist groups, has in a relatively short period of time, become commonplace in the mainstream discourse of - mostly of conservative politicians.

[21:20:00] COOPER: It's also rhetoric often that, as you said, dehumanizes. I mean, it's the same like in Rwanda and the genocide. On radio stations they were talking about the infestation and these people are cockroaches they can be killed just like you would a cockroach.

GRYNBAUM: Yes, I mean even to use the word invasion and Rush Limbaugh often refers to a flood of migrants coming over to the border. It's a way to take away the individual humanity of the migrants who perhaps are seeking refuge from a war-torn country. There are many reasons why people might seek to come into the United States.

When you look at the totality of this rhetoric, you come away with the impression that there are outsiders seeking to take away the economic prosperity of so-called real Americans, namely of white Americans.

And you see this from the President it's filtered into our right-wing media sphere and it's something that even a year 18 months ago was very - there was very little of it in our media culture.

COOPER: Yes, I mean you looked - you went back you looked at CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and you used of the term invasion and replacement.

GRYNBAUM: We did and it spiked right around the time of the caravan rhetoric that came around during the run-up to the midterm elections in 2018. So what's interesting is it's spiked across all three major cable networks.

What happened on Fox News is we found more than 300 instances in the last year where the phrase invasion or invader was used to refer to immigrants. And we went back and we reviewed every single one of those clips, and what we found was that rather than showing a clip of the President making those comments, as was common on say, MSNBC.

These words were coming from Fox News hosts, from Fox News guests - and by the way often high-ranking Republican lawmakers - Steve Scalise, Kris Kobach. These are mainstream politicians who are now dipping into language that really was something at a place like "The Daily Stormer" sort of these white nationalists--

COOPER: So the notion of invasion, that's not language that we used decades ago?

GRYNBAUM: Very little now. Pat Buchanan, it should be said, when he ran these outsider campaigns for President in '92, '96, he did talk about in illegal invasion. And if we recall, at the time, it was seen as extreme rhetoric. It was not absorbed by the mainstream Republican Party.

Whereas, if you remember after Mitt Romney lost in 2012, there was a party effort by the GOP that we need to embrace Latinos, we need to embrace Hispanics. That seems to be not the direction at all where we see the mainstream party headed now.

COOPER: It's fascinating your articles in "New York Times", Michael Grynbaum, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

GRYNBAUM: Thanks.

COOPER: A question dividing voters is the President a racist, Anthony Scaramucci offers his own take next. [21:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Trump has had an intense back and forth on Twitter with his former Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci. I spoke Scaramucci just a short time ago in the last hour about the charges of racism against the President to see if Scaramucci had an answer to a question that divides the country is the President a racist?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Look, at the end of the day, he treats people like objects. So he does - there's no way he's a racist, because when he's looking at you, he doesn't see color. He just sees a potential transaction, an opportunity or a detriment.

And so that's not racism. I mean that might be narcissism. I'm not a psychiatrist, so I don't know. But it's not racism, because I've watched him - I watched him - it's like a worst level than racism. You know what I mean? It's like racist against everybody. He could care less. You're just the object either in his way for or against and then he's got a playbook--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joining me our CNN Political Commentator and former GOP Congressional Communications Director, Tara Setmayer; CNN Legal Commentator and former Trump White House lawyer James Schultz and CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.

Tara, I'm wondering what he made of Anthony Scaramucci's thought on this.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought it was very interesting. I found myself agreeing with him as I was listening to him talk. But I do think, though, that the racist label does apply at this point.

I was one of those people in the beginning who was reluctant to say that. I thought Trump - he is racially insensitive. He was a bigot. But since Charlottesville, the repeated tweets and the attacks, the terminology, the - it's beyond all of those things now. It's racist.

And I just find that a lot of people who are trying to turn it around and claiming that those of us who recognize the racism that's coming from Donald Trump that we're the racist somehow, this weird projection that's going on, I mean, I just don't think that they really want to admit that they're willing to cast that aside and support a racist President.

I mean, recent polling shows that the majority of the American people think Donald Trump is a racist. So I guess were not all that off-base. And they think that he's more racist than people thought George Wallace was in 1968.

What does that say? We're not getting that out of thin air. It's the President's own words consistently over his entire career, really. But even since he's been President that clearly shows that he is racist and he just doesn't want to admit it and his supporters don't want to admit that they're supporting one.

COOPER: Jim, I mean if - I assume you don't believe the President is racist. Would you say that he has said things which are racist? I mean, the "Send her Back" is sort of one of the oldest racist tropes against every immigrant group that's ever come to the America over the last century?

[21:30:00] JAMES SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I think you have to look the policies too, right. So let's look at the at the "Opportunity Zones" and pushing--

COOPER: I know, but you can look at policies, but I'm asking you about the language do you believe he has sued racist terms?

SCHULTZ: I'm going to get to that. But let me get to it. The policies, one, the "First Step Act", right, had tremendous impact of minority communities, bringing families back together, bringing folks out of prison that shouldn't be there anymore, so they can united with their families had tremendous impact on minority communities. He pushed that through Congress.

The "Opportunity Zones", I just talked about, again tremendous impact on minority communities, poor communities around this country. And also the policies that have created jobs - record numbers of jobs the African-American and Hispanic communities in this country.

So I think if you look at the policies to label this President a racist is a little irresponsible. Now getting back to the point, does he say things that are insensitive? Yes. Does he say things that are harsh at times? Absolutely. Does he say things the way I would say them? No. But he's been--

SETMAYER: He says things that are racist?

SCHULTZ: I don't believe this President is a racist.

SETMAYER: Does he say things that are racist, Jim?

SCHULTZ: He I think says - that are insensitive to minority communities at times. I don't believe that what he that has done is risen to a level of racist. if you look at what's the Steve Cortes's analysis of Charlottesville, I think he makes some really good points on that.

COOPER: But he's--

SCHULTZ: He don't need to go through.

COOPER: But he's - Steve Cortes is inaccurate on his analysis of - I mean, what Steve - what you're referring to is a video that Steve Cortes who was a guest on this program, who I like very much, and respect. But what he's saying is just inaccurate that the President statement about very fine people on both sides is being misconstrued and was never actually meant as it is. It's just - it's actually wrong.

But you're not answering whether the President - I mean is saying something that is racist, whether it's using racist tropes again - I mean, Dana--

SCHULTZ: --has he offended some people--

COOPER: Well, no, it's not - causing offending is--

SCHULTZ: Has he hurt their feelings?

COOPER: Right, OK.

SCHULTZ: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: OK.

SETMAYER: The I have is the racist think he's racist. Are you OK with that? Are you OK with that the David Dukes and the Richard Spencers of the world praise Donald Trump. I mean, I know that as Republicans we used to criticize Barack Obama, because dictators and communists praised him.

So why is that not the same the same analogy now when you have a racist, white supremacist that think Donald Trump is the second coming and praise him, that's OK with you?

SCHULTZ: Bu no means is this President - can he walk away free from criticism on this issue without a doubt. And no, we don't want the David Dukes of the world, we don't want white supremacists in this country. They're - the President has denounced white supremacism as he should.

But to take this leap to say that anybody supports this President is a white supremacist, it's a pretty dangerous leap to take.

COOPER: But I don't think any - nobody said that. Yes, that's just made up.

SCHULTZ: No, but I'm saying. If people start to make that leap--

COOPER: I hope they are not

SCHULTZ: --I think that's dangerous and there have been people on CNN and other channels that have done that. But I think in this instance, Tara, I'm not saying that you've done that in this case. I don't think you believe Obama racists, Tara.

COOPER: All right.

SETMAYER: No.

SCHULTZ: But I do think--

SETMAYER: But I think they are willing to tolerate racism, because you support--

COOPER: Let me bring in Danna here. I mean, what's interesting is - again this is the anniversary, there's two years since Charlottesville, no mention from the President. He's in this Twitter war - bad-mouthing his former Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, because he you know dared to raise some concerns about the President's direction.

This has refocused attention - I mean, again, the President's remarks continually refocus attention on this question and that's something of the President's making. I mean, it's not as if this is coming out of nowhere. This is the President's repeated comments?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's absolutely of the President's making. And, yes, he might have engaged in something that was good for the African-American community, overall, which is The First Step Act, helping to deal with criminal justice reform.

But how is anybody out there who wants to potentially give this President the benefit of the doubt on policy, able to get past these comments that he makes over and over and over again. And that is the issue that, no matter what you hear in public from people who aren't, Anthony Scaramucci, who but who are still in the orbit, and maybe on the President's payroll either on the campaign or at the White House. They - it's like banging their heads against the wall.

For many - I would even say most of them, because they want to try to expand of the base. They want to try to - not such as want, they need to, if they have any chance of winning again.

And that's what there's a debate inside the Trump campaign about whether - and the Trump orbit about whether or not they can find every single person who has - who has allegiance to the President out there and still win or whether they do have to find some swing voters or some people who aren't sure and convinced them you got to support this guy.

[21:35:00] This kind of rhetoric completely steps on the policy that he should get credit for it, but can't because of what he says.

COOPER: Tara, I mean the--

SCHULTZ: I agree, it's incredibly frustrating so--

COOPER: Yes. No, no--

SCHULTZ: I agree with that. It is incredibly frustrating for a lot of us, the rhetoric that the President is engaging in.

SETMAYER: So why don't you tell him to stop it.

SCHULTZ: I don't want to make light of that in any way shape or form. And I have said it on this show and I have said it time and time again, when I when I believe he's said things that aren't appropriate, I call them to the mat on it publically. COOPER: Tara, is it - I mean, there's this endless sort of question that we've all asked at times, is this a strategy, is this just him talking off the top of his head? I don't know that it really matters, because it's just something that does repeat itself time and time again.

But does it - I mean I'm not sure if it has the impact on voters that we may think it does. I mean, you could argue that - as some of made the argument that the "Access Hollywood" tape, which people thought "Oh, there's no way he's going to come back from that", among some people that that didn't register as a problem. In fact, they kind of liked that he's not politically correct in their terms.

SETMAYER: Yes, I mean, people will rationalize all kinds of things and unfortunately a lot of Trump supporters rationalize away the fact that he's a liar. He's a sexist, he's a misogynist, he's a cheater and he's a bigot and a racist.

And in this case, you're going to have 35 percent or so the people - no matter what he does, it doesn't matter, he's always going to have them. Doesn't matter what he says. We could find the n-word tape if it exists, he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue - right? They're not going to change their support for him.

But where the problem is, he thinks that - I don't know if this he may think there's a strategy that he's riling up his base, because you know people like it when he does this. You hear him say that people tell me, people say. OK. But those aren't the people that you need. They already have them, unfortunately.

But I'll tell you who that's not good for. It's not good for suburban nights in Michigan that he only won by 11,000 votes. It's not good 59% of women think he's a racist and guess who won those state - those districts when the Democrats took over.

So this is a terrible strategy if that's what he thinks it is. But I just think it's part of his character.

COOPER: Yes. I got to leave it there. I'm sorry we're over time, Tara Setmayer, thank you, Jim Schultz, always, and Dana Bash as well.

There's breaking news in the Jeffrey Epstein death investigation. Did a staffing decision about his jail guards help make it easier for him to die by apparent suicide, that's next.

[21:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, tonight the "New York Times" reports that one of the two jail guards responsible for watching Jeffrey Epstein was filling in and not a full-fledged Correctional Officer.

Epstein died by apparent suicide at the federal jail in New York City. A source tells CNN that he was not checked on for a number of hours before his death. We've also learned those guards were working overtime. For one it was mandatory for the other it was their fifth overtime shift of the week. Even after Epstein was moved off suicide watch last month, guards were supposed to look in on him every 30 minutes. Epstein had a cellmate, but he was moved out at some point. Also tonight the FBI confirms its agents are on Epstein's private Caribbean island. With me now our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. How could this happen?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: People commit suicide in prison a lot. I mean, that's one of the stories here that - even people on suicide watch. Prisons are understaffed. They are not filled with the most competent people sometimes. And accidents happen. There are also sinister things that happened and obviously this raises all sorts of questions that requires a real investigation.

COOPER: Obviously the Attorney General has said that there were quote "Serious Irregularities". This is a federal facility.

TOOBIN: Correct. It's a federal facility, and you know the good news, if you want to call it is that, is that there are a lot of facts out there to be gotten. I mean, there is some sort of closed circuit TV in at least some parts of the MCC. There are records of who went to see him. There are lots of people to interview, the autopsy.

But interview all the - the corrections officers, all the medical personnel who saw him. The other prisoners presumably will talk to the authorities. So there are a lot of facts to be gotten. And you know presumably the FBI and the Inspector General of the Justice Department will get that.

COOPER: The case itself - I mean, he obviously had information that he had he wanted to make a deal or whatever or could have been there were other co-conspirators there were other people. This is not something he operated - this whole sick thing he did was not on his own.

TOOBIN: And one of the things, Jeff Berman, the U.S. attorney said was the investigation is going to continue. And if there was trafficking that went on, it is extremely unlikely that he could do it all by himself.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: And--

COOPER: I mean, Julie Brown who we just had on with - I mean he was apparently needing three or wanting three encounters a day with very young girls and with different ones every time--

TOOBIN: which is logistical challenge, and he wasn't out at high schools or wherever soliciting them. Other people were helping him. Again, that does not seem like the most difficult thing to track down. Of course, the question that - or that has arisen so much is why wasn't this done in the early 2000s when he was investigated the first time and he got that sweetheart deal.

COOPER: Well Julie Brown also talks about that sweetheart deal, but also that in the jail in Florida, he was able to get special privileges that no sex offender would ever get. We're not only allowed to go to the plush office, but turn out the lights because he didn't like the lights being on.

TOOBIN: Out of all the aspects of the sweetheart deal in Florida, the thing that I found the most astonishing and the most unprecedented in my experience is not the short prison sentence, but the terms of his so-called incarceration. The fact that he was allowed to go to his office, the fact that he was allowed to interact with basically anyone he wanted.

I have never heard of any sort of bail conditions - I don't even know what you want to call it - that allows something like that, particularly in a sex crime. That's the thing that that - is just screams out to me that something bizarre happened here.

[21:45:00] COOPER: Well, that's also the question is did he - was he able to influence some officials in the in the prison or guards to get special or to not pay attention or--

TOOBIN: The conspiracy question that obviously everyone wants to know is, first, was anyone outside the prison involved in paying or helping. And also was he involved in making payments or making other efforts that allowed him to commit suicide. I mean those are the questions that the FBI is going to find out.

COOPER: Appreciate it. Thank you. The latest on what we know about a deadly nuclear accident in Russia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: There's been a deadly nuclear accident at a missile test site in a remote region of Russia. A U.S. official tells CNN's Barbara Starr that the explosion last week was likely caused by either a prototype of a new missile called "Skyfall" or components of it during testing.

Russian authorities say five nuclear specialists employed by the state's Atomic Energy Corp. were killed in the blast. "New York Times" was the first to report the accident and its longtime reporter David Sanger shares the byline. He's also a CNN Political and National Security Analyst. He joins me now.

[21:50:00] DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So David if you can't explain what you know happened and what you know about this Skyfall missile.

SANGER: Sure. So what we know happened based on Russian accounts that are beginning to come out is that a small nuclear reactor, which we believe, the Russians were using to try to power this experimental missile called the Skyfall somehow exploded or melted down, either during or after the test of this missile on a platform out at sea in Northern Russia.

And as soon as it did a group of five scientists who were working there, by the account of their own institute, worked to try to control the reaction, they failed and they were all killed along with two other people. The Russians now say that there were seven dead. We think that that number may increase over time. They were very fortunate that the accident happened out at sea, but there were increased radiation levels - dramatically increased radiation levels noted in the nearest city.

COOPER: I think mostly when they hear about Skyfall, they think of the James Bond movie. I understand Vladimir Putin has actually bragged about Skyfall. What exactly is Skyfall?

SANGER: So in his State of the Union address in 2018 Mr. Putin showed an animated video of a series of new nuclear weapons that, he said, Russia was either developing or getting ready to deploy.

It was short on details but one of these was a weapon that would move at Mach 5 - five times the speed of sound. One was a cruise missile and that's what we believe the Skyfall one was. You know, intercontinental ballistic missiles take a very predictable path up into outer space and that's how missile defenses work. Cruise missiles try to avoid missile defenses by staying low and basically zigzagging to their target.

And then he showed an undersea drone, looks like a giant autonomous torpedo that he maintained would also evade missile defenses and many in the United States, in the intelligence community thought that this was a sort of undersea doomsday machine. That in other words the Russians could launch it went under attack and it might hit its target two or three days later even if Moscow was already destroyed.

COOPER: Wow.

SANGER: So he showed all these, but we couldn't tell what part of this was sort of out of Dr. Strangelove and what part of it was real.

COOPER: President Trump tweeted that the United States has learning from the explosion, says, the U.S. has quote "similar though more advanced technology". Do we know is that accurate? I mean you report the U.S. actually tried and failed to develop a nuclear powered missile back in the 1950s, I think it was.

SANGER: Well he's certainly true that the United States is developing its own hypersonic missiles. But as you say, this idea of putting a nuclear reactor in the back of a missile, in the rear, to power it and basically make it go anywhere, any distance, was something the United States did try back in the 50s and 60s and failed at miserably. I mean, everything that could go wrong went wrong, including radiation spewing out of the exhaust of the missile.

COOPER: And just finally, the United States pulled out of the decades long nuclear agreement with Russia earlier this month. Does that play into to any of this?

SANGER: Well the one way it plays is this. There is a new arms race underway. And, Anderson, the logic for it seems sort of strange. On the one hand these treaties, including the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which expired at the beginning of this month, prohibited certain classes of missiles. In that case, intermediate range missile that the Russians could aim at European targets. The United States wanted out - or at least President Trump wanted out, in part, because the Russians were violating the treaty. And he said, I think quite logically, why would we adhere to a treaty the Russians are violating, but also because the United States wants to counter similar missiles that China that has aimed at Taiwan and Japan.

So that was one side of it. The bigger fear is that the main treaty that bans intercontinental ballistic missiles expires in about 20 months, maybe even a little bit less, right after the next presidential inauguration. And the concern then is that the Russians and the United States would be able to build limitless numbers of missiles.

COOPER: David Sanger, that's fascinating. Thank you very much appreciate it.

SANGER: Great to be with you. Up next why changes are in the works for the Endangered Species Act, that's been credited with saving the bald eagle and other animals.

[21:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You might remember CNN's Drew Griffin reporting on this program that scientists at the EPA have been ordered to get out of the way of a massive and controversial copper and gold mine scheduled to be built in environmentally incredibly sensitive area of Alaska.

This only days after Alaska's Governor who favors the project met with President Trump Air Force One. May not come as a surprise tonight, that the Trump administration has announced significant changes in how the Endangered Species Act is applied. Changes that critics say will weaken the regulations.

Currently the Endangered Species Act protects more than--