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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Justice Dept. Tells Judiciary Chair Jordan It Won't Share Information About Ongoing Investigations; GOP Rep. George Santos Denies Claims He Performed As A Drag Queen; Source: Alec Baldwin Intends To Finish Production Of "Rust," Despite Facing Charges For Shooting Of Cinematographer. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 20, 2023 - 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: Two years ago, today, the former President left Washington, and President Biden took office, at one of the deadliest moments, in the Pandemic, and a crisis point for democracy.
Now, at the midway point, of his first term, the question is twofold, tonight. How is he doing? And what is he doing about a second term? Former President has already declared he's running. President Biden could soon do the same. He's already started framing his accomplishments, for voters, and doing damage control, and the rest.
CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us, now, from the White House, with more.
So, how is the Biden administration feeling about the first half, of their first term, tonight?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I've spent the last five days, talking to a half dozen of President Biden's closest advisers. And I think the most striking thing is really twofold.
One, they deeply believe President Biden is in the best position, by far that he's been in, since he took office, two years ago, tonight.
The second is that they don't believe the ongoing Special Counsel investigation is something really many people, outside of Washington, actually care about. They take it seriously. They're not dismissing it. But they believe that the issues and, what the President ran on and, they think, has delivered on, is what matters most.
And it's not just the advisers that think that. You got a window, into the President's view, when he was touring storm damage, in California, catastrophic storm damage, and was asked about that investigation.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You know, the only - I will answer the question, but here's the deal: You know, what quite frankly bugs me is that we have a serious problem here we're talking about. We're talking about what's going on. And the American people don't quite understand why you don't ask me questions about that.
We're fully cooperating and looking forward to getting this resolved quickly.
I think you're going to find there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There is no there there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And Anderson, the reason why the first part, of that sound, you just listened to, really stood out to me is in part because it reflected what I've been hearing, from his advisers, leading up to those remarks, last night, but also how deeply rooted it is, into the President's approach, at this moment.
It's about the opportunities, and the potential progress that, lie ahead, not about the potential problems a Special Counsel could bring. And why that matters isn't just about the year ahead, although that's clearly a focus. It's also about what comes next.
Looming over all of this, right now, of course, is a decision, whether or not the President's going to seek reelection, in 2024. Before the investigation, all signs were pointing to "Yes." Everything was moving in that direction.
Nothing has changed, according to advisers, I've spoken to. They don't feel like they're in a rush. Certainly, the former President's campaign, the staggered approach to that has helped them believe that they've got time, at this moment. But the campaign infrastructure is largely set up. They believe that they definitely have issues, to run on, going forward.
And one thing to keep a close eye on, his advisers kind of look towards February, as a potential timeline here, the State of the Union address, as they have gone through the thematic pillars, of what that will end up looking like.
Certainly, there'll be a lot of talk, about the year ahead, explicitly. Implicitly, though, I'm told, it will certainly give an impression that they're looking much further beyond that, Anderson.
COOPER: Phil Mattingly, appreciate it.
Want to get perspective now, from CNN Contributor, and Biden biographer, Evan Osnos, Author, most recently, of "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury"; also, Tia Mitchell, Washington Correspondent, for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and two CNN Political Commentators, Bakari Sellers, former South Carolina House member; and David Urban, Republican strategist, and one-time campaign adviser to the former President. So Evan, we saw that exasperation, I guess, from the President, frustration, impatience, whatever, from President Biden, yesterday, when he was questioned about the Special Counsel investigation. It squares with our reporting that he's been frustrated about it, behind- the-scenes.
How much do you think the investigation will factor into his decision? Or do you think it'll factor into the decision whether to run?
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, BIDEN BIOGRAPHER, AUTHOR, "WILDLAND: THE MAKING OF AMERICA'S FURY": I think, as it stands now, he really does not see it, as an impediment to him running.
That was, as Phil rightly said, I think, a pretty candid moment, a picture of that frustration that he feels not only with the focus that is now it's generating, this much, in Washington.
But also, let's face it. He's frustrated also with the fact that this became an issue at all. The coin of the realm for him has been defining a contrast between him, and the man, he evicted, from the White House, Donald Trump. And to the degree to which this issue has allowed those two, to be put side by side? That makes it harder for him.
But I don't think, at this point, there is anything to indicate that they believe that this is going to be an impediment, to what they consider to be a very strong record that they can run on, in 2024.
And part of the reason why they're pushing back hard on it is that they want to make it clear that this is not the same thing, from their perspective. It's a fine line, though. Americans want to see, as he said, that there's no there there. And that means transparency, and being very cooperative.
COOPER: Tia, the White House had been feeling good about some wins, it was able to notch. That was before the classified documents story came to light, or the handling of it got so much criticism.
How much do you think this could hang over a potential announcement?
TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Well, I think what we're going to see is President Biden, Vice President Harris, and all of his advisers, and allies, really, focusing on those accomplishments. They don't want to talk about these documents.
And quite frankly, they're going to say, "There's not a lot to say, at this point. The Department of Justice is investigating. There's the Special Counsel." And they're going to say "We're leaving it up to them. We don't want to interfere. But let's talk about our wins. That's something we are eager to talk about."
We saw that a lot, today, on social media. We saw it from the President, and the Vice President. They want to talk about not only what they accomplished, but what they want to do going forward. More judges, more diversifying of the federal bench, more implementation of all these new laws, that's what they're going to be focusing on.
COOPER: Bakari, every politician, who doesn't want to talk about something, says, "Oh, the American people don't care about this. I'm focusing on X, Y, and Z."
BAKARI SELLERS, (D) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "THE BAKARI SELLERS PODCAST": Yes.
COOPER: Trump folks used to say that a lot. Now, the Biden folks are saying it. It may be true, the American public doesn't care so much about whatever the particular issue is at hand. Nevertheless, it doesn't mean, it's not important or serious.
I'm wondering what, do you make of how the White House now is handling. It seems like they've sort of tried to get their arms around, how at least they're going to try to manage this.
SELLERS: No, I think they're handling it much better. I mean, I think the answer is both, and. You have to talk about and explain the nuances, and the difference, between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
I mean, the differences are clear. They're a magnitude. You had obstruction of justice. You had lawyers, who were not telling the truth. You had documents that were voluminous, down in Mar-a-Lago. And so, it's a different scenario. But you have to explain that to the American people.
And you have to tell your story. You have to talk about your accomplishments. You have to talk about the Inflation Reduction Act. You have to talk about Ketanji Brown Jackson. You actually have to talk about your bipartisan achievements.
You have to talk about CHIPS. You have to talk about many of the accomplishments that this Administration's had, the Infrastructure bill, all of these things, the Omnibus package that just passed recently. All of these things matter, and effectuate change, in people's lives.
The difference, Anderson, that people have not figured out, for some reason, is that Democrats are actually talking about bread-and-butter policy, pocketbook issues.
Whereas, last night, me, and David were talking about, eliminating African American Studies, from the curriculum, in Florida, and Republicans are running on cultural issues. And they did that in November of 2022. It wasn't successful. I do not see that being successful in 2024, either.
COOPER: David, if President Biden decides to run? Some of his potential candidates, he might be running against made some news, today.
Former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in a new book, suggests former U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley, sought to get Vice President Pence booted off the 2020 ticket, so she could be the running mate. She denies it. She's blasted Pompeo, for spreading gossip, in order to sell books.
What do you make? I mean is this a sign of things to come, not just between Haley and Pompeo, but among what could be a big group of candidates?
DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I would suggest so, Anderson. Presidential politics is full-contact sport, lots of sharp elbows. And if you're going to get in the arena, be prepared to get - be prepared to get your nose punched, right?
But back to the 2024 campaign of Biden, look, I do think the sitting President, I do think they have some accomplishments, as Bakari outlined.
But don't forget, the American people had suffered through some of the highest inflation rates, actually, in the past 40 years. 9.6 percent, this June, topping out at 40-year high.
They're not going to forget the current crisis at the border, where fentanyl and human trafficking occurs, on a daily basis, and in the largest extent ever. This past year, we had 2.4 million interactions, at the border, crisis, unparalleled.
And finally, this Congress will not forget, and the American people won't forget the debacle, which was the Afghanistan withdrawal, which resulted in the death of 13 American servicemembers, which was overseen, by this President, in kind of a pig-headed way.
So, while I think there's going to be some talk of the accomplishments, the American people will not forget the President's mixed bag of accomplishments, and mixed bag of failures, here, as well.
COOPER: Right, although that deal was signed by President Trump, or, at least, organized by the Trump administration, and by Secretary Pompeo, who's now running.
URBAN: Which deal?
COOPER: Well, the deal with the Taliban.
URBAN: Yes. But not - Anderson, the deal with the Taliban - I'm talking about the actual withdrawal.
COOPER: Yes, right.
URBAN: Where you have, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, on record, saying, they needed more troops, to pull out, and the President, saying "No." That was a debacle. I don't know if you remember the visuals--
COOPER: No - yes, no doubt about it.
URBAN: --and the 13 American servicemember dead?
COOPER: Yes, of course.
URBAN: It will not be forgotten by the American people.
Evan Osnos, Tia Mitchell, Bakari Sellers, David Urban, appreciate it, thank you.
Much more now, on one facet of the documents investigation, which got noisier today. Not the Special Counsel probe. The Administration says it's cooperating fully with that.
Today, though, the Justice Department signaled it's unlikely to share information, about ongoing criminal investigations, with Congressman Jim Jordan's House Judiciary Committee, which drew this tweet, from the Committee, quoting now, "Why's DOJ scared to cooperate with our investigations?"
Perspective now, from CNN Legal and National Security Analyst, Carrie Cordero; also former Deputy Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, Elliot Williams.
So, Elliot, was the DOJ ever going to just hand Congress, all the information, about ongoing investigations? Was that a realistic request, from the Committee?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, Anderson. But I think it's a broader issue in question than that.
Now, look, this is my former office, the Office of Legislative Affairs that sent that letter, to Congress. And I think what the letter does, over four or five pages, is state an uncontroversial position, which is that no request from Congress is ever going to lead to immediately to members of Congress being able to show up, at the Justice Department, with flashlights, to start looking through file cabinets.
What they use throughout the letter is the term, "Accommodations Process." And it's something that goes back, decades, and is supported by law, which is the idea that it's negotiation.
And what that letter, and the letter from Jim Jordan, and the response, from the DOJ, today, was, "OK, let's negotiate. And let's talk about how we can get to a place, where either, witnesses are testifying, documents are being provided. But no, certainly files aren't just going to automatically be opened up to Congress."
That was the case, when I worked there. It was the case long before that. And it'll continue to be the case, in the future. It's a negotiation process.
COOPER: Carrie, do you think there's an argument that DOJ is missing, an opportunity, here, to defend how (Audio Gap).
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: (Audio Gap) Congress and (Audio Gap) any kind of detail. So, I think this is very consistent.
The letter is really, I think, a Washington lawyer's letter. It's exhaustive. It's clear. It has historical references. It is consistent, across Department of Justice practice. And it's a little bit snarky.
COOPER: Elliot, you were the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs.
If the Committee's point, in requesting documents, from the DOJ, was simply to be told "No," so that they could then put out that tweet and, go on networks, and say--
COOPER: --"Look, the DOJ is stonewalling us," does any real oversight actually happen?
WILLIAMS: Well, it does. And let me give you two examples, Anderson.
The highest profile examples, of congressional oversight, over the last several years, two really high ones; one, Benghazi and, two, Fast and Furious, which is what - I was there, at that time.
Both of those were contentious, and had letters, like this, traded back and forth. But they both ended up in documents being turned over, to an administration, of another party. It happens. And it is a process of negotiations.
Now, look, there's politics to this. You and I, we all know this, and live in a world, where short of a response saying, "Sure, Mr. Jordan! Come on over, and bring your friends, and just let's start looking under Merrick Garland's rug," short of that, you were going to get that kind of tweet, from Jim Jordan, and the Republicans on the committee, because that's just part of the political process playing out.
WILLIAMS: But this isn't really that remarkable, backing up Carrie's point.
Carrie, Congresses - other Congresses have, they've held Attorney General Barr, in contempt, Holder, in contempt of Congress, for not cooperating with committees. Can you put this refusal, from Garland DOJ, into context? CORDERO: Sure. So, I think, this particular letter, this is the start of the process, of this new Congress, dealing with this Justice Department.
So, it starts out with letters. Congress members send letters, and Committee chairmen, send letters, to the Department of Justice, and all the other Executive branch agencies, every single day.
And so, this is the beginning of the process, getting to the point where a committee, is issuing subpoenas, making further demands. Then we turn to what Elliott described as the accommodation process, when the Department and Congress have to negotiate. Then, later, you get into litigation.
So, we are a long way away, from contempt, and enforcing subpoenas--
CORDERO: --or anything like this.
CORDERO: This is just the beginning.
COOPER: Carrie Cordero, Elliot Williams, appreciate it. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
COOPER: Next, yet another new turn, in the case of the lying congressman, George Santos, the latest about him, and what he has to say about it.
Later, one of the producers, on the Alec Baldwin film, "Rust," what she experienced, when the gun Baldwin was holding, went off, killing the film's Director of Photography, what she makes of the charge, he'll be facing.
COOPER: New details, tonight, about George Santos, the Congressman, who cannot seem to tell the truth! It comes just a day after his claim that his mom was, at the World Trade Center, during the 9/11 attack.
That was debunked. Which, in turn followed accusations he stole from the GoFundMe account, he set up, for a homeless veteran's dying dog; which, followed accusations, he stole a former friend's Burberry scarf, and wore it to the "Stop the Steal" rally, the day before the January 6th attack on the Congress.
(VIDEO - 1/5/21 - REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY) WEARING A BURBERRY SCARF AT "STOP THE STEAL" RALLY)
COOPER: That's the allegedly stolen scarf. You can't make that up, wearing a stolen item, to a "Stop the Steal" rally! At least not the way the New York Republican has made stuff up, about where he worked, where he went to school, being Jew-ish. He's none of those things. Yet, throughout it all, House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, has declined to call for his ouster, at this point.
Now, a new claim about him, CNN's Eva McKend, joins us with more.
So, what have you learned?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, good evening, Anderson.
Congressman Santos, strongly denying claims he once performed as a drag queen. In a tweet, he dismisses this as a "Media obsession" and "outrageous."
But the Congressman, an out gay man, was identified by a longtime local performer, in Brazil, who says Santos went by the name Kitara Ravache (ph).
Now, last week, Performer, Eula Rochards (ph), posted a picture of herself, with another person, in drag, who she alleged was Santos, at a Brazilian parade. Now, that photo is from a newspaper clipping, from 2008. She also provided CNN, another clearer image that you see there, of the person, she claims, is Santos.
CNN has not independently verified these images. But she did tell my colleague, Julia Jones, she knew him from LGBTQ events, he attended, and that he was well-known, in the gay community, there.
Now, in response to Santos' denial, she tells us, "Being a drag queen is marvelous work, and that he can't discriminate against what he himself did. And if he does, he's discriminating against her."
COOPER: So, what is Santos' stance, officially, on LGBTQ legislative policies?
MCKEND: So, in April, 2022, Anderson, just last year, he posted a video, on Facebook, supporting Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' legislation, in Florida, banning certain teaching about sexual orientation, and gender identity, in classrooms.
Now, in that video, he accused Democrats of wanting to groom our kids. That, of course, is a homophobic term that invokes an idea that LGBTQ people corrupt children.
COOPER: Eva McKend, appreciate it. Thanks.
Join us now, former New York Republican congressman, Rick Lazio.
I mean, you've seen a lot of things, in Congress?
RICK LAZIO, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE - NEW YORK: I'm sure, yes.
COOPER: Yes. What--
LAZIO: Nothing like this though!
COOPER: Well, yes.
I mean, does it surprise you the stance that McCarthy has taken?
LAZIO: Yes, I mean, so Santos is a professional con man. And now we have a con man, a true con man, sitting in Congress. And if you love the institution of Congress, you can't tolerate that.
Do I understand the politics--
LAZIO: --and how he feels squeezed, by only having a five-seat majority? I do. Do I think he might - maybe should think a little bit longer-term, about the perception, of the party, of tolerating unethical, probably illegal behavior? Absolutely.
LAZIO: I mean, if McCarthy were to call me, I'd say, "Cut this guy loose, as quickly as you possibly can."
COOPER: What about the argument of "Wait for the Ethics Committee," which is going to be, multi-week, multi-month? And that allows him to stay, and, I guess, vote with McCarthy, and help McCarthy out. And yet, make the argument, "Well, he's being investigated." I mean, it seems like there's an awful lot of evidence, just in the public domain.
COOPER: It's not as if the Ethics Committee has access to stuff that the public doesn't, at this point.
LAZIO: Yes. So, they should go forward, with the process. But members can exercise their judgment. They have responsibility, for protecting that institution.
The public has a poor view, of the ethics, of people, in Congress. And I'm pained to say that, because I think there's a lot of really honest, really good people there. They need to stand up and say, "This is not somebody, who belongs here."
The people of the Third Congressional District, in New York, which used to - which was next to mine--
LAZIO: --when I served? They don't deserve it. They're not - they have a flawed representative, right now. And candidly, the best chance, for Republicans, from a pragmatic standpoint, is to get this guy out, force his resignation, have a special election. Fortunately, for Republicans, the local Nassau County Republican Organization has called for Santos to resign.
LAZIO: So, they're taking the high ground. I wish the RNC would do that, what the local organization was doing. And so, they've got a chance to field the good candidate and be competitive.
Two years from now, when we have a presidential election, and in a Blue state, like New York, you've got someone like Santos? It's game over! So, you're better off doing it now.
COOPER: And, I mean, it does hurt the people in his district, when you - when the Congressman is running through hallways, trying to dodge cameras, not actually probably doing much of any actual work, for the district.
LAZIO: Yes, he's ineffective. And he will be ineffective, for two years, if he stays that long. And he should not stay that long.
Primarily, really, it's an opportunity, for Congress, to make a statement, about a standard, a minimal standard, of ethics, and honesty, and virtue. And I know, the word "Virtue" and "Congress," a lot of people, would say, they don't go together. But the leadership--
COOPER: But this is - I mean, this is certainly not helping the long- term?
LAZIO: And it's not political. That's the other thing I want to put to rest.
LAZIO: This is not as - the fact that the newspaper that uncovered this, in September, by the way, before the election, and ran a story, was called "The North Shore Leader." And its owner, and publisher, was a Republican, who ran for Congress. He uncovered this. I mean, a huge story here, about the lack of investigative journalism.
COOPER: Journalism, yes.
LAZIO: I know, how the newspapers, the big newspapers have failed to be able to uncover this--
LAZIO: --when it already ran.
And like, from a Democratic political standpoint, how is that story out, in the public arena, and not raised and not used, during the campaign?
COOPER: Yes. I mean that I don't understand.
COOPER: I mean, both from a journalistic standpoint, and also from a political standpoint, the opposition, or anybody there, didn't pick up on it.
LAZIO: Right, right. But here's a chance. I mean, Republicans and Democrats could come together, on this. Republicans have responsibility.
I'd love to see - I'd love to see, the public, in the Third District who, I know, are offended by this, to at least start a petition, to ask him to resign, from, just from a moral standpoint.
LAZIO: He's not going to do it.
LAZIO: Anybody that's lived a life of fraud, like this, is not going to do anything that's the right thing.
LAZIO: He only does things for himself.
COOPER: There's no sense of shame, obviously, yes.
LAZIO: Yes, no sense of shame. And this is not just deception. This is ripping people off.
LAZIO: So, it's quite different.
COOPER: Rick Lazio, appreciate it. Good to see you. Thank you.
LAZIO: Good to see you too.
COOPER: Appreciate it.
Coming up, Russia gaining ground, in Eastern Ukraine, as the U.S. and its allies, try to persuade Germany, to send its tanks, to help the war effort. We'll check in with CNN's Ben Wedeman, who has been, on the front lines, next.
COOPER: Top officials, from the U.S., and Europe, meeting in Germany, today, failed to persuade that country, to lift its hold, on supplying tanks, to Ukraine. Germany is demanding the U.S. supply its advanced tanks, in addition to German-made ones.
This is happening, as allies, and Ukraine, worried about the possibility of a major Russian offensive, in the spring, and as Russian forces attempt to circle the key city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine.
Ben Wedeman has more on that.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the trenches, outside Bakhmut, a mortar crew is at work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Hoping to repel Russian forces, on the verge of encircling the city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Drone footage shows the impact, of their rounds, on enemy positions. The refrain, among these troops, "We may need more (ph)."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All speaks about tanks, tanks, tanks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course, that is most powerful, for our time machines (ph), on the field. But now, it's 21st Century. We need not only tanks. We need the aviation.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Around Bakhmut, slowly and steadily, the Russians are gaining ground.
Thursday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Head of the Wagner Group, claimed his troops, and only his troops, took the village of Klishchiivka, just south of the city.
In the dugout, this officer, nicknamed "Koleso (ph)," explains Wagner's tactics.
KOLESO (ph), OFFICER: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WEDEMAN (voice-over): "They attack at night. The first wave is less trained. But we have to use lots of ammunition against them," he says. "The next wave of troops has night vision, is better-trained, and better-equipped."
KOLESO (ph), OFFICER: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Tactics seemingly from a different day and age, inflicting mounting casualties, on Ukrainian forces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WEDEMAN (voice-over): This soldier was critically wounded, when his armored personnel carrier, was struck by Russian fire.
Much of Bakhmut is now a ghost town, the sound of shelling, the danger, constant.
WEDEMAN (on camera): We're inside this tunnel, inside Bakhmut, taking cover, because there's incoming rounds, just nearby.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): The few civilians left, resigned to their fate.
VALENTINA (ph), CIVILIAN: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WEDEMAN (voice-over): "People die from strikes, everywhere, in Kyiv, and Dnipro," says Valentina (ph). "If that's your destiny, death will reach you anywhere."
VALENTINA (ph): (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WEDEMAN (voice-over): On a hill, above the city, the Soviet-era T-72 tank fires into the distance.
(SOVIET-ERA T-72 TANK FIRES)
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Its sound and fury, perhaps not enough to turn the tide.
(SOVIET-ERA T-72 TANK FIRES)
COOPER: Yes. Ben Wedeman joins me now.
Ben, it's remarkable what human beings can adapt to, if they have to. I mean, whether it's fighting, in trenches, like that, or being a civilian, and being resigned, to your fate, and saying, "You can die anywhere. I might as well be at my home, and stay here, and if it's my time, it's my time?"
WEDEMAN: Yes, but keep in mind, Anderson that most - but probably well over 90 percent of the population of Bakhmut, has left.
Those who stayed behind are like that woman. They just feel that there's nowhere for them to go. They've lived all their lives there. All their possessions, their property is left behind. And many of them feel that being elderly, and not particularly politically active that even if the Russians do come, perhaps they can get by.
In fact, that couple we spoke to, at the end of that story, they had a son, who had lived in another area of town, called Kupiansk, throughout the entire Russian occupation, and he was encouraging them to stay.
COOPER: What importance could the region's salt mines play, in the ferocity that we're seeing, from the Wagner Group, which the U.S. Treasury now calls a "Transnational criminal organization?"
WEDEMAN: Well, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner Group, has said that the salt mines are the, in his words, "Cherry on the cake."
Keep in mind that the Wagner Group, for instance, when in Sudan, and I think CNN covered that extensively, and in Central African Republic, when they go in, with a security mission, often it's really just a facade, for a business, a business that exploits as much as possible local natural resources.
So, certainly, those salt mines which are massive, more than 100 miles of tunnels, they are the biggest salt mines, in Central and Eastern Europe. And so, for the Wagner Group, to basically put their claim, put their stake, on those mines, would be an opportunity, for them, to make some money.
And, of course, we know Prigozhin is a very ambitious man. He's been very openly critical, of the Russian Defense Ministry, and essentially presents himself, as a possible replacement, for them.
WEDEMAN: He certainly has huge ambitions. And we're seeing them play out, in Ukraine.
COOPER: Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Ben, thank you.
Ahead, as criminal charges loom, for Alec Baldwin, in deadly shooting, on his film set, we talked to someone, who was on location, that day, who's never told her story before. The line producer, of "Rust," what, she makes of the coming charges, for him, and an armorer, and some new developments, coming up.
COOPER: Despite facing criminal charges, in the fatal shooting, of a crew member, on his film, said, Alec Baldwin intends to finish production, of the movie, "Rust." That is according to a source, close to the actor.
Baldwin didn't answer questions, from reporters, while entering his Manhattan apartment building, today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appreciate your time, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, dude (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Prosecutors, in New Mexico, announced yesterday, they intend to charge him, and an armorer, on the set, with involuntary manslaughter, a case that could be difficult to prove.
Gabrielle Pickle, the line producer of the film, was on location, when the tragedy happened. She joins us now, in this exclusive interview.
Gabrielle, I appreciate you being with us.
First, I just wanted to get your reaction, to the charges, against Alec Baldwin, and the armorer, on the production. Are they fair? Are they justified?
GABRIELLE PICKLE, "RUST" LINE PRODUCER: I don't know that I can speak to that. I don't know what the D.A. has. I feel awful, for everyone involved. Yes, my heart goes out to them.
COOPER: I think a lot of people obviously want to try to understand, how live ammunition, ended up, on the set, in the first place. At this stage, are you - is anybody any closer to understanding how that actually happened?
PICKLE: I have been asking that question, for 15 months. It is so mind-blowing to me. I didn't believe it for, honestly, for months, that it was live ammo. Once the FBI ballistics report came back, there was no disputing it.
But it was absolutely unfathomable. Had I known about it, it would have been immediately addressed. It's a fireable offense, huge safety violation. And had any crew or cast member known, I'm fully confident they would have also reported it, and shut it down, immediately.
COOPER: You were in a trailer, away from where the shooting took place. And I know you got a call, over your radio, and rushed to the scene. When you got there, what was going on?
PICKLE: I got a call from the medic emergency, which we take very seriously. We raced up there, myself and one of the producers. And she called, while we were driving, and said "Call 9-1-1." So, I got on the phone with them. And then she walkied again, and said, we need two ambulances. So, I called them back.
And once I hung up the phone, I raced to the front of the church. And she had taken control of the scene, and had crew members that were helping her, doing all sorts of life-saving procedures. I kind of took control, outside of the church, to make sure everything was-- (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: The shooting took place inside the church?
PICKLE: Yes. The set was inside the church, where it happened.
COOPER: I want you to be able to address a couple of things that I know you know about that were in a report, from the New Mexico Occupational Safety and Health Bureau.
They said in part that after a certain amount of time that you emailed the armorer, who's been charged, that there would be no more training days, quote, "Like training Alec and such."
The report also said, and I quote, "Rust management did not provide the Armorer (or Property Master) with the authority to determine if additional training was required, in violation of Rust safety procedures."
And they went on to say, quote "Rust management, including Gabrielle Pickle," you, "and Row Walters, ignored concerns of firearm misfires on set according to statements taken by OHSB," end quote.
So, you have not been charged with a crime. I'm wondering what you make of those comments, of those statements.
PICKLE: Honestly, the best way I can explain it is a lack of knowledge, on their part.
They didn't actually interview me, about what they - those claims. I did a deposition with them, back in December, which was the first time we had spoke about any of this. My initial interview with OSHA was more a walkthrough of like, "This is where things are, and this is, where the incident happened," et cetera.
And it was just a lack of knowledge on their part, because every single thing that was reported was investigated and addressed.
There, afterwards, I did find out about a couple of misfires that took place, in the hands of the people that are supposed to be handling them, meaning an armorer, someone trained. And those were not reported. So, they were not addressed.
But everything that came, across our desk, was absolutely addressed, and handled.
I'm sorry, what was the first part of that question?
COOPER: The first part was that there was according to the Occupational Safety and Health Bureau, they said that you emailed the armorer that there'll be no more training days, quote, "Like training Alec and such," and that "Rust management did not provide the Armorer with the authority to determine if additional training was required, in violation of Rust safety procedures." PICKLE: Yes. So, we went through that in great detail, during the deposition. And it was made very clear that we were saying, no training, because she was needed on set. We didn't want to split her focus, at any point.
And they had all done training, at that point, and wanted to have fun, learning more different weapons that were not necessarily going to be used, for their character. And we didn't deem that necessary.
There was also a situation, where a minor wanted to learn how to use weapons. And it was not needed for the film. And I deemed it too much of a risk, and said "Absolutely not." And that was part of what was referred to, in the email.
COOPER: And just lastly, can you talk about your working relationship with Halyna Hutchins? When did you meet her? What was it like working with her?
PICKLE: Yes. I met her when she landed in Santa Fe, the first week in September, with other department heads. And she kind of immediately impressed us, just with her passion, for film. And she has a very vivacious nature. We interacted every single day, from then on out. And she's a lovely human, and someone that I will carry, with me, for the rest of my life.
COOPER: Gabrielle Pickle, I appreciate you being with us. And I'm sorry for all you, and everybody, who's associated with this, are going through. Thank you.
Coming up, the story everyone's talking about, except I know nothing about it. Harry Enten is here, promises to explain it, to me, ahead.
COOPER: I wish we would, but I'm told, we can't end tonight's broadcast, without a discussion, of one of the biggest storylines, heading into this weekend, those four NFL playoff games.
Now, if you're at all familiar, with this program, you know that sports and the NFL are not exactly my forte. I just don't know much about them. I'm sure, if I knew who the characters were, I would be interested. But I just don't. Unless, of course, it is the, Super Bowl commercials or, the, halftime show, like the, Snickers commercial, with the Betty White? That was, I liked that.
Anyway, to walk us through, what is going on, we're joined by our Senior Data Analyst, and for the purposes of this segment, 360 Chief NFL Analyst, Harry Enten.
So, what is happening, this weekend?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: OK. So, you have your four divisional games, right, two in the AFC, two in the NFC.
ENTEN: Whoever wins those games, meet in the Conference Championship Games. And whoever wins those Conference Championship Games, in a week, they will meet two weeks after that. Those--
COOPER: So, there are different leagues?
ENTEN: There are different conferences.
ENTEN: There used to be different leagues. The AFL was started in the 1960--
ENTEN: --in 1960. The NFL was started in 1920. Now there're conferences, under the NFL. And essentially, the winner of the Conference Championship Games will in fact--
COOPER: So, when is the Super Bowl?
ENTEN: The Super Bowl is in February.
COOPER: And who's playing the halftime?
ENTEN: I honestly don't know. That's not the thing that matters to me.
COOPER: I mean? Come on!
ENTEN: Who cares?
COOPER: "That's not the thing that matters."
ENTEN: It's not - I don't care about, who plays at - who plays at halftime.
COOPER: OK, all right.
ENTEN: I never watch it.
COOPER: Oh, Rihanna, I'm told.
ENTEN: Oh, it's Rihanna?
COOPER: OK, I'm there. I'm there.
ENTEN: See, producers.
COOPER: I'm there.
ENTEN: So, maybe we can watch together.
COOPER: It's going to be good.
ENTEN: It's going to be good. COOPER: She's good.
ENTEN: It's going to be great. So, I have some questions for you.
ENTEN: About this weekend's games.
COOPER: This is just to show my lack of knowledge.
ENTEN: And it's show up your lack of knowledge.
COOPER: I did watch that HBO show, "Hard Knocks," and I really enjoyed it.
COOPER: Like, once I know who the character - the players are, and I know their backstories, then it's like a drama that I'm interested.
ENTEN: I believe the Cardinals were on "Hard Knocks" this year. They did not make it.
COOPER: I haven't watched "Hard Knocks" in a while.
ENTEN: They haven't made it. So--
COOPER: I watched it one season, I mean.
ENTEN: You watched one season? There have been many.
COOPER: Yes, I liked it. I clearly didn't like it that much.
ENTEN: Clearly not.
COOPER: But i did watch that L.A. Lakers show, on HBO Max. And I watched the Chicago Bulls documentary, which was incredible!
COOPER: And that I wish, like basketball, I wish I knew about it.
ENTEN: Do that move like the security guard, right, in that Chicago Bulls documentary?
COOPER: I don't recall that.
ENTEN: See, you didn't watch it close enough.
ENTEN: So, let's go through the four games this weekend. And I want you to answer, who these teams are, and who is favorite, to win each game, OK?
So, let's start with this one. Please, God, get this right! I beg of you!
COOPER: OK, the Bengal Tigers.
ENTEN: OK, the Bengals.
COOPER: And the Buffalo Bills.
ENTEN: Yes! Yes! The Buffalo Bills! Who do you think's favorite to win that game?
COOPER: I'd say the Buffalo Bills.
ENTEN: All right, we'll go with that.
ENTEN: All right, let's go to our next game, and let's see who are these teams.
COOPER: Kansas City - I don't know what - is it Kansas City Chiefs?
COOPER: Are they still called? OK. And I don't know, the Carolina Panthers?
ENTEN: Close! They actually came in the League, at the same time, as the Panthers. That is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
COOPER: Oh, OK.
ENTEN: Who's favored?
COOPER: That I don't know.
ENTEN: You don't know?
COOPER: I'll say Jacksonville Jaguars.
ENTEN: OK. Let's go to our NFC match.
COOPER: Well, what is - what's the answer?
ENTEN: Well, no, we're going to get to that.
ENTEN: Our NFC matchups please?
COOPER: God, this goes on!
ENTEN: This goes on. All right, let's start here.
COOPER: New York Giants.
ENTEN: OK, that's one. COOPER: And the Screaming Eagles from Tallahassee!
ENTEN: The Screaming Eagles from Philadelphia! Philadelphia!
COOPER: Are they really the Screaming Eagles?
ENTEN: No. They are the Eagles.
ENTEN: Close! Close! Who do you got?
COOPER: Is that a new logo? Didn't the Eagles used to have a--
ENTEN: It's no - the--
ENTEN: The Eagles have pretty much always had that logo, man!
COOPER: So what?
ENTEN: Who's the favorite?
COOPER: Oh, who's the favorite? I'm going with the Giants.
ENTEN: OK, fine.
And then, finally, our last game, please. Do we have our last game slide? All right, here we go.
COOPER: San Francisco 49ers?
ENTEN: Yes. And who's that'?
COOPER: And Dallas Cowboys.
ENTEN: Very good. And who do you got?
COOPER: Dallas Cowboys.
ENTEN: OK, fine.
And who do the actual odds-makers have in this game? Let's bring this slide up, please.
COOPER: Let's see.
ENTEN: The Bills. So, you got there.
ENTEN: You said the Jaguars, it's the Chiefs.
ENTEN: It's the Eagles who are favored.
ENTEN: And it's the 49ers. But we'll come back. I'll grade you, after this weekend.
COOPER: OK, yes.
ENTEN: And we'll see whether or not you could beat the odds-makers.
COOPER: OK. To everybody, who's listening, please do not wager anything, based on my picks! OK, I guess.
ENTEN: You know what?
ENTEN: You're probably as good as the odds-makers. But we'll find what - we'll wait and see.
COOPER: Harry Enten, I appreciate it. Thank you.
ENTEN: Thank you. Go Bills!
COOPER: All right.
ENTEN: Please God!
COOPER: I don't know what that means.
The news continues. "CNN TONIGHT" with Laura Coates, is next, right after a short break.