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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Primary Night In Five States With Trump Looming Large In Many Key Races; US-China Tensions Rise As House Speaker Pelosi Arrives In Taiwan; Jan. 6 Text Wiped From Phones Of Key Trump Pentagon Officials; Sandy Hook Father Testifies About Holding Alex Jones Accountable For "Hell" He Has Caused; Polls Close In AZ Primary At 9 And 10 PM ET; Primary Night In Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri And Washington. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 02, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: She was one of the closest people to Russian President, Vladimir Putin and tonight, five months into Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration is finally sanctioning Putin's rumored girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva.

Up until now, the US had been reluctant to go after Kabaeva, they had feared that it could escalate the conflict and infuriate Putin. Putin has never confirmed having a romantic relationship with Kabaeva, or that the two have children.

Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.



Primary elections tonight in five states -- Missouri, Michigan, Kansas, Arizona, and Washington -- polls are closing just now in all or parts or three of them. Abortion is on the ballot in Kansas and supporters in the former President's election lie are running in Arizona and elsewhere.

Three Republicans who voted to impeach the former President are all facing tough primary challenges from candidates that he is supporting.

In Arizona, State House Speaker Rusty Bowers, the conservative Republican State House Speaker who refused to help overturn the election and testified before the House Select Committee, he is also facing opposition backed by the former President in his State Senate race.

Some of those very same candidates are being supported controversially by Democrats hoping to run against more extreme opponents in the fall. All of this, with inflation and fears of recession as a backdrop, President Biden's recent legislative actions and foreign policy decisions on the table in the midterm elections now just 98 days away.

CNN's John King is over the magic wall tracking all the important races and trends. Let's check in with him first. So John, Missouri polls are just closing as you know, the former

President caused a lot of confusion in his Senate endorsement of two people named "Eric" both running for the same office. How is that race shaping up?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, the fact that we're talking about Missouri is actually the story in the sense that this is a retiring Republican incumbent, Roy Blunt in a midterm election year with the wind that is at the Republicans' back, this should be a safe seat, hold for Republicans.

But as you noted, the former President decided at the last minute to get involved. What did he mean? Eric Greitens, the disgraced former Governor who had to resign because of allegations of misconduct. He now wants to be in the Senate. Did he mean Eric Greitens or did he mean State Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Donald Trump trying to be cute here in a very important race. Republicans are not happy with this.

Both Eric Schmitt by the way, the Attorney General and Eric Greitens, the Governor, back to varying degrees, Trump's big lie. So that's on the ballot again tonight.

But the Democrats believe, if Greitens can win this nomination, they might have a shot of picking up this seat. Think of the gift that would be, 50/50 United States Senate, Republicans have a chance to take control. The Senate is the most competitive battleground, if you look through Governor's races, House races, et cetera.

If the Democrats are in play in Missouri after tonight, that is a gift for the Democratic Party, plain and simple.

COOPER: Michigan obviously another important state for midterms in the next presidential cycle. What are some of the key races there?

KING: And so obviously, you have a gubernatorial primary there as well with Governor Gretchen Whitmer is up, let me get to that one here and bring this up here.

And again, Trump came in late in the Governor's primary here endorsing Tudor Dixon; again, Ryan Kelly, another Republican candidate was here in Washington on January 6 at the United States Capitol. Tudor Dixon backs the big lie.

So if you just think about it again, Michigan always a competitive battleground state. Governor's race is even more important now that the Supreme Court has kicked the abortion issue back to the states.

Will the cancer of the Big Lie continue to spread among major Republican candidates for office? Or will Republican voters after the January 6 hearings, as we get closer to the midterm elections, will there be a snapback? Michigan will be one of the places we learned that.

COOPER: And obviously Arizona, I mean, there is a lot going on in Arizona the Governor's race has underscored the Trump versus Pence proxy battle among GOP voters. What are you looking there tonight?

KING: So again, if you bring up the two candidates, Kari Lake has gone to the full extreme, if you will, of channeling the Big Lie. She is channeling Trump literally saying if she doesn't win this primary tonight, it's because there's cheating. If she wins, apparently, Anderson, there is no cheating. But if she loses, there is cheating. That is Donald Trump personified in his preferred candidate in this race.

This is Trump versus Pence. Karrin Taylor Robson is endorsed by Mike Pence. This is also Trump versus the Republican establishment, the current Republican Governor whose term limited backs Taylor Robson. So you have the Trump establishment.

But Arizona could, by the end of the night, nominate a full slate of statewide candidates who back the Big Lie. Again, we need competitive political parties in this country.

This is not an anti-Republican statement, but the cancer of the Big Lie in the Republican Party is on the ballot tonight. Will the Republican Party finally say "enough" or will it, in a critical battleground state, this year for Senate and Governor? Obviously, in the next presidential election and every presidential the next four or five, Arizona is going to be a key battleground state.

Do Republicans say enough or do they say, the Big Lie deniers, we will nominate them.

COOPER: A lot to watch for. We'll come back to you, shortly.

John, I want to drill down now on Arizona. CNN's Kyung Lah is in Scottsdale for us.

Do you have a sense of how much of an impact the former President's influence is expected to be in Arizona tonight? Particularly in the primaries for Governor and Secretary of State?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Certainly, it is no secret that Trump is endorsing here and they know exactly who he is endorsing. A lot of the voters we have spoken to certainly know that Kari Lake is as John just described, Trump personified, that is no secret. How it will play out with voters, if there is enough of that Trump base remaining here in Arizona is going to be the question.


That is the question that should be answered by the end of this evening. Remember, 2020 never really ended here in Arizona. This is a place where there was the partisan-led review, that bizarre-o world of ballot counting on that stadium floor where Trump forces shortly after the election put pressure on local officials.

So there is a true battle here, a war between the election liars and the people who believe in democracy. The people who are going to the polls here in many places, Anderson, right behind me, are certainly understanding that Trump has endorsed some say it played a part. A lot of people are saying not as much, so that's a question that we

need to wait to be answered.

COOPER: I assume some of the people saying not as much for the non- Trump endorsed campaigns.

LAH: Absolutely. And actually, when I've been talking to a number of sources, remember, I was just telling you about the amount of pressure that was put on local officials, I've spoken to a number of those local officials, and they say, really, by the end of tonight, they will find out if the party in Arizona, if the Republican Party in Arizona is lost or not.

That's what they feel is going to be happening tonight. So, there is very little daylight between candidates like Karrin Taylor Robeson and Kari Lake when you look at the issues like immigration or the economy.

There is almost no difference. The big difference is how far they are willing to go with dangerous rhetoric and embracing something that is not true, and then something else I want to mention, Anderson, Secretary of State, here is somebody who wants to oversee elections.

He wants to QAnon conventions and wants to completely change the election system to something that's nonsensical and simply wouldn't work if you talk to Federal election officials.

So that's what's going to be happening. Is this going to go by way of bizarre-o world or will the Republican Party pull back and go back to Republican values according to the many people I've spoken to today about what is at stake here?

COOPER: Appreciate it. As John King mentioned a moment ago, Missouri is home to two "Eric's" Greitens and Schmitt both of whom got the former President's endorsement last night in the Republican US Senate race or neither of whom, depending on really how you look at it.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now with the latest there. So, what are you hearing from campaigns about how this last minute kind of endorsement of the two Eric's is going to influence anything or not?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN US CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And there's no doubt that Eric Greitens is trying to stage an epic comeback four years after he resigned as Governor and that is the question that Missouri voters are going to answer today.

Are they still concerned about those allegations? He admitted some of them having the affair with his hairdresser. He has denied strenuously allegations of abuse of his ex-wife and his child.

But this is what is hung over the race for the last several weeks here. And fellow Republicans, his fellow Republicans have tried to stop his candidacy through millions of dollars in television ads, reminding Missouri voters about all of those sorts of details.

So Eric Schmitt, the Missouri Attorney General has really risen in the last several weeks really taking advantage of some questions about the Greitens' candidacy, but also Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler.

She has been in Congress for the last 12 years. She told me yesterday that she would not vote for Eric Greitens if he becomes the Republican Senate nominee. That is what worries Republicans in Washington considerably because this, of course, should be a safe Republican seat.

But in a 50/50, Senate, every seat matters, so that is what concerns Republicans. If Eric Greitens wins tonight, is he going to be able to be a credible General Election candidate?

We should also note though, there are 21 Republican candidates on the ballot entirely so the vote will be split up. Mark McCloskey, who you may remember from St. Louis, he and his wife stopped protesters at their home two summers ago, holding a gun. He is also running for Senate and his yard signs are all over the state here.

So this does appear to be a three-way contest, at least as Republicans are going to the polls, but the big question, Will Eric Greitens stage a comeback or not?

COOPER: Yes, that's definitely something to watch for tonight.

Jeff Zeleny. Appreciate it. Thanks.

John King is back, joining us as well; CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, CNN political director, David Chalian; and CNN senior political correspondent, Abby Phillip, anchor of CNN's "Inside Politics Sunday." Abby, let's, I guess start with Arizona, the election denier?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, there's so much going on here, as Kyung pointed out, but this is a state where I think, you know, Arizona politically right at this moment is probably as far to the right as one could be in terms of this election denying phenomenon.

These are Republican voters who go crazy over Sharpies who did their sort of election audit with a kind of, you know as people have described it almost like a fake firm running this audit and finding nothing at the end of the day.

COOPER: Cyber Ninjas.


PHILLIP: The Cyber Ninjas. They've protested outside of ballot counting offices that week of Election Day back in 2020. They are all in on the Big Lie and it shows based on who they are choosing between, from top to bottom on this ballot.

So this is a place where that State, the Republican Party is going all the way to the right, but the State is a purple State. Remember, Joe Biden won Arizona, and he won it, bolstered by a growing population of young Latino voters who are trending more Democratic in Arizona, maybe not elsewhere, but in Arizona. And so this State politically is splitting apart and Republicans are moving away from this.

COOPER: I mean, when you think of like Rusty Bowers, a conservative Republican who has been the Speaker of the State, he is now persona non grata among a lot of Republicans in Arizona.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, And it's not just the commitment to the Big Lie that Donald Trump tells about the 2020 election, what I think is so important about tonight in Arizona, and in Michigan, two critical battleground states, two States that will help determine who the next President is.

You have these election deniers seeking positions of oversight of elections. So everything we look at with the January 6 Committee, right, you mentioned Rusty Bowers, there were people who stood up and said "No," right, like, it's going to be country over party for me, that happened in enough places with enough Republican officials to turn Donald Trump's efforts away.

Now, you have these people who are committed to not just expressing his lies and repeating them, but actually potentially committed to overturning elections that they would then have oversight over if they didn't like the results. That's what I think the biggest danger is in the way in which these were Republican primaries play out tonight.

COOPER: Also, this sort of Trump-Pence proxy war, I don't know how significant that really is.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, you know, I think it's more a Trump proxy war against the establishment of the Republican Party and we use Mike Pence or we use a Doug Ducey, the Governor of Arizona as the person on the other side. You know, what's interesting, too, is that we're going to these primaries that are being held in the middle of August right now, the dog days of August, we're not going to see record turnout, what we're going to see is turnout by those who are most motivated, who are going to be very likely to be election deniers.

They are more motivated to go out to try to take back and win that seat than it is for these more centrist Republicans to try to defend it and hold back, so when I do think when we look at the results at the end of this week, because we won't get results in some of these races until the end of this week, I think we've got to look at really, the Republican Party hasn't been taken over by activists that are willing to continue to push the Big Lie, but are also willing to be involved.

COOPER: John, in Michigan, there is the key primary challenge for the GOP Congressman, Peter Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former President after the attack on the Capitol. What are you watching for that in that race?

KING: Well, you're watching to see if the January 6 hearings, if all this attention on Donald Trump's misconduct, abuse of power, a dereliction of duty around that election, does that impact Republican voters? Do they finally decide, "Enough, we're not going to carry out Donald Trump's grievances anymore?" Ten Republicans voted to impeach him. There are three contests

tonight, Peter Meijer in Michigan, then two out in Washington State. I think it is a key question. Are Republican voters willing to support their Republicans who are incumbents or are they going to carry out Donald Trump's grievances do the January 6 hearings? Do Donald Trump's reemergence have any impact?

What is also common about all three of these districts, and I just want to come back to the other map to connect it to the points you're discussing with my colleagues is the suburbs, those are suburban Republican districts.

The suburbs will decide who wins in Arizona. The suburbs will decide who wins statewide in Michigan. The suburbs decide all the close elections in American history.

Suburbs made George HW Bush and George W. Bush President. They supported Donald Trump just barely and then they rebelled against him in 2018 and 2020. Suburban America is going to decide what happens in November and it's also going to have a big voice tonight, suburban Republicans tonight in Arizona, in Michigan, in Washington State, and in Kansas on the abortion question tonight.

Suburban America will speak and the Democrats will be watching. Kansas probably more than any state to see what is the message.

COOPER: Yes. What about -- I mean, in Kansas abortion really is on the ballot for the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, this is clearly a first test to watch. It is a bit of a kind of, you know hothouse of a situation where everybody's attention is on it. And the results have been that in terms of turnout, that there's a lot of interest in this referendum.

But there is also a lot of confusion about this ballot initiative. Referendums are often confusing for voters, and so the people who are going to the ballot here are going to have to pay very close attention to what they are voting on because, yes means basically no to abortion in the State, and that is going to be very confusing to people.


But millions and millions of dollars pouring in on both sides of this issue, and I think it will show us a little bit whether or not either side of this can gain the upper hand.

And I think also, what I'm looking at tonight in Kansas, is there are a lot of women who you know that you might ask them, they might personally say, "Hey, I don't support abortion, but they are not comfortable with the State putting in place complete abortion bans." And I think that is going to be something that we learn a little bit more about after the results of this referendum in Kansas.

COOPER: You also have in Washington State and John references, candidates, some Republican candidates who are facing primary challenges because they voted in the second impeachment against the President. I mean, does that still have power to bring people out to the polls?

PRESTON: So, it certainly does. I think if you look at two numbers, three tonight, you have Peter Meijer in Michigan, and you have these two Republicans in Washington State right now who all voted to impeach Donald Trump.

Then you look at the number 10, those who are the total number of Republicans who had voted. Where are they now? Four are retiring, one has already lost a primary, one has won a primary, three could lose a primary tonight and Liz Cheney at the end of August, you know, is heading on a way of losing a primary even though she has stood up for, you know for the country above party.

So, look, Donald Trump may not still -- may not be the leader of the party in 2024, but Donald Trump's ideals will certainly drive the party.

COOPER: David Chalian, Mark Preston, Abby Phillip, thanks so much. Appreciate it. John King, we're going to check in with you later as the results come in.

Next, the debate over Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan and the fallout already from it, "The New York Times" columnist, Tom Friedman joins us for that later.

First on CNN, more missing January 6th text messages from the former administration, this time, it is not the Secret Service, it is The Pentagon. More on that ahead.



COOPER: The visit is big, but the potential repercussions are bigger, House Speaker Pelosi and a congressional delegation arriving in Taiwan's capital, Taipei.

China responded by announcing live fire military exercises in water surrounding the island. Biden administration did not want the Speaker to visit Taiwan, but the President stopped short of directly telling her not to. Lawmakers are split, so are many experts.

Our next guest, "New York Times" foreign affairs columnist, Thomas Friedman opposing it. In a piece written shortly before the speaker's arrival, he called the visit " ... utterly reckless, dangerous, and irresponsible. Nothing good will come of it."

Tom Friedman joins us now. He is the author by the way of countless bestsellers, including "Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations."

So Tom, why was this the wrong thing to do?

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, let me make clear, Anderson. I like Nancy Pelosi. We wouldn't have had the Affordable Care Act without her. She's been a great legislator. But this has to feel to me of a "Swan Song" of someone who feels her Speakership is ending, maybe her time in politics, felt very strongly about human rights in China, and wanted to make this trip now

I get it for Nancy Pelosi. I don't get it for America. She had a right to do this, but doesn't mean it was right to do at this time.

What did I feel about it? I feel that we have one overriding foreign policy goal right now, Anderson, and that is to ensure that Vladimir Putin's Army in Ukraine is at least stalled and ideally evicted from Ukraine. That is the number one foreign policy issue of the United States.

Now, in service of that goal, the Biden administration, through some very tough talks with China's leader got China to agree not to send arms to Putin.

That was very important at the beginning of the war, it's even more important now. In month five, when Putin's Army is really running low on certain munitions. Doing anything right now that would interrupt that Chinese decision or deflect our attention, or put us into a two- front confrontation with the world's two biggest superpowers besides us, at the same time, seems to be just terrible decision.

COOPER: I want to point out what Speaker Pelosi said in "The Washington Post" about why she was going. She said, "By traveling to Taiwan, we honor our commitment to democracy, reaffirming that the freedoms of Taiwan and all democracies must be respected."

And I'm sure if she heard you, she would point out that she went to Kyiv to see and meet with Zelenskyy to emphasize the importance of the war in Ukraine.

FRIEDMAN: God bless her for doing that, and by the way, she is absolutely right. In principle, we should be doing that. I'm a big believer, and we should defend Taiwan's democracy. I think it's very important.

I actually agree with the President on that. It's just whether it's a smart thing to do right now, whether you want to put it in a situation where we're juggling two superpower confrontations at the same time.

I hope the Chinese will do a summit in light show and then be done with it, but they may not, Anderson, and people seem to forget that China's Army is very, very large and very sophisticated.

And our goal for Taiwan is someone like, myself, who believes in the freedom and democracy of Taiwan, and that is should be perpetuated. To me, the right way to do that is by just keeping Taiwan out of the news. Quietly arm them, turn them into a porcupine that China would say every morning, "You know what? Not today. I don't want to put my hand on that." And quietly, keep it that way.

Because who knows over time, China may change, the situation may change. Every day that Taiwan's democracy thrives is a good day. Grandstanding around that right now doesn't make sense.

COOPER: John Kirby is the NSC spokesman who said that there's no daylight essentially between the intent of the Speaker's trip to reaffirm American support of a democratic Taiwan and the White House's backing of the One China Policy substantively.

Does the trip really change anything? I mean, other than ratcheting up the tension?


FRIEDMAN: Right. Yes, I think that's all it really does. And believe me, I hope it dies down, she will have made her point. But if it doesn't, if it contributes to another thing we have to be concerned about, which is one reason Vladimir Putin probably invaded Ukraine, the invasion of Ukraine was probably because he felt the window of opportunity was closing, that Ukraine was getting too strong, too integrated into the European Union.

I think we have to be concerned that what we are telling Xi right now is the chance for the peaceful unification of China and Taiwan is over, and I don't want Xi to conclude, you know what, my window of opportunity for seizing Taiwan maybe.

And so I think we've got to think about all these different dimensions to the story.

COOPER: Do you think -- I mean, if this ends without any major escalation with China, do you think it just fades away? Do you think it hangs over the US-China relations for some time?

FRIEDMAN: It will leave a bad taste, but we have many things we need to do with each other right now, the US and China. We have a broad agenda from trade, obviously, to geopolitics. I hope it dies down.

I hope that China again, sets off a few flares, whatever it does, and by a week or two weeks from now, it's all over. But yes, Nancy Pelosi, if you're going to do this, what is the strategic context in which you're doing this? What is the strategy? Is it just to make a point? Or is it to make a point now in this context, because I think this relationship between us and Taiwan and the friction it could cause with China is more important than anything going on with Russia?

Just to say we have a right to do that, yes, we have a right to do that. That doesn't mean it was right to do right now. That's my only argument.

COOPER: Yes, Tom Friedman, I appreciate it. Thank you.

FRIEDMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, more missing texts related to the investigation surrounding the January 6th attack. This is incredible, this time involving some former top military officials. Details ahead.



COOPER: Tonight, we're learning about yet another agency with deleted text messages connected to the investigations surrounding the January 6 attack. Now this new revelation involves the Pentagon and comes after obviously similar controversy involving Secret Service agents. In court filings, a watchdog group American Oversight says it had tried to get the records of officials including Former Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. There's no suggesting the officials themselves erased the records. According to a joint filing by the government and American Oversight quote, DOD and Army conveyed to plaintiff that when an employee separates from DOD or Army, he or she turns in the government-issued phone and the Phone is wiped. For those custodians no longer with the agency, the text messages were not preserved and therefore cannot be searched. Although it is possible that particular text messages could have been saved into other record systems such as e-mail.

Now, a short time ago January 6 Committee Zoe Lofgren says, the committee was not aware of the missing text messages and called it concerning.

I'm joined now by CNN senior law enforcement analyst, Andrew McCabe, a former Deputy Director of the FBI.

I'm wondering what your reaction is to this news, especially coming on the heels of similar revelations about the Secret Service? Excuse me the -- yes, the Secret Service in the Department of Homeland Security.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So Anderson I, you know, we are now looking at essentially the same coincidence at the Department of Secret Service, at the Department of Homeland Security. And now at the Defense Department, it's starting to look less and less like a coincidence, there is a -- in the absolute least case, there's a complete and total failure to abide by and live up to the responsibilities under the Federal Records Act.

So yes, this is becoming more confounding the further we look.

COOPER: Zoe Lofgren, who's on the January 6 committee told us that terminologies the committee wasn't aware of these erase text message messages. Pentagon officials say they only found out today, or they found it only found out today after CNN reported it. What does it say to you about the level of transparency that the committee is actually getting from relevant federal officials?

MCCABE: Well, it's sorely lacking and that could be the committee's responsibility. Maybe they haven't done a good job in organizing their requests and monitoring those requests that they have outstanding to all the different agencies and the different players that are involved in this massive investigation. But on the other hand, it might be on the agency side for failing to respond for obfuscating for not responding whole, you know, in a fully forthcoming way. But, you know, this is the sort of thing Anderson that could be very simply investigated by a competent investigative entity. This is, you know, it's almost unbelievable to think that the Department of Defense doesn't have a system in place, people who start communications, their personal notes, their briefing materials, all that stuff comes under the federal records preservation requirements. They -- it's impossible for me to believe that they don't have a process and an entire staff that's responsible for collecting that material and sending it to the National Archive. So did that happen? If not why?

COOPER: I should say -- I misspoke actually, when I was asking you a question. Zoe Lofgren said that the select committee told CNN that to her knowledge that committee wasn't aware of these erase messages from Pentagon, from Pentagon officials, not Pentagon officials weren't aware.

But I mean, you know, to their -- to the argument that, well, look, this is just part of the process. You hand in your phone when you leave government, it gets wiped, nothing to see here. You're saying for officials at a certain level, the records keeping act should kick in.

MCCABE: Of course, when I started working at a high enough level in the FBI, certainly as you know, an executive assistant director or as deputy director of the FBI, one of the first things that happened when I took that job was I received a security briefing in which our lawyers explained to me that essentially everything I read, everything I touched, everything I wrote had to be captured and preserved and that the staff would do that and all those records were collected in one place and would ultimately be sent to the National Archives.


And that, of course, includes all your e-mails and your text messages. The FBI has a system in place that text messages are actually collected from every FBI phone while you know, while the phones are being used. I guess some agencies don't go that far. But it's not that hard to make sure that the Secretary of Defense on leaving the organization, whose phone should get at least mirrored and preserved for all kinds of litigation reasons, for discovery reasons, and of course, the Federal Records Act.

COOPER: And is it possible to recover deleted text messages? I mean, when hears about deleted text messages being recovered all the time in sort of court cases or in lawsuits, but are officials that were cited in this lawsuit, including former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former Chief of Staff, former Secretary of the Army, I mean, they're viewed as crucial witnesses to understanding the government's response in that day.

MCCABE: So the effort to recover those messages is certainly worth undertaking. Whether or not you can do it successfully really depends on the technology involved, you'd have to recover those phones and then you'd have to subject those phones to a pretty detailed forensic analysis. If they were simply deleted, you could probably recover them. If the phones were wiped and the memory was reconfigured in those phones in the process, you might never get them back. So it really depends on what kind of action was taken on those devices.

COOPER: Yes. Andrew McCabe, appreciate as always, thank you.

MCCABE: Thanks.

COOPER: Coming up, nine and a half years of hell, that's how a Sandy Hook parent describes the pain he has endured because of conspiracy spreader and liar Alex Jones. The father says that Jones has tarnished the honor and legacy of his murdered son. More in his courtroom testimony today, next.



COOPER: Devastating testimony from two Sandy Hook parents today in an Austin Texas courtroom and one of several defamation cases against conspiracy spreader Alex Jones. Is the first of three to determine monetary damages for falsely portraying the massacre as a hoax. Two in Texas, one in Connecticut where 20 first graders and six adults were murdered nearly 10 years ago. Testifying in Texas today the parents of six year old Jesse Lewis. Jones also took the stand late today and got admonished by the judge. He'll continue his testimony tomorrow. We'll have more on that in a moment.

But first, the parents message for the court from CNN's Miguel Marquez.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): My son existed, says Scarlett Lewis, the mother of six-year-old Jesse Lewis speaking directly to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, in an Austin Texas courtroom.

LEWIS: Jesse was real. I am a real mom.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): In an utterly unthinkable sign of our times, Scarlett Lewis makes the case that she and her dead child are real directly to Jones.

LEWIS: It doesn't exist, that I'm Deep State. It's just not true. I know you know that. That's the problem. I know you know that. And you keep saying it. You keep saying it. Why? Why? For money? Because you've made a lot of money while you've said it. I know you're -- I mean. I know you believe me. And yet you're going to get -- you're going to leave this courthouse. And you're going to say it again on your show. You're saying no, you just did it.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): On his show today. Today, he raised questions about both Scarlett Lewis and the boy's father who are seeking up to $150 million in damages.

ALEX JONES, CONSPIRACY THEORIST: He is being manipulated by some very bad people. But I'll just say because I got to be honest. He's slow. OK. And his ex-wife is not.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The man Jones is calling slow and manipulated. Jesse Lewis' father, Neil Heslin.

NEIL HESLIN, FATHER OF JESSE LEWIS: I was blessed with six and a half years times. (INAUDIBLE) what I've shared shows babies (INAUDIBLE).

MARQUEZ (voice-over): In all, families of seven victims and one FBI agent have successfully sued Alex Jones for defamation in three different trials taking place in both Texas and Connecticut. Jones testified he was simply trying to get answers to questions that others were asking.

JONES: I never intentionally tried to hurt you. I never even said your name until this case, came to court. I didn't even really know you were until a couple of years ago when all this started up. The internet had a lot of questions. I had questions.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Based on a separate legal filing families of Sandy Hook victims alleged Jones is using bankruptcy laws to shield tens of millions of dollars from any possible liability.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Lots to discuss. Joining me now is Elizabeth Williamson of The New York Times who was in the Austin courtroom stage. She's the author of an extraordinary book called Sandy Hook An American Tragedy, And The Battle For Truth.

Elizabeth, what happened in the courtroom today after the judge left the room?

ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It was an emotional day to say the least Anderson and at the end of that day after the judge went back to her chambers, Alex Jones approached Scarlet Lewis and Neil Heslin, Jesse Lewis' parents shook their hands. I think Scarlett offered him a bottle of water because he had been coughing throughout his testimony. And he was telling them that he was sorry.

The lawyers kind of got into the middle of this because they see this as a kind of gambit because Jones has repeatedly said that he's apologized to the parents but this has always been a backhanded apology book ended by another charge against them for being actors or what have you.


COOPER: I mean, the fact that they have to be in the same room with this person and touch his hand, you know, the fact they're willing to touch his hand to shake it when he reaches out to them. It says a lot about them. But it says really nothing about. I mean, Alex Jones has said all there is to say about him, he has shown himself to be who he is.

In testimony, can you just talk about what Neil Heslin Jesse's father says about the violent threats that he has faced?

WILLIAMSON: Yes, so Neil has said that people have confronted him on the street. He's gotten anonymous phone calls, but most alarming in his testimony today, was the fact that and I have this in my book as well that someone fired a gun into his house. Today, he further testified that this spring, someone drove by the house, in a car yelled Alex Jones, and he could hear the sound of gunfire. So for him, this is far beyond some kind of online harassment, it's a very real threat. And Scarlett spoke to the fear that sort of stalks them ever since the shooting.

COOPER: But I mean, the fact that any grieving parent who has lost a little child has to have a second of their, their life, thinking about this sick crap that this person spreads. It's just -- it breaks my heart that a grieving parent has to go through this. I mean, no part of their mind should ever be occupied with the existence of this person. Jones took the stand today, I know the topic of his company filing for bankruptcy came up. I mean, has he -- does he just shield? How does he shield his money or does he?

WILLIAMSON: He has a web of LLCs, in which he has, you know, got a sort of shell game, it appears to be going --

COOPER: LLLC is limited liability corporations.

WILLIAMSON: Correct, yes. And lawyers for the family say that he's been shifting money around. They think that the bankruptcy filing is a pure gambit. He tried to say before the jurors, in fact, he did say that he was bankrupt, that is false. He has filed for bankruptcy. And that is still being adjudicated. He has also tried to submit that that, you know, he tried to apologize or that he was fully compliant in the run up to these trials. In fact, the reason he's on trial for damages is because he had such utter disregard for the judicial system, that he was defaulted in all of these cases, he lost the defamation cases, because he refused to comply, but he keeps attempting to re-litigate these cases, when in fact, he's already been found liable. And these trials are just for how much he must pay these families.

COOPER: It's fascinating to see him in court with all the bluster and bravado he has on his, you know, internet show, to see him, you know, trying to apologize, you know, such as it is to these parents in order to just kind of, you know, lessen the verdict. What's expected to happen tomorrow?

WILLIAMSON: So, tomorrow, he will continue to testify. But I have to say, and I really want to make sure that people understand this. This was a singularly powerful moment for Scarlett Lewis in particular. I mean, he was squirming in his chair, and she would not let him look down, or fidget. She was addressing him directly. And one of the things she said was, Alex, I want you to hear this. She wasn't angry, she actually was compassionate. And that was even more powerful. I mean, the room was really riveted and he was extremely uncomfortable. It was an accident of scheduling that he was even there while she was still testifying. And it was quite a moment. COOPER: Well, I mean, it's extraordinary the grace and strength that she has to be able to, I mean, as we see right now just talk directly to this person who has spread unbelievable things.

Elizabeth Williamson, appreciate it. Thank you.

WILLIAMSON: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, we're going to check back in with John King magic wall, more primary results coming in and more expected at the top of the hour when some Arizona polls close. The latest, next.



COOPER: Polls are beginning to close in Arizona in a few minutes and more results coming in from Kansas, Missouri and Michigan. Want to check back in the John King of the magic wall.

So, polls start closing soon in Arizona. How big of a message could the state GOP gubernatorial primary possibly send to the rest of the Republican Party?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the question Anderson how deep as we await the results in the polls closing? How deep is this cancer of supporting the big lie saying elections are rigged in the Republican bloodstream? Kari Lake is the Trump endorsed candidate there who has said if she loses his primary tonight, it's because there's cheating. Who does that sound like? So how deep is it in the Republican Party in Arizona, not only in this race for governor. This is Trump versus Mike Pence, Trump versus the Republican establishment. How deep is it in the race for governor? Or will Arizona Republican tonight possibly nominate an entire statewide slate of candidates who back the big lie? Or will the Republican Party finally say enough and move on? That's the big question in Arizona.

COOPER: It's incredible that she says there's cheating if she loses, of course, I assume as you said earlier, I think if she wins, no cheating.

KING: Funny, funny how that works.

COOPER: Yes. What new information about results in Missouri, Michigan yet?

KING: So let's go to Michigan first, because you have the governor's map up. Tudor Dixon who Donald Trump did endorse at the last minute, she previously had the endorsement of a very prominent Republican the state Betsy DeVos, the well financed DeVos family. She is leading early on about 11% of the vote counted, but she has a healthy early lead and if you notice looking at the map, the yellow every county that has reported votes so far Tudor Dixon is leading, got a ways to go yet, but that's an encouraging sign clearly for Dixon there. She would face the Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer if she is the nominee. [20:55:04]

And we switch to that Senate race in Missouri. And you see purple on the map right now that is the Attorney General Eric Schmitt one of the two Eric's if you will. Donald Trump said he completely endorsed totally endorsed Eric. Is it Eric Schmitt or is it Eric Greitens? Eric Schmitt is leading right now with 40% of the vote. Eric Greitens running a distant third, the former governor. Again, this is only about 3% of the vote right now. VickyHartzler, Republican congresswoman is second at the moment. I just want to note Anderson, watch the map fill in. You see her support out here in the west central part of the state. That's her current congressional district. So Vicky Hartzler, not all of these counties, as you move further east, these are outside of our district, these counties right in here are Vicky Hartzler's congressional district. So not a surprise she's running strong there for a long way to go.

COOPER: John, do you know like every county in every state?

KING: Not everyone, but, you know, 3,000 plus, they're worth studying America is a great place.

COOPER: Yes, but I mean, the fact you remember all this is incredible to me. So Kansas voters weighing in on a proposed state constitutional amendment on abortion we talked about earlier in the program, any sense of how close that maybe?

KING: In some ways this might be the most interesting thing tonight, Democrats have a theory that because of the Supreme Court decision suburban Republicans will come home to Democrats this year, they don't want to support Republicans. So is that the case of the Democrats will come out of the woodwork to vote? No, if you want to change the Kansas constitution and allow the legislature to ban abortion, then you're voting yes. If you want to keep Kansas constitution in place right now, which guarantees at least a basic right to an abortion you vote no. No is leading at the moment.

Again only 8% of the voted, but that's a pretty big lead out of the minutes. So what is the turnout here? You heard me say earlier Anderson, the suburbs, Manhattan Topeka, Kansas City, Kansas, this is suburban parts right here in the state at the moment. Those who support abortion rights are leading in the state of Kansas a lot of votes to count.

COOPER: Yes. John King, appreciate it. Thanks.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: News continues. Let's hand over to Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Laura.