Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

New Details On Classified Documents Found At Pence's Home; US Pledges 31 Abrams Tanks For Ukraine, Germany And Allies To Send Approximately 80 Leopard 2 Models; Trump Reinstated On Facebook And Instagram; One-On-One With Sen. Bernie Sanders On Trump's Social Media Accounts, Ukraine, Debt Limit And Rep. Santos; Prosecutors, Defense Spar On First Day Of Alex Murdaugh Trial; Govt. Minders Follow CNN Reporter Through Rural China While Covering Covid Reality. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 20:00   ET


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: More specifically, it was the prosecution literally providing definitions for these, telling the jury that circumstantial evidence is still evidence and that reasonable doubt doesn't mean that there's no doubt.

Dick Harpootlian, the defense attorney, of course, a skilled trial lawyer, likely to continue trying to poke holes in the case saying that the State doesn't have one.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much on the ground there reporting on this.

Thanks to all of you for joining us. Anderson starts now.



We begin tonight with breaking news: Exclusive new reporting on a story CNN was first to bring you, the discovery of documents with classified markings at Mike Pence's Indiana home.

Well, tonight we know just what kind of material the former Vice President had and CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel joins us now with the very latest.

What have you learned, Jamie?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, according to multiple sources, we have learned that among those roughly 12 classified documents that were founded the Pence home are materials described as background briefing memos that were prepared for then Vice President Pence's foreign trips.

We are told that some of the classified documents were likely used to prepare Pence for foreign meetings, and then they actually may have been overlooked during the packing process because they were found tucked into old trip binders, sort of interspersed with other papers. Perhaps, they would not have been visible unless the packers actually went through these binders page by page.

Just for context, it is not unusual for Presidents and Vice Presidents to be given these travel briefing binders that include background memos on people they are meeting with in foreign countries. Our sources say that sometimes they just include basic biographical information on foreign leaders, government officials, but sometimes they also include more sensitive information -- Anderson.

COOPER: And I understand the FBI is working with US Intelligence Agencies to assess the documents from Vice President Pence. What more do you know about their level of classification?

GANGEL: So our colleague, Evan Perez reports the FBI is working with US Intelligence Agencies tonight to assess exactly that -- the level of classification, the potential risks. Because let's remember, these papers were not in a secure location, they have been in the Pence's private home.

But according to one source who was briefed on some of the classified documents, based on what they were told, there was nothing particularly unusual in the papers, and they described the classification markings. These are for some of the documents as on the "lower level."

The source also said there was no mention of documents with SCI or SAP markings. Those are two of the designations of some of the most sensitive classified top secret information.

That said, Anderson, we need to wait until the FBI finishes its assessment.

COOPER: And finally, I understand you also have some new reporting about the National Archives.

GANGEL: Right. So what we have been able to confirm that the Archives is looking into sending a letter to all living former Presidents, former Vice Presidents, asking them to go back through their records and triple check that there are no classified documents, even though we have been told by all of them that they turned everything over.

After Trump, Biden, and now Pence, the Archives clearly wants them to check one more time -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jamie Gangel, thank you.

Now Ukraine, today, a signal of commitment from the US and NATO Allies after months of asking and weeks of wrangling within the Western Alliance, Ukraine is going to be getting main battle tanks including frontline Leopard 2s from Germany and 31 M-1s, enough to equip a battalion from the United States.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Ukrainians are fighting an age old battle against aggression and domination. It's a battle Americans have fought proudly time and again, and it is a battle we're going to make sure the Ukrainians are well equipped to fight as well.


COOPER: In a moment, we're going to talk to a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Wesley Clark, on how he sees the battlefield the impact of those tanks. Also Russia scholar, Jill Dougherty on the reaction in Moscow where Germany's decision today is already being compared to Nazi Germany's invasion of Russia in the Second World War by the Russians.

First, CNN's Oren Liebermann at The Pentagon with more on what Ukraine is getting and how quickly.

So, what do we know about the tanks that the United States has committed?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Joe Biden painted this as a sign of NATO unity, that it's the US as well as Germany and other countries willing now to send in tanks after months of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's pleading that Ukrainian forces need tanks and it is a major significant commitment.

This is the most powerful direct offensive weapon the US and the West have provided, not the HIMARS or the howitzers that fire at the frontline from a distance. Instead, tanks are designed for face-to- face on the battlefield confrontations with Russian forces and that is exactly what Ukraine will be getting.


It'll take some time, the Leopard 2s are expected to arrive much sooner, the is the German-made tanks than the US tanks, but this is part of the effort from the US and the West now to provide Ukraine the power, the weapons, and the systems to take back territory and fight the Russians that are now dug in on defensive lines -- Anderson.

COOPER: Do we know how long The Pentagon expects it will take before the tanks or the American tanks appear on the battlefield?

LIEBERMANN: It'll take time. We are not talking about weeks here. We're talking about months and perhaps even many months and that is because the US needs to prepare the tanks. And although there's no M-1 Abrams production line going now, the US uses the thousands of tanks it already has, to refurbish those, re-prep them and update them for what they are needed.

That's a process that takes a long time, again months here, but the White House has said they may start training on Abrams tanks sooner such that once the tanks are ready, Ukrainians can employ them immediately on the battlefield.

COOPER: And are there other new actions The Pentagon is taking that would indicate the US is prepared to support Ukraine in the war for years to come or months more?

LIEBERMANN: We've seen a number of different actions that suggest this and support this, that the US is in this for the long term, as of course is Ukraine.

First, some of the systems mentioned will take years to arrive. The NASAMS air defense systems, those are contracted out for a couple of years, the Patriot training will take many more months. See, these are all long-term commitments.

On top of that, the US has said, this coming from the Army Acquisitions Chief, they are setting up new ammunition plants to produce more ammo. That's not just to supply Ukraine for the fight, it is also to restock American supplies and the supplies of its allies.

The Army Acquisition Chief said this looks to him like the largest ramp up in production going back to perhaps Korea, so that signifies how much the US is involved in this in making sure Ukraine stays in the fight and stays equipped in the fight -- Anderson.

COOPER: Oren Liebermann, appreciate it. Thank you.

I want to go next to CNN's Phil Mattingly at the White House for more on the decision and getting Germany on board. It is a big change of policy from the White House in terms of what they're willing to provide Ukraine in the war. What was the message that President Biden was wanting to deliver today on that?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, in talking to officials with direct knowledge of the behind- the-scenes discussions over the last several weeks, they pointed several times to the number of times the President talked about unity, the durability of the Western coalition, that serving as a good crystallization of the driving force behind that policy shift, behind the decision to deliver those US tanks at all, something that the US military had not recommended, something that NSC officials here at the White House were very wary of doing. They didn't believe it was the best use of capabilities in terms of the battlefield dynamics that are currently at play.

But it really gets at the central driving force behind how President Biden has viewed this war throughout the 11 months it has been ongoing. And also, in the months beforehand, as the US was trying to put together this alliance, there have been no shortage of reasons and even predictions for cracks or fractures in this 30-plus country Alliance up to this point.

And it underscores the point, as one official told me, this isn't about one weapon system or one specific weapons capability. This is about maintaining unity, maintaining that durability going forward. There is no clear endgame right now to this war. Keeping that unity, keeping the coalition together is by far and away President Biden's driving force here.

COOPER: I want to play an exchange between the President and a reporter following his remarks.


REPORTER: Why are you taking this decision now? Did Germany force you to change your mind on sending tanks?

BIDEN: Germany didn't force me to change my mind. We wanted to make sure we're all together as we're going to do all that we are doing right now.


COOPER: What do we know about the discussions that happened between the United States and Germany before the decision was made? Because obviously there was a lot of back and forth.

MATTINGLY: Yes, a significant amount of back and forth, a lot of frustration, too on the US side in which they viewed the German position as something that was to some degree intransigent.

However, what the President said there isn't entirely accurate in the sense that Germany was the entity in this negotiation that drove the US position or drove the US decision making here, but this also gives a really good window when you talk to officials who have been working on these issues behind the scenes, not just in the last couple of weeks, but really over the last several months into President Biden's approach here.

And there is actually a good example just a couple of weeks ago, when Germany signed off on sending a Patriot missile system to Ukraine, it was notable that it was an announcement that was made with the White House, a joint statement from Chancellor Scholz and President Biden, lengthy, very detailed, and also outlining what the US commitments would be that would be coming at the same exact time.

I am told that was a statement that was requested specifically and explicitly by Chancellor Scholz, made very clear the US needed to show its commitments, and also the US needed to make clear that they supported Germany's position.

It's important for the domestic political decisions. It's important for how Chancellor Scholz was viewed back home. President Biden understands that officials said, and that has been a central component to how he has operated with his counterparts across this coalition in the last several months.

COOPER: Phil Mattingly, appreciate it.


For more in the battlefield difference these tanks could make, how the Russians are already reacting and where this all could lead, we are joined now by former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and retired Army General Wesley Clark. He's currently a CNN military analyst. Also, CNN's Sam Kiley in Kyiv with reaction there, and CNN contributor Jill Dougherty, Russia scholar and global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

General Clark, so you heard the reporting from the White House and The Pentagon. What's your opinion on the numbers of tanks that are being sent to Ukraine, both from the US and from Germany? Is it -- and perhaps from other allied countries. Is it enough for Ukraine to repel a new Russian offensive if and when it happens?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I don't think most of those tanks are going to be there when the Russian offensive happens. So certainly the M-1s won't be and probably the majority of the Leopards won't be there. So that's the problem.

They need other weapons. I mean, the tanks are a great statement. It's a great statement of political unity for NATO, but there is no urgency in getting those tanks there right now.

I think there should be, but there doesn't seem to be. Those tanks are going to be the heart of three or four combat brigades that will form up during the summer. They will be going after maybe Zaporizhzhia or maybe used to blunt some Russian offensive in the summertime.

It is going to take four months, five months for the armored vehicles that go with the tanks, the self-propelled artillery, the additional ammunition and so forth to be assembled.

The near term problem is the Russian offensive.

COOPER: Sam, what's the response been from Ukrainians today?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has been one of delight, but also a delight put into some context and as a General Clark was saying there, here, General Reznikov, the Defense Minister told Christiane Amanpour earlier on today, whilst there were air raid sirens going off during that interview, that they had a wider shopping list of what they really needed.

They needed 300 to 400 tanks, they said. They wanted fighter jets, fighter bombers, and they need above all the ability to protect their skies from the ongoing drone attacks from Russia. But they are delighted because they think that these battlefield replacements effectively, this is partly replacing tanks that they've already lost in this fighting might be able to get them onto the front foot and maintain some of the initiative.

This is what General Reznikov, the Defense Minister said.


GENERAL OLEKSII REZNIKOV, UKRAINIAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE: We will use them as some kind of metal fist or iron fist to break through the defense line of our enemy because we need to make our -- continue our counteroffensive campaign in different direction.


KILEY: Now, this campaign from the Ukrainians has all been about maneuver, all about momentum. You'll recall that they liberated a large area of -- around Kharkiv earlier on in the summer; then in the fall, they were able to liberate Kherson Province. This is now running to the sand, or rather mud. There's now bitter trench warfare, particularly in the east, Anderson. There is hope by the Ukrainians that this more modern NATO equipment that is being supplied will get them back to have that maneuver capability to get that momentum going, but they are desperately in need of immediate resupply and it is that that is really going to be dependent about what happens over the next near future -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jill, the Russian Embassy in Berlin has called Germany's decision extremely dangerous. They said it takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation. Any actual response that beyond rhetorical response you expect?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN RUSSIAN AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: I don't really think so. I mean, what can they do at this point, but the rhetorical is really, really important, because you know, this -- especially the German tanks really strike a nerve with Russia. You can see some of the reaction, again, rhetorical, but the President spokesperson Peskov saying, you know, those tanks burn just like every other tank. And then you have warnings about nuclear war. They're pulling out all the stops.

And the reason it is so sensitive is because Russia's -- the Soviet Union's victory over the Nazis in World War Two is a seminal part of the ideology of Vladimir Putin. And he has brought this back, it is being taught in every school, it is being pumped up in propaganda every hour, the bravery, the heroism, with a direct connotation for the war against Ukraine. So, it's really striking now.

COOPER: General Clark, so you were saying the tanks can't get there in time if there is an offensive in the next couple of months. What can be done then for -- to prepare for that offensive? I mean, are Ukrainians ready for that?

CLARK: More artillery, more artillery, ammunition, some armored fighting vehicles, even 20 tanks to get there could help. Got to have mobile reserve, got to be able to handle the counter fire battle of artillery against artillery. It is one of the most important things. And of course, it would be great if we could get more aircraft, more aircraft munitions in, longer range in, Switchblade 600 drone, which is not there, which is available, which is being held up by Department of the Army because they want to send it through foreign military sales that could be released, get a hundred of those in, and the ATACMS, so that you can strike behind the lines and break up the momentum of any Russian offensive. That's what we're looking at.

And you know, the administration just hasn't wanted to do this. They don't want to take the risk of escalating it too rapidly. They want to respond to the battlefield but not anticipate it. They want Ukraine to succeed, but not at the risk of heightening a nuclear report -- a nuclear escalation by Russia.

So it's a delicate balancing act and there is a certain difference between what's needed on the battlefield and what the administration and NATO are willing to provide.

COOPER: And those -- the drones you were talking about. You were saying that the military has them. They are available, but won't release them. For what reason?

CLARK: Right, these Switchblade 600 drones require extended end use monitoring as part of the law that goes with selling equipment like this abroad. So is the Stinger under this, but we sold the Stingers. They're all recorded. Everybody knows exactly what happens to the Stingers. Same thing could be done with the Switchblade 600 drones, but it hasn't been.

And it is kind of inexplicable, and when you talk to people in the administration, they say it is a very complicated situation. I'm not sure. That's a drone that could go in and attack Russian Command Posts and fuel depots and ammo depots that are then moved beyond HIMARS range.

And what just occurs to the administration is, maybe they could attack into Russia with this drone. I don't think they would. But you know, that could be a condition of giving it out.

But thus far, we haven't been able to move to get that system into the hands of the Ukrainians and they've asked for it almost a year.

COOPER: Jill, is Vladimir Putin's propaganda working? I mean, are Russian citizens continuing to rally behind this war?

DOUGHERTY: That's always very hard to figure out, but the indications are, you'd have to say probably the majority do. But you know, when he uses World War Two and Nazi Germany, it really goes to the heart of, you know, Russians and their reason for their country to survive, they would argue, and so what he -- he really is weaponizing history and I think it can be effective, because, remember, during World War Two, the Soviet Union lost millions and millions of people, 20 million people.

So it's a lot -- as you remember that and when he strike that chords, a lot of people remember.

COOPER: Yes. Jill Dougherty, General Clark, Sam Kiley, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, more breaking news. What went into the decision to reinstate the former President on Facebook and Instagram barely two years after he used social media to fan the flames of January 6th?

And later, Senator Bernie Sanders on that, on sending tanks into Ukraine and how President Biden should handle the upcoming debt ceiling showdown with House Republicans.


COOPER: On January 6, 2021, the former President was busy watching a mob of his supporters ransack the Capitol. He was also egging them on fanning the flames on Twitter and Facebook. Now within days, he was suspended from both.

Late today, Facebook and Instagram's parent company, Meta, joined Twitter in reversing course. To give you some idea of what might be in store. The former President late today posted an apparently unprovoked personal attack on his former top COVID adviser on his own social media site, quoting now: "One of the greatest privileges I had as President was firing Deborah Birx, the only thing she had going was nice scarves."

Joining us now with the latest on the Facebook and Instagram reinstatements, CNN's Donie O'Sullivan, also Sarah Matthews, who served as Deputy Press Secretary in the previous administration.

What was behind this decision?

DONIE O' SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so two years ago, when they kicked Trump off their platforms, which of course also includes Instagram, it was because they said there was a chance of further harm, further incitement to violence and what they've determined this week, they said that that risk in Facebook's view that it has sufficiently receded.

Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who is now a President at Facebook, was involved in making this decision and here's what he had to say.


NICK CLEGG, PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS OF FACEBOOK: He was suspended for two years from using Facebook and Instagram and that two-year clock expires now this month, and so we are confirming that if he wants to, he can, in the coming weeks, he can use Facebook and Instagram again.

I mean, of course, there are guardrails. There are rules. He has got to play by the rules and we are announcing some additional ones today to encourage him to just stick to the rules.


O'SULLIVAN: Now, look, as you pointed out, the challenge is going to be that Trump continues to push lies about the 2020 election.

Interestingly, my colleague Oliver Darcy confirmed with a Facebook spokesperson tonight that the new rules that Trump will have to obey or that he is allowed to attack the 2020 election, but not allowed to attack the 2024 election.

But I mean, by continuing to attack the 2020 election, you are undermining integrity in elections here nevertheless.

COOPER: Sarah, as someone who was so appalled by the former President's actions on January 6, you immediately resigned, I'm wondering what your reaction and is this wise that he is back?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I don't believe it's a wise decision that he is back. Sure there is an argument to be made of how long you could ban him and I think that, you know, it's good that they say that they're putting guardrails in place, but I think that the guardrails aren't strong enough. I think that Trump is going to violate these rules, and he's going to get banned pretty quickly as he is reinstated. Some of the guardrails are yes, that he cannot delegitimize an upcoming election, but his own posts on his Truth Social platform show that he continues to spew lies about the 2020 election, so who's to stop him from wanting to undermine the results in the 2024 election?

And I think another one of the guardrails that they said they put in place is that he cannot post anything about QAnon, but we've seen him post about QAnon and openly embrace them on his Truth Social platform.


So I think it's only a matter of time before he violates their rules and gets banned again.

COOPER: I mean, Donie, he has -- I mean, he's flirted with QAnon. He's been photographed with QAnon folks at Mar-a-Lago. I don't know if he has actually come out and said, "I love QAnon," has he?

O'SULLIVAN: Okay, all but that, essentially, right and what we --

COOPER: He retweeted a graphic of him with a --

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, all the time, and we repeatedly see on Truth Social where there are a lot of QAnon accounts. He is consistently retweeting or reposting accounts that if you look at them, they are very pro QAnon.

Look, I will just mention one thing, you know, taking a step back from this, is that at the time when Trump did get suspended, right, you know, a lot of people here in the US thought it was the right decision. But, you know, leaders around the world, including Angela Merkel, at the time, who was no great fan of Trump did say, look, is this actually the right thing that a company should be able to take a then sitting President off a platform like this?

And this is going to come down Republican-Democrat in some ways in terms of whether this was the right decision or not, but I think notably tonight, the ACLU, which also pointed out, it has many issues with Trump and has had in the past, they said that this is the right call, like it or not, President Trump is one of the country's leading political figures and the public has a strong interest in hearing his speech.

COOPER: Sarah, do you think his social media influence has been degraded by not only the bans, but his own relentless stream of grievance, which some people do ultimately get sick of?

MATTHEWS: Yes. I do think that his influence clearly has been put under stress with not having access to these platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You know, it's not like many people are on Truth Social, so his posts on there don't pack the same punch that they once did.

But I do think that him being able to rejoin these platforms, once his exclusivity contract with his own Truth Social, you know, is up, which I believe is this summer, then it's going to be only a short matter of time before he is back on these platforms, because he definitely wants to have access to them, again, not only just to have, you know, access to his supporters, and have a microphone where he can have a larger influence.

Facebook in particular is really going to be huge for him in his 2024 campaign, because it's also a fundraising platform for him, and the Trump campaign is very adept when it comes to digital fundraising and they use it to collect data and make money. And so I think that that is going to be hugely beneficial to him as well.

COOPER: Do you think he will be the Republican nominee, Sarah?

MATTHEWS: I'm hopeful that he won't be. But obviously, no one has declared as of now, and only time will tell. I think, you know, some folks are flirting with the idea of entering the race, and so I'm hopeful that others will enter the race soon and challenge him because he is definitely vulnerable and it's not going to be like it was in 2016, hopefully, where we have, you know, an enormous amount of people entering the race.

I think the Republicans need to be smart and just have a couple of choices that we can coalesce around, and so that way that challenger can be stronger against Donald Trump and defeat him in the primary.

COOPER: Sarah Matthews, Donie O'Sullivan. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Just ahead, Senator Bernie Sanders joins us live on the former President's return to Facebook; also conservatives demanding spending cuts to raise the debt limit; plus, the war and Ukraine, and Congressman George Santos, ahead.



COOPER: The former president getting his Facebook and Instagram accounts back, so we just mentioned is just one flashpoint tonight. There's also the issue of new support for the war in Ukraine in the form of M1 Abrams tanks. That support comes as conservative lawmakers today demanded spending cuts to raise the debt limit. According to the Washington Post, House Republicans are on impossible cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Joining me now, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senator Sanders, appreciate you being with us.

Just briefly, do you think it's the right choice for Facebook and Instagram to have President Trump back?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): You know, it's look, you have a guy who is a pathological liar, but he happens to be the former President of the United States and he has a right to express his views.

COOPER: In your meeting with President Biden today, did the war in Ukraine come up? Do you support the President's decision to send 31 to Abrams tanks?

SANDERS: No, it didn't come up. Mostly Anderson what we're talking about is my assuming the position of chairman of the Health, Education, labor and Pensions Committee and the issues that we're going to be working on in that committee.

COOPER: You said today that President Biden is absolutely right to refuse to negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling. Why do you think that? And if Democrats simply refuse to come to the table, won't they be culpable if the U.S. defaults on its debt as well?

SANDERS: Well, I think once the American people understand what the Republican agenda is, I think they're going to retreat from that agenda. Look, we are living in a moment of massive income in wealth and equality. Billionaires are getting richer, working people are struggling. Something like half of older workers in this country have nothing saved for retirement. So the idea that under Trump, as you recall, we gave a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the very rich and large corporations and now Republicans are coming back and saying, oh, guess what, we're really worried about the deficit, the national debt. We want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that are vital importance, life and death importance to working families. I don't think they are going to get away with that. I think the American people say, no way, you're not going to do that.

COOPER: You're obviously strong support of expanding entitlements like Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office says that without intervention, the program will become insolvent as soon as 2033. Some lawmakers have floated the idea of this bipartisan panel to look at how to save those programs. Would you support that approach or do you have conditions?

SANDERS: Well, no, I wouldn't support that approach because the last time around the conclusion they came up with was major cuts to Social Security, et cetera. Look, the solution to this problem is not very hard to understand and we've got legislation and to address it. Anderson, right now if you got one person who makes $100 million a year and another person who makes $160,000 a year, both of those people put in exactly the same amount of money into Social Security. This is a ceiling on how much your taxes will be paid into the program.


If you lift that cap starting at $250,000, you can make Social Security not only solvent for the next 75 years, 75 years, you can increase benefits for lower income elderly people who are struggling really hard right now to get by. That's the solution to the problem. And I hope that we will get a larger amount of support for that.

COOPER: On the debt ceiling, though, I mean how does it end, how does this problem get resolved?

SANDERS: I think it ends very simply the way it should end in a democratic society. And that is the American people make the decisions. Do you really want to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid several years after Republicans gave huge tax breaks to the richest people and the largest corporations, and at a time when we have more income and wealth inequality than we have had in 100 years? Really? Is that what you want to do? Is that what you think the American people want to do? And none other than our old friend Donald Trump, who I disagree with, needless to say, on everything, Trump told the Republicans, hey, you're crazy. You can't cut Social Security and Medicare. I think they're going to listen to him.

COOPER: Just finally, I mean, you know, you've seen a lot in your time in public service. Does it make sense to you why Republicans in the House are standing by congressman George Santos?

SANDERS: Who knows? I honestly don't pay a whole lot of attention to that. I doubt that the American people are. Look, what I'm worried about, Anderson right now is we got a committee called Health, Education, Labor. We had a dysfunctional healthcare system. We spend twice as much per capita on health care as the people of any other country. You got 85 million people uninsured or underinsured. That's what we're going to work again. You got an educational system where primary, where childcare and PreK is in real trouble, in real disarray. We're losing hundreds of thousands of teachers a year because salaries are much too low, classroom conditions are bad. We got to address that issue, got to deal with student debt. And in terms of labor, you got 60% of our people who are living paycheck to paycheck.

So, what I'm going to try to do is not get involved inside the Beltway gossip. I'm going to try to pay attention to the needs of working families, many of whom are struggling right now, just to put food on the table.

COOPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, I appreciate your time, as always. Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, the first day in the double murder trial of South Carolina's Alex Murdaugh, accused of killing his wife and youngest son. Our Randi Kaye was in the courtroom, she joins us with the first day, next.



COOPER: The double murder trial of South Carolina's Alex Murdaugh in the killing of his wife and youngest son began today, with prosecutors laying out their evidence that they say includes video taken from their dead son's phone. Defense attorneys told the jury that the forensics case does not back up the prosecution's case.

Randi Kaye was in the courtroom today, has been following it all from the beginning. Before we get to what was said in the opening statements, I understand some of Alex Murdaugh's family showed up in the court today. RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They did, Anderson he had

quite an entourage there supporting him. His brothers were there, John Marvin and Randy Murdaugh. They've been strong defenders of his. Also, his only surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, was in court today. I was sitting right behind him, and when he walked in and sat down, Alex Murdaugh turned around and gave him a thumbs up. And as the defense finished presenting its opening statement, Alex Murdaugh turned back around to him and gave him a nod of approval of that opening statement. But those opening statements, Anderson, they lasted about an hour or so, and at times they were very disturbing. They shared both sides, shared quite a bit about what they learned from the murder scene. And here's just of those opening statements.


CREIGHTON WATERS, PROSECUTOR: The evidence is going to show. That neither Paul nor Maggie had any defensive wounds. Neither one of them had any defensive wounds, as if they didn't see a threat coming from their attacker.

KAYE (voice-over): That attacker, says prosecutor Creighton Waters, was Alex Murdaugh as he laid out what he says are the facts of the case in his opening statement, he described the brutal slaying of both Paul and Maggie Murdaugh on the night of June 7, 2021.

WATERS: Picked up that 300-blackout rifle, and opened fire on his wife, Maggie, pow, pow. Two shots, abdomen in the leg, and took her down. And after that, there were additional shots, including two shots to the head that, again, did catastrophic damage and killed her instant.

KAYE (voice-over): The prosecutor also makes an attempt early on to convince the jury Alex was at the scene when Paul and Maggie were killed, despite him saying he wasn't.

WATERS: At 8:44 and 55 seconds, Paul recorded a video. You'll see that video, you'll hear from witnesses that identify Paul's voice, Maggie's voice and Alex's voice told anyone who would listen he was never there. At 8:44 and 55 seconds, there's a video. The evidence will show that he was there.

KAYE (voice-over): Murdaugh's defense attorney, Dick Harpootlian opened with this.

DICK HARPOOTLIAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'll stand up. This is Alex Murdaugh. Alex was the loving father of Paul and the loving husband of Maggie.

KAYE (voice-over): Then he moved to describe in gruesome terms how Paul Murdaugh died.

HARPOOTLIAN: Literally exploded his head like a watermelon hit with a sledgehammer. All that was left was the front of his face. Everything else was gone. His brain exploded out of his head, hit the ceiling in the shed, and dropped to his feet. Horrendous. Horrible.


KAYE (voice-over): The defense said an hour before Paul was killed, he and his father were having a good time riding around the property together. He told the jury, it doesn't make sense that Alex killed his son. He also pointed out that whoever shot Paul would have been covered in blood, given the violent nature of the shooting. Alex Murdaugh was not.

HARPOOTLIAN: His head exploded. You would be covered in blood from head to foot.

KAYE (voice-over): Still, the prosecutor did his best to try to place the murder weapon in Alex Murdaugh's hand. He says Maggie was killed with a shotgun, Alex had purchased a gun that has gone missing.

WATERS: You're going to hear forensic evidence that the cases that were found in that flower bed and the cases that were found across the street at that range were ejected out of the same weapon that fired all the cases that were around Maggie's dead body that killed her. It was a family weapon that killed Maggie Murdaugh.


COOPER: Randi, we heard the prosecutor mention the audio that was found on Murdaugh's cellphone, which puts Alex Murdaugh at the scene earlier in the night. Were you able to learn what's on that audio?

KAYE: We did, Anderson. As you know, Alex Murdaugh has always said that he showed up at the house and found his wife and son bleeding and not breathing. And then he called 911 at 10:07 p.m. And then we learned recently that there was audio found on Paul Murdaugh's phone. And you can hear Alex Murdaugh talking to his family members. We never knew what that audio said, but the defense has always said it was a friendly conversation, nothing nefarious about it.

Well, today in court, the defense finally told us what was on that audio was Alex talking to his son Paul, according to the defense, about a dog attacking a chicken. He said there was nothing bad in that conversation. In fact, he said Paul then texted a girl about ten minutes later asking her to go to the movies. So that does put Alex at the scene much earlier, about 8:44 p.m., far before he called 911 at 10:07 p.m. Now it will be up to the jury to decide what they want to do with that information, Anderson.

COOPER: Randi Kaye, I appreciate it.

An extraordinary moment you'll only see on CNN is coming up. One of our reporters in China looking for answers about the COVID pandemic there was not only followed by government minders, they actually took away someone she was interviewing mid-sentence. You see it right there. More on that ahead. Next.


[20:51:29] COOPER: Before now you'll only see on CNN's China's Zero COVID policy kept people in their homes for weeks at a time, as the country tried to get a handle on the pandemic. Authorities kicked down doors to remove people who they said tested positive, forced them into quarantine. They also barricaded streets, refused to change their policy until rare mass protests sprung up across the country, forcing the government to ease restrictions. Most of that was taking place in large cities.

While the vast interior of the country was pretty much forgotten, our Selina Wang wanted to see what was happening hundreds of miles away from those lockdowns and protests. So, she went and her report is remarkable. Watch.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): This is how people celebrate the lunar year in Dali village. Cheers.


WANG (voice-over): This year's celebration is particularly special. The adults around this table all work in factories in the cities. This is the only time when many of them can see their children. The man next to me says, we got to go wherever we can make money and China's Zero COVID policy over the last three years has made it all even harder. He said the policy prevented them from going home, but now that the country is open, they can all be together. We came to this place in China's southern Guizhou province to see how a part of rural China is celebrating the lunar new year without pandemic restrictions. We visited a villager's home.


WANG (voice-over): Sanja (ph) greets us with a treat and alcohol, both made from rice from the patty fields nearby. Drinking is a big part of celebrating here.

(on-camera): About a thousand people live in this village, and for hundreds of years they've lived in these traditional wooden houses, and you can hear the chickens crowing. And there are these ducks as well that they raise for food.

(voice-over): In many ways, this place is like a time capsule. Its physical isolation has preserved their way of life for centuries. Their Chinese don't ethnic minority. They have their own language, tradition, and culture. But they can't escape the economic realities of modernity.

Normally, this village is full of the elderly and young kids, with most of the working age adults gone, working in faraway factories, sending money home. This couple works in a factory 500 miles away in Guangdong Province, making circuit boards. He tells me he hasn't seen his kids for a year. Last time he left, his son couldn't even walk. He says it's emotional to see them grow so much. For the first time in three years, millions of Chinese migrant families are finally able to reunite without the fear of COVID lockdowns. Almost everyone I speak to on camera says no one around them has gotten COVID, like this elderly woman who makes traditional crafts. She says she has not been wearing a mask and points to her shoulder saying she's had the vaccine shots. But we run into another group of young people who say otherwise. The man in the brown jacket with his back turned is a doctor at a hospital in a nearby city. He says almost all of the villagers have been infected. I asked him if they just don't realize they have COVID. In response, he says they've never been tested, but clearly they had COVID symptoms.

(ON-CAMERA): So, we've got the three government minders following us. It's common for local officials to keep a close eye on foreign journalists in their jurisdictions, but they were especially persistent in this village, following our every move.


So, we drive out of the village to visit a public hospital in a neighboring county about two hours away, hoping these government minders won't follow us so people will feel more comfortable speaking freely. We walk inside the fever clinic.

(on-camera): It's almost entirely empty.

(voice-over): In the main hospital area, there are more people, but it's not packed. It's a stark contrast to the images of overflowing hospitals in major cities across China from weeks before. I ask a nurse on another floor of the hospital if it was packed with patients a few weeks ago. She says it's always packed and busy here. We try to ask why it looks empty here, but another doctor interrupts, ending our interview. We find one woman, a patient's family member who is willing to speak to us. She says everyone around her has already gotten COVID and recovered. Soon after, we realized we're being followed, apparently by a whole different crew.

(on-camera): There's at least two, three government minders. They are still following us all the way here. It's very obvious.

(voice-over): They follow us to hospital after hospital, preventing anyone from speaking to us. I try confronting them. I ask them why they're following us everywhere, and he ignores me.

(on-camera): He's walking away.


WANG (voice-over): So, I tried this official, she refuses to even acknowledge my question. And what happens next during my interview with this girl shocks us.


(on-camera): OK, so I was just interviewing the girl, and then the minders literally took her away from us. (voice-over): The man pushes the girl and her family away, then later

leaves them alone. But her interviews in the marketplace are over. China CDC says the COVID peak across the country has passed, but in rural areas like this, experts say there's likely far more silent suffering. People who died at home because they couldn't afford to go to the hospital or were unable to get there on time.

Back in the village were greeted by the sounds of squealing pigs getting ready to be slaughtered. It's a lunar New Year tradition. Decades ago, for most countryside families, this was the only time of the year when they could afford to eat meat.

(on-camera): So this is a whole family of relatives are all getting together for the lunar new year, enjoying the freshly killed pig meat.

(voice-over): Sanja (ph) shows me the fabric she made herself. Sewing just a thin strip of this cloth takes her more than a day, whether it's in the village or in faraway factories, they're hardworking people. They'll do whatever it takes to give their kids a better life, even if it means long bounce of separation from them, making reunions like these all the more meaningful.


COOPER: So amazing to see life in that village. It's also amazing to see the level of minders following you. I mean, the amount of resources they are devoting to, you know, this one report that you're doing, is that normal?

WANG: Yes, Anderson I mean, it is normal for these local officials to basically they get a heads up when a foreign journalist with foreign passport, they check into a hotel or a home stay. So, we weren't surprised when six minders greeted us at our hotel, but were surprised by the level of persistence they followed us to literally every place. There was this moment, Anderson, when we were trying to get this amazing shot up at the top of the mountain. So, we walked up and down the mountain side probably like for two hours, and they followed us every step of the way up, every step of the way down on this winding, narrow road. And I said to them, look, we're just trying to get some view roll of the shot up there. You don't have to follow us that closely or exhaust. They basically were like, well, that's pretty much our job.

Now, we tried driving away to get more information on the COVID situation, so went out several hours out of their district, but somehow, they knew were going there, too, because we had a whole different group of people telling us the entire time were reporting at hospital after hospital. And they were much more aggressive there, much more obvious in the way they were trying to obstruct our reporting. Clearly talking to all the potential interviewees. We'd speak to someone the moments later, they'd cut in, speak in the local language, and then suddenly they wouldn't speak to us anymore. So clearly, they had planned and alerted the network of clinics there that were coming.

So, this is kind of the level of obstruction that CNN faced just a couple of years ago in Xinjiang reporting on very sensitive stuff. But now for foreign media reporting in China, virtually everything is considered sensitive.

COOPER: Selina Wang, I really appreciate what you do. Thank you.

Coming up next, new developments in the Tyre Nichols case, the man who died after a confrontation with Memphis police. We're awaiting video of the confrontation to be released, but in the meantime have news about an autopsy, ahead.