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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Police Chief: Shooter Resented Having To Attend Christian School, Says It Was Targeted Attack, Three Students, Three Adults Killed; Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); Former National Enquirer Publisher David Pecker Meets With Grand Jury In Trump Hush Money Probe; Israel's Judicial Overhaul Delayed After Mass Protests And Strikes; Cleanup Efforts Underway After Tornadoes Kill 26 In MS, AL; Survivors Of Mississippi Tornadoes On Devastation And Loss; Nashville Police Release Photos Of Locked School Door That Was Shot Out To Gain Entry And Shooter's Car On Campus. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: After enduring wind gusts and tornadoes up to 170 miles an hour. You can see these before and after satellite images to get a sense of how deep and widespread the damage runs.

The storms are expected to work their way East tonight.

Thanks so much for joining us. I'll be back again at nine tonight. And AC 360 begins now.



I want to start with a video clip that says far too much about being a kid today. These are young children, single file, holding hands. They're being taken not on a field trip to see the dinosaurs, but out of harm's way from the scene of a school of mass shooting, another one this time in Nashville at the Covenant School, a private Christian school for kids from pre-K age to sixth grade.

Reading from its webpage, the beauty of a preschool to six school is in its simplicity and innocence. "Students are free to be children," the website says, "Celebrating childhood" says at the top of the homepage.

Two girls and a boy, reportedly all nine were murdered there today by a 28-year-old former student who also murdered three adults before being killed by police. The children were Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, Hallie Scruggs, and Hallie's dad, a Senior Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church which runs the school. Two of the adults murdered Cynthia Peak and Mike Hill were both 61.

Mike Hill's friend posted this photo of him online and said Mr. Hill was the last employee hired when he ran the school and church kitchen. He said he was the kind of person who would sacrifice for others.

Katherine Koonce was also murdered. She was 60, head of the Covenant School. Her daughter is also a teacher there. Police say her killer who they say was transgender was carrying a handgun and two assault style rifles.

President Biden today called on Congress to do what it has shown no willingness to do since the Federal ban on such weapons expired in 2004.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I call on Congress again to pass my assault weapons ban. It's about time that we began to make some more progress, but there is more to learn, but I just wanted to send my concern and hearts out to so many parents out there.


COOPER: As for lawmakers Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who helped pass a more limited gun safety package during the last Congress says he doesn't believe any more legislation will move on the issue in the next two years.

Senator Cornyn telling CNN's Manu Raju that an assault weapons ban would affect "law-abiding citizens." But later, we will be joined by his Democratic counterpart from Connecticut, Senator Chris Murphy.

Right now, I want to go to Nashville and CNN's Carlos Suarez.

So, what more do we know now about how the attack unfolded, Carlos?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we know that at least according to police, the 28-year-old was ready for a confrontation with officers. We are told that the gunman had two AR- style weapons as well as a handgun and that two of those weapons were legally obtained.

According to the Chief of Police out here, the 28-year-old had several rounds of ammunition and had detailed the plan of the attack. We are told that this was a targeted attack.

The 28-year-old had a map of the school. She had noted several entry points into the building and we are told, she was able to get inside of the school by shooting through a door.

We're told, Anderson, that there was a second location, another site that the gunman was going to visit. However, it appears that because she felt that there had been additional security at that location, the gunman did not end up going there -- Anderson.

COOPER: And what are police saying about a possible motive?

SUAREZ: Yes. So while police out here, the Chief of Police says that they are hoping to detail some of this in the coming days, but we are told that they have in possession a manifesto, as well as some other writings that detail exactly what this shooter wanted to do. We're told that she identified as transgender and that she was a former student at this Christian School. And it appears that there may have been some sort of resentment about the fact that the gunman came to the school. That's at least according to an interview that the Chief of Police gave to "NBC Nightly News" earlier tonight.

Now, Anderson, we're told that the gunman's father has been interviewed, and that again, police are hoping to release some additional information on that manifesto, as well as the writings in the coming days.

COOPER: And just to be clear, you said that the shooter may have resented attending the Christian school, is that it?

SUAREZ: Yes, that is our understanding. So the Police Chief says that they are looking into the possibility that there may have been some sort of resentment over the fact that the 28-year-old gunman at one point was a student at this school. However, as you can imagine, the investigation into this is in its early stages.

COOPER: Yes. Carlos Suarez, I appreciate it. Thank you.

For our next two guests tonight, every detail of this story brought back memories of fear and loss. Shaundelle Brooks' son was murdered in 2018 in a mass shooting at an area waffle house, Aldane Brooks lost a brother.

When this latest shooting happened, Aldane's high school about a mile and a half away went on lockdown. As you might imagine, this has not been an easy day for either them or the rest of their family.


Aldane and Shaundelle Brooks joins us now.

Aldane, I appreciate both of you joining us. I'm sorry, we're talking under these circumstances.

Aldane, can you explain what happened when you were in lockdown today?

ALDANE BROOKS, BROTHER MURDERED IN 2018 MASS SHOOTING: Basically, at first it was just -- at first, I thought it was just a regular lockdown. Previously, we had had a fire drill and doing so, we just thought, that was going on around in our school, and I thought that was -- I thought that was the cause to our lockdown.

But as ne and our class and my friends have begun to look into why the lockdown was caused, there was no answers really. We began trying to get information from people, trying to get information from my teacher, until my mom and her friend had called and said that they had got a call about an active shooter at my school. So eventually I went to go ask my teacher about if there's an active shooter in my school.

At the time, that had put fear into my heart, and also my fellow students' hearts. We didn't know if we were safe. We didn't know if somebody was coming to kill us or not. It was -- it was traumatizing it. You know, it struck us that it was -- COOPER: Shaundelle, let me ask you, when you heard this news, where were you and I can't imagine what went through your mind.

SHAUNDELLE BROOKS, SON MURDERED IN 2018 MASS SHOOTING: Man, it took me back to when -- you know, when I got the news that my son, Akila, that was killed in the mass shooting at the Waffle House. It just took me right back to that.

My heart dropped just to hear something like that and not knowing where and how and what's going on. It was devastating.

COOPER: And I understand you wanted to go right away to Aldane's school?

SHAUNDELLE BROOKS: Yes, just like I did with Akila, I took off. I went to the school.

I told Aldane I was coming to the school and he was like, mom, no, there is an active shooter still out there. It's not safe.

But as a mother, you know, I just couldn't help it. I went over to the school. I circled the school like, you know, I circled the area. Yes.

COOPER: I mean, it is just -- it's unthinkable. You've had this tragedy already with Akila, and now, so close to this latest tragedy.

Shaundelle, I mean, you must think about this, not only the loss of your son every day, but these shootings every day.

SHAUNDELLE BROOKS: Yes, you know, here we are again, another mass shooting. It is just -- oh my God, it's an epidemic. It's something that I think about every day, you know, every time that there is a mass shooting, it's a lot. We're not safe anywhere.

We're not safe in schools. We're not safe when we go out to eat, we're not safe in church. We're not safe at the Waffle House. You know, I think about him every day that I send Aldane to school.

COOPER: You know, Aldane, I know you and your mom have both worked since your brother was killed on this issue. What message do you want to share with families of the victims in Nashville tonight.

ALDANE BROOKS: I just want to say that the pain will forever be -- will be there. You've just got to --

SHAUNDELLE BROOKS: You're not alone.

ALDANE BROOKS: Yes, you're not alone. You've just got to keep fighting through it, and I promise you, you're going to get through it, but it is not going to go away. But we're here for you. Everybody's here for you to always help you.

COOPER: And Shaundelle, that's -- for you, that's important for the people to know that they're not alone in this.

SHAUNDELLE BROOKS: Yes, we want them to know they're not alone. I totally understand how they're feeling at this moment with devastation. We're here for them. We understand this feeling firsthand.


COOPER: Shaundelle and Aldane, I'm so sorry for what you've gone through today and for the loss of your son and your brother. I appreciate you being with us tonight.

SHAUNDELLE BROOKS: Thank you for having us.


COOPER: I want to get some perspective now from CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe.

Andrew, you know, police talk about this person had a so-called manifesto that maybe sounds like a kind of glorifying word for what is probably just a screed in a journal. It's pretty common these days, though. It's kind of a sign of the times that this word "manifesto" is being used now, so frequently. Shooters do this.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, it is frustrating, too, Anderson, because as you suggest, the word almost kind of legitimizes what they're doing as if it's some sort of legitimate political stance or something, and what they are time and time again, and they're very common, is just a list of grievances and anger soaked objections to all sorts of perceived slights, things like that.

The problem is they have outsized significance in this community of people who are drawn to these expressions of mass violence. So we've seen it, we've seen mass shooters literally copy the things that they've read from previous manifestos of previous mass shooters and their statements about why they've decided to strike out against innocent civilians in their own community.

So it's not uncommon, it does give us some insight as to what this person's motivation may have been, but at the end of the day, you know, I don't know that it really tells us that much.

COOPER: According to police, it was about 14 minutes between the first call and when the shooter was killed. We don't really know the actual arrival time of the police. We are not sure about the response time.

Obviously, you and I have talked about this so often, in these cases, response time is essential. The first minutes, that's when most people are killed.

MCCABE: That's absolutely right. And, you know, this situation shows you, to me, it stands in stark contrast to the many conversations you and I've had about Uvalde, which was just an example of like, really poor response by law enforcement.

Here, they were there very quickly. They exhibited well-practiced and well-trained tactical techniques. They went in with five people. They covered both the first floor and the second floor. Excuse me, they also had medical folks from the Fire Department deployed with them.

And yet, despite that remarkably efficient and quick response, we still have six innocent people dead. So it just proves the point that no matter how good law enforcement is, they'll never be in front of the shooter, they'll never be before the shooter. You're constantly trying to just limit damages. And when those fatalities occur in the first minute of an encounter, it's very, very hard to stop that even with the best response.

COOPER: Authorities also say that this person had staked out the school or at least observed it, there were maps. Apparently, according to law enforcement, at this point, again, this is very early stages with what they know, but they say that the shooter had also another target, but decided it had better security than this location.

MCCABE: You know, again, I think this is very common. You typically see a high level of planning among these mass shooters. You know, you think back to, you know, the individual who shot up the Fourth of July parade in Illinois lasts the last year, or the Tops Supermarket shooter in Buffalo who had gone and conducted surveillance at that supermarket in the days or weeks prior.

So the fact that they put in some time in planning and that this shooter mapped out where they would go and what they would do and, and possibly indicated a second location in the same way that we saw in the Monterey Park shooter just a few months ago.

This is very common planning and preparation activity, acquiring the weapons, acquiring the ammunition, oftentimes, special clothing and it is shocking that while this is going on, people around them and their families and their communities don't see these things and bring them to law enforcement's attention that can certainly help.

COOPER: Yes, Andrew McCabe, appreciate you tonight. Thank you.

Next, the sheer number of recent mass shootings and what the pandemic might have to do with it and what Americans say they want done about it, our data reporter, Harry Enten joins us, so does Senator Chris Murphy.

Later, how the former President is handling the possibility of one or more criminal indictments in one or more cases all coming toward him soon it seems. Rage is certainly part of the equation, both his and what his words on the subject could be stirring in his followers.



COOPER: The breaking news this hour, what we're learning about the Nashville shooter's apparent resentment, police say at having had to attend the Covenant School as a child. Nashville's Police Chief says the 28-year-old targeted random people at the school, had a map identifying surveillance and entry points and left a so-called manifesto or journal the Chief says indicating the school was just one of several potential targets. So there's all of that and as we discussed before the break, there is also the terrible reality that some families have now been touched by these incidents more than once. With us now, not to make sense of it all, but at least to talk about the proportions of the problem, CNN senior data reporter, Harry Enten.

So what does the data show about the number of school shootings specifically, since the pandemic?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, so you know, we have obviously 2022 and 2023. We have 16 school shooting so far this year. We had 20 through this point in 2022. And I should note that that's significantly higher than what we saw in the pre pandemic era, right, where essentially, we were averaging in the mid to high single digits at this point through the school year.

So the fact is, it does seem like there is a clear pattern after the pandemic whereby the school shootings definitely seem up, about double unfortunately.

COOPER: What about mass shootings in general? And I know in terms of the data, I think that's what -- four or more people killed at one time.

ENTEN: Yes, that's exactly -- four more people shot.

COOPER: Four or more people shot.

ENTEN: Yes, victims. And what we know again, is we sort of have this pre pandemic and then post pandemic sort of break in the numbers. We've had 130 mass shootings so far this year, that is the highest going back over the last six years.


And more than that, what we see is it's even higher than we were last year or the year before, which we're already well up from where we were pre pandemic. Again, we were really averaging sort of in the mid double digits, you know, 50 to 60 mass shootings to this point in the year, what we're seeing since the pandemic is we're talking, you know, a hundred ten, a hundred eleven, we're talking 130 this year, so it's just significantly up and this is something we've seen across the board.

We've seen it in cities as well where we've seen crime rates well up from pre pandemic norms and it just seems like in all these different ways, the shootings are just up -- Anderson.

COOPER: And what about gun control? Where do Americans stand on that?

ENTEN: Yes, you know, one of the things that I think is so, you know, interesting, as someone who studies the numbers is that Democrats, when it comes to gun control, have basically stayed steady over the last 20 years or so. Right? Essentially, you know, the Pew Research Center has this interesting question, which is, is it more important to protect the right to own guns, or control gun ownership? And when it comes to protecting the right to own guns, only about 20 percent of Democrats thought it was more important to protect the right to own guns than control gun ownership in 2000. That's about the same percentage now. But if you look at Republicans, the number -- the percentage is way up. It was about you know, 40 percent back 22 years ago, and now it's close to 80 percent.

And so you know, when we come to the issue of how are we supposed to deal with all of this, the fact that the two parties are farther apart than they've ever been, and I think part of the reason why we really haven't seen much movement is because it just doesn't seem like there's very much that can bring the two parties together, Anderson, on the fundamental question about the right to own guns versus controlling gun ownership.

COOPER: Harry Enten, appreciate it. Thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Now, we have Democratic Senator Chris Murphy joins us now. As we mentioned before the break, he helped pass last year's bipartisan gun safety bill in the wake of the shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

Senator Murphy, you've obviously been working on gun safety for a long time. What is going through your mind tonight?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, listen, obviously, in Connecticut, 10 years later, we are still reeling from the massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School. There is something uniquely cataclysmic when you lose a child, when you lose a family member, but it is also important to remember that all the kids in that school, all the adults in that school are never ever going to be the same. The entire community is going to experience trauma that's going to stay with them for a very, very long time.

And so, you know, I've stayed very close to the victims in Connecticut, but I'm frankly, equally as close to the victims of everyday gun violence -- the suicides, the homicides, the accidental shootings. It also doesn't hurt any less if your child dies on the streets of Hartford or New Orleans or Baltimore than it does if your child dies in a mass shooting at a school.

So it's important for us all to remember that this is happening every single day and every single night in America.

COOPER: You worked with Republican Senator John Cornyn in the last Congress to pass bipartisan gun safety legislation to law. He said today, and I'm quoting him, he said, "I would say that we've gone about as far as we can go unless somebody identifies some area that we didn't address." How do you respond to that?

MURPHY: Well, I mean, first, let me just, you know, bring up the poll that Harry referenced, I have a great deal of respect for Harry. But that poll, which sort of gets thrown out there all the time, it just infuriates me, because it's asking people a question that doesn't actually exist. The question in that Pew poll is, do you think you should protect people from gun violence? Or do you think we should respect the rights of gun owners?

In fact, you can do both at the same time. And so I'm never sure how relevant the answer to that poll is, other than Republicans increasingly think that as Republicans, they are supposed to answer one way and Democrats increasingly think as Democrats, they're supposed to answer the other way.

The reality is, most Americans think you should do both. You should respect the Second Amendment. You shouldn't take guns away from law- abiding citizens, but you should make sure that criminals and people who are seriously mentally ill don't get their hands on guns and that we should take these military style assault weapons off the streets.

I think we can still continue to work to find common ground. Obviously, we made a breakthrough last year. The bill we passed, the bipartisan Safer Communities Act is the first significant anti-gun violence legislation in 30 years.

I understand that was a difficult vote for some Republicans, the first time that they ever crossed the NRA, but I think they've seen that the sky hasn't fallen. And I take John at his word that he's continuing to show interest in finding common ground where we can find it, and maybe we'll be able to get there and build on the success of last year's bill.

COOPER: What might some of that common ground look like? I mean, what is sort of the -- what are some of the areas?

MURPHY: Yes, I think it's hard for me to, you know, negotiate with my Republican colleagues on live TV. We will work hard to try to find it.

COOPER: Probably not a good idea.

MURPHY: I think, everybody -- yes, I think everybody needs to remember that you know, right before Uvalde, people would have put the chances of a gun bill passed in Congress in 2022 at about zero to five percent. And then we worked hard at trying to figure out what our common denominator was.


I think we can build on that. I do think folks in this country are just furious about the way in which these AR-15s continue to be used in these mass shootings. I'm not saying that we have the votes in the House and the Senate right now to ban assault weapons, but I do think there are some things that could get bipartisan support, like shouldn't you have some training on one of these weapons, before you're able to pick it up and bring it out into public?

I mean, we require you to get training to drive a boat, to drive a car, but not to have a military style weapon that can kill a hundred people in five minutes? I think you could find bipartisan support for something like that. And we'll work hard this year to try to find that common ground. COOPER: I just spoke with two people, Shaundelle and Aldane Brooks whose son and brother was killed in 2018 in a mass shooting at an area Waffle House. Shaundelle said that we're not safe anywhere. Those were her words.

I mean, what do you say to families who have lived through this already and are now having their children still in lockdowns at nearby schools where there's been a shooting?

MURPHY: Well, and think of all of the kids who live today in neighborhoods that are violent every single day. I live you know, in the south end of Hartford, a neighborhood that has high rates of gun violence. I visited the local K through eight school in my neighborhood just a few months ago. And, you know, I talked to some of the kids there. Sixth and seventh graders, all they wanted to talk to me about was their walk to and from school every single day. They fear for their lives, just by walking to school and walking home at the end of the day.

Frankly, for them, school is the safe place. It's outside the school where they fear for their lives.

I just -- I know that our cause is righteous. I know that eventually, we're going to pass legislation that funds anti-gun violence programming in every neighborhood. I know we're going to take these dangerous weapons off the streets. I know we're going to have universal background checks.

I hate that kids and parents and families have to join this movement in order to make that happen, but the anti-gun violence movement is getting stronger every single day, every single year and eventually we will get the laws to reflect the morality and values of this nation.

COOPER: Senator Chris Murphy, appreciate your time. Thank you.

MURPHY: Thank you.

COOPER: We're going to continue to follow the story as it develops throughout the hour.

Next, a key figure meeting with the New York grand jury today in the Manhattan District Attorney's criminal investigation to hush money allegations involving the former President.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: Well, much more on the tragedy of Nashville as the story develops. Right now, we want to bring you the latest on a possible criminal indictment of the former president. Late this afternoon, we learned the name of the witness who met with Manhattan grand jury, someone who knew the former president very well.

CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez joins us now. So talk about the witness and why they're relevant.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the witness is David Pecker. He's the former chairman of American Media, the parent company of National Enquirer. And he was key as part of this effort to keep Stormy Daniels's story from becoming public back in 2016 and the days before the 2016 election. He allegedly brokered the payment, the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels to try to make sure her story didn't come out.

And according to his version and version from what we've heard from Michael Cohen, the former president's fixer, he essentially got paid -- I'm sorry, he got paid from Michael Cohen that $130,000 to make sure that that story never came out.

COOPER: The last known witness to appear before the grand jury was a former legal adviser of Michael Cohen's. Do we know how Pecker fits into all this? I mean, it seems clearly that Pecker was brought into rebut some of what that attorney had said.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. Bob Costello said that he appeared as a witness to undercut the credibility of Michael Cohen, who is, of course, the most important witness in this investigation. So far, Anderson, in the case of Pecker, it's believed that he could be somebody who could rebut some of the testimony from Bob Costello.

Obviously, he was involved in helping broker that payment to Stormy Daniels and to make sure, you know, that that story didn't come out before the 2016 election. So presumably, he would be there to help, at least underscore and help shore up the version of events that Michael Cohen has told and despite the fact, obviously, that Michael Cohen has his own credibility problems.

COOPER: So what happens now because this grand jury only meets a couple of days here or there?

PEREZ: Right. They were scheduled to meet today and as far as we know, there was no indictment returned today. They're scheduled to meet again on Wednesday. They also may be able to meet on Thursday, Anderson. What we don't know is when this case might be wrapped up, whether there's going to be an indictment and whether it's going to happen anytime soon.

We do know that obviously the fact that Pecker, who has appeared a couple of times in this case, you know, he's an important witness because of his central role in it, it does appear that the prosecutors are nearly at the end of their presentation on this case, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Evan Press, I appreciate it.

Perspective now from CNN Political Commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as White House Director of Communications for the former president, and Jessica Roth, a former federal prosecutor. Jessica, clearly he was brought in, I mean, Costello was casting doubt on Michael Cohen's testimony.

Michael Cohen had said this was -- hush money payment was paid in order to not have some bad news come out that could damage Trump in the election. Costello is saying, well, Michael Cohen told me it was, you know, Michael Cohen's idea and it was to avoid Melania Trump being upset.

JESSICA ROTH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: So this testimony, I think, was very important to shore up the credibility of Michael Cohen's testimony that the payments were related to the campaign. I mean, that's the most significant testimony that David Pecker has to offer.

AMI, where he worked, entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the federal government several years ago when they were initially investigating Michael Cohen for these payments. And in that non- prosecution agreement, AMI agreed that these were campaign related expenditures.

COOPER: So as part of that agreement, does he have to show up to testify?

ROTH: He has to be cooperative. And so, presumably, the federal government is asking him to be cooperative with other prosecutors as well.


COOPER: Alyssa, I mean, does an indictment, I mean, over the weekend, people at, you know, this rally Trump held at Waco were saying that an indictment would actually spur them on to support the former president. You would buy that?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't buy that necessarily. I mean, listen, he's the front runner at this point. He's pulling above 40 percent, significantly higher than the next person behind him. I think it's very likely at this juncture he would get the nomination. The election is far out.

But this is what matters in this moment, is Donald Trump chose to use specific language in the last couple of weeks leading up to this possible coming indictment that is once again calling for violence. It echoes the language he used ahead of January 6. I know the man. You know him decently well.

Like, his intent there is extremely clear. We know it from January 6. And --

COOPER: He's been clearer than ever before.

GRIFFIN: Than he ever before, and it didn't materialize. What that signals to me is that he thought that there was a base there that was going to come out, they were going to storm New York, wherever it might be, and people aren't turning out because this is a Donald Trump grievance.

This is his wrongdoing catching up with him. It's not the same as lying about the election being stolen and people coming out to rally. So I think it might be a sign that in some ways he is weakened, but at the same time, he's still the front runner.

COOPER: I just want to read something he said. A reporter for NBC asked him over the weekend at the rally, whether violence would be potentially justifiable if he were indicted. And he responded, quote, and this is so classic him. "I don't like violence, and I'm not for violence at all. But a lot of people are upset, and, you know, they rigged an election, they stole an election. They spied on my campaign. They did many bad things."

GRIFFIN: Yes, the butt's doing the heavy lifting there. I mean, it's just -- it's classic Donald Trump. Take him at his word. He's not being coy about what he wants to happen, but it's not materializing because this is a mess of his own making that's catching up with him.

And by the way, you know, from unsolicited reaching out that I get from Trump world, they're nervous about this. They really are. They thought this was a case that was dead up until a few months ago. They thought they were going to get buy in of all the investigations, it was what they were probably least worried about. Now they're realizing this is the one that's going to likely comes for us.

COOPER: Jessica, in terms of the law, does it matter if, you know, the former president didn't want this news to come out because he was annoyed, he was upset, he was worried Melania Trump would be upset. He didn't want to embarrass, you know, his kids.

He -- I mean, I wouldn't say he's felt a sense of shame because I don't think he feels shame. Does that -- and he cared about the -- affecting the election. If there were other reasons other than just the election, does that make him immune here?

ROTH: If it's for the purpose of affecting the campaign, right, that's what matters here. And there's lots of --

COOPER: So can there -- there can be other issues involved as well. But as long as the campaign was involved.

ROTH: The question is would it have been made but for the election? That is with the legal test. And so it does matter if there were other reasons, but there's really good evidence that it was made because of the campaign.

Stormy Daniels had come forward before and asked for payment and he refused to pay her. And it was only as things were heating up with the 2016 campaign and in particular right after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape which had done considerable damage to his campaign, that he decided now was the time that he had to make sure that she didn't come forward.

So I think there is very strong evidence that this was a campaign related expenditure. And that's also where Pecker comes in so prominently because he's already testified that this was coordinated with the Trump campaign for the purpose of influencing the election.

COOPER: Right. It was David Pecker who was initially approached by representative for Stormy Daniels. GRIFFIN: Right. And this is something that, I mean, as you state, Trump could have dealt with sooner. He waited to and because of that it stepped into the legal murky area of being a campaign finance violation. I think it's strange credulity to claim that he's -- was doing it to protect his wife.

That's not something I think we've seen throughout the course of his public life. I think it's not. It's -- I think we know what direction this indictment is going to go. I don't want to get ahead of it, but I also want to caution. I don't think this is the strongest case against Donald Trump. Of the many pending investigations, this is not what's going to keep him out of office again.

COOPER: How difficult is this case to actually put in front of a jury?

ROTH: It's going to be a very challenging case. I mean, there are a number of legal issues that the District Attorney's office is going to have to overcome. With respect to the charge that it seems that they are contemplating related to the campaign finance violation, which of course would be a matter of federal law incorporated essentially into a state prosecution.

COOPER: Which has not been done. This is in trial.

ROTH: There's some precedent for it, but not that actually been tested all the way up through the courts. In other words, there have been pleas that reflected a similar charge, but it hasn't really been fully litigated. And then as a factual matter, they are going to be relying on Michael Cohen and he is a problematic witness, which is why it is so important that he be corroborated by other witnesses like David Pecker and by the documents in the case.


ROTH: And also Kellyanne Conway, I believe, from the campaign also has testified before the grand jury who would be another important witness to corroborate that this was coordinated with the Trump campaign.

COOPER: Jessica Roth, appreciate it. Alyssa Farah Griffin, thanks so much.

Coming up in the next hour, tune in to Erin Burnett's interview with the attorney for the Fox producer who's suing the network and was just fired from the company is coming up in Erin Burnett OutFront next.


For us, Nic Robertson in Israel on this massive protests there. And what comes next after Israel's Prime Minister delayed controversial new judicial reforms as a result.


COOPER: Massive protests and labor strikes across Israel have led the countries embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay a controversial package of judicial reforms. The White House praised the news as a much welcome compromise to protests that have been both widespread and historic. The latest protests had essentially brought Israel to a standstill.

CNN International and Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson is in Jerusalem with the latest. Extraordinary scenes, Nic, in Israel over the last several days. Explain what this is about.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, this has really came to a head earlier today when they had the biggest protests that the country has witnessed so far. And it was precipitated by the Prime Minister sacking the Minister of Defense because he spoke out against the judicial reforms. He told the Prime Minister that he wanted them -- the Prime Minister to pause those reforms.

It was when he fired the defense chief that the protesters realized that they needed to move, they needed to be heard. And that's precisely what happened. And it's very interesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu has now actually called for a pause. He hasn't said who's going to replace the Defense Minister, but he has said that anyone that takes that position or security position needs to be loyal to him.



BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I am demanding from the military and the security to put an end to refusal to serve in the army to stop it.


ROBERTSON: That's a bottom line for Netanyahu. But what we really haven't heard or any of the details of where despite the delay in these judicial reforms, where's the compromise that he's talked about as well. He said that he's heard from opposition leaders who are willing to engage with him, but we don't know the details of what they'll engage in yet, Anderson.

COOPER: It also seems like these protests have gone beyond just judicial reforms. The issues are larger than that.

ROBERTSON: You know, what I found fascinating today was talking to some of the pro-government supporters. This is the first time they've come out. They've come out because they've been urged to do so by some of the ministers. And they use a narrative that's the same narrative that the prime minister uses, that it is a minority that didn't vote for the government, that's opposed to the government.

It's this minority that's trying to unrail, derail the government, derail the reforms, and this is not democratic. And speaking to some of those pro-government supporters today, they again talk about that minority that's trying to, you know, trying to steal democracy away. So there's this real divided logic and deep divisions within the country. And that's what causes here the heartache, if you will, that the country is so divided and so divided on a schism that doesn't seem to have an easy fix in it.

COOPER: The anti-Netanyahu protesters, though, are saying that his government is too far to the right than -- and it's a coalition of the right as opposed to what their perspective is.

ROBERTSON: That's really true. And, you know, again, one of the interesting things when you listen to those pro-right supporters of the government, they actually don't even want Netanyahu to pause. He think -- they think he is giving in to this minority, this minority that we've seen -- and thousands upon thousands flocking to the streets all across the country, a lot of them in Tel Aviv.

And that also shows you as well a little bit, I think, that the divisions that exist between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, these are not new divisions, but it's the narrative of division that is becoming stronger. And although it is over judicial reforms, I was talking to ex-servicemen today of a guy who'd been in the paratroopers, he told me for four years, and he said he absolutely hates seeing the military politicized in the way that is happening right now.

So it touches a lot of core issues and you can really see none of this is going to be resolved easily. What's happened is the decision day has been delayed. The differences haven't been ameliorated at all.

COOPER: Yes. Nic Robertson, appreciate it. Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, a new round of powerful storms forecast for the south after more than two dozen people were killed in tornadoes that hit Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee over the weekend. One town in Mississippi particularly hard hit, the latest on the destruction ahead.



COOPER: More in the deadly school shooting in Nashville coming out. But first, a new round of severe weather hit the south today. This comes after tornadoes tore through Mississippi and Alabama over the weekend, killing 26 people.

In Rolling Fork, Mississippi, entire neighborhoods are wiped away with a local official saying it looks like a war zone. It's not the only town left in ruins. CNN's Isabel Rosales reports now from hard hit Mississippi.


JOANN WINSTON, GREAT-NIECE KILLED IN STORM: OK, if you're looking at where right here where the house was sitting, and the steps were right in front of the sidewalk right there.

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Devastation after violent storms ripped through the southeastern part of the U.S. over the weekend, demolishing homes and killing dozens.

WINSTON: Everything gone. You look around, I mean, we have nothing. Nothing.

ROSALES (voice-over): JoAnn Winston lost her two year old great-niece Aubrey when an EF-4 tornado hit Mississippi late Friday night, impacting the towns of Amory, Rolling Fork and Silver City. Winston says she found Aubrey among the debris.

WINSTON: And I didn't see no house, no nothing. And I looked around and I see the baby laying a little bit from her mom -- I mean, from her grandma.

ROSALES (on-camera): You saw them doing CPR on Aubrey?


ROSALES (on-camera): That must have been horrible to see.

WINSTON: It was, it was. I had -- I walked away.

ROSALES (voice-over): Aubrey's mother was in the hospital when the storm hit, giving birth to a newborn just hours after losing her two year old daughter.

JESSICA DRAIN, 8-YEAR-OLD SON HURT IN STORM, NIECE KILLED: Even though my niece gone, I'm glad she's not suffering. It could have been worse. My whole family was here.

ROSALES (voice-over): Winston's niece, Jessica Drain also spoke to CNN. Drain says her eight-year-old son was in the same mobile home as two year old Aubrey with her parents. He is now in critical condition on a ventilator.

DRAIN: He has a severe brain injury. They had to go in and take parts of his skull out.

ROSALES (on-camera): He's been through surgery?

DRAIN: Yes, he's been through surgery.

ROSALES (voice-over): To save more.

DRAIN: They say he's going to need about three or four more.

ROSALES (voice-over): Other families also torn apart by the deadly storms. Ethan Herndon (ph) and his one year old daughter Riley (ph) were both killed when a tornado hit their mobile home. His wife and their two other children survived.

David Brown's parents were killed after their neighbor's 18 wheeler landed on their Rolling Fork home during the storm.

DAVID BROWN, PARENTS KILLED: Warriors (ph) can't express what I'm feeling. I'm just broken, I don't know. But I know that they're in heaven right now. And I was told that they passed away in each other's hearts.

ROSALES (voice-over): Jessica Drain and JoAnn Winston, hoping their family and others can get help.


WINSTON: The only thing I can say is for people just to pray for us and just pray that we get through this and start a new life, start over.


COOPER: And Isabel Rosales joins us now from Silver City, Mississippi. I mean, it's just -- those scenes are just awful. We saw in your piece to Kaleb, who's only eight years old, still in critical condition. Understand this family is seeking medical help. What more can you tell us?

ROSALES: Anderson, this family is just going through so much. Kaleb is seriously hurt. He's still in the ICU. He's on a ventilator. He's got a severe brain injury. And as you heard, he still needs a couple of more surgeries. So as you can imagine, these medical bills will be starting to add up.

That is why his mother started a GoFundMe page to try to help and raise money for those medical bills. So she's asking anyone who is able to help to consider donating. Anderson?

COOPER: It's on the screen there, "Kaleb's Expenses".

Isabel Rosales, appreciate it. Thank you.

When we come back, more breaking news from police in Nashville. Some late new details and pictures just released by the police there.


COOPER: Police in Nashville have just released two photographs. One shows the front of the Covenant School, one of the glass doors shattered, they say, when the shooter opened fire to gain access. The other photo, they say, shows the killer's car in the school parking lot. This is where they say they found what they described as additional material written by the killer.

Also, just moments ago, President Biden ordered flags at the White House and all federal buildings be lowered to half-staff to honor the victims.

The news continues. The "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.