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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Russian Fighter Jet Forces Down American Drone Over Black Sea; Russian Ambassador Says Russia Does Not Want Confrontation With US; DOJ And SEC Investigating Silicon Valley Bank Failure; CNN Poll: Trump, DeSantis Lead Among Potential 2024 GOP Voters; CNN Poll: 63 Percent Of GOP Voters Don't Think Biden Legitimately Won 2020 Election; Idaho House Passes Bill To Absorb Rural Oregon Counties; Nor'easter Grounds Flights; Nearly Three Feet Of Snow Falls In Parts Of New England; Michelle Obama Says Her Family Felt A Sense Of Responsibility To Represent The Black Community During White House Years. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 14, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The FAA says Republic Airways' pilot made a wrong turn onto the taxiway. But this is the seventh close call this year, right -- and we're just here in mid-March -- between commercial airliners in the United States.

Thanks so much for joining us, and don't forget, you can watch "Out Front" anytime anywhere on CNN Go. It is time now for AC 360 with Anderson.



Ever since the start of the Cold War with the US and Russia and before that, the Soviet Union have had confrontations in the air and at sea. And though dangerous for all concerned, and certainly nerve wracking, these encounters have only rarely blown up into serious incidents. That's because at least to some extent, there are routines that are followed until at least some degree, apparently less so for Russia, everyone involved acts professionally.

That was not the case, however today above the Black Sea. An American Reaper drone like this one was intercepted by two Russian fighters was damaged and then forced down.


ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET), COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS AT THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I mean, somebody could have gotten hurt. Nobody wants to see that happen and it could lead to miscalculations between, you know, two militaries that are operating not obviously in Ukraine together, but certainly in proximity in the region.

And we don't want to see this war escalate beyond what it already has done to the Ukrainian people. And so, this is clearly -- this was inappropriate, unsafe, unprofessional conduct by the Russian pilots. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Russia's Ambassador to Washington was summoned to the State Department and we'll have more on that shortly.

Also, we'll get perspective from retired Army three-star General Mark Hertling. But first, the latest on the incident. CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us from The Pentagon.

So is it clear what happened right now?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This all plays out early Tuesday morning over international waters over the Black Sea when a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone was doing what it has done countless times before, not only over the course of the past year during the war, but even before the war and that is surveilling the Black Sea and the surrounding area. There's a video of the drone right there.

And that's when these two Russians Sukhoi SU-27 fighter jets tried to carry out an interception, an unsafe and unprofessional, even reckless interception, according to the US, fly in front of, repeatedly this drone, and then dumped jet fuel before colliding with the drone, according to the US, damaging the propeller and forcing the US to take down its own drone over the Black Sea and into international waters there.

The US putting out some very harsh statements about how this played out and how reckless the Russian fighter jets were throughout the course of this intercept. In fact, not only dumping the jet fuel but also hitting the jet, and that's the drone there, that is, and that's why this is viewed with such severity.

The Russians putting out their own version of events, saying that, in fact, there was no collusion and that the Russian jets didn't shoot at the US drone in any way -- Anderson.

COOPER: How long was the entire encounter, do we know, between the Russian fighter jets and the drone?

LIEBERMANN: The Pentagon says this played out over quite a long period of time, 30 to 40 minutes over international waters over the Black Sea.

Now, it is worth noting that it is again international airspace so the US is allowed there and the Russians are allowed there. And in fact, the National Security Council coordinator for Strategic Communications has said there have been intercepts over the course of the past recent weeks between Russian aircraft and US drone. So that's not the uncommon part.

Of course, the uncommon part, the in fact, incredibly unusual part is this collision here that forced the US to take down its own drone. It is worth noting that John Kirby told us earlier today Jake Tapper that the US has taken steps to protect its own equities. Now, what exactly that means is unclear whether that's some sort of self-destruct or other step to make sure that this couldn't and didn't fall into Russian hands.

COOPER: So do we know? I mean, has the drone been recovered? Is that something that they would try to do?

LIEBERMANN: It has not been. The US has no naval assets in the Black Sea, nor has it had naval assets in the Black Sea for quite some time. So any sort of recovery effort would be incredibly difficult.

Now, it is worth noting, and this is an interesting step here, an interesting graphic here, if we can pull this up. The US has repeatedly carried out missions -- surveillance missions over the Black Sea over the course of the past year. This is an example of that.

This is just yesterday, a different kind of drone, an RQ-4 Global Hawk flying repeatedly back and forth over the Black Sea. The thicker that line gets -- the thicker that red line gets, the flight track of this drone, the more times the drone was flying over the Black Sea.

So it's not at all uncommon for the US to be operating in international airspace over the Black Sea. Again, what's uncommon here is what the Russians did next, and that is one of those Russian fighter jets colliding with a US drone over the Black Sea, a potentially very escalatory step.

The US however, keeping the response in the diplomatic lane, although the National Security Council says they will keep doing what they have every right to do and that is fly US drones in international airspace over the Black Sea in the future as they have done repeatedly in the past -- Anderson.

COOPER: Oren Liebermann, appreciate it. Thanks.

We are going to go next to CNN's Phil Mattingly at the White House.

What is the White House saying about it?


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan briefed President Biden this morning about what transpired over the Black Sea and White House officials echoing what you heard from the Defense Department, from the State Department making very clear that they have strong objections to what transpired, harsh language, sharp language.

However, as Oren alluded to, they are not trying to escalate things at the moment. However, they are making clear that not only have they run flights like this over the course of the last year repeatedly, but the intercepts have happened fairly regularly as well.

This particular intercept however, and the fact that this drone had to be taken down was called by John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesperson reckless, unprofessional, unsafe, making clear this is an unacceptable action going forward. But in terms of what the next steps may be, White House officials not trying to escalate things, trying to handle this in a diplomatic framing and make clear that this is not an acceptable action, and they don't believe that not only will this not change what they're doing over the Black Sea, but this should not happen again -- Anderson.

COOPER: And the Russian ambassador was summoned to the State Department this afternoon. What is he saying tonight?

MATTINGLY: Yes. That's exactly right. The State Department summoning the Russian Ambassador to make clear, according to State Department spokesman, Ned Price, the very strong objections to what transpired.

Now, as Oren said, the Russians have said that they are not at fault for this giving a different version of events, a version of events that the Russian Ambassador conveyed to the State Department official that he met with for just about a half hour. However, he did frame the conversation as constructive so that they weren't seeking any type of conflict or escalation going forward.

It is worth noting, the Ambassador US Ambassador to Russia also conveyed the objections in Moscow to her counterparts there, so making very clear in a diplomatic lane that they have issues here. They have problems here, but the Russian Ambassador saying that they thought the conversation was constructive and making very clear they did not want escalation based on what happened despite the fact that US officials have been very clear about how reckless they viewed those actions -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Phil Mattingly at the White House, thanks very much.

Joining us now, CNN military analyst and retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

So how big a deal is this in your view?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's a big deal, Anderson. First I'll separate it though a little bit because NATO has something called air policing, the NATO Air Police Mission. They scrambled jets to intercept Russian airplanes coming into NATO airspace, US airspace all the time.

In fact, there were over 500 scrambles last year by NATO Air Policing. What's unusual, though, is this closeness to a drone.

Yes. The thing that's not mentioned is these drones fly very slowly. They're not something that can be intercepted well by a fast moving Sukhoi fighter aircraft, and to have this kind of experience and to knock it out of the sky is something that escalates things greatly.

You know, it goes back to what John Kirby was saying, Anderson, about how Russian aircraft and their patrol crafts are very unsafe, unprofessional, and untrained in the way they do some of these intercepts and it just shows itself in this kind of situation. COOPER: Well, I mean, you said that these kinds of intercepts are common and just the knocking out of the sky part, the actual physical contact is different. What is the purpose of intercepting a drone?

HERTLING: Well, for intercepting a drone, Oren's race track pattern picture that he showed, you know, that drone was probably flying, collecting Intelligence, either on Russian ships or merchant ships that were coming out of Odesa with grain as part of the embargo of Ukraine during this period of time.

Certainly, the Russians don't like that. They don't like people to know where their ships are, they don't know people that know what's going on in their area of operation.

So this is not a killer drone. This is a drone that collects Intelligence and Communications. So they want it out of the area, even though it's in international waters, and has every right to be there doing the things that it's doing.

So it's an Intelligence collection platform, Anderson, either on Russian military operations or merchant operations to make sure that embargo goes as it's supposed to go.

COOPER: But in normal -- I mean, an intercept like that where there is not physical contact, that doesn't drive the drone off its mission, does it?

HERTLING: No, certainly not. But you've got to remember, too, Anderson, this isn't an aircraft that can kind of avoid other aircraft coming into their way. It doesn't have a pilot that can turn his head both ways or quickly maneuver a slow moving jet or excuse me, a slow moving turbo engine plane out of the area.

So to have two jets approach this thing and knock it off course, just again shows the unsafe, unprofessional way the Russians are doing business. You know a drone isn't going to react like an F-16 does, where they can counter the maneuver and those are the kinds of aircraft that are usually intercepted or scrambled when the Russians and other NATO forces get involved in these kinds of intercept missions.

COOPER: Is this something that would have come from higher up the chain of command in Russia? Or could it have just been, you know, two pilots who are bored and, you know, or one rogue pilot?

HERTLING: Yes, that's the first thing that hit me, Anderson. I kind of think that certainly, you know, patrol planes are out there looking for drones looking for Intelligence collection assets, but the fact that it collided, you know, I would put money -- I'd give it Vegas odds of 60/40 that this was just an overanxious pilot who couldn't control his airplane, or who did some really dumb things.

I don't believe anybody ordered this pilot to do that. He may have gotten permission to dump fuel and to get close, but to actually knock that drone out of the sky, that takes it up a notch. You know, I will tell you a quick story, Anderson, when I was Commander in US Army Europe, we used to have conferences with our partners at USAFE, the US Air Force Europe, and I remember a General officer at USAFE, not the Commander once telling me that one of his big concerns and big challenges in the area was how unsafe Russian pilots were when they did these intercept missions.

And he said, hey, one day we're going to have problems with this and somebody is going to get hurt. I'll never forget him saying that and that is directly from the mouth of an ex-F-16 pilot.

COOPER: General Hertling, I really appreciate it. Thank you.

This, of course, is unfolding as Russia continues to bombard Ukraine from the air targeting infrastructure, civilian areas.

For more in both stories, the drone first, let's go to Eastern Ukraine, CNN's Ivan Watson.

So you hear about the State Department summoning the Russian Ambassador. I'm wondering if there's other reaction this incident you're getting from Russia?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, first, it was the Defense Ministry that confirmed that this incident did in fact take place, and I'll repeat some of their arguments.

They are saying, that is Moscow, that the Reaper, this unmanned aerial vehicle was approaching Crimea with its transponder off, and that the two Russian jets were then scrambled.

Again, the Russian Defense Ministry insisting that no weapons were used against the drone and that there was no contact whatsoever. And there, there is a direct contradiction with what The Pentagon has been saying has taken place there.

I also found it interesting that the Russian Ambassador specifically said that Russia does not want confrontation with the US. He did use some diplomatic language here, but he added that the fact that this drone was flying towards Russian air space, where Russia has imposed rules in connection to what it calls its special military operation, what the rest of the world calls its invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war here and that was basically a provocation and that the Russian jets responded -- Anderson.

COOPER: You know, the Kremlin has been making this argument that what's happening in Ukraine is really a proxy war with the West. There is a lot of rhetoric about that among, you know, Russian supporters of the Kremlin policy. I assume this kind of feeds more into the propaganda along those lines from the Russian standpoint.

WATSON: Look, I'm speculating here, but having watched a lot of Russian state media and some of the fire-breathing commentators there. They continually tell the Russian television viewing audience, they frame this as a war between Russia and the US and NATO here in Ukraine, not just against Ukrainian soldiers. Of course, we know that neither NATO nor the US have officially sent any troops to battle on the ground here, but that's the way they frame it.

So I can anticipate that there will be voices within the Kremlin controlled media that will be celebrating the downing of a US UAV in part because there have not been very many big successes that the Russian military can point to throughout the course of the more than a year of fighting here, with daily deaths and losses along the frontlines.

COOPER: Ivan Watson in Eastern Ukraine. Ivan, thanks very much.

Coming up next, former Attorney General Eric Holder joins us on a range of subjects including a significant voting rights case and new reporting into the Justice Department and SEC have both launched investigations into the failure of Silicon Valley Bank.

Later tonight, where weather is the worst right now, several feet of snow in some parts of the country and where it's going next.



COOPER: Just two days after the Federal government took action in the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, it appears the immediate financial damage has passed. Markets finished the day on an upswing and shares in similar sized banks also recovered.

The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission have now opened investigations into one of the banks, Silicon Valley, that's according to sources familiar with the matter, one of whom told CNN the probes are in their preliminary stages.

Joining us talked about the bank collapse and what the DOJ would be investigating and also a major voting rights case going on in North Carolina is Eric Holder who served as Attorney General during the Obama administration.

Mr. Attorney General, appreciate you joining us.

First, I want to ask you about the DOJ, their investigation to the Silicon Valley Bank collapse. Is that something you think is warranted? What would that look like?

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER US ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it's hard to know exactly what the contours of the investigation are going to look like. I mean, we're at the beginning stages of many investigations that they would conduct.

But my guess would be that you'd start looking at people who ran the bank and whether or not they made stock trades that are close in time to the problems that the bank had, and then you would broaden the investigation to look at whether or not there is any underlying conduct, inappropriate conduct, potentially criminal conduct that led to the bank's failure.

It's a question of whether or not it was, you know, malfeasance as opposed to negligence. But I would guess, I guess without knowing that the first parts of the investigation would look at any stock trades.

COOPER: And that is the reporting on it, that they would be probing stock sales that SVB officers made days before the bank failed. Any stock sales that would be a big red flag.

HOLDER: Yes, potentially. You know, if stock trades are made close in time to something a negative happening to the bank that immediately raises suspicions. Now, it is entirely possible that you know the stock trades were made on a schedule that just happened to coincide with the collapse of the bank.


COOPER: Right.

HOLDER: But that is certainly something that the Justice Department would want to look at as well as the SEC in the beginning stages, and I think it broadens from there to look at exactly why did the bank fail? What was the role of the people who were running the bank in connection with that failure?

COOPER: There's also these indications in New York that the former President could be soon indicted by a Manhattan grand jury in connection with hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels, would that impact or damage in any way the election related investigations in Georgia and Washington, DC, as well as the inquiry into the Mar-a-Lago documents?

HOLDER: No, not really. I mean, these are investigations and potential indictments that are running on different tracks. And so what happens in connection with Stormy Daniels in New York really won't impact the January 6 investigation, the investigation into the classified documents or the investigation that's going on in Fulton County.

I think, interestingly, you could have some overlap between what's going on in Fulton County and a potential January 6 investigation, where you might say the President tried to obstruct the ongoing -- the transfer of power and bring into that case that might be cited here, a Federal case it might be cited here in Washington, DC, bring into that case, what he said and that was recorded in Georgia where he's asking for that 11,780 votes or whatever it was. That can be a specification in a conspiracy charge in Washington, DC, though the conduct actually, at least part of the conduct actually happened in Georgia.

COOPER: You're focused right now very much on the re-hearing of this redistricting thing case in North Carolina. The GOP lawmakers they lost the case at the State level last year, appealed to the US Supreme Court. They're also having this redo at the North Carolina Supreme Court since they now have a Republican majority on the bench there.

Talk a little bit about this case why you're so focused on it, why you think it's so egregious. HOLDER: It's a pretty breathtaking thing what Republicans are trying to do in North Carolina. When they drew the maps, the original maps and tried to redistrict the State both at the State legislative level and with regard to the House of Representatives, they drew maps that the previous iteration of the North Carolina Supreme Court said were unconstitutional gerrymanders.

And to give you a sense of that, one of the people who was responsible for the drawing of that gerrymandered mat said that, you know, what we're trying to do was to draw a map that had 11 to three -- 11 Republicans, three Democrats. The North Carolina Supreme Court said no, you can't do that.

North Carolina is a pretty much a 50/50 state. President Biden lost the State by about two percent. Governor Cooper is a Democrat and now serves as Governor. After the previous iteration of the Supreme Court looked at the case and decided the maps were unfair gerrymanders and new maps were drawn, guess what? You had a congressional delegation that was seven to seven, seven Democrats, seven Republicans.

The North Carolina Supreme Court flips. The only Court that flips from Democrat to Republican control, and now, it appears that this new iteration of the North Carolina Supreme Court is looking at a decision that was only put in place, I guess, three, four or five months ago by the Supreme Court of the same State, and may reverse that case.

And you know, what's bothersome about this is that this is a decision that could be based on personnel as opposed to principle and precedent. And it is also something that is disturbing, because it's consistent with what we're seeing in the United States Supreme Court. The overturning of Roe, I think is a function of personnel, not principle and not adherence to precedent.

COOPER: Are there national implications on this? I mean, could the repercussions -- are the repercussions nationally, if the legal theory involving in the case, the Independent State Legislature Doctrine is upheld in the Court?

HOLDER: Yes. I mean, that's something that is before the Supreme Court. The Independent State Legislature Doctrine says that Courts should not have any role in the redistricting determination. It's an affront to our notion of checks and balances.

The Independent State Legislature Theory says that only State Legislatures, not the Courts, not the Governor in terms of a veto, only State Legislatures can have the ability to make determinations about what redistricting looks like.

And as I said, you had -- when I talked about that person in North Carolina, that legislator who said they were trying to draw a map of 11 to three in a 50/50 State, you would have legislators and legislatures around the country, you know, Republican-controlled generally who would draw these maps that would try to keep themselves in power, regardless of how the people in that State, you know, wanted to vote. So the case has national implications.

COOPER: Eric Holder, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

All right, coming up, CNN new polling on the 2024 Republican presidential race, which candidates and potential candidates do voters like in a head-to-head matchup and some interesting findings when you actually dig deeper into the numbers.

John King is at the Magic Wall with all the details. He joins us, next.



COOPER: New CNN polling is out on the 2024 presidential race giving insight on potential head-to-head matchups among Republicans including a likely battle between former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. There are also some interesting breakdowns on the electorate.

CNN's John King joins us with the numbers.

So what does the poll say about potential Republican primary voters' top choice for the nominee right now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating, Anderson, and forgive the old map. But I want to do this in the context of 2016 when Donald Trump had the crowd in the competitive Republican primary.

So where are we right now as we look ahead to 2024? Let's start right there.

The first choice, forgive me for turning my back, I just want to stretch this out a little bit. Right now, right now about 11 months before anybody votes, this is a Trump-DeSantis race at the top, 40 percent for the former President, 36 percent for the Florida Governor, margin of error, four percent. That's statistically a dead heat really.

Mike Pence, the former Vice President at six percent. Governor Haley at six percent. A handful of others at two percent and one percent prospective candidates and likely candidates there.

But if you look at it right now, a crowded likely field with Trump and DeSantis locked at the top and, Anderson, just for the sake of argument, just use your imagination. Make Cruz, DeSantis; Rubio is Haley; Kasich is say Pompeo, right? Governor Sununu might get into the race. This is what Republicans worry about.

Because if you go back to 2016, yes, Ted Cruz won Iowa, but just barely. Donald Trump in the end, ended up getting a lot of those delegates. Then you come over to the State of New Hampshire which is next. Donald Trump wins with just 35 percent, but Republicans have winner take all or mostly winner take all. Winner take most rules, 35 percent. I could go on through them but here's what Republicans are worrying about. If you see Donald Trump in that poll, he is pretty strong, right?


And so, if you have a bunch of other candidates, and you lump them all together, let's say you're Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, if you took their performance in 2016, they got 50 percent combined.

Donald Trump, though, won the nomination most of the time getting high 20s and 30 percent because of the crowded field. So that's the conversation among Republicans. Yes, DeSantis at the top with Trump right now. But what about all those others? It doesn't that help Trump.

COOPER: When you break it down by education, what does the poll say?

KING: Fascinating. The biggest divide in American politics right now -- or one of the biggest divides anyway is education. And that is true in the Republican Party as well. Again, forgive me while I stretch this out. This is Trump's base, right, non-college educated Republicans. 48 percent of them, nearly half of them support Donald Trump.

But DeSantis is competitive, 34 percent among Republicans are likely Republican primary voters who do not have a college degree. Look at those who do have a college degree. This is DeSantis' strength, 41 percent more traditional Republicans, Trump at 23 percent. Pence and Haley well behind them. So you have issue divides, ideological divides, but education is a big divide.

COOPER: And when it comes to what's most important about a potential Republican nominee, what is that?

KING: This is interesting, and again, you could argue it benefits Trump. If you ask issues, the economy is by far number one, then immigration behind that. But look at this question. What's more important in a nominee that they can beat Biden or that you agree with them? They agree with you on most issues.

Nearly six in 10 of possible Republican primary voters say agree on the issues. 41 percent say beat Biden. Donald Trump obviously lost to Joe Biden. A lot of Republicans don't want to process that. But he did. So this helps Donald Trump. And also, everyone, DeSantis is -- that's also explains to you why so many candidates are running like Trump in the primaries because they understand the new Republican electorate is Trumpy and they want a candidate that agrees with them.

COOPER: John, stay with us. I want to bring in Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as White House Director Communications in the previous administration. Also CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, Co- Anchor of CNN State of the Union.

Alyssa, if you're looking at your former boss, President Trump, looking at these poll numbers, what does he see? ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm sure he's a bit threatened by how much Ron DeSantis is gaining on him. I mean, they are statistically in a dead heat right now. But I would caution this. I think 40 percent -- there's a theory of the case that 40 percent is kind of a high watermark for Donald Trump. So long as he maintains that and doesn't lose it, this race is his.

And I've seen him operate on the national stage enough to know that a lot of folks will ultimately consolidate around him. Now we're nearly two years out, I don't want to make pronouncements too quickly. DeSantis has a lot more to prove than Trump does. With Trump, not many Americans minds aren't already made up about him.

So for him to be pulling at 40 percent is actually quite remarkable. That means he still has an incredible hold on the Republican base. So the open question now is Ron DeSantis' staying power. When it starts coming to, you know, are you going to talk to the mainstream press? How does he play in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and in a head to head and potentially on the debate stage with Donald Trump? And we just don't have that yet.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Dana, I mean, the numbers aren't good, as Alyssa says, for Governor DeSantis, he hasn't been, to her point, you know, tested on the national stage. Do you think he benefits politically by not officially being in the race yet?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's unclear whether it matters that much at this early stage, whether he is officially in or not, because there's so much attention on him, particularly from the donors, from the electorate, as our poll shows, who are not necessarily pro-Trump. And so that is -- again, because we're so early, it almost doesn't necessarily matter whether he's official or not.

What we don't know is as we get, you know, as the calendar flips, and as we get closer to debates, as we get closer to the actual voting, whether or not DeSantis is going to be a Governor Scott Walker, of Wisconsin, back in '20, I guess '15, who was everybody --

COOPER: That's a blast during the past.

BASH: -- and then collapsed.

COOPER: That seems like a million years ago.

BASH: I know. Well, it's true. I mean, it's almost analogous. It will kind of is a million years ago in politics. But if that's the question is whether or not he is somebody like that.

COOPER: Yes. John, what is the polls -- I mean, given that the former president continues to speak about the 2020 election obsessively, what does the polls say about Republicans and their view of the legitimacy of the 2020 election?

KING: Anticipating the question, I switched the map. Donald Trump loves that 2016 map. He does not like this map. This is 2020. Joe Biden won and he won convincingly. But you raise a key point. This is again, an interesting question, as the Republican primaries and caucuses play out, and again, it's why some of the candidates don't want to talk.

Some do. Mike Pence started to talk more about January 6. Most Republicans don't want to touch this subject because look at this. 63 percent, nearly two-thirds of possible Republican primary voters still say Joe Biden did not win enough votes to be legitimately elected president. Joe Biden won enough votes. He's the legitimate president of the United States.


But 63 percent of Republicans still say no when you ask them that question and answer again. That tells you how much Donald Trump has changed the Republican Party. Not just on issues, but on the idea that -- if he says an election doesn't count, it doesn't count, because this is what happened in 2020. Plain and simple.

COOPER: I mean, Alyssa, it's incredible, 63 -- that number of Republicans who believe they didn't get the votes?

GRIFFIN: Well, it is, it's remarkable. And I mean, I think it's indicative of the fact that we live in an echo chamber media environment. A lot of folks who believe that are probably listening to one source of media and not getting the other side of it.

But actually found the most remarkable is that 59 percent who say they care more about a candidate who they agree with and actually winning. I mean, as a Republican, we haven't won in some time, and we haven't won a popular vote in 20 years. You would think if you care about the issues, you'd think also like, who's my fighter who can win and accomplish as many of those issues as possible?

That stands out to me quite a bit. I tend to think that does favor someone like a Trump, who's going to gravitate toward where the base pulls him.

COOPER: Dana, during the forum President's speech last night, some of the biggest applause lines were about education, parental rights, critical race theory, which is obviously, Governor DeSantis has focused heavily on. Could this be a primary season where we hear less about tabletop issues and more about culture wars or it's just too early to tell?

BASH: Right now, absolutely. A lot more about those cultural issues. I mean, again, if you kind of go back in time to 2015-2016 at the beginning of the last Republican primary season, it was, I mean, there were some sort of cultural issues, if you want to call the former president's arguments about immigration, cultural, he talked about it as a security issue. But it was a lot more than that. We know that.

This time around, he is really just jumping in to some of the issues that we didn't hear from him pretty much at all. Never mind during his campaign before the first or second time, but even during his presidency, and he's doing it because he sees it. That is where that portion of the electorate is.


BASH: And he also sees that that's what Governor DeSantis is doing in Florida.

COOPER: Yes. Alyssa, you know, the DeSantis has changed his position now on Ukraine. So that aligns with the former president's position.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And I think that I was very surprised to see the response to it. Of course, the MAGA wing of the GOP was very pleased. I knew that Ron DeSantis worked with him when he was in the house. He had the complete opposite side. He wanted to arm Ukraine to the teeth following the 2014 invasion of Crimea.

I saw a lot of mainstream Republicans say it was a huge misstep on his part, and people who are still based Republican voters. That's where I worry about that DeSantis may not be properly battle tested in the sense that some of his core convictions I'm not sure are laid out. I will note his book did very well. People are clearly interested to know and what he believes and what he has to say. But there's been a little bit of flip flopping there that I think could catch up with him.

COOPER: Yes. Alyssa Farah Griffin, thanks so much. Dana Bash, John King as well, appreciate it.

Just ahead, some counties in Eastern Oregon are trying to secede and join Republican dominated Idaho. CNN's Kyung Lah is there with the latest and they just got a big lift in making that dream a reality.

Also former First Lady Michelle Obama, talking about the intense spotlight of being the first black family to occupy the White House in a new book and podcast.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF UNITED STATES: You know, one small misstep isn't just a misstep for you, but it's a misstep for your family, for your community, for your race, for all of humanity because we don't often get a second chance.




COOPER: Talk of secession or national divorce has been a staple of far right politics for a while but now some rural counties in Eastern Oregon want to secede and join the Republican neighbor Idaho. Politicians there are rolling out to welcome that. CNN's Kyung Lah has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SANDIE GILSON, GREATER IDAHO MOVEMENT: It's extremely frustrating. The rules and regulations that they're making that make sense in the city don't make sense out here.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Out here in Eastern Oregon, the expansive rural region and Sandie Gilson's home where we're walking is world away from the urban cities of the state.

LAH (on-camera): Do you have anything in common with Portland?

GILSON: Oh, sure. We're all people.

LAH (voice-over): But she says that's about it. And the science dotting the East tell you what many people here want known as the greater Idaho movement. Redraw the state line. So liberal Portland and the other democratic cities are Oregon and Eastern Oregon overwhelmingly Republican joins largely conservative Idaho.

Nearly all of Oregon 17 Eastern county governments have approved plans to leave and form a larger Idaho resembling the logo on Sandie Gilson's hats.

(on-camera): Is this about politics or differences?

GILSON: Both. We are very different people. I don't believe that the Oregon government as a whole and the super majority that has been in power there for many decades, is listening to Eastern Oregon at all.

BARBARA EHARDT, IDAHO STATE HOUSE: It just overwhelmingly hit me this makes sense.

LAH (voice-over): So much so that Idaho State Representative Barbara Ehardt, a Republican, co-sponsored a bill to begin dialogue with Oregon.

EHARDT: This is where all the big decisions are made for the Idaho legislature.

LAH (voice-over): The bill passed the Idaho House and is now before the Senate. Idaho's government is officially on a path to redraw its state line for the first time since 1864.

EHARDT: Is it possible? I believe it is. That's when your government will no longer listen to you? What do you do? We don't want them to start an internal, you know, war battle. But at some point, that's what people are going to turn to if they can't be listened to. So they're turning to us.

LAH (on-camera): The country is so torn apart right now by ideology.


LAH (on-camera): Is this your vision of peace?

EHARDT: It is one of the solutions. Yes. ILANA RUBEL, IDAHO STATE HOUSE: Are we going to carve Georgia out of Atlanta? Are we going to carve Austin out of Texas? Are we going to slice Michigan? It's a ridiculous road to start to go down.


LAH (voice-over): State Representative Ilana Rubel knows all about being a political minority. She's a Democrat in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and voted against the state bill.

(on-camera): Are you surprised that it has already gotten this far?

RUBEL: I'm saddened but I'm not surprised. We are in a time I think of unprecedented partisanship and hostility. We heard Marjorie Taylor Greene calling for the breakup of America because it's so unbearable, apparently, for people of different political ideologies to be living together.

MATT MCCAW, GREATER IDAHO MOVEMENT: We don't think of ourselves as secessionist movement. We see ourselves as a self-determination movement.

LAH (on-camera): Are you hearing from other places around the country?

MCCAW: Yes, we are hearing from all over the country because this is not a problem that's unique to the state of Oregon.

LAH (voice-over): Matt McCaw used to live in Portland, but moved east where he was born frustrated by pandemic policies of the city. Laws should match the citizens, he says.

MCCAW: We can match people up to government they want and everybody gets the government they want and the political tension goes down.

LAH (on-camera): Should this happen in other places?

MCCAW: Yes, I believe we should. And I think that most Americans agree. We should try to get people government that they want.

GILSON: Portland's changed. Salem's changed. Eugene has changed.

LAH (on-camera): What do you say when the people of those cities say that they're changing with the times, and that's the America of today?

GILSON: They say it's more progressive to have government tell you what to do. But the people here haven't changed.


COOPER: So Kyung, Idaho's government is passing legislation to open talks with Oregon but there's still a bunch of hurdles to cross before talking about redrawing lines from the 1800s?

LAH: Yes, exactly. I mean, a bunch of hurdles. Yes, there has been progress in Idaho. But there's a similar measure in Oregon, and that hasn't quite gotten traction yet. But if these two states agree, if they redraw state lines, there's an even bigger hurdle, and that's that they need approval from Congress.

But let's just say that all of this does happen. How would this look? Well, this is Oregon, where I'm standing here on this side of the river. On the other side of the river over there, that is Idaho. Where I'm standing here in Oregon, this would become Idaho. Just like 250 miles to my north, to my west, and to my south. All of this would form a new giant Idaho.

It would be one of the largest geographic states in the entire country. Anderson, organizers say it would be about the size of Montana.


LAH: Anderson?

COOPER: Kyung Lah, thank you. Appreciate it.

Just ahead, massive storms lashing both coasts tonight. The latest on the sphere rain is now expanding into Southern California. Thousands under evacuation orders there, hundreds of thousands without power. Also a nor'easter has forced airports to cancel flights and brought them as 3 feet of snow to parts of New England. We'll the latest in both storms coming up.



COOPER: Severe weather on both coasts tonight. Those heavy rains pounding California now extending as far south as San Diego. Tens of millions are under flood alert. Flash floods possible in Central and Northern California as well. The central region is also experiencing hurricane force wind gusts.

There's more snow expected this year in Nevada's which has already hit a record snow level for this time of the year. Thousands under evacuation orders, more than 330,000 are without power. On the East Coast, hundreds of thousands also without power after nor'easter grounded flights in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and dumped nearly 3 feet of snow so far in New England.

CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now with the latest. So I know you're in Central Massachusetts, what air conditions like there?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, here in Worcester, Massachusetts, I like to say that we have movie snow, right, that real life Winter Wonderland unfolding behind me. But it took an entire winter season to get our first nor'easter along the eastern seaboard and it delivered. In fact, over 30 inches of very heavy wet snow and that brought problems to the ground and also to the skies. Take a listen.


VAN DAM (voice-over): An intense nor'easter is bringing heavy snow, winds and coastal flooding across the Northeast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do expect that it's going to come back with a vengeance as a front comes through and pushes everything out that winds going to pick up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have about 2 to 3 inches falling every hour.

VAN DAM (voice-over): Parts of New York and New Jersey both under a state of emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This can be a foot of snow. So this is a meaningful storm.

VAN DAM (voice-over): The New York State Department of Transportation doing what it can to keep the roads clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, always keep an eye on the weather. Don't drive if you don't have to. When there's weather, you've got to give yourself time.

VAN DAM (voice-over): A Delta Airlines Airbus partially, quote, exited off a taxiway at a Syracuse airport, according to the company. Delta did not confirm if the incident was storm related. However, winter weather did cause a ground delay at LaGuardia Airport through the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So one delay after another, hopefully, we're not stuck overnight.

VAN DAM (voice-over): Hundreds of thousands of people are without power across the Northeast, according to

CRAIG HALLSTROM, PRESIDENT, REGIONAL ELECTRIC OPERATIONS, CONNECTICUT & MASSACHUSETTS: Certainly never drive over a downed wire. You know, respect to crews and their work areas.

VAN DAM (voice-over): The winter weather forcing school districts in Nashua, New Hampshire and Western Massachusetts to close

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest concern for the resident is to make sure they're staying home and they stay safe.

VAN DAM (voice-over): The nor'easter is forecast to continue over parts of the Northeast and Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just get enough food to last a couple of days. Dig out maybe, you know, next two days and then go from there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm alive in spirit and I love the snow. I love all the weather. I live in New England. Come on.


VAN DAM: So Anderson, I mentioned that this is a very heavy wet snow so it's sticking to all the branches and to all the power lines. Now the real trouble comes into play tonight when the winds pick up out of the Northeast. That's why we call it a nor'easter. So the potential for power outages still continues tonight. Anderson?

COOPER: Derek Van Dam, appreciate it. Thanks.

Up next former First Lady Michelle Obama speaking about the responsibility that she says she and her family felt during her White House years since the first black first family and why avoiding any mistakes or missteps was so important to her.



COOPER: Former First Lady Michelle Obama's opening up more about her family's White House days and her new light -- The Light Podcast. Ms. Obama -- Mrs. Obama says her family felt a sense of responsibility to represent the black community. Take a listen.


OBAMA: The mission during those eight years was bigger than just my voice.


OBAMA: You know, we were the first. Hopefully not the only, but we were the first. And when you're the first at stuff, especially the first in the biggest spotlight, the world watching you, you don't want to mess it up, you know, and you want to make sure that you are representing.

You know, I talk about this in the boom, the challenges when you are the first or an only, you are carrying a tray of other people's expectations along with you on the journey. You know, one small misstep isn't just a misstep for you but it's a misstep for your family, for your community, for your race for all of humanity because we don't often get a second chance.


COOPER: Mrs. Obama opening up in a way she hasn't before about her time in the White House promoting her third book, "The Light We Carry", which dives into how she's dealt with relationships, self- doubt, and anxiety.

The CNN Primetime Special "Inside the Madness: Basketball, Brackets and Business" starts now.