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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
U.S. And Western Officials Believe Putin Could Formally Declare War On Ukraine As Soon As May 9; Russia's Foreign Minister Comment Hitler Had Jewish Blood Sparks Angry Reaction; Russian Oligarchs Alarmed By Growing Toll Of Putin's War In Ukraine; War-Torn City Retaken By Ukrainians Honor The Dead On Day Of Remembrance; 26 Jurors, Including Three Alternates, Selected For Grand Jury In Trump GA Election Interconference Probe; Manhunt Underway For Alabama Inmate, Corrections Officer. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 02, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICK SINGLETON, SHERIFF, LAUDERDALE COUNTY: You know that he didn't kidnap her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening from Kyiv.
There is a lot of breaking news involved in the war here in Ukraine that we want to get to even as Ukraine appears to have had some success against Russian forces in the east. It's evacuation of civilians from a massive steel plant in the battered port city of Mariupol has stalled again, all because of continued Russian bombardment say Ukrainian officials.
It's one of two main evacuation efforts in and around the city. We'll get to that in a moment because just a short time ago, we learned that U.S. and Western officials believe Vladimir Putin could soon formally declare war on Ukraine, which might sound ridiculous when you first hear it because Russia has been waging a brutal war against Ukraine for more than 10 weeks now.
But Vladimir Putin actually declaring it could mark a real change on the battlefield.
Our chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins joins us with the latest on that.
So what more are you learning about this possible declaration? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So Anderson,
this is something that officials here at the White House and inside the Biden administration believe could happen as soon as May 9th. Obviously, that's a week from today. And the reason that date is significant is because it's known as Victory Day inside of Russia.
It is incredibly important to them. It is remembered, of course, as the time that they defeated Nazi Germany. And so it's very important to Putin and to the Russian people, significant in a military way. But also it could be significant because if Putin does use this day to try to put a more positive light on their invasion of Ukraine, so far, given they haven't had a lot of victories, of course.
This is something that the White House believes they could use to do this formal Declaration of War. And what that means, basically, is that this would change from what Putin has been calling it, which is the special military operation. That's what he called it at about 6:00 AM his time whenever they formally launched this invasion of Ukraine, and now it would be an official Declaration of War in Ukraine.
And it's not just important because of what he calls it, even though we know it's a war, we know this invasion has been going on. But it would also allow him to be able to mobilize reserve forces, Anderson. It would allow him to be able to draft more conscripts. That is something he desperately needs given, of course, we've seen that Russia has not been making a lot of progress.
They've tried to change their goals, and they also are having a manpower shortage. So that would be the significance of Russia doing this. And what we're hearing from officials is that they could do this as soon as next Monday.
COOPER: Earlier today, the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe spoke about the possibilities of Russia annexing parts of Ukraine, what did he say exactly?
COLLINS: Yes. He is issuing a warning Michael Carpenter saying that they believe basically Russia is going to try to take more Ukrainian territory, and the way that they would do this is in certain regions, where right now we know Russian forces are in the eastern regions and the southern regions, it's about three areas that they believe Russia is going to be targeting and they believe that they could try to do this as it comes, as the Pentagon has been saying they've had anemic, minimal progress there really when it comes to their forces on the ground.
So this may be another avenue that Putin uses to try to legitimize this invasion, and they would do this through these sham elections, which Michael Carpenter, the top senior diplomat, who is warning about this as straight out of the Kremlin's playbook, something that you've seen done in other regions of Ukraine.
And so they are warning that this is something they could prepare to do by mid-May. So, this is something, Anderson, that we could see happen over the next two weeks or so.
COOPER: All right, Kaitlin Collins, appreciate the update on that.
And now, let's to go Mariupol. Two efforts to evacuate civilians out of that battered port city. One of them focused on civilians in and around the city that official state may begin tomorrow. The other focused on civilians in the massive steel plant where Ukrainian soldiers are holding out against Russian forces.
More than a hundred people were said to be able to evacuate Sunday before intense Russian shelling put an end to those efforts.
Joining us now from Zaporizhzhia is Nick Paton Walsh with the latest. Nick, you're in the town where a lot of them were supposed to end up. What did you see? What can you tell us?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean, sure, Anderson, they did not end up here. It's complex because during the day, we have seen a slow drip of people from Mariupol, who over the past days and weeks have gone out through their own steam and managed to make it here to Ukrainian-held territory.
But the hopes had been high expectations raised by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday saying that people would start to leave Mariupol as part of the United Nations Red Cross effort from 8:00 AM.
That does appear to have occurred from Azovstal. They have left it seems the city, but they have not got here to the safety of Ukrainian- held territory.
Here are some of the scenes we've seen over the last 24 to 48 hours.
PATON WALSH (voice over): After two months when they finally emerged into the light, it was a ravaged world that awaited them. The path out through this Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant battered by Russian explosives for weeks could easily be mistaken for the first steps of hell.
But rescue awaited at its end. These Ukrainians who had endured the savage rumble of blasts above grateful to be whisked out, even if it is through a hometown now unrecognizable.
Stanislav (ph) turned six months the day before they say, so he spent a third of his life underground.
(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)
PATON WALSH (voice over): "The children always wanted to eat," she says. "Adults, you know can wait." But this was a beginning of possibly thousands of similar journeys. Here escorted by the United Nations and Red Cross during a brief pause in the violence after weeks of cajoling in Moscow and Kyiv at the highest level.
(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)
PATON WALSH (voice over): "Thank you and stay healthy," she says walking out.
These pictures filmed in Russian controlled territory appear to show some of the first movements out of Mariupol guided by the U.N. They are still here under Russian Armed Guard and Russia's Ministry of Defense Monday claimed 11 evacuees had decided to stay in territory they control and 69 to head to Zaporizhzhia held by Ukraine.
Still Monday before dusk, none of the convoy either from Azovstal or the wider tens of thousands of civilians who might want to get out in the U.N. move had arrived here.
A welcome center, where slowly people have been arriving from wider Mariupol and the areas around it under their own steam, over journeys spanning previous days.
Tatiana (ph) said she got out of Mariupol three days ago. They bombed the buildings, "They are aflame," she says, "The bodies have been buried." Her unbroken spirit clear, when she tries to get up and walk before she is reminded her wheelchair is there for a purpose.
In the days ahead, the numbers under U.N. escort arriving here will be a powerful omen of whether any sort of talking in this war can save lives.
COOPER: So, Nick, were the ones who were on those buses escorted by the Red Cross and the U.N. out of the steel plant, where are those buses now?
PATON WALSH: Yes, it is a confusing picture. We have seen pictures from news agencies and the Russian Ministry of Defense that suggest a convoy very much matching the description of the one that left Mariupol with a Red Cross escort was in Russian-held territory more to the east of Mariupol than you might expect if they were headed in this direction.
And maybe because they took a circuitous route that's entirely possible, they were pictured at a Russian-controlled center, I think it's fair to say. A series of tents there, and there appear to have been some sort of U.N. personnel there as well.
We are told by Ukrainian officials that convoy has been moving through Russian-held villages on its way to Ukrainian-held territory and possibly they've had to stop overnight.
Look, it is absolute, not entirely clear exactly the progress they have made. There were hopes they would reach Ukrainian-held territory, Zaporizhzhia later today, and now I think everyone is talking about tomorrow morning, possibly the middle of tomorrow.
It does keep moving away from us that particular moment and that's of course utterly vital because it is about the confidence on whether or not the Ukrainians have really managed to pull this off with the help of the U.N. and the Red Cross or if we're just seeing consistent Russian cynicism and manipulation of the situation -- Anderson. COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh, I appreciate it, obviously confusing. Thank
you. Trying to make sense out of it.
There is worldwide condemnation today after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attempted to justify Kremlin rhetoric that Russians are denazifying Ukraine which has the Jewish President by claiming as Lavrov did, Adolf Hitler had quote, "Jewish blood" and saying the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews.
Now the chair of the U.S. Holocaust Museum said this afternoon quote: "To claim that Hitler was Jewish and imply that Jews were responsible for Nazism and the Holocaust is an anti-Semitic lie of extraordinary proportions. In addition to promoting baseless conspiracy theories and hatred, this obscene claim is a grave offense. The victims of true Nazism, the six million Jews and millions of other civilians cannot obscure Russia's perpetration of mass atrocities in Ukraine.
Joining us now from Moscow is CNN's Matthew Chance where the Kremlin imposed strict laws regarding how Russia's presence in Ukraine is described.
So Matthew, what was the point the Lavrov was trying to make in saying that and what has been the reaction?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean the point is, I mean, you identified it already, which is that Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister was attempting to justify why his country has sent so many troops across the border into neighboring Ukraine. They say it is because the Ukraine of today is run by Neo Nazis, and that it represents an existential threat to Russia, in the same way that Nazi Germany did in the 1940s.
We've seen that rhetoric from the beginning of this -- what Russians has called their special military operation, and we're seeing that rhetoric being stepped up in the last few weeks, last few days, in particular, because we're in the lead up to the May the 9th Victory Day celebrations or commemorations where Russia commemorates the end of the Second World War, Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, and so we're seeing more and more of this.
The problem, of course, with that narrative is that Ukraine isn't run by Neo Nazis, it is run by a Jewish President, and when confronted with that fact, Sergey Lavrov reached for that anti-Semitic trope that its Jews are the worst anti-Semites and sort of reached as well, for that conspiracy theory that's got a lot of currency on the internet in some quarters, that Hitler himself may have been partly Jewish, which is something that's been discredited by historians and the condemnation has been, you know, there has been no mention of it in Russia, I have to say, but the condemnation from elsewhere has been pretty sharp, particularly from Israel.
The Israeli Prime Minister calling it lies. The Israeli Foreign Minister saying that the comments by his Russian counterpart were unforgivable, which is interesting in itself, because Israel has been one of the countries that's been sitting on the fence, when it comes to its condemnation of Russia, it hasn't fully signed up to the international rafts of sanctions against the country over its action inside Ukraine.
And so, you know, there is a possibility that that could change, we'll see. But certainly, you know, a very sharp diplomatic reaction to Sergey Lavrov's words -- Anderson.
COOPER: Now that you're back there, can you give a sense of how the conflict is being presented by the state-run media, give us a sense of what that actually looks like?
CHANCE: Yes, I mean, I've been watching a bit of state-controlled television, it is the only television, basically you can get now, because of the very stringent laws that have been put in force here. Most if not all of the independent channels, all the independent journalists, most of them have departed the country, the channels have been closed down.
So you know, very much it is now a monopoly of the state media when it comes to the flow of information. And what you get when you switch on the state television channels is a sort of constant flow of discussion, and news programs about what they call their special military operation in Ukraine.
You get today though, for instance, on state television, there was a special report from Mariupol, or what they said was Mariupol and a war correspondent with state media, sort of traveling in with what appeared to be Russian rebel or you know, Russian Special Forces or those linked with the rebel breakaway republic in Donetsk into the what they said was the steel works and they were trying to sort of capture it, sort of building by building.
There are lots of and lots of talk shows as well with news anchors talking about the threat that is posed towards Russia from its enemies from outside, so perpetuating this narrative constantly that it is Russia that is under attack from its enemies around the world, and particularly from the West.
And so that's what -- that's the diet of news and information controlled by the Kremlin that the vast majority of the Russian public are subjected to sort of really most of the day.
COOPER: Matthew Chance, appreciate it.
Back to the breaking news that according to Intelligence sources, Russia could formally declare war against Ukraine as soon as May 9th.
Military analysis now from retired Brigadier General Peter Zwack, a former U.S. Defense Attache to Russia. He is also the author of the book "Swimming the Volga: A U.S. Army Officer's Experiences in Pre- Putin Russia."
General Zwack, I want to go back to that news tonight the U.S. and Western officials believe Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine as May 9th. What would that mean tactically? BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET), U.S. ARMY: Tactically, this allows
Putin technically by law in Russia to mobilize the so-called "reserves," approximately two million, not particularly well-trained, by the way, and then officially allow conscripts to go in, though we know they've already been in.
And so this kind of -- and it also increases mobilization for resources and ever anything else, so this gives the official, if you will, statement, but what this is in my mind, Anderson is a statement that Russia is in an existential moment.
Nine May gives them that which was all about triumph and commemoration. I was there in 2014, and what was declared in '14 is, it was the annexation of Crimea.
One other point, there was another parade often forgotten that 7 November 1941, when Stalin literally had troops, the Red Army from the Far East marched through Red Square in an existential moment, and engaged the Nazis just 70 miles outside of Moscow.
So it is triumph. It is commemoration for all the dead, and I believe this is also existential, and they're portraying it as such.
COOPER: What do you make of this word from a key U.S. Ambassador that Intelligence says Russia is likely to try to use the so called referendums as cover to annex Donetsk and Luhansk by mid-May, at least mid-May?
ZWACK: We go back to mid-February, just a week before the invasion, and we saw Luhansk and Donetsk, the Duma forward to Putin their recommendation that they declare or support their independence. So this has been brewing.
I think that the Russians, they have to moderate their appetite a little bit, because they are not where they want to be. They want to do that for 9 May. They'd like to take Mariupol -- and then get as much of it into, if you will, the course on People's Republic potentially.
COOPER: What, if anything, could Ukraine or for that matter, the international community to do that they're not already doing to try to stop those annexations? I mean, that's -- it seems like if they do have those annexations, it allows them the potential to kind of, any other negotiations that take place to kind of freeze it with the land grab that they would have been taken.
ZWACK: That's a great point, Anderson, I completely agree. They make the declaration, and then they go out to the world internationally, locally, and say, "We want a ceasefire. We have a humanitarian reason to stop killing and negotiations." But they're negotiating over hundreds of square miles that had been taken since 24 February 19 -- excuse me, this year. So that's a big deal.
And now they're negotiating over borders that are beyond if you will, 2014. That would be bad. It puts the Ukrainians in a position where they have got to go on to the offensive hard, if they want to at least get back to the 2014 lines.
And this also, if they're able to get some type of a negotiation, it might give the Russians a chance to kind of pull themselves together as Ukrainians do the same. So, it's really complicated and potentially quite dangerous.
COOPER: Retired Brigadier General Peter Zwack, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Still to come tonight, more on Vladimir Putin's possible intention to formally declare war. We will speak with a co-author of a piece from "The Washington Post" that describes a split among some Russian oligarchs about the war, some are worried about the toll it is taking on their country.
Later, we'll turn to U.S. politics, an exclusive interview with the Georgia prosecutor who is trying to determine whether the former President illegally interfered in the 2020 election. A special grand jury was seated today. We have details of that ahead.
COOPER: As we reported a few moments ago, U.S. and Western officials believe Vladimir Putin may soon formally declare war on Ukraine. Officials believe that among other benefits, it could serve as a rally around the flag moment and increase popularity for something that has been a war, an open name for the Russian leader and his people.
The development follows a fascinating article from "The Washington Post." "Cracks emerge in Russian elite, as tycoons start to bemoan invasion," was the headline. It's about how some in the top echelon of Russian society are becoming concerned about the toll this war is taking on the country.
We want to get perspective now from the co-author of that piece, "The Washington Post's," Greg Miller.
Greg, thanks so much for joining us. You make a distinction in the article between Russian oligarchs who became wealthy during the Boris Yeltsin years and those who became wealthy during the Vladimir Putin years, those who feel that they owe their wealth to Putin.
What's the difference between the two? And does either group have real power to actually influence Putin's decisions?
GREG MILLER, INVESTIGATIVE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So I think the real difference is that those who made their money under Yeltsin, I don't think they ever felt quite as indebted to Putin, they certainly don't feel so now. They don't feel as invested in him as a leader. And I think they're more inclined to speak out.
They've also had more time to move their assets, their families out of Russia, so perhaps they're in better position to voice criticism of the Kremlin and of the war. And the answer your second question is that, you know, it's not clear that even combined, that these oligarchs now have sufficient influence or power to alter the course of this war, to alter Putin's calculations and thinking about Ukraine, and convince him to turn back.
COOPER: There has been reporting of a kind of rally around the flag effect where Putin has become more popular in Russia since the invasion as nationalist fervor has grown. Did you hear that among some of the oligarchs you spoke to?
MILLER: I have to say that we didn't -- none of the oligarchs we spoke to spoke glowingly about this war or were pleased with it or were particularly patriotic about it in the way that I think that many Russians who live far, especially those who are living in the more rural parts of Russia, may feel about this conflict.
I mean, they are being fed a fairly consistent diet of Russian propaganda day after day. Their understanding of this war, I think, is very different than that of wealthy Russians, elite Russians, who still have access to accurate information about what is happening and more importantly, have seen a devastating impact on themselves.
I mean, let's be honest, these people are largely speaking out of self-interest at this point.
COOPER: And I mean, many of the people who spoke with you for the article, they insisted on anonymity because of fear of retribution. Did they talk about exactly what they feared? I mean, arrest, loss of wealth, or do they fear for their lives?
MILLER: I mean, I think any -- all of the above to some degree. I think that -- I don't think it is far-fetched at all for these individuals, some of whom live, you know, not terribly far from where I'm standing here in London to feel vulnerable.
I mean, only four years ago, there was a poisoning of a former Russian agent who had defected and came to the United Kingdom. I mean, this is a particular fear that Putin has tried to instill with a great deal of success.
And I think that it is also true that many of these oligarchs, even the richest of the rich who have managed to build astonishingly lavish lifestyles in Europe or the United States still have family, they still have exposure back in Russia.
COOPER: And did you get the sense that any of these -- the people, you talked to -- believe that Vladimir Putin might be removed from power as a result of this war?
MILLER: I mean, I think that there is a sense that that day is on the horizon somewhere, and people talk about that now in a way they might not have a few months ago, but nobody that we spoke with sees that as imminent. Nobody that we spoke with believes that his power -- his hold on power is in meaningful jeopardy, at least in the short term.
Some of them talked about, you know, looking out months, if not longer into this conflict, if things are not going well, if the economy continues to deteriorate, if the costs in Russian lives in Ukraine continue to mount, then you might start to see the beginnings of opposition in Russia.
But even then, it's not -- there is not a great deal of confidence among those that we spoke with that that will be enough in the short- term horizon to lead to a change in the leadership in the Kremlin.
COOPER: Greg Miller, again, such an interesting article. Thanks for being with us.
MILLER: Thanks for having me, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up, we're going to take you to a cemetery in Ukraine where loved ones are honoring the dead on a special day of remembrance. That's ahead.
COOPER: Like Bucha and Irpin is one of several cities on the outskirts of Kyiv where Ukrainian soldiers and civilian volunteers helped stop the Russians from advancing on Ukraine's capital. Kyiv under heavy bombardment for weeks. It's also a site of suspected war crimes. Many civilians were killed in Irpin along with Ukrainian fighters. Visited a cemetery in this city this weekend on an Annual National Day of Remembrance for the Dead and spoke to survivors now mourning their lost loved ones.
COOPER (voice-over): In Irpin cemetery, they came to remember the people this country will never forget. Women and men, civilians and soldiers, dozens are buried here in freshly dug graves. Tatyana (INAUDIBLE) came to speak to her husband Oleksandr, a taxi driver turned soldier killed by a motor March 13th.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Once we joke that we would die on the same day, and to be honest with you, it happened. But he's in the sky, and I'm here. It's not leaving.
COOPER (on-camera): You feel like you have died as well?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Yes, together with him. When he died, I felt it. I knew that something had happened. I got the call in the early morning, but I already felt it. It was the worst moment of my life.
COOPER (on-camera): Does it help to be here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): This is our tradition to come to this remembering day. But in general, we come here every two or three days. I come here to talk to him and it gets easy to me. I tell him what was going on in my life, how I'm leaving without him.
COOPER (voice-over): There was heavy fighting in Irpin for weeks, and many Ukrainian fighters died holding back the Russians and helping civilians escape. But even some of those evacuating came under attack.
On this Remembrance Day, priests walked among the dead and volunteer soldiers came to pay their respects.
COOPER (voice-over): Touching the graves of their brothers in arms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): These people are heroes. They were not trained military. They were ordinary men. They came to defend their city and gave their lives for this. For this city and for civilians who were standing behind them.
COOPER (voice-over): For (INAUDIBLE) family there is comfort in that. Ihor (ph) died March 21st. His eldest son was wounded with him and is now in the hospital. Ihor's (ph) wife Alla (ph) came with their other son Savaly (ph) just 10, he's dressed in a uniform to honor his dad.
(on-camera): How have you been able to go on?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): All of us are staying in the hospital. I don't know how we manage. But now I know that in the hospital, it's easier for me, because I know how to live there. But how to live outside the hospital, I don't know. We can't leave at our house because it was destroyed. There are no windows, no heating, no water. On Monday, my eldest son will have an operation, but I believe that everything will be all right because I don't know how it could get any worse.
COOPER (on-camera): What do you want people to know about your husband?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): He was very strong, very brave, courage. He told me honey, everything is all right. I asked him, will we win? And he said to me, sure. It can't be any other way. He was sure of it. It's a shame that he died one week before our city was liberated and he did not see it.
COOPER (voice-over): While she spoke Savali (ph) cried silently at his father's grave. For a child at 10, the loss is hard to comprehend.
Anderson Cooper, CNN, Irpin.
COOPER: We'll have much more from Ukraine ahead. First, big development in the investigation into the former president of a special grand jury is now seated for the investigation to whether he and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in Georgia. Tonight the DA who requested that panel is here in an exclusive where she sees her investigation headed and extraordinary security precautions surrounding the proceedings.
COOPER: More from Ukraine in a moment. But first of so-called Find Me Votes Investigation back home is just, excuse me, has just entered a whole new stage.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: So, look all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have, because we want to say --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well that asked by the former presidential election officials in Georgia is at the heart of a criminal investigation into whether he and others tried to illegally interfere with the 2020 vote.
Today in Atlanta special grand jury was chosen, 23 jurors, three alternates who now have brought investigative powers including subpoena power to compel people to testify. Because the threat of violence hovers over this process in light of the insurrection, extra security was requested around the courthouse. Reportedly snipers were on the roofs and canine dogs at the ready. The Fulton County DA also asked the FBI to tighten security of buildings around her office.
Fani Willis requested this special grand jury and joins us now in an exclusive interview.
District Attorney Willis, I appreciate your time tonight. Now that the special grand jury has been selected, can you just tell people who you plan to bring in as witnesses obviously, that call between the former president and Secretary Raffensperger is at the center of this investigation.
FANI WILLIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FULTON COUNTY, GA: I can't discuss specific people that we plan to bring in. What I can tell you is during the course of our investigation to this point, we've had in excess of 50 people who have declined to talk to us voluntarily. And so, what we plan to do is to start serving them with subpoenas, either directly or through attorneys, if they've contacted attorneys, and bring them in before this panel so they can hear from them.
COOPER: What power do they have to resist those subpoenas?
WILLIS: I'm sure there'll be motions to quash filed. But I'm also confident that justice will play out and that the judge that is over this special purpose grand jury as long as we meet the technicalities and do things appropriately, which of course we plan to do, that those subpoenas will be enforced and that they will come before the special purpose grand jury and testify.
COOPER: And as I understand the special grand jury, they will have authority to subpoena witnesses documents ask their own questions, but it can only recommend criminal charges, the actual charging decision falls to you. Do you have a timeline for a charging decision?
WILLIS: That's absolutely correct. A special purpose grand jury does have some special powers. And one of those is that they can on their own ask for certain documents to be subpoenaed. Or they can say that they'd like to hear from certain witnesses. If one witness we bring in mentioned someone and they think it's relevant, they can request that those people be brought in and not request but actually have a subpoena at issue to bring those in. So that's an awesome power and responsibility.
In terms of a timeline, I've just followed the course that we're going to let the evidence take us where it may. We have one year to do this. So from May today through May 31 of 2023, I do not anticipate it's going to take that long, though. But that would be how long we had.
COOPER: And can you just talk about what the scope of your investigation is? What exactly are you looking at?
WILLIS: We're going to look at anything connected with interference with the 2020 election. And so, I've allowed that to be a broad scope, not just the President's phone call that you play there, but other things that indicate that there may have been interference with that election to include fake electors.
COOPER: So -- yes, I'm sorry to include?
WILLIS: Fake electors. I know that you're aware that that was done in our state. And so that is of interest to my office.
COOPER: The fake electors. According to CNN's reporting for today's jury selection, officials that closed roads surrounding the courthouse, station snipers on the roofs. A person familiar with the situation said that prosecutors on your team have also been issued bulletproof vests. Can you just describe some of the threats that your office has been getting?
WILLIS: Well, you know, the audacity to conduct this investigation has made some people very angry. I know that my security team is particularly worried about my safety. We are of course also worried about the safety of the team that does this investigation we do not intend to be intimidated. But I can tell you that in recent days I've turned up on white supremacist pages, often with my face and very derogatory names. They are very displeased with the fact that I'm not only conducting this investigation, but they seem to be particularly concerned about another investigation that my office has done, that I know you have reported on, which is the agent spot killings and the fact that I asked for a hate crime and that.
And so, those kinds of things bring great concern to the security that has to protect us.
COOPER: It's my understanding that you've already met with former President Trump's attorneys at least twice. Have you -- I don't know if you can say if you met with him recently, and what's your sense of -- did anything come out of that?
WILLIS: I have been in conversations with him recently. And I anticipate that we will have further conversations over the next few days. I would not say that anything fruitful has come out of those conversations at that point, other than respectful dialogue about what I plan to do. Last year, I met with the former president's legal counsel. And I assured them that I knew at that point, I would not be going to a special purpose grand jury, I knew that we were not at that stage yet, that I was going to simply conduct an investigation, trying to ask witnesses to voluntarily come in.
At the very end of last year, December to be exact, I met with him again, to say that at this point, I was confident that in this next year being 2022, that I would be moving forward with greater investigative tools. And so we have kept our word on that. I've also made them a commitment that we can have very open dialogues. And so if they're things that they want to bring to me, of course, they have no obligation to do so that I'm here. And I'm open and I'm willing to listen.
COOPER: I'm just want to go back to something you mentioned before about fake electors. The Justice Department had said that they are taking a look at fake electors. Are you aware of that investigation, investigation in terms of what happened in Georgia? And have you been in touch with the Department of Justice? Or have you been planning on coordinating with the DOJ?
WILLIS: I don't plan on specifically coordinating with the Department of Justice, what their investigation would be as obviously, election fraud they may have occurred going anyplace in this great country. Mine is much smaller. It's a big investigation, but much smaller, I am only looking into election interference in the state of Georgia, and more specifically, things that they asked for around that call that occurred in my county, Fulton County.
COOPER: And just lastly, how concerned are you that that unless you get to the bottom of this, future elections could be subject to the same kind of claims, by people, by anybody?
WILLIS: Well, the truth is, my belief is that the government has lots of responsibilities and duties, but two primary responsibilities and duties are, one that they keep their citizens safe, which is the great role of the district attorney. And two, that if we live in a free land in a democracy, we have to have free and fair elections. And so, I am very concerned that if behavior that is illegal, goes unchecked, that it could lead to a very bad start and a very, very bad path. But I'm also confident that we were able today to get a cross section of the community that will do their due diligence that they will look at this matter that they will investigate and that they will give us a report at the end of their service. It just goes to the truth.
COOPER: Fani Willis, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
WILLIS: Thank you for having me.
COOPER: Up next, the latest on the manhunt for an Alabama inmate charged with murder and a corrections officer who is suspected to have helped him escape. Details on that.
COOPER: A manhunt for an Alabama inmate and a corrections officer still underway after both went missing from a detention center, Friday. This afternoon, the Lauderdale County Sheriff told CNN that it appears the correction officers willfully assisting the inmate who's facing murder charges. A warrant was issued for the corrections officer on charges of permitting or facilitating the escape of the missing inmate.
CNN's Ryan Young tonight has the story.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Friday morning, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office as assistant director Vicki White told her co-workers she was taking inmate Casey White to the county courthouse for a mental health evaluation. Investigators say security video shows the pair never arrived at the courthouse and no evaluation or court appearance was even scheduled. Several hours later, White patrol car was found abandoned in a shopping center parking lot less than a mile away from the detention facility.
RICK SINGLETON, SHERIFF, LAUNDERDALE COUNTY, AL: We've gotten a couple of tips on a possible vehicle we're still pursuing that.
YOUNG (voice-over): CNN got a firsthand look at security procedures inside the detention center.
(on-camera): You can see how all this works for security having seen a level (INAUDIBLE).
(voice-over): The Sheriff says Vicki White actually violated protocol when she removed Casey White from the detention facility.
(on-camera): This is the hallway where the inmate have walked down, going to the (INAUDIBLE) of Sallyport where they'll be loaded into a car. Normally it's two deputies per van. But this time it was just the deputy and the inmate.
(voice-over): The Sheriff says since Vicki White is in charge of the detention center, no one questioned her. Investigators say they still have no evidence of relationship between them.
SINGLETON: We're still looking into that, reviewing phone calls and reviewing video from the jail. YOUNG (voice-over): The Sheriff's office says last week after about two decades with the department, Vicki White put in her retirement papers. Friday was supposed to be her last day.
SINGLETON: I based upon the first deal in Alabama. She did this willingly. All indications are that she did, I guess we're trying to hold on to that last straw hope that maybe some for some reason here threatened under this under (INAUDIBLE) but after leaving you feel betrayed.
YOUNG (voice-over): Casey White was already serving 75 years for a rash of crimes. Next month he's scheduled to go on trial on two counts of capital murder for the stabbing death of Connie Ridgeway in 2015. Tonight investigators are hopeful he'll soon be back behind bars.
MARTY KEELY, U.S. MARSHAL, NORTHERN DISTRIC OF ALABAMA: Keep in mind that the Casey White is a large individual. He is six feet nine inches tall. He will stand down.
COOPER: Ryan Young joins us now we're in for in the Lauderdale County Detention Center. So what is the latest on the manhunt right now?
YOUNG: Well, Anderson, all this news. And all this coverage has really helped them out today. We were what we were told there's a lot of tips are coming in to the tip line about where they may have seen these two. But so far, the Sheriff was telling me it's from different states, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee. So they're trying to narrow down exactly where they may be. The Marshal Service is also involved in the search. And we're told both the Canadian border and the Mexican border have been notified about these two being on the run.
But I can tell you after walking through that jail today and talking to several jail employees, they tell us they are shell shocked about this, bcause you got to think this was a second in command here who basically got this guy out of jail, they're hoping that his size alone will be something that will help get people to give more tips. You look at this guy, he's six foot nine inches tall, probably over 250 pounds. So it's not someone who's just going to sort of slipped by the wayside in terms of when someone sees him.
But at this point, they had several hours headstart on this search. So what they're hoping is the doubling of the public and people seeing this will make more people call in and give them the tips they need to catch this (INAUDIBLE). Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, Ryan Young, appreciate it. Thanks.
Coming up, a look at a battered village just outside of Kyiv where some of the most intense fighting the wars occurred and people are trying to pick up the pieces to build after.