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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Washington Post: Justice Department Investigating Trump's Actions In January 6 Criminal Probe; Trump Returns To DC For Speech, As He Hints At Another Run For The Presidency; CNN Poll: 75% Of Democratic Voters Want Someone Other Than Pres. Biden In 2024; Incumbent Peter Meijer Faces Trump-Endorsed John Gibbs Congressional Primary; Sandy Hook Parents Ask Jury To Return $150 Million Verdict Defamation Suit Against Alex Jones; Fans Upset After End Of Beloved Ice Cream In A Taco-Shaped Cone. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired July 26, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360:` Good evening.
We begin with breaking news in the January 6th criminal investigation what the Attorney General himself just called the widest ranging probe in Justice Department history, and based on the breaking news, potentially the highest reaching probe as well.
There is new reporting in "The Washington Post" this evening citing for people familiar with the investigation. The headline, "Justice Department investigating Trump's actions in January 6 criminal probe." Quoting from one passage, "The prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021. His pressure campaign on Pence to overturn the election and what instructions Trump gave his lawyers and advisors about fake electors and sending electors back to the States."
Again, this story breaks on the same day the Attorney General speaks out and as the former President returned to Washington for the first time since leaving office, some of what he said shortly.
First, what Merrick Garland told NBC News' Lester Holt when asked whether indicting a former President and possible presidential candidate, again, might tear the country apart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We pursue justice without fear or favor. We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6th, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another accountable, that's what we do. We don't pay any attention to other issues with respect to that.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: So if Donald Trump were to become a candidate for President again, that would not change your schedule or how you move forward or don't move forward?
GARLAND: I say again, that we will hold accountable anyone who was criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer -- legitimate lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: As you see during the interview, the Attorney General vowed twice to hold accountable anyone who interfered with the lawful transfer power suggesting that the probe could be looking at a broader number of suspects.
Joining us now is Josh Dawsey, who shares a byline on "The Washington Post" story.
So CNN had some similar reporting earlier today, Josh, but your article goes a level deeper narrowing in on the former President's actions, with details about specific questions being asked by grand jury investigators, as well as phone records being seized. What more can you tell us?
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So two of the main things that we know, Anderson, is that in the grand jury that's going on here in Washington, Federal prosecutors have been presenting information evidence about what former President Trump was doing in the weeks leading up to January 6th, who he was meeting with, who was around him, what he was saying to Vice President Pence, what he was saying to Vice President Pence's aides, and they've been questioning witnesses in detail about Trump's activities, which show they are looking at the former President and his behavior, his conduct.
We don't know how that will end, but they certainly are deeply interested in what he was doing. We also knew that a few months ago, they subpoenaed phone records for a number of top Trump aides, including his former Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, in another part of its investigation.
So what we've really seen happening here, Anderson, is that you have prosecutors who at first, we're looking more at rioters in the Capitol, we're looking at, you know, some of these militant groups, some of these fringe groups, some of these outside folks, and they are really homing in now more on what the former President and his lawyers did in the days leading up to January 6th.
COOPER: You're reporting talks about two specific tracks the investigation is looking into.
DAWSEY: Yes, so they're really trying to figure out on the fake electors' scheme, and whether the former President instructed his lawyers to kind of carry out that scheme and what his role was in that.
And then obviously, obstructing you know, a government proceeding at the Capitol on January 6th, but what they're trying to figure out in a lot of these elements, Anderson, is just what exactly was the former President's role?
Did you have these lawyers -- John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani and these other outside advisers -- doing some of this on their own volition, or was the former President intimately involved? And in those days leading up to January 6th, the former President was orchestrating all sorts of pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, obviously to overturn the election.
And in recent days, the grand jury has focused on this pressure campaigns asking this, they brought in two of former Vice President Pence's top aides, his Chief of Staff and his chief lawyer and spent multiple hours with them both trying to understand all the aspects of that pressure campaign.
COOPER: And in terms of the timeline, do you know how fast this investigation is moving? Is it possible the former President could be subpoenaed himself, would that actually take place?
DAWSEY: Well, it's certainly possible that they could subpoena folks in the former President's orbit, they could try to get records from him, they could try to get phones from him. Obviously, there could be some challenges there. We don't know how fast this is moving.
By some accounts, it has appeared publicly. The DOJ has been behind the January 6 Committee on parts of it at least. There were multiple reports that they were surprised that some of Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony, for example, and they focused more on some of the outside, the rioters and more militant figures.
But it seems like just from what we know, publicly and our sourcing that now that they've gotten a little bit more evidence, they're coming in closer to the former President and his circle.
COOPER: Josh Dawsey, appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Joining us now, CNN legal analyst and former Federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers, also CNN anchor, Chris Wallace. Jennifer, first of all, the idea, you and I were talking about this
before, it is unlikely they would subpoena the former President if he is a target.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: For testimony, that's right. I mean, they could try to get documents or devices, as Josh just said, but they won't subpoena him for testimony, because he is a target for two reasons. One, they just don't subpoena a target, but two, he's just going to plead the Fifth, right? Because he knows that he's their target. And so then you just have this dance where they would have to give him immunity in order to force him to testify. And obviously, they're not going to do that.
COOPER: So what do you make of "The Washington Post" reporting tonight about where the Department of Justice is so far?
RODGERS: Well, I think it's really notable that they have shifted their attention to this Pence pressure campaign, because that's one area where we know the President was directly involved.
He was really the prime mover in trying to force Pence to do this for him, and so that means that they're focusing in on Trump and his conduct, as opposed to some of the people around him who were the ones operationally who were actually running the fake electoral scheme, for example.
COOPER: And Chris, I mean, to Jennifer's point, the prosecutors in this case focusing on the foreign President's pressure campaign, Garland sort of made a nod to that as well today.
CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it seems to me, Anderson, that one, and most importantly, that the Justice Department that seems to be on the case, but secondly, that they want to be seen as being on the case, because there's been a lot of pressure on Garland and Justice, that they seem to be lagging behind the January 6 Committee. They seem to be lagging behind that DA in Atlanta who is pursuing her own case about Georgia in interference with the election there.
So I mean, you had a couple of things. On Monday, we found out that they had had a grand jury that had heard testimony from two top aides to Mike Pence -- Marc Short, his Chief of Staff and Greg Jacob, his counsel.
You had the Attorney General agreeing to do the interview today, and twice in the interview, he said "We're moving urgently." And one other thing I noted in Josh Dawsey's story in "The Washington Post" that is breaking tonight, that it specifically says that they seized the records of Mark Meadows, phone records of Meadows and other people and specifically said they did it in April, months before the January 6 Committee.
So clearly somebody at Justice, from Merrick Garland on down is trying to say, we are hot on this case, don't think that we're lagging behind.
COOPER: And Jennifer, on the other track, the phony electors, obviously, the question of how involved was the former President in that? Was it his attorney Eastman and Rudy Giuliani going off and doing this, you know, largely on their own? How much are they able to get the records of Giuliani? Records of Eastman?
RODGERS: So it's really hard to know from just phone records, who is talking to whom, for how much time; what was said. I mean, in order to get to how much the former President knew about that scheme, and how much he was directing it, as opposed to just being updated on it, they're really going to have to get someone who was dealing directly with him to testify.
So that probably means giving one of these people immunity ultimately, so that they can talk about the conversations where Trump is being updated or maybe he was actually running the show. We don't know.
We know, he knew about the scheme, but we don't know how involved he was.
COOPER: Things like attorney-client privilege, I mean, how does that play in with the Department of Justice for somebody like Eastman?
RODGERS: So to the extent that they are seizing documents that might have communications with Trump, to the extent that they're going to seek testimony that involves communications, they're going to have to sort through that.
I mean, there's a crime fraud exception. So if the communication is for the purpose of furthering a crime or a fraud, which the DOJ would argue it was, then they can see that material, but all of that takes time and takes a judge to rule on whether it was or it wasn't, so you have to get through all those privilege issues.
COOPER: Chris, I want to play more of what the Attorney General said tonight when he was asked about the criticism that the DOJ isn't moving quickly enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARLAND: The reason there is this speculation and uncertainty is that some fundamental tenet of what we do as prosecutors and investigators, is to do it outside of the public eye. We do that for two important reasons. One is to protect the civil liberties of people and events that we're investigating, and the second is to ensure the success and the integrity of our investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's interesting, Chris, you know, what the Attorney General is not only trying to convey to the general public, but maybe to the January 6 Committee specifically?
WALLACE: Yes, clearly, he is feeling some heat and they're trying to say -- I mean, he says we're doing it outside of the eye of the public, but there have been a lot of leaks of information, just what we've heard about who was testifying before the grand jury, like Marc Short, the story in "The Washington Post" tonight. They're trying to -- on the one hand, they're saying we're doing this outside the public, but on the other hand, we're also going to give some information to the public to try to get the heat off of us.
He was also asked, Merrick Garland, by Lester hold of that NBC interview about the fact that, you know, how much are you getting information from the January 6 Committee? And he said, look, they're doing the biggest investigation -- one of the biggest in House history. We're doing the biggest investigation in Justice Department history. And we may have some information they don't have, and they may have some information we don't have and we're hoping to hoover all of that up.
You know, having said all of that, Anderson, one of the articles I was reading today made the point, no former President in our history has ever been charged with a crime. So even what -- regardless of whatever information they get out, and there is a lot of evidence that Trump was directly involved, remember, in the hearings, we heard that he told one of the people of the Justice Department "Just say that there was a problem with the election and leave the rest to me and Republican congressmen."
So there are a lot of people who will say Trump was directly involved, but going ahead and charging a former President with a crime is absolutely uncharted territory.
COOPER: Jennifer, not only a former President, a former President who may by the time this comes around, be actually running again.
RODGERS: Yes, I mean, that's a political issue, and certainly, the timing of elections is something that DOJ pays attention to, but it's not technically a bar. I mean, they can certainly charge a political candidate with something and Merrick Garland made pretty clear today that candidate or no, they are looking at Trump, and they'll do what needs to be done.
COOPER: Jennifer Rodgers, appreciate it. Chris Wallace, as well, thanks so much.
Perspective now from Mick Mulvaney, who served first as Acting Chief of Staff in the former administration, and later a Special Envoy for Northern Ireland. He resigned from the administration, because of January 6th.
Mr. Mulvaney, I'm wondering what you make of what Attorney General Garland had to say tonight. Do you think he offered any more insight into whether the Justice Department might indict the former President?
MICK MULVANEY, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Not really, by the way, Anderson, thanks for having me.
I was very, very pleased with what he said. I think most Americans would be that chief law enforcement officer of the United States said they were going to go about things deliberately and without concern for politics. That's what I would want them to say, on any particular investigation into any crime committed, possibly by any person in the country. That's what we want when it comes to law enforcement.
I think if there's anything that sort of gave some insight as to what's happening, though, it's not what Merrick Garland said this evening, it is the fact that Marc Short was called into a Federal grand jury under subpoena on Tuesday. That tends to --
COOPER: And Mr. Jacob as well.
MULVANEY: That's correct. That tells me a lot more about what's actually happening than what you heard from Merrick Garland this evening.
COOPER: The Attorney General said that they were investigating the legitimate and lawful transfer of power. Did you interpret that as looking beyond just January 6th?
MULVANEY: Yes, I do. And I think the simple fact that the chief counsel, the chief lawyer for the Vice President was called in because we know now, because the work that the January 6 Committee has done that there were a lot of discussions with the lawyers in the period of time between the election and January 6th, so the simple fact that Mike Pence's lawyer was subpoenaed tells me that something is going a little bit deeper than just that 24-hour period around the riot itself.
COOPER: Do you believe Garland when he says, look, we don't take into account anything other than you know, we're just following the law. Shouldn't -- I mean, should the Justice Department take into account charging, you know, potentially charging somebody who is running for re-election if in fact, the President decides to do that?
MULVANEY: No. Republicans were okay. I was okay with the Department of Justice investigating Hillary Clinton when she was a candidate.
If there have been crimes committed by anybody, we want the Department of Justice to investigate whether or not that has happened.
We don't want law enforcement to be politically influenced one way or the other. We don't want the Supreme Court to be influenced one way or the other. Is it difficult as a nation sometimes to take the decisions of a Department of Justice or say even a Supreme Court? Yes, but that's their job. They enforce the law, the Court interprets the law. You want them to do that devoid of politics.
COOPER: I want to ask about former Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows. You held that job obviously as well. Given what you heard from former Trump White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, and others about his actions and inactions, do you think he may be in legal trouble here?
MULVANEY: You know, I never practiced criminal law, so I don't want to say. I will only give an opinion when I'm just showing you how stupid I am. But what I will say is this, is that what I took away from Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony was that the West Wing was broken, it was not functioning properly, having a Chief of Staff detached and sitting on the sofa, texting, essentially, while Rome burns is one of those giant red flags that things were not functioning properly.
In that type of setting, can people make really bad decisions that can come back to haunt them? Absolutely.
Personally, I think that there is bigger risk based upon what I've seen so far for obstruction of justice after the fact. You can be as innocent as the new driven snow on January 6th, but if you try and interfere with witnesses, it is so often the cover up, Anderson, that is a bigger deal than the underlying potential crime itself.
So there were a lot of bad things happening in the West Wing and bad decisions were made. And again, when things are broken, bad things happen.
COOPER: The bar obviously, is higher, though for the Department of Justice than it is for the January 6 Commission. Whatever one thinks of the January 6 Commission, they are able to have people say things which in a court of law would not, you know, hearsay, for instance, would not hold up.
MULVANEY: That's correct. A lot of Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony, for example, is interesting and insightful, but it would never be allowed in Court. It might be allowed in a grand jury, for example.
Look, one of the questions they asked of Merrick Garland this evening was, why he wasn't going faster. And he gave the exact correct answer, which is they're doing it methodically, because that's their job.
The January 6 Committee, say what you want about it, is a political process. There's a political agenda. There are politicians involved. It's not a courtroom, and it's certainly not a criminal investigation. You want the Department of Justice to be more methodical, because it's a lot more serious.
COOPER: Just lastly, according to "The New York Times," Jared Kushner wrote in his new book that when he was being treated for thyroid cancer in 2019, he only told four people in the White House, you being one of the four according to report. A person close to you told "The New York Times," you didn't remember that. Is that accurate? Do you remember Jared Kushner telling you about that?
MULVANEY: Yes, that one sort of took me by surprise. I don't remember if Jared told me -- I'm not. I don't recall that. I will tell you this, that if anybody on the staff, including the son-in-law of the President of the United States came to me and said, look, I have a very serious health matter, I'm telling the President that you don't -- we don't get to keep secrets from the President of the United States.
So I know, I think the book said that we managed to keep it a secret from the President or something like that; that would not happen. So I don't have a specific recollection. But I can assure you any Chief of Staff finds out that a senior person like that is ill, the President is going to know about it.
COOPER: Mick Mulvaney, appreciate talking to you. MULVANEY: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up next, the former President called to give back the respect he says police deserve, that and what a former officer assaulted by Trump supporters of the Capitol has to say about it, and also the why the President is saying he is the most persecuted person ever in the history of this country.
Also, more on the economy teetering between high inflation and possible recession. We'll talk to the political strategist who famously first said, "It's the economy, stupid," James Carville joins us.
COOPER: Tonight's report in "The Washington Post" said that the Justice Department is investigating the former President's actions with respect to January 6th comes to the end of the day that we saw the former President return to Washington and to a familiar theme -- himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A friend of mine recently said that I was the most persecuted person in the history of our country, and then I started thinking about it, Kellyanne, and I said, you know what, he may very well be right. He may be right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The former President said that after a long litany about crime in the streets in which he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have to give our police back their authority, resources, power, and prestige.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
TRUMP: We have to leave our police alone. Every time they do something, they're afraid they're going to be destroyed, their pensions going to be taken away. There'll be fired, there'll be put in jail.
Let them do their job. Give them back the respect that they deserve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, as you might imagine, those words which were well received by the audience might land quite differently for many people, especially in law enforcement in light of what they experienced on January 6th, as Trump supporters violently assaulted police, including CNN law enforcement analyst and former DC Police officer, Michael Fanone, who was badly beaten, Tasered, suffered a concussion and a heart attack trying to do his job on that day and subsequently experienced posttraumatic stress.
Officer Fanone, thanks so much for being with us. When you hear the former President say give police "back the respect that they deserve," I'm wondering what went through your mind?
MICHAEL FANONE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I mean, just listening to his speech while there's certainly elements of it that I agree with, I think he is the least credible person, perhaps the least credible President in our history, to deliver any remarks purporting himself to be pro-police or you know, pro-law and order.
He literally incited an insurrection, and that there is significant evidence now that we've seen to show that he participated in and maybe even orchestrated a seditious conspiracy.
COOPER: I mean, the former President, he is claiming that he champions law enforcement; as someone obviously who was viciously attacked by members of the Trump inspired mob, he is calling, you know, police -- he claims he is championing law enforcement and calling police officers his heroes. Do you buy that?
COOPER: And we've heard testimony in the January 6 Commission from people who were working with the former President, who specifically had pointed out, he doesn't -- all of that stuff about his support for law enforcement, once you see what he did on -- put up with on January 6th, it just looks so hollow.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, Donald Trump is pro-police in that he supports the police officers that vote for him, just like he is pro-anyone who was willing to cast a ballot in his favor.
But as far as caring about, you know, the individual law enforcement officers, just like a lot of people in this country, he couldn't care less.
COOPER: I want to play another part of what the former President said about law and order today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And where there is a true and total breakdown of law and order where citizens' most basic rights have been violated, then the Federal government can and should send the National Guard to restore order and secure the peace without having to wait for the approval of some Governor that thinks it is politically incorrect to call them in.
The next President needs to send the National Guard to the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago until safety can be successfully restored, which can happen very, very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: The former President is talking about the Federal government
not having to wait for a Governor's approval to send in the National Guard. We just learned, the former Acting Defense Secretary told the House Select Committee that the former President never gave him a formal order to have 10,000 troops ready to be deployed to the Capitol on January 6th, like he keeps claiming he did.
FANONE: Right. Yes, I mean, first of all, we have law in this country Posse Comitatus, which prevents Federal troops from entering into the States and engaging in law enforcement activity without first receiving approval and authorization from the Governors.
I'm an American. I don't want to live in a country where I'm policed by the military. I think that's probably one of the most un-American things that I could imagine.
You know, I get it, crime is real bad in some of these areas, but there are a lot of other solutions, you know, rather than declaring Martial Law.
And again, like the irony of, you know, Donald Trump claiming that he is willing to use these resources to combat crime, but was not willing to use them to defend the police officers who were fighting to protect Members of Congress in the Capitol Complex.
COOPER: It is particularly shameless of him on his first time back to Washington to be making this the subject of his speech. He defended insurrectionists in this speech, he people who, in his words, "In some cases, didn't even entered the building." He went on to say they are, "being tortured and handled so horribly." What do you say to that?
FANONE: Well, I mean, he sent them to the Capitol on January 6th, so he has to stick up for them. He is counting on their support. I'm assuming that he's going to announce a bid for 2024 to run for President.
But, you know, calling Donald Trump shameless, you know, those words ring hollow. Donald Trump doesn't care about things like honor, integrity, shame. You know, those are just not words that mean anything to him. And I mean, unfortunately, they don't mean a whole lot to many of his supporters.
COOPER: Officer Michael Fanon, I appreciate talking to you as always, thank you.
FANONE: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, coming up, new polling showing trouble for President Biden's possible re-election efforts, specifically from within his own party. I'll talk to Democratic strategist and chief strategist for President Clinton's 1992 campaign, James Carville, next.
[20:32:40] COOPER: New CNN poll today showed a dim outlook for the President 2024, 75% of Democratic and Democratic leaning voters want the party to nominate someone other than President Biden for the next presidential elections, 75%. That number is up from 51% in a poll conducted just in January and February, according to CNN's Harry Enten that 75% figure is the weakest numbers for an incumbent president seeking reelection since Jimmy Carter in '78. And it comes as Americans expressed frustration over the state of the economy, the country inflation of 40-year high Americans struggling with rising costs of food housing, gas consumer confidence slipping for the third straight month in July. Despite these worries, President Biden said on Monday he doesn't believe the nation will see recession.
Joining me now, Democratic strategist James Carville, co-host of the Politics War Room podcast.
James, I mean you see these numbers 75%. Is there anything the President can do to reverse these kinds of numbers and his own party?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. If we have a decent 2022, and I hope. You know, in my business is considered to be impolite to talk about the election after the next one. But, you know, these numbers are seeing similar numbers and other polls. And they're quite challenging. But, you know, let's see how we can do in November of this year we'll get to 2024.
COOPER: You famously coined the phrase, it's the economy stupid during the '92 presidential campaign. I mean, index that tracks consumer confidence fell for the third month in a row. What kind of tangible argument can Democrats make to voters on the economy in -- I mean in this next election?
CARVILLE: Well, let's be honest, gas prices have fallen also pretty, pretty consistently, you know, over the last six, seven weeks. Hourly workers have actually had a pretty good go at it, but there's no doubt is, you know, deep and profound troubles in this economy. But, you know, the strange thing is that contra indications that somebody's Senate races, it got a campaign called me and said, man, we're doing a lot better I thought we'd be doing and, you know, small donor stuff is just pouring in for Democrats. So --
COOPER: Do you think that Roe v. Wade --
CARVILLE: -- (INAUDIBLE) the challenge here.
COOPER: I mean, is that related to Roe v. Wade? Is it related to the idea of President Trump coming back? What do you think it is?
CARVILLE: I don't know. We're going to find, but we're going to find out a lot a week from today in Kansas because there's an election an actual election where Dobbs is more or less on the ballot. So we'll know a week from tonight exactly what it is because it's one of the deepest red states, the question of regulation of abortion is going to be on the ballot, and people will actually vote on that. So that's something that every viewer of this network and this program should be, you know, get their popcorn out and watch these election returns Tuesday night, because they're going to be very, very significant.
COOPER: If you were in the White House right now. And again, whether it's concerned about that presidential election or the midterms, what would your messaging be? What is your -- what would get you up in the morning?
CARVILLE: What would get me up in the morning is, you know, first thing I do is we exactly what Ron Klain does is I would check the gas prices, I would see, you know, check in with these different campaigns to, you know, see what's going on. But, you know, the truth of the matter is, is there's not a lot the President do I mean, I sat through the 1994 cycle and we got clobbered. We got clobbered in 2010. The Republicans got clobbered in 2018. I mean, there's a lot of history, going against the party in power. But, you know, you're trying to get things better.
But the truth of matter is it would actually do in better in the generic ballot test in a lot of the Senate races around the country so that there is some, some sunshine coming in just what which looks like a you know, really dark cycle.
COOPER: I want to ask you about this thing that some groups that support Democrats have done which is bought advertising, which may boost far-right candidates against more moderate Republicans, the idea that fringe candidates would be easier to defeat in a general election because they were turned off so many independents and others. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, called Democratic groups helping to promote election deniers disgusting. He warned they were under estimating the threat to democracy in the U.S. I just want to play what he said and ask you to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Well, I think a certain number of Democrats truly understand that democracy is threatened. Don't come to me, after having spent money supporting an election denier in a primary, and then come to me and say you're, we're all good Republicans, you're worried about democracy. I truly believe that all these issues we argue about they matter. But the thing that matters the most right now is the threat to our democracy. It's the thing our kids will judge us by. And when we're sitting here playing DCCC, you know, DNC politics, let's promote the crazy, and then that person wins. You don't understand the real threat. I'm sorry, you don't understand the threat to democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What do you think of this strategy that some are doing?
CARVILLE: Well, but this has gone on forever. Rush Limbaugh told his people to vote and crossover in Democratic primaries, I've seen this happen any number of times. And sometimes it most of the times, it's ineffective, that doesn't work. But if I'm running a campaign, I'm going to do whatever I think is in the best interest of that candidate. That's what they hired me to do. I would without hesitation equivocation or reservation, if I thought it would help my candidate, if I promoted a candidate, and Republicans thought I'd do it, I wouldn't have one iota of moral qualms about it.
Now, it usually, it's not very effective. I mean, people say, well, Democrats wanted to run against Reagan. OK, the Republicans could nominate him anyway. And they said, well, the Democrats wanted to run against Trump whenever they were going to nominate Trump. Anyway, he did it. They had the real power to do this. But in Pennsylvania, if the Josh Shapiro thing, but what they did, I think was ethical, smart, and they're acting in the best interests of their candidate, the party, their supporters and donors. I have no problem with it.
COOPER: James Carville. That's why we asked you. Thanks so much. Appreciate it. I need to get your opinion. Appreciate.
CARVILLE: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Best to your family.
Up next, a look at next week's primary battle in Michigan were a freshman Republican congressman who voted to impeach the former president will face off against a former Trump administration official. And a dive into how Democrats are also getting in on the race.
COOPER: It is one week before one of the most closely watched Republican primaries in the country. Michigan Republican Peter Meijer faces John Gibbs, a former official in Department of Housing and Urban Development. Meijer voted for the impeachment of the former president, Gibbs is endorsed by him.
CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju has the story.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three days Congressman Peter Meijer's freshman term, pro Trump riders attacked the Capitol. A week after that he voted with just nine other alarmed Republicans to impeach Donald Trump over his role. Now he could lose his job because of that vote.
(on-camera): Was that a concern of you? Is that you got to find by those?
REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI): I think you always have a moment where you say I can take the easy way or I can actually follow where my conscience is. If you're one -- number one job in office is to stay in office, you should find another job.
RAJU (on-camera): You don't regret that vote?
MEIJER: Not for a second.
RAJU (voice-over): Despite hailing from a store, Michigan family and maintaining a conservative voting record. Republicans see Meijer as the clear underdog in next Tuesday's primary.
JOHN GIBBS (R-MI) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Oh, yes, I think it was the biggest career ending move in history, possibly for him to do that.
RAJU (voice-over): John Gibbs is trying to unseat him. A former Trump administration housing official who has the support of the former president, Gibbs is embracing false election claims.
(on-camera): Do you think the election was stolen?
GIBBS: I do think there's enough shenanigans to change result. Yes.
RAJU (on-camera): So what do you say to folks who say that kind of rhetoric is dangerous?
GIBBS: Don't blame messenger.
RAJU (on-camera): There was never, it was never proven. There's never widespread fraud. What do you say to the fact that that never really materialized?
GIBBS: I think one analogy that you could look at here is a mafia. For many years, you can never rest them. You know, they're throwing guys off roofs and stuff. But I think we will get there just like you did with the mafia.
RAJU (voice-over): It's that kind of rhetoric that has Democrats hoping to face Gibbs in November, with the House Democrats campaign arm propping him up with this ad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Handpicked by Trump to run for Congress gives called Trump the greatest president.
RAJU (voice-over): Part of a national strategy to boost far-right Republicans in primaries, even as they call them a threat to democracy.
HILLARY SCHOLTEN, (D-MI) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I think that Gibbs has certainly fired up a certain portion of the electorate over those claims and I think it's dangerous.
RAJU (voice-over): Democrats could flip the seat with a boost from redistricting.
SCHOLTEN: This district is so winnable, we can do it this, this time.
RAJU (voice-over): Moving the district nearly 12 points in the Democrats direction, but Democrat Hillary Scholten will first have to overcome President Biden sagging approval and concerns over inflation.
(on-camera): Is the President helping or hurting you in this race?
SCHOLTEN: You know, President isn't in this race.
RAJU (voice-over): Yet both Biden and his predecessor loom large.
DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: John Gibbs who --
RAJU (voice-over): Like the former president, Gibbs downplays a January 6 attack by the Trump inspired mob.
(on-camera): And Trump supporters, do you blame them? You know, who were there? Were they the ones who came into the Capitol?
GIBBS: I don't know. But my understanding of the pictures that I've seen the vast, vast majority people there, were just standing around and holding flags and things like that. So, those people obviously didn't do anything wrong.
RAJU (voice-over): Meijer though, lived through the deadly riot of that day.
MEIJER: For three hours, the President did nothing. And I think that was a shameful dereliction of duty.
COOPER: And Manu Raju joins us now. This, I'm amazed at some of the things Mr. Gibbs says with a straight face. We know that former president supports his opponent, John Gibbs. How does the rest of the Republican Party feel about him?
RAJU: Well, they want Peter Meijer to win even if there may not be public about it or saying talking too much about it publicly. The Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has was quietly gave through his leadership PAC $10,000 to Peter Meijer, just in the last several days. The party committee on the Republican side has stayed neutral on this.
But what's also interesting to have this race Anderson, Peter Meijer and his super PAC have spent a ton of money on the air trying to promote him, super PAC have gone after John Gibbs. But Gibbs himself has not run a single TV ad at all on through the courses primary, even though he is seen very clearly as a front runner, and that makes Democrats happy, because not only was January 6 views and the views about the false claims about a stolen election they plan to jump on, but also his views on abortion as well Anderson, telling me that he does not support except -- the exceptions in the cases of rape something that Democrats undoubtedly will try to exploit in a general election. Anderson.
COOPER: Manu Raju, appreciate it. Thanks.
Coming up, after years of waiting families with some of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut are finally getting their chance to make conspiracy spreader Alex Jones pay for the lies he has peddled about the killings. The first of several trials seeking damages after being found legally responsible for his false claims began today. We'll have a live report from Austin, Texas, next.
COOPER: Opening arguments began today in the first of several trials involving parents the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School and conspiracy spreader Alex Jones. In October, Jones was found legally responsible for the false claims he made about the killings. Today the lawyer for the plaintiff said they are now seeking $150 million in damages.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK BANKSTON, ATTORNEY FOR SANDY HOOK PARENTS: That is a huge verdict, to be sure. But it is one that will do justice to the level of harm done in this case, harm that was done to the parents of -- grieving parents of murdered children who have had to endure for 10 years, the most despicable and vile campaign of defamation and slander in American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, today Jones' lawyers claim that thousands were questioning the shooting not just him all because of what he called, quote, bad coverage, unquote by the mainstream media. The mass killing occurred 10 years ago, this December in Newtown, Connecticut, six adults, 20 children were murdered.
Joining me now is the New York Times, Elizabeth Williamson who has been covering the trial from Austin, Texas. She's also the author of Sandy Hook And American Tragedy In The Battle For Truth, published earlier this year.
You've been following Elizabeth this story and the consequences of Alex Jones' lies about the Sandy Hook shooting for years. What stood out to you in court today?
ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Hey, Anderson, thanks for having me on. I think what stood out to me is that this is the first time that we've heard $1 figure attached to the suffering that these families have gone through after Alex Jones began spreading lies about Sandy Hook that it was a government hoax and service to gun control. So, this is an attempt to sort of, you know, put a material value on what they've gone through as that sort of secondary trauma after the shooting itself.
COOPER: The $150 million in damages, 75 million of that represents $1 from each person who didn't believe the shooting occurred because of false information pushed by Alex Jones, that's what the lawyers are saying. I'm wondering what the reaction from Jones was when that number was said in court.
WILLIAMSON: He was visibly unnerved by that. It's kind of a complicated formula that the lawyers came up with after Monday when Jones' own lawyer suggested that they might seek a single dollar in damages. And he extended this argument that the parents loss of their son Jesse Lewis, was so enormous that anything Jones could have said or done was just sort of paled in comparison. So, this motivated the lawyers to say that for, you know, they cited a poll in which a quarter of Americans shortly after this shooting believed that Sandy Hook was either definitely or possibly faked.
And so, that 750 million Americans, so they came up with a formula that would make Jones pay $1 for the reputational damage and the emotional damage that he inflicted by convincing that many people that the shooting was faked.
COOPER: I understand Alex Jones was parading around today acting as if somehow he is a victim, and in the middle of the proceedings actually went out. And did he hold some kind of a press conference which the judge admonished him for?
WILLIAMSON: Yes, he sort of after this $150 million amount was raised, he kind of burst out of the courtroom and began sort of holding forth. Just, you know, a couple dozen feet from the courtroom. The judge was really unhappy about that because jurors are in the area. So she admonished him for that. But he was enormously angry, he called this, you know, Constitution destroying move, and that was a kangaroo court and show trial. This is something he has been saying for years, of course.
JONES: Is there any indication that Jones will actually testify?
WILLIAMSON: That's an open question. You know, he was in the court today, as we've seen in other court appearances and unrelated cases, he has a hard time kind of controlling his emotions in court. Today, he was putting a piece of duct tape over his mouth saying save the first referring to the First Amendment, and leaving that on the table in view of the jurors.
I think that, you know, maybe both sides would see this as somewhat of a risk because he's such an unpredictable character.
COOPER: Can they actually get money from him? I mean, he sells a lot of ads for supplements. And, you know, who knows what else?
WILLIAMSON: Yes, I mean, he has a pretty ingenious business model. And when you look at the fine that's or the, you know, the proposed judgment, really, that's equivalent to about three years worth of $50 million in annual revenues that that he has earned, yes, selling Doomsday Prepper merchandise, untraceable gun components, body armor and diet supplements, all for people who just trust everything from traditional medicine to the federal government. And that's kind of what's at the root of this whole case. So, the money's probably there.
COOPER: Elizabeth Williamson, I so appreciate all your reporting for years on this Thank you.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Klondike could not have picked a worse time a hotter time to announce the end of a beloved ice cream treat the Choco Taco, novelty ice cream sandwich in a taco shaped cone is no more. Fans have been upset ever since Klondike said I had to make some quote, very tough decisions about which products to continue in order to meet demand.
In tweet last night however, Klondike did hint at a comeback saying they're working hard to bring the Choco Taco quote, back to ice cream trucks in the coming years. We can only hope.
The news continues. Let's hand over to Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Laura.