Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Dueling Speeches Spotlight Potential Trump Versus DeSantis Matchup; Four US Citizens Kidnapped By Gunmen In Mexico In Case Of Mistaken Identity; NY Times: Panic Behind The Scenes After 2020 Election Arizona Call For Biden; Rupert Murdoch Acknowledged That Fox News Hosts Endorsed False Stolen Election Claims; Trump Says He Won't Drop Out Of 2024 Race If He's Indicted; Zelenskyy Says "We Will Find The Murderers" After Video Of Alleged POW Execution; "White Angels" Police Unit Saves Ukrainian Civilians Trapped In Bakhmut; U.S. Senators Call For U.N. Probe Into Secret Iranian Torture Centers Exposed By CNN; CNN Investigation Uncovers Dozens Of "Black Sites" Used By The Iranian Regime To Torture Protesters; Chris Rock Tackles Oscars Slap IN Live Netflix Special; Univ. Of Idaho: Murder Victims Kaylee Goncalves, Maddie Mogen Will Be Awarded Posthumous Degrees At Spring Commencement. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 06, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Emma Heming Willis' requests coming after photographers were following the actor during a recent coffee run with friends.

It was just a few weeks ago that Willis' family announced the actor had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia or FTD, saying his condition has worsened from a year ago when he was diagnosed with aphasia, which is a condition which can affect a person's ability to speak.

Thanks so much for joining us, AC 360 begins now.



We begin tonight with a contest for who will lead the Republican Party as its presidential candidate in 2024, as well as the touch of irony. Both are embodied by the op-ed that former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan wrote for this Sunday's "New York Times."

In it, he writes: "To once again be a successful governing party, we must move on from Mr. Trump." He also takes him without naming him, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in what he refers to as "angry, divisive and performative politics."

Now in Hogan's view, the party needs someone other than Trump or DeSantis, a non-divisive common sense conservative who can broaden the party's base, someone his arguments just like him.

The irony is he is writing those words in an op-ed explaining why he is not running for President, which with all due respect to candidates, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy right now leaves the fields the top polling figures in the party, which is Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Each spoke over the weekend and though Governor DeSantis at the Reagan Library was more measured in tone than the former President at the Conservative Political Action Committee convention, both portrayed themselves as leaders in a culture war.



GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): They should not be teaching a second grader that they can choose their gender.

TRUMP: I will revoke every Biden policy promoting the chemical castration and sexual mutilation.

DESANTIS: There's a new Sheriff in town now.

TRUMP: We ban transgender insanity from our military.

DESANTIS: It goes back to this woke mind virus that's infected the left and all these other institutions.

TRUMP: The George Soros money machine.

DESANTIS: People like George Soros.

TRUMP: Our enemies are lunatics and maniacs.


COOPER: Again, the former President was far less restrained than Governor DeSantis, who appeared to be trying to stake out a position as Trump without all the Trumpy mess.


DESANTIS: I can tell you in four years, you didn't see our administration leaking like a sieve, you didn't see a lot of drama, or palace intrigue. What you saw was surgical precision execution day after day after , and because we did that, we beat the left day after day after day.


COOPER: As for the former President, he recapped a number of familiar tropes about Russia and the 2020 election. There were also some new themes as well, dark themes.


TRUMP: This is the final battle. They know it, I know it, you know it, and if they win, we no longer have a country.

In 2016, I declared, I am your voice. Today, I add, I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution. I am your retribution.


COOPER: Just trying that one out, "I am your retribution."

Abraham Lincoln, at a time of true crisis with the country on the brink of Civil War appealed for all Americans to be touched by what he called the better angels of our nature. And toward the end of the war, he called on them to bind up the nation's wounds.

Lincoln was the first Republican President. In seeking to be the next Republican President, Donald Trump promises to be an agent of vengeance. And in his CPAC speech, invoke the post-Civil War act of vengeance, lynching in a moment of self-pity.


TRUMP: I didn't know that they want to lynch you for doing nothing wrong. I didn't know they want to lynch you for doing a great job. I didn't know they want to put you away because your poll numbers are better than anybody they've seen in years.


COOPER: For the record, the former President was not lynched, he lost. He was voted out of office. And he is not being lynched either, he is the subject of numerous official legally sanctioned investigations.

The irony here is that he did have a Vice President who was being hunted by a mob the former President encouraged and for hours did nothing to stop, who did want to hang Mike Pence. And according to "The New York Times," Mark Meadows, his Chief-of-Staff told the January 6 Committee that when President Trump learned of the rioters chanting "Hang Mike Pence," he said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hung.

And as for those rioters, shortly before speaking to CPAC, the former President collaborated with a group of incarcerated January 6th inmates on this.


TRUMP: And to the Republic, for which it stands --


COOPER: That's the leading voice in the Republican Party along with Ron DeSantis and this Republican, like Governor Hogan is not, though he too sees what he recognizes to be a problem for the GOP.



ASA HUTCHINSON (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: We need to have alternatives again to Donald Trump. We don't need to be led by arrogance and revenge in the future.

And when he talks about vengeance, he is talking about his personal vendettas and that is not healthy for America. It's certainly not healthy for our party.


COOPER: Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson over the weekend who has not yet decided whether to run. If he does, though, here's the question: Does the Republican Party as he wishes it to be bear any resemblance to the party as it actually is?

Joining us now, CNN chief correspondent, "CNN This Morning co-anchor, Kaitlan Collins; also two CNN political commentators, Van Jones, former Special Adviser to President Obama, and Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.

Clearly, Ron DeSantis and the former President, I guess, Ron DeSantis more is sort of dancing around Trump, not wanting to directly engage. How long can that go on for?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, not much longer, but I think as long as he is kind of in this audition to be President until he formally announces that he is running, which we're not expecting until at least May or something that you're going to see more of this him kind of testing his message out on the road. And it was a pretty, you know, large audience in the Reagan Library, about 1,300 people, sold out.

He has been doing these stops as part of his book tour, but he is clearly testing a message and he is clearly drawing a contrast with Trump. And I think this weekend was probably the sharpest display that we've seen of that, of the contrast between the two of them.

You know, DeSantis' comment that really stood out to me was where he talked about how in his administration in Florida, they never had leaks, they never had palace intrigue, that they executed their agenda with surgical precision, you know, making those comments basically saying, this is not what happened when Trump was in office, trying to appeal to the Trump voters while making sure that he distinguishes himself from Trump.

COOPER: It was interesting Van that DeSantis when he was saying the quote that Kaitlan was just talking about, about, you know, being laser focused, it was really laser focus, what he then ended up with was on defeating the left every single day, every minute of the day, or words to that effect.

It wasn't about governing, it was about being on the attack, which is something he's also said, in some interviews about you have to be on the attack all the time, all the time, or else, you know, they will win.

It's interesting, I mean, is he going to run you think on just being a really great Governor? It doesn't seem like that's -- it seems like it's going to be this woke thing? VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yeah, I mean, it's, it's

really sad to see these two frontrunners kind of chasing each other off the cliff of crazy.

You're proud that you can't find common ground with half the people in your State, or just less than half the people in your State who are liberals and progressives. You're proud that you're beating up on transgender kids, and showing them no sympathy, no empathy, and at least understanding what they're going through.

You may disagree with some of the medical procedures, but you've got to show some empathy for those families. You're proud you have no empathy for these kids.

And you think this is going to be rewarded, and the only distinction you want to draw with President Trump is that you're just kind of nicer and more efficient in persecuting people.

You're a nicer, more efficient persecutor of people, not somebody who is going to be able to help folks. And what's amazing is his book, you know, is it's a testament to Trump. You know, the book that he put out, he's praising Trump more than Trump praises himself.

So this is a very bizarre spectacle, and if I were Republican, I'd be pretty heartbroken that these are the two main options.

COOPER: Scott, I'm wondering what you made of the appearances by both and sort of the messages of both?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I think the core difference you're going to see unfold over the next few months is Trump on this vengeance tour. He wants to go out and get the people who he thinks persecuted him, and I think where DeSantis is laser focused is on trying to go out and get the people that Republicans think have them surrounded.

This is the real difference, who can complain about the fights and who can complain about all the things in the world that conservatives don't like and who can actually finish it.

And I think one of the things DeSantis is getting at with the drama, and the leaks, and you know, the chaos that surrounded the Trump administration is it prevented them from having focus enough to win the fights and in Florida, you know, whether he's taken on Disney or whether he's taken on, you know, stuff they don't like in the schools or things they are doing in the legislature, DeSantis stays focused and never gets distracted by the personal drama that seems to always surround and follow Donald Trump and his people.

I think you're going to see Ron DeSantis run on this thing right here. We know what you're mad about. We know what you're concerned about. Ask yourself a question, who can finish it, and who can complain about it only? And I really think he's got an opening against Trump there.

COOPER: Essentially though, Kaitlan, you then have these other Governors talking about sort of wanting to focus on governance and not culture issues and just good governance. That's not a message that's not a message that's resonating.


COLLINS: Oh, well, I think they're worried that DeSantis' message will resonate now, it will not resonate in the general. That is going to be a really big struggle for whoever is actually the Republican nominee. Because how do you get through a Republican primary? And then how do you still have a successful message in the general?

And that's what I've heard from people. I mean, we talk to people all day long who will concede privately that yes, DeSantis is a real threat to Trump. Trump knows that. He talked about DeSantis so much privately more than any of the other people who've said they're running against him or might.

I do think there is a real concern of what does it look like when you get to the general. Is DeSantis' his message that he's using going to be effective in the States that Biden lost -- that Trump lost to Biden, and that's not unknown.

COOPER: Scott, do you think we know what Ron DeSantis is like as a national candidate?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, he still has some areas that he hasn't had to explore as a Governor, such as a lot of foreign policy stuff, but really to get through the Republican primary, it's about are you concerned and upset about the same stuff that the average Republican voter is? Obviously, he is checking that box. And do you show an aptitude for finishing these fights? And do people believe you can beat Joe Biden? Those are kind of the boxes that you have to check.

And that's where Trump is falling short. Yes, he does reflect the attitude of the party right now and the anger about certain things. But there's real concern that he can't beat Joe Biden, because we know we already lost to him.

And there is concern about during his four years, he complained about a lot of things and didn't finish it. That's where I think DeSantis has more upside.

On this point about the General Election, I think whether we nominate Trump, DeSantis, or pick anybody else who is in or considering this race, Democrats are going to say the same thing.

Listen to Van tonight. He's already describing Ron DeSantis as worse than Donald Trump, that's going to be the case for any nominee. Look at what he did in Florida. He won by 20 points. He turned Miami, red. This is a guy who's clearly got appeal beyond just the Republican base. Democrats don't want to and other people seem to be worried about this idea of he can't appeal. Look at what he did in Florida. He appealed to everybody.


JONES: Maybe so. I think he's got a challenge to get the nomination though. It's people like yourself love to imagine that, you know, Trump getting knocked out by this guy, but the polling data doesn't show it really anywhere.

I think you've got this lumbering lounge act of Donald Trump doing his greatest hits over and over again, and somehow that still has massive appeal.

And so I also would say, you know, Ron DeSantis didn't really have an opponent in Florida. I wouldn't -- you know, I mean no offense, but that wasn't exactly the best the Democratic Party has to offer. So we'll see how well he does if he can get out of Florida. The person has got to get past Donald Trump, and I'm not sure he can do it.

COOPER: Van Jones, Scott Jennings, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Coming up next, in what appears to be a terrifying case of mistaken identity, the very latest on four Americans fired on and kidnapped at gunpoint in Mexico.

And later, new reporting on a remarkable conference call at FOX News after the 2020 election and the company's top news executive regretting the moment her network got it right and told the truth.



COOPER: Tonight, an international search is on for four missing Americans who were assaulted and kidnapped by drug cartel gunmen in Mexico. The kidnapping was caught on camera and investigators believe the Americans were taken in a case of mistaken identity.

CNN's Josh Campbell joins us now.

So we're seeing some of this video. What more can you tell us about it?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So this began very violently. The FBI says this incident occurred on Friday as these four Americans were traveling from Texas in to Mexico and as we watch that video, I want to warn our viewers, this is graphic.

What you're seeing are people being held at gunpoint. Now, a source familiar with the investigation tells me authorities believe this video was related to that incident, perhaps in the aftermath.

You see a woman being shoved into the back of that truck. You also see other people who aren't moving being loaded into that vehicle. So again, this group of Americans coming across the border, this group opens fire on them.

Now a source tells me that as you mentioned, this appears to be a case of mistaken identity, specifically that investigators believe that it was a cartel that opened fire on this group of Americans mistaking them for Haitian drug smugglers.

Now as far as why the Americans were there, a source tells me that these Americans were there trying to get a medical procedure. That's according to receipts found in the vehicle as authorities who are processing that crime scene.

Of course, this is so, so stunning to think that this group of Americans were targeted at random here, you know, by mistake, because we know that so many Americans and Canadians go into Mexico for lower costs prescription drugs, for lower price medical procedure.

So again, this is extremely, extremely serious as far as their whereabouts the FBI continues to work with local officials there in Mexico to try to identify where these victims are and what their current condition is -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Josh, stay there. I also want to bring in our chief law enforcement intelligence analyst and former NYPD Deputy Commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, John Miller.

John, this has got to be complex. What happens now? I mean, how does the FBI work with Mexican authorities on this?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: It's complicated. And you know, Josh Campbell, as a former FBI agent who actually used to work overseas kidnappings in places like the Philippines knows the limits, which is the FBI has no legal authority on the ground. They can't run the case.

But what they can do is leverage the relationships that they have on the ground with the Mexican Federal Police, with the State Police, with other agencies and there are other agencies there on the ground at the Embassy who work through the Ambassador.

You've got CIA, you've got NSA, you've got DEA, you've got a lot of resources that can be brought to bear and information that can be fed to Mexican authorities that can help them get to who is behind this, what's behind this and where they are.

COOPER: Is there a lot of tension with Haitian smugglers -- the Haitian smuggling networks?

MILLER: So you've got a really dynamic picture on that border. So picture Brownsville, Texas, right? Picture the Rio Grande and then you've got Matamoros right on the other side of that border. This is a town where you've got immigrants being run by smugglers who are coming up from South America, from Central America and from Mexico, where the Gulf Cartel, along with its drug business has an entire network that brings those people across the border.


MILLER: Now, you also have immigrants from Haiti who are being smuggled in through Central America and up into Mexico, and Haitian networks that are trying to bring them across as well.

The Gulf Cartel does not like outsiders, does not like competition, does not like anybody who is not kicking back. And the working theory, and it's just a theory at this point, is that they believed that they had run into members of a Haitian smuggling network, basically did a vehicle interdiction, you know, blocked them off, crashing to them and drag them out. There was gunfire. It appears people are wounded. So it's a very dynamic situation.

COOPER: Josh, I mean as John mentioned, you worked a number of global kidnapping investigations. What are some of the difficulties you faced?

CAMPBELL: Well, look, I'll be honest, Anderson, this -- the outlook here is very grim, because I can tell you as an FBI agent, the first thing you ask yourself, whenever you're trying to get a captive free is, are the captors themselves prone to violence? Are they rational? Are they reasonable?

We know this incident itself started with gunfire. In fact, a source tells me that this didn't appear to be a kidnapping operation at all. But this group just unloaded on this other vehicle, before they eventually took these victims away.

So again, that's concerning that this already started very violently and then the next question is, what contact are investigators authorities able to make with those who are holding these Americans? And what might their demands be?

Again, you know, one source mentioned that they think that these cartel members might have gone into panic mode once they realized that this was an actual mistake.

And so you hope that these captors understand that look, only bad things are going to happen if they harm these Americans any further. Whether they can reap any benefits such as financial benefits out of the families, that's something that we've seen in certain cases. But you know, cartels are businesses. So maybe they'll go that route.

But it is a very, very dicey and dangerous situation, both because you have people taking captives who didn't appear to be in the kidnapping business to begin with. And then as authorities move in, you only hope that authorities are able to make contact and get these victims released safely, but we know a lot of work is going on behind the scenes.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, John, are the cartels aren't -- are they really in the business of kidnap and ransom of American?

MILLER: Yes, yes, and yes, although, you know, they stop tourist buses, they'll stop cars, and they'll do kidnappings. But what you have here is this cosmetic surgery medical tourism.

COOPER: That's what they were going for, cosmetic procedure.

MILLER: The woman who was part of the group with her three male friends, you know, they were traveling down to support her as she went for cosmetic surgery because you can get it there for half price.

But you have to look at, the State Department list this as a no-go zone, a Do Not Travel Level 4 for Americans. So the idea of getting a $10,000.00 operation in the United States for $5,000.00 in Mexico, when you see that environment, what happened today, certainly not worth it. COOPER: Yes.

MILLER: And you know now, they've crossed with a cartel, a kidnapping, and a shooting.

COOPER: Yes, John Miller, appreciate it. Josh Campbell as well, thank you.

Coming up next, Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe on a remarkable look inside FOX News from "The New York Times" as its top executives and anchors expressed second thoughts about calling Arizona in 2020 for Joe Biden, despite the fact that they were completely accurate in doing it. We will tell you why ahead.



COOPER: New reporting tonight on FOX News, which is already being sued for $1.6 billion by Dominion Voting Systems in connection with the 2020 election.

It is from "The New York Times" which got access to a post-election Zoom meeting with top network executives and anchors.

On it, Chief Executive Suzanne Scott actually expressed his regret for reporting the truth, quoting her from "The Times" story: "Listen," she said. "It's one of the sad realities. If we hadn't called Arizona in those three or four days following Election Day, our ratings would have been bigger," Miss Scott said. "The mystery would have been still hanging out there."

Again, that is a news executive, the top news executive there, second guessing herself for reporting the news, which angered President Trump and some FOX viewers, which then seem to scare many at FOX News.

Perspective now from Harvard Law School's Laurence Tribe, author of "To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment."

Professor tribe, were you surprised by this report by "The Times" that the top executives and anchors were regretting the Arizona call, which was it was an early call, but they got it right.

LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: It is remarkable. What surprised about is not that that's what they said, because we've learned increasingly that their whole business model is to lie if it helps their ratings. What I'm surprised about is that we learn directly what they said, that we have the Zoom call. We have the receipts.

You know, just four days from now, it's going to be the 59th anniversary of New York Times versus Sullivan, the great case that establishes that you can't simply sue because there has been a mistake in the news. You don't have to show deliberate or reckless falsehood if you are a public official or a public figure or a big corporation like Dominion. But they've got the goods. They have shown, and in this evidence, it's

even clearer that FOX News deliberately lied and when someone told the truth, they were basically reprimanded by the top brass. That's remarkable. It's remarkable that the plaintiffs have managed to get that evidence.

COOPER: I spoke to prominent First Amendment Attorney, Lee Levine last week who said that this the strongest defamation case he's seen in the 40 years that he's been doing this. Is that accurate? Do you agree with that?

TRIBE: Well, I don't know about him, but I've been doing it for 50 years, and it is the strongest case I've seen in the 50 years that I've been teaching about Freedom Speech and Defamation Law. It is a remarkably strong case and it's going to make a difference because it's going to send the signal that sometimes, you just can't get away with lying even if it swells your bottom line temporarily.


COOPER: With Fox has been saying, though, they've been painting this as -- it's something that's going to hurt the First Amendment and First Amendment protections.

On the contrary, it strengthens the First Amendment, because people like Justice Thomas and some other members of the court who have said that we really have to make it easier to sue. And we have to cut back on the protections of New York Times versus Sullivan. Because, otherwise, people can tell lies and get away with it.

TRIBE: Well, this proves that they are wrong. And they were basically alarmist for no good reason. So I think this is a great milestone for the First Amendment for freedom of the press and for the truth. It's a it's win all around except perhaps for Fox News, terrible world to Fox News, and to the people who make their money by lying.

COOPER: At some point, does -- do you think Rupert Murdoch will try to settle before going to trial? I mean, it's hard, obviously, to predict and who knows of Dominion wants to go to trial or not?

TRIBE: Well, he may try. But I think Dominion is going to be pretty tough to settle with because they are being much more public spirited about it, than a lot of other plaintiffs. They're basically trying to make a public point. And it's a point that they're not going to give away very easily.

I don't think they want just more dollars, they want to be vindicated. They want to have the truth told, and they want a lesson to be sent to those who would try to benefit from line like Donald Trump and like a lot of his followers. And, of course, a lot of the sectors of the media that have made their money off of the followers of people like Donald Trump.

COOPER: The former president is still spreading these lies in his current campaign. Does Fox News then -- I mean, how did they handle covering him in the race given -- I mean, do they have him on to do interviews with because he's going to continue to spread lies about the election?

TRIBE: Well, I think they are in a dilemma. I mean, they clearly can't afford not to cover him in some way. On the other hand, if they do, they better put a big warning right in the crawl saying, nearly every word you hear is probably going to be false, or at least they have to refute what they cover him as saying.

So, you know, it's going to be --

COOPER: What happens if they don't refute it?

TRIBE: -- they lose. Pardon?

COOPER: What happens if they don't refute it, that opens them up to further litigation?

TRIBE: Could will. I mean, if they continue to propagate lies just because they think they're going to get more viewers as a result, they're going to be opened up to more litigation from the people that they harm.

So it really is -- it's a lose-lose situation for them unless they scrap their business model and try the good old-fashioned way of actually broadcasting news that may not be popular these days. But maybe that's the way people should start making their money.

COOPER: Just lastly, over the weekend, former -- the former president said that he wouldn't drop out of the 2024 race if he were indicted in any of the federal and state investigations he faces. That may just be bravado, but it -- just what are the legal implications of that?

TRIBE: Well, it has no particular legal implications. He's almost certainly going to be indicted. It's a question of whether Georgia will move first or Alvin Bragg in Manhattan or Jack Smith for the federal government. And he's going to try to wear it as a badge of courage the way he brags about being the disgraced twice impeached president.

COOPER: He'll fundraise often.

TRIBE: But even though, he doesn't mind he claims being indicted, I think he doesn't look forward to an orange jumpsuit. And so, someday he's going to have to meet his maker and sort of be held accountable. But he's going to brag about being indicted, no question about it.

COOPER: And fundraise often.

TRIBE: That's not going to (INAUDIBLE), it's not going to deter the prosecutors.

COOPER: Yes. Laurence Tribe, Professor, thank you. Appreciate it.

TRIBE: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, a new video allegedly showing the execution of a Ukrainian soldier, a POW by Russian soldiers. We have the latest on the video and the outrage in Ukraine over what wouldn't be a war crime.

Plus, they're calling the -- call the white angels and they're trying to get civilians out of the siege town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. CNN's Alex Marquardt is in the eastern part of Ukraine with those stories next.



COOPER: Tonight, new video that shows the apparent execution of a Ukrainian prisoner of war seemingly by Russian soldiers. The man was executed as defined to the end. Some of his last words are the common greeting in Ukraine, the words Glory to Ukraine.

President Zelenskyy today says, quote, we will find the murderers. We're joined now by CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt, who's in the eastern part of Ukraine right now this evening. What do we know about the video that you're about to show us?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we are trying to find out more about who this person is clearly outrage spreading all across Ukraine tonight. It's not clear who this soldier is who apparently was killed by Russian forces. We don't know yet which Russian forces these may have been or what the location of this video may have been.

But top Ukrainian officials saying this is clearly more evidence of Russia committing war crimes here. Now we are going to show you this video. We have edited it slightly. We have to warn that some viewers may find it disturbing. Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Glory to Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): You son of a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)



MARQUARDT: So those last words after taking a drug, to find drug on a cigarette, Slava Ukraini, Glory to Ukraine. Now, we are seeing all kinds of sadness and anger all across Ukrainian social media. I looked at the Facebook page of a Ukrainian colleague. That's all that was being posted.

President Zelenskyy did weigh in. As you said, he said that they would find the murders and he said to respond to this man's words in unity, glory to heroes, glory to Ukraine. Those are the two main patriotic slogans here in Ukraine. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. When people greet each other, you say glory to you, glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes. There's been a lot of discussion of Ukraine, the city of Bakhmut today, the site of some of the fiercest fighting certainly going on right now. You're able to get very close to frontlines. What's it like there?

MARQUARDT: It's incredibly ferocious fighting. You're absolutely right. We have been very close. There is nonstop artillery fire, outgoing artillery fire from the Ukrainians in and around the city of Bakhmut. The Russians responding.

It is street to street, it is house to house. They're using all kinds of weapons. Anderson, we spoke with the Deputy Mayor of Bakhmut earlier today who said that they are trying to do everything they can to try to get the remaining 4,500 residents out of that city.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): Racing into the war zone, a white-knuckle drive towards the middle of Bakhmut. This is the last successful emergency evacuation mission by the Bakhmut police. We need to go faster, an officer says. The Russians can clearly see us.

This team called the White Angels grabbed civilians who have been trapped. Throwing belongings in the back, there's a cat, someone else with a guitar. The fighting raging nearby. The residents told to hurry up and get in and sit anywhere they can.

As they hold on tight, the rescue mission speeds away from the smoldering city. Ahead, there's smoke from a Russian strike. Getting dropped off safely, Leone (ph) tells the officer that everything is blown up in Bakhmut, even inside his apartment. They've survived months of brutally intense assaults. Russia has made gains trying to encircle Bakhmut and surrounding it on three sides as Ukraine desperately tries to fend them off.

Today, we met Bakhmut deputy mayor city nearby at a makeshift aid center for Bakhmut evacuees. He tells us it's very hard to persuade the more than 4,000 civilians left there to leave. They say they have nowhere to go and have no money.

It's very hard to survive there, he says. It's not life. It's survival. Drinking water is a big problem. Walking to the well is dangerous, he says. Shells landing on your head all the time. All he now feels, he tells us, is fear and sadness.

Everyone here knows how hard it will be for Ukraine to hold on to Bakhmut. Svetlana's elderly mother with disabilities didn't want to leave. But Svetlana managed to convince her. I don't know if my house is still standing, she tells us. It's very painful thinking about those still in Bakhmut. Her eyes well up. I just want them all to survive, she says. That's my only wish.


MARQUARDT: And Anderson, Russia is certainly getting closer to taking Bakhmut. We saw a video posted today by Wagner forces that mercenary group that has been leading the Russian charge in and around Bakhmut. They have been trying to encircle the city. They've been doing so quite.

They've made some progress to the north into the south. We saw it today they pushed into the East. They posted this video replacing the Ukrainian flag and a monument with their own flag. Ukraine certainly not throwing in the towel. They have not announced any kind of withdrawal.

President Zelenskyy's office today saying that the recommendation to him is to maintain their defenses, to reinforce their defenses. But we are already starting to hear from top Ukrainian officials and American officials downplaying the potential significance of a Russian victory seeming to lay the groundwork for what may be coming soon. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Alex Marquardt, appreciate it. Thank you.

And update now in a story that first broke on this broadcast, but a network of secret torture sites in Iran that the government used to try to crush them. Unslung protests there. The original report included graphic accounts of violence from eyewitnesses who say they were tortured at these sites.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Called me a slut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rubbed himself against me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naked with their hands tight.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No choice but to confess.


COOPER: A tweet on Sunday, the Senate Forum Relations Committee cited the -- that original report and said this, quote, "The discovery of these secret jails is the latest example of the cruelty of the Iranian regime. The international community needs to hold Tehran accountable for torturing its own citizens. This should be investigated by the United Nations Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission on Iran."


CNN's Nima Elbagir has more now on this development. So Nima, what do we know about the investigation that's being proposed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of course, leads on U.S. foreign policy, and the U.N. Human Rights Commission is internationally mandate. The U.S. is part of that mandate. So in essence, this does work is somewhat of a referral. It's broadening out the U.N. Human Rights Commission investigation to include our findings, which, frankly, Anderson, given the fear of those we spoke to what were conservative. We managed to find some three dozen, at least three dozen black sites, secret torture detention centers. But our understanding is from those we're speaking to that they could potentially be many, many more.

So the hope is not just on the part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but on the part of those we're speaking to in Iran, that the U.N. will be able to broaden its mandate and take in so much more of what's happening on the ground.

COOPER: If the U.N. Human Rights Council does pursue an investigation, what are the next steps?

ELBAGIR: Well, then you're looking potentially at an expansion of sanctions against Iran at a U.N. Security Council, or a multilateral U.N. body level. And that really is because of the vast escalation of sanctions under former President Trump. That is one of the few remaining levers available not just to the international community, but also to the U.S.

And I think on some levels, that's why it's so telling that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is publicly calling out to the U.N. in this way, because they have so few levers. So if you pressure points available to them, to try and bring the Iranian regime back into task in terms of how it's treating its own people.

COOPER: Has there been any response from Iranian authorities?

ELBAGIR: Well, they've continued much of their uncomfortable propaganda against my team, against CNN much of what we're used to in terms of this is imperial overreach. These are lies, but the videos that we've been seeing that the social media content, so much of what been -- what we've been hearing for so long, from the people of Iran, just the bravery that they've been expressing and continuing to go out onto those streets day in day out, that doesn't lie, Anderson.

Whatever propaganda Iranian authorities are trying to use, the reality is that Iran's people are speaking out very loudly and very little propaganda can buttress the impact of that.

COOPER: Nima Elbagir, appreciate it. Thank you.

ELBAGIR: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, a much different story almost one year after Will Smith slap Chris Rock at the Academy Awards. The community came punching back in a new live Netflix special. Our Harry Enten joins us with the bruising details.



COOPER: There's a lot of anticipation building for comedian Chris Rock's first big comedy specialist since Will Smith slapped him at the Academy Awards last year. This weekend, Rock appear on Netflix, his first ever live event stream globally and he did not disappoint.


CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN & ACTOR: ROCK: Words hurt, that's what they say. Got to watch it to say because words hurt. You know, anybody that says words hurt has never been punched in the face.


COOPER: This has been much discussed on TV today. But we decided to turn to our Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten to see if he could find anything new in the numbers. So, did -- what -- that slap, how did that impact Chris Rock's career?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, I think it helped the guy out. And I think there are two ways we can essentially look at it. First off, we can look at his public name recognition, right? The percentage of people who know who the heck he actually is. That was up nearly 20 points after the slap, so he got it that way.

Two, look at the number of Instagram followers he has, up 35 percent. So, look, we talk about, you know, old (ph) notoriety is good notoriety. And while I'm sure that Chris Rock would have preferred not to be slapped in the face --

COOPER: I'm pretty sure he would --

ENTEN: I'm pretty sure on that one.


ENTEN: The fallout for him was actually a good fallout. He got a boost in the number of people who know who he is.

COOPER: And I understand you looked at something about a cue score.

ENTEN: Yes. So apparently nobody knows what a Q score is.

COOPER: I've never quite understood what a Q score is.

ENTEN: So basically what it is, is it's a poll, and it says, OK, given these actors or these public figures, is this one of your favorite people in the entire world --

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: -- or one of your favorite actors, and that's your positive Q score.

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: And then lower down on the scale, do you just have a fair or poor score? And that's your negative Q score. Look at Will Smith's positive score. It dropped tremendously pre-slap versus post-slap. It dropped from 39 percent to just 24. His negative Q score --


ENTEN: -- look at that, rose from 10 to 26. He was one of the most popular actors out there, one of people's favorites pre-slap.

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: And now, he is not anywhere close to that.

COOPER: What about the -- their work? What does data have anything to say about that?

ENTEN: Yes. So take a look at the Rotten Tomatoes audience scores for their last two things, right?

COOPER: All right.

ENTEN: Take a look here, Chris Rock's comedy special, 85 percent of the fans liked it. Look at Will Smith's "Emancipation" film, just 55 percent of fans liked that.

COOPER: OK, there you can -- there's apples and oranges.

ENTEN: It may be apples and oranges, but you know what? I like to make a little bit of a smoothie here. And what I will tell you, what I will tell you is that -- Will Smith's score is way down.


ENTEN: His average score is about 68 percent. This is well below his average score. So to me --


ENTEN: -- Will Smith is coming in under his average --


ENTEN: -- while Chris Rock is coming in above his average. And I think, you know what? That makes a lot of sense, given the notoriety each of them got after the slap.

COOPER: Harry Enten, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Always a math lesson with you.

COOPER: A bittersweet piece of news ahead. We'll be right back.



COOPER: From the University of Idaho, two of the four students murdered in an off campus home this past November will be awarded posthumous degrees at the May 13th Spring Commencement. Kaylee Goncalves and Maddie Mogen were seniors and close friends since middle school, both were 21 years old.

Kaylee was majoring in General Studies. Her parents told Fox News last fall that just before the killing, she was about to go backpacking overseas and then start an IT job in Austin, Texas. Maddie was a marketing major. I spoke with her dad Ben in January. He told me that -- he said, quote, she could have been -- she could have done anything she wanted to. She was so bright and so good with people.

Father tells our Gary Tuchman tonight the family will be going to commencement ceremony in two months. Also killed were younger university students Ethan Chapin and his girlfriend Xana Kernodle. The suspect charged in their killings is awaiting trial.

A quick programming note, join us tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for a special CNN town hall, "America Addicted: The Fentanyl Crisis." There's a deadly flood of fentanyl pouring to America as you may know and pills and powders. And we're going to talk with families who have kids who died taking what they thought was a half a Xanax or Percocet.

I talk with doctors on the front lines and find out what's being done to stop it. Senator Lindsey Graham is going to join us as well as DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. An important conversation. I hope you join us for it. It's tomorrow night at 09:00 p.m. Eastern, right after 360.

The CNN Primetime special "Jill Biden Abroad" starts now.