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January 6 Committee Expected To Announce Referral Of Multiple Criminal Charges Against Trump To DOJ; John Walsh On Idaho Quadruple Murder Mystery; Brittney Griner Returns To Arizona Eight Days After Release From Russia. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 16, 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: Today, we learned, the January 6 committee is expected to announce the referral of multiple criminal charges, against the former President, to the Justice Department. They'll meet, for the first time, next Monday, to decide.
Sources, tell CNN, the charges they're considering include obstruction of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and insurrection, the culmination of almost a year and a half investigation, into the former President, his allies, in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
Joined now, by our Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez.
What more do we know about these charges that are being considered or referred?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, look, it's an important marker, for this committee that has been working, these many months. They've done hundreds of interviews with witnesses. They've got thousands and thousands of pages of transcripts. And that's the big importance, for the Justice Department.
Obviously, having these three referral charges, the insurrection, the impeding an official proceeding - interfering with an official proceeding of Congress, and the defrauding the United States, are three charges that will probably be familiar, for the Justice Department, especially the last two.
We've seen people brought in, among the nearly 1,000 defendants, being charged with obstructing an official proceeding of Congress. We also, of course, have seen the defrauding the United States charge, in many, many instances.
The one that is probably going to be a little bit problematic, for prosecutors, is the insurrection charge. It's a law that dates back to the Reconstruction Era. It's not something that there's a lot of case law for.
So, for the Justice Department, Anderson, they have their ongoing investigation. And so, there's a lot of things they already are aware of. They're very, very, very interested in seeing the evidence that this committee has turned up.
COOPER: What impact would it have, on the Justice Department, if any?
PEREZ: Well, it's important for Congress, this bipartisan committee, to speak, and to say what they have found, as a result of their investigation. Obviously, there are people, former Justice Department prosecutors, who are working with this committee. So, it is quite possible that they found things that the Justice Department has not found.
And we heard from Merrick Garland, the Attorney General, just recently, and I asked him, you know about these transcripts that they've been asking for. That is one of the most important parts of this. Because, certainly they have their own investigation, but they want to see what some of these witnesses have said, to the Committee, independently.
COOPER: Evan, stay with us, because, I want to bring back in Elliot Williams.
And also a CNN Senior Political Commentator, Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, and longtime political adviser, to Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.
Elliot, while the referrals, from the committee, would not be legally binding, obviously, how does the Justice Department treat them? And do you agree with Evan's reporting that essentially, they'd be most interested in the transcripts?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely.
How does the Justice Department treat them? Look, Anderson, you, or I, or any viewer can make a referral, to the Justice Department, if we believe that a crime has been committed. That's one of the beautiful things of free speech, and an open government, here.
Congress has the ability to investigate. So that - they have more reach than you or I do. And so, that's what they're doing. They're engaging in the act of bringing things, to the Justice Department's attention.
Justice Department will review it, see it, consider it, maybe. But at the end of the day, the decision of whether to proceed with charges is all comes down to whether Justice Department believes they can win, convince a jury of the facts that are charged beyond a reasonable doubt. That's it.
And while it's beautiful, and compelling, and persuasive, and there might be a really nice report from Congress? At the end of the day, it just doesn't have the legal weight.
COOPER: And Elliot, when it comes to the three charges, the Committee is expected to announce, how serious are they?
E. WILLIAMS: Oh, they - look, insurrection is very, very serious. That's why it's been charged so few times, in American history. And even if you know that, remember the name of Cliven Bundy, the rancher in Nevada, who literally took arms against the American government, was not charged with insurrection. So, that's going to be the toughest one, to establish.
The other two, you have a path to charging the President, or others around him with, obstructing Congress, with the intent to do so, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Those both - those last two, I talked about, both have a five year maximum sentence, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it's still five years in prison. It's a serious crime. It's obstructing the laws of the country.
COOPER: Scott, do you think this committee, making a referral, do you think that actually hurts the Justice Department?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do, actually. I think that it's a political statement.
I think - we were always destined to wind up here, given who's on the committee, and also given what we all saw with our own two eyes, on January, the 6th. So, as Elliott said, there's really nothing to this, as it relates to what the Justice Department has to do.
There is some politics involved in this, and I assume committee members will be out there making very political statements.
So, it strikes me that this does throw a few rocks, in the bag of the Department of Justice, as it explains to the American people that they end up charging Donald Trump, because it'll cause some folks to say, "Oh, you just did it, because the Congress asked you to do it." That may not be true, but that's what it might look like.
So, I think this was always going to happen. And, as it relates to the politics of it, it adds, obviously to Donald Trump's ongoing political woes, because it's a few more rocks, in his own bags as well that he's dragging around, as he tries to get his campaign off the ground.
COOPER: Do you think it hurts him, politically, one way or another?
JENNINGS: I think it is a reminder to Republicans, that if we nominate him, for a third time, just how much harder it's going to be, to beat the numbers he got in the last two elections. I mean, this guy's a mid-40s guy. And that was before January 6, and that was before possibly being charged with crimes, around January, the 6th.
So it just, I think it's a reminder to Republicans, it's going to be really hard, for him to win the national popular vote, and not sort of accidentally trip into the White House, like he did, in 2016. And that's why I think you're seeing other candidates, who are not carrying that kind of baggage, like DeSantis, from Florida, rising in the polls.
COOPER: And Evan, I mean, how much do we know about where the DOJ's investigation stands, at this point?
PEREZ: Well, we've seen a lot of activity, Anderson, from the grand jury, the one here in Washington that is working, on this part of the Trump investigations.
Remember, there's two, right? The Special Counsel is now overseeing two Trump-related investigations. One, of course, is the documents that were found at Mar-a-Lago.
But, the other one, which has to do with the effort of the former President, and people around him, to impede the transfer of power, that one has been ongoing, for some time.
And there are parts of it that are in quite an advanced stage. The first sort of - certainly the parts that relate to John Eastman, and Jeffrey Clark, who are the two of the key figures, who were trying to help Trump, get the whole excuse of vote fraud, and to try to obstruct the transfer of power.
So, those two investigations are in quite an advanced stage. And so, we could probably see something, very soon, on those
As far as Trump is concerned, however, it does appear, just from the subpoenas, we've seen issued, just in the last few days, that the prosecutors still have a ways to go, to try to understand his role, in direct activity, with those states, right, trying to get them, to overturn their election results, and to see these fake electors that would have kept the former President, in power, even though he lost the election.
COOPER: And Elliot, I mean, if what's been reported is true, that part of the former President's reasoning, to launch his campaign, when he did, which he's not really doing any campaigning since then? But, one of the reasons he may have launched it when he did it, was in part because he thought it might shield him, legally.
Does it? I mean, obviously, the DOJ will say, "Well, no, that will have no impact on us." But just from a response of other people?
E. WILLIAMS: Yes.
COOPER: I mean does it help the President to be running for president?
E. WILLIAMS: No, it doesn't shield him, legally. Now, it probably forced the Attorney General's hand, in appointing a Special Counsel.
Now, look, as I said, on the program, the Attorney General could still have overseen the investigation, without appointing a Special Counsel. But needless to say, it probably forced the Attorney General's hand, to take away this question of political interference, like sort of putting a thumb on the scale, of a president's candidacy, right? It doesn't change anything, legally.
Now, right before an election, for maybe the 60 days, prior to Election Day, they would not - the Justice Department would not indict, or issue a search warrant, for a candidate's house, once somebody had identified themselves as a candidate.
But beyond that, all the investigative steps, any arrest, any indictment can still happen of a candidate for office. So, it doesn't really change all that.
COOPER: But Scott, I mean, just because a Special Counsel has been named, that certainly didn't stop the former President, from attacking, the last time there was a Special Counsel.
COOPER: I mean, the rules don't--
COOPER: --the regular rules do not apply to him.
JENNINGS: Yes, although we're starting to see political gravity take effect.
JENNINGS: In CNN's polling, and polling from the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Suffolk, I mean, you've seen a cascade of numbers that show him really in decay, among Republicans. Not that they don't like him anymore. It's just that they realized nominating him for the third time would be ludicrous.
I mean, can anybody on this panel think of the last good political day Donald Trump had? I mean, I'll wait. I mean, I'll tell you when it was. It was the day he got over COVID, and the day that he probably defeated Joe Biden, in the third presidential debate, right before he lost the election. Every day, every week, every month, since then, has been one day, week and month worse than the one before. And if he gets indicted here, it's going to be another bad day.
So, they really have been on a string of losses, as it relates to his own political standing, within the country, and within his own party, and it's finally catching up to him, according to the latest surveys.
PEREZ: Anderson, let me--
COOPER: Yes, go ahead.
PEREZ: Anderson, just let me add real quick. I mean, I think there is a political reality, though, that Merrick Garland, and - the Attorney General, the Justice Department have to pay attention to, which is, if they are going to do something? I mean, the political season, certainly the presidential race, is going to start picking up, next year.
Certainly, I think, if you're going to have a trial, it takes about a year, a year and a half, in D.C., to get through that. So, if you're starting to backtrack from, say, mid-summer of 2024, you kind of have to make decisions, certainly by the spring of next year.
COOPER: Yes. Evan Perez, Elliot Williams, Scott Jennings, appreciate it. Thank you.
Just ahead, our Nick Paton Walsh, in Ukraine, meeting civilians, who had to take covers. Dozens more Russian rockets, missiles were launched, against the country, today.
And later, more on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and how they first came together.
COOPER: The week of missile strikes, in Ukraine, ends with a particularly brutal amount today. 76 missiles launched, 60 intercepted, but explosions heard across the country. Russia targeting, the, nation's power grid, and making it difficult to survive, and with winter, plunging the country, into sub-freezing temperatures.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in Ukraine, on what life is like for people, living under constant assault.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Add to the frost, the rumble that makes it yet colder and deadlier still. The persistence in the gloom, on Friday, the sound of electricity, water and life being ground away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air raid alert!
PATON WALSH (voice-over): Russia's brutality is routine. But life above ground has adjusted, even police patrols ordering people underground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone please go to the nearest shelter. Stay in the shelter until the threat ends.
PATON WALSH (voice-over): And life there, finding its own rhythm too.
LADA KOROVAI, ACTRESS IN KYIV, UKRAINE: Took with us (ph).
PATON WALSH (voice-over): This couple knew what they had to take with them, as they walked to acting rehearsals.
KOROVAI: In the morning I woke up and I saw a rocket in the sky and I wasn't surprised. I just saw and I understood that I have to go to the tube.
PATON WALSH (voice-over): Morale, Ukraine always likes to say, is unbroken, unbreakable. But when your skies, weekly, look like this, and the water went out, in Kyiv, Friday's news that 60 out of 76 Russian missiles fired, were intercepted, can only lift spirits so far.
Particularly, in the bitter cold, of the second biggest city, Kharkiv, it's especially hard Friday. The power did go off for a while, leaving locals gathered around whatever source of food, or heat, the state could provide. This called an invincibility point, an aspiration, not a promise.
In Kryvyi Rih, three died, a 64-year-old woman, and a young couple, whose infant son remains under the frozen rubble, said the Governor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
PATON WALSH (voice-over): Yes, the woman's father having just learned, she was pulled from the rubble.
But, in all of this, the threat, or fear, worse, could come, from this direction, Belarus, to Ukraine's north, where Russian troops train feverishly.
Ukraine's top brass loudly warning of a possible move, on Kyiv, from this direction, in the weeks ahead. They have aimed and missed before. But still, the Kremlin does not stop.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.
COOPER: More now on what life is like, for those living under the threat, of these deadly and constant missile attacks, in this freezing cold.
Christina Katrakis is an artist and an Ambassador for the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals. Her organization helps with delivery of the humanitarian aid, into locations, around the country, that are difficult to reach, because of the conflict.
Christina, just can you talk to us a little bit about what you are seeing, especially, for kids? What is life like, right now, in Ukraine?
AMB. CHRISTINA KATRAKIS, FOUNDATION FOR U.N.'S SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: Anderson, thank you for having me, on the show.
Well, it's hell that we live in every day. And I, as an American, and my family, and my 7-year-old son, made this conscientious decision to remain here, and to try to help Ukraine, and Ukrainians, till the end.
And so, on the third day of war, we have opened a base, and a storage in the town of Vorokhta. That's in western Ukraine, in Carpathian Mountains, currently, probably the most safe region, in Ukraine, where people can find safety, so to say. We have 5,000-plus internally-displaced people, from Mariupol, from Berdiansk, from Kharkiv, from Kherson, Mykolaiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions. So, we provide daily, monthly for them, as well as for the frontlines. And, of course, right now, we have to do that without heat, without electricity, without water, without internet or any connection, even cellular.
Kids, you can see, right now, here are IDP kids, right, internally- displaced kids, from Berdiansk, Mariupol, Kharkiv. They are packing boxes, at our storage, for other kids that are at the frontlines, right now, living and struggling.
So, they're like little elves working away. And, as they work with candles, because there's no light, in the storage, no heat, they're all dressed up. We pray that the world, and United States, will support and continue to support Ukraine.
And, right now, help is needed more than ever, because it's not the war between Russia and Ukraine. It's the war against tyranny, terrorism, and the Western values. And it became very clear. And, as an American, I think we have to stand for what is right. We have to stand for democracy.
COOPER: And what is it that the kids are getting, who are the front that those kids - that the kids, who have come, who are internally displaced, who are working as little elves, to pack presents, what do the kids get?
KATRAKIS: Well, we send young clothing. We send food. We send hygiene, because that is highly needed, right now, big lack of that.
We send whatever we can, in terms of electricity support. So, right now, we're trying to gather funds, for example, for power stations, EcoFlows, generators, rechargeable lamps, cookers, so whatever could help them, to survive this cold, and dark winter because indeed, it's going to be a horrible winter to survive.
COOPER: If conditions get worse, in Ukraine, could you see a scenario, where you and your organization, to have to leave, work in other parts of Europe?
KATRAKIS: I try not to think of that.
On the first day of the full invasion out, my husband, I, and my 7- year-old son, he was 6 then, Mark, he's an American, we made that decision. And no matter how hard it is, we went through everything, and we will continue on going through everything.
We just cannot abandon those kids, you know? We cannot abandon pregnant women that we brought from Mariupol. We had women giving birth, on the way, from Mariupol, to our base, in Vorokhta. So, we have like, Miracle Mariupol babies, right now.
So, for me to say, "Guys, you are on your own, and I'm leaving," that's a treason you know? It's like announcing Russia, a terrorist state, and not acting upon it. That's a height of hypocrisy. [21:25:00]
COOPER: I know we have some video that you took of kids singing. Where is this from? And also, where can people find out more about your organization to help, if they want?
KATRAKIS: Right. This is our storage, actually. So, as they warm up, and as they work with candles, packing boxes, for the frontlines, for other kids, they sing a Ukrainian Carol, "Carol of the Bells" that we all know, as the famous one.
And our site, the site of our organization is ffunsdghelpua.org. And also, my name is Christina Katrakis. So, you can always find me, via site, or social media, and I'll be very happy to respond. We're looking for any support, help, and we're accountable, as a U.N. organization, for every dollar received. And you know that it will go to the right destination, because we showcase, every delivery.
COOPER: Yes, great.
KATRAKIS: And here, you can see a girl, an IDP girl, with her mother, preparing dolls, and presents that we're sending to the kids at the frontline. They have no lights. So, they're working with candlelight, and singing the Carol.
COOPER: Wow! Christina Katrakis, I so appreciate what you're doing. Thank you so much.
KATRAKIS: Thank you. And God bless you.
I just want to remind Americans, my fellow Americans, what Christmas is all about. It's not about a new sweater, or returning gifts that you don't like. Give a gift that will continue on giving. These kids need your help. They need love and care. And, right now, a generator is the greatest gift they can hope for.
KATRAKIS: Thank you.
COOPER: Christina Katrakis, appreciate it. Thank you.
Just ahead, an American college student, who was missing, for weeks, in Europe, tonight, his family says he is alive. We'll tell you about that.
Also, while in Idaho, the tragic mystery continues over a month. And four college students were murdered. John Walsh is here to discuss the battle for leads and justice.
COOPER: Some good news, in a story we've been following. The family, of an American college student, missing for more than two weeks, in France, says he is safe, tonight. There's still a lot of questions about exactly what he's been doing, all this time.
21-year-old Kenny DeLand Jr. turned up in Spain. His father got word, while on a call with CNN. He hung up with us, but later told us he had just spoken with his son.
The last known sighting of DeLand had been back on December 3, at a store, some 90 miles, from the university, he had been studying at, in France. He's a senior, at St. John Fisher University, in Rochester, New York.
Now, to the still unsolved mystery, of the four students, killed near the University of Idaho, last month.
Four families, going through the holidays, without their loved ones, and without any answers. Investigators say they're sorting through a list of 22,000 Hyundai Elantras, one of which could help provide a critical break, in the case.
Joining me now is John Walsh, former host and creator of "America's Most Wanted," and the host of ID's "In Pursuit with John Walsh," streaming on Discovery+, which is owned by CNN's parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery.
John, it's good to see you this. I mean, this case, it's been over a month. Authorities have yet to name a suspect, find a murder weapon. What do you make of this?
JOHN WALSH, HOST OF INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY'S "IN PURSUIT WITH JOHN WALSH," FORMER HOST & CREATOR, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED," VICTIMS' RIGHTS ADVOCATE: Good to see you too, Anderson.
It's a heartbreaker. First of all, my heart goes out to these families, because now they've joined a horrible club, I belong to, "Parents of a murdered child." And it's the worst thing that you can imagine. So, you need answers and you want answers.
People, have been critical of the police, I say, "Well hold it." They don't have 100 homicides. Chicago has 800-plus homicides, every year. So, their experience, this is a small Police Department. They may be keeping some things back that they don't want the public to know. They don't tell parents most of the time, because parents will tell other people, who could blow the case, especially if they have a suspect.
So, I think, the best thing they did was call in for help, bring people in. And maybe it got messed up when all the cars were coming through, and they could have got tire tracks, they could have got this and that.
But there's a few things I hope they did do, Anderson. And the car is crucial. But it's no good until you get a partial plate. If you get a piece of a partial plate, one numeral, we have a thing called auto track, we could find out who it belong to. And there's not many cameras in that town, might be one of the fewest camera towns, in the United States. But nobody seems to have a clean shot at the car.
But I also say this. Don't let that car be the red herring. You and I covered the Beltway sniper, if you remember that, Anderson.
COOPER: Sure, of course.
WALSH: A show, non-stop, in "Larry King." They kept saying, "He's in a white van." And I kept saying "No, he's ditched that van by now." He was in a brown sedan that he shot out of the trunk.
When my son Adam was missing, a couple witnesses thought that Ottis Toole that grabbed Adam, the horrible pedophile, jumped into a blue car. And when they got Ottis Toole, he was driving a white Cadillac.
So I say to them, the car might be a red herring. Use your resources, on something else. I hope they've interviewed every sex offender, in the counties around there, every peeping tom, every rapist et cetera.
And DNA, you and I've talked about DNA, for years, Anderson. And the advancements are fantastic.
Now, we have Touch DNA. Touch DNA, where is if the perp maybe even just rubs his finger, on a blanket, we never used to have that. You had to have biological fluids that connect to DNA. So, now we have Touch DNA. And it works great.
And we have Familial DNA. I remember, when they first invented Familial DNA, I was looking for a guy, named the Grim Sleeper. He had murdered eight women, gone underground, came back out. Started to kill women. I've profiled him multiple times.
And guess what? His son got caught. His son was a dirtbag, got caught with a gun. They took the son's DNA, and it matched up, in CODIS. That's the big DNA database. So, we got the Grim Sleeper because his son was a dirtbag, and Familial DNA is working good.
But the best thing is it's a horrible bloody place. But they're also nowadays have hooked up to different states, where they have their own DNA databases, not about the person. They have it about the crime scenes.
So, what they do is they put it into the computer, and you're not in CODIS, unless you've been a convicted felon. But this takes the DNA, at the crime scene, and matches it with other unsolved cases, at other crime scenes. So, if this guy's been in other states, he's somewhere else? It opens a big lead, it opens up a place. So, I'm hoping it opens up a new page, to keep looking, for this creep.
COOPER: A crime--
WALSH: So, I'm hoping--
COOPER: A crime like this?
COOPER: I mean, you have a number of young people, in a house. Is it likely they knew the person?
WALSH: Here's a couple things. I've been mulling this over and mulling it over. Probably they did. I mean, to me, it's a psychopath, violent, dangerous person, might have been rejected by one of those girls, one of those creeps that has never been on a date, et cetera. But they may also know him.
And I was thinking, back when we caught the BTK (ph) killer, when we caught the Grim Sleeper? These were people that lived right in the neighborhood, and never ran. Even with all the heat on them, with all the problems, and all the cops looking everywhere?
WALSH: Those two guys never left their houses. They just stayed in the area. And they knew their victims. Not all of their victims.
But, I think, everybody wants to think that this guy, took off, and he's somewhere else. I hope he took off, and I hope we get a suspect, because then I'll go to work and try to catch him. But he could still be in the area.
And I say to that - and I wish this Chief of Police would stress safety more than anything. This is a psychopath. He's angry. He's mad, and he - bloodiest crime scene that these cops have ever seen. So, if he's still in the area, two girls, walking home, from the dorm, from a bar, is not going to stop at 200-pound guy, with a knife, who wants to kill somebody else. They should be on red alert.
WALSH: But there's so many tools, Anderson that I hope - and it takes forever. That DNA I told you about, the Touch DNA? That takes forever.
WALSH: And you go to other databases, CODIS pairs with other databases, and maybe they'll come up with a couple of crime scenes.
COOPER: Well as you--
WALSH: But if this guy was never arrested, his DNA is not in CODIS.
COOPER: Yes. As you said, they have called in help. I know the FBI has been there as well.
John Walsh, I appreciate talking to you. Thank you.
WALSH: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up, Brittney Griner opening up about her freedom, from Russia, after nearly 10 months in custody. We'll look at the basketball star's future, next.
COOPER: Basketball star, Brittney Griner, is finally home, tonight, in Arizona. It is the last leg of her journey to freedom, after nearly 300 days in Russian custody. It's not Griner's final stop, in her return to normalcy, and her career on the courts.
Abby Phillip joins us with where things stand, after that dramatic prisoner swap, over a week ago.
What more have you learned?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY: Well, Anderson, Brittney Griner is now home, in Arizona. She's beginning this process of restarting her life.
Now, this has been a week for her, of a lot of reunions, with family, some basketball, even this past weekend. There has been some of her favorite food, even a hair-cut, to clean up, what her friends were calling her "Russian fade," when she cut off her dreadlocks, while in prison, in Russia.
But the fact that she is going home, today - went home, today, is a sign to people around her that she's feeling good. She's ready to go back to her normal life.
And one key thing about this statement? It's the first time we're really hearing directly, from her. She wanted to make it clear that not only was she incredibly grateful, to everyone, who was involved in her release, including to President Biden, and many, many others. But she wanted to issue a statement about Paul Whelan, the other American, who is still in detention in Russia.
She said, in her statement, that she is going to do everything that she can, to make sure that both Paul and other Americans are freed. And she encouraged everyone to do so as well, knowing, I think, that there are obviously some efforts out there to divide on this issue, too. For people, who supported Griner being released, to not support Whelan to be released, I think, it was important to her, to make it clear, that was going to be part of her future, but also that she is thinking about Paul, who is still in Russia.
COOPER: And what do we know about her future plans?
PHILLIP: Well, this is another key moment. I think I was a little surprised to learn that she would reveal this. But she said, today, she is returning to the WNBA, in the spring, to play for the Phoenix Mercury.
That decision, I think, people had left it to her. She would decide whenever she wanted to. She would announce it whenever she wanted to. But she did it today, a clear statement that she's ready to be back on the court.
Anderson, it wasn't until this weekend that Brittney Griner picked up a basketball, for the first time, since she was detained in Russia. And a lot of people wondered if she would even want to get back to the game. She clearly does.
And I also learned today that as she got on that plane, in San Antonio, to head home, she was greeted by one of her teammates Diana Taurasi, as well as the President and General Manager of the Phoenix Mercury. They were there, on the plane, to surprise her, and to welcome her back.
This team, the Mercury, has been all in, behind her, throughout this journey. And so, it was really a kind of welcome-home, from basically family, at this point, as she headed back--
PHILLIP: --to rejoin her life.
COOPER: Yes. Abby Phillip, I appreciate the update. Thanks so much.
Coming up, it's been a hit on Netflix. Not so much it seems with the British public. We'll have more on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's new series, and focus on the couple's beginnings, before the Royal rift, next.
COOPER: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's new Netflix series have been met with some skepticism, in the United Kingdom. A poll, taken there, between the first and second chunk of episodes, showed a decrease, in the couple's popularity rating. Also found that most Brits thought releasing the series was a bad idea.
The series also focuses on the path they had, toward marriage, and parenthood.
Our Randi Kaye looks at how two people, from completely different worlds, came together.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was a Hollywood actress, he was a Prince, worlds apart, until they fell in love.
Meghan Markle told "Vanity Fair" magazine, she and Prince Harry were introduced, by a friend, at Harry's request. They first met, in London, in July, 2016. And soon, their shared love of philanthropy became apparent.
MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I am tremendously honored to be U.N. Women's Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership. I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.
KAYE (voice-over): When they first met, Meghan Markle was divorced, and living in Toronto, where she had filmed her hit TV show, "Suits."
Still, they soon traveled together, to Botswana, where their relationship blossomed. Within months, the British press began reporting on the romance, despite the couple's efforts, to keep it quiet.
Chatter about an engagement heated up, after Markle quit her job, on her TV show. Another clue, this relationship was serious? Markle's tea with the Queen, her first introduction to the Monarch. And pictures of Markle, with her dogs, in London, started showing up, in the British press.
In September, 2017, they gave their first major interview to "Vanity Fair," detailing their royal romance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, please (inaudible).
KAYE (voice-over): A few weeks after that, they appeared together, in public, for their first time, as a couple, holding hands, at the Invictus Games, an event, Prince Harry organized, to benefit wounded veterans.
In November, 2017, the couple got engaged, at their cottage, at Kensington Palace. They shared the romantic details with the BBC.
DUCHESS MEGHAN: Just a cozy night. It was - what we were doing? Just roasting chicken and having--
PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: Roasting a chicken, trying to roast a chicken.
DUCHESS MEGHAN: Trying to roast a chicken and it just - just an amazing surprise. It was so sweet and natural and very romantic. He got on one knee.
PRINCE HARRY: No, it was a - it was a really nice moment, it was just the two of us and I think I managed to catch her by surprise as well.
DUCHESS MEGHAN: Yes, as a matter of fact, I could barely let you finish proposing. I said, "Can I say yes now?"
PRINCE HARRY: Yes.
KAYE (voice-over): The couple showed off Markle's engagement ring, which Prince Harry had designed.
PRINCE HARRY: The main stone itself, I sourced from Botswana, and the little diamonds, either side, are from my mother's jewelry collection, to make sure that she's with us on this - on this crazy journey together.
KAYE (voice-over): In May, 2018, they got married, inside St George's Chapel, at Windsor Castle. Among those in attendance, David and Victoria Beckham, George and Amal Clooney, and Serena Williams. Thousands more lined the streets.
But as Markle revealed to Oprah, the two of them had been married, days earlier, in a private ceremony.
DUCHESS MEGHAN: No one knows that. But we called the archbishop, and we just said, "Look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world. But we want our union between us," so, like the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
KAYE (voice-over): They traveled the world, before announcing, in October, 2018, they were expecting their first child. Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born in May, 2019, happier times, before the Royal split.
Randi Kaye, CNN.
COOPER: In Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's new Netflix series, they don't only share details, about their relationship, they also reveal more on their split with the Royal Family.
In the final episodes, Harry says he was being blocked, from meeting the Queen, to discuss his future, and Meghan says her private secretary warned things wouldn't run smoothly.
Earlier, I spoke with CNN Royal Correspondent, Max Foster, and CNN Royal Commentator and Historian, Kate Williams.
COOPER: Kate, you've been covering the Royal Family, for a long time. How damaging, do you think, these allegations, are?
KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR AND HISTORIAN: I think they have the potential to be very damaging.
We have a vision here, of an institution, whose working practices are dysfunctional. There's briefing against each other. That's what Harry and Meghan were talking about. That's what they said. And also, a family that's falling apart.
And I think people are going to be watching this, particularly young people, people of color, people across the Commonwealth, saying, "Well, if this is what happens, to a woman of color, who marries into the Royal Family that she has to exit that she feels unsafe? How relevant is the Royal Family to me?"
So, King Charles, it's a very early reign. He doesn't have the popularity of his mother. I think this does have the potential to really knock his popularity ratings, quite low.
COOPER: Kate, the Royal Family's, I mean, they're taxpayer-funded institution. So, are their press offices, who were allegedly planting negative stories, about Meghan, which she says caused her suffering. How do you think the British public is going to square that?
K. WILLIAMS: Well, there's a difference in the British public, and the British newspapers.
Obviously, Harry and Meghan have sued, or are suing many British newspapers, at the moment, and have been doing so.
But I think there is a groundswell of sympathy, for them, within the British public. And certainly, as you say, it's taxpayer-funded. They are to a degree accountable to the taxpayer.
And the reason for the Monarchy existing is by the consent of the people, both in Britain, and the other countries, in which the Monarch is Head of State and the Commonwealth. And I think people will certainly be asking quite serious questions.
These allegations that we saw in episodes four to six that actually, that the Palace was not just not failing to control the wildfire stories, many of which had racist overtones, about Meghan, but there were also - there were also stories being leaked, and there were stories being briefed. And Harry suggested this is because some Royals were jealous of Meghan. I mean, these are very serious allegations. And I think that they will eventually have to be answered for.
I know they're not doing it so, at the moment. But, I think, eventually, questions will be asked, and the Royals will have to make some kind of answer. Whether that's these sources? I don't know.
COOPER: Max, it's so interesting, because I mean, we were all covering the death of the Queen, a few months ago. And clearly, Harry and Meghan were given very prominent roles, whether that was to try to forestall this, or not.
Is there any going back? I mean is there any - certainly, doesn't seem like in the near-term. But I mean, do you think there's one day, the chance of some sort of reconciliation?
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the big problem they've got here is the lack of trust, now. Can William have a frank conversation with Harry, without it leaking to the media, through the Sussex media platforms? That's the big concern, now. How do you have an honest conversation? You've exposed so much about this family. You've made these big accusations. How do they rebuild?
I mean, around the funeral, we did say, Prince and Princess of Wales, with Meghan and Harry, the Sussexes, and it did look like a moment of unity. But I think that was genuinely done, for the Queen, and for the nation, to come together, at this moment of crisis.
I don't think - behind-the-scenes, certainly in the days after that, I got a sense that they were talking to each other at all. I don't think the rift is going to heal anytime soon. It's very difficult to see from either side.
And even in this series, you see Harry pretty much conceding that they're now looking to the future, they're not looking back, and they're not going to be able to fix things. Yes, Max Foster, Kate Williams, appreciate it. Thank you.
COOPER: The news continues here, on CNN. But first, Dana Bash, and her hour-long Special, "BEING CHRIS SUNUNU," is next, right after a short break.