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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Trump Caught On Tape Talking About Classified Documents He Kept After Leaving The White House; House Set To Pass Debt Limit Bill In Bipartisan Vote; Russian Authorities Report Renewed Shelling Of Border Areas By Ukrainians; Pentagon Says U.S. Is Tracking 800-Plus Potential UFO Cases. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 31, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: He is going to be a father again.

Pacino's 29-year-old girlfriend is now eight months pregnant do in the next couple of weeks, we understand. And by the way, it's not just Pacino who is the only Godfather to become a father. His longtime friend, Robert De Niro just welcomed his seventh child at the age of 79. De Niro is also a grandfather to four children.

Thanks so much for joining us. "AC360" starts now.



On 360 tonight: Exclusive and explosive new reporting. The former president on tape acknowledging he held on to a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran and prosecutors have the tape.

Also, the vote that nearly did not happen expected anytime now on the debt ceiling deal just hours after it barely squeaked onto the House floor.

And rattling Russia, a closer look at the shadowy effort that is getting high profile results bringing the war in Ukraine onto Russian soil.

We begin tonight with exclusive new reporting. The prosecutors investigating the former president's handling of classified material have in their possession a recording from the summer of 2021, in which the former president is telling people around him in a meeting at his golf resort in Bedminster that he has held on to a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran.

As CNN is reporting, this undercuts his argument that he declassified everything and on the tape as he spoke, it sounds like he was waving a piece of paper around raising the question, was he holding the classified document in question?

Which goes what CNN's Kaitlan Collins asked him at CNN's townhall earlier this month.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: When it comes to your documents, did you ever show those classified documents to anyone?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not really. I would have the right to. By the way they were declassified after --

COLLINS: What do you mean not really?

TRUMP: Not that I can think of.


COOPER: Kaitlan Collins shares the byline in tonight's exclusive along with Katelyn Polantz and Paula Reid, who joins us now.

So what exactly is on this recording?


This was the summer of 2021 at Trump's Bedminster Golf Club, and in attendance at this meeting were several of his aides, as well as two people who were working on an autobiography for former White House chief-of-staff, Mark Meadows.

Now, Meadows was not at this meeting, but during this time, Trump had a habit of asking his aides to record conversations with journalists, writers, anyone working on a book. So this is not a secret recording.

What we are told on this recording, Trump can be heard disclosing that he had in his possession a classified Pentagon document discussing a possible attack on Iran. And as you noted, on the tape, you can hear him -- it sounds like rustling paper, maybe he is waving something, but it's unclear if he's waving the document itself, or something else just for theatrical effect.

But most significantly for investigators, Trump suggests that he would like to share this document, but there are limits he acknowledges on his ability to declassify materials now that he is out of office.

COOPER: So that's what is particularly important about this recording to federal prosecutors, that he is acknowledging he has limits about what he can declassify, and he is talking about this as though it is a still classified document.

REID: Exactly. And he and his attorneys, they've put out these various at times contradicting explanations for how he did not intentionally withhold classified documents.

They have argued that he had a standing declassified orders, so anything that left the Oval Office automatically declassified. He said that he could declassify things with his mind. Then his attorneys sent a letter to Congress suggesting that the only reason he had any classified materials in his possession is because at the end of his administration, it was so chaotic, things were inadvertently put in boxes.

But Anderson, what he says on this recording completely undercuts all of those claims. Also significant here, so far, the focus in terms of classified material has been on what was discovered down in Florida, especially at Mar-a-Lago.

But now, this recording suggests that there may have been potential mishandling of classified materials at another location at Bedminster, which is of course in New Jersey.

COOPER: And what do you know about the alleged document mentioned on the recording about a potential attack on Iran? Why was the former president talking about it in the first place?

REID: So this was in the context of his frustrations with General Mark Milley and a "New Yorker" article that had recently come out and this document is described as a four-page memo describing a possible plan to attack Iran.

Now, as I noted, there were some people working on an autobiography of Mark Meadows in this meeting, and Meadows in his book describes this document as having been written by Mark Milley. Now, we are told that he did not produce this document.

Also significant we have learned that Mark Milley has spoken with investigators in the special counsel's probe, and Anderson, that is significant. He is the highest ranking national security official to be interviewed that we know of, but that's the key.

One of the big takeaways from this reporting today is that there is so much the special counsel has and has been doing that we are just learning about now.

COOPER: And is the Trump campaign responding about this yet?

REID: They are. In a statement, the Trump campaign said in part: "The DOJ's continued interference in the presidential election is shameful and this meritless investigation should cease wasting the American taxpayer's money on Democrat political objectives."


COOPER: So they're not actually saying anything about the content of what we are reporting.

REID: No. Instead, they reverted to some talking points that we've heard from the former president over the past five or six years related to any investigations. They're calling it harassment, referring to it as a witch hunt. But there is no denial that this recording exists or our reporting on what it says.

COOPER: All right, Paula Reid, appreciate it. Thanks.

To get a better handle on all the dimensions of this, we are joined tonight by three people with long experience on unclassified materials. CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI deputy director,

Andrew McCabe. He is co-host of the podcast "Jack" about all things related to the special counsel investigation. Jack Smith is the special counsel.

With us as well, CNN legal analyst and former deputy assistant attorney general, Elliot Williams; and CNN military analyst and retired Army lieutenant, General Mark Hertling.

So, Andrew, I mean, how big of an investigative breakthrough or how important could this be for federal authorities?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's huge, Anderson. You can't really overstate the significance here.

Now, to be clear, they have a lot of other evidence to work with. We've seen incredible developments out of this investigation over the last few months and I am sure they have much more than we're aware of.

But this evidence is -- it could be really impactful. And as Paula stated, it obliterates many of the defenses that he has launched over the last few months. It conclusively establishes not only that he took classified information, because he admits that, but also that he knew he had classified information, he admits that as well, and that he knew it was still classified, and he was limited in how he could handle it or distribute it.

Those are really key elements of proof, and it is him speaking, supposedly, in his own voice, a recording that I'm sure will be played before the jury. That is very powerful evidence of wrongdoing.

COOPER: Yes., Elliot. I mean, it is interesting that he is telling these people in the room according to the reporting, that there is this document, and this is what it's about, a possible attack -- planning for a possible attack on Iran, but he can't tell them about it because it's classified.

If he had magically declassified it, as he said, with his mind or whoever else he has in various explanations, that would not be the case, he would feel free to tell him about it.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it would still be a crime, Anderson, like there's one crime in the federal code for sharing classified information, but number one, possessing government documents is itself a federal offense.

But more importantly, possessing Defense specific information is itself a federal offense that carries with it a 10-year penalty.

So the mere fact that this might have been revealing or containing military information or troop movements, that itself makes it a crime. So, we've got to get out of this framing of talking about classification versus declassification, because it really for most of the crimes that could be investigated here, based on information that we have, don't really have anything to do with classification at all. And to back up Andrew's point, what he has said here on at least --

assuming this recording says what it says it says, is his acknowledgement that he admitted that he possessed the documents and knew that they were in his possession, and knew that they were sensitive.

And that is -- you know, there's no such thing as a smoking gun in the real world, but it is incredibly valuable evidence because it speaks to intent, it speaks to knowledge, it speaks to what he knew that he had.

So it is, as far as evidence goes, very, very powerful.

COOPER: And General Hertling, I mean, you've been involved in Pentagon war planning, you know, how classified documents like this are supposed to be handled. I assume, I mean, again, I don't know the contents obviously, of this document.

But if it's about potential US plans for what an invasion of Iran would look like, that seems like it would be pretty important material. What do you make of what the former president allegedly did here?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it seems like it is pretty important material, Anderson. What I'd say is, Andrew and Elliot can talk about the criminality and the legal implications of all this. What I'm concerned about is the national security implications.

There are reasons why we have stiff penalties, there are reasons why we have strict laws on these kinds of things, because it gives away our nation's secrets. Now, I would suspect, if it was a four-page document, that it was not a war plan. Those things come in big binders with a lot of annexes.

But I suspect this probably was, was communications between Chairman Milley and the president in terms of potential courses of action. And, you know, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs, there's potential courses of action when the president ask them to.

So if the president was using this in any way that he was denigrating the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs or he was uplifting his own credentials with a bunch of reporters, it just adds to me more criminality because it is endangering our nation's national security and especially if it was about Iran, you can imagine who else might be interested in that and it is a lot of people that President Trump used to deal with.


COOPER: Andrew, how would the Justice Department authenticate an audio recording like this? And I mean, I guess that's probably not too difficult to do and how critical are the witnesses who were in that room?

MCCABE: Well, the witnesses who made the recording will be critical to authenticate it. That's easy. You subpoena them to trial, they come in and testify and tell you about how they did it and what they did with that recording afterwards. Elliot can walk you through that in great detail, I'm sure.

But the interesting thing to me here is there are other witnesses. You know, potentially, you can imagine a trial scenario in which every person in that room testifies at some point.

For instance, the authors of Mark Meadows' memoir who were listening to this display, will be able to say what was in his hand at the moment that he was saying this. You hear this noise in the background, it sounds like somebody is moving a piece of paper. Did you see the president doing something at that point? What did you assume that he meant by waving a piece of paper? What did you think -- was that the report that he was talking about?

So there are all kinds of additional corroborative detail that you could add to this very rich picture of the misuse of classified information in front of a bunch of people who don't have any official access to classified information.

COOPER: Yes, Elliot, I mean, if the classified document is on his desk in this meeting at Bedminster, and he is waving it around, or kind of looking at it, or who knows, maybe it's something else and he is just pretending to kind of to make a point.

But does it -- I mean, if somebody is waving around a classified document in front of people, does that matter to the crime?

WILLIAMS: Well, it does if we see it. Well, it really does, Anderson if they see it because then the disclosure of the information is itself a separate crime, if he shows it to somebody who doesn't properly have access to the information, pardon me, he can be charged with doing that as well.

And again, every single person in that room who was there can be used to authenticate that information and pile on the evidence that they are providing. Okay, so you know, who did he hand it to? Where were you sitting? Who saw it? Who else saw it? What did he say at the time?

And it sort of, you know, showing one piece of evidence may be not that persuasive to your jury, but six or seven witnesses saying largely the same thing, and something that let's be clear, has been recorded on audio.

You know, when we're talking about eyewitness testimony, it is far less reliable. Recordings are pretty reliable, right, and if you have someone who authenticate the recording, it is really good evidence.

And Anderson, you know, you and I talk about this when I'm on a lot, it is rare that I say something is actually really good evidence, but this is quite persuasive if it is -- you know, look, I haven't heard it, but if it is, as described, that can be devastating in a courtroom, and I've seen it before where recordings come in, they can just be devastating. COOPER: And General Hertling, according to the reporting, the former

president at that time was upset about, I believe, it was an article I think, was in the 'New Yorker" that it had come out or reporting about things Mark Milley may have said that the former -- you know that there -- or may have said to people at The Pentagon about concerns in the final days that the former president might do something and saying that he wanted word if any orders were given that sounded extreme, and the former president was upset by that.

If that's the case, and the reason he is having this conversation with these people at Bedminster and with the biographers for Mark Meadows for a book I don't think anybody actually read or bought, does that -- you said that actually adds to this if that's his motivation?

HERTLING: Yes, I think it does, Anderson. I mean, imagine, first of all, he's waving around a secret document in a golf club house with four reporters, someplace he shouldn't be. And you know, most of the focus on these classified documents has been at Mar-a-Lago. Now we're talking about classified documents at another location with proof. It just is an indicator of a lack of care of our nation's secrets.

So to me, it makes a world of difference, and I tell you, having been a court martial convening authority, if any soldier were to do something like that, there would be an immediate filing of a court martial on those individuals.

COOPER: Gentle Hertling, people have been prosecuted for far less than this.

HERTLING: Well, absolutely. I mean, I could name some names, but yes, just talking to biographers about classified information, showing pictures without any markings on it that were taken from satellites, reflecting on recordings that came in from signals intelligence or big dumps of things like WikiLeaks certainly, yes.


There's been a lot of this kind of thing when people don't take care of the kinds of things that we call our nation's secrets.

COOPER: And Andrew, based on everything we know so far that's been reported, where do you think the special counsel's investigation is heading? What do you think the timeline is?

MCCABE: There's a lot of signals, Anderson, that they are reaching kind of the end of their road. We see them bringing witnesses into a grand jury who are out at the absolute kind of upper echelons of those folks who you would want to talk to.

They have concluded many fights of fighting back claims of privilege and dragged those people into the grand jury reluctantly. It appears to me that some of the witnesses that they've been talking to recently look like kind of mop up operations, you know, the sorts of things that you do to lineup specific details that you think you might need in your indictment. So I think there's a lot of clues out there that they're probably

getting to the end of their presentation. There have been some reporting recently, they haven't even been in front of the grand jury since the beginning of May.

So I think it's probably imminent, at least the point at which they will make a decision whether or not to indict. And quite frankly, having already crossed the hurdle of piercing the attorney-client privilege between former President Trump and his attorney, Evan Corcoran months ago, it's almost unthinkable that they will not go forward and seek an indictment.

And with evidence, like, you know, like we've been talking about tonight, if they do seek an indictment, it's likely to be very strong.

COOPER: Andrew McCabe, Elliot Williams, General Mark Hertling, appreciate it.

Next, with Ron DeSantis on the campaign trail, more Republicans likely to soon enter the race. What will the former president's challengers make of Trump's growing legal problems. Will they mention that at all?

And the very latest as House lawmakers get ready to vote on a way out of the debt ceiling crisis, and a significant number of both sides of the aisle have been speaking out against all day, the vote this hour, we expect. Details ahead.



COOPER: We're talking tonight about the audio recording that Special Counsel Jack Smith now has of the former president himself acknowledging he kept a classified Pentagon document. Sources describe the recording as significant and say prosecutors have questioned witnesses about it already and the document in question is in front of the grand jury.

We talked before the break about the legal and national security implications. Now, the politics.

Joining us are two CNN political commentators, Republican pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson, and a former Pennsylvania Republican congressman, Charlie Dent.

Congressman, Republicans endlessly went after Hillary Clinton for her e-mails. Is this latest allegation or any of Trump's legal problems, something any of these candidates have the stomach to go after him on?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Anderson, they certainly should go after him on this and I hope they handle this situation better than they handled the Stormy Daniels indictment a few weeks ago where some of those, I think Pence and Governor DeSantis, both more or less, defended Trump and said he was a victim of a witch hunt, and the prosecutor was mean. No, they should be going after Trump explaining why he is reckless. He

absconded with classified material. He possessed it. And apparently, he disclosed it to people without security clearances. They should be hammering him on this, that he is likely to be indicted yet again, and maybe one or two more times.

To beat Trump, they have to draw hard contrast.

COOPER: But you're saying should -- are you talking about should morally or I mean, politically, why?

DENT: Politically, politically. I've run a number of campaigns, Anderson, and if I had an opponent who recklessly shared classified material to people who weren't authorized, I would just be hammering them, hammering that opponent with this. It's a gift. It is a gift.

COOPER: So, Kristen, I mean, is there any reason to believe that any Republican primary voters see the classified documents investigation as some sort of deal breaker?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think that most of them view it as a deal breaker at this point, in part because things like the raid on Mar-a-Lago et cetera, you saw this real circling of the wagons-type effect.

But at the same time, if this is an audio recording with Trump's own voice saying these things, again, I don't lean toward thinking that's definitely going to be the game changer, but it's a little different than hearsay, it is a little different than he said-she said, if he's the one who said it.

And to the point about Hillary Clinton, you know, I am curious, will any of these other folks in the field finally decide the gloves are off? Trump said this himself. So, why don't we go after Trump and say, we criticized Hillary Clinton for this, why should we give Trump a pass for pulling a Hillary?

COOPER: But do you think just -- I mean, to the Congressman's point, is that something that would be an advantage to any of these candidates? I mean, most of them are far behind Trump. Is there a political advantage to doing that?

ANDERSON: So right now, I think as a primary effect, as do I not want to vote for Trump because of this allegation? I don't think you're going to see very many Republican voters break away.

But as a second order effect, Donald Trump having growing legal problems and becoming a less and less sure thing for the party, if they look at the 2024 election, and they view it as existential, which is something I see in all of my research that Republicans really view the 2024 election as about the survival of the country, if you view the stakes as being that high, why risk it on someone who is under so many different indictments? Who is facing so many big challenges in the courts?

So that may be if not the offense itself, but the drama around it the thing that turns some Republican voters off.

COOPER: Congressman, over the course of the former president's political career, I mean, there have obviously been multiple tapes that have come out, some more damning than others, none of them seem to have knocked him off his course.

DENT: That's correct. And Anderson, you've got to remember, too, what he is trying to do here, he of course, will say he's yet again a victim -- the Deep State, General Milley were out to get him and that's -- he is going to play the victim and hope to get some sympathy among primary voters, I agree with that.

But again, but as a general election strategy, this is devastating. Again, as Kirsten just said, we're talking about taking a risk on a guy who may be indicted three or four times between now and the Republican convention.

And so if you're a Republican voter, you have to look at this and say, if we're trying to beat Joe Biden and the Democrats, can you really beat him with a guy who paid off a porn star, absconded with classified material, tried to interfere with the Georgia election results in 2020? I mean, there is a whole host and litany of things here that are just so bad.


Plus, there's the fact that he's been losing ever since 2016. Republicans have underperformed in all of these elections, so at some point, you know, I think Republicans will care about winning again, they want to make winning great again and he's not doing that. He's not doing anything to help the party.

So I think this is just another big barnacle on Donald Trump. And as was said, it is in his own voice this time.

COOPER: Kristen, just in terms of polling and talking to focus groups, if the former president is eventually indicted by the Department of Justice or in Georgia, I mean, will that make a difference?

ANDERSON: I think you can expect as soon as if an indictment ever does come down, I would expect at least in the short term, a bump in his poll numbers from this rally around him kind of effect. I've heard this described as like an antibody response almost -- if there is a sense that Donald Trump is under threat, we all have to protect him.

But then that slowly wears away as people realize, wait a minute, is he who we are really banking the 2024 election on? So that's what I would predict the polls would look like. If an actual indictment comes down around any of this, an initial surge in the polls, followed by a trailing off and we may find that he has got a lower floor than we expected.

COOPER: Kristen Soltis Anderson, appreciate it. Charlie Dent, as well. Thank you.

A quick programming note, ahead on "CNN Primetime," Abby Phillip will talk about tonight's exclusive reporting with Trump attorney, Jim Trusty who is representing the former president in this investigation. That's at the top of the hour, nine, Eastern right here on CNN.

It is a busy night. We're just moments away from the House vote on the debt limit deal. We'll get a live report from Capitol Hill, next.



COOPER: Looking there at the Capitol tonight, House members right now speaking about the bipartisan deal to raise the debt limit and avoid a catastrophic default. The vote on it expected shortly. The question is does House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have enough support to get the bill passed. CNN's Manu Raju is monitoring it all for us, joins us now. So, how is it looking, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is broad expectation that this bill will pass by a comfortable margin tonight. But this did not come easy. In fact, the road has been very bumpy to get here. Of course, for months, there was a standoff between the House Republicans and the White House. The White House refused to negotiate at all, said that the debt ceiling, $31.4 trillion borrowing limit must be raised without any conditions. That was a position rejected by Speaker McCarthy.

Kevin McCarthy ultimately forced the White House to the negotiating table just days ago and those fraught negotiations took place, they broke down, they happened again, ultimately cutting a deal on Saturday that included a range of concessions, as well as some spending limits over the next two fiscal years, that all part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling up until January of 2025. We do expect this to pass. And the question now is how many Republicans and Democrats vote to push this over the finish line tonight.

The big thing to watch when the vote happens here in just a matter of moments is whether or not Kevin McCarthy is able to get a majority of the House Republican conference. That is the goal. That is what the Speaker has been pushing for. He told me earlier today that he does expect a majority of the conference. That's what his top negotiator Patrick McHenry just told me moments ago. That is the hope.

One big reason why is that, if he gets a lesser number, a fewer Republicans, minority Republicans supporting this, he could face even more backlash from some elements of the right wing of his conference who are already upset at the deal he cut with the White House. Some even suggested, Anderson, that they could potentially try to force a vote ousting him from the speakership if he does not reach that threshold. McCarthy tonight very confident he will get there, Anderson.

COOPER: Is it clear how many Democrats may vote for final passage? Obviously, McCarthy needed help from the other side of the aisle to offset Republican defection.

RAJU: Yeah, that happened earlier today when the House actually approved the rule, which set the parameters for tonight's debate on the floor. Typically that doesn't happen, Democrats voting with Republicans. But there were 29 Republicans who voted against that rule, showing that there are some opposition on both sides of the aisle. But there are some folks on the left who believe the White House conceded and gave McCarthy far too much in this negotiation.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN, (D) NEW YORK: Using this process to negotiate legislation in spending, which never has happened before, is unprecedented and unacceptable. And we cannot support that precedent.

REP. JARED HUFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: Instead of saying, patting us on the head and saying, it could have been worse, they could have said, this is the end of the fossil fuel give-aways. I'm pretty discouraged and frustrated that it has come to this.


RAJU: So, the last Congressman, Jared Huffman is referring to an interaction he had with the White House earlier today, where they said, it could have been a lot worse. But he was concerned about some of the energy provisions that were in there. It's uncertain, Anderson, exactly how many Democrats will vote for this. But the Democrats are expected to give up -- to provide enough support to offset any Republican losses to ultimately get the vote in just a matter of minutes, Anderson.

COOPER: And assuming if it passes the House tonight, how likely is it to pass in the Senate?

RAJU: It's expected to pass as soon as tomorrow night. That is what the push is for the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. They want to get this done. For the United States Senate, you need all 100 senators to agree to having actually scheduling the vote. So, any one senator can delay the process. But the expectation, Anderson, is this fight, this bitter fight could come to an end in the House tonight and the Senate as soon as tomorrow.

COOPER: All right. Manu, appreciate it. We'll come back to you. Joining me now is CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, also our Senior Political Commentator Scott Jennings, former Special Assistance to President George W. Bush, and David Axelrod, former Senior Advisor to President Obama. Dana, what do you make of how things are going tonight? How it's unfolding?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It has been incredibly difficult to get to this point. [20:35:00]

But it looks like the House of representatives is at the point that Speaker McCarthy and pretty much everybody else in private have been expecting, which is a true compromise that you don't see very often. And what that means generally is that you have a number of votes, a healthy majority coming from the center, Democrats and Republicans, and you have people on the left and people on the right who are upset because the party gave away things that those on either side of the aisle, these sort of extremes on both sides, didn't want.

The question now is in the short-term, the political question for Kevin McCarthy, because he has such a small majority of Republicans, is whether or not the ability that Republicans have, anybody really has, to vacate the chair, meaning oust him from the speakership, whether they're going to use it. It's not really clear. I will tell you that I was getting a text from a conservative Republican, a fiscally conservative Republican who supported McCarthy, who said that the calls he's getting to his office are now more about Kevin McCarthy than about the bill itself.

And that if people are hearing that in these ruby red districts back home this weekend, that may change the dynamic when it comes to McCarthy.

COOPER: Scott, how do you think McCarthy did guiding this caucus through this process? And what do you think of the threats to his speakership?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think he did a great job. I remember the night that he was elected Speaker, a lot of people were on TV, confidently predicting that going through the debt limit was going to be the thing that broke Kevin McCarthy. And time and again, he has really I think over-performed expectation. People have expected him to stumble and he keeps doing a good job.

So, what he has done here is he has brought together a broad governing coalition of the middle of the Republicans and I guess, it sounds like the middle of the Democrats to do something responsible, which is raise the debt limit. We have divided government, which means the far right of his party cannot do what they want to do, which is do massive spending cuts and massive changes to fiscal policy. They ought not be mad at Kevin McCarthy. The reason they're upset is because they lost the White House and they lost the Senate and it's not Kevin McCarthy they ought to be mad about, it's Donald Trump that they ought be upset with on that front.

So, with divided government and everything the way that it works in Washington, D.C., I think Kevin McCarthy did a great job and they would be crazy to threaten his speakership over this.

COOPER: David, how do you think President Biden did during the process?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think well. I think he was smart to wait to see if McCarthy could actually pass something through the House. Once McCarthy did, it signaled that there needed to be a negotiation. And I think Biden came out pretty well in these negotiations.

There are obviously things that are going to anger some elements of the Democratic Party, but the truth is that the core elements of his program are intact. The Republican bill that originally passed the House tied to the debt ceiling hike would have decimated some of the things that he had passed last year through the Inflation Reduction Act, including that big climate package. None of that happened.

He -- so, I think he came out well in this. But I agree with everything that has been said. This is what a good faith compromise looks like in divided government, and this is what you can expect. What you can expect in this vote is that there will be a lot of folks to take a free vote to express themselves, particularly to their constituents that they fought this thing, knowing the votes are there to pass the bill and not tank the economy through default. And that's really what has happened here.

No one in November of 2024, Anderson, are going to be thinking about this particular vote. But they would be if it went down and if the country went into default and the economy went spiraling. So, I think Biden did well to get to this point.

COOPER: Dana, a number of Republicans were portraying this as essentially a victory for Republicans that Democrats didn't really move the needle. They didn't really get anything that they wanted that the Republicans didn't want them to get. Do you think that's accurate? Or is that just how they're selling it to their people?

BASH: I think that the leadership in both parties are selling this to their people the way that they know that their people want to hear it. And it just so happens that pretty much everything that they are saying has a lot of truth to it. It is true that Republicans, Kevin McCarthy and his negotiators who were talking to the White House, didn't give on several things. They got some things, like work requirement for those who are getting government assistance, taking back some of the COVID money. It is also true on the part of the Democrats that they were able to hold off on some really deep, deep cuts in social programs that Republicans wanted to get forward.


So, all of that is true. The question is how they sell it and the question is how quickly they can frankly move on from this. There are always going to be, on the Republican side, those who say that this was just not deep enough, that this spending is still way too high, and those on the democratic side who say that this is just unfair to those who need it most.

COOPER: Scott, do you think it'll be difficult for Minority Leader McConnell to whip GOP votes for the bill if they're needed to offset Democratic deflections? I mean, the numbers are obviously still fluid.

JENNINGS: I think it will pass with -- I think it will pass with a lot of votes in the Senate, big chunks of both parties. It's interesting. The only senate Republican that's running for president that has a vote in this thing is Tim Scott. I did notice, he said he was going to vote against it, and Rick Scott and some others. But he'll lose a few, a lot will vote for it. Democrats will lose a few. Bernie Sanders is against it. But again, I think what you're seeing is there are two different kinds of people in Congress in both chambers, the governors and the grandstanders. And what this has produced is a negotiation where the governors came together and did what was right for the company, which is to keep the economy spending and let us have the big fiscal policy debate in the presidential campaign where it belongs in 2024. So, I don't think it's going to have any issues over in the Senate, although like in the House, you're going to lose conservatives absolutely.

COOPER: David, you said it was wise you thought for President Biden to wait -- to wait on this before negotiating, why?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, I don't think -- I think he would have had a much more serious problem among his own supporters if he started negotiating for now -- with no provocation. I mean, the fact of the matter is it wasn't at all clear that McCarthy could pass a bill through the House. And that would have set up a different conversation if he hadn't done that. Once he did that, it became clear that it was time to start negotiating.

But Anderson, I just want to make -- you know, Scott mentioned Tim Scott coming out against it, so did several other candidates, including Ron DeSantis, who was in the House in 2018 when they passed the clean deficit -- I should say, debt ceiling hike when Donald Trump was president. A quarter of the whole national debt was accumulated under the Trump years and the House voted three times to raise the debt ceiling. So, you have a seasonal deficit now (ph).

COOPER: Are you implying there's some hypocrisy involved here?

AXELROD: Yes. It's one of the rare times in Washington that that happens. And I thought it must, we should note it, Anderson (ph).

COOPER: Thank you. Duly noted.


David Axelrod, Scott Jennings, Dana Bash, thank you.


Still ahead, the Kremlin is sounding the alarm. Shelling increases in Russia's Belgrade region on Ukraine's border. Russia's response next.



COOPER: Tonight, Russian officials are on high alert with the Kremlin calling the situation in the Belgrade region on the border with Ukraine "rather alarming" and say they will improve their air defense systems following yesterday's drone attack in Moscow. The governor in Belgrade says more evacuations are set to take place as shelling continues from inside Ukraine. He also said that other districts have seen an increase in cross-border mortar and artillery fire in recent days. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): While the Ukrainians continue to deny being directly involved in the drone attack on Moscow, a senior advisor to Ukraine's presidency is warning the Russians, the war is coming to them.

Mykhailo Podolyak, Advisor to Ukrainian Presidential administration (through translator): All this will increase in scale. There will be an increase in the number of manifestations of the war on the territory of the Russian federation.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And Russia is not only feeling the heat around Moscow. The Ukrainians appear to be ramping up the pressure in the vast border regions between the two countries. Local authorities in Belgrade area say heavy shelling damaged residential and official buildings there, wounding several people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very scary. Several (inaudible) at once. This has not happened before.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Further south, in Krasnodar region, the Russians say two oil refineries were targeted by drones. The surveillance camera video seeming to show an explosion followed by a large fire at one of the facilities. And to the north, authorities in the Bryansk area say they repelled a massive drone attack, while the Ukrainians believe the Russians are so nervous they blew up a road in the border region nearby to try and stop any possible Ukrainian advances. The U.S. says it doesn't condone attacks on Russian territory.

JOHN KIRBY, NSC COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We have maintained our concerns about attacks on Russian soil. But we have been nothing but generous and fully committed to making sure that Ukraine can defend itself.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But some of the U.S.' allies are less concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ukraine does have the legitimate right to defend itself. But it does also have the right to project force beyond its borders to undermine Russia's ability to project force into Ukraine itself.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Those remarks caused major outrage on Kremlin- controlled TV, as Russia's security forces seem unable to prevent cross-border raids.


COOPER: Fred, what have you learned from Ukrainian officials about the latest round of attacks?

PLEITGEN: Hi there, Anderson. Well, a lot of them (ph) are remaining coy about whether or not the Ukrainians are behind a lot of them. However, there is one senior Ukrainian official told me, look, when you see such attacks, when you see for instance attacks on oil refineries or even on ammo depots in occupied areas of Ukraine that are occupied by the Russians, all of those are precursors for Ukraine's large-scale offensive, which of course they've been planning for months and which Ukrainians say is imminent and could start at any point, Anderson.

COOPER: Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it, thank you.

Coming up, NASA holds its first public meet -- meetings on UAPs, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, what used to be called UFOs. I'll talk it all over with our favorite Harry Enten next.



COOPER: Today, at NASA's first public hearing on UAPs, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, what are more popularly known as UFOs, the Pentagon revealed it is now tracking more than 800 cases of mysterious flying objects, 50 to 100 new reports a month. Today's four-hour televised hearing which was in the name of transparency came several months after NASA launched its own study into the unexplained sightings. Their final report is expected to be released in late July. Joining me now are our own human UAP --


-- Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten. First, so why the name change? Why UAPs now?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Because we want to put the focus on the --

COOPER: Who is we?

ENTEN: We, we are part of the scientific community.


COOPER: Oh, you're part of the scientific community?

ENTEN: I'd like to think so.

COOPER: OK, sure.

ENTEN: Remember, I went to weather camp.

COOPER: OK. It's true.

ENTEN: We want to put the focus on what we see, and not necessarily the objects, right? And more than that, when you think of UFO, you think of these like flying saucers --

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: -- out of a 1950s movie. COOPER: OK.

ENTEN: We don't want to stigmatize it too much. So changing the name --

COOPER: So, it may not be an object itself. It may be a phenomenon.

ENTEN: It could be a phenomenon. It could be a shining light that you see going from somewhere.

COOPER: So what does the data show? How many UAPs are actually unexplained?

ENTEN: Yeah, it turns out that you mentioned that 800 number. But it turns out only about 2 percent to 5 percent of it truly are unexplained. So most of these, we're able to tell from sensors and stuff, "Oh, this is something we can actually explain." But the fact that we have about 20 to 40 that aren't.

COOPER: Some of those are moving so weirdly.

ENTEN: Yeah.

COOPER: Those ones.

ENTEN: Yeah, like the zigzag.

COOPER: Like in ways we can't even contemplate.

ENTEN: That's exactly right and go boom.

COOPER: Yeah. It blows my mind.

ENTEN: Yeah. This is why we're talking about it because it blows a lot of people's minds.

COOPER: So, how many people admit to believing in aliens?


ENTEN: Yeah, it turns out that it's more and more and more Americans are admitting, look at this change that we're seeing. Up to 66 percent now. It was less than 50 percent back about 25 years ago. Younger people are more likely to believe it. And I think the reports, again, we are trying to destigmatize and it maybe we believe --

COOPER: I think seeing the -- all these videos of things on like navy surveillance cameras are --

ENTEN: Yeah.

COOPER: Incredible.

ENTEN: Yeah. We are able to -- the press is able to put it out there much more frequently. So I believe the belief is rising.

COOPER: What do numbers show about how many people think we'll actually have contact with aliens?

ENTEN: Yeah, in our lifetimes or at any point, really, most people, it's about split, 50/50. 49 percent say we never will. 7 percent say we already have.


ENTEN: I wonder who those 7 percent are. Another 39 percent say eventually we will. I'd like to think I'm part of that 39 percent. How about you?

COOPER: Yeah. Who knows? I don't know.

ENTEN: You know what, that's the beauty of it all. The mystery.

COOPER: Ooh, Harry Enten, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll be right back. More ahead.


COOPER: Quick programming note before we go. Two CNN Town Halls coming up. Jake Tapper hosts a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in Iowa, Sunday, 8 p.m. And a week from tonight, Dana Bash moderates a Town Hall with former Vice President Mike Pence who is expected to launch his 2024 presidential campaign that day. That Town Hall starts 9 p.m. Only here on CNN.

News continues. "CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip starts now.