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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Memphis Sends Justin J. Pearson Back To Tennessee House, Days After GOP Lawmakers Ousted Him; Police Release Audio Of 911 Calls From Louisville Mass Shooting; Washington Post: Special Counsel Probes Trump Fundraising On False Election Claims; Explosive Legal Filings In $1.5 Billion Dominion Case Against Fox; Judge To Appoint Special Master To See If Fox Withheld Evidence; Awaiting Appeals Court Action On Ruling To Halt FDA Abortion Pill Approval; War Crimes Investigation Opened After Beheading Video Circulates; White House Declares Fentanyl, Laced With Tranq, An Emerging Threat In The U.S. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 12, 2023 - 20:00   ET


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He was cautioning Europe against being drawn into a Taiwan crisis, saying that Europe should resist pressure to be a follower of America.

Well, here in Taipei, of course, lawmakers are asking, why would an advanced democratic country ignore the lives and potential deaths of people in other countries? They really say that those comments are puzzling -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Will Ripley, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

And thanks to all of you for joining us tonight. AC 360 starts right now.



To give you some idea what change looks like on an issue that some fear is impervious to it, take a look at the front page of today's Nashville "Tennessean," "Lee" it reads, that's Republican Governor Bill Lee, "wants gun law action" and beneath it "Jones," meaning Democratic State Representative Justin Jones expelled after gun violence protests on the State House Floor "reclaims his seat in legislature."

Two major bipartisan developments in the wake of last month's school shooting in Nashville happening with remarkable speed creating a front page that might have seemed inconceivable just a few days ago, and that was before local officials voted today to reinstate the second expelled State Representative, Justin J. Pearson of Memphis.

Last night on this program, Representative Jones said he saw a change of heart in Governor Lee and in perhaps another sign of that, both his reinstatement and Representative Pearson's today were unanimous.

Representative Pearson joins us now.

Representative, thanks so much for being with us. How does it feel to be reappointed just six days after you were first expelled?

JUSTIN J. PEARSON (D), REINSTATED TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We have to realize that the antidemocratic behavior of the Tennessee State Republican Party is dangerous and that disenfranchising thousands -- hundreds of thousands of voters is always wrong, especially on an issue where we are trying to elevate the need for gun violence prevention and gun reform, especially in the time when we're recognizing the loss of life in Louisville and Nashville from gun violence.

And now, there is determination and a movement that's building of young people especially that is demanding change happen, and so that gives even ever present hope during these difficult times.

COOPER: I want to play part of what you said to some of your supporters after you were reappointed earlier today. Just listen to this.


PEARSON: They tried to kill democracy. They tried to expel the people's choice and the people's vote, and they awakened a sleeping giant.


PEARSON: The put Gloria Johnson and Justin Jones and me on trial, but they ended up putting themselves on trial.


PEARSON: And the people has voted against that.




COOPER: So, of the Republicans who voted to expel you, have any of them expressed to you second thoughts or regrets? I mean, do you think there's common ground to be found on the issue of guns?

PEARSON: Yes, not a single Republican legislator has reached out and apologized or anything like that. None and I'm not necessarily expecting that. What I am expecting is that we listen to the millions of voices of Tennesseans who want to see reform in our gun legislation.

The reality is we have too many laws that have made it so you don't have to have a permit to carry, lowering the age to being able to carry weapons of war, and we have assault rifles that you can easily purchase. What we need are laws that the people in Tennessee overwhelmingly want. You see with Governor Bill Lee's push for more universal background checks as an executive order, but that can easily change. We need that to be a law.

We see him nodding, at least at Red Flag laws. We need to turn these ideas into policies and into practices and into laws. And so that is the expectation that I have that the Republican Party of Tennessee catch up and Cameron Sexton catch up to serving the people as we were seeking to do and elevating their voices and not expelling people, because we've got a lot of work to do.

COOPER: Is it clear to you how much sway the Governor actually has over the Republican-controlled Legislature? I mean, do you think they will support you even the limited things that he wants?

PEARSON: Yes. I think we need to be demanding more and the Governor needs to use all of his political capital, not just some of it towards this issue.

The Republican Party of Tennessee is much too often operating as a mobocracy than a democracy and operating the mob rule in mind and not the people in mind.

And so I don't know the inner workings of their politics. I know the inner workings of the politics led to the expulsion of duly elected members of the State House. I know the inner work of their politics is not pushing for policies of progress that we need to see, but I do know that people power works and that there are millions of people in the State of Tennessee right now, who are saying the status quo is not sufficient.

COOPER: Why do you think they reversed themselves? I mean, you know, it was pretty -- I mean, even after they expelled you, a number of them went on TV justifying expelling you, it didn't seem like they were about to change their minds. What do you think it was that made them?


PEARSON: Yes, it is always movements of people who are determined to see justice happen that even forces institutions that seem so rigid, that seems so impossible to change, to change.

And I think in this moment, when you have nine-year-olds holding signs like "Am I next?" and you have mothers like Sarah, whose five-year-old Noah was at the Covenant School in Nashville, or Miss Lovanda Thorn Henderson, who's in Memphis and whose son was killed by gun violence in January, my own classmate, Larry Thorn when you have these types of voices in this solidarity being built across our State, it is impossible for the same posture pontificating on behalf of the NRA, and the Tennessee Firearms Association to go forward.

And I believe right now, a mass movement is swelling towards justice in the State of Tennessee and in our country, and everyone is being forced to reckon with it and to respond in a just way, and we are going to be inside the legislature pushing for that, as well as supporting those millions of Tennesseans who want to see just gun reform outside of the Legislature.

COOPER: Would you protest again on the floor of the Legislature? I mean, you're back inside. They said it was violating the rules of decorum. There was a bullhorn involved.

Is that something you would do again?

PEARSON: Yes. I have no regrets about the actions that I took on the House floor, because it has forced us to have a conversation about why we are comfortable enough to have people being killed by gun violence and doing nothing. Why is it that we have people who are comfortable with the NRA's positions on things, but we are not taking concrete steps to create laws that can actually protect us not only in our schools, but in our homes, in our churches, in our banks.

And so I don't regret any of the actions that we took and sometimes, Anderson, it takes breaking the rules of decorum in order for people who've been marginalized and silenced and pushed to the periphery to be pushed toward the center of the conversation, and we are pushing the Nashville families and we're pushing the Louisville family and the families in Memphis and Millington and Shelby County to the center of our conversation and being forced to answer the question of why won't we do something?

Why would we accept inaction when all they're pleading is that we do sensible things and exercising our First Amendment right in a country built on protest, I don't think there's anything more American that we can do than elevating the issues of democracy and elevating the issues of importance that our constituents sent us here to represent.

COOPER: Representative Pearson, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

PEARSON: Thank you so much. God bless, and we're going to keep fighting.

COOPER: Joining us now someone whose own experience share some common threads with Justin Pearson's, CNN political commentator, Bakari Sellers who served as Representative of South Carolina State Legislature and was at that time, the youngest Black elected official in the country.

Bakari, I don't know if you feel like now an old man tonight, but I certainly do. What do you make of the political whiplash that has happened in Tennessee in the past few days? I mean, does it show a fault line in democracy or the resilience of it?

BAKAR SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it shows a fault line of democracy. I think it really echoes something that we both know to be true, which is democracy is fragile, and I think when you have individuals like those who lead the Tennessee Republican Party, the Speaker of the House in Tennessee, who decided to overstep their bounds, who decided to use racism as political currency, who decided to actually just not care about those individuals that Justin, Justin, and Gloria represented, in particular, Justin and Justin and rejecting them from their duly elected House seats, you see that democracy is truly fragile.

And so, yes, the fault lines were exposed, but one of the things that this Justin said, which speaks volumes is that people power. We've seen something in Tennessee that it should warm your heart.

We've seen the fact that when people come together around an issue, and they're not talking about the issue of race, per se, they're not talking about the issue of us versus them, they're talking about an issue that affects everyone whether or not you're Black, White, Democrat, Republican, Yankee, Southern or whatever you may be. They're talking about gun violence.

And the fact that they keep their eye on that prize, they keep their eye focused on that policy issue, it makes me feel like we may actually get some change.

COOPER: Do you have any doubt that the protest by the Representatives was not the reason that they were expelled? Was that the -- do you have any doubt that that was the thing -- ?

SELLERS: So, Anderson, respectfully, we're in the South, and you know, I would tell folks, and I wrote in my book, I said, look, when I wanted to take a deep breath, when I was in the General Assembly from 2006 to 2014, I went outside and took a deep breath after a long day under the auspices of the Confederate flag.

There was a definitely a tenor of, we're going to tell these colored boys what they can and can't say. I mean, we're going to shut them up.

I was at one of my favorite bars here in Charlotte yesterday, and we were talking. Everybody is talking about this issue, and the guy sitting at the bar next to me, he said, Bakari, they threw out the two Black guys, but not the White woman. They didn't throw out Gloria.

And then we looked at each other and laughed. We said, nobody ever goes full racism. I mean, the fact is, they went full racism in Tennessee, and what they wanted to do was put these young Black boys in their place.

We've seen it throughout history. I mean, the most famous example I always echo and I've said it on this network a few times is 1966. This isn't the first time.


Julian Bond went through something similar because of his stance in Vietnam and they didn't want to seat him in the Georgia State House of Representatives.

And so yes, what that Tennessee Legislature did was one, go full racism; and two, harken back to a day of 1966 and they're going to say, Bakari, don't call me racist. Don't play the race card. Well, no, don't be racist. We won't play the race card.

COOPER: Bakari Sellers, appreciate your time tonight. Thanks, Bakari.

SELLERS: Always. Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Now the Louisville mass shooting that happened just Monday, last night, we saw a body camera video from city police officers going straight into the line of fire to stop the killer.

Tonight, audio from the 9-1-1 calls that brought them to the scene. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has details.


SHOOTER'S MOTHER: I don't know what to do. I need your help.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A mom calls 9-1-1 after she was told her son had a gun and was headed to the Louisville bank where he worked.

SHOOTER'S MOTHER: My son might be (redacted) have a gun and he is heading toward the Old National.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): But she said she didn't believe her 25-year- old son was a threat.

SHOOTER'S MOTHER: And please, he's not violent. He's never done anything. Please, he's --

DISPATCHER: Okay, and you don't believe he owns guns?

SHOOTER'S MOTHER: I know he doesn't own any gun.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): But she would wind up being wrong, and the call came too late.

CALLER: Oh my God, there's an active shooter there.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): Her son was already inside the bank where he worked, shooting.

CALLER: Maybe he had a rifle, a gun.

DISPATCHER: Has anybody been shot?


PROKUPECZ (voice over): One 9-1-1 caller hiding from the gunman.

CALLER: I'm in the closet with one person. I hear, I hear, I hear gunshots.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): And bank employees watching the attack unfold on a video conference meeting.

CALLER: We heard multiple shots and everybody started ...


CALLER: ... saying Oh my god, and then he came into the Boardroom. DISPATCHER: Okay --

PROKUPECZ (voice over): The gunman livestreamed the attack on Instagram. It was just one minute before he sat down and waited for police to arrive.

PAUL HUMPHREY, DEPUTY CHIEF, LOUISVILLE METRO POLICE: He went to the front lobby after assaulting the victims in the office area, and he could see out where no one could see in.

CALLER: Please get people there fast, please.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): The shooter used an AR-15 style rifle he had legally bought six days before the attack according to police.

OFFICER: ... and Baker on scene. We do have shots fired.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): Body camera video shows Louisville Metro Police officers responding.

OFFICER: We are making an entry from the -- from the east side at Preston and Main.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): And heading toward the gunfire.


PROKUPECZ (voice over): Twenty-six-year-old officer, Nickolas Wilt is shot in the head and critically injured.

DISPATCHER: And we have a gunshot wound of an officer.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): His training officer Cory Galloway takes cover but is also shot before he returns fire and kills the gunman.

JACQUELYN GWINN-VILLAROEL, INTERIM CHIEF, LOUISVILLE METRO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Timing as we all know is everything but not having officers to hesitate, but actually really go in and say, I need to stop this threat.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): "No words can express our sorrow, anguish and horror at the unthinkable harm," a statement from the family's lawyers said, but they also said that he struggled with depression, "While the shooter like many of his contemporaries had mental health challenges, which we, as a family were actively addressing, there were never any warning signs or indications he was capable of this shocking act."


COOPER: So incredible. Shimon Prokupecz joins us now. Is there any update on the officer's condition?

PROKUPECZ: The good news is it hasn't changed, right, but that's also bad news. I think they're still trying to figure out what kind of damage he suffered to his head. I mean, that's where he was shot, and so it's day to day. He's been in an induced coma, and so they're sort of dealing with that.

So there is really no update, but you know, it's a struggle right now. That police department obviously just dealing with all of this. The other officer, Galloway the training -- just unbelievable.

COOPER: Right. He was his training officer which has got to be a heavy weight.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, a heavy weight on him, just all the thoughts in his head. He is lucky he survived. I mean, he got grazed just inches from killing him and severely injuring him as well.

COOPER: Shimon, appreciate the report. Thank you.

Today, Kaitlan Collins spoke exclusively with Kentucky's Governor Andy Beshear, his first interview since the shooting. The Governor told Kaitlan about telling the wife of Tommy Elliott, that her husband, his dear friend had been killed.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: You actually were the one who called his wife to let her know.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): She deserved to know. I came here immediately after originally getting a text and I noticed in my office in Frankfort that there was a mass shooting going on and then getting the address that it was my bank.

I knew it would be hours before others could call her and I thought she deserved to know, and we were really close, I think right now to where I made that call.

I've been Governor during this pandemic, I have been Governor during tornadoes and floods.


And negative 45 degree wind chills and everything else. We've lost a lot of people during those, but calling your friend's wife who is also your friend to tell her that her husband is gone is amongst the hardest thing I've ever done, but at the same time, she deserved to know.


COOPER: You can see more of -- you can see more of Kaitlan's exclusive interview with Governor Beshear at the top of the hour. That's nine Eastern, "CNN PRIMETIME" right here.

Next for us tonight, breaking news, new reporting on something the January 6 Special Counsel is focusing on now, why it's something the former President may be especially vulnerable on.

Later, FOX's credibility problem with a Judge in its case where the Judge in Dominion's defamation suit now against FOX said and the substantial damage he could do to FOX's defense.



COOPER: New reporting tonight suggests that Special Counsel, Jack Smith is following the money in any potential fraud in his investigation to the former President. The headline just up on the website of "The Washington Post," which broke the story, "Special Counsel focuses on Trump fundraising off false election claims."

Quoting from the lead now: "Federal prosecutors probing the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol have in recent weeks sought a wide range of documents related to fundraising after the 2020 election, seeking to determine if Trump or his advisers scammed donors by using false claims about voter fraud to raise money, eight people familiar with the new inquiry said."


Devlin Barrett shares the headline on "The Washington Post" story. He joins us now.

This is really fascinating. What can you tell us about what certainly seems like a new and additional investigative avenue for the Special Counsel?

DEVLIN BARRETT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, we've known that they were looking -- the Special Counsel's Office was looking at this question of was there essentially wire fraud or some sort of fraud in the e-mail fundraisings that went on after the election?

What's important here, I think is we're seeing them drilling down onto this question to ask a very specific question, which is, how are these e-mail solicitations, how are they crafted? How are they written? How are they changed and edited? And what were the people making those pitches for money saying to each other about these claims?

Because there is one comparison case where you could say that the claims that were being made, the appeals being made for money were being made by people who in some ways may have known that they were not telling the truth? And that is the real question that prosecutors have to try to answer here. Was there a known misstatement, known misrepresentations to just generate money because these appeals generated tens of millions of dollars?

COOPER: So obviously, they are going after the communications of specific people. I assume they know who those -- the people are behind specific appeal.

Can you hear me now? I guess not.

We will try to get that worked out. Devlin Barrett, stay with us.

I want to bring in a CNN legal analyst, we will try to get Devlin back in -- former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Elliot Williams is with us; also CNN senior political commentator, Adam Kinzinger. He's a former Illinois Republican. The Congressman obviously served on the House January 6 Select Committee.

Elliot, how concerned should the former President be about this news tonight from "Washington Post"?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He should be pretty concerned for a big reason that it's clear that the Special Counsel is looking into two particular crimes -- mail fraud and wire fraud, both of which require the making of a false statement that one knows to be untrue, for the purpose of deriving a benefit or money from somebody else, and mail and wire fraud can carry up to 30 years in prison. They're serious, serious offenses.

More importantly, Anderson, what's clear with the Special Counsel investigation, and the investigation of the District Attorney in Georgia, is that both really hinge on this central question of, when did the former President and the people around him, what did they know about whether they lost the election?

Fraud requires establishing that an individual knew something to be not true before proceeding with trying to take money out of someone else? And what's happening in Georgia is an investigation into election fraud. It's sort of -- look, it's a very different crime happening in Georgia or at least being investigated. So the central question is, did people know that the former President had lost the election and still continued to engage election officials about it? So, it is really a central fact --

COOPER: So Elliot, let me ask you, if it's a group of people who are working for some organization who are sending out these e-mails, does it matter if one of them, you know, if it's four people, if one of them or two of them have text messages where they're saying, well, I don't believe the election? You know, clearly the election wasn't stolen, but two of them believe it was. Does that matter -- then --

WILLIAMS: No, that's an excellent question, Anderson. It all depends on what the nature of the communications were and what each person knew at the time. So for instance, was one of the people -- one of the people who didn't know or wasn't aware, were they forwarding e-mails? Were they reading them? Were they aware of some of the communications and it's just going to depend even by statement person by person.

COOPER: Congressman Kinzinger, do you think the Special Counsel is on a path here that's valuable?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I think so. I mean, look, others can answer the legality of this stuff, but let me tell you, the people that were writing these e-mails told the Committee that they knew they were basically saying, like, we knew we had to pump out, whatever it was each of us 10 or 20 e-mails a day, because we knew that each time we sent out an e-mail, it would raise, whatever, fifty or a hundred thousand dollars, so there was no commitment.

I won't go far -- as far as to say they knew they were lying, because I don't know that and I can't speak to that, but I know that they had pressure. They were feeling intense pressure to produce a ton of e- mails and they didn't have to be moored to truth.

And in fact, you know, we believe that, and I frankly believe that a lot of the radicalization that occurred between the election and frankly, January 6th and on came from this, you know, if you're signed up for Donald J, Trump's e-mail list, you're going to get 10 or 20 a day of these e-mails where the headlines just say like Nancy Pelosi is going to XYZ or these RINOs are going to XYZ.

So people had a lot of pressure to turn out a bunch of material that they I think knew not to be true. It'll be interesting to see where the legality lies on this.


COOPER: Yes, Congressman Kinzinger, appreciate it. Elliot Williams, as well.

We apologize to Devlin Barrett for the audio issues. We appreciate his reporting in "The Washington Post."

Coming up what is Rupert Murdoch's role at FOX News and at FOX Corporation? It seems like a simple question. The answer to that question is at the heart of what could be a key new development of the billion dollar defamation case against the network.

The Judge says he is concerned FOX has made "misrepresentations." We have details on that.

Plus, the most damaging revelation to date in a trial set to begin tomorrow.


COOPER: In pretrial hearings today, the Judge overseeing the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against FOX tore into the network today saying he was concerned "There had been misrepresentations to the Court," a day after saying FOX had a "credibility problem."

Both comments were about Rupert Murdoch's role at the network. The Judge said he plans to appoint an outside attorney, he called a Special Master to investigate whether FOX lied and withheld key evidence.

Dominion argues that FOX narrowly defined Murdoch's role limiting what FOX turned over during discovery. Now, it happened a day before jury selection begins and after a series of damaging revelations about the network.

Randi Kaye has that part of the story.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT": The outcome of our presidential election was seized from the hands of voters --

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): FOX News host, Tucker Carlson backing former President Donald Trump on air, but private text messages sent by Carlson released as part of the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against FOX News show how he really feels about Trump.

According to the messages, Carlson actually hates Trump passionately and views his presidency as a disaster. Two days before the Capitol insurrection Carlson wrote: "We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can't wait."

On January 6th, Carlson texted his producer, calling Trump a demonic force, a destroyer. Carlson described Trump's post-election behavior as disgusting.



KAYE (voice-over): It wasn't just Carlson, other Fox hosts who repeatedly featured Trump's election fraud claims on air --


KAYE (voice-over): -- were also mocking Trump and his lawyers behind the scenes. Court documents reveal Fox anchors and executives used words like ludicrous, mind-blowingly nuts and totally insane. Carlson texted other hosts, including Laura Ingraham, about Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, saying Powell is lying, by the way I caught her. It's insane. Ingraham responded, Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her.

Court documents released in the case also include an email from Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch, describing Trump's election lies as bull and damaging. In Murdoch's January deposition, he conceded that some Fox hosts were endorsing Trump's falsehoods about the 2020 election being stolen. Murdoch said, "I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight."

Murdoch's deposition also reveals that he rejected his own network's conspiracy theories about Dominion. When asked by Dominions lawyers, "Do you believe that Dominion was engaged in a massive and coordinated effort to steal the 2020 presidential election?" Murdoch replied, no. Promotion of the false claims was also rejected by the network's D.C. Managing Editor, court documents show. In my 22 years affiliated with Fox, this is the closest thing I've seen to an existential crisis, at least journalistically, Bill Sammon wrote to a colleague.

Still, Fox News denies wrongdoing and says it was reporting on newsworthy allegations about the election. Why were Fox hosts saying one thing on the air and something else privately? Dominion contends this was all about business and not alienating the base loyal to Trump. When Fox reporters tried to report the facts, they were attacked. Court filings show Tucker Carlson was livid after a Fox News reporter fact checked Trump's tweet about votes allegedly being destroyed. Carlson texted coworkers, "Please get her fired. Seriously, what the F? It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It's measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down, not a joke."

Documents from court also show Fox News Chief Suzanne Scott was furious after a correspondent for the network fact checked Trump's election lies, warning it was bad for business. In this email, Scott said, "This has to stop now. The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material, bad for business." In another revealing email, Murdoch explained why Hannity continued to promote election lies, saying Hannity had been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks but was scared to lose viewers.


COOPER: And Randi Kaye joins us now. What stands out to you in the details that are emerging court filings by Dominion?

KAYE: Well, Anderson what's remarkable in these legal filings, as you can see, how worried Fox hosts and executives were. They were worried about losing business. They were also worried about losing viewers, certainly to Newsmax, which was also pushing these false election conspiracy theories. And when you look at the whole breadth of the text messages and the emails, you can really see the Fox business model, at least according to Dominion.

They have said that it's not about delivering the truth. Dominion says that it's about pushing content and conspiracy theories to these viewers, feeding them all of that to keep them hooked. Now more specifically, Dominion has alleged in the lawsuit that Fox News recklessly disregarded the truth because it was more concerned about business. And Dominion is now saying that these emails, text messages and also the deposition testimony speak for themselves, Anderson.

COOPER: Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thank you. Perspective now from Retired First Amendment Lawyer Lee Levine who has represented Fox News, CNN and many other media organizations in his distinguished 40 years of practice. Lee, when you hear the developments in court today, the judge accusing Fox's legal team making misrepresentations, saying he's likely to appoint a special master to investigate. Is that a big deal to run afoul of the judge (ph) like this on the eve of the trial?

LEE LEVINE, RETIRED FIRST AMENDMENT LAWYER: Oh yes, it is a very big deal, Anderson. It's a big deal on three levels. First, one of the things that the judge said today was that he was likely going to give the jury what's called an adverse inference instruction, which means that he's going to tell them that because Fox did not produce information and discovery that hampered Dominion in its ability to defend the case. The jury can infer from that that the information that Fox didn't provide would have been helpful to Dominion and that is coming from the judge, that will be very powerful to the jury, especially on top of all of the emails and texts that you just discussed on the air.

COOPER: The judge, Judge Davis also sanctioned Fox, basically saying Dominion can conduct new depositions with witnesses and if they do, Fox has to pick up the cost.


I don't know if Dominion will actually take the judge up on that -- on the offer, if there will be other sanctions. If you were -- I mean, if you were representing Dominion, how would you want to proceed? Is -- would new depositions mean a halt to the trial?

LEVINE: Not necessarily. There are obviously going to be a number of witnesses in the case. The ones that are impacted by the new information that has just recently been turned over by Fox to Dominion are very few. So theoretically, those depositions could be taking place at another location while the trial is going on, and Fox could make those witnesses available both for the depositions and then for their trial testimony. And Dominion could have the advantage of having that information gleaned from the deposition when they actually put the witnesses on the stand.

COOPER: And this revelation that Rupert Murdoch apparently held dual roles at both Fox News as well as its parent company, Fox Corporation, could that explain why that has the potential -- I mean, why does that have the potential to be significant to this case? Is it just that they didn't specify that to Dominion?

LEVINE: That's what Dominion is claiming. Dominion and the judge as well, seems to be of the view that that question about Rupert Murdoch's role at Fox News, whether he was in fact an officer of the company. Fox misstated or did not disclose that he was and now, it has belatedly disclosed that he was and the judge is very concerned that that was a misrepresentation that prejudice Dominion because if it had known -- if Dominion had known that Murdoch was an officer of the Corporation, it would have arguably be entitled to a broader array of documents to be produced from Murdoch because he would have had, at least theoretically, control over a broader range of documents. And they never got those documents.

COOPER: Lee Levine, it's always great to have you on. Thank you so much.

LEVINE: You're welcome.

COOPER: At any moment, an appeals court may decide whether to uphold the federal judge's ruling that would end availability of an abortion drug that's been legal for decades. The Texas judge said in his ruling, as you probably know, that the FDA "entirely failed to consider the psychological effects of the drug or an evaluation of its long-term medical consequences."

Tonight, in her first interview since the ruling, response from the woman who was Head of the FDA when this drug was approved. That's next.


[20:41:15] COOPER: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals could rule any time now, whether to freeze the Trump appointed judge's unprecedented and highly controversial decision to suspend FDA approval of the abortion drug Mifepristone effective Friday. Both the plaintiffs and Justice Department have now submitted briefs to the Fifth Circuit in a case that the Attorney General Merrick Garland, today, warned would hurt women's health and set a dangerous legal precedent.


MERRICK GARLAND, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: As our filings make clear, the decision would severely harm women across the country. It would deprive patients of a safe and effective medication to manage their reproductive health and it would allow doctors to challenge FDA approval of any drug or any other federal action that allegedly injured third parties. This could happen to any medication that Americans rely on, no matter how essential it is and no matter how long ago it was approved.

COOPER: Joining us, someone with a unique perspective on this, Dr. Jane Henney, who was FDA Commissioner when Mifepristone was approved as well as the first woman to run the agency. Appreciate you being with us. As you know, the Texas judge said that the FDA "entirely failed to consider the psychological effects of the drug or an evaluation of its long-term medical consequences." Is that true?

JANE HENNEY, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: What I can say is this application, this NDA or New Drug Application that was received by the Agency received the same thorough review that all applications do. The procedure that is used, it was thorough. It was, you know, there are many hundreds of decisions, really tens if not hundreds of decisions of a medical and scientific nature that have to be asked and answered as the Agency looks at an application before it can give its approval, and this was done.

It was not only done, that whole process and whether or not the regular kind of review that is done on a drug was also reviewed by the GAO some years later. And they affirmed that that was the case. So the data that was looked at by the Agency then, the hundreds of studies that have been generated since, have all supported the safety profile of this medication that there are side effects certainly to be sure, but they are mild to moderate and, since they are known, oftentimes can be well controlled by the providers working with their patients.

COOPER: And in the all the years that this drug has been on the market and been used and used a lot, obviously, studies are done and if there was any problem that had arisen in all that time, that would be something the FDA or the medical establishment would be well aware of by now? No?

HENNEY: Absolutely. The studies that are known, are published in journals, there have been reviews of this product done by the National Academy of Medicine, by the American College of Gynecologists. The safety profile on this drug is good, if not better than when it was originally reviewed because, now, it's been out in the marketplace.


It's been used on some of five million patients, and so it has been extraordinarily well studied.

COOPER: To your knowledge, has there ever been a situation where one District Court Judge moved to revoke the nationwide approval of a drug that's been used for two decades? And if there hasn't been, what's the impact of something like this? Not just on this particular drug, but just in general, if this is something that starts to happen.

HENNEY: To my knowledge, this is never happened because the Congress when they passed the legislation originally in 1937, it was around the safety of drugs and then in 1962 around the efficacy of drugs, and then subsequent times, they have empowered FDA to make these and expect FDA to make these kind of medical and scientific decisions. That is where the staff of the government resides, that can do this work and that they are expected to do this work. It is unprecedented, what has happened here.

COOPER: And if --

HENNEY: And it's certainly -- I think it certainly has implications for Mifepristone, but if this kind of suspension or revocation of an approval can really stand, it does have implications in the broader biological pharmacology community because the approval process will be at risk. And it's not just an approval process that patients rely on and providers rely on, it's one that has been considered the gold standard really for the world.

COOPER: And we heard the Attorney General saying that this really could also impact other medications that Americans rely on. You agree with that? That is not just this -- if this stands, other medications then judges could start to weigh in on here and there.

HENNEY: Well, one does not want to be a Chicken Little, but certainly the implications of a suspension, reversal, revocation here, I can't imagine that it wouldn't have implications for other products.

COOPER: Dr. Henney, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

HENNEY: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, polling videos posted online that appear to show war atrocities in Ukraine, the beheadings of two Ukrainian soldiers, a report from Ukraine next.



COOPER: Ukraine has opened war crimes investigations of two videos posted online that purportedly show the beheadings of two of its soldiers. President Zelenskyy today condemned the perpetrators as beasts. And aid to the president says they are still trying to verify the video's authenticity. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine tonight with the story which we warn you is graphic. Nick, what do we know about these videos?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yeah. I mean, we do actually know not that much. At this stage, it's important to point that out. It's hard to independently verify everything that's thought to be the case about them. The first I should refer to, seems to have been filmed in summer months. That's because of the foliage you see during it. I've seen the entire unblurred video and most of the versions you see online are in fact heavily blurred.

This shows what seems to be a Ukrainian soldier, judging by their uniform and the yellow armband they're wearing, that's often used to delineate sides in the conflict here. That man does appear to be alive and then another man, a massed soldier, he seems to be wearing a white band, that's often used here to delineate the Russian side in the conflict. He leans in and begins to cut him around the neck and slowly decapitate the individual. It's exceptionally gruesome, I should point out, and lasts for a lengthy period of time.

Shocking and there are enough signs I think in there to suggest that what we are seeing is a Ukrainian member of personnel being the victim here and potentially a Russian, according to those signed committing the crime. The second video appears to be from a different time of year, possibly winter months, judging by the sort of harsh nature of the land, grainy too, but it appears to show the aftermath of a mine explosion that's hit a vehicle. And then there are the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers there. One that we see appears to have its hands and head missing. Now, that could be caused by the intensity of an explosion like that.

But some observers have pointed out that the cuts -- the places where those parts, forgive me the graphic nature of the details here, were the heads and hands. So the hands and head removed appear to show cleaner cuts. Exceptionally graphic material here, but certainly something which many would point out shows the ferocity of the conflict here, if indeed they are genuine, and also to the intensity of the information we are dealing with as well, Anderson.

COOPER: What have Ukrainian authorities said about the videos?

WALSH: Well key, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has referred to these as a sort of sign of what kind of creatures Ukraine is facing here. I should point out, this is not the first time we've seen or heard evidence of atrocities by Russian forces certainly, if indeed these videos do in fact point to that. You know, anything from the bombing of bomb shelters we talked about in Mariupol to the intense ferocity of artillery strikes against civilian infrastructure, it's been an utterly brutal war, a lot of that, specifically, the finger pointed towards Moscow.

Moscow themselves have said that they need to look into this further to see who's doing what to who clearly and it could be potentially propaganda as well. But as this conflict drags on, Anderson, the shocking nature of the images you see --

[20:55:00] -- I mean what I saw today, the nature of that beheading video reminded me very clearly of the shock tactics ISIS would use (inaudible) ways often to sort of seem like an outsized enemy towards those that were facing (ph), by being so utterly savage in the things that they did, shows you quite how fast this war is escalating as it drags on into its second year now, Anderson.

COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine for us tonight. Thank you, Nick.

A programming note, Nick Paton Walsh will be on the premiere episode of my new show that debuts this Sunday on CNN, 'The Whole Story,' Nick takes us on a treacherous journey through the daring gap. It's a dangerous 66-mile jungle crossing between Colombia and Panama for many migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. 'The Whole Story' premieres this Sunday at 8 p.m.

Still ahead, the White House is officially warning of a new emerging threat in the country. It's the first warning of its kind for a substance that has led to a substantial increase in overdose deaths. That's details on that next.


COOPER: Tonight, the White House has declared that fentanyl, laced with a powerful animal tranquilizer called xylazine, more commonly known as tranq, is an 'emerging threat' in the nation. It's a drug we told you about last month during our Town Hall on fentanyl. According to a DA report released last year, overdose deaths involving tranq has increased -- have increased dramatically.