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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Judge's First Order in Documents Case Since Trump Arraignment; E. Jean Carroll Defamation Suit Against Trump Scheduled for January; CNN With Elite Ukrainian Drone Unit On The Frontlines; Tornado Strikes Texas Panhandle. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 15, 2023 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Astronauts Woody Hoburg and Steve Bowen walking in space today to install new sets of solar panels to generate power for the International Space Station.

Their spacewalk took over just five-and-a-half hours and they did all of that work successfully installing a whole new group of solar panels you see there, 60 feet long by 20 feet wide.

NASA says that will increase the space station's power by 30 percent, so it made a huge difference.

These are experienced guys, but of course you risk your life when you do this. It was the second walk for Hoburg, the 10th for Bowen which ties him for the most spacewalks by an American astronaut.

Thanks so much for joining us.

AC 360 starts now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A judge some feared might slow walk the Trump case kick starts it instead.

John Berman here in for Anderson.

Tonight on 360, how federal judge, Aileen Cannon just got the documents case moving and why one veteran prosecutor now argues against casting judgment on her ability to be impartial toward the man who appointed her.

Also tonight, another federal judge in another case against the former president makes it official. E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit goes to court just as primary season begins.

Plus, a CNN exclusive, you will meet Ukraine's drone warriors as they 3D print machinery to send Russian shells back where they came from with a bang.

We begin with what came as a surprise to some, Judge Aileen Cannon's first order in her new position overseeing the documents case, a surprise because during her first encounter with it shortly after the search at Mar-a-Lago, she issued a ruling so untethered in case law and so favorable to the former president, a federal appeals panel overturned her in a decision that's been read more like a legal scolding.

Two of the judges on that panel, by the way, were like her, Trump appointees. That was the backdrop to today's ruling.

CNN's Paula Reid joins us now with more on what is in this issue from the judge.

Paula, what can you tell us?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the first time we've heard from Judge Aileen Cannon since Trump's arraignment earlier this week. And look, this is just a mundane scheduling order. She is telling the lawyers, hey, guys, start talking to DOJ about getting your security clearances set, but even these little orders, this schedule, she wants them to update her in five days. That's significant, John, because it's these little decisions, these little scheduling orders that over the course of this case, could potentially determine if this case is heard before or after the election.

And we know that Judge Cannon is under such scrutiny, mostly for that decision that you just mentioned, and the fact that she is a Trump appointee overseeing his case, and she is a young, relatively inexperienced judge. So everything she does is under the microscope.

So what's interesting about today's scheduling order, is it comes just two days after the arraignment, and she is setting a pretty tight timeline for the next update. It suggests that she might want to keep things moving. We know the special counsel has said he wants a speedy trial.

But the former president's attorneys, they have every reason to want to delay this until after the election. Now, the one glitch here is that even though the Justice Department can expedite these security clearances, the former president hasn't finalized his legal team. So that's something that could delay this a little bit longer.

But this is really one of the big tensions in this case, is just how long will it take to get this case in front of a jury?

BERMAN: So Paula, talk to me more about the former president's legal team. Has he hired any more attorneys who at this point are barred in the state of Florida to represent him there?

REID: So I've learned through our reporting that he and his team have been speaking to some lawyers down in Florida, prominent defense attorneys about possibly bringing them on to his team.

But as we saw in his arraignment, two of the attorneys who have been kind of in his orbit for a little while now, not too long, though. Todd Blanche and Chris Kise, the former Florida solicitor general, they were the ones who signed in appearances and told the court that they intended to be at least a permanent part of the team. Now we do expect that they'll bring on additional attorneys, but John, historically, it has been hard for the former president to retain counsel for a lot of reasons. One, he is a notoriously difficult client, right?

In the indictment, the Justice Department is alleging that not only was he trying to hide documents from the government, but he was also allegedly trying to hide them from his own lawyer.

There's also concerns about him paying his bills, and some firms that have been asked about potentially representing him have told us that they are a little concerned about reputational damage or possibly alienating their clients.

But in talking to several sources, I have down in the Florida defense bar, we do expect that he will be able to find lawyers, especially if he is willing to pay up front. This is of course, the case of a lifetime, but it might take a little while before he finalize his team, then they'll need those security clearances because there is such sensitive material in this case. And again, that all adds up in terms of the time it takes and when this case is eventually heard.

BERMAN: A former president of the United States would the condition, if he pays upfront. Extraordinary.

REID: Yes.


BERMAN: Paula Reid, thank you very much for that.

One of our next guests, a former Watergate prosecutor wrote an opinion piece on Judge Cannon running in "The New York Times" today. The headline: "Don't automatically write off the judge in the Trump documents case."

Nick Akerman joins us. He's also a former prosecutor for New York's Southern District, as is Jessica Roth, who is currently a professor at Manhattan's Cardozo Law School.

Jessica, let me start with you, just what can you make of this ruling or this order from Judge Cannon. The timing is everything in the Trump documents case, and this seems to be somewhat speedy.

JESSICA ROTH, NEW YORK CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL LAW PROFESSOR AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I thought this was a good sign, and one of the concerns about Judge Cannon is will she delay the proceedings in a way that favors former President Trump and what he might be seeking here in terms of getting this prolonged into the political season.

So I thought the fact that she seemed to seize the bull by the horns and issue an order that was actually relatively tight scheduling order was a good sign. I also saw it as an indication that she doesn't seem to have any plans to recuse herself, to disqualify herself based on the concern about at least the appearance of partiality here.

So I think we've learned two things.

BERMAN: Nick, you told me on TV, and then you wrote the op-ed in "The New York Times," basically not so fast to the critics of Judge Cannon, and that she shouldn't necessarily be called on to recuse herself. Why do you feel so strongly about this?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, because there's really no basis to do it. In fact, sure, she blew it with respect to the special master, in appointing a special master, but it wasn't the most outrageous decision. I mean, don't forget Michael Cohen, one of Trump's lawyers had a special master appointed after his search warrant. Rudy Giuliani, also who had a search warrant had a special master appointed.

Now, of course, there's a big difference there. Both of these individuals were lawyers, with lots of potentially attorney-client privileged information. But again, I think Judge Cannon was looking at this from the standpoint of trying to be more transparent with the public, trying to get information out there, basically giving a different spin on this because Trump was a former president.

This 11th Circuit said, no, no, no, you've got to treat him just like any other criminal defendant in the system, and she has got her marching orders now. She has to treat Trump just like anybody else in the system.

And there is no reason to think that she did anything here to try and sabotage this. If she hadn't wanted, they had also asked that the search warrant be suppressed, that the evidence be suppressed or she could have done all kinds of things if she was really looking out to help Trump. And at the end of the day, it really didn't make any difference.

If you look at that 40-page indictment, there is nothing in there that made any difference as to the fact that they couldn't use the classified documents for a brief period of their investigation.

Most of what was done was putting people before a grand jury, getting the testimony, getting Corcoran to testify, turnover his notes, litigate that issue. All of that was done, Judge Cannon aside, it had nothing to do with what she did and people are making too big of a thing out of it.

And what concerns me is that we've got two institutions in our system that relate to the criminal justice. One is the Department of Justice. And the other is the judiciary and both of them are charged with essentially making sure that neither the government or a criminal defendant is treated any differently.

And right now, we've got the Trump people that are all screaming about the Department of Justice trying to say this is Biden's doing, when in fact there is an independent counsel, who is very much in the mold of Archibald Cox, and we've got a judge who seems unsurfaced to have complete competency here, although maybe not totally experienced.

BERMAN: So Jessica, if -- if the special counsel and the prosecutors are very unhappy with Judge Cannon and if it starts to go in a way they don't like, do they have any recourse?

ROTH: They could at that point move to have her disqualify herself and the statute that governs disqualification of recusal of judges provides that if reasonable people basically could have a concern that the judge is not impartial, then the judge shall disqualify themselves, so they could make that motion now,. They could also make it at some future date if she starts issuing rulings that would indicate bias.

I mean, the concern going in is what she did in those prior rulings. To be clear, it's not that she was appointed by President Trump, it is whether her prior rulings were so out of bounds, legally speaking, that they indicate that she is biased, or at least they would raise a concern in the public eye that she is biased in some way toward President Trump.

And so the Justice Department needs to be considering whether they could succeed in that motion, and if not before her, would they want to spend the time taking it up to the 11th Circuit, which would again go back to the question of delay.


BERMAN: And again, everything is about timing in this case. What about her experience? Because she does not have a lot of experience on the bench and criminal cases.

ROTH: I think that's a tremendous concern. It's a practical concern, as opposed to being the basis for a motion to take the case away from her. There is no motion one can make. There's no basis of law for removing a case from a district court judge to whom it was assigned randomly, because the judge is inexperienced in this area of law.

All judges come to the bench with certain areas in which they are inexperienced; in this case, for her it seems to be with complex criminal cases, and particularly those involving classified information. So the government is going to have to double down on the work that it does to prepare her in advance of any rulings that she has to make.

BERMAN: Yes, to that point, Nick, and again, very quickly, is there anything the special prosecutor and the prosecutors need to do here, given her experience?

AKERMAN: Oh, sure. I mean, they're going to be briefing, every little legal issue. They're going to be setting up kind of guidelines that she has to follow.

I had this happen to me in a 10-defendant trial. It was an appointee who was a former deputy mayor of New York, who never did a criminal trial. The first criminal trial he did was one I had with 10 defendants, and I just had to work like crazy.

I was writing more briefs, and was basically a treatise machine to make sure that this judge understood every little fine piece of the law, and that's what they're going to do. BERMAN: Interesting.

All right, Nick Akerman and Jessica Roth, thank you both very much.

Jessica, stick around because we're going to talk to you more about this next story.

A federal judge today, setting the date for E. Jean Carroll's next civil case against Donald Trump, know that he has already been found liable for sexually abusing and defaming her.

CNN's Kara Scannell joins us with more on that. Jessica, what are you learning about the former president's latest trial date? And how it could conflict with all the other dates on the legal calendar?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, John, do you have a calendar ready to mark this up? Because this trial date is now set for January 15th of next year. And if we take a look, right, I mean, this is going to clash with primary season, no question. But if we look at all of the legal cases that the former president is facing, you know, he's going to trial, his company is going to trial in October over the New York attorney general's civil lawsuit involving the company's financial statements.

He is set for a deposition in that case, so that deposition will be played, it will become public. This is going to be something he'll have to contend with.

And then just in January, a few months later, he will go on trial again, in this E. Jean Carroll civil lawsuit. Now, he did not attend the last trial, and he did not testify. It remains to be seen if he will change his mind either way, in this case, but it will go right about when this primary season is kicking off, and it's a crowded field already. So he's certainly going to be, you know, not backing down. He's going to be out on the campaign trail.

Then in March, just two months later, is when his trial is set for the criminal case in New York in that hush money case, and in that case, he is required to attend, so that is going to take up -- no one has really set the days yet, but it could be two or three weeks that he will be required to be off the campaign trail during the week, Monday through Friday when this trial sits.

And it remains to be seen when the classified documents trial date will be set. And judges have been cognizant that he does have a First Amendment right. He is campaigning. He does need to be out in the field. But there is also you know, due process, it's a speedy trial, as the special counsel's team has said, they're willing to move quickly, that date has yet to be set.

But it's starting to get a little crowded and it remains to be seen if there are going to be any further charges against the former president because the Fulton County district attorney is still conducting her investigation, has kind of signaled that there could be a decision in August, and it remains to be seen what the special counsel will do as they look at January 6th. BERMAN: And just to be clear, Kara, this is not the same lawsuit exactly brought by E. Jean Carroll in which Donald Trump was found liable for sexual abuse last month. Can you explain why this split here?

SCANNELL: Yes, so this lawsuit that we're talking about was the first one that was filed in November of 2019. It is the defamation lawsuit. E. Jean Carroll wrote her book, she made these allegations that Trump had raped her in the Bergdorf Goodman Department Store, and then he came out, you know, very much saying that he didn't know her, he thought this was made up for her book sales.

That has been tied up on appeal and these legal issues, in part, because both the Trump Justice Department and the Biden Justice Department have said that Trump was making these statements when he was president, and so it fell within the scope of his duties. So they have said that essentially, DOJ should be substituted as the defendant, which would essentially end the case. That's been tied up on appeal.

She then filed a subsequent lawsuit. That's the one that went to trial, but this one has been lingering. And it was very interesting as the Department of Justice in these court filings have said they need a little bit more time to decide if they're going to continue with their position in part because of the evidence that came out in this first trial.

So it really could potentially turn on whether DOJ still believes that Trump is acting within the scope. Either way, there are some legal issues here for the judge to work out. But it is a case that this judge is looking to put a marker on and get it moving. And Carroll, of course, just recently won the ability to amend that lawsuit to include some of the statements that Trump made at the townhall that were repeating the statements that the jury found were defamatory, so she could potentially see even more in punitive damages if she is successful.


BERMAN: You really need a spreadsheet to keep track of all the legal issues facing the former president.

Kara, stick around.

I want to bring back Jessica Roth into this conversation, and I want to talk about the political aspects, too. So CNN senior political commentator and former George W. Bush special assistant, Scott Jennings is with us as well.

Jessica, just quickly, how do you see this trial playing out? Will it go on time as ordered?

ROTH: It's hard to imagine that it will, given the other criminal cases that are on former President Trump's calendar. Criminal cases generally take precedence over civil cases in being tried, because of a defendant's right to a speedy trial. And so at some point, something is going to have to give. He's got the Manhattan district attorney's criminal charges, he's got the special counsel's criminal charges in Florida. If there are additional charges that are criminal filed in Georgia this summer, that would add a third criminal case. And then of course, the special counsel may have additional criminal charges, including for the January 6th investigation.

So at some point, it's just going to be a matter of other days left on the calendar to say nothing of the legal challenges involved for his lawyers and thinking about how to coordinate the defenses in all of these cases and the implications of statements that he may make or filings they may make in certain cases for their strategy in other cases.

BERMAN: Scott, you've worked on campaigns. I mean, how distracting would all of this be? I guess, how distracting would it be to a normal campaign? And how distracting will it be, do you think to the Trump campaign?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's going to be quite distracting. I mean, running for president is one of the most attention necessary items you can do in politics.

You know, some of these other offices you run for, maybe it's not all encompassing. Running for president is absolutely an all-encompassing issue. And you look at the calendar here, and you think about what's going to happen, it's not just going out and doing your normal rallies and stuff. Things happen.

Such as in August, they're going to have some debates, beginning with, you know, the RNC is going to have some debates and that is about the time we're supposed to hear about the Fulton County, Georgia indictments, in which he is obviously in the crosshairs down there.

So you think about over time, you're trying to prepare to run for president on a daily basis, you're trying to do those events. You've got to meet with your lawyers to prepare your defense in these cases. You've got to do debate prep. You've got to do deposition prep.

I mean, human beings only have so much bandwidth, so much attention and so many hours in the day. It will be quite overwhelming, and I think what Republicans are ultimately going to have to ask themselves is, is this going to be a campaign about voters? Or is it going to be a campaign about Trump?

Because I'll guarantee you, all he is going to want to talk about is all of his woes in the legal system, and it is not really addressing the needs of the country right now.

Kara, any word from Trump's legal team on any of this?

SCANNELL: I mean, they haven't responded to this order yet tonight, but what they've already signaled is that they're going to ask the judge to essentially dismiss the lawsuit or ask for summary judgment. And their argument is interesting, because they want to say that because this jury that did hear the whole case found that Trump did not rape her, but they found that he sexually abused her, they are going to argue that that means that these statements could not be defamatory, but ultimately it will be up to the judge to decide if he's going to rule on that or if he's going to let a jury decide.

BERMAN: As I said, it is a lot to digest.

Kara Scannell, Jessica Roth, Scott Jennings, great to see you one and all.

Next, someone we don't hear from that often, President Obama weighs in on race when wokeness goes too far and the Republican Party. Also tonight, an exclusive look inside one of the most daring operation in Ukraine's counteroffensive, making drones which is part MacGyver and then arming them sometimes with Russia's own shells, and then marking them return to center explosively.



BERMAN: Former President Obama is speaking out, talking on his former senior adviser. David Axelrod's "Axe Files" podcast, he weighed in on the state of the Republican Party and race in America.

The former president saying the GOP needs a "honest accounting of the country, past and present when it comes to the subject."


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so if a Republican who may even be sincere in saying I want us all to live together doesn't have a plan for how do we address crippling generational poverty, that is a consequence of hundreds of years of racism in this society and we need to do something about that.

If somebody is not proposing, both acknowledging and proposing elements that say, no, we can't just ignore all of that and pretend as if everything is equal and fair, we actually have to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.

If they're not doing that, then I think people are rightly skeptical.


BERMAN: David Axelrod joins us, also fellow CNN political commentator, and former special adviser to President Obama, Van Jones.

So David, you obviously know the former president well, and have been with him in so many of the key moments from nearly the beginning of his political career. How have you seen his views on race in this country evolve from say, you know, the Democratic National Convention, the famous speech in 2004, to today? DAVID AXELROD, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's actually where our conversation began and I asked for his assessment of where we were then and where we are now.

But this particular exchange that you played, John, began with a discussion of Senator Scott -- Tim Scott -- because there are elements of his presentation that are very reminiscent of that speech in 2004 in the way Senator Obama wrapped his story into the larger American story, where they diverge is in the conclusion because Senator Obama and President Obama's conclusion wasn't that because I succeeded or because some of these barriers have fallen doesn't mean that we are where we need to be.

And his point was, he -- you know, he accepts and embraces the story of Senator Scott and Nikki Haley and others who herald their stories as examples of American progress, but it's not enough. You also have to address the realities of where we are.


And I think he never, in all the time I have worked with him and I have known him, John, he never suggested that somehow, because he was elected president and that barrier was broken, that we were in some kind of post-racial society, and hundreds of years of systemic racism just faded away that was not -- that's not realistic.

BERMAN: You know, Van, one of the things that the former president told Axe is that the Republican Party should acknowledge issues of racial inequality in the country, instead of basically saying that everything is now equal and fair.

What do you make of that?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's just good to hear his voice again. You don't realize how much you miss hearing sane, balanced, kind, thoughtful commentary until you get the chance to hear from President Obama. I really encourage people to listen to the podcast. He talked about a number of things.

You know, what I thought was most interesting was when Axelrod pushed him and said, hey, what about that speech in 2004, all hope and change stuff? And he said, listen, that speech was aspirational. It wasn't just a literal description of America, no red states, but it was aspirational. And that's a part of the American ethos, it is holding on to the dream of what we can be.'

We have a founding reality that was ugly and unequal with slavery and women couldn't vote and everything else, but that founding dream, we hold these truths to be self-evident. That's what you've got to continue to strive for. But you can't tell the kids in the back of the car, we already got to Disneyworld when you're 20 miles away, we've got a long way to go.

I just thought it was great to sort of be reminded that President Obama has always been a racial optimist, not a racial fantasist and I think that's the difference between him and some of these other voices now.

BERMAN: It is interesting you say, a racial fantasist and Axe is a tough questioner. He does a very tough interview there. I do want to play another part of this discussion where the former president weighs in on the issue of so-called wokeness. Listen to this.


OBAMA: I am dismissive of people who try to trot out woke, because women in the workplace don't want to be sexually harassed. And if a guy says, oh, you just can't take a joke, you're being woke, well, no.

What is true is I think that we have tended, at times, on the progressive side, to tip into kind of a scolding social etiquette police and virtue signaling, whereby somebody doesn't say something exactly the right way, even if we all know they kind of didn't mean it in an offensive way.

And suddenly, you've got partly because of social media, everybody jumping on them, and saying something like, oh, you must be racist or sexist.

I think that does make people feel under assault, and I think it alienates us from our allies.


BERMAN: If I can get both you to weigh in on this quickly. Van, you first.

JONES: Well, I think, again, that's that reasonableness like on the one hand, there are horrific things that have happened and continue to happen to people because of their identity. You want to stand up for that. But you want to do it with love, you want to do it where you can with empathy and sympathy and not assuming the worst about people.

And I think that's a part of that racial optimism that he represents and realism about how it is we build more consensus and not drive people away from us by calling them names all the time.

BERMAN: David?

AXELROD: Yes, I agree with that. And look, the whole conversation, which was really about sort of the challenges to our democracy at this moment were about how we repair the American community, how we begin to find, see each other and ourselves more at a time when social media and our politics and frankly, cable TV sometimes just drives us into our silos.

And this commentary that he just gave was an example of that. We tend to go to our battle stations very fast and denounce people and their character, and sometimes we need to take a step back and say, what's this all about, instead of going to those battle stations.

So yes, the whole conversation I think is well worth listening to. He's been thinking and writing and speaking about these issues a lot. His foundation has been addressing it and this is, as he says, this is a moment of crisis for democracy here and everywhere and we need to step back and really examine these issues.

BERMAN: It really is a great discussion. David Axelrod, Van Jones, great hearing both of your voices. Thanks so much.

JONES: Thank you.

AXELROD: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Coming up, inside one of the most daring missions in modern warfare, building killer drones. We take you inside an elite Ukrainian unit doing that with precision as they target the enemy.



BERMAN: Tonight, we have an extraordinary report from the front lines in Ukraine. CNN got exclusive access to an elite Ukrainian drone unit. It really is unbelievable to see and unbelievably dangerous. You're about to see a view inside the brutal, complicated and I should add, ingenious battle against Russia.

Here's Fred Pleitgen's incredible report.



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL (voice-over): A 3D printed stabilizer fin, some plumbing tubing, lots of glue and the bomb is ready. Then it's night vision goggles on, lights off and full speed ahead to the front line.

We're with an elite drone unit of Ukraine's security service, the SBU, and the patrol police, looking to take out a key Russian antitank position with a precision strike.

We found this target only recently, a team leader says. It was discovered literally today, and today, it will be destroyed.

(on-camera): So we're going to the drone launch site right now. It's obviously extremely dangerous and we have to watch out that the Russians don't see us.

(voice-over): Speed and precision are essential. The drone, a quadcopter on steroids, able to carry a massive payload up to 45 pounds. In this case, a mortar shell the Ukrainians say they got from retreating Russian forces elsewhere and are now using to hit Putin's army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we finish our preparing.

PLEITGEN (on-camera): OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bomb is ready and we're ready to go.

PLEITGEN (on-camera): OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

PLEITGEN (voice-over): It's big, it's loud, and it's heading straight to the Russian position. We need to hide out here. The hunters quickly become the hunted.

(on-camera): So for the Russians, the drone crews are also a high- value target. So obviously, the Russians want nothing more than to kill these guys.

(voice-over): Unfazed by the shelling around us, the pilot flies straight to the target and releases the bomb.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This moment we call, from Ukraine with love.

PLEITGEN (on-camera): So you just dropped the bomb?


PLEITGEN (voice-over): This is what the blast looks like from the drone's camera. Pitch black. The strike fully automated.

It's not until daytime that a reconnaissance flight proves they've hit and destroyed the target. Not clear how many Russians were killed and wounded here.

This will allow the defense forces of Ukraine to move forward and continue the offensive, he says, with minimal losses will inflict maximum losses on the enemy for the victory of Ukraine.

But it's not over. As the UAV flies back, intercepted text messages show the Russians have heard the drone and are targeting it. "Enemy birds spotted", a Russian text. "Understood", another answers. They launched flares to spot the drone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you can see.

PLEITGEN (on-camera): Reflect there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

PLEITGEN (on-camera): Are they shooting those up to see the drone, or why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they cannot see the drone, but they shoot for the sound.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Finally, the drone makes it back. They need to get out of here fast.

(on-camera): Can we follow you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, let's go. Follow me. PLEITGEN (on-camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, come on, come on.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): After what they say was a successful mission, the drone warriors leave exactly the way they came.


BERMAN: And Fred joins me now from Zaporizhzhia. Fred, what extraordinary footage. What a remarkable vantage point you had. Obviously, what this drone unit does is extremely dangerous. Have they taken a lot of losses?

PLEITGEN: Hi there, John. Yes, well, certainly, it is extremely dangerous. And, you know, special teams like this, they've used the cover of darkness. They move in a really stealthy way, but they also are extremely vulnerable if they get discovered and taken under fire.

And, you know, these drone units are extreme high-value targets for the Russians. And the guys told us, if the Russians see them, they'll unleash entire artillery barrages on them or rocket barrages to try and kill them. And I asked the unit about this and they said, of course, it's happened to them in the past that they had been discovered and they did have people who were wounded. No one has been killed so far.

They obviously say they want to keep it that way, but they also say they certainly are not going to back down from the missions that they're currently conducting, John.

BERMAN: How high tech, Fred, are the drones that they're using? Is this more about gumption or advanced technology?

PLEITGEN: I mean, I would say they are pretty high tech. And we were quite surprised because, you know, the drone that they had there, which they call the chair, by the way, because it's so big, it flies extremely quickly. They don't actually have visual confirmation that they've destroyed the target until they fly over it afterwards. All of that is automated.

And it was quite surprising to us that it works that well. So it is pretty high tech. They are able to hit extremely accurately. And they say, John, that they are called to these operations because what they do is a lot more accurate than, for instance, artillery. And so for those real high-value targets, drones are what the Ukrainians are using, John.

BERMAN: And just to be clear, what was the explosive they were using? It was a found mortar combined with something else?

PLEITGEN: Yes, it was a mortar, 122 millimeter mortar that they found from the Russians when the Russians were retreating from Kherson. That, of course, was a battle that took place last year when the Russians retreated from there.


And the Ukrainians are essentially joking and saying, look, we're giving them back their ammunition. They used that, and then they basically rigged that with a stabilizer that they 3D printed and some tubing that they got, and that made it extremely accurate.

That was also one of the things that surprised us as well, that with something that seemed as rudimentary like that, they were able to conduct a precision strike. They did show us later when they had a reconnaissance flight a day later, that they very accurately hit that target, John.

BERMAN: It all surprised me, Fred, frankly, nothing more than the fact that we were seeing it to begin with. As I said, an extraordinary vantage point. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. So glad you and your team are safe.

Frederik Pleitgen, thank you very much.

And we are just getting word here at home, there is breaking news. We just received video from the town of Perryton, Texas. This is northeast of Amarillo, really not far from the Oklahoma border. It is tornado country, and a tornado did this. Look at that. It is obviously devastating.

Responders from across the area are now heading to the scene. There is no word yet of injuries or fatalities. CNN's Chad Myers monitoring all of this from the weather center. Chad, what's the latest from there?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's a volatile night. We had a tornado on the ground, likely in Ohio. We had damage in Michigan. And the area we're talking about, where that tornado was on the ground was Texas. Yes, Perryton, Texas. And this was a large tornado that did quite a bit of damage to very fragile structures, a lot of mobile homes, a lot of aluminum frame houses and things like that.

This is the video that we're seeing. This is the stove pipe tornado that was caught on camera. A couple of storm chasers were out there, very brave. They stopped their cars. They helped people right away. They saw how much damage was actually out there and how many people needed help. First responders coming in from all over the northern part of the Texas Panhandle.

Now, this isn't over. This is the area we're talking about. And even though we're getting into nightfall, we still have the energy in the atmosphere. It's hot out there. It's still in the 80s and the 90s out here. That's the energy that these storms will use to make more tornadoes likely tonight.

And if you hear a warning, if you hear a siren, if your alarm goes off, if your phone goes off, make sure you know what to do. Make sure you know what to do before it even goes off. We have two real areas of concern at this point in time, maybe three. I'll get to the third one that's just developing.

That's the same storm that hit Perryton. It is now into parts of Oklahoma, including Cheyenne, moving to the east from there. Then here down along I-35 Oklahoma City that way. Dallas, Texas that way. Gainesville, you're under the tornado warning right now. That's Gainesville, Texas with a tornado warning.

Wind, hail. Hail the size possibly of baseballs, and I've heard a few of them said today the size of CD discs, like the CD player that you put in your car, little slot there, that's how large some of these hailstones were, 5 inches in diameter. And you get wind of 80 miles per hour. Some hail coming down.

There's a lot of potential, a lot more damage, is still possible tonight even though the sun is setting. And because the sun is setting and you may be going to sleep, you need to really pay attention. And this line goes all the way even into Alabama and North Florida. So there's a lot more of this to come tonight, John. We'll be following it here.

BERMAN: Footage does not look good. It is not over yet.

MYERS: It does not.

BERMAN: Everyone, please listen. Listen to your radio. Stay close and stay safe.

Chad Myers, thank you very much.

MYERS: You bet.

BERMAN: So much focus has been on the former president and his historic not guilty plea to that federal indictment. And recently, former First Lady Melania Trump has mostly been absent from the spotlight, even as her husband appeared in court this week. But the former president talked about her this week.

What he said and what Mrs. Trump has been doing since leaving the White House, next.



BERMAN: As we have been reporting tonight, the former president is facing legal trouble on several fronts. There is the classified documents case, the E. Jean Carroll defamation case, and a number of other pending investigations. So there's been no shortage of the former president in the spotlight.

But there is one person who has been mostly missing from his side in public -- former First Lady Melania Trump. Our Randi Kaye looks at where the former first lady has been since she left the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How does she take it? You know, she's hurt when the family's hurt. RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That was former President Donald Trump talking about his wife Melania on his friend Roger Stone's radio show on Sunday. Trump revealed that Melania was hurt after finding out the Department of Justice had indicted him for allegedly having classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Yet Melania was nowhere to be seen in Miami when Trump surrendered Tuesday and appeared in court. These photos show Melania was in New York City earlier this week. We've learned Melania has since joined her husband at Trump's Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey.

Melania has certainly been enjoying a less high profile post-White House life than her husband.

MELANIA TRUMP, FORMER FIRST LADY: The past four years have been unforgettable.

KAYE (voice-over): Since leaving the White House, she's rarely been seen in public, except for the occasional trip to the hair salon. She's busy raising their son Baron and working on her business venture, Digital Artworks, purchased through cryptocurrency.

This one features a close up of her eyes drawn by a French artist. It's titled "Melania's Vision" and comes with the drawing as well as this recorded audio message.

M. TRUMP: My vision is, look forward with inspiration, strength and courage.

KAYE (voice-over): And the business has the backing of her husband.

D. TRUMP: She's doing -- she's going to do great. She does, really. She's got a great imagination.

KAYE (voice-over): Judging from her Twitter account, it's keeping Melania very busy. Over the years, she's also tweeted about major news events like the tornado tragedy that rocked Kentucky. And on a brighter note, she shared this holiday visit with the Florida Coast Guard.

In April of this year, she posted a Happy Earth Day message on Twitter. And more recently, on May 9th, she posted about her luncheon with a group of foster teens. She said they talked about their hopes for the future.

She was interviewed by Fox News and asked about the state of the country.

M. TRUMP: I think it's sad to see what's going on. If you really look deeply into it. I think a lot of people are struggling and suffering and what is going on around the world as well. So it's very sad to see and I hope it changes fast.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it happening? M. TRUMP: Leadership.

KAYE (voice-over): What's missing from her Twitter feed? Any mention of her husband's legal battles. She also remains silent following the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago last year. A person familiar with Melania's strategy put it this way to CNN. Why would she say anything? Her thinking is, if she's quiet, it will just go away.

But Melania Trump may not be ready to go away. Recently teasing a possible return to the White House.

M. TRUMP: Never say never.


KAYE: And John, we know Melania Trump likes her privacy. She often retreats into the background, staying in a different city or a different state than her husband. We do know she was with him when he announced that he was going to run again, but we haven't really seen much of her on the campaign trail with him during these early campaign stops.

And the other issue, John, for this upcoming campaign season, when it really gets going, is that they have -- their son Baron in his last year of high school here in Florida. So the question is, how much time will Melania Trump even have to be out on the campaign trail? She may want to spend more time at home with him here in Florida during his last year of high school. John?

BERMAN: It's a good point. Randi Kaye, thank you very much.

Up next, the craziest, wackiest, most insane story of the day, kind of terrifying, too. You'll know what I mean in just a moment.


BERMAN: So I promised wacky and terrifying, so here you go. 42 percent of CEOs at a Yale summit said AI, artificial intelligence, could destroy humanity in five to 10 years. Yes, I did say destroy humanity.

In the poll shared exclusively with CNN, 119 CEOs were surveyed from different companies, including the leaders of Walmart, Xerox, manufacturing and other industries. So let's dig deeper on this because apparently our lives are at stake and time is wasting.


Joining me now is our Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten. Harry, look, we've done a lot of polling segments together, and normally I would say, hey, you know, not being destroyed, all of humanity in 10 years is leading outside the margin of error. But that's not good enough here. 42 percent say we're going down soon. Any other poll say this?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes. Oy vey (ph). I saw this poll, I couldn't believe it. But then it turns out there's a study that came out last year that which they pulled a bunch of AI experts and basically they asked the question, do you believe that AI could lead to a nuclear level disaster in the next century?

And what they found was 36 percent of them agreed with this. Agreed with this, John, although perhaps the good news is only 16 percent strongly agreed with it.

BERMAN: These numbers are all awful. If it's like 2 percent, it's bad, but you're getting 30s and 40s here of allegedly smart people saying we're in big trouble.

ENTEN: Yes, it is scary to me, but at least we get to spend our final moments together, John.

BERMAN: I'm not so sure I agree with you on that. Listen, have there been moments like this before where people had the same, like, dark views of technology?

ENTEN: Yes, I mean, remember Y2K. I was a young boy back then. You were perhaps my age now back then, but, you know, there was all this worry, OK, there's going to be a computer bug. Could it lead to, you know, a nuclear level disaster, a defense disaster.

And you know what the polling found back in 1998 was that nearly a third of Americans agreed that that was likely, nearly a third. And, of course, we got past Y2K perfectly OK. But that polling then looks a lot like the polling now. So you know what I say, yes, there's all these bad numbers, but let's hold up our britches, let's not run ahead of them. We've seen polling like this before, so let's see what actually happens going forward.

BERMAN: I mean, destruction of humanity still scares me when it's 42 percent. So when we talk about AI, I know in my head I frankly think of the Terminator. Is that a reasonable thing to have conjured in your head?

ENTEN: Yes. So, you know, let me just say, the Terminator scared the ever loving crud out of me when I was a kid. I had to see many psychologists because I saw it when I was eight years old. But here's what I will note.

What is so interesting to me is that James Cameron is working on a new Terminator script, and it turns out that he is not going to finish that script until he finds out the future of AI. So the man who created the bad images of AI in our heads is now worried about the current AI. And perhaps that, to me, is the scariest thing of all.

BERMAN: Better hurry up. He may only have five to 10 years.

Harry Enten, thank you for being with us for now.


BERMAN: We'll be right back.


BERMAN: The news continues. CNN Primetime with Kaitlan Collins stars now.