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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
January 6 Committee Member: Tomorrow's Hearing to Focus on Fake Electors, State-Level Pressure to Overturn Election; Rep. Kinzinger Releases Threatening Letter Sent to His Home, Says There is Violence in the Future; Interview with Rep. Zoe Lofgren; Can FL Gov. DeSantis Replace Trump As Dominant Force Of GOP?; Russian State Media: Captured American Fighters Held By Russian-Backed Separatists; Texas Republican Party Adopts Far-Right Platform At Convention, Includes Denouncing Biden's 2020 Win. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 20, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: To date back to the Bronze Age and it was excavated earlier this year after water levels dropped, allowing it to remain, to briefly see the light of day. It is now back underwater. Researchers continue to look for clues about who built the city.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
Erin is back tomorrow. AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening.
Tonight, members of the January 6 Committee and their staffs are preparing for the fourth hearing tomorrow that will zero in two key elements of what the Committee has called Donald Trump's plan to overturn the election. We'll hear witnesses from Georgia and Arizona testify about pressure they felt from the former President and his allies to decertify President Biden's wins in those states.
We will also hear perhaps the most detailed account to date of one of the most bizarre elements of the former President's scheme, the attempt devoid of any legal basis to get alternate and completely imaginary slates of electors installed from seven states to swing the election to the former President.
This is what it looked like in Michigan back in December when those fake electors actually showed up at the Statehouse and tried to talk their way past police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: We're electors. We're electors. We're here to take part in the electoral process.
POLICE: The electors are already here. They've been checked in.
CROWED: Not all of them. They're also electors. Not all the electors are inside.
POLICE: The Capitol is full. All 16 electors have already been advised by the Governor's staff that were going to be here to vote in the Electoral College have been checked in. They're already here.
MAN: But the GOP electors --
WOMAN: But these are the rest of the electors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: "These are the rest of the electors." There is no such thing. It may seem ludicrous watching that, but according to testimony that we'll hear more of tomorrow, this was part of a multi-pronged scheme by the President and his allies to overturn the results of the election. It is unprecedented in our history.
Now, the seriousness of what occurred and the risks being taken by some members of the January 6 Committee are important to remember.
On Sunday, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican member of the Committee tweeted a letter he said he'd received at his home. It is addressed to his wife and mentioned how both she and her husband and their child would be executed. He warns of the division of what is to come in our politics in our country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): There is violence in the future, I'm going to tell you, and until we get a grip on telling people the truth, we can't expect any differently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, over the weekend, Republican Dan Crenshaw, a retired Navy SEAL was harassed while at a Texas Republican Convention. Media Eye quotes people who said they witnessed several individuals accosting Crenshaw and his staff, at least one used a crude remark coined by a FOX News host to make light of the eye that Crenshaw lost during his service. One female staffer of his was also reportedly "pushed aggressively" into a pillar.
Extremism is on the rise and some candidates are trying to use it to their advantage. Case in point, Eric Greitens, a former Governor of Missouri who is running now for Senate, he has put out an ad that we're not going to play, but we'll show you a still from it.
Greitens is shown holding a firearm talking about going rhino hunting, you can see smoke in the background, as well as some sort of commando- type looking people. RINO obviously is an acronym for Republicans-In- Name-Only. He then cocks the gun in the ad.
He is next, outside a house with armed men and camouflage talking about rhinos, then they burst into the home and he talks more about bagging a rhino. Now, we should point out the Greitens has left office four years ago
after a report by Missouri Statehouse alleged he subjected a woman to nonconsensual sexual activity and violence. He denied the allegations, but he left in disgrace.
Then earlier this year, his ex-wife who is in a custody battle for their children, allege in a court document that he was physically abusive toward her and their children. She says she grew so afraid of her former husband that she sought to limit his access to weapons and began sleeping in her children's room out of concern for their safety. He denies those allegations.
Now, he is trying to mount a political comeback with an ad showing him with a firearm bursting to a house talking about hunting for Republicans who are not as extreme as, I guess, he would like them to be.
I'm joined now by another member of the January 6 Committee, Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California.
Congresswoman Lofgren, when you hear your fellow Committee member, Adam Kinzinger with that threatening letter that he says he received from -- to his family, it's obviously extremely disturbing. In a larger picture, though, how concerned are you about our inability as a country it seems or in our politics to not give in to this extremism?
It seems like the extremism is on the rise not just in, in this kind of physical confrontations, but also just in rhetoric. The extremes get all the attention. The extremes seem to make it impossible to actually get things done.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, most people in America don't intend to engage in violence around politics. So, I think we need to look at where's the missing leadership here, where elected officials of both parties will stand up and say, this type of rhetoric or activity is not acceptable and condemn it.
LOFGREN: You know, the ad where the candidate is apparently with assault weapons going in to bag so-called rhinos. I haven't heard anybody today from the Republican leadership condemning that. I think it's important that that happened.
And I think we've got to get back to the kind of country that we all expect where you can have a disagreement on a policy issue. It doesn't make the other person that you don't agree with your enemy. It means that you and another American might have a different point of view, that's the way we need to deal with things.
COOPER: I want to talk about tomorrow's hearing. It's going to focus on state and local officials who claimed they were pressured by members of the Trump campaign, including Rudy Giuliani and the former President himself to support false states electors.
Are there new details that the Americans -- that we will hear tomorrow?
LOFGREN: Yes, as always, there are some things that are known and then some things that I think people will see new. I'm not going to step on the Committee, that's why we're going to have the hearing tomorrow to lay out the information that has been collected. But I think -- I think it's worth watching and I think people will learn from it.
COOPER: The Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson recently said that the Committee was, in his words, engaging with former Vice President Pence's lawyers. Do you believe there is still a chance that Pence would speak to the Committee? Would you support a subpoena in order to get him to testify?
LOFGREN: Well, I would love to have him come in, whether he would or not remains to be seen. We have actually heard and learned a lot, because so many of his people came in and spoke very robustly to us. But we could still learn a little more if he came in.
At this point, you know, we have to weigh whether if we issue a subpoena, do we end up in, you know, a six-month court fight? Or do we get someone to come in. We have to weigh all those issues. But I wish he just would come in. I think it would help us fill out the entire picture and I think it would be good for our country and therefore, good for him.
COOPER: You've said previously, the Committee would release more information about fundraising efforts by the former President and his campaign, so-called Official Election Defense Fund that there wasn't such a thing, but it went directly in the former President's Super PAC. You're calling it the Big Rip Off. When is that going to be released? Do you have more you can say on what it is?
LOFGREN: Well, the staff is working to put together a document that we can release that will fill out the details and I'm hoping that that will be done in the next few days. There was more interest in this than I had anticipated.
And of course, in a two-hour hearing, you can't lay out all the information that you've gotten. So we'll fill out a little bit more I hope in the next few days.
COOPER: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, I appreciate your time.
COOPER: Perspective now from US Capitol Police Officer, Harry Dunn, who was attacked by the rioters on January 6, testified last year; Denver Riggleman, a former senior technical adviser to the January 6th Committee, former Republican Congressman from Virginia, and CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Congressman Riggleman, the gross tonnage of all this rhetoric, this kind of extremist rhetoric that we've been hearing whether it's what we saw on January 6th, the threats faced by Republican officials now like Congressman Kinzinger, this ad from Greitens. What does it say to you about where we are right now and where our politics our country is heading?
DENVER RIGGLEMAN, FORMER US REPRESENTATIVE: I think that type of extremism is starting to get a little bit baked in into certain portions of the GOP. I mean, I saw it really here with the amount of death threats I had after I did the same sex wedding in August of 2019, and even after my appearance with you on June 1st, we've actually had to shut down our company e-mail. We actually got so many e-mails that were talking about pedophilia, they were talking about killing people, they were talking about bounties, that at some point, my wife and daughters actually called me in and said, "We're getting so many e-mails now, we need to shut down the link on the website."
So Anderson, when you're listening, you know what's happening to Adam, what's happening to people in the party, what's happened to Democrats, what's happened to all these individuals, it seems like a, you know, like a go-to that either these type of threats, it's just one of those things that you sort of live with, but we're to a point now we've seen so much violence that these threats aren't empty and that's the problem that I have with all this.
And Anderson at some point, you know, we're going to have to have some kind of leadership address this and right now you're not seeing it. If Eric Greitens can go out and do a video about hunting rhinos, you know with assault weapons or kicking in doors, you have a bunch of door kickers, since he's a former Navy SEAL. The issue is he is talking to live action role players.
He's talking to LARPers, and any idiot can pull a trigger, any idiot can do something stupid. So the problem is that you have people that could be being radicalized because of this type of sort of ridiculous buffoonery and somebody who you may be through polling thought that the Second Amendment was so important that he needs to threaten other individuals.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, look, we have a guy who tried to, you know, according to authorities kill a Supreme Court Justice at his home. You know, Gloria, what does it say to you that Adam Kinzinger, Dan Crenshaw, two young, very conservative military veterans that kind of figures who the Republican Party, once upon a time, would have embraced and celebrated and understandably so, that they are targets of such vitriol?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you -- can add Liz Cheney to that list. I mean, look, the Republican Party right now is in a very dark, dark place, and I think what's going on is that the leadership of the Republican Party, such as it is, is holding its breath because they don't want to do anything to rock the boat so they can win over the Congress in the midterm elections.
They've figured they're going to control the House, they have a good shot at controlling the Senate and they don't want to do anything that shows the American public how split and divided and angry parts of the party are. And so, you know, Congresswoman Lofgren was saying, where's the
leadership? Why aren't we hearing from them? I think, she asked a very good question. You need to hear from the leadership on both sides when things like this happen, and we are not hearing it right now on the Republican side, because they're just waiting to take control of the Congress, get what they want from the American electorate, and then maybe, maybe they'll start to deal with this.
COOPER: The problem is, Officer Dunn, as you know, all too well, this isn't something you kind of control. Once this gets out of hand, it is not as if suddenly, you know, political leaders can say, okay, now that we're in power, we're not going to do this stuff anymore.
You have people starting to attack their own. You have, you know, folks in the Republican Party in Texas going after Dan Crenshaw, you know, calling him a globalist, you know, it's -- to be this far past January 6th, Officer Dunn and to still have this political climate, does it concern you?
HARRY DUNN, US CAPITOL HILL POLICE OFFICER: It is very concerning, you've got to think about it like nobody -- nobody -- Dan Crenshaw, Adam Kinzinger -- nobody -- Liz Cheney -- deserves the threats on their lives just because they have a specific policy view or disagreement with somebody. And earlier in the segment, you said something about Adam Kinzinger talking about that's why it's important to get the truth out.
The truth doesn't matter to a lot of these extremists. They don't care. You literally had a sitting Member of Congress complain that they will get you for lying to them, a sitting Member of Congress said that getting to the truth doesn't matter.
COOPER: Yes, that was Louie Gohmert.
DUNN: Yes. That's why it's very important for the Justice Department to do their job and do their roles. There's so much only Congress can do. There's so much only law enforcement can do, the Justice Department has to step in and do their job now with the facts out there. The facts matter to the Justice Department, it seems like a lot of the American public, or at least the extremists don't really care about the actual facts about it, because they'll just say they're lying.
So the truth doesn't really matter. They are just falling upon deaf ears.
COOPER: Congressman Riggleman, when the hearings reconvene tomorrow, what do you think the Committee needs to accomplish and how important you think are the witnesses from Georgia, which was so central to the former President's effort to overturn the election?
RIGGLEMAN: I think they're very important. And, you know, you heard Zoe earlier, this is going to be a very important hearing. I think it's not only those Georgia officials, I think it's also every layer of individuals that were involved in pushing an alternate elector scheme, or trying to pressure people to do things that they knew were out of bounds or illegal.
And I think we can talk about Raffensperger, we can talk about Gabe or we can talk about all these individuals. But I think what the Committee is going to surprise people with are the number of peoples that were involved -- number of people that were involved at every level.
So you're not just talking about high level officials, you're also talking about people in the specific parties. You're talking about activist.
I think what people need to understand, again, is that one word and Anderson, you know, I've said it many times, people need to look for coordination. They need to look at where it's happening at every layer. They need to see that President Trump was aware that that coordination was happening.
They need to look at that second layer, right, underneath of President Trump and how many individuals they were contacting, and then you've got to look at the documentation and the data that supports it.
So tomorrow, again, I think the Committee is going to surprise the American people with the evidence that they have, but how they actually interleaved the data to give a complete story of how these individuals were pressured and how these schemes came to be.
COOPER: Gloria, I mean, if one of the goals directly or indirectly, depending on whom you talk to, of the Committee to build the case for the Department of Justice to prosecute the former President or some of his allies for the events of January 6, how could tomorrow advance that effort?
BORGER: Well, I think it's going to be very important because what you always look at is what was the President's intent? And when you talk about what went on in Georgia, for example, or what went on with the fake slate of electors, what I think the committee is going to try and show us all tomorrow is that the President not only knew about this illegal activity but he was involved in the planning of it, and in the pressuring of state officials to do what he wanted.
BORGER: Remember the infamous phone call with Brad Raffensperger, just find me the, you know, 11,000 plus votes, et cetera and you're going to find a President of the United States, who was very involved in planning a coup. And in great detail, I think that we have not seen before, but again, it goes to his intent, what was his intent to stay in office, no matter what?
COOPER: Officer Dunn, you tweeted recently of people on right-wing networks spend time attacking you, you said that it doesn't really bother you anymore. Did the level of vitriol after you started talking about your experiences in January 6, did it surprise you? Because I think people who have not experienced that kind of level of vitriol, it's hard to kind of imagine the impact it can have on somebody. DUNN: Yes, it's hard to wrap your head around it. You know, nobody
goes in expecting that somebody is going to hate somebody who is doing their job and doing what they think is right in serving their country. It's hard to imagine that somebody can hate you for doing that or speaking out that, you know, what's happening out there is wrong.
It's hard to imagine that, but once you've realized that, hey, this is the country that we're in, and a lot of the extremists and like your -- the previous Congresswoman just said it's not a lot of people. It's just the extremists. They're the loudest and they take up the most attention, but majority of Americans aren't like that. Just the ones that stand out the most are the extremists.
DUNN: Yes, it bothers you. It used to bother me, but you know, you accept that there are more good people out there than bad ones and you focus your time and attention and energy on those people.
COOPER: Yes, Hurry Dunn, I really appreciate it. As always Denver Riggleman, thanks; Gloria Borger as well.
Still to come tonight, new video evidence reviewed by Austin media that may change our understanding of just how well-armed police were when they initially arrived at the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. It could also undercut once again, some of the narrative that police and authorities have given about their response.
We'll have a live report from Uvalde, next.
Also tonight, an update on those missing Americans who went to fight for Ukraine, now believed to be held by Russia or Russian-backed separatists, their status and who may be holding them, next.
COOPER: We have some new details tonight about the police response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, specifically new video that could change how we've come to understand the initial police response, the shooter, and why it took more than an hour despite repeated 9-1-1 calls for help from inside the classroom before a Border Patrol unit stormed the class and killed the gunman.
According to the "Austin American-Statesman," officers arrived to the Uvalde school with rifles, ballistic shield nine minutes after the gunman. It means in theory, police had the gear they needed to storm the classroom nine minutes after this started, not 70-plus minutes.
Tony Plohetski -- Tony, it is Plohetski, yes?
TONY PLOHETSKI, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN": Yes, no problem. It's Plohetski, yes.
COOPER: Plohetski, good -- from the "Austin American-Statesman" joins me now.
We just -- this just crossed -- we are just getting you on right now. What more can you tell us about these documents and the images that you're reporting about?
PLOHETSKI: Well, Anderson, of course, this is all being compiled as part of a huge investigation into what happened that awful day. But one of the things that is so striking about this image that we were able to obtain late today is that it shows in the minds of at least some investigators reviewing what happened that day is that authorities had adequate firepower and adequate protective equipment to take down the shooter long before they did.
As you mentioned, they arrived at the scene. Several officers did early on. This photograph was taken at 10:52 AM. It's a screengrab from video from inside that school. Of course, we now know that the gunman entered that elementary school around 11:33 in the morning, but Anderson, 58 minutes pass from the time we see these officers in that video, in that screengrab to when they ultimately breached that classroom and took down the shooter.
COOPER: So we are late in putting up a picture. So, I just want to -- if you could just explain what it is we're looking at here. We are just getting the image now. This is the hallway inside the school. On the right, it looks -- on the left, where it looks like there's a police officer and on the right, is that a shield sitting there?
PLOHETSKI: That's exactly right. On the lower sort of right hand part of the photograph and then of course, you see an officer with a rifle there as well. I think one thing that is also so haunting about what we're seeing in this photograph as well, Anderson is that this is the first time we are actually seeing the inside of Robb Elementary School, a school that's very similar to the ones I know many of us went to across the country and how in that very moment, in these few minutes that school was transformed from an innocent place to one of an unimaginable massacre.
COOPER: Yes, so let me just zero in here. So the time here is 11:52:28. How long -- I know you said this footage is just repeated -- how long into the shooting is this?
PLOHETSKI: So the gunman walked into the building at 11:33 in the morning. That is the time that he walked into the elementary school. There were calls obviously for police officers to descend on the scene.
One of the things though that is so striking, and Anderson, I want to point out that much of this information is going to be made public and it's Senate hearing here in Austin tomorrow, but one of the things that is so striking is that we also have obtained a transcript of a phone call that the School Police Chief, Pete Arredondo made to the Uvalde City Police at 11:40 AM.
PLOHETSKI: Obviously, about 10 to 12 minutes before this screengrab was taken. But Anderson one of the things that he said, and that phone call, again, I was able to review a transcript of it earlier, is that essentially, all they have, according to him in that moment, were pistols. And so he is saying in this phone call, we need more firepower in order to try to take down this gunman.
COOPER: At this point, in the image, we're just seeing one shield. There were reports earlier, I spoke to somebody earlier who said that it seemed like there were calls out for -- like one, they would get one shield, and then they'd wait for another and some more shields would come in.
It's unclear at this point, I mean, how many shields you actually need to storm a classroom. Again, this is completely against all active shooter training, the idea of waiting for equipment, waiting for this kind of stuff to arrive.
PLOHETSKI: And Anderson, we are still unpacking the timeline. I was able to again review it a short time ago. It is going to be made public, it is my understanding that much of this information is going to be made public tomorrow, but you can see, there are notations in the timeline when additional ballistic shields are actually arriving and they are arriving well before authorities there in that hallway essentially decided to breach the classroom.
So again, another sort of devastating picture here that really only deepens questions about what happened that day and why?
COOPER: It is so disturbing. Tony, stick around, I wouldn't bring in our Shimon Prokupecz in Uvalde, who has been reporting they're on and off for weeks.
I'm wondering, Shimon, from all you know, what do you make of this new image? There's new reporting from the "Austin American-Statesman."
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's certainly significant, Anderson, because you're seeing officers there with long guns, with the type of firepower that they would need to storm through that classroom and what they call neutralize the gunman. The ballistic shield, whether they had it or not, I think the bottom line is what you're going to find from every law enforcement official that they should have gone in, and should have gone in sooner with whatever firepower they had.
And with this new information, and, you know, Anderson, in the last couple of days, new information is starting to come out and part of what's happening here in this town is that this is politically becoming untenable, certainly, for the politicians who are running this investigation. Everything is being done behind closed doors. The public does not have access to any of this testimony.
Right now, as we know, the police have been providing no information at this point, they went from providing wrong information, to fixing some of it up, to continuing now to provide absolutely no information.
So we're starting to see information come out, and what we're seeing is that it is a really a bungled response, a response that should have been better, that should have been more aggressive, that should have really went after this gunman.
And I can tell you, I was just -- behind me here, Anderson, I'm at the high school, where family members are attending a School Board meeting and this is what you're hearing from them inside. They want accountability. They say the police here didn't do their jobs and that's what they want, they want accountability.
And they're also -- there's this feeling where they just are not getting answers to the questions that they have about this response and how is the school and the police department here going to keep their kids safe in the days and weeks and years to come? And there's still a lot of grief here.
So there's still so many questions, right, Anderson and I think what we're seeing now is it starts starting to come out, and it's not going to get better for the police. Clearly, as you see by this.
COOPER: Yes, and Tony, did police comment to the "Austin American- Statesman" because, I mean you know, the lies that have been said, the misstatements, the incorrect information that's been given out time after time is really, really -- I mean, shocking.
PLOHETSKI: Which is to the point of at this time, they just need to release everything. We know that there are hours and hours of video that helps tell the complete story and because there is so much distrust not only in that city, but frankly across the state and the nation at this point, investigators simply should just release as much information as they can -- the video, as much as they can.
Anderson, nothing in state law here in Texas is prohibiting that. This is a choice that they are making at this point. But I think as more information continues to come to light, it ultimately is going to make it impossible for them to hide behind any aspect of state law that allows but does not require them to withhold this information.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes. And we know, you know, Arredondo, Shimon, in the interview, you know, he reluctantly or the comments he reluctantly made to you after you showed up at his work, you know, he hid behind grieving parents saying, you know, once parents stopped grieving, then, you know, he'll say something, you know, which is just a deeply unfortunate statement, if you know, for nobody is going to stop grieving the death of their children ever.
Tony (INAUDIBLE), I really appreciate this reporting. It's extraordinary to see this. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.
Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis is up for reelection. Up next, we're going to have some new reporting about what he might be thinking about a run not for governor but for president comes from the New Yorker magazine. We'll talk to the reporter ahead.
COOPER: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faces reelection campaign this year and in the Republican Party. He is also considered to be one of the primary challengers for the 2024 presidential race. In new reporting for The New Yorker magazine our next guest as if DeSantis can displace the former president as the GOP is combatant in chief. He says the Florida Governor channels in the same rage as the former president, but with greater discipline.
Joining me now with the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins. Dexter, it's really fascinating article. Your profile describes DeSantis as someone who sounds like the former president, but quote, speaks in complete sentences. How was he trying to convey that about himself without criticizing the former president?
DEXTER FILKINS, THE NEW YORKER: That's -- Anderson, that's, that's a really good question. Because the, the kind of the dance between Trump and DeSantis right now is very complicated, but they both live in Florida. You know, on the surface, they're both making nice, but DeSantis you know, he radiates ambition. I mean, he wants to be president. And so, it's totally clear. And I think we haven't seen, you know, this, this thing. This, the two of them, what exists between them hasn't been resolved yet. I mean, it just hasn't. I mean, it's like, is Trump going to run? You know, unclear does the same as want to run. Absolutely, he wants to run now. He's only 43 years old, but he's very, very impatient.
COOPER: I mean, what, you know, his background is really interesting. He went to, you know, if a lot of people maybe the only thing they know about him is that he does seem to kind of go after these hot button issues. And you talked about this in the piece like criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci over COVID safety measures, pushing the you know, what's been coined the Don't Say Gay Bill in Florida, things that get clicks that get make that make headlines. But he's also got, you know, what, he went to Harvard Law School, he went to Yale undergraduate. I mean, this is a guy who has had a -- his and was described you talk to people went to school with him as incredibly, incredibly smart guy.
FILKINS: Yes, he really is. I mean, what's, what's interesting about him is that he's from a working class family. You know, I talked to his father in the piece, I went to their house. It's just a very modest house. You know, Ron was really smart, the governor when he was young, and he played baseball, and he was really good. And he got into Yale and went to Harvard. And I think, you know, I think he's got -- this is my, you know, I'm playing Sigmund Freud here, but I think he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder, being or being around, you know, all the Ivy Leaguers.
But he's really smart. I mean, basically, everyone I spoke to including people who hated him, told me that, you know, his IQ is not in question. He is really, really smart. It's just that when he gets in front of a crowd, he does his best to act like Trump basically.
COOPER: It's interesting, though, that he would choose to do that. Because, you know, oftentimes governors are dealing with stuff which national politicians don't have to, its people, you know, they're they got to win. There's a storm in their state. They're the ones on top of it. He clearly seems to have national ambitions and has for a long time.
FILKINS: Yes, yes. And he has, you know, basically, from, from the moment that Trump left office, began the flourishing of his relationship with CNN, sorry, with Fox News. And so he is, he's been on Fox numerous, numerous times. They call him virtually every day to be on, and they've kind of, they've given him this kind of national platform. You know, he's very articulate. He kind of radiates this kind of populist anger, which I think which I plays very well there.
But it kind of -- they made him, Fox made him a national figure. I think it's fair to say, and now it's, you know, now it's just off to the races. Because he knows, I mean, he feels it, you can tell when you hear him talk. He's, he feels like he's ready. He's ambitious, like he's ready. You know, the question is, the question is really is like, what is Trump going to do? And then depending on what Trump decides, what is DeSantis going to do?
COOPER: If Trump does say he's running, does DeSantis still run?
FILKINS: I don't know. You know, I talked to former President Trump last week. And I was listening to every kind of inflection in his voice. And I, you know, like, one moment, I would tell you, I think he's going to run and the next moment, it was like, I don't know, you know.
And so, I don't know what he's going to do, what President Trump is going to do. With DeSantis, it seems to me I think he wants to run, but it seems to me unlikely if Trump does because, because they're competing for the same constituency. It's the same, you know, it's the same people it's -- is the kind of the, you know, the half the population that's kind of anti-elite and kind of angry about the last three years and, you know, thinks and feels disdained by the kind of liberal establishment, that that's his constituency. So it's hard for me to imagine that DeSantis would take Trump on.
COOPER: He would also then be facing attacks from Trump that would turn that very constituency that he wants in the future against him. So again, that's probably part of the calculus as well.
Dexter, Filkins fascinating article in New Yorker. I really appreciate it.
FILKINS: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
COOPER: All right. Take care.
Up next, new details on the missing Americans fighting for Ukraine, where they are reportedly being held and what Russia is now saying about them.
COOPER: We have new details nine the missing American volunteer fighters in Ukraine. Russian President Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke to NBC News saying that Russia can't guarantee that they won't face the death penalty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMITRY PESKOV, PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN SPOKEMAN: They're soldiers of fortune and they were involved in illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine. They were involved in firing and shelling our military personnel, they were endangering their life, and they should be responsible. They should be held responsible for those crimes that they have committed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: According to Russian state media, the fighters were captured last week and are being held by Russian backed separatists in Donetsk.
CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is in Kharkiv tonight with the latest. What more we're learning about the Americans are being held.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's, it's a very sorry tale according to the descriptions that they've given a Serbian TV station that interviewed them. And during that interview, the interviewer let slip that they were in Donetsk, that was the first confirmation that they were in this breakaway Republic in the east of Ukraine. They were -- Alex Drueke said that he had been a captured, as indeed did Andy Huynh on their first day in combat, they said that they were both fighting for something called Task Force Baguette, which was, they said part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but a mixture of Ukrainian and foreign fighters.
Well I have spoken myself to another American who was with them on the ground during that battle in a village about 25 kilometers outside the northeast of Kharkiv, where I am now. And it's and he said that they fired a shot from an RPG, a rocket propelled grenade and advancing a Russian armored personnel carrier. They said in their interview that they had missed it. And then they went missing as the group withdrew. Clearly now they've been captured.
So the good news from the family's perspective is that they are alive. The bad news is that the last people to be accused of being soldiers of fortune or mercenaries in this breakaway republic were two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured in the south, east of the country around Mariupol. They have all been sentenced to death in a judicial process, if you could call it that, in this republic area, which is of course, recognized only by the Kremlin, and one or two Kremlin supporting other states. It's a part of Ukraine.
So, under international law, there's no doubt that if they were part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, they were not mercenaries. But that is not a defense that would appear to be accepted. Anderson.
COOPER: And so, in Kharkiv where you're right now there's a buildup of Russian troops. That's an area where Russian troops had left previously had been retaken. What's going on there now? KILEY: Well, over the last few days, and indeed, in the early hours of this morning, which is now there's been an increase in the level of artillery strikes and missile strikes against the environment of Kharkiv, that sort of greater conurbation. There's also been, as you rightly mentioned, a very substantial troop build up coming in from the Russian border, which is only 30 kilometers or so, from where I'm standing in that band of territory. Still, in Russian hands. The Ukrainians pushed the Russians back from the city, capturing a number of villages, some of them have already been recaptured.
And the anticipation is that over the next week or so, the Russians are likely to want to launch another assault, which would add to the burdens the Ukrainians already dealing with when they're very tied up further east around Severodonetsk to the north of Kramatorsk in battles that foreign and Ukrainian fighters I've spoken to, they're describing as a meat grinder, Anderson.
COOPER: Sam Kiley, appreciate it. Thank you very much. Be careful.
Up next, division of the Republican Party in Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw and his staffer costed, something that we touched on at the top of the hour. It happened in the Texas Republican convention of the weekend where adoptees -- were attendees adopted a fall right platform.
Also rebuked and booed and other fellow Republican Senator John Cornyn. More ahead.
COOPER: Over the weekend, Texas Republicans adopted a new far-right platform and their convention in Houston, several resolutions got approval, including one that states incorrectly that President Biden didn't win the 2020 election and two Republican lawmakers and Texans faced opposition from attendees. We touched on earlier one of them was Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who's under fire in part for supporting aid to Ukraine. The other is Senator John Cornyn, who's helping negotiate the bipartisan gun legislation on Capitol Hill.
Details now from CNN's Sunlen Serfaty.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a stinging rebuke Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn booed at his own party's convention in his home state.
SEN. JOHN CORNY (R-TX): We caught and kept President Biden's gun branded (ph) wishlist off the table.
SERFATY (voice-over): Cornyn, the top Republican leading the gun negotiations on Capitol Hill, in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Texas, interrupted repeatedly. CORNYN: They tried to get a new three-week mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases. I've said no. Universal background check, magazine bans, licensing requirements. The list goes on and on and on.
SERFATY (voice-over): As he attempted to explain the emerging deal to a disapproving crowd of Republicans.
DAVID CARTER, CONVENTION ATTENDEE: That's the worst booing I've ever heard. But he deserves it. He should quit working with the Democrats to figure out ways of taking guns away from people based on mental health.
SERFATY (voice-over): In a separate incident at the same event, Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw faced this angry crowd of right wing protesters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bet we can (ph) (INAUDIBLE).
SERFATY (voice-over): Forcefully confronting the war veteran calling him a rhino, Republican in name only for refusing to go along with the unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen and for his support of Ukraine, among other things. These tense moments pitting Republicans against Republicans is tangible evidence of the broader divide within the Republican Party.
The more extreme elements of the party in bolded, pushing to approve a series of new resolutions this weekend to be included in the official GOP platform in Texas, non-binding resolutions that serve mostly as a mission statement and do not carry force of law, but do move the Texas GOP even further to the right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No red flags! No red flags!
SERFATY (voice-over): Including measures falsely declaring that President Biden was not legitimately elected, that homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice, condemning any Second Amendment restrictions, rejecting the bipartisan gun agreement as a whole and specific elements of the emerging deal, like incentivizing states to adopt red flag laws. And officially rebuking the 10 Republican senators, including Cornyn for their support of the gun deal on Capitol Hill.
CORNYN: I will not under any circumstance, support new restrictions for law abiding gun. That will always be my red flag.
SERFATY: Now, there has been no official reaction from Senator Cornyn or his office about all of this, but according to a tweet from a local reporter in Texas, that Cornyn later that night went on to tell some of the attendees at the convention quote, I've never been given into mobs and I'm not starting today. And certainly it is notable Anderson that the official Twitter account of Senator Cornyn went on to retreat that quote. COOPER: Sunlen Serfaty, appreciate it. Thank you.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Then news continues. Let's hand it over Sara Sidner in "CNN TONIGHT." Sara.