Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Michigan Secretary Of State On Security Plans For Election Day 2022; Washington Post: Material On Foreign Nation's Nuclear Capabilities Seized At Trump's Mar-A-Lago Estate; Bitter Battle Between Trump, Biden Redefines The Fall Elections; Memphis Police Identify Body Of Abducted Jogger, Suspect Will Be Charged With Her Murder; Uvalde Students Return To School After Robb Elementary Shooting. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 06, 2022 - 20:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to be there for the long term. We've got to be there for three or four months minimum in order to save lives.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): But for these people, mere survival is a daily struggle, and these clear blue skies aren't expected to last long. More devastating, monsoon rains are days away to further terrorizing a traumatized country.

Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us.

AC 360 starts now.



There is new video tonight from the attempt to overturn the 2020 election that could foretell trouble this fall and potentially in 2024.

With exactly two months to go until the midterm elections, it is sobering to think that 2020 still has so much to say.

Here is the new video. It shows a Republican County official in Georgia who was also a fake presidential elector at the time escorting a team of operatives into the Coffee County Elections Office, and these operatives were working for one of the former President's attorneys, Sidney Powell, the one who talked about releasing the Kraken.

This video was taken the same day that a voting system there was in some way breached. CNN's Drew Griffin joins us shortly with more on that, including some revealing audio.

But for now, it is enough to say that the facts of Drew's story suggests this was part of a larger, coordinated plan to subvert the election, and this isn't just about some threat that has come and gone. When it comes to election subversion, the past is never dead, as William Faulkner wrote, it's not even past. And worse, the signs right now point to it being prologue, Shakespeare.

Nevada Republicans have nominated an election denier for Secretary of State, now also in Arizona and Michigan, people who would actually oversee the 2024 election in those States.

Now, the Republican nominee in at least 21 of this year's Governor races is someone who has rejected, declined to affirm, raised doubts about or try to overturn the 2020 election. The former top of the ticket can't seem to quit it either. This is him on Saturday.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was corruption and election interference on a scale that we have never seen before in our country.

The 2020 election was rigged and stolen and now our country is being destroyed by people who got into office through cheating and through fraud.


COOPER: For another chance in two years, suggesting repeatedly now that the 2020 election should be rerun or demanding to be declared the winner, as if that is a thing, which it is not.

Now, the former President may not be held responsible in any way for January 6th, but today a Federal Judge in New Mexico decided to hold one elected official there accountable, removing this guy, a January 6th rioter and a founder of the group Cowboys for Trump from his elected position as County Commissioner.

Now, he did so under the 14th Amendment's provision barring insurrectionists from public office. It is believed to be the first time this has happened since 1869, which is remarkable enough, but in order to do what he did, Judge Francis Mathew had to rule that the January 6th attack was in fact an insurrection. And that too, is a first.

In a moment, we'll be joined by Michigan Secretary of State, but first more on the new surveillance video from the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia and what occurred. CNN's Drew Griffin uncovered when he began digging into the story behind it. He joins us now. What more can you tell us about the video -- Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson you've covered some of it but the surveillance video shows this elections office in Georgia, just one of the states where these breaches of voting machines are under investigation.

Cathy Latham, she is the woman there in blue. She used to be chairwoman of the Coffee County GOP already under investigation, this woman is, for posing as a fake elector signing one of those documents that declared Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election.

She is seen escorting a team of these pro-Trump operatives into this office where we know that these machines were breached. You know, they were opened up, their software basically scanned or robbed you might say, this is the election software system. That's what they were after.

One of those people is Paul Maggio. He's the IT specialist whose company was hired by Trump attorney, Sidney Powell. Now, how do we know they were breached? Well, this guy, Scott Hall actually admits to it in audio obtained by CNN -- that's Scott Hall there -- listen to this audio.


SCOTT HALL, ATLANTA BAIL BONDSMAN AND FULTON COUNTY REPUBLICAN POLL WATCHER: I'm the guy that chartered the jet to go down to Coffee County to have them inspect all of those computers and I've heard zero, okay? I went down there, we scanned every freaking ballot and they scanned all the equipment, imaged all the hard drives and scanned every single ballot.


GRIFFIN: That's basically what they did, Anderson.

Scott Hall is an Atlanta bail bondsman and described as a Republican operative. We've got no response from him today.


Cathy Latham, the woman who opened the door in the video has been connected to the plan to access these elections offices through e- mails and text, documented into the civil case. This is what her attorney told us. "Miss Latham has not acted improperly or illegally. Miss Latham did not authorize or participate in any ballot scanning efforts, computer imaging, or any similar activity."

The IT specialist's firm says it has no reason to believe the lawyers that hired them would direct them to do anything wrong, but there seems no doubt, Anderson, this county's machines were compromised and ballots were scanned on the behest of these operatives working for Trump.

COOPER: So, we know their investigations into improper access to voting machines in multiple other States. Are they connected?

GRIFFIN: The players definitely overlap. This similar breach happened in Michigan, it is connected to what happened in Georgia. Take a look at this video, too we are going to show you.

The CEO of Cyber Ninjas shows up at this Coffee County Elections Office. This is two weeks later, Doug Logan, he was there for two days. His company ran that, you know, so-called audit in Arizona.

He is named as a co-conspirator in a vote machine scheme in Michigan. And now, here he is in Coffee County, Georgia where these election machines were breached.

It all seems to be part of a coordinated plan to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election -- Anderson.

COOPER: Drew Griffin, I appreciate it. Thank you.

As you heard there in Drew's report, Michigan had a voting machine breach in 2020, as well. They also had a group of fake electors make their way into the Capitol to upend the work of real electors who were already inside the State Senate chambers.

As you see in the video, the officer is telling them, "The electors are already here. They'd been checked in." And this group of fake electors outside was saying "Well, we should be let in." They weren't.

We're joined now by Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, whose State asked the Federal government to investigate the fake electoral scheme there.

So, Secretary Benson, first of all, what do make of this video showing two operatives who were working with an attorney for the former President going into this Georgia County's election office the very same day the voting system there was breached?

JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it underscores both the severity of the attempts to intervene with our elections, and also the coordination of it.

The fact that this was not an isolated incident, and it occurred in many other States. We know that there were attempts in Michigan that have been investigated, we know that it isa connected to attempts to submit fake electors, all designed to try to undermine the will of the people, not just in a few States, but really nationally.

And it also shows it's not isolated we shouldn't assume to 2020, and that's really our focus now. To what extent do we need to be prepared for similar attempts in this year and beyond?

COOPER: As we mentioned, there is an ongoing investigation in Michigan into voting machine tampering. The Attorney General has requested a special prosecutor to look into it.

Now, according to CNN's reporting evidence has emerged linking several people who gained access to the voting systems in Antrim County, Michigan to this breach in Georgia County. Do you believe the evidence will show that this was a coordinated plot?

BENSON: Yes, absolutely. I mean, what we have seen really over the last several years is a complete evidence, ongoing evidence of coordination among really several States, not just Michigan and Georgia, but also Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and it is what we lived frankly in 2020. We saw many things being attempted in Michigan being attempted in other States as well, at the same time.

COOPER: Now, when people say there's a breach of a voting system, what does that really mean? Does it mean someone breaking into it? What is it?

BENSON: It means potentially that. I mean, someone has gained access to that machine and there are various things someone can do once that happens.

Now in Michigan, anyone who is not authorized to have access to machines cannot have access to machines, regardless of what they do once they have that access. And what it also causes is, regardless of what happens, once that access is attained, we have to decommission that machine and we've done that in Michigan, I'm sure it's happened in other States, and replace that machine because ultimately, we don't know the extent of the damage that could have occurred by that access and we have to ensure for every election that we have full confidence that our machines are secure.

COOPER: So, we're now nine weeks from the midterms. As you are the person responsible for Michigan's elections, what are you most concerned about in the lead up to Election Day in your State?

BENSON: I'm concerned, Anderson, about violence, both on Election Day and real threats against our election workers, against our poll workers, against voters themselves. And so in response to that, however, we are making plans working with local law enforcement and clerks to ensure if there are any disruptions, even potentially violence or violent threats that we eliminate it immediately.

We are there to quickly respond to it and minimize its impact on the election itself. So, we're preparing for essentially the misinformation that has bled into so many aspects of our society over the last few years for that to transform into causing people to act in a way to disrupt our elections.


But if that does happen, we'll be ready. We'll hold anyone accountable. We will work with law enforcement to ensure quick action and above all, ensure voters have protected unfettered access to our elections, to their vote, and that our election officials similarly are protected as they do their work as well.

COOPER: What do you say to voters who may have concerns even if based on misinformation about election integrity in your State?

BENSON: One, we invite individuals who are interested in learning more about the process to come to one of the public accuracy tests prior to the election where they can see the machines for themselves, accurately tabulate ballots. So, that's what we do before every election to test the machines and that's public and open to everyone.

And we also encourage people to seek out information from trusted sources. We have a website that takes on every myth and responds with facts. And many of my colleagues in other States do that as well. It's one of the reasons why election officials continue to be that trusted source of information for voters.

And the last thing I'll just really emphasize, however, is all of these challenges over the last several years have really just made us as a community stronger, more adaptable, and more prepared for whatever is thrown at us and that is why I'm increasingly confident that we're ready for November, but we're working diligently with law enforcement and everyone else to make sure that truly is the case.

COOPER: Obviously, there are security concerns that you have about election day itself and protection of workers and stuff.

Traditionally, though, election day is not a day where you see heavy security at polling places, and that's really intentional. People don't want the feeling of the State being there overseeing this with armed uniformed officers, how do you walk that line?

BENSON: Indeed, we essentially have a web of individuals all across the State. We don't want that presence. We don't want any efforts to potentially, even unintentionally intimidate voters from participating on Election Day, but we also need to be able to rapidly respond to any incidents that occur.

So in Michigan on Election Day, we ensure that we have, at all times, someone from my office and working with the Attorney General and law enforcement within five to 10 minutes of all precincts.

So as soon as we hear of anything, we're able to get there and rapidly respond to it and mitigate any damage while also again maintaining distance if there is nothing happening so that we can ensure the election goes smoothly.

COOPER: All right, Jocelyn Benson, appreciate your time. Thank you.

BENSON: Thank you.

COOPER: Next, to Mar-a-Lago and the search, and there is stunning new reporting out just now on how sensitive some documents were, also what our legal and political experts make of the former President's court victory and what his former Attorney General is saying about the ruling whether the Justice Department should appeal or whether the ruling carves out special privileges no one else is entitled to.

Later, answers tonight in the search for a missing teacher and mother who was kidnapped on Friday. It is not the answers that anyone was hoping for.


[20:17:00 ]

COOPER: There is breaking news tonight. New reporting from "The Washington Post" on just how sensitive some of the documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago actually were. I am quoting from the headline of "The Washington Post," "Material on foreign nations nuclear capabilities seized at Trump's Mar-a-Lago."

The subhead reading: "Some seized documents were so closely held only the President, a Cabinet level or near Cabinet level official could authorize others to know." And we're trying to connect with one of the reporters on the story right now.

There is also this just in, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner says he and his members are expecting a briefing soon from the Intelligence Community on sensitive documents recovered from Mar- a-Lago. Chairman Warner indicating to CNN's Manu Raju that he is trying to get an update without waiting for a final report.

Meantime, on Judge Aileen Cannon's ruling that a Special Master be appointed to review the materials for items covered by executive or attorney-client privilege, let's go to what one of the former President's Attorney General said about last night on FOX.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER US ATTORNEY GENERAL: The opinion, I think was wrong and I think the government should appeal it. It is deeply flawed in a number of ways. I don't think the appointment of a Special Master is going to hold up.


COOPER: When or whether an appeal comes is one question, whether it should is another, so it is the question of whether Judge Cannon's ruling gives the former President better treatment than others might get under similar circumstances.

Let's talk about it with former Federal Judge Nancy Gertner. She is now a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School; also CNN political commentator, David Urban, who served as political strategist to the former President; and Jennifer Rogers, CNN legal analyst and former Federal prosecutor.

Jennifer, first of all on "The Washington Post" reporting. Again, we don't have more details other than what "The Washington Post" or we can independently confirm what "The Washington Post" is reporting, but on that just the high-level nature of some of the information that was found at Mar-a-Lago?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's consistent with some of the reporting we have heard before that they're very, very high level, highly classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, nuclear secrets are among the most closely held in government, of course, so, you know, this is consistent with what's been out there, although with more detail. I do wonder how it is getting out and who is leaking it. I think it's problematic if those leaks are coming from inside the government.

But in terms of the government's case, you know, listen, this is the kind of document that you would charge a case about, and it's not a document that's going to be subject to any sort of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

So, when you think about documents that are going to be available to the government to charge criminally, if they choose, this is the sort of document we're talking about.

COOPER: I want to bring in Devlin Barrett, who is one of the reporters on the byline on "The Washington Post" reporting.

Can you just talk about what you have -- what you have learned?

DEVLIN BARRETT, "THE WASHINGTON POST" (via phone): Right, so we've learned that when the FBI conducted its search in August 8th, obviously, there has been Court documents describing a lot of classified docket material that was taken. We're told that one of the things found in the course of that search was a document that described a foreign government's military defenses including its nuclear capabilities, and obviously that was a cause for some concern although there's a lot of material in this tranche of stuff that they searched for and found that is a cause for concern.


COOPER: And in the article, you detail the kind of procedures, which would normally be put in place to protect such a document.

BARRETT: Right. So we're talking, the most serious category of this type of information that is what's referred to often as Special Access Programs.

COOPER: So, it is above top secret clearances.

BARRETT: It's sort of a very tight circle within the larger circle of top secret, if that makes sense. It's a type of top secret information that -- and what has been described to us as some of the SAP material that was seized was so close-hold that only the President, some Cabinet Secretaries and near Cabinet-like officials were authorized to share or allow other people in the government to see that kind of information.

So extremely close-hold, extremely tightly held and there was an allusion to this and one of the Court filings. If you remember, one of the filings said that even the investigators who recovered the material, some of them weren't -- even though there were counterintelligence agents -- some of them weren't authorized to review some of the documents when they first found them.

COOPER: So, some of the FBI agents who were on the scene in Mar-a- Lago, they didn't even have the kind of clearance that would allow them to look at these documents?

BARRETT: Correct, and not just the agents. Some of the Federal prosecutors involved in this matter also didn't automatically have a clearance to look at some of this material. That's how close-hold it was.

COOPER: And you talk about close-hold, who would be able to see it, and who would grant that authorization whether it's either the President or a Cabinet- level or near-Cabinet level official. These are also documents that how they are stored, obviously, a lot of thought is put into that.

BARRETT: Right. You're talking about documents that should be stored in a SCIF. It's a government acronym for a very secure room, and should have someone who is designated -- a government official designated to keep very close tabs on those kinds of documents. That's another cause for concern, because obviously, when they conducted this search, they looked in the storage room, they looked in the former President's office.

And you know, those aren't nearly the kinds of places with the kinds of security for documents like that.

COOPER: Has the former President's legal team responded to your request for comment?

BARRETT: We have not heard back from them yet. Obviously, when we've done prior reporting on this question of nuclear weapons material, nuclear weapons information, the President called it a hoax, and in that same statement suggested that evidence was planted on him by the FBI agents.

COOPER: Obviously, it's not clear why the former President would have had this information at Mar-a-Lago. There is a whole myriad of reasons, but obviously, anything -- any information about the nuclear secrets of any country, there are a lot of people who would be interested to know those nuclear secrets.

BARRETT: Sure, I think, you know, I think it's such a sensitive area that, you know, there are categories and subcategories of that kind of information. Some of it is essentially Department of Defense Information that falls under the classified system umbrella.

And obviously, when you talk about Special Access Programs, when you talk about nuclear capabilities of foreign military agencies, those are things that the government, the US government, in no way wants spread around.

COOPER: And just be clear, you know, in the article, you're not -- you don't name the country that the information is about. Is this the sentiment that -- you've reported in the past about nuclear-related material. Is this the same material now that you're talking about with just further greater clarity on it?

BARRETT: Well, I think what we were describing the past story, and you can see it now in the subpoena that was unsealed since that story is that when Trump's people were served with a subpoena for all classified information in his possession back in May, that subpoena listed a whole slew of categories of different types of classified information.

But I think one of the important categories of that was information about nuclear weapons, and so they were trying to -- and that subpoena they're trying to cover the waterfront -- but they're also saying if you have any information that fits into these categories, this is the type of thing we are seeking in the subpoena that must be turned over to the government.

And so this story takes it a step further and says okay, they serve the subpoena, they conducted a search and this document that we describe is one of the things that they found in the search. [20:25:07]

COOPER: It is fascinating. Devlin Barrett, appreciate the reporting that you and your colleague, Carol Leonnig did at "The Washington Post" on this.

Jennifer, just in terms of what we've just heard, what stands out to you?

RODGERS: Well, I mean, again, these are very, very serious documents, you know, they're not the sort of thing that should be anywhere outside of the proper places inside the SCIF. So, you know, it seems to me that this is the sort of thing that makes it more likely that ultimately we'll see a criminal charge here, whether it's an actual classified documents charge, or the statute that they listed in the search warrant about National Defense Information.

COOPER: David Urban, does it makes sense to the President who had this -- the former President would have these documents at Mar-a-Lago?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, Anderson, I don't know any reasoning why you'd have this level of classified information anywhere outside a SCIF as has been referred earlier, you know, as Devlin was saying, this is not just top secret, but SAP Programs, Special Access Programs, or programs that you are read into individually.

Just because you hold a top-secret clearance doesn't mean you're -- you know, all of these programs are on the need-to-know basis. So, you're read into these individual programs and only certain people are qualified to be read into the programs based on their need-to-know.

So, it is a very, very, very small subset of people who are even authorized to handle or deal with this type of information. It should not be obviously stored anywhere outside proper safeguarding facilities like a SCIF or other facilities.

You know, and to be there for at least 18 months is kind of inexcusable.

COOPER: Judge Gertner, what are the implications of this?

NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Well, first of all, the Judge that appointed a Special Master dignified the claim that some of what Trump had was shielded by executive privilege. The classified information that is being described is not and can't possibly be shielded by executive privilege. In other words, he didn't have a right to have it, he didn't have a right to have it in his beach house. The end of discussion that needs to be returned.

With respect to non-classified materials. The non-classified materials, you know, we sort of glance over it when we talk about this, but one of the things about other evidentiary materials it could bear on why in the world he had this stuff? What did he have in mind? What was the issue? What was he planning to do with it?

So, there is a classified box, but the rest might show what else he had in mind, which is very troubling, and this is not just a memento.

COOPER: And Judge to the argument made, you know, by some in the former President's orbit that you know, this is a housekeeping error. This is, you know, something maybe he wanted for his library or research down the road, or he just didn't know what there was in these boxes.

GERTNER: Well, you know, that might work, it might have worked in January 2021. It does not work after the National Archives pummeled him for nearly what -- 18 -- you know, a year to turn over documents, which they believe to be classified. It doesn't work when he had a grand jury subpoena. It doesn't work when the FBI visited him, and it certainly doesn't work as a result of this search.

In other words, he had more time than any potential criminal defendant, any defendant had to go through the materials and come up with an explanation and he has not, and I don't think that there is one, except maybe nefarious ones.

COOPER: And Jennifer just -- go ahead, David.

URBAN: Anderson, I was going to point out like, you know, what Jennifer referred to earlier, what I don't like about this either, is the fact that Devlin is getting this information over the transom, right?

The basic -- this information is probably classified in and of itself, right? These types of documents, the contents of the documents, those are classified in and off themselves and somebody is improperly -- somebody, probably at the Department of Justice has improperly thrown this over the transom to Devlin, and that's just as improper as well and should be condemned.

COOPER: I also want to bring in --

URBAN: It's probably illegal.

COOPER: Sorry, Judge, go ahead?

GERTNER: Well, just as improper, I think, I mean, improper -- sure, a leak is improper, but the notion that you want to put the leak in the same category as boxes and boxes of classified information at a beach house.

URBAN: It's illegal, Your Honor, it is illegal. You wouldn't be condoning illegal behavior.

COOPER: Right. This is the reason we don't have secret documents in a beach resort, because they get out and people can do things with them leaking, whatever it may be.

I want to bring in Gloria Borger. Gloria, you've done a lot of reporting on the Mar-a-Lago search. Again, I want to repeat CNN has not confirmed this "Washington Post" reporting independently.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one thing that strikes me from Devlin's reporting is that I think it's very clear that this is not just a storage issue as Marco Rubio -- Senator Rubio has called it and it really begs an explanation because what we have not received from the former President is an explanation of what he was doing with these documents.


We've had a lot of sort of smoke and mirrors here, you know, maybe it was for the library, or maybe it was the love letter from Kim Jong-un or whatever. But if indeed and again, as you say, we have not confirmed this reporting, but if indeed, this includes information about a foreign government's nuclear readiness, then you have to answer the question about why Donald Trump had that in his possession at all, after leaving the presidency, not only why was it at Mar-a- Lago, but what was he doing with it? And, you know, we do not have an answer to that.

COOPER: I want to bring in James Clapper, who's the former Director of National Intelligence. Director Clapper, does this make any sense to you what stands out to you about this reporting by the Washington Post?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It does not make any sense to me at all, I can't imagine why on earth, the former president would prolonged (ph) a document like that. From an intrinsic standpoint, this is potentially profoundly damaging, in that it could reveal not only what our collection capabilities and analytic capabilities are with respect to this country, but what they are not, which could also be very damaging for us. And of course, as others have spoken to, I just, you know, can imagine what was the motivation for taking a document like this. But this is sort of worst fear of realize, from what has been described about this document so far.

COOPER: Director Clapper, just -- in the world of espionage, where information has tremendous value, what sort of value does information like this have? I'm not talking about -- this doesn't have any clue, we have no reason to know why the President would want this information. But what is the value of this information to a foreign country to know another country's or, you know, foreign leader to know another country's nuclear capabilities? And the U.S. capabilities on reporting about the nuclear capability?

CLAPPER: For the nine or 10 countries depending on how you count them and whom you include. This is among the holiest of holy, if you will, in terms of sensitivity event of the information, because for countries that possess nuclear weapons, this yes to the very existence, countries do it as their ticket to survival. So, this is a very sensitive thing for a very simple matter for each country. And accordingly, they go to -- everybody include United States goes to extraordinary lengths to protect information on sensitive matters.

So, then that gets to the question of, because this information is so sensitive, what extraordinary lengths might with any or any country go to obtain such information on another country? And then that gets to (INAUDIBLE) sensitive sources and methods may have been compromised. And sounds like they might have been. So, on many levels, this is really disturbing.

COOPER: And Director Clapper, I mean, in your experience in the world of intelligence, which you spent your much of your entire life in. If you learn that a foreign leader who had left power had highly sensitive nuclear information about a country you were interested in or any nuclear information about other countries you might be or any nuclear power in his beach resort in a non-secure SCIF facility, how interested would any intelligence service be in that information?

CLAPPER: Oh, extremely, extremely interesting. OK, Mar-a-Lago before all these revelations about the documents that have been found there, Mar-a-Lago had to be -- has to be a high priority intelligence target for foreign intelligence services. And so, this data like this would be from an intelligence perspective would be gold. And so, if people knew that it was there, or suspected it was there. I think they'd go to extraordinary lengths to include take on risks if they could to obtain it.


The other dimension of this of course is once again call to question, the U.S. has the ability to protect sensitive information. And that in turn could have a chilling effect on allies of ours who, in the past have willingly shared sensitive information that they collect. They share that with us. Well, if they see that, how Cavalier we are about it, I think that could have the -- that was being inhibiting factor in the future, for sharing sensitive intelligence with us.

COOPER: And just be clear, we're talking about a facility this document has been kept in where the price of entry is, I don't know, I think it's like 100 or $200,000, or something, but anybody can join, basically, if you have the money and, you know, go through the application process.

CLAPPER: And so that, from the standpoint of the intelligence collection, that's kind of a bargain to obtain access to, you know, sensitive information that apparently was, was stored down there and under very questionable, physical security conditions.

COOPER: Director James Clapper, Judge Nancy Gertner, David Urban, Jennifer Rodgers, Gloria Borger, thank you.

Up next, more on politics in the U.S. the springtime for midterms, the two men not on the ballot this fall locked into bitter battles they campaign for the candidates and fight, they will ultimately decide what party will control the House and the Senate. We have the latest from the campaign trail, ahead.


COOPER: As we know the top of the hour on this day after Labor Day in the world of politics it means welcome to the unofficial kickoff of midterms and it is setting up to be a fight like few others before. There's the bitter battle of course between two big names not on a ballot President Biden and the former president. There's also a handful of races that could decide what party will control the House and Senate with a lot of attention put on one campaign the Pennsylvania Senate race.

The latest on that from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fall campaign sprint is on with two months until voters settle the midterm election fight.


ZELENY (voice-over): President Biden is leading the charge to make the campaign a stark contrast with Republicans rather than a referendum on his own presidency, and Democratic control of Washington.


BIDEN: We're going to have to ask whether we want to be a country that moves forward or backwards however

ZELENY (voice-over): A remarkable era of uncertainty hangs over the races, as does the long shadow of former President Donald Trump, who's still re-litigating his battle with Biden.

DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT: He's an enemy of the state

ZELENY (voice-over): In November of course, neither Biden nor Trump are on the ballot. But that's often hard to tell as the 2022 campaign is unfolding, like a sequel to their 2020 contest. It's a brighter political environment than Democrats had imagined, fueled in part by the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, which in rages and energizes voters like Shirley Mayton.

SHIRLEY MAYTON, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: I think this is huge. It's absolutely is I think it's going to really hurt the Republican chances. And hopefully, they're getting the message that this is not something that they should, you know, stand on.

ZELENY (voice-over): The issue of abortion rights is now at the forefront of House, Senate and governor's races.

UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mehmet Oz is so extreme. He wants to make abortion a crime in Pennsylvania.

ZELENY (voice-over): Even as Republicans are countering with concerns about crime, inflation and immigration.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: The radical left has gone crazy.

ZELENY (voice-over): Control of the Senate is up for grabs, with competitive races unfolding across the country from Arizona to New Hampshire as Republicans try to erase so one seat edge held by Democrats.

In the House, Republicans are only five seats away from winning the majority. And in governor's races, some of the most closely watched contests are playing out in the same states that delivered Biden in the White House. Pennsylvania is at the center of it all starting with the Senate race between John Fetterman.

JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA) SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm going to make it really simple for all of you. It's a choice. It's a choice.

ZELENY (voice-over): And Mehmet Oz.

MEHMET OZ (R-PA) SENATE CANDIDATE: This is not about health. This is about honesty.

ZELENY (voice-over): They're locked in a contentious duel over debates, as Fetterman works to recover from a stroke and heart condition. With Biden on Fetterman side, and Trump standing with Oz, voters like Linda Frank have much to sort out over the next nine weeks.

LINDA FRANK, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: I am perplexed because I was a Trump supporter. And I don't know where I stand now.

ZELENY (voice-over): If she does believe the Biden administration could use a check on its power.

FRANK: I think that the check system is leaning too far to one side. And we need to get it back in the middle.

ZELENY (on-camera): So, you'll vote Republican in November in state races.

FRANK: Yes, I will.


ZELENY: And to say that Trump shadow looms large over this race certainly is an understatement, Anderson. Dr. Oz saw that earlier today firsthand. He was asked if he was in the Senate at the time if he would have certified the 2020 election results. He said yes, he would have, of course that puts him at direct odds with the former president whose supporters he is still trying to win over.

So yes, there are nine weeks left in this midterm election campaign. But there are a lot of the elements in play here. It's very dynamic. Republicans are feeling that they don't have the qualified Senate candidates necessarily. Democrats have some wins of their back but clearly Anderson, the Senate absolutely up for grabs.

COOPER: Yes. Jeff Zeleny, appreciate it. Thank you.

Up next, a tragic update on the search for teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, with authority say was the victim of violent abduction.



COOPER: Police say body found in Memphis is mom and teacher Eliza Fletcher who was abducted went out jogging the early morning hours last Friday. They've not said how she was killed. This comes as a suspect in her kidnapping is set to be arraigned tomorrow, a new charges adding to the ones that he already faced.

Our Gary Tuchman has details.


CERELYN DAVIS, CHIEF, MEMPHIS POLICE: Today is a very sad day in the city of Memphis.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis confirming the worst that Eliza Fletcher was dead. Her body found behind an abandoned duplex. This man Cleotha Abston has been charged with murdering her. He was arraigned on the initial kidnapping charges today. He'd been arrested over the weekend and charged with the kidnapping. Surveillance images showing Eliza Fletcher being attacked by a man while she was jogging near the University of Memphis campus. He forced her into his SUV and then drove away. That man say police is Abston. And according to authorities, he wasn't talking to them about what happened to the 34- year-old wife and mother.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: You're charged with especially aggravated kidnapping.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But with today's identification of her body, the prosecutor informed the judge.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: Some additional file charges were filed this morning for murder, premeditated murder and murder in the perpetration of a kidnapping.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The judge said another arraignment for the murder charges on Wednesday. Abston was wearing a mask but appeared to show no emotion.

Less than a day earlier, a South Memphis neighborhood is virtually shut down with (INAUDIBLE) tape, as scores of police conducted an intense hours long search. The location where her body was found about one half mile away from where a witness told authorities she saw the accused murderer cleaning his car after Eliza Fletcher was kidnapped and acting oddly.

DAVIS: We work together to identify various locations. And that was our search concentration. And we were -- we're just blessed that we were able to identify this location and our officers were successful in finding her.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The surveillance camera on a building at the university provided key evidence because it clearly showed a vehicle that had damage to it and a partial license plate. And with those images, U.S. Marshals found what they say is the same vehicle at the suspects residence. An affidavit also declares Abtston and left a pair of his sandals at the crime scene. Authorities were able to obtain DNA from those sandals that matched Abston. UNDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear or affirm --

TUCHMAN (voice-over): At least one reason he was in the DNA database, he had been found guilty in 2000 of another kidnapping in Memphis, with a victim who escaped. Abston served about 20 years behind bars. He was released a little less than two years ago.

STEVE MULROY, SHELBY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Any kind of violence, of course, is unacceptable, but repeat violent offenders particularly deserve a strong response and that's what they'll get from this district attorney's office.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Eliza Fletcher was a mother of two small boys, a junior kindergarten teacher at a private school in Memphis, a member of a prominent and philanthropic Memphis family. Some of her family members were in a court, they quietly watched and listened witnessing the man charged with murdering their loved one. The DA who says there is no reason to believe this was anything but a random attack since he's been in touch with the family throughout this horrible ordeal.

MULROY: To lose someone so young and so vital is a tragedy in and of itself, but to have it happened in this way with a senseless act of violence. It's unimaginable.


TUCHMAN: Anderson, we received an additional affidavit today that gave us more of an idea of how the area was pinpointed where Eliza's body was found. And what we learned from that is they used an FBI cellular analysis team and what that team did was literally a net analyze cellular data from this past Friday. And based on that analysis, the police officers on the scene went to different homes for particular police officers went to one abandoned home. They saw tire tracks in tall grass one of those four officers that went to the back of the house, back of the house is upstairs leaving to the back door and next to those stairs he saw Eliza's body just lying on the ground. Anderson.


COOPER: That's incredible that they can track somebody like that through that data. Gary, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

Coming up next, Uvalde students returning to classroom for the first time since the Robb Elementary shootings.


COOPER: Just moments ago, the Texas Department of Public Safety suspended two officers with pay as they investigate the response to the Uvalde school shooting at Robb Elementary School. This comes on the first day back for students with start of a new school year. No students or staff were able to return to the actual site of the shooting, instead they were attending other schools in the district.

Our Shimon Prokupecz is in Uvalde now with the latest shown. Shimon? SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, you know, seeing these students returned to school, some of them I've been around for quite some time. Of course, it was -- there were a lot of smiles but certainly a lot of anxiety from family, from parents as they were dropping their kids off.


PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Hugs, high fives and therapy dogs greeted students in Uvalde today. The kids greeted today with anxious smiles.

(on-camera): You doing all right? How you holding up?


PROKUPECZ (on-camera): You're smiling. You happy? Happy go back to school? Nervous?

MARTINEZ: Yes, I'm nervous because I'm not used to the school.

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): This is new school, right?


PROKUPECZ (voice-over): AJ Martinez was in room 112 at Robb watching a movie to celebrate the end of the school year, when a gunman entered his classroom, killing 19 of his classmates and two of his teachers. He dove under backpacks trying to hide but was shot through his upper leg. Today as he enters fifth grade, his limp has all but disappeared.

(on-camera): Just trying to get back to normal life, right?


PROKUPECZ (on-camera): And this is a good first step.

(voice-over): Deciding what to wear for the first day at his new school, AJ chose a shirt with a photo of the friends and the teachers he lost. His wounds may slowly heal, but the emotional toll will be harder to overcome.


(on-camera): You all right?

KASSANDRA CHAVEZ, MOTHER OF STUDENT INJURED AT ROBB ELEMETARY SHOOTING: I'm just -- like I said scared worried for my kids, and all the teachers and the students that are coming back. That's all I'm worried about.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): It's a difficult day for AJ's mom, Kassandra Chavez, when we sat down this summer, she shared her advice to her son.

CHAVEZ: He tells, mom, I just, I hate the shooter. I hate that he killed my friends and my two teachers, mom. And he's like, I will never see him again. And I said, I know, baby. But you know, you have to be strong, because that's what they would want you to do.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): As they filed into their classrooms, Uvalde students were met by a heavy law enforcement presence led by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Some schools in the district have new visible security measures like eight-foot fencing and cameras.

At AJ's school, the fencing hasn't been completed in time for the first day. Back in the drop off line at Flores Elementary, Zeke Wyndham sits in the back of his dad's pickup truck, ready to bravely face his fears.

(on-camera): How do you feel about coming back to school?

ZEKE WYNDHAM, FMR ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT: I'm really nervous. I'm so scared and shock after what happened at my old school. And I'm still scared and nervous.

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): You were at Robb? What grade are you in now?


PROKUPECZ (on-camera): Fifth grade. Were you in the fourth grade class that when the shooting happened or are you in a different room?

WYNDHAM: I was down the hall.

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): Where you could hear?

WYNDHAM: I can still hear the gunshots. It was very terrifying and traumatizing for me.

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): It still is. Coming back to school.

WYNDHAM: It's scary.


COOPER: What more can you tell us about the two officers who have now been suspended.

PROKUPECZ: While the Texas Department of Public Safety which released this information, they're not releasing much more, you know, this is now three months into this and they're just now getting through parts of their investigation. And they're announcing that these two officers have been suspended with pay. They've referred three other officers, five officers all together for a formal investigation with the inspector general. But that's about all that we know about this Anderson.

Keep in mind, Anderson, remember there were 91 department of public safety officials on scene that day, that was the second largest police presence outside of border patrol. And also keep in mind that so much of the blame has been put on local police department officials, the school police department and the local police department that so many people didn't think that any blame would ever come to the Department of Public Safety. Now we're seeing something different here, finally more accountability, but we still yet don't have that transparency Anderson, as to exactly why this is happening and hopefully at some point we'll learn that, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. So good to see those kids going back to their schools.


COOPER: And doing OK. Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it. Thank you.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: It has been a busy hour, a lot of news to cover. I want to handover to Kasie Hunt in "CNN TONIGHT." Kasie.