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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
National Archives: Trump Had 700-Plus Pages Of Classified Documents At Mar-a-Lago; Memorial For Daughter Of Putin Ally Killed In Car Bombing; Russia's Trail Of Suspicious Killings And Attempts On Dissidents; CNN Projects Rep. Charlie Crist Wins Florida Democratic Primary For Governor; Beto O'Rourke On His Race For Texas Governor; Federal Jury Convicts Two Men Of Conspiring To Kidnap Michigan Governor. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 23, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: That classification allows the State Department to actually negotiate for his release, like it's been doing for Americans, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
Fogel was sentenced to 14 years at a maximum-security prison for possessing less than an ounce of medical marijuana. Recently, Fogel's sister spoke to "OUTFRONT" and said she believes the US has something up its sleeve to get her brother out. We will see.
Thank you so much for joining us tonight. I'm Kate Bolduan.
AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. It's a very busy night.
The US Embassy in Ukraine is warning Americans to leave the country with fears growing of escalating Russian attacks in the wake of a car bombing outside Moscow that took the life of a daughter of a prominent Putin supporter.
Here at home, convictions in the attempted kidnapping of Michigan's Governor and major developments in the Mar-a-Lago documents story.
First, though we begin tonight with breaking news out of Florida where primary day is over and the polls have just closed.
CNN can now project two key races for the Democratic nomination for Governor. CNN projects the winner is Congressman and former Republican Governor Charlie Crist and in the race to oppose Senator Marco Rubio in the fall, CNN projects the Democratic nominee is Congresswoman Val Demings.
More on the primaries there and in New York shortly, but first the documents. We know a lot more tonight about the classified material the former President was keeping at Mar-a-Lago, including how much of it there was, more than 700-pages, how the former President tried to hang on to it for months, and have very sensitive some of the information in it was, more sensitive than previously reported, bearing a designation limiting access to only a select few officials.
Now, the reason we know this information is because of a move by one of the former President's allies and a liaison to the National Archive, a move that the ally built is bolstering the former President's case against the FBI's search, but he may have done the precise opposite and then some.
Here is how the man, John Solomon, framed talking to Congressman Jim Jordan last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN SOLOMON, TRUMP REPRESENTATIVE TO THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES: We have new evidence. Just the News has obtained correspondence between various parties during the lead up to the raid showing that the Biden White House, that's right, the Biden -- Joe Biden's White House, the one that said they had nothing to do with is, they were deeply involved in the early instigation of the criminal probe against President Trump, including clearing the way for the President Trump's claim of executive privilege to be eviscerated, basically getting rid of his executive privilege before he can contest it.
This is important stuff. This is a letter that the National Archives sent to President Trump's lawyers on May 10th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, John Solomon made the letter from acting Archivist, Debra Wall public and when he did, the first question many asked was: Why?
CNN political analyst and "New York Times" Washington correspondent Maggie Haberman tweeted: "Confusing to assess how this helps Trump." She later elaborated with this, "Biggest takeaway is Trump team has confirmed the former President had high-level sensitive and restricted material at his home for many months before allowing Archives access to it."
Now, the letter dated May 10th, which the National Archives subsequently confirmed by releasing also gives lie to Mr. Solomon's contention about President Biden's role in determining whether executive privilege applied.
Quoting from it now: "President Biden defers to my determination in consultation with the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel regarding whether or not I should uphold the former President's purported protective assertion of executive privilege."
As Wall goes on to cite legal precedent, concluding: "The question in this case is not a close one." The letter also fails to show as John Solomon claims that President Trump had anything to do with the search. What it does say is that the former President had more than 700 pages of classified material at his Florida resort and that some pertain to Special Access Programs, which are created when sharing certain information beyond the very highest levels could increase the risk of it getting out and damaging national security. So that is something we did not know when the search warrant receipt
came out, and would not have known, at least not at this point, had this guy, John Solomon not done what he did. All of which comes at the end of the day, that also saw the Judge handling the former President's motion that the document review be halted and a Special Master be appointed to review them cast a skeptical eye on the case.
The Judge whom the former President appointed, telling his attorney she wants answers by Friday to some very basic questions, namely: What precisely are they asking for? How is it that she has jurisdiction? And why can't this be handled by the Magistrate Judge who has been dealing with the case so far?
So, we begin with more of the letter, CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us with that.
So, we now know there are more than a hundred classified documents, it's 700 pages. That's a number we hadn't heard before.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's not, Anderson.
So, we're seeing just how voluminous it was and this is from what they collected in January, not what they just got with this search warrant, which was even more. And what we're also learning is really how the archives tried to work with Trump's legal team.
We see in this letter, you know, they carefully considered his claims of executive privilege, and you know, they ultimately decided he couldn't claim privilege, but they did delay handing over these 700 pages of classified documents, delayed it handing over to the FBI and Intelligence Communities for one month.
Even though it says in this letter, these agencies needed to do a damage assessment to determine if Trump's continued possession of these at his private club where they weren't properly secured, whether it endangered national security.
So, even though it was John Solomon, arguably a Trump proponent who first published the letter, the Archives were then kind of forced to put it out earlier today. It really does show how the Archives tried to work with the former President's legal team to let them make their argument, but ultimately had to release to the FBI for this damage assessment.
COOPER: And just in terms of the backstory, can you explain how this was originally posted on a website run by John Solomon, who is the writer who is also serving as a Trump designee to the National Archives?
SCHNEIDER: Right. So, he put it out on his website. It's called Just the News; it was last night. You know, he said that he got it through old fashioned reporting, but presumably, you know, this could have been part of Team Trump's larger strategy. We've seen how they've been leaking out information they think is helpful to rile up their base, even though as I've noted, it really does show how deferential the Archives were to Trump's claims, and they tried to work with his attorneys, but we've seen similar leaks like this.
We saw it recently with the search warrant release. Trump's team put it out there to Breitbart, a conservative outlet just before the Court officially did. So Trump's team it seems to be trying to get this out to maybe their allies first.
COOPER: How did the Justice Department react when the National Archives first notified them early this year of the large volume of classified information retrieved from Mar-a-Lago?
SCHNEIDER: So, that is really interesting, because our team is reporting that actually DOJ initially balked at this, balked at opening a criminal investigation into these classified documents because they knew that any investigation would be viewed as political, something that we're seeing from Trump's team.
But as we're seeing in this letter here, these documents, especially initially, 700 classified documents, it was just too voluminous and there were very high levels of classification that the DOJ really had no choice here but to open this criminal investigation that, as we've reported out, is still ongoing and potentially even continues to expand here.
COOPER: Jessica Schneider, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.
CNN legal analyst, former Federal prosecutor, Elie Honig joins us now.
I mean, this letter, Elie is still a little confusing if you haven't been following all the ins and outs. How big a deal is it?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is really important, Anderson, because it shows that Donald Trump and his team knew, it shows some of the most important things that they knew, most importantly, that they were in possession of large amounts of highly classified information.
So, this letter was sent back in May, three months ago, before Mar-a- Lago was ever searched and in it, National Archives says to Trump's team, okay, you gave us 15 boxes of documents. We've now gone through them and found 700 pages of classified information. That is, if we stacked it up on this table, that would be this high or so. There is no accident here. This isn't a couple of stray pages. This is reams of documents.
And in this letter, Archive says because these are so highly classified, the highest level of classification, we have to now give them to the FBI, because FBI has to do damage control. And even still, Trump's team A: Refused to turn over more documents and B: Said, please don't do that. Please don't even send them over to the FBI.
COOPER: So this -- I mean, it is essentially showing that the National Archives did due diligence.
HONIG: Yes, and one of the main arguments we've been hearing from Trump's team is, well, it was too precipitous. It was too sudden when you did the search warrant two weeks ago.
Well, this gives us a timeline, and it shows that the Archives first tried to do this the easy way. They negotiated. They took the documents. They said, "Hey, here's what we found, we need the rest." When that didn't work, DOJ got involved, they served a subpoena. That's the easy way. That's a piece of paper that says, "Hey, please give us the rest."
Trump's team still didn't do it, and only then to DOJ get the search warrant.
COOPER: So, it sort of gives a lot to what the some of the former President's supporters were saying, which is, well, you know, the folks in Mar-a-Lago, the former President was cooperating all along.
HONIG: Yes, I would put cooperating in scare quotes. They are going through the motions, but really what this letter makes clear is they're delaying. They keep on delaying. This letter actually has a sort of impatient tone. The Archive says, listen, we've been as patient as we can with you, we've given you a chance to lodge your legal objections. You're not getting back to us. You just keep saying executive privilege. We, the Biden administration, don't buy your executive privilege argument, and we're sick of waiting.
COOPER: Elie Honig, appreciate it. Thank you.
Shortly before airtime, I talked about the news with former Republican Congressman Mick Mulvaney, who served as acting White House Chief of Staff in the previous administration.
COOPER: Congressman Mulvaney, thanks for joining us. It's been a couple of weeks since you and I talked. In this time, has anything become clearer to you about why the former President would have had 700 pages of classified material, some of it more classified than we'd even realized?
MICK MULVANEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No, in fact, I think things are probably just murkier now than they were the last time we talked.
The volume of the documents done doesn't necessarily concern me, Anderson. A lot of documents, when you work at a White House are confidential or classified at some level; some, at the lowest levels.
In fact, I can show you documents and you go, why is that confidential? Why is that classified?
But what gets my attention are these documents that we understand have been labeled as TS-SCI, which has the very highest level of top-secret information, also stuff that's SAP or Special Access Programs. That's the really, really intense stuff. That's the stuff that you have to sign paperwork on to see, people are supposed to be tracking the custody of those documents.
It is really, really easy to accidentally take a bunch of confidential documents. It is really, really hard to accidentally take someone's SAP and that is what I've sort of learned in the last couple of days. I don't know if that makes it more clear or more murky, but it is certainly new information.
COOPER: Between the Court filing for the Special Master to review the documents seized in Mar-a-Lago and the release of the letter from the National Archives. The foreign President's allies had now put out two documents that reveal new information, as I've mentioned before, that do contradict explanations previously put out by either him or his attorneys or his allies, for example, that they were cooperating fully with the investigation, and that he had declassified all these documents or the documents were planted by Federal agents and so on.
Do you see a coherent legal strategy at play here? I mean, even his filing for a Special Master, a lot of people looked -- legal mind looked at those documents and said, well, this is more of a political document than it is an actual legal filing.
MULVANEY: Well, the Special Master makes some sense. Keep in mind, the President has a tough relationship with the FBI. This is the same FBI that he believes and many Republicans believe that lied about him to the FISA Court back during the 2016 campaign. And certainly, it is established that the FBI gave false information, whether or not they intentionally lied, we will probably never know.
So, it doesn't surprise me that the President sort of have as a challenged relationship with the FBI. If the FBI had lied about me in the past, I'd be concerned about that as well.
But you mentioned the claim of privilege, and excuse me -- of declassification. That's never made any sense to me. I don't remember that ever being even discussed when I was in the White House and it would be stunning to me that anybody really thought that they could just sort of wave a magic wand on the way out the door and declassify stuff. It makes me wonder, again, the type of legal advice the President was getting as he left the White House.
So you're right, we're learning a little bit, but when we do learn stuff, it makes some of the arguments the President has made look a little bit weaker. Some of the stuff makes sense to me.
It is going to be a very confusing couple of weeks. It is going to be made more so, I think, Anderson on Thursday, when the Judge rules on the release of the affidavit. This is going to be something I think that drags out for a long time.
COOPER: And politically, I mean, obviously, look, we've seen a lot of folks rallying around the former President in the wake of the search at Mar-a-Lago, the General Elections obviously just under three months away.
How do you think this investigation -- what kind of impact do you think it has? MULVANEY: I think it helps him. I do. Listen, I'm critical of the
FBI. I think you've had folks on your show, or at least on your network, who sort of leaned left who have been critical of the FBI who said this is really just about documents and that it is an outrage.
To go into a former President's home, there better be you know, a dead body in there or a smoking gun or something. Yes, SCI documents are important, but did they justify a search warrant versus a subpoena? I don't know. That's a real challenging case for the FBI to make.
So, I think the President has managed to earn some sympathy here in the last two weeks, not only from folks who might run against him in 2024, folks who have been critical, for example of his performance on January 6th, like myself, Tulsi Gabbard is a Democrat who ran for President, has come to the President's defense on this.
Again, there have been left-leaning analysts who have said the FBI had overreach here. So, it's been a strange sort of political process related to this.
COOPER: I should point out, though, as you well know, I mean, the head of the FBI, Chris Wray was appointed by former President Trump and know, some of the Congress people who have come out, Rick Scott, who has come out, Senator Rick Scott calling -- referring the FBI, as you know, Gestapo is pretty stunning. It's not really necessarily fair-minded criticism, is it?
MULVANEY: Well, you know, yes, I didn't realize that about Senator Scott. I like Senator Scott. I have a lot of respect for him. But to call anybody the Gestapo in this country is probably over the line, but certainly it is fair to criticize the FBI in this circumstance, or at least to put them under a great deal of scrutiny.
I think you have to agree, Anderson, this is unprecedented to go with a former President's home under a search warrant. You know, we all say that everybody is the same under the law. And you agree with that, and I agree with that. But I also think we say, look, before we cross that Rubicon, before we make that precedent of sending law enforcement into a former President's home, it better be a really, really high bar to meet. It can't be just about documents that you could get today or you could get tomorrow or you can get next week.
A search warrant into a President's home is a big deal and I think it's incumbent upon the FBI now to prove why they thought it was so important for them to be able to go into that residence.
COOPER: Yes. Mick Mulvaney, appreciate your time. Thank you.
MULVANEY: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: In case you hadn't heard, I just want to remind our viewers exactly what Senator Rick Scott -- because I want to make sure I got it right. Senator Rick Scott said about the FBI search, he said: "This should
scare the living daylights out of American citizens. The way our Federal government has gone is like what we've thought about the Gestapo and people like that, that they just go after people where we thought about the Soviet Union, where we look at in Latin America, we've got to say to ourselves, this cannot be our country."
Much more ahead tonight including a report from Moscow where services were held for the Kremlin apologist and TV commentator, Darya Dugina, as the claims and counterclaims over who is responsible for her murder and fears grow in Ukraine in new Russian attacks.
Later, more on primary night now that we can project who will be taking on Florida's Governor and Republican rising star, Ron DeSantis.
COOPER: The US Embassy in Kyiv is warning American citizens to leave the country citing concerns that Russia is planning new strikes on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure and government facilities.
Now, the warning comes in the wake of a car bomb killing of a Putin ally's daughter, herself a TV commentator outside Moscow.
Russia is blaming Ukrainian Special Services for the killing of Darya Dugina. Ukraine denies any involvement. There is no way yet to independently assess either claim, but the immediate focus is on Vladimir Putin's next move.
Quoting now from the embassy bulletin: "The security situation throughout Ukraine is highly volatile and conditions may deteriorate without warning."
CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow for us tonight.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As Darya Dugina's body lay in an open casket, among the mourners, grief, sorrow, but also massive anger and a thirst for revenge.
Dugina's father, the hardline pro-Kremlin ideologue, Alexander Dugin emotional, openly calling for a massive escalation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
(ALEXANDER DUGIN speaking foreign language.)
PLEITGEN (voice over): "The price we have to pay can be justified by only one thing, the highest achievement -- victory," he said. "She lived in the name of victory and she died in the name of victory, our Russian victory, our truth, our orthodoxy, our country and our empire."
Some going even further than that, demanding an all-out war.
(NIKITA MONCHENKO speaking in foreign language.)
PLEITGEN (voice over): "Maybe this event in the capital will help convey the message to our government that we have to stop playing around with 'special military operations,' and that it is time to start a war, a serious war with first and foremost spiritual mobilization," a friend of Darya Dugina said.
After Darya Dugina was killed when her car exploded and crashed on a Moscow highway, it took the Russian Intelligence Agency only about a day to blame Ukraine, releasing video what they claim is a Ukrainian Special Services operative who allegedly infiltrated Russia, killed Dugina and then fled to a neighboring country.
Those claims cannot be independently verified by CNN and Ukraine's President reiterating Kyiv was not behind the killing.
(PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY speaking in foreign language.)
PLEITGEN (voice over): "This is not our responsibility," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. "She is not a citizen of our country. We are not interested in her. She is not in the territory of Ukraine, occupied or not."
But Russia's allegations come as the war in Ukraine has seemingly reached a brutal stalemate with heavy losses, but few territorial gains for either side.
Another firebrand pro-Kremlin commentator at the memorial, calling for tougher action against Ukraine and lashing out at the US for supporting Kyiv.
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking foreign language.)
PLEITGEN (voice over): "Americans at the head of NATO brought this up in Ukraine very cynically turning Ukraine into anti-Russia. Americans don't care at all about Ukraine. They're only interested in their own future. Ukraine is expendable for them in a war with Russia that they are preparing."
COOPER: Fred, how powerful are the people now calling for an escalation of the invasion?
PLEITGEN: Well, you know, it is quite interesting because if you speak to ordinary Russians, the vast majority of them, Anderson, they'll never have heard of Darya Dugina before or her father, Alexander Dugin, despite the fact that he is obviously someone who is so well-known in the inner circles of Russian politics.
But today at that memorial event, there were a lot of prominent Russians who were there and there was a Telegram that was read by Vladimir Putin and one that was read by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. So, in the upper echelons of Russian politics and the upper echelons
of Russian state-controlled media, those calls for being even tougher on Ukraine, hitting Ukraine even harder, taking even more territory away from Ukraine, those voices are getting louder.
It is difficult to say whether or not that is something that will translate into more brutality on the battlefield, but it is certainly something that's not out of the question -- Anderson.
COOPER: Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it. Thanks from Moscow.
Again, the question: Who killed Darya Dugina at best, unanswerable at this point. That said, Russia's long and deadly track record when it comes to politically motivated killings is pretty clear.
Randi Kaye tonight takes a look at that.
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): All it took was a cup of tea to dispose of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. The outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin died after drinking poisonous tea at a London hotel. It was laced with radioactive polonium 210 which is tasteless and odorless. He suffered for three weeks before dying.
Litvinenko blamed Putin in a deathbed letter read to the media addressed the Russian President directly.
ALEX GOLDFARB, ALEXANDER LITVINENKO'S FRIEND: No respect for life, liberty, or any civilized value. You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office.
KAYE (voice over): A British inquiry found Russian agents administered the fatal poison. The Kremlin has consistently denied any involvement in Litvinenko's death.
(ALEXEI NAVALNY speaking in foreign language.)
KAYE (voice over): Alexei Navalny, another Putin critic, nearly suffered the same fate years after speaking at this protest against Vladimir Putin.
In August of 2020, Navalny was poisoned and nearly killed, allegedly by Kremlin agents using the nerve agent, novichok. He fell ill on an airplane, as he explained to CNN's Clarissa Ward.
ALEXEI NAVALNY, PUTIN CRITIC: I turned over to the flight attendant and said him, "I was poisoned. I'm going to die."
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You knew in that moment that you've been poisoned.
KAYE (voice over): Remarkably, he survived.
An exclusive investigation revealed later, chemical weapons experts who work for the FSB, which succeeded the KGB had been tracking Navalny for years.
WARD: Is it your contention that Vladimir Putin must have been aware of this?
NAVALNY: Of course, 100 percent. It could have not happened without direct order of Putin because it is a big scale.
KAYE (voice over): The Kremlin denies involvement in the poisoning and Russian officials have declined to open a criminal investigation.
Navalny was arrested in Russia after returning from Germany in January this year, and has been locked away ever since on what he calls politically motivated charges of fraud and contempt of court.
(ANNA POLITKOVSKAYA speaking in foreign language.)
KAYE (voice over): Russian investigative journalist, Anna Politkovskaya may have been targeted, too. Her book, "Putin's Russia" had accused Vladimir Putin of turning Russia into a police state.
In 2006, she was shot at point blank range inside her apartment building. Putin denied the Kremlin was involved and five men were convicted of her murder.
A Judge found it was a contract killing, but the person who paid the men was never identified.
Years later, in 2015, the assassination of Russian politician, Boris Nemtsov rattled the country. He was an outspoken critic of Putin's involvement in the war in Ukraine's Donbas region. Nemtsov spoke with Anthony Bourdain, shortly before he was killed.
BORIS NEMTSOV, PUTIN CRITIC: I'm well-known guy. And this is a safety, because if something happened with me, it will be a scandal not only in Moscow City, but throughout the world.
KAYE (voice over): Still, Nemtsov was gunned down near the Kremlin. He was shot four times in the back. Putin took over the investigation into Nemtsov's murder, but the killer has yet to be identified.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach County, Florida.
COOPER: Coming up tonight, a look at another critical primary night. As we indicated earlier, polls are now closed in Florida where CNN is projecting Congressman Charlie Crist has won his bid to go head-to- head in the Governor's race with Ron DeSantis in November.
We're also watching the races in New York where polls are set to close in just minutes.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: We are watching key primary races tonight in New York and Florida. As we mentioned the top the broadcast polls are now closed across Florida where CNN projects Congressman Charlie Crist won against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried or Fried in a heated dry (ph) race to see -- Fried, excuse me, I read for the first time, who will challenge Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. CNN also projects that Congresswoman Val Demings won the Democratic nomination in the State Senate primary and will face off against Marco Rubio.
In just minutes, polls will close in New York, where a messy redistricting process and only push back its congressional primaries. It's also pitted Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney against Congressman Jerry Nadler.
Joining us now CNN senior political analyst Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN chief national affairs analyst Kasie Hunt, and CNN political director, David Chialian.
So, Charlie Crist projected to win. What does that mean, just in terms of Ron DeSantis, and his possible presidential campaign?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean, Ron DeSantis enters this reelection effort as the favorite I would say. I mean, Florida is really trended to be a red state. He's got a massive war chest of north of $100 million. And he's pretty popular in his home state. You know, when DeSantis barely won four years ago, it was actually a big Democratic year, and this year looks a little more friendly to Republicans.
So, I think it's an uphill battle for Charlie Crist, but to your point about him being a presidential prospect, there is no bigger name in Republican politics, not named Trump right now then Ron DeSantis. And so, Charlie Crist that was going to have sort of the whole Democratic Party focused on him to figure out how do you run against this guy that may be the 2024 Republican nominee.
COOPER: Charlie Crist may have an advantage because he's been a Republican and a Democrat. He's a Republican governor in fact, back in 2006.
KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, you're right. And it's funny the first time I ever covered Charlie Crist, he was lounging out by the pool and Palm Beach, Florida, Delray Beach, Florida at the at wrought with Romney's team at the 2012 debates. And then of course, the next year, he soon showed up at the capitol as a Democrat. It's kind of an interesting, strange place to be. But I suppose the reality with Florida trending the way that it is, it may not actually be a bad thing, necessarily. I mean, I think he, at least, you know, Democrats in this primary seem to have picked electability or their perception of electability over Nikki Fried and her sort of more progressive attitudes.
So who knows? I mean, our politics, stranger things have happened in our policy (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: Yes, because I mean, Charlie Crist has made statements in the past about being pro life. He's appointed very conservative justices to the Florida Supreme Court, obviously --
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's been on all sides of all these issues. He's got all the bases covered up there. He also doesn't have a very good record recently, and statewide races. He's won -- he's run twice and lost twice. You know, I think he's emergence is a sign of a real sort of weak Democratic Party in Florida and a weak Democratic bench. And the fact that, you know, they're going to Charlie Crist, when I saw these runners like, wait, is this the past that he's running before? Is this he's running again?
So we'll see what he's able to do in this race. But I think Ron DeSantis goes into this with a head of steam. Its approval ratings are, you know, above 50%. And he's got a real grip on that state, and he's obviously trying to take this victory and propel him into a place in 2024.
You know, you say that Democrats are looking at Charlie Crist and hoping that he can do well against Ron DeSantis. Donald Trump probably also looking at Charlie Crist, and hoping that he can maybe eliminate (INAUDIBLE) --
COOPER: Does the idea that Ron DeSantis might run precedent for 2024? Does that hurt his chances of getting reelected as governor role?
CHALIAN: Well, you know, Bill Clinton always has this expression, don't look ahead to the next race, focus on the one that's right in front of you. And I think Ron DeSantis will keep those words, he knows -- he's got to perform well, in this reelect, if he falters in some way that has a devastating effect on his presidential prospects, but he's out there testing the national waters as well. And now he's going to be his opportunity to sort of prove to the donor class and the grassroots that he can execute on this reelect and that that translates to 2024.
COOPER: Is Florida, solidly red?
HUNT: Look, I think it's moving. I think we have to be careful about making any blanket assumptions in the environment in which we live. But the reality is our partisan divisions are getting deeper. And Florida has been, you know, trending in a way that, you know, I see it, I don't think it's going to become a place where Democrats can reliably win anytime in the near future. It doesn't necessarily prevent a surprise here or there. But I think in a strong Republican year, like this one with Democratic incumbent in the White House who's, you know, got low popularity numbers, it's hard to see it being anything other than that.
COOPER: Because when was it -- who was it, it was a Gillum --
COOPER: -- who ran against DeSantis. It came pretty close.
HENDERSON: Yes, 32,000 vote margin, so much money and attention on that race. The polls seem to suggest that Andrew Gillum would actually win that race. He obviously didn't. And you see something different this go round, not as much money, not as much attention, not as much hope in this race among Democrats. You know, the idea of whether or not it's red or not, Democrats sort of think it's much rarer than maybe you're willing to say on this panel, and they are sort of showing that by not investing in races --
HUNT: Well and DeSantis --
HENDERSON: -- (INAUDIBLE) in Florida.
HUNT: DeSantis has become a much different figure in the time that he's been Florida governor. He's become nationally known. He's picked fights with Walt Disney, he's become a celebrity on Fox News. You know, when he was first became the Republican nominee for governor. Everyone honestly was a little bit confused about this House member who's came seemingly out of nowhere. People weren't terribly confident that, frankly, he could win and he did almost lose when he first ran for governor.
I just think the landscape is so much different for him now that it's not quite a straight comparison.
COOPER: You also have the redistricting playing role. I noted DeSantis involved in redistricting down in Florida, but also in New York is now putting Maloney against Jerry Nadler.
CHALIAN: He's liberal lions of New York City Democratic politics for 30 years, they've been serving in the House together. And now due to the quirks of redistricting, they have found themselves put in the same district and are battling out this political deathmatch, it's gotten real nasty, one of them will be out of a job, perhaps both or as a third candidate in the race. We'll see as the results come in.
Jerry Nadler has the New York Times endorsement, the endorsement from Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, we'll see if those get him across the finish line here in this race. But this is not how either one of those members of Congress was looking to leave Congress.
COOPER: Yes. David Chalian, thanks so much. Kasie Hunt, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you.
I know it'll be on CNN through the night. We'll be watching.
Still ahead, I'll speak with Democratic nominee for Texas governor Beto O'Rourke, what tonight's primary elections could mean for the future, and also his new book on voting rights.
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COOPER: As we mentioned CNN projects Congressman Charlie Crist has won the Democratic primary for Florida Governor. He'll now challenge Ron DeSantis, the current governor and potential presidential contender.
My next guest is running to become the next Governor of Texas were obviously immigration policy voting rights abortion are among some of the top issues. Joining me now is former Texas Congressman, former presidential candidate and now the Democratic nominee for Governor Beto O'Rourke. His new book, We've Got To Try How The Fight For Voting Rights Makes Everything Else Possible is on sale now.
Congressman, I appreciate you being with us. I want to talk about the book and you're running Texas. I do want to ask you though about the race in Florida for Charlie Crist to challenge Ron DeSantis for Governor there. DeSantis clearly has presidential ambitions. What do you think of him as a leader and a possible presidential candidate?
BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX) GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I believe this one to the people of Florida. I knew Governor DeSantis really at a distance we were both elected to Congress in the same year 2012 didn't really see much of each other on the floor of the House and just been watching him now again at a distance here from Texas. But for us in this state, it is all Texas all the time. So wish the people Florida the best, but we are running the race of our lives in what I think is the most consequential election in America in 2022.
As you know, Anderson, we have a total ban on abortion beginning at conception, with no exception for rape or incest, that goes into effect this week in a state that has the highest level of maternal mortality in the country three times as deadly for black women. That's on top of 13 weeks since the school shooting in Uvalde with nothing change (INAUDIBLE). We need some change.
COOPER: I want to ask you about abortion. You mentioned Uvalde, we've been trying to get answers, and I know families in Uvalde are desperate for answers about what really happened with the police response. Do you have any faith in the investigations that are now ongoing, that those families will get the truth?
O'ROURKE: It sure looks like a cover up from the governor who has you know, Greg Abbott, the day after that shooting, said to the families it could have been worse, right --
COOPER: He says he was misinformed, essentially by someone who wasn't actually there. And he feels misled. And he's outraged by that. But he hasn't been out in front and talking about this stuff anymore.
O'ROURKE: That's right. And he hasn't told us exactly who misled him. What the role of the state troopers, the Department of Public Safety was. Turns out there were more than 100 armed officers on the scene by the end of that waiting more than 70 minutes on the other side of an unlocked door. And you're absolutely right. Those families who I'm in constant contact with want answers. They want justice and they also want action so that no other family has to experience the grief and the loss that they're living through right now.
Thirteen weeks and counting, we've seen nothing from Greg Abbott. This is clear to all of us in Texas. We need change. If we're going to expect anything different going forward.
COOPER: on abortion obviously, it may be different this time but that has not been, you know, in exit polls when voters at any race are asked about what they're the issues they're voting on abortion has not been at the top of that list. Do you think that is different this time in Texas?
O'ROURKE: I know it is and it probably wasn't on anyone's list going into Kansas right, where you saw near presidential election turnout levels for a referendum in the middle of the summer, a 60-40 victory for reproductive freedom in that state. And that's one where Donald Trump won by more than he did here in Texas, where it is now completely outlawed with no exception for rape or incest. I see this Anderson on the ground and not just in the obvious places like Dallas or Austin or Houston or here in El Paso. I see it in places like Madisonville and Greenville and Quanah and Dumas. I see it all over the state of Texas. This is an issue that transcends partisanship, geography, anything else. And as you probably know, it was Texas women who want protection for this right back in 1973. Jane Roe, Sarah Weddington, Linda Coffee, that those three women prevailed upon an all male United States Supreme Court to win Roe vs. Wade.
I think or effect in fact, I know it's going to be Texas women again in 2022. They'll win protection for this right back. We have our own referendum in Texas. It's the governor's race.
COOPER: We -- your book is called We Got To Try. You're highlighting fighting -- a fight for voting rights across generations in Texas. Where do you rank access to voting in terms of problems facing America right now? We are seeing not only legislatively, but at the, you know, at the ballot box, we see election deniers running in some states in order to actually run the elections in those states or communities.
O'ROURKE: This is our moment of truth, you know, 246 years into this experiment that defies the rule of human history is totally exceptional might as Lincoln warned us perish from this earth the last great hope, unless we fight to get it back. This book tells a story of people who've done that, in our history, right in Texas. Lawrence Nixon, who rose up against the white primary law that forbade African- Americans from voting in our elections from 1923 to 1944. To signal United States Supreme Court victories, won that integration along with others, including Lonnie Smith at Houston and set the ground for LBJ to sign the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
So, we've been up against tougher odds, and we've overcome them before. Not only is this possible, we've done it. Now we've got to do it again. But it's going to take everything from all of us. All we've got with what we have where we are. That's what this moment calls for. And I see that happening all across Texas, and certainly in these stories that I tell in we've got to try. COOPER: You write about Texas elections bill passed into law last year, it was known as Senate Bill 1. You write, the goal of this bill wasn't to ensure election integrity. The goal was to finish what had been started on January 6.
Just to be clear, Governor Abbott has said the bill bolsters, trust and confidence in Texas elections and makes it harder for fraudulent votes to be cast. So what do you mean exactly?
O'ROURKE: In March of this year, 13% of the mail-in ballots cast in Texas, were rejected. If you were to report to your viewers tonight that there was an election in Venezuela, and 13% of the ballots cast were rejected. We'd say, well, that checks out. It's not a real democracy. For that to happen in Texas for a 95-year-old World War II veteran to be one of those whose ballots was rejected tells you everything you need to know about the state of democracy in Texas today.
I'd love for the Department of Justice to come in ride to the rescue, or for the House and the Senate to pass Federal Voting rights protections to shore up the Voting Rights Act. But we can't hold our breath. This one is on us here in Texas and the signals out to everybody across the state to step up, join this campaign, knock on doors and reach the voters targeted for suppression and intimidation and make them the margin of victory on the night of November 8. We've got to win this to save our democracy.
COOPER: Beto O'Rourke, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you. Again, the --
O'ROURKE: Thank you.
COOPER: -- new book is called We Got To Try How The Fight For Voting Rights Makes Everything Else Possible.
Coming up, a jury decision the federal case against two men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the implications it has in the government's fight against potential acts of domestic terrorism, next.
COOPER: Federal Judge today found two men guilty of conspiring to kidnap democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Both men face a maximum of life in prison. Governor Whitmer said the verdict proves that quote, violence and threats have no place in our politics. It also represents another victory for the federal government's attempts to fight domestic terrorism.
CNN's Jean Casarez has details on the verdict.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two men convicted of conspiracies to use a weapon of mass destruction and kidnap the governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer, now facing the possibility of life in prison.
ANDREW BIRGE, FMR U.S. ATTORNEY, WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN: The verdict confirms that this plot was very serious, very dangerous.
CASAREZ (voice-over): Prosecutors say in the summer of 2020, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. went to the governor's vacation home with coconspirators to plan an attack. A witness testified one idea was to kidnap Whitmer and put her adrift on a boat in Lake Michigan. Another idea was to try her for treason.
DAVID PORTER, ASST. SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI DETROIT: The defendants in this case believe that their anti-government views justified violence. Today's verdict is a clear example, that they were wrong in that assessment.
CASAREZ (voice-over): Adam Fox who prosecutors say was the ringleader bought a taser and ordered $4,000 of explosives from an undercover FBI agent. Prosecutors say the two were part of a group training and combat tactics, practicing assaulting cars with rifles and live ammo, detonating bombs and trying to recruit others. You can't just strap on an AR-15 and body armor and go snatch the governor. You can't snatch anybody and you certainly can't make bombs that are meant to maim and kill people. A prosecutor said during closing arguments.
An FBI informant known as Big Dan was a key witness. He said he was with the two men when they conducted surveillance at the governor's summer home. Prosecutors say they plotted to blow up a bridge to make it harder for law enforcement to respond to the kidnapping.
BIRGE: No Governor, no public officials should have to contend with what Governor Whitmer contended with here.
CASAREZ (voice-over): But the defense argued entrapment, saying Croft didn't actually agree to the kidnapping and was being targeted for his extreme anti-government views. They like to lock him up in a cage, not because he committed this crime, but because they're afraid of the things that have come out of his mouth, Croft's lawyer said. Adam Fox's attorney told the jury, he talked a big game, but talk is just talk. Adam Fox took no affirmative steps to achieve the ends.
And earlier trial ended in a hung jury. But this time the jurors didn't buy it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't the outcome we wanted, right. But there's more work to be done.
CASAREZ (voice-over): In 2020. Governor Whitmer blamed incendiary political rhetoric for giving groups like these a green light for violence.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D) MICHIGAN: Stand back and stand by. Hate groups heard the President's words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry as a call to action.
CASAREZ (voice-over): Whitmer saying in the statement after the verdict, those who seek to divide us will be held accountable. Plots against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism.
CASAREZ: So this was a retrial Anderson. And it was a fast verdict. I mean, they just started deliberating yesterday, and it was much shorter trial. The defense says that they're going to appeal of course, but it was a different jury, which is fascinating. And the defense says that there's an issue with the jury and they can't comment on it because it is sealed with the court. But I heard the judge today in court because we're able to listen, he invited the defense to make a motion to unseal what this issue is, So we don't know if it's significant, not significant, but it definitely will be an issue on appeal.
COOPER: All right, we're watching. Jean Casarez, appreciate it. Thank you so much. We'll be right back.
COOPER: That's for us. The news continues. Want to hand over Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Laura.