Return to Transcripts main page
Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Several Trump Cabinet Members Have Spoken, Or May Soon Speak To January 6 Committee; Kentucky Governor: "We've Never Seen Anything Like This"; Russia Asked For Convicted Murder To Be Added To The Proposed Swap To Release Americans Brittney Griner And Paul Whelan; Senate Republicans Block Legislation To Help Veterans Sick And Suffering From Toxic Burn Put Exposure; Wyoming Voters On Cheney, Jan. 6 Cmte Investigation. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired July 29, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WILL SMITH, ACTOR: I'm here, whenever you're ready to talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Smith also apologized to his fellow actors and Oscar nominees for going after Rock, after the comic, you'll remember joked about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Rock for his part addressed the incident this week in his act saying, quote: "Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face."
That was the end of it. We'll stay tuned.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Jim Sciutto.
AC 360 starts right now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening.
We begin tonight with exclusive new reporting about what are the most alarming mysteries in the January 6 investigation. What happened to Secret Service text messages from an around January 6th, perhaps the most traumatic period for the Secret Service since 9/11 or the attempt on President Reagan's life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Hold, they've entered the building. Hold.
UNKNOWN: Harden that door up.
UNKNOWN: If we're moving, we need to move now.
UNKNOWN: Copy. UNKNOWN: If we lose any more time, we may have -- we may lose the
ability to leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Did agents text each other afterwards about what they went through? Were they texting before the fact about their concerns for what might happen that day or about what the President was saying or doing? We still don't know.
However, tonight we do know more about when the agency's top watchdog knew the messages were missing.
Tonight, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell CNN that the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service, first learned of the missing messages back in May of 2021.
Now, that's significant because that is not what Secret Service officials told Congress. They've told Congress that the Inspector General, Joseph Caffari knew in December of 2021 and if he knew in May of 2021, that means it was more than a year before he told the House Select Committee that potentially crucial information might have been erased.
The Secret Service as you know says the messages were lost during a scheduled data migration that began on January 27th, three weeks after the Capitol attack.
It is also more than a week after several House Committees directed DHS to produce all documents or materials relevant to it. So, they knew Congress wanted to see any relevant documents or materials about the insurrection, and yet, they went ahead with their allegedly scheduled data migration which allegedly deleted documents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): It just seems too irregular and unlikely that there would be a disappearance of texts right during the period of the insurrection, especially when multiple Chairs of House Committees sent letters directly to the Secretaries of the different departments and agency directors telling them that they have a -- reminding them that they have a legal responsibility to hold all of those records. I mean, that's Federal Law.
And they were on notice that we were watching and then to either deliberately get rid of evidence or to be extremely cavalier with respect to its ultimate destiny is just intolerable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Maryland Democratic Congressman and Committee member, Jamie Raskin. His Republican counterpart, Congressman Adam Kinzinger joins us shortly. This all comes in the wake of revelations that text messages are also missing from the two top Homeland Security officials under the former President, the Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli.
They too were purportedly lost in a reset of their government phones when they left their jobs.
Now, this morning on CNN's "New Day," Mick Mulvaney, who served as acting White House Chief of Staff in the prior administration had this to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It is weird and it's getting a little bit weirder. When I left the White House, I had to leave my work phone there. So, if the same was true with Ken, then he would have to turn over that work phone to somebody else, and he would not have been control of it since he left the administration.
So again, does it look weird from the outside? Does it look somewhat nefarious? Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yes, it certainly does seem strange, all of it, as does House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's seemingly amnesia concerning sworn testimony about who he spoke to on the 6th shortly after the former President told supporters he was going to the Capitol with them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Cassidy Hutchinson testified --
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): So we are going to January 6.
MCCARTHY: Go ahead.
RAJU: She testified under oath --
MCCARTHY: You know, we are in recession, too right?
RAJU: Well, she testified under oath saying that you called her after Donald Trump said that or just told his supporters that they were going to go to the Capitol and you were concerned about those remarks and said, "Don't come up here. Figure it out. Don't come up here." She said that under oath.
Did you tell her that and why were you concerned about the prospect of Donald Trump coming to the Capitol on January 6?
MCCARTHY: I don't even really recall talking to her that day. I recall talking to Dan Scavino. I recall talking to Jared. I recall talking to Trump, that's what I talked to on television, like that, too. If I talked to her, I don't remember it. If it was coming up here, I
don't think I wanted a lot of people coming up to the Capitol. But I don't remember the conversation.
RAJU: Why were you concerned specifically about Trump coming to the Capitol?
MCCARTHY: I don't remember that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He doesn't remember.
To refresh your memory, here is what Cassidy Hutchinson said under penalty of perjury.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I was still in the tent behind the stage, and when you're behind the stage, you can't really hear what's going on in front of you.
So when Mr. McCarthy called me with this information. I answered the colonies sounded not only rushed, but also frustrated and angry at me. And I was confused, because I didn't know what the President had just said.
He then explained, the President just said, he is marching to the Capitol. You told me this whole week, you aren't coming up here. Why would you lie to me? I said, I'm not lying. I wasn't lying to you, sir. I -- we're not going to the Capitol. And he said, well, he just said it on stage, Cassie, figure it out. Don't come up here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So with that, we're joined now by Committee member and Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
Congressman, thanks for being here.
So you hear CNN's reporting that the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security knew about the missing Secret Service text messages over a year before alerting your Committee seven months earlier than Secret Service officials had previously stated. Does that make any sense to you?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): It doesn't, and it's all new to me, too. We found out as a Committee, as you well know and reported about these missing texts not that long ago.
We got a letter from the IG, we talked to him. We had no idea that it went as far back and you think about this Committee has been operable for a year, at least now, we've had staff working hard on this, we could have had a year of lead time to get to the answer.
And now, you know, we're down to however many months to get to the answers of this. It doesn't make a lot of sense why the IG wouldn't tell us. I'm sure he's going to have to answer to that. And of course, this whole missing text thing is crazy nuts.
And, the American people, not just our Committee, but maybe the American people through our Committee deserve that answer, because it's the law to keep that stuff, particularly if you're the Secret Service, and it was like, one of the more dangerous days since 9/11 that you've been part of.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, just as a day in US history, the idea that everything wouldn't be preserved is -- I mean, is it possible they were lost to incompetence? Was it intentional? A cover up? Do you have any sense?
KINZINGER: Yes, I mean, look, it's certainly possible that it was, you know, a scheduled migration, nobody cared enough to take the action or, you know, they're just like, whatever.
I mean, I don't want to make an accusation without the evidence, which is why it's so frustrating that we're just finding out about this, but it is mysterious to say the least.
And, you know, I think, first off, let's say the Secret Service knew this over a year ago, they knew that the preservation request had gone out from the other Committees, not the January 6 Committee yet.
And yet, they never alerted the Committee, hey, look, we accidentally deleted them. And if you did accidentally delete them, probably best to get out in front of it. Instead, it appears that it was covered up until finally the IG tells us.
So, you know, I don't know if it's trying to cover up gross mismanagement or if there is something more to it, but we deserve the answer and I guarantee you, there is somebody somewhere in the Secret Service that knows the answer to that that should come forward and talk to us.
COOPER: And "The Washington Post" reported, as you know that the text messages from former Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Deputy Secretary -- Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli are also missing for this key period leading up to January 6.
Sources telling CNN, both of them recently sat for interviews with your Committee. I know, obviously, you can't get into specifics from what they may have said, but does it make sense to you now that their texts are missing, too?
KINZINGER: No. I mean, look, without getting too much into it, again, I think you played a soundbite by Mick Mulvaney. When you leave government, if you have a government cell phone that stays with government, and then the government has the stuff they're supposed to do to preserve the records of that, particularly again --
I mean, we're talking about we had just gone through January 6th, so it's not like, I'm out. I got out of service prior to January 6th. I didn't think there was anything of importance. You went through that process.
So, again, there is so much mystery here and this is why it's important for the Committee, even as we look at an interim report to keep this investigation plugging to find out these loose ends and things we can because look, it's not about the Committee. It's not about -- this is about what the American people deserve.
We live in a democracy. We don't live in a dictatorship. People deserve answers and they deserve transparency.
COOPER: Yes, the truth. I mean, that's all what people -- I mean, that's what people deserve. We've seen a number of other former top Trump officials, Cabinet members sit for interviews with your Committee, more reportedly in negotiations.
Former members of the Trump administration have, they've often obviously claimed executive privilege over conversations they had with the President, can you say, if any had been more forthcoming about discussions they've had among themselves, for example, about invoking the 25th Amendment? Are those also things they might claim privilege over?
KINZINGER: Well, we're starting to get to the bottom of some questions on that. We've, again, we've had interviews, we will have more interviews scheduled in the future.
So I don't -- I can't get into too much of what we know or what we're hoping to find out or anything along that line. But look, I think with what we did last Thursday, in our hearing, or maybe, I guess, a week ago now, we put out that letter by Eugene Scalia, where he was basically -- to the President saying, you need to speak to the Cabinet. You need to come in front of the Cabinet.
That to me, and this is just my opinion, this isn't from anything else, besides my opinion -- that to me was sort of a warning that you need to come and talk to the Cabinet because we could invoke the 25th Amendment because you have to come up in front of us.
So I always thought that was pretty interesting. It didn't get a ton of attention, but it's certainly something that's worth looking at.
COOPER: As we heard House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, he was asked today about conversations on January 6, between him and Cassidy Hutchinson. Obviously, she testified under oath. He said he didn't remember them.
He denies even watching the former President's speech at the rally that day. What do you make of those comments?
KINZINGER: I mean, look, I don't trust anything Kevin McCarthy says, I'll be honest with you. Sometime about a year or two ago, he made the decision that his only goal is to become Speaker of the House, and he will do whatever he has to do and he thinks that siding with the insurrectionists is the way to get there. Maybe it will make him Speaker, I don't know.
But I know this, Cassidy Hutchinson testified under oath. She is extremely credible. All these anonymous sources that have tried to discredit her have not -- first, none of them have come in and spoken on the record, under oath. And secondarily, they've all been discredited.
So look, I know this for a fact. Cassidy Hutchison maintained a lot of outreach to Members of Congress. So it is not inconceivable that she would be the one Kevin would call.
COOPER: Yes, and it sounded like by based on what she said that he had been talking to her throughout the week, because he was accusing her of lying to him about what she had said previously.
Congressman Kinzinger -- yes go ahead.
KINZINGER: Yes, and I think -- I want to just say real quick, I mean, the idea that she would just come up with that story and make it up is ludicrous.
COOPER: Yes. Congressman, I really appreciate your time. Thank you.
KINZINGER: You bet.
COOPER: Been quite a big week of big developments, whether it's high ranking members of the former administration talking to the Select Committee, signs the Justice Department probe is also reaching to the White House, the former President, returning to DC and of course, questions about when he might announce he is running again, if he does.
There is also the question which Republican strategist, Karl Rove asked in "The Wall Street Journal" this week, namely, what will the former President do with $121 million plus he's raised from donors, given that he is not spending much, Rove says to support midterm candidates, and he is barred from spending it on the 2024 presidential run.
Perspective on that, more from NYU Law Professor, Ryan Goodman and Michael Smerconish, CNN political commentator and host of "CNN Smerconish."
Michael, what does it tell you that Karl Rove, who is obviously a master Republican strategist is raising these questions about the former President's fundraising right now before Trump has publicly announced a 2024 run?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He raises a significant point about the $121 million that Trump has amassed and the moment that he would announce for President, he jeopardizes the way in which he can use some of those funds.
I think the bigger picture is that you've got Rove this past week, you had "The Wall Street Journal," you had "The New York Post," you had FOX News not covering live any of Trump's return to Washington, DC -- all cracks, I think in the conservative media armor that heretofore had been very supportive of Donald Trump.
COOPER: What's also interesting, Professor, because you have the possibility of Mnuchin and Pompeo talking to the January 6 Committee, does it feel like the President is in a more precarious place -- the former President, I should say is in a more precarious place now than he was a few weeks ago?
RYAN GOODMAN, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: Yes, I think absolutely, to have these Cabinet members come in, or former Cabinet members and testify with probably derogatory information against him, especially the way that Mnuchin has been speaking and also that we have from the reporting by Karl Rove, and we have the reporting by Jonathan Karl about Pompeo. There's a lot of information that they can provide that is not going to be looking good for the President.
And the fact that they're coming in now and not necessarily under subpoena, there is no evidence that they're subpoenaed, that they're cooperating with the Committee I think is really important.
COOPER: And Michael, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the former President will run again, although it's possible he might not. Do you think it helps or hurts the Republican Party if he announces before the midterms?
SMERCONISH: Oh I think it's a big hindrance to what looks like a well-poised Republican campaign that will take over the House of Representatives may be, maybe not the Senate.
SMERCONISH: But all of a sudden now, emphasis shifts to Trump. Democrats have an easy target in trying to make it a referendum all about him, not about the economy, not about the borders, not about crime, but about Donald Trump.
So I think it's the best news that could happen to this White House with its own dismal numbers that now they get to shift that spotlight to Donald Trump and not Joe Biden.
COOPER: Professor, I am also wondering what you make of what we have seen of the Federal investigation so far. I mean, obviously, you had this week, Merrick Garland, making very public statement in interviews with Lester Holt. He doesn't do that by coincidence. There's a reason he does it now and his words are parsed very carefully.
There certainly seems to be an uptick in activity, and certainly an uptick in the Department of Justice wanting people to see that there's an uptick in activity.
GOODMAN: Yes, I think that's absolutely right and there is a lot of activity just in the last, let's say, 10 days. So I think that they are trailing behind the Committee, but they have definitely scaled up the investigation to have these very senior White House officials come in to a grand jury is really going right into the heart of the matter. And that means that they're looking right at Trump, and the reporting is obvious that they're asking a lot of questions about President Trump's actions.
COOPER: Benny Thompson, the Chairman of the January 6 Committee has talked about now there being some sort of a roadmap for cooperation, of sharing of information from the Committee to the Department of Justice.
I don't quite understand why that has been an issue for the January 6 Committee.
I mean, they had said, well, we don't want to -- we're doing our own investigations, we don't have the time to send stuff to the Department of Justice. That doesn't seem like such a complicated thing, if they want it to do it, doesn't it?
GOODMAN: It's not that complicated. They seem to have fallen into a protocol pretty quickly now that they are deciding to cooperate with the Justice Department, and I could understand at one level in the prior phase, why they might not do that, because there was no serious indication from the Justice Department that they had even really looked into these matters. So why share it with them at a time in which they don't seem to really be following through?
But now all indications are that they have a very serious criminal investigation into the former President's actions.
COOPER: Just in terms of how that works, there has been a lot of, publicly, we have seen the Department of Justice going for hundreds of people who breached the Capitol, who were part of the foot soldiers of the insurrection.
Would there have been the investigation, which we are now seeing with people at higher levels, would that have still been going on at the same time? Do they have the personnel to do all that at once?
GOODMAN: That's a great question, and I wish people would ask the Justice Department that specific question, including how many people do they actually have on the investigation that's about Donald Trump and the White House?
You know, the former -- the current US attorney that they brought in from Maryland is not somebody who has a lot of experience with these kind of high profile, large investigations, and that's a really important question to note, just how resourced are they really? Because a lot of the resources had been spent on these hundreds --
COOPER: Garland did say to Lester Holt that this is the biggest investigation the Justice Department has ever undertaken.
Michael, the former president gave a very dark speech this week. I mean, this thing went really well -- this went long over an hour. He was sort of just reading from the teleprompter directly at times.
He laid out a very sort of apocalyptic and violent vision of this country, sort of leaps and bounds beyond his American carnage speech at his inauguration. Do you think that's the kind of rhetoric the Republican Party as a whole wants to hear from him? Or do you think that these people from his former administration, possibly talking to the Committee, is there a way of kind of saying, "Enough. We've seen this movie. We've heard this speech, ad infinitum."
SMERCONISH: For Trump, it is not about persuasion. He's not out there to change hearts and minds. It's all about stirring passion. And it worked for him once, he would say twice. And I think that's where he's coming from. And yes, I too, like you thought I'm watching that same inauguration speech from 2017.
COOPER: Michael Smerconish and Professor Ryan Goodman, really good to have you on. Thank you so much.
GOODMAN: Thank you.
COOPER: There is a lot more ahead tonight, live reporting from the flooding, Kentucky at least 16 people now known to have died. The Governor says he expects that number will grow.
And later, another CNN exclusive. What we just learned about another person Russia is demanding in exchange for freeing Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
Under the current proposal, the US would send back a convicted Russian arms trafficker known as the "Merchant of Death." But there is another person the Russians want, his return might be even harder to swallow and the Biden administration has just responded. Details ahead.
COOPER: It is already been described as some of the worst flooding Kentucky has ever seen. Tonight, the loss of life including young life is expected to grow.
Reports from Hazard County right now with CNN's Joe Johns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Completely crushed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's okay.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tammy Eversaul's (ph) home in Perry County now in the middle of Squabble Creek. Like her, hundreds of families have lost everything in the floods in Eastern Kentucky.
JOE CRESS, FLOOD VICTIM: No water, no electricity. No nothing.
JOHNS (voice over): Joe Cress is one of the lucky ones, but he said, many of his neighbors lost their homes.
CRESS: All the houses gone. I mean, they just washed away. I mean, people living like me, we don't even know how many is missing at this point. It happened in the middle of the night. I mean, nobody really got a warning. That is really a big problem, it just happened just quick, everybody got washed away.
JOHNS (voice over): Nearly 300 people cut off by the flooding had been rescued so far according to the Governor. The devastation, widespread. Debris along this creek, broken bridges, downed trees --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen this -- and in all the years I've lived here, I have never seen this, never.
JOHNS (voice over): The storm wiped out power, breaking down communication.
SHERIFF JOE ENGLE, PERRY COUNTY, KENTUCKY: The area this storm hit, it totally annihilated our infrastructure. Water, telephone, internet, electricity, all the basic roads, all the basic things you would build a community around have disappeared.
JOHNS (voice over): And it's not over yet. More rain is expected. Eastern Kentucky has a slight to moderate risk of flash flooding through Friday evening.
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): I've certainly done three plus flights and/or tours over flooded areas. This is by far the worst.
JOHNS (voice over): After flying over the hard hit region, the Governor delivered more grim news.
BESHEAR: I have received notice that they've located the bodies of those four children. It means, we've got at least six dead children and that's hard.
Hundreds of homes, their ball fields, their parks, businesses under more water than I think any of us have ever seen in that area. Absolutely impassable numerous spots. So just devastating.
COOPER: Joe Johns joins us now.
Joe, I mean, the fact that a lot of this happened at night for people without warning, it is just so terrifying. Are you getting any sense from authorities that they are getting some control of the situation on the ground right now? Are there still areas they haven't gotten to?
JOHNS: Right. You know, Anderson, I don't want to make it sound like they're not getting anything done because they are. Just around where I'm standing, they've got the electricity on, but I asked the County Sheriff here in Eastern Kentucky whether he felt like they were getting a handle on it today and he said no.
And he said there are a lot of reasons for that. The number one reason is because of these out of the way places where there is a lot of water, all the nooks and crannies that they have to go up to try to just check the welfare of people and they haven't been able to get to everybody. That's the first thing. The other thing is staffing. A lot of the first responders have
employees who are stuck in their houses and haven't been able to get to work because of the rushing waters, a variety of other things, communications, telephone lines still down, and I have talked to people here who say they don't think they're going to be able to have a reasonably certain number on the death toll here in all of this devastation for probably several weeks.
COOPER: And still so much water running over.
Joe Johns, appreciate it. Thank you. Just incredible.
Coming up, there are new details on CNN exclusive reporting on the possible prisoner exchange with Russia. We will tell you who Russia is now wanting in return for Americans, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and what the Biden administration just said about that demand.
COOPER: We have new updates tonight on a CNN exclusive we've been reporting this week. Sources telling CNN Russia has asked that another person be added to the possible prisoner swap. We're told the Russians want a convicted murderer and Vadim Krasikov added along with arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Americans, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Now, Krasikov is a former colonel from Russia's domestic spy agency. He was convicted of murder in Germany last year, and that's where he remains in custody. In the last hour on scene and the Biden administration responded to Russia's request, and we'll have more on that in a moment.
This comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov today in their first known conversation since Russia invaded Ukraine. Lavrov said he quote, strongly suggested that the U.S. should return to a mode of quote, quiet diplomacy, regarding the possible prisoner exchange.
Join me now in Moscow with the latest CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen. So what more do you know about what Russia is proposing?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Vadim Krasikov is really one of the most high profile prisoners that Germany has. And you're absolutely right. He was convicted last year for a murder that the Germans say was both organized and ordered by the Russian state. Now the Russians continue to deny that. But according to our reporting, the Russians did indeed say to the Americans that they want Vadim Krasikov along with Viktor Bout in return for Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner.
Now, we know Anderson, that the U.S. never really believed that that was a serious offer that the Russians were making or a serious counteroffer that the Russians were making. However, the U.S. did make inquiries with the Germans, a senior German government official told me that there were inquiries not on the highest level and certainly discussions about this never really reached the highest levels of the German government, because they also thought that it was not a serious offer. However, it was something that the U.S. inquired about showing how serious the administration is about trying to get both Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan out of Russian custody, Anderson.
COOPER: And Fred, you saying you spoke to a lawyer for Griner.
PLEITGEN: I did, I did, and it was actually right after that lawyer visited Brittney Griner today and she said that Brittney Griner is actually quite nervous at this point in time, simply because the trial is going into a really, really important phase. We're coming down to the last couple of hearings, but she also said that right now, Brittney Griner is laser focused on her defense to trying to continue to build that defense trying to get a lenient verdict from the Russian court. Of course, they have presented some evidence. She showed some remorse for accidentally bringing those cartridges with cannabis oil into the Russian Federation.
One of the things we always have to point out Anderson, of course, is that Russian courts have an extremely high conviction rate. So leniency is certainly something is going to be difficult to come by. And even the lawyers say that in the end, they do hope that there is a prisoner exchange and that Brittney Griner can come home as fast as possible, Anderson.
COOPER: And Fred, do you know Krasikov who he was convicted of killing or being involved in the killing of in Germany?
PLEITGEN: Yes, yes, absolutely. I mean, this was a massive high profile murder that happened right in the center of Berlin, and he was convicted of killing a former Chechen fighter, someone who commanded a Chechen militia that fought against the Russians in the early 2000s, and someone who was considered a terrorist by the Russian Federation. And essentially as this trial went down the prosecutors there in Germany they say that they found out that the Russian state was behind that that Russian security services were heavily involved in all of this as well.
Again, the Russians continue to deny that. But this caused a major diplomatic spat between Germany and Russia. Several diplomats of the Russians were expelled by the Germans. It was a huge deal. And also one of the reasons why this is such an important prisoner for the Germans.
COOPER: Interesting. Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining me now with some more details CNN's White House correspondent MJ Lee. What is the White House saying about this now?
MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the White House is being very blunt tonight that this is simply not an acceptable offer. John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesperson saying on CNN in just the last hour that this is a bad faith response to a serious offer from the U.S. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, SPOKESPERSON, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Holding two American citizens hostage in exchange for an assassin, a third party country is not a serious counteroffer, Jim. It's a bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offering proposal that the United States has put forward and we urge Russia to take that offer seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: And keep in mind that original U.S. offer to trade Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan for this arms dealer that was not made lightly. We know that the DOJ in particular had serious issues with this because they do not typically support the idea of doing a prisoner swap. So Anderson, it's not hard to imagine that some people in the administration, they're not going to be jumping up and down with excitement at the idea of throwing into this deal a convicted murderer.
COOPER: And/or negotiations then on hold. I don't know if it's fair to say negotiations are ongoing anyway. But are -- is it stalled now?
LEE: Yes, what John Kirby said on our air is that nothing is stalled. But he did also maintain that the U.S. goal remains the same. And that is, of course, to get these two people out of Russia and that the U.S. is going to keep trying. One thing to keep in mind that's important is the timeline here. The U.S. originally made its offer back in June. And basically, it has indicated that it didn't get a serious response from Russia, at least not through official channels.
Now, it was only this week that we found out that the administration had made this offer maybe in an attempt to try to nudge the negotiations forward. I did ask White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre earlier today, whether President Biden might potentially get involved and speak directly with Vladimir Putin about this. She made very clear that there are absolutely no plans for that kind of conversation right now.
COOPER: MJ Lee, appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up, blindsided veterans and their supporters are speaking out against Senate Republicans after they blocked a bill that would help veterans impacted by burn pits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN & ACTIVIST: This is an embarrassment to the Senate to the country, to the founders, and all that they profess to hold dear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:41:39] COOPER: Senate Democrats say again they'll try and Monday to overcome opposition to a bill meant to help veterans who became sick after exposure to burn pits and other toxic chemicals. And who along with family and supporters of the bill are deeply upset at Republicans after they blocked the bill. Twenty five Republican senators who supported an earlier version of the bill switched their vote saying they were expressing frustration with the lack of votes on amendments to the bill. Democrats and veterans groups say the Republicans are costing sick veterans precious time that they can't afford. The PACT Act would improve health care for veterans suffering injuries from burn pit smoke, Agent Orange spraying and other exposures.
The Senate's inability to pass the bill sparking outrage among victims and veterans, their families and those supporting them, including community and activist Jon Stewart, who joined Democrats Thursday and calling out Senate Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: I'm used to the lies. I'm used to the hypocrisy. I'm used to the cowardice. I've been here a long time. Senate's where accountability goes to die. Every one of these individuals that has been fighting for years standing on the shoulders of Vietnam veterans who have been fighting for years standing on the shoulders of Persian Gulf War veterans fighting for years, Desert Storm veterans to just get the health care and benefits that they earn from their service.
They lived up to their oath. And yesterday, they spit on it in abject cruelty. These people thought they could finally breathe. You think their struggles and because the PACT Act passes? All it means is they don't have decide between their cancer drugs and their house. Their struggle continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now is the wife of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, the veteran that the bill is named for. Danielle Robinson joins me now.
Danielle, thanks so much for joining us. First of all your reaction, what was your reaction when you heard that the legislation had been blocked from advancing by some Senate Republicans, especially some who had voted previously for it?
DANIELLE ROBINSON, WIDOW OF SGT. FIRST CLASS HEATH ROBINSON: Anderson, this felt like just an immediate devastating blow. I was actually contacted by the White House shortly after the June 16th passage in preparations for the bill to be signed into law. And as soon as this started taking effect, I never would have thought that it was almost getting derailed.
COOPER: You're from Ohio, one of your Senators Rob Portman voted for the bill back in June then voted against it this week. A spokesman for Portman told CNN that while he plans to vote for final passage of the bill, this week's vote against it was a way of registering displeasure the way Democratic leadership handled the amendment process. What is it delay in passage translate to in terms of veterans and people suffering?
ROBINSON: These veterans don't have time. They don't have days. Unfortunately, I got word of the veteran that was excited because he finally felt like he was going to get the be able to benefit from this bill being passed as he was denied by the VA and his private health insurance dropped him. And unfortunately, we got word that this veteran took his life because this bill was delayed and I hope that there are not more that end up doing this type of thing based on the delay from these 25 Senators. It was disgusting.
COOPER: As we mentioned, the legislation is named in honor of your husband, Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson. Can you just tell us a little bit about him? What was he like?
ROBINSON: Well, he was a decorated soldier with Ohio National Guard. He served in Kosovo and Iraq as a combat medic. He took a lot of pride in what he did as a combat medic, and came home and didn't want to be done with his service. And he ended up becoming active duty. And that wasn't enough for him. He ended up going on to be the NCO of the year in 2012 and 2013, for the Ohio National Guard in the Best Warrior Competition.
ROBINSON: Which is a very curling competition. And then he went on to regionals and actually took second in Wisconsin. So, he was an impeccable soldier. He was a good husband, and he was an excellent father to our young daughter. And even during his cancer treatments, he was you know, her soccer coach on the soccer field. And he was going into the armory, where he was active duty and how his active duty job and, you know, painting the armor armory with the guys. And at that time, he became more and more sick and ended up going through a variety of cancer treatments, and then ended up declining and losing his battle to keep to lung cancer on May of 2020.
COOPER: And you connect that to his service, to his time overseas.
ROBINSON: Correct. So as soon as we saw our oncologist, after being to 12 different doctors, we finally had an ear, nose and throat doctor, take a chest CT scan. And that's when he decided to go and do a biopsy of a lymph node and it came back as cancer. And when we saw our oncologist, the first thing he said to us when we walked and when he walked in the room was what the heck have you been exposed to?
ROBINSON: Your cancer is presenting in a way that's only due to toxic exposure. And at the time, we just -- we were shocked. So we didn't know what to say. And then we went home and it was actually a military spouse that sent me an article about burn pits, and the next week when we went back for his actual cancer treatments. The oncologist confirmed he's like I have no doubt it wasn't -- it was due to the burn pit. I actually lung autopsy done on my husband to help with research and it was sent on to Dr. Robert Miller at Vanderbilt. And with the doctor that actually read his autopsy said that his lungs were completely obliterated.
ROBINSON: It looks like a bomb went off in his lungs.
COOPER: While serving others and saving other people's lives as a medic. Danielle, I'm so honored to talk to you tonight. And thank you for telling us about your husband and we will continue to follow this in the days ahead. Thank you.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
COOPER: Just ahead, what voters in Wyoming are thinking of Liz Cheney's role in the January 6 committee and whether they'll turn out for her in the Republican primary next month.
COOPER: This was the first week in almost two months there was no January 6 hearing or when scheduled. Instead, sources tell CNN the committee is now preparing for potentially busy August gathering evidence and negotiations with witnesses who have so far refused to testify. During last week's hearing, the committee's Vice Chair Liz Cheney said we have considerably more to do. Well, Congresswoman Cheney herself has a lot of work to do in her upcoming primary fight in Wyoming an uphill fight indeed, it is. That contest will be decided in just over two weeks.
Randi Kaye went to Wyoming's capitol for a really huge once a year rodeo. It's a time honored event there and spoke with voters about Cheney's chances.
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, we found plenty of Republican voters bucking the Cheney name, and vowing not to support Congresswoman Liz Cheney for fourth term.
(on-camera): Are you planning to vote for Liz Cheney?
SHARON TUGGLE, WYOMING VOTER: Can I cuss? Hell no.
KAYE (on-camera): Are you planning to support Liz Cheney?
ANDREW KAHLER, WYOMING VOTER: Absolutely not.
KAYE (on-camera): What are your thoughts about Liz Cheney running for fourth term?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Personally, I think she said for three too many.
KAYE (voice-over): Keep in mind in 2020, Donald Trump won about 70% of the vote in Wyoming. So Liz Cheney's work on the January 6 investigation isn't playing so well with many Wyoming voters.
TUGGLE: She's done us dirty.
KAY (on-camera): How so?
TUGGLE: Oh God, look and watch how she's done Trump. I'm a Trump fan. I'm sorry.
KAYE (on-camera): So she lost your vote because of her role on the January 6 committee?
KAYE (on-camera): And what she's doing about Trump?
TUGGLE: Yes. She's supposed to be supporting them. She's a Republican for crying out loud.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I find her work on the January 6 committee just repulsed that.
KAYE (on-camera): How do you feel about her work on the January 6 committee and her role?
KAHLER: It's all a hoax, it's all propaganda, has nothing to do with anything. It's a witch hunt.
KAYE (on-camera): Well she says she's defending what's important to people here in Wyoming, upholding the rule of law, defending the Constitution.
BRETT KUPEC, WYOMING VOTER: If that was the rule of law, why does they have a defense team in that courtroom? I hate the rule of law. That's a kangaroo court. That's not the Wyoming way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has been an embarrassment. It's a witch hunt.
KAYE (on-camera): Are you proud of her for taking on Donald Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
KAYE (on-camera): Here in Cheyenne, more than 1,600 miles from Washington D.C. almost everyone we spoke with told us they believe Liz Cheney is too focused on Donald Trump and the January 6 committee and not paying enough attention to what they believe matters to the people here in Wyoming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn't know what her constituents want her anymore because she's lost touch with the values of the people. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't feel like she supports her people here in Wyoming anymore. The things that she's voting for don't really reflect what the people here in Wyoming feel.
KAYE (voice-over): Dean Dexter is one of just two Cheney supporters we found in the rodeo crowd.
DEAN DEXTER, WYOMING VOTER: If they're going to bow down and kiss the ring. I think, I don't want that for my representative. I want somebody who, who has the Constitution first and foremost, in their mind.
KAYE (on-camera): We've talked to a lot of folks who say that she has lost their vote because of her role on the January 6 committee, but not you?
DEXTER: No. In fact, I think she's got it even stronger now. She's making a sacrifice. She's made a stand. And she's saying something is wrong. And I agree with her and even though that it has a tremendous personal sacrifice.
KAYE (voice-over): Republican Shawn McKee is also a Liz Cheney fan.
(on-camera): How come you haven't turned against her like so many other Republicans?
SHAWN MCKEE, WYOMING VOTER: I believe that she has a lot of that integrity also. She wants to maintain the integrity of the state. She wants to make it to where it's not so much federally controlled.
KAYE (voice-over): And while all of that sounds good for Liz Cheney, given what we heard from this crowd, it may not be enough to hand her win.
TUGGLE: I wouldn't vote for her if she was the last candidate out there.
KAYE: Anderson I reached out to the state Republican Party to see if they had a comment. As you know, they censured Liz Cheney after she voted to impeach Donald Trump. They don't even recognize her as a Republican. The party declined to go on camera but told me in a statement the Wyoming Republican Party doesn't take sides in a primary election. We are neutral during this election. We do not back or oppose candidates.
It's also worth noting that Liz Cheney's campaign has asked Democrats in Wyoming to switch their party affiliation to Republican so they can vote for her in the Republican primary election in August. The state party also responding to that saying they are committed to stopping Democrats from crossing over.
And also worth noting that right now Republicans outnumber Democrats here in Wyoming, four to one. Anderson.
COOPER: Randi Kaye, thanks. We'll be right back.
COOPER: News continues. Want to hand over Laura Coates, she's filling in for "DON LEMON TONIGHT". Laura.