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House Republicans Demand Negotiations On Spending Cuts In Exchange For Raising Debt Ceiling; New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Announces She's Stepping Down Ahead Of Upcoming Election; Crypto Mining Brings Constant Noise To A Remote Part Of Appalachia. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Republican governor of Florida making news today.

Ron DeSantis' administration is blocking a new Advanced Placement or AP course, on African American studies, in high schools. Official with the State Department of Education wrote in a letter, to the College Board, which administers AP exams, quote, "The content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value."

No mention in the letter of what law would be violated by the course, or what in the curriculum was objectionable.

But a DeSantis spokesman tells CNN, the course, quote - excuse me - "Leaves large, ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material, which we will not allow."

Joining me, now, two CNN Political Commentators, Bakari Sellers, former State Representative of South Carolina, Host of "The Bakari Sellers Podcast"; also, former Trump Campaign Adviser, and now a supporter of Ron DeSantis, David Urban.

Bakari, what does it say to you that the Administration is specifically - excuse me, I'm coughing - doesn't identify what part of the course they object to. We're talking about an AP African American studies course.

BAKARI SELLERS, (D) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "THE BAKARI SELLERS PODCAST": Well, Anderson, I actually think they said all they needed to say. And they said this African American studies course doesn't have any value.

I've been speaking to my friends, about this, via text, et cetera. And one of them, just recently texted me, that, they're trying to erase our history. And that's exactly what they're trying to do.

I mean, this is anti-intellectualism. This is anti-Black racism. This is systemic - when we talk about systemic racism, this is exactly what we're talking about. It's the way by which we go about ensuring that people cannot learn about the plight and burdens that African Americans, in this country, went through, and go through, today.

I don't know what voids, Ron DeSantis is talking about. I haven't seen the curriculum. But I'm actually an African American Studies Major. I am actually the son of someone, who was a Director, of an African American Studies program, at the University of South Carolina, who oh by the way, was a member of SNCC, and happened to be shot in the Civil Rights movement.

And so, I just think it's a damn shame, what Ron DeSantis is doing. But nobody is going to stop him, because they're afraid of what maybe next, from Mr. DeSantis.

COOPER: David, obviously, there's a lot of talk about critical race theory, and that was a focus of a - a target of, among, in a lot of States, by Republicans. This is African American studies, which is different.


A Democratic Florida State Senator tweeted that Florida currently has AP classes, for European history, Japanese language and culture, German language and culture, Italian language and culture, as well as Spanish language and culture. Adding, quote, "It's crazy" - it is a quote, "It's crazy how AP African-American studies made the chopping block," in Florida.

To that, what do you say?

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, so, Anderson, and to Bakari as well, Bakari, I did, believe it or not, read that 82-page syllabus today, which I could send to you.

And the letter that was sent to the AP board says, "Listen, we dismissed this as presented. In the future, if the College Board liked to work with us, on something that would meet our criteria, we'd be happy to consider it again."

And from what I was told, Anderson, and Bakari, this was declined, because it sought to teach progressive doctrines, such as intersectionality, and critical race theory, which are violative of April 2022 law that Governor DeSantis sent, this Anti-WOKE Act.

I'm not, you know, I'm simply telling you that what - I've not delved in and read every chapter of the syllabus. But I glanced through it. It's pretty - it's pretty dense. And I'm telling you what the reason was. The State of Florida, Governor DeSantis, said, they believe in education, and not indoctrination.

COOPER: Bakari, what do you make of that?

SELLERS: I mean it's ridiculous. I mean, I have a great deal of respect for David Urban.

But we just got done celebrating Martin Luther King's birthday. And you have individuals, who say these quotes of, the "I Have Dream" speech, et cetera, these famous quotes, by King. But they don't even know who he was, because we don't teach the history correctly.

People whitewash his legacy. They don't talk about the fact that he was a rabid revolutionary. They don't talk about the fact that he was talking about wages, and proving the plight of Black Folk day in and day out.

And I think that the fact that we refuse to teach the accurate history of this country? We refuse to talk about April 4th, 1968, where Dr. King was assassinated? February 8th, 1968, the Orangeburg Massacre? We refuse to talk about June of that year, where RFK was shot? Or the fact that you have all of these Black soldiers coming home from a war in Vietnam, being treated like second-class citizens? That's not something that is a fairy tale. That is a history of who we are.

And Ron DeSantis, and this administration, in Florida, are completely ignorant to that fact. Everything we talk about, about our history, and who we are, is not critical race theory. My being is not critical race theory. It's American history. Wrap your heads around that. If you're ashamed of it, that's on you.

URBAN: Well--

SELLERS: But let's at least educate the youth the correct way, about what our history is.

COOPER: David?

URBAN: Bakari, I'm not arguing with you, I'm just giving you the reasonings--


URBAN: --that were put forth by the Governor's office, and says, in the letter saying, "As presented, we find this AP course doesn't pass our muster. Please come back with us with another course. Or if you'd like to work with us, we're willing to do that." I'm not sure they're dismissing it out of hand, saying "We're not going to do it at all."

COOPER: David, just politically, does this work for Governor DeSantis? I mean, is this a popular thing, you think, for Governor DeSantis?

URBAN: I think, look, yes--

COOPER: Among Republican voters in Florida?

URBAN: Yes, look, I think that the Governor, right, has taken up this anti-Woke, Woke comes to die in Florida, right? And he's taken it up pretty, pretty aggressively.

I'm not quite sure that this may have been rolled out in the best way. I think a lot of explanations should be - a little bit more explaining should have been done on this. Because I don't think it's being - it's dismissing the AP course out of hand. I think it's just dismissing this particular AP course.

COOPER: Right. And just, in general, AP courses are actually sort of the most prestigious, in the public education system.


COOPER: AP courses are those are the most prestigious courses.


COOPER: It's actually, a lot of attention is actually put into them, and thought is put into them. They're kind of they're Advanced Placement. So, it's often the students, who have excelled the most, who are able to even qualify for those courses.

It's interesting that this is probably the - I mean, I don't know how many AP courses the DeSantis administration has taken issue with. But I'm probably guessing, not any others?

URBAN: I would guess that you're correct, Anderson. And again, I think that it could use better articulation. Again, I don't think the DeSantis administration--


URBAN: --look, I'm not speaking for them.

COOPER: Yes, I know.

URBAN: I'm just taking this letter, and interpreting what it says, and saying, I believe that they say, "As presented, this course didn't pass muster in the law that we just passed. Come back again. And we're willing to sit down and talk."

COOPER: Right.

David Urban, Bakari Sellers, we'll see what happens, if anything. Thank you.

Just ahead, just a bit after, at the top of the hour, the end of a busy day that saw the country hit its debt ceiling. That is the limit Congress sets, on how much the federal government can borrow, to pay for what Congress has already spent, and loans we've already taken out, on the former Treasury notes. And that last bit is key. It's like being unable to make the car payments that you agreed to make, when you bought the car.

That said, now that the limit has been reached, and a default draws closer, House Republicans want to use the threat of a default, to leverage future spending cuts, out of the Biden administration.

More on this now, from CNN's Jessica Dean, who joins us from the Capitol.


So Jessica, the Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, sent a message to Congress, saying the debt limit has been reached. She has begun quote, "Extraordinary measures." So, where do Democrats and Republicans stand tonight?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well pretty far apart, at this point, in time, Anderson.

And as you just laid out, what we're kind of hurtling toward, right now, is the potential, for economic calamity, worldwide. That's what's at stake here. We've never defaulted on our debt. And we have heard from several leaders, including Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, today that that will not happen.

But here's the state of play, as it is, right now. House Republicans have been adamant, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that they are not going to sign off, on what's known as just a "Clean" debt ceiling bill that would just be clearing the debt ceiling. They want to attach to that spending cuts, and a fiscal agreement, before they do any of that. They want to negotiate before they sign off on raising the debt limit.

The White House has been equally adamant that they don't want to negotiate at all. And so, that's really where we are at this point.

Mitch McConnell, also saying today that he believes negotiations will take place.

Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, really, pinning this, on what he calls MAGA Republicans, and saying nothing about negotiations.

And of course, the House and Senate come back next week. And this is what they are going to be squarely focused on. We do know that some bipartisan talks, on the House, have begun to percolate. But those are in very, very early stages. The bottom line is it's a very uncertain time up here.

COOPER: Where do moderate Republicans stand on this issue?

DEAN: Right. So, they're going to be key, and especially in the House, where remember, House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, has this very slim margin, right? So, he can only afford to lose four.

Democrats are going to need these moderate Republicans, to join them, if they're going to be able to clear, even a negotiated bill, or a clean debt ceiling limit.

And what we are hearing, from these moderates, in either districts that President Biden won, or swing districts that they really don't have an appetite, to just do the debt ceiling that they also want to see some negotiating happening.

So, that is something that Democrats think that they will kind of cave on. Republicans think that Democrats are going to cave on this. And so, here we are, at this stalemate, right now. We can anticipate to, see this kind of evolve and change, as we get ever closer to that final day, when they're going to have to make this decision. But I think it's fair to say, at this point, all the lights are blinking. And they have got to find a way forward. COOPER: Are there any discussions of changing the way that the debt limit is set? I mean, given this brings - I mean, this has happened before?

DEAN: Right, this has happened before. It'll probably happen again. And it continues to be an issue.

But I think the fact that you and I are even having this conversation that it's this difficult, to just raise the debt limit, means that them finding a way forward, to kind of overhaul, how they do this, seems like a dream - of a pipe dream, at this point.

At this point, they've got to focus on how they're going to do this. Will there be negotiations? What are Democrats, if anything, willing to concede?

Again, the White House continuing to maintain that they're giving up nothing, and Republicans saying that they're just simply not going to sign off on this without any negotiation. So, they're going to have to find some way forward. And it's not just all American people, and the economy here, that's depending on that. It is the global economy.

COOPER: Yes. Jessica Dean, appreciate it. Thank you.

Perspective now, from Abby Phillip, CNN Senior Political Correspondent, and Anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY"; also CNN Senior Political Commentator, and former Obama White House senior adviser, David Axelrod.

David, the White House clearly remembers the physical battles, of the Obama administration that were fought with House Republicans.


COOPER: Do you think they're taking the right position to say "No negotiation. We want a clean debt ceiling increase?"

AXELROD: I think, Anderson, we're at the - we're in the first part of the first act of a play here.


AXELROD: And I think it's early, for them to take any other position.

First of all, I think they saw what happened, in 2011, where we went right up to the brink. There were significant - there were significant givebacks made, and they were painful and disruptive. And I don't think they want to say, "We're going to reward this behavior" because they think it invites it again, and again.

That said, sometime between now and June, this is going to have to be resolved. And it's likely going to be resolved, between some of the more moderate members of the Caucus - sorry, here - on the Republican side, and the Senate, as well. So, I think we're going to see several more chapters, here, before this thing is done. COOPER: Abby, I mean, some of the House Republicans, who are advocating, for negotiations, on the debt ceiling, are from swing districts. What does that tell you about the unity, of House Republicans, on the issue?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY: Yes, I mean, I think that for now, it's not exactly a radical idea, among Republicans, to want to have some kind of negotiation, around spending, when it comes to raising the debt ceiling. The question is, how far will that go? How long will they hold that line?


And I think the moderates, frankly, are going to ask for what they can get. But, at some point, it's going to be very politically painful, for them, to basically hold the country hostage, to this debate.

Right now, I think that you have all of these Republicans, in these Democratic districts, who are saying, "Let's just come to the table."

But, at the end of the day, this kind of politics actually is not that popular. I think the American people, generally, in the past, have understood that this is just a normal part of the business of running the country.

And I think that it is the most popular, to do this kind of debt limit crisis, among the people, who are running in ruby-red districts, whose voters are on the far right of their party. And they don't really have to worry about the messy-middle, on this. For those Biden Republican - Biden-district Republicans, it's a completely different story.

COOPER: And David, when Democrats controlled the House, during the Trump administration, we didn't see the showdowns on the debt ceiling. Why are Republicans willing to use this, for leverage, if the Democrats aren't?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, I think the Republicans, who are leading the charge, here, are not sort of governing-Republicans. And they are willing to take the country to the brink. We saw that in 2011, when the Tea Party Republicans came in.

But it's interesting that you raised this point, because one of the people, who's now urging Republicans, to hang tough, and use it as leverage, to reverse everything Democrats did, in the last two years, is Donald Trump, who added $8 trillion (ph) to the deficit, to the debt.

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: And who--

COOPER: Right. There wasn't a--

AXELROD: --and who raised the debt ceilings--

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: --signed three different debt ceiling increases.

COOPER: Right. I mean, there wasn't a lot of talk--

AXELROD: So, you know?

COOPER: --by Republicans, during the Trump years, about the debt.

AXELROD: Not at all.

COOPER: I mean they went from the Tea Party, where there was tons of talk about it, to a heart of a silence.

AXELROD: They were hibernating debt hawks. They became debt doves, during the period of the Trump presidency. So there's a lot of posturing and hypocrisy here.

There's no doubt, look, part of governing is there's going to be give- and-take, on issues, like spending, particularly in a divided Congress. But the question is whether you should use the debt ceiling, and the threat of essentially blowing up the global economy, in a way that will hurt families, and communities, across the country, as a bargaining chip. It's like a murder-suicide pact. And I think this is what the Biden administration is resisting, right now.

COOPER: Abby, how close, do you think, the U.S. will have to get, to a debt default, before we start to see a real attempt, to get in agreement? I mean, it's one of these things it's sort of like Kabuki theater.


COOPER: Like everybody knows the roles that are going to be played. And this has been seen before. And you know it's going to get close. And you kind of wish they could just cut to the chase.

But I guess these are the movements everyone has to go through?

PHILLIP: Yes. And, I mean, look, I don't want to make any predictions, about how this is going to go. But I do think that we need to learn, from what we just experienced, in the Speaker vote, which is that they forced that into a historic 15-vote round, to elect McCarthy, as Speaker.

I think that McCarthy is dealing with a group of maybe as few as five, and as many as 20 people, who are willing to take things to the brink. And so, under those circumstances, yes, it's probably a pretty good bet that we are going to get, as close to the brink, as we can possibly get.

I don't think that we can even rule out that that line will be crossed. Because already, some of these hardliners have said they don't mind crossing the line. They don't mind, basically breaching the debt ceiling, which would actually have catastrophic impacts, on the United States economy. COOPER: Yes.

Abby Phillip, David Axelrod?

AXELROD: Anderson? Anderson? Before you let--


AXELROD: Before you let me go, let me just say there were 242 Republicans, in 2011. That gave them a lot more power to work their will. There are 222 now, which means, moderates also have some power, if it comes down to it.

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: So, I think there are a lot of pages to be turned here.

COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, Abby Phillip, again, thank you so much.

Much more, now, on some of the numbers, how often we've been here, what Americans think about it, what could happen next?

Joining us, our one and only Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten.

So, we've seen a lot of these standoffs before. How often do these showdowns actually occur?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, so I think a pretty easy comparison for baseline of how often things occur, is whether or not they occur more often than the Summer Olympics.


ENTEN: So, if you look, since 2011, we have had four debt ceiling crisis, 2011, 2013, 2021, now 2023. There have only been three Summer Olympics during that time!


ENTEN: 2020, 2016 and 2012.

So, this is occurring much more frequently than it used to. If you look it up, really, the only one before them was in 1995, right, with Gingrich. Before then, there was no real such thing, as this debt ceiling crisis. And now, it seems to be happening once every three years.

COOPER: What did the numbers say, about how much Americans actually focus, on the federal deficit?


ENTEN: Yes. So, the whole idea is Republicans are bringing up the thought, "Oh, the federal deficit's too high. The federal debt's too high." We just asked this question, a pollster just asked this question, which is essentially, what is the top priority for Congress, and President Biden, coming up in 2023?

You know where the federal deficit ranked? Ranked at 4 percent. 4 percent! The economy, inflation was much higher. Abortion was slightly higher. Immigration was higher. The fact is, is that the federal deficit is just not something that voters really care about.


ENTEN: The only people, who seem to really care about it, are the few people, who are actually on the far-right, in Congress, and maybe some moderate Republicans as well. But, for most Americans, the federal deficit is just not that big a deal to them. They care much more about if you're talking about economic issues, inflation--

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: --and the money that's going into their pocket.

COOPER: It's much more tangible. What do Americans want, when things are on the precipice, from their leaders? Are there numbers on that?

ENTEN: Yes, yes. So, as we start off, saying, right, this has happened a few times, recently, much more so than we used to. And so, we can look at numbers from 2011 and 2013, when essentially we were right on the brink, right, especially in 2011.

Do you want sort of - and we asked this - CBS News asked this question. Do you want an imperfect agreement that essentially ends this whole thing? Or would you rather the U.S. default?

COOPER: So, it's prefer a debt deal you don't want?

ENTEN: Right. Or that you'd like sort of want that doesn't give you everything right--

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: --but keeps the U.S. from defaulting?

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: Or do you want the U.S. to default?

The vast majority said, "We want that agreement." Less than 20 percent said that they wanted the default.

So, look, this is the first part of the opening scene, as, I think, David put it. But the fact of the matter is, when it gets to the end, no one really wants a default, except for maybe very few Americans.

COOPER: What else - what other numbers from 2011 sort of tell us something?

ENTEN: Well, I think there are a few things that 2011 tell us. But number one, which is when we had that going on what happened?

First off, the stock market went absolutely insane, and basically went off a cliff.

Two, we were our - the U.S. government's credit was downgraded. And what did that mean? It was harder for the U.S. government to borrow, and it was harder for Americans to borrow.

So, right now, it's sort of this abstract thing, the debt ceiling limit, who cares about it? But if it actually gets close, like we did in 2011? I can tell you this much. There are going to be a lot of Americans caring about it, and they're not going to like what's going on.

And I wouldn't be surprised if President Biden's approval ratings go down, and I really wouldn't be surprised that the Republicans' and Congress' approval ratings went down, because that is what happened in 2011.

Of course, this is a new era, a new year. But, sometimes, I like to think that history can tell us at least a little something.

COOPER: That's why you study history!

ENTEN: That's why I study history!


ENTEN: I study stats. I study history.


ENTEN: And I study what I'm going to get for dinner (ph), a little later.

COOPER: You probably took - you probably took AP courses?

ENTEN: I did take AP courses, as a matter of fact.

COOPER: Yes, I'm sure you did.

ENTEN: I got a five in the AP Stats class.

COOPER: I'm sure you did.

ENTEN: I'm sure that wasn't much of a surprise to you!

COOPER: It's not a surprise at all! Harry Enten, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, another claim by Congressman George Santos, revealed as untrue, and what some teens, in his district, soon-to-be voters, in 2024, make of all the lies.

And later, the surprising resignation, of New Zealand's Prime Minister, why she says she will not seek reelection.



COOPER: Early in the program, 9/11 first responder, John Feal told me that with every lie, New York Republican Congressman, George Santos, is leaving a trail of pain behind him.

He, and Nykiah Morgan, whose mom, was killed, on 9/11, were talking about the newly-uncovered immigration records, contradicting Santos' claim that his mom was at the World Trade Center, during the 9/11 attacks, suffered illness that resulted in her death, because of them.

The records indicate, she was in Brazil, between 1999 and early 2003. Now, this, of course, only one of umpteen lies, he's told.

The umpteenth time, he's apparently done what every parent tells every child not to do, which got us thinking about what a group of teens, soon-to-be voters, in his district, might make of all this.

Gary Tuchman went to find out.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Port Washington New York Schreiber High School, in Long Island's Nassau County, is in the heart of Representative George Santos' Third Congressional District.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, I think he's an embarrassment and a pathological liar.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): We sit down with a group of AP U.S. History students, at Schreiber High. They are 16-years-old, and 17-years-old, which means they will all be old enough to vote, in 2024.

TUCHMAN (on camera): How many of you would register as an Independent, if you register today?


TUCHMAN (on camera): How many of you would register as a Democrat?


TUCHMAN (on camera): How many of you would register as a Republican?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Their history teacher estimates Republican- leaning students are outnumbered by Democratic-leaning students, by an almost two-to-one margin, at the school.

But? JEREMY KLAFF, TEACHER, PAUL D. SCHREIBER HIGH SCHOOL: I haven't found one kid, who is sympathetic to George Santos. They know the importance, of the numbers, in the House of Representatives. And although Santos represents them, for issues that they agree on, they don't have sympathy towards the man.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): 16-year-old Taj Parekh (ph) is one of the future Democrats.

TAJ PAREKH (ph), STUDENT: I think it's a very scary situation, for us, having someone, who's so clearly lied, and so clearly fabricated his entire resume, representing all of us.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): 16-year-old Nathan Jackman (ph) is one of the future Republicans.

NATHAN JACKMAN (ph), STUDENT: I like how the Nassau GOP came out against him. But, obviously, Kevin McCarthy should come out against him. And they should have a vote on the House floor, in order to expel him, from Congress.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): We asked the teacher, if we could watch a class discussion, about Santos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It definitely places some mistrust, on your political party.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): These are junior AP students.

KLAFF: First of all, what is your initial reaction to knowing that your Representative's integrity has been called into question?

Romero (ph)?

ROMERO (ph), STUDENT: It's kind of shocking because how could you - how could you trust them? How could you - if you can lie about just your life and everything you've done, how can you trust them to do the right thing?

KLAFF: How are his lies perhaps different than others? Or is it fair game to lie in politics?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, I think one of - one of the worst things that he lied about, in my opinion, is lying about the origin of his family being that they were from - they were survivors of the Holocaust.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think that it's an obvious choice, given that we live in a community, where there's lots of Jewish people. We live in New York. That's where 9/11 happened. He's using things, directly correlated, to our lives, to make himself sound better, because we have emotional attachment to these events.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially in politics, like, your reputation is always going to stick with you. Everyone's going to remember him as "Oh, he's the guy that lied about everything and still got into Congress."


KLAFF: Has it gotten to a point, in politics, where we don't really care about integrity?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well we think about it with like, because we'll be applying to colleges soon, if a college found out that we lied about everything, on our application, they would immediately kick us out.

But he lied about everything, and he's going to get to stay.

So, it's like we're being held to a higher standard of integrity, than politicians, in this country.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Before we leave Schreiber High, we ask our panel of students, this question.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You're a constituent of Congressman Santos. If you could say one thing to him, what would you say to him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to know why he felt the need to do all this.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What would you say to him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you really want to represent our district, and you care about the voters, and the people, you should resign.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What would you say?

PAREKH (ph): Resign, to keep democracy working properly.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apologize and resign now. It's enough.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You?

JACKMAN (ph): For the good of the constituents of New York's 3rd, resign.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For your district, and for your party, resign.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You?



COOPER: Gary joins us now.

AP, it's another AP class-- TUCHMAN: AP.

COOPER: --of wicked, smart kids, there.

TUCHMAN: Very smart kids, a lot of disillusioned kids.


TUCHMAN: But that doesn't mean they're apathetic. What they tell us is this inspires them.

It's a lesson that when it comes time, to vote, for their first time, in 2024, when they vote for Congress, and President, they need to investigate thoroughly, research thoroughly.

They have the advantage of having smartphones, which you and I did not have, when we were doing our investigating, when we first voted.


TUCHMAN: And implored their parents, to also investigate and research, as much as possible.

COOPER: Gary Tuchman, appreciate it. Thanks very much, and thanks to them for talking.

The leader of New Zealand's surprises her country, and the world, with her sudden resignation. Why Jacinda Ardern is stepping down, and what's brought her so much international fame, ahead.



COOPER: In a sea of male world leaders, Jacinda Ardern joined a small club of female prime ministers, rising to power, in New Zealand, five years ago. She has led her country, through multiple crises, in ways that have generated criticism and praise. Now, she's stepping down, unexpectedly, saying she doesn't believe she has the energy, to seek reelection, in October.

Our Randi Kaye has more.


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jacinda Ardern was elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, in 2017, making her the world's youngest female leader. A former D.J., the 37-year-old Ardern had attracted young people, and huge crowds, at rallies, a wave of support, dubbed Jacinda-mania.

JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: This is the thing that we have to act on.

KAYE (voice-over): Ardern quickly became known, for her kindness, empathy and humanity. All of that was on display, just a year and a half, after her election, when her country experienced the worst terrorist attack, in its history.

On March 15th, 2019, a lone Australian white supremacist, shot and killed 51 people, at two Christchurch mosques. Soon after the attack, Ardern visited those impacted by the shooting, wearing a hijab, to show respect, for the Muslim victims.

She moved swiftly, to ban Military-style semi-automatic weapons, just six days, after the attack.

ARDERN: And, to others, I implore you. Speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man, who took them.

KAYE (voice-over): A few months, after that attack, New Zealand's White Island volcano erupted, killing 22 people. Again, Ardern consoled New Zealanders.

ARDERN: To those who have lost, or are missing family and friends, we share in your unfathomable grief, at this moment, in time, and in your sorrow.

KAYE (voice-over): When the Pandemic hit, in 2020, Ardern quickly closed her country's borders, to protect the 5 million-or-so New Zealanders.

ARDERN: Our plan is simple. We can stop the spread, by staying at home, and reducing contact.

KAYE (voice-over): Protesters made their voices heard, for weeks, outside parliament, and threatened violence. Still, Ardern stood strong.

Her popularity brought an onslaught of media attention. She was featured on the cover of British Vogue. She made TIME magazine's list of the world's 100 Most Influential People, and appeared numerous times, on America's "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."

ARDERN: I do find it slightly offensive that everyone thinks that every New Zealander starred in either "Lord of the Rings" or "The Hobbit." When--


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: Were you - were you in "Lord of the Rings" or "The Hobbit?"


ARDERN: Some of us auditioned but weren't successful, OK? That's all I'm going to say.


KAYE (voice-over): There were persistent questions, some of them openly sexist, about her style, her partner, she isn't married, and her pregnancy. RYAN BRIDGE, AM SHOW HOST: How's the hair doing after the dye? Why are you dying it anyway? Is it going grey or something? Why did you dye your hair for?

ARDERN: Never, never, never - that's not a polite question to ask.

KAYE (voice-over): She handled it all with grace. Ardern is only the second elected world leader to give birth, while in office. And when she took her then 3-month-old daughter, to New York City, for the U.N. General Assembly, together, they made history.

ARDERN: But it's equally special to us.

KAYE (voice-over): Despite her popularity, during her six years, in office, some recent polling, for her, shows support is waning, and at the lowest level since, she took office, in 2017.

Still, she says that is not the reason she's stepping down.

ARDERN: And so, today, I am announcing that I will not be seeking reelection.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN.


COOPER: Christiane Amanpour was the first, to interview Prime Minister Ardern, internationally, when she took office, in 2017. So, we turn to our Chief International Anchor, for her insights, on this unexpected resignation.

Christiane, it's great to have you on the program. Were you surprised to hear the Prime Minister say that she no longer has enough, in her words, in her "Tank," to do the job, justice? I've never heard a world leader, kind of being candid, in that way.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I know. And you know what? She really was candid. That was the hallmark of her entire leadership.

And look, she clearly has been through a lot. Her country's been through a lot. She's been six years in office, and she had crisis after crisis after crisis.

There was a massacre in Christchurch. There was obviously COVID, and the lockdown. There was then having got rid of COVID, then there was COVID with a vengeance, and a whole group of people, who really did not want to deal with the lockdown anymore. And, of course, the economy suffered.


So, there was a lot of crises that she had to deal with, including the climate and other such things.

COOPER: You've interviewed the Prime Minister, three times. She's the head of a government, comparatively small country, obviously. Yet, she's had a lot of cultural and political influence, worldwide. What do you think accounts for that?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think you're absolutely right. And, at one point, they called it Jacinda-mania.

She was 37-years-old, when she became the youngest female leader. She had a baby, while on the campaign trail. She had another one, while in office. And she made that a hallmark, that sort of humaneness, a hallmark of her Premiership.

And I was always quite touched by the fact that she would answer your questions. There was no sort of spin or stuff like that. And she really wanted to be a new kind of leader.

I remember when I interviewed her in New York, at the U.N. It's her first time out. She brought the baby with her, to the U.N., to the interviews and things like that. And she basically said, "Look, most leaders deal in economic or security markers. We can do that as well as doing well, and doing good in terms of social well-being, in terms of the well-being index." And I think that was the hallmark of her leadership and her style.

COOPER: Did you get a sense, in the wake of the massacre, in Christchurch, of the exasperation and disappointment that the Prime Minister felt with other countries, particularly the United States, over gun safety?

AMANPOUR: I did. I have to say that that massacre, by a white supremacist, of some 51 Muslims, was the worst, in memory, in New Zealand. And she stood out, by going there, immediately, by wearing the hijab, the headscarf, by putting on a sort of a black modest jacket, and then hugging people.

And that was something that was really central to her. You know what I mean? She was - she had written, "They are us," on her first - when she heard about it, and that was what she did. She treated everybody, as if they were one, not foreigners, and this and that not view - all religions were the same for her.

In any event, I did ask her about it, several weeks or months later, when we met in Paris. And this is what she told me.


ARDERN: We will continue to be a food-producing nation that deals with animal welfare issues and so on, and has a practical purpose and use for guns.

But you can draw a line and say that that does not mean that you need access to Military-style semi-automatic weapons, and assault rifles. You do not. And New Zealanders by and large, absolutely agreed with that position.

Australia experienced a massacre, and changed their laws. New Zealand had its experience, and changed its laws. To be honest with you, I do not understand the United States.


AMANPOUR: I've never heard a world leader say it like that. And she just said.


AMANPOUR: And in 26 days, with a coalition government, bipartisan support, and popular support, she said that they had reform of their gun laws, while staying, as she said, a hunting country, a food- producing country, which obviously involves guns. But in the reform and the control, she did it, after that massacre.

COOPER: It's interesting to see what her legacy is going to be in that country and on the global stage and also what she does next.

AMANPOUR: Yes. What she does next, we don't know yet.

But certainly, her legacy - remember, Anderson, she was elected shortly after Trump became president.

And then she was considered the global sort of anti-Trump. Where he was isolationist? She was for interaction, with neighbors, and with the world. And globalization was a thing, where he was sort of demonizing the foreigners. She was much more inclusive, to refugees.

And even, in my first interview, with her, she talked about offering New Zealand, as much as she could, as a refuge, for climate refugees, in the Pacific region.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, appreciate it. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Yes, thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, the standoff between Germany, and the U.S., over tanks for Ukraine, and the diplomatic effort, underway.

Also, an on-the-ground look, at the, fierce brutal fighting, in Eastern Ukraine and the, role played by mercenaries, for Russia, known as the Wagner Group.



COOPER: As Russia's former President raises the specter of nuclear war, if his country loses, in Ukraine, a major impasse has developed, among Ukrainian allies, about supplying it more Western-made tanks.

The holdup, a dispute with Germany, a major manufacturer, of those tanks, whose approval is needed, but they haven't given it yet. U.S. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, arrived in Germany, today, to aid in the negotiations. Just as the Biden administration announced its second largest ever security aid package, $2.5 billion, the package does not include U.S.- made M1 Abrams tanks, which is Germany's demand, if it is to send tanks at all.

We've also learned, tonight that the CIA Director, Bill Burns, was in Ukraine, last week, discussing battlefield planning, with President Zelenskyy.

Ukraine's leader, today, called the issue of tanks, "Pressing," and "Very sensitive," those were his words, and said quote, "The courage of our warriors and motivation of the Ukrainian people is not enough against thousands of tanks of the Russian Federation."

CNN's Ben Wedeman is on the ground, in the East. He has this report, on the bloody brutal battle, Ukraine is waging, against Russia, including a mercenary force, known as the Wagner Group.



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They've been through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Most but not all, made it out of the Valley, alive. But not unscathed.

On this stretch of road, overlooking the battles, for Bakhmut, and Soledar, it's just safe enough, to deliver the wounded, to medics.

Strewn along the road, a blood-stained stretcher, a discarded bloodied flak jacket.

WEDEMAN (on camera): These troops are just back from the front at Soledar. They took wounded. They were facing Wagner fighters. They say those fighters were attacking in waves. Now, they're going back to safer ground.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The combat, they saw, was intense.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): "There were regular troops," says this soldier, "And in front of them, just meat (ph), convicts, in packs, on drugs, without armor, without helmets. For them, life has no value."



WEDEMAN (voice-over): Down in the killing fields, the shelling goes on, without letup.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): For the medics, there is no rest.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): "Sometimes, the mortars don't give us any breathing space," Anatoly, a medic, tells me. "We have many casualties from shrapnel. And when the snipers come, then there are many dead and wounded."


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Troops transfer a fallen comrade, from their armored car, to a van.

Here, the shadow of death, hangs heavy.


COOPER: Ben Wedeman joins us now, from Ukraine.


COOPER: Where does this situation stand, in Soledar, as you know?

WEDEMAN: Anderson, it's a bit confusing, because the Ukrainians have yet to actually acknowledge that their forces are out of that town.

But you get closer, to the front line, you get closer to Soledar, and the situation becomes much clearer. We have been speaking with soldiers, in that area. And they say, "Yes, basically, we've pulled out."

And, at the moment, we understand that some of the villages that we were in, around Soledar, have been coming under pretty intense Russian bombardment. And so, for instance, in that report, we did see soldiers, who were coming from the area, around Soledar. But inside the city itself, it does appear that the Russians are in control, at the moment.

Now, the worry now is that that they've taken Soledar that they're going to start trying to encircle the adjacent city of Bakhmut, which is about nine miles, to the south of there. And what we've seen, actually, on the ground, from inside Bakhmut, is it the fighting there is really beginning to get quite intense.


COOPER: Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. You and your team, stay safe. Thank you.

Coming up, why one North Carolina Community is tired of crypto, and calls it a racket, literally, a noisy neighbor, disturbing their Blue Ridge mountain peace.


COOPER: If you've heard anything about the cryptocurrency market, lately, it usually involves words like fraud charges, bankruptcies, or losses, measuring in the trillions of dollars.

Even some of those, who didn't invest in crypto, are experiencing steep losses, in peace and quiet. CNN's Bill Weir explains.



BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the sound of Green Mountain Farm, certified by Quiet Parks International, as one of the most peaceful spots, in North Carolina, thanks to their rare local enforcement of laws, against noise pollution.

Meanwhile, about 90 minutes away, beautiful Cherokee County sounds like this.


WEIR (voice-over): It is stack upon stack, of computer servers, and the fans needed to cool them. This is what's known as a crypto mine. And it makes the sound of people, in San Francisco, trying to make virtual money.

WEIR (on camera): How do you describe that noise?

MIKE LUGIEWICZ, MURPHY, NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: We're probably sitting at probably 65 decibels, right now. When it's at about 75 decibels, 80 decibels, I'd say a jet engine, a jet engine that never leaves.

WEIR (voice-over): 16 months, after the mine fired up, without warning, Mike Lugiewicz put his house up for sale, in frustration.

THOMAS LASH, MURPHY, NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: There'd be turkeys out in the field, and deer by the hundreds.

WEIR (on camera): Yes.

LASH: You don't have that anymore.

WEIR (voice-over): While Tom Lash misses the wildlife?


WEIR (voice-over): Phyllis Cantrell says she feels trapped.

CANTRELL: You can actually lay your head on the pillow, and hear in hum, up through the walls.

WEIR (on camera): Oy vey! Have you thought about moving? CANTRELL: We're 73-years-old. Where are we going to go?

WEIR (on camera): Imagine a game, where the dice have a billion sides, and the first person to roll a 10, wins? That is essentially crypto mining. And to play that game these days, you need computers, thousands of computers, running 24/7/365.

And after China outlawed cryptocurrency and crypto mining, more and more mines, like this, began popping up, in Appalachia, places, where the power is cheap, and the regulations are either non-existent or unenforced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's all pray.

WEIR (voice-over): But in this deep red Republican pocket?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've got noise, 24/7 noise and sound, folks do nothing, to help these people. What are you guys going to do to help?

WEIR (voice-over): The mine has upended local politics.

JUDY STINES, MURPHY, NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: I like to be behind-the- scenes, and I like to stir the pot. And I knew that we - we needed to win an election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For just the noise (ph).

WEIR (voice-over): Outrage over the mine helped flip the balance of power, in November's county election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And call upon U.S. Senator, Thom Tillis.

WEIR (voice-over): With the new Board of Commissioners, now asking for federal help, in ending American crypto mining.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To introduce and champion legislation through the U.S. Congress, to ban and/or regulate crypto mining operations, in the United States of America.

Motion passed.


WEIR (voice-over): When asked over LinkedIn, for reaction, Chandler Song, one of the mine's co-owners wrote, "Oh boy they wanted us so bad a year ago." As for the proposed ban? "It is unconstitutional to say the least."

Song, and his crypto mining co-founder, made Forbes 30 Under 30 List, a few years ago, and recently claimed quarterly revenues, of more than $20 million. But when asked follow-up questions, Song went silent! His mine, in Murphy, has not so far!

But the County Attorney is looking for a legal way to shut it down.

A cautionary reminder, that, the next time, you hear a place as peaceful as Green Mountain Farm?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're playing roulette with their lives.



WEIR (voice-over): Chances are someone got loud, and fought for it.


COOPER: Bill Weir joins us now.

So, I mean, there's more mines popping up throughout Appalachia, like this. What is the attitude, toward crypto mining, in the State?

WEIR: It's really interesting. A neighboring county forced them out, they wouldn't allow them in. Others have tried to move them, into industrial sites, or at least soundproof them there.

And what's interesting is the, that huge Christmas winter storm that gripped the South? Some of the first rolling blackouts, in Tennessee Valley Authority history, it hit this town of Murphy. And when they started getting plunged into the dark, on Christmas Eve, they went down to check the mine. And it was still running!


WEIR: So, there's this sort of public outrage, just the image of it, right now, is in a tough spot, and the more of these folks don't come out, and at least talk to the community. It'd be one thing if you - if some of that money was staying in Murphy?

COOPER: Right.

WEIR: But maybe paying property taxes, on a couple acres of farmland?

COOPER: Right.

WEIR: So, there's a lot to be figured out here.

COOPER: Wow! Bill Weir, fascinating stuff! Thank you so much.

WEIR: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Appreciate it.

WEIR: You bet!

COOPER: The news continues. "CNN TONIGHT" with Laura Coates, is next, after a break.