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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Memphis Officer Preston Hemphill, Also A Member Of SCORPION Unit, "Relieved Of Duty"; Biden's Message To McCarthy Ahead Of Talks: "Show Me Your Budget And I'll Show You Mine"; Protester Arrested & Severely Injured By Iranian Forces Describes Escape, And Vows To Return To The Freedom Fight. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 30, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A very busy night, in the wake of the Police killing, of Tyre Nichols.

We learned, late today that three Memphis Fire Department personnel have been fired, two EMTs, and a Lieutenant. The Police Department also revealed that a total of seven officers were relieved of duty, the day after the incident. Five, as you know, have also been fired, and charged with second-degree murder.

Mr. Nichols' funeral is on Wednesday.

We'll talk in a moment about how this latest incident has become a national conversation, and not just a local story, certainly.

First though, CNN's Nick Valencia brings us up to date.

So, what more are we learning about the three members, of the Fire Department, who were fired?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they were part of the first responders, who were there, on the scene. And they include the two EMTs, Anderson, who we learned about last week. They were put on administrative leave. A third was a driver, of the fire engine that showed up, at the scene, but reportedly did not get out of the engine.

And according to the Fire Department's investigation, these individuals were initially told that they were responding to an individual, who had been pepper-sprayed.

We know after watching the video that it was much, much worse than that.

But, according to their investigation, they found that these individuals did not give adequate patient assessment, of Tyre Nichols, and that their actions do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department. So, they were terminated, as a result.

Anderson? COOPER: Two other members, of the Police Department had been, relieved of duty, according to the authorities. Is it clear to you what "Relieved of duty" actually means? I mean, it's expected they will also be charged? I've talked to the District Attorney, who obviously said, you know, wouldn't say, because it's an ongoing investigation.

VALENCIA: Yes. Well, in this case, it means administrative leave. And typically, in these cases, there, it's paid administratively. But the Memphis Police Department has not confirmed that to us.

We did reach out to them, and they did not identify one of the officers. So, we don't know exactly their involvement or lack thereof.

The second officer though, was identified as Officer Preston Hemphill, who has been with the Memphis Police Department, since 2018. And we confirm that one of the videos that we saw last week, released by the City of Memphis, was his body camera.

Now, in this video that we're about to show you, which we should warn you, is graphic, you could hear Officer Hemphill deploy his Taser, and then say -- you know, remember, Tyre Nichols ran away from the first incident, with the officers.

Listen to what he had to say, about what he hopes happens, when, officers eventually catch up, with Nichols.






HEMPHILL: Martin and others (ph) were over there chasing him.

I hope they stomp his ass.


HEMPHILL: I hope they stomp his ass. Smith (ph) is calling for other cars, because him, and Martin (ph) are chasing him.



VALENCIA: Now, Hemphill was not at the second scene, according to his attorney, and the Police Department.

We did reach out to the Police Department, when we found out about Hemphill being relieved of duty, and asked them, why did it take so long, if he was relieved weeks ago, along with the other officers? They didn't directly respond to that question, Anderson, but did

release a statement, saying that they are committed to transparency, and that we should expect more personnel decisions, and actions, in the coming days.

And just very quickly, you mentioned the District Attorney. We reached out to him as well, to see if they're expecting to charge Hemphill. They did not respond to that but did say that they are looking at everyone who was on the scene that day.


COOPER: Nick Valencia, appreciate it.

A lot to talk about, joining us, three CNN Political Commentators; former Illinois Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger; Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as White House Director of Communications, in the previous administration; former New York Democratic congressman, Mondaire Jones.

And CNN Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst, John Miller, who's never been elected to anything!

Well that's true!





Mondaire, I mean, obviously, we've watched this video. It is sickening. What do you make of what has been done up to now?

JONES: Clearly not enough, because this is just the latest iteration of police brutality that we are seeing, whether it is in Memphis, Tennessee, or somewhere in California, or multiple places, in Minnesota or elsewhere.

And it just, it brings to mind the summer of 2020, for me, the summer, following the brutal murder, of another Black man, George Floyd. And it was described as the largest protest movement, in this country, since the original Civil Rights Movement.

And there was so much momentum around real tangible policing reforms that eventually took the form of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which we did end up getting through the House, but which stalled in the Senate. And, you wonder how you can give people the faith that things will get better, given what they've seen in the previous years.

COOPER: John, though, I mean, the Police, what do you make of how fast, or the District Attorney, has acted, in terms of actually bringing in charges?

MILLER: Well, I think the District Attorney acted with lightning speed. I think that was led by the Chief.

There's two really important things here, which is one, the Chief conducted the internal investigation, through her own office, very quickly, and then fired the officers. The District Attorney followed with the criminal piece, and then charged the officers.

But what the Chief didn't do is what we see so often, which is, the prosecutors say, "Well, please hold off on any administrative action until we do the criminal piece." And then, you have officers on the payroll literally for years. We went through that with Eric Garner, and the NYPD, at the request of the Attorney General of the United States.

So, this was swift, and efficient and so far effective.

COOPER: I want to play something that Tim Scott said, on the floor, just this evening, tonight, urging colleagues to act.

Let's watch this.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): I take the issue of policing in America, seriously. I want our Body to see it not as an issue of Republicans versus Democrats. But as good people standing in the gap, elected to do a job that we all ran to do.

Let's do our jobs. We can make a difference in this nation. Had the duty to intervene, been law of the land, on the federal level, it could have made a difference, in Memphis, Tennessee.


COOPER: So, there was an effort. I mean, there are two police reform bills that never got anywhere. It didn't get -- got through the House, didn't get through the Senate. Is anything going to change now? I mean, does he?


So, what Tim says there, is the absolute right thing. He's the best for Republicans' person to lead this. I think he's exactly the right person.

COOPER: But he was leading it on the--


COOPER: --George Floyd Act. And it didn't go anywhere.

KINZINGER: And this is the problem is, right now, there is a vested interest. Everybody's kind of quiet, right now, and open to things.

And I can tell you what's going on in the House of Representatives. It's like "Let's stay a little quiet. Let's kind of see what this is. Let's save the things that we need to say on this." But ultimately, it'll end up being politicized, you know?


KINZINGER: Personally, I think that lifting immunity is not necessarily the right thing to do. I'm willing to talk about it, though. But what ends up happening is there ends up being a "Back the Blue at all Cost" Caucus, if you will, or viewpoint, and then there's a "Let's just hamstring the Police over here," which is kind of related to what you had with Defund the Police.

COOPER: By the way, the qualified immunity, you're talking about, lifting, is making -- basically that people can then sue officers, in civil court--


COOPER: --for civil penalties, which they currently can't.

MILLER: But the qualified immunity thing is nonsense. People have labeled qualified immunity, as the "Police are immune from lawsuits."


MILLER: What it means is they have qualified immunity, if they were doing their job, and they were doing it the way a reasonable person, who was well-trained, would have carried it out. They can certainly be sued, if they are negligent, like anyone else, to some unreasonable standard.

It's just you can't ask people to go into those kinds of risks, every day, and then say, "And by the way, if anything goes wrong, you're personally on the hook for it." That's what qualified immunity is. But it's been rewritten into this bullet-proof, you know?


JONES: People don't understand it, right?

MILLER: Well they don't -- they don't understand it.

JONES: I mean, you know.

MILLER: But I just want to make one other point, which is, this whole police reform argument, as Adam said, is, it's not one way or the other.

If you want a more professional, more capable, policing world, among the 850,000 cops, in the United States, you don't do that by defunding. In Germany, the cops get two years of training. In Finland, they get three years of training. [21:10:00]

These guys may get this many weeks, or that many months. But that's it. They're paid here and not there. If you want to improve policing, you improve the quality of the candidates, the training they get--


MILLER: --the supervision they have.

COOPER: Alyssa?

MILLER: And not just ripping away their authority and their money.

FARAH GRIFFIN: And just really quickly, I had the privilege of speaking with RowVaughn Wells, Tyre Nichols' mom, in another network, earlier today. And just, full stop, every American's heartbreaks, over this, and it's a moment to set aside Red, Blue, Right, Left, and actually come up with a solution.

The George Floyd policing bill, the reality is there are many things I agree with in it. There are a lot of things that will never get enough votes to pass the Senate. The Justice Act, which was championed by Tim Scott, and Cory Booker, but became stalled in 2020, does a lot of good stuff. It probably does not do enough.

But I think with something this brutal, this heartbreaking, this wrong to see in our society, an incremental change is a place to go. So, I would encourage people of good faith, on both sides of the aisle, to at least see what the small changes are we could make.

JONES: I want to be clear that, because, a lot of folks are characterizing, not necessarily here, but in broader society, that George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is some radical departure from the status quo? And the fact is the International Chiefs of Police Organization was supporting it. The Fraternal Order of Police Organization was supporting it.

COOPER: Let me just point out, it was a National Registry of police misconduct, to stop officers from getting jobs elsewhere, ban racial and religious profiling, federally-qualified immunity, overhaul, banning chokeholds, no-knock warrants; went through the House, twice, not through the Senate.

JONES: Absolutely. I mean, this is not radical stuff here. And it's certainly not defunding the police, which to my knowledge, only one Democrat, in the entire United States House of Representatives, has explicitly come out in support of.

This is about making sure that there's finally accountability, and through that accountability, hopefully changing the culture of policing.

I mean, we had body cameras, obviously, and these officers still didn't think that that would be enough to create some kind of accountability, for them. COOPER: Yes.

JONES: Thankfully, there were other cameras present that showed us different angles of that brutality that we saw.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break.

John Miller, thanks very much, appreciate it.

Everyone else are going to stick around.

We'll talk next about the former President's difficulty, in making the 2024 campaign about 2024, despite his promise to look forward and not back. CNN's Harry Enten also is going to join us, with some new numbers, on what Republicans think of him, and his prospects.

And later, a real look ahead, to Wednesday's meeting, between President Biden, and House Speaker McCarthy, with the debt ceiling default looming, the White House vowing not to negotiate, over paying the country's bills, and McCarthy's saying it would be, quote, "Irresponsible and childish," end quote, not to.



COOPER: All right, new reporting, tonight, in the former President's 2024 campaign, which is off to a roaring start and, as promised, to make it, in his own words, over the weekend, about the future.

He also said this. Decide for yourself how forward-looking it sounds!


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to restore election integrity. We have to.

You go to New York, nobody ever gets prosecuted. I'm the only one they go after.

They are sending people that are killers, murderers, they are sending rapists, and they're sending, frankly, terrorists.

We have a woke military that can't fight or win.

And the wind turbines are all made in China!


COOPER: Wow! Sounds like a blast from the past!

According to new reporting, from CNN's Kaitlan Collins, he struck this tone, after many conversations, over the last several months, with multiple advisers, who urged him to put his grievances behind him. They said he resisted that. The source telling Kaitlan Collins, that at least three people, who

have been offered positions, with his campaign, have turned them down, at least for now, suggesting they may join sometime later.

Joining the panel now, CNN Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten.

Alyssa, is this going to be just a regurgitation of past grievances?

FARAH GRIFFIN: I'm glad he's still on wind turbines! That's the one thing I might still agree with him.

COOPER: Yes, didn't mention the birds yet, but, still.

FARAH GRIFFIN: He did not mention the birds!

Listen, it's already been just grievance-peddling. One thing I was struck by, over this weekend, is he gave an interview, where somebody kind of questioned the low-energy campaign that he rolled out, and he said, "I'm angrier than ever."

And it struck me, first, as funny, but actually that is the worst thing you want from your elected official. You can be righteously angry, if you're at war, you're addressing poverty. But he's talking about anger, grievance, directed at him, because of the 2020 election that he wants to re-litigate.

He's the weakest he has been, but don't sleep on him, because there are, and Harry can speak to this, better than me, a number of polls that see him ticking up. And he is outperforming DeSantis, by double- digits. So I still put this "DeSantis is the future," I have a hard time believing this, at least at this point in time.

ENTEN: Right. And, I mean, Congressman Kinzinger, DeSantis is unproven, on a national level.

KINZINGER: He is, yes. He's unproven.

What he's shown is he can kind of be the, if somebody wants to, like go against Trump, and still be kind of cool with the base? DeSantis is the guy to go to, right, because, they're like, "Look, we got to move past Trump, but I still want to own the Libs and own the Left." And that's kind of DeSantis' niche.

When Donald Trump gets full in this, which he's obviously raring to do? He misses the campaign trail. I certainly don't think it's a done deal, like Alyssa said that it's going to be Ron DeSantis.

And plus, if you look at history, very rarely, if ever, at this point, in an election, has the front-runner, in a primary, ended up being the person that gets it. Ask Fred Thompson, from 2008, or--

COOPER: Everyone, the like -- I remember, Fred Thompson was supposedly the savior of--

KINZINGER: Yes, exactly, yes.

FARAH GRIFFIN: And Scott Walker, same thing.

KINZINGER: Two of them, yes.


JONES: But all of this talk about how Ron DeSantis is going to potentially defeat Donald Trump, in a primary, and then have a better shot at winning in general election? How do you do that reasonably, by going to his right, on every issue, and then expecting voters, in a general election to just accept the fact that you're trying to ban AP African American Studies, in the State of Florida, right? Like that's weird stuff that most people would reject, including a lot of white suburban voters, certainly in the district that I just represented.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, and that's his challenge, by the way. There's a lot that folks like about Ron DeSantis.

We both knew him, in the House, when he was a congressman. He served our country in uniform. He's highly-educated. He's done well, in the economy, in Florida.

But he's decided to lean into these cultural wedge issues--


FARAH GRIFFIN: --that are a death sentence in a general election.

COOPER: What do the numbers show, Harry?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes. I mean, look, here's the situation, though. To get to a general election, you got to win a primary! And if you look, right now, what Ron DeSantis is doing, it's working for him.

We have a trend line, going back, since the beginning of last year, and what you could see is Ron DeSantis climbing higher and higher and higher, and Donald Trump dropping.


You can see it here. Look, January to June of 2022, DeSantis was just at 15 percent. Then, he jumped up to 23 percent, in the middle of last year. Now he's up to 32 percent. Look at Trump. He's dropped from 52 percent to 42 percent. So, a margin that was 37 points is now down to just 10 points!

Now, we've been talking a lot about Donald Trump, and he seems low energy, right, not that interesting?

COOPER: Like you!

ENTEN: Like, hey, I'm very low energy, Anderson! That's what they definitely -- Harry-low-energy-Enten.

And if you look, Americans are less interested in Donald Trump, basically than they have been since the time he declared that he was going to run, for president, back in 2015.

We can see that in Google searches. What we essentially see is, look here, the fewest Google searches, since 2015, was this month, for Donald Trump. That may be why he's coming out on the campaign trail, now, trying to say "I'm high energy." But at this point, voters aren't that interested.

COOPER: But, I mean, but who else is there, in the Republican Party that, you know? I mean, if there's a big field that helps him, and even if it's a small field, in DeSantis, is that enough?

KINZINGER: I think for a non-Trump winner there's basically can be three candidates. Let's take DeSantis, let's take Trump, and there has to be one person, in that Never-Trump lane, but kind of that other lane. And there's a lot of people, in that lane now that say they're going to run for president.

That's exactly what happened, by the way, in 2015. None of us actually took Donald Trump seriously. He was at 15 percent, the whole time. But there were 1,000 candidates, and that's what's going to happen.

And, by the way, those numbers say more to me about the need for this country, to do things, like rank-choice voting, and reforms and how we do a primary system that the only way to make it to a general election, nowadays, is to be more and more extreme.

FARAH GRIFFIN: But we just reelected Ronna McDaniel, to run the RNC, after consistently losing election cycles.

Just real quick, I'd say, you don't beat Trump by trying to out-trump, Trump. Marco Rubio learned that in 2016, toward the tail end. It does not work. And that, to me, is DeSantis' great weakness, as much as people want to make him the heir apparent.

I'd be looking to governors, folks, who did not serve in his administration, someone like a Chris Sununu, who could, a purple-state governor, who's served on both sides, a Glenn Youngkin. There is a lane. But it's narrow, and it's not going to be a former Trump official.

COOPER: Mondaire, I heard Mitt Romney, just the other day, being asked, in an interview. And he said, he thought, in the end that former President couldn't win reelection, in a head-to-head matchup. Do you think that's true?

KINZINGER: I think that's true. I think Donald Trump cannot win in a head-to-head against Joe Biden, on the ballot, as a Democratic nominee.

FARAH GRIFFIN: The ticket as it is?

COOPER: What gives you that confidence?

JONES: With the ticket as? I think that's right, I mean, is it -- you're talking about Kamala, as the VP?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Kamala Harris?

JONES: I think that's right. I mean, people look to the top of the ticket, ultimately.

And, I think he's got a strong record to run on. And frankly, there are enough people, who just don't want Donald Trump that I think they'd go with Joe Biden, the same way they went last time, right, like, very accomplished President, in his first term.

But when you talk about the reasons, why people voted, for Joe Biden, in 2020? It wasn't out of excitement. It was because of the alternative being so terrible.

COOPER: Harry?

ENTEN: I would just add this. And that is we're all talking about, OK, if it's not Donald Trump, and it's not Ron DeSantis, who could the Republican nominee be? I'm not sure who the heck it could be. Because, right now, if you look, they're totaling, well into the 70s, the two of them combined, in a Republican field.

That is the first time ever since the modern primary era began, back in 1972, where you had two candidates, combining, for over 70 percent of the vote, on the Republican side, and the first time ever, in which there were two candidates, polling above 30 percent. That's going to swallow-up a lot of energy.

This is not 2015, right, where you had, basically, a field of 10 percent, 5 percent, 6 percent? It's a field of two giants. And it's a field that everybody has (ph).

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Alyssa, does a Nikki Haley, or a Mike Pompeo, really excite anybody?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Keep an eye, to some degree, on Nikki Haley, I think.

But the only lane, for Nikki Haley, who I have a lot of respect for, is if she runs away from Trump, which she's proven a capability to do but, at times, has gone back to him. Because, again, next to him, on a debate stage, you can't be sitting there, and slacking for what you did in his administration. You have to talk about why you'll be different, what your forward-looking vision is.


KINZINGER: That's the big problem all these candidates have, right now. You either have to be all-in, with Donald Trump, you have to be a complete sycophant to him, in order to win the base over, or if you even explore running, as we've seen, you're disloyal.


KINZINGER: And so, all these wannabe candidates are sitting around, having a really tough time, making a decision. I mean, I've lived that life of what lane you want to pick. Because, trust me, you can't pick the middle lane. COOPER: We're going to take a quick break.

Harry's going to go crunch some more numbers.

ENTEN: Goodbye everybody!

COOPER: There's news of a key meeting on the calendar between House Speaker McCarthy, and President Biden, on America's debt limit, as fears grow that an agreement might not be reached, to avoid the nation's first ever default. The latest from Capitol Hill, next.



COOPER: So, some developments, in the debt ceiling showdown. A meeting, scheduled Wednesday, between House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, and President Biden, their first face-to-face, since McCarthy got the Speaker's gavel.

CNN asked the President, today, what his message would be, to the Republican leader, ahead of their conversation. Take a look.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Show me your budget and I'll show you mine.



The White House said it's not going to negotiate, with House Republicans, on future spending cuts, in exchange for raising the country's debt ceiling, which is all about paying for things that Congress has already spent.

McCarthy said today he doesn't think Biden would ever want him to be quote, "Irresponsible and childish, and not sit and negotiate." But he still hasn't specified exactly what he wants.

Latest now, from CNN Congressional Correspondent, Jessica Dean, on Capitol Hill.

So, what more do we know, about this meeting? How's it going to go?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, it's all going great, Anderson! You just laid it all out there!


DEAN: I think what is important to remember is to kind of zoom out, and remember, this is just the first meeting in what is going to be a very long and very drawn-out process.

What we're hearing from Democrats, and especially from the White House, is exactly what you heard from President Biden, which is what they keep saying, same, with Senate Democrats, is that they want to see House Republicans' plans. They really want to force them to bring something, some proposal to the table.

Meantime, let's go to the House GOP, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. They're now kind of trying to grapple with what exactly are they going to ask for.

And here's the state of play for McCarthy. He needs to appease the House GOP, and some of these hardliners, right, that got him into the Speakership position that he made a lot of promises to, but he's also going to make it palatable enough that Democrats are going to go for it, that the White House is going to agree to it without being seen as caving in on all of this.

And then, you add into that this one little wrinkle that when he was getting the Speakership, he negotiated that just one member can call for his ouster, if they're not pleased with how he is doing things? So that--

COOPER: What could go wrong!

DEAN: Right, what could go wrong? It's a recipe for quick success!


So, that is kind of where the state of play is tomorrow. And tomorrow is just kind of the opening act, of all of this.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, this is a very long dance it is going to be, certainly between them, and a lot of other folks. The White House is refusing to negotiate. Speaker McCarthy is prepared -- I mean, is he prepared to make demands at this point? Or is this just kind of a first meet?

DEAN: Right. That's a great question. At this point, no. They don't have specific demands. They're trying to figure out what that is.

And so, right now, what we're understanding, and what we're learning, from talking to sources, and just listening to what they're kind of telegraphing, right now, is that they're looking into cuts, in domestic spending, even cuts into military spending.

They do not want to touch Medicare and Social Security. The Speaker made that very clear, over the weekend, on the Sunday shows, he wanted, you know, that is an entitlement -- those entitlements can kind of be political suicide. They are very cognizant of that. But they're trying to figure out exactly where they might be able to cut.

And again, the tricky thing is it's got to pass 60 votes, in the Senate. It's got to pass the House. And then, of course, the President has to agree to it as well.


DEAN: So, that's where it all is, yes. COOPER: Jessica Dean?

DEAN: Yes.

COOPER: Appreciate it, thanks for it.

Let's talk to our panel, Adam Kinzinger, Alyssa Farah Griffin, and Mondaire Jones.

COOPER: Congressman Kinzinger, you're concerned about this?

KINZINGER: I'm really concerned. Look, in 2011, I came in with the majority-making team. We dealt with the debt limit. We barely made it through that. We were a lot less crazy, in 2011. And we had a lot bigger majority. We still -- the stock market tanked. It was really -- actually it was the first time America ever had a credit downgrade--

COOPER: Right.

KINZINGER: --which, by the way, makes borrowing way more expensive, which is the most fiscally irresponsible thing to do.

I'm worried. Let me say this to the Democrats, though. Come to the table with some budget proposal that actually does cut spending. We have $31 trillion in debt. I don't think there's anybody with a straight face that can say that's sustainable.

If the Democrats actually can come forward, with some reforms, or cuts, or whatever you want to call it? I think they can put Republicans in a position to where they're going to be pressured, to take that more on Democrats' terms.

But you never should be playing this game, if you're Republicans, with the debt limit.

JONES: The onus should be on Republicans here, to present a proposal, for what they want to cut, right? I mean, this should not even be a point of negotiation, to begin with, just whether you will honor your commitments, and pay your debts. And so--

COOPER: You're saying they have to make their first move?

JONES: Of course. I mean, why would you -- in negotiation. And that's not to say that Democrats shouldn't respond with something.

But like, if it is Republicans who are saying, "Oh, we want to cut spending?" Even though they just did a vote that would have added $114 billion, to the deficit, by gutting the IRS, if the Senate were to do the same thing, the House just did under Kevin McCarthy?

But if they want to cut spending, as they say they do, but then they're also saying they don't want to cut Social Security and Medicare, even in the same breath, saying they want to strengthen the programs, which is, obviously privatization?

COOPER: Yes. JONES: Then, they should come to the table with some proposals for what it is they're going to do.

COOPER: Alyssa, is that how it should work?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, listen, I was on the Hill, being the difficult conservatives that made--

JONES: You were--

FARAH GRIFFIN: --things very challenging, when we did Cut, Cap, and Balance.

COOPER: You were?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Now, there's a way Kevin McCarthy should do this. And then there's a way he will likely do it, which will be chaotic.

What he should do is create a working group, right now, with serious appropriators, and budget committee members, some of the moderates, who can work with moderate Democrats, and say, "What is palatable? What are your hard lines? These are some of our, asks," and start doing that work behind-the-scenes.

Unfortunately, because he's got this June deadline, which is basically when, extraordinary measures, the Treasury has to keep the debt limit from being raised? I think he's going to push it to the 11th hour, and try to make concessions, to his rightmost flank.

They will never vote for raising the debt ceiling, like very clearly. Kevin McCarthy, those are not the folks who need to be negotiating with. I am for finding some smart cuts, but they're not offering that to you.

COOPER: But, I mean, they would -- Republicans weren't talking a lot about cuts, and deficits--


COOPER: --when it was the former President in office, were they?

KINZINGER: No, look, there are no -- there are no sinless people here, OK?


KINZINGER: No party is sinless in this.


KINZINGER: Everybody's created this $31 trillion deficit. What I'm saying is at the moment we're at, right now, it truly is unsustainable. We added what $5 trillion to $10 trillion in debt during the pandemic? It was the right thing to do, to keep the economy going.


KINZINGER: We were in a whole unchartered territory. But now we have to get serious.

And, I agree, this shouldn't be based on the debt limit. That's a dangerous place to play it. But, on the broader spectrum, we do have to have this discussion of well, yes, it's the onus is on the Republicans to bring those cuts forward, on the debt limit.

The Democrats still have the most levers of government. They have the Presidency. They have the Senate. And, frankly, they will be responsible, for how this era is judged, when it comes to debt and deficit.

JONES: Look, where are these so-called moderates, in the House of Representatives, on the Republican side? Five of them, to join with the 200 -- what will be 213 Democrats, once the race in Virginia's Fourth District is resolved, and say "We're going to do a discharge petition, because we're not going to agree that we should hold the economy hostage, for this purpose."

FARAH GRIFFIN: Which is, by the way, a possible scenario. I hope that's not how this is done.

COOPER: You actually think there could be enough Republicans, who would do that?


JONES: In a sane world, there would be.

KINZINGER: Well here's--


JONES: But the point I'm trying to make is--


JONES: --there are no moderate Republicans anymore now.

COOPER: That's true.

JONES: Especially now that my friend Adam Kinzinger is no longer in the House.

KINZINGER: Well the difficulty -- I kind of helped lead the last successful discharge petition, which prior to that had been 1980. This was about Ex-Im Bank. It is not a short process.

COOPER: What would -- can you explain just quickly what a discharge petition is?

KINZINGER: So, a discharge petition is a process, where 218 people sign this petition, literally, at the front of the House, and then that, forces a bill, onto the floor, so, nobody can stop it. COOPER: OK.

KINZINGER: The problem is, once you get to 218, there's a time it has to ripen. It has to go through so many legislative days. So, once you hit that threshold, it still can be months, before it comes to the floor. That's the dangerous -- people won't sign that, until we're in this 11th hour. And even, by then, it's hard to move this quickly.

FARAH GRIFFIN: But keep your eyes on the Don Bacons, the Brian Fitzpatricks, the pro-governance House Republicans, who understand the dangers of defaulting on our debt.

I think they're going to be looking for ways that we can find some things that are palpable for, call it a dozen, a couple dozen House Republicans, and be able to pass this, in a traditional way, because, I don't think a discharge petition, just timing-wise, is feasible.

COOPER: So, what are non-starters for the White House? I mean, Mondaire, what would be?

JONES: I mean, look, I mean, I think that the position the White House has taken is that we're not going to negotiate with terrorists, right? I mean, that's -- we -- I think the White House would probably wait until Kevin McCarthy were to offer a proposal as to where he wants to see cuts made.

COOPER: But, I mean, if it ultimately has to go to -- get negotiated, why not just, I mean, even if it's not the smartest negotiating move, why not just have the White House come out and say, "OK, here's some stuff and get it going, like, jump into it?"

JONES: Well, so I actually disagree with Adam. I don't think that the White House and that--

COOPER: By the way, I know nothing about negotiating.

JONES: Well, look, I mean, we're all kind of. This is, in some ways, unprecedented, right?


JONES: I mean, I think we're probably going to be the closest we'll ever -- we will have ever gotten, to a default, in the history of this country. And that's unfortunate, and it is a direct function of how extreme the Republican Party is.

COOPER: Right.

JONES: Has become.

COOPER: I got to go.

Adam Kinzinger, thank you.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, Mondaire Jones, thank you so much. Ahead, he was arrested, beaten, shot by Iranian forces. Now, he's a wanted man in hiding, and speaking exclusively to CNN. How this protester managed to escape, it's an incredible story, and what he wants the world to know about the ongoing fight for freedom in Iran.



COOPER: As protesters keep on, with the fight for freedom, in Iran, the hardline government continues its crackdown. CNN just spoke to one of thousands of brave demonstrators, a man who barely escaped death, barely managed to escape the country, with bullet fragments, still lodged inside him. Yet he is vowing to return and fight on.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has the exclusive.

And we want to warn you, some of the images, you'll see, are graphic.



JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was one of the most terrifying videos to emerge, from Iran, a protester, surrounded by armed regime forces, trying to fend them off, with a knife.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): Shots are fired before he falls to his knees.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): Ashkan Morovati later appeared in intensive care, barely conscious, with his parents by his side.

ASHKAN MOROVATI, KURDISH IRANIAN PROTESTER (through translator): I had a severed artery, in my leg. I had around 200 shotgun pellets, in my body. I had serious wounds.

Even after I surrendered, and they arrested me, they beat me around 100 times, in the head, and the rest of my body, with batons. When they were transporting me, to the hospital, they shot me, from a very close range, with a shotgun. They thought that I'll be dead.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): But Ashkan survived, and with him a tale of unimaginable horror.

MOROVATI (through translator): I was the man, who died, and was brought back to life. As I'm speaking with you, I still have 20 shotgun pellets, still lodged, in my body.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): He escaped Iran, now a wanted man, in hiding, speaking exclusively, to CNN.

For his safety, he won't say where he is.

MOROVATI (through translator): I got out of the country, through mountains, and deserts, while heavily bleeding, and in very, very bad condition. I died so many times, before I got out of the country.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): As he lay in hospital, hanging on to life, by a thread, he was charged with Moharebeh, waging war against God, a crime punishable by death, in the Islamic Republic.

Regime agents raided this hospital, and dragged Ashkan to jail.

MOROVATI (through translator): When someone is taken from the ICU, straight to prison, this is kind of the death sentence.

In prison, I went through unbearable agony, because all my wounds were open. I used salt, to try to disinfect my wounds just a little bit.

They badly tormented me. They sent me to an army hospital that was not equipped to treat me. I was there in that condition with both my hands and feet, chained to the bed.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): People, of his Kurdish town of Sanandaj protested for his release. His family paid all they have, to bail him out, for medical treatment. And with the help of friends, he made it out of Iran.

MOROVATI (through translator): I was a professional boxer, a fighter. I was so eager, about my future, and had a plan to pursue this sport, as a career. But because my leg, and the rest of my body, has been severely injured, I can't do that anymore.

Being away from my family, and know the pressure that they have endured, because of me, is mentally tormenting me. I'm not feeling OK, physically or mentally.

KARADSHEH (on camera): What do you want the world to know, about what is happening, inside Iran, right now?

MOROVATI (through translator): There are so many like me, who, sadly, gave their life. But their voice didn't reach outside. There are so many brave girls and boys inside Iran. Our only crime is that we demand freedom and democracy, and want our women to be equal to our men.

We shouted "Woman! Life! Freedom!" And their response to us is only bullet, only torturing, raping prisoners.

I saw many young people, 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds get killed. They killed so many. They blinded so many. I swear to God, I can't sleep at night, thinking about those things.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): Ashkan remains undeterred. Once he recovers, he says, he's ready to go back, and continue the fight for a free Iran. MOROVATI (through translator): I have no regrets. And I am proud of what I did. I will give my life, for my people, for my Iran, not one time, but 100,000 times.


COOPER: And Jomana Karadsheh joins us now, live from Istanbul.

I mean, it's remarkable he was able to get out.

Can you give us a broader sense of what's happening there, on the ground, with other protesters now?

KARADSHEH: Absolutely, Anderson.

I mean, we have to first mention that we did reach out to the Iranian government, for comment, on our report, and on Ashkan's case. They did not respond to CNN's requests for comment.

The protests have subsided, for the most part. We are still seeing some sporadic demonstrations taking place, mostly, in parts of the country that are home to the country's Sunni minority. Even tonight, we're getting reports of some protests, in the Kurdistan region.

But, in other parts of the country, the protest movement has really been pushed underground. And people would tell you it's because of several factors, the weather being one. It's snowing. It's freezing. You've also got air pollution that has shut down several cities.

But also, the Regime's ruthless response, to these demonstrations that brutal crackdown has had a chilling effect. You've got thousands, who've been arrested, hundreds, who've been killed, including many children. At least four protesters have been executed, many others facing the death penalty, after what rights groups say, are these fast-tracked sham trials. That has had a chilling effect.

But protesters, in Iran, we have spoken to, say this is not over. They say it's far from over. They're saying this is a pause. The grievances are still there, they say, the anger has increased, and it's a matter of time before these countrywide protests resume, they say. Some are describing the situation, Anderson, as this raging fire, under the ashes, right now.

COOPER: Jomana Karadsheh, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Donald Trump's role, in the 2016 hush-money payment, to Stormy Daniels, is before grand jury. We have a former federal prosecutor, with inside information, on what happened, when the Department of Justice looked into the same case, previously. That's next.



COOPER: So earlier, we told you the news that the D.A.'s office, in Manhattan, has begun presenting evidence, to a grand jury, about Donald Trump's role, in the 2016 hush-money payments, to porn star, Stormy Daniels.

Now, that scandal is one of many that Elie Honig writes about, in- depth, in a really fascinating new book, out tomorrow. It's called "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away with It." And includes revelations about sleazy figures, like Jeffrey Epstein, and Harvey Weinstein, and how others, like them, have successfully eluded justice, for decades, how is that possible?

Elie Honig, CNN Senior Legal Analyst, joins us now. He's also a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, with the Southern District of New York.

I don't know if you timed this book release, to this news, about Stormy Daniels. In New York, the District Attorney's office has started presenting evidence to a grand jury on it.

You, in the book, have a bizarre -- behind-the-scenes look, at how the Justice Department chose not to charge the former President.


So, we're learning today that the Manhattan D.A., which is a state- level prosecutor, is presenting evidence, to a grand jury, about that hush-money scheme.

Turns out, and I have the reporting on this, two years ago, we're learning for the first time, the Feds, right across the street, my former office, the Southern District of New York, considered whether to charge the same conduct, federally.

And what's interesting, and I get behind-the-scenes, I get perspectives, from all the different players, here, is they decided not to charge Donald Trump, on the hush-money scheme.

But it's important to understand why they chose not to. It was not because of the evidence. Prosecutors actually felt they had sufficient evidence, to charge Donald Trump. Opinions varied a bit. Some felt it was close to the line, But enough. Others felt it was a strong case.

But ultimately, the reason they held off was partially political considerations, which I detail in the book. And also because, the Southern District, and this is in 2021, early, when Donald Trump was getting ready to leave office, believed that someone else is going to charge him, for something bigger, whether it's January 6, which had just happened, or the Ukraine scandal, or the Mueller obstruction.

And so, as a result we really had this, I believe, unjust result, where the only person, who's ever been charged for this, is Michael Cohen, who essentially was just a pass-through, for these checks. So, we'll see if that changes, now.

COOPER: You were also, I mean, you were an organized crime prosecutor, and you write, in the book, about sort of the tactics that some very well-known wealthy people have used, and that politicians, and others, have used, to evade justice that are very similar to organized crime tactics.

HONIG: Yes. So, my mom has read this book now. And she said to me, the other day "I knew you were a prosecutor. But I didn't realize you were doing all this crazy, dangerous stuff, chasing after these mob figures."

And as I sort of looked at the cases now, against various powerful figures, I kept seeing parallels, to what I learned, from being an actual mob prosecutor. So many similarities in the tactics used, for example, smart bosses, mob or otherwise limit who they talk to. They know how to say just enough, to make their message clear, but without saying explicitly, "Commit a crime."

COOPER: Which, I got to say, is very much the former Presidents M.O.?

HONIG: 100 percent. I mean, there's plenty of examples of that, and other powerful bosses doing the same thing. You hide behind others. Have others do the dirty work for you. Pay for their lawyers. That's a good way to keep people from flipping. I used to see that all the time.

So, it's sort of become trendy to say Donald Trump reminds me of a mob boss, but I confirm that in this book.

COOPER: They also had a lot of lawyers, who were like Roy Cohn, or very sort of flashy lawyers--


COOPER: --who seem to know how to game the system.

HONIG: Yes. So obviously, people who are powerful, wealthy, can hire more powerful lawyers. I actually don't think more expensive lawyers always means better lawyers. But sometimes, that can intimidate prosecutors.

And Jeffrey Epstein's case is actually a great example of that, the first one, down in Florida, where Alexander Acosta was then the head federal prosecutor gave Epstein a ridiculously soft plea. Years later, it came out, and he was drummed out of the cabinet.

But I did some research, and I'm convinced, and I make the case here that the reason Acosta did that was not because he was paid off, but because he was intimidated. The legal team was Alan Dershowitz, and Ken Starr, and all these former federal prosecutors. And I think there's a compelling case that Acosta just straight-up wimped out, because he didn't want to take on these powerhouse lawyers.


COOPER: Well, I mean, you also -- there's the premise of equal justice under the law. The reality, though, is, I mean, it's clear, the more money you have, the more influence you have, in power, probably the more untouchable you are?

HONIG: Yes, I think that's right. And it's a function of really a few things. One, our system itself has vulnerabilities. Two, smart bosses know how to exploit those. But I also am critical of prosecutors, in this book.

We, prosecutors, love our cliches. And one of our favorite is that we pursue everybody without fear or favor. But I actually think that's not quite true. And I say this firsthand.

There are special provisions that apply to powerful people. For example, the Justice Manual, the guide that applies to all federal prosecutors, in the country, says that if you have a powerful politician, or somebody, who's likely to get media coverage, the case has to go up for higher and higher levels of review.

And I give some examples in this book, where if it was an ordinary person, a line prosecutor, like I was, could have signed off. But because they involve powerful people, I had to go higher, higher up the chain, get more and more rigorous review. So, the fact of the matter is that favors more powerful people.

COOPER: Interesting! It's fascinating book, "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away with It." Elie Honig, congratulations.

HONIG: Thanks, Anderson. Appreciate it.

COOPER: We'll be right back.

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