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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
CNN Presents Key Moments from Donald Trump's CNN Town Hall. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired May 10, 2023 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It is 11:00 p.m. on the East Coast. Tonight, CNN town hall with the once and perhaps future president, who is now on record in being digested by voters in the hamstring across the country.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump on this network for the first time since 2016, in the wake of a devastating civil case verdict yesterday, not to mention felony charges several weeks ago in New York, on the cusp potentially of indictments in Georgia, perhaps on the federal level from the special counsel, including in connection with January 6.
COOPER: And also, Jake, the clear Republican frontrunner for 2024 at this point, still lying about the 2020 election and January 6, and saying this when asked about those who attacked the Capitol and the people trying to protect it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Will you pardon the January 6 rioters who were convicted of federal offenses?
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am inclined to pardon many of them. I can't say for every single one because a couple of them, probably they got out of control. But, you know, when you look at Antifa, what they've done to Portland, and if you look at Antifa, look at what they've done to Minneapolis and many other -- so many other places, look at what they did to Seattle and BLM -- BLM, many people were killed.
These people -- I am not trying to justify anything. But you have two standards of justice in this country. And what they've done -- and I love that question, because what they've done to so many people, is nothing. Nothing. And then what they've done to these people, they persecuted these people. And, yeah, my answer is, I am most likely -- if I get in, I would most likely -- I would say it would be a large portion of them. You know, they did a very --
And it will be very early on. They're living in hell right now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, when it comes to pardons --
TRUMP: They're living in hell. And they're policemen, they're firemen, they're soldiers, they're carpenters and electricians, and they're great people. Many of them are just great people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: These great people attacked a police officers, law enforcement personnel, injuring many. In 2017, the former president said something similar about Charlottesville. You remember the white supremacist there, that they were -- quote -- "very fine people on both sides." He was talking about what happened on Friday night at Charlottesville when crowds of white men were marching to the streets chanting "Jews will not replace us." Very fine people, both sides.
Joining me now, CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, who has done extensive reporting on the prosecution of January 6 suspects. As we mentioned, the former president made a lot of claims about January 6. Did anything stand out to you about what he said?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, what stood out to me or at least what I was waiting for certainly in watching the townhall was to see whether he created any new legal jeopardy for himself. I think his lawyers might be breathing a little sigh of relief that he, you know, didn't. He didn't really say anything new to cause any new legal problems. He certainly seemed to embrace the idea that those people who attacked the Capitol, his followers, essentially follow everything he says, that he has a very strong hold on them.
And that is something certainly the prosecutors have noticed in the recent trial of a group of Proud Boys leaders here in Washington. They played that video, one of the videos, his comments after Charlottesville where he said to members of the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by.
That is -- that is something that prosecutors raised simply because it showed, at least as they told a jury, that the former president has a stronghold on these people and that they essentially were acting as his foot soldiers that day.
And so, the idea that the former vice president and the danger that those people were facing that day is something that he can just wash away by issuing pardons is something that is kind of shocking, frankly.
COOPER: It's not shocking because the former president also said that he didn't think his vice president, Mike Pence, was in danger on January 6. He again claimed that the vice president did something wrong by not sending votes back to the state legislatures. Talk about how those comments really align with the reality?
PEREZ: No, they don't. The fact is that the legal scholars, people on the right, people -- conservative, legal thinkers, all agreed that the vice president does not have that power. And that's the reason why the vice president decided to stick with the election results that everyone -- by the way, including the former president's own legal team at the time inside the Justice Department, inside the White House, had all concluded that there was not enough fraud to merit any more challenges.
And so, one of the things that the former president is still sticking by is this idea that if the former vice president had only sent these election results back, that perhaps things would have been different.
I think he's right about that, by the way, that it is possible that we would be in a different place. Frankly, it's scary to think what that could have done to American democracy.
COOPER: Evan Perez, appreciate it. Thanks. I want to go to CNN's Arlette Saenz now. She is on the phone with new reporting on the how the Biden camp sees tonight. Arlette, what's their reaction?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Anderson, it may be to no one surprise, but President Biden actually did not watch this town hall with Donald Trump. President Biden was flying back from New York City to Washington, D.C. One person traveling with the president told me that the president simply did not watch.
But his campaign team and Democratic officials were very closely watching everything that Donald Trump had to say. They ultimately believed that several of the former president's comments will be able to serve as fodder for campaign advertisements and digital videos. One adviser saying -- quote -- "A week worth of damning content in one hour."
The advisers believe that they honed in to some of the things that Trump said about abortion, default, and refusing to say whether he would accept the result of the upcoming election. They think that they can use that in their arguments going forward.
One area where Democratic officials are really keen on focusing on is the former president's comments when it came to him saying that he was proud of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. One Democratic official said that was the clip of the night and called it a -- quote -- "homerun for us." Of course, Democrats have been seeking to argue that Trump and Republicans would really put women's reproductive rights under attack.
That is the message that you saw carried out during the midterm campaign, something that Biden is continuing the press heading into this general election. Ultimately, a source familiar with the campaign believed that Trump messaging and some of his efforts to kind of double down on extreme issues, especially when it comes to election denialism, that that is something that will alienate voters heading into 2024. That's kind of the viewpoint from the Biden camp at this point tonight.
COOPER: Arlette Saenz, appreciate it. Thanks very much. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Anderson, joining us now, CNN senior political commentator, former Illinois Republican congressman, former January 6 Committee member and U.S. Air Force veteran, Adam Kinzinger. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
I want to play just a little snippet of the smorgasbord of words that we heard from the former president today. Here he is talking about the law enforcement response on January 6.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Over 140 officers were injured that day.
TRUMP: And a person named Ashli Babbitt was killed.
TRUMP: You know what? She was killed. And she should not have been killed. That thug that killed her, there was no reason to shoot her at blank range, cold blank range. They shot her. And she was a good person. She was a patriot.
COLLINS: One person who was there --
TRUMP: There was no reason. There was no reason. And he went on television to brag about the fact that he killed her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: He did not. The officer did not go on television to brag about the fact that he killed her, and the shooting was found to be in the line of duty after an investigation. We should note that Donald Trump tends to use the word "thug" only when he is talking about Black men and this police officer is an African American man. What goes through your mind when you hear him say the?
ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER ILLINOIS REPRESENTATIVE: Well, first off, Jake, as somebody that spent the last two years countering the lies, I'm not going to pretend like it was easy for me to see the former president get this form tonight, to lie to the American people over and over and over again.
That said, when I saw him talking about the law enforcement response, first off, he is utterly a thousand percent lying about the National Guard troops. Complete utter lie. He can say it as loud as he wants and how often as he wants to.
Number two, there is one reason Ashli Babbitt is that, because Donald Trump convinced her that the election was stolen and she should go to the Capitol to stop it.
Now, let's be clear what happened. She busted through a window and tried to jump through a window that would have opened up the entire crowd to fleeing members of Congress, and I think had she actually gotten through that window and more behind her, more people would have lost their lives that day because the police had no choice but to bodily defend the members of Congress. So, it was nothing -- it was utter complete lies.
I think, Jake, even worse than seeing him say it was listening to the crowd laugh at the rape allegations, listening to the crowd not take seriously anything else. Listening to the former president say, I thought that default is bad when I was president, but I am not president anymore, so and I don't care if we default on our debt.
He's a non-serious person and that was -- unfortunately, there were members of the audience that were not serious as well. They have been frankly abused and misled.
I want to -- let's play that soundbite because, obviously, for people who aren't paying attention, necessarily busy living their lives, working, raising their families, we -- the country is headed for a potential crisis. We're going to run out of money to pay our bills, money that's already been spent, and that is going to come up in early June.
There's a face-off between House Republicans and Senate Republicans and President Biden over this issue. It's called raising the debt ceiling. Let's play a little bit about what Donald Trump had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I say to the Republicans out there, congressmen, senators, if they don't give you massive cuts, you're going to have to do a default. I don't believe that they are going to do a default because I think that the Democrats will absolutely cave because you don't want to have that happen. But it's better than what we are doing right now because we're spending money like drunken sailors.
COLLINS: So, just to be clear, Mr. President, you think that the U.S. should default if the White House does not agree to the spending cuts Republicans --
TRUMP: We might as well do it now because we'll do it later, because we have to save this country. Our country is dying. Our country is being destroyed by stupid people, by very stupid people.
COLLINS: You once said that using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge just could not have been. You said that when you are in the Oval Office.
TRUMP: That's when I was president.
COLLINS: So, why is it different now that you're of office?
TRUMP: Because now I'm not president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Obviously, the debt went up. I forgot if it was $6 or $7 trillion during the Trump presidency. Obviously, he never wanted to default. What's your response to that?
KINZINGER: The laughing crowd -- oh, it's hilarious. You know, we are three weeks from really the greatest self-own -- the greatest self- destruction of our economy. For people that think that we've been in the debt default before, we have not. I think there are a lot of people that mix this up with government shutdown. This is extremely different.
And for the president -- the former president to be so nonchalant about it, to not care, here is the thing, Jake, I truly believe he means it. If we are going to default, let us go ahead and default because then it will on Biden's watch. Because he is so self-absorbed. All he cares about is how it affects himself.
Ladies and gentlemen, a debt default. You want to make the U.S. that actually unsustainable, default on it. And then there is no way to get people to actually believe in the fate on that debt anymore, and you have a collapse of the U.S. economy.
For him to say simply, well, I'm not president, so I don't care anymore, I believe it. I believe the only thing he cares about is himself and the impact when he's president. It will probably be the kind of the underrated comment of the night but, to me, it was actually one of the scariest things he said.
TAPPER: It's also really remarkable because he never pushed for serious spending cuts when he was president ever much to the chagrin of deficit hawks like then Speaker Paul Ryan and others who wanted him to. It was something he never understood because it is bad politics. Why cut spending? It is bad politics.
Something else I know you care a lot about is the war in Ukraine being perpetrated by Vladimir Putin and Russia. He would not say whether he wanted Russia or Ukraine to win. Did that surprise you?
KINZINGER: No. And God bless Kaitlan for continuing to ask him. But, you know, he is really good at just walking away and saying nothing. He did not want to say. Byron Donalds earlier on this network did not say that he wanted Ukraine to win because there is a little group of people in the GOP that are somehow pro-Russian partially because it makes liberals mad. That's why they're pro-Russian, honestly. And they don't want to make him mad.
But Donald Trump -- I mean, look, he shown admiration for Vladimir Putin since day one. Have no doubt, Ukraine needs to win this war and it needs to win this war, frankly, before there is any chance that Donald Trump could ever be president again.
TAPPER: Former Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you so much. Always good to see you.
KINZINGER: You bet.
TAPPER: Coming up next, most fact-checking on what we saw on stage tonight. We are going to give it a go again. A lot of lies. Stay with us.
TAPPER: I think it is fair to say that tonight's CNN town hall was a challenge to moderate, something of a bear to fact-check. The (INAUDIBLE) of lies that we heard from the former president was really something to behold.
So, we are bringing back CNN's Sara Murray, who was fact-check duty tonight, joining us again. Sara, thank you so much for signing up for this task. Our nation salutes you. Former President Trump raised many eyebrows tonight with his comments about abortion. Give us a little fact-check.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Jake. Trump was defending his stance on abortion and he claimed Democrats and Hillary Clinton supported abortion in the third trimester. So, here is what Trump said tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: For the first time, the people that are pro-life have negotiating capability because you did not have it before. They could kill the baby in the ninth month or after the baby was born.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now, let's at some much-needed context here. Clinton's view is that mothers whose health or lives were in jeopardy should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy at any point until birth. Under Roe v. Wade, states had the authority to regulate or ban abortion in the third trimester except when it was necessary to preserve the life or the health of the mother.
We should also note, Jake, that these kinds of late-term abortions at 21 weeks or later are rare. It's less than 1% of abortions in the U.S. that were late term in 2021. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the vast majority of abortions take place at or before 13 weeks, Jake.
TAPPER: Trump claimed tonight that he had every right to keep classified documents that he took from the White House after he left the presidency. This is obviously a source of contention. There is a special counsel investigation going on right now about those documents. He said that he had the right to do it because from the Presidential Records Act. Kaitlan pointed out that that is a false claim, what he was saying was not true.
What else did he have to say?
MURRAY: Yeah, that's right. I mean, Trump also claimed that he was negotiating to return these documents and then, surprise, the FBI just shows up to search Mar-a-Lago. Let's hear Donald Trump's misleading version of events.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I was negotiating, and we were talking to NARA, that is Washington, to bring whatever they want. They can have whatever they want. When we left Washington, we had the boxes lined up in the sidewalk outside for everybody -- people were taking pictures of them. Everybody knew were taking those boxes. And the GSA, government service, the GSA was the one, taken them. They brought them down to Mar-a-Lago. We were negotiating with NARA. All of a sudden, they raid our house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Okay, so, first of all, the Presidential Records Act says when the president leaves office, the National Archives get custody and control of all the presidential records from his administration, classified or not. There's nothing about a negotiation between the former president and the archives about returning them.
In Trump's case, it took the archives months to get 15 boxes back from him. The archives found records with classified markings, and they got the Justice Department involved. After a May 2022 subpoena, Trump's lawyers returned an envelope with a few dozen more documents in it. And then prosecutors obtained additional evidence that more classified records were still at Mar-a-Lago.
All of that played out before the FBI showed up with a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago in August of 2022, Jake.
TAPPER: Sara Murray, thanks so much, taking a bite out of the huge cheese wedge of lies that we were given this evening. We are going to examine the former president's frontrunner status in the republican race for the White House with our senior data reporter. You know him as Brooklyn's own (ph). Harry Enten. Stay with us. (INAUDIBLE)? All right, we will correct that later.
COOPER: Former president came to tonight's CNN town hall, the frontrunner in the republican primary as well as ahead of President Biden in a recent ABC News poll, which may have been an outlier. We will see more polls ahead that is set for him. Polls and polarized views often go hand in hand, which is why we are always glad to have CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten, who can help make sense of some of the numbers. Where does the former president's lead stand tonight, Harry?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: It's huge to quote the former president of the United States, Donald Trump. And it is not only huge, it is getting larger. You go back to January, he was up by only 11 points over Ron DeSantis. Jump ahead to March, 17-point advantage. You jump ahead now, it's a 30-point lead. He is over 50% of the vote.
And I will note, Anderson, every single other person who had that percentage of the vote at this point in a presidential primary when there was no incumbent running in that primary went on to win the nomination.
So, yes, we are a long way until the votes actually get cast, but at this point, the only thing you can say is that Donald Trump is a prohibitive frontrunner for the republican nomination.
COOPER: What impacts the allegations of sexual misconduct against the former president have in 2016?
ENTEN: Right. So, you know, obviously, Trump was found liable yesterday in court, you know. So, I think it's very important to look back in 2016 because there were a lot of allegations made back then that Trump had made unwanted sexual advances towards women.
What we saw was that the clear majority of voters believe those allegations, 54%. Just 41% said they were mostly false. And yet despite the fact that 54% of Americans or voters believe that those allegations were mostly true, Donald Trump still won the election.
So even if voters believe that verdict yesterday, believed that, in fact, Trump was liable, as the court found, that may not, in fact, really hurt him in the polls based upon what we've seen in previous elections.
COOPER: What about when you look at Republican voters in 2016?
ENTEN: Yeah. So, I think this is an interesting crosshair. Right? So, you know, okay, you might say, oh, those allegations really did not make a difference. Even if people believe them, they were still willing to vote for Donald Trump.
But take a look among Republicans. Did Trump make unwanted sexual advances? Among Republican voters before the 2016 election. If you're a Republican, you believe that no, he did not, Trump won those Republican voters by 92 points. If, in fact, you're a Republican and believe those allegations, Trump won those GOP voters, yes, but only by 20 points.
So, the fact is, as we look forward to the general election, no, I don't think this will make a big impact in the primary season, what was found yesterday in the court, but if, in fact, slightly, just slightly more Republicans have a more negative view of Donald Trump or more likely to believe that he made unwanted sexual advances, I do think it could cost Trump in the polls.
Obviously, we'll have to wait and see. The fact is this is just something that we have not really encountered before in American political history. So, I am just not quite sure how useful the polls necessarily are. We'll just have to wait and see what happens going forward, Anderson?
COOPER: All right, Harry Enten, appreciate it. Thanks.
ENTEN: Thank you.
COOPER: We are back with the panel. Also joining the panel now is CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig as well as Scott Jennings.
Elie, just from the legal standpoint, was there anything that the president said tonight that investigators are going to be listening to closely?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. So, everything that Donald Trump said tonight, everything that he has said and will say publicly, is fair game for prosecutors. I assure you, they were watching and taking notes.
I'll tell you two specific moments that jumped up to me as potentially usable evidence by prosecutors. First of all, in relation to January 6, they listen to you and you know it. And Trump agreed with that. He said, that's right.
Now, if you're a prosecutor thinking, okay, there you go, that is the cleanest, clearest admission by Trump that he understands that his words have an impact on the actions of his followers. That, to me, is the best piece of evidence that we have seen so far on that.
Then shifting to Mar-a-Lago, there was a point -- and Trump has said things like this before where he said essentially, I took everything, I had the right to take all of it.
One of the things that you have to establish as a prosecutor in that case is knowledge and intent. And right there, he admits, I knew we were taking anything, and he argues wrongly that he had the right to take it. Right there, you say, none of this was a mistake and none of this was unknown to him. I think those are two really useful pieces of evidence that prosecutors are taking note of.
COOPER: Scott, we have not heard from you tonight. What do you think?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah. Just political analysis for me. If I am the Trump team, I am pretty happy about how this whole thing went. I think they were trying to set up two wins tonight. The first was to try to just cement his lead in the republican primary by speaking the language that he invented. He invented this language in 2016. There are a lot of imitators, but there is only one master. He still got it. He was out there regardless of what you think of it, regardless of how you believe he presents the facts or lack thereof. He speaks to Republican primary voters and his supporters in a way that no one else can. So, that was number one.
Number two, he wants the general election to be fought on the following grounds: The current president is feeble and unfit for office, and I am still throwing fastballs. I think his team is looking at that saying that there is no conceivable way that Joe Biden can sit through that kind of questioning on this network or any other and will not. That is evidence by the fact that he won't hold press conferences.
On two critical issues, rekindling that fighting spirit and showing Republicans what they want to hear, you heard the crowd, and setting up a contrast against a feeble Biden, it's two wins for them. They have to be thrilled with this.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: I would add that there was a message relative to Ron DeSantis whose name was not mentioned here, but it was basically been cloistered in Tallahassee, but doing remotes with Fox News and playing home games, essentially. So, there was a contrast there.
I want to say one thing. I think that as happy as the Trump people would be -- and I said earlier that I think that for their purposes, this was a good night. I think the Biden folks should be happy as well because they want Donald Trump to be the nominee of the Republican Party. They believe that Donald Trump is a very vulnerable nominee at the Republican Party. And much of what he said tonight spoke to why they think he is a vulnerable nominee of the Republican Party.
As was mentioned earlier, he created a lot of new video for their advertising when it comes to the general election. In this weird way, I think they both walk away from tonight saying that this was a good night for us.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Nearly 70% of voters did not want a Trump versus Biden rematch. I am a Republican voter who doesn't want to see Biden reelected. I don't want to see Donald Trump reelected.
I think there is actually a pretty significant swath of voters who watch this. They know that Biden is obviously going to be the Democratic nominee. This is very likely, as Harry Enten pointed, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee. There is basically no option for a large swath of the country that want something else.
Now, I think most of the kind of floated ideas or different sort of third-party lanes are, frankly, just going to be spoilers for the candidates in the game, but I think that there is very much a land for somebody to still get in. I tend to agree with the congressman that Donald Trump is going to run away with the nomination, but I would note that in 2015, this time, Jeb Bush was still the frontrunner.
There is some time. There are indictments that may come down. There is the Fulton County investigation, the DOJ investigation. Things could change, and there are gettable Republican voters who will never support Trump and never support Biden.
Do you believe -- we heard from Arlette Saenz reporting that the Biden campaign said that they got a week's worth of material just from some things that the former president said tonight. Is that putting a happy face on it? Do you believe --
GRIFFIN: Oh, no. It's cool, the ads right themselves for Joe Biden. It's a good night for Biden and for Trump. If you think at the launch video for Joe Biden, it was targeted at a Donald Trump running. It does not play the same way if it is a Governor Sununu or if it is a DeSantis. It is extremism, storming the Capitol, anti-democracy, fearmongering, white supremacy. That is targeted at Donald Trump. They don't have a message if they run against a mainstream Republican who is not in the lane that Donald Trump has put himself in.
JENNINGS: I think it's a happy face. I don't think he said anything tonight that he has not already set. I mean, this is -- he was vintage Donald Trump tonight. Everything was authentic to him based on his '16 and '20 campaign, based on his presidency. I don't think anything happened tonight that was unexpected.
And so, for Republican voters, that is sterling. I know the Democrats say that they want him, but they're not acknowledging their own weakness here, which is that Trump can do what he does. And we know it's good for about 45% of the vote. I am not sure what percentage of the vote Biden is good for right now because half of his own party don't want to him to run again.
REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): I would say, first of all, more than half of Joe Biden's own party doesn't want him to run. Second thing, we talk a little bit about the material per se. I would say that the Trump camp has been looking at the last two and a half years and they say that they have all the better they need on Joe Biden.
But by the end of the day, you get through, if you want to continue talking January 6 and all this other stuff, it always comes back to the core issues that are facing people in their ordinary lives. That's what they're focused on.
As we lay up to what appears to be the inevitable, people are going to have a very different question in '24 than they had in '20. And the question in '24 is, okay, both of these guys have now had this job, who did the job better? If you want to talk about incomes, if you want to talk about border security, foreign policy, move on down the list, people mostly in this country will say Donald Trump did a better job.
HONIG: But why isn't January 6 a core issue? I mean, why does it have to be one or the other? Why can't January 6 and democracy be on that list? DONALDS: January 6 -- January 6 is something that was a major issue in our country. Everybody acknowledges that. But people don't eat January 6. People don't put January 6 and say their gas tanks --
HONIG: We need democracy --
DONALDS: Hold on, hold on. People don't -- January 6 is not the (INAUDIBLE) of an American citizen's existence. What's going on with foreign policy, our currency, debts, inflation, those are the core things. People compare leadership on things that matter to them.
KRISTEN SOLTIS-ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do think it's worth taking a step back and just acknowledging the insanity of the situation where a lot of time was devoted in this town hall to questions around various investigations into the president, former president.
When you have somebody who is running for president and the question is, which indictment are you talking about, which grand jury are you talking about, that is wild. And yet, we know that Donald Trump still has a completely viable chance of becoming president again.
So, I think it's important to note that for a lot of voters, they see something like January 6 and they think that is horrifying. They see things like classified documents and say it's bad. But Donald Trump's supporters think he is under siege and he is in a fox hole with them, and he is the wall against the establishment coming out.
AXELROD: Yeah. No, I am just saying, look, the question that is unanswered, and we will find out is, how many bricks can the load case? How many indictments, potential convictions? How many scandals? How many problems can this hold? Does the republican base at least decide that this is all part of a political persecution? Does it actually strengthen him as the first indictment did?
COOPER: Everyone, thank you for joining us. Congressman Donalds mentioned the border. Next, the former president's answers on securing it. Plus, live report from El Paso, Texas hours before pandemic restriction is scheduled to be lifted. Officials fear a rush of migrants. More ahead.
COOPER: We are just hours away from the end of a COVID era public health order called Title 42. Its usage was authorized by the former president, allowed the authorities to swiftly expel migrants at U.S. land borders. Officials fear a rush of migrants seeking asylum could follow its expiration.
Former president tonight likened its end to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, calling it a day of infamy. During a conversation about his record on border security while in office, he said he had actually completed his infamous wall across the southern border. One of many moments tonight fact-checked in real time by our Kaitlan Collins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I did finish the wall. I built a wall.
COLLINS: You did not build a wall.
TRUMP: I built hundreds of miles of the wall. I finished it. And then I said, we have to build some more because there are areas like water going through dam. There are some areas where a lot of people are coming. You close up one and they come in to another. We started another 100 miles of wall --
COLLINS: You built about 52 miles of new wall when you were in office, Mr. President. It was not the complete wall. One other thing with --
TRUMP: But I have to respond to that.
COLLINS: -- the immigration, it was only about 52 miles of new wall.
TRUMP: Can I respond? This is what she does.
I built hundreds of miles. Some of the wall was up there and it would be lying on the ground. Rusted, rotten steel. Rusted, rotten wood. What the radical left crazy Democrats did, if there is a piece of wood laying down, they considered that a wall. I've built 30-foot walls that go down seven feet in the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I'm joined now by CNN's Rosa Flores near the southern border in El Paso, Texas. What have you heard from people about whether the wall actually reduces the number of migrants crossing the border?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it really does not. The way the federal agents have explained it to me in the past is that it helps them get more operational control. In essence, it funnels the traffic so that they can then apply the laws of the United States.
Let me show you what I am talking about here because we shot some drone footage today. And what you're looking at here is El Paso, Texas. You see the border wall there. The vicinity of both sides of that wall is the United States of America. You see those migrants there, the large group of migrants who have turned themselves in to immigration authorities.
Well, that is exactly what that wall is designed to do. It gives them more operational control. It gives them more control of the situation. It helps them control when those migrants are going to be turning themselves in and also where -- that wall has gates and those migrants wait there until transportation arrives and immigration then transports them for processing, for immigration processing.
When you think of a wall, geography is very important because you're not going to put a wall in a canyon or mountain. But in South Texas, for example, in the windy Rio Grande, the windy Rio Grande creates a lot of international boundary miles. I talked to agents there who say that the wall is very effective. I think the key here though, Anderson, is that the wall is a tool but it can't be the only tool when you talk about border security.
COOPER: We're about 24 hours away from Title 42 expiring. What are officials actually expecting?
FLORES: You know, I was one of a few reporters who sat down with U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz today.
What he said was that we are already seeing the surge. The surge has been happening for 5 to 6 days. He really does not expect a huge change once Title 42 lifts. He says he's not expecting 17 or 18,000 migrants to be turning themselves into immigration authorities.
But he did acknowledge that there is a current strain on resources. He mentioned that three border patrol sectors along the southern border are encountering more than 2,000 migrants. That was the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso where I am and also Tucson.
The other thing that really stood out to me, Anderson, because, as you know, once Title 42 lifts, immigration agents will be applying Title 8. His point to that was that -- the example that he used was that yesterday, there were more than 10,000 encounters but that only 17% of those Title 42 was applied. So, for the vast majority, more than 80%, Title 8 was already being applied.
And so, in a sense, he was downplaying the fact that they are more prepared than they believe. So, it's not like they are going to have to apply Title 42 -- Title 8, excuse me, to 100% of what they're dealing with already because they're already applying it to more than 80%.
COOPER: Rosa Flores, appreciate it, thanks. Jake, back to you.
TAPPER: Thank you, Anderson. We are back with our panel one last time tonight. You know tomorrow, there is anticipated to be a surge at the border, the U.S.-Mexico border, with the expiration of the Trump era policy that the Biden people used for a while to -- which allow them to not hear asylum claims with using the pandemic as an excuse. The crisis at the border is going to get even worse.
We all remember the, I think, empirically horrific policy that Trump and his administration instituted to purposefully take kids away from their parents, family separation. It was a horrific policy. It was cruel. It was ended ultimately by Trump after the outcry. He was asked about it by Kaitlan Collins. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Another immigration policy you had was the zero-tolerance immigration policy, the separated families at the border. If you are reelected, are you ruling out instituting that?
TRUMP: When you have the policy, people don't come. If a family hears that they're going to be separated, they love their family, they don't come. So, I know it sounds harsh, but if you remember, remember that I said I was building prisons for children, it turned out that it was Obama that was building the prisons for the children.
COLLINS: But would you reimplement that if you're reelected?
TRUMP: We have to save our country, all right?
COLLINS: It sounds like that is a yes.
TRUMP: No, no. When you say to a family that if you come, we're going to break you up, they don't come. We can't afford to have any more --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, that is a yes. Donald Trump is going to re-institute the family separation policy, which cruelly stripped children from their parents. I think there are still some kids who have not been returned to their parents. I guess it does not surprise me, Dana Bash, but there he is doubling down on that.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and that begs the question of just the humanitarian, the values, the sort of moral argument that Joe Biden made from the very beginning of his reelection campaign, made from the very beginning of his first campaign, about that kind of promise to turn the ideals of what is really going on in America back to the way that he thinks it should be.
Having said that, immigration is a political Achilles heel for the Democrats.
BASH: And what we are going to see is that snowballing in a big way, almost certainly after tomorrow, when Title 42 policy reverts. That is something that the democrats understand that they have to grapple with and it's also something that Donald Trump rode in to the republican primary nomination in 2016 on and in large part the presidency.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I want the audience to realize this part, though. That we're talking about the wielding of the government and why he wants people to believe in the power of the government and the decisions that are made. That does not apply for him when it comes to executive branch, enforcement of the law and power, and integrity of our actual justice systems.
The asylum process, the idea of immigration and migration policies, all follow a due process principal, the idea of a notice, an opportunity to be heard in court, to be able to have an opportunity to have one's right to speak and say why they should be here, he is saying that that should be afforded the ultimate benefit of the doubt when the decision-maker is him, but when it comes to a jury making a decision or about the due process of a trial, totally different.
We saw a lot about the preview for 2024 in his campaign. We all saw the preview of how he will try to go and undermine people's belief in our justice system and saying things like, listen, the jury system cannot be trusted as it relates to him, the idea of a Washington, D.C. or a New York jury.
So, I want to be very focused on the tendency to compartmentalize when the government is good and when it's bad. It's not supposed to be selectively wielded.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Can I just quickly add to that, I think that is the big picture takeaway from tonight. Does America want a president who is actively over and over again undermining the rule of law, undermining democracy? When he talked about the pardons tonight, I got so many texts --
TAPPER: For the January 6.
GANGEL: For the January 6. And they were all along this line. Translation, violence in service of my interest is above the law. And that really is our big picture from tonight, the lies and that he does not think it applies to him.
TAPPER: Thanks, everyone. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: Looking at the U.S. Capitol. Tonight, the man who incited a violent attack on that building, the symbol of democracy, so he could stay in office in spite of the will of the American people, well, that man faced some of those voters in New Hampshire, many of them supported him then and will obviously support him again this time, and he was clearly speaking their language tonight, Anderson?
COOPER: Yeah. By the same measure, it seems he was not speaking to anyone other than voters who may already agree with him. The question is, will he ever do that? Is he capable of it? An optimist might say that remains to be seen. A realist might say otherwise. We can certainly say this: Our CNN town hall replays after a quick break.