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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

NY Times: On Eve Of Dominion Trial, Discovery Of Tucker Carlson Texts Set Off Crisis Atop Fox; Interview With Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC); E. Jean Carroll Testifies In Battery And Defamation Case Against Trump; Disney Sues DeSantis, Accuses Him Of Targeted Campaign Of Government Retaliation; Hinds County Sheriff: Mississippi Jail Escapee Spotted In Texas; MTA Employees Honored For Saving Toddler In Train Tracks. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 26, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Well, McCarthy did pass a bill. The White House and the Senate Democrats, though have already rejected it. They want the debt limit to be increased without any negotiation. So like I said, Groundhog Day.

The United States has never actually defaulted on its debt. The clock is ticking, though. Washington has until early June to raise the debt limit, and if they don't, obviously, a financial crisis could be in the offing.

Thanks so much for joining us. It is time now for AC 360.



We begin tonight with breaking news. "The New York Times" is reporting on what it says helped lead to the breaking point "between Fox News and Tucker Carlson." And according to "The Times," it had to do with information that came to light in the Dominion case.

Here is the headline: "On Eve of trial, discovery of Carlson text set off crisis atop Fox." According to "The New York Times": "Private messages sent by Tucker Carlson that had been redacted in legal filings showed him making highly offensive remarks that went beyond the comments of his primetime show."

In a moment, the attorney for fired Carlson producer, Abby Grossberg joins me and I'll get his take on this and other developments.

In two lawsuits against the network, she is alleging sexism, a hostile work environment and accuses the company of coercing her into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion case.

She also says she has 90 recordings from her time at Fox that were never shared in the Dominion case, and her attorney said the January 6th special prosecutor now has descriptions of those recordings and they want them.

First, we want to talk with "The New York Times" reporter, Jim Rutenberg, who is on the byline of this breaking Tucker Carlson story; also with, CNN senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy.

So, Jim, if you can just lay out more of your reporting about what allegedly led to the breaking point between Fox and Tucker Carlson?

JIM RUTENBERG, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, Anderson, what we are reporting is that there was a late break in terms of what Fox's board of directors knew about redacted portions of these Tucker Carlson e-mails that were going to be at issue at trial.

Some of your viewers might remember there have been -- there were a bunch of e-mails from Tucker Carlson that were pretty controversial, but apparently these redactions were even more concerning to the board and senior leadership, that somehow, they had escaped notice until this 11th hour and that led Fox to really realize that this is a point where Tucker Carlson is moving into more of a problem up to say the least, than an asset.

COOPER: And Jim, is it clear why the Fox board of directors and some senior executives were in the dark about these messages until virtually the eve of the Dominion trial? Because the lawyers had them.

RUTENBERG: Well, that is surprising to us as well. So we are continuing to report that out.

But it does seem at the very least as if these redactions were considered sort of safely put away. There still seems to be some contention that maybe none of these would have ended up being seen in trial. That's debatable. Dominions' lawyers, clearly, were planning to bring them up in cross examination if they could, if they had gotten Tucker on the stand, maybe a judge would have stopped that.

So there seem to be somehow these get to slip by and the board engages at the very last minute and also what we are reporting is that when the board gets on to this, they start -- they consider bringing in an outside firm to conduct an investigation into what was surrounding these very controversial messages between Tucker Carlson and other people within the company.

COOPER: Oliver, how does this square with your own reporting?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Anderson, in Rupert Murdoch's empire, no one can be bigger than the Fox News brand, and I think these messages even the unredacted messages indicate that Tucker Carlson clearly thought that he was, that -- I mean, in the messages that were unredacted, just to be clear, he was not shy about expressing significant disdain for Fox brass, Fox leadership. He made some very crude comments in the unredacted messages.

And so I think, if there are more messages, perhaps more crude messages in the redacted portions, it became clear I think, to Fox leadership, people like Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Suzanne Scott, that he believed he was bigger than the Fox News brand. And I think that's a cardinal sin in Rupert Murdoch's empire.

And you've seen them in the past, willing to part ways with some of their biggest personalities -- Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly, when they believe that they've basically ascended past Fox News, that Fox News needs them more than they need Fox News.

And really, I think Rupert Murdoch has proven that that's not necessarily the case. Fox is what convenes the audience, not these hosts.

COOPER: Jim, according to your reporting, how was the decision to fire Carlson viewed by the Murdochs? Is it clear?

RUTENBERG: How was their decision -- well, they certainly were beyond ready to do it. And one thing I want to make clear is that by all indications, the Murdochs over time were souring on their top host.

I mean, in your show, you've covered it yourself. Tucker Carlson had a certain gift for getting into trouble, dragging the network into trouble, and that seemed to be okay obviously for a couple of years. They stood by him.


He was a big ratings driver. He was a profit driver. But once he starts walking them into what appears to be greater potential legal problems. You mentioned two other lawsuits that are pending, there was potentially news of -- there is news of a potential third lawsuit coming down the pike.

So this just takes the Murdochs into a far different category in terms of dealing with Tucker Carlson and the controversy clearly becomes not worth it.

COOPER: And Oliver has Carlson commented on it?

DARCY: Carlson has been seen by tabloids in Florida, and he said -- he told "The Daily Mail" that he is enjoying retirement, kind of joking about that, but he hasn't commented in a really substantive way.

I think it's also noteworthy, Anderson that without Carlson in the 8:00 PM hour over at Fox News, the ratings over there are really collapsing. Last night, in the key advertiser supported or coveted 25 to 54 demo, they saw the worst ratings since pre-9/11. That's a really staggering drop over at Fox News.

The hour before it actually rated higher than the 8:00 PM hour, which is something of an anomaly over at Fox, something that certainly never happened when Tucker Carlson was in that hour.

And so I think as we're watching this, it's really interesting to see the ramifications it is having at Fox and also at the smaller right- wing channel Newsmax, which is seeing its ratings surge.

And this is of course, what led to the initial Dominion debacle because Fox executives saw this other competitor rising, and that's when they started to make some of these decisions that led to being sued ultimately by Dominion.

COOPER: Jim, how does Carlson -- I mean, how could his texts factor into the separate pending defamation suit by Smartmatic against Fox? I mean, could more information come to light through those proceedings?

RUTENBERG: Well, yes. Tucker Carlson is not a huge part of that case. I'll note he wasn't a huge part of the Dominion case. In fact, when it came to defamatory statements, his show was one of 20 examples, but the problem was that these texts were so hot and controversial that already and as Oliver said, like some of the unredacted texts were already getting them into trouble.

So he was helping set for the lawyers at Dominion, and helping them show an atmosphere in which people doubted some of these conspiracies.

Tucker Carlson talked about doubting these conspiracies in some pretty unvarnished terms. He spoke about Sidney Powell, a lawyer who was driving the conspiracies about Dominion Voting, this idea that their machines, this false idea that the machines were switching Trump votes to Biden votes.

So he sets an atmosphere. He is not a major part of that case, but that goes back to the liability idea here. I don't mean that necessarily in a legal sense, but in a reputational sense, that Tucker is making so much noise around these suits that he otherwise didn't have to be a major part of.

COOPER: Yes, Jim Rutenberg, really appreciate it. Oliver Darcy as well.

As we mentioned, the two lawsuits against Fox, fired Carlson producer Abby Grossberg is alleging sexism, a hostile work environment, accused the company of coercing her into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion case. She also says she has 90 audio recordings that she made while working at Fox that she says Dominion didn't get.

And now, her attorney says the January 6 prosecutor has descriptions of those recordings and may want them.

Joining me now is her attorney, Gerry Filippatos.

How does this new reporting by "The New York Times" track with what your client is alleging?

PARISIS "GERRY" FILIPPATOS, ATTORNEY TO ABBY GROSSBERG: Well, I mean, the fish rots from the head up, head down, rather. So it's very clear to me that the -- let's just call them salty electronic exchanges that were part of then became unredacted in the Dominion case, are very characteristic of the type of atmosphere that Mr. Carlson fomented and countenanced in his news group, and form a great part of Abby's case in the Southern District.

I'll just say also in terms of the three cases, the Dominion, Smartmatic and Abby's case, I think Abby's civil conspiracy case is kind of the connective sinew between the two cases in terms of what would happen and how the discovery process was really abused and it seems that the attorneys were playing hide the ball instead of following the rules.

COOPER: In today's "Wall Street Journal," sources of "The Wall Street Journal" said that that Fox News attorneys at one point actually convinced the court to redact an instance in which Carlson allegedly had called a Fox News executive a misogynistic slur, begins with the letter C.

Carlson have reportedly, according to "The Wall Street Journal" sources was not happy about that, wanted the world to know, he said what he thought of that executive. That seems to strengthen a lot of the things that your client has been saying about what it was like in that environment.

FILIPPATOS: Yes, I mean, one of the -- Abby made a lot of complaints about the environment there once she got there. She was shocked, I mean the first day she was there, I think she was telling the story about how she was welcomed by pictures, large pictures of then Speaker Pelosi in a bathing suit because she was on the beach, and they were all over the place in a mocking kind of way and she actually had to take one off of her computer to sit down and work.

So she complained a few times and one of the executives, I think it was Mr. Fox, no pun intended, said to her. Well, you know, this is -- we're just following Tucker's lead. This is the vibe Tucker likes.

COOPER: It seems like he set the tone for -- they all -- all the -- you know, on a show like that, he can decide who works there and who doesn't, and so they all sort of pattern themselves after him.

FILIPPATOS: I mean, it was a real kind of, you know, bro fest, you know, kind of what -- I did a lot of cases in the 90s, you know, remember the boom-boom rooms and you thought those went away, but apparently, they didn't.

And what's just shocking to me is that, that there is -- Fox has had so many warnings and so many lawsuits that it settled and alleging sex discrimination and gender discrimination.

COOPER: I mean, to your point, Carlson replaced Bill O'Reilly.

FILIPPATOS: Exactly and they had --

COOPER: It is fascinating that Carlson would not have learned the lessons of the person he replaced. Your client made these 90 audio recordings. I want to play one of Senator Ted Cruz's from January 2, 2021.

Cruz floated the idea of a kind of a special commission to look at voter fraud claims. This was not on air. This was Ted Cruz talking to Maria Bartiromo, but not --

FILIPPATOS: In a pre-interview.

COOPER: In a pre-interview. Let's listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I think that the country deserves to have a credible assessment of these claims and what the evidence shows and mechanisms to try to force that is denying certification on the sixth.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: Who is deciding who gets inaugurated?

CRUZ: It would be the results of that commission and what they find and if they found credible evidence of fraud that undermine confidence in the electoral results in any given state, they would report on that.


COOPER: And as we mentioned, Jack Smith has been in touch with you about these recordings. Where does all of that stand?

FILIPPATOS: So, the special counsel's office.

COOPER: The special counsel's office.

FILIPPATOS: And we've surrendered detailed descriptions of all of the audio recordings we have pursuant to the otter app. There were approximately 90. And frankly, we're not through all of them yet in us listening to them. There's a tremendous amount of volume.

But we're hopeful that we'll be able to work out a targeted subpoena, and whatever recordings they want, we're happy to give them.

COOPER: Gerry Filippatos, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

FILIPPATOS: Thank you, sir.

COOPER: Up next, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gets a victory in a close vote. He got House Republicans to agree to raise the debt ceiling, but the measure is obviously expected to die when it goes to the Senate. More on what happens next.

And I'll talk with Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace, who backed McCarthy's bill. Hear why she just earlier today, she had said she was going to vote no, but she changed it to a yes.

Also tonight, why the Walt Disney Corporation is now suing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.



COOPER: Earlier this evening, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy got the votes he needed by a very thin margin. McCarthy and his fellow House Republicans have passed a plan to raise the nation's $31.4 trillion debt limit by $1.5 trillion in exchange for spending cuts and unraveling parts of President Biden's agenda.

The vote was 217 to 215 with four Republicans voting against it. The maximum allowed defections in a narrowly divided chamber.

Here are those who voted no -- Matt Gaetz, Ken Buck, Andy Biggs, and Tim Burchett.

Getting to this moment was obviously important for McCarthy. For him to get the Speaker's gavel, it took a historic 15 ballots that were five days back in January. Today, he showed he can unite most of his fellow Republicans and get what he wants done, though his bill is really going nowhere. The Democratic controlled Senate and White House won't back McCarthy's plan.

Here is what President Biden said this afternoon.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am happy to meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended. That's not negotiable.


COOPER: But negotiations on some level between both parties will be necessary to avoid potential financial disaster. Without a deal, experts predict the United States could default on its debt as early as June.

Joining us now, South Carolina Republican Congresswoman, Nancy Mace who switched her vote from a no to a yes today.

Congresswoman, great to have you on. You were a holdout.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Thank you.

COOPER: You were a holdout on this bill ahead of some key changes in a meeting with Speaker McCarthy and his team. How did they get you to a yes?

MACE: Well, my job when I came to Washington is to get things done and we did that today. I'm grateful for the time that Speaker McCarthy gave to us to talk about balancing the budget in the future and committing to working with us on a balanced budget amendment for example, and you and you know, too Anderson that I'm very passionate about other issues, and we talked about those other issues, like women's issues that I'm very passionate about. I'm also passionate about gun violence in this country.

And getting a commitment and talking to him about a path forward on how we can work together on some of the issues that South Carolina cares about. And quite frankly, most folks across the country, and I'm here to work and work hard, and sometimes that means negotiating in order to move forward and that's what we did today.

COOPER: Of the changes that were made to the bill in the past 24 hours, was there something particular that was most instrumental in getting it passed do you think?

MACE: Not in the language of the bill itself, but talking and getting a commitment from him to work with us on a balanced budget amendment separately in the future. And in fact, we sent -- submitted some language tonight for them for their consideration, but working with us on something that I feel very strongly about.

Because look, we are in this position today with $31 trillion in debt, because both sides have been spending like drunken sailors. You had under President Trump's administration, he added $8 trillion to the debt. So far under President Biden, he has added $4 trillion to the debt. That's $12 trillion over the last six years and we've got to get serious about how we're going to move forward, how we're going to tackle spending, and how we're going to try to balance things out.

I have a bill that would balance the budget in five years, too aggressive for the majority of Congress, but can we do it in 20? I would take 20 years.


But we've got to have tough conversations, make tough decisions. I'm disappointed to hear the President won't sit down and talk to McCarthy about negotiating further on this deal. But both sides need to come together and work together. That's what the American people are asking us to do today.

COOPER: Which means both sides make compromises, which is often now a dirty word in Washington.

MACE: Yes.

COOPER: I mean, compromises with the Senate, with the White House in order to make sure the United States. Are you willing to go along with that? Making some sort of compromises to make sure that --

MACE: I have been willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with me and if you look at history, back in 1994, Republicans had the majority, we had a Democrat president, they put a plan together to balance the budget in 10 years, they did it sooner. They did it in four, in 1998 under President Bill Clinton, they got a surplus and they balanced the budget.

They did it again in 2010 and 2011, where we had a Democrat president, a Republican majority with cut, cap and balance. It can be done, but that means that both sides have to come to the table. We can't dig our heels in.

And although compromise may be a dirty word in Washington, that's what the American people want us to be doing. They want us to work together to deliver results for the country.

COOPER: Do you think Speaker McCarthy would have the same support within the GOP caucus if he has to give up some of the cuts that just passed the House?

MACE: Well, it's hard to say. But again, we've got to move something forward. We've got to be responsible about how we're going to spend.

You know, if you look at some of the plans that are out there and ideas, we cannot have $31 trillion of debt 10 years from now. We have to figure this out and we have to figure it out together because you have a Republican-controlled House, a Democrat-controlled Senate.

So digging your heels in and saying, no, no, no, we're not going to work together doesn't sound good for the majority of Americans. They want us to work together and this is the first step in doing that. I hope that Biden will take up McCarthy on this deal and offer to come to the table and negotiate, talk to us. We're willing to talk to you,

COOPER: Congresswoman Nancy Mace, appreciate your time. Thank you.

MACE: Thank you.

COOPER: I want turn to our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, the Senate Democrats, the White House are saying the House Republican plan is dead on arrival. What happens now?

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is dead on arrival. What happens now is there has to be some kind of middle ground, like you were just talking about with the congresswoman.

Yes, it is true that the president says I will not negotiate on the debt ceiling, it will have to be raised. Period, end of story. It is also true that he's been in Washington a very long time and he knows that there are ways to get to yes, for both sides, but you have to do it in a way that both the Democrats and Republicans feel like they're getting a win.

One example is Senator Amy Klobuchar told me on Sunday on "State of the Union," well, maybe the Democrats and Republicans can negotiate on the budget, wink-wink, nod-nod. And then everybody could feel comfortable on raising the debt limit.

So there are lots of ways kind of only in Washington where you can potentially get to yes, but it's going to require, particularly in the House, it's going to require a significant number of Democrats and Republicans to get this done.

COOPER: And I mean, I will ask you the same question, what about Speaker McCarthy and his caucus? I mean, can he -- does he have enough support, enough power to get that done?

BASH: No, he doesn't, which is why he is going to need or there will need to be, whether or not he throws his hands up and says I'm not going to be involved in this and maybe the president and Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, will start to negotiate this just like they did all those years ago, and that way, Kevin McCarthy will have sort of a way out of it politically.

But the answer is he will not be able to. It will be very difficult to see him giving on very much of anything, which is what will need to happen in order to get this done, and still have enough people just Republicans to pass it.

It's just -- it's hard to see, which is why it's got to be bipartisan.

COOPER: I mean, does any party right now have the upper hand? Or it just seems like something's got to give? They've got to -- somebody has got to be willing to compromise?

BASH: It's a really good framing of the question. No, nobody has the upper hand. Until this moment, the White House thought that they had the upper hand, the Democrats thought they did because they kept saying, we will come to the table, Republicans, let us know what you want to cut. Well, they did that today.

The Democrats won't agree to most of those cuts, but at least they put their line in the sand. They put their marker down, which is a very important thing when you look forward in negotiations. That's what you need to do in order to actually start negotiations in earnest. But time is running out. We're talking about June. It's the end of April.

COOPER: How big of a test do you think was this for Speaker McCarthy just navigating the different factions of his conference to get the votes he needed today?

BASH: It was a really big test. I've talked to a couple of Republicans tonight before coming on with you, some of whom were not huge Kevin McCarthy fans who said that they felt not only heard, which is actually what Nancy Mace said publicly after she changed her vote and she said that just tonight.


But also that he, Kevin McCarthy and his top allies, top lieutenants like Congressman Emmer, who is the whip, they did negotiate this in a way that allowed them to allow members of the conference to feel heard and that is the same kind of language that we heard during the Speaker's race when it took so long.

These Republican members just want to say that they had conversations with the leadership and the leadership knows where they're coming from. That's where they are today.

Again, when we get to the tougher questions of what really will be saved and what won't be and what they really will agree to when it comes to the law of the land, it's probably going to be a very different dynamic.

COOPER: Dana, thanks. Appreciate it.

BASH: Thank you.

COOPER: Tonight on "CNN Primetime," former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to talk to Dana about anti-Semitism and hate. Here's a preview.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: And I was born with a father that was a Nazi. Think about that.

BASH: You used the story of your father to try to reach people who are getting sucked into groups that propagate hate. Talk about making that connection. SCHWARZENEGGER: My father was, and so many other millions of men was sucked into a hate system through lies and deceit, and so we have seen where that leads.

I've seen it firsthand how broken these men were. The kinds of atrocities that happened, how many millions of people had to die, and then they ended up losers.

And the confederacy loses, you see, all of this just doesn't work. I mean, let's just go and get along and love is more powerful than hate.


COOPER: Dana's interview with Schwarzenegger is coming up at the top of the hour on "CNN Primetime," which is a little bit more than a half an hour from now.

Still ahead for us, writer, E. Jean Carroll took the witness stand today in her suit against Donald Trump and described under oath what she said started as a "funny New York scene" and ended with rape according to her, in a department store dressing room.

That's next on 360.



COOPER: The writer E. Jean Carroll took to the stand today in her battery and defamation lawsuit against Former President Donald Trump saying, "I'm here because Donald Trump raped me. And when I wrote about it, he said it didn't happen." The alleged incident took place in 1996 in the dressing room of the New York City department store, Bergdorf Goodman.

The former president has repeatedly denied the allegations in the civil lawsuit. And today, the judge admonished the former president's attorneys over recent social media posts about the case. Kara Scannell is outside the court. What did Mr. Carroll say on the stand today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, she testified for several hours under oath. And she told the jury in graphic detail about this alleged assault. She said that this began on a spring night in 1996. She went to Bergdorf Goodman to do shopping. She left and as she was leaving, she said she ran into Donald Trump.

He noticed her and said, hey, you're that advice columnist. She said she replied, hey, you're that real estate tycoon. And he asked her to help him find a gift. She said they looked at handbags, hats, and then they made their way up to the sixth floor of the department store insta (ph) lingerie department. She said they were joking over a piece of lingerie about whether he should try it on or if she should try it on. But then she said that's when things turned violent.

She said that Trump brought her into the dressing room. He shoved her against the wall. She banged her head. She said that he closed the door and then he pulled down his tights and he raped her. Now, Carroll said after that, she contacted two friends. Those two friends are expected to testify for her as part of this case. She said that one of them told her she shouldn't go public with this because Trump would "bury her."

Now, Carroll said that she did suffer harm from this. She said she has not been able to have a romantic relationship because, in her mind, flirting led to this terrible event. Now, she also said that when Donald Trump came out publically and denied the attack saying that she wasn't his type and suggested she did it to boost sales of her book, she also suffered then as well saying she was fired from her job as an advice columnist at Elle. She said she received hate mail and that she has not recovered from that.

She was fighting back tears at one point when her lawyer asked her, do you regret this? And she said, 100 times that she did. But she said, being able to tell her story in a court of law meant everything to her, so she was happy about that, Anderson. COOPER: And what did the judge warn the former president's attorneys


SCANNELL: Well, the former president had issued -- posted on his social media platform Truth Social about the case. Now, Carroll's lawyers brought this to the judge's attention this morning before the jury entered the courtroom. And the judge said, look, your client here needs to be careful. He may or may not have violated or exposed himself to potential liability. Now, the question is, what is Trump posting? Could this be something that could be considered as jury tampering or witness tampering in this case because this is an anonymous jury?

The judge doesn't want -- he won't -- he doesn't know the identity of the jurors. He said that the attorneys can't know the identity of the jurors. And part of that is because of Trump's rhetoric. The statements he has previously made in some other cases that have been concerning to judges. So, he has tried to keep this under wraps. And then Eric Trump, Donald Trump's son posted something on Twitter this afternoon. And while the judge said that Eric Trump is not before him, he did remind Trump's attorneys yet again that these are concerns. There are statutes out there and that someone on his team should be mindful of this and warn their client.

Now, Trump's attorney Joe Tacopina was a caught a little bit on his heels. He was unaware of these tweets. He said he would talk to his client. He said he did talk to his client after the first tweet but he would follow up again with him, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Kara Scannell, appreciate it. Here with me now former federal prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers. Ms. Carroll's testimony today, was that the most crucial testimony in this -- likely to occur in this trial?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It definitely is but we have to see how the cross goes. So, it's both the direct and the cross. But sure, it's all the marbles are with Jean Carroll and her testimony for sure.

COOPER: If the jury doesn't believe what she says, then the case is over?

RODGERS: Right. Exactly.

COOPER: Did it -- does it hurt the former president's chances of prevailing, the fact he is not physically there in court?

RODGERS: It's hard to say what the jurors think about it in their minds as they are making this decision. I think it probably does. I mean everyone else is sitting there through all of this. They might be wondering why is he not giving this the time of day.


But as a more technical matter, he also can't tell his side of the story this way. I mean he cannot put in his own deposition testimony. E. Jean Carroll's lawyers can put in Trump's testimony. But he can't do it. So he is going to kind of have to get his denial of this whole thing out through the cross examination and the jury arguments whereas, if he were there and testified, he could flat out deny it. I didn't do this; it wasn't me.

COOPER: Does the judge admonishing the former president's attorneys about social media posts, does that matter? I mean I understand why he does it, but are there actual ramifications of that?

RODGERS: There could be. I mean Judge Kaplan could hold him in contempt and there id criminal contempt and civil contempt. I mean he could wind up with fines because of this. He could even potentially go to jail with a criminal contempt. So, the judge isn't there yet. But now, having made very clear what his order is and putting Trump on notice that if he steps over again there may be consequences, we could see a criminal contempt if he continues to post.

COOPER: Tomorrow, what happens, what are you watching for? That's the cross.

RODGERS: I'm watching for the cross. I mean it's pretty easy to get a good direct out of your own witness, right? So the issue is how well does she stand up to what I think will be very aggressive questioning from Joe Tacopina. It's not a great look for a lawyer to aggressively go after a victim of sexual assault. But I think that's his only play here. So we will see how she stands up in the face of that aggression. COOPER: Jennifer Rodgers, appreciate it. Thank you.

Up next, a high-stake showdown between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is heading to court. Disney today suing DeSantis, alleging the company is the victim of "targeted campaign of government retaliation," their words. Senior data analyst Harry Enten tells us why this fight could have big ramifications for DeSantis' eventual presidential campaign ahead.


[20:40:17] COOPER: The fight between Florida Governor and potential president candidate Ron DeSantis and Disney escalated in a big way. Today, the company filed suit in federal court against him alleging a "targeted campaign of government retaliation." DeSantis, who has been criticized by other Republican presidential contenders over his broadsides against Disney, defended his actions today saying they are actually good for business.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: That actually helped a lot of CEOs around the country because they could go to their board. They could say, look, we don't want to be in the next Disney. We have got to stay out of this stuff and we have got to focus on the task at hand. But I do think that the incentives over the last ten years have been for them to basically bend the knee to the woke mob and try to advance a woke agenda.


COOPER: For the latest, I want to bring in our Steve Contorno from St. Petersburg, Florida. Steve, what more do we know about the substance of the suit?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Anderson, in this lawsuit, Disney essentially accuses Governor DeSantis of engaging in a year-long campaign to punish the company over its opposition to what critics have called the Don't Say Gay saw. And they say that this is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

Let me read you a little from the lawsuit. I think it lays out exactly their side of why they think we got to this point. They say, "Disney regrets that it has come to this. But having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain state officials."

Now, this lawsuit goes on over 77 pages to lay out multiple examples of DeSantis and other Florida Republicans suggesting, even boasting that they took this action directly because of what Disney said and how they spoke up. And now, Disney is asking a judge to undo the punishments they have received and give them back their special governing powers in Central Florida.

COOPER: Is there any significance to the timing of the suit?

CONTORNO: Yeah, this lawsuit was filed just moments after the board that oversees Disney's Special District voted to nullify agreements that Disney had reached with the District. And if you remember, this is an agreement that Disney reached at the eleventh hour, right before DeSantis was about to take a power grab and install a bunch of his appointees on the board. While now his new board came in, discovered these agreements existed and today voted to nullify them, that prompted Disney to take this action today and file a lawsuit in federal court.

COOPER: And what about the federal judge who has been assigned to the case? Who is that?

CONTORNO: That would be Judge Mark Walker. Now, this is a judge who actually grew up just down the road from Disney in Winter Park and he is an Obama-appointed judge. He was a -- he was -- the Senate confirmed him with a 94-0 vote. And he has actually ruled on a number of First Amendment issues over the past few years, often siding with First Amendment advocates.

Even in cases that involve Governor DeSantis, he previously ruled against parts of DeSantis' so-called anti-woke law. In fact, he called it a positively dystopian points (ph). He also ruled to block a bill that DeSantis signed that has been called an anti-riot law by some and anti-protest law by others. So, this is the judge that DeSantis and Disney will now argue their cases before and what you can probably expect to be a protracted legal fight that will ultimately settle who is the victor here.

COOPER: All right. Steve Contorno, appreciate it. Thank you. Our CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten is here. How is the DeSantis-Disney battle playing out with Republicans across the country?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yeah, so we have some really fresh polling data on this and I think we can break it down really easily, right. Among Republicans, by a two-to-one margin, they side with Governor DeSantis. But if you look at all voters nationally, by a two-to-one margin, they disagree with Governor DeSantis. So this is basically what we have been seeing a lot in the polling with regards to Ron DeSantis and Disney, which is it's clearly a play for the base and the Republican base does like what he is doing. But among all voters, generally speaking, they don't like what he is doing.

COOPER: What about among very conservative Republicans?

ENTEN: Right. So look, at the --

COOPER: He seems to be trying to appeal to them certainly on the abortion issue.

ENTEN: Yeah. This is -- this seems to be part of a playbook, right, that Ron DeSantis is running. He is trying to appeal to the far right of the Republican Party. Now, why is he doing that? Because if you look, we have a Quinnipiac University poll from -- at the end of last month and we can break it down by ideology, how the Republican primary is doing.


Among very conservatives, Donald Trump has about a 30-point advantage. Among all other voters, it's basically even, DeSantis and Trump. So what DeSantis is trying to do here is go into Donald Trump's base and basically take it away or cut away at the edge that Donald Trump has because that's the reason he is ahead. What I will point out though, Anderson, is that if you go back to Republican primaries all the way back since 1996, it's actually the choice of moderates. The candidate who wins moderates tends to win the nomination.

The only example where that was not true was George W. Bush in 2000. So, what Ron DeSantis is doing makes sense when you look at the polling data to some degree. But at the end of the day, he may sacrifice support in the middle of the Republican electorate.

COOPER: And how has DeSantis been doing nationally over the last couple of weeks?

ENTEN: Yeah, so this to me is, again, the sort of two-fold, right. OK, you are going to appeal to the GOP base but what happens among the general electorate? Well, a month ago in EPSO's (ph) polling data, what we saw was that Biden was barely leading DeSantis, while having a clear lead over Donald Trump, right.

DeSantis was running a little bit better in the general electorate -- election against Biden than Donald Trump was running. But now, flip forward to this month, what happened? Well, Trump is basically polling at the same level versus Biden. That five-point Biden lead is holding. But if you look, what you see is Biden's lead over DeSantis has grown by seven points from just two points to nine points. So it seems to me that this play that Ron DeSantis is making for the very conservative part of the Republican Party may be something that works for them.

But, of course, even if you win the primary, you still have to win the general election, and Ron DeSantis may be putting that in jeopardy if he does with the primary but the point is, even if he win the primary, that doesn't work and also the fact is, Ron DeSantis is way down in the Republican primary at this point. So even what he is doing, it doesn't seem like it's working basically anywhere. I don't know what he is doing.

COOPER: All right. Harry Enten, appreciate it.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: A manhunt is underway. Police continue their search for a group of Mississippi inmate on the run. Authorities are now saying one of the inmates has been spotted outside the state. I will have the latest on the manhunt.



COOPER: Tonight, a manhunt is underway for a group of inmates that escaped from a Mississippi jail. The four escapees were reported missing around midnight Sunday after a routine head count. What followed next included a whirlwind of events involving stolen cars, murder, and a police shoot-out. Just hours ago, the Hinds County Sheriff tweeted that one of the inmates was spotted at a Texas convenience store on Sunday. A truck investigator believes he stole -- believe he stole was also recovered in Texas.

This comes after a body was found inside a burnt home where police got into a stand-off with a person believed to be one of the escapees. The same person inmate is also suspected of shooting and killing a pastor before stealing his truck the day after they escaped. Joining me now, CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller, he's the former Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism with the New York Police Department.

Without obviously given away anything you shooted, what kind of tactics are authorities likely using to try to find this escapee? How does a modern-day manhunt work?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST AND FORMER NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTELLIGENCE & COUNTERTERRORISM: So, a modern-day manhunt has some of the old qualities of one that would go back to the Wild West and a lot that has to do with new technology. But this is enormously complicated because it's not a manhunt. It's a men hunt. You have got five perpetrators in different directions. We've seen escapes where groups have escaped and stayed together. That actually makes it easier. But you have --

COOPER: I think you said five. It's four, right?

MILLER: It's four.


MILLER: You have one instance where there was a shooting between deputies and there is a burned body in a house that they're trying to identify. That's possibly one, identification pending.

COOPER: So the burned body may be one of the inmates?

MILLER: It's possible. We haven't gotten that I.D. from the Sheriff yet. So they left that as an open question. But what you're doing is you have the County Sheriff. You've got the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. You've got the U.S. Marshals. This is what the U.S. Marshals lives for. They are probably the most proficient man hunters in the U.S. government and they'll be looking with the jail authorities on who were on the visitor lists. Let's go over their phone calls. Do we still have those tapes? Is there a coded thing that we missed about where to meet, or a pick-up or something that is part of this escape that sounded innocuous at the time? Where's mom? Who are their friends? Who have they been arrested with in the past?

In other words, you try to figure out for four different individuals, what is their support system on the outside for hiding, for money, for refuge, for cars --

COOPER: The --

MILLLER: -- and block each one of those.

COOPER: I mean, the danger is obviously already clear. I mean not only is there this one body found, but there was a pastor killed who apparently had pulled over I guess to help one of them who seemed to be on a motorcycle, thinking it was a stranded, you know --

MILLLER: Right. COOPER: -- pedestrian.

MILLLER: And what you're seeing is a level of desperation that almost doesn't fit the crimes they were in for. You know, some of these guys were in for grand theft auto, larceny -- they don't appear to be the master violent criminals for what they were in jail for this time. But what you are seeing is, at least a in a couple of these cases, a level of desperation that you'll see in escape cases which is, I'm not going back to jail at any cost, now that I'm out.

So the manhunt piece is obviously a danger to the public. We've seen that already with the killing of the pastor, also a danger to police. We see a police officer wounded in a shooting where they thought they had one of them cornered today. So they're going to be very mindful of that. But, it is really about surrounding their world and reducing each individual's world to a very small box.

COOPER: How much planning do you think went into this?


MILLLER: Well, I would say a lot but one of these prisoners has escaped that jail more than once in the past. So you probably had the equivalent of a Subject Matter Expert into that facility's vulnerabilities and you had a facility that was down at least 40 deputies, which put them at a disadvantage for things like the regularity of headcount and the ability to observe suspicious behavior and so on.

COOPER: John Miller, appreciate it. Thank you.

MILLLER: Thanks.

COOPER: Coming up, the dramatic rescue of a toddler who wandered on to train tracks and a special honor for the New York Rail Workers who got him to safety.


COOPER: Two MTA employees are being hailed as heroes after saving a toddler who wandered on to the Metro North train tracks just outside New York City.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emergency, Emergency, Emergency! Metro-North 737, Hudson City (ph). We need you to kill rail. We got a toddler here on the tracks, so --


COOPER: You just heard an engineer on a train moving 70 miles an hour, spotted the boy first, slammed on the brakes before he radioed others. A conductor on a train heading the opposite direction, saw the child, jumped out of his car, and grabbed him, brought him on to the train. The boy who has autism is non-verbal. He was uninjured thankfully. He only had a splinter in his hand.