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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Ukraine Prepares For Potential New Russian Offensive In Coming Months; Russian Teenager Arrested On Terrorism Charges For Social Media Post Criticizing Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine; People Magazine: Idaho Killings Suspect Followed Three Female Victims On Instagram, Repeatedly Messaged One; Florida Lists Reasons For Rejecting Advanced Placement Course On African American Studies In High Schools; James Taylor Remembers Folk-Rock Legend David Crosby; Court Documents Reveal New Details In Murdaugh Murders. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 20, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And one of the walls, this image, a poster of Marlon Brando as "The Godfather." The classic film where Brando played Don Vito Corleone, the head of a mafia family from Sicily.

Well Denaro, 30 years on the run finally ending, now being held at a Maximum Security Prison in Central Italy.

Thanks for joining us. Anderson starts now.



Tonight, a critical moment in the war in Ukraine and a crucial one for the countries supporting it. With Russia potentially just a couple of months away from a feared spring offensive, Ukraine defense contact group led by America's top military leaders met today at Ramstein Air Base. They failed to get German sign off on the Allies sending Ukraine its formidable Leopard tank, something that Poland says it might do on its own, and President Biden was asked about it today.


REPORTER: Do you support Poland's goal to send Leopard tanks -- by Germany and other countries -- Leopard tanks to Ukraine and -- ?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ukraine is going to get all the help they need.


COOPER: As for Ukraine's President, he says he needs more than Western gratitude to hold off the Russians.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Hundreds of thank you are not hundreds of tanks.


COOPER: Also today, the White House told reporters the Treasury Department will designate the Russian Wagner Group mercenary fighters made up in part of Russian convicts now a "transnational criminal organization." This all comes a day after we learned that CIA Director Bill Burns briefed President Zelenskyy in Ukraine last week on how the spring Russian offensive might play out.

A lot to cover tonight, CNN's Fred Pleitgen starts us off from Kyiv -- Fred.


Yes, it has been a hugely important week here in Ukraine and really one that the Ukrainian say could be pivotal not just for the war itself, but really for the future of their country. They want to take the fight to the Russians. They understand they need more modern Western weapons to do that, but at the same time, they are also bracing for a possible massive offensive by the Russians.

Here is what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice over): Preparing to defend against a second gigantic attack even as they are already under assault by Russia. Ukrainian units held large scale drills to prepare for bigger battles to come.

The head of Ukraine's Joint Forces Command tells me.

(LT. GEN SERHIY NAIEV speaking in foreign language.)

PLEITGEN (voice over): "We need to know what exactly to prepare the forces for and how they should be prepared," he says, "That's why this is so important."

We are in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, Ukraine Special Forces also practicing urban combat in the abandoned buildings.

PLEITGEN (on camera): The US and its allies believe the Russians could mount a massive offensive once the spring comes. That's why the Ukrainians are getting their forces ready even as they are already fighting the Russians on several fronts in this country.

PLEITGEN (voice over): The Ukrainians say that to win, they need more modern Western weapons, especially main battle tanks.

(LT. GEN SERHIY NAIEV speaking in foreign language.)

PLEITGEN (voice over): "In terms of quality, of course, there is a big difference," the General says, "Because the fire control systems of Western equipment are far superior to Russian weapons."

As the battles in places like Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine remain brutal and casualties mount, Ukraine's leadership says it is grateful for the massive military aid announced at the Ramstein meeting.

But Kyiv is disappointed Germany still hasn't signed off on sending Leopard 2 main battle tanks, which would be key to help them turn the tide, a top presidential adviser tells me.

(MYKHAILO PODOLYAK speaking in foreign language.)

PLEITGEN (voice over): "Our guys won't leave the battlefield even if they aren't provided with new equipment," he says, "But more of them will die. This must stop. We want our people to have a better chance of saving their own lives."

The Ukrainian say the new aid announced Friday will go a long way to help them beat Russia back and Mykhailo Podolyak says he hopes the US and its Allies will keep weapons flowing in the long run.

(MYKHAILO PODOLYAK speaking in foreign language.)

PLEITGEN (voice over): "I think our allies have the perfect understanding of the price we're paying," he says. "But it is very important for Russia to lose. They understand the nature of this war, the nature of Russia, and why it is impossible to negotiate with them."

The Ukrainian say they need to grasp the initiative before the Russians can recover from their losses, and they are gearing up for what could be a brutal spring.


COOPER: Fred, do Ukrainians feel they are prepared if Russia does launch this massive offensive in the coming months? I mean, unless they get the hundreds of tanks that they say they need.

PLEITGEN: Yes, well, they certainly think that that is going to be very difficult if Russia really does launch that massive offensive. And you know, on the one hand, obviously they want those modern Western battle tanks because of the fact that they are just much better than Soviet era tanks, but the Ukrainians also say there is another practical problem to this as well.

They are having big problems getting spare parts for the Soviet era tanks, and also getting munitions for those Soviet era tanks as well. So on the one hand, they obviously want to get better through modern equipment, but on the other hand it's also about just staying in the game especially with that Russian offensive on the horizon -- Anderson.


COOPER: What's more important to the Ukrainians right now, equipment that would allow them to defend against a new Russian offensive or weapons that would allow them to stage counteroffensives and take back territory in the East?

PLEITGEN: Yes, it is a really interesting question. Also one that I put to the Ukrainians as well, and they are obviously saying both is very important, but they really want to go on the offensive before the Russians are able to constitute themselves and launch an offensive of their own.

And one of the things that the Ukrainian said to me, which I thought was really interesting is they believe that 300 to 400 modern Western main battle tanks could outdo up to 2,000 to 3,000 Soviet era Russian main battle tanks.

So, they are think, especially if they get those tanks because those are so important right now in the east of the country for those battles that they'll have a good chance to make a lot of headway before the Russians are able to get in place for a massive offensive -- Anderson.

COOPER: Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining us now CNN military analyst, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling; also CNN contributor, Jill Dougherty. She is currently a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

General Hertling, you saw the report from Fred Pleitgen. What is Germany's hold up on sending the tanks? Is it just, and I know Germany is saying that they want the US to send M-1 Abrams as well. The Abrams require a special, I think, they require jet fuel and more maintenance and would probably be difficult to repair and service in Ukraine.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, all of those things are factors, Anderson. I will correct in saying that they only require jet fuel, they do not. It is a multifuel engine. But the problem is, well, first of all, I will say that Chancellor Scholz has said that they are not tying Leopards to Abrams delivered.

That's kind of a change over the last couple of days. He has reportedly said that now, but there is still a delay and it is a combination of politics and the fact that, truthfully, Germany is very concerned about losing a lot of their tanks to the Ukrainian Army, because they have to defend their own territory too, as do some other nations.

Whether that's a specious argument or not, it doesn't matter. Every single nation is really focused on how to defend themselves.

What we have to point out, though, is that the United States gave 500 armored vehicles total during this last tranche of vehicle delivered. And the goal has been provide Ukraine with the equipment that they can immediately put to use, and which they can easily train upon.

And Fred just mentioned about the problems that the Ukrainian Army is having with sustainment, getting parts for their old equipment. The same thing is going to be true in terms of getting parts for new equipment. And with some of these advanced Western-style vehicles, you're talking about the requirement for a long logistics supply lines with very unique parts.

And if we go over the list of equipment that Ukraine has already given, or I'm sorry that the West has already given to Ukraine, you're talking about dozens of new pieces of equipment, each one of them with distinctly different spare parts, types of repair, fuel requirements, training requirements. So, it's been complicated for the Ukrainian Army to handle all of that.

COOPER: Jill, is we heard, the US will designate the Russian mercenary organization, the Wagner Group a, "significant transnational criminal organization," what impact does that have then?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think on Wagner itself, it probably will make it more difficult for them to operate internationally. And don't forget, you know, Wagner is all over the world. They are, you know, in Syria, Libya, Central African Republic, and they are usually, you know, before they were kind of in the dark, not really broadcasting the fact that they were there, because they were providing deniability to the Russian government, which couldn't send its forces overtly to fight some of these conflicts.

But now, Prigozhin who is the head of this is coming out, and when you look at what they do, the brutality of what they've done in Ukraine, they are now not only are a criminal organization, but really transnational, and I think that's important.

COOPER: General, how effective is the Wagner Group?

HERTLING: Well, they are effective, by the way they keep throwing bodies at the enemy. I mean, quantity has a quality all of its own, Anderson, and what we've heard from Ukrainian forces, is they are constantly under fire by the Russians, and they constantly have to fight just wave after wave of Wagner Group soldiers.

You know, the high percentage of them has been reported are criminals. They don't have a whole lot to live for. They just keep attacking and they keep getting shot if they don't attack, so what you're talking about is Ukrainian forces on the frontline that just have what's called a target-rich environment. They just have to keep shooting. But even that, in and of itself is a difficult battle to fight.


COOPER: What is interesting, General Hertling, because Ben Wedeman who is out in the East, we have a report from him a little bit later on, and I talked to him earlier and he talked to a Ukrainian soldier who monitors satellite images and monitors radio communications, and that Ukrainian soldier was saying the Wagner tactic essentially is they send waves of sort of badly equipped, badly trained Wagner personnel in the first wave, and the Ukrainians have to waste -- you know, light up their positions, use a lot of ammunition to bring them all down, to stop those waves.

And then the Wagner sends a better equipped wave that has night vision goggles, that is then more aware of where the Ukrainian positions are.

HERTLING: Yes, and that's true. And they also continue to fire artillery, too. But Anderson, in that kind of a fight, when you're a soldier seeing wave after wave in front of you being mowed down. I mean, literally, thousands of people are lying on the battlefield dead right now from the Russian side, it doesn't give you a whole lot of trust and confidence in your leader.

Yes, you might have the night vision goggles, and you might take the town, which is difficult in and of itself. But then the next question becomes, and Russia has not proven themselves real good at this, can you hold that town? Do you have the troop to task requirements to hold on to that Soledar or Bakhmut or Kreminna that you have taken, and now you have to stay there and defend it? And that's a whole lot more difficult.

COOPER: Jill, in the past couple of days, we've seen both the former President of Russia and Russia's Secretary of the Security Council claim that this is a war not against Ukraine, but NATO and once again, threatening nuclear escalation.

What do you make of their framing of the war? And is it significant that these threats aren't just coming from Putin himself?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I mean, Putin has said it himself. Now, Medvedev, the former President, the one that some in Washington thought was going to be a liberator is actually a rabid, rabid hawk. I mean, he is off the planet at this point.

So I think what they're trying to do is say, is to scare the world and say, we've got nuclear weapons. If we lose, and this is what Medvedev said, if we lose, we can go to World War, a nuclear war, and I think it is just a scare tactic. You know, it's really, I would say the only thing they really have left to scare the world because conventionally, you can see what is happening in Ukraine.


DOUGHERTY: So nuclear threat is the only thing they've got.

COOPER: Jill Dougherty, Mark Hertling, appreciate it. Thank you.

Now the price being paid by Russians for opposing the war, even expressing empathy for Ukraine, in this case, a college student in Russia's far north facing serious jail time now for a social media post. More now from CNN's Melissa Bell.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's a sign of the times in Putin's Russia: A fun-loving dancing teenager, 19-year-old Olesya Krivtsova behind bars in Court for the most adolescent of crimes, a social media post criticizing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the almost unbelievable charge, terrorism and denigrating the Russian Army.

NATALYA KRIVTSOVA, OLESYA'S MOTHER (through translator): She is very stubborn, sometimes even headstrong. She has a heightened sense of justice and this can be hard for her to live with. BELL (voice over): The post a message of empathy with Ukraine after an attack on Crimea's Kerch Bridge in October as fighting ravaged the country.

OLESYA KRIVTSOVA, ACCUSED OF TERRORISM AND DENIGRATING THE RUSSIAN ARMY (through translator): When I was writing the posts, I never thought that I'd end up before a Judge.

BELL (voice over): She told Russian state media. The teen under house arrest in her mother's apartment in Russia's far north now banned from talking to journalists, or even to her young husband.

She faces years in jail if convicted.

NATALYA KRIVTSOVA (through translator): This is a region to remote from Moscow. There are no more protests here. So they're trying their utmost to strangle everything that's left.

BELL (voice over): Big Brother is watching you, Olesya's tattoo reads, a Putin look-alike spider on one leg, a Court ordered tracking bracelet on the other.

She is the youngest Russian prosecuted for opposing Russia's war, her lawyer says, and Russian media was quick to lay into her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We see that a 19-year- old fool, I can't say otherwise, continues to deliberately and repeatedly discredit the government, the President, and the Armed Forces.

BELL (voice over): An attitude that reaches to the very heart of the Kremlin and explained by Putin himself just after the invasion.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors. They will just spit them out.

BELL (voice over): The nearly 12 months into this unpopular war that Moscow has had to send convicts to wage, Olesya's mother sees things differently.

(NATALYA KRIVTSOVA speaking in foreign language.)

BELL (voice over): It's such a strange time she says that we put prisoners in the war zone and teenagers in prison.


COOPER: Melissa Bell joins us now. What comes next for this 19-year- old and her family?

BELL: Well, we've been speaking, Anderson, to the family's lawyer who says that they simply haven't been told very much about the charges against her, the evidence, or indeed what happens next and that is one of their big concerns. I think one of the most interesting things about this is that the semblance of the system might have had of any sense of justice has really gone away. One of the most chilling details is that when Olesya was first arrested, one of the police officers was carrying a hammer in the car in which the police station explained that this was a hello from Wagner.

And if ever there was a telling detail that shows that that semblance of an independent judiciary that is actually doing its job has gone away, that is it. This is about thuggery and it is about oppression, and the family simply don't know what's going to come next.

COOPER: Melissa Bell, appreciate it. Thank you.

Next, breaking news in the University of Idaho murders, now, new reporting on who the alleged killer tried to contact and where. And later, a legendary musician on the passing of another. My conversation with James Taylor about the late David Crosby who died yesterday.



COOPER: There is breaking news tonight about the man accused of murdering four University of Idaho students. According to "People" Magazine, citing quote an investigator familiar with the case, Bryan Kohberger followed all three female victims online, and apparently did more.

CNN's Veronica Miracle joins us now with the latest. What more have you learned?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, apparently Bryan Kohberger repeatedly messaged one of the victims on Instagram in late October just a couple of weeks before those murders took place, that's according to "People" Magazine citing a source close to the investigation, but it is unclear if she saw those messages because she did not respond.

Anderson, it is important to remember that Kohberger has not yet entered a plea in this case. He has a hearing in June where a Judge will decide if there's enough evidence to go forward with a trial -- Anderson.

COOPER: And what about this reporting that the suspect visited restaurants where two of the victims worked.

MIRACLE: "People" Magazine also saying that apparently he visited the Mad Greek where two of the victims worked. We have previously reported that Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen worked there. I met with an employee in November who said they were such a joy to work with and "People" Magazine now citing a former employee who apparently said they saw Kohberger come in twice.

There was nothing suspicious about his visits, but that former employee apparently noted that he ordered vegan pizza twice and was very clear about his food not touching animal byproducts, and it is important to note however, though, it's unclear if the victims were at the restaurant when Kohberger was there, if they waited on him, or if they even were around during the time of his visits -- Anderson.

COOPER: Veronica Miracle. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining us now is former FBI Special Agent and criminal profiler, Mary Ellen O'Toole.

So these new details, I mean, if they are accurate give us -- do they give more insight into if he was targeting specific victims?

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT AND CRIMINAL PROFILER: Yes, in my opinion they do. And what would be particularly interesting is to know if in fact, he went to the restaurant, did the restaurant experience come first then followed by attempted contacts through social media? Or was it the reverse?

So in other words, had he found out or learned about them another way, attempted to contact them through social media, and then came to the restaurant.

So both scenarios would mean two different things. The latter being if the restaurant was a follow up, that would mean there was already following, and people are calling it hunting behavior. And technically, that's true. But there would already be a pattern of following behavior before he got to the restaurant.

COOPER: Because in the world of stalking, just, you know, reaching out to somebody online is one thing, actually then in the physical world, to actually go and try to establish contact. That's another step down the road.

O'TOOLE: That's right. That's exactly right. And 20 years ago, 25 years ago, before social media, it was all in person, but now it's a combination of social media, and in person.

COOPER: How could the suspect possibly interacting with the future victims at the restaurant, again, not clear if, if there was any interaction influenced his next steps, influence his motive in the murders?

O'TOOLE: Well, it would have given him the opportunity to see them, to watch their personalities, it would have given him the opportunity to see if they interacted with him. And if there was any indication that they slighted him on his part, not on their part, any indication that he felt he was slighted, or they ignored him, he would not have handled that well at all. It would be grossly misinterpreted on his part. So, it would have given him more information about the victims had he come in after the stalking actually begun.

COOPER: And even if there had been just -- even if there was some interaction, there wasn't slighting, but just, I mean, people who go down this road, people who stalk, I mean, they interpret any kind of interaction in ways that are not necessarily predictable.

I mean, you can -- you know, somebody can be telling somebody, please stop doing this and they interpret it as something else.

O'TOOLE: Well, that's exactly right, and there is a term called the dangerous injustice collector, which is someone that goes through life collecting injustices, real or imagined.

So someone can complement you on the shirt you wore to work, but if they're a dangerous injustice collector, their response maybe well why are you looking at my shirt, why are you always commenting on my clothing? Who do you think you are? So they take it to a different level.


So if the victims were there, and they left him with the impression that they were disrespecting him, his reaction would have been greatly exaggerated in his head.

COOPER: We just heard from the reporter, Veronica Miracle mentioned that one of the employees at the restaurant said that nothing was suspicious about his visit. I'm not sure what one can read into that if anything at all.

I mean, the fact that he doesn't stand out in a crowd doesn't really say anything, or maybe it's interesting that there's nothing -- you know, I mean, it's kind of scary that somebody can just blend in and just seemed like a normal person.

O'TOOLE: That's exactly right. If he is not drawing attention to himself, then he doesn't get himself in a position where the police are called, he could be interviewed, he could be arrested. And the fact that he does blend in so well, is really fairly sinister, especially if he is already thinking about what he's doing, and we know with most cases, where the offender does appear to be very normal, blends back in very easily, sometimes those are the hardest individuals to catch, because the general public wants to think in terms of looking for a monster or someone that's evil, when in fact, that's not the case at all, it is certainly not the case here.

COOPER: Mary Ellen O'Toole, I appreciate it. Thank you.

An update ahead on Florida's controversial decision to block a new high school advanced placement course on African-American Studies. We've got new details from Ron DeSantis' administration on why they say it was rejected.

We will talk with someone who is actually teaching the pilot of the AP placement course right now.



COOPER: Follow up now on a controversy we brought you last night. Florida's Republican led government is blocking a high school AP course, advanced placement course on African American studies, alleging it was, "inexplicably contrary to Florida law" and other broad things like it, "significantly lacks educational value." When questioned for more specifics by CNN as to what exactly was objectionable, Governor Ron DeSantis' administration initially didn't provide many details.

Tonight, we have some more answers. A few hours ago, the Governor's office sent out a list put together by the state's Department of Education, outlining six topics that are of concern. They say among them subjects like the movement for black lives, black feminism, Reparations, black queer studies. It also questions the inclusion of certain black authors whose writings touch on critical race theory. I want to get some thoughts from someone who is actually teaching the pilot AP placement course. It's being taught in a number of dozens of schools around the country as a pilot to see how it's going. Lisa Hill is Director of Inclusion, Equity and Diversity at the Hamden Hall Country Day School in Connecticut and Chair of its Department of History. She joins us now.

Ms. Hill, I appreciate you joining us. What is your, first of all, your reaction to the reasoning from Governor DeSantis' office about why this class should not be taught in Florida? Because some of the specifics they're saying are -- that, you know, a topic of intersectionality and activism, black queer studies, topics about black feminist, literary thought, the reparations movement and others?

LISA HILL, DIRECTOR OF INCLUSION, EQUITY & DIVERSITY, HAMDEN HALL COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL: I would have to say that, as I said before, I was a little baffled because it is just illuminating history that has essentially been left out. And when you look at Florida, which has such a large population of minority peoples, it seems to me as if they would want to embrace more of that so that it gives a fuller picture of what this country really is. If you're going to go down that line, I did see things like Black Lives Matter, black feminism. I wonder if you start to redesign any curriculum, does that mean then that you take out the women's liberation movement? So, my concern is, why is it that when certain people are a part of a movement or group, that it's considered to be less than, I guess, educational, less than scholarly, but you don't mind having other courses that do speak to other people's cultural contributions and histories.

COOPER: Right. There are American studies courses which, I mean, this is not a black history course per se. There's history involved, but it's larger than that. The aperture is wider than that. Just as in American studies, it's got a wider aperture than just American history. To me, as a history buff, all this is exciting. It's the hidden histories that aren't -- haven't been told for generations in this country widely. It's the histories of black people in this country, of, you know, people of color in this country, of gay people and lesbian people in this country. I mean, it's people who are Americans and part of the American experience and yet whose stories just aren't told. It's just -- to me, it's just interesting. I'm confused by -- are -- I mean, is when you read the reasoning that they put out, it's very -- you know, they seem to cherry pick certain things from like a quote that a writer whose book is taught in the AP course or mentioned in the AP course has said and it seems to be indicating that like with reparations movement topic 4.30, it says all points and resources in the study advocate for reparations. There's no critical perspective or balancing opinion in this lesson. Is that what you found?

HILL: No, that is not what I found. What we are trying to do is to give students different points of view about the same topic. And yes, it's easy to just go to one piece and pull it out of context and say, well, this is what they're talking about. But if you look at the lesson plan and look at the breadth of things that you have to do in order to even discuss it, that is, you know, we're learning and teaching intersect. That's what we do.


And my other concern is they -- it sounds as if we are just giving, like, full text with this. We are very careful about not, you know, sort of inundating the students with too much so that they're text heavy and that there's no sense and point of discussion. We give them bite size things so that we can actually have viable, robust discussions that they're going to need that skill when they go on to college. And if this really is college preparatory, I think that it's fascinating and wonderful that we are representing different points of view about similar topics.

COOPER: Right. It would seem to me that on something as controversial as reparations, I would imagine there are vigorous discussions and debates in an advanced placement course of pro and con, and people disagreeing. I would imagine that would be an interesting discussion?

HILL: Yes. And that's the whole point. It is supposed to be a good discussion. And so, I don't see them saying that when the Japanese people rightfully so, that they should have reparations for what they endured during World War II, I don't recall there being an outcry about that. I suppose I'm more concerned that there are several AP courses that discuss different cultural histories, and it seems as if for some reason, this one has been chosen, you know, to essentially say that it's historically inaccurate, which -- or has historical inaccuracies when it's being overseen by two of the country's best historians with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, both of Harvard.

COOPER: The governor's --

HILL: And they don't --

COOPER: Yeah. The Governor's office also said that there are certain black authors and historians whose writings touch on critical race theory in this course. Is critical race theory a part of this curriculum? A big part of this curriculum?

HILL: No, it's not a part of the curriculum at all. When you are talking about people of African descent, particularly in this country, and you look at the things that they endured, you have those intersections of race and gender and class and all of those that are realities. Now, CRT is a theory about the construct of those things and how they are played out in different systems in the country. What we are talking about is, who are these people? What have they experienced? It's not a political agenda. It is not a course of indoctrination. It is for people to understand that there are varied experiences of people of African descent throughout the world.

COOPER: Lisa Hill, I really appreciate it. I'd love to stop in your classroom sometime. And --

HILL: Thanks, too.

COOPER: Yeah. Thanks. Teachers are awesome. So, thank you for what you do. Appreciate it.

HILL: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, my conversation with singer, songwriter James Taylor about his friend, legendary musician David Crosby, who died at the age of 81 yesterday.




COOPER: Singer, songwriter David Crosby is being remembered today by family, friends and fans as a man who stood at the pinnacle of rock music stardom and whose energy and independence embodied the spirit of the times that made him a legend. First, of course, with the Birds and then later with Crosby, Stills, & Nash and sometimes Young. David Crosby died yesterday at the age of 81, after what his family said in the statement was a long illness. My next guest, James Taylor, was fortunate enough to know and work with and befriend Crosby at the 25th anniversary of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame more than ten years ago. Taylor performed with Crosby and his bandmates from Crosby, Stills & Nash.


COOPER: Just before air, I spoke to James Taylor about what David Crosby meant to him and to music.


COOPER: James, thank you so much for joining us. Can you just talk about what made him the force that he was? What is it about him that set him apart? There's a lot of people who work, you know, hard in the business, who can sing well, but don't certainly reach the heights and the level of impact that he had?

JAMES TAYLOR, GRAMMY-WINNING SINGER/SONGWRITER: He, you know, he was an artist and it just burned bright always, you know, it just -- his energy shone through. It was -- it wasn't so much that he achieved it, he just couldn't be denied, you know.

COOPER: You gave the introduction speech when Crosby, Stills & Nash were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame back in 1997. I just want to play of what you said then.

TAYLOR: The content of their music was very socially relevant and very in tune with the times and very helpful to a nation and a generation that were trying to navigate themselves through a very confusing time. And songs like Woodstock and Kent State, great, great things.

COOPER: Can you just talk more about that? The Kent State song you referenced. I think it's called Ohio was from 1970. Woodstock, 1970. How do you think those songs influenced and were influenced by all that was going on?

TAYLOR: You know, that's the thing I've been thinking about all day long is that David in particular was sort of at the center of the movement, you know, at the center of the sort of cultural peak that was -- that was the early 1970s. He was, you know, to have been a member of The Birds, to have joined Crosby, Stills, & Nash and to have stepped up to the plate with Neil Young's beautiful song, Ohio. And basically, sort of really quite a courageous thing to do. They responded so immediately to it and we needed it.


COOPER: I read that back in the 70s, David also worked as a session singer and sang backup for you and also, I think, for Jackson Brown. I hadn't realized that.

TAYLOR: Well, yeah, he certainly did. David and Graham sang on my song Mexico and a song of mine called Lighthouse. And, you know, that was also a real education. You know, it's like, David was always in the center. It was like the glue that held things together, sort of the secret sauce. You know, you notice, of course, Graham's voice and Neil's voice is like, you know, it's unmistakable. And the same thing with Steven's voice, that mellow, airy, soulful, lower baritone that Steven had. But David's voice really is the thing that makes that sound.

COOPER: Obviously, they also famously had difficult, you know, tumultuous personal relationships, David talked about how early on, he said he was all about ego. Was he that difficult?

TAYLOR: Well, not in my experience, no. David to my relationship, our friendship, it was always one of mutual support. You know, we sort of understood that each other, we were working with the same information, we spoke the same language, we had the same history, the same relationship with our times. And were also deeply into the music. And so, for me, it was just a natural fit.


TAYLOR: But, of course, David and I also had our struggles with substance abuse, with addiction, and that was also a real connection, a real touch point between the two of us. Another sort of common world.

COOPER: Was that something that you guys talked about? Because David was very open about that. He ended up writing about that in the book Long Time Gone. How do you think going through that impacted him and how he wrote music? TAYLOR: You know, I think surviving that and man, it was really touch

and go for a number of years there. I think it sort of left him with the sense that every day was a gift, that it was miraculous to be here. And you just -- you felt that sense grow in it towards the later years, you know, that he did, I think, find a certain amount of peace and his love for his family and his children. And, you know, I think people do tend to mellow, ideally, as they move through.

COOPER: It is one of the things about growing older, which I am finding now at the age I'm at, and certainly that David talked about as he got older, that in the end for him, you know, he chose to spend his days with the two things that were most important to him. One, his family and the other, music.

TAYLOR: He said it. It's really -- that's really right on. It's as though he realized what was important to him and he just focused on it, and he was very prolific in these past two decades. Beautiful work, thankfully.

COOPER: If you could only listen to one Crosby, Stills, & Nash song, what would it be?

TAYLOR: Well, that's hard. I don't know. I love David's song Wooden Ships, you know, we share that, too.


TAYLOR: We were both sailors, and I love that song.


COOPER: James Taylor, it's a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much.

TAYLOR: Anderson, my pleasure.

COOPER: We'll be right back with more.


COOPER: We have a new reporting tonight about the gruesome details of a now infamous double murder in South Carolina, Alex Murdaugh, he's a member of the prominent family in that state. He's accused of murdering his wife Maggie and youngest son Paul Murdaugh. That trial begins on Monday. Randi Kaye has been following the twists and the turns of this bizarre long story since the beginning, has new details.


ALEX MURDAUGH: I need the police and ambulance immediately. My wife and child have been shot badly.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alex Murdaugh says he called 911 after finding his wife and son bleeding at their hunting property in Islandton, South Carolina.

DISPATCHER: What is your name?


MURDAUGH: My name is Alex Murdaugh.

KAYE: That was June 7, 2021. Now, for the first time, we are learning more about how many times 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh were shot and where. This latest court filing by Murdaugh's defense attorneys includes an affidavit from a forensic expert hired by state law enforcement. The expert offers a disturbing picture of the murder scene. He determined two gunshot blasts hit Paul Murdaugh. The first was to the chest, but the fatal shot to his shoulder and head was so violent that his brain was completely detached from his head, according to the expert. The affidavit also includes pictures from the crime scene, which show the property's dog kennels where Paul Murdaugh was shot.

DISPATCHER: Are they breathing?

MURDAUGH: No, ma'am.

KAYE: The affidavit also details how Maggie Murdaugh was shot five times with a rifle, including one gunshot to the back of her head and scalp. While the sequence of the gunshots was not clear, the expert concluded that at least one of the shots was fired while she was on the ground, holding herself up on her knees and her right hand with her shoulders and head down.

Also, court documents show blood spatter found on the t-shirt Alex Murdaugh was wearing the night of the murders could prove he was in close proximity to at least one of the victims when they were shot. And in the court affidavits filed this week, the state's forensic experts stated there appears to be transfer and spatter stains on the front of Murdaugh's t-shirt. Murdaugh's lawyers have argued the blood got on his shirt when he touched the victims after finding them and deny he was at the house when the murders occurred.

Still, prosecutors say he had a motive for allegedly killing them to hide his alleged financial crimes. Prosecutors claim Alex Murdaugh defrauded clients, coworkers and family members of nearly $9 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The day of reckoning was upon him, and he was out of cars to play.

KAYE: That alleged motive dates back to a February 2019 boat crash during which Paul Murdaugh was allegedly driving drunk. 19-year-old Mallory Beach was killed in that crash. Because Alex Murdaugh owned the boat, her family filed a civil suit against him. His financial records likely would have been revealed at a scheduled hearing in June 2021. But Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were killed a few days before, so the hearing was canceled, which is why prosecutors say, he killed his wife and son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's still trying to prevent who he really is from being outed.

KAYE: Murdaugh's defense team has pushed back on the alleged motive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Murdaugh had handwritten out a financial statement, um, for purposes of that hearing. There's no doomsday reckoning in that regard.


KAYE: Now, at the murder scene, Anderson, investigators did find Paul Murdaugh's cell phone. And on that cell phone is an audio recording of Alex Murdaugh talking to his family, his wife and son, earlier in the night, around the time of the murders. Now, prosecutors say that the murders took place sometime between 8:30 and 10:06 p.m. And that audio recording, Anderson, is at 08:44 p.m. So that's right in that timeline from the prosecutors on the murders.

Now, the defense for him says that, you know what these conversations that were recorded, were perfectly normal. There was nothing unusual about them, nothing threatening about them. But that timeline, Anderson, and that blood spatter that I mentioned, the alleged blood spatter that was on his t-shirt in our story, that is going to be very key at the upcoming trial starts Monday.

COOPER: Such a bizarre case. Randi Kaye, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, we're going to examine President Biden's legacy so far and the road ahead exactly two years, the day after he took the oath office.