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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

President Biden Confronts Twin Crises From G7 Summit; Conservative Push for Book Bans in Schools; Health, Political Concerns Over 89-Year-Old Sen. Dianne Feinstein; Documents: FAA Hamstrung By Shortage Of Air Traffic Controllers Last Summer. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 19, 2023 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: But the controversy seemed to finally die down during an interview on US television.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: Since you've became prime minister, you became a father again. You have a new baby.


GUTHRIE: You're expecting another baby.

JOHNSON: Yes, yes. I know. I know.

GUTHRIE: You have six kids.



BURNETT: Okay, well there it was, but the tally now will include three children with Carrie, four children with his ex-wife, one from an extramarital affair.

So congratulations to Boris Johnson plus, soon to be eight.

Thanks for joining us. Anderson starts now.



We begin tonight with new developments on two key questions for this country and the free world: How to prevent a default on the national debt that could destroy global confidence in our economy, and how to ensure that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is rolled back?

President Biden at the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan is grappling with both. On Ukraine, a milestone with President Zelenskyy due to travel from Ukraine to Japan this weekend. President Biden gave his okay for a joint allied effort to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighters and other advanced aircraft. And on the debt ceiling, it looks like talks which the president was being updated on remotely are back on again. They resumed tonight just hours after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's Republican negotiators called a halt to them earlier today.

As only CNN can, we have correspondents spanning the globe tonight, Phil Mattingly traveling with the president in Japan and Sam Kiley in Ukraine. I want to start with Phil.

So what's the latest that you're hearing from White House officials about debt ceiling negotiations?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, as you point out, there was a pause for House Republican negotiators walking out of the room saying there simply had been no progress particularly on the central issue of the scale of the spending cuts the White House is willing to consider and basically putting a halt to everything. It had been days of hours on end of meetings between the President's top negotiators and Speaker Kevin McCarthy's negotiating team.

However, they are now back on, just about 10 minutes go, Anderson, the 90-minute rejuvenation, I guess, of the talks that were underway in the Capitol came to a close. One source familiar with the matter who was in the room texted me it was a "candid conversation."

There is still a very long way to go, but they are talking again. I think when you talk to officials who have been around this process, Anderson and briefed on this process, they acknowledge that breakdowns in high stakes negotiations like this aren't a rarity and aren't necessarily a bad thing so long as they come together and lay the groundwork for real progress.

The major issue right now, beyond the policy, beyond the vote counting and the ability to actually get this across the finish line is the calendar. They don't have time to kind of go through a traditional rhythm of a negotiating process. We're talking about ten, eleven days before a potential default here and things need to start moving quickly.

At this point in time, though, nothing is unlocked, just candid discussions -- Anderson.

COOPER: In terms of Zelenskyy's decision to travel to the G7 in Japan, is there a sense of what the stakes are for his visit?

MATTINGLY: You know, it's interesting, Anderson, Ukrainian officials who had confirmed that the president would be coming here have started to be a little bit cagier about his presence. But as I'm told at this moment, he's still scheduled to be on the ground here. And the reason is not just for pure symbolism or not just to kind of rally allies, really the g7 leaders have been the cornerstone of the Western alliances that have been so steadfast in the support, both on lethal assistance and on economic aid over the course of the last 15 months. But it's also to make clear that this war, this Russian invasion, going on a year-and-a-half is at a clear inflection point. We're on the precipice of Ukrainian military launching a counteroffensive. Zelenskyy and his top advisers are very cognizant of the fact that the durability of the coalition that has continued to support them is always a little bit in flux, given the domestic issues, particularly on the economy that they face.

Showing up in a place like the G7 in the wake of a week-long tour of European capitals, showing up at the Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia earlier today, it is critical to make the point make the case and also make the ask because Ukrainian officials just as their US counterparts, acknowledged now, this isn't ending anytime soon and the significance of more funding, more defense capabilities, more economic aid is critical for what comes next -- Anderson.

COOPER: Phil Mattingly, stay with us. I want to bring in CNN contributor, Jill Dougherty. She's a global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service.

So Jill, if the US does officially approve the shipment of F-16s from European allies to Ukraine, what do you think that means for this conflict?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's a very serious move. It may not change things immediately, because they will not be delivered for quite a while, but I think it could give them a defense that they haven't had to be able to go after the Russians and defend where -- the air war is the strongest part of the Russian operation. They're not doing well on the ground. So, I think having the F-16s could be a great help for them.

COOPER: Phil, President Biden has been clear here for months he didn't view F-16s as a necessity or a solution. Again, these are coming from European allies, but what's changed?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I think --

COOPER: I am sorry, that was for Phil.


MATTINGLY: Hey, Anderson, it is a dramatic shift -- I would just say, Anderson, while it appears to be a dramatic shift and it is a dramatic shift in isolation. It's also very analogous to what you've seen the administration do throughout the course of the last 15 months when it comes to weapons capability.

They are reticent, they are weary. They don't believe it will have the effect and then eventually often driven by Ukrainian pleas, allies who want to make that move, they end up moving forward, whether it is Patriot missile systems, whether it's HIMARS, whether it's M-1 Abrams tanks, they have progressively been willing to evolve.

And I think it underscores what I hear from national security officials inside the administration quite often is kind of the president's theory of the case in terms of the coalition.

If the coalition is moving towards a specific direction, even if the US military advisors say they don't believe it's the best battlefield weapons system or they're concerned about escalatory effects, the president is likely to eventually move in that direction as well. That appears to be what has happened here.

There is still skepticism about the actual battlefield effect and it is very clear that the US does not have any plans to send F-16s from its stocks. But that's really been the animating feature of President Biden's efforts over the course of the last 15 months.

COOPER: And Jill, as we await this expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, which in some ways may already kind of be underway. We've seen squabbles breakout even between groups that are fighting on the same side for Russia. The ongoing war of words between the Wagner Group founder and the Russian Ministry of Defense. Is it clear to you whether the Kremlin still sees a path to victory?

DOUGHERTY: I wonder about that, because if you look at what's happening behind the scenes, I think there is an enormous amount of chaos. I mean, just look, the Wagner Group, you talked about that, they are now arresting scientists who have been developing weapons. It is massive repression on a really Stalinist scale.

And so I think what that says is that Putin, yes, he's in charge, but there is a lot of ferment coming up from the bottom that you pick up here and there. It's a very repressive country right now, but I think behind-the-scenes, he has real trouble.

COOPER: Phil Mattingly, Jill Dougherty, I appreciate it. Thank you.

A closer look now, what is like on the ground in Ukraine. More on that from CNN's Sam Kiley.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carried on a gunship, escorted by another, Russia's defense minister we're told is visiting Russian troops in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia province.

"These high awards reflects high appreciation for your military work," Sergei Shoigu says handing out medals.

Across the Dnipro River from the Russian held parts of Zaporizhzhia, the director of Nikopol Children's Hospital isn't impressed by Shoigu's performance.

VYACHESLAV MALGIN: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

KILEY (voice-over): He says, "They're not brave hiding in that bank between houses. They shoot at us."

KILEY (on camera): What do you think when you see pictures of him like that? VYACHESLAV MALGIN: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

KILEY (voice-over): And then he replies, "I think that both Shoigu and Putin are such cowards. It's more likely, I'd say 90 percent that they are hiding somewhere in Crimea, at least very far from us." That would probably be wise given that across the river from Nikopol, Russian troops have turned a nuclear power station into a frontline redoubt.

KILEY (on camera): That is Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station behind me. It is also now a fire base for Russian forces. Nearly every day, there shelling this town from over there.

It's going to be a major problem in any future Ukrainian offensive because that is the biggest nuclear power station in the whole of Europe, and it is a target.

KILEY (voice-over): Ukrainian officials say that they hope to bypass the nuclear plant during any offensive to avoid a nuclear catastrophe.

In the mayor's office across the river, boarded windows and shrapnel scars tell of Russian rocket attacks. Avoiding disaster will depend on the Russians.

MAYOR YEVHENY YEVTUSHENKO: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

KILEY (voice-over): He says, "I think it's important for them to hold the nuclear power station, and they will do everything to hold it as long as they can. First of all, it's the biggest nuclear facility in Europe. And second, it's a very important base for the military and their artillery."

Russian military ambitions drove Maria literally underground, where she has sheltering in a hospital bunker.

KILEY (on camera): How have things been in this town with the threat coming from the power station across the river for a whole year?

MARIA (through translator): Not very good. I gave birth in the basement. It's fine. We survived somehow.

KILEY: And how have the children been affected by the war?

MARIA (through translator): They are worried that something might happen to them.

KILEY (voice-over): And those fears won't go, not until the Russians are gone.



COOPER: Sam Kiley joins us now not far from the frontlines. Is there a sense tonight of when the widely expected spring offensive from Ukrainian forces may begin? KILEY: That is a closely guarded secret here in Ukraine. There is evidence of course one sees with their own eyes, the movement of troops. We know that there are a number of combat brigades, many of them have been trained in NATO countries, the United Kingdom and others.

We know that there is a lot more equipment now available to the Ukrainians, including air defenses, but also offensive capabilities like the Storm Shadow cruise missile that may have been in action. We don't know exactly, but there was some mysterious explosions in Mariupol that Russian occupied city that was the scene of such bitter fighting a year ago, Anderson.

I think the Ukrainians want the Russian troops to be thinking this could happen to us any minute -- Anderson.

COOPER: Sam Kiley, appreciate it.

Now to a piece of video that was found by CNN on the instant messaging app, Telegram which is essentially a place where people or groups can post video messages. The particular Telegram channel where we found this video is called For Post (ph) and they post generally pro-Russian content.

Now, the video is taken from the point of view of someone on the ground in Bakhmut. This is it. There is gunfire heard and you also hear a man yelling commands in British accented English.


COOPER: So we've discovered there's more to this video than meets the eye. We first showed you the video on Tuesday's broadcasts and before we showed it to you, our teams at CNN had geo-located where the video was actually shot, and it is indeed, we were able to confirm from the contested city of Bakhmut.

But that voice made us curious. The British accent in English and we've continued to investigate it since then. Today, we confirmed that the audio that you just heard in that video was actually laid over the images deceptively.

Now the audio you heard is actually taken from a different battle that occurred months earlier in a forest around Bakhmut and someone, we don't know who or why, married that audio to this video taken inside Bakhmut and then put it on Telegram.

Now, we want you to hear the original video containing the voice which was posted five months ago on the War Leaks Military Blog, which describes itself as an independent educational and documentary channel for military enthusiasts all around the world.


COOPER: Now, again, we don't know who did that or why, but we wanted to make sure we told you about what we found. Next, one of my favorite guests, historian and author, Doris Kearns Goodwin, she has written about some of the most important moments in this country's history. In a moment, she'll talk about the moment that we're now and the attempt to ban books in classrooms and libraries. She's a national treasure and you'll see why shortly.

And later, California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, how her declining health and apparent cognitive difficulties have exposed tensions among fellow Democrats over how to address or even discuss her condition.



COOPER: Last night, we brought you the story of a conservative activist group which calls itself Moms for Liberty, which is trying to pressure schools across the country to remove books it deems controversial from classrooms and school libraries. Books like "Fahrenheit 451," or "The Kite Runner," works by Judy Blume, Toni Morrison, books that make mention of sexuality or race.

And as our Elle Reeve discovered talking to one of the leaders of this group, behind the book bans is a belief that teachers are trying to secretly turn kids gay or destroy American families.


ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To me, it sounds like you're saying there's some kind of high level coordinated effort to make more children trans and gay.


REEVE: Well, who's directing that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teachers unions and our president and a lot of funding sources and teachers unions are also heavily backing the curriculum that we're bringing into school.

REEVE: Why would they want more kids to be gay and trans?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it breaks down the family unit, which breaks down traditional conservative values. It breaks down a lot of things in this country. It changes the way that people think, it changes the way that people handle politics.


COOPER: History curriculums also are targeted in these fights and Florida's pass legislation barring instruction that suggests anyone is privileged or oppressed based on their race or skin color.

I am joined now by presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of a number of award-winning histories and bestsellers, including "Leadership in Turbulent Times." And that book is the basis of a new mini-series on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called "FDR" that premieres Memorial Day on the History Channel.

Doris, it is great to have you back. I always look forward to this.

So what is it say to you that banning books that may deal with difficult parts of American history or issues of race or gender from libraries and classrooms is a flashpoint of the 2024 presidential campaign?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I mean, it really feels like history is under siege right now, when you're deciding that classroom discussions cannot focus on race, on class conflict, on social justice, social inequality.

I mean, I think about the moments that I've written about in my long, 50-year career, I've always chosen those moments when we are really strengthened by coming out of difficult times. Abraham Lincoln, of course, you're going to be talking about slavery and race. Turn of the 20th century, you're going to be talking about the conflict between workers and capitalists, anarchist bombings, nationwide strikes, will that be denied in classroom discussions? The civil rights movement?

I've read that some teachers now, there is such a chilling effect by these ambiguous laws in these various states that people don't know what's available and what shouldn't be.

One teacher was afraid to even teach Jim Crow; another one worried about reading Martin Luther King's letters from a Birmingham jail. A teacher in in Florida now investigated for putting on a Disney film that had a gay character.

I mean, what is going to happen if we don't allow history as it was? Nothing, as I say strengthens a nation more than willingness to confront its problems, its triumphs, its tragedies, and we come out stronger. If you erase that history, you don't allow it to be taught what are we going to learn from? It is really a crazy craze that's going on right now.


COOPER: I mean, there is the well-known phrase about, you know, if you don't know your history, you're condemned to repeat it.

You and your late husband, presidential speechwriter, Richard Goodwin both worked in Lyndon Johnson's White House. I mean, does it -- talk about a little bit about what the country was like then? Does it feel in some ways that we are moving that much further back?

GOODWIN: You know, it's so interesting you ask that, Anderson, because I've just been working on the Civil Rights moments in the 60s, when the Civil Rights Act was passed to desegregate the south, when the great Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. My husband was lucky enough to be able to work on the speech that LBJ gave to the joint session of Congress after the Selma demonstrations, when he talked about the We Shall Overcome banner that had been the civil rights movement. And then he and the power of the presidency joined together. That's when change takes place, when these outside movements that they're now afraid, some of these bans are on movement discussions took place. In fact, I was just thinking after President Biden went to Howard University this last week, that President Johnson gave a talk at Howard University way, way back in 1965 and he acknowledged the importance of racism in a certain sense, because he took this incredible metaphor.

You can't take a person to the beginning of a race hobbled by chains for all these years, and then just say, you're free to compete. It was really in some ways, the birthplace of affirmative action. That kind of discussion of the acknowledgement of racism would probably be denied according to some of these ambiguous laws.

So we learned from it, we learned at that moment that they were going to try and confront social and economic justice and third part of the civil rights movement -- desegregation, voting rights, and then social and economic justice. Sadly, the war intervened, and we never were able to get that full, but that's what the Great Society was all about.

You feel so excited when you see us moving forward, and we have indeed, I think, moved backwards. But we'll get forward again, there are movements to confront this and we're going to fight it.

COOPER: And I mean, has the idea of that book banning is going to be front and center in the presidential campaign is kind of extraordinary. Is there historical precedent for candidates championing -- you hear Ron DeSantis talking about anti-woke, so- called anti-woke measures in Florida, culture wars focusing on books and what critics have called the Don't Say Gay Bill.

I mean, is there a historical precedent or analogues for this type of candidacy?

GOODWIN: Well, you know, surely we've had cultural wars. I mean, remember what Pat Buchanan was talking about, some of them? They are usually not among the front candidates that are running? And the sad thing is that what you really want from your candidates, you want a vision of where we're going to go in the future? How are we going to confront the problems that we're facing? How are we going to deal with the world out there? This war in Ukraine that you've just been talking about, of central importance to us right now, and to be focusing on something that is not where the majority of the people are, something that is not moving us forward as a nation is a really difficult thing.

I mean, I think what we need to be looking at in these candidates, what worries me always is about the way we cover our candidates during campaigns, is that we look at what they say we make a deal of what the polls are. We need to understand what kind of leaders they are. And the kinds of leaders they are going to be in office are the kinds of leaders they've been.

So we should be studying right now what kind of a governor, what kind of representative in the house was DeSantis? What kind of teams did he create? Was he willing to acknowledge errors? Was he a humble person? Does he have empathy?

All of the attitudes that we know are important for leaders, we should be checking off to see what kind of leader these people have been and what they're going to be and instead, we just get caught on these jags of what did they say today? What are they going to debate about?

I've been arguing this to myself for years and wish that we could cover campaigns in a different way, but maybe we could start right now.

COOPER: I would like that. Doris Kearns Goodwin, I really appreciate you coming on. It's so lovely to talk to you. Thank you.

GOODWIN: Thank you so much for having me. I love talking with you.

COOPER: Yeah. Doris is also the exec producer of this new mini series on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt based on one of her books called "FDR." It premieres, as I said Memorial Day on the History Channel.

Doris, I can look forward to that. Please come back soon.

GOODWIN: Shall do.

COOPER: All right, coming up, the questions surrounding the health of California senator, Dianne Feinstein not only about her ability to serve, but her decision to remain in office and about those around her.

Our Jessica Dean has the story for us next.



COOPER: Senator Dianne Feinstein's return to work this week has raised new concerns over her health. You've likely seen her being wheeled through the Halls of Congress looking frail. She isn't speaking much to reporters, but the senator told CNN that contrary to a "New York Times," report she did not have encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain. She said she only had a "bad flu."

Her spokesperson, a short time later contradicted that saying it was not the flu. It was encephalitis as well as Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which is another rare condition brought about by her fight with shingles. So that was Thursday.

On Tuesday, she appeared confused by questions from reporters about her recent medical absence, both "The LA Times" and "Slate" reporter saying, "I haven't been gone. I've been here. I've been voting. Please either know or don't know."

It's not clear if Feinstein was referring to just the past week since her return or referring to the past several months while she was covering at home and not voting. Democratic members of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ro Khanna, Rashida Tlaib, and Dean Phillips have publicly urged her to resign. There are questions about why at 89, she is choosing to remain a senator and about some of those surrounding her.

Jessica Dean has more.



CLAIRE MCCASKILL, FORMER US SENATOR: I do wonder why the people who love her are not more aggressively trying to protect her legacy and protect her at this point in time.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even those who know Senator Dianne Feinstein well, calling for an intervention after her return to the Senate laid bare lingering health issues. One woman who's often at Senator Feinstein's side since her return, Nancy Corinne Prowda, the eldest daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Pelosi, are you working for her office now?

DEAN (voice-over): A source familiar with the situation tells CNN the Pelosis and Feinstein share a close personal friendship and that Prowda and the California senator have developed their own friendship that stretches back 40 years and is independent of Speaker Pelosi and politics.

The source adds Prowda is helping Feinstein simply as a friend and is not her caretaker, nor is she being paid. Still, as is often the case in Washington, political calculations loom over the situation. Feinstein has said she will not run for reelection in 2024.

Former Speaker Pelosi has endorsed Representative Adam Schiff in the primary. Schiff has not joined calls for Feinstein to retire before her term is up.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I would like to give her a chance to recover from shingles.

DEAN (voice-over): But some House Democrats have called for Feinstein to retire early. If that were to happen, California Governor Gavin Newsom would appoint a replacement to serve the remainder of her term, and he's on the record making this commitment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you nominate an African American woman to restore the seat that Kamala Harris is no longer in the United States Senate? And do you have a name in mind?

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I have multiple names in mind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, yes, Senator Dianne Feinstein.

NEWSOM: Yes. We have multiple names in mind, and the answer is yes. DEAN (voice-over): One such name would likely be Representative Barbara Lee, a black woman. An appointment could give her an advantage over Schiff and others running for the Senate in 2024. Lee's campaign co-chairman, Representative Ro Khanna has said it's time for Feinstein to step down.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I'm hopeful that people who are close to her can talk to her and just say, look, end your service with dignity. Step aside. Let the governor appoint someone.

DEAN (voice-over): A source tell CNN Speaker Pelosi has made it clear that Feinstein's decision to remain in the Senate is entirely her own and that any insinuation that a political agenda would factor into it is, quote, ridiculous.

A spokesperson for Pelosi told CNN, "Speaker Emerita Pelosi and Senator Feinstein have been friends since long before their service in Congress, and their friendship is personal, not political. Anyone who knows Senator Feinstein knows that her service in the Senate is entirely her own decision. And Speaker Emerita Pelosi would never suggest otherwise."

Jessica Dean, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COOPER: Perspective now from CNN Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama. So you've called this a tragic and painful saga. Who, in your view, is to blame for how sad this has become?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, obviously, at the end of the day, Senator Feinstein holds the decision and so she, you know, she is responsible for her own predicament, but it's clear that she's not 100 percent. And in fact, Anderson, this isn't a new story that San Francisco Chronicle did a piece more than a year ago raising questions about her capacities.

This is an open secret on Capitol Hill. This has been discussed for a long time. But at this point, there are real questions about her ability to serve.

COOPER: How much, I mean, do you think this is about what's best for Senator Feinstein and how much of this is political and some alleged what's best for, you know, other members of Congress?

AXELROD: Yes. Look, I don't know. There's a -- I think Jessica did a good job of summarizing all of the memes around this in that piece. You have Ro Khanna who's chairing Barbara Lee's campaign. She might be the beneficiary of a resignation. As was mentioned, the speaker has endorsed Adam Schiff. It would be in his interest if there were not an appointment, particularly of one of his competitors.

You know, one of the people who could solve this is the governor by saying, I'm not going to appoint anybody who's going to run in a general election, and I'm going to let the candidates who were running run. So as to remove this cloud.

But, you know, at the end of the day, I also think the nature of the Senate is such that people are not going to push Feinstein out. We have seen -- and the Speaker Pelosi has pointed this out. We've had examples with Strom Thurmond and Bob Byrd --


AXELROD: -- and others where no one has -- there hasn't been this kind of an uproar about it. So senators are mindful of that. I really don't think you're going to see senators push her. And, you know, ultimately she's going to have to make that decision.

COOPER: Yes, so what you're referring to, Speaker Pelosi was pointing out that, you know, there has been male politicians from both parties --


COOPER: Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd --


COOPER: -- who are both very old, had significant infirmaries, and there wasn't this level of --


AXELROD: But I will say, Anderson, I'm not sure that if that were the case today, that that would be the same. I think we live in a different time, and I do think there's such an intense spotlight that it's hard to hide. They also were from smaller states. They came from a different era when seniority was given even more birth than it is today.

So I don't know that the analogy completely holds up. I think the people of California should be concerned about this, but they don't really have a say.

COOPER: Yes. Where do you think this is heading? And right now it's May 2023. Senator Feinstein's term doesn't officially end until January of 2025.


COOPER: And that seems hard for me.

AXELROD: You know, she has had a distinguished career, and you don't wish her any ill. You just wonder how many setbacks can she take. And whether at some point, people, as Claire McCaskill suggested, people who love her say, listen, your legacy is at risk here. This is not how you want to be remembered, and it's time to step aside.

I'm mindful of the fact she lost her husband not so long ago. These are hard decisions, Anderson.


AXELROD: You know, that's why the average age of the Senate is 65 years old. I mean, people -- their identities are wrapped up and --

COOPER: Well she also, I mean, has worked relentlessly throughout her entire life. I mean, should this has been, you know, a life of service. And --

AXELROD: It's her life.

COOPER: That's a very difficult to her go.

AXELROD: Very difficult, very difficult. But she's clearly not functioning at the level that she has been. And, you know, that doesn't -- it's not a matter of age, it's just everyone is different. You look at Senator Grassley, for example. He's going to be 90 this year as well. But he's much more vigorous --


AXELROD: -- and he's in much better shape than she is. So this is a situation that really goes to her capacity to serve. And I, I mean, I personally would hope that people who care about her will prevail upon her to think about whether this is the way she wants to continue. And as to how it ends, Anderson, it could end in very tragic ways, you know, that go to her health.

COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

AXELROD: Thanks.

COOPER: A lot more coming out, including a CNN exclusive. Remember last summer's airline meltdown with thousands of flights delayed, canceled, chaos at airports? Those who get ready for a busy summer at the airports. Our Pete Muntean has learned about what was behind all that chaos and whether it can happen again. That's next.



COOPER: With Memorial Day weekend approaching so it's the start of what's expected to be an especially busy summer for air travel. With that in mind, we have exclusive new reporting on the origins of some of the massive travel delays last summer. It's not, at least not in this case, the airlines. Instead, the trouble came from a part of the system that most passengers never see.

As CNN's Pete Muntean reports it could cause fresh trouble again this summer.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the summer of air travel meltdowns. Figures from flight tracking site FlightAware show that last Memorial Day to Labor Day, airlines in the U.S. canceled 55,000 flights and delayed a 500,000 million more.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A flight gets canceled, then it's really tough to get on another one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is frustrating.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): The blame was mostly put on the airlines, which was mostly right.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The airlines need to be prepared to service the tickets that they sell.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): But now CNN has learned from internal documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request that thousands of those flight delays were triggered by repeated short staffing at one federal air traffic control facility in Florida.

The Federal Aviation Administration's Jacksonville Center facility is responsible for controlling airspace used by nearly every commercial flight arriving and departing at Florida's busiest airports. CNN found that last summer it was short-staffed during more than 200 shifts. Documents reveal, over seven weeks, the FAA believes staffing problems delayed a total of 4,622 flights, nearly one in 10 of all delays statewide.

JOHN TILIACOS, TAMPA BAY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: It has just a domino effect throughout the industry.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): At Tampa International Airport, executive vice president of operations John Tiliacos began monitoring the staffing problems as passengers began getting stranded. In June, he wrote the FAA saying, "What's odd to me is that the only FAA facility that seems to be having staffing issues is Jacksonville Center.

TILIACOS: And obviously asked the question, what are you going to do about it? What is the FAA doing to address the issue so that we can get our operational dependability back on track?

MUNTEAN (voice-over): In one message, one senior FAA official gave a blunt assessment to FAA Acting Chief Billy Nolen. "I don't believe we have any excuse other than a straight up shortage of certified controllers in multiple areas."


MUNTEAN (voice-over): Paul Rinaldi is the former president of the union that represents air traffic controllers. Also revealed in the documents a whistleblower complaint alleging overworked Jacksonville controllers. The FAA now tells CNN that it has changed leadership at the facility.

RINALDI: It's a very demanding profession. They have to be 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. MUNTEAN (voice-over): The FAA has vowed to hire 1,500 new controllers this year and 1,800 next year. But the agency is also warning issues will not be fixed fast. With another key facility in New York roughly half staffed, the FAA says delays at the area's three major airports could rise by 45 percent this summer.

BILLY NOLEN, ACTING FAA ADMINISTRATOR: We own our part. The industry will own their part. It will take all of us working together.


COOPER: Pete Muntean joins now from Reagan National Airport. What's the FAA saying in response to this?

MUNTEAN: Well, Anderson, the FAA underscores that it's really not air traffic control issues that drive delays, but rather bad weather and traffic volume issue. The agency insists that it's taken extra steps to put in place extra staff at Jacksonville Center, and it says that conditions have improved since last summer.

But the real question now is whether or not these fixes will work this summer. Thursday stands to be one of the busiest air travel days of the Memorial Day air travel period, with 51,000 flights scheduled nationwide. Anderson?


COOPER: Pete Muntean, I appreciate it. Thanks.

Next, with the first anniversary of the mass murders at Robb Elementary School approaching, CNN Shimon Prokupecz joins us with new video he's uncovered. Never before seen from inside the school as it unfolded.


COOPER: It's been nearly a year since a gunman walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and murdered 19 children and two teachers. Now, there have been multiple investigations into exactly why this gunman was allowed to remain inside a classroom full of children, some of whom were still alive, some of whom were wounded and dying for 77 minutes while 376 law enforcement personnel were outside, essentially waiting.

For the past year, CNN Shimon Prokupecz and his team have been digging for answers, trying to find out exactly what went wrong, trying to hold people accountable. Through his reporting, he was given the entire investigative case file with hundreds of hours of footage and multiple audio recordings.


He and his team have gone through all of it. And on Sunday night on CNN's "The Whole Story", he shows the families in Uvalde some new video, which we're about to show you that's never been seen before, including audio from the 77th minute of the attack when police finally breached the classroom and killed the gunman.

And we want to warn you, the video is disturbing.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold your fire. Hold your fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids, kids, kids.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up. Hands up. Hands up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the suspect?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids. Watch all the kids. Watch all the kids. EMTs, EMTs first. EMTs first.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing could prepare you for what they brought out. It was horrible.


COOPER: Shimon Prokupecz joins me now. I mean, we just saw the video of some of the police retching after what happened. I know you have video that we haven't shown, and it's going to be in this. What else is there?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The video is of the children. So in that moment, as police are going forward and they finally get inside the classroom, there are kids that start to run out. And that is the video that we show the parents of their kids, the survivors coming out.

COOPER: Kids who survived being in that classroom that the gunman is on.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, and they come running out and just this look on their face. One of them is shot. He runs out and he's limping. At one point, he falls on the ground. And then that was AJ. There's another little girl, Khloie Torres, who called 911. She comes out and she's just covered in blood.

COOPER: I remember her 911 call.


COOPER: It's that incredible call.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. And she was covered in blood. It's not her blood. She wasn't injured. But what she did was she laid her body in pool of blood, blood that was coming from bodies around her. And she did that because she wanted the gunman to think she was dead. And so --

COOPER: And how old is she?

PROKUPECZ: She was 10 at the time as well. And, yes, so we have all that video. So the families come to us when we're in Uvalde filming this. They come to us, they call us. They say, we want to see the video of the breach. We want to see the video of our kids.

COOPER: So, I mean, this is one of these things that stuns me. Authorities have not shown this video to these grieving families, to these --

PROKUPECZ: Nothing. They've not shown them any videos. They've not played -- a year later, Anderson, we've played these 911 calls on your show, and these families have still not been able to get --

COOPER: This is incredible.

PROKUPECZ: It's unbelievable. And every time they go to the DA and ask questions, they are basically getting stonewalled. They're not being giving any information. And so now what's happening is they know we have all this information, so all they want to know is what did their kids go through?

COOPER: Right.

PROKUPECZ: They want to know every detail of the traumatic experience that their kids went through, how they suffered, what kind of injuries they sustained. You know, we show video of the kids.

What happens is the police, after they get the kids out of the room, they put them all on a school bus. There were no ambulances, so they have to put them on a school bus to take them to the hospital. And there are several survivors.

COOPER: There were no ambulances?

PROKUPECZ: There were no ambulances.

COOPER: There's 300 and something law enforcement person out there and nobody had called ambulances?

PROKUPECZ: There weren't enough ambulances. And so they have to put them on a school bus to take them to the hospital. And all of the survivors are on this one school bus. And it's all recorded on body camera footage. So you're seeing them on the school bus crying, screaming for their parent.

COOPER: Jesus. PROKUPECZ: And the one girl, Khloie, is just covered in blood, and she's telling the officer how she called 911, asking the officer, did I talk to you? And then we see another kid, AJ, who was shot. And you could see clearly where he shot on his leg.


And then, most significant, there's Kendall Olivarez who passes out several times on the bus. She's passing out, she's shot several times, loses significant amount of blood, somehow survives. Luckily, the police went in when they did because I don't know that she would've survived.

COOPER: The parents of surviving children who are in this, who are seen in this, they told you they want this scene.

PROKUPECZ: They called us and they asked us, and we have that recording. We're on the phone with them, and we show how the whole process unfolds. And the difficulty that we had, you know, this was not something that was easy for us to do. We've never done anything like this.

And I was just really worried about their reaction.

COOPER: Right.

PROKUPECZ: And what would we do if there was some terrible reaction to what they were seeing, but they were adamant and they did it as a group, which I think helped them. And so we recorded that whole thing and we played it out.

It's powerful. And the difference here, Anderson, you know, sadly, we've covered so many of these school shootings and we do specials after one year later. This is so different in the sense that we are really giving people a look inside of what happened in that classroom.

COOPER: I mean, it's just incredible to me that parents have not been given this look by authorities. And, I mean, if we know, I mean, thanks to your reporting, we know all the flaws in the investigations, all the investigations that have taken place, all the flaws that have occurred. It's extraordinary work.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. Well, thank you for everything, Anderson.

COOPER: Be sure to watch Shimon's report in an all new installment of "The Whole Story" this Sunday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Pacific, only on CNN.

You can catch last week's episode of "The Whole Story" what happened to San Francisco right after a short break.