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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Michael Cohen May Be Called Back To Testify In Hush Money Probe To Push Back On Trump Attorney Testimony; Appeals Court Rule Trump Attorney Must Testify Before Grand Jury In Documents Probe; DeSantis- Trump Battle Heats Up; DeSantis On Trump Nicknames: "Call Me Whatever You Want Just As Long As You Call Me A Winner"; Trump Attacks Back Saying, "We Don't Want Ron As Our President"; Missile Attacks In Southern Ukraine Kill One, Injure At Least 23; Drone Strikes Kill At Least Eight In Kyiv Region; Missile Attacks In Zaporizhzhia Kill At Least One; Biden Administration Says Strikes Certainly Could Be Targeted At Civilians; Manhattan Grand Jury Will Meet Again Today; Sled Assigning More Agents To The Stephen Smith Homicide Investigation; Tough Times For Virgin Orbit And Virgin Galactic. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 20:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ARFF 439, make sure you hold short runway 10.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ARFF 439, you were supposed to hold short runway 15R.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And this coming to light after another incident which involved a Southwest plane at Burbank Airport in Los Angeles is coming to light. That plane was diverting from its landing because it had to avoid colliding with a helicopter, which was practicing touch and go landings on the same runway.

Thanks for joining us. AC 360 begins now.



Two big pieces tonight of the former President's multifaceted legal saga. One going more slowly than perhaps some, including perhaps the former President might have expected. And tonight, we know why; the other, comparatively moving at warp speed.

Now, the slow case is Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's grand jury probe of the Stormy Daniels' hush money case. No indictments again today.

A source telling CNN's John Miller that Bragg's office is trying to decide whether to call back former fixer, Michael Cohen to rebut defense testimony from Monday. We also learned just how much money the former President has already

raised since claiming over the weekend that he'd been indicted by yesterday. His campaign telling FOX today they've taken in $1.5 million. So making up a story that you'd be indicted yesterday has paid off for the former President in donations.

And as all of this plays out, one of the former President's Capitol Hill enabler showed again today he's not willing to back up his words with evidence.

Senator Rand Paul, for a second straight day, refusing to say why DA Bragg should be, in the words of his tweet yesterday, "put in jail."


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Paul, what law did Alvin Bragg break that he needs to go to jail? Why do you think he needs to be in jail? Senator Paul?


COOPER: That's the slow moving case.

The faster one being the Federal classified documents probe. Last night, we learned that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals had just demanded legal filings from both sides by this morning. Arguments on whether to set aside attorney-client privilege and compel additional testimony and documents from that man, Trump's attorney, Evan Corcoran.

Now by late this afternoon, the Court had ruled against Corcoran who a source tells us is now scheduled to testify this Friday. This upholds what sources say the Judge, Beryl Howell's sealed finding that prosecutors have enough evidence to meet the crime fraud exception to attorney-client privilege, which is a rare thing.

Evidence showing that Corcoran's interactions with the former President were part of a possible crime. That is stunning in and of itself, and remarkable in the sheer speed of it all.

So, there is a lot to get through tonight. We start here in New York with CNN's Paula Reid.

Paula, what is the latest?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We've learned that the District Attorney's Office is weighing whether or not they should bring Michael Cohen back before the grand jury. He has already been before the grand jury twice, but as you may remember on Monday, attorney Robert Costello, he appeared before the grand jury at the request of Trump attorneys, and his role was to attack Cohen's credibility and he could do that because he previously represented Cohen back in 2018.

And he testified that at that time, Cohen told him that these hush money payments were his idea. And of course, that contradicts what Cohen has said subsequently.

So now, prosecutors are trying to figure out, okay, do we need to bring Cohen back to buttress our case? Or should we bring another witness back to button things up before moving on to a vote for an indictment?

Now, the other big question is, you know, they're just going to take a little bit of time, the question is how much, as they, we are told, reflect on the historic nature of what they might be starting to do, and also just kind of recombobulate after this unexpected event on Monday, right?

Prosecutors run the show at the grand jury. They didn't expect the defense to request this witness.

COOPER: They're also under intense pressure. So it would be interesting to see how they respond to that. Is there any -- is it clear right now this is viewed by the former President?

REID: Yes. Well, publicly, he embraces it. Right? He even speculates about a possible arrest and in the same breath fundraises and calls for protest. Behind the scenes, we're told that he does believe this is unfair, but he and his advisers have resigned to the fact that it is likely that he will be indicted.

But he is trying to play it to his political advantage, right? He is very good at framing himself as the victim, trying to become a martyr, which is part of why he wants to appear in person and at least one of his attorneys suggested, hey, maybe we could try to request a remote hearing for security reasons.

He did not want anything to do with that. He wants to appear. He wants the spectacle, if he is indicted.

COOPER: Do we know who the other witness is?

REID: The other potential witness that they may bring forth?


REID: We don't know. I mean, there are certainly some possibilities. We know for example, Stormy Daniels has spoken with investigators. She has never gone before the grand jury, but we don't have any reporting that suggests she is the other one on deck. But they have to find some way to sort of buttress their case before moving on to a vote on a possible indictment.

They clearly feel whatever Costello said Monday, changed the dynamic here and they need to do a little repair.

COOPER: All right, Paula Reid, stay with us.

I want to bring in CNN senior legal analyst and former Federal prosecutor, Elie Honig. His newest book is "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It." Also CNN senior political commentator, Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. So, Elie, the grand jury didn't meet today and as Paula reported, the

DA is weighing bringing Michael Cohen back. What does that tell you about where this may be going?


ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is a warning sign for prosecutors. And here is why. For the past many weeks, this has been a completely one-sided show. That's how grand juries work. This has been the prosecutors putting their witnesses in front of the grand jurors asking their questions, no defense lawyers, no cross examinations.

Now, there is a unique feature of New York State law that says a defendant, a potential defendant can offer his own evidence. Trump's team took that. They put in one witness, this Robert Costello, and all of a sudden, prosecutors are backtracking and they are wondering, do we need to rebut this guy?

If they believe Costello did no damage to their case, they would say, we're good. We don't need to rebut him. And the fact that they're considering this is a real problem because the grand jury is the easy part. Grand jury is a cakewalk for prosecutors.

All you need is a majority, not a unanimous jury like you would at trial. And all you have to prove your case is by probable cause down here, not beyond a reasonable doubt. So, if you're struggling with a grand jury, not a good time for trials.

COOPER: Scott, I don't know why the prosecutors would be surprised that Costello would say that Michael Cohen is a liar. I mean, Michael Cohen has lied for his entire career for Donald Trump. So I'm not sure what new Costello would have added into this.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it makes me think he might have added very specific things that were germane to getting the grand jurors to believing this theory that the DA here has. Remember, this is a seven-year-old misdemeanor about business records that is being contorted into a novel felony.

And so my -- I'm not a lawyer, Elie is the lawyer, but my instinct is, in order to pull off a high wire act like that, you're going to have pretty good balance. And if somebody comes in and knocks you off balance even a little, you could fall right off.

COOPER: Elie, falsifying business records. How serious -- I mean, are people -- I've been reading that there are a lot of people who get prosecuted for that in New York.

HONIG: Yes, it is a misdemeanor as Scott said, which means no one goes to prison for a misdemeanor. There is a way that it can be bumped up to what we call a Class E felony. It is the lowest level of felony. It goes A through E.

If they can show that the records were falsified in order to commit some second crime, there is a little bit of uncertainty about what that second crime would be here. The thinking is a campaign finance violation. These hush money payments were designed to protect Donald Trump electorally, as opposed to personally.

Even then though, it is important to note, even if that happens and he is convicted of that, quite likely, he is not even sentenced to prison.

COOPER: If there is an indictment, do we know what the timeline then is of the announcing -- I mean, does that immediately become known? How does it work?

REID: That's a great question. Here is what we know about the choreography.

If they vote to indict, the charges will be filed under seal and I am told that the District Attorney's office would then notify the defense attorneys that there has been an indictment, but not necessarily the charges. Then they would work together, both sides, to negotiate a self-surrender and an initial appearance, work together on those logistics.

I'm told that the former President would absolutely surrender, they would negotiate an initial appearance if he is indicted this week. That wouldn't be until next week.

Now, when might it leak? Well, based on my years and years of reporting on the former President and his attorneys, I think once his defense team knows they will likely inform their client. And at that point, it is possible that we could get a Truth Social post or something on social media, because that is, of course, what he did with Mar-a-Lago.

He broke the news about the duly executed search warrant. He framed it as a raid. If he can break the news, he can frame it the way he wants. And again, at that point, we could be acting in the absence of any knowledge about exactly what the charges are.

COOPER: So, prosecutors won't make a public statement about an indictment. They won't hold a press conference to announce it.

REID: At this point, my reporting is that they do not intend to treat this any differently than any other case. But of course, this is unlike any other case. But at this point, they do not intend to make any statement prior to that initial appearance.

COOPER: And Elie, there is reporting now about prior communications between Stormy Daniels and one of the former President's current attorneys.

HONIG: Right. So the lawyer here is Joe Tacopina. It turns out Joe Tacopina had communications with Stormy Daniels in the past, where she was talking to him about maybe being her lawyer, that probably is going to be an attorney-client relationship, meaning he owes her a duty of confidentiality.

So the question is what happens now? Can he still represent Donald Trump if Stormy Daniels is a witness against him? Now, this actually happens sometimes and what will happen is, the Judge is going to be very reluctant to throw Joe Tacopina off this case, because Judges respect a defendant's right to have his counsel of choosing.

So the Judge will probably ask Donald Trump, your lawyer, Joe Tacopina has this conflict. He used to represent a witness. Are you okay with that? And if Trump says, I get it, I'm okay with it, then they can proceed. But Tacopina will not be allowed to cross examine Stormy Daniels. He will have to wall himself off from that.

COOPER: Scott, I mean, I'm sure you've been asked this a million times. What do you think this means for the former President in terms of -- I mean, this case being brought forward? Does it hurt him? Is it something he should embrace and lean into?

JENNINGS: Well, he is very good at embracing and leaning into victimization and look, I'm just going to level with you guys. Most Republicans, even the people that don't want to vote for him again think that in the history of sex, no one has ever had to do as much paperwork about it as Donald Trump and the idea that you'd be charged with a crime for it seven years later, I mean, it is just -- by a DA by the way, who has downgraded a bunch of violent people while they're upgrading some seven-year-old sex paperwork case.


JENNINGS: So yes, he's going to lean into it. Republicans are obviously responding to it, they're raising money.

COOPER: Do you think it weakens the other potential charges?

JENNINGS: Yes. A hundred percent, because what they did in Georgia, quite obviously, deadly serious. The documents maybe, January 6, obviously. This one -- this one should not be your leadoff hitter. This ought to be bat ninth, if not on the bench.

COOPER: Elie, is it possible that Bragg is getting calls from other the other prosecutors involved in these other cases? Like what are you doing? Don't do this?

HONIG: Yes, it could be. I mean, we have no reporting to that effect. But you know, it's important to understand, these are all three separate sovereigns -- DOJ, the Fulton County DA, the Manhattan DA -- they all run their own shops. They don't have to report to each other.

If I was the king of all prosecutors and could get everyone together, I would say let's do the most serious one first. Let's do January 6 first, then let's move to classified documents. And I agree with Scott here, I would say either the Stormy Daniels thing goes last or not at all.

COOPER: All right, Elie Honig, Scott Jennings, Paula Reid, thank you so much.

Coming up next, more on the lying about the classified documents case. Today's Court defeat for the former President and what this says about the government's case against him.

Later, new developments in the death of a young South Carolina man found nearly eight years ago on a road in the low country. His death came to light in a big way with the Alex Murdaugh story. Now police are looking at his death as a homicide for the first time. Stephen Smith is his name. His mom joins me coming up.



COOPER: The former President has responded through a spokesperson to this afternoon's defeat in the DC Court of Appeals. Quoting the statement: "Prosecutors only attack lawyers when they have no case whatsoever." As we mentioned at the top, the panel ruling that Mr. Trump's attorney, Evan Corcoran, has to provide additional testimony and information in to the classified documents probe.

CNN's Sara Murray joins us now with more.

So talk more about exactly what the Court ruled today.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, what this Appeals Court said is that Evan Corcoran, Donald Trump's attorney is going to have to go back before the grand jury. He is going to have to provide additional testimony, that's slated currently for Friday.

And he is also going to have to hand over documents to prosecutors, and we are learning those documents include things like handwritten notes, as well as transcriptions of audio recordings and this comes after a Lower Court Judge decided that prosecutors presented enough evidence before her to show that Donald Trump may have committed a crime and he may have used his attorney to do that.

And because of that, that sort of pierces the attorney-client privilege. It means that no longer stands. Corcoran has to answer more questions and the Appeals Court upheld that decision.

Now, Trump's spokesperson, as you said is weighing in on this this evening saying: "There is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump. The real story here is that prosecutors only attack lawyers when they have no case whatsoever."

COOPER: Can you just remind viewers of the role that Evan Corcoran has played in the classified documents saga?

MURRAY: Yes, I mean, he is really a critical witness for prosecutors because he was sort of in the thick of all of this. I mean, remember last spring when Donald Trump got this subpoena to hand over any remaining documents at Mar-a-Lago with classification markings on it? Well, Evan Corcoran was one of the people who was involved in that search for documents. He was involved in crafting the statement they later provided to the government saying we've done this diligent search, you know, the one Christina Bobb signed, and these are all declassified documents that we can find. And then remember, we learned, of course, when the FBI showed up and

searched Mar-a-Lago, that that wasn't accurate. There were plenty of other documents floating around with classification markings.

So in January of this year, Evan Corcoran goes before the grand jury. He does his preliminary testimony, refuses to answer a bunch of questions and that sort of gets us to where we are now with this flurry of legal motions before these Courts, and ultimately, this decision by the Appeals Court that he has to go back in.

COOPER: Yes. Sara Murray, appreciate it.

I want to get some perspective now from CNN contributor, John Dean, who served as White House Counsel in the Nixon administration, and certainly familiar with presidents facing legal jeopardy; also Harvard Law School senior lecturer and former Federal Judge, Nancy Gertner.

John, how big a deal is this ruling from the Federal Court in Washington?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it is a big deal. It's a big deal, because contrary to Trump's take, he could be a remarkable witness with documents to corroborate his own statements. Apparently, he made contemporaneous notes that he dictated and then later transcribed.

And so this is real serious ruling, and the exception to the crime fraud rule shows that the Judge thinks there is probable cause, there is a crime here.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Judge Gertner, can you just explain how rare it is for a Judge to actually allow prosecutors to pierce the attorney- client privilege and the high bar that prosecutors have to clear for that to happen?

NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Well, in 17 years on the bench, I don't remember ever finding that the crime fraud exception had been met.

COOPER: Wow, really?

GERTNER: So, if there could be a notion -- you know, the privilege is a very significant privilege in the law. And so the notion that you set it aside if you believe that the client is using the privilege not to get legal advice, but to hide something, and since the key to the Mar-a-Lago case is whether Trump willfully retained classified documents, this kind of testimony could be very important.

If the lawyer essentially was told by Trump, don't worry, I'll take care of it and then drafted a document that said, we've done a diligent search when he hadn't, and he was in touch with Trump to the opposite effect, that it could have some significance here, but it's very unusual.

COOPER: Judge Gertner, just to be clear, I mean, the Court rulings in Washington, correct me if I'm wrong, it means that multiple Judges concur with the Department of Justice that they have evidence that the former President used his attorney in the furtherance of a crime. Is there any other interpretations of this?

GERTNER: No, not only that the speed with which they operated, it suggests that there really wasn't an issue here. Right? So Judge Howell issued the decision. She said -- the government said they wanted to appeal. She set a briefing schedule, the Court of Appeals rather set a briefing schedule that was a matter of hours, and they issued their decision a matter of hours later.

I mean, it suggested that there is no there, there on the former President's side. That is extraordinary in itself.

COOPER: And John, if prosecutors have compelling evidence that the former President used his attorney in furtherance of a crime, what part of the investigation do you think that would likely involve? Would you expect it to be the obstruction piece?


DEAN: It's hard to tell. As the Judge suggested, it could show his intent to willfully keep these documents contrary to the statute that makes him -- forces him to return them. They are classified and they're all sets of rules that govern classified documents and the government is very aggressive in going after this kind of information.

I don't think the government is comfortable that Trump indeed has turned over everything he might have. So that's probably giving them impetus to move quickly rather than slowly is on this case.

COOPER: Judge, it is not only that Corcoran is expected to testify, he is also being asked to turn over documents, including handwritten, transcribed verbal notes regarding his representation of the former President. What kind of evidence might prosecutors be looking for there? What's the advantage of that?

GERTNER: It would show what Trump knew. You know, when we first -- when the search took place, initially, people were wanting to characterize the documents at Mar-a-Lago as maybe it was a "whoops," you know, like the Pence documents, the documents that had been found in Vice President Pence's house or the documents found in President Biden -- then Vice President Biden's house. That was like, maybe it was an inadvertence.

This is going to be testimony that suggests that it was intentional, and the intentional retention of these documents is key to the crime.

COOPER: Nancy Gertner, John Dean, I appreciate it. Thank you.

As John Dean himself knows, his former boss was the gold standard, if you can call it that, for Presidents accused of serious crimes.

He is only one of two who have even come close to being indicted. The other of course, Bill Clinton, more in both now from CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five people have been arrested and charged with

breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the middle of the night.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): June 17, 1972, a break- in at the Watergate Building. President Richard Nixon denied any involvement.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I first learn from news reports of the Watergate break-in.

KAYE (voice over): Still at hearings held by the Senate Watergate Committee, witnesses testified about the voice activated taping system in the Oval Office. On those secret recordings, Richard Nixon can be heard talking about the Watergate break-in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When were those devices placed in the Oval Office?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Approximately the summer of 1970.

KAYE (voice over): Nixon invoked executive privilege and refused to give up the tapes to the special prosecutor until the Supreme Court forced him to.

NIXON: Play it tough. That's the best way they play it and that's the way we are going to play it.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN HISTORY COMMENTATOR: Nixon knew he was going to be indicted if he stayed in the White House, so the wolves were barking at his den.

KAYE (voice over): In fact, this document released in 2018 by the National Archives is the grand jury's draft indictment dated February 1, 1974.

It shows they planned to charge Nixon with several crimes, including obstruction of justice. Ultimately, Nixon was named as an unindicted coconspirator, and after the House Judiciary Committee passed three articles of impeachment against Nixon, he resigned in disgrace. The full House never voted on the Articles of Impeachment.

NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.

KAYE (voice over): His successor, President Gerald Ford pardoned him and Nixon was never indicted.

More than 20 years later, another President was staring down an indictment.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

KAYE (voice over): That was President Bill Clinton in January 1998, denying he had an affair with then White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. That same month he denied it again under oath during a deposition in a sexual harassment case brought against him by a woman named, Paula Jones.

Months later, he reversed course.

CLINTON: In the deposition in January, I was asked questions about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information. Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate.

KAYE (voice over): Clinton had perjured himself during that earlier deposition by falsely claiming he hadn't had sexual relations with Lewinsky. Lying under oath during a deposition is a felony.

BRINKLEY: There was very great drumbeat for him to have criminal charges, not just pressed against him, but to have him arrested for lying to the Federal government, for perjuring himself.

KAYE (voice over): Months later, during his grand jury testimony, Clinton explained whatever happened with Lewinsky in his eyes was not sexual relations.

CLINTON: They did not constitute sexual relations as I understood that term to be defined at my January 17, 1998 deposition, but they did involve inappropriate intimate contact.

KAYE (voice over): By then, the damage was done. Still Clinton avoided indictment by admitting in an agreement with the Independent Counsel that he gave false testimony under oath.


BRINKLEY: There was a whole slew of agreements that Clinton made just to kind of clean the air and to allow himself to have a noble post presidency.

KAYE (voice over): Randi Kaye, CNN.


COOPER: Coming up, Ron DeSantis is no longer just taking punches from the former President, he is now trying to throw some as well. The question is to what effect? We'll talk to David Axelrod, next.


COOPER: As these separate investigations into the former President heat up, his chief competitor for the Republican nomination, Ron DeSantis is striking back at the former President's repeated jabs at him. It's a change in approach for the Florida Governor and it comes in a new interview set to air in full tomorrow.

In one clip that was just released, DeSantis discusses the allegations of hush money payoffs for adult film actress Stormy Daniels. He criticizes the Manhattan DA, but also appears to criticize the former President's alleged behavior.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Well, I think there's a lot of speculation

about what the underlying conduct is that is purported to be it. And yes, the reality is that's just outside my wheelhouse. I mean, that's just not something that I can speak to.


COOPER: Governor DeSantis was also asked about the former President's penchant for giving his Republican opponents nicknames.


PIERS MORGAN, FOX NATION HOST: What is your favorite nickname that Trump has given you so far? Is it Ron DeSanctimonious or Meatball Ron?

DESANTIS: I can't --

MORGAN: Even he went off Meatball Ron, but --

DESANTIS: I can't -- I don't know how to spell DeSanctimonious. I don't really know what it means, but I kind of like it. It is long. It's got a lot of vowels, I mean, so we'll go with that. That's fine.

You know, you can call me -- you can call me whatever you want. I mean, just as long as you know, also call me a winner.



COOPER: Today, the former president responded to the interview who criticized the governor's record on COVID, crime and education. He also said this, "The fact is, Ron is an average governor, but the best by far in the country in one category, public relations, where he easily ranks number one. But it is all a mirage, just look at the facts and figures, they don't lie. And we don't want Ron as our president."

I'm joined now by CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Obama. David, I'm wondering what you make of the former president and governor DeSantis sort of finally directly taking the fight to each other. Although DeSantis is sort of doing it seemingly like reluctantly.


COOPER: Is that wise?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, it's -- isn't it ironic to hear Trump criticizing someone for being good at public relations? I mean, you know, he's a master brander and that's what he's all about. So he's kind of criticizing DeSantis for doing what he's done for so long. But DeSantis really got drawn into this current thing because Donald Trump, Jr. and others were baiting him and saying, "Why aren't you speaking out on behalf of the president against this obviously political prosecution in New York?" And so, he did what he's -- he did in that broadcast, but earlier to an audience, he said, "I don't know anything about what it's like to pay off a porn star -- you know, paid hush money to a porn star." But -- and then he slammed the prosecutor for being a dis -- you know a George Soros-supported left wing prosecutor who wants to politicize his prosecution. So, he did a little of both, right? And that's his message.

His message is, you can have Trumpism without the craziness and the chaos, and that's me. That's what I'm offering here. And I think you're going to see that again and again.

COOPER: I want to play just something else he said in that interview with Fox.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Just in terms of my approach to leadership. You know, I get personnel in the government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda. If you bring your own agenda in, you are gone, we're just not going to have that. So the way we run the government, I think is no daily drama, focus on the big picture, and put points on the board, and I think that that's something that's very important.


COOPER: Given that DeSantis clearly wants to campaign as Trump without the drama, as you said, is there any bigger gift than for him -- than the former president fuming all over the place about possibly being indicted?

AXELROD: No. Look, well , I think in the short term, the indictment that's pending in New York is a gift to Trump. I think it will rally his base. I think that it does underscore DeSantis' message, and as these things pile up, I think it will further emphasize his message that this is just too much baggage, OK. You may like trying -- I sat in -- Anderson, I sat in on a focus group with Republican voters in downstate Illinois for the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, and what they said almost to a person was we liked Trump. We think he was a good president. We don't think he got treated all that fairly. But he's just too much trouble. It reminds me, my mother used to say to me, I love you, I just hate the things you do.


And that's sort of how they feel about Donald Trump. They love him, but they kind of hate the things he does. I think it creates too much noise, too much static. That's what DeSantis is counting on.

COOPER: Although since -- because since December, DeSantis has gone from having a 13-point lead over the former president to trailing him by 14 points among Republican voters. Is that just because before people didn't really know much about Ron DeSantis and they just say they liked him because of the little they knew about him. And the more they hear about them, the more they don't like him. Or how do you read that?

AXELROD: Yeah -- look, I think some of it is the impact of Trump turning his -- training his fire on DeSantis and this is going to be -- you know, you poke the bear, the bear is going to poke you back, and this is something that DeSantis is going to have to endure. Presidential races are a gauntlet and you've got to run that gauntlet, and part of the gauntlet on the Republican side is that. But on the other -- on the other hand, Trump training his guns on DeSantis really signifies the fact that he believes DeSantis is his principal opponent, and for the half of the Republican Party that doesn't want Trump to be the nominee, then DeSantis looks more and more like the guy they should be with. And Trump is certifying him as such. So if he can stand up to the fire of Trump, this can actually strengthen him.

COOPER: David Axelrod, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, deadly missile attacks and drone strikes killing civilians today in Ukraine. Our Ivan Watson is at the site of one of those attacks, just ahead.



COOPER: Frightening video out of Ukraine, a missile strike in Zaporizhzhia has killed at least one and injured dozens. At least six missiles were fired. This one you see on your screen hit two residential buildings simultaneously. Many civilians were caught inside, some trapped under rubble, needing rescue. Officials say that the blast also damaged nearby buildings and infrastructure. President Zelenskyy called the attack 'bestial savagery.' Also today, at least eight people were killed in a wave of Russian drone attacks in the Kyiv region, again attacks on civilians. CNN'S Ivan Watson is on the ground where those missiles struck and has more.

IVAN WATSON, CNN'S SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Even now, at nighttime, you can see the destruction caused by what Ukrainian officials say was a Russian missile that hit these two nine- story apartment buildings around midday here in Zaporizhzhia, killing Ukrainian authorities say at least one person and wounding at least 32 more. Now, this city is located just about a half hour's drive from active frontlines, and it has been pummeled in the past by Russian missiles and rockets that have hit apartment buildings here with deadly results.

These buildings kind of face towards the southwest, and that is in the direction of Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory. So, you can kind of come to the conclusion that this deadly projectile would have flown from that direction. We can hear at night now, under cover of darkness, some residents in some of the neighboring apartments that have been badly damaged working in the dark, cleaning up rubble and shards of glass in what's left of their homes.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KYRYLO CHORNIY, SURVIVOR, UKRAINE: Missile hits his hair. And my apartment is -- there is kitchen, my parent's room and my room. When it happened, I heard a loud explosion. I saw the fire. And I covered my head.

WATSON (on camera): Powell (ph) and children, they're taking me up to their apartment. There right next to -- I mean, they're part of the same building that was hit today.

UNKNOWN, , SURVIVOR, UKRAINE: [Foreign Language].

WATSON (on camera): There's a crater right next door, in the side of the building. Powell (ph) says, this does not scare him. Please give us more weapons. Imagine how terrifying, how absolutely shocking it would have been if you were at home when this massive explosion took place, blowing in all the windows of the kitchen. And then to see just less than a stone's throw away, a huge crater in the side of your neighbor's building. And it leaves me with this question, "What possible strategic military goal could there be to fire deadly long- range missiles at people's homes?"


COOPER: And Ivan Watson joins us now from Ukraine. And how are residents coping with the aftermath of the attack?

WATSON: You know, Anderson, last week, I was in another Ukrainian city to the northeast of here. That was also, there was an apartment building also hit by Russian rockets, and there's some similarities. I arrive on the scene several hours later. Nobody's crying, nobody's complaining. Everybody's just going about the business of cleaning up, putting up sheets of wood over their windows that have all been shattered to stay warm. The family that I saw today, they were offered hotel rooms by the city government, but they want to be at their home, even though there's no electricity there, no heat there right now, but they say it's their home.

That young man that I talked to, he's 20 years old. He said, you know, there's something about the Russians, they always seem to be shooting at civilians, and he went on to say, "They destroy everything they touch." Again, nobody's complaining, but there is seething anger at the much larger neighbor that seems to be repeatedly firing at Ukrainian towns and cities. Last night, at least eight people killed in the Kyiv region by Iranian Shahed drones that the Ukrainians say hit dormitories near an educational institution. Anderson?

COOPER: I've been watching. I appreciate it. Thank you. Up next, one on one with the mom of Stephen Smith and her attorney on her son's mysterious death nearly eight years ago, which gained national attention during the Alex Murdaugh investigation. Her reaction to a crucial new step in the investigation of her son's death ahead.


[20:47:00] COOPER: Some breaking news on our top story, a source familiar with the Manhattan District Attorney's investigation of the former president telling CNN that the Grand Jury will reconvene tomorrow. You'll remember, our John Miller's reporting that D.A. Alvin Bragg is weighing whether to recall former Trump fixer Michael Cohen and possibly another witness. Now, unknown who, if anyone, will testify tomorrow. More on this in our next hour, Kaitlan Collins hosting a CNN Primetime Hour on the subject.

Next to South Carolina. The State's Law Enforcement Division or SLED is assigning more agents to the Stephen Smith homicide investigation. This in hopes that those who may know what happened to him are more willing to speak freely now. You may recall, his body was found in the middle of a rural Hampton County road in July of 2015. SLED said the 19-year-old nursing student died from blunt force trauma to the head. Investigators say there's no indication that Smith's death was caused by a hit and run as it was originally reported by a medical examiner. His family has raised concerns he may have been targeted because he was gay.

Back in June 2021, SLED reinvestigated the case for two weeks or I should say, two weeks after the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, based on information gathered during that investigation. They never revealed exactly what that information was. But it's important to note just this week, an attorney for Smith's mom said, "This is not an Alex Murdaugh 2.0 or any Murdaugh 2.0. This is the Steven Smith 2.0. It's all about Stephen." Just before airtime, I spoke with Stephen Smith's mom, Sandy and that Attorney Eric Bland.

Sandy, I appreciate you joining us. You have been fighting for nearly eight years now to get justice for your son. How do you feel now that the investigation has been -- is being looked at as a homicide now, finally?

SANDY SMITH, STEPHEN'S SMITH'S MOTHER: I'm just overwhelmed. I've been fighting. This is what I've been fighting for. And I'm finally getting it. And I don't know how to explain it, but I have a little bit of peace in my heart.

COOPER: Yeah. Do -- you know, as you said, you've been fighting to get more attention on and find out exactly what happened to your son, really from the beginning, and it has been nearly eight years now. It'll be eight years this July. Did you know -- I mean when -- early on, when they said, well, it looks like it was, you know, it was blunt force trauma, you know, in a motor vehicle accident. He was probably hit on the road, walking on the side of the road. Did you believe that at all?

SMITH: I did not. And I told them that. I said there's no way this is a hit and run. My son would not walk in that road.

COOPER: There were some -- at the time, some of law enforcement officials pointed out that there was no car debris. There was no skid marks. There was no sign of actually have -- there having been any kind of traffic accident or that he was hit by a car. I know, Sandy, you've raised I think more than $80,000 on a GoFundMe page to have his body exhumed. Are you planning to still go ahead to try to get a new autopsy for him?


SMITH: Absolutely. You know, from the beginning, I've always said that, you know, the pathologist is the voice for the dead. And the one who finalized his death certificate, I do not believe that she gave justice too much thought (ph). She did not speak his voice -- for his voice (ph).

COOPER: Sandy, you just want answers, and whether -- do you -- do you feel like you know what happened, Sandy? Are you open to -- open to whatever it's -- the evidence will show?

SMITH: I'm open to the evidence and the only dispute I had was that it was not a hit and run. And that's what I've been saying from the beginning, and I felt my son was murdered. He was beaten to death. And I think it was a hate crime and I don't care what your name is, that has no value to me. But who -- whatever your name is, you need to be punished for what you did to my son.

COOPER: Sandy, tell me if you could about Stephen? You -- I assume you knew he was gay. I mean, being openly gay in the low country, he sounds like a very brave young man.

SMITH: Oh, he was and I know a lot of people ask, well, how was it when he came out, and I said he never had to come out. He never had to say, "Hey, mom, I'm gay." He knew he was loved and his choices in life was his choices. And he did not have to answer to me or anybody else on who he was.

COOPER: Did you worry about him?

SMITH: Of course I mean, I worried about the haters. But, you know it's everywhere, in every situation. But, he was careful. He was very careful. He was very cautious. And when he talked about people, he never gave a name, never.

COOPER: Eric, what do you think happened here?

ERIC BLAND, STEPHEN SMITH'S ATTORNEY: I do think it was a hate crime, Anderson. I think we had a courageous 19-year-old, openly gay young man, who was a nursing student, who wanted to become a doctor, who had relationships that I think will come out with some very important people, some who were married. And I believe that he was killed for being gay. Remember, we're in the low country of South Carolina, Anderson. We're not in New York City or Philadelphia, where I grew up.

And it wasn't easy to be gay in Bamberg, South Carolina. Not easy at all. And I just think that maybe a relationship that he had was going to be outed or something happened in one of his friendships, or people just have such dark hearts that they just wanted to kill a gay boy. And I think it's despicable and I think that's what's going to come out.

COOPER: Sandy, what do you want people to know about your son?

SMITH: He was my life, he was my world. He was mischievous and he was just everything.

COOPER: So he was mischievous from the time he was a little boy?

SMITH: Yes, absolutely.

COOPER: I think -- I think he had you wrapped around his finger.

SMITH: He did.


SMITH: Yeah, he was my baby.

BLAND: Anderson, don't forget he was a twin, so his twin sister Stephanie has to live without half her heart, you know, that's a big deal. It's not only the loss of Sandy, but we're talking about twins here.


BLAND: And, it's extraordinary loss.

COOPER: Yeah. Well, Eric, I appreciate you being on and Sandy, I appreciate you being with us so much, and I appreciate your courage and I wish you the best and continued strength and peace in the days ahead.

BLAND: Well, thank you so much for having us.

SMITH: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Mom of Stephen Smith. Coming up, taking a very different direction into space with some help from our data guru, Harry Enten. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Richard Branson's space dreams not going so well according to The Wall Street Journal. He's searching for new funding for Virgin Orbit, his satellite launch start-off. Also, his space tourism company, Virgin Galactic has had to delay its space tourism flights numerous times. CNN'S Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten joins us now with more. We don't have a lot of time; we're almost out of time. What does the data show us about how much it costs to travel to space?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN'S SENIOR DATA REPORTER: $450,000, that's for one trip. $450,000, to put that in perspective, you could take a domestic round trip flight, the average you can fly over 1,000 times.

COOPER: That's a Virgin Atlantic one trip?

ENTEN: Yes, one trip -- one trip for $450,000. Or you can do, you know, a road trip in the summer and that you could do the average road trip over 5,000 times -- nearly 6,000 times. That seems like a much better use of the time.

COOPER: So when -- how big a deal was going into space, put in perspective for us, back when the space race began.

ENTEN: Yeah, you know, think of John Glenn, right? He was like a hero to everybody.


ENTEN: 90% of Americans knew who he was in 1963. That was more than who knew Richard Nixon was, the former vice president and also the one-time presidential candidate, obviously became present later on. I don't think there's a single astronaut that more than 60% or 70% of Americans can name possibly today.

COOPER: Do people want to go into space? Is this a popular thing now?

ENTEN: No, what's so interesting is in fact --

COOPER: I have no desire. You have no desire.

ENTEN: I could care less about going to space, and the majority of Americans don't want to go to space. Only about 40%, a little bit more want to go to space. But I have a question for the crew here. Do you guys want to go to space if you were offered the opportunity?


COOPER: Yeah, one loud response, but everybody else sort of lackluster, not really.

ENTEN: Lukewarm.

COOPER: Lukewarm at best. Harry Enten, thanks very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: News continues.