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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Three Memphis Fire Personnel Fired Over Response To Tyre Nichols Beating; Two People Searched Trump Properties Testify Before Federal Grand Jury In Mar-a-Lago Probe; Wagner Group Defector Speaks Out; Murdaugh's Final Texts And Calls To His Son And Wife Revealed During Day 6 Of Double Murder Trial; Actress Cindy Williams Of "Laverne & Shirley" Dead At 75. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 30, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And thanks so much for joining us.

Don't forget you can watch "OUTFRONT" anytime, anywhere. It's always available on CNN Go.

In the meantime, though, let's hand it off to AC 360 and Anderson Cooper.



We begin with breaking news. More fallout in the wake of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police officers.

Late today, the City Fire Department announced the termination of three personnel, two EMTs and the Lieutenant who drove them to the scene.

Also today, the police department revealed that a sixth and then a seventh officer had been "relieved of duty."

As you know, five have already been fired and charged with second- degree murder. Their specialized SCORPION unit is now disbanded and there could be more charges and administrative changes to come. We're going to talk about that tonight with a local District Attorney.

Also, our legal team and the potential difficulty of getting convictions under Tennessee's murder statute, and our law enforcement experts weigh in on the effect or lack of one, the officers' body cameras had on their behavior including one suspended officer who came onto the scene shortly after Mr. Nichols had been pulled over.

This is part of his camera's recording and a warning it is graphic both in what you see and what you hear.


OFFICER: Get out of the fucking car.



OFFICER: Get your ass on the ground.

NICHOLS: All right. All right. All right.

OFFICER: On the ground. On the ground.


NICHOLS: You don't do that, okay.

OFFICER: Get on the fucking ground. Get on the ground. I'll tase your ass.

OFFICER: I'll tase you.

NICHOLS: All right, all right. I am on the ground.

OFFICER: On the ground. Right now.

OFFICER: Get on the ground.


OFFICER: I am going to tase you. Get on the ground.

NICHOLS: Stop. All right. Okay. All right.

OFFICER: I'll break your shit.

NICHOLS: Okay, I am doing --

OFFICER: Turn the fuck around.

OFFICER: Put your fucking hands on the --

OFFICER: Please put your hands behind your back.

NICHOLS: Okay. Stop. All right.


NICHOLS: You are really doing a lot right now.

OFFICER: Lay down.

NICHOLS: I am just trying to go home.


COOPER: In a moment, the District Attorney who said today: "We're looking at everybody in this case." Even he said people just did the paperwork on it. First, CNN's senior crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz with the breaking news, as well as a closer look at this now disbanded SCORPION unit and if there are others like it across the country.

Shimon, what are you learning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the Fire Department tonight announcing just a short time ago really, Anderson that three EMTs, a lieutenant and two EMTs have been terminated, fired after taking really no action as we saw on video, Tyre Nichols' body would be on scene, would stay on scene for almost 20 minutes before a stretcher arrived and as a result of the inaction by these EMTs, they have now been fired.

Also today, Anderson, we are learning that a sixth and seventh police officer with the Memphis Police Department is now on leave. They are part of this investigation. As you mentioned, the sixth officer because of that taser that he used, he is under investigation, and now a seventh officer is under investigation as well.

And the Memphis Police Department said that their investigation is still ongoing and that more personnel action can be taken.

This, of course comes as scrutiny over this unit, the SCORPION unit continues tonight. We take a look at other units similar to the SCORPION unit around the country. Just a warning that some of the video you may see, you may find graphic.


FRANK COLVETT, JR., COUNCILMAN, MEMPHIS CITY: There is a reckoning coming for the police department and for the leadership.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): launched with fanfare in 2021, the Memphis Police Department's now defunct SCORPION unit was among the first major initiatives by new Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis only a few months on the job.

CERELYN DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE CHIEF: Too many families, too many mothers, too many fathers have suffered in our city, and quite frankly, I think we are all tired of it.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): Faced with rising murder rates and a spike in violent thefts, the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods was her response. Forty officers who would patrol high crime areas, often in plain clothes with a mandate to deliver arrest.

MAYOR JIM STRICKLAND, MEMPHIS: The SCORPION unit has had a total of 566 arrests, 390 of them for felonies. They have seized $103,000.00 in cash, 270 vehicles, and 253 weapons.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): Now after five members of the unit were caught on video and charged with murder in the violent beating of Tyre Nichols, it has been disbanded.

Specialized units have existed in most of America's 70 major cities often driving police arrest stats and generating PR opportunities for politicians eager to appear tough on crime.

STEVE MULROY, SHELBY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I'm glad to hear that the unit has been disbanded. I think we should probably be taking a serious look at these specialized units, both in Memphis and around the country.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): This kind of so-called elite police squad is not a new idea.

REPORTER: So some cities are taking on drug dealers with urban commando teams within intimidating names like CRASH, DART, TNT, and in Atlanta, Red Dog.

OFFICER: Show me hands, get on your knees.


PROKUPECZ (voice over): Atlanta's Red Dog unit started in the 1980s. Officers went on high-risk raids and patrolled public housing. It was politically popular, but was disbanded in 2011 after years of complaints over its tactics.

In 2021, facing a new spike in crime, Atlanta PD launched its latest specialized Titan unit.

RODNEY BRYANT, FORMER ATLANTA POLICE CHIEF: We believe that the direction that they will have to be more aggressive as it relates to which street violence that we're up against, but it is no way to replace what Red Dog was.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): In New York, the NYPD Street Crime Unit was launched in the 1970s with a motto "We own the night." The unit faced controversy in 1999 after four plainclothes officers fired 41 shots on Amadou Diallo, an unarmed 23-year-old student outside his apartment building in the Bronx, claiming he fit the description of a man wanted for rape.

The officers who shot Diallo were found not guilty. The unit was disbanded in 2002 after a Federal investigation uncovered racial profiling. In 2020, the NYPD disbanded all of its plainclothes anticrime units, the kind of responsible for the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

New York City Mayor and former police officer, Eric Adams told CNN on Monday, specialized units aren't inherently bad.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: Units don't create abuse. Abusive behavior creates abuse.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): Nearly 25 years later, I'm Amadou Diallo's mother is still fighting to change police practices.

KADIATOU DIALLO, MOTHER OF AMADOU DIALLO: I have to hold my heart and I have to let them know that this is a club that we wish we'd never had to welcome them and this is a club that no families want to be part of. PROKUPECZ (voice over): From Philadelphia to Baltimore and Indianapolis, Memphis is the latest example of an all too common cycle. Crime rises, police create an aggressive unit that delivers an increase in arrests, then comes scandal or tragedy.


COOPER: ... said the Department of Justice may investigate. Go to Memphis and look at the SCORPION unit.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, so the Civil Rights unit there is looking at the shooting overall. But then, you know, they can bring in DOJ personnel to look at the practices and patterns of this unit, and it is certainly something that could happen here, Anderson.

You know, I was there for the week and over the weekend, so many people would come up to us to talk to us about this unit and the problems that they were having with the police. So it is likely this is something that the Department of Justice is going to look at and it's going to be significant.

COOPER: Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it. Thank you.

Steven Mulroy is the District Attorney for Shelby County. His office is prosecuting the five officers who've already been charged. He joins us now. Appreciate you being with us.

We learned saying that three members of the Memphis Fire Department have been terminated after an internal investigation found they had "violated numerous procedures and protocols." Should the community expect to see charges for those individuals?

MULROY: Well, Anderson, because we have an ongoing investigation and this is a pending prosecution, I can't speak to whether other charges are likely.

I will say this, we brought the charges against the five officers who were on the scene and principally responsible for the death of Tyre Nichols extraordinarily quickly within less than three weeks, because we thought it was important to do so because of the extraordinary amount of public concern about this case.

But nothing we did last Thursday when we returned indictments in those cases precludes us from bringing later charges against other people further on down the road. And we are in fact, looking at everybody. We are looking at the officer that was at the first scene that did not go to the second scene. We're looking at Fire Department personnel who arrived afterwards. We're looking even at people who are doing the paperwork later on.

We're looking at everything. Nothing is being ruled out. But we need to ask for patience. You know, three weeks is an extraordinarily short time to do any kind of investigation and charges, but for these more indirect persons, I think it's going to take a little bit longer.

COOPER: What you are saying, you're looking at people doing the paperwork, I assume that's not hyperbole that you literally are doing that. For something like that, is that to see how events were actually recorded and reported, to see if there are any inaccuracies there?

MULROY: Yes. That's correct.

COOPER: So there are obviously also the two additional Memphis Police Department employees who were relieved of duty. I know you can't say whether you expect to charge them, just as there is an ongoing investigation. But there has been -- how much of the -- how influential has the body cameras been in your decision making process?

MULROY: Well, I mean, obviously, it is a key source of information, both the bodycam video and also the video from the pole cam, the static cam. We had, you know, remarkably good quality footage in this case, more so than most cases. But that's not all that we're looking at.

I want to emphasize that, you know, the process was pretty thorough, even though we acted quickly. We brought in immediately the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for an independent investigation and then when it came time to make a recommendation as to whether officers should be charged, I asked my newly created Justice Review Unit, which was originally designed to look to see whether we had brought some wrongful convictions or wrongful sentences to take a look at this as well.


And they were designed to be independent and objective. They don't work with law enforcement, they don't work with the rest of my staff, they report directly and only to me, in fact, they are physically separated and that kind of objectivity has helped us in deciding whether charges should be brought against the officers involved in this and in other officer-involved fatalities.

COOPER: You know, we heard from Mayor Adams in Shimon Prokupecz's report about you know, it is not specialized units that create abuse, it's abuse creates abuse.

Do you agree essentially with that? I mean, do you think there is an inherent problem with specialized units like this?

MULROY: So Anderson, maybe a little bit of yes and no here. There is nothing wrong with hotspot policing, as they call it, like taking a look at the geographic data, identifying those areas of towns where there seem to be a spike in crime, and then deploying police accordingly.

But sometimes, the specialized units that do that kind of hotspot policing, they sort of develop their own esprit de corps and it leads to a culture that is maybe hyper aggressive, and we have seen this with the SCORPION unit. And we've seen this with other units around the country.

So while I wouldn't go so far as to say that all specialized units are inherently bad. I do think that there's a way to do hotspot policing without having these elite, specialized units, and that all such units should be met with careful supervision and very careful training to overcome the very natural temptation for them to feed off on each other and become overdressed.

COOPER: Isn't that about leadership, though? I mean, isn't it about oversight and leadership? I mean, obviously, you want people to have an esprit de corps, you know, being involved in what they're doing. Obviously, you don't want the negative aspects of how that can be in that sort of hyper, violent way.

MULROY: Well, that's true, and I think it does require leadership and it does require supervision. You know, we have a relatively new Police Chief who has been on the job for a year-and-a-half, and I think she acknowledges that there needs to be a review of these specialized units, there needs to be a review of the type of training and crucially supervision of these units that occurs.

And I'm hopeful that that kind of reevaluation will not just be limited to Memphis, but will be nationwide.

COOPER: There has been a lot of emphasis, obviously on the speed of the investigation and subsequent charges for the officers, as you mentioned. Are you confident a jury will deliver convictions on those charges? Because some attorneys have suggested that the secondary murder charge could be difficult to prove, because Tennessee law stipulates the defendant must have been reasonably certain that their actions would lead to death.

MULROY: Yes, and that is true. That is the definition of knowingly, which is required for secondary murder in Tennessee. We are -- we did a very swift, but also very thorough analysis of all the information and we are comfortable with the charges that we brought.

We are confident that we will be able to prove every element of every of those, the offenses charged to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. And I'm also hopeful that the analysis doesn't end with this particular case, but it leads to a broader conversation about the need for police reform around the country.

COOPER: District Attorney Mulroy, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MULROY: Thank you.

COOPER: More now on the job that prosecutors will have in making secondary murder charges stick and the message it will send or may send to police departments beyond Memphis.

Joining us for that is former Florida Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings, who served in the Orlando Police Force from 1983 until her retirement as Chief of Department in 2011; also with us, CNN legal analyst and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Elliot Williams.

So Elliot, I want to get your reaction to what the District Attorney just said about the second-degree murder charge. How difficult do you think it'd be to prove that these five officers reasonably knew their actions would lead to Mr. Nichols' death? ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Anderson, let's start from the principle or the premise that these officers based on what we saw in that video killed a man. Right? I don't think that's in dispute here. The question is whether you can prove under Tennessee law, that number one, it was a knowing killing. That's what the law says. And number two, that as the District Attorney had said, the officers were reasonably certain that their actions would have led to a death.

Now look, you can get there and I think the prosecutor is absolutely correct, based on the information that's available, but a Defense Attorney could really poke holes in that in a number of ways. Number one, you know, you're going to see competing experts. The defense will likely call an expert on use of force and whether it was a permissible use of force under sort of norms in the police department. Number two, on trauma to the body, where it's ultimately going to be the opinions of various doctors.

I want to be clear, it's a homicide. It is a killing of an individual, that just doesn't mean that you'll necessarily secure a conviction. It is hard to see right now. The prosecutor seem convinced that they have plenty of evidence, so we'll see what they come forward with.


COOPER: Congresswoman, it is likely, you know, prosecutors' argument will delve into the training and the backgrounds of the officers, given your nearly three decades in law enforcement should those officers have known that repeated blows to the head and the body could be fatal, that their treatment of him could be fatal.

VAL DEMINGS, FORMER US REPRESENTATIVE: Anderson, let me just say this. This is a horrific, horrible time for law enforcement. Our beloved profession is in trouble. And what I do know in Orlando, Florida, we had an internal policy that any strikes above the shoulders were prohibited for that very purpose because they would likely cause great bodily harm or death.

And I would guess, that most police department, the overwhelming majority of departments have the same policy. So, I believe the officers knew or they should have known that punching Tyre in the face or kicking him in the face could cause death or great bodily harm.

I think the evidence is overwhelming.

COOPER: Elliot, as we mentioned, three Memphis Fire employees had been fired. We've also learned that two additional Memphis Police officers have been relieved of duty.

What does that say to you now about culpability in how this investigation might progress? I mean, obviously, the District Attorney we just talked to says they are looking at everyone.

WILLIAMS: Yes, and I think the culpability isn't limited to just, you know, let's say, the active homicide, if you want to call it that of the beating, it's the what is it -- 22 or 23 minutes, Anderson, in which he is not receiving care, no one is performing CPR and the ambulance doesn't show up and so on. That is at best gross negligence on the part of the officers.

And I'm certain that the office -- that the prosecutors right now are looking into whether they can charge someone for that failure to render care. And even if they can't, I'm certain -- another thing I'm certain of, Anderson, is that the Justice Department here in Washington is right now looking into whether they can bring a Federal Civil Rights charge against any of those paramedics, EMTs, or officers for the failure to render care, which is itself seen as a violation of Federal Civil Rights law.

So, there are a few different options here even if Tennessee can't prosecute them.

COOPER: Yes, Congresswoman, Elliot brings up the point of -- I mean, all that time where they spent just standing there not doing anything, I mean, as somebody who spent so much time in law enforcement, have you ever seen anything like that aspect of just the -- I mean, anybody looking at that person laying on the ground, knows that person is in trouble.

DEMINGS: Oh, of course. I worked very closely with our EMTs, with our Fire Department and I can say in almost 30 years on the street, I have family members who are firefighters, EMTs -- I have never seen anything like that.

My understanding is that the information they were given was that this was a "pepper spray" call. Well, it's obvious -- or it should have been, when they arrived on that scene that it was certainly more than a pepper spray call looking at the condition of Mr. Nichols, and so I do not understand -- I'm sure the investigation will certainly help us all understand -- why they did not assess the condition of Tyre and render the necessary aid.

There are a lot of unanswered questions and we have got to have them answered.

COOPER: Val Demings, I appreciate your time tonight; Elliot Williams as well. Thank you.

Just ahead, we will have more on police bodycams, the effect they might have on the criminal trials to come and why the fact that cameras did not seem to stop these officers from doing what the video shows they did to law enforcement experts join us.

And later, CNN's Kaitlan Collins with more breaking news. There's new grand jury testimony in the Mar-a-Lago documents case where the witnesses were in a position to see, ahead on 360.



COOPER: We're talking tonight about all that has happened since the first police supervisor saw the first frame of bodycam and other video from the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols and decided something was wrong. It has led to the Memphis Fire Department taking action tonight, firing three personnel who responded to the scene.

There is little doubt the video will play a big role in the upcoming trials of the five police officers now facing murder charges. The question though is what effect does wearing a body camera knowing that another officer is actually have on the way policing is done? How does wearing a bodycam change police behavior or why didn't it seem to change anything in the crucial moments of this case?

Joining us is Chuck Wexler. He is the Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization dedicated to improving professionalism in policing. Also CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller, Former Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism with the NYPD.

John, first of all, what's your reaction to the firefighters getting fired? Two other officers have been put on leave including one of them who said "I hope they stomp his ass" after he ran. What is that officer's liability?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So this is the triage piece which is they've kind of separated the first wave of who is going to be handled in serious criminal charges, not that the rest of these people aren't going to be looked at for criminal charges, but this is pretty much the administrative portion.

The firefighters for standing by where someone was seriously injured and clearly so, and not rendering aid. And the officer who fired the taser, the comment entirely inappropriate and yet very telling in this context, unprofessional and outside the rules.

COOPER: Chuck, who determines on the scene whether an EMT go -- approaches the suspect? I mean, do they -- do firefighters and EMTs defer to police officers?

CHUCK WEXLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, POLICE EXECUTIVE RESEARCH FORUM: I think they need to make sure the scene is safe, and I think they stand back until they know they can go in.

You know, it is interesting with body-worn cameras, we developed the guidelines for them for the Justice Department and when we worked with the law enforcement on them, nobody wanted body-worn cameras. The police were very opposed to them and then the police realized they could be beneficial.

What is so striking in this case is when I first heard about it, I thought -- I assumed that the officers weren't wearing body-worn cameras. I assumed they were in plainclothes. It turns out they were in uniform and they were wearing body-worn cameras.

So how they could exhibit this behavior with body-worn cameras is really astonishing.


COOPER: Well, I mean, how is it possible to do that? I mean, is it just a sense of -- they're in this specialized unit, they are, you know, the tough guys on the block, and it just went to their heads? I mean, I don't understand the logic of it.

WEXLER: Well, I don't either. You know, when we first gave cops body- worn cameras, the assumption was they would change their behavior, they would act differently, and I think in some cases that is, but in this case, it's just absolutely astonishing, that these officers could act this way.

I think they actually forgot that they were wearing them, and maybe at the very end, it is something that dawned on them that, you know, we've done something bad.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, John, how do you see with body cameras, and when you listen to it, I mean, the sheer volume of officers yelling different instructions at this person. I don't know how anybody could comply with all of those?

MILLER: Well, one of the things -- you know, we went through all of this in New York, and one of the things we did was seven-day training course, and in the training course, was de-escalation. They're not de- escalating. Team tactics, they're not functioning as a team, they're all yelling something else. Minimum force techniques, they're actually going up instead of down.

So I think a lot of police departments, Memphis included, will be looking at if we're going to have specialized units out there with citywide authority focused on crime and acting independently, the training has got to go way up. But on the body-worn camera issue, you know, they start off with the cameras rolling because they think they are doing the right thing.

As they lose track of doing the right thing, I'm not sure that they came to that realization and the cameras have been interesting because they've caused complaints against police to go down because the person who might make something up knows there is a recording.

On the other hand, it has caused a lot of complaints against police to be substantiated because when the person goes forward with it, despite the fact they know it's on tape, usually the tape tells the truth.

COOPER: That's interesting. Chuck, the police department in Memphis has been praised for how quickly they responded to this, although some are now pointing out that it's the police department and the mayor's office that created the SCORPION unit that the officers belong to in the first place.

Do you think, you know, so-called elite units, like the SCORPION unit, are they inherently a problem? Because I mean, it does seem -- I mean, do they play an important role?

WEXLER: Well, I think I think what's happened is, in the past two years, you've had a series of events. You've had the George Floyd murder, you've had the pandemic, and then you've had a spike in violent crime, particularly homicides and shootings. And I think a lot of departments have pivoted, and have said, we need to do something about violent crime. But I think they forgot the lessons. Amadou Diallo, a number of cases like this, where specialized units sort of are emboldened by the department, by the mayor, you've got to do something. But there are specific things that you can do. Supervision is key.

What was astonishing was, there was no supervisor on scene there, when you had almost 10 different people coming. So strict supervision, you could use -- you could be reviewing body-worn camera videos.

I mean, every specialized unit in this country now should take random set of body-worn camera videos from those specialized units and see how they're dealing with citizens and you need strict policies and so forth.

So, you know, I think, look, if you have violent crime, someone has to deal with it, but you just have to make sure that they are focused, targeted, and well-supervised.

COOPER: Chuck Wexler and John Miller, thank you. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, with the former President starting out on the campaign trail, we have new reporting on the grievance-heavy campaign an insider say he wants to run.

There is also breaking news on who has been talking to the grand jury about the Mar-a-Lago classified documents coming up.



COOPER: More breaking news tonight. Two more witnesses for the federal grand jury investigating the former president, specifically the Mar-a- Lago documents there's that tonight. Plus, new reporting the New York Times that Manhattan grand jury has begun hearing evidence in the alleged hush money case related to Stormy Daniels. All that as he hits the campaign in two early voting states, we learn more about the kind of campaign he wants to conduct, the campaign that some former insiders have declined to join.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Audie Cornish join us now. So, Kaitlan, let's start with the new reporting that you have about the Mar-a-Lago documents probe.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so remember last fall, this was months after the FBI had executed that search warrant at Mar- a-Lago and took all those documents. Trump actually hired two people to go and search other properties of his for more classified documents. They actually found two of them in a storage facility in Mar-a-Lago. It was these two individuals that they had hired and those two people actually went before the grand jury last week and testified separately, each for about three hours, were told and testified about these documents, about this search. What exactly they told them is unclear, but it's notable because we knew that investigators wanted to speak to them now, they have gone and testified before the grand jury. So, it shows, one, they're bringing new people in. COOPER: Right. If those were hired by a law firm, wouldn't they be covered by attorney-client privilege?

COLLINS: That was a question that we asked at the time. We were told no, because they were technically brought on by the custodian of Trump's records. That has become a big part of this, because whenever a president leaves office, they have a custodian of their records who basically handles everything with GSA. GSA is what helps facilitate that move.

COOPER: General Service Administration.

COLLINS: Yes. So, we asked about this when this search actually happened, if that could potentially happen. Even, you know, people in Trump's own legal orbit did not think that would be the case. We'll see if that ever becomes an issue, that they would need that. But it's notable they went and spoke before the grand jury because it also comes, as we're told, prosecutors are pushing to look at files on a laptop -- of one staffer down at Mar-a-Lago around Trump, potentially looking to see if there's any kind of electronic paper trail talking about these classified documents. Prosecutors are pushing for that. But there's been these really tense conversations with defense attorneys over trying to, you know, what those subpoenas look like, what those efforts look like. And what we are told, Katelyn Polantz, my colleague and I, is that essentially the Special Counsel's Office has been unwilling to negotiate, to give extensions for subpoenas and deadlines and things of that nature.

COOPER: Interesting. Audie, I mean the former president, has kind of started his campaigning. He's, you know, left Mar-a-Lago for a bit. He's got multiple criminal investigations swirling around him. He's attempting to get a new campaign off the ground. Do you think the classified documents case is weighing on voters minds? I mean, do you think that this will impact things for him?


AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're still two years out, right, from any real ballot question for the voter. But I'll say that as essentially this is the difference for Trump between when he was in office and he could fend off all kinds in all manner of investigation and being former president. The other thing is that this issue is really showing -- it can really undercut the talking point that some Republicans might want to have about President Biden, right? Especially after Mike Pence found documents.

So, instead of a very easy win talking point to say, look, Biden did it too and none of these matters, again, it's having this grand jury investigation, having people testify. It's going to underscore the real issue for Trump, which is the threat of obstruction and of fighting off the request for the documents because that's where he got in trouble, not just having them.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting, the President said that this campaign will be about the future. How likely do you think it is -- how long is that going to last? COLLINS: I mean it's not up to me, but his own advisors are not. It

hasn't even started really, they don't think, because they have been urging him to stop talking about the 2020 election, to move on, to have a new message that he's going to focus on because they think that is how he's going. That's the only way he'll do well, that's the only way he'll stand out. And what is expected to be a pretty big Republican field, as Audie was noting there.

It hasn't materialized yet. And a lot of that is because he's not really receptive to -- based on what I've heard from people who've spoken with him and talked to people who've had these conversations with him, he's not really receptive to this idea that he needs a new message. He thinks his message is good enough as it is. And so, this has kind of been an issue with his campaign.

So, he said over the weekend, he said the words that they are going to be focused on the future. There's still real questions about whether or not they actually are going to be focused on the future. This affecting staffing on the campaign. There are a lot of people who have been offered to join the campaign, given these prominent positions, and they've said they're not interested at this time.

COOPER: Audie, in New Hampshire, the Republican governor told CN, Chris Sununu told CNN that he thought the former president speech lacked the fire and energy in 2016 campaign. Do you think voters actually want a calmer, more on message former president? I mean how much does his tone matter compared to the substance of what he's saying?

CORNISH: I mean, there's long been an argument that above a certain threshold of support, there are some people who support the former president but, quote, unquote, don't like his style or don't like his communication, don't like his use of social media and Twitter. And maybe that's the kind of voter you're talking about that will be affected by this. I do know that having covered New Hampshire, it's a good place to test it out because it's a state that has embraced kind of Tea Party politics, but it's also a state where Governor Sununu can thrive.

So, I think that this is kind of an interesting moment for Trump where he has to both try. He can't be the insurgent, he can't be anti- establishment. He is the establishment, at least at this moment, for the party. And so, what do you do with your message from there? I think obviously he's having some trouble with that.

COOPER: Yes. Audie Cornish, appreciate it. Kaitlan Collins as well, thanks.

Coming up, a "360" exclusive with a man who says he is a defector from the Russian mercenary organization the Wagner Group. What he says he saw serving with murderers and other convicts on the front lines in Ukraine. That's next.


[20:42:12] COOPER: Tonight, a "360" exclusive with a former fighter for the Wagner Group who has defected. As you know, Wagner Group is a mercenary force run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch Vladimir Putin. The U.S. has labeled Wagner a transnational criminal organization, which has been heavily involved in the war in Ukraine, has been heavily recruiting from Russian prisons. Wagner has taken credit for recent gains in the areas around Bakhmut. There's been a lot of reports of fatalities among Wagner's poorly trained and equipped convicts, and reports that those who refuse to fight or attempt to escape are executed as a warning to others. One Wagner fighter who defected to Ukrainian forces and then was sent back to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange, was then executed on camera with a sledgehammer.

Now, a man named Andrei Medvedev, claiming to have defected from the Wagner Group, has crossed into Norway and has just been released after being interviewed by Norwegian officials. He's hoping to receive asylum there. Andrei, an orphan, spent four years in prison in Russia for robbery before joining the Wagner Group. And we should note his service in Wagner was confirmed by its leader, Prigozhin.

I spoke to Andrei Medvedev before airtime.


COOPER (on-camera): If you could just talk a little bit about what it was like on the battlefield with the prisoners. How were they used? What were the tactics, what was it like?

ANDREI MEDVEDEV, FMR WAGNER COMMANDER (through translation): We weren't receiving any tactical plans. We just got a command to capture the position of the enemy and by ourselves had to come up with a step- by-step plan of how to fulfill it. It was our problem to ensure that a command is fulfilled.

COOPER (on-camera): You have said in the past that, you saw Wagner troops getting executed for disobeying orders. Is that accurate?

MEDVEDEV (through translation): Such cases happen very often there. There was a question of how to persuade new recruits who arrived at the front lines and saw what is going on there and decided they don't want to fight, to still go ahead and fight. They would round up those who did not want to fight and shoot them in front of the newcomers to develop their self-preservation instinct.

COOPER (on-camera): Why did you decide to leave the Wagner Group?

MEDVEDEV (through translation): I planned to leave Wagner for a while, but I didn't have the opportunity. I was afraid I will be captured and shot as a traitor. I am ready for serious action, but I also want to live. By the end, I knew they won't let me go. I will return as part of the dead or the wounded. It was time to make a radical decision. If it wasn't for my guys, my comrades, I would have been buried at some training ground.

COOPER (on-camera): There have been allegations and reports of the execution of civilians, people, civilians being shot just walking down the street, of abuse of civilians. Did you see any of that? Did you witness any of that?


MEDVEDEV (through translation): I cannot say I witnessed this because I was tasked mainly with forested areas and approaches to Backmut. I am not aware of such cases. No matter what we had a strict code of conduct for fighters. If those rules are breached, there will be punishment.

COOPER (on-camera): You escaped into Norway and the spot where you crossed over, where you said that you crossed over into Norway, it's very heavily guarded on the Russian border, and some people have raised questions about how you were able to even get to the border because there are so many checkpoints on the way there. Why cross at that place where it was so heavily guarded?

MEDVEDEV (through translation): I will say that the border with Norway where I cross, is not as protected as much as the border with Finland. But in this case, I am honestly very grateful for the training I received with the Ministry of Russian Defense, where I did military service, and grateful to Wagner. The training I received there came in useful, and I gladly put it to use.

COOPER (on-camera): Did you have help getting across? Because aren't there many checkpoints even to get close to the border?

MEDVEDEV (through translation): I was helped by workers of human rights groups in Moscow and elsewhere, even just civilians who heard my story. When I was approaching the last post next to the border, I was helped by a man from (INAUDIBLE) who found a passport of a man who looked similar to me. I am very grateful to him, but cannot disclose his identity for his safety. The passport helps me to get past the control post, and I was able to get closer to the border.

COOPER (on-camera): Why have you agreed to talk? What message do you want people to know about Wagner, about your experience?

MEDVEDEV (through translation): My idea was to tell the people what was happening there. And my mates who died there, they died under orders. So, my aim is that the people who are guilty of these crimes should be brought to justice.

COOPER (on-camera): When you say the people who are guilty, who do you mean and what are they guilty of?

MEDVEDEV (through translation): You know, I would like to take this opportunity of stating publicly, maybe other folk have different views about this, but the first culprit is Prigozhin, because he is the top leader.

COOPER (on-camera): Prigozhin runs the Wagner Group. He's in charge of it.

MEDVEDEV (through translation): Yes, him, absolutely. And the whole coordinating Wagner lot. And everyone knows it's subject to the Russian government's commands. The whole lot of them.

COOPER (on-camera): Does that include Vladimir Putin?

MEDVEDEV (through translation): Well, everyone knows that what is happening there is his decision, of course.

COOPER (on-camera): And just finally, Andrei, you lost a lot of, as you say, mates in the fighting. What should their mothers know? What should their families know about what happened to them?

MEDVEDEV (through translation): They were great people. Great, because they were real human beings. I can assure you that many were sober judges of what was happening out there. They were just people, normal folk. And that applied to the other side as well, because I had occasioned to see the bravery of the Ukrainian forces too.

COOPER (on-camera): Andrei, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MEDVEDEV (through translation): Thank you.


COOPER: Up next, the latest from day six of the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial. Murdaugh's defense today posing a possible new theory about the murders of his wife and son. Our Randi Kaye has details, next.



COOPER: There's new details tonight in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. He's accused of killing his wife and youngest son in an attempt to cover up his alleged financial crimes. Today marked day six of the trial as prosecutors played interviews Murdaugh did with investigators in the days after the killings. Plus, Murdaugh's defense today floating a new theory that could have been that there could have been two shooters involved in the attack.

Randi Kaye was watching the trial today. Here's her report.




MURDAUGH: I mean she was a wonderful girl, and a wonderful wife, and she was a great mother.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An emotional Alex Murdaugh in his second interview with investigators following the murders of his wife and son. First, he cries about his wife, Maggie Murdaugh. Then at one point, he says this about his youngest son, Paul.

MURDAUGH: It's just so bad. I did him so bad.

KAYE (voice-over): The interview with SLED, the South Carolina law enforcement division, took place on June 10, 2021, three days after the murders. Investigators asked Alex to walk them through what he did that day. Alex said he left work early and he and Paul went target shooting on their hunting property.

MURDAUGH: Do you mean what gun?


MURDAUGH: A 22 magnum.

KAYE (voice-over): That 22 magnum he says they used is not one of the weapons used in the murders. Maggie was shot with a rifle and Paul was killed with a shotgun. Alex also told investigators he wasn't at the kennels earlier in the night.

MURDAUGH: I know that Maggie went to the kennels. I don't know exactly where Paul went, but he left the house, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you do once Maggie and Paul left?

MURDAUGH: I stayed in the house.

KAYE (voice-over): Keep in mind, Alex Murdaugh is heard on a recording on his son Paul's phone at 8:45 p.m. and that was recorded at the kennels. He told investigators twice now in separate interviews, he didn't go to the kennels until he found their bodies. Earlier, his defense attorney floated the idea that two guns could mean two shooters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It a possibility that there are two shooters based on the data you collected?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was indicated there was movement to me.

KAYE (voice-over): But prosecutors were quick to point out one person could have used two guns. Another witness for the state, special agent Jeffrey Croft, testified about this video. For the first time, it shows investigators the day after the murders searched searching parts of the Murdaugh home, including this gun room. Outside, they found spent shell casings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's two right there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE They've been here a little while (INAUDIBLE).

KAYE (voice-over): Later, Special Agent Croft walked the jury through a series of missed calls and text messages to Paul Murdaugh's phone the night of the murders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell the jury the times, starting at the bottom, that he's trying to call Paul Murdaugh without answer?

JEFF CROFT, SPECIAL AGENT, SLED: At 9:29 p.m., there's a 1 second outgoing call. At 9:42 p.m., there's a 1 second outgoing call. And at 9:57 p.m., there is a four second outgoing call.

KAYE (voice-over): When the caller, a friend, couldn't reach Paul, the special agent said he texted Maggie Murdaugh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does he say?

CROFT: Tell Paul to call me.

KAYE (voice-over): Neither Paul or Maggie ever responded.


COOPER: And Randi Kaye joins us now, live. Does the evidence show that Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were dead by the time that person was trying to reach them by text?

KAYE: Well, Anderson, if you look at the evidence, prosecutors say that the murders took place between 8:30 p.m. and 10:06 p.m. Now, we know they were alive at 8:45 p.m. because there is that video which has audio on Paul Murdaugh's cell phone. And that shows -- you can hear Alex talking to his wife and son on that video. And then prosecutors are now saying that by 8:49, Paul's phone goes silent, never to be used again. By 8:54, prosecutors say Maggie's phone goes silent, never to be used again. We know from prosecutors and testimony that Alex Murdaugh left the property at 9:06 p.m. and then he says he returned to find his family bleeding and called 911 at 10:07 p.m. So that's the timeline.

So, it does seem that both of them were dead at the time that the activity on their phone had stopped, Anderson. But we do need more evidence and more testimony in court to know for sure.

COOPER: All right, Randi Kaye, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Some sad news to report. Actress Cindy Williams has died. She was the star of the hit sticom "Laverne and Shirley" in the 1970s and early '80s. The spin-off of Of Happy Days. She was 75. Williams died this past Wednesday after a brief illness, according to her family. Her children, Zak and Emily, said in a statement she was one of a kind. Went on to say that she possessed a brilliant sense of humor and glitter spirit that everyone loved.

Williams played the character Shirley opposite Penny Marshall, who played Laverne. Marshall passed away in 2018, also at the age of 75. The iconic show was center around two young single women working in a Milwaukee brewery. And it started every episode with an infectious theme song, Making Our Dreams Come True.

We'll be right back.