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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Suspect Charged In Pentagon Documents Leak Case; Supreme Court Stays Abortion Pill Ruling; Convicted Murderer Who Gov. Abbott Wants To Pardon Shared Racist Posts Before Shooting BLM Protester; GOP 2024 Hopefuls Attend NRA Convention Following Mass Shootings In Kentucky And Tennessee; FL Gov. Ron DeSantis Makes Debut Visit To New Hampshire; Gov. DeSantis Signs Florida's 6-Week Abortion Ban Into Law; CNN Team Treks Deadly Trail Alongside Desperate Migrants; Biden Trip To Ireland Becomes Family Reunion. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 14, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Nick Paton Walsh, really appreciate it. And you can see Nick's really incredible reporting. It's one of many reports you'll see on "The Whole Story," a new weekly program hosted by Anderson Cooper. It premieres this Sunday, 8:00 PM Eastern, only on CNN.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight. AC 360 starts right now.



Tonight, we learned a lot more about the Air National Guardsman Federal authority says responsible for perhaps the worst leak of classified material in a decade. Airman First Class Jack Teixeira's family had nothing to say leaving Federal Court today in Boston.

Earlier, they watched him brought in shackles before a Judge. He entered no plea to a pair of charges under the Espionage Act, unauthorized retention and transmission of National Defense Information and unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents and material. He'll remain in custody until a detention hearing next Wednesday.

As the hearing ended, a man in the courtroom shouted, "Love you, Jack." Teixeira did not look back but responded, "You too, Dad."

According to the government's Court filing unsealed say the IT specialist received top secret security clearance in 2021 and may have had access to more sensitive material. The filing says he "maintained sensitive compartmented access to other highly classified programs."

And then, he began posting classified documents in December of last year. They showed up on the social media platform, Discord. The filing says he used his real name and home address in his billing information on the site.

President Biden today issued a statement saying in part, "I've directed our military and Intelligence Community to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information, and our National Security team is closely coordinating with our partners and allies." He also weighed in late today on his way home from Ireland.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no way to predict how long an investigation will take, but I don't think it's going to take very long. I think we're getting to the bottom of it quicker than I expected.


COOPER: Joining us now with his own new reporting, CNN chief intelligence and law enforcement analyst, John Miller.

You learned more about how the FBI was able to track down the suspect.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So in these cases, it was lightning fast. You really have a five-day case, in a case, you know, a leak investigation can go on for weeks or months.

But it starts with the disclosures that this stuff is out there, the FBI comes into it Sunday night, going into Monday morning, and they start with dropping subpoenas and search warrants on Discord who owns the servers to A., preserve anything they have so it can't be deleted, and B., turned over subscriber information and any content. That leads them to some IP addresses and other connections.

But basically, by Monday, they're at the home of an 18-year-old boy in California. He is a member of this server, and they're talking to him, his mom, and his lawyer. And finally, they agree he is going to sit down and cooperate with the FBI.

And what he tells them was, I was part of this group, we were gamers, we did war games online. The guy who ran it was this guy, OG, or Original Gangster, meaning the senior member of the crew, and I did have a video chat with him. And his name was Jack and he worked on a military base.

And during the video chat, which goes back to January, he said, you know, I was copying these classified documents so I could put them in the chat room so you guys could see them. But I realized, you know, I'm going to get caught literally kind of transcribing them at work.

So to shortcut the process, I started bringing the classified documents home and then just photographing them.

I mean, ironically, the thing he was doing to not arouse suspicion ultimately leads to him being caught because you know, the document I looked at said TS, top secret, HCI Human Compartmented Information that's information from human sources, SI, signals information picked up by groups like the NSA. TK, talent keyhole that satellites from the National Geospatial Agency, NOFORN, don't distribute to any country outside the Five Eyes.

So this material is what was going out there, and the billing address and the name for the server was Jack Teixeira at that address in Massachusetts.

Yesterday, they circled back to the 18-year-old and they show him an array of still photos, a lineup and they say which one of these faces is the guy you know as Jack? He pointed to the person that they identified as Teixeira that gave them the final piece of probable cause to move in which of course we've all seen on video how that went yesterday.

COOPER: And is there any more clarity about why this guy allegedly leaked this information? We know everyone has been saying ego of all the options and the ways people usually do this.

MILLER: You know, as the case unfolds, we'll probably learn more, but just as an analyst looking at him having seen so many young soldiers and airmen in classified environments and looking at them and saying, you know they're so young.


Here is a guy who since he was a little kid, was interested in war, in guns, in weapons, in planes, in tanks, he carried books and magazines about that, based on the interviews that CNN has done with friends, and during COVID, he assembles this group in this, you know, they're all locked down at home, and they play their war games on the Discord server, and they swap their stories back and forth.

But he is the guy who now has a cool job. His two worlds merge. In the daytime, he's going to work where he's working in a classified facility where the gamers aren't gamers, they're not playing. They're flying real drones in real war zones, targeting real terrorists, sending Hellfire missiles and Predator drones with Reapers, and that's all going on.

And he is the guy in the background whose job it is to keep all those systems running technically during the day. But he's exposed all of that material. He brings it back into his pretend world and shares it.

Now his two worlds are basically colliding, but once it spills outside his little group of 25 people onto the Internet, real documents with real classification markings, that was the spill, the leak into the World Wide Web that he couldn't stop.

COOPER: Fascinating. John Miller, thank you. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in CNN legal analyst and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Elliot Williams, also CNN senior political commentator, and former Illinois Republican Congressman, Adam Kinzinger. He is also Lieutenant Colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

Congressman, were you surprised to learn that suspect had a top secret security clearance? And I mean, I listened to John, it's so fascinating about how these two worlds sort of merged.

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I wasn't surprised by it because you know, getting -- I have to go through that process every however many years it is where you get your top secret clearance renewed.

He didn't have much of a record. I mean, what they're looking for with the top secret clearance is things like financial instability. Obviously, if you had any contact with foreign entity, stuff like that, but somebody so young was such kind of an empty slate, more than likely, you know, tripped no red flags.

And it was easy for him to get that clearance and, you know, look, in a military environment, 21 years old, maybe to all of us here seems kind of young, but in the military environment, it is not all that young.

A lot of people are 18 or 19 years old. I'm actually the old guy in the military at 45. So not overly surprising, but certainly this is -- it's sad. It's sad for the Guards. It is sad for the country, and ultimately, probably sad for this kid, too.

COOPER: Yeah, Elliot, based on what we know right now, what are the suspect's options for defense? How much could his fate be riding on whether he cooperates with the government?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think, a tremendous amount, Anderson. I don't think he has a lot of defense here because this was a case that was built largely over electronic materials. And so you have communications, you have records of documents or information that he would have shared online.

You have text communications, where he is having with other people. The crime is committed via computer. So there is really not much of a defense here.

I think, you know, what's not called a defense, but maybe at sentencing, if he is convicted, what he can say is, number one, I served the country. Number two, I don't have a criminal history. And number three, I thought I was doing something righteous.

But most importantly, number four, I accept full responsibility for what I did. Each of those four things I identified are ways that a convicted defendant could potentially lower his sentence.

But those aren't defenses to the crime, that's just lowering the sentence he might get once he is convicted.

COOPER: John, I mean, in terms of cooperation, he may have more documents. I mean, I don't know if they need to have like a secret hiding place for them. But he may have more information that you could at least give more information easily to authorities that might help them, right?

MILLER: It's a really interesting question, because let's say that's the case where he had all these documents, and he had them hidden at home. There's a period of time where he knows they're closing in on him.

He is seeing these articles in "The Washington Post," "The New York Times" and that's the time when someone in that position may well have gotten rid of those documents, which, if it's found to be the case, it's just an additional charge of attempted obstruction of justice by destroying evidence.

When you look at what he could be charged with, the two charges now, unauthorized use of the government classified system and unauthorized disclosure of the documents. Once they get a sense of it, is it a hundred documents? Or is it 300 documents?

Does it zoom out to 500 documents when they have it all counted up and accounted for? Each one of those is going to be a separate count. So these charges could really pile up.

COOPER: Congressman, CNN has new reporting tonight that unsurprisingly, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley is "deeply concerned about the National Security implications," that's a quote, of the leak, what can actually be done to better safeguard sensitive Intelligence if, as you and others have said, there are legitimate reasons that many people have access to?

KINZINGER: Well, look, I don't think we'll ever be in an environment where we have no doubt that it's always safe, but I think there are things that can be implemented.

I don't know that, you know, how easy this would be technically to do but you know that maybe there has to be a system where if anybody accesses classified information, they have to have somebody with them while they do it.


So you can no longer access something alone. You know, you think about when they launch nukes, you have two people with two keys, right? So something along that line may be possible.

And then we have to screen -- look, there is this belief. So Edward Snowden is one of them, and this guy may be kind of had this as a thing where they kind of believe that they have the right to determine what gets declassified.

They have a right to, you know, "righteously" show the American people. I don't know if that was this guy's case. I know Edward Snowden was under some false impression that he was some hero when he was really just a traitor, that's got to be screened out because we can't live in this moment where somebody that's 20 or 21 years old, believes they can set the foreign policy for the United States of America and frankly, honestly, probably cost Ukrainian lives in the long run with this leak.

COOPER: Yes. Congressman Kinzinger, John Miller, Elliot Williams, thanks so much.

Next, what today's last minute action by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito means for the availability of the abortion drug mifepristone, also what the High Court may do next.

And later, the convicted killer of a protester at a Black Lives Matter rally, Texas Governor Greg Abbott now wants to pardon him. Tonight though, as the man's social media postings come to light in newly unsealed Court documents include racist comments he made about killing protesters. The question is will that sway the Governor?



COOPER: Women and doctors across the country won't wake up tomorrow facing tighter restrictions on the abortion drug, mifepristone.

Late today, the Supreme Court hit pause on the Court battle. The action by Associate Justice Samuel Alito restores the way that things were before a Texas Federal Judge's ruling which would have suspended FDA approval of the drug.

It also supersedes its decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to maintain access to mifepristone, but under older, more restrictive rules.

Justice Alito stayed the ruling until 11:59, Wednesday night, while the Court considers an emergency appeal from the Biden administration. He also talked -- I should say, he also asked plaintiffs to respond on or before 12:00 PM Tuesday.

Joining us now is CNN senior Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic. She is the author of "Nine Black Robes: Inside the Supreme Court's Drive to the Right and its Historic Consequences."

Also with his CNN anchor and senior legal analyst, Laura Coates.

So Joan, can you explain why was it solely Justice Alito made this decision? Was that what you expected?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yes, Anderson, it's great to be with you tonight. First of all, Samuel Alito, is the Justice responsible for emergency appeals from the Fifth Circuit. All the regional circuits are divided among the Justices just for this reason to be able to act quickly.

And I actually did expect this kind of action. Frankly, it's very sensible. Just think of what's happened over the last seven days since we first got that ruling from Judge Kacsmaryk in Texas, there's been so much confusion, there have been conflicting rulings. It truly has been cast in the idea of what would be available to women beginning tonight, which was when his order was going to take effect.

So this just gives everyone a chance to pause. It's only five days, but it is a way for the Justices themselves to take a serious look at the briefs and decide should they themselves hear oral arguments? Should they let this play out at the Fifth Circuit, which is already now scheduled its own set of oral arguments for May 17th? What should be the next course of action? Of course, what the Department of Justice would like is for the Justices to make sure that these Lower Court rulings that went against the Food and Drug Administration essentially allow Judges themselves to put themselves in the shoes of the FDA, rather than have the expertise of the agency prevail, whether the Court will actually interfere with that, Anderson.

COOPER: Laura, do you think it would be a mistake to read anything to Alito's decision beyond what it is, a temporary administrative stay?

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: At this point, yes, this is really just a procedural step, and likely will go to the full Supreme Court. Remember, we're not going to resolve anything by that Wednesday deadline, it's really a time to figure out one of two things. Are they going to schedule oral arguments? Or are they going to kick it back to the Fifth Circuit? And either way, it's not going to be a finite ruling because this process continues to unfold.

And I want to mention, although it was Alito, remember it was his famously now his draft opinion that was leaked ultimately became the opinion for the Dobbs decision, in whole or in large part, the fact that he is the one to write this is not indicative that he will eventually rule the same way. There are different consequences here.

The Dobbs decision was about overturning Roe v. Wade on a constitutional basis whether you have the constitutional right to access and have an abortion. This is an administrative issue under a thing called the Chevron Doctrine, which essentially says, look, the agency that is tasked with actually overseeing a particular problem, deciding whether it should be actually authorized or not, the scientific basis for doing so, we're going to let them stay in their lane and drive this particular car. We're going to defer to them.

If the Supreme Court looks at this issue, they'll look at the notion of do we want a chilling effect in the FDA's ability to give authorization and hand it over to a Judge or remain in the hands of the person and agency charged with that very notion?

COOPER: Joan, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs case last year, Justice Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion: "The Court's decision properly leaves the question of abortion for the people and their elected representatives and the democratic process." How does that position square with the possibility of Federal Judges overruling the FDA?

BISKUPIC: Yes, that's interesting, Anderson. He specifically said that the Lower Court Judges shouldn't be bringing their own policy and moral determinations, which arguably the US District Court Judge in Texas did.

He also said, he made a point of saying that the Supreme Court was not outlawing abortion nationwide, that States that wanted to allow abortion within their boundaries still could do that. And that's why I do think this case is different. Because if all of a sudden, the Supreme Court would allow a Lower Court Judge to substitute his own view of what is safe and effective in drugs in America, and roll back all approval for this first pill of the two-step medication abortion protocol, it would effectively make abortion illegal in the States that -- or ineffective in the States that do allow it simply because that is the main method that women who are trying to end their pregnancies in America these days are using for abortion.


COOPER: Yes, and Laura, I mean, the Justice Department is already making the argument to the Supreme Court that the plaintiffs don't have standing, which is obviously a legal term to challenge this drug in Court because they either, "take nor prescribe" the drug and the FDA approval "does not require them to do or refrain from doing anything." How strong an argument you think that is?

COATES: Well, first of all, on the issue of standing. It's really a way of saying, Why are you the person coming before the Court to ask me for some kind of relief? You've got to show me that you have some particular skin in the game here, not just a hypothetical or ideological dispute. It has to actually be a controversy or in some way that you're actually harmed.

They're going to have to prove that because while you've got this writing period that is going to take place, the deadline is not just for the Supreme Court to mull it over internally right now and then turn it over to the entire nine. It's really for the people who are asking for the Court to review or defending against it to say, show me what you have. Show me your cards here. This is the time to put up or shut up. Why are you the proper party to be before this Court? Why are you aggrieved or harmed in some way?

And also they're going to have to address the fact that you've got a 23-year history here. Why now? Why this time? Why this drug?

COOPER: Laura Coates, Joan Biskupic, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, Texas Governor Greg Abbott wants to expedite the pardon of a man convicted in the killing of a Black Lives Matter protester. Now, newly unsealed Court documents show he has a history of racist comments and violent threats.



COOPER: Tonight, as the Texas Pardons Board investigates Governor Greg Abbott's request for an expedited pardon of a US Army Sergeant convicted last week of killing of Black Lives Matter protester in 2020, newly unsealed Court documents reveal a series of racist and violent Facebook comments the Sergeant, Daniel Perry made prior to the shooting.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the country in the summer of 2020, newly released Court documents revealed Daniel Perry intensely watched the chaos, quickly becoming angry.

In a social media post, he described the protesters as a zoo full of monkeys. The unsealed documents include 76 pages of social media postings and text messages. Most of these details were not shown to the jury that convicted the Army Sergeant of murdering protester, Garrett Foster and raises new questions about why Texas Governor Greg Abbott is rushing a push to pardon this convicted murderer.

Foster's family and longtime partner have called the Governor's call for a pardon, disgusting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has been a complete nightmare.

LAVANDERA (voice over): The Court documents show Perry talked about killing people and shared racist memes and comments on social media, including a 2019 message saying "Too bad we can't get paid for hunting Muslims in Europe." And in a Facebook message in May 2020, just months before the deadly shooting, Perry wrote he might have to kill a few people on my way to work.

Another text said, I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.

Perry's attorneys called the release of the documents a political move by prosecutors and said Foster also made posts advocating violence. In this 2020 post, Foster praised the burning of a Minneapolis Police Station.

Perry's attorneys are calling for a new trial saying they want to introduce evidence that Foster repeatedly instigated confrontations and was the "first aggressor."

When the murder happened on July 25, 2020, Perry now a 35-year-old Army Sergeant worked as a rideshare driver and had just dropped off a passenger near a BLM protest.

Prosecutors say Perry drove into the protest and instigated a confrontation. Perry's attorneys say Foster, a 28-year-old Air Force veteran motioned to Perry as protesters were beating on his car.

GARRETT FOSTER, BLM PROTESTER: They've got to practice of some of our --

LAVANDERA (voice over): Foster was legally carrying an assault style weapon that night. Perry had a handgun in his car and at some point in the exchange, he fired multiple times, killing Foster.

During a police interrogation, Perry gave several versions of the position of Foster's gun.

DANIEL PERRY, CONVICTED OF MURDER: I believed it was aimed at me. I believe he was going to aim it at me. I didn't want to give him a chance to aim at me, you know? LAVANDERA (voice over): Perry also told police he did not try to kill Foster.

PERRY: I honestly did not want him -- want him to die. All I wanted to do was incapacitate him.

LAVANDERA (voice over): A Texas jury rejected his claims of self- defense.


COOPER: Ed Lavandera joins me now from Austin, has Governor Abbott commented on these newly unsealed documents that show these racist messages?

LAVANDERA: Well, we reached out to him today and we got a one sentence response from his spokesperson. It's very different from the initial plea that the Governor had put out the day after Daniel Perry was convicted that he was pushing for a swift pardon.

But this statement today read simply: "All pertinent information is for the Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider as this is part of the review process required by the Texas Constitution."

So the Governor has to wait for that Parole and Pardons Board to issue its recommendation. No timeline on exactly when that is going to happen, though -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, appreciate it. Thanks.

Still ahead, 2024 GOP hopefuls taking the stage at the NRA Convention, which of course is taking place in the wake of the mass shootings in Nashville and Louisville.

Plus, GOP rising star, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis making his debut. He is headed to be pivotal primary State of New Hampshire. Tonight we have details, next.



COOPER: Just days removed from mass shooting Louisville, and weeks since a similar tragedy to Nashville school, Republican presidential hopefuls and contenders flocked to the NRA's annual convention today in Indianapolis.

Some of the big names at the convention include the former president, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who announced his bid for the presidency earlier this month. Other big names, like former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared via video.

CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was proud to be the most pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment president you've ever had in the White House.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I will stand with each and every one of you in protection of what we all know is common sense.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a concealed weapons permit holder myself. My husband is a hunter. And we value the fact that citizens have the right to protect themselves.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The National Rifle Association convention highlights the sway the NRA still holds with the Republican Party, even amid a rise in mass shootings in the U.S., including those in Kentucky and Tennessee in recent days.

MIKE PENCE (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I know I speak with everyone here when I say that our hearts and our prayers are with all the families that suffered loss and injury in these unspeakable attacks.

HOLMES (voice-over): Former Vice President Mike Pence called for mass shooters to be punished more quickly.

PENCE: I believe the time has come to institute a federal death penalty statute with accelerated appeal to ensure that those who engage in mass shootings face execution in months, not years.

HOLMES (voice-over): Several contenders suggested policymakers should focus on expanding mental health resources and armed guards to protect schools.

ASA HUTCHINSON (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: If you're going to protect children, you need to have armed personnel to protect the children.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: We know the crux of these issues. It's undiagnosed mental health. It's a lack of opportunity in schools.

HOLMES (voice-over): Former President Trump delivered the closing remarks at the forum promoting his actions to expand gun rights while in the White House.


TRUMP: I fought Obama's unconstitutional effort to ban 3D printed guns. I stood up for our hunters, fishers, and sportsmen like no other president has ever done before.

HOLMES (voice-over): Appearing via video, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seen as Trump's top rival for the nomination touted his efforts to expand gun rights in the Sunshine State.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: As governor, I've resisted calls to take up gun control even when such a stand is superficially unpopular, because I understand that it is precisely at those moments when a right is unpopular that it needs true champions.

HOLMES (voice-over): The conference also marks the first time Trump and Pence have appeared in person at the same event after their public split following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as the two former allies appear on a collision course in a 2024 GOP primary.


COOPER: And Kristen Holmes is there for us now. What sort of response did the former vice president and the president and the former president get?

HOLMES: Well, first of all, Anderson, I do want to note that they did not overlap. Pence spoke early, and he left almost immediately afterwards for a donor retreat in Nashville. They too have still not spoken in over two years.

Now, when it comes to reception, this was very much clearly the former president's event. Even walking into the event, the billboard that listed the speakers had a giant picture of former President Trump with Wayne LaPierre. And just some of the other speakers were in tiny pictures next to it, and the energy in the crowd was exactly the same.

Trump got a standing ovation at the beginning for several minutes. He also got a standing ovation at the end. Lots of cheers, and Pence's reception was not as warm. He was booed at the beginning and at the end, but I will say he took it in stride. At one point when the booing wouldn't stop at the beginning, he said, OK, OK, I love you too, making a joke out of it.

But this is going to be what the former vice president has to face if he does decide to enter this 2024 race. There is still a lot of contention and a lot of tension when it comes to the relationship between --


HOLMES: -- the former president and the former vice president.

COOPER: Kristen Holmes, appreciate it. Thanks.

Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is in New Hampshire tonight making his debut visit, the first in the nation primary state for Republicans to headline the New Hampshire Republican Party's Amos Tuck Dinner.

CNN's Jessica Dean is there. So what more can you tell us about the governor's visit?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this is his first trip to New Hampshire as governor, and of course, he's still undeclared in any GOP presidential primary in 2024. But that didn't stop him from really touting a list of accomplishments that he sees that he's had in Florida as governor over the last several years.

One source familiar with his team thinking, saying that tonight and these appearances that he's having across the country in early states and key swing states is about really sharing what they consider to be a story of success in Florida, the Florida success story. And that they really want to spread the word and really give DeSantis a chance to introduce himself to conservative voters, to GOP voters all across the country.

And as I mentioned, he did go through and really tick off a number of things that he's done as governor in Florida. And it was interesting because he did not mention any of his potential rivals by name, but he did -- the closest thing he did was talk about how he doesn't like drama, which if you're listening to it, you could take as a subtle swipe at the former president.

Listen to this.


DESANTIS: I don't have time for drama. I don't have time for palace intrigue. I want to make sure that we're executing the agenda. And you know what's happened over the last four years? We don't have leaks. We don't have drama. All we do is get the job done day after day, and that means we beat the left day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.


DEAN: And Anderson, that's really core to his argument in his pitch that he was making tonight, essentially that he is an executive with his eye on the ball, that he's going to do what he says he's going to do when it comes to that conservative agenda and that he's not going to let any drama kind of swirl around him. That he wants to be laser focused on that.

And this is of course a chance for him to really test out any enthusiasm, what enthusiasm there might be for his brand of leadership should he jump into the race later this year. And I did talk to some people who were in the crowd just to kind of take their temperature.

And one gentleman I talked to said that he was very impressed with the list of deliverables that DeSantis had, that that was impactful for him to hear about the things that he had promised to do and then things that he had accomplished.

COOPER: Late last night, the governor signed Florida's new six-week abortion ban into law. Today, he spoke at the Conservative Evangelical Liberty University in Virginia. He didn't make mention of it during his speech. Did he mention it tonight in New Hampshire?

DEAN: Right. No, he did not mention it tonight. And that is worth noting because as I said, he did go through so many specific achievements that he had there, but we did not hear him mention that specifically at all at the event tonight.


And as you mentioned, Anderson, he was at Liberty University and really the closest he came was saying that he and his administration had promoted a culture of life, but again, not really harping on that at all. He had signed that six-week abortion ban late Thursday night. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Jessica Dean, appreciate it. Thank you.

Just ahead, something I'm very proud to be part of, a new show I'm hosting that premieres this Sunday. It's called The Whole Story. And on Sunday's premiere, Nick Paton Walsh takes us on a stunning journey with tens of thousands of migrants trying to make it through the treacherous Darien Gap, the only land route from south to Central America.

We'll have more in a moment.


COOPER: This Sunday at 08:00 p.m., CNN premieres a new weekly show I'm hosting. It's called The Whole Story. It's one story, 1 hour in depth, and the premiere episode on Sunday is really good.

Nick Paton Walsh and his crew spent about a week making the dangerous and difficult journey to get through the Darien Gap, which is the only land route from south to Central America, which thousands of migrants are making every day. Here's a preview.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): The football shirts, a porters, each numbered, charging to carry bags, even children uphill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Hey my kings, my queens. Whoever feels tired, I'm here.


WALSH (voice-over): But it doesn't always work out.

Wilson (ph) is separated from his parents. Their porter raced off ahead.

(through translator): My name is Nick. Nice to meet you. You are here all by yourself? Yes. You're waiting for your parents? Where are they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They are behind.

WALSH (through translator): Are you going to America? Where are you going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): To Miami.

WALSH (through translator): To Miami. What do you like about Miami?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Daddy is going to build a swimming pool. WALSH (through translator): He will build a pool for you? What do you want to be when you grow up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): To work.

WALSH (through translator): What work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): School work. And my sister has chosen nurse.

WALSH (voice-over): Nearly a thousand unaccompanied children were found on the route last year, the U.N. have said.


COOPER: Nick, I mean, it's just so heartbreaking to see that little boy Wilson out there on his own. You know, did he get in touch with his -- I mean, did his family find him? Did you encounter a lot of kids on the track?

WALSH: Yes, a staggering amount, frankly. Wherever you looked, you would see children often very young and often also too bizarrely engaging in the task ahead of them, sort of energetically, bounding uphill, seeming so incredibly resilient. But it's shocking to see them on this trek, particularly given the knowledge that adults struggle to complete it.

Often adults die, indeed, on this sort of trek. Wilson, the boy, you saw that? Yes, a couple of days later. I was deeply troubled that he may have been permanently separated from his parents, but we did magically see them back together again. But this is often the issue here, that parents who are deeply struggling to move themselves, their own equipment, their own food, sometimes engage porters to carry their children for them.

And those porters are a lot faster, race off ahead and then, in Wilson's case, end up separated. His case ended happily, but we do hear of others where that separation doesn't end in final reunification, Anderson.

COOPER: You and your team, your producer Natalie Gajan (ph), and your cameraman Bruce Leyne (ph), hiked this trail for five days in February. In the story that you put together in the documentary, some of the migrants on the trail with you told you that they wouldn't have attempted the trek if they knew how dangerous it really was. Was it harder than you thought it was going to be?

WALSH: Yes. I mean, look, you know, it's going to be difficult, but we had the knowledge of that and then we had the resources of CNN to mitigate it. So, you know, we were wearing equipment, carrying equipment with the assistance of porters, too, to help us carry our equipment as well.

All of which, you know, total thousands of dollars worth of assistance. And still, at the end of it, I looked down at my feet and was surprised they were still attached to my body, frankly, half the time. It's exceptionally physically grueling, even if the only thing you -- I had to do in my case was carry a light backpack and talk to people as you move.

We kept seeing parents carrying all the food their family might need. Sometimes their children as well, walking at times with flip flops, croc type shoes, small backpacks, football shirts, startling at time to see exactly how poorly equipped some people seem to enter this particular challenge.

A lot of that is down, I think, to the sort of propaganda, the sales campaign, that the cartels, the human traffickers, this what is basically is voluntary, but a large trafficking operation. What they say to people before they undertake it, that it's not going to be that hard, that it's going to be a few days. You don't have to really pack that much.

And then they enter this. They see the terrain, they see how much longer it possibly is than they had ever remotely imagined. How much more food and everything they should really be requiring. And that is when the panic sets and to the danger, frankly, because they suddenly realize how poorly resourced they are as they begin this challenge, Anderson.

COOPER: And what's so extraordinary by this hour, I mean, you really -- you take the viewers on this 66-mile journey through the Darien Gap and meet the -- you know, put names and faces to people along the way. And then there's the realization that even after they make it out of the Darien Gap, they still have -- if they want to try to get to the U.S., they still have 3,000 miles to the U.S. border.

And if they're thinking they're going to apply for asylum, that's going to take even years, if they're even able to do that, even able to get a hearing. And there's a very good chance they will not be granted asylum because fleeing economic hardship is not enough to be granted asylum in the U.S.


WALSH: Yes, absolutely. And I think that's what's at times really depressing about all of this is that you're meeting people along the way who show phenomenal determination, grit. They endure physical challenges, which, you know, as I say, we there voluntarily, at times you're wondering, how am I going to keep going through all of this?

But a lot of them seem to be fueled by times poor information, the belief that maybe some interpretation of U.S. government statements might mean that they have a better chance next week than the previous week. It seems it doesn't really matter what the U.S. government says.

At times, that is often passed or interpreted as suggesting people need to go now because later it will be harder or now is a good time because the conditions have improved. Whatever you hear from people, they seem to think when they get there, now is a good time to try it.

COOPER: Yes. Nick Paton Walsh, it's really extraordinary what you and your team did. Thank you. Tune in Sunday night at 08:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific for the first installment (ph) of the whole story on CNN.

Well, coming up, in about 10 minutes tonight, Wolf Blitzer takes us inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. You're going to hear stories from survivors like wolves stat (ph) and witness, a history that must never be forgotten. "Never Again: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Tour" starts at the top of the hour.

Just ahead tonight, President Biden left Ireland tonight, but not before making an unexpected connection with someone who knew his son Beau in the final moments of his life. We'll explain next.



COOPER: Moments ago, President Biden departed Ireland for his residence in Delaware, but not before he made one last unexpected family connection. While visiting a Catholic shrine with his sister and son Hunter today, the President said that, quote, out of the blue, he was told that the priest who gave his son Beau last rites was there.

Beau Biden, as you know, died of brain cancer at Walter Reed Medical Center almost eight years ago. Father Frank O'Grady served there before returning to Ireland. Biden met with O'Grady for about 10 minutes. O'Grady reportedly said to the President he laughed, he cried. It just kind of hit the man.

He told a different local media outlet that, quote, he certainly misses his son. And that, quote, we talked a little bit about how grief can take several years.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan was in Ireland, as more on the homecoming for President exploring his family roots.


BARRA MULLIGAN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S 5TH COUSIN: I don't know sometimes if Joe Biden's Irish or if we're all American.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (Foreign language), Gaelic for "I'm at home."

BIDEN: Only wish I could stay longer.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Biden may be facing crises, including a major intelligence leak in the United States. But here in Ireland, he's received a hero's welcome.

BIDEN: It's incredible.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): The country's weather not dampening President Biden's spirits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of the weather, Mr. President?

BIDEN: It's fine. It's fine. It feels wonderful. Feels like I'm coming home.

PETER MCGUIGAN, LOUTH RESIDENT: Cupcakes are all bake for him. And it's a big welcome for Joe, isn't it?


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): First, the President visited County Louth on Ireland's east coast, where his great, great grandfather immigrated from more than 170 years ago.

(on-camera): Why do the Irish love American president so much? What is it about it?

MCGUIGAN: America is our second country. During the famine times and the bad times that we had with our neighbors, all our people immigrants went to America. They were welcomed with open arms, as you were yourself, Donie.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): In Ireland, Biden seems to have cousins everywhere.

(on-camera): So let me just get this straight. So, your great, great, great --

MULLIGAN: Grandfather was Joe Biden's great grandfather's cousin.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Very good.

MULLIGAN: I think that's the best --

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): You like that?

MULLIGAN: Oh, yes, yes.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): First cousin, second cousin.


O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Fourth cousin?

L. BLEWITT: Yes, yes.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): That's pretty close.

L. BLEWITT: Because my dad is third.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Yes.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): In Ballina, on Ireland's Atlantic coast, we meet two of the President's youngest cousins, Lauren and Emily Blewitt.

E. BLEWITT: The town is so excited. It's such a buzz.

CHRISTINA FORDE, BALLINA RESIDENT: Welcome home. Welcome. You've been gone too long. Come on in, Joe. And close the door.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Locals here say Biden's great, great, great grandfather Edward Blewitt sold bricks for the construction of the town's cathedral in the 19th century. And then he used that money to move to America.

(on-camera): So this here is -- would have been the fireplace, basically.


O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Wow.

(voice-over): More bricks. Ernie Caffrey says this is what remains of Biden's ancestral home here in Ballina. Ernie runs Caffrey's Gallery. In the front window, a Biden portrait.

(on-camera): You painted this?

HILARY LYONS, BALLINA RESIDENT: Yes. I am friendly with the owner of this premises and I was passing down on Saturday, last Saturday, and was popping in to say hello. I got a notion Saturday afternoon. I said, I'm going to go home and I'm going to do a painting of Joe. So I did.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): What does this mean to the community, though?

MICHAEL CARR, OWNER, PADDY MAC'S: It means a huge thing to Ballina, a huge thing to me. All people have become it for years to see where did he come from, where did he go.


COOPER: And Donie O'Sullivan joins us now. That was delightful. Did you run into any people this past week who are not distant cousins of the President of the United States?

O'SULLIVAN: You know, the genealogists here in Ireland, Anderson, I think they deserve a raise. They're working overtime. Look, as you can see, there are people really, really proud, particularly in this community in County Mayo, where Biden tonight addressed thousands of people who packed the keys all along the River Moy that goes true to town.

So folks very, very excited about it. Lots of people claiming they are his cousin. As you saw in that piece, too, lots of people claiming different items, you know, bricks off walls and things that are somehow linked to Biden's ancestry. Although locally, people here are calling some of those claims into question.

However, the man you saw in that piece there, Ernie Caffrey, he actually presented the President wish, a brick from that fireplace you saw in the piece there today. So that is on its way on Air Force One now back to the U.S. with the President.

COOPER: They didn't give you a lift back?

O'SULLIVAN: He didn't know.


O'SULLIVAN: I'm stuck here in the cold talking to you.

COOPER: Well, Donie, have fun. It's a great piece. Thank you so much.

Wolf Blitzer special "Never Again" starts now.