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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Report: Woman Who Says Herschel Walker Paid For Abortion Is Also The Mother Of One Of His Children; Biden On Putin And Ukraine War: We Have Not Faced The Prospect Of Nuclear Armageddon Since Kennedy And The Cuban Missile Crisis; Washington Post: Federal Agents See Chargeable Tax And Gun-Purchase Case Against Hunter Biden. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired October 06, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Just two days, after four members of a family were kidnapped, in California, the bodies, including an 8- month-old baby girl, were found in an orchard. A suspect is in custody.
CNN's Nick Watt has details.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is the suspect. He looks, up at the camera, takes out a weapon. It's Monday morning, 9:02 AM.
Minutes later, the back door opens. Brothers Jasdeep and Amandeep Singh are ushered out of their trucking business office, by the suspect, a former employee. They're zip-tied, driven away.
Minutes later, the suspect is back. This time, he takes Jasleen Kaur, and her 8-month-old baby, Aroohi Dheri.
SUKHDEEP SINGH, BROTHER OF ONE VICTIM: Please help us out. Come forward. So, my family come home safe.
WATT (voice-over): They never did. Their bodies found, by a farm worker, last night, just hours after that plea, slaughtered, authorities believe, where they lay.
SHERIFF VERN WARNKE, MERCED COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: There is no words, right now, to describe the anger I feel, and the senselessness of this incident. I said it earlier: There's a special place in hell for this guy. And I mean it.
WATT (voice-over): Officials think all four were murdered, uncle, two parents, and their tiny baby, before they were even reported missing, Monday lunchtime.
BALWINDER SAINI, VICTIM'S RELATIVE: This is a peace-loving family, and running a small business, in the Merced area. They have been living in this area, from a long time.
WATT (voice-over): The suspect, authorities say, is 48-year-old Jesus Manuel Salgado. In 2005, he was convicted of robbery and attempted false imprisonment, paroled in 2015. This week, he attempted suicide, before he was taken into custody, after a tip, from his own family.
WARNKE: You really want to wish we were in the Wild West, you know, to take this guy out, and string him up. But we have a judicial system. We're going to use the judicial system.
WATT (voice-over): He is now talking to investigators.
WARNKE: Right now, he's the only definite suspect. I fully believe that we will uncover and find out if there was more than just him involved.
When we are able to release everything, should anger the hell out of you, on how things went down.
WATT: Now, no motive has been revealed, so far. But the Sheriff says, in cases like this, it is usually financial, it is usually greed. And worth noting that one of the victim's ATM cards was used the day after, we believe, they were murdered.
As for charges, we are told to expect a decision, Anderson, sometime in the middle of next week.
COOPER: Just awful!
WATT: Back to you.
COOPER: Nick Watt, thank you.
Just ahead, I'll speak with Georgia Lieutenant Governor, Geoff Duncan, who is sounding the alarm, on Herschel Walker, and the Republican Party's fate, in Georgia. Ahead.
COOPER: Our first guest, in this hour, is the Republican Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, who's just written what the Republican candidate, for senator, from Georgia, was the wrong choice. Quoting him now, "If the GOP squanders this year's Georgia Senate race, we only have ourselves to blame."
That's Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, talking about Herschel Walker, the abortion opponent, who is reported, by "The Daily Beast," to have paid for a woman's abortion, a woman who now identifies Walker, or whose identity Walker claimed not to know, who then disclosed again, to "The Daily Beast," which CNN has not independently confirmed that she and Walker also have a child together. This morning, Walker told conservative talk show host, Hugh Hewitt, if he'd done it, he'd have said so, telling Hewitt quote, because "There's nothing to be ashamed of there."
This afternoon, reporters asked him about that comment to Hugh Hewitt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said that if this did happen, there's nothing to be ashamed of. How do you--
HERSCHEL WALKER, (R) GEORGIA U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Wait. I never said - I never said--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said it this morning on, on Hugh Hewitt show.
WALKER: No. What I said--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WALKER: I was talking about something, totally different than whether if this did happen. I said when I was with my ex-wife and in my past, nothing to do with what this woman said.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you're saying that--
WALKER: I said this, this here, the abortion thing is false. It's a lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's not entirely clear, what he was trying to say.
Here to talk about it, Georgia's Lieutenant Governor, Geoff Duncan.
Lieutenant Governor Duncan, appreciate you being with us.
First of all, what do you make of what we heard, from Herschel Walker, today, on Hugh Hewitt, and then his attempt to explain it afterward?
LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN, (R) GEORGIA: Well, I think, an important place, for me, to start, is that it is no fun, for me, to have to talk about this, in such a direct way.
Herschel Walker, at the end of the day, is the only chance, we've got, to have a Republican represent us, in the U.S. Senate. But it's a conversation that has to happen. And it's part of this process of our party healing.
And this has not as much to do about Herschel Walker, as it does the process we went through here, in Georgia, to actually elect him. We didn't ask, who was the best leader? We didn't ask about the best resume.
Unfortunately, Republicans looked around, to see who Donald Trump supported. And he was a famous football player. And so, he became our nominee. And now, we're paying the price for that.
COOPER: And that's why you think, I mean, that's why Herschel Walker, is in this race, because Republicans, who decided to look for somebody, who the former President supported? That was the main criteria?
DUNCAN: Yes. And there's been some distance and time that's traveled. And that's not a winning recipe anymore.
I think at the beginning of this whole process, this campaign cycle, it meant a lot. But I think you're watching not just here in Georgia, but all over the country, candidates, Republican candidates, distancing themselves, deleting social media, with Donald Trump, trying to push back, because they realize it's not popular anymore.
Look, and there's such a plethora of areas to be talking about. I mean, the stock market, again, today was down 350 points. Mortgage rates have doubled, headed to being tripled. We got, inflation roaring.
It literally feels like the world is on fire. And this is what we're talking about? As Republicans, I think we ought to be the party of ideas, again, and this is the golden opportunity for us to be having that.
COOPER: So, CNN is reporting today that Walker's allies want a more, quote, "Trumpian response," to the abortion allegations. I'm not exactly sure what that would even look like. When you hear that, what does that - I mean, does that make any sense to you?
DUNCAN: Well, that brings back memories of Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who bid on Donald Trump's hook, during their run-offs. And that's really what started this whole process, of losing these Republican Senate seats, in a Republican state.
I mean, you've got a governor, right now, who's high single-digits, headed to double-digits ahead, in his race, because he's talking about the things that matter. He's talking about the things that Georgians worry about, when they get up in the morning. And, right now, these are uncomfortable times, in this country.
COOPER: If then-candidate Donald Trump could survive the Access Hollywood tape, isn't this something that Herschel Walker can survive, if enough Republicans, in Georgia, simply don't care, about what kind of character candidate has, as long as that person is a body that will vote in the way that they want that person to vote?
DUNCAN: Well, I'm going to leave that up to him, and his team, to figure out how they work through this. I don't know the facts and figures. I certainly haven't spent any time dissecting all the details.
But I'm certainly listening to it, like millions of other Georgians are listening to. And I just think, if there's any chance, for folks to win, around the country? And not just Herschel Walker, but you've got other states that shouldn't be this hard, Anderson.
We, Republicans, have a lot to point at, that's not going right in this country. And the Middle is upset. And if we want to win, we've got to win the Middle, and we got to win our side. And we're certainly blowing this opportunity.
It certainly feels just like how I felt, when we were in the run-off phase, post-election. And those seats should have been won by David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
COOPER: You are a loyal Republican. You obviously want a Republican candidate to win. Would you vote for Herschel Walker?
DUNCAN: Well, look, I've spent the last 10 years, in the State House, and as a Lieutenant Governor, championing some of the most conservative policies. My campaign for Lieutenant Governor, I was accused of being too conservative. But I was one that was willing to build consensus.
I'm not voting for Raphael Warnock. And Herschel Walker hasn't earned my respect or my vote. And, I'm like hundreds of thousands of other Republicans, here, in Georgia. We're confused. We don't really have anywhere to go, right now.
COOPER: Do you think people will not go to the poll - I mean, people, in positions like you, if they're - if you don't want to - if you're not going to vote for a Democrat, and don't want to vote for Walker, do you think some Republicans will just be turned off and stay away?
DUNCAN: No. I think Republicans are going to show up, and vote for Brian Kemp, and statewide candidates, up and down. They've done a great job.
I mean, Brian Kemp has really done better than any other governor, in the country with dealing with the pandemic, and civil unrest, and the economy and growth. I mean, they're going to show up and vote. It's up to the Walker's campaign, to figure out, how they're going to get them to convince them to vote for him.
COOPER: It's, from what you said, it seems like you would not vote for Herschel Walker, today. Is there anything he could say that would change your mind?
DUNCAN: Look, I have no idea what the next five weeks have entailed for it. But I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed that we've put Republicans in this state and, quite honestly, this country. I mean, we let down the entire country.
Donald Trump led us down a rabbit trail, post-election, because he was too consumed, with trying to save face, from losing his election. And he ran us down a trail, and we screwed up.
We elected two Democrats, in a Republican state that then turned the tide, and gave Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris, the keys, to every decision, with no checks and balances.
COOPER: Lieutenant Governor Duncan, I appreciate your time, tonight.
DUNCAN: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Perspective now, from CNN Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash; also CNN Senior Political Commentator, and former senior Obama adviser, David Axelrod.
Dana, do you think a more, quote, "Trumpian response," to this controversy, from Herschel Walker, which apparently what some Republicans want, would make much of a difference?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN CO-ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: It's hard to imagine Herschel Walker's response being more Trumpian. I know that this is what Trump's people, around him, are telling, some of my colleagues. Gabby Orr, being one of them. And I'm hearing some of that too.
But what Herschel Walker is doing, is ripped straight from the Donald Trump playbook, which, by the way, other Republicans, and candidates, in general, have done, or at least tried to do, since Donald Trump burst onto the political scene.
The biggest parallel, I think, is Herschel Walker, because part of the reason, Donald Trump, has been able to ride so many storms, is because of his celebrity. Well, Herschel Walker, particularly in the State of Georgia, is the ultimate celebrity, because of his football status there. And so, the fact that he is denying, which is Trump playbook that, he is aggressively denying, and then also trying to pivot back to the issues? That is very Trump.
I will tell you, Republican sources I've talked to, who are involved in these - in this campaign, and just electing Herschel Walker, they say that they do wish that he would be more aggressive, on the pivot side, and less about the defense.
COOPER: I mean, David, as a candidate, Walker is clearly not as - what will be the word?
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Agile.
COOPER: As agile, or coherent, as Trump.
Walker said today that while he still denies this, if it had happened, quote, "There's nothing to be ashamed of there," unquote. And then, later in the day, when asked about that comment, he claimed he wasn't talking about the alleged abortion.
I mean, his explanations are convoluted. Do they align with any logical political strategy?
AXELROD: Well, no. And the thing that was most confusing to me, is that they aired an ad, starting today, in which he talks about his past battles, with mental illness, and talks about redemption. And it sounded very much like an explanation, for past behavior, at the very same time that he was denying stories that have been written about him.
So, the whole thing seems pretty confused. That said, Anderson, I am - I long since gave up, predicting big shifts of voters, based on these kinds of stories. I think Trump taught us that.
The thing is, this is a marginal race. And so, marginal differences can make a difference. I don't think this is going to be good for Walker. And, in a marginal race, it could be - it could make the difference, against him.
COOPER: Dana, what are you hearing, from Capitol Hill Republicans, right now? I mean, how concerned are they? Senator Mitch McConnell has previously obviously bemoaned the quality of GOP candidates.
BASH: Well, they are concerned, for the exact reason that David just articulated. This is an incredibly tight race. This is also the race or the state that decided the majority of the Senate, in favor of the Democrats, two years ago. So, they are well-aware of the importance of this state.
And understand, as you said, Anderson, that Herschel Walker, despite what I said before, that he is very well-known, and well-regarded, as a football player, is very complicated and controversial, for all of the reasons that we're talking about now, with regard to these allegations that he denies, about paying for an abortion, even though he's pro-life.
But also lots of other sort of things that would have taken down any candidate, just a few years ago, like it's suddenly coming out that he has four different children, with four different women, and so on, and so forth that that is definitely not a plus, particularly when you're asking, about these voters, who are increasingly independent.
There aren't a ton of them. But they exist. And they're trying to decide between these two candidates. And those are the voters that Republicans, I talk to, are obviously most worried about.
COOPER: David, if you were advising the Warnock campaign, what would you tell him to actually kind of lean into these allegations, call Herschel Walker, a hypocrite, or, stand back, which is what they've essentially been doing?
COOPER: Not engaging on the personnel--
COOPER: --and talking about abortion, but not making it personal.
AXELROD: Yes, man, you know there's an old rule in politics? When your opponent is destroying himself, get out of the way.
BASH: Get out of the way. AXELROD: And, I think, that is the rule that I think the Warnock campaign is following.
And you could see in the ad that he posted today and, in his comments, to the media that Warnock wants to - Walker wants to draw Warnock in, wants to blame him, for these stories. I think it'd be foolish for Warnock to engage in any way.
COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, Dana Bash, thank you. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, President Biden's answer, just moments ago, to Vladimir Putin's nuclear bluster. What he said tonight about the threat today, by invoking one of the darkest moments of the Cold War.
And later, new reporting, on what could mean more trouble, as in possible federal charges, for presidential son, Hunter Biden.
COOPER: We're just days away, from the 60th anniversary, of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet Union had nuclear missiles, just 90 miles away, from the U.S. mainland, and the two countries went to the brink of war until, thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.
Now, speaking at a fundraiser, in New York, tonight, talking about Vladimir Putin's threat to use tactical nukes, in Ukraine, President Biden invoked that moment.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more, on exactly what he said. And she joins us now.
So, talk about the words President used.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it must have been pretty striking, Anderson, for the people, the donors, in the room, tonight, as the President was invoking Armageddon, saying that there has not been a situation like this, since October of the 1960s - 1962, when, of course, these threats were being made. And the President making very clear tonight that he is taking these seriously.
And what stands out, Anderson, about the President's comments, is that he is speaking, in more blunt terms, than we have heard, any of his officials talk, in recent weeks.
They have said that they are taking Putin seriously, at his word. When he says he's not bluffing, when he's talking about nuclear weapons, they say that they've communicated to the Russians, what the consequences would be, if Russia were to deploy a nuclear weapon. But they have not gotten as far as the President, as to say, this is the closest we've come to Armageddon, since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
And one of the quotes that President Biden, a remark that he made, to these donors, tonight was saying, that he knows President Putin, pretty familiar. He's pretty familiar with him. He knows him pretty well.
He said, quote, "He is not joking when he talks about the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological and chemical weapons, because his military is, as you might say, significantly underperforming," speaking to those humiliating setbacks that Russia has faced, on the battlefield, the really unpopular draft that Putin has tried to put in place, for men in Russia that has caused people to flee.
And President Biden is making clear, he's taking this really seriously. And he says, "I don't think there's any such thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon."
Those are really striking comments that the President made. It is a closed-door fundraiser. So, these are not on camera. But reporters were in the same room, in the same house, where the President was speaking, and making these remarks, tonight.
And Anderson, I think, one of the other things that stood out was a comment that he made about Putin finding a way out. And he said essentially, that the United States is still trying to figure out what could be the way out for Putin, what does he believe, the way out is.
That's a comment he also made, five months ago, back in May, when he was talking about the state of the war, in Ukraine that Russia is conducting, and making clear that they believe, if Putin is trying to save face, on the world stage, also save face at home, it's not clear to them what that looks like yet.
COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it, from the White House.
Joining us now, is CNN Military Analyst, and retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.
General Hertling, when it comes to the threat of nuclear conflict, you agree with the President that this moment, in history, is the closest, we've come to Armageddon, since the Cuban Missile Crisis?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. ARMY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Certainly, a possibility, Anderson.
Whenever you're talking about nuclear weapons, and there's a lot of individuals who have participated, in what are called War Games, and seeing the escalation capability, of whenever a first element uses a nuclear weapon, how it escalates rapidly. In fact, kiddingly, I heard one individual at a War Game say, "Hey, all it takes is a handgrenuke (ph)," kiddingly prescribing that to a small weapon that would escalate very rapidly.
So, I think, the President, rightfully so, has been very concerned, about the potential, for Mr. Putin, using nuclear weapons. He has threatened that before, both in a nuanced way, and an overt way. The entirety of this conflict, I think, there has always been the potential, for Mr. Putin, to use nuclear weapons. But when you think about how they would be used, there are all kinds of various courses of actions. And none of them have any rational thought behind them.
The targeting of a nuclear weapon, even a tactical nuclear weapon, in this kind of conflict, would not make any sense. But then again, we're dealing with an individual that hasn't made sense, from the very beginning. And that's Mr. Putin, in terms of the execution of this conflict.
COOPER: Just for, I mean, when you talk about a tactical nuclear weapon, how would that be - might that be used, on a battlefield? I mean, and how large of an area does that impact?
HERTLING: Well, during the Cold War, Anderson, those tactical nuclear weapons were targeted, at areas, where there were large troop concentrations. And when I say, large, I'm talking about a corps of say, 80,000 people, and a lot of tanks.
And the tactical nuclear weapons' size could be anywhere from five kilometers to 20 kilometers. Now, that's much smaller than the kind of nuclear weapon that hit Nagasaki, or Hiroshima. But it's still a tactical nuclear weapon that has long after-effects.
So, what you're talking about, is the potential, for hitting a large formation, having an exhibition nuclear weapon, where you would explode it overhead, or in the North Sea, or something like that, to demonstrate a resolve of using it.
And there are several other scenarios that I don't want to get into here, because they're all just very scary. But they put the enemy in a position, to say, "Hey, this person is serious."
Unfortunately, whenever you show, you're serious about using them, the other side that has nuclear weapons says, "We're serious about it too," or "We may conduct operations, which would cause a significant amount of damage to your force." And there's been all kinds of discussion of what that might be.
COOPER: Which is why the President, I guess, reportedly said tonight that in his view, the use of a tactical nuclear weapon, could likely lead to quote, "Armageddon" that if one side chooses to use it, in Ukraine, for instance, in this case, if Russia did that, I guess, the U.S. would - I mean, is that what - how does that war game out?
HERTLING: Well, you're talking about the potential for drastic escalation. You can answer a nuclear weapon, with a whole panoply of conventional forces.
This might be something that would cause NATO to do something. It might cause the potential attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It could cause the potential attack on the basing, where are the - the launch sites, where the nuclear weapons come from within Russia. Ukraine can't do those kinds of things. But NATO and the United States can. And then, you can see the probability, of what Mr. Biden said, the potential for Armageddon. Because, once the initial action is made? And this is why so many members of the administration has warned Mr. Putin's administration, not to do this. Once the potential of this occurs? It's very difficult to restrain yourself from reacting to it.
COOPER: Yes. General Hertling, appreciate it. Thank you. Ominous. But I appreciate it.
More tonight, on Ukraine's gains. As we mentioned earlier, President Zelenskyy today said, Ukrainian forces have taken back more than 500 square kilometers of territory in the Kherson region, all in less than a week.
Now, last night, CNN International Security Editor, Nick Paton Walsh, brought us details, on the ground, in southern Ukraine, where Russian forces abandoned their positions, in a hurry, leaving behind bodies, of their own comrades.
He's back tonight, with new details.
Nick, what's the status, of the Ukrainian advance, in the Kherson region?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes. Some remarkable numbers, given out by Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying that over 1,000 - sorry, over half of thousand square kilometers of territory had been taken, since just October the 1st.
Now that pretty much confirms, possibly goes a little bit further than the map, from the Russian Defense Ministry, we saw a couple of days ago. But it shows an extraordinary series of advances here.
And we've seen ourselves in videos of American-supplied Humvees, literally racing across the open expanses, here, under Russian artillery, for quite how ferocious their moves are. And it does put under enormous pressure, the provincial capital of Kherson, which is on essentially now what seems to be the wrong side of the Dnipro River, the western side, where these advances are happening.
COOPER: So, I mean, a lot of the progress has been in rural parts of Kherson. Is there a timeframe for when Ukraine can make an attempt to actually take that city that you mentioned?
PATON WALSH: Yes. It's hard to predict that essentially, because they do appear to be choosing, to surround Russian stronghold, which has been a tactic that's been very successful, over the past two months or so. And that could well have a success in literally a matter of days.
Because we do know that Russian forces have been under-supplied, to be knowing this is coming, have been trying to reinforce themselves, have possibly been asking, for more strategic withdraw, or it could take weeks, if indeed they do dig in. And they do hope.
We don't know. But we do know, this is obviously an urgent question, for Russian politicians, who are now openly bickering about how badly this is going, Anderson.
COOPER: And Vladimir Putin has claimed the Zaporizhzhia, the nuclear power plant there, he's claimed as a Russian and federal asset. What's the response been from the Ukrainian?
PATON WALSH: Yes, I mean, obviously, Ukraine considers that still part of Ukraine. It's part of territory that Russia claimed in its false annexation, a matter of days ago.
It's yet more leverage of a nuclear variety, from Vladimir Putin, where essentially, he's trying to remind people that this is a card, he could play, the card, I mean, a sort of staged accent, to some degree.
Ukraine says, look, there are hundreds of Russian troops, on that site, and Russian hardware, as well.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, they were in Kyiv. There'll be increasing their staff on the ground. They're caught in between here, frankly, both sides. They need to maintain the safety of the plants.
But there was some anger, frankly, from Ukraine's President, about how they hadn't been more forthright, in condemning Russia's presence, there. Although the IAEA head himself, said, look, we don't recognize their presence there under international law. That's how the U.N. sees the Russian annexation of this.
But it is an enormous flashpoint, in the conflict, here, because, again, it's essentially some form of nuclear threat, from Moscow, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Nick Paton Walsh, appreciate it, in southern Ukraine, tonight. Be careful. Thank you.
Coming up next, breaking news, and possibly more information coming out of - excuse me, we're having a technical problem. Possibly more documents still at Mar-a-Lago.
Also, the Florida federal judge, at the center of the case, is she exercising good judgment, or is she, as some believe, carrying water, for the former President, who appointed her? Details ahead.
COOPER: As CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more, on tonight's breaking news, and the possibility that additional government documents, remain at Mar-a-Lago, even after the FBI search, in August.
She reports the Justice Department officials, have recently demanded the following, of attorneys, for the former President that he return any outstanding documents, marked as "Classified." This, according to a person familiar with the demand.
Now, this builds, on reporting, tonight, in "The New York Times" suggesting the Department of Justice believes it's being prevented, by a federal judge's ruling, from even knowing, what they might have missed.
As you know, it came from a Florida federal judge, whose decisions have already been questioned, by a string of conservative legal scholars, and partially reversed, by an appeals court panel, with a majority, appointed by the former President.
More now, from CNN's Jessica Schneider.
AILEEN CANNON, FEDERAL JUDICIAL NOMINEE: My sincere thanks to the President for the honor of his nomination.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Judge Cannon owes her nomination, to the federal bench, to Donald Trump.
And now, she's front and center, in the former President's legal fight, siding with Trump's team, to grant a Special Master, to review the documents, seized from Mar-a-Lago, and decide what should be kept, off limits, from federal investigators, a decision which is now being appealed, and has been criticized.
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: It's really a very pro- plaintiff, pro-Trump ruling, in all respects.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Not only by political pundits, but also three judges, on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, two of them Trump appointees, who described Cannon's initial ruling, pausing DOJ's review of documents, marked "Classified," untenable.
The Eleventh Circuit ultimately allowed the DOJ, to continue its probe, into the handling of classified material, while the Special Master reviewed thousands of other documents.
Judge Cannon also ruled last week that Trump did not have to officially declare in court, whether FBI agents planted items at Mar- a-Lago, something Trump and his allies have repeatedly said in public.
The Special Master had requested Trump prove his claims. But Cannon stepped in and stopped it.
Judge Cannon has not responded, to CNN's request, for comment, on her decisions.
But when asked in 2020, during her confirmation, if she had any discussions, about loyalty, to President Trump? She unequivocally wrote, "No."
SCHNEIDER (on camera): Do you think she has any bias toward Trump?
JASON MENDRO, FORMER COLLEAGUE: I don't think she has any bias at all. SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Jason Mendro worked with Cannon, while both practiced at Gibson Dunn, a decade ago.
MENDRO: We never talked about politics, or judicial philosophy, because it wasn't relevant to what we were doing. I still don't know anything about her politics, today.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): So, she wasn't overtly political?
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Aileen Cannon was working as a federal prosecutor, at the U.S. Attorney's Office, in Fort Pierce, Florida, when Senator Marco Rubio's office, first reached out, about a possible nomination, to the federal bench, in June 2019.
Senator Rubio, gave CNN, this statement, today. "Judge Cannon is a great judge who I am very proud to have enthusiastically supported. The attacks against her are just the latest example of hypocrisy from leftists and their media enablers, who believe the only time it is acceptable to attack a judge is if that judge rules against what they want."
Rubio isn't the only Florida Republican, Cannon is linked to. She met with counsel, for Republican senator, Rick Scott, just before she was nominated.
CANNON: My sincere thanks go to my home State Senator.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): And records show she donated $100, to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, in 2018.
She's been a judge, for less than two years. But she told senators, her judicial philosophy would be to follow the text, and the history, of the Constitution. And she shared her personal story, to stress her respect, for the rule of law, talking about how her mother, fled Communist Cuba.
CANNON: At the age of 7, had to flee the repressive Castro regime in search of freedom and security. Thank you for teaching me about the blessing that is this country and for giving - and the importance of securing the rule of law for generations to come.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: More on this now. Joining us is Berkeley Law professor, and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, John Yoo; and Harvard Law School Senior Lecturer, Nancy Gertner, who's also a former federal judge.
Judge Gertner, how do you think Judge Cannon has handled everything, so far, in terms of the decisions she's made?
[21:40:00] NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE, SENIOR LECTURER, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, let me say, first of all, the notion that she met with the senators, before she was confirmed? We all met with senators, before you're confirmed. That's sort of - par for the course. That doesn't suggest that she's tilting in any direction.
But put it this way. She appoints a Special Master, because she's concerned about the appearance of partiality. And then, she intervenes in the decisions that the Special Master makes.
She appoints a Special Master, because she thinks that that will be more expeditious. And then, she messes around with the deadlines that he sets. So, she's behaving - if she was concerned about the appearance of propriety, the appearance of fairness? All of her decisions are inconsistent with that. And that's troubling.
COOPER: John, what do you make of that?
JOHN YOO, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LAW SCHOOL: I think she's a young judge. She hasn't been on the bench, very long. And just dropped in her lap, this really complicated case, high-profile case.
I don't blame her for calling in a Special Master. To me, it seemed like she was calling in the cavalry. She hasn't had much experience with classified information, with the Intelligence agencies.
And I think she was hoping that she would create some space, and time, where maybe the Trump administration - Trump people, sorry, not the Trump administration, and the Biden administration Justice Department, might reach some kind of agreement that would stop these two forces, from coming, and hitting each other, head-on.
But unfortunately, that's what's happened. Instead of drawing the temperature down, both sides have been escalating, through this process, where it's almost as if the Justice Department's painted itself, into a corner that they're going to have to go, for an indictment. And President Trump is going to still claim that the Justice Department Intelligence agencies are biased against him.
COOPER: John, as you know, former President Trump, asked the Supreme Court to intervene, in the dispute, over documents, seized from Mar-a- Lago. Do you think the court has the appetite for this?
YOO: No, I have to say, someone, as clerked at the court, I think the odds of the court taking this are very, very low. When I clerked there, the clerk's job is to sift through all these petitions, and to find the cases that the Supreme Court should take, out of the thousands and thousands of petitions.
And the court's not there to correct errors. It's not there, because they think some lower court judge, like Judge Cannon, might have made a mistake. They're only there to settle large national problems, where the lower courts are divided, something important, like Roe versus Wade, for example, or affirmative action likes, coming up this year. What they're not going to do is go into a case that's got messy facts, like this, where there's no split in the lower courts, and where there's no really important legal questions. So, we used to call something like this, we'd say, this is error correction, it's split- less, and it's fact-bound. And that would be the kiss of death for any petition. And I think that accurately describes this case.
COOPER: Judge Gertner, do you think the legal strategy, by the former President, taking this, to the Supreme Court, is a delay tactic?
GERTNER: I think it's not just not only a delay tactic. First of all, this is not a complicated case. There is no excuse, none, zip, for having classified information, in your beach house. There is just none. There's no conceivable basis for that.
So, I mean, I don't think - I think that what he's doing is if you say, "This is unfair! This is unfair!" in every form, you can find, maybe people will believe that it's unfair, and not step back, and say, "What is this about?" This is about classified documents that you don't, in your beach house, for which there is no explanation and no excuse.
COOPER: John, have you seen any explanation or excuse that makes sense?
YOO: I think the - and this is really, I think, the problem with Trump's strategy, I agree with Judge Gertner that you're not allowed to have classified information, in your house. You're not allowed to have it anywhere outside of government facility.
Trump, I think, he seems to have violated the law, either him or the people around him. And they are trying, I think, to just keep kicking the can, down the road, hope something's going to happen. But I can't see what their endgame here is.
They don't seem to have a really long-term strategy that results in anything other than maybe hoping that Attorney General Garland decides that it's getting political, in a reelection campaign, and you don't want to have some kind of precedent set, where a following administration, prosecutes the previous one. Otherwise, they look like they violated the law.
COOPER: John Yoo, Judge Gertner, appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up next, new reporting, on what appears to be growing legal trouble, for Hunter Biden.
COOPER: There's new reporting, tonight that likely has the White House's attention.
"The Washington Post" first had the story. The headline, "Federal agents see chargeable tax, gun-purchase case against Hunter Biden. Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump appointee, must decide whether to charge the son of the current president."
Now, this follows CNN reporting, back in July, that prosecutors, FBI and IRS investigators, were discussing similar potential charges.
Devlin Barrett shares the byline in "The Washington Post" story, joins us now.
What is this that you've learned, Devlin?
DEVLIN BARRETT, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: So what we've been told is that, for a number of months, the federal agents, who have worked the Hunter Biden investigation, have believed they have a chargeable case.
Now, that's important, but it's not the end decision, because ultimately, this will be decided by the U.S. Attorney, in Delaware, who is a holdover, from the Trump administration.
COOPER: What have investigators zeroed in on that they think would stand up in court?
BARRETT: So, there's a couple things.
On the tax front, there's a lot of the particulars we don't know for certain. But what we are told is that one of the major issues here is did Hunter Biden declare all of his income?
Because, if you'll recall, the Republicans have made a big talking point, both from the 2020 election on, about his business deals. And so, the investigators are looking at did he declare all the income from those deals?
And then as far as the gun charge goes, he bought a gun in 2018. And on that paperwork, he said he was not using or addicted to drugs. And in his autobiography, he describes using drugs, quite frequently, during that time period. So, that's another potential legal pitfall for him.
COOPER: And is it clear to what extent Attorney General Garland, who was obviously appointed by Hunter Biden's father, is involved with this case?
BARRETT: So, when he's been asked about this, Attorney General Garland has made very clear that this is a case being supervised, by the U.S. Attorney, in Delaware.
Now obviously, the U.S. Attorney reports to the Attorney General. But the Attorney General has promised, there will be no political interference, or meddling of any kind, with that case being handled by that Republican-appointed Attorney General.
But obviously, this whole case, is so intertwined, with politics and suspicion about possible wrongdoing or mishandling that people are going to look at this very closely. COOPER: Do you have a sense of how likely it is that the investigation will actually move forward to a prosecution?
BARRETT: I really don't know the answer to that.
But one of the things you see, for example, if you take just the subset of gun cases? In gun cases, the year that Hunter Biden made that gun purchase, about 60 percent of the time, federal agents recommended charging, prosecutors went ahead, and charged that individual.
So, I don't think it's by any means certain that you will see ultimately an indictment out of this. But what we do know and what we are reporting is that federal agents believe that there is a chargeable case here.
COOPER: Interesting. Devlin Barrett, appreciate it. Thank you.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Before we go, I started a podcast, recently, called "All There Is," which is all about loss and grief. I learned today, it's been downloaded more than 1.4 million times, which is remarkable, because grief is not something we talk about very much, and it's very isolating.
I wanted to thank you all, for listening to the podcasts, if you have, and hope it continues to be helpful. I hope it makes you feel less alone, in your grief.
You can point your cell phone, at the QR code, on your TV screen, right now, for a link to it. If you would like, you could also find it on Apple Podcasts, wherever you get podcasts.
The fourth episode is out. It's a very personal, at times, very funny conversation, with the actress, Molly Shannon, whose mom, and baby sister, and cousin, were killed in a car crash, when she was just 4- years-old. And that unspeakable loss, it changed Molly, forever. And we talk about this sometimes unusual ripple effects, of early loss that we, like many of you, probably, still feel today. I hope it speaks to you, in your grief.
News continues, here, on CNN. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" is next, right after a short break.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.
We begin with breaking news. A chilling warning from the president of the United. President Joe Biden had a fundraiser here in New York, warning about the dangers of Vladimir Putin's threats to use nuclear weapons as his forces suffer setbacks in Ukraine.