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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
McCarthy Defends Decision To Release January 6 Footage In Closed-Door Meeting; FBI Director Acknowledges Bureau Assessment That COVID-19 Pandemic Likely Resulted From Chinese Lab Incident; Students, Staff Protest DeSantis' Overhaul Of Progressive College; Students, Staff Protest DeSantis' Overhaul Of Progressive College; Prosecution Expert Disputes Defense Experts Testimony Claiming Paul Was Likely Shot By Someone Shorter Than Alex Murdaugh; CNN With Ukrainian Team Clearing Mines On The Front Lines; Scientists: Antarctic Sea Ice Hist A Record Low. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired February 28, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The private jet started to takeoff that put it right in the path of the JetBlue flight. The JetBlue pilots saw that plane as they are coming in, aborted the landing successfully. According to FlightRadar24, the two planes came within 565 feet of a crash.
Thanks for joining us. AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight Keeping Them Honest with what one of the most powerful elected officials in the country said today about transparency versus what he is actually doing about it.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is the highest ranking Republican in Congress. He is second in line to the presidency, but became a Speaker only by the barest margin, and only by winning the votes in the 11th hour of the most extreme members of his party.
One promise he made while campaigning to be speaker, according to CNN's Melanie Zanona and "The New York Times" was to make thousands of hours of security camera footage from the January 6th attack public. And today, here is how Speaker McCarthy justified his decision to release the video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Because I think sunshine matters, so I don't care what side of the issue you are on. That's why I think putting it out all to the American public, you can see the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So what can be wrong with that? Well, for starters, he is not actually doing what he said. He is not putting it all out to the American public. He's giving it to FOX host, Tucker Carlson, the one who spent months downplaying the significance of the day and hosting people peddling conspiracy theories about the day and lies about the election.
When asked about that today, the Speaker suggested the objections were just sour grapes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: Did you raise that issue when CNN sat out here in Statuary Hall and had that full hall night or were you concerned when CNN got the footage ahead of time, or when CNN got the subpoenas before the people can subpoenaed?
So people get exclusives. But what's going to happen here is everybody in the country will be able to have their own opinion, because they'll see it exactly the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: "See it exactly the same way." That doesn't quite make sense as the rest, yes, we've gotten plenty of scoops about plenty of things. So has every network and we welcomed them.
Separately, today, Majority Leader Steve Scalise singled out the one we got from documentary filmmaker, Alexandria Pelosi, footage showing her mother then Speaker Pelosi and others on the day of the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): I didn't hear a lot of concern about that back then. They released a lot of stuff that probably wouldn't be good for Capitol Police.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What Congressman Scalise should know about that is the care that went into that exclusive. The Capitol Police saw every piece of footage we aired to make sure it didn't raise security concerns.
In any case, this is not about us or any other network airing an exclusive, it is about the particular network that the Speaker chose to get this particular exclusive about a specific incident that this network has covered in a very particular way, especially after what we learned just yesterday in Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against FOX.
And not for the plaintiffs either, from FOX's own Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who admitted that his own network hosts "endorsed" false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. The very same false claims that fueled January 6, lies that Tucker Carlson knew or suspected to be lies, according to his own communications, also made public in the Dominion lawsuit, lies that he erred while also downplaying the attack itself.
CNN's Manu Raju asked speaker McCarthy about it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We all have concern
about the fact that Carlson downplayed this attack. He -- you thought it was a very serious attack on the Capitol.
MCCARTHY: Look, I am not going to -- it is a very serious attack.
RAJU: Then why give it to someone who has downplayed it?
MCCARTHY: Because I think sunshine matters. So I don't care what side of the issue you are on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Question about that, if sunshine about January 6 really matters why did the Speaker defy a subpoena to testify before the House January 6 Committee? And even if he thought himself exempt, if sunshine really matters, why did you not tell three of his members -- Scott Perry, Andy Biggs and Jim Jordan -- to testify instead of defying their subpoenas, which is what they did.
IF bringing the truth about January 6th out in the sunshine really matters, why is a conspiracy aficionado who has downplayed the attack now his new right hand woman? Someone who said this about that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA):` They say that whole thing was planned and I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" A bunch of conservative, Second Amendment supporters went in the Capitol without guns and they think that we organized that. I don't think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That of course is Marjorie Taylor Greene, who helped him become Speaker about whom "The New York Times" quoting McCarthy telling a friend in the friend's words "I will never leave that woman." And it's McCarthy's support of her that speaks volumes about what matters to him more than transparency and sunshine, namely her support of him and not just hers or other extremists, he goes higher than that.
During the attack under siege from the violent mob, then Minority Leader McCarthy called then President Trump. He said rioters were breaking into his office and when it became apparent nothing would be done about it. McCarthy asked: "Who the eff do you think you're talking to?"
It turns out the former President already knew, a man who badly wanted to become Speaker that's who, which is why just weeks later, McCarthy went down to Mar-a-Lago, kissed the ring on the hand of the man who would not lift a finger to call off the mob that was terrorizing him, his colleagues, and the former Vice President, but crucially, a man who could make or break him becoming Speaker, along with a lot of other smaller men and smaller women all tangled up in something the Speaker now frames as being about grand principles, and not just petty ambition. [20:05:13]
COOPER: More from CNN's Manu Raju who joins us now from the Capitol.
What more did McCarthy I have to say?
RAJU: Well, Anderson, this was one of his most extensive comments yet about this controversy.
Remember, in the last two weeks, the House has been on recess and yesterday, when they came back into session, he actually ducked reporters, escaped out of the first floor of the Capitol did not answer any questions about the matter, but did so today and continue to defend his decision, tried to compare it to other networks like CNN who got exclusives on other issues.
But time and again, as I pressed him about why Tucker Carlson, who has downplayed his attack, who was floated these conspiracy theories, why would he give it to Tucker Carlson in particular? He really did not engage directly on that, simply saying, as you noted in your opening, that this is something -- that sunshine matters here and that's why he is giving it to Tucker Carlson.
Now, he did indicate that the media more broadly would get it afterwards, so unclear exactly when that would occur. He said initially, he believed there would be 14,000 hours of security footage provided that he has since learned there would be more than 42,000 hours of security footage that also, as part of this review.
But he said that the US Capitol Police is looking at all this footage, looking at making sure that whatever is aired, does not compromise security. So he expects that process could take another few weeks.
And Anderson, we also learned today that McCarthy has greenlighted defendants, January 6 defendants to essentially use the House, to come into the Capitol and review security footage as part of their own defense.
He said this is perfectly normal as part of due process. He contended, this is also available under Nancy Pelosi when she was Speaker. Pelosi's office told me that Pelosi as Speaker never authorized anyone to come in and review those who are January 6 defendants to review that footage.
But nevertheless, all part of the questions and controversy of McCarthy's handling of this issue even as he contends will all be public sometime soon -- Anderson.
COOPER: So will the public just get the footage that Tucker Carlson has decided to use in whatever he wants, whatever message he wants to use it for? Or will they get all 44,000 hours?
RAJU: Is still a bit unclear. McCarthy did not exactly specify what the public would see and whether it'd be different than what Tucker Carlson ultimately gets to air. That is something that still seems to be being worked out. But Anderson, I caught up with a number of House Republicans today
about this issue. Some defended Kevin McCarthy, others were concerned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I disagree with that decision. If you're going to release 40,000 hours of video, give it to everybody. It shouldn't be filtered through one lens or another.
RAJU: Does it worry that someone who has pushed these conspiracies, are going to have first access to them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wouldn't have been my choice. But in the end, we're all going to have access to it and I think that's the bottom line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's going to be full transparency and it will be given out to the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't bother me, I was there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So one member -- Republican member of the leadership also would not express how he views this situation. That is Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader.
I asked him directly whether or not he was concerned about providing this footage to Tucker Carlson, all he would say is that he is concerned about the security of the Capitol as he was under Speaker Pelosi, and would not go any further.
And McCarthy told me today that he did not consult with McConnell about this decision to release this footage -- Anderson.
COOPER: Manu Raju, appreciate it. Thank you.
I want to get perspective from conservative lawyer and "Washington Post" contributing columnist, George Conway.
George, what do you make of this? I mean, does it make sense to you what McCarthy is doing?
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER AND WASHINGTON POST CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST: No, I mean, it makes sense as a purely PR act to pacify -- to placate Tucker Carlson and to placate the MAGA base. But it doesn't make any sense from any other standpoint.
For example, the idea that the defendants need this in order to defend themselves. Well, the government already -- if the government already has this stuff, and there's anything in there that's exculpatory, they are required to produce it, under Brady against Maryland.
And the fact of the matter is, what is it that he could possibly show that would help these defendants? I mean, for example, if you catch one defendant smearing feces on the walls of the Capitol, and he later then uses the bathroom in another video and washes his hands, that doesn't get you off what he did in the first place.
And showing that -- I don't know what else they could possibly glean from it, showing that Capitol Police officers at some points allowed people to come in, well, they didn't -- you know, they did that in part because they were they were trying to prevent a bloodbath.
And so, I just don't understand what it is that they're trying to accomplish other than to just perpetuate the January 6 lie that there was nothing extraordinary that happened on January 6.
COOPER: From a legal perspective, how much trouble do you think FOX News is in with this Dominion lawsuit?
CONWAY: Oh, it's incredible. I litigated libel cases. One in particular, in my practice 25 years ago and litigated lots of other cases.
When you have a libel case, and you're the plaintiff's lawyer, you don't expect to get anything remotely like this. I mean, it's sort of like -- these cases are like a kaleidoscope. What you have is, sometimes you turn that one way and the reporters look a little careless, and they look like they're ignoring something; and in the other way, they can see how they might have believed the story to be true.
And what's really remarkable is that this comes in the context of the most difficult standard, the most difficult standard that you could possibly apply in a libel case, which is "The New York Times" against Salomon standard, which governs the libel claims on matters of public concern against public figures and that requires -- it is a bit of a misnomer because people talk about it being the standard of actual malice. The Supreme Court uses that word, but malice really isn't required.
And then you also hear the term reckless disregard, but recklessness isn't enough. It's not enough that a reporter kind of just blew past some facts. It's -- what you have to show and this is a case in 1968, called St. Amant vs. Thompson, that says that what you have to show to show reckless disregard is that, at a minimum, the publisher of the information or the broadcaster of the information, actually entertained serious doubts as to the truth of what was being reported.
And here, it's just -- you have that in droves at multiple levels. You have the factcheckers, you have the anchors. You have Rupert Murdoch all agreeing that this was false. And you'd never see in a libel case, you just virtually never seen a libel case, the libel plaintiff moving for summary judgment, which is a judgment without a trial, saying that there's really no issue to go to the jury. It's all one sided.
Because the standard against libel plaintiffs is so high, and here they've made that motion, and it's not a bad motion. I think ultimately, it'll be heard before a jury. But if the Judge actually granted, certainly on falsity, because they're not disputing falsity, if the Judge even granted on actual malice, and, you know, and the state of mind, "The New York Times" standard, that wouldn't be crazy . I think it is remarkable. COOPER: Do you think it affects -- I mean, if the ruling -- if it
does go to trial and there is, you know, a big fine for FOX, I mean, does that impact do you think kind of right-wing media, how it behaves going into the 2024 election, or even just the handling of the former President?
Because I mean, FOX is in this weird position now of how if the former President goes on their air and repeats lies about Dominion Voting Machines in the last election, what did they do?
CONWAY: Well, it is hard to say, because the law isn't going to be any different after a judgment is entered against FOX than it was before.
You're not supposed to lie. You can't tell lies. You're going to be held liable for lies. And yet FOX has been taking this crazy view and you saw it in the excerpts of Rupert Murdoch's deposition, you see it in some of the statements that their PR flacks had been releasing, which is like, oh, well, FOX didn't endorse the Big Lie, maybe even some of our anchors did. It doesn't work that way.
You know that, Anderson, if you say something and you report something, and you describe it as fact or even as something short of established fact. I mean, you know, CNN is on the hook if you libel somebody, and your state of mind matters.
And it's just, it's like --
CONWAY: It is crazy what they're taking -- they are taking a position like, these people, yes, we pay them. We pay them millions of dollars. They sit on -- they are on our air, they work for us, but they don't speak for us.
COOPER: Yes. George Conway. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Next breaking news, what the FBI Director just said about the Bureau's investigation to the origins of the COVID pandemic and whether it started with a lab leak.
Later, the prosecution calls its final witness in the Alex Murdaugh double murder case, that and a preview of tomorrow's jury visit to the crime scene, tonight.
COOPER: There is breaking news just two days after we learned to the Department of Energy's admittedly low confidence assessment that the COVID pandemic began with a lab leak in Wuhan, China.
Tonight on FOX, the FBI Director Christopher Wray publicly acknowledged the FBI believes it, too, but with what sounds like higher confidence. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan. We stepped back for a second.
You know, the FBI has folks, agents, professionals, analysts, virologists, microbiologist, et cetera who focus specifically on the dangers of biological threats, which include things like novel viruses like COVID and the concerns that in the wrong hands, some bad guys, a hostile nation state, a terrorist, or criminal, the threats that those could pose.
So here you're talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government controlled lab that killed millions of Americans and that is precisely what that capability was designed for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, Director Wray added that the Bureau's investigation continues and the Chinese government in his view seems to be trying to, "thwart and obfuscate" the work here.
CNN's David Culver joins us now with more.
What is your sense of the significance of Director Wray's comments? Do you expect any official Chinese reaction? Obviously, they have swatted this down before?
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're good at doing that, and they will continue likely to do it again.
I mean, it's significant given that these are his first public comments on the FBI's investigation, and he reiterates that there is moderate confidence from the agency's investigation that this started as a lab leak.
I think what we would love to see is some of the Intel that actually details why they've come to that conclusion, but he held back on specifics as most of these agencies as they've come forward with their conclusions.
As far as the Chinese and how they're going to go forward with this, I mean, it's been playbook at this point, Anderson and some of it is quite literally scripted from the Foreign Ministry, though at this point they've probably memorized it and that's the say that the US has tried to smear China, that this is politicizing the issue.
CULVER: And they often go back to that science-based approach. They say that's way this should be done, through science. The issue with that well, if the WHO initially said after their field visit in 2021, that it is highly unlikely it started in a lab, the WHO also asked to go back. And if China really wants to pursue that science-based approach, you would think they'd say, all right, come on back in. Any data you need, we will provide.
They've done the opposite. They've said no to the data, and no to another visit.
COOPER: Right, and I mean, the data is really critical. They have not provided the data that scientists would need to really understand exactly and zero in on the origin.
CULVER: That's been the issue going back to the start of this. Now, they argued that they have provided enough to allow the international science community to figure out what steps they need to move forward and they argue that even played into some of the vaccine creation.
But the reality on the ground has been that there has just been a wall after a wall for a lot of these scientists and researchers who pointed out that they were not there as investigators. They wanted to stress that and that's kind of a way to ease in from the Chinese side, in particular, because they don't want the Chinese to think that they're trying to really convict them on something.
The Chinese hated this idea that they will potentially be seen as -- to be blamed globally for this. But the reality has stood that any information that would get us conclusive evidence as to how this started has really not come from the Chinese and that approach doesn't seem to change anytime soon.
COOPER: You know, it is interesting that China keeps saying about this shouldn't be politicized. They're clearly aware of, in some quarters, a political divide that exists over the lab leak theory in the United States.
CULVER: Oh, yes. They're acutely aware of that and they watch closely how it has played out here in Washington in particular and they love that.
I mean, they love to see the division over the discussion of how it started, and Democrats going against Republicans on this. That's really what they tried to foster more than anything else and they are hoping that that'll continue to distract things.
The problem that they're seeing here is that there is bipartisan support to be tough on China and the and the party and state media sees this in particular. And they hope for another campaign cycle more than anything else in which they'll see more division, the infighting, and then that will distract things once again -- Anderson.
COOPER: David Culver. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Next, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the latest in his attempt to politically reshape how college students are taught in the state and some resistance to it today.
[20:25:58] COOPER: Ahead of likely a 2024 presidential run, Florida Governor
Ron DeSantis is expanding his influence in how kids are taught in his State and that led to a protest in Sarasota's New College of Florida this afternoon.
Recently DeSantis replaced six of the 13 members of the school's Board of Trustees. They then fired the College President and today, with the new Interim President, they abolished the office handling diversity, equity and inclusion programs during a contentious meeting that included comments from students, faculty, parents, and alumni.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is political theater. All of you are here because you are not interested in education. You're here because you're riding someone's coattails that you think is going to take you to the White House and national office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: CNN's Leyla Santiago was at the meeting and has more.
(CROWD chanting "Shame on you.")
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A fight for the future of a small Liberal Arts College in Sarasota, New College of Florida, a self-described community of free thinkers, an Honors College nestled off the waters of Florida's West Coast.
ALASKA MILLER, STUDENT: I hope you enjoy the blood on your hands. history will judge you harshly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that the kinds of educational derailment and utter disrespect you're currently showing my student, my child is never separate than one of yours.
MILLER: This is probably my favorite spots on campus.
SANTIAGO (on camera): Yes, it's gorgeous.
SANTIAGO (voice over): Alaska Miller is a trans woman and a second year student
MILLER: New College really is this like really special place. I'm worried about like my future. I'm worried if like I'm going to be able to graduate here or if I'll have to like move to a different institution for my safety,
SANTIAGO (voice over): The public university of 700 students, the latest target in the education makeover of Governor Ron DeSantis. The campus now at the center of a conservative takeover after DeSantis appointed six political allies to its Board of Trustees last month.
CHRISTOPHER RUFO, SENIOR FELLOW, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: I've been working on an exciting project to take over a public university in Florida called New College well known for being a kind of social justice ghetto, recruiting left-wing ideologues --
SANTIAGO (voice over): Conservatives like Chris Rufo, credited for leading the GOP's battle against critical race theory. Rufo and other DeSantis appointed trustees have said they want to bring in more money to improve the campus and make everyone including conservatives feel welcome.
But first --
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Florida is where woke goes to die.
SANTIAGO (voice over): The Board was quick to make big moves. Today, Trustees voted to abolish the office that worked on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. This, after ousting the President during a previous Board meeting in January,
PATRICIA OKKER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NEW COLLEGE OF FLORIDA: I do not believe that students are being indoctrinated at New College.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
SANTIAGO (voice over): She was replaced by a former Education Commissioner and Speaker of the House, Republican Richard Corcoran and the Board agreed to pay him more than double the base salary.
RICHARD CORCORAN, FORMER EDUCATION COMMISSIONER: First and foremost, I'd be remiss if I didn't say, one, I think a tremendous gratitude and thanks to Governor DeSantis.
SANTIAGO (voice over): The overhaul on this campus is only part of the Governor's agenda for education in the State of Florida and possibly beyond.
DESANTIS: Why don't we just do and teach the things that matter? Why is it always someone has to try to jam their agenda down our throats?
SANTIAGO (voice over): Widely considered to be a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2024, the Governor is battling the woke agenda as he calls it in classrooms, rejecting a proposed Advanced Placement African-American Studies course saying it lack of significant educational value, mandating closer scrutiny of books at schools and endorsing candidates running for School Board in Florida, a nonpartisan position.
CORCORAN: Two years from now people will say, wow, what Governor DeSantis led at New College with the new trustees and the trustees choosing the new Interim President. during that interim period, that was a wonderful, whatever that might be three years, three months, six months, a year and a half.
SANTIAGO (voice over): A political road that students like Alaska Miller say they're losing sleep over.
MILLER: It breaks my heart to see that they want to destroy a place that's so special and has been so successful in providing a wonderful education for so many people.
COOPER: Leyla, is it clear why Governor DeSantis have chosen to implement the changes to this College in particular?
SANTIAGO: Well, Anderson, the governor's office will tell you there is concern over a declining enrollment numbers. That is what they told CNN in a statement. And today when I spoke to the interim president and asked him for a response to some of the criticism that we heard in the meeting, he told me that he remained pretty optimistic and confident about the future of New College saying that he was sure he was going to bring in more money that would help this small community.
But that provided little comfort to the people that I spoke to on campus today. That said that they admit this is a pretty progressive community that is now worried about academic freedom, given the shift in conservative leadership.
COOPER: Leyla Santiago, thanks.
Coming up, prosecutors in their rebuttal in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial with a dramatic move using a shotgun to try to dispute a theory from the defense. We have details in that.
COOPER: Tonight, new developments in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial. Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and son and attempt to cover up his alleged financial crimes. Tomorrow morning, the jury is expected to visit the scene of the killings. Today, the prosecution ended their rebuttal after calling six witnesses.
360's Randi Kaye joins us now from South Carolina with the latest. So what happened in the court today?
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it was an incredible day in court. South Carolina's Attorney General took over to question the state's last witness and it was dramatic. Together they recreated how Paul Murdaugh may have died, at least according to the defense. They used a courtroom door to act as the door to the feed room at the dog kennels where he died. And together they did this recreation and all the while the Attorney General was wielding a shotgun. Here's how it played out in court.
ALAN WILSON, SOUTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Is it your expert opinion that a 6'4" shooter cannot be excluded from the murder of Maggie and Paul?
DR. KENNETH KINSEY, CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION EXPERT: I see nothing that could exclude a 6'4" shooter.
KAYE: Dr. Kenneth Kinsey, an expert in Crime Scene Investigation and recreation called back to the stand by the state to dispute key testimony. A forensic scientist testified for the defense and told the jury whoever killed Maggie and Paul Murdaugh was likely much shorter than Alex Murdaugh, who was about six, four, but the prosecution's expert disagreed.
WILSON: Can a person be an -- on their knee and get the same angle and be standing and get the same angle?
KINSEY: Yes, sir.
WILSON: Can a 6'4" person and a 5'4" person still shoot the same angle just at different distances?
WILSON: Can you exclude a 6'4" defendant like Alex Murdaugh, or anyone for that matter at that height from shooting that shotgun at that angle?
KINSEY: Absolutely not.
KAYE (voice-over): In one of the most dramatic moments of the trial, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson pointed a shotgun at Kinsey to illustrate another defense theory the state also believes is flawed.
WILSON: You'll give me permission to point this to you, correct?
KINSEY: I have.
KAYE (voice-over): A defense witness said Paul Murdaugh's fatal shot was a downward facing contact wound, meaning the barrel of the shotgun was up against his head. But this court demonstration was designed to show why prosecutors say that just doesn't make sense.
WILSON: OK, Paul has just been shot.
KINSEY: Yes, sir.
WILSON: And in the defense's theory, you tell me what to do, and you act this out. And I'm going to do what you told me to do based on the defense's theory of the case.
KINSEY: The defense agreed with the assessment that Paul stood there for a moment bleeding down his injured left arm, and he slowly walked toward the door.
WILSON: OK, and what is the shooter do?
KINSEY: The shooter's coming in the door.
WILSON: And then what does the shooter do?
KINSEY: He shoots Paul in the back of the head after he passes him.
WILSON: OK. And then shoots Paul in the back of the head like this.
KINSEY: I think the theory is preposterous, in my opinion.
WILSON: The shooter is shooting down. How do pellets get embedded into the doorframe up here? How's that possible?
KINSEY: I think it's impossible myself. It -- physics don't work that way. They will turn around because of the pressure. Go back the opposite direction. 180-degree direction at enough velocity to damp a steel exterior door and embed in the doorframe. That doesn't happen.
KAYE (voice-over): The defense did its best to push back.
JIM GRIFFIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So you believe that this pellet that's in the door jamb came through his shoulder there was that out the top of his head and ended up at that location?
KINSEY: Well, they didn't turn around and come back out of the top of his head. Yes, sir. I do --
COOPER: Randi, we mentioned in the introduction, your piece that the jury is going to visit the crime scene tomorrow. I understand you're getting some additional information about it.
KAYE: Yes, Anderson. We've learned that they're going to leave early in the morning, and they'll probably spend about an hour there. A van is going to take them there. They'll have security, they'll have courtroom staff with them and the judge is going with them as well, to Moselle. It's about half an hour or so from the courtroom, where we are tonight.
And now the case is really winding down because once they returned from the crime scene tour that they're going to take, we're going to have jury instructions for them. And then we'll have closing arguments as well here at court. And tomorrow, Anderson, I should note marks five weeks of testimony. So we've had 61 witnesses from the state, 14 witnesses from the defense, a lot of time in that courtroom for this jury.
COOPER: Yes, Randi, thanks. Appreciate it.
I want to get some perspective now from Criminal Defense Attorney Mark O'Mara and Cardozo Law School Professor and former Federal Prosecutor Jessica Roth. Mark, let's start with what we just heard in Randy's piece about the final rebuttal witness that crime scene forensics expert pushing back against the defense's crime scene expert who claimed that the shooter was likely shorter than Alex Murdaugh. What do you make of the testimony from this guy today?
MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I thought it was very good because I thought the rebuttal to what the defense was suggesting was spot on. The defense was suggesting one very static way where it couldn't have been somebody 6'4" but the whole situation is so dynamic.
And I thought the presentation by that witness and the prosecutor, I thought it just came across very well and really discounted what the defense is trying to come up with, with a one view of how it couldn't have happened.
COOPER: Jessica, what do you think about it, and also the fact that it was the attorney general during the questioning?
JESSICA ROTH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: So I thought that the prosecution's rebuttal case, especially that last witness, where we've been talking about was very effective in debunking the defense's forensic case, on a number of fronts with respect to the so called two-shooter theory, the height of the shooter, and also other aspects of how the shooting of Paul in particular happened.
The defense had presented expert testimony suggesting that whoever shot Paul would have had a lot of blood and tissue on --
ROTH: -- and would have been hard to get it off in time. And also, that that person would have been stunned momentarily and sort of unable to then go shoot Maggie. So I thought the expert testimony, rebutting that forensic case was very, very effective.
That the Attorney General himself showed up to do the last witness of the case, I thought was symbolically important. It was sort of a show of force, I think, from the top law enforcement official in the state, showing that he fully endorsed and supported this prosecution of this powerful finger.
COOPER: You know, I never understood when the defense's crime scene person was saying that the shooter would have been stunned by what had just occurred. How could anybody know that? I mean, if somebody has the mental capacity to shoot somebody point blank, two people point blank, why does this person assumed that they would be emotionally stunned by it?
ROTH: It was a theory based on his assumptions based on his analysis of the crime scene --
ROTH: -- and the evidence about just sort of physically how it happened. And this was why we heard so much testimony about what was the trajectory of the wounds. Did the bullets go first into the head or the shoulder? Because the defense theory about being stunned had to do, as I understand it, with there being sort of a blowback from the gun and from the pellets, and also the tissue that would have come back on and sort of that physical force.
COOPER: Right, maybe being scarred by -- ROTH: Yes.
COOPER: -- by that.
ROTH: Yes, it would have been sort of more physical stunning, as opposed to emotional stunning.
COOPER: OK. Mark, as we look at the closing arguments, what are you expecting to see from the state and the defense? How do you think this is going?
O'MARA: The state needs to stay factual, they need to support everything that they're suggesting happened with the forensics, and with a common sense approach to it. They need to go in there and say, we proven the case here, even though they don't have great motive. There are some questions about how it happened. But that's how they have to be strong.
On the other hand, a defense has to just prove up some reasonable doubt. They have to suggest there's no motive, there's no idea. And the other thing that I think the state may have overplayed their hand a bit on was so much time spent on their fraud and their financial, that you're going to hear in close the argument from the defense, that this is really a fraud case that they're trying to turn into a murder case. And that's going to get some play with the jury.
COOPER: Jessica, what do you think?
ROTH: I think that the prosecution is going to hammer the timeline. I think they're going to talk a lot about the defendants lie about not being at the kennels and continuing that lie until he was confronted with --
COOPER: That timeline issue which the prosecutor brought up effectively before is, I mean, when you lay out what the defense is suggesting, based on the timeline, it does seem somewhat ludicrous.
ROTH: I think that's why that the prosecution is going to hammer the timeline, they're going to hammer the lie that's so critical and shows consciousness of guilt. And I think they're going to say the jury can't trust anything that defendant said on the stand because of his proven history of lying to so many people, including law enforcement, including his partners, including clients he stole from.
COOPER: Mark, do you think that the timeline, as effective as it may have been for the prosecutor is enough to overcome circumstantial evidence?
O'MARA: I really think it's going to be because that was just said. The timeline is so insanely ludicrous to suggest that somehow somebody else within that very few minute period came in committed a murder, for which they have no other evidence to support, and then blame him for it. I do think that that time is going to be the focus of the closing.
And what we're going to hear, again, is that last few questions that were asked by the prosecutor to Murdaugh where he said, this is what you want us to believe and laid out an entire timeline of what turns out to be sort of almost impossible to have occurred. And that's where we're going to be I think the focus of the prosecution closing.
COOPER: Yes. Mark O'Mara, Jessica Roth, appreciate it. Thank you.
Just ahead, dangerous work on the Eastern Front in Ukraine.
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ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (on- camera): This was a Russian position, Russian trenches. And now these guys are working through here carefully, methodically, looking for mines, for booby traps, and even Ukrainian ordinance that was fired at the Russians who were here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Tonight in Ukraine, a possible new strategy in the besiege eastern city of Bakhmut. An economic adviser to President Zelenskyy tells CNN that Ukraine's military is going to weigh all the options when it comes to defending the city. This includes, quote, strategically pulling back if needed, that's what they call it.
Earlier today, President Zelenskyy warned the toughest battle for Ukraine is in Bakhmut. Thousands of civilians remain. Many cut off from humanitarian relief. The fight for the cities is one of obviously many problems Ukraine faces. There's also the unexploded mines that litter at the lands that Ukraine that's liberated from the Russians.
CNN's Alex Marquardt is in eastern Ukraine with the story of the dangerous work being done there.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): The hulking armored mind clear lurches into an open field. Over 40 tons, it spews exhaust, its tracks struggling across the muddy ground. Following close behind, the mind clearance team called sappers. They advanced deliberately on the hunt for deadly explosives. This is delicate work.
(on-camera): This was a Russian position, Russian trenches. And now these guys are working through here carefully methodically looking for mines ,for booby traps and even Ukrainian ordinance that was fired at the Russians who were here.
(voice-over): Last September, a Ukrainian counter offensive pushed the Russians out of these trenches. Now Colonel Maksim Melnyk's team has been charged with clearing any explosives. They have left many traps behind and many of our brothers, our sappers have died, Melnyk says. Russia doesn't obey international conventions. They put mines on top of mines, leave booby traps and use banned mines.
Russian and Ukrainian mines are scattered throughout the Eastern Front, making Ukraine one of the biggest minefields in the world. Rockets and other explosives can often fail to detonate when they land to all of it posing immense danger to civilians.
The sappers of Ukraine's DSNS emergency service like Eduard Herasimenko, who is a father of a 10-year-old daughter are keenly aware of the danger. It's dangerous for everybody, he says. I wouldn't say we take more risks than others, everybody is taking risks now.
Herasimenko was demining before the war started seeing what Russia has done to his country infuriates him. They are just animals, he says. There's no other way to describe them.
He finds and carries an unexploded rocket propelled grenade to the side. Working day after day all across this country, deminers know how much they still have left to do.
(on-camera): After the war, the soldiers get to go home but your work will continue for years?
We will keep working for decades, Colonel Melnyk says. This will go on for decades.
COOPER: Incredible work. Are landmines also used by Ukrainian armed forces?
MARQUARDT: They are, Anderson, with quite a bit of effect. The landmines that have been planted all along the front line by the Ukrainians, many of them have come from the U.S. They've been donated by the thousands. We've seen them used in the southeastern city of Vuhledar that we just came from a few days ago.
The Ukrainians there have managed to keep the Russians at bay because of mines that they've planted in the fields there. But at issue here, Anderson, are anti-personnel mines, which are banned under international humanitarian law because of how indiscriminate they are.
Now Russia is not a party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, but Ukraine is. And that is why they have been called out by Human Rights Watch in a recent report, saying that they have fired anti-personnel mines into Russian held areas that Russian military facilities, particularly in and around the city of Izium.
We were near there earlier today, it has now been retaken by the Ukrainians. But this is something that they say the Ukrainians are doing. It doesn't justify what Russia is doing, of course, but Human Rights Watch, calling on Ukraine to look into it. And in response, Ukraine did not deny that report. They said that they will look into it. They, of course, say that they're exercising their right to defend themselves, but that Russia of course is committing war crimes. Anderson?
COOPER: Alex Marquardt in eastern Ukraine tonight. Alex, thanks.
As the war in Ukraine rages on, many of Vladimir Putin's political enemies remain in prison. Among them, Alexei Navalny, who survived a poisoning from a nerve agent in 2020. A poisoning that CNN helped trace back to Russian intelligence. Navalny is now in solitary confinement and one of Russia's most brutal penal colonies.
Don't miss CNN primetime "Navalny And The Cost Of Standing Up To Putin" on Friday night at 9:00 p.m.
Up next, tonight, Antarctica sea ice falls to a record low and only CNN can we take you to the four edges of the southern hemisphere. We talk to our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir to find out what it means and what it looks like right now.
COOPER: Even as this part of the northern hemisphere is experiencing another near record warm winter and glaciers are retreating around the Arctic Circle, scientists are warning that the sea ice around Antarctica has dropped to his lowest level breaking the record set just last year.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Antarctic sea ice is now at its lowest points and satellite started monitoring the levels in 1979. Researchers warned that with the summer melting season now happening in the southern hemisphere, the ice could shrink even further.
CNN So you know chief climate correspondent Bill Weir is on his way to Antarctica joins us tonight from South Argentina.
Bill, it's amazing you're there. It looks incredibly beautiful. Can you just give us a sense of the scope of the problem how much ice has been lost and what that means for the region as a whole.
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, to give you that perspective, Anderson, you got to consider the fact that the top of the world, the Arctic is is an ocean surrounded by continents. Down here at the bottom, it's a continent surrounded by oceans, which complicates climate change as it has been observed for a long time. Scientists thought it was somewhat immune to the effects because the ice around the continent was growing.
In 2014, it was about 7 million square miles. But in less than 10 years, the National Snow and Ice Center out of Colorado has confirmed it has broken the record again. Now it is just over 700,000 square miles. So that's over 90 percent of that ice around Antarctica has disappeared in less than a decade.
And the trend line is really disturbing because it makes the glaciers that hold all the land ice in place. We're not worried about sea ice melting. It's like the ice cubes in your glass. It doesn't spill your drink when it melts. It's all that land ice that's being held in place by these ice dams like the Thwaites Glacier, it's a glacier the size of Florida. It's already hanging on by its fingernails, but now with less sea ice protecting it, it just smells bad news.
COOPER: So how much of the melting can be attributed to climate change?
WEIR: Well, because it's so complicated, the weather systems in the Southern Ocean, they need at least another decade of data to say specifically empirically that this is what percentage is caused by planet cooking pollution as well. But the trend lines are just so obvious.
They've had spikes in record high temperatures like the freakish ones we saw up in the Arctic and Greenland are starting to happen down here as well. And this is, of course, a threat to see coastal cities everywhere.
COOPER: Yes. Bill Weir, appreciate it. Thank you.
WEIR: You bet.
COOPER: That's it for us tonight. Jake Tapper's one on one interview with Bill Maher starts now.